I've unfortunately been called away to attend a memorial service, so that is why I haven't weighed in on a variety of matters that are of interest to this site. The ultra-short versions are: I'm snickering that there were no retirements for the Supreme Court. I think the Kelo decision is fascinating, and *correct* from the liberal point of view - however, the very premise of eminent domain laws are a different matter entirely, and I haven't really developed my opinion on whether they are a net good or a net evil.
I'm disappointed by the Grokster opinion, I think. I come to that as someone who is heavily involved in both worlds of creative content production (music), and of techo-libertarianism. I think the decision is a good attempt at defining a balance point, so I found the decision competent. But I do think the big content corporations need more of a smackdown than they got. Now we'll just see more bullying from the content corporations in attempts to control or legislate exactly how technological companies market their tools - they'll be just as extreme and dishonest on that tack as they were with deliberately misinterpreting the other content copyright laws.
I would have liked to see some more finesse to the Miller/Cooper decision. There's some valid first amendment worrying now. I think there could have been a better way to underscore first amendment protections, while still forcing Miller or Cooper to speak. The first amendment protections are supposed to help protect against retribution, not to make it easier to participate in retribution.
Finally, I briefly was tempted to support the efforts to pass the bills that ask for a troop withdrawal by a particular date. Now I think it's a bad idea. It really would give too much power to the people that want to undermine whatever positive objectives we might still be able to achieve. But, I do think that we need a more clearly communicated roadmap, where the benchmarks and milestones are perhaps not tied to calendar dates, but known to all and laid out in a clear step-by-step manner. This would be the withdrawal plan. Some of the dependencies are obvious (having Sunni representation completed in the interim government), and some are less obvious (like finding other more reasonable ways to have a working police force - on that, I say bring in the U.N. for real, and give up the spoils that the United States are claiming).
Some interesting battles coming up. Social Security will start happening again, and there are some murmurs of "tax reform" that could really catch Democrats flat-footed. I think that's a case where the Democrats really SHOULD have a plan to present, unlike Social Security. Democrats could create a revenue-neutral plan that would help everyone, and pound it every chance they get in comparison to Bush's plan, and then the conversation would be about progressive versus flat/regressive. And progressive should win, if Democrats are able to claim enough credibility in other areas.
Finally, I'm completely gung-ho about Dean's Democracy Bonds. Brilliant.
Yahoo shut down all their user-created chat rooms today because they've been heavily criticized for unwittingly placing ads in chatrooms that people adults were using to solicit sex with children.
I haven't thought heavily about this, but at first glance, I don't see this as a defeat for free speech in any way. This is a corporation. A corporation should not have any power to inhibit free speech, but it doesn't mean it is required to create public platforms for new forms of free speech, either.
Yes, I know what the chatrooms were being used for, and no, I don't say "free speech" to defend the exploits of the kid-soliciting adults. I'm speaking more generally about the "right" for a member of a corporate website to have a user-created chatroom.
Anyone can create a chatroom elsewhere on private servers. No legislation was passed outlawing chatrooms. If it ever goes that direction, you bet I'd oppose it. But this is simply a corporation making a cost/benefit analysis and determining that the cost (financial, ethical, or moral) of giving child molesters a platform exceeded the benefit (marketing) of being able to say "we have user-created chatrooms!"
Finally, I think the societal benefit of yahoo offering user-created chatrooms is far less than it used to be. These were pretty cool internet-changing features back in 1998. Now you've got all sorts of peer-to-peer apps for chat, videochat, four-way videoconferencing, etc. In short, I don't really see this as a big deal.
Whew! Karl Rove really did it this time:
Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers. Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war. Conservatives saw what happened to us on 9/11 and said we will defeat our enemies. Liberals saw what happened to us and said we must understand our enemies.
The response has been swift - repeated calls for resignation, retraction, or apology from various Democratic leaders, and the families of 9/11.
Of course, some folks are being stupid to declare that no, they didn't want understanding.
Of course we want to understand the enemy.
If you don't understand the problem, you can't find the right solution. It's as simple as that. Karl Rove and George Bush look down on understanding. They don't understand the problem, and so that's why they can't find the solution.
People understand the need to understand our enemies. That's why we have criminal profilers. It's why we have criminal psychologists. It's why we make an effort to understand what makes criminals tick.
Any problem is a two-headed monster. In order to solve the problem, you have to attack the supply of its symptoms, and you have to attack the demand for the problem. What happens when you don't want to understand the problem? You do what Republicans do. You invest all your energy on reducing supply, without caring about demand.
In the war on terrorism, Karl and George went over to the middle east to kill themselves some terrorists. They want to reduce the number of existing terrorists. And because they don't want to understand, their actions then create the demand for even more terrorists. Kill fifty terrorists, create a hundred more. That is what happens when you don't understand.
Karl and George don't understand the terrorism problem. We are in more danger from terrorism than we used to be. We have more enemies than we used to have. America is less respected than it used to be. Oh sure, Karl and George have spent a lot of money. They've killed a lot of enemies. They've lost a lot of American lives. Oh, and let's not forget - they captured Saddam... who they actually believed was a key figure in the world of terrorism.
But they haven't solved the terrorism problem. They made it worse. Because they don't understand.
If you are going to defeat the enemy, you must understand the enemy. That's common sense that anyone - except for George and Karl - can understand.
The author of the satirical "send your son to Iraq" letter has a new posting today that is wonderful:
We need to be honest here: Iraq is not worth one more dead American. People on the right and left want some deus ex machina to save Iraq, but we have., collectively, come to a simple conclusion: Iraq is not worth dying for. Not for the warmongers on the right or the liberal hawks on the left.
What I want people to do is be honest. If you will not serve in Iraq, and no one you know will serve, stop expecting someone else to do what you will not. Therefore, it is time to stop calling for more troops, or the US to make Iraq safe. We cannot do this and even Americans are refusing to join the fight. It is time to look at your actions and realize, that despite your ideals, you oppose continuing this war. In practical terms, you have decided that this war is not worth your life or anyone you know. And million of Americans have joined you in this decision. So, with this fact evident, it is time to call for US troops to withdraw from Iraq. Not save it, not add more boots on the ground. You have already voted by your actions. It is time that you match it with your words.
This is an honest argument, and it is much harder to oppose than the "send your kids" argument, because everyone knows the "send your kids" argument is bullshit. No one is ever going to say, "Gosh, I see your point. Billy? I'm signing you up for Iraq."
So well done to Steve Gilliard - and kos, who suprises me by declaring that the debate is over - for bringing honesty back into their side of the debate.
I say, don't enlist and don't continue for as long as we have this stupid Iraq policy. But I also think that a pull-out could be disastrous as well. I read this diary over at dkos today, about the opinions of historian, middle east expert, and progressive blogger Juan Cole, and found it very convincing.
I have been unable to convince many of my readers of what I know. A US withdrawal could well throw Iraq into civil war. Civil war in Iraq would bring in the Iranians, the Saudis and the Turks. The success of petroleum pipeline sabotage and refinery sabotage in Iraq will suggest it as a tactic to the guerrillas fighting in this Fourth Gulf War.
If Saudi and Iranian petroleum production is sabotaged, gas in this country will go to $20 a gallon and the US will be plunged into the Second Great Depression. The unemployment rate will skyrocket to some 25%. Not only will you and I likely end up unemployed, but the global South will be de-industrialized. Countries making progress like India and Pakistan will be thrown back 30 years.
Cole believes this is solvable by involving UN troops with troops from the "global South", which I believe means south-of-Europe countries - rewarding them with Iraqi contracts. It's compelling. Go read.
So yes - as long as we aren't solving any problems, we might as well pull out. But there might still be ways to solve the problem. I hope that the Democratic and progressive mindset will continue to evolve to embrace some of these possible solutions.
A couple of more bits of evidence of Democrats getting extreme enough to bear a convincing resemblance to extreme Republicans...
I silenced a voice of hate is a dkos diary about a guy who was getting anonymous hateful right-wing evangelist comments on his weblog. The guy was clearly a dick, saying stuff like "I wish you had been aborted" and saying we should kill muslim leaders and convert their followers to Christianity. He also had his own blog, which he wrote to anonymously.
Said diarist researched the guy's weblog, put some miscellaneous facts together, and figured out his real identity. He then contacted him and, depending on how you read it, either made the blogger aware that it was possible to find out his real identity and tell his employers, or, threatened to do exactly that. The blogger was a teacher of seventh graders in a private Christian school.
In the diary, several people defended outing this guy on various grounds, from protecting the children to just the fact that he was a right wing freak. I wrote that it was really creepy that progressives would defend such an act, and got quite a bit of opposition in return.
I'm usually pretty darn good at using my own words, but here's a case where Atrios says it better:
Anonymity allows people the freedom to speak without fear of reprisals in other elements of your life. On the internet, where every little comment can potentially hang around forever, it allows people to communicate views without worrying about what current/future employers or customers may think of them. People do get fired/not hired for this kind of stuff. Without anonymity many people would not be able to talk politics on the internets. It allows people to separate their personal political/religious/whatever views from their personal/professional lives otherwise. It's truly a gift.
Anonymity can be abused if it's being used as a cover for illegal activities or actionable speech (libel). In both cases anonymity provides little cover - one subpoena to your ISP or web hosting company and it's all over. Anonymity could also be abused by posing as an "outsider" of some sort when you're actually an insider, or if you use it to mask some sort of hidden personal agenda or financial interest. To the extent that anonymity prevents knowing if those apply it can be criticized.
People divide their lives all of the time. Sally the business owner can to some degree separate herself from Sally the parent and Sally the activist. The ability to keep aspects separate is generally respected by people who are not assholes. On the internet, anonymity, while not strictly necessary, is close to being required to maintain that in the age of Google (not all people feel the need). Non-internet personal activities can be separated from your professional life simply by not socializing with colleagues. But, internet activities are always google-able.
This was in reference to a certain journalist who threatened to out the true identity of a certain progressive blogger(SKB), in practically the same way that the dkos diarist did: by simply alluding to the possibility that he could... if he wanted to. As far as I'm concerned, that's a threat. Dishonest people would say, "No, that's not a threat! He's just saying he could! Nothing more!" Which completely lies about the desired impact of saying the words.
What was SKB's crime? Hosting a weblog that had comments that insulted the journalist. What was the conservative freak's crime? Insulting the diarist on his weblog with various bits of right-wing hate. There was also the thing about him teaching children, but that's a bit of hindsight logic, since the discussion of that requires the outing first. Even so, there's no evidence to suggest he was using such viewpoints inappropriately in the classroom. (And the people that justify themselves saying, "But you just know he is!" are part of the problem.)
Regardless, when it comes down to simple speculative value judgments, it's irrelevant. The value judgments are the privilege of those judging the content. Anonymity exists to protect people against that very treatment. Like Atrios says, there are certain exceptions to anonymity, but this guy's weblog comments didn't meet those standards.
It's unethical to agree with Atrios while also agreeing with trying to ruin this guy's career.
By the way, the journalist who threatened to expose SKB's identity (leading SKB to out himself) apologized, spurred no doubt by a very large outcry among progressives.
In An opportunity for Assrocket to shine, kos trumpets another blogger's satirical letter noting that a certain conservative warblogger's son has just turned eighteen, and that the blogger should encourage his son to become a Marine rifleman in the Al Anbar province, the "cutting edge" of freedom.
I'm feeling really disgusted with the state of discourse these days. That's just low. You leave your blogger enemies' children out of it. Said 18-year-old isn't a public figure like Mary Cheney.
Right now I appear to be the only person making that point over there. It's pretty disgusting.
Besides, I do not believe in the current foreign policy over in Iraq. I don't want anyone to enlist to fight on the front lines in Iraq, because I don't want anyone to die unnecessarily. And excuse me for being ethical, but that includes conservatives and the sons of conservatives. I understand it's just a rhetorical trick, but that doesn't mean it's honest.
Well, this is just great.
Currently, if you go to the home page of GoDaddy.com (the most popular domain name registrar, that also holds some of my domain names), you'll see a bit of text up at the top of the page that says,
Close Gitmo? No way!! Think our interrogation methods are tough? Prisoners in the Middle East talk quick. Here's why.
It links to this entry on the weblog of GoDaddy's founder, Bob Parsons. The entry starts with "May we never forget the day." It continues with an salacious discussion of torture techniques, and ends with him promising to post a video of the 9/11 jumpers leaping to their deaths if he gets enough requests.
This sucks. I actually tried to make excuses for Bob Parsons at first - he's a military vet with libertarian tendencies and he's got a lot of viewpoints that I don't share, but he seemed to be thoughtful in his own way, at first. This is just ridiculous, though.
Using 9/11 as justification for Gitmo is cowardly. Cowardly. Here's why. Using even the slightest bit of reason, it's easy to see that there are all sorts of ways to better protect the USA without engaging in the kind of abuses we see at Gitmo. Those people who refuse to see that are deliberately closing their minds, and it's because they are scared to see the alternatives. They hide behind bluster and false machismo. It's corrupt, base, and all too easy to dehumanize someone, turn them into an insect, and make them defecate on themselves. It's harder to act with the principles that hold ourselves to a higher standard than our enemies and set an example to the rest of the world. It's possible to hold ourselves to principled standards and also do what needs to be done, and those who refuse to consider that are selling their souls to take the easy way out. That's cowardice. Cross that with an appreciation of torture porn and snuff films, and you've got a true degenerate.
People are talking about this on Daily Kos, metafilter, and soon, I imagine, slashdot. I'm looking around for a new consensus choice of registrars myself. It'd be great to find one with progressive sensibilities, but I'd settle for one that respects consumer and privacy rights, and doesn't feature unconscionable political views on the front page of their corporate website.
Update: Son of a gun! Parsons retracts:
Since this blog article was posted I have been accused repeatedly of supporting the use of torture to get information from prisoners. This is simply not true. I do not, under any circumstance, support the use of torture. I do not consider the use of interrogation techniques such as sleep deprivation or the playing of rap music to be torture. That said, I now believe that even these mild methods are not necessary.
I have heard from a number of individuals who claimed to be professional interrogators. These readers have pointed out that the use of annoying or unpleasent techniques during interrogation simply do not work very well. After looking at the references they provided, and giving the matter some thought, I tend to agree and think that the there's a good argument for changing the way in which prisoners at Gitmo are interrogated. Thus things like sleep deprivation, playing loud rap music and other techniques that involve making the detainee physically uncomfortable would be completely done away with and replaced with psychological techniques that are more humane and as such yield better results. I have since modified the article that was originally posted here to reflect what I just learned.
Now, the thing about him not supporting torture is bullshit, given that his original entry said things like, "Key prisoners at Gitmo still have not talked -- because our interrogation methods are so weak." But still, we have a backdown. Awesome.
I've been frustrated for a while now that the Democratic citizen community tends to confuse issues when talking about foreign policy. Iraq doesn't help, because there are so many reasons to be opposed to the Iraq war. The reason I think it's important to speak more clearly about this is because it will be important to value multiple points of view about foreign policy, come 2008. In order to do that, we need to have more conversations about foreign policy philosophies before that point.
The main confusion I want to focus on right now is that of Isolationism versus Interventionism, and how that differs from the conversation of Diplomacy versus Force.
Examine this graph:
Ask yourself which quadrant you are in.
I brought up that question over at daily kos, and the discussion has been interesting. About 2/3 of the respondents (all loyal Democrats) put themselves in Quadrant D, with most of the rest in Quadrant C.
The reason Iraq is a difficult subject to talk about sometimes is because it is a foreign policy that is way up in the tips of Quadrant B. You've got paleoconservatives that are silently grousing about us being over there, and are starting to support efforts to withdraw. You've got many centrist Democrats that supported the Iraq war at first back when they trusted that Bush was telling the truth, and have since realized that force wasn't necessary, even though that doesn't dull their interventionist instincts. You've got most Dems, who knew all along we were choosing force too quickly, and then there are the folks who wouldn't want us to engage in military action overseas under any circumstances at all. We all agree that it's bad to be in Iraq, but it is much more difficult to come up with consensus as to why, and in turn, what to do next and what future to embrace. This gives the Bush administration an advantage if they just wait it out.
Hearing people's reasons for their chosen quadrant has been pretty interesting. A few people made the case for quadrant A - they see it as minding our own business until something so horrible happens that American Might is justified. A surprising (to me) number of people made the case that while they used to be in quadrant D, they are now in quadrant C. They've decided that any act of interventionism is so clearly corrupted by corporate influence that it just simply never helps in the long run, and so given that, things are probably better off if we just let the rest of the world work out their own problems over time.
It's also interesting to place public figures in their correct quadrant. I believe Bush is way up on the vertical axis, but pretty central on the left/right axis. He's way over to the right with Iraq, but he's completely ignored other foreign policy matters where we could intervene more (Iran, North Korea, Darfur). JFK might actually be in B instead of D. Clinton was over to the right, probably slightly on the D side of B/D. Reagan was lower on the vertical axis than most Republicans wanted to admit. Bush I was in the same general area as Clinton, maybe a bit higher on the vertical axis.
Overall though, it brings up the possibility that someone could convincingly run to the right of Bush on foreign policy: arguing for a more interventionist approach. They'd have to insulate themselves to the left by somehow making it clear they would value diplomacy over force. Paramount in this is the matter of exposing how the "intelligence failures" in the Iraq war were Bush's fault, not the State Department's fault. By demonizing the intelligence circles and the state department, they wall off D from having the credibility it deserves.
Running to the right on foreign policy wouldn't mean someone would have to be centrist or conservative on domestic issues. Having a progressive in the D quadrant could be an amazing combination. We haven't had someone for a long time that is strongly interventionist, values diplomacy over force, and yet is progressive on domestic issues. I think the last guy we had with that pedigree might have been RFK. Someone along those lines could meet a lot of appetites.
This is the second time I've seen "Democratic Strategist" David Axelrod have a bonehead quote attributed to him. Regarding the Downing Street Memo and the lack of play it's received in the media:
Party strategist David Axelrod explained the Democratic wariness: "We already fought that battle [over Bush's veracity] and we lost. He got elected again. So even though the memo is important, there's a sense that people don't want to revisit the lead-up to war. Although I'm not sure I agree with that, when you look at the number of Americans dead today."
Hey dumbass - the reason that people don't want to revisit the issue is that there aren't enough Democratic leaders treating it with the importance that would convince people that it's worth revisiting the issue. You're part of the problem.
Over on Daily Kos, there's been a many-diaried argument and discussion about a certain ad for the Gilligan's Island television show. I won't link to it, you can easily find it. Actually, I think it's gone now because the show already aired. But it was pretty stupid. The ad is two strippers dressed as Mary Ann and Ginger having a food fight and acting like they're turned on while they are fighting. For those that are into that sort of thing, be warned that the production values aren't anywhere near as good as the Paris Hilton ad, the girls aren't as good-looking as the ones in that one Budweiser ad (power-suited women fighting in the fountain), and it's not really even funny - the jokes fall flat. Even its badness isn't any good.
So there's not really even much reason for our baser sides to like the ad. And of course there are the other reasons for our more evolved sides to not like it. I noticed the ad a few times but never really even felt tempted to click on it and watch the video.
Until the outcry, which made me (and others) curious enough to actually watch it. A couple of diaries had been posted, written by women who were mad about it.
Now if you're reading along and are already rolling your eyes at these offended women, you are part of the problem. "Oh, here we go again," goes the reaction, mentally replaying old arguments with the militant feminists of one's imagination. That's not to say that there aren't a few college sophomore women out there that are a bit hopped up on hostility and haven't yet balanced their new understanding of womanhood with any significant understanding or respect for manhood. But this is where the problem starts - the generalizations.
Let's briefly review the problems with generalization and discrimination. It is not bad to recognize a grouping of people and identify patterns within that group of people. It is not really even bad to attempt to apply those patterns to groups of people in an attempt to understand those groups further. The main responsibility there is just to be careful not to confuse correlation with causation. (No small feat.)
The problem with generalizations is when you take these patterns of groups and try to apply them to an individual. It never works and it is always stupid. It's the problem with racial profiling, racism, sexism, and many other variations of stupid arguments that are a waste of time since they can so easily be avoided by actually listening to the person who's right in front of you.
This is what started happening on Daily Kos. Someone would post their own personal feelings in being upset by an ad. Someone else would react, complaining about generic feminist hostility. First person would (rightly) feel unreceived, and would then feel like their suspicions of sexism were being confirmed, leading to more accusations that the other person would roll their eyes at since they've heard it all before. And it would escalate.
The escalation culminated with Kos choosing to address the mini-controversy on the front page. It's important to recognize that at this point, the argument transformed from being about the ad, to being about the reaction to the ad. The ad was far less important than the discussion. The ad never had much power, but it immediately became a symbol, touchstone, and catalyst for all the later discussions and opinions.
Kos addressed it by venting aggressively about how stupid an issue the ad was. Now, that's true, in a way. The ad is stupid, and these kind of controversies only contribute to the success of an ad campaign. So I had a funny experience reading his response because I could feel a bit of a cackle in myself at the beginning: "Oh man, now they're gonna get it." By "them", I certainly didn't mean the women offended by the ad, I mostly meant the hand-wringing of an online community that sometimes gets too carried away with its own self-importance. I can imagine a website host that takes his site seriously, but has to deal with a bunch of people that turn it into a cause and take everything more seriously than he does. So I could definitely understand the impatience, and even enjoy the expression of that impatience. I probably got some satisfaction because of my own frustration with the site, which I believe has been going subtly downhill (in discussion quality) for quite a while - I think it could be better than it is at generating wisdom, and I can get frustrated that it doesn't meet my own judgments of its potential (understanding the irrelevance of them being my judgments), so I probably liked Kos' frustration in hopes it would lead to constructive changes.
So, for that variety of reasons, I wanted to eat popcorn when I started to read Kos' response, but that ended really quickly as I saw what he was actually writing. I think my reaction went something like "heh heh... hunh.... uhhhhh.... geez. ... holy crap."
Kos' theme was "sanctimony". The basic point is that the only reason to express a negative reaction to the ad on his site is out of a hypocritical urge to display oneself as morally superior to others.
If you're skimming, now's a good time to stop and let that sink in.
It discounted emotion-based motivation. It mocked vulnerability. It denied the existence of constructive intent. It basically ran over the sincere feelings of anyone who felt hurt.
Over the next several days, the community was littered with some of the stupidest logic flaws I've seen in a long time - the kind of logic that would have been torn apart by any of the argument proponents had that logic been applied to any other subject. It was basically the mixture of straw men and fantastical extrapolation that litters debates worldwide, here used to prove that those who were upset about the ad were hypocritical or sanctimonious in some way.
What's interesting is how easily these arguments spring unbidden to the minds of otherwise intelligent fellows. It's like some bizarre kind of mind control, all these men reacting to the same stimuli and making the same unthinking, unbending points. I would see some hardy souls (including myself a couple of times) try to meet these points on their merit, challenging them methodically. They'd be met with no response, and the points would just be repeated again elsewhere, by the same person. Again, these are Democratic men that seem pretty darn cool in other arenas.
And it all started because of one failure.
Folks are tempted to misidentify the failure. The failure isn't that someone sought a confrontation. I believe in confrontation. I believe that in order to evolve, confrontation is required. The problems with our society - bubbles, delusions, and denial - are because of a lack of confrontation. Confrontation yields balance. Bubbles pop. Delusions lift. Denials are forced into the open. It happens when the delirium is forced to confront reality, and reality wins. For greater balance in our world, this confrontation needs to happen more often.
But in most cases, confrontation requires an agreement. Oftentimes, one party can seek to confront, and the other is able to weasel away. It merely serves to postpone the confrontation to a more painful time, but it happens all the time. In order to receive the confrontation, you have to listen.
So that's what the failure was here. The failure to listen. This debate was never about the ad. It was about people not feeling received - it was about them believing they might be received, enough to air their grievances, and then having their hopes dashed.
Kos jumps in to the Dean/Edwards thing. Still seems like there are a lot of political beginners over there that are blaming Edwards for what seems to be an arbitrary spike in media activity.
For those that are all in a tizzy about Edwards supposedly "rebuking" Dean's statement about many Republican (lawmakers) not working an honest day in their lives, it would be instructive to read this blog entry by John Edwards.
Meanwhile, here is a real example of who to be pissed off at, from this article:
"He was gratuitously insulting 50 million Americans who call themselves Republicans, some of whom we hope will vote Democrat," says Democratic consultant David Axelrod.
GOP talking point... who is this nimrod?
Update: Well crap! Nimrod helped run Edwards' campaign. That doesn't help either. He also ran other campaigns though so he's probably being independent.
Looks like TPMCafe has finally launched. Thank the stars. There is finally another go-to community site for Democrats. It's clearly more serious-minded than Daily Kos. If I see another "chickenhawks should go die in Iraq!" post at dkos, I'm going to scream.