Tuesday, February 17, 2004

"Delusions of Competence" 

Edward Feser has a fascinating piece on the possible -- and probable -- causality of the overwhelming leftism of modern intellectual and professorial thought. My favorite part:

The "society as classroom" theory: Robert Nozick, in his essay "Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?" suggested that the explanation we are seeking may lie in the formative years of the average intellectual. He is typically the sort of person who, in school, did well academically and not so well socially. That is, he was rewarded for his exemplary compliance with the directives of a central authority (the teacher) who implemented a comprehensive plan (the curriculum) within a regimented social setting (the classroom); he was not rewarded for any contributions he tried to make to the decentralized, unplanned sphere of voluntary interactions that constitutes the life of a young person outside the classroom (the playground, parties, dating situations, and so forth). He thus naturally tends to think the first sort of setting more reasonable and just than the latter, and in generalizing (perhaps unconsciously) to the level of society as a whole, will accordingly tend to favor policies that involve centralized planning by governmental authorities rather than the unplanned results of free interaction by citizens in the marketplace.

I am sure there are a number of exceptions to this theory, and clearly, it is hardly empirical; however, the mentality strikes me as incredibly representative. I am sure all manner of self-styled "intellectuals" will take offense at this and attempt to dismiss it as patently absurd, and they will only serve to prove Mr. Nozick right. Supposed refutations of this theory like "But I had plenty of friends! I was vice-president of the audio-visual club!" will likely fail to convince anyone, most likely not even the originator of such statements.

Nozick's observations, however, are not a vindictive attempt to discredit intellectuals, rather they are a wake-up call open to anyone honest enough with themself to do some serious introspection. A great deal of the attitude coming from the left these days, especially the academic left, is that somehow it is everyone else who is stupid or wrong, and they can't understand why other people don't see it the way they do. I would venture to guess that, in the same way, a lot of Star Trek super-fans can't understand why the rest of the country doesn't get dressed up and go to conventions. Michael Moore says "Dude, where's my country?", and Nozick says "It was never your country, and you need to wake up to the reality of why that is, and not just attribute it to others' supposed inferiority." There is a reason why they say "Get a life"; it's not just good for your social health, but your mental health as well.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Friendly Drinks and Food for Thought 

Although my opinions may differ from Paul Berman's on a host of matters (e.g., how to feel about President Bush), I do find myself in agreement about the war in Iraq. Berman has an excellent rebuke of a self-styled "liberal" in Dissent Magazine here, and another one here at Salon (if you have a subscription). Berman's message to liberals is essentially this: Don't let arrogance cloud your judgement about what it really means to hold liberal ideas.

Sure, Berman doesn't like George Bush; in fact, he thinks the President is an "idiot". That doesn't keep Berman from realizing that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator that Iraq, and the world, are better off without. It is also doubtful that Berman is in anyway zenophobic or ethnocentrically biased, but then, one does not have to be to realize that the "multiculturalism" doctrine that all cultures are equally to be celebrated and none are deserving of criticism (except American culture, of course) is inherently both racist, and dangerous. Chides Berman:

Thump! "The left doesn't see because a lot of people, in their good-hearted effort to respect cultural differences, have concluded that Arabs must for inscrutable reasons of their own like to live under grotesque dictatorships and are not really capable of anything else, or won't be ready to do so for another five hundred years, and Arab liberals should be regarded as somehow inauthentic. Which is to say, a lot of people, swept along by their own high-minded principles of cultural tolerance, have ended up clinging to attitudes that can only be regarded as racist against Arabs.

"The old-fashioned left used to be universalist-used to think that everyone, all over the world, would some day want to live according to the same fundamental values, and ought to be helped to do so. They thought this was especially true for people in reasonably modern societies with universities, industries, and a sophisticated bureaucracy-societies like the one in Iraq. But no more! Today, people say, out of a spirit of egalitarian tolerance: Social democracy for Swedes! Tyranny for Arabs! And this is supposed to be a left-wing attitude? By the way, you don't hear much from the left about the non-Arabs in countries like Iraq, do you? The left, the real left, used to be the champion of minority populations-of people like the Kurds. No more! The left, my friend, has abandoned the values of the left-except for a few of us, of course."

Berman also goes on to condemn many of those on the left's -- whether intentional or not -- endorsement of anti-semitism, and anti-americanism. In the end, it's a pretty big laundry list of culprits: bush-hatred, blind faith in "multiculturalism", anti-americanism, anti-semitism. What Berman may or may not realize, however (one thinks he gets it from his attitude), is that there is a common thread to all of these traits: arrogance. It is arrogance that says,"Who are we to tell the Iraqis what to do?", when it is wholly clear that they lack the ability to remove a genocidal dictator in and of themselves. It is arrogance that says, "I think the president is stupid and evil, therefore anything he proposes must be stupid and evil as well because I couldn't possibly be wrong." And, it is arrogance that says, "Many people don't like Israel and America, therefore, it is Israel and America who must always be at fault, as their critics could never be wrong or anything less than completely moral and honest." It is this arrogance, in all of the manifestations that Berman notes, that would make Don Quixotes out of the left as they go off fighting windmills while real tyranny goes unchallenged.

Even Berman, who is no fan of President Bush, is sober enough to see that Bush is no fascist, and the left -- his left -- has made a fool of itself fighting against him instead of far greater enemies of liberal society. Says Berman:

You haven't the foggiest idea what fascism is," I said. "I always figured that a keen awareness of extreme oppression was the deepest trait of a left-wing heart. Mass graves, three hundred thousand missing Iraqis, a population crushed by thirty-five years of Baathist boots stomping on their faces-that is what fascism means! And you think that a few corrupt insider contracts with Bush's cronies at Halliburton and a bit of retrograde Bible-thumping and Bush's ridiculous tax cuts and his bonanzas for the super-rich are indistinguishable from that?-indistinguishable from fascism? From a politics of slaughter?

It would seem that this reality escapes many on the left, which infuriates Berman as much as it does those who don't even consider themselves to be on the left. Berman notes that if the left could just get past this arrogance, they could work with the right and have some input in the bettering of the globe, as opposed to having to deal with whatever decisions the administration makes:

"What a tragedy for the left-the worldwide left, this left of ours which, in failing to play much of a role in the antifascism of our own era, is right now committing a gigantic historic error. Not for the first time, my friend! And yet, if the left all over the world took up this particular struggle as its own, the whole nature of events in Iraq and throughout the region could be influenced in a very useful way, and Bush's many blunders could be rectified, and the struggle could be advanced."
Now, while we might disagree on the severity or even actuality of "Bush's many blunders", I think Berman is right. For all of the complaints from the left about how poorly the war in Iraq is going, no one seems willing to try and improve things with their support; only petty, vindictive criticism. If more on the left would realize that Iraq qas not, in fact, a war for oil (although France and Russia may well have tried to make it a non-war for oil), and the United States truly does just want to help the Iraqis back on their feet and be gone, then maybe the process would go a whole lot faster and smoother than it is now. Better than smashing bottles over one anothers' heads, anyway.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Lord Hutton says the BBC ain't got nuthin'  

After months of investigation after the suicide of British weapons scientist David Kelly, the inquiry headed by The Honorable Lord (James) Brian (Edward) Hutton -- how's that for a mouthful! -- has been concluded and its findings made public. The verdict for Prime Minister Tony Blair and the rest of 10 Downing Street? Not guilty. The BBC, on the other hand, did not get off so easy.

This article from the Sun gives a good synopsis of the findings of the Hutton inquiry, even if Kavanagh is a bit giddy in going about it. Essentially, Hutton found that, while the government was not wholly of the highest ethics and integrity in the matter (Not like, say, France!), it was far from guilty of anything illegal or even seriously immoral. The BBC, however, was found to be so negligent in its handling of the Gilligan story that caused the whole fiasco as to be "effectively accused of failing in its duty to licence-payers." That must be the British way of saying "pulled a New York Times".

As a result, Gavyn Davies, chairman of the BBC, has announced his resignation. Just as well, I say, for the "Sexed-up dossier" fiasco was for the BBC what Blair was for the NYT: a wake-up call to show that, no matter how credible and prestigious your organization is, it is not above the truth. Both Davies and Raines realized, too late, that a glass house, even if it is an imposing fortress, is still made out of glass.

For some, this shake-up of the establishment media is only one step in a steady shift to the right of political thinking in America, and maybe even beyond. Maybe it is, but if removing charlatans who would fabricate stories for personal gain or agendas and the arrogant executives who would defend them at all costs constitutes moving to the right, then I think some people need to stop and re-evaluate their vantage point.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Tackles, and the Tackling Tacklers who make them 

Apparently, Al Franken is not a big fan of free speech, or at least, not that of Larouche supporters. According to this article in the New York Post (ever the bastion of intellectually and socially redeeming newsreporting!), Al Franken took matters into his own hands at a Dean rally in Exeter, NH, yesterday, and "body-slammed" a supporter of Lyndon Larouche who was heckling Dr. Dean.

Is Franken that rabid of a Deaniac, you ask? Well, not exactly. Apparently, he's just a fervent supporter of the first amendment. Says Franken:

"I'm neutral in this race but I'm for freedom of speech, which means people should be able to assemble and speak without being shouted down."

Now, I would tend to agree with Al Franken on this one. I'm a firm believer that the rights enumerated in the amendments to the constitution are negative rights a la Robert Nozick. In other words, the right to free speech means that no one has the right to stop you from speaking, as opposed to you having the right that everyone hear what you have to say. (In the case of the second amendment, looking at it as a negative right would be to say "I do not have the right to a gun, in the sense that I must have one, but rather I have the right that no one stop me from getting or having one.) I know that I, personally, have wanted to rock-bottom a Larouche supporter on several occasions, as they tend to be of the disrespectful, heckling variety. Then again, I have also wanted to tackle Al Franken after various outbursts.

It is funny to hear this kind of logic from Al Franken, however, whom one might be hard-pressed to distinguish from a Larouche supporter, like, say, at a White house Correspondents' Dinner. Would Franken admit that maybe he should have been body-slammed, or would he have cried "Free Speech!" and wrapped himself in the first amendment? Maybe he would have taken a beating and left it at that, but it seems hard to imagine. For all of the talk of "free speech", it seems a lot like there is a double standard that says "Free speech only for those who oppose George Bush/Republicans/Conservatives". Calling someone a nazi for supporting the government is free speech, while calling someone a traitor for opposing the government is somehow different. Go figure.

Is Al Franken a free-speech advocate, giving someone who would stifle another's right to speak his just deserts? Not likely. Says Franken:

"I would have done it if he was a Dean supporter at a Kerry rally," he said.

Yes, but would you have done the same thing to a Dean supporter at a Bush rally? If not, then saying you hit the guy for "freedom of speech", well, that would have to make you a lying liar.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Maybe he should quit his day job 

Cheer up, Howard Dean and Co.! Although the democratic presidential nomination may all of a sudden be out of the picture, it doesn't mean that the whole campaign has been for nothing; it seems that Howard may just have a future in the recording industry. Already, his first album has given people something to scream about.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Fuzzy Math at the Washington Post 

Glenn Reynolds has a bone to pick with a Washington Post story about last night's state of the union address. Maybe that explains the NYT poll, journalists just can't seem to grasp quantitative analysis. That would certainly explain why, to them, there are apparently varying degrees of one-sidedness, and 17 + 17 = 17. Maybe they need to have Professor Digory start giving seminars to journalism professors.

NYT Straw Poll a Paper Tiger?  

Terpsboy notes that the NYT doesn't seem to be a paragon of objectivity these days. It's latest poll, in conjunction with CBS, found the President to have only a 50% approval rating. Now, the NYT takes this to mean that the President is slipping in favorability among the populace, but doesn't find anything funny about the fact that 47% of the respondents identified themselves more with the Democratic party, compared with only 34% for the Republican party.

Now, on first look, that might seem like the New York Times is either guilty of some sloppy polling, or sins of omission for failing to emphasize the discrepancy in party leanings. What makes this poll all the more interesting, however, are the results of several other questions, especially over time. The question we've discussed already reads as follows:

Do you think of yourself as closer to the Republican Party or to the Democratic Party?

Rep: 34% Dem: 47% DK/NA: 18%

However, the question immediately preceding it has to make one wonder what's going on here:

Generally speaking, do you usually consider yourself a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, or what?

Rep: 28% Dem: 32% Ind: 33% DK/NA 8%

So how to explain the disconnect? Let's assume, for a moment, that the numbers in the first two categories carry over to the second (which is not necessarily an assumption we can make with great assurance, but for hypothetical purposes, it is reasonable enough to assume if they affiliate themselves with a party, they are closer to that party than the other). We would then have to conclude that, of the 41% who were independent or didn't have an opinion from the first question, only 6% jump to the Republican camp when pressed into only two choices, as opposed to 15% to the Democrats.

In other words, the New York Times' Poll has only slightly more Democrats sampled than Republicans, but the Independents lean Democratic by roughly 2 to 1! (This is, as mentioned before, assuming that none of those who declared themselves for a party in question 1 switched camps in question two; e.g., a person who considers themselves a Republican generally but as of this moment identifies with the Democrats. Whil always a possibility, it would seem more likely that the self-identified Independents, while not affiliating with a party, tend to favor one over the other.) This leaves us with a very, very important question: is this breakdown representative of the American public, or is this just a sampling error by the New York Times?

It could very well be a sampling error by the Times; a quick look back at the history shows the gap in numbers in question 2 this time to be higher than any previous time. (The prior two polls have a gap of 10%, the poll before has a gap of only 5%) Then again, if this is an error, the Times has been making it over and over again, as gaps of high single-digits and low double-digits of Democrats over Republicans are the norm for the past three years at least, while the numbers for Question 1 tend to remain much closer to 50/50 (although still in favor of Democrats).

Since this discrepancy is consistent, one can really only come to one of two conclusions: either the Times selection process is flawed, or these numbers are relatively representative of the American public. As the Times supposedly uses a random number dialing system for its polling (as explained here), it would seem implausible, on the surface, that the sampling was flawed. (Although, there are still plenty of factors that could affect the results, for example, the Times says the numbers are "adjusted" to account for household size, etc. I'd certainly like to see the algorithms on that one.) If the sampling process is sound, then, how to account for the fact that significantly more Americans identify as Democrats then Republicans, and yet Republicans control all branches of the government?

Before the tin-foil hat "Bush-stole-the-presidency" conspiracy theorists immediately begin spouting suggestions, the answer may just lie in the next question on the poll:

How would you describe your views on most political matters? Generally, do you think of yourself as Liberal, Moderate, or Conservative?

Lib: 20% Mod: 43% Con: 31% DK/NA: 5%

The plot thickens, it seems. These results seem to be relatively consistent over the past three years also. So what to make of it? Well, if the numbers are reflective of the American citizenry, then Americans on the whole are more likely to identify themselves as conservative than as liberals, and as Democrats than as Republicans. Of course, once again we could have confounding variables here; for instance, maybe many of those who would so readily declare themselves as "moderates" are actually rather liberal or conservative, and just don't have the most representative frame of reference. For example, Dan Rather, who thinks the NYT is "middle of the road." So it could be that the majority of Americans are evenly split ideologically, or even more liberal than conservative.

The possibility presents itself, however, that the ideological breakdown of Americans is closer to the results of the poll than not, in which case we must conclude that the "Conservative Democrat" demographic is more significant than some in that party would like to believe. Now where have we heard this before? Could it be all those southern democrats who happen to be concerned with "guns, God, and gays"?

So, in the end, the NYT poll would suggest one of the following three possibilities:

A. The poll is somehow skewed and therefore the Republican majority in government could well be representative of a Republican majority among US citizens. This certainly would be bad news for the democratic party as it stands.

B. The poll is representative in terms of party affiliations, but not necessarily ideological spectrum, in which case, the majority of the partisan populace is democratic and the ideological could well be split evenly or even be majority liberal. This would be better news for the democratic party, but would certainly mean that, for some reason, they are failing as a political unit to get out their vote or garner a significant number of the independent vote, or both.

C. The poll is reasonably accurate in both party affiliations and ideological spectrum, in which case the majority of the partisan population is still democratic, but only nominally, as the majority of those affirming an ideology choose conservative. Once again, potentially good news for the democratic party, but it would seem they might have to rethink certain party lines if they want those who call themselves democrats to actually vote that way (or get more of those "moderates" to swing their way.)

Funny how a poll that supposedly shows George Bush in hot water actually reveals either A) nothing, or B) the democrats have some serious issues to address if they want their congressional numbers to match their nominal numbers. Of course, no one at the New york Times is ever going to see it that way, all they see is that Bush's numbers have dropped, yet again. Funny, his approval rating seems to be perpetually falling, and yet never significantly below the 50% mark. Hmm, if I didn't know any better, I would think that George Bush had acheived some kind of political orbital velocity. That would have to mean that all of those conspiracy theorists were wrong: George Bush isn't Hitler, or a robot; he's really a satellite! No wonder he wants all that extra money for NASA!

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Who said Politics couldn't be Fun? 

Just when you thought you would never, ever, have a good reason to watch C-SPAN: the State of the Union Drinking Game! Who knows, maybe it'll catch on; someday we might hear "Hey, fire up the grill and put the beers on ice, it's time for the State of the Union Address!". Or not. I vote not. But the grilling and beer still sounds good.

George Bush, in the Parlor, with the Candlestick ... 

Finally! All of those hardworking tin-foil hat conspiracy theorists can take a well-deserved vacation, for what was once a full time job has now been automated. I should have known that Dubya was behind the Cubs' loss in the NL Championship series! That fiend! No blood for Marlins!

Monday, January 19, 2004

End the Occupation Now! 

Of Europe. Hehe. My favorite part:

"We don't know if the United States will have forever the resources, or the interest, to defend Europe," he said.

That would be Italian General, Rolando Mosca Moschini, whose candor is refreshing. Remember those words next time France or Germany offers to lecture the United States on military matters; they would like the United States military to protect their interests, but its own interests are apparently another matter entirely. Granted, Moschini isn't praising the United States or thanking it for all of its help, he is simply being pragmatic about the future of the European Union. Even still, at least he can admit that, yes, Europe is not so peaceful and prosperous because it has been protecting itself all these years. Why does it seem like Italy is the only place left in Europe where people still commit the horrendous faux pas of telling it like it is?

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Blown Whistle or Blown Out of Proportion? 

John Cole has the skinny on the story behind the Paul O'Neill fiasco here. Says Paul O'Neill:

"People are trying to make the case that I said the president was planning war with Iraq early in the administration. Actually, it was a continuation of work that was going on in the Clinton administration, with the notion that there needed to be regime change," he said."

I wonder what made O'Neill backpedal so quickly from his prior infuriation and outrage? Could it be that he knows, deep down, that when Paul Krugman is applauding you for your "courage" that you've gone too far beyond the realm of civil and rational discourse?

I like Krugman's logic on this one:

"I was one of the few commentators who didn't celebrate Paul O'Neill's appointment as Treasury secretary. And I couldn't understand why, if Mr. O'Neill was the principled man his friends described, he didn't resign early from an administration that was clearly anything but honest.

But now he's showing the courage I missed back then, by giving us an invaluable, scathing insider's picture of the Bush administration."

So Krugman had no respect for a man who went to work for Bush and didn't resign, but all of a sudden praises him as a hero when he throws a public tantrum to complain about not being listened to, and worse, tries to spin an ordinary act of protocol as some insidious covert plot to bring war about the globe? Memo to Krugman: O'Neill still didn't resign in some valiant display of principle; he was fired. Clearly though, that had nothing to do with O'Neill's smug, petty comments about the President's leadership style. Although, it is interesting how quickly O'Neill wants to change his choice of words when the Treasury Department inquires as to why O'Neill left office with so many supposedly "secret" documents.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Slight of Hand 

John Hawkins has uncovered the secret to the U.S. Military's success: The Art of Deception.

Dastardly Plot: Foiled! 

Luke Trerice gives a lesson to Chris Kirk in how to protect your entire apartment from Government Mind-Control Rays. Hey, friends don't let friends have their brain waves tapped by government agents working for aliens/reverse vampires. At least, friends named Luke don't.

Shooting for the Moon 

President Bush is set to announce next week a plan to revamp NASA and outfit it with much more active and ambitious goals: to send men back to the moon and also to mars by next decade.

I, for one, am wholeheartedly behind such a sweeping change. NASA used to be the forefront in space exploration, back when it set out to do brave new things no one had ever done before, like send men to the moon. Now our claim to fame is that the Mars rovers we send don't get lost, unlike some other people's. But they are still sending Mars probes as well, and China and India have rather bold plans for space programs themselves; America and NASA are no longer so definitively pronounced as the head of the pack.

So why do we have to be one step ahead of the game? Simple: because we can be. Sure, some may say setting big goals like a manned mission to mars is just the Americans trying to show off a bit, but hey, why shouldn't we? If America makes it to mars, then everyone will benefit; we just get the bragging rights for getting there first. Neil Armstrong didn't plant his flag to claim the moon solely for America, just to announce that we'd been there. All of the research that has come out of the Apollo programs and NASA since has been shared with the international community and been used whenever possible to benefit all of mankind. (Velcro and Tang; need I say more?)

So I say let us dream big dreams, because that is what America is supposed to be all about. All beaten paths were once wilderness; someone had to trek their way through to open up the way for everyone. At the moment, no one else is planning a manned mission to mars, either from lack of resources or lack of motivation. We happen to have both, and I think we should put them to good use. And, hey, if it gives America a one-up on the rest of the world and something legitimate to boast about, then all the better. One small step for man, one great big trophy to add to the case in America's parent's house.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Walking on Eggshells over DDT 

Ronald Bailey discovered last week just how sensitive many people are about the issue of DDT when he commented that:

"It is generally acknowledged that banning DDT, which thinned bird's eggshells, brought back the bald eagle, the peregrine falcon, and the brown pelican."

Many readers accused him of buying into radical alarmist environmental propaganda, as there still exists today a great deal of contention over the findings of numerous studies done on the effects of DDT on birds and other wildlife. ( What, you mean something we were taught in grade school as unquestionable scientific fact may not be so cut-and-dried after all? Well, there goes my world upside-down again.)

In response, Bailey has written a sober, must-read column detailing research results and what conclusions can reasonably be reached from them, as well as a fair nod to the argument over weighing the potential environmental costs of using DDT as a pesticide versus the potential benefits of malaria prevention. Bailey concludes:

"In Silent Spring, Rachel Carson asked, "Who has decided—who has the right to decide—for the countless legions of people who were not consulted that the supreme value is a world without insects, even though it be also a sterile world ungraced by the curving wing of a bird in flight? The decision is that of the authoritarian temporarily entrusted with power."

Banning DDT saved thousands of raptors over the past 30 years, but outright bans and misguided fears about the pesticide cost the lives of millions of people who died of insect-borne diseases like malaria. The 500 million people who come down with malaria every year might well wonder what authoritarian made that decision. "

Now there's something they forgot to tell us in school; as such I can imagine why some people might be rather sensitive to perceived demonizations of DDT, especially those 2.5 million plus people who might not have to die of malaria each year if the people in charge at the UN and elsewhere could be as serious and realistic about DDT as Ronald Bailey.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

It's the Stupidity, Stupid! 

Neal Starkman, of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, after a great deal of serious observation and research has come to the startling conclusion that George Bush remains popular because of a widespread underlying phenomena in the American populace, which Starkman deems the "S-factor". What is this feature, you ask? Stupidity, says Starkman (No, seriously):

"What can explain his popularity? Can that many people be enamored of what he has accomplished in Iraq? Of how he has fortified our constitutional freedoms with the USA Patriot Act? Of how he has bolstered our economy? Of how he has protected our environment? Perhaps they've been impressed with the president's personal integrity and the articulation of his grand vision for America?

Is that likely?"

Now, for those of you out there who are afflicted with this most unfortunate syndrome of substandard intelligence, that is to be understood as a humorously absurd rhetorical statement. No one of average understanding or higher could ever seriously hold such foolish opinions of the president's personality or his policies. And yet, curiously, there are cretins amongst us who -- get this -- still do anyway! The horror!

The ever-vigilant Starkman, however, has painstakingly compiled a profile of symptoms to look for in identifying the S-factor in those around you -- anyone of whom could be a neanderthal in disguise, or worse, a republican! Says Starkman:

It's not merely that some people are insufficiently intelligent to grasp the nuances of foreign policy, of constitutional law, of macroeconomics or of the variegated interplay of humans and the environment. These aren't the people I'm referring to. The people I'm referring to cannot understand the phenomenon of cause and effect. They're perplexed by issues comprising more than two sides. They don't have the wherewithal to expand the sources of their information. And above all -- far above all -- they don't think.

Cause and effect; there you have it. Since no disinterested, rationally thinking human being could possibly approve of the president, and yet, his approval ratings have remained consistently above 50%, all those in that majority who don't directly benefit from the President's policies (Who might that be, you ask? Why, greedy CEOs and religious right-wing zealots, of course!) must clearly not be thinking in their right minds, if they even possess the ability to think at all!

The irony, of course, is that Starkman's "reasoning" seems an awful lot like the supposed ignorance and obstinacy he would accuse so many Bush supporters of. He cannot seem to grasp the concept that there might be, in fact, people who do feel that President Bush has bolstered the economy, or that there might be those who are enamored of what he has accomplished in Iraq or do respect his integrity and vision for America. There are lots of intelligent reasons for thinking any of these things; for every Krugman who thought the Bush tax cuts would cause the economy to collapse in on itself, there was a Kudlow who predicted -- more acurately, one might say -- that the tax cuts would help spur business spending and revive production and economic growth in a market teetering on massive recession. Or, in the case of Iraq, is it so irrational for an American citizen to want to see his country actually take an active role in removing threats to its security, especially by freeing a foreign people from a murderous, repressive dictator? Forget issues comprising more than two sides, Starkman can't even see issues as having more than one: his.

Interestingly enough, it would seem that Starkman hit the nail right on the head when it comes to the political situation in America today, only maybe not the particular party he was thinking of:

Politicians have been aware of this forever; they cater to these people. They offer simplistic solutions to complex problems. They evade directed questions with non-sequiturs. They offer meaningless, jingoistic pap instead of thoughtful policy. And these people, the "S" people, eat it all up with a ladle.

Funny, but that sounds a lot like some democratic presidential candidates I know, seeing as they all seem to have criticisms but no solutions of their own. Meanwhile George Bush has eliminated two foreign regimes that were hostile, not only to the US, but also to their neighbors and even their own people. In response, it has received support from many unexpected places in the fight against terror, including no less than Libya. (Yes, that Libya!)

Starkman himself seems unable to realize that making sarcastic comments about the president and the environment, or the president and the economy amounts to just that: jingoistic pap. Only the flag he is waving has a donkey on it, instead of the stars and stripes. When Starkman implies no one could possibly approve of the President's handling of the economy when the Dow Jones gained roughly 25% in 2003 seems a lot like someone is eating something up with a ladle, and it aint soup. But then again, that's probably why he writes for the Post-Intelligencer; while James Taranto seems to think it is thusly named because it is "intelligent as a post", I would offer that the post in "post-intelligencer" is the standard english prefix meaning "having gone past", or rather, "having left behind".

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Jesus, Jesse: They Both Start with a 'J'. Coincidence? Someone Thinks Not 

It seems the good people of Chicago have finally woken up and smelt the coffee when it comes to the Reverend Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, and that is a good start, at least. According to this story at ABC7 News in Chicago, Jackson was the target of more jeering than cheering at a recent rally there calling for "more jobs for young black men". Apparently, some people -- the nerve, honestly! -- feel that maybe the good reverend is more about talking the talk than walking the walk when it comes to helping out the common people. Says one protester, a member of a group called VOTE:

"We are tired of coming here to voice our opinion when we got African-American people sitting at the table and saying they represent our interests and playing this puppet game."

Of course, rather than attempt to cite concrete examples of any of his accomplishments which might contrast such a description, Jackson cites as counter-argument his membership in the Historically Heroic Martyr's Club™. Says Jackson:

"They lashed out at Dr. King, they lashed out at Nelson Mandela, they lashed out at Jesus, so all of those who fight for change become the object of frustration."

There you have it folks, Jesse Jackson: The Second Coming of Christ. This time, since our sins have already been taken care of, he's back to make sure discrimination doesn't rob the people of minority drivers in Nascar! One very astute protester, however, points out a very important fact that may possibly disqualify the good reverend from membership in such an elite organization of legendary activists: as best anyone can tell, he hasn't actually had to suffer for anything yet! Says John Johnson of VOTE:

"What has he sacrificed for his beliefs? Us. We've been sacrificed. On the altar of his political ambition our people have been destroyed."

Oh well, it could have been worse. He could have compared the oppression of the protesters to Selma.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Democrats don't have a chance in Zell 

Zell Miller has come out today in full support of President Bush with an editoral in the Wall Street Journal. Zell explains why he plans on voting for George Bush in 2004, despite the fact that he is a Democratic senator and has voted Democratic in the past 13 presidential elections. He says:

"This is a president who understands the price of freedom. He understands that leaders throughout history often have had to choose between good and evil, tyranny and freedom. And the choice they make can reverberate for generations to come. This is a president who has some Churchill in him and who does not flinch when the going gets tough. This is a president who can make a decision and does not suffer from "paralysis analysis." This is a president who can look America in the eye and say on Iraq, "We're not leaving." And you know he means it".

In addition to his rather robust endorsement of the President, he has nothing but severe criticism for the Democratic contenders, or, as he calls them, the "naive nine". Says Miller:

"I find it hard to believe, but these naive nine have managed to combine the worst feature of the McGovern campaign--the president is a liar and we must have peace at any cost--with the worst feature of the Mondale campaign--watch your wallet, we're going to raise your taxes. George McGovern carried one state in 1972. Walter Mondale carried one state in 1984. Not exactly role models when it comes to how to get elected or, for that matter, how to run a country."

This should come as a serious concern to the democratic party, as Miller is not seeking re-election for his Georgia senate seat in 2004, and yesterday's elections only highlighted a growing movement of the southern states -- once a stalwart democratic stronghold -- towards the GOP. Republicans picked up governorships in Kentucky and Mississippi, and the runoff election for Louisiana governor does not seem to be certain in favor of either party. This article at CNN.com notes about Missippi's deposed governor, Ronnie Musgrove : "Musgrove is the fifth sitting Democratic governor ousted in the past year, and the fourth in the South."

All of this raises the inevitable question, when is the democratic party going to undergo some serious-minded introspection on the fact that they have suffered some very heavy losses in the past two even-year elections, and fared no better in this most recent one? It seems that, whenever the Republicans win an election, it gets chalked up to Karl Rove (and usually with more spite and loathing than respect). So then, why hasn't anyone in the democratic party asked, "Well, where is our leadership and what are they doing?" Let's face it, is it so hard to believe that Terry McCauliffe may not be the best man for the job when the circumstances seem to keep proving him wrong, wrong, and wrong again?

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan notes that Howard Dean, at least, seems to have gotten the picture that the democratic party cannot afford to simply forget about the south.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Paul Krugman Could Not be Reached for Comment 

This just in: The US economy is not simply just growing (sorry, Democratic Presidential Candidates), it is growing even more than expected! The BBC has the story here.

Now, there will be some who will be very quick to point out all of the obvious negative ways to look at this news: this turn of events is far from an assurance of a bibilical seven years of plenty, and although the economy is bustling along quite well, the increase in production has yet to spell an upswing in employment. In fact, this is all true -- but isn't the fact that the United States economy is doing well when so many other countries are slugging along in recession or near-recession levels something to be encouraged about? How many editorials will I have to read over the course of the next week in the New York Times still heralding the ever-looming horizon of an economic apocalypse?

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

This Just In: Consumers are not Mindless Drones! 

Reuters (courtesy of CNN.com) apparently is flabbergasted to find that, after a new law goes into effect next month that will allow cell phone users to keep their numbers even if they switch companies, many people may -- brace yourself -- up and switch companies! Heavens, you say! What on earth would cause such a mass exodus of customers from one company to another? Why, perhaps because the only thing holding so many cell phone customers to their providers despite a general dissatisfaction with their service plan was the fact that it was easier to deal with their problems than to try and get a better deal and have to start again with a new number.

I, personally, have been waiting for this law to go into effect since February. I may very well end up staying with Cingular, as I don't have any serious complaints about their prices or their service, other than their limited selection of phones. One thing is for certain, however, and that is the fact that I will be doing serious investigation into plan prices and options to make absolutely sure that there aren't any options with a different company that might suit me better.

I think any surprise at the fact that a great deal of cell phone customers are going to be re-evaluating their service plans would have to be due to significant lack of experience with cell phones. I, and most everyone I know, has at least some complaints about their service, and there are plenty of companies and options out there to choose from. However, a lot of people don't understand how important one's number can be, especially if you've had it for a long time. Many of us have gotten tired of trying to keep updated phone listings, what with all the people who've switched companies over the years and gotten new numbers -- sometimes it seems like people get new cell phones two or three times a year. As a result, many of us have taken comfort in having the same number year-in and year-out, knowing that if our friends try to call us after not having seen us for years, they will still reach us; and I think more and more individuals are finding out just how important this can be.

Cell phones, unlike house phones, can theoretically stay with you forever. With this new law, the customer can now find a plan just right for them, and re-evaluate this plan and/or switch to a new one whenever they want now, without being constrained by the downside of having to get a new number. As such, people can get a number, and have it be theirs, for as long as they can afford to keep a cell phone; which, the way the future looks, just might be forever. Cell phones are quickly becoming the preferred alternative to house phones, and with the lowering of costs, just about everyone can afford one at some level. Who knows? We may see the day when everyone has a cell phone, and getting your first cell phone may be a childhood right of passage. Cell Numbers may be passed down from parent to child as heirlooms. Or not, but you get the picture.

Clearly, though, Reuters doesn't get it, and thinks the fact that as many as 30 million people may switch carriers in the first year is somehow news. With all the people itching to try out new companies to see if the grass is any greener onthe other side, it's not hard to take a quick poll of cell phone users to come to the conclusion that there exists a good percentage of cell phone owners who are either waiting for the chance, or would have been had they known about the new law. Reuters, thankfully, did at least recognize the other potential benefit of the law beside giving the cell phone user freedom over their numeric identity: the fact that, maybe now that they have lost one of their key sticking factors, cell phone companies may have to -- gasp -- actually try and compete to provide better service with better prices beyond introductory offers that suck in the newbs and lock them into company loyalty if they wish to keep that familiar set of identifying digits. No worries for the cell giants, though, they will always have the dreaded long-term contract with which to keep the masses chained.

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