A middle-aged man dreaming of the day when he can stop begging for scraps and write for a living.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Conservative blinders

Digby brings to my attention the words of the venerable conservative icon Rush Limbaugh:

With gasoline prices now under two bucks in most places and dropping, and the price of oil (I checked it right before the program) below $50 now ($49 a barrel it was earlier today.) So with the gas price under two bucks and oil plummeting, what would you say, Pelosi and Reid, if the car companies could become profitable by selling SUVs or go broke by turning out the green cars that you're going to demand they make?

Ah, the hypocrisy of the Right Wing mindset.

This is what I like to refer to as "conservative blinders." You're focused exclusively on short-term interests because things are precisely the way you want them. Nevermind that they're going to change, and nevermind that you're not going to like the change. Things are the way they are right now and thus there's no need to change anything.

Gasoline is under two bucks in most place right now but we had a taste of what life is like when it's over four bucks. The price of oil is under $50 a barrel right now, but we had a taste of what life is like when it's over $150. What makes you think those prices aren't going to skyrocket again? What makes you think it's safe to drive SUVs without concern for the future, either to our pocket books or to the global environment? Things are the way we want them right now, and the future will just sort itself out, right?

Short-term policies are a specialty for the GOP. Deregulating industries are good for the nation -- in the short term. Global warming is a problem for the future, so we'll let our children and grandchildren worry about it when it comes time to pay the bill. About the only long-term thinking the GOP ever engages in amounts to gambling: their policies are good for the rich and you want to be rich, right? So support our policies in the increasingly rare event that you get to be rich like us!

I don't want Detroit to start putting out efficient, environmentally-friendly vehicles because they're going to be cheaper. I want Detroit to do it because it's going to be better for everybody in the long run. I don't want my children or their children to have to pay the bill we're creating for them. Of course, if they can't put out a car that won't fall apart while I drive it, I'm still not going to buy from them. My Corolla just passed the 225000 mile mark on its original engine, and it shows no signs of dropping any time soon. Until Detroit can match that, I'm going to continue to buy Corollas in the future.

At least, I will when I have the money to do it. For some reason, the GOP is good at producing policies to protect the rich, but not so good at producing policies that help people achieve that increasingly rarefied status.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

An Open Letter in Protest of California's Proposition 8


You have given your time, your money and your energy to a cause that has attempted to create a second-class citizenry in the United States of America. You have given your time, your money, and your energy to the cause of corrupting the Constitution of California with the first mention of discrimination against its own people. You have given your time, your money, and your energy to the cause of destroying thousands of loving unions between two people. And, congratulations, you succeeded. So, now the question that you should ask yourself: Are you happy now?

We certainly are not. In fact, we are furious. The problem is, you see us as gays and lesbians, but we see ourselves as Americans. You would do yourself a huge favor to look back through the history of this great country and see that in the war of oppression against Americans, your side has always lost. Not only have you lost, but your failures are seen as epic and painful embarrassments that we, as a country, try our hardest to forget. We don't want to believe that America would allow segregation, Japanese internment camps, prohibiting women from voting, and most ironically, the anti-Mormon movements of the 19th century.

The only difference between this Civil Rights movement and all of those that have come before us is that you can't tell us apart by the color of our skin, our sex, or the country that our parents came from. We are your sons, your daughters, your mothers, your fathers, your brothers, your sisters, your cousins, your doctors, your lawyers, your teachers, your public servants… and not one of us looks like the other. Actually, we look just like you.

Maybe you didn't think Obama would win, but he did, and you will hear the echoes of his landslide in our calls of "YES WE CAN" until we are equal.

We are Americans, and we will not give up. We never have, and we never will. The only end in sight is equality, so for the sake of your children's pride in the actions of your generation, please get out of our way.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Nanny versus Daddy

In our inimical way, we like to boil down complex issues to simple generalizations. We're all guilty of this; each and every one of us. Some people blame it on our over-reliance on the three-second soundbite, but I think as a people we like having a foundation of understanding to build on. A concept to start from before we start getting into the details. So when Conservatives/Republicans start accusing Liberals/Democrats of wanting to live under a "nanny state," they're generalizing. However, I concede there is truth to this, and I intend to explore that concept while offering a generalization of my own.

Liberals like myself (progressives, if you want the re-branded name -- which I don't) are in favor of a government system that looks after the welfare of its least fortunate citizens as well as its most fortunate. We demand socialized medicine, equality for everyone and representation for all voices. While we generally don't favor the idea of enabling people to leech off public funds(*) without supporting themselves, we acknowledge that circumstances can make that unavoidable during periods of economic crisis (like now!) or medical disability. We want the government to oversee those functions of daily life that can't be entrusted to private interests like education, healthcare, retirement and regulation. We expect the government to enforce the laws it creates, and that it remain accountable to the people for those same laws. We expect fair and balanced treatment in our daily lives regardless of our social or economic situation. When bad things happen, as they inevitably do, we want the government to be there to ensure we can't fall too far or too hard, so as to enable us to get back on our feet that much quicker. Socially, we want the government to recognize any and all lifestyle choices as valid and preserve our rights in matters such as sexuality and abortion.

In short, we expect the government to be there to wipe our noses and hold our hands while we cross the street. We demand a nanny state that oversees our development.

How about conservatives? They want the government to adopt a hands-off approach, at least when it comes to individual fortunes and business regulations. Many of them are hardcore proponents of the Free Market Fairy where the markets handle all of the services needed by the people such as healthcare, disaster recovery and education. People who are financially destitute are effectively barred from entry; if you're down on your luck your options are to find some more fortunate person or organization willing to give you charity or accept whatever conditions are necessary in order to earn a living. People who live on the street are suffering the consequence of their own bad judgment, and no one is responsible for lifting them out of it. If -- and when -- the market fails to address the needs of the people through quality control or fraudulent business practices, the market will correct itself as people move away from those businesses guilty of betraying the public trust and "vote with their money" to support businesses that are more ethical. The government's role is strictly to treat with other nations and form an army for common defense. In the event of a national emergency (defined by the government, naturally), all rights are suspended while the government addresses the threat and takes whatever actions it deems necessary.

Admittedly, for the past thirty or forty years these economic conservatives been forced to form a coalition with social conservatives who want the government to regulate private lives. So, in essence, we have a political party dedicating to keeping government out of private markets while ensuring that private individuals are adhering to religiously dictated morality. They pride themselves in promoting choice, so long as you make the choices they approve of.

In short, conservatives demand a daddy state: an authoritarian entity that leaves us alone to play with matches while it does its own thing, except when it gets drunk and decides to abuse us for a while.

So, how's that for generalizations?

(*) Note: Ronald Reagan's "welfare queens" were the result of a strawman argument that had very little basis in fact (no, Virginia. A fraction of a percent of the population does not constitute a crisis).

Relevant Quotations

Someone in reddit did a nice job of compiling some quotations from our nation's Founding Fathers regarding the roles of Church and State. It's the most diverse list of quotations I've come across in a while, so I bookmarked it and thought I'd share it here.

1797 Treaty of Tripoli (Article 11) - The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.

Benjamin Franklin - Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.

Benjamin Franklin - The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.

George Washington - Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause.

James Madison - During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

James Madison - Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.

John Adams - God is an essence that we know nothing of. Until this awful blasphemy is got rid of, there never will be any liberal science in the world

John Adams - This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it

Thomas Jefferson - Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man.

Thomas Jefferson - History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government.

Thomas Jefferson - I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity) one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded upon fables and mythologies

Thomas Jefferson - In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own

Thomas Jefferson - It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

Thomas Jefferson - Political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves [of public ignorance] for their own purpose

Thomas Jefferson - Question with boldness even the existence of god; because if there be one he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear

Thomas Jefferson - The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His father, in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.

Thomas Jefferson - To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, God, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no God, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise

Thomas Paine - All natural institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

Thomas Paine - Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and of my own part, I disbelieve them all.

Thomas Paine - It is from the bible that man has learned cruelty, rapine, and murder, for the belief in a cruel god makes a cruel man, and the bible is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind

Thomas Paine - Of all the tyrannies that afflict mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst. Every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in, but this attempts a stride beyond the grave and seeks to pursue us into eternity

Thomas Paine - The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called religion

There are more, but I don't have the time right now. Point being, in case anyone is confused, is that a number of Founding Fathers (and clearly some framers) were not believers, and the United States of America, as stated in the Treaty of Tripoli, is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian (or any other) religion.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Just vote!

I'm not asking you to vote for anyone in particular. I'm not going to tell you how I think you should vote on the issues.

I'm just asking you to vote. That's all. You'll know how you're going to vote when you get there.

Vote for Change.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wall Street and the government bailouts

I have no problem with the government buying bad debt. There are things that the government can and should do that the market cannot, particularly when it comes to the well being of citizens. The government is placed in the position of authority, given oversight into the affairs of its people.

Markets are well-suited to carrying out the specifics of what has to be done, but they are not good overseers of the public welfare. Businesses generally have one goal: to make money. Serving the public is the way they're supposed to make money. If you give them leeway they'll screw over the public in order to make more money. They do it every single time. So my idea of a good bailout bill for the government? Buy out the loans to the banks so people are allowed to stay in their homes without allowing the banks to collect on the exorbitant interest rates that are forcing people out of their homes in the first place. There's no reason to reward the banking industry for its predatory lending practices.

I've said it before and I have no doubt I'll say it again: regulation is the key to a healthy economy. I know that businesses chafe under government rules, because there's so much more money they could be making without it. Cutting corners, disregarding safety measures and predatory business practices are all time-honored methods of maximizing profits. While businesses are more successful when they take the long view in serving the public good, that never stops the entrepreneur who is more focused on the bottom line. The amount of damage such businesses can do often have repercussions that last a generation or more. It is not enough to sit back and passively allow the market to "correct itself," because we'll all starve before that happens. We must take an active role in keeping our markets honest and ensuring fair businesses practices across the board.

I do not favor using the government as a bludgeon to punish businesses. We need businesses to flourish. What we do not need is deregulated businesses, particularly when we have historical examples like the Great Depression to help us figure out what can go wrong. When the government abdicates its responsibility to perform oversight, it's the people who suffer.

Sorry for ranting, but I feel better now.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Is Linux a threat to Vista?

I followed a link entitled Is Linux the greatest threat to Windows Vista? The author makes some interesting comments, but falls into the typical trap of assuming that since the Linux architecture is superior to Windows that Linux must automatically succeed. Sadly, nothing could be farther than the truth.

While I want to agree with the author here, honesty compels me to disagree. Too many people are propagating FUD about Linux, particularly about it not being ready for prime time. Whenever a user has to open a terminal session in order to fix something, they cry out that Linux Just Isn't Ready. Whenever anything doesn't "just work" the way they demand, they cry out that Linux Just Isn't Ready. Whenever their favorite software package isn't offered for Linux, they cry out that Linux Just Isn't Ready.

Microsoft has done an excellent job of seeding the community with FUD, and the Linux community has a lot of work ahead of it in order to counter that. You and I may know that there's very little difference in terms of the amount of work necessary to get Windows and Linux up and running, but our opinion is in the minority.

There is no such thing as the Perfect operating system. No Linux distribution is 100% glitch-free or guaranteed to work 100% for users determined to be ignorant. Windows, even XP at its most stable, requires a great deal of tweaking and installing before users can do what they want with it, but since much of that is done for them when they buy it from the shop they carry that expectation over to Linux when they try it. That's why it's so vitally important to support vendor-installed Linux initiatives from companies like Dell, HP and Lenovo. The more people come to learn that Linux Just Works the way they've come to expect from Windows, the more Linux will gain market share.

Monday, September 15, 2008

What the Phoenix New Times thinks of John McCain

Hmm...reading an article from a local newspaper in McCain's constituency, I'm finding a lot of interesting tidbits.

Those who survive will be the sociopaths who can tell a lie with the most sincere, straight face. You are especially adept at this.

A man of integrity.

No one forgets that Glenn was the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth. You won't let anyone forget that you were a prisoner of war. But you have played that tune too long. By now your constant reminders about your war record make you seem like a modern version of Arthur Miller's tragic failure Willy Loman.

But he doesn't like to talk about his days as a POW.  He doesn't try to use it for political capital.

Just keep telling everyone that it was your wife's money invested in that shopping center with Keating and that you knew nothing about it.

A man of change.  Lots of change.  Change for a five, a ten, even a hundred.

Maybe the voters will understand you took those tiring trips to Charlie's place in the Bahamas in their behalf. Certainly, they can understand you wanted to take your family along. A senator deserves to travel on private jets, removed from the awful crush of public transportation.

Truly, a man of the people.

You're John McCain, clearly the guiltiest, most culpable and reprehensible of the Keating Five. But you know the power of television and you realize this is the only way you can possibly save your political career.

Bear in mind, these statements were made in 1989.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Pet Rent

So, the lease is almost up on this rathole of an apartment, and I am once again tasked with the dubious pleasure of finding a new place to live. I have a hefty list of things I do not want to see in my next home: I do not want to see any more "surprise" fees. "Oh, by the way, you pay a portion of the water and heat for the building. It varies." "Oh, by the way, we have pet rent." Rental management has become the new way to scam people out of their money, and I'm more than a little fed up with it. I mean, come on! "Pet rent?" Please tell me how is this not a scam?

Don't even try to tell me this is a result of government interference in the market. Right now Colorado laws are virtually silent on tenant rights. About the only thing we can get government support for is if the management is maintaining a slum and have the city condemn the building. Otherwise, we effectively have no rights when we rent. Pest infestation? Too bad. Deceptive business practices? Meh. Outrageous fees? Suck it up.

In theory, this should create an opportunity for management companies to rise above the competitors currently screwing over their tenants by ditching the excessive fees and doing right by their customers, right? Well, this is the second time I've had to move in two years, and I'm waiting to see it happen. Don't want to deal with pet rent? I found one company who didn't demand it. But they're charging water and heat as an extra instead of including it in the rental price. Don't want water and heat to be a "gotcha" on your bill? Pay pet rent. Oh, and everybody has this whacked "administrative fee" for the privilege of applying for their substandard services. Okay, credit checks cost money. They do not cost that much. The Free Market Fairy claims I should be able to take my business elsewhere if I don't like the practices I'm seeing, but where am I supposed to go?

Ooh, I know the logical answer to this question: own my own home! Bullshit. Even if I could afford the down payment (which my ex-wife has guaranteed I will never be able to do in the next fifteen to twenty years), the market is still seriously whacked. I told people eight years ago that the rising market prices were unsustainable. I was told I didn't know what I was talking about. So, how's the equity on that new house you just bought? Bad and getting worse, I know. The housing market has hit bottom and is starting to dig. It's going to be years before it returns to equilibrium.

So, we have yet again another example of how the Free Market is a genuine myth that has little to do with reality. You still think our housing market is a result of government interference? Consider that these problems arose after the government deregulated the loan industry. If you still insist that the Free Market Fairy exists, I strongly recommend you check yourself in for some intense psychotherapy. There's a point where your failure to distinguish reality from fantasy becomes very unhealthy.

Monday, August 4, 2008

This one I had to sign.

I don't always sign online petitions. Their intended recipients rarely seem to pay attention, and I don't see this one being any different. But its message is so compelling to me that I have to spread the meme.

A Liberal's Pledge to Disheartened Conservatives.

To: Conservatives and Republicans

I, and my fellow signatories, hereby make these promises to you:

1. We will always respect you for your conservative beliefs. We will never, ever, call you "unpatriotic" simply because you disagree with us. In fact, we encourage you to dissent and disagree with us.

2. We will let you marry whomever you want, even when some of us consider your behavior to be "different" or "immoral." Who you marry is none of our business. Love and be in love -- it's a wonderful gift.

3. We will not spend your grandchildren's money on our personal whims or to enrich our friends. It's your checkbook, too, and we will balance it for you.

4. When we soon bring our sons and daughters home from Iraq, we will bring your sons and daughters home, too. They deserve to live. We promise never to send your kids off to war based on either a mistake or a lie.

5. When we make America the last Western democracy to have universal health coverage, and all Americans are able to get help when they fall ill, we promise that you, too, will be able to see a doctor, regardless of your ability to pay. And when stem cell research delivers treatments and cures for diseases that affect you and your loved ones, we'll make sure those advances are available to you and your family, too.

6. Even though you have opposed environmental regulation, when we clean up our air and water, we, the Democratic majority, will let you, too, breathe the cleaner air and drink the purer water.

7. Should a mass murderer ever kill 3,000 people on our soil, we will devote every single resource to tracking him down and bringing him to justice. Immediately. We will protect you.

8. We will never stick our nose in your bedroom or your womb. What you do there as consenting adults is your business. We will continue to count your age from the moment you were born, not the moment you were conceived.

9. We will not take away your hunting guns. If you need an automatic weapon or a handgun to kill a bird or a deer, then you really aren't much of a hunter and you should, perhaps, pick up another sport. We will make our streets and schools as free as we can from these weapons and we will protect your children just as we would protect ours.

10. When we raise the minimum wage, we will pay you -- and your employees -- that new wage, too. When women are finally paid what men make, we will pay conservative women that wage, too.

11. We will respect your religious beliefs, even when you don't put those beliefs into practice. In fact, we will actively seek to promote your most radical religious beliefs ("Blessed are the poor," "Blessed are the peacemakers," "Love your enemies," "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God," and "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."). We will let people in other countries know that God doesn't just bless America, he blesses everyone. We will discourage religious intolerance and fanaticism -- starting with the fanaticism here at home, thus setting a good example for the rest of the world.

12. We will not tolerate politicians who are corrupt and who are bought and paid for by the rich. We will go after any elected leader who puts him or herself ahead of the people. And we promise you we will go after the corrupt politicians on our side FIRST. If we fail to do this, we need you to call us on it. Simply because we are in power does not give us the right to turn our heads the other way when our party goes astray. Please perform this important duty as the loyal opposition.

I promise all of the above to you because this is your country, too. You are every bit as American as we are. We are all in this together. We sink or swim as one. Thank you for your years of service to this country and for giving us the opportunity to see if we can make things a bit better for our 300 million fellow Americans -- and for the rest of the world.


The Undersigned

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Don't You Dare!

The following is an open letter to the men and women who allegedly represent us regarding the War on Terror.

Mr. Mukasey is now demanding a new declaration of war enabling Mr. Bush, through his office, to abduct and torture any person on the planet in the name of our ephemeral war on terror. Simply put: don't you dare.

The war on terror has been a sham pretty much from the beginning. We accomplished one goal: driving the Taliban out of power in Afghanistan because they protected Osama bin Laden. Then we proceeded to throw it all out the window so Mr. Bush could start a separate war with Iraq. Now the Taliban are regaining their power in Afghanistan, bin Laden's whereabouts remain largely unknown and our citizens have been reduced to a state of constant fear -- less of terrorists and more of our own government.

I've previously demanded that the Bush administration be thoroughly investigated for war crimes and crimes against the American people. Those demands, along with similar demands from millions of my fellow Americans, have fallen on deaf ears. At the very least, listen to us now when we beg you not to rubber-stamp yet another expansion of executive power on the part of this administration.

Right now, the war that concerns me most is the war on freedom taken up by this government. Oppose it. Do whatever it takes to stop it. Our country was truly great once; help make it great once again.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

McCain for President!

I will now propose some campaign slogans for John McCain that I think would make a significant impact on the 2008 popularity contest mistakenly known as the Presidential Election. So, without further ado, on with the list.

John McCain for President:
  • Because eight years of Bush just wasn't enough!

  • Because the Neocon agenda isn't finished, yet.

  • Because the religious right deserve a chance at establishing their theocracy.

  • We still have civil rights we haven't abolished.

  • We haven't finished our transition into a proper police state.

  • Democrats make lousy dictators.

  • At least he's not even a little bit black!

  • Living the high life you always wanted, and sneering at you from above.

  • Getting shot down five times wasn't enough; let's go for six!

  • If the Catholics can vote in a supreme leader with one foot in the grave, so can we!

  • Because a lifetime of incompetence should be rewarded with the highest office in the land.

Anybody have any suggestions for more? I think this could turn into some powerful motivation on the voting populace!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Disappointed in Obama

So, rumor has it that Obama's starting to suffer from backlash on his FISA vote. You see, a less invasive version of the FISA amendment was up for vote back in January, and Obama firmly opposed it at the time. The latest amendment grants the President far more sweeping powers of surveillance over American citizens, effectively gutting the Fourth Amendment, and Obama voted in favor of it. His excuse? "...can we get to the bottom of what's taking place, and do we have safeguards?" Compare that to six months prior when he said, "The FISA court works. The separation of power works. We can trace, track down and take out terrorists while ensuring that our actions are subject to vigorous oversight, and do not undermine the very laws and freedom that we are fighting to defend."

So, how else am I supposed to take this except a betrayal, a reversal on an issue I feel very strongly about? Even aside from telecom immunity ("just following orders" didn't fly for the Germans, so why should it now?), the FISA amendment was the worst bill yet proposed, especially to amend a process that works, just not enforced. You see, President George W. Bush has a history of simply ignoring any law or restriction he doesn't like. This FISA amendment theoretically reinforces the original restrictions of FISA, which he ignored. So what's to stop him from ignoring the restrictions of this amendment? Nothing. He knows he won't be impeached. He won't be censured. He won't even be investigated. All this amendment did was validate the powers he's already assumed on himself, with a stern shake of the finger to remind him to behave. I'm sure he'll immediately straighten up and fly right now that they shook their finger at him. Again.

In the end, it comes down to leadership. The Democrats swept the 2006 mid-term elections by promising the nation they would stand firm against the President and curb his abuses. Then they caved. And capitulated. And bowed. And did everything but stand firm, except once. Once. They have now reversed that stand by again giving everything the President demanded and more. That isn't leadership, that's surrender. The Democrats have truly earned the nickname "surrendercrats." Not because they surrendered to the terrorists, but because they keep surrendering to our Glorious Leader, George W. Bush.

Obama promises change. He promises hope. He talked tough about restoring our liberties and the rule of law. But when the time came to filibuster back in January? Well, he was busy on the campaign trail. When the another FISA bill returned in June? He reversed himself and supported it. That's not change, and it killed hope. This is what we can expect from him as President? In one fell swoop, he demoted himself from an agent of change to the lesser of two evils. I resent having to choose between the lesser of two evils.

A lot of Obama cheerleaders are saying that FISA is over, we need to move on. We need to get him elected. No. I will not move on. I demand accountability from my leaders, and I'm not going to endorse someone who eschews accountability for their actions. Obama explained his support and I give him props for addressing the issue instead of ignoring the protests, but in the end he still put his support behind a law that's as bad as the Patriot Act. I want accountability for it. I want to see examples of good leadership from him, to see that he's going to oppose bad laws in the future. I want acknowledgment that he screwed up, and guarantees of good behavior.

Does that mean I'm going to vote for McCain? No, McCain has long since abandoned his "maverick" role and embraced the policies of the Bush Administration. He never meaningfully opposed any of Bush's policies anyway. He wants more judges like Alito and Roberts on the bench, and that'll do as much harm to the nation as anything else. I'll probably still vote for Obama in November, but unless he acknowledges his failure and improves, I won't be cheering for him.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

My response to "Everlasting Novelty"

Hugo Schwyzer writes an anecdotal piece about monogamy and relationships in his piece, Of "everlasting novelty", male weakness, and the ecstatic satisfaction of virtue. In it, he writes,
I learned, over time, what it took to be faithful. The answer is not "meeting the right person"; no relationship alone is enough to guarantee fidelity. Infidelity is always about the person who chooses to cheat, and rarely about the person being cheated upon. My wife is beautiful, strong, and I love her with all my heart. Her looks and my devotion to her are not the foundation upon which my commitment to monogamy is built. I don't cheat on my wife because of a commitment I've made to myself. In the end, if I'm unfaithful to my spouse, she might not find out. But I will know that I am a cheater; I will have betrayed not only my wife, my family, and the community that trusts me but also the man I have worked so hard to become. Polonius is a fool, but his most famous line, "to thine own self be true" resonates for me here, even if I quote it out of the original context. Love alone is not reason enough to be faithful. Fear of being discovered isn't sufficient either. In the end, the strongest and best reinforcement for the will is the profound desire I have — that I think everyone has, deep inside — to be a person of radical integrity. In a strange way, it's radically selfish. (It's also, I think, consistent with Aristotle, but that's for the philosophers to deal with.)

Ah, the classic monogamist argument: "...this is one of those areas where private moral satisfaction and communal good are coherent with each other." As if the only correct path is monogamy. But if we're really honest here, what we're trying to do is justify an existing moral code.

Am I saying that moral code is inherently wrong? No, of course not. I am saying that this moral code is not inherently right, either. What this piece is effectively doing is trying to reinforce the notion that monogamy is the only acceptable practice, and that we just have to train ourselves into it.

But, given our national and global propensity for cheating, it would seem that we're not very good at this training. Yes, we have some faithful few like our author who have learned to achieve this divine state after a few failed marriages, but by and large as a species we're pretty bad at it. So why not consider alternatives for those who don't have the willpower to go to the gym three times a week and sweat at the barbells?

Our patrilineal mindset automatically assumes that I'm just trying to justify womanizing. Most people don't believe me when I promote women's sexual rights as well as men's. But that's really what it's about. Relationships aren't about possessing people. Commitments do not confer a deed of ownership (unless you're into that sort of thing). A lasting, loving commitment can be made that does not include sexual or emotional fidelity. People do not have to be indoctrinated to believe that having more than one friend or lover automatically cheapens their relationship. I think you'll find that to be a product of socialization rather than biology.

We want what we want. This is, in and of itself, not a bad thing. But we're inclined to pursue what we want regardless of the cost, and that's where problems enter. An alternative solution is to accept that we're not wired the way we've been taught to expect and to be open and honest about our desires. If we can actually talk to our partners about what excites us, what we desire and what we want to pursue without our partners automatically assuming that it's an affront to them, we might find a peace never dreamed by our Puritan-minded ancestors.

In purely anecdotal evidence, as offered by the author, the solution I've outlined above has been working for me. I know it won't work for the author, just as the author's solution hasn't worked for me. There is no single solution that works for everyone. Only solutions that work.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Petition to Impeach

I know the arguments. I know the stalling. I know people have heard it before. I don't care: impeachment proceedings should begin immediately. Not later. Now.

It doesn't matter if it's late in his term. It doesn't matter if Republicans and Blue Dogs will try to stall. It doesn't matter if there aren't enough votes to impeach. What matters is that Congress remembers its duty to perform oversight and actively investigate the criminal acts of this administration. That is all that matters.

As a bonus, once the facts are revealed and displayed for the public in such a way that the media can't ignore it, voting against impeachment will become political suicide. No one but the most corrupt or self-deluded can possibly assert Bush's innocence even now, when only a fraction of the details are known.

The President is not above the law, no matter what Cheney wants to say. Else we can no longer claim to be a nation of laws.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance has become one of my famous phrases of late, because it very aptly describes the kind of arguments I'm getting from conservatives in defending Bush and their own conservative viewpoint. Simply put, cognitive dissonance is willful ignorance. The wiki article puts it a bit more eloquently: "In simple terms, it can be the filtering of information that conflicts with what one already believes, in an effort to ignore that information and reinforce one's beliefs."

Am I calling conservatives liars? Not exactly. Conservatives honestly believe they've got it all figured out, and the fact that reality refuses to conform to their belief just means they're being sabotaged by us damned liberals. They're closing their eyes, plugging their ears and yelling "lalalalalala! I can't hear you!" so they don't have to acknowledge any facts that refute their beliefs.

A classic case of cognitive dissonance involves my mother. Shortly after I left home, a schism occurred in my family wherein my father was forced to choose between the family of his birth and his wife. From what my brother related to me, my mother was on the phone with my aunt (father's sister) when my younger cousin A apparently wandered by. My aunt asked if she wanted to chat with her and the response was "Ew! I don't want to talk to her!" Apparently, my mother was deeply offended by this and sent a letter demanding an apology. This then infuriated my aunt (who was never fond of my mother to begin with) and began a fight that split the family. My mother claims she never sent the letter, while my aunt claims she ripped up the letter and threw it away. Somebody was lying here, and I told my brother that the letter sounded very much like something our mother would do.

"Are you saying she's lying?" he demanded.

"No," I answered honestly. "I think she believes what she's saying. That doesn't mean she didn't send it."

"That's screwed up."

It is. But the reason I believe it is because I learned how to manipulate people from one of the masters: my mother. The best way to get away with a lie is to believe it when you're telling it. This is cognitive dissonance at its finest: to say something with utmost conviction when you know for a fact that the opposite is true.

This is purely anecdotal evidence is meant to establish my claim that I know cognitive dissonance when I see it. The New York Times reports that 81% of people polled believe that the nation is on the wrong track; only 4% believed the nation is better off than it was five years ago. Who are those 4%? Why do 18% of the American public still believe Dubya Bush is going to be remembered as the greatest President in American history? Why do conservatives believe we actually have a prayer of winning in Iraq, when we can't even figure out what constitutes victory? The answer is cognitive dissonance. They don't want to believe that Dubya is a bad President or that we committed a crime by invading Iraq, and therefore they don't. Any information that might support these notions is filtered out as liberal lies and propaganda.

So where else might cognitive dissonance operate in our society? Religion, maybe? The lottery? Politics, certainly. We don't want to hear about things that disagree with us, and that's true with every person. It's just that over the past ten years, conservatives have elevated cognitive dissonance to an art form.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

What it means to be a Reagan Conservative?

This blog entry was a fascinating look at cognitive dissonance as art form. If you can't quite bring yourself to finish reading all eleven entries (the author was shooting for ten, but his math skills weren't quite up to the task), skip on down to the comments to see my take on it. Provided, of course, the author allows the comments to stay.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Forget the issues, let's talk bowling!

There was a time when talking politics was talking about the issues. More taxes or less? More regulation or less? Are we on the right track or not? Most importantly, how do we fix what we perceive as wrong?

But since the Reagan Administration, and particularly since the rise of Fox News, politics has become less about the issues and more about personalities. George Bush is a man people would like to have a beer with. Gore is cold and robotic. McCain is an honorable man of the people. Obama is elitist. Edwards is obsessed with his hair. Y'know what? I don't give a damn how much Edwards pays for his haircut or how well Obama bowls. I want to know what they propose to turn this nation back into a place I'm proud to call home. Because for the past seven years, I've been ashamed to call myself American.

People are starting to wake up to the fact that the media has been treating politics like a reality television show. We want to know when our troops are coming home. We want to know how we're going to fix our insanely expensive health care system. We want to hear solutions to our energy problems. But instead we get news that Obama's inability to bowl makes him elitist, Clinton's propensity for getting teary makes her unelectable and McCain throws a good party.

If you dig, and I mean really dig for it, you'll eventually learn that McCain wants to keep our troops in the line of fire for a hundred years and Clinton agrees with him. Obama wants to regulate health insurance, Clinton wants to make it mandatory for us to pay for health insurance regardless of what we're offered and McCain thinks we shouldn't change a thing. As for energy, Clinton recently said she'd confront OPEC, Obama would push biofuels and McCain favors the nuclear option (literally).

But what are we talking about today? How Rev. Wright is undermining Obama's campaign. Clinton's "nuclear option" to bring Michigan and Florida delegates to the national convention. McCain is a tough, moderate warrior. This isn't about issues, this is about personalities. They peddle this bullshit on reality television all the time and call it drama. This just happens to affect the outcome of our nation instead of just television ratings. Have you heard, Obama is an elitist and Clinton is a rich bitch? McCain, he's just a good old boy who happens to be a Vietnam vet and former prisoner of war.

What do I think? I think I'll vote for any Democrat before a Republican. I think if the independents and third parties were given a fair shake, they'd get a lot more representation in government. I think talk about "elitists" is pure bullshit, and the "liberal media" is a myth that may have reflected once media bias, but it's been the "conservative media" for a long, long time now. But the media controls the microphone, and they're skewing the discussion in the name of "news entertainment." I think Obama is flawed, Clinton is more about ambition than public service and McCain is the most elitist and out of touch of any of the candidates.

We're not going to get perfect candidates. We're going to get human beings. That's really all we have to choose from. None of them have God's special blessing or divine insight into the problems of the world. But they're the choices we're being given to represent us, and it's up to us to choose a candidate who will honestly put the good of the nation and the world ahead of their own agendas. We failed to do this in 2000 and 2004, and in that time we've gone from the world's prime superpower to crumbling empire. Our economy is imploding before our eyes, our credibility is shot, our moral piety has been completely discredited, our civil rights almost gone and all the pieces are in place for the Glorious Leader Bush to declare martial law and suspend elections. My gods, Rush Limbaugh suggests that Republicans should provoke a riot in Denver during the Democratic Convention, and gets away with it because he was "just joking!"

This nation is in serious trouble, and all we get is half-baked drama you couldn't sell to a cable station. Is it any wonder that I'm feeling increasingly paranoid about our future?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Can I Start This Day Over?

Here's something I've always known, but today decided to ignore: never ever apply a critical patch from Microsoft to an established system without first backing up everything you possibly can.

You see, I've heard good things about XP's Service Pack 3. It not only applies all the updates you may have missed over the past...uh...four years, but it typically boosts system performance by up to ten percent. I hadn't heard any horror stories about updating gone awry, so when I saw it was officially released today I went and grabbed it, then applied it.

It turned T's laptop into a brick. I tried every trick I could think of to get the damned thing rolled back, but nothing worked. Finally I used a Kubuntu 7.04 Live CD to access the hard drive and back up T's data to the handy USB drive I keep for just such an emergency. Then it was simply a matter of wipe and reinstall XP. That's what I get for taking my brain off the hook.

Of course, it's now 6 AM and I'm still trying to get some things reinstalled. T's not happy because I messed things up and she didn't get to enjoy her day off. I'm tired and the last installation failed for no good reason, other than possibly the fact that I tried using an alternate installation destination.

Meh. I'm going to bed now.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Another Fox News moment

The Carpetbagger Report has a very interesting article about Fox News getting caught in a lie and refusing to correct it when called on it. The article pretty much speaks for itself, and I have nothing really to add to it. But one commenter poses a valid question that I think I can answer.

...What's the agenda here? I don't get it. How does this influence things one way or another if the report is untrue? Who benefits from these particular rumors made up whole cloth?

The "Secret Muslim" rumor has an obvious target and an obvious set of beneficiaries - this one not so much. Who benefits?

The Republican base has been very dissatisfied of late. The small government advocates are feeling betrayed, the religious evangelicals are feeling betrayed, and however much Fox News wants to paint Bush as the Second Coming of Ronald Reagan, even the base has woken up to the fact that he's actively driving the nation into ruin. Most of the Republican candidates are proposing to take Bush's policies and step them up to the next level. They are not feeling motivated to vote.

Enter Hillary Clinton, wife of the vilified former President Clinton, who promises to bring back everything they were taught to hate about the Clinton years. She's just a woman, they figure. No real threat. Enter Begala, another associate of Bill Clinton during the Dark Times. Fox makes it sound like Clinton is trying to get the band back together, and that might actually make Hillary a genuine threat. That could actually motivate the otherwise disenfranchised Republican base to get out and vote again.

With Karl Rove in "retirement," it's likely that the Republican candidates are going to need all the help they can get in bringing their base to the voting booth. People are waking up to the lies of the conservative movement, but they're not yet willing to accept a more liberal stance. Cartoonist Wiley tells it like it is in this animated short film.