Saturday, September 30, 2006

State of Denial (1)

Too much interesting stuff in this Post story to even start in on now...

I will reiterate my basically uneducated quasi-position that withdrawal without something like victory will be more disastrous for the world in the long-run than staying. I wouldn't push that position, but if you held a gun to my head and made me guess, that's what I'd say.

But I've been more and more sympathetic to the view that Bush and co. are so very incompetent that the normal considerations don't really hold in this case. Their capacity to fuck things up is vast and multifarious...they are, it seems, something like geniuses in that regard. And so, disastrous as it will be, we ought to get out while the gettin's...well, merely disastrously horrible... Some of the info in this story pushed me farther in that direction.
Terrorists and Tony Snow?

I heard in passing somewhere that, in response to the recent leak of reports concluding that the Iraq war has created more al Qaeda sympathizers, Tony Snow said something like this: "Well, not every sympathizer becomes a terrorist." Is this true??? I can't find it. I can't believe that it IS true, given that it's too moronic and dishonest even for this bunch. But if it were true, I'd have some further suggestions for them:

1. If it becomes clear that the war has, in fact, created more terrorists, they can point out that not every terrorist actually succeeds in pulling off an attack.

2. If it becomes clear that the war has increased terrorist attacks, they can point out that not every attack results in deaths.

3. If it becomes clear that the war has increased deaths from terrorist attacks, they can point out at some of the people killed probably had it coming anyway.

4. If it becomes clear that the war has increased innocent deaths from terrorist attacks, they can point out that some of those who were killed were probably Democrats.

And so on...

In the mean time, somebody might want to point out that increasing the number of sympathizers is EXACTLY what leads to an increase in terrorist, given that, ya know, that's the pool from which they are recruited...

But, again, I don't believe this story anyway, so I'm just writing this because I felt rather like a smartass this morning, and since they get away with so many lies anyway I don't really mind busting their chops for something apocryphal now and then.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Method of Tenacity

Yes, I've quoted it before, but, gosh darn it, it's just so damn relevant:

"If the settlement of opinion is the sole object of inquiry, and if belief is of the nature of a habit, why should we not attain the desired end, by taking any answer to a question which we may fancy, and constantly reiterating it to ourselves, dwelling on all which may conduce to that belief, and learning to turn with contempt and hatred from anything that might disturb it? This simple and direct method is really pursued by many men. I remember once being entreated not to read a certain newspaper lest it might change my opinion upon free-trade. "Lest I might be entrapped by its fallacies and misstatements," was the form of expression. "You are not," my friend said, "a special student of political economy. You might, therefore, easily be deceived by fallacious arguments upon the subject. You might, then, if you read this paper, be led to believe in protection. But you admit that free-trade is the true doctrine; and you do not wish to believe what is not true." I have often known this system to be deliberately adopted. Still oftener, the instinctive dislike of an undecided state of mind, exaggerated into a vague dread of doubt, makes men cling spasmodically to the views they already take. The man feels that, if he only holds to his belief without wavering, it will be entirely satisfactory. Nor can it be denied that a steady and immovable faith yields great peace of mind. It may, indeed, give rise to inconveniences, as if a man should resolutely continue to believe that fire would not burn him, or that he would be eternally damned if he received his ingesta otherwise than through a stomach-pump. But then the man who adopts this method will not allow that its inconveniences are greater than its advantages. He will say, "I hold steadfastly to the truth, and the truth is always wholesome." And in many cases it may very well be that the pleasure he derives from his calm faith overbalances any inconveniences resulting from its deceptive character. Thus, if it be true that death is annihilation, then the man who believes that he will certainly go straight to heaven when he dies, provided he have fulfilled certain simple observances in this life, has a cheap pleasure which will not be followed by the least disappointment. A similar consideration seems to have weight with many persons in religious topics, for we frequently hear it said, "Oh, I could not believe so-and-so, because I should be wretched if I did." When an ostrich buries its head in the sand as danger approaches, it very likely takes the happiest course. It hides the danger, and then calmly says there is no danger; and, if it feels perfectly sure there is none, why should it raise its head to see? A man may go through life, systematically keeping out of view all that might cause a change in his opinions, and if he only succeeds -- basing his method, as he does, on two fundamental psychological laws -- I do not see what can be said against his doing so. It would be an egotistical impertinence to object that his procedure is irrational, for that only amounts to saying that his method of settling belief is not ours. [Note: this is rhetorical. He doesn't really mean that.] He does not propose to himself to be rational, and, indeed, will often talk with scorn of man's weak and illusive reason. So let him think as he pleases."
-- Charles Sanders Peirce
"The Fixation of Belief"
The Big Dog Runs the Fox to Ground

God bless Bill Clinton. Fox doesn't have the whole interview up on its site--for fairly obvious reasons. But the transcript is here at Crooks and Liars. Holy smokes, he not only wipes the floor with Chris Wallace, he kicks his ass up one side and down the other.

Up until now, Democrats have basically gone on Fox news and gone along with the charade, knowingly walking into the ambush and smiling all the way through it, pretending that it's an actual interview. But Clinton's righteous indignation came shining through...and who on Earth could blame him? Wallace started in right away with the bullshit criticisms disguised as questions, but he was fighting way, way, way out of his weight class on this one. Clinton obviously has about 50 IQ points on him, in addition to having the actual, ya know, facts at his fingertips. Cripes, what a massacre.

The double standard in play, however, is an astonishing thing: since Clinton recognized the threat from bin Laden and tried to take him out, despite foot-dragging and outright opposition from the Republicans, the CIA, and the military, and since he only came very, very close to getting him ("bombing an asprin factory," said the righties), and since he only halted the efforts so as not to hand Bush a war upon entering office, and despite the fact that his people warned Bush's people repeatedly about the threat, and despite the fact that the Bush people proceded to do absolutely nothing even despite e.g. "bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S."'s Clinton's fault.

The principle presupposed here:

No matter how much Clinton did, and no matter how little Bush did, it's still Clinton's fault.

How does one reason with a group of people who are afflicted by such partisan blindness that they have made themselves immune to evidence?

Wallace in essence sat across from Clinton on national television and knowingly fired false accusations of the most scurrilous kind at him, after having brought him there under false pretenses.

Clinton is a much better man than I am, because, to tell you the truth, I'd have punched that SOB's lights out.

LISTEN!: just because we've gotten used to this shit doesn't mean it's not an outrage.

In case anybody's interested, I'm going right now to give some money to Jim Webb.

Thanks, Chris Wallace, for reminding me what a bunch of dishonest lunatics infect the once-noble GOP.
War In Iraq Hinders the "War" on Terrorism

Reports the Post.

I know I've said this lots of times, but here goes again:

In early 2002, I was starting to think I was crazy. None of the arguments being made for invading Iraq made even a modicum of sense. Even those of us on the outside could clearly see that the arguments didn't add up, that the intelligence reports didn't ring true, and that the case had every appearance of having been cooked. "Get bin Laden" we said. "Finish Afghanistan" we said. "Iraq is irrelevant" we said. "It's just going to make things worse" we said.

(And some of us, like me, said "Sure, Saddam deserves a big fat ass-whupping, but right now is a prohibitively bad time to do so...the worst time imaginable, in effect.)

But, gosh, the other side just sounded so certain...which is, of course, the way of extremists. Immune from evidence, starting with their conclusions and assembling premisses after the fact, they give the appearance of knowing what they're doing. (Peirce calls this "the method of tenacity.") They have almost no sense of their own fallibility...and, sadly, that tends to cast the rest of us into even more doubt. If I had a motto, it might well be to err is human...or, rather, to be human is to err. Back then I spent way too much time worrying about whether I was wrong and insufficient energy pointing out that the vast prepoderance of evidence indicated that they were wrong.

But, as it turns out, they were wrong.

They were, as one of my colleagues likes to say, wrong about everything. Bush and company have, so far as I can tell, not been right about a single major thing concerning terrorism since 9/11. Had, say, Gore or Wes Clark been president, OBL and al Qaeda would be something like a dim memory or a joke by now. Instead, the president than whom none more incompetent can be conceived has botched everything at every turn, and inflated a relatively minor, relatively manageable threat into a firestorm of a clash of civilizations.

In a fully rational country, a president of such monumental stupidity, ignorance, pig-headedness and incompetence would have been forced out of office by non-stop protests and 0% approval ratings. And yet here the Bush dead-enders continue to repeat their mantras...we are winning...the decisions were right...Bush is good....Bush is wise...Bush is just... It's hard enough to assert that he's minimally competent with a straight face...but some of these people--apparently immune from empirical evidence--continue to insist that he's (to use their word) "Churchillian." The mind reels.

Well, now the best evidence available to us confirms what many of us had concluded long ago: that the war in Iraq is, relative to the goals of the "war" on "terror", counterproductive in the extreme.

Anyone with more patience than I have might want to go out counting how many right-wing blogs will, once again, conclude that this just shows that facts and logic have a liberal bias. (I'd start by checking, say, Instapundit and Scrappleface.) Outside the "reality-based community," anything goes, logically speaking. War is peace. Freedome is Slavery. Ignorance is strength, etc., etc., etc.

So the good news is: we weren't crazy. What looked like a stupid, unjustified, and counter-productive war has, in fact, turned out to be a stupid, unjustified, and counter-productive war.

The problem, of course, is that that's also the bad news. It would be a lot better for the world if I'd have turned out to be crazy rather than right..

Saturday, September 23, 2006

My Obvious Theory About OBL

I ain't saying, but you should be able to guess. We can discuss this at a future date.
The Good News: OBL Might Be Dead; The Bad News: OBL Might Be Dead

So there's insufficient reason to think that OBL is dead. But if he is, then:

(a) Good. May he rot in Hell.

(b) Damn. Damn. Damn. Now he's the guy who challenged the U.S. and won, evading all attempts (feeble as many of them were) to bring him to justice. That's just great.
Mark Kleiman Explains It All For You


Remember when we used to be the good guys? Ah, those were the days.

Remember when principle mattered to the Republican party? Nah, me neither...but I've read about those long-ago days...

I voted for John Warner last time because I promised myself I'd vote for him after he derailed Ollie North's run for the Senate. North would be our senator now if Warner hadn't opposed him.

Think about that shit for a second.


I want someone to promise me that if I ever vote Republican again, you will beat the crap out of me.
Will We Be Torturers?

Kind of hard to tell. Can't tell from the Post story...though it reminds us that Republicans still seem to be putting the War Against Democrats ahead of the "War" on "Terror." The Times story is even more depressing. Lefty blogs are howling and barking about all this, but I can't really take most of them seriously anymore. The rightiy blogs...well, they continue to dream of W riding across the plains on a unicorn, wind blowing in his hair, until he sweeps them off their feet and they both ride bareback (ahem) into the sunset...he's dressed, of course, in his Commander Codpiece jumpsuit from the Mission Accomplished know, the one that (according to righty hero G. G. Liddy) makes the most of his "male attributes"...

So anybody know where we turn for the straight dope here?

I guess I worry that Drum is right (as is so often the case). Bush basically gets to use his...if we can hyperbolically dignify it with the term...judgment about what "interrogation techniques" we get to use. This given that he's demonstrated approximately the worst judgment of anyone not currently wearing a locating device on his ankle.

So maybe the barking, howling lefty blogs are, in fact, right about this one. Irrational though they may be, Bush is so bad that they end up getting it right a lot (um, let's avert our mental gaze from the Plame affair for the time being...). (And please to ignore my own now-discredited ranting about that as well...)

See? See what all this crap is turing me into? I'm becoming just another half-assed, invective-spewing dumbass who throws in a few links, bitches, insults the other side, and then calls it a post.

I gotta stop blogging.

But since I'm still doing it right now:

Good morning, fellow torturers! Welcome to the United States of Torture! Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses who need a right good waterboarding.

We have met the enemy, and they are...well, the rest is left as an exercise for the reader.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Sensible Centrist, Go Fuck Thyself

So saith Sadly, No!. The details are a little muddled here, but the sentiment is clear enough.

Just as I'm experiencing a kind of calm resulting from outrage fatigue against The Worst President Ever, I find something new to bug the hell out of me: the total insanification of the left.

Oh, I TOLD you it was going to happen. The seeds of craziness are always there on the left, just waiting to germinate. They're still only about 1/20th as crazy as the right...or at least only about 1/200th as powerful...but here's a scenario I've contemplated for quite some time:

Just as everybody in the entire freaking world except for a few American conservative dead-enders recognizes that Bush is basically the worst president ever, the looniest fringest of the American left come completely unhinged. Since loony lefties scare middle America way, way worse than loony righties, the right will then use the unhinged left in a major campaign to stave off the crushing defeats they so richly deserve in '06 and '08.

Anyway, so far as I can tell, we're basically fighting a two-front domestic battle: on one side we have to battle against Bush's attempt to destroy much of what we've spent the last 225 years building in this country. On the other side, we have to battle against the frothy-mouthed nutcases who dream about making the American left as crazy and dogmatic as the American right has become.

Know what I don't understand? Idiots who think that extremism is only bad when it's the OTHER guy's extremism.

Sheesh. Blogging used to be an outlet to prevent me from yelling at the t.v. But now what's going to keep me from yelling at my computer screen?
Bush Says He Would Send Troops Into Pakistan to Catch bin Laden


So he wouldn't commit the requisite troops to catch OBL when we had him hopelessly cornered at Tora Bora (because he preferred to use those troops for his unrelated and ill-fated Iraq adventure)...but he IS willing to send troops into a sovereign nuclear power in order to catch him. This, of course, after years of saying that OBL doesn't really matter much in the GWoT/G-SAVE/P-FUNK. That, of course, after vowing to get him "dead or alive."

Our president is a dangerous case you haven't noticed.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Bush "U-Turn" on Global Warming?

Sez the Independent (via Metafilter).

Stranger things have happened, I guess. Jeez, we'll make a member of the reality-based community out of him yet...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Why Does Colin Powell Hate America So Much?


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

When Prophecy Fails

Well, looks like we're still around. Or is the liberal media concealing the fact that we're in an all-out nuclear war since that would obviously be, ya know, Clinton's fault?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Nice Knowin' Ya

Don't forget, the world ends today. I hope you have plenty of plastic wrap and duct tape.

I've been so busy I forgot all about it. Thank God I taught a fairly good class today. Not my best work, but at least remembering it won't add to whatever eternal torment no doubt lays in store for me.

And, on the bright side, now I won't have to re-write that #&%*@ing grant proposal...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Grasping at Straws, Linking to Straw-Graspers

Ah, Insty. I can always rely on you for a laugh. It's bad enough that Jonah Goldberg & co. will grasp at any straw to minimize the idiocy and incompetence of Their Glorious Hero...but garnering links as if they didn't have their heads up their asses...why, that just makes it that much more astounding.

OBL might very well be dead, of course. But Goldberg's arguments are sub-sophomoric as usual. If the fact that he didn't release a tape on the five-year anniversary of 9/11 is the best you've got, J, then don't waste my time.

This just after I saw over at The Plank that Jonah is also now apparently urging righties to give up the there really was a link between OBL and Saddam line for a new nobody ever even thought that or cared whether there was a link between OBL and Saddam line. I'm waiting for him to start claiming that we never really invaded Iraq. Then he'll be on the same page as Baudrillard, and in the vanguard of American conservatism's transformation into a fully postmodern movement.

[Please to excuse recent incivility. But I just can't seem to put up with this shit with a straight face anymore.]

Friday, September 08, 2006

Where'd I Go?
The Path from 9/11

Well, after the break from politics afforded by the Hawaii trip, I've really just been avoiding the subject.

How many times can one point out that Bush is possibly the worst president ever? And what's with the 35% of Americans who are still either too stupid or too intellectually dishonest to admit that the emperor has no brain?

What, really, is left to say about all of this?

And how 'bout that liberal media doing their best to fight the reality-based community with their fictional, factional, fractured re-writing of history, "The Path to 9/11"?

And what is it with right-wing bloggers who sputtered with rage over the recent Reagan teevee movie, but who seem downright gleeful about PT9/11's patent inaccuracies?

Since the election of 2000 I've watched things go to hell, and even more rapidly since 9/11. Many of us knew that Bush was bad news, but from very early on I was way, way more worried about him than any other sane person I knew. (My super-lefty friends always think that the sky is falling, so I ignore them for most purposes.)

My friends and colleagues joked about having an "intervention" after the 2000 non-recount. I was convinced that I had seen something very, very dangerous in the Bushies then. I was convinced that they were very, very much more dangerous than any of us had realized before the election. My friends joked about my reaction, but I'm fairly sure that--unfortunately--I turned out to be right. Last night over beers my most level-headed and perceptive friend admitted that.

Anyway, I'm just taking a short sort of break from politics. It's all too depressing.

On the bright side, I'm sleeping better and getting more philosophy done.