Thursday, May 24, 2007

When Republicans Are Right. . .

They're partially right. The democrats are, I am sorry to say, actually cowards. But it's not about failing to stand up to terrorists and dictators. As I've said before, "standing up" to much weaker countries when you legislate for the most powerful country in the world that is currently filled with nationalistic sentiment, is actually an incredibly easy political choice.

What does make the Democrats quiver in their little pink boots, apparently, is the though of actually sticking by their principles and opposing the president even if he says mean things about them. Instead, they've caved to the president, in the face of overwhelming public support of their position, and taken the deadlines out of the Iraq bill. Money quote:
Democrats said they did not relish the prospect of leaving Washington for a Memorial Day break — the second recess since the financing fight began — and leaving themselves vulnerable to White House attacks that they were again on vacation while the troops were wanting. That criticism seemed more politically threatening to them than the anger Democrats knew they would draw from the left by bowing to Mr. Bush.
What??? They're afraid they might look bad over memorial day weekend? Could they do anything more to make confirm Republican suggestions that they are weak and indecisive? The public is on your side, morons, throw this "not supporting the troops" shit back in Bush's face!

"not supporting the troops" is such a vague, meaningless canard that it only has weight and meaning if you act like it does. Throw it up against Bush and he'll reject it out of hand, and for that very reason, it won't work. Why the Democrats don't see this is beyond me.

And Yglesias makes a great point. Who gives a flying fuck how the Democrats look over the weekend? It's how they look in November 2008 that matters, and they'll look a hell of a lot smarter if they were trying to bring this debacle to an end in May 2007.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Credit Where It's Due

Sometimes someone else just makes your point better than you, in which case, it's best to just let them speak. Julian Sanchez clarifies what I was trying to saying yesterday about the notion we should always respond aggressively to provocation:
have you ever noticed that there's a radical disconnect, according to the mainstream hawk narrative, between how we react to attacks, and how our opponents are imagined to react? If someone attempts to attack or intimidate us, as we all know, this invariably backfires, for the American people merely become more resolute and determined to defend ourselves and/or strike back. We don't back down. It's dangerous to attack us.

But apparently, we're supposed to be unique in this way. If, as Ron Paul did last night, you suggest that people elsewhere in the world might react similarly when we intervene in or attack other countries, it is offensive and crazy to even suggest that this may fuel their animosity or make them prone to retaliate. I guess we're just special here.

Testify brother.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Why Noam? Why?

I like Noam Chomsky a lot. I like his books, his lectures on DVD, and I'm usually prepared to defend him against those who accuse him of hating America, thinking the west is evil, and the like.

Usually, my biggest criticism of him is that his writing often gives you the impression that violence, coercion, and subjugation in the world are all getting worse, when he actually explicitly states that things are much better across the board.

But today I saw Noam on Penn & Teller's show Bullshit!, albeit on a selectively cut interview, defending speech codes on college campuses because the college is "a student's home" and you have a right not to be assaulted by speech in your home.

Is the campus not also the offender's home? Where should they put up their posters, shout their slogans, or make their insensitive remarks if not inside their "homes"?

The notion that public universities, funded by tax money, are the home of whoever happens to be studying there also sounds ridiculous to me. I suppose that private universities have every right to institute speech codes, I just think it's a terrible idea. Haven't we learned that freedom of speech is good? And since when did being offended become such a terrible thing?

Say it with me now everyone: Fuck speech codes!

The "Weakness" Thing

Bernard Lewis writes an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal saying essentially that the Soviets were feared in the Middle East because it was known they would retaliate whereas we would wring our hands and try to apologize. All until The Decider came to save the day and unleashed a shocking counter-attack (despite, perhaps, attacking the wrong target), but now that liberals are in charge again Muslims have regained hope of destroying our will to fight.

A couple of thoughts:

First, the idea that people will think you are weak if you don't retaliate has some merit, but it's constantly employed as if it were an absolute, and no other considerations should be made. And while we may be feared if our response to anything that displeased us was massive retaliation, it's not hard to see how that could unite smaller countries against us and make us less safe. It's not like other countries couldn't also adopt a policy of escalation in response to the slightest provocation. Oh yeah, and there's that thing about how it's wrong to kill people.

There are some quibbles
with the history Lewis is recounting. I don't know much about the period, but the two examples he gave where an instance in which the USSR retaliated for a kidnapping through local agents murdering some of the perpetrators, and the Afghan war. While covert assasination may achieve some ends, I marvel at how the world has changed when the burden of proof is on those who DON'T want to use methods that characterized Soviet Russia. And while Muslim countries may have equivocated in opposing Russia's invasion of Afghanistan, this may reflect the fact that the Islamic world is not, in fact, united, and ethnic loyalties are at least as important as religious ones. And again, Russia's war in Afghanistan is hardly the kind of thing we want to emulate. As Yglesias points out, the Russians have been fighting Muslims for over 200 years, and they're still dealing with the problem. Is that what we want?

Finally, if our goal is simply to establish that we retaliate when provoked, why didn't we just bomb the shit out of Iraq (and presumably now do the same to Iran)? We'd have saved a lot of money, our armed forces would be better off, and we would not be dealing with falling public support for the war, which would now be over. Moreover, none of our potential enemies would see us as bogged down in a war and therefore unable to do the same to them. Hell, given the ethnic violence we've unleashed, the total Iraqi casualties may well have been the same.

If you think the above is what we should have done in Iraq, you may not like the democrats, but Bush is hardly your man. Again, the only problem here is our principles. We like to think we've entered an age in which mass slaughter of civillians is an innappropriat way to achieve policy goals, but maybe it's not true. If not, we should come out and admit it, and forget this "freedom is on the march" bullshit.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Calling Out Cowardice

Sometimes I just don't understand this country - particulary the part of it that agrees with me about things like the "war on terror."

I'm reading a Glenn Greenwald post about this documentary from PBS on the governments illegal domestic spying, and see this quote from John Yoo, one of the chief legal architects of our disregard for such trifles as habeus corpus and due process:
YOO: Look, there's no doubt that ah. . . there are important Fourth Amendment issues here. One is, is this a reasonable search and seizure? You can still have warrantless searches, but they have to be reasonable.

And then the second question is, does that restriction apply to wartime operations. We don't require a warrant, we don't require reasonable searches and seizures when the army, the military's out on the battlefield, attacking, killing members of the enemy.

HEDRICK SMITH: But that's usually abroad and it doesn't involve the American homeland and American citizens . . .

YOO: But this gets to my point, is do you want to make it more difficult for our government to try to stop terrorist attacks. The closer members of Al Qaeda get to the United States, the closer they get to striking our cities as they did on 9/11. You want to make it more legally difficult for the government to stop that? I don't think so.
Ok, where do I start? I could point out that it's entirely possible that while our constitutional protections from government overreach may complicate finding terrorists in specific instances, that the whole system helps foster a more dynamic and productive society that is better equipped to deal with terrorism in the long run, but I'd probably be told I don't have the balls to "stand up" to the bad men in the world.

What is almost no one in the anti-war/spying/throw-out-the-constitution wing of the country is doing is to point out that it's the very people who want to do all of this crazy stuff in the name of safety who are cowards.

Here we are with the most powerful military on earth, a vast intelligence network that has cooperation from most of the other powerful nations on earth (at least where terrorism is concerned), where attacks on our own soil are EXCEEDINGLY rare, and where we constantly talk about how great our freedoms are and how they should be exported around the world, and yet we are ready to give them up in the hope (not certainty) that we can prevent another attack that may or may not be in the workings.

Shit happens, people. Life is risky. Tens of thousands of our fellow citizens die on our nations highways and roads every year. Our own choices (smoking and drinking) kill us by the hundreds of thousands every year. We profess to have the greatest respect and admiration for those who would lay down their lives in service of abstract principles of liberty, and yet we would give them up in fear of a movement who's latest great idea was to pass up all the soft targets in New Jersey and ATTACK AN ARMY BASE.

At least the guy who wanted to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch didn't try to make a documentary about it beforehand. . .

Monday, May 14, 2007

Fraudently Sex Should Be Rape???

I really do think the writers over at Feministing are giving sensible Feminism a bad name with their ill-considered screeds against a ubiquitous patriarchy. While I have deep sympathy for the broad goals of Feminism, some of this stuff is just whack. Case in point:
MA Court: Sex by fraud isn't rape

From TalkLeft:

She went to bed one night, in the bedroom she shared with her boyfriend, and a man she thought was her boyfriend got into bed and had sex with her. It turned out the man was her boyfriend's brother who pretended to be her boyfriend...Is that rape? The Massachusetts Supreme Court says no.

Lovely, huh? Massachusetts' Supreme Judicial Court ruled yesterday that consent for sex obtained through fraud or deceit isn't rape. The court said that MA's law defines rape as intercourse "by force and against [the] will" of the victim and that "fraudulently obtaining consent to sexual intercourse does not constitute rape as defined in our statute."

There seems to be this reflexive drive to label sex under anything other than ideal circumstances rape. Now don't get me wrong, using fraud to obtain sex is sleazy and disgusting, but that doesn't make it rape. And what about the implications of a reverse ruling? People tell a LOT of lies to get sex (sure I'll respect you in the morning/I'm a millionaire/I'll take you to my house in the Hamptons, etc, etc.). If everything isn't on the up and up, it's rape?!?

Even if such behavior were considered criminal (which I think is probably a bad idea) it's just simply not the same as lying in wait in and alley, attacking, and forcibly raping a woman. Not same ballpark, not even the same freakin' league. To have the same statute and punishment cover both kinds of acts seems ridiculous.

In other news, Julian Sanchez has a nice post making points similar to the one's I made that warning women about real dangers in the world is not "victim blaming" or "slut shaming".

Read the post - Feministing writers even accuse Google's algorithm of sexism for returning "did you mean HE invented" when you type "she invented".

Think people!

UPDATE: And how about "sure I'm clean, I was tested!". If I agree to sleep with you after hearing that, does that make it rape? Cause I sure would be a lot more pissed if I woke up with herpes that if I woke up with someone who wasn't actually a millionaire or backup singer in a famous band. . .

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Bill Richardson Is Cool

This might be the best campaign ad I've ever seen. It's funny, it's hip, it takes a shot at the current political landscape in which you have to be immensely famous to be a contender. It also highlights Richardson's background, which is the best in the democratic field, and doesn't reduce important and complex issues to sound bites.

Dammnit Bill, I wanted to be the first to have these kinds of ads when I run for president!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Paternalism Gone Wild

Wow. The Nanny-State springs eternal, this time in the form of an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal arguing that the age of consent for erotic films should be raised to 21 so that girls will be unable to permanently embarrass themselves by showing their tits to America via Joe Francis.

Let's see - is there any evidence that 21 year olds make better decisions than 18 year olds with regard to removing their clothes? And is the governmnt really the one to decided what constitutes a good decision?

Is there any evidence this will actually work?

To me the most amazing this is that there's no consideration of the infantilization and loss of freedom for the nation's 18-21 year olds. Sure, we may not think showing off your breasts is the best use of one's time, but haven't we learned by now that people are better of making their own choices - particulary with respect to relatively inconsequential matters like this.

Thank you, Matt Yglesias, for defending freedom of choice for young people. Apparently it's not just a libertarian thing.

Another thing that irks me is that it seems mandatory to preface your arguments by saying that Joe Francis is scum and that the fact that he made millions means our society is sick. Where is that written?

While pornography (and for that matter, prostitution) may be unseemly, it is ubiquitous in virtually all societies, and I personally think that our somewhat unrestricted porn trade is healthy - and would be better if we were more like Europeans, and didn't get in a tizzy about breasts on a news stand, or god forbid, the superbowl.

And in a capitalist world, Francis does in fact deserve millions of dollars for having the insight that men wanted to look at normal, hot, college-age women, and were being underserved by Playboy and other porn outlets that delivered air-brushed and picture perfect models. He also realized that the girls would WILLINGLY come to him, because it's a form of validation. If you don't like it, don't watch. I don't watch gold, but that doesn't mean I don't think Tiger Woods deserves his millions.

For the record, I have never bought Girls Gone Wild, and my knowledge of it is restricted to the infomercials, and one Rolling Stone article on Joe Francis.

In a pluralistic society, we have to be able to say "to each his/her own"