Friday, April 30, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
I know a very nice woman named Donna. Yesterday, when it was revealed that she reads this blog, it sort of freaked me out. I mean, I don't mind offending people in the abstract; but she's an actual person. As I thought about it, I concluded we'd never really talked politics or religion, and I don't know where she stands on this stuff. I do know, however, that she's very bright person, has an extremely successful professional life, that she and her husband are very generous souls, and that they both have a sense of humor. So it should be okay, right? No offense, right?
Very much to the right of me (and to the South) lives a good friend. We talk about everything, and often. Sometimes I think of him when I'm writing -- particularly on religion -- and I try to include a phrase to indicate that I tar not every Christian with my doubter's brush: just the holier-than-thou, believe-my-way-or-get-out-of-my-country types. He tolerates me. God knows many readers have taken offense at what I write; in fact, lately they seem mostly to have packed up and gone, presumably to where they won't be challenged: the contemporary hallmark of the ossified and teabagged. (More on that to come, shortly.)
We had dinner the other day, Donna et maritus, me et uxor. Sheepishly, I tried to make sure she understood that my ranting is overthetopper than am I in real life. I'm pretty sure she knew it already.
Anyhow, the relationship and my reaction sheds some light on this whole blogging heat-extremism-hate thing; not that it's original or less than obvious. It's easy to sit here in my mother's basement, in my underwear, shunning the light, drinking Koolaid and regurgitating all that hippie liberal stuff I learned at that hippie liberal college I attended. (What?!?! When did it slip to #2??). Thoughts, uncensored by the barest of civilities, flow like pus (something about which I know a thing or two.) Were I to discuss the same topics face to face -- at least with people I know to be civil and thoughtful, a description that seems to fit not many errant commenters in these parts -- the choice of words would most certainly be different. So would the flow (bidirectional) and quality (one would hope) of the conversation.
Which, of course, is not to say that much will change around here.
And, as I told Donna at dinner, going here might help to reconstitute my credibility. Could work for anyone, really.
First used in this context by Julian Sanchez of the libertarian Cato Institute, the phrase “epistemic closure” has been ricocheting among conservative publications and blogs as a high-toned abbreviation for ideological intolerance and misinformation.Conservative media, Mr. Sanchez wrote at juliansanchez.com — referring to outlets like Fox News and National Review and to talk-show stars like Rush Limbaugh, Mark R. Levin and Glenn Beck — have “become worryingly untethered from reality as the impetus to satisfy the demand for red meat overtakes any motivation to report accurately.”
Soon conservatives across the board jumped into the debate. Jim Manzi, a contributing editor at National Review, wrote that Mr. Levin’s best seller, “Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto” (Threshold Editions) was “awful,” and called the section on global warming a case for “willful ignorance,” and “an almost perfect example of epistemic closure.” Megan McArdle, an editor at The Atlantic, conceded that “conservatives are often voluntarily putting themselves in the same cocoon.”Bruce Bartlett, a veteran of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush’s administrations, wrote that in the last few years, “epistemic closure” had become much worse among “the intelligentsia of the conservative movement.” He later added that the cream of the conservative research institutes, including the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, had gone from presenting informed policy analyses to pumping out propaganda.
Conservative defenders dismissed the complaints. At National Review, Mr. Levin replied that “Manzi is guilty of ‘epistemic one-sidededness’,” if not “lunacy” and “wingnuttery.” Many of Mr. Manzi’s colleagues attacked him for his takedown of Mr. Levin.
How great! On the one hand, these guys are taking each other apart. They're addressing the point I've been making seemingly forever: the Republican Party, along with its RWS™ and media mouthpiece, have devolved into mere propagandizing based on lies, rejecting all meaningful discourse and any attempt at real contributions to the debates over our most pressing problems. They've validating my whole premise, as I shiver ecstatically. (And while the body politic suffers immensely.)
On the other hand -- and it's, I admit, way too much for which to hope -- it raises, if ever so slightly, the possibility (far off and small as it might be) that there could be some sort of awakening on the right. We could -- and I realize this is like believing in flushes -- get back to (yes, it's pollyannish in extremis) a two-party system where both are intellectually strong and working from different positions toward (well, one can dream, can't one?) the same goal, with serious discussions and mutual (I tread here on shells of eggs spread upon the thinnest of ice) respect. All it would take is a little more back and forth like the above-referenced fracas, a bit of self-directed reflection, and.... and.... well... okay... I know I'm reaching here, because it'd take... something... like... yes...
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
I've written before about testable differences between the brains of liberals and conservatives. It explains some things; maybe even excuses the poor folks: they can't help it. But then I read something like this, and I think, nope, there are some things that they should be able to control, no matter their cross-wiring. Maybe it's just that they're assholes.
UCLA economists Dora Costa and Matthew Kahn analyzed the impact of an energy-conservation program in California that informed households about how their energy use compared with that of their neighbors. While the program succeeded in encouraging Democrats and environmentalists to lower their consumption, Republicans had the opposite reaction. When told of their relative thrift, they started cranking up the thermostat and leaving the lights on more often.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
If it didn't begin with Newt Gingrich, he certainly got the stone rolling down hill with his memo. Truth is irrelevant; in fact, it's best avoided. Make stuff up. Such is the central theme, the governing (as it weren't) principle of Republican leaders, and of those tasked with spreading their messages. And, oh, how well it works.
Monday, April 26, 2010
The next senator from Nevada suggests we can solve rising health care costs by paying with chickens. Like the good old days. A Republican dream, if ever there was one. No need for insurance: gecherself some Rhode Island Reds.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
With so much crazy out there, so much from which to choose, I haven't commented lately on global warming denialism. But there's a thought I've had for a long time and just haven't gotten around to mentioning. So here it is. In honor of Earth Day, which I missed.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Rightly or wrongly, I find anonymous comments annoying.
Following logically from the previous post, about idiocy...
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
In a literal case of the lunatics being in charge of the asylum, Georgia is set to outlaw the implantation of microchips in humans without their permission. (In doing so, it would become the fourth state to have passed such a law! And it should surprise no one that the legislatures of each of the states are controlled by Republicans.) The responsible committee in Georgia heard testimony from citizens, which included this:
“I’m also one of the people in Georgia who has a microchip,” the woman said. Slowly, she began to lead the assembled lawmakers down a path they didn’t want to take.
Microchips, the woman began, “infringe on issues that are fundamental to our very existence. Our rights to privacy, our rights to bodily integrity, the right to say no to foreign objects being put in our body.”
She spoke of the “right to work without being tortured by co-workers who are activating these microchips by using their cell phones and other electronic devices.”
She continued. “Microchips are like little beepers. Just imagine, if you will, having a beeper in your rectum or genital area, the most sensitive area of your body. And your beeper numbers displayed on billboards throughout the city. All done without your permission,” she said.
It was not funny, and no one laughed.
“Ma’am, did you say you have a microchip?” asked state Rep. Tom Weldon (R-Ringgold).
“Yes, I do. This microchip was put in my vaginal-rectum area,” she replied. Setzler, the sponsoring lawmaker, sat next to the witness – his head bowed.
“You’re saying this was involuntary?” Weldon continued.
The woman said she had been pushing a court case through the system for the last eight years to have the device removed.
Wendell Willard (R-Atlanta), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, picked up the questioning.
“Who implanted this in you?” he asked.
“Researchers with the federal government,” she said.
“And who in the federal government implanted it?” Willard asked.
“The Department of Defense.”
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
I guess you could call it mind control, were minds involved on the receiving end.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Much is being made by those who wish only the worst -- including my latest and, by all measures, least interesting troll -- of the astounding revelation, in that organ the RWS™ suddenly have found nothing but credible, the NYT, of a memo by Robert Gates regarding Iran policy, or lack thereof.
In a statement issued on Sunday, Mr. Gates said he wished to correct what he described as mischaracterizations about the memo’s content and purpose, and to dispel any perception among allies that the administration had failed to adequately think through how to deal with Iran.
“With the administration’s pivot to a pressure track on Iran earlier this year, the memo identified next steps in our defense planning process where further interagency discussion and policy decisions would be needed in the months and weeks ahead,” Mr. Gates said.
“The memo was not intended as a ‘wake-up call’ or received as such by the president’s national security team,” he added. “Rather, it presented a number of questions and proposals intended to contribute to an orderly and timely decision-making process.”
The New York Times article quoted one senior official as saying the document was a “wake-up call.” But Mr. Gates said, “The New York Times sources who revealed my January memo to the national security advisor mischaracterized its purpose and content.”
Here's an impressively long and well-documented list of Republican hypocrisies, in the form of an open letter. A small sampling:
You can't call a reconciliation out of bounds when you used it repeatedly.
You can't demand everyone listen to the generals when they say what fits your agenda, and then ignore them when they don't.
You can't whine that it's unfair when people accuse you of exploiting racism for political gain, when your party's former leader admits you've been doing it for decades.
You can't complain about a lack of bipartisanship when you've routinely obstructed for the sake of political gain -- threatening to filibuster at least 100 pieces of legislation in one session, far more than any other since the procedural tactic was invented -- and admitted it. Some admissions are unintentional, others are made proudly. This is especially true when the bill is the result of decades of compromise between the two parties and is filled with your own ideas.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
No politics here. Just some interesting information.
Many people take it for granted that they should start their exercise routines with some stretching on the spot, perhaps hoping it will loosen them up for their work-out. Most fitness experts now agree this kind of static stretching before exercise is not just counter-productive, but potentially harmful.
Traditional stretches, like when people bend over to touch their toes or stretch their legs on a fence, often cause the muscles to tighten rather than relax - exactly the opposite of what is needed for physical activity.
Experts say it is like extending a rubber band to its limit. When people stretch to the maximum, they are more likely to pull a muscle.
In what ought to be received with a resounding and unanimous "DUH," but most surely won't, a Federal Court has ruled unconstitutional the Congressionally declared "national day of prayer." In her ruling, the Judge stated the obvious:
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb wrote that the government can no more enact laws supporting a day of prayer than it can encourage citizens to fast during Ramadan, attend a synagogue or practice magic.
"In fact, it is because the nature of prayer is so personal and can have such a powerful effect on a community that the government may not use its authority to try to influence an individual's decision whether and when to pray," Crabb wrote.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
A little while back I mentioned, with some surprise, that the far-right Tom Coburn had actually criticized Fox "news." As a result, that most facile of Fox liars, the one that started it all, the guy who might actually believe that anything he says magically becomes true simply because he, himself, is magic and wonderful, had Coburn on his show. And lied, without engaging so much as a single piloerector.
November 13, 2009: Glenn Beck tells Fox News' audience that those without coverage will "go to jail."
November 12, 2009: Beck said "there will be jail time" for those who refuse to participate in the health care system.
November 9, 2009: Dick Morris argues, "One of the provisions in the Pelosi bill is you actually can go to jail for not having health insurance."
November 10, 2009: Sean Hannity tells viewers, "Penalties for people who don't get government-mandated health insurance, uh, jail time, a possibility?"
October 7, 2009: Greta Van Susteren says it's "theoretically possible" that if "you can't afford insurance for whatever reason" the government could "send you to jail."
November 10, 2009: The on-screen graphic during Fox & Friends tells viewers during a segment on the health care debate: "Comply or go to jail."
Remember, O'Reilly promised Coburn, "[W]e researched to find out if anybody [on Fox News] had ever said you are going to jail if you don't buy health insurance. Nobody has ever said it."
The point is not that Fox lies: it's entirely obvious to anyone who has half a brain that lying is Fox's modus operandi, its raison d' être. The point is that when I say such a thing, I get (have gotten) comments suggesting I'm some sort of elitist smarter-than-thou. I get questions like, if Fox is so bad, why do you pay so much attention? The point is that Fox is the most watched cable "news" channel, and, as is apparent even in my tiny corner of the www, people actually believe it. Defend it. People who'll be out there complaining about taxes today, when, in fact, 98% of them got a tax cut this year. The point is that otherwise (conceivably) normal people are letting themselves be manipulated, used, and taken for fools.
The importance of this is that you, the everyday American, are now being lied to on a regular basis by people working for huge corporations -- and nothing's being done about it. A voter-driven republic -- a voter-driven republic -- cannot survive if lies supersede the truth.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Torture-lovers and constitutional rights-haters seem a little silent on this story:
Here we had a serious terrorist threat -- arguably the most important since 9/11 -- and an al Qaeda recruit who was poised to kill a lot of people. Obama administration officials thwarted Zazi's plan, took him into custody, read him his rights, and gave him a lawyer.
And the results couldn't have been better for the United States. Zazi will spend the rest of the his life behind bars, but only after cooperating with federal officials and becoming a valuable source of intelligence.
It's been my contention that Obama's policies on terrorism are much more rational and effective than Bush's ever were, and it seems there's evidence to support that position.
On the other hand...
[Afghanistan] is the longest war in American history. And it is a war for which there is no end in sight. And to my mind, it is a war that is utterly devoid of strategic purpose.
[....] I mean, if we could wave a magic wand tomorrow and achieve in Afghanistan all the purposes that General McChrystal would like us to achieve, would the Jihadist threat be substantially reduced as a consequence? And does anybody think that somehow, Jihadism is centered or headquartered in Afghanistan? When you think about it for three seconds, you say, "Well, of course, it's not. It is a transnational movement."
[...]They can come from Brooklyn. So the notion that somehow, because the 9/11 attacks were concocted in this place, as indeed they were, the notion that therefore, the transformation of Afghanistan will provide some guarantee that there won't be another 9/11 is patently absurd. Quite frankly, the notion that we can prevent another 9/11 by invading and occupying and transforming countries is absurd.
[...] And as with any other international criminal conspiracy, the proper response is a police effort. I mean, a ruthless, sustained, international police effort to identify the thugs, root out the networks and destroy it. Something that would take a long period of time and would no more succeed fully in eliminating the threat than the NYPD is able to fully eliminate criminality in New York City.
I think President Obama is far more thoughtful -- and correct -- about terrorism than President Cheney. And yet even he is not immune to political reality. I don't know if it's part of his calculation or not, but since every smart thing he does -- be it reducing nukes, getting agreements about fissile material, stopping torture -- is greeted by the RWS™ and teabaggers with claims he hates America, maybe he ought simply to do what's right in Afghanistan as well. You know damn well that there will be terrorist attacks here, and that if he sends a million troops there, or pulls them all out, closes Gitmo or builds ten more, it won't matter: to the RWS™ and the TBs, it'll be his fault. Heck, it will have been what he wanted.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Seems Barack Hussein Obama is becoming a real world leader.
Obama is changing the direction of global gravity. He is also confronting Iran without the shallowness of bombing vs. sanctions vs. public humiliation that his administration has been flirting with. In the past week, and over the next month, Obama is showing what a U.S.-led world order should look like.
This is a huge shift, for the world hasn’t had much faith in America’s abilities to deliver.
[...] In recent years, this has translated into a sense that the United States is a well-branded, globally important but underperforming country, whose influence is weakening — more like a national version of General Motors than Google.
Now, out of the blue, Obama is changing the game.
I can't see anything but good in all of this; but I'm sure we'll be hearing from the usual RWS™, probably from their Alaska headquarters, about why it's tantamount to treason.
Mike Huckabee comes across as a nice guy. On a personal level, I bet I'd like him. Sense of humor. Not seeming to take himself too awfully seriously. Master of the faux open-mindedness of a zealot on a mission, he appears to realize he needs to bide his time, wear a little sheep. He's a really good example of why religion and politics don't mix. Not to the benefit of society. This society, anyway. Well, the kind of society that includes thoughtful people. Treats people fairly. Uses brains.
“You don’t go ahead and accommodate every behavioral pattern that is against the ideal,” he said of same-sex marriage. “That would be like saying, well, there are a lot of people who like to use drugs, so let’s go ahead and accommodate those who want to use drugs. There are some people who believe in incest, so we should accommodate them. There are people who believe in polygamy, so we should accommodate them.”
"Huckabee agreed that an atheist could be fit to serve as president." Really? Is that what he said? What he said was that atheists have no moral grounding. And he said something incomprehensible about being higher than oneself. Guess he's referring to George Bush listening while God told him to spend thousands of lives and trillions of dollars (unfunded) to depose a guy who was no threat. Good one, God. Totally got him.
Monday, April 12, 2010
From The Washington Monthly, a website infinitely more widely read than mine, and actually respected, come words that could have been written by me:
I write a lot about the excesses of Republican rhetoric, in part because I find GOP remarks illustrative of a party gone mad, and in part because of the impact the rhetoric has on the larger political culture/discourse. Most of the time, the temptation is to mock the absurdities.
But once in a while, we find a case like this one, in which a sitting member of the House of Representatives -- not a Fox News personality, not a host of right-wing radio show -- suggests, in print, that the president is a traitor.
Is nothing beyond the pale for Republican officials in 2010? Must there be no difference between GOP lawmakers and unhinged right-wing activists? Are we to believe that we should simply expect and tolerate the casual accusations of treason against American patriots?
It was written in response to this, from a Republican Congressman:
Simply put, President Obama is disadvantaging the United States one step at a time and undermining this country's national defense on purpose. Whether he is catering to the anti-war leftists or truly doing what he thinks is best for our security, the president is leading this nation down a very dangerous path. [emphasis in the original]
What is there to do but sigh, deeply? Just keep writing, I guess, on the off chance that some time some one, or maybe two, will see how fatally such RWS™ are damaging our political process and, therefore, our country. Clearly, there are those that see it, but the question remains, unanswered, for now: which side has the numbers?
My next newspaper column : “Thinking NFL players are protesting the flag is like thinking Rosa Parks was protesting public transportati...
My upcoming newspaper column: Wow. Is there any chance on God’s green earth or in the hot brimstone of Hell that a single Republica...
My next newspaper column: After failing to stop even the most conspicuously unsuitable of Trump’s nominees, Democrats clearly have ze...
Here's my next newspaper column, to be published Saturday: I n the age of Trump, having only a weekly column makes it challenging t...
My latest newspaper column : Last Saturday a call for greatness came from Charlottesville. Trump didn’t answer. The poisonous ...