Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Blog Comments & Email Mean NOTHING

While Glenn Greenwald is sometimes a little verbose for my tastes, he makes excellent arguments and the Logic Ref rarely feels the need to call foul on him. Today he makes an excellent point regarding the attempt to use blog comments (and sometimes hate emails) to prove something about what your political opponents think. In this case, the comments in question are related to the recent suicide-bombing in Afghanistan, and some people commenting that they wish Cheney had been killed or some other nonsense.

The usual suspects, shocked by such anti-american, hateful sentiments, broadcast them to the world as evidence that liberals are angry, venomous, and hate the USA. Sigh.

What these comments (and others you will find on conservative blogs, and on message boards whose subject matter ranges from horticulture to football) mean is that the internet is full of trolls. Nothing more. The internet is a relatively anonymous communication medium, and this has the effect of encouraging people to spew out things they would never express in person. This effect was the subject of a recent New York Times article.

Furthermore, it's just silly to collect the most ill-considered and offensive comments or emails you can find and use them to conclude that 'liberals,' a group that includes tens of millions of people in this country alone, are blinded by partisan hate. It's silly to use any small sample of a given group to make conclusions about the whole group. How would Malkin or the NRO people react if I were to conclude, based on Abu Ghraib, that all American soldiers are sadistic, sexually deviant torturers? 'Nuff said

Similarly, the fact that someone recieves hate email does not say anything about their political opposition; anyone with a modicum of fame (and certainly any blogger, or someone who's reputation comes from their work online, and who's email address is published) gets hate mail like the rest of us get spam. Michelle Malkin is particularly annoying in this regard as she constantly uses racist hate mail she recieves to malign liberals.

Say it with me now: the internet is full of trolls. The fact that one of them said something mean and nasty to you means exactly squat.


Opponents of the administration's war efforts should realize that it would have been a very BAD thing if Cheney had been killed. Do we really want more nationalistic militarism stirred up by the assasination of our #2 by a suicide bomber?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Flypaper Theory

Remember how Iraq is supposed to act as a sort of terrorist fly-paper, drawing them in to a certain death fighting the US army? Well, there are a lot of people dying in the act of fighting the US army, but that doesn't seem to be decreasing the incidence of terrorism worldwide, according to this post by Kevin Drum.

Of course, this theory was always crap. There's nothing keeping any terrorists who may be in Iraq from leaving the country and launching attacks elsewhere. The US army does not patrol the borders seeking to keep people in, and any terrorist who doesn't actively "fight us over there" will be unmolested by our forces. The right often makes a point of rhetorically asking if liberals think the terrorists would just lay down their weapons and leave us alone. Well, if by terrorists you mean the Sunnis, then the answer is yes. If you mean Al Qaeda, of course the answer is no, but we'd be in a better position to combat Al Qaeda, and we wouldn't be giving the insurgents in Iraq reason to make common cause with them.

Speaking of terrorism, I have to comment on the incessent bitching from right wing bloggers that the media should stop referring to fighters in Iraq as insurgents and instead label them terrorists (I realize I'm about 3 years late on this, but I just started blogging).

Guerilla warfare does not equal terror. Killing US soldiers is a perfectly legitimate thing for people who at war with us to do. Yes, guerrillas who don't wear uniforms violate the Geneva conventions, but they didn't sign them; they are simply giving up any claim to protection under them. Yes, we are within our rights to withhold Geneva protections from them, but we do it anyway for reasons of self-interest.

Setting an IED to kill US soldiers does not make you a terrorist. Intentionally killing civillians makes you a terrorist. No, I am not 'on the side' of our enemies in our Iraq, and I think the army should do everything it can to kill people setting IEDs, but if we're going to have a long drawn out war terror, we need to be clear and consistent about what terrorism is. The State department has a perfectly serviceable definition of terrorism:

The term "terrorism" means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.

It's not hard to see that killing soldiers who have invaded your country (even if that invasion were just) does not meet the definition.

Why are we shocked that people with vastly inferior resources refuse to fight us on equal terms?
Do we really expect people without jets and cruise missiles to line up in uniform and fight us on a battlefield?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Who's Responsible for Preventing Rape?

Jessica at Feministing is upset that the Scotsmen has 'put the onus on women' to prevent themselves from being raped.

I suggest that warning women is simply more effective. Women are more likely to be raped than men, and because people are self-centered, they care more about threats to their own well-being, and warning those at risk that certain situations are pose greater risks seems like a sensible way to help stop rape. Warnings to men not to rape women will probably be ignored, and can also convince them feminists are out to get them, desensitizing them to the problem of rape.

OF COURSE it's the rapist's fault and his responsibility not to rape, but my hunch is that rapists aren't concerned about rules or responsibility. It's not a rich persons fault if they are mugged and have their fancy watch stolen. The could, however, have decreased the risk of such an event by not wearing fancy jewelry in high-crime areas.

I'm tempted to foray into the questions of consent and intoxication, but I'll leave most of that for later. I will say that I do not think an intoxicated person cannot consent to have sex (that would make a large percentage of the sex that occurs rape), and that I think we ought to have different laws and penalties for violent rape attacks and the 'date rape' sort of cases where the issue is whether or not there was consent.

American Exceptionalism

In some ways, America truly is an exceptional nation, often in a literal sense of the word. Most of the western industrialized democracies offer much more than we do in terms of social welfare, our immigration system is very different from most of Europe, our foreign policy and military might stand out from the crowd, and, of course, our history is different (although somewhat similar to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand). In all these ways, we are indeed an exception to the norm.
There are also things that make the American 'national character' distinctive, and all of this is very interesting, and worth talking and writing about.

When used by the politicians or the media, however, American exceptionalism often means something much more sweeping: a view that America alone is capable of changing the world, or has the right to set the world in order; that Americans are more virtuous than other peoples, and deserving of a place at the top of pecking order.

Some of this is just pandering, but I think the long-term effects of absorbing this strain of thought are pernicious and insidious. You can see it on both sides of the aisle, when President Bush tells us that responding to 9-11 with courage is "distinctly American," or when Barak Obama says that it's only in America that a poor kid from a mixed family can make it.

Somebody better tell all those half-white half-Kenyan kids in the UK or Australia to just give it up now. And those limey bastards across the seas just cried and shat themselves when they got hit.

Can we please stop pretending that we're the only country with hard-working people who can rise to the occasion and do extraordinary things? And can we please stop saying that America is "the freest nation on earth" as if this was somehow obvious? What's so unfree about France? the UK? New Zealand?

Shower Sex at Yale

Apparently, a couple of students at Yale are living it up in the coed dorm shower stalls. A conservative blogger at the University sees a continued decline into the void of moral bankruptcy created by Yale's intellectuals (surely liberal elites). Please. We're talkling about COLLEGE STUDENTS here, and the fact that one couple out of 300 students is getting it on in every possible location is hardly surprising.

At Dartmouth, students commonly try to do it in several notable campus locations, including the library and the 50-yard line.

Ezra points out that coed showers hardly encourage shower sex, and are probably an impediment.

I would add that shower sex is not nearly as fun as it sounds. Good sex requires some degree of lubrication (natural or synthetic), which gets washed off by the water. Turning off the water just means having sex in a tiled room while wet, which is hardly fantasy material.

Paris Hilton For President!

Matthew Yglesias laments that no one is taking Bill Richardson's presidential campaign at all seriously because he's short on celebrity, even though he's got qualifications up the wazoo (served in congress, energy secretary, ambassador to the UN). Today we seem to care less about demonstrated competence and experience than celebrity, fame, likeability.

I'm usually skeptical of the amount of influence the media has on our thinking, but the media strike me as the obvious source of this phenomenon. Is the populace really clamoring for celebrity politicians over career civil servants? I do believe that in a democracy you get the government you deserve, and America really does seem to deserve a Hilton/Richie administration.