Saturday, May 31, 2008

Firedoglake on Magic Dolphin Lady on McClellan on Bush
"Snitching" and Moral Reasoning on the Right


Apparently the vanguard of the right has put on its thinking cap and produced the following judgment: Scotty McClellan is a big ol' snitchy-pants.

Seriously. These are the people we have to deal with. Their votes count as much as ours. Their opinions (those of, say, Drudge and MDL) count more than ours, as they are read by a disturbingly large number of wingnuts farther down the wingnut opinion hierarchy.

So let me get this straight: a corrupt and incompetent administration diverts military resources away from retaliating against a terrorist organization that killed 3,000 Americans, takes the country into a different, unjustified war under false pretenses and by means of propaganda, brands all who oppose these actions unpatriotic, abuses the power of the presidency by turning it against its political enemies, tries to turn the country into a surveillance state, illicitly works to expand the power of the office in a way that undermines the co-equality of the three branches of our government, and then apparently begins to "market" another unjustified war...and when someone from inside this cesspool of political filth stands up and points out the wrongness of their actions, the most intelligent thing that the partisan defenders of the administration have to say is: people don't like a snitch?

I don't have the words to express the depth of my contempt for this dreck. The Bush administration has run our beloved country into a ditch, and is rotting it from within, and its right-wing flunkies continue to defend it even when they can muster no response more morally weighty than "tattle-tale'?

So here's the apotheosis of recent wingnut political thinking, and it doesn't rise above school-yard morality.

And, incidentally--this isn't snitching, you shitheads. Snitching is if, oh, say, someone has a joint in his pocket and you run to the teacher or a cop about it. Snitching is gratuitously siding with authorities against the common man, out of obsequiousness or just plain meanness. Testifying at a murder trial is not "snitching." Telling the country of the corruption you've seen in the highest circles of power is not "snitching." It's truth-telling, and it is one's obligation as an American, you unctuous sycophantic toadies.

You know who tries to reduce such acts to snitching? Crooks. Crooks try to assimilate justifiable whistle-blowing to "snitching," and they try to convince others that anyone who opposes them is a "snitch", i.e. someone who obsequiously runs to the authorities. These crooks actually demand obsequiousness, but directed only towards themselves. Allow me to twist moral categories in this way and I can make anything look wrong. Self-defense is just violence, charity is just coddling. Self-sacrifice is mere imprudence. It's an easy game to play.

It's fairly clear, though few ever point it out, that, had Drudge and Magic Dolphin lady and their ilk been around during the Revolution, they'd have been "loyalists," i.e. monarchists. We'd see their screeds against Washington and Monroe and the other dirty hippies nailed to sign posts. And we'd be treated to a cornucopia of tortured arguments about how Jefferson and Madison were barking moonbats who hated England, the One True Greatest Country Ever.

And, of course, they'd regale us with frothy posts about how Paul Revere was a big fat snitch.

So lick away, lickspittles. I suppose you've gone too far down this road to turn back now. After seven years of insisting that Bush was not only adequate but a man of "brilliance approaching genius," who is "Churchillian," I suppose there's little chance of you facing the facts now, no matter how obvious they become. And keep impugning the character of anyone who points out that the emperor has no clothes--even if the person who points it out is the imperial tailer.

After all, no crook likes a whistle-blower--and neither do those who aid and abet crooks.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Anti-McClellan Republicans Care More About McClellan's "Betrayal" of Bush Than Bush's Betrayal of America

Well, that about sums it up. Bob Dole, one of my favorite Republicans, is the latest to blow a gasket (which, note, is not the same as losing your marbles, which, in turn, is not the same as losing your bearings, despite what desperate McCainiacs have tried to say).

O.k., now hear this: if a President is betraying the trust of the nation, then one has not only a right but an obligation to make this information public. Scott McClellan is not blameworthy for disclosing the information he has disclosed--he is, rather, blameworthy for not having disclosed it sooner.

Among the many sophistical arguments being promulgated by Republican lackeys on cable news, surely the most deplorable are those that include or presuppose the claim that personal loyalty to a corrupt president is more morally weighty than duty to the country. I sincerely hope that this is just more conservative bullshit, and that none of these people really believe this. This is a problem we repeatedly find ourselves facing when we consider the claims of the current crop of Republicans: we have to hope they're just bullshitting again, because if they're telling the truth, then they're, well, nuts.

What I'd like to ask the lackeys aforementioned is something like this:
Suppose I were a confidante of a president, and I knew that this president was about to take the country into an unjustified war--do you really believe that I should remain silent out of personal loyalty?

Jeez. As you know, I have fairly strong non-partisan inclinations...but Republicans don't make this position easy to maintain.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Wingnut Steve Gilbert Pwn3d After Attempting to Swiftboat Obama

See, Obama's been doing some stuff I don't quite agree with. So I keep coming on to complain about it. But every time I do, the wingnuts show their true colors and do something so outrageous that criticizing Obama would be churlish and silly.

Take this case for example. The bizarre attempt to swiftboat Obama for saying 'Auschwitz' when he meant 'Buchenwald' may be the absolutely stupidest damn thing I've ever seen in my life. And believe me, that's saying something.

Read all about it at the Daily Kos. If you, like me, thought that the wingnuts couldn't stoop any lower, then, well, I've got some bad news for you...

Fer th' lova God, DO NOT MISS THIS update in the Auschwitzgate saga at Sadly, No!

[HT: Aa]

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Darth Rove: McClellan "Sounds Like a Left-Wing Blogger"


Oh, man, that turdblossom, he kills me.

I guess hoping for a modicum of honesty in government makes you a radical lefty pinko commie barking moonbat.

Added bonus: this looks like an admission that folks like me have been right all along. McClellan the insider, the loyalist, finally breaks out and tells us what its really like on the inside...and guess what? He sounds like a liberal blogger.

Congrats, fellow liberal bloggers. We've been right all along.
Playing Dumb Re: McClellan's Book

Gosh, we just have absolutely no idea what Scotty could be talking about. I mean, in an administration that is universally recognized for its openness and veracity, especially with regard to the Iraq war and the Plame affair, this comes as a veritable bolt from the blue. I mean, if anyone else had ever criticized the administration after leaving, then we might be able to give this some credence. But given the impeccable record of this administration, we obviously must conclude that Scott McClellan has been kidnapped by terrorists or Democrats and programmed to try and bring down the President and, therefore, the nation.

I mean, really? Who on Earth could possibly believe this sort of thing?
McClellan Tells Us What We Already Know About The Awfulness Of The Bush Administration
And Bonus: The Precise Nature of the Awfulness

I'm not sure whether it's worthwhile discussing this issue anymore...but here goes anyway. It long ago became perfectly clear to anyone who was even moderately well-informed and minimally intellectually honest that the Bush administration was corrupt, as was its case for the Iraq war. A few hard-core partisans and dedicated internet apologists still grasp at the remaining pathetic shreds of what was once semi-plausible deniability. But what was once infuriating has become merely pathetic.

If McClellan were singing a solo, or if his devotion to Bush had been of a lesser order, we might be forced to take his testimony less seriously. But he was a loyal Bushy who followed Dubya from Texas, and he merely tells us what even external observers had already discerned, and what a chorus of other insiders-turned-outsiders have also told us: that the president, while not stupid, is intellectually dishonest and incurious in the extreme, that Cheney's power is inordinate, and that the case for war was dishonest.

I'm only going to make one small substantive point here. Consider the following bit, from today's Washington Post story:

McClellan stops short of saying that Bush purposely lied about his reasons for invading Iraq, writing that he and his subordinates were not "employing out-and-out deception" to make their case for war in 2002.

But in a chapter titled "Selling the War," he alleges that the administration repeatedly shaded the truth and that Bush "managed the crisis in a way that almost guaranteed that the use of force would become the only feasible option."

"Over that summer of 2002," he writes, "top Bush aides had outlined a strategy for carefully orchestrating the coming campaign to aggressively sell the war. . . . In the permanent campaign era, it was all about manipulating sources of public opinion to the president's advantage."

McClellan, once a staunch defender of the war from the podium, comes to a stark conclusion, writing, "What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary."

The problem here is that McClellan is on the verge of casuistry. He says that they were not "employing out-and-out deception," but were merely "shading the truth". This is not so much a criticism of McClellan as it is of the consistently imprecise application of certain moral concepts that has pervaded the attempt to defend Bush.

We do ordinarily draw a distinction between straightforward lies on the one hand and deception that does not involve outright lies on the other. However, it is not clear that, morally speaking, there is any significant difference here--the crucial fact from the moral perspective seems to be the intention to deceive--whether the deception is effected by outright lies, more subtle deceptions, or "shading the truth" is probably not relevant. But, furthermore, we should probably note that "shading the truth" is outright deception, since deception covers any effort to deceive.

There are actually two significant and related points here. First: it is not clear that the administration actually told that many outright lies, though their campaign of deception is every bit as despicable as if they had. But there is little room for subtlety in our vapid public political discourse. The most common ordinary category is lying, and the way the administration built its case was, in essence, lying. Those who publicly articulated the case against him had to choose between simply saying "he lied," which would clearly get the point across, or making a longish claim which, though simple, was too complicated for our sound-bite-driven political discussions. If they chose the latter course of action, they were largely ignored; if the former, the Bush apologists were sure to say "well, it wasn't really lying..." In fact, I once had a conservative commenter insist that one doesn't tell a lie unless one knows with absolute certainty that what one is saying is false. This is, of course, not true--though if it were, human fallibility would save us from ever lying.

Similarly, those who wished to make claims about the failings of Mr. Bush have often said that he is stupid, which is not at all clear. What he is, to use philosopher's lingo, is intellectually vicious. 'Vicious' is, primarily, the antonym of 'virtuous'--it need not mean violent or mean or sadistic. To be vicious is to have vices. And that is the President's problem. He is, perhaps, not stupid, but he is stubborn and incurious and unwilling to seek disconfirming information or admit when he is wrong. This is far worse than being stupid. If you have the choice between relying on a stupid person who is intellectually virtuous (honest, inquiring, willing to admit error) and a person who is smart but vicious, I strongly suggest that you choose the former under normal conditions.

It is no surprise that these things have gone together: an intellectually vicious president and a dishonest case for war. In fact, I would be rather surprised if anyone were surprised about this. See, here's the way it goes: you get the president you elect. Elect a dishonest president, you are going to get dishonesty from him.

Now, some might argue that if Mr. Bush is intellectually dishonest, then he is misleading himself, not us. If he is truly intellectually dishonest, then it is himself he deceives--by the time he gets around to talking to us, he is being honest--that is, he is telling us what he genuinely believes to be true. That he deceived himself into believing it is irrelevant--he believes it now. But this isn't the way it works. Lying to yourself is a tricky business, and it usually involves lying to others along the way. You convince yourself by saying it out loud, pretending that you believe it and so forth. You, as they say, bootstrap your way up into full belief. You play fast and loose with the facts, publicly and privately, and, eventually, you believe.

One might say that there's no reason to still be discussing these points, but I disagree. It is very important the precise nature of the failings of the Bush administration be made as clear as possible to the American public--first, because it is important to know the truth, but, second, so that we lower the probability of electing another George W. Bush or someone like him.

Furthermore, it might be worth noting that--or so it seems to me--it is largely those of us who have focused carefully on the vices of the current administration who find Obama's candidacy so appealing. A final quote from the Post story:
McClellan has some kind words for Bush, calling him "a man of personal charm, wit and enormous political skill." He writes that the president "did not consciously set out to engage in these destructive practices. But like others before him, he chose to play the Washington game the way he found it, rather than changing the culture as he vowed to do at the outset of his campaign for the presidency."
Choosing to play the reprehensible game as you find it is itself a reprehensible decision, though one might, under certain circumstances, be excused for it. Though Bush not only played the game, he became, as it were, a virtuoso, taking it to new levels of dishonesty and viciousness. But it is, I think, worth reflecting on the fact that playing the vicious game is exactly what Obama has promised he will not do--he will, instead, strive to change it into something more virtuous. I'm currently inclined to think that this is the most important thing a president could do.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Clinton and the Bobby Kennedy Claim

I'm on the fly, but I just wanted to say that my first inclination is to think that people are being extremely unfair to Hillary about this Bobby Kennedy business. Seems to me that the point of her claim was that Kennedy was still campaigning in June.

Also my first thought: Obama ought to come out and say, clearly and forcefully, that people need to lay off Clinton on this.

This seems to me to be gotcha politics of the very worst kind. You can't have a serious process of selecting a president if people are going to make crap like this a major focus of the campaign.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Obama's Great-Grandfather: Ralph Waldo Emerson Dunham

It says at TNR.

Funny...I've been thinking for a month or so now that there are echoes of Emerson in some of what Obama says. Could be a coincidence, or his great-great-great grandpa or ma might have liked Emerson, passed ideas on to R.W.E. Dunham, and so on...semiosis echoing down through the generations... Or Obama might just, like the rest of us, pick up some transcendentalism in his youth, e.g. through Thoreau, and/or find in college that he has, unbeknownst to himself, already, as an American, embraced Emerson without even realizing it. Or whatever.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Clinton Now Explicitly Formulating Arguments For the GOP

Now Clinton is explicitly formulating and voicing Republican arguments:
We know the road to a Democratic White House runs right through Florida and Michigan. And if we care about winning those states in November, we need to count your votes now. If Democrats send the message that we don't fully value your votes, we know Senator McCain and the Republicans will be more than happy to have them. The Republicans will make a simple and compelling argument. Why should Florida and Michigan voters trust the Democratic Party to look out for you when they won't even listen to you?
Look, she has really gone off the rails. Until now, I really have not believed that she was trying to torpedo Obama so that she could run again in 2012. But she seems to be running an even more scorchy scorched earth policy than she used to be.

But sinking Obama in the general isn't her primary goal, I think. Beating him in the primary is. My guess is that she's simply going to keep frantically fighting to get Florida and Michigan seated, then she'll fight frantically for another rule change/goalpost-move that will help her, and then another and another until she can work herself into a position from which she can plausibly claim to be the winner. At which point, of course, she'll be shocked, shocked that Obama doesn't simply give up for the sake of party unity. JQ thinks she's fighting to seat FL and MI so that she can then argue that it's the popular vote that should determine the candidate.

At any rate, people who think that she'll settle down if the rules are bent re: FL and MI are fooling themselves. If those rules are bent, she'll then turn her energies to getting some other rules bent, and she'll keep bending rules and moving goalposts until they're bent into shapes and moved to locations that benefit her.

I said it before, and I hereby say it again: I won't vote for Clinton if she should somehow win the nomination. And should she succeed in torpedoing Obama, and run in 2012, I won't vote for her then, either.
Recount, Florida 2000, and Florida 2008

Just saw a bit about the new movie, Recount, about the Florida recount debacle. If I had HBO, I'd certainly be watching it on Sunday.

However, I've noticed a certain theme in recent discussions that is an attempt to analogize the current problems with Florida (and Michigan) to the problems of 2000. Try as I might, I just can't see any important similarity.

The Democratic position was pretty much right in the recount debacle, and the Republican position was pretty much wrong. The Democrats' guiding idea went something like this: Count every vote. The Republicans' guiding idea went something like this: Give us the f*cking Presidency. Now. I frequently worry that historical accounts will be stripped of the all-important feel and tone of things at the time. The pervasive vibes coming from the Republican side were of insistence, stridency, dogmatism, dishonesty and attempted intimidation. The Dems didn't handle things perfectly, but in the main their actions were defensible, and sometimes even noble. Nothing like that can be said of the Republicans.

But back to the point at hand: there seems to be no resemblance to the Florida(/Michigan) question of today. Florida and Michigan Democrats broke the party rules (even if FL Dems took cover behind the GOP, and pretended they were innocent victims). The consequences were fair and known ahead of time. And everybody else pulled their names from the ballots and refrained from campaigning. Only Clinton cheated.

Some Hillaristas are now adopting the "count every vote" battle cry as their own, and analogizing their problems to those of Florida in 2000. But this is dishonest, and the analogy a bad one. In the debacle of 2000, there were real, legal votes that the Republicans tried to keep from being counted, in clear violation of Florida law, and of precedent associated with punch-card voting machines. Everyone closely associated with that method of voting knew that machine counts were approximations, and that hand counts were more accurate. Everyone, the GOP and Bushies included, had tacitly accepted the precedent of hand counts for close cases. But when the GOP saw that this was no longer in their interest, they launched a massive disinformation campaign to portray hand counts as inaccurate and (their word) "subjective." This was false--and known to be false--by everyone including the manufacturers of the machines in question.

In 2000, there were legal votes that were not counted. Today, the votes of voters in Florida and Michigan are more like illegal votes than they are like uncounted legal votes. All parties agreed from the beginning that votes cast under such conditions would not be counted. It's rather as if I'd set up an impromptu voting station in my barn and then demanded that the votes cast there be counted. The Clinton camp now wants to change the rules post facto. In this respect, they are more like the Republicans of 2000 than they are like the Democrats of 2000. "Count every vote" here seems to mean "count all the votes, legal and illegal," which is, needless to say, a very peculiar battle cry indeed.

Among the many reasons that this is angrifying is this one: it demeans the memory of the recount of 2000, during which real principles were at stake, and were trampled. In 2000, Republicans trampled on important American democratic principles; in 2008, the Clinton camp is twisting and devaluing the memory of that crime for political gain.

We should not have let the GOP get away with what they got away with in 2000. The least we can do is insist that Clinton not pull us all further into the muck by twisting the history of that crime for political gain.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Chris Matthews Pw0n3z Right-Wing Gasbag Kevin James

At the AV club.

I used to like Matthews, and he proves here that, when he encounters somebody who's a bigger loudmouth than he is, he can still be reasonable--while laying a total smackdown on said loudmouth to boot. Man, what a moron. Good on Matthews for utterly and totally humiliating this asshat--and for doing so just by asking a simple and obvious question that any junior high student should be able to answer.

What's kind of encouraging about this is that we finally see a talking head standing up to at least some of the most egregious bullshit and insisting that the bullshitter respect at least the most simple and fundamental distinctions, e.g. that between talking and appeasing.

Good job, Chris!

[HT: Johnny Quest]

We took off on little preparation for some camping at Bear Island, NC. Sorry for the lack of warning.

Strong, gusty winds pretty much the whole time kept the bugs down (praise be to the wind gods), but played havoc with our new, humongous REI Hobitat 4. It's an awesome tent if you don't have to lug it very far--definitely NOT designed for back-country camping--and it did stay up with some assistance from sand bags in the corners...but some of the pole sections are definitely bent.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Three Weeks of TeeVee Silence About Military "Analyst" Propagandists

So, the NYT first broke this part of the sad tale of the selling of the Iraq war on April 20th. Has any body heard even a peep about the story on the teevee? So, is this the way it works? Television networks can fall for administration lies in a genuinely spectacular way, but they don't have to cover the story when the facts come to light.

Ya know, this is a very, very, very different country than the one I learned about as a kid...
Why It Matters That The Administration Deceived Us Into Iraq

Among the many dishonest arguments the Bush administration and its supporters have been using to conceal its mendacity in the lead-up to Iraq is one that goes something like this: that's all history; we need to quit bickering about that and come together and focus on winning now that we're there.

Now of course this is but one loathsome argument in a torrent of loathsome arguments. It's flawed in innumerable ways. But here's just one reason--and not even the most important reason--why this defense is so vile. They seem to be doing pretty much the same thing again. I don't see any prima facie reason to doubt that Iran is pumping weapons into Iraq. Among other reasons, they are the primary beneficiaries (with the possible exception of al Qaeda) of the Iraq war, and, given the administration's chest-thumping of late, Iran has good reason to want our armed forces ground down even further.

Oh, and it looks like the administration has been distorting the truth about EFPs, too.
Loony Liberals + 9/11 -->Loony Conservatives?

I keep running into folks on the interwebs that say things like "I was a liberal before 9/11, but..." And I keep wondering: what kind of dumbass liberal would you have to be to get all conservative because of 9/11???? I mean, liberals often refuse to recognize how many witless liberals there are out there. This sounds to me like the foreign policy equivalent of the adage that a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged. Now mugging is extremely unlikely to change my attitude about crime. Why? Because I already have a reasonable attitude about it. I'm in no sense one of those liberals who weeps for the perpetrator. I want victimless crimes legalized, non-violent offenders largely in rehabilitation programs, and violent offenders locked up big time for a long time. Similarly, 9/11 did nothing to change my political orientation because I already had my head on straight (or at least as straight as it is now...however straight that might be...) before 9/11. I know there are bad people in the world and many of them want to kill Americans. I don't see why non-witless liberals should in any way deny that. 9/11 didn't change anything fundamental about my view of the world, nor of foreign policy, and if your view was sane it shouldn't have changed it much either. Did these liberals-turned-conservatives think, pre-9/11, that the world was an entirely friendly place? Did they think we didn't need to be prepared to defend ourselves? What? WHAT??? I just don't get it. Were they blame-America-first liberals? I mean, what exactly would your world-view have to be like to allow 9/11 to turn you into a conservative? It just doesn't make sense.

My guess is that they were dopey liberals then and they're dopey conservatives now. They probably had an unreflective, overly lefty view before, and they probably swapped it in for an unreflective, overly righty view now. Sensible liberals needn't have changed their views about foreign policy in any dramatic way after 9/11. Sensible liberals have always recognized that the world was largely a dangerous place. They just don't think that we have to be paranoid, self-interested warmongers starting random and unjustified wars in order to survive. As a matter of fact, we're much more likely to survive if we're NOT paranoid, self-interested warmongers starting random wars.

Here's a wee rough-and-ready test:

(1) If you thought that both Afghanistan and Iraq were unjustified, then you are probably a loony lefty leaning toward at least de facto pacifism.

(1) If you thought that Afghanistan is a justified and rational war but Iraq is neither, then you're probably in the ballpark, getting things more-or-less right.

(3) If you thought that Afghanistan and Iraq are both justified and rational wars, then you are probably a loony righty leaning toward at least de facto warmongerdom.*

*Note: if you are a Democratic member of Congress who voted in favor of the war, you are probably just spineless and afraid the Republicans will call you a pansy. That's a different thing entirely.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mark Kleiman et. al.: Obama's Record Of Bipartisanship Better Than McCain's

One type of unfair attack against Obama goes like this: sure he talks good 'n' all that, but he's got no ideas. When that's shown to be false, the fall-back criticism is: sure he's got good ideas 'n' all that, but what we need is action. Fortunately, Obama walks the walk, too.

Kleiman draws together several posts on this topic (e.g. by Juan Williams, Hilzoy, and Marc Ambinder) to make the case that Obama's record of bipartisanship in his relatively short Senate career is far better than McCain's. Read all about it.

Saturday, May 10, 2008 is worth a look. There's a good idea here, though I have to say, about five minutes of poking around made me a little skeptical about this way of doing it. They basically just give about a one-paragraph quote from five or six sources on each side of a question, giving each source what seems to be a kind of credibility rating. Seems to me that the problem is that you can make almost any issue look like a toss-up in this way. I think they're just trying to give people an solid introduction to some of the bumper-sticker versions of the arguments on each side--and that's way better than nothing. But I'm not sure you can do much to advance people's understanding of such issues without doing something a little more extensive than this. Still, it's an interesting idea, and it'd be great if the interwebs had more sites along these lines.
Conservative Obama Hatred

Wow. Those guys really hate Obama. What gives? He's not even in office yet, his policies really don't seem that aggressively liberal, and he seems extremely serious about bipartisanship and compromise. AND he's thrashing the person they seem to hate most in the world. But man, they really hate him..though, as usual, none of them seem to be able to articulate any coherent reasons for their position. I saw Bill Kristol on one of the talking-head shows last week, and he could barely control himself. He was falling all over himself as the segment ended to spit out a stammering assertion that Obama was winning because of...wait for it...sexism! That's right, for the first time in his life, Bill Kristol is suddenly concerned about sexism. And Krauthammer seems to have become even more incoherent and mean-spirited than usual on the subject of Obama--and that, of course, is saying something.

And all this seems to have some kind of fairly direct relation to the fact that conservatives all the over to Rush Limbaugh suddenly--for no apparently reason--seem to loooooove Hillary.

Man. Those guys really are nuts.
More Anti-Sex Propaganda From Mr. Ratzinger

Cripes. Do these people ever listen to themselves? They're so obsessively afraid of sex that they spin out elaborate, fantastical theories bout why it's terribly awfully horribly naughty--except, of course, as a means to the end of producing additional members of their religion. Then it's a duty. (As in the old Soviet Union, that which is not forbidden is obligatory...)

What's truly astonishing is that so many people listen to this guy, no matter how little sense he makes.
Life In The Alternate Universe Of The Hillarians...

Where Obama is a Muslim who scorns the flag and wants to make "I'd Like To Teach the World to Sing" the national anthem because it would be less militaristic...

And, as it turns out: ya know those crazy chain e-mail you sometimes accidentally get from your grandpa, or your friend's grandpa? The ones about how, say, lesbian illegal immigrant gangs are using pink dirty bombs laced with estrogen to make American males effeminate and infertile?

Well, as it turns out, apparently more people than you'd think consider those e-mails an actual news source. In fact, for some of them, that's their ONLY news source.

And, as it turns out, lots of these folks are for Hillary.

Turns out that this country is considerably scarier than I realized.

And, don't forget: your vote counts the same as that of a crackpot who gets all his news from e-mails forwarded to him from other crackpots...
Your "War" On Drugs At Work

Take a wacky "war" with irrational, unachievable paternalistic goals, add over-armed, overly-aggressive paramilitary-wannabe cops, and mix in malleable courts willing to give said cops anything you want...and, well, can anything good reasonably be expected to come of this?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Interpretive Absurdity In Today's Campaign News

Too busy to address this issue with the care it deserves, but in brief:

I suppose it's no secret that one of the main weapons campaigns employ against their opponents is the radically uncharitable interpretation. I began writing this because people in the Obamasphere (or should that be Obamosphere?) are accusing HRC of racism over the following:
Citing an Associated Press analysis "that found how Senator Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me," she went on to say: "There's a pattern emerging here."
I suppose people are objecting to this because they are interpreting "hard-working Americans, white Americans" to mean "hard-working Americans, i.e. white Americans" or something like that. This seems extremely unlikely to me. Seems much more likely that it was supposed to mean something more like "hard-working Americans and white Americans." Look, the Clinton campaign is still evil--don't get me wrong--but I doubt that they're racist, and it's clear that the former interpretation above cannot be pinned on them when the latter interpretation is at least as likely to accurately represent what they meant.

It's particularly excusable given that the MSM has been running around all day every day breaking down every vote in terms of race, sex and class and cackling about who's winning which ethnic groups and so forth. (I've been wanting to post about that but can't keep a civil tongue in my head about it...) The damnably ignorant and vapid news channels have basically established race, sex and class as the categories that must be used to discuss this election. It's stupid and harmful, but Hillary can be excused for slipping into talking that way given that background. Sounds to me like she just garbled her usual bullshit. But I very strongly doubt that she intended to say anything racist.

As I was getting ready to write this, though, I noticed that one of Obama's recent remarks about McCain was also being distorted, this time by the McCain camp. McCain said--and this claim is fairly vile, though it's a moderately complicated issue I think--that Hamas supports (or prefers?) Obama. Obama responded far more civilly and charitably than he was obligated to, saying that McCain had "lost his bearings." The McCain camp is apparently responding that Obama's remark was a bigoted slam at McCain's age. Ageism, I guess. That is absolutely absurd. Perhaps they're unclear on the difference between losing one's bearings and losing one's marbles. I dunno. It was about the most polite thing one could say about McCain's comment. To say that he had "lost his bearings" is a way of saying that he'd lost sight of his own principles. He did, after all, agree to run a civil campaign, and the Hamas remark is on the edge at best. Obama's response was, in a way, a backhanded compliment to McCain, urging him to bring out his better self. The McCain campaign response with an intellectually dishonest slam at Obama.

This is the kind of bullshit that pulls our political discourse into the mud, and exactly the kind of thing Obama has tried to draw our attention to and warn us against. This is a shameful, cynical, dishonest ploy by the McCain camp.

I certainly hope McCain regains his bearings pretty soon. Else it's going to be a really vile and painful campaign--from his side, anyway.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Obama Has The Force

That's my hypothesis, anyway.

Think about it.

It explains a lot...
HRC, In The Bunker

Via Andrew Sullivan I encounter this YouTube morsel which I do NOT NOT NOT endorse and I look askance on such things and think they are NAUGHTY but it's not my fault it's funny and beside Michelle K got be started on this stuff making fun of Hillary and now, though I kinda feel sorry for her I CAN'T STOP!!!11!1

But..and again, I know I shouldn't propagate this kind of stuff...but maybe if you are going to act nutty, you just have to put up with ridicule of this kind. I'll say that this is payback for that gas tax BS (even tho it has nothing to do with that)...but now I can't use that as an excuse EVER AGAIN.
Hillary Clinton: The Psycho Ex-Girlfriend Of The Democratic Party

I don't condone escalating tensions between Obamites and Hillaristas, but this at MadAtoms is pretty awesome. To quote Homer, it's funny because it's true...

Occasional Orwell Quote

(apropos of the discussion below in my fawning post about The Audacity of Hope, and brought to mind by Andrew Sullivan:)

To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


As Steve Chapman points out, via Mark Kleiman.

Whew! If there's an ounce of fairness or balance in the MSM...though, well...what am I thinking?...they'll give McCain ten times more trouble about this than they gave Obama for the Ayers business. Liddy is a certified--and I used the following term advisedly--traitor. Not to mention a complete idiot and total psycho. And McCain has a much, much, much stronger, more significant and more recent relationship with Liddy than Obama had with Ayers. Though, as we know, a big chunk of this country has way, way more tolerance for right-wing lunatics than for left-wing ones.
Uranium Mining in Grand Canyon National Park?

For those of you who aren't satisfied just drilling for oil in the ANWR, I give you this.

Next up:

Tapping into unused BTUs just sitting around in the National Archives and the Library of Congress


Puppy gassification
Lee Camp: Secret McCain Campaign Slogan Memo Leaked

Old is the new hope

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

We're Gonna Kick Clinton's Ass In NC

That's all there is to it. I've never seen people so motivated. The Obama campaign here is fired up, and it's extremely well-run. And Hillary's nastiness just motivated these already highly-motivated people even more.

The returns are just starting to come in, and it's fairly clear that Hillary's toast around these parts.
The Audacity of Hope: Downright Inspiring

On the way to the beach, stopped by Borders to, unsurprisingly, grab some beach reading. On the way up to the counter, saw Obama's The Audacity of Hope in paperback. Not exactly beach reading, and I really hadn't had all that much interest in reading it, as such books written by American politicians are pretty much invariably disappointing. But I picked it up more or less on a whim. JQ started reading it out loud when we got back in the car, and within about three pages she was getting seriously choked up. We stopped for gas and switched up, her driving, me reading. Within a few pages I was getting choked up. No kidding.

I'm not done with it yet, but just let me say: damn. Go pick up this book. Seriously. This guy is even smarter and, well, wiser than you probably think. He's got ideas, and they're good ones. He obviously genuinely and deeply believes in a unifying politics. He thinks and feels deeply about our history and our relation to it. This is a truly extraordinary person.

I'm skeptical of claims like this, and of people who make them, but: I think this is the candidate I've been waiting for my whole life. This is a man who could be a truly great American president, and the only great president since FDR.

O.k., call me a crackpot if you like. I'm not usually given to volatile hyperbole in these matters. But this guy is something genuinely unusual.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Camping at the Beach

I'm outta here. I know I should work more for Obama, but this is JQ and my only chance to get away before the next round of craziness starts.

Clinton Channels Bush On The Subject of Quote Expertise Unquote

So, perhaps you've heard that every economist in the known universe has said that the "gas tax holiday" advocated by Clinton and McCain will save the average person about 30 bucks. The slimy, mendacious response of the Clinton campaign? Sometimes the president has to buck the "quote experts unquote." So looks like Clinton is taking the same attitude to science and expertise that the Bushies have taken for the last seven years: if you don't like the consensus of scientific opinion, ignore it. It's just "elite opinion" after all. But apparently anybody who has even the vaguest idea of what the facts are like now counts as elites. It's not hard to figure out how much you'd save, and nobody has disputed the thirty dollar figure. So Clinton's response here makes no sense whatsoever. It's as if she'd said "I'll give everybody a five dollar tax break!" and economists had said "Uh, that's not going to make any difference," and she'd responded "Sometimes a president has to stand up against those pointy-headed intellectuals!" Idiocy. It's not like the conclusions of the experts run contrary to the conclusions of common sense here. Even us dumb regular folks can see she's full of shit on this one. She might as well have said "I've got your quote common-sense unquote right here."

What a slime bag.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Reagan Cultists Accuse Obama Supporters of Being Cult-Like

So the denizens of the fever swamps are falling all over themselves trying to think of new insults to hurl in the direction of Obama and his supporters. (I won't dignify them by characterizing them as objections. When we get down to criticizing his choice of breakfast beverages, we're really just in the realm of childish insults.) The new one seems to be: Obama supporters are cultish. If I felt like taking this seriously, I might explain why it is that being enthusiastic about a candidate does not make you into a cultist. But, having already had just about enough of these people, I'll stoop to their level and just go straight for the tu quoque:

So lemme get this strait: the same folks who fawned and swooned and got all weepy about The Great Prevaricator...the same folks who asserted that (and I'm not making this up) Reagan was "the greatest president since Jefferson," the same people who pushed to name not only National airport and the International Trade Center building after him, but an aircraft carrier as well...the same folks who are trying to get a memorial to him in every county in the country...the folks who thought his face should be added to Mount Rushmore and to the ten dollar bill...these folks are accusing Obama supporters of being cultish? And all of this is not even to mention Peggy Noonan (a.k.a. Magic Dolphin Lady) and the fantasies about cetological divine intervention in the Elian Gonzalez affair...

So, anyway, you'll forgive me if I don't take accusations of cultishness too seriously when it comes from the certifiable cultists.

Cripes, these people...

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Stupidest Thing I Read Today:
Abe Greenwald Spins Out Some Bullshit About Obama, Age and Orange Juice

Jeez. I mean, wow. On the interwebs, it's almost always raining stupid. But this...oh, this is a rare gem of rarefied bullshit. I mean, is anybody really clueless enough to write something like this and think that he's doing anything other than throwing a partisan temper-tantrum?

As I've noted, I'm growing as a human being at least in the sense that I don't waste as much time as I used to explaining why patent nonsense is nonsense. This task I leave as an exercise for the reader.

But wow. Just wow. There's a whole lotta stupid on the other end of that link. Click it at your own risk.
More 100 Years in Iraq: Finally a Sensible Criticism!

Now this is a sensible criticism.

See, now that wasn't so hard, was it?

Nice job, Josh.

Though, sadly, this comes hot on the heels of an extremely sophistical video defense of the DNC's "100 Years" ad.
McCain "Admits" Iraq War Is About Oil
The Central Puzzle About The Iraq War

Here, at Crooks and Liars: McCain "admits" that the Iraq war was about oil. Why the scare quotes? Because saying that p is not always an admission that p. Why is this not clearly an admission? Because to be an admission, McCain would have to be convinced that the war was undertaken because of oil. Perhaps he is, but I'm skeptical. Why? Because we have not yet solved--and may never solve--the central puzzle of the Iraq war. To wit: why did we start it in the first place?

I don't know the answer, you don't know the answer, McCain may not know the answer...sometimes I'm not even sure that anybody in the administration knows the answer. Why did the administration undertake to sell a war in the wake of 9/11 and tacitly in the name of 9/11 when that war had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11? Why did they let the man responsible for 9/11 escape after he had been cornered by diverting troops to the unrelated Iraq war?

It really is shocking how sanguine the American public is about all this. If even 10% of them knew even the basic story as painted by the MSM, you'd think there'd be riots on the Mall. It's just about the most astonishing and inexplicable act of stupidity imaginable.

Why did we go to war in Iraq? I just don't think we know.

It's hard to even know what the question really is. Is it: why did the administration undertake to sell the war? That is: why did they put so much effort into misleading Congress and the American people? Why did Congress give in so easily when the case was so obviously cooked? And why did the American public follow along so docilely? Or, rather: so eagerly?

The latter questions can be answered fairly easily, I think. But the answer to the first question is still a mystery.

So McCain certainly said something that entails that we went in because of oil, but I doubt that it's an admission, because I doubt that McCain has anything more than a hypothesis. Was oil a part of our reason for starting the war? Well, we'd never have had this kind of interest in Iraq to start with if it weren't in the Persian Gulf. So it's clear that oil is at least part of the background conditions for the war. But it's far from clear that oil was the main reason we went in. We may never know what the main reasons were. It's even possible that there is no fact of the matter; that is, that the administration's thinking was so confused that it's not possible to identify the central reasons.

Let me end by saying that this puzzle may be less puzzling than I make it out to be. Woodward, in his interesting State of Denial, says that, after 9/11, some in the administration thought that a narrow response against al Qaeda would be a mistake, and that government was incapable of envisioning the kind of broad, radical response that was required. Government, they thought, just can't think that big. So apparently Wolfowitz went to AEI and asked them for ideas. They responded with a multi-decade plan to refashion the entire Middle East. It involved invading some ME country and making it into a Western-style nation with a democratic government and market economy. Apparently they said that none of the countries that would be best for this plan could plausibly be invaded. Egypt would be good, but we couldn't invade them. Saudi Arabia would be good, but they're the bestest buddies of the Bushes, and, besides, there's no way to invade them. Iran: also no way. Too strong. The nearest country we had actual justification for invading was Afghanistan, but: not really in the ME. Too peripheral. But there was one country that was o.k. though suboptimal, and for which a case could be gerrymandered: Iraq.

There's apparently some fairly good reason to believe that this is what happened, and that's why we did it. On the basis of this Rube Goldbergesque/Steven den Beste-esque crackpot scheme to completely remake the entire Middle East. (Note: I kinda like SDB, and people should be a lot nicer to the guy; but his "justification" for invading Iraq in premise-and-conclusion form is just about as loopy as it could possibly be.)

Maybe now that it's been such an unmitigated disaster, it doesn't really make any sense to hope we acted on better rather than worse reasons. But: whatever crackpot reasons they had, I hope they were better than that AEI nonsense. Cripes. What a world-historical f*ck-up.

Oh yeah...the McCain thing. So, um, probably not really an admission, just a hypothesis. I really wish liberals would stop this sophomoric gotcha crap. It's perfectly permissible to note that McCain said this, and really, really important to ask him if that's what he really thinks, and if so why. But this YOU SAID! YOU SAID! YOU SAID THAT IT WAS OIL YOU SAID IT! bullshit really, really, really, really needs to stop.
McCain Points Out That "100 Years" Ad Is Misleading; DNC Says "Quit Whining"

Jesus. I can hardly go near the Huffington Post these days. Not a place for really serious analysis, the HuffPo at least helps one keep the ol' finger on the ol' pulse and all that. But it's become so contemptuous toward McCain that I can't stand it. And speaking of contemptuous, how 'bout that Karen Finney of the DNC? So, first the DNC puts out a highly misleading ad about McCain--the "100 years" ad--then when McCain points out that it's misleading, Ms. Finney, the DNC's "communications director" tells him to (and here I quote) "stop whining." Nice.

So, Jim and LL disagreed with me about this ad. I think I understand their points, though I still do not agree with them. But I think everybody has to admit that the ad--at best--exploits an unclarity in what Senator McCain said. Consequently, it is permissible for him to clarify what he meant. And it is entirely unreasonable to characterize this as "whining."

I had almost forgotten how bad the DNC sucks. I mean, given that the GOP has completely gone off the deep end for the last fifteen years, it's easy to slide into thinking that the folks at the DNC are the good guys. But they're not. They're just the less bad guys.

So the long and the short of it is: YOU SUCK, DNC.

Nice work. This is exactly the kind of thing mendacious bullshit that makes our politics so divisive. This is exactly the kind of think I thought Obama was steadfastly against...though I've heard him repeat the 100 year claim as well.

Very disheartening, this.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

George F. Will, Reverent Wright, Representativeness, and The Fallacy of Equivocation

It's the commonest thing to find errors of reasoning in the rantings and ravings of the denizens of the fever swamps. But George F. Will usually avoids outright textbook fallacies. In fact, every now and then he'll even say something sensible and interesting. But not usually. Usually it's the predictable, highly partisan dreck. Most of this column is more-or-less par for the course. It's about the loony Reverend Wright. Here's one of my favorite paragraphs:
Obama should be questioned about whether he agrees about "different" learning styles. It is, however, predictable that journalistic and political choruses will attempt to suppress such questioning by suggesting that it is somehow illegitimate. The "daisy ad" and "Willie Horton" will be darkly mentioned.
Let's review: Obama should be asked whether he shares a fairly loopy theory with the former pastor who he's gone out of his way to repudiate about a hundred times now, at lest twice in nationally publicized addresses. And this, of course, despite the fact that he's explicitly said that he not only disagrees with the ideas Wright was advocating, but finds them offensive. Yep. Will thinks that the media needs to keep askin him whether he agrees.

Oh, and don't forget this part: the media won't do it because they're in the thrall of liberals. If they asked about Wright, the daisy ad and the Willie Horton ad would be "darkly mentioned." So I guess that's why the media hasn't been mentioning Wright at all. Because they're so beaten down by the liberal noise machine. Yeah, that's it.

It's like Will has been transported from parallel Earth or something.

But, oh, don't miss out on this paragraph, either:
As evidence that "our government is capable of doing anything," he strongly hinted that he has intellectually respectable corroboration -- he mentioned several publications -- for his original charge that the U.S. government is guilty of "inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color." But yesterday he insisted that he is not anti-American: It is, he said, Americans' government, not the American public, that is a genocidal perpetrator of terrorism. So, he now denies that America has a representative government -- that it represents the public. He believes that elections constantly and mysteriously -- and against the public's will -- produce a genocidal, terroristic government.
This is beautiful. From the perspective of someone who teaches critical thinking and needs good examples of dumb mistakes that is. Here we get an extraordinarily dopey and contorted example of equivocation, specifically on the term 'representative' in 'representative government.' O.k. so: first Will says that Wright denies that we have a representative government because he (Wright) asserts that the American government, but not the American public, is a "perpetrator of genocidal terrorism." From this he concludes that Wright holds that we do not have a representative government. Whew. O.k.. Now, see, to have a representative government is to have a government in which one has representatives--that is, other people who are charged with being one's proxies in the government. In a representative democracy, we elect 'em. Will is confusing this sense of 'representative' with something like the statistical sense of 'representative.' In this sense, representativeness is a property, and samples either are or aren't. A representative sample is...well, that's a matter of some controversy...but, roughly, a sample is representative if and only if it is typical of a population with regard to certain characteristics.

Whew. So GFW seems to be thinking of some informal analog of statistical representativeness, and thinking that, since Wright seems to be saying that our representatives do not share certain characteristics with us (the non-representatives), they are not representative in something like the statistical sense...and consequently our government is not...our something like the political we don't have a representative government.

Man oh man. That's an 'F' in my freshman critical thinking class.

The thing about Will is that he's not crazy like Coulter or stupid like Hannity or irredeemably intellectually corrupt like Limbaugh. He knows what he'd doing, at some level he knows it's wrong, and he could do better. Which, of course, makes his case even more tragic.
New Rule: All Commenters Must Wear Flag Pins

O.k. you terrorist-loving pinko-pansy latte-sipping weenies. From now on, no comments will be taken seriously here unless they either include a flag icon or come with guarantee that the commenter was wearing a flag pin at the time the comment was written.

That is all.
Clinton Toady Blumenthal Works With the Right-Wing Echo Chamber to Attack Obama

Unbelievable. I can't say anything civil about this, so I'm not going to say anything at all.
The Most Unpopular President In Modern History
28% Of Americans Totally Clueless

At CNN, Via the HuffPo.

I mean, look: ever since I started this blog I've been harping on how important it is to end the vitriol and divisiveness of American politics...and I still believe that. But sometimes you just have to call a moron a moron. And the fact is, if you still approve of the job Bush is doing, you are either clueless or hyper-partisan. Don't blame me for saying it, blame yourself for being it.

The really interesting question is: what fracion of this 28% are just too partisan to admit that he sucks, and what fraction are really just plain nitwits? The former folks are scary, but the latter are downright terrifying.
Obama Tells the Truth About the Gas Tax

Video here.

(via Andrew Sullivan)

Last week I asked whether we'd ever get a candidate who would tell us the truth about oil and gas prices. Well, Obama's not exactly, er, giving us both barrels, but unlike McCain and Clinton, he's not giving in on this point to get a few votes.The gas tax holiday is a joke and a political ploy, pure and simple. Obama's right about it, Shrillery and McCain are wrong. Period.

Of course the anti-Obamites are spinning furiously to try to conceal this fairly clear indication that he's more honest and serious than the other candidates. He voted for a similar tax back in Illinois! they shriek. So? Now he's learned better, and is doing the right thing. There's also a very big difference between making state policy and making national policy on this point--in fact, a huge difference. This is just a political ploy! they'll shriek. No, actually, it isn't. If you characterize refraining from stooping to the use of a political ploy as itself being a political ploy, then you've committed a lost contrast fallacy. Of course it's always possible to say that something's politically motivated--but saying so doesn't make it so. And if that criticism worked, then it would more-or-less mean that everything any politician ever did would be a political ploy. In which case it would no longer be a criticism that could count specially against Obama; it could never distinguish among candidates since, ex hypothesi all would always be using political ploys at all times.

Obama seems to be scaring a lot of people. And I'm starting to wonder whether he's scaring them because their power is based in a certain way of playing a certain game. Obama is saying, among other things: this is not a game.