Monday, January 30, 2006


My biobrain has been infected by a virus (on the human side, I assure you); and so posting will be light for awhile.  I honestly am having trouble just composing a message like this.  I’ve got a few posts in the pipeline (as always), so I might still get a few out; but if you don’t see anything in a few days, don’t give up on me.  I’ll get better.  I’ve got to get better.  This sucks.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Have Gun, Will Shoot

I was just reading about folks in Wyoming who are trying to pass a law allowing shooting in self-defense, even if the shooter could get out of the situation (ie, leave).  And this is just silly bullshit from folks who haven’t mentally aged passed the sixth grade.  I liked this quote from the article regarding a similar law passed in Florida:

"What they've done is legalized manslaughter here in Florida," Hayhoe said. "It promotes irresponsible, aggressive and even illegal use of firearms. What's going to happen when the gun-owning community, it settles into them what this is really about, and they discover that these guys are being exonerated when they're charged with manslaughter?"

And that’s completely right.  How on earth is it “self-defense” if you don’t need to defend yourself at all?  If you can just leave?  That’s not self-defense.  That’s murder.  And I suspect that at least some of these people will eventually realize that that’s what they legalized; not just for law-abiding NRA members shooting criminal thugs, but also for those thugs shooting other thugs.  And hell, if you break into someone’s house and they try to kill you for it, wouldn’t it be self-defense to kill them?  I don’t know if it works like that, but I don’t see why it shouldn’t.  Assuming that you weren’t trying to kill them, it really is self-defense to shoot back.  And now it would seem that the burglar doesn’t even have to try to flee.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a big gun opponent.  I’ve never owned a gun or shot a real gun (only bb-guns as a teen), but I have nothing against gun ownership.  Hell, if I felt like I needed one, I’d certainly buy it and get to be damn good at shooting it.  As with most people, I believe the 2nd amendment allows us to own guns, within certain reasonable restrictions (for example, Uzi machineguns are a bit unreasonable and owning bazookas and tanks is right out).  And while I think the idea of gun ownership as defense against “jack-booted government thugs” is a bit daft, as our pea-shooters won’t do jack dooky against what our government has; I won’t deny folks the right to own said pea-shooters.

But this law is just crap.  Because this isn’t about self-defense.  This is about people wanting to be able to shoot badguys on the street like Dirty Harry.  This is about the romantic idea of not backing down from a fight, but getting to use their weapons the way they always dreamed they could.  But it is pure romanticism.  This isn’t reality.  This is about fantasy vigilantism.  This isn’t about public safety.  This is about people wanting to “take the law into their own hands”, even when the law can take care of itself.  People who have seen all the Death Wish films (including the laughable fourth one) and wondered why that kind of good fortune couldn’t happen to them.  Not that they’d want their female folk raped or murdered, but…it would make for some pretty good target practice.

As the article states, none of the law’s supporters could cite even one case in Wyoming that this was an issue for.  And you know that’s not for want of trying.  They didn’t know of one case in which someone in Wyoming killed in self-defense, yet were sent to jail because they didn’t just leave.  Because this isn’t an issue.  This isn’t reality.  This is a bunch of bored fantasy gunmen with more bullets than brains.  And, by god, they want to use those bullets to “take the trash off the streets”; and it doesn’t seem to occur to them that the “trash” will be able to use these laws too.

Researching the Yahoos

And just to test that theory, I violated a few blogging rules and did a bit of field research.  No, I didn’t break into houses to see who’d kill me.  I went onto the Yahoo messageboard and started a thread titled: Clint Eastwood Fantasies.  And let me tell you, I was really on a roll and made a lot of damn good posts.  If you’ve got a LOT of time on your hands, I recommend you go there and read it all.  It’s all under that subject line.  And while it starts slow, my thread eventually came to dominate that board.  I’d recommend only reading the ones with my name on them, though almost all of the other ones were in response to my posts.  Funny stuff.

But my point wasn’t to roil the rubes or score debate points (though I certainly did both).  My point was to find out if anyone could give any real justification for these laws.  Running circles around those guys was child’s play for the ol’ biobrain, but even I was at a loss in figuring out how these laws were really necessary; outside of allowing would-be toughguys to fantasize about killing people.  And so I went straight for the horse’s mouth to see what I could find.

And the main point is clear: There is no reason for these new laws.  Or more importantly, not one message I read from its supporters gave one reason why these laws are necessary.  Not one.  Instead, I was treated to endless fantasies about rapists in the bedroom and the futility of trying to wake up all the kids at three in the morning for a hasty retreat.  As if current self-defense laws require you to leave your kids behind whenever intruders break-in.

But one thing is certain: You can bet your god damned life that each and every one of those brave brave men wouldn’t standby, gun in hand, while their wife was raped by clown parts and their kids gutted like fish.  Hell no, they’d shoot first before that all too common scenario played out yet again.  But of course, that situation is covered under existing laws, as was every other situation these people described.  Even the absurdist fantasies of the most fevered mind is covered.  And that was part of the problem; the more dire the situation they described was, the more the existing laws obviously applied.  These people weren’t justifying the new law; they were justifying the existing laws regarding self-defense.

And as these guys struggled to come up with some kind of justification for it, the best they could do was to call me a coward.  You see, because I’d leave my house with a burglar inside, rather than kill him, I’m a coward.  Mind you, we’re talking about a situation in which it isn’t necessary to kill anyone, and these people want to kill anyway.  Because that’s what it’s about.  Fantasies of being “toughguy vigilantes” protecting their home against the dreaded criminal element.  As I was told, they’re tired of being pushed around by the criminal element, and want to take a stand regarding their home.  And again, that’s the entire premise of the absurdly bad Death Wish IV: The Crackdown.  Except those people lived in a bad neighborhood where the thugs stalked the streets with impunity, and the folks I was debating with had likely never even had a burglary in their neighborhood.

Oh, Those Wonderful Criminal Rights

Another theme you may be familiar with was the idea that, increasingly, the criminals are getting “more rights than us law abiding citizens”; and thus, the new law will put an end to that inequality.  I asked a few polite questions requesting exactly what those rights could possibly be, as I was unfamiliar with that section of our law.  And while that’s a theme that runs throughout the Toughguy Fantasists’ dialogue (particularly among the Dirty Harry aficionados), the best I came up with in our less thrilling “real” world were complete jokes.  Essentially, it all boiled down to the idea that our rights as citizens only apply unless we need them; and if you actually require the use of the Constitution to protect you, then you’re not worthy of its protection.  I’ve yet to find that disclaimer on the Constitution itself, but I’m sure it’s there.

The first response I got suggested that, because existing law says that homeowners are expected to leave their house if an intruder came, rather than to unnecessarily kill the intruder; this was a right the criminals had.  Yet they somehow failed to explain how that was a “right”, seeing as how the criminal isn’t allowed to do that to the homeowner, were the homeowner to intrude in the intruder’s house; and the intruder would be promptly arrested for being in the homeowner’s home.  And so that didn’t sound like any kind of “right”; at least not according to any reality-based sense of the word.  Overall, it sounded like the criminal had no extra rights, other than the right to not be killed for trying to steal stuff.  And that seems to be a right that we all have.  

I should note that it is possible that the person responding was somehow under the impression that, by “retreating”, he was turning ownership over to the thug who remained; which follows from the King of the Hill laws of Vigilanteland, homeland to the dreaded Vigilante people.  But seeing as how he didn’t cite these laws in his example, we should assume that he’s a complete nimrod who knows not of what he speaks.

And the other “right” involved that whole “right to remain silent, right to an attorney” jazz.  Somehow, this guy believed that those rights only applied to criminals, rather than to all citizens.  And I suppose that, because only those accused of crimes will ever need those rights, he might have a point.  Except that he doesn’t and that doesn’t make any sense at all.  

And if you follow that thread after I left, you’ll find that he drops it down to the fact that criminals sometimes use public defenders paid for by taxpayers.  And we all know how entirely awesome public defenders are.  Another commenter tried to explain how this fell within the “right to an attorney” category, and that it doesn’t only apply to “criminals”; but this guy just wasn’t buying it.  Again, it seemed to boil down to that “extra” right of not being killed for trying to steal stuff.  And while that’s not explicitly in the constitution, I do think it can be read in-between the lines.

And what’s funny is that this line of reasoning essentially mirrors the anti-gay talk we here so much of now.  That the “gay agenda” is about getting gays more rights than straights.  And just as gays are given “extra” rights because they’re allowed to have hot gay sex, while retaining the same rights as those stuck with boring straight sex; the criminals are apparently given “extra” rights because they’re allowed to be criminals, yet still retain the same rights that the law-abiding citizens have (until they’re convicted, after which they lose many of those rights).  And so it’s like they’re getting the best of both worlds: they get to behave immorally, yet aren’t instantly shot for it.  And while some may consider that a “right”, I’m not so sure our founding fathers would agree.

Murder Fantasists

In the end, these people just want to dream of excuses to kill people.  That’s it.  They like the idea of killing people, but need an excuse for doing so, lest they themselves become criminals.  (As a side note: I was assured that vigilantes are not, in fact, criminals, because they kill criminals; which is acceptable because criminals are not human.  And this is yet another key provision of Vigilanteland’s constitution, which seems to have been inexplicitly left out of our own.  I’m not exactly sure how “vigilante on vigilante” justice is supposed to work, when one vigilante tries to kill another; but I’m sure it’s damn hot to witness).

And their fantasies were ridiculous.  They seem to have this idea that burglars always carry guns and want to kill you if you catch them.  As if house burglary is the most profitable crime for someone who’s willing to commit multiple murders.  And sure, not all intruders are mere burglars.  There are rapists and murderers out there, though even large cities don’t have it at nearly the rate that these people like to imagine; to their eternal consternation, I’m sure.  But again, existing laws cover rapists and murderers.  If you can’t get away from the murdering rapist, than you get to kill them.  And if you can get away, you should.  What’s so confusing about that?

And so we’re back at the killing people thing.  But here’s the thing on that, I don’t believe them for a second.  Sure, some of them really are looking for an excuse to kill.  But I’d guess that at least 85% of them would not.  Were they to hear an intruder in their house, they’d loudly announce that they had a gun, and if they had the chance to get away, they most certainly would.  They don’t want a killing in their house.  The mess alone is enough to put you off, and the steam cleaning bill would be simply atrocious.  And like their kids wouldn’t be totally creeped out by that.  They’d have to move out immediately, but the resale value would be horrible.  And then there’s the paperwork, possible courtcase, having the cops drink up all your Folgers Crystals, etc.  The reasons against home-based vigilantism are endless.

Talking the Walk

And so these people really wouldn’t want to kill an intruder unless they needed to; just like the rest of us.  It’s just fantasy.  Tough guy fantasies.  I’m the coward for admitting that I don’t want to kill people, and these people are tough because they like to pretend that they’re Clint Eastwood.  

And somehow, they’re tougher than me, simply because they can talk tough online.  Now, that kind of thing is almost cool in the real world.  I’m a big guy, but I’m not the tough-talking type who feels the need to act tough.  I’ve always felt secure about myself, so I have nothing to prove.  But I almost understand the people who aren’t so secure.  Someone looks at you the wrong way, or bumps into you; so you put on the toughguy act and pretend like you’re going to do something about it.  That almost makes sense and would have been cool in an earlier time.  But the idea of talking tough to someone who you’ll never meet is just silly and a bit gay (though not in the homosexual sense).  

But it does make them feel better, somehow.  And it sure does make them far more macho than me.  By talking to these people, I learned that I was a mere boy who cowered under the much needed protection of these manly men; manly men who have never once killed, captured, or confronted a criminal in their life.  But boy can they sure talk tough!  Much tougher than a coward like myself.  I believe my cowardly keyboard is missing the keys necessary for such tough talk.  Or maybe it’s my fey mouse.

And as much as you’d like to explain to them how entirely unmacho online toughtalk is; they’re just not having it.  They know that they’re tougher than you, not because of anything you could or couldn’t do, but simply because you don’t fantasize about how quickly you’d kill a rapist in your bedroom.  And this is the same stuff as the “chickenhawks” who think it makes them tough because they’re so entirely willing to put someone else’s life at stake for what they believe in.  

These days, bravery is no longer about being brave; and strength is no longer about being strong.  It’s about how brave and strong you talk, and what actions you’d like to take; if only the situation arose.  These days, talking the talk is enough; and if you’re not macho enough to talk the talk, then nothing else need be said.  You’re a yellow coward bastard who doesn’t deserve the protection that these toughguys provide with their toughguy talk.

That’s the New Machismo.  And it makes sense.  They often complain how times are different, thanks to those damn feminists emasculating America; and I suppose all this is their natural adaptation to this process.  They might no longer be able to institute their Vigilante-style justice with impunity, but they’ll be damned to let you interfere with their toughguy Chuck Norris fantasies about it.  Of course, as we learned, even those fantasies don’t require the new law; but they sure do make it sweeter.  Now if we could just figure out how to get the same rights as those gays…

Friday, January 27, 2006

Eternal Appeasement

Via Carpetbagger, we read that Bush has recently adopted an Iranian nuke policy which is extraordinarily similar to one Kerry had proposed last year, which the Bushies had derided as: “ignorant” “dangerously wrong” “appeasement”.  Carpetbagger wants to know what the difference is and whether Kerry’s plan is still wrong.

But the difference is blindingly obvious.  As I wrote over there, Kerry came at this as a peacenik dove, cowering at the sight of his own shadow and willing to make a deal with the devil just for one day of peace; while Bush is coming to this as a sterling cowboy, riding high in the saddle and scaring those damn Iranian bastards into submitting to our high-flying agenda.  

This isn't about the outcome at all, but about the income.  Bush has an awesomely powerful framework to work from, while Kerry's was running scared and shitting itself silly.  It's that simple.  If you have the reputation as the eternal strongman who bends to no one, then you’re allowed to appease and retreat; but if you have the reputation as being eternally weak and soft, then you have to be extra tough and unforgiving.  It’s one of those contradictions of life that libs just need to get over.  Especially as cons are eternally strong and libs are eternally weak.

P.S. If the GOP effectively defines a Dem presidential candidate as a softie appeaser (as is their wont), and that Dem ends up as president and is thus treated by foreign countries as if they are the eternal softie…does that mean that Repubs are traitors for having undermined our president’s foreign policy abilities?  After all, the GOP knows better than us how effective propaganda is, especially in terms of sending messages to our foreign enemies.  And wouldn’t this have sent the worst of messages to those enemies?  Or is this just more confirmation of why Dems should never be allowed into the Whitehouse?

Bush's Skedaddling Hat

Via the Great and Honorable Digby, I just read a bunch on the recent Hamas victory.  But here’s the thing.  This isn’t a rebuke of Bush’s democracy policy.  This was a rebuke against Bush’s democracy rhetoric.  But even a halfwit child should have seen directly through this ruse.  I mean, how is it possible that Bush is Mr. Democracy, when he insists that a relatively peaceful and secure country as our own needs to have many of its freedoms curtailed, all at his personal discretion?  A man with a clear disdain for the Constitution, Congress, and our entire judicial system.  He clearly wants to be our benevolent dictator, so how can such a man be so pro-democracy in foreign lands with huge security problems, yet so anti-democracy at our secure home?

That never jibed, and people acted like it was some kind of mysterious conundrum or something.  But it’s bullshit.  The answer was clear.  Bush doesn’t give a flip about democracy.  It was just window dressing for his Iraq policy.  Because his Iraq policy wasn’t necessarily about democratizing Iraq, it was about getting rid of Saddam and opening the country up to Bush’s kind of people.  Hell, that’s been the Bush Family Way for decades and has made him the man he is.  If the powerful people won’t be your friends, then you replace them with folks who will be.  And for Iraq, if that could be done through the democracy thing, fine.  But if not, he’s not going to lose sleep over it.

And there really is something to this.  If it was your choice to allow a democratically-elected terrorist to head Iraq and Palestine, versus you installing a pro-American strongman to run things; which do you pick?  There’s pluses and minuses to both, but if the terrorist-led Iraq eventually blows up New York, that’s on your head.  And after all, democracy is no magic bullet and history has given many examples of benevolent installed leaders who did not abuse their power.  It’s quite unfortunate that the 2000 SCOTUS couldn’t have given us one of those instead.

And that’s exactly what Bush wanted in Iraq, I’m sure.  Because again, the whole “Iraq Elections” thing was NEVER Bush’s idea.  They were totally against it.  They were supposed to install Bremer or somebody to run the place for many years, possibly longer.  And is that such a bad idea?  My history isn’t the greatest, but I believe that this is what we did after WWII in Germany and Japan.  We didn’t rush out the voting booths and smear purple paint all over the place.  We put in a benevolent strongman to get things on their feet.  And they had TONS of power.  Someone please correct if I’m wrong on that, but that’s my impression.

And that’s what was supposed to happen in Iraq.  Except it didn’t.  Everything started going to hell in a handbasket, and then they started blowing up the handbaskets.  And so the Elections thing was supposed to help cool that down.  And if it didn’t cool things down, it was at least supposed to give Bush the political cover to get the fuck out of Baghdad.  And that’s still the plan.  Bush ain’t no cut-and-runner, but if things don’t significantly improve, he has no problem with detach-and-skedaddle.  

Democracy as Politics

Democracy was little more than the best rack to hang his hat on, and it’s worked damn well; at least for him, anyway.  Whether or not he believed in WMD’s and terrorist-ties, he had no good proof of either; meaning that he made damn fools out of each and every one of his supporters.  And yet, before they had the slightest hint of this, they were already being rewired for the whole “Democracy in Iraq” thing.  The same people who had no problem with the “collateral damage” of killing innocent Muslims during war (which was often seen as payback for the innocent Americans killed on 9/11) suddenly became their biggest supporters…except when they weren’t (Abu Ghraib (wingnut alert!)).  And they even had fun turning the tables and pretending as if they had always been the anti-bigots (wingnut alert!).

Had Bush’s initial fantasies of massive WMD stockpile’s and rose petals in the streets somehow been closer to reality, there would have been none of this democracy talk.  We’d have Garner or Bremer or some other American strongman dishing out the contracts according to the Bush Family & Friends plan, and Bush couldn’t have been happier.  Bush’s push for democracy was done solely out of political necessity, both in Iraq and in our own country.  He had an election to worry about, and his democracy plan for Iraq really seems to have worked miracles in subverting our own.

And so I’d prefer that people not tear their hair out too much over this.  Again, it’s not a change in policy.  It’s just one more piece of Bush rhetoric that has to be tossed-out of the playbook.  But then again, many of those pages are clearly being used well past their expiration dates.  Here’s Carpetbagger lamenting yet another usage of Bush’s absurdly out-of-date “Saddam Hussein was given a choice.  He chose war.”  This never made sense to anyone paying attention at the time, and yet he’s still saying it!

I suppose that as long as there are believers out there who refuse to question him, he’ll continue to repeat it.  And the same goes for this Hamas thing.  Sure, his great push for democracy has brought official terrorists into the fold, but he knows that democracy will eventually beat them all back.  As he says:
And the second way to defeat the terrorists is to spread freedom. You see, the best way to defeat a society that is -- doesn't have hope, a society where people become so angry they're willing to become suiciders, is to spread freedom, is to spread democracy.

Unless of course, the suiciders’ recruiters gain control, in which case anything goes!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Self-Replicating Nutcases

Following Brad R’s lead at Sadly No!, I too have always wondered why the neo-cons seemed so intent on the idea that democracy in the middle-east would automatically be good for us.  As if badguys couldn’t figure out how to win elections.  They can convince young men to give up their lives for a bunch of older men who clearly haven’t done so, yet they can’t put up a few damn posters at election time?  Whatever.  

Yet this is the key to the entire Neo-Con Agenda (excluding Cheney’s oily fantasies).  All their Iraq hopes were pinned on it, yet it doesn’t take much to understand that “the will of the people” doesn’t need to match anything wholesome or pro-American.  Hell, you’d think the election of GW would have been enough to convince them that The People don’t necessarily pick the right guy, but I guess they didn’t think that applied to them.

Hamas is the most recent example, but we’ve seen many more like it.  Chavez, Allende, Chirac; the list of anti-American leaders picked democratically goes on and on.  Overall, people will vote for who they want to vote for, and that might not be good for us.  Especially if we think we’re supposed to use our economic and military might to jerk everyone else around.  As usual, the devices we most rely upon for protection are the very ones that made that protection so necessary; which is just a fancy way of saying that the neo-cons are fucking up shit so badly that only a nutcase neo-con could possibly save us.  But I suspect that deep down, whether they know it or not, that’s the whole point.

The Entitlement Cock-up

There’s one rule of government that conservatives hold dear: Once a group is given an entitlement or benefit, they’ll fight like hell to keep it.  That’s why Bush had to struggle so hard to convince folks that his Privatization idea was about saving Social Security, rather than gutting it, as was the plan.  They knew it’d be suicide to outright take the program away, so they had to convince people that it was actually better than Social Security; that it wouldn’t be there for you when you needed it and this was just like Social Security Plus.  And even trying to sell that idea got them rotten tomatoes and popularity problems.  Their plan was a crappy and dangerous one, and that didn’t even factor-in their eventual plan to completely destroy it.

For whatever crazy reason, people like to keep shit that helps them, and once you’ve shown that the government can perform a service, people expect it to keep performing.  The conservatives know that, and that’s why they hate successful government programs more than the crappy ones; because one successful program will beget another.  And while they might not object to all government on an individual basis, for practical reasons, the True Conservatives (of the Buckley variety) know that they must oppose all of them.  This is a guiding principle of conservatism and explains their opposition to all but the most essential government services.

So how they forgot about this rule when they designed the Medicare Part D program is a story that will need to be told someday, because that was a complete cock-up for them.  I’m guessing it was greed and election-year jitters that did it; plus the fact that many Republican Congressmen aren’t True Conservatives, but only adopt the rhetoric for political reasons, without understanding any of it.  The Republicans have always been very very sensitive about the Seniors vote, and I think they thought they had a two-fer: They’d get to run on Medicare, rather than run away from it, and they could make their Big Pharma clients…ahem, constituents happy.  And they got that, in the short-term.  It was a lousy plan, but it was so blasted incomprehensible that Dems couldn’t run on its lousiness…yet.

But what happens next?  Can anyone honestly believe that they’re going to keep things as they are?  Hell no, everyone’s pissed and it’s a crappy system.  Will they scrap it and go back to the old system?  Hell no, as I said, conservatives know damn well that it’s political suicide to take back a plan like that.  Old folks want their drugs, and now that they’ve been promised it, that’s what they’re going to expect.  So what can they do?  Improve it.  That’s their only real option.  And if the Repubs don’t improve it soon, the old folks will vote in some Dems who certainly will.  And in either case, it’s going to be a lot more expensive and a lot more intrusive than what any conservative could want.  Plus, Big Pharma will certainly lose their negotiating strength, once they deal with a united drug plan; and the insurance biz will be tossed-off of the gravytrain.  And again, if this program is successful, it’ll just remind people of how well the government can work sometimes.

Overall, the Republicans seem to be slowly learning the lesson that there are few real shortcuts in life and that a plan that seems too good to be true probably is.  They thought they could create a cheap government program that used private industry as a profitable middleman (one which funnels part of the taxpayer profits back to the GOP); and ended up with an expensive nightmare that just doesn’t work.  They thought they could easily shore-up the Seniors vote, but have just given Dems yet another issue to run on.  They thought they could run as pro-people conservatives, and ended up giving us yet another expensive fringe benefit for being an old American.  

But then again, isn’t that all just a paraphrase for what went wrong in Iraq too?  And many other Bush programs?  They’re trying to burn the candlestick at both ends, but just end up getting burned.  If they all weren’t spending sleepless nights worrying about their own dealings with Jack Abramoff, I’m sure they’d be quietly screaming themselves to sleep each night over this.  Overall, this is yet more reason why a “small government” party can’t run the government; it’s nice rhetoric, until you’re expected to actually do things.  And then it’s just one cock-up after another.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

And Bush Means It...This Time

Bush, speaking of Osama:
"When he says he's going to hurt the American people again, or try to, he means it.”
"I take it seriously, and the people of NSA take it seriously."

I just don’t understand how Bush’s BOO!!!! strategy is supposed to help him.  I guess it does, but I don’t understand how.  Shouldn’t this just be yet another reminder of something?  Namely, that he hasn’t yet caught Bin Laden?  And that we haven’t even damaged his network enough to stop him from being a serious threat?  I know they try to have it both ways, but I don’t understand how that works.  I mean, he’s had how long to catch Bin Laden, with the same illegal techniques that he’s insisting are so important now?  And we’re still supposed to be cowering in our crotches, too scared to think straight?  STILL!?!  Hell, he’s more likely to be tapping your phone than OBL’s, and we’re still supposed to faithfully back Dear Leader?  How does that work?

And shouldn’t this specific appeal of his remind us all of another time when Bin Laden was determined to hurt the American people?  A time when Bush did absolutely nothing?   When he vacationed, and nothing was done?  The whole thing reminds me of a “I know that…now” Lieutenant Drebin-type moment.  How is that not the first thing that occurs to everyone??

And then there’s the weird system whereby every utterance of Bin Laden is a big boost to Bush and a damning dash to Dems, and all because of…  I’m just drawing a blank.  Was it like this in WWII?  Did Hitler’s announcements benefit FDR?  Was Lincoln paraded around D.C. every time the South reminded folks that they were still separate?   It seems like this should all be bad for Bush, simply because Osama’s still out there to thumb his nose at Bush.  But somehow it never works like that.  Is this even a real occurrence, outside of the media’s cowering imaginations?  I just don’t see how.  Hell, it would seem that, were Bin Laden to be killed, Bush would get a temporary boost before eventually dropping a few more percentage points.  Like the only thing allowing Bush to continue as president is Bin Laden’s continuing life.  

I’m sorry to be letting you down like this.  I’m supposed to be the answerman, but I’ve been really running into a wall lately.  It’s probably just because I don’t have cable yet (thanks to my recent move) and haven’t caught The Daily Show or Colbert in several weeks.  That’s gotta be it.  But all I know is that I’m at a loss to explain anything lately.  My apologies.  If anyone else has an answer, I’d be glad to here it.

Who's Zooming Who?

It should be pretty obvious to all where things are now heading in the right v. left political battle regarding media bias.  Somehow, without anybody really noticing it, the right has officially been adopted by the media.  I’m not talking about the normal stuff of them reciting GOP talking points, which has been obvious to all but the most oblivious, but on outright alliances regarding which side they favor.  When bigtime media types weep on Hugh Hewitt’s shoulder for support, and hide behind Glenn Reynolds for protection against angry liberal bloggers, things have truly flipped.

But the big question is: Who won?  Will this unholy alliance finally finish off the scrappy but struggling left; or has the right fallen prey to the media-trap they’ve been setting for decades?

On the one hand, I really think that the media will push further into the “libs are freaks” mindset, and emphasize the rightwing points.  But then again, they’ve already been doing that for many years; though always under the guise of avoiding liberal bias.  But it’s obvious that many of them listen to Limbaugh and the other rightwing blowbags, and so it makes sense that they’re finally seeing themselves as aligned with the other side.  

And that’s the catch: When they were supposedly on our side, and working overtime to avoid the appearance of liberal bias, they did us no favors.  Deepdown, they believed that the liberal perspective was already being covered by themselves, and therefore there was no need to really cover that side.  But now, things are different.  If they really start seeing themselves as the right-leaning folks that they are, they’re more likely to feel the need to cover our perspective.  And so maybe we’ve pulled a switcheroo, and will now get our complaints of anti-lib bias heard.

Or not.  Maybe we’re screwing it up forever, and that they’re just going to write us off as the extremist freaks they always knew we were.  I don’t know.  Even my glorious biobrain is having trouble contemplating the implications of all this.  I’d like to say that this is working out on our favor, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking.  It’s clear that Reynolds and Hewitt are trying to play this as the Good Guys, but we already knew they were idiots, so there’s no reason to believe that they’re doing this correctly.  Sorry I don’t have better answers to this, but I just felt like it was enough to toss out the questions.

Juicy Juicy

Wow!  NY Post gossip, via Marshall:
Jack Abramoff’s partner Mike Scanlon admitted to digging up former Congressman Robert Livingston’s private life.  Set to become speaker, Livingston then got sidelined for Tom Delay’s man Denis Hastert.  Prosecutors now checking if Abramoff and Scanlon took Livingston down at DeLay’s behest.

Cool.  I always thought that politics should work this way, but always feared it didn’t.  It’s nice to see that reality can sometimes match the level of intrigue that movies and television have lead me to expect.  I don’t even care if it’s true.  I just like to entertain such ideas, even if only in our gossip.  

And call me crazy, but this really is some juicy intrigue, if true.  As Wikipedia reminds us, this was during the whole impeachment thing; and even made things look bad for the GOP, as one of their biggest players took a dive for the whole sex thing.  And this was the issue that brought the much vilified porn-star Larry Flynt into the mix.  And to think that this has ties to Abramoff, and potentially DeLay.  Awesome!

Corpus Christian No More

I’ve got a confession: I’ve moved.  No longer is Doctor Biobrain the spunky liberal blogger reporting from the conservative coast in beautiful Corpus Christi Texas.  Nope.  I’ve traded in my sunscreen and beach towel and headed back inland, to the decadent liberal bastion of Austin Texas.  That’s right, I’m now living in heathen central, within spitting distance of God-hated homos, man-hating feminists, and all those other freaks and geeks who cause and create consternation to the Real Americans and have all but ruined our once proud nation.  And who knows, maybe I too will be infected by this dreaded virus and eventually end up as a homo feminazi freak who hates America and wants nothing better than for the Islamofascists to take over and institute Mohamed’s Law across the globe.  Mohamed’s pro-gay man-hating Law.  I’ll try to fight it, but we all know how strong the siren song of the True Liberal is to an All-American boy such as myself.  

This isn’t to say that I didn’t like Corpus, as that has nothing to do with my move.  I lived in Austin for over a decade and eventually picked Corpus because it was the closest approximation of a good place I could find, without having to move outside of my home state of Texas.  In fact, the main reason I moved from Austin was because it was so damn nice that it attracted a bunch of jerkoffs that jammed the highways with cars, the festivals with elbows, and the bars with drunken louts who insisted upon singing louder than the two-bit coverband which was inflicting itself upon us; often even drowning out my own delightful additions to whatever song they may have been playing at the time.  And this is all in accordance with the Immutable Laws of Supply & Demand – City Edition, which dictates that all the great places to live will turn into hellholes because everyone wants to live there.  And the better the living is, the more people will want to live there, until it gets too crowded and innocent folks like myself will want to flee for their lives.

But Corpus was all different.  For whatever reason, nobody wants to live there.  There’s no good university, the social scene sucks, and the jobs pay dirt wages for too much work and not enough respect.  In other words, I loved it.  The traffic was almost non-existent.  You could get a good parking spot most of the time. And the bars were generally half-filled, even on a good night.  Plus, there was the beach.  I’ve always been a beach lover, and while Corpus’s are a fairly piss-poor excuse as far as real beaches go; they weren’t too crowded and the jellyfish were usually easy to avoid (except when they weren’t).  And again, this is all in accordance with the ILS&D:CE.  If the place was any good to live in, it’d be filled-up quickly enough that it’d start sucking in no time.  And so that’s where I lived for a couple of years.  It was sucky enough to not be too crowded, without sucking enough to make me want to leave.

But all that is going to change.  Corpus is picking its ass up and getting it into gear.  It’s not there yet, but it’s got all the makings for a great city.  They need a better university, they need some higher paying jobs, and they need to expand their nightclub scene; and voila!, they’re a happening city.  I’m serious.  One post I failed to make was one regarding the liberalization of Corpus Christi.  I’m not just speaking politically, but the whole shooting match.  If just half of one percent of the cool people out there moved to Corpus, the entire dynamics of the city would change.  It really is a good city with a lot going for it, and a slight push to the political and cultural left is all that it would take to finish the job.  They already vote Democratic, largely due to a high Hispanic population.  And all they need is a new liberal voice to push it over the edge.  It’s just waiting for it.  It’s just waiting for you.

And the best part about it: You’d be a Texan.  And let me tell you as a long time Texan, it really is better being Texan.  There’s no state with a cooler sounding name.  There’s no state that’s tougher.  There’s no state with a better reputation than Texas.  I’m not proud of a lot of things, but one of the things I’m proud of is being a Texan.  Sometimes, just being Texan is the best qualification for an important job.  Just say it in your mouth: Texas.  Texas.  Spell it.  T-E-X-A-S.  Say “Texan” repeatedly.  Or “I’m a Texan.”  And if you happen to say “Howdy, Tex!” to some dude while walking down the street, chances are better you’ll be right, in Texas.  And so you’ll have that going for you too.  And don’t forget that beach: Not too many jellyfish.  So if you’re looking for a decent place to live, and you’d like a small town feel with a big city’s amenities, look no further than Corpus Christi Texas.  It’s really got a lot going for it, and you can see dolphins in the morning on the misty bay.  It’s really awesome and I can’t recommend it to you enough.  Unless you just want to move to Austin, which is perfectly understandable, even if you’re not wanted there.

But now I’m gone.  Mrs. Biobrain got a new job in a new city, so for the past few weeks I’ve been packing it up and moving it out.  And so the posting hasn’t been going so well here.  It’s kind of hard to blog when your computer is in a different city.  I’m even typing this on the road, heading back to Corpus for one last trip (ahh, science).  But Mrs. Biobrain needed a change of scene, and so the change was made.  

And on that theme, I’ve decided that everything’s going to change.  I’ve recently discovered that 2006 is going to be my year, and that means that I really gotta get my butt into gear with this shit.  Pretty soon, I’m going to redesign the whole website, pull a bunch of switcheroos, and even set-up some kind of fancyass archive, so all of you can better revel in my glory.  And who knows, maybe I’ll institute cat blogging around here.  Not that I really like that shit, I just happen to have a lot of stupid pictures of a lot of stupid cats.  Let me know if that’d suck too much, and I’ll take that into consideration.   Anyway, that’s all for now.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Tax Free!

This in no way constitutes any kind of tax software endorsement, nor is this my professional opinion as a CPA; but as a personal note, I just wanted to alert all you taxpayers out there to the IRS’s free e-file tax deal.  Most tax software companies offer free basic e-filing to qualifying customers (most of you will qualify), but you have to go through the IRS link to get it; they usually don’t advertise these on their webpages.  If you’ve already started your return with one of these companies, you’ll need to start over using the IRS link to get it for free.  And I believe that you won’t be able to transfer prior year data, but I could easily be wrong about that.

Like I said, it’s only the basic service, but you probably don’t need their premium packages (though only you can know that for sure).  I’ve used this service in the past, and it’s better than paying.  It’s the same software, but they won’t charge you at the end.  Different software companies have different limits on whether you qualify, but try to find a name you recognize and go with it.  And if you’ve already used one of these before, you should probably just use the same one.  

Oh, and I should let people know that I will answer basic tax questions.  Just leave a comment here and I’ll either respond by personal email or in the comments section (your choice).  Or you can just send me an email directly.  I won’t give anything too fancy or complicated, and I certainly don’t want your personal info; but if you have a basic question about whether you have to file or whatever, I’ll be glad to give you an answer.  But again, this isn’t done in my professional capacity, nor will I be held liable for any bunk advice you may receive.  I’m just trying to help.  And if a question is too fancy or requires too much info, I’ll probably send you elsewhere.  No offense, but I don’t want to do your taxes.

Oh, and one last note: They might charge you to do your state tax returns.  I don’t know, as I live in Texas and we don’t have a state income tax (SUCKERS!).  

Unmasking the Pure Crooks

A line from my last post got me thinking on a related note: How much better would it be for Dems to stop emphasizing the ideological purity of Republican politicians, regarding issues like abortion, religion, etc; and to instead emphasize that those issues are all shams that the GOP uses to help further its crooked agenda?  They don’t want to overturn abortion, or institute religious-rule, or banish all the gays.  Many of their supporters do, but the Republican leadership would have to be completely nutzo to do these things.  They just like the issues, not the victories; and the longer they can milk these issues without providing results, the better.  This is something that conservatives have long attacked Dem politicians for, but the shoe fits much better on the other foot.

If the Democrats cured poverty, ensured us good healthcare, ended war, and all the other issues that we fight for, and we didn’t need to worry that Republicans would undo our success, there would be no reason to be a Democrat or vote at all.  Those are our goals.  Once they were achieved, we’d be done.  Sure, there are likely to be many Dem politicians who are only in it for the money and power, but the hardcore longtime Democrat would be satisfied.  In fact, that’s one disadvantage that the Dems have.  We won the policy battle years ago, life is relatively good, and there really isn’t too much to fight for.  Until the Repubs finally undo several decades of liberal policies regarding labor, health, etc., there really isn’t much for us to be angry about.  Overall, life is good.  We’re not fighting for many new rights and protections; we’re just fighting off the Republican’s encroachment onto our existing rights and protections.  And the Republicans are fairly good at convincing people that none of this is at risk.

But if the Republican leadership enacted the entire Social Conservative agenda, they’d be totally screwed.  Because that’s not what they want.  They want money and power, and the ability to undo the liberal items.  But if they did everything the Soc-Cons wanted, they couldn’t possibly obtain public office, because there just aren’t nearly enough people out there who benefit from the Republican’s real agenda.  Overall, the Soc-Cons are a relatively recent edition to the party, and their overall interests are often in direct conflict with the laissez-faire “anything goes” policy of the hardcore Republicans.  While the base is often tossed a bone or two to satisfy their hunger, the main policy pushes almost always benefit the old school Republicans.  And the last thing the Republican leadership wants to do is to completely satisfy the rabid newbies, as that’s the only thing that keeps them in office.

And so don’t you think it’d help if we emphasized that, rather than emphasizing their ideological and religious purity?  Bush most certainly is not a hardcore conservative or Christian, not in any traditional understanding of those terms.  Nor are most of the other Republican politicians.  Their policies are what they need them to be at the moment, and are far from the purists that they’re made out to be.  And the current scandals are proof enough of that.  No longer the small government gurus, they’ve figured out how to milk Big Government (and thus taxpayers) for all it’s worth; subsidizing both their own fortunes and their political campaigns.  And when Dems take over Congress and/or the Whitehouse, they’ll once again be against government spending, as they can’t milk a system they don’t own.  So why do we go along with their purity showboating, instead of pointing out the pure sham of it all?  That they’re making suckers out of their most loyal supporters.

As the point I made in the last post, even if the media doesn’t like the Soc-Con agenda, they at least think it’s honest and pure.  This isn’t to suggest that we can’t talk about the danger of allowing Republicans to throw meat to their base on these issues, but that shouldn’t be the main point.  The main point should be that these people are shameless hucksters who are running a crooked game against both their supporters and the American people as a whole.  And as that ties-into and feeds the current corruption scandals erupting across the right, it could only help.  

Matthews' Comic Question

One of the biggest problems I think the media has is that they’re entirely out of touch with the common man.  So out of touch, in fact, that they have no idea how out of touch they are.  They tell us what “Joe Sixpack” is thinking, even if it disagrees with what the Joes are telling pollsters.  They fail to understand the real-world implications of economic policy decisions, instead reporting only the political dimensions of these decisions.  And they insist upon the idea that all rural Americans are church-lovers and upstanding people, while urbanites are freaky heathens who don’t understand “Real” America.  And that these stereotypes are the ultimate in elitist condescension is perhaps the pinnacle of ironic cluelessness.  By pretending to understand “Red America,” they pay it the ultimate insult.

But they don’t want to be out of touch.  They remember their relatively humble roots, and feel guilty about their more elitist tendencies.  Mass media has made them millionaires, with fame beyond their earlier imagination.  And so the whole Republican mystic of “Rural America” appeals to them.  They like the “values” crowd.  The mom & pops of “Real America”.  Of course all this is a pile of shit, as the Republicans have been the party of Big Money ever since they won that whole abolition issue.  And that’s what drives them.  They may emphasize values and church and all that good wholesome stuff, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the Benjamins (sorry, I’ve read that phrase a few times recently, and thought I’d hippen-up my blog with such cool jargon).

Driving Tom DeLay

And via Think Progress, this leads us to Chris Matthews’ recent slobber-job on Future Convict Tom DeLay.  I’ll repeat the question, as it’s so damn funny:

MATTHEWS: Tom DeLay, you are not in this business for the money. You live modestly. You commute back and forth from Washington to Houston, Texas. Why? What drives you every day?

Now here’s the thing.  I have no idea if Chris Matthews is a Republican.  I have very very few doubts that he didn’t vote for Bush in the last election, but there’s always that possibility that he normally votes Dem.  I just don’t know.  

And part of the thing with many of these elitist media-types is that they really do associate more with the Dem platform.  They don’t want a church-state or an abortion ban.  They support anti-poverty programs and are not isolationists or raving warhawks (though war is certainly excellent for their business).  And while they do agree with the GOP’s tax policy, they’d probably feel guilty using that as their basis for a vote.  Overall, I strongly suspect that most of them consider themselves to be relatively liberal.  They’re wrong about that, of course; but that’s probably the way they like to see themselves.  As moderate liberals, constantly under assault by both the raving lunatic liberals like Michael Moore and Howard Dean, as well as by moderate and far-right conservatives.  Again, this is a pile of dooky, as they’re really moderates who lean slightly to the right (depending on the issue), but they probably like to think of themselves as moderate liberals.

But they certainly don’t like Dem politicians (who are considered either wishy-washy sell-outs like Gore and Kerry, or extremist firebrands like Dean), and certainly do love them some Repub politicians, and that’s what we see from Matthews now.  Because he certainly is clueless on this one.  Sure, it’s possible he’s trying to be deceitful, but I don’t believe it.  There are a lot of bad defenses of Tom DeLay, but the one Matthews has picked is one of the worst.  Because all we need do to explode it is quote the stuff that Think Progress did.  We just quote how the “king of campaign fund-raising” was living the highlife that his Congressman’s salary couldn’t possibly afford.  

And beyond that, Matthews is missing the entire point of the scandal.  The fact that Tom DeLay was living like a millionaire isn’t a small sub-story, that’s a big part of the whole fucking deal.  That’s part of the scandal.  That this “public servant” was so obviously abusing the system for his own personal benefit.

Defense by Absurdity

But again, it’s the absurdity of Matthew’s defense that proves how earnest he is.  Because it’s just plain stupid and flies in the face of all the facts.  You can scream “Democrat witch-hunt”, or “everybody’s doing it”, or any number of defenses.  But the idea that DeLay is just some humble public servant getting caught-up in something bigger than himself is simply ridiculous and an insult.  There’s just no way that Matthews would be doing this if he didn’t really believe it to be true.  And of course he believes it.  It makes him feel better about his own life.  Media elites like him LOVE the GOP rural mystic, and having a Texan bug killer like DeLay is all part of that.  And while they don’t agree with the GOP agenda, they do like to console themselves that the GOP are good, honest people who you can trust.  This is Chris Matthews’ concession to the real world he once lived in.

And the dumbest thing about it is that IT’S EXACTLY WHAT YOU’D EXPECT.  I mean honestly, who is more likely to abuse their position of authority?  A richie-rich Kennedy or Kerry who can easily afford their own yachts and vacations, or an ex-bugman from a small Texas town?  Even the Bushies have to work on their fortune more than Kennedy or Kerry do (with the term “work” used in its loosest sense).  And so it’s just natural that an important Congressman from a modest background would abuse his power and have lots of lobbyist-paid vacations and meals.  That’s all part of the perks.  Because he’s not getting rich on his salary.  Sure, he’s doing far better than most of us.  But just think about the people he visits with regularly: the Big Money GOP donors.  He sees the highlife they live, and wants a piece of that action.  It all makes sense.  

That isn’t to argue that this is somehow proof of DeLay’s corruption; but it certainly makes a helleva lot more sense than Matthews’ nonsense.  Yes, DeLay comes from a humble background, and now he’s taking advantage of his situation to make it better.  What’s so hard to understand about that?  But you have to remember that Matthews is a millionaire and makes far more than DeLay or any other of the important politicians that Matthews covers (or at least, makes more legitimately (with “legitimately” defined in its loosest sense)).  And so that must be a weird switcheroo.  Sure, these people are very powerful and famous, but media-types like Matthews are far better paid and even more famous.  Matthews easily makes more in one year than a Congressman makes after five elections.  And he’s got the fancy house in Nantucket, while DeLay still lives in Sugarland (I honestly don’t know where DeLay lives, but always liked the name Sugarland).

Commoner DeLay

But again, there is more to this than Matthews wanting to defend DeLay.  He’s defending his belief system; his reality.  He must believe that Red State people are better than everyone else, and that the common man has some damn good things about it.  Because deep down, he knows that he doesn’t earn his money honestly, like a Real American; so it heartens him to know that there are good, honest people out there who he can sort of reach out to.   And he also must believe that GOP leadership types are good honest people who put in an honest day’s work.  And while he might like the agenda of the politically-driven, self-serving Democrats, he’s glad to know there are ideologically-pure Republicans out there doing God’s work.

He could have picked any defense of DeLay, and maybe even found a good one somehow; but he picked the one that made the most sense to him: That Tom DeLay is a Real Man.  Honest, wholesome, pure at heart.  And while a multi-millionaire like Chris Matthews has a hard time staying in touch with the common man, he’s sure that Tom DeLay is such a person; and that warms the cockles of his heart in only the way that his rare wines and gourmet food can.  He might be a Real American no longer, but he’s glad to associate with honest folk like Tom DeLay; the common-man who’s only aim is to serve his country.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Gaying Up The Cowboys

Via Sadly, No!, we read:

It is cognitively and nationally dissonant to propose on one hand the advancement of the homosexualization of your most identified national folk icon and simultaneously bluster with the impending force of a war to defend that same civilization.

This is from an essay by “Andrew Longman” (his porn name, I’m sure) from Renew America, titled: You Can’t Fight Islamism with Gay Cowboys.  And I swear, this is the exact kind of shit I’d write if I were stoned enough.  And I mean like really really stoned.  Like with the stuff that gets carpet fibers and lead paint in it, as well as many other artificial enhancers.  What the hell is wrong with these people?  Are they serious?  Are they working on some much deeper level of reality than even I can comprehend?  Is this a form of super-genius reverse-psychology, or are they just batshit crazy?  I’m leaning towards the batshit crazy/fucking-retarded angle, but I so don’t want to.  I want to believe that this is somehow intentional; that they’re somehow five steps ahead of us, and not ten centuries back.  Not just for our sake, but for theirs.  

And honestly, doesn’t the “In your face, screw you bastards” form of neo-conservatism that the Bushies insist upon demand that we force gay cowboys on the Islamist badguys?  Are we really supposed to pretend as if we’re doing our best to thumb our noses at the terrorists, if we’re kowtowing to their anti-gayism?  That was certainly part of the whole Abu Ghraib punishment system, and I see no reason why that wouldn’t extend to our culture as a whole.  And wouldn’t the ultimate insult be for them to be conquered by a gay cowboy?  Or gay soldiers?  Shouldn’t the nutbags be all over this shit?  Or is that the exact argument that Mr. Longman is leading us to?   Might they be attacking the gay cowboys so that we more readily accept them?  Or do they somehow really believe that any of this means squat to the terrorists; as if the terrorists want our cowboys to be gay?  As if the cave-dwelling terrorists even know about our gay cowboys.

There’s a fine line between stupid and clever, and either these people are walking it perfectly, or they’ve fallen off and had their brain-yolks fried on the pavement many years ago.  I’m hoping for the former, but fearing for the latter.  Not just for their sakes, but for gay cowboys everywhere.

Bloggers With Blinders

Too funny.  Via Atrios, I just read of conservative bloggers who scheduled conference calls with three Congressmen vying for Delay’s vacated Majority Leader spot.  And while the first two calls went decently, the one with Congressman Blunt gave them a bad taste in their mouths (you can guess what that taste was).  

To quote Dale Franks at QandO Blog:
As far as I'm concerned, the Blunt call was a disaster for Rep Blunt. My dominant impression was that he was trying to stack the deck with ringers who'd throw him softball questions, so our group's ability to question him closely would be limited by squandering time on people who were not part of our group, and whose questions he saw in advance. In short, he was trying to spin us. As far as I can tell, Rep. Blunt broke just about every rule for how to deal effectively with bloggers. I don't think he could've alienated me more effectively had he intentionally set out to do so.

Welcome to the real GOP, Dale.  Try not to wipe the bootmarks off your ass, or they’ll just have to go through the trouble of making new ones.

Here’s more from Dale:
Then, Rep. Blunt just outright pissed me off. He said words to the effect that, while he understood that many of us supported someone else, and he knew we'd be writing up the call later, he hoped we wouldn't write or do something that would jeopardize our ability to work together later, and since he was gonna win—already had the votes locked up, in fact—we would be dealing with him.

What the hell party has he been looking at for five years?  This is exactly how the GOP’s been running things since Bush took office, and even going back before that, when he was merely a candidate.  This isn’t something that Blunt invented to get this leadership spot.  This is the standard operating procedure.  Did he really believe that those orchestrated Bush events were done so simply to keep out the rabble-rousers?  Has he never heard that Bush receives questions before many interviews?  How did he not realize that “Jeff Gannon” was a complete set-up, as a lifesaver to a Whitehouse receiving questions it didn’t like?  Or that this was a regular feature of Whitehouse press conferences?  The question isn’t why this one congressman was screwing around with the rightwing bloggers, but why they’ve never noticed this before.

But that’s the thing, these people haven’t been noticing this.  They’re still up in arms about the “liberal media” and haven’t realized that the media does this exact thing.  They toss softball questions and make sure to not write the bad stuff, or risk losing important access.  Because there’s always another reporter to take your place.  That’s not to suggest that all of the media is like that, but they don’t need all of the media.  They just need a few loyal scribes to submit their questions beforehand and only write the good stuff.  And it works.  And it looks like Blunt was pulling the same crap, so he could get some loyal bloggers who wanted access to a bigwig.

And in the meantime, the GOP has become a complete sham.  But these people haven’t noticed.  They’re so busy attacking traitorous libs and the supposedly Bush-hating media that they haven’t noticed the prank that’s been played on them.  The GOP leadership, from Bush to Rush and on down to the lower-level players are playing a game with their loyal supporters, and the supporters fall for it every damn time.  They’re trying to set us off against one another, so we don’t notice what the heck’s going on up above.

And that’s the thing.  Just reading this one post of his, I suspect that I have far more in common with Franks than he has with his own party.  But he just doesn’t know it.  He’s been the victim of professional stagecraft and manipulation for years, and is just now having the blinds pulled up.  But the big question is whether he’ll use his new found sight to uncover similar scams being pulled on him, or if he just thinks this is an isolated incident.  Unfortunately, it sounds like he thinks it’s just isolated.  Hopefully, he’ll prove me wrong on that.  I have no problem with people having different opinions than me, but too often, the Republican leadership is just fucking with the facts and messing with our minds.

(As a disclaimer, I’ve never read anything else by Dale Franks, and do not know if my description necessarily applies to him directly.  This is solely based upon the surprise he seems to have experienced by the tactics these people have used for many years.)

Friday, January 20, 2006

Torture v. Murder

My lordie, what the hell has gotten into Kevin Drum?  Via Tistero at Hullabaloo, I just read of Kevin using a hypothetical situation to justify the killing of innocent people, as long as it killed important terrorists.  I agree with much of Tistero’s point, that Drum’s hypothetical was very loaded and was more of an accusation than a call for debate.  But I do think that hypotheticals like this aren’t inherently bad.

But my point, and maybe Kevin addressed this afterwards, how does this hypo of his jibe with his anti-torture stance?  He thinks that torture is absolutely off-limits, and believes that we shouldn’t even argue for the “pragmatic” case against torture, as it implies that if torture worked, it’d be ok.  And he doesn’t believe that.  He believes that torture is always wrong, even if it works.

And yet, here he is saying that it’s ok to murder innocent people, if it means we murder an important terrorist too.  So, murdering innocent people is ok, while torturing bad guys is always off-limits?  Huh??  What the hell kind of sense does that make?  I disagree with torture on pragmatic grounds, and would support it if it always worked and was only done on the bad guys.  But it really seems odd that someone would support the cold-blooded murder of someone they’d refuse to allow to be tortured; as well as murdering innocent people.

And what if the “pretty good intelligence” he uses in his hypothetical was obtained by torturing terrorists?  Shouldn’t that justify torture?  Again, why is murder ok, if torture is wrong under the same situation?  I really think that Drum hasn’t thought this one all the way through.

Hitchens in Hindsight

I can’t believe I’ve somehow missed this choice pre-war quote from dipshit warhawk Christopher Hitchens (via the Editors):
But I think we know enough. What will happen will be this: The president will give an order, there will then occur in Iraq a show of military force like nothing probably the world has ever seen. It will be rapid and accurate and overwhelming enough to deal with an army or a country many times the size of Iraq. That will be greeted by the majority of Iraqi and Kurdish people as a moment of emancipation, which will be a pleasure to see, and then the hard work of the reconstitution of Iraqi society and the repayment of our debt - some part of our debt to them - can begin, and I say bring it on.
With hindsight as our guide, that quote doesn’t even need a remark.  But I’m not here just to attack that quote, but to make a point.  This was not a difference of opinion.  This was a difference of facts, a difference of reality.  Because few people who could adopt Hitchens’ fantasy version of reality would not be pro-war.  And unfortunately for him, he was so wrapped up into that fantasy world that he couldn’t even see the problem.

And there’s nothing inherently wrong with his fantasy.  It could have happened that way.  But the point isn’t what could have happened, but on how sure we were that it would happen.  And there were lots of things that could happen.  Maybe things would go as perfect as Hitchens believed, or maybe they’d go as badly as they have, or maybe they could have been significantly worse. And that was a major sticking point for many anti-war people, like myself.  The risk factor.  Sure, things could have worked out perfectly, but life lessons should have told Hitchens that things rarely do work out perfectly; and that the surest way to screw things up is to assume that things won’t get screwed up.

And that’s one of the first aspects in considering the war option: the risks involved.  And it’s obvious that Hitchens supported this war because he saw absolutely no risks, or was willing to quickly dismiss them all.  But that changes the entire equation.  He had thoroughly dived headfirst into this war, to the point that all those who disagreed looked like fools and enemies.  And he had to dive in headfirst, because that was the only way that the war looked so good.  Had he considered the risks, he could never have supported the war as he did.  But again, this wasn’t a difference of opinion.  Hitchens made himself willfully ignorant of reality in order to support the war.

And just to make a point of this, there’s a reason why Hitchens and others believed as they did.  Because this was the only way people could support the war.  The Bush Admin’s marketing campaign could never honestly mention the risks, as the risk factor ruined the whole sales pitch.  And so they bullshitted Hitchens and the rest of the media with stories of cakewalks and roses.  And that’s how they convinced themselves too.  And because of that, they weren’t prepared for the risks.  Again, the surest way to screw things up is to assume that things won’t get screwed up; and that’s exactly what we did in Iraq.  We couldn’t plan for risky contingencies, as those contingencies undermined the very case for war.  The war was only a good idea if those risks didn’t exist, so the warhawks unexisted them.

Up To Our Neck

Here’s another instance of that alternate reality, in the same debate.  Hitchens is asked to comment about whether we can handle nation-building in Iraq, if we’re still “up to our neck” in Afghanistan.  A very valid point, which requires Hitchens to engage in reality, if he plans to properly deal with this.  But Hitchens can’t do that, as he has no reality in his plan; so he engages in simple rhetorical tricks, in order to turn things into a debate he’d rather have.  But even that debate was bad for him.

He starts by suggesting that things are going well enough in Afghanistan while lamenting that we can’t do more for Afghanistan, because they can’t pay for more; as if building an Afghan “autobahn” was our sole concern there.  He then leads us into all the advantages that Iraq has, and how they can pay for more; before tossing in a quickie insult before trying to change the subject:

So to say that you cannot help both Afghans and the Iraqis at the same time is to use them against each other in quite a shameful way, and also to avoid what we're really talking about, which is how likely is it that we can simply disengage from Iraq at this point?

Shameful indeed.  His argument is essentially that because the issue of Afghanistan is bad to his argument, that it’s unfair to mention.  He’s suggesting that we’re acting shamefully by using reality against him.  Hindsight has shown us that Hitchens was totally wrong about that, and that resources necessary in Afghanistan were pulled out for the unnecessary Iraq endeavor.  But again, he’s engaging in the same rhetorical trick that Bullmoose pulled a few days ago, by using an implied insult to force his opponent to avoid an argument that undermines his own case.  In essence, using a threatened insult to force their opponents from mentioning that blasted reality thing.  But if the Iraq war hurts our cause in Afghanistan, then that is a factor against the war in Iraq.  And that’s a point that Hitchens refuses to address and wants us to not mention either.  

And to throw in irony, he implies that this entire Afghan issue is an attempt by us to avoid “what we’re really talking about”; rather than him using the “what we’re really talking about” to avoid the issues of reality he wants to avoid.  But what he really wants to talk about is that it’s impossible to not invade Iraq.  He never backs up that point or explains what it is.  But he clearly believes it to be such an overwhelming point that it overrides all other problems.  And again, this is the sign of someone in an alternate universe.  He says at the end of this section that “The option of not doing this does not exist.”  But again, this is more Bullmoose territory, as he too thought that a few fancy phrases were an appropriate substitute for an actual argument.  To Hitchens, his mere assertion that we must help Iraq overrides everything, including all risks and infeasibilities.  It just had to be done.

But again, we’re not arguing from hindsight directly, but rather using hindsight to show that things could have been different.  Maybe Hitchens could have been right, and Iraq’s tremendous resources could have smoothed the nation-building.  But maybe not.  There are no assurances in life.  Not if you engage in reality.  But if reality gets in the way of what you want, it’s damn easy to start believing that your fantasies are real.

Dissolving the Doubts

And finally, I’ll give Mr. Hitchens the embarrassing last word:
What do I think is going to happen? I've been in London and Washington a lot lately and I can tell you that the spokesmen for Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush walk around with a look of extraordinary confidence on their faces as if they know something that when disclosed, will dissolve the doubts, the informational doubts at any rate, of people who wonder if there is enough evidence.
That’s right.  The spokesmen for Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush walked around with extraordinary confidence, as if they knew something…  And Hitchens completely fell for it.  He totally got bullshitted and was throwing that bullshit out during a debate, as if confident faces constitute some kind of evidence.  Even if they did know something, Hitchens got bullshitted; and hindsight has shown us that they knew nothing.  But the problem was that, without hindsight, the Hitchens wouldn’t believe anything we said.  Because we couldn’t prove that these “extraordinary” faces were bullshitting him, he didn’t have to prove anything.

Oh, what the hell.  I’ll give him his follow-up line too:

I know perfectly well that there are many people who would not be persuaded by this evidence even if was dumped on their own doorstep…

Of course.  He knows perfectly well that many people would not be persuaded by the evidence that he’s never seen; but only gleaned from the faces of spokesmen.  Those cynical bastards!  And this is someone we’re still bothering with?  

But again, the point isn’t that history has shown that he was wrong.  The point is that he was wrong from the start.  Not that his version of reality couldn’t have happened, but that he was wrong for assuming that there was no other reality; for assuming that the risks were negligible.  Even if hindsight had bore out his argument, he’d still have been wrong for believing what he did.  He had no evidence or proof or valid arguments; merely belief.  An overriding belief that we had no other options and that war opponents were stupid or evil.   But these attacks weren’t a difference of opinion.  They were from an entirely different universe.  And the only thing that could convince Hitchens of that is hindsight.

A God Damned Creepy Thing

I just read this from the tempestuous James Wolcott:

“…it's clear that there's a homoerotic ardor for Bush by neonconservatives that bypasses reason and reduces them to hero-worshipping mush.”

Now, I don’t believe in aliens and I’m not a big believer in wacko conspiracies, but I’m not stupid enough to entirely disbelieve.  There’s a lot more in this world than I’ve ever seen, and while I only act upon what I know, I’m still willing to create theories that involve the unknown.  And if there are aliens and there are wacko conspiracies, then they are likely to be in play here.  Because Bush-Love really is just god damned creepy.  Digby’s got some of the goods here, but there’s really just too much of that crap.  They really love the guy.  

And hell, I think that to even label it as “homoerotic” only serves to undermine and belittle the strong feelings that these people have for Bush.  It is to somehow suggest that there are mere feelings of man-on-manliness going on here, and as if just any man could fill the part.  But if you were going to pick a man to focus your homo erotica on, Bush ain’t the guy you’d pick.  On the “Is he hot?” scale, Bush registers a big N/A.  So this isn’t simply the typical closet-crew scamming ass on the down low.  No, something much bigger is at work here.  And that means it’s Conspiracy Time.

The Conspiracy

Now, I may have said this before, but I’m too lazy to look it up, so I’ll say it again: It’s my guess that there was something put in the drinking water at some of those GOP events.  And maybe they slipped it into individuals’ drinks too.  Some kind of weird hormone or LSD-based sampler that affects the brain at a basic level and really fucks with these people.  Because there are a lot of people infected with it, and I just can’t figure out how else to explain it.  

I mean, Bush is a doof.  A big dangerous bullying doof who constantly says the wrong thing, does the wrong thing, thinks the wrong things, and looks like an idiot the whole time he’s doing it.  And this is readily apparent every time I look at the man.  Not once did I ever look at Bush and think “Wow!  What a man!”  Not once.  That’s not to suggest that I usually think “What a man!” when I see a manly man, as that’s a bit dorky; but you know what I mean.  He’s a little wienie who can’t even fill the jockstrap of the man he wants to pretend to be.

And yet these people seem to be looking at an entirely different guy.  Where they see “Bob Hope and John Wayne combined,” I see a dope that would play the bumbling dad on a cancelled sitcom.  Hell, I’d be happy to just get Bob Hope, and he’s been dead for a couple years.  But Bush is simply an embarrassment.  I can understand the attraction towards an Elvis, even Elvis Costello; but Bush?  There’s just nothing there to work with.  I could make a better man out of mashed potatoes and a meat strainer, and I wouldn’t even have to include the meat strainer in the final product.

Debating the Suit

Here’s more from Chris Matthews speaking of Bush in the flightsuit:
I want to see him debate somebody like John Kerry or Lieberman or somebody wearing that jumpsuit.

Uh, yeah.  That’d have gone over great.  Kerry wouldn’t even have needed to say anything.  He could just stand there with a big smirk on his face and occasionally let out a snicker or two.  Bush’s codpiece would have shrunk two sizes.  

And yet Matthews isn’t a dumb man.  Not too dumb, anyway.  So how else can we explain his weird obsession with Bush?  I could understand if Bush was a big hunk of man (like yours truly), but he’s not.  I could even understand if he had the Leonardo DiCaprio/Johnny Depp cute guy thing going on.  But he doesn’t.  He’s just a normal looking goofball who would never be cast to play a macho president in a million years.  Hell, he wouldn’t even be cast to play a goofball president, because he doesn’t seem “with it” enough to even be in a movie.  Beyond the name “George Bush” he didn’t have any attribute that would even remotely suggest that he could be president, and that name really didn’t do so well for his dad.  And yet he’s still considered macho by millions.  Even my biobrain is staggered by this.

And so that’s where I stand on all this: a Love Drug that convinced relatively normal, sane people to adore Bush.  Maybe it’s one of those mystery drugs they advertise on the talk radio shows, I don’t know.  I’m not saying I endorse this theory, but it’s the one that makes the most sense.  And if there are any aliens out there who can get me some of this love-inducing stuff, I’ll take it.  Not that I have any trouble getting adoring fans, I just like to fuck with people.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Fish in a Barrel

This is the first in a new series titled “Fish in a Barrel”, whereby I find some easily refuted columnist and easily refute them.  The point isn’t that these things necessarily need to be refuted.  The point is how much fun it is to do so.  This is to be contrasted with actually shooting fish in a barrel, which really doesn’t sound like very much fun at all; especially if you have to clean up afterwards.  Then again, I’m thinking about making Washington Post’s Richard Cohen the regular target of this series, but I think I need some sort of stupid pun for the series title, and “Shooting Cohen in a Barrel” might easily be misconstrued (though not the worst of ideas).  So if any of you can come up with some Cohen pun (the stupider, the better), I’ll thank you in some intimate and perhaps embarrassing way.

Needless to say, our first target is the easily refuted joke of a columnist, Richard Cohen.  I picked his most recent column (I started writing this last Thursday, but it got delayed) as I just wanted a random sample and didn’t want to look like I had selected his dumbest column.  This one is titled Loose Lips Sink…, and it was about Joe Biden talking too much during the Alito hearings, and how his “loose lips” are undermining his presidential aspirations; a fact that Cohen laments, as he strongly favors Biden (a knock against Biden if I’ve ever heard one).  

Reading this, I thought “Boring!”  That column would just write itself and even a dope like Cohen couldn’t screw it up.  But then I realized that I was talking about Richard Cohen, a man who couldn’t even comprehend the most basic of facts at the beginning of Fahrenheit 9/11, and admitted to stop taking notes after the first five minutes.  I mean, it’s bad enough that he felt like taking notes, but that he couldn’t even get passed the beginning…  And worst of all, he brags about it, like that was some knock against the movie.  And his basic point was entirely and utterly wrong, as evidenced by his own newspaper.  If anyone could screw-up a slam-dunk Biden column, it’d be Cohen.

The Fish

And sure enough, the dope didn’t disappoint.  It was a whiffer for awhile, until he came upon the reasons he likes Biden:

In his maturity, he has emerged, along with some appropriate gray hair, as one of his party's most important -- and knowledgeable -- voices on foreign policy. Even on Iraq, an area where too many Democrats forgot that there was any reason for war, Biden took a decidedly centrist -- and defensible -- position. He voted to authorize the president to go to war but has since characterized that vote as "a mistake."

Right.  Joe Biden is one of the most important and knowledgeable voices on foreign policy, the evidence of which is that he now admits that his position on the biggest foreign policy issue of the day was a mistake.  In fact, Cohen writes of Biden “if he were allotted a do-over, he’d vote no.”  And this is supposed to be the one of the most knowledgeable people?  This is a reason to vote for him, why he deserves to be president?   Because he now wants a “do-over”?  Of course.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking Biden.  I’ve always liked him whenever he’s on The Daily Show, and really don’t know much about him otherwise.  But Cohen’s insistence that Biden’s Iraq mistake is somehow a good qualification for the presidency is a bit a puzzling.  Or it would be, if we didn’t already know where this was going, which is to justify Cohen’s own Iraq mistake.  Cohen blew it big on Iraq and is still somehow holding tight to that mistake.  He’s like a toddler who happily walks around showing everyone the brand new dooky he just made.  But Cohen’s not a toddler and this ain’t dooky.  And the toddler would eventually learn why dooky’s not cool, whereas Cohen keeps shoving our noses in his shit every day.  He admits that he made a mistake, but just thinks that it was the right mistake to make.

And for the benefit of those sitting in the cheap seats, Cohen provides us with the context that some may have missed by writing: “Since this approximately reflects my own position, I am inclined to appreciate its wisdom.”  Wisdom.  I know a few different ways of thinking about wisdom, but this isn’t one of them.  What wisdom is he speaking of?  The wisdom of making a mistake and then publicly regretting it?  That’s not wisdom.  The wisdom was to have learned what a dope you were for making the mistake, and then by being wiser to not repeat it.  That’s wisdom.  Wisdom is admitting that the people you disagreed with were correct and that you’re now more willing to listen to them in the future.  That’s wisdom.  And for god’s sake, wisdom is to finally stop the fucking attacks on the people who turned out to be correct.  That’s wisdom.

But that’s not what he’s talking about.  What this really is about is Cohen continuing to hold onto his mistake.  He was wrong about Iraq.  Completely wrong.  And he’s still trying to attack those who opposed it.  Because he’s not saying that he should have opposed the war.  He’s saying that it was best to support the war, and then to regret it afterwards.  That’s what he’s defending.  But he’s still not willing to acknowledge that the Michael Moore’s and Howard Dean’s were right.  To him, they got it right, but for the wrong reasons.  As if they just lucked into it, and had no logical basis for their opposition to the war.  And a stubborn fool like Cohen would much rather be wrong, for the right reasons.  And what makes him a true fool is that all the “right reasons” were so obviously wrong.  We were lucky that Iraq hasn’t turned out far worse than it has, but to Cohen, Bush barely missed the mark.  

And his whole position is that we were supposed to trust Bush.  That’s what it was about.  That there were good reasons to attack Iraq and that we were supposed to trust Bush to do it right, and allow him to screw it up.  And after Bush screwed it all up and it became too obvious to deny that it was screwed up ONLY THEN were we allowed to suggest that it was a bad idea.  ONLY THEN are we allowed to say we’d have done it differently.  But the whole point of this isn’t that you’d actually do it differently, as you wouldn’t.  The whole point is to say that you’d do it differently in hindsight, though you’d have done it the same way.  And anything less than that is far-leftie extremist conspiracy-mongering Bush-hatred.

That’s the Richard Cohen position on Iraq.  That’s the way of “wisdom”.  That’s what he likes about Joe Biden.  Not that he was right, and not that he’s wise; but that he did it right, by giving George Bush enough rope to hang this country and then to make sure we all know that they don’t approve of what Bush did with the rope they gave him.  And for god’s sake, don’t forget to keep attacking the people who were right about it.  Sure, they were right.  But they were right for all the wrong reasons, while Biden and Cohen were wrong for all the right reasons; even if those reasons were wrong.  And that’s what it’s all about.

Anyway, that’s all for now.  I’m still not at my posting best right now, for reasons I’ll be giving shortly.  And remember, if anyone out there can come up with a good name for my Cohen blasting posts, I’ll make it a regular feature and will be sure to shower you with glory beyond your wildest dreams.  Or maybe I’ll just steal it and claim it as my own.

P.S. Would “Shooting Dick in a Barrel” be wrong?