Friday, December 31, 2010

Debra Spencer, "Moment of Inertia"

From Pomegranate

It's what makes the pancake hold still
while you slip the spatula under it
so fast it doesn't move, my father said
standing by the stove.

All motion stopped when he died.
With his last breath the earth
lurched to a halt and hung still on its axis,
the atoms in the air
coming to rest within their molecules,
and in that moment
something slid beneath me
so fast I couldn't move.


Choir of Young Believers, "Action / Reaction," "Next Summer"

Against Some Uses of Twitter: Ten Ill-Advised Tweets

This was originally posted elsewhere March 29, 2009. I think it has aged well, though I don't know what that opinion is worth since I don't use Twitter. If you use Twitter, don't be offended: I was just trying to be funny.

I am opposed to Twitter for three main reasons:
  1. Who gives a rat's ass what anyone else is doing every waking hour of the day? No one---except stalkers.
  2. News anchors are talking about their tweets now, as if they are the story. The story is scrolling by on your teleprompter, anchor person. You are not the story. Please focus on what is.
  3. The tweet isn't long enough to say anything worth serious thought. It's another symptom of the dumbing-down of America. Please make it stop.
Now, I am fully aware of the irony of criticizing Twitter and at the same time writing my own tweet-equivalents for Facebook. In my own defense, I am a very interesting person. That's a joke, of course, which is a euphemism for "Shameful baldfaced lie." Anyone who knows me well knows that I am just like other people in that I am not nearly as interesting as I think I am. And Twitter is also a symptom of this pervasive sense of self-importance.

Anyway, returning to my original point, in my own defense, I also write these notes, even when I don't really have the time to write them. Like right now. And these notes may be of genuine interest to some people, unlike any reports that I am in a meeting or using the bathroom or experiencing heartburn or going to bed or eating lunch or waiting for Lost to come on.

I have been thinking, however, that there is potential for material of genuine interest to pop up on Twitter. Here are some potentially interesting and entertaining tweets that I just thought up when I should have been doing lots and lots of work on a nice Sunday afternoon. So here they are.

Ten Ill-Advised Tweets 

What are you doing? 
  1. I am so stoked that the tests came back negative! I can't wait to share needles with my favorite prostitute next weekend!
  2. Relaxing with a nice warm cup of tea after burying the body in the backyard. I hope no one finds out!
  3. I finished my porno! Hip hip hooray!
  4. I'm driving south on I-29 with my Blackberry trying to avoid hitting traf
  5. Cooking up another batch of meth. Happy days!
  6. Finally poisoned my coworker's coffee. Who's laughing now, Bob!
  7. Watching American Idol, wondering if Simon got my love letter.
  8. Cleaning all of my guns. I sure hope no one gets shot.
  9. Just back from the bank robbery, counting cash. Those stupid cops'll never find me!
  10. Back at the clubhouse, waiting for trainer to shoot rear end up with roids.
Bonus ill-advsied tweet! 

Im so eksited! I cant wayt to bee presidint wen my turm as guvner of alaska iz ovur!

Electric Light Orchestra, On the Third Day, Side One

"Ocean Breakup / King of the Universe"

"Bluebird is Dead"

"Oh No Not Susan"

"New World Rising" / "Ocean Breakup Reprise"

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Please leave the science to the scientists

Some RedState blogger named Vladimir is overjoyed that Great Britain's unusually cold winter is causing problems for its wind farms.

Vladimir writes:

In a replay of last year’s weather pattern, the U.K. is once again in the grips of a Global Warming Climate Change-induced record cold snap.

Not to worry. Those industrious Brits had the foresight to build wind farms with rated capacity equal to 5% of the country’s electricity needs.

But they’re getting only 1.6% of their electricity from the wind farms. Because…

Extreme wintertime cold comes from high pressure weather systems. And high pressure weather systems don’t generate much wind. Not much wind = not much wind energy.

But since the weather is so cold, big mechanical things like wind turbines freeze up. To prevent damage, they need to be thawed out.

This is priceless:

As the temperature has plummeted, the turbines have had to be heated to prevent them seizing up. Consequently, they have been consuming more electricity than they generate.

I know! As Erick Erickson would say, this is just so awesome! That serves those limey bastards for supporting our unprovoked attack on Iraq! Wait, that doesn't sound right and now I'm confused.

Does RedState require of their bloggers that they be assholes? Just wondering.

Anyway, Vladimir gleefully quotes a columnist for the Daily Mail as saying,
Even though the winters of 2008 and 2009 were ferociously cold, they were dismissed as ‘random events’. The Met Office put the odds on a third harsh winter no higher than 20-1. . . .

Needless to say, the head of the Met Office is not even a weatherman. He’s a leading ‘climate change activist’ who buys into the propaganda pumped out by the fanatics at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) — exposed for blatantly suppressing evidence which contradicts their messianic belief in ­‘global warming’.
There's a fair and balanced source!

Vladimir finishes his post with some dated philosophy of science:
Back in the olden days, the Scientific Method worked like this: you made a prediction based on a hypothesis, then tested the prediction. If it was false, you scrapped that hypothesis & went back to the drawing board for a new hypothesis. Now, when the facts are 180 degrees opposite the prediction, the hypothesis dogma stands unchallenged, and a new explanation is fabricated to wrap around and reckoncile with the contrary observations.
Vladimir sounds so smugly self-assured that his readers probably have no idea that he doesn't know what he is talking about. There are very few things more irritating than an idiot who thinks he's a genius.

Vladimir's understanding of philosophy of science goes as far as Karl Popper's idea that bona fide scientific theories are falsifiable. In Conjectures and Refutations, Popper writes,
Every "good" scientific theory is a prohibition: it forbids certain things to happen. The more a theory forbids, the better it is. . . . A theory which is not refutable by any conceivable event is nonscientific. Irrefutability is not a virtue of a theory (as people often think) but a vice. . . . Every genuine test of a theory is an attempt to falsify it, or to refute it. 
Now, what is wrong with this? Don't we want our scientific theories to have observational consequences?

As Philip Kitcher shows in Abusing Science: The Case against Creationism, falsifiability cannot be the only thing that separates science from non-science. For one thing, scientific theories by themselves have no observational consequences. In order to use a scientific theory to make predictions, one must make any number of auxiliary assumptions about the testing conditions, other background factual matters, and the like. Therefore, if the prediction turns out to be false, the falsity of the theory does not automatically follow: one of the other assumptions might be the culprit.

Now, one might attempt to modify Popper's criterion by stating that what makes a theory scientific is that it has observational consequences when combined with necessary auxiliary assumptions. But this won't do, either, because any theory, scientific or otherwise, has observational consequences when combined with auxiliary assumptions.

The upshot is this: a few cold snaps in Great Britain do not falsify the theory that human beings are warming the planet. The nature of scientific theory is much more complicated and much more interesting that Vladimir would have us believe. This is because Vladimir is completely out of his depth. And he should also learn how to spell "reconcile."

Those who deny the reality of man-made global warming usually have no expertise in the area. This "genius" compares global warming to a fictional card game mentioned in one of my favorite television series, Star Trek. (How dare he!) All he has shown is that he can't tell the difference between weather and climate:
As I sit here now, snowbound in our Offshore Command Center, I can see a parallel to the totally unbelievable explanations being given by the proponents of man-made global warming. A few years ago, they stated that snowfalls would become more rare. Now, it is a side-effect of the warming process. Much the same, I guess, as the 17 degree temperatures I experienced last week, a whopping 30 degrees lower than the norm for December.
And this "genius" (Vladimir again) appears to suggest that there couldn't be man-made global warming because a third of Americans don't think there is. Scientific questions can be settled by public opinion poll! That's just so awesome! In the same post, Vladimir writes,
There’s a huge difference between “global warming” and “anthropogenic global warming”. If one believes in warming, but that it is caused by natural forces, it is difficult to argue for man-made initiatives to counteract it. Wasting resources fighting earth-scale or even cosmic forces may be the ultimate act of hubris and folly.
I believe I have seen this argument before, i.e., if global warming is not man-made, then we don't need to concern ourselves with doing anything about it. If you think about it, that's not the sort of thing you'd expect to hear a genius say. Human beings have spent millennia battling natural forces, sometimes successfully. And if it just so happens that the scientific consensus on global warming is correct, wouldn't the prudent thing be to try to do something about it?

Hey, RedState bloggers: please leave the science to the scientists, you fucking morons.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

"(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding?"

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
A Colbert Christmas: Peace, Love and Understanding
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogMarch to Keep Fear Alive

As I walk through this wicked world
Searchin' for light in the darkness of insanity
I ask myself, is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred and misery?

And each time I feel like this inside,
There's one thing I wanna know:
What's so funny 'bout peace love and understanding?
What's so funny 'bout peace love and understanding?

And as I walked on through troubled times
My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes
So where are the strong and who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony? Sweet harmony

'Cause each time I feel it slippin' away
Just makes me wanna cry
What's so funny 'bout peace love and understanding?
What's so funny 'bout peace love and understanding?

So where are the strong?
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?
Sweet harmony

'Cause each time I feel it slippin' away, just makes me wanna cry
What's so funny 'bout peace love and understanding?
What's so funny 'bout peace love and understanding?
What's so funny 'bout peace love and understanding?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

So, the detainees at Guantanamo are androids, then?

From two RedState posts published Dec. 21: 
In 2008, I was first introduced to the personhood movement. . . . Instantly, I threw in my support behind the movement, without hesitation or reserve. Why?  Because the argument for personhood was so undeniably true.  In short, every human being has the basic human right to exist.  And further, all human beings deserve the protection of our laws. —Shaun Kenney, "Five Great Reasons Why Personhood Will End Abortion"

Congress is on the verge of passing legislation that would effectively make it impossible to transfer the cases of murderous, terrorist scum to regular American courts.  Congress is doing this, earlier Democratic rhetoric to the contrary, because there are actual limits to legislative stupidity, and it’s pretty stupid to put murderous, terrorist scum into a civilian court system not particularly designed to handle it. —Moe Lane, "Obama administration caves on indefinite detention"
Seriously, though, I don't expect consistency from RedState. I don't even expect individual RedState posts to be internally consistent. Still, I thought it would be instructive to point out that many conservatives don't actually subscribe to important Christian beliefs. And I suspect that many Christians don't subscribe to them, either. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

For Your Further Enlightenment V

Well, I'm very busy at work again. I don't have time to write all the posts I have in my head, and that's frustrating. But I get to listen to The Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness right now, do laundry, and look forward to seeing my new shrink tomorrow afternoon. Oh, and I get to put these links right here, where they'll be safe and I won't forget them. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

I was rooting for the caribou

The TLC series Sarah Palin's Alaska features footage of Palin killing a caribou, with the help of her father and a family friend.

Palin is no sharpshooter. She fires almost half a dozen times before she finally hits the thing. She actually appears far less skilled in the nasty business of killing than I had imagined her to be. As the Gaurdian's Craig Dougherty points out, "She repeatedly missed a standing caribou; her father had to work her gun's action; and she acted like she was along for the ride." (Her incompetence may be manufactured, of course: her handlers would like to market her as an outdoorsman, but they also don't want her to seem threatening to male voters.) After every round is fired, the caribou stands motionless, trying to figure out what is happening, I suppose. As I watched this, I began to feel sorry for it. And that made me dislike Palin even more. Not that Palin cares, of course: everything she does seems to be calculated to polarize, to appeal to her base and infuriate her political opposition. She is a graduate of the Karl Rove School of Ultra-Partisan Politics.

I am not a hunter, and I never have been. I don't understand the appeal of the sport at all. And when I say that I feel something like affection for the beautiful creature felled by Palin's rifle, hunters might not understand me, either. If I saw a caribou, the last thing I would want to do is kill it. (Perhaps that makes me sound like a pansy to you, dear reader. So be it.) I have heard at least one hunter claim that hunting only increases his appreciation of his targets, but that just doesn't compute with me. One need not kill an animal to study its behavior and appreciate it.

In her own defense, Palin reminded those of us who might be disturbed by the footage that we really don't want to be hypocrites:
Tonight's hunting episode of Sarah Palin's Alaska "controversial"?
Really? Unless you've never worn leather shoes, sat upon a leather couch
eaten a piece of meat, save your condemnation of tonight's episode. I
remain proudly intolerant of anti-hunting hypocrisy. :)
(This is just another example of the magic of Sarah Palin, i.e., her refinement of pure snottiness into an art form, her uncanny ability to piss off those who don't see things exactly as she does.) Aaron Sorkin, of all people, recently ripped Palin for the segment anyway. In response to the aforementioned Facebook status update, Sorkin writes:
You're right, Sarah, we'll all just go fuck ourselves now.

The snotty quote was posted by Sarah Palin on (like all the great frontier women who've come before her) her Facebook page to respond to the criticism she knew and hoped would be coming after she hunted, killed and carved up a Caribou during a segment of her truly awful reality show. . . .

I eat meat, chicken and fish, have shoes and furniture made of leather, and PETA is not ever going to put me on the cover of their brochure and for these reasons Palin thinks it's hypocritical of me to find what she did heart-stoppingly disgusting. I don't think it is, and here's why.

Like 95% of the people I know, I don't have a visceral (look it up) problem eating meat or wearing a belt. But like absolutely everybody I know, I don't relish the idea of torturing animals. I don't enjoy the fact that they're dead and I certainly don't want to volunteer to be the one to kill them and if I were picked to be the one to kill them in some kind of Lottery-from-Hell, I wouldn't do a little dance of joy while I was slicing the animal apart.

I'm able to make a distinction between you and me without feeling the least bit hypocritical. I don't watch snuff films and you make them. You weren't killing that animal for food or shelter or even fashion, you were killing it for fun. You enjoy killing animals. I can make the distinction between the two of us but I've tried and tried and for the life of me, I can't make a distinction between what you get paid to do and what Michael Vick went to prison for doing. I'm able to make the distinction with no pangs of hypocrisy even though I get happy every time one of you faux-macho shitheads accidentally shoots another one of you in the face. . . .

And you didn't just do it for fun and you didn't just do it for money. That was the first moose ever murdered for political gain. You knew there'd be a protest from PETA and you knew that would be an opportunity to hate on some people, you witless bully.
I agree with Sorkin that Palin had ulterior, political motives for inserting this segment into the series. And if you still have the ability to doubt that everything Palin does is calculated to enhance her public image, consider what her father said about his daughter in the same episode: "She carries her own weight, whether it's hunting or fishing or politics. Anything Sarah Palin does, she does with all four feet, let me tell you that." (With the possible exception of working the action on her own rifle, of course: we can't expect a "feminist" to be burdened with such manly trifles.)

I doubt that someone of Palin's stature literally needs to hunt caribou to survive. Some Alaskans may, but that doesn't justify Palin's actions. But I take her at her word that they will make use of the animal, and that blunts the force of Sorkin's complaint. Another of Sorkin's objections succeeds, however. Palin sets up a false dichotomy: either you endorse the manner in which she killed and cleaned the caribou, or you are a hypocrite. Sorkin points out that there is a third possibility: recognize that we may at times be justified in killing and making use of another animal, but not take joy in the actual killing and cleaning of that animal. Palin takes too much joy in the slaughter of other sentient beings, and that is a serious character flaw.

There is, of course, another possible response. For some years, I was a vegetarian. I did, however, eat fish and animal products, such as eggs and cheese. And I was a vegetarian for moral reasons: I was unwilling to make the effort to determine whether any meat I might consume was factory-farmed, so I simply didn't eat any at all. I am no longer a vegetarian. I do buy beef sometimes from an individual I know who raises his own cattle for slaughter, so I know that his animals are treated humanely while they are alive. It's difficult to see anything morally wrong with this. And I do try to minimize the amount of meat I consume. But I cannot say for sure that I do not eat factory-farmed meat, so I recognize and admit that I am doing something morally wrong. This is how I avoid the charge of hypocrisy: if you simply acknowledge your own lack of sainthood on this matter, people like Palin cannot manipulate you with the threat of being charged with hypocrisy.

You can, of course, deprive someone like Palin of the ability to manipulate you by refusing to use or consume animal products. I have a friend who avoids consuming and using any animal products whatsoever. It can be done, and it is done, by countless people every single day.

But the most important point is this: if there really is something wrong with hunting, or Palin's attitude toward it, my being a hypocrite would not change that fact in the slightest.

At the end of the video, Palin has what will seem to many to be her Shazzang moment. (How's that for a semi-obscure pop culture reference? If I could find the video to embed in this post, I would, believe me.) Palin says, "Well, I'm always really happy when I do get an animal, because usually my Dad is by my side when I'm hunting, and it's like, see, Dad? I did it! I listened to what you said, and I learned something, and we accomplished it together."

This was surely calculated to appeal to her base, but it leaves me cold, as does virtually everything Palin does. I don't worry that the chief executive may not be interested in hunting and killing animals, and Palin's gleeful readiness to do so doesn't qualify her for the job.

Update. One of Andrew Sullivan's readers explains how Palin's appeal to those of us living in America's heartland might actually backfire, at least among hunters.

Monday, December 6, 2010

For Your Further Enlightenment IV

I feel like I'm taking crazy pills

Over the weekend, there were two votes in the Senate. One would have extended Bush-era tax cuts, but only on incomes of $200,000 or less for individuals and $250,000 or less for couples. The other would have extended the cuts, but only on incomes of $1 million or less.

Republicans decried the votes as pure politics, in spite of the fact that they have on other occasions insisted on the principle that judicial nominees, and bills as well, deserve an up-or-down vote. Remember that phrase? According to former Republican Senator Bill Frist (the guy who can magically diagnose persistent vegetative state merely by viewing videotape of a patient), "Until [George W. Bush] took office, Democrats and Republicans alike were firmly opposed to all filibusters, and said so repeatedly. We had a tradition based on mutual respect and restraint" (my emphasis). Like any principle that no longer serves their interests, however, the up-or-down vote has been abandoned by the GOP.

Now there is news of another potential compromise: in exchange for an extension of unemployment benefits, all Bush-era tax cuts will be temporarily extended for perhaps two years.

Let me just repeat this for you, since I can hardly fucking believe it myself. The Republicans, who have been complaining about deficits ever since Barack Obama won the election in 2008, are negotiating to extend both unemployment benefits and tax cuts. Together, both measures will add to the deficit. And this from the party that delayed extending unemployment benefits on multiple occasions on the grounds that they were not paid for.

Extending unemployment benefits will stimulate the economy, and they would be paid for by allowing tax cuts for the very wealthy to expire. The Democratic plan is obviously better for both the deficit and the economy. And it is the more moderate plan, since only some of the tax cuts are allowed to expire, in deference to the GOP fantasy that tax cuts are always good for the economy. (Some, like former Reagan OMB director David Stockman, think they should all expire.) Balancing the federal budget is also good for the economy. I'm no economist, but I do remember what the economy was like under the last president to balance the budget.

Democrats can't get what they want, in spite of the fact that the facts and the polls are on their side.

I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Natacha Atlas, "Enogoom Wil Amar"

Just so awesome

Here's more silliness from RedState's Erick Erickson. (What is Erick Erickson doing on CNN?) Erickson writes:
Nikki Haley is just so awesome.
At a White House gathering for the new governors, Governor-Elect Haley confronted Mr. Obama and asked him to repeal Obamacare. Obama refused so Haley said she wanted an opt-out for South Carolina.
And here is Erickson's source:
Haley says she told Obama that South Carolina could not afford the health care mandate, and that it would cripple small businesses.
"I respectfully asked him to consider repealing the bill," she said, to which he clearly stated he would not. "I pushed him further and said if that's the case, because of states' rights, would you at least consider South Carolina opting out of the program?"
Obama told her he would consider letting South Carolina opt out, she said, if the state could find its own solution that included a state exchange, preventing companies from bumping people for preexisting conditions and allowing insurance pooling.
"I think it's something we go back to South Carolina and start crunching," she said. "This is not about expecting what's given. This is about saying we're going to fight this every step of the way and use every option possible."
Here are my questions for Erickson and Haley:
  • What authority does President Obama have to single-handedly repeal legislation that has already been passed? 
  • When you have accepted the President's challenge to come up with health insurance reform that sounds like health insurance reform passed by Congress earlier this year, what do you have to celebrate, really? 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

For Your Further Enlightenment III

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why Should I Care?

Check out this clip from Media Matters, "Limbaugh Logic: Experts agree with Democrats, therefore experts are wrong:"

Actually, Limbaugh's logic appears to be this:
  • According to the AP, Pelosi and the experts agree, therefore the AP and the experts say what Pelosi tells them to say. Limbaugh claims that the story he's reading is a fax from Pelosi. This is his way of combating accusations that Fox "News" and other conservative media outlets are doing the bidding of the Republican Party. 
  • The experts say that unemployment benefits stimulate economic growth. But if that were true, eliminating all jobs and giving everyone unemployment benefits would stimulate the economy even more. Since that is completely absurd, unemployment benefits do not stimulate economic growth. 
Limbaugh makes $58 million a year. Perhaps he would rather the unemployed do without than he lose his generous Bush tax cut.

Limbaugh claims that the story is "easily nuked." If you disregard logic and evidence, isn't anything?

Note: while it may seem as if this post is at odds with my previous post, I believe that a certain amount of cynicism about Limbaugh's motives is called for, given the history of the man's career in radio, and I would also remind you that it was Limbaugh who said, "I hope Obama fails." 

A Few Reminders

You should read Ezra Klein's fascinating post, "The political psychology of Mitch McConnell—and the rest of us."

Liberals—myself included—have complained about what has become known as the conservative media's echo chamber and its byproduct, epistemic closure.

Conservatives have complained about liberal groupthink.

As it turns out, there may be some truth to all of the complaints. All of us tend to suffer from what psychologists call motivated skepticism. Klein writes,
When we're faced with information or ideas that accord with our preexisting beliefs about the world, we accept them easily. When the ideas and information cut against our beliefs, however, we interrogate them harshly, subjecting them to endless scrutiny and a long search for contrary evidence which, when found, we accept uncritically.
Motivated skepticism could be partially responsible for groupthink and epistemic closure.

What does this have to do with Mitch McConnell? You may have heard that he recently said, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." Since McConnell obviously wishes to help both the country and his own party, Klein asks, "Can McConnell bring himself to support a policy that will help the economy if it also helps President Obama?" Even if McConnell believes that what he supports is best for the country, it might be the case that a policy supported by the opposition is better for the country, but McConnell is disinclined to support it, given his preexisting beliefs. Klein writes:
No one in American politics believes they're acting against the interests of the country. What's difficult, however, is the evidence suggesting that political actors are primarily acting against the interests of their opponents. This is particularly true for minority parties, who often find themselves reacting to the majority's proposal, while the majority is often reacting to external conditions. President Bush's critics—myself included—found it very difficult to credit the success of the surge, even after the evidence that it was working began piling up. And in the Obama years, Republicans have turned sharply against stimulus proposals and health-care bill that are not all that different from what they themselves have supported at other times.
None of this is to say that there aren't legitimate and difficult policy questions that need to be hashed out. The White House may be wrong. McConnell may be right. But when McConnell suggests that his main interest is defeating Obama, it suggests that partisanship, and not policy analysis, is in the cognitive driver's seat.
I remember being skeptical about the prospects of the surge. And while the surge probably wasn't solely responsible for turning things around in Iraq, surely it contributed. One of the problems I had with the clusterf*ck in Iraq was Rumsfeld's insistence that it be done with a force that was much smaller than what the Pentagon recommended. If a larger force was what was needed in the first place, then why I was skeptical about increasing the size of the force that was already there?

The threat of motivated skepticism gives all of us, Republicans and Democrats alike, reason to value consistency in our own beliefs. It also gives all of us reason to take extra care to allow facts and evidence to guide policy decisions. If TARP was a good idea, then it doesn't matter that George Bush was responsible for it. (By the way, the CBO just updated its estimate of the ultimate cost of TARP: the $700 billion program is now expected to cost taxpayers only $25 billion.) And if extending unemployment benefits is a good idea, as many economists claim, then it doesn't matter that Democrats are in favor of it.

Finally, if an elected official is opposed to a policy that the evidence suggests is in the national interest, we can't jump to the conclusion that the official in question is an evildoer intentionally seeking to do harm to the country.

All of us—myself included—need these reminders once in a while.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thomas Paine: Profession of Faith, from The Age of Reason (1794)

I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.

I believe in the equality of man, and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy.

But lest it should be supposed that I believe many other things in addition to these, I shall, in the progress of this work, declare the things I do not believe and my reasons for not believing them.

I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.

All national institutions of churches—whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish—appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind and monopolize power and profit.

I do not mean by this declaration to condemn those who believe otherwise. They have the same right to their belief as I have to mine. But it is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.

It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime. He takes up the trade of a priest for the sake of gain, and, in order to qualify himself for that trade, he begins with a perjury. Can we conceive anything more destructive to morality than this?


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Conservative Blogger Contrives Yet Another Kobayashi Maru for the President

The concern some conservative bloggers are expressing about TSA security procedures is purely political, and I'm going to prove it.

More often than not, whenever I have a suspicion about the conservative blogosphere, a quick study of Lori Ziganto's blog confirms it. (Sorry, Lori, I know you just want to be left alone, and you don't want to be held accountable for what you write, but your blog is public and consequently a legitimate target.)

Before I get to Ziganto, let's briefly review the procedure in question. Those wishing to board airplanes at many airports in the United States are being asked to submit to a full-body scan. The scanners can detect non-metallic explosives like those found on the underwear bomber last year, but they also produce images of the naked bodies of those who are scanned. Fliers who refuse the scans must submit to pat-down searches that include the crotch and the chest.  Children are also subject to pat-downs.

Much of the opposition to the scans is, as William Saletan puts it, "idiocy": the scans are safe, and a pat-down is a whole lot more invasive. Regarding this procedure, and in particular the alternative to the scan, Ziganto writes:
Surely, you’d think, this wouldn’t be done randomly, but would rather be a targeted measure. And, you’d also think, certainly the absolutely random subjection of children to such “pat-downs” wouldn’t occur. Well, you’d be wrong on both counts. Of course this isn’t targeted – that would be too profile-y and stuff! Because, tolerance. Or something. You see, because we must tolerate those who wish to kill us, we cannot offend them. We cannot be perceived to be singling out a certain group. We must, therefore, waste time and resources using terrorism countermeasures against, you know, NON-terrorists. And we are to pretend that 90-year-old grandmas from Nebraska flew planes into buildings on September 11th. Or that three-year-old girls strapped bombs to their shoes or in their underwear.
Who are these evil people who insist that we must "tolerate those who wish to kill us"? The Democratic-led government of course: "It’s bad enough the Government constantly condescends to the American public and treats us all like half-witted children," writes Ziganto. "I think the past election showed them that we will no longer stand for that."

But notice this: not everyone who flies these days and is subjected to the scan or a pat-down is a 90-year-old grandmother or a three-year-old girl. And if a terrorist knew that his three-year-old girl would be neither scanned nor patted down, what would stop him from making his little one wear that underwear bomb instead?

Ziganto's solution is to use profiling:
[I]t seems to me that we should try out that whole using targeted security measures, based on actual suspicion and clues, like they do in Israel. Oh, silly me. That would mean acknowledging that it is a specific radicalized group of people who wants to kill us.
Because "targeted security measures, based on actual suspicion and clues" worked so spectacularly in 2001? As the uproar over the firing of Juan Williams reminded us, there is no guarantee that a Muslim terrorist will have a certain appearance or even behave in a certain way. And some terrorists aren't even Muslim. The problem is stated quite elegantly by none other than former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff:
The problem with using racial and religious profiling is it takes you down a road to looking at people who you don't need to look at and avoiding looking at people that you should look at. The fact is it would be an engraved invitation to al-Qaeda to recruit exactly the kind of people who don't fit the profile.
In addition, while a particular security procedure might work in Israel, implementing it in a nation of over 300 million people may not be practical. The alternative is to subject everyone, or at least randomly selected fliers, to your security measures, even if that means we often end up looking at people who we don't need to look at.

In any event, Ziganto is either kidding about following Israel's lead, or she's misinformed. According to CBS News, Israeli security is even worse:
As the New York Times reported Monday, some are looking to Israel - where profiling is just one among the many airport security tactics that make civil liberties defenders cringe - for guidance on airport security. The system is extremely restrictive by American standards, and stories of over-the-top searches and overzealous questioning are common. 
"My experience leaving Tel Aviv was by far and away the most unpleasant encounter I've ever had with airport security officials in the decade," blogger Matthew Yglesias wrote. "As best I could tell, things went pretty smoothly as long as you were (a) Israeli, (b) traveling with an Israeli, or (c) traveling with some kind of well-established tour group." 
Yglesias said that it took three hours for him to get from his initial security check to the airport's food court, and added that the Jewish member of his group "had the easiest time" while the black woman in the group "had the hardest time."
According to that New York Times story,
[T]he security methods employed by Israel’s famous Shin Bet security service at Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv are frequently stricter and more intrusive than the full-body scanners and pat-downs American officials put into place Nov. 1, said security analysts and the travelers who regularly show up at Ben-Gurion four hours before their flights for screening.
At Ben-Gurion, some passengers have been searched so thoroughly that they have had to walk through the terminals, the gates and up to the doors of their planes with no handbags, wallets or even shoes.
But I digress.

When I started seeing complaints about these more restrictive measures, something occurred to me: weren't a lot of conservatives in the media complaining about lax security after Obama was inaugurated? Why, yes they were! Among them was one Lori Ziganto. Back in May, Ziganto wrote
The night the NYC car bomb attempt went down, I was so grateful that, once again, the diligence of the public and the swift action of the NYC Police thwarted yet another potential attack. Shortly thereafter, while still incredibly grateful obviously, I became angry. I’ve had it. Firstly, because the current strategy of homeland security seems to be “Hey, guys, we’ve totally unclenched our fists. We can haz cookie now?” Secondly, because the left and their media lackeys are not only dangerously naive, but also purposefully misleading.
They are so deeply invested in both political correctness and in their violent, racist “tea baggers” meme, it clouds all else. Even common sense and the security of our country. It was swiftly apparent that they were *wishing* that the failed bomber was a tea partier, so that they could further their lame narrative and continue to try to excuse Obama and his administration for their failures and utter incompetence. Gee, Obama, how is that “unclenching of fists” deal working out for you?
That night, Attorney General Holder said “It’s important that American people remain vigilant.” Sadly, it’s quite clear that the administration and many on the left refuse to do the same. 
According to Ziganto, the current administration had put political correctness ahead of security, and security had become far too lax. Back in December, Ziganto wrote about the very event the enhanced security procedures are supposed to address, and complained that the Obama administration wasn't doing enough to keep us safe:
Today, when discussing the failed terror attack on the Northwest flight from Amsterdam, Janet Napolitano said “The system worked. Everything worked according to clockwork”. Um, perhaps she meant like a clockwork orange? That’s the only plausible explanation. . . .
Hello, Janet? He was on a watch list — and still got on a plane. WITH A BOMB in his pants. Talk about a suspicious “package” – literally. Pretty sure that means that there was “improper screening”. How on earth did “the system work”? Unless, of course, you mean the original intent of our free Republic, in which case, you are correct. Correct because, once again, private citizens succeeded where government bureaucracy failed. As always.
Ziganto complains about a terrorist boarding a flight with a bomb in his underpants, but she also complains about a security procedure designed to prevent terrorists from boarding flights with bombs in their underpants. Got it.

To summarize: 
  • If President Obama is responsible for enhanced security procedures at airports, he screwed up. 
  • If President Obama is responsible for failing to enhance security procedures at airports, he screwed up. 
  • So, no matter what, President Obama has screwed up. 
Nothing the Democrats could do would satisfy Ziganto, except adopt the Israeli model that no one here, not even Ziganto herself, would tolerate. And if they actually did adopt the Israeli model, that would be the perfect topic for Ziganto's next childish rant about those evil Democrats. All of this proves that, for Ziganto, this is purely political: the only important thing for Ziganto is that President Obama confront a no-win scenario and lose.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mew, "Sometimes Life Isn't Easy" and "Repeaterbeater"

Holy crap, am I busy at work.

I was going to talk about this post by that nut Erick Erickson, but I just ain't got the time.

So here's a nice video for you to enjoy instead.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I have another exchange with a smug, abusive, idiotic conservative drone

The following exchange occurred in the form of comments on Lori Ziganto's post, "Pro-Aborts Screech Stay Out Of My Uterus! Unless They Want To Brag About Abortions On Twitter," Ziganto's latest version of her pro-life posty, wherein Ziganto again suggests that post-abortion syndrome is real, in the absence of any scientific evidence that it is. (Ziganto actually accuses those on the left of denying the existence of women who have been traumatized by abortion. But those on the left never denied their existence: they deny the existence of post-abortion syndrome, which is different. But I digress.) Anyway, the following exchange began when Molton posted a comment concerning the relevant science. I posted under another pseudonym, "Nameless." For the record, I and Molten are two different people. Xian Do reminds me of CSBadeaux.

November 9, 2010 5:09 am

Lori says:

“They deny the very real trauma that abortion causes women. They deny the deep pain and guilt these women suffer from.”

Post abortion syndrome is a myth, Lori.

The American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association do not recognize Post Abortion Syndrome as an actual diagnosis or condition, and it is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

In a 1990 review, the American Psychological Association (APA) found that “severe negative reactions [after abortion] are rare and are in line with those following other normal life stresses.” The APA revised and updated its findings in August 2008 to account for the accumulation of new evidence, and again concluded that termination of a first, unplanned pregnancy did not lead to an increased risk of mental health problems.

In 2008, a team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore reviewed 21 studies involving more than 150,000 women, and determined: “The best quality studies indicate no significant differences in long-term mental health between women in the United States who choose to terminate a pregnancy and those who do not.”

A study of 13,000 women, conducted in Britain over 11 years, compared those who chose to end an unwanted pregnancy with those who chose to give birth, controlling for psychological history, age, marital status and education level. In 1995, the researchers reported their results: equivalent rates of psychological disorders among the two groups.

In testimony before the United States Congress, U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, an evangelical Christian and abortion opponent, stated that “There is no doubt about the fact that some people have severe psychological effects after abortion, but anecdotes do not make good scientific material.” In his congressional testimony, Koop stated that while psychological responses to abortion may be “overwhelming” in individual cases, the risk of significant psychological problems was “miniscule from a public health perspective.”

Nancy Adler, a professor of medical psychology, conducted a review of methodologically sound studies of women’s mental health before and after abortion. She concluded that up to 10 percent of women have symptoms of depression or other psychological distress after an abortion, the same rates experienced by women after childbirth.

Xian Do 
November 10, 2010 5:20 am

It always fascinates me how pompous trolls such as ‘Molten’ can include the following excerpts in his tiresome diatribe:

# 1 –equivalent rates of psychological disorders among the two groups.
(This means that, equivalent or not, there ARE rates of psychological disorders.)

# 2 –U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, an evangelical Christian and abortion opponent, stated that “There is no doubt about the fact that some people have severe psychological effects after abortion”
(C. Everett Koop says THERE IS NO DOUBT.)

# 3 –equivalent rates of psychological disorders among the two groups.
(Again, see # 1.)


…then makes this sophomoric proclamation: “Post abortion syndrome is a myth, Lori.”

So, even though it exists… it doesn’t exist?

Or perhaps it’s one of those fascinating dichotomies…like someone such as ‘Molten’ citing all sorts of informative, detailed scientific data simply to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he is a dumbass?
Yeah, that must be it.

November 11, 2010 1:28 am

I, for one, appreciate your attempt to bring science to bear on the issue of post abortion syndrome, Molton. Unfortunately, as you can see, no one here is interested in any empirical evidence. In spite of his/her smug self-assurance and abusive demeanor, Xian Do has the scientific and critical thinking skills of a gnat. Ziganto will insist on the existence of post-abortion syndrome until her dying breath, or at least until there is no political reason for her to do so. I hate to say it, but your considerable talents are wasted on this crowd, though you have certainly won my respect and admiration.

Xian Do 
November 11, 2010 2:55 am

There is nothing more pathetic than some lowlife troll making some pompous dumbass comment under one pseudonym (“Molten”)…then logging on under a different pseudonym, pretending to be somebody else (“Nameless”), in order to pat themselves on the back.

Give it up, Molten/Nameless/Loser.

Your less-than-clever attempts at self-gratification only make you look like an even bigger jerk-off.

November 11, 2010 6:58 pm

I used to comment under my blogging pseudonym, but those comments started disappearing, so I adopted a name one of the other drones gave me: Nameless. Molton and I are two different people.

You just keep it coming, Xian Do. The more you write, the more evident it becomes that you are both a moron AND a prick.

Xian Do 
November 12, 2010 2:14 am

Bored now.

Go play with your rattle & your ‘bankie’, Molten. Your mommy might even bring you your Sesame Street sippy-cup.

Grown-ups are talking here.

November 12, 2010 12:19 pm

One afternoon when I was seven I complained to him of boredom, and [my grandfather] batted me hard on the head. He told me that I was never to use that term in his presence again, that if I was bored it was my fault and no one else’s. The obligation to amuse and instruct myself was entirely my own, and people who didn’t know that were childish people, to be avoided if possible. Certainty not to be trusted. —John Taylor Gatto

Friday, November 5, 2010

Updated Map of Online Communities 2010

Source: xkcd: A Webcomic of Romance, Sarcasm, Math, and Language

View the large version here.

Mission Accomplished!

Many conservatives have claimed recently that President Obama's trip to India will cost taxpayers $200 million a day. Prominent conservatives making this claim include
  • Mike Huckabee,
  • Michele Bachmann,
  • Glenn Beck, and
  • Rush Limbaugh.
Unfortunately for them, as Holly Baily reports, the claim is false:
The numbers evidently originate with the Press Trust of India, whose report was linked on the Drudge Report and picked up by Fox News host Glenn Beck. The news agency also wrongly said that the White House had blocked off the entire Taj Mahal Palace hotel for Obama's visit and that the U.S. was stationing 34 warships—roughly 10 percent of the naval fleet—off the coast of Mumbai for security reasons.
The agency attributed the $200 million figure to an anonymous Indian government official. It didn't attribute the warships claim to any source.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell called the warship claim "absolutely absurd." "That's just comical," he said at Thursday's Pentagon news briefing.  "Nothing close to that is being done."
The White House, meanwhile, issued a blanket statement that the $200 million figure "had no basis in reality" and was "wildly inflated." The press office declined to disclose the trip's actual cost, citing "security concerns."
If you're not inclined to believe the statements of evil Islamic socialist government officials, you can see what reasons has for doubting the original report. You know, if you're interested in reasons and facts and stuff like that. 

This is yet another example of the conservative misinformation machine at work. Conservatives, whose primary goal is to attack the President, find a story that makes the President look bad, accept it because it confirms their preexisting bias against him, and report it without subjecting the story to any critical scrutiny whatever. Since their job is to produce bullshit for political purposes, they have little concern for the truth and consequently their beliefs are not guided by the truth. They confirm the biases of those who consume their product, however, and their product therefore remains in demand.

If you need evidence that Fox "News" is not a news channel, you need look no further. 

But the damage is done: no matter what evidence is presented, many people will persist in believing the original report. Mission accomplished!

Here's Anderon Cooper's treatment of the conservative feeding frenzy over this fabricated story.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Republicans again turn black into white

Republicans know how to spin elections.

John Boehner said that yesterday's vote represents "a repudiation of Washington, a repudiation of big government, a repudiation of politicians who refuse to listen to the people." 

In the months leading up to the election, we've been bombarded with the message that Democrats in Washington have been ignoring "we the people." The Tea Party, which is really just a branch of the Republican Party, in particular has tried to warp reality with this message. The message is based on the obnoxious assumption that those who deliver it speak for Americans in general. And I'm not sure that that assumption has ever been correct. Consider the following post at Andrew Sullivan's blog, which I quote in full:
"A convenient Tea Party mantra has been the presumptuous, and seemingly amnesiac notion that President Obama 'betrayed the American people,' that 'We the People have spoken and never wanted Obama’s policies.' ... To trumpet this narrative makes conservatives seem like sore losers in denial, and to threaten a 'second revolution' with upside-down flags as a reaction to losing a fair election speaks more about a general bitterness towards the electoral process itself which is inconsistent with our supposedly superlative support for the constitution," - Christian Hartsock, Big Journalism.
Amen. I have one loyal and valuable reader who keeps going nuts about the health insurance bill being rammed down the throats of the country.
But Obama explicitly campaigned on it; it was never hidden; he didn't change it significantly from his final campaign message (although he opposed mandates in the primaries). It was fought over in the presidential debates. And he won the election by a landslide on that platform. And he passed it after months of Congressional wrangling. There was nothing faintly wrong or treacherous or deceptive about any of it.
By all means, oppose it. But quit complaining there was something dictatorial or undemocratic about its passage.
And that's not the only problem with Republican messaging. While Republicans claim that the wave that swept Democrats into power was somehow not representative of the electorate, the latest wave magically is!

Mitch McConnell said, "What we've heard loud and clear from the American people tonight: too much spending, too much debt, too many Washington takeovers. What we’re sensing tonight is a huge case of buyer’s remorse all across America. They told us to change this government" (emphasis mine).

It's not clear that Republicans have a mandate, since their Pledge to America is so vague and contradicts what they've been campaigning on in important ways.  (In "The GOP's Incredible Shrinking Boehner," William Saletan explains why the Pledge and speeches by the new House speaker are so vacuous.) For example, if they're serious about deficit reduction, then why do they insist on making all of the Bush tax cuts permanent? Why end TARP, a program put in place by a Republican administration, when it is now expected to turn a small profit? What spending cuts will they make to balance the budget? No one knows. Real deficit hawks, those Republicans.

As usual, Republicans do not deal in smart policy, principle, or facts: they deal in spin. As Sullivan puts it, "the GOP's greatest problem right now is that they have lost interest in policy - hence their running on ideological abstractions rather than actual proposals."

In two years, we can ask ourselves a question first asked by Alaska's former chief moron Sarah Palin: How's that hopey, changey stuff working out?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Good job, morons!

I thought it would be a good idea on this election day to talk about the idiots in the voting booth.

FiveThirtyEight projects that the Republicans will take the House back.

The received wisdom is that the economy is a major factor in the vote.

And according to The Atlantic, a Bloomberg poll shows that Americans have no idea what is going on:
According to a new Bloomberg poll, six in ten Americans think most of the money spent to rescue banks will be lost forever. Six in ten think the economy shrunk over the past year. One in two think federal income taxes have gone up in the past two years.
Wrong. Wrong. And wrong.
In fact, most of the $245 billion TARP money spent on banks will be recovered, and the program expects to turn a small profit, according to the latest report (Treasury Sec. Tim Geithner: "The direct budget cost of the program and our full investment in the insurer AIG is likely to come in well under $50 billion.") The economy has been growing, steadily if slowly, since the summer of 2009. The Obama administration has cut taxes by more than $240 billion in the last two years, including rebate checks worth up to $800 for almost all families.
And these people, many of whom probably believe that President Obama is a socialist Muslim from Kenya, are handing the House to the Republicans today, because we all know what a fine job they did the last time they controlled it.

Good job, morons!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Let Ron handle this one, Vince.

According to TV Guide,
Director Ron Howard says he will not cut a joke using the word "gay" from his new film, The Dilemma. The joke was deemed insensitive by GLAAD and subsequently removed from the film's trailer two weeks ago.
In the clip, Vince Vaughn, who plays an automotive consultant, says, "Ladies and gentleman, electric cars are gay."
"I believe in sensitivity but not censorship. I feel that our film is taking additional heat as an emblem for many movies and TV shows that preceded it that have even more provocative characterizations and language," Howard wrote in a letter to The Los Angeles Times. "It is a slight moment in The Dilemma meant to demonstrate an aspect of our lead character's personality, and we never expected it to represent our intentions or the point of view of the movie or those of us who made it."
However, Howard said he agreed with Universal's choice to remove the joke in question from the film's trailer, calling it an "appropriate" decision.
Vaughn has weighed in on the controversy. TV Guide reports,
Vince Vaughn is standing behind the use of a gay joke in his upcoming film, The Dilemma.
In the film, Vaughn plays an automotive consultant who says, "Ladies and gentleman, electric cars are gay." Universal pulled the joke from the film's trailer after complaints from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and comments by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. Universal said the trailer "was not intended to cause anyone discomfort," but it remains unclear if the joke will still be used in the film.
Vaughn made a case for the joke to stand. "Drawing dividing lines over what we can and cannot joke about does exactly that; it divides us," he said in a statement to "Most importantly, where does it stop?"
The 40-year-old actor said he supports those outraged by the bullying and persecution of gay people, but  he thinks everyone should be able to laugh with one another. "Comedy and joking about our differences breaks tension and brings us together," he said.
In my view, this is one of those cases of political correctness run amok. Howard claims that the joke is intended not to demean homosexuals but rather to establish character, i.e., it is intended to show the audience that the character played by Vaughn is a prick. To work, the joke presumes the very offensiveness of the joke that GLAAD is pointing out. The makers of the film agree with GLAAD's assessment of the offensiveness of the joke, and that is exactly why it is used to establish Vaughn's character in the movie. Some who view the movie will think that the joke is funny, in the same way that many television viewers thought Archie Bunker was a hero rather than the bigot his creators took him to be. But that does not justify censorship. GLAAD needs to chill.

Vaughn's justification of the joke is half plausible and half just plain stupid. Caving to the demands of groups like GLAAD does raise the specter of censorship, and a line must be drawn somewhere. But Vaughn's justification seems to be based on an obliviousness to the offensiveness of the joke. It's funny, and that can bring us together, Vaughn appears to think. No, not really, Vince. Let Ron handle this one, all right?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Irony, Indeed II: Eat Your Spinach

Mike Huckabee

I just saw film of an interview with Mike Huckabee on CNN today in which Huckabee predicted a Republican tsunami next Tuesday.

According to CNN, Huckabee
cast the Democratic National Committee's opposition research effort as a sign of desperation as they brace for a "political tsunami" next Tuesday.
"They know they are going to get wiped out next Tuesday," he said. "They wouldn't be looking down the road in two years if they thought that they really had any shot at winning these races next week."
He compared the Obama administration to "parents who kept feeding spinach to their kids when the kids hated it" and said Democrats have given up all hope of moving their agenda forward after next week.
"They have pulled out, they have given up, they have circled the wagons, they are having prayer meetings and closed doors sessions," he said of the Democratic Party. "They are getting out the Kleenex and starting the crying, and they have done it to themselves."
In the same interview, Huckabee predicted that Republicans would take control of both the House and the Senate. While I'm not sure how "political tsunami" should be defined, Huckabee's prediction is not likely to come true. FiveThirtyEight is now predicting a 90% chance that Democrats retain control of the Senate after Tuesday.

While the Democrats' mistake may have been to feed spinach to an electorate that was clamoring for pizza, it's well known that spinach is good for you (when it's not tainted, of course). And that's the irony. Here are just two pieces of evidence: jobs are coming back, and some experts are confident that there will be no double-dip recession. When conservatives complain about the work Democrats have done since January 2009, they are likely to make the ludicrous claim that we're on a slippery slope to socialism. That really is how bad it has gotten, intellectually, for Republicans. So why are Republicans going to take the House back this year? Perhaps it's because we are so loathe to do nothing when times are hard that we would rather do something even if it makes us worse off. Perhaps it's because too many think that these are the end times, not just hard times. Whatever the reason, one thing is clear: Huckabee is more right than he knows.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

RedState's Dear Leader imagines masturbating to images of President Obama

What is Erick Erickson doing on CNN?

This morning, Erickson complained about President Obama's meeting with five liberal bloggers, two of whom work for Media Matters, according to Erickson. And what is so bad about this?

Erickson calls the Media Matters bloggers "George Soros funded character assassins who see evil racists in the white filling of every twinkie they consume." He calls one of them, Oliver Willis, "an internet troll" who is "kryptonite to thinking."

Erickson complains that Media Matters "routinely engages in partisan hit jobs on conservatives and anyone in the media who does not show proper respect for the 'Obama is the smartest man who ever was and is the only image you need when you go to the bathroom for certain business' narrative they peddle like smut."

The truth is actually a bit inconvenient for Erick: Media Matters is a right-wing media watchdog, period.

How does this prick, who claims to be on the right side in some holy war he has conjured in his overactive imagination, get taken seriously enough to be on a panel with respectable people on CNN?

David Frum called people like Erickson "responsibility-free" for a reason: no one in the right-wing echo chamber wants to be held accountable for what they write or say. And that is exactly what Media Matters does.

Erickson wants his readers to think that liberal bloggers are mere Obama lapdogs who find racism in everything. This is exactly what his readers already believe and expect him to say, so they will not question it. None of Erickson's readers will visit Media Matters to fact-check Erickson's claims for themselves. Whatever Erickson tells them, they nod approvingly, and, like minor characters in one of Plato's dialogues, say, "Indubitably, Erick! That is quite true! I cannot deny it!" In lying about what Media Matters actually does (in a "Christian" manner, of course), Erickson discourages any of his readers from actually taking anything anyone at Media Matters says seriously. How convenient for Erick!

If they did visit Media Matters, however, and find this "REPORT: More than 30 Fox Newsers support GOP in 600-plus instances during midterms," then they might begin to understand what sparked Erickson's adolescent tantrum. How dare Media Matters attack his friends for doing exactly what Media Matters says they're doing! Don't they know that conservative politicians and "journalists" cannot be held accountable for such behavior, whereas liberal politicians and bloggers can?

Erickson, a "Christian" has every right, of course, to call people names. And he has every right, as a "Christian," to joke about his ideological opponents masturbating to images of President Obama in an effort to ridicule them, in a way that is completely consistent, of course, with his faith. I mean, come on, if Jesus were here on earth right now, that's exactly what he would do! It is well known that Jesus loved to ridicule his opponents and joke about masturbation! He might even have called one or two people "goat-fucking child molesters" in his time. Seriously, we all know that Christian religious services sound like screenings of The Big Lebowski anyway, don't we?

Anyway, Erickson is incensed that these liberal bloggers are meeting with the President. Clearly, it is important that there be vast stretches of daylight between bloggers and politicians. I just wonder when he will get around to addressing the problems mentioned in the Media Matters report. Oh, wait a minute, I forgot: I must completely ignore Media Matters and believe only what Erick Erickson tells me to believe.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Remember Helen Thomas' retirement from Hearst Corporation back in June?

Remember Shirley Sherrod's forced resignation from USDA back in July?

Some writers are comparing these cases to the case of Juan Williams, with mixed results.

Parvez Ahmed writes:
Let us get one thing correct -- Helen Thomas, Rick Sanchez, Octavia Nasr and Juan Williams are neither racists nor bigots. By all accounts they are good journalists. But by expressing negative stereotypes about a racial or religious group they are guilty of breaching the ethics of fairness, crucial ingredients to succeed in journalism. Thus their forced resignation or firing from Hearst, CNN and NPR respectively is the right action. Having publicly expressed their biases they could no longer be viewed has having the credibility to be impartial arbiters of news.
In June, I wrote, "I invite anyone to explain to me why Thomas ought to have resigned for her comments." In fact, the title of my post was, "Helen Thomas lost her job for this?" Ahmed has given me the explanation I requested. I was emphasizing the fact that Thomas's speech was legitimately political and not bigoted. The comments that got Williams in trouble, on the other hand, were. So I believe that Williams' speech was worse than Thomas'. But Ahmed is right. As a journalist, Thomas ought to have been fired, and Hearst had every right to do so. I screwed up. Consistency demands that I admit my error here, and I do.

Slate's William Saletan compares Williams to Sherrod:
Three months ago, right-wingers clipped a video of Sherrod to make her look like a racist. They circulated the video on the Internet, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture fired her. 
Now it's happening again. This time, left-wingers have done the editing. They clipped a video of Juan Williams, a commentator for Fox News and NPR, to make him look like an anti-Muslim bigot. They circulated the video on the Internet, and last night, NPR fired him.
Saletan came out against the firing of Sherrod in July, and now he comes out against the firing of Williams. Saletan writes:
The damning video clip of Williams, like the damning clip of Sherrod, cuts off the speaker just as he's about to reverse course. According to the full transcript, immediately after saying, "I don't think there's any way to get away from these facts," Williams continues: "But I think there are people who want to somehow remind us all as President Bush did after 9/11, it's not a war against Islam." That continuation has been conveniently snipped from the excerpt.
If Williams is guilty of anything, according to Saletan, it is for expressing his fears. Saletan writes: 
But admitting such fears doesn't make you a bigot. Sometimes, to work through your fears, you have to face them honestly. You have to think through the perils of acting on those fears. And you have to explain to others why they, too, should transcend their anxieties or resentments and treat people as individuals.
That's what Shirley Sherrod did in her speech to the NAACP. It's what Juan Williams did in his interview on Fox News. 
There are significant differences between these two cases, however. 
  • The irrational fears Sherrod confessed to having were fears she had many years ago; Williams confessed to having irrational fears now. 
  • NPR was well within its rights to fire Williams; since Sherrod's bigoted actions occurred so long ago, it's not clear that USDA was justified in firing her. 
  • It is abundantly clear that Sherrod is a reformed bigot; it is not so clear in the case of Williams. Everyone is familiar with the phenomenon of bigots taking back their bigotry in the same breath in which they express it. Williams appears to be a bigot in spite of himself. It may be that we're all bigots. But we are smart enough to combat our own bigotry, and we can certainly avoid expressing it in public. Universal bigotry is no excuse for bigotry. 
In addition, it's not clear that putting Williams' comment in context helps. Even if Williams recognizes the irrationality of his bigotry, as the rest of the segment suggests, that doesn't show that he is not a bigot. Saletan admits as much in his defense of him. Saletan denies that Williams' fears are bigoted, I know, but he is simply wrong about that. 

But the fact that Williams is a bigot is not, strictly speaking, the real problem here anyway. The problem is that Williams chose to express his bigotry in a public forum. He didn't have to work through his fears in front of who knows how many viewers of The O'Reilly Factor. As a journalist, he should have done that in private. No one had a gun to his head, and there was plenty of material from the preceding Talking Points segment to talk about without confessing to this or that irrational fear. 

I have a great amount of respect for Saletan and the high quality of his work for Slate. On this one rare occasion, unfortunately, he dropped the ball. We all do at some point. 

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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