Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Obama says "let's get out"

Obama scores some points for putting forward binding legislation that would get us out of Iraq.

I like what Digby says on this subject:
This time it's McCain or Rudy who will gain if the war is going well next year. (Fat chance.) And if it isn't, people will be looking to Democrats who took a bold stand to end it, not those who played around the edges.

No Democrat will get any points for being wishy washy on the war at this point. They will get lots of points for being up front and offering a reasonable alternative.

In for a penny in for pound guys. If the presidential club is smart at all they'll sign on or up the ante. There's no margin in non-binding resolutions or adding more Friedman Units at this point. Good for Obama.

The Senate and the Iraq Occupation

There's a lot going on in the Senate re: our failed occupation of Iraq. One of the major questions is: How much power does Congress really have to quash this escalation and/or pull our troops out? This is an ongoing Constitutional issue between Congress and the Executive that hasn't really been fully resolved. There are a lot of arguments, but it's telling to note that many Republicans have shifted their arguments dramatically from when the Executive was a Democrat. Once again, Greenwald does the digging for us:
When Bill Clinton was President, most of the country's leading Republicans did not seem to have any problem at all with Congressional "interference" in the President's decisions to deploy troops (really to maintain troop deployments, since President Bush 41 first deployed in Somalia). There wasn't any talk back then (at least from them) about the burden of "535 Commanders-in-Chief" or "Congressional incursions" into the President's constitutional warmaking authority. They debated restrictions that ought to be legislatively imposed on President Clinton's military deployments and then imposed them.

And Sen. McCain in particular made arguments in favor of Congressionally-mandated withdraw that are patently applicable to Iraq today. And he specifically argued with regard to forcible troop withdrawal that "responsibilities for that lie with the Congress of the United States." The Constitution hasn't changed since 1993, so I wonder what has prompted such a fundamental shift in Republican views on the proper role of Congressional war powers.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Gettysburg Address Powerpoint presentation


My brother mentioned the existence of this and I figured I should link to it. I'm not sure I buy into all the "PowerPoint is destroying the way we think" stuff that's going around. But there is something about the format that homogenizes everything. Perhaps because most of what is presented with PowerPoint is annoying corporate stuff no one really cares about, we are trained to not care about anything delivered via that medium.

Flying coach is tough, but at least you can avoid this...

As difficult as my recent long plane trips with baby Quinn have been, here's one inconvenience we were able to avoid (HT: Sullivan):

Monday, January 29, 2007

Give a hand to Star Wars

Here's a handy re-enactment of the trench scene from Star Wars: A New Hope (HT: Mad Latinist via e-mail).

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Gore in 2008?

VLWC links to this Rolling Stone article about the possibility of Gore running in 2008:
If the Democrats were going to sit down and construct the perfect candidate for 2008, they'd be hard-pressed to improve on Gore. Unlike Hillary Clinton, he has no controversial vote on Iraq to defend. Unlike Barack Obama and John Edwards, he has extensive experience in both the Senate and the White House. He has put aside his wooden, policy-wonk demeanor to emerge as the Bush administration's most eloquent critic. And thanks to An Inconvenient Truth, Gore is not only the most impassioned leader on the most urgent crisis facing the planet, he's also a Hollywood celebrity, the star of the third-highest-grossing documentary of all time.
For what it's worth, I'd probably support him enthusiastically if he ran.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Bush is Commander-in-Chief of the military, not of everyone

This obvious statement has been put forward by those on the left before, but as usual Glenn Greenwald makes the argument clearly and forcefully:
Most media flaws are so fundamental and systemic that they will take a long time to resolve, if they can be at all. But one quick, easy and critical step would be to cease speaking of the elected civilian President as our military Commander and instead treat him as the public servant that he is. There is no obligation or duty to support the President, fully including matters relating to war. Quite the contrary: he "should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole."
The fact that we have to have this argument is pretty sad. In this county, a civilian controls the military, not the other way around. So many very basic things about America and its constitution (rule of law, habeas corpus, separation of powers, civilian control of the military, etc.) are under attack by this administration and its Republican supporters. I guess the cost of freedom is beating back these surges of ignorance and stupidity. But it gets rather tedious.

Comedy Central Insider thinks Rice will replace Cheney

Via The Blogometer, we get this prediction from Comedy Central Insider:
The CC Insider/InDecider has just heard more rumors (see earlier posts) from a SECOND reliable source that Dick Cheney will be stepping down as Vice President and will be replaced as Vice President by Condoleezza Rice. And now we're hearing that she would like to be on the ticket as the GOP VP candidate in '08.
Why the heck should Comedy Central know anything? Well, apparently they predicted Rumsfeld's resignation before the rest of the media got the story. If Comedy Central gets this one right, then we are truly living in bizzaro world.

Jon Stewart dissects Cheney's Blitzer interview

Now that the administration is a laughingstock, even Wolf Blitzer will ask a tough question or two. Of course, this would have been more useful before the war, but maybe Wolf did ask tough questions then and I just didn't hear about it.

Anyway, here's Jon Stewart on the Cheney-Blitzer interview.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Quote of the Day

"There is no way to win a war that is not in your interests."

-Lt. Gen. William E. Odom, a former director of the National Security Agency

I found it in this post by Slacktivist about a hypothetical American war against Canada. There would be no way we could win. An excerpt:
Eventually, the nature of reality would begin to sink in with even the most obstinate and obtuse. They would realize that, since victory was not an option, more battles and more bombs would only constitute losing harder.

And then -- this is the scary part -- then they would order more battles and more bombs. They would do so without expecting, or even hoping for, victory. They would do so in order to buy time to sow, nurture and cultivate an explanation for why anybody and everybody other than them was really to blame for the defeat they chose and pursued with such zeal.

Kerry is not running in 2008

John Kerry won't be going for the presidency in 2008 (HT: Heraldblog).

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Social Optimization: A Cartoon

Mad Latinist sent me this cartoon, which reminded him of me. It reminds me of me, too.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

CBS News has Bush at 28%.

Here's MyDD:

Bush's approval is at 28, which is four points higher than Nixon's approval at his point of departure. Bush's disapproval is two points lower than Nixon's when he said 'the end'.

Possible Internal Monologue hiatus

My wife and I are travelling (with Quinn) to New Jersey for a funeral. I don't know what my net access situation will be, so posting may be light over the next few days.

Happy Roe v. Wade anniversary.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Pimpled porn stars ambivalent about HDTV

I already wrote about how Sony doesn't want pornographers contaminating its new Blu-Ray DVD format. Now, continuing Internal Monologue's thorough coverage of the vitally important issue of HDTV porn, we have an article on the subject from the oh-so-respectable New York Times (including porn star pictures; alas they are not high-definition), so any prurient interest you or I might have in this matter can be covered up with a fig leaf of business section respectability:
[Makers of porn] have discovered that the technology is sometimes not so sexy. The high-definition format is accentuating imperfections in the actors — from a little extra cellulite on a leg to wrinkles around the eyes.

Hollywood is dealing with similar problems, but they are more pronounced for pornographers, who rely on close-ups and who, because of their quick adoption of the new format, are facing the issue more immediately than mainstream entertainment companies.

(HT: Sullivan, who also discusses non-porn uses for HDTV) Oh dear, just what our culture needs: even more minute examination of perfectly normal "imperfections" on the female body in a sexual context. If I was a Hollywood plastic surgeon, I'd be doing everything within my power to accelerate the adoption of a new HDTV standard. Maybe I'd give away an HDTV set with every boob job or liposuction or something. The resulting level of insecurity created by the higher resolution of the new format would boost my business enormously.

Here's an idea to solve the problems mentioned in the Times article: just replace the actors with computer models. Their skin can be as perfect as the texture artists want to make it, and numerous moral and social issues surrounding the creation of pornography could be avoided. And the acting might even improve a bit.

By the way, I haven't acutally seen any HDTV , porn or otherwise, so I don't really know first-hand how it compares. Well, I probably have seen it walking by a new TV in a store, but I haven't really looked at it or done a comparison with regular NTSC TV. Sullivan thinks it's all great and stuff, and I think he watches more TV than I do so he should know.

Grants to play D&D in college!?!? I never had that!

"Dude, look at all this free stuff we got!"

Wizards of the Coast has a new program to subsidize university-affiliated Dungeons & Dragons clubs:
Clubs can apply for a grant amount ranging from a minimum of $50 to a maximum of $1,000. Applicants must provide a detailed budget for their anticipated costs.

What can Expand Your Role Grants be used for?

  • Launch a Web site
  • Advertise/promote their club locally
  • Rent, expand or accessorize a space for club gatherings
  • Send club members to gaming conventions
  • Provide food for club gatherings
If I was in college now, I'd be like, "Yo WotC, gimmie free pizza and a trip GenCon!" Too bad my current group isn't linked to UC Berkeley.

What, exactly, are horny teens supposed to do in our culture?

This very good article on nerve.com (via Feministing) got me thinking about the whole teen sex issue. In a purely socio-political way, of course.

Lately, there have been a lot of editorials about how over-sexed our culture is. Here's a prime example from the venerable New York Times' Editorial Observer, Dec 29th:
They writhe and strut, shake their bottoms, splay their legs, thrust their chests out and in and out again. Some straddle empty chairs, like lap dancers without laps. They don't smile much. Their faces are locked from grim exertion, from all that leaping up and lying down without poles to hold onto. ''Don't stop don't stop,'' sings Janet Jackson, all whispery. ''Jerk it like you're making it choke. Ohh. I'm so stimulated. Feel so X-rated.'' The girls spend a lot of time lying on the floor. They are in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
The author, one Lawrence Downes, is shocked, shocked, to discover that sixth, seventh, and eighth graders are sexual beings. Imagine that! A thirteen year old who has gone through puberty and is using her sexuality to get attention! I'm sure that's never been done ever before in the whole history of the human species! What a freak of nature! Call the New York Times Editorial Observer! Call the fuckin' Guiness Book of World Records!

Usually, these articles focus on the scandalous behavior of young teenage girls (out of concern for their well-being, I am sure). Somehow, no one seems to give a shit if a 15 year old boy is a sexual being. Boring. But those girls, oh my! These guardians of prudery lament thongs, decry "grinding", and claim that civilization is being destroyed by the blowjob (never mind the reduced risk of STDs and very reduced risk of pregnancy as compared to a certain other act).

Part of me sympathizes with these laments. I too, am scandalized by the bare midriffs, the provocative eye makeup, the cleavage, etc. Isn't that the frickin' point, though? To get attention from your peers and shock the old folks? (If the old folks are even on their mental radar screens, which is doubful. How much time did you spend thinking about 30-somethings when you were 13?) What amazes me is that all these writers talk about this as if it was a brand-new phenomenon, like text messaging or hybrid cars. It is as if they are the first generation of people to be scandalized by the mores of their offspring. For Chrissakes, this is the oldest lament of all time. People thought waltzing would be the downfall of Christendom. And yet somehow, civilization has survived waltzing, the novel, Elvis, and rap music.

Here's what bothers me the most: All of these scolds never seem to get around to saying what these teenage girls should be doing with their sexuality. They all just seem to hope it will go away until they are 26 and married or something. It's like fundamentalists and homosexuality: If you pray hard enough, God will remove this horrible affliction from your soul. Do any of these people remember what it was like to be 14? I think amnesia must be a prerequisite for this particular kind of hand-wringing. Maybe you didn't get to see girls gyrating in mini-skirts when you were 14, Mr. Downes (I didn't), but don't tell me it wouldn't have worked on you.

The nerve.com author I link to above, Ada Calhoun, subtitles her article "A resolution for 2007: no more punditry about our "oversexed" culture". I add a corallary to that: No more complaining about teen sexual behavior unless you put forward a serious, viable alternative that teens can engage in. I do not consider "abstinence" a sufficient substitute. Yes, you can abstain from sex, but you can't abstain from your sexuality.

There is a huge "sexuality gap" in our culture: biological puberty hits somewhere around 12, but "civil puberty", i.e. being in an emotional, social, and economic position where one can sensibly get married comes much later. It varies by subculture, but for me and my peers it would raise eyebrows if any of us got married before our mid-twenties. That leaves a gap of at least ten years where our society doesn't really have any institutionally condoned way of being sexual. People are sort of left to fumble about on their own, so is it any wonder that popular culture has rushed in to fill the vacuum? If you don't want girls to gyrate to Janet Jackson at talent shows, you gotta give 'em something better to do. Frankly, I think a lot of teenagers would welcome some guidance on this matter (I certainly would have), but all of the institutions that might be in a position to help teens figure this out (church, school, family, government, etc.) are either too chickenshit or puritanical to be of any real use.

Here's what would really impress me: A mainstream church, non-profit group, or other respectable institution coming up with recommendations for teenagers to constructively, lovingly, and safely satisfy their sexual needs. I'm not talking about education (though that is certainly necessary and in many cases sadly lacking). I'm talking about how to get it on and get off (in a way that minimizes negative consequences, of course): A Presbytarian Guide to Masturbation. UNICEF presents: How to get a lover and what to do when you get one. The New York Times Guide to Sex for Teens. Give the pornographers and pop stars and tawdry TV shows some competition, for once. Or just shut up, because by scolding and hand-wringing you're basically yielding the field to those who, whether for reasons of altruism, narcissism, or greed aren't scared of addressing the issue head-on.

The idea of these institutions jumping into the sex game of course strikes me as absurd. But this just shows how far we need to come as a society before we can even to address this issue in a serious way. But it is work that needs to be done, because I didn't particularly like having my sexuality nurtured by the dysfunctional dyad of puritanical repression and crass commercial exploitation (though given the choice, I think the crass commercialism is by far the healthier option). And I suspect there may be others who are feeling the same way right now.

Bottom line: until some else steps up to the plate, Janet Jackson is what we got. "Ohh. I'm so stimulated. Feel so X-rated." I challenge Lawrence Downes and others with his concerns to give us something better. Until you do, no complaining about gyrating 7th graders.

This is so "post": Colbert on O'Reilly & vice versa

Steven Colbert, a parody of O'Reilly, goes on O'Reilly's show. Then O'Reilly returns the favor, going on The Colbert Report. That's just weird...it's like...I can't think of an analogy. It's like Dana Carvey's George Bush 41. visiting the real George Bush 41 in the Oval Office, and then the real George Bush 41 going on Saturday Night Live. Or something like that. To interview a parody of yourself, and then be interviewed by a parody of yourself. It must be symbolic of something. There's a profound statement in there about the media, the times were in, what constitutes "truth", etc. I can't quite put my finger on it, though.

Of course Keith Olbermann, O'Reilly's arch-rival, talks about these encounters with the creator of Family Guy.

Note: I haven't actually watched this stuff (except the beginning of the Olbermann segment). I'm merely reacting to the idea of it all.

Legal Anachronisms: "Cohabiting" illegal in North Dakota

Apparently, it is technically illegal for an unmarried man and woman to live together in North Dakota. One State Senator, Tracy Potter, D-Bismarck, wants to repeal the law:
"We're saying that we have optional laws, laws that we don't really mean," Potter said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the repeal measure. "We shouldn't have laws like that."
Good for Senator Potter. But of course there are folks who want to defend the law:
Tom Freier, a spokesman for the North Dakota Family Alliance, said repealing the measure would signal that the state doesn't value marriage and the societal benefits it brings.

"If we look at the research, social science evidence suggests that living together is not a good way to prepare for marriage, or to avoid divorce," Freier said. "Cohabitating is not positive for the family, and poses a special risk for women and children."
Of course, it doesn't affect me because 1) I'm married and not planning on doing any cohabiting and 2) I'm not planning to move to North Dakota. But it seems to me that there may be a number of folk in North Dakota who would affected by this, and I agree Senator Potter that stupid laws like this one inspire contempt for the law in general.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

VLWC Quote of the day

Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy's quote of the day:
Atrios:
"...you go to war with the shitty pundits and journalists you have, not the shitty pundits and journalists you'd like to have."
(A riff on Rumsfeld's infamous quote: "As you know, you have to go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you want." But I'm sure you all knew that already.)

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Betamax, Part II: revenge of the pornographers

Kos takes a break from politics to give some advice to Sony, which is currently trying to get people to adopt the Blu-ray format for next generation DVDs. Kos' advice: don't dis the porn makers:

As porn was driving a major percentage of video sales and rentals, it dictated the market. While the reasons Beta failed were numerous, the porn issue was probably a big factor. (LaserDisc also banned porn, btw.)

Fast forward to today, and Sony is once again locked in a format war -- this time over the next generation of DVDs. And once again, Sony appears destined to make the same mistake again.

Kos concedes that the availability of porn over the Internet may make it less relevant in the coming standards war. Of course, the wider availability of broadband may make the new DVD format itself a lot less relevant. Shouldn't we get past the plastic discs and just shuttle the bits around electronically?

How did this guy get out of law school?

Consortiumnews, via Sullivan, reporting on Gonzales testimony:

“Wait a minute,” Specter interjected. “The Constitution says you can’t take it away except in case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn’t that mean you have the right of habeas corpus unless there’s a rebellion or invasion?”

Gonzales continued, “The Constitution doesn’t say every individual in the United States or citizen is hereby granted or assured the right of habeas corpus. It doesn’t say that. It simply says the right shall not be suspended” except in cases of rebellion or invasion.

“You may be treading on your interdiction of violating common sense,” Specter said.

Uh, this is pretty frightening. What other rights does the Attorney General think we don't have? Gonzales is turning out to be one of the more despicable members of the Bush administration.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Lieberman can't flip the Senate to Republicans, thank God

According to this Kos diarist ("alba"), Joe Lieberman can't flip control of the Senate to Republicans even if he officially switches parties:

There has been some confusion and uncertainty as to whether Joe Lieberman has the power to flip control of the Senate to the Republicans. I come bearing good news!! As of this past Friday (January 12), it appears that Lieberman is powerless to effect party control of the 110th Congress.

This is due to the fact that the Senate passed a resolution on January 12 (S.Res. 27) that designates various Democrats by name as committee chairs and specifies the Democratic members of each committee. The Senate also passed a similar resolution (S. Res. 28) the same day that names various Republicans as the ranking minority members of each committee and specifies the Republican members of each committee. Based on these two resolutions, the membership of each standing committee in the Senate appears to be fixed for the duration of this Congress. Further, it includes one more Democratic member than it does Republican members in each case, thereby providing Democrats with control of the committee system and the flow of legislation in the Senate.

That's one less thing to worry about.

Meanwhile, the CT for Lieberman party (the one Lieberman formed once he lost the Democratic primary, but never actually joined, and which has since been taken over by six anti-Lieberman activists) had a meeting. Apparently, there's a leadership dispute (which made the New York Times, no less) as to who is really chair of the party. Remember, although this party is basically a joke, they do have the ability to put someone on the ballot for CT-Senator in 2012, which is a non-trivial bit of power. Presumably, Lieberman will be on that ballot (he'll probably have to form yet another party), and it will be funny to see the CT for Lieberman candidate being someone else. Unless of course CT for Lieberman actually nominates Lieberman. Hey, stranger things have happened.

Turns out Tylenol works by emulating pot


EQUALS

(Photos taken from Tylenol and Cannabis-seeds.com)

Or at least it activates similar chemical pathways in the brain or something. Acetaminophen is apparently a "indirect cannabino-mimetic". This article abstract (HT: Sullivan) is a bit tough to read:
In brain and spinal cord, paracetamol[i.e. Tylenol], following deacetylation to its primary amine (p-aminophenol), is conjugated with arachidonic acid to form N-arachidonoylphenolamine, a compound already known (AM404) as an endogenous cannabinoid.
It basically explains that although Tylenol/acetaminophen/paracetamol has been used for over a century, only recently have we discovered why it works. And it works like cannibis:
These findings finally explain the mechanism of action of paracetamol and the peculiarity of its effects, including the behavioral ones.
I didn't know Tylenol had any behavioral effects. Can you get stoned on Tylenol? I'm not going to try.

Income-based rather than race-based affirmative action?

Kevin Drum, reacting the House passing the student loan bill (decreasing interest rates), advocates replacing race-based affirmative action with income-based affirmative action:

In fact, I'd combine this with something else to make it even better. A few years ago I read a Century Foundation study that made a very compelling case that we ought to replace all (or most) race-based affirmative action with income-based affirmative action. (Full report here.) The study found that if it's implemented well, (a) income-based affirmative action produces nearly as much racial diversity as race-based affirmative action, (b) it promotes economic diversity as well, and (c) it actually produces higher graduation rates than either a pure merit-based system (test scores and high school GPAs) or a traditional affirmative action program. What's more, it's an approach that most of the public finds inherently fair.

So: I'd favor increased financial aid to poor and middle-class students and income-based affirmative action to help them gain admission to the best university they're likely to do well at. It's good for the kids, it's good for the country, it would increase graduation rates, and if it's done right it might even allow us to make more sensible choices about just how many students ought to attempt a university degree vs. a community college degree. And it provides an effective substitute (i.e., one that genuinely helps minority students) for race-based affirmative action, a program that's overwhelmingly unpopular among the American public and therefore, in the long run, probably not sustainable. This would be a pretty good alternative.

Seems like a good idea to me. I think affirmative action would be on much sounder footing if it was based on income/assets (something that's objectively meausreable) rather than race, which can be a problematic concept in many ways. I'm half-Chinese. Does that "count" as Chinese? What about my son, who is a quarter Chinese, but seems to look pretty Asian so far. Of course, being of Asian descent probably won't get you any affirmative action points in a lot of places.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Iraq escalation: Congress can't run away fast enough

Congress is falling all over itself to oppose Bush's Iraq escalation. That article mentions eleven bills currently in the works (insert obligatory This is Spinal Tap joke here). Many Republicans are piling on, too.

Greenwald on Gonzales hearing

UPDATE: A more positive take on these hearing can be found on Kos here ("I have never seen a more thorough ass chewing of a government official in a hearing before.").

Overall, a pretty depressing portrait of government in( )action:
This is what I have learned so far: All of the Senators are very "concerned" and sometimes even "disturbed" about many things, almost all of them different for each Senator. Gonzales definitely shares their concerns about everything, and assures them he takes it very seriously and he is happy to sit down with them and explore ways to fix/improve/think about it.
He also learned that Orrin Hatch is really concerned about--can you guess? Terrorism? Iraq? Budget deficits? North Korean Nukes? New Orleans? Darfur? Abortion? Torture? Nope. He's concerned about porn:
Hatch then spent the rest of his time (all 6 minutes) demanding that Gonzales and the Justice Department devote much more of its resources and attention -- including FBI agents, other law-enforcement resources and a new task force -- to enforcing anti-obscenity laws against people in the U.S. who produce pornography, particularly those who sell it over the Internet, and urged that whole new laws be created to criminalize Internet pornography.

[...]

So in the middle of the Epic, Overarching, Greatest and Most Important War of Civilizations of this Time and Any Other Time, Alberto Gonzales and Orrin Hatch spent their time at a Congressional hearing designed to exercise Justice Department oversight talking solmenly about Girls Gone Wild.
Feingold makes some good points, though:
Feingold: Oh, well it's nice that you didn't have us "in your mind" when making those accusations, but given that you and the President were running around the country accusing people of opposing eavesdropping on terrorists in the middle of an election, the fact that you didn't have Congressional Democrats in "mind" isn't significant. Your intent was to make people think that anyone who opposed the "TSP" did not want to eavesdrop on terrorists, even though that was false. No Democrats oppose eavesdropping on terrorists.

Gonzales: I wasn't referring to Democrats.
Yeah, right.

Is moderate religion a good alternative to funamentalism?


Sam Harris (top) and Andrew Sullivan (bottom) are currently debating the topic. Sam Harris takes the position that moderate religion is actually a bad alternative to fundamentalism, since it basically ends up legitimating the craziness of its more extreme form. Here's part of his argument, as quoted by Sullivan:
Religious moderation is the result of not taking scripture all that seriously. So why not take these books less seriously still? Why not admit that they are just books, written by fallible human beings like ourselves? They were not, as your friend the pope would have it, "written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost." Needless to say, I believe you have given the Supreme Pontiff far too much credit as a champion of reason. The man believes that he is in possession of a magic book, entirely free from error...

Religious moderates—by refusing to question the legitimacy of raising children to believe that they are Christians, Muslims, and Jews—tacitly support the religious divisions in our world. They also perpetuate the myth that a person must believe things on insufficient evidence in order to have an ethical and spiritual life. While religious moderates don’t fly planes into buildings, or organize their lives around apocalyptic prophecy, they refuse to deeply question the preposterous ideas of those who do.
I agree with Harris's critique of moderate religion in that what religious moderates believe is often just as metaphysically ridiculous as what fanatics believe, and that moderates do a pretty bad job of reigning in their more extreme co-religionists. But I think behavior and ability to come to terms with the rest of the world in a peaceful, cooperative manner should count for something.

Note that when Harris and Sullivan use the term "religion", they are both meaning "supernatural religion". Some religions are not necessarily concerned with the supernatural at all. Unitarian Universalism and some forms of Buddhism are examples, though many (perhaps even a majority) of practitioners of those religions do have supernatural beliefs.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

How the media can get it wrong

Ha ha ha ha. Poor Mr. Duffy. To be fair, to have guessed that Bush would have used the Iraq study group's recommendations as cover for withdrawal is not unreasonable. Because that's what a reasonable person in Bush's position would have done. (Picture taken from this post by Kos.)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Digby on messed up incentives for pundits

Digby is one of the great progressive voices of the blogosphere. Here he is on how messed-up our media is on the issue of whether to go to war:
Nobody's perfect, but in the perverse incentive structure that exists in the punditocrisy, it's clear you are always better off being a war hawk and being wrong than being a war critic and being right. That's a problem and it's one of the reasons why we are in this mess today.
If rightness is punished and wrongness is rewarded, is it really any wonder wrongness is strutting around, surging and triumphant?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Making America Weaker: The War on Science

Doonesbury's take (click image to enlarge):

Joe Lieberman: colossal liar of fucktardic proportions

Did he actually say this:
I think the consequences for the Middle East, which has been so important to our international stability over the years, and to the American people, who have been attacked on 9/11 by the same enemy that we’re fighting in Iraq today, supported by a rising Islamist radical super-powered government in Iran, the consequences for us, for—I want to be personal—for my children and grandchildren, I fear will be disastrous.
[Emphasis Atrios's] OK, let's spell it out for idoit Lieberman:
  1. We are not fighting the same enemy that attacked us on 9/11. Puh-leeze. On 9/11 we were attacked by Al Qaeda, which is led by Bin Laden, who is currently suspected to be somewhere between Afghanistan and Pakistan. He's not in Iraq. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Even Bush admitted as much. Al Qaeda is only one of many violent groups in Iraq, and is quite small compared to the other groups we are fighting.
  2. Iran is not behind every single act of violence against the US for the past 6 years. Al Qaeda is Sunni and Iran is mainly Shiite. Those two Islamic sects are at each other's throats in Iraq. So it doesn't make sense to link Iran and Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda probably thinks the Iranians are a bunch of heretical schismatics. And Shiite Iran never got along with the Sunni Taliban, who sheltered Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders. Yes, Iran funds terrorism. But not the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11.
  3. Referring to Iran as a "super-powered" government is silly. What "super-powers" to they have? X-ray vision? Can they fly? Their one "super-power" is that they have a lot of oil, and we buy it from them (indirectly via the world oil markets).
Lieberman said something similar in this Washington Post editorial:
On one side are extremists and terrorists led and sponsored by Iran, on the other moderates and democrats supported by the United States. Iraq is the most deadly battlefield on which that conflict is being fought. How we end the struggle there will affect not only the region but the worldwide war against the extremists who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001.
What the fuck!?! Is this really his understanding of the situation, or is he lying to suck up to Bush or somebody else? Get the troops out now. With this kind of thinking going on, no US forces have any business being anywhere near the Middle East. I'm very worried that we're going to do something very stupid in Iran. The Iraq invasion was preceded by deceitful rhetoric linking Iraq to 9/11. Now we have deceitful rhetoric linking Iran to every group opposing the US.

We have to impeach Bush soon if we want to avoid another catastrophe. At first I thought he and his cronies (among whom I certainly include Joementum) would stop their warmongering once it stopped paying political dividends. But clearly that is not the case. We're two months past the Nov. 2006 elections, and warmongering is increasing. They're doing it despite the enormous political costs. At first I thought they were cynical manipulators, but my God, it seems like they actually believe this shit.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Withdrawal, Withdrawal, I love you, Withdrawal. You're always a Friedman away!

What Atrios said:
The basic content of what Obama is saying [withdrawal in 4-6 months], divorced from the larger debate, is fine, but as to how it plays in the current debate it's not fine. It allows us to wait around one more Friedman... and then something will happen. Except it won't happen. Troops will not start coming home 4-6 months from now. And, most likely, 4-6 months from now Obama won't be saying "bring them home now," though I've put him on my little calendar and will make sure to check back then and let you know.

Joe Lieberman: As bad as we thought

This Kos diarist (one Cenk Uygur) is really pissed. And I pretty much agree. Congress has been in session only a short while, and already we have this on Iraq:
First, Senator Lieberman [] pretended to be a concerned moderate on Iraq during the election, and then immediately showed how extreme he is right after the election. There was no more talk about finding the best possible way out of Iraq. Instead, Lieberman immediately embraced escalation.

How many Democratic votes do you think Lieberman would have gotten in Connecticut if he had been honest and told the voters that he planned to support an escalation of the Iraq War as soon as he was elected? Not very many. That's why he had to lie, like he always does.
And this on Katrina:
During the 2006 election, Lieberman promised to hold hearings on how the Bush administration handled Hurricane Katrina if he was elected. He would be the head of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. He would be the one that would make the decision on what hearings to hold and what documents to demand from the White House. He promised he would hold them accountable.

Of course, as always he was lying. Instead, he has just announced that he will hold no such hearings and that he will ask for none of the documents that could show how the administration mishandled the crisis. Heaven forbid that he should do his job.

All you Democrats who supported Joementum against Lamont, how do you feel about that decision now?

A surge of volunteers!

It's not just war supporters volunteering! As a privileged youth myself (well, OK, I'm not a youth anymore, but still well within the army's active duty enlistment age limit of 42), I'm deeply ashamed of my own lack of patriotism and failure to enlist.

When later historians attempt to understand the absurdities of our time, they could do a lot worse than to read The Onion.

Congressional criminals still get pensions

Effluent at No Man's Blog points out that some ex-members of Congress who are convicted criminals and currently serving time for crimes they committed while in Congress are receiving what seem like pretty generous pensions. Apparently, the bills that were supposed to prevent this from happening died in committee. This sounds like a good thing for the new Congress to correct.

If you commit crimes related to other jobs, do you lose your pension benefits? If a street car conductor who has worked for 27 years is caught embezzling money from the company he works for (and is convicted and sentenced for it), is he still entitled to whatever pension he's earned up to that point? I don't know. If I had been selling illegal Microsoft software while I worked there, would they have taken my 401(k) away? Could they have? What's the legal status of a pension?

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a lefty (politically, that is)

(Photo stolen from here)
Minipundit lays it out:
King was one of the first national figures to stand up and oppose the war in Vietnam. He supported a guaranteed minimum income and took a serious stand against poverty. He self-identified as a democratic socialist. He was constantly persecuted by the FBI, and kept an openly gay ex-Communist socialist (the inimitable Bayard Rustin) as his closest adviser. Any conservative who claims that they support King is either ignorant or lying; same with any "sensible centrist" like Joe Klein or David Broder. King was a figure of the left, and the center and right's attempts to claim him as their own are extremely unseemly.
I wouldn't go so far as to say "Any conservative who claims that they support King is either ignorant or lying". There may be conservatives who support King in some areas of his activism but not others. But I do think that the racisim that fueled and continues to fuel the conservative movement needs to be highlighted. And for anyone in today's right-wing to claim King as one of their own is patently absurd.

Bush: the Lincoln of our day. Har-dee-har har har.

Crooks and Liars:
After replacing Generals Abizaid and Casey, some in the media have likened President Bush's leadership style to that of Abraham Lincoln. Jon Stewart and John Oliver debate whether or not this is an appropriate comparison.
Slacktivist:
The top tier of great presidents is reserved for those who saved the union: Washington, Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt. Without the leadership each of those men provided in turn, we wouldn't still have a country.
[...]
But if George W. Bush wants to be remembered as a great president, and the only way to achieve that is to save the republic when its very survival is in jeopardy, then there was only one thing he could do: He would have to put the future of the country at risk himself.

I doubt that's what he's thinking. But it would explain a lot.

The truth does not always wear clothes we like

Note to conservatives: You might not like how these people look,
but that doesn't mean they are wrong.

One common conservative meme is that the anti-war left is such a bunch of dirty, America-hating, defeatist hippies that it was OK to ignore its warnings on Iraq even though they turned out to be resoundingly correct. Well guess what: the truth does not always get yelled at you by someone you feel chummy with. More often than not it comes from someone who dislikes you, and who may be trying to hurt you with it.

So many conservatives who obviously have brains let themselves get suckered by what amounts to an ad hominem ploy: If the person who says X is an "America-hater", then X must not be true. Never mind if this alleged "America-hater" is shouting "2 + 2 = 4". They must be wrong because their heart is in the wrong place (i.e. on the other side). So many people seem to have thought, "Well, if those liberals hate Bush so much, he must be doing something right!" Not. You can be hated by liberals and still suck, and of course the same goes for being hated by conservatives. The liberals were just the first to see it because their partisanship was helping them see Bush's faults ("faults" is really to weak a word), rather than blinding them to those faults.

One example of a conservative coming to terms with this reality is Rod Dreher's recent radio essay on NPR. Here's the quote that's making the rounds:
As I sat in my office last night watching President Bush deliver his big speech, I seethed over the waste, the folly, the stupidity of this war.

I had a heretical thought for a conservative - that I have got to teach my kids that they must never, ever take Presidents and Generals at their word - that their government will send them to kill and die for noble-sounding rot - that they have to question authority.

On the walk to the parking garage, it hit me. Hadn't the hippies tried to tell my generation that? Why had we scorned them so blithely?
[Emphasis Greenwald's] Yes, Rod, that's exactly what the hippies were trying to tell you when they were at their best. And that's what liberals have been shouting since early in this Administration: Bush is not a good guy. Don't take what he says at face value. And yes, both the hippies and the liberals were probably saying a lot of things you didn't like at the same time ("Smoke pot!" "Raise the minimum wage!"). But that doesn't mean they didn't have a pearl or two that even a conservative like you could have used. Hell, even Bush could say something true. We have to look at what people say, what the arguments they are making actually are. It's very easy to get lazy. Mahablog describes this laziness, as it applies to conservatives:
Like so many loyal soldiers of movement conservatism, Dreher’s earliest political memories are of the Carter Administration and the Iranian hostage crisis, followed by the triumphant ascension of Ronald Reagan. He was 13 years old when Reagan was elected, so you can’t fault him for viewing these events through a child’s eyes. The problem is, as it is with so many of his fellow travelers, that his understanding of politics remained childish. He seems to have retained a child’s simple faith that Democrats (and liberals) are “bad” and Republicans (and conservatives) are “good,” so one does not have to think real hard to know who’s right or wrong. In the minds of righties, Republicans/conservatives have an inherent virtue that keeps them on the side of the angels.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Daily Show on Bush's escalation speech

Crooks and Liars has the video of The Daily Show's take on Bush's escalation speech. Money quote:
20,000 troops? We have 130,000 there now, that's only a 15% increase. That's not a surge, that's a gratuity. It's a tip. Eh...It's not even a good tip.
It's much funnier when he says it, of course.

Military doesn't like heterosexuality, either

A woman in the Air Force posed for Playboy, and is now in trouble for it (HT: Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy). I guess the military doesn't like heterosexuality, either:
Manhart, 30, who is married with two children, has been relieved of her duties pending an investigation, according to Lackland AFB spokesman Oscar Balladares.

"This staff sergeant's alleged action does not meet the high standards we expect of our airmen, nor does it comply with the Air Force's core values of integrity, service before self, and excellence in all we do. It is not representative of the many thousands of outstanding airmen who serve in the U.S. Air Force today," Balladares said, reading a statement.

What she did was "not representative". I like that. I'm sure no one in the Air Force ever, ever, ever looks at a magazine such as Playboy. I'm sure those "thousands of outstanding airmen" are all either eunochs or prudes who have no functioning sexuality whatsoever. I'm sure the Air Force has banned Playboy and all porn/erotica on all of its facilities. Yeah.

And whose to say that posing for Playboy doesn't comply with the values of "integrity, service before self, and excellence in all we do"? Was it a bad pictoral? Did some anatomical imperfection cast the Air Force in a bad light? Was there a Navy woman in the same spread who looked hotter? (I'm not into the whole military-themed erotica thing--perhaps a reader can do some "research" and report back.) Does Playboy's extensive use of airbrushing/Photoshoping violate the Air Force's "integrity" principle? Or maybe it was something other than the pictures themselves: Did she not report the income to the IRS? Did she lie to get the gig?

I'm sure the Air Force is just taking the sex=evil (especially in women) meme and running with it. I wonder if it's all the Christian fundie propaganda that the Air Force has been linked to.

How to be taken "seriously" about the war

Internal Monologue has harped on this subject before, but Greenwald has encapsulated it so nicely I felt I had to reproduce this tidbit here:
Among the political and punditry establishment, there has emerged a consensus that there is only one way to show that one is a truly respectable, mainstream, Serious Thinker about the war. It is to do this:
(1) acknowledge (reluctantly) that the war is going very poorly and wrinkle one's foreheads to show grave concern over the problem;

(2) oppose escalation (but respectfully, acknowledging what a serious, thoughtful -- even resolute -- option it is);

(3) oppose withdrawal (categorically, dismissively, snidely, as though any person with a grain of responsibility would never think of such a thing, given how patently reckless it is).

Barney Frank lays parlimentary smackdown

Check out this C-Span clip. It's Barney Frank presiding over some procedure related to the stem-cell bill. He teaches us that "parlimentary inquiries" are not appropriate places to discuss the substance of the bill, and that "points of order" can't be questions. And he smacks the gavel a lot. It's a bit baffling, but it's clear he's not letting Republicans take control of things.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Escalation vs. democracy

Guess which one is winning? I don't really have much to say about Bush's speech. I didn't hear it and from what I've read in the NY Times and on several blogs it was pretty much what we expected: about 20,000 more troops. Digby pretty much sums it up:
It has never been more clear that the people are irrelevant in our system of government than it is at this moment. Fully 70% of the public disapproves of president Bush's job performance. Even more disapprove of his Iraq policy and a large majority believe it was a mistake to invade and occupy Iraq in the first place. 88% do not want this war war to be escalated. His party just lost a large number of seats in both houses of congress over this issue.

And yet this 30% president with 12% support in the country is going to exactly the opposite of what the country wants him to do and he will get away with it. Democracy? Not so much.

Power of the blogosphere

Here's a good example of the power of the progressive blogosphere: KSFO, a right-wing talk radio station owned by Disney-ABC, spews a lot of hateful, violent rhetoric. Someone named Spocko keeps track of it and brings it to the attention of KSFO advertisers who were unaware of what they were associating themselves with. Advertisers start pulling ads. Dsiney sicks lawyers on Spocko, claiming he's violating copyright rules. They go after Spocko's ISP, who pulls the plug on him. Blogs swarm to Spocko's defense, citing fair use doctrine and contacting more advertisers.
More companies pull their ads, and the story starts hitting the main-stream media (MSM). (HT: Mike Stark on Kos)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

One of these Republicans is not like the others...

...one of these Republicans doesn't belong:
  • Skanky Dick Morris points out an interesting fact: Of the four prominent Republican presidential contenders – McCain, Gingrich, Guiliani and Romney – only the Mormon hasn’t had more than one wife.
Mormons are still mocked for being polygamists, even though the mainstream LDS church abandoned the practice long ago.

(Sometimes I feel silly mentioning things that appear on the front page of Kos, since so many more people read Kos than Internal Monologue. But I suspect that several IM readers (and I'm proud to say that IM has at least several readers) actually don't read Kos regularly, so might actually be interested in stuff that shows up there. Anyone care to chime in on this?)

More on Momofuku Ando, instant ramen inventor

When I did this post, I thought I was doing one of those quirky blog posts about a pet issue that no one else really cared about. Boy, was I wrong. I've heard a segment on NPR, and the New York Times today had an appreciation (you might need TimesSelect) on its editorial page. Here are my favorite quotes:
The news last Friday of the death of the ramen noodle guy surprised those of us who had never suspected that there was such an individual. It was easy to assume that instant noodle soup was a team invention, one of those depersonalized corporate miracles, like the Honda Civic, the Sony Walkman and Hello Kitty, that sprang from that ingenious consumer-product collective known as postwar Japan.

But no. Momofuku Ando, who died in Ikeda, near Osaka, at 96, was looking for cheap, decent food for the working class when he invented ramen noodles all by himself in 1958.
That was my reaction, too: I didn't even know there was such a person. But the best quote comes at the end:
Ramen noodles have earned Mr. Ando an eternal place in the pantheon of human progress. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. Give him ramen noodles, and you don’t have to teach him anything.
Amen! I think it's funny that this story has resonated a lot more than I thought it would. Perhaps I'm not so weird as I make myself out to be.

More fun with political quizzes

Here's where I fall on the latest political quiz to make the rounds (HT: Sullivan). Seems about right:
Based on the above score, you are a Libertarian-Leaning Liberal .

Psychology and Politics

Sullivan links to this article in Psychology Today about the intersection of psychology and politics. Four points I'd like to highlight:

1. There's a connection between certain personality traits and political outlooks:
The most comprehensive review of personality and political orientation to date is a 2003 meta-analysis of 88 prior studies involving 22,000 participants. The researchers—John Jost of NYU, Arie Kruglanski of the University of Maryland, and Jack Glaser and Frank Sulloway of Berkeley—found that conservatives have a greater desire to reach a decision quickly and stick to it, and are higher on conscientiousness, which includes neatness, orderliness, duty, and rule-following. Liberals are higher on openness, which includes intellectual curiosity, excitement-seeking, novelty, creativity for its own sake, and a craving for stimulation like travel, color, art, music, and literature.
2. Fear, or morespecifically, thinking about death ("mortalitiy salience") makes everyone across the political spectrum more conservative, even on areas unrelated to national security:
As a follow-up, Solomon primed one group of subjects to think about death, a state of mind called "mortality salience." A second group was primed to think about 9/11. And a third was induced to think about pain—something unpleasant but non-deadly. When people were in a benign state of mind, they tended to oppose Bush and his policies in Iraq. But after thinking about either death or 9/11, they tended to favor him. Such findings were further corroborated by Cornell sociologist Robert Willer, who found that whenever the color-coded terror alert level was raised, support for Bush increased significantly, not only on domestic security but also in unrelated domains, such as the economy. [emphasis added]
3. Perhaps the most interesting finding is that people can overcome the effects of mortality salience merely by concentrating on being rational:
But the second time, one group was asked to make gut-level decisions about the two authors, while the other group was asked to consider carefully and be as rational as possible. The results were astonishing. In the rational group, the effects of mortality salience were entirely eliminated. Asking people to be rational was enough to neutralize the effects of reminders of death. Preliminary research shows that reminding people that as human beings, the things we have in common eclipse our differences—what psychologists call a "common humanity prime"—has the same effect. [emphasis added]
4. Travel and education make you more liberal (to a point: once you have a lot of status to defend, you can get more conservative):
Professors at major universities are more liberal than their counterparts at less acclaimed institutions. What travel and education have in common is that they make the differences between people seem less threatening. "You become less bothered by the idea that there is uncertainty in the world," explains Jost.
Given these realities, it shouldn't be surprising that Republicans push anti-intellectualism, fear of death, irrationality, etc., since all these things make you more conservative. It makes strategic sense for them to push the country in this direction. (This article equates conservatism and Republicanism, something many would dispute.) Interestingly enough, making travel more difficult also plays into this mindset, as does making student loans more difficult to obtain.

It would be interesting to see more cross-cultural data on this subject. Do the same rules apply outside the US?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Massive numbers of war supporters volunteer for military

...not! Greenwald has a great post on this:
It is true that where there is an amply stocked volunteer military, it is natural and inevitable that many citizens will support a war in ways other than by enlisting. No additional troops were needed, for instance, at the time of the invasion of Afghanistan (or during the action in Kosovo), and there was thus no tension between supporting those wars and not fighting.

But the current situation is completely different. Even according to the war's remaining advocates -- particularly those who want to escalate in Iraq -- there is a serious and harmful shortage of willing volunteers to fight in Iraq and to enable a more aggressive application of U.S. military force generally. So we do now have a situation where those who are cheering on more war and escalation really are needed not at the computer screen but on the battlefield, in combat. And their refusal to fight is actually impeding the plans of those on whom the President is relying for "Victory."
But I think Tom Tomorrow captures it best in this cartoon:

I think I'm guilty of the same kind of "armchair activism" satirized here, but I'm not pushing for young people to go off and kill other people in a counter-productive and immoral war. To put it another way: I'm not asking people to do anything I'm not perfectly willing to do myself (i.e. stay at home and oppose the war). The war cheerleaders are. I'd love for the troops who are currently in Iraq to be able to come home and take care of a baby and write the occasional blog post.

All God's Critters Got a Place in the (gay) Choir

An exhibition in Oslo showcases homosexuality in the animal kingdom (HT: Sullivan):

A model — the one that invariably draws most giggles from the exhibition’s younger visitors — shows a male Amazonian river dolphin penetrating another’s blowhole. “This is the only example of nasal sex we have in nature,” Brockman observes.

Up to a fifth of all king penguin couples kept in captivity are gay, we learn from a display of stuffed penguins wearing pink scarves. Hooded seagulls, sea otters, fish, kangaroos, fruit bats, blue jays, storks, pine martens and owls make guest appearances. So does the lowly hedgehog (ouch).

Now that's a field trip I would have remembered.

PS: I just grabbed this picture off the net. I don't know if those giraffes are same-gendered or not.

Weekend at the beach: IMPEACH!

And now for something completely different...

...Richard Nixon playing piano on Jack Parr's show in 1963!

You know your Republican war policy is in trouble...

...when the majority of people in Utah don't support it (HT: Sullivan). Not that this matters one whit to Bush of course.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Inventor of instant ramen noodles dies at 96


Internal Monologue's human interest story of the day:
TOKYO - Momofuku Ando, the Japanese inventor of instant noodles — a dish that has sustained American college students for decades — has died. He was 96.
I never knew who he was, but I've been eating his invention for decades. (HT: Progressive Gold)

Friday, January 05, 2007

Exceptionalism: a good rant

Exceptionalism is the idea that somehow you are different, not subject to the same laws that other people/nations/groups are. It is the opposite of the "priniciple of mediocrity", the idea that one should be very suspicious of any theory which involves the idea that your own planet/nation/self/etc. is somehow "special" or different. The idea that "It's OK if you're a Republican" is an example of exceptionalism, as are "We are God's chosen people" and "Only a member of my ethnic group could possibly understand the suffering my people have been through." I don't particularly care for exceptionalism, because it is any manifestation of the ubiquitous self-serving bias, which must be combatted at every opportunity. And exceptionalism is so often used to justify immoral actions: It's OK for us to invade a country that didn't attack us, but not OK for other countries to do that. Amanda Marcotte has a great anti-exceptionalist rant over at Pandagon:
Exceptionalism of the sort she describes is a self-feeding monster. Look no further than at how Ann Althouse can pitch a fit at Jessica’s nerve having breasts like she had a right or something and then flip around and whine that she’s the subject of sexist attacks. You see, sexist attacks are for those unterwomen, but Ann’s an uberwoman, an honorary man, really, so it’s uncouth to use sexist attacks on her. Exceptionalism is a worldview that is disturbingly impervious to reason, which is why you have abortion clinic workers reporting that when they have anti-choicers come in for abortions, they want special rights to use the backdoor or not have to sit in the lobby with those dirty abortion-having women while they wait to have abortions. Exceptionalism is what makes a lot of Americans bemoan the injustice of 9/11 in one breath and support the injustice of the Iraq War in the next. Exceptionalism is what allows right wing Israelis and their supporters to invoke the Holocaust when arguing for Israel’s right to kill and oppress. You take its persistent existence and couple it with its utter lack of logic and it’s hard not to wonder if exceptionalism is built into our genes, a trick of the brain that overrides reason.

It makes right wing politics possible, really. If you had to admit that you believe openly that might makes right to be a conservative, then the number of admitted conservatives would probably hover at no more than 10% of the population most the time. But exceptionalism is that worldview that makes it easier to sleep at night, because you believe you deserve your spot on top of others, because you are just so damn special.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Those who think the war is going well: A portrait

Slacktivist paints a portrait of those who still think the war is going well:

Believing such a thing requires a delicate touch, an epistemological finesse. In order to avoid engaging the reality that this construct exists to deny, you need to be able to recognize that reality from a distance so that you can give it a wide berth, all while insisting that there's nothing over there to see.

All of which calls for a certain mental nimbleness. It's an exercise which may be done fervently but requires too much deliberate self-deception to be done honestly.

I find such nimbleness impressive in a way. It calls for a remarkable capacity for sudden, seismic shifts in perception. If James Baker and the former presidents he served side with the version of reality reported by the lying media, then Baker, Ford and Bush 41 must be regarded as newly untrustworthy, exposed as members of the vast conspiracy of deception. James Baker, left-winger. It can't be easy telling yourself something like that without giggling -- or passing out -- from the cognitive dissonance.

CT for Lieberman party taken over by critic

Remember John Orman, who actually registered for Lieberman's "Connecticut for Lieberman" party and declared himself Chairman and started making silly rules? (e.g. "If any CFL candidate loses our party’s nomination in a primary, that candidate must bolt our party, form a new party and work to defeat our party-endorsed candidate.") Well, it turns out the CT Sec. of State has recognized his takeover (HT: Kos)
Orman is the sole member of the party and filed paperwork with Bysiewicz's office naming himself chairman. The state officials accepted Orman's takeover and his bylaws which limit membership to critics of the senator and anyone named Lieberman.
This should be frickin' hilarious. Turns out that the CT fot Lieberman party has a guaranteed spot on the ballot for the 2112 Senate race, so Professor Orman's takeover isn't entirely a joke. He could potentially put a spoiler on the ballot (like, oh say, someone who lost their party's primary) and throw the election. It's not a lot of power, but it is something.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

How to get a job at TIME magazine

Be really, really wrong. Would you hire the person who wrote this before the Iraq invasion:
We are tempted to comment, in these last days before the war, on the U.N., and the French, and the Democrats. But the war itself will clarify who was right and who was wrong about weapons of mass destruction. It will reveal the aspirations of the people of Iraq, and expose the truth about Saddam's regime. It will produce whatever effects it will produce on neighboring countries and on the broader war on terror. We would note now that even the threat of war against Saddam seems to be encouraging stirrings toward political reform in Iran and Saudi Arabia, and a measure of cooperation in the war against al Qaeda from other governments in the region. It turns out it really is better to be respected and feared than to be thought to share, with exquisite sensitivity, other people's pain. History and reality are about to weigh in, and we are inclined simply to let them render their verdicts.
TIME magazine just did.

The Titanic and Hindenberg were enormous successes. World War I was a very fun, light-hearted experience. October 28, 1929 was a great day to invest in the stock market. 2 + 2 = 5. Black is white. Night is day. Can I be a "star columnist" for TIME now?

Doh! Giuliani lets slip campaign plans

Crooks and Liars has the story:
Poor Rudy. Like a scene out of season 7 of West Wing, Giuliani lost personal information about his campaign that could help his rivals in the presidential run. In West Wing however, Alan Alda gave them back to Jimmy Smits. Rudy wasn't so lucky and it was leaked to the NY Daily News...
This Kos diary has some info, too:
Well apparently a man with an important document forgot this old adage and left his 140 page Master Plan to win the White House in 2008 in a hotel room! Yes folks thats right, Rudy Guliani left his secret plan for all to see. The first paper to get their hands on it is the NY Daily News...

Olbermann unloads on Bush about "sacrifice"

Did oil companies try to manipulate the election?

A commentator on NPR's Marketplace says yes, according to Kos diarist Clem Yeobright:

MP commentator Jamie Court gives a definitive answer:

[I]n the run-up to the election, oil companies cut gasoline prices 500 percent more than their raw material cost fell.

Note that there is no 'Some might think . . .' or 'There are those who say . . .' about this. (See theyrereal's incisive diary on this phenomenon.) The evidence, to Court, is just too clear. His source? Department of Energy data.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Nobody wants Iraq escalation

This escalation idea (it's proponents call it the "surge") has the virtue of being both strategically stupid and politically suicidal. It won't work, and the American public is completely against it (only 11% support it in this poll). Normally, the Bush administration confines itself to the former kind of action and manages to dodge the latter. But this time, Bush and McCain have really stepped in it with both feet, and it's going to be hard to scrape off. Apparently, only 12 of 49 Republican Senators support it, plus Lieberman (Lieberman for CT-CT) if my understanding of his position is correct.

The percentage of Senators who support this colossally bad idea (13%) and the proportion of the American public that does so (11%) is quite close actually, and makes me think that perhaps our democracy is functioning better than I had previously imagined. (My Senator count might not be accurate, though.)

Of course, just because this escalation idea is stupid and unsupported doesn't mean this administration won't go ahead and do it...

CNN: idiots or wingnut shills?

Those are the only two choices when you allow a graphic like this to appear, in the context of hunting for Bin Laden:

I can see the Democratic Senator from Illinois and presumed presidential hopeful is getting lots of love from the graphic artists at CNN. Conflating "Obama" and "Osama" is pretty pathetic. It's bad enough people making sinister intimations about Obama's middle name (Hussein). To help compensate for this kind of stuff, I'm going to give Obama a free plug for his book on Internal Monologue. I haven't read the book; I'm just doing my part to compensate for the CNN smear:


From the amazon.com description:
Barack Obama's first book, Dreams from My Father, was a compelling and moving memoir focusing on personal issues of race, identity, and community. With his second book The Audacity of Hope, Obama engages themes raised in his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, shares personal views on faith and values and offers a vision of the future that involves repairing a "political process that is broken" and restoring a government that has fallen out of touch with the people.
You can buy it on Amazon.com here. Normally, I use Barnes & Noble for my book stuff, as I have a revenue sharing thing with them (which has so far netted me a total of $1.33. Blogging: almost as profitable as community theater), but their html code generator for book plugs is broken, which annoys me, so their competitor is getting the business instead. Don't just complain. Complain on your blog, and take action!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Slacktivist on the troop escalation idea

Slacktivist has the best take I've read on the psychology behind the recent "McCain doctrine" push for troop escalation in Iraq:

The call for a "troop surge" in Iraq is also the first step in the creation of our next myth -- the one that explains why we lost this war. No matter how many additional troops are included in this "surge" it will be judged, by the mythmakers, as not more enough. And Congress, or the press, or the public, can later be blamed for not doing "more" -- for not allowing us to do what needed to be done to win.
The "more" of course being more atrocities and oppression, but this usually isn't spelled out by the advocates of "more".

The 1960s Left and Netroots Left

Matt Stoller has a great series of articles comparing the Netroots Left with the 1960's Left. Here's a quote from the latest:
Second, in terms of capturing the political system, the New Left, the liberals, and radical organizers of the 1960s failed, and the New Right of that period won. Culturally it's a very different story (they lost, we won), but institutionally speaking right-wingers have as much or more power than they did in the 1960s, though it's manifested less through cross-burning and more through extreme ghettoization, inequality, a fear-based health care system, and radically higher economic risk for the middle class. We can't pretend that this isn't the case just because it makes the right feel good. The 1960s left lost, and politically speaking in terms of strategy they should NOT be emulated.