Dada is the sun, Dada is the egg. Dada is the Police of the Police.

5/28/2005

Capitalism and Cartesian dualism

I received an advertisement for a new book called 'The Fiction of a Thinkable World: Body, Meaning, and the Culture of Capitalism' by Michael Steinberg. This was the description:
In the culture of the modern West, we see ourselves as thinking subjects, defined by our conscious thought, autonomous and separate from each other and the world we survey. Current research in neurology and cognitive science shows that this picture is false. We think with our bodies, and in interaction with others, and our thought is never completed ...

The fiction of a world separated from each of us as we are separated from each other, from which we make our choices in solitary thought, is enacted by the voter in the voting booth and the consumer at the supermarket shelf. The structures of daily experience in capitalist society reinforce the fictions of the Western intellectual tradition, stunt human creativity, and create the illusion that the capitalist order is natural and unsurpassable. Steinberg reveals the ethical roots of this condition and shows how our actions can be brought in accord with the world as it is, in its ever-changing interaction and mutual transformation.

Head like a hole

Via Eschaton:
"We were set to perform 'The Hand That Feeds' with an unmolested, straightforward image of George W. Bush as the backdrop. Apparently, the image of our president is as offensive to MTV as it is to me," Nine Inch Nails' leader Trent Reznor said in a statement posted on the band's Web site.

MTV said in a statement: "While we respect Nine Inch Nails' point of view, we were uncomfortable with their performance being built around a partisan political statement. When we discussed our discomfort with the band, their choice was to unfortunately pull out of the Movie Awards."

Knocks and scrapes

Mark Noonan says that being fired because you're gay is just an instance of "the knocks and scrapes of life."
If there is an employer out there stupid enough to actually discriminate against a good employee just because he's gay, then that employer will soon be driven out of business by more savvy competitors who don't discriminate.

Yeah, right.

More meme-y goodness

I done been tagged again! This time by rising star of the blogosphere Liberal Avenger.

This one is a list of questions. Liberal Avenger has added the stipulation that "everyone who receives this meme must alter/drop/add at least one question." So here goes.


Three favorite bands / musical artists:
  • The Beatles
  • The Raincoats
  • Philip Glass

Three favorite songs:
  • 'Happiness is a Warm Gun' by the Beatles
  • Track 3 (Untitled) from Selected Ambient Works, Vol. 2 Disc 1 by Aphex Twin
  • 'Dancing in My Head' by the Raincoats (This is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever recorded; to listen to it, right-click on the link and choose 'Save Target As')

Three of your favorite hobbies/interests:
  • Early 20th century art--esp. Dada and Surrealism
  • Animals
  • The teachings of the Buddha

Three things that scare you:
  • Peak oil
  • Natural disasters
  • The people I love suffering

Three favorite fiction writers:
  • David Foster Wallace
  • Paul Auster
  • David Markson

Three celeb crushes:
  • Ashley Judd
  • Angelina Jolie
  • Salma Hayek

Three favorite animals:
  • Cats
  • Penguins
  • Elephants

Three conspiracy theories you think are true:
  • Kurt Cobain was murdered (this one I am dead certain about, no pun intended)
  • JFK (not as sure about this one)
  • The vast right-wing conspiracy

Three names you go by:
  • Dadahead
  • Mechanical Head
  • Spirit of the Age

Three places you want to go on vacation:
  • Mt. Everest
  • Antarctica
  • Japan


Okay, three more, right? How about: Christopher Schroen, Matt at Cerulean Blue, and Brad at The Unrepentant Individual. Don't forget: I've omitted a few questions, and added a few, so take a look back at Liberal Avenger's site if you want to see those that I didn't include.

Christopher Hitchens, Holocaust-denier?

So says Max Blumenthal (son of Sid):
Dance, Hitchens, Dance

Hey Hitchens, since you've recounted how much fun you had sweatin' to the oldies at my Bar Mitzvah [Ed.-Hitchens and Blumenthal's father were once good friend.] -- and since you described me as "cowardly" for pointing out your habit of enabling Holocaust-deniers -- I wanted to provide you with some new tunes to dance to.

The first tune is called "Faurisson's Witness." It's... inspired by your involvement with Robert Faurisson, the French Holocaust denier who claimed the gas chambers at Auschwitz didn't exist. You know him very well. ... In December 1993, in a Vanity Fair piece called "Whose History Is It?" you tried to verify one of Faurisson's charges: that the Holocaust Museum contains false information on the Holocaust.... Ultimately, you confirmed Faurisson in the article, writing that, "according to the counter-revisionists, an important piece of evidence in the Holocaust Museum is not reliable."

Dancing yet, Hitchens? If not, maybe we should throw some Wagner on.

...

Now it's time to change tunes a little, Hitchens. ... the next song is a blithe waltz called, "Dinner with the Denier." It's about your innocent fox-trots with infamous Holocaust denier David Irving. You know, the self-described anti-Semite who said in 1998, "No documents whatever show that a Holocaust had ever happened."

In 1994, you held a dinner for Irving at your home in Washington. Who was there? What did you say to Irving to charm him? What drinks were served? Schnapps? According to Irving on his website, you had dinner or lunch with him "two your three times in [your] chosen hometown, Washington."

A year later, in your Vanity Fair article, "Hitler's Ghost," (which Irving has posted on his website) you argued that Irving's books deserve to be published in America, described criticism of Irving as "hysterical and old-maidish," and declared, "David Irving is not just a Fascist historian, he is also a great historian of Fascism." Nevermind all the lies contained in Irving's biography of Goebbels.

You also were compelled to write, "And, incidentally, [Irving] has never and not once described the Holocaust as a 'hoax'." I guess you weren't aware of Irving's statement in 1990 that, "The holocaust of Germans in Dresden really happened. That of the Jews in the gas chambers of Auschwitz is an invention." Were you?

Well, Hitchens, I know you want to keep shakin' that tail-feather of yours, but it looks like the band's all worn out. The party's over. I sure hope you designated a driver.

I don't necessarily endorse what Max is saying; I've seen Noam Chomsky baselessly smeared too many times to label Hitchens a Holocaust-denier-enabler without looking into it further. And Max criticizes Hitchens, undeservedly in my view, for simply speaking out in favor of the free speech rights of Faurisson and Irving. (The remark about Wagner was killer, though.)

However: what was Hitchens doing having Irving over to his house? It's one thing to stand up for the free speech rights of Holocaust-deniers, and quite another to engage in a discussion with them (since this implicitly legitimates them).

Hitchens' response? He threatens to sue "anyone who thinks of running with" Max's claim.

5/27/2005

Meme-ing

Neil the Ethical Werewolf passes me the Caesar's bath meme:

List five things that people in my circle of friends or peer group are wild about, but which I can't really understand the fuss over.

Okie-dokie. But first, I must address two of Neil's picks, for they are truly outrageous! Two of the things Neil doesn't understand the fuss over:

-- Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations. This is the MOST IMPORTANT PHILOSOPHY BOOK OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY!!! AAAAHHHHHHH!!!!

Now, I will admit that it is not particularly well-written, which Wittgenstein acknowledges in the preface. So it often is hard to see the point of what he has to say, and sometimes it's just impossible. The book totally falls apart about halfway through.

Nonetheless, it is, as I say, the most important work of philosophy written during the 20th century; at least half of the philosophy that is done nowadays is pointless, but nobody realizes it because they haven't been paying enough attention to Wittgenstein. What's weird is that he's really popular, in a way, but the lessons he taught seem not to have been learned. For instance, both Kripke and Putnam never should have happened in a post-Wittgenstein era. Wittgenstein had already refuted them before they even started writing.

Some day I will write about the private language argument, and more about why I am a proud member of the cult of Wittgenstein.

-- The White Stripes. The White Stripes kick fucking ass! In fact, they kick so much ass that I am going to make you download a song of theirs and listen to it in all its ass-kicking glory. Right-click on the link below, and choose 'Save Target As'.

White Stripes: Black Math.

*****

Anyway, here are my five things that my peers are wild about but I don't get the fuss over:

1. Neuroscience. Everybody oohs and ahhs about fMRI technology, and numbskulls like Patricia Churchland think we can just hand over the entire study of mind to the neuroscientists. But in reality, neuroscience is surprisingly primitive. It has shed very little light on human cognition; most of its findings amount to stuff like: "Ooh, looky, the blood rushes to this side of the brain when we tell the subject to do arithmetic! These are ground-breaking results!" Phrenology for the 21st century.

2. Children. Think about it: an ugly, tiny little human that is completely dependent on you ... ooh, where do I sign up? Get a cat. There are lots of cats that need homes. Cats are much cuter than children. They are more interesting to talk to as well.

3. College sports. The teams change dramatically from year to year, no player is ever on the team for more than four years, and a majority of college football and basketball fans aren't even in any way affiliated with the school they root for. What gives? Plus, the whole thing is so corrupt you can practically smell it. Take about exploitation of labor: schools make millions off of football and basketball, and what do the players get? A scholarship. Woopty-doo. At a state school, this is worth, at most, $15,000 a year. Sure, a few of them will go pro and earn millions, but (a) they could have done that without college anyway and (b) most of them won't.

4. Materialism/Physicalism. I've gone on at length about this, and people are probably tired of hearing about it, because no one seems to really give a shit but me.

5. Marriage. I don't get it. You promise to stay with someone forever. What happens if, twenty years in, you aren't happy? You either (a) break your promise or (b) stay in a miserable relationship. So you're either making a promise you're not going to keep, or you're promising to stay with someone no matter how miserable it makes you. Why would you want someone you love to make that promise to you? Wouldn't you want them to leave you if it would make them happier?


Oh yeah, so I guess I'm supposed to 'tag' somebody now, right? Lessee .... howsabout ... Girl With An Alibi, Becky Dagley, Pope Benedict XVI, and Michelle Malkin.

Not smart

Not smart at all.

Repeal Godwin's law

'Godwin's law' commonly refers to a general rule that says that invoking, via analogy, the Nazi regime is generally out of bounds. In other words: don't compare your opponents to Nazis unless they are literally acting like Nazis (i.e., committing genocide).

I don't like this rule. I don't see why Nazi analogies should be out of bounds. Sometimes they are quite useful. Yes, they can be taken too far--he may be evil, but Bush is no Hitler--that doesn't mean they should never be used. Anything can be taken too far.

I think references to fascism are entirely appropriate when worrying about a growing authoritarian trend in political discourse or public policy, for instance.

Plus, for some reason almost everyone seems to find Godwin's law hard to follow. Inevitably, Nazi references creep in. Kevin Drum approvingly cites Jon Chait, who asks:

What's the value in having the greatest bad example of all time if you can never use it?

I think this gets to the heart of the matter. In Hitler, the world saw a level of evil that is still startling today. Other leaders have killed great numbers of people--Stalin killed even more. But Hitler was unique in that he seemed to kill not achieve any political end, necessarily, but just for the sake of killing. Or, killing was his political end. There is a meaningful way in which the whole of human history can be divided between the pre-Hitler world and the post-Hitler world. 20th century history is defined in reference to him. His figure still haunts us.

In the pre-Hitler world, when people talked about evil, they invoked the name of Satan, betraying a human need to personify evil. There was no human embodiment of pure, infinite, nearly omnipotent evil, so one was invented, basically.

In the post-Hitler world, we still have a need to personify evil this way, but we no longer have to create myths to do so. All we have to do is open a history book.

The specter of Hillary

Everybody's talking about Hillary in '08, apparently because of a new poll that says 53% of Americans would vote for her.

Democracy Guy thinks Kos and the folks at MyDD might be "lining up behind a Hillary Clinton candidacy in 08."

Oliver Willis
says:

... hardcore partisans like me would love nothing more than to hear the collective wailing of the right as Hillary Clinton is sworn in as First Gentleman Bill Clinton looks on... but this is all speculation, and the right is already making moves to smear Senator Clinton in a way that makes the Swift Boat Liars look like amateurs.

But on the other hand, Sen. Clinton knows how to fight back.

No More Mr. Nice Blog:

The worst thing about President Hillary could be that she'd fail to do just what her husband failed to do -- she'd fail to build a counter-narrative that removes the stigma from being liberal.

Attaturk:

There are still other candidates I would prefer over her, but I think it is pretty evident that she is not a sure loser and polarizing figure anymore.

Ezra Klein:
All of this means it's time to start evaluating a Hillary candidacy on its own merits rather than as a function of the enormous hatred we're certain she engenders.

So what are the merits of Hillary '08, then? I'm not sure what to think yet ... I'd support Hillary over her GOP opponent, of course, but there are several possible candidates that I'd rather see get the nomination: Kerry, Edwards, Clark. Probably others. Dean, but I believe he's said he's not running. I'd probably prefer Hillary to Bayh or Richardson, though.


UPDATE: Kos says:
Hillary isn't as toxic with the public as large as many assume. Just because Rush and his ilk can't stand her doesn't mean middle America has it out for her.

He also points to a remark made by Ariana:
I’ve just decided that I do have a litmus test for the 2008 Democratic nominee: someone who can utter, in plain English, an unambiguous, unequivocal sentence about Iraq.

That doesn't seem fair to me. Beyond "it's a fucking mess over there" I'm not sure if there's anything that can be said for certain about Iraq.

Souls on ice

I swear, I thought this was a joke when I saw it on World O'Crap, but apparently it's not. NRO's Deroy Murdock on frozen embryos (emphasis added):
Snowflakes Frozen Embryo Adoption Program, a Fullerton, California-based nonprofit, is a pioneer in finding loving homes for these Microscopic-Americans. Snowflakes--so named because each of these souls on ice is as unique as every snowflake--links infertile parents with frozen embryos whose characteristics appeal to particular pairs of moms and dads.

... Snowflakes is working with Rep. Joe Pitts (R., Pa.) to introduce House members to 17 young Americans between the ages of 3 months and 7 who once were frozen (in Gabriel Vest'’s case, for nine years). Previously deprived of the opportunity to be carved up for research, these kids will be on Capitol Hill today to illustrate that frozen embryos need not wind up drawn and quartered inside Petri dishes. Instead, they can be allowed to grow up into constituents.

It really says something about our society that people like this are hired to write for major media outlets and not placed in mental institutions.

Drawn and quartered?! Here is a visual simulation of this gruesome fate:


Normal, healthy embryo-American


Savagely dismembered embryo-American


Deroy also says:

Rather than see these young (potential) citizens torn to bits and splashed under microscopes, I would prefer to see this research prohibited.
Keep this lunatic in mind when the Every Sperm Is Sacred brigade tries to convince you that they don't want to ban stem cell research, but that they just don't want it funded with their tax money.

I didn't realize Archie swung that way

This is an actual decades-old Archie comic:
Archie

This old Batman comic might be worse, though:

The image “http://photos1.blogger.com/img/9/3002/640/the_jokers_boner_1.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

The image “http://photos1.blogger.com/img/9/3002/640/the_jokers_boner_2.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

And then there's this one:

The image “http://photos1.blogger.com/img/9/3002/640/man_gs5.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Via Adventures of Accordian Guy via A blog doesn't need a clever name.

Whither the Defeatist?

Does anybody else read The Defeatist? He seems to have dropped off the face of the earth. His blog is still up, but all posts have been removed. Does anyone know what happened?

The Defeatist is a dour guy. You can get a general idea of his attitude toward the world not only by his moniker, but also by his answer to one of Blogger's silly profile questions:

When your science teacher smashed a frozen rose with a hammer, did you warm the petals to bring them back to life?

No. It is best to accustom one's self to the inevitable death and destruction of beauty at an early age, don't you think?

Defeatist, if you're out there, give us a shout!

Keith Thompson, Dirty Hippie

Remember that numbnuts drama queen who announced with much fanfare that he was 'leaving the left'?

Read a very funny post about him here. Don't forget to read the comments, too.

I'm down with that

Daisy Cutter, a Republican pissed at McCain for perceived betrayals of the party, is starting a coalition of 'Blogs for McCain's Opponent,' a "campaign to purge [McCain] from Republican politics and the public square."

(Via My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy)

5/26/2005

Special ed for the Power Line kids

From Power Line:

The Pentagon reports that the Guantanamo detainee who claimed in August 2002 that a guard flushed a Koran down a toilet (do they have really big toilets there, or what?) was recently re-interviewed, and recanted the allegation.


You know, a cynic might put it like this: he was recently "re-interviewed," and he "recanted" the allegation.

By the way, I've heard a lot of wingnut bloggers saying things like, 'How could you flush a whole book down the toilet, anyway?' I'm not sure if they're serious or not; some of them seem to think that this actually constitutes some sort of reason to think the story is untrue. If anyone does think this, let me enlighten you: obviously, you cannot flush a whole, intact book down a toilet. You can, however, tear pages out of a book and flush those down the toilet.

Was that really that hard to figure out?

Anyway, Ass Missile asks:

Do you think that will quiet the "Newsweek was right!" chorus from the left? No, I don't either.

Uh huh huh, no I don't, Ass Missile. Because that detainee is not the only one making this claim, you stupid asshole:

Newsweek report on Quran matches many earlier accounts

Contrary to White House assertions, the allegations of religious desecration at Guantanamo published by Newsweek May 6 are common among ex-prisoners and have been widely reported outside the United States, RAW STORY has learned.

Several former detainees at the Guantanamo and Bagram airbase prisons have reported instances of their handlers sitting or standing on the Quran, throwing or kicking it in toilets, and urinating on it ... reports of desecration are manifold.

I'm sure this is all some big conspiracy, though.

Yes, I'm pro-abortion

A lot of abortion rights supporters are careful to stipulate that they are not pro-abortion, but are simply in favor of keeping abortion 'safe, legal, and rare' in Bill Clinton's formulation. Howard Dean made basically the same point on Meet the Press this weekend, and Nathan Newman hammers him (and Kevin Drum, who agreed with Dean) for it:
Why Abortion Improves Society

Kevin Drum argues that progressives should downplay the merits of abortion and instead frame abortion politics around "anti-busybody" politics. He is seconding an argument by Howard Dean:
I don't know anybody who thinks abortion is a good thing. I don't know anybody in either party who is pro-abortion. The issue is not whether we think abortion is a good thing. The issue is whether a woman has a right to make up her own mind about her health care
This is an asinine statement by Dean. If abortion is never a good thing, then why should anyone have the option to have one?

One reason progressives are not as strong on the abortion issue is that we so rarely hear abortion defended on its merits. Instead, we have the religious right denouncing it as the equivalent of murder and slavery, and progressives essentially saying "that may be, but it's really none of your business if people are committing murder and slavery, now is it?"

If that's the debate, it would be no surprise that the rightwing would win over time.

Back in 1968, only 15% of the population supported liberalizing abortion laws. By 1972, 64% supported increased access to abortion for women.

This change didn't happen because of "anti-busybody" arguments but because feminists of both sexes stood up and declared that abortion -- however sad an option when used -- was necessary to improve the quality of life and equality of women in our society. In 1972, fifty-three prominent women published an open letter declaring that they had had an abortion to demonstrate that good people had good reasons to have abortions.

...

Abortion is not just some individual decision with no effects on broader society ... Most abortion rights activists have not been libertarians who thought individual choices have no effect on broader society, but people who thought the availability of abortion causes profound and needed changes in that broader society...

... overall, we have a better society because abortion is legal than if abortion was criminalized.

It's nice to see someone get things so right. Abortion is not only a legally available choice, and it is not only a legitimate choice--in many, many cases, it is the right choice. As in: it should be encouraged. Case in point: 13-year-olds who get pregnant. It is indicative of the power of the Religious Right in the US that progressives have to defend the legitimacy of abortion, rather than doing what we ought to be doing--viz., encouraging more abortions.

Most people need a kid like they need a hole in the head. There are too many damn people roaming the earth. Pregnancy is dangerous. There are all sorts of reasons why abortion is the proper, responsible thing to do in many instances.

Don't get me wrong: I am not advocating mandatory abortions or anything like that. I'm pro-abortion, but I'm also pro-choice--if a woman doesn't want to abort a pregnancy, she shouldn't be forced to. But that doesn't mean we can't do everything possible to encourage women in general to make certain choices.

I know this position makes me something of a leper. The only other person I've heard express it is Jackie Passey, and she catches a lot of shit for it. Nonetheless, I'd like to see us get to a point where we are beyond arguing over the criminalization of abortion.

Economic populism

I've been saying for a while now that the electorate is there for the Democrats' taking, if only they would work toward being the party of a credible economic populism ('credible' as in, more than just populist rhetoric every four years--I'm looking at you, Al Gore). So much hand-wringing over how the Democrats lost rural voters has ignored the most obvious answer: rural, working class voters do not believe that the Democrats are looking out for their economic interests. And with good reason, too.

The effect of this is that they feel like they might as well vote based on stupid shit like who they'd rather have a beer with--neither party is really going to do anything for them anyway, they figure. But their voting patterns would change in the blink of an eye if they could be convinced that Democrats would fight for the working and middle classes. More evidence of this comes via Sirotablog:

New Poll: Dems Must Fight for Middle Class

According to a new national poll, the American public desperately wants the Democratic Party to start showing some guts and stand up for America's middle class - something I and others have been screaming about for years ...

- 62% feel that our economy is not good for middle and working class people - here's where the record gets more mixed for Democrats. Supporting the bankruptcy bill and the class action bill, for instance, doesn't help Democrats make the case that they are listening to this 62%.

...

- 76% support guaranteeing health care to all through a program similar to Medicare - this is where Democrats have been largely absent, primarily pushing piecemeal programs that would address the health care crisis, but not in any fundamental, comprehensive way...

- 76% want action to end tax breaks to companies that move jobs abroad and to provide incentives for those who create jobs here and allow unions to organize - Again, Democrats have a very mixed record on this...

Where have you gone, Barack Obama?

David Sirota is disappointed in Obama so far:
I have high hopes for Sen. Barack Obama ... Obama has all the trappings of a leader who could break conventions and be a serious voice for progressives on the national stage. Unfortunately, his first six months in office have given progressives a reason to be worried that he will be just another cog in the Establishment's machine, throwing his significant political capital behind some of the worst initiatives to move through Congress.

Despite his anti-war positions as a candidate in 2004, Obama's second vote as a U.S. Senator was in support of confirming Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State. He also voted to confirm John Negroponte as Director of National Intelligence, despite Negroponte's involvement in Iran-Contra and other situations that clearly raise questions about his ethics and discretion. Obama also voted for a bill to limit citizens rights to seek legal redress against abusive corporations. During the bankruptcy debate, he helped vote down a Democratic amendment to cap the abusive interest rates credit card companies could charge. And now, Obama cast a key procedural vote in support of President Bush's right-wing judges.

Maybe the Great Progressive Hope was too good to be true. These are pretty major betrayals. Sirota is still holding out hope that Obama might eventually start acting more like the progressive we thought he was, but even if he does, he'll have to do quite a bit to make up for this shit.

Thanks for letting us down, Senator Obama.

Don't worry, though: there's someone waiting in the wings who will be a genuinely progressive senator...

Cuff 'em

From Newsday via The Smirking Chimp:
Amnesty International warns US leaders could face prosecution for war crimes

Amnesty International Thursday called the U.S. military's anti-terror prison at Guantanamo Bay the "gulag of our times" and warned that American leaders may face international prosecution for mistreating prisoners.

... The influential human-rights monitoring group has criticized U.S. detention practices before. But Tuesday marked its first call to close Guantanamo, and the group used unusually sharp language in demanding an independent investigation of torture and abuse of prisoners there and at detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If U.S. officials don't act, other countries will, warned Amnesty's U.S. director, William Schultz. "The apparent high-level architects of torture should think twice before planning their next vacation to places like Acapulco or the French Riviera, because they may find themselves under arrest," he said.

The future of blogging

Steve Gilliard--who, by the way, is simply one of the best bloggers around; I don't think he always gets the credit he deserves--and Juan Cole are talking about advertisements on blogs. Prof. Cole writes:
... blog advertising rates are ridiculously low. Bloggers are essentially offering a front-page panel for what a small classified ad would cost in a small town newspaper, and the circulation rates may be similar ... As I see it, the problem for advertisers is that blogging appears to be a form of narrow-casting. They like broadcasting. You place an ad on even a low-ranking cable television show like Star Trek Enterprise (while it was still limping along) and about 3 million people see it every week. You place an ad on even a popular weblog like MyDD and Blogads says that it has 146,000 page views a week.

...the advertising issue has already been solved by Henry Copeland of Blogads, with the concept of networked ads (which I prefer to call blog-casting). Any group of bloggers can set up a network, as the Liberal blogs have done. Altogether the Liberal Blog Advertising Network can provide an advertiser with a million or so page views a week in one fell swoop. The ads once taken out will appear on all the blogs maintained by members of the network, so they become a form of broadcasting, or blog-casting. Blog readership is demonstrably growing, and pretty soon such networks will be able to compete at least with cable television for ability to reach viewers.

But presumably, the revenue would have to be distributed widely as well, so I don't quite see how this 'solves' the problem (though I could be missing something). It seems like it just makes things easier for advertisers.

This really is a problem, though. Blogging has become an almost vital aspect of political discourse, but most bloggers are not doing it for a living. They blog in their spare time (or sometimes when they're supposed to be working, no doubt), and they do it because they love it, or because they care about the issues they're addressing. But this situation is ripe for burn-outs. Billmon is probably the most prominent blogger to throw in the towel (more or less; he still posts occasionally). Losing voices like his is a real blow.

Good bloggers need to be able to do it for a living. This is especially important for the left, since the blogosphere (or at least the most influential sector of it) seems to tilt toward the right. Everybody says that the left needs to do a better job articulating its ideas, but we're not supporting some of our most articulate advocates. Figuring out a way to make money from advertising is one possible solution to this problem, but I think a more effective and a more likely one would be think-tank style funding for lefty bloggers. Political media don't always make money; even the Weekly Standard has to resort to begging every so often. But their backers aren't in it to make a profit (at least not directly); they want to influence political discourse. They're willing to break even or even lose a bit if it means getting the 'right' ideas heard.

George Soros could easily fund all of the liberal bloggers in the Ecosystem's top 100. This strikes me as a much more feasible way of propping up the left side of the blogosphere than relying on advertising revenue.

A disgruntlement epidemic

Have you ever noticed that almost every single government employee who speaks out against the Bush administration is 'disgruntled'? Mark Noonan:

Who Was the Newsweek Source?

According to this World Net Daily story, it was a disgruntled CIA employee ... I can't independently verify this, but it does have a ring of truth to it.

Well, as long as it has a ring of truth to it.

Plus, if World Nut Daily says it, it must be true, right?

Not too bright

Michelle Malkin:

Daily Kos and other liberal bloggers are claiming that newly-released FBI documents confirm Newsweek's allegations regarding Koran-flushing (see "FBI: Newsweek was right").

It should be obvious to anyone who so much as glances at the documents being cited that the FBI was reporting the statements of detainees rather than endorsing or validating those allegations. Immediately before describing the Koran-in-the-toilet allegation, the FBI notes the detainee's statement that "God tells Muslims to do a jihad against non-Muslims." Does Kos expect us to believe the FBI is endorsing that statement too?

Hey, guess what, you fucking twit--that's what Newsweek was doing.

God damn, Malkin is fucking stupid. I mean, she's really, really fucking stupid.

What theocracy?

Via Atrios:

An Indianapolis father is appealing a Marion County judge's unusual order that prohibits him and his ex-wife from exposing their child to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals."

The parents practice Wicca, a contemporary pagan religion that emphasizes a balance in nature and reverence for the earth.

Cale J. Bradford, chief judge of the Marion Superior Court, kept the unusual provision in the couple's divorce decree last year over their fierce objections, court records show. The order does not define a mainstream religion.

... "This was done without either of us requesting it and at the judge's whim," said Jones, who has organized Pagan Pride Day events in Indianapolis. "It is upsetting to our son that he cannot celebrate holidays with us, including Yule, which is winter solstice, and Ostara, which is the spring equinox."

... "Religion comes up most frequently when there are disputes between the parents. There are lots of cases where a mom and dad are of different faiths, and they're having a tug of war over the kids," Falk said. "This is different: Their dispute is with the judge. When the government is attempting to tell people they're not allowed to engage in non-mainstream activities, that raises concerns."

Link.

By the way, I realize that this will almost certainly get overturned, but it is bothersome in itself that this dumbshit holds a judgeship at all.

Can I get an 'Amen'?

Yes I can. Brian Leiter:
... civility is the greatest gift one can bestow on the creationist conmen, the right-wing liars, and the religious bigots--not to mention the hordes of ignorant blowhards in the blogosphere. To treat their positions with civility is to already legitimate them. The consequence of doing so is now available for all the world to see: the intellectually and morally depraved state of public culture in America today.

That's what I keep trying to tell people.

WSJ doesn't get it

A Wall Street Journal editorial plays down the significance of Bush's opposition to federal funding for stem-cell research:
The debate over stem-cell research is once again being portrayed as a kind of moral Armageddon: a choice between federal funding and none, between scientific progress and religious zealotry. We hate to spoil the political drama, but maybe the system has stumbled toward a compromise that is more sensible than the debate makes it appear ...

Recall what the President's August 2001 decision actually did. It allowed federal funding for research on existing stem-cell lines where, he said, "the life and death decision has already been made." But it forbade funding for research into new lines, which entailed both the creation and destruction of human embryos.

Critically, Mr. Bush's decision applied only to federal funding; it did not impinge on the rights of individual researchers, universities, hospitals, private labs, public corporations or states to conduct embryonic research. In other words, the President did not "ban" anything. He simply refused to allow taxpayer money to be spent on a practice millions of Americans consider morally offensive.

I can think of another practice that 'millions of Americans consider morally offensive' that Bush doesn't mind spending tax money on ... but that's a discussion for another time.

This editorial is incorrect in stating that Bush 'did not ban anything'--he banned federal funding for stem-cell research involving 'new lines' of cells. He didn't ban stem-cell research itself, of course, but we already knew that. The point is this: the only reason he did ban federal funding is because of the silly, superstitious belief of a few fringe religious fanatics that an 8-celled embryo is somehow sacred.

Is Bush's ban crippling for stem-cell research? No, probably not. But that doesn't make it right. We should be doing all we can to further such research, and progressives, liberals, and libertarians are justifiably upset when this is not being done because the religious dogma of a minority of people is allowed to dictate public policy.

American people not so crazy about Bush

Via Oliver Willis:
CBS Poll: Bush Out Of Touch

Four months into his second term, President Bush is increasingly viewed as being out of touch with the American people, according to a CBS News poll. Six in ten Americans say the president does not share their priorities, while just 34 percent say he does – the lowest numbers for Mr. Bush since the eve of his first inauguration ... Overall, slightly more Americans (48 percent) disapprove of the job the president is doing than approve (46 percent).

... Although he's spent months on the road campaigning for Social Security reform, Mr. Bush still gets only a 26 percent approval rating for his handling of the issue ... Mr. Bush's approval rating on the economy is just 38 percent... Approval of the president's handling of Iraq remained virtually unchanged at 38 percent. But after another violent month, a majority of Americans, 57 percent, again say things there are going badly for the U.S. in Iraq...

These truly are pathetic numbers; even my conservative friends can't deny that. I'm not sure Democrats should gloat too much, though; our side did, after all, lose to this very unpopular president just a few months ago. We might want to try to figure out exactly why.

And no, it wasn't because the Dems weren't conservative enough; it wasn't because they weren't in touch with red state values. The last thing we need is more Toby Keith Democrats. In my humble opinion, the best thing the Democrats could do for themselves electorally is to put forth a credible message of economic populism. We don't need to compromise on abortion, or even civil unions (though we could stand to change public perception on the gun issue). People who vote based on gays or abortion are never going to vote Democratic. But if more rural, working-class voters thought that the Democrats would truly look out for their economic interests, you might just see a decisive victory for the Dems in '06 or 08.

5/25/2005

Pure gibberish

I'm not sure if anyone else has noticed this or not, but George W. Bush is awfully dumb. A couple of months ago, after a speech, he was asked by an audience member how his Social Security plan would work. His answer is something to behold.


... more Bush incoherence here.

Candor

George W. Bush says:
See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.

(Via Oliver Willis.)

Iraqis better off under Saddam?

If there's one piece of conventional wisdom that is treated as unassailable by almost all commentators in the debate over the Iraq war, it's that Iraqis are better off now than they were under Saddam.

But is this true? This article (HT: Brian Leiter) suggests that it is not:

Iraqis Endure Worse Conditions Than Under Saddam, UN Survey Finds

Responses to a detailed survey conducted by a United Nations agency and the Iraqi government indicate that everyday conditions for Iraqis in the aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion have deteriorated at an alarming rate, with huge numbers of people lacking adequate access to basic services and resources such as clean water, food, health care, electricity, jobs and sanitation.

"This survey shows a rather tragic situation of the quality of life in Iraq," Barham Salih, Iraq's minister of planning, said in statement, adding: "If you compare this to the situation in the 1980s, you will see a major deterioration."

... Researchers determined that some 24,000 Iraqis died as a result of the US-led invasion in 2003 and the first year of occupation. Children below the age of 18 comprised 12 percent of those deaths, according to survey data.

The study also indicates that the invasion and its immediate aftermath forced more than 140,000 Iraqis to flee their homes.

... In addition to deaths attributed to warfare, Iraqi children have suffered from a lack of adequate nutrition since 2003, the survey reports. Data from the survey indicates that 23 percent of children between six months and five years suffer from chronic malnutrition, while 12 percent suffer from general malnutrition, and 8 percent experience acute malnutrition.

... Of the households surveyed, 51 percent of those in urban areas of southern Iraq live in neighborhoods "where sewage could be seen in the streets." Nationwide, 40 percent of families in urban areas and 30 percent in rural areas reported living in neighborhoods where they can see sewage in the streets.

Iraqis are not fairing much better with respect to clean sources of water. The survey indicates that only 54 percent of households nationwide have access to a "safe and stable" supply of drinking water. An estimated 722,000 Iraqis, the report also notes, rely on sources that are both unreliable and unsafe.

I'm not necessarily endorsing the claim that Iraqis are worse off now. I'm not rejecting it either; truth be told, I simply haven't looked at it in enough detail to make that judgment. But certainly the received wisdom on this issue--as on most issues--needs to be questioned.

Bush's hypocrisy

Will Saletan:
The standard Bush set four years ago and repeated last week is that we shouldn't take one life--—even an embryonic life--in order to save others. Cost-benefit analysis is never sufficient grounds for the premeditated killing of civilians—except when it comes to the death penalty. When the discussion shifts from embryos to murderers, Bush and his spokesmen routinely argue that killing is justified not because murderers deserve it, but because it's moral to take one life in order to save others. He doesn't say that Person A should be executed because Person A is a danger to society. He says that Person A should be executed because the execution will deter Person B from killing Person C.

Saletan's right, but I wonder why he doesn't mention Bush's foreign policy as another instance where Bush thinks it's okay to kill some people for the sake of others.

I mean, the invasion of Iraq was all about 'liberating' Iraqis, right? But presumably this is only good for the ones who survive being 'liberated'. So the survivors get the benefits of 'liberation' at the expense of the dead.

What is the term for a female Uncle Tom?

Maybe LaShawn Barber knows.

Compassion

Recently I posted on the silliness and hypocrisy of the Right's opposition to stem-cell research. Reader Dan B. commented:
It just burns you up for the president to be compassionate on an issue.
To which reader Becky Dagley gave the appropriate reply:
It isn't compassionate to forsake the many ill people who will benefit from research on embryos that would otherwise be trashed anyway.
The opposition to stem-cell research really shouldn't even be a live issue; it should serve as a reductio ad absurdum regarding the anti-abortion view. But regardless, the idea that opposition to this research is 'compassionate' simply serves as a demonstration that some people don't understand what compassion is. Presumably, one can only be 'compassionate' towards some kind of conscious, person-like entity--a human, a dog, a cat, a mouse, etc. Hell, throw fish and bugs in there if you want. But can you be 'compassionate' to an embryo?

This image, via Bob Freedland, is a three-day-old embryo, which is the type usually used in stem-cell research:



Can one be compassionate to that thing? (The image, of course, is many times magnified.) That thing doesn't have feelings. It doesn't have awareness. It's not a 'baby'. It is literally a clump of cells. The idea of being compassionate to it is almost as absurd as that of being compassionate to a booger.

On the other hand, as Becky points out, there are actual, real people who could greatly benefit from this research. Doing everything possible to help these people--people suffering from diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, burn victims, quadriplegics--that would be compassionate.

The ethical cannibal

Have a taste for human flesh, but feel guilty about eating actual humans?

Now there's another way to get the taste you crave: Hufu, The Healthy Human Flesh Alternative!

From the site's FAQ:

What does HufuTM™ taste like? Does it taste like human flesh?

HufuTM™™ is designed to resemble, as humanly possible, the taste and texture of human flesh. If you've never had human flesh before, think of the taste and texture of beef, except a little sweeter in taste and a little softer in texture. Contrary to popular belief, people do not taste like pork or chicken.


How do you know HufuTM™ tastes like human flesh?

The taste and texture of HufuTM™ are the result of painstaking research and extensive testing in our kitchens. We are supremely confident that our food products would satisfy the tastes of even the most demanding cannibal.


How was HufuTM™ invented?

The hufu concept occurred to Mark Nuckols (Hufu, LLC founder) the fateful day he was reading about cannibalism in the book Good To Eat: Riddles of Food and Culture, by the authoritative anthropologist Marvin Harris, and eating a tofurkey sandwich.


Who actually buys HufuTM™™?

HufuTM™™ was originally conceived of as a product for students of anthropology hungry for the experience of cannibalism but deterred by the legal and logistical obstacles. However, our preliminary market research revealed the existence of a larger segment of the public that was interested in the availability of a legal and healthy human flesh substitute, as well as vegetarians and vegans. We also found that HufuTM is a great product for cannibals who want to quit. HufuTM™™ is also a great cannibal convenience food -- no more Friday night hunting raids! Stay at home and enjoy the flavorful, convenient human flesh alternative.


Where can I buy real human flesh?

Sorry, we can't help you. For better or for worse, the practice of cannibalism is frowned upon in today's modern industrial democratic societies. The purchase and consumption of human flesh is almost certainly illegal where you live. We recommend that you try some HufuTM™™ instead.

(Hat tip: this guy.)

If I see you wearing this t-shirt, rest assured that I will kill you

Not for political reasons, just for bad taste. Via World O'Crap, this is a design for a t-shirt that some anti-abortion group is hawking:




You can sign your death warrant here.

Other wingnutty t-shirts you can buy (also via WOC):








Pro-choice Penny can be purchased here; 'Just say no' here.

Better to have AIDS than diabetes?

I was aware, of course, that AIDS has become more treatable over the years, but if what Andrew Sullivan (who is HIV+) says is true, I had no idea it had become that treatable:

HIV and I have had a relatively civil union these past twelve years. For eight of those years, I was on heavy-duty anti-HIV medication; three years ago, I decided to take a break from the meds, as their side-effects were taking a toll and I had unconsciously begun to miss some dosages. Amazingly, the virus never really bounded back, and my immune system maintained a very stable balance ... Until now, that is. My latest numbers show an all-time low for my immune system, 380 CD4 count, and an all-time high for the virus, clocking in at 140,000. It's one data point, and I'll get another before I go back on meds. But it seems to me that after three years, the virus has broken back out of its no-fly zone. Not too surprising.

... But a couple of things struck me talking this through with my doc. First off, my new med regimen may well amount to a mere two pills once a day. Just two pills. By this fall, the drug companies will have simplified the regimen to one pill once a day. The side-effects are predicted to be minimal (I'll keep you posted). Compared with what we pozzies were taking in the mid-1990s, this is an astonishing improvement. I was once taking up to 40 pills a day with crippling side effects.

The broader point: Yet another disincentive to getting HIV has evaporated. How are you supposed to scare people when the treatment is this simple, this effective and this easy? Compare the kind of medical ramifications of testing positive for Type 2 diabetes with testing positive for HIV. Your life is not as definitively shortened with HIV as it is with diabetes; the treatment is far less onerous; the lifestyle changes are fewer, compared with daily injections, monitoring your diet, and so on. All of this poses a big challenge to those trying to craft safer sex messages.

Of course, this all assumes you are in a position to get the necessary meds, which of course many are not.

(HT: Slublog.)

Delusional

Instafuckface says:
The Democrats' problem, of course, is that they're even more dominated by their fringe than the Republicans ...

I wish.

Payback

While Kos and other Democrats suggest that we shouldn't be upset when a Democratic candidate for Senate holds anti-choice views, take a look at what Republicans do when their members step out of line. Mark Noonan:
All conservatives want to do something about the betrayal by the Spineless Seven; but what to do is the big issue, right? Some want to punish the whole GOP, but I see that as self-destructive; it might even lead to a President Hillary Clinton on January 20th, 2009. Mustn't have that. So, how about we concentrate our efforts on getting rid of the Seven, or at least putting enough pressure on them that they might even think that a laudetory editorial in the Washington Post isn't worth betraying their own Party? We could call it Seven PAC; a political action committee designed to gin up and support primary opponents for each of the Seven ...

Damn. Don't piss off Mark Noonan. The right knows how to control its politicians; although they obviously failed in this instance to prevent this 'betrayal,' if they really can make 'the Seven' (Mark Noonan = drama queen) feel the pain, other GOP senators and reps will be much more careful about pissing off the right.

Maybe we should take a page from these folks? It seems like most establishment Dems are so afraid of losing any single election that they'll look the other way on almost anything. For instance, Joe Lieberman is up for re-election next year, and while there has been talk about mounting a primary challenge to ol' Joementum, it's not clear that anything serious will materialize. The Right, on the other hand, wouldn't fucking hesitate to punish their version of Lieberman by pouring money into a primary challenge. They would do this even if it risked losing the general election.

The Right's willingness to risk losing individual elections helps to consolidate their control over the party, whereas the Left wing of the Democratic party usually 'looks the other way' or even supports candidates like Jim Langevin whose values are inimical to progressives. I'm not one of those people who think that the Left should copy all the tactics of the Right, but I do think that a little discipline once in a while would be in our best interests. Because the Right knows that before you can control the government, you have to control your own party. So far, progressives have been unable to exert such control over the Democratic Party, and we are left with candidates that are often barely preferable to the GOP.

5/24/2005

I must beg to differ

Presumably you've heard about the recent realization that sex offenders have been getting their Viagra covered by Medicaid. Not suprisingly, quite a bit of outrage followed this revelation, from both the left and the right, interestingly. Lindsay Beyerstein, however, has a different take; she doesn't see a problem with it. I think she's mistaken on several key points, though.
I'm getting sick of the manufactured outrage over the fact that New York's Medicaid program pays for Viagra for sex offenders. People are talking about the Viagra for sex offenders "scandal" as if felons were exploiting some kind of loophole. In fact, they're just using the same medical services that everyone is entitled to.
I don't think that all of the outrage is 'manufactured'--though surely some of it is. But public subsidizing of sex drugs for known perverts is something that could easily produce genuine outrage.
Medicaid covers Viagra for anyone for whom it is medically indicated. You don't have to undergo a criminal record check to get any other kind of medical treatment. Pickpockets can be treated for carpal tunnel, peeping toms for ADD, and embezzelers for dyslexia--and that's exactly how it should be.

... Medicaid is not an arm of the parole system. Prescriptions shouldn't be rationed in the name of social engineering. It sounds as if Health and Human Services might even revoke Viagra coverage for sex offenders who have already served their time. This is unconscionable. It's not up to HHS to heap extrajudicial punishments on people who've already paid their debt to society....
I don't see any reason why this is 'exactly as it should be'. These are criminals, after all, and as such they are subject to punishment. If we can deny them their freedom for years at a time by sentencing them to prison, is it so unreasonable to deny certain criminals access to medication that is not medically necessary and that could aid them in committing their crimes?

Now, she's got a point that this might not be the proper domain of HHS. But that's an ancillary issue; the question is whether or not convicted sex offenders should get Viagra; if ending this practice requires a law passed by the federal or state legislatures, then so be it.
We can debate whether Viagra and other ED meds should be on a public insurance formulary, but the sex offender issue is a total red herring. The unsubstantiated implication is that Viagra is facilitating rapes. That might be true, but then again, so might angina medication, antibiotics, or any other medical treatment for a sex offender who would otherwise be out of commission.
The implication might be 'unsubstantiated' in the sense that it hasn't been proven (perhaps because it hasn't been studied) but it's certainly not an unreasonable induction. These are sex offenders, and Viagra is a drug used to facilitate sexual activity--as opposed to antibiotics, etc., all of which are (often) necessary for one's continued overall health.

Though he agrees with Lindsay, Kevin Drum notes another good reason for opposing the practice:
Lindsay is plainly right on the merits, but once again conservatives have managed to dredge up a bizarre non-issue designed to make anyone with any sense look like a moral pervert. You either vote to ban Viagra for these people or else you're aiding and abetting child abuse. And there isn't a local news station in the country that can resist running with this story.
Yup. Mark Noonan made a similar point in a different context. Speaking of a little girl who was supposedly prohibited from singing a religious song at a school event, Mark said:
Hey, Democrats, do you want to know why we keep winning? Because in the great political game of the United States, we're always coming down loudly on the side of this little girl.
Now, Mark apparently is proud of his party's ability to make political mountains out of molehills, but his point is correct nonetheless. Like it or not, this is the kind of shit that makes the news, and conservatives have used this to their advantage to an enormous extent.

There's basically nothing to be gained from coming out against a ban on giving Viagra to sex offenders. It will only serve to make the Left look like it is taking the side of sick perverts. Plus, I don't really care whether the rights of these 'people' are being 'violated' or not if they can't get their Viagra. Frankly, they're lucky to be out of prison at all; the sentences for sex crimes are ridiculously lenient. So fuck 'em, basically; when it comes down to it, they don't deserve anything but scorn, and they certainly don't deserve to have their perversions subsidized by the government.


UPDATE: Other bloggers weigh in: Typical Joe agrees with Lindsay and Kevin, while Outside the Beltway says that Medicaid is already rationing drugs for the sake of social engineering, and makes the following analogy:
Personally I think we need to remove all laws prohibiting violent criminals from owning firearms. After all the Constitution does say that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed, and it is unconcionable to prevent felons who have already served their time from being able to defend themselves.

Ass Missile says: don't honor dead soldiers

A bizarre claim that right-wingers repeatedly make is that keeping track of the war dead is somehow objectionable. We just saw brand-new winger Keith Thompson criticize the left for counting civilian deaths in Afghanistan; now Power Line's Ass Missile is taking issue with Ted Koppel, who will again spend an episode of Nightline reading the names of fallen US soldiers:

Soldiers have been dying in the line of duty for a long time--even in peacetime, theirs is a dangerous profession.

Classy.

Keith Thompson is a big fat idiot

Surely by now you've heard that San Francisco Chronicle columnist Keith Thompson has announced, with a dramatic flair, that he is 'leaving the left'. Now, before all of us lefties get all broken up about losing one of our most important allies who we had never fucking heard of before this article, I should point out that Thompson is an undeniable idiot who is talking out of his ass.

His complaints about the Left? The stupid wingnutty bullshit we've been hearing for years now:
Leading voices in America's "peace" movement are actually cheering against self-determination for a long-suffering Third World country because they hate George W. Bush more than they love freedom.
You know what would be nice? A single example of a 'leading voice' of the anti-war movement 'cheering against self-determination' for Iraq. Just one will do. You'd think if the Left were teeming with people who are rooting against Iraqi democracy, Keith would be able to offer, I don't know, one example of this? But Keith is obviously already adept at one of the most important skills a blossoming wingnut can possess--attacking your opponent based on bullshit strawmen that have no connection whatsoever with reality!
A turning point came at a dinner party on the day Ronald Reagan famously described the Soviet Union as the pre-eminent source of evil in the modern world. The general tenor of the evening was that Reagan's use of the word "evil" had moved the world closer to annihilation. There was a palpable sense that we might not make it to dessert.

When I casually offered that the surviving relatives of the more than 20 million people murdered on orders of Joseph Stalin might not find "evil'" too strong a word, the room took on a collective bemused smile of the sort you might expect if someone had casually mentioned taking up child molestation for sport.
As Josh Buermann points out, who, exactly, reacts with a 'bemused smile' when someone suggests raping children for sport? And as for the U.S.S.R.--if Thompson bothered to look beyond his obviously deranged group of friends, he'd see a long tradition of Leftist condemnation of the Soviet Union.
Two decades later, I watched with astonishment as leading left intellectuals launched a telethon- like body count of civilian deaths caused by American soldiers in Afghanistan.
Yes, how awful of us to want to keep track of just how many civilians US foreign policy is leaving dead.
These days the postmodern left demands that government and private institutions guarantee equality of outcomes.
This, of course, is the idiotic lie that the Left is dominated by 'postmodernism.' Are there postmodernist Leftists? Maybe--are there any postmodernists, any more? Regardless, the most prominent Leftist today is, arguably, Noam Chomsky, who (as Buermann also notes) is anything but a postmodernist.
Leftists who no longer speak of the duties of citizens, but only of the rights of clients, cannot be expected to grasp the importance (not least to our survival) of fostering in the Middle East the crucial developmental advances that gave rise to our own capacity for pluralism, self-reflection, and equality.
Hey, I'm all for fostering such advances in the Middle East. If you see an administration that's interested in doing that, let me know, OK?

Apropos of nothing

Is it just me, or does LaShawn Barber often sound a lot like Jackie Harvey?

Texas bans marriage

Jonathan Ichikawa (via Brian Leiter) notices that Texas's anti-gay marriage statute seems to go a bit too far:
Sec. 32. (a) Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.
(b) This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.

One 'legal status' identical to marriage being, of course, marriage itself!

Woopsy.

Compromise on stem cells?

President Bush recently remarked that he was against "destroy[ing] life in order to save life," referring to stem-cell research.

Noting the seeming discrepancy between this statement and Bush's kill-happy war policy, Digby makes a proposal:
It looks to me as if the best way to convince Bush and his followers to support stem cell research is to propose that we only use Arab embryos.

Do these embryos happen to be sitting on a shitload of oil, by any chance?

More wingnut philosophy

GOP shills should really stick to what they do best; as we saw when Blogger for Bush Mark Noonan attempted to deduce the existence of God by stretching his arms in the air (or something like that), their forays into the realm of philosophy/theology can be exceedingly ugly. More evidence of this comes in the form of Dennis Prager's latest column:
Secularism and the meaningless life: Judeo-Christian values: Part XIII

As I have noted on occasion, there are three values systems competing for world dominance: Islam, European style secularism/socialism and Judeo-Christian values. As the competition in America is between the second two ... my columns on Judeo-Christian values have concentrated on differences between Judeo-Christian and secular values.

Perhaps the most significant difference between them, though one rarely acknowledged by secularists, is the presence or absence of ultimate meaning in life ...

... If there is no God who designed the universe and who cares about His creations, life is ultimately purposeless ... the fact that people feel that their lives are meaningful -- as a parent, a caregiver, an artist, or any of the myriad ways in which we feel we are doing something meaningful -- has no bearing on the question of whether life itself is ultimately meaningful. A physician understandably views his healing of people as meaningful, but if he does not believe in God, he will have to honestly confront the fact that as meaningful as healing the day's patients has been, ultimately everything is meaningless because life itself is. In this sense, it is far better for an individual's peace of mind to be a poor peasant who believes in God than a successful neurosurgeon who does not. If there is no God as Judeo-Christian religions understand Him, life is a meaningless random event. You and I are no more significant, our existence has no more meaning, than that of a rock on Mars ...

...Whatever the logical inconsistencies or theoretical arguments in either direction, the fact remains that while secular individuals can believe that their own lives have meaning, secularism by definition denies that life has meaning. The consequences have been devastating to mental health and to social order.

Totally deep, man. When I get the time, I'll have to go back and read parts I-XII.

The other Dada Head

Brian Leiter has been keeping track of other people named 'Brian Leiter,' so I thought I'd take a page from him. Here is another sculpture named 'Dada Head', this one by Sophie Taeuber-Arp, wife of Hans Arp. It was created in 1920.



Even though I was not created with aesthetics in mind--I am anti-art, after all--I think I am much better looking, if I do say so myself.

I hope this Dada Head doesn't start blogging; we might be in for a copyright battle. And I might lose, since 'Dada Head' is really more of a nickname for me. Which would suck: 'Mechanical Head' or 'Wooden Head' (my more 'official' names) just don't have the same ring.


... there's also my subtitle, 'Spirit of the Age', but that's kind of a mouthful. Incidentally, the reason for that title is this: my pop, Raoul Hausmann, said that the average German "has no more capabilities than those which chance has glued on the outside of his skull; his brain remains empty." The symbolism of the various objects attached to me has been interpreted differently. The cup on top of my head, for instance, is thought to be a receptacle for information--the idea being that you can simply pour whatever ideas you like to into people's minds.

This could be seen as sort of a dour message--but the maleability of the mind can also be an avenue for hope. Thus since my creation I have tried my best to wrest control of my mind away from negative forces--violence, hate, fear, desire--and tried to be a 'receptacle' for only the most life-affirming influences--art, love, freedom, etc. I haven't succeeded entirely, of course, but it's an ongoing process; the idea is to be wiser at the end of the day than you were at the beginning.

Treason!

The guilty party: serial traitor Bill Maher:
Lawmaker: Maher treads near treason

Comedian Bill Maher's mouth has landed him in hot water--again.

Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) says Maher's comment on HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher" May 13, that the U.S. military has already recruited all the "low-lying fruit," is possibly treasonous and at least grounds to cancel the show.

"More people joined the Michael Jackson fan club," Maher said of the Army's low recruitment numbers for April. "We've done picked all the low-lying Lynndie England fruit, and now we need warm bodies."

England was accused of abusing prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

"I think it borders on treason," Bachus said. "In treason, one definition is to undermine the effort or national security of our country."

In a statement released Monday, Maher defended his support for the U.S. armed forces.

"Anyone who knows anything about my views and has watched my show knows that I have nothing but the highest regard for the men and women serving this country around the world," he said in the statement.

Have you wingnuts ever heard the story of the boy who cried wolf?

I can't imagine that HBO would actually cancel his show due to right-wing pressure, but if it even looks like it's going to happen, we need to come to Maher's defense big time. Maher isn't perfect--his commentary is usually a bit hit-and-miss--but he has been a pretty relentless critic of Bush since 9/11/01. Plus, we simply can't afford to let the right have yet another 'scalp' to add to its collection; if this keeps happening, no one in the mainstream media is going to be willing to speak out against the GOP for fear of losing their job, and that would be a very bad thing indeed.

"Looking for a Monkey to rent"

A classified ad from craigslist:

Looking for a Monkey to rent

Reply to: anon-70499915@craigslist.org
Date: 2005-04-27, 4:28PM CDT


or possibly chimp Sat. May 7th 8pm - 9pm Under $150.00
Must be friendly and housebroken.
Drinking and Smoking ok.
Clean enviroment.
Huge tips if the monkey/chimp can ride a tiny bike or juggle.
No humans in monkey suits please.
thanks,
d

(Hat tip: S.)

5/23/2005

Compromise

I haven't yet had a chance to really analyze the compromise that was just reached in the Senate, but judging from the reaction at Freeper Nation, reported by Atta Turk, it can't be all bad:

I just left the GoP. I'm done with them. Cowards.

We've been snookered again. Picture Lucy whipping the football out from under Charlie Brown for about the millionth time.

What the HELL is this???????? We don't need a deal!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am furious. I will NOT SEND ANY MORE MONEY TO THE REPUBS. We didn't NEED a deal and we don't WANT a deal!!!

Not another frigging dime or a minute of my time, I stay home in 06' or vote libertarian. Unfreakin believable

If this is true it is truly an outrage. The only deal is the one the crats got. Everything they wanted. We got nothing. Only thing to do now is support a third party that can hopefully pick up 10-15% of the vote and use it as leverage to bargain.

... also, this wingnut compares Bill Frist to Neville Chamberlain (for 'appeasing' the Nazi Democrats), and this one says that the GOP has been 'date raped'.

Gotta love wingnuts. (Via LaShawn Barber.)

Thank you

Lefty bloggers throwing down today; make me very happy. Majikthise:
Some liberals think that parental consent laws constitute a reasonable "compromise" on abortion. Parental consent laws for minors are unacceptable, and argument that might establish their legitimacy undermines core pro-choice values.

On demand & without apology.

Kos shows his true colors?

I've always been back-and-forth on Kos: sometimes I think he's all right; sometimes I admire him for his tenacity; sometimes I think he couldn't be a bigger tool.

Right now, I'm thinking he is a tool.

He posts today about NARAL's decision not to endorse anti-choice Democrat Jim Langevin in the Rhode Island Senate campaign. Now, it should be understood that Kos is not complaining about the fact that NARAL endorsed Chafee over his Democratic opponent, for Langevin didn't make it out of the primaries. But Langevin was the candidate of choice for many Democratic insiders, and they are angry because he didn't get the chance to go up against Chafee in the general election.

I think NARAL should base its endorsements solely on the abortion issue, but I don't think it's unreasonable to ask them to look at the 'bigger picture'. But that's not what Kos is complaining about; he's complaining that they didn't back his preferred candidate in the primaries. He writes:
NARAL was one of the groups that fully opposed anti-abortion Democrat Jim Langevin's short bid for the Senate seat.

Nevermind that Langevin would've crushed Chafee and gotten us one seat closer to a Democratic-led Senate. And a Democratic-led Senate wouldn't ever let any abortion legislation see the light of day. But NARAL, myopic fools that they are, think Chafee is a better bet, despite his vote for Trent Lott, Bill Frist, and their allegiance to the James Dobson, American Taliban agenda.

NARAL, and many people here, whined and cried about Langevin, the way they whined and cried about Harry Reid, because of those Democrats' personal opposition to abortion. Didn't we know, they demanded, that choice was a core principle of the Democratic Party?

To which I have a simple answer: The hell it is.

One of the key problems with the Democratic Party is that single issue groups have hijacked it for their pet causes. So suddenly, Democrats are the party of abortion, of gun control, of spottend owls, of labor, of trial lawyers, etc, etc., et-frickin'-cetera. We don't stand for any ideals, we stand for specific causes. We don't have a core philosophy, we have a list with boxes to check off ...

Problem is, abortion and choice aren't core principles of the Democratic Party. Rather, things like a Right to Privacy are. And from a Right to Privacy certain things flow -- abortion rights, access to contraceptives, opposition to the Patriot Act, and freedom to worship the gods of our own choosing, or none at all.

This is lame. He's trying to evade the protests of pro-choicers who are rightly appalled that the Democratic Party couldn't come up with a decent pro-choice candidate by playing semantic games. Reproductive choice, he says, is not a 'core' principle--the right to privacy is. Fine, whatever. Put it like this, then: a pro-choice position should be a necessary condition to be a Democratic candidate for Congress. If you want to define choice as a 'core' principle or just an ancillary one, fine, I don't care. But it doesn't change the fact that Democrats should not be helping to rob women of their reproductive rights.

He tacks on a lame caveat at the end, clearly trying to cover his ass:

p.s. I nominate this post for "most misunderstood Kos post of all time" before I even submit it.
Yeah, well, if you know that what you're saying is going to be your 'most misunderstood' post of all time, maybe you should try writing a second draft so you can express yourself more clearly. In the meantime, I'll just remember Kos as the person who said that choice was not a core principle for Democrats.

Party hacks like Kos get so caught up in the 'game' of politics--we would have been one seat closer to a Democratic Senate! Wow, good for you, you'd still be the minority by a significant margin--that they end up seeing everything else as subordinate to winning.

I support the Democratic Party, in most instances, not because 'I'm a Democrat'--this isn't football; you don't just root for your team. The Democrats are skating on thin ice with progressives anyway, and the last thing they need to be doing is bashing NARAL for refusing to endorse their buffoonery. Earlier, I excerpted a passage from a post by Brian Leiter, but I left out a paragraph which seems awfully relevant here:

You must understand, of course, that the Democratic Party in the United States today is to the far right of the Labor Party in Britain and the Liberal Party in Canada; it is, in most respects, to the right of the Conservative Party in Canada. Its social and domestic policies are roughly in line with those of the Nixon Administration, perhaps a tad to the right.
In other words, the Democratic Party is already much, much more conservative than most progressives are comfortable with. For many of us, a betrayal on abortion will be the last straw. So instead of getting pissed at NARAL, maybe you can help them try to pull the Democratic Party at least to the left of the fucking Nixon administration, for Christ's sake.

Prof. Leiter tells it like it is

Brian Leiter on the filibuster issue (italics his, bold mine):

Unsurprisingly, the main focus is on the procedural issues, and the propriety of changing long-standing Senate rules. But we should not forget the real issue, which is that the Republican Party of Bush, DeLay, Frist & co. is as close to unadulterated evil as anyone in the United States has seen in my lifetime: it is the party of theocracy..., the party that revived the Nazi doctrine of “preventive” war , the party that supports torture, the party that undermines science, the party of radical regressive taxation, the party of naked and unapologetic bigotry against gays, the party that aims to destroy the main state protections (paltry as they are in America) for the indigent, the bankrupt, the ill, the elderly. It is the party of unbridled greed and (largely) unbridled cruelty ...

... the Republican Party that is setting the agenda and making policy in Washington, D.C. is the most evil U.S. Administration in living memory, and any discussion of the filibuster ought to keep that fact squarely in focus.

For the strongest moral case for retaining the filibuster isn’t, in my view, the process-based arguments that dominate the headlines (though they have some merit); it is the substantive argument, namely, that the party in power in Washington, D.C. is a danger to humanity, at home and abroad, and everything must be done to stop it from making lifetime appointments of religious zealots and bigots ...

... While the independence of the judiciary is a good in its own right, it is an especially important good when its independence is to be sacrificed to the forces of evil. And that is what is to be decided in Washington, D.C. in the next 48 hours.

Perhaps one of the small number of genuine social democrats and progressives in the Democratic Party will have the courage to say the word "evil" out loud, to point out that if the filibuster falls, we are consigning our judiciary to the likes of moral monsters like Karl Rove, Tom DeLay, and Dick Cheney. "God help us," as they say, if that comes to pass.

Amen. I'm going to remember this post the next time someone accuses leftists of being 'relativists' or unwilling to distinguish between good and evil.

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