Sunday, October 30, 2005

Dr. Kass, Medical Man

Atrios’ use of the term “Wanker of the Day” is usually not as apt as it was today with his current wanker, Leon R. Kass, M.D., Ph.D.  Writing for Boundless Webzine, a website of Creep Dobson’s Focus on the Family, Dr. Kass preaches against the evils of the dreaded Birth Control Pill.  Per his bio, Dr. Kass is currently serving alongside the likes of Dr. Charles Krauthammer on The President’s Council of Bioethics.  Dr. Kass is also the Addie Clark Harding Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and the College at the University of Chicago and Hertog Fellow in Social Thought at the American Enterprise Institute.  Needless to say, this isn’t just some jackharry crackpot with more indignation than ability.  He’s an official crackpot.

I also learned that Dr. Kass is married to Amy Apfel Kass, Senior Lecturer in the Humanities at the University of Chicago and Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute (read: career woman).  The Kasses have two married daughters and four young granddaughters, which seems odd, as our current wankfest involves the evils of birth control pills.  

To have two grown-up daughters and still be married, he must have been married for a very long time.  Yet only two kids??  Is it that Dr. Kass, medical man, was shooting a lot of blanks these past few decades?  Were they test-tube babies, in defiance of God’s Will?  Or perhaps his disdain for birth control was solely limited to the Pill, leaving open the possibility that he preferred prophylactic enhancements for her pleasure.  

Or more likely, this might be yet more proof that the joyful sex life of the married couple is not quite as joyful or thrilling as Dr. Kass would have us believe.  It’s almost as if he’s just playing a big hoax on the abstinent Christians out there.  “Oh yeah, it’ll be even better if you wait,” he says with a wink; but the lack of children says something else.  

And after all, one only needs to look at all the extramarital sex going around to realize that, for many people, sex with their life partner leaves a little something to be desired.  As if, perhaps, they’re not getting it at home.  I’m sure the pill is somehow to blame for that too.  But whatever it was, I find it safe to say that there was probably a lot of wanking going on in the Kass household.

Sexier Sex

He clearly states over and over that sex should always be reserved for the married; and even goes as far as to suggest that sex education in school should actually romanticize sex, so as to make it sound even more wonderful and awesome.  He writes of the “failure of sex education to attempt to inform and elevate the erotic imagination of the young.”  And goes on to say that by explaining how sex works, they’re making it less erotic.  

Right.  Sex is less sexy if you know how it works; and this is a problem.  And if the clinical presentation of sex by your middle-aged spinster health teacher is “technocratic” and makes sex sound worse; then what exactly is the complaint?  It sounds like he’s just trying to make things worse.  Call me crazy, but I’d prefer that my kids think that sex was boring than to believe it is erotic and exciting.  But I suspect they won’t listen to me in either case.

He goes on to write: “True sex education is an education of the heart; it concerns itself with beautiful and worthy beloveds, with elevating transports of the soul.”  That’s right; a man of science and a leading bioethicist is suggesting that the education of sexual physiology and technique be replaced with the poetry of Shelly and Keats.  I’ve never read either, but I suspect that this might be at least a partial explanation as to why he only had two kids.  He was reading the wrong How-To manual.

Making Babies

And mind you, it’s not enough that people are married.  Or if they were intellectually honest (which they’re not), it wouldn’t be enough.  Because they don’t just say that sex is for married people.  They say that sex is for baby-making, and that babies can only be raised properly by a married couple.  But then if a couple can’t have babies, then why should they be having sex?

One could even argue that, if sex is for making babies, then an unmarried couple that can have babies is a more apt sexual coupling than a married couple which cannot; as the unmarried couple can always get married, but the married couple still can’t procreate.  

And if the purpose of marriage is procreation, then why are the baby-disabled allowed to get married at all?  That made sense back before we understood how this kind of thing works.  But in this modern age, we have a pretty good idea of whose peters and cooters are in working order.  As a personal example, my wife once got fixed, and before they’d unfix her (we wanted kids); they made sure to do a peter test on me to make sure that my equipment was working properly and that the operation wouldn’t be a waste of our time (I passed with flying colors, so to speak).

And so we know who can and can’t be making babies, and could make marriage-suitability decisions based on that information.  Were the Kasses intellectually consistent, they would be forced to denounce the marriage of the baby-disabled.  If anything, they should be seen as an abomination; particularly if one of the pair has working equipment.  It’s one thing for gays to shack-up; as the Dobsons can never be quite sure that they won’t be passing on that gay-loving sperm.  And so it makes sense to take them off the market in pairs.  But if a baby-abled gets together with a baby-disabled person, they’re taking their precious God equipment offline permanently.  And that’s the kind of thing that makes baby Jesus cry.  

I’m probably getting far too personal with this, but after all, what is sex if not personal?  And if we’re not going to use real-life examples; then we’re more likely to get fantasyland jokes, like the works of Kass and Dobson.  So to get personal, what have the good doctor and his wife been doing all these years, with only two children?  And now that their children are grown, do the Kasses still need to stay together?  And to be gross, are they still doing it?  

Dr. Kass believes that sex is a wonderful thing that should be preserved for married couples, for the purpose of bringing babies into the world properly; yet for him, this “wonderful thing” seems to have only accomplished its purpose twice.  I know unmarried people who have done better.  Either there’s something wrong in the Kass household, or God just doesn’t like him very much.  Probably both.

Ideological Fools

And check this out; everything I just wrote wasn’t even why I started writing this.  I got kind of side-tracked when I read that this long-married man, who’s all about sex being better if you’re married, only had two kids.  But that wasn’t what I got into this for.  No.  I was here on a different tangent: Dr. Kass’s argument versus the realities of the unwed mother and abortion.

This was another case of a conservative having a valid, if oddball argument; but only by limiting the subject matter by treating it as if it existed in vacuum.  He only discusses the unwed sex of those using birth control; but is forced to deny the existence of non-users.  And the vacuum is glaringly obvious once we have a glance at our Social Conservative List of No-No’s.  No, I’m not referring to the big one: homosexuals.  But almost as important to the Dobsons: Unwed mothers and Abortion.

Naturally, any thinking person would immediately identify the problems of unwed mothers and abortion as being mutually self-canceling.  Specifically, that the second problem is an obvious solution for the first; and the first being a natural outcome of avoiding the second.  Only an ideological fool would suggest that both of these are problems.  That’s like complaining about your runny nose, while railing against kleenex.  (And no, I’m not likening abortion to sneezes).

But it all makes sense once you realize what these sickos are really after: Punishment.  I actually wrote this section after I wrote the end, so I’ll just leave this issue for now; to be picked up later on at the end.  But needless to say, more abortions would mean fewer unwed mothers.  And more birth control pills would mean fewer abortions.  And that is why the only mention of abortion in his piece lumps it together with the Pill; rather than admitting that the one is only necessary when girl fails to take the other.  

Imagine how different that piece would be if he had to admit that abortion is only necessary because all girls aren’t on the Pill.  His readers could then weigh the consequences of “Free Love” with that of “Baby Murder” (their term), and he would lose a large segment of his audience.  So abortion has to be excluded from the discussion; with the only reference to it implying that it’s somehow linked to the Pill, rather than an alternative to it.

Onto the Unwed

Unwed motherhood; it’s a problem, especially to the Dobsons.  It’s just wrong and against God’s Will and is causing so many of our modern problems.  Conservative columnist and joke on humanity Maggie Gallagher, a long-time unwed mother whose success contradicts almost everything she writes, often drones on about the social and economic destruction created by those who follow her footsteps (though she rarely admits to her unwedded status (she’s married now)).  On a sidenote, Gallagher is a perfect example of conservative-brand welfare.  The only real jobs she’s had were writing for conservative think-tanks and organizations.  So they’re willing to give money to ignorant unwed mothers, just as long as they continue to crank out pro-conservative pap.  (Something for you welfare queens out there to take note of.)

But here’s the thing, there is one thing that unwed mothers generally have in common: They don’t use birth control and they sleep around with people they shouldn’t.  We hear about this all the time: Older males preying on young and foolish teenage girls; just to leave them in the lurch when babytime comes.  And then there are the sluts who will sleep with any Tom, Dick, or Harry that come along.  But then, when push comes to shove, they don’t even know which guy to send the Attorney General after.  And there are all kinds of girls doing it with the wrong guy, even their boyfriends, and being abandoned.  The conservative world is chock full of these stories.

And let’s face it, if these guys weren’t the “wrong ones” then they’d marry the girl and the baby wouldn’t be born out of wedlock.  So it’s fairly easy to conclude that almost all unwed mothers are having trouble picking the “right” guys.  And don’t forget, there are also the social ills caused by women who want the baby, but not the man; and get knocked up with the intent of being a single mother.  This is particularly prevalent among the lesbian scene, I understand; and I’m sure the conservatives haven’t even gotten warmed up inventing new woes to blame on this troubling trend.

But again, there is one thing that all these kinds of girls have in common: They don’t use birth control.  Or if they did, the odds are very strong that they didn’t use them properly, because they didn’t know how (and showing them how is one of Kass’s big problems).  And yet they sleep with the wrong guys; with “wrong” meaning exactly what the Dobsons and Kasses think it to mean.

Nailing Dr. Kass

But you see, this is a critical nail against Kass’s argument.  He argues that because women who pop the Pill don’t need to worry about anything popping out nine months later, that they won’t be picking the right kind of guys to sleep with.  And thus they’ll debase sex and degrade themselves.  As Kass says of Pill poppers: “Her sexuality unlinked to procreation, its exercise no longer needs to be concerned with the character of her partner and whether he is suitable to be the father and co-rearer of her yet-to-be-born children.”  

With the pill, “Girls just want to have fun,” Kass says anachronistically circa-1984, and won’t do a good enough job of picking their lovers.  But uh, hello!  How does this fit in with the problem of the unwed mothers?  They’re not using birth control, and it’s quite obvious that they’re doing a pretty poor job in the Picking Lover’s Department.  And yet their hormones haven’t been separated from the consequences.  They know that when the sucker goes in, they don’t know what all might be coming out.  So what gives?  Doesn’t this entirely undermine Kass’s argument?

Of course it does.  Especially when you think a little more about it.  Who is doing worse: a woman who is so foolish as to have unprotected sex with creeps who also aren’t protected and don’t care to be, or the woman who plans ahead and has handy birth control for sex with those same creeps?  And further, who is more responsible than the women who have the foresight to consult with their doctors regarding birth control and to regularly take the pills he prescribes?  Are we really to believe that these women are picking worse lovers than the completely unprotected?  Of course not.  Only a fool would say that.  A fool named Leon Kass.

And it should be mentioned that a more salient reason why Kass has to exclude unwed mothers from the discussion (the phrase does not appear in his essay), is because the problems he discusses are actually much worse for women who don’t use birth control.  In fact, the evils he lists are all usually attributed to unwed mothers, and to make mention of them in his discussion is to remind us where more of this blame lies.  But it isn’t with birth control or the Pill; it’s with unmarried sex.  And if the Pill is causing these problems, than the lack of the Pill makes them infinitely worse.  

So if he discusses unwed mothers, the associations made by his readers will instead be focused on that problem, which is significantly more tangible and easily described.  But the worst problems of unwed motherhood are almost entirely solved by the Pill.  That’s why we recommend it.  So he is forced to deny the existence of this important social issue.  An unalert reader (which is the only type who could take Kass’s work seriously), would almost believe that he was discussing unwed motherhood.  By using similar rhetoric, it is almost as if he is attributing the problems of unwed mothers to the Pill!  

But there are unwed mothers, and they are unarguably exhibiting worse behavior than the Pill-Girls.  Dr. Kass can exclude this fact from his discussion, but it is only intellectual dishonesty that allows him to do so.  To be honest, is to admit defeat.

Case Closed

And this is utterly devastating to Kass’s argument.  It’s over and done with.  He loses.  And it’s obvious to see what Kass’s argument really is.  He’s against birth control, but doesn’t have a good argument against it.  He has a real argument, but it’s a laughable one which he can never be open about.  The real argument is that the Kasses want punishment against those having sex.  He doesn’t mind you having sex, but just as long as there are nasty consequences to it.  You’ll be an example to the others: A walking after-school special.

And so what else does this mean besides more unwanted pregnancies and lots of STD’s?  Premature deaths, suffering, embarrassment, expense, ruined lives, what have you.  All in an attempt to get people to stop having sex.  But they always say that it’s for the sake of the consequences; as if we need consequences so that we can warn people of the consequences that we’re ultimately to blame for!  The means justifies the ends, and vice versa; because they’re the same damn thing.

And not only is he willing to sacrifice people to these consequences, he’s insisting that we must do so; to save the others.  He states that it is immoral and wrong to do otherwise.  As he complains that “most programs of sex education in public schools have a twofold aim: the prevention of teenage pregnancy and the prevention of venereal disease, especially AIDS.”  This approach he says is “at best, morally neutral,” and that because it’s so important, “amorality on this subject is itself morally culpable.”  

And again, he can only say this because he believes that sexual consequences are more important to have than the prevention of those consequences.  He’s saying that it is morally wrong to cure what can be cured because immoral actions require a moral consequence; and that we’d be promoting immorality were we to remove the consequences from the immoral actions.  And to argue this, he had to attribute unrelated problems to the Pill; of women picking the wrong lovers and whatnot.  But not only is it obvious that this problem isn’t caused by birth control pills; but that it’s still a better problem than the moral consequences he wants us to stop curing.  

I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer that my daughter be sleeping with the wrong guy, than for her to sleep with the “right” guy and get knocked up when she didn’t want to be.  I’d prefer that she slept-around and finished college; rather than settling down with Mr. Right at age 18 due to an “accident”.  Don’t get me wrong; I’d rather she not sleep around at all, but that’s not really my choice, is it.  And if she does sleep around, I’d prefer that it be without negative consequences.  Sometimes, you have to be cruel to be kind; but an unwanted baby is beyond cruel; it’s humane.  A human should not be brought into existence simply as a lesson in morality.

Bioethicist Leon Kass sees things differently and would prefer to make that decision for me and my daughter.  He would also prefer that this “right” guy give AIDS to my daughter, than to wear a condom.  Not that he condones AIDS, but he prefers it to consequence-less actions.  Apparently, abstract immoralities are worse than concrete diseases and unwanted children.  

Heck, one would almost think that the Kasses don’t believe that God is going to be punishing us after it’s all over.  You’d think he’d see that as the ultimate consequence.  But somehow, that never enters the discussion either; and so he sees Pilled-up sex as being consequence-less.  People have burned for lesser heresies than that.

And so this is an example of our modern conservative ethicist.  Someone who desires and demands that bad things happen to people; simply as a warning to others.  This is a man who has the ear of the president, and can give input into important ethical decisions that affect America and the world.  This is our conservative man of thought.  A medical doctor who desires bad things to happen to people; just to prove a point.  Things which we can easily prevent; but for which he believes it is wrong to do so.  Imagine a heart doctor refusing to perform a bypass-operation, in order to demonstrate to others the dangers of Krispy Kreme.  This is conservative ethics: when morality comes before the medicine.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Off Her Meds

Via the Great and Illustrious Roger Ailes, I just read a disturbing piece from Peggy Noonan.  And when I say “disturbing” I mean in relative terms compared with the typical Peggy Noonan piece; which are disturbing unto themselves.  She is clearly on the short bridge to Cuckooland with this one, so hold on tight:

It is not so hard and can be a pleasure to tell people what you see. It's harder to speak of what you think you see, what you think is going on and can't prove or defend with data or numbers. That can get tricky. It involves hunches. But here goes.

Jesus christ, I’ve had mushroom trips that made more sense than this.  To be fair to Peggy, I suspect that this paragraph was written at the insistence of her editor, to serve as a disclaimer to let us know that the person we’re about to read is completely off their rocker and is about to share some delusional fantasies, in the hope that we’re seeing the same shit.  I’ve had moments like that too; but each time was successful in convincing myself that the dots on the wall really weren’t moving.  Unfortunately, Peggy has had no such luck.  And that’s just the beginning.  

Her point seems to be that we’re all suffering from Information Overload, and that life has become too confusing, too complex, and too scary.  But she doesn’t realize that that’s the problem, and attributes it all to the “wheels coming off the trolley”.  And the real message is clear: Peggy Noonan is suffering from Information Overload (along with a whole host of other mental problems), and has become confused and scared.  The wheels are indeed coming off, but only the ones in Peggy’s mind. Here’s what I mean:

It’s a bit long, but the third paragraph starts with “I'm not talking about "Plamegate." As I write no indictments have come up. I'm not talking about "Miers." I mean . . . the whole ball of wax. Everything. Cloning, nuts with nukes, epidemics…”  This laundry list of troubles ends with, “Great churches that have lost all sense of mission, and all authority. Do you have confidence in the CIA? The FBI? I didn't think so.”  

And no, that really doesn’t make much more sense in context.  But the main point is that she knows too much stuff, and it’s just blowing her mind.  For the rest of us, things may seem relatively normal.  I myself think that this is the best time to live in yet.  But for poor Peggy Noonan, these are the End Times. (I should note that she never uses that phrase, but that’s clearly what she means).  

Too Much Information

I mean, the question isn’t whether we have confidence in the CIA or FBI.  It’s whether we ever should.  Anyone with a brain would be hard-pressed to argue that this is the worst time in the history of either agency; but to Peggy, things haven’t looked worse.  And oh no, our great churches haven’t seen worse times.  Crusades, inquisitions, reformation, burning witches, corruption, Vatican II; all child’s play compared with today’s churchy woes.  

And the same goes for her entire list of modern troubles.  But it’s not that anything is worse, it’s just that she knows about it and it worries her.  Peggy is a worrier, and thanks to the 24-hour news cycle, TMI is kicking her butt.

Blaming Bush

And the thing that bugs her most is that Bush is to blame for many of these problems.  She even says as much.  Saying things like how “some of us have felt discomfort regarding President Bush’s leadership the past year,” and how he seems to be “looking for trouble” and is making “startling choices.”  But this hasn’t started this past year.  It’s just her perceptions that have changed.

And that’s the most troubling aspect of all for her.  Her strong leader seems to be making some really bad decisions, and it’s totally freaking her out.  She worked with Reagan, a man always slightly out of touch with reality; and towards the end, half out of his mind; but this is what’s freaking her out.  

I mean, sure, Reagan was responsible for secretly selling banned weapons to anti-American terrorists, in exchange for hostages; and lied about it.  (He just couldn’t get the hostages back otherwise).  And sure, he then funneled that money illegally and unconstitutionally to Central America, to support thugs and killers.  And there are some indications that they may have even gotten into cocaine smuggling to finance these illegal operations.  And then there’s the issue of supporting and training the extremist Muslims which are now threatening our country; as well as aiding Saddam in his quest for WMD’s.  And their best defense is that Reagan had no idea what was going on in his Whitehouse, or what he was agreeing to.  But it’s Bush’s leadership that’s freaking her out.  

But of course, she’s still too enamored with him to actually blame him; so she instead blames everything on the End Times.  Perhaps if she could personalize all this and place blame where it belongs, it would help her realize that everything isn’t hopeless; and she’d be greatly comforted.  But that would involve blaming her party and her fearless leader.  She’d much rather continue to believe them all to be competent, but that even competence isn’t good enough any more.  Because we’re all doomed!!

The End of Something

But that’s nothing.  Check this shit out:

A few weeks ago I was chatting with friends about the sheer number of things parents now buy for teenage girls--bags and earrings and shoes. When I was young we didn't wear earrings, but if we had, everyone would have had a pair or two. I know a 12-year-old with dozens of pairs. They're thrown all over her desk and bureau. She's not rich, and they're inexpensive, but her parents buy her more when she wants them. Someone said, "It's affluence," and someone else nodded, but I said, "Yeah, but it's also the fear parents have that we're at the end of something, and they want their kids to have good memories. They're buying them good memories, in this case the joy a kid feels right down to her stomach when the earrings are taken out of the case."

This, as you can imagine, stopped the flow of conversation for a moment. Then it resumed, as delightful and free flowing as ever. Human beings are resilient. Or at least my friends are, and have to be.

“Resilient,” yes.  I guess that’s what they’re calling it these days when you can actually refrain from saying those things the doctor warned you about.  And it’s just a hunch, but I suspect that Peggy has an awful lot of these conversation-stopping moments; though I doubt the resumption of conversation is quite as delightful and free flowing as she’s led to believe.  It’s a wonder anyone invites her to parties anymore.  

And this is clearly part of a theme with her.  She’s decided that all of these events are leading up to something horrible and disastrous, and that if we don’t act as crazy as her about it, then we’re either lost in “classical and constitutional American optimism” or “going through the motions” and trying to live it up before things get really bad.  Leftie-types have been complaining about this mindless materialism for decades; but Peggy’s now pegged it as a reaction to the post-9/11 world.  And she cites as proof the number of accessories that parents buy their demanding teens; as if this was a very recent phenomenon.  I wonder how many earrings she had before 9/11.  

But in no case does it occur to her that she’s just fucking crazy.  Or more likely, it does occur to her and she’s worried about it; thus this column, which is intended to either seek out other like-minded people, or perhaps to create them.  But she’s really struggling hard to convince herself that she’s not the only one.

Even Teddy Knows…

As proof that she’s not the only one, she cites an anecdote from Christopher Lawford, a nephew of Ted Kennedy.  Apparently, while Teddy was drinking heavily amongst friends and family, he said “I’m glad I’m not going to be around when you guys are my age.”  When asked why, he replied “Because when you guys are my age, the whole thing is going to fall apart.”

And I’m sure that the floor just dropped right out from under poor Peggy when she read that; as this confirmed everything she already believes.  Sure, he could have just meant that the government will go to the crapper due to Bush’s budget deficits, or that the youngsters are going to ruin everything, or maybe that he personally will be falling apart at that old age; or just about any other damn thing a drunken Kennedy might have been thinking about at the time.  Hell, he might even have been confessing to a Kennedy plot to ruin America!  But like all deranged people, she sees this as yet more confirmation of her “hunches”.  When all the pieces keep fitting together, you’re either on the right path or completely insane; and too often, the line between the two is utterly blurred.

She writes of this “And—forgive me—I thought: If even Teddy knows…”  That’s right, when a drunken Ted Kennedy confirms your biggest paranoid delusions with vague and ominous remarks, you must be right!  

Diagnosis: Fucking Insane

In the end, I can say little else but that this woman is insane.  And not just any insane.  She is fucking insane.  But the cause of this is simple: She’s a liberal trapped in a conservative’s body.  It’s obvious from her list of woes and worries that, like most of us, she’d like a strong and proficient daddy government to take care of these things so she doesn’t have to.  She’d rather not even think of these things.  But as a Bush Conservative, it’s her job to worry.  

The Bushies have been forcing her to think about 9/11 and suitcase nukes and rogue states and Social Security meltdowns and all kinds of other creepy and scary things that she can’t do anything about, and it’s really starting to get to her.  That’s been part of the neo-con push: to scare the shit out of the Peggy Noonans so they’ll feel powerless and scared, and therefore be more receptive to the solution to their problems: The Iraq Solution.  It’s a standard marketing technique.  You identify and amplify a problem, and then offer your solution.  And the neo-cons had one hell of a solution.

But even that’s fallen through, and now she’s just scared shitless.  The big marketing campaign is over, but someone forgot to turn off Peggy.  She’s still waiting for the handsome actor to come out from behind her washing machine to offer her a newer product; a shinier answer.  Something to help make sense of it all.  All the old standbys of church, government, and friends have fallen through, and Peggy’s now out on her own; freaking it up public-style in newspapers throughout the land.  Her brand of psych-out conservatism is over, but Peggy still plays on; a helpless victim of the very machinations she helped to institute on the rest of us.  

Like most of her recent columns, this was little more than a cry for help; a plea to be kept blissfully ignorant.  And the irony is that she’s so much closer to that than she can possibly imagine; and really just needs to work a little harder on the blissful part.  It was for people like Noonan that Valium was invented.  I hope she finds her peace soon.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Hero Reid

I’ve said it before, and I’ll hopefully say it again: I love Harry Reid.  He knew to immediately praise Harriet Miers as a good choice, and now comes back with “The radical right wing of the Republican Party killed the Harriet Miers nomination.”  And that’s the right way to do it.  To emphasize what a bunch of fruitcakes the far right is; so extremist that they’d even oppose a Bush nominee!  That someone handpicked by Bush would not pass their ideological test is just more evidence of how ideologically extreme they are, and how out of touch they are with America.

But could Reid have pulled that off, had he initially denounced Miers?  Nope.  He’d look like a fool if he had denounced Miers, but then tried to blame this on the rightwing fruitcakes.  It’s a tad deceptive, but that’s just how the game is played.  Maybe he really did like Miers, but in either case, it was for the best that he didn’t oppose her nomination.  And now he’s in a much better position to oppose Bush’s next nominee, if he wants to.

Sure, Miers was incompetent.  And sure, she would have sided with the Bushies too much.  But at the end of the day, we couldn’t have derailed this nominee, and so it was best to not give the Repubs a liberal strawman to attack.  Had we violently opposed her, it could only have served to rally the conservatives behind her.  And she would have been confirmed, and we’d look like the ideological extremists.  That’s how the Repubs have been doing it for years, and it’s about time that the Dems were able to break the mold.  I don’t know how well this fools America, but the media was certainly scammed by it every time.

And now, Bush is forced to pick an ultra-con as the replacement nominee; but which type?  As Josh Marshall points out, there are lots of victorious ultra-conservatives on this one, and none of them have the same ideal judge in mind.  And so Bush has to decide which base to please.  Or if he goes with his typical instincts, he’ll just plow right ahead and pick another Miers, and wouldn’t that be fun.  And if he does go ultra-con, he’ll offend much of America.  And the more he tries to please his base, the more he’ll be offending America.  So it’s just a lose-lose for Bush, all the way around.  

Especially as their worst-case scenario is that they get an ultra-con who tips the balance of the court, and they settle all the social issues which deliver so many Republican votes.  By installing ultra-conservatives in the judiciary, Repubs are putting themselves right out of business.  That’s the last thing the Bushies want.  As it’s been for years and years, the Republican leadership is comprised of greedy conservatives who only use social issues to fool the rube soc-cons.  And now Bush is stuck in a position of having to give them something real.

Overall, Harry Reid played it right again, and I’m pleased as punch to see him in charge.  I wasn’t happy that Tom Daschle got beat last year, but it really was for the best.  He was typical of the clueless Dem leadership which only knew how to look like a victim.  I’m sure he was an alright guy, and I don’t know much about his Senate skills; but he wasn’t a fighter, and so he was the wrong guy for these times.  The Repubs are playing a game, but they’re playing for keeps; and we needed a leader who understood that.  Harry Reid seems to be getting it all right, so I’ll just say it again: I love Harry Reid.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Chimpeachment Express

Guest Post by Doctor Snedley, Doctor Biobrain’s Personal Assistant

I just read the “great” John Dean’s latest ramblings on the whole “Plame” matter.  As predicted, Dean is yet again downplaying another presidential scandal which might possibly lead to impeachment.  And why?  Why else!  Because he wants his precious "Watergate" scandal to stand as the biggie.  The impeachment to end all impeachments.  That's why he totally downplayed the whole Clinton impeachment, and why he's downplaying this one.  Because he knows that if this blows into a full-blown impeachment and takes down the President, the Watergate Gravytrain will quickly come to a halt and he'll have to get a real job.  

So it's no more free lunch, Dr. Dean.  The Chimpeachment Express is now rolling into the station.  Full steam ahead!  Next stop: Constitutional Monarchy!

Harriet the Bookkeeper

I was just reading at Carpetbagger about Harriet Miers and her law license suspensions.  Not only has she lost it to unpaid dues once, but twice.  And Carpetbagger contrasts this with the image we’ve been given of Miers as a meticulous person who takes care of all the details.  And let me just give my perspective of this.

As an accountant, I’ve had lots of involvement with these detail-oriented people.  The accounting profession is literally teeming with them.  In fact, they really give the rest of us a bad image.  But the thing is, I don’t count those people as being accountants.  Because it’s not about your job title, but about the way you think.  I’ve always broken the profession into two categories: accountants and bookkeepers; but this applies outside the profession too.

Accountants are the smart guys who not only know the rules, but also know why we have the rules.  And it’s that second part that is so important.  If you don’t know why you’re doing something, you won’t know if you maybe shouldn’t be doing it, or how to find a better way of doing it.  And that’s the problem with the bookkeeper-types.  They know the rules and they know that rules are to be enforced.  So that’s what they do.  They enforce rules.  

But they have no real concept of the bigger idea behind the rules and have no idea when the rules shouldn’t apply; nor do they think that they should know such things.  They know rules and they like to enforce them, and they don’t really care where the rules come from.  All that matters is that they’ve got their rules, and by god, those rules will be followed.  And that’s what you want from a bookkeeper; someone who enjoys enforcing your rules.  But because higher-ups mistake this anal tunnel-vision as dedication and devotion, these people inevitably get promoted to positions beyond their abilities and eventually end up as my boss.  That’s why I’m self-employed.

Anal Analysis

And the reason for this analness is simple.  These people are just plain dumb and so they institute rigid rules and hierarchy on the world in order for it to make sense to them.  If things weren’t simple, they’d just collapse into a ball and die.  Complexity boggles them, so they simplify everything down to unbendable rules.

But life isn’t simple, so they’re always bound to fail.  Rather than learning big overarching principles behind everything, they insist on internalizing millions of little rules.  And sometimes these rules are contradictory, and too often they’re completely arbitrary; and yet the bookkeeper will continue to insist that there is no contradiction and that obedience is mandatory.  These are just unimaginative people who can’t perceive a world with different rules, even for the rules that they invent.  The rules are the rules; and that’s what we’re stuck with…unless a superior says otherwise.  But for an underling or outsider to even question the rules is a clear violation of the rules.  Rules exist for the sole purpose of having rules which exist.

But that doesn’t apply to themselves.  Sure, they’d prefer to be perfect in every way, but they aren’t.  And like most people, these bookkeeper-types are great rationalizers.  And so they find their little excuses and ways out.  They slip-up, screw-up, and fuck-up; and they do it as regularly as the rest of us.  We’re just less likely to catch them at it because we’re not like that.  Plus, we’re less likely to rub it in than when they catch us (Personal Disclaimer: I have never actually made a mistake).  And even worse, they hate mistakes and imperfections so much that they’re far more likely to blame you for their screw-ups.

But they screw-up and they’re careless and they forget things.  Everybody does.  That’s part of life.  You know, fuck it.  I really don’t feel like finishing this section.  I kind of know what I’m trying to say, and I think it’s pretty obvious to you too.  But I’m getting tired and this damn post has been sitting on my computer all day.  And sometimes, you just gotta say “fuck it” and just finish the damn post.  So that’s what I’m doing.  I know that I’m slightly lacking in this one section, and it really is a key section; in fact, it’s the crux of my argument.  But if it upsets you so damn much, why don’t you fill it out your own damn selves.  I’m drunk and I’m just not going to take any more crap from any of you.  Continue reading.


And so that might explain Harriet Miers and her meticulous ways which allowed her to forget to pay her own law license dues.  Were these bills for Bush’s subscriptions to Boys’ Life or Maxim, she would certainly have made sure that they were taken care of.  But for herself, that’s just not very important.  Besides, she didn’t have a boss to tell her the rules about that one, so it’s understandable that she wouldn’t know the importance.

And of course, this is all speculation and perhaps I’m being mean.  Perhaps there was some other reason why she didn’t pay her dues (maybe she’s on a tight budget).  Or whatever.  But I really think that this explains Miers very well.  

And if it’s true, then it’s obvious that she’ll make a very lousy Supreme Court justice.  For them, it’s all about overarching principles.  Even the “originalist” justices and their supposedly unbending view of the constitution must invoke greater principles to justify their decisions.  I’m a smart man, but the complexity of constitutional law just baffles me.  And a bookkeeper-type like Miers will be completely lost.  

A regular judge can base everything on specific rules and rigid obedience to the law.  But it’s the Supreme Court’s job to determine what should be law; not to enforce it.  And it just doesn’t look like that’s really Ms. Miers’ strong suit.  The Supreme Court is all about the big picture, not haggling over details.  This just isn’t the job for her.  I wonder if she does taxes.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Guest Embellishment

Did you check out the Louis Freeh interview on The Daily Show tonight?  What a snorefest.  It was hard to tell if Jon didn’t know much about the guy, or if he was just being nice.  But that’s the way Jon is too much of the time.  It’s gotten to the point that I sometimes wish he didn’t have serious guests anymore, because he doesn’t ask the questions that I want asked. And if he’s not going to ask my questions, he might as well not ask them to a celebrity, because I really couldn’t give a shit what they say.

But did you hear his FBI agent story/joke towards the end?  What a pile of shit.  I’m sure that it was somehow based on a true story.  He probably did have to bug a mobster-type guy, and there probably were dogs involved that they may have had to bribe with food.  I don’t know enough about Freeh to suggest that he would have invented all of this up, so I’ll give him that much.

But it all falls apart when he gets to the part of the mobster guy doubting that they could have gotten passed his dogs.  I mean, come fucking on!  If someone reaches in and pulls an electronic bugging device out of my ass, I’m going to assume that he somehow neutralized my anal defenses and leave it at that.  And I paid a good bit more than one thousand dollars for it, let me tell you; but if the FBI tells me that that’s what they did, then who the hell am I to doubt it?  So the whole thing just sounds like bullshit invented to make a boring story sound less boring.

But it’s just dumb that the mobster guy would have so much faith in his dogs, that he’d completely forget about the reason why the FBI is there; namely, to bust him.  That’s what a normal mobster guy would be worried about, or so I would imagine.  But oh no, this mobster spends his time focused solely on figuring out how they got past his dogs.  Most guys would start thinking about jail-time or perhaps even worry that he might get whacked to prevent him from squealing.  But not our mobster.  Oh no.  He’s more like the killer in a cheap whodunit; all he wants to know is how the detective caught him.

Equally dumb is the FBI agent in this story, who’s so proud of getting past the dogs that he’s actually arguing with the criminal over it.  Going on and on to prove that they really had gotten past the dogs.  Hell, it’d have been smarter to make the guy think that it was an inside job, with the bug placed there by one of his own guys.  You should always take advantage of the other guy’s ignorance and make it seem like you’ve got him far better than you did.  

So if this story’s true, it makes Agent Freeh out to be an even bigger putz than we had at first imagined.  But it’s not true.  He just made it up to improve his story.  And now he’s improved it so much that he’s forgotten how “improved” it really is, and insists on repeating it for all of America.  Repeating an obviously embellished story.

And the overall tone between this supposed mobster-type and Agent Freeh sounds more like two Rotary members reminiscing over a successful pranking.  The reality of the situation seems to have been sucked right out, and replaced with Humorous Anecdote reality.  Where anything goes and an interesting story always beats a true one.  And the ending with the dogs coming over and licking Freeh’s face is just stupid.  It makes for a good story, but it’s crap for reality and an insult to all of our intelligy.

And it’s obvious that he tells this story a lot.  At dinner parties and whatnot.  He probably once told the story without the elaborate ending,   And while it was only marginally interesting, it was probably the best story he had.  And so smarter people slightly punched up the story for him after he got done with it, and he eventually incorporated those better elements into his story.  And now he’s got one interesting story he can tell.  One interesting story from an otherwise uninteresting man.

And that’s just crazy.  This guy was Clinton’s FBI guy since September 1993 and he stayed on until June 2001.  He has inside info on Whitewatergate, Filegate, Travelgate, Monicagate, and all the other Gates.  He oversaw the investigation of the Davidian/Waco Fire and Ruby Ridge.  Vince Foster.  Richard Jewell.  Wen Ho Lee.  All that stuff.  This guy was fucking there.  Right in the fucking middle of it all.  And yet the most interesting thing he can say is a semi-true story about a mobster’s guard dogs??  The one topic that really seemed to light up his eyes wasn’t even completely real??  What the fuck is the matter with that guy?

At this point, I wrote something excessively mean towards Louis Freeh, his dullness, and certain places he might like to stick it.  But I can’t say for certain that these remarks were entirely deserved, so they’ve been deleted.  If you’d still like to read these remarks, please send me a self-addressed stamped-envelope and I’ll see what I can do.  But needless to say, Louis Freeh told a bullshitty story and it was the only real thing he seemed to want to talk about.  And that tells us a lot of the man.

BTW: Per Wikipedia, Freeh is now senior vice chairman and general counsel at MBNA. So now when you fail to pay your MBNA card on-time, you’ll know that it’s not because you’re a bum who can’t afford his own purchases.  Nope.  This time, it’ll be because you’re sticking it to the Man.  The really boring man with the marginally boring story.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Cheney Resignation Rumors

Tristero over at Hullabaloo repeats the rumor that the rumor of Cheney’s resignation is, in fact, a real rumor; and not a speculative rumor.  People really are mumbling that Cheney might resign.  And where there’s smoke, you might as well throw kindling.  And so Tristero goes on to speculate that perhaps Condi might be Cheney’s replacement.  

But this is just needless speculation, as I already know who Cheney’s replacement will be.  And I’m writing this because I just can’t, in good conscience, continue to keep my loyal readers in the dark.  I already let this out of the bag over at Hullabaloo, so I figured I’d share it here.

Here's the scoop: I'm Dick Cheney's replacement. That's right. I just got the call this morning and it's going to be me. But it's not a resignation. Not officially, anyway. He'll be stepping down for health reasons. That way, it won't be so obvious when Bush resigns the following month. During the inauguration, no less. It'll be a real stunner. And then you've got President Biobrain to worry about for the next three years. Awesome.I can't tell you when all this is going to happen, but it's safe to say that it'll be in a month beginning with "D". Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Originalist Bullshit

Publius over at Legal Fiction asks whether the evangelicals act as a solid bloc, as is often assumed, or if they’re free agents doing their own thing.  And he asks in regards to the Miers nomination, and why guys like Robertson and Dobson act as if their supporters are behind Miers, yet many evangelicals seem to totally oppose her.  And my response over there was a good enough cop-out to count as my post for the day.  I’ll be traveling on business tonight and through this weekend, so this might be my last post for a few days.

Robertson is obviously of the opinion that they're a solid bloc. Hence his threat that politicians will be voted out of office if they vote against Miers. But I think he's mistaken on this one.And while I really shouldn't say this publicly, I think that the stereotypical evangelical (which there certainly are many) should support Miers more than anyone. One reason they might not is because the rhetoric of the right is so divorced from reality. They've rallied so much against "activist" judges and for "originalism", that they haven't noticed that they really DO want activist judges and reject originalism. Those were just keywords used like magical incantations as a quickie attack on the type of activism that liberals might want. But it had nothing to do with overarching principles and everything to do with the agenda of those they opposed. Their argument sounded more legitimate because it had overarching principles, but it was always bullshit designed to win elections and rally their base.Guys like Dobson and Robertson know that; which is why they support Miers. Apparently, many of their followers haven't figured it out yet.  They’re holding out for the “strict constitutionalist” that they’ve been told of for so long. And so it looks like the right might be undermined by their own rhetoric, once again.  And the more guys like Dobson and Robertson push this issue and assume that the base is following, the more they’ll risk ripping apart the movement they’ve been building all these years.  Nobody appreciates being taken for granted.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Blaming Bush and the Knee-Jerks

I feel like making a half-assed post, and so here it is.  I was on a Yahoo message board last night discussing something about a house built for a hurricane victim; and one commenter brought up the issue of Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARM’s) and how they’ll crush a whole lot of people once interest rates go up.  

And I agree with this, as I once had an ARM because we were planning to sell our house before the rate went up, and so it enabled us to refinance our house (we have lousy credit).  In fact, the deal was that the interest rate would automatically go up at least two points after two years; and that was whether interest rates rose or not.  And it was guaranteed to go up even more in the following years.  And we actually saw this happen.  Right before we got rid of the house, our rate jumped from 8.5% to 10.5% and our payments suddenly became unmanageable.  We would certainly have lost the house, had we stayed.  And so I’m fully aware of how dangerous this situation is.

And I’m sure there are lots of people that got those too, and will be very surprised to find what a difference two percentage points can make.  And the commenter also brought up interest-only loans, which will also crush people once the interest-only aspect wears off and they have to start paying principal too.

And so all was well and good.  But then the commenter ends with a slightly cheeky “Nobody can blame Bush for this one,” or something to that effect.  And that’s just bull, so I cheekily replied back saying that we can blame Bush for anything.  And then casually mentioned a few things that Bush could have done in the past five years to prepare people for this, warn them off, or help stem the problem before all these foreclosures happen and our housing market sinks and drags down our economy.

And so the person replies back mentioning a few things that Congress is currently working on that might help, and mentions a few things that Bush could have done to fix it.  Or I at least think that this is what they were saying (which is what makes this quite the half-assed post, as it’s possible that they were agreeing with me, but I’m not sure).  And they end the post by saying that we’d have blamed Bush, even if he had done these things.

And this struck me as significantly odd and somewhat disturbing.  Because here we have a person who clearly knew more about these kinds of things than myself, and who believed that there were steps that Bush could have taken to fix a potentially horrible situation.  And yet the person still thought that we couldn’t blame Bush for not taking these steps??  They had acted as if Bush couldn’t have done anything to fix it, and yet already knew of several things that Bush could have done or could still do.  

And the stronger idea is that they just think that we can only blame Bush for the things he has done, but can’t blame him for failing to do preventative measures.  And finally, that when we blame Bush for things, that we don’t need any basis and are just doing it because that’s what we always do.  As if we’re the knee-jerks led by our emotions, and should just be ignored when we yet again point out Bush failings.

And so again I’m with a half-assedness about this, because I don’t know who that commenter was and can only assume much of this.  But I really think that I was corresponding with a somewhat intelligent person (they really did seem intelligent, and at least knew enough to sound more intelligent than myself regarding mortgages and whatnot), and yet still had a knee-jerk reaction to the whole “Blame Bush” thing.  As if the feelings that Bush shouldn’t be blamed overrides the logic that Bush could do something to prevent it; and thus should be blamed.

And that’s the kind of thing that we’re dealing with.  Even people who know better, still think that we’re supposed to protect Bush from blame.  Even people who can discuss issues and have a rational debate have no-go zones that aren’t to be touched.  They’ll discuss what can be done to fix things, but they refuse to allow Bush to be held accountable if he fails to do them.  This subject is clearly taboo for many people.

And again, I’m not sure if that’s what this person did, and they never replied back when I brought up this point to them; so this really is kind of half-assed.  But I’ve certainly dealt with this kind of thing before, so I just thought I’d bring up this incident.  And now I’ve filled my one-post-a day quota, and can get back to work.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Lennon and McCartney

I was over at Yahoo News and saw this story where apparently Yoko Ono dissed Paul McCartney while giving an acceptance speech for an award given to John.  And that’s just crap.  Who the hell is Yoko Ono to be dissing Paul McCartney?  And while accepting an award for someone else, no less!!

But even worse, some know-nothing jackass on the message board stated that John was the better songwriter.  And his explanation was because Paul’s solo lyrics were bad.  And that just pissed me off.  I’m a big big Beatle’s fan and I don’t take to no dissing of the Beatle’s (I even like Ringo’s songs).  I’m a Lennon guy and really dislike some of Paul’s fluffier Beatle’s songs, but you can’t knock the guy’s songwriting skills.  He might have written lightweight material, but even the fluff was well-written and better than most.  And thus my response:

That's just crazy.  Paul was a waaaay better songwriter than John.  He lacked soul and depth, but his songs were clearly more professional and refined.  And that's what made them so good together.  John wrote raw songs that needed refining, and Paul wrote well-crafted songs that lacked depth and feeling.  That's why almost any Beatles song is superior to any of their solo work.

And you can see this in John and Paul's solo stuff.  Paul's stuff is empty but well-made; often combining four different songs together, just for kicks.  Just to show how easy it was for him to write songs.  He wasn't trying to save the world; he just wanted to write songs.  Even if you don't like the songs (many of his Beatle's songs really bug me), you have to admire the craftsmanship.  

And John's solo stuff is terribly incomplete, many of which are just long choruses that slightly change; but lack a beginning or middle section.  Look at his song list and note how many of them use the name of the song as the first words of the song.  He did that because he was starting with the chorus.  Like he couldn’t figure out the rest of the song and only wrote the “good” part.  Like my four-year-old daughter who only likes cake frosting, but won’t touch the cake.  But I strongly suspect that John didn’t have a choice, and this is the best he could do.  Even the good songs, like Instant Karma, are clearly just long choruses which lack beginnings or middles.  Paul did not have that problem and literally wrote songs in his sleep.

And sure, John’s lyrics were more meaningful than Paul’s, but lyrics are the least part of any song.  They're like the icing on the cake, but aren't necessary.  If a song can't stand up without lyrics, then it's nothing but a poem put to music.  And if a poem requires music to make it good, it's not a very good poem.  And there are tons of John songs which would not exist had John not written lyrics for them.  

In fact, many of them even sound like karaoke; as if he hadn’t even been in the studio when they recorded the music (not that I’m saying he did it like that).  But too many of them sound as if he heard the finished song, and grabbed his lyric list to find something that would fit (Disclaimer: I write songs and have used this technique on more than one occasion; then again, I’ve used the same lyrics for multiple songs, as I find it easier to write songs than decent lyrics (extra disclaimer, my lyrics are almost entirely meaningless, except to the ear of the beholder)).

And worst of all, most of John’s solo lyrics lack any kind of subtlety; but rather bang you repeatedly over the head with the message.  Like he was tired of people misinterpreting his lyrics, and decided to spell out everything, rather than leave anything to chance.  That’s why I prefer Paul's lighthearted/silly solo stuff, like Uncle Albert, over John's preachiness.

Paul wasn't trying to be deep, he just liked writing songs.  But a lot of John's solo lyrics were just essays put to music.  In too many cases, he was clearly struggling to fit all of the words into the song phrasing.  And that's just wrong.  If you want to write an essay, write an essay.  But if you're writing a song, you write a damn song.  And if the words don't fit, you pitch the words.  John knew that once, but somehow must have forgotten.  Perhaps he just needed a blog to rant in.

John was my favorite Beatle, but his solo work was self-indulgent crap.  I really wish they could have somehow gotten back together.  They really needed each other.  Fuck Yoko.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Lackey Rejects

The Carpetbagger Sunday Discussion Group (a good forum, btw) asks what Dems should do regarding the Miers nomination; and whether we should support or oppose her, with the idea that a Miers replacement nominee might be far more conservative; and thus a worse choice for us.  Here’s what I wrote over there:

Without knowing more about Miers or her hypothetical replacement, I think we need to reject her.  As I may have said before, I'd rather have a competent ultra-conservative than an incompetent Bush lackey, even if she is more moderate.  Because the importance of this court demands great minds, even if they disagree with us.  

For example, Publius at Legal Fiction suggests that a Miers will be far more torture-friendly, if/when these issues are brought to the court, than a Scalia would be.  Not because she supports torture, but because she supports Bush.  Or think about a federal law banning abortion.  A Miers is more likely to support that than a state's rights minded conservative would.  Because she might not be thinking of the federalist principles involved, but rather of the “murdered babies” or perhaps of Republican political demands.  And while an “originalist” would probably oppose a federal ban on abortion, an anti-abortion fundamentalist would definitely support one.  And a Bush lackey will take the side that best benefits the administration.

People without principled stances and who lack a deep understanding of the issues should not be trusted in these kinds of positions.  They vote their heart, rather than their mind.  And I'd rather have another Scalia than a dopey Bush loyalist who lacks overarching principles; and who will rule in a capricious fashion.  

And while there is the possibility that we might end up with a Bush-lackey who is also an ultra-conservative; I put that as being the long-shot.  If Miers gets shot down, I find it much more likely that they’ll pick a fairly strong conservative with an impeccable “originalist” resume.  But overall, I think we need to reject the lackey we’ve got, and not the one that might be.

And the fact that this will embarrass Bush and weaken his imagined strength is just the icing on the cake.  The more Bush looks like a weak president, the more the media will dig in and report the truth about him (or even make shit up, as is their wont).  And the less that Congress will bow down to him.  

I should add that, while we reject Miers, we shouldn’t be strident or outright about it.  As that’s the surest way of drumming up strong support for Bush from the Republicans.  Harry Reid was right in praising Miers, but let’s not get crazy about this.  She’s a bad choice who needs to be rejected, but we must remain civil.

On Republican Tricks

This is a response to Carpetbagger weekend substitute Morbo’s post on the Miers nomination, and the idea that conservative opposition to Miers is a trick to lull Dems into supporting an incompetent nominee.

I reject much that was written in that post, mostly because it gets too deep into the reverse-reverse-reverse psychology, over-analyzing stuff that totally impairs our ability to make decisions in a timely fashion.  

But here's something to think about: Many conservatives really are upset about this nomination.  It's quite easy to find conservative bloggers who are honestly upset about all this, and I kind of doubt that Rove included them in on the supposed switcheroo that we're worried about here.  Even if this is a trick, these people were not given the memo and aren't trying to trick us.  They are honestly upset.

Burning the Base

And the question is: Is it worth it?  Assuming that this is a trick, and that conservative leaders were told to cast doubts on Miers; and that the followers took the baton and are now running with it: Is it worth it?  This makes Bush look bad to the very people that Bush needs.  Are they really going to risk burning these people and having them think ill of the President, all so they could trick the minority party into supporting her?  It’s possible, but is it likely?  

And even if this is true, and they really were so worried about us that they set-up this elaborate ruse (yet somehow screwed-up by giving the good word to Dobson); should we really worry?  The smarter conservatives (relatively speaking, of course) were already upset about many different issues, including endless budget deficits, Iraq, and Katrina, and this really seemed to be a final straw for many of them.  

And let’s not forget that, despite appearances, these people are human; and it’s just not fun to defend a leader sitting at 40% approval ratings.  Bush has put them through a lot of hell, and I’m sure they’re getting a wee bit tired of it.   Everyone has their limits, and defending lies on WMD’s, terrorism, taxcuts, and Katrina incompetence (just to name a scant few) must really push those limits to the max.

I’m not saying that they’ll turn Democrat en masse.  But they might start looking elsewhere, and third-parties can look damn attractive when your party starts dissing you.  And many conservatives have taken this nomination to be a slap in the face of everything they stand for.  If nothing else, they might turn apathetic towards the conservative agenda and just give up.  And any of these three outcomes benefits us significantly.  

The Republicans have a majority and could approve any nominee they set their hearts to.  And they’ve burned a lot of good foot soldiers over this, and it’s not even close to being over.  So should we really worry too much over this?  They would have gotten their nominee in almost any case, and now they’ve alienated people they need.  So even if this is a trick, I say bring it on.  We could use a few more tricks like this one.

And Another Thing

Another reason I doubt this super-secret trick theory is that it completely goes against the Republican's standard operating procedures.  Their version of a trick is the straight-forward "let’s put out something conservative enough to be opposed by leftish Dems, but moderate enough to swing a few borderline (cowardly) Dems".  And so they hang their hats on a "bi-partisan" label by including a few Dems, and thus can demonize the majority of Dems who opposed it.

And it's worked gangbusters for them.  They absolutely count on the idea that almost all Dems will oppose them.  And now we're supposed to worry because they might have gone against the trick that's been kicking our ass?  By doing something that is genuinely pissing off the conservative base?  That makes no sense, and we shouldn't waste our time trying to super-secret-decode this kind of stuff.

And it’s obvious that the Republicans use Democratic opposition to whip the followers into line.  In fact, one of their best marketing gimmicks is to insist that Dems are attacking them over something, and the followers will quickly jump in line (as is their wont).  So we’re to believe that they’ve completely reversed course on this one issue?  They’ve given up their best trick, and are now seeking Democrat support?  That they actively told conservative leaders to act upset or unsure, all for a trick?

And for what?  So the Dems would support Miers?  Why would they want that?  They don’t need it, and it undermines everything they’ve been doing for years.  They’ve spent a lot of time convincing conservatives and moderates (especially media moderates) that Dems are loony extremists who oppose everything, and now they’re banking on the idea that we’ll support Miers??  Again, this supposed trick undermines their Bush-hater “with us or against us” rhetoric, and thusly has seriously damaged their best material.

This was a stupid thing for them to do for the right reasons, but if it’s a trick, it’s a mighty dumb trick.  With Bush at 40%, a moderate candidate makes sense.  And if we see this as a Bush decision, it makes even more sense.  The man’s a dunce and really doesn’t understand what it takes to be a Supreme Court justice.  But as a trick, it’s pretty risky and doesn’t have much long-term advantage.  They’d get their judge, but they’d probably have gotten her anyway.  And they lose much more.

Eggshell versus Ivory

Overall, I think Miers is a great choice if you're a fundamentalist Christian and a decent choice if you're a Bushie who worships the guy.  But it's crap for everyone else, including fiscal conservatives, constitutional "originalists", anti-feminist bigots, and just about any other conservative who doesn't fit into the Fundie or Bushie categories.  And that's a big percentage of them.  

I know that we like to pretend as if these people are monolithic, but that's part of the problem.  If we could stress the differences between the different types of conservatives, we could help pull their shitty little coalition apart.  They might not be a rainbow coalition, but there are certainly a lot of different shades of white on their team.  And many of them wouldn’t have anything to do with the others, if they really knew what it was all about.  And the Miers nomination might bring a lot of contrast into the picture.

So if this is their idea of a new trick, I welcome it.  But I suspect that it wasn’t a trick at all.  I think that this was the nominee that the Big Guy settled on, and his team is just trying to make the best of a bad choice.  And with all the distractions going on in the Whitehouse, they probably miscalculated how upset their base would be.  But the base has already been through a lot, and is now expressing those feelings.  

But if Dems aren’t careful, we might end up extinguishing this outrage through our opposition.  I’m not coming close to suggesting that we outright support Miers.  I just think we need to play it cool and take all of this at face value.  Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and I think this one is blowing up in their face.  

Friday, October 07, 2005

Arguing with Cole

Having just read Juan Cole’s latest “Arguing with Bush” post, all I’ve got to say is that I hope I don’t get on the wrong side of the guy.  I thought that back when he repeatedly spanked Jonah Goldberg, and nothing has changed since.  I think that I might be able to take him on in a debate, but I’d rather not.  Then again, I’ve rarely read anything of his that I’d disagree with significantly enough to need a debate, so I guess I don’t have much to worry about.  And frankly, I’d kind of like it if he did this kind of thing more often, as it’s just so much fun to watch a good takedown.  He really is a master debater (so to speak).

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

When It's Wrong To Be Right

Carpetbagger just brought up an interesting point about asking religious questions of Supreme Court nominees.  Specifically, if a nominee is religious and a case comes before them that has a conflict between their faith and the law, should we ask them if their faith will overrule our laws?

And of course, the answer is a definite yes.  We should ask this.  We must.  Not because there’s anything wrong with being religious.  But because the basis of our legal system is the Constitution and other man-made laws.  And their decisions need to reflect that fact.  Even if one believes that their god or religious teachings are the basis for our laws, justices still need to base decisions on what is written in our laws.  And if there is any conflict, then that is just more proof that the religious teachings are not the basis for those laws.  It’s that simple.  But in no case should a justice use their faith to override the laws.  That’s just not how our system works.

An analogy would be if the Redskins had a case before the court in which they had done wrong, but the court ruled in their favor because they were big Redskins fans.  Personal beliefs have no business influencing legal decisions.  Legal decisions should be based on our laws and nothing else.  Naturally, it’s impossible to restrict all beliefs from all decisions; but it should at least be the standard we try to attain.  And if a nominee can’t even say that his personal beliefs will take a back seat to our laws, then that person should be denied the job.

Damned If You Do

Thus said, it’s natural that righties don’t want this question to come up.  But it’s not for the reason we think.  They’re not doing this because Roberts or Miers might say something to offend the ACLU-types.  But rather, because their answer might offend religious-types.  Specifically, if they answer that they will put the law above their faith; that is the wrong answer for many Christians.  They believe that faith comes first, always.  And that’s fine for someone’s individual beliefs.  But it’s crap for a judge.  That’s just not how our system works.  You go by the rules in the books, not the rules you want in the books.

But then there is the other whammy of offending the ACLU-types.  Because despite belief to the contrary, most people support the Church-State separation stuff; including many Christians.  And any judge who says otherwise has no business being a judge.  Render unto the church what is the church’s, and let America stick to the Constitution.  If these people want to enforce religious teachings, then let them work for a church; not our government.  

And so it’s a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t kind of thing.  If they give the correct answer, they’ll piss-off the religious-right which believes that this is a Christian nation with their god’s laws as its basis.  And if they give the wrong answer, and say that God comes first, then they’ve given the wrong answer and shouldn’t be given the job.  

Again, I have no problem with people being religious in their personal life.  And I even think it’s a helpful thing.  If someone really believes that the only thing stopping them from being a murdering pedophile is their fear of God’s punishment; then I’m all for belief.  That’s what they tell us is at stake, and I’m willing to believe them.  So I’m not against faith, unless they’re trying to act as if it’s binding on America.  And so there is no “good” answer for a rightwing nominee these days, as even the right answer is wrong for them.

But that doesn’t make it a bad question.  In fact, it’s a necessary question.  As Carpetbagger says, we don’t need theological quizzes.  But we do need to find out what these people believe regarding faith and the law.  That’s not a religious test.  It’s just a basic question to find out whether they’re able to do the job or not.  

The same goes for every employer.  If your personal beliefs will cause you to take actions which go against the company’s interests or prevent you from doing your job properly, they have a right to know that before they hire you.  And they should deny you the job.  A strict Mormon shouldn’t work as a taste-tester for Pepsi.  A vegan shouldn’t work as a butcher.  And a fundamentalist Christian who thinks that their god’s law trumps our human laws shouldn’t be a judge.  This isn’t discrimination or unfair.  It’s just common-sense.  

And it’s the President’s and the Senate’s duty to make sure that the people they hire are capable of doing the job they’re being hired for.  It’s not a trick or a dirty question.  It’s their job.

Monday, October 03, 2005


I was just reading about Ohio Governor Bob Taft’s dismally low approval rating of 15%, and saw yet another of these kinds of bad poll quotes that just drive me bonkers.  This time, we hear from Taft spokesman Mark Rickel saying, “The governor doesn’t govern by polls.  He governs by good public policy and making a difference for Ohioans.”

Now, who the hell does Rickel think he’s kidding?  First off, this is exactly what they all say when they poll badly.  If a spokesman had nothing better to say than “Yep, we’re really in the crapper”, you wouldn’t hire a spokesman.  You’d hire a dancing cat to distract the crowd while you skipped out of town.

And more importantly, there isn’t a helleva lot of governing Taft can do with this kind of poll, even if he wanted to.  At 15%, his best policy is a name change and possibly plastic surgery.  The people aren’t telling him to do things differently.  They’re telling him that it’s time to start dusting off his resume and begin looking for something in the private sector…in a different state.

Dismissing Polls

But there’s something even bigger here that mystifies me.  This is a representative democracy, right?  Politicians are hired to represent the interests of the public, right?  So what in god’s name is so wrong with them doing what we want them to?  Why is it considered wrong or weak to give the people what they want?  And what else is a poll, but a quickie, non-binding election which provides politicians with a snapshot of what the people want?  So what the hell’s the problem with following polls?  

I know, I know.  We’re supposedly hiring leaders, not followers.  But that’s bullcrap.  Because we’re not hiring leaders.  Not anyone who’s supposed to lead us, anyway.  We hire legislator-types to write laws that represent our interests.  And we hire executive-types, like presidents, governors, and mayors to execute those laws and to lead the government necessary to take those actions.  But they’re not our leaders.  They’re our employees.  We hire them, and we fire them.  And a poll is feedback from the boss, telling their employee what they think of his or her job.  

Imagine what would happen if your boss gave you seriously negative feedback and you blew him off with an “I don’t do my job to get good feedback from you.  I do what’s best for the company.”  You might be a good employee, but you sure as hell won’t be one for long.  

Giving a Shit

And I know that in practice things aren’t quite like this.  But is that the problem with polls?  Or is that the problem with our politicians and our political system?  Whereby politicians can proudly state that they don’t give a shit what we think, and completely dismiss our opinions.  As if election day is our one shot at giving our opinion, and that we’re completely at their mercy the rest of the time.  

And sure, there are times when a politician shouldn’t follow the opinion of the majority.  There are times when it really is necessary to stand up against the will of the people.  But that shouldn’t be considered the norm.  That should be considered extraordinary.  That should require extra explanation; not the quickie dismissal of the public’s feedback, as political spokesmen everywhere give.  That’s great for the politico with crappy polls, but really helps bury the representative aspect of our great democracy.

Pre-Programmed Spokesmen

And one last thing to note is that everything I just wrote isn’t quite the case.  Because people just have this weird idea of polls (which is probably tied to their general misunderstanding of statistics).  They just don’t seem to accept them as anything more than some vague indicator of public sentiment.  And so when politicians state that they don’t give a shit about polls, people don’t seem to take this as meaning that the politicians don’t give a shit about them.  In fact, it’s obvious that many people consider it to be some kind of tough-guy turn-on; which is why these spokesmen always look so smug when they get to repeat this garbage.    

But after all this, it can’t be forgotten that spokesmen don’t make these kinds of statements unless they have to.  This is just a pre-programmed reply that a computer would make, were we to trust them to be our spokesmen (anyone who’s seen the Terminator movies knows exactly why that would be a huge mistake).  

And it’s just standard that polls are always dismissed when they’re bad, and always heavily touted when they’re good.  But still, we shouldn’t let them get away with this crap.  Polls are important no matter how our politicians fair in them.  It’s bad enough to allow them to say any bullshit they want, but it’s even worse when they inadvertently undermine our form of democracy in the process.  And all because they’re so bad at it.  Perhaps the reason why politicians who dismiss polls generally rate so poorly in them is because they dismiss polls.