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:: Thursday, March 17, 2005 ::

By their words you shall know them...

You'd think, by now, we'd have abolished this sort of petty vengeance:
I am being perfectly serious, by the way. I like civilization, but some forms of savagery deserve to be met not just with cold, bloodless justice but with the deliberate infliction of pain, with cruel vengeance rather than with supposed humaneness or squeamishness. I think it slights the burning injustice of the murders, and the pain of the families, to react in any other way.
I was a bit surprised to see Volokh push this -- I'd like to think of him as a reasonable man.

No longer. He's a sadist -- even if one with a conscience.

The fact that he can use cold reasoning to justify the deliberate infliction of pain -- for vengeance even, not some hypothetical ticking time bomb -- removes him from polite society.

What's sadder is that he goes on to state:
I've often heard this argument, and I'm sure it's heartfelt. But I've just never found it persuasive. Why would my humanity be diminished by participating in the killing of a monster (he had sexually abused and then murdered at least about 20 children), or even by deliberately inflicting pain on him?
Can you imagine being so morally deficient that you even have to ask?

For all the talk of "lack of moral values" among liberals, why is it the you find the callous torturers -- those who delight in causing pain and despair -- so prevalent among conservatives? (Link via Crooked Timber)
:: Morat 7:59 AM :: ::

Enron: Patron Saint of Bush's Fake News

I'd like to second Rich's comment here:
The enduring legacy of Enron can be summed up in one word: propaganda. Here was a corporate house of cards whose business few could explain and whose source of profits was an utter mystery - and yet it thrived, unquestioned, for years. How? As the narrator says in 'The Smartest Guys in the Room,' Enron 'was fixated on its public relations campaigns.' It churned out slick PR videos as if it were a Hollywood studio. It browbeat the press (until a young Fortune reporter, Bethany McLean, asked one question too many). In a typical ruse in 1998, a gaggle of employees was rushed onto an empty trading floor at the company's Houston headquarters to put on a fictional show of busy trading for visiting Wall Street analysts being escorted by Mr. Lay. 'We brought some of our personal stuff, like pictures, to make it look like the area was lived in,' a laid-off Enron employee told The Wall Street Journal in 2002. 'We had to make believe we were on the phone buying and selling' even though 'some of the computers didn't even work.'
My father-in-law works for a company that's pretty deep in the energy business. He once mentioned his company had looked into energy trading -- the Enron model, basically.

They'd assembled a task force and taken a hard look at Enron's claims and practices, trying to figure out how Enron was raking in all that cash. (A practice they, quite obviously, wanted to emulate).

Their conclusion? They had no idea. The task force reported that they did not understand how Enron was making so much money -- in fact, they weren't sure how Enron was turning a profit at all and suggested the company no pursue it -- either Enron's profits were inflated or nobody at my father-in-law's company was smart enough to understand it. Either way, it wasn't worth the risk.

I never did find out what the management thought of that report -- in my experience they rarely like hearing "I don't know" when faced with the prospects of big profits -- but I bet they're pretty damn glad now that they listened.

Enron isn't really a bad analogy for the Bush administration, in that all it really took was a bit of research and thought to uncover the unpleasant lies that formed the core of the whole endeavor. Enron ultimately collapsed because it overextended....and I can't help but wonder if Bush will follow the same path, and who he'll take with him when he falls.
:: Morat 7:49 AM :: ::

The Peril of Being Jon Chait

Poor Jon Chait:
I've gotten several emails from readers who claim they won't read me, or won't read TNR, because of this or that disagreeable position we've taken. To be perfectly frank, if you think like this I pity you. Why on Earth should anybody confine their reading to those writers with whom they agree on everything? The best way to learn is to read arguments you disagree with. I voraciously consume analysis with which I disagree, both on the right and on the left.

TNR, more than any other magazine, publishes a range of dissenting views. Yes, we editorially criticized Howard Dean and supported the Iraq war. But we've also run plenty of pro-Dean and anti-war articles, including prominent cover stories. It's fine if TNR isn't your cup of tea. But if you spurn it or any other voice solely on ideological grounds, you're dooming yourself to small-mindedness.
I can understand why it would soothe his precious little ego to believe that people weren't reading him because of partisan bias. It helps to declaim about "leading horses to water" and take the noble stance of a man whose wisdom was rejected by the closed minded....

Unfortunately, Jon's problem is a little bit simpler: It ain't the politics, it's the credibility.

Jon isn't worth reading for the simple fact that he's got a track record of being wrong. Horribly wrong. And -- in a massive stroke of irony -- his errors are most egregious whenever he lets his own ideology cloud his judgment.

I certainly agree -- you should read other viewpoints. But there is no benefit to reading crap, no matter which side of the partisan fence it falls on. And Jon, I'm afraid, is about 95% crap these days. I read Red State a hell of a lot more than his drivel.

Oh, on a side note: Is it just me, or have the professional pundits been a lot whinier lately? There's been more drama from them than in a high school prom.
:: Morat 7:10 AM :: ::

:: Wednesday, March 16, 2005 ::

U.S. Military Says 26 Inmate Deaths May Be Homicide

You know, the sad thing is....I'm not surprised:
At least 26 prisoners have died in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002 in what Army and Navy investigators have concluded or suspect were acts of criminal homicide, according to military officials.

The number of confirmed or suspected cases is much higher than any accounting the military has previously reported. A Pentagon report sent to Congress last week cited only six prisoner deaths caused by abuse, but that partial tally was limited to what the author, Vice Adm. Albert T. Church III of the Navy, called 'closed, substantiated abuse cases' as of last September.
Had you asked me, oh, five years ago whether widespread torture and abuse would be the calling card of the US Military I'd have been insulted and pissed off, and lectured you on the professionalism, integrity and honor of the US Military -- and stated that even while they still have serious problems (gender issues, for one) that torture isn't one of them.

Perhaps that was naive. It never occurred to me that the President of the United States would condone -- more than that, write into policy -- torture and murder.
:: Morat 7:59 AM :: ::

:: Tuesday, March 15, 2005 ::

Goth Love

You know, it occurs to me that Kilgore's little response actually reads better if you imagine him as a Goth. You know -- those sullen little 15 year olds in the black eyeshadow with their whole "I'm so dark and mysterious and smart. I shall suffer in silence so that when you finally come to appreciate my magnificance and genius, you shall also marvel at my noble and gracious attitude towards your former stupidity" attitude.....?

Here, read the end in all it's glory:
Well, I for one ain't going anywhere. And having contested this particular guy's right to show me the door, I will say no more about this or future Kos temper-tantrums. After all, I've got some of that deceptive Republican-bashing to do, and a few of those issues to work on that nobody cares to hear from me about. And despite this terrible anathema, I remain ready to break bread with anybody in the party who wants to talk, self-important fool that I am.
Can't you just see him sitting in a dark room, smoking a clove cigarette and listening to Morrisey?
:: Morat 1:57 PM :: ::

Hackery in action.

Just in case you thought hackery was limited to the right, Ed Kilgore over at "New Donkey" demonstrates left-wing hackery. I'll yank the highlights:
The crowning "outrage," apparently, is the recent suggestion by Al From and Marshall Wittman that maybe the leadership of MoveOn doesn't speak for the Democratic Party as a whole, a suggestion Kos chooses to interpret as a call for the party to "purge millions of supporters from its ranks." (Oh, yeah, Al also mocked bloggers; I somehow managed to get over it, down there in my basement).
*snicker*. Who does he think he's talking to? Republicans? We liberals -- especially us elitist bloggers -- actually read. Al From's "suggestion" was to repudiate the MoveOn crowd and the Michael Moore crowd. Not some tame "Suggests they don't speak for all Democrats" bullshit. Kilgore just shot his own credibility. It gets better:
If our only value, as Kos suggests today, is to provide right-wing media with anti-Democratic quotes, then you have to wonder why so many elected officials bother to identify with us and come to our events (e.g., one today attended by Sen. Joe Biden)?
No defense, no objection, no claim that Kos is wrong about Lieberman's favorite trick of going onto Fox and bashing Dems. Instead, we get a whiny "But we're popular! You're just stupid! Joe Biden doesn't come to YOUR blog...". Hardly on topic, but unsurprising -- there really is no defense of Holy Joe. Kilgore finishes off his wounded credibility by then going on to state:
Indeed, that question seems to bother Kos as well, since his very next post begins a process of "calling out" DLC-friendly Democratic pols and asking them to disassociate themselves from us. He even took the trouble to dig down in our web page--bypassing a few hundred thousand pages of policy work, which is what we do to pass the time while waiting for the next call from Fox News--and discover that Sen. Barack Obama is still listed in our data base! Scandal! (He's in there because he recently joined the Senate New Democrat Coalition, all of whose members are in our database, which is about as controversial as a phone book). Hillary Clinton? Evan Bayh? Better get away from those people, or risk the consequences.
I notice that Kilgore fails to mention that Obama has objected to being in the DLC database and asked for his name to be removed. (A whole year ago or more).

Kilgore fails to address the point -- notice a theme here -- in favor of personal attacks. Which, I must admit, was a nice way of proving the DLC's real problem -- they're spending all their time smashing fellow Dems and then whining about getting beat back.

Kilgore finishes with what I like to call the "Better Man Than Thou" routine so beloved of political martyrs:
Well, I for one ain't going anywhere. And having contested this particular guy's right to show me the door, I will say no more about this or future Kos temper-tantrums. After all, I've got some of that deceptive Republican-bashing to do, and a few of those issues to work on that nobody cares to hear from me about. And despite this terrible anathema, I remain ready to break bread with anybody in the party who wants to talk, self-important fool that I am.
*snicker*. That's the DLC, right there. Whining, Dem bashing, and a refusal to address the real problems. And, of course, a difficult time telling the difference between a grassroots activist (Kos) and a very powerful Democratic consultant (From) when it comes to initiating purges. Oh, and the same problem Chait had -- a real inability to tell the difference between an ideological purge and an effectivess purge. Reid, after all, is at least as conservative as Lieberman -- yet Kos happily supports him. The DLC just isn't a very pragmatic bunch.

And they wonder why they keep losing elections.....
:: Morat 1:29 PM :: ::

Idiocy

Shorter Christopher Hitchens: "All news from Iraq -- no matter what -- proves I was right. Or at least, everyone else was more wrong."

Casually glancing over his piece, where he bitches about the UN weapons inspectors, MoveOn, the media, and politicians, one can't help but come to the conclusion that he's a frickin' tool.

After all, how else could one come to the conclusion that widespread looting of verifiably sealed equipment proves Saddam had a widespread and highly complex WMD program, because only a diabolical WMD genius would let old equipment languish under IAEA seal for a decade and then -- as his government is falling and he goes into hiding -- unleash literal hordes of highly trained 'Special Looting Operatives' to steal all the equipment?

In Hitchen's world, Saddam's a frickin' genius -- he deliberatly didn't develop WMDs so that Bush would be forced to invade without world support. And then, after Bush had invaded, Saddam took advantage of the confusion to steal his own equipment, so that he could manufacture WMDs -- counting on Bush to fail to safeguard the weapons sites. And to throw everyone off the scent, he allowed himself to be captured and in a final, culminating moment of evil genius he will be executed thus ensuring no one will suspect he's still developing WMDs.

It's like a South Park episode (actually, I think there was an episode where Saddam was developing WMDs in heaven -- hell tossed him out), only Hitchens is serious.

And his ass-covering "Bush needs to explain why the sites were unsecured -- I suggest blaming the CIA" finale doesn't really cloak the absurdity of the piece.
:: Morat 8:44 AM :: ::

Hawks and Doves

I don't think Matt quite does this justice:
This is clearly true and it's not exactly unimportant. At the same time, from the perspective of early 2005 a split that occured in late 2002 over an invasion that wound up happening in early 2003 isn't the most important thing in the world. On forward-looking issues there are, to be sure, disagreements among Democrats. But in my experience those disagreements don't split the party into two camps, don't map onto a hawk-dove divide, and don't have a great deal to do with the Iraq War. The bigger divide is just between people of various persuasions who are determined to continue focusing on national security and find a way to make the Democrats competitive on the issue versus those who'd prefer to put their heads in the sand and hope for a revival of '90s-style 'it's the economy, stupid' politics. That, however, is a different question from a hawk-dove divide.
I'm also not sure exactly what he's saying. Speaking for myself, I think there isn't a "National Security/No National Security" fight so much as there is a series of interconnected fights.

First, there are the idiots who think nothing but national security matters. The people who feel the opposite are just as dumb, but in my experience there aren't as many of them. I think Matt's giving them credit for a lot more influence than they have -- I don't think either group has many members, although the former is certainly a hell of a lot louder.

Having dismissed both those groups, I think the main fight lies between two groups arguing over the best way to sell the Democrats on National Security. One group swears by the "Like the GOP, only competent" playbook. It's also known as the "My Dick is Bigger than Osama's" plan. It's basically the dick-swinging, ball-busting, macho posturing bullshit Bush uses -- only with a promise of only whipping it out when it's appropriate.

The other group wants to sell pragmatism. You know, a mix of diplomacy, military, economic incentives, port security -- all the usual nuts and bolts crap that "national security" actually consists of.

The fight is over whether it's best to sell common sense, or to out-posture the GOP. I think Matt's confusion lies in the fact that those favoring the "Macho Man" view realize that -- to sell it -- you have to do the Macho thing 24/7. The common-sense people realize that the "common sense" approach means you take problems as they come. The emphasis is totally different, even if neither side actually rejects a heavy focus on national security.
:: Morat 8:25 AM :: ::

California Judge Backs Same-Sex Marriage

More good news
: "A trial court judge ruled Monday that California's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, comparing it to archaic laws that once blocked interracial marriage and promoted 'separate but equal' segregation.

If upheld on appeal, the decision could lead to California becoming the second state in the nation -- after Massachusetts -- in which gay men and lesbians have the same access to marriage licenses as heterosexual couples.
As California goes, so goes the nation -- especially with New York looking at it as well.

The plain and simple truth of the matter is there is no reason to deny gays the right to marry -- no reason that wasn't clearly and totally dispensed with in the Loving case.

SCOTUS will have to touch on it sooner or later. Prior to the Lawrence decision, I'd have said that they'd probably uphold the full faith and credit requirements, but wouldn't strike down bans on gay marriage outright -- not until some time had passed.

But gays will have been marrying in Massachusetts -- and probably California and New York -- for years by the time SCOTUS takes a look at the issue. The Supreme Court Justices -- even Scalia -- look as much to their legacy and their place in the history books -- as they do the law, and I doubt any of them believe that gay marriage will ultimately be fully legal in all fifty states.

They may not personally like it, but I think they can read the writing on the wall.
:: Morat 7:51 AM :: ::

Pots and Kettles

Jonathan Chait (writing for Josh Marshall) screws up in the middle of an otherwise good post taking Marshall Wittmann to task:
So Marshall responded by launching a counterattack on "dogmatic idealogues" and "hyperspace lefties" who gang up on Lieberman. That's fine as far as it goes. I actually agree with Marshall and the DLC on the suicidal purity of the Democratic party's left wing, embodied by the Howard Dean movement and its fanatical internet contingent, even if I disagree with his support for Lieberman in particular. (I think Lieberman's zeal to be seen as bipartisan, apologetics for torture, history of supporting capital gains tax cuts and fighting sensible regulations on Wall Street allow party liberals to tarnish the whole moderate wing as sell-outs.).
What on earth is up with this constant "The Left wants to to purge the party" bullshit out of the DLC types?

Yeah, we want to purge the party -- of fucking pansies.

We want fighters, not pushovers. We don't particularly care where they lie on the political spectrum. I mean, Jesus, Howard Dean is a DLC-type centrist himself -- something Chait knows damn well, even if he stupidly pretends not to.

I think Chait -- and his fellows like Drum and Josh Marshall -- need to wise up to the fact that the only Democrats calling for an ideological purge are folks like Al From wanting to purge the "MoveOn" and "Michael Moore" factions.

The rest of us -- Deanies included -- just want Democrats who can stand on their own, without reflexively cowering to the GOP's demands. If Chait can't tell the difference between "ideology" and "effectiveness" he's in the wrong damn business.

I'll tell you the only damn thing you need to know about Whitmann and Chait: They see an invigorated Democratic base and consider it a bad thing. People wonder why the "elitist" label sticks to the party so easily? It's because some of our loudest voices are unhappiest when actual citizens dare to get involved with governance.
:: Morat 7:09 AM :: ::

:: Monday, March 14, 2005 ::

DeLay Ethics Allegations Now Cause of GOP Concern

DeLay Ethics Allegations Now Cause of GOP Concern:
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) has dismissed questions about his ethics as partisan attacks, but revelations last week about his overseas travel and ties to lobbyists under investigation have emboldened Democrats and provoked worry among Republicans.
With some members increasingly concerned that DeLay had left himself vulnerable to attack, several Republican aides and lobbyists said for the first time that they are worried about whether he will survive and what the consequences could be for the party's image.
Let me make this very simple: Everyone knows Delay is dirty as sin. You do not amass that much power, funnel that much wealth, and own that many members of your own party by scrupulously adhering to ethical guidelines -- at least not ethical guidelines most people would agree with.

Even if you were somehow of the mind that Delay was exploiting loopholes in the law to do his thing, the change in the House ethics rules should have shot that out the window. They weren't making themselves look bad over something with a "loophole" defense.

Delay is dirty. I know it. You know it. The Democrats know it. The Republicans know it. Everyone knows it. Up until now, the problem was no one could prove it.

It looks like Earle can. What's got the GOP's panties in a bunch here is that Tom Delay outright owns the House. All but a handful of the 200+ GOP Representatives took his money. Tom Delay owns Texas too -- half the Texas Congress, if not more, have benefited from his cash. Expose Tom Delay -- drag his little violations of campaign law through the public spotlight -- and it smears the bulk of the GOP.

No one wants that. Unfortunately for the GOP, they can't apply their usual fix -- they can't twist Delay's arm to get him to take the fall and get the matter dropped. Delay will fight this tooth and nail -- it's his nature -- and he's so powerful that the Republicans can't cut their losses.
:: Morat 7:30 AM :: ::

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