Sunday, November 30, 2008

James Wimberley on Forgiveness, Retribution, and the Looming War Crimes Question

Nice little post in response to this by Jack Goldsmith:
The people in government who made mistakes or who acted in ways that seemed reasonable at the time but now seem inappropriate have been held publicly accountable by severe criticism, suffering enormous reputational and, in some instances, financial losses. Little will be achieved by further retribution.
Wimberley writes:
I'm gobsmacked.

Does the USA run a Scandinavian criminal justice system that aims to reform its few convicts with human kindness? Not in fact: it pays a lavish annual tribute to the Eumenides. According to the BJS,

On June 30, 2007 2,299,116 prisoners were held in federal or state prisons or in local jails.
This is the highest rate of imprisonment in the world. The USA executed 42 murderers in 2007, the majority of whom just happened to be poor Southern blacks; it jails petty drug dealers for 10 years without parole for a second offence of possession of 50 grammes of crack cocaine.

The offences we are talking about here are odious ones: conspiracies to commit war crimes.

(Read the whole thing, sez me. It's not often that you see an astute reference to the Orestia in discussions of American politics...)

Count on the Bushies and their ilk to suddenly become the Care Bears when it's their own crimes that are at issue. It's lex talionis for the poor, mollycoddling for the rich. It's impeachement for consensual sex for Dems. But for the GOP? Not even the greatest crimes deserve investigation, much less impeachment.


This will be one of the greatest challenges facing Obama. He wants to end partisan rancor...but it would be unjust to let war crimes go unpunished. And punishing them will inevitably be seen by many Republicans as partisanship. And among those who recognize that it isn't, many of them will represent it as such for political purposes.

Jim Wright recognized that Reagan had committed impeachable crimes, but he did not push for prosecution, saying that America couldn't take another such crisis so soon after Nixon. One consequence was that probable crimes went unpunished. Another, IMHO, is that Republicans of Bush's persuasion now seem to think they are above the law, that nothing they do will trigger impeachment. Nancy Pelosi has assured them that they're basically right about this.

We have obligations to punish those who break just laws, but we also have obligations to future generations. It is time to make it clear that impeachment is not just for oral sex anymore...that high crimes that violate our most sacred principles can--and at least occasionally will--still be punished.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

MoJo Joss Whedon Interview And The Heartbreak of Womb Envy

Here.

Joss on "womb envy":
Everybody makes fun of Uncle Joss when he brings up womb envy! But I still believe in it. It's a very simple theory and I gave it a silly name, but basically it just seemed to be a fundamental thing that women have something men don't, the obvious being an ability to bear children, and the resilience to hang in as parents. I don't understand why or how anyone ever pulled off the whole idea of "women are inferior." Men not only don't get what's important about what women are capable of, but in fact they fear it, and envy it, and want to throw stones at it, because it's the thing they can't have.
Uh...no.

In the great hierarchy of falseness, this theory--perhaps unsurprisingly--shows up at around the same level as "penis envy," which itself shows up around the same level as Bigfoot, the Bermuda Triangle, and logical psychologism. And that ain't good.

Now, I dig girls, and I dig girl heroes, and I dig Joss Whedon in part because he digs girls and girl heroes. But recognizing the awesome coolness of women and the also awesome coolness of female heroes needs no support from a dopey theory about how guys want wombs, fear wombs, etc. In fact, IMHO, female awesomeness has basically nothing to do with reproduction or wombiness.

Personally, I rank not being able to get pregnant as perhaps the best thing about being a guy. (Runners up: (i) automatically being assumed to be smarter and more competent than comparable females; (ii) being able to stand up to pee.) I have no doubt that there are guys who'd like to bear children, just as I have no doubt that there are girls who'd like to have penises.* But as a general rule, no. In general, females do not want penises, and in general males do not want wombs.

So dump the theory, Joss. It is false and silly.

* Which is not exactly what "penis envy" is, actually. Technically, it's a different dumb theory. The complex dumbness of Freudian pseudoscience seems to know no bounds...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Byron York: "Will There Be" an Obama Derangement Syndrome?

You've got to marvel at York's ability to write shit like this with a straight face. [Note: responding to the reliably clueless Andrew McCarthy.]

So...did this moron miss out on the entire campaign? And, er, does he ever read the NRO? Or His own posts? The people who had CDS already have full-fledged ODS.

Here's a short history lesson:

1. Clinton, a good and centrist President: hyperbolic, insane criticism from the National Review.

2. Bush '43, possibly the worst President of all time--and an extremist: sycophantic adulation from NRO.

3. Obama, giving every sign of being a good President, and a centrist: hyperbolic, insane criticism from NRO before he is even inaugurated.

Can anyone thing of any reason to take NRO at all seriously?
'Liberal' and 'Progressive'

I don't have much patients [er, that would be patience] for liberals who allowed conservatives to make 'liberal' a dirty word, and who fled to the term "progressive."

Michael Lind discusses the phenomenon, and the terminological question at Salon.com.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Heels Win Maui Invitational

Man, the Heels look astounding this year--and that's with Ginyard and Zeller riding the pines with injuries (the latter, sadly, probably for the rest of the season). Everybody just looks fantastic...but the guy who stands out to me is Deon Thompson, who apparently ate his Wheaties assiduously over the summer, and seems to have kicked everything up a generous level.

I do realize that we have an embarrassment of riches talent-wise this year, and that's the sort of thing that hard to endorse whole-heartedly from an objective perspective. But that having been said, this is a team that could be ridiculous amounts of fun to watch if they continue to jell.

Also big props to Notre Dame, and especially Kyle McAlarney. Dude can shoot, is it not so? That was just an unbelievable display. A real pleasure to watch, though a tad unnerving to be on the wrong end of it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Posner, "Realism" And Confusions About Humanitarian Intervention

Via Sullivan, this from Posner re: Iraq:
A number of people think that my post was meant as a defense of the Iraq war. I have long criticized the idea of humanitarian intervention and have never defended the Iraq war, which was certainly a mistake on the basis of national-interest considerations. But many people, including likely members of the Obama administration (such as Susan Rice, who has advocated a military intervention in Sudan), believe that humanitarian wars are justified. The humanitarian effect of a particular war is an empirical question. The answer in the Iraq case will help determine the Obama administration’s ability and willingness to launch humanitarian interventions in places like Sudan.
Although Posner in general seems as if he's trying to do something good here, I can't help griping about a fiew things. I feel like a broken record...but so long as people keep falling into these elementary confusions, I'm going to keep making the points:

First, only an insane person thinks that national interest is the only consideration we can employ when making foreign policy. Yes, that is what foreign policy "realism"* (actually: ethical egoism writ large) entails; but it is insane. Real "realists" must hold that we should kill everyone in, say, Belize and take their stuff if we could get away with it--that is, if the balance sheet happened to come out in our favor. If that's too science-fictiony for you (and it shouldn't be; science fictiony though-experiments are the best kind (because they are best able to control for the relevant conceptual variables)), then think of a smaller and more realistic kind of thought experiment: realism entails that the U.S. is not only permitted, but, in fact, obligated to steal whatever it can from other nations so long as the expected gain calculations come out right--that is, roughly, so long as what we're likely to gain outweighs what we're likely to lose. What we did to the American Indians was not only permissible, it was obligatory. To be a realist, you have to be a kind of national sociopath.

Second, most FP "realists" aren't actually sociopaths, and don't really think that we as a nation should be a big sociopath. Rather, they invoke "realism" only as a stick to beat policies they don't like. But that's just most of them; some people, I'm sure, really are "realists." Others who invoke "realism" aren't really "realists," but, rather, just think that we should pay more attention to our national interest in making foreign policy. That's a different position entirely. It is not "realism."

Third, not only does Obama think that humanitarian wars can be justified on humanitarian grounds, but they can be. In fact, if any war can be justified, wars can be justified on humanitarian grounds. (In my view, incidentally, there is no fundamental right of self-defense, but, rather, the right to self-defense follows from the obligation to defend the innocent. (One quick argument for this position: it explains why you lose the right to self-defense if you are yourself illicitly attacking the innocent.)) Unless all of Just War Theory is mistaken, pure, unadulterated self-interest can't justify any war. (Of course all of JWT could be mistaken...but it rests on far stronger arguments than FP "realism.")

Fourth, Iraq tells us almost nothing about interventions in, say, Sudan. First, Iraq was not a humanitarian war, and humanitarian goals were never taken that seriously by the Bush administration. (One quick argument for this: if they had, they would have made passably rational plans for after the war.) (Though, of course even non-humanitarian wars can tell us something about humanitarian wars...and vice-versa.) Second, the Iraq war was botched, so, agian, it is of limited informational value, except (speaking from a humanitarian perspective) insofar as it informs us about how not to do things.

I'm starting to worry that this is all too snitty, but damn this "realism" nonsense ticks me off. There is already a tendency for the opponents of the Iraq war to slip into the language of "realism," even though their opposition was based largely on humanitarian arguments (some of them faulty, incidentally). The "realist" certainly should have opposed the war...but one needn't be a "realist" to have done so.


* Note: Foreign Policy "Realism" always deserves the scare quotes, and I'll use them relentlessly, despite how annoying that is. It's not related to any other view known as realism. It certainly has nothing to do with metaphyisical or moral realism. "Realism" is a kind of euphemism. The view should be called something like "State Ethical Egoism." Or perhaps just "the crazy view."
Obama's Centrist Cabinet

Man, I'm absolutely baffled as to why a terrorist socialist radical leftist would choose a bunch of raging centrists for his cabinet. I just don't get it. What could possibly explain it? How can this possibly advance his plan to take away all our guns and enforce mandatory abortions in order to allow Islamofacists to take over America via socialized medicine?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tranny Spice Temporarily Defanged
Jaw Wired Shut

Usually, I hate to hear about other people's misfortune. But in this case...well, I'll make an exception.

[H/T: Taylor]
Operation Brainless Frontman
or
Andrew Breibart: Stupidest Man On The Intertubes

Here. Read it if you dare.

You probably thought I was just bloviating yet again in that "brainless frontman" post...

But Andrew Breibart seems to be coming pretty close to endorsing the strategy. Behold:
The future of the Grand Old Party needs to be dangerously youthful, devastatingly attractive and outrageously fun.
...
With the economy in the pits, the young, the restless and unapologetically handsome should use their looks, vigor and Internet knowledge to wrest away elective office from joyless bureaucrats who gallingly repackaged the soiled utopian promises of their overly replayed Woodstock days as "hope" and "change."
Well, if you can't be smart, I guess you might as well be pretty. No ideas? Wrong about everything for the past fifty years? Hey, just be "outrageously fun"! And use that "Internet [sic] knowledge" for which conservatives are so famous to win the day!

I mean, it's not like this stuff is serious, right? It's not like anything actually hangs on how the country is run.

As Dubya has demonstrated, it's not like it takes actual, ya' know, knowledge to run the U.S. gubmint....


Those frumpy libruls! They'll never be able to stand up against a marketing campaign full of "unapologetically handsome" conservatives! (I mean, I know how America hates good looks...but by gum we're tired of apologizing for our beauty!)

As with the Iraq war, it's all about the selling. It's not about right or wrong, it's not about true or false, it's not about rational or irrational. It's about selling.

This has to be one of the saddest, most pathetic pieces of sh!t I've ever read anywhere in my entire life. I've writting some crappy stuff in my life, as readers of this blog can no doubt attest to. But if I ever write anything half this idiotic, I will hang up my keyboard and move to a unabomber shack.
The ISI Civics Quiz

First of all, we suuuuuuck:
More than 2,500 randomly selected Americans took ISI’s basic 33 question test on civic literacy and more than 1,700 people failed, with the average score 49 percent, or an “F.” Elected officials scored even lower than the general public with an average score of 44 percent and only 0.8 percent (or 21) of all surveyed earned an “A.” Even more startling is the fact that over twice as many people know Paula Abdul was a judge on American Idol than know that the phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people” comes from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
Second of all, I'm pissed because I missed one--but I have an excuse! First of all, I didn't know the answer. But what really matters is: I guessed correctly, but then rejected the guess because of a weird grammatical point. So it's not my fault! This quiz sucks and I'm not playing anymore.

Here's the quiz, but don't forget that grammar excuse is mine.

(Incidentally, it was #29 that I missed--or "missed"--but I can't stress enough how I actually could have gotten it right under certain real and relevant, though non-actual, conditions... Man, I knew the answer I gave was lame, too!)
Copernicus's Remains Discovered?

Huh.

(via the HOPOS list)
Puritanism Disguised As Concern For Kids

Insanity.

This is obviously not about protecting kids. It's about the sex.

The dirty, dirty sex that makes Jesus cry.

[More evidence that it's about the sex.]

Monday, November 24, 2008

Peter Schiff: Right; Laffer And Several Similar Morons: Wrong

Watch it.

What I like is how the guys who got it all wrong were mercilessly ridiculing Schiff. Nice.

(via: Sullivan, Newshoggers, BoingBoing)
Eric Posner: Was the Iraq War A Humanitarian Success?

Evidence that it will save lives over ten years.

Now, this will be embarrassing to those who pegged their opposition to the war to the proposition that it could never succeed in humanitarian terms. I've always contended, however, that it might very well make Iraq better off in the long run--though it's less likely to make the world as a whole better off.

Incidentally my main objections to the war were that it was based on lies and other deceptions, that the outcome was too uncertain, that the cost was likely to be too high, that the consequences for the Middle East at large were likely to be negative, that the opportunity costs were too high, and, in particular, that the time was wrong because we had neither finished the war in Afghanistan nor found bin Laden.

Had the case for war been honest, had there not been lower-hanging humanitarian fruit to be had (e.g. in Sudan), had we not been in a particularly bad strategic position (after 9/11, in the midst of Afghanistan), had the negative effects on the Middle East at large not been so great, and had we not had an unfulfilled moral obligation to get bin Laden, I'd have been far more sympathetic to an invasion of Iraq. But that's an absurdly high number of 'if's.

Posner points in roughly some of the same directions, writing:
As to whether it was in the American interest to confer these benefits on the Iraqis at vast expense, and virtually no gain, in security or otherwise, to itself – well, that is an entirely different question. I should repeat that it is too soon to tell whether the war gains will be preserved but there are grounds for optimism.
IMHO, too many critics of the war opposed it on the grounds that humanitarian success was impossible. Some of these critics have even slipped into generalized condemnations of the use of force for humanitarian reasons. But this is, of course, ridiculous. Humanitarian success was always a possibility in Iraq, and, narrowly construed, always fairly likely possibility--though, since the war was not undertaken for humanitarian reasons, it should not be allowed to give humanitarian intervention a bad name.
Pro-Palin Ad Soon Excreted From a TeeVee Near You

LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL...

OMFG. The extra-super-wingnutty wing of the non-reality-based community has really outdone itself with this one. Fortunately we've seen that even sensible conservatives were chagrined by Sarah Palin's...well...very existence. So this should be little more than an opportunity for some lolz.

One thing you can give this ad: Palin really does remind me of Reagan. Reagan got the ball rolling on the GOP strategy that gave us Shrub--what I think of as the brainless frontman strategy. Reagan was an avuncular buffoon who many people tended to like, and who had a kind of knack for reading the teleprompter. He doddered around in the office exercising an indeterminate amount of control on the executive branch. The same group of crooks and liars that populated the Nixon administration largely survived through Reagan and up to Bush '43. The overall strategy: keep that organized group of criminals in power by finding brainless frontmen to get elected and keep the crooks in power. Bush '41, whatever you might think of him, was a little too smart and feckful for this strategy to work well with him, as were Dole and McCain. But Bush '43 was perfect--and Palin may even be more of an empty suit: the perfect brainless frontman: the most rosa of all tabulae. Completely ignorant, with no grasp of policy whatsoever, ready to be molded and manipulated by the boys behind the scenes.

Though now the Nixonians are fixing to die out, and I'm hopeful that they won't be replaced. The only comparably cohesive and nutty group I can think of off the top of my head is the neo-cons...but they f*cked up even more thoroughly than the Nixonites, and I suppose it seems a little unlikely that they could pull off the same kind of thing.

So this should be nothing more than an opportunity to laugh at the eminently deserving Palin once again.


Oh, man. See how these people are making me mean and paranoid?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Global Anti-Blasphemy Law

Dumbest idea ever.
A Bit of Confirmation for the Broken Windows Theory

Described at The Economist.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Final Causation
God On The Cheap
A Limited Defense of Stuart Kauffman et. al.

O.k., so I take the idea of final causation (that is independent of (human, etc.) agents) seriously. I don't believe that there are (non-agent-grounded) final causes, but I don't believe there aren't any, either. For one thing, I am attracted by Peirce's view that belief is out of place in science. But, more to the point, I'm just not sure about final causation. But I take the idea seriously. This makes me something of a kook, at least from the perspective of contemporary philosophy and science.

Meh. Whatever.

The final causalist ends up located, in a sense, between the creationist and the ateleolotical Darwinian, who holds that all reference to ends in evolutionary theory is eliminable--he thinks there are ends in the world, but he doesn't goes so far as to think that there's an agent behind those ends. In another, more important sense, he's farther out than the creationist. How so? Well, most (though not all) philosophers admit that agents (and, derivatively, artifacts) can really have purposes or ends; but non-agents (e.g. processes) cannot. In fact, that seems to be one motive for creationism: there seem to be ends in nature, but only agents (and, derivatively, artifacts) can have ends, so nature must be the artifact of an agent, viz., God.

(None of this explains how agents can have purposes, of course...but, to be fair, it isn't supposed to. That's a different question. But eventually that theoretical promissory note will have to be paid. And, as my old prof Jay Rosenberg used to say, you don't solve a problem just by taking it indoors--that is, by shoving it into the mind.)

So, anyway, in this sense, the hypothesis that there are real final causes in nature is opposed to both ateleological Darwinianism and creationism. Like Darwinians who think that talk of ends in evolution is serious, the final causalist thinks that there are real ends in nature. E.g. survival and reproduction, to point to the obvious examples.

Defense of the final causation hypothesis is beyond the scope of this blog to say the least--not to mention my abilities. But for an excellent look at the issues and defense of the hypothesis, let me recommend T. L. Short's excellent Peirce's Theory of Signs. That's a damn fine book right there my friends.

The point I want to make here is just that folks like Stuart Kaufmann are, by my (admittedly rather dim) lights, not crazy. I think they're motivated by the same considerations that motivate those who are trying to make sense of final causation. The motive is the same motive that generated teleological theories in the first place, in antiquity: purely mechanistic theories don't seem to be able to account for all phenomena.

Getting teloi into nature doesn't require God, but it's not crazy to describe a purposeful nature as godlike in some attenuated sense. And I take it that that's what folks like Kauffman are up to. So, FWIW, I don't think they're crazy in the least.

Wow. So not only am I currently rather sympathtic to neo-pantheists (or whatever these guys are), I'm fairly annoyed with the trendy pop atheists like Dawkins and Harris. Jeez, what next? Prayer in school? Frothing about the evils of gay marriage? Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

False Equivalence

So, we had psychopathic, ungrounded, irrational anti-Clinton hysteria that began even before he was inaugurated.

Then we had Bush.

If anything, most liberals were way, way too easy on Bush. They should have been in the streets protesting his attempted coup in 2000, but weren't. It took them until the mendacious marketing of the Iraq war to really wake up to his awfulness. But, eventually, his relentless dishonesty, irrationality, extremism and incompetence generated a significant anti-Bush movement, both domestically and around the world.

Then Obama was elected, and again we get psychopathic, ungrounded, irrational hysteria.

The usual suspects on the right are, of course, trying to obscure the facts--opposition to Clinton and Obama is just good, hard politics (politics ain't beanbag!)...um, though, opposition to Bush was "BDS."

Fortunately the more rational conservatives stopped drinking the Kool-aide for awhile during the election, and might not go back to doing so right away. Sensible people won't buy the bullshit...but it'll be annoying to have to hear it from the less-rational righties for the next eight years. The false equivalence is infuriating--justified, proporitonate anger about Bush is no better than irrational, hyperbolic anger at Clinton or Obama. Crazy, man.
Return To "The Hyper-Partisanship Of The Clinton Years"?

So David Gregory and Michelle what's-her-name were just on MSNBC oozing fake concern about Obama staffing his administration with several old Clinton folks. After all the talk about post-partisanship, they asked, doesn't this mean a return to "the hyper-partisanship of the Clinton years?"

The clear suggestion was that somehow Obama reneging on his promise, and any resulting partisan insanity was his fault.

And the presupposition was that the Clintons brought on the hyperpartisanship of the Clinton era.

But, of course, both of these things are false.

Democrats cannot be blamed for the insane anti-Clinton hyper-partisanship of the Clinton era, and Obama cannot be blamed if it erupts again because he chooses people from the Clinton administration for his administration. The anti-Clinton hysteria in question was entirely the fault of conservatives. Despite his relative centrism, they were accusing him of murder and callig for his impeachment before he was even inaugurated. (Sound at all familiar?)

These are such obvious points that it's difficult to believe that any informed, sensible person could seriously contest them. My guess is that Gregory and what's-her-name were just fishing for controversy. But this is the kind of lunacy that could easily catch on on the right. I, for one, will not be surprised if our friends across the aisle try to blame Obama for their hyper-partisan craziness, and use his Clinton appointees as some kind of excuse.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Kathleen Parker: Too Much God

Wow. Parker is seriously off the reservation.

It's great that a fair number of the more reasonable conservatives are calling bullshit on the GOP. And, of course, it's great that the U.S. may be becoming a little less crazy. A couple of things, though:

First, I have to say I'm not all that optimistic about this in the long run. Winning one election after eight years of the other party mindlessly supporting the worst President in history, and after that party ran the nastiest campaign anyone can remember, and fielded a laughably unqualified VP candidate...well, winning under such conditions does not necessarily require or indicate a sea change in American politics.

Second, it's not religion per se that's the problem, of course--it's lunatic religion that's the problem. Even just following Parker in focusing on the strategic issue: they aren't losing votes because of any association with religion per se. They're losing votes because of their very tight relationship with the nuts. The 4004-B.C.-people-lived-with-dinosaurs-Satan-put-those-bones-there-sex-especially-homosexual-sex-is-evil-Ten-Commandments-in-the-courtroom-prayer-in-school nut cases.

The non-strategic point is, of course, much more important: by allying itself with Christianist nuts, the GOP is harming the country and the world. Unfortunately, this alone was not enough to motivate the GOP to stay away from them. Losing, however--now there's something that might get them to re-think their deal with the devil.
John Ziegler: Psycho

Nate Silver does a good job keeping his cool while allowing John Ziegler to disclose his (fairly close-to-the-surface) psychosis. I mean wow. What a nut.

I really wish that the sane folk across the aisle would start making more noise about these crackpots. It'd be comforting to know/discover that there's a sane right that doesn't approve of/buy into this garbage. I know there are sane conservatives out there; it's too bad they're being so badly overshadowed by the lunatics.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Obama Election Spurs Race Crimes Around Country

Yahoo News
McClellan: Bush Admitted Outing Plame

via Metafilter.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New Star Trek Trailer

Holy crap! Looks really good. Maybe there's life in in the old story yet.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

More Evidence That You Can't Discuss Relativism Rationally
Especially On the Intertubes

At Drum's digs.

Here's the way the discussions normally go:

Person A: Hey, here's a case of some heinous thing that happened in another culture.

Person B: So much for cultural relativism!

Person C: Oh, a conservative, eh?

Person B: No, but [describe relevant case here] was wrong. Anyone can see that.

Person C: Oh yeah? Well you are a fascist and hate all other cultures and besides our culture is evil and so are you and conservatives hate relativism so you must be conservative too did I mention that? so you really suck!

[Here discussion degenerates into an even more complete and incoherent variety of incoherence, as we fade out...]

Relativism is like a mind virus. It lays around dormant, and then emerges every now and then to derail discussion and eat up wetware compute cycles. Almost no one understands it (in part because 'relativism' is used to name about twenty different views), but everybody seems to have a passionate opinion about it. Conservatives hate it, though conservatism (in some ways) actually has closer affinities to relativism than liberalism does. Liberals defend it because conservatives hate it, even though it is a decidedly illiberal view--and indefensible.

What a freakin' mess.

In the case in question in the Drum post, a 13-year-old Somali girl was raped by three men. When her village found out, they buried her up to her neck and stoned her to death for "adultery".

Now: this is as heinous a crime--the murder, that is, though the rape is heinous enough--as can be imagined. If anything is morally wrong, then this is morally wrong. And any culture that condones such actions is, to that extent, morally reprehensible. Anyone with at least half a brain should be able to see this.

The arguments concerning cultural moral relativism are complex and tangled, though relatively easy to see through once you lay them all out clearly--which, sadly, takes several weeks at bare minimum, provided that you already understand them ahead of time. However it's not always necessary to look at the philosophy here. Many folks on the left defend CMR for a variety of political reasons, perhaps most notably this one: they recognize that many people to are opposed to CMR are actually dogmatists and/or ethnocentrists seeking to covertly indicate that our culture is optimal. But, of course, this doesn't mean that CMR is true. Note that many people on the left actually defend CMR in order to deflect criticism from totalitarian leftists regimes--it's a common way to defend China, for example. (And now: Somalia.) So, like any other position, CMR can be used for nefarious purposes by bad or confused people. But this has nothing to do with its truth or falsity.

Cutting to the chase, CMR is, at root, the view that consensus or tradition constitute moral rightness. That is, of course, insane. A large number of people doing x over and over again cannot make x right. Repetition might make people believe that x is right, but that's a very different thing. Moral rightness, whatever it is, is not a matter of repetition. Arguments for that conclusion can be given, but shouldn't be needed.

Folks on the left who wish to defend other cultures from any criticism should note that they cannot do so without insulating our own culture from criticism. However, it is clear that we have made--and continue to make--many moral errors. The defender of CMR cannot, say, defend the actions of Martin Luther King, who defied American traditions in order to make the society more just. CMR entails that what King did was wrong--but that, of course, is false. (There are niggling little epicycles the relativists can throw in here to try to stave off inevitable refutation...but they only muddy the water, they don't change the result.)

Unless you believe what no sane person believes, that e.g. the rape, torture and murder of an innocent young girl can become right merely because it has been done many times before (something which, you will note, makes the action worse, not better), then you shouldn't be defending CMR.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"The Obama Recession"

So, Olbermann just said that Rush "Big Pharma" Dimbaugh (note: not a serious person to be discussed by serious people...but occasionally I just can't resist) has been trying to market the term "the Obama Recession" to refer to the Bush recession we're currently slipping into.

So, let me get this straight: everything was Clinton's fault until three months before Obama is inaugurated, it became his fault, as a result of...I dunno...backwards causation or something. But Bush isn't responsible for anything whatsoever that happened during the entire eight years of his Presidency. Oh, except--for some inscrutable reason--he's supposed to get credit for the fact that we haven't been attacked inside the U.S. since 9/11. Even though that is, of course, the normal state of affairs. Oh, and: he's in no way responsible for the fact that we were attacked on 9/11. Even though he was warned by the Clinton administration that al Qaeda was a serious threat.

But then, of course, Dimbaugh and his ilk have no regard whatsoever for the truth.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Squirrels Dancing to Michael Jackson

Squirrels Dancing to Michael Jackson
A Blog Dynamic

Conservatives screw everything up almost beyond the telling of it, yet continue to insist that everything is just fine, and vilify their liberal political opponents to boot.

Liberals find a candidate they adore, and win the election, committing themselves, inter alia, to avoiding vilification of their political opponents.

Stinging from their loss, many conservatives say a bunch of incredibly stupid things about the liberal President-elect.

Liberals respond by pointing out that these things are stupid, but hint at a generalization: perhaps conservatives have a tendency to be stupid.

The cycle of polarization begins again...

And we at the 'Raptor are on the cutting edge of this, folks.

And, as usual, by 'we' I mean me...
Fun With Equivocation
Thomas Sowell Edition
or
Dumb Are Good

Well, there's this, from Thomas Sowell at NRO.

People treat the National Review as if it were a serious publication because it's just about the least insane of the conservative journals of opinion. But it isn't serious, and it hasn't been for some time.

Here are Sowell's points, in a nutshell:

People say that the GOP is anti-intellectual. But some people who have the mannerisms of the intellectual are not, in fact, very knowledgeable at all! And some people who don''t have those mannerisms are knowledgeable! And some people with Ph.D. s are stupid!

Therefore...huh?

So let's go over a few points, shall we? To address them in careful detail would take hours, so I hope you'll forgive me for cutting to the chace.

Ahem.

Part of the problem here has to do with the ambiguity of 'intellectual,' especially in the context of 'anti-intellectual.' Roughly, 'intellectual' can mean:

(1) Someone who is learned, or who lives the life of the mind, or who is devoted to thinking about complex matters.
or
(2) A pretentious ass; an effete--probably literary--dilettant; e.g. a tiresome sesquipedalian.

So in the first sense, scientists are intellectuals; in the second sense, not.

Now, in the first sense, it's good to be an intellectual; in the second sense, not.

I know a lot of intellectuals in the first sense; but, despite being in academia, I don't know very many of the second kind. Oh, I encounter 'em sometimes, and I hate 'em as much as you do. I just don't run into them very often.

The problem with the GOP is that it has become anti-intellectual in the second sense of 'intellectual.'

But Sowell tries to avoid the charge by a crude equivocation. Goes like this:

(i) People are complaining that the GOP has become anti-intellectual!
(ii) But intellectuals are bad!
.---------------------------------------------------------------------
(iii) The GOP is good!

But this really means:

(i) People are complaining that the GOP has become anti-intellectual(1)!
(ii) But intellectuals(2) are bad!
.---------------------------------------------------------------------
(iii) The GOP is good!

So, even ignoring any other problems with this inference, it's based on an equivocation, and, so, is not more valid than:

Only man is rational
No woman is a man
.--------------------
No woman is rational

The relevant points become particularly clear when we look at the term 'anti-intellectual' instead of 'intellectual.' To say that someone is anti-intellectual is clearly to say that they are opposed to intellectualism in the first sense of 'intellectual.' No one uses 'anti-intellectual' to mean doesn't like effete literary snobs. The widespread worry about the contemporary GOP is not that they seem to be dead set against effete literary snobdom. The problem is that they seem to be dead set against any kind of learning or thinking.

And see, that's a problem.

Sowell writes:
Adlai Stevenson was certainly regarded as an intellectual by intellectuals in the 1950s. But, half a century later, facts paint a very different picture.

Historian Michael Beschloss, among others, has noted that Stevenson “could go quite happily for months or years without picking up a book.” But Stevenson had the airs of an intellectual — the form, rather than the substance.

What is more telling, form was enough to impress the intellectuals, not only then but even now, years after the facts have been revealed, though apparently not to Mr. Kristof.

That is one of many reasons why intellectuals are not taken as seriously by others as they take themselves.

As for reading the classics, President Harry Truman, whom no one thought of as an intellectual, was a voracious reader of heavyweight stuff like Thucydides and read Cicero in the original Latin. When Chief Justice Carl Vinson quoted in Latin, Truman was able to correct him.
Yeah, see, nobody is defending people who put on intellectual airs. (Though whether that's an accurate description of Stevenson I have no idea. Way before my time.) People are worried because the GOP seems to be saying that it's wrong to actually be learned or intelligent. Everybody hates a phoney. Almost nobody can stand intellectuals in the second sense. ("Intellectuals" like the founder of a certain shitty political publication I could name, were I inclined to commit the tu quoque fallacy. Oh, I say! I seem to have gotten off a good one, what? Ha ha! How droll...)

As for Truman--everybody I know admires him, and I'd admire him more were I to find out from a reliable source that he read Cicero in Latin.

Thing is, it's not at all clear that the contemporary GOP would admire him. Imagine if we'd found out that Obama sat around reading, say, Thucydides in Greek. Imagine what Sarah Palin would have to say about that. "Weeell, I guess that might be important if we were going to be fighting the Grecians or the Martians or something, but what we need is common people who understand the problems of Joe Sixpack, not some airy fairy stuff about a bunch of dead homos, you betcha. I guess Greek is kinda like English, except it's not good for anything important." Imagine Powerline! Imagine the Corner! Imagine how this would show how out of touch Obama was! And a Socialist!

See, that's more or less the problem. We just had an election in which the Democratic candidate basically had to conceal the fact that he taught Constitutional law at the University of Chicago, because he knew that the GOP would use that against him. This is not some abstruse pointy-headed subject like philosophy; this is an important subject directly relevant to the Presidency. And it comes as we watch the Current Occupant shredding the constitution. And yet Obama basically had to conceal his (good) intellectual (i.e. intellectual(1)) credentials, because any sign of book-learnin' or actual mental activity of any kind will be used against you by the GOP.

See, Mr. Sowell, that's the problem.

And no amount of lame sophistry can conceal the fact that your favored party has become anti-intellectual--in, let's be clear, the sense that they seem downright opposed to intelligence.
Bush's "Careful Word Choice"
Or:
More on the Dumbest Man
On The Internet

O.k., now, we face a familiar dilemma here. A partisan moron asserts that black is white, that freedom is slavery, that ignorance is strength, or whatever.

Now: we can either just ignore the dumb SOB, or we can refute him. If we ignore him, he and his partisan hangers-on will walk away smugly, and that is annoying. If we refute him, we seem to have in some sense dignified his idiotic position with a response--a response that cannot really be effective in the sense we hope for, because anyone who would say something that stupid in the first place almost certainly cannot be reasoned with.

But we can't help ourselves, can we?

And by 'we', of course, I mean: me.


Here's a big, fat, slow pitch down the middle...the slowest of slow-moving targets...who can resist the urge to hit it out of the park, to blow it in twain?

Who I ask you???

Not me, that's for sure.

Let's just pick one of the almost uncountably-large number of Bush F-ups. And let's stick just to the ones very early in his administration. And let's just stick to ones that are, oh, let's say fifty or so times more serious than the alleged Obama blunder that Hindrocket & co. are on about. And let's just stick to the ones that are of a similar type. So: we're leaving about 99% of Bush's screw ups entirely out of the picture. We're tying 99% of our hands behind our backs here.

Let's just consider one of my favorites: Bush accidentally changing our policy toward Taiwan--and in such a way as to increase the likelihood of war with China. Three months into his Presidency.

Man, that guy really can choose his words carefully, huh?


But of course you can't refute people like Buttmissile. Remember: they do not care about the facts. This is not about facts, this is not about truth, this is not about reason. Folks like the Powerline crew and the Freepers etc. are reverting to their childhood and asserting the things they wish were true. It's a kind of catharsis. It feels so good to say the thing you hoped for, the thing you want to be true but which isn't, that those without much integrity or intellectual self-control just can't help themselves. Then set up the wingnut echo-chamber, where other, equally intellectually incontinent basket cases will enter into a chorus of affirmation...and what you've got is a blueprint for moral and intellectual disaster. A large group of people bootstrapping and groupthinking their way into a complete fantasy world.

That's some f*cked up sh*t right there, my friends.
Predictions About Hinderaker's Next Post

Obama has already started more wars before taking office than Bush has started in his whole Presidency!

Bush is actually extremely intelligent, and that is why he seems so f*cking stupid!!

Bush is actually a far better and more inspiring speaker than Obama is, but he is, in fact, so good that the minds of mere mortals cannot appreciate his rhetorical prowess!!! (Er, except for wingnuts...who are...all...um...superintelligent!)

Bush is actually blacker than Obama is! He is really the first black President!!!!

Obama has already used up his two terms!!11!

It was Bush who was just elected!!!!!!!!!! Obama is the one on the way out!!!!!!!!! IT WAS OBAMA THAT DID ALL THAT STUFF LIKE IRAQ AND THE DEFICIT AND SHREDDING THE CONSTITUTION!!!!!!!!111!!11!!!!!1


My God. Everyone thought that Hinderaker had plumbed the farthest depths of idiocy with his infamous "misunderstood genius" post.

But he seems to be pushing farther into unexplored territory...a whole new realm of stupidity beyond the ordinary...a realm of hyperstupidity if you will.

Surely even the most ardent wingnuts can't swallow this, though. It could be a sign of an on-going anti-Obama strategy, but it usually takes at least a grain of truth to sustain a strategy of this kind, so it seems unlikely. It's probably not aimed at any real end at all, it's just like some kind of tantrum. Having backed the worst President ever, a man of demonstrable stupidity, Hinderaker is doing the bloggy equivallent of stomping his feet and yelling "No! BUSH is the smart one! OBAMA is the dummy!!! (holds breath)"

John Hinderaker, ladies and gentleman!

The stupidest man on the internets...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Goddamned Idiots
Cook2712 Edition

Behold, a moron.

In case you don't have enough of them in your life as it is.
Occasional Lincoln Quote
Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, LET US, TO THE END, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT.
Lincoln, The Cooper Union Address

Henry Blodgett: Don't Bail Out The Automakers

Short but persuasive.

Just the first step in making a case, but I thought it was informative. I'm so ignorant about this stuff that I thought bankruptcy mean that GM would evaporate.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Larry Summers

Drum rounds up some pro-Summers bits.

But apparently there's a lot of anti-Summers sentiment out there. This is largely stupid, as it seems to largely be about his comments about women in science. Now hear this: the claim in question was in no way sexist. The data he mentioned is absolutely legit: there is some evidence that the male ability curve in math is flatter than the female ability curve. That means that there are more males at both ends of the curve--more total mathematical morons and more mathematical geniuses and near-geniuses. And this fact might indeed explain in part why there are more males in the most prominent positions in the sciences, including at the most prominent universities. There is no way to reasonably complain about Summers's comment. You've got to be fairly dim to think that it's sexist to point to such facts, especially when just mentioning them as possible explanations in a list of other possible explanations.

Moronic PC gibberish is close to the last thing we need about now.
McAuliffe to Run for Governor of the OD?

Dude.

There is no way I'm voting for McAuliffe for anything bigger than dog catcher.

(Er...wait up: unless the VA GOP runs one of their total lunatic candidates. Like Ollie North. Or George Allen. Ya know...not exactly those guys. But like them. But short of that--ain't no way.)
Obama Does the Right Thing (1)
Plans to Close Gitmo

This is huge.

Less than a week after the election, and more than two months before he takes office, Obama is already preparing to end one of the most important and most criminal policies of the Bush administration.

Prediction: many conservatives will fume.

But those who fume about this value their own sorry asses far more highly than they value the principles of the Constitution. The very minor threat posed by treating these prisoners justly cannot be allowed to wreck the moral foundations of this country. That's something they really need to have explained very clearly to them.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Andrew Sullivan Falls For Po-Mo BS

Cripes, Sullivan. The problem with BS like this isn't that there isn't any truth in it, it's that the truth-to-BS ratio is vanishingly small.
Palin's Attacks Lead to Increase in Death Threats Against Obama Family

Says the Telegraph, quoting Newsweek.

Could this possibly surprise anyone? Palin's clear intention was to ramp up anger against Obama. The increase in death threats is a foreseeable consequence of Palin's actions.

Palin is a vicious idiot.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Michael van der Galien: Delusional

I'm trying not to harp on the nuttiness on the right these days, but this was just too irritating to pass up. One Michael van der Galien insisting that conservatives have handled the election and its results with grace, and that "...the tone of most conservatives was polite, calm, steady." He claims that this contrasts markedly with liberals' reactions in 2000 and 2004.

Now, these things are fairly difficult to compare, especially when you've got a dog in the fight, but...well...this is pretty clearly just flat-out delusional.

First, in each of these elections, the right was more vicious than the left. The right engaged in concerted campaigns of character assassination against Gore, Kerry and Obama. Gore was a pathological liar; Kerry was swiftboated; Obama was a socialist, a Marxist, a Muslim Manchirian candidate, even the Antichrist.

Second, there was no comparison between the elections of 2000 and 2004 on the one hand and 2008 on the other. In 2000, the Bush camp exhibited a willingness to steal the election by preventing the votes from being counted, flying in crowds of protesters and ultimately taking their anti-recall case to the Supreme Court. Republicans in the Florida state legislature even claimed that they would elect a slate of Republican electors even if Democrats did win a recount. By 20004, we'd already suffered through the quasi-coup of 2000 and the mendacious case for invading Iraq. Bush had run an almost unbelievably divisive and incompetent administration. So it would be undertstandable for liberals to be angry about the elections of 2000 and 2004. On the other hand, after eight years of an incompetent Bush administration and a basically clean and honest Obama campaign, there is little excuse for anger on the part of conservatives now. And yet:

Third, there has, still, been more anger and irrationality coming from the right in 2008 than came from the left in 2000 or 2004.

and, of course:

Fourth: in addition to being more angry and irrational than liberals over the time period in question, conservatives have also, over the same time period, insisted that it was liberals who behaved more reprehensibly.

Now, it's probably impossible to convince conservatives like Mr. van der Galien of the facts, but that doesn't mean that we should just let their BS pass without comment.
Project Reunification

1. Are there any meaningful steps we could take toward reversing the process of political polarization that's taken place over the past (approximately) fifteen years?

2. Is this really an important goal?

3. Is it a realistic goal?

4. Do our friends across the aisle even care about polarization, or is this a wimpy liberal hangup?


Could we...maybe...just to name one small thing...lay off of Sarah Palin now that she's no longer a threat? (Or should we wait to see whether she's going to go for Stevens's Senate seat?)

Of course there are specific issues we might assure them we're willing to compromise on, but that would take more though, and substantive debate. I suppose I'm wondering about less technical stuff...low-hanging fruit.
Pinko Commie Manhattan Elitist America-Haters Exposed!

What would real Americans think of such antics, one wonders?
Occasional Madison Quote
Factions
AMONG the numerous advantages promised by a well constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction. The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous vice. He will not fail, therefore, to set a due value on any plan which, without violating the principles to which he is attached, provides a proper cure for it. The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished; as they continue to be the favorite and fruitful topics from which the adversaries to liberty derive their most specious declamations. The valuable improvements made by the American constitutions on the popular models, both ancient and modern, cannot certainly be too much admired; but it would be an unwarrantable partiality, to contend that they have as effectually obviated the danger on this side, as was wished and expected. Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith, and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority. However anxiously we may wish that these complaints had no foundation, the evidence, of known facts will not permit us to deny that they are in some degree true. It will be found, indeed, on a candid review of our situation, that some of the distresses under which we labor have been erroneously charged on the operation of our governments; but it will be found, at the same time, that other causes will not alone account for many of our heaviest misfortunes; and, particularly, for that prevailing and increasing distrust of public engagements, and alarm for private rights, which are echoed from one end of the continent to the other. These must be chiefly, if not wholly, effects of the unsteadiness and injustice with which a factious spirit has tainted our public administrations.
Federalist 10, of course.

Friday, November 07, 2008

John Derbyshire, Stupid Asshole

Not even worth refuting.
Go Purple Team!

Here's a site where folks from the red team and the blue team send messages of unity. It made me smile. You should check it out.

(Tho...can anybody figure out what the 52/48 thing is about? If it were 53/46 it would make sense...what obvious thing am I missing here?)
Tent Cities Spring Up
Welcome To The White House, President-Elect Obama

Remind you of anytime?
Obama and God

I've known a few Christians here and there who have been able to convey something to me about Christianity. These people have allowed me to see something in the theory that I found alluring and profoundly admirable. One of the many surprising things about Obama in my book is that he's managed to be one of those people though I've never, of course, met him in person, nor have I read anything extended or serious he's written about religion.

Acquaintance with certain Christians drove me away from the theory early in my life, because when they'd talk, roughly, about pulling back the curtain on the universe, what I'd glimpse back there was fire and brimstone and fear and anger and resentment and ignorance. The other set of Christians, who I didn't start meeting until after grad school, would pull back the curtain a bit to reveal a picture that was something more like an artful and moving expression of the kind of hopes that, independently of anything about Christianity, I am inclined to think should unify us all.

So, my Christian peeps, that's a powerful representative you've got there, that Barack Obama.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Unreality-Based Community Gets Moving On Impeachification

Well that was fast.

I asked yesterday (though I'd been meaning to do so for a couple of weeks) how long it would take before crazies on the right started agitating to impeach Obama.

In a couple of hours, there was comment spam on that post advertising "Impeach Obama" t-shirts.

Now we see at Freek Republic that Facebook pages for impeach Obama groups have sprung up.

Looks like Andrew Sullivan was wondering about this too, and beat me to the post, linking to this site.

Way to strive for unity, you lunatics.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obamaphilia

Much of the right-wing frothing about alegedly cultish obamaphiles ignores the obvious fact that positive attitudes about Obama are partially comparative. If we'd had a good president--or even a minimally honest or competent president--at the time of the campaign and the election, the reaction to Obama would not have been so pronounced. Had the Bush administration been less than an unmitigated disaster, the electorate would not have fallen for Obama so hard. I mean, he's a great candidate, and would be no matter what. But against the backdrop of the embarrassment that is Bush, he looks like nothing less than a hero.
McCain's Speech

I watched it last night of course, but only the once. Many people, including some of y'all in comments, are saying it was great...so I thought I'd just register my initial reaction for the record. Which is: not great. I may very well change my mind on this on a second viewing, but last night I was thinking: this is o.k., but it needs to be about 100% more forceful, making it clear to McCain's supporters, in no uncertain terms, that all that campaign hogwash about Obama being an unqualified socialist etc. was, well, campaign hogwash, and that he's going to be the president, and that everyone needs to let him start off with a clean slate, and give him their energetic support unless/until he does something to lose it.

McCain's speech was fine, but it hardly rose to the level, energy- and conviction-wise, of his ten thousand denunciations of Obama.

Gore's concession speech was much, much better...and he was conceding to an unqualified piece of shit who had just basically tried to steal the election, and who had just spent months vilifying him.

McCain's speech seemed adequate to me, but nothing more. I wish I could be more enthusiastic about it, but I can't really.
Countdown To Impeachment Buzz

I've decided to cut way, way back on snark in the new era. But this isn't exactly snark. My question: how long before the fever swamps start batting around the idea of impeaching Obama? I'm tempted to guess: before 1/20/09, but I'm feeling pretty optimistic today, so I'm wondering whether it might hold off until after the inauguration.
Everybody Stop With The Waterworks Already

Jeez, it's bad enough that JQ cries every time Obama says anything, even "the" or "and," but now everybody on the teevee is doing likewise. Gene Robinson was barely able to keep it together, now Doris Kearns Goodwin is getting all weepy... Not me though, nosirree...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

CNN Calls It

It's over.
Yes We Did

CNN calls VA for Obama...and that's pretty much it.

Obama will be the next President of the United States.
Operation No Gloating, Take Two

We're going to win.

No gloating, o.k.? It's time for a new era in American politics.
Yes We Will

Just got back from voting. Couldn't get to the polls until 7 am. There was virtually nowhere left to park, people were parking on the grass. Very long line, took about an hour to get inside, about an hour and a half before I was finished. This includes a ten minute delay because of my voting booth OCD--I have to check my ballot like twenty times to make sure I haven't somehow filled in the wrong oval. (I realized long ago that there's probably a greater probability of me filling in the wrong oval than there is of my ballot making the difference in a national election...).

The Obama folk were out in force.

We are going to win this thing.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Blue OD

The OD is going blue, my friends, and you can take that to the freakin' bank.

We are gonna kick their bright red asses, an' thassa fack.
Attacking Centrist Dems Before The Electoral Ink Is Even Dry

The metaphorical ink is not even dry on the ballots before Atrios has turned his guns on centrist Dems. There is no "stupid or lying" puzzle in Atrios's case--I'm sure he's being perfectly honest here.

He honestly thinks that civility in politics is unimportant. But smart people who have been in the Senate for a long time disagree with him, noting that the decline in civility has had profoundly negative effects on the proper functioning of the legislature. And anyone who's watched the course of this election recognize a similar point. Much of Obama's strength comes from centrists and conservatives who have been driven away from McCain. One wonders what election Atrios has been watching.

Liberals of Atrios's stripe have the following in common with conservatives of Bush's stripe: they think you can be gratuitously vicious to people without significant effect. Bushies believe that we needn't show respect to other countries--we can bully them and disrespect them as much as we want--and this will not have significant effect on the international order, nor on achieving our national goals. And we can demonize the other domestic political party, and, again, there will be no significant effect on our politics, nor on the smooth functioning of our democracy.

But these things are all false.

Fortunately, Barack Obama fairly clearly recognizes this. (Which is part of the reason why, as I've predicted, leftier Dems will be complaining about Obama within the year.)

Civility is not merely some aesthetic flourish. It's closer to being the heart and soul of the proper functioning of our democracy. A commitment to civility doesn't mean a commitment to giving in on all points; it's nothing more than a commitment to recognize the humanity and rationality of those on the other side of the issue, even when they seem to be wrong.

We don't face only two options here: (a) giving in on all points of disagreement and (b) riding roughshod over the concerns of the other half of the country. There's an obvious third alternative, and it's baffling why anyone would pretend that there isn't.

Winning needn't turn us into Karl Rove.
Conservatives and Poll Paranoia

In a way it's easy to understand conservatives continuing to insist that Bush was an acceptably good President, or that McCain is preferable to Obama--when evaluations like those are in play, it's notoriously difficult to make clear assessments, and notoriously easy to cheat. Emotions are running high; wishful thinking is the order of the day.

But a quick dip in the rightosphere shows that there are also widespread delusions about much more mundane and less value-laden issues. Like what the polls are saying. Many of our friends across the aisle cannot even bring themselves to admit that our best evidence puts their man behind.

Now, it's also easy to understand why one would want, for strategic reasons, to turn one's eyes away from the fact of likely defeat. But that's not the sense you get from reading, say, Free Republic or K-Lo. It's more like: they can't face any facts that make them sad or fail to cohere with their world-view.

And when this happens, wild explanations and conspiracy theories are rarely far behind.

So get ready for the wave of insane theories "explaning" an Obama victory--widespread voter fraud, tampering with machines, voodoo... If the margin is small, it'll be roughly "only tampering in x county put him over the edge!!11!". If the margin is large, it'll be "the margin could never have been that large; it had to be tampering!!1"

Just you wait.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

TNR: New Evidence About Keating Five Leaks

here.
Freepers Not So Good At Distinguishing Fantasy From Reality?

Now, everybody gets fooled every now and then, so I don't really want to make a federal case out of this.

But look: this is an obvious fake. And it seems to have taken the Freepi quite awhile to figure that out.

I wouldn't even point it out if it weren't for the fact that, as you read down the list of posts at Free Republic, you basically get "Obama: Antichrist", "Obma's Nazi Civilian Corps," "William Ayers Wrote Obama's Books," "McCain Leads Election Race!," "Axelrod Backed by Russia," and so forth, and you think "my God what is wrong with these crazy people?"...and then stuff like this video pops up in the middle of it all, and suddenly a unifying hypothesis suggests itself: these people just have defective bullshit detectors. Maybe it's not just politics...maybe they just aren't very good at distinguishing fact from fantasy in general.

Maybe that would explain all the Bigfoot posts...