Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Ironic Assurances

Reuters has a story about how the US won’t extradite CIA agents to Italy, were Italy to ask for them regarding the kidnapping and rendition of a Muslim cleric in that country.

A State Department Legal Advisor was quoted saying:
We get assurances from countries that individuals will be properly treated and if we can't get these assurances then we will not turn people over to those countries.

Hey, maybe they can give us the assurances we gave Canada regarding non-terrorist Maher Arar, right before we shipped him off to Syria.  Or maybe they did give those assurances, and that’s the problem.

The advisor was also quoted saying that this kind of thing “harms cooperation” with Europe on the war on terror.  But if cooperation means illegally kidnapping and torturing people, perhaps that’s the best outcome of all.  And honestly, despite the advisor’s “Take my ball and go home attitude,” I suspect that that’s really the case.  Italy won’t let us be above the law anymore, so we won’t be able to do it.  And that’s how the system is supposed to work.  If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.

Where There's Smoke...

Guest Post by Doctor Snedley, Personal Assistant to Doctor Biobrain

Imagine that you were watching a really good episode of Matlock, and Matlock’s got the bad guy on the stand and is really grilling the guy hardcore.  But right when it got to the moment of truth, it all fell apart.  Not only does the guy not give a shameful confession, but Matlock can’t prove that the guy did it, or even figure out what the exact crime might be.  

Now, if Matlock were a liberal, what would he do?  What else: Give the guy the presumption of innocence and just let him walk away scot-free.  And sure, maybe he’d keep doing background research and try to find out what the guy may have done wrong.  But one thing’s clear: He’d let the guy off the hook.  No Jack Bauer treatment.  Not even an ominous threat to the guy’s family.  He’d just keep hoping the guy would finally confess to a crime that Matlock was entirely in the dark on.

We can all thank God that Matlock’s not a liberal, as that would make for an excruciatingly boring program.  The kind of thing that forces PBS to continue to suck at the taxpayer’s teat.  But that’s not our Matlock.  Hell no.  He gets his guy on the stand, and by the end, the guy’s just begging to confess.  His kindly old man routine always lulls them into a false sense of security, and then BAM!, he lays down the boom with a line of questioning that would make the pope squirm.

And sure, that’s just a fictional character and in real life we’re still unfortunately stuck relying on our Jack Bauers to get the life-saving confessions.  But you get the point.  We don’t have the time to wait for people to confess before we bring them down for the offenses we know they’ve committed.  And once you’ve already gone through all the trouble of raking someone over the coals, it’s a little late to backtrack and pretend they’re innocent.  Where there’s smoke, there’s fire; and grills can always be made to smoke.

A Little or a Lot

And where am I getting with this?  John Solomon’s awesome takedown of Hillary Clinton’s charity scam.  To hear the liberals tell it, Solomon is on some sort of mindless witchhunt.  And why do they say that?  Because his article never actually got around to saying exactly what Clinton did wrong, besides a meaningless clerical oversight.  As if!  With a calculating bitch like Hillary, nothing is meaningless and there are no oversights.  Every dot missing i and non-crossed t is absolutely intentional.

And for me, that’s the whole point.  I mean, for her to arrange things so that even a professional journalist from a major newspaper can’t find anything…  Doesn’t pass the smell test.  And we’re not just talking about a reporter from any newspaper.  We’re talking the Washington Fricking Post.  These are the guys who brought down Nixon.  And if they can unwrap the Nixon Whitehouse, you know they’re bloodhounds.  Somebody should make a movie about them.

And so it’s obvious that Hillary’s up to no good.  As are the rest of those damn Dems.  Clinton just joined the ranks of Reid, Edwards, Kerry, and many other cunning players who run their scams so tightly that no one can figure out what they did wrong or why we should care.  Republicans are veritable Boy Scouts in comparison.  I mean, they can’t even run a simple bribery scheme without it getting written up in all the papers, and have had more Congressmen taken down in corruption scandals than ones who step down the normal way.  Now those are people you can trust.

As has been said before, if someone’s not stealing a little, they’re stealing a lot.  And by the looks of things, the Democrats are the new mafia.  At least with Republican politicians, you know you’re just looking at a few free lunches, golf junkets, discount mansions, and endless streams of nubile young boys.  But with Dems…who knows.  The less we find, the more we must imagine.  And we can imagine a lot.  The mind reels.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Satan's Accountant

Via Carpetbagger, I see that having run out of beloved children’s characters to denounce, Jerry Falwell’s picked himself a new target: The Weather Channel.

As Carpetbagger says:
OK, but why is The Weather Channel working with Hollywood and liberals to “get us in a tizzy”? Don’t worry, Falwell can explain that, too. As he sees it, there’s a three-prong strategy in place: ” (1) To Create Major Economic Damage to America. (2) The Desire To Change the Subject Concerning the World’s Moral Bankruptcy. (3) Most importantly, it is Satan’s Attempt to Re-direct the Church’s Primary Focus.”

I should probably note that these aren’t mutually exclusive — Falwell appears to believe that The Weather Channel/Liberal axis may be working alongside Satan.

Actually, this is kind of embarrassing, but I really have been working with Satan. He’s a client of mine. Really nice guy too and his books are impeccable. Which kind of makes sense, as anyone who’s ever taken an accounting class will swear it was all invented by Satan.

But for the record, global warming isn’t a hoax. And while redirecting the Church’s Primary Focus is one of the side-benefits, he’s really only doing it for the better weather. He figures that he spends so much more time here than his main competitor, so he might as well make things more comfortable for himself. Thank god the major corporations are on-board doing all the work. And yes, he does find it funny that Falwell would be assisting him in his efforts; though this certainly isn’t the first time…or the last.

I’ll leave you with an H.L. Mencken quote that Falwell cited, without a hint of irony:
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed -- and hence clamorous to be led to safety -- by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

I guess Falwell didn’t realize that was a warning, and not a suggestion.

Tough Love

Disclaimer: When I wrote this yesterday afternoon, I thought it was terrific.  But maybe it was just the margaritas talking, as I’m not so sure of this now.  But screw-it.  I just rewrote a bunch of it and feel like posting it anyway.  It’s mostly right, but…

Carpetbagger writes about the “Good cop, bad cop” routine the Bush Admin is supposedly playing with Pakistan; where Cheney is finally willing to threaten Pakistan, using the Democratic Congress as a cudgel.  Carpetbagger and others have expressed dismay that the Cheney’s have finally decided to do something about Pakistan’s pro-terror tolerance.

But the Bush Admin is using the same approach conservatives have always used for foreign policy: Support your “allies” and undermine your “foes”.  And it doesn’t matter if the support is merited, or if the foes could be converted to allies; they support the people they think are on their team.  For them, it’s not about who you are or what you do; it’s about who you know.  And you need to know them.  

But this isn’t just their foreign policy; it’s how they do everything.  For foreign policy, they’ll support anti-democratic dictators and middle-east monarchs who help foment anti-Americanism; while constantly haranguing Iran, even when the Mullahs are catching our bad guys for us and offering to make nice.  And domestically, they’ll endlessly subsidize corporate billionaires while trying to squeeze any benefit out of the poorest worker.  

But despite cheap arguments to the contrary, this isn’t about making Americans work harder or encouraging investments.  Indeed, their policies might undermine incentives for either and damage America’s economy; they don’t care.  Nor is this necessarily about helping the people who invest in their political campaigns; though that’s getting closer to the truth.  

It’s really just about helping the people on their team.  It’s about networking.  And they’ve got an ingrained belief that it’s always best to help the people in your network, simply because they’re in-network.  These people were born as part of a club and have been trained since birth that as long as they remain loyal to the club, the club will be loyal to them.  And needless to say, there is no point in having a club if you’re willing to give the same benefits to everyone; which is why conservatives are inherently exclusivists.  Whether they’re silver-spooned Yankees or dirt farmers in Alabama; they’ve been taught the importance of their respective teams.

And for as much as that system may work for them, they still haven’t figured out that many of the people on their international “team” really aren’t on the team at all.  They’re really only in it for their own self-benefit, or they have their own team to worry about.  And while they’re happy to take our money, they won’t take that as an automatic reason to help us.  Yet this has been a guiding principle for America for decades.  That we continue to shell-out support for countries who say nice things to us, without bothering to use it as a carrot to influence behavior.

And that’s just not something that conservatives understand: That human behavior can be altered.  For them, successful people will always be successful.  Lazy people will always be lazy.  Terrorists will always terrorize.  Enemies will always be enemies.  And friends will always be there for you.  Everyone is what they are from birth, and deserves whatever it is that happens to them.  To them, people are born on third-base for a reason.  

They support their friends so that their success proves that they belonged on the team.  And equally, they use economic sanctions to ensure that their foes will fail.  None of this is to provide incentives or disincentives to behavior.  It’s simply to reconfirm that their judgment had been correct.  And even incompetence and disobedience isn’t enough to get you punished.  Nothing less than a complete betrayal of the team can get you that.  And conversely, the only way to get on the team is to either be accepted as a legacy or, if they really want you on the team, to pledge complete obedience to them.  But beyond that, you’re always an outsider.  That’s the way things always were, and how they always will be.

And so there’s no reason to bother building incentives into the system, because people are going to do what they were already going to do.  And they’re so convinced of this that they never bother checking to see if any of this is true.  After all, how could somebody have gotten on the team if they weren’t loyal to it?   And that’s why, for as much as conservatives talk about “tough love”, they just mean to…well screw it.  I had an idea for a good ending, and I liked the “tough love” theme, but it seems a little late to be pulling that out of my ass.  So imagine I had a good ending for this that somehow incorporated the title of the post.  It seems pretty obvious to me, but I’m tired of looking at this post.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Once a Day

Not to be snarky, but I’d be pretty discouraged too if I got bombed once a day.  I’m just saying…

Saturday, February 24, 2007

No Plans

I can’t go into the details at this time, but I just wanted to assure everybody that we currently are not working on plans to defeat the terrorists by blowing up the planet.  In fact, we have absolutely no plans of that nature at this time.  And if everything goes well, we won’t have to blow it up at all.  More details to follow.  

So rest assured.  We don’t plan anything.

Conservapedia: A Big Win for Conservatives

Via Sadly, No! I’ve discovered yet another entry into Crazyass Conservative Land:  Lordy, lordy.  Apparently, reality’s liberal bias has extended to Wikipedia too.  

And how is Wikipedia biased?  According to the first five entries on Conservapedia’s Examples of Bias in Wikipedia page (as summarized by me):
  1. It allows people to use terminology that isn’t pro-Christian

  2. It allows entries which aren’t pro-Christian

  3. It allows anti-conservative rants

  4. It allows anti-American and anti-capitalism entries

  5. It allows people to use British spellings

And it’s like that on and on.  Another repeated “bias” is that they allow gossip and pop culture references that have “zero educational value”.  Overall, the main bias of Wikipedia is apparently that they aren’t authoritarian, but rather allow people to write what they want to write.  And call me crazy, but I thought that was the whole point of Wikipedia.  I quote from their homepage: the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.

And that seems pretty straight forward.  This isn’t supposed to be Wikipedia giving permission to write things.  It’s about a community of people writing things, and they’re allowed to have their own community standards for what is written.  It’s the free-market system at its best: If Wikipedia’s standards were too low, then nobody would use it and it would eventually cease to exist.  And we’ll see good proof of this once Conservapedia collapses; which will happen once conservatives realize they’re the only ones who use it and they already know everything it says.

But just as conservatives denounce the free-market system whenever it goes against their beliefs (eg, porn, drugs, pop culture), Wikipedia’s democratic style is clearly anathema to conservatives, who prefer an authoritarian, top-down approach to life.  The big boss tells people what they can write, and those people gladly write that.  How else can they all be in agreement on everything?

And they give all this away with the 15th proof of Wikipedia bias:
Unlike most encyclopedias and news outlets, Wikipedia does not exert any centralized authority to take steps to reduce bias or provide balance; it has a "neutral point of view" policy but the policy is followed only to the extent that individual editors acting in social groups choose to follow it.

That’s right.  Wikipedia is biased because it doesn’t exert centralized authority.  You see, democracy is biased against conservatives, and things can only be made fair if we’re told what to write and if they enforce a policy of allowing every point of view to be represented.  But does this mean that we can expect a liberal balance from the people who run Conservapedia?   Of course not.  Because the liberal POV is obviously represented by Wikipedia, so they’re free to present their own bias.  How convenient.

Six Simple Rules for Dating my Truth

Oddly enough, their 9th proof of bias states:
On Conservapedia, contributions that meet simple rules are respected to the maximum extent possible.

Yet nowhere in those six simple rules does it mention a centralized authority that regulates bias or provides balance.  Of course, of those six rules, four of them represent outright censorship, while the other two are likely sources of censorship.  Nor do they say how disputes will be handled.

And even with those loose standards, their entry on The Theory of Evolution violates three of those rules.  Specifically, in that they present untrue, unverified statements, gave personal opinion, and failed to provide any citations.  But they hide that personal opinion behind a fa├žade of factualness, so it’s possible they’d argue it only violates two rules.

And beyond that, the article was crap.  They never actually said what the theory of evolution is, beyond a few basic labels of “change over time”.  And compared with Wikipedia’s entry on Evolution, it’s clearly a joke.   It’s obvious that whoever wrote it doesn’t actually understand what evolution is, beyond the labels.   Where Wikipedia has in-depth discussions of DNA, mutations, and gene transfers that go way over my head; Conservapedia’s sounds more like a lazy sixth-grader’s book report.  I would have given it a gentlemen’s C.

Another example was George Washington’s hilarious entry, which was cited by one Sadly, No! reader.  Again, while Wikipedia’s entry gives an in-depth survey of Washington’s life and accomplishments; Conservapedia’s entry focuses almost entirely on Washington’s religion, with the few non-religious sentences describing him as if he was an authoritarian who single-handedly led the revolution and our country.

The funniest line: Washington is perhaps the person other than Jesus who declined enormous worldly power…

I’m sure Wikipedia is shaking in its boots.  The one surprise I found was when they acknowledged that “many modern scholars” think that Washington was a deist, rather than a Christian.  I’m sure it won’t take long for that slip-up to get scrubbed.  Oh, and for whatever reason, I was unable to locate one citation that was referenced twice for this entry, which would seem to again violate one of their six simple rules.

Disagreement Bias

And for me, one of the most obvious problems for conservatives is their limited means of discussion; due to their overriding bias for making things fit into their general narrative.

In this case, their “Bias in Wikipedia” page would be far more accurately described as “Disagreements with Wikipedia’s Style”.  While a small number of their complaints involve a form of bias, the majority of them involve disagreements as to how an online encyclopedia should be run.  For example, they don’t think pop culture references belong in an encyclopedia.  And while I can understand that disagreement, I fail to see how it involves any sort of bias whatsoever.

But conservatives don’t do “disagreements”.  Bias fits so much better into their narrative, so that’s the only way they can describe their disagreements.  They’re not establishing an encyclopedia according to their own methods.  No, they’re fixing bias.  But that’s not just part of their narrative, but also their entire purpose for being.  You see, if this is merely about a disagreement over styles, than Wikipedia wins.  I mean, if you’re setting up a user-edited encyclopedia, then Wikipedia’s non-centralized, low-censorship idea makes far more sense than Conservapedia’s authoritarian censorship.  

So Conservapedia clearly loses.  Especially once one considers that the name itself tells us that the site has a clear conservative bias.  So they’ve used these style disagreements as an excuse to promote their bias.  But if Conservapedia was established to combat Wikipedia’s liberal bias…then it just makes sense.  And in that regard, Conservapedia’s very purpose for existing should theoretically undermine the very reason for having such an encyclopedia.  

After all, if they want an authoritarian, top-down based encyclopedia, there are already plenty of those.  They’re called Encyclopedias.  In fact, the 23rd “example of bias” against Wikipedia is nothing but a complaint by a former Editor-in-Chief of the Encyclopedia Britannica.  And the “bias” he cites is one that every user-edited encyclopedia would have: That truth is not democratically determined.  And that should theoretically apply to Conservapedia too.

But seeing as how the real purpose for Conservapedia’s existence is merely to provide more cyclical validation of each conservative’s belief system, as well as being a stick-in-the-eye to Wikipedia’s true knowledge base, I guess for conservatives, Conservapedia is a big win.  And now it’s simply a matter of time before they insist that anti-conservative biased killed Conservapedia; which I’m sure will be yet another feather in their cap.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Nexus is Coming!

What in god’s name is the matter with these people?  Via TPM’s Greg Sargent, I see that WaTimes’ freaknut Frank Gaffney’s at it again.  Agitated for having been caught citing that absurdly fake Lincoln quote (which Gaffney insists was a paraphrase of Lincoln, despite the fact that Lincoln never said anything even close to what was quoted), Gaffney insists that Lincoln still believed that we should “silence” our present day Congressmen, due to one letter he wrote during the Civil War.

Here’s an odd line of Gaffney’s: Abraham Lincoln understood the difference between constructive dissent and treacherous agitation.

Well it’s too bad that Gaffney doesn’t seem to understand that difference.  Or at least he never says what this difference is.  After all, he’s suggesting that people who want to end an unnecessary and dangerous war are comparable with Clement Vallandigham, a dude who thought that the federal government couldn’t regulate slavery, ran on a political platform that Ohio should secede from the Union, and was arrested for inciting people to openly defy a federal law against inciting people to defy federal laws.  Needless to say, Vallandigham would fit right in to the modern Republican Party.

And what did Lincoln do to the guy?  He “silenced” him by exiling him to the Confederacy.  Might this be the historical reference that makes conservatives want to send us to Iraq?  Of course, Vallandigham quickly rushed to Canada and even ran for political office from there (I guess even he couldn’t really stand the rebellious southerners).  And while conservatives wouldn’t necessarily mind us heading up north, I’m sure they’ve got a certain “vacation” spot located on some beachfront property in Cuba in mind for us “agitators”.

And shouldn’t Gaffney have given some clue as to the distinction that he thinks Lincoln was making?  The sentence before the quote was about how “anti-war agitators” are “redoubling” our enemies’ efforts against us.  The sentence afterwards was about how we can’t mistake that Lincoln thought silencing agitators was constitutional.  But nowhere did he say what kind of dissent Lincoln approved of.

But this omission isn’t new, as conservatives have continually insisted that there is a proper way of dissenting, but haven’t yet told us how to do it.  Something tells me it has to do with us silencing ourselves before Gaffney has the government do it for us.

More Gaffney’s

But that’s not his freakiest quote.  Here’s another clue into Gaffney’s derangement:
It is highly ironic that many of those most critical of President Bush for not having a "plan" for post-invasion Iraq are conspicuously quiet about what would happen after their plan for retreat is adopted.

Yes, it is “ironic” that the people who criticized Bush for not having a post-invasion plan are quiet regarding what would happen if their post-invasion plan was adopted.  Oh wait, that’s not irony.  That’s just stupid.  Nor is it true.  But I guess that just gives it all the hallmarks of a mindset that cannot comprehend the meaning of irony or hypocrisy.

Or here’s another Gaffney, coming straight from Fantasyland:
Such behavior is even more intolerable when compounded by today's "agitators" demeaning the troops they profess to support -- notably, by comparing them to Nazis, terrorists, rapists and the killing fields -- and threatening to deny them (through one device or another) the means required to accomplish their mission.

Wow, that one was as stupid as it was untrue.  Particularly when we recall that these “agitators” that Gaffney speaks of are supposedly Democratic Congressmen.  Yes, I hear them calling our troops Nazis and terrorists in their political speeches all the time.

And while I do know of people who are denying our troops the means required to accomplish their mission, it happens to be the group that Gaffney’s siding with.  Beyond the lack of proper equipment and armor, these people have denied our troops the most important thing to accomplish their mission: A mission that should be accomplished.  Instead, they slog through another year of saving Bush’s butt.  Politics is hell.

The Freakiest Quote of All

But those still aren’t the freakiest quotes.  You see, Gaffney’s got an obvious problem in that Lincoln was trying to put down a rebellion that clearly would have ended America’s existence as we know it, and nothing like that’s happening right now.  So he has to get a little creative with the scare tactics.

I quote:
Whether we choose to recognize it or not, today as in 1863, the very "life of the nation" hangs in the balance if we fail to defeat the coming nexus of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Islamofascists.  

What the hell?  We’re trying to defeat a coming nexus of weapons?  Huh?  There’s no way he pulled that out of his own ass.  That’s like he borrowed the ass of an acid-tripping leprechaun from Mars, and even then had to embellish quite a bit.  

I mean, even if we could accept the idea that the no-nonsense Iraqis who continue to give the strongest military in the world trouble would be willing to accept Al Qaeda taking over their country (an idea we do not accept); where the hell are they getting the WMD’s from?  Remember, conservatives are now suggesting that Iraq doesn’t even have the sophistication to make decent roadside bombs.  And now we’re to believe that Iraq, as a failed state in the midst of “genocidal mayhem”, would start producing the very weapons that Saddam at his most powerful struggled to produce?  Really?

So Gaffney must be talking about other countries giving this nexus to the Islamofascists, right?  And if that’s the case, where does Iraq come into any of this?  It doesn’t.  And if anything, our adventures in Iraq are only making this more likely and don’t do a damn thing to stop it.  So if anyone’s encouraging the coming nexus, that would be Gaffney and his ilk.  That’s irony for you.

But no matter.  The only people who would possibly listen to Gaffney would already be firmly on his side, and they have no need to doubt any of this stuff.  They just need to keep being soothed with bedtime stories and people like Gaffney make a living supplying them.  But as with most conservatives, Gaffney’s not just the inventor of such soothing flim-flam; he’s also a client.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Professional Politicians

This was originally meant as a comment on my last post, but it got long and most folks don’t read my comment section, so I’ll write it out here.  Cannablog’s omnipresent Whig commented in my last post that we need “character” and “principles” in our politicians.  

But I say screw character and principles; I just want to know what these dudes are going to do for me.  Bad people can do good things and good people can do bad things.  Nice guys aren’t always the best leaders, good intentions can go horribly awry, and people with firm beliefs can be the absolute worst ones to be around.  And in reality, most people have character flaws and this isn’t black and white (except with Cheney, whose soul is pure black).  

Reagan was a nice guy and I think of decent moral character, but he had some horrible, horrible advisors who led him into taking many really lousy actions which often went against his own beliefs.  Clinton had some definite character flaws and questionable principles, but he was a decent president who did what was necessary for the job.  And don’t even get me started on Bush.  Even if he was well-principled, he’d still be stuck with the same fantasyland belief system which misled Reagan; and Bush isn’t well-principled.  He’s just a schmuck who said all the right words about character and principles, and look how far that got us.

So I say screw character and principles.  I don’t care what these politicians personally believe.  I just want to know what they’re going to do and have some yardstick for measuring that.  A politician’s job isn’t to enforce their personal morality or institute their world vision.  Their job is to represent their constituents; to represent our morality and our world vision, even if it disagrees with theirs.  

They’re our employees, not our role models.  And just as a good employee doesn’t have to mindmeld with the boss, a good politician shouldn’t have to agree with what he does or even be a good person.  As long as they can balance a budget and provide for our welfare, they can be serial killers serving from their prison cells, for all I care.  I just want the job done.

Depersonalizing the Politicos

Overall, I think we need to get a little professionalism into politics and stop making this about the politicians themselves.  So what I want is what we expect from CPA’s: Objectivity.  The ability to look past our own personal wants and preferences in order to do the job that’s expected of us.  A CPA may like his client, but that doesn’t mean they can give preferential treatment; and a nice guy CPA might be the worst one.

For CPA’s, ethics isn’t a matter of abstract principles and good intentions.  It’s about following the rules and established procedures every time.  And rather than likes, dislikes, and beliefs being admired; they’re considered problems which lead to unethical behavior.  Accounting isn’t an art; it’s a science.  Before each engagement, the CPA comes to an agreement with the client on what’s expected of them, what’s expected of the client, and a general idea of the procedures the CPA will perform.  They’re called engagement letters and have become so standardized that we even have software to write them.

And that’s all I want: An agreed upon set of actions that the politicians plan to uphold.  Not because they personally believe these things, but because it’s their job.  For legislators, that means that they write good laws that serve our interests.  For presidents, governors, and mayors, that they be able to run a government and enforce the rules efficiently.  And that’s all.  I don’t want a preacher or visionary.  I just want people who do what’s best for the people and who can explain what it is that they’re doing.

Friend for Hire

And that’s it.  That’s all I want.  They can be Mormons, or devil worshippers, or Amway salespeople; I don’t care.  I just want someone to do the job, and I want them to give us a good idea of what they’re going to do.  Not a specific plan, necessarily.  But a list of priorities, or an engagement letter, or something other than empty platitudes about the importance of character and firm beliefs.

They don’t have to be the same priorities they gave last time and I don’t care if they don’t agree with a word that they write, just as long as they do what they say they’ll do.  I want to know what we’re agreeing to before the election.  Is that too much to ask for?  Probably, but that won’t stop me from asking.  I know it’s not going to happen and was being facetious when I first wrote it.  But all the same, I’d prefer things all around if we could drop this belief in the politicians as people, and start thinking of them as professionals.

I don’t want a saint.  I just want things to work.  And if the guy who can make things work is a real bastard, then give me the bastard.  This should be a job, not a fricking popularity contest.  I’m not hiring this guy to drink a beer with me.  I’ve got people for that, and they’re much better at it than any politician I’ve seen.  I just want someone to do the job we’ve hired them for, and for them to tell us what they think the job is.  That’s not going to happen, but it certainly should.

P.S. I once did drink beer with a fairly important state senator here in Texas, and the experience weirded me out.  It’s one thing to debate this stuff as a hobby, but this was the dude’s job and it really made things awkward and personal.  I liked the guy and stayed on his good side, but he got a bit upset when a few other people in the bar started criticizing him.  He was pretty drunk at the time and really put them in their place.  And I always thought of that afterwards, every time I voted for him.  It really is weird to realize that this stuff isn’t just a game, but involves real people.  That’s why I never want to drink with a politician again. It ruins the fun.

The Belief Contract

Regarding the attempts of Romney, McCain, and Giuliani to hide some of their less than conservative moments, I say we just do away with the charade and have politicians tell us up front what they’re going to stand for each election.  Like a contract they sign beforehand, pledging to fight against Roe, balance budgets, support infinite wars, or whatever.  It could be as simple as a checklist, showing all the different issues of the day; so we could compare each politician and know what we’re getting each time.

But this isn’t some cynical ruse.  This really is how it should be.  I don’t care if a politician agrees with me.  In fact, I think they often use their “beliefs” to hide behind what they’re really planning to do; giving us empty platitudes of agreement rather than a real policy.  And that goes for Democrats as well as Republicans.  So by laying it all out for us, it gives us a better way of judging what we can expect from them each term.

So we could see a pro-choice politician promising to nominate pro-life judges (eg, Giuliani), and it would be all there in the contract for people to see.  And sure, the contract wouldn’t be enforceable, other than through the normal methods of removing politicians; though it would certainly make recall efforts a bit easier.  And this would be better than what we have now.  

Plus, it would take into account changing attitudes and allow us to pick the best politicians, regardless of where they stood on the issues in prior campaigns.  And it would do away with the fence-sitting politician who remains purposefully vague on important issues, as a way of avoiding damage to their future political career.  Instead, they could come right out on whatever issues they needed to win, and then feel free to change course when they needed to.  And while the “needed to win” thing sounds cynical, I like it.  I want politicians who are responsive to my needs and who want to please the voters.  That’s the essence of democracy.  We the People, and all that jazz.

And so this wouldn’t be about competing belief-systems duking it out under a cloud of meaningless rhetoric.   This would be about who could come up with the best contract, and give us a firm basis for deciding what we’re really voting for and how to judge their effectiveness.  And sure, I have absolutely no hope that this would ever happen, especially as it would completely destroy the Republican Party, which bases its entire platform on the wonderful personality of the people we’re choosing.  But it really is much more logical and effective for picking our leaders.  

But I guess that’s why we’ll never see it.  Not that I thought we would, but it sure does make for a nice snarky post ridiculing conservative flip-floppers.

Monday, February 19, 2007

More Flies with Sugar

In regards to My Foreign Policy Revolution, I’d like to clarify a point that has been brought up in comments: This policy is my solution for making people free.  I’m not suggesting that it’s hopeless and we just allow people to remain subjugated.  I’m saying this is the answer to that problem.  Because this is what’s always worked and nothing else has.

For as much as we talk about supporting freedom and democracy, what does that mean?  How do you go about that?  It’s my belief that we do so by including those countries into our system, selling them our goodies and buying their goodies.  And overall, showing them how great America is and why they should trust us and be like us.

And the chief aim of this is to develop multi-layered power structures in these countries.  To encourage entrepreneurship and whatnot.  That way, the evil leader doesn’t have all the strings of power.  As the economic system expands and more businesses are needed, the leader will have to rely more and more upon other people to handle everything.  And prosperity will also mean more work, and increasing wages and skills in these countries.

Soon, they’ll have a strong middle-class that will demand the freedoms that an economically impoverished people can not.  Rather than freedom being granted by the evil leader, it will be taken by the middle and upper classes, who the leader needs to satisfy.  Eventually, this will form into a democracy that could never be attained by bullets and bombs.

This is a really simplistic version of what happens, but this is how it works.  This is how we promote freedom.  Not through economic sanctions, which will always do far more harm to the people we’re trying to save; but through economic freedom.  First comes the money, then comes the power, then comes the women…or something like that.  But this really is how it works.

So rather than alienating countries and creating all kinds of pressures to make this happen, we just need to sit back, share the wealth, and watch it happen on its own.  And sure, that takes longer; but nothing else has worked.  And this has always worked…eventually.  Remember, dictators want an enemy, they want their people poor and powerless; so why are we giving it to them?  

I say we deny them this, give them their recognition and trade deals; and just wait for them to be undermined by our system.  Capitalism and democracy aren’t the best systems because people like them.  They’re the best systems because they work the best; if we’ll let them.  And we need to stop putting artificial roadblocks in the way preventing that from happening.  We do these things to punish the leaders, but we’re not pushing leaders, we’re punishing the citizens.  And it’s not working and only helps the leaders we’re trying to punish.  And it’s all arbitrary anyway, where we often coddle evil leaders who would be overthrown if we’d allow them to be.  This is insane.

I’m not suggesting that we turn a blind-eye to open genocide.  But Cuba, Iraq, North Korea, Iran, and all kinds of other hotspots are taking advantage of our lame policies by allowing us to stifle the very system we believe in.  And I can guarantee you that China’s starting to do the exact opposite; and is going to be granting more and more freedom every year.  They can’t help it.  We keep buying their shit, and they keep having to share the wealth and power their shit brings in.  This is how it works.  We need a policy that will let that work everywhere.  It will take time, but it’s the only thing that works.

By the way, this theory of mine was stolen from Isaac Asimov, and his Foundation Trilogy (which ceased being a trilogy when he screwed up by writing crappy additions in his old age).  Specifically, from the first book in the series, Foundation, which is totally awesome.  It also comes from Churchill’s History of the English Speaking People, which is quite interesting, but not nearly as fun as the Asimov.

God Wins Again: Giraffe Edition

I watched Titanic last night and as I was waking from a deep slumber this morning, I came to the sudden realization that it had disproven evolution.  That’s right: Titanic disproves evolution.  At least, as far as giraffes are concerned.  

You see, for as good as a giraffe’s neck is at preventing it from drowning, those freaky-ass things wouldn’t have made a damn bit of difference in saving any of them from dying in that ship.  So they might as well not have the necks at all.  And even if you had put every giraffe that had ever existed onto that ship, and they had gotten into the lifeboats at an equal percentage as the humans, not one of them would be alive today.  Not one.  

So what does that prove?  Ipso facto, giraffes don’t exist.  Not if Darwin had anything to say about it, anyway.  So it looks like God wins again.  It’s a crazy world and someone’s got to be blamed.  I’ll start with the scientists.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

My Foreign Policy Revolution

I don’t believe in evil. I don’t believe in evil people. I believe in actions. People aren’t bad. People do bad things. That’s a pretty straight forward statement that should illicit a “well, duh” response from any reasonable person. This isn’t a controversial concept. Love the sinner, and all that.

But what about the implications? Like for Saddam? Wasn’t he evil? Hitler? Stalin? Cheney? No. They did evil things. They were in a bad environment that allowed them to do what they did. One of Saddam’s judges was dismissed for suggesting that Saddam wasn’t a dictator, but was treated as one. But that really is correct. Saddam didn’t create the situation he was in; nor did he do it on his own. He did lots of bad things that he would have been unlikely to have done had he been raised in Iowa.

And the same with the rest of those guys: They weren’t evil. They did what they thought was acceptable to do, and I don’t really see how they could be blamed for thinking that. That’s what we all do. If any of us were born in Saddam’s place with Saddam’s mental and physical resources and environment, we would have done the exact things that Saddam did. To suggest otherwise is sheer insanity and defies any sort of logic. We’d like to believe that we’d have done things differently, but that’s utterly impossible. Had we been in his exact place, we’d be him and would have done his actions.

That’s not to suggest that we shouldn’t hold people accountable for their actions. We have no other choice. They did what they thought they should do, and we must bring upon them the unnatural consequences of those actions. We all have an expectation of how life should be, and when people take actions that aren’t punished by natural consequences, it’s necessary for us to take things into our own hands to ensure that negative consequences are doled out. Even Christians think that. They believe they have the ultimate punisher on their side, but they still insist on seeing justice served in this life first.

Social Contracts

If anyone wants to argue these points, bring it on. But you’ll only make an ass of yourself and be proven wrong all the same. Because these statements are so self-evident, once the rhetorical baggage is discarded, that they merely serve as the base for where I’m really going with all this: A reality based foreign policy. One that’s based on the Social Contract.

I believe in the Social Contract. I recently saw an absurd discussion at Carpetbagger in which a few regulars suggested that the Social Contract was invalid, because they seemed to believe that it meant that the Establishment was supposed to take care of us or something. I don’t know. But that’s not how I use it. For me, the Social Contract is just the basic idea of society. And it applies any time you’ve got a leadership situation, even if the people don’t agree to be lead. The contract might not be fair, but it’s still the contract as long as it remains in force.

And there are no guarantees. If democracy works out, great. That’s what you have. But if you need a king for protection, you’ll get one. But that king has to be able to establish that he has control, and to do that, he’s got to be able to show that he can fight better than you. There are no guarantees in government. We don’t have to be a democracy. England didn’t need a king. Iraq doesn’t have to have a dictator. It’s all about establishing that you’ve got what it takes to keep control. And if you’ve got it, then the country is yours. And the more of a jerk you are to your people, the stronger you better be to fight them off.

Enforcing the Rules

That’s how the English monarchy got established in the first place. It wasn’t a guarantee and it took a long time and a lot of fighting before it became really established. This wasn’t Arthur pulling a sword out of a stone or having some watery tart hand it to him. It was a series of dudes who could establish that they could control the country, and it took a long time.

And it was never particularly secure. Right when one king thought he had it, he’d hand it to his kid and they’d go ahead and lose it. And then they got invaded, and then there were wars and intrigue and religious quarrels. And before they knew it, it became emasculated and now is little more than a form of slave-celebrity. But all that can change. Perhaps Charles or one of his sons can somehow work their way into making it a real power position, who knows. But the more powerful they make the position, the more in danger it is; both that people will reject them or that some usurper will want it for their own. That’s the way it always is. These things work themselves out naturally.

In our democracy, the contract means that you give the people enough of what they want that they’ll allow you to retain the reins. If people feel they can trust Bush enough to give him the dictatorial powers he thinks he already has, then he can have them. But if we don’t trust him, and we don’t, then we won’t give them to him. Rather than some ironclad pact, the Constitution is little more than preapproved set of rules for handling these things. But if a player decides to not obey the rules, then we’re stuck enforcing them the hard way.

And if worse comes to worst, we’ll be stuck taking back our government by force. It’s not Bush’s or Cheney’s. It’s ours. We agree to let them run things, and they agree to do so in our best interest. But there are no guarantees. The Constitution is not a death pact, and if Cheney’s correct about the power of the presidency, then I guess we’ll just have to change the presidency. But he’s surely wrong, and we can just hope he doesn’t really try to push things as much as he’d need to in order to make this stuff stick.

Third-Party Contracts

What does this have to do with foreign policy? Because dictators and other non-democracies have these contracts too. It might not be a fair contract. Society may have made it under duress. But it’s a contract all the same. And so Saddam and Castro and Stalin all had contracts. Ones that are no less valid than that of the early English kings. It doesn’t matter that mankind sees itself as more enlightened. It isn’t. Dictators retain power using force, just as those kings did; and if you didn’t like it, then they had ways of dealing with you.

And hell, just as we do. Just try not following our laws and see how far it gets you. Try committing a little treason against our country and see how quickly you’re executed. We may have a better system for picking leaders, but that doesn’t mean that the system allows complete dissent. We may have free speech, but our actions can still be just as costly as those in a dictatorship.

And so who are we to decide which countries we recognize or whether Chavez or Castro has the policies we want? Until we get a one-world government (an idea I conditionally support), it’s not our deal. It’s not our government. We’re third parties to those contracts and we should respect them. We don’t want some punkass Iranian mullah punishing us for our democracy, so who are we to disrupt their system?

That’s not to say that we should support all of their actions. On the contrary, it’s our duty to oppose bad actions. But in fact, we’ve supported the bad actions of many bad men as part of our current foreign policy. Even worse, we’ve given explicit permission to these torturing regimes by “outsourcing” our own torture to them. Far from us having any moral authority, we’re implicitly endorsing many regimes that should otherwise be considered “evil”.

And I’m asking for none of that. People aren’t bad, but their actions are, and we should strive to put an end to them. But not by forcing them out of the system and trying to overthrow them, but by doing so within the system. And punishing a dictator’s people using embargos is certainly not the way to go. I’ve never quite understood the logic of how that’s supposed to work, but not only is it immoral, but it’s totally stupid. It doesn’t work. It only gives them more power to control their people.

Selfish Rights

And besides, our typical foreign policy is almost never really about giving people a better deal on their Social Contracts, but on making things better for us. Even when we fight for human rights, it’s often ultimately just to use as a club to get something out of them, or as an excuse for treating them badly.

And sorry to be a bore on this, but that’s just immoral. This shouldn’t be about us. This shouldn’t be about helping our allies. This should be about us doing what’s right for the people in our contract, and leaving it at that. And seeing as how our typical punishment policies haven’t done us many favors and we’re already supporting regimes who do bad things to people; we might as well do the right thing. Which is nothing. Or at least nothing like what we do now.

And this is in contrast to what has been traditionally viewed as the “realist” position; which still involves coddling some dictators in order to help us fight against other leaders or groups we don’t like. Because even the “realist” policies are fairly unrealistic in terms of expecting other countries to bend to our will and helping us out. In fact, too often the “realist” position involves us bending over and allowing penny-ante dictators to screw us over and dictate their demands to us. And that’s just absurd and bad foreign policy.

I say we get out of that business all together and take the long view on everything. We don’t have to see nationwide revolutions in four years or a decade or our lifetime. I’m talking loooong view. Any student of history knows what I’m talking about. Rome wasn’t built in a lifetime.

My Foreign Policy

So what’s my foreign policy: To accept the fact that every country’s leader is whoever can reasonably claim authority over it. That doesn’t mean we accept the People’s Judean Front when the People’s Front of Judea might have a better claim, but at this point, Castro’s the damn leader of Cuba. I know that’s a pretty controversial statement for anyone trying to win Florida’s precious electoral votes, but it’s simply undeniable. And frankly, I fear for what will happen once Castro dies and these people start thinking they’ll get all their beachfront property back in Havana (I honestly don’t care if that’s geographically impossible, I just wanted a quickie joke that didn’t require research).

Castro got control of his country using his own countrymen and has been able to retain it. So we need to deal with that. He’s in control. Saddam was in control. The Mullah’s have Iran. The Saudi Monarchy has Saudi Arabia. And while the Windsors don’t exactly “control” England, they sure do get a helleva lot of perks out of the place. That’s just the way things are. It’s all a mad, mad game of King of the Hill, and as long as they’re the king, I say it’s none of our business if they keep the hill.

So let’s just go with it. Acknowledge that they’re the leader. Sell our shit to them. Try to woo them over with our blue jeans and rock & roll, rather than with threats and bullets. And tying this back into the beginning, that we treat them like people who do bad things but aren’t evil. If anything, we can do a better job of pressuring them as their buddies, than as their enemies. And if nothing else, too many people have been tortured by these evil f-ers, merely because we used them for our own purposes. Our foreign policy for the last six decades has gotten people tortured, raped, amputated, and killed; and those were the people we liked. It’s about time we really did something sensible for a change.

Real Realism

Most of our policies aren’t designed to stop torture or help other countries. They’re cynical policies designed to help ourselves. And by “ourselves”, I mean the greedheads who finance our politicians; often to the determent of most Americans. We’ve demonized the leaders who won’t work with our monied interests, and lionized the ones who will. And that’s just wrong. By accepting the bad leaders and incorporating them into the system, we do far more to help their people in the long run than our cynical selfishness can ever achieve.

Realism doesn’t have to mean cynicism and greed, and idealism doesn’t have to mean we stick our noses in everyone’s business. A grown-up foreign policy is to realize that some things work themselves out, and that the worst thing you can do is try to interfere. And when our economic power continues to empower the people of the world, those leaders will find themselves forced to share the growing power their country wields.

We just need to give things time, and allow people to see how wonderful democracy can be. Not by bombing the shit out of them and depriving them of our goodies; but showing them how much better things can be. It’s the only thing that’s ever really worked, and I’ve seen nothing to indicate it will stop working now. We just need to make it our permanent policy; rather than the accidental one it’s been so far. It worked in Germany, Japan, Russia, Europe, and here in America. I see no reason to believe it will stop now.

Update: Addendum added here, More Flies with Sugar

Friday, February 16, 2007

Lameducking the President

I just read a story from US News & World Report about how former Bush aides are saying “the administration is deep into lame-duck status,” and I was thinking about how weird that is.  For me, a president should be at his strongest when he doesn’t have to worry about elections anymore and can do any damn thing he wants.  But instead, we read about how the Bush admin is just shutting down, as if things are already over.

But it’s not just Bush.  I remember the same kind of aura around Clinton, as if the president becomes pointless after his final mid-term election.  And while Clinton was never as insignificant as Bush seems to be getting, there was certainly a lame-duckness on him towards the end.  And again, that makes no sense to me, as it should be exactly the opposite.

But then one line in the story got me, and it started making more sense to me.  It was when a former Bush communications advisor said “Nobody's paying attention to them. That's why the press and Washington is already so focused on the 2008 race. It's over.

But I think he’s got it backwards.  The press isn’t focused on 2008 because Bush is a lame-duck.  He’s a lame-duck because the press is focused on 2008.  And the reason is simple: These people don’t care about politics, as much as they care about the horserace.  Which is why most election coverage sounds far more like a sports story than a political story.  

And so when they cover politics, it’s always in regards to who’s going to win and how each event is going to impact the upcoming race.  And after a president’s second mid-term, there are no more upcoming races for them; and so they get left behind as everyone keeps focusing on the next race.  Imagine a star baseball player who retires but continues to practice with the team for spring training.  People will discuss him in terms of how the team will replace him, but they’re no longer interested in what he’ll be doing for the team.  His injuries and training are no longer important and he’ll be relegated to personal interest stories, assuming they write about him at all.

Even with Clinton, I suspect that the reason he remained as significant as he was was primarily due to the drama that always surrounded him.  Sure, he used the spotlight to push his policy agenda; which was partially designed to distract from his personal woes; but it was his personal woes that kept him in the media spotlight, and thus allowed him to remain significant.  

And even as much as Bush is covered in the media, it’s only as far as the scandals and blunders go, and his ability to hide them.  Were Iraq to have ended disastrously last year, it’s doubtful that Bush would be given even as much media attention as he gets already.  Without the horserace, there really is much the media likes to talk about.  They don’t really like politics and are bored with policy.  But elections are endless fun.  The moment one ends, they’re already discussing the next one.

And so that’s what makes the president a lame-duck.  It begins after the re-election, and solidifies after the second mid-term.  Everyone’s so focused on the next election that the president gets forgotten about.  Not that I’d prefer for a president to act as a loose-cannon in his final two years (especially not Bush, who wasn’t such a tight cannon to begin with); but I’d prefer if the media could restrain its sports coverage of elections enough to allow our elected leaders to finish their terms.  Apparently, a president in the woods without a press corp just isn’t really the president.

Fighting Government Greed

Guest Post by Doctor Snedley, Personal Assistant to Doctor Biobrain

In a perfect liberal world, everyone would just read the headlines and pretend that the rest of the article provided some sort of proof of the wild claims made in the headline.  Or maybe they’d skim the headlines looking for a story that interested them and then read the story to uncover details that were suggested in the headline.  And then what?  And then nothing.  They’d just absorb the “story” and “facts” being told by the journalist and move on to the next story.  Sound familiar?

But what about what the reporter didn’t write about?  What about the details that didn’t get mentioned?  Like this wild headline: Auditors: Billions squandered in Iraq.  

Now what does that suggest to you?  It suggests that we wasted a whole bunch of money fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq and how we need to punish Bush for it.  As if Bush wasted that money.  Forget about the fact that Bush was nowhere near Iraq when that money got squandered; everything’s his fault because some lib journalist says it is.  And why?  Because some contractor was smart enough to outwit some dumb government employee.  Like Bush invented fraud or something.

Geography 101

And if you read the article, you don’t get a much different picture.  Like this sentence: So far, the Bush administration has spent more than $350 billion on the Iraq war and reconstruction effort.

The Bush Administration spent??  The Bush Administration spent??  I don’t know what planet this reporter is from, but on my planet the Bush Administration is headquartered in a little place called Washington D.C., in a building called The White House.  And unless my online correspondence courses have let me down, The White House isn’t even close to Iraq.  Easily a thousand miles apart.  And they get their own budget with their own spending parameters.  And none of that includes Iraq.  So unless the “Bush Administration” has figured out some way to spend money a thousand miles away, I think this reporter has got some splainin’ to do.

And what’s the “so far” bit all about?  It’s not enough that they accuse the Bush Administration of spending money that they clearly never touched.  But there’s that lead-in to suggest that they’ll be spending a whole bunch more.  As if it’s impossible that Al Qaeda might just finally decide to give-up and announce they were going back to the sand dunes they arose from.  Or that there was just no way that everything in Iraq could fix itself tomorrow and start pumping that “wasted” money right back to us.  No.  In liberal-weirdo reporterland, everything in Iraq is unsolvable and will keep getting worse.  And it’s no wonder things are so bad, with that attitude.

And that’s the way the whole thing is written.  The headline suggests that lots of money is wasted in Iraq, and the article gives details which back-up that claim.  In fact, there isn’t even one fact in the article that doesn’t back-up that claim.  Pretty suspicious, huh.

The Big Picture

But what’s missing from this story?  What else: The Big Picture.  Sure, lots of money was wasted in Iraq and there weren’t proper controls and lots of fraud occurred.  But what did they expect?  Conservatives have been railing against government regulations for the past forty years.  Did they think we were joking?  Did they think we only meant that we didn’t like it when liberals enforced the rules?  Hell no.  We’re against all government red-tape and “regulations” and “oversight” and all that other mean and nasty stuff the liberals invented to stifle the human spirit.

Yet this article makes no mention of that at all, but instead makes it seem as if this was a sign that something went wrong.  But this isn’t wrong.  This was the plan, and the plan has worked magnificently.  $350 billion spent in Iraq, and the government has only been able to pinpoint a mere 3% of that as fraud.  Back in the day, they’d have found much more fraud than that.  Hell, they might have stopped it before it even happened.  But instead, most of this fraud got off scot-free; in some cases, it was totally untraceable.  That’s the free-market at its finest.

And lest you think that this fraud somehow conflicts with conservative demands for fiscal responsibility, then you just haven’t been paying attention.  Because what that lib reporter failed to mention (as he was told to fail to mention, no doubt), was that all that oversight costs money.  This reporter would have you believe that government oversight is performed by pixies with magic adding machines who work for nothing but the joy of stifling entrepreneurs.  But reality gives us an entirely different picture: Jack-booted accountants who would rather spit in a business’s eye than to look the other way to help them prosper.  Typical.

Begetting Wealth

According to some estimates, traditional government oversight functions in Iraq would have cost ten or fifteen times as much as the amount that was “wasted” in Iraq.  That’s using the old-school liberal oversight techniques.  So they would have tossed-away $100 billion just to save a meager $10 billion. Now that changes the picture quite a bit, doesn’t it?  Rather than these government contractors being part of some Bush conspiracy to turn the American taxpayer into some sort of cash cow, we see them instead as heroes, helping save $10 for every dollar they take.  That’s real money, my friend.  Is it any wonder that the reporter failed to mention this?

But the savings don’t stop there.  Rather than this money going to some faceless bureaucrat to toss down the moneyhole; this money goes to contractors who really know how to use it.  They don’t toss it away or stuff it in a fatcat mattress in Washington.  Hell no.  In their hands, this money filters on down the chain, ending up in the pockets of subcontractors and cronies.  It becomes kickbacks and bribes, and swimming pools and yachts.  It accumulates interest and purchases competitors.  This money is put to work.   And whatever’s leftover?  Right back into GOP coffers, where it kicks off the whole cycle all over again.  And that’s the sweetest part of all: Wealth begets wealth.

So let the liberals have their biased media, and damning headlines, and facts that would make any good liberal scream in disgust; and we’ll keep showing them what capitalism is really about.  It’s not about stealing money from taxpayers or forcing honest businessmen to follow “rules” that were only intended to make them dishonest in the first place.  And it’s certainly not about soulless bureaucrats pushing pencils and redtape.  This is about good, old-fashioned money making; and that’s exactly what made our country so great.  

And in that context, George Bush isn’t some incompetent flake with an out of control war; he’s an economic mastermind with the guts to make it work.  And the proof of the rightness of that is evidenced by the fact that no liberal reporter would ever write about it.  They can have their bias; I’ll take the cash.  Proud to be an American!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Keeping the Murder Option

Ezra had a good response to Ken Baer, who had suggested that Iran experts are unanimous in their opinion that we should keep the military option on the table in regards to Iran.  Ezra went ahead and demolished that argument by highlighting many experts who clearly did not agree with that.

And I went ahead and wrote a comment on this (which I swear Atrios stole), in which I stated why the whole “off the table” discussion was entirely wrong.  And being short on time, I’ll just reprint what I wrote:

The whole "options" thing is a big game anyhow. Every option is always on the table with every country, always. The question is whether we want to state that it's on the table or not. By doing so, we're sending a very specific signal about what our intentions are. Particularly with the crew in the Whitehouse now, who have clearly proven that even "last resorts" are often the only option they'll choose.

Imagine if someone went around loudly announcing that they will kill anyone who tries to kill them. Sure, that option is always available to them, but it's a fairly hostile message to be sending people. And it's the same thing with Iran. This isn't about real options. This is about messages. And I'd prefer to not send Iran the same message that we sent to Iraq; ie, that we will attack them no matter what they do.

Only the neo-cons believe that diplomacy should begin with explicit threats. But then again, neo-cons are convinced that diplomacy is a fraud. And in their hands, it is.

Getting back from lunch, I realized I had already written about this before.  So I searched my archives and found this post from August 2006: Peaceniks v. Warnicks.  

It was about a column by uber-putz Martin Pertez and his criticism of Ned Lamont for criticizing Lieberman for “keeping the military option on the table” in regards to Iran.  In essence, Peretz was suggesting that Lamont was being simplistic for wanting a nuanced diplomatic solution to dealing with Iran, rather than preferring Lieberman’s complex “kill em all” policy.  

It’s a long post, but a fairly decent one and you might want to visit it if you want a sad reminder on why the wrong man won in Connecticut.  And here we are, six months later, being told yet again why it’s so important to scare Iran.  I’ll leave you with a little piece of advice I wrote in that earlier post.

If anyone ever starts a conversation with you by stating that they retain the right to kill you, you probably should try to end the conversation as quickly as possible.  Oh, and if you’re in a job interview and suggest that you always keep the murder option on the table, you’re probably not getting the job.  But I really shouldn’t have had to tell you that.


Welcome crooks and liars!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Moment of Truth Moment

Speaking of the impending doom of the Republican Party, Atrios says:
There's this sense that at any moment the damn will burst and they'll all be fighting over who hates Bush the most, but it hasn't happened yet.

I’ve read enough books on Watergate to know that this is exactly how things went for Nixon.  It was obvious that he was going down, but it just never seemed to happen.  Or that everything seemed to move in slow motion, and the surer you became that he was going down, the more it seemed he never would.  And before you knew it, it was over and he was gone, and everything kept on going as if the slow-mo hadn’t happened at all.  I was just a baby when all this happened, but the books certainly convey that idea fairly well.

Even on the day that Nixon planned to resign, they kept up a brave face and pretended to be on top of the world.  They even went so far as to prepare a sham speech as a head-fake on why Nixon was making a speech.  While Nixon’s resignation was entirely predictable, the actual event was still a surprise; including to many on the Whitehouse staff.  And before that, Nixon played things so close to the vest that even his closest advisors feared he might not step down even if he had been impeached.

And I think this is the advantage of the Nixon-Cheney denial system.  Never admit defeat.  Never show a hint of weakness.  Even at your lowest point, continue to show strength and pretend as if you’re always on the verge of crushing your foes and laughing on their graves.  And it works.  Especially as it’s very disconcerting and their foes have to stay a little on the defensive, even at their strongest.

People keep expecting Republicans to have their Moment of Truth moment, where they finally confess to everything, hang their head in shame, and wait for the bailiff to slap on the handcuffs and escort them out the door.  But that just isn’t going to happen.  Nixon held off his Moment of Truth moment until death.  As will the rest of the Nixon gang.  Even in their tell-alls, they never told all.  Even as born-agains, they were still the same crooks.  The rats went in their own direction when the ship finally went down, but they all continued to hold firm on the general principle that they hadn’t deserved what they got.

And it worked.  To this day, most Republicans will insist that Watergate was a “third-rate burglary,” despite the fact that that was a laughable phrase when it was first uttered and only got funnier over time.  My mom insists that G. Gordon Liddy masterminded the whole thing based on a misunderstanding and that Nixon got a bum rap for everything; and she was an adult at the time it all happened.  But she’s heard Liddy give his story and she’s sticking to it.

And that involved a case where we’ve got Nixon on tape admitting to stuff, and we know a whole lot more than that.  So we really shouldn’t expect some huge explosion while everyone gets out the long knives for Bush.  It ain’t going to happen.  Not unless he drops the charade and finally confesses to everything.  But unless we can get Perry Mason out of retirement, that ain’t going to happen.

But fear not.  Despite the fact that Nixon never confessed, and that wingnuts will remember him as a martyr unfairly smeared by a liberal cabal; the damage was done.  Nixon will always be remembered as a stain on the presidency and the damage done to Republicans was both immediate and long-term.  His stonewalling was enough to fool some of the people all of the time, but most of the people still know he’s a crook.

Even now, much of the Bush Administration’s activities can be seen as a desperate attempt to resurrect Nixon’s infamous legacy.  And that includes some of their biggest mistakes and worst habits.  And they’re failing now as they failed then.  We might not get our big Moment of Truth, but the truth will come out all the same.  

Dishonoring Abe

I’m going to start off today’s post with a prescient quote from a little known man you may have heard of…MR. ABRAHAM LINCOLN!!!

When I was a young man, we were always taught that the stupidest kind of fools were the Republican wingnuts who quoted any old damn thing and pretended it was the Word of God simply because it confirmed a position they wanted to hear.  Yet if it perchance to be a statement they wouldn’t want to hear, they would make a pillory of the quote as if it had come from the Devil himself.  Those, my friends and countrymen, are the people we are to murder.
--- President Abraham Lincoln

Well that’s it.  We win.  I mean, who is going to argue with Abraham Lincoln?  Sure, that really doesn’t sound like Abraham Lincoln, and his attack on Republican wingnuts does seem a little dubious; Lincoln being a Republican and everything.  But it was attributed to him, so I guess that wraps things up and we can begin murdering these fools; per Abe’s instructions.

And sure, I made it up.  It’s not a real Lincoln quote at all, but rather one I placed into his mouth because it made it a lot more weighty.  But isn’t it the kind of thing that Lincoln might have said?  Of course.  Because we all know that Lincoln hated stupid fools who placed too much importance on historical figures and wanted them all murdered.  Sure, he never actually said that either, but you can read it between the lines.  He couldn’t outright say this stuff, but it’s there.  Trust me.

Blaming the Editors

And I’m still joking.  This is all based upon a catch from the unsinkable Roger Ailes of a wingnut meme that they refuse to fact check, due to the fact that they want so badly to believe that it’s true.  

Here it is, a quote invented “accidentally” by J. Michael Waller, a writer of Insight magazine:
Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged.

And that’s just crap.  What a dumb quote.  That doesn’t even sound like Lincoln at all, and is extremely dubious.  But when you’re a wingnut and you want something to be true, it is true, at least until someone brings it to your attention with undeniable proof.  But by then, the quote’s already infected enough other wingnuts to keep it going forever. destroyed that quote in August of 2006, yet it continues to be cited by influential wingnuts over half a year later.

Waller has admitted that he was the source of the quote, but insists that it was an editor who put quotes around it to make it sound like it came from Lincoln.  But even if we rewrite his quote according to what he says he wrote, it still isn’t much better.  

Here’s my guess as to what the dude says he wrote in 2003:
Congressmen who willfully take action during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs, and should be arrested, exiled or hanged, that's what President Abraham Lincoln said during the Civil War.

I should note that, although Waller says he wrote “Civil War” the “editor” of Insight changed it to “War Between the States”.  These people are so childish.  I should also mention that Waller says that between December 2003 when he wrote it and August 2006 when Factcheck asked him about it, nobody questioned him about the quote.  He says he asked Insight to run a correction of it immediately, but they wouldn’t.  And the editor of Insight wouldn’t even take or cast the blame on how this quote was created.  Thus is our conservative media: Nobody’s to blame, and no attempt at correction.  Kind of like a certain presidential administration I know.

Jockeying Defeatism

And Roger cites two examples of this accidental quote being used.  The first was Frank J. Gaffney Jr., who wrote a commentary in the Washington Times yesterday which used the Lincoln quote as a springboard to denounce Democrats in Congress.  Gaffney thinks it’s bizarro that “scarcely anyone seems to consider the conduct of the Congress inappropriate,” while Lincoln so clearly disapproved of his critics.  He also complains about Dems who “jockey to outbid one another in their defeatism.

And just to show how wise Gaffney is, I’ll give you this little treasure from the same piece:
Doug Feith is an old friend of mine. He is among the most thoughtful, careful and conscientious public servants I have ever known. The only truly "inappropriate" behavior evident is the ongoing effort led by Sens. Levin and Rockefeller to impugn the integrity, quality and, yes, the appropriateness of policymakers' efforts to ensure that far-reaching national security decisions are made on the basis of the best information available.


The second citation is from The Strata-Sphere blog, where the wingnut updates his praise of the quote by informing us that it was fictitious.  But in doing so, he repeatedly denounces a liberal blogger who caught his mistake and insulted him for it.  In fact, Mr. Sphere would have given a sincere thanks to the “foul mouthed childish liberal nut,” if “the poor sap had shown some maturity”.  

That’s right.  The lib nut was foul mouthed, so that makes it perfectly acceptable to insult the guy, even though the “emotionally stunted blogger” was correct and Mr. Sphere was totally wrong.  But at least Sphere wasn’t foul-mouthed about his repeated insults; and that makes all the difference.  That’s maturity for you.

Unimpeachable Sources

And that takes us into our final chapter: How conservatives insist on taking a person’s authority to be more important than what the person is saying.  In this case, Mr. Sphere insists that we can’t argue with Abe Lincoln because he’s Abe Fricking Lincoln.

Mr. Sphere, Mr. Gaffney, and all the other wingnuts who have used that quote insist that it is proof of something, because it came from Lincoln.  But that’s entirely backwards.  Because there are lots of quotes from lots of famous and weighty people which entirely contradict what wingnuts believe.  Why don’t they consider those quotes to be definitive?  Because the quotes don’t support their position.  

In fact, as suggests, it’s more likely that Lincoln believed the exact opposite of what this quote suggests.  Does that mean that wingnuts everywhere will start supporting the right to dissent?  Of course not.  It means, back to the drawing board; trying to find some other quote to use.  Because it wasn’t the weight of the person that made it important; but what the person said.  And that’s how this is supposed to work.  It was only when they then flip this around and insist that it’s Lincoln’s importance that makes the quote better that they lose it.  

But in fact, the lame quote attributed to Lincoln isn’t even a persuasive argument, but rather a conclusion.  Had it been an explanation of why such a policy was necessary, it could have been a weighty statement.  But that’s not what the wingnuts wanted.  They got a conclusion they wanted to hear, saw that it was supposedly spoken by somebody important, and then insisted that they had finally found the civil liberties-busting proof they’ve been waiting for.  

Because they don’t do arguments; they do conclusions.  For them, an argument is nothing but a conclusion waiting to happen.  And so to find out that Lincoln wanted to hang morale-busting congressmen puts perspective on our own inaction at stopping our morale-busters.  And now that the statement has been shown to be written by a no-name conservative, it’s lost its luster and will be tossed into the anti-lib scrapheap.  They only found Lincoln unimpeachable because they liked the quote; but the quote was only useful if it came from Lincoln.  That’s irony for you.

Blessed be the Deceivers

And we see this again, when he gives his excuse for how he made this embarrassing mistake.  It’s not his fault you see.  As he says “I cannot fact check the news media.”  Of course not.  I suppose Rathergate and all those boneheaded assertions of media malfeasance are entirely aberrations.  And the fact that his source for this was an opinion piece in a newspaper with an explicit rightwing bias was all the more reason to not bother checking its authenticity.

But again, it wasn’t that.  All it was is that Mr. Sphere saw a quote he liked and didn’t care whether it was real.  Its realness was entirely supported by his desire for it to be real.  Same goes with Gaffney and all the other wingnuts who cite it.  Sure, a ten second search on Google brings up the Factcheck piece almost immediately, but why would anyone want to search for something that undermined their argument?  That’s like aiding and abetting the enemy without them even knowing about it.

But this is a constant theme with conservatives: Their desire to find quotes they like which are then considered unimpeachable due to the fact that they want the quote to be true.  But somehow, they never see it like that.  They don’t obey every word that Lincoln, Washington, or Jefferson say; but if they find a quote they like, they’ll treat it as Gospel.  Hell, they don’t even follow the Gospel like Gospel; but only pick the parts they like and ignore the rest.

But that doesn’t stop their deception-loving minds in its ability to deceive them yet again about the importance of any of it.  At Sphere’s blog, almost every one of his commenters were proud to trumpet the Lincoln quote as definitive proof that Dems need to be treated more harshly.  As do all other wingnuts who read it.  And they’ll all insist that it’s Lincoln’s authority that makes it true; as the quote doesn’t even approximate a valid argument.  And I can guarantee you that exactly 0% of those readers will reconsider their position, now that the quote’s been exposed as fraudulent.  Nor will they allow Lincoln’s authority to override their position, even though it’s likely that Lincoln believed the opposite of them.  

It was only because they liked the conclusion that they considered the source to be impeccable.  And I have no doubt they’ll continue their quest for the unimpeachable proof forever.  Perhaps someday, future wingnuts will have the glorious words of President Bush and Vice-Lord Cheney to vindicate their authoritarian bent.  But until then, they’ll just have to satisfy themselves with the knowledge that they are so entirely right about everything that they don’t even require any proof.  Which is quite convenient, as they never seem to find any.

Forcing the Surge

Greg Sargent at TPM Election has a post on how dopehead GOP Reps. John Shadegg and Peter Hoekstra wrote a letter telling Republican congressmen to avoid defending the “surge” in Congress, but to focus instead on the threat posed by radical Islamists (how original).  And it’s just too hilarious that this kind of thing got out.  After all, there’s no better way to undermine your argument than to have a memo leak-out that shows that you didn’t even want to make it in the first place.

And my god are these guys dumb.  I mean sure, there are probably quite a few congressmen quite relieved to be given marching orders of any kind, as they’re just not good at handling this stuff on their own.  But there’s got to be at least a few Republican Congressmen and staffers who really do believe in this shit.  They believe in the surge and the rightness of what America’s doing in Iraq, and for Shadegg and Hoekstra to insist that these are indefensible ideas that are traps set by the Democrats has got to sting.  

Democrats could have said this stuff until they were blue in the face and these rightwingers would have called them anti-American.  But to have a trickster-sounding memo from two Republican congressmen insist that the surge-debate is a sure loser for them; that’s got to hurt.  Republicans didn’t use to make these kinds of mistakes.

Baby Steps

The other point I wanted to make is how shallow these people are, and how they think we’re just like them.  I quote:
Democrats want to force us to focus on defending the surge, making the case that it will work and explaining why the President's new Iraq policy is different from prior efforts and therefore justified.

Is that really why the Dems are doing this?  To make the Republicans defend it?  I thought they were doing it because they opposed the surge.  Or to take things more broadly, that they opposed Bush’s War.  Or if you wanted to be cynical, that they want Bush’s War to be lost so they can pin it on the GOP forever.

But even at its most cynical, this isn’t about forcing the Republicans to defend anything.  I don’t know about you, but I’d be perfectly happy if Republicans embraced an anti-surge position.  Screw the non-binding resolution; I’ll gladly let them stop the surge right now.  Or the whole war, for that matter.  And they can keep the credit for themselves  And if they got around to helping us impeach Bush and Cheney, I might even consider voting for them some day.

Because for as much as congressional Dems are playing a game, it’s a game to stop Bush’s dangerous actions.  And it’s a game that Republicans are forcing us to play.  It’d be best if we could outright stop Bush’s war, but that’s just not how the deck is stacked right now.  While things are clearly swinging to our side, it’s still necessary to take baby steps with this stuff.  Nixon wasn’t toppled in a day, and it’s often best to slowly build your support than to assume you’ve got it and be wrong.

But again, this isn’t about the debate or making Republicans look stupid.  And we certainly don’t want them defending the surge.  That’s the way they play things.  Those are their games.  They’re the ones who will rewrite any bill until it becomes unpalatable to most Democrats.  They’re the ones who make phony rhetorical arguments to trap their opponents into defending bad positions.  That’s how they did so well in the past, and why all hell has finally caught up with them.  

And we’re the ones who want to finally bring all that to an end. Because that’s what this is about.  We’re not doing this for the sake of cheap political theater.  We’re trying to save America.  And that’s clearly something that Republicans have shown themselves incapable of doing.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Dopes in Suits

Wowwiewow!  That’s dumb.  Hullabaloo’s Poputonian cites a Hardball transcript featuring Congressman Cantor of Virginia, the man I hope is the dumbest person in Congress.  I hope…

Sample quote:
…the Constitution gives the commander in chief the right to send our troops into battle.

When his Democratic counterpart, Congressman Israel (D-Sanity) insisted that the Constitution clearly gives Congress the authority to declare war, Cantor responds “Absolutely not.”

Ok, the guy’s clearly dumb.  This is basic stuff that would get him laughed out of any history or civics class, even going down to the elementary school level.  But he does have a point.  Presidents do seem to be taking these authorities on their own, while using Congress as a rubberstamp for whatever they do; so it makes sense why he’s confused.  But that rubberstamp shouldn’t be confused with a non-existent one, which is what Cantor seems to believe.  As if asking Congress’s permission is a mere nicety, rather than a requirement.

But I suspect that this is how they’re trained.  The Republican leadership didn’t want smart Congressmen who ask questions.  They want dopes who can raise money and win office.  And they do that by doing what they’re told and saying what they’re told to say.  That’s a big reason why Republicans were so successful.  Because they recruited dopes in suits who wanted to be told what to say and do.

And so that’s what they do, and that goes from everyone from minor Republicans in state legislatures all the way up to the big guy in the Whitehouse.  Not that every Republican politician is like that, but mainly the new guys who gained office in the last decade or so.  Wikipedia tells me that Congressman Cantor was first elected to Congress in 2000, which I don’t find surprising at all.  He’s typical of the post-9/11 Congressman.

What I do find slightly surprising is that Cantor is a lawyer, which you’d think would make him a little more aware of how our Constitution was set-up.  But looking at his picture, he seems just like the empty suit kind of guy who could say and believe anything he’d need to in order to get by in life.  Whether it’s a law class, the bar exam, or a television interview; he doesn’t care what he says, he just wants something to say.

And so the Republicans fed him all kinds of stupid stuff to say, and he’s saying it; completely oblivious to how utterly stupid it makes him look.  Before his bizarro lesson in separation of powers, Cantor continued to miscomprehend Chris Matthews’ question about whether he thought we should go to war in Iran, before finally blowing Matthews’ mind by insisting that the decision was up to the “commanders on the ground and those in our military…”

But I don’t think he meant that at all.  He had a talking point, but wasn’t really sure how to use it.  And he used it horribly.  The same with his belief that the President has the authority to declare war.  It’s not necessarily that he believes that.  He was just misusing a talking point that he doesn’t really understand.  Frankly, I almost think it’s better to have this dope in Congress, than to allow him to continue lawyering in the real world.  After all, he’s just one vote in Congress, but in private practice, he’s a loose cannon.

But this isn’t just Cantor, but all the empty suits the Republicans have been filling for the past decade or so.  Especially the empty suit in the Whitehouse.  They don’t understand what they’re saying.  They’re so dumb they don’t even understand that they don’t understand.  They repeat what their betters tell them and just imagine themselves to be the cleverest people in the world.  It’s like they’ve been handed their own team of math nerds to cheat off of all the time.  Finally, someone’s giving them the answers they’ve been waiting for.  

Just like Bush and The Pet Goat; these people are helpless little nobodies unless they’re told what to do.  Not to be given orders, per se.  But to have all the infinite options paired down to a small list of two or three; and one of the options must look obviously better than the others.  They don’t want to be told what to do, but they hate choices and haven’t the intellect to make heads or tails of what’s going on around them.  But explain it to them in black and white, tell them that they have or haven’t powers that they do or don’t want; and they can take it from there and imagine themselves to be deciders.

“I like good,” so they choose good.  “I don’t want to make that decision,” so they give it to somebody else.  It’s that easy.  And I understand that and do it myself.  At a restaurant or an ice cream parlor.  If I make the decision to have a banana split, I hate having to decide what ice creams will go on it, or what toppings go on my waffle cone.  I’ll just screw it up.  Limit my options; I’ll go with what the experts say.  

And unfortunately, we’re led by people who are stuck doing the same with our country’s future.  They’re helpless little kids who were never given the tools to allow them to grasp reality on their own; and that’s exactly why the Republican leadership picked them.  They were just empty suits ready to be filled.  And they looove the talking points; even if they don’t know how to use them.