Thursday, December 27, 2007

Thats what I've been trying to say.

I wrote this at Salon:

The problem with far-right, state rights garbage is that if you strip away the racism that motivates much of it, you still end up with some pretty good arguments that rely on the actual words of our actual Constitution for their support.

Not only did our founders envision individual states with greater autonomy than what has since evolved, they also envisioned that the citizenry would be directly involved in their own defense and that an Army would only be raised in a time of War as declared by Congress.

The opportunity to remind everyone that our standing army and permanent state of war was not only anticipated by our founders but stronly warned against, can only be regarded as a positive development and if it takes a racist who panders to the religious right in order to raise that argument, then that's the fault of the Democrats who don't have the courage to raise those arguments themselves.

It appears that I'm not the only person who feels that way:

>dday guesting at Digby

Until some progressive takes to a big platform and makes these same arguments in a coherent way, there will always be room for an isolationist paleocon like Ron Paul to make it for them.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Re: Hillary's likability

I'm loathe to defend the press corp in this sort of context but I will note that the issue of Hillary's "likability" does arise naturally simply because the people who don't like her for whatever reason (beyond me) loathe her passionately.

Since the press couldn't reasonably cover this aspect lest they turn over the rock of civility that most mouth-foaming wingnuts can be found under, they instead have to talk in general terms about her "likability"

Like "states rights" and "family values", those who know the code know what's actually being said, and those who don't can go on about their lives without wondering what all the fuss is about.

Monday, December 17, 2007

scheduling request at the Obama website

I just filled in a scheduling request at the Obama website
Here's what I wrote:

It appears that Senator Dodd is on the floor of the Senate fighting for the rule of law and against blanket immunity for the telecom companies that have apparently been participating in illegal spying on Americans.

Your schedule on the other hand still has you in Iowa.

It would appear that your desire to govern exceeds your willingness to do so. I must say I'm disappoined.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Re: telecom immunity......

The administration has always had a responsibilty to either uphold the law or push for a change in the law. To have them defy the law and then push for a change only after they have been in violation for years puts the entire notion of lawfullness at risk. If they can simply make it up as they go, then what can they NOT do?

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Taking a public stand against torture confers little political advantage for members of Congress — and it carries the risk of being branded as soft on terrorism.


Seeing that the tone of press coverage is often the deciding factor in whether something carries "political advantage", it would appear that Time magazine is pro-torture.

After all, we have it on good authority that torture saves lives. I heard it on CNN. And I saw it on 24.

It's good to know that the media is doing its part to protect us from the Islamofascist threat by making sure that human decency doesn't enter into our thinking.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

From: Richard Stengel

Sent: Tuesday, November 27, 2007 4:24 PM
To: Paul Dirks
Subject: Re: Joe Klein and FISA

Thank you for your email, I appreciate your comments.

TIME Columnist Joe Klein made a reporting error, which he swiftly addressed in his blog postings on In addition, TIME will run a correction in his column in this week's issue of the magazine.

Thank you very much,

Richard Stengel
Managing Editor

I respond again:

I appreciate your reply. I probably don’t need to mention that many of the people unhappy with the original reporting are also dissatisfied with the manner it has been addressed to date at Swampland. I sincerely hope that the print edition doesn’t leave a similar cold feeling. As I said in my original letter, this is indeed a serious issue and this incident is only a more egregious example of an ongoing pattern. I could spend several exciting hours documenting instances where the desired story-structure has guided the fact-seeking of Time reporters rather than the reverse. It is a practice which leaves one particularly open to this sort of error.


Paul H. Dirks

On 11/27/07 12:43 PM, "Paul Dirks" wrote:

Richard Stengel
Managing Editor
Time Magazine

While I am hopeful that this is only one among many letters encouraging you to look into the false premises that underlie the latest offering from Joe Klein headlined “The Tone Deaf Democrats”, I nevertheless hope that you will take this issue seriously. After all, fitting facts around a pre-existing story-line has proven to be a fatal practice in the not-so-distant past.

In light of the fact that the details of the FISA bill are incorrectly described in the story, I find their use to support the following statements offensive to say the least:

The Democratic strategy on the FISA legislation in the House is equally foolish.

In the lethal shorthand of political advertising, it would give terrorists the same legal protections as Americans. That is well beyond stupid.

As Dodd said, when the President takes the oath of office, he (or she) promises two things: to protect the Constitution and to protect the nation against enemies, foreign and domestic.

The fact that the President’s oath of office doesn’t include “protect the nation against enemies, foreign and domestic.” should have been the first hint that the article had some factual shortcomings.

While the particulars of the errors have been documented thoroughly by others, I wish to add my voice if only to stress that this is not a trivial matter. Stories are the currency of thought, and the act of furthering the story that Democrats are confused about National Security by spreading disinformation and confusion about their actual position does nothing but harm Time’s reputation as a source of news.


Paul H. Dirks

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A comment worth preserving:


Joe's heart leapt at the words, and tears formed in his eyes. The news from Iraq was good, but the sinking meant that at last, the war he'd been waiting for was on. Soldiers marched across the screens, and his grateful tears dripped into his non-fat decaf vanilla soy double mocachinetto. As the President addressed the press in the Rose Garden, he finally knew what what he had been fighting to realise for so many years: he loved Big Dubya.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Spine......aka Leadership

Without even bothering to mention Joe Klein or David Broder, the broader point, that Americans admire people who will stand up on principles and fight against the tide needs to be stressed repeatedly. Our culture, beginning with that American Revolution itself and continuing throughout the process of settling the West is infused with the story line.

We certainly don't need to be reminded of the power of "flip-flop" to know that capitulation to RW talking points is significantly MORE harmful to one's National Security cred than standing and fighting for what is clearly and demonstrably the right thing to do. Who after all, wants to be defended against terrorists by a capitulating weakling.

Joe Klein is indeed a symptom of the illness which infects this country. But I can't help rememeber a few months ago when everyone was lamenting Obama's naivety and inexperience becuase he had the audacity to mention that it might become necessary to intervene in Pakistan.

Apparently stupidity sells.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I write the United States Bridge Federation

I read with interest the New York Times story detailing potential sanctions against the women who held up the sign at the awards ceremony in China. I must say that I found this quote contained in the story particularly disturbing. “While I believe in the right to free speech, to me that doesn’t give anyone the right to criticize one’s leader at a foreign venue in a totally nonpolitical event,”

The reason this sounds sour to my ear is simply this:

If you can’t criticize your leader then why bother having free speech in the first place.

The whole point of the American experiment is the idea that we are all created equal and share in the responsibility of governing the country. If we can’t be free to criticize our leaders, then how can we possibly expect our leaders to represent our interests? I realize that yours is not a political organization and that this is a potential source of embarrassment but I would suggest that you view it as an opportunity to express your pride in being an American and supporting the great American tradition of free speech enshrined in the 1st Amendment to our constitution.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I write to AP:

Reid Threatens War Money By ANNE FLAHERTY

The story referred to in the subject line contains a sentence which is severely misleading although unfortunately quite common.

Similar legislation has routinely fallen short of the 60 votes needed to overcome procedural hurdles in the Senate.

The “procedural hurdles” referred to in the article is in fact the announcement by Republicans of their intent to filibuster the bill. The fact that the Democrats in the Senate never in fact require the Republicans to filibuster is unfortunate. The fact that the AP routinely obscures this fact in its reporting is unconscionable. A little honesty on the subject would go a long way toward educating the public on what actually goes on in the Senate.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Re: Glenn Greenwald

What happened to the Senate's "60-vote requirement"?

Glenn's post refers to the process of providing lip-service to opposing torture without having to actually address it. Well that happens to be the exact point of the exercise. Everybody wants to be "on record" as opposing waterboarding but to actually take the position that it was illegal when performed requires that the AG then prosecute those responsible. That it the one outcome that no one, Democrat OR Republican actually wants to see happen. The fact that our administration has engaged in unfortunate and/or incompetent behavior is something everyone can nod their heads in agreement over. The fact that they are an ongoing criminal enterprise on the other hand, needs to stay under wraps. If Scooter Libby proves anything its that no one is going to jail no mattter what!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Re: Ron Paul

The thing I find interesting about libertarians is they start with an immovable principle and then shoehorn all their particular views on individual issues into the mold thus defined. This is of course in contrast to most people (particularly politicians) who start with a laundry list of opinions on particular issues and then try to assemble them into a coherent whole (Hint: most people hold incoherent views.)

I find the popularity of Ron Paul refreshing if only because it suggests that even hardcore Conservatives are sick of what this country is becoming. I regard that as good news.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The best line I've read

Concerning progress in Iraq

To me, the issue is this: We keep talking about whether the glass if half full or half empty. But since the liquid in the glass is gasoline, the real question is, who's holding the match?

Turning Point For Iraq

This is notable too because (appearing on AmericaBlog) it helps dilute the slander that liberals don't desire success in Iraq.

Ron Paul

Ron Paul for Republicans represents having your cake and eating it too. Supporting him is the easiest way to repudiate BuschCo, endless aggressive war, torture, and warrantless wiretapping without having to hold your nose and vote for Universal health care and Gun control.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Keyboard Kommandos

I always thought The Poor Man's schtick was just sorta entertaining but when I encountered these guys actually worrying whether FreeRepublic was being taken down by Hacker Jihadi's I knew that truth was indeed stranger than fiction.

Orange text that actually guides people to what I am talking about so they can see for themselves!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Monday, October 22, 2007

Move along - nothing to see here

Into the memory hole

So the opinion, while interesting, is much less interesting because now we don't know how the FBI extracts false confessions from people. Looking at things from another angle, we don't know how the FBI gets suspected terrorists to tell the truth. Except that we do know this, because the opinion is still available from the How Appealing website.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Someone asked an easy question

asked for someone to provide an opposing explanation. To explain what is motivating the Bush administration.

Shortly after 9-11, the Bush administrration realized that they had been completely blindsided. They then proceeded to panic. They rounded up thousands of Arab Amerricans for the crime of being Arab-Americans and they implemented a clearly illegal wiretap scheme without considering the consequences. As the smoke cleared, and the feeling of panic subsided they realized two things. 1: that they were criminally liable for the behavior they had already engaged in and 2: that they had a rare opportunity to undo the damage to executive power that Nixon and Watergate had done.

Everything they have done since (including perhaps, starting a war of choice) has been in the service of covering their own culpability and reclaiming dictatorial powers for the President. The notion of providing immunity to the telecoms, fits right into the grand scheme with ease.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Stooping to their level

A number of people appear to be of the opinion that we should not stoop to the level of our opponents and should instead take the high road. I happen to agree. We should refrain from random killing. We should refrain from imprisoning people and subjecting them to sexual humiliation and waterboarding. We should refrain from gathering databases of our opponents purchasing habits and trying to correlate them with their wiretapped phone conversations. As long as we refrain from these activities, we are indeed taking the high road.

Refraining from calling the people who engage in these activities rude names however is not taking the high road. It's rolling over and playing dead

Monday, September 24, 2007

I think this story illustrates a larger point

From CNN/International

It is doubtful that foreign security contractors could be prosecuted under Iraqi law. A directive issued by U.S. occupation authorities in 2004 granted contractors, U.S. troops and many other foreign officials immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law.

Security contractors are also not subject to U.S. military law under which U.S. troops face prosecution for killing or abusing Iraqis.

I bring it up because I think it speaks to a larger issue, including the warrantless spying issue.

Put simply, when there are no constraints on behavior then humans do bad things almost as a matter of course. The contractors in Iraq are working without any enforcment of rules of engagement. It was inevitable that an event like the one documented in this story would eventually take place.

But the same thing is true in regards to the NSA and the data-mining eavesdropping programs. They may have been set up with the best of intentions, but without oversight or coherent rules, abuse is inevitable.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Re:Petraeus - Betray us

Generals are people too. To pretend that they are above criticism or ridicule is to take yet another baby step towards fascism. The whole theory that our nation was founded upon was that "all men are created equal", that there is no priveleged class and that one of the most potent tools protected by the first amendment is satire. The people who wish to take this away clearly fail to understand the nature of Freedom and I personally find that heartbreaking.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Just a thought

What compartment of the brain do the people who absolutely despise illegal immigrants store their understanding of what it is to be an American in Iraq?

Just curious.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Its time for my favorite quote re: Treason.

"I, _____ (SSAN), having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God."

I only bring it up because, the same people who are most likely to make references to treason while referring to their fellow citizens are uncoincidentally the same people who have the least respect for the US Constitution and the Freedoms it guarantees.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Marketing Marketing Marketing.

All the time we were being told to wait for General Petraeus's report to Congress, it never occurred to me that we were waiting for the anniversary week of Sept. 11th.

It seems to me, that one of the reasons the Dems are cowering in the corner is they actually appreciate the power of brainwashing - uh I mean marketing. This year is the first where September 11th falls on the same weekday as the original tragedy. Is it a coincidence that this is the week they've chosen to roll out the "7 out of 10 Generals prefer the Surge over the next leading strategy" campaign?

Friday, September 07, 2007

"The surge is working"

The surge is working alright. It has very conveniently changed the subject about what the future in Iraq holds and bought at least one more FU for our soldiers.

Recall that during the election campaign we were endlessly presented with the choice between "staying the course" and "cutting and running". Within minutes of "cutting and running"'s victory in the election, "stay the course" immediately disappeared down the memory hole and "the Surge" was born.

I just can't believe that our entire foreign policy apparatus is being run by a marketing department but there you have it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

re: Iran

It is possible that much of what is going on is bluster and is intended for its diplomatic and political effect rather than signalling an actual imminent attack. But its worth pointing out at this time that our Constitution was specifically written to make this kind of posturing and threatening impossible. Not only was the power to make war specifically entrusted to the lower house so that such decisions would be made by those closest to the people but military appropriations were specifically limited to two years so that the executive could not feel that he had an army at his disposal to do with as he saw fit.

The founders understood human nature and were afraid of what would happen if these guidelines were not adhered to. It appears they were dead-on.

Friday, August 24, 2007

I can't let this slide.....

Dissecting Greenwald

Even though I am supposedly a member of the Very Serious People (VSP) Foreign Policy Community (FPC) I feel obliged to say that I don't agree with any of these sentiments (well except for the part about America being "inherently good.")

In case you can't tell, I have a REAL problem who anyone says that the US is inherently good. We may indeed be a force for good. We may indeed be a model for the world. But these qualities aren't "inherent". We have to work for them. And that we have to work for them suggests that we can fail. America's goodness is not inherent. Anyone who suggests that it is, is being morally lazy at the very least.

Friday, August 17, 2007

A truly excellent example of truly lousy news coverage

LA Times

I just encountered this tonight but it does provide an excellent example of how news coverage can totally distort a situation by insisting on he-said/she-said construction.

a verdict that follows a long legal battle that pitted the Bush administration against civil liberties groups over how terrorism suspects are detained and should be prosecuted.


The conviction of Padilla, 36, and two codefendants was a boost for an administration that had received sharp criticism for holding Padilla as an "enemy combatant" for 3 1/2 years without due process until the courts insisted he be charged with a crime or set free.

The government's success in the Padilla case could now encourage officials to bring other enemy combatants into federal courtrooms.

"This clearly shows that in some cases, yes, the process can handle it," Morford said. "You have to look at it on a case-by-case basis. And these particular charges did work in a regular criminal trial."

Donna Newman of New York, Padilla's initial attorney who fought for months just to get a lawyer-client meeting with him, agreed, saying the administration was wrong not to "trust the courts" for so long.

"I don't necessarily agree with the verdict," she said. But in the future, "the government should be hard-pressed to say the [criminal justice] system doesn't work. It shows you can bring forth the evidence and try someone in court."

But Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said the jury's decision was not a blanket approval of how the administration had dealt with terrorism defendants.

"This verdict, if it stands, cannot be seen as an endorsement of a regime of unreviewable executive detention," he said. "President Bush should not take today's ruling as permission to continue to hold Americans outside the law at his whim."

If, as has been argued, the guilty verdict proves that the Criminal justice sytem CAN deal with terrorist cases then how is the conviction a boost for the administration which has insisted all along that it cannot? The answer is of course that it isn't and this particular reporter is full of malarky.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Don't forget...we were insane.

While I'm not going to sit here and exclaim that 9-11 changed everything, I will point out that it did make a lot of people who were reasonably secure suddenly feel helpless. There was a lot of importance to the idea that we DO SOMETHING even if what we did didn't bear any particular relationship to the causes of our discomfort. Whenever the subject comes up, I always like to remind people what happened to the Dixie Chicks. The reaction to Natalie Maines's comment can be described many ways but rational is not among them.

We were led into Iraq because at the time we were ready to be led anywhere and Bushco saw an opportunity in our confusion. To this day, they're still trying to exploit the confusion (see AQ vs AQI) but we're slowly waking up and people aren't buying it anymore.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

More religion.....

This remains a danger

For a person to think that most or all Christians are like the Hagee groups would be a mistake as I have found many that are not in any way like these particular folks are.

As one well versed in Dawkins and Shermer and Dennett, I am well aware of the tendency to paint all Religious people as equally misguided but it's both politically inexpedient and logically fallaceous to do so. (My personal view is that the Universe as a whole should be given at least as much credit for being conscious as we give the subset we refer to as Humanity.)

However, to take a late interpretation of a allegorical story and turn it into a course of political action that includes the wholesale slaughter of innocent people, pretty thoroughly flies in the face of anything that any thinking person could possibly consider sacred.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Again quoting myself....

One of the tactical mistakes that far-left types frequently make is that they write off people with strong religious convictions as being unreachable or unreasonable. What they fail to realize is that one of the reasons that Christianity is so popular is that many of its moral precepts make perfect sense whether you happen to believe in magic or not.

When Jefferson wrote "we hold these truths to be self-evident" he of course meant that certain things are so obvious that they don't need to be defended. One of these self-evident truths is that if you're of the opinion that human life is sacred then you should oppose war with at least the same degree of fervor that you spend opposing abortion.

If on the other hand, your theology is based on the premise that pleasure is sinful but that pain is desirable, then it makes perfect sense to cheerlead warfare. Such thinking should be exposed at every opportunity.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Josh nails it..

What I've been trying to say....

And groups all over the Middle East, who have little if any actual connection to al Qaeda, are adopting the name al Qaeda in vicarious support or sympathy or, perhaps mostly and most damningly, because we've managed to make it a strong brand.


Words matter.....

But these are stories you haven’t been reading in The Times in recent weeks as the newspaper has slipped into a routine of quoting the president and the military uncritically about Al Qaeda’s role in Iraq — and sometimes citing the group itself without attribution.

And in using the language of the administration, the newspaper has also failed at times to distinguish between Al Qaeda, the group that attacked the United States on Sept. 11, and Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, an Iraqi group that didn’t even exist until after the American invasion

Friday, June 22, 2007

I sometimes find it useful

To remind myself that we humans are in fact a just bunch of apes with a modicum of extra neural circutry that allows us to communicate more effectively. The core forces that drive our behavior remain the same ones that drive chimps to gather in bands and sort themselves by rank.

I need to remind myself of that because otherwise the part of me that thinks rationally and believes that "all men (and women) are created equal" just gets overwhelmed with the galling cruelty and stupidity that permeates our existence

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Words Matter

I've always thought that the word "terrorist" should be defined as anyone who has committed an act of terrorism or anyone who plans on committing an act of terrorism in the future. It seems perfectly reasonable and it encompasses thousands of dangerous people. Unfortunatetly now "terrorist" has been redefined to include anybody who doesn't like the USA plus anybody who happens to occupy any real estate we're targeting at the moment. So we've instantly gone from facing thousands of terrorists to facing millions! No wonder the chickhawks are so scared!

What you've described in your post, is the redefinition of the word "insurgent" in precisely the same manner. It does make things more difficult when insurgents are routinely elected in the Democracies we're so busy imposing. But nevertheless in this Orwellian world we now occupy, "insurgencies" are bound to be springing up all over the place. All we have to do is target a building and "POOF", its instantly filled with insurgents!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A discussion on religion arose at swampland

Here are my contributions:

Whether one beleives in a diety or not, its hard to ignore the fact that religion is pretty ubiquitous among us humans. If you count choosing who gets elected President among your goals, then you ignore this fact at your peril.

Many people confuse freedom of religion with freedom from religion and the Republicans of course use this confusion to their advantage.

I've always felt that anyone who thinks the Creator of the Known Universe plays favorites among separate religious practices (let alone political affiliations) is suffering from a supreme failure of imagination.

Stressing that the message of the Democratic Party is one of inclusion should ring true among believer, agnostics and athiests alike. If not, we're just not getting the message across adequately.

Religion is simply politics seasoned with the extra confidence that comes from thinking that the Creator of the Universe has your back.

As such it's very powerful (I happen to think there's a strong genetic component) but at the end of the day, those of us who were taught that God is loving, compassionate and forgiving will believe it to the grave as will all those who think he is vengeful and jealous will do the same.

We'll leave the question of which group votes for which party as an exercise for the reader.

"and the insistence that there is a "natural" explanation for all unexplainable phenomena is no less "faith based" than the belief in God."

I'm not sure if you meant that the way I'm taking it but it's certainly incorrect.

History and experience have shown time and again that the assumption of a natural explanation for all observed phenomena is vindicated regularly and repeatedly. Without such an assumption, we'd still be having difficulties figuring out how to use twigs to harvest termites. Note that you needn't be an athiest in order to insist on natural explanations. The universe is quite sufficiently miraculous on its own without having to postulate uncaused effects.

"a kind of evolving spirituality that is a mix of Buddhism and string theory/quantum physics"

My belief is reasonably easy to state. The Universe should be given at least as much credit for consciousness as it's contents. It is therefore at least as self aware as we are. Like us, I beleive it strives to become more self aware. After that, it's physics all the way down.

"but with what exactly do you disagree when it comes to Jesus' exhortation to lead moral lives and love each other?"

That would be the people who twist the "lead moral lives" part into a reason to hate each other.

"When a woman was brought before Him for her transgressions, Jesus preached mercy, but then told her to go and sin no more."

This is a continuation of the whole "log in your eye vs. a speck in your brother's" message. We humans are imperfect and are not in a position to judge each other let alone invoke God's name when doing so. Those who miss this simple message, as mudcat pointed out in the original post can be reasonably accused of blasphemey Of course the accusation itself would be subject to the exact same logical failure.

In the end the message is clear, that we should be tending to our own transgressions first and formost and leave those of our neighbors in more capable hands.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

re: Rural voter

I think the issue of whose Urban vs Rural is less important that the issue of who has experienced actual exposure to people who are unlike them. While city dwellers encounter people of differing religion and/or race or ethniciity routinely, people who live in small towns have less such exposure but unfortunately so do people who live in the vast suburban enclaves that surround our major cities.

The cultural inexperience we're associating with the "rural" mindset is far more widespread than the actual membership in the rural demographic.

Friday, June 08, 2007

El Cid comments at GG...

American security policy under Republicans is like an pest exteriminator company run by bitter ex-pro wrestlers who are blindfolded and given only methamphetamine, Red Bull, and axes and told to go into every home with full force in order to teach those damn insects a lesson, so that their insect sisters and brothers will hear about what horrible things happened in the house torn apart by the confused blind muscleheads.

-- El Cid


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I comment at WaPo re: Libby

I've always thought that the reason we have courts and rules of evidence and Grand Jury proceedings was to insure that when someone was indicted, that it was based on a preponderance of evidence and when convicted, it was based on evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.

Now I realize that things said in forums such as this or "the court of public opinion" don't necessarily have to meet these stringent tests, but don't we think that by this time "Libby was framed!" would have outlived its usefulness?

Just asking?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Once again I cut & paste one of my GG comments to post here.

Two conclusions are inescapable....

Have you conveniently forgotten that atheists killed more people than religionists by a substantial multiple, last century? Stalin and Mao alone evened the score for a large portion of human history. So much for "reason".

1: Many people have killed many other people.

2: Many people have religious beliefs.

Any conclusions beyond these two are unsupported BS.

For the record, what all the mass murderers have in common is a willingness to classify people into arbitrary but reasonably easily delineated groups and declare members of one of the groups to be "unclean". The stated goal is inevitably the betterment of "mankind" ignoring the fact that mankind is made up of individuals each "created equal" with an equally sacred stake in living, loving and raising families who share their goals and values.

If you are among those, willing to condemn such a group to the point of wishing death upon their members, then you share in the evil that the mass-murderers represent.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Failure of Education....

Since I never raised children, I had the luxury of being able to ignore whatever has been happening in our schools for quite a while now. It's clear to me now that whatever it was, its now a major contributer to the current pollution of our discourse.

While individual reporters are merely churning out whatever is rewarded institutionally by their organizations, in the meantime those higher up in the organization are concentrating their efforts on determining whatever will do the most to enhance revenue flow.

We can all see the results of this process, which of course moves expensive haircuts and continuing saga's of missing pretty white women to the fore of news coverage. (Never underestimate the power of that photo that accompanies the 10 second teaser for the next segment)

So, if as I assert, the lousy news coverage is demand driven, how can we create demand for substantive coverage? Why, in school of course. If we were doing an adequate job of teaching that the demands of citizenship include paying attention, developing informed opinions and voting, then (eventually) the demand for decent serious news coverage would grow.

Needless to say, the process takes years to accomplish, but it is simply one of the better investments we can make in our future.

Monday, May 07, 2007

I always enjoy when libertarianism is discussed...

Because it usually causes everyone to examine their core assumptions. During the Viet Nam era, I was too young to be subject to the draft, but it certainly profoundly affected my attitude toward the coercive power of the state. When you peel away all the pretty words, what remains are people with blue uniforms and guns who reserve the right to shoot you if you don't come quietly. The rest is simply arguing over who deserves to be on the receiving end of such treatment

Friday, April 27, 2007

What is winning?....II

I made a comment several threads back that speaking of "winning" or "losing" in Iraq was misguided and counerproductive..

Leave it to someone much smarter to explain in detail why...


With Harry Reid's controversial 'war is lost' quote and with various other pols weighing in on whether we can 'win' or whether it's 'lost', it's a good time to consider what the hell we're actually talking about. Frankly, the whole question is stupid. Or at least it's a very stilted way of understanding what's happening, geared to guarantee President Bush's goal of staying in Iraq forever.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Important questions from Kevin Drum

So here are some questions for every one of the 2008 presidential candidates: Do you care about Muslim public opinion? Do you think it impacts U.S. national security? Which aspects of American foreign policy do you think contribute to these attitudes? What concrete steps would you take to change these parts of our foreign policy


The amount of ignorance that permeates our discourse is astounding and depressing. The sad fact remains, these are NOT the questions the candidates will face.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What is victory?

We need to work very hard to get past the idea that the Iraq war is a contest that be lost or won. It is in fact a situation that can improve or degenerate. But as long as people are thinking in terms of "winning" or "losing" they are imagining an outcome or end state after which there's no longer a contest. This is of course nonsense. But unless I'm wrong, this whole Harry Reid flap is based on this persistent illusion. By using the term "losing" he bought into the frame.

We need to work past it or it will continue to bite us in the ass.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Re: The surveillance State....

In times like these....
it always fun to regurgitate the outrage that Republicans expressed over the Clipper Chip proposals during the Clinton years.

John Ashcroft

But doing so reminds us that the battle for personal privacy cuts across party lines and that there are no shortage of Democrats who are willing to sacrifice freedom if they think it will give them "law and order" or "war on terror" cred.

I've always assumed that every link I've ever clicked as well as every case of beer I've ever purchased was available as a data point for anyone willing to dig for it. And who even knows how many servers the photos we take with our cel-phones end up on.

One of the downsides of technological advancement is that anything that can be done will be done at some point. Does everyone remember the talk of internet-enabled refrigerators?

Needless to say, the more connected we all are, the more irresistable the urge to monitor and control will become. It's just plain human nature.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Re: Michael Goldfarb and "near dictatorial power"

Anyone with a passing knowlege of history and the Constitution know why this "dictatorial" thinking is misguided and wrong. What I personally find more interesting is the insights into human nature which were apparent to the founders that caused them to frame the founding documents the way they did in the first place.

They knew that they had to impart the war-making powers to the legislature specifically because as the representatives most closely accountable to the people, they would be the ones least likely to use military engagements as a tool of self aggrandizement. They understood well how the combination of a fearful populace and ambitious leaders could result in evil forces acting under the umbrella of arbitrary law.

To those who think of themselves as individuals first and then members of society, is is indeed excruciatingly basic and obvious. To those who subsume their individuality to their tribal loyalties, it needs to be explained....again....and again.....and again....

Thursday, March 29, 2007

One of my better efforts...

In response to a discussion of unalienable rights over at Glenn Greenwald.

We of course are playing word games here, but I'll give it a shot. Our rights come from the consensus we created when we asserted that we had them. That we put them in our founding documents for easy reference adds to their value. If you doubt the power of consensus then I suggest you burn all the money in your wallet because it has no value save what has been assigned to it by the power of consensus.

You make a valid point about how the lack of ownership of our own bodies is evidence that we have rights that are currently being violated, but if you had no rights beyond what the government grants, then you would have no basis to complain!

When Jefferson wrote the declaration of independence, he did indeed invoke the diety and referred to it as the source of the rights asserted. But he also said, "we hold these truths to be self evident" meaning that he had no reason to think that anyone in his audience wouldn't know exactly what he was talking about.

He also used the phrase "goverments are institued by men". When you refer abstractly to "not having any rights except what are granted by government" then you are allowing 1 useful fiction to trump another useful fiction. Government is nothing more than a collection of people, many of whom are armed, who assert the right to control the behavior of others.

No wonder, when designing a system of government, the framers were very careful to design it in such a way that the ambitions of its participants are set against each other so that the power of law wouldn't become an instrument of abuse.

Opinions vary on how well they did, but it certainly highlights why its important to continue to assert our rights, even when we are among those who would sacrifice them for expedience or safety.

Spin in action.

This quote is from a story concerning Kyle Sampson's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee:

"The distinction between 'political' and 'performance-related' reasons for removing a United States attorney is, in my view, largely artificial," Sampson said.

"Some were asked to resign because they were not carrying out the president's and the attorney general's priorities," he said. "In some sense that may be described as political by some people."

Pretty mealy mouthed right? Yea, I thought so too.

Here's how it translates as a headline in the San Luis Obispo Tribune's website...

Sampson denies, under oath, U.S. attorneys fired for political reasons

I'm in the wrong line of work.

Friday, March 23, 2007


Does anybody remember how important civil liberities were to Republicans when Janet Reno was AG.?

The administrations interest in all e-mail is a wholly unhealthy precedent, especially given this administrations track record on FBI files and IRS snooping. Every medium by which people communicate can be subject to exploitation by those with illegal intentions. Nevertheless, this is no reason to hand Big Brother the keys to unlock our e-mail diaries, open our ATM records, read our medical records, or translate our international communications. --John Ashcroft October 1997

Read It All

Freedom isnt free.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


The point to keep in mind is that the fundamental difference between the two parties is that Democrats believe America can be decent and strong at the same time and Republicans believe that those are mutually exclusive concepts


Rosa Brooks via Kevin Drum

To paraphrase Zbigniew Brzezinksi, we need to resist efforts to frame policy debates in terms of strong versus weak, or hard versus soft power: the real question is whether we're going to be smart, or stupid. I don't know about Joe, but I'll take smart over stupid any day of the week.



Monday, March 19, 2007

From Kevin Drum

The biggest role -- assuming we actually want to win, that is -- will be played by programs and policies that work to convince the Muslim world that we're not at war with them. Policies and programs aimed at winning them over and persuading them to stop supporting or tolerating terrorism in their midst. In the long run, short of turning the Middle East into a glassy plain, it's simply the only way to win.


Judging from what goes on over at LGF and similar sites, it would appear that there's a faction within this country for whom the glassy plain IS the only solution.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Friday, February 23, 2007

Glenn Greenwald's post today is a must-read.

Read it here.

War-cheerleaders often appear to be looking in a mirror and I've always regarded it as a tragic failure of imagination, that the people who call for the death of their enemies can be recast as calling for their own elimination with just the slight shift of perspective that comes from applying the Golden Rule.

The tragedy is compounded further when you consider that some of these death-merchants self-identify as Christian.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

I often wonder......

How much effect the advent of television and movies has had on our (as a culture) willingness to engage in warfare. While people often credit TV (Huntley-Brinkley-Cronkite) for helping to end the VietNam war by delivering the reality of the carnage to our living rooms, at the same time, we are subject to an endless series of fictional scenarios in which, with the sacrifice of sencondary and tertiary players in the game, the heroes ALWAYS win in the end.

That would certainly help explain the chickenhawk mentality. The problem isn't that they haven't experienced actual combat and warfare. The problem is that they've experienced an idealized and unrealistic version instead. That's why they keep on insisting that we clap louder. They actually believe that that's the key to victory. It also helps explain all this claptrap about "giving comfort to the enemy". They actually believe that cheerleading helps us win.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Among the things I wish I had said...

The sooner we realize that military force is a blunt instrument, rather than a fantastically supple collection of hyper-qualified diplomat/soldier/thinker/humanitarian/civil servants, the better off we'll be.

Ezra Klein

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Constitution Test

It used to be that you couldn't graduate high school until you demonstrated a passing knowlege of the US Constitution. Nowadays that lack won't even keep you out of Congress!

from poputonian at Digby's

Read it and weep!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

When in doubt - quote myself.....

The sad part of this whole thing, is that the country isn't divided into those who desire war and those who oppose war. It's divided into those who favor effective action versus those who favor blundering around like a drunk with a revolver.

That's why Bush supporters hate the CIA. They represent the folks who are actually interested in the REAL war on terror.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Hope springs eternal....

In case anyone needs any more evidence that the war-r-us crowd is painting themselves into a tight little corner of irrelevance I present you: The NRSC Pledge

Friday, January 12, 2007

I wrote USA Today....

Albert Einstein famously defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Likewise, the gambler's fallacy is the belief that a run of bad luck will portend a turn for the better in the near future. I fear that both these thought processes infuse our current Middle East policy.

The American people have made it abundantly clear that they are ready for a change in course but it seems that all we're being offered is more of the same, the only difference being a raise in the stakes that higher troop levels represent. I urge all our Congressional Representatives to make clear to the administration that the AUMF was not a blank check and that its time to re-evaluate what can realistically be acheived in the Middle East and to move toward a policy based on reality rather than wishful thinking.
Bucky posted this comment at Glenn Greenwald:

What if there is a well defined mission in Iraq, but the leadership can not share it directly with the American people? What if the mission is simply to destroy the Arab states of the middle east? If it is, then we are doing "the job" and the speeches are just to cover up the real mission.

I added:
You're probably on to something important. pretending for the sake of argument that the #1 US goal is to prevent a nuclear device from being used on us and the second most imnportant goal is to maintain control over the oil supplies. Since our soldiers have sufficient weaponry to operate in a war zone, even if they are unable to control events on the ground or prevent the civil war from proceeding at its current deadly pace, by simply remaining they are accomplishing their mission, and any talk of democracy or stability or and end game of any kind is just sugar coating for the folks back home (and the parents, wives and friends of the soldiers in question).Same deal if we go into Iran. Stability is not required. A freindly regime is not required. Chaos is fine as long as it keeps our "enemies" unable to operate freely.

Joshua Micah Marshall has more: