Friday, October 31, 2008

Obama: Character and Policy

So why have I spent so little time talking about Obama's and McCain's policies and so much time talking about the insanity and viciousness of the McCain campaign and the American right? The fact is, I actually consider the temperamental stuff to be about as important as the policy stuff. My view goes something like this: if you find out someone's particular policies, it's like discovering some of the values of a function. But to discover how their mind works and what their character is like is analogous to understanding the function per se--you now know how all the values of the function get generated. Of course I agree with Obama's policies more than I agree with McCain's, but in my mind the fact that Obama is more intelligent, more honest, more knowledgeable, more willing to consider alternative points of view and think hard about them, more capable of engaging civilly with people he does not initially disagree with--in short, more rational--is what seals the deal for me.

Hell, I actually disagree with Obama quite a bit about Iraq, and it's foreign policy I'm most interested in. I'm less convinced than he claims to be about the importance of getting out by 2010. I am to at least some degree inclined to think that we should think in terms of victory. And I'm appalled at the argument that we should shove the financial burden onto the Iraqis because they have a budget surplus. We broke their goddamn country. It is at least not obvious that it is entirely their responsibility to rebuild it. However, my guess is that his positions here have to at least some extent been dictated by the demands of the primary and the general election. On my theory of Obama, he'll soften these positions after he's elected. And even where I tend to agree more with McCain, I don't trust him to rationally analyze and implement the policy in question. He's become infected with whatever virus has turned so much of the right into a hord of spittle-flecked zombies. (Maybe, a la 28 Days Later, it's rage...)

Liberalism has a long history of focusing on the rationality and justice of the process rather than the outcome, and something similar has pushed me over to Obama. It seems clear to me that he is possessed of a moral and and intellectual character that makes him reliably rational and good. I trust him to make good decisions. I'm in favor of many of his stated policy positions, too, but they're not what fires me up about the man.

One thing the Reaganites got right: character matters. I may not have agreed with them about Reagan's particular character, but I agree with them about the principle.
Peggy Noonan for Obama
You Read It Right

I uh um ah well er...really??? Well, you go, Peggy. Welcome to the reality-based community.

I'm not really on the same page methodologically as Ms. Noonan. She seems to be attracted largely to rhetoric and nuances of symbolism that I'm inherently skeptical of. But, hey, she's right on this one, and so good on her.

Andy McCarthy, however, is not amused. As more and more people abandon them, the hard, cold, withered core of Nixon-to-Rove conservatism gets more and more frantic. Yer a liberal! Yer a fool! Yer a traitor! How can it be that everybody in the whole world has gone mad except for Andy, K-Lo and the Doughy Pantload???? How indeed...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tired of Olbermann

Very much so.

Is it just me?
Tranny Spice on Ashley Todd
Tu Quoque

So it turns out that the real point of the Ashley Todd hoax is that liberals suck.
The Economist Endorses Obama

Here. The Economist tends to be a bit weak on American politics, but usually errs by inclining in an overly-conservative direction. Here's the thing: if even the Economist is endorsing Obama--and "whole-heartedly" no less--that's a pretty damn strong evidence in his favor.
Bin Laden Reveals Real Reason For 9/11 Attacks

Chitral, Pakistan
8:50 am 10/30/2008
In his first interview with Western reporters on the subject, Osama bin Laden, leader of al Qaeda and godfather of the 9/11 attacks against America, has revealed the reason for the attacks.

In and interview with Reuters reporter Saeed Ali Achakzai, bin Laden has revealed that he gave the word for the 9/11 attacks "because George Bush refused to agree to a series of town-hall style meetings" with the al Qaeda leader.

"Allah knows I didn't want it to come to this," bin Laden said through an interpreter, "but he had sort of said earlier that he was o.k. with doing the town-hall thing, but then later he went back on that."

Bin Laden asserted that Bush "only had himself to blame" for the attacks. "It all could have been avoided," he said, "if only Bush had stuck to his initial plan" to participate in the meetings.

"He brought it on himself," bin Laden asserted. "Don't look at me. I wanted to do the town halls. It's not my fault. It's out of my hands."
Why So Nervous?

It's become common for denizens of the leftosphere to ask: with us up by so much, why is everybody so nervous? (Universe of discourse: Obamaphiles.)

Lots of theories get batted around, including ones about the Bradley effect, doubts about polling, worries about the efficacy of the "socialist" offensive, concerns about an October surprise...

But the real answer, IMHO: though the probability of a good outcome is high, the cost of a bad outcome is very, very great. Hence the expected loss is high, even though its likelihood is small.

It's a little like having a biopsy where the chance that you have cancer is only 5%. Sounds low...but, see, it might be cancer...

I think we're going to win. (I think we're going to win because Nate Silver thinks we're going to win, incidentally.) But a loss would be so %$^&ing disastrous that I can't help but fret about it semi-constantly.

Get out there and GOTV, friends. We can't afford to just hope for the best.
Bat-shit Crazy
Atlas Shrugged Edition
Obama the Son of Malcolm X

Because they all look alike.

(My favorite bit: "Here is a more plausible theory." When your base plausibility metric has been shot to shit by years of reading Ayn Rand and wingnut conspiracy theories, you probably wouldn't know a sensible theory if it got your sister pregnant.)

[via too many links to remember]
Yes Master...

John Cole discovers "...a 67 page, 192 footnote pdf file titled “An Examination of Obama’s Use of Hidden Hypnosis Techniques in His Speeches.”

Like I said, bat-shit crazy.
Free Republic
Bat-Shit Crazy

If I'm feeling low I sometimes go over to Free Republic because it makes me feel smart and intellectually virtuous by comparison. Those people are just flat-out bat-shit crazy. In fact, it's not even gratifying anymore, but horrifying. I supposed I hadn't realized the depths of logical depravity to which human beings could sink.

Here's what I found in the first post I clicked on just now:

1.
The whole post reads:

"In order to beat them...drive out Democrats who are interested in “appeasing” the right wing, and enforce a more clearly progressive agenda..."

And here's the link provided, which takes us to:

2.
A post at Gateway Pundit, which quotes Obama at dKos, ending with:
According to the storyline that drives many advocacy groups and Democratic activists - a storyline often reflected in comments on this blog - we are up against a sharply partisan, radically conservative, take-no-prisoners Republican party. They have beaten us twice by energizing their base with red meat rhetoric and single-minded devotion and discipline to their agenda. In order to beat them, it is necessary for Democrats to get some backbone, give as good as they get, brook no compromise, drive out Democrats who are interested in “appeasing” the right wing, and enforce a more clearly progressive agenda.

The country, finally knowing what we stand for and seeing a sharp contrast, will rally to our side and thereby usher in a new progressive era.
Now, if you click through, what you find in the actual dKos post is that the very first sentence of the next paragraph is:

"I think this perspective misreads the American people."

What Obama is saying is, in fact, the exact opposite of the point that is being attributed to him by the Freeper and Gateway Pundit. It's almost too sleazy to believe. It's as if I'd written "According to a widely-accepted view, women are inferior to men. This is, of course, insane"...but you "quote" me as saying "women are inferior to men."

This "Gateway Pundit" fellow himself then goes on to misconstrue Obama's point in a different way, in addition to cutting crucial material out of the quote. Gateway Pundit claims that Obama is saying "let's make the Republicans think we're centrists when we're really partisans looking to overrun them." But what Obama is really doing is saying to the Kossacs: "Look, I'm not saying we should be centrist if that means splitting the difference on every issue. I'm saying we have to take a stand for important principles, but compromise with conservatives where possible." In effect, Obama is doing the opposite of what Gateway Pundit claims: he's saying to the Kossacs: "I'm not saying we should be (lame) centrists, I'm saying we should be (wise) centrists." If he's flim-flamming anyone here, it's the Kossacs.

Those Freepers are some combination of stupid and intellectually dishonest in measures that I am unable to discern.
Checking in on the Freepers

Predicting a McCain landslide, morphing pix of Obama into a demon, all that sort of thing.
Formulate A Plan For Election-Day Choas Now

So we keep hearing all sorts of predictions of election-day chaos, backed up by good evidence (e.g. accounts of hours-long lines even for early voting). So I'm going to go out on a limb here and conclude that election-day chaos is reasonably likely.

Now, what's the right thing to do if there are still long lines when the polls are supposed to close? Do we keep the polls open x hours longer? Do we keep them open until everyone has voted? Do we stick to the pre-established schedules? I know I keep harping on this point, but: the time to make decisions like this is before the event, before the chaos, in a cool hour. In fact, it's probably a little late now, as my guess is that we are already in a position to know who benefits from which course of action. (Presumably Obama would benefit from polls staying open longer, right?) The worst thing, it seems, would be a mixed strategy in which polls some places stay open longer while polls in other places close on schedule despite the presence of voters who haven't voted. If, say, polls in red states tend to stay open while polls in blue states tend to close (or vice-versa), that would fairly clearly be a problem.

The problem in 2000 wasn't so much that we hadn't established a policy about recounts ahead of time--actually there were policies, but they weren't adhered to. But most members of the chattering class didn't have positions ahead of time, and so they mostly just seemed to adopt whichever position would benefit their preferred party. In unclear cases in which good judgment is required, it's difficult to make an unclounded judgment in the heat of a dispute. So best to figure out where we ought to stand before the fact.

Me, I'm not sure. If, say, a given polling place is quiet most of the day, and then tons of people show up at the last minute and can't get in, there seems to be no obligation to let them vote. On the other hand, if the polls are slammed all day long and people remain at closing time, I'm inclined to think that there's an obligation to let them vote. The state has an obligation to give everyone a reasonable opportunity to vote on election day. The state also has to make guesses about how many voting machines it needs. If it guesses wrong...well, then, it seems to have an obligation to try its best to correct for its error. And that at least seems to mean keeping the polls open longer. So there's my position, FWIW.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Regular Folks
Waiting to See Obama

Here's one interesting thing about the folks waiting to see Obama at the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport last night: they were absolutely, positively, 100% regular folks. Not an elitist in sight. Kid playing all around my feet, the super-southern blond girl who thought Obama was "cute," all the folks walking up, their shoulders slightly hunched, looking a little shy like they'd never been to something like this before, an awesomely cute baby next to me, held by its dad, moving its dopey little arms randomly, occasionally punching me in the arm, the East Indian woman next to me, so excited about seeing Obama (sadly, she said she didn't see him when he drove by), the two guys to my right, one with a camo "Extreme Hunter" hat on, talking to his buddy about how he had planned on hunting that morning, but stuff had come up and he couldn't, the young businessman and his wife to my left, the group of teenage girls over there who kept trying to start an O-ba-ma chant, the grandpa who kept telling his grandson "you better git up to the front or you won't git t' see him."

Real Americans, on any definition of the term.
Obama in the Shenandoah Valley

So Obama was in the Valley yesterday, at the JMU Convocation Center. I had several students ask whether I would cancel class. Though this was a pretty big deal around these parts, we're behind in the syllabus, so I couldn't cancel. Also I try to be scrupulously nonpartisan in class, so I'd have been worried about doing that anyway.

At any rate, after class (about 2:00), I walked down to the Convo with some colleagues, and there were people all over the place. We talked to somebody from the press, and she said that there were about 12,000 people waiting (which seemed a tad high to me, but I'm really bad at estimating crowd sizes). The Convo holds about 7,000. We walked around taking some pictures, and when we walked by the press entrance, somebody yelled to ask us whether we were press--this because we were both carrying sweet cameras. If it had just been JMU security, we would have tried to BS our way in, but we didn't think it was a good idea to try to flim-flam the Secret Service. (I read somewhere that, despite the fact that everyone thinks that he or she is good at detecting lies, only the Secret Service is able to do so at a rate better than that predicted by chance.)

Later that evening, JQ and I heard that some people had gathered to greet him at the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport, and on a whim we drove down to Weyer's Cave. Stood outside in the COLD-ass wind for like two hours with about 200 people (see previous remarks about my inability to estimate crowd size). There was a great deal of confusion about where Obama was and when he'd arrive...in fact, some thought he was already in his plane. Finally everybody seemed to spontaneously decide he wasn't coming and almost everybody left. We waited a bit, then left, but on the way out passed a big suspicious-looking bus. We turned around and ended up between two press busses back to the airport. As we drove in, a rather frantic-looking cop ran up to our car and frantically/semi-angrily asked "Who are you?" To which I responded "Uhhh...I'm not exactly sure how to answer that question." I mean, who am I, really? JQ said that we were there to see Obama, and he motioned us on. There followed about another half-hour of standing in the cold-ass wind. Then the motorcade came by and the remaining 30 people went crazy. We were waving like lunatics, and saw him waving as he drove by.

Pretty exciting, eh?
SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY!!!!!!!!!

JESUSAURUS VERSUS SINZILLA!!!!

QUALCOMM STADIUM, SAN DIEGO!!

BE THERE!!!!!!!!!!

EXTREME PRAYER!!! EXTREME FASTING!!! EXTREME SELF-DEBASEMENT!!!!

(I think this is a joke, but JQ says it isn't.)

[via Sullivan]
The Spittle Gap

So it's pretty clear that the American right can tap vast resources of maniacal partisanship with which the left just can't compete. Our friends across the aisle just have a larger pool of wild-eyed, frothing-at-the-mouth nut cases willing to do their bidding than we have. There is, if you will, a spittle gap.

This gap seemed to close a bit in the Bush years, when some surveys showed that many liberals believed that Bush was complicit in the 9/11 attacks. But that result always stood as a kind of inexplicable outlier. The real lunatics on the left are pretty much limited to humanities (and a few social science) departments in American universities. Hardly a vast pool of untapped electoral power.

One question that's come to fascinate me this election cycle, however: how vast is the spittle gap? I mean, right now it seems almost unfathomably huge. If you don't believe me, go check out Free Republic, where hardly a screen goes by without some discussion of Obama's secret birth certificate, or a secret tape showing Obama performing a human sacrifice, or some other super-secret blockbuster anti-Obama story being suppressed by the EmEsEm.

But seriously: how crazy are they? Surely we're encountering some of the loonier lunacy, as the really choice bits are picked up by Sadly, No! or some other site and then we all eagerly flock to it and have a good laugh and feel superior and so on. Buuuuut....there does seem to be an awful lot of awfully crazy stuff over there, no? (Speaking of Free Republic, I dashed over there at the end of the last sentence to take a sample. On the first screen: (a) Obama buys his mansion with money from Saddam; (b) L.A. Times still suppressing incriminating Obama video (x2); (c) Obama's affinity for Marxism; (d) similarity between Marxist youth movements and Obama supporters...and many, many more...) You might say: Freeperdom is a concentration of lunatics; yes, but it's a HUGE concentration of lunatics, which is more-or-less the point...

What we need is some kind of actual estimate of right-wing lunacy. You know, something like: 5% of Republicans are utterly insane, 10% are nuts, another 10% are daft...something along those lines. It'd at least let us know what we're up against. Maybe it's not as bad as it seems. Maybe this election is just bringing them out of the woodwork. And, of course, many elements of the right have adopted an electoral strategy of stirring up the crazies. Still, it might be that we're in the midst of a vast experiment, a cornucopia of data about the psyche of the right. Maybe we ought to make good use of it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Whack Job

It took them this long to figure that out? Talk about slow learners.
Obama is a Centrist

A liberal centrist, it's true. But that's a kind of centrist. A year from now, there will be a lot of leftier folks in the Democratic party who are complaining that he is too conservative.

That's a prediction you can take to the bank, homes.

In fact, that's one of the reasons I'm so pro-Obama: he won't be too far to the left. The real danger for the Dems--if they win bit--is overreach. The key is to make moderate, sane progress and put the foundations deep. Shooting forward with every crackpot liberal policy you can come up with is a blueprint for crushing defeat in 2010 and 2012. The lefty left will never succeed in this country (fortunately); it's liberal centrism or defeat for the blue team.


Anybody who thinks that Obama is a radical or a socialist is utterly clueless. He's a moderate and a centrist--not exactly like Clinton, but approximately like him. Some say that it was Clinton's centrism that made conservatives hate him. If so, they're not going to like Obama much any time soon.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Great Conservative Freakout
James Wolcott Comments

"Presidential Monster Chiller Horror Theater"

So you've probably noticed that a fair number of conservative bloggers seem to be, well, pretty much shrieking like little girls over the impending election of Barack Obama. I mean, I suppose it's understandable to lose your shit if you think that a totalitarian, terrorist-coddling, communist, jihadi Antichrist is about to be elected...but still, it's not a particularly pretty sight. I suppose I thought our friends across the aisle were made of somewhat sterner stuff.

At any rate, Wolcott documents some of the atrocities. Eminently worth a read.
Obama in Harrisonburg, VA Tomorrow
City Police and Rescue Squad Brace For Possible "Fights"

Obama will be at the James Madison University Convocation Center in Harrisonburg VA tomorrow. A friend of mine on the rescue squad just informed me that the police have asked them to have two trucks on hand "in case fights break out."

The Valley is a pretty conservative place, but violence doesn't seem to be much its style. Still, I think it's a little hard to predict exactly what will happen. I wouldn't be surprised to see protesters there--the Valley seems to have a healthy does of super-conservative nut cases. And I get the impression that some of them like to think that they have a little fortress into which someone like Obama should step only with trepidation. I think there will be some anger when they see that isn't so. But it's unlikely to turn violent. I'm sure this is just a standard kind of precaution.
Is The Right Oblivious To The Fact That Irrational Criticism Produces Blowback?

That is:

Even putting all the other points about the irrationality and immorality of trying to sell insane criticisms of a presidential candidate...doesn't the right realize that one of the effects is to solidify support behind that candidate?

I mean, it's not the most rational thing in the world, but here's the fact: the right's psychopathic anti-Clinton myth-making drove me farther in the pro-Clinton direction back in the '90's. And their super-duper-uber-psychopathic anti-Obama myth-making has made it very, very difficult for me to take even rational criticisms of Obama as seriously as I should.

So even from a purely prudential, selfish perspective, you'd think that conservatives would throttle back a bit on the lunacy.
Local Obama HQ
Remarkable

Went canvassing again yesterday. Found some time--well, actually I didn't; I just ignored some work--and wandered on down. There were about fifty people standing and listening to a speech by a former admiral explaining why he was supporting Obama, then everybody broke to go canvass. I got assigned a way-back rural area I didn't even know existed. Had to creep along with one eye on a crappy Mapquest printout. One cranky McCainiac, two persuadables. Everybody else not home or not interested in talking. When I got back, there were kids everywhere painting Obama signs, people outside painting Obama signs, people at the phone bank to the side, people wargaming tactics... Seriously, I've never seen a campaign like this before. In 2004, for example, you couldn't find someone at Democratic HQ to save your life. It's a porch on the back of someone's house (still). You could wander in and take whatever chum you wanted. There was a jar to make donations if you took t-shirts. There was no Kerry HQ in town. The Obama HQ is open ten to ten every day but Sunday when it's one to ten. There are almost always people there. Sometimes there are more people than things to do. Whereas past campaigns I've volunteered for seemed to be creeping along on a trickle of energy, this one is powered by a gusher of it. It's an inspiring thing.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Surprise!

It's October...
Palin in 2012?

Lots of chatter about this. My guess/prediction at this point FWIW (= not much) is: nope. Her only hope was that her initial shock and awe campaign based on looks, lies and viciousness would cloud the facts long enough for her to get elected. But, as it turns out, her ignorance and mendacity couldn't be concealed even for two months. The real wackos love her, but she's dead to the center.

My guess: she'll end up with...oh...something like a Limbaughesque talk show. The right absolutely cannot resist an allegedly hot woman who's conservative--Malkin, Ingraham, Tranny Spice. Though on the radio they wouldn't be able to see her, so that's a disad. Eventually her tortured syntax might wear on listeners...but maybe they'll just continue to think it's "folksy." Limbaugh is a complete moron and they never seem to get tired of listening to him...though he's fairly glib I suppose in his own disgusting way.

Maybe Fox News will give her an opportunity to go back to being a talking head. That's probably what she's cut out for. Maybe she'll get her own O'Reillyesque show.

But I can't see her being the GOP candidate in 2012...or ever.
Sadly No! Documents the Atrocities

Wow. Seriously...check this stuff out. SN! digs down into a whole other level of winguttery.

Exhibit A: Some total loon named "Marie Jon."

Exhibit B: Dan Riehl (the guy who recently suggested that Obama might be planning to smother his grandmother with a pillow to get sympathy votes).

Exhibit C: Court orders "B. Hussein Obama"s name removed from Ohio ballots! (Actually, the lunatic case was thrown out of court...but the nutters involved decided to just go ahead and assert that they'd won.)
McCain on MTP

Pretty ugly. Downright painful to watch at times. Despite what a horrible person he's become (or been revealed to be?), you have to feel at least a little bit sorry for him. It's hard to believe--though it's probably true--that this was the GOP's best candidate.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Freepers Creepers
Why McCain is Behind in the Polls

Because if you admit to voting for McCain, you will be physically attacked, of course.

What other possible explanation could there be?
Look Out!

Rogue maverick pit bull diva on da loose!
Simson L. Garfinkel on Wikipedia: Confusing Metaphysics and Epistemology

I don't have time to go through this (via Sullivan) properly right now. But, whatever good points Farfinkel might have, he blows the crucial distinction between (a) the definition of truth and (b) standards and methods for the discovery of truth.

Garfinkel seems to have two main points: first, that Wikipedia can't really be trusted, because the articles are written by amateurs and based on public-domain information; and, second, that this substitutes a consensus view of truth for a more standard conception. The first point may very well be true. I can say that at least two articles in my area of expertise (the psychologism article and the relativism article) are both utter disasters. Though, I should add, most of what's written about those subjects even by philosophers is pretty bad. They're just complicated, weird and difficult subjects. But, anyway: Garfinkel's first point is probably close to the mark--though, of course, he's not the first to make it.

As for the second point, Garfinkel is absolutely wrong. Wikipedia in general takes no position on the definition of truth (or of 'truth' if its a nominal defintion you're after). Wikipedia, like all encyclopedias, employs certain methods for discerning the truth. Presumably they to some extent aim at representing expert opinion on the subjects in question, because expert opinion is usually the best guide we have to the truth of such matters. (Note: this in no way suggests that we hold a consensus-of-experts theory of truth; again, the definition of truth is not even at issue). The difference, I guess, is that at Wikipedia many non-experts are involved in compling the representations of expert opinion.

That may not work very well--the jury seems to still be out--but Garfinkel is wrong to say that Wikipedia has any significant association with a consensus theory of truth. Which is, of course, a good thing, since that theory is false.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Advice for Future College Republican Hoaxers

Carve an 'O' instead. It makes more sense, and it's right-left symmetrical.
Bachmann: "I May Not Always Get My Words Right"

This is one of the most infuriating types of bullshit in my book--attempting to worm out of your considered position by claiming that you've "used the wrong words." (Note that this is also one of the whiny ploys undergraduates often use to covertly complain about their grades--"So I used the wrong words," they often say poutily. Well, I often find myself replying, if saying "not p" when, in fact, you should have said "p" counts as using the wrong words...well, then yeah, I guess you used the wrong words.)

Bachmann did not "get her words wrong." She clearly and repeatedly expressed her view that many Democrats, including Barack Obama, were likely to be anti-American, and that the press should investigate this matter to discover which ones were. There was no unclarity about what she believed, and it had nothing to do with the words she chose.

In addition to being a neo-McCarthyite nutcase, Michelle Bachmann is a liar who is trying to worm out of her own--decidedly anti-American--views.
Ashley Todd Confesses That Obama Attack Story Was A Hoax

via Sullivan.

I always wonder in cases like this: what if she hadn't confessed? I mean, it was still obviously false, but there'd be people pushing this story for the next fifty years if she hadn't.

Actually: is there any doubt that there will be some 'nuts who will hint darkly that Todd was intimidated into confessing?

But, Lord, it turns out that even Michelle Malkin called BS on this! Whoa! Now there's something you don't see every day...
Amy The "Makeup Artist"

The real personification of the McCain campaign--and, as it turns out, its highest-paid lackey at $11,400 per week.

And: "makeup artist"? Seriously? Do you get to call just anybody an artist? Just wondering.
Crazy People
More Thumpers For McCain
Jesus vs. Obama Witch Brigade

Very, very crazy, these people.
Instahack et. al. Love Them Some Ashley Todd BS

Some skepticism, but in general credulity and outrage on the right so far as I can tell.

Instahack.

Hot Air.

ButtBomb

It really is like entering a parallel universe when you go over there. These people need to get out of the wingnut cocoon from time to time. Seriously. Remember when I used to try to take these people seriously? I was stupid.
The Ashley Todd Hoax

I'm usually pretty cautious about dismissing claims like Todd's out of hand...but the probability that Todd's story is true is basically too small for us to meaningfully distinguish it from zero. That is:

Todd is lying.

I tried to be fairly noncommittal about this at first, in part to correct for my bias in disputes that have implications for the election. But there is simply no appreciable chance that Todd is telling the truth.

A. Her reports of her movements before and after the attack on her Twitter page are pretty obviously clumsy elements of the whole fantasy. She might as well have posted "Here I go to the ATM! Hope no huge violent black man sees my McCain sticker!".

B. The 'B' "carved" in her face is entirely bogus.

i. It's backwards. She did it while looking in the mirror. I normally wouldn't state something like this categorically until all the evidence was in, but there it is. In the immortal words of the Eagles, I could be wrong but I'm not. Many fake attacks like this have been discovered on such grounds (backwards swastikas or whatever).

Note: some of our friends across the aisle have tried to say that the 'B' is not backwards, but upside-down. This is false. Were someone to do something like this, they'd straddle the victims body for control, not do it upside-down where no real control of the body is possible.

ii. It's too perfect. It's drawn very precisely. Even if the victim weren't struggling, she'd have recoiled reflexively. There's no way the letter would come out looking like this.

iii. It's too shallow. It's a scratch. Todd didn't want this to hurt too much, nor to be truly disfiguring.

C. Others have reported--though I have to admit I don't really know anything about such things--that criminals don't act like this. That is, they don't follow their victims around after having taken their money. It does sound rather fishy, but I don't really know about this point. But we don't even need it. The previous points are sufficient.

[update:
D. Her story has been inconsistent on several details, e.g. whether she was knocked unconscious.


E. Her story is now alleged to be inconsistent with video evidence from the ATM.]

Kant says that the mark of belief is willingness to bet. I'll bet everything I've got in the bank that this story is bullshit. Despite my cautious nature in such matters, there's just no real doubt here.

Ashley Todd is lying.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Great Moments In Election Year Blogging

Jon Swift shows that the wingnuttosphere has made all other forms of media obsolete. A compendium of the awesomest wingnut stories of the election season. Totally sweet. A triumph raves Philosoraptor!!!!11!!
Shill, Baby, Shill

The NRO is now officially beyond pathetic.
Jonah the Idiot

The Doughy Pantload feigns confusion for once.
Sarah the Liar

Since we're now identifying everybody by first name + occupation...
Woman Brutally Assaulted For Supporting McCain?

Story here.

I dunno. Horrible if true...and it'd be terrible to doubt the victim's story if it is true...but I think everyone would have to admit that it doesn't sound very plausible.If it's true the perpetrator should go to jail forever, of course. I'm sure the wingnutosphere is going to have a field day with this, one way or the other.

[Uhhhhh no. This has 'hoax' written all over it.]

[Apparently College Republicans faking assaults by liberals is a much more common thing that you might think...]
Andrew Sullivan, That One Crazy Rumor and Palin's Medical Records

O.k., so when that one super-crazy rumor about Palin hit the intertubes, I said we should leave it alone. But here we are, twelve days before the election, and Palin still hasn't released her medical records. And, in fact, she probably simply isn't going to release them. This isn't as bad as the fact that she hasn't held (and won't hold) a press conference of course. Which isn't as bad as the fact that she is completely unqualified for office. But it ain't good.

Back when the rumor broke, I admonished Sullivan for discussing it. It's not that it was impossible, but, rather, that it was so loony as to be massively unlikely. And there's a cost to discussing such things--a personal cost to the Palins, and a political cost to the Democrats. In such a case, any public discussion should wait until something like real confirming evidence is discovered.

But it seems to me that Sullivan is right to keep up the pressure for the records. It's highly unlikely that the original nutty rumor is true...but it's starting to seem pretty likely that there's something in there that they don't want anybody to know about. Which means we probably need to know about it.
New Duke Hoops Recruiting Class

The new recruiting class at Duke works on the basics. Like they say, Duke players really do tend to look like Coach K...

But can they teach 'em to flop?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Crazy People
Thumpers For McCain Edition

Check out this nutjob.

I can't tell whether her mindless smug expressions are normal for her, or whether she's really excited about getting to put on her holier-than-thou super-Christian persona for the camera. You be the judge.
The Republicans Lost Iran

This came out a couple of weeks ago, and I keep meaning to link to it.

According to the L.A. Times piece, Nixon, Ford, Kissinger and Rumsfeld are largely responsible for destabilizing the Shah by insisting that he lower oil prices. This may very well be true as far as it goes, but it seems to me that Republicans are responsible in a much deeper sense.

Republicans like to blame Carter for "losing" Iran. But that's (a) false and (b) the wrong way to think about it. The problem is not so much that we lost Iran, but, rather, that Iran became our enemy. And that is the fault of Republicans, not of Carter. Eisenhower (whom, of course, I admire) blew it by taking out Mossadegh with Operation Ajax. After that, the Shah got more and more tyrannical. Carter inherited the Iran problems of the Nixon and Ford administrations, and by that point there was basically nothing he could do. The Shah had been too brutal, and the populace was steeled against him.

The real problem is the old Republican pattern: attend only to our narrow national interest, eagerly back evil tyrants, generate irresistable righteous indignation against our genuinely immoral policies. Then later sometimes argue that we have to go to war against the very tyrants we backed or nations we alienated.

My whole life Democrats have, basically, argued that if we made human rights a more central part of our foreign policy, we might sacrifice certain short-term gains, but the the long-term payoffs would more than balance out these losses.

Oh, yeah--and it's the right thing to do. Funny how flag-waving conservatives who can't quite talking about the excellence of America don't really seem to care about that very much..
Democratic Tracker Assaulted at Republican Rally

Here's the video at Kleiman's digs.

It's clearly assault. I'm sure this won't be a very popular comment, but I have to say that I got almost as angry at the Democratic victim of this assault as I did at the Republican aggressor. Look, you have to be willing to defend yourself. This Republican is clearly a tool who would go down after one punch. It's immoral to allow yourself to be assaulted in this way. One has an obligation to defend the innocent when possible, and this means yourself as well as others. I realize that some people don't know how to fight, or aren't accustomed to it...but still. It's just wrong to allow yourself to be pushed around in this way.

Though, of course, this Republican thug is an evil sonofabitch.
Al Qaeda: McCainiacs?

So is al Qaeda rooting for McCain?

If they release something publicly endorsing a candidate, I've argued that that tells us basically nothing about their actual position because it presents us with a Holmes-Moriarty problem. They know that if they endorse A, this makes us more likely to vote for B, and we know that they know that, and they know that we know that they know that, and so on.

But in this case the pro-McCain chatter was nabbed off a password-protected site, so it's far more likely to be an honest expression of their beliefs, whereas releasing a tape publicly would probably be an attempt to influence our actions. So I don't think there should be much doubt that the (alleged) al Qaeda member who posted the comment does, in fact, believe that it would be better for the U.S. if Obama were elected.

Of course, the comment in question is just one guy's opinion, so I don't see that it should be weighed too heavily. If the tables were turned, of course, McCain would already have a commercial about this running. But that doesn't mean we should act that way. Still, you might say that a randomly-selected al Qaeda operative is more objective about this matter than anyone on either side of the American election, and, so, his opinion constitutes evidence of at least some value.

The thing to focus on isn't what OBL might say in some tape, nor on what Jihadabadday23 or whoever posted on the intertubes. The thing to focus on is this: our own assessments of the objective facts as they are available to us indicate that al Qaeda should want McCain to win. What they do want, or what they say they want, or what some al Qaeda peon somewhere wants...well, the weight of such evidence pales in comparison to the evidence actually available to us. McCain is like Bush, and Bush has been a godsend to al Qaeda. America--and the rest of the sane world--will likely be better off if Obama is elected. And that's a fact regardless of what al Qaeda says.
Block the Vote

The GOP, up to its old tricks?

Robert Kennedy Jr. and Greg Palast at Rolling Stone on voter suppression. Consider the source(s)...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Liberals Hate Real Americans

These people are evil idiots.
When Judgments Tell You More About the Person Doing The Judging Than It Does About The Subject-Matter

So, normally we look to certain people--experts, informed laypersons, or just people other than ourselves--to get their perspective on subjects of interest. If it's a controversial matter about which we aren't certain, it's informative to access the judgments of others--and the more expertise they have in the matter, the better.

However, as we understand the matter at issue better, and as it becomes clearer to us which answer is actually correct, the less helpful the other--expert and quasi-expert--judgments become. In fact there comes a point in this process at which the experts' (and quasi-experts') judgments tell us more about those putative experts (and quasi-experts) than they tell us about the matter at hand.

If someone who claims expertise in meteorology tells me it's going to rain in a week, then that's valuable (though defeasible) information about the weather a week from now. But if the thunder is crashing and the clouds are rolling in, and the alleged meteorologist is still telling me it isn't going to rain...well, this probably tells me more about him than it does about the weather. And if we're standing in a downpour and he's insisting that it isn't raining, then I know everything I need to know about his degree of expertise. His denial that it's raining when it demonstrably is doesn't give me reason to conclude that it isn't; it gives me reason to conclude that he doesn't know what he's talking about.

We've hit such a point with the denizens of the Corner and their ilk--the Bill Kristols and Charles Krauthammers of the world. The facts at hand--about Barack Obama, John McCain, and George W. Bush--are clear enough. That the Cornerites et. al. continue to insist that black is white, night is day, ignorance is strength, Obama is a radical or whatever...well this does convey important information, but not about Obama, McCain, and Bush.

There are tough calls and there are easy ones. The tough calls are, well, tough. I tend to disagree with the Cornerites, Kristols and Krauthammers of the world, but I usually try to hear them out and think hard about their points. But when the easy calls roll around, and they continue to blast out the same strident, partisan, blinkered bullshit that they always do...well, it becomes clearer and clearer that they are not people to be taken seriously.
"There's Probably No God...

...now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

That's the slogan on some London bus signs.

Kinda makes me feel all warm in side.
More Anti-Obama Crime in NC?

This time on the campus of Western North Carolina University, where a bear cub was dumped after being shot in the head. It had two Obama signs stapled together and put over its head.

So, what message are they trying to send with this, exactly? Or even approximately?

Assholes.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Death of Libertarianism?
The Invisible Middle Finger

Jacob Weisberg at Slate.

Ah, Jacob, it'll take much more than this to kill libertarianism...and, just to be clear on that matter, I doubt that the death of libertarianism would be a good thing, anyway. (And I say this not just to appease my libertarian homies, including but not necessarily limited to AJC, AIC, and Canis Major.) There's something good about having libertarians around, even though I think they're wrong.

Me, I'm a civil libertarian, and I'm about half-inclined to be an economic libertarian... Thing is, unlike most ELs, I just don't believe in the magical magic of the magical free magic market. The libertarians I feel the most affinity for are the (rare) ones who admit that an unregulated market is not for the best, but who bite the bullet and endorse a hands-off approach anyway on non-consequentialist moral grounds. Now that's hard-core libertarianism you can admire!
Tires Slashed on Thirty Cars at Obama Rally in Fayetteville

Ah, Fayettenam (as it's known in NC), life support system for Fort Bragg. Turns out that 30 cars at an Obama rally had their tires slashed.
Sarah Revis, who lives on Wilkes Road, said the slashed tires left several women, including a single mother and a toddler, stranded and upset.
Nice work by some McCainiacs. Presumably these people are not representative of McCain supporters...but given the way McCain and Palin have been pumping up the hatred, it's not surprising that things of this general kind are happening.
Limbaugh, Buchanan Endorse McCain Because of Race

Just apply their own standards to them.

Seems only fair.
The Conservative Crack-Up
More Loathsome And Alarming Than We Realize?

I've wondered whether we'd be acting more honorably than the McCainiacs if the tables were turned and we were losing. Thing is, those conditions are importantly asymmetrical.

Turning rabid because you are losing after eight years of partisan misrule by the other party would be one thing; turning rabid after eight years of partisan misrule by your own party is quite another. The former is at least understandable--the latter is truly loony.

Although I try to keep my special pleading and double-standarding to a minimum, I'd go easier on the Dems if they were losing and going crazy. It's been hard enough to keep it together during the catastrophe of the Bush administration. If anything, I think Dems (well, all Americans, in fact) should probably be a lot more angry than they actually are about Bush's misrule.

(Furthermore, the Dems clearly have by far the better candidates this time (as evidenced by the defections of even some fairly stalwart conservatives), and that would make losing far harder to take. But this point is perhaps controversial enough that it should be set to the side.)

Thing is, if the GOP can ever lose with grace and dignity, they should be able to do so this time: their party has spent the last eight years assiduously screwing the pooch, and they have a candidate that most of them don't even like. (But, then, I think they should have been able to lose with grace--or at least react in a fair, reasonable, and democratic manner to the Florida recount problem--in 2000. After all, the Clinton administration was fairly centrist. And we saw how that went.)

So my worry is that we're now seeing how the GOP loses under the best conditions--that is, after they've been in power for a long time, they've botched it all, they don't have much invested in their candidate, and they face a genuinely worthy opponent. Again: if the GOP is ever capable of losing in a reasonable and dignified way, they should be able to do so now. If that's right, then we may not be seeing the GOP losing at its worst; we may, instead, be seeing them lose at their best. And that's a genuinely alarming possibility.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Adam Smith, Socialist?

Jonathan Cohn nails the point at TNR.
McCain's Scorched Earth Campaign Socialism

Wow. Now Obama's a socialist.

Thing is, I could understand someone having concerns about the expansion of the welfare state that will be entailed by Obama's health care plan. Although I have no real position on health care, I do find Obama's plan relatively congenial. But, still, there are obviously more than a few rational worries one might have about it.

But that doesn't seem to be the source of the charges of socialism. Rather, the source seems to be Obama's poorly-formulated claim that he wants to "spread the wealth around." (Something he said in casual conversation with non-Joe the non-plumber.)What he should have said--and I'll guess this is what he meant--is that we should spread the burdens around fairly.

Now, since all Obama wants to do is go back to pre-Bush tax rates for the very well-off, to think that Obama is a socialist on these grounds, you have to think that we were a socialist country pre-Bush.

I could, of course, be wrong about this, but I've got to say that this charge resonates with me not one bit.

Perhaps the McCain campaign is serious about it, but my guess is that this is just more of their wildly-flailing scorched-earth campaigning. They'll say just about anything to win--though to McCain's credit, he apparently won't bring up Reverend Wright--no matter how misleading and divisive. Even if it leaves Obama with a radially divided and ungovernable country, the McCain campaign will say it, so long as it marginally increases their miniscule odds of winning.

It's despicable. Campaigning of this kind needs to be punished with overwhelming defeat.
Filkins
The Forever War

Just finished Dexter Filkins's The Forever War.

According to me it's really great. I recommend it.
McCain: From The People Who Assured You Bush Would Be A Good President


A wee chart from Pollster.com:


It almost seems to obvious to point out, but remember: the same people who assured us that Bush was the right man for the job are now assuring us that McCain is the right man. Their advice didn't seem to cohere with the facts in either 2000 or 2004, and it doesn't seem to cohere with the facts now. The best judgment of the majority of the electorate is that the advice about Bush did not pan out. I do not see any reason to think that the current advice about McCain will be any more reliable.
Bad Day for McCain

Obama raises $100 million in September, and Colin Powell endorses him this morning.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Wingnut World Update

at Sadly, No!

Was the Iranian ship HIJACKED off Somalia really a giant floating DIRTY BOMB headed for ISRAEL?????!!!11?

The wingnuttosphere says yes.

But unless we can fit William Ayers into this story, I'm just not buying it.
NeoMcCarthyism
Michelle Bachman Edition

Astonishing.

There's no way to defend insanity like this, so the usual response by the offenders is to argue push false equivalence claims--that is, to try to argue that the Dems are just as bad. This tends to involve fishing around in the depths of the internet for some commenter somewhere who's as crazy as, say, Michelle Bachman.

But the madness that has gripped the Republican party reaches higher and spreads out more broadly than any current insanity on our side of the aisle. There is, no doubt, some hatred among Dems, but it's less intense and more isolated. This is partly because the demonization of political opponents is simply more characteristic of the right--but it's also partly a consequence of words and ideas coming from the tops of both parties. McCain and Palin are actively stoking the fires of anger, Obama and Biden are dampening them.

The charge of anti-Americanism always seems to be ready to hand on the American right. Disputes between liberals and conservatives never have to go on very long before the latter play the patriotism card. It's an invariable law, as predictable as anything can be in politics.

Perhaps our side sucks in its own way--but we can at least be proud of the fact that we suck way less than the other side. We're number two! We're number two!

And, given that the Dems form the only bulwark the nation has against the excesses of the GOP, I think we get to feel at least a little bit proud of them these days.
Palin = Pericles?

K-Lo just keeps getting crazier and crazier.

Does the conservative inclination to deify their candidates and demonize their opponents know no bounds?
The Conservative Double Standard
Lopez/Financial Industry Edition

Katherine Jean Lopez is incredulous about this:

Sen. Schumer's fund-raising involvement with investors looking over the bank underscores how Democrats' entanglements with the financial industry will make it hard for them to score political points over the market upheavals in the remaining weeks of the election…. when Democrats took control of Congress after the 2006 midterm elections, the securities and investment industry also gave just over half its contributions to Democrats — more than $36 million.

So let's review:

1. She thinks it's a major criticism that the securities and investment industry gave "just over half" of its contributions to Dems.

2. She seems to suggest that it'll be a lot easier for the GOP to stand up to these people (what with them getting just under half of their contributions and all).

3. She either ignores or is ignorant of the fact that it is SOP for corporate contributors to give more money to the party they think will win. (They give more to the predicted winners so they'll be seen as friendly and worthy of favors, but they give some to the other side too so that that side can't afford to oppose them. Slimy, but effective.)

But, of course, for all values of x, x is OKIYAR, but not, of course, if you're a Democrat.

The Corner is a sad and pathetic place these days.
Voter Fraud Fraud, Violence and Vandalism from the McCain-Palin Side

Mark Kleiman has the roundup.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What Are We Doing?
And By 'We' I mean Me

What are we doing now anyway?

Speaking for myself, it seems fairly unlikely that any new piece of information or analysis that could change my mind is going to emerge.

Part of what I'm doing is: reading e.g. the Corner because it makes me feel good about myself. And, seriously, that's pretty low. I mean: I'm more rational than K-Lo and Jonah Goldberg. Sheesh. This is grounds for self-satisfaction?

Watching the hatred and irrationality and intellectual dishonesty pour out of the right is, sadly, rather gratifying to me. "See?! See?!?!? This is what I've been talking about for the last fifteen+ years!!!!11" I seem to be saying. To myself. Over and over again.

Sheesh. I'm starting to even creep myself out...
Obama Won
And
A Difference Between Dems and the GOP

Well, unless I'm forgetting something, every poll about every debate showed that Obama won.

So much for Bill Bennett's prediction. (He predicted McCain would go up in the polls "a few points." Technically we don't know that's false yet, but we can now predict with some confidence that it will be.)

One difference between the Dems and the GOP is this:
Suppose the Dems had just given us eight years of the shittiest president of all time, and then gave us a crappy candidate who, when he could manage to formulate a coherent message at all could only stammer out things that were roughly equivalent to "stay the course!" To their credit, the Dems'd basically be closing up shop at this point. The campaign would be basically pro forma. The GOP on the other hand is just getting nastier and more frantic.

As is so often the case with extremists, many of the contemporary GOP's "arguments" come down to little more than insisting that they are right. We can expect them to get angrier and more frantic as it becomes clearer and clearer that they are screwed.

As you know, I don't think the Dems are any great shakes. But they're at least a fairly mainstream, fairly centrist, fairly sane and fairly competent political party. They're only approximately ordinarily likely to screw up. It ain't much, but compared to the trainwreck of irrationality that is the contemporary GOP, it's worth fighting for.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Shorter John McCain

Barack Obama cannot be trusted to tell those kids to get off the lawn
Actual Predictions
Bill Bennett Edition

Bennett predicts: McCain will pick up points.

I doubt it, but at least it's a testable prediction.

[Bennett keeps saying McCain was a fighter pilot. This isn't actually true. He flew A-4s, which are really ground attack aircraft.]

[Alex Castellanos is spewing his BS...too bad there's no way to take anything these guys say seriously. They're speaking for effect. They'll say anything to help their candidate. Truth is not important to them.]

[Oh, my prediction: meh, who knows. I guess Obama probably did better, rhetorically speaking.]
The Debate
Semi-Liveblogging

Schieffer brings up the negative campaigning issue.

McCain again makes his completely irrelevant appeal to the fact that Obama wouldn't do all the town hall meetings he wants, as if there were any way for this to justify his viciousness.

Also: he points to Lewis's criticism as if that were part of Obama's campaign. But an independent, objective third part--whose wisdom McCain himself has praised--criticizing McCain is not the same as Obama's campaign doing so. Obama has no obligation to repudiate Lewis's claim, and he is not responsible for Lewis's assertions.

Obama now raises the expressions of hatred at McCain's rallies. McCain spews some moronic bullshit, basically insinuating that Obama is attacking the patriotism of all McCain's supporters. Abject sophistry. What an a$hole. Disgustingly dishonest.

Ah, here comes Ayers and Acorn!

Good answer by Obama. McCain keeps spewing crap.

Time to roll out Charles Keating, sez me...

McCain keeps wandering all over the place...back to taxes now...WTF is this guy talking about???

Obama passed up the chance to rail on Palin. That was probably judicious. I couldn't have been so prudent.

9:45
Now McCain is lighting into Biden.
C'mon Obama, at least point out that Palin doesn't even have any views on foreign policy.

Man, McCain is one cranky SOB.

9:57
Does anybody know what McCain is talking about? He's jumping frantically from one lame-ass attack on Obama to the next. It's downright bizarre.

10:00
The fine is zero. Hah! Take that, McCranky. Small businesses exempt--righto! It's a good plan...far better than McCain's. This Obama should be able to wipe the floor with him on this.

Oy vey, Joe the plumber again...

ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz........................


.
Demonization Porn
And
What To Do About Right-Wing Hatred And Irrationality

So, as you know, a largish segment of the right has fallen into a veritable orgy of demonization directed at liberals in general and Obama in particular. It's actually pretty scary to watch, rather in the way that the Exorcist is scary to watch. Basically normal people transformed by the power of their own (and others') hatred and irrationality into snarling, frothing-at-the mouth parodies of themselves. By spinning fables about the demonic nature of liberals, they've managed to have real effects on themselves. It's a chilling study in irrationality.

Perhaps an overused Nietzsche quote is appropriate here:
He who fights monsters must see to it that he himself does not become a monster in the process.
It's a familiar pattern on the right, of course. They just don't seem to be able to resist. Before Clinton was even elected they were calling for his impeachment. He was a rapist, a drug-runner, a murderer. These people are, in a very real (even if not a clinical) sense, insane. (And, note: they also seem particularly susceptible to deification of their own candidates--Reagan is the greatest president since Jefferson (and belongs on Mount Rushmore), Bush is Reagan (Bush is Churchill, etc.), Palin is Reagan...etc.)

My question here is: why? Why isn't it enough to run against and oppose the real Obama, whose policies ratioal people might certainly disagree about? Why the need to fabricate an Obama that can be a representation of pure evil--a Manchurian Muslim sent to bring down the country, a "Chicago politician" aiming to steal the election, a terrorist and terrorist sympathizer, a child molester...the Antichrist for chrissake.

It's as if they can't perform politically without whipping themselves up ahead of time with demonization porn. (Just a few quick recent examples: here, here. The examples can, as you know, be multiplied ad nauseam.)

The question: WTF is going on here, anyway? If they really think Obama is so terrible, why the need to demonize him? And if they don't really think that Obama is so terrible, why the need to demonize him? Either way, it doesn't seem to make any sense.

You might say: demonization is a strategy used by the more nominally sane and cynical conservative elite as a means of controlling their masses. I think there's truth in that, but I don't think it does all the requisite explanatory work here. Such a strategy can only work on a subset of the population that's predisposed toward this sort of thing. Still, this hypothesis is worth thinking about.

I'm inclined to think that it is important to look beyond the election at this point. Obama is almost certainly going to win. We shouldn't let up, of course, but a big lead provides us with a certain kind of luxury--we can afford to spend at least some attention and effort looking farther and deeper than this election. We've been reminded again that the American right has some very deep-seated problems that constitute a frightening potential. These intellectual and moral failings are probably present in every political party and every relevant subset of the population...but they are particularly acute on our right, and I am inclined to think that they mus be addressed. Once this moment is passed, I guess it will be difficult to get anyone to take the problem very seriously; consequently, I think we should try to address it now.

Reforming the health-care system, for example, is extremely important. My guess, however, is that it is even more important to mitigate whatever it is that is responsible for the hatred and irrationality on display across the aisle. This is the kind of broad, diffuse, deep-seated problem that can constantly cause significan problems, and that contains the potential for occasional disaster. Rather like an untreated blood clot, it is a constant drag on us, and has the potential to kill or maim the body politic.

It's the kind of problem no one knows how to fix. I'm sure that many will respond by saying that there's no hope of improving the situation. But that's almost certainly false. The smart guess is that there is something we could do to significantly mitigate--though not elminate--the problem. We just don't know what it is. It's foolish to counsel despair in any such case. Humanity has cracked tougher problems than this. Even if ultimately we cannot improve the situation, that in no way entails that we should not address the problem in a serious and energetic way.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Palin' Around With The Great Old Ones

That is not dead which can eternal lie, lie, lie
And with lame peons, even meth may be worth a try
The Call of McCthulhu

The Dark Avenger, in comments:
McCain still lives, too, I suppose, again in that chasm of media complacency which has shielded him since the Vietnam War ended. His accursed campaign is sunken once more, else Bill Kristol wouldn't call for a restart; but his ministers on earth still bellow and prance and slay around idol-capped monoliths in red states. He must have been trapped by the sinking polls within his black abyss, or else the press would by now be screaming with fright and frenzy. Who knows the end? What has risen may sink, and what has sunk may rise. Loathsomeness waits and dreams in his visions of victory, and decay spreads over the tottering cities of men. A time will come - but I must not and cannot think! Let me pray that, if I do not survive this manuscript, my executors may put caution before audacity and see that it meets no other eye.
Ia! McCthulhu fhtigue!

The one that really scares me though is Shrub-Niggurath, the Tanned Goat Of the Bushes With A Thousand Young...

I think Spencer started all this, so blame him.