Saturday, January 31, 2009

BBB B.A.D. to the Bone.....




Jon Swift does us a Boswellin favor by pointing us toward the calandar. Yes, it is that time again, to celebrate Blogroll Amnesty Day.

To be completely honest, I'm not sure if I ever knew of the first one; Jon Swift gives us the history of it.

The idea that links are the capital of the blogosphere seems so obvious that you would think an economist like Atrios of Eschaton would have realized it long ago. And as he is a progressive who has accumulated quite a bit of link wealth, you might also think he would be in favor of redistributing some of that wealth instead of just letting it trickle down. So when he announced last year that he was declaring February 3 Blogroll Amnesty Day, and other bloggers followed suit, I assumed he meant that he was opening his blogroll up to the masses. I sent him a polite email pointing out that his blog was on my blogroll and I would really appreciate it if he would add my blog to his. I never heard back from him.

When February 3 rolled around, many bloggers discovered to their horror that instead of adding new blogs to his blogroll he was throwing many off, including some bloggers who were his longtime friends. Blogroll Amnesty Day, it turned out, was a very Orwellian concept. Instead of granting amnesty to others he was granting amnesty to himself not to feel bad for hurting others feelings. Though Atrios has stubbornly refused to acknowledge that he made a mistake, some bloggers who initially joined him, backtracked. Markos of the Daily Kos instituted a second blogroll that consisted of random links from diarists. PZ Myers of Pharyngula now has real Blogroll Amnesty Days where he invites anyone who has blogrolled him to join his blogroll. And in the wake of the bloodletting quite a number of smaller blogs, like my friend skippy the bush kangaroo, changed their own blogroll policies and now link more freely to others.
Well, that makes it clearer.

I have not linked to Atrios for years - or Dkos (though I have a dusty diary over there) simply because they are all too aware of how cool they are, and I have an allergy to "kool kids" that dates back to grade school. I don't spend a lot of time listening to them chatter about one another, or who is "in" and who is "out" - I did seventh grade once, survived it by the skin of my teeth and have no desire to repeat the phenomonon. Just incedentally, in the wake of the slow-motion collapse of Pajamas Media, and their shedding of their Seminal Talent, does it really make sense for liberals and progressives to start trying to enclose their own Commons?

Such mindless partisanship and groupthink leads people to believe that Sarah Palin or Harry Trueman would be "safe" choices. Why other people have to relearn this lesson again and again - with actual guns and policies involved - shows me that whatever diseased perveristy I suffer from, it might be a good thing if it were communicable.

For a Canadian example, I recall talking to someone attending a Social Credit Riding Association meeting, asking aloud why the hell they were supporting William Vander Zalm for party leader.

The Response: "Because he's electable." The point to this for those unfamiliar with now obscure political trivia - The BC Social Credit Party barely maintains a legal existance. He WAS electable. He was elected. The rest was fairly predictable to anyone who didn't think that being a Socred and going to all the fun Socred Parties made you Cool.)

The popularity of an idea does not make it correct.

I find it a lot more productive to write for Google anyhow; if you can work "Brittney Spears naked" into a post, it's almost as good as an Atrios one-liner - and no pandering is required. Irony aside, I'm constantly amazed at the things that show up on my engine results; were it not for Google, I'd never have known of the widespread suspicion that soy protein was a key ingredient in the "Feminazi/Faggot Axis" to turn real men into metrosexuals obsessed with home decor, arugula and human rights.

FYI, you beef-based wackadoodles - do some googling to find out exactly who controls the soybean supply in the US and you will find they are brought to you by the fine people who bring you High Fructose Corn Syrup. (And what about soy protein meal being fed to your favorite food? What about the spiritual and hormonal danger of eating gay and lesbian beef?) But I digress - slightly, and yet, not all that much. B.A.D. is about retaining the immense power of the Internet to bring us the unexpected thought and the unanticipated connection.

As rude as the purge was, I get very, very little traffic from the blogrolls I'm on and I have to tell you, probably send less. They do take up a lot of space and I can see the problem for those blogs that actually make money via their monetizing.

I can't even remember the last time I clicked on a naked blogroll, and I don't think I've added to my blogroll in months. I have gotten followers, added them to feed-rolls and followed blogs alike - using those nifty built in Blogger widgets - and found things well worth reading. For the longest time, I've been meaning to move them over, and I suppose this is as good a time as any. Well, any day now.

So, first, a few from my blogroll that I think are worth your notice:

Declarations of Pride: Queerly compelling

This Can't Be Happening
: Dave Lindorff's place.

Then there's the Dark Wraith - who writes stuff like this:

I swear, with what you Republicans have done to conservatism, if it weren't for Leftist half-wits like Naomi Klein, pompous phonies like David Sirota, and Nobel Prize-winning disgraces like that opportunist Al Gore and that free-trade charlatan Paul Krugman, I would almost be unable shake my head in disgust when I hear the name "John Kenneth Galbraith" being stirred from its much-deserved grave these days.

American politics has become nothing but a cheap doughnut: sugar-coated fat with no center. President Obama, himself, has assembled a team I have decried as Right-wing, incapable of escaping the clutches of foreign interests, enamored of authoritarianism in administrative appointments, and generally less than the very best this nation could bring to bear on the problems we face.

Being an honest to Ghu economist, he's probably worth a regular consultation in these troubled times.

And then a token, randomly found link which I'll add to my sidebar. Sometime Soon, I promise..

Things I've Learned from Wikipedia is witty, smart and has little to do with politics - other than being about The Great Satan itself, Wikipedia. All Right-Thinking People patronize "Conservapedia" exclusively. Speaking of cafeteria tables, and places that you'd never, EVER find out about something like this:

Monday, December 29, 2008 Entry: Heil Honey I'm Home!

*sigh*

Okay.

Heil Honey I'm Home was a British sitcom that touted itself as a lost series from the 1950s, and therefore was styled to parody shows like Leave it to Beaver. The main characters were Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. Yeah. Apparently most of the plots revolved around Adolf's inability to get along with their neighbors. The Goldensteins. I say "apparently" because the network pulled it after one episode.

There has to be a Valkyrie joke in there somewhere, but I'm too busy being flabbergasted to make it.
Anyway, that's enough for one day. I'm getting seriously depressed. Oh, btw, if you link to me and I am not linking back, do please let me know.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

By One Means or Another - US Vets Bring Change

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Obama Could Issue an Executive Order to End the Wars Tomorrow (Yes, It's That Simple) | War on Iraq | AlterNet

Read every word. There's too much to quote and I don't wish to focus on one issue at the expense of others. Let's just say that it's become obvious that the skills learned in foreign wars translate well to domestic applications - and to discerning where the incoming fire is really coming from.

The average vet with the scratch to buy a used computer or who is able to make it to a public library has intelligence gathering and "command and control assets" undreamed of even in '91 - and has the training, discipline and knowledge (taken as a group) to make devestatingly effective use of it. This is why there's been surprisingly little Vietnam-style protest. There's no need; we have far better tools now.

Governments have simply lost the overwhelming information advantage that has long allowed them to ignore or minimize the concerns of their vets - indeed, all their citizens. And vets, by virtue of training and experience, have the tools to organize and motivate opposition to foolish government efforts - and, again, by virtue of their training, have a particular, pointed impatience with those who take their duties to be optional or merely ceremonial window-dressing.

I understand that the Bushes have bought a large amount of land in Paraguay. Very strategically important, resource-rich land that should raise all kinds of eyebrows. One could look upon it as an attempt to establish a position for strategic relocation; no doubt their documented alliances with the Reverend Moon and the Paraguayan government impart a profound sense of security.

But the web reaches everywhere - connecting literally millions of people with very legitimate claims of harm against these people. Personally, I cannot imagine living with having made so many legitimate enemies for such very poor reasons, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Actually, what I expect is something far less dramatic than people might imagine from my setup. I think that, far from becoming the nucleus for a brave new South-American empire run by brainwashed Moonie slave-labor, it will become a sort of prison. A large, comfortable prison, where everyone is content to allow former Bushites to relocate to - so long as they stay inside and don't try and fuck with the water supply.

That is to say - the land is strategic in terms of resources and location. The question is, then, under what terms will they be permitted to stay. It may well turn out that they require a fallback for their fallback. I understand there's an increasing sense of impatience in Mexico, Central and South America with those who cling to the mythology of the Divine Right of Dons. They, too, are learning that information warfare is the way to go.

Well, George, there's always Dubai. Of course, one DOES wonder how long those artificial islands will remain above sea level.

But, as US Vets and Zapatistas alike are proving, people no longer have a binary choice - accept whatever government they have, or take up arms. Increasingly, it's becoming possible to network around governments, leaving the people who think they control the situation scrambling to accommodate a feisty and frighteningly well-informed public that's capable of dealing with them on uncomfortably equal terms.

And - to wrap this post up in a bow - the public gains the benefit of people trained by the military and made skeptical and oppositional by it's misuse. This reason alone should be a lesson to everyone world-wide that they misuse, abuse and neglect veterans at their peril.

Should be... but then again, it should have been made clear by what happened to Caligula at the hands of the Praetorian Guard.

Oh, and then of course there's a few Biblical proverbs about honor among thieves. One wonders how long it will take for them to sell one another out.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

For Decades, Right-Wingers Have Pushed Paranoia and Xenophobic Politics and Called It 'Moral Clarity' | ForeignPolicy | AlterNet

A high five to this, minus one for the the self-righteous outrage and looking on in horror. Still, however it's put, it's not easy to argue against this position. Read the whole damn thing. Particularly if you just hate the idea. Because, right now, the progressives are having to act like Grownups because, well, Daddy's been on a coke and Oxy binge - again.

When the Soviet Union crumbled to dust, it looked for a few years there like this brand of "moral clarity" was going to fade away with it. Finding a new boogeyman became Job One for conservatives in the early '90s; and they quickly seized on the entire Muslim world (all 1.5 billion of them certifiable terrorists, they assured us) as the best possible candidate. Dick Cheney updated the old anti-communist definition for a post-9/11 world when he said:

We cannot deal with terror. [The war on terrorism] will not end in a treaty. There will be no peaceful coexistence, no negotiations, no summit, no joint communique with the terrorists. The struggle can only end with their complete and permanent destruction and in victory for the United States and the cause of freedom.

Whenever you hear a conservative go on about "moral clarity," this is precisely what they're saying. There is always an enemy. They are always out to get us. They will stop at nothing. You cannot coddle them or negotiate with them; you can only survive by annihilating them. And people who see the moral world clearly will not waste time or breath questioning these essential truths.

It's pretty stunning stuff when you read it that way. It really makes you realize that conservatives live in a world of paranoia, xenophobia and seething aggression that most progressives can't even fathom. And their entire moral universe has been twisted to serve their externalized fears; to take that will to project their own demons onto someone else and then destroy them and elevate it as the highest possible moral good.

It's a definition of "morality" that renders the rule of law meaningless but readily justifies genocide and torture as moral acts of self-preservation.

Once we understand what they're really saying, it becomes pretty obvious that one of the first things we're going to need to do in this new era is challenge this horrific definition of "moral clarity" and overwrite it with one of our own. Fortunately, on the same day Bush gave his final speech, attorney general candidate Eric Holder appeared before Congress and gave the country a cooling blast of what real progressive "moral clarity" might look like.



There's only one thing I'd take issue with - and that's the presumption that Obama put a genuine progressive in charge of anything so critical. He's an elegant, well spoken Centrist. That is to say, a Liberal - in the Canadian sense. And possibly, he may have a functional moral compass to go along with the philosophy. Still, don't expect PETA to be in charge of the Department of Agriculture any time soon - or be dumb enough to repeat Bush's mistake of politicizing everything.

Aide: Holder Has Made No Decisions On Prosecuting Bush Officials

Eric HolderAnother instance of what's becoming a habit of mine - reactions to the reactions; in this case to the Huffpo story about what, precisely Eric Holder means to do regarding various allegations of criminal actions by the Bush Administration, such as torture, political firings, blowing an entire intelligence network, election rigging... oh, it's a target-rich environment.

And the howls of outrage are hitting a fever pitch.

pepperdude says in comments:


"No TO INVESTIGATIONS, NO TO PROSECUTIONS. A WASTE OF TAXPAYER MONEY AND A CRIMINALIZING OF POLICY ACTIONS."

Hm. So, it would be legitimate for me to establish a policy of, say, tasering all republicans in the genitals whenever they act out in public? Or what if I were simply to require them to register and wear an armband, so I could round them up should there be "civil unrest?" What if I simply read all their mail, tap their phones and use that information to selectively prosecute people that may be potential political threats or effective critics?

Would that be correct for me as an individual? What if I were a mayor? What if I were a State Governor? What if I were Obama?

See where this argument goes? It doesn't MATTER if torture or illegal detention was a "Policy Action." Obviously, it was. But it cannot be allowed to become a standard policy. That is why we consider it a crime - because of what happens when it DOES become a policy and is accepted as a legitimate tool of the state to be employed against enemies of the state.

There can be no better use of taxpayer money than re-establishing and UNDERLINING the rule of law. All who are not criminally culpable have a common interest in making sure this precedence is erased. With all due deliberation and without prejudice.

Tempting, and satisfying though a little sauce for the gander would be.

About Eric Holder

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

William Kristol v Matt Damon: Bets?

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Iraq War Showdown: Bill Kristol Agrees to Debate Matt Damon After Actor’s “Idiot” Slam
by Andrew Breitbart

On Sunday afternoon Weekly Standard editor and New York Times columnist Bill Kristol — in an email exchange with Big Hollywood — agreed to debate Matt Damon on his Hollywood home turf after being informed the 38-year old actor ridiculed Kristol in an interview in the Miami Herald.

“He’s an idiot — he wrote that we should be grateful to George Bush because he won the Iraq war. We! Won! The! War!”

As the sponsor of the event, Big Hollywood is offering $100,000 to Damon (or to the charity or carbon credit of his choice) to publicly debate Kristol at a mutually agreed upon time, date and venue.


Boy, I wish I had 100 grand to toss around like that. But I do agree that it would be fun to watch. I disagree with the Drudge-traffic as to why, and at who's expense the fun would be had.

Krystol took umbrage at the following line.

[C]onservative William Kristol, according to Damon: ''He's an idiot -- he wrote that we should be grateful to George Bush because he won the Iraq war. We! Won! The! War!'' (The opinionated Mr. Damon-Miami Herald.)

Breitbart and Kristol together have confirmed for me (ok, I infer from context) a long-held assumption; they can't read. Or at least, they suck at opposition research.

You see, context is rather important. What the context shows is someone who is quite well informed on the issues, human, ethical and practical.

Instead, the small talk -- if that's the right phrase -- ranged from which New York Times columnist is the worst (conservative William Kristol, according to Damon: ''He's an idiot -- he wrote that we should be grateful to George Bush because he won the Iraq war. We! Won! The! War!'') to the proper place of torture in American foreign policy.

''Look, the best line about torture I've heard came from [retired CIA officer turned war-on-terrorism critic] Milt Beardon,'' Damon says. ``He said, `If a guy knows where a dirty bomb is hidden that's going to go off in a Marriott, put me in a room with him and I'll find out. But don't codify that. Just let me break the law.'

``Which I think is right. You can't legalize torture. But anybody would do it in that situation. You'd do it to me in that situation; you'd pull out my fingernails if you thought I knew something like that.''

This is an extremely important point, showing a sophisticated understanding of the ethics of realpolitik and real life. Sometimes, yes, one must break the law in order to preserve things worth preserving - including the institutions that uphold and defend the rule of law. But the people doing that cannot and must not evade responsibility for the fact that their choice was between this wrong and that wrong.

That is to say, Nixon was right in saying that Presidents very often have to do things that are not, technically, legal. He was wrong in saying that "when the President does it, it is NOT illegal." No, it may well be necessary, but the person in charge of the law MUST know where the line is, even in the act of crossing it.

There's a dictum I firmly believe in: "Never let morality get in the way of doing the right thing." But that is by no means a defense of either amoral or immoral behavior. Ethics is about assesments of balances of harm and benefit, in specific cases. Morality (and law) is supposed to be a general guide for most people in most circumstances.

But Kristol is one of many NeoCon apologists who would like you to believe that torture is a tool that can be morally justified if "the right people" do it unto "the proper suspects," and supports the practice of a public posture of doing it and letting people KNOW it's being done.

That makes it both state terrorism and the foundation for an argument for "regime change" identical to the one Kristol was famous for touting, vis-a-vie Saddam Hussein, one of huge numbers of bizarre and inherent cognitive dissonances and factual conflicts one must accept in order to accept Kristol's apologias and spinmiestry.

Nonetheless, the pinheads are agog at the possibility that Matt Damon might take up Kristol's challenge to a debate! It's sort of hubris by proxy!

Sandy - January 26th, 2009 at 9:26 am

In a real-world debate between pretend-smart and actually-smart, Damon would be like the Texas girl’s basketball game where the coach got fired for winning 100-0.
It would be like me playing chess against Kasparov.

Sandy

Shellie Lewis - January 26th, 2009 at 9:26 am

Bill Kristol will clean Damon’s clock! I bet this debate never happens. Typical libtard bombast, all mouth, no guts. We don’t go to the movies, either. Matt Damon is particularly irritating. I guess George and Brad, et al, use him as their mouthpiece. And, how about money for a Bill Kristol charity when he wins?

And hundreds more. Hundreds upon hundreds more.

Generally speaking, it's unwise to assume that someone with a viewpoint that disagrees with you is "not smart." It's far safer to assume they are lots smarter than you, source their facts and look to their arguments. The FIRST thing you want to do in a debate - or ANY intellectual dispute - is to ensure that your own facts and assumptions are as inarguable as possible. That's what they taught ME in debate class. Then, of course, they gave us topics that were arguable by definition. The facts don't change, but the assumptions based on what the facts mean... that's where the fun zone is.

And here's some of the rules of thumb for fun in that zone.

If a person who can be shown to be an idiot agrees with you, you really should re-assess your position. The proposition is not reversable. Being disagreed with by an idiot does not make you correct. Nor does being disagreed with prove that the critic is an idiot by definition. Ideally, we want as little space between what is true and what we wish to be true as possible - and opponents who do not understand that that gap is the ideal place to wedge The Crowbar Of Truth.

What's that saying? "You have a right to your own opinion, but not your own facts." And that, I presume is why Matt Damon thinks Kristol is an idiot for saying what he did.

Holy crap, it's an amazingly, breathtakingly idiotic statement on the face of it, the sort of statement that requires far more than "and I'll stake my reputation upon it" as an argumentative foundation. It is a statement that requires some sort of proof; certainly a definition of terms, such as, what do you mean by "victory," or "what did we win?"

Now, I can actually see an argument that could look at the war retrospectively as being a good thing, on the whole, but the problem is that for that to work out, a whole lot of people who are not subject to US influence, much less Kristol's, have to make very good, rational and dispassionate choices in an environment that - thanks to the neocon war effort - is rather hostile to rationality.

Frankly, I think that final historical view of history will be as arguable as the typical views as to the benefits of the War Between The States or US accounts of that great victory over British aggression, the War of 1812.

Ok, here's MY take on the contenders and their potential strenghts and weaknesses as a person actually trained in debate.

Bill Kristol is a professional NeoCon, and has taken literally thousands of positions in the public record that have turned out to be less than entirely correct. Not even close enough for government work, not even by the below-sea-level standards for government that Bushites adhere to. And let us remember that political philosophy aside, at the end of the day, that is what he's paid to be, as a think tanker and pundit - to be correct on the facts and to take those facts and make correct forecasts from those facts so that others may profit by them.

Otherwise, why pay him?

Debate is an important public policy tool; it allows those listening to evaluate both the facts (which must actually be factual and will be challenged if they are of doubtful provenance) and the use those involved make of those facts to found their arguments.

Now, all I know about Damon is that he's a Harvard trained actor. Which means, aside from everything else, he may well have had very high-level competitive speech training. And, like him or hate him, there's a lot less ammunition just lying around waiting to be used against him.

So, he's at least as well prepared as The Great Communicator was when he handily won HIS debates - with far less to work with.

So, this is where these facts lead me. Matt Damon disagrees with Bill Kristol - in public. Kris - in fine NeoAuthoritarian tradition - responds with a challenge to meet him in the playground after school.

I think I've seen this movie.

But there's a difference. Damon doesn't know "just a little karate."

Now, philosophically, I would differ with both. I'm neither a Liberal nor a NeoConservative. But - and this is an important point here - I know the foundational assumptions of each and can argue those positions, should I wish.

Moreover, I've enjoyed and learned from people who argued from those positions skillfully and with great apparent sincerity. Say what you will about Margerate Thatcher; no-one took her lightly and came away unscathed. Or, again, say what you will about Noam Chomsky. Many on the right do - but all too commonly, in saying it, they reveal that they simply don't have the slightest idea of what he said. This is not to say that his conclusions are correct, or that one could not successfully argue with him, as William F. Buckley famously proved.

The core issue here is that you simply cannot pull unfounded, unfactual assumptions about economics, human nature and the dynamics of warfare out of your ass and make them true by presenting them in a way that is appealing to fools who wish to believe your mythos.

Liberal or Conservative, War on Terror or Kumbyah; believing the propaganda is the first sign of the sort of intellectual deficit that should keep you far from any position of influence - such as, say, the editorial page of the New York Times.

And finally, we have seen Kristol in action, getting owned by John Stewart - no editing needed.

Who can forget when he told Stewart he was getting wrong information because he was relying too much on... the New York Times. Stewart replied: "But you work for the New York Times, Bill!"
Now, when you are prone to saying things things like that with very little provocation... imagine what he'd say if he was seriously challenged?

The debate would be Damon's to lose, frankly. And wouldn't it be lovely, Matt, to take Brietbart's money and put it into, oh, say, stem cell research, solar energy or possibly an organic arugula farm?

Or maybe a small film about the history of the NeoConservative movement.

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