Sunday, January 30, 2005

Putting the Bull Back Into Bullshit

In response to The Bull Moose’s comments on what Dems need to do to “fight back”, the Doctor drunkenly growls:

What in the hell crap was Mr. Bull Moose smoking, and how do we ensure that our kids don’t get their grubby little hands on the stuff? Not only does this Moose character foolishly state that America is a “fairly conservative country”, but he honestly seems to believe that the perception of the “liberal elite” and “activist judges” will make people shift their ideology. What a crock of shit.

The reality is that conservatives have lost the ideological war, and it wasn’t even close. America likes Social Security, and they like the FDA, and they like Medicare, and they like the FCC, and EPA, and all those other programs. They may bitch about these programs, but Americans have fully incorporated the idea that the government will solve our problems for us. Not all our problems, only the ones that it is capable of solving; for what is the government but a coalition of Americans striving to solve the problems which we as individuals cannot or will not solve ourselves. And that is the essence of society and the culmination of mankind’s power.

And so that’s why conservatives don’t even try anymore. During the campaign, Bush did not and could not claim that he wants to overturn Social Security or Medicare. He could not announce intentions to overturn the EPA. He never said that he’d overturn any liberal policy. That would be political suicide, and everyone knows it. But isn’t that the proof that America isn’t conservative? The reason Bush was re-elected was because he had to pretend to support a liberalish agenda. For example, he wants to get rid of Social Security, but he can’t say that. Instead, he has to market his agenda as a way of saving Social Security. Why would he have to say he was saving the program, unless he thought it was what people wanted to hear?

This hardly sounds like a conservative country. The reality is that the only reason the Republicans were able to take over our government is because they pretended to not be conservative. The biggest two items from Bush’s last term were both sold from a liberal perspective. Tax cuts were sold using the Keynesian idea that higher spending will increase demand and help the economy. The war in Iraq was a war of liberation, and the national security argument often included Clinton’s words. Additionally, No Child Left Behind pushed many liberal items that conservatives hated. Blue Skies was sold as a better way of decreasing pollution. I could go on and on. Hell, even the Faith-Based Initiatives were sold as a way of using government resources to help people do what they and their non-funded church couldn’t do alone. And that sounds like a liberal idea to me.

The greatest damage that the Bush admin caused wasn’t by pushing a conservative agenda, but rather from hiring conservatives to run the liberal government. And they could only do so because nobody pays enough attention to these details.

But it wasn’t enough to borrow the liberal agenda; they had to strip it from the liberals. So they started to demonize liberals by focusing on the egregious far-left liberals and pretending that they represented “typical” liberals. They pretend that Michael Moore and Sean Penn represent all liberals and that anyone who identifies themselves as "liberal" is represented by the far-lefties. They also started to identify anyone who wasn’t a rabid conservative as being a moderate conservative, moderate Conservatives as leaning Lib (George Will is seen by many now as being a moderate), and so forth. Unable to attack popular liberal initiatives, conservatives were forced to attack the liberals themselves.

All the Republicans have done is to shift the definitions of what it means to be a “liberal” or “conservative”. But realigning the political labels will do nothing to actually push a conservative agenda. You can convince someone that they should call themselves “conservative”, but that doesn’t mean they’ll support conservative ideology. They may support Bush, but they don’t want to give up their Social Security or other government programs. And the Bush PR Department knows this better than anyone.

What success means for conservatives is entirely dependent on what they intend to achieve. If they are simply trying to gain office and tinker with a few policies while stopping liberals from making more policies, they have already succeeded and will continue to do so. But the idea that these superficial adaptations can do anything to actually convert America into rabid conservatives is insane. It cannot work. Especially as conservatives can only win office by pretending to support liberal ideas. And with this push to kill Social Security, it looks like Bush is going to be learning this lesson soon.

Moral: The only way conservatives can gain power is by attacking liberals, but not by attacking liberal ideas. And that makes it impossible for them to actually enforce a conservative agenda. The more they undo liberal policies, the less protection they’ll have against the Americans they’ve been fooling.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Prescription: Fuk Em All!

What a trip! In response to a short response from blogger Eric on BBrain's very own post, regarding the tendency of liberals to explain everything, the Doctor was most certainly in:

I'm not a lawyer, but I always feel the need to defend myself, explain myself, and set the record straight about everything. Not only that, but I always feel that when I write anything, I have to respond to rebuttals that haven't even been made yet. And I feel that if I can't explain/defend myself adequately that I must not understand the issue well enough. I think that's what makes us liberal; that we're willing to understand ourselves and others, while wishing for them to understand us. That's just natural to any thinking person. But that is a tendency that we must fight against when dealing with right-wingers.

That's how the Republicans keep beating us. They're leading us by the nose by taunting us with crazy stuff and keep us second-guessing ourselves and running on with one endless explanation after another. And I find their non-reponses to be maddening and idiotic. I'll make a valid point against Bush, and they respond with idiotic mockery. I hate that, and am loathe to use such tactics. But it's utterly necessary.

We want to explain ourselves and they don't give a shit. We go for nuance, and they mock nuance. I'm not at all suggesting that we always keep to such immature tactics, especially as we debate amongst ourselves. But some things never need to be explained or defended against, even amongst ourselves. Lefties, righties, moderates, and the apathetic in-between know that liberals aren't racist. Even Bush knows it, and he's an idiot. It's such bullshit that every second we waste on it is another second that they laugh at us. Bush wasn't accusing us of anything, he was distracting America and mocking us. We call him a dummy, but he seems to understand how to manipulate us better than we know how to stop it.

Again, I understand the need to explain everything (as evidenced by this long post), but it's something that we should firmly fight against. If Rumsfeld can dismiss rampant looting with mockery, we should at least learn to use it when they throw fake attacks at us.

Moral: If it sounds like a big crap attack, it probably is and crap should always be avoided.

Sexing Up The Pig

And in response to Senior Blogger Josh Marshall's post on growing Republican opposition to Social Security Privatization (oops, I mean "Personal Savings Accounts"), Dr. BBrain has these words of enlightenment:

It's obvious that we've already won the war on Privatization. In fact, it's such a sweeping victory that Republicans had to completely scrap the word, and now pretend that it was a slur invented by liberals and journalists to attack Bush. But unfortunately for America, our current White House is run by a bunch of marketers who think they can hornswaggle anything through, by hook or by crook; so they're back at it again.

In this case, they've decided to simply change the name of their plan from "Privatization" to "Personal Savings Accounts", and hope that nobody realizes that they're the same damn thing. And while this marketing-based strategy of finding the right names for the wrong plans often works, I think they've screwed up this time.

The problem for them is that they think that it's the word "Privatization" that people detest. Their pollsters tell them that this is so. But maybe the word "Privatization" isn't so bad by itself. Maybe it was that people disliked the idea of changing Social Security into private accounts, and that it was this dislike that made people hate the word. I know, I know, that's crazy talk to a marketing person, but I think that it's the case. And while the term "Personal Savings Accounts" polls better right now, I think people will begin to hate it as much as they hated it when it was called Privatization. Even worse, people will realize that Bush is trying to dupe them with a name change, and they'll resent it (god knows it's due). And that's what's got many Republican leaders stampeding towards the door.

Moral: You can put lipstick on a pig and call her Sheila, but she's still your damn wife.

Laughter: The Best Rebuttal

In response to guest blogger Eric's post at "Legal Fiction" on Iraq democratization, which included a rebuttal of the right-wing's charges of liberal racism, our fine host says:

To comment on a small part of a big post, I don't think we should take the right-wing accusations of us being "racist" in this "brown-skin democracy" issue seriously at all. I want to call it a red herring, but that's not the right term. A red herring is something that distracts from the real issue. But, in this case, they're not necessarily distracting from the problems of democratizing Iraq; they're shifting the issue into an attack on us, and pretending Bush has the moral high ground. And how do we typically respond? By wasting time rebutting the charges.

But that's exactly what they want. Bush knows that racism isn't the cause of our disagreement with him. If anything, he might believe that it's because we hate him and want to see him fuck up, but not because we're racist. Anyone with a brain knows that bringing democracy to Iraq and the middle-east will be very difficult; and in Bush's case, his handlers finally got around to telling him. Bush doesn't really believe this garbage, he's just trying to get us on the defensive. And it works every time.

The secret is to stay alert and understand when an issue has conversion power or not. By "conversion power", I mean the ability to convert a moderate or uninterested party to a particular point of view. Right-wingers can rant about it all they want, but nobody will be converted to their side because they think that liberals are anti-Muslim racists. And the worst thing we can do is take absurd charges seriously; thus giving them at least a small level of credibility. If someone calls you a "momma's boy", the worst thing you can do is act upset about it and try to deny it.

Another case in point is the Swift Boat issue that helped sink Kerry. The charges against him were crap. Anyone who knew the details knew they were crap. And even if we didn't, Kerry's accusers were complete unknowns who did not deserve the credibility. Credibility is something that's supposed to be earned over time, not handed out like fliers to anyone who wants it. And our biggest mistake was in not fully and completely laughing it off. As it was, we ignored it at first, and then tried to rationally rebut it later. But it was too late, and doubts set in for many moderates and uninterested people. They didn't necessarily believe the accusations, but they thought it made Kerry look untrustworthy. What we should have done is had Kerry aides and Kerry's old war buddies on the talk shows laughing at the Swift Boaters and making jokes about their claims. By ignoring the charges or taking them seriously, we allowed them to fester. Laughter would have put them back where they deserved; in their local VFW, wallowing in their beer about the liberal traitor in the White House.

I should also add that even legitimate charges can often be dealt with by laughing them off. Republicans do this all the time. We now know that Iraq was severely damaged by the post-war looting, which was preventable. The Iraqis were already wary of our intentions, and the rampant looting made good intentions look bad and greatly undermined our authority. Allowing the looting looked bad, both in hindsight and foresight. But how did the Bush Admin deal with it: mockery. Journalists and commentators laughed with Secretary Rumsfeld when he expressed disbelief that Iraq could have so many vases. Even now, many right-wingers refuse to even contemplate that looting was a problem. They addressed a very legitimate, very serious concern by mocking it. Yet, we seriously defend against ludicrous charges of racism.

The moral: We shouldn't waste breath and bandwidth defending charges that are clearly absurd. And the "liberal racist" thing is so bad that it seriously deserves the laughter. They do the same thing on Affirmative Action and welfare programs, and it's as laughable then too. The right-wing's motto seems to be "Don't be attacked for something you can attack the other side for." And our reaction should be mockery of the hypocrites, not reasoned rebuttals.

Honesty: Never the Best Policy

In response to Tim Dunlop's "The Road to Surfdom" post about Richard Armitage's recent outbreak of honesty, the good doctor says:

One problem is that, because it's so rare that any Bush official speaks honestly, when they finally do we all jump up and down and say "see, see, even So-And-So says it". And then the right-wing bash machine has to kick into overdrive to show what a hate-filled freak Mr. So-And-So is. Thus, discouraging any of the others from talking. Paul O'Neill was bashed pretty hard. Joe Wilson is probably not on the inauguration invite list this year. Richard Clarke was scorned for a weird family life which they never really elaborated on. Maybe the attacks would have happened anyway, or maybe it's because we started attacking Bush so savagely with their words and Bush had no other recourse than to attack the messenger.

Even worse is when an active Bush official (or Bush himself) says something honest. Every little slip-up of honesty is hoisted into the air like it's our enemies severed head. We all demand honesty from the Bush Admin, but every tiny peep of it is used against them. Why in the hell should they be honest when it just hurts them every time? One of the Bush Admin's biggest political blunders was ever admitting that those "16 words" shouldn't have been in the SOTU speech. They really let the genie out of the bottle on that one. I wouldn't doubt if they regret doing that more than they regret the whole Iraq thing.

And I don't know what the answer is. It's their own doing by making honesty so rare. But it seems a touch hypocritical when we attack Bush for not admitting to mistakes...and then attack him in the rare times when he admits to even the most minor of mistakes. And the right is guilty of the same thing, lest we forget the Clinton presidency. I should add that it's the media that is a big cause of this. We talk about Bush's blunders and dishonesty all the time; it's fun and lets off steam. But the only chance that journalists get to do that is when they can quote a Bush official saying it. So when they finally get the juicy quote, they run with it as hard as they can. It must be frustrating to be strait-jacketed by such inane, self-imposed rules.

Moral: People need to realize that the reason we demand honesty from our political opponents is simply so we can attack them with it. Not that we shouldn't still demand honesty. We just shouldn't be so High & Mighty about it when we attack our enemies for not giving us the weapons we need to beat them. We're all monkeys. Damn dirty monkeys.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Cyborgs? Can't Take No Damn Cyborgs!

Ok, I bet you're wondering what pulled me out of retirement. Foolish mortal, what else could it be but cyborgs. Turns out that Rebekka MacKinnon of the Harvard - Ethics Are For The Other Guy Conference is a card carrying member of the Cyborg Alliance of America (metaphorically speaking, to say the least). An top of that, word on the street says that she eats and enjoys to eat kittens of all stripes, including the cute ones (especially the cute ones). (Other sources say that the so-called "kittens" are actually small dogs, but that's not a judgement call for me to make)

Now, I don't have personal knowledge about this (I haven't seen the video that everyone's abuzz about), but I just want to say that, if Ms. MacKinnon wants to eat kittens or small dogs in her spare time, that's a perfectly legitimate pasttime for her to engage in. I'd rather she and her cyborg ilk eat kittens than my baby daughter (as is her wont), I just think she needs to engage in full disclosure on this one. I mean, if she doesn't have a problem with the wholesale slaughter of an entire race of species, then I don't have a problem, just as long as me and mine don't get hurt. I just think she needs to tell everyone about it.

I should add that I in no way endorse the story that Ms. MacKinnon does such an abhorrant deed on a regular basis. In fact, I hope to god that she can stop herself from doing these horrible horrible things. I just thought that I should bring it to my adoring public's public attention. This is an important story and it behooves us all to report it as quickly and often as possible, and let the "historians" sort out the fact from fiction afterwards.

So, how about, Ms. MacKinnon? Are you going to tell the world about your penchant for eating kittens and/or small dogs, or are you going to maintain your silence? The cover-up is always worse than the crime, Ms. MacKinnon, and you're only hurting yourself with your depraved silence.