Friday, June 30, 2006

Rule of One

Greg Sargent writes of conservative radio talk show host Melanie Morgan talking on MSNBC of the NY Times’ Bill Keller and the whole Treason thing:
"If he were to be tried and convicted of treason, yes, I would have no problem with him being sent to the gas chamber."

Now, I’m not a mind reader, but I’m pretty damn good at it; and I suspect from that wording that she’s hanging her hat on the “if he were tried and convicted of treason” part.  As if her justification is the imagined conviction of Keller, figuring that the punishment would then be a natural one.  

And while Greg highlights the cruelty of that specific punishment, I suspect that she picked the gas chamber due to its verbal appeal, rather than its cruelty.  “Gas chamber” sounds stronger than “death penalty”; and she probably fails to appreciate the reason why it sounds better to her.  For conservatives, words are used for effect; not intent.

And so I feel safe in rewriting her statement as: “If he were convicted, it would be ok if he was executed.”  

But the main thing is the “and convicted” part.  That’s the rationalization of the whole thing.  Because if a court convicted Keller, then it’s ok to say the rest.  Because it’s not Morgan who is convicting Keller, you see.  She’s just saying that she’d agree with the decision to execute the convicted traitor.  And if you disagree, then perhaps you just hate the judicial system that theoretically convicted Keller.

And that’s exactly how the conservatives work.  They use the legal system as an excuse to do what they want to do.  And they’re just looking for an excuse to hang their arguments on.  To them, that’s how “Rule of Law” works.  To provide legal cover for their irrational opinions.  And if you disagree with their Rule of Law, then you’re the irrational one.

Legal Makes Right

And we see this again and again.  Gerrymandering in Texas was completely acceptable because the Supreme Court said it wasn’t illegal.  Karl Rove was innocent of everything because a prosecutor decided not to charge him with crimes we know he committed.  And George Bush is the rightful president because the Supreme Court said so.

But of course, legal does not mean right.  Something can be legal and still unethical.  People can be convicted and still innocent.  Our court system isn’t about righting wrongs or finding truth.  It’s about having a process of justice that is used fairly to determine certain types of outcomes.  But a judicial outcome does not guarantee that the right thing happened.  These are two entirely different ideas and one does not prove the other.  You can win in court and still be wrong.

And they surely know that, as they consistently complain of “judicial activism”.  They don’t think Roe v. Wade is right.  I’m sure they’re griping about losing their precious military tribunals.  And even the military tribunals themselves were nothing but Bush fiats masquerading as judicial outcome.  It offends them that we just can’t execute these guys, and they’re doubly offended because their tribunal charade was exposed as being such.

Judge Kangaroo

And these tribunals were a perfect example of what they think courts should be used for: An outside authority used to dress-up their preconceived conclusions.  Somehow, they fail to understand how kangaroo courts don’t satisfy the judicial requirement.  Nor do they believe in a judicial requirement.  But they do understand that an outside authority has weight with some people, so they want to dress up as judges and convict their enemies.  And if they could, they would assign themselves as the chief arbiter of right and wrong; and would do away with the judicial charade altogether.

To them, guilty people don’t deserve justice and innocent people shouldn’t be subjected to it.  With “guilty” defined as “people they don’t like,” and “innocent” as “people they do like”.  And because Bill Keller is someone they don’t like (because he works for a newspaper they don’t like), he is guilty and should be punished.  And because Rove is someone they do like, he was innocent; despite the fact that we know he wasn’t.

For conservatives, if the judicial system doesn’t provide them the outcomes they needed, then it is broken and needs to be dismantled.  And if they get the proper outcome, then they’ll hang everything on it; even if the “proper outcome” was only achieved in the conservative’s mind.  So to conservatives, it’s wrong to attack Morgan for having agreed with the outcome of a trial she imagined.  The morality of it all is implicit, because her internal police, judge, and jury proclaimed it as such.  And we can have little doubt as to who she’d like to see releasing the gas.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

What I Learned at the Movies

Well I just got back from taking my five-year-old to see the movie Cars (her idea, not mine), and while I really didn’t laugh very much, I did learn a few things.  

For example, I learned that rural people are wise and that we should always listen to them, even when we think they’re unqualified; and that city people are foolhardy and should just shut-up and listen.  I also learned that city people are very selfish and only think of themselves; while rural people are very community-oriented and always think of others.  I also learned that it’s wrong for city people to be brash or rude; but it’s perfectly acceptable for rural folks to do mean and dangerous things and to be rude and treacherous.  You know, because they’re rural folks and things are just like that.  Instead, you have to earn their respect by fixing their town and hiring them for jobs you don’t need, so that they’ll eventually treat you nicely and be your friend.  And what do they have to offer in return?  Their sage advice.

Wait a minute, I didn’t learn any of that today.  I already knew all this, because I’ve listened to wingnuts telling me this stuff for years; despite the fact that they don’t seem wise, aren’t community-oriented, and aren’t grateful for city slickers funneling tax dollars to them.  But I guess that’s just my foolish, selfish city-slicker brain talking, and I should just shut-up and do what they say.

Oh, but one thing I did learn: Watching cartoon NASCAR is slightly more exciting than watching the real thing.  But I guess this was more like the equivalent of a highlight reel, and I suppose I wouldn’t sit through a few hours of cartoon racing either.  Even if the cars sound like celebrities.

Overall, it was a well-made movie, though I wouldn’t mind retiring a few of these movie clichés, at least until people stop expecting them every time.  Of course, I really don’t like full-length movie cartoons, this being the first one I’ve seen at a theater since I was little; so perhaps I’m not the best judge of this.  My daughter said she liked it, but she seemed a bit bored, didn’t laugh, and fell asleep on the way home.  She was certainly more excited about it before the movie than after.  Both of us prefer Tom & Jerry, which isn’t quite so preachy.

Oh, and one last lesson: Don’t follow your dreams.  They’re just stupid and selfish.  Instead, move to the country and learn to listen to the rural folks who are smarter than you.  That’s what’s important.  And don’t try to do anything or be special.  Instead, sacrifice your life so the idiots around you can enjoy theirs.  That’s what life’s about: City slickers going out of their way so that rural folks can feel better about themselves.  That’s just the way things are.

Playground Politics

Regarding this latest NY Times treason thing, I agree with Jon Stewart that it really doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Because it’s not a big deal.  The terrorists know we can watch them and must be acting accordingly.  They think we’re watching their bank accounts and email accounts and phone lines and everything.  That’s just a given.  The only thing new is the lack of judicial oversight we keep hearing about.  But terrorists aren’t expecting our court system to save them.  Nor do any criminals.  They all should assume they’re being watched.  And if they don’t, then these new stories won’t change that either.  Because the only folks expecting the courts to save them are the innocent people.  And those are the folks who get worried by these stories.

So this is clearly a domestic-political issue.  That’s what’s got them in a tizzy and why they need these stories withheld.  And so it’s natural that they’re a bit upset.  But even in that regard, this latest treason talk is a bit further than anything we’ve seen before.

So why the big huff about it from the Whitehouse?  Of course it’s part of their normal strategy of demonizing the NY Times, both to deny it credibility as well as turning them into Republican lapdogs.  But the heat’s clearly a little hotter this time.  And maybe it has to do with the President’s sagging ratings along with the recent surge of goodwill from the media.  Making them want to take advantage of the situation by getting on the offensive.  That makes sense and fits into their normal offense-only strategy.

But I think it makes them look stupid.  For the very reasons I outlined above.  And by making a big deal out of a normal story, they’re just drawing attention to themselves and making them look like they really had something to hide from us.  Sure, the diehard Bushies won’t see that, but there really aren’t that many of them left.  And for the large number of Americans who no longer support Bush, this story will only give them more to dislike.  And those are the folks Bush needs the most.  And in that regard, this treason talk isn’t playing offense at all.  It makes them look very defensive.  So what gives?

I’m wondering if it has more to do with the fact that the Whitehouse had told them repeatedly to not run the story.  And so this is just a big smackdown to really reinforce that lesson.  To teach them that when the Whitehouse says not to run a story, that they really not run it.  We’ve seen this before, when the NY Times holds a story because the Whitehouse warns them not to run it; before they finally run it.  And this time they wanted to reinforce that idea even more strongly.

And so I’m thinking that’s their big game.  They’re dumbshit bullies trying to stick-it to the NY Times for not listening to them.  Not because this is a good strategy, but because they’re bullies and that’s the game they play.  They like to punish people.  And sometimes that is a good strategy.  But for these guys, it’s one of the only things they’ve got.  They might be pissing off the media, offending annoyed Americans, and creating an embarrassing stink; but, by god, they got their revenge.  And on the mental scorecard they keep, that’s all that matters.  Everything works out well as long as they got to punish somebody.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Rush's Law

I just wanted to offer my support to Rush’s Law.  The inhumanity of denying wealthy Americans the right to anonymous hard-on’s in third-world countries is a travesty that can no longer be overlooked.  After all, God wouldn’t have given us third-world nations if he didn’t want us having sex in them.

I also support the idea of refusing to call Republicans hypocrites any more.  At this point, they’re just con-artists.  The Republican moralist rhetoric sounds good, but they don’t really expect anyone to actually follow it.  Or at least, they don’t expect anyone who is a real person or family member of a real person to follow it.  And that just about covers everyone.

For example, holy gambler Bill Bennett admitted on The Daily Show last week that Dick Cheney’s acceptance of the Gay is only because Cheney’s daughter is gay.  And then there’s Bennett’s gambling problem, which was excused because he was swell-guy Bill Bennett losing millions and not some anonymous dude losing thousands.  And don’t forget pot-smoke basher Limbaugh’s previous drug issues.  And I personally know of two anti-abortion Christians who strongly argued for having their son’s girlfriend abort their future grandson because it would ruin their son’s future.  They now thank God for saving their grandson, though it was entirely the girlfriend’s decision.  In each of these cases, Christian morality was just for the other people.  The people who aren’t us.

And that’s the whole point.  Their morality only applies to anonymous people.  People we don’t know.  But once we move this to the individual level, the rules no longer apply.  Bennett doesn’t expect Cheney to hate gays because it affects him personally.  But everyone is an individual.  Everyone has a personal side.  And that’s why the whole thing is sham.  Rules are supposed to apply to everyone.  Not just the people we don’t know or don’t like.  Yet I’m positive that every conservative would excuse every one of their moral codes that we object to, were the opportunity to arise.  This isn’t hypocrisy on their part.  It’s just a sham.  They don’t want these morals.  They just like to think that they do.  And the only people they’re fooling are themselves.

Why I Don't Exist

To be totally honest, my previous post suggesting that conservatives should be commenting at my site was a bit facetious.  Sure, conservatives should be reading my blog, but it’s only natural that they don’t.  Because I’m a fairly good description of the liberal they insist they’re waiting for.  The conservative’s Liberal Messiah, if you will.  And just as the appearance of Jesus supposedly ruffled the feathers of the Jewish leadership who had been waiting for him, to admit to my existence would undermine everything.  Perhaps had they ignored His blog, things would have turned out better for them.

All the stuff that I mentioned in my last post is exactly what they pretend they want in a liberal: A rational free-thinker with strong ties to the “true American” lifestyle, who also happens to be liberal.  That’s exactly what they say they want.  And that’s the reason they have to ignore me.  Because it totally blows their current theory of liberal-avoidance to smithereens.  Rather than attacking us for being unemployed, un-American, whackjob extremists; they’d actually have to deal with our arguments.  And that’s just not something they’ve been equipped to handle.

Heck, even my conservative parents don’t seem to believe in my existence and think of liberals and atheists as if they’re a foreign species of traitor they’ve only read about in textbooks; despite the fact that most of my brothers and sisters are also liberals and/or atheists.  Somehow, O’Reilly’s version of the liberal atheist has more hold on my folks than the people who visit during the holidays.  Even when we talk politics, it never seems to sink-in that I’m the dreaded enemy they’ve been warned about.  How could it?  I sound so reasonable.

But that’s really the point.  The liberal-atheist enemy they’ve been warned about doesn’t exist.  Conservatives have developed the ultimate strawman and they keep beating him senseless while actual liberals stand around waiting for someone to notice our existence.  The fierce arguments they imagine themselves waging are entirely in their own minds and they haven’t heard a word we said.  And while all conservatives gripe about liberals in general, the smarter ones can be persuaded to acknowledge that those absurd caricatures don’t really apply to anyone they personally know.  It’s only the other liberals who they’re describing as traitorous unemployed drug-addicts.

But not even the specific enemies like Michael Moore, Ted Kennedy, or Paul Krugman are anything like the traitorous fools that conservatives are told of.  But that’s entirely the reason why conservative talkers insist on labeling these people as extremists.  Because they’re reasonable people who have persuasive arguments which aren’t easily dismissed.

Fahrenheit 9/11 in particular was the exact opposite of the Choir Preaching screed conservatives were told it was; which was exactly why they had to label it as such.  Liberals already knew everything in the movie, and merely enjoyed Moore’s storytelling style; but much of it was a new perspective to the Fox News victims.  So it had to be dismissed as loony propaganda from a dangerous liar, because actual arguments were futile. Their efforts weren’t to give people counter-evidence against the movie, but to inoculate them from it completely.

But so it is with all of their dreaded enemies.  Their arguments are not to persuade, but to inoculate.  They don’t convince anyone; they provide rationalizations to what people are already convinced of.  Because the entire conservative belief system collapses if it admits the existence of reasonable liberals with honest but differing positions.  

So rather than betray everything they believe; they are forced to either pretend we represent the extremist bullshit they’ve been warned about or completely write us out of existence.  But in no case are we well-intentioned, intelligent people with differences of opinion.  That is one position that conservatives are simply denied.  Because it undermines the whole system.  And thus, I don’t exist.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Where are the Conservatives?

I’ve got a stupid question that I might end up regretting, but I’ve got to ask anyway: Why don’t conservatives read my blog?  Or at least, why don’t any argue with me?  I don’t get it.  I’m a reasonable guy.  In fact, my ability to reason is one of my best attributes (besides that I’m wickedly funny and always right about everything (oh, and don’t forget about my great humility)).  And most conservatives say they don’t hate all liberals.  In fact, it’s the opposite.  Most conservatives insist that they don’t have anything against liberals in general.  It’s just the particular liberals they end up dealing with that are the problem.  And they also insist that they’re open to discussion with liberals and would happily agree with anything a liberal said; if only they weren’t so pigheaded and stupid.

And so I should be their guy.  Not only am I not pigheaded or stupid, I actually like arguing with people and am quite good at it.  In fact, I’d much rather argue with someone than to be in agreement.  Not only is it more interesting, but you’re more likely to find errors in your own thinking if someone is critical of what you’re saying (assuming they actually understand what you’re saying).  Besides, I used to be a conservative Republican back in my naïve college days, and can understand how people get lured to that way of thinking.

So where are the conservatives?  I don’t think I’ll ever have a predominately conservative audience, but I do expect to have some.  Publius at Legal Fiction frequently suffers from plagues of them swarming his site, and my stuff is no more radical than his.  I’m not a bomb-thrower or a knee-jerk basher.  I’m willing to listen to others.  How else could I tell them how totally wrong they are about everything?

And most of these people see themselves as being fairly moderate.  Few will admit to being diehard Republicans, and most will readily say that Republicans are almost as bad as Democrats; at least in theory.  They only vote Republican because the Democrats force them to.  And I can relate to that.  I’m fairly liberal policy-wise, but my politics are fairly moderate.  I don’t think Democrats are perfect; nor was I a Deaniac.  I’ve never been in Greenpeace or PETA.  I’m a married familyman from Texas with my own business and a fairly decent resume and education in the businessworld.  I’ve lived in the South for most of my life and the only time I didn’t was when the military transferred my dad to Alaska and Arizona.  What’s not to like?

And yet no conservatives?  I believe a few have stopped by now and again.  But that’s not nearly enough.  Sad to say, but I’ve even been known to solicit conservatives, but they don’t seem to come.  Or at least, they don’t seem to comment.  So what gives?  Is my name somehow offensive or too silly?  Is it that my arguments are too tight to rebut?  Or am I simply so persuasive that they cease being conservative once they read my stuff?  I can buy that.  My shit really is good.  But I’d just like to know.  Where the hell are the conservatives?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Form with Substance

As Republicans have repeatedly proven, it’s not what you say.  It’s how you say it.  Content is merely filler; but the tone is the meat.  And if your tone is sufficiently strong, content can only serve to muck everything up; at least in the short term.

It’s unfortunate but true.  The guy who sounds right will usually beat the guy who is right.  People are not omniscient and appearances are far easier to convey than realities.  Guilty people sound innocent by wallowing in their misdeeds; while the innocent man gets hung by his meekness.  And while that’s a complete travesty of the system; it’s unfortunately unavoidable.  It’s not enough to be right; you have to convince people that you’re right.

And things are that much more so in the media world, which has become almost entirely infested with bullshitters and empty suits; who have flocked to the easily bullshitable field ever since it became glamorous in the 70’s and 80’s.  And the more influential the spot, the more the bullshitters are attracted to it.  Bullshitters don’t want the Big Story, they want the accolades and other appearance-enhancing rewards that a big story might get them.  That’s all they understand.  It’s not about getting to the truth.  It’s about getting to what people think the truth is; which typically is limited to what their fellow media peers think the truth is.  That’s far more important and they’re so full of shit that they lack any ability to understand anything else.  

Bullshitters only understand bullshit and divide the world into two groups: Bullshitters and Lousy Bullshitters.  Concepts like competence and expertise will always allude them, because they have none.  To bullshitters, there is only bullshit.

And so it was only natural that they’d be so enthralled with the GOP.  If Republicans can bullshit that well, just imagine what they could do for real.  Or so the thinking went.  After all, the bullshitters’ biggest victim is always themselves.  Always imagining that the substance is somehow lurking beneath all that crap they live in; always bullshitting themselves about why they don’t see it.  Even if they fool no one but themselves, they’ve at least fooled the most important person.  And so the guy who tosses the best bullshit must also be the best.  How else to explain how they do it?  Somehow, these people have yet to realize that the best bullshit is inherently divorced from reality.

And for them, the converse is true: If Democrats don’t sound right, they must not have much going for them.  Again, it’s not what you say, but how you say it.  And if you sound like a loser, you are one.  This is a theory that the bullshitters have been using to good advantage for many years, and I see no reason why the honest people can’t use it either.  If being right is good, then sounding right must add that much more.  That’s been one of the founding principles of the Biobrain blog and it’s been working out pretty well for me.  But, being the smartest person in the world, I expected no less.  Nor should you.

War in Haste, Terror at Leisure

This is a long-delayed follow-up to my previous post regarding conservative blogger Jay Tea’s absurd argument suggesting that America’s gravest threat would prefer to directly attack America’s military rather than American civilians.  Before I finished that post, I received a rebuttal to a comment I had made at Jay Tea’s; which effectively served as a proper rebuttal to the post I was just finishing.

I introduce you to Mac Lorry, the Wizbang commenter who attempted to school me regarding military strategy and the importance of decoy armies.  Just to give Mr. Lorry enough rope to hang himself, I’ll quote his entire first paragraph.  Please save your laughter for the end:

You missed or ignored one of the most fundamental principles of military strategy. That is, to win a war you attack the enemy's strategically important infrastructure or territory. By doing so you pull the enemy into a battle for that infrastructure or territory. Yes, terrorists would rather attack U.S. citizens, but they can't afford to lose in Iraq, so their strategy is to defeat the U.S. in Iraq and then they'll be able to attack U.S. citizens at their leisure. The decision to attack Iraq and then publicly challenge the terrorists with the "bring it on" statement is one of the factors that has kept the U.S. safe from attack since 9/11.
Got that?  It was just like I said.  Sure, these terrorists could be attacking us civilians directly, as is their Modus Operandi and the reason we hate them so much.  But no.  They’re so worried about losing Iraq as a base of operations that they’re streaming in to attack our military at any cost, rather than attacking us directly; thus betraying one of the basic strategies of terrorism, ie, to terrorize civilians.

Sure, most terrorists prefer to attack civilians instead of armies.  But not our guys.  Heck no.  These guys would rather fight a fairly conventional guerrilla campaign in their own backyard, and leave the terror attacks for their “leisure.”  That’s why Americans created Hawaii; for a better leisure-time activity.

Undermining Will

Of course, Mac would seem to contradict himself with this later statement:
The terrorist know they cannot defeat the U.S. military, so they have to undermine the political will of U.S. citizens to continue to fight in Iraq.

Say what?  They know they can’t defeat our military??  They’re trying to undermine our will??  Then why the hell are they attacking our military at all?  Wouldn’t it undermine our will even more if they attacked us directly?  Like say if they kept attacking American cities on a regular schedule until we withdrew?  That’s the way a James Bond villain would do it, and that was during the pussy-assed Cold War.  Surely our new-age terrorists would have to know a better terrorizing strategy than to directly attack the most powerful military in the world.  Mac and the rest of these conservatives already insist that the terrorists could attack us here in America, so why would they prefer to attack our military instead?

Ahh, but Mac seems to have an explanation for that too: If they attacked us directly, we’d be more likely to support the war in Iraq.  As he says:
With the help of U.S. fools and liberals, the terrorists are making good progress in achieving that goal, but they know that an attack on the U.S. would greatly boost support for the war in Iraq.

But wait a minute.  Conservatives tell us that the terrorists attack because they think we’re wusses and will quickly surrender.  Again, that is the basic gist of all terrorism: That you attack civilians to force them to negotiate or capitulate.  But suddenly, that whole argument flies out the window.  Now, the terrorists are afraid of attacking us directly because they know that it will strengthen our will.  Suddenly, the terrorists know that terrorism will “greatly boost support for war in Iraq.”   So in Mac’s world, the terrorists have wisely decided to forgo terrorizing us until after they win in Iraq; after which, they will forget this wisdom and begin to foolishly attack us.

As I’ve said before, terrorists are as smart as we need them to be scary, and as dumb as we need them to be foiled.  How else can we prevail?

And sure, it’s easier to argue the exact opposite of all this: That the war in Iraq has made even more terrorists, and thus made it more likely that we’ll be attacked.  But whatever.  Guys like Mac are able to string together enough rationalizations and contradictory factoids that they can’t even remember the point they started with; thus negating any need to prove anything to me.  And if I don’t get it, I’m the fool.

Why Iraq?

And this brings us to the next obvious question: What’s so damn special about Iraq that American-hating Muslims who are able to attack us within our borders have decided instead to attack our military in Iraq?

Mac’s got an answer for that too:
The reason why Iraq is so important to terrorists is that there are very few places in the would where they can base their operations from, and without a base, they can't mount effective attacks.

In a word: No.  

First off, terrorists do not need a base of operations.  They don’t even need to know any terrorist leader directly or indirectly.  In fact, a properly run terror cell should not have a big base of operations or any contact with any terrorist outside of the cell.  And if they do, they need to keep that contact to a minimum.  I could be wrong, but I believe that the Spanish and London bombers were like this.  They didn’t need a base in Iraq or Afghanistan.  They were independent contractors who have terrorized Westerners far more directly than anything Bin Laden’s been able to muster since 9/11.  That’s what makes terrorism so scary; that they can be anywhere.

What conservatives are really thinking of are paramilitary, guerrilla, or rebel types.  They’re the ones who need bases to keep and train their people.  But it only takes one guy to train bomb-makers, and he can do that almost anywhere.  And you don’t need a base to be given a suitcase nuke or biological weapons.   You just need lots of cash.  While they may have used bases in the past, it’s clearly outdated now and is unlikely to be used in the future.  In fact, the very reason why conservatives insist on believing in terrorist training camps is the same reason why terrorists shouldn’t use them.  They make good targets and increase our ability to capture their agents and uncover their plans.  Nothing says “terrorist” like hanging out at a terrorist training camp.

I started this post last weekend, but as I’m finishing it, I see that current events have helped demonstrate my case.  Exhibit A: the seven pre-terrorists whose closest Al Qaeda contact was an FBI informant.  Five Americans and two immigrants operating out of a warehouse in Miami.  And the reason they got caught was because they were looking for Al Qaeda leadership rather than going alone.  

And no, it probably wouldn’t have helped them had they announced their plans by traveling to Iraq for terrorist training; though I’m sure the Iraq war wasn’t low on their stupid list of grievances.  Fortunately for us, the only Americans so far who want to join the losing side happen to be idiots.  But I guess that just makes sense.

Mounting from Iraq

And how on earth would Iraq be an effective base to mount attacks against the U.S. and Europe?  They’re in the middle of the god damned middle-east.  They’re surrounded by non-western nations.  So how does it make sense that they could mount effective attacks on Westerners from there?  No, a much better base to mount an attack from would be like Canada or within the US border; preferably someplace they can blend in to.  Basing operations in Iraq might be safer, but not in terms of mounting an effective attack.  It’s a sure way to get every phonecall tapped and every email read.  And the only people who don’t know that are the mythical terrorists that the conservatives insist we’re fighting.

Not like I’m trying to give the terrorists any ideas, but I really do think this is commonly understood.  Only in the conservative mind is it best to stage personal attacks from the other side of the globe.  But then again, we are talking about people who think they best serve their country from their bedrooms and basements.  So at least they’re being consistent.

And yet that’s the crux of their whole argument: That terrorists so desperately need to win in Iraq that they’re willing to forgo all plans to attack us in America.  They can’t even spare four or five or nineteen guys to attack us here.  No.  They’d rather continue to send every single man they’ve got into the U.S. military’s killing machine than risk using a handful of guys to fulfill their original plans.  Right.  And we’re supposed to be afraid of these guys?  They’ve got thousands and thousands of guys dying in Iraq, but can’t spare twenty to attack us here.  Woooo!  Scary.

History Repeating

And this is the part of the argument where we remind our conservative that Iraq wasn’t a terrorist base of operations until after George W. Bush decided to invade.  And that these terrorists aren’t trying to hold on to their territory; they’re in a scramble to win the new territory that we’ve opened up for them.  Except, of course, for the Iraqi insurgents who really are fighting for control of their homeland; but conservatives don’t really believe in them.

And sure enough, Mac’s already got the pre-fabricated answer for that one too.  Why isn’t it a problem that George Bush’s decision might be causing Iraqi’s to fight against us?  Because that’s not what happened in the past.  As he says: “If that were the case, we would still be seeing terrorist attacks because of WW2, Korea and Vietnam.”

In other words: Because something didn’t happen before, it can’t be happening now…even if all evidence indicates that is indeed happening.  But not only is that idiotic and beyond the need for refutation, he’s also wrong about the significance of that factoid.  Because if anything, it would suggest that the victims on the enemy side won’t seek revenge once the war is over.  

And not only is that exactly what us liberals have been saying the whole time, but it’s also been the basic understanding of human nature since time immemorial.  If you attack a people, they will want to attack you in return.  And the more of their people you kill and the more mayhem you create, the more they’ll want to kill you.  And if the war ends decisively, most or all of them will stop trying to kill you.  But if the war ends indecisively, they are likely to continue to want to kill you until a more decisive ending arises.  

That’s how it’s worked for thousands of years and liberals believe that this trend will continue into the near future.  That’s why war should be avoided; because it can make more enemies than it removes.  Duh!

Remember the…

Besides, he’s comparing what happened after the war with what he thinks Iraqi’s are doing during this war.  Or could he really believe that no Germans, Japanese, Koreans, or Vietnamese joined the war effort to fight Americans because of our actions against them?  Sure, Pearl Harbor and 9/11 motivated Americans to rise up against their attackers; but there’s no way that Iraqi’s would do that.  

How is that possible?  Because of the conservative belief that other people are more cowardly and stupid than conservatives are.  Only conservatives are smart enough to want to attack their enemy’s weaknesses or brave enough to defend their country and allies.  Everyone else attacks their enemy’s strengths and cowers from aggression.  And so that must be what the evil terrorists are doing; despite all evidence to the contrary.

And sure, we’ll always have the Bin Laden whackjobs; but that doesn’t mean that we should lump them all together.  Perhaps conservatives really like having more enemies than fewer; but I’m just one of those crazy people who disagree.  I’d prefer to have as few enemies as possible, and if ending the invasion and upheaval we’re causing in Iraq would lead to us having fewer enemies, that’s what I’m all about.  

But I suspect that conservatives don’t really want more enemies.  They’re just trapped on the wrong side of a losing argument, and are forced to say ridiculous things or risk admitting defeat.

The Case for Originality

Besides, it’s possible that the Iraq war is different from all those other wars.  It’s possible that we are creating lifetime enemies by aggressively conquering one of their best countries.  After all, in all our previous wars, we at least had a modicum of pretext for attacking.  WWII was obvious, but both Korea and Vietnam had the civil-war evil-commie storyline to help float things along.  But in 2003, Bush was forced to revel in the dreaded “pre-emptive” war that all previous presidents had successfully avoided.  And so perhaps history isn’t such a good guide on what happens next.

And let’s not forget that it is the conservatives themselves who swear that the Islamofascist terrorist aggression is the most dreaded threat of all time; all because their religion is more fanatical and irrational than anything our previous enemies had.  That’s another key tenet of the conservative belief system and is all the more reason why we shouldn’t believe that the Iraqi’s will behave as chivalrously as our prior enemies.  And that’s not to even mention the old mainstay rightwing belief that the Vietnamese tortured American POW’s years after the war ended (that link written by the real Chuck Norris, I believe).  This too would be a bad sign of longtime grudges; were it not for the sheer absurdity of it.

But I’m not such a blackguard as to begrudge a desperate man a rhetorical rope to save himself with; so I’ll allow Mac to keep his point regarding the tendency of wartime enemies to quit fighting after the war ends.  Maybe Iraqi insurgents are as rational as our previous foes had been.  Sure, many people in Mac’s own party would like to refight our little civil war; but maybe our current enemies don’t have such long memories.  Out of this whole mess, it’s about the only thing Mac said that made any sense; even if he was wrong about its implications.  So maybe the Iraqi’s will forgive us after this is all over.

And so we’re back at our original point: That all evidence suggests that our war in Iraq has created more terrorists while doing nothing to stop the original terrorism problem we started with.  We’ve run through a whole gauntlet of contradictory positions regarding the rationality of terrorists, and ended back where I started my original idea: That the Iraq war has only hurt our fight against terror.  To which conservatives are forced to drag-out absurdities like the Magnet Theory of Warfare; while commonsense rests on the sidelines, checking its watch and shaking its head.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Floating the Turd

While researching a longer article on conservative boobery, I stumbled upon this recent absurdity by Jay Tea at Wizbang:
Regardless of one's feelings about Bush, one fact is undisputable: since 9/11, there has been a single terrorist attack within the United States, and it wasn't even targeted against Americans. Meanwhile, the terrorists around the world have diverted their efforts from massive slaughter of innocent civilian Americans, and turned their efforts towards our military.

I don’t get it.  Are they shitting us?  This is just stupid.  Entirely stupid.  Embarrassingly stupid.  Can anyone really believe this?  Because I honestly don’t think that anyone’s brain malfunctions so much that this would actually pass any test of reasonability.  Not if they were serious about it, anyway.  Even your paranoid delusionals would have trouble making sense of this one.  This isn’t an argument that you want; this is an argument you’re stuck with, and is a sign of pure desperation.  Not just that they’d try using it, but that they’d keep using it.  

This is 2006 for christ’s sake.  I could understand someone coming up with this horrible rationalization of the war in Iraq in the middle of a tough debate.  Someone so desperate that they’d rather be laughed at than to admit error.  And laughed at they should be, because this is totally weak.  And yet they still keep bringing it up.  They dreamed it up shortly after the WMD’s disappeared into Syria, and despite the mind-numbing inanity of it; it’s the best they’ve got.  

The Decoy Defense

I mean, how in god’s name are the troops in Iraq diverting anyone from attacking us?  Sure, I suppose there are evil Iraqi’s who are being held captive or unable to flee Iraq to attack us, but I don’t remember there being a big influx of Iraqi terrorists trying to kill us before the war.  And if they’re trying to kill us, it’s likely that they were created after the war started; and too often, because of it.

And could they really be suggesting that there are terrorists who would be capable of attacking us here in America, but prefer to attack our military in Iraq?  My god, are these bloodthirsty terrorists or the Three Stooges.  Hell, even the Three Stooges would prefer to attack their enemy’s unarmed citizens than their enemy’s military; and they’ve been dead for years.  This is just totally lamebrained.

Oddly enough, Israel doesn’t seem to have this problem at all.  The only time the Palestinian terrorists directly attack the Israeli military is when they have no other option.  But they’d much rather attack deep into Israel’s civilian population.  And what’s stopping them?  Is it because Israel uses its army as a decoy to lure the terrorists away from Israel’s cities?  No.  It’s because Israel uses its military to physically prevent the terrorists from gaining access to Israel.  And with large numbers of our troops across the sea guarding Iraq, that’s clearly not the strategy we’re using.  

Perhaps Israel should follow our strategy and place their whole army in the middle of the desert and wait as the terrorists pop out of the sand dunes to attack them.  Heck, that’s no worse than what these rubes are trying to sell us.  Look, just because it sounds good coming from Hannity’s mouth doesn’t make it taste any better.  Garbage is garbage.

Subverting the Process

And yet there it is.  Jay Tea keeps the turd floating.  But mind you, while this was a main pillar; this wasn’t his primary argument.  His primary argument was a strange amalgam of the whole Liberals R Bad thing, this time demonstrated by our penchant for using victims as expert witnesses and our antiquated love of our precious judicial system.  Or something like that.  

He starts by echoing an infamous sentiment regarding the 9/11 victims that he admittedly obtained from Ann Coulter’s latest book, but takes a quick turn and starts to riff on the liberals’ dependence on the judicial system, and how we use it to subvert the democratic process.  But somehow, he fails to mention why this is a bad, or how it might be against the natural order.  I’m fairly positive that our constitution does allow us a judicial system; and it would be pointless to have one of those if it couldn’t override either of the other two branches of government.  It wouldn’t work otherwise.

And that will tend to allow minority interests to override the will of the majority on occasions; which is a necessity to ensure that the minority doesn’t resort to other means…as we’re seeing daily in our new democracy playhouse in the middle-east.  Democracy is not a permit for mob rule, and minorities must be assured certain rights and privileges.  As I said, it wouldn’t work otherwise.

And finally, a reality check will surely inform Jay that Republicans are just as quick to use our legal system whenever they find it convenient.  And the only time they don’t find the legal system convenient is when they want to complain about the liberals’ abuse of it.  Any other time, a courtroom victory is as sweet as any other.  It got Bush the Whitehouse and just recently saved Rove’s ass…despite the fact that he did it.  So I’m kind of at a loss as to where Jay thought he was going with all this.  

Apparently, so was he.  Because he abruptly derails that train of thought in order to plop this onto our laps, “The problem is that our court system is very ill equipped to deal with such situations as the war on terror.”

Say what??  He went from complaining about the ACLU and the “over-litigation of society,” to the war on terror?!  But he had to.  He was out of material and this whole terrorism thing is the gift that keeps giving.  Because sure, maybe the legal system is ill equipped to deal with that vague concept known as the War on Terror©.  So this means that the ACLU shouldn’t sue so much?  The courts aren’t allowed an opinion on gay marriage because we might let Bin Laden get away?  Huh?  I’m just not getting it.  I suspect that Jay doesn’t either.

Fact Hopping

At this point, it would be fair to remind readers of the rightwing’s tendency towards believing that a mere recitation of facts is somehow an adequate substitute for an actual argument.  Rather than explaining their positions, they island hop from fact to fact, unaware of the necessity to demonstrate how their opinions relate to the random facts and uncontroversial statements they cite as self-evident proof.  

Most people consider that to be the entire purpose of making an argument: To demonstrate how their opinions naturally stem from the facts.  But not so with our conservative brethren.  For them, an argument is an opportunity to repeat the facts they’ve been given while denouncing their opponents as idiots and fools for not having the commonsense to implicitly understand how it all fits together.  Besides, it sounded so good when Rush said it last week.

In our case, we see Jay accurately explaining how the judicial system is reactive, and how it is forced to wait until a crime is committed before it can act (though that’s not entirely correct); and then takes it as a given that this is an inherently bad thing.  No explanations are needed.  It’s bad to have a system that waits to punish people until after they’ve done something wrong; and he isn’t at all required to explain this utterly wacko theory.  It’s self-evident.

I believe that one of his hidden assumptions is that liberals want to limit anti-terror defense to our judicial system; which is entirely absurd.  Heck, most liberals supported the Afghan invasion and complained that Bush didn’t commit enough military resources for it.  That was Massachusetts Liberal John Kerry’s position and mine too.  But for Bush, Afghanistan was an after-thought to the Iraq war; even though Afghanistan was chock full of terrorists and Iraq wasn’t.  His “military” solution was to outsource much of the war to the very thugs who had been terrorizing the country for years.  They were the disease that the Taliban cured.  And while I have no love for the Taliban thugs, the Afghan warlords were certainly not a great alternative.  All this because Bush needed to save his military solution for a non-terrorism-related target.

But to Jay, his opinion is all so self-evident that he doesn’t need to prove anything.  He’s got his facts, and if he has to explain how they prove his opinions; then you’re probably too stupid to understand anyway.  And before you can say “jack dooky,” they’re off to another set of random facts which need no further explanation.  As if the ability to recite facts is enough to convince us that their opinions are right too.  I’m convinced that this is how their minds work too.

Justice For All

And so it is here, where we see Jay skip ahead to yet another rhetorical oasis, saying “Our legal system is based upon a profoundly simple concept: life has value. Freedom has value. It is the coercive power of our system to deprive people of life and liberty that is the "stick" used to coerce obedience to the law.”

And I agree with that to some extent.  Of course, another aspect of our judicial system is simply taking people out of circulation.  The judicial system didn’t stop the first WTC attack, but the perps will die in prison; thus preventing them from having waged further attacks.  And it caught Mohammad Atta, though it failed to uncover 9/11 info from him, assuming that he knew enough to have stopped it.  

Overall, I see nothing wrong with using our judicial system as one weapon of many.  But one thing is certain.  A military solution would not have stopped 9/11.  We had all the equipment and laws we needed to stop it.  We just lacked the ability to pull all the necessary information together.  And the rightwing response is to insist on pulling even more information into the mix; including this blogpost.  Great.

And Tea is certainly mistaken when he implies that freedom has no value to terrorists.  That is absolutely incorrect.  They may be willing to die for their cause, but they certainly don’t want to die in prison.  Even a death sentence isn’t the same as a suicide bomb.  Just as it is with the rest of us.  Nobody wants to die a pointless death.  I would die for my children and to save human lives; but I don’t want to die pointlessly.  I don’t want to be executed.  No one does; not if they had a choice.  And so freedom does indeed have value for these people; if nothing else, to the extent that their freedom allows them to murder innocent people.  

Besides, it’s possible that there’s an afterlife.  In which case a lifetime prison sentence would certainly deny these guys their Jannah; which would have been assured to them, had they been able to stay alive long enough to kill us.  Unless, of course, the Christians are right; in which case spending the last fifty or sixty years of their lives in prison is merely respite for the hell that awaits them.  It’s almost enough for me to want to believe…almost.

Speaking of which, isn’t it funny how rarely the True Believers apply these obvious contingencies into their mental calculus.  It’s like they’re all gung-ho about God, but aren’t quite certain enough when it comes to punishment time.  Sure, God will probably punish the evil-doers; but who wants to leave it to chance?

Here We Go Round Again

And so whatever, maybe Jay’s right.  Maybe our judicial system isn’t adequate protection against terrorists.  But what is it exactly that Mr. Tea is proposing we do?  I mean, I happen to like our judicial system and think that it works quite adequately.  But if he’s got something better, I’d be glad to hear it.  If it worked, anyway.  If…

And it doesn’t.  Because what else can Jay’s alternative be?  Duh!  We’ve gone over this one before.  It was called the Iraq War and it didn’t work.  Jesus.  How many times do we have to go over this before these people can finally put together all the pieces for themselves?  Invasion doesn’t work as an anti-terror strategy.  Not when it means we have to dismantle a stable but violent country before we remantle it again.  

That was a bad idea and will remain a bad idea.  Not to get too Zen on you, but democracy comes from within and a country either has the social infrastructure to have one or it doesn’t.  And slapping “ELECTED” on tribally selected leaders doesn’t change that fact at all.  That’s not to suggest that I’m a pacifist.  I know there’s a need for war as much as the next guy; and our Iraq problem didn’t require a war.  It may have sounded good in theory, but everything always does when you want it to.  

And the only people who could have thought it was a good idea were the ones who wanted it to be one.   They rationalized every fact and factoid until it pointed to the crystal clear answer of invading Iraq.  As if it only required that we acknowledge how lousy the other alternatives were.  As if that allows us to overlook similar flaws with the military solution.  Or the fact that it was likely to worsen our terrorism problem; just as we suspected at the time.

And even now, they keep thrashing the ideas through their heads, but just can’t seem to pull it all in.  Right when they’ve got the answer on the tip of one hand, the question slips right out of reach of the other.  And so we keep going back over the same ground, again, and again, and again.  And right when you think they’re grasping the whole picture, they fall right back into their old habits.  It must really suck to be wrong all the time.  That’s why I prefer being right.

Blackhole Iraq

So here we are with Jay Tea still rebuking the judicial solution, while pretending that his military solution wasn’t as dumbly pro-terrorist as we said it would be.  Bin Laden is constantly whining about how the Western world is trying to conquer the Muslim world and steal their oil; and what does Bush do?  He conquers a Muslim oil country.  Brilliant.  

And I’m sure the conservatives have a hard time understanding this, but one of the key elements of guerrilla warfare and terrorism is to get your enemy to over-react and kill innocent civilians.  There’s no better way to get a people to side with the terrorists than that.  And the civilians will generally blame terrorist attacks against civilians on the larger army too; as well as any disruptions and inconveniences.  That’s just how it works.  And if the terrorists can usurp the puppet government’s ability to provide basic services and security to the people; they will be almost impossible to defeat.  Believe it or not, I got that factoid from a book of Vietnam War essays published in 1965.  I also read about it in a Robert Heinlein novel from 1966.  We’re repeating old mistakes.

Besides, terrorists like war.  What’s so hard to understand about that.  They like instability.  They like weak governments.  That’s what they’re all about.  Because they want to take over and a stable government is a dangerous opponent.  They don’t want an Arab world.  They don’t want a Muslim world.  They want a world ruled by them and people they can control and influence.  Or at least to rule as much as possible.  And that’s just like lots of people.  I’m sure Mr. Jay Tea would gladly accept the World Dictator title if it was handed to him.  I know I would.  I’d even be good at it.  If only…

And so Saddam wasn’t good for them.  It’s not enough that he’s Arab or nominally Muslim.  He wasn’t under their control.  They couldn’t even influence him.  He was a brutal billionaire with an oil-rich country almost completely under his control; and he was known to torture and slaughter Muslims.  What could they offer him?  The dumbest thing he could ever have done would be to throw his support behind anti-American terrorism, and we have no evidence to suggest he did.  He was a big fish in a small pond, and he liked it that way.

And then there’s the Iranians.  They hated Saddam, for natural reasons.  They share a border.  These are real enemies.  And Iran certainly benefited from this bigtime.  It was the same as with the Vietnam War.  The French suckered the hardliners with talk of commie invasions and domino effects and we fell for it completely.  And then they bailed while we got bogged down for the next twenty years.  And none of it was real.  We lost Vietnam, and the rest of Indochina didn’t slide to the Soviets.  And yet, here we are destroying Iran’s greatest threat while inviting Iranian-friendly Muslims to run the country.  And all at the behest of our chicken little warhawks, running scared from their own shadows.  Not that they don’t always profit handsomely from all this warfare; because they do.

The Rose Petal Defense

And this brings to mind the two basic questions which can be applied to any conservative argument: What the hell are you actually talking about, and how’d that go last time?  Because what Jay was talking about was using a military solution to solve terrorism, and it went pretty damn lousy last time.  And he knows that.  So what does he do?  What can he do?  He’s writing a blogpost about how liberals rely on victims to state their case because they wrongly rely on the judicial system to subvert democracy, which is wrong because the judicial system can’t handle terrorism.  Where else could this end up than back at that blackhole called Iraq.  

And at that point, what else could he do but latch onto the absurd “magnet” strategy in a futile effort to explain how, despite all evidence to the contrary, it’s actually good that we’re being attacked in Iraq.  As if a smooth post-war transition would have ruined Bush’s brilliant plan.  Thank god the terrorists didn’t resort to the Flowers and Rose Petals Offensive, as Cheney had feared.  We’d have been helpless!

But what other choice did he have?  He had just dissed our judicial system, and the only real flaw he could come up with was the same flaw that his solution had: It’s not good at dealing with terrorism.  Well guess what?  Nothing is.  That’s what makes terrorism so easy: It’s very difficult to stop.  That’s why it’s used so often.  And the more you work to stop it, the more you’ll screw up and make things worse.  That’s been a basic strategy of guerrilla warfare for time immemorial   Even the targeting of civilians isn’t new.  Read the bible.  It’s there.

Solving Terrorism

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t fight terrorism, because you must.  That’s just to say that there are no perfect options, and dissing the judicial option doesn’t make the military option any less imperfect.  Sometimes you can capture the bad guys before they commit crimes.  And sometimes you have to invade to root them out, as we did semi-successfully in Afghanistan.  And sometimes, the terrorists will slip through your best defenses.  

And that’s why it’s important to stay focused on the root causes of terrorism.  Because the best way to stop a terrorist is to prevent them from becoming one.  And attacking their countries and killing their children isn’t a good way to prevent that.  But I guess we’ve been over that already too.  

The only longterm solution to terrorism involves enfranchising people and showing them how they have real options in their lives and can work within a system to fulfill their goals.  Terrorism isn’t usually an option that people choose.  Rightly or not, they see it as the only option available.  We need to give them better options.

P.S. Don’t think I forgot about that “single terrorist attack within the United States,” jazz that I quoted in the first paragraph.  I guess I’m pulling a brain fart, but I can’t think of the single attack he’s referring to.  But more importantly, I can’t remember there being more than one other foreign terrorist attack within the US that happened before 9/11; and that was like nine years earlier.  And yet here we have Jay bragging because we’ve only had one other attack in the last four years.  Right.  

And sure, there were several domestic terrorist attacks in the US before 9/11, but I’m really not sure how a military solution would fix those.  In fact, based upon my limited knowledge of the white American terrorists involved, I could easily imagine a military or Big Brother solution precipitating more attacks.  Perhaps some day they’ll learn why snipers don’t use shotguns.
commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Update: No they haven't. The frickin' bastards deleted all my old comments, and that's sure not what I wanted. I'm just trying to install trackbacks. Damn bastards really have to make this hard on the non-techies. So the comments are back and I'll try to do trackback manually. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Online Bomb Throwing

Via Digby, I quote from Wonkette: MSM Edition:
One journalist presses some workshop attendees on the apparent disconnect between the online bomb- throwers and the chatty, eager conference goers. A woman explains that one would never attack someone in person the way you can online: "It's the difference between bombing someone from 50,000 feet and sticking a bayonet between their eyes." And most people, she observes, can't deal with sticking a bayonet between the eyes. "Unless you're really psychopathic."

Funny.  That’s the same reason why I think the media has become so docile to the GOP.  Sure, they’d like to report the truth to us, but darnit if those rightwingers aren’t swell guys afterall.  It just so happens that they don’t want to eat babies (despite the angry leftist rhetoric to the contrary), and taxcuts sure do feel good on the pocketbook.  Besides, Georgie gave everybody funny nicknames and everyone hates a psychopath.  So who can blame them when they have trouble sticking it to these deceitful jerks?  They throw such great parties!

I wonder how many of the journalists in attendance were openly disdainful to the “online bomb-throwers” and how many of them were chatty with the bloggers.  Somehow, I suspect these so-called “bombs” only get tossed in the one direction.  Amazing how easy victimhood is.  Especially when you’ve got a loud mouthpiece to complain with.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Mourning the Loss of our Leader

I just wanted to give a sad shout-out to uber-liberal hero extraordinaire Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who vainly fought the good fight in Iraq; taking the liberal cause to new heights while helping to vilify the dreaded President Bush and the Great Satan of a country we’re all stuck living in.  Sure, we should be celebrating brother Zarqawi’s great accomplishments, such as single-handedly causing all of the violence in Iraq and for having created BO.  But being a cowardly liberal, I am denied the option of celebrating any kind of success at all and instead will cry in a pool of my own urine.  Dark days have beset us, for sure.  

Even having bin Laden on our side no longer fills me with the joyful encouragement it used to.  Sure, 9/11 really seemed like a great idea at the time.  But with OBL cowering in caves with his gay liberal lovers for the past four years, I’m really starting to have doubts about the whole thing.  Yes, yes, I know it’s sacrilege to say such things of our liberal overlords, but the hot truth of reality is already starting to infiltrate my brainwashed mind, and I’m having trouble blocking out these impure thoughts.  Forgive me.

This is a sad day indeed for liberals everywhere.  I am left with no other option than to renounce my liberal religion of science and bestiality, and fully acknowledge President George W. Bush as my lord and savior.  He was right.  We were wrong.  And now with the one brave liberal dead, this has become abundantly clear.  Henceforth, I’m on the winning team.

Let the tanks roll into Mecca and the Estate Tax be banished forever!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Repeating Iraq

If you could easily solve all the major problems in Iraq, would you?  Or would you be too worried that a successful conclusion to Iraq would make future preemptive wars more likely?  Particularly with all those extra troops which would still be in Iraq; and that nice long border right there to give them somewhere to go.  What if I threw in free ice cream?

How about this: Say you could solve all the major problems in Iraq in a fairly shitty manner.  Shitty enough that few would be willing to suggest that the Iraq Experience should be repeated.   Not that you want anyone to suffer; but were this to be successful enough to be repeated, a lot more people will suffer.  

Regrettably, it’s a fact of conservative crapiness that the better things go in Iraq, the more likely they’ll be to repeat it.  We’re talking about people who are already pining for another war, with this one still going down the crapper.  Just imagine how convincing they’ll be if this thing somehow turns around and ends up almost satisfactorily.  They’ll be ecstatic!  

Heck, that’s the standard they use for everything else, so I don’t see why they’d change anything now.  As long as you can find a few positives, it’s perfectly acceptable to dismiss the rest as outliers, irrelevancies, or propaganda.  Even if they have to invent it themselves.  Needless to say, your solution would have to be pretty damn shitty to stop these people.

So which is it:
A successful Iraq?
A shitty Iraq?
The Iraq that George Bush is determined to give us?

And remember, the longer we go with the George Bush solution, the less likely these kind of fuck-up wars can ever happen.  Good luck.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Reckless Speculation

Speculation is easy.  Anyone can do it.  Take a set of facts and start thinking about how those facts might fit into other facts.  And the next thing you know, you’ve thought of something brand new that no one’s ever thought of before.  

Or maybe they have.  Maybe lots of people have already thought of that, independently from yourself.  And you go online or to your job or to your local watering hole, and you share your speculation.  And you hear other people giving that same line of speculation, and that just seems to confirm it.  One person can be crazy.  Two people can be on a bender.  But when enough people start talking the same speculation, it stops being speculation and starts becoming fact.

But it’s not really.  Nothing can make speculation become a fact.  And it doesn’t matter how true it sounds or how many other people confirm the same point or how much you want it to be true; speculation cannot become fact.  It can’t.  Even if the speculation is confirmed by reality, it was still speculation and had never been a known fact until it was officially confirmed.  That’s just how it works.  It’s much easier to be right than it is to know that you’re right.  And it’s a lot easier still to be wrong.

One-Trick Ponies

And yet we see people doing this all the time.  Conservatives are particularly prone to this behavior, but few are immune.  The media is really bad that way; particularly the Inside Beltway gang and the 24-7 Cable News talkers.  But then again, isn’t that all these people really have?  How often do the Beltway guys get facts before the rest of us, and how much is their gimmick straight rumor and speculation?  We criticize them for it, but that’s really their only game.  

And that just makes sense.  News folks with real scoops will rarely blab their facts before they publish them; but rumors only become better with the telling.  And the 24-Hour cable folks don’t seem to like facts at all.  They’ve got to talk about news all the time, and while facts spill out pretty quickly, speculation can go on forever.  Whole hours of television can be spent speculating about things that never happened.  So it just makes sense that their minds start wandering and they get to start about thinking where to take the news next.  

And of course, the real answer for them is to get really exciting news; like wars and international conflict.  Heck, for the joys of covering a war; they’ll gladly allow themselves to be spoonfed news from the government.  That’s been a standard practice of military journalism going back to the dawn of time.  War is good news, always.  And the easiest and best news to deliver is the stuff that the citizenry want to hear; which is exactly the kind the government likes to give.  And that’s good for news people.  Not only do they get their stories handed to them; more people will want to read them.  Or so goes the theory, anyway.  Your reality may differ.


Oh, and don’t get me started on the rightwing radio talkers.  I actually wrote a whole section on those bozos, but they piss me off so much that I decided to delete it.  I’ll just leave it at: They use speculation the way other people use crack.

Overall, there’s nothing inherently wrong with speculation, just as long as we recognize it as such.  Speculation happens to be a major part of my schtick, and is one of the things that make me so much better than all the rest of those punkass bloggers.  But we always have to remember where the real facts lie and not allow ourselves to turn speculation into fact.  

Facts can be fit together in lots of different ways, and just because you’ve found a good way to make the pieces fit doesn’t mean you’ve solved the puzzle.  Particularly not if you’re willing to disregard certain facts as “irrelevant”.  But no level of intellectual honesty is enough to ensure that you’ve got the right answer.  It’s necessary and fun to speculate about the unknown; but we’ve always got to keep things at an academic armlength.  Life doesn’t have to make sense and you’ll never know all the facts.  And the facts we don’t know are always superior to the facts we know.  

Friday, June 02, 2006

Cannibalizing New York

Referring to the DHS’s cut to NY city’s anti-terrorism funding, DHS head Michael Chertoff said:
"There was no suggestion about anything we did that New York is not the No. 1 terror target. But I do think it's fair to ask this question: After a city gets $500 million, more than twice as much as the next-largest city, is it correct to assume they should continue to get the same amount of money year after year after year after year with everybody else dividing up what remains?"

And the answer is: Why not?  Assuming that the city needed the $500 million the first year, why not assume that they need it the following years too?  Of course, they didn’t get $500 million last year, they got $207.5 million; and that’s the amount that got cut by 40%.  But who’s to say how much they deserve, outside of the process that was created for such purposes?  A process which the DHS has apparently gutted in order to deny New York the funds they probably need.

And the truth lies in his “with everybody else dividing up what remains.”  And that explains everything.  He doesn’t get it.  This isn’t about protecting the homeland.  This is about divvying out the dough.  And he apparently doesn’t like the fact that NY is getting so much of the divvy.  Even his “is it correct to assume” line would be better translated as “is it fair for them to continue to get more than everyone else.”  As if this is an issue of fairness, rather than an issue of security.  As if numbers alone trump the process created for determining how those numbers are allocated.  

So they’re spreading the wealth, even if it means they have to destroy the process used to determine such things.  Conservatives always see process as “redtape” anyway, so it just makes sense that they’d rig the process to get the results that they wanted to get.  Because this isn’t about securing the homeland.  This is about milking the system for their own purposes.  And why not?  Conservatives aren’t actually interested in fighting terrorism, and take their duties so lightly that politics will always take precedence over terrorism.  So it just makes sense that they’d completely rig the system for their own benefit.

And because conservatives already believe that that’s how everyone else does it, they see nothing wrong with doing it that way themselves.  To conservatives, it’s a dog eat dog world out there; and they still haven’t understood how that amounts to cannibalism.  

Despising Krugman

I’m planning to write a post about the Paul Krugman haters who insist on denouncing Krugman as a hate-filled lying hack, but can’t do so without relying heavily on personal insults, deceptions, and hackery.  And while they usually are fed the deceptions and hackery by even bigger deceivers and hacks; the insults are all them.

And while doing a little research (yes, I apologize for violating the blogger code on such things), I stumbled upon Decision ’08 and one of his rants against Krugman.  It seems Krugman had seriously violated conservative morality by noting that two studies had shown that Gore would have won a full manual recount of Florida in 2000.  Sure, he was just mentioning a fact, but no matter.  That fact is clearly taboo.  

And so Mr. Decision had to denounce Krugman for seeing “hate-filled conspiracies around every corner” and acting like a “strident Kossack” for discussing “every unproven liberal urban legend”.  And why?  Because Krugman had the “nerve” to actually read the studies that Mr. Decision cites.  Because Krugman repeated a fact that Mr. Decision was allowed to ignore.  

And the truth is that Mr. Decision probably hadn’t read the articles he linked to at all; not beyond quoting the wrong parts, anyway.  Most likely, a source he trusts cited those quotes in an attack on Krugman and Mr. Decision was just following suit.  Because that’s the typical conservative MO: Pretending to originate the pre-conceived ideas they’re given.  But it’s not just an act.  They really do believe that they’re the original source for these manufactured deceptions.  And it’s purely coincidence that they all happen to be originating all the same ideas at all the same times.  If anything, that’s just proof about how right they all are…even if they’re wrong.

The Takedown

And lest you think I’d let Mr. Decision’s rant go unchallenged, I left a comment at Decision ’08 that put a quickie kibosh on the whole thing.  And what was Doctor Biobrain’s response, you might ask?  Don’t worry, I’ll repeat it here so you don’t have to click through:

Why is it that people who accuse Krugman of deception have to rely so heavily on deception to prove their case? Or is this just a sign of poor reading comprehension? I read those two links you cited which supposedly prove that Krugman was wrong, and they showed that he was right. And you were wrong.

I quote from the first link:“…the Herald pointed to one scenario under which Gore could have scored a narrow victory — a fresh recount in all counties using the most generous standards.”

and“If those numbers did not stand, the Herald reported, a more generous hypothetical revisited recount would have scored the White House for Gore — but with only a 393-vote margin.”

Now remember that Krugman was referring to a “full manual recount”. The part you cited was only referring to a partial recount of Florida; not a full recount. And according to the study, a full recount of the entire state would have given Gore a slight victory. And remember, it also said that they didn’t consider “overvotes” at all; referring to people who voted twice on the same ballot. And there were 110,000 of those. Overall, this study used four different scenarios to determine who won: Bush won in two, and Gore won in the other two. And in the scenario inwhich all votes in Florida were manually recounted, Gore won. And that’s exactly what Krugman said.

Your second source wasn’t any better for you, saying:“That secondary analysis suggests that more Florida voters may have gone to the polls intending to vote for Democrat Al Gore but failed to cast a valid vote.”

And referring to those overvotes, it said:“In addition to undervotes, thousands of ballots in the Florida presidential election were invalidated because they had too many marks. This happened, for example, when a voter correctly marked a candidate and also wrote in that candidate’s name. The consortium looked at what might have happened if a statewide recount had included these overvotes as well and found that Gore would have had a margin of fewer than 200 votes.”

and this:“According to the study, more than 15,000 people who voted for either Gore or Bush also selected one candidate in the second column, apparently thinking the second column represented a new race.

Had many of these voters not marked a minor candidate in the second column, Gore would have netted thousands of additional votes as compared with Bush.”

That’s right, Gore would have netted thousands of extra votes in an election that Bush officially won by under six hundred votes. Still so confident in your smears on Krugman? Did you actually read what those articles said, or were you just repeating what you were told they said? Sure, maybe Bush should have won, or maybe Gore should have won; but one thing is clear: What Paul Krugman wrote in the NY Times that day was correct, and all your smears against him were incorrect. The studies said what he said they said, and you just didn’t read them well enough.

And just so you know, I’m not trying to re-live the 2000 election. I’m writing a blog post about the irrational Krugman haters, and how they wrongly smear him for being deceitful yet are forced to rely upon deception and insults to make their point. And your site was the first I found. I’ll be sure to link to this place, as you certainly fit the bill of the irrational Krugman hater. I might just make you my sole attraction. Thanks.

Oh, and speaking of a biased media, I’ll give the last word to the ubiquitous Daily Howler:“Krugman is right—press reports tended to “stress the likelihood” that Bush would have won under certain scenarios. And they tended to bury the fact Krugman cited last week—the fact that Gore would have won if all votes were recounted. Unsurprisingly, this tendency was visible in Krugman’s own paper, where Richard Berke’s “analysis” of the Times recount completely failed to mention the outcome that had Podhoretz so bollixed last week. (The Times news report, by Ford Fessenden, was more forthcoming.) People like Berke deep-sixed this result—and four years later, people like Podhoretz were outraged by Krugman’s “whopper!” But so it has gone, in so many areas, over the past dozen years.”

And as you can see, I really did decide to use his post as a prime example of irrational Krugman-hatred.  But this is just a pale comparison of what the real Krugman post will be.  I’ve got a lot more “research” to do, and plan to write a comprehensive post on the subject, but thought I should pass this on.  Not just because it’s such a good example of what I’m talking about, but because I’m pretty desperate to find anything to post about these days, and this one was a fairly good imitation.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Staying the Course: High School Edition

My son is a victim. He just finished the ninth grade, and should have had a spotless record showing how entirely brilliant he is at everything.  He usually went to all his classes and can easily claim to have tried his best and succeeded at everything he did.  From his point of view, he was a model student; and there’s no reason I shouldn’t keep believing that about him.

Unfortunately, his school has an obvious bias against him which makes them take joy in reporting the opposite.  Rather than tell me about all the good things he did at school this year, they insist on reporting the bad things.  Like about how he got D’s in several of his subjects, and failed Algebra and a writing class.  Sure, he said lots of smart things and did well on many of his tests.  He even did some of his homework!  But did I hear any of this?  Maybe a little, from individual teachers who were on the ground and willing to go against the official school doctrine (off the record, of course).  But mainly, I just get reports about how he’s screwing up and not doing his work.  And this last report is almost all negative.  

He did well in a few classes, but the overall emphasis is clearly on how he screwed up.  Hell, they even have a record of how many classes he missed and how often he was late!  But what about all the classes he did go to?  What about all the times he made it to class on time?  The silence is deafening.  It’s like they’re pretending as if the thirteen absences he had in first period were somehow the only thing that happened in that class.  And if all I had to go by was this negative report from the school, that’s certainly what I’d believe.  Fortunately, I was able to get his side of all this, and now know that nothing went wrong at all.  That school of his just likes to emphasize bad news, the sick bastards.

And now I’m about to sign him up for Summer School as a bribe to get them to report good things about him.  But this is all their fault.  They didn’t need to tell me about any of these bad things.  He says he tried his best and he bravely went to school every day, and I take him at his word.  This isn’t his fault at all.  This is all about the people who delivered the message to me.  They had a choice in what they could have told me, and they chose to tell me the bad news.  I wanted to believe that my son was a super-genius extraordinaire, and despite the best efforts of his school to convince me otherwise; I will continue to hold onto that belief.  

Sure, I’ll sign him up for Summer School, but I’ll be damned if I let him think of this as a punishment.  As far as he knows, this extra schooling is the reward for a job well done.  And if current projections show him staying in high school indefinitely; well, that just shows what a good job he’s doing and that the school is getting desperate.  Last throes, and all that.  After all, we wouldn’t want to discourage the poor guy into thinking his efforts were all for nothing.  I wonder how much it’d cost to get him a Parental Medal of Freedom.