Thursday, January 31, 2008

The fruits of doubt

The 2008 Annual Edge World Question Center question is: What Have You Changed Your Mind About?

The link features answers from 166 scientists, philosophers, and other skeptics. My answer - which I've already explained - would be UFOs.

Parody growing more difficult by the day

"Obama ... I don't know, he just seems trustworthy. The kinda guy that will look you in the eyes, shake your hand and you know you can count on his word. Now, that's not to say that he should be president because he wouldn't be dealing with other straight-shooters. No. He'd be going up against the Hitlers, Stalins, Ivan the Terribles, Neros, Caligulas, Jeffrey Dahmers, Son of Sams, Freddy Kreugers, Hannibal Lecters, Skeletors, Cobra Commanders, and John Hinderakers of the world."

See this for an explanation.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Art of the day

Bridge at Villeneuve-la-Garenne (1872) - Alfred Sisley

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

At least he's consistent(ly wrong)

On the same night that Bill O'Reilly demanded an apology from John Edwards for having the audacity to correctly cite the number of homeless veterans in America, he took issue with the AP reporter who challenged Mitt Romney on the assertion that lobbyists are not running his campaign.

O'Reilly was completely dismissive, saying that Ron Kaufman was a Massachussets guy and not a Washington insider. Kaufman works for Dutko Worldwide, which is a Washington lobbying firm.

Additionally, the Boston Herald reports that Romney "has more than a dozen federally registered lobbyists raising money for him and several others advising his campaign."

So to recap: When Bill O'Reilly challenges a Democratic presidential candidate on an issue that candidate is correct about, Bill O'Reilly is owed an apology. When an AP reporter challenges a Republican presidential candidate on an issue he is being dishonest about, that AP reporter is out of line.

The world was his country

Dispatches From the Culture Wars reminds us that today is the birthday of Thomas Paine.

"Independence is my happiness, and I view things as they are, without regard to person or place; the world is my country, and my religion is to do good," from The Rights of Man is one of the finest expressions of humanist thought around, and the following passage from Thomas Paine by Craig Nelson gives some indication of the dedication Paine had for the principles of liberty and free thought.

This pamphlet for the greater good would all but destroy Paine's American reputation, and its drafting would offer a profound insight into the author's very character. If there is any moment in his life that reveals Paine as the Enlightenment's most adamantine evangelist, it is this. For exactly what kind of man, with dozens of friends either imprisoned or dead by guillotine or by their own hand, with his own life directly imperiled, and expecting at any moment the knock at the door and the presentation of the warrant - just what kind of human being would write a book under such conditions, and call it The Age of Reason?
And here's a sample of Paine's efforts to prevent the execution of Lous XVI which are what put his life in danger in France. Paine had hoped that France, in addition to banishing the monarchy, could set an example to the world by also banishing executions. These words turned out to be extremely prescient.

I have the advantage of some experience; it is near twenty years that I have been engaged in the cause of liberty, having contributed something to it in the revolution of the United States of America. My language has always been that of liberty and humanity, and I know by experience that nothing so exalts a nation as the union of these principles, under all circumstances. I know that the public mind of France, and particularly that of Paris, has been heated and irritated by the dangers to which they have been exposed; but could we carry our thoughts into the future, when the dangers are ended, and the irritations forgotten, what today seems an act of justice may then appear an act of vengeance. My anxiety for the cause of France has become for the moment concern for its honor. If, on my return to America, I should employ myself on a history of the French Revolution, I had rather record a thousand errors dictated by humanity, than one inspired by a justice too severe.

Baleful quote of the day

"I truly believe Hillary Clinton is evil." - Neal Boortz, on his Jan. 29, 2008 radio show


This is lunacy. Both Edwards and Obama support universal health insurance ... what is it with the singular and obsessive Hillary hate? It makes no sense.

Clinton is the most conservative of the three. Her husband balanced the budget, saw the economy propsper, and reformed welfare. Are not those conservative goals? Heck, he even engaged in the sort of "we gotta bend the constitution to protect us" activities that Boortz now argues are vital to American security.

There is no rational basis for this kind of animus.

During the same segment, Boortz explained that he believes single women are going to vote into power the evil fascist socialist Hillary Clinton because they are biologically wired to want someone to take care of them. Since these women don't have a man to take care of them, they turn to the federal government he reasoned.

Irony is dead

Jonah Goldberg, author of Liberal Fascism, a book designed to explain to America that Hillary Clinton is part of the long line of "liberal fascists" stretching back to Mussolini, is proud to have his book praised by a racialist extremist who can't tell the difference between Obama and Hitler. He also used to be a member of various Australian Nazi organizations for what he says are research purposes. The conclusion of which was that: "Even if crypto-Nazis do attain to some power in public life, the traditional respect for the individual in Anglo-Saxon societies should ensure that he could function only as a (perhaps extreme) Conservative."

Update: In fairness to Goldberg, he'll praise pretty much any praise he gets.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Speaking of fascism ...

Robert Paxton, author of the authoritative The Anatomy of Fascism, explained to NPR last August that "Islamofascism" is more of a slogan than an accurate and descriptive label. He also explains why critics of President Bush are wrong to call his administration fascist.

Excerpts of his book can be read here.

Irony dead?

"General Franco is an authentic national hero... [with the] talents, the perseverance, and the sense of the righteousness of his cause, that were required to wrest Spain from the hands of the visionaries, ideologues, Marxists, and nihilists that were imposing... a regime so grotesque as to do violence to the Spanish soul, to deny, even, Spain's historical destiny. He saved the day.... The need was imperative... for a national policy [to]... make this concession to Churchill this morning, that one to Hitler this afternoon.... Franco reigns... supreme. He is not an oppressive dictator.... only as oppressive as is necessary to maintain total power... " - National Review Oct. 26, 1957

General Franco was a quasi-fascist dictator. ("... only as oppressive as is necessary to maintain total power"? Nobody read that in the editors office and thought, "gee, that's kinda contradictory"?)

National Review is currently edited by Jonah Goldberg. Goldberg has just released a book titled Liberal Fascism.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

John McCain condemns anabolic drug usage

Except when he's getting a chemically enhanced celebrity endorsement.

That would be Sylvester Stallone. Rolling Stone explains:

...does anyone else find it incongruous that McCain, who has held Senate hearings on steroids in baseball, and just last month shamed the Rocket for his alleged Human Growth Hormone use — “I’m very disappointed with Roger Clemens” — is now locking arms with Sly Stallone?

This is the same Stallone, after all, who was convicted in Australia last May for illegally importing human growth hormone and testosterone into that country — including 48 vials of an HGH drug banned in the U.S.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Par for the course

George W. Bush thinks that his favorite paiting features an evangelical Christian on a mission to spread the word of God, in reality it features a criminal attempting to escape a lynch mob.

Friday, January 25, 2008

On the revolving door

Bipartisan lobbying firms serve rosters of blue-chip corporate clients. To push the Bush administration's Medicare drug benefit bill on Capitol Hill, the pharmaceutical manufacturers hired Democratic lobbyists Vic Fazio, a former Democratic congressman; David Beier, who had been a chief domestic policy adviser to Al Gore; and Joel Johnson, a former top aide to President Clinton and Senator Daschle [who also became a lobbyist after failing to get re-elected]. To push their side, the generic drug manufacturers hired Chris Jennings, who had helped devise Clinton's unlamented health plan, and former Republican Mark Isakowitz, who had helped defeat the Clinton plan. Similarly, in 1998, when tobacco companies wanted to sell Congress the settlement they had reached with state attorneys general over tobacco health claims, they turned for help to both Republican and Democratic lobbyists, including former Gore aide Peter Knight, the former Demcratic governer Ann Richards, and George Mitchell, former Democratic Senate majority leader.

While nonbusiness interests have better access to power under Democratically controlled government than under Republican, businesses have excellent access under both. Upon leaving office, more than half of the senior officials of the Clinton administration became corporate lobbyists. Clinton's first legislative director left his post after less than a year to become chairman of Hill & Knowlton Worldwide. Clinton's deputy chief of staff departed in less than a year to run the U.S Telephone Asociation. According to the Center for Public Integrity, between 1998 and 2004 more than 2,200 former high-ranking federal officials, from both Republican Democratic administrations, registered as federal lobbyists, as did over 200 former members of Congress. By 2003, more than half the total number of former members of Congress who were registered lobbyists had served as Democrats. Almost all were lobbying for large corpoarations.

-- Robert Reich, Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life


From Bad News: The Decline of Reporting, the Business of News, and the Danger to Us All by Tom Fenton

Here's a startling example of how more news stories about bin Laden and al Qaeda might have made a difference. Shortly after he arrived in America, Mohammed Atta, the man we now believe to have been the ringleader of the 9/11 attacks, went to an unsuspecting Department of Agriculture loan officer in Florida and tried to get a loan for what he described as crop dusting. He told the loan officer, one Johnell Bryant, that he wanted to finance a twin-engine, six passenger aircraft, take out the seats, and fit it with a chemical tank that would fill every square inch except where the pilot would sit. Bryant thought the idea was impractical and rejected the application. Atta then turned his attention to an aerial photo of Washington on the wall of her office, pulled out a wad of money, and tried to buy it. He asked her to point out the White House and the Pentagon, and asked her how America would like it if another country destroyed Washington and some of the monuments in it, just as the cities in his country had been destroyed. And here's the amazing part: In the course of their conversation, Atta inquired if the loan officer had heard of an organization overseas of people dissillusioned with their governments; that group, he told her, was called al Qaeda. He also mentioned the name Osama bin Laden, and promised that bin Laden would some day be known as the "world's greatest leader."

All of this took place four months before 9/11. but none of this rang a bell with Bryant, for al Qaeda or bin Laden were going nearly unmentioned by the mass media at the time.
Imagine if we had a mass media that pursued stories relevant to the functioning of democracy with the tenacity that it pursues stories that do not. Imagine if the media was as interested in Cheney's dissapeared e-mails as it was the vagina of Britney Spears. Imagine if the media pursued the story of a conspiracy to fraud the nation into war with the tenacity that it stalks celebrities and their children. Imagine if the press followed a bipartisan effort to perpetuate a "constitutional crisis" as obsessively as it follows up on celebrity deaths. Imagine if the media was as interested in where the presidential candidates stand on one of the most massive (and illegal) civil liberty violation in the nation's history as they are in endlessly discussing bickering between candidates. Imagine if we had a media that devoted as much time as it does to telling us who Linsday Lohan is dating in rehab to informing us that we have a broken government.

Addendum (5/31/08): Since posting this a significant flaw in the Bryant/Atta incident cited by Fenton has come to my attention.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bang for the buck

The Center for Public Integrity has released a report finding that:

President George W. Bush and seven of his administration's top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.

On at least 532 separate occasions (in speeches, briefings, interviews, testimony, and the like), Bush and these three key officials, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan, stated unequivocally that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (or was trying to produce or obtain them), links to Al Qaeda, or both. This concerted effort was the underpinning of the Bush administration's case for war.

Now let's see here. There have been 3931 US military deaths in Iraq. That's 4.2 US military deaths per lie.

The lower estimate of Iraqi deaths from Iraq Body Count is 80,625. That's 86.2 Iraqi deaths per lie.

The more realistic estimate of Iraqi deaths from the Lancet study is 655,000. That's 700.5 Iraqi deaths per lie.

The Iraqi occupation has cost the United States about 500 billion dollars so far. That's 534,759,358 dollars per lie.

A more realistic assessment of the cost of the Iraqi occupation is about 1 trillion dollars. That's 1,069,518,716 dollars per lie.

And yet they sleep at night.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hard work for Sisyphus

"It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place." - The Red Queen in Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carrol

Ok, I give up. The Bush tax cuts were ... wait for it ... progressive. Neal Boortz and the "free market" champions at the NCPA win ... my brain feels like its going to snap trying to keep up with all reality revision. Yes, our tax system has been growing more progressive for the last two decades.

Yeah, sure, these folks say different. But they gotta be liberals, right? And we know liberals are communists. And socialists. And fascists. It's not like you can expect communist Marxist socialist liberal fascist Progressives like David Cay Johnston to report the truth about how great the Bush tax cuts were for the middle class.

Update: I've seen the light I tell you. Soon, I'll write something explaining how the elimination of the estate tax is progressive because it primarily benefits the destitute.

Damn them to hell

I just noticed that the bottom feeding amoral cretins known as spammers have come up with their latest means of annoying the hell out of me. They've begun linking to posts in order to have their commercials show up when someone clicks on the links to the post feature.

Rotten no good [insert insult of choice]s

Conservative communism

Hey, it's as reasonable as Liberal Fascism.

And this will help make sense of one of the jokes.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Quote of the day

"The only identity that matters is that of being a human being – first, last and foremost. If that thought were in the forefront of consciousness every time people encountered each other, no matter what else might also be part of a description of them, the world would be a vastly better place." - A.C. Grayling, "The ties that bind"

Obama says: vote for me I'm a Christian

Sigh. Glenn Greenwald points out that Obama has been making an appeal to voters in South Carolina to vote for him because he is a Christian.

Drew Westen argued at length in The Political Brain that one of the most foolish and frustrating habits of Democrats is to "cede the networks" to Republicans. What Westen is saying is that Democrats are allowing Republicans to frame the terms of political debate in such a way that when Democrats fail to challenge the frame the neural networks of associations that favor the Republican take on the issue is activated.

Here we see a case in point. We now have a political atmosphere in which presidential candidates are campaiging on being members of a particular religion, something that is very much a spiritual, if not actual, violation of the principle of church/state separation. When Democrats like Obama (who I have no doubt would be superior on church/state matters than Huckabee) make this kind of appeal they are playing right into the hands of the theocratic elements of our society, as it legitimizes the notion that one needs to be a Christian in order get elected. This sort of behavior is helping to make Article 6 of the Constitution null and void for all practical effect.

In the Greenwald comment section numerous individuals have responded that Obama's brochure is a necessary counter to the "Obama is a Muslim" whispering campaign against him. I disagree. If that is what Obama seeks to counter with the brochures then he should DIRECTLY confront the inherent bigotry of the smear campaign while simultaneously pointing out that he is in fact, a Christian, but that what is important is not a candidate's religious affiliation but what his/her beliefs about the separation of church and state are and what not.

For those interested primarily in practical politics, this approach would allow Obama to have his cake and eat it, too. He would be identifying himself as a devout Christian while at the same time attacking the church/state eroding need to identify oneself as a Christian in order to get elected. The model speech for this, of course, being JFK's.

This is especially dissappointing to me, given that Obama is one of the most talented speakers in the Democratic party and has consulted with George Lakoff in the past, so he is aware of the need to challenge the existing frames of political debate.

Update: Meanwhile, Republican members of Congress are trying to pass a resolution promoting the lies of Christian nationalism. This is how Democrats play into the hands of these folks. By failing to challenge the prevaling atmosphere, they open themselves up to being attacked as "anti-Christian" if they don't support this sort of religious pandering. The end result of all this is that discourse continues to shift in the direction of the conservative movement.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A chronological history of deception

At some point last week I was flipping through the AM channels and landed on some local radio host in mid sentence talking about how he was no fan of President Bush, being a conservative dissapointed with his spending and what not, but that he just didn't get all these folks who call Bush dishonest.

What I don't get is these folks who are getting paid, presumably, to speak about issues that they are remotely informed about, but are in reality clueless. There is not any policy path that has been traveled by the Bush administration in which there was not left a wake of lies, distortions, and misinformation. But for the sake of brevity, one need look no further than the war in Iraq.

So here you go, Mr. radio host - Lie by Lie: The Mother Jones Iraq War Timeline

And please remember that conspiracy to fraud Congress and the American people is a criminal and (I would argue) an impeachable offense.

Update: I was remiss not to mention that former US prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega laid out the case for a criminal fraud conspiracy by the Bush administration clearly and concisely in U.S. v. Bush. She explains the gist of her book in this article.

Legally, there are no significant differences between the investor fraud perpetrated by Enron CEO Ken Lay and the prewar intelligence fraud perpetrated by George W. Bush. Both involved persons in authority who used half-truths and recklessly false statements to manipulate people who trusted them. There is, however, a practical difference: The presidential fraud is wider in scope and far graver in its consequences than the Enron fraud.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

80s Video of the Day

"Say You Will" by Kids Incorporated (covering Foreigner)

Atheist skeptic blogger has psychic powers

How else can you explain Skeptico out-predicting Sylvia Browne?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Why does Bill O'Reilly hate John Edwards?

When a supposed journalist working for a supposed news network spends multiple segments of his supposed news program calling a politician a liar, a phony, a charlatan, etc. for making a statement that was factually accurate, shouldn't that supposed news network expect that the supposed journalist make an apology and a retraction?

The answer is obvious, but when that exact scenario happened at Fox News on the O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly, after having stated in response to Edwards's correct assertion that there are 200,000 homeless veterans in America that "the only thing sleeping under a bridge is [Edwards's] brain" and mocked Edwards with "we’re still looking for all the veterans sleeping under the bridges, Ed [Schultz], so if you find anybody, let us know, because that’s all the guy [Edwards] said for the last three nights" while issuing an assortment of insults against him, changes the subject after finding out Edwards was correct and says, "We deal with facts here on The Factor, not fiction. John Edwards owes us an apology. "

Are you *bleeping* kidding me?

Here we have O'Reilly, who is constantly doing his generic Joe McCarthy routine where he accuses people of not supporting the troops, attacking a presidential candidate for - gasp! - informing the American public that a couple hundred thousand vets are homeless. Then when he finds out Edwards is correct O'Reilly then demands an apology from Edwards. This is beyond satire.

Why? Why does O'Reilly hate John Edwards so much? If you've been following O'Reilly at all you'd have noticed he has been calling Edwards a loser and a sham and what not for months now. I think the answer is quite simple: Bill O'Reilly hates John Edwards because he is the populist that O'Reilly pretends to be.

Now, I don't mean that O'Reilly consciously thinks that, but that that reality is at the bottom of the animus that O'Reilly has for Edwards. Edwards supports policies that would benefit the people that O'Reilly believes himself to be the champion of, and thus Edwards presents a challenge to his worldview.

Of course, in reality O'Reilly's third greatest fear* is that he might have to pay a higher tax rate, which has nothing to do with being a man of the people. But self-justification is the path of least resistance for O'Reilly, so he somehow manages to recast in his own mind his own financial self-interest as a populist position in order to get rid of any pesky cognitive dissonance.

Here's what really ticks me off, though. O'Reilly supports and promotes an endless war in Iraq that is bankrupting the nation, leaving us with less means to provide social services and foisting onto future generations the responsibility of paying off this one's debts, yet Mr. Generic Joe McCarthy isn't willing to "undergo the fatigues of supporting" the war in Iraq. And unlike Paine, we're not even talking about actually having to fight the war he supports, just to fund it.

But in O'Reilly's world, him not wanting his taxes rate raised makes him a man of the people and John Edwards wanting to do something about our rigged to benefit the super-wealthy economic system makes him a populist phony.

*O'Reilly's second greatest fear being that someone, somewhere will say something critical of President Bush; and his greatest fear being that someone, somewhere will say something critical of Bill O'Reilly.

Friday, January 18, 2008

A Manichean anecdote

In a section of The Fall of the House of Bush discussing the neoconservative penchant for accusing anyone who doesn't share their apparently limitless desire for war of being Neville Chamberlain, Craig Unger provides the following footnote:

As journalist Jim Lobe has noted, it need not take an existential crisis for neoconservatives to fall back on the Munich-appeasement trope. Lobe points out that Donald Kagan, a classicist who is the father of the Weekly Standard's Robert Kagan, attributed his dissillusionment with liberalism to an episode in the late sixties when Cornell University decided to negotiate with black students who were pressuring it into starting a black studies program. As Kagan put it, "Watching administrators demonstrate all the courage of Neville Chamberlain had a great impact on me and I became much more conservative." In other words, in Kagan's Manichaean, neoconservative worldview, black students, by analogy, were Nazis, and their goal of studying black history was the equivalent of world conquest and exterminating the Jews.
We've previously discussed this Manichean style, here.

Michael Ledeen: fanatical liar extraordinaire

Glenn Greenwald has written previously about Michael Ledeen denying that he had supported the invasion of Iraq when in reality he had been one of the leading figures in the intellectual movement that orchestrated the invasion. But what seems to be missing from the various links one can find through the Greenwald post is a link to this post written by Ledeen on Sept. 11, 2001, which was posted about 4 hours after the attacks. (h/t Craig Unger)

After citing the crank conspiracist work of the thorougly discredited (although that never seems to matter to neoconservatives) Laurie Mylorie to suggest Saddam Hussein was responsible for the Twin Tower attacks, Ledeen wrote

Finally, someone should remind the president that we are still living with the consequences of Desert Shame, when his father and his father's advisers--most notably Colin Powell and Brent Scowcroft--advised against finishing the job and liberating Iraq. And the president should show the world that he is cut from different fabric, by immediately moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and removing the pettifogging restrictions on the Iraqi Resistance, thereby taking the fight directly to Saddam on his own territory.

If he does that, he will show his antiterrorist people that the rules have changed, and we are serious. If he doesn't, they will cover their asses with legal opinions forbidding them to act effectively.

Machiavelli famously said that it's impossible to get good leaders in peacetime. We will now find out if we have leaders capable of waging war.

Review of the day

Wish I wrote it.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Quote of the day

"[W]hat’s important for the journalist is not how close you are to power but how close you are to reality." - Bill Moyers

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


"Barring extreme physical and mental disabilities, each and every one of us is where we are today -- be it poor or wealthy, happy or sad, on the streets or in a condo, in a Mercedes or a rusted-out Pinto -- because of the choices we have made during our lives. It's the choices we have made that put us where we are, not the choices others have made for us." - Neal Boortz, The Terrible Truth about Liberals

Boortz is right. For example, let's apply this maxim to a subject that is near and dear to Boort'z heart - disenfranchising voters (examples 1, 2, and 3) who don't vote the way Boortz would like them to vote. And a perfect case study of how the choices people make affects whether or not they should be allowed to vote is Florida during the 2000 election.

See, there, many citizens lost their vote because they chose to be the descendents of slaves and disenfranchised second class citizens, while Katherine Harris was in a position to disenfranchise them because she wisely chose to be the grand-daughter of Florida citrus baron Ben Hill Griffin Jr.

What do atheist dictatorships teach us?

Not much, argues Christopher Orlet.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Baleful quote of the day

"I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that’s what we need to do is amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than trying to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family." - Mike Huckabee, apparently calling for a theocracy and the end of American democracy (via Think Progress)

Why does William Kristol work for the New York Times

What does it say for the state of journalism in America, that a leading national paper hires (for nepotistic reasons) a political operative/propagandist with on-going ties to a current administration who had previously urged criminal prosecution of the paper and who has been systematically incorrect about the invasion and occupation of Iraq and then lets him write poorly written articles about Iraq in which he continues his history of factually challenged opinion?

What does it say that the quality of one's opinion seems to have zero impact on the quality of one's salary? In a rational world, wouldn't the person who said this (and other such things):

We are tempted to comment, in these last days before the war, on the U.N., and the French, and the Democrats. But the war itself will clarify who was right and who was wrong about weapons of mass destruction. It will reveal the aspirations of the people of Iraq, and expose the truth about Saddam's regime. It will produce whatever effects it will produce on neighboring countries and on the broader war on terror. We would note now that even the threat of war against Saddam seems to be encouraging stirrings toward political reform in Iran and Saudi Arabia, and a measure of cooperation in the war against al Qaeda from other governments in the region. It turns out it really is better to be respected and feared than to be thought to share, with exquisite sensitivity, other people's pain. History and reality are about to weigh in, and we are inclined simply to let them render their verdicts.
...wouldn't that person have to be shamed into not issuing any more public pronouncements? Shouldn't the sheer magnitude of wrongness preclude that individual from being hired by the New York Times?

And what about journalistic ethics? Have those been tossed aside? William Kristol is part of the inner elite of the Bush administration and the neoconservative movement that helped bring America it's most disastrous foreign policy blunder in American history - a blunder which military historian Martin van Creveld has called the most foolish war of the Common Era (aka A.D.) That makes Kristol a story ... he's the sort of person the paper should be writing about in the interest of informing the American public about the radical foreign policy agenda adopted by the Bush administration. Instead, the paper gives a mouthpiece to a man who is part of movement that seeks to dismantle what the paper is supposed to be in the service of: liberal democracy.

William Kristol is the editor of the Weekly Standard and regular commentator on Fox News, both of which routinely demonize the New York Times. Who will the Times hire next ... Rush Limbaugh?

Update: I could have save myself of writing this post if I'd noticed that Eric Boehlert had already written a superior one.

On "judicial activism"

'In every case where a court issues a decision on a controversial matter that produces an outcome which right-wing polemicists dislike, they immediately decide -- literally overnight -- that they are experts in the legal issues which the court had to resolve. Then -- without bothering even to learn what those issues are, let alone bothering to read anything about them -- they start condemning the court's decision as some sort of lawless expression of "judicial activism." In reality, the only ones engaged in "judicial activism" -- which means, I suppose, determining the propriety of a court ruling based on outcome preferences rather than legal analysis -- are the ill-informed critics of the court's ruling, who are judging the ruling based exclusively on their objections to the outcome.' - Glenn Greenwald

Monday, January 14, 2008

The alternative reality of the noise machine

In movement conservative world, if you ever hear anything that may cause you some cognitive dissonance (i.e. something that conflicts with your ideologically determined worldview) it can be dismissed as the product of "liberal bias" and attributed to either the Clintons or George Soros. Reality be damned.

As John Tirnan put it in his comment explaining that George Soros had no influence over the Lancet study, "this kind of villification borders on the psychopathic."

Fascism defined

Orcinus has compiled a list of definitions.

Quote of the day

"All men have heard of the Mormon Bible, but few, except the 'elect' have seen it or at least taken the trouble to read it. I brought away a copy from Salt Lake. The book is a curiosity to me. It is such a pretentious affair and yet so 'slow,' so sleepy, such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print." - Mark Twain, Roughing It Chapter 16

Friday, January 11, 2008

Thomas Paine, fascist?

The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine is one of the greatest democratic polemics ever written and is considered one of the definitive arguments in favor of the American style of democratic experiment.

Lesser known, however, is that within that text Paine sketches out a plan for a welfare system in Britain. So, according to Neal Boortz, the man who convinced the colonies to declare their independence, coined the phrase "United States of America", and risked his life in three countries across two continents in order to defend the principles of liberty upon which this nation was founded was a fascist.

And what's more, since Paine was poor most of his adult life despite being the best selling author of his day* and believed in a system of social security he would not have been a full citizen under Boortz's conception of how America should run.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Paine had anticipated brutes such as Boortz, and offered a response in "Dissertation on the first principles of government" (1795): "It is always to be taken for granted, that those who oppose an equality of rights never mean the exclusion should take place on themselves."

Or more specifically:

The true and only true basis of representative government is equality of rights. Every man has a right to one vote, and no more in the choice of representatives. The rich have no more right to exclude the poor from the right of voting, or of electing and being elected, than the poor have to exclude the rich; and wherever it is attempted, or proposed, on either side, it is a question of force and not of right. Who is he that would exclude another? That other has a right to exclude him.
And regarding granting voting rights on the basis of wealth:

In any view of the case it is dangerous and impolitic, sometimes ridiculous, and always unjust to make property the criterion of the right of voting. If the sum or value of the property upon which the right is to take place be considerable it will exclude a majority of the people and unite them in a common interest against the government and against those who support it; and as the power is always with the majority, they can overturn such a government and its supporters whenever they please.

If, in order to avoid this danger, a small quantity of property be fixed, as the criterion of the right, it exhibits liberty in disgrace, by putting it in competition with accident and insignificance. When a broodmare shall fortunately produce a foal or a mule that, by being worth the sum in question, shall convey to its owner the right of voting, or by its death take it from him, in whom does the origin of such a right exist? Is it in the man, or in the mule? When we consider how many ways property may be acquired without merit, and lost without crime, we ought to spurn the idea of making it a criterion of rights.

But the offensive part of the case is that this exclusion from the right of voting implies a stigma on the moral character of the persons excluded; and this is what no part of the community has a right to pronounce upon another part. No external circumstance can justify it: wealth is no proof of moral character; nor poverty of the want of it.

On the contrary, wealth is often the presumptive evidence of dishonesty; and poverty the negative evidence of innocence. If therefore property, whether little or much, be made a criterion, the means by which that property has been acquired ought to be made a criterion also.
Are the any circumstances in which someone should lose their right to vote?

The only ground upon which exclusion from the right of voting is consistent with justice would be to inflict it as a punishment for a certain time upon those who should propose to take away that right from others. The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected.

To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery, for slavery consists in being subject to the will of another, and he that has not a vote in the election of representatives is in this case. The proposal therefore to disfranchise any class of men is as criminal as the proposal to take away property.

When we speak of right we ought always to unite with it the idea of duties; rights become duties by reciprocity. The right which I enjoy becomes my duty to guarantee it to another, and he to me; and those who violate the duty justly incur a forfeiture of the right.

In a political view of the case, the strength and permanent security of government is in proportion to the number of people interested in supporting it. The true policy therefore is to interest the whole by an equality of rights, for the danger arises from exclusions. It is possible to exclude men from the right of voting, but it is impossible to exclude them from the right of rebelling against that exclusion; and when all other rights are taken away the right of rebellion is made perfect.
*Paine sacrificed personal profit in order to ensure his work would reach a wide audience at the lowest cost possible.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ron Paul's letters

Thanks to a lack of an internet connection (which is now back after a switch to DSL), I didn't get around to writing the post on Ron Paul I had intended to. While I was waiting to get back on-line, Jamie Kirchick at TNR published an article taking a closer look at the Ron Paul political newsletters, finding them to be full of racism, right-wing conspiracies and other kookery.

Dave Neiwert and Ed Brayton have both written posts on the subject that cover it so I don't really feel compelled to add anything else (although I might write something eventually) but I will point out something I said in the comments of the first post about Paul at Orcinus last summer:

Re: racism as a form of collectivism

That's Paul rationalizing his racism through the prism of his libertarian ideology. It reminds me of "philosemitic" antisemites in the 19th century who believed that Jews would lose their "jewness" and become German if they were granted full citzenship. But that didn't happen and the "philosemites" became flat out antisemites. Paul is saying something similar, that once his libertarian dream-world comes into being "the market" will magically transform blacks from "collectivists" (read: communists) into humans with "sensible" opinions. This is the kind of typical "non racist" racism that you can find littered at a site like Stormfront.

I frequently surf Stormfront, and I frequently read threads started by white supremacists. That letter by Paul after the riots is white supremacy 101 ... which is of course why a neo-nazi holocaust denier liked it so much that he posted it to his website.In the Political Letter that was archived at Nizkor Paul asserts that it is rational to be afraid of black men because 95% of black males in major cities are criminal or semi-criminal and that only 5% of blacks hold "sensible" opinions.


Oh, and David Duke has endorsed Paul for president, and I suspect that Duke has probably read the rest of Paul's political letters. Letters which Paul refuses to release to the press.
The Kirchik article seems to confirm that suspicion about Duke (or at least indicate that it was highly probable):

While bashing [Martin Luther] King, the newsletters had kind words for the former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke. In a passage titled "The Duke's Victory," a newsletter celebrated Duke's 44 percent showing in the 1990 Louisiana Republican Senate primary. "Duke lost the election," it said, "but he scared the blazes out of the Establishment." In 1991, a newsletter asked, "Is David Duke's new prominence, despite his losing the gubernatorial election, good for anti-big government forces?" The conclusion was that "our priority should be to take the anti-government, anti-tax, anti-crime, anti-welfare loafers, anti-race privilege, anti-foreign meddling message of Duke, and enclose it in a more consistent package of freedom." Duke is now returning the favor, telling me that, while he will not formally endorse any candidate, he has made information about Ron Paul available on his website.
Given that the diarist Phenry at Daily Kos had already pointed out that the Ron Paul newsletter had been included by a neo-Nazi front group in a list of racialist organizations, it wasn't much of a stretch to guess that this sort of stuff was probably in the other letters. One point that I would correct from my comment is that it's not certain whether Paul or a ghostwriter wrote the particular letter I was alluding to, but given that racialist propaganda was going out in Paul's name for several decades it hardly makes much of a difference who wrote what.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Discover's Top 100

Every year I look forward to the Top 100 science stories of the year from Discover. Here is the list for 2007.

Perhaps Neal "it's cold today so global warming is a scam" Boortz* might want to take a gander at story #21.

*This is a derisive nickname, not an actual quote, based on this.

Cool site of the day

Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, now has a personal website - the work of Michael Shermer - um ... featuring his work.

Shermer is one of the best popularizers of science and skepticism around, so I recommend browsing the site if you're not already familiar with him. Here's a decent starting point that is currently featured on the front page.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

No vote for you! Heil the Republic of Boortz.

Dave Neiwert has written a post further commenting on Neal "democracy is a hideous form of government" Boortz. And on a related note, he also has just posted his review of Jonah Goldberg's revisionist book Liberal Fascism.

While we're at it, here's an older article from Boortz in which he again urges taking the vote from people who don't vote his way.

I am now and have been for years a firm advocate of developing a system to limit the people who can vote in this country. We need to find a way to restrict the number of people who can vote. If we don't weed out the chaff soon it may well be too late.

Don't give me that democracy nonsense.
Just to be clear: the "chaff" is comprised of poor people, women, and minorities mostly. Although to be fair, given that in 2004 Boortz said that he was having a hard time deciding if al Qaeda or John Kerry voters were more dangerous, one suspects he'd be ok with just stripping the vote from anyone who doesn't vote for his candidate(s).

In addition, he argues for giving voters more purchasing power according to how much money they have. A brilliant idea if one is looking to recreate something similar to the pre-Civil War economy of the South.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Trivia of the day

Question: Who coined the phrase vanish into thin air?

Answer: William Shakespeare (sorta).

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Still no internet

Comcast, possbily motivated by the fear that I would get fed up with their service and move to a region of the country where I might find an alternative cable provider, failed to show up yesterday to fix the connection problem that has persisted for several months now. Nor did they call.

Supposedly they will come to work on it today.

Update: No show from Comcast on Saturday. Someone was supposed to come on Sunday. No show on Sunday, but the individual reported that no one was home (untrue.) Looking to switch to DSL later this week.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Guess which "socialist" said it

"Comprehensive health insurance is an idea whose time has come in America. Let us act now to assure all Americans financial access to high quality medical care."

Answer (highlight the text with your mouse to see it): President Richard Nixon, commenting on the Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan of 1974 (h/t Paul Krugman)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The dumbest f'ing thing I've heard in a while

Global warming is a scam. Want the proof? It's cold today in Atlanta. So said Neal Boortz today.

It makes my head explode trying to understand how people can listen to this kind of shit and not say to themselves, "this guy is a fucking moron."

Really, he may as well have said, "it's 63 degrees today, yet it was 68 degrees yesterday ... so much for global warming." Seriously, Neal Boortz listeners - how? How can you not see how dumb this is?

Do you realize that this line of reasoning implies that climatologists have argued that it will never be cold on any day anywhere on the planet ever again, which is prima facie something absurd to believe. Do you realize that there is an inconsistency between Boortz saying global warming is a scam because the sun is getting hotter and it being cold in Atlanta today?

Do you really consider Boortz saying it's cold in Atlanta today to be a refutation of the research of the world's top climatologists? God help us if you do.

Today's Worst Person on the Planet (with all due respect to Mr. Olbermann)

Presented without comment ...

Neal Boortz:

An election is coming in 11 months and millions of parasites, led by single females, are getting ready to accelerate the destruction of the concepts of individuality, private property rights, self-reliance, and this very country by putting a hideous, power-hungry, big-government socialist* into the White House.


And a word for you welfare brood mares out there. That's right .. welfare brood mares .. it's time for someone to call you out for what you are. Perhaps one of the greatest social wrongs a person can commit in this country is to have a child that you cannot afford to care for. Do you really think that it's perfectly OK for you to get yourself knocked up, download your baby, and then tell the taxpayers "Hey, look what I did! Now you folks cough up the money I need to take care of this child." Yeah .. that's what America is all about .. and you're going to be right there in November to vote for Hillary, aren't you. In fact all of you are: the uneducated and unmotivated, the "I'm not responsible for my own health care" crowd, and the single moms. All of you want someone else to step in and take care of you after you've screwed up your own lives, and who better than Hillary, a woman more than ready to use the police power of government to reward you for your votes.

You do know, don't you, that you have absolutely no constitutional right to cast a vote in this presidential election. No .. you probably don't know that. That would mean you are educated, but you're not. You were educated by the government ... and the government sure isn't going to disclose that inconvenient little fact to you. Somehow the media in this country has bought the politician's about this "right to vote." It's not there. Doesn't exist. And to save this country we need to figure out a way to get tens of millions the parasite class off the voter roles. Welfare? No vote. Illiterate? Stay home on election day. Begging for the government to be your lifetime nanny? Let the doers, the achievers cast the votes. Just stay away.


*About that asterisk. Current language usage compels me to use the term "socialist" when describing Hillary Clinton. The actual word we need to use is "fascist." The left, however, has managed to take the "fascist" word and turn it into an epithet against right-wingers. Nazis were fascists, right? Perhaps you might be one of the few to learn that "Nazi," in German, is "Nationalsozialismus." The true name of the Nazi Party in Germany was the National Socialist German Worker's Party." German Nazis weren't at all fond of capitalism .. and neither is Hillary Clinton. When it comes to the free market Hillary has quite a lot in common with these folks ... not that you'll ever read that in the mainstream media.
Ok, I lied. Here's a comment ... that's the dumbest f'ing thing - wait, second dumbest f'ing thing -I've heard in a while. Germany helped build the Nazi warmachine with approval and help from socialist Henry Ford and other communist entities like GM and the Nazi death catalogue was automated with help from the Leninists at IBM. And the left-wing Maoists at The Economist (part of the mainstream media that Boortz so brilliantly serves as a "balance" to) consider Hillary Clinton to be conservative.

Good god, what does it say for our society that someone becomes rich being this god damned stupid and functionally racist? (Given that the practical consequances of what I bolded are racist.)

Quote of the day

"To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts." - Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2007 Book of the Year

Before naming this year's selection, I'd like to point out that this is this blog's pick for best book related to the underlying theme of the blog that I've read in 2007 rather than best book released in '07.

With that being said, the 2007 Book of the Year is .............

The Scientists: A History of Science Told Through the Lives of Its Greatest Inventors by John Gribbin

I will once again skip writing my own review and just link to someone else's. The reason I chose this book is because it does a fantastic job of not just surveying the 500 year history of science, but in an exceedingly captivating and reader friendly fashion, goes about demonstrating that science is not a static catelogue of facts and figures but a dynamic progressive and on-going process of inquiry that builds and improves upon previous knowledge. As a consequence, this book is a marvelous resource for refuting both leftist (postmodern) and rightist (creationist, Market fundamentalist) critiques of science as being simply the product of dominant paradigms.

This book goes along ways towards raising scientific literacy. And that's never a bad thing.

2006 Book of the Year
2005 Book of the Year

Still no net

Down to about 20 minutes spread out over the course of the day of internet connnection. Supposedly this will be fixed on Thursday.