Your Analytic Analeptic

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Legalize it

The following was written by a good friend of mine some time ago for this very blog. I finally publish it here for your enjoyment and edification. 

Gallup reports that, for the first time, a majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana.


My first encounters with pot came in high school. They consisted of furtive moments with joint or soda can pipe in hand and always with a friend and sometimes with people I didn't even know. I think I've always had a problem with anxiety, so I didn't much care for the social aspect of getting high, because being around other people when I was high made me paranoid. I couldn't really relax, and that was a serious problem, because that pot was being wasted on me.

I didn't really discover the joys of smoking pot until graduate school. How did I get my pot? I don't recall. But now I was buying it myself, in bags that would last two or three weeks. I would go to classes during the day and get high at night, by myself, and listen to music, mostly shoegaze, as I recall. My favorite album is still probably My Bloody Valentine's Loveless, which sounds incredible sober, but sounds indescribably divine high.

I had already learned that pot could enhance the listening experience. As an undergraduate, I loved listening to The Cure high, Pornography in particular, and especially "The Figurehead" and "A Strange Day." I loved Robert Smith's voice at the time. It was probably all that reverb:

But as a graduate student, I shared an apartment with a person who would leave me alone, and I was under no obligation to share my pot or socialize while I consumed it. I admit that it may not have been exactly healthy to get as stoned out of my mind as I could almost every night for three weeks at a time, but I wasn't responsible for anyone but myself, and it was hardly like snorting coke or shooting heroin or smoking meth. (Not that I've done any of those things. I'm not stupid.) I would wake up the next morning feeling a bit out of it but more or less good as new. And I could enjoy listening to my music to a degree that hadn't been possible before. 

Once I had earned my worthless Masters degree, it was on to a different institution to work on my Ph.D. When I wasn't drowning my anxiety in Old Style, I was sometimes fortunate enough to have access to pot and another apartment with friends and tenants who would leave me alone. I can't tell you how many times I listened to Philip Glass's Koyaanisqatsi high.

And there was the slowcore masterpiece from which this song came:

When I got a real job and was no longer around friends with connections, I stopped smoking pot altogether. The drug laws in this country are so insanely draconian, I simply couldn't risk getting arrested. The stakes are even higher now that I have a daughter. I haven't smoked pot in well over a decade. In fact, I have been deterred from using it for so long that I don't know if I could bring myself to use legal recreational pot. Which brings me to the point of this post.

Legalize it. Just do it, already.

Do you know who argued that we should legalize marijuana? Carl fucking Sagan, that's who. And he's a lot smarter than either you or me. Here's what he had to say about pot and music:
A very similar improvement in my appreciation of music has occurred with cannabis. For the first time I have been able to hear the separate parts of a three-part harmony and the richness of the counterpoint. I have since discovered that professional musicians can quite easily keep many separate parts going simultaneously in their heads, but this was the first time for me. 
That's the thing with pot. I have little doubt that almost everyone who smokes it has no interest in violence or wrongdoing. They really only want to experience the high and experience life while high. That's it. They simply want to enjoy themselves. Is that so wrong? People out there who want to deny this experience to others remind me of puritans who H.L. Mencken defined as harboring "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy."

I am sure that some people worry that stoners are a danger to those around them. But I don't think they are. Sagan's comments on this point agree with my own experience:
In the cannabis experience there is a part of your mind that remains a dispassionate observer, who is able to take you down in a hurry if need be. I have on a few occasions been forced to drive in heavy traffic when high. I’ve negotiated it with no difficulty at all, though I did have some thoughts about the marvelous cherry-red color of traffic lights. I find that after the drive I’m not high at all. ... If you’re high and your child is calling, you can respond about as capably as you usually do. I don’t advocate driving when high on cannabis, but I can tell you from personal experience that it certainly can be done. My high is always reflective, peaceable, intellectually exciting, and sociable, unlike most alcohol highs, and there is never a hangover. 
I myself would not smoke pot when I'm responsible for caring for my daughter. But I believe that Sagan is telling the truth about his own experience and I have my own anecdotal evidence that his experience is typical. It's certainly different than my experience with alcohol. Consuming alcohol was enjoyable on occasion. But when I wasn't careful (which was usually the case), I became a tear-soaked depressive or an inappropriately friendly annoyance who really wanted to make someone his special lady. Then, of course, was the occasional blackout, the nausea, the excruciating hangover, the embarrassment, the self-loathing, the absurd talking to God. I would waste an entire day trying to recover. The best part, of course, was that it was all perfectly legal!

When the opportunity arises, I will tell anyone who will listen, "Alcohol is overrated." Because it is. Marijuana is not, I assure you. Frank Zappa did not enjoy marijuana. "It gave me a sore throat and made me sleepy," he wrote. "I couldn't understand why people liked it so much." But I believe that his experience was atypical. Pot has not only recreational value but also great potential in medicine. Add to this the fact that marijuana prohibition has its roots in racist economic fear-mongering against Mexicans in the 1930's. Americans have known since the mid-1940's that the alleged dangers of marijuana use were oversold. Indeed, marijuana has been extensively researched and it can be relatively safe for adults to use in moderation if it is used responsibly.

Now that David Brooks has weighed in on legalization, many of us are finding out that one important function of criminalizing marijuana is to remove as many African-Americans from the streets as possible. Whites and blacks use marijuana at roughly equal rates, but blacks are almost four times as likely to be arrested for possession. Rather than harassing African-Americans, shouldn't the law treat them ... equally?

Even setting aside all of these arguments for legalization, there is an additional argument for the legalization of pot, perhaps the strongest: people have a right to lead their lives as they see fit and in accordance with their own values, so long as in doing so, the rights of others are not violated. I can't see how the use of pot that I have described violates this principle.

So legalize it.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Well, one's a black Democrat, and the other's a white Republican.

I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist raised communist educated communist nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America. —Ted Nugent, 17 January 2014

I'll tell you this right now: If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year. ... It isn't the enemy that ruined America. It's good people who bent over and let the enemy in. If the coyote's in your living room, pissing on your couch, it's not the coyote's fault. It's your fault for not shooting him. ... Remember, we're Americans because we defied the king. We didn't negotiate and compromise with the king. We defied the emperors. We are patriots. We are Braveheart. We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November. —Ted Nugent, 14 April 2012

Obama, he's a piece of shit. I told him to suck on my machine gun. Hey Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch. —Ted Nugent, 21 August 2007

We've disagreed with a lot of administrations in the past, but none of our rhetoric included threatening lives. [Members of Rage Against the Machine] are over the top, but they're the lunatic fringe that even your average democrat and liberal doesn't agree with. But unfortunately, nobody is silencing these guys — or not necessarily silencing, but condemning this outrageous violence that they're recommending. —Ted Nugent, 2 May 2007

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Fuck Mordor

Photo credit: Jamison Wieser

So here's Erick Erickson comparing liberals to "the evil bands of Mordor." Erickson writes,
Some PR representative who should have known better joked on twitter that she was going to Africa and would not have to worry about getting AIDS because she was white. Prior to this, in her twitter timeline, she had railed against the actor Kirk Cameron because he dared express his Christian beliefs. 
The PR representative is Justine Sacco. Unfortunately for her,
the orcs of the left consumed one of their own. By the time the PR lady got to Africa, she was without a job and her reputation destroyed by her own side. 
Erickson seems to indicate in his reaction to this matter that he places a premium on loyalty:
It was a rather disgusting thing to watch the pretentious hipsters on twitter destroy a career over a tweet claiming she should have known better. Yes, she should have, but should we not also show some grace? Mordor never does.
Yeah. Fuck Mordor, right, Erick? If only people like Greta van Susteren and Megyn Kelly had shown a bit more loyalty to you when you told them that they shouldn't be breadwinners, then everything would be fine, I gather.

Check out this orc, consuming one of his own, David Frum. As the Navy Yard shooting was in progress,
Frum started up with anti-gun nonsense. As a shooter roamed the Navy Yard, a relatively secure facility, and as people who worked there were dead or dying or bleeding, David Frum became a twitter stream about gun control — comparing America to third world countries.
That orc, also named "Erick Erickson," recommends that people "grow the hell up. ... You too David Frum." What an asshole!

Erick is right. What we need is some grace. But there's this bad-ass orc out there who means business. Erick tells us, "if you flip to the end of the Bible we know that when Jesus 'Mr. Love' Christ comes back, he’s going to be loving with a sword in his hand, sending a whole host of souls into hell fire." (Never mind that this savior orc never said a word about homosexuals.) That's harsh, innit? An eternity in hell fire for part of a human lifetime spent in loving companionship with someone of the same sex? What an asshole!

Fuck Mordor indeed!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Finger

I know that Jennifer Lawrence doesn't need yet another person out there singing her praises. And I know that this image is almost a year old. (It is from the Academy Awards last February.) But this has got to be my favorite image from 2013. Oh, and I should mention that she's an incredible actor and I will somehow find the time to watch every movie she's ever been in. Sorry, I couldn't help myself.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Puzzle for "Pro-lifers"

Something occurred to me the other night when I should have been in bed.

The stereotypical Republican is anti-abortion but endorses the NRA's interpretation the 2nd Amendment, according to which any infringement on an individual's right to bear arms is unconstitutional. Why does this seem problematic to people like me? Well, how pro-life can you be when you're against any moderate measures to stem gun violence, and in particular the mass murder of children like we saw in Newtown? When I say "moderate measures," I mean universal background checks, a limit on magazine capacity, a ban on weapons that fire rounds at a certain especially lethal velocity, and increased funding for mental health. I don't want to take away all the guns, because our need to protect ourselves must be balanced against the right to bear arms, which is an important right.

The answer, it seems to me, is "not very pro-life." Anti-abortion activists are willing to allow abortions only in very few cases, and some of them aren't willing to allow any abortions at all. Now, if we assume that there is a conflict in the case of abortion between the right to bodily integrity and the right to life, the right to bodily integrity is usually or always overridden by the pro-lifer for fear that a person who can exercise it will abort a fetus and take a life. Analogously, however, if we assume that there is a conflict between the right to bear arms and the right to life, shouldn't the right to bear arms also be overridden usually or always, for fear that a person who can exercise it will kill a child and take a life?

Some people argue that there is no conflict here, because the best way to stem gun violence is to arm as many "good guys" as possible. There is surely a kernel of truth in this. (Though you have to wonder how effective the good guy can be when the bad guy is wearing body armor.) Notice, however, that the moderate measures I advocate would not deprive the good guys of their firearms. Well, not all of their firearms, anyway. What it would do is cut into the profits of corporations that are making a killing off of their killing machines. And that's what's really behind Congress's inability to act in the wake of Newtown. The corporations are running the show. Fortunately for you, pro-life gun lover, your interests and the interests of the corporations making your firearms just happen to agree. But for how long, I wonder?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Money must serve, not rule

I never thought I would ever quote a pope or find my views in near-perfect harmony with his. What follows is from Francis's first important papal text, which you can find here

I. Some challenges of today’s world

52. In our time humanity is experiencing a turning-point in its history, as we can see from the advances being made in so many fields. We can only praise the steps being taken to improve people’s welfare in areas such as health care, education and communications. At the same time we have to remember that the majority of our contemporaries are barely living from day to day, with dire consequences. A number of diseases are spreading. The hearts of many people are gripped by fear and desperation, even in the so-called rich countries. The joy of living frequently fades, lack of respect for others and violence are on the rise, and inequality is increasingly evident. It is a struggle to live and, often, to live with precious little dignity. This epochal change has been set in motion by the enormous qualitative, quantitative, rapid and cumulative advances occuring in the sciences and in technology, and by their instant application in different areas of nature and of life. We are in an age of knowledge and information, which has led to new and often anonymous kinds of power.

No to an economy of exclusion

53. Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.

54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.

No to the new idolatry of money

55. One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.

56. While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.

No to a financial system which rules rather than serves

57. Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside the categories of the marketplace. When these latter are absolutized, God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement. Ethics – a non-ideological ethics – would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs”.

58. A financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determination and an eye to the future, while not ignoring, of course, the specifics of each case. Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and to the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.

No to the inequality which spawns violence

59. Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear. If every action has its consequences, an evil embedded in the structures of a society has a constant potential for disintegration and death. It is evil crystallized in unjust social structures, which cannot be the basis of hope for a better future. We are far from the so-called “end of history”, since the conditions for a sustainable and peaceful development have not yet been adequately articulated and realized.

60. Today’s economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, yet it is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric. Inequality eventually engenders a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve. It serves only to offer false hopes to those clamouring for heightened security, even though nowadays we know that weapons and violence, rather than providing solutions, create new and more serious conflicts. Some simply content themselves with blaming the poor and the poorer countries themselves for their troubles; indulging in unwarranted generalizations, they claim that the solution is an “education” that would tranquilize them, making them tame and harmless. All this becomes even more exasperating for the marginalized in the light of the widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many countries – in their governments, businesses and institutions – whatever the political ideology of their leaders.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"These are mountain people."

So I just got back from a wedding in eastern Tennessee, just a few miles south of the Virginia border. My father-in-law had lived there for five years or so, and when he described the area for us as he drove us around, he often condescendingly said of the locals, "These are mountain people." The bride, my sister-in-law, was marrying one of those mountain people, a very nice and responsible man, and she asked me to create a playlist of '80's music for the reception.

Not long after the festivities began, it became clear that there had been a slight change of plans, as a large South Pacific islander from New Zealand (if I heard correctly) took the stage with his wife, several microphones, and a computer-assisted karaoke machine and sang "Can't Help Falling In Love" to the dancing couple. I love Elvis's version of the song, and I had suggested it to them for their first dance and brought it with me on my iPod. He also sang something by f-ing Engelbert Humperdinck. Anyway, we spent most of our time playing suicide karaoke. I gave my wife an assist on The Talking Heads's "Burning Down the House." And because my wife hates it so much, my sister-in-law wanted me to sing "Achy Breaky Heart" to her, and I gleefully did. (One of my brothers-in-law told me afterwards, "You're family, so I feel I can be honest with you: you're not a good singer, but you're one hell of a showman.") I got to try my first moonshine, and it was incredible. It tasted like apples and cinnamon and burned all the way down. My father-in-law complained that, at 40 proof, it was weak, but I liked it.

I think everyone had a good time, in spite of the two teen-aged girls in attendance who insisted on singing a few contemporary dirges like Rihanna's "Stay." And so did I, in spite of the fact that my playlist wasn't used, even though I had spent many hours and a significant amount of coin to put it on the iPod for everyone's amusement. Perhaps it was the sight of my 18-month-old daughter on the dance floor.

So here it is: my playlist for an '80's-themed wedding reception:
  1. George Michael, "Faith"
  2. Duran Duran, "Hungry Like the Wolf" 
  3. Bangles, "Walk Like an Egyptian"
  4. Depeche Mode, "Just Can't Get Enough"
  5. Dead or Alive, "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)
  6. Paula Abdul, "Straight Up"
  7. Dexys Midnight Runners, "Come On Eileen"
  8. Peter Gabriel, "In Your Eyes"
  9. Whitney Houston, "So Emotional"
  10. Thomas Dolby, "She Blinded Me with Science"
  11. Billy Ocean, "Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car"
  12. The Human League, "Don't You Want Me"
  13. Belinda Carlisle, "Heaven is a Place on Earth"
  14. Micheal Jackson, "Beat It"
  15. Bon Jovi, "Livin' On a Prayer"
  16. Heart, "Alone"
  17. Devo, "Whip It"
  18. MC Hammer, "U Can't Touch This"
  19. a-ha, "Take On Me" 
  20. Fine Young Cannibals, "She Drives Me Crazy"
  21. Bruce Springsteen, "Dancing in the Dark"
  22. Guns n' Roses, "Sweet Child O' Mine"
  23. Van Halen, "Jump" 
  24. Men without Hats, "The Safety Dance"
  25. Def Leppard, "Pour Some Sugar On Me"
  26. The Power Station, "Get It On (Bang a Gong)"
  27. Soft Cell, "Tainted Love" 
  28. Phil Collins, "Two Hearts"
  29. Cyndi Lauper, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun"
  30. Simple Minds, "Don't You (Forget about Me)"
  31. Yello, "Oh Yeah"
  32. Janet Jackson, "When I Think of You"
  33. David Bowie, "Modern Love"
  34. New Order, "Blue Monday"
  35. Thompson Twins, "Hold Me Now"
  36. INXS, "New Sensation"
  37. Prince, "1999"
  38. Robert Palmer, "Addicted to Love"
  39. Adam Ant, "Goody Two Shoes" 
  40. Eurythmics, "Missionary Man"
  41. The B-52's, "Private Idaho"
  42. Talking Heads, "Wild Life"
  43. Aerosmith, "Angel"
  44. Big Country, "In a Big Country"
  45. A Flock of Seagulls, "I Ran"
  46. The Cure, "Just Like Heaven"
  47. Scritti Politti, "Perfect Way"
  48. The Police, "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic"
  49. Talk Talk, "It's My Life"
  50. Frankie Goes to Hollywood, "Two Tribes"
  51. Howard Jones, "Things Can Only Get Better"
  52. The Psychedelic Furs, "Love My Way"
  53. Paul Simon, "You Can Call Me Al"
  54. ABC, "The Look of Love (Part One)"
  55. Oingo Boingo, "Weird Science"
  56. Wang Chung, "Dance Hall Days"
  57. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, "So In Love"
  58. Madonna, "Into the Groove"
  59. Billy Idol, "Dancing with Myself"
  60. The Buggles, "Video Killed the Radio Star"
  61. Vanilla Ice, "Ice Ice Baby"
  62. The The, "Infected"
  63. Electric Light Orchestra, "Hold On Tight"
  64. The Smithereens, "A Girl Like You"
  65. Gary Numan, "Cars"
  66. The Fixx, "One Thing Leads to Another"
  67. Adam and the Ants, "Stand and Deliver"
  68. XTC, "The Mayor of Simpleton"
  69. Tom Tom Club, "Genius of Love"
  70. The English Beat, "I Confess"
  71. Bryan Ferry, "Kiss & Tell"
  72. Roxy Music, "More than This"
  73. Golden Earring, "Twilight Zone"
  74. The Vapors "Turning Japanese"
  75. Asia, "Heat of the Moment"
  76. Daryl Hall and John Oates, "Private Eyes"
  77. Rush, "Time Stand Still"
  78. Wire, "Ahead"
  79. The Smiths, "How Soon Is Now?"

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Maddow blogger shovels it

I really like Rachel Maddow. But even her bloggers can shovel it once in a while. Here's an example.

Steve Benen criticizes Republicans for complaining about the length of some pieces of legislation. You might remember when the Affordable Care Act was going through Congress and Republicans were complaining that the bill was so long that no one really knew what was in it. And you might remember a picture I borrowed and published of that zany congressman from Iowa, Steve King, carrying a copy of it on his shoulder.

Benen writes, "When opponents of a bill are reduced to talking about the literal, physical size of the legislation, they've completely given up on the pretense that public policy matters. If opponents of immigration reform want to debate the merits of the proposal, great. But focusing on pages and pounds is the absolute worst form of debate."

Benen makes some good points. He says that we live in a complex world, so legislation will also be complex, and it is the job of those in Congress to read, understand, and evaluate it. In addition, the format of legislation makes it look significantly longer than it actually is. "For example, if the immigration bill is about 1,075 pages, in terms of the number of words, it's about half the length of Sarah Palin's first book," writes Benen.

Benen goes wrong, however, in his penultimate paragraph. He writes, "So why does this talk persist? I think it speaks to the post-policy anti-intellectualism that too often plays a role in conservative commentary. Big bills must be bad bills because they're, you know, big."

That, I think, is unfair. The greater the length and complexity of a bill, the more time is needed to read, understand, and evaluate it. Now, Republican complaints about the Affordable Care Act were pure bullshit. They had plenty of time to study that bill. But I can imagine cases in which the length and complexity of a bill could be a legitimate concern, and certainly there have been actual cases in which it has been. The USA PATRIOT Act, for example, became law a mere one and a half months after 9/11, and it's 132 pages, single-spaced. Could our elected officials think clearly about that bill, while Attorney General John Ashcroft is warning them "that further terrorist acts were imminent, and that Congress could be to blame for such attacks if it failed to pass the bill immediately"? I doubt it.

But Benen seems to think that there are no good reasons for concern over the length of a bill. Well, I think he's shoveling it.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

McConnell is whining

Here's something from Media Matters that I found especially interesting.

(Now before I start, I should say that I am well aware that Media Matters has its critics. Some people think that Media Matters should not have tax-exempt status. That has no relevance to the accuracy of its reporting, however. Since Media Matters targets only the conservative media, others consider them biased and therefore don't respect their research. But the fact that Media Matters targets only conservative media does not show that their research isn't worthy of respect. This blog focuses on the conservative media, but I have what I take to be very good criticisms of my targets and they must be judged on their own merits.)

Oliver Willis quotes Sen. Mitch McConnell's speech at the American Enterprise Institute yesterday as follows:
Last June I stood here and warned of a grave and growing threat to the First Amendment. That threat has not let up at all. Our ability to freely engage in civic life and organize in defense of our beliefs is still under coordinated assault from groups on the left that don't like the idea of anyone criticizing their aims. And from a White House that appears determined to shut up anybody who disagrees with it. Now on the outside there is a well-documented effort by a number of left wing groups like Media Matters to harass and to intimidate conservatives with the goal of scaring them off the political playing field and off the airwaves as well. An internal Media Matters memo from January 2010 showed the extent to which these tactics have been turned, literally, into a science. In it, we learned of the group's plan to conduct opposition research into the lives of on-air news personalities and other key decision makers over at Fox News. And to coordinate with 100 or so partner groups to pressure the network's advertisers and shareholders to, get this, by the threat of actual boycotts, rallies, demonstrations, shame, embarrassment and other tactics on a variety of issues important to the progressive agenda.
Willis writes that, in response to McConnell, Media Matters president Bradley Beychok said, "Mitch McConnell seems to be implying there is something underhanded or sinister about what Media Matters does. That is not the case. We monitor and correct conservative misinformation in the media." I have been reading Media Matters long enough to know that Beychok's assertion is generally true. And that, by the way, is good enough: absolute perfection in the pursuit of one's goal is too much to ask.

Let's think carefully about what McConnell said, granting, at least for the sake of argument, that Media Matters' mission is exactly what Beychok says it is.

McConnell complains that organizations like Media Matters are trying to "harass and intimidate conservatives" with the intention of "scaring them off the political playing field." How are they doing this? By using "boycotts, rallies, demonstrations, shame, [and] embarrassment" to apply pressure to Fox News advertisers and shareholders. Why? Because they disapprove of criticism of their liberal agenda. At stake is the freedom of conservatives to "engage in civic life and organize in defense of [their] beliefs."

Now, think about that, and ask yourself, what really is wrong with any of this? I know for a fact that there is much misinformation in the conservative media. Correcting it does not necessarily imply or require a political agenda. None of my criticisms of Lori Ziganto's anti-abortion posts, for example, took issue with her position; rather, I criticized her bad arguments and misinformation in support of her position. But suppose that Media Matters has a political agenda. Again, what is wrong with this? Fox News has a political agenda. Mitch McConnell has a political agenda. Shouldn't conservatives disapprove of criticism of their agenda? Why wouldn't they? Would there be anything wrong with conservatives using boycotts, rallies, demonstrations, and so on, to apply pressure to, say, MSNBC advertisers and shareholders? No. No activity McConnell mentions is against the law. And freedom of speech does not protect anyone from having to confront those who disagree with them. Rather, the "grave and growing threat to the First Amendment" is represented by those like McConnell who believe that they have a right not to be challenged in the marketplace of ideas. Seriously, who is a bigger threat to the First Amendment: those who protest against Fox News, or those who have a problem with such protests? And McConnell's claim that conservatives' freedoms are endangered is ludicrous. Conservatives have all the freedoms everyone else has. But conservatives also have to face the consequences of exercising those freedoms, just like everyone else. If you want to broadcast the crazy shit one is apt to find on Fox News, people are going to get upset. And by the way, isn't that what you're counting on? You want your own people to get upset so that they'll write those checks, right?

What's really going on here is that McConnell is whining. Never have I heard as much whining and moaning from Republicans as I've heard since Obama was elected in 2008. They complain about NPR because NPR refuses to lean to the right and consequently they want to defund the CPB. (You might think that NPR has a liberal bias. I listen to NPR every day, and I can tell you that you are wrong.) Broadcasting should be privately funded, they surely believe, especially tea party types. Well, if Fox News has to compete in the marketplace with everyone else, then they will have to put up with consumers, some of whom are well organized, who don't like them.

Now, you might say that my reasoning is good, but the assumption that I began with is false: Media Matters' mission is not what Beychok says it is, but is in fact some other sinister thing. My challenge to you is this: show me that you're right. Show me your evidence. Make a case for your point of view. I am open-minded enough to consider good arguments, and I have in the past gone where the evidence has taken me and changed my mind. (Once, I thought that the death penalty is morally justified. How wrong I was about that!)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Here's what shuffle play spat out at me

So a friend of mine published an iTunes shuffle play playlist on Facebook the other day. I told him that I couldn't publish a similar list because I have too many guilty pleasures on my iPod. He said that if I like a song, I have no reason to feel guilty about it. He may be right. So I thought about publishing a shuffle play playlist here, and here it is.

It's not very interesting. I like progressive rock, alternative or college rock, and classic rock most. And that's what's on the list. And no guilty pleasures, so publishing this was easy.
  1. Oceansize, "Remember Where You Are," Effloresce
  2. Simon & Garfunkel, "The Times They Are A-Changin'," Wednesday Morning, 3am
  3. Astra, "Quake Meat," The Black Chord
  4. Coldplay, "Viva La Vida," Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends
  5. Mr. Bungle, "Retrovertigo," California
  6. Death Cab for Cutie, "Company Calls," We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes
  7. Moby, "Inside," Play
  8. The Left Banke, "Lazy Day," There's Gonna Be a Storm
  9. Bjork, "Isobel," Post
  10. Foo Fighters, "Everlong," The Colour and the Shape
  11. Pink Floyd, "Sysyphus: Part Three," Ummagumma
  12. Tom Petty, "Time to Move On," Wildflowers
  13. A Perfect Circle, "Lullaby," Thirteenth Step
  14. The Chameleons UK, "John, I'm Only Dancing," Strange Times
  15. Ultra Vivid Scene, "Medicating Angels," Rev
  16. Electric Light Orchestra, "Everyone's Born to Die," On the Third Day
  17. Daniel Amos, "It's Sick," Vox Humana
  18. Sonic Youth, "Shadow of a Doubt," Evol
  19. Frank Zappa, "The Man from Utopia Meets Mary Lou," The Man from Utopia
  20. De La Soul, "Eye Know," 3 Feet High and Rising
  21. The Wolfgang Press, "Question of Time," Queer
  22. Dead Kennedys, "I Am the Owl," Plastic Surgery Disasters
  23. Rush, "Limelight," Different Stages
  24. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, "Heart In Your Heartbreak," Belong
  25. Stan Ridgway, "Drive She Said," The Big Heat
  26. Thinking Fellers Union Local 242, "Cup of Dreams," Strangers from the Universe
  27. Andy Partridge, "The Tiny Circus of Life," Fuzzy Warbles Vol. 6
  28. Peter Schilling, "Fast Alles Konstruiert," Fehler Im System
  29. Interpol, "Wrecking Ball," Our Love to Admire
  30. Killing Joke, "Wintergardens," Brighter than a Thousand Suns
  31. Todd Rundgren, "Word Made Flesh 1.0," No World Order
  32. This Moral Coil, "Loose Joints," Blood
  33. Fleetwood Mac, "Hypnotized," Mystery to Me
  34. Mew, "Reprise," No More Stories Are Told Today...
  35. Electric Light Orchestra, "Letter from Spain," Secret Messages
  36. Ben Folds Five, "Steven's Last Night In Town," Whatever And Ever Amen
  37. Thomas Dolby, "Dissidents," The Flat Earth
  38. The Futureheads, "Skip to the End," News and Tributes
  39. The Cure, "Bananafishbones," The Top
  40. Elbow, "The Fix," The Seldom Seen Kid
  41. The Smiths, "The Boy with the Thorn in His Side," The Queen is Dead
  42. Chevelle, "Closure," Wonder What's Next
  43. The Cure, "I'm Cold," Join the Dots
  44. Ride, "Here and Now," Nowhere
  45. Big Country, "Wonderland," The Crossing
  46. The JV Allstars, "Today's Going to Be a Long Tomorrow," Take Me Back to Spectre
  47. Sigur Ros, "Avalon," Agaetis Byrjun
  48. Cheap Trick, "Oh, Candy," Cheap Trick
  49. The Cure, "Jumping Someone Else's Train," Boys Don't Cry
  50. The Cure, "The Baby Screams," The Head on the Door

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It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. ---W.K. Clifford

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. ---Thomas Jefferson