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saturday, april 16, 2005

Reminder
 
Via Daou Report, I see that Little Green Footballs (to which I do not link) is shocked, shocked that Kos has some stickers displaying the "F" word on his laptop.  This is "a revealing demonstration of the mean-spirited, foul-mouthed, debased state of the modern left," LGF says.
 
So, the obscene and threatening phone calls I got from LGF readers last September, not to mention the LGF commenters who left such filth on Mahablog that I had to shut down comments for a time, were just well-meaning, concerned citizens. Right.
 
I think there ought to be a special place in hell for hypocrites, don't you?

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11:18 pm | link

Just Like Home Made
 
The State Department decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered.
Let's pause for a moment of quiet reflection. Really; it's good for your blood pressure. Take deep breaths. Go to the Happy Place. No, wait; the Bush Administration lives in the Happy Place. Maybe you'd better stay here.
 
You may remember that last year the Bushies had to revise the report after the first edition was found to have "undercounted" (wink, nudge) the actual number of terrorist incidents.
 
The Knight Ridder report says that the Bushies blocked the report because they believe it to be inaccurate. It included incidents that may not have been terrorist incidents, they say. Others point out that the data did not include attacks on American troops in Iraq, which are considered to be "terrorist attacks" when the Bushies make speeches about them.
 
Landay continues,

The State Department published "Patterns of Global Terrorism" under a law that requires it to submit to the House of Representatives and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a country-by-country terrorism assessment by April 30 each year.

A declassified version of the report has been made public since 1986 in the form of a glossy booklet, even though there was no legal requirement to produce one.

The senior State Department official said a report on global terrorism would be sent this year to lawmakers and made available to the public in place of "Patterns of Global Terrorism," but that it wouldn't contain statistical data.

No statistical data, but I'll bet there'll be action photos of President Bush--strutting around in a flight jacket, cutting brush, swimming the Yangtze River.
But the U.S. intelligence officials said Rice's office decided to eliminate "Patterns of Global Terrorism" when the counterterrorism center declined to use alternative methodology that would have reported fewer significant attacks.

The officials said they interpreted Rice's action as an attempt to avoid releasing statistics that would contradict the administration's claims that it's winning the war against terrorism.

I don't know why they're worried. Data doesn't matter any more, you know. All Karl has to do is arrange for the National Review or Wall Street Journal to publish an op ed saying that everything in Iraq is just fine and all the America haters were wrong, and actual facts can then be dismissed.
 
Take, for example, a story in today's New York Times titled "Bombs Kill 4 Policemen and Wound 9 Civilians as Iraq Violence Surges." This suggests to me that Things are Not Going Well. Oh no, you leftie America hater! the Right says. Things in Iraq are just fine! There's no civil war, see, and you lefties predicted there could be a civil war, and there isn't one (yet). So you are wrong. The fact that violence in general is increasing throughout Iraq (as many of us predicted) is irrelevant. You were wrong about civil war, so we don't have to listen to you, or anything else we don't want to listen to.
 
And, of course, if in the next couple of years Iraq does crumble into civil war, it will be the fault of American liberals who didn't sufficiently support the war effort. The fact that the war effort has been mismanaged beyond the scope of anyone's predictions is irrelevant.
 
You realize we're into multi-generational bullshit at this point. The glorious little war in Iraq was supposed to distract us from the failure to get Osama bin Laden, and now we're into new generations of bullshit to distract us from the violence in Iraq. Somebody should be charting this. Some particular piece of misinformation being spread this week, for example, might be a second cousin once removed from some piece of bullshit spread around six months ago.
 
And all the while, September 11 and Osama bin Laden fade, fainter and fainter, in the public mind, until "9/11" is just an icon, and Osama bin Laden just a face out of old news.
 
The self-delusionment continues. Today Reuters says an article about a seal hunt, written by a freelancer and published in the Boston Globe, was mostly fabricated, and the Right Blogosphere seized the Reuters report like a pit bull with a steak. Michelle Malkin listed every faked news story she could think of going back to Janet Cooke, whose fake article was published twenty-five years ago. It's a pattern, see.
 
And the point must be that the "MSM" is all lies. Reuters says so. So does the Boston Globe, actually, which voluntarily 'fessed up to the fact that it was duped by a freelance writer. That just proves how evil and incompetent most MSM sources are, unlike Faux Nooz, which tells one lie after another but stands by them, by gawd.
 
But the best "fakes in the news" story today is this one. An MIT graduate student and two of his friends generated a fake technology paper that was complete gibberish; "A random collection of charts, diagrams and obtuse lines such as 'We implemented our scatter/gather I/O server in Simula-67." And the paper was accepted for presentation at some "world" technology conference.
 
BTW, the title of this post, "Just Like Home Made," is a tribute to all those television commercials for artificially contrived food items with ingredient labels that read like the inventory of a chemical lab, but which the television actress assures us "tastes just like home made." Except she never says home made what.  
 
Update: Dan Froomkin says the White House may be about to make a policy change regarding Bush's fake town hall meetings: 

And, after mounting criticism that the White House has been shattering presidential precedents, wrapping Bush in a bubble and possibly even violating free-speech rights by keeping dissenters out of Bush's so-called public events, the Bush team is trying something new today.

For today's event, the White House has eliminated any pretense that the events are open to the public, instead making it clear that the events are invitation-only.

Tastes just like home made, I tell you. 

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7:21 am | link

friday, april 15, 2005

Where's Mr. Smith When You Need Him?
 
jimmy_mrsmith_withbook.jpgI keep thinking that if the Democrats really did have some pull in the entertainment industry, they would see to it that the old film classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) would be on television, broadcast and cable, 24/7. 
 
In the film, the pure-of-heart Jimmy Stewart, playing the role of the pure-of-heart Mr. Smith, is sworn in as a brand-new junior Senator but discovers that the Senate is festering with corruption and dirty dealing. So after a midnight, soul-searching sequence at the Lincoln Memorial, Smith marches back to the Senate and begins a filibuster. He reads from the Declaration of Independence, then begins an ad-lib:
Now, you're not gonna have a country that can make these kind of rules work, if you haven't got men that have learned to tell human rights from a punch in the nose. (The Senate applauds) It's a funny thing about men, you know. They all start life being boys. I wouldn't be a bit suprised if some of these Senators were boys once. And that's why it seemed like a pretty good idea for me to get boys out of crowded cities and stuffy basements for a couple of months out of the year. And build their bodies and minds for a man-sized job, because those boys are gonna be behind these desks some of these days. And it seemed like a pretty good idea, getting boys from all over the country, boys of all nationalities and ways of living. Getting them together. Let them find out what makes different people tick the way they do. Because I wouldn't give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn't have a little bit of plain, ordinary, everyday kindness and a - a little lookin' out for the other fella, too...That's pretty important, all that. It's just the blood and bone and sinew of this democracy that some great men handed down to the human race, that's all. But of course, if you've got to build a dam where that boys camp ought to be, to get some graft to pay off some political army or something, well that's a different thing. Oh no! If you think I'm going back there and tell those boys in my state and say: 'Look. Now fellas. Forget about it. Forget all this stuff I've been tellin' you about this land you live in is a lot of hooey. This isn't your country. It belongs to a lot of James Taylors.' Oh no! Not me! And anybody here that thinks I'm gonna do that, they've got another thing comin'. (He whistles loudly with his fingers in his mouth, startling Senators who are dozing or reading other materials) That's all right. I just wanted to find out if you still had faces. I'm sorry gentlemen. I-I know I'm being disrespectful to this honorable body, I know that. I- A guy like me should never be allowed to get in here in the first place. I know that! And I hate to stand here and try your patience like this, but EITHER I'M DEAD RIGHT OR I'M CRAZY.
Meanwhile, the news media--which is in the pockets of the corrupt senators--blast Smith in the dirtiest possible terms. And while Smith is talking, the corrupt Senators try to trick Smith to give up the floor. But by the end of the film Senator Smith is vindicated and America is saved.
 
But instead of Mr. Smith, we get Bill Frist. David Kirkpatrick writes in the New York Times,
As the Senate heads toward a showdown over the rules governing judicial confirmations, Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, has agreed to join a handful of prominent Christian conservatives in a telecast portraying Democrats as "against people of faith" for blocking President Bush's nominees.

Fliers for the telecast, organized by the Family Research Council and scheduled to originate at a Kentucky megachurch the evening of April 24, call the day "Justice Sunday" and depict a young man holding a Bible in one hand and a gavel in the other. The flier does not name participants, but under the heading "the filibuster against people of faith," it reads: "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and it is now being used against people of faith."

Organizers say they hope to reach more than a million people by distributing the telecast to churches around the country, over the Internet and over Christian television and radio networks and stations.

The article goes on to say that the president of the Family Research Council, Tony Perkins, claims the evil judiciary is targeting Christianity and that the evil liberals "have been quietly working under the veil of the judiciary, like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms."
 
Yes, the Protocols of the Elders of Liberalism at work again.
 
In the Washington Post, Charles Babington writes that some say Frist may have backed himself into a corner.
Some independent analysts say that Frist -- a comparative newcomer to politics who unexpectedly gained the majority leader's post in early 2003 -- has created his own dilemma, and his handling of it will be an sign of whether he has the skills to seriously vie for the White House.

"I think Senator Frist has backed himself into a corner where I don't see how he can avoid pulling the nuclear trigger," said Charlie Cook, editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. In terms of a presidential race, Cook said, "it hurts if he doesn't come up with the votes. But it also hurts him if the Senate comes to a grinding halt and can't get anything done. I think the guy's in a real jam."

Conservative activists are giving Frist little wiggle room. "If Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist hopes to capture the Republican nomination for president in 2008, then he has to see to it that the Bush judicial nominees are confirmed," Richard Lessner, executive director of the American Conservative Union, wrote in a recent article. "If he fails, then he is dead as a presidential wannabe."

I'm reminded of a post Digby wrote last year for American Street. He predicted that any "conservative" coalition that includes the extreme "values voters" Right would eventually splinter, because the extreme righties ain't into coalitions. They're into "my way or the highway," also known as the "I’ll-Hold-My-Breath-Until-I-Turn-Blue" philosophy of politics. "If you give these wing-nuts an inch, they’ll take a mile," Digby wrote. "The more you move to the right, the more they move to the right. There is no meeting half way."

At Daily Kos, Armando writes about "the absolute necessity of drawing the proper contrasts between the moderate, rational and sensible policies of the Democratic Party with those of the Extreme Right Wing fringe-controlled Republican Party." Amen, Bro' Armando. The Democrats have got to find ways to reach out to people, now. Even if they win their fight to save the filibuster in Washington, they're still going to be playing defense until they can win the hearts and minds and empathy of moderate Americans.

But can the Democrats do that? Reaching out to ordinary people is not their strong suit. The systemic problem with the Democrats in Washington is that they seem so insular and out of touch with people outside the beltway. The Republicans didn't make that mistake, and I think that is the biggest reason Republicans control the federal government right now. If the GOP is guilty of over-pandering,  Democrats in Washington for years have been oblivious to what rank-and-file Democrats think. We ordinary liberal/progressive citizens are invisible to them until they want our votes and money.

Maybe we should be shipping DVDs of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to Senate Democrats.

Update: In the Great Minds Thinking Alike department, Steve M. of No More Mister Nice Blog writes,

Look, I think the fight against Bush's most extreme nominees has been remarkable. I admire the Democrats' success in blocking the worst of Bush's nominees and I support the fight to save the filibuster.

But at a certain point, shouldn't the Democrats go public with the actual case against these nominees?

I think this would be a good time to make a big public demonstration of what's wrong with these people -- do it at the exact time the broadcast is on the air. And since Frist, Perkins, and so on are arguing that the nominees are being "targeted ... for reasons of their faith or moral positions," maybe the Democrats should talk about some of those "moral positions."

Of course, that's exactly what the Dems should do. And of course, they won't do it. They'll stay locked up in Washington and maneuver out of public view, and maybe they'll win a [battlefield] victory. But it's the war that worries me.

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5:49 am | link

thursday, april 14, 2005

The Weekly Wankers
 
davidbrooks.jpgBobo the Cabbage explains today that "The Bolton controversy isn't about whether we believe in the U.N. mission. It's about which U.N. mission we believe in."
 
As near as I can determine, the "wrong" mission is the one that attempts to promote international peace and security. The "right" mission is the one that relieves the United States from all responsibility for international peace and security.
 

“I’m pro-American,” Bolton says, as if that required him to be anti-world. He dismisses the U.N.’s tools for promoting peace and security. International law? “It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law even when it may seem in our short-term interest to do so—because, over the long term, the goal of those who think that international law really means anything are those who want to constrict the United States.” (Never mind that such laws might have “constricted” the torture of detainees.) Humanitarian intervention? It’s “a right of intervention that is just a gleam in one beholder’s eye but looks like flat-out aggression to somebody else.” Negotiation as a way of dealing with rogue states? “I don’t do carrots,” Bolton says.

It is easy to catalogue the things that John Bolton doesn’t “do”—encourage payment of U.N. dues, support the International Criminal Court, strengthen international disarmament treaties. What he does do is less obvious. As Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, he has rightly been given credit for the Proliferation Security Initiative, which attempts to interdict shipments of fissile material and which is supported by sixty nations, including France and Germany. But on his watch North Korea, the chief target of his ire, reprocessed enough plutonium to make six new nuclear weapons. Bolton boasts of “taking a big bottle of Wite-Out” to President Clinton’s signature on the statute for the International Criminal Court (“a product of fuzzy-minded romanticism” that is “not just naďve but dangerous”). Yet the Administration’s assault on the I.C.C. has, in fact, bolstered the court’s legitimacy internationally. Powerful middle-tier countries (like Germany) have helped make up the loss of American funds and personnel, and the court is now deep into investigations of mass slaughter in Congo and Uganda.

But, the Vegetable says,  "it is ridiculous to say he doesn't believe in the United Nations. This is a canard spread by journalists who haven't bothered to read his stuff and by crafty politicians who aren't willing to say what the Bolton debate is really about."
 
I admit I haven't bothered to read his stuff. This guy did, though, and I am not reassured.  
Democrats out to create a dramatic confrontation at the Senate hearings into his confirmation should review in particular a small volume titled "Delusions of Grandeur," published by the Cato Institute think-tank in 1997, which contains a classic Bolton essay titled "The Creation, Fall, Rise and Fall of the United Nations."

"Let us be realistic about the U.N.," it asserts. "It has served our purposes from time to time; and it is worth keeping alive for future service. But it is not worth the sacrifice of American troops, American freedom of action, or American national interests."

"It can be a useful tool in the American foreign policy kit. The U.N. should be used when and where we choose to use it to advance American national interests. Not to validate academic theories and abstract models."

And this was in the Washington Times, which seems to agree with Bolton. We are not all living on the same planet, obviously
 
The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol whines that Bolton is being subjected to unfair character assassination, which is rich considering the recent article that assassinated the character of all liberals.
I worked with John Bolton in the first Bush administration. I know many people who have worked with him and for him in this administration. Carl Ford's characterization of Bolton as a "kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy" is disingenuous. No, let's call a spade a spade--it's dishonest.
Kristol has lived a carefully protected life. He was never one of Bolton's underlings, probably was never anyone's underling. Bolton did not bully his superiors and colleagues, Kristol says, therefore Bolton is not a bully. What Bolton might do to lesser people is not Kristol's concern.
 
But Richard Cohen witnessed Bolton in action awhile back:
I have until now withheld my first -- and only -- impression of John Bolton, probably destined to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations: He's nuts.

I recognize that, as a diagnosis, the word leaves something to be desired. But it is nevertheless the impression I took away back in June 2003 when Bolton went to Cernobbio, Italy, to talk to the Council for the United States and Italy. Afterward he took questions. Some of them were about weapons of mass destruction, which, you may remember, the Bush administration had claimed would be found in abundance in Iraq but which by then had not materialized.

The literal facts did not in the least give Bolton pause. Weapons of mass destruction would be found, he insisted. Where? When? How come they had not yet been discovered? The questions were insistent, but they were coming, please remember, from Italians, whose government was one of the few in the world to actively support the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Bolton bristled. I have never seen such a performance by an American diplomat. He was dismissive. He was angry. He clearly thought the questioners had no right, no standing, no justification and no earthly reason to question the United States of America. The Bush administration had said that Iraq was lousy with WMD and Iraq therefore was lousy with WMD. Just you wait.

This kind of ferocious certainty is commendable in pit bulls and other fighting animals, but it is something of a problem in a diplomat. We now have been told, though, that Bolton's Italian aria was not unique and that the anger I sensed in the man has been felt by others. (I went over to speak to him afterward, but he was such a mass of scowling anger that I beat a retreat.) Others have testified to how he berated subordinates and how, to quote Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), he "needs anger management." From what I saw, a bucket of cold water should always be kept at hand.

Hothouse flowers who never had to make their own way in the world, like Bill Kristol and George W. Bush, may admire the "tough guy" act and mistake it for inner strength. Most of us who've been among the berated subordinates of such bullies come to understand that the tough guy act is just overcompensation for deep and massive insecurity. Guys like Bolton may be hard on the outside, but they have a soft, chewy center.

People sometimes ask why George W. Bush makes these horrific Bernie Kerik-type appointments. I suspect there is no why. Bush is not a guy who thinks things through; he relies on what "feels" good. So, he appoints people he feels in sync with. And we see the result: Subconsciouly, Bush is re-creating his own dysfunctional family within the executive branch.

And from the far end of the idiot spectrum, we find Rich Lowry at Town Hall calling Bolton a "multilateralist." Yeah, and I'm the Virgin Mary.

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9:02 am | link

wednesday, april 13, 2005

John Bolton in the News

The New York Times, 4/13:

The longer John Bolton’s Senate hearing for the post of United Nations representative went on, the more outrageous it seemed that President Bush could have nominated a man who had made withering disdain for that world body the signature of his career in international affairs. Some fear that the aim is to scuttle the United Nations. It’s more likely, but just as disturbing, that this is another example of Mr. Bush’s rewarding loyalty rather than holding officials accountable for mistakes, especially those who helped build the case for war with Iraq.

The Boston Globe, 4/13

Bolton’s nomination deserves to be rejected by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee not merely because he has been obsessed with a xenophobic notion that US sovereignty is in mortal danger of being lost to international organizations but because Bolton has taken stances that harm national security.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 4/13

The most compelling testimony against John Bolton, President Bush’s nominee for a vital United Nations post, didn’t come from State Department subordinates. No, it came from Bolton himself. …

His nomination ought to be withdrawn, but not because he verbally bullied the U.N. The United Nations is a deeply troubled organization in need of dynamic and forceful diplomats. Every member country, including the United States, ought to send a representative to New York who will insist the U.N. do its job, period.

The problem with Bolton is not that he’s outspoken, but that he’s not a straight shooter. He is given to playing reckless politics, then castigating those who correct his exaggerations.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Yes, a president has a right to pick his own team. It’s not an absolute right, however; if that were the case, the U.S. Senate would have no legitimate “advise and consent” role on nominees to the courts and senior administration positions. But it does; the Senate is required to vet these nominees and approve only those they believe meet the high standards necessary for such service. John Bolton, nominated to be ambassador to the United Nations, falls far short of those standards.

The arguments against Bolton are so compelling that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should refuse to pass Bolton’s nomination to the Senate floor. Sen. Norm Coleman should join in the refusal and demonstrate his willingness to stand up to the White House.

How has Bolton failed? Let us count the ways, some alluded to in his confirmation hearings, some not:

• Bolton pushed the mythical Niger-Iraq uranium connection even after it had been debunked by both State Department and CIA intelligence, demonstrating a continuing pattern of trying to shape intelligence to serve his preconceived views. …

• Carl W. Ford, a conservative Republican supporter of President Bush and former chief of State Department intelligence, testified Tuesday that Bolton was a “kiss-up, kick-down” person, a bully who abused intelligence analysts when they disagreed with his frequently radical assessments. Ford said he’d not seen anything like Bolton’s abusive behavior in his entire career. Bolton, Ford said, is a “serial abuser” who does not deserve to serve as U.N. ambassador.

• Throughout Bush’s first term, Bolton worked hard to derail official U.S. policies toward North Korea. It got so bad that then-Secretary of State Colin Powell finally informed North Korea that only he and President Bush could speak officially for the United States. Then in July 2003, just as six-party talks with North Korea were about to start — talks the United States had worked hard to set up — Bolton gave an incendiary speech in Seoul in which he heaped scorn on North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong-il.

That speech was at odds with stated U.S. policy, was not properly cleared by the State Department and was strongly opposed by Jack Pritchard, chief U.S. envoy for North Korea. It took all Pritchard could do to keep the six-party talks on track. Bolton then worked to push Pritchard out of the State Department. He succeeded; less than a month later, Pritchard resigned. To say that Bolton isn’t a team player understates the problem by a factor of 10, yet he has been nominated to be the U.S. voice on the team of all teams, the United Nations.

Barry Schweid, Associated Press, 4/13

John Bolton appeared closer to confirmation as ambassador to the United Nations despite scathing testimony Tuesday by a former State Department intelligence chief that he was a “serial abuser” of analysts who disagreed with his hard-line views.

Of course.

(Cross-posted at The American Street)

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9:46 am | link

tuesday, april 12, 2005

One More Thing
 
The usual suspects have been flogging this story in the Washington Post (and also in the Associated Press ) that reported senators Kerry and Lugar outed a CIA agent during the Bolton confirmation hearings a couple of days ago: 

Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., both mentioned a name, Fulton Armstrong, that had not previously come up in public accounts of the intelligence flap.

It is not clear whether Armstrong is the undercover officer, but an exchange between Kerry and Bolton suggests that he may be.

In questioning Bolton, Kerry read from a transcript of closed-door interviews that committee staffers conducted with State Department officials prior to Monday's hearing.

Oops! But tonight on MSNBC's Countdown (story not yet on the web page as of this writing), Keith Olbermann debunked this claim. Apparently Mr. Armstrong has been named as a former undercover operative many, many times, in major publications, and also by Mr. Armstrong's speaker's bureau. Mr. Armstrong's identity hasn't been a secret for a long time. 

I'll try to remember to post a link to the transcript when it's available. Hoot and a half.

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9:22 pm | link

Fun With Graphics!
 
Since we're discussing grand political themes today, I'd like to toss something out for discussion. Baron von Tollbooth kindly provided a link to this site, where I found the following grid:
 
newgrid.jpg
 
Compare/contrast to my clumsy rendering of the old grid from the also old book, The Vital Center (1949) by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.:
 
complexcontinueweb.jpg
In this second grid, in regard to property, liberalism and communism are on the Left, and fascism and conservatism are on the Right.  But in regard to liberty, liberalism and conservatism are in the upper hemisphere, and fascism and communism are in the lower hemisphere.
 
I think the second grid does a better job of showing that fascism and communism in fact lead to totalitarian states. Theoretical communism, as I understand it, would be closer to anarchism, but in the real world it doesn't seem to turn out that way.
 
The old grid isn't perfect, but the new grid seems even less satisfactory. However, I'm an old lady and studied Schlesinger back in the Ice Age, along with cave painting and how to stitch fur together to make shoes. What do y'all think?  

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8:54 pm | link

Funny How This Works
 
In the course of working on the book I'm working on, I've spent considerable time surfing the blogosphere, looking for blog posts by conservatives about liberals, and by liberals about conservatives.
 
I am sorry to say I did not use a scientific methodology. My methodology is to mess around and randomly follow links to see what I bump into. I also tried a lot of google searches, like "blog what is liberalism" and "blog what is conservatism" to find blog posts defining liberalism and conservatism. I wish I could have done some sort of quantifiable analysis that could be represented by a pretty cluster graph. I find such things very impressive. But that's way outside my skill set, along with playing basketball and hanging wallpaper. I know my limits.
 
But in my unscientific, messing around way, I believe I found a pattern, and I invite anyone with the skill and inclination to do so to test my hypothesis.
 
My specific objective was to find out how self-described conservatives define liberalism, and how self-described liberals define conservatism. In my course of this search I found many broad-brush definitions of liberalism, such as:
While liberalism shares many beliefs with communist (i.e. hatred of free trade, free markets, more socialized policies), liberalism is a soft version of communism. But since Nazism rejects free markets, you liberals are closer to the National Socialists than any conservative who is (by definition) pro-capitalist, pro-free market. [Link]
 
... liberalism is the cancer of civilized and free society. [Link]

Liberalism is all about self and does not consider others except when it fits in with their agenda. It is the anti-Christian movement that goes against personal responsibility. It is for people that hate their life and will try to ruin yours too. [Link]

However, I could find nothing from liberals that defines conservatism itself in a negative way. Sure, there was plenty of snarking about conservatism. But when liberals attack conservatives, liberals tend to be person- or issue-specific, and give reasons -- This guy is a jerk because he did thus-and-so. This policy stinks because it's going to have such-and-such effect. 
 
Seriously. A couple of weeks ago I went fishing for quotes by conservatives defining the word liberalism in negative terms, and in ten minutes of googling I had a boatload. But then I spent the next four hours fishing for quotes by liberals defining the word conservatism in negative terms, and found nothin'. The liberal commentaries on conservatism, dang 'em, always pinpointed a specific aspect of conservatism to be criticized, and gave supporting evidence for the criticism. But there seems to be a general understanding on the Left Blogosphere that the word conservatism respresents a whole genus of perspectives that cannot all be dismissed out of hand in the same sentence.
 
The only blanket definition of conservatism I found was the one I wrote about awhile back -- "the domination of society by an aristocracy" -- and, being me, I provided a ton of verbiage explaining why I thought that was true.
 
Frankly, I was surprised. I expected to find plenty of "all conservatism is evil" rhetoric on the Left Blogosphere. That's why I hope someone tests this hypothesis.

Speaking of negative definitions of liberalism, I really hit the jackpot with this post, which needs to be read entirely to be appreciated:

Why do people hold liberal-left positions? (Liberal and left were once very different, but not anymore.)

This question has plagued me because I have long believed that most people, liberal or conservative, mean well. Very few people wake up in the morning planning to harm society. Yet, many liberal positions -- I emphasize liberal positions rather than liberals because most people who call themselves liberal do not hold most contemporary liberal positions -- have been wreaking havoc on America and the world.

How, then, can decent and often very smart people hold liberal positions?

There are many reasons, but the two greatest may be naivete and narcissism. Each alone causes problems, but when combined in the same person, they are particularly destructive.

I really liked the part about how "most people who call themselves liberal do not hold most contemporary liberal positions." If "most liberals" do not hold "liberal positions," then why are "liberal positions" liberal? It seems to me that a "liberal position" by definition would be a position held by most liberals. If another group is holding these positions -- mugwumps, for example -- then why aren't they "mugwump positions"? And if nobody's holding these positions, why worry about them?

Obviously, this guy has a straw man living in his head who serves as the prototype of liberalism, and if "most liberals" disagree with the straw man, that just shows liberals are confused.  

Un-bee-lee-va-bull.

Update: This is 'xactly what I'm talking about! This is a Weekly Standard article defining liberal as something like the boogeyman. I like Daniel Drezner's comment:

About once a quarter I'll experience a conversation in which I feel like Inigo Montoya's character in The Princess Bride when he hears Vizzini repeatedly say the word "inconceivable!" after witnessing yet another heroic feat by the masked and dangerous Dread Pirate Roberts. After hearing Vizzini say that word several times, Montoya finally turns to him and says, "I don't think that word means what you think it means."

I'm having an Inigo Montoya moment after reading Joel Engel go all Vizzini on the word "liberal" in The Weekly Standard.

Update update: Although that may have been Andre the Giant's line. I'm not sure.

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9:01 am | link

monday, april 11, 2005

Stay Well
 
Via Crooked Timber, please read this post on our wonderful health care system by Matt Welch:
What I still can't understand, is how anyone -- seriously, anyone -- can think a system where it is extremely difficult for a perfectly healthy young person untethered to an insurance-providing job to obtain health insurance without lying, or without giving up the possibility of having childbirth covered, is a good system. Sure, it can be one helluva system for the folks who can afford it, or who have jobs where these kinds of problems don't come up, or who think that lying is a normal part of everyday life ... but there are reasons other than laziness and lack of imagination that at any given time 10 percent or more of the U.S. population is uninsured.

What I understand even less is how some of these same people will tell you with a straight face how terrible French health care is. Last Thursday-thru-Saturday, we spent a really wonderful time at "Reason Weekend," which is what my employer does in lieu of a celebrity booze cruise. It's a great event, filled with smart donors to the Reason Foundation, various trustees, and a few people from the magazine. Great speakers, panels, walks on the beach, etc. Anyway, we had some small discussion group about De Tocqueville, and someone (naturally) brought up France's high taxes and thick welfare state. "Well, the thing is," Emmanuelle said (quotes are inexact), "some of the things the French state provides are pretty good. For instance health care."

"Wait a minute wait a minute," one guy said. "If you were sick -- I mean, really sick -- where would you rather be? France or the U.S.?"

"Um, France," we both said.

Various sputtering ensued. What about the terrible waiting lists? (There really aren't any.) The shoddy quality? (It's actually quite good.) Finally, to deflect the conversation away, I said "Look, if we made twice as much money, we'd probably prefer American health care for a severe crisis. But we don't, so we don't."

Atrios comments on Matt Welch's blog. Also via Atrios, see the Angry Bear 

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9:19 pm | link

Georgia Granny Update
 
Mark Kleiman is looking at the Mae Magourik flap, also known as The Case of the Starving Georgia Granny. See post here and update here.  
 
Mark's opinion is essentially the same as mine. If the Fetus Bloggers have their facts straight, then Ms. Magourik is being treated very badly. However, as Mark says, "so far no one is vouching for any of the 'facts'  above except for people who believed that a woman with a flat cerebral EEG was nonetheless aware, and who have a huge stake in the belief that there's a vast 'culture of death' plot to murder sick people by removing life support."
 
The "facts" are confused. For example, the claim is made, repeatedly, that Ms. Magourik has been taken off life support. But it's not clear she was ever on life support, or needs it, or exactly what her mental or medical status is. The only thing that's clear is that Ms. Magourik's family has a difference of opinion about her treatment, and one nephew decided to get his way by grandstanding and going to the Fetus People for support. As a result, the local Probate Office is getting threatening phone calls. Way to go, Fetus People.
 
It may be that the granddaughter wants Granny to hurry up and die and leave an estate. And, it may be that the nephew heard about money donated to the Terri Schiavo cause and thinks he can get a piece of that action. Many things are possible. Further, it's a fact that elderly people in extended care facilities often do get substandard care, and are overmedicated and underfed. Who knows what's really going on?
 
The Fetus People believe they know, but as a class Fetus People can't keep facts straight even when the facts line up and hold hands. All I know is that somebody better figure out what's going on and put a stop to the hysteria before somebody, and not necessarily Ms. Magourik, gets killed. 

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12:26 pm | link

The Great Unraveling
 
Ideologies are strangling America, and there's no better example of this than health care.
 
This morning Paul Krugman writes about what's wrong with health care in America. Here's what we're dealing with:

First, America's traditional private health insurance system, in which workers get coverage through their employers, is unraveling. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that in 2004 there were at least five million fewer jobs with health insurance than in 2001. And health care costs have become a major burden on those businesses that continue to provide insurance coverage: General Motors now spends about $1,500 on health care for every car it produces.

Second, rising Medicare spending may be a sign of progress, but it still must be paid for - and right now few politicians are willing to talk about the tax increases that will be needed if the program is to make medical advances available to all older Americans.

Finally, the U.S. health care system is wildly inefficient. Americans tend to believe that we have the best health care system in the world. (I've encountered members of the journalistic elite who flatly refuse to believe that France ranks much better on most measures of health care quality than the United States.) But it isn't true. We spend far more per person on health care than any other country - 75 percent more than Canada or France - yet rank near the bottom among industrial countries in indicators from life expectancy to infant mortality.

Today, the righties remain in denial that there's a problem. They're still hyping scare stories about waiting lists for procedures in Canada (like I didn't have to get on a five-month waiting list for a mammography here in good ol' New York last year). They're still in denial about the fact that private insurance is unaffordable for most people. For example, the nice doggie reacted to some health care stats last year:
Lack of health insurance coverage causes 18,000 unnecessary American deaths a year.
Well, guess they should pony up and start paying for it instead of waiting for the welfare state to take care of them... I pay for mine so that I don't have to worry about getting to the surgery room and wondering how long I'll have to be a corporate shill to pay it off...
[And let them eat cake.]
"U.S. childhood poverty now ranks 22nd, or second to last, among the developed nations. Only Mexico scores lower"
Define Poverty... Because in the US we keep raising the Poverty threshold so that more and more people can apply for student grants and other programs... don't believe me? look at the California Community College system, in order to allow more people to stay on with it they increased the tuition, not because they needed the money, but because more students could then apply for student aid...
The United States is 41st in the world in infant mortality. Women are 70% more likely to die in childbirth in America than in Europe One-third of all U.S. children are born out of wedlock. One-half of all U.S. children will live in a one-parent house Nearly 900,000 children were abused or neglected in 2002, the last year for which such data are available
Sounds like they're all related...
In some ways I'm happy for the nice doggie. He lives in a world in which there is no poverty, where anyone with a job can afford to pay for health insurance, and if women die in childbirth it's their own fault. They were probably bad women, anyway. But in the world I live in hard-working Americans are being pushed out of the health care system because the cost of insurance is way beyond their means, and they are suffering for it. 
 
But this is what we're up against. Our country has been hijacked by ideology. There are vast tribes of people who live entirely within the confines of some box of bleeping dogmas, and any inconvient reality that threatens their world view has to be denied. With extreme prejudice. Better to let 18,000 Americans die every year for lack of medical care than to admit that one's dogmas might be wrong.
 
Better to let the deficit grow until it kills us than to raise taxes on the wealthy. Better to let the whole world turn against us than admit invading Iraq was a mistake. Better to let our kids be ignorant than to teach them evolution. Better to let the whole bleeping planet die than listen to environmental scientists about global warming.
 
Like I said, ideologies are killing us.
 
Ironically, we're doing to our health care system what the health care system has been doing to a lot of uninsured Americans. When uninsured Americans develop a medical problem, they don't see a doctor when the problem is minor and easily treated. They don't see a doctor because they can't afford to pay a doctor. Instead, they wait and hope the condition heals itself. But eventually, when the condition has worsened and the pain is overwhelming, then they go to the county hospital emergency room, where they can't be turned away. But by then the condition is worse and treatment will be expensive and difficult, and maybe futile.
 
So it is with the health care system. For years the problem has been growing and festering, yet the ideologues refuse to see it. And whenever a politician dares bring it up, the righties scream socialized medicine! and Hillarycare! and repeat their stories about how poor old Aunt Sally in Toronto had to get on a six-month waiting list to get her pacemaker.
 
Our system is so much better, because increasing numbers of people are ineligible to get on a waiting list for anything. So those with money and insurance are not  inconvenienced.
 
I've believed for many years that when enough middle-class people lost access to health care there'd be a tipping point, and the calls for reform would finally drown out the slogans of the dogmatists. Maybe. But now I think that what's more likely to happen is that when enough corporations decide they have to dump health insurance from their benefit packages, the corporate lobbyists will start pushing for government programs to pick up the slack.
 
Of course, such programs would be created to help Big Pharma and Big Insurance and Big HMO, not We, the People. That's how democracy in America works these days.
 
There's an old joke that says a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged. The new joke is going to be that a liberal is a conservative who lost his health insurance. And that may be our only hope.
___________________
 
It's comforting to know that Spring still returns to the old planet, no matter how vile and corrupt and destructive we humans are. Outside is a morning of sunshine and bird song and crayon colors -- blue sky, green grass, red tulips. Take heart. Take a walk. Thanks, I think I will.
______________________
 
I found a couple of "Amen, Sister" posts at Media Girl: "The Conservative Male's Insecurity" and "'The Culture of Life' Means Pregnancy Is 'Punishment.'" So go take a look.

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7:42 am | link

sunday, april 10, 2005

I Heard the News Today, Oh Boy
 
The Los Angeles Times says up to 300,000 Iraqis protested the American occupation yesterday. Juan Cole has more background, and NNNOLHI at Democratic Underground has photographs.
 
I'm not going to presume to judge what this means. It's no secret there are Iraqis who want the U.S. out of their country. And there's no doubt there are Iraqis who want the U.S. to stay a bit longer. But I'll repeat what I've said before, that if the "mission" is for Iraq to be a free nation run by an elected, republican type of government--and I sincerely hope this happens--we will not have succeeded until we leave.
 

I think these demonstrators are in agreement with George Bush. You cannot have free elections if you are being occupied by foreign troops.

I dipped into the Right Blogosphere for commentary. The only mention of the demonstration that I found was at Little Green Footballs, to which I do not link. The LGF blogger linked to the DU photos and wrote,
The inmates of Democratic Underground are solidly on the side of Muqtada al-Sadr and his Army of the Mahdi ... Please, everyone, go and see their pictures of mujahideen burning US flags, and their lovely effigies of Bush as Satan and Blair as a monkey—but more importantly, make sure to read what the “patriots” at DU think of this display of enemy propaganda.
On March 7, an LGF blogger whined that US news media were ignoring the glorious protests against the foreign occupation of Lebanon because news coverage was focused on Martha Stewart and Michael Jackson. In other words,
 
News that makes George W. Bush look good = vital information every American must hear
 
News that makes George W. Bush look bad = enemy propaganda
 
Got that? I just want to be sure we're all clear. Notice that the veracity of the story is not important. All that's important is how the story reflects on the Bush Administration.
 
Also, please note that when the United States military occupies another nation, this is not a "foreign occupation," because we're not foreigners. It's people from other countries who are the foreigners. I just can't imagine why that isn't obvious to everybody.

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"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918

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The War Prayer

I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

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It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

[Mark Twain, 1905]

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