Friday, September 28, 2012

Anti-Muslim Bigotry is Still Bigotry

Here in America, when rightwing nutjobs form a militia, we blame their ideology and say "What a bunch of rightwing nutjobs." And when Timothy McVeigh blew up the Oklahoma City Federal Building, we didn't say "Ooh, us white people are so dangerous." We said "Man, those rightwing nutjobs are dangerous." And when Tea Partiers talk about having to commit violence against the country and having a civil war because Obama made them buy good health insurance, we think "Wow those conservative nutjobs are crazy."

And we also have liberals who, while not violent as the aforementioned nutjobs are, also do extreme things that the rest of us don't approve of.  And so you had OWS Movement people breaking laws, trespassing, and doing other illegal activities that are denounced by the majority of people in the movement.  And you'll have liberals who don't even approve of what the OWS Movement as a whole is doing.  And you'll have Democrats who don't even approve of the liberals.

And people on the other side are always quick to condemn the entire movement based upon what the most extreme elements are doing.  Conservatives who will blast Obama because someone was assaulted at an OWS camp, for instance.  And the point is to lump all your enemies into as wide a group as possible, in order to make the entire group look bad.  But we, of course, push back against that and show all the variety of opinion on our side; just as conservatives do whenever one of their nutjobs goes crazy.

And while we lay some blame on the more fevered elements in their movement stirring the pot, like the Limbaughs and Glenn Beck and whatnot, we still separate them from the more moderate elements in their party. Like George Will, and other more reasonable conservatives. And we differentiate the rest of the country into identifiable groups, like moderates, and centrists, and liberals, and progressives.  And there are blue collar voters, rural voters, soccer moms, liberal elites, etc. And we all have our smaller subsets within these groups, and make a point of distinguishing very fine lines between them; acknowledging that there is a wide variety of people in this country.

But...when it comes to violent Muslims, many of us just say "Muslims".  As if there's just *ONE GROUP* of them, and they all believe the same thing. There aren't conservative Muslims or moderates or liberals. And there aren't Sunnis, Shiites, Sufis, and all their variant subsets. There are just "Muslims" and their religion is to blame for anything bad that any Muslim does. And when a few thousand Muslims riot, we find it perfectly ok to just say "Muslims" are rioting and to attribute the violence to Islam, even if it's only 0.006% of them who did anything wrong. That's the definition of bigotry.

And while it naturally bothers me when people on the right do this, I've been debating with too many people on the left regarding this exact point.  People who loudly denounce racist cartoons of all stripes, who think it's their duty as citizens to promote offensive cartoons about Islam; under the idea that they're "just cartoons" and the Muslims shouldn't be so sensitive.  People who would surely denounce racist attacks on "welfare queens" or anyone who suggested that all black people are violent because its endemic to their culture, yet think it's ok to say that same thing about Muslims.  After all, some Muslims claim that their religion commands them to kill the Infidel, so who are we to argue with their religion?

And I'm sorry, there's no excuse for bigotry.  None.  I don't care if there are violent Muslims in this world, that doesn't give anyone the right to denounce Muslims as a whole.  Because yeah, there are violent Muslims, just as there are violent white people and black people and Hispanic people and Asian people; but that's still no justification to smear all the rest of the people in those groups.  And if it bothers you to be called a bigot, maybe you shouldn't be one.

If you want to denounce extremism, please do so.  But don't blame it on Islam.  Blame it on the extremists.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Charles Krauthammer: Collapse of the Intellectual Conservative

I wrote some stuff here about how this was in response to a friend on Facebook referring to Charles Krauthammer as an intellectual, but this post got waaaay longer than I intended, so I cut out the backstory and am going straight into the main part, so you'll just have to imagine the parts you missed.  It was still interesting, but I figured you wouldn't likely finish this if it included the first eight paragraphs.

Charles Krauthammer: Intellectual Hack

But...Charles Krauthammer?  The man's a complete political hack, of the sort you read because you want something intelligent, but lack the depth of knowledge to realize he's completely lying to you.  But I'm sure that's what he gets off to.  He's the sophist who enjoys twisting reality in front of your face, purely for the thrill of deceiving you.  I'm sure he makes good money at it, but I betcha he'd do it for free, too.

(Edited out part with a link to this story; which involved Krauthammer's theory that the Obama campaign knew months before the convention that it'd thunderstorm during Obama's speech and were ok with that, but only decided to move it indoors because he couldn't fill the stadium.)

But I knew that this alone wouldn't be enough.  So I decided to do a search on Krauthammer, and found a piece he just wrote about Obama's middle-east policy.  And I thought it was very informative, with a real nuance for the issues at hand, and it made me think twice about my support for Barack Obama.

Just kidding.  It was a total smear piece from start to finish, and I'm not sure if there was any fact he included that wasn't used to distort the truth.  The whole thing can be summed up as: Obama is a failure in the middle-east because he was weak, naive, and incompetent.  Now...where else can I read that?  That's right, anywhere.

Seriously, that's been part of Romney's stump speech ever since he wrote a book about it.  And any website mentioning the middle-east these days is teeming with conservatives nutjobs saying the exact same thing.

From Political Smear to Intellectual Heft

But Kraut's a pro, so he can't just come out and repeat the same slogan that ObummerFail2012 is posting at RedState.  No, he's got to come up with something better.  Something...intellectual.  So instead, he focuses on a speech Obama made in 2009, in his column titled Collapse of Cairo Doctrine.

And the point of this attack was to highlight how silly Obama was for thinking he could fix the middle-east by admitting that we had made mistakes, saying we'd be leaving Iraq and Afghanistan, and other niceties to show that we're not enemies.  The fool!!  And again, this could come straight from a Romney speech.  It's all about how Obama apologized for America instead of cracking heads, and now the middle-east is blowing up because they don't respect us no more.

Because yeah, things were sooooo peaceful back when Bush was running things, and nobody was attacking our embassies or blowing up the UN Compound in Baghdad, killing seventeen people including the UN Envoy.  Nope, Bush talked strong and Arabs respected him for it.  And then Obama came along to apologize and ruined everything.

The Invention of the Cairo Doctrine

And again, this is all boilerplate rightwing attacks.  Where's the intellectualism?  It's not in his conclusions. It's in his style.  Here's how Kraut opens his attack:

In the week following Sept. 11, something big happened: the collapse of the Cairo Doctrine, the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's foreign policy. It was to reset the very course of post-9/11 America, creating, after the (allegedly) brutal depredations of the Bush years, a profound rapprochement with the Islamic world. 
On June 4, 2009, in Cairo, Obama promised "a new beginning" offering Muslims "mutual respect," unsubtly implying previous disrespect. Curious, as over the previous 20 years, America had six times committed its military forces on behalf of oppressed Muslims, three times for reasons of pure humanitarianism (Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo), where no U.S. interests were at stake.

Now, you may be asking: What exactly *is* the Cairo Doctrine.  I mean, lots of people talked about the Bush Doctrine, Palin's ignorance notwithstanding.  It was an ever-evolving rule that justified whatever Bush needed to justify, usually through strength, tough talk, and violence.

But while a search on the "Cairo Doctrine" turns up 130,000 results; they're almost all to this very piece Krauthammer wrote; proclaiming its collapse.  Even trying to exclude Krauthammer and Collapse from the mix, I was still getting heavy results for Krauthammer's attack.  So more likely than not, the Cairo Doctrine is just something just Krauthammer invented.  He picked an important speech Obama gave three years ago, teased a strawman doctrine out of it to attribute to Obama, and then knocked it down.

Obama Doctrine: I'm Not Bush

And this wasn't the basis for Obama's middle-east policies, as Krauthammer claims.  This was a speech Obama gave to introduce himself to the middle-east, as a way of showing that we're not enemies and that what happened in the past will stay in the past. And the reason it may have sounded naive and respectful, is because that's the sort of speech it was meant to be.  Just read it yourself.

No real policy plans or a guiding principle to lead by.  It was just to say that Bush sucked and he wasn't Bush, so let's move on; though he never actually referenced Bush at all.  And if this "doctrine" failed, that'd just mean that they didn't buy it and we'd be back to where we were before he made the speech.  Which means, duh, back to where Bush left us.  And that's why Krauthammer has to rewrite history, to act as if things were all hunky dory before Obama came along, and they weren't attacking our embassies or killing our people.

So the doctrine that supposedly collapsed was one Krauthammer invented himself, yet the nutjobs on the right lapped it up completely, because Kraut sounded so damn smart when he said it.  Yet it was really just an intellectual package for the same "Obama's apologizing to our enemies" claptrap conservatives have been saying for years.

All About the Doctrines

But of course, Krauthammer can't just sit there and defend Bush's policies, as he knows everyone considers Bush to be a failure.  So instead, he rewrites Obama's speech to mean that he was apologizing for all of America's "supposed" wrongdoing, claiming that we can't have a "new beginning" unless we're rejecting everything that came previously.

And he points out how unfair it is for Obama to reject the policies we had before, citing three times we used troops for humanitarian issues.  I mean, hey, how can Obama say we're always the bad guys if we've done good things before.  But except, duh!  Those three missions were all from Clinton, and Republicans denounced them and insisted we shouldn't get involved in humanitarian missions.

In fact, here's a piece from the Krautmeister himself, where he denounced The Consequences Of Clinton's `Little Kosovo War' back in 1999. And ironically, here he is in 1999 denouncing The Clinton Doctrine.  And in both cases, we seem him denouncing the three humanitarian missions that he cites as proof that America ain't so mean after all.

And the funniest part is reading the conclusion of that second piece, where he writes:
The essence of foreign policy is deciding which son of a bitch to support and which to oppose--in 1941, Hitler or Stalin; in 1972, Brezhnev or Mao; in 1979, Somoza or Ortega. One has to choose. A blanket anti-son of a bitch policy, like a blanket anti-ethnic cleansing policy, is soothing, satisfying and empty. It is not a policy at all but righteous self-delusion.
Am I nuts, or would that have made a decent attack on the Bush Doctrine that Krauthammer supported?  I mean, just substitute "anti-ethnic cleansing" with "anti-terror" and you've just described the Bush Doctrine...or at least one of the Bush Doctrines, as again, it kept changing depending upon what Bush was trying to justify at the time.  And while that's the antithesis of what a doctrine is supposed to be, it really does fit Bush pretty well.

Speaking of Doctrines...

Here's what Krauthammer wrote about The Bush Doctrine in 2001, which at the time referred to us refusing to have arms treaties with Russia:
America is no mere international citizen. It is the dominant power in the world, more dominant than any since Rome. Accordingly, America is in a position to reshape norms, alter expectations and create new realities. How? By unapologetic and implacable demonstrations of will.
Yeah.  I'm sure that turned out well.  And apparently, implacable demonstrations of will don't involve humanitarian missions, or else he wouldn't have denounced The Clinton Doctrine two years earlier.

And here he is ten years later, defending a different Bush Doctrine, where he argues that the pro-democracy movements in the middle-east show that they still don't hate Americans because of what Bush did; which means Bush's policies weren't so bad after all.  I mean, hey, if they're still willing to protest against the people oppressing them instead of us, Bush couldn't have messed up too much, right?  Right?

And what we have here is an argument that Bush invading Iraq in 2003 helped a revolution in 2011.  While Obama's speech in 2009 is to blame for the violence in 2012, but had no role in the good protests that happened in between.  And the proof that Obama didn't need to make that speech is from a war that Krauthammer denounced in 1999.  Right.

Seriously, I'm supposed to imagine this guy's an intellectual?  Maybe if you take each column in isolation and don't think about things too much, I could see how that makes sense.  But seeing as how each of these columns fit exactly with what the Republican Party was saying at the time, which involved supporting the Republican policy while denouncing the Democratic President; yet contain no other intellectual consistency...that's pretty much the definition of a partisan hack; no matter how you dress it up

Krauthammer may have made things sound smarter than the average wingnut, it was still just the same Republican tripe the rest of the party was serving.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

What Happens to Republicans Next

Over on Facebook I posted to a friend about how the Republican Party is in it's final death throes, and she asked me what they'll be replaced with; suggesting that maybe a party will form on the left to replace the Republicans.  But that's just wishful thinking, as a split on the right isn't going to lead to a new party on the left.  Here's what I wrote.

I don't know.  Because I just don't see the Republican Party vanishing.  I think we'll always have them, and it just depends upon whether the crazies drive out the Establishment types or if the Establishment types can kick out the crazies.  I mean, the crazies *really* should have moved to the Constitution Party, which fits them better anyway.  But since they haven't already gone, they might just refuse to move on and will sink their talons into the Republican Party forever.

And in that case, the Establishment Republicans will have to form their own party from the middle.  But if they can successfully kick out the crazies, they'll still have their own party from the middle.  And in no case will this lead to the left being able to start anything, because this is all a split among rightwingers and doesn't affect us at all.

As for what happens with the left, the problem is that there are two types of people who are disgruntled on the left: People who are upset that our outcomes aren't as liberal as they'd like and those who truly want radical things, like the end of the banking industry and capitalism as a whole.  Because that's the thing, there really *are* people who hate capitalism on the left and those are some of Obama's firmest critics.  And while they keep their focus on the same stuff that any liberal might complain about, their true objective is something I can't agree with at all.  And I know this because I've debated such people and they insist that I'm a conservative shill because I support capitalism in any form.

And the truly radical will *NEVER* be satisfied, nor will they ever be part of any effective political party, because they're nutballs and the vast majority of Americans will reject this.  And frankly, I think they like it better this way, as they have no real practical solutions and are really just trying to show their ideological purity and will be dissatisfied with any real world solutions because it betrays their ideological leanings entirely.  This is why the OWS movement couldn't come up with practical solutions, because they weren't a proper political movement.  They were individuals who were upset in general, but their specific solutions weren't compatible and since these are people who reject compromise on principle; they've effectively removed themselves from politics entirely.  Politics requires compromise, period.

But what will happen with the others is that the reasonable ones on the leftier side will have even more sway over the Democratic Party and push it further to the left than it currently is, while the other ones will head for whatever group forms in the middle after the Republicans split; which very well could be the Republican Party.  And this would basically put things back to where they were before the Reagan Revolution upset everything and lurched the country to the right.

And all this is good and proper.  From the 30's-70's, we really *were* doing lots of bigtime liberal changes and maybe things went too far too fast.  And the 80's-90's was the backlash to that, giving America a breather from an unrelenting push for new liberal policies; some of which really weren't good ideas.  And had 9/11 not happened, the 00's should have been part of the move back towards sanity, though that obviously didn't happen.  Remember, Compassionate Conservativism was their antidote for hardcore conservatives, so they could push the Republican Party more liberal without angering the conservatives.  That obviously went out the window once they started dreaming of a Republican Dynasty after 9/11, which is why Republicans ended up further to the right than ever.

So long story short, you're still going to have fringe lefties who stay outside any group with real political power, because such people abhor politics and reject the very nature of democracy (though they adamantly deny this).  And the big difference is that the fringe righties will once again join them on the outskirts of either party, thus negating their ability to tip the scales towards the far right.  And we'll be back with two relatively liberal parties debating how liberal we should be.

And so in the grand scheme of things, what we saw was a huge push into liberalism leading into the 20th century and accelerating during the Great Depression and post-WWII period.  Then it stopped for a few decades as we took a break and started weeding out bad policies (as well as many good ones we needed).  And once the crazies on the right finally get marginalized, we'll go back on path towards more liberalism; which is what we've been seeing already.

This isn't obvious on the day-to-day interactions, but this is how history will remember all this.  No one will remember the specific compromises Obama made or minor strategic blunders.  What they'll remember is the end result, just as we ourselves gloss over all the in-fighting all previous generations endured before arriving at the outcomes we all know about.  History only looks like a smooth path in hindsight, but every generation assumes that their fighting is worse than it's ever been.  But that's just because things up close always look bigger than they do at a distance.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mitt Romney Sucks

Over on Facebook someone posted a quote from someone saying that the only reason 90% of Republicans were going to vote for Romney was because he's not Obama.  Here was my reply, which I swear, was only meant to be a few lines.

That can't be right. It's got to be closer to 99.7%, with the other 0.3% preferring him because they feel they can relate to him.

I mean, seriously. The guy's got nothing to like policy-wise, even if you were looking for something to like. He doesn't have an economic policy or a foreign policy or an immigration policy or any other policy of any kind. He has vague statements that change from day-to-day and are often mutually incompatible even as he says them. The guy not only changes his positions daily, he doesn't even understand what a proper position is. He's such a shambles that his campaign has actually *admitted* that this is the strategy on a few occasions. Which not only means that they must be talking about this in private, but that he's such a terrible judge of character that he surrounds himself with such dumdums. Mr. Etch-a-Sketch indeed.

And the only reason he won the nomination is because, unlike his competitors, nobody actually thought he was crazy enough to believe what he was saying and assumed he was just playing a game on the rubes. So essentially, the only reason they hired him was because he was an empty suit who was all over the map and didn't have any core values to scare anyone away. Plus, he's relatively handsome, can sound intelligent in soundbites, doesn't have a racist past or southern accent, and most importantly, had Deathstar money to blast his competitors to smithereens. Which was fine, until he faced off against Obama, who also has Deathstar money, and he knows how to use it.

So none of this was unexpected. This was the plan. We're currently on the glide path to exactly where we were expected to be, and the only doubt at the time was how bad the economy would be at this point. But Romney's campaign's doing so terrible that even an under-performing job market isn't enough to help him.

But we already *knew* Romney's campaign sucked. After all, his toughest competitors were Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, and Newt Fucking Gingrich. I mean, seriously. Herman Cain hasn't even held elected office and the other two got chased out of office. But of course, so did Romney. And why? Because he's absolutely terrible at politics. Simply dreadful. Hell, this guy's the guy nobody wanted back when nobody wanted McCain, and he hasn't gotten any better.  I don't know what George Romney ever taught his son, but it obviously wasn't politics or people skillz.

So back to the point, seeing as how this wasn't meant to be longer than a sentence or two when I started. Nobody wants Romney because he's Romney. They want him because he's the Republican, period. And they don't even want him that much. But I can imagine that there are a few super-millionaires and billionaires out there who truly would like someone they can relate to in the Oval Office. I doubt Bush did it for them. Probably because he had too much personality and the ultra-rich find that to be so gauche. An empty suit like Romney is definitely more their style.

Doesn't Look Like He's Held A Baby Before

Friday, September 14, 2012

Moral High Ground is Earned, Not Deserved

Keep reading on Facebook about how much more sophisticated we are than those lowbrow Muslims who can't take a joke and get all violent any time someone makes an intentionally offensive cartoon or movie which is only designed to incite violence.  And first off, having seen many of these cartoons and read descriptions of the movie, I find it a bit tough to claim any kind of cultural high ground by the folks trying to incite this violence.  I'm sorry, but a cartoon of Mohammed with a boner raping a young girl is *not* highbrow entertainment.

But the worst part is that these are designed to enrage people who want an excuse to be enraged, and is part of an endless cycle intended to end in violence by those on both sides.  And all this noise is just their way of dragging the rest of us in, to say "See look, these people are animals who hate us and we have no other choice."  And so they try to arrange things so we have no other choice than to fight each other, even though the extremists on both sides have far more in similar to each other than they do with the rest of us.  And that includes welling meaning people on Facebook who insist that we've gone through more of a "cultural evolution" than they have, because their extremists get angrier than ours do.

Here was my reply:

The people doing the violence are part of a political movement, not a religious movement. Religion is the excuse. The goal is political. And once again, the vast majority of Muslims aren't killing anyone, while the ones doing the killing would like nothing more than for us to overreact and do things that encourage the non-violent ones to get violent. Just like the anti-Muslim people here want them to overreact and do things that encourage non-violent Americans to get violent.

And our goal needs to be to stop the extremists on both sides from achieving their goal of all-out war. Sure, our guys are only hyping the anti-Muslim stuff that pisses off the violent Muslims and offends the non-violent as well. But when our end result is to rain missiles on their homes and kill innocent men, women, and children; I don't see how this makes us the good guys.

Because frankly, I don't give a damn why someone's trying to kill me, and while our cultural evolution might be more advanced, that didn't help us too much at Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, or the other places where we humiliated and tortured people. Anyone who gets their kicks at the idea of waterboarding doesn't seem so advanced to me. So how about we get off our high-horse and acknowledge that there's more to all this than intentionally rude cartoons and movies that are designed to incite violence.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Judging Obama

Amazing.  There are still progressives who denounce Obama for being center-right.  That's so 2010.  And it's all posited in a reality in which politics isn't real and Obama can do anything he wants, but doesn't.  Which is why these people prefer the Kabuki Theater Theory of Politics, in which politics is a big conspiracy and they're only pretending to fight each other; all evidence to the contrary.

For example, Obama promised in 2008 that he'd close Gitmo.  He didn't close Gitmo, therefore he's a liar.  Now first off, only a child would think a campaign promise is a guarantee.  I mean, how can a politician guarantee that they can pass something?  They can't.  What they're promising isn't that this WILL happen, but that they're going to push for it.  Sure, that's not what they say, but again, we're all grownups and are supposed to understand how this works.

Now, when a politician says something they have no plan to pass, or that they can't possibly pass because they're promising too much (eg, Romney's plan on everything), then they're lying.  But that's really no better than a politician who doesn't say they're planning something hugely controversial, and then spring it on voters after the election (eg, just about every Republican, including Scott Walker and Rick Scott).  And yet we're to believe that a politician who says they'll do something, and tries to do it but is stopped is a total ingrate unworthy of our support.

But again, grownups are supposed to know better, and if anything, maybe we should stop asking politicians to promise things they can't guarantee.  And I'd be fine with that, if only because I understand that that's how it works anyway.

Democracy as Shitfest

Long story short, this is what I responded to a friend's friend on Facebook.

The problem is that you can't judge Obama's political leanings by what he's done. We're gauging ourselves based upon a theoretical perfect-world scenario of what we'd do if we were king. Yet we don't allow Obama to use his perfect-world scenario, as his perfect-world scenario would have surely included universal healthcare, bigger stimulus, better jobs plans, a big cut in defense, and closing Gitmo. And I know that because he's a pragmatic man and those are the things that would help him best.

And we could also use Obama's public statements to judge him, which aren't going to be as good as his perfect-world scenario because they are tempered for political reasons; but which are still fairly liberal. Yet his critics deny him that, and insist that we judge him based upon what he accomplished. And that's fair enough, I suppose. But those things all include compromises that we don't need to make in our perfect-world scenario; and are therefore not compatible with how we judge ourselves. And rather than using his demands at the negotiating table to judge what he wanted, we're using the end result of the negotiations; which are weighed heavily for conservatives, for reasons that are mostly out of Obama's control. Does he *want* to negotiate with conservatives? No, he's forced to because this is a democracy and thems are the rules.

And this is like me judging your political beliefs by putting you in a room with two Republicans who both insist you're an evil fool; and you're not allowed to leave the room until you all come up with an agreement on what to do. Does that agreement represent you? No, it was a stupid compromise based upon a ridiculous situation. Same for Obama. He shouldn't have to be negotiating with these dangerous fools, but he is.

And so our standards shouldn't be what we would have done. It's what would have happened without Obama. And if it wasn't for Obama, we might be talking about what a letdown Hillary was or Howard Dean, or how bad President McCain is. Because that's the reality. This is a democracy and that means that your crazy uncle gets a say in how things happen. And that's for the best. While I wish our crazy uncles weren't so crazy, we're stuck dealing with them and trying to pass any policies that all sides can agree on. That's what democracy is: A shitfest where all the shit needs to be eaten, and we're all trying to eat as little as possible.

If anything, this just means we can't really know what Obama's political leanings are, because we'll never know if he's lying or not. But I'm fine with that too. Just as long as his critics on the left realize that too. They keep telling us what he really thinks since before he took office, and I've yet to understand what psychic they're listening to.

Friday, September 07, 2012

How to Get Rich: Learn to Schmooze

One of the big lies in the Republican version of capitalism is that it's all about hard work. Sure, they'll say, there are people who are rich and get richer. *BUT* what about all the guys who *weren't* rich and ended up rich. And hey, even Mitt Romney started with little and built up. And yeah, lazy people are NOT going to get ahead in the world, and there are many tales of rich lazy people who squandered their fortune.

But what's the key to getting ahead in the world? Who you know. Period. You can't make it without at least a little elbow grease and usually a lot. But who you know is far more important. And there's nothing particularly corrupt about that, either. That's why the OWS crowd doesn't quite have it right. It's not rigged against the Have Nots per se; it's just that the Have Nots don't know the right people. All they know is other Have Nots, and that ain't gonna do you much good when you're looking for investors.

It's not necessarily that we have a corrupt system, though there's surely some of that. It's just that personal connections are more important than hard work or money. And you know that to be true yourself, as you're far more likely to help a friend than a stranger. And so if you want to get ahead in the world and retire young, learn how to meet the right people and how to convince them that they want to give you their money. Rich people *want* to give money to the right people, but they can't do that unless you know them.

And if you just don't have those skills, that'd help explain why you're not getting ahead. The ability to schmooze rich people is a skill like any other. Some people have it. Some don't.  And I say that as someone who doesn't have that skill, but am certainly willing to learn.

Majoring in Student Loans

Over at TPM, someone posted a comment suggesting that part of the country's problem is when we lend out $200,000 to students who study "sociology or Medieval French Literature at private colleges."  Needless to say, he got pounded, by people who took it as an attack on flakey majors.  And the general theme was that we needed sociologists and French liturgists too.

And yeah, that was a bit of the guy's riff.  And to be honest, I feel that a bit too.  I mean, if someone takes sociology or French Literature and does something with it, fantastic.  But...the majority of people don't, and they're no better off than any other major they could have taken.  And since business majors can also take those classes while still getting a degree they can use, I've always been a bit confused as to why people go that route.

While some people really have a knack for it, I strongly suspect that many of them just did it because they needed a major and didn't know what else to do.  And I say that as someone who went to a few colleges, so let's not pretend that doesn't happen.  I mean, seriously.  There are far more sociology degrees than there are sociologists. and again, anyone can take those classes; including people who just want to audit the class without a grade.

And so I jumped in to defend the guy, pointing out that the $200,000 debt was the bigger focus, with the fruity majors being in there to showcase that such people can't afford that debt.  And then I had a guy try to jump on my ass, completely ignoring the debt issue, and insisting that I wanted to be the one to decide which studies to pursue, as well as insulting business majors; as if all we learn is how to kiss ass.  Missed the point completely.  Here was my reply.

Yes, John. I will make that decision for people. That's what I said. Clearly you were a Reading Comprehension major, as you totally got my point. Sarcasm. 
Seriously though, people can study whatever the hell they want. They can study rat butts for all I care. The point is about the debt, not the study. If someone wants to take a few classes at a community college to study Medieval French Literature, more power to them. Or if Mitt Romney's sons want to pay big bucks to study rat butts for ten years at the Sorbonne, good for them. I'm sure it'll be better than listening to their old man rant about getting his ass whupped for the next ten years.  
But...when people are going into serious debt that gravely affects the rest of their lives, we've got a problem. Particularly when its for something that isn't going to give them a ticket to pay it off. I went into debt to get my accounting degree, and it was the best decision I ever made. Totally paid for itself, particularly as I went to a state school which taught me on the cheap. And now I'm self-employed and have small business owners thank me for helping them with their businesses, as I got a degree that made it so I don't have to kiss anyone's ass. 
And hey, that's not for everyone. We need people of all types. Yet when those people graduate, they're stuck with crushing debt that affects them for the rest of their lives, as well as the lives of their spouses. Not so bad when you're a doctor. Not so good when you got a degree that's mainly useful for teaching and you didn't want to go that route.  
And that's the thing, you don't have to get a four-year degree to study Philosophy. You can take a few classes, or study it on your own. Because those people are still taking many of the same classes I took, and yet they can't pay for their debt. Particularly not if they did it at a private school. And this a real problem.  
Sure, maybe Stephen didn't put things quite the right way, but he does have a point. College debt is a serious issue, and no, I don't think having the rest of us pay for someone to study linguistics is necessarily the way to go. Sure, we need linguists, but what about the people who aren't going to be linguists, but just took the major because they thought it was cool. And yeah, I'm thinking of a specific person I know, and they're not a linguist.
And as a final note, as I don't feel I ended that on my standard conclusive line: I honestly think students would be better served if we were upfront about what they were getting into.

To tell them, hey dude, just so you know, that Poli-Sci degree you're thinking about getting really might be for crap, and that's not just an insult the Business majors say.  And maybe you'll be a great campaign manager someday (or whatever it is people do with Poli-Sci degrees that isn't teaching Poli-Sci) and make a ton of money, or maybe you're about to saddle yourself with a mound of debt that will make your future wife hate you, once it becomes her debt too.  So you need to think long and hard about this: Are you getting into this because you understand what this degree means, or are you doing it because you think politics is cool and didn't want to get a major involving math?

Because again, if people understand all this stuff and they're cool with it, fine.  But I've already heard too many tales of grads who insist they had no idea what they were getting into, and now they're screwed.  And that's just not what college is supposed to be about, and while the ultimate blame goes towards an out-of-control education system; these stories are out there and there's really no excuse to see any more victims.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

AP Fact Check: Bill Clinton & Democrats Suck

At some point, professional Fact Checkers need to realize that their job isn't to hunt out lies to debunk, whether they're real or not, but to just check the facts.  And if all the facts check out, it's ok to say that.  You can tell us that Obama was telling the truth about his numbers, or that Paul Ryan said something true when he referenced his wife's name (though we're still looking into that one).

You aren't required to tell us that all politicians are liars if you just found a speech that didn't have lies.  That's one reason so many people are cynical about politics, as the media loves to blame both sides; because it's far easier than telling folks the truth and face the wrath of Republicans who hate it.

Because no, spin is not the same as lying.  And if a politician tells us something that makes his side look better, but is basically true, then it's true; whether it made him look good or not.  As long as the basic context of the claim is true, we're all allowed to see our own side of it.  Because hey, maybe our spin is correct.  Maybe when both sides blame the other, it's possible that only one side is right and they're not both to blame.  And if the truth of a particular fact comes down to the opinions of the people're not checking facts, you're checking opinions.  And that's not what you were hired to do.

And yes, that's all to get us around to the AP's egregious "fact check" of Clinton's speech last night, where the best they could do was apparently to find four "facts" to check out of Clinton's forty-eight minute long speech; and the "truth" of one of these claims was simply that Bill had lied about something over a decade ago, which apparently undermines his ability to call anyone else a liar.  By that standard, Paul Ryan will never make it in the fact checking business.  Never.

Fact Checking Spin

And while that last "fact" check was the most ridiculous of the batch, the whole thing was pathetically weak, and without a doubt, completely exposed the writer's bias.  Sure, he couldn't find much of any "facts" to dispute, but god dammit, he knows they're there.  He can feel it.  He knows he was lied to, he just can't figure out how.  And rather than highlight any of the facts Clinton got right, we're stuck with garbage like this.
THE FACTS: From Clinton's speech, voters would have no idea that the inflexibility of both parties is to blame for much of the gridlock. Right from the beginning Obama brought in as his first chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel, a man known for his getting his way, not for getting along.
What?!  The hiring of Rahm Emmanuel is evidence that Clinton was lying when he blamed Republicans for partisanship   Huh?

The next "example" showing that Clinton was wrong for blaming Republicans was because Congressional Republicans and some Congressional Democrats didn't like the "Grand Bargain" Obama and Republican leaders had been hashing out.  What is the proof that both sides were to blame for this?  I haven't a clue.  The checker never said.  He also never mentioned that Obama had given up far more than Republicans had, as we were giving up far more spending programs than they were giving up in tax increases; by a three-to-one margin.  So the deal itself was already loaded in Republican's favor, yet Democrats are somehow also to blame for not compromising enough.  Right.

And who was it that killed the Grand Bargain?  That'd be John Boehner and the Republicans, that's who.  And more importantly, why was the Grand Bargain being made in the first place?  Because Republicans unilaterally decided to play political football with our country's credit rating; threatening to throw us off the cliff if they didn't get what they wanted.  Period.  That was it.  They had voted repeatedly in the past to raise the debt ceiling, but this go round, they decided to play chicken with our nation's economy because they thought it'd benefit them.

Soooo...this was an issue where Republicans rejected a compromise that went heavily in their favor to solve a crisis that was entirely of their creation because they wanted to pressure Obama into giving them what they wanted.  Uh, yeah.  Let's blame both sides for that.

Must Blame Both Sides.  Must Blame Both Sides.

The Fact Checker also went on to mention the Simpsons-Bowles Plan, which Republicans rejected because it didn't go far enough in cutting government spending.  And since Obama didn't unilaterally decide to adopt the plan as his own, which of course would have made it his starting position in negotiations and which Republicans would be able to whittle down further in their favor; this is proof that Obama was also to blame.

After all, it was his commission and he ignored it; while Republicans including Paul Ryan rejected it completely.  And all for an issue that liberals didn't want in the first place, and which was much more weighted for Republicans than Democrats.  Yeah, sounds like both sides are to blame for that as well.

At this point I was going to go on and do the rest of the piece, but this took too long and I've got real work to do.  But you get the idea.  And the main problem here is that Clinton gave a substantive speech with lots of facts.  Yet if you read this piece, you'd never know it.  Because apparently, telling readers that Clinton got the facts right would be biased...or something.

And that's in accordance with the liberal bias we typically find in reality.  So instead the "fact check" focuses on spin that the writer didn't like.  Didn't find many facts to dispute, but he sure didn't like Clinton's tone.

My Atheist Funeral

As a followup to my last post, someone took my question about atheist weddings and flipped it around, asking about atheist funerals.  That person suggested they wouldn't be cool with a church funeral, but weren't sure what to do.  Here's what I wrote, and yes, if I die without making any other arrangements, this counts as my legally binding wishes.  Seriously.

Hmm, wow. The funeral. Hadn't thought of that one. I think I'd be ok with a church funeral, because most of my family are Christians and it'd make them feel better. And since I won't really be there anyway, I'm ok with that. After all, funerals are for the living, not the dead. 
Thus said, I've already made plans to be cremated and have my ashes scattered somewhere cool. The location isn't important, as again, I'm not going to be there. So it's really up to the person I've told to do this where they want to go; just as long as it's somewhere at least somewhat cool and not like an overpass or suburb. And the main reason I want my ashes scattered is because I see no point in keeping my remains around for someone else to keep track of or screw with; and really like the idea of all y'alls asses breathing me in without knowing it. Bwa ha ha! 
And the reason I want to be cremated is because it bothers me to think that my corpse would be rotting away in a god damn box underground. I mean, seriously. That's weird. Plus, on the off chance zombies are real, I don't want to be one. The last thing I need is for some corporation to figure out how to reanimate dead people and put them to work as zombie slaves. I've already spent enough time in Corporate America and don't need any more of that shit just because I'm dead.
And as a final note, I'm not much into death and am not particularly reverent towards life either.  So I want people to party at my funeral.  Not because they're happy I'm dead, of course.  And I'd certainly like some serious words to be spoken of me, just cuz.  But I don't want to go out with people making me out to be a saint, talking as if I was a ray of sunshine or anything, because that's crap.  I lived like a happy asshole and I want to be remembered that way.

And I want everyone at my funeral to have at least one alcoholic drink, toasting to my memory.  And that includes the alcoholics and other teetotalers.  You don't want to have one drink for me, you've got no business at my funeral.  And extra thanks goes to the people who get shitfaced.  You're my kind of people.

Things to Blog About

Over on Facebook a friend made a request for topics to write about for a new blog she's writing on, which could involve just about anything.  And hey, coming up with things to write about is my specialty.  Finding the time to write them is a bit more difficult, which is why I have tons of posts you've never seen.  But thinking of topics is easy.  So I gave her a few to get her started, and she actually used one; though she altered it anyway.  But hey, I helped.

I decided to go ahead and repost my list here, in case any of y'all need blog topics to write about, so feel free to steal.  Just don't forget where you got them from.

Why aliens wouldn't want to probe you.
What's up with the Pope?
Are ghosts affected by gravity?
Why there's more proof of the Easter Bunny than Yahweh.
How about them gnostics?
What to do with bible trolls.
Six ways religious people embarrass themselves.
Why I wouldn't want to go to Heaven anyway.
How to piss people off without even trying.
When not to admit you're an atheist.
The Apostle I'd most like to marry.
Things to do when you're drunk and alone.
Things not to do when you're drunk and alone.
Seven reasons you shouldn't marry a Christian.
Why you shouldn't hurt people too much.
How to flirt at a funeral.
Cows are people too.
Where to find liberals.
Why are people scared of ghosts anyway?
The best marriage ceremonies for atheists.
What if god is an alien?
Why I think Obama is a closet atheist.
When it's ok for a vegan to eat meat.
How to explain god to a six year old atheist.
Why Jesus would be a good dad.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

In Defense of Copyrights

I'm sick of seeing people whine about how unfair copyright laws are, insisting that they're a trick by the government to control information.  Because yeah, the Man really doesn't want me to see that Transformers III download for free, or else I might turn into a CGI robot and stand up for myself.  By forcing me to pay to see computer images fight, I remain yet another brick in the wall of deceit.

And we're told that the entertainment being stolen isn't good anyway, which makes it odd that people would be upset that they've been prevented from stealing it.  It's like the person who complains about how horrid the food is, while insisting the portions are too small.  If you weren't downloading it, then you aren't being affected by this.

And we see the same thing from the people who still insist that Megaupload was merely an innocent file storing service; seemingly oblivious to the fact that there are many other places to store your files and they don't do what Megaupload did...or have nearly the profits.  Or people who insist that it was useful for small bands to catch a break, again oblivious to the fact that other websites specialize in such things, and again, don't have nearly the profits that Megaupload did.

And so I read yet another article about how Youtube goofed and removed content that wasn't protected by copyright: Namely, video from the Democratic National Convention.  And if the commenters there are to be believed, this wasn't an accident.  No, this was part of the government's plans to suppress us, even though the government had nothing to do with it.  As the article said, it was a mistake by the computers, which was quickly corrected.  Yet this mistake is apparently enough to make people demand yet again to get rid of copyright laws, insisting that it's yet another sinister plot to deny me my freedom to watch Jay Leno's monologue on my computer; as the Founding Fathers intended.

And I generally respond to these people, but decided to include one of my better responses here.  Enjoy!

Look people, this isn't complicated.  Copyrights are important because it protects the people who create things.  If you recorded a song and Sony could sell your song without paying you for it, you'd be upset.  And you'd stop recording songs.  Same goes for Sony.  If they can't make money from their movies and music, they'll just stop making it 
And so copyright laws are good so the people who create things get paid for them, and that includes the writers, actors, and producers; who all get paid good money if their work sells.  Unfortunately, there are jerks who put this stuff on Youtube, thus hurting the artists and companies who give us these things.   
And they do this so much that it'd be impossible for the people who own the copyrights to find it all, so they use computers to find it for them.  And this happens so much that it'd be impossible for Google to have enough employees to take all this stuff down, so they also use computers to do it for them.  And sometimes the computers make mistakes. 
Who's to blame for this?  The jerks who post this stuff to Youtube.  That's who.  And I say that as someone who someday hopes to get rich selling movies and music, and don't want you jerks ripping me off by giving my stuff away for free.  Even bad b-movies can make a lot of money for the writers, and that's how I'm hoping to retire.  So don't blame Google or Sony.  Blame the jerks who give it away for free online.

Obama, Just Like Romney, Except the Important Stuff

Apparently, there are still holdouts who insist that Obama isn't that different from Republicans.  Yeah.  Still.  And even they've tempered the rhetoric, so they'll admit that Obama is preferable to Romney; yet they'll insist that he's just as bad.  And they'll insist they've got a long litany of complaints, and they'll mention about six minor things.  And when you point out that they're minor things, they'll insist they've got better complaints, but they're just not going to bother listing them.  People go with the best answers they've got, and while they might miss a few, they don't miss the big ones.  So if your list of complaints doesn't have any big ones, you probably don't have any serious complaints.

And so I was on Facebook and saw a friend's friend complain about Obama, and here were his complaints. Obama was a corporate lawyer.  Obama passed the NDAA (which didn't do what he thought it did), Obama extended the Patriot Act (which wasn't as bad as Bush's), he assassinates bad guys who would be difficult to capture, he didn't cut defense spending enough, and something about oil policy.  That's it.  That's what makes him like Romney.

And the response: The Ryan Plan.  Seriously, that alone completely eclipses that entire list, and it's not even close.  Anyway, at this point I'm just going to repost a few comments I made.  You'll have to imagine the specific parts I was addressing, as I'm not going to bother repeating them.  But really, the whole thing's a joke.  He started out all tough, insisting that we're all idiots for mindlessly voting for Obama because of the D after his name; and his eventual point is that we need to completely redo our political structure.

And yeah, sure.  I'd like it if our political structure worked better than it does.  But it's as if Obama is a part of the political structure, rather than somebody dealing with the political structure.  And these highminded nitwits really seem to imagine that Obama's getting what Obama wants, as if Obama doesn't have these same complaints.

Andrew, I'd debate the points you're making, except it's obvious that you don't really have much use for reality. Your whole pitch is that we must all be a bunch of morons because we don't agree with you.  
Like the NDAA thing. That was a pile of shit. It didn't change anything, yet Obama critics invented the stuff about how they could grab citizens off the streets and throw them in military courts, even though the law said the exact opposite. And the claims that it was bad were based upon the belief that it *must* have changed something, or they wouldn't have done it. So they read between the lines and squinted really hard until they pulled that crap out. But it *was* crap. There was no real change in that law, yet you're still citing it, as if we're all at risk of being whisked off to Gitmo. Sorry, but it never happened. It was an invented controversy. 
And really, your list petered off pretty fast, ending up with one specific meeting where he talked to bankers. Oooh, scary. Meanwhile, I can easily give a long laundry list of why Romney is CONSIDERABLY worse. How can I do this? Because I've spent time thinking about this stuff, that's why. I used my head and this is what I came up with. Same with the other people here. You might like to think we're mindless sheep, but we're not. We're intelligent AND we disagree with you. Mind blowing, huh. 
And yeah, you're right that we need to do stuff as individuals too. Not sure why you're telling *us* this, when it's Obama's critics who seem to think he's Superman and could do anything he wanted, if he desired. Sure, Obama made a big cut to the defense budget, but that apparently wasn't enough for you, as if he could just wave his magic wand and it'd happen, with no bad political fallout from it.  
Is Obama perfect? Of course not, and I'm sure he'd say the same thing. He's made mistakes, as have we all. But he's done more to help liberalism in three years than you've done your entire life. If that's what a corporate lawyer gets us, I suppose we could use more corporate lawyers.
And another...
 And another thing that bugs me about this sort of thing: It gets the political calculation backwards.
Anyone who cares about this stuff should work their asses off for the cause, supporting as many good liberal candidates as they can find, and writing letters, protesting, etc; in an attempt to push things as far to the left as we can. But on election day, we pick the lesser of two evils and like it. Because that *also* pushes things to the left. Sure, we might not consider the Dem to be on the left, but a Democratic win is a win for the left; even if the Dem is someone like Clinton who was far more conservative than Obama is.  
Just look at what happened in 2010 and 2004, and any other election we lost. We were told that we lost because we were too liberal. That's just the way it is. Republicans lose because they weren't pure enough and Democrats lose because they're too pure. That's not reality, but that's how the results are interpreted. But if Obama wins, he's not going to think "Hey, I won because Andrew Barrett endorsed my signing of the NDAA." He's going to think "Ah ha ha. They picked Romney as their guy. Morons." 
I mean, it's not like Obama will be sifting through the ashes the day after the election and say "Hey, we didn't get Andrew Barrett's endorsement for all those policies liberals didn't like. We better shift to the left next time, so we can win his vote." And that's because they don't know you didn't vote for him, or why. Maybe you didn't vote for him because you didn't like his rightwing policies, or maybe you didn't vote for him because you didn't like his leftwing policies. They don't know.  
And if you vote for a third party, they might just think that you're a third-party kind of guy and you're hopeless anyway; which is likely the case. And since it's easier to pick up swing voters than it is to please the people at the ends, they'll just ignore you completely. While people at the far ends of the spectrum imagine themselves to be the key base of the parties, they're not. That's why being a moderate makes more sense than being on the ends; which is why Romney would *love* to be a moderate, though the base won't let him. And that's why his appeal is limited and he'll likely lose the election. Because it's a bad idea to spend too much time pleasing your base.  
And so long comment short: Voting for Obama is the exact thing we should do, regardless of how much we think he sold us out, because he's STILL better than the Republican, regardless of who the Republican is. And nobody's doing it because they're idiots who always vote for the D. Not in this election, anyway. They're doing it because they know that Obama's done well in a bad situation and that Romney will only make things worse. But even if we think Obama is a fraud, he's still the one liberals should vote for, because the political elites think he's a liberal and if he loses, it makes us all look bad.
And another...
 Searching for improved power systems? Dude, we can't even pass a budget. We've got influential people who genuinely believe that Obama is planning to take over the country and kill millions of Americans next year, and you're talking election reform.  
I mean, yeah. I agree. Things suck. This is far from my ideal system. But it's still a democracy and we're still stuck dealing with the fact that the moment a Democrat wants something the Republicans insist it's the Death of Liberty and will fight to their dying breath to make sure it doesn't happen; no matter how conservative the idea was. So...what the fuck are you talking about?  
You want to talk ideal systems? Sure, let's talk ideal systems...after the election. Right now, it comes off a bit silly. And that's putting it politely. The fact remains that Obama is the best president we've had since FDR, period. He doesn't want huge defense spending. NDAA wasn't his idea. He's stuck playing with the cards he was dealt, and doing a damn fine job of it. Meanwhile, you're drawing your own deck of cards and insisting we're all fools for not using them.  
Look, dude. We can't make our own reality. Politics is real, whether you like it or not. And were we to listen to people like you, we'd be talking about what an awful president McCain is while gnashing our teeth that our candidate is getting his ass handed to him in the polls. I'm just imagining the debate, with President McCain laughing his ass off while our guy insists that we need to change our power systems. And honestly, weren't you saying this same stuff about Gore? How'd that work out? 
And for the record: My problem wasn't that your list wasn't comprehensive enough. It was that your list started and ended with weak complaints. Cherrypicking, with a complete lack of perspective. It's like a homeless person given a free home who complains that it doesn't float. Yes, floating homes would be nice, but it wasn't one of the options and beggers can't be choosers. Obama prevented McCain from being president and gave us good things. What have you done?

Monday, September 03, 2012

Happy Labor Day, Y'all

For Labor Day, I'm doing the least laborious thing, by reposting stuff I wrote on Facebook.  Enjoy!

So wait, Mitt secures the GOP nomination and then...goes on vacation in Vermont? Really??

Looks like a basic admission that he felt his only real job was to line up as Obama's opponent and the rest was out of his hands. Of course, what should you expect from a man who hasn't had a job in six years yet still makes more money than most of us could dream about. Or one who failed at his last job, yet still thinks his record is good enough for a huge promotion.

Geez, at least Bush liked campaigning, and only set the presidential vacation record after he won. Apparently, even *that* is too hard for ol' Mitt Romney.

And Paul Ryan lied about a...marathon?

Generally speaking, when people lie about big things it's understandable. When people lie about little things, it's pathological. Shaving over an hour off your marathon time is pathological, and indicates that Ryan has a total disregard for reality. But then again, having seen his "plan" for our future, that isn't at all surprising.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Chris Christie: Fat Slob Bully

I honestly can't imagine how anyone could think Chris Christie could be president.  Forget everything you know about him and just look at the man. Fat slob bully. No two ways about it. The first impression you get of the guy is fat slob bully. He could have the best damn policies in the world, but the guy's just not going to get around that.

And the worst thing about it is that the image is correct: Chris Christie really is a fat slob bully.  This time the book matches the cover and you know everything you need to know about him before he even opens his bully mouth.  Seriously.  He might have been able to woo the media, but that's just because he's a loud mouth who makes good copy, and they're shallow twits who think producing good copy is good journalism.  But there's no amount of lipstick in the world that's going to fix this guy.

And sure, maybe if he were better looking he'd be able to cover the personality issues up, but he'd have to be damn good looking.  We're talking Dr. Drew Baird good looking.  And guys that are Dr. Drew Baird good looking don't need to get into politics, because they can get laid on their own.  But people often tend to look like the people they really are, and Chris Christie definitely proves that rule.

Sorry to say, but looks matter. He might be attractive enough for Jersey, but that's not necessarily saying much.