Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Damnable Fours

Damnations!  I’ve been harassing Roger Ailes since forever to put me on his inglorious “Enemies List”, and somehow he pays me back by sending me that damn Meme of Fours list that’s going around like the plague.  I guess now that everyone else has already been sullied by the damn thing, I was the last blogger left.  And just so you know how I stand on these things, when I saw it at Digby’s, I composed a fairly nasty comment about how silly these things were and compared it to the typical sorority shenanigans we hear so much of (I believe the line was: What is this a blog, or a damn sorority).  The message was so nasty and anti-fours, in fact, that I decided to not post it, lest I offend the great Digby (who was kind enough to add me to his blogroll).  

And so what do I do when it comes my way?  Well dammit, I fill it out and pass it on.  Here goes, though there are few surprises here:

Four jobs you've had in your life: Golfcart Driver (for restaurant), Beercart Vendor (for sports team), Furniture Deliveryman (for furniture store), CPA

Four movies you could watch over and over: Boogie Nights, Snatch, Elf, Arsenic and Old Lace

Four places you've lived: (very Tex-centric) Corpus Christi, Austin, San Antonio, Houston

Four TV shows you love to watch: (the only shows I watch) Daily Show, Colbert Report, SNL, Simpsons (not the newer ones)

Four places you've been on vacation: Branson MO (hated it), Washington DC, Sodus Point NY, Myrtle Beach SC

Four websites you visit daily: Digby, Legal Fiction, Carpetbagger, Roger Ailes

Four of your favorite foods: Cheesecake, Shrimp Romeo (w/ pesto cream sauce), Beer, Chocolate

Four places you'd rather be: Amsterdam, Outer Space, The Moon, Mars (I’m a sci-fi nut)

Four albums you can't live without: (Not withstanding the “can’t live without” melodramatics) Stereolab – Sound Dust, Chet Baker – The Best of Chet Baker Sings, Frank Sinatra – The Very Good Years, Peggy Lee – You Give Me Fever (the first three are must-haves, and the last is a drunken must-have)

And just to add a category I like:
Four Favorite Writers: HG Wells, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Winston Churchill

Now I’m going to have to search all the blogs to see who hasn’t gotten this damn thing yet (lest the poor sap realizes that I don’t read all of their ramblings).  Ahh, I found one.  I’m sending it to Neural Gourmet, co-creator of the Carnival of the Liberals (which is still accepting entries by Jan 3).  Welcome to the sorority, Neury.  Good luck.

Rhetorical Goons

I was over at Pharyngula’s esteemed abode, reading a debate involving Christians and science (which describes almost all of his posts), and I decided to leave a comment regarding the futility of arguing with most Christians.  And while none of this is particularly new to my regular readers, I haven’t posted anything good in awhile, and thought this was good enough.

The big problem with arguing with Christians (as well as most other groups) is that there are as many different Christian belief systems as there are Christians.  In the end, people believe what they want to believe, and make their gods out of their own image.  The bible says whatever they want it to say, and they merely use it to justify beliefs that they cannot rationally explain (or simply refuse to do so, as a form of rhetorical shorthand).  Rather than explain their dislike of homosexuals or why their specific moral code is better, they just insist that their god tells them to act like that and believe the case to be closed.  In reality, this is no better an argument than that of "I'm right because I say I'm right" because they are their own basis of rightness and source of reality.  

The proof of this is simply the fact that no two Christians agree on everything, and most of them agree on almost nothing; or at least, nothing specific.  If their god were a reliable source of morality and whatnot, then there shouldn't be such large differences in their opinions.  As things are, any part of the bible that they disagree with is considered wrong; which is evidence that it is they who are selecting the teachings, not their god.  Additionally, the confirmation they use in determining that the bible is accurate is also more evidence that they are selecting their beliefs; as it is their own beliefs confirming the bible, and not their god.  More evidence is seen with the "cafeteria Catholics" who believe that they get to decide issues regarding homosexuality and women priests.  The idea that these people are all worshipping the same god is fraudulent.  If anything, they are abusing their god's name by attaching it to their own personal beliefs.  Rather than being a fount of truth, God is reduced to nothing more than a rubber stamp of approval; the rhetorical equivalent of a hired goon, used to settle all battles in their favor.

And so before you can debate any Christian, you have to figure out what it is exactly that they believe; but that can take longer than any debate could be worth.  And so it does little good to argue with them.  You will be forced to speak in generalities which will almost never correspond to the specific person you're arguing with, and they will continue to believe that it's anti-Christian bigotry driving your stereotype...and perhaps they're right.  Overall, you'll just talk past each other, as you argue against a generic Christian position, while they argue that their beliefs aren't being addressed by your arguments.  But again, this is all more evidence that they are the source of their beliefs, and that they cannot rely on their god to win the debate for them.

And the upside for Christians is that I'm saying that they're not all sheep following a monolithic belief system; but rather, they are their own leaders and are following what they really believe.  But the downside is that they can't claim a supernatural basis for their arguments, and must defend them on their own merits.  None of this is to say that there is no god, but merely that they cannot rely upon His name to support their arguments.  Rather, they have to defend their ideas of morality on their own, rather than pretending as if our argument is with their god.  And that’s the way it is with everyone.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Questionable Statement

From a news article of a Stallone courtroom victory:
"There is a little difference between shoe fetish and Mr. Sylvester Stallone," Casey said at a hearing Tuesday.

I don’t know.  I just don’t know.  

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Pragmatic Gods

Semi-Serious Questions:
If Bush were impeached next year, would he swear-off this whole God thing?  It seems fairly obvious that he’s a big believer, not in the Catholic/boring god I grew-up with; but in the active, does-things-for-you kind of god that he seems to believe in.  And I am quite convinced that he credits this god with the success he’s had so far.  And so, if Bush is impeached and his god can’t do anything to stop it; would he dump his god?  Shouldn’t he?  Or would he actually take personal responsibility, and blame himself for not having enough faith?  (And if his history is any indication, this is the least likely scenario, right?)  And if he did dump the god thing, would he just go atheist; or would he look for an even more pragmatic, does-things-for-you kind of religion; like voodoo?  Would he ever tell us, or would he still pretend to be staying the course?  And were he to switch gods and made it public, would his diehard followers finally stop believing in him; or are they really in this for the longhaul?  Impeachment and voodoo be damned?  And if there were a conflict between him and their god; would his diehards dump him, or the god?  Or would their heads just explode in a fit of rage; thus sparing us the burden of their existence?

More semi-serious questions:
Of what you know of Christianity and of how Bush thinks and what he’s been doing; isn’t it more likely that, if there is a supernatural being helping him, that it’d be Satan?  I’m not saying I believe that, but my understanding of religion and all that kind of stuff really would point this one into the Satan category.  Surely Bush wouldn’t know it was Satan, but he wouldn’t be Satan if he wasn’t double-dealing, right.  And how does anyone really know which supernatural being they’re dealing with?  Say there was no Yahweh; would it really be all that difficult for Zeus or Thor to impersonate him?  Or aliens; is it really impossible that aliens could have the technology to make us believe that they were the god we were looking for?  How can anyone ever know?  They can’t.  But I guess that’s just one of the reasons why sensible people just refuse to answer the god question in the first place.  When you can’t know what you’re doing, then perhaps you shouldn’t do it.  

Final questions:
Do you think that, at this point, if Satan exposed himself to Bush and made it clear that it was he who had been helping Bush this whole time, and not God, and that he was willing to help Bush save everything and make Bush look successful; would Bush just go with it and let him finish the job?  What if the alternative was to start following God’s advice, which would lead Bush to be impeached and remembered as a miserable President; how likely is he to go that route?  And how much of a difference would it make if it turned out that Rove was the Devil?  Wouldn’t that explain a few things?  And are there really people who would actually prefer for such a scenario to be possible?  I know they say they do, but I have my doubts.  Explain.

Each of these questions are two points each, and yes, I do grade on a curve.  Good luck.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I Am The Winner!!!

Step right up, girls and boys: We have exciting news here in Biobrain land.  The winners of the second bi-weekly Carnival of the Liberals have been announced, and one of those blessed winners was none other than Yours Truly.  That’s right, ol’ Doc Biobrain has been honored with a winning slot in the Carnival for the recent post The Problems With Third Parties.  Feel free to read my acceptance speech in the comments section at CofL.  I feel that it was properly humble, but without sacrificing any of the gratuitous gloating that is only natural to one as great as myself.  I mean, modesty is important; but let’s not get crazy about this.   So far, it appears to be the only such speech at the Carnival, but I’m sure that that’s only because the other winners read my entry and realized how unworthy they were of the honor.

And if any of you bloggers are thinking about submitting something for the next Carnival, keep in mind that I’ve already got the winning entry typed up and ready to go; which means that there are only nine other slots to win.  But if you’re a regular reader here, you shouldn’t have too much difficulty beating out the competition.  After all, if you’re smart enough to read me, you already have a leg up over the competition.  Mere mortals cannot compete with genius.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Social Security and the Dummies Against It

Josh Marshall is totally right when he says that Democrat privatization pushers like Klein and Bai are wrong when they claim that Social Security and Medicaid are obsolete in our modern economy.  But as usual, I find it necessary to take this further.

First off, as I’ve explained before, the main reason I believe that Klein and his ilk want privatization is because they don’t need Social Security, and that Social Security is surely the least productive member of their retirement plan.  I also agree with Josh that their argument is at least partly due to their love of buzzwords and the desire to seem up-to-date and into new ideas; even if the buzzwords are empty and the ideas bad.  But the reason they’ve picked this particular topic is because it affects them so much.  They have this whopping 15.3% sucked out of their earnings and very little to show for it.  So of course they’d like to turn that into more productive resources.  They’re not worried about not being able to retire.  For them, this whole Social Security thing is just a scam.  They pay in almost $14,000 annually, and see a very low return on investment.  And so it’s just natural that they’d want to turn Social Security into something which reflects their other retirement funds.

And I’m not necessarily thinking this is just selfishness (though it probably is).  It could be that, because of their situation, they’re just out of touch with the needs of people less fortunate than themselves.  They’ve got job security, and good insurance, and a very healthy retirement plan; and so they just don’t understand what we’re talking about.  Because they’ve got the argument completely backwards.  For them, they’re saying that modern workers need privatized funds, because they don’t have a pension and could really use the boost that a stock market funded Social Security could give them.  Being unaware of the true purpose of Social Security, they’re just looking for something that can replace the well-funded pensions of the past.  That’s what their retirement fund looks like, and so they’re just trying to share the wealth.  401k’s for the common man.

And they’re not even looking at this from a risk perspective.  They don’t see Social Security as the last-resort safety net that it is.  Because they don’t need a safety net and don’t worry about their long-term future.  For them, this is the least productive part of their retirement plan.  And so they’re wanting us to have a more productive retirement plan too.  But perhaps if they were to lose their retirement plans, they might begin to understand the importance of that safety net.  This isn’t about giving Joe Worker a great retirement plan; this is about making sure that Mr. Worker can survive, and be able to at least have a partial retirement.  And while a white-collar worker has a few post-retirement options; those with physically demanding jobs can literally be worn-out by the end of their careers and unable to work even a part-time position.  For them, retirement is not an option; it’s a necessity.

Social Security’s Origins

Overall, the Dem Privatizers even have the first part of this argument wrong.  They act as if Social Security is no longer necessary in our modern age; comparing it with the pension-laden “work for one company” career paths of the past.  But that wasn’t when Social Security was created.  It was created during the Great Depression; when there weren’t great pension plans or great jobs that you stayed with your whole career.  It was a time of job insecurity and real doubt as to one’s long-term future.  

And so in that light, once the economy improved and workers began to get their great pensions (many of which are now considered jokes); that’s when Social Security became less necessary.  Because the safety net wasn’t needed when people had a secure retirement.  But even then, there were lots of people who didn’t have a great pension or a lifetime job.  And so Social Security remained necessary.  And now that pension plans are on the wane and job security is largely down the tubes; Social Security is more necessary not less.  

While guys like Klein and Bai talk as if our economy has made great strides since the pension-era; we have, in fact, taken several steps backwards.  The supposed innovation that Bai speaks of as Walmart’s “new world economy” is, in reality, just the old system reborn.  And to be honest, I am amazed and disappointed that a supposed Democrat could possibly praise the screwing of the American worker.  But again, this is all to the benefit of his own retirement plan, so this really shouldn’t be surprising at all.  If anything, this is yet more evidence that the “New” Democrat is simply an old-school Republican.  If Clinton were dead, he’d be rolling in his grave.


And this doesn’t even touch upon the other things that Social Security provides for; such as disability pay.  As things stand, if I get injured in a car wreck and can’t work, I have no insurance and would be totally screwed.  And because I’m self-employed, I don’t even have a kindly boss who could assist me in anything.  But…I have been paying into Social Security for all my adult life and will be somewhat provided for by Social Security.  And if we were to switch to a privatization system, this would all go down the tubes.  I’d either be screwed and couldn’t touch my retirement funds, or I’d start eating them up early and ruin my retirement.  And if I was never able to work again, I’d have used-up my retirement fund long before retirement and be totally screwed for the rest of my life; relegated to some form of public assistance.  And that’s not what this is about.  

And then there is the issue of my death.  If I die right now, my wife will receive benefits until my youngest child turns eighteen.  And while the benefits won’t match what I currently earn (thus giving incentive to Mrs. Biobrain to not murder me), it will certainly help.  But were we to have a privatized retirement, those benefits could eventually run-out.  It would all be dependent on how much I earned and how well my investments did; with the payout being doled out as the government allowed.  And sure, maybe with a privatized fund, I might leave even more for them to live on; but perhaps I would have left them with even less.  And it’s that gamble that Social Security was designed to prevent.

And that’s one of the reasons Social Security has such a seemingly low return on investment; because that’s not what it is.  This isn’t an investment I’m making for retirement; but rather payment into an insurance plan.  Mandatory insurance in which the premiums are based on a percentage of what I earn; with the payout determined by what I put in.  And maybe I won’t get as much out as what I put in, or maybe I’ll get back far more than I put in.  But that’s the nature of insurance.  If insurance always paid out exactly what was put in, there would be no point of having it.  The whole point is to spread the risk over a large group of people; and thus greatly reducing the risk for everyone.

And that’s what Social Security is about.  It’s not about providing a decent retirement for workers; and it’s not a good investment for those with a real retirement plan.  But for those without a retirement plan, it’s a damn good idea.  And even those with a real retirement plan benefit from it; both directly and indirectly.  Because if our seniors weren’t being supported by Social Security, we’d have to support them in some other way.  I’m sure the Joe Kleins would love to opt-out of it, but that’s not what insurance is about.  We need the Kleins in it even more than those who need it.  And were they to have a clue as to what they were talking about, they’d know that their arguments are idiotic and what fools they were making of themselves.

One Last Point

One last point I’d like to address is regarding Bai’s article.  Bai writes that it makes no sense for companies to finance “lavish” healthcare plans (I’ve had insurance, but not one I’d describe as “lavish”); and that this is a burden that the government would be better at handling.  And I agree with that completely.  Removing that burden would do much in making American companies more competitive; while also aiding our citizens greatly and making them more productive.  But then he also knocks our Social Security system, writing: “Isn't the very notion of a payroll tax for workers antiquated and inequitable in a society where so many Americans earn stock dividends and where a growing number are self-employed?”  

Say what??  He seems to make the opposite argument of Klein, perhaps suggesting that, because workers have other retirement plans, that they don’t also need the safety net.  Or maybe he’s making an opposite point, I can’t tell.  But in either case, his point is obviously whack.  First off, most Americans aren’t making dick on stock dividends, but rather on capital gains from the sale of stock.  Secondly, most Americans aren’t making a great retirement on said stock, and can certainly benefit from the stability of Social Security.  And thirdly, this doesn’t cover a large portion of America (including myself); and ignores the entire insurance side of Social Security.  

And what does the self-employment thing have to do with anything?  Does he not know that even the self-employed pay FICA?  I do their damn taxes and I can tell you that every self-employed person is always miffed at that extra 15.3% I add to their taxes (it’s actually slightly less than that, due to a related deduction).  That’s the hardest part for them to swallow and is one of the lousier parts of my job (I really hate telling people they owe money).  But because many self-employed people don’t have insurance or a keen 401k, they need Social Security as much as anyone.

But the main thing is that his point is suddenly the exact opposite of his first one.  First, he’s saying that the government needs to get into the health insurance business, as it makes more sense; but then makes the opposite point regarding retirement insurance.  He suggests that this idea that is new and innovative for health insurance is “antiquated” for retirement; and seems more inclined towards the free-market system.  And partly, this is due to his misunderstanding of Social Security; and partly due to his love for new ideas and buzzwords.  Overall, we’re again seeing a New Democrat who can’t see the forest for the trees.  He invokes the memory of Clinton, while doing his best impression of Bush.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Too Many Laws

Guest Post by Doctor Snedley, Personal Assistant to Doctor Biobrain

I was able to take a few moments away from doing Doctor Biobrain’s research for him and noticed this post by busybody Josh Marshall, regarding NSA wiretaps and the whole shitstink you people are causing over a few American-saving wiretaps.  And I’m reading it and it’s got your obscure acronyms and your government motions and your incorporated modifications and all that other crap.  And who the hell cares.  And it’s the same for this whole damn torture business.  Obscure laws written by even more obscure people for reasons that we couldn’t even fathom in a billion years.  And yet we’re supposed to be surprised when the President gets all fouled-up in all this red-tape and monkeyworks?  My god, is he fighting a war on terror or trying to pass the damn bar exam?  Do we really expect the man to be reading all this when he’s supposed to be protecting our nation from who knows what?  You complain that he can’t catch Bin Laden, while also complaining that he’s fouling up every damn law known to man?  Nice try traitors, but the big guy is totally on to you and your childish shell games.

And you can guess what I’m getting at.  That’s right, too many damn laws.  We’ve got too many damn laws and they’re not doing anything but tripping us up at every turn and making us the laughingstock of the terror world.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m a law and order kind of guy.  I really love the stuff, especially when it means the scumbags and assheads of the world get locked up.  But enough is enough already.  The laws are only good if they help protect us from the bad guys.  And if they’re helping the bad guys get away, then they’re the wrong kind of laws.  It’s that simple.  These are our damn laws, not the criminals’, and we shouldn’t allow the baddies to screw with them.  If they wanted their own damn laws, they’d be law abiders and not law breakers.  And if our chief law enforcer can’t get shit done because of all the damn laws getting in his way, then we have too many damn laws.  It’s that simple.

Am I suggesting that we get rid of all the laws?  Of course not.  We still have some great ones, particularly the anti scumbag and asshead stuff.  But all this stuff that’s tripping up our chief executive from performing the tasks we hired him for; that stuff has got to go.  I’m serious.  That stuff’s just wrong.  It’s giving comfort and aid to the enemy and just totally creeps me out.  I’m all for checks and balances, but if we can’t give President Bush everything he needs to win this war, then we might as well just close up shop and go home.

On Their Toes

And how exactly can we know what laws we need to scrap?  Easy.  Because Bush tells us.  Who else would know more about it than him and his most trusted advisors?  You don’t want him telling you how to flip those burgers and grease those fries, right?  Well the same goes for him.  It’s his job, so let him do it, already.  And it just makes sense that we should let him tell us which laws are getting in his way.  Unless, of course, that’d be giving away too much information to our enemies; in which case he doesn’t have to tell us shit.  There’s no better way to catch these jerks than to have them think that Bush can’t do something, and then WAMMO, he goes ahead and does it.  Only a terror-lover could have a problem with that kind of sneaky stuff.

And what if he needs some extra law that we haven’t already thought of?  Give it to him.  If you can’t trust the President of the United States, who can you trust?  A bunch of damn Congressmen who wouldn’t even know their own assholes from a hole in the ground?  Are you really going to trust crooks like Tom Delay, Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney, and all those other Democratic pukes to make these kinds of decisions?  The only ones who aren’t on the take are the ones too dumb to be worth bribing.  We’re really going to trust these guys to save our nation?  Whatever.  

And for god’s sake, don’t make him tell us about these new laws after he makes them.  The last thing we need is for the terrorists to know which actions to avoid and what’s going to nail them.  That’d give the whole game away.  They don’t tell us which buildings they’re going to hit, so we shouldn’t tell them what’s going to land their Muslim butts in jail.  I don’t even want them to sneeze without worrying that a FBI-er’s going to be jamming a .38 in their stupid faces.  That way, we keep them right where we want them: On their toes.

Loyal Chattel

And what’s the big deal, anyway?  So we give the President what amounts to absolute power.  So we allow him to strip our citizenship away from us and turn us into chattel (which means human cattle, btw).  And so we submit ourselves to daily identity checks and random strip-searches whenever and wherever is needed.  What’s the big deal?  It’s not like he’ll have these powers forever.  He’ll only have them as long as our nation’s security is at stake and anti-American people want to harm us or our interests.  After that, we go back to whatever system Bush allows us to have.  

And naturally we’d have to suspend this whole election thing until after this is over.  I mean, what’s the point of giving the President these shiny new powers if they might just be turned over to a terrorist-loving Dem in a few years?  That’d defeat the whole purpose.  Besides, you’ve seen the field of potential nominees, and they’re not getting any better.  The best of the lot couldn’t wipe his own ass with a snowplow, and you don’t even want to know what the worst would do with that plow.  Plus, the whole election thing forces our future presidents to give-out all their best plans and ideas.  What a crock.  You don’t hear Bin Laden telling us his next move.  Hell no, he doesn’t submit himself to such a ridiculous process, so why the hell should we handicap ourselves by doing the same.  It’s madness.  Sheer madness.  We’ve got a perfectly fine leader who’s taken us this far, we might as well see it through to the end.    And if he can’t get it done within his lifetime, we pass on these rights to the heir of his choice; and keep going that route until the job is done.  What’s wrong with that?  It’s worked for England for years, and look how well they turned out (relatively speaking, of course).

And who knows, without any kind of re-election or Congress to worry about, maybe George will open up and feel more free to let us in on what’s really going on in the world.  Just as long as it doesn’t jeopardize our war on terror or damage our ability to strike whenever and wherever we need to, or undermine our freedom-spreading mission around the world.  And what else does that mean, other than for you freaks to keep your damn yaps shut and ready to do whatever our Commander-in-Chief demands.  And if you don’t like it, well then I’m sure there’s a Muslim country or two that would just love to show you exactly what to expect if we let these terrorist bastards take over.  We can even arrange for the air travel and everything.  

Remember: Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose, and with George W. Bush in charge, you’ll have more freedom than you’ll know what to do with.  So shut your yaps and enjoy it; or else.

Koufax Coercion

Hey, don’t forget to get me in for some of that yummy Koufax action.  I’ll take anything I can get, and yes, I do bribe.  I think I’ve got the Wider Recognition thing written all over me, if only because my recog index seems abysmally low; but the irony is that you have to be fairly well recognized just to be in contention for it.  If anything, the winner should be the person with the least votes, as that person clearly needs a bigger fanclub.  I’d also take Most Humorous or whatever else you could throw my way.  Hell, I’d even take Best Commenter, though I think that might be reserved for non-bloggers.  I nominated myself for Wider Recognition naturally, but I suspect that they’re not giving my vote the extra weight it deserves.  For single post, I recommend This Gay Thing as most humorous, just so that you people don’t split your votes among my numerous humorous materials.

Anyway, vote early and often; and remember, if I don’t even make it past the first round, vengeance can be mine.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Magna Carta My Ass

I was over at Hullabaloo reading Digby’s excellent post on Bush’s absolute-power grab, and it occurred to me why this particular story came out at this particular time.  It was me.  Or specifically, it was because I was re-reading Winston Churchill's History of the English Speaking People (an excellent book, btw), and I just got to the Magna Carta part this morning.  And so the kind folks at the NY Times decided to give me a real-life example of why it was so important.  Churchill even said that its importance was somewhat lost to people at the time, who regarded it mostly as a benefit to the ultra-rich (even upper-class merchants were not considered “freemen” at the time).  And how it had even been largely forgotten about until it regained significance in the 17th century; and has been considered a breakthrough ever since.

And so that's what this was about: a reaffirmation against absolute power.  In fact, I strongly believe that all the actions of the Bush Admin are solely intended to show us how not to act.  They repeat history's mistakes so we don't have to.  Someday we'll have to thank him in an appropriate fashion, like perhaps an impeachment hearing.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Joe Klein, A...Columnist

Greg Sargent at Tapped goes for a bit of understatement when addressing a recent hackjob by Dem-in-Name-Only Joe Klein.  Specifically Greg refers to a column that Klein wrote in Time Magazine about Howard Dean’s “gleeful” statement that we weren’t going to win in Iraq.  But as Greg points out, in order to pretend that Dean had been “gleeful”, he had to replace a few words with ellipses.  Greg suggests that he might be “nitpicking”, but ends by saying that this “isn’t such a small thing”.  

I’m guessing that Greg was going for the ironic understatement, but I really think that he could have upped it a few notches.  Because what Klein did was completely lousy.  Were this behavior exhibited in a blogger, I’d gladly mock the guy and denounce him as a hack.  But this isn’t some two-bit blogger.  This is damn Time magazine, and a regular columnist at that.  Have these people no standards?  I know that Klein doesn’t, but shouldn’t someone at Time have asked him about the ellipses?  Someone??  Or do they too go by the theory that columnists are allowed to have free reign to say anything they want?

Now, I understand the importance of ellipses.  Sometimes, it’s just not necessary to include all the in-between parts.  In fact, sometimes it can be hard to understand something appropriately in full sentence, especially a spoken sentence which might include the extra verbal garbage people include when they’re talking.   And so it can be better to cut out the unnecessary parts and skip right ahead to the good stuff.  

But that’s not just something to be played around with.  When you chop up someone’s words, you’re doing them a disservice.  It’s bad enough when you fail to give context to a quote, by not including an intro; but ellipses are even more dangerous, as you’re removing words from the middle.  So you always have to be extra careful about what you’re removing.  Especially as ellipses are sometimes used to indicate pauses in speech, and can too often be confused as such (your enemies will always assume that ellipses mean pauses, btw).  And so anyone who can’t do it properly should instantly lose the right to use them.  It’s that important.

And so let’s look at what Klein did.  Here’s Dean’s original statement:
“The idea that we’re gonna win this war is an idea that unfortunately is just plain wrong.”

And here’s Klein’s hackjob of Dean’s statement:
"The idea that we are going to win this war ... is just plain wrong."

Right.  Now call me crazy, but I’m having a hard time understanding exactly why those ellipses were necessary.  The sentence only had seventeen damn words in it (I counted), and those ellipses replaced five of them.  And not just any five.  It was the five that would suggest that Klein was wrong.  Or at least, would undermine his argument.  Hell, if we wanted to be serious, we could even say that Klein only removed one word, as the other words were only set-ups for that one word.  But that one word was crucial to Klein’s argument.  And there was no reason to clip it out; unless it undermined the argument.

And no, this isn’t nitpicking.  Because Klein even admits that Dean was probably right.  He said that Dean’s statement was “not inaccurate” and that “most generals would agree with him”.  So what’s Klein’s problem?  As he explains, “The trouble is, Dean--as always--seemed downright gleeful about the bad news.  He seemed to be rooting for defeat.”

But was Dean being gleeful?  If you only had Klein’s column to go by, you’d assume that he was.  But I’ve seen the clip, and he doesn’t sound gleeful.  And the ellipsed-out “unfortunately” would go a long way of suggesting that he wasn’t being gleeful, or rooting for defeat.  Maybe Klein’s better at reading between the lines than I am, but I just don’t see what he’s talking about.  I don’t think that Dean should have said what he did, but I know gleeful when I hear it, and Dean didn’t sound gleeful.  Then again, it’s quite possible that this is the type of glee that Klein’s friends greet him with; and I don’t blame them at all.  I’d be rooting for defeat whenever that jerk was around.

And this isn’t something minor; at least not according to Klein’s words.  Again, Klein is saying that he agrees with Dean, but that the problem is with the manner in which Dean said it.  But if Dean didn’t say it in a “gleeful” way, but rather thought that it was “unfortunate”, then does Klein think that Dean did anything wrong?  I’d have to say not, not if we go by Klein’s words anyway.  And yet, Klein describes this as example of Dems who “make fools of themselves even when they speak the truth”.  And so what the hell is up with Klein?

Pundit Therapy

And it’s purely speculation on my part, but pure speculation is what keeps you people coming back here, so I’ll gladly give it out.  Klein sees the truth of the situation in Iraq, or at least he does now that it’s obvious to even a twit like him.  But he doesn’t like Dean and Dean’s ilk; especially as they were right about Iraq and he was wrong.  And more so, he doesn’t like liberals, and probably has a problem with true moderates.  

In fact, I never read Klein, but I suspect that he likes very few Dem politicians, and prefers the McCain/Lieberman “maverick” types who are seen as traitors to their party, not for their policies, but for the tone-deafness regarding their “bi-partisanship”.  They see themselves as clever outsiders, all because their party hates them.  And it never occurs to them that it might be because they’re constantly undermining the party.  And the Joe Kleins like them because they’re the same damn way.  They don’t care for or even understand McCain’s policies, they just likes the tone-deaf politics of it all.  It makes sense to them.  These are empty shallow people we’re talking about, and politics is all they understand, even if they don’t really get it.  Klein will constantly backstab the party he belongs to, all while insulting them for not having their act together.

But there’s more in it for Klein.  You see, Klein’s one of those former liberals who likes to believe that he’s still the same liberal diehard he always was; but perhaps a bit more grounded in the harsh realism of the realworld.  He likes to believe that he’s stayed relatively pure, but that the political landscape shifted around him and now the extremists like Dean make him look rightish (much as Zell Miller has claimed, to the rightish press corps’ delight).  And he hates that.  Because he really is rightish.  He adopted the “New Democrat” thing so much that he actually switched sides and never realized it.  Or maybe he does know it, deep down, but is in hardcore denial about the whole thing.  It’s kind of like an old woman who was once beautiful and who now resents pretty young women because it reminds her that she is no longer young or beautiful.  Klein’s a sell-out to his cause and despises the people who remind him of that, or act the way that he once acted.  He wants to be both the pure idealist and the pragmatic realist; attacking Clinton and other Dem politicians for selling-out, while simultaneously attacking the Deans for not facing reality.  And in the end, he’s losing both battles.

But in any case, he has to lash out against liberals, not because they did anything wrong, but because he’s afraid that he’s wrong.  And regarding this Iraq stuff, Dean is looking more right all the time, while Klein is looking more wrong.  And while Klein wishes that he had always been on the right side, he has to stick it in Dean because Dean really was right.  Especially as it is now so obvious that the Kleins got duped, and had been attacking the anti-war people who turned out to be right.  When you think about it, it’s hard to blame them for what they’re doing.  

And if you read the end of Klein’s column (something I don’t recommend), you’ll see that he sees Dean’s comments as being solely partisan; which means that he probably believes that Dean & Co got it right, but for the wrong reasons.  He can’t admit that the logic was on the anti-war side, and still believes that it was Bush Hatred and empty partisanship that got us to oppose the war.  Victims of brainwashing are always difficult to bring back to reality.

And when he pulls this crap, the main person he’s trying to convince is himself.  He might work for Time Magazine, but poor Joe only writes for himself.  Peggy Noonan is that exact same way, except that she writes to convince herself that she’s not crazy; and that everyone acts like her.  But in both cases, writing is a form of therapy.  They abuse their positions of punditry; working with the assumption that their opinions must be valid, simply because they’re so important.  I suppose it’s an addendum to the “Might makes right” concept; the louder you are, the more correct you must be.  And god knows they’re not getting much confirmation of that in the real world.

Gleeful Dean

And so Dean makes a statement that Klein doesn’t like.  Not because it’s wrong, or because he disagrees.  But because Dean said it.  And he hates Dean.  And you can tell that by his “Dean—as always” line.  Because whenever Dean says anything, Klein always hears it in a bad way.  He imagines it as such, because he hates Dean.  And that taints everything that Klein thinks about Dean.  He may agree with everything that Dean says, and he’ll even say that military men would agree too (because Klein is so totally in with the whole military man mindset); but he has to disagree with how Dean said it.  And that’s the surest way of an emotional freak whose logic will take second-place to his feelings.  

And so what does Klein do?  He has to trim five short words out of Dean’s short statement, not because they got in the way or were confusing or superfluous; but because they went against the point that Klein wanted to make.  Klein doesn’t like Dean.  Klein imagined that Dean said it in the gleeful way he always does.  And then trimmed out the few words that might make Dean not look so bad.  

But this isn’t the work of real people who make honest mistakes.  This is the work of hacks.  This is how a hack uses ellipses, in order to use someone’s quote dishonestly.  To back up their point, even if the truth goes against them.  And that violates the very principle of ellipses.  Again, ellipses are a privilege, and when you use them, you have a duty to make sure that you’re representing the quotee accurately.  Even if you disagree with them, and even if they’re a moron, you have a duty to make sure that your ellipses replacement doesn’t destroy the integrity of the quote.  And if you can’t do that without ruining your point, then you can’t do it.  And if you have to distort someone’s words to prove them wrong, then maybe they’re not wrong.

And yet here we see important Time magazine guy doing this to an important person.  Again, when we see this deplorable practice in some two-bit blogger, it’s embarrassing.  But this is far beyond that.  This is a major break in ethics.  Well, it would be if Klein had any ethics.  But shouldn’t Time be ashamed of this?  Would they ever admit to it?

On a final note, can any sane person possibly imagine that Dean would have been “gleeful” when saying such a statement?  That’s insane.  Even if Dean really is happy about us losing in Iraq, would he really give the public impression that he was “rooting for defeat”.  I was never a fan of Dean, but this is really too much.  Klein’s theory is obviously pure fantasy.  And that’s what we’re dealing with.  Someone who could think the worst of someone who, in theory, is on his same side.  And to prove it, would remove a word in order to suggest that the worse thoughts were wrong.  The one word that supposedly changes it from being an accurate statement to being wrong.  That’s just crazy.  And yet, that crazy is given a regular column in one of the most important news magazines in the nation; and you’re just some dumb dope reading another dumb dope’s blog.  

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Problems With Third Parties

The illustrious Carpetbagger has a discussion group today regarding the viability of third parties, and whether they can be “serious players on the national scene”.

I think this issue misses the point.  We don't have two parties; not by the normal meaning.  We have two permanent coalition parties, both of which are comprised of many smaller parties, or factions.  That's why a Democrat in a rural area is likely to be more conservative than a Republican in an urban area.  And a Congressman from rural Alabama will be different than a Congressman in rural Vermont, irrespective of party.  And how Texas switched from Democrat to Republican, without changing ideologies.  Sometimes the coalitions will divide themselves, as Clinton saw when he had trouble with his Dem-majority Congress, and sometimes they stay together, as Bush has had during most of his reign; including picking up many rightish Dems onto his side.  But they really are coalitions of smaller groups.  

And that is how other countries do it, except that everything is much more explicit elsewhere.  But in the end, Bush has to struggle to keep his coalition together, just like Blair does.  And because things are going poorly for him, Bush is now having trouble keeping any of his coalitions together.

And sure, politicians generally use the official party labels, but that belies the large amount of leeway within those labels.  There's a Dem v. Repub split, but a separate lib v. con split.  And within those categories, there are many sub-categories.  Sometimes they stick together, when they think that compromise is for the best; and sometimes they go separate, if they think that compromise is too compromising.  And each category survives in their local environment.  It's all supply and demand, or survival of the fittest.  Ted Kennedy might be unbeatable in MA, but would be unlikely to survive the Senate Democrat primary in a southern state like Texas.  There are personal issues involved with that, but overall, his style of Dem would not work here.  A Texas Dem would do poorly in Massachusetts, and a Massachusetts Dem would do poorly in Texas; at least assuming they had to run on the same platform as before.

And that begins to explain why it’s so difficult for a third coalition to form, because there’s already so much maneuvering room within the two main coalitions; and little advantage to break out of them.  If no one’s ever detailed the various coalitions that have formed within our political system, they should.  Because rather than the stiff “two-party” system which is seen as unfavorable compared to coalition-based democracies; ours are much more free-flowing and are only as old as the latest poll results.  And they can vary for individual issues.  It doesn’t necessarily grab large swaths of politicians at once, but rather adjusts according to the demands of each district.  This might be too far under the radar to see, due to its informality, but it is happening.  And if pols don’t do enough adjusting, they will be booted out.

And the only gauge we have to determine coalition strength are the votes of the individual politicians, as well as their statements.  The more an individual politician feels the need to break from party loyalty, the weaker the coalition is.  And in the end, each politician is his own faction; just as each individual is his own.  And that’s just as it should be.  The parties can only attract members to the extent that it can benefit those members.

And even presidential elections depend on the ability to achieve a sizeable coalition within their respective party; as well as forming a coalition in the national election.  And to achieve that coalition, a candidate has to give a message which pulls in as many separate groups as possible, while offending as few as possible.  And the Repubs have really used that to their advantage, by emphasizing a few issues which strongly appeal to many people; as opposed to Dems, who have lots of issues which appeal to many small groups, but which might offend the other groups.  

For example, a Dem’s pro-environment record might help him with environmental-types in California; but would hurt him with union-types in the Midwest.  Whereas, a vague “pro-value” message works well everywhere.  But that's coming to bite them in the butt, as the issues they picked aren't particularly actionable; while the actions they take aren't particularly popular.  And overall, their coalition is based on Bush, and the worse he does, the worse the coalition does; and the more they’ll have to rely upon their own individual messages.  And that will only serve to damage the coalition as a whole, as we’re already starting to see.  The more they have to come out on specific issues, the more they’re likely to offend Repubs elsewhere.

Support Your Local Congressman

People may complain about the lack of political choices, but we're really talking about individuals and not parties.  They may not like the party as a whole, but the individual they’re electing is tailored for their specific region; and not for a national race.  Which is why people can disapprove of Congress or their party as a whole, while continuing to support their specific Congressman.  

And if a particular individual can't cut-it in their regional district, it is unlikely that a different party would help them any.   Overall, the coalitions just want to back a winner, and will take anyone who will win for them.  If a pro-life, pro-war, pro-Bush Democrat can win, they’ll take it.  And the same goes for the Repubs.  As far as the parties are concerned, they want winners.  And so this is really more about individuals picking the coalition that will help them the most, and not the other way around; though a powerful party can certainly strive to pick the right kind of candidates; as Rove has been able to do, until recently.

And while politicians generally gravitate towards the party that is most like them; this is obviously not set in stone.  Different regions have different political demands, and our representatives try to fit those demands; which is exactly how it should be.  If a coalition insisted that all members fit the coalition-type, they would be guaranteed to lose whole regions of the country; and that is worse for the coalition than it is to admit the strays in.  

But of course, that’s exactly the whole point of the coalition.  That there is no one type.  Individual parties could dominate a specific region, but could never be strong on a national scale.  So they have to form with like-minded groups; and sometimes they’re not so like-minded. And so California Dems will support things that Iowa Dems hate, and vice-versa; but that’s just the nature of coalitions.  If nobody compromised, we wouldn’t have anything.  And the biggest compromise is in pooling their votes together under a single party banner; but that is exactly what is necessary to win on a large scale.

Separate and Unequal

And all this goes to explain why a third party could never succeed.  Because they aren’t alternatives to the two big coalitions; but rather separate factions of the two coalitions.  In this context, the various "third" parties are being led by faction leaders who are upset that their faction is being marginalized or overly compromising; and desire to take their supporters with them.  (And sometimes, they’re upset that they’re personally being marginalized.)  But it's not about winning elections, as much as punishing the party which marginalized them.

Because they can't win on a large scale.  Not because of the system, though it is rigged against them; but by the very nature of their split with the larger coalition.  The larger coalitions are necessary because it requires diverse groups of people to win elections in our large nation.  And so groups like the Green Party or the Constitution Party have no chance to win, as they can't possibly form a large enough coalition.  Because that was the whole reason they left their coalition to begin with.  Their only hope is to peel-off other factions, but that would only serve to undermine the purpose of their party; which was to get away from the coalition which was drowning out their voice.  And the more factions they peeled-off, the more their own would be drowned out.  And if the larger coalition had thought they could get enough votes by following the specific faction, then they'd do it.  And if the faction leaders thought they could convince the other factions, they wouldn’t have left the coalition.  

And that explains why no third party can defeat the two large coalitions.  Sure, there are logistical concerns in this; but they only explain short-term difficulties, which could be overcome by a strong movement.  But over the long-term, there are problems inherent in the system which prevents a third coalition from being effective.  And if it were effective, it could only serve to replace a current coalition under a different name.  But the individual factions would remain.  No matter how successful Nader became, he could never convince enough people to truly adopt his ideology in full.  If he could win them over to vote for his coalition, they would remain a separate movement within his coalition.  And that would defeat the purpose of his split.  Unless, of course, his split was purely ego-driven, as some people have suggested.  

But a third-party which stays pure to its specific agenda can never achieve large-scale success, for the same reason that they couldn’t achieve it within their larger coalition.  Again, if Nader could attract enough voters to rival the Republicans, he could have won as a Dem far more easily.  Why reinvent the wheel when you’ve already got a car ready to go?  You’d only do that if the car wasn’t yours to drive; and thus it was with Nader.

Don’t Forget About Poland

Overall, there are multiple-types of Dems and multiple-types of Repubs; and their ideology can be all over the map.  And that's because these are coalitions which act under a single title, and not specific parties with solid ideologies.  And when people complain about their party, they're often just complaining about the compromises that the coalition has made in order to stay together.  But the coalition only stays together when they think that they can achieve more as a group than as individuals.

When Bush looked like he could do no wrong, Repubs were glad to latch onto his coattails and be the Party of Bush.  They supported what he supported, no matter how abhorrent the idea was to them (budget deficits, anyone?).  But now that he's not doing so well, we're seeing many more independent-minded Repubs.  His coalition is falling apart.  But they’re not splitting off as individuals, but rather within the specific factions that they were always in.  The Social Conservatives feel used and ignored; the Fiscal Conservatives feel betrayed; and the Neo-Conservatives just feel stupid.  And within these groups are various sub-factions which have their own ideas of what needs to be done.  But these groups always existed as implicit parties within the Republican coalition.  And the only thing that kept them silent was the lure of success.  And the more they splinter-off, the easier pickings they’ll be for us.

And that's the way it always is.  If it's better for a pol to suck it up, and follow their party's lead; they'll do that.  But otherwise, they'll drop out of the coalition and go it alone.  Just ask Tony Blair about going it alone.  He'll tell you.  Sometimes, coalitions are just a drag.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Just Friends: The Karen Hughesing of America

I was just reading this article about Viveca Novak’s role in the whole Plame thing, and it reminded me of a post which I don’t think I ever got around to making.  And it’s about what this whole Plame thing exposed regarding how the media works and how they got so totally suckered by the Bush Whitehouse, starting back in 1999 or so; and continuing through to this day.

And the basic problem is with the current model of the Washington press corp.  The idea is that the reporter is supposed to befriend important people, as well as underlings-in-the-know, and eventually get them to, intentionally or not, say too much and tell them what the hell is going on.  And it’s not necessarily a bad system at all.  Anyone who’s read All The President’s Men knows exactly how this works.  We see both the intentional leakage by Deepthroat, as well as underlings saying too much over a friendly cup of coffee.  But in both cases, it’s the same thing: the reporters befriend people to gain their confidence, and eventually pump them for info that they can report.  Not necessarily to answer questions, but to just talk about their work; in the hopes that something is accidentally spilled.

I myself was exposed to this a little, back when I (briefly) worked for the federal government.  It was after the Oklahoma City bombing, and reporters were desperate to get any inside track info on it.  And I was the phone answerer at our office and got involved in a lengthy discussion with one reporter.  It was clearly conversational, but I had few doubts that she wasn’t trying to befriend me, with hopes of getting an inside track (as if I knew anything).  And several times throughout the call, it was obvious that she was trying to press a little further to get me to talk about what I knew, or to get me to transfer her to someone who knew more.  And that’s exactly how things work.  Sure, they’d love to get the high-up insider, but that’s the rarity; and they’re happy enough to befriend the low-level staffer with more insight than they might realize.

And in a perfect world, there’s nothing wrong with that system.  But…what if people start to game the system?  What if people start to take advantage of the befriending and actually turn the tables?  Instead of the reporters cultivating good sources to take advantage of, what if these people are working to cultivate good reporters to take advantage of?  And the reporters who are pliable and glad to have good sources will get the “good” scoops; while the hard-nosed reporters will continue to be left out in the cold.  And after each time, the reporter believes themselves to be awesome at their craft; able to cultivate great inside sources.  In reality, they’re just big tools being used by their sources, and they have no idea of what’s really going on.

And we’re not even just talking about giving out top secret info, or shilling out important lies.  That’s just one feature, but not one to be used too regularly.  It works even better for conveying gossip and inventing rumors.  We’re not talking about secret meetings in parking garages, but just friends chatting over drinks.  And the whole time they’re together, the reporter is trying to squeeze out any piece of anything that their editor will let them write about; while the “source” is trying very hard to not be too obvious about the info they’re intentionally dishing out.

And this explains everything.  Not just Judy Miller’s Iraq lies.  Not just the Plame outing, which every reporter involved insisted had just been conversational gossip; and not some intentional effort to out Plame.  But everything.  Like all the “War on Gore” stuff that The Daily Howler complains about.  I agree with him completely that it was our “liberal” media which was to blame for that.  But how much of it originated with them, and how much of it was conveyed as two friends bullshitting over drinks, with GOP operatives filling them with the anti-Gore stuff that they craved so badly.  As well as the anti-Kerry stuff in 2004, and the impression of “Cowboy Bush” we’ve been fed during this whole time.

They give out “inside gossip” about how great, solid, and grown-up the Bush side is; while dishing out negative “gossip” about Gore, Kerry, and the Disarrayed Dems. But nothing that smacks of spin; it all comes out just like conversation.  And this would never have worked if the reporters weren’t already receptive to this type of thing; but again, there are enough reporters out there that it’s not too hard to groom many in the right direction, while ignoring the others.  And after the Clinton impeachment fiasco blew-up in the Beltway Press’s puritanical faces, they were more than ready for some old-fashioned Dem bashing.  And thus came the Karen Hughesing of the Washington Press Corp.  They wanted to believe all the best things about Republicans, as they were so disillusioned and upset about the whole Clinton experience.  

Not to say that they realized that they were Republicans.  In fact, if anything, I think they consider themselves to be the pure form of the “New Democrat” that Clinton posed as.  Too pure for any actual Dem to be.  The imbecile Joe Klein is a good example of this.  Right-leaning Dems who do far more to damage the party than anything Rush Limbaugh can do.  Only Dittoheads can believe Limbaugh’s bullshit; but lots of moderates can be misled by Klein’s brand of pretend-liberalism.  And that’s exactly where too many “liberal” journalists stand; and what makes them so prone to the Karen Hughes treatment.  

They’re glad to hear about how lousy the Dem politicians are doing, as it makes them feel like they’re still the liberal-purists they were in their youth; even if they’re not really liberal at all.  They can support pre-emptive war, social security privatization, welfare reform, budget-busting taxcuts, torture, and any number of anti-liberal agenda items; yet continue to believe themselves to be idealist liberals, because they don’t like the Dem politician’s evil ways.  And because they believe themselves to be pragmatic Democrats, they see our criticism of them as being ultra-liberal “Bush hatred”; while wanting to view the far-righties as being more moderate than they really are.

And so they just eat-up what the Whitehouse operatives dish-out, without ever realizing how badly they’re being used.  The gossip they’re told helps them feel better about themselves, and allows them to gain more prestige in their “profession”.  And all the time they’re being played like suckers, they believe that they’re the ones doing the playing.  And they’re so wrapped-up into this whole system that it never occurs to them that they’re just being used.  

Woodward is a fine example of this disgraceful state of affairs, but it’s all over the place.  These reporters are being totally used, but because it’s done on what they believe to be their terms, they don’t see how they’re being used.  Were the Whitehouse to call them up and say “ I want you to write a story on Gore’s boots” or “Could you write about how decent and upstanding Bush is?” they’d never do it.  But this isn’t anything like.  This is just friends chatting.  That’s how they get their inside scoops, and that’s why they believe it all to be gospel truth.  Whether it’s Plame’s name or Bush’s macho CEO-style of leadership; they believe they’re giving us the straight truth.  They’ve been led to believe that it was their masterful journalism techniques which got this inside information.  The conman has become the mark, and they’re the last ones to figure it out.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

God, the Devil, and This Whole Hell Thing: Part I

Part One: What a Crock!
(The first in a multi-part series)

This is something I slightly touched upon in my Titty Falafel post last month, but I really wanted to greatly expand on it; mainly because I’ve been out of touch from the real world for the past two weeks on family business and have nothing topical to write.  As the title suggests, what I want to talk about is God, the Devil, and this whole Hell thing.  What a crock!

Now, I’m not referring to the God part.  I’m an atheist, sure (or technically agnostic), but I don’t have any real problem with the whole god thing.  There is no proof of it at all, but it’s certainly plausible.  And so I don’t begrudge them their gods.  If it makes them feel better and keeps them from killing and stealing, then I’m all for it.  Especially if it’s me that they’re not killing or stealing, as I’m fairly sensitive about that kind of thing.  So, just as long as they stay out of my hair, then I’m ok with them doing whatever the hell they want with whatever the hell gods they want.  They’ve worked hard, they deserve it.

But the point I just don’t get is this whole Hell thing.  Frankly, it doesn’t make a lick of sense.  Not even a little.  I mean, the Devil hates God, right?  He was once a top angel, and then got jealous of God and eventually got in a big fight and got cast down to Hell.  And now he’s a tad bitter about it.  You know that whole thing.  It’s not in the bible, but enough people believe it that they really might want to think about including it in the rewrite.  Heck, I betcha that most Christians know that story far better than they know 75% of what really is in the bible.  But I digress. The point is just a reminder that the Devil hates God.

And the Devil’s a free-agent, right?  He doesn’t work for God.  He doesn’t do God’s bidding.  They’re enemies, plain and simple.  Right?

So why is it that the Devil spends all his time punishing God’s enemies?  I mean, really.  Someone spends their life breaking God’s laws and hurting God’s people, and then the Devil, God’s ultimate enemy, goes ahead and punishes that person?  For all of eternity?  Really? What sense does that make?  None.  That makes no sense at all.  I mean, hasn’t he noticed that God’s just using this whole punishment thing to keep people obedient to him?  Is the Devil really that stupid that he hasn’t noticed that he’s not punishing his enemies?  Are we to imagine him to be such a complete sucker that he’s actually doing God’s work?  And should we be scared of such a dunce?  

And if he really was being suckered on the whole thing, doesn’t the blame for the punishment end right back in God’s lap?  Isn’t it no different than if he were doing the punishing himself?  Yet that’s not what they believe.  They believe as if it is our rejection of God that makes us fall into Satan’s hands.  As if it’s our fault, and that we allowed ourselves to be Satan’s victims.  That makes sense, as far as that goes, but then we’re back at the first part.: Why does Satan torture us?  And does he really have to torture all of us?  With all the heathens throughout history, he must really have his hands full.

If anything, you’d think he’d be glad to save another soul from God’s gracious hands, and would work to get as many of us as possible.  Wouldn’t that be the ultimate spike against God?  That we rejected him and then happily lived for all of eternity with the guy that rebelled against him?  You’d think that’d really burn God up inside (assuming he has an inside).  And you’d think that the Devil would want to be punishing God that way, by embracing God’s enemies for eternity; rather than punishing them.  Right?  Wouldn’t that be the ultimate fuck-you?  That God’s got a bunch of sexless harp players, all looking in envy at the non-stop BBQ orgy going on down below.  And you know that Hell’s getting all the real hotties, and it’d make it all worth while.  

That’s what I’d do if I was the Devil; just to look up and see the expression on all those suckers’ faces.  They lived that nice pious life on earth, just to get screwed over in Heaven too.  It might even be enough to turn Christians into good old-fashioned God-haters, especially if it meant they’d get to join in down below.  And isn’t that exactly what the Devil’s all about?  And yet they insist that it’s the exact opposite.  What a crock.

(To Be Continued…)

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Open-Minded Bigots

Barbara Walters is one of those fluffy people who I’ve never understood why anyone takes seriously.  But apparently lots of important people have wanted to talk to her, so I guess that makes her important too.  It’s my guess that they talk because they know she’s a complete lightweight, and will let them walk over her, yet she has the image of being a real journalist.  In that regard, I suppose she’s the forerunner of all modern journalists.

So I’m stuck reading a Reader’s Digest (which is so named because its contents have been predigested and all you’re left with is crap), and I come upon this article about a recent Barbara Walters television special.  But the topic wasn’t some silly lightweight piece (despite her lightweight handling of it), but rather a serious piece titled “Heaven”.  And the article I’m reading briefly discusses Walters’ taping of this piece, and is named “In Search of Heaven”.  And as the article explains, Walters went around the world interviewing lots of different religious people and discussing their view of Heaven.  And she acts as if she respects these people’s religions, but one thing is clear: She does not.

Because here’s the thing: it’s obvious that both Walters and the writer, Gail Cameron Wescott, believe religion and religious beliefs to be entirely optional.  A quaint feel-good gesture that all upright people do; akin to doing charity work or reading Hallmark cards.  And more so, they both clearly believe that you get to choose your religion.  And while they don’t say it, it’s also obvious to them that good people choose good religions and bad people choose bad religions.  They never say that, as they know that that’s bigoted and wrong; but it’s obvious that this is the case.

But there’s more to it than just that.  They don’t believe in an objective reality, and therefore, believe that this is entirely a subjective idea.  And specifically, they believe that it is wrong for one religion to believe that they are the “one true religion” with the others being false ones.  And as such, they believe that a religion is bigoted for saying that.  

But all this just goes to show how ridiculous both of these people are; and how bigoted they really are against religion.  Rather than religion and gods being real; to Walters’ ilk, they are merely devices to make you feel better about life.  And for a majority of people, that’s all religion is for.  That, plus a social organization to meet people at.  I’m sure Jesus is rolling in his grave.

Barbara Asks

I wrote a bunch about choosing religions, but it really wasn’t pertinent to the subject at hand, so I’m saving that for a later post.  Let’s get to Barbara’s interviews.

The first is with a Palestinian suicide bomber whose bomb failed to go off, and who is now serving a life sentence in an Israeli prison.  Barbara asks him if he had perhaps envisioned a different life, with a wife and kids and whatnot; and he responds saying “I thought about it, but I wanted to kill Jews”.  He goes on to explain that he believes he’ll be rewarded in the afterlife, and how he “looks forward to joyous sex on silken couches amid rivers of milk and honey.”

Now, the writer of this pretends to be neutral on the issue, but belies that pretense by using terms like “chilling” to describe his words.  And when Walters asks him if she’s going to Heaven, he responds by saying “No, of course not.  You are going to Hell.”  And this, the writer tells us, is “ruthless”.

But is it?  Because here’s the thing, maybe this guy really is right.  Maybe he’s got it right and we really are all going to Hell, and even Pope John Paul II is now having red hot pokers stuck up his butt next to Stalin and Jesus.  And in that case, this guy was simply being factual.  I mean, who the hell are we to say that he’s wrong?  Maybe he hates Jews because he’s a Jew hater; or maybe he’s simply following our Creator’s wishes.  Maybe we really are all infidels deserving of a horrible eternity for going against our Creator’s wishes.  And maybe he really will be having joyous sex on silken couches while we’re being ass-raped by Satan.

But that’s not how the writer sees it.  No, she sees it as if this guy chose his religion and happened to choose a ruthlessly chilling one.  As if it was just a reflection of his personality.  As if he hated Jews and other infidels and looked around for the religion that hated them the most.  

But it wasn’t that way.  Instead, his life led in a certain direction and certain truths seemed self-evident to him and he fell in with a bad crowd which influenced him in a very bad way.  It happens to people all the time, and whether they’re huffing paint fumes and stealing cars for joyrides, or strapping on suicide packs, it’s all the same cause.  People are easily influenced and do terribly stupid things.  I’m not equating these activities at all, or excusing them.  I’m just saying that they have the same root cause; and that we should just be glad that there aren’t more people trying to convince youths to blow themselves up.  We were all terribly stupid once (and perhaps still so) and did terribly stupid things, and we should all just be thankful that our influences weren’t more terrible than they were.

And so this wasn’t a case of an evil person looking for an evil religion, but rather someone who was prone to a certain way of thinking who fell in with a bad religion.  I’m sure it all makes sense to him, and who the hell knows, it’s just as likely that he’s right as anyone else.  He’s looking forward to his reward, and who are we to say that he won’t get it?  And if anyone believes that we’re supposed to respect religion, then that means that we respect this failed suicide bomber’s religion.

And there’s another interview who I believe was intended to go into this “ruthless” category.  This time, it was Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.  Walters asked if a person who doesn’t accept Jesus Christ can get into Heaven, and he was “equally unambiguous”, by saying that they could not.  But again, it is obvious that we aren’t supposed to think this guy is right.  We’re supposed to think he’s a big jerk.

Barbara Walters, the Bigot

And here’s the giveaway line on this, for both the writer and Walter’s.  The writer writes of Walters: The interviewer herself, who purposefully did not argue with her subjects allowed afterward: “There are so many ways of looking at life and death.  You just cannot say this belief is right and that is wrong.  I think one of the major problems today is people saying that only my religion is right, and if you don’t agree with me, you are not going to heaven.”

And that’s fine and dandy, and is certainly reflective of an open-minded person; except one thing: She just said that many people’s religion is wrong.  She, pretending to be giving the objective opinion on it, said that the suicide bomber and the Haggard guy, along with hundreds of millions of others who think just like them, she just said that their religion was wrong.

And if that’s her belief, that’s fine.  But she just did exactly what she said people shouldn’t do.  She said their religion was wrong.  They insist that the Creator only favors their own faith, and she said that this was wrong.  And again, what she’s confused about: She doesn’t really believe that these people’s religions dictate these beliefs.  Rather, she believes that these people are the types who disagree with others and who hate other people and who bring that to their religion.  And I kind of agree with that.  I can see that.  But maybe that’s not true.  

Again, maybe the suicide bombers are right.  Or maybe Haggard is right.  Maybe they really DO have the one true faith, and maybe the Creator really does instruct us all to do these things; and only these people are following his commands. And maybe the Creator hates open-minded religionists most of all and has a special hell for them.  Can Barbara Walters or anyone else say with any certainty that that’s not true?  Isn’t it conceivable that our Creator hates Jews and the other infidels?  

Of course it is.  I find it fairly irrational, but I also find it irrational when the Christians say that their god will allow his rebellious angel to punish me for all of eternity; and all because I expect proof  that he’s real.  That makes no sense.  But that doesn’t disprove it.  Nothing disproves it.  And that’s one reason why I think that religion is kind of silly and why I haven’t chosen one.  But…if someone says that we should respect all religions and shouldn’t denounce any of them (as Walters says), then that goes for all religions; not just the tolerant ones.  

But that’s not for Walters.  She clearly only likes the tolerant religions; and must believe these faiths to be witness to the believer’s goodness.  And perhaps that’s right.  But that’s not the right attitude of someone who respects religion.

Bad Polls

Oh, and the writer follows the Barbara quote above (which the writer clearly agrees with) by suggesting that most Americans aren’t bigots about their religion.  She writes: At least for now, that view is not predominant in the United States.  According to a recent Newsweek/Beliefnet poll, 79 percent of Americans believe that someone of another faith can attain salvation and go to heaven.

And for shit’s sake, I hope the poll wasn’t that vague.  Nope, I was wrong.  I just found the poll online, and for shit’s sake, it is that vague.  The question they asked is: “Can a good person who isn’t of your religious faith go to heaven or attain salvation, or not?”  And like that wasn’t a meaningless question.

First off, how many of those people consider the different dominations to be “of another faith”?  With that vague wording, it could just mean that an Episcopal believes a Catholic can also get in.  I mean, even the Haggard guy quoted in the article just says that Jesus needs to save you.  But that doesn’t mean that an Atheist or Muslim also gets in.  These words mean different things to different people.  

Secondly, the poll didn’t define what it means to “attain salvation”?  After all, the Catholics believe that anyone can be saved, even on their deathbed, as long as they accept Jesus and ask forgiveness for their sins.  That’s what salvation means to them.  But they also believe that we’ll all go to Hell if we don’t do that.  And conversely, even a lifelong Catholic who did everything right will go to Hell if they stop believing on their deathbed.  And that explains why the poll shows that Catholics are the most accepting of the idea of other people getting in.  But that doesn’t mean that they can get in; that just means that they might.

And yet I’m fairly certain that the writer of this piece was oblivious to that.  She’s so wanting to be open-minded about it, and yet she’s loading the terms up to her own definitions; and in the process, she’s watering down other people’s religions.  Why does she assume that the respondents meant that anyone of any faith goes to heaven, even if they stay in their own faith?  That’s clearly how she read the question; and yet that’s not right.  I’m sure there are many people who believe that, but it’s foolish to say that this is a majority.

And in that, she exposes her own bigotry.  Her own bigotry against eternal damnation or a punishing afterlife.  I too don’t believe in Hell, but I’m not the one pretending to respect all religions.  I think they’re just wasting their time with this religion stuff, and should just learn to sleep-in on Sundays and enjoy it.  But again, if you’re going to respect religion, you have to respect all religions.  Because if we have to consider the possibility of any of them, then we have to consider the possibility of all of them.  Including the intolerant ones.

One Last Note

Well I’ve done enough damage, so I think I’ll just wrap-up with a “highlight” of that blasted Reader’s Digest article and be done with it.  It was Anthony DeStefano, author of A Travel Guide to Heaven, who suggests that in Heaven “we’ll be able to go fishing with Hemingway, study piano with Mozart and painting with Michelangelo.  Provided, he adds, that those folks make it to heaven.”  

And uh, no.  If Mozart and Michelangelo are stuck for eternity teaching DeStefano and the other billions of people in Heaven, then they are most surely not in Heaven.  It’s more like a work-visa from Hell.  They didn’t tutor us while on earth, and I’m sure they would not gladly do it for eternity either.

Oh, and if you’d like to know which religion the writer and Walters herself prefers, but you don’t want to read the article or watch the special; I’ll just tell you.  It’s Buddhism.  They clearly prefer Buddhism.  I’m sure that neither one of them understands it any further than the self-help lesson it sounds like, but that’s the one they prefer.  And why?  Because the Dalai Lama rubbed noses with Walters and told her that the purpose of life was to be happy.  And while I could have told her the second part, as that’s something that I’ve said on many occasions; only a semi-divine being like Mr. Lama could touch that damn woman’s nose.  And I don’t begrudge him that at all.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Genius of Condi

I always tell my wife that she needs more of what makes Condoleezza Rice such a complete crapass.  I dislike Rice, but my wife needs more of what I don’t like in Condi.  It’s not just the bullshit.  It’s not just the smugness.  It’s the entire combination of her knowing that she’s totally shitfaced wrong, and yet the point that proves her so wrong is the very point that she shoves in your face in such a bold and brazen fashion that you’re left dazed and confused, and start to doubt your own ability to think.  And those damn teeth just complete the picture.  

Condi Rice doesn’t have enough brain cells to blow up a small raft.  But she’s got that certain smug crapiness that just makes you want to smash her in the face and then proudly take credit for the whole thing while the Secret Service pats you on the back and tells you that they understand.  But they wouldn’t and they’d just lock you away forever; and then you’d be tortured with the thought of that damn grinning witch having gotten the best of you; and she’d go on to become president, and you’d rot forever in some dank jail cell, and you wouldn’t even get to read my blog anymore.  And that’s what she’s all about.  She’s going to get the best of you, and she doesn’t deserve it, and she knows it, and she knows that you know that she knows it, and there ain’t a damn thing you can do about it, and that’s all there is.

Don’t get me wrong.  I like Mrs. Biobrain.  I liked her enough to marry her, and to have stayed married to her for several years.  And I don’t want her to become some smug jack-o-lantern that I’d want to punch in the face.  But she’s too much of the opposite.  She’s a nice person who feels guilty, simply for having been accused of something.  And she just doesn’t know how to defend herself; even when she’s entirely in the right.  And it bugs me enough that I would actually wish some of that Condi Crapability to be bestowed upon her.  Perhaps I’m dooming myself for asking for such a thing, but I went ahead and said it anyway.  

I just think that if Condi can vigorously defend herself when she’s entirely wrong, that my wife should be able to defend herself when she’s right.  Is that so much to ask for?  (For the record, I am referring to my wife’s job, and not implying that there is a time when it is I who is wrong about something, or needs to be defended against.)

Determined to Attack Inside the United States

And while my wife is waaay smarter than Rice, Rice has a much better ability at defending herself.  In fact, that’s really all she has going for her.  Her classic hit was the “I believe the title was 'Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States’" line she gave to the 9/11 commission.  And it wasn’t just the pretend guess; though we all knew damn well that she knew the title of that memo.  And she knew that we knew that she knew.  And it wasn’t that she had been so obviously coy about it, or that she knew that we knew why she was being so coy.  No.  It was all of that, combined with her delivery, which was a complete expression of “I can’t imagine why you’d want me to mention the title.”  As if she believed it to be entirely irrelevant and couldn’t understand why she had even been asked.  As if she had just been asked the color of her bedspread, rather than the title of a memo she had been misleading America about.

And she did it.  You know that she had practiced that line, and knew exactly how she’d deliver it.  She’s a concert pianist.  She speaks Russian.  She’s got a PhD and has written several books.  She’s all kinds of other clearly intellectual things that neither I nor you could be, yet we’re supposed to believe that she didn’t understand the importance of that memo?  Or at the least, that we wouldn’t all be shocked and amazed that a memo with such a title had been so obviously ignored?  

Come fucking on!  That title was THE title that America needed to hear in order to condemn the Bush Admin.  That title said everything.  Hell, a title like “Bin Laden Determined to Attack the WTC on 9/11” would have been too over the top and unbelievable.   But “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States” retained enough ambiguity to make it the title that should shock everyone.  I’m not necessarily saying that it was fair to blame the Bush Admin for not acting on that memo (though they should have done more than ignore it).  But if any country could blame its leaders for ignoring a memo, America is that country, and that memo was THE memo.

And yet, her delivery…  It was amazing.  The boldness.  The feigned ignorance.  It was perfect.  Nobody could possibly believe her.  She fooled no one.  But that was the whole point.  She wasn’t trying to fool anyone.  It was nothing short of a perfect mindfuck.  She wanted nothing less than for our brains to explode.  And explode they did.  The sheer mendacity and balls.  Even thinking about it now, it’s staggering.  She was openly professing complete ignorance to a matter of complete incompetence, and she knew that nobody could buy it.  And nobody did.

Yet that was the whole point.  To have gotten everything wrong, and to still be getting it wrong, and to act as if she didn’t know that she got it wrong, yet to obviously know how wrong it was, and to know that everyone else already knew it, and yet to continue to act as if the very point that everyone knew destroyed her was some insignificant detail that nobody could care about…it’s genius.  Pure genius.  

Don’t get me wrong.  Rice is no genius.  In fact, she’s a moron.  A moron that knows how to memorize things and learn patterns.  Think idiot savant pitbull, and you’ve got Condi.  But she works it together so perfectly that it makes no real difference from genius…well other than that she’ll fuck everything up.  But it’s a perfect storm that cancels itself out and brings itself to eventually become Secretary of State.  Incredible.  

And what else can you do when faced with this, other than to throw your hands up in defeat and have yourself a few stiff drinks.  I’ve had a few stiff ones tonight, and they clearly weren’t stiff enough because I’m still agitated over the whole thing.

I mean, just imagine how different things would have gone, had she refused to give us the name of that memo.  Or better, had she broken down and admitted to how bad the whole thing sounded, but to have begged for mercy.  She would have gotten her mercy, but she’d also have gotten her pinkslip.  And Bush would have lost the 2004 election.  But that didn’t happen.  She continued to feign ignorance, in spite of all evidence to the contrary; and it worked.  It all worked.  And we’re still stuck with that boob in the Whitehouse, and Condi got a damn promotion; having been given the job of the main guy in the Whitehouse to have gotten it right.  Simply incredible.

Pulling a Condi

Anyway, this wasn’t about rehashing old news.  I just read a new condi over at Eschaton, and it brought back all those old feelings.  If you haven’t read it already, here it is.  I’ll include Atrios’ comments because I’m too lazy to make my own:

Rice on CNN to John King, just now, responding to King pointing out that Democrats didn't have the same intelligence as the White House. It's her shiny new talking point. Shr grinned triumphantly as she said it:
They had the intelligence that made the case that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted his biological and chemical weapons and was at least on the way to reconstituting the nuclear weapons.
Right, they had the intelligence that made the case, but not the intelligence which pointed out that that intelligence was full of shit.

Oops, she did it again.  She fucked with your mind.  And you couldn’t do anything but read about it on my blog.  And she knows it.  She told John “Tool” King, and he couldn’t do anything but take it.  And there’s nothing you can do either.  As Atrios pointed out, King didn’t ask a follow-up, but would there have been a point?  Would she have given up?  Nope.  She just would have blown his mind even more.  I say he was lucky to get off as easy as he did.  He doesn’t have much mind to blow, so this really could have been bad for the guy (though I’m sure Fox would still take him).

And what could be a follow-up question to this?  I mean, she’s a Russian-speaking concert pianist doctor, and she just gave the dumbest fucking answer in the world.  She gave the exact answer that proves her wrong, and she acted as if it proved her right.  Specifically, in an attempt to show that Congress had the same intel as the Whitehouse, she tells us that they had intel which said that Saddam had what we all know he didn’t have.  And more so, that our intel agencies knew was based on guesses and full of doubts; but which weren’t passed on to Congress.

In other words, she gave the answer that made her look wrong.  Her answer to prove that Congress wasn’t misled was to point out that they were given intel which misled them.  And that’s just so fucking crazy that it works.  She can say this stuff and get away with it.  Because remember, what she said wasn’t a lie.  It was much bolder and shameless than a lie.  It was an admission of guilt dressed up to look like an exoneration.  But it wasn’t really hidden.  It was so blatant and obvious that you feel like you just got hit in the face with a cold fish.  And that’s what makes her the Secretary of State, and why you’re just some dude reading a blog.

And so that’s what I wish on my wife.  Not that she’ll become another Condi (god forbid).  But that she’ll take a page from Condi’s book and learn how to not feel squeamish when under attack.  If that woman can defend herself in front of the whole world by throwing our own common-sense and rationality in our faces, then my wife should be able to defend herself against a few minor battles at the office.