Saturday, October 05, 2002
Getting Fired Is Not CensorshipPhil Leggiere of Noosphere Blues points out that Governor Jim McGreevey has called for New Jersey Poet Laureate (insert joke here) Amiri Baraka to resign after he wrote this poem, which contains the lines
Who know why Five Israelis was filming the explosion
And cracking they sides at the notion........
.........Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed
Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers
To stay home that day
Why did Sharon stay away?
Phil has taken the position that Baraka is a serious poet and has the right to be provocative, with which I agree. However, that doesn't mean he has the right to be provocative while holding an official position with the state of New Jersey (even if it's only ceremonial in nature). What he writes as poet laureate carries an official stamp (as it were) and Gov McGreevey has every right to ask that Baraka resign when he publishes something which is not only insensitive to the hundreds NJ residents (many of them Jewish) who died on Sept 11th but also lends credence to what can only be called a blood libel of the Jews.
Now, I don't know shit about Amiri Baraka (Who knew NJ even had a poet laureate? Anyone know if Tennessee does?) or his work, other than that the poem in question seems both very well written and intended to provoke a reaction (it also includes several sympathetic references to Jewish suffering in the Holocaust). I'm sure he's produced a significant body of work to be chosen to represent the Garden State. I support his right to continue writing and publishing in the future, but that doesn't mean he should be representing NJ when he does so. He can publish all the well-written, yet idiotic, poems he wants to, but he can also suffer the backlash when people pay attention to what he says. Say your peace, then pay the piper. That's America.
For much the same reasons, I think Richard Perle should be immediately dumped from the Defense Policy Board. He has the right to shoot his mouth off all he wants, just not when he's representing us. That's America, too.
The SwitcherooFred Barnes really thinks he's onto something when he argues
THE POSSIBILITIES are endless. In California, it's said any Republican could defeat Democratic governor Gray Davis--except the guy who won the GOP primary, Bill Simon. So if Simon drops out, Republicans could install The Terminator, a popular GOP figure better known as Arnold Schwarzenegger, as their gubernatorial candidate. In Arkansas, where Tim Hutchinson is in deep reelection peril, Republicans could name his brother, Asa, now head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, as his replacement. His election prospects would be brighter, thus improving GOP chances of taking the Senate on November 5. Or in Illinois, where Republican Jim Ryan is running far behind in the governor's race, why not get the state's most acclaimed elected official, House Speaker Denny Hastert, to step in?
If all of these possible candidate switches seem bizarre and more than faintly unethical, it's because they are. But they're no more absurd than the attempt by Democrats to replace Sen. Bob Torricelli as their candidate in New Jersey.
The only problem is, I don't think any of those switches would be unethical (bizarre maybe). If a candidate wants to withdraw, I think he has that right, and I don't give a shit what his motivation is. If his political party wants to replace him, I think they have that right. Why shouldn't they?
A lot of conservative bloggers have written about how this would cause chaos in the electoral system. I say good. I'd love it if something came along to upset the consultant driven, negative campaigns we see now. Candidates might actually have to campaign on fucking issues if they couldn't count on smear campaigns having the intended effect. Chaos in the electoral system would be a good thing.
Unfortunately, it won't happen. Almost all candidates now announce months (if not years) ahead of time. They do this because getting a running start is considered a very good thing. Not only do they get a head start fundraising, but they get the chance to let the voters know who they are and get their positions into the public eye. Very rarely do candidates willingly give up the advantage of a head start. Of course, it's also hard to find candidates who, having spent months running for office, will willingly step aside at the last second. Ignore the doomsayers, ain't nothing gonna change.
Friday, October 04, 2002
You're most like the ArchAngel of Transformation. You like teaching, and bringing the joy of learning new stuff to others. You have limited patience for stupid people despite having an amazing amount of patience otherwise.
Guns vs Terror
Armed Liberal talks about the shootings in Maryland and makes the following comparison:
In 1984, in San Ysidro, CA (near San Diego), a nut whose name I won’t publicize walked into a McDonald’s with three guns, and killed 21 people.
In 2002, at Los Angeles International Airport, another nut whose name I won’t publicize walked into a terminal concourse with two guns and killed two people.
The difference?? At LAX, an armed, trained ticket supervisor (with the help of some others who declined the shooter's offer to be victims) engaged, shot and killed the shooter as soon as he opened fire.
In the event of a ‘low-level’ (and believe me, to the families involved, this isn’t ‘minor’, or ‘low-level’ or anything except apocalyptic…) terrorism, or random acts like this, the police are here to investigate, cleanup the mess, investigate, and when they find the Bad Person, overwhelm and hopefully arrest. This is a good thing. It’s just not too useful to the 3rd through 19th people who die, if you know what I mean.
And goes on to say:
I am suggesting that the only form of defense that is likely to work while the bodies are still breathing is to involve every one of us as an thoughtful, active observer of our environment, and someone who is willing to act appropriately when it is called for.
In some cases, that will involve larger numbers of people with guns.
They can be officers, standing on streetcorners, costing us tax dollars, and nosing deeper and deeper into our lives, or they can be citizens. Our pilot. The ticket agent. Our neighbors.
Some of then will screw up. Some of them will do bad things.
But the reality is that they screw up and do bad things right now. And as far as I can tell from other folks’ experience, it doesn’t get better as you try and take the guns away.
And it doesn’t get worse as you let people have them, either.
Think about it. Think about San Ysidro, and think about LAX. Think about how hard it will be to have a policeman catch the Maryland shooter at just the right time in just the right place.
We can also use the Israeli example. At the beginning of the current wave of terror, there was a spate of shootings of Israeli border guards and civilians. Three things happened:
1) Most of the shooters were shot themselves
2) Israelis started going armed more often and acting with much more caution
3) The Palestinians started running out of willing snipers (unlike suicide bombing, shooting people who are likely to shoot back requires a certain amount of skill and experience)
If random shootings and attacks were ever to become a normal part of American life (not that we're anywhere close to that yet), I don't see any solution which doesn't involve a lot of armed civilians prepared to shoot back at a moments' notice.
I sincerely hope we never get to the point where we feel under siege, but I don't think that decision is up to me.
Memo to Phil and VanWhoever wins, will you please, please, please put Victor Ashe in charge of the Tennessee Department of Transportation!
For those of you not from Tennessee, the TDOT gets every penny of the gas tax and is currently trying to pave the entire state (including one of those idiotic Atlanta-like ring-roads around Nashville) while our healthcare system is bankrupt and our schools are 49th in funding. Ashe, the Republican Mayor of Knoxville, is the only member of either party willing to stand up to it and to the very politically influential road builders (and also happens to be the only prominent Republican I'd vote for over Bredesen, were he their nominee).
[You may also note that this is the only exclamation point I've used on this site, don't expect many others]
Reader Michael Ladd pointed me towards this article by Robert Kagan, one of my favorite neo-cons (not that this is saying much). Kagan's essential point is that the American mainstream, both Right and Left, is much more comfortable with the use of military power than the European mainstream, and that this is driving the US into unilateralism. This is a good observation, and one which bears some pondering. For arguments sake, I'd like to propose an exercise.
1) I'd like everyone who disagrees with Bush over Iraq to mentally envision a different situation in which you wished the US had intervened militarily. The obvious recent choices would be stopping the genocide in Rwanda or intervening much earlier in Bosnia to stop the ethnic cleansing, but I'm sure there are others (feel free to post them in the comment section).
2) I'd like everyone who agrees with Bush over Iraq to think of a situation in which the US did intervene militarily and you wish they hadn't (feel free to post them also).
3) If you disagree with Bush, but couldn't come up with any examples where you wish we had used military force, are there any circumstances in which you would advocate the use of force other than repelling a direct invasion? If not, does your objection to the use of force extend to other groups with which you sympathize [i.e. Should the Palestinians swear off the use of force? (if you happen to sympathize with them), Should the Sandanistas have done so instead of overthrowing Somoza?].
4) If you agree with Bush but can't find any examples of force you disagree with, are there any circumstances in which you would disagree with American use of force? What about other countries using force? Do you hold all nations to the same standard? If not, why not?
5) For those of you who came up with examples of #1 or #2, what divides the legitimate from the illegitimate use of force? Is it national interest? Altruism? Is it okay to sometimes use force to prop up an unpopular ally but sometimes use force to overthrow an unpopular enemy? Should mistreatment of his own people be legitimate reason for us to toss a leader out? What about leader's with the support of most of their own people, but who mistreat minorities?
I'm going to guess that a significant percentage of the people who disagree with Bush on Iraq will think that we should've intervened in Bosnia and/or Rwanda. For them, helping innocents in peril is the most legitimate use of force.
I'm also going to guess that a significant percentage of the people who agree with Bush on Iraq will think that we shouldn't have intervened in Somalia and/or Kosovo. For them, national interest is a legitimate reason for the use of force, but philanthropy isn't.
Me? I fall somewhere in between and, as a result, I tend to advocate the use of force in more circumstances than most pure advocates of national interest or philanthropy. I believe that stopping genocide and/or the oppression of minorities is a legitimate use of force even if the powers doing the oppressing pose no threat to the US, but I recognize that we cannot always do so (otherwise, I'd be advocating overthrowing the House of Saud, the dictatorship in Syria, and Bud Selig). However, I see that defending vital national interests is also a legitimate use of force, but I tend to be sceptical as to whether force is always the best way to defend those interests [my Momma always said it's a lot easier to attract flies with honey than with vinegar (but who wants to attract flies?)]. If my thinking looks muddled and self-contradictory, that's because it is. Do I contradict myself? Well, then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.
Thursday, October 03, 2002
Mo' Drugs vs AlcoholJohn Quiggin has written an essayon why we ban drugs like marijuana and heroin on the theory that legalization will make more addicts, but don't extend that reasoning to alcohol and tobacco:
If we were really serious about the anti-drug message we are sending to the young through the criminalisation of drugs, we would seek to eliminate alcohol and nicotine from our society, and we would do so through legal restrictions on their sale and use. The view that people are mature enough to make their own decisions about alcohol and tobacco, but not about marijuana and ecstasy, is simply incoherent........
.........Such a policy would reduce drug-related deaths, even if the law was widely violated. Deaths from alcohol and tobacco use far outweigh those from illegal drugs, so even a modest reduction in usage would save large numbers of lives. Young people, the central focus of our current drug policy, would be much less likely to develop an addiction to tobacco if it was as expensive and as severely restricted as heroin is today. Binge-drinking, which is most commonly associated with spirits, might be reduced under a policy of partial prohibition.
Worth reading in its entirety, especially as Quiggin makes the novel argument that Prohibition actually worked far better than does the current War on Drugs (or, as I call it, the War On Some People Who Do Some Drugs).
Fun With ConspiraciesSKBubba pointed mt to this, in which BigWig sees more than meets the eye in NJ. Essentially, he thinks that the whole Senate race switcheroo was a trap to make Bush v Gore into an issue once again. He thinks the USSC will overrule the NJSC and then all hell will break loose:
Anyone else remember the nationwide bitterness the last time the Supreme Court overruled a state supreme court on the matter of a local election law? That wound may have a scab on it, but it's nowhere near healed. You can tell people to get over it till the cows come home, but just because they stop yelling doesn't mean everything is all hunky-dory now.
Two things will happen when the Supremes overrule. One, the Democratic base is going to get really energized really quickly. Most elections, and especially off-year elections, are decided by turnout, and this will turn out the party faithful in droves. Second, Bob Toricelli will have had a week or two or three where he isn't being attacked by Doug Forrester. Just as importantly, Forrester won't have a target to shoot at, so his campaign loses focus. When Toricelli jumps back into the race after the Supreme Court bitchslaps their state brethren, the focus will no longer be on him, but on the "Republican Supreme Court trying to steal a second national election." That will play in New Jersey. That will play all over the U.S., because the media is congenitally unable to let go of an angle as juicy as that. It gives the Democrats an issue that trumps Iraq, and they will not let it go.
That would be truly ironic, given that Torricelli was the first prominent Democrat to tell Gore to concede after the 2000 election (rumors had it that he was trying to curry favor with Bush so he'd call off the DoJ). If anyone deserves to benefit from that backlash, it ain't Torricelli.
I'm not gonna say that things won't play that way if the USSC does overrule the NJSC (in fact, they probably will), but I really don't think it's intentional.
1) Top Democrats aren't that smart. Sorry, but they're not. They let the 2000 election get stolen from right under their noses and did virtually nothing to stop it.
2) The Democrats aren't that unified. They've spent more time arguing amongst themselves than with Bush, and they haven't been able to put together the votes to do damned near anything or to put any sort of pressure on Bush.
3) The Democrats aren't that snaeky and ruthless. They were once, I'll grant you that, but not now. They had all the ammo in the world to use against George Bush in the 2000 election (drug use, shady business dealings, double digit IQ) and they used almost none of it. They could've undermined Bush the way Republicans did Clinton, they didn't.
I do think that a Supreme Court ruling favoring the Republicans (especially if split 5-4) will energize the Democratic base like crazy. This may even lead to some close races tilting Democratic. I just don't see it as intentional (I also refuse to predict what Fat Tony Scalia and his henchmen are going to do).
Wednesday, October 02, 2002
The Echo ChamberThere's a real danger in politics of assuming that voters share your opinions on everything (including other people). This attitude can be seen running wild in the current Republican Party. Rick Lazio thought all he had to say was I'm not Hillary Clinton, and he'd win in a landslide. After all, everybody hates Hillary, right? Republicans couldn't believe that people elected Clinton in '92 and they were absolutely stunned to see them reelect him in '96. Since everybody they knew hated Clinton, they assumed that everyone else did too.
This is also true of the Republican fixation with vouchers, privatizing Social Security, and the Inheritance Tax. They just can't figure out that other people aren't worked up over rebates for people who can afford to put their kids in private school, making stock brokers rich, and cutting taxes for heiresses.
This atttitude is going to keep Van Hilleary from winning the TN Governor's race. For those of you who don't follow TN politics, the current Republican Governor is the least popular person among Tennessee Republicans. Yes, that's right. The Tennessee Republicans hate Don Sundquist (one of their own) more than they hate Al Gore. Why? Because Sundquist tried to pass an income tax to fix the states seriously fucked fiscal condition. Now, leaving aside the merits of an income tax, this one issue made Don Sundquist so unpopular among TN Republicans that he's been booed every time he's appeared in front of them for the last 3 years and neither Frist nor Bush will appear anywhere with him.
Since Hilleary and the other Tennessee Republicans (who've gotten far more conservative over the last decade) hate Sundquist so much, they assume everyone else does too. This has caused one of the weirder political ads I've ever seen. Along with the relatively standard shots at Bredesen for being a Yankee and for having raised property taxes in Nashville, this Hilleary ad morphs the face of the Democrat Bredesen into that of the Republican Sundquist, and asks if we should just call him BredeSundquist. Not only is this profundly confusing to the people who remember that Bredesen ran against Sundquist for Governor eight years ago, but it's also profoundly stupid.
The people who don't like Don Sundquist dislike him for two reasons:
1) He's a Republican (these people aren't gonna ever vote for Hilleary)
2) He tried to institute an Income Tax (almost all of the people who'd develop a personal animosity towards anyone even associated with Sundquist for this sole reason are already voting for Hilleary)
Hence, the people who are likely to vote against someone just because of an association with Sundquist have already chosen a candidate.
The people who haven't picked sides (them swing voters) are the people most likely to think favorably of Don Sundquist. Moderate Republicans like my Mom think Sundquist is an alright guy who tried the best he could. Moderate Democrats and independents mostly think the same. By trying to demonize Sundquist and then tie him to Bredesen, Hilleary is gonna piss off the very voters he needs most. He's making himself look like a raving wingnut (which he is) and driving moderates who don't mind Sundquist towards Bredesen. Good job, Van. Of course, I if had Hilleary's voting record and resume, I'd probably try to change the subject too.
The flip side of this is why Alexander will most likely beat Bob Clement for the US Senate seat. Alexander was once a moderate Republican Governor (before he got beltway fever), and the swing voters will probably remember this instead of all the right-wing pandering he's done running for President. He's not stupid enough to intentionally alienate moderates who's votes he needs.
Tenn GovSKBubba reviews the Gubernatorial debate between Van Hilleary and Phil Bredesen:
I watched this thing, and all I can say is that I couldn't tell what the hell Hilleary was talking about half the time.
I'm not sure what questions he was responding to, but I'm pretty sure the answer wasn't that the problem with TennCare is too many people with hangnails being uninsurable, or that Chinese abortions are somehow an issue that the governor of Tennessee needs to deal with, or that skipping classes to hang out in the mountains makes him the environmental candidate,or that Bredesen should have resigned as mayor of Nashville to volunteer for Desert Storm, or...
I, myself, missed the debate (baseball), but have been following the race closely. I see it as Bredesen's to lose. Not only does he project an aura of quiet competence and intelligence that Hilleary can't match, but he also has the support of a lot of midstate moderate Republicans who've seen him work (much the same dynamic is helping Ron Kirk in TX). It's gonna be real hard to convince the people who saw Bredesen run Nashville for eight years that he's some sort of raving left-wing loony. The only reason I think Hilleary has a chance at all is Ed Sanders, the black minister who's trying to be Tennessee's Ralph Nader. His politics are okay, but he's running a campaign he has no chance of winning and that may leave an absolute wingnut in charge. If he gets anything close to 5%, Bredesen's in trouble.
Liquor v DrugsDoc Nebula did some research on the varying ways that drugs affect the brain (no permalinks, so scroll down to "Sweet, Sweet Liquor Eases the Pain"). He has too much stuff to summarize, but this jumped out:
Colin Wilson, in his amazing tome A Criminal History of Mankind.....provides horrific descriptions, taken from actual contemporary accounts, of what happened when the first distilled liquor, gin, was introduced to Europe and eventually made its way to England, back in (I’m guessing, now, it’s been a long time) the 15th or 16th Century. It very nearly destroyed the entire economy and almost completely wrecked the culture of Europe and England. Every member of the lower, working classes – men, women, children – exposed to the effects of gin did nothing but drink until they passed out. Upon regaining consciousness, they’d stagger out, do whatever they had to in order to secure enough money to buy more gin, then go back to one of the gin-stalls that flourished in nearly every doorway where a distillery or a distribution stand could be set up, buy more gin, and again, drink themselves into a stupor. The accounts from the times are hellish. Adults sold themselves, or stole, or murdered, to get money. Parents sold their children, or rented them out as prostitutes; children themselves, once exposed to the distilled liquor, willingly sold themselves to raise gin money.
Sounds like both the effect of alcohol on Native Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries (continuing to today in some cases) and the effect of crack when it was first introduced into inner city neighborhoods. I'll speculate that the introduction of a new and powerful intoxicant into a population with no built up resistance (either physical or cultural) is going to cause problems, but that introducing the same intoxicant into a group experiencing extreme amounts of disruption and stress with very little hope for the future will cause a fucking disaster. Sometime wanting to blot away the pain isn't a bad call, and that would especially apply to 16th century English poor and 19th century Native Americans.
Overworked and Underpaid
Just ran across BlogMedic, a blog written by a Chattanooga EMT named Andy Gienapp. Those guys work their asses off and go through all sorts of crap to help us when we need it most, so I thought he deserved some attention. Plus, he's funny:
Annoying fat 12 year old: Does anyone ever die in your ambulance?
Me: Yeah, sometimes
Me: Kids mainly.
AF12yo: Really?!! Like babies and stuff?!!
Me: No. Usually kids like you.
I love my job.
But he can also be much more serious:
I had a conversation the other day with a couple of teenage girls whose questions were focused on "dead people". They seemed amazed that my job often involves death and dying. Of course, in the teen years you are convinced of your own invulnerability and death is a foreign concept. To see this in their faces was at the same time a delight and distressing. A delight in so much as it helps me to recall my own more innocent years where my concerns were cars, superheros and girls. A distress in that I was keenly aware that the reality of the world is so different. When they asked me the "worst thing you've seen" question, I debated: Do I tell them about a 12 year old girl, an honor student, well loved, that burned to death in her bed or do I allow them to avoid those images for a few more years? The beauty of innocence is in it's ignorance, so I smiled and changed subjects. Plenty of time later for morose ponderings.
Well worth reading.
Tuesday, October 01, 2002
Now That Hurts
Someone just found my blog by searching Google for reasons Vandy sucks. Now, as much as I like having new readers, that's still hurtful. So I thought I'd respond with this link:
Vols' graduation rate still falling
The University of Tennessee graduated only 8% of its football players and none of its black football players who entered the school as freshmen for the 1995-96 year, according to a report released yesterday by the NCAA.
The report is based on student-athletes being given six years to graduate, the measure used by the Department of Education for graduation success.
Meanwhile, Vanderbilt graduated 100% of its football players from the same year's class.
Draw your own conclusions.
South Knox Bubba comments on my post about Bill Clinton's Penis and its use as an all-purpose debating technique. He draws a contrast between the blogosphere and other media, and adds his worry for the future:
There are many thoughtful bloggers and reader/commenters who operate in an fair, open-minded, and respectful way, even some I don't agree with on a lot of issues. This would include most visitors here, all of whom I thank for being civil and respectful. Unfortunately, though, it sometimes seems like the blogosphere is becoming a highly polarized, self-referential circle jerk, with the right and the left each talking to themselves, amplifying and validating their own entrenched views with inflamed rhetoric and name calling, leaving no room for any other point of view.
I'd say that most people with blogs tend to be among the more thoughtful and reflective in society. We (or at least I) see blogging as a way to introduce nuance into situations that quickly become polarized when exposed to normal TV and newspaper economics and pressures (as two people shouting make good TV, but seven people with different points of view are too confusing to follow). I watch cable and don't see anyone who represents my point of view on the important subjects, and I spend an inordinant amount of time deciding where I stand on the issues. So I've started blogging as a way of thinking out loud and of disseminating the idea that maybe there are more than two sides to every issue and sometimes ideas need to be dissected and examined rather than ingested whole.
This, of course, is a lot easier in cases where I can see that both sides of an issue have valid points (guns, drugs, invading Iraq, vouchers, globalization) than ones where I can't (gay rights, people who blindly disagree with anything government does, Raiders fans). I'm also much more likely to listen to someone who politely disagrees and makes their point (which makes shitty TV, but good blogging) than someone who spews hatred and lies to make their opponents look bad (Limbaugh and Coulter being the most obvious examples).
Since time is limited and more people write than I can possibly read, I have to choose where to focus my attention. As you can tell from my blogroll, most of he people I read agree with me on many issues, but not all. I look for people who appear to think for themselves and who present their ideas clearly, be they to the left of me, to the right of me, well meaning libertarians, or even guys who see eye to eye with me on damned near everything. They get me thinking and force me to make sure my opinions hold weight (and I've had some changed over the years). This is a lot more fun for me than just hearing my own prejudices bounced back and reinforced.
Unfortunately, not everyone feels that way. There's a reason that Rush Limbaugh is the most popular guy on radio, Fox is the most popular news channel on cable, and that books like "Stupid White Men", "The O'Reilly Factor", and "Slander" sell so well: It's fun to have your views validated; it's fun to watch your opponents vilified; and it makes life a hell of a lot easier if you never have anyone question your beliefs. This is especially true if your opinions are more gut reaction than particularly well thought out. The echo chamber can be very tempting.
It's also tempting to take every opportunity to vilify your opponents (especially when they'd do the same if given the chance). God knows I've used Rush Limbaugh's butt cyst and inability to hold a woman as the punchline to more than one joke, and I'll probably do it again. I do, however, try to respond to the valid points made by those I disagree with. Since Coulter and Limbaugh rarely make points other than People who disagree with me are unAmerican scum who hate freedom and normal people, I usually just insult and/or ignore them in return. The many bloggers who ape them, I ignore or use as objects lessons in how not to win arguments. Others, I make the effort to understand and respond to. Of course, I'll still take a cheap shot every once in while (who can resist).
SKBubba also gives the best justification for blogging that I've seen yet:
Sometimes I feel like I should just quit wasting my time and focus my efforts on more productive and meaningful activities, like making more money or golf. Then I read something funny and thought provoking like William's rant and I just can't stop myself from spewing out more mindless drivel that might get somebody stop and think or make them angry or concerned enough to act on something they believe in or maybe just make somebody laugh when they most need it.
Monday, September 30, 2002
Thought I'd elaborate a bit on the previous point. The commenter mentioned below wrote back to insist that he wasn't thinking about Bill Clinton's Penis, and actually seemed pretty grossed out about it. So I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
I do want to mention what put me in position to jump all over his statement. Being a Southern liberal (which would make me moderate to conservative on either coast), I get into a lot of political arguments. Many times these are with people who either aren't very bright, aren't very good at arguing, or so obviously in the wrong that they don't want to argue the merits of the case. These people (and you see a lot of them on TV also) have developed a form of argumentation that I'll call Bill Clinton's Penis. It consists of responding to a valid point by your opponent with a non-sequitor that either throws him off balance or serves to smear him or his side.
I say: I don't want to weaken environmental regulations.
Conservative response: Bill Clinton got a blowjob.
I say: Using the entire budget surplus on a tax cut for the rich is pretty stupid.
Conservative response: Bill Clinton got a blowjob.
You can see how this is both infuriating and serves to make debate impossible (which, of course, is the fucking point if you know damned well that you'll lose any real debate). I've taken to mentally labelling such tactics Bill Clinton's Penis whether or not they have anything to do with the aforementioned appendage. Of course, there are many other versions of Bill Clinton's Penis.
I say: We really need to make sure that poor kids get health insurance.
Conservative response: Hillary's a dyke.
I say: I'm not sure we should invade Iraq.
Conservative response: Jane Fonda went to Hanoi.
I say: I don't think we should lock up citizens without trial.
Conservative response: Janet Reno was a dyke.
I say: Nixon sure was scary.
Conservative response: Jack Kennedy got a blowjob.
Of course, there are idiots on every side.
I say: I'm sure glad the Taliban are gone.
Noam Chomsky's response: The United States bombed Hiroshima.
I say: I don't want Bush to dismantle environmental protections or appoint any judges.
Michael Moore: Globalization is bad.
Christopher Hitchens: Bill Clinton got a blowjob.
Alexander Cockburn: I sure miss Stalin.
Christopher Hitchens: Does anyone have any liquor?
Naomi Klein: Capitalism is bad.
Alexander Cockburn: I mean, I really, really miss Stalin.
Christopher Hitchens: I said Does anyone have any liquor?
So any time you face some idiotic non-sequitor when you've made a valid point, think of the Big Dog's Penis.
Bill Clinton's Penis
A couple days ago, I made some predictions, including the following:
Within six months of Ronald Reagan's death, Tom DeLay will propose making his birthday a national holiday.
In response, a commenter wrote:
#3. Who cares? Why does this matter? Would you prefer making Bill Clinton's b-day a national holiday? Or would the day he lost his virginity be more appropriate?
Although I do appreciate comments and emails from dissenting points of view, I feel the need to make the follwing public service announcement to all conservatives:
Stop Thinking About Bill Clinton's Penis. You know it's not healthy to be that obsessed with the privates of someone you despise. All it does it get you riled up into a frenzy of hatred and rage. Take a deep breath and repeat after me:
Bill Clinton's Penis did not cause tech stocks to collapse
Bill Clinton's Penis did not loot WorldCom or Enron
Bill Clinton's Penis was not responsible for Sept 11th
Bill Clinton's Penis was not the reason girls wouldn't date you in high school
Bill Clinton's Penis was not responsible for Rush's TV show being cancelled
Bill Clinton's Penis does not want to take away your guns
Bill Clinton's Penis did not kill Randy Weaver's family
Bill Clinton's Penis is not shipping domestic manufacturing jobs overseas
Bill Clinton's Penis is not the reason your boss is a penis
Bill Clinton's Penis did not convince your wife to fuck the tennis pro
And, last but not least, Roe v Wade has nothing to do with Bill Clinton's Penis
Thank you for your time and attention.
Dem Strategery Blues
Stumbled across an April post from Off The Pine laying out proper Democratic strategy. The highlights:
Fiscal Policy: Go out and win the tax-cut debate. Wrap spending in the flag if necessary
Education: Here the Dems need to use Bush's compassionate conservative rhetoric against him by forcing him to either (a) split with his party or (b) veto increased education spending.
Environment: Bush's credibility on this issue is negligible. The Dems have to take the bite and become the party for serious energy conservation
Domestic Security The grass-roots will want to go after Ashcroft and his overreaching on civil liberties. Big mistake - that's exactly the debate the Republicans want to have on the issue. Instead the Dems need to frame this as the Republican hostility to government getting in the way of America's security
Judicial Appointments: Hold the line until Bush puts forward moderate appointees
Foreign Policy Tread lightly here. While the New York Times and Europe may want a more nuanced foreign policy, middle America loves Bush's black-and-white positions on the war on terror. The Achilles heel however is the stated opposition to nation-building. Framing a foreign aid bill as a terror-prevention issue would make the more isolationist GOP reps squirm.
Overall, the implicit message in 2002 has to be while you might like what the Bushies are doing abroad, only we can protect you at home.
This is even better advice now than it was 6 months ago.