Friday, June 30, 2006

Lies and Spin: WMDs (6/30/06 Edition)

It's too bad that we tend to emphasize the moral significance of outright lies rather than that of other, more common types of deception. What got us into Iraq, of course, was mostly "spin"--a type of deception that falls short of outright lies. Morally speaking, however, spinning is just as bad as lying. Deception is the important category. If I trick you into buying my medicine--which I know to be less-than-optimally effective--by consciously spinning the data, then I've done something just as bad as telling you an outright lie about its efficacy.

In Salon we see that the Republican WMD spin goes on. You see, we have now, finally, technically found WMDs in Iraq! They're not the WMDs we were looking for, there aren't very many of them, and they're so old that they can't hurt anybody...but by God we found 'em. An ancient stockpile of Sarin-filled artillery shells that, as David Kay put it, are less dangerous than some of the stuff under the average kitchen sink.

This is kind of like finding a shell filled with mustard gas from WWI in a museum in Kurdistan...but it didn't prevent Rick Santorum and Curt Weldon from proclaiming Bush vindicated.

But you know how trustworthy Rick Santorum is. And as for Curt Weldon...

It's a pathetic spectacle, but I guess it really shouldn't surprise anyone by now.
Arrogant, Activist Judges Threaten the Monarchy

Here. How they think we can conduct an effective War on Terra (WoT?) without an omnipotent leader is beyond me. Only ScAlito and Thomas stood up for principle of unlimited presidential power. My God, why do these liberal extremists hate America so much? When will they learn that we are a timorous, stupid people who need a strong, confident leader, no matter how clueless and mean-spirited, to provide us with the illusion of safety through decisive, no matter how unjust and irrational, commands? What will we do now? Who will lead us? Who will protect us from wolves? Who will shear us? All is lost...

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Beinart: Bush Prefers Victory Over Democrats to Victory in Iraq

God bless Peter Beinart. He's one of the few guys in the semi-popular press that makes consistent sense. He's at it again here.
Oral Sex Is Evil

That's the point of much of the discussion summarized here, anyway.

Fer chrissake, these people. If you follow a couple of these links you can see why I no longer consider myself a feminist. The movement has largely been taken over by "everything-is-power" postmodern dunderheads. I miss the old feminism. You know, the liberal one.

This all started with a claim here, at the aptly-named Blame the Patriarchy, to the effect that no women enjoy performing oral sex. On males that is. It's the penis that's the problem as far as they're concerned. When several female commenters pointed out that they, in fact, enjoyed the act in question, the claim transmogrified into (a) yeah, well it's wrong even if you like it because (b) liking it makes you a patriarchal "sexbot" because of (c) (you guessed it) the "power differential."

Lord, how tedious.

We can go through the failure of the "power differential" arguments if anybody's interested, but it's hardly worth the effort. For right now, let me just say that, of the women I've known well enough to know where they stand on the issue of performing fellatio, far more have reported enjoying it than have reported not enjoying it. Now, I'll guarantee you that my friends and girlfriends have been rather unrepresentative of the populace...but they're not from, like, Mars or anything. Well, maybe that one...

Lots of these folks are just left-wing puritans. And, like right-wing puritans, they tend to reason thusly: I find x icky, therefore x is morally wrong. And you don't need me to tell you what's wrong with an inference like that.
Same-Sex Marriage: James Dobson Explains It All To You

Make sure to check out this incredible piece of....commentary...from, bastion of the liberal media.

Unprepared critical thinking instructors across the country thank you for giving them something to do in class today...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Is Bush an Asshole?

Remember: I respect the office even when it's impossible to respect the man.

This story from Suskind's new book, quoted by K-Drum, shows that Bush was an enormous asshole when he was in business school. He might have changed, but few people change that much.

This explains a lot.
The First-Amendment Desecration Act: Breaking It Down

Yesterday's vote...well, gosh, it makes me remember why...excuse me if I get a little sentimental here...but why I do not completely loathe the Democratic party. Once again they prove that they suck noticeably less than the Republicans. Gosh, it's all so inspiring...

Most Republicans voted in favor of making us into a postmodernist symbolocracy, wereas most Democrats voted against it. But a fair number of the latter and a smattering of the former failed to vote with their party:

Republicans who voted against desecrating the First Amendment:
Robert Bennett, Lincoln Chafee, Mitch McConnell

These guys deserve a note of support at the very least, methinks.

Democrats who voted in favor of desecrating the First Amendment:
Max Baucus, Evan Bayh, Mark Dayton, Dianne Feinstein, Tim Johnson, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Robert Menendez, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Harry Reid, Jay Rockefeller, Kenneth Salazar, Debbie Stabenow

These guys deserve endless grief.

Oh, and big ups to Jim Jeffords, who shows once again that he never really belonged in the GOP.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Rush's New Drug Problem

So, Rushster, what's with all the poke?

Now, as you know, I don't think the gub'mint has any authority whatsoever to tell us what we can and cannot eat, drink, smoke, chew, snort, lick or even--if you're a real moron--shoot up.

But since Rush is such an enormous asshole, I have to say that I do take some pleasure in his newest humiliation. He's a really bad guy, and he deserves stuff like this.

What always burns me up about this sort of thing, though, is that this guy can be a stupid, dishonest asswipe doing his darndest to destroy the soul of the country every day and somehow that's just fine... But suddenly he takes some recreational drugs and he's a demon. Crazy, man.
An Inconvenient Truth: True

AIT gets the tumbs up from most climatologists who had seen it in an AP poll. (via Metafilter)
Astrology is Reasonable...If Friends of Kos Do It...

Here's Atrios, explaining why astrology is really not that dumb.

It's a rather half-hearted defense...partially just a charge of hypocrisy against those who would deride astrology while asserting that Dems ought to court Christians more. The point seems to be that astrology is just as "mainstream" as Christianity...

...which is false.

No matter how many people might say that they believe in it, it's not as mainstream as Christianity. Christianity is firmly the orthodoxy in the U.S., and astrology clearly has the status weird. (FWIW, my guess is that astrology is more likely to be true that Christianity...that is, objectively it's less weird....but that's not the question here.)

Christianity is far, far more important to far, far more people than astrology--it's a deep part of many people's lives, not just something they think about for five minutes while reading the Sunday Style section. If a presidential candidate gets up and says "I don't believe in astrology," people will generally count this in his favor, as a sign of good sense. If a presidential candidate gets up and says that he doesn't believe that the core Christian "narrative" (god, I hate that term, but it fits here) is true, he's finished. It's just silly to compare rejecting Christianity to rejecting astrology.

And to reject religion generally...hoo, boy! Surveys show that atheists are approximately the most hated group in the country. If I'm not mistaken, most parents say that they rather see their child turn out gay than to see him or her marry an atheist.

Anyway, there's no way something like this goes up on one of the major lefty blogs under different conditions.

Look, nobody can seriously believe that Kos issues marching orders to the other blogs...but what he and the other big bloggers in that circle do is set the tone for much of the leftosphere, and circle the wagons around each other when anyone has the temerity to challenge them. Are they worse than the rightosphere? Don't think so. But there's a kernel of truth--perhaps just a kernel, perhaps highly attenuated--in Zengerle's charge.
34% of U.S. Senate Supports First Amendment

Good guys win...but just barely.

Congrats to Rilkefan and Mrs. Rilkefan on the arrival of Rilkekind, shown here outfitted, apparently, for extreme tanning or, perhaps, neo-natal gladatorial combat. Say it with me now: Awwwwwww....

The Banking Surveillance Program and Outing It

No detailed analysis here, just general impressions. I'm not sure what's going on yet.

But I have to say, this program doesn't seem all that crazy/invasive to me, and I'm inclined to wish that the NYT had been a little less specific about what was going on--to start out with, at least. I have some suspicion that the administration has been so secretive and dishonest to this point that many of us just expect that they're always up to no good. But it's not so clear to me in this case yet.

My reaction was very much like Schumers at the end of this Post story:

"Allowing law enforcement to examine bank records in order to stop the flow of money to terrorists makes a lot of sense, and this program appears to allow for just that. The real question here, as with so many other programs run by this Administration, is whether they are obeying the laws we have on the books to protect Americans from unnecessary invasions of their privacy."

Monday, June 26, 2006

Punching: Request for Advice/Information

I started taking Judo when I was about 15, and have taken some kind of chop socky off-and on ever since. Coupla years of Judo, coupla years of Tae Kwon Do, coupla years of Hapkido, coupla years of Brazilian ju-jitsu and MMA. Now I'm trying out boxing. Thing about most of the striking-style chop socky I've taken is that their approach to fighing is completely unrealistic. After many years of thinking about and messing around with this stuff, my conclusion is that the grappling styles are far more practical and useful.

But, anyway, here I'm interested in the striking styles. Punches in Tae Kwan Do (and the derivative Hapkido) and similar styles are kind of a fact, lots of stuff in TKD is a joke. When people ask my advice on this stuff, I sometimes tell them that 'Tae Kwon Do' is Korean for 'how to get your ass kicked.' I learned some important stuff from TKD, but I'm really, really glad it's not the only thing I ever studied.

Now, one thing that most chop socky has in common with boxing is that the CW is that you have to twist your fist at the end of a punch, so that your knuckles are horizontal. This is supposed to give your punch a "snap." Thing is, this doesn't make much sense. I mean, I do it that way because, so far as I can tell, it's just as easy as leaving your knuckles vertical, or in an intermediate position. But I just don't see how rotating the fist around the x axis is going to do anything to the speed along the x axis.

Now, there may be some physiological thing here that I don't know about--given the way the muscles etc. are, this may be a more natural position and have advantages because of that. Punching with knuckles horizontal feels rather more natural to me, but not a lot, and twisting the fist at the last instant, rather than from the beginning, adds nothing so far as I can tell.

Anyway...anybody know what's up with this stuff?
Raw Story: Flag-Burning Amendment Won't Pass


But it'll be within 1 or 2 votes.

Once again, we see that the Republicans are far more insane than the Democrats...though fourteen Dems in the Senate support this travesty--including Harry Reid.

Presumably, tens of thousands of us will start burning flags if this ever passes. They can't put us all in jail.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

TNR: Burned

Gilliard didn't write the e-mail. The Kossacks will be doing that funky dance of theirs tonight...
James Wolcott on TNR and Kos

He's basically right.
Spittle-Flecked Loons

That's what Drum thinks the standard characterization of liberal blogs will be by the MSM for the next while. That's consonant with stuff I've been saying, hence I agree.

Problem with many liberal blogs is that they are full of spittle-flecked loons. No more so than right-wing blogs...probably a little bit less so, in fact. But liberal bloggers and commenters should know better. They themselves often go on about the double standard that's applied to liberals and conservatives. So this should come as no surprise. If the venom and irrationality on lefty blogs gets half as bad as it is on righty blogs it'll be portrayed as being twice as bad. Why? Heck if I know. I think it's because people are so used to right-wing insanity. We expect people to be greedy, superstitious and nationalistic. But left-wing insanity seems...weird. When some righty goes on about how all those little brown people are inferior to us 'Merkins, we just think "oh, yeah, that again." But when some nerdy, turtle-neck wearing pseudo-intellectual starts going on about the inherent evil of America, we're like WTF is up with this? It's strange and unusual. Irrational hatred of others is something we're used to and can, in some sense, understand even when we disagree with it in the strongest possible way. Irrational hatred of self...I dunno...seems somehow closer to insanity (though it really isn't).

The radical righties remind us of cavemen, whereas the radical lefties seem more like they're from another planet.

O.k., that's obvious conjecture. Treat it as such.
Looks Like Dems Were Right About Withdrawal Deadline

That's what Maliki wants, anyway, and he probably knows more than we do.

This, incidentally, would mean that I was wrong about it.

Martin Peretz Contra Kos

Well, that sums it up fairly well...though I'm a little put off by the condescending tone. TNR is a more well-funded and well-established organization than is DKos, and condescension doesn't become them. And...well...I hate to niggle, but it would make a little more sense if the Peretz had ended his essay by saying that TNR was a heterogeneous institution, rather than a heterodox one...though it's that, too.

Anyway, once people get crossways with each other like this, it's tough for them to make up, so I don't expect this schism to heal quickly. I'll have to go back through the history of the conflict...both sides seem like they're being stupid assholes to me. To make matters worse, TNR revels in its willingness to goad the left (that's one of the reasons I like 'em...they're basically the only major liberal publication that's willing to criticize liberals for anything other than not being liberal enough), and that's made things worse. And the DKos crowd is subject to a host of well-known blogospheric problems. Blogs are in something like their adolescence, and it shows. They and their denizens have a tendency to be petulant, volatile, and tribal. The incentive structure of blogs is a little like that in groups of teenage boys--you'll gain more status for a cleverly vicious comment than for a calm and cogent appeal to reason.

So, anyway, I've mentioned before that I spend a lot of time wondering how liberals will figure out a way to blow '06 and/or '08... This kind of quarrelling may give us a glimpse at part of the answer to that question.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Siegel Digs Deeper

Concluding that the hole he dug for himself wasn't quite deep enough, Lee Siegel has at it again.

Autonomous Rebels Unite!

Well, there's this. (Via K-Drum)

Looks like I'm an Automomous Rebel, too! Maybe we should have a club? No, wait, that won't work...

Incidentally, unlike KD I'm not a Boomer...but I'm not a Gen-Xer, either. Technically, I'm a 'Tweener. (People habitually mistake me for being a lot younger than I am. I like to think it's because of my boyish good looks, but the more popular hypothesis has something or other to do with immaturity...though I'm not sure about the details because I usually phase out when that lecture starts.)

But if you check out that "Autonomous Rebel" page you'll see that it's a hilarious buch of bullshit. "Knowledge is power" my ass. I mean, it is, in some sense, but that's anything but a motto for me. Needless to say, that's a motto for the Baconians, among whose number I would not be counted. If the most obvious alternative to the Baconians in this regard is, roughly, Aristotelians who think that all men by nature desire to know, and that knowledge and the satisfaction of curiosity are ends in themselves...well, that's where I'd probably put me, for what it's worth.

And, as for "the personal is poltical," my considered opinion on that is "bite me."

On second thought, there's no real reason to take this test. KD said it would be amusing, but I think he made a mistake.
TNR and Kos: Apparently It's War

I rarely read Kos--when elections are afoot, it's a good place to get info, but I've never found it much good for analysis--so I didn't realize that there's a full-blown war going on between TNR and Kos. So that's why lefty bloggers have been shrieking and trying to scratch my eyes out every time I mention TNR without spitting.

And Yglesias says that TNR was winning (yay! yay! HAHAHA! My boys were winning you losers) until this by Lee Siegel (which Matt_C directs us to in comments below). What the heck is Siegel talking about with this fascists thing? Heck if I know. That is some stupid shit right there, dude. I guess he's talking about the weird zealotry and inability to tolerate dissent that's infecting that branch of the leftosphere. He's right about that, of course, but that fascist bit is just dopey. The thing to do there is to admit error, and if Siegel won't do it, the TNR editors should.

Siegel is clearly right, however, when he writes: "It's a bizarre phenomenon, the blogosphere. It radiates democracy's dream of full participation but practices democracy's nightmare of populist crudity, character-assassination, and emotional stupefaction." Amen, brother.

Much of the problem here lies in Kos's petulant response to legitimate questions raised by Jason Zengerle in TNR. There may very well be answers to those questions that exonerate Kos, but merely asking the questions does not show that (in Kos's words) "TNR's defection to the right is now complete." By that standard my own "defection to the right" is now complete...and if the Democrats start losing folks as liberal as I am (pro-same-sex marriage, pro-drug decriminalization, anti-anti-abortion, etc.), they will never win another election.

This would be a good time for everybody involved to take a deep breath and count to a hundred. There's nothing in this dispute that warrants excommunicating TNR, nor branding Kosophiles fascists. There are legitimate questions about Kos's relationship with Jerome Armstrong, and those questions are fair game for investigation. Kos's suggestion to "deprive the story of oxygen" was a bad one, and TNR was right to point this out. In the cosomos of human conflict, this is one of the easier ones to understand and defuse.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Andrew Sullivan and Kevin Drum, Both Making Sense

Drum responding to Sullivan here.

Given the information available to us, I think Sullivan's position and Drum's are both reasonable. I, at any rate, don't have enough information to be able to choose between them.

Today my position is something like this: this war should have been easy to win, and it could still possibly be won by a minimally competent and honest administration. But we don't have one of those. Sullivan's alternatives are the ones I prefer, but I don't see this administration undertaking any of them. Consequently, the least disastrous alternative actually available to us may be to set a date for withdrawal. Withdrawal might work...or more troops might work...but what we're doing now does not seem to be working.

But, of course, on the other hand, if the Dems could force withdrawal, they should be able to force the administration to conduct the war differently. But they don't have the power nor the unity to force anything right now.

Jesus, what a disaster.
Lefty Blogs and the Vilification of The New Republic

Jonathan Chait takes a rather light-hearted look at Kos's rabid anti-TNR campaign. Of course it's not just Kos...Atrios likes to take periodic (and laughably inept) shots at them, too. Chait's main serious points are that (a) the leftosphere isn't really that far left, they just seem that way because (b) they are so doctrinaire and rabid.

The rantings of the anti-TNRistas frequently remind me of something I once saw in a publication of the American Atheists society. Now, I'm an atheist myself, but only because that's where the available evidence has led me. I'm willing to drop that position in light of new evidence. Atheists like me were called by the publication in question (and this is a quote) "philosophical atheists--the worst kind." Such is the way of extremists. They don't want to hear the facts, they brook no dissent. In politics, folks like that are usually found on the extreme ends of the spectrum. A big chunk of lefty bloggers (and let's not even talk about the right here) have the rabidity down alright, but they may not actually be as "progressive" as they think. (Oh, and, um, whatever happened to 'liberal', anyway? I, for one, am still a liberal, though others seem to have fled from the label because conservatives turned it into a curse word.)

TNR has screwed up big time over the last several years, e.g. allowing Sullivan to stay on even after it became clear that he was incapable of thinking objectively about Bill Clinton. Their most harmful mistake was endorsing the invasion of Iraq, though they did so for good (though perhaps not optimal) reasons. Their subscription rate is way down, and now they've got the leftosphere against them. But they're still the most reasonable voice in the leftish popular press, and they will, of course, long outlast Kos and Atrios.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Global Warming and the 99% Doctrine

Given that dramatic global warming would--to quote a commenter here a couple of years back--make an atom bomb in Manhattan look like a pin prick, how would the reasoning behind Cheney's "one percent doctrine" lead us to act in response to the available climate data? Given that there's a far greater than 1% chance that human activity is driving climate change, and given how disastrous that change would be, the same reasoning would direct us to do virtually anything in our power to minimize our contribution.

But, of course, their strategy here, where the stakes are so much higher, is just the opposite of their strategy with regard to terrorism. Despite the conclusions of the NAS, the administration continues to temporize, minimize, and rationalize. We might call this the "99% doctrine"--until it's 99% certain that our actions are helping to drive global warming, we'll do nothing.

Neither the 1% doctrine nor the 99% doctrine makes a damn bit of sense of course. The proper thing to do in each case is to do an expected gain calculation. The greater the potential loss, of course, the less evidence is required to make it rational to take action to prevent that outcome. Since the potential loss in the case of global warming is very much greater than the potential loss in the case of (even nuclear) terrorism, it should require even less evidence to make it rational to take steps to curb global warming.

But the Bush administration has shown itself to be blissfully unconstrained by the onerous dictates of logic. They pick and choose the evidence on the basis of which conclusions they prefer. They wanted to invade Iraq, so they exaggerated the evidence for the WMD hypothesis and ignored arguments against it, basically lightening the burden of proof until it was almost certain to be met. They don't want to accept the global warming hypothesis and its consequences, so they've tried to make the burden of proof in that case so heavy that it cannot be born by ordinary scientific evidence.

Setting differential burdens of proof for hypotheses one prefers as opposed to those one does not is a hallmark of irrationality. Sadly, it is also a hallmark of the current administration.
Byron York on Senate Intelligence Committee's Investigation of Pre-War Intelligence

This is interesting, even if it does come from NRO.

Few quick points:

Note the initial Republican complaint: that the fact that they "don't have a majority" on the committee--because two of the Republicans in their majority sometimes fail to toe the party line--means that they are at a disadvantage. So this is what it's come to: Republicans are so used to holding every last one of the cards on Capitol Hill that merely having a majority actually counts as a disadvantage if some of the members of that majority aren't complete partisan hacks. The mind reels.

One can't, of course, trust The National Review about such matters, so I ignored his synopsis of the committee's alleged findings to date.

But the second really stunning thing reported here is that--and, again, we have to consider the source and take this with a grain of salt--the Democrats refused to evaluate statements about pre-war intelligence blind. That is, they refuse to assess the accuracy of statements (in light of then-existing intelligence) without knowing who made them. This refusal is absurd.

Of course that's the way this should be done. It's as close to doing a blind study as we can get in such matters. Democrats should jump at the opportunity to have blind evaluation, and the fact that they are opposed to this probably indicates that they are afraid of an objective assessment. Or, worse, that they plan to cheat by spinning the statements or the evidence.

Those of us who more or less count ourselves as Democrats should not stand for this. We should insist that the committee do blind evaluations of the relevant statements. What we want is a maximally accurate and maximally authoritative report on the use of pre-war intelligence. Unless there's something I'm missing here, the best way to do that is by having individual statements evaluated blindly.

I'm convinced enough that intelligence was spun that I have absolutely no fear whatsoever of a maximally objective inquiry into the matter. If I'm right, I want this confirmed, and if I'm wrong I want to know about it.

In fact, I hope I'm wrong. Otherwise these are dark, dark days for America.

Destroy North Korea's ICBM?

William Perry and Ashton Carter make a strong argument for this course of action in today's Post.

Scattered thoughts I've had over the last couple of days:

1. This seems to me like something we may have to do. However, many of the relevant considerations are esoteric, and I think we all need to recognize that experts (like, e.g., Perry...though I don't mean to prejudice the discussion in favor of his conclusion) are going to have more reliable judgments about what to do than most of the pajama pundits in the blogosphere.

2. I think we should worry about using ABM technology for exactly the reasons Perry and Carter cite--the North Koreans will already have lots of data by the time the missile is in ABM range and, perhaps even worse, there's almost no reason to trust our ABM capability. It'll probably miss, and that'll just make things worse by neutralizing whatever deterrent value it currently has.

3. I don't want to turn this political, but it's important to note a few things. Right now is not the time to think about them, but when this is all over they demand our attention:

3a. Perry and Carter claim--as do others--that diplomacy could have avoided this. If we really have come to this point because of yet another failure of diplomacy by the Bush administration, we need to take that fact very seriously.

3b. My own way of thinking about such things goes something like this: every now and then you're going to have to do something radical that can be construed--even in some cases by reasonable people--as being aggressive or otherwise wrong. This constitutes yet another reason to make sure that your actions are unimpeachably reasonable absolutely whenever possible. You want to make sure that you have an impeccable record, so that when you have to do something that might be interpreted as being on the borderline, it will fit into that overall pattern of reasonable action. You want to make sure that as many people as possible will reason about your actions like so: well, x seems a bit fishy, but if they're doing x, it must be the right thing to do. (Note: the reasons for this--especially in international affairs--are obvious, and have nothing to do with mere worries about popularity.)

The U.S. used to be in a position approximating the one described above. We had such a cache of moral capital that, when we had to do something like this, we could do so without seeming like psychos. Our store of moral capital probably reached its height just after 9/11, but the Bush administration has acted so unreasonably and undiplomatically that this store was squandered, and is probably at its lowest point ever. So, unfortunately, even if a first strike against North Korea (note: a preventive strike, not a preemptive strike, as Perry and Carter mistakenly suggest) is the most reasonable course of action, it will cost us dearly, and might very well backfire. This administration has acted so irrationally to this point that many even reasonable people will see this as fitting into that pattern of irrational action. We twisted the facts to rationalize military action in Iraq, our diplomacy with Iraq, Iran, and North Korea has been incompetent, we were too eager to suggest military--even nuclear--strikes against Iran...and so now when we may, in fact, need to take decisive, preventive and aggressive action, we are at a disadvantage. We are like the boy who cried 'wolf'...or, rather, like the boy who cried 'wolf' and then fired blindly into the bushes. We now have a reputation for the dangerously irresponsible use of force and threats thereof, and that is a burden that will weigh us down for years--and perhaps decades--to come.

Some people--the hate America crowd at home and abroad--will always find a way to blame the U.S. no matter what we do. So there is no reason for us to take their opinions into account. The unreasonably aggressive actions of the Bush administration, however, have created a situation in which even many reasonable individuals and governments who would normally support our action will, instead, see this as yet another act of aggression and hegemony by a superpower out of control.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Foreign Policy Lysenkoism

Synopsis of Suskind's book here. (Via Metafilter) Quoth Michiko Kakutani in the NYT:

Just as disturbing as Al Qaeda's plans and capabilities are the descriptions of the Bush administration's handling of the war on terror and its willful determination to go to war against Iraq. That war, according to the author's sources who attended National Security Council briefings in 2002, was primarily waged "to make an example" of Saddam Hussein, to "create a demonstration model to guide the behavior of anyone with the temerity to acquire destructive weapons or, in any way, flout the authority of the United States."

"The One Percent Doctrine" amplifies an emerging portrait of the administration (depicted in a flurry of recent books by authors as disparate as the Reagan administration economist Bruce Bartlett and the former Coalition Provisional Authority adviser Larry Diamond) as one eager to circumvent traditional processes of policy development and policy review, and determined to use experts (whether in the C.I.A., the Treasury Department or the military) not to help formulate policy, but simply to sell predetermined initiatives to the American public.

Mr. Suskind writes that the war on terror gave the president and vice president "vast, creative prerogatives": "to do what they want, when they want to, for whatever reason they decide" and to "create whatever reality was convenient." The potent wartime authority granted the White House in the wake of 9/11, he says, dovetailed with the administration's pre-9/11 desire to amp up executive power (diminished, Mr. Cheney and others believed, by Watergate) and to impose "message discipline" on government staffers.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.
The Kind of People We're Fighting

Haven't read this yet, but it looks interesting. The International Crisis Group on the composition of the Iraqi insurgency. Although the title ("Reading the Iraqi Insurgency") doesn't inspire confidence (most of what uses 'reading' or 'narrative' in that Po-Mo-y way is crap*), this looks like it could be interesting.

*Notable exception: Richard Smyth's unbelievably good Reading Peirce Reading...the best thing by far I've ever read on C. S. Peirce.

Stolen Glasses

Warning: purely personal bitching below.

You know, I'm not what you'd call a violent person (though admittedly I've been involved in more than my share of dust-ups...never at my instigation). However, if I catch the sorry SOB who stole my glasses off the top of the water cooler at the gym today, I'm going to kick his ass up between his shoulder blades.

I mean what kind of low-life piece of crap steals somebody's prescription glasses? I had to call JQ to come pick me up 'cause I couldn't even see to drive the car home.

'Course, it could have been the gym's resident Crazy Lady. That seems to be the consensus among the knowledgeable. That, of course, would be different.
Stupid F*cking Moderates

Can you believe this f*cking b*llsh*t? Come the revolution, this guy is so up against the wall.

[Note: humor.]
The Kind of People We're Dealing With

Tried and failed to think about something intelligent to say about the fact that Pfc.s Menchaca and Tucker were tortured and beheaded. Failed to do so.

We should, of course, reflect on the sacrifice that these two men have made.

I think we should also reflect on this evidence about the kind of people we're dealing with. If they're sane--and that, as they say, is a big 'if'--then they're very, very bad people.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Suskind Says CIA Says OBL Wanted Bush to Win in 2004

Haven't read the book, dunno what the evidence looks like. Wish I could have seen the evidence with info that would distinguish between Bush and Kerry redacted before hearing the conclusion. I, of course, think that OBL would have been a fool not to root for Bush. Bush is the best thing that hever happened to al Qaeda. Had Al Gore been president in 2001, OBL would be a smudge on the floor of a cave in Tora Bora. Bush's irrational actions have kept al Qaeda in the game far longer than any sane person could have predicted. I'd bet large amounts of money that they wanted Bush to win.

Suskind's claim is apparently that the CIA has drawn the same conclusion, though I don't know what their reasons are like. But they know more than we do, so if this is, in fact, their conclusion then it's probably the best guess we have.
The Courage of Our Convictions

After the 2000 election, many liberals said that the election had been stolen. (My position, as I guess you know by now, is that it wasn't exactly stolen, but the Bushies tried to steal it. Since it's unclear and perhaps indeterminate who really won, it's not clear that they succeeded.)

Conservatives often offered the following challenge: if you really think the election was stolen, shouldn't you be resisting the coup with force? Like most of what the right said during and about the election debacle, this was mostly said for political effect. But there was an important point there. Perhaps to my shame, perhaps not, I actually pondered this question during the disaster that was the (semi-)recount, before conservatives turned the question into a rhetorical trick. That is, I wondered whether we in general--and I in particular--should consider the use of force to oppose the theft of the election. My deliberations became most intense when the Florida legislature threatened to send Bush electors to the meeting of the Electoral College even if Gore won the recount. Since I did believe that the Bush gang was attempting what amounted to a coup, shouldn't I be willing to use force to prevent that?

Well, I'm not exactly proud of these thoughts, but I'm not exactly ashamed of them, either. I never came close to even coming close to getting serious about the use of force, but I did think that the question forced itself on us, even if abstractly. In the end the Bushies had plausible--though only barely plausible--deniability as regards the charge of coup. When SCOTUS backed them up, that was decisive in my mind...even though Bush v. Gore is more-or-less a travesty. At any rate, the question was never called. The use of such force would have to be a last resort, and we never got anything like that far. Nevertheless, the conservatives' rhetorical challenge should provide us with food for thought. Some liberals say that they do believe that Bush did steal the election. If that is so, then why did they not advocate the use of force to prevent the coup?

That situation, perhaps, sheds some light on a current question. Today, the right urges us to "get over it" with regard to the Bush administration's pre-war lies. But if one does really believe that the president lied us into a war, surely it is not reasonable to just "get over it." If conservatives really believe that their earlier rhetorical challenge is defensible, they should be willing to stand by its spirit today. That is they should be willing to say "If you really think he lied to get us into a war, then you should work to have him impeached." Though their motive in 2000 was just to shut us up, they were right in two ways. First, if we really think that someone has stolen an American presidential election, then we should be willing to oppose them with force. Second, reflecting on this in 2000 should have helped us realize that the facts were inconclusive--that is, that it was not clear that the election had, in fact, been stolen. Hence forceful action would have been unwarranted and unjust. That is: reflection on the seriousness of the consequent of the conditional should have helped us see that the evidence for the antecedent was too inconclusive to warrant such profound action. But in that case it was not reasonable to continue to assert that Bush had in fact stolen the election.

Today the relevant conditional is obviously true: If one believes that a president has lied us into a war, then one should work to have him impeached. In the election debacle, reflecting on the relevant conditional helped some of us realize that we didn't really believe that the election had clearly been stolen--that is, to reject the antecedent instead of accepting the consequent. It is unlikely that reflection on the new conditional, however, will lead us to an analogous conclusion. The evidence of dishonesty in the lead-up to Iraq is too strong; simply rejecting the antecedent in this case does not seem like a rational option. That means that, assuming the truth of the conditional, we must accept its consequent. And that means that we must work for Bush's impeachment.

In the face of substantial evidence of such wrong-doing it is unreasonable to suggest that we "get over it," and conservatives can, no doubt, see this in their cool hours. What's needed here--as they would, no doubt, conceed if the president were a Democrat--is a full investigation. If the president is exonerated, then so be it. But, short of this, "getting over it" is simply not an option.
Things to Be Thankful for, 6/20/06 Edition: That I'm not Jonah Goldberg

Many people think JG is stupid, but, like so many "pundits" he's really a guy of more-or-less average intelligence who is just blinded by partisanship. Consider this, for example (linked-to approvingly by bird-of-a-feather Instapundit).

Now, with two seconds thought and anything even vaguely resembling intellectual honesty, one can easily explain this unsurprising and not-terribly-important datum--something that isn't even important enough to require explanation, actually. But instead this is just posted (and linked-to) without serious commentary, as a cheap way to prod the dittoheads into "ditto"ing. Which is, of course, what much political "discussion" on the internet is about.

(Crossfire is dead, and deservedly so...but who needs it anymore? We've got the internet...which is like a million soliloquies by Tucker Carlson and James Carville...the two sides needn't even pretend to engage with each other anymore.)

Bonus! Lesson for liberals in this: we do this too, more often than we'd like to admit. Now, see how stupid this is? See how embarrassing? Let's not be like those guys, o.k.? Or, rather, since this kind of crap seems inevitable in politics, let's minimize the number of times we act like these tools.

Here endeth the sermon.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Buncha Polls: (Mostly Recent) Presidents, Best and Worst

Here, via Atrios.

These are extremely interesting. The funniest thing is the ridiculous now-o-centrism of some of these polls, some of which rank Clinton as a better president than Lincoln and/or Washington. And if that weren't absurd enough, they rank Reagan above them as well. In fact, the second-funniest thing about these polls is how often the Reagan-was-a-great-president myth pops up.

Anyway, there are lots of polls--too many to summarize here--but two other surprising things are (a) how well Bill Clinton comes off in most of them, and (b) how badly Bush '43 comes off. Despite the relentless and well-funded pro-Reagan and anti-Clinton campaigns, the two men often come out more-or-less tied. There's no good news in here for Dubya, though, I'm afraid. No, wait...I think that in one of these polls 1% of the respondents rate him as (note: not making this up) the greatest president of all time. Think about that one.
Foreign Policy: The Terrorism Index

Via Metafilter. I'm not even through with this yet and I can tell that it's something you guys would want to read. So here it is.

The blurb:
"Is the United States winning the war on terror? Not according to more than 100 of America’s top foreign-policy hands. They see a national security apparatus in disrepair and a government that is failing to protect the public from the next attack."

This comes as quite a surprise to me. I would have guessed that the answer would be more like "we're winning, of course, but we're winning by a slimmer margin that any sane person could have predicted on 9/12/01."
The American Hunters and Shooters Association

I've been looking for a group to take the place of the now hopelessly right-wing NRA for a long time, and AHSA looks like it fits the bill. (via Kevin Drum) The NRA used to be a sportsman's and shooter's group, and my family always belonged to it. I think my dad still might, but I quit a long time ago. In fact, I got kicked out of the Rivanna Rifle and Pistol Club for dropping my NRA membership. Their story is that the NRA provides them with insurance, so you have to be a member--and that's probably part of the story. But they were not happy when I questioned the NRA, and wouldn't even consider letting me pay for my own insurance to use the range. Since that was the only range within 50 miles, that meant virually no shooting for me for years.

For years after I quit, I'd get calls from the NRA trying to get me to renew, and I got into many arguments with the folks working their phone bank. One thing I'll say for them, they weren't hired flunkies, but true believers. Man, I don't think I've ever encountered folks who love fully-automatic weapons and hate Bill Clinton half that much. No kidding.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Two Soldiers Missing Is Extremely Bad News

I haven't posted on this because I expect it doesn't require comment. I suppose we're all very worried about those guys, and I suppose we all realize that falling into the hands of the insurgency is about the last thing you want to do.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Instapundit's Spin on Bullshit Republican Iraq Resolution

These people really are shameless.

Didja note the continued attempt to link the Iraq invasion to 9/11? They really don't give a damn about the facts. Just say it over and over again until you hypnotize people. That's the goal.
Willful Ignorance

Will someone please explain to Insty why this is dumb?

Oh, wait...he already understands. He's just pretending not to.

Which is not to say that I disagree with the more general point that Dems are whining too much about leaving rather than winning. For I do. They make it easy for the Republicans to paint them as cutters and runners, b/c much of what many of them say sounds suspiciously close to "hey, gang, let's cut and run!"

Not that I blame them that much. I mean, in a situation like this I think we have to put more blame on the party that supported the idiotic and disastrous policy than we do on the party that says "let's abandon this idiotic and disastrous policy"...even when abandoning it would be worse. But for the implementation of the idiotic and disastrous policy, we wouldn't face this choice in the first place.

Still, I wish the Dems didn't always make it so damn easy for the Republicans to do the wrong thing. Because it's not like they're insufficiently inclined to do so already...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Simpsons Contra Postmodernism

Good evening, I'm Leonard Nimoy. The following tale of alien encounters is true. And by true I mean false. It's all lies. But they're entertaining lies. And in the end, isn't that the truth? The answer is "no".
--Leonard Nimoy
The Springfield Files, Episode 8.10
Bush Hates Blind People.

Well, there's this.

Linked to approvingly by Atrios here.

So, let me get this straight:

Person A does something a little peculiar, x. Person B kids person A for doing x. Unbeknownst to B, it turns out that A did x because A has a disability. A is not angry or hurt, and acknowledges that B couldn't have known about the disability. Ergo B is a bad person.

Am I missing anything?

You Know Your Insomnia's Bad When...

...You get kicked out of the UNC sleep lab at 4am for not sleeping...

(grumble, complain, kvetch, get some satisfaction from feeling sorry for self)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Hawaii Advice

So, Johnny Quest and I were recently given a bunch of frequent-flyer and frequent-sleeper miles/points--enough to send us to Hawaii for a week (i.e., a week not including travel time). (Incidentally, we were given these miles by JQ's big-business-dude father, who, in addition to being absurdly generous, actually does something that makes the world a better place. Somebody remind me about this next time I'm on an anti-business jag...)

We're most interested in the following things: (1) Snorkeling; (2) hiking (probaly in Kauai); (3) seeing volcanos; (4) seeing Pearl Harbor. We're flying into Oahu.

Then what?

Any advice on this matter would be greatly appreciated.

Also: how hard is to to learn to scuba dive?
Those Damned Centrists

Here's a bit from the American Prospect. For 25 points, evaluate Adler's analysis of the Thomas Friedman claim.

Home De-Pot

I was just getting ready to head to Home Depot anyway to get something for the pater familias for Father's Day. No kidding! I was going anyway!
Escherian Blog Post

Will this experiment in self-reference crash the whole internets? Let's find out.
Hooters has $200 Champagne???

Man, you learn something new every day.

(Not to turn everything partisan, but just imagine if you will that this had happened in Clinton's FEMA. James Lee Witt would be in front of a Congressional committee so fast his Blackberry would spin, and we'd be treated to long sermons about the corrosive effect of having a libertine in the Oval Office, about how all this sinfulness was trickling down from the top, about the evils of sex, and about how breasts were made for nursing babies, not for looking at. (Which is not to say that I don't find the GGW stuff revoltin'. I'm very pro-erotica, but anti-gettting-18-yr-old-girls-drunk-and-then-selling-tapes-of-their-indiscretions-on-tv. Just for the record.))

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Why People Ridicule Liberals, 6/13/06 Edition

I was checking out Instapundit's gleeful and triumphant Rove's not in jail and Bush is in Baghdad roundups, which took me to Pajamas Media (I know, I know), which took me to this comment at DKos.

I mean now really. Look, I've got nothing but contempt for Karl Rove, and the most I can muster for Mr. Bush is, on a rare day, just shy of no respect whatsoever. But, um, look: if this is the kind of thing that transforms you into a sniveling weepy-man who needs to be comforted by your daughter...then...then...that's...BAD, see?

CheChe, you ain't doing us any favors here, bud.

Anyway, for a different kind of hoot, do go check out the chest-thumping triumphalism at Pajamas Media. It's almost as funny/sad as CheChe's crying jag...but not quite. See, apparently the fact that one guy in the Bush administration was actually innocent of something means that the Bush administration is a success! Garsh.
Science Made Stupid: Time and the Aymara

I am not even going to get into this right now.

The little bit in here that's not fairly stupid is actually a bit interesting. Apparently the Aymara gesture behind themselves to indicate the future, and in front of themselves to indicate the past. Pretty cool/weird, eh?

If you don't suffer fools gladly, however, don't click on the link. This gestural quirk of the Aymara is used as an evidential base for leaping to some jaw-droppingly dopey conclusions. Here's the summary of the news report (I want to stress that I am not making this up, and they're being serious, not cute):

"New analysis of the language and gesture of South America's indigenous Aymara people indicates they have a concept of time opposite to all the world's studied cultures -- so that the past is ahead of them and the future behind."

(Puts head in hand, grumbles incoherently, goes back to work on alleged book.)
Rove Innocent In Plame Case

There's a lesson for us here.

Just because someone sucks and is a bad person doesn't mean he's guilty.

Monday, June 12, 2006

I Say We Steal A Play From The Other Side's Playbook...

And blame the increase in violent crime on the expanded role of religion in public life.

Or maybe on the teaching of creationism in schools...
A New Kind of Suicide Attack

The Guantanamo camp commander has asserted that the suicides of three prisoners constitute "an act of asymmetric warfare waged against us."

Does this mean the terrorist threat level will now be elevated to...oh, Or zxyrwvrt? Apparently the GWoT is not not only a forever war, but a war that takes us into new dimensions of thought. When they told us that everything was different after 9/11 I didn't realize they meant...ya know...logic...

And, the Deputy Secretary of State for "Public Diplomacy" (a susidiary of the Ministry of Truth) a truly heart-warming display of empathy...called the suicides "a good PR move." (via James Wimberley at Kleiman's digs)

Is it just me, or have these people (broadly construed) simply gone bat-shit crazy?
The Wit and Wisdom of Rush Limbaugh, 6/12/06 Edition

"It is going to be a gang rape. There is going to be a gang rape by the Democratic Party, the American left and the Drive-By Media, to finally take us out in the war against Iraq." -- Rush Limbaugh, on Haditha

Um, about that thing I said about longing for the Limbaugh days...
Ann Coulter: Comedian?

Soooo...have you heard this newest right-wing meme in the service of defending Ann-eurysm? Now it turns out she actually a comedian! Get it? When she ridicules the agony of 9-11 widows, it's not supposed to be a painful truth that, nevertheless, we need to's in order to get a laugh!

Ha ha! I get it!

Disclaimer: this should not be construed as a call to ban Coulter's "work", but merely an attempt to call bullshit on bullshit. Aside from being protected by the First Amendment, Ms. Coulter's obvious derangement may make her eligible for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I know I've mentioned this before, but doesn't it strike anyone else as being a little weird that so many prominent right-wing media heroes are so fond of accusing liberals of being traitors, or of having mental problems, when so many of them actually...well, are traitors or have mental problems...or both? Coulter (nut), Liddy (traitor, nut), North (traitor, nut).

Maybe that's why we keep losing...there's a traitor/nut gap. We just don't have anybody who stacks up against those guys.

Jeez, gimme the good old days of just Rush Limbaugh. An intellectually dishonest showman...a sort of poor man's...or dumb man's...P. T. Barnum, mangling the facts for a buck. Not to say that I'm not disgusted by someone who'd be willing to get rich by attacking the roots of our democracy (i.e. rational, civil discourse)... Still, he seemed somehow less nauseating than the other bunch. Though since Limbaugh seems to realize what he's doing, he's probably morally culpable, whereas it's not clear that the other three even really understand what they're doing.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

"Sweetness and Light" Falsely Claims Democrats Endorse Ban of Coulter's Book


Two New Jersey Congresswomen issued a press release in response to Coulter's claims that 9-11 widows who speak out politically in ways of which she does not approve were enjoying their husbands deaths. Contrary to the claim of "Sweetness and Light," they did not advocate a ban of the book. Here's the relevant part of the press release:

"No one in New Jersey should buy this book and allow Ann Coulter to profit from her hate-mongering. We are asking New Jersey retailers statewide to stand with us and express their outrage by refusing to carry or sell copies of Coulter’s book. Her hate-filled attacks on our 9-11 widows has no place on New Jersey bookshelves."

They're right about that. Coulter is a psycho, and I'll bet her book has no more place on respectable bookshelves than, say, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Noting this, however, does not amount to advocating banning the book. That would be a clear violation of the First Amendment. (Question: would we really die for Ann Coulter's right to spout her ignorant, hate-filled cant? Oh, jeez... Let's let ourselves not think about that one...)

If this constitutes advocating a bad then the right has advocated many such bans...including, e.g., of Dixie Chicks CDs. But of course it isn't a ban. It's just more conservative hysteria.

See, brutally attacking 9-11 widows is o.k.; however pointing out that someone has brutally attacked them is not. And pointing out that people shouldn't buy her books constitutes book banning. The folks at Sweetness and Light apparently need to go back to seventh-grade civics class. Well, the really just need to reflect on the obvious and important difference between (a) saying "you shouldn't read that BS" and (b) making it illegal to read said BS.

Remind me about this crap next time I start complaining about liberals, o.k.?
Republicans Defeat Net Neutrality Amendment

Here. (Via Kevin Drum)
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: Strong Evidence That the 2004 Election Was Stolen

At Rolling Stone.

Stunningly strong evidence, actually. Not conclusive by any stretch of the imagination, but far stronger than what would be requried to force an investigation.

I did not seriously think that the results of the 2004 election were in doubt. In 2000 I hung on every news report about the count for months, long after the recount had ended. It's always been clear that the 2000 decision was made on doubful grounds. But I believed that we simply and honestly lost in 2004.

After reading Kennedy's piece, I do not believe that any more. Now I don't know what to believe.

If Kennedy is right about even 25% of this, everyone in the country, Democrat and Republican, should be outraged and demanding an investigation. In fact, the evidence that Kennedy marshals is so strong that that I frankly have a hard time believing it. Unless he's leaving out extraordinarily strong considerations on the other side of the argument, then this is basically an open and shut case--a hand-recount must be done of every ballot in Ohio immediately. As Kennedy notes, if a recount is not ordered by November 2 of this year, the Republican Secretary of State--a man strongly implicated in the alleged electoral theft--will be allowed to order that the ballots be shredded.

My conclusion is that Kennedy is likely to be wrong about much of this, or must be leaving out extremely important data. But we won't know whether that's true without a serious national discussion about this, and that probably won't happen unless the media gets off its collective butt and starts reporting on the story.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

DeYoung and Pincus on al-Zarqawi

No time for much now...gotta get to the farmers' market to snag some of the last strawberries of the season...hey, I got my priorities...

But it just me, or does this Post story by Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus suggest a level of dishonesty (by the U.S. about Zarqawi's importance) that isn't actually born out by the evidence they cite?

Of course the administration lied about Zarqawi proving a Saddam-al Qaeda link, but that's a different issue.

The crucial paragraphs:

In addition to his indisputably prominent role in the Iraqi insurgency, Zarqawi was always a useful source of propaganda for the administration. Magnification of his role and of the threat he posed grew to the point that some senior intelligence officers believed it was counterproductive.

But the administration also occasionally found it useful to play down Zarqawi's importance and influence. In early 2004, the then-governing Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad triumphantly displayed an intercepted letter from Zarqawi to the al-Qaeda leadership that it said illustrated the terrorist's despair in the face of an increasingly competent U.S.-trained Iraqi security force.

"The exact quote he uses is, and I quote Mr. Zarqawi, 'With the spread of the army and police, our future is becoming frightening,' " CPA spokesman Dan Senor told a Baghdad news conference. Similar publicity was given to a letter intercepted last year in which al-Qaeda's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, humbled Zarqawi with criticism of his public beheading of hostages and attacks on fellow Muslims.

At times, the conflicting messages seemed to overlap. In April, a top U.S. military official cited Zarqawi's failure to disrupt elections for a new Iraqi government as "a tactical admission" of defeat. Zarqawi and al-Qaeda, said Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, XVIII Airborne Corps commander, in a Washington address, "no longer view Iraq as fertile ground to establish a caliphate and as a place to conduct international terrorism."

That same month, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, U.S. military spokesman, told a Baghdad news briefing that more than 90 percent of the suicide attacks in Iraq were carried out by terrorist forces recruited and trained by Zarqawi.

The suggestion seems to be that the U.S. was representing Zarqawi as important or unimportant as it suited their interests...but I'm not sure the evidence here really shows anything like that.

Am I missing something?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Postmodern Scientist No Doubt Headed for Top Position in the Bush Administration

"Rogue Scientist Has Own Scientific Method," at the inimitable Onion.

You may think this is a total farce...but it sounds a lot like Paul Feyerabend in Against Method and the aptly-titled Farewell to Reason. (Feyerabend, incidentally, isn't a postmodernist or even a continental. Analytic philosophy produces its kooks, too.)
Charles Krauthammer is...Making (A Wee Bit of) Sense?!?!?!?!?

Uh, I'm as stunned as you are... But he does have some decent points in todays Post. Now, remember: good does not mean sufficiently good, nor dispository, but, rather, worthy of consideration.

He can't resist the urge to call those who disagree with him dimwitted...well, actually he says we might just be grossly partisan...but try to ignore that for the purposes of considering the substance of his argument.

I and most people I know consider it fairly obvious that banning same-sex marriage is analogous to banning marriage between people of different races. Consequently, this is an issue of fundamental human and civil rights. Consequently the courts have every right to step in.

Krauthammer, in essence, denies this and asserts that ancient and (at least nearly universal) social norms should at least get presumption, putting the burden of proof on our side. (I am inclined to think we can carry this burden, but never mind that now).

He also asserts that that the charge of divisiveness is more naturally made against those of us who seek to overturn the well-entrenched tradition than it is against those who seek to defend it. That seems like a reasonable point to me.

Of course, divisiveness (a cousin of incivility) is sometimes permissible and sometimes it may be in this case. If we are right about the moral permissibility of same-sex marriage, then we're obligated to be divisive by promoting social change which (like racial integration) many citizens oppose. But Krauthammer's point remains reasonable--we're the ones being divisive.

He goes on to argue that our "partisanship and dimwittedness" have obscured the discussion of the two possible grounds for the FMA, federalism and popular sovereignty. His discussion there is worth a read, even though I don't find it particularly persuasive.

My own view on this, in brief, is that those who pushed to legalize same-sex marriage back in '03-'04 made a gigantic mistake. The likelihood of success was small, and it may very well have cost us the 2004 election. It was far more important to the world to have gotten Bush out of office. The push to legalize same-sex marriage--important as it is--is far less important and should have waited. Jumping the gun also almost got us the FMA.

I'm also inclined to think that we need to push for civil unions instead. Too many of our fellow citizens are too adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage right now, and the difference between marriage and civil union is unimportant. I'm usually inclined to say "that's just bigotry, and the sentiments of bigots do not enter into such calculations"... But I guess I'm becoming more willing to show some deference to conservative arguments about the justificatory weight of tradition. Tradition is in no way sacred, but in tough and controversial cases it can give us a reason to go slow.

Incidentally, the civil union option should also be made available to different-sex couples. Heterosexual liberals could then show their solidarity with homosexual couples by getting unionized instead of getting married. Eventually...and it'd probably only take ten or fifteen years...people will get used to homosexual civil unions and opposition to same-sex marriage will fade. At that point a push for same-sex marriage could succeed.

But, of course, I've got nonstandard views on marriage anyway. Johnny Quest and I have more-or-less decided not to get married, in part to hit back against the social pressure to get married. We don't like people telling us what to do, especially generations of dead people.