Archive for December, 2005

One Last

Saturday, December 31st, 2005

One Last

I have this tendency to be quiet from January to about April, and am pretty much uncertain as to why this is. Anticipating this year will be much the same, I thought I should post a “swan song”. Anno Domini 2005 has been just a little too exciting to let go in silence. If it were a house guest, it would be the guy who makes sandwiches in your kitchen without putting anything away, and leaves dirty socks on your coffee table. Your impulse is to drive him to the airport and carry his luggage, while leaving far more considerate friends and relatives to slink out unnoticed in the dead of night in a taxi. You reserve these most energetic of your kindnesses for those who treat you poorly, although you know you perhaps shouldn’t. You do this because his departure marks a pivotal difference in your day-to-day existence, or at least you hope it will.

So I shall drive 2005 to the airport. I will bid it a proper good-bye.

Two thousand five. Three big stories that tower above all the rest. Has anybody else noticed? They are all the same story.

Global warming is real, and humans are causing some of it. This is subject to far less dispute on December 31, than it was on January 1.

The National Security Agency has been intercepting and analyzing communications from within the United States, to hostile countries. Some of these exchanges involve full-fledged U.S. citizens, which possibly violates the spirit, or the letter, of the Fourth Amendment.

Wikipedia is struggling with a scandal, the result of too much information being too freely offered after being too easily contributed by parties not properly authenticated, and whose motives were not adequately established.

I submit that these three stories make all the others, over the last 365 days, relatively trivial. We abdicate concern for our own existence, and therefore our claim upon that existence, if we pass on a solution to global warming. We futhermore abdicate concern for our Constitution, and therefore the whole point to our existence as a democratic republic, if nothing is done about the NSA scandal. And if the Wikipedia flap is marginalized, then logically we have to marginalize any and all equivalent concerns about information-sharing, thereby diminishing the importance of that information in our daily lives. In all three scenarios, our rights and privileges to be alive and free, are compromised.

So here are my answers to the three.

Duh.

Duh.

And, duh.

Global warming is, when all’s said and done, a fart. We contribute to it naturally, simply by going about our lives as an industrialized people, although it’s a pleasant idea to think that we could perhaps avoid it. We could stop living, or if a less drastic solution is required, we could stop being industrialized. By the same token, a diner could stop farting if he stopped eating. It works well in theory, anyway. In practice, agricultural people produce “greenhouse gases” and have destructive effects on the ecosystem, whether they intend to or not, just as people keep farting when they starve, or become vegetarians. “Total” remedies would fail to present solutions to the problem, therefore, it is fraud to present “compromise” remedies as potentially beneficial.

Our collective right to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects” has been under assault since, at the very least, World War II. President Bush’s defenders are correct in presenting the argument that this apparent abuse, is nothing new. But they are wrong to justify this with what our modern Kerry-esque liberals have come to call “fearmongering,” and when they do so, they legitimize the fearmongering charge — precedent or not. If this issue unearths a situation where the Constitution renders our continued survival unworkable, then we do not deserve to survive as a free country. After all, what would be the point of going the other way? Try this on for size: “We are a good country, because we have a Constitution that guarantees us our basic God-given rights, which our government can never take away, except when that government figures it has to do it in order to guarantee our continued survival, then we lose them for a little while.” Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? The rights are more important than the “gummint” — rights are made by God, gummint is made by man. That is the point of the whole exercise. So this is not an issue to be waved off with the “give your constitutional rights away, live to whine another day” argument. It ought to be embraced as a national debate we should have had in 1942. And regardless of how that turns out, talk of impeachment is just plain silly. That such talk is motivated by politics, rather than concern for our continued survival as a free nation, should be obvious. President Bush has manifested a problem, he may in fact be the problem — it doesn’t logically follow that his removal would solve it.

Wikipedia is a free, online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. That obviously presents some theoretical problems, and in the last few weeks the problems ceased to be theoretical. Now Wikipedia is fighting to hang on to whatever credibility it has left, and we are left arguing about…what, exactly? That it’s possible to corrupt the pool of knowledge that is Wikipedia? Of course it is. Just as it’s possible to make an oopsie when you’re editing an article in an encyclopedia that is not free. Or even online. What we’ve learned here is that when an item of information possessing questionable veracity tumbles through a community, responsibility is shared by all who touch it — assuming they’ve spent energy to keep it going. The man who promulgates such a tidbit, has ownership of that tidbit, because ownership can be assigned nowhere else. It’s intellectually dishonest to put blood-sweat-and-tears into making sure something is yelled from the hilltops and then, when questions are asked, take the “Bob said so, so that’s bad on Bob” defense.

We have polluted the earth, and given the earth some clean-up work to do. Which, being a living thing, it has managed to do quite well, just as a man with a runny nose manages to eventually recover.

We have allowed our government to weaken our constitutional rights, and given ourselves some catch-up work to do on repairing those rights, just like a cattle farmer who has put off repairing a rotting fence for too long.

Wikipedia’s information has become polluted by irresponsible contributors, which gives work to those people who read this information, and verify it is accurate, since the guarantee has now been compromised.

There never was any guarantee. Not in any of the three cases.

You want a guarantee? You want to stop lying awake at night wondering about things? You want to make absolutely, positively certain that the climate will never change, that the state of our constitutional rights will never change, that no article of information, once contributed to you, will never have to be hastily retracted?

Drop dead.

I mean it. Drop dead. Death will solve the problem.

Life is change. Life is uncertain. Life is messy. Life entails responsibilities. Death does none of these things.

Too often, when one asks for certainty, when one asks for guarantees, what one is really asking for is death. To keep wondering about our greenhouse gas emissions is a raging pain in the ass, just as it’s a pain in the ass to keep debating whether our government is properly guaranteeing our constitutional protections, or to keep wondering whether what we read on the “innernets” is accurate. It’s all a pain in the ass, because a pain in the ass is what we are. Get rid of the ass-pain, and you get rid of us.

Roll us back into the stone age so we don’t generate any more greenhouse gases. Impeach George Bush so we can go back to arguing about American Idol, confident that the new “Camelot” government is doing everything right. Put that new government in charge of Wikipedia, so that we can be spoon-fed “good” information that inconveniences nobody and enlightens nobody, but at least we can believe everything we read.

All three of those would “solve” the problem…except, none of the three really would. Uncertainty would continue to haunt us, like the stench of a skunk haunting a man who just took a quick shower with ordinary bath soap. Uncertainty is LIFE. And life is that skunk-stench. Sometimes…a lot of the time…there’s just no getting away from it.

Some of us call it “responsibility.”

In 2005, we learned repeatedly that those two are inextricably intertwined. In 2006, we will make the right decisions in order to solve these problems. The decisions that accept these responsibilities, and in so doing, make it possible to continue life. Farts and all.

Or…maybe we won’t. Maybe we will choose certainty. Without responsibility. Maybe we’ll choose death.

We shall see.

Have a wonderful New Year. Get drunk now. If, when sleeping it off tomorrow, you do even a tiny bit of serious thinking about this stuff, then you’re part of the solution and not the problem.

Tolerance Is Not For Everybody

Sunday, December 25th, 2005

Tolerance Is Not For Everybody

“What surprises me is how intolerant some people who preach tolerance can be.” It’s a 24-karat gold quote. The speaker is Pastor Thomas J. Crouse, and the occasion is an uprising from the homosexual activist community in Holland, which has bullied the Sturbridge Host Hotel into pulling the rug out from under Crouse’s annual “Mr. Heterosexual Contest.”

Not everybody is happy with the Straight Man’s contest.

Rob A. Okun, executive director of the Men’s Resource Center for Change in Amherst, had not heard of the event before being told about it yesterday, but said it “misses an opportunity to bring men together in a positive and celebratory way.”

“It’s unfortunate that in the guise of having a fun event … that a darker subtext exists … It is divisive, and at a time when more and more of the world is recognizing the legitimacy of gays and lesbians and transgendered people,” Okun said.

A darker subtext exists. The event misses opportunities. It is an opportunity-missing event. How scary.

Hey, I’ll tell you what’s scary. Scary is, that although the event could in theory be some ceremony with hate-group subtexts, there is no evidence whatsoever that would even suggest that it is one. Insofar as I can determine from what I’ve been able to find out, it simply is a celebration of being straight. And if Mr. Okun hasn’t heard of this before about Dec. 16th, I have to doubt that he knows much more.

Yet it has to be put down. Because it celebrates a certain sexual orientation. If it celebrated a different one, all would be good.

What interests me is, that this disparity is fueled by crude stereotypes about homosexuals. Think about it. Were there an agenda that would be consistent with such a thing, heterosexuals could piss around, they could mope, they could whine about how scared they were of Gay Pride parade, since the event might promulgate subtexts and the straight guys could get beaten up. This is the primer to the powder in the homosexual community’s musket; without the “darker subtexts,” they would have no complaint. The equivalent primer is denied to the heterosexual men, so they can’t protest equivalent pro-gay events — not because they choose not to (which, most of them would choose not to anyway) — but because they are denied equivalent ammunition on account of their sexual orientation. Few things are more amusing than some straight guy who’s afraid of a parade.

Once again, a fairly hostile strain of discrimination hides beneath a thin mask of equality and inclusion. Because of a contest that simply ran afoul of someone’s personal tastes. How tolerant.

Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself…

Sunday, December 25th, 2005

Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself…

…and so I shan’t.

Successful Democratic Blogger Can’t Afford Blue State

Markos Moulitsas Z�niga the man that runs the most successful political blog in America can’t afford the Blue state of California:

So I’m getting a little frustrated with the Bay Area real estate market, and for the first time in years I’m casting about the rest of the nation to see if there’s anywhere else where I could possibly live.

How ironic,a guy who supports a party that promotes Fannie Mae,Freddie Mac,land-use restrictions,zoning,open space laws,and unions is unable to buy a house in the very Blue area of Northern California.All this from a guy who’s got a law degree.What is it about Blue America that hates people that aren’t rich??? Attention Markos Moulitsas Z�niga :did it ever occur to many in Blue state America that Houston(that doesn’t have zoning) is a lot more affordable than let’s say Berkeley,California.Also,Houston residents don’t have a state income tax that they are paying.It appears Kos can’t afford the very values he promotes,which is regulation of markets which leads to artificially high real estate prices.

Commercial Disguised as Advice

Saturday, December 24th, 2005

Commercial Disguised as Advice

I just love this article. It’s an unintentionally hilarious guide for guys who are concerned about giving the right gift to their special lady and don’t want to sleep in the doghouse. The part that really tickles my funny bone? The date. Saturday, December 24. Hey, thanks a lot!

Women see a gift from their partner as an indication not just to the extent of a partner’s thoughtfulness, but how much that partner cares about them.

They judge that by how much effort their guy has put into finding out their personal details, needs and preferences. They’ll then immediately work out from all this where the relationship is at present and where it’s going.

Betcha didn’t know all that was wrapped up in that small package, did you? It’s enough to send attached males to the drinks cupboard first thing tomorrow.

Drinks cupboard? More like divorce court. Really, why would a guy with a brain put up with this nonsense? It’s like catching the mother of your children, herding said children into the bedroom, closing the door, and telling them “Remember, whoever doesn’t find their very own XBOX 360 under the tree, freshly wrapped with their OWN NAME on a tag, knows that daddy doesn’t love them.” Really, it’s exactly the same thing. The only difference is that such a greedy gift-whore is brainwashing herself, instead of the kids. But other than that it’s exactly the same thing.

All women are not like this. Really, if I was a woman I’d be so angry I’d want to organize some kind of protest march to the Toronto Sun with pitchforks and torches. What the hell is the matter with these people that they think all women hate sleazy lingerie and they all want the latest cellphone and/or Blackberry. Ah, the name of the writer of the article is Valerie Gibson. Valerie is a woman’s name. I wonder if she’s got the latest cellphone and/or Blackberry. Does she know how to use it? Does she think all women would know how to use theirs?

Not all the women I’ve known, I’ll tell you that. Most of the women I’ve dated would develop a migraine before the wrapping was completely peeled off the gadget. Oh, NO! It’s a gadget!

What in the world is the point of this advice, coming out as it does on Christmas Eve Day? Ah, in the last couple paragraphs the truth is revealed:

GIFTS THAT WOMEN LOVE: Spa certificates, books, DVDs and CDs, the latest cellphone, BlackBerry, laptop, cruise tickets and good jewelry — especially good jewelry.

In trouble? Next time go to GiftsForYourWife.com, an online business that helps busy men find gifts for the important lady in their life.

Appearances being any indication, it is an online business that helps busy men dig themselves out of a hole, AFTER Christmas, by buying some kind of make-up gift to express how incredibly sorry they are for having bought the wrong gift on the Real Christmas. Overnight, if possible, of course. Sure, that’s speculation, but what other benefit could you possibly get out of something you find out about on December 24?

And yet if it didn’t work out that way, it probably wouldn’t be worth writing up.

I can’t imagine what it would be like being married to a woman with the big brass balls to receive a Christmas gift, dislike it, and be so vocal about it that her honey would be coerced into buying some kind of make-up gift so he could possibly get sex again. Actually, with hypnosis to unearth long-buried memories, I can, but that’s another story. How many guys are in marriages and relationships like this? There are real women out there, who are deserving of our attention, fellas.

Speech Disguised as a Question

Saturday, December 24th, 2005

Speech Disguised as a Question

Helen Thomas is asking questions. Helen Thomas is asking questions. Helen Thomas is asking questions. She’s not giving a speech. Keep saying it to yourself, maybe it will become true.

Q The President has publicly acknowledged that we went to war under false information, mistaken information. Why does he insist on staying there if we were there falsely, and continue to kill Iraqis?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, maybe you missed some of his recent speeches and his remarks, but the President said it was the right decision to remove Saddam Hussein and his regime from power –

Q And a right decision to move in and to tell the people, the American people, that it was all a mistake, and stay there?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t think he said that. He said that Saddam Hussein was a destabilizing force in a dangerous region of the world –

Q That isn’t true. We had a choke-hold on him.

MR. McCLELLAN: It is true. He was a threat. And the threat has been removed.

Q We had sanctions, we had satellites, we were bombing.

MR. McCLELLAN: Let’s talk about why it’s so important, what we’re working to accomplish in Iraq –

Q I want to know why we’re still there killing people, when we went in by mistake.

MR. McCLELLAN: We are liberating people and freeing people to live in a democracy. And why we’re still there –

Q Do you think we’re spreading democracy when you spy and put out disinformation and do all the things that — secret prisons, and torture?

MR. McCLELLAN: I reject your characterizations wholly. I reject your characterizations wholly. The United States is helping to advance freedom in a dangerous region of the world.

Q — recognize this kind of –

MR. McCLELLAN: For too long we thought we had stability by ignoring freedom in the Middle East. Well, we showed — we saw on September 11th –

Q — 30,000 plus?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Helen, we can have a debate, or you can let me respond to your questions. I think this is an important subject for the American people to talk about. By advancing freedom and democracy in the Middle East we’re helping to protect our own security. It’s a dangerous region –

Q By killing people in their own country?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I reject that. We’re liberating and freeing people and we’re targeting the enemy. We’re killing the terrorists and we’re going after the Saddam loyalists.

Q The President said 30,000, more or less.

MR. McCLELLAN: And you know who is responsible for most of that? It’s the terrorists and the Saddam loyalists who want to turn back to the past.

Q We didn’t kill anybody there?

MR. McCLELLAN: Our military goes out of the way to minimize civilian casualties. They target the enemy –

Q You admit they kill?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we’ve got a lot of technology that we can use to target the enemy without going after — without collateral damage of civilians. And that’s what our military does.

Q Are you kidding?

MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, I’m going to stand up for our military. Our military goes out of the way to protect civilians. In fact –

Q Fallujah, we didn’t kill any civilians?

MR. McCLELLAN: We freed some 25 million people in Iraq that were living under a brutal regime.

There are millions of people in our country who think Helen Thomas belongs in that press box, doing exactly what she’s doing.

Now read back over that exchange again. Sure, there are things that Helen Thomas said, which are concluded by the question-mark. Can’t everyone agree that, in context, this is nothing more than a ceremonial inkblot? She’s not there to acquire information. She has an opinion. Perhaps she formed it herself. Perhaps she’s communicating it on behalf of someone else. Perhaps she formed it independently, and she was chosen because someone else liked the opinion. Whatever. She’s got an opinion, and her job is to promulgate it by talking over people.

Is anyone really willing to stand up, give their name, and assert “that isn’t true, we had a choke-hold on Saddam Hussein” is a fact and not an opinion?

What does this say about her supporters?

What does it say about them, that they think the job of a reporter is to form an opinion and then beat it into people?

What does it say about their own opinion, that they’re so ready and willing to let Helen Thomas come along and displace it with her own because they think that’s her job?

What does it say about the quality of their judgment?

Why are those people allowed to cast votes that count every bit as much as mine? Yeah, yeah, American values, whatever. That’s rhetoric. These are people who don’t think for themselves. I want to know how it is they can vote, and how in the world we can survive it. But most of all, I want to know how we’re supposed to understand what our government is doing, when a reporter who’s supposed to be asking probing questions of the leaders who run that government — the one most consistently applauded for doing so — isn’t doing it. She’s just being a hostile little bitch.

No War On Christmas, Huh?

Friday, December 23rd, 2005

No War On Christmas, Huh?

John Gibson of Fox News has written a book observing that there is a War on Christmas going on. I don’t have the book and I have not read the book, so I don’t have any opinion on whether or not he has kept his comments factual between the covers. But it strikes me as interesting that his premise has become controversial. Yesterday, I observed with no small amount of amusement, as both sides duked it out on Gibson’s show, Rob Boston from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Gary McCaleb from the Alliance Defense Fund. Crooks and Liars has a video segment of this incident, and NewsHounds has transcripts.

My own opinion? As is usual in life, the most extreme positions seem to be the ones disproven first. To say, verbatim or paraphrased, that “nobody is trying to get rid of Christmas” is exposed as ridiculous before hardly any research has been done, since it ascribes an individual attribute to an aggregate entity. In other words, the first time I find someone, one person, trying to get rid of Christmas, that statement is popped like a balloon.

To say there is a “war” also strikes me as an exaggeration. One left-leaning guy on a bulletin board made the point that when a commercial enterprise sells Christmas cards and it offers several products that say “Happy Holidays,” it is simply engaging in something that makes good economic sense. Why spend an equivalent amount of design and manufacturing money on a card that says “Merry Christmas,” thus artificially reducing the market for that product to the Christian consumers? It’s bad business.

It’s a fair argument.

On the other hand, I can’t help but notice the point of dispute in the video segment linked above, is whether kids have been prohibited from bringing red and green things to school, or from wearing red and green clothes. This is the logical point upon which the shouting and yelling pivots (I think, anyway; it’s really, really hard to tell). It’s a meaningless distinction. And it is a batshit-crazy rule to lay down, either way. Red forks, green plates. Red socks, green sweaters. What the hell is the problem?

And so to the extent this arouses my interest, which isn’t terribly high, it all boils down to that. “Christmas,” in the purest, strictest sense, commemorates an event that has meaning to a limited set of religions; in that sense, only in the strictest sense, it “excludes” other religions — but it “offends” no one, save for someone with serious emotional problems. And I mean that. I can go around town all day and all night, wearing red and green, yelling “Merry Christmas,” with a big green tree painted on one side of my car and the Baby Jesus painted on the other. Very few people will be offended, and it’s fair to say the people who would be, are the source of any cultural problems taking place.

Think about it. It’s like telling someone “have a nice day” and they’re upset because you shouldn’t be deciding for them what kind of day to have.

Now, there are some out there who aren’t simply arguing that John Gibson is overstating the issue — they’re arguing, further, that there is no cultural resistance taking place against Christmas at all. That, my friends, is a load of crap.

As evidence, I would cite (among many other things) this story out of Lickdale, PA about a substitute teacher recycling that ridiculous old urban legend to children in kindergarten that — get a load of this — there’s no such thing as Santa Claus, and somehow it’s the kids’ parents who are responsible for delivering the presents.

“The poem [The Night Before Christmas] has great literary value, but it goes against my conscience to teach something which I know to be false to children, who are impressionable,” said [substitute teacher Theresa] Farrisi, 43, of Myerstown. “It�s a story. I taught it as a story. There�s no real person called Santa Claus living at the North Pole.”

Farrisi doesn�t believe in Santa Claus, and she doesn�t think anyone else should, either. She made her feelings clear to the classroom full of 6- and 7-year-olds, some of whom went home crying.
:
On Monday night, Jamey [Schaeffer, 6 years old] started to recite Moore�s famous poem while sitting on a couch next to a freshly cut tree, trimmed in tinsel and topped with a golden star: “‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house. No creatures stirred.”

She paused, looked up, and said that�s when the teacher interjected, just a few lines before the verse that announces the arrival of “a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.”

“The teacher stopped reading and told us no one comes down the chimney,” Jamey said, curling into a ball on the couch, bracing her chin on her knees, her voice shrinking away like melting ice cream. “She said our parents buy the presents, not Santa.”

Nobody’s declaring a war on Christmas, huh?

It’s about making the holiday “more inclusive,” huh?

I try not to be prejudiced about such things, but I must say one of the sides in this argument has completely lost me. When teachers sieze control of a child’s personal belief system, and make decisions about that child’s regard for cherished family traditions, that supercede parents wishes and the creative processes of the child — what does this have to do with respecting diverse belief systems? Looks like disrespect, to me.

And it also looks to me as if something is going on. Maybe not a “war”…but certainly a campaign, of sorts. I’m definitely at the point where when someone says “there’s nothing to it,” to me they’re expressing a statement about their own comprehension of the state of affairs, as opposed to reality. They’re just professing their own ignorance.

Update: John Gibson has posted a few comments regarding the big dust-up on the Fox News web site. The nugget within consists of two short paragraphs:

That guy Rob Boston made me furious for calling me a liar about what I said in my book, and then admitting he hadn’t read it.

He also said I said things I haven’t said, and condemned me for it.

Like I said before, it is unusually difficult to tell what’s going on. But to the best I can determine, his description, “said I said things I haven’t said, and condemned me for it” is accurate. If someone else wants to watch the video, and then call me out that I’m wrong, I’m willing to listen to the argument and then do the teapot dance if I’m convinced I’m wrong.

Dangerous Warming Unlikely

Thursday, December 22nd, 2005

Dangerous Warming Unlikely

The link is the point in this post, which is why the title of the post is the title of the article.

It’s an interesting argument. Greenhouse gases, or GHG, have risen significantly in the last hundred years, it is probably due to human activity, and it is probably HARMLESS.

Is that possible?

Well, you can certainly say the same thing about asphalt on the ground — once you discard car accidents and stuff like that.

Not There Yet

Thursday, December 22nd, 2005

Not There Yet

We’re heading into Christmas, 2005 — not the season, but Christmas itself. If you have packages to send to relatives and you want those packages to get there by Christmas, you have got to send them today. It’s Christmas. Merry Christmas.

And the state of the news-sphere is…the Bush administration may have broken the law. We’re not quite sure yet. Stay tuned.

I have two memories that are relevant to this, one recent, one distant. The recent one has to do with this summer, when the Karl Rove, Valerie Plame, Joe Wilson, outing a covert op, or not, blah blah blah whatchamacallit scandal was…well, I’m still not sure what it was doing. It wasn’t getting started, because it already started. It wasn’t reaching a peak, because it’s peaked since then. Let’s call it a “resurfacing.” Back in that hot season, as well as now in this cold one, the Bush administration may have broken the law…we weren’t quite sure yet…stay tuned.

Come to think of it, with regard to that whole Rove/Plame thing, it’s five months later. Can anyone guarantee me the Bush administration broke the law? Or that it didn’t? That Valerie Plame was a covert op? That she wasn’t? So I guess that’s another law…which President Bush’s crew may have broken…we’re not quite sure yet…stay tuned.

See the pattern?

Yeah, it has to do with the wheels of justice turning slowly. Okay, I’ll buy that as a possible explanation, but that’s where my distant memory comes in.

I was sixteen, and the Equal Rights Amendment was reaching its expiration date. The Amendment failed to be ratified by the required thirty-eight states, and this touched off a debate about where women were headed in our society. Nobody with a reputation worth protecting, actually placed said reputation on the words “they’ll be headed back to the typing pools faster than you can say ‘ugly silver dollar’ if we don’t do something quick,” but a lot of people with a lot of clout tried like the dickens to make people think that. The torch-and-pitchfork waving reached a fevered pitch until the 1984 elections, when the feminists decided they had become so powerful, anything was possible. They decided they could put a radical-feminist New York limousine liberal on Walter Mondale’s ticket as his running-mate, and send her out to screech away about “This Administration has…”, repeatedly, into the most powerful microphones network money could buy, in a dreadful mother-in-law sick-chicken tone-of-voice that any married man has come to dread. She could do this all year long, the feminists decided, and in the end Mondale would be victorious — the time had come, after all. If you have the power to do something, you’d better do it, so they did.

The rest is history. Really history. Geraldine Ferraro got Mondale’s ass kicked so thoroughly, they made history.

What does that have to do with crimes the White House may or may not have done?

Just this. A sixteen-to-eighteen-year-old doesn’t know a whole lot about life, but I notice I had some questions then that I still have as a thirty-nine-year-old man. In this blitz of newspaper articles and magazine articles and television commercials I saw between 1982 and 1984, I noticed this common theme, sometimes pronounced verbatim, sometimes adhered to only loosely, but always there: “We’ve come a long way, but we’re not there yet.” Nobody dared to question how far the feminists had come since the mid-sixties, and yet, nobody dared to question how much still had to be done — nevermind that no one seemed to have the balls to list exactly what that was.

A sixteen-year-old is abnormally inclined to call bullshit on this, because when you’re sixteen, something that started sixteen years ago seems pretty ancient. But the problems I had back then, have not deteriorated with the passage of time; to the contrary, time has only crystalized my issues. What is this “we’ve come a long way but we’re not there yet” over sixteen years? What the hell are you trying to do? Paint the white lines on I-5 from San Diego to Birch Bay, by hand?

You got a problem, you fix it.

Again, I understand the opposition more than I’m letting on. They were trying to change a culture, and yes, that does take time. So there is truth in that little slogan, but there is also a lot of bullshit.

And there is bullshit in saying “The White House may have broken the law, we don’t know, stay tuned.”

It’s bullshit because in both cases, problems are solved by our media. Pressure is not brought on the public figures who have the power to solve the problems, unless the media says it should be. And once the media says that pressure should be brought to bear, nobody can oppose them. In short, the media has all the power.

And the media makes the money off the existence of the problems.

Since I cast my very first vote in this lifetime against sick-chicken mother-in-law screeching Geraldine, twenty-one more Novembers have bid me goodbye. Women have…and it’s really not hard to find someone willing to say so…come a long way, and *sigh* they’re not there yet.

We are supposed to be such a break-neck, go-go-go, strung-out-on-Starbucks society. The light turns green, your foot doesn’t have time to press down on the gas before the guy behind you is honking. This is the one time of year we all feel regret over not spending more time seeing the people we love, instead of running stupid errands that don’t matter and doing stupid work that doesn’t matter. But in a week or two we’re all going right back to the ol’ routine, and we all know it. It’s the way we are.

Okay, if we’re consistent about that…and you’re slapping the women at work in the ass, and you know it’s wrong, then stop. If you somehow have the authority to decide, on-the-spot, what everybody in a company is making per year, and you pay the women thirty percent less, and you know that’s wrong, then stop.

If the White House did something illegal, then issue some more indictments. If not, drop it. If you can’t prove they did something illegal, but you think you can prove it with some more research, then go research. Otherwise, shut up.

What is up with the arguing and wrangling, month after month?

What is up with this fighting “for equal rights,” for four decades?

Logically, it doesn’t hold up. We all know it doesn’t. Nobody solves their problems at home this way. You don’t like the way the furniture is arranged, you just rearrange it, and by tomorrow it’s a done deal.

But these publicly-visible issues, which are either illegitimate as issues, or if they are legitimate should be fixed overnight, drag on for years. We all take it as a given that there must be some reason why it takes so long, which we don’t understand. But no one steps out of the mists to explain for us why this is. Why do we put up with it?

Hammer of…Hey! Let’s Go Play Outside!

Wednesday, December 21st, 2005

Hammer of…Hey! Let’s Go Play Outside!

Although I have no way of being completely sure of it, I’m taking it as a given that I am guilty for the crime with which I’ve been charged, which is to bore to tears one Stephen VanDyke and his friend “skio.”

A little background: There is this blog out there called “Capitol Hill Blue.” The publisher of this blog, one Doug Thompson, who is so journalistically objective and cool-headed he would like our current president to “Burn in hell,” somehow got ahold of some scuttlebutt that President Bush called the Constitution “just a GD piece of paper.”

At the time this “Piece of Paper” entry appeared in the Capitol Hill Blue blog, a Google search revealed something embarrassing: Nobody else had a word to say about it. Capitol Hill Blue was being played, or else, the Washington Post was missing out on a developing story that would put Watergate to shame! Actually, I shouldn’t say “Nobody” had a word to say about it. One other blog did: The Hammer of Truth, edited by VanDyke, which takes its name from an introductory passage in William Safire’s 25th book, Scandalmonger.

A presidential hopeful has taken a beautiful, vulnerable woman as his mistress, though both are married to others. His rival for the presidency of the United States has even more sensational secrets to guard about his own past. An ambitious journalist unearths the stories of the private lives of both, and he hefts in his hand what he calls “the hammer of truth.”

As elegant of a merger as Hammer of Truth has struck between its name, and its mission, this citation of Capitol Hill Blue impressed me then, and still does so today, as a betrayal of that mission. After all, if you wield in your hands what you call “the hammer of truth,” isn’t that hammer a weighty and potent thing because it is…you know, true? I notice Safire’s novel takes place some 200 years ago, and perhaps it’s a recent development that when you go swinging around a “hammer of scuttlebutt” or “hammer of hearsay,” you won’t get very far. I don’t know. I wasn’t alive in 1797. But I’m inclined to take the three words “hammer of truth” on their literal meaning: The “ambitious journalist” has a “hammer” because he knows the facts are on his side.

And what happens next, admittedly, is based solely on my own opinion. I think it is extravagant in the extreme to place any weight, whatsoever, on what Doug Thompson wrote. “Hammer of Truth” having done this (or so it appeared to me), I took them to task, explaining my reasons for doing so and for doubting the Thompson piece.

And the fun began.

VanDyke had some harsh words for me when I inferred from the content of his article, that he thought the facts were on his side. Obviously, it was not his intention that I, and other readers, should have presumed this, and I was chastened for my lack of intelligence in thinking this was the case. Furthermore, there was a reserve of further criticism for me because my post was — to summarize — long.

So, I did what I figured was the only sensible thing.

I wrote a follow-up that was twice as long. In my follow-up, I defined my original description of his reporting, “bullshit,” in as precise a manner as I possibly could. Essentially, what “bullshit” is, and it does seem to fit what he wrote very well, is a sense of apathy about the state of affairs. If the relevance of this is questioned, my response is simply that verity is important. Some things are irrefutable but nonetheless false; some things are unprovable but actually true. Is the original Thompson piece true? Nobody knows, although he has had problems with his sources in the past.

None of this matters to the bright fellow VanDyke, who has left me and my sluggish, unintelligent, boring mindset in the dust. See, while he’s gotten two “digs” in to me about how boring my writing is, I’m still concerned with matters of verity. And I note that, at this late date, two opportunities to address the question now behind him, VanDyke has left this entirely unaddressed. What is known? What is unknown?

After all, boring as it may be at times, this is central to whether our constitutional protections are in danger, whether President Bush is posing that danger, whether his enemies are, whether Doug Thompson is doing his job, whether the Washington Post is doing theirs. But this matters not one whit to the VanDyke camp. They’re still concerned about pithiness and cleverness. “Skio,” bragging about his impressive credentials as a student in high school, makes a point of defining “bullshit” as something having to do with the length of whatever’s being read. Great job, Skio. After you get out of high school, you’ll have a dandy time going through life simply ignoring everything that’s over, say, five hundred words. Don’t read any fine print, just sign stuff! That’s what the older folks told me when I was in high school.

Clearly, our future is in good hands.

I keed, I keed…but you know, there’s a kernel of truth in that. I’m afraid my generation is ready to pass into the ether; we who place more importance on true things spoken in a thousand words, than on feeble things of questionable veracity that can be expressed in a sentence or two. All hail the Jon Stewart generation.

Who cares if something is true? Just make sure, before the commercial’s over, you’re done saying it. I gotta pee.

Guys, if you can pay attention long enough, I have to congratulate you for coming up with this great way of ensuring the rights guaranteed by our Constitution (4,426 words, plus amendments) stay fully protected. I’m sure Thomas Jefferson would approve. Can you just imagine the birth of a republic that is sustained and nurtured this way? “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary to sever the ties…aw, fuck this shit, I’m hungry and horny.”

Reciprocating Your Kind Prayers

Wednesday, December 21st, 2005

Reciprocating Your Kind Prayers

Merry Christmas. There, I said it. Now, just for a little bit of yuletide fun, see if you can identify from whence the following text came:

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.

Who said it? Where? In what document? What was the context? Hint: It is the closing paragraph of a letter. A very famous letter.

Let’s make it a multiple-choice test:

a) Abigail Adams said it in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, attempting to heal the rift between him and her famous husband; the occasion was the death of Jefferson’s daughter, during which the two former presidents began a correspondence after a prolonged period of alienation that spanned several years.

b) Ted Nugent said it in a letter to Gloria Steinem in 1988, just to cheese her off on the contemplation that there’s a God and that He is a man.

c) George Washington said it in a letter to King George III of Great Britain, in a very delicate and diplomatic thesis that purported to explain exactly why the colonists were declaring their independence from their mother nation.

d) For the same purpose as c), Ben Franklin said it in a letter to the Pope.

e) In the eleventh century, William the Conqueror said it when urging Pope Gregory VII to give his blessing to the upcoming conquest of England.

f) “Publius,” who could have been John Jay, James Madison or Alexander Hamilton, used it in the closing remarks of the very last Federalist Paper.

g) It was written as closure to the Constitution, in rough draft by James Madison, and proposed at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, but never used.

h) The Director of the Patent Office used it in a letter to President Theodore Roosevelt, when he asked that the Office be closed in 1903, seeing as how everything worth inventing had already been invented.

i) The Publisher of the New York Times used it in a letter to Virginia explaining that there is, after all, a Santa Claus.

j) An unnamed scribe in the court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella used it in a letter to Christopher Columbus, in a final written authorization for the mission that would result in the discovery of America.

k) It is the final line to the Emancipation Proclamation delivered in 1863 by President Lincoln.

l) The Pope used it in a letter addressed to Henry VIII of England, officially denying his majesty’s request for a divorce from Catherine of Aragon.

m) It was uttered in 1216 by Kublai Kahn in his stately pleasure dome in Xanadu. He did decree it.

n) Thomas Jefferson said it when he erected the “wall of separation” between church and state.

o) It is a line from “Charge of the Light Brigade” by Robert Louis Stevenson.

p) It is a letter to Congress from President John Adams, and the occasion is the passage of the Alien and Sedition Act of 1797.

q) Ludwig von Beethoven used it in a letter to his nephew, explaining why he tore off the title page dedicating his Third Symphony, “Eroica,” to Napoleon Bonaparte.

r) It is the final line to the dedication page of “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by Herman Melville.

s) Jerry Falwell’s attorney used it when addressing the Supreme Court during his dispute with Larry Flynt.

t) It was used by Falwell, but in the letter to his supporters identifying the Teletubby Tinky Winky as a homosexual activist.

u) James Dobson used it during a Christmas address on his radio program.

v) Robert Dole used it to open the first Senate session in 1995 after being elected Majority Leader.

w) Hillary Clinton used it in order to fool the electorate into thinking she’s religious, to prepare for her upcoming 2008 presidential bid.

x) It is in an official proclamation from Pope Gregory in 1582, codifying the switch from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.

y) It is in the last line of the lengthy inaugural address delivered by William Henry Harrison in 1841. Harrison perished from pneumonia after barely a month in office, being too obstinate to wear a hat in the cold March weather.

z) In a failed attempt to get the Baby Jesus on a silver dollar, President Reagan used it in a State of the Union address in 1984.

Need more time?

Akshun Movies

Sunday, December 18th, 2005

Akshun Movies

There are these things called Akshun Movies. That’s kind of a phony way of spelling “action,” and there’s a good reason for that, because what I’m talking about are movies that have explosions, people dying violently, stunts, cars, and guns, but when you’ve watched it for a few minutes it becomes clear that this movie is not made for men. And that’s not to say I disapprove, necessarily, because there are other people who like to watch movies besides men. And a lot of these movies can be highly entertaining, to a lot of people, some of whom are in fact manly-men.

But when men genuinely enjoy these movies, they do so as individual men whose individual fancies happen to be tickled by something in the movie. Men, as a group, aren’t being catered-to as a demographic group, by this movie, which is pretending as hard as it can to be catering to men as a demographic group. I don’t disapprove of the genre, what earns my disapproval is the phoniness. And I don’t even disapprove of that, since it’s capitalism. What rankles me is my own obliviousness when I sit through movies like these, which, of course, is my responsibility alone. Hence this note.

So how do you know a movie is an “Akshun” movie? This can be important. Some wives and girlfriends like to “trade”; this weekend we’ll see something that is a chick flick, and doesn’t even pretend to give guys anything they want at all whatsoever, so tonight, in the spirit of compromise we’ll go see an “Akshun” movie. This is a scam. It’s a highly profitable scam, though, so like e-mail phishing, glossy flyers in your mailbox, and telemarketing, it is here to stay. If you’re watching an Action Movie, and you see the following, you might actually be watching an “Akshun” movie. What to do with this epiphany, is up to you. It’s probably a completely useless epiphany, but it’s always nice to know what’s going on.

Reflexes Are There, Brain Is Not: This is a very interesting phenomenon that I began to notice a few years ago was becoming very common, and now you can’t get away from it. There is this cute couple around whom the entire movie revolves: he is the hero, she is the heroine. The man has a very interesting set of mental faculties. When his leading-lady is about to be run over by an out-of-control truck, or squashed by a giant ape, or sliced in half, or whatever, he is Johnny-on-the-spot. He always saves her life at the last possible second, usually by yanking her out of the way, and without exception, the leading lady has absolutely no idea what harm was about to befall her until the danger is past. Often, he has to bound across a crowded room to stop her from falling through a growing crack in the earth, as the bystanders who were standing close enough they could have kicked her, do nothing (nor, apparently, are they in any danger that would demand some of our hero’s attention). Thank goodness he was there, or she’d be flattened/eviscerated/sliced/diced/melted, whatever. She owes him her life YET AGAIN! Sounds like every Action Movie you’ve ever seen, right?

Not so fast. The cute couple has just discovered a coded message in a stained glass window. Or received a clue from a ghost. Or noticed it’s high tide when it should be low tide. Whatever. What could it possibly mean? He asks, she answers. That is an iron-clad RULE. In fact, if this gets really abused badly, you’ll get to the point if you hear his manly-man voice say the words “What Could It Mean?” one more freakin’ time, so help you, you’ll want to smack something. His leading lady needs a second or two before the answer jumps into her head. No one will have any doubts that she’s correct, even if she delays explaining it indefinitely. There will be no plot twist later, resulting from her failing to realize some subtle nuance. Nobody else in the whole movie will have even a clue as to what she figured out. Amazing, huh? She’s too stupid to notice a ten-ton truck with failed brakes, when it’s breathing down her neck, but suddenly she’s Sherlock Holmes in high heels. And ten minutes later, they’ll do it again.

Nobody else but him may ever rescue anybody from anything, and nobody else but her may solve any clues, for two solid hours. Why? Simple. Women like to feel important, especially in the puzzle-solving department, but they still find the knight in shining armor sexy. Someone has researched this, and figured out most women are willing to give up the latter role, but cling jealously to the former. The movie starts to get tedious, because once you put those rules in place, you can’t ever, ever, ever violate them, or you’d betray the formula. Real life doesn’t work that way, but hey, it’s a movie. At least now, you know what kind it is.

The “Oh God, I Suck So Much” Face: So we’re down to the last five minutes of the movie and all the kitties have been rescued from trees, our hero and heroine have lived through their trials and tribulations, they’re reunited after trying to find each other, the bomb has been defused, all mysteries have been solved, there’s only one thing out of place: The head bad guy is still alive. That, and, perhaps, the hero is trapped with him somewhere, maybe with the heroine he has just rescued. Maybe the bad guy boss is holding a gun on the hero.

The hero does something to take the bad guy by surprise, grabs the heroine — can’t forget her! — and, after also perhaps finding a secure pocket for the maguffin, or stolen idol, or microfilm that proves his innocence, whatever it is, leaps onto a passing delivery truck or swings on a lasso, out of the whatever, just before it is hit by a cruise missile which kills nobody but the head bad guy.

Just before the fireworks, however, time slows…down…to…a…CRAWL. And then in some kind of super-duper slow motion, the camera zooms in on the face of the bad guy, who is just starting to realize “Hey, uh…they got away. I’m going to die and I’m not even taking anyone with me like I wanted to.” And then the slow-motion camera zooms WAY in, so you can see the emotions on his face as he comes to fully embrace his final thoughts in this sphere of existence: OH…GAWD…I SUCK SO DAMN MUCH!!!

And, …boom.

That’s not an action movie, folks. That’s a chick flick. This late in the movie, you should have that figured out.

Tweedledum And Tweedledee: Two male characters have different roles. One might be the hero, one might be the villain. One might be the loveable nice guy, one might be the goofy sidekick. One might be a central character, and one might be more of an extra with just a couple of speaking lines. Maybe one of them will be the last guy killed by the crazed serial killer, and the other one will be the fornicating drug-snorting asshole jock that gets it in the first fifteen minutes.

The physical differences between them are obvious to someone who is sexually attracted to males. To you, as a heterosexual male, these guys look so much alike it is hard to understand what’s going on in the story. This is particularly annoying when the movie is about a woman cheating on her husband, and the guy she’s cheating with looks just like said husband. You have to listen to the background music while she’s having sex with someone, to figure out if this is something she’s “supposed” to be doing.

What I find particularly odious about this is that neither guy looks like, you know, a real guy. You’d never walk down the street and see a guy who looks like this. As a straight man, you look at these two twerps and you say to yourself “okay, these are actors in a movie, and they look like actors.” They look “metrosexual,” in a way that real metrosexuals don’t look. They wear a lot of hair gel. Their haircuts are clean and “sexy-looking,” in a way, but still look funny. You probably can’t ask for, and get, a haircut like this, nor would you want one.

Guys in real life, who are willing to change everything about their appearances to get more tail, especially, do not look like these guys. If they did, they would not get tail. Women are sexually attracted to a certain image of a guy on film, and they’re attracted to a different image of a guy in real life — or else, someone who makes a living forming opinions about such things, thinks so. What I think happens, is the studio hires a consultant to figure out what everyone should look like, and the consultant researches current fashions and trendsd. So the studio doesn’t get “good guy looks like…” and “bad guy looks like…” recommendations, instead, it gets “MEN should look like…” recommendations. Lots of generic rules, very few specific rules.

And hey, once you pay money for an idea, you have to use it, right?

So if the woman’s husband is five-foot-ten, clean-shaven, with wavy chestnut hair, the guy she’s cheating on him with his not six-foot-three with a shaggy beard and a big knobby earring. That would make it easy, and it would be too much like real life. No, the backdoor man is five-foot-ten, clean-shaven, with wavy chestnut hair. The detective is the same. The hired assassin is the same. The guy who is blackmailing her is the same. They all wear suits, all the time. Or, if one of them wears an open-collar short sleeve shirt with blue jeans, they all wear that. And if you still care about what’s going on, well, congratulations…you probably can’t.

Which brings me to:

Pink and Purple: Since about the early 90′s, it has become very fashionable for men to, when dressing up, take their dad’s suit and give it a colorful twist. Your slacks and jacket match, they’re solid black, but the other items have some loudness to them. Personally, I like this. I think it looks good and refreshing, and it gives us guys a chance to mix-and-match a little bit like the ladies have been able to do for centuries. A nice conservative suit with a white shirt, and then a crazy-colorful necktie with a fuax Picasso pattern, looks good. And if the shirt isn’t white, it can be crazy-colorful too. I like all this stuff. Sometimes, I get the ridiculous notion that maybe I even look good in it.

One thing, though.

Detectives from the police department who are investigating homicides, do not wear purple. They don’t wear pink ties. You probably won’t see one wearing a “bolo,” and there’s no way any homicide detective is going to have sunglasses with little tiny itty-bitty blue lenses.

If they do, in the movie you’re watching, well…you know the rest.

There are probably other indicators, but I haven’t really noticed what they are just yet.

Healthy?

Sunday, December 18th, 2005

Healthy?

Bono, and Bill and Melinda Gates, have been named the Time Persons of the Year for 2005 by Time Magazine for their charitable work and efforts to reduce global poverty and improve health.

The magazine’s citation, which hits newsstands tomorrow, is reported by BBC News UK as:

For being shrewd about doing good, for rewiring politics and re-engineering justice, for making mercy smarter and hope strategic and then daring the rest of us to follow…

BBC’s webpage also had a revealing snippet on rock singer Bono, and just who exactly he is and what he’s been up to:

“Bono charmed and bullied and morally blackmailed the leaders of the world’s richest countries into forgiving $40bn in debt owed by the poorest,” the magazine said.

The three are doing a lot more, when you think about it, than simply “daring” the rest of us to follow. A whole LOT more. An older report on this effort from CNN covers some of the comments that Bill Gates had about his foundation, and its mission, and this made my eyeballs pop out a little:

Gates: ‘The need to engage’

Gates and his wife, Melinda, have created a $24 billion fund whose main purpose is to bridge the disparity in health care between poor and rich countries. Bono cited the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as a source of funding for DATA.

Gates warned, however, that private charitable contributions alone will not be enough to achieve the DATA goals; governments also must play a part.

“Private philanthropy is no substitute for governmental action here,” Gates said. “The scale of the problem and the need to engage, government-to-government, is just way too great for this to be done, even with the kind of increase we’ll see in personal philanthropy. And we’ve said to governments, you know, ‘If you step up and increase, we’ll step up and increase as well,’” Gates said.

“If government is pulling back on this stuff, then the AIDS epidemic absolutely will not be stopped and the whole view of the rich world and how they’ve behaved to the world at large I think will be sort of irredeemable,” Gates said.

At that point the CNN reporter demanded to know “Mr. Gates, how do you know private charitable contributions will not be enough and governments must play a part, if your own contribution has been so substantial? Is this a mathematical reckoning, or a conceptual one?” Just kidding. The reporter did NOT ask that question, or if he did, it damn sure wasn’t part of the story I read. This is important. If it’s a mathematical determination, Mr. Gates — hey, you’re the man who gave us Excel! Can I see the sheets you drew up that convinced you of this?

I mean, whichever one it is, the answer would be central to the story wouldn’t it? If this is really all about helping the poor people?

There’s something terribly ironic about this. In the week leading up to Time’s announcement, Greg Evans’ comic strip Luann had a storyline involving that dork Brad DeGroot, his current infatuation, the sick love triangle involving the infatuation’s ex, and the stuffed toy animal drive taking place at Brad’s firehouse. The excellent work speaks for itself, and people of all political persuasions will immediately understand what’s happening here is “comical” because it’s anything but healthy.

People of all ideological stripes will also understand (have to concede?) that there is little conceptual difference between the Bono’s “morally blackmailing,” and the sweet thing’s troubling quip in the middle strip, “what have you done?” Forgive the debt, or I’ll make bad P.R. for you. Buy the toys, or I’ll go out with Dirk. It’s the same thing. Corporations don’t get “embarrassed,” they just make and lose money, trying like the dickens to do the former and not the latter. It’s what they do.

When Hurricane Katrina smashed New Orleans practically into oblivion, America responded by simply giving a high profile to the devastating events, and then working on making it easy for concerned people to do something to help the people who needed it. There was very little “shaming” or “moral blackmail” going on, and Mr. Gates, I recall no arbitrary judgments by our government about who had the bucks, who was giving them up, who was being a scrooge, etc. etc. etc. What you call “governmental action,” in that catastrophe, in my recollection led to very little except heartbreak, cynical comedy, and scandal. Meanwhile, the private donations that you say somehow aren’t going to be adequate, continued to quietly pour in. Our privately-supported institutions continued to quietly hand out dry blankets, medicine, and hot food. They solicited more funds from people like me, tastefully, quietly, and as the effects became worse, more frequently. We stepped up, and made a difference. Smashing success? I dunno. Most people would agree it wasn’t a boondoggle like FEMA with the little white debit cards.

Now, you know Africa probably better than I do, and having studied the situation you probably have a better idea of what’s needed. But you left out something important: Governments don’t have money, they take it away from people. It’s very rare that they actually fix problems such as this, and on the occasions when such problems are fixed, they damn sure don’t say “okay, the crises has abated, you can have your money back.”

And of all the people who can be deceived into thinking that’s possible, you should be among the very last.

The point is, not only is it unhealthy, but it’s exceedingly dangerous, to get this culture going where how much money you’ve got is everybody else’s business and they get to make moral pronouncements on how well you’re doing and whether you’re forgiving debts like you should.

What’s dangerous about it is, life is not static. (Ironically, Gates’ Microsoft is a company known for making software that works great as long as life is static, and does all kinds of goofy things, like locking up, taking several hours’ worth of work with it, once life becomes dynamic.) Who, this week, is in a position to help the poor and AIDS-infected in Africa? Who, this week, has done an inadequate job of forgiving the debt and forking over the bucks? Who, this week, is in the most desperate need of the money? And who, this week, possesses the incomprehensible power that comes with the authority of deciding these things?

Mr. Gates’ thinly-veiled pitch for socialism brings to mind a rarely-cited quote from Atlas Shrugged, which makes some of the points I’ve made, above, and raises a few others:

We’re all one big family, they told us, we’re all in this together. But you don’t all stand working an acetylene torch ten hours a day – together, and you don’t all get a bellyache – together. What’s whose ability and which of whose needs come first? When it’s all in one pot, you can’t let any man decide what his own needs are, can you? If you did, he might claim that he needs a yacht – and if his feelings is all you have to go by, he might prove it, too. Why not? If it’s not right for me to own a car until I’ve worked myself into a hospital ward, earning a car for every loafer and every naked savage on earth – why can’t he demand a yacht from me, too, if I still have the ability and have not collapsed? No? He can’t? Then why can he demand that I go without cream for my coffee until he’s replastered his living room?…Oh well…Well, anyway, it was decided that nobody had the right to judge his own need or ability. We *voted* on it. Yes ma’am, we voted on it in a public meeting twice a year. How else could it be done? Do you care to think what would happen at such a meeting? It took us just one meeting to discover that we had become beggars – rotten, whining, sniveling beggars, all of us, because no man could claim his pay as his rightful earning, he had no rights and no earnings, his work didn’t belong to him, it belonged to ‘the family,’ and they owed him nothing in return, and the only claim he had on them was his ‘need’ – so he had to beg in public for relief from his needs, like any lousy moocher, listing all his troubles and miseries, down to his patched drawers and his wife’s head colds, hoping that ‘the family’ would throw him the alms. He had to claim miseries, because its miseries, not work, that had become the coin of the realm – so it turned into a contest among six thousand panhandlers, each claiming that *his* need was worse than his brother’s. How else could it be done? Do you care to guess what happened, what sort of men kept quiet, feeling shame, and what sort got away with the jackpot?

Extreme? Hey, I don’t know. I DON’T KNOW. That’s the whole point. The magazine isn’t out until tomorrow, but to date I haven’t read anything about any limits to what these governments are supposed to be doing to their people to raise the money being asked of them. I have no reason to believe there are to be any such limits. I have read no disclaimers such as Bill Gates or Bono saying “now, now, we aren’t going so far as to make all the world’s governments socialist.”

What would they have to gain from making such a disclaimer? They would have to gain a LOT, actually, and they would gain it on behalf of the people they are supposed to be trying to help. I’m accustomed to being in the minority, but here in America there are a lot of people like me. We give to charities, and find out later there is a link between the charity and the United Nations, and say to ourselves “Oh my God” and quietly wonder if we’ve done the right thing. We remember such things, and the next time we have a little bit of cash, we make sure it goes someplace that doesn’t bash capitalism. After all, without capitalism, we would have nothing to fork over, would we? And then a good chunk of the time, we get surprised again, and so we have to stay up-to-date about it. We don’t feel good about giving up money, until we’re satisfied the money actually went to something that addresses the problem. So we do our “consumer reports” research on these foundations while we write the checks. We do this very quietly, and there are a lot of people who have this concern.

The issue is public support for these foundations — regardless of whether the foundations are private or public — and how important that public support is. That public support is tied to how much money will be raised — or it ought to be important. By failing to provide the assurances that his foundation isn’t out to foster world socialism, while he’s saying some very socialist things, Mr. Gates is passing up an opportunity to ensure that support. At the same time, he’s advocating a relationship between his foundation and the world governments, that would make this public support less important. Think about it. The government tells you to do something, you do it. If you don’t, they’ll make you.

I haven’t read anything yet to assure me that world-socialism isn’t part of the mission — and I’ve read plenty enough to suggest that perhaps that is what it’s all about.

Even if it isn’t — hey, you guys are Persons of the Year. If a little of something is good, a lot of it must be better, right?

Ask Brad DeGroot.

I Got Served

Friday, December 16th, 2005

I Got Served

Wednesday night I got an e-mail from one “godstool.” It was one of those auto-generated e-mails I get when people attach comments to this blog, and contents of the message consisted of five simple words.

Oh snap, you got served:

Following thereafter was a link to a blog called “Hammer of Truth.” Now, where have I heard that name before?

Ah…this weekend past, I took that blog to task for conferring a certain amount of credibility (I thought) on Capitol Hill Blue, using the word “endorsing” to describe what they were doing, and for this I called them “Hammer of Bullshit.” Apparently, even though this is the blog nobody reads, Hammer of Truth has been reading it. My comments were noticed by them, and/or brought to their attention, and several among their fans had some things to say about it. Somehow this has become the post that people actually read, within the blog nobody reads.

I note that one Stephen VanDyke, author of the original post that earned my disaffection, was also the author of my “servicing.”

We get Blogbashed

It�s not often we here at Hammer of Truth are on the receiving end of negative criticism for the types of stories we post about (well, differing of opinions is a whole other beast). I like to think most of our readers are smart enough to realize that simply posting (even mocking) something doesn�t automatically translate into endorsement.

Apparently not so much with this blogger, who chooses to call us Hammer of Bullshit (which, incidentally, is where the cleverness of his exhaustive post ended) in regard to my writeup on the dubious quote of Bush calling the Constitution “just a GD piece of paper.”

I suppose I endorsed the veracity of the reporting when I called Capitol Hill Blue “the political rag that doubles as a tin foil hat” or when I used finger-quotes around the word “reporting” or when I followed up with an update pointing out the credibility gaps of CHB and a prior acknowledgement of being conned. No, indeed� let me fess up now and say I was indeed “endorsing” the article.

You caught me, Mr. blogger who�s schtick is to rip on the credibility of a post that�s ripping on the credibility of a news story. I�m betting you�d be a riot to take to the comedy club, I can only imagine the insightful 3000-word critique on how you didn�t get any of the jokes.

I’m inferring Mr. VanDyke’s intentions, here, are to confuse and intimidate me from saying anything further with any meaningful amount of confidence. Assuming I’m right about that, he has succeeded. I’m thoroughly confused. I have little idea what to make of this.

I am cowed, I freely confess, from commenting on this with certainty.

The only thing left for me to do is speculate, with as much of an open mind as can be mustered by a thick-headed ogre like me.

My first impression is that his response is sort of peculiar. Putting myself in his shoes, if someone makes some observations on my comments and posts an article saying something about those observations, to the effect of “this guy is some kind of bullshitter!” — the last thing I’d do, whether I was innocent or guilty of the bullshitting, would be to hide behind the centuries-old “but I was only kidding!” defense.

That’s the timeless refuge of bullshitters, isn’t it?

I suppose some may doubt that. I would refer them to the Andy Savage Greg-in-Duluth phone clip, in the unlikely event they haven’t heard it already. If the point of your defense is “no, no, I’m not a bullshitter, and you’re a clueless dolt for thinking I am one,” you’re poorly served by the I-was-only-joking defense. As you can tell, listening to the Greg Clip all the way to the very end, this is what people have been known to say when their hand is caught in the cookie jar.

Now, it could very well be Mr. VanDyke really was having a joke at Capitol Hill Blue’s expense, and putting no credibility on the report whatsoever, in fact, renouncing it before I “hammered” him just as forcefully he renounces it after that I have done so. And, of course, that I’m a big, stupid doo-doo head for having failed to notice this.

Uh, gee that must be nice. Being a fan of subtle humor myself, I’ve had my share of readers misunderstand me from time to time. I always took that as a sign that the author (me) failed to anticipate and accommodate the attention span and intellectual/emotional state of his reader. From his indictment that my critique was 3,000 words long, I’m gathering Mr. VanDyke agrees that when I write things, this is indeed one of my responsibilities.

Odd that it is not one of his.

What to conclude? Well, we know Mr. VanDyke speaks for the entire “Hammer of Truth” blog — he says so — and, where he comes from, there are certain rules when you write about things. The word-count of what you write (mine was 1,391 not counting the quotes, Stephen, covering a lot of other things besides just you) is critically important to assessing what you’ve written and how well you’ve written it. The point you are trying to make, on the other hand, is a fairly trivial matter — as is the substance of what you have drawn upon in order to substantiate that point. The similarity of your thesis, as inferred by your audience, to the thesis you intended to argue, matters not one bit. The fault for any substantial difference between those two is on the audience, not on the author.

Yawning chasm between those two? No problem. Call the reader a raging idiot.

Interesting.

Capitol Hill Blue supplied “evidence” that our President has a low regard of the Constitution. VanDyke’s point, which certainly doesn’t seem to be ironic or sarcastic in any way, is “we here at Hammer of Truth don�t need much convincing that previous administration actions speak louder than these reported words when it comes to Bush�s view of the Constitution.” Got that? If you buy into the idea that his primary focus was to bash CHB, instead of endorsing it, his “bashing” was an argument that CHB’s facts were — not mendacious — but unnecessary! Granted, there is a distinction to be made between “endorsing” something and saying “this is irrelevant because it proves something that is already known” — but there is also a very great difference between that latter one, and saying “this is irrelevant because it’s impossible to prove, for now, and Capitol Hill Blue, that matters because your reputation sucks ass.”

Now, I’m thinking the meaning of VanDyke’s original musings, which I’m trying so hard to puzzle out (obvious as it may be to everyone else), is narrowed down to one amongst those three. I’m still not entirely sure which of those three it is. My confidence that any great majority among his readers, would be able to offer one consistent answer out of those choices, is mediocre at best. There’s a possibility he himself isn’t altogether sure. It seems a given he wants to place some weight on the CHB report, but it’s known from experience that if someone places too much weight on it, crediting VanDyke with the inspiration for doing so, he’ll repudiate the notion and call the other party stupid.

There is an important reason why, being a latecomer to the party, I should marshall my limited mental resources to figuring out what’s going on here: There is a marginal likelihood that VanDyke is correct, and I owe him and the Hammer of Truth an apology for my use of the vulgar term more conventionally applied to bovine feces. I’m not one to duck an apology when it is owed, so to answer that, I turn to one of the most trusted reference materials I have available. On Bullshit, by Prof. Harry G. Frankfurt of Princeton University, ISBN 0-691-12294-6. This is one of the best investments have I ever made, book-wise. I bought it on Amazon, lured into doing so only because the first two paragraphs were so well-written, each noun, verb and adjective chosen with care you don’t often see nowadays:

One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern, nor attracted much sustained inquiry.

In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves…I propose we begin the development of a theoretical understanding of bullshit, mainly by providing some tentative and exploratory philosophical analysis…My aim is simply to give a rough account of what bullshit is and how it differs from what it is not � or (putting it somewhat differently) to articulate, more or less sketchily, the structure of its concept.

This book is a very quick read — very quick. I shall not quote a single word from it beyond what is necessary, to settle this issue between Mr. VanDyke and me. To do that, what I need to do is ascertain, with pinpoint accuracy, what “bullshit” is and whether or not this overlaps with what VanDyke wrote that earned my wrath. If there’s overlap, my critique stands, and if it isn’t, obviously I should do the Teapot Dance.

The applicable paragraph begins at the bottom of page 53, I think.

What bullshit essentially misrepresents is neither the state of affairs to which it refers nor the beliefs of the speaker concerning that state of affairs. Those are what lies misrepresent, by virtue of being false. Since bullshit need not be false, it differs from lies in its misrepresentational intent. The bullshitter may not deceive us, or even intend to do so, either about the facts or about what he takes the facts to be. What he does necessarily attempt to deceive us about is his enterprise. His only indispensably distinctive characteristic is that in a certain way he misrepresents what he is up to.

This is the crux of the distinction between him and the liar…A [liar is] responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it…For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.

Mr. VanDyke, I’m willing to “endorse” Professor Frankfurt, at least as far as his definition of exactly what bullshit is. He has stated it competently enough that, were I to undertake to outperform him, my efforts would be prohibitively expensive and I expect I would fail. In defining bullshit for us, he has also made a case about the high importance of calling out bullshit when one sees it. In that spirit, I continue to consider it an important mental exercise, for my personal benefit if for the benefit of none other, to affix that label to your article.

Do I owe you an apology for having done so? You’ve left me unclear, I must say, so I must be as dimwitted as you imply. It has not escaped my notice that the state of affairs, and your comprehension of same, appears to have been one of the least-significant considerations here up to now. Does the Capitol Hill Blue report prove that President Bush disrespects our Constitution? Or is the veracity of the Capitol Hill Blue report substantiated, in some way, with your prior acquaintance of the President’s disregard for our Constitution? Which is it? That is a state of affairs. Do you even know which? You appear to be choosing which one it is, moment to moment, based on convenience (and criticism from a blog nobody reads).

That is a litmus test of bullshit.

But it could be, as you imply, confusion on my part and on my part alone. So to help sort out my confusion, I’d sure be in your debt if you can clear up one thing:

What is the state of affairs? What does the Capitol Hill Blue report mean? Does it prove something? Does it merely suggest something? Is it unneeded support for something already proven elsewhere? If so, then why bring it up? Is the report evidence of Capitol Hill Blue’s tinfoil-hattery? Is it really the point of your post to be “ripping on the credibility of a news story”? (When you “served” me, you said exactly that.) If that is the case, why demonstrate this with something that’s not only unprovable, but irrefutable as well, and furthermore suggesting something about our President you already believe to be true? Why not wait for CHB to come up with something demonstrably false? After all, if you’re “ripping” that news source and it is truly deserving of your “ripping on the credibility,” it should be a short wait before such a thing comes down the pike. Why didn’t you go that route?

Or is your belief about President Bush, something I’m misinterpreting as well? I’m assuming not; I’ve taken a look through your archives, and you do appear to earnestly believe in the opinion that your text stated. Conclusion: Whatever irony you put in your original post, fell short of this part.

Or is the point of your original post that President Bush really doesn’t respect the Constitution? I notice now that the story has gotten the “legs” you doubted that it would get — there are many people out there who agree with this premise, and cite Capitol Hill Blue’s report as supporting evidence to prove the point. One must wonder naturally: If “mkfreeberg” at House of Eratosthenes lacks the smarts “to realize that simply posting (even mocking) something doesn�t automatically translate into endorsement” — are these other people lacking in those smarts as well?

And if you’re not going to “endorse” Capitol Hill Blue’s report, then who will? If nobody will, then what else is out there to suggest our President shows the disrespect you seem to have decided he shows?

Is there anything out there that is so powerful, that if I say “so-and-so endorsed this as evidence of the President’s lack of respect for the Constitution” — said so-and-so won’t get all pissy and backpedal like crazy, like you did, dusting off that tried-and-true excuse of bullshitters, “I was only joking”?

If there is no such thing, then what do we REALLY know about this President?

I called you a bullshitter, taking your argument seriously as I did so. You, apparently, were not nearly as offended by the vulgarity, as you were by the notion of my simply taking your argument seriously — your repudiation of your own idea was so forceful, it became obligatory to cast doubts upon my intelligence as you did the repudiating. In so doing, you appear to be taking the “Dan Rather Memos” approach: You spoke truth because what the “proof” proves is believed to be true, even though the “proof” itself has been placed in significant doubt.

(I notice the analogy holds in another way: Just as the discovery of the forged documents was the subject of Dan Rather’s broadcast, so too was the posting of CHB’s story the event that inspired your original post.)

In short, the strength of your argument was such that once I noticed (in a blog nobody reads) you put your name to it, you renounced the argument and called me a fool for taking it seriously. Not a very strong argument! Are all of the arguments against this President’s respect for the Constitution, so feeble? Or just yours?

Just a Lot of Complaining

Friday, December 16th, 2005

Just a Lot of Complaining

Democrats hate the graphic, right, which has been circulating around the “innernets” for five years now — since shortly after the Florida 2000 election melee. They can’t stand it. It offends them. You can tell this, because if you show it to them they’ll call you a pinhead, neocon, stupid idiot, jackass, Bushbot, and almost without exception they’ll go completely off-topic to bring up an example of Republican whining, to make the baby go away. Please, just make it go away.

Well, at this blog, which nobody ever reads, we never go out of our way to deliberately offend people. Because of that, we will never, ever use the baby-graphic until such time as it becomes centrally relevant to some current event.

3…2…1…Whoops! Time to pull out the baby!

Thanks to the Wall Street Journal’s Best of the Web daily, edited by James Taranto, my attention is drawn to this bizarre article in the Washington Post. Evidently, the Democratic party’s plan for the Iraq mission, or quandry, or conundrum, or quagmire or debacle or whatever you want to call it, is this: Nothing. You read that right, nothing. They don’t know what to do about it. There is no plan, and there is no plan to make a plan. There is no intention to rally around a single, blessed, party-position about what to do to solve the problem, not even later on when the midterm elections are in full swing. The official party position, is that it’s every Democrat for him- or herself.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said yesterday that Democrats should not seek a unified position on an exit strategy in Iraq, calling the war a matter of individual conscience and saying differing positions within the caucus are a source of strength for the party.

Pelosi said Democrats will produce an issue agenda for the 2006 elections but it will not include a position on Iraq. There is consensus within the party that President Bush has mismanaged the war and that a new course is needed, but House Democrats should be free to take individual positions, she sad.

“There is no one Democratic voice . . . and there is no one Democratic position,” Pelosi said in an interview with Washington Post reporters and editors.

Pelosi recently endorsed the proposal by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) for a swift redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq over a period of six months, but no other party leader followed, and House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) publicly opposed her.

She said her support for Murtha was not intended to forge a Democratic position on the war, adding that she blocked an effort by some of her colleagues to put the Democrats on record backing Murtha.

Waah! Waaaaaaaah! Waah! Wah! Waaah!

Well really, am I mischaracterizing something? What else do Democrats have to say about the War in Iraq? I mean, really?

What do Democrats think elections are for? What is it that they disagree with me about, here: 1) Elections are for electing leaders, or 2) leadership has something to do with doing something besides complaining. I mean, both of those two premises seem pretty obvious, to me. There’s nothing partisan about either one of them, and yet, somewhere within these two links, the chain has been broken.

Ms. Pelosi, you want to run an election on just bitching and nothing else? Are you for real?

One of the things that is cool about writing for a blog nobody reads, is sometimes you get to sound like a broken record, and nobody will notice. Well, I’ve said this before: Democrats have things to fix, and some of their strategists are smart people. It’s a cinch to see that, if they want to fix something fairly easily, just taking a position on this would be a pretty good first-step.

Well, someone who wants Democrats to win, and who is strategically pretty smart, has figured out this isn’t worthwhile. If they did this, the Democratic party would gain two votes, and lose three, or something like that. Had that calculation not been done somewhere, Pelosi would not be articulating this now. They are beholden to someone, or think they are beholden to someone, who would stop voting for them if they were to form certain strategies.

So who are those people? And what are those strategies?

America deserves the right to know before Democrats are allowed to take control of an ice cream truck, let alone a chamber of Congress.

Damn. Just damn. Can both sides of the aisle, at least step up and come to an agreement that what Pelosi’s party is offering, is something that falls short of leadership? Seems obvious.

From the Right Brain II

Tuesday, December 13th, 2005

From the Right Brain II

“Lightsabre” [sic] Simulator. It is exactly what it sounds like. And it even works with Mozilla Firefox 1.5.

Have fun.

Pithy and Worthy

Monday, December 12th, 2005

Pithy and Worthy

Thought of the day is three sentences from the Best of the Web, the subject being Lindsey Graham’s interview on “Meet the Press” regarding the Republican “White Flag” ad:

…who cares if the Democrats are patriotic? If a man bullies and belittles his wife, does this mean he doesn’t love her? Not necessarily, but whatever is in his heart, his behavior is still wrong.

One Less Psycho

Monday, December 12th, 2005

One Less Psycho

There are many, many people running around, just as free as you and me, even able to cast votes that are as important as the votes you and I cast, who will look upon the graphic below with a mixture of dread and disgust. They are going to cite this as evidence that the death penalty has gotten way out of hand, and people like me are using it to satisfy some kind of sick blood-lust. This, in turn, those people say, amounts to a violation of the Eighth Amendment and its prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Accepting their premise about my blood-lust, I would agree with them about the Eighth Amendment. Although that premise is deeply flawed, and therefore the conclusion about the Eighth Amendment is also deeply flawed, we do owe a substantial debt to those people.

We owe them the debt because they illustrate starkly for the rest of us, how incredibly misguided our society’s resistance to capital punishment really is. We have the death penalty so that when the law proves a substantial danger exists to the innocent among us, when a convicted murderer is allowed to keep living, we can make an exceptionally serious decision about who is to live and who is to die. One of the most contagious arguments against the death penalty, is the arbitrary proposition that government should be encumbered from having that right. This axiom thus presumes that government, interacting with nature, should have limits placed upon what kind of nature it can recognize. Nature, after all, can sprawl into the territory of harshness — laboring under no uncumberences whatsoever as it does so. Nature has perverts, psychos, weirdos, and sickos. It is populated with killer whales that swallow cute sea otters whole, frogs that kill flies on a whim, mantises that eat the heads of their mates during the coupling, and cats that sadistically toy around with bloody, eviscerated, quivering mice.

Anti-death-penalty people, by and large, are people who like to forget that.

The pro-Tookie brigade indignantly demands to know who, exactly, would be placed in physical danger from Tookie Williams, had his death sentenced been commuted to life in prison. In asking this, not only do they demonstrate ignorance about Tookie Williams’ personal history, but they also miss the point. Williams’ plea for clemency was pumped chock-full of bullshit from the get-go. His defenders dictated to the rest of us that we were to presume Williams’ books swayed would-be gang members from lives of crime. There is little evidence to indicate this, and what evidence there is, is suggestive only; it would be extremely difficult to digest and translate into anything compelling. The lie was spread around that Tookie’s prosecutors rejected black jurors from his jury. Another lie was spread that he was “convicted by an all-white jury,” something that has been proven to be untrue.

Governor Schwarzenegger has performed a fairly comprehensive review of the claim that Tookie has “found redemption” behind bars, and found it to be, at best, a difficult assertion to maintain. Quoting from the clemency decision read just a few minutes ago on KFBK by Tom Sullivan:

Williams’ claim of redemption triggers an inquiry into his atonement for all his transgressions. Williams protests that he has no reason to apologize for these murders because he did not commit them. But he is guilty and a close look at Williams’ post-arrest and post-conviction conduct tells a story that is different from redemption.

After Williams was arrested for these crimes, and while he was awaiting trial, he conspired to escape from custody by blowing up a jail transportation bus and killing the deputies guarding the bus. There are detailed escape plans in Williams’ own handwriting. Williams never executed this plan, but his co-conspirator implicated Williams in the scheme. The fact that Williams conspired to murder several others to effectuate his escape from jail while awaiting his murder trial is consistent with guilt, not innocence. And the timing of the motel murders — less than two weeks after the murder of Albert Owens — shows a callous disregard for human life.

Williams has written books that instruct readers to avoid the gang lifestyle and to stay out of prison…The dedication of Williams’ book “Life in Prison” casts significant doubt on his personal redemption. This book was published in 1998, several years after Williams’ claimed redemptive experience. Specifically, the book is dedicated to “Nelson Mandela, Angela Davis, Malcolm X, Assata Shakur, Geronimo Ji Jaga Pratt, Ramona Africa, John Africa, Leonard Peltier, Dhoruba Al-Mujahid, George Jackson, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and the countelss other men, women, and youths who have to endure the hellish oppression of living behind bars.” The mix of individuals on this list is curious. Most have violent pasts and some have been convicted of committing heinous murders, including the killing of law enforcement. But the inclusion of George Jackson on this list defies reason and is a significant indicator that Williams is not reformed and that he still sees violence and lawlessness as a legitimate means to address societal problems.

Why does Governor Schwarzenegger say such a thing? It’s documented in a footnote within his decision, although this wouldn’t be a good fit for radio, so it’s understandable Tom Sullivan didn’t read it. But in my judgment, it fits in “great” on a blog page, although it’s certainly not the kind of thing that will add a pick-up to your day:

George Jackson was a militant activist and prison inmate who founded the violent Black Guerilla Family prison gang. Jackson was charged with the murder of a San Quentin correctional officer. In 1970, when Jackson was out to court in Marin County on the murder case, his brother stormed the courtroom with a machine gun, and along with Jackson and two other inmates, took a judge, the prosecutor and three others hostage in an escape attempt. Shooting broke out. The prosecutor was paralyzed from a police bullet, and the judge was killed by a close-range blast to his head when thet shotgun taped to his throat was fired by one of Jackson’s accomplices. Jackson’s brother was also killed. Then, three days before trial was to begin in the correctional officer murder case, Jackson was gunned down in the upper yard at San Quentin Prison in another foiled escape attempt on a day of unparalleled violence in the prison that left three officers and three inmates dead in an earlier riot that reports indicate also involved Jackson.

My take on it? This is a culture of violence. It goes beyond even a culture of anarchy — anarchy would mean, opposing law and order in our society whether that law and order is on your side, or not. This is a culture of selective anarchy, of cherry-picking what rules to follow and when. A law that compels Tookie Williams to die, is to be opposed; but if the law came up with some bullshit excuse to let him languish, enjoying days and years that his victims cannot enjoy, well then that law would have been peachy-keen. And a law that required his release? Even better.

It’s the Culture of Clinton. Say what you have to say to get-away-with-it. Just bullshit your way out of trouble when you have to.

That’s what this was all about. Just sending messages to people thinking about killing other people. Send a message that they could die for doing so? Or send a message that, with the right bunch of Hollywood celebrities and P.R. men, they can bullshit their way out of trouble?

This is why Governor Schwarzenegger’s decision should cause all intelligent people living in this state, and beyond, to “Have A Nice Day.” That doesn’t mean to smile or feel good, necessarily, because after all this is a grave, serious issue. But the lives of the weakest and most innocent among us are on the line, throughout 12:01 a.m. tomorrow and beyond. The right decision was made, this time, so that they are now a little bit safer.

To the extent you can feel “happiness” about an issue like this, involving the components of nature that are the very harshest in the human ecosystem, it certainly is justification for feeling that. And in order to get “happy,” you don’t have to be frothing at the mouth, you don’t have to have a facial tic, you don’t even have to be the kind of guy who yells at his television set during a football game. All you have to do, is to regard the collective ability of our innocent people to live out their lives, as an important thing.

Well, pardon me for saying so, but I do. I think those peoples’ lives are more important than Mr. Williams’ life — Williams has created a situation where we cannot respect their lives, and his, at the same time. They are more important than he is, and they should win. They did. I’m “happy.”

Mommy is a Democrat

Sunday, December 11th, 2005

Mommy is a Democrat

I’m thinking of getting this book for my kid. “Why Mommy is a Democrat” by lifelong Democrat and political activist Jeremy Zilber, tells the story from his side. Sample page is shown below, but you can see everything the author has to say about his own book at the website that is dedicated to it.

It has become a very popular theme to question and castigate books like this, such as, for example, “Help! Mom! There are liberals under my bed!” which I bought for my son last month. I believe this is intellectually lazy thinking. I mean, apply some mental elbow-grease to this for just a minute: What really is the down-side to buying books like these for your child?

How many people do you know, who were given books like these, as children, and ended up screwed-up-in-the-head? Is this really an epidemic that is sweeping the nation? Has it happened at all?

In my experience, no.

What I see happening, is kids going to college who have never given such things even an ounce of thought, and then some patch-elbowed, Birkenstock-wearing, pony-tail professor gets ahold of ‘em. He lectures to them about “Bush’s evil tax cuts,” in a room chock full of kids who have no practical idea what a “tax” is or even what an “income” is. And they become Democrats right there on the spot.

I say, if being a Democrat is such a good idea, just dispense the same lectures at age eight instead of eighteen. Because you know what will happen if everyone does it my way: The kids will get “Mommy is a Democrat” and “Help, Mom!” at exactly the same time. They’ll read both, and see that Democrats like more rules, which leads to more security and more irritation as well. They’ll decide…well, since I’m eight, I like the idea of someone looking out for me, so I think I’ll become a Democrat.

After that…between third grade, and graduation…they’ll bust their asses here and there, doing things for which other people take credit.

And they’ll be told that when they do all the fucking work on a project, it doesn’t really matter, and they should learn to share.

And they’ll wear their caps and gowns to the high school commencement ceremony, full-fledged Republicans (or Libertarians) at least 95% of the time.

And the college professors will be greeted with classes of people who have been Democrats before, and have lived the entire experience already — instead of a bunch of blank slates on which said professors can write whatever they want. Which is what we have now.

So I’m thinking about it, seriously. In my case, though, it would be a waste of some twelve bucks, because the boy’s mother would never let him read such a thing. That’s one of the reasons we’re split up. I’m very keen on telling people how to think, and certain other people are more interested in telling them what to think. Maybe I’ll go ahead and buy the book, and keep it at my house.

Just kidding.

Humans Are Retarded

Sunday, December 11th, 2005

Humans Are Retarded

Continuing with the theme stated below in “Hammer of Bullshit,” this guy lays the same case out so clearly, I need to add nothing. So I shall not.

Weapons of Mass Distraction

Its Official: Humans Are Retarded

Just look at this:

Former South African leader Nelson Mandela should rule the world � with Bill Clinton as his deputy! That�s what respondents said when a BBC Online survey asked them who they would most like to be in charge of the planet.

Gee whiz! Because, you know, the thousands that died in the Kosovo bombings weren�t real people, they were, errm�hamsters! And the half-a-million of Iraqi children were EVIL!

Shit, this is what I call Residual Concept: people tend to overestimate a former leader or VIP when they no longer/never had/have them on the office.

Because the 90s were good then Clinton and Mandela are good too, right? WRONG! The 90s are what got us in our actual situation. The Boom of the stock market turned our economies in pure speculation, the hypocrite environmentalism (recycle and then buy an SUV) destroyed our planet and with it the last chance we had to avoid global warming and worldwide pollution.

The rest is here.

Hammer of Bullshit

Sunday, December 11th, 2005

Hammer of Bullshit

One of the recurring themes to this blog, which, of course, nobody reads, is: When we think, we do so as individuals, but our ability to do this critically has a certain monolothic quality to it, and that ability is currently at a nadir, or heading towards one. We puzzle things out well, in a way that makes sense, and in all likelihood we are all doing this, or most of us are. Similarly, if we run around like a bunch of Keystone Kops, unable to form opinions that make the slightest bit of sense, even when rock-solid answers are right in front of our faces — we pollute the whole culture. Even the wisest among us, determined to use the best of their intellect in their daily lives, will find new challenges in doing so.

So there is a certain “climate” to this. It’s like a tide. How high you sit in your boat has something to do with the architecture of that boat, but it has a lot more to do with a tide that affects everyone. Well, this is the time for clam-digging.

As evidence of this, I submit the following.

“Hammer of Truth” has decided to use whatever reputation it has, to spread, and therefore endorse, a claim in “Capitol Hill Blue” that President Bush called the Constitution “just a goddamned piece of paper!”

GOP leaders told Bush that his hardcore push to renew the more onerous provisions of the act could further alienate conservatives still mad at the President from his botched attempt to nominate White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

“I don�t give a goddamn,” Bush retorted. “I�m the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way.”

“Mr. President,” one aide in the meeting said. “There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution.”

“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back. “It�s just a goddamned piece of paper!”

To believe this is on the up-and-up, you have to believe the three “GOP leaders” decided to expose this nasty attitude about our nation’s charter in said nation’s highest office, by uncovering it before the harsh, scrutinizing light of — Capitol Blue. And Capitol Blue alone. And then what you have to do, is rub directly against the most reasonable inference to be drawn from this premise; namely, that the three GOP leaders have some bone to pick with someone at Capitol Blue, and fed it a red herring so that this blog could make a raging ass out of itself before its audience.

No, you have to presume this is on the up-and-up. Bush really said it, and so as a consequence, the GOP leaders ran running off to Capitol Blue, perhaps missing lunch with, or phone conferences with, or bumping into on the rainy sidewalk of our nation’s capitol, several of the most prestigious reporters from the Washington Post, New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.

No, for a scandal of this size, only Capitol Blue will do. None of those hick-town backwoods tobaccy-rags like The Post.

And then you have to believe that a guy who is now in his eleventh consecutive year in office as an executive, would tell his associates they can get around the Constitution because it’s just a piece of paper. The problem with that is, if you’re that guy, once you have leveraged your office to engage in looming challenges in the legal arena based on a “piece of paper,” the piece of paper ceases to be just a piece of paper.

Think about it. Let’s say the problem isn’t the Constitution, but something else. A Memorandum of Agreement signed by your pinhead boss. Or your boss’ pinhead predecessor. Now everyone in the office wants to do something so badly, they would piss on an outlet to be able to do it, but they can’t do it because of the MOA. You assemble your finest legal minds to find a way to do it, and a great atmosphere of frustration consumes all of you. Of course, everyone in your office has the same visceral reaction to the MOA, that our President is supposed to have to the Constitution.

Now who, in their right mind, would say something like “Stop it! It’s just a piece of paper!” Even the boss wouldn’t do that. You’ve been working all hours for two solid weeks, ordering in from take-out restaurants to fight this piece of paper…anyone who called it “just a piece of paper,” even the boss, would forfeit whatever credibility he had. And people don’t go to offices to forfeit credibility. Even people who hate their jobs don’t do that, not on purpose.

So no, I don’t believe even Franklin Roosevelt said anything like that. And incidentaly, there is a President who really and truly used the Constitution as toilet paper. He actually fought the letter and spirit of that document, spending his political capital and seriously eroding his popularity to do so. But can you really envision him saying something like “C’mon, it’s easy! What the hell am I paying you guys for? Find a way around it, it’s just a piece of paper!

So does it do sufficient damage to one’s own believability, to simply pass this rumor along with your masthead on top of it? Or is there some frosting that should be put on top of that cake? Hammer of Truth apparently favors the latter.

Regardless, we here at Hammer of Truth don�t need much convincing that previous administration actions speak louder than these reported words when it comes to Bush�s view of the Constitution.

Hey that’s great. Here’s an opinion of George Bush, that he thinks the Constitution is nothing more than toilet paper. We base this opinion on the “fact” that Capitol Blue has dug up this dubious quote. To verify the fact, we turn to our preconceived opinions, which, in turn, are based on who-knows-what kinds of facts, since, now you know how ironclad and reinforced a “fact” has to be to earn our faith.

It’s like some kind of bizarre chicken-and-egg story. Well, that’s exactly what it is.

“Hammer of Truth” is in great company here. You can see that in the thread beneath the article — one poster issues the caution that the Capitol Blue reporter “is usually pretty meticulous, but care is advised in spreading this one.” Care is advised? How do you go about doing that? “I heard from some dubious blog that I personally don’t care to trust, that so-and-so said such-and-such. There’s no point for me to tell you this, save for the hope that you tell a few other people. Go out and do it. But be careful.”

Another poster says “Anyways, I don�t really doubt that Bush said this. If he did indeed, it is scary as all hell.” Great job. Let’s all vote on whether it’s authentic or not. I never liked that water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, so let’s vote on that too.

But you know, any loudmouth can ramble away in the forum on a blog. To figure out if there’s a nationalized ability to think critically, which is suffering from deterioration, we should go to more reasoned minds to see what they have to say. Someplace like FARK.

  • “I’d love to hear the Bushbots explain this one.”
  • “Time to get back on the short bus Dubya.”
  • “I don’t believe this capitolhillblue guy’s story, but since when have you ever considered *any* journalist objective? Other than the idiots on Fox News who basically reprint Pentagon and White House press releases, that is?”
  • “This is a very unconfirmed quote… But at the same time, its quite obvious its probably true.”
  • “Whether he said it or not (I believe he very likely did), his actions tell you that he doesn’t care about the Constitution. Just that someone caught him admitting it.”
  • “Remember US Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill? How about Richard Clarke? There have been credible sources going back for years suggesting Bush is a loose cannon.”

There’s a lesson here on how the human mind is inclined to think. We want to think something, we get ahold of a “fact” that has very little evidenciary power, and we are tempted accord the evidence weight proportional to its friendliness with our prejudices. Those of us who can think powerfully, at least to the extent that our minds can assist us in the matter of survival, have to grow out of this. A lot of people don’t grow out of it. As our standard-of-living gets higher, and survival is more of an assured thing, fewer and fewer people grow out of it.

Hammer of Truth wonders “who knows if this will have legs (I have my doubts).” I don’t have too many doubts, myself, in fact I hope to help it along. This strikes me, after all, as one of those ridiculous things that survives when it is merely whispered about, but does devastating things to itself when it is taken too seriously. And hey, if there’s something to it, then it will only be helped along if it is taken seriously, something that will be of benefit to us all.

So shout it from the highest friggin’ rooftops. I don’t have to endorse it in order to do that. C’mon, all you “Bush lied, people died” liberals, you’ve been trying to prove for years that Bush doesn’t respect the Constitution, and here’s your “proof.”

He said it, he said it, he said it. Let’s all demand an investigation, until it gets printed on the New York Times on the front page, above the fold, for a whole month and a half in a row. I’m sure if it’s true, the ensuing events will come as an embarrassment to no one, except the guy who is guilty.

Update 12/12/05: Capitol Blue stands by the story.

We get tips about Bush�s temper and his comments all the time. Most of the tips don�t get used because we don�t go with information from just one source. The tip about �the goddamned piece of paper� seemed destined for the byte bin until a second aide, in casual conversation, mentioned the comment.

So I called a third source who has confirmed information in the past. At first he was defensive.

�Who told you about that?� I told him I�d picked it up from two other sources.

�Look, you know how the President is,� he said. �He gets agitated when people challenge him.�

All I wanted to know was did the President of the United States call the Constitution a �goddamned piece of paper.�

�Yeah. He did.�

So I went with the story. To me it was just another example of a President who too often lets his anger get the better of him, particularly with anyone who dares disagree.

Sounds pretty convincing, huh? Boy, I’m really going to be sorry for my smarmy, cutting comments, above, when this thing gets proven true, right?

I got three words for you: Bring it on. I could delete the post, above, with a few keystrokes. I won’t. Of course, nobody reads this blog, but nevertheless keeping the post intact, is the act of someone who genuinely believes the “piece of paper” quote is a myth. Conversely, the act of someone who genuinely believes the quote is true, would be to take it seriously. Give it some profile, well above some urban legend breezing its way around e-mail servers. Demand an investigation. And don’t take no for an answer.

Anyone gonna do that?

From the Right Brain

Saturday, December 10th, 2005

From the Right Brain

Okay, let’s take a break from this left-brain bullcrap of trying to figure out what’s wrong with world & national politics and trying to teach everybody how to think straight. There’s an old saying about leading a horse to water. Besides, some of the things that go on in this world have little to do with figuring things out and fixing them; some of the things that entice our brains, do exactly that and nothing more. It’s one of the pleasures of life, like good food, fine wine, great sex, and …well, some other things that can be pleasurable, but you don’t want me mentioning them in the same sentence as good food.

“Google Blogoscoped” has come up, as of some nine months ago, with a list of the ten types of movie villains. There’s nothing earth-shattering or surprising here, but it does take some organizational skill to put the list together, and this commentator has done the work for everybody else. The last paragraph is particularly entertaining.

Schadenfreude

Saturday, December 10th, 2005

Schadenfreude

Here’s a traffic report which somehow saw the light of day without any help from me, whatsoever, in any way, shape, form, matter or regard.

For that, I am thankful (language unsafe for work).

Too Good for the National Security Vote

Saturday, December 10th, 2005

Too Good for the National Security Vote

I’m a “National Security” voter. To me, this issue takes a back seat only to the Constitution. Not “civil liberties,” since I notice those are created, sustained and fortified by advocacy groups, and written nowhere — but the Constitution. This seems to me to not only make sense, but to apply across the board, to all intelligent, living things.

A thing that survives, must have an instinct to survive, plus a conscious determination to do so. And a thing that survives for a stated purpose, must have an internal definition of that purpose, and live according to the service of that purpose. So if the United States promotes a value system that is ultimately destructive to its own continued existence, the United States becomes a pointless exercise. Likewise, if the United States creates a policy supportive of its continued existence, but contrary to the Constitution, again, the United States becomes a pointless exercise.

Ergo: Upholding the Constitution, in letter and spirit, is the supreme consideration that takes a back seat to none other. Immediately subordinate to this, and to nothing else, is the principle of self-preservation.

This is why I would have been opposed to Executive Order 9066 which authorized the internment of Japanese-American citizens — even if the threat was credible, and no other way could be found to counter the threat. And, until someone can create a case that the Patriot Act actually violates the Constitution, I’m in favor of the Patriot Act.

I don’t like what the Republican Party is doing with us National Security voters. That party is taking us for granted, just like the Democratic party is taking black and jewish voters for granted. Where else are we gonna go? We got nowhere else to go.

So the Republican party screws around with us.

The border-control issue, particularly on the Mexican border, has become a disgrace. It’s so bad, that it has become a laughable, silly, wholly implausible idea to suppose there’s any protection left. Think for a moment about what that means. Agents of Al Qaeda, or one of America’s many, many other enemies, living among us? There really are some? More like, how many? How many hundreds? Thousands? Tens of thousands?

Of course, in the purely technical sense, all I’m doing in the paragraph above is speculating — I have no proof. My point is, that it’s irresponsibly extravagant to think otherwise. And what’s truly exasperating, is that the people who disagree with me don’t really argue the point. I don’t see them telling me “oh you silly thing, terrorists don’t want to do that” or something similar. They simply want to change the subject. So I take this as an uncontested fact.

Why are the Republicans so complacent on the issue of border control, and other issues directly related to national security? They have no competition, that’s why. Between a political party that does only some of the things necessary to safeguard the nation, while ignoring other things — and another party that would just as soon change the subject to how our rich old people can swindle more money out of thirty-something apartment rats — I to support the party that does some of the things necessary.

Now the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean, has said there is no way we can win the war in Iraq. “The idea that we are going to win this war is an idea that unfortunately is just plain wrong.” Those are his words. He calls it a “failed strategy.” What is his alternative? Something to do with “redeployment,” as he puts it, which means, withdrawal.

Okay, then what? I don’t know. If he did have some fully flushed-out alternative strategy, some “winning strategy,” what would be the objective of this strategy? I don’t know that either. In fact, does he even see a threat? Certain luminaries celebrated by his party, even embraced by his party, have been heard to say “there is no terrorist threat” at all! So does Chairman Dean even recognize a terrorist threat? I don’t even know that! What’s even worse, is, if I was a gambling guy and I was laying a big fat wage on Howard Dean’s ultimate public position on this, once he’s really painted into a corner, my smart money would have to say no!

And most Democrats would agree!

Republicans have made the most out of this asinine quote about “we can’t win,” even releasing a new video called Retreat and Defeat. This new ad is going to be devastating to the Democratic party. And when the time comes to do the damage control, the position of the Democrats is going to be…well, you shouldn’t be paying attention to that. Think about your grandma choosing between her next can of cat food and her meds.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Howard Dean’s party just doesn’t care about national security. It doesn’t even care about rational thinking — it could care less about reasoned opinions based on solid, established facts, the processes involved in forming those opinions from those facts, and what those reasoned opinions say about the future of our country and what is needed to secure it. His party just cares about demagoguery; what you have to say to get people rattled about old people, cat food and pills. What that means is, when the issue becomes one of national security, they have settled on a habit of changing the subject by insulting the intelligence of anyone who chooses to discuss it.

In short, as a concerned voter who cares about national security, his party regards itself as “too good” for my vote. If you, likewise, are concerned about national security, Howard Dean and his minions just think they are all too smart for you, and they don’t want your vote.

They get their asses kicked in one election after another. Their meaning in life, right now, is to find ways to win elections. Logically, this would have to mean they are looking for large groups of people they have been alienating, intentionally or otherwise, and find a way to bring those groups into the fold. Their refusal to do that, here, can only mean this: If they showed concern about national security, they would win some voters, and alienate a great many more. There are people voting for democrats, now, who don’t want the United States to protect itself.

Yes, I understand the democrats have created a stigma against saying that in any public form. But logic cannot support any other conclusion. That’s just the way it is.

Not a month goes by that the Democratic party isn’t presented with a good-sized handful of opportunities to dispel the notion that their platform is apathetic about national security.

They haven’t done it. They won’t do it. It would be one step forward, and two steps back. If that were not true, they would have done it by now.

We Need More Adjectives!

Friday, December 9th, 2005

We Need More Adjectives!

Suspending no less than twenty officers in the San Francisco Police Department, Police Chief Heather Fong commented in a joint statement with Mayor Gavin Newsom that the punishment was being taken in response to a video whose content was “immature and vulgar to sexist, racist and homophobic.” Newsom commented separately that the videos were “a series of vignettes, skits, that are some of the most egregious skits I’ve seen.”

It seems the home video was made without any intention of airing it outside of the department. Someone within the department, “snitched.” That last word is mine. Nobody in the story has used it, to my knowledge, but it does seem to be an apt description of what happened here.

Here at House of Eratosthenes, when the time is right, we call things immature and egregious and sexist and vulgar, and even racist and homophobic. But we don’t form such opinions because others have told us to. We form opinions, here, based on facts, which means we like to see the raw data for ourselves.

Therefore, leaving uncommented-upon the question of whether or not the video is egregi– oh, hell, you know, all them fancy adjectives up there — I’d just like to say this. It is of great concern to me, how much easier it is to dig up this denunciation of the videos, which the officials of San Francisco would obviously like every two-legged mammal within broadcast distance to adopt as their own. Compared to, how breathtakingly difficult it is to find the actual footage, which, obviously, you need to do if you want to form your own opinion.

Okay, not breathtakingly. This is the Age of Google. But the point is, for a society in which everone wants to claim credit for forming their own individual opinion, it sure is a helluva lot easier to “download” someone else’s opinion, than it is to get the raw data so you can form your own. Here is your link.

Stupid Is as Stupid Does

Friday, December 9th, 2005

Stupid Is as Stupid Does

Nobody ever reads this blog, but if someone does trip across it I hope they appreciate what it is they found. After all, you can only get so stupid before you can’t reasonably be expected to write anything, therefore, there’s a certain threshold of stupidity where you’ll be lucky to find anything written by anyone that stupid.

I’m beneath that threshold. Well beneath it.

I know this is the case, because I’m told so, often, by the anti-war crowd. Furthermore, I know it to be true, because I know most stupid people at least understand why they are stupid, whereas I’m still trying to figure out the defining characteristics of my own stupidity. I am FAR beneath stupid. If I stand on my tippy toes and reach way up, I can almost touch the toenails of other stupid people on the Stupid Chart.

For example, there is Ann Coulter. In response to her barbed comment, “I love to engage in repartee with people who are stupider than I am,” CNN has decided to conduct a QuickVote poll. Why is it that the University of Connecticut students are thought, by Coulter, to be stupider than she is? Well, to my stupid mind, it might very well have something to do with the fact that they booed her speech, heckling her to the point that she had to cancel and hold a question-and-answer session instead. You know, maybe this is the evidence for which I’m looking that supports my own stupidity — because I’m ready to sign on to what Coulter said. There is a quote attributed to Napoleon that address this situation, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake”; to me, that just makes good sense. It seems stupid to do this interrupting, which is exactly what the students did. Maybe Napoleon was stupid too.

Well, in CNN-World, we know this must be true, because — why else? — the poll says so. The poll! As of this writing, 63% of respondents say Coulter is stupider, compared with 37% saying the students are stupid. My stupid mind is a little confused as to what to make of this situation, where stupid people are confident enough to let the other side speak and actually respond to what they have to say, whereas intellectual giants apparently have to boo and hiss to make sure their antagonists are never allowed to get a word in edgewise. For anyone who still requires more evidence of how stupid I am, I freely confess that the soapbox-hogging never looked that brilliant or clever to me. Oh, maybe I should go to the Land of Oz and get a brain, so I can start to untangle this.

I do have something in my collection of stupid books, that I have stupidly been accumulating. It took my stupid brain only a few minutes to remember where I’d seen it, and after my stupid fingers flipped through the pages a few minutes more I managed to find it on page 121:

If liberals were prevented from ever calling Republicans dumb, they would be robbed of half their arguments…the loss of “dumb” would nearly cripple them. Like clockwork, every consequential Republican to come down the pike is instantly, invariably, always, without exception called “dumb.” This is how six-year-olds argue: They call everything “stupid.” The left’s primary argument is the angry reaction of a helpless child deprived of the ability to mount logical counterarguments…the “you’re stupid” riposte is part of the larger liberal tactic of refusing to engage ideas. Sometimes they evaporate in the middle of an argument and you’re left standing alone, arguing with yourself. More often, liberals withdraw figuratively by responding with ludicrous and irrelevant personal attacks.

Now, I’d love to proclaim that I’m “learning” something and getting “smarter” by insisting that the above doesn’t make any sense to me. But I’d be lying. It matches my personal experience like a hand fitting into a glove. But I read it in a book, something stupid people aren’t supposed to be able to do, so how can this be? Oh, I get it, my stupid eyes neglected to take note of the cover, which I notice is titled “Slander: Liberal Lies about the American Right, by Ann Coulter.” Noted, documented stupid person, voted that way by two-thirds of respondents to CNN’s poll (no dummies there!).

Joining Napoleon, Annie and me at the Stupid Table, I guess, is Larry Elder who began a correspondence with his intellectual superior. It took Elder just two written exchanges before he earned the following retort:

At first, I really thought I was dealing with an intellectual equal when our chats began. You have disappointed me.

And here is the most thundering, incandescent proclamation of my stupidity to date: I have scanned the passages of what Elder wrote to provoke such a reaction, scanned again, and scanned yet again. Suffice it to say Larry Elder is still fooling me, because I lack the mental acumen to get past the illusion and comprehend the full magnitude of his stupidity. In fact, I read the entire exchange, and I can’t even find any evidence of anything stupid. It appears, to my stupid mind, to be a textbook case of being given a “factoid,” and properly questioning the source from whence it came.

Dear Mr. Elder: … How you can support an illegal war waged specifically to line the pockets of rich American Republicans, a war that has killed at least a half a million innocent Iraqis and now well over 2,000 volunteer soldiers, and has made us the most hated people in the world, is beyond my comprehension. I travel the world extensively, and let me tell you that the U.S.A. is completely out of step with the rest of the planet Earth. …

Sincerely,

‘Sarah,’ retired public school administrator and university professor

Dear Sarah,

Please tell me, do you have a source for your statement about the death of ‘at least a half a million innocent Iraqis’? …

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Larry

My stupid mind is currently working on a theory. Since I’m such a raging idiot, it’s unlikely that there is anything to the theory, but hey even a stopped clock is right twice a day, so I figure it’s worth pondering. I think this threshold of stupidity is moving. After all, like I said, it is a good distance over my head, being so well established as it is, that I’m so incredibly stupid and everything. But with the passage of time, I notice this development where if you simply question the “facts” you are given, you are now stupid.

Conversely, you can base opinions on facts, and then when you are questioned about the source of those facts you simply base them on other opinions — this somehow makes you an intellectual superior.

Well. Maybe if my fat stupid head is patient enough, someone will come along and explain it so my stupid brain can comprehend it.

Update: Just for kicks, I linked to this post on FARK. If you have a TOTALFARK membership, you can view the ensuing thread Here. If you don’t, but would like a summary, I’ll just say most of the participants agreed that what I had to say, was, well…stupid.

10 Neediness, 86 Self-Confidence

Thursday, December 8th, 2005

10 Neediness, 86 Self-Confidence

I don’t think I understand this test. Seems to be on some kind of single’s web site. According to the bar charts, I’m spectacularly self-confident. Maybe they’re confusing self-confidence with apathy about other people.

You scored 10 neediness and 86 self confidence!
We’ve all had our attention whoring moments, but lets face it, some people have made a completely lifestyle out of it.

My advice.

Either, don’t breed, or at least bleach the gene pool before you do.

My test tracked 2 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 0% on neediness
free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 99% on self confidence
Link: The Are you an attention Whore Test written by madtweeter on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

I shouldn’t breed? Too late, guys. Sorry about that.

You Go First II

Thursday, December 8th, 2005

About the time I stopped dating liberal women for good, some decade or so ago, I began to become aware of a phenomenon in which said liberal women tried to manufacture more liberal men. They did this then, and continue to do it today, with their verginers. I’m about to describe, pretty much, exactly what you think I’m going to. I saw they would put out subtle clues that, as they made the God-only-knows-how-complicated decision about whether the rooster would be allowed into the henhouse that night, said rooster’s political opinions were definitely part of the equation. How flattering it was for knight to know that his princess’ special evening with him, was just a tiny figment within a grand master plan to change the political direction of the country!

Perhaps in another time, history would have gone different for me. But Clinton was finishing his second year in office, and my mouth, which couldn’t be silenced, cost me a handful of carnal opportunities. I’m grateful for this. There are men who are much more seasoned than I am and much more intelligent than I am, who to this day don’t understand how empowering it is to tell a woman the following, and mean it: You are right, we’ll both be happier with other people, best luck to you and don’t let the doorknob hit you in the ass.

It is seldom done. Men aren’t wired for it. We’re the keymasters, they’re the gatekeepers.

And perhaps that is why there seem to be so many men, who appear to be relatively adventurous, sexually, who are well on their way to old age without having learned this: Women, by and large, don’t crave yes-men. Smart women, stupid women, blondes, brunettes, redheads — when they pick up the essence of a strong, decisive man, it’s like the most powerful pheromone. Men who are decisive about important stuff, “We aren’t buying aluminum siding from that asshole,” or silly stuff — “I like beer, I like hotwings.” I’m not talking about being a raging dickhole just for its own sake.

I’m talking about treating the lady with respect by saving her some freakin’ energy. Making a decision without checking with her, once in awhile. Women crave this, especially the ones that frequently demand the opposite. I’ve written about this before.

But once a man starts down the slope of “Pillsbury Doughboy,” molding and shaping himself into what a woman says she wants, it becomes egomaniacally important to deny what I have written above. So the men become liberals.

It must be an awful existence, because I notice liberal men seem to have dry spells now and then, just like conservative men. How else do you explain these “mating calls” wherein they are forced to advertise their pliable philosophies, in their role as slaves in search of a mistress. And what is up with THAT? Shouldn’t indentured servitude, and unemployment, be mutually-exclusive albatrosses? How badly do you have to screw up to end up wearing both of them on your neck at the same time?

One of these liberal mating-call advertisements has something to do with “appreciating a woman with spunk.”

What I find a little bit silly about this whole thing is, when “a woman with spunk” has our own values, we all appreciate that; and when she doesn’t, who the hell does this guy think he’s kidding? Locked into the timeless “when are you going to stand up to your mother” argument that has resurfaced periodically since Shakesperean times, and before, every man is going to find a spunky woman a raging pain in the ass. When a man advertises that he likes a spunky woman without reservation, what he is advertising is that he never, or seldom, has been in a position where he disagrees with his woman.

And when women have been around long enough to figure out what they like in men, and what they don’t, this doesn’t intrigue them. Not in the slightest.

But we’re all entitled to our personal tastes, so if these guys are out there in an endless search for a “Mommy” figure to tell them what to do and what to think, more power to’em. Here at this blog, however, we have a “You Go First” rule about such things. You crusade for a law against being able to watch TV from the dining room table, you should be among the first to position your dining room table so you can’t see the TV. You think more people should be driving hybrid cars, you should be among the first to buy one.

And if you think there should be more spunky, assertive women flooding our streets, lying in wait to pounce on the rest of us whether we ask for it or not, you should be married to a woman like Barbara Streisand for six months or so.

I don’t mean to complain, here, about women who are opinionated. Good heavens, no. If it were so impossible to be around opinionated people, a lot of us who are not alone, would have to be — and certainly I would be among them. But it’s a cinch that if Babs doesn’t think the Los Angeles Times should be allowed to go about its day, free to think about other things besides the recent sacking of Robert Scheer, her stud James Brolin probably isn’t free to think about too much else either.

And is he free to disagree, perhaps to think something like, for example, it’s about goddamned time the Los Angeles Times got rid of that s.o.b.? That is a private matter for the Streisand/Brolin household to hash out, of course.

But for chrissakes, don’t make me laugh.

LOS ANGELES – Barbra Streisand has canceled her subscription to the Los Angeles Times over the firing of the paper’s liberal columnist.

The newspaper dropped Robert Scheer and several other columnists last month; Scheer speculated he was let go because the Times had tired of his politics.

Perhaps the most liberal voice on the paper’s opinion pages, Scheer had been a Times columnist for 12 years. He was a reporter for the newspaper for 17 years before that.

“Robert Scheer’s column, with its often singular voice of dissent and groundbreaking expositional content, has been among the most notable features that have sustained my interest in subscribing to the LA Times for many years now,” Streisand wrote in a letter she sent to the newspaper and posted on her Web site.

Streisand, a well-known supporter of Democratic candidates and liberal causes, wrote that by firing Scheer the Times had reduced the diversity of voices on its opinion pages. A shortened version of her letter was printed in the Times Nov. 23. The full letter is posted on her Web site.

You know, it really isn’t that hard to figure Barbra Streisand out, and there are millions and millions of people who suffer from her illness, not all of them women. It’s very simple. Barbra cannot state a compelling case as to why you should think a certain thing, because she’s formed an unattractive and unproductive habit of skipping to that last part and simply telling people what to think. That’s where she was years and years ago. Her disease has metastasized, now, to the point where she can’t do anything without telling lesser people what they’re supposed to be thinking. She makes a movie, she must tell lesser people what to think. She runs a website, she must tell lesser people what to think. She writes a letter to the newspaper, she must tell lesser people what to think. She takes a shower, brushes her teeth, washes her naughty bits, takes a crap, she must tell lesser people what to think.

Not this is what I noticed and this is why I think it’s important and this is what it must mean and why…but, simply, this is what you should think. Passing out opinions like hard-candy, as opposed to the well-stated, logically-established arguments upon which those opinions rest. It is a subtle, but meaningful, difference. Barbra, and people like her, wouldn’t understand it. I pity her for that, but I pity her more, for this apparent inability to do even the most trivial things in life, without telling people what they’re supposed to be thinking.

It appears to have become something like a bad case of gas.

I have a short list of final chapters to my existence within this mortal coil, which I absolutely dread. One is burning to death in a car, from which I’m unable to extract myself. The rest of them have to do with being alienated from my own thinking apparatus: a brain tumor, like the one I watched slowly kill my mother; strokes; dementia; schizophrenia; and…

…living with some bitter old cow who wants to dictate to me what my opinions should be.

I’m probably “doomed” to never experience the last of those. For that, President Clinton has my undying gratitude.

A Little Exercise

Monday, December 5th, 2005

A Little Exercise

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, appearing before a judge following his indictment on an itty-bitty charge and a great-big ass-pounding charge, got mixed results on his defense’s motion to have the case thrown out, which is worse than his supporters had hoped. The itty-bitty charge of Conspiracy was thrown out, and the pound-me-in-the-ass charge of Money Laundering was upheld, which means of course that Mr. DeLay will be required to appear at trial. The upholding of the ass-pounding charge is much more important than the dismissal of the itty-bitty charge, because any hopes he had of resuming his House leadership position as Majority Leader, are DOA.

Texas Judge Pat Priest, who is presiding over the case against the Republican, issued the ruling after a hearing late last month in which DeLay’s attorney argued that the indictment was fatally flawed.

When he was indicted in September, DeLay was required under House rules to relinquish the leadership post he had held since 2003. While Monday’s ruling was a partial victory for DeLay, he cannot reclaim his post because he remains under indictment.

The ruling means the case will move toward a trial next year, though other defense objections to the indictments remain to be heard by the judge.
:
DeLay, 58, and two GOP fundraisers, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, are accused of illegally funneling $190,000 in corporate donations to 2002 Republican candidates for the Texas Legislature. Under Texas law, corporate money cannot be directly used for political campaigns, but it can be used for administrative purposes.
:
The alleged campaign-finance scheme had far-reaching political effects: With DeLay’s fundraising muscle, the GOP took control of the Texas House for the first time in 130 years, then pushed through a congressional redistricting plan engineered by DeLay that resulted in more Texas Republicans going to Congress.

This means, without doubt, that tomorrow we should expect to be somewhat inundated with snippets about the “Republican Culture of Corruption.” After all, it was just a little over a month ago that Mister Democrat himself, Howard Screamin’ Dean, warmed us up for the Halloween season by yelling “YEEEEEAAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHH!!!” No, I made that last part up. He warmed us up for the Halloween season by waxing poetic about the Republican Culture of Corruption:

The Bush White House is the most corrupt administration in U.S. history since President Warren G. Harding’s, said Howard Dean during his first visit to Maine as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Dean’s comments Saturday came as top White House advisers are being investigated for their roles in the outing of a CIA operative and Tom DeLay, the former second-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, faces conspiracy and money-laundering charges.

“The first thing we’re going to do is we’re going to have ethics come back to Washington again,” said Dean, the keynote speaker at Saturday night’s annual fundraising dinner for the Maine Democratic Party at the Lewiston Armory.
:
More than 400 party loyalists listened as Dean described Democrats as a party of moral values, while criticizing Republicans as trying to divide Americans over race, sexual orientation and country of origin.

Dean said Republicans should not have interfered in the Terri Schiavo right-to-life case.

“I’m tired of the ayatollahs of the right wing,” Dean said. “We’re fighting for freedom in Iraq. We’re going to fight for freedom in America.”

Dean urged Maine Democrats to run for state office in 2006, and to maintain Democratic control of the State House that Gov. John Baldacci needs to push through his initiatives.
:
The purpose of the annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner was to raise money and rally the party faithful, and the event often took a light-hearted tone. Allen made one of several DeLay jokes of the night when he said he heard there was a new television show called “Desperate House Leaders.”

Okay, now fast forward to this last Friday. Ken Rudin, writing for NPR, picked up Screamin’ Dean’s line and started waxing poetic on what has come to be an undeniable trend, wherein the most powerful Republicans face indictment, come under indictment, are sentenced, have to resign their offices, or just generally have a whole lot of legal whispering about their names around the beltway. Being well aware that a big chunk of his column “looks like it was written by the Democratic National Committee, and knowing some of my regular correspondents, I will be accused of parroting the DNC line,” Rudin nevertheless blossoms forward with the stuff that was apparently written by the Democratic National Committee, and proceeds to parrot the DNC line.

So now it’s Duke Cunningham.

When Lewis Libby, the vice president’s former chief of staff, is under indictment; when the most powerful member of the House, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), is forced to resign his leadership post following an indictment; when his former spokesman, Michael Scanlon, pleads guilty to bribery charges and agrees to cooperate in the investigation of an associate, top Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff (and one which could also bring down Rep. Robert Ney (R-OH), chairman of the House Administration Committee); when Bill Frist (R-TN), the Senate majority leader, is under scrutiny by the Security and Exchange Commission; and when Karl Rove, the president’s top political aide, is still under investigation by a special prosecutor, the guilty plea and subsequent resignation of Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA) on bribery charges just adds to the party’s misery.

Let’s do a little mental exercise, shall we.

Since the facts that Rudin recites are undeniable — in fact, now, more damning than they were 72 hours ago — and since, boy-oh-boy, they sure look indicative of Mister “YEEEEEAAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHH!!!”‘s Culture of Corruption: Let us just give him this. Let us all agree there is a Culture of Corruption in the Republican party. Being a Republican is being corrupt, and being corrupt is being Republican. Let’s just go with that for sake of argument.

Let us further suppose that I’m going to run for Congress. Yes, me. The guy who writes a blog nobody reads. I haven’t led a personal life that would withstand the anal/rectal exam through which one must go when one runs for office — don’t look so relieved — but let’s just say I go ahead and do this. And what the hell, why not run as a Republican? Republicans are filthy, after all, it’s the Culture of Corruption. I’d fit right in!

So Corrupt Mister Freeberg runs for office as Republican Congressman Freeberg. And of course I win; after all, I’m corrupt! Remember? So here comes Corrupt, Republican, Freshman Congressman Freeberg in his brand new limousine with his brand new parking spot and his brand new…aw, I haven’t the slightest clue what those guys have. I’ll bet it’s pretty sweet. My own real live starship? Whatever.

So Morgan Freeberg goes to Congress and starts being a corrupt Republican. La dee dah…boy it sure is fun, being corrupt.

And, since I’m a freshman, I don’t really know the ins and outs of things. I start trusting people I shouldn’t be trusting, because, after all, I’m a freshman. I bribe people who don’t take bribes. I talk at the wrong meetings. I threaten the wrong people. I’m sloppy.

Of course I get nailed! Stupid green little freshman Congressman Freeberg!

And there are over 220 corrupt Republican congressmen just like me, maybe over half of them fresh and stupid. Plus 55 corrupt Republican senators, let’s say, between 15 and 20 of them fresh and stupid. We all get nailed because with our inexperience, we don’t know how to avoid it. Oh, we’re seasoned at being corrupt of course — we just don’t know how to do it in Washington! We just got here!

But the law won’t give us a break. So down the river we go. All hundred and fifty or so of us stupid, inexperienced, fresh, green, gullible corrupt Republicans. We wear pinstripes, while our wiser, seasoned, more experienced corrupt mentors look upon us with a mixture of disappointment, embarrassment, disgust, and maybe some empathy for the ass-poundings the freshman class is about to get. Bye, freshmen!

Okay, let’s step back in reality now. Take a look around. This is not what has been happening.

The Vice-President’s Chief of Staff.

The House Majority Leader’s former spokesman.

The House Majority Leader himself.

A top Republican lobbyist; not one of those fly-by-night dime-a-dozen lobbyists.

The Chairman of the House Administration Committee.

The Senate Majority Leader.

The President’s top political aid.

An eight-term congressman from San Diego and Chairman of the House Intelligence Subcommittee.

Where are all the know-nothing freshmen in this Culture of Corruption? Are we being asked to believe this is a thing where the senior slimeballs keep hanging themselves out to dry, while the newcomer slimeballs who haven’t even had a chance to become dried and crusty, wisely avoid the pitfalls? What is this — you learn the ropes on your first day, and then as you get older you forget them?

Or is this a poorly-organized Culture of Corruption that continues to send its grand-high-poobahs to do the dirty work, and thus risk getting nailed? While the freshmen just sit around? Perhaps being lazy corrupt people?

Kind of like Captain Kirk beaming down to the planet to fight the lasagna-monsters, while the strong-back weak-minds stay up topside, safely scrubbing the Enterprise’s 23rd-century latrines?

Or is it just an odd coincidence that the senior figures who pose the biggest threat to the opposing party, are the ones that hafta-go-down? And someone, somewhere, is making these decisions, without accountability, exposure, or even scrutiny?

Anybody who stumbles across this blog and reads this post, can make up their own mind. I’ve made up mine.

The Torture Debate

Sunday, December 4th, 2005

The Torture Debate

For the nobodies who never read this blog, it may be an item of marginal interest that there is a specific reason why this blog is called “House of Eratosthenes.” It has to do with rules about how to think. Now, over the last year this blog has published a lot of posts that adhere to these rules, without a single mention about the rules; I’m not big on rules, especially rules about how to think. I think these are things we form for our own use and there’s very little value to communicating them to others — even in a blog nobody reads. But by popular demand, from the people who never read this blog, maybe I’ll describe it. Sometime.

Meanwhile, for those who really want to know, my suggestion is to load the name into Google and check out the dude who had the name. The library administrator. It has to do with finding out big things by applying critical thinking, when at first blush it might appear you lack the tools needed to find anything out. That’s all I’ll say now.

Suffice it to say the rules I have in mind about thinking, are being not only violated, and torn asunder, but shredded into fine mulch within our current Torture Debate. For one thing, we have allowed our media to define the credibility of each proposed cognition, against how much said cognition helps or hurts our current President. That’s bass-ackward; obviously, how friendly a proposed finding-of-fact is to the current administration, is completely unrelated to whether it has truthful or logical merit or not. Another problem is that the word “torture” is being used at all. The T-word has no bearing at all on what is being debated, and on this, both sides — provided they are informed and sincere — emphatically agree.

In this broadcast from NPR Talk of the Nation, November 28, the producers have done a great job of presenting both sides of the argument and just generally cutting through the bullshit. However, it concerns me mightily that some things were outside the realm of dispute four years ago, and sometime recently have been moved, for political purposes, back into that realm. This violates another one of the above-mentioned rules about critical thinking. I refer, here, to the proposition that “torture” or whatever you want to call it, actually works.

To demonstrate that, I quote from the write-up of the compassionate, progressive mindset that appeared in October of 2001 in Slate, not exactly an online mecca of neocon dittoheads:

There’s no doubt that torturing terrorists and their associates for information works. In 1995, Philippine intelligence agents tortured Abdul Hakim Murad, whom they arrested after he blew up his apartment making bombs. The agents threw a chair at Murad’s head, broke his ribs, forced water into his mouth, and put cigarettes out on his genitals, but Murad didn’t talk until agents masquerading as the Mossad threatened to take him back to Israel for some real questioning. Murad named names. His confession included details of a plot to kill Pope John Paul II, as well as plots to crash 11 U.S. airliners into the ocean and to fly an airplane into the CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. His co-conspirator Ramzi Yousef was later convicted for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Similarly unappealing methods helped the CIA uncover the millennium bomb plot of 1999, after al-Qaida terrorists were questioned in Egypt and Jordan.

[Update Oct. 23, 2001: In stating that the millennium bomb plotters were tortured prior to divulging the plot, I am guilty of over-reading an Oct. 15 article by Walter Pincus in the Washington Post. Pincus writes, "The CIA worked with Jordanian, Egyptian, Canadian and Pakistani services, picking up terrorists, some associated with al Qaeda, and moving them to either Jordan or Egypt" and that information from those sources disrupted the bombings. While Pincus did not report, and we cannot know, whether those terrorists were tortured in Egypt and Jordan, he states two paragraphs down that many foreign countries use torture and threats to family members in interrogations. Egypt and Jordan are two of the best-known users of torture in interrogations. Nevertheless, the millennium terrorists questioned there in 1999 may well have been interrogated with full regard for their personal and constitutional rights.]

The CIA has always known that torture works. According to declassified CIA interrogation manuals, the CIA has taught others how it’s done, in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and other Latin American countries. The manuals refer to using “deprivation of sensory stimuli,” “threats and fear,” “food and sleep deprivation,” and pain to extract information. The most famous case of CIA use of domestic torture was that of Yuri Nosenko, a former KGB agent who defected to the United States in 1964. Believing he was a Soviet spy, the CIA kept Nosenko in solitary confinement for more than three years in a 10-foot-square concrete cell. He was, for long periods of time, denied food, sunlight, reading materials, and human contact. He claims to have been given LSD. When he attempted to build toys out of lint, they were confiscated. The CIA freed Nosenko in 1967, finally concluding he was a bona fide defector after all. This episode and government inquiries into similar situations prompted the dismissal of many executives of the counterintelligence department in the 1970s.

A more recent case of CIA-sanctioned torture involved Efrain Bamaca Velasquez, a Guatemalan revolutionary. His widow, Jennifer Harbury, alleges in a lawsuit that the agency financed and indirectly participated in efforts to torture information out of him, leading ultimately to his death in the early 1990s. She also alleges that the Guatemalans who tortured her husband were paid by the CIA and that two had been trained in torture and interrogation techniques at the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas. Last January, in Harbury v. Deutch , the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the torture had not violated Bamaca’s Fifth Amendment due process rights. Prior case law holds that noncitizens’ rights are violated only in cases of: 1) physical presence in the United States at the time; 2) their mistreatment in a country where the United States exercises de facto political control; or 3) abuse in the course of abduction for trial in an American court. The D.C. Circuit relied heavily on a Supreme Court case, U.S. v. Verdugo-Urquidez (1990), holding that evidence found during an illegal Fourth Amendment search of a nonresident alien’s property in a foreign country was admissible at trial in the United States.

Folks, we’re being snowed big-time. You can’t write an article in December of 2005, for any magazine, periodical or website, outside of perhaps the most courageous, right-wing, or just plain deliberately offsensive, that blossoms forward with a mini-thesis demonstrating “There’s no doubt that torturing for information works.” You just can’t do it. And yet between October 2001, and now, there has been no mega-scandal involving torture that demonstrably failed to work. We have had a scandal involving torture that offended people — and that’s it. Nothing to demonstrate, or even to imply, that the practice is ineffective.

So flailing around for reasons, between 2001 and now, to believe that “torture never works” or “torture very often doesn’t work,” we’re left concluding the grasping exercise empty-handed. Yet we have some media shills dictating to us that this is the opinion we are supposed to have. We don’t have access to the classified information that would demonstrate this; in most cases, neither do the shills; and applying our best, critical forensic thinking to the information we can get, the most reasoned inference we can form, is that torture works just fine and dandy.

Especially when you compare it to the alternative. Which is to just sit on your ass, make sure the prayer rugs are clean, double-check to make sure the good cream cheese is getting spread on the bagels you’re serving, and pray to whomever you want that the terrorists you’re watching didn’t somehow get ahold of anything sharp when you weren’t looking.

Something To Chew On

Sunday, December 4th, 2005

Something To Chew On

The time has come to have a rational debate about if, when and how the United States should pull out of Iraq. I’m happy to see our national ability to have reasoned debates — such as it is — applied for this purpose. I’m pessimistic about seeing that reasoned debate. There is very little surviving in said “national ability.” If it is a V-8 engine, it has thrown a rod or two, is mixing the oil with the coolant, and is badly in need of a new fuel pump, water pump and plugs — it just won’t go. If it is a copier machine, it reeks of burning toner and scalded mouse flesh, it shakes when it runs and makes an excruciating grinding noise, has smoke coming out of it, and the glass thing on top has been shattered by someone’s ass.

You get the point. We can’t think anymore. We may choose to as individuals, but that doesn’t help you when you try to discuss something with someone else.

What does it take to fix this national ability to think things out? Step One, as far as I’m concerned, is to do something about the dreadful bias — something that can’t be done, until you acknowledge it’s there. Here’s my proof:

Many among those who insist the Iraq invasion was a mistake, are going to further insist that they and their representatives are in favor of the War on Terror, but are simply taking the position that Iraq is a bad target. Therefore, the point of real dispute is a military action that was started in March of 2003.

Now, if and when the War on Terror is yanked off the front pages, however this may be done, we’re all set to resume our arguing about domestic issues. In this country, “domestic issues” refers to two things. 1) Old people, many of whom are not only financially solvent, but enjoy summer homes and Winnebagos, renewing their lease upon an ever-expanding assortment of free drugs and medical care, at the expense of thirty-something apartment rats who are barely making ends meet; and 2) Advoacy groups who represent “minority” classes defined by racial, gender, gender-preference, union-membership and language considerations, coming up with lower and lower thresholds of pain and grievance so they can picket, decry, libel and sue.

There are other things we think of as “domestic issues,” but most of them fall into one of those two categories.

And those two categories have a unified-common-ancestor in the New Deal.

The New Deal started in March of 1933. Exactly seven decades before the Invasion of Iraq.

So the Bush administration has been trying to bring democracy to Iraq, exactly seventy years, to the month, later than the Roosevelt administration started trying to bring socialism here.

I mean “socialism” as in absence of capitalism, and I mean capitalism as the broad, simple contract that holds our society together. “I’ll make demands on you and compensate you for fulfilling them, up to but not beyond the point where I’ve depleted the compensation others have given me for the demands I’ve satisfied of theirs.” Corruption of that simple contract. Erosion of that fragile foundation, by which our society had erected its promise that no man shall be the tyrannical master of another — with no new foundation to provide substitute support.

Capitalism has been crumbling, and with it, the promise has been slipping away — as it must. The government forces people to spend huge, and growing, chunks of their lives, for no purpose but to fulfill the needs and desires of strangers.

The white flag is now being forcefully argued as the only fitting final curtain for President Bush’s quest. His quest to spread democracy abroad — while, for seven decades longer, Democrats have labored to bring socialism here.

So here’s the something to chew on:

If surrender is a noble and fitting end to one of these campaigns, shouldn’t it be a noble and fitting end to the other as well?

Not only is our media unlikely to consider a positive answer to that, it’s highly unlikely to even seriously review the question. I open the paper every day, and I’m going to see evidence that President Bush’s mission has turned into a boondoggle. I could see a lot of evidence that President Roosevelt’s mission, likewise, has turned into a boondoggle. But I won’t.

Some argue that an uncertain or wavering objective in President Bush’s mission, is proof-positive — it’s a boondoggle. Good heavens, how many differences are there between Social Security 2005, and Social Security 1935? Could a reasonable person infer these differences make Social Security a boondoggle, or at least give it a good shove in that direction?

Some argue that Democracy is bound to die in Iraq, so why bother trying. There are other places to live where one can enjoy Democracy. Well again, good heavens. If you like socialism, there are also other places you can live. Scores of places.

And others argue that the campaign to liberate Iraq has just gotten hard to cheer on. It’s gotten boring. It’s gotten to be a pain in the ass.

So for a third time, good heavens!

The two-year-old war must be ended because it’s lost its pizazz. I would say, speaking as one of the generation that must fund it, the seventy-two-year-old war hast lost even more of this pizazz. If we’re oh-so-bored by the two-year-old campaign to create freedom where there once was none, I hope we become similarly bored by the seventy-two-year-old campaign to end that freedom where it was previously enjoyed.