Saturday, January 31, 2009

Rod Blagojevich FOAD


You a$$hole. Although it'd be nice if you saw the error of your ways and tried to redeem yourself, I'm not averse to the idea of you rotting in Hell. That's a perfectly viable alternative, to my mind.

But a question:
Appropriate or inappropriate to add here that, by the standards of criminality of the Bush administration, the sleaze of Governor Fart-Head is almost quaint. Almost refreshing. Here's a guy who merely wanted to make some filthy lucre. He wasn't lying us into a war, wasn't sending young Americans off to kill young non-Americans for contorted, inadequate reasons, wasn't torturing anyone, wasn't using 9/11 for political leverage even while letting the perpetrators escape, wasn't turning America into a surveillance state.'s really kinda cute in context...trying to sell a Senate seat that is. Old school. Garden-variety sleaze like you find on the sleazy end of the bell curve in any government.

Should we say that? 'Cause part of me wants to say that. But part of me thinks that sounds like fairly transparent partisanship, like some attempt to re-direct criticism away from the Dems.

But believe me, I just don't have that much love for the Dems. The fact that Governor Fart-head--excuse me: that should be
EX-Governor Fart-Head--got where he did clearly tells us something about the Illinois Democratic party, and it ain't pretty. I'm not saying the Ex-Governor Fart-Head isn't total scum; I'm just pointing out that, by contemporary standards of scum-hood, he's a little bit of an amature.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Your Mother Must Be Very Proud
Steelers/Emil Steiner Edition

I'm not a football fan. It's a game with many obvious virtues, but I've only got time for approximately one sport in my life, and, well, I went to Carolina. On a more objective note, one of the reasons I've never been crazy about football is that this kind of idiotic attitude has always seemed to me to be a bit more prevalent in that world than in baseball or basketball. (Though, of course, baseball players and coaches are notorious for having raised cheating to both art and science.)

Presumably this is one of those cases in which there's no need to dignify the piece with a response. But that usually doesn't stop me. Two seconds of objective thought would reveal, for example, that his central theoretical thesis is bullshit:
In football, as in all sports, it's not a foul unless you get caught.
Um, no. Not even close. There's no more plausibility to this claim than there is to the claim that an action is not a crime unless you get convicted, nor to the claim that you haven't committed a logical fallacy unless someone busts you on it. Mr. Steiner is apparently thinking of some kind of Calvin-Ball-esque sport in which there are no rules, but the officials call fouls whimsically, based on no criteria or antecedent understanding or description of which actions are permissible in the game. Such a sport is fairly hard to imagine, but one could be called for anything--e.g. for wearing a uniform, for breathing, for metabolizing, for existing, for having been born on Earth, for having an even number of hairs on your head, for bearing no resemblance to Abraham Lincoln--while, say, a brutal chainsaw murder in the middle of the court need not be called or even noted.

However, in all actual sports--including football--there are things which are normally called "rules" which specify what is and is not to count as a foul. What the officials do is try to apply the rules to actual games, just like judges try to apply laws to actual situations. But, though there is some blurriness at the edges, there's a clear enough difference between making a law and applying it.

In basketball, for example, if you throw an elbow in order to hit another player, it's a foul--whether it's called or not,[1] as is grabbing the jersey of an opposing player or setting a moving screen. This, for example, is a foul. As is this.

Though this is a rather obviously absurd view, it's a view held by some folks who are allegedly paid to think. Some PoMo-y academicians have apparently claimed similar things--that, e.g., nothing is a strike unless it's called a strike. But, again, we see the absurdity of the view by thinking of clear cases first: the pitcher winds up and throws the ball. It sails fifteen feet wide and thirty feet high of the strike zone. This is a ball, regardless of how it is called. There's a difference between being an umpire and being a poet.

Anyway, more wit and wisdom from Mr. Steiner:
What's wrong with a team being dirty?

...a team should push the rules to the limit and, when advantageous, break them. There is no trophy for being a good loser.
First, winning is not the point of sports.

If you watch sports primarily in order to see your team win, then you are an idiot. I cannot stress this point enough.

If you are really watching for the winning, then you should be willing to watch Canasta or synchronized swimming for the winning. You ought to be watching because you enjoy the particular sport in question. If it's for the winning, which sport it is should not matter to you. It doesn't even have to be a sport.

Of course some people do actually seem to watch for the winning in some sense. They get some kind of affirmation when the sports team from their area defeats the sports team from another area. That's a sad thing. Don't be like that. It's kind of pathetic.

Second, Mr. Steiner's view is about one notch above:
If you think you can get away with it, go ahead and steal kindly old Mrs. Smith's social security check.
I mean, it's not a crime if you don't get caught, right? Nobody's going to give you Miss Congeniality in this world. He who dies with the most toys wins. Etc., etc.

Nauseating. Sports--which often brings out the best in players--seems inevitably to bring out the worst in fans. Why some guy sitting on his pasty ass downing "lite" beers and Doritos thinks he has any right to scream for the blood of actual players is baffling to me in the extreme.

Anyway, I won't be watching the Superbowl. It's always boring, and the glitz and corporate disgustingness of professional sports are wound up to maximum RPMs. But because of Mr. Steiner's ridiculous post, some small part of me will be rooting for the Cardinals.[2]

[1] Sophists will try the old who's-to-say? ploy here, in this guise: "who's to say Smith threw the elbow in order to hit Jones? We can never know someone else's intentions". False. We know the intentions of others all the time--if you didn't you'd die fairly quickly. And it's fairly easy to tell the difference between an intentionally-thrown elbow and contact during the normal course of the game in most cases. There are some cases in which an observer can't tell for sure, of course, but that's irrelevant. Problems are caused in cases like this because people eager to be contrarian will sometimes endorse inferences of the form sometimes x therefore always x. But nobody ever endorses such an argument when they're being serious about a question.

[2] Though you know why professional sports sucks? Because it's all just a business. The Cardinals, of course, used to be in St. Louis. But, as Jerry Seinfeld has noted, players switch teams, teams switch the end, you're rooting for the clothes...[3]

[3] Though you know why college sports sucks. It's a corrupting influence on the university. At least professional sports is what it is. It's pretty up-front about its corporate grossness. College sports pretends to be something it isn't, and drags the university down with it.[4]

[4] Though, I should say, not all teams. That's why I love Carolina hoops. It's one of the good teams. Still, it participates in and helps to sustain a corrupt and corrupting system. If I could wave a magic wand and eliminate all big-time college sports, I would choke back a tear and do so.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

How Close To The Mark Is Feldstein?

On these points, that is. Anybody have any idea? To my shame, I'm ignorant of economics (though trying to remedy that in my copious spare time...) and know little about Feldstein beyond the bumper stickers (economist; Harvard; Conservative; Reagan).

But he seems to be making a fair bit of sense here. (Though--details to the side--isn't it remarkable how often spend more on the military is the right solution according to our friends across the aisle?)

I have to say, I simply assumed that any stimulus package put together by the Dems would include lots of stuff like teaching therapeutic deconstruction to the transgendered teenage children of illegal immigrants. I'd like to see Obama use the sane Republicans to squeeze the crazy out of the package...though I'm about as ignorant of such things as a grown-up person can be.

So...anybody got any informative links on this?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Mark Reynolds Produces The Crapiest Op-Ed Of All Time?

Anybody here think there's any reason at all to explain why this is an unmitigated piece of crap?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Caroline Kennedy Fiasco

So, she's finally off the list, but not necessarily because she's unqualified...and not before the Dems flaunt their dumb side for several weeks.

It's astonishing, really. It's a good thing the Republicans are around to make the Dems look good. Without the GOP backdrop, these guys really look like a bunch of idiots. I mean...Caroline Kennedy?? In the Senate????

Sure, it's hard to get as worked up as we should about this with memories of the laughably/dangerously unqualified Sarah Palin still so fresh. But just because the other guys are dumber doesn't make us smart.
The fact that Kennedy was even being considered is an embarassment. Hardly the biggest...or tenth-biggest...or hundredth-biggest...embarassment of the last eight years...but an embarassment nonetheless.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama's Inaugural Address

Some are saying it was merely o.k., but my judgment on one hearing is: exceptionally good.

Perhaps it wasn't astonishing stylistically, but I thought he said the things that needed to be said, he said them in fairly memorable ways, and--and this is much of what makes him a great orator--he clearly understood and meant it all.

The bits that resonated most with me, unsurprisingly:

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.

Our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.

Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake.

And so, to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.

They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy, guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations...

And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that, "Our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."
These bits also got the most applause in the Artful Dodger, the local lefty-artsy-type coffee shop where Johnny Quest and I watched it. (True to form, though, some of the lefties gave me a look of some kind when I (and others) clapped for that very last bit there...).

I was prepared for a feeling of relief when Bush left, almost no matter who took his place. Mediocrity would have seemed like a blessing. I never thought we'd get somebody like Obama. Who knows how well he'll handle the nuts-and-bolts of the mess Bush left him? But one things for sure: the guy gets the idea of America in a very deep way.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Change Is On The Way

I started to write a snarky post about the end of the Bush administration...but then it all hit me. "It" being some tangle of the following two propositions: (a) snark is in appropriate in the face of the tragedy of the last eight years, and (b) the moment toward which we are moving this morning is a great one, and deserves a fair amount of solemnity.

So no snark here. Change is coming, for the better. Obama has set the right tone, a tone of reconciliation and unification. The least we can do is emulate him.

Bloggers don't usually do much of substance, don't usually settle important issues, but they do seem to help set the tone. They sometimes seem to me to be rather like background noise, which is most noticable when it's grating and distracting. Perhaps we should adopt "first, do no harm" as our motto...

Be that as it may (or may not), no snark here today. Time, rather, I think, to reflect on the temporarily dormant greatness of America.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Recently Finished: Lolita


What a brilliant, twisted, astonishing, freaky mind trip of a book. I don't have much of a head for literature, unfortunately, and to my great shame I've never had a real lit class. So my review will be peurile and inarticulate:

Holy crap.

That Vlad, he sure can write, huh?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Krugman and the Justice or Peace Dilemma

I think Krugman get's this pretty much exactly right. He writes:
In fact, we’ve already seen this movie. During the Reagan years, the Iran-contra conspirators violated the Constitution in the name of national security. But the first President Bush pardoned the major malefactors, and when the White House finally changed hands the political and media establishment gave Bill Clinton the same advice it’s giving Mr. Obama: let sleeping scandals lie. Sure enough, the second Bush administration picked up right where the Iran-contra conspirators left off — which isn’t too surprising when you bear in mind that Mr. Bush actually hired some of those conspirators.
Let me indulge in pointing out that I've made exactly this point (many times) in the past: Dems face the justice or peace? question here. There are important reasons to forgive and forget in order to achieve peace and unity...but there are important reasons, as always, to look for the truth and seek justice. Jim Wright faced a similar dilemma during the Reagan administration: impeach a president who had clearly committed impeachable crimes, or let it go? Wright chose the latter course on the grounds that American couldn't take another blow like that so soon after Nixon. Whatever that merits of the decision given the information available to Wright at the time, in retrospect I believe it would have been better for him to choose impeachment (again, as I've argued before). By letting Reagan's crimes go unpunished, I believe we enabled and emboldened Bush '43. Wright's decision sent the message that the president can--not quite literally, but not quite not--get away with murder.

Note that, while the Democrats since Wright have declined to pursue impeachment even for the gravest crimes, Republicans have elected to relentlessly pursue impeachment of Democrats for any reason...or, basically, none at all. The Democratic message to Republicans has been something like: no matter what you do, we won't impeach you; the Republican message to Democrats has been: no matter what you do, we
will. There's already a nascent "impeach Obama" movement. One consequence of this is that we seem forced to conclude that the Democrats' irenic approach doesn't work. Though the fact that the Democrats in general and Obama in particular seek unity and reconcilliation is admirable, the peace over justice approach hasn't worked thus far. (In my opinion, it's usually a fruitless and morally reprehensible approach anyway.)

My hunch--though there's no doubt that many folks understand all this better than I do--is that we must at least pursue the truth even if we do not pursue justice. An independent commission must be charged with producing the most accurate possible account of Bush's apparent misdeeds and crimes. If such a commission can show that we are wrong and that the administration's actions are all defensible, no one will be happier (nor more baffled and chagrined) than me. But we cannot simply turn a blind eye to what, on the face of it, are very serious violations of American law and--more importantly--principles.
And once the truth comes out, it will be clearer what justice demands of us here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Best Blog/Huffington Post Edition

So, uh, 7.8% of voters thought that The Huffington Post was the best blog? I guess there are more folks out there in the UFO/Britney Spears/pregnant "men"/astrology set than I thought.

Suckage, thy name is HuffPo.

[And don't forget the stories about selling teh virginity! You won't find that at, say, Kleiman's diggs...]
Torture by "Psychotic" American Guards at Guantanamo

It is, of course, no longer deniable that the United States has tortured prisoners.

Here's a BBC interview (via Sullivan) with Chris Arendt, a former member of the Michigan National Guard and former guard at Guantanamo Bay. He discusses beatings, sleep deprivation, humiliation and other types of torture. Nothing we didn't already know, actually. But he says something else that I think is very important:
For quite a few people in my unit, this was a vacation, this was the opportunity they'd always wanted, to be violent and awful people. They got every opportunity to act like they would really want to act, because they are genuinely psychotic. And for others it was just a job.
It has become fashionable to adore "our troops." Ostentatious professions of adoration have become almost obligatory every time the troops are even mentioned. Conservatives have always had their own reasons for being extremely pro-military, and it seems that liberals are eager to defuse any possible charges of being anti-military.

The farther one goes to the left on the political spectrum, the more common it becomes to encounter anti-military types, but most liberals I know have what I'd call the appropriate level of respect for folks in the military. I myself have always had a great deal of respect for military folks, and have rarely been tempted by lefty anti-military views. (Incidentally, my dad was in the Guard, I took the ASVAB and considered enlisting before college, and I've always been the kind of military history buff who can't help but get weepy about Cowpens, Manassas, Normandy Beach... Which is just to say: I'm hardly a deride-the-troops kind of guy.)

But I'm afraid reverence for the military may have gone rather too far--and Arendt's comments seem to confirm this.

I'm reminded of something one of my most astute friends, Peter the Public Defender, said to me once. PPD grew up in just about the most military of military families. He was a military brat. Some of his brothers are in the military. His dad was a general. His grandpa was a general (who knew, e.g., Claire Chenault (he "didn't like him") and, I think, Vinegar Joe Stillwell). PPD has seen a lot of the army. One day when I was waxing poetical about the virtues of our men (and women) in uniform, he looked at me and said something like (paraphrasing from memory): you know, people go into the military for a lot of reasons; some are there because they want to serve their country, or because it's a family tradition; but some are there because they can't find a job; and some are there because they hope they're going to get a chance to shoot somebody.

This is an important thing to remember. There is an aspect of the American military that is extremely honorable and admirable, and only fools deny that. But we are, it seems, deluded in a particulalry dangerous way if we ignore the fact that not all of the various types of people who tend to be attracted to the military are admirable.

Now, Arndt's unit was National Guard, and some suggest that, because of lower standards and laxer discipline, the National Guard is more prone to such things that the rest of the military. I'm certainly willing to consider that possibility, though I fear that there's not as much truth in it as one might hope.

What Arndt is telling us is something we should already have been able to guess: that there is a non-trivial number of sadists and psychopaths in th military, just waiting for the opportunity to do what they've always wanted to do. We should have been able to guess this because, first, there seems to be a non-trivial number of sadists and psychopaths (here I use the terms in their ordinary senses, not in technical, psychological senses) in the general population, and, second, because these people will have some tendency to gravitate toward jobs and ways of life that are more closely associated with violence.

It seems that at Guantanamo we had at least three factors disastrously interacting: (a) radically illiberal and inhumane policy, (b) a non-trivial number of sadists and psychopaths, and (c) a fair number of people who thought of themselves as "just following orders" or "just doing their jobs." This combination should sound fairly familiar to us.

The history of Guantanamo Bay has not yet been written; but even if it's only half as bad as it sounds, it will still be a crime of terrible proportions.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Carolina Falls To Wake Forrest
0-2 In the ACC

1. Argh.

2. Congrats to Wake.

3. No shame in losing to the #4 team in the country...but UNC hasn't been looking good. They shot something like 25% in the second half. Wake's defense looked pretty good, but lots of the bad shooting wasn't due to the defense. Lots of quick shots, few extra passes. My hunch, FWIW--which isn't much--is that it's a combination of (a) non-stellar defense and (b) a shaky half-court offense. I think everybody took a look at the way Carolina was running teams like MSU and Notre Dame into the ground, and realized that it's ridiculous to try to run with 'em. Add to that o.k. but not great defense, which limits opportunities for the break, and we end up winning or losing with our half-court game. Which just hasn't seemed that good most of the time.

Hard to believe that we're 0-2 in the ACC, tied in the basement with Georgia Tech. Not the way we were hoping things were going to go. Now the same folks who were saying "they will go undefeated!" two weeks ago are saying things like "They have no chance of winning it all!" Both of those claims are, of course, ridiculous. Though I'd bet way less money on us winning it all now than I would have two weeks ago...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

How My Committee Assignment Made Me Pay More Attention To Conservatives

So it suddenly dawned on me that one of my (innumerable) committee assignments has made me more sympathetic to a certain key conservative criticism of government.

This committee--let's call it C1--is one of those high-level committees that makes decisions that affect lots of people. I could say a lot about this committee, and little of it would be good I'm afraid. I'm not sure how typical my university is; there is fairly good evidence that--wanna-be, second-(at best)-rate institution that it is--it is often on the cutting edge of academic badness, always looking for the Magic Bullet That Will Change Everything. I could go on and on. But back to the point at hand. What I see is this:

(a) a bureaucracy and (b) a complex of rules and regulations metastasizing completely out of control.

It's not even that individual policies are bad--though many are. It's that they are spiraling out of control. You sometimes stumble upon these things and you see that there's a baroque structure of policies within policies, like one of those fractal patterns, smaller and smaller bits of micro-management asymptotically approaching the infinitely trivial.

So, if this is the kind of thing that's going on in government, I can certainly understand being concerned about it.

It's like the administration is getting bigger and bigger, and more and more faculty are moving into positions that are partially academic. And as more and more faculty are being selected by a system that is less and less focused on intellectual and pedagogical matters and more and more focused on administrative/bureaucratic ones, the institution moves closer and closer to being a machine the primary purpose of which is to form new committees (sub-committees, working groups, "task forces," etc.) and generate new policies. Now, I'm all for the rule of law and the minimization of arbitrariness--we've just overthrown an arbitrary and authoritarian Chair in our department, so I know what that's all about. But I get the feeling--though it's little more than that at this point, that here's the way academia used to be:
You hired smart people, who had internalized the fact that they had important responsibilities. You trusted their professionalism, but put some policies in place to get things back on track if they went wrong.
And the way it is now is rather more like:
You hire people who can be good cogs in a machine. The primary end of the machine is to make sure the machine runs with machine-like precision. You add more and more epicycles to make sure that less and less is left to the discretion of the individuals (who are, remember, commonly something like experts in their fields).
It's not clear that this is right, and it's to some degree an exaggeration, and this is probably where the disanalogy with government comes in. But I'm really just talking about my experience in academia and why it has made me sit up and take notice when conservatives say similar things about government. I now vividly see how such a bureaucratic explosion can be bad, and why we would want to avoid it. It's like spending great effort to create an institutional monster that you will, eventually, have to spend great effort fighting.

Add that many of these policies have been made by people who aren't terribly intelligent and you've got a whole new kind of problem. You get a "synergy" as some of my fellow committee-folk might say. But that's a whole different story--a story about the alarming mediocrity of much of academia. And as more and more of the curriculum is devoted to weaker, fluffier, more vocational and otherwise less-rigorous subjects--e.g. business (most notably marketing), "communications," "kinesiology," and the various and sundry special niche sub-sub-sub disciplines like women's studies and so forth--it's just going to get worse. But that's a different screed for a different time.
See Ya, Wouldn't Wanna Be Ya
Don't Let The Screen Door etc. etc.

Goodbye letters to President Bush.

[Here's a notable letter. I've said before that Bush could still do something good by admitting his error. In fact, I think he could transform American politics. If he came out and admitted some of his significant errors emphatically and in detail, it would have to wake some people up. There are still large numbers of people who refuse to admit what could not be more obvious--that Bush was a disaster. If Bush himself came out and said something like "How can you people deny that it was a mistake to invade Iraq?" I can't believe that it wouldn't have an effect. One of the biggest problems with political discussions is that, basically, no one ever has to admit that he was wrong, no matter how overwhelming the evidence. Even the most patent disasters can be brushed aside--rhetorically at least--by simply asserting that for all we know history will vindicate the decision. Despite the fact that we have all the evidence that we need that Bush was a disaster, and despite the fact that his own admission of failure would be evidentially superfluous, it would be psychologically and rhetorically powerful--and that's what's needed. The people who decide on the basis of evidence and reasoning already know Bush was a disaster. What he could do now is to deliver a kind of psychological jolt to those who have locked themselves up in fortresses of denial.]

Friday, January 09, 2009

Bye, Bye Blogojevich

Do they ever really chain big iron balls to people's ankles and make them break rocks with sledge hammers?

If not, do you think they'd make an exception in this guy's case?

See why I'm ignoring politics? See?
Ignore the Morons
Gary Graham Edition

I'm with Sullivan when he asks: does Doctor Denton's Media really, honestly think that unmitigated horseshit like this is worth printing? (Warning! Warning! Don't read it! Seriously, man...skim it for thirty seconds if you absolutely must...but you'll learn nothing and it will, if anything, just irritate you. In fact, reading crap like that might actually suck intelligence out of you.)

Though I did get a big LOL out of the last line in which he implies that if you disagree with him he'll kick your ass.

I mean, political violence isn't funny, of course. But the idea of of this crotchety, washed-up, half-wit C movie actor trying to kick my ass... It is to laugh. (Though perhaps the guy who has (and I quote) "...appeared in numerous feature films such as "ROBOT JOX"" is tougher than he looks...)

But, of course, not just my ass--everybody's ass who doesn't agree with him.

I'm just sort of wondering what kind of lame-ass would issue such a laughable threat...and to the entire intertubes no loess. It takes a particular type of idiot to raise idiocy to this level.

Does anybody know why so many pathetic wingers fancy themselves hard cases? Do they reason thusly:

I are semi-literit
I are tuff


God knows.

But, anyway, there you have it: exhibit twelve zillion or so in support of the case that we really ought to ignore the fever swamps. It's not like folks like this are serious conservatives looking to have a serious conversation.

And so, though I use this loser as an example, my new resolution is: ignore the morons.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Pajamas Media Names Joe the Plumber It's War Correspondent In Israel

You just can't make this shit up.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Happiness Is...
Ignoring Politics

Oh, man. This is some good sh*t right here man.

I'm serious: try it.

If it were in a jar, it would be like happiness in a jar...

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Carolina Crashes and Burns Against BC

Ugh. Now that was an ugly performance. When even Hansbrough is missing even his free throws, it is going to be a long night.

But I actually welcome the loss, as the Heels have been on autopilot for close to a month. Everybody's been praising them for winning all their games by 20, but they should have won many of them by 40. (Granted, Roy doesn't like running up the score, but I didn't get the feeling that was what was doing it.) It's unfortunate that this of all years they have an uncharacteristically easy OOC schedule, and that's really hurt them. They're just not being challenged. Granted, a loss at home against a mediocre team is pretty rough as wake-up calls go, but it might be just the kind of major-league kick in the butt that's needed.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

VV: Top Ten Rightblogger Stories of 2008

A hilarious--by which I mean horrifying--retrospective. (Via Metafilter)

Perhaps most worrisome is that we're not really talking exclusively about blogs here--The WSJ, NRO, Commentary and Human Events make their contributions. (Ditto the American Spectator...but that's always been about a half-step above a dead-tree blog anyway.)

I mean, I'm sure there were some nutty lefty stories as well, but I don't remember them coming out of such mainstream sources. (Trig-isn't-Palin's-kid comes to mind, but, though Sullivan picked it up in a cautious way, it was an unknown blogger at d-Kos who lauched it, and s/he was ridiculed pretty thoroughly there and elsewhere in the leftosphere.)

And they seem to have left out Bill Ayers Wrote Obama's Books, one of my personal faves.

[Update: bonus #s 11-15 at Alicublog.]

Friday, January 02, 2009

Failed Excuses for Bush
A Footnote to Krugman

I'm not a big Krugman fan, but I think he gets things pretty much right in yesterday's column. The points aren't original, but they're worth making clearly and repeatedly: Bush wasn't unlucky, he was incompetent (and dishonest, intellectually and otherwise). And he didn't fail because he was insufficiently conservative. Rather he was scrupulously conservative in as many ways as he could manage to be.

But the alleged "party of personal responsibility" has quickly turned into the party of whining and excuse-making. Their boy--who they dug out of relative obscurity, shoved into power via the quasi-coup of the 2000 election, and supported enthusiastically and unwaveringly (until it became politically convenient, during the last election, to hint that he maybe hadn't been so good after all...but that McCain would be different!)--ran the country and the world into a ditch. But conservatives are ready with a vast array of excuses:

1. It was just bad luck!
Here they focus on Katrina, and in particular on the meteorological facts. Of course no one could have stopped the hurricane...but that doesn't excuse the administration's response to it. And it has nothing to do with the administration's crimes, for which they bear the full share of responsibility. Consider the biggest crime--Iraq--which was not only deliberate, but which could not have happened without diligent and semi-constant deception aimed at tricking the public into supporting a head-spinningly idiotic war. Even 9/11 cannot be attributed entirely to bad luck, as the Bush administration deliberately ignored warnings from the Clinton administration, largely because they held Clinton and company in such contempt.

2. Bush wasn't conservative enough!
A type of defense beloved of political extremists. Like the old leftist defenders of the USSR, these Bush dead-enders would have you believe that conservatism didn't fail--it hasn't even really been tried yet! (As a sidebar, note that this is the only type of criticism many radical feminists will countenance against any feminist position: it's not radical enough.) Nothing ever counts as evidence against conservatism! If a given administration is a flop, this can only be evidence that it wasn't conservative after all. That conservatism is true is a necessary truth, irrefutable by mere facts.

3. History will vindicate him!
Another all-purpose defense. Total, absolute, flat-out failure in all recognizable ways? Hell, appeal to the long view. The very, very long view if necessary. It's a way of making all currently-available evidence seem irrelevant. So you can always use this defense. Attila the Hun, bad??? Well, we'll just have to wait for the conclusion of history. 1600 years not enough time? Well, who knows what the historians of 3000 A.D. will say...

Of course we know very well what they will say. This lame defense doesn't actually make available evidence irrelevant--all it does is remind us that our conclusions are fallible. Future historians might learn something relevant and exculpatory about Bush--but the currently-available evidence is strong enough to make that unlikely. Possible, yes; probable, no. We know enough to know that history will, in all probability, not look at all kindly on Dubya. And, remember: we can make the same argument in reverse. It's just as likely (perhaps more likely) that future historians will discover that Bush is even worse than we think. (Though perhaps something akin to regression to the mean would make that improbable, come to think of it...) History, we might counter-assert, will not vindicate Bush, but condemn him even more strongly.

4. It's basically a problem of perception--Bush's unpopularity is inexplicable.
A real howler, but in keeping with the general world-view of our first "CEO president": everything is basically a marketing problem. Does the Middle East hate us? Surely we just need to hire a propaganda Czar to persuade them that everything we do is optimal. No good reason to conduct that tempting war? Just gin up a marketing campaign to bring people along. Bush's approval rating in the shitter? Clearly it can't be an accurate reflection of Bush's's public opinion that needs to be changed, not Bush's approach to governance.

You could go crazy thinking too much about the deep stupidity and irrationality of these attempts to defend the indefensible. But, in keeping with my new policy of Not Letting It Get To Me, I'm just going to complain about it here, and then move on...