Saturday, May 28, 2011

Obama Did Not Advocate Israel's Return to the '67 Borders

As Drum points out, what he said was:

"We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps."

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Obama Deserves All The Blame For Bush's Economy
None of the Credit for Getting OBL

This according to a fairly sizable percentage of conservatives I'm bumping into on the 'tubes...

Just thought you'd like to know.
IPv6 And the Future of the Internet


(Via Metafilter)
Patrick McHenry and the Nastiness of College Republicans

Here McHenry is, falsely calling Elizabeth Warren a liar.

Why is this fellow such a nasty jackass? One hypothesis: because he came up through the College Republicans. The CRs, as you may remember from your undergraduate days, are an unusually nasty lot on average. McHenry is alleged, for example, to have influenced a CR election by phoning some of the relevant college kids and telling them that, if they voted the wrong way, their career in the GOP was over. Yep, that's pretty consistent with what I remember about those kids. Nothing screams "I got beat up a lot in high school" like being a member of the CRs...
Tim Pawlenty: Time For Lies

So, Pawlenty's chosen his first little slogan of the campaign--"A Time for Truth." He repeated 'true' and it's cognates like mantras in the speech announcing his candidacy in Iowa. Like so many such slogans--e.g. McCain/Palin's "Putting Country First," the slogan is meant to indirectly assert that the other guys don't do it--don't put country first, don't tell the truth, etc.

Unfortunately, his announcement speech turns out--predictably--to have been laced with lies. Politifact even gives him a Pants-On-Fire.

I've become jaded enough that I know that I have to give every politician at least a small quota of lies, and just look the other way. And I do appreciate that Pawlenty said that ethanol subsidies had to go. But if you're going to build your campaign on the cornerstone that he's chosen, you shouldn't start off with egregious lies right off the bad. Bad form, Tim. Bad. Form.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Jacob Weisberg: Fantasy Island
The GOP is BSC

At Slate.

This is not secret to sane people who are paying attention. The GOP, as an institution, has become deranged. Right now, the Dems are the only option because they are the only sane party remaining.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Jonathan Zasloff: Why Gingrich Matters

At Kleiman's digs.

I suggest reading it all, but here's the most of it:
Gingrichism is the philosophy that all means short of illegality are fair game in the struggle for political power.  He came to the fore in the House minority by personal attacks on other members’ patriotism; he stirred up the Republican base with the argument that the Democrats were not merely wrong, but evil and a threat to the Republic.  As Speaker, he destroyed the existing committee structure and bill mark-ups, did away with Congressional institutions to educate members (such as the Office of Technology Assessment or the Administrative Conference of the United States), and centralized power in the leadership.  When he did not get his way with Clinton, he cavalierly shut down the government.  Not cowed by the political disaster that ensued, he used the House’s impeachment power for political purposes and put the House Oversight Committee in the hands of Dan Burton with the express mandate to harass and cripple political opponents.  Gingrich broke institutions not by accident, but on purpose.
And if we examine the most malignant trends of the Republican Party over the last 15 years, many (although not all) of them represent this pattern of destroying institutions — and, importantly, any sense of impartiality, good faith, or nonpartisanship — for the purpose of achieving political power.  We are all arguing about who started the filibustering of judges, but it was when the Republicans took control of the Senate in 1995 that routine blocking of Presidential appointments began.  Republicans sued to prevent the counting of votes in Florida and got 5 of their hand-picked justices to go along with them.  Once ensconced in the executive branch, the Gingrichist GOP started issuing signing statements to tell its functionaries which parts of laws not to enforce; insisted that Presidential power was absolute, and ignored subpoenas.  It got rid of professionals and installed unqualified but politically loyal hacks and cronies in key positions.  Back on the Hill, Senate Republican majorities fired the Senate parliamentarian when he ruled in ways that they did not like and then shoved non-budget items into the budget to overcome filibusters.  When it lost its majority in 2006, the Republican Caucus quickly obliterated records for filibustering, attempting with great success to destroy the institution by making it completely dysfunctional.  When Barack Obama won the 2008 election, Mitch McConnell went into the complete Gingrich pose, planning to stop anything and everything offered up, refusing to negotiate in good faith, and even filibustering measures that were Republican ideas.  As for Obama himself, the Gingrichist RNC made it very clear that he was not a political opponent: like Tom Foley and the House Democratic majority, he was an enemy of the country.
As I've said before, I remember Gingrich being elected when I was just a kid. I'd only recently become politically aware. I was raised a hard-core independent (though my parents weren't very politically-aware themselves). My mom leaned liberal, my dad was conservative, but, aside from his racism, not a loon about it. I started off sympathetic to the GOP because I (correctly) perceived the USSR as the major threat to the world, but mistook the vehemence of the right's anti-communism for a commitment to human rights and democracy. I'd just started seeing that the Dems were far more rational and admirable on this score (as opposed, of course, to the fairly rare far-lefty apologists for the USSR), and that the GOP's loony, full-bore anti-communism was counter-productive, so I'd just started becoming concerned about the right. When Gingrich hit the national spotlight, I actually said out loud to myself "that guy's going to be trouble."

Anyway, I am in agreement with Zasloff on all points here, FWIW.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Alex Massie, Again Advocating Overpopulation
An Intemperate Response


Yes, yes. "Advocating overpopulation" is rather uncharitable. But I just cannot fathom the commitment of some people to ever-higher population levels. Among the many astounding things about Massie's posts: there is no mention whatsoever of carry capacity. Rather, he spends all his space pointing out that there are places where the population density is very, very high, and concluding that the population densities of less-dense cities could be higher.

Look. Population is out of control. We might be able to survive overpopulation without (further) disaster, and we might not. But the question is: why risk it? Why intentionally ignore the huge population-related problems we already face? Why on earth pin the future of humanity on what is, in effect, a skeptical argument for the conclusion: we're not absolutely sure that we're all going to die if we keep why worry?

Massie is responding to the suggestion--the eminently reasonable suggestion--that we face the problem squarely, educate the public about it, and start trying to throttle back a bit on population growth. (He's a Brit, but there's not much difference in the problem/discussion here in the States.) There is nothing wrong with this suggestion. It is, in fact, the prudent suggestion. If, in fifty or a hundred years, with better science and better information about likely consequences, we discover that the population ought to (or at least can) grow, then so be it. Personally, I'm not sure why some people seem so committed to having more and more humans packed onto the globe...but people like Massie want more and more of us for their own inscrutable reasons. I side with those who prefer more wild spaces, a larger agricultural margin for error, and less pressure on our natural resources. People like Massie baffle the hell out of me. Call be crazy, but I am of the opinion that six billion people is a lot. But, of course, we're not talking about six billion, really...we're talking about ten billion, because that's how big the population is likely to get before it starts to a result of overpopulation. And that's assuming there is no catastrophe driven or exacerbated by overpopulation. Like, oh, say global warming.

People like Massie are basically willing to risk everything on some vague hunches that everything will probably be alright. People like me realize that we've already got lots of problems that overpopulation is exacerbating, and that taking some rather simple, more-or-less common-sense, fairly modest measures to encourage people to throttle back a bit with the reproduction is a good idea. Mitigating the problem now will not be easy; if the problem gets out of control, it will be a disaster.

Here's the thing; people like to have kids. And a good thing, too. No matter how bad the population problem gets, there will be no convincing most people not to have one or two children. All we really need to do now is try to convince people not to have more than two-ish. Massie wants to pretend that we're talking about China-like totalitarian solutions, when, in fact, we're only talking about educating people and trying to appeal to their rational nature. The message would go roughly like this: hey, please don't have three kids. If you just can't bear the thought of having only two, then please, please at least, don't have four. Yeah, that's some totalitarian stuff right there...

Look: here's a kind of fast litmus test: when you're running out of things like water, dirt, and air, the population is too high.

Massie ends with some concentrated sophistry:
Again, the questions those most concerned by population increase never answer are: What's the "ideal" population level?  How will you achieve your goal? What if "cutting off" immigration is not enough to get you to your ideal number? What will you do then?

A. People like Massie can also not answer the question 'what's the ideal population level?'

B. People like me are not obligated to answer this question--all we need to be able to do is make the case that the population will soon be too high. Massie's question is a red herring.

C. The question 'How will we achieve the goal?' is a different question. Currently, we're just trying to get people like Massie to admit there is a problem.

D. Though, in fact, Massie knows full well what the answer is, because he's responding to someone who made the standard suggestion: education. Education is one of the ways we're addressing global warming, and it's the obvious solution here, too.

E. Ah, immigration. The rest is tail. Here's the dog. Many people, especially liberals, have decided that population can't be a problem because one solution involves lowering (or at least not raising) immigration rates. Partially, this is because they seem to believe that anyone concerned about immigration levels must be a conservative and (hence?) a racist. This is just pathetic. One can be a liberal, and in no way anti-immigration, and yet recognize that immigration levels may have to be discussed in the context of addressing the population problem. Behold, I am such a liberal. To hold that we cannot address the population problem because some racists are anti-immigration is like holding that we can't address the AIDs problem because some bigots are anti-homosexual. It is utter nonsense.

F. What happens if "cutting off" immigration is not enough? Bloody hell. Who's talking about "cutting of" immigration? Right now we're just trying to get the Massie's of the world to admit that there's a problem, and possibly to educate people about it. Perhaps at some point immigration levels might have to be lowered...perhaps. If the problem gets that bad, cutting down these level will be among the least of our problems. And what happens if that isn't enough? The whole point, you see, is to address the problem before anything more radical has to be done. Imagine a Massie-like position on global warming. It would go like this: Oh, you want to educate people about global warming, eh? Well what if that doesn't work? Are you going to have government storm troopers go around shooting out people's lights?  Christ. This is not how you have a sensible discussion about such things.
(1) Charles Krauthammer Is An Idiot; (2) There Is No Bush Doctrine

I only read about two sentences of this, but Krauthammer is such an idiot that I simply can't read him anymore. Of course he's never been good for anything but entertainment value...but my stupidity tolerance is currently way down. These are unhappy days indeed for those who don't suffer fools gladly. What's particularly nauseating about the stupidity that permeates political discussions is that it's largely avoidable, freely-chosen and self-inflicted. Take Krauthammer, for example. Dude seems to be a person of roughly average intelligence when he is not willfully distorting the facts, bending them to the breaking point so that they fit his preferred view of the world.

The topic of his newest screed seems to be that Obama has accepted "the Bush Doctrine." This alleged development should be cause for celebration for anyone who genuinely accepts said "doctrine." For Krauthammer, however, as for so much of the American right these days, everything is political. (We might call that the Rove Doctrine...) So this is yet another opportunity for praising Bush and prosecuting the case that he was too a great president!!! Of course, they really ought to get to work first on trying to generate a minimally-plausible case that he wasn't the worst president of the last hundred years... That proposition's going to be hard enough to defend.

But let's try, again, to get something straight about the so-called "Bush Doctrine":

1. Nobody's sure what it is, because it was never clearly formulated, and because Bush's policies were not based on any clear principle.

2. Liberals have, for my entire life, argued that we should promote human rights and democracy in our foreign policy. They have generally been opposed by conservative so-called "realists" who argue that our foreign policy should be based only on national interest. Liberals, it was said, were naive, and wanted us to be "the world's policeman."

3. Bush--or, perhaps more accurately, Cheney--did not invade Iraq in order to promote democracy. We still aren't really clear why we invaded. Many bogus, nonsensical "justifications" were given.

4. The neo-con crowd (PNAC et. al.) seek to spread democracy as a means, and not as an end. They're still "realists" (i.e. national ethical egoists) at heart. Promoting American interests are the real goal; democracy in other countries is just a means to that end. (Not that our interests were actually promoted in Iraq, of course...) Lots of ink has been spilled over the question "what's the difference between a liberal hawk and a neo-con?" The answer is: liberal hawks take democracy and human rights as worthy of promotion for moral reasons, and not (or not primarily) because they are good for America, and they think that sometimes military force is the best way to promote these goals. Neo-cons see democracy and human rights as good...but good primarily because they promote the interests of America--and they think that military force can be used to promote the interests of America.

5. The one really distinctive thing about Bush's approach in the Mideast is that it involved a really, really stupid and counter-productive use of military force. If anything, the Bush Doctrine seems to be something like: do not take any sensible, moderate steps at all in order to promote democracy; instead, do something enormously costly and counter-productive first.

Obama's position is consistent with long-standing liberal approaches to foreign policy, and is best understood as part of that pattern. The attempt to construe it as an instance of the incoherent and largely fictional "Bush Doctrine" is just more deranged partisanship from Krauthammer and company. These people really have gone off the bloody deep end. They just aren't even worth reading anymore.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Secret Service "Can't Deal With" Fox News' "Blather"

A funny, accurate, errant tweet from the USSS

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dammit, Dave by David Mammet by...The Modern Humorist?

The Business Major: One of the Weakest Majors Is Now America's Most Popular

This is really too bad.

Business majors (with the possible exceptions of accounting and finance) are notoriously thin gruel. My idea is to eliminate the business major entirely and offer, instead, business minors at most. Universities are not trade schools, and the business major is simply too weak and vocational. It might be a good idea for your average history, lit or philosophy major to pick up some more vocational minor...but a major in business is simply indefensible. Unfortunately at my own school, the business major is so popular that the business school can't offer a minor.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Stephen Hawking: Philosophy Is Dead


Alright. I'll read the bloody book. But I already know how this story goes, because I've gone through it innumerable times. Here are the phases:

1. Scientist (usually more to the non-theoretical end of things, but occasionally someone on the theoretical end of things) declares that philosophy is bullshit/dead/whatever.

2. Scientist in question then goes on to say "the answer to these questions is painfully obvious:..."

3. Scientist in question goes on to articulate a position which is either known by philosophers to be utter bullshit, or known to be one unproven option among many, or is known to be an incoherent mish-mash of different positions, or known to be f*cked-up in some other dumbass way.

I love me some Stephen Hawking. Don't get me wrong. And I will be all over it if some scientist answers a philosophical question. (Like, say, John Bell did). What I find tedious is the priesthood conception of science, according to which philosophers are all a bunch of dumbasses who have spent 2500 years thinking about something that any minimally-competent graduate student in any science could bang out a solution to over lunch if he could make room in his busy fish-counting schedule. [And, of course: they merely pronounce their answer ex cathedra...but their arguments are actually even crappier than those of philosophers...]

Jebus. Scientists really are stupid sometimes. The hubris really is unbelievable.
Trump Convinced He "Would Be Able To Win The...[Presidential] Election"

Dude is delusional:

“I maintain the strong conviction that if I were to run, I would be able to win the primary and, ultimately, the general election.”

Anyone who has a "strong conviction" that they will win a Presidential election--before they have even won a single primary--is either an idiot or woefully ignorant or both. At this stage of the game, someone with a 20% chance of winning the general election would count as having an extremely high chance of winning. Such a person would basically be a front-runner if they were a Republican. Anyone who thinks that they have anything other than a relatively small chance of winning it all--anyone not named 'Barack Obama,' at any rate--is an idiot.

People like Trump, however, are too stupid and egomaniacal to realize how stupid and egomaniacal they are.
Philadelphia Police Threaten, Arrest Man For Legally Carrying A Firearm; Guess Who The DA Charges?

So, apparently in Philadelphia, even if you are doing nothing wrong, the police can point their guns at you, threaten to shoot you, assault you, handcuff you, and arrest you. If they do this, and you happen to be recording it all, it's you who will be prosecuted by the DA.

Welcome to the police state, bitches. You got some kind of fetish about rights and freedom, this is no longer the place for you.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Indiana Supreme Court Says: No Right To Resist Illegal Police Entry Into One's Home


An ancient and venerable right...but clearly the state knows better...

(Via Metafilter)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Population Growth is Not, All Things Considered, A Good Thing

Sadly, Sullivan links to this.

No. Population growth is not good. Population growth is bad. Of course what this really means is: all things considered, population growth, given the current state of things, is more bad than good. What Massie does is (a) construct a straw man, and (b) emphasize only the good things about population growth.

As for the straw man, Massie claims that educating the public about the population problem " China's one-child policy." He also refers--a joke, presumably--to "back-street," "clandestine" child-births, and "compulsory euthanasia."

As for the problems associated with population growth, Massie is entirely silent.

Are there good things about population growth? Of course. Some very good things. For example, population growth would help solve financial problems associated with Social Security and Medicare by decreasing the dependency ratio. And I, like Massie, think that there are moral reasons for giving lots of people a chance to enter Western liberal democracies.

On the other hand, population growth will take a large step toward dooming the planet to environmental ruin. So there's that...

Massie's post is really deplorable. Population growth may very well be the biggest environmental problem we face, in part because it drives or exacerbates so many other environmental problems. It has become inexplicably fashionable on the left to ignore the population problem; but that won't make it go away.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Glenn Greenwald's OBL Sophistry

I got fed up with Greenwald soon after he arrived on the scene. In my opinion, the guy is a blowhard. It's not that I haven't learned things from reading him, for I have. However, I can't help but being put off by his blowhardism. I'm funny like that. His reasoning often turns on legal points that I can't easily evaluate...and I have a day job, so...  But when it turns on non-legal points, it sometimes seems to me to border on the sophistical.

I'm trying to stay away from policy and politics and away from blogger, but the OBL incident has sucked me back in, largely because I've been aghast at the poor quality of some of the arguments offered against taking satisfaction in OBL's killing. As for the legal aspects of the case, I tried to read Greenwald's take, and left, disgusted, a few paragraphs in. But I'm trying to deblogify my life, so I whipped out a derisive drive-by and tried to put it out of my head.

Here's a substantive anti-Greenwald argument by rootless_e at The People's View. The main point is pretty damn obvious...once it's articulated for you... Turns out Greenwald's recent analysis is predicated on a patently erroneous reading of the Fifth Amendment. And by 'patently erroneous' I mean: inconsistent with the plain and explicit language of the amendment.

(via Balloon Juice)
American History, Huckabee Style

The flagship event, of course, is the "Reagan revolution"...

These people live in the Twilight Zone.

[h/t: The Mystic]

Sunday, May 08, 2011

The Narcissistic Obama Meme

I've discussed this before. And it's a waste of everyone's time. But what is the purpose of this blog if not for me to blow off steam about stupid people in politics?

With few true/substantive objections available to them, one of the straws the wingnuts* have grasped at is a criticism that goes roughly like this: Obama is narcissistic/self-important/conceited/arrogant/vain/smug/self-important/WTFever. This is an old standby when you don't care for someone who's clearly smarter/more accomplished/etc. than you are--unable to plausibly indict their abilities or achievements, you instead assert that they are overly proud of those abilities and achievements. It's a stupid, pathetic criticism dripping with ressentiment. But that's largely what the rabid anti-Obama crowd has been reduced to. If Obama walked across the Potomac, the crawl on Fox "News" would read President Can't Swim.

Here's something amazing in this direction from TPM:

Andy Card, President Bush's former Chief of Staff, who helped oversee the epic 'Mission Accomplished' victory lap and jet fighter landing, says President Obama has "pounded his chest" too much over the success of the bin Laden raid and shown too much "pride."
Jesus. Once you hit the depths of inconsistency that these people have hit, rationality is simply no longer possible. What a sad, pathetic, creepy places their minds must be.

*Note: not all conservatives are wingnuts. Only wingnuts are wingnuts.

Friday, May 06, 2011

With No Substantive Criticisms, Wingnuts Fabricate the Myth of Obama's Conceit

Well, those people are crazy, as is abundantly clear. They are also filled with a groundless, visceral hatred of Obama (similar to their groundless, visceral hatred of Clinton). They'll say anything, so long as it has as its upshot that Obama is bad.

Problem is, he's a good president doing a pretty good job of fixing the mess they left us with--an exceptionally good job when you consider the fact that they are working hard to prevent him from fixing it. (My favorite: destroy the economy, then demand, at the worse possible time, "fiscal responsibility"; fiscal responsibily of a sort that we heard nothing about when the GOP itself was in power, and which does nothing but slow the recovery...) Oh, and: Obama is considerably more accomplished, intelligent, knowledgeable and competent than anyone the GOP has right now. So plausible criticisms are rather hard to come by.

So what to do? Well, when faced with someone who's obviously a lot smarter than you are, one way to go is to accuse them of being self-important. Sure, it's a grade-school tactic...surely that no longer surprises you?

Here is one of the biggest dumb-asses from the right fringe of the chattering class, Victor Davis Hanson (not just "Vic Hanson," you'll note...hmmm...that sounds a bit...what's the word I'm looking for...?) It's a very short piece of unmitigated bullshit titled "The First-Person Presidency," in which VD clearly suggests--but refrains from actually saying--that first-person pronouns were the most commonly-occurring words in Obama's statement about OBL. This is a myth that's been batted around on the right since Sunday night. Of course the big news is not that we got OBL...the big news is that...Obama is a poopy-head. It took awhile to come up with something, but several on the right finally settled on his little collective tantrum.
[Edits: looked to me at first as if the post was just a one-paragraph drive-by; turns out VD's point is really a more extended one about Obama being a hypocrite and all that sort of thing.]

The story seems to have been started by Limbaugh...and, like almost everything that comes out of that guy's fetid pie-hole--it was false. Turns out that 'I'--a word that ends up figuring prominently in virtually any ordinary bit of English prose--was the most common first-person pronoun, but showed up far down the list of most frequently-occurring words in the speech...and far behind "our" and "we." Of course facts only matter to those of us in the reality-based community...

Sorry for the vitriolic nature of this post...but stupidity of this degree is downright nauseating to me. If only stupidity were painful, Limbaugh would really need all that Oxycontin...and VD would be asking him to share...
Juan Cole: Top Ten Myths About OBL's Death

This is very interesting.

He doesn't give citations for some of his claims, and I'm not sure how he is justified in believing them (they require having information that I certainly don't have). Interesting anyway.

I'm with him on the final point: we don't have sufficient grounds for claiming that the Pakistani military was hiding him.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Stealth Helicopter Used/Lost in OBL Raid

This morning I saw a picture of the tail and tail rotor of the helicopter that was crashed/blown up in the OBL raid. It's obviously not standard. I started poking around and found this. One of my first worries--echoed by the ABC piece--is that the Pakistanis would send it to the Chinese. Frankly, my view is that we should tell them that we want the copter parts back today or they'll never see another penny of U.S. aid. I'm willing to believe that OBL's location wasn't known at the highest levels of the Pakistani government and military...but not willing to excuse them selling our cutting-edge military technology to a radical authoritarian power.

Unfortunately, my uneducated guess is that blowing the thing up won't be much of an impediment to the Chinese reverse-engineering it. Which worry raises another thing I've sometimes thought about. Depending on how easy it is to obtain information about and reverse-engineer new military technology, might this not constitute a reason to throttle back on our attempts to always have the slickest new war toys? There a several crucial premises there that I don't know much about...

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Pew Research Center's Political Typology Quiz

Kinda interesting, I think.

Turns out I'm a "solid liberal" on their nomenclature...but I don't think this means much. Several of the choices I had to make were largely coin-tosses because the alternatives were not exclusive or not exhaustive. Which is more important to secure peace--a strong military or good diplomacy? Uh...well...see...without both of those things, you're in trouble.

Perhaps interestingly, "solid liberals" are the most numerous group, representing 14% of the population. A couple of other groups came in at 13%.
The bin Laden Raid: No, There Was Never Any Intention of Taking Him Alive

Jebus. I cannot believe that (a) many people are, apparently, just beginning to realize that there was never any intention of taking OBL alive, and (b) some lefty types are whining about this.

Uh...look. Here's the deal. A bunch of smart, well-informed people undoubtedly started thinking about this soon after 9/11. They apparently concluded what a bunch of laypeople, including myself, concluded: that there were too many problems associated with a trial for OBL. Dude was guilty as sin, and there was no doubt about it. It's not like he denied it. Putting him on trial would have taken forever, given him a platform, stirred up the crazies...and there is always a nonzero probability that he could be found innocent--prosecutorial misconduct or who knows what. OBL was never going to be captured. I'm sure that he himself realized that.

And that was the right decision. I'm sure the whiny, bitchy, blowhard Glenn Greenwalds of the world will shriek about this for awhile--that type never tires of shrieking. But it was the right decision. A trial is fruitlessly pro forma in a case like this.

I do realize that these issues are difficult, but I'm losing my patience with the bitchy hand-wringers. Bitch about everything and, eventually, even people like me just start dividing through by your bitching.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Information Obtained By Torture Did Not Help Find bin Laden

Drawn by prurient interest about the goings-on in the fever swamps after the bin Laden incident, JQ and I tuned in to Faux News (we had to look up the channel number...) and watched Peter King (R-NY) tell Bill O'Reilly that torture info had helped to capture bin Laden. Dianne Feinstein, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says that that is false.

Conservatives are working hard to try to find some grounds for spinning this as a success for themselves, their most recent president, their policies, and/or whatnot. It's a pathetic, dishonest display of party-before-country-ness, but the kind of thing we've come to expect from them of late.

On a similar note, Sullivan points us to a recent Sarah Palin speech, in which there is no mention of Obama, but she apparently said: "We thank President (George W.) Bush for having made the right calls to set up this victory."

Now that is some desperate bullshit right there.
Did bin Laden Win?

Short answer: yes.

These reflections are prompted by this piece by Ezra Klein.

I've long thought that OBL basically won the moment that Bush decided to go into Iraq. The won-lost dichotomy doesn't really fit well here. OBL had to realize that attacking the U.S. was basically a suicide mission--for himself as well as the guys flying the planes. He never expected to win--not in the sense of, say, bringing down the U.S. and/or surviving. As soon as the first plane hit the first tower, he had to know that he was a dead man.

However, OBL succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. He judo'ed the hell out of the U.S., and he lived longer than any reasonable person would ever have predicted. Without Bush's and Cheney's massive, irrational ploy to use 9/11 to pursue their disastrous, unrelated Iraq adventure, 9/11 would have been merely a disaster. Bush and Cheney, however, managed to turn it into a huge, smoking train wreck of a catastrophe. Their Iraq insanity cost more lives and generated far, far more injuries (many of them grievous) than 9/11. It also cost more money--the economic cost of 9/11 is estimated at close to $2 trillion, whereas the total cost of the Iraq invasion might very well be at around $3 trillion.

Imagine a kamikaze pilot in WWII. He aims to crash his plane into, say, a cruiser. He knows he won't survive, and he knows that act alone will not defeat the U.S. But he goes on his mission, and hopes that maybe--just maybe--he can take out the cruiser. That's a hell of a lot for one person to accomplish. He hits the cruiser...and somehow he's thrown clear of the explosion. But then he watches from the water as the rest of the task force reacts so irrationally that the impact of his attack is amplified beyond his wildest hopes. The leader of the task force has secretly harbored hopes of attacking an unrelated target, and he uses the attack as an excuse. This attack is not merely irrelevant to the war effort, but actually significantly undermines it. In the course of it, an aircraft carrier is sunk. Furthermore, the force turns away from its original target, which is reinforced in their absence, and now much more difficult to attack. The pilot himself--once right in the sights of the ships he attacked--is allowed to slip away, and live for ten years--ten years more than he had any right to live--before, after a massive expenditure of time and energy. Did the pilot win? Well, his attack provoked completely irrational action on the part of his target, and it ended up hurting itself far more severely than he could have ever reasonably hoped. It might be odd to say that he won--but he accomplished more than any reasonable person could ever have predicted.

Perhaps it's odd to say that OBL won--but he set up conditions that enabled Bush and Cheney to do more harm to the U.S. than he ever could have hoped to do.
Glenn Greenwald on Getting UBL


I link to his post and mention it because I disagree with it. No time for a long discussion now (grading finals...), but this seems to me to be an instance of one of the two ways to go wrong attitudinally with regard to the case at hand.

First, and of course, one might go wrong by reveling in the blood and brutality of the event per se. One might enjoy it as one would enjoy cat burning or gladiatorial games.

But, second, one might go wrong by taking no satisfaction at all in justice being done, by focusing on the violence of the event per se to the exclusion of other, more salient moral aspects of it.

One well-known character is the conservative Neanderthal who tends to err in roughly the first direction. Another is the effete liberal pacifist (or quasi-pacifist) who errs in the other. (Actually, it's something more like vengeance that they focus on, I suppose.)

To some events there seems to be a fairly narrow range of reasonable reactions. Say, to 9/11 itself. To other events, I think there is a fairly broad range of reasonable reactions. I'm inclined to think that the killing of bin Laden falls into the latter category.

Finally, one error that leftier liberals like Greenwald tend to make is to see all actions of this type in future-oriented and consequentialist terms. How many wars will this prevent?, he asks. That's not only the wrong question, but the wrong question by a long, long shot. Justice is frequently backward-looking, not forward-looking, and is not always about achieving the most pleasant future outcomes. Down that road, IMHO, lies an irrational dehumanization of the world, a denial about what is most important about us.

But these are complicated issues that (a) I don't have time to say anything really cogent about here, and (b) don't really lie in my area of expertise. So, as usual, take the above as thinking out loud and little more.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Rot In Hell, OBL

Damn I am just so happy about this.

No virgins for you...
Spin, Wingnuts, Spin

The right is working hard to spin the UBL success away from Obama and toward Bush.

Seriously pathetic.

As always: party first...
U.S. Kills Osama bin Laden

I have nothing to add to this happy news.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

John Stossel Stages a Simulated Debate Between Ron Paul and an Obama Impersonator

I am not making this up.

It's so painfully stupid that it's hard to watch even for the amusement value.