Saturday, May 08, 2004

Your Weekly Rush: If you Ignore It, It Doesn't Exist

As you know there were hearings yesterday on the Torture at Abu Ghraib Prison. Rush watched them and had some complaints. For one thing they held hearings at all.

"Now, the premise of the whole question offends me because I don't think (we've lost it [respect]). We're in the process of losing respect doing this. If we're in danger of losing respect, it's this. The people who have struck us and target us are laughing at us today over all of this."

In other words, our actions in the Abu Ghraib didn't make us look bad, but holding hearings condemning the actions in Abu Ghraib makes us look weak. I think he's playing off the theory that the only thing "Arabs" respect is power, and that by apologizing for our cruelty we are showing weakness.

You know what, he might be right. I'm suspicious of any generalizations about how "Arabs" look at the world, but let's assume he's correct. What should we do about it? I mean should we really abandon our Democratic ways to present a hard face to the Middle East?

I mean if that is something we want to do there are lots of things we might try (say, calling off the election so that they know they have to deal with President Bush). But I don't think we should let Terrorists determine how we act here. I mean we are, like it or not, a democratic republic. If we chose to abandon those principles to fight terrorists or Iraqi resistance, haven't the Terrorists already won?

Rush, of course, also takes time to remind us of Chappaquiddick ("Ted Kennedy was asking about the International Red Cross, and he's asked Rumsfeld about the International Red Cross. [Kennedy impression:] "Why wasn't the International Red Cross in there?" Same reason the local Red Cross didn't show up at Chappaquiddick, senator!") and that Robert Byrd was in the KKK ("everybody is concerned about these pictures and all these hoods in the pictures -- and I say again: "My friends, you could have seen more hoods had a Robert Byrd birthday party 40-or-50 years ago than you see in all these pictures combined,"). Not that that has much to do with anything, of course. But it's always nice to point out.

Friday, May 07, 2004

'Round the Horn

I hope you know that in my mind I'm always playing shortstop. In real life, I'm playing catcher.

Back from a school related hiatus is T. Rex's Guide to Life with the news that even "Poppy" Bush may not have been so hot on the idea of invading Iraq.

Wanda over at Words on a Page has an interesting discussion of the phrase "Support the Troops," which makes me think maybe I could do a bit better to support the troops.

If you are concerned about our overstressed school systems ability to deal with special needs children (not sure if that's the right term, but close enough), you might check out this article at BLOGG. Your concerns will, presumably, grow.

Chris "Lefty" Brown has a refutation of a truely surreal response to the pictures from Abu Ghraib prison from the Right Wing.

Along the same lines, Kick the Leftist had a treatise on how some have reacted to the revelations about Abu Ghraib Prison.

Back to reality, Respectful of Otters considers the Abu Ghraib Prison problems in the context of what we know about Prison Guard Relations in the United States, particularly relating it to the Stanford Prison Experiment.

The proprieter of Rick's Cafe Americaine has apparently changed employment statuses (statusi?). Anyway interesting read. Kind of inspiring, all things considered.

Sooner Thought has the story of Kalyn Free who could be the First American Indian women ever elected to congress. Also I think Kalyn Free would be a really great name to use in a Folk Song.

The Gothom City 13 picked up something ol' Rush Limbaugh said that I missed. He's arguing that nations like Spain withdrawing their troops from Iraq will embolden the terrorists. Funny how pictures depicting United States Troops torturing Iraqis will have no effect on the resistance; while Spains withdrawel of troops will send them into a frenzy.

New World Blogger has a great faq on the Europeon Union expansion. Like most Americans I'm focused like a laser on scandals involving reality shows, but I have heard rumors that there are places outside of America, and for those of you are interested in places outside of America, New World Blogger is a great site to visit; she does a good job explaining things and putting them in context.

The Marx Brothers

For those of you who don't know, the films that the Marx Brothers made for MGM were finally released in a 5 dvd set. Three of the movies (the brilliant "A Night at the Opera," the workmanlike "A Day at the Race,s" and the questionable "A Night in Casablanca") are also now available on their own, and A Night at the Opera is worth picking up if you love classic film comedys.

Three earlier films, made for Paramount, were released and allowed to go out of print. These were the stagey "Animal Crackers" (which was taken directly from their stage show), the funny "Horse Feathers" and the brilliantly anarchic "Duck Soup."

One flaw mars the new reissues (of the MGM work) in my opinion and that flaw is the complete dissing of the work they did for Paramount. The early Paramount films were a bit rough, but the later ones were very well done. They also make great hay of the idea that Thalberg (MGM Producer) was brilliant so he added a story to the films, involving a romance that the Marx Brothers had to help along. I guess that that does give you more of an investment in what is going on, but it also means you have to sit through romantic dialogue without any Marx Brothers around.

Anyway for your viewing pleasure here are some quotes from what are, in my opinion, the two best Marx Brothers Movies.

Groucho: Well, that covers a lot of ground. Say, you cover a lot of ground yourself.
You better beat it - I hear they're going to tear you down and put up an office building where you're standing.
You can leave in a taxi. If you can't get a taxi, you can leave in a huff.
If that's too soon, you can leave in a minute and a huff.
You know, you haven't stopped talking since I came here?
You must have been vaccinated with a phonograph needle.

Duck Soup (and yes that is all one monologue, given to the long suffering Margaret Dumont)

Chico- Can he live in NY on $3?
Groucho- Like a prince. Of course he won't be able to eat, but he can live like a prince.

A Night at the Opera

Don't worry, a LC Round the Horn is coming!

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Strong Medicine

Haven't checked in with the Daily Howler in a while, which is a bad move on my part. The Howler ran the post mortem on how the press tore apart Al Gore and they are in the thick of how the "liberal" press is tearing apart John Kerry. Pecking him to death with trivia. Last Thursday they made this sobering assessment.

"Their focus on trivia is an addiction—a raging, millionaire’s mental illness. Their opinion leaders are multimillionaires, and they do behave like a perfumed court—like Marie Antoinette’s inner circle. As they’ve long shown, they are impervious to serious thought, as their class has always been. And they continue to clown at a dangerous time, at a time that imperils the world.

While they clowned about Gary Condit, Osama’s men were tooling those planes. And now, as they clown about peanut butter, Osama’s men are still at work. And what will happen to your country because Wilgoren and Dowd set the tone? Let us finally tell you your future: Osama’s men will come with a bomb (see below), and they’ll destroy an American city. American society will end on that day. And when it does, you can think of Wilgoren and Dowd—and you can think of the “letters editor” who laughed in your face with that letter today. They’ve made a joke of your discourse for years—while your enemies hunt for a bomb. There is little chance those enemies won’t succeed, because screaming idiots—screaming idiots—have long been in charge of your discourse.

History makes it crystal clear—those who clown will be destroyed. Marie Antoinette’s posse lost their fine heads. A larger disaster awaits you and yours. Let them eat peanut butter, the Times says.

I think perhaps they overstate their case a little, but it's still something to consider.

Cal Thomas; a useful barometer

If you are looking for a pretty succinct article that summarizes the right wing response to torture in Abu Ghraib prison, look no further than this article by Cal Thomas. I'll summarize his main points

1. Standard boilerplate; any misdeeds should be punished by the military. The flipside to the emphasis on military justice is that, of course, it doesn't really concern us here at home.

2. This is war, and we don't know what those prisoners were doing or why they were tortured.

2b. Cal tells that (admittedly) horrifying story of a young buy who shot at a soldier after he figured the soldier had him pegged as a non-combatant. Apparently nothing will happen to this kid (according to Thomas).

3. You get upset about a few tortures and deaths in Abu Ghraib prison, but you didn't care when Saddam had a much more extensive terror and rape campaign. One assumes this part of the argument is directed at European and Middle Eastern Critics of the occupation.

4. Repeating Rush's line from yesterday, we don't have to worry about how this will look in the Middle East.

"There's much talk about how the pictures of prisoner abuse will look in the Arab world and how they might set back American efforts to pacify Iraq and advance U.S. policies throughout the region. The Arab world does not need excuses to excoriate the United States. Even so-called "allies" such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt regularly vilify America in sermons from their mosques, on state-controlled television and in government newspaper editorials, columns and political cartoons.

This is one of the great fallacies in dealing with such people: that what the West does influences how they think and their course of action.

And some responses.

1. I'd also like to see the system examined to find out where exactly it broke down. You have a chain of command; knowledge about what was going on in Abu Ghraib prison was probably not limited to those at the bottom rungs of the ladder (maybe it was, but we don't know without an investigation).

2. We don't know why those prisoners were being tortured, fair enough. But if that's so let's again have an investigation to figure out why they were doing such things. There may well be mitigating circumstances.

2b. Well it is a chilling story, it's largely irrevelant.

3. The United States and Britain are being held to a higher standard than Saddam Hussein. What a surprise! I have to say I want the United States to be held to a higher standard than Saddam Hussein.

4. Let's draw another Venn Diagram. An extra complicated one.

I guess that's not as complicated as I thought it would be. At any rate there are three groups of people in Iraq (based on very specific criteria). There are Iraqis who, for one reason or another, are unlikely to take up arms against the United States. There are Iraqis who could, under the right circumstances decide to take up arms against the United States. And there is a third group who already have taken up arms against the United States.

Now here's where the argument starts; we don't know the relative size of these circles. How many Iraqis who aren't fighting the United States right now, might choose to do so down the road? No way to answer that question as far as I can tell. Cal Thomas (and Rush) apparently believe that that population is very small; most people have already decided. I believe that it could be a sizable population, and something to worry about.

I will tell what part of this argument drives me nuts. It's contained in this line. "This is one of the great fallacies in dealing with such people: . . . " The basic argument hinges on the very unscientific and boneheaded theory that Iraqis are different from regular people. All one has to do is ask himself (assuming one is from the US) how would you react if you saw those things, done in Abu Ghraib prison, inflicted on American Citizens? Why do you assume Iraqis would react any differently?

Wednesday, May 05, 2004


Added a new link over on the side there, to In particular you might want to check out this story on a speech made by a returning veteran of the current Iraq conflict.

Your Weekly Rush; why they hate us

Listening to Rush as I was driving around at lunch and he was talking about one of his favorite subjects; there's no reason to even be interested in why people in the Middle East don't like us. Specifically, he's saying that one of the reasons everybody is so upset with the pictures coming out of Abu Ghraib prison is that there is a concern that it will inflame (and here is where it seems a little mixed up) terrorists to hate us more. According to Rush Limbaugh, the Terrorists hate for us is not going away, and we should stop thinking that it will. Even if we abandoned all of our western ways (like Britney Spears) and adopted Islam, they would still hate us.

Unfortunately, as I'm sure you noted, Rush's argument goes off its rails pretty early. Because Rush confuses Iraqis with Terrorists. If we were to do a Venn Diagram of the Iraqi people according to Rush's theory it would look something like that.

You see there's not much connection between the two. Terrorists are terrorists. Good Iraqis are Good Iraqis. If you accept this postulate, well, Rush is right. There is no point in doing anything to make the Terrorists like us, and Good Iraqis are going to largely like us no matter what we do.

Unfortunately for Rush, most people assume (in my opinion, correctly) that an actual diagram might look something like this.

Now we might quibble about the relative size of the circles. We don't know, for example, how much of the Iraqi resistance is led by or aided by outside intervention. Some say very little, and other say all of it. I personally think it's a factor, but not a large factor.

At any rate what this Venn Diagram (and how often do you see Venn Diagrams on weblogs. I'm really blazing new territory today!) shows us is that there is a portion of the Iraqi people that is fighting United States Forces. But, unlike in the earlier diagram, there's nothing stopping people from moving in and out of that group. Some Iraqis seeing the events at Abu Ghraib prison or Fallujah might decide that it is time to take up arms against our Troops. Other Iraqis, seeing some of the good things our soldiers are doing, might decide that they should give us time to get out.

The implications are clear. Unfortunately, it seems that some member of our forces in Iraq have not thought this through entirely.

Let's Get Worried!

Tim Grieve has a great article over at Salon (warning, annoying ad must be watched) about how we shouldn't abandon hope for Senator Kerry just yet. One paragraph stood out to me.

"With no one backing him up, Kerry is too often seen scrambling back and forth to rebut Bush-Cheney charges, looking for all the world like an overmatched tennis player racing from one end of the court to the other in a desperate attempt to return all the drives. It's a trap that the Bush-Cheney campaign has laid for Kerry, and he has fallen into it. "The Republicans are very good at lobbing spit wads to see what sticks," said Richards [Ann Richards, the former Texas governor], no stranger herself to smears from Bush and Karl Rove. "Kerry has got to answer every single one of them, because if you don't then the media will claim that he isn't answering the attacks. And then when he does answer all of them, the media will say that he has no message."

But the article goes on to suggest that we are still very early in the campaign, and, to misquote John Paul Jones, he has not yet begun to fight.

Fallacy #482 - Leave out half the story

Bill Murchison demonstrates this particular fallacy in his latest article. Consider the following passage.

"Negativism about business and enterprise is a Democratic trait becoming more engrained all the time. Key Democratic constituencies seem to demand it: the academic-media constituency, which sees businessmen as uneducated rubes, and the labor constituency, which sees business as a race of union-busting oppressors whom you can't trust an inch.

How do you get the presidential nod from such a party? For one thing, you bust business at every opportunity. In making economic proposals, you remember to play down individual creativity and initiative and play up regulatory control. You suggest that basically the only way to make business do what's right is to twirl a federal club over its head.

The Democratic Party isn't expressly or even inferentially socialist. And yet it can communicate anti-business rage or indignation in a way that says to businessmen and to those whose livelihoods depend on a healthy business climate: Uh-oh, trouble.

So can you see what part of the argument Mr. Murchison leaves out? Well, what is business like? He suggests that those who want to attack business are doing it for largely irrational reasons or are doing it to gain political support from largely irrational constituencies. But this only works if you assume that the Business world is largely blameless.

But is the Business world blameless? Well the short answer is no. It turns out businesses do like to screw their workers if they can get away with it. They also like to screw their shareholders on occasion. Take the following example from an article by Arianna Huffington.

"Exhibit A is HealthSouth. Last week, another high-ranking executive at the nation's largest provider of rehabilitative health care services pleaded guilty to routinely cooking the company's books. And this wasn't just happening back in the bad old days when everyone was doing it -- no, theseguys were fraudulently inflating earnings well into 2002, even as Enron,WorldCom, Adelphia and Tyco were front page news. How's that for clueless? "

Now I admit that this article originally appeared about a year ago (April 2, 2003, so a year and a month) but I'm pretty sure that the same sorts of people are still running our businesses. We here Republicans complaining a lot about government oversight and anti-Business attitudes. We don't hear them complaining about the importance of playing by the rules and being good corporate citizens.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Ralph Nader, Spoiler?

I have too many ideas; I can't get to them all, and sometimes I can't make them come out right. I want to say something about how the American love of Free Speech (a love which I share) often contrasts with other American passions. But I'm not sure how to say it.

So instead I'll point you to this brilliant article in the Village Voice about Ralph Nader. It goes through why Mr. Nader might have had it in for the Democratic Party.

"The most pernicious myth spread by his campaign was the Tweedledee and Tweedledum line - a claim columnist Marianne Means branded "insane" and his opposite number Pat Buchanan never got near. Perhaps Nader concealed from himself that his nostalgic view of a Democratic Party that had shifted away from its progressive traditions was at odds with the hodgepodge he actually grew up with - an amalgam of machine hacks and Ivy League liberals, rip-roaring Southern racists and farmer-labor populists. But he certainly recognized the huge difference between a timid moderate Democrat like Al Gore and fierce right-wingers like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. These were Republicans of a sort never in power before Reagan. Like most politicians, however, Nader couldn't reveal what he really thought. He needed an explanation for campaigning in the swing states. So he exaggerated, distorted, misled, and dissembled. He lied."

Actually this is a good example of the intersection between freedom of speech and honesty.

Should Nader be allowed to run in 2004? Absolutely.

Should Nader be allowed to forward the idea that there is little to no difference between Senator Kerry and President Bush? Absolutely.

Should Nader run in 2004? No, he shouldn't. It will damage the causes he's believed in, and make the world a more dangerous place.

Should Nader forward the idea that there is little to no difference between senator Kerry and President Bush? No. The idea is a lie; there are vast differences between the two men. One thing everybody, right and left, can agree on is that this is an important election; do we really need Ralph Nader out there confusing the issues? I don't think we do.

But I recognize completely Nader's right to spread his misinformation should he chose to; ultimately the only person who can stop Ralph Nader is Ralph Nader.

Why John Kerry Wants to be President

"It seems odd that a person [Kerry] running for the highest office in the land doesn't have a defining reason for his candidacy, but it's easier to understand when you realize that he wants to be president much more than he cares about advancing a particular policy agenda."
- David Limbaugh, "Liberalism, Kerry's wartime handicap."

".J.'s sitting in her chair, Josh is lying on the couch, and Donna's sitting in the chair opposite C.J. Josh states, "'This is a time of dizzying progress around the world. I'm running for re-election 'cause I want to make sure that all our people can share in twenty-first century jobs...'" C.J.: "'Jobs and industries we can't even imagine today...bring the benefits of new medical advancements to all our families...'" Josh: "'And harness new technology and the internet as a force for faster economic growth...'" ["The internet and economic growth? In the same sentence? Good luck with that." -- Wing Chun] C.J.: "'Better education and a freer exchange of ideas around the world.'" Josh says, "Yes." C.J. says, "There it is." Josh decides, "That's fine." Donna, however, is of another mind; her sole comment is a bilabial fricative. (You know, a Bronx cheer. A raspberry.) She looks up and smiles apprehensively. Josh asks, "You want to say something?" She says she doesn't. Josh says, "I thought it was --" and gives a bilabial fricative. He argues, "It's got crisp, commanding phrases, it's got active verbs like 'harness,' it paints a picture of the future..." Donna asks, "That's why somebody wants to become President? Medical research and the internet?" Josh admits, "She's got a point." C.J. offers, "Sometimes you get your face on a coin." Josh sits up and puts his hand to his head. "Okay...this shouldn't be hard."
- Television Without Pity's recap of the West Wing Episode "Gone Silent."

What makes a man want to be president? Why have our presidents, good and bad, decided to run? Well, in Mr. Limbaugh's case, one would suspect a simple answer. Good Presidents (read Republican and JFK, maybe) decided to run because they love their country and wanted to support it. Bad Presidents (particularly Clinton and now Kerry) want to be president just so they can have power and to gratify their egos. I don't know why Republicans are immune to these ignoble desires to be President, but apparently they are.

It's a neat argument, because it appeals to our cynical side. Kerry claims to want to run for President to protect America and improve the economy, but doesn't it make more sense that he wants to be President so that he can, as C.J. says, get his face on a coin? Feel powerful? Be powerful? And it's an equal opportunity argument. Maybe you're a liberal; doesn't it make sense that President Bush wants to be President so that he can enjoy being President?

Of course it's an argument that relies on compartmentalism. You have to believe that your guy really is motivated by a love of country; while the other guy is motivated by base reasons. Or else you could become cynical and assume the whole barrel is full of bad apples, but at least your guy is your bad apple.

Or just give up on politics and politicians. Which, I have to admit, is occasionally an attractive option.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Why John Kerry Wants to be President

"So today, let me tell you why I am running for President. I believe we live in a dangerous world, with enemies known and unknown plotting and planning to do us harm. Osama Bin Laden has not been captured or killed, al Qaeda remains a threat as it transforms and changes, and Iraq remains unstable. Together, I know that with the right plan-one that works with the world-we will keep America safe.

I believe that to be strong in the world, we must be strong at home, and that in Andrew Jackson's words, the promise of America is "equal opportunity for all, special privileges for none." I believe the measure of America's economy is a growing middle class, and to achieve that we must expand the reach of opportunity, not the size of government.

I believe in the values that form our common bond: hard work, fairness, and truth. Most of all, I believe that citizenship brings responsibilities as well as rights, and that all Americans have a duty to give something back.

This is from a speech given April 23, 2004, in which he unvielled his "Contract with America's Middle Class." Well worth checking out.

No Need for Proof

Here's an article from World Net Daily entitled "Gray Lady goes to bed with Kerry" Great title, isn't it? Just jumps right out at you. So let's take a look at the evidence article author Bob Kohn provides. Here's the first paragraph.

"Evidence suggests that a New York Times reporter covering the Kerry campaign may be sleeping with the presumptive nominee of the Democrat Party. Let me explain."

He then goes on to recount the fact that Senator Kerry had a few problems last week, including "Medelgate" and driving an SUV and denying that he drives and SUV. He also shows how the New York times apparently saved Kerry's bacon in both cases. And then he adds finishes with his "proof."

Providing exactly the opposite of the SUV-driving, private jet-flying image Kerry had been fighting all week, the puff piece began with how "The man who would be president takes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – on whole wheat, strawberry jelly preferred to grape – twice a day on the campaign trail. He wears $15 reading glasses, off the rack at CVS. Before bedtime, he starts but rarely finishes movies like 'Seabiscuit' and 'The Blues Brothers' in his hotel suite."

Leaving aside the interesting question of how this female Times reporter learned that Kerry "rarely finishes" watching the movies he started, you just have to wonder what is going on here. Had this story been prepared days before, ready to be dropped on the front page the day after Kerry needed his average-Joe image resuscitated?

In his book "Burning Down My Masters' House," Jayson Blair described how Times reporters, both male and female, are commonly offered theater tickets, free meals, drinks and sometimes even sex in exchange for favorable mentions in their stories. A large number of journalists at the Times, he says, "have a weak spot for sex."

Do the Democrats have another Bill Clinton running for president?

Did you see the proof in that paragraph? Neither did I. But who needs proof. A female reporter is pro-Kerry? She must be in love with him. That's the only answer. After all, it's not like she's a real reporter, is she?

The tone of misogyny in this article is a bit disturbing; but I guess that's par for the course.

Edited to add; got this article from Media Matters for America, a new website debunking the right wing press.

Alternate Titles for this Weblog

Hey what do you think about these alternate titles for this weblog?

"A Manatee Mock Em, Mort"

"Arcana Meet Met, Ok Mom?"

"Manama ROTC Meek? Me To!"

"Racemate Mammon Toke"

"Oatcake Man = Memo Term"

"Memo: Attack Emma Nero"

Oh, and on a completely unrelated matter, I discovered this cool anagram website. Which you probably already know about. So until nex time this is Gary Brestin saying have a nice day.

Republican does not necessarily mean Conservative

It's one of those rare occasions when I point to a Conservative Columnists in a positive way. In this case it's Jonah Goldberg who writes on Arlen Spector's winning in his state's primary.

"I'm constantly astounded by the confusion about the differences between conservatives and Republicans. The silver lining of the Toomey defeat is that everyone, the White House included, has been reminded that there is a distinction.

Obviously, this is a subtle and nuanced distinction. The Republican Party is the conservative party, and the overwhelming majority of conservatives vote Republican. So lots of people rightly consider themselves to be both conservatives and Republicans. But there's a difference all the same.

Conservatives are committed to a constellation of ideas and traditions that sometimes war with each other. Yet, at the end of the day, people who identify themselves as conservatives first tend to be more dedicated to their principles than their party. Meanwhile, Republicans, even very conservative ones, are more often team players, organization-oriented as opposed to ideas-oriented. The former wants to win arguments, the latter, votes.

This is a key distinction that's worth remembering. And although Mr. Goldberg doesn't say it, it also applies in the Democratic Party as well (particularly the line about "ideas and traditions that sometimes war with each other.")

It's an interesting and ongoing debate. "How can we implement our ideas if we don't win?" "What's the point in winning if we aren't going to stand up for our ideas?"

The problem is that the more relative power the party has the more weight you can give to the ideological side of the argument. In other words, if a party controlled the White House, the Congress, and the Supreme Court, one might reasonably assume that it's time to stop campaigning and time to start implementing our ideas. And if that party isn't ready to start implementing the ideas you elected them to implement, well, maybe it's time to shop around for another party. We saw it in the early 90's with Ross Perot and in 2000 with Ralph Nader.

Goldberg himself hints at that possibility in his concluding paragraph. " As conservatives tend to be practical folks, they understand that the GOP brought them to the dance. But, just like the girl at the dance, they don't want to be taken for granted."

Sunday, May 02, 2004

New Quote

I like today's quote, but then I suppose I like them all. Still the "joy that comes from little victories" is about the best one has to look forward to on a day to day basis.

Also a new quotes page.