Sunday, January 30, 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011

This Is How It's Done

What follows is an exchange I had last year with haystack at hickpolitics. The subject was haystack's post, "How Much Would *You* Pay, Per Dead Baby, To Get Healthcare Passed?"

Haystack and I had to agree to disagree, but notice that we had an actual discussion from which I think we both benefited and we made a genuine attempt to try to understand each other. I don't agree with haystack at all, and I still think that he sounds a bit paranoid in this exchange, but I do respect him, which is a hell of a lot more than I can say for a lot of right wing blogger types out there, who just seem determined to be complete assholes.

Φ on March 24, 2010 at 1:56 pm
Your arithmetic checks out. The problem is that the health care bill does not use Federal tax dollars for abortion.

As Timothy Noah explains (, any plan available through the health exchange set up by the bill cannot use Federal tax dollars to fund abortions.

The exchanges may have insurance plans available that cover abortion, if the state where the exchange is located allows it. But money used to pay for those abortions must be collected from policyholders and kept separate from any Federal funds.

If you don’t want to contribute to funding abortions, you simply choose an insurance plan in the exchange that does not cover abortion. As Noah points out, “Under the Senate bill, every insurance exchange must offer at least one abortion-free health plan.”

It wouldn’t surprise me if Stupak wanted something in exchange for his “Yea” votes. But he’s not sacrificing the unborn to get it.
haystack on March 24, 2010 at 2:03 pm
We disagree. Tax increases charged to all of us will go into the general coffers. Where Fed money is used to offset coverage for folks that don’t have enough (including abortion), we will collectively be paying…ostensibly through having allowed this bill to become law.

Whatever plans we may opt in to or not…the tax money will get redistributed wherever the heck the Fed wants to redistribute it. It’s not as simple as just “opting out” my friend.
Φ on March 24, 2010 at 2:24 pm
All right, fair enough. But perhaps I am missing something. If I understand you correctly, you’re saying that Federal money will subsidize the purchase of insurance plans that cover abortion. But that’s not the same as subsidizing abortions. As I understand the law, all the money used to cover abortion will be segregated from Federal dollars. Money used to fund abortions must come from the policyholders themselves, not the Federal government.

Now, you seem to believe that the law will be violated and that “the tax money will get redistributed wherever the heck the Fed wants to redistribute it.” Well, why should I believe that? Do we have reason to think that that will happen, especially given the long-established ban on Federal funding of abortion, and the seriousness with which Americans approach this issue? I’m afraid I’m not buying it.
haystack on March 24, 2010 at 7:12 pm
Not sure how you can say this:

“Federal money will subsidize the purchase of insurance plans that cover abortion. But that’s not the same as subsidizing abortions”

Of course is’s the same thing. And separation of dollars? You have much more faith than I about restraint and fiscal management from the Feds. As I said, where policyholders need assistance from the Fed to PAY for their policies, fed dollars-indirectly or not-will be going to pay for those abortions. MY money and yours and everyone else’s will make up those funds for the folks that need our help. I don’t have time to research the numbers for you, but the most likely people to actually HAVE an abortion are the very same folks in the demographic that will be unable to pay for their policies without Federal help-poor are much higher abortion buyers than rich…I think you are aware of that.

I enjoy this exchange…it has made me take a little time and look a few things up in greater detail. I thank you for keeping me honest.

I think one thing we CAN agree on here is that there is something amiss about whether, where, and to what extent the Fed is getting involved in abortion in this context…if that weren’t true, the Stupak amendment would have been put in place, kept in place, and none of this discussion would have been necessary. Here’s the pointer to the text of the Stupak amendment:

If everything you say is true, this amendment should NEVER have been pulled…after all, as you say here:

“Do we have reason to think that that will happen, especially given the long-established ban on Federal funding of abortion, and the seriousness with which Americans approach this issue?”

Given what we know now about Stupak…I absolutely DO believe Fed. funding of abortion (directly or indirectly) is buried in this mess somewhere. The Executive order, which is not legally binding OR superior to the legislation passed through Congress, will do nothing to prevent it either.
kx59 on March 24, 2010 at 7:06 pm
“If I understand you correctly, you’re saying that Federal money will subsidize the purchase of insurance plans that cover abortion. But that’s not the same as subsidizing abortions.”

Really? ‘splain to me how that’s not the same. Does the money somehow become sanitized?
Φ on March 25, 2010 at 10:20 am
As I understand it, policyholders who have insurance plans that cover abortion will all pay $1 per month out of their own pocket to the private insurance company. The company will pool all of this money, and all money that is used to reimburse abortion providers for abortions will be drawn from this pool. It is thought that even the poorest among us can afford $12 per year. That’s how you can subsidize insurance plans that cover abortion without subsidizing abortion.

I also appreciate this exchange, because now you’ve got me thinking. Under this new law, there would be no direct Federal funding of abortion. You haven’t convinced me otherwise. But would taxpayers be funding them indirectly, as you suggest? After all, a person without insurance might not get an abortion. But if taxpayers subsidize their premiums, they might. So, while taxpayers wouldn’t be paying for abortions, they would be making them indirectly possible through the subsidy.

On the other hand, there is reason to believe that making insurance affordable might actually reduce the number of abortions, since pregnant women wouldn’t need to worry about being able to afford medical care for their future child. (See

This is a complex issue.

I worry about your argument that the bill will use taxpayer funds to pay for abortion, regardless of what it says. Suppose that the Senate had attached a Stupak amendment to it (which they couldn’t since the reconciliation process wouldn’t allow it, but just suppose). Why would that give us any more reason to think that taxpayers wouldn’t be paying for abortions? Both the Senate bill’s language and the Stupak language ban federal funding of abortion. If the bill as it is wouldn’t reassure us, why would the Stupak Amendment? You do say that Federal funding of abortion is buried in there somewhere, so Stupak’s language would be reassuring. But I can’t believe that it’s buried in there until someone shows me the language. The Senate bill has been around since December, so you’d think that someone would have found it by now.

I think that the Senate bill language was the result of politics. They needed to get pro-choice senators on board to pass this thing, and they just couldn’t stomach any Stupaking. but the pro-life Dems couldn’t stomach Federal funding of abortion. So they made a truce and reached a compromise. As it is, the ban on Federal funding of abortion, the Hyde Amendment, is not permanent. It has to be renewed annually. If it is not, then the Senate bill would allow the Federal funding of abortion. By deferring to the Hyde Amendment, they said that they would not fight over abortion in the health care bill. The legality of Federal funding of abortion would be determined by the fate of the Hyde Amendment, not health care reform. I admit that I am speculating a bit here; I don’t have a source. But that’s my guess.
haystack on March 25, 2010 at 4:48 pm
Sheesh-I replied a little while ago and now it’s gone!

I have had the opportunity to finally visit your website, and given what I’ve read there I happily extend a hand of “we disagree, fundamentally, but we can have civil discourse all the same” friendship…it’s nice to see ideological differences aired constructively and without all the shouting and sophmoric namecalling-I respect you for that.

Now, to your latest comment:

You may be right about the Senate bill…I haven’t finished reading it, having given up until the final final final version is released after tonight’s house vote (there are at least 12 iterations out there on Thomas). Until then I will give you a “maybe you are right” but no more…and this is because as the Senate bill was originally debated, pro-choicers were the ones appeased…THEY were against Stupak, and their wishes were granted in the Senate version. There is no ambiguity here on that point. Senate version was pro-choice in its funding schemes, contribution framework, and subsidization infrastructure. Stupak was summarily dismissed in the Senate version sent back to, and forced down the throats of, the House. Granted, that does not automatically mean fed funding is in there…but Stupak was summarily defeated in the Senate version…we just don’t know what the final text was/is.

And, admittedly, this is my recollection of the news stories of the day-I have not gone back to the December headlines to find links to back this up. Either way, though, we both agree the Fed should NOT pay (directly or indirectly) for abortion. At the very least, those of us who are against the practice should not be compelled by Federal law to subsidize it for someone else against our will…I think we agree on this point.

So, I grant that you might be right (until I can read the bill in its entirety) that the Senate would not use Fed. funds for policyholders purchasing an abortion needing to be subsidized by our tax dollars…your own last para, though, should give you as much pause as it does me-if you are even the least bit suspicious, cynical, and doubtful of the Federal Government’s overall intentions:

As it is, the ban on Federal funding of abortion, the Hyde Amendment, is not permanent. It has to be renewed annually. If it is not, then the Senate bill would allow the Federal funding of abortion. By deferring to the Hyde Amendment, they said that they would not fight over abortion in the health care bill. The legality of Federal funding of abortion would be determined by the fate of the Hyde Amendment, not health care reform.

I do not have enough trust in our Political heroes (from either side of the aisle) that, with all these 2000 plus page bills that none of them ever fully read, sooner or later (if not already as we have been discussing) this Hyde thing won’t just disappear and we find ourselves doing the very thing we should not be MADE to do by law.

Don’t forget-GWB, by EO, guaranteed no federal funding of expanded stem cell lines…and EO overturned it almost as soon as he was sworn in.

No trust, my friend…NO trust.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Why Do I Even Bother?

What follows is an exchange I had with ant, one of Lori Ziganto's disciples, at Ziganto's blog. Our comments can be found at the end of "Kermit Gosnell and Roe v. Wade: Something Evil This Way Came." Ant was responding to another intelligent comment written by Molten. And no, Molten and I are not the same person.

I am not proud of how I ended this exchange, but the careful reader will conclude, as I did, that ant is either an idiot or a dick. Since I am charitable, I prefer to think that ant is a dick. An unusually annoying one.

ant January 26, 2011 10:51 pm
Figured you would catch on to sarcasm. You didn’t. According to the femiogynists it is consequence free sex because abortion is not, in their policy, a consequence, merely a hassle, like blowing your nose or having a wart removed.
Nameless January 28, 2011 1:48 am
If completing a pregnancy is “merely a hassle,” then why do some women choose to abort and (allegedly) risk post-abortion syndrome?
ant January 28, 2011 6:32 am
????? Again,work on the reading comprehension skills.
Nameless January 28, 2011 11:42 am
I will charitably interpret your refusal to answer the question as an indication that you are thoughtfully considering it.
ant January 28, 2011 5:45 pm
I said nowhere that pregnancy is merely a hassle. I’m saying pro-choice feminists consider abortion nothing more than an out-patient procedure to remove a parasite, just a hassle, as far as they’re concerned, with no negative consequences.
Nameless January 28, 2011 7:27 pm
I have no idea why you would think that I’m attributing a pro-choice view to you. But I’m willing to try this again, and hopefully you won’t be able to misinterpret me this time.

If women who have abortions consider completing a pregnancy to be “merely a hassle,” then why do they choose to abort and (allegedly) risk post-abortion syndrome, which would presumably be more than a hassle?

If your answer is, “They don’t don’t believe that post-abortion syndrome exists,” then you are conveniently underestimating the reach and effectiveness of the pro-life propaganda machine.
ant January 28, 2011 8:22 pm
I’m still looking for the part where I called “completing a pregnancy” a hassle. BTW, that’s a good joke about the reach and effectiveness of the pro-life propaganda machine. I guess that explains why so many networks ran that March For Life story. Oh, wait a minute…they didn’t.
BTW, people can “complete” a book report, a pregnancy will complete itself without any effort from another, excepting medical procedures.
Nameless January 29, 2011 12:59 am
“I’m still looking for the part where I called ‘completing a pregnancy’ a hassle.”

Are you a woman who has had an abortion?

You’re not interested in a discussion. You’re just an asshole. I apologize for wasting your time.

For Your Further Enlightenment IX

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lori Ziganto's Pro-Choice Argument

According to a study that was just released, "Having an abortion does not increase the risk of mental health problems, but having a baby does," writes the Associated Press.

According to NPR,
Robert Blum, an expert on reproductive health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, did not work on the study, but he has worked in the field for decades.
"This is an extremely, extremely well done study," he said. "There is no evidence that abortion predisposes a woman to psychiatric and mental health problems." 
"There is no post-abortion trauma, post-abortion syndrome, or anything of the like," he said.
NPR reports in the same story that "[a]s many as 25 percent of new mothers experience post-partum depression."

Lori Ziganto has argued again and again that the alleged existence of post-abortion syndrome makes abortion morally problematic. For example, Ziganto writes:
While feminists sneer at the idea of post-abortion syndrome, it does exist. And if they actually cared about women, they’d admit that fact and would stop encouraging women to have abortions without disclosing the trauma that can occur to the woman.
It’s clear that they don’t care about the dead babies, but they also need to stop insisting that they are For Women ™ , when they most obviously are not. You see, feminists, an unborn baby is not just a clump of cells. Many women who abort their babies, therefore, suffer intense pain and immense guilt. Their entire lives. 
Clearly, Ziganto believes that abortion is wrong, and one reason why it is wrong is the damage it allegedly does to women. Therefore, Ziganto can be interpreted as supporting the following argument:
  1. It is prima facie wrong to do anything that puts the mental health of women at significant risk. 
  2. Abortion puts the mental health of women at significant risk. 
  3. Therefore, abortion is wrong. 
Now I think we are all justified in saying that (2) is very probably false. So much for that argument. But there is another argument that Ziganto would endorse, I'm sure, since she cares so much about the welfare of women and thus asserts (1):
  1. It is prima facie wrong to do anything that puts the mental health of women at significant risk. 
  2. Childbirth puts the mental health of women at significant risk (by putting them at risk of post-partum depression). 
  3. Therefore, completing a pregnancy is morally wrong. 
Nice work, Ziganto. Are you and Marcotte bff's now?

Update: Surely Lori Ziganto's concern for mental health extends to men. So think about your significant others, ladies:
In a 2006 study, James Paulson, a psychologist at Eastern Virginia Medical School, assessed the parents of 5,089 infants and found that 14 percent of the mothers had signs of moderate to severe depression. And so did 10 percent of the fathers. Compare that with the 3 percent to 5 percent of men in the general population who are depressed (as well as the 8 percent or 9 percent of women). 
Abort for the men in your life, won't you? (You want to be careful. That there's dripping with sarcasm, and you wouldn't want to get any of that on you.)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Man-On-Dog Expert Weighs In

Man-on-dog expert Rick Santorum has weighed in on the issue of abortion.

In an interview with's Terry Jeffrey, Santorum scolded President Obama for his remarks about abortion during Rick Warren's Saddleback Presidential Candidates Forum in 2008. Yahoo's Holly Bailey writes:
"The question is -- and this is what Barack Obama didn't want to answer: Is that human life a person under the Constitution? And Barack Obama says no," Santorum says in the interview, which was first picked up by CBN's David Brody. "Well if that person, human life is not a person, then, I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say, 'We are going to decide who are people and who are not people.'"

Santorum was referring to Obama's comments at a 2008 forum with Pastor Rick Warren in which he said the question of whether a baby should have human rights was "above my pay grade." Obama later said his remark was too flip, but "I don't presume to be able to answer these kinds of theological questions."

Santorum took Obama to task for his position.

"Just about everything else in the world he's willing to do -- have the government do -- but he can't answer that basic question which is not a debatable issue at all," Santorum told Jeffrey. "I don't think you'll find a biologist in the world who will say that is not a human life."
According to The Atlantic's Garance Franke-Ruta (and others), Santorum's comment is "consistent with the internal narratives of the contemporary abortion rights opposition movement":
Opponents of abortion in recent years have compared the status of fertilized eggs, even pre-implantation, to that of pre-Civil War slaves who were not considered fully human. For example, materials from the Illinois Right to Life Committee argue that "The court decisions on slavery vs abortion demonstrate an equivalent denial of personhood for two different categories of human beings, slaves and unborn children."
That's why a black man is supposed to share Santorum's view of abortion, I suppose. (Since Obama's mother was white, does that mean that Obama should be only 50% pro-life? Just curious.)

Let's take a closer look at Santorum's comments. In the first paragraph I quoted from Bailey's story, Santorum claims to be surprised that a black man would deny that a human fetus is a person under the Constitution. But in the fourth paragraph, he expresses surprise that Obama doesn't agree that a human fetus is a human life. Every biologist would agree, after all, so it's not even debatable. But the following statements are not synonymous:
  1. The human fetus is not a human life
  2. The human fetus is not a person under the Constitution
I agree with Santorum on one thing: (1) is obviously false. But is (2) obviously false? If it were, then why do so many intelligent people assert it? They're not all morons, are they? What about unborn human entities conceived in, say, Peru by Peruvian parents?

I'm not a Constitutional law scholar like Barack Obama, so I have no real expertise in this area. But I know enough to know that asserting (2) is not stupid. And I do know what is stupid: thinking that (1) and (2) amount to the very same thing. They don't, and that is "not even debatable." Now, I'm not ready to say that Santorum is stupid. He may have simply realized that the shift from (2) to (1) would help him politically. He attributes (2) to Obama, but then shifts to attributing (1) to Obama. While Santorum may not be a moron, he may be a bit of a prick. That's right: another good Christian prick. Does Christianity really allow twisting the truth and being unfair to one's opponent when it's politically expedient to do so? Just wondering.

Those who wish to draw an analogy between human fetuses and American slaves claim that human fetuses are legally and perhaps morally on a par with adult human beings. If Santorum intended to say that this claim isn't debatable, then he is almost certainly wrong. Judging from their responses to the candidate's responses to the same question, the folks at the Saddleback Forum would probably agree with Santorum. Many folks want a simple, unequivocal response to the question whether the human fetus has moral or legal rights. That is exactly the answer John McCain gave them: the unborn human entity has rights at the moment of conception. But as William Saletan points out, if we actually seriously believed this, the thought of women of child-bearing age using birth control, nursing their young, drinking coffee, and even exercising would horrify us. That's the consequence of having a simple approach to a complicated problem.

Even if we agree with McCain and (presumably) Santorum, the inference to the truth of the extreme pro-life position is hardly automatic. For what those who embrace the extreme pro-life position either forget or simply neglect to point out is that a living, breathing person usually carries the human fetus, and that woman is a human life and also most certainly a person under the Constitution (assuming that she is an American citizen, of course). Is the pro-life position "not even debatable" when this truth is acknowledged?

I grant that the right to life is fundamental, and I can even grant that the fetus has such a right at the moment of conception. But the woman carrying that fetus also has a full set of rights, and the right to bodily integrity is perhaps just as fundamental as the right to life. If we don't even own our own bodies, then we are nothing. Any attempt to make women the legal or moral equivalent of livestock must be regarded with skepticism.

In this conflict between the rights of the fetus and the rights of the human being that carries it, what reason do we have to think that the fetus always wins? I am willing to bet that Rick Santorum is not able to provide a satisfactory answer to this question. Like it or not, the fetus and is neither morally nor legally nor factually equivalent to an adult human being, and we should stop trying to pretend that it is.

However strong the woman's rights are, neither she nor anyone else has a right to kill her child once it is born, and therefore no one has the right to abort a viable fetus. That much seems perfectly clear, to me at least. Those who claim that pro-choicers have no moral qualms about the abattoir in Philadelphia are as guilty of oversimplifying the position of their opponents as Santorum is of his.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

For Your Further Enlightenment VII

Mitch McConnell Wants Ideas

From NPR, "McConnell Says He'll Be A Force In Senate," an interview with Melissa Block:
BLOCK: You've got another vote there pending in Congress before March on whether to raise the debt ceiling, and I know Congress heard this week from the Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, warning about catastrophic consequences if that limit is not raised.
You have said that you see this as an opportunity to get the fiscal house in order. I wonder how you would do that and what it would take for you to be a yes vote on raising the debt limit.
Sen. McCONNELL: Well, it is an opportunity. I mean, we all know that the country is drowning in a sea of debt, and nothing underscores that like the decision to raise the debt limit. So it's an opportunity for us to work together and see if we can make some significant progress on spending and debt. So I think both parties ought to welcome that opportunity.
BLOCK: Would you be willing to risk, say, a government shutdown if there is no consensus?
Sen. McCONNELL: Well, we're not talking about that. What we're talking about is taking advantage of this opportunity to do something important to reduce spending and debt, and what better time to do it than when you're voting on raising the debt ceiling?
BLOCK: And what would your ideas be on ways to get there?
Sen. McCONNELL: Well, we'll be happy to discuss that with you at the appropriate time. But what is a better time to talk about addressing spending and debt when you're called upon to vote to raise the nation's debt ceiling? I think it's the perfect opportunity for both sides to come together and do something significant. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Two Passages from the Alternate Universe of Lori Ziganto

News conference by President Obama, Strasbourg, France (emphases mine): 
Q: Thank you, Mr. President. In the context of all the multilateral activity that's been going on this week -- the G20, here at NATO -- and your evident enthusiasm for multilateral frameworks, to work through multilateral frameworks, could I ask you whether you subscribe, as many of your predecessors have, to the school of American exceptionalism that sees America as uniquely qualified to lead the world, or do you have a slightly different philosophy? And if so, would you be able to elaborate on it?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. I'm enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world. If you think about the site of this summit and what it means, I don't think America should be embarrassed to see evidence of the sacrifices of our troops, the enormous amount of resources that were put into Europe postwar, and our leadership in crafting an Alliance that ultimately led to the unification of Europe. We should take great pride in that.

And if you think of our current situation, the United States remains the largest economy in the world. We have unmatched military capability. And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional.

Now, the fact that I am very proud of my country and I think that we've got a whole lot to offer the world does not lessen my interest in recognizing the value and wonderful qualities of other countries, or recognizing that we're not always going to be right, or that other people may have good ideas, or that in order for us to work collectively, all parties have to compromise and that includes us.

And so I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity and recognizing that that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we create partnerships because we can't solve these problems alone.
Lori Ziganto, "Obama Administration and Democrats Kowtow to Other Countries While Scorning Those Who Have Died For Ours":
Since attaining power, everything [Democrats have] 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. We don’t need no stinkin’ Exceptionalism! Only, we do. And we are. 
Lori Ziganto, "Obama and His Administration Lament America’s Superpower Status":
Obama does not believe in American Exceptionalism and he is actively pursuing its decline. 
More on the big lie

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Steven Wilson, "No Twilight within the Courts of the Sun"

This track from Wilson's solo album Insurgentes reminds me of Red-era King Crimson. 

Stolen Thunder

Yes, it is time to realize we are in the wrong paradigm and we must end the cycle of hate, blame and war. If I haven't lost you already, here's where I lose most of the rest, if not all: The time has come to choose love. Not on a grand scale, but on an effective one—YOU. The family is the building block of the country. Our families are falling apart, therefore our country is falling apart. Take the family back, you'll take the country back. Take your family back with love. It starts with you.

lesli_hannah, 9 January 2011

We may ask ourselves if we've shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives. Perhaps we question whether we're doing right by our children, or our community, whether our priorities are in order. We recognize our own mortality. And we are reminded that, in the fleeting time we have on this Earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame, but rather how well we have loved and what small part we have played in making the lives of other people better.

—President Barack Obama, 12 January 2011

This Little Gambit

Erick Erickson's comments on President Obama's remarks in Tucson are about as confused as Sarah Palin's statement released on Wednesday.

As I and others (as it turns out) have argued, Palin appears to claim that those on the right couldn't be responsible for inciting acts of violence with their words, and yet those on the left could be. I don't know how this could have gotten past Palin's internal censor. Is she really so intellectually stunted that she was unaware of this apparent tension? Or does she simply not care about things like consistency? Or has she noticed something about leftist rhetoric that makes it intrinsically more incendiary than conservative rhetoric (he asked sarcastically)?

Erickson has a similar difficulty. In his post, "The President's Speech and Killing Sarah Palin," Erickson writes:
Mr. Obama gave a stunning rebuke to his own base who’ve engaged in a horrific blame game all week. . . .

Contrast that with what his supporters have been up to all week. It is disgusting. . . .

Yesterday, Governor Sarah Palin delivered a video address on the mess in Arizona. For a week, the left has blamed Palin, not Loughner, for the shooting. Then they attacked her for not responding. Then they attacked her for her response and using the phrase “blood libel,” a perfectly legitimately use of it given what she and the right have been subjected to this week.

But the left pounced.

All week long, the left has said Jared Loughner was persuaded to try to kill Congresswoman Giffords because of right-wing hate. We know that was not true. But here is what else I am sure of.

Out there somewhere is someone who would love to kill Governor Palin. God forbid they do it. But you and I both know there is some crazy MSNBC watcher and Media Matters reader who even now is dreaming of doing so.
Notice that Erickson suggests that there is no connection between right-wing rhetoric and acts of violence. He says that attempts to hold people like Palin responsible for acts of violence is "disgusting."

But he also suggests that there is a connection between left-wing rhetoric and acts of violence. He suggests that someone who watches MSNBC and reads Media Matters is plotting to kill Palin.

Look, I'm a pretty smart guy, but I'm not a genius. But you don't have to be a genius to see that there is something wrong with the ultra-defensive posture Palin and Erickson have adopted in the wake of the Tucson shootings. "They do it too," they say. "Those lefties produce incendiary rhetoric just like we are accused of doing." But for some reason, only the leftist rhetoric is capable of inciting violence. Why is that?

Hey Erick, your readers may be complete morons, but I am not. This little gambit of yours isn't working for me, and I see if for what it is: a line of complete bullshit.

I watch MSNBC sometimes, and I read Media Matters. Nothing I have ever seen or read on those two media outlets approaches what I've seen on Fox "News" or read on RedState or heard on Limbaugh or Savage. It ain't even close. (Although I must say that Keith Olbermann's characterization of Michelle Malkin is just about the most disgusting, cringe-worthy thing I've ever heard. And I really dislike Malkin's blog, believe me.) And I should point out that I have no interest whatsoever in harming Sarah Palin. I just wish that she'd go away, and I have faith that Americans will eventually lose interest in her Rove-inspired divisive approach to politics.

By the way, Lori Ziganto has dropped a posty on the topic of Palin's video statement. And I know that this will be shocking to you (he said sarcastically), but her review of Palin's statement is quite positive! The post is entitled, "Thoughtful, On-Target Palin Responds To Attacks; Left Loses Last Grip On Reality." I tried reading the entire post, but reading a Ziganto posty is painful for me and I simply didn't have it in me this time. And after publishing two dozen or so careful critiques of Ziganto's posties, I find myself bored with reading yet another Ziganto posty that reads like all the others. Maybe I'm the first person in the blogosphere ever to sincerely say, "Bored now."

Lori, would you please write something interesting for me to read?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

You all can go screw yourselves.

Roughly a year ago, Glenn Beck complained about what he considered to be profligate spending of tax dollars by politicians, and he asked, "When do we ever run those who are bankrupting our country and literally stealing our children's future out of town? Grab a torch."

In March of 2009, Erick Erickson discussed a ban in Washington state on a certain kind of dishwasher detergent in a post entitled, "At What Point Do People Revolt?" Erickson wrote,
At what point do the people tell the politicians to go to hell? At what point do they get off the couch, march down to their state legislator’s house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp for being an idiot? . . . Were I in Washington State, I’d be cleaning my gun right about now waiting to protect my property from the coming riots or the government apparatchiks coming to enforce nonsensical legislation.
We don't know why Jared Loughner killed six people and injured 13 others in Tuscon last Saturday. But isn't it at least possible that the aforementioned kind of rhetoric could have incited his shooting spree?

According to the Christian Science Monitor, the answer is yes:
Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, who’s honed being provocative – even outrageous at times – to a fine and lucrative art, is the focus of criticism for inciting violence.

Specifically, his dozens of comments attacking the Tides Foundation are being linked to the attempt by a heavily-armed man to assassinate employees at the San Francisco-based foundation, which funds environmental, human rights, and other progressive projects. The attack in July was thwarted in a shoot-out with police in which two officers were wounded.

Since then, alleged attacker Byron Williams has said in jailhouse interviews that he wanted to “start a revolution.” He says Beck was not the direct cause of his turning violent. But he does say: “I would have never started watching Fox News if it wasn't for the fact that Beck was on there. And it was the things that he did, it was the things he exposed that blew my mind.”

At various times, Beck has referred to Tides as “bullies” and “thugs” whose mission is to “warp your children's brains and make sure they know how evil capitalism is.” More recently, Beck (who describes himself as a “progressive hunter”) has warned the foundation “I’m coming for you.” 
Surprisingly, one politician who appears to agree that speech can incite violence is Sarah Palin.

Palin released a video statement today denying that she or any of her conservative brethren are responsible for inciting any acts of violence. Curiously, however, she suggested that those who commit the "blood libel" of claiming that she's responsible are themselves somehow responsible for inciting acts of violence.

Palin's goal in releasing the statement appears to have been to strike back at those who have taken issue with her "crosshairs" map above. Palin says:
Like many, I’ve spent the past few days reflecting on what happened and praying for guidance. After this shocking tragedy, I listened at first puzzled, then with concern, and now with sadness, to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event.

President Reagan said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election (emphasis mine).
Palin appears to be saying that the responsibility for a criminal act rests on the person who commits it and no one else, not even those who create "maps of swing districts." She is denying that she is responsible in any way for any act of violence. A mere two paragraphs later, however, Palin says,
Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions. And after the election, we shake hands and get back to work, and often both sides find common ground back in D.C. and elsewhere. If you don’t like a person’s vision for the country, you’re free to debate that vision. If you don’t like their ideas, you’re free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible. (emphasis mine).
Palin appears to be saying that journalists and pundits (on the left) are potentially responsible for acts of violence that they may incite through their speech. Sharon Angle was even more blunt:
Expanding the context of the attack to blame and to infringe upon the people's Constitutional liberties is both dangerous and ignorant. The irresponsible assignment of blame to me, Sarah Palin or the Tea Party movement by commentators and elected officials puts all who gather to redress grievances in danger.
Therefore, according to Palin,
  • Those on the right could not be responsible for acts of violence incited by their own words, but 
  • Those on the left are potentially responsible for acts of violence incited by their own words.
And this moron wants to be president? Did she even notice this apparent inconsistency, or did she notice and simply not care? Or is her statement simply the pure partisan stratagem I take it to be?

Notice that Palin wants to reframe this debate as a First Amendment issue. According to Palin,
No one should be deterred from speaking up and speaking out in peaceful dissent, and we certainly must not be deterred by those who embrace evil and call it good. And we will not be stopped from celebrating the greatness of our country and our foundational freedoms by those who mock its greatness by being intolerant of differing opinion and seeking to muzzle dissent with shrill cries of imagined insults.
Current calls by those on the left to take it down a notch and tone down the incendiary rhetoric are serious threats to our First Amendment freedom of speech, according to Palin. Is she serious? Think about it. Can't Erick Erickson voice his opposition to Washington's ban on certain dishwashing detergents without suggesting that beating a legislator to a bloody pulp is appropriate? If calling a Supreme Court justice a "goat-fucking child molester" is discouraged, have we really lost any important political speech?

I don't think we should be banning speech (though we should keep in mind that not all speech is Constitutionally protected and it never has been). Erickson should remain free to say all kinds of things; he and others are being asked to take it down a notch. Many of us hope that they will be decent enough to accede to the request. And by the way: if this request is a threat to our First Amendment freedoms, then isn't the demand from the right that the request not be made also a threat to our First Amendment freedoms?

Again: we don't know why Loughner went on his shooting spree. But it seems appropriate that we reflect on our political discourse in the wake of it. The response from some responsibility-free talkers on the right appears to be to deny even the possibility that their rhetoric may play a role in inciting violence. "You all can go screw yourselves; we're going to say whatever the fuck we please," seems to sum up their sentiments nicely.

And I haven't even pointed out that Palin plagiarized James Madison in her statement until now. Jesus.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Irony, Indeed III: The Rules of This Site

Let me not be subtle here: the rules of this site apply no matter how long you have been here and your account will be disabled for violating the rules of the site. If you are going to go around accusing your fellow posters of being bots, liars, mobies, trolls, etc. just because they disagree with you, prepare to have your own access disabled.
—Erick Erickson, "Dear RedState Community"
As Rachel Slajda points out, when Erick Erickson writes about liberals, he tends to violate the old RedState bans on obscenities and insults. Mr Erickson  called retired Supreme Court justice David Souter a "goat fucking child molester". With regard to the Tim Tebow anti-abortion Super-Bowl commercial, he tweeted: "That's what the feminazis were enraged over? Seriously?!? Wow. That's what being too ugly to get a date does to your brain". Another post's opening must be quoted in full to get the flavour:
Is Obama Shagging Hookers Behind the Media’s Back?I assume not. I assume that Obama’s marxist harpy wife would go Lorena Bobbit on him should he even think about it, but I ask the question to make one simple point: Barack Obama, like Elliott Spitzer, is a creation of the liberal media and, as a result, could be a serial killing transvestite and the media would turn a blind eye.
The Economist, "Erick Erickson's Insult Problem

For Your Further Enlightenment VI

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Not in a Million Years

I have a half-baked plan to reform the Bowl Championship Series that has a snowball's chance in Hell of ever being adopted.

Some people like the BCS. At least with the BCS there is some prospect that the two best teams in college football will play in a bowl game that will determine a champion. But the system is hardly ideal. Many who follow the sport have been impressed with Boise State, but there is little to no chance that Boise State will ever play for the championship, even if they go undefeated during the season. In addition, whoever ends up ranked 1 and 2 will be there in part because of preseason rankings which are determined by potential and promise rather than actual play on the field. (I'm not completely sure about this: the method used to determine rankings is complicated.)

So here's my idea. According to Sports Illustrated, there are 117 teams in 11 conferences and three independent teams. That's 120 Division 1-A teams, or eight short of what would be needed for a seven-round single-elimination tournament twice the size of March Madness.

First, all of the current conferences would be dissolved and sixteen new conferences would be created, half of which will have eight members and half of which will have seven. (Alternatively, eight additional schools from Division 1-AA could be invited to join, bringing the total number of schools to 128.) This realignment will preserve as far as possible traditional rivalries, e.g., Alabama and Auburn would be in the same conference, Nebraska and Oklahoma would be in the same conference, Ohio State and Michigan would be in the same conference, and so on. Some new conferences should also resemble present conferences, e.g., a new conference would consist of eight schools from the SEC. In general, conferences would represent geographical regions, e.g., the South, New England, the Midwest, and so on, so that the silliness of a conference like the ACC could be avoided. (Boston College and Miami in the same conference? Seriously?)

Each conference would have two divisions. During the first part of the regular season, lasting five or six weeks, each school would play every other team in its division and two or three teams in the other division in its conference. The results of these games would determine how teams are to be seeded for the seven-week playoff. The #1 seed would play the # 8 seed, the #2 seed would play the #7 seed, and so on. Tiebreakers would be necessary, of course, and the NCAA can turn to the NFL to see how those might work. In any event, each conference would be its own region in the bracket, and in the third round of the tournament, a champion will be determined for every conference, on the field. These games would not be played on neutral fields; rather, it would be up to each conference to determine where games are to be played.

Beginning in the fourth round, teams would play bowl games as part of the tournament. And these games would resemble the present bowl games as much as possible. So, for example, the Fiesta Bowl would still be played in Tempe, the Orange Bowl would still be played in Miami, and so on, and these games would have payouts just as they do now. Naturally, in a system like this, a single team could appear in up to four bowl games. That's kind of weird, but do you want a playoff, or don't you? 

The advantages of such a system are obvious. Since the polls would not be needed to help determine a national champion, they would be gone. The champion would be determined on the field. And every team would have an opportunity to win. So we could finally find out whether Boise State is good enough to compete with the schools of the SEC and the Big 10 and so on, or whether they have been mere pretenders all along. And teams like Nebraska would not be able to pad their records with meaningless non-conference games against teams like South Dakota State. Schools would have to face the real prospect of losing their Homecoming games.

What about teams who lose in the tournament? Do they sit idle for the rest of the season? No! Losing teams can still play each other even if they are no longer playing for the national championship. The popularity and excitement of college football will guarantee that fans will be buying tickets and tuning in, even to these non-tournament games. Schedules for this second part of the regular season could not be determined in advance, but I'm hoping that that would not be a serious problem. Schools playing these non-tournament games might even be given the opportunity to play in weird bowl games no one currently cares about, e.g., the Beef 'O'Brady's Bowl or the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

There are tens of thousands of people out there who know more about college football than me and who could also tell me why my idea is incredibly stupid. Many of those same fans are yearning for a playoff, however, and I wonder how they would reform the BCS. Perhaps some of them will take the time to leave comments for me.

Search This Blog


What I'm Following

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