Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wise up, Olbermann


Keith Olbermann left Daily Kos—but only temporarily, it appears.

Why? Was it the blogger who claimed that "Keith Olberman transformed from Edward Murrow wannabe to a clown"? Or the same blogger's criticism of Rachel Maddow's response to President Obama's speech last week?

Well, those two things probably had something to do with it. But what appears to have clinched it was what was said by what Mediaite characterized as an anonymous blog commenter who wrote:
can’t verify, of course… (2+ / 0-)
but a friend in the news biz tells me he got a damaging e-mail from one of his pals at NBC. something to the effect that their anger was pre-planned because “beating up on the President has been good for ratings.”

I haven’t checked but I’m hearing that Olbermann slammed the speech on Twitter before it even started.
As Mediaite points out, this comment doesn't make much sense: "From whence is Olbermann supposed to be poaching these viewers who want to see him tear the President apart?" Hannity?

In his farewell to Daily Kos, Olbermann was defensive:
"Can't verify"... "haven't checked"...It can't be verified because it's nonsense, and it wasn't checked because nobody bothered. Unfortunately there's been a lot of this here lately.

And what's more, I didn't "slam" the speech on Twitter before it even started.
Olbermann added:
You don't agree with me, fine. You don't want to watch because you don't agree with me, fine. But to accuse me, after five years of risking what I have to present the truth as I see it, of staging something for effect, is deeply offensive to me and is an indication of what has happened here.
Now, why am I writing about this?

Olbermann is a very intelligent man, and his progressive commentary on the lawless Bush II administration was spot on. But his thin skin and apparent naiveté will be his undoing. Think about it: the evidence suggests that the comment Olbermann responded to was written by an anonymous conservative troll hoping that Olbermann might react to it with indignation. "Hell, he might even leave Daily Kos," the troll surely thought, "and wouldn't that be sweet!  What a shitstorm that would be!" As Admiral Ackbar warned, it's a trap. Whoever that troll is, he or she is really enjoying this, believe me.

Olbermann assumed that the anonymous commenter actually believed what he or she was saying. But why make that assumption? As I have explained, bullshitters don't believe that what they say is true; rather, they don't care whether it's true or not. They simply hope to achieve this or that goal by saying it.

According to Mediaite's Tommy Christopher,
The marriage between Keith Olbermann and Daily Kos is a valuable one, though, far too valuable to throw away so easily. Neither of them really “needs” the other, but they are definitely better off together than apart. I don’t think this separation will last long.
It appears that Christopher was right.

Wise up, Olbermann.

Let's have a look back at Keith in his glory days, i.e., before he simply called people names:

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Republican apologizes to all those nice people in charge of BP



The Huffington Post's Sam Stein reports that Republican Congressman Joe Barton apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward today for all the trouble the United States has put him through lately:
I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday. I think it is a tragedy in the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown -- in this case a $20 billion shakedown -- with the attorney general of the United States, who is legitimately conducting a criminal investigation and has every right to do so to protect the American people, participating in what amounts to a $20 billion slush fund that's unprecedented in our nation's history, which has no legal standing, which I think sets a terrible precedent for our nation's future. I'm only speaking for myself. I'm not speaking for anyone else, but I apologize. I do not want to live in a county where anytime a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong, [it is] subject to some sort of political pressure that, again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown. 
So what we have here is an American Congressman apologizing to BP rather than the other way around. The absurdity of this is mind-boggling.

Let's be clear about what Barton is saying. To shake someone down is to commit extortion. And to extort someone is "to obtain from a person by force, intimidation, or undue or illegal power." A slush fund is defined as "a fund for bribing public officials or carrying on corruptive propaganda" and "an unregulated fund often used for illicit purposes." Is paying reparations to Gulf Coast residents harmed by the spill "illicit"? Does Barton have evidence that a crime has been committed? Or is he making some lame attempt to blunt the potential political windfall for the president of actually holding BP accountable for their horrific, almost unimaginable mess in the Gulf?

Even if we grant that the escrow account "has no legal standing," it doesn't follow that it is illegal. (I'm not a lawyer, by the way.) There would be nothing wrong, for example, with the president reminding BP of its moral obligation to make those harmed by the spill whole again, or as whole as is possible. There would be nothing wrong with reminding BP that it is in their own long-term self-interest to do that. It seems to me that persuading BP to agree to the escrow account is akin to settling out of court. If Barton has his way, however, my neighbor and I would have to get the authorities involved if she ran over my dog; it would be wrong of us to handle it on our own.

What would Barton say if I, acting as a private citizen, were caught somehow spewing 24 barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico every minute, and the president had hauled me into his office and demanded that I make everyone affected whole? I doubt that he would be apologizing to me. I haven't given him any campaign contributions, after all. Could all the money Barton has received from oil and gas have something to do with this? Who at BP has he been sleeping with?

Not only are Republicans embarrassing themselves by kowtowing to BP, their own party can't seem to agree on how to address the problem. (To be fair, Rep. John Boehner appears to have distanced himself from Barton's apology.) We are told in the same story that Rep. Tom Price has written, "These actions are emblematic of a politicization of our economy that has been borne out of this Administration's drive for greater power and control." And yet Minority Whip Eric Cantor seems to think that the president ought to plug the leak himself:
I don't want to, nor does anybody want to pile on the president, but what people need right now is leadership. And this speech just did not demonstrate that there is a plan to help the people right now who need it most. . . . We've got a real environmental catastrophe right now, and there is no demonstrative thing to point to where this president says, "We've got a plan. We're going to get it done." 
When reminded about the escrow account, Cantor said:
What we did not hear last night . . . is a fix to the problem. . . . Why isn't the president calling our allies, calling sources that he's got to go in and bring the necessary equipment in place to do everything we can to stave off this environmental disaster of epic proportions?
Well, which is it, then? Is the president obligated to take greater control of this thing as Cantor suggests, or would that be wrong, as Price claims? Whatever he does, the Republicans aren't going to like it. There is no way for Obama to win, because it is so important to Republicans that they themselves win in November.

This just in: Sen. John Cornyn says that he shares Barton's concerns about the escrow account. "I think it's comforting to know that there will be resources set aside and available to pay for legitimate claims," but "this has really become a political issue for the President and he's trying to deal with it by showing how tough he's being against BP." So perhaps it's good for the president to be tough against BP, as long as he's not showing how tough he's being against BP? Let us know when the results from the focus group are in, Big Bad John.



And take off that fucking cowboy hat, poseur.

(Oh, and by the way, responsibility-free talkers and bloggers, support for the new health care reform bill has hit a record high. Assholes.)

"[V]ery gradual change we can believe in"

From Andrew Sullivan's "Getting Shit Done," posted today:
What are the odds that Obama's huge success yesterday in getting BP to pledge a cool $20 billion to recompense the "small people" in the Gulf will get the same attention as his allegedly dismal speech on Tuesday night? If you take Memeorandum as an indicator, it really is no contest. The speech is still being dissected by language experts, but the $20 billion that is the front page news in the NYT today? Barely anywhere on the blogs.
This is just a glimpse into the distortion inherent in our current political and media culture. It's way easier to comment on a speech - his hands were moving too much! - than to note the truly substantive victory, apparently personally nailed down by Obama, in the White House yesterday. If leftwing populism in America were anything like as potent as right-wing populism - Matt Bai has a superb analysis of this in the NYT today - there would be cheering in the streets. But there's nada, but more leftist utopianism and outrage on MSNBC. And since there's no end to this spill without relief wells, this is about as much as Obama can do, short of monitoring clean-up efforts, or rather ongoing management of the ecological nightmare of an unstopped and unstoppable wound in the ocean floor.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Greater Enemy

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For most people, the fact that a statement is false constitutes in itself a reason, however weak and easily overridden, not to make the statement. For Saint Augustine's pure liar it is, on the contrary, a reason in favor of making it. For the bullshitter it is in itself neither a reason in favor nor a reason against. Both in lying and in telling the truth people are guided by their beliefs concerning the way things are. These guide them as they endeavor either to describe the world correctly or to describe it deceitfully. For this reason, telling lies does not tend to unfit a person for telling the truth in the same way that bullshitting tends to. Through excessive indulgence in the latter activity, which involves making assertions without paying attention to anything except what it suits one to say, a person's normal habit of attending to the ways things are may become attenuated or lost. Someone who lies and someone who tells the truth are playing on opposite sides, so to speak, in the same game. Each responds to the facts as he understands them, although the response of the one is guided by the authority of the truth, while the response of the other defies that authority and refuses to meet its demands. The bullshitter ignores these demands altogether. He does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are. —Harry G. Frankfurt, On Bullshit (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005), pp. 59–61.

Impomeni Post Breakdown: Counting the blogger's fallacies to assess his intention to bullshit

Mark Impomeni of RedState has posted a kind of analysis of President Obama's speech last night. The post is entitled, "Obama Speech Breakdown: Counting the president's words to assess his priorities."

According to Impomeni, Obama used 345 words to blame Bush for lax regulation, 418 words to discuss the spill's effect on the Gulf, 778 words on "the oilspill and cleanup efforts," and 863 words on his"'green energy' agenda."

Impomeni infers that the speech was actually an advertisement for green energy:
Clearly, the president’s number one priority in making this speech was to make the case for his high tax, command and control, lifestyle changing, carbon regulating energy plan.

Moreover, Obama placed his 863 words on “green energy” at the end of his address. In so doing, the president orgnized the speech on the principles of inductive logic - in which the bad news comes first in order to soften the impact of the proposed solution. Everything which comes before his pitch for “green energy” is properly seen, then, as support for Obama’s proposal. The crisis, the impact, the lives of those affected, all props in Obama’s drive to remake the nation’s energy policy.

Last night, Obama revealed himself to be nothing more than a snake-oil salesman. He knows that the public does not want his energy-limiting scheme, but he is determined to force it on America using the worst environmental tragedy in the nation’s history as the hook. Never let a crisis go to waste. 
So, what's wrong with Impomeni's analysis?

Impomeni has as much knowledge of the principles of inductive knowledge as I have of the oil industry. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,
An inductive logic is a system of reasoning that extends deductive logic to less-than-certain inferences. In a valid deductive argument the premises logically entail the conclusion, where such entailment means that the truth of the premises provides a guarantee of the truth of the conclusion. Similarly, in a good inductive argument the premises should provide some degree of support for the conclusion, where such support means that the truth of the premises indicates with some degree of strength that the conclusion is true.
What we currently know about the catastrophe in the Gulf may provide an inductive argument for the need to shift to green energy. (Is there something wrong with presenting inductive arguments?) But softening the impact of the solution to a problem by presenting it after bad news about the problem is not a legitimate means of argumentative support: it is an emotional means of persuasion and is therefore fallacious. When Impomeni describes this means of persuasion as being in agreement with an inductive principle of logic, then, he clearly doesn't know what he's talking about.

Let's agree that the speech was a way for Obama to make the case for green energy. What exactly is wrong with that? One way to prevent future oil spills is to stop using so much damn oil. We have a problem; Obama is proposing a solution. Isn't that what he should be doing? This is another sleazy Republican strategy: cast the discussion in such a way that the opponent cannot win. Had Obama proposed no solution, Impomeni would have complained about that. Obama proposed a solution, and Impomeni is complaining about that. No matter what Obama does, Impomeni will claim that Obama has failed somehow. And this is as good a marker as any of a blogger's intention to bullshit.

Impomeni claims that "the public does not want his energy-limiting scheme." What evidence does he have for that assertion? If we are not to be concerned with evidence, I suppose I could say that Impomeni is a goat-fucking child molester, even though I have no evidence whatsoever for that claim. Right? Why not? Impomeni is a goat-fucking child molester! I can't believe that RedState would be associated with him, you know, since he has sexual relations with goats and molests children. Anyway, according to The Pew Research Center,
Despite the growing damage from the Gulf oil leak, the public generally favors continuing to drill for oil and gas in U.S. waters. And in setting priorities for energy legislation in Congress, fully 68% favor expanding exploration and development of coal, oil and gas in the United States.

Yet there also is broad support for limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. And as an overall goal for U.S. energy policy, 56% say it is more important to protect the environment, while 37% say it is more important to keep energy prices low.
That doesn't exactly square with Impomeni's claim.

Finally, Impomeni ends his little post by saying, "Never let a crisis go to waste." This idea appears to have gained traction among conservatives. You see, when Republican presidents respond to crises, it's not because they don't want to let a crisis go to waste: rather, they are selflessly doing their jobs out of love for country. But when a Democrat is president, a crisis is an opportunity to destroy the country or gain a political advantage. Remember what Rush Limbaugh had to say about Obama's response to the earthquake in Haiti?
Yes, I think in the Haiti earthquake, ladies and gentlemen -- in the words of Rahm Emanuel -- we have another crisis simply too good to waste. This will play right into Obama's hands. He's humanitarian, compassionate. They'll use this to burnish their, shall we say, "credibility" with the black community -- in the both light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country. It's made-to-order for them. That's why he couldn't wait to get out there, could not wait to get out there.
As I've said, this is an example of the Republican strategy I mentioned earlier. If Obama responds to the earthquake, it's because he's evil, and if he does not respond to the earthquake, it's because he's evil. No matter what, then, Obama is evil.

The truth of the matter is that the only evil people in this situation are the bullshitters, e.g., Limbaugh and Impomeni, among others. When an intelligent debate about our energy future is needed, all these goat-fucking child molesters can offer is a virtually endless supply of bullshit.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Fine Art of Bullshitting 4: Please don't look at my conspicuous breasts

Sarah Palin at the Belmont Stakes last Saturday (right), clearly intending that no one look at her breasts

Recently, I wrote about conservative complaints that the media is spending too much time talking about Sarah Palin's breasts and not enough time talking about women winning primaries.

Then Palin herself complained about the situation. During an interview with Greta van Susteren of Fox "News," Palin said that "boobgate" "makes me wear layers, it makes me have to waste time figuring out what am I going to wear so that nobody will look in an area that I don’t need them to look at."

Then I noticed that Andrew Sullivan posted one of his reader's opinions on the subject, "The Pernicious Lies Of Sarah Palin IV: They Victimize Me For Looking Hot":
She creates the situation she wants to gripe about. It's intentional. It's a way of appearing faux "feminist" while also displaying the wares that got every golddigger in history a sugardaddy. It's a way of controlling her product messaging.
Read the rest here. It's so worth it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Truthiness gets a boost from Ziganto

In "The Poetry of Humanity," Lori Ziganto sings the praises of an 84-year old Australian "who has stopped an estimated 160 suicides at a cliff in Australia." Ziganto refers her readers to this news story for the details.

I'm obviously not going to argue with her about this. (Neither would anyone else, though Ziganto would have you believe differently, I think.) The man, Don Ritchie, obviously "shows us the best of humanity." To this day, he "remains available to lend an ear, though he says he never tries to counsel, advise or pry. He just gives them a warm smile, asks if they would like to talk and invites them back to his house for tea. Sometimes, they join him."

No, what I want to take issue with is the following paragraph in her post:
It is pretty simple. Humanity itself is simplistic at it’s [sic] very core. But we, in our “enlightened” states, now tend to try to over-think and rationalize all, instead of just embracing gut instincts and our hearts. We’ll create massive bureaucracies, full of “experts” to solve every little possible problem. Mr. Ritchie knows the basic truth: You gotta try and save them. It’s pretty simple.
This sounds wonderful, I admit, and it plainly works in Ritchie's situation. But we can't rely on "embracing gut instincts and our hearts" alone, because it ain't sufficient. Consider the following situation:
A doctor who believed that abortion was wrong, even in order to save the mother's life, might nevertheless consistently believe that it would be permissible to perform a hysterectomy on a pregnant woman with [uterine] cancer. In carrying out the hysterectomy, the doctor would aim to save the woman's life while merely foreseeing the death of the fetus. Performing an abortion, by contrast, would involve intending to kill the fetus as a means to saving the mother. 
Notice that the edict, "You gotta try and save them" isn't very helpful in this situation. If a hysterectomy is performed, the woman will live but the fetus will die; if a hysterectomy is not performed, the fetus may live and the woman may die.

The gut instinct that we ought to preserve life is good. But to reduce all of our moral thinking to gut instincts is exactly the wrong course to take. We live in a complicated world, and our moral thinking ought to reflect that fact.

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What is the point?

I have fairly good evidence that Lori Ziganto reads this blog, or at least my criticisms of her posts. And why not?  I frequently do vanity searches on Google. Why shouldn't she? Unfortunately, it has had no effect on her thinking—or her writing, anyway.

In her latest feminism-related post, Ziganto attacks Tina Brown for "smearing" conservative women who won primaries lest Tuesday, e.g., Nikki Haley, Carly Fiorina, and Meg Whitman. According to Brown, their wins are a "blow to feminism," since many of them are "against so many of things that women have fought for for such a long time."

Ziganto's response to Brown is perplexing. Ziganto writes, "Oh, really? I must inform you, Miss Brown, that I am a woman and these women represent the things that I fight for, as a person." There are a number of problems with this response:
  • Ziganto assumes that her views are representative of the views of all women.  What reason does she have to believe that? If we consider the issue of abortion, the polling does not appear to support her assumption.  While slightly more Americans call themselves pro-life than pro-choice, a majority of American believe that abortion should be legal in certain circumstances.  Only 19% of Americans believe that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.  Since Ziganto is pro-life, we have some reason not to believe that her views are representative of Americans.  
  • Ziganto is clearly opposed to what we might call the liberal feminist agenda. Ziganto has allied herself with conservative women like Sarah Palin. Surely, then, Ziganto and the politicians she supports are against what liberal feminists have fought for for such a long time, like legal abortion. So how can Ziganto assert that she and the politicians she support are fighting for women? Again by assuming that her views are representative of woman, and that liberal feminists have actually been fighting for things that women oppose. But as I have argued, she can't simply assume this. 
  • A related problem is this: when Brown says that conservative politicians are against things women have fought for, she is obviously making a claim which, if true, can only be generally true. Obviously, some women are opposed to the feminist agenda. But when Ziganto assumes that those anti-feminist women are representative of women in general, she does exactly the same thing she attacks Brown for doing, i.e., assuming that her views are representative of women in general. This is a standard conservative strategy: loudly and vigorously claim that your views are representative of the views of Americans, no matter what the polling indicates. We saw this constantly during the health care reform debate. What Ziganto needs to do is some research. What scientific evidence is there that her views are representative of women? Allow me to help you get started, Ziganto.  (And I know that you may immediately be attracted to your usual biased sources.  Just fight the urge to click on those, roll up your sleeves, and do some actual work, all right?)  
Ziganto is still claiming that the real goal of feminism is to transform women into "perpetual children," who "[rely] on protected victim status." I'm not sure why she keeps saying this, and I don't have the time to read all of her posts on the subject or read her obviously biased sources. But pointing out that women are still victims of present sexism and the legacy of past sexism is not tantamount to perpetuating the victimization of women, for if it were, any attempt to address injustice would simply compound the injustice. Did the drive to abolish slavery transform African-Americans into victims? Did the fight for women's suffrage transform women into victims? If we accept Ziganto's reasoning, then any struggle against injustice is actually evil! Ziganto is deploying another conservative strategy, which is to simply forcefully insist that one thing is actually its opposite. Once you see the reasoning for what it is, its ludicrousness is evident. Feminism is a struggle to end the victimization of women; it is not itself the victimization of women. How could the fight to make women equal before the law turn women into victims?

Ziganto also repeats her claim that feminism is harmful to women:
The leftist agenda, which is the femisogynist agenda, is harmful to all – men and women – but has been particularly harmful to women in one aspect. The pushing of the abortion agenda has done more to harm women and motherhood than anything in recent history. The entire pro-abortion movement has demeaned women by diminishing motherhood to the point that it is considered a punishment and a detriment and that a life itself can be an expendable inconvenience.
I have addressed a few of these points in several previous posts. But I would like to address one point here. Ziganto appears to believe (incorrectly) that feminists promote abortion without informing women of the risks. Ziganto can insist on the reality of post-abortion syndrome all she wants, but it simply does not exist, any more than post-cataract surgery syndrome exists, or post-appendectomy syndrome exists, as I have previously argued. Anyway, I would simply point out here that it is actually conservatives who are guilty of deceiving and manipulating women and using "Big Daddy government" to save women (from non-existent threats). So, for example, a law recently passed by Republican majorities in Oklahoma "requires women to undergo an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before getting an abortion," according to the New York Times. Not only that, a second law "prevents women who have had a disabled baby from suing a doctor for withholding information about birth defects while the child was in the womb." What this means is this: if a doctor believes that a woman might abort if she is informed that her fetus has this or that defect, it is legal for the doctor to lie about that defect (by omission or otherwise), and the woman has no legal recourse. (So much for the importance of trust in the doctor-patient relationship.) Now, I ask you: who is treating women as if they are children or cattle? Ziganto says that she believes in small government, but that is a lie. (I'm in favor of big government, but at least I'm honest about it.) Ziganto would have the government in the examination room with you and your doctor, making decisions about your medical care for you, because neither your nor your doctor are competent to make medical and philosophical decisions on your own.

According to Ziganto's brand of "feminism,"
There is no need to constantly bring up gender as if that is why [female politicians] should win. Conservative women know that. They don’t rely on their gender to somehow protect them nor to get them ahead. They are, you know, grown-ups. They rely on themselves and on the love and support of their families and friends, not the government.
(Notice Ziganto's implication that liberal women rely on their gender to get ahead or win elections. That's another sweeping generalization that will go unchallenged by her readers.) Ziganto also asserts, without argument, that women "already are equal to men," but different. Given the ambiguity of "equal," this assertion can mean a lot of different things. So it's not clear what Ziganto is saying. (Ziganto's slippery use of the language makes her meaning often hard to pin down. I believe that is intentional, for it makes it easier for her to respond to criticisms of her posts.) But it is abundantly clear that men and women are not equal in the sense that men still operate at an advantage in our society politically, economically, and socially. Any person of average intelligence with an internet connection can find non-biased sources which confirm that this is true. So while Ziganto might not want to talk about sexism and may prefer to talk about the advantages of making herself subordinate and vulnerable to the men in her life, the rest of us would like to have a grown-up conversation about this serious problem in our society. Things might be peachy at the Ziganto household, but if she thinks that the same can be said for women everywhere, she's delusional.

Ziganto is a bullshitter, and I think she knows it. It matters not to Ziganto what I write here: she will stay the course (for cutting and running would be so wrong!) and continue posting her poorly argued, poorly researched, poorly written rants. Her views will not evolve. If she is raising money now, she will continue to raise it, and so will all the other responsibility-free talkers and bloggers. If any evolution in her views were to become apparent in her writing, there would be consequences. The Republican Party demands ideological purity of its members.

So what is the point of my continuing to criticize her posts? It is possible that I can help some of her readers see her blog for what it is. Possible, though I think unlikely.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What's the deal with conservative feminists?

Read "A Short History of 'Feminist' Anti-Feminists: The early sisters of Sarah Palin" by Amanda Marcotte. As Black Francis once sang, it's educational.

Except for all that, that was a pretty good posty, Ziganto.

I know I should let this whole Ziganto thing go, but . . .

Lori Ziganto's latest "posty" is a confused mess.

Ziganto discusses Tuesday's primary wins by female candidates, especially those endorsed by Sarah Palin. Ziganto doesn't want to make a big deal out of their sex, however:
They didn’t win because they are women. They won for the people that they are and for the real world experience that they bring. In Whitman’s, Fiorina’s and Haley’s cases, for instance, they have actually, you know, made a payroll as opposed to living off the public sector their whole lives. Having run businesses themselves, they understand how they work, in practice and not just in theory. 
However, I don’t think any woman must like them just because they are women. That plays right into old school identity politics and we need to be done with that.
Ziganto is annoyed that "the traditional media" is ignoring the power of Palin's endorsements and rather focusing on the question whether Palin has breast implants. Consider the photographic evidence provided by Wonkette:


I actually don't know much about the methods women use to achieve greater mammary bulk, but it seems to me that the same effect may be achieved with the right brassiere. It appears that Palin is doing something.  Anyway, I don't really care about Palin's breasts. (But if you like looking at and thinking about Palin's breasts, here's a contrary viewpoint.) What I do care about is the space between Palin's ears and what's going on in there. That's what worries me.

Anyway, here I quote at length Ziganto's complaint about this controversy:
It’s what they always do to conservative women, especially ones who have strong political pull and to whom people listen. They attempt to diminish them and turn them into a caricature of some airhead bimbo. You can spot the leftist bias regarding Sarah Palin usually within a first sentence or two of an article: “former beauty queen” will be used. The AP even referred to her as “a telegenic conservative” when she was first picked as McCain’s running mate. Get it? He picked her because she’s pretty!

Ridiculous implications like that and like this new “story” disguised as mere curiosity are fully intended to not only ridicule, but to demean and diminish Sarah Palin as a person. To turn her into a caricature and a non-entity. It is an attempt to say “Those primary wins? Nothing to see here, move along. See? You can’t take her seriously? She’s just a pretty face and a great rack!”
Now, what's wrong with Ziganto's post?

Ziganto suggests that the real-world experience of the victorious female candidates is correlated with success in elective office. But it's not at all obvious that such real-world experience is relevant to elective office. Governments are not businesses. How would knowing how business works help you in government? Success in the private sector does not guarantee success in the public sector.

But suppose that experience in the corporate world did prepare one for public service. Would we really trust Carly Fiorina with public office? Her record as CEO of Hewlett Packard was hardly stellar.  Back in early 2005 when Fiorina was essentially fired by the board at HP, CNN reported:
Shares of HP jumped 6.9 percent in heavy trading on the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday on the news. But at one point, the stock was up as much as 10.5 percent.

"The stock is up a bit on the fact that nobody liked Carly's leadership all that much," said Robert Cihra, an analyst with Fulcrum Global Partners. "The Street had lost all faith in her and the market's hope is that anyone will be better."
And why imply that people in the public sector have no real-world experience?  Are you daft, Ziganto?  If I wanted someone in government with the relevant real-world experience, wouldn't I vote for someone with . . . experience in government? And if "living off of the public sector" is so bad, why would I want to vote for anyone like Haley or Fiorina who obviously wants to live off of the public sector? Shouldn't I vote against them?

Calling someone a "telegenic conservative" is not an insult. Ever since the 1960 presidential campaign, the received wisdom has been that being telegenic is advantageous in politics. Surely Ziganto knows this; she obviously wasn't born yesterday. Ronald Reagan, one of the most telegenic politicians ever, is one of her heroes. One reason Nick Clegg did so well in the British election this year was his unexpectedly good performance in a television debate; Gordon Brown lost in part because, according to many Britions, he has all the charisma of a bowl of oatmeal. Fiorina herself was caught making fun of Barbara Boxer's hair, for Pete's sake. (Fiorina, you act like a catty schoolgirl. Grow up.) By claiming that it is somehow sexist to point out that Palin is telegenic, Ziganto sounds like all those shrieking, hysterical feminists she hates so much.  Get a grip, will ya?

According to Ziganto, "I don’t think any woman must like them [i.e., the aforementioned female politicians] just because they are women. That plays right into old school identity politics and we need to be done with that." Then why do you accuse those on the left of hating conservative female politicians because they are women?  Aren't you playing old-school identity politics, Ziganto?  Is this something only you are allowed to do because you're special?

If a preoccupation with Palin's looks is objectionable, then why isn't a preoccupation with Obama's manliness? It's wrong to talk about Palin's rack, but it's all right to talk about Obama's jeans and the way he throws a baseball? Why are those things relevant but Palin's tits aren't? Don't you have a double standard, Ziganto?  Isn't that what's really going on here?

Unfortunately for Palin, she often confirms the leftist narrative that she is an airheaded bimbo when she opens her mouth. It's not Palin's rack that makes me doubt her intelligence; it's the things she says. She seems to have excessive trouble composing grammatically correct English sentences off the top of her head. That's cause for worry. Conservatives seem to demand that everyone in this country speak the language: can't we expect the same of our leaders? And you can't be a conservative who complains that Obama is stupid and yet ignore all the stupid shit that comes out of Palin's mouth.

And Palin is not a straight-talker, Ziganto. She is a bullshitter of the highest order, and for that, I have virtually no respect for her at all. You credit her for changing political debate with her Facebook notes. One note you are surely referring to created the fiction about death panels. If you really believe that health care reform calls for death panels, you are living in a fantasy land.  And by writing that note, Palin outed herself as either a paranoid kook or an opportunistic liar.

I think that's about it. Except for all that, that was a pretty good posty, Ziganto.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Saul Alinsky's hypocritical followers

From Saul David Alinsky's Rules for Radicals:
The thirteenth rule: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.
From Conservapedia:
Demonization is when a demagogue, or group of demagogues, paints their ideological enemies or scapegoats in terms intended to render them as irredeemably evil and fit only for destruction, which is usually presented as 'self-defense'. Possibly the best-known example of demonization in the 20th century was the Nazis' demonization of Jews, which played off of existing antisemitism for political gain and eventually led to the Holocaust. . . . [emphasis mine]

A reviewer of Barbara Olson's, Hell to Pay : The Unfolding Story of Hillary Rodham Clinton Regnery Publishing (1999) wrote,
Olson discusses the Clintons' method of dealing with enemies, which is straight out of the writings of left-wing crank Saul Alinsky: demonize, polarize, and destroy. Witness Ken Starr, Newt Gingrich, Paula Jones, et al. Olson, a former Senate counsel who investigated the Clinton Administration's FBI file caper and Travel Office fiasco [emphasis mine].
A literal example of the politics of personal destruction from the Sual [sic]Alinsky field manual was uttered by Democratic Presidential hopeful John Edwards in 2007 about social commentator Ann Coulter. Edwards spoke of "that she-devil Ann Coulter" and in same breath said "people like Ann Coulter, they engage in hateful language."
From Michelle Malkin, "Thank you, Keep America Safe":
The DOJ terror lawyers’ defenders complain that it is unfair to question their motives and loyalty. There wouldn’t have been so many questions in the first place had Eric Holder simply divulged the names when Sen. Grassley asked him to do so months ago. 
The predictable cries of “McCarthyism” are rising. The demand for public disclosure is now being characterized as a “witch hunt.” Exactly as the Obama White House would have it: Demonize dissent. Freeze it, personalize it, polarize it. 
From The Huffington Post:  
Michelle Malkin labeled Michelle Obama "First Crony" on Monday, saying she was complicit in corruption reminiscent of the Clinton years and Watergate. According to Malkin, Michelle Obama's involvement is one of the "underplayed angles" of this story. She referred specifically to AmeriCorps Inspector General firing. (The AmeriCorps board has said that they, not the White House, initiated the dismissal.) 
From Eric Alterman, What Liberal Media?: 
The greater [Ann] Coulter's fame, the more malevolent grew her hysteria. In her 1998 book, High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton, she wrote, "In this recurring nightmare of a presidency, we have a national debate about whether he 'did it,' even though all sentient people know he did. Otherwise there would be debates only about whether to impeach or assassinate."

At a meeting of the National Political Action Conference, speaking of the young American who converted to militant Islam and fought for the Taliban, Coulter advised, "We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed to. Otherwise they will turn out to be outright traitors." 
 From Glenn Beck on Fox "News":
Progressives were lurking like a virus, waiting for their chance to suck all of the blood out of the Democratic neck. They were looking for the opening to infect the system. And once they were inside that system, I warned in 2004, the Democrats -- it will be a battle to the end of your party to get them out.
... What we are talking about is an ideological movement that has set its sights on the destruction of the Constitution and the fundamental transformation of our Republic. It is called the progressive movement, and it has been using both parties for a long, long time.
But mainly, it's the Democratic Party that has played host to it. And this parasite has been feeding on that host. 
From Glenn Beck's CPAC Address, 20 February 2010: 
Progressivism is the cancer in America and it is eating our Constitution. 
From Erick Erickson's Twitter feed
The nation loses the only goat fucking child molester to ever serve on the Supreme Court in David Souter's retirement. 
From Balkinization:  
Liz Cheney and her group "Keep America Safe" is after the lawyers who work for the government but (her ad disgustingly insinuates) are secret sympathizers with Al Qaeda. "Whose values do they share?" appears in bold white letters across the black screen, as the voiceover intones the same words against a background of ominous music. The slanders against government lawyers who represented detainees is an uncanny repetition of Senator Joseph McCarthy's hunt for Communists in government 60 years ago. In one of the most dramatic moments, McCarthy went after a lawyer. 
From The Rush Limbaugh Show
"Limbaugh likens Democrats to murderers, rapists, and 'this Muslim guy' that 'offed his wife's head.'" 
From Hardball Rep. Michelle Bachmann's appearance on MSNBC's in 2008
I'm focusing on Barack Obama and the people he's been associated with and I'm very worried about their anti-American nature. . . . I would say, what I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look -- I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America? I think the people would love to see an expose like that. 
 From Lori Ziganto, "Obama Administration and Democrats Kowtow to Other Countries . . ."
But the current crop of Democrats have taken it to new lows; they are past rock bottom and are now frantically burrowing through the Earth’s crust. Since attaining power, everything they’ve done has been an attempt to fundamentally change our “defective” Constitution and country. They are trying to create a federal government involved in and in control of every aspect of our lives, even the foods we eat. They have attempted and continue to attempt to morally equate America with those who wish to kill us . They have actively tried to weaken our military and are attempting to further their belief that America is not special. 
You get the idea.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Step up your game

I really am trying to find something in Lori Ziganto's writing that I can respect.  On rare occasions, I find a little something, like an argument, or a reliable source. But then she publishes more god-awful shit and my hopes are dashed.

Recently, she published this rant about President Obama containing one sweeping, unsupported, undocumented generalization after another. (Sorry, Lori: you can't support your claims by citing yourself and other bloggers.) Here's the lead paragraph:
In the past week, the Obama administration and fellow Democrats have let their true feelings for America known more than ever before. Well, at least more blatantly. They aren’t even bothering to hide it now and have lost all shame. No longer content with merely worshipping at the altar of multiculturalism, they are now going out of their way to boast that they believe that practically any other country is actually superior to America, and that the men and women who have died fighting for our country aren’t worthy of honor and respect.
Now, Ziganto's readers will accept all of the claims in this paragraph, but only if they already believe, as Ziganto does, that Obama is made of concentrated evil. You cannot infer from the mere fact that Obama was not at Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day that Obama doesn't honor and respect the troops. President Obama did participate in the wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington on Memorial Day of last year, I guess because he hates the United States and the troops. Obama was in a national cemetery in Illinois this year for Memorial Day, obviously because he hates the troops. (My father is buried in a national cemetery, and I don't see anything wrong with choosing a national cemetery as a venue to honor our fallen soldiers.) And, as it turns out, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush all hate the troops, since they also missed wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington.

What's additionally obnoxious about Ziganto's post is its underlying assumption that Ziganto has the authority to determine who is and who is not a patriotic American.

(And if you really want to know who thinks being with the troops makes for a good photo op, Lori, just ask that prick who preceded him in the White House.)

Today, I was going to publish the following video of Matt Lauer's interview with President Obama:



Ziganto posted an excerpt of this video in which Obama talks about gathering information about the BP catastrophe so that he can find out "whose ass to kick." What follows is a representative sampling of Ziganto's remarks about the excerpt:
  • "Obama cannot pull off that whole cowboy image."
  • "Obama really should have rehearsed that line more; it was painfully obvious to all that he’s never uttered the phrase 'ass kick' before in his ivory tower swaddled life."
  • "Did his teleprompter not let him know that pretending to 'ass kick' doesn’t work when we have all seen his baseball 'pitches' and when we picture him clutching onto a head of arugula, while whining about it’s price at Whole Foods? I now imagine him practicing his tough guy image. Rehearsing with Rahm, saying things like 'You won’t like me when I’m angry! But, may I please finish my yummy waffle and hitch up my Mom jeans first?' Pitifully feigning an attempt at opening up a can of whoop arse also fails miserably when we’ve all seen Obama daintily sip beer, pinkie extended."
  • "Since Obama, by his own admission, can’t figure out 'whose ass to kick' on his own, I figure we should help him out. . . . I suppose even if he and his experts finally figures out a target like, say, the terrorists who want to kill us, he’d merely continue to fail anyway. It’s not like he has any practice manning up nor any practice actually kicking anything, ass or otherwise."
  • "The only asses Obama has kicked have been unintentional. For instance, the candidates for whom he campaigned, the idea that experience doesn’t matter and, well, his own masculinity."
(By the way, Ziganto, it's "ass" around here, not "arse." I guess if I were a conservative prick, I would say, "If you want to talk like the British, why don't you just pack your shit and move to Merry Olde England? We speak American around here!")

Allow me to summarize. Ziganto's primary criticism of Obama is that he is not manly enough. You see, Ziganto would prefer to have a more manly chief executive. Many Americans feel the same way. Every four years, they take the question, "Which candidate would you most like to have a beer with?" seriously.  They want their president to do manly things, like watch baseball, hunt, and make fun of born-again murderers on death row. Obviously, basketball is not a sufficiently manly sport for these Americans, but I digress. Ziganto's latest post really does come down to the embarrassingly juvenile complaint that Obama is not manly enough to be president.

Anyway, I just wonder why Ziganto supports politicians like Sarah Palin and Nikki Haley.  I mean, they're not manly, are they? They're women! As "true feminists," they deserve our support, according to Ziganto, because they were not "busily pant suiting themselves and trying to become men." Indeed, should there ever be the need to kick anyone's ass or even mow a lawn and either Palin or Haley is in charge, Ziganto would have a man do if for them. As Ziganto writes,
I am a staunch Anti-Feminist. Seriously, mowing the lawn is almost as bad as changing your own car tire. Which is utterly unheard of in my mind. Far easier, and more womanly to use your wiles. Work up a good fake cry, pout prettily and watch while a man does the job. Who needs ya, Gloria Steinem? Not I and that is for damn certain.   
If you object to Obama's presidency on the grounds that he's not manly enough for the job, then how could you support a woman's candidacy for public office and yet require of women that they not be manly?

Believe me, no one is more confused about Lori Ziganto's position on all of this than is Lori Ziganto.

And I haven't even gotten to Ziganto's ludicrous claim that Obama has been unable to kick the asses of terrorists. During the presidential campaign, Obama made McCain look like a dove on the issue of attacking terrorists in Pakistan. Indeed, Obama's position on the issue aligned him with . . . Sarah Palin. And Obama's success in targeting and killing suspected Al Qaeda militants is well-known, except to conservatives like Ziganto, apparently. The use of unmanned drones for this purpose has even drawn the ire of the U.N. (So much for kowtowing to other countries.)

Ziganto, step up your game.

Helen Thomas lost her job for this?



You have probably heard that long-time journalist Helen Thomas has retired in response to comments she recently made on camera (above) about Israel and Palestine.

Here's a partial transcript of Rabbi David Nesenoff's smart-assed, self-congratulatory video in which Thomas makes the aforementioned comments:
David Nesenoff: Any comments on Israel?
Helen Thomas: Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine. Remember, these people are occupied, and it's their land.
Nesenoff: So, where should they go? What should they do?
Thomas: Go home.
Nesenoff: Where's home?
Thomas: Poland, Germany, and America, and everywhere else. Why push people out of there who [have] lived there for centuries?
Thomas later apologized for the remarks. According to this Associated Press story, however,
The national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham H. Foxman, said Sunday that Thomas' apology didn't go far enough.

"Her suggestion that Israelis should go back to Poland and Germany is bigoted and shows a profound ignorance of history," Foxman said in a statement. "We believe Thomas needs to make a more forceful and sincere apology for the pain her remarks have caused."
The fallout didn't end there. According to Fox "News," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Thomas's remarks were "offensive and reprehensible." George W. Bush's press secretaries also weighed in. Dana Perino said Thomas's remarks were "so offensive to so many, so personally hurtful." Ari Fleischer said that Thomas's remarks amount to "religious cleansing."

We ought to remember what Thomas actually said.  She said that Israelis are occupiers of Palestine and ought to leave. That is a piece of political speech. It's not racist. It's not bigoted. It's not anti-Semitic. ("Anti-Semitic" is defined by Merriam-Webster as "hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group." Thomas is opposed to a Jewish state in Palestine, but not on religious, ethnic, or racial grounds.) Is it racist to claim that Palestinians ought not to have their own state? Then why is it racist to say that Israelis ought not to have created their homeland in Palestine?

The following graphic goes a long way toward vindicating Thomas. Click on it to see a larger version.

(Sources: http://harpers.org/media/pages/2001/12/pdf/0089.pdfhttp://www.pbs.org/pov/i/promises/harpersmap.pdf)

The reactions to Thomas's remarks are absurd. I find it amazing that criticism of Israel is so uncritically categorized as Anti-Semitic in our national discourse.  That tells us just how powerful Israel and her friends really are.

I invite anyone to explain to me why Thomas ought to have resigned for her comments.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Ivory Tower might do you some good.

To her credit, Lori Ziganto has come out against female genital mutilation or FGM. (That's like coming out against human slavery or premeditated murder, but still, good for her.) It is a barbaric practice and it is morally wrong. Why?

In her post, Ziganto cited this very informative Salon article by Lynn Harris. According to Harris,
FGM refers to a variety of traditional rite-of-passage practices, widespread in parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, that involve the nicking, cutting or removal of parts of female genitals for reasons both non-medical and mythical (e.g., to make a woman "clean" and "reduce" her libido). Health consequences include severe pain and bleeding, hemorrhaging, chronic infection, infertility, painful intercourse, post-traumatic stress, pregnancy complications possibly fatal to the baby, and death of the victim herself.
Obviously, FGM harms its victims and is on those grounds obviously morally wrong. And one obviously cannot morally justify the practice by claiming that it is an essential part of one's culture. One could just as easily argue that slavery in the American South was justified as an essential part of Southern culture.

And so that there is no confusion about this, let me make it absolutely clear that
  1. I am a liberal, 
  2. I am a feminist, 
  3. I am morally opposed to FGM, and 
  4. I reject metaethical moral relativism. Therefore, according to me, if a moral judgment (e.g., "FGM is morally wrong") is true, then it is absolutely and universally true.  
Ziganto is correct in saying that metaethical moral relativism might provide a philosophical justification of FGM. The idea is this. In some cultures, it is thought that FGM is morally justified. If metaethical moral relativism is true, then moral judgments are relative in the sense that they can be actually true (and not just believed to be true) in one society and actually false (and not just believed to be false) in another. Therefore, in some societies, FGM really is morally justified, in spite of the fact that we don't believe it to be morally justified around here. But the careful reader will note that the moral justification given for the nicking procedure in Harris's article isn't based on metaethical moral relativism at all, but rather on some form of consequentialism:
Female genital mutilation . . . has been a federal crime since 1996, but we know it happens here, with an estimated 228,000 American girls having undergone or being at risk of the procedure. If the doctor doesn't do it -- or do something -- someone else probably will, either here or in Somalia, as untold numbers of girls are also sent to their home countries for the procedure. (This, too, may soon become a federal crime).

So what if a U.S. doctor -- while refusing to perform any other or more invasive sort of genital cutting -- were authorized to offer one option: a tiny, symbolic, non-disfiguring pinprick or "nick" on a girl's clitoral hood, under sanitary conditions and local anesthesia? What if her parents, resolved to do some form of ritual cutting, accepted this offer as an alternative? What if the doctor -- though arguably perpetuating, in principle, a cruel and misogynist tradition -- would therefore save this girl from an almost incomparably worse fate, whether on U.S. soil or abroad: perhaps a brutally invasive excision with rough tools and nothing to numb the pain, plus the possibility of serious lifelong health complications -- or death?

Would that, then, be the right thing for this doctor to do?
As Ziganto reports, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently revised an earlier policy that unequivocally condemned FGM to permit nicking. (And, as Zigano reports, the AAP reversed itself in the ensuing uproar.)  Unfortunately, Ziganto misleadingly suggested that a relativist multiculturalism was responsible for the AAP's more permissive attitude toward FGM:
Last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics jumped right in as a contestant in the race to see who can be the most revolting, all in the name of multiculturalism and their misguided idea of tolerance. They released a policy update on Female Genital Mutilation, in which they first changed the term to Female Genital Cutting and, further, gave credence to the idea of allowing doctors to provide a “clitoral nick” instead.
Of course, liberals are ultimately to blame, for in Ziganto's mind, to be liberal is to be tolerant, and to be tolerant is to embrace multiculturalism, and to embrace multiculturalism is to embrace metaethical moral relativism. (I have a mental image of these words on Glenn Beck's blackboard connected to each other with arrows.) While this is likely true of some persons, I am confident that a vast majority of liberals are not metaethical moral relativists. And it is quite obvious that the reasoning (if you can call it that) that Ziganto attributes to supporters of the relaxed policy doesn't look anything like the reasoning Harris mentions. Consequentialists are not necessarily metaethical moral relativists. And that consequentialist reasoning is a hell of a lot more plausible than the straw man Ziganto rants about in her post. While I am staunchly against FGM, I also believe that our moral reasoning must be sensitive to empirical reality. Ziganto is quite vocal about her pro-life views; if nicking could actually save a person's life, wouldn't we have some reason to do it? Or do we care only about the lives the unborn, Ziganto? Arriving at the correct answer in this moral dilemma isn't quite as straightforward as Ziganto would lead us to believe. Ziganto insists that the issues are quite simple: "There is no tricky territory to negotiate. Some things are black and white. Some things are right or wrong. Some things are good or evil." While this is undoubtedly true, Ziganto's insistence that we dumb this dilemma down and tell the academics in the Ivory Tower to go fuck themselves is just the opposite of what's needed here.

What I find most disturbing is that, in citing Harris' article, Ziganto was probably aware of the consequentialist argument for clitoral nicking. But she failed to mention that argument in her post and mentioned only her multicultural straw man argument. This indicates either an irresponsible laziness or deceptiveness on her part. It's too bad that Ziganto, in her signature sloppy way, rails against the Ivory Tower when some time there would have done her writing and thinking some good. I suppose she'd rather write yet another hysterical screed about the "elitist left, enshrined in their ivory towers," who "choose to be apologists for evil behavior so that they can tout themselves as culturally enlightened and Better Than You." Responsibility-free blogger boilerplate pays the bills.

Stay Classy, South Carolina Republicans!


South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley

I am going to make a point about the uproar over Nikki Haley in South Carolina, and I am not aware that anyone else has made the same point.

First, some background. Nikki Haley is a Republican running for governor of South Carolina. According to her campaign internet site, she has been endorsed by Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, and Jenny Sanford, wife of disgraced current South Carolina Republican governor Mark Sanford. She claims also to have been endorsed by several Tea Party organizations. She will face off with three other Republicans in a primary next Tuesday.

The problem for Haley, who has been married for 13 years, is that she has been accused of having two extramarital affairs in the past three years. Lobbyist Larry Marchant claims to have indulged in a one-night stand with Haley in Utah in 2008. This revelation came shortly after Marchant resigned from the campaign of Republican Andre Bauer, who is also running for governor of South Carolina. Political blogger and former spokesman for Gov. Mark Sanford Will Folks claims that he had an affair with Haley in 2007.

Perhaps these allegations are, as Haley has put it, "disgusting politics." Neither Marchant nor Folks have offered any evidence that would support the allegations. Haley has even said that, if elected, she will resign if the allegations are proven true. Perhaps these allegations are made by Republicans who want to outmaneuver Tea Partiers and marginalize them. And South Carolina does have a reputation for dirty politics.  South Carolina gave us the the smears that ended John McCain's campaign for president in 2000. But I don't want to focus on the truth or falsity of these claims; I want to focus on something else.

Though I cannot confirm their affiliations, I think it likely that both Folks and Marchant are Republicans. Haley is obviously a Republican.  Either Haley or Folks and Marchant are lying. Therefore, no matter who is telling the truth, we have another situation in which a Republican is being deceptive for political purposes.

And it doesn't stop there. Republican South Carolina State Senator Jake Knotts just called Haley a "raghead," and said that having a raghead in the White House is enough.  Knotts claims that the comment was made "in jest," which is just the sort of thing a racist usually says when called out. According to Talking Points Memo,
The last we'd heard from Knotts was last September when he accused unnamed forces behind disgraced Governor Mark Sanford of spreading rumors that Knotts' favored candidate for governor, current Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, is gay.
I guess they don't take too kindly to homosexuals and Indians in the Palmetto State.

What is the moral of all of this? Even if Haley is innocent of adultery, the Republican Party in South Carolina seems to be a haven for low-lifes. That's the real story.

On a tangentially related note, Fox "News," the propaganda arm of the Republican Party, has been accused of treating Kellie Pickler "like a prostitute." On Fox and Friends, host Brian Kilmeade asked Pickler, "Will you do me a favor, and offer your services to Chris Wallace? . . . Excuse me—offer yourself to Chris Wallace?" (Follow the link to find out what Wallace seems to think about women in general.) In spite of all the family values talk from Republicans, they make fine sleaze merchants, don't they?

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Fox & Friends' Lingerie Football Romp
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

(This is where Lori Ziganto accuses me of being anti-women.)

(Note: the title of this post was inspired by the title of this Talking Points Memo post.)

Update. Jake Knotts has tried to clarify his remarks about Nikki Haley.  He didn't mean to call her "a raghead."  He actually meant to call her "a fucking raghead."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lori Ziganto's semantic games

Recently, Lori Ziganto has recently attempted to redefine the term "feminism." Ziganto most recently writes,
I was taking the term feminist back, not because it’s a necessary or even a desirable term, but so that the LEFT can no longer use it and can no longer continue to use identity politics as a wedge and a way to put people in race based and gender based boxes.
Regarding the meaning of that term, Ziganto writes,
Sarah Palin and the women of the GOP are “true feminists,” in the original intent of the word, yes. And the fact that the faux feminists on the Left are so up in arms about them using the term, which they have bastardized beyond recognition, attests to that fact.
I wonder if any of her readers have wondered what Ziganto means by "feminism"? What is "the original intent" of that word? If "faux feminists" have "bastardized" that term "beyond recognition," then surely Ziganto knows what its original meaning was. And though I do not have encyclopedic knowledge of Ziganto's collected prose, I have read many of her feminism-related posts, and I do not recall her ever defining the term for us.  So, what was the original intent of the word?  I have a feeling that Ziganto will never answer that question for us, for either she actually doesn't know and only claims to, or she believes she knows but will learn that she is actually mistaken.

But certain passages in Ziganto's latest post about feminism are suggestive of what meaning she has in mind. Ziganto writes:
My point was that conservative women are strong, capable and are fed up at having faux feminists (who are actually Femisogynists) constantly claim that they speak for us as they strive to turn all women into perpetual victims, at the mercy of big strong daddy government. We are also tired of motherhood being diminished and considered a detriment instead of an attribute.
Ziganto also writes:
We don’t rely on a victim mentality; we rely on ourselves and the love of our families. We don’t invent sexism with insane claims that marriage itself is sexist. We have no problem taking our husbands’ names, as we aren’t cuckoo pants and thus, realize that marriage isn’t some nefarious plot, but rather a loving bond. We want to share our name with our children, whom we don’t consider punishments.
Ziganto also criticizes "faux feminists" for embracing metaethical moral relativism and with it a tolerant attitude toward the oppression and abuse of women in certain Islamic countries.

So who is the enemy, according to Ziganto?  Her post suggests that the enemy
  1. Accepts metaethical moral relativism, 
  2. Strives to turn all women into perpetual victims, 
  3. Relies on a victim mentality rather than themselves and the love of family, 
  4. Supports leaving women at the mercy of big strong daddy government, 
  5. Believes that marriage itself is sexist, 
  6. Is opposed to women taking their husband's names, 
  7. Fails to realize that marriage is a loving bond, 
  8. Considers children to be punishments, and 
  9. Diminishes motherhood.  
    (The "real" feminists, then, are just the opposite.)  Now, we ought to ask at least two questions: first, does anyone satsifying Ziganto's description actually exist? and second, if so, are they representative of feminists?  To the first question, it is probably safe to answer in the affirmative.  There are around seven billion people on the planet, so surely someone satisfies this description.  To the second question, however, it is safe to answer in the negative.

    Unlike Ziganto, I have offered a definition of feminism.  According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,
    Classical liberalism or libertarianism . . . holds that women and men are self-owners capable of acquiring property rights over things. As such women and men, equally, have the right to freedom from coercive interference with their person and property. This right to freedom from coercive interference consists in, at least, rights to freedom of conscience and expression, freedom to control what happens to one's body, freedom of association, freedom to acquire, control and transfer property, freedom of contract, as well as the right to compensation when rights are violated. The state's role is, exclusively, to protect citizens from coercive interference by protecting their rights. Some reject even a limited state, however, holding that nongovernmental means of protecting rights are to be preferred.
    The classical liberal or libertarian feminist simply holds that classical liberalism is true.  Now, the careful reader will note that this feminist view entails virtually nothing on Ziganto's ridiculous list.  As a feminist myself, the only item on Ziganto's list I might endorse is (6).  But think about it: why must a woman take her husband's name?  Why shouldn't the man take his wife's name?  The practice is obviously completely arbitrary and therefore without merit and indefensible.

    As a feminist who rejects metaethical moral relativism, I am opposed to any effort anywhere in the world to oppress and abuse women.  I do not favor making women into perpetual victims; I do favor uncovering the ways in which society makes women into victims so that it can be addressed by the law.  Leaving women at the mercy of government is not the same as believing that government ought to protect the equal rights of all citizens, including women.  I don't believe that marriage is sexist, but I believe that many marriages are.  The right to freedom to control what happens to one's body also guarantees a woman's right to be a mother if she autonomously chooses.  Ziganto's inclusion on the list of the idea that children are punishments is based on her willful misunderstanding of a statement made by President Obama and is therefore a piece of partisan political bullshit that I shall not address.  And finally, to actually suggest that feminists fail to recognize the value of the loving bonds with family members and spouses is absurd.

    By suggesting that the list is representative of feminism, Ziganto has already redefined the term.  Her argument against feminism is in fact a semantic game.  By changing the meaning of "feminism" so that it refers exclusively to radical forms of feminism which may not have any actual adherents, she is committing the straw man fallacy. Think about it: which form of feminism is more likely to have more adherents, a moderate form, or a radical form?  And by trying to take the term back, as she puts it, Ziganto is doing the very thing she abhors, i.e., using identity politics as a wedge.

    This isn't the only semantic game Ziganto has been playing lately.  Ziganto recently published this adolescent attack on Meghan McCain.  Now, McCain and I aren't exactly playing on the same team, but I have a hell of a lot more respect for McCain than I do Ziganto because McCain is usually more nuanced in her thinking. Regarding Rand Paul's primary win in Tennessee, McCain writes:
    Paul’s nomination could have been a moment of triumph for the Tea Party movement, as well as for Republicans, but instead it was an embarrassment. And I felt the disappointment firsthand, given that I agree with and support numerous things the Tea Party represents. Like many Americans, I’m angered by the intense spending going on under the Obama administration. But when the movement was given the opportunity to present specific solutions and answer real questions, its leaders nominated someone who—yet again—revealed weird, racist undertones, no matter how he wants to spin it. 
    I respect Paul’s ideological commitment to libertarianism, of which it’s quite obvious he’s a die-hard supporter, even if there are reasons there’s no real libertarian senator. And I, too, believe that the government should stay out of people’s lives as much as possible. Yet Paul seems to be taking these beliefs to an extreme, one that’s making even fellow Republicans uneasy.
    Why Does Paul give McCain the willies?  Immediately after his primary victory, Paul did an interview with Rachel Maddow in which he seemed to indicate that the government has no right to prohibit private discrimination on the basis of race.  This put him at odds with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which is rather extraordinary.

    McCain goes on to indicate which team she's on:
    Paul’s role within the Republican Party (if any) has yet to be determined. But one thing I am sure of is that, until we start nominating candidates who have more realistic views of the complex world we live in and stop seeing things strictly in black and white (no pun intended), we are going to continue losing elections and becoming punch lines for late-night talk-show hosts.
    So, plainly, McCain is urging the Republican Party to moderate its stances for its own good.  That seems like excellent advice to me.

    How did Ziganto take this advice? Well, she said the following, among other things:
    As always, Meghan McCain is concerned only with Meghan McCain. And being thought of as “cool” and “hip” and “edgy” so that the right people, in her mind, will like her. She has yet to learn that they only pretend to like her as long as they can use her to bash Republicans. She obviously doesn’t realize yet that is the only reason she is paid – such a depressing thought – for her alleged writing.

    She also has yet to learn that the “I’m so brave, I speak my own mind” line doesn’t work when one always takes the easy route and never, ever says anything actually brave. You see, Meghan, you can’t claim to be an individual nor a rebel. You have proven yourself to be a sheep — in cute shoes, yes, but a sheep nonetheless.
    That's right, Ziganto went straight for the ad hominem fallacy dangling in front of her mind like a carrot. Even if McCain's motivation for writing is the desire to be thought of as cool, hip, and edgy, her analysis may be perfectly sound.  But there's something more interesting going on here. McCain probably doesn't give a flying fuck what Ziganto has to say about her.  But surely McCain's attempt to combat the radicalization of the Republican Party has its significant detractors.  David Frum was made to pay for his opposition to the epistemic closure of the Republican Party.  Some would plausibly say that Frum's willingness to call out Republicans took courage.  Well, then, how could Ziganto characterize McCain's willingness to challenge the radical elements of the Republican Party as anything other than courageous? How can that be the "easy route" for McCain? Her father was the Republican Party's nominee for President in 2008, for fuck's sake, and only after shedding his maverick reputation to become one of the most conservative members of the Republican Party.  For Ziganto, the brave thing to do would be to simply go along with the people in charge of the Republican Party right now—the people who led the party to their Waterloo over health care reform, the epistemically closed Party of No that panders to Tea Partiers who would take the party even further to the right.  That would be brave, if by "brave," we meant "cowardly."

    People like me use people like Frum and McCain to bash Republicans like Ziganto and Paul, i.e., right-wing extremists. And we should. Such work is noble, for it hastens the day when rational, mature, principled conservatives will take their party back.

    (By the way, what does Ziganto mean when she refers to McCain's "alleged" writing?  Does she mean to say that McCain's writing isn't actually writing?  Is she serious?)  

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