Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

visible vote!

August 10, 2007

watch the debate!

the HRC/LOGO format was superb, and explored issues beyond the terrible soundbytes we’re accustomed to. the commentary on it may be standard, but it is a very worthwhile watch. listening intently to the candidates changed my views on several of them (and dramatically upped my respect for a few).

richardson, unfortunately, stepped on several landmines, evading questions by focusing on his otherwise (very admirable) record. this is a shame, since he is a pretty impressive candidate. (and my current favorite, but only slightly).


this really shouldn’t shock me

July 30, 2007

the whitehouse coup

a gang of super-wealthy businessmen plotted to overthrow FDR with half a million veterans and “adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression”. (more on wikipedia – under “the business plot” – it even appeared in History Today, an american coup d’etat)

… i’d only recently heard about the assasination attempt by Giuseppe Zangara, who got Anton Cermak instead. (talk about an interesting counterfactual history, if he’d shot FDR instead)

imagine if they taught this in schools. it gives a completely different gloss on the nature of our government, and the dangers it is exposed to. i imagine support for bush’s overreach and the bogus “money = speech” argument would have have dramatically less support.

(horray mercury rising)
(oh wow, you can even see it on video)

Out of Order

July 30, 2007

In short: An individual was arrested and charged with a hate crime for flushing a Koran in a toilet on the campus of Pace University [AP].

Ah, good old Pace. He clearly deserves some sort of punishment, that building has a ridiculous shortage of toilets (they were rather sketch to begin with – or maybe that is just NYC in July…).

Vandalism is the offense (and perhaps theft – as noted below). That certainly needs to be addressed. The question is whether a particular intent – hatred – should be considered an aggravating factor to the crime. [Note that nobody knows the intent, we’re all just, perhaps unfairly, speculating.]

With hate crime legislation, hate is added as a factor to redress the harm done to (an implicitly minority) community, the hostile environment the action fosters. As commenters note, “it’s the affect it has on that worshipper that makes it a hate crime.”

This is one of many reasons hate crime legislation is so dangerous.

Sticks and stones aren’t the only things that hurt. Speech hurts. Consider the Piss Christ debate. Believers frequently advanced the argument that this NEA-funded art fostered a hostile atmosphere toward Christianity. As the Justice said, “It is often true that one man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric.”

Fine. Christians aren’t really an oppressed minority, even if they sometimes claim to be one. But artistic expression has run up against interpretations of Islam before. “A Koran with a Buddha shape carved into it (a reference to the Bamiyan Buddhas destroyed by the Taliban)” was removed from Roq la Rue. Or even political expression, when a gay artist burned an antique Koran (worth $60k) to protest its homophobic content. Perhaps both speakers were hate-free. But suppose otherwise. Do the intolerant really deserve fewer speech rights than the rest of us? (Mill would say no – the best way to show them error is to debate them freely.) PZ Meyers could certainly be construed to ‘hate’ religion. Does that limit his speech?

I really like books, and I really like community, but I am an even biger supporter of the pointed criticism of ideas. There is a long and proud tradition of treating undue sanctimony with disrespectful insolence. It is, perhaps, even central to debates about the place of religion in society. The pomp holiness of the devout is best countered with a little irreverence. But a free debate cannot have legal limits enforced by one side.

Attacking beliefs through criticism (even creative responses) is legitimate, necessary, and hopefully protected speech. At least it should be.


sinking ships

November 3, 2006

if you want to talking about insulting soldiers, how about abandoning one to a fundamentalist cleric?  who is really calling the shots over there?  and if we’re lost control, why are we staying?

don’t call me red

November 3, 2006

headline:  “on final campaign swing, bush visits deep red territory

the nytimes has something about “shoring up the base

hint – montana isn’t ‘the base’, not anymore.  we’re not even all that red.  democratic governor, democratic senator (maybe another?), democratic legislature (i hope)… if this is the base, i want to see the swing states.

loose lips

November 2, 2006

as noted on atrios:

HANNITY: How important is getting Usama bin Laden in the war on terror?

BUSH: Well, it’s important, and that’s why we’re after him every single day. But so is getting Zawahiri important, and so is getting the number-three guy, whoever he is when they pop up. You know, we’ve got this guy, Zarqawi.

 as on may 5, 2005 we’d downed 6 no.3s …  so the president apparently thinks that the war on terrorism is international whack a mole?  or a matter of political convenience?  true insight into his character?

 and across the aisle, kerry sticks his foot in his mouth:

“Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

foot in mouth disease…  what he meant to say:

“I can’t overstress the importance of a great education. Do you know where you end up if you don’t study, if you aren’t smart, if you’re intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush.”

does a man who served his country in vietnam actually hate the troops, and a freudian slip exposes it for all to see?

of course not.  bush could not think something so shameful and be commander-in-chief.  i may vehemently disagree with his policies – to the point of finding many criminal – but no human being is that wicked.  john kerry, given who he is, could not intend to insult the troops.  (say otherwise, and you’re actually insulting a soldier, an irony i hope someone appreciates.)  both politicians stick their foot in their mouths, thats all.

we’ve all flubbed a line before.  enough times on the stage, you’re bound to misspeak.  in our high school performance of the crucible, john proctor said “the promise the stallion gives the girl, i gave that mare”.  bestiality in salem?  maybe, but not so much the point of the play.

john derbyshire notes that much of this outrage is fabricated, almost seeing someone trip and yelling “HA!”.  i have to agree, watching someone you dislike squirm is fun, and probably scores a couple cheap points, but… is it too much to ask that our parties act more like statesmen, and less like immature first graders?

i know this should be obvious – but the real problems here (no viable plan to eliminate al qaeda, no viable exit strategy for iraq, rising income inequality…) aren’t those the ones the parties should be fighting over, flubbed jokes on fund-raising tours?  isn’t the american public entitled to an apology, for the shameless immaturity of… well, every political campaign since i’ve been born?

obama obama obama

October 27, 2006

i’ve complained to friends that obama doesn’t have much in the way of a track record.  allow me to eat a huge plate of crow, and admit that i was totally and utterly wrong.  hilzoy makes a convincing case for obama’s ability.  read it.  despite this, i’m still on the fence, if only because i haven’t seen the vision he’s laying out (ezra’s point).

happy dance!

October 27, 2006

new jersey’s ruling on gay marriage.

the State has not articulated any legitimate public need for depriving committed same-sex couples of the host of benefits and privileges that are afforded to married heterosexual couples

oh, snap

government is and has been in the “marriage” business for a very long time.  as andy notes in ezra’s comments, there are 1,049 federally regulated rights and responsibilities tied to marriage.  time to make that equal.


October 27, 2006

tucker carlson, speaking on the michael j fox stem cell research ad:

It’s a form of moral blackmail. No matter where you stand on stem cell research, I look at this ad and say I can’t disagree with Michael J. Fox. Because his illness is so sad it pulls on me emotionally so much that it feels immoral to me to disagree with him. And I think its unfair of you to run this ad for that reason…

…This is not a conversation about Michael J. Fox, his celebrity or his disease. It’s a question about stem cell research and whether its moral or immoral. [video+quote here]

in most places, we’d call that proof. if an argument convinces you that you’re wrong, you’re just wrong. thats it. (the strange feeling tucker carlson is now experiencing is called ‘thought’. yeah, it hurts, get used to it)

update: i’m not saying this is my ideal form of political debate. but – when does emotional persuasion become a check on rational proof? if reasoning leads to a conclusion wholly at odd with my values (ie, killing people is kosher) – that emotion serves as a valuable check. my reasoning – imperfect. and it can use all the help it can get. so, if you can’t disagree, maybe its because the other view is right.

those who oppose stem cell research have let their biases run amok. they’re sorely in need of some guidance. if an emotional appeal is the way to do that, so be it.

update2: amen:

What makes them mad is that you’re making a good argument they can’t trump with noise and bullshit and lies

burns-tester debate

October 10, 2006

 watching the debate on c-span.  hilarity itself.

question 1:  pork.  i have a great deal of respect for libertarians, but did the stan jones just say montana should pay to maintain all the highways?  does he have any idea how much that would cost the state?

question 2:  energy.  did conrad burns just endorse schweitzer’s energy policy?

question 3:  education and montana.  too bad they can’t give real answers.  nice that burns implies tester created the debt, as compared to years of republican stewardship we’re having to fix.

question 4:  impeaching bush?  haha, the libertarian just clapped for impeaching president bush.  na-na.  congrats on becoming my #2 choice for president.  i’m glad that tester calls for more accountability, goodness we need that here in dc.

burns:  “you have not given up one freedom under this patriot act that you have not before, unless you’re a terrorist,… or a suspected terrorist,… or affiliated with the mafia,… or drug kingpins”.  or, you know, breathing.

queston 5:  debt.  burns notes that we didn’t ask for a number of events that have swelled our debt.  conveniently neglects iraq.  tester – get rid of no bid contracts, in iraq, in medicare

question 6:  greenhouse gasses.  burns “we’ve been warming since the ice age”.  !?!  tester – we need to solve this carbon issue, msu has a role.  this requires communication, internationally (north korea indicates breakdown), and leadership.  stellar answer.

seriously – stan, conrad… global warming isn’t a political issue.  its scientific fact.

question 7.  executive authority.  tester – fight the war on terror with resources (intel) and not by sacrificing our liberties.  burns – the meth control act is part of the patriot act [is it just me, or could we save that part of it?]

summary comments. 

stan jones.  “i risk sound like a conspiracy theorist, but” … “the secret organizations of the power elite are no longer secret”… sorry, i started rolling on the ground.  i need to get a transcript.  something about our currency being the “amero” and world communism.

conrad burns. . . . taxes.   says taxation got more “progressive” under bush II, because 84% of tax share is by the rich, compared to 82%… more on this later

jon tester.  we need leadership in washington.  the legislative branch needs to do its job, and hold the executive branch accountable, no matter who is in charge.  otherwise – disasters (healthcare, war on terror, …) happen.  nice close. 

(also covered at leftinthewest)


and we haven’t hit the ground yet

October 3, 2006

Those of us who are not Americans can only look on in wonder at the similar ease with which the ancient rights and liberties of the individual are being surrendered in the United States in the wake of 9/11. The vote by the Senate on Thursday to suspend the right of habeas corpus for terrorism detainees, denying them their right to challenge their detention in court; the careful wording about torture, which forbids only the inducement of “serious” physical and mental suffering to obtain information; the admissibility of evidence obtained in the United States without a search warrant; the licensing of the president to declare a legal resident of the United States an enemy combatant — all this represents an historic shift in the balance of power between the citizen and the executive.

pirates of the mediterranean

so yeah, when the proposed legislation effectively sanctions torture of every American, without legal recourse or appeal, i’d have to say we’ve re-entered the dark ages.

why is it i can’t get the niemoller poem out of my head?

rep foley’s AIM

October 2, 2006

really really creepy  (fair warning… i have a high tolerance for creepy, and i’m still sketched out by reading those)

rep foley (R)’s instant message communications with an underage boy.  which are probably worse than anything i’ve written over AIM.  yup.  and the GOP leadership knew.  and kept him as head of the House sex offender caucus. 

at least on law and order, these jerks would be locked in jail from now until eternity.  but no, here, inside the beltway, they get to run the country.

update:  what the?  tony snow calls those ‘simply naughty emails’?  yeah, thats why the fbi is called in.

a democrat would be impeached by now

October 2, 2006

the reviews of bob woodward’s latest book are out, and i’m comforted…

The CIA’S top counterterrorism officials felt they could have killed Osama Bin Laden in the months before 9/11, but got the “brushoff” when they went to the Bush White House seeking the money and authorization.

CIA Director George Tenet and his counterterrorism head Cofer Black sought an urgent meeting with then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice on July 10, 2001, writes Bob Woodward in his new book “State of Denial.”

tenent and black then ‘sounded the loudest warning’ of an attack – though, despite their efforts, felt brushed off by rice.

whats worse?  the 9-11 commission was never even told of the meeting.  as commissioner gorelick observed:  “We didn’t know about the meeting itself. I can assure you it would have been in our report if we had known to ask about it.”  rice, tenet, and black all testified before the commission – under oath – yet none appear to have remembered the meeting then.

just in case you thought press was free

October 2, 2006

Newsweek covers, as they vary by region…

(i’d have the picture, if only i could figure out flickr… just click to CT)

Via CT.

reality has a well known liberal bias

September 29, 2006

by now, i suppose almost everyone has read this Intel-Dump post, “National Insecurity”, on how dire our national security situation has become.  more interesting than the article, though, are the comments.  the whole tread is fascinting… (crooked timber labels the event “Like Pasting feathers together and hoping for a duck”) the commenter (Diogenes) is eventually reduced by the force of facts to support the iraq war with a defense of torture.  yeah.  brilliant.

body armor

September 29, 2006

just when you thought going after firefighers was too much, vote vets exposes burn’s voting record against our troops.

i’m still waiting for burns to kick some babies or something.

polls of iraq

September 29, 2006

i don’t trust polls, but all-too-frequently, iraq war supporters use them to justify their position.  the other day, i was told that 6 in 10 iraqis continue to support the overthrow of sadam (side note – what are the other 4 in 10 thinking).  surprisingly enough, the conservative forgot to mention a few other items in the poll:

  • About six in 10 Iraqis say they approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces
  • Almost four in five Iraqis say the U.S. military force in Iraq provokes more violence than it prevents.
  • 79 percent of Iraqis say that the US is having a negative influence on the situation in Iraq
  • 94% have an unfavorable view of al Qaeda, with 82 percent expressing a very unfavorable view

but – thats from PIPA.  the state department did its own poll and…

  • two-thirds of Iraqis in Baghdad favor an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces

woo-hoo.  yeah, that makes me feel wonderful

reality vs the dinosaurs

September 26, 2006

Thoughtful Conservative: sad is that 42% of americans think the president intervened to lower gas prices before the nov. elections, and that 65% of those people were democrats
me: this from the kid that thinks we found wmd in iraq?
Thoughtful Conservative: this from the kid who has seen credible articles showing that decayed biological weapon residue inside weapons
me: you do realize that decayed means no longer working, right?
like, depleted shells aren’t exactly going to cause mass destruction?
Thoughtful Conservative: yes, this i know, they are not themselves wmd´s but the decayed remains of them.  sorta like, we find dinosaur bones and go, these must have lived here at some point in the past
me: yeah, but you wouldn’t say there were dinosaurs in iraq, either
Thoughtful Conservative: that there had been dinosaurs and since we knew how many dinos we sold them and how many were used.  we did math and found there were some unaccounted for
me: so, when we invaded iraq, did we go to war, because dinosaurs were there?
about to go Jurassic Park on us?
Thoughtful Conservative: that have been found to date, no.   we did because they were unaccounted for, and who knows where they are nowfinding decayed remains has shown that there were dinosaurs once in iraq
me: but 65 million years ago isn’t exactly an imminent threat
Thoughtful Conservative: i agree, the time span is the achilles heel
me: yes, after you put the heel through a woodchipper
Thoughtful Conservative: only a flesh wound

[update:  NeoCon objected to being called NeoCon, got upgraded to Thoughtful Conservative.  i still say, anyone that likes Leo Strauss…]

can’t they do anything right?

September 23, 2006

From the NYTimes

A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

yes, they’re quoting from the most authoritative intelligence report

sex, violence, legalisms

September 18, 2006

“That’s like — it’s very vague. What does that mean, ‘outrages upon human dignity’? That’s a statement that is wide open to interpretation.” (source: nytimes)

“It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is” (source: bbc)

noted by tim burke – “He is using legalism as a pretext to engage in Orwellian violence against the meaning of words”.  evading the meanings of words, and hiding the right to decide their meaning in a strictly legal context, seems to be an effective way to subvert more democratic ways of thinking.  after all, if the matter is purely legal, what right does the public have to get involved?