Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Foiling God's Plan

One of the positive aspects of religion is that it teaches people to think outside of their own tiny existence, and focus a little on the Big Picture; so that they see things beyond their own specific perspective.  Not that that's any guarantee, as many religious people merely translate their own specific perspective onto their god's, and insist that their goals are identical to their god's.  But still, even that's a start.

And so it can be somewhat encouraging to see a stupid person applying their concept of this bigger picture onto their own policies, as demonstrated by crackpot Senate nominee Sharron Angle in this radio interview from January:
Manders: I, too, am pro life but I'm also pro choice, do you understand what I mean when I say that.

Angle: I'm pro responsible choice. There is choice to abstain choice to do contraception. There are all kind of good choices.

Manders: Is there any reason at all for an abortion?

Angle: Not in my book.

Manders: So, in other words, rape and incest would not be something?

Angle: You know, I'm a Christian and I believe that God has a plan and a purpose for each one of our lives and that he can intercede in all kinds of situations and we need to have a little faith in many things.
And first off, please note the childish rewriting of what "pro-choice" might mean, showing Angle to have all the flair of a clever fourth-grader riffing on a variation of the rubber-glue paradigm.

But seriously, I do like her use of God's Plan here, because it really does show some signs of mental maturity.  It's about thinking outside of our immediate goals and desires, and enters a theoretical realm in which we attempt to comprehend the workings of an omniscient being.  And no, I'm not suggesting this is some novel idea for Angle, but merely noting that she's engaging in a slightly higher level of thinking than your average numbnut. 

The Bigger Picture

But of course, Angle lacks the ability to think this through any further.  Because, yes, perhaps the impregnation of a rape victim is part of God's Plan.  But why stop there?  Wouldn't the subsequent abortion also be part of God's Plan?  Of course it is.  How could it be otherwise?

In fact, if we believe that God has a plan, then it must be argued that everything we do is part of God's Plan.  How could it be otherwise?  To suggest that a mere mortal could conceivably screw with God's Plan is shear blasphemy and must be unthinkable by any true believer. 

So if God truly wanted a rape victim to give birth, he not only could have used the virgin birth option (thus sparing her the rape), but he could have foiled the abortion doctor.  Or...he could have changed the mind of the victim, making her choose life; something he did repeatedly in the bible.   And if he didn't do any of these things and allowed the woman to abort the fetus, then this surely was part of his plan.

And so, while Angle scores point for at least considering the idea that there's a Big Picture; she definitely loses major points for not considering how much bigger that picture is than her own.  Because once we start considering the idea of God having a plan, we're stuck acknowledging that nothing can possibly be outside of that plan.  It simply can't happen.  If you think that everything happens for a reason, that means every thing; not just the things you want to happen.

If God has a plan to have rape victims give birth, he must have planned for when they abort.  Perhaps that's God's way of getting babies in Heaven, I don't know.  But of course, I don't know any of this stuff, which is why I'm agnostic.  When thinking about questions only gives you more questions, it's time to give up and start finding questions you can answer.  I suspect Sharron Angle doesn't often see those sort of questions.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hezbollah in Mexico

I keep hearing from anti-Obama lefties about how Democrats are really no better than Republicans, and we'd be better off supporting third parties in order to teach Dems a lesson.  And then I see stories about how a Republican Congresswoman from NC thinks Hezbollah's partnering with Mexican drug cartels to sell them digging lessons, and a Congressman in Texas who imagines that terrorists are creating anchor-terror babies to destroy us in twenty years, and a likely Senate winner from KY who thinks we should be protected by an underground electric fence the full length of the Mexican border.

And then I think, what Republican Party are they talking about?  Do they even know what actual Republicans think, or are they so concerned with sell-out Democrats that they're just not paying attention to the other side?  Because these are the people they'll be putting in charge if we don't support the Democrats.  No longer will we be discussing how much Democrats have to compromise with themselves while weakening much needed reforms.  We'll be talking about anchor babies, and flag-burning amendments, and government implanted microchips, and Hezbollah in Mexico.  And that's when they're not cutting taxes, government services, and the sparse regulations we have protecting us now.

And I'm sorry, but those are our two choices: Do we want a sell-out party that doesn't give us everything we want, or do we want a bat-shit crazy party that will spend millions upon millions to investigate Obama's every move, while banning SCOTUS from hearing any issue related to religion?  Anyone who doesn't realize this just isn't paying attention.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Getting High on Your Own Supply-Side

Carpetbagger's got a post titled Republicans Just Don't Like the Unemployed, Cont'd..., which is pretty self-explanatory, as well as an earlier post in which he wrote:
It's unpleasant to think about, and I really hope it's not true, but it may be time for a discussion about whether GOP lawmakers are trying to deliberately sabotage the economy to help their midterm election strategy.
And this was later followed by a post about how Senator Stabenow (winner of this year's award for Worst Name in Senate), who outright said:
It is very clear that the Republicans in the Senate want this economy to fail. They see that things are beginning to turn around.... In cynical political terms, it doesn't serve them in terms of their election interests if things are beginning to turn around.
And yeah, I suppose there's probably some of that in play here.  But I really don't think that's the main issue. 

They Really Are That Dumb

After all, can any of us seriously think that we'd be seeing awesome bills helping the unemployed and creating more jobs if we had a Republican president and Congress?  Of course not.  Their only solution would be to cut taxes and remove "burdensome" regulations, and hope for the best. 

And if that didn't work, they'd rinse and repeat.  We know that because that's exactly what they did during the Bush years, and his employment record was absolutely dismal.  Whether they want things to boom or bust, their solution is the same: Get government out of the way and reward the people who gave them money.

And the real reason requires us to think outside our own concepts of strategy, and take things a whole lot simpler: They're just stupid.  They really don't know what they're talking about.  They're getting high on their own supply and really do imagine that taxcuts are some magical formula for growth, and believe that government is the real problem.  And since the only solution a politician can devise must naturally involve the government, their only answer is to remove the government from the picture.  They have no other recourse.

And it's really just a sick joke.  Like someone who so firmly believed in Santa Claus that they refused to buy their children presents each Christmas, and then blamed their kids when they didn't get anything.  "I guess you guys were naughty again this year.  Better luck next time." 

No, Really.  They're That Dumb

Because the whole thing was a hoax.  The guys who crafted this garbage didn't really believe it.  They just wanted an excuse allowing them to keep more money and screw over more people.  And the politicians were game, as it gave them something better to say than "I support this because it helps the people who gave me money."

But somewhere along the line, the message got screwed-up.  The people saying this crap were so convincing that the current generation of dopes really believed it.  I mean, for as much as Republicans pretend to be the party of High Finance, look at their resumes.  Even the ones who were actual businessmen weren't real number crunchers, and the only people they'll hire are the ones who tell them what they want to hear.  Any Republican who can make money in the real world would be a fool to enter politics. 

And the point is, even if Republicans loved the unemployed and wanted the economy to boom, their ideological beliefs would force them to take the same actions they're taking now.  They have no other option as they really do believe the bullshit they're spouting.  And if God himself came down and explained to them their errors and they decided to support Obama, their base would erupt in furious anger and they'd be replaced quicker than you can say "Jehovah."  That's just the way it is.

Somewhere, up in Heaven, there's a group of crafty Republican politicos, shaking their heads, hands on face; wondering how it was that they failed to leave someone halfway intelligent in charge.  Or, more likely, they're down in Hell, laughing their asses off.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Politics of Pierogis

I read yesterday about a running Pierogi working for the Pittsburgh Pirates who got fired for writing on Facebook
Coonelly extended the contracts of Russell and Huntington through the 2011 season. That means a 19-straight losing streak. Way to go Pirates.
With the three named people being the president, GM, and manager of the Pirates, respectively. 

Now, maybe this Pierogi's Facebook page makes direct references to his employment as a fifth-inning sideshow, and his hundred or so friends soak up every word he writes.  I don't know.  But the whole thing was pretty tame and I seriously doubt anyone knew about it beyond his direct friends.  So why bother about it?  This is hardly McChrystal dissing his civilian leaders.

And of course, they've now rehired him.  According to the official response, it was because they fired him in the wrong way.  And that's entirely possible.  At a guess, I'd say it was because they didn't give him a warning first, making him eligible for unemployment benefits, or some other form of severance.

How to Handle the Media

But another reason may have been the bad press they got for firing him.  Not that I think people were up in arms about a Pierogi biting the dust.  But merely because it's funny.  I mean, they fired a Pierogi for speaking its mind.  The media loves that sort of thing. 

And that's where the real blunder lies.  Because, at best, maybe a hundred people read his initial diss; and it was probably far less than that.  But after they fired him, it became a national story.  I mean, I didn't even know the Pirates sucked until I heard that they fired a Pierogi for saying they did.  And so any damage he may have done was made infinitely worse by firing him.  If letting people know that the Pirates suck is a fireable offense, whoever fired him deserves to be fired a hundred times over.

And no, I'm not turning this into a sports blog.  This has all kinds of lessons on politics and how to manage the media.  Obama knew this, which is why it must have been such a hard decision on what to do with McChrystal.  But McChrystal was a huge story that would have gotten bigger if it hadn't been dealt with.  The Pierogi was the exact opposite: Direct action in combating their critics only made things worse.

And that's how it is in life.  There are no obvious answers when dealing with the media and political situations.  Sometimes, you've got to stick with your guns when you're under fire, and other times, you need to apologize for apologizing and not unapologize for it.  It all depends on the situation and the people who tell you otherwise are hardcore ideologues who simply can't accept the fact that not everyone agrees with them.  But as we saw in Pittsburgh, sometimes you have to ignore the Pierogi, even if it hurts.

DISCLAIMER: I have no idea what a pierogi is.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Politics: The Art of Getting Enough

Lawrence Lessig at Huffington has a post about the "pathetic and puny" DISCLOSE Act which pretty much sums up the leftie opposition to Obama: Big problems require big solutions. And since a small solution might be treated as a substitute for the only solution, it’s worse than no solution.

And first off, that doesn’t even remotely make sense, unless we assume that we’re guaranteed a solution. But we’re not. And more likely, if we don’t get a small solution, we’ll get nothing. And a little of something is still better than a lot of nothing.

And the crux of this line of thinking is that the system is broken and requires real answers. But by historical standards, our system is fantastic. Look back at what the original progressives were fighting for, and you’ll realize we already have most of that stuff. Yes, we’re far from perfect. But things are a helleva lot better than they’ve EVER been in this country.  If anyone could point to some dream period where things were better, I'd like to see it.  But it never happened.  Sorry, folks, but this is as good as it's gotten.

Not that that’s any reason to sit on our laurels, but seriously, let’s not blow things out of proportion. In relative terms, it wasn’t that long ago that a large portion of the people in America couldn’t even vote, and politicians would outright purchase votes with jobs and booze. Many of the things we take for granted weren’t even thinkable a hundred years ago. Hell, we’ve made huge progress since FIVE years ago. Anyone who thinks we’ve got problems now is seriously delusional.

Putting the Promise in Compromise

And finally, I’d like to address the Progressive Obama Syndrome. You know, the one where progressives are upset that Candidate Obama isn’t the same guy as President Obama; and they’re all fighting over whether it’s cooler to have supported Obama and been betrayed, or to have always known he’d be rotten and be proven right.

And we heard the same things about Bush, and Clinton, and Reagan, and really, just about ANY politician who was held out to be better than the typical politician. And then they get in office and POOF!, they sell-out and show us how corrupt they really were, and how we need a REAL hero to be elected, and THEN we can finally get the change we believed in.

And yeah, maybe that theory’s true. Maybe we DO keep getting suckered by the fake messiahs and the real messiah will someday rise up and save us all from the corruption around us. Or maybe…just maybe…the problem isn’t that these guys are flawed. Maybe the problem is the idea that we can EVER expect ideological purity from people who have to deal with reality.

And really, there’s no “maybe” about it. That’s the case. It’s easy to make promises before you realize what you’re up against and it'd be dumb to try to create a political platform based solely on what you knew you could deliver.  Obama's a smart man, but he's not a fricking psychic. 

And if you actually expect to get anything done, you have to turn those promises into compromises. Not because the people involved are so corrupt, but because this isn’t a dictatorship.  You can’t always get what you want, because our system is designed so that we share power. And there’s nothing inherently corrupt about powerful people wanting to hold on to their power.

A Nation of Dictators

And that’s not a bug; that’s a feature. That’s the way it was designed. The Founding Fathers, in their infinite wisdom, realized it works best if you divvy up power, even if that makes things harder to get done.  We all want a say in how things are done, and that's what democracy is all about. 

It's not about finding the "right" answer, but maintaining the "right" system.  The question isn't whether the system works towards helping the most people, but whether it prevents us from tearing ourselves apart.  And based upon that standard, we're still doing alright.  There are a whole lot worse things than corrupt politicians and oil spills.

Because yeah, it’d be great if Candidate Obama could come into office and do everything he said he would. But then Bush could have done all the things HE wanted to do, which could have included making sure someone like a Candidate Obama couldn’t be a President Obama.  And hell, Candidate Reagan promised to destroy Social Security and Medicare.  Aren't we all a bit glad that political reality stopped him?

And then of course, there’s the issue that NONE of us want the same thing. Yes, people are easily separated into like-minded groups, so we can label some people “progressives” and “liberals” and “conservatives,” etc. But none of these people actually want the same things. Life just doesn’t work like that.  Even a group of co-workers all working for the same goal can have trouble enough just during a pointless staff meeting. How anyone expects a nation of dictators to get the change they believe in is beyond me.

So, yes, it'd be great if the corporate structure didn't consolidate so much power into such single-minded entities, and I'd sure like it if oil wasn't spilling into the Gulf.  But in the grand scheme of things, those are pretty small problems compared with how things could be.  Again, that's no excuse to allow ourselves to give up any hope of getting what we need, but it does put things into a little perspective. 

And the better perspective is, yeah, President Obama isn't nearly as perfect as Candidate Obama seemed, but it's sure a helleva lot better than the alternative.  And if it bugs you that Obama's got you by the shorthairs that way, tough.  Unless you want to see Congressman Barton apologizing to Big Oil as the top member of the House Energy Committee, you don't have a choice.  Because that's what we're really looking at, and the "big" changes progressives are holding out for might be entirely in the wrong direction.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Totalitarians Know No Bounds

There are Muslims who want to take over the world and install their own religion as the one true religion upon all of us.  That's simply undeniable.  And were I inclined to do so, I'm sure I could find quotes of Muslims here in America who say the same thing.  They want this to be a Muslim nation based upon Muslim laws.  Somehow, this thought is supposed to scare me so badly that I'll find it acceptable for people to insult Islam and demand that Muslims be racially profiled and kicked out of the country.

And this is garbage.  Because yeah, sure, there are Muslims who want this.  But, without a doubt, there are Christians who want this too; I mean, for themselves.  They believe they have the one true religion and they're convinced that America is a Christian nation based upon Christian laws, and anyone who suggests otherwise is treacherous evil-doer intent upon destroying our great nation (Barack Obama, I'm looking at you).

And so, yeah, there are Muslims and Christians who want to make our nation in their image.  Just as there are atheists who want the same thing.  They think all religion sucks and if they could banish it, I'm sure they would.  And hey, why keep this to religion?  There are socialists and Tea Partiers who want the country for themselves, too.  And in fact, you kind find people of every race, creed, and ideology who want the world to be run the way they want it run.  So what?

What we're really seeing is that there's a certain type of person who can't stand the idea that they're stuck sharing a society with people who don't agree with them, and rather than learn to tolerate differences of opinion, they demonize their opponents and insist that their way is the only way.  And fortunately, those people are in a small minority, and the rest of us are ok living in a democracy in which we all agree to a system of lawmaking which is independent of religion or ideology. 

And so it's simply absurd to take the rants of an extremist sect within any group and try to pretend it somehow applies to the group as a whole.  And no, it's not enough to say that you aren't blaming the whole group, if you spend the bulk of your time denouncing the acts of one of these groups while ignoring the others. 

Because again, it's not a Muslim, or Christian, or atheist thing.  It's a totalitarian thing.  And if you're going to denounce the acts of totalitarians, you've got to denounce the acts of all totalitarians; and not try to pretend as if one particular group has a monopoly on totalitarianism.  They don't.

I had more to say on this, but might say it in a separate post.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Grilling of BP

Despite criticism of congressmen as if their jobs involve simple binary decisions with obvious answers, it's really got to be a pretty tough job.  Not wrangling bulls tough, but pretty tough.  Because it's not just a job, it's a lifestyle.  Being a congressman is who you are, and you're always expected to be on, all the time. 

But the one part of the job that's simply dumb: Congressional hearings.  I hate the things.  They're such stupid wastes of time that I really wish they'd pass a law outlawing them.  And sure, there are probably good ones that actually achieve something.  But for the most part, they're just opportunities for politicians to grandstand and give good speech, while pretending to ask questions that they really don't expect to get answered.  And even if they got a real answer, they'd be the last ones to know.

I mean, imagine a trial in which the prosecutor only had a vague idea of who the defendant was and how they were related to the crime.  And when he asked questions of the defendant, they were real questions that he didn't know the answer to.  And when the defendant answered the question, the prosecutor didn't have the slightest clue whether it was true or not, and was really only asking because he wanted the jury to like him better and thought they might be impressed by the question.

That's what a congressional hearing is, yet they televise the damn things.  How dumb.  I can learn more reading news on my computer than a congressman will get by holding one of these hearings.

Hayward Highlight Reel

And I'm thinking about this while reading about today's "grilling" of BP chief Tony Hayward.  Here's a recap of all Hayward's comments, grouped together, in the order presented in the article about him.

I am so devastated with this accident, deeply sorry, so distraught.  With respect, sir, we drill hundreds of wells a year around the world. I wasn't involved in any of that decision-making.  I wasn't part of the decision-making process.  I'm not a cement engineer, I'm afraid.  I am not a drilling engineer.  I'm not an oceanographic scientist.  I had no prior knowledge.  I'm not stonewalling. I simply was not involved in the decision-making process.  That is why I am so devastated with this accident.
And honestly, Hayward could simply have condensed everything down to this exact statement and we'd know as much about why this happened as we did before.

He's a CEO, Dummy

No, I take it back.  I learned that some people in Congress are f-ing retarded.  I mean, seriously.  Hayward's right.  He's not a cement engineer.  He's not a drilling engineer.  He's not a oceanographic scientist.  He's a CEO of a multi-billion dollar company.  And if these dudes think a CEO of a multi-billion dollar company makes decisions about the best way to cut costs on an oil well, then they need to get the hell out of Congress and work a real job until they learn what sort of decisions a CEO makes.

This guy wasn't stonewalling.  They were asking the wrong f-ing questions.  And if they had done their homework, that wouldn't have happened.  Yeah, I'm sure there's a lot of blame to go around, and I'm sure a lot of that can go on Hayward, but asking him specific questions about how this well was drilled makes about as much sense as complaining to the head of McDonald's because your french fries were burnt.  That's simply not what the man does. 

Hell, if BP is like most companies, Hayward would be the LAST person to know that this well was having problems and that they were cutting dangerous corners to save a buck.  A CEO wants to know the size of the sausage; not what they put into it.  Just because you're the head of the company doesn't mean you make all the decisions for it.  That's why they hire other people.  But of course, these congressmen didn't care about any of this stuff.  They weren't expecting answers.  They were grandstanding.  They wanted to show America that they cared enough about this crisis to get mad at someone about it. 

And hopefully, at some point, a real prosecutor will hold real hearings about what happened, and hopefully, they'll already know the answers before they ask the questions.  Until then, we're stuck with politicians trying to look important, doing the least important part of their job.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Knee-Jerk Conservatives Defend the Indefensible...Again

Simply astounding.  Just as it was entirely bizarre for Cheney's shotgun victim to apologize to Cheney for the hassle he caused by putting his face in the way of Cheney's blast, I find it unthinkable that a politician might not only side with BP after they ruined the Gulf of Mexico, but would actually apologize because they were asked to set aside money for the damage they did.

And make no mistake, this isn't just because Congressman Barton (R-Big Oil) is some corporate lackey, though he most assuredly is.  This is about Obama.  Had this happened while Bush was president and Bush demanded that BP set aside $20 billion in escrow (yes, as unthinkable as that is), it's entirely unlikely that Barton or anyone else would have blasted him for it.

Because the thing is, there isn't really anything particular egregious about this escrow account.  Not only was BP given a timeline that is more than fair to fund the account, I think it's odd that they didn't just decide to do this on their own.  And if the stock market is any indication, it actually looks like investors like the idea; as it removes much of the mystery about how all this would be handled.  Because if there's one thing investors hate, it's uncertainty.  They can take bad news, just as long as they have an idea of how bad it'll be.

The Political Cut is the Deepest

And really, BP knew that it was in for a world of hurt, so I can't imagine why they'd be particularly upset about the deal.  While many progressives insisted that BP was secretly working to bankrupt their company to avoid liability claims, BP knows how the world really works and realizes that they're not getting out of this easy.  For as much as they're still trying to play PR games to underplay the seriousness of this, their best shot is to act above-board and like they're not trying to screw us over.  And this escrow account helps with that.

But for Republicans, this deal hurts them dearly.  Not because they're such dire supporters of Big Business (though they are), but because it showed Obama flexing muscle and looking effective.  And that hurts them most of all. 

And so they end up screwing themselves over in ways that Democrats could never do; not because it helps them politically, but because it's their only way of hurting Obama.  And that's the biggest reason why they haven't been able to gain traction with voters despite their dislike of Democrats, because they're so willing to hurt Obama even if it hurts themselves more.  It's like they're cutting off their faces to spite their nose.

A Political Issue for the President

Oddly enough, after I wrote this, I happened to see Senater Cornyn's remarks on Barton's apology, in which he said:
But the part that Representative Barton is expressing some concern about, that I share the concern, is this has really become a political issue for the President and he's trying to deal with it by showing how tough he's being against BP. The problem is BP's the only one who really is in control of shutting down this well, and he's trying to mitigate, I think, his own political problems.
And that's exactly what I'm saying.  It's not that they're against BP having an escrow account, or even that they were forced into having one; it's that Obama forced them to have one, which helps him politically.  And anything that helps Obama hurts them.  So they're going to attack the escrow account as a "slush fund," not because it makes any sense at all, but because it's an attack on Obama.

And that's what it's all about.  They decided early last year that their political fortunes rested upon them being the anti-Obama, and that requires them to strongly denounce everything he does, no matter how sensible it is.  And that was an absolutely moronic strategy, as it gives Obama almost complete control over their agenda, and all he has to do is propose sensible policies and they're stuck taking the insensible ones.  Obama could proclaim today Kitten Day, and Republicans would attack him for supporting bird murder, while insisting that this was a kickback to the Big Cat Lobby.

And even worse for them, if he takes the politically strong position, they're stuck taking the politically weak one.  And so they're stuck apologizing to a foreign company that they admit did something wrong, and their best defense for doing so is that they need to score political points against Obama.  Somehow, I doubt voters will find this particularly compelling.

Why Enemies Are Always Omnipotent

For most people, good news is good news. They're happy to hear that things are working out, and that the sky's not falling.  But...for people who DO think the sky's falling, good news is the worst news of all.

They truly believe that things are so fucked that nothing can possibly work without their specific remedy for intervention; which is so radical that normal folks wouldn't possibly agree to it under normal conditions.  After all, if it wasn't that radical, they wouldn't require a falling sky to convince people to do it  And that's why they're so deadset on reminding us of how abnormal everything is, and why we should never trust our lying eyes.

And so for these people, crises are good news, while any news that suggests a crisis is being effectively dealt with by the "inherently corrupt" system they oppose must be knocked down immediately. And if there are no facts to support their negative view of the story, they won't think twice about inventing conspiracies which not only negate the story, but actually suggest that things are now WORSE due to this development and the system is even more corrupt than they first assumed.

And so it is with the recent announcement that Obama got BP to agree to set aside $20 billion to cover liability claims from its oil spill in the Gulf.  Now, a normal person might think of this as a bit of good news, as it lays to rest some of the worry about how quickly BP might be helping the people they hurt.  And you'd think progressives would be happy about this, as many of them have been speculating endlessly about how likely it is that BP is busily hiding assets in order to avoid any liability claims. 

But if you think that, then you don't read this blog, as I've pointed out before, progressives don't like good news.

When Speculation Beats Facts

Here's a few responses to this story:
"How much do we get NOW? We don't have "several years" to repair this MASSIVE fuck up.  Also, people are nuts if they think $20 billion is enough to fix this mess. I'm getting the feeling there is a quid pro quo that's not being covered here. It's not a good feeling, either.  $20 billion is a small downpayment IMO. Obama better not sell the farm for that pittance."

$20 billion is a lot of money, but I bet the damage will end up being around four or five times that.  Is this gesture intended to absolve BP of criminal or other liability?  Did they sign something to that effect?

Obviously, the devil will be in the details and whether, in fact, BP complies. What lucky bank gets this escrow account? What if it disappears in the next financial meltdown since nothing has been done since the last? Who is going to monitor compliance? Too many potential loopholes for my liking.

I agree that $20B may end up being small potatoes for this mess. BP may be very, very happy with that number.

Yes, he got these concessions without Congress acting to lift the liability cap, but doesn't that strongly suggest that BP thought it was a better bargain?
Now remember, the initial news story on this states that this fund is for liability claims only and isn't a cap on much BP will pay for claims, and that BP will still be responsible for the total clean-up.  Yet these folks had to invent speculation which contradicted those facts, in order to figure out some way for this to be a bad idea. 

The System Can Work

Overall, their basic story is all about how Obama got rolled, with claims of "too many loopholes" from people who didn't know even the basic facts.  The idea that Obama actually stuck it to BP is simply inconceivable for these people.  Not that they have any evidence to suggest that Obama is a moron, it's simply that they "know" that the system can't work and that corporations always win.  And that meme is stronger than any facts known to man.  Either Obama got played as a sucker or he's playing us like suckers; that's all there is to it.

But what if they're wrong?  What if the system CAN work?  What if an oddly named half-black man from a broken home really CAN work hard and become president?  To me, that shows what I love about America and why I'm a liberal: Because I want more of this sort of thing and believe we can do so from within the system we already have.

But these people don't see it that way, because that destroys the entire rationale for their radicalism.  If we already have a system that allows a regular guy to run the country, then why the hell are they working so hard to destroy the system?  And even worse, if all the problems we have aren't due to a corrupt system, but are inherent problems caused by basic human nature, than a radical change won't really fix anything and might even leave us with something even worse!

And if you start having those sort of doubts, the whole shitpile comes crashing down and they lose their entire sense of purpose. 

Creating our Enemies

But of course, I suspect that's what's really behind all this.  Modern life is pointless, as all the real problems have been solved.  And even worse, it appears to be a random shitfest, where anything can happen and there are no guarantees.  And just as primative men invented ghosts and demons to explain why bad things happen, modern men invent their own bogeymen. 

For conservatives, the bogeymen are minorities and government bureaucrats.  For liberals, it's evil corporations and government thugs.  But it all amounts to the same thing: An all-powerful foe to explain why everything isn't working the way they think it should.  And if there's one thing about all-powerful people, it's that they're all-powerful.  And for progressives, that means that corporations will always win, even if they seem to be losing.  It's not a matter of "if" corporations win, but figuring out how they did it.

But what if that's not the case?  What if anyone CAN be president or senator or mayor?  What if we really ARE the masters of our own destinies and the only one holding us back is ourselves?  Then we lose all the crutches we've been using to explain away our own deficiencies and have no one to blame but ourselves.  And that's the scariest thing of all.  It's much better to blame everything on a faceless enemy than to learn that the face of the enemy is our own.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Some Laws Are Better Than Others

Via Carpetbagger, I read this line from Tapped's Paul Waldman:
You can't call yourself a "deficit hawk" if the only programs you want to cut are the ones you don't like anyway.
Yet, this is what Republicans do all the time.  They have a laser-like focus on balanced budgets and reducing deficits, just as long as it involves us doing all the things they like, while getting rid of the things they don't like.  And anything they don't like is strictly off the table and can't possibly be discussed. 

In fact, if you even want to discuss the possibility of having a discussion on raising taxes or cutting any spending they like, they'll attack you and insist you're not acting in good faith.  Because the truth is that they don't care about spending at all.  They just use it as an excuse to get what they want.

Anchor Baby, Away

But we see this sort of atttitude in everything they do, where they act as if some rationale is unbreakable...except for when they want to break it.  For example, they act as if a law is inherently perfect because it's in the Constitution...unless they don't like the law, in which case they think it's disgraceful that we haven't already fixed the Constitution. 

Like with so-called "anchor babies."  The Constitution clearly states that anyone born here is a citizen, yet these people don't like that particular amendment, so that means it doesn't really count.  The 2nd Amendment is inherently valid because it's in the Constitution, and no further rationale is required to explain why all gun control is bad, but the 14th Amendment simply doesn't count, because it prevents them from passing a law they like.

Even weirder, the people trying to break the 14th Amendment are doing so on the grounds that it breaks a law that isn't even in the Constitution.  Conservatives absolutely insist that illegal immigrants must be booted from the country because they've done something illegal, and no further argument can be made.  Yet...if they're willing to change the Constitution in order to ensure that illegal people don't have legal children in our country, why can't we just change the law to make it NOT illegal for them to be here?

But of course, to them, that's Alice in Wonderland time.  The idea that we'd even consider changing immigration laws to make it so these people aren't illegal isn't even thinkable.  Somehow, this law is untouchable and requires no explanation.  The 14th Amendment says anyone born here is a citizen, and that's wrong because it violates a perfect law that can never change. 

The Second Most Important Law

And what exactly makes that law so perfect?  They never say.  They rant about how these people are here illegally, pretending to not remember that conservatives are the reason it's illegal.  They rant about how illegals don't pay income tax, again failing to realize that it's their own policies that make that the case. 

In fact, all of the problems conservatives rant about regarding illegal immigrants is caused by the law they support.  The problem isn't with the people.  The problem is that we made them illegal.  But rather than remove that stupid law, we're forced to create a whole host of other laws.  Not because we're bigots who want to keep Mexicans out of our country, but because we're trying to support a law that serves no other purpose than to keep Mexicans and other brown-skinned people out of our country. 

That's the second most important law of the land, and if we have to change the Constitution for the sole purpose of making that law more effective, so be it.  Even their precious Constitution is nothing compared with immigration laws.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Man That Could Have Been King

Wow, we really dodged a bullet with this one.  When non-entity Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi dissed on Obama for taxing tanning salons and suggested that McCain wouldn't have done that, McCain apparently twittered:
u r right, I would never tax your tanning bed! Pres Obama's tax/spend policy is quite The Situation. but I do rec wearing sunscreen!
Uhm...this guy could have been president? 

I'm not sure which part of this is more pathetic: The faux-internet misspellings, the embarrassing and nonsensical reference to "The Situation," the fact that he replied to "Snooki's" comment at all, or that he did so on Twitter.  I feel embarrassed just having read about this.  For as much of a clown as Bush was, even he had a certain sense of self-respect and wouldn't have degraded himself with this sort of basement-level pandering. 

For the record, I find it entirely likely that McCain doesn't write his own Twitters.  But for even allowing this sort of thing to go out with his name on it is bad enough.

NRSC Attack Fail

For as all-powerful as progressives paint Republican political attacks as being, what's been striking me for the last several years is how entirely inept they are at doing anything right.  Forget about convincing a majority of Americans to support them, they're not even very good at attacking liberals anymore.

So I happened to stumble upon the NRSC's website and saw their main story for the day Reid Unveils Tone-Deaf Campaign Slogan; GOP Unites Around Angle (Warning: Their site apparently has some bug that makes it automatically play the audio for an ABC video also displayed on the page; or at least it did for me repeatedly). 

And what, exactly, is this "tone deaf" slogan of Reid's?  "No one can do more."  And frankly, I fail to see what's so deaf about that.   While it doesn't strike me as being particularly persuasive, for it to be "tone deaf," it'd have to be something that will actually backfire on Reid, by highlighting some aspect of this that hurts Reid because he's so out of touch with how bad it sounds.  Kind of like Senator Boner's Boehner's insistence that taxpayers should help pay to clean up BP's mess.  I'm sure voters are going to love that.

As the NRSC sees it, this is "tone deaf" because they can use it to insult Reid, saying "no one has done more to grow the size of the federal government and increase the tax burden on Nevada families."  And this is a classic variation of the schoolyard taunt used when someone boasts that they're the best, and you reply "Yes, the best at being the worst." 
Touché, Senate Republicans.  You really burned Reid with that one.

Quoting Themselves

And it was downhill from there.  Because after that, they were reduced to citing heavily edited quotes of news orgs attacking Reid.  Oh wait, did I say the news orgs attacked Reid?  Sorry, I meant that the NRSC used edited quotes of news orgs quoting Republicans attacking Reid, while making it at first appear as if the quotes were coming from the news orgs. 

In fact, the two Republicans that were quoted were NRSC Spokesman Brain Walsh and NRSC Chair John Cornyn.  Yes, the NRSC is now quoting news stories about the NRSC's own positions.  Doctor Biobrain, a prominent liberal blogger, was quoted as saying "Epic... fail."

Here's what I'm talking about:
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports: "Senator Reid and his campaign have… made clear that the only way they can win is by…playing dirty…" NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh said. "… we are committed to helping [Angle] win in November so that Nevadans finally have the fresh leadership they deserve."

ABC’s Rick Klein reports that Republicans are united around Sharron Angle: “Nevada voters are going to have a referendum on Harry Reid" said Cornyn, "…[w]e are solidly behind Sharron Angle and I'm confident that… she's actually leading Harry Reid… I think [Reid’s] in very deep trouble."
And mind you, those edits weren't from the news stories; all those "..." you see were done by the NRSC, editing their own statements; often in ways that changed nothing and made it more difficult to read.  It's as if they think their own spokemen are too long-winded to quote directly.  Or perhaps editing quotes has just become a habit for them.

The Ultimate Snow Job

They also cite a Hotline article which calls this "the ultimate referendum" and then adds that 25% of Nevada Dems voted for someone other than Reid; in a way that implies that Hotline was making that point, even though they didn't.  But of course, that's a stupid point, as Angle, the Republican nominee, failed to get 60% of Republican votes; and wasn't even supported by the NRSC until after she won.  Doh!

The entire effort wrecks of desperation and cluelessness.  It's like someone has the basic idea of how to write an attack post, but no clue as to how to fill in the details.  And remember, this was the lead story on their site, meant to attack their biggest foe.  And the best they can do is a schoolyard switcheroo of Reid's slogan, and two edited quotes from their own organization.  Pathetic.

As always, the question isn't why Republicans aren't doing better, but why any Democrat would ever fear these bozos.  They haven't mounted an effective campaign since 2004, and haven't been scary since 2002.  Yet all the same, I keep hearing about how awesome they are at "fooling the sheeple" and how we can never win until we start copying their aggressive tactics.  Why anyone would want to copy these lousy efforts is beyond me.

Libertarians for Pre-Emptive Regulation

I had the misfortune of hearing some idiot rightwing radio talker talking about the BP oil disaster.  I don't know who he was, but I'm sure he wasn't anyone famous, as he had a lousy voice and his points were remarkably bad, even by rightwing radio standards.  But, he made it on the radio, so I figure I'd mention what he said.

I have a lousy memory for quotes, so here's a basic paraphrase of what he said:
Government regulations have never prevented anyone from being hurt because they wait until after a problem arises before writing the regulations.  Like with the pool drain regulation, they waited until after people got hurt before doing anything.  That's why government regulations have never prevented a problem, because they give us these regulations after it's already too late. 

The oil spill in the Gulf is a flaw with government, not a flaw with capitalism.  Capitalism isn't to blame for what happened, the government is.  And now that it's already too late to do anything about it, the government steps in with a moratorium on drilling, which will further devastate the Gulf Coast region, which is dependent upon oil drilling for its economy.  Once again, the government reacts after it was too late, and ends up causing more harm than good.
And trust me, this is the intelligent version of what he said.  While I did get a few actual phrases right, I'm really not doing this justice.

Wow.  Just...Wow.

And this whole thing is insane.  First off, he's faulting government for not creating regulations to solve problems that haven't happened yet.  And that's odd, as I've always heard libertarians complain about pointless regulations that solve problems that never happen.  Yet, this guy seems to realize that regulations were designed to fix actual problems, but thinks this isn't good enough because they come too late.  He expects us to write regulations for things that might never happen, and because we can't do that, we shouldn't have regulations at all.  What?!?

Secondly, once the regulations are in place, you'll never know if they prevented another problem because...the problem was prevented.  Duh.  And this is a logical error at the basis of the entire libertarian theory, because they really do imagine that everything would stay exactly the same if we removed all the regulations.  It's as if the one problem that caused each regulation to be created was an isolated incident that would never happen again.  Without that moronically naive idea in place, libertarianism crumbles completely

And finally, with the BP oil disaster, we DID have regulations in place, and BP didn't do what they were supposed to do.  They took lots of shortcuts and ended up with the problems that the longcuts were made to prevent.  And so this is a specific case of why we need to enforce the regulations we already had, because they prevent this sort of disaster. 

Capitalism Shoots Self in Face

And why did BP ignore the regulations?  Was it because regulations suck and cause us to do bad things we weren't going to do if the regulation wasn't trying to prevent us from doing it?  No, it was because of greed.  Because of capitalism.  And that's also why the proper regulations weren't being enforced, because capitalism prevented government from doing its job.  So it all comes full circle on this guy.  It's not that ineffective government regulation is to blame for hurting capitalism; it's that capitalism created ineffective government.regulation, which ended up hurting capitalism.

And that's the weird thing about this guy's rant: He got it ALL wrong.  Not only wasn't there even a shred of truth in what he said, it didn't even sound intuitive to the untrained brain.  I can't see how anyone could seriously listen to that dude and say "Yeah, it IS messed up that the government doesn't regulate things until after a problem arises.  We really need to stop having the government regulate things."

Either government regulations work or they don't, and if we blame the government for what happened in the Gulf, it's because they didn't regulate enough.  While I can imagine quite a few scenarios in which government regulations cause problems, this doesn't even approximate one of those scenarios.  This was a clear cut case of the government failing to protect a company from itself, and the only possible answer is more regulation. 

It's odd for a libertarian like this guy to acknowledge that lack of regulation could be a problem, but it's absolutely insane to then suggest that we need less regulation.  Listening to bozos like this guy really make you understand why guys like Limbaugh make the big bucks.  Pulling reasonable sounding bullshit out of your ass really isn't as easy as it looks. 

Saturday, June 05, 2010

How to Clone Yourself Through Your Kids

In this month's issue of Columbia Magazine, a Catholic Magazine published by the Knights of Columbus, I saw the article Keeping Your Kids Catholic (which can't be found in a usable format online), written by Patrick Madrid, an author and radio host nobody's ever heard of.

At PatrickMadrid.com we learn that, in addition to having written fifteen books and booklets (yes, it says booklets), he's also the publisher of Envoy Magazine, which has "garnered numerous journalism awards, including several first-place awards in the magazine-of-the-year “General Excellence” category from the Catholic Press Association."  So yeah, you can tell this guy's no schlub.

In the article, Madrid explains what Catholic fathers should do in order to ensure that their children remain Catholic, even after we can't control them anymore.  And I thought this was interesting, as I was raised Catholic and can't imagine what my parents could possibly have done to make me believe any of that stuff.  But I kept an open mind, wondering what pearls of wisdom Madrid could impart.

Forced to Grow Upright

Here's the opening paragraph:
When considering what Catholic parents can and should do to foster a lively faith in the hearts of their children, I often use an analogy of growing tomatoes.  If left to grow naturally, the tomato vine will simply grow along the ground and produce inferior, often diseased, tomatoes.  If, however, the plant is fastened to a stake and forced to grow upright, it produces healthy fruit.  True, there are still dangers that need to be counteracted, but they can do far less damage to the tomato vine that has been tied firmly to the stake.
Tied firmly to the stake.  Yes, that's the sort of analogy that comes to mind when I think of parenting.  You must force your children to believe what you believe, or they'll grow up inferior and diseased.

But needless to say, children are people, not plants.  There IS an issue of free choice, and people can't really learn if they can't make their own mistakes.  You can tell your kids the right way to be, but it doesn't do any good if you force them to obey.

Mary the Interceder

In the next section, Madrid informs us that being Catholic means thinking Catholic all the time, and not just at church.  We should consider our home to be a "domestic church," and use faith to "inform the daily routine and decisions in the home."  But what does that mean, exactly?  Should we transubstantiate bread into flesh before making our lunch?  Is that the sort of Catholic decision he had in mind?

No, he just meant a decision on whether or not you should pray.  Guess what?  The Catholic decision is that you should.  How surprising.

As Madrid explains (empahsis in the original):
I always strongly encourage praying the family rosary.  If you, the father of the family, trustingly invoke the powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary each day (she knows quite a bit about parenting, after all), you can rest assured that she will be there to help you, no matter how bumpy the road of life becomes.
Wow, that'll really help Patrick Junior as he makes his way through life.  Got a problem?  Just ask the Virgin Mary to intercede.  That's guaranteed to work.

And really, Mary, as parental role model?  I think Mary had things pretty easy, seeing as how she raised the only person who never sinned.  Boy, yeah.  Next time I raise a sinless child, I'll be sure to read Mary's book on how to do it.

Don't Fear the Professor

And what is it that Catholic fathers need to worry about?  What else: Atheism. 

As Madrid explains:
So many Catholic parents are shattered when their kids go to college and become swayed by an atheist professor or drawn away from the Church by others who challenge their Catholic beliefs.
We fathers have to prepare our children to face these challenges not with fear, but with heads held high, as Catholics who love Jesus Christ and are not afraid to be a light shining in a dark place.
Yes, how horrible.  Your kids might grow up to think differently from you.  I can see how that could shatter anyone.  Apparently, the reason I became an atheist wasn't because I don't believe in things without proof, but because I was too afraid to confront my professors. 

So how do we keep our kids Catholic?  Inoculate them.  You need to "prepare your kids now for what they will face later."  And that's a sensible enough proposition.  Or so I thought, as I assumed this involved somehow informing said children of the "wiles of the world," and how to avoid them.

But no.  Instead, we are to "inoculate" our children, by having them read Catholic websites, the Catechism, and the bible.  He also recommends we:
Invest also in some CD's by great Catholic teachers and make sure your children listen to them.  In other words, make sure they are inoculated.
So basically, this guy's idea of how to "keep your kids Catholic" involves forcing them to read religious texts and listen to boring Catholics, as well as making them pray a lot, which is the solution to all problems.  Wow, this guy really knows how to reach today's youth.  I suppose his next move will be to convince teens that it's ok for straight men to have moustaches again.  He's got about as much chance with that as his scheme to keep kids Catholic.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Good Side of the Oil Spill

One of the things that really bugs me about progressives, and what separates them from liberals, is that progressives really seem to want bad news.  Not that they want bad things to happen, per se, it's just that they've been warning us about how futile everything is until we finally get the major changes they've been telling us we need, and nothing does that better than bad news. 

It's the same thing we get from wingnuts, who clearly want terrorist attacks and skyrocketing crime rates, in order to justify their draconian policies towards dark-skinned people.  And that's exactly what I've gotten since the BP oil disaster, in which progressives seem a little too happy about reporting bad news. 

And hanging in the air of all their comments is a certain "I warned you and you didn't listen.  So maybe NOW you'll listen to me, though I seriously doubt you will" sort of vibe.  See, even in their "I told you so" moments, they're still remarkably pessimistic.  The whole loser thing is a real turn off for me.

The Comments

And this came out in comments on a post at WaMonthly, which highlighted an email from a CNN reporter who was "Looking for pitches: The Good Side of the Oil Spill - if there is any." 

The idea is a joke.  The "good" side of the oil spill.  Anyone looking for the "good side" of this oil spill is somebody with too much time on their hands.  And if you're dumb enough to actually attempt to answer that question, the joke's on you.

Here's a sample of some of the comments from people who refused to get the joke:
I'm kind of hoping this is a wake up call for the world about the power of big oil. I suppose that could be considered a good side, though history has taught me not to expect it.

the good side: 1) proof that the conservative ideology of self regulated industry is a fallacy. 2) proof of why we need 'big government' and regulators. 3) proof of why we need to reduce our dependence on oil.

Here's an upside to the BP story- The fed puts BP into recevership and cleans it up, then sells off assets to highest bidder- creates more green jobs with the $.

Could there be a better illustration of the consequences of the corrupt energy policy of the Bush-Cheney administration?

Unfortunately, in The United States of Corporate Amerika it takes major disasters to wake up the sheeple. If major portions of the east coast get BP oil delivered by sea, maybe that portion of the population will be awoken. Just a shame that it cannot be delivered to Kansas and Nebraska the same way.

Of course there's a good side: People will finally take warnings about the risks of deep-sea drilling seriously.
Yes, how "unfortunate" it is that we can't ruin Kansas and Nebraska the way I hope the east coast gets ruined.  After all, you can't save the environment unless you break a few eggs. 

I should mention that not all the comments were like these, and several were quite funny.  My favorite: We no longer have to add oil to fry our clams.

But there were really too many of these people who were doing exactly what they shouldn't have been doing: Seeing this crisis as an opportunity and secretly relishing in the disaster.  I just don't know how else to see it.  They really DO see an upside to this, because they've felt that their position was sidelined, and this disaster finally proves them right.

Of course, anyone can pray for environmental disaster.  The real progressives are now praying for hurricane.  That'll teach those polluting SOB's.