Thursday, June 30, 2005

Alien Arrogance

I generally don't do celebrity gossip, and I'm not going to start now. But Kevin Drum handed us a quote from the illustrious Tom Cruise regarding aliens which I just can't pass up. I quote: Asked in an interview with the tabloid daily Bild if he believed in aliens, Cruise said: "Yes, of course. Are you really so arrogant as to believe we are alone in this universe?

I don't care about Tom Cruise. I think I've only seen two Tom Cruise movies in my life, and I really don't remember much from either. I haven't been avoiding him, it's just that he doesn't star in the kinds of movies that I like. Specifically, I like films with good acting, and I've gotten the strong impression that Mr. Cruise doesn't do that kind of film. I'm more of a Gary Oldman, Willem Dafoe kind of guy. But I can't stand this Alien Arrogance argument, so that's what I'm going to address.

But before I get started, let me just say that I love science fiction. It's just about the only fiction I can read. I'm not talking about Flash Gordon stuff. I'm talking about hardcore science fiction, where you have to know a thing or two about science to really follow what's happening, and you might even learn something new. Arthur C. Clarke is my favorite, and I own almost everything he's written (which is a lot). But there are a few others I like, almost all of it written before 1970. In fact, some of the stuff I read was so cutting edge that it turned out to be totally wrong, and I should just be glad that the author had the guts to admit it afterwards, or I'd have the wrong idea about the Moon, Venus, and whatnot. But I wasn't planning to go to any of those places, and that knowledge probably doesn't affect my day job; so it probably wasn't important in any case. All I'm saying is that I'm not alien adverse, and I'm not scared of new or weird ideas.

Now, I don't know if there are space aliens. I have no idea. If an alien presented himself to me, I'd have a hard time not believing. I might ask to see his intergalactic passport, just to make sure he wasn't jiving me; but as long as everything appeared in order, I'd be a believer. But just as with everything else, until I have reasonable proof to believe something, I won't believe it. That's the only prudent course of action, and I'm sticking to it. I don't believe in ghosts, gods, fairies, talking rabbits, honest conservatives, or aliens. I'm not saying I believe they don't exist; I'm just saying that the default position is a big "I don't know". (Well, except for the honest conservatives, which I know can't exist in reality)

Alien Arrogance

Thus said, I hate the Alien Arrogance argument. You know the one I'm talking about, and Cruise didn't invent it. But it's pure crap. It makes no sense, and is a perfect example of reverse reasoning. Someone believes that something is true, based entirely on faith, and they invent a rational argument to explain it. Now, I don't have a problem with faith-based people, as long as they stay out of my garbage. But I can't stand it when they pretend to have reason and proof on their side.

Here's the brief summary of the argument. The universe is filled with billions upon billions upon billions of stars, and it is certain that those stars have planets. And because the number of stars, and therefore the number of planets is so large, it is entirely improbable (and thus impossible) that those planets don't have life on them. And anyone who ignores the improbability of this is just an arrogant nut who refuses to see the truth and is blinded by their egotism. So it's bad enough that they falsely invoke probabilities that they can't possibly know, but they had to go ahead and insult the skeptics; and I'm just not having it.

I've heard this argument from nutjobs and I've heard it from scientist-types, and it's wrong from any of them. The reason is simple: We have no idea how likely life is. By using the term "improbable" they are imposing a standard of probability into the picture, which makes it sound scientific. But we have no idea of how probable life is, or even a clue on how to guess at the probability. It's impossible to know, thus invalidating their entire argument.

Maybe life is always inevitable. Maybe if an asteroid had wiped out life here, it would keep recurring again and again. Maybe it's just a matter of time, and that the probability of life is so high that all you have to do is wait another million years and it'll pop up again. A million years is nothing in real terms.

But the thing is, we have no idea how likely life is. No idea. Maybe it's probable to happen every million years, or even every hundred years. Maybe we have all kinds of life on earth right now which isn't related to each other. That doesn't really make sense. In fact, I could be crazy, but it seems to me that all life on earth is related and came from the same source. Maybe we wiped out the other ones, but it seems like earth has been around long enough that, if life were probable, we'd have quite a few strains of unrelated life. But maybe life can only come in one form, and we'd never know the difference; so that's not conclusive at all.

But the point is, we have no idea how likely life is, so we can't know the probability of life on other planets. You can't say "it is improbable that life doesn't exist elsewhere", because we have no idea of what the probability could be. We can't even guess at the probability. Maybe the odds are one in a gazillion gazillion gazillion. Or maybe life is entirely improbable, and that it shouldn't have happened here. Or maybe there is a God, and he only created us. That's what Christians are supposed to believe, and if it's true, then the probability of life on other planets is exactly zero. But who knows? Nobody can guess at this stuff.

Intelligent Life?

And here's the other part of that. Even if there is life, why should we assume that it's intelligent? Why should we assume that they even made it past the plant level? Maybe it can't be past the single-cell level, except for here on Earth where there is some extremely rare element which only exists on Earth or in our Solar System. What are the odds of that? Who knows! It's impossible to know. Yet somehow, these alien theorists jump right ahead from "probability of any life" to aliens zooming our planet looking for farmers to probe. Incredible!

What we do know is from here on Earth. The planet's been here for 4.5 billion years or so (a very long time, but still not too long by real standards), but we're the only animals who seem to have figured out how to do anything cool. Sure, dolphins and pigs and cats are intelligent; but what do they have to show for it? Nada. They get some damn fish and roll around in mud eating our leftovers. 4.5 billion years, and we're the only ones who have figured out how to make video games. And man has had relatively the same level of intelligence (as compared with other animals) for at least 10,000 years and probably more. Yet we only figured out the internet 15 years ago! Sounds improbable.

And how many species had the same chance? Billions. There are billions of different species and whatnot, many which we still don't know. And we're the only ones to build cars, and airplanes, and forks, or even have a real concept about farming and whatever. I mean, come on. We know there's life here. Fairly intelligent life. Yet we're the only ones to figure this shit out. What's the probability of that? Obviously one in billions, or whatever. Very slim odds indeed. So why should we assume that the other planets are doing any better? Why are we automatically "arrogant" for doubting this?

Or to put it a different way. We know of a planet (ours) which is 100% certain to have life, to have complex life, to have animal life, to have intelligent animal life, and to have intelligent animal life that has cool things like video games and pornography. We know that the conditions are 100% probable that it'll happen here. But after billions and billions of years, we're all that there is to show for it. Countless organisms have lived here. Thousands of years of intelligence. And we're all that we've got. Even the animals that are related to us, like chimps, haven't figured this stuff out. Sure, they can ride bicycles and juggle and upstage Clint Eastwood in his own movie, but we had to train them for that. They're almost identical to us genetically, but they could never build a bicycle or make any decent porn. Yet they live on a planet which we are 100% positive is capable of supporting such life. And we have no concept of how probable even basic life is on other planets, and these people call me arrogant!


So to sum up: We have no idea how probable life is, no idea how probable animal life is, and no idea how probable intelligent, sentient, car-building life is. No idea. No concept of probabilities. No idea on any of that. And that's not even to mention the idea of aliens visiting us from other planets, which relies on the assumption that interstellar travel is even possible. Our advanced science hasn't a clue on how to do that, and none of the other billions of species on this intelligence-capable planet can even spell the word "science" without a good dictionary and a lot of help. Maybe the aliens are more advanced, or maybe not. We can't even theorize about the possibilities. So where do these people get off pretending to use "probability", when they can't possibly know. And why the insults?

So am I saying that aliens don't exist? Of course not. All I'm saying is that it's idiotically bad logic to presume that intelligent life exists, or any life for that matter. I don't mind if they admit to being faith-based, but they have no business pretending to use "probability" and reason to justify their beliefs. It's no good when Christians do this, and it's even worse for science-based people to do it. And worst of all for these people is to refer to my beliefs as "arrogant" or any other insulting thing. I don't put up with that kind of talk, especially not when I'm right. That kind of thing bugs me everytime, and this Cruise flap is what finally got me to write about it. Or maybe I've already written this before. I often feel like I'm repeating my old posts, so forgive me if I've already written this before.

And just so it's understood, even if aliens do come down and show me their intergalactic passport and whatnot, nothing I've said in this post needs to be corrected. Even if life is very probable, we don't know what those probabilities are and everything I say is still correct. So all you Alien Arrogance theorists can just suck it!

Damn Dirty Cowards

Kevin Drum is completely right. He's only talking about Tony Blair, but it applies to our guy too. If Bush and Blair really believe that the Downing Street Memos and other leaked items are being taken out of context and misconstrued, then they should have no problem with showing us the rest of the documents. All of them. I'm not talking about recent stuff or CIA top secret files, but just the standard kind of stuff that the Whitehouse bandies about. I mean, is it really probable that Whitehouse memos from two years ago could be so crucial to our national security? That they could give away critical information regarding Iraq and Bin Laden's whereabouts? Really? I doubt it.

If anything, it's more about saving face diplomatically and politically, than it is of critical anti-terror intel. I mean, really. What memo could we have about Bin Laden or whomever from 2002 that would give away our current plans? And they could still remove the names, cities, etc, without removing much else (assuming they can create the PDF properly).

If anything, knowing this kind of stuff might freak them out. Bin Laden might hear that one of his guys is an informant; but which one?! And is he already dead?! And would they really trust that we're telling the truth? That could certainly freak Osama out. And that goes for all those terrorist bastards. It's like a psy-ops mindfuck. The real problem is if we don't have a Bin Laden informant, and we'd just be letting him know that. Then again, he could never trust that we were being honest, so he'd probably ignore this all together.

So what we're really talking about are the down and dirty secrets. The diplomatic stuff. Perhaps we'd find out what the US gave to Pakistan and Libya and Syria and whoever, in exchange for their temporary aid and reforms. Those are the secrets they really want to hide. But aren't those things we really should know? We probably don't need to know the names, but shouldn't we know what we, the people, have been agreeing to? As a democracy, shouldn't we at least know what price we're really paying? Isn't that how it's supposed to work? How can we be an informed electorate if some of the most important things are kept secret from us? And the more important the secret, the more they get to keep it from us!

But that's not a democracy. That's crap. That's not how this is supposed to work. That's not what the contract says. And it's no good to us thirty years from now, assuming we could even get it then. We have a right to know this stuff now. President Bush is agreeing to things in our name. He's our employee. We have a right to know how the company's doing.

And we all know the real reason why Presidents don't like to release this stuff: It's political dynamite. We'd get access to everything, and really see how sketchy the basis for our poll-boosting terror alerts were. You know, the ones that made you a dirty traitor if you suggested they were for political reasons; though Ridge often didn't believe they were necessary and which seem to have stopped completely now that the election is over. Oh, and don't forget the big hubbub days before the election, when Bin Laden released a tape which MEMRI and Fox News pimped as a threat to all states which voted for Bush; an interpretation that the lovable Juan Cole thoroughly rejected. Maybe MEMRI was right about that threat, but Osama was full of shit about attacking. Or more likely, it wasn't Osama who was full of shit. Wouldn't it be interesting to hear some memo stuff on that?

Anyway, I made the mistake of starting this post shortly before The Daily Show started, and even though it was a rerun, I watched it and some other stuff, and now I've lost my steam. So I'll just end it here. Oh yeah, I've re-read over this post, and realize my mistake. If such memos ever existed, they certainly don't now. That's the very kind of stuff that shredders were invented for. C'est la vie.

Oh, and I forget to tie-in the title of the post into the actual post. I was just thinking that the reason Bush and Blair would rather complain about misconstrued context, rather than releasing more memos which provide that supposedly missing context, was because they are damn dirty cowards. It's not national security. It's to avoid national scandal. Maybe someday when I'm some fancy politician or even president (if you're lucky), I'll want to keep all my old memos and whatnot private; but I certainly hope not. It's a lot easier to shout about accountability and open government when you're on the outside looking in. But it really shouldn't be hard at all. If the people shouldn't know something, then maybe you shouldn't have done it. That's the basis for true democracy, and it needs to be applied now.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Democrats: America's Team

Here's an embarrassing story. In junior high, I played football, and I sucked. I don't know why, but I sucked. I could run, I could catch, I could tackle, and I played football after school with friends and I was good. But on the team, with pads on and everything, I sucked. Frankly, I think it was just because I loved playing football, but I hated the drills and running and it just exhausted me and I couldn't think straight. Or something like that.

And for some time, the coach put me on the defensive line, which I hated (I wanted to be a running back). And while we scrimmaged during practice, I'd hit my opposing lineman hard and we'd tussle around like everyone else. And then one day my opponent realized that I wasn't actually going after the guy with the ball. I was just smacking my guy, but that was all. I guess I just liked smacking him, but I wasn't going after the guy with the ball. I don't know why. Like I said, I played football a lot, but somehow I wasn't thinking straight or something.

And so on one play, the ball was snapped, but my opponent just sat down. He didn't try to stop me. He didn't try to hit me, or block me, or tussle with me. He just sat down. And I didn't know what to do, so I just stood there. I didn't charge past like I knew I should have. I just stood there, because it was such a weird thing. And he did that several times, and it was always the same reaction. I was only hitting him because he was trying to block me. And if he wasn't going to block me, I wasn't going to hit him. And afterwards, I was really embarrassed by that and almost didn't feel like mentioning it now, even though it happened two decades ago. But it applies to this post about confrontation, so I thought I'd start off with that story.

And you can see where I'm going with this. Too often, when you're in a debate or fight or office-struggle or whatever, the main reason you're fighting is because someone is opposing you. Not necessarily because you need to convince them, or prove something. It's reflexive to defend yourself while being attacked, and it's natural to want to oppose an opponent; even if they're a good friend. That's just human nature, which probably made more sense in the caveman days than modern times.

But oftentimes, if someone's charging to knock down your door, it's best to just open the door yourself and watch them fall on their face. Sometimes, the only thing keeping your opponent standing are your punches. And too often, the harder you punish someone, the more you encourage them to keep fighting. That's the basis for most insurgencies, and it's what won Bush his re-election.

More Anecdotes

And you know what I'm talking about. You're drunk and you get in some big fight with your best friend over the dumbest of things. Something totally inane, pointless, and unprovable; but you just can't let it go. You might not care a lick about what's being debated, but you'll be damned if your friend won't admit that you're right.

Many years ago, I spent several drunken hours debating a good friend on whether the best offense was a good defense or vice versa. I was totally right, but it was stupid and pointless. I believe it ended with me head-butting the guy (as an example of a good offense); which ended the debate, so I guess I won. We remained friends after that, but it was really embarrassing. I mean, we started the debate while walking to a bar (already slightly drunk), continued the debate at the bar, and the head-butt came after the bar closed and we were back at my apartment again. And it was totally stupid, and again, I'm somewhat embarrassed to even mention this now. In my defense, it was a long time ago and I'm not quite so stupid now.

And too often, even the best of us defend something solely because we feel attacked. I once read a biography of Monty Python's Terry Gilliam (which might be a bad biography, because I liked him a lot less than before), and Gilliam described moving to England in the 60's because he disliked America, but found himself defending America whenever people discovered he was American and bad mouthed it. He didn't like defending America, but felt compelled to do so anyway. And I've heard the same thing from people who go abroad these days. You might not like what America does, but you'll be damned to have some outsider denounce your country. But it's not necessarily patriotism doing this. It's the sense of being attacked, and we all do it one time or another.

The Point

And this is all a long round-about way of getting to my point. Confrontation: Don't do it. And wholesale attacks of Bush, Republicans, America's actions, etc., are also really really bad ideas.

Am I saying we should roll-over and do whatever they want? Of course not. I'm just saying that you should always always always avoid making people defensive and back them into a corner. People will defend the most outrageous things when their emotions take over. An atheist might defend the religious parents they're always bad-mouthing for being too religious. An environmentalist might attack environmentalists for being so overbearing. I've seen arguments in which the participants literally flip sides and start arguing for the other side's position, just because that's where the argument went. They lose sight of the original argument, and will say absolutely anything to win the debate.

And Rove & Co. are experts at taking advantage of that dynamic. In fact, reflexive opposition is the entire basis for Rove's political mechanizations. That's how he operates. Getting two sides in opposition and working hard to get enough votes to win, while allowing a big enough opposition for your people to hate. That's how it's done. It's not that they get their people to hate the other side, though that is an expected outcome. It's that they get their people to believe that the other side hates them, and is out to get them. They emphasize liberal attacks on conservatives and America, so that people believe that the liberals are out to destroy them and their way of life; and that a vote for Bush is a vote of preservation. And that an attack on Bush is an attack on them. That's how it works, and Rove is a master of it.

That's why Bush's nominees are always controversial, because he wants us to say nasty things about them. That's why Bush's policies are so offensive, because he wants Democratic opposition. That's why they do just about everything. They know that they don't have a popular agenda. They know that the "common man" should oppose the conservative agenda. They know that most people believe in the Liberal ideals, and so they use Democratic opposition as a mobilizing force; to get people to support things they should oppose. And they use it well.

They will even invent Democrat opposition, and search high and low for a Ward Churchill to demonize as the "typical liberal". They'll take innocuous statements by Dean and Durbin and re-write them into scathing attacks on America and our troops. I suspect that one reason why Bush and Co. didn't care about waging war in Afghanistan was because most liberals supported it (I certainly did); and so it couldn't be used to demonize the left.

They don't want to be blamed for partisan politics, so they carefully walk the line so that both sides look guilty. Because that's what they want. Divisive politics which allow emotions to overrule logic and common-sense. And too often, we play right into their hands, and give them the partisan rancor they need to survive.

A Solution

And that cannot be the basis for liberal maneuverings. We're the inclusive guys. We believe in a healthy society which helps all people. We believe that everyone should be treated fairly and given many chances to succeed. We believe in respect for other people, and equal rights for all. And that just can't work with the divisive politics that the conservatives use.

We're the party of society, and they're the party of the individual. We're the party of union strength, collective bargaining, and class-action suits; and they're the party of oligarchs whose strength goes unmatched. We're the party of teamwork, and they're the party of division. We're the party of democracy, and they're the party of the Powerful. And so the strategy that they use to destroy us will ruin us if we use it. If we play the politics of division and confrontation, we will lose.

And so what am I saying? Should we have supported Bush's horrible war? Hell no. Should we laydown for Bush's dangerous tax cuts? Of course not. Should we keep our mouths shut about Bush's disgraceful nominees? Don't be stupid. We just shouldn't make this personal. We shouldn't attack Bush personally. And we should avoid unprovable conspiracy theories, and stick with the facts.

Maybe Bush just didn't realize that his tax cuts favored the rich so heavily. God knows that he never read any of that stuff; maybe he misunderstood what it said. And perhaps he wasn't really aware of the state of intelligence regarding Iraq. And it's possible that Bush's vetting process of nominees isn't so good, as we saw with Bernard Kerik. We know the truth, and so we should work with Bush on correcting this stuff, and getting the correct information out there. We should assume that Bush is being honest, and that he just didn't know any of this stuff, and perhaps just isn't up to the task of running our country. And when Halliburton's contracts appear to be a big ripoff to our country and perhaps causing harm to our troops, we need to inform our fine president of this, and give some helpful advice on what needs to be done to correct this.

The President is a very very busy man, and as he's said before, it's hard work. There can be no harm in offering constructive criticism to help him with his burdensome task.


But the main thing, we need to show that we're all on the same team. We're all Americans trying to make America great. That's what liberals are about, and that's what we need to stand with. We might have some differing ideas about what needs to be done, but we're all in basic agreement as to the outcome. Because that is the truth. Bush might lie to us about tax cuts and the war, (and every other god damn thing) but that's just because he thinks he needs to, in order to improve America. We think he's wrong, but we shouldn't assume that he's evil. Because we don't know if he is, and it's not the Liberal Way to assume that people are evil. That's just not how we do things, and it doesn't play to our advantages.

So we shouldn't allow ourselves to be run over. But we shouldn't give them the imagined opposition that they need to deceive our fellow Americans. The truth about Bush's incompetence will come out, and every personal attack we hurl at Bush and Republicans and anything that can be construed as an attack of our troops or America, those are all things that just add fuel to Rove's fire, and prevent people from seeing the truth. As Digby pointed out last week, Rove isn't playing Chess; he's playing Dodgeball. There's nothing complicated about what he's doing. He's counting on an offensive opposition to keep his supporters in line.

Rove & Co. want "liberal lunatics" offending people. They wanted war protesters blocking traffic and shouting insults at Bush during rallies. They want PETA splashing red paint, and "tree huggers" chaining themselves to trees, and "human shields" going to Iraq, and gays trying to get married. They want "Hollywood elites" like Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon opposing Bush. They want liberals laughing at NASCAR and deriding religion. And it doesn't matter how few people do these things, because most of all, they want "Joe Sixpack" to believe that his lifestyle is under assault by liberals, and that he needs to fight back. Without that, they're nothing but a party of rich white guys demanding more power. We need to not give them that opposition.

So we can't allow them to have their way, but we have to show that we're all on the same team. Despite Republican rhetoric to the contrary, America is a liberal nation; whether they know it or not. Red-staters might claim allegiance to Bush, but they love their social programs and federal spending. Stop making these closet liberals defend the conservative fantasies that Rove requires to ruin our nation. Stop fueling the right-wing attack machine. We're all on the same team. Act like it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Search For Moral Relativism

I know my loyal readership should be all over this one, so I've got a test for you: Can anyone find me a true Moral Relativist on the Left? I mean someone who really does believe that "anything goes", and that we can do whatever we feel like and there's not a problem? That polluting and murder are acceptable.? That torture is ok? That it's ok for our government to lie to us? That there isn't such a thing as morals and that everyone is allowed to do whatever they want to do without impunity? I know that conservatives attack us on this regularly, but I have a hard time imagining that it exists.

And call me crazy, but it seems to me that the Right has more of the moral relativists. They've got bigots who have different morals depending on the color of your skin, or country, or religion. They've got torturers. They think that Abu Ghraib was just people "letting off steam". And to me, that's moral relativism. The idea that there are different moral rules depending on who you're talking about.

And who've we got? We've got PETA. And I'm pretty sure your typical Christian Conservative is more likely to need an abortion than a PETA-ite is to eat a T-bone. Am I right or what? And Greenpeace? They don't really strike me as the "anything goes" crowd. And it seems like every liberal I know has their standards of right and wrong, and are quite firm in defending them.

So am I crazy? Are you people moral relativists, and you haven't told me? God knows I'm a self-righteous bastard who likes to sit on my high-horse and tell everyone else what they're doing wrong, so I know that I'm not the moral relativist they're complaining about. So is it one of you? Can you point me towards one? I've gots to know. Something tells me that this is going to turn out to be one of those strawmen badguys the Right invented as someone to attack. Typical.

Are You Experienced?

Do you remember that first time you listened to The Doors or Pink Floyd or Velvet Underground or whatever, and you just thought "Whoa! Where the hell did that come from?" I'm not talking about just hearing a tune on the radio. I'm talking about hearing the full-on album and having it all make perfect sense. And you wondered how you had lived your life so long without having heard that before, and it all seemed wonderful and new.

Years later, you might still enjoy that album, and you've long since gotten the rest of their albums, but it's kind of lost that edge. It's become somewhat cliche. The tunes still feel right, but the magic isn't quite there. You might get drunk late one night and try out Morrison Hotel or The White Album, and it hits all the right notes, but it's no longer special or new. It no longer has that same charm. But it isn't the music that's changed. It's you. The music is still special, but you've just become immune to it. Spoiled. You've incorporated it into your being, and it's no longer separate from you. It's part of what defines you, but you don't even notice it much anymore. You take it for granted, and just assume that everyone else already knows all about it and takes it for granted too. You assume that they've heard the music, but just prefer to listen to something else. You just kind of assume that everyone else is kind of like you.

But at one time it was new to you, and you forget that it might be new to other people. You forget that some people have never heard of the Velvet Underground or Stereolab. You forget that some people haven't heard Electric Ladyland or Atom Heart Mother. Hell, there are billions of people who have never heard those albums. Or Dave Brubeck. Or Chet Baker. Or Billie Holiday. You forget that some people have never experienced that. Some people have no idea that it even exists, or what they might be missing. They may have heard a few tunes, but they didn't understand them. It was just background noise. Pleasant background noise. And there are millions upon millions of Americans who wouldn't know what I was talking about. And if you tried to play it for them, they'd just hear noise and confusion and would shut-out the possibility of understanding that music.

And you forget about that. You forget that some people haven't read the philosophers you've read. You forget that some people have never experienced your wonderful poli-sci professor, or that history teacher who made it all make sense. Some people have never read about Watergate. Or never heard of Iran-Contra, or understood what happened. And who never took a sophisticated economics class. Or understood statistics. And you forget how many people lack a fundamental understanding of these things. Who fail to grasp these things on even the most basic level.

And they don't understand what you're talking about. Millions of people whose History teacher is Rush, with Economics from Hannity. Where Bill O'Reilly really is an independent, who shows you behind the spin. And Brit Hume is your trusted anchor who has never led you astray. Or even those who truly enjoy the White Women stories that CNN tosses at us, and who are glad the Jackson Trial replaced those boring political stories. They may have chuckled when Paula Zahn accused Scott Ritter of drinking Saddam's Kool-aid, and love the faux fighting on Crossfire. Some people were made for mass media, and they drink in everything they see.

They are empty vessels waiting to be filled, and they trust their sources far more than they could trust you. These people are their instructors. These people tell them what to think and why. And they may not have heard of the Velvet Underground, or listened to a Patsy Cline album, or understand Keynesian Economics, or grasped the intricacies of international diplomacy; but they know what they like. And it's exactly what they're supposed to like, and they think you're a fool for not knowing any better.

There are millions of people who fit this description. Millions. And it isn't their fault. They're not necessarily stupid. And they're not necessarily mean. They just haven't been exposed to what you've been exposed to, and you can't blame them for that. You can't. Once upon a time, you didn't know this stuff either. And Hendrix might have scared you. And Lou Reed might have offended you. And you would have been confused and angry and untrustful and resentful. And you would have blindly repeated what you had been told, and you would have assumed that your opponent is just foolish or ignorant for not understanding the basic things you had been taught. Nobody wants to be stupid. It just kind of happens.

And that's what you have to remember when you're talking to these people and trying to understand their problems. I'm not saying they're dumber than us, or that our culture is better than theirs, or that we're necessarily better than them (though honestly, we really are). I'm just saying that many of the things that we take for granted are foreign to these people. They believe what they hear about liberals because they haven't experienced enough of the real thing. Ignorance is a root cause of all bigotry. And they're already so guarded and so offensive that it's hard for us to restrain ourselves. It's hard for us not to lash back. We just want to shake them and say "What the hell's wrong with you, jackass! Why can't you understand!"

Be we should refrain. We must. They think it's customary to fling vitriol and confusion at the other side, and we make the mistake of returning fire. And we should remember that they haven't seen what we've seen. And they don't know what they're missing. They only know what they're told, and they believe it. They have their information sources and they're sticking to them. If Rush didn't say it, it probably didn't happen. And they think we're the exact same way.

But we can't blame them for that. Someone who's lived in a cave their whole life can't be blamed for living in a cave. That's all they know. And we need to understand that. Not to belittle them, and not to "win". But to bring them in on the truth. To show them why we believe these things. To make them understand us. It's not enough to assume they understand. They don't. And it's your responsibility to show them. To let them understand.

And to do that, you need to listen. Listen to them, to understand what it is that they're confused about. To understand where they've been led astray. That is the only way you can get through to them. They've been inoculated against attacks on Gitmo and Abu Ghraib or any criticisms of Bush. You need to learn how to get through that. To penetrate the wall that the Limbaugh's and O'Reilly's build-on each day. To break on through that, so that they will want to tear it down themselves. So that they'll want to see what else is out there. To experience the world. To see the good, bad, and ugly. And really begin to put the pieces together, and understand how everything works. That's all anyone wants. We just need to show them why that's not happening. That's all they want. Billie Holiday is not background music, and they need to understand why.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Five Easy Steps to a Better America

This isn't anything new, but it bears repeating: Conservatism is a fantasy. The ideology is based entirely on fantasy. They buy-in to this myth about how the world works, and everything else is forced to fit into that fantasy. I don't say that as a partisan puke spewing out venom at my opponent. This is the straight-up truth and is completely undeniable. Conservatives aren't evil or stupid people (not most of them, anyway). They're simply misled by a pleasing fantasy that feels better than the reality they're faced with daily. It's self-contained and gives justification for them to do exactly what it is that they want to do...whatever that is.

They're like an overweight person who's fallen for a quickie diet which lets them eat all they want and still lose weight. We need to show them the pounds they've put on. We need to show them the reality.

And we all know what that fantasy entails. Things are worse now than they've ever been; and to make things better, all we need to do is undo the "unnatural" things that screwed everything up. Additionally, everything will work itself out by natural forces, if we let them, and that man is mucking everything up by trying to stop natural forces. Things are as they should be, and anything we're doing goes against what should be. And oddly enough, that goes for what man does too. Man is part of nature, they reason, and so pollution, man-made extinctions, war, etc., are all parts of nature which man should not interfere with. And if they'll admit that the globe is warming, they will insist that this too is a natural force, and that man needn't worry about it.

So basically, man can do anything he wants...except for stopping other men from doing what is "natural". Of course, none of this applies to low-brow criminal activities, which should be stopped; but white collar crime is ok as it's part of nature and is dealt with by the all-powerful market forces.

And this fantasy is a complete package. Each conservative tailor-makes it for their own specific beliefs, but the overall remedies are the same; like any get-quick-rich scheme or insta-diet. If you do "X", you'll look better, feel better, and receive more cash than you'll be able to spend. And if "X" happens to be the exact things that these people already wanted, all the better. The Ice-Cream Diet takes the form of a political belief, and it's ruining the figure of our great nation.

A Pleasing Fantasy

And it is a very pleasing fantasy. It dictates that all of the good things that you have in life are due to your own hardwork and diligence. As if we did something to deserve to be born a white person in America. It wasn't good fortune that made me well-fed and well-educated. That's just how things were supposed to turn out. And if you don't like it, then maybe you shouldn't have been born to lazy people who don't deserve good stuff. Or, if you weren't born to lazy people, you're just suffering from "white guilt" and need to stop blaming yourself and start blaming everyone else.

Because it also states that anything bad that happens to us is due to outside elements which aren't doing what they're supposed to do. Whatever happens, it's not our fault. If you can't get a job, blame the Mexicans or Blacks. And if your kids don't respect you and become drug users, that's Hollywood's fault. If your wife is unhappy with her lot in life, that's because of the feminists putting ideas into her head. And unwinnable wars? That could only be due to traitorous libs who undermine our troops and give aid to the enemy to damage conservatives politically. And so on. Everything bad is someone else's fault, and you can bet your bottom dollar that that "someone else" is a liberal.

In fact, to most conservatives, the term "liberal" just means anyone who does anything stupid, evil, or bad. If someone sues a business for their own personal mistake, they're a liberal. If a youth does something wicked or disgraceful, they were raised by liberals. And liberals are to be blamed for the radical Muslim hatred of the West and for sympathizing with radical Muslims and encouraging their radical behavior. To conservatives, liberals are America's bogeyman. An all-purpose nemesis whose only concern is perpetrating evil and ruining America, for reasons which never need to be identified. As one famous conservative stated, "No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals."

And the last piece of that puzzle is that it gives justification for all the bad things they do. It's ok to ignore the poor, to pollute the air, to wage religious wars, and to deny basic human rights to "enemies"; because that is what it is natural for us to do. Conservatives and America are blameless for anything they do, and all behavior is justified. These people are truly the moral relativists of the day.

So who can deny such an awesome reality? One that gives you rationalization to fulfill all of your worst character traits, while blaming others for your problems...including the ones directly attributable to your behavior? It is extremely addictive, and once someone chooses to believe in this pleasing fantasy, it is difficult to wean them from it.

Self-Doubt As A Positive Force

And are conservatives the only ones who fall victim to this? Of course not. We all do it. We all believe stories which are convenient to our life-theories. We all are too prone to dismiss bad news stories, and automatically assume that there are extenuating circumstances which disprove "bad" stories. We all fall victim to that. That's why we shouldn't trust ourselves too much.

Man is a rational animal, but even more, we are a rationalizing animal. We put order where there is no order. That's how movies work. That's how magic works. That's how stories work. That's the source of conspiracy theories. Our mind finds connections and relationships, whether they exist or not.

And this is generally a good thing. It's good that we can "connect the dots", and bring order out of chaos. It's good that we can be discriminating in the information we use, and can distinguish real information from the background noise. But it's something that should be watched against. Doubt is a powerful thing, and it's something that we should never leave behind. It's good to act confident and secure, but it's also important to have our moments of doubt, when we double and triple check our beliefs and ways of thinking. No one is immune to sloppy thinking, and it is often difficult to know when you fall victim to it.

And that's what separates us from our conservative brethren. They have their complete fantasy, and it loathes self-doubt. For them, doubt is weakness. Doubt can destroy. And rightly so, because if they learned to doubt and double-check what they were told, they could no longer believe it. It can only be believed on faith, because it's not real. They can't pick and choose what facts to believe. It's a carefully structured dream. They have to have their facts filtered by Fox and Rush and the rest of them, and nothing else is admissible as evidence. Because one stray fact can bring the whole thing tumbling down.

Morning In America

And that's the thing. Because their ideology is based entirely on fantasy, there is no real structure holding it up. Anything can destroy it. If they start seeing Bush for the incompetent bullying coward he really is, it all falls apart. If they start seeing the war in Iraq as unwinnable and based upon fraud, it all falls apart. If they realize that taxcuts can be dangerous, or that our deficits are crippling, or that poor people deserve help and can become better citizens; it all falls apart. Because that's how fragile their fantasy is. It has no real foundation. It must be entirely self-contained.

And it will fall apart, if we operate carefully. If we stop giving them an opportunity to lash out at us, and stop attacking and insulting them. If we can get them to listen to us, it will fall apart. It won't happen immediately, but once there's a crack in the wall, it will all eventually fall. And the victim will soon be disillusioned and angered. But the main thing is that we can't allow ourselves to be baited by their defense mechanisms. Their fantasy is self-contained and has oodles of boobytraps which can cause us to lash out at them and allow them to ignore reality. We can't let that happen. A pageful of truths can be completely dismissed by one misplaced insult or misstatement.

And I believe that the best way to do that is to get these people to start doubting their information sources. To stop trusting Fox and Rush, and realize that they've been fooled. And they won't do that from open confrontation. If you confront people, they will defend anything. No. We need to be friends with them, and not allow bias or hatred to blind them to the truth. These people are sleepwalking through life, and we need to carefully wake them up without freaking them out. All we need to do is to let doubt creep in. Everything else will follow afterwards. These people are living in a dream. It is time for us to wake them from that dream. It's time for morning in America.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Message to Democrats and/or Liberals

Regarding bringing knives to gunfights. Don't do it. Additionally, if they put one of your guys in the hospital, you should put one of their guys in the morgue. That's the Chicago Way, and I really think it could work for us.

But don't be confrontational. It looks tacky. You're above the fray. You're not playing games. You're just taking care of the nation's business. Children will be children, but adults should still be adults. Act like one.

Friday, June 24, 2005

I'm Not Dead

No, I'm not dead. Just busy busy. And I honestly don't have much worth saying lately. Maybe something will come to me. But just remember to stick it to them, question their motives, and don't be caught flat-footed. Everything else is just timing.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Busting Up The Baddies

Interestingly, I was researching something for a theory I invented over coffee this morning. I was envisioning how Bush thought of the evil dictators and terrorists in the world. And I imagined that he thought of them as some sort of board of directors type group which meets regularly to discuss their evil plans. Much like the opening scene to Naked Gun, when all of the bad guys in the world were in their meeting together; and then Leslie Nielson busted it up and beat up all the bad guys; victoriously saving the world.

And Eureka! That was it. That's what made Bush go to war. It gave him the concept of all those evil dictators together, conspiring. Of course the Axis of Evil was there, and Bin Laden, and Zarqawi, and all of them; all planning 9/11 together and future terror attacks. And he saw himself as Detective Frank Drebin, busting up the baddies with his anti-terror, Iraq thing.
Thus, our President.

And that just made too much sense, so I guessed that other people have made that connection before. So I did a little research on that theory. And while I didn't confirm that, I did stumble upon this absurdly inane news story by Anderson Cooper of CNN, from back in August 2003. Maybe I'm spoiled because I never watch CNN or any other TV news, but this was one of the dumbest things I've ever read. Not because it's wrong. But because it was so irrelevant and meaningless.

"Much has been made about the differences Between Bush and President Clinton, but it turns out both agreed on screening "Naked Gun" movies. Bush, "Naked Gun 2 1/2," President Clinton "Naked Gun 33 1/3." Not sure what Clinton thought about the sequence in "33 1/3" that mocks the Hollywood A-list right here. After all, many were said to be staunch Clinton supporters. And Bush's choice, "Naked Gun 2 1/2" because it pokes fun at his own mom. Wonder what Freud would say about that. Or for that matter, Roger Ebert. The president of the United States is the most powerful man in the world. It's nice know they can take time out for the movies. Do you think they have to pay for the popcorn? I wonder."

Isn't this why we invented Entertainment Tonight and People Magazine? Good thing there wasn't anything important going on in the world back then. Like an illegal war, or anything.
And thus, our media.

Fouled Up From The Beginning

Quote from LA Times article on Republican Rep. Walter "Freedom Fries" Jones and his growing anxiety about the Iraq war:
Jones "was right to go after the administration," said retired Marine Col. Jim Van Riper, a veteran of Vietnam and Desert Storm who supported the U.S. presence in Iraq but faulted the war plan. "Rumsfeld and the neo-cons have fouled it up from the beginning."

Damn straight. And that's the angle we needed to be pushing all along. We need to learn to separate the wheat from the chaff. The followers from the leaders. I mean, when we criticize the Iraq war, we need to not sound like we're criticizing its supporters too. The more we're confrontational about this stuff and trying to lay blame, and wishing that the supporters of the war "eat it", the less they'll be willing to face facts and change course. But wrong is wrong, and these people will slowly see that, if we let them do it on their own.

And that's the thing. The Bush Admin suckered them bigtime. They should be angry at Bush. And the Bush Admin's incompetence is even worse. This war was a bad idea from the start, and while things turned out much better than they might have, they could have turned out much better, had the Bush administration not hired so many ideologically blind people.

But again, if we focused more on what is happening in Iraq, and not on laying blame on Republicans and Bush, the typical Republican supporter would be far more willing to consider the truth. But the moment we start tossing invectives and accusations, they close off immediately. An abused woman will defend her abusive husband. The first step is getting them to want to see the truth and to know that what happened is wrong.

And overall, it would have always been better for us to portray Bush as a well-meaning, but sadly incompetent boob who was in over his head and denying reality. After the successful Nice-Guy Bush marketing, it was just too much for people to believe that he's some neo-con mastermind who's out to steal oil and rule the world. Cognative dissonance forced them to scoff at us. They just couldn't imagine our dopey nice guy President as a ruthless tyrant.

We can't mind-read Bush, so we shouldn't have doubted his motives. We should have doubted his judgment; his ability. Because, whether or not Bush meant for good things to happen, they certainly did not happen. He wrongly started something that he couldn't finish, and if we can get enough of his former supporters to see that; he will be finished.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Republicans, and What the Hell's Wrong With Them

As we all now know, there is little doubt that Terri Schiavo wasn't going to recover, and wasn't trying to communicate with us, or even aware that we existed. If anything, she was perhaps in some sort of dreamland or a hellish netherworld. Or maybe God had already taken her soul into Heaven. Or maybe she knew nothing at all. Who knows? But whatever it was, she wasn't with us.

And I'll just set aside the theological issues involved. Such as, why were Christians preventing a good woman from going to Heaven? Even if we could bring her back, wouldn't Heaven still have been better than anything earth has to offer? And what about reincarnation? Perhaps we were preventing her from starting all over again with a fresh body. Who knows?

But that's not for tonight. Tonight, I'll be talking about my favorite topic: Republicans, and what the hell's wrong with them.

And in this case, I'm talking about the Social Conservative Republicans. For many Republicans, opinions on this ranged from ambivalence to anger at their fellow Republican's behavior. We often think of Republicans as a monolithic group which agrees in every way. But that's a big mistake. Because many of these people would hate their fellow Republicans, if only they'd stop hating us long enough to see who they've joined with. And that's certainly the case with this issue. The Social Conservatives were on their own with this one, and many neo-cons, traditional conservatives, and South Park Republicans didn't want any part of this. Especially the second two groups, which are libertarian-based.

And these people were upset by what they saw, and got an inside glimpse at how the right-wing propaganda machine works. Not necessarily that they'd join our side, but that they'd be less willing to get duped again. And that's what all of this involved: a major duping.

A Major Duping

Because here's the thing about this Schiavo issue: We like to think that the Social Conservatives are just nuts, right? That they're just weirdo ideological freaks who want a different America than the one we want. But it's not necessarily like that. And this Schiavo issue is a prime example.

If you spoke with anyone who was against ending Mrs. Schiavo's life, they were most likely misled and/or confused about what her condition really was. Some thought it likely that she could recover. Many believed that she was actually active, and could even talk. Some believed she was simply mentally retarded and/or lazy. And almost all believed that this condition was caused by her evil husband, and that the proof of this was quite conclusive. On top of that, there was confusion over legal and medical issues. On which judges could view the evidence; which tests had been performed, etc.

And even now, many still hold onto the idea that Mrs. Schiavo could have recovered, that the autopsy was inconclusive or incompetently performed, and that perhaps it was the starvation which destroyed Mrs. Schiavo's brain. They already have their facts, and they're willing to make stuff up if they need to.

And the main thing is: None of this is opinion based. All of this is fact based. And these people had the wrong facts; including the stuff they made-up. They're not necessarily batty people who are always against pulling the plug. Some are, some aren't. But that had nothing to do with this. The truth is, these people didn't know the truth. They were lied to.

They might be nutbags, I don't know. But in this case, they made the right decision based upon the faulty information they were told. If Mrs. Schiavo could easily have recovered, as these people were told, then we shouldn't have pulled the plug. If she was clearly active and able to talk, as these people were told, then we shouldn't have pulled the plug. If Mr. Schiavo was slowly murdering her, while dominating the hospital staff and openly displaying his cold-blooded greed (as was discussed here); then we should have locked him up and ignored his plans.

And so there was nothing necessarily kooky about what these people wanted. Had their information been accurate, we'd be the fools and they'd be the heros. But it wasn't, and we weren't. We were right. They were wrong. And if we could just get them to acknowledge the facts, most of them would probably agree with us that the right thing happened. Because while the protesters at the hospice and the chatterers on TV talked about "Culture of Life" and all that jazz, many of the people who opposed Mrs. Schiavo's death did so based upon bad information; and they aren't against pulling the plug on hopeless cases. They just didn't know the facts, and believed that they did.

Factual Disagreements

And that's how it is with all this stuff. If there is a God, and He wants us to do all those things the stereotypical Christian believes; then we're fools for not believing and for not instituting His laws here on earth. And if tax cuts are always good for the economy, and taxes always bad; then we're fools for not cutting taxes. And if Terri Schiavo was half as alive and conscious as these people were led to believe, we are murderers for allowing her to die.

And that's the thing. Almost all of our disputes are like that. These are not ideological disputes. These are factual disputes. And factual disputes should be easily solved. All you need are the facts and a non-confrontational way to convey them. I've run into a wall repeatedly trying to overcome the barriers which stop these people from seeing the truth; so don't come to me for any easy answers on this. I'm just telling you what the problem is. The solution is different for each individual and issue.

But the main thing to remember is that the people you are arguing with are victims of propaganda. They allowed themselves to become victims, much like how drug addicts allow themselves to get hooked. But just because this was self-inflicted doesn't mean we shouldn't help them. And all they need is the truth. The truth will set them free.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Anti-Government President

In keeping with the fine tradition of our finest professional pundits, today's topic is something that I know little about personally and even less about professionally; making me the perfect person to talk about it.

I was avoiding my typical over-abundance of work by skimming through Yahoo News and stumbled upon a link to the Government Accountability Project's website. They're a nonprofit which promotes accountability in government and supports whistleblowers. I personally believe in both, so I was quite interested. And I saw this article titled "Special Counsel Pads His Record on Eve of Oversight Hearing," and wanted to learn more. It was all about Scott Bloch who is the U.S. Special Counsel and apparently is responsible for investigating whistleblower cases in the government or something; and will soon be giving testimony to a Senate Oversight committee or something. Now, I don't know who Scott Bloch is, what a Special Counsel does, or if he really flubbed it up; so again, I'm the exact person you want to go to for an opinion on all this.

The article says:
In recent weeks, Bloch has mounted a public relations offensive in seeking to deflect a torrent of criticism over wholesale dismissal of hundreds of whistleblower cases, gag orders he has issued to his own staff, a wave of forced resignations as part of an ill-fated effort to open a Mid-Western Field Office in Detroit, and cronyism in his hiring practices. In the past two weeks, Bloch has issued three press releases on whistleblower issues, more than the total of all such releases in the previous 15 months.

And again, I have no idea of what to think of these allegations. While I care enough to read the article and even to write about it, I don't care enough to actually research any of this, not even at GAP's own website. And by the clear standards used by our modern media, this lack of knowledge would entitle me to write a scathing column denouncing whichever side I happened to be against. Or, were I a television pundit, I could speak endlessly about how this affects Howard and Hillary in their 2008 presidential bid, or whether Bloch is responsible for any missing white women.

But I'm not a professional pundit. I'm a rank amateur. And as such, I will refrain from writing any further about this issue, and will solely focus on what I can write about: Conservatives, and why we should never ever let them have the Whitehouse again. And Bloch is just one of many examples of why that is.

Traitorous Presidents

Needless to say, Bloch was appointed by Bush. I know that, not just because it sounds like an appointed kind of position, and not just because Bloch sounds like the type of ideological incompetent Bush would appoint to an important position, but because I actually cheated and did a 5-second search on Yahoo (again, something which fully disqualifies me from professional punditry). That search also tells me that the Log Cabin Republicans want Bush to fire Bloch; and while I'm sure Bush is unlikely to follow their advice on this or any other issue, that tidbit lands outside the scope of this post, so I'll leave that alone.

And, whew, I am one long-winded SOB. I've written a ton, but haven't even gotten to my point. So I'll just get to it and leave.

Conservatives are against government. Not all government, but most government. That's not a liberal strawman or a conspiracy, it's their stated agenda. And while we generally think of the job of president as a Policy Pushing and Fighting Wars kind of thing, his main job is to run the government. But how can someone who is against government be trusted to run the government? They can't. Moreover, I think it is traitorous for anyone who is anti-government to become head of the government; especially if they gained office by hiding their anti-government agenda.

And Bush even still talks like someone who's against the government. As if he's fighting against the "fatcats in Washington", when he's the fattest cat of them all and everyone knows it. And while he talks like that because it makes great rhetoric, he really does think that way. Conservatives just can't view themselves as part of the government, even when they lead it.

And because conservatives want to do away with almost all government, they hate successful programs more than unsuccessful ones. And that is clearly at a cross-purpose with his job as Chief Executive, and should disqualify him from office. Like hiring the head of Greenpeace as CEO of Exxon or something. He might be qualified, but he's probably not going to have the company's best interests in mind.

Contrarian Ballast

Not that there's anything necessarily wrong with conservatives. I do think they're wrong, but I'm not saying they don't serve a purpose in life. Contrarians and others who go against the tide serve an important part in life, as a checks and balances kind of thing. Sometimes, it's a good idea to have a legislative body switch sides and start looking into the other side. That's one reason why gerrymandering is so bad, as it creates unnatural dynasties which cannot support themselves legitimately. So a little ideological change isn't a bad thing.

But this shouldn't apply to the Whitehouse. It's one thing for people who write the laws. But the President isn't supposed to be a partisan pushing an agenda. He's supposed to be an administrator, who runs things. And while it has never really been like that, there should be some standards to this kind of thing.

And one of those standards should be that the person primarily responsible for running the government should do so in a way that is consistent with what that government's supposed to do. Republicans complain about "activist judges" who they accuse of using judicial powers to re-write laws. But our activist president is doing that same thing. He has been using his powers as the chief government administrator to undermine the very laws he vowed to uphold. Not by outright breaking the laws, but by hiring bad people to subvert the law from the inside. Hiring non-expert lobbyists to alter expert reports. Hiring avowed war-mongers to cherry-pick government intel. And perhaps hiring anti-whistleblowers to stifle government whistleblowing.

And again, I say traitorous. This is subversion of the worst kind. McCarthy had his State Department pinkos, but what we have now is so much worse. Our President does not have the country's best interest in mind. Never once did he tell voters that he wanted to hire anti-government thugs to re-write regulations or fix problems for their former employers and clients. And even if he had, that's not his job. If conservatives want to gut government oversight, fine. Take it to the Congress. Have them re-write the laws so that we don't investigate whistleblowing, and allow partisan science and intel. And watch as the American People boot those dummies out of office faster than a bee shoots poop. That's how it's supposed to work. Not by having the Chief Executive hire incompetent partisans and corporate whores to muck up the laws that we have; while giving lip-service to the Will of the People. That isn't democracy. That is treason. And while it isn't the same as selling secrets to the enemy, on many levels it is much much worse.

Our country will never fall to an outside invader. Never. We will eat ourselves up from the inside. And one of the surest ways of achieving that is to allow an anti-government administration to secretly erode our laws and regulations. I'm sure that these people don't see themselves as villainous traitors. They think they're just looking out for themselves, and that they are. But they're screwing over the majority of Americans and undermining the democratic processes that bind us together. I normally like to end these things with some kind of rhetorical flourish that ties everything together. But fuck it. It's late and I really don't know where else to take this without making it a whole lot longer. So I'll just end it here.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A Normal Part of the Review Process

I just read this in Yahoo regarding the Whitehouse reaction to the story of the Bush Admin Ex-Lobbyist-Goon who edited scientific reports on global warming so they'd look better on polluters.

I quote:
"Cooney, a lawyer who once led the American Petroleum Institute's fight against greenhouse gas limits, joined the administration in 2001. He has no scientific training. White House spokesman Scott McClellan called the participation of Cooney a normal part of the review process by some 15 agencies."

Well I'm glad McClellan could clear that up for us. Too bad Bush hadn't told us about this "normal process" before we re-elected him. You know, that having non-scientist lobbyists altering scientific reports was a normal part of how this administration does things. I wonder how that slipped his mind during those debates. Probably too worried about this.

Oh, if you click on the story I quoted above, you won't see the exact quote I used. I copied and pasted it directly from the story, but apparently they changed it slightly after I copied it. But I'm too lazy to redo it, so you'll just have to make do with what I give you. It's late and my bed is calling to me.

CNN: Chock Full Of Assholes

Both The Carpetbagger and CJR commented today about a possible change for the better regarding CNN and their usually egregious news coverage. Apparently, CNN might be trying to push towards real news again. What in the hell took them so long?

As far as news concerns go, CNN was waaay off the boat. We all know it. They haven't been in the news business for years. They traded that in for a spot in the advertising/cable subscription business. That's what their focus is: Not news, but profits. I think that's totally wrong and incredibly dangerous for America and the world; but they never asked for my opinion. They just went ahead and did it.

But here's the thing: Even from a business perspective, they were also getting it wrong.

Now, I'm a business guy. I've a Bachelor in Business Administration, but I was mainly an accounting guy and only learned enough in those other business classes to get my A, and little else (don't ask what I thought about non-business classes). And it's been a few years since I've taken those classes. But I still recall enough of my marketing classes to know that CNN's been getting this stuff wrong for some time.

Bad Business Model

And their problem is simple: They were trying to replicate what their competitor was doing; rather than relying on their original product. There's nothing necessarily wrong with new or failing businesses positioning themselves by copying a competitor's success. But it doesn't always make sense, especially not for a once-dominant company whose product is significantly different than their competitor's. It's something you do out of desperation, not a choice you freely make when your marketshare dips. It was like curing a hangnail by lobbing off the finger.

By copying Fox's model, they abandoned their old brand identity of objective, exciting news from around the world. It didn't happen overnight, so it was imperceptible to most people; but it most surely happened. They weren't trying to out-Fox Fox, but they did believe that they could push in that direction and skim off part of it.

But it wasn't just a political slanting. That's the most apparent, but they really got out of the news business all together. They were pushing into the lucrative talk-show world. Not just in talk-show segments, but in everything. Every story became more about what opinion-makers said about it, than what the actual story was. Facts are hard to come by, but as we all know, opinions are like assholes. Everyone's got one, they make a mess of everything, and they won't shut-up. And CNN was chock full of opinions.

And it should be noted that one important factor in this is that real journalism is dependent on real stories. So if news is slow, ratings suffer. So CNN just figured out a way of correcting that; by inventing their own news. Every news story can be treated like a Big News story; you just have to find the angle. And their favorite stories became tabloid journalism about famous people gone bad (OJ, Michael Jackson, Martha Stewart) and tabloid journalism about formerly unfamous people who they made famous (Terry Schiavo, Atlanta Hostage Lady, Runaway Bride). And we can't forget the Pope. No story was too small, just as long as they could make up their own facts.

But the main thing was that they were trying to spice up their product by following Fox's talk-show formatting and soft-sell of the Whitehouse Agenda. They already had their newsroom bonafides in order. They were just going for the icing. Or so they thought.

New Coke

And all of this goes against basic marketing principles. If you're losing market-share to a competitor, becoming a lesser version of that competitor is unlikely to help. Take New Coke, for example. Coke was losing market-share, and decided to replace their old product with one that was more like Pepsi. And it was a major blunder. It wasn't necessarily that people didn't like the new Coke. But they loved the identity of the original Coke; more so than the replacement.

And beyond that, if people like Pepsi, why should they buy something that is like Pepsi? There's nothing wrong necessarily with trying to branch out with new products, but it's always dangerous to completely replace your main product with a competitor's taste-alike.

And there are lessons to be learned from the New Coke thing. First off, there's this bit from Wikipedia:
Before New Coke's introduction in 1985, Coca-Cola had been losing market share primarily to Pepsi. Although the reason was originally thought to be Pepsi's sweeter taste, a major force in the shift of market share was due to the merger between PepsiCo and Frito-Lay. PepsiCo was able to take advantage of Frito-Lay's highly developed retail distribution system to leverage more shelf space at supermarkets and other food retailers. With more shelf space available, sale specials were common for Pepsi products. Price, not loyalty, was the motivating factor for most retail consumers, and Pepsi gained substantial market share as a result.

And I agree with that exactly. In an attempt to replicate what they saw to be Pepsi's advantage (sweetness), Coke seriously damaged their own product and image. And their solution did nothing to fix their competitor's true advantage, which had little to do with Coke. Sometimes, your competitor just has advantages that you just don't have. You may act like the next Bill Gates, but you're unlikely to have much success with it.


And so it is with Fox and CNN. There are many many reasons why Fox has become more successful than CNN. But CNN just can't use those reasons to their advantage.

For example, opinion shows are more popular with Fox because Fox doesn't care about real news. To Fox, current news is just the backdrop they use to discuss their on-going storylines of Bush's Godliness and the Liberal's Destructive Agenda. But it's really all about the opinions. And because they select their news stories based upon those pre-conceived opinions, the entire channel is essentially one big propaganda show. And they're selling this to people who want to hear this specific propaganda. That is Fox's brand identity, and they use it well.

But Fox already has all of those people, and none of them want Fox-lite. Especially as the propaganda-minded Fox viewers are the type who will be outraged by stories that don't fit within that preset storyline. It's either all or nothing with these people. You either got them or you don't. Which was ok before Fox came along. But if they have a choice between getting a mixed bag of good and bad news from CNN, versus getting all good news from Fox; the choice is clear. They'll pick fantasyland.

And so CNN can't possibly compete with that. First off, they don't believe in propaganda. Hell, they probably don't even realize that Fox is selling propaganda. CNN might slant their coverage so that it doesn't seem so politically-motivated against conservatives, but they won't outright pimp for Bush. And they're certainly not biased politically. They'd actually have to care about politics in order to be biased about it. And they don't care about. They're just looking for another interesting way to fill a 24-hour news slot. So CNN doesn't have the pre-packaged flavor that draws the Fox viewers.

But secondly, CNN was known for news. That's what they were about. Not talking heads speculating about whether people should pay for their own manhunts. They reported facts. But facts are poison to talk-show opinions. They just get in the way of good arguments and slow everything down. They're things that "blowhards" like Krugman use when they're "stifling debate". What's next, that we actually hold these people accountable for what they say?? A good debate shouldn't be hampered by facts, so CNN got rid of them. And so by adopting the opinionated talk-show format, they were forced to dump the very thing that made them successful: Hard-Core News.

But hopefully this recent activity isn't just a fluke, and they'll get back to their original product. The dumbed-down news they've been offering is just an insult. And perhaps the New Coke lesson will apply in another way. After Coke re-introduced "Classic" Coke, it became more popular than ever. Maybe CNN can benefit from a similar effect upon returning to a real news format. People won't take it for granted anymore, and will come back to it in droves.

I'd like it if they did it because they care about the news. But I'll accept it if they just do it to improve business. Everyone needs a niche, and god knows nobody else is filling the hardcore news niche. The world is only big enough for one Walmart. We need to have Macy's too.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Honorary Brigadier Goldberg

It's really not difficult to figure out which blogs I read. All you have to do is see who I'm correcting. And this time, it's our beloved Atrios. He was writing about Jonah Goldberg, yet again attacking the Doughboy for giving excuses for why he hasn't enlisted to fight the wars he's so intent on thrusting onto us. But this attack on Goldberg is just plain wrong. Before I go too far, I will have to give a personal disclosure: Jonah Goldberg is a close and personal blog-friend of mine; being that he's the only blogger who's ever linked to anything I've written. My blog-counter hit the roof for several days after that, so I'm not completely an impartial observer.

But Atrios is wrong nonetheless. What he said:
This sad pathetic response makes Jonah not worthy of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders, the most honorable of whom never acknowledge that serving the cause they send others to die for is even a possibility to consider, let alone make excuses for.

And what he's saying is almost completely accurate. Those jerkoffs are busy jerking themselves into patriot diehards, yet they won't even publicly consider the idea of fighting the fights they want fought. All talk and no walk, or something like that. And whenever we mention this, they consider it a cheap rhetorical ploy on our part; something they shouldn't even dignify with a response. But while it is a rhetorical ploy, there is nothing cheap about it.

They like to play toughguy soldier in their bedrooms and offices, but won't take the obvious step that their fantasy ideas lead to; typical conservatives. They know that people need to be sacrificed; they just don't think those people should be themselves. So in combating their rhetoric, it's a completely valid rhetorical move on our side to point out the obvious hypocrisy of people sending others to death, while being unwilling to risk their own deaths.

But they refuse to consider this to be a legitimate criticism, so they dismiss it as cheap stunt, unworthy of answer. And what else can they do? Firstly, they know that the best answer to an attack is another attack; and that you should never defend yourself. But secondly, they don't have any good answers. Assuming the military will take them (they do have standards, you know) there's no excuse they can give that won't match hundreds of excuses of those willing to make this sacrifice. And there can be no doubt about it: We need more volunteers. So at best, they can only reply that the question is beneath them; or risk being shut up.

Where Atrios Was Wrong

But here's where Atrios is wrong: He believes that Goldberg wasn't doing that exact thing. And everyone seems to have made that same mistake. They treated Goldberg's remarks as if they were his honest attempts at making excuses. But this is simply incorrect.

Alas, Goldberg was not providing excuses for why he wasn't fighting. He did give excuses, but he also denied that he should do so; and for the exact reason that I stated above: Because he can't admit that our point is legitimate.

Here's the Goldberg quote again:
As for why my sorry a** isn't in the kill zone, lots of people think this is a searingly pertinent question. No answer I could give -- I'm 35 years old, my family couldn't afford the lost income, I have a baby daughter, my a** is, er, sorry, are a few -- ever seem to suffice.

And when you read that, note that the crucial line is "No answer I could give...ever seem to suffice". And while that is grammatically very odd, that is his point. He's saying that he won't answer the question because none of the possible excuses "ever seem to suffice". And he gave us a few examples of what those insufficient excuses might have been; and he was absolutely right, they did not suffice. But he only gave those in the context of telling us his excuse for why he won't answer the question: Because his answers aren't good enough.

And beyond that, if you read his full text, you'll see that he completely denies the validity of the question. He insists that, because this question is almost always asked by "anti-war leftists"; and almost never by military people, that the question needn't be answered.

And this is in keeping with the tradition of chicken-hawks adopting the voice of war veterans as their own. They implicitly endorse the idea that war veterans are better citizens than non-veterans, and have more right to state their opinion than non-veterans; and they then proceed to use that extra-strength voice as their own, though they typically are not veterans themselves. And because war veterans have more important opinions than ours, and because Jonah speaks for war veterans, we inherently lose our right to question his pro-war hypocrisy, for no other reason than because it is pro-war. Of course. That makes perfect sense, when you need it to.

No Answer

So, in fact, Jonah Goldberg gives us the double-whammy: He implies firmly that the question is invalid and goes ahead and provides us with his feeble excuses; most likely because he's such a coward that he can't let those charges go completely unanswered. But he never officially gave them as excuses, so we shouldn't treat him as if he had. Because he hadn't. Those were just the theoretical excuses that he would have given had he deemed the question worthy of an answer. If only we were so lucky.

And so we should stop attacking Goldberg for the lousy excuses he gave on what makes him too important for the war he wants others to die in. Instead, we should be attacking him for the lousy excuse he gave on why he doesn't need to answer the question. For him, it's an invalid question because he can't come up with a good answer for it. To us, that's exactly what makes it a searingly pertinent question.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Willy Wonka for President

I don't say it often, but Josh Marshall is wrong. He wrote yesterday about Bush's alleged mandate after his narrow election victory, and how Bush's victory was not in support of his current agenda; and thus he had no real mandate. I quote Josh: "What this last six months has shown is the poverty of the idea that winning an election gives you a 'mandate' if you try to use it to push policies you'd never told voters you were going to push."

I see where he's going with this, and on many conventional levels it's completely right. But this is not a conventional presidency; traditional rules do not apply.

In this case, Bush did run on a specific platform, and his victory was in support of that platform. Unfortunately for America, that platform wasn't the specific "reform" agenda he's going with now. Rather, his platform was "I can do anything I want to do, and you rubes will support me anyway." And tied into this is the platform plank: "I can say anything I want, and you rubes will repeat it." That's what he ran on, that's how he won, and that's exactly what he's giving us now. But it's just not working this time.

So Bush's problem isn't that he ran on a different platform than the one that he's pushing; it's that his platform was just wrong. He's now finding that he can't do anything he wants, and actions do have consequences. He could get away with this back when he was pimping the cotton candy agenda of Free Money and Death to Muslims; a perennial vote getter if there ever was one. Bush is the Willy Wonka of presidents, and you can have anything you want, there's nothing to it.

But it's not all bubble gum and lollipops this time, so Bush isn't having such a fun time. And unfortunately for Bush, because his agenda was all shim-sham and good times, his supporters envisioned his mandate to be identical to their own. Each of them imagining Bush's agenda to be the one that helped them most. But Bush reserved that honor for himself, and his popularity is dropping accordingly. Everyone loves Willy Wonka, but he still has to make the chocolate.

If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it.
Anything you want to, do it.
Want to change the world?
There's nothing to it.
Song: Pure Imagination

Friday, June 03, 2005

Republican Propaganda Machine

I was just reading the letter that Josh Marshall posted which Sidney Blumenthal had written to Hindrocket over at Power Line. The letter concerned judicial nominees and some column that Blumenthal had written about Clinton judicial nominees getting blocked by Republicans. And in that letter, Blumenthal writes:
"Rather than indulging in vituperative name-calling (Power Line: Close enough for Vicious Work), I would hope that you would bring to your interested readers' attention this statement by Senator Diane Feinstein of California on the subject, provide a link and publish lengthy relevant excerpts. The facts of the matter ought to be the basis for debate, not vilification."

And this gives us a demonstration of exactly what we need to do. I've got a lot more on this that I plan to write when I have a lot more time, but I cannot stress this enough: Almost all Republican supporters are victims of the Republican Propaganda Machine, and that our best way of combating that is not to smear them all as "supporters of torture", "war-mongers", "fascists" or whatever, but rather as victims of propaganda. We don't need to insult Bush or rant-on about neo-con conspiracies; we just need to give them the facts, and let them sink in.

The facts are on our side. And if they're not, then we're certainly fucking up because intelligent people should always be on the side of the facts. And so the only way that the Repubs can fight us is by changing the facts, and lying to their people. And no matter how much it seems to the contrary, nobody really likes to be fooled. Not even Republicans. If we can get through to them so that they understand that they're being fooled, they might not switch sides, but they'll certainly never trust their news sources again. And that's what we want. In fact, I'd be perfectly happy if these people just got out of politics all-together and went back to professional wrestling, or whatever vilifying drama they used to argue about before getting interested in politics.

Watergate Forever

Take Watergate for example. As I've posted before, the Watergate story is chock full of Republicans who completely and fully defended Nixon, though they didn't know most of the facts. For months, they went on TV, and gave speeches and press conferences defending Nixon, yet they only had his word on it that he was innocent. And Nixon really should not have been considered the most honest of sources, especially in regards to Watergate. And the only reason they believed him was because they needed to believe him; because if they didn't believe Nixon, they couldn't defend him. And they wanted to defend him because he was a Republican. And so they didn't want to know the truth.

And what did they do once they knew the truth? They abandoned Nixon like a whore at the church carnival. And they only learned the truth after they had to know the truth, because it was about to be published to the world. And while Republicans now like to pretend as if Nixon had done the right thing "for the good of the country" by resigning (unlike the dreaded Clinton); that is completely false. Nixon resigned after his political supporters had been forced to learn the truth, and had utterly abandoned him. Nixon already knew that he'd lose the impeachment vote, but once the "smoking gun" transcript had been released, he was guaranteed to lose the Senate trial too; as almost all of his Republican supporters were going to vote against him. And Nixon knew that. He wanted to fight it out all the way, but had to give up once the Republicans had learned the truth, and Nixon knew he couldn't possibly win.

So Republicans like to pretend that Nixon resigned to "do the right thing", but that's just more propaganda. The facts are clear that he resigned because he knew that he had no support and would most surely be impeached and booted from office. Even his supporters were saying that...once they had to. Resignation was just a face-saving measure.

And that's the thing about Watergate, the more his supporters learned about what happened, the less they could support him. But until they learned the truth, they were dogged Nixon supporters who would say anything to defend him. And they didn't even care about the truth. They didn't want to hear the Nixon tapes, which would have been the right of his important supporters. After all, if Nixon was innocent, then he should have had no problem with allowing his advisors and Republican politicians to hear them. But they wanted his assurances and nothing more. Because once the truth was known to them, they were forced to stop defending him and join the "Get-Nixon crowd".

And the main problem for Nixon was that all of these Republicans were angry at him for lying to them. They were very bitter, and that was one of the reasons he sunk so quickly. They wanted to be lied to, but once they learned the truth, they blamed Nixon for lying to them. The truth was out there, had they wanted to know. But once they were forced to know it, their consciences forced them to blame Nixon for all they had done on his behalf. Nixon always saw himself as a victim, but it wasn't until his supporters saw themselves as his victims did they abandon him.

Stone Cold Facts

And so it is with our current Republican supporters. They are willfully ignorant of the truth, but once they learn the truth, they will be forced to reject their leaders and news sources.

And that's why it's so wrong to treat them like they're the same as those they listen to. They're not. We need to attack the Republican Propaganda Machine, but not the Republican supporters. And even at that, we need to attack the Machine with a cold recounting of the facts, not by name-calling and accusations. We just need to get these people to realize that Hindrocket, O'Reilly, and the rest of them are just tricking them with fake facts and selective memories.

Sure, these people want to be fooled. But if we can present the facts to them in an undeniable fashion, they'll be forced to see the truth and be forced to reject their information sources. And if we stop name-calling and opinions, and most of all stop the guesses and conspiracy-mongering; and keep strictly to the facts, they won't have anywhere to hide. The truth is on our side, we just need to put it on theirs.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Bush Senior: Breaking Out Into Assholes

Just to join in on all the Watergate excitement, I thought I'd share my favorite quote of the Watergate book I'm reading, The Final Days by Woodward and Bernstein; which is all about the final days of Nixon's presidency.

It was towards the end and a "smoking gun" transcript of Nixon discussing how he wanted to use the CIA to cover-up the Watergate break-in was about to be released. So they had to tell all of the important Republicans first, including George Bush Sr. who was the Chairman of the RNC at the time.

Briefly Timmons worried about whether Haig had contacted all the key people. "Dean, does Bush know about the transcript yet?"
"Well, what did he do?"
"He broke out into assholes and shit himself to death," Burch replied.

To be honest, I'm not exactly sure what the line means; but it sure is funny.

Oh, and there's this paragraph too. It's about when the House Minority Leader John Rhodes was finally told about the transcript. He was one of Nixon's key supporters, and had announced a big press conference to defend Nixon, but had been warned against it and had to pretend to be ill so he could delay it. Finally, Nixon lawyer Fred Buzhardt, political advisor Dean Burch, and Mr. Assholes George Bush Sr went to Rhodes' house to tell him about the transcript. They didn't necessarily want Bush to go with them but, "Bush had asked to go along. It would have been impolite to refuse". As the book says:

The three men left, satisfied. The consensus was taking hold. Rhodes later let it be known that he was offended that Bush had been briefed before he was.

None of this is particularly relevant to Watergate. I just liked reprinting a few digs at our Prez's dad. He was a boob then, and his son's a boob now.

Apology to Okrent

I'd just like to apologize to Daniel Okrent for calling him an idiot and whatnot in my previous post. I just finished reading The Daily Howler's take on Okrent, and I had misjudged the man. I had assumed that Okrent was just some lamebrained political writer who thought he knew better than everyone else. But now I realize that Okrent's not an idiot. He just doesn't care about this stuff, and only accepted the job to help his ego.

And as I've always believed, you can't blame someone for accepting a powerful position that is offered to them; even if they are too incompetent to fulfill the requirements of that position. Equally, I don't blame Bush for allowing his daddy's friends to talk him into getting into politics to become President. Who could have turned down that offer? Especially as incompetence rarely comprehends its own incompetence.

So if anything, we should blame Bush Sr's friends for inflicting Junior on us. And we only have the NY Times to blame for inflicting Okrent on us. Both Bush and Okrent have their little talents and hobbies which I'm sure are quite useful in their own little world; but they just happened to be offered jobs that had little to do with those talents. But could you honestly say that you'd turn down your dream job, just because you'd suck at it? I don't think so. Each of us would be unlikely to turn down the ombudsman or president jobs. And even though we still would have been better at it than the boobs we got, you just can't blame people for doing what you'd do.

So I apologize to Okrent. He's not a stupid man. He just has talents of a different variety than those he needed for the job that was offered to him.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Factual Hokey Pokey

In case you've missed it, heavyweight Paul Krugman from the NY Times and their flyweight former Ombudsman Daniel Okrent are having a smackdown. Or to put it more accurately, Okrent tried to use his final column to rabbitpunch Krugman, Krugman smacked the living tar out of ol' Dannyboy, and Danny retreated with a few more cheapshots, insisting that he won't continue the debate no matter how Krugman responds. The damn coward.

Not that I blame him. Krugman's a smart guy and Okrent's an idiot, so Okrent put up the only defense he could, short of capitulation. And I know I wouldn't want to be on the wrong side of Paul Krugman in an economic debate, which is why I agree with him...because he's right.

If you're looking for some details on this, the ever-brilliant Brad Delong's got them over at his place; though I felt his remarks were too brief. And this debate was too brief for me to bother giving any kind of play-by-play, as I did with the Chait v. Goldberg duel awhile back (you can look through my April archives on that). Maybe if Okrent breaks his promise and responds back, I'll go ahead with a commentary. I love a good debate, but this isn't one. It's just a disagreement over basic facts, and facts are kind of a silly thing to debate. Which is a big indicator of what an idiot Okrent is, because the facts are so easily proven; and he's so obviously wrong.

So I'm not going to comment further on the debate. No, I'm here to talk about just one part of Okrent's retarded rebuttal. Okrent explained why, if he had believed Krugman's column to be so misleading, he hadn't corrected Krugman's statements earlier (which was kind of Okrent's job). Okrent explained:
But I laid off for so long because I also believe that columnists are entitled by their mandate to engage in the unfair use of statistics, the misleading representation of opposing positions, and the conscious withholding of contrary data. But because they're entitled doesn't mean I or you have to like it, or think it's good for the newspaper.

And doesn't that just say it all? Okrent believes that, because columnists are opinion writers, that they're entitled to lie. He didn't use the word "lie". But that's what he's talking about; that columnists of the most respected newspaper in America are entitled to lie as part of their job. That it's ok to use the NY Times as a source of misinformation, because that's what opinion writers are hired for.

And that attitude is what's so fucking wrong with our media and the Republican Party.

Neat Elite

And I'm sure that Okrent's not the only one with that point of view. I'm sure that if you probed the elite media circles, almost all of them would state that viewpoint; that having an opinion means you're allowed to alter the facts in a way that makes your point right.

And even further, they believe that opinions naturally distort; always. That, if you have a personal opinion, you can't help but be selective in your use of facts; which is something that the rightwing meat-heads have been screaming about for over a decade. It seems beyond them that someone might have a personal opinion based-on the facts, and not the other way around. So the media is naturalresistantent to facts on either side, and prefer the facts that their specific class of elite media whores claim as being acceptable.

And so that's why they believe that it's wrong to fact-check political statements in supposedly objective articles. Because they've been trained to believe that selecting and judging facts is wrong and subjective. So they present both sides of an argument, and leave it to the reader to decide which set of facts to believe. Because for them, facts aren't objective or provable. To our media elite, facts are just talking points that both sides have. And not only do they not see facts as verifiable, they believe that the very process of verifying them is subjective and wrong.

And the more extreme someone's opinion is, the more manipulated their facts must be; which is why Okrent believes so fervently that Krugman's opinionated viewpoint must be distorted. And the more moderate someone's opinion is, the less manipulated their facts must be. And the idea doesn't occur to them that perhaps someone might have the real facts. Because they don't believe in such a thing. For them, it's all about how distorted your facts are.

And Okrent uses this perverse idea as his defense, as witnessed in the quote above.

Deceiving Deceivers

And that's exactly why they tolerate the Bush Admin's distortions and manipulations. Because they think that having opinions entitles you to select which facts you want to use, and how to present them. You're not entitled to outright lie (based upon a twistdefinitionion of the word "lie"), but you're allowed to manipulate and distort all you want. Which is what normal people call "lying".

But to our media, lies are something that you bust someone for; whereby the word "lie" means that you later contradict something you had said earlier. Because how else can you know if someone's lying unless they themselves contradict it? Like when Clinton said he hadn't had sex with Monica, and later admitted that he had. The media elite didn't believe him when he made his initial claim, but it wasn't a "lie" until he contradicted it.

Or like when Bush said those sixteen words about Niger in the 2003 State of the Union address, which the Admin later said he shouldn't have included. Only then did the media get on the manhunt for WMD lies; and continued to focus on those sixteen words, rather than focusing on the entire con-game the Republicans had performed. And if you bother reading that link, you'll see Condi Rice defending those sixteen words by pretending that everything else they had said was correct. And she could only do that because the media wasn't focusing on anything else. And they weren't focusing on the other stuff because the Whitehouse hadn't contradicted itself on it.

Which is exactly why the Whitehouse would be stupid to ever allow Bush to contradict a statement he had made, or admit to a mistake. Because doing so would give the media topportunityity to bust him for lying. So while we always refer to Bush's inability to list his mistakes as a character flaw; in actuality, he was forced to do that to avoid falling into the media's trick. As they can't bust him for lying until he gives them something to work with. They don't think they can verify facts, so they're busily searching for a chink in the armor.

To our elite media, that's what it's all about. Spinning facts is just a game and everyone's entitled to play. Danny Okrent used this as his defense for why he didn't address the issues he had regarding Krugman's supposed distortions; believing that Krugman was entitled to those distortions and lies. But this isn't a defense at all. It's the god damn problem.

Good riddance Okrent. Please take the other media whores with you.