Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Check this out while I tidy up

Over in the DKos diaries, Bonddad has a brilliant rebuttal to a RedState.org post rationalizing the fiscal madness of the Bush administration. Imagine a conservative justifying these kinds of deficits in a liberal administration (or don't, lest you're dying to have your head explode).

One thing Bonddad doesn't address is, if running up deficits is indeed a brilliant fiscal strategy, why do the Bushies keep paying lip service to a balanced budget (i.e. "Oh we project a balanced budget, um, sometime in the future...")?

Trusty Getto emailed me a fine critique of my "rules" and I am going to consider his recommendations and make a few revisions. He doesn't think I should apply pure logic to the discourse and his point is well taken. However, when fallacies arise, they will be duly noted (and you're forewarned that there are a couple of fine logicians lurking hereabouts).

I have to put in some bullshit administrative/office hours today and revising "the rules" might be a fine way to kill some time. If anyone else has suggestions, please email them to me (instead of using the comments). I still think arguments put forth here should be judged on their soundness and validity but I concur with Trusty that they shouldn't be narrowly critiqued through a lens of pure logic.

A work in progress...

Monday, September 19, 2005

Changing gears - my first question

Wow, I got off track....

One of the problems with writing a left-y political blog is the redundancy throughout the blogosphere. I concur that it's heartening to hear all these voices raised to reiterate that "Bush sucks" but that's hardly interesting or groundbreaking. Thus, my reluctance to post, not just in the last 11 days but in the past few months.

I want to find a niche as well as honor the intent of this blog which was not really to be a left-wing echo chamber but to ask questions of the right and the left, to gainsay the conventional wisdom, to examine what works and what is sheer idiocy. When I was getting my Philosophy degree (yes, many of you know me as a therapist but I also got a degree in Philosophy in order to secure my future as a well-paid waiter), I was known within the the Philosophy department at my school as a bit of a maverick. A "soft-Marxist" certainly but also a bit of an iconoclast and I tended to step on more leftist toes than conservative toes.

My intention here, on a daily basis, will be to examine where the US has come from and where it should head. I'm hoping for an honest dialogue from all sides of the political wading pool. I'm asking for people to enlighten me.

I start today (I'm hoping this will be an ongoing series) by critiquing the notion of a "strict constructionist" approach to the Constitution. As I see it, the intellectual underpinnings of my political opposition is founded on republicanism (small 'r') functioning within an iteration of federalism (also defined here).

Lakoff's metaphors aside, I believe that liberals and conservatives in the US mostly diverge with Constitutional interpretation, narrow versus broad interpretations of what the framers meant when drafting the Constitution.

Obviously, we can't divine the intent of dead men. Those of you on the right will certainly accuse me of deconstructionism with this (and further) arguments but I don't think it's unfair to place this first question in the context of the times with which the US Constitution was written.

At the time of its inception, the Constitution was the guideline for a country that was about a tenth of the size it is now (geographically) with little intent of grabbing much more territory. Indeed, had fortunes changed slightly it's not difficult to imagine that much of the continental US would be either French or Spanish (and even Russian), if not Native American. There is nothing to indicate that the framers held any pretense for empire much less exporting The Grand Experiment on a global scale.

Furthermore, in the late Eighteenth-century, the US was a largely agrarian society that had no notion of its industrial potential. Considering that provisions were made for slave-owners, it could be argued that the framers envisioned a country with an economy driven largely by "gentleman farmers" (and a few "hard-scrabble" farmers) with a some urban bourgeoise tradesman, a system that reflected most progressive European economies - with the exception that government would be democratically elected.

Considering those humble expectations of the country, the framers believed that government would serve minimal administrative functions in order to facilitate inter-state commerce (i.e. an objective judiciary to decide crimes or disputes of rights, the institution and maintenance of urban and rural infrastructure, a standing army to secure borders, and a minute legislative/administrative tier to oversee all these functions) but not much else. Although such a view, in this day and age, is considered a kind of fundamentalist libertarian utopian dream, it nonetheless provides the philosophical foundation for modern conservative thought.

So here is my first question: is the historical milieu of the framers relevant to a country that was far more complex than anything they could have conceived?

That's my question. I hope we'll proceed from here and it should be obvious that my agenda will be to undermine the foundational philosophy of the conservative argument (I make no pretense of being purely objective in this). However, I am setting aside shrill indictments in the interest of inviting an open, informed dialogue. I'm not certain that we'll solve anything and, frankly, I propose to shatter conservative contra propositions.

I will provide guidelines in another post. I'd like an answer to this first question and I'll live with deviations from the rules until those guidelines are posted. You can think of this as a bridge game: I know what cards I hold and what cards I will show but you can also play your cards as you see fit. However, your best play will be to answer my bid - as you see fit.

The game is on.


This series is about open and honest dialogue, not about out-shouting one another or playing hit-and-run trolling. I live in the service of truth, not agenda or dogma. If you can enlighten me, great; if I am wrong now but you guide me towards being correct, I thank you.

However, certain rules apply, most of them laid out long ago by Aristotle - logic. Arguments based on intuition - my gut - just don't cut it. Our system of justice ostensibly relies on the rules of logic (in a perfect world, I concur) but more importantly, empiricism is founded on this entire system. Logic provides proofs for mathematics, geometry - what more could you ask? Obviously, you won't be seeing any arguments here about "Intelligent Design".

Left or Right, I will delete comments that do nothing to further the discourse and reduce the discourse to name-calling or indulge in the following fallacies:


Appeals to Motives in Place of Support

Changing the Subject

Inductive Fallacies

Fallacies Involving Statistical Syllogisms

Causal Fallacies

Missing the Point

Fallacies of Ambiguity

Category Errors

Non Sequitur

Syllogistic Errors

Fallacies of Explanation

Fallacies of Definition

Finally, and I don't know why this should be stated but I'll put it out there anyway, just to codify this entire thing: your arguments must be consistent, meaning, if they are going to to be used to validate a proposition, that argument must validate all propositions following the original proposition. If you're going to argue from complexity, you need to either devise a new argument or a new proposition.

Too tough? Tough shit, them's the rules and if you think that's too much to ask then don't play. The point is that we cut out all the bullshit ("liberal media" and every other canard) and do with this rationalism. If you're not intellectually prepared for that, stay away.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

OK, maybe I'm a bit stupid-ish when it comes to the MSM

MSNBC - "BREAKING NEWS!!!" - three nitwits breaking into some hotel. Really. "Breaking news". Where was MSNBC when my tires were slashed?

I wonder how "breaking" that news would be if three shitheads were breaking into a hotel (or liquor store or a Ford Fiasco or Stop-n'-Dump) around here. Holy shit, MSNBC wouldn't have a moment for Tweety or Dan "I'm flacid unless it's a celebrity" Abrams or even - God forbid - Olbermann was interrupted every time a few criminals decided to bust a lock and grab some goods.

Guess we're going to get "breaking news!!!" when a meth-head holds up a Kwiki-Mart with a tire iron in Butte, Montana...

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A little anecdotal relief from White House spin

Although I reside in a teeny-tiny patch of blue due west of one of the reddest blotches marring the landscape of this great land of ours, I work in the depths of that red scourge. Indeed, I have to cross it every day (a commute that is killing me with current gas prices) with eyes wide open and head held down.

A strange phenomenon: prior to the November election, you didn't see all that many 'W04' stickers on cars. As I've heard from different corners, the last Presidential election wasn't so much about showing support for Bush but stating distaste for Kerry. That seems to have been borne out days before the election because, as I traversed the red sea hereabouts, my count of Kerry stickers relative to Bush stickers was a dead heat.

What I found interesting was that, after the election, 'W04'stickers bloomed, as if local drivers felt confident enough to slap the damn things on their SUVs as if to say, "Oh yeah, Oh yeah, I supported the WINNER!" Before the election, my count of 'W' stickers amounted to about 1-in-20 cars; after the election, that count jumped to about 1-in-6.

Until this past week. Oddly enough, the 'W' stickers have disappeared. No shit, for the last two days I have not seen a single 'W' sticker anywhere on my trek across town (and today I had several errands to run, so my drive was considerably longer and more circuitous.

Believe me, I've had my eyes peeled because I've wanted to roll up on some winger with a Bush sticker so I could shout, "Nice job he did while on vacation, huh?" but no such luck.

I'm not sure what that means but I have my suspicions.

Adding to that, my groups have been given the opportunity to process their feelings regarding the Katrina disaster (I'm a therapist for court-ordered DUI therapy groups). I've listened to roughly 60 clients regarding the disaster and only two were in Bush's corner. Not everyone expressed anger at Bush and the Federal government but I have to say the vast majority said "Bush should be impeached."

Anecdotal evidence, I know, and it probably doesn't mean much, but it tells me that not many people have been swayed by the whirring of the White House spin machine's spew of fallacies over the past couple of days.

It's been widely reported on the blogosphere (but it bears repeating here), that the MSM has been dizzied by Rovian spin. A prime example from TPM today:
While watching the MSNBC program, CONNECTED, COAST TO COAST with Ron Reagan, a man from the Evergreen Foundation was on air spinning the myth that the President had to "beg" the Governor of Louisiana to take action. Having been on this show several times I called one of the bookers, Susan Durrwatcher, to alert her to the fact that this man was misrepresenting what happened. I offered Susan the following objective, documented facts (see timeline below). Susan thanked me for my "opinion" and said "we just have a different perspective". Stunned, I asked her by what standard of journalism that an objective fact was mere opinion? I asked her to simply look at the documents and correct the record. She declined.

Perhaps the left is gun-shy when considering the intelligence of the average American (echoing the Daily Mirror's post-election headline, "How can 59,054, 087 people be so DUMB?") and although the left blogosphere is rightfully exasperated by the media carrying White House water, it's not as though this battle is brand new. Although the MSM did an admirable job in its criticism of the delayed response to the disaster, we all knew that their week of sobriety was short-lived and a relapse was imminent.

Sure, recent polls find most Americans ambivalent regarding Bush's performance but in my own little corner of the universe, people are saying something different. As the stories of the evacuees make the rounds, as the true death toll begins to get reported, and as the results of an independent start to come to light, the things the vast majority of my clients are saying will be repeated, louder, with more anger.

As far as the sudden dearth of 'W' stickers in this area? My own interpretation is that, although people aren't exactly blaming Bush, they can't exactly bring themselves to support him. And that's not something the polls are reporting.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Want to be sexy? Be liberal!

If this is your first visit to this blog (or you have a really tight rubber band around your neck), allow me to explain my political philosphy: I believe politics (in the US) are cyclical. The pendulum swings too far to the left and then, having reached the threshold, turns back to the right. There is no "center", per se, but eventually the center is articulated in the statistical mechanics of the pendulum: it is the place where the pendulum rests twice more than any place on its path.

Being big on latin tonight (ex-Catholic schoolboy, me) I'll offer a caveat: by nature, the pendulum always - ALWAYS - tends towards the left. It cannot sustain itself on the right, the right is committed to the old order of the few having much and the many having nothing. Call me a Marxist (you won't be the first) but the algebra is too obvious; take too much and those without will hit back and take it from you.

As the world watches, appalled, not just at the results of Bush's economic policies but decades also of Democratic appeasment to corporate interests, the American public begins to ask questions. Was it beneficial to give tax cuts or should we have been funding an infrastructure and safety net? In the eyes of the world, we are an embarassment; inward-looking, we are disgusted.

Suddenly, the right-wing canard that "those people should be responsible for themselves and their actions" is equivocated. First of all, "those people" takes on a racist overtone (considering the images that came out of NOLA and the reluctance of our government to act) and makes us wonder how far we really have come since the 60's; most Americans are having problems with that. Secondly, many Americans are beginning to realize that working two minimum-wage jobs still gives most families no opportunity to save and get ahead. The images coming out of NOLA are not of the "lumpen proletariat" but of the working poor, people who have fulfilled their part of the bargain but were no further ahead welfare welch. Indeed, most of the working poor require government assistance to just get by.

As Americans drain their resources at the gas pumps and consider the obscene profits raked in by energy companies (and other corprorate CEO's), as our economy continues to go south and the housing boom is shunted, the shift will go towwards the left. It's inevitable.

History, my friends. No society has ever benefited from giving the rich a by on their duty to the rest of the world. in fact, if you consider how FDR took the US out of the Great Depression (and why hard-core conservatives hate him), it was through progressive, across-the board taxation that turned the tax income into work programs that built an infrastructure in this country that has not been repeated. EVERYONE was working, investing, saving... just ask your gramma or gampy; the country had it going on BEFORE the war (WW II, the war and time dipshit Dubya attempts to evoke for emotional effect).

The US became a world power - THE world power - because of progressive taxation. When a nation offers all workers a chance at a decent life those workers have can build on an increasingly greater legacy, kids in college, adding to the greatness of the American dream.

Conservatives have always opposed diversion from the "natural order". They tried (and failed) to defeat integration in the 60's and continue now: NAFTA, CAFTA, a slave class is in their best interest. If they have to appeal to religious extremism (check opposition to integration), they will. They have.

Now that Katrina has thrown the US economy into a tailspin (and I suspect the hurricane season is far from over), Americans have had it with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. After all, the US was founded on the notion that anyone can grow up to be president. Clinton did it, but he did it within an America that allowed anyone from the bottom to rise to the top (the fact that he sold out the vision of America that gave him opportunity is a sad statement on our national character).

The pivot has come.

The "me first" attitude in the US is on its way out. The way the administration sold the folks of New Orleans down the river (figuatively and literally) turned off too many of the "good Americans" - we've evolved beyond stupid racism and there's no going back. More than that, we're all about to be stung by the kind of poverty that we ascribed to "them" - those conservatives pigeonholed as not having any personal responsibility. Too many of us are about to find out that our current system is oblivious to circumstances or status.

The rest of the world has observed the disparity of race and economic status. Circumstnces have kept a majority of Americans oblivious to those facts but that's about to change.

For the past 20 years, it's been sexy to be un-PC, ironic, and selfish. However, the pendulum just passed the mid-point and now it's on its way to being conscious of race, gender, and social status. Get used to it. "Liberal" is the new black.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

"Blame the nigger!"

In light of the entire nation connecting the dots and the MSM waking up from years of stupor to actually get angry at BushCo, I've wondered when the Right-wing Noise Machine would start spewing idiocy. Until now, it's mostly been racist drivel (see this idiots comment from my last post), "Looters!" but not much else.

Today I got some sense of how the pips would squeak and I have to say, the squeaking is a sorry noise, hardly representative of the quasi-clever quips of previous hand-in-the-armpit wingnut noise-making. Indeed, what's passed as "Support our Preznit" nonsense the last few hours has amounted to the hissing of a balloon on its way to becoming flaccid rubber.

Most of the wingnut spittle has amounted to "it's hard work" in the same resigned, whining sigh echoing Bush's resigned, whining performance in the second Bush/Kerry debate. With that pathetic little soundbite we're supposed to put ourselves in the Preznit's Bass Sperry's and see how we would have done, given the pressures of having been asked to cut our five-week vacation short a day early.

Let me tell you, my four-year old could have put her Powerpuff Girl sneakers on and done a much better job than the four-year old in Chief (am I the only one who is suspicious why he'd name his dog "Barney"? Do you get the sense he did that because "Barney" is his favorite show?).

The pippiest squeak thus far was provided by Ben Stein whose "13 Points No One Should Make Unless They're a Complete Mindless Shill (or the Spread I'm Taking in the Bears vs. the Redskins)" essentially amounted to 11 points stating what an awful disaster Katrina was with the final two points reminding us who is in charge, after all. Uh, I think we got that, Ben, and if that's the money I'll win, well, that hardly fills my tank.

Poonan, on the other hand, was impressed with Junior's lip-diddling press conference but what struck me was her reference to The Cranky Old Man regarding 9/11:
Remember what Dick Cheney said when flight 93 went down in a field in Pennyslvania? He said he had a feeling an act of significant bravery had occurred on that plane.
Cheney's quote being significant since he just managed to step out of the Wyoming anabolic chamber they preserve him in (until they need him to re-invigorate the Death Star) so he could return to Washington to slap Dubya across the head and growl at how everything was foot-fucked while Dick was bathed in the blood of Guatemalan virgins. That and to spur Poonan on with her 30-odd-six, "Shoot those monkeys, you saucy little whore!" while her fat ass slickens her naughahyde seat with a snail-trail of excitement.

Over at the Corner, David "say what you will about those cross-burnings but at least they're patriotic" Frum frets that the "left-wing attacks on the Bush administration," regarding Katrina (because the right-wing attacks were perfectly sensible) are contradictory and proves it by, uh, per incuriam, contradicting himself. I can imagine Frum's shaving ritual, looking at himself in the mirror (an act of extreme courage, I assume), shouting, "You're an idiot!" "Yes you are!" "No, I'm NOT!!!" "Yes you're not but I am!!!"

Considering the impotence of wingnut answers to criticisms of Bush, it's not surpising that the best we get are echoes of some desperate freeper pooch chained to a tree and and howling for kibble. That argument doesn't even make it to a proper blog post bust gets parroted in blog comments, hit-and-run palaver blathering, "Yeah, what about NOLA's mayor?!?"

I don't know where this particularly repulsive meme came from (although, since we all know it amounts to "Blame the nigger!" I asume it was Little Green Footballs) but allow me to enlighten the fuckwits who hold to that tiny-minded argument: the mayor doesn't control Federal assets. In a disaster of this scope (arguably the largest in US history), the Feds move in and try to get everyone fed and housed and the fuck out of the rubble. Read some fucking history (I know, it's something you lack, history and the ability to read) but it's all there, in black and white, shitheads. For fuck's sake, the argument isn't just lame, it's WRONG.

The fact that the right is reacting to the criticism should tell us all something about the impotence of the so-called Republican revolution. The success of conservatives in the past 20 years has been their ability to skirt the impression of being reactionary and have been, almost to a note, proactive in spreading shit, true or not (again, check your history and see how much of it has been "true"). That the best they have is to attack Ray Nagin is an indication of utter desperation. If patriotism is the last resort of a scoundrel (and we all know how often the right has made that tired poppet dance), blaming the nigger is truly the bottom of the barrel. As I saw John Howard say (over at Skippy):
...anyone can make excuses for why this isn't bush's fault, and isn't the administration's fault, and a lot of those excuses might be valid and might be true, but if you want to sit around making excuses for why you can't do anything, then why the fuck do you become the president of the united states in the first place?

Answer that, assholes, before you go after the mayor.

Rehnquist is dead

The news just broke that Chief Justice Rehnquist has died.

So much for a slow news Labor Day weekend. This is going to throw BushCo into a goddamn tailspin. After completely botching the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort, on the heels of increasingly bad news in Iraq, BushCo doesn't have a sou in political capital.

With conservatives attacking Bush on his response to Katrina just as a few were trickling away from support from his adventure in Iraq, this does not bode well at all for Bush's desire to pack the court with conservative activists. Furthermore, it doesn't do anything for Roberts pending nomination. Some may argue that Rehnquist's death would expedite a Robert's nomination (in order to get seats filled on the court) but I doubt that will be the case.

If anything, Rehnquist's passing should give Dems pause to consider the ramifications of bending over and playing nice. Indeed, Dems and liberals have complete momentum to force moderate nominations. All they need is a little spine; the muscle is already there - the opinion of the US public. Bush has no capital to spend (less than 40% of which most are fanatical fundamentalists) and as the titular head of the Republican party, he's got a lot of asses to cover.

In the midst of the tragedy down in the Gulf, I don't think anyone considered what Rehnquist's death would mean. Obviously, our thoughts were occupied with so many other deaths. I hate to be ghoulish about this but Rehnquist's death is the last thing conservatives needed at this point. There's too much egg on too many faces (and remember the Plame investigation? That's just a few weeks away from getting really hot) and trying to play hardball with a broken back is foolhardy. Pardon the analogy but it would be the same as, after botching the occupation of Iraq, having the hubris to rush into Iran.

Hmmmmm... come to think of it, Bush may be that fucking stupid. God help us all.

RIP, William Rehnquist.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

And so it begins

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The evacuation of the Superdome was suspended Thursday after shots were fired at a military helicopter, the chief of the medical evacuation service said. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Why would anyone fire at a military helicopter that refugees would assume was there to help?

There's no way of knowing, of course, but I'd be willing to bet that word was spread that Bush was flying over NOLA to survey the disaster and the shooter was hoping that Dear Leader was riding in the chopper.

It's become clear that the vast majority of people who could not evacuate before Katrina hit were folks who did not have the means to escape. No cash, no credit cards, no car, no way to flee the storm. Now, with the federal government slow to respond to the disaster, the poor have been left to die. Not just in New Orleans but in all of southern Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Tens of thousands of people left without food, shelter, or medical care. Whatever low wage jobs they had are gone. Whatever meager belongings they possessed were washed away in the flood.

It's not going to get better. Reuters is already reporting palpable class anger brewing in Biloxi, MS and if the "man on the street" interviews are any indication, the sentiment is widespread.

The images that are coming out of New Orleans aren't being lost on the poor around the country and they're wondering what will happen if a disaster hits their community. Most likely, they're getting the sense that will be likewise neglected and regarded as expendable.

As the rich continue their garden party with Bush's tax cuts, the poor are taking stock of their place in America. I just read this, about Condi Rice spending thousands of dollars on shoes:
What does surprise us: Just moments ago at the Ferragamo on 5th Avenue, Condoleeza Rice was seen spending several thousands of dollars on some nice, new shoes (we’ve confirmed this, so her new heels will surely get coverage from the WaPo’s Robin Givhan). A fellow shopper, unable to fathom the absurdity of Rice’s timing, went up to the Secretary and reportedly shouted, “How dare you shop for shoes while thousands are dying and homeless!” Never one to have her fashion choices questioned, Rice had security PHYSICALLY REMOVE the woman.

Am I the only one who thinks our country is beginning to resemble 19th-century Europe? As a student of history, I recall how the workers and peasantry responded then and it's not much of a stretch to think that it might happen here, now.