Sunday, January 29, 2006

The court's in session, now, here comes the judge

In a never ending quest for truth, justice, and the American way, oh, and to see what the heck was being spun in the media and the internets, I tried this scientific experiment: I Googled "alito filibuster."

And faster than Gomer Pyle could say "Surprahse, surprahse," here are the first 10 hits (no links, they didn't copy&paste):

Reid admits Democrats can't block Alito - Reuters - Jan 27, 2006 - GOP sets up showdown over Alito - Jan 27, 2006
Why do you think John Kerry wants to filibuster Samuel Alito? Conviction. Politics. - Kerry appears to lack votes for Alito filibuster - Jan ...

Democrats Squabble Over Alito Filibuster - Yahoo! News

Feinstein Warns Against Alito Filibuster - Yahoo! News
A filibuster could give voters time, too, to learn what Alito and Bush have in ...

Democrats Split Over Filibuster On Alito
Several prominent Democratic senators called for a filibuster of Samuel A. Alito

Update 2: Feinstein Warns Against Alito Filibuster -
A Democrat who plans to vote against Samuel Alito sided on Sunday with a ...

CBS News | Alito Filibuster Try Lacks Support | January 27, 2006 ...

No Nuclear Option For Alito Filibuster
UPDATE: Now that an Alito filibuster is looking increasingly likely, ...

Democrats undecided on Alito filibuster - Americas - International ...
Senate Democrats emerged from a private meeting ...

We have:
  • Reid admits...
  • Crappy CNN poll
  • Democrats squabble...
  • Feinstein warns...
  • Democrats split...
  • Feinstein warns part deux
  • ...Lacks Support
  • No Nuclear Option...
  • Democrats undecided...
We also have sounding really, well, reasonable.
With the fate of the U.S. Constitution in the balance, it’s hard to believe there’s no senator prepared to filibuster Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, whose theories on the “unitary executive” could spell the end of the American democratic Republic.

If confirmed, Alito would join at least three other right-wing justices – John Roberts, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas – who believe that George W. Bush should possess near total control of the U.S. government during the ill-defined War on Terror. If Anthony Kennedy, another Republican, joins them, they would wield a majority.

Alito’s theory of the “unitary executive” holds that Bush can cite his “plenary” – or unlimited – powers as Commander in Chief to ignore laws he doesn’t like, spy on citizens without warrants, imprison citizens without charges, authorize torture, order assassinations, and invade other countries at his own discretion.

And that's the Liberal Media.


Saturday, January 28, 2006

Don’t let ’em ever change your point of view

Young Turks is live blogging their filibuster tonight. Jane Hamsher is on now, with John Amato to come later.

Jane has a list of senatorial phone numbers, call yours, please.

Go. Do it. Now.

Friday, January 27, 2006

There's a meetin' here tonight

My last post was also published at HuffPo, and even though they missed the first line, which changed, if not the dynamic, at least the lead in, it still generated some, ahem, interesting comments.

Missing line:
Here's why libertarianism will never work.

I got some of the usual comments:
This is complete idiocy.

Same guy:
Take your uneducated anti-libertarian screen and shove it deep in your rectum.

Now that's a persuasive argument. Another commenter replied:
I think you meant, "Take your uneducated anti-libertarian SCREED and shove it deep in your rectum." Open up.

Made me laugh.

But this was interesting:
Actually, I think Libertarians do understand what they espouse. They just have to disguise it and twist it around, for Libertarian really means Social Darwinist Oligarch.

Adoption of the connotations (and some of the aims) of the civil libertarian are a smokescreen.

The real problem that they have with Government is not its intrusiveness, it is the restrictions that societies tend to impose on their desires for power and wealth, decrying the evils of downward redistribution of wealth while ignoring the evils of upward redistribution (to themselves).

Their general rabidity (which you will see demonstrated in earnest as this thread matures) is mostly a reaction to the social suppression of their own greed.

Their support of personal liberty is generally to be commended, even if their goal is not really freedom and social justice, but rather that they want the liberty to freely take what they desire with no governance or regulation, regardless of the consequences for their fellow humans.

Thus, noted libertarians such as Bob Barr can be a temporary ally of the left on issues of civil liberties, and still be viewed as a fascist for his views toward the role of governement vis-a-vis a "free market" society: the elimination of the social protections for the weak against the strong (AKA, Social Darwinism).

It's truly fascinating to listen to them argue about the government "pointing guns to their heads" to make them pay taxes to support "lazy" people (your core Libertarian anti-social creed).

Rule 1: Never get into an argument with a true believer. You cannot win. Even if you can get them to acknowledge that the logic of their world view leads to oligarchy with them on top, you will find that they have no moral compunctions with regards to what kind of society they would impose on the rest of us given the opportunity.

If you happen to think you are a Libertarian, and you do not find this analysis accurate, then perhaps you are not really a Libertarian with a capital L after all. Liberty for an ambitious few is not liberty, it is oligarchy.

Most Libertarians I know are decent, hard-working folk (usually very hard working) who just believe their own rhetoric about how people who struggle to earn a living just aren't working hard enough, and that they are just smarter than everyone else and, as a result, deserve more out of life.

I think I agree.

But just today, another commenter left this, which I found thought provoking (sorry, no links to comments at HuffPo):
A real libertarian who ascribes to Ayn Rand's logical rational world, agrees that Government is essential to provide not only basic services but services to the neediest in society. Welfare is not against real Libertarian ideals. Also, a real Libertarian would be pro Unions as well. Bottom line profit is not the ultimate goal. Survival of any business enterprise (including a country's economy) requires a balance between business and labor.

What a real Libertarian decries is taxation without representation.

Libertarians are today in both the Republican and the Democratic party. Real Libertarians believe deeply about freedom and privacy.

Too many GREEDY individuals who espouse the need for Laissez-Faire business are using the label of Libertarian for personal gain. (Real Libertarians know that Laissez-Faire business can only exist in a utopian society where people live with-in the highest of values. Honesty, integrity, and logic.

One of the major principles of being a Libertarian is giving value for a value in return. Welfare in society is given and society benifits. Tax dollars given to the needy pay for housing, utilites, food, and other goods within the local community. Welfare is, in effect, a way of rebateing tax dollars to a community that has higher homeless and needy populations. By making sure people have the basic necessities they are better able to enter the work force if they can. Value for Value.

Education is also a value for value proposition. Tax dollars given to educate the populace provide a viable workforce for the community which in turn provides tax dollars which can go back to the communities again. Value for Value!

Please note all Republicans who call themselves Libertarians are in fact, not. Any real Libertarian has attributes that embrace both parties but also reject portions of each party. A real Republican with Libertarian ideals would vote with the Democrates on many bills before Congress and most definately would not vote for the Patriot Act Extention with out serious safeguards. In fact based on most of the pieces of the Patriot Act I have read would be rejected entirely.

I really have no trouble with any of this. I just haven;t heard many Conservatarians talk like this. But here's the kicker, as the writer goes on:

By the way, if you haven't already figured it out I believe in the Libertarian ideals. I am currently a registered Libertarian who has voted Democrat for the last several years. I abhor the whores in Congress who call themselves Libertaran. They have caused a great deal of misunderstanding of what a Libertarian believes in.

I will be changing party, I am sick over the Republicans hijacking my party and for my party being bastardized by its current membership aligning with conservatives.


Remember a Real Libertarian is first RATIONAL and believes strongly in LOGIC. Limited government means let the tax payers keep those dollars not needed to operate the Government, don't give billions of our tax dollars to Corporations. In my Libertarian world tax payers recieve Governmental Services that benefit all. No handouts to Corporations, ever.
There's a coalition here, just waiting to be born. I hope.

Oh, and filibuster Alito, dammit!

Monday, January 23, 2006

And there's fire on the mountain, lightnin' in the air

Here's why libertarianism will never work.

We had a fire in our back yard last night, a real, honest-to-goodness call-the-Fire-Department conflagration. About 1:30 AM, the really high winds in the North San Fernando Valley where we live knocked a tree limb into a power line, and the line broke.

It fell to the ground by the chain link fence at the property line between us and our neighbor to the west, up the hill that some of you know as our back yard. Sparks from the line against the metal fence started dry brush on fire, and we were scared shitless.

We called 911 4 times before the LAFD finally arrived, and were we glad to see them. We were using the back yard watering hose to try and moisten the ground between the fire and the house, but with the fierce winds, changing direction every second, we felt it was a losing battle.

Here's the thing: In the libertarian world, there is no LAFD.

Instead, there's a fire hydrant that we, and our neighbors arranged, paid for, and had someone install.

There's a hose attached to the hydrant, that we also bought.

Only, it's been stolen by vandals. Or it's in a locked box, and Bob on the corner has the key, and maybe me, except I loaned it to Kiki across the street so he could make a copy and never got it back. And for the first time in recorded history, Bob and Mrs. Bob have taken a trip to Laughlin, and as a result, I can't find the damn key!

So I can't connect to the hydrant. My house, and 2 others burn down, and we now depend on Red Cross, Visa Cards, and whatever insurance we have to try and rebuild our shattered lives.

Or, I call the taxpayer funded LAFD, lovely hard working men and women all, and they come, bring the hoses, connect to the hydrants that my tax dollars paid for, and just handle things.

Libertarians remind me of the adolescent girl on the TV show 'Medium' tonight: "I want everybody to knock before they come in my room, which is in my parent's house, but it's mine.

I dunno. While I don't want government, and especially not GWBush, to be my daddy, still I want it to provide things that only an entity with a vast infrastructure can do. Like fire departments.

Being responsible for taxes, and society in general, it's like living in a grown up world.

Update: from the comments, this is pretty great:


Please accept our apologies for any perceived delay in our arrival to your incident the other morning. As you know, there were hundreds of responses for your Fire Department that night, and often the closest unit was committed to another emergency, causing Firefighters to be dynamically deployed from Neighborhoods across the City.

While we can't enter the arena of political discourse, please rest assured that the men and women of the Los Angeles Fire Department will do everything in their power to remain worthy of your respect and praise.

Brian Humphrey
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

LAFD Home Page:
LAFD News Blog:

Update: To all who came in from Steve Rubel's Micropersuasion, and anyone else, this post was not a criticism of the LAFD, but rather an illustration for how government has the infrastructure and resources to do certain things more efficiently than the private sector. Thus my gripe at faux Conservatarians who harp on the goodness of "the market" and "private sector." Bullshit! The Fire Department is a perfect example of good government at work.

My only complaint in that direction was the goof up of the LAFD dispatchers, who told us the 3rd time we called 911 that the crew was already at our house, when in fact they showed up about 10 minutes later.

No harm in the long run. Only some dry brush at the top of our yard was lost, and possibly a tree, we won't know for a while.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Molly is the singer in the band (again)

The Goddess has spoken, and I bow down and worship her. These words have truth in them:
I'd like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for president.

Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone This is not a Dick Morris election. Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges.

The recent death of Gene McCarthy reminded me of a lesson I spent a long, long time unlearning, so now I have to re-learn it. It's about political courage and heroes, and when a country is desperate for leadership. There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times. There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief.

If no one in conventional-wisdom politics has the courage to speak up and say what needs to be said, then you go out and find some obscure junior senator from Minnesota with the guts to do it. In 1968, Gene McCarthy was the little boy who said out loud, "Look, the emperor isn't wearing any clothes." Bobby Kennedy -- rough, tough Bobby Kennedy -- didn't do it. Just this quiet man trained by Benedictines who liked to quote poetry.

What kind of courage does it take, for mercy's sake? The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it. The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage. The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush's tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich. The majority (66 percent) wants to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes.

The majority (77 percent) thinks we should do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That is the center, you fools. WHO ARE YOU AFRAID OF?

I listen to people like Rahm Emanuel superciliously explaining elementary politics to us clueless naifs outside the Beltway ("First, you have to win elections"). Can't you even read the damn polls?

Here's a prize example by someone named Barry Casselman, who writes, "There is an invisible civil war in the Democratic Party, and it is between those who are attempting to satisfy the defeatist and pacifist left base of the party and those who are attempting to prepare the party for successful elections in 2006 and 2008."

This supposedly pits Howard Dean, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, emboldened by "a string of bad new from the Middle East ... into calling for premature retreat from Iraq," versus those pragmatic folk like Steny Hoyer, Rahm Emmanuel, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Joe Lieberman.

Oh come on, people -- get a grip on the concept of leadership. Look at this war -- from the lies that led us into it, to the lies they continue to dump on us daily.

You sit there in Washington so frightened of the big, bad Republican machine you have no idea what people are thinking. I'm telling you right now, Tom DeLay is going to lose in his district. If Democrats in Washington haven't got enough sense to OWN the issue of political reform, I give up on them entirely.

Do it all, go long, go for public campaign financing for Congress. I'm serious as a stroke about this -- that is the only reform that will work, and you know it, as well as everyone else who's ever studied this. Do all the goo-goo stuff everybody has made fun of all these years: embrace redistricting reform, electoral reform, House rules changes, the whole package. Put up, or shut up. Own this issue, or let Jack Abramoff politics continue to run your town.

Bush, Cheney and Co. will continue to play the patriotic bully card just as long as you let them. I've said it before: War brings out the patriotic bullies. In World War I, they went around kicking dachshunds on the grounds that dachshunds were "German dogs." They did not, however, go around kicking German shepherds. The MINUTE someone impugns your patriotism for opposing this war, turn on them like a snarling dog and explain what loving your country really means. That, or you could just piss on them elegantly, as Rep. John Murtha did. Or eviscerate them with wit (look up Mark Twain on the war in the Philippines). Or point out the latest in the endless "string of bad news."

Do not sit there cowering and pretending the only way to win is as Republican-lite. If the Washington-based party can't get up and fight, we'll find someone who can.
As someone once said, sheer bloody poetry.

Friday, January 20, 2006

He's fighting for the USA

While trolling through the internets, I came across the forums for the Tampa Bay & St. Pete Times, which has an interesting bunch of political fora inside.

Here's a post from one of them re: John Murtha, from someone known as HA6: (scroll down, no direct link)
What Secretary Webb's article fails to mention is that Webb himself is a Marine Corps' hero having earned the Navy Cross in VietNam. That decoration is the next highest behind the Medal of Honor.
As a Marine Corps' combat veteran myself of Korea - two tours, Lebanon, Israel as an advisor to the IDF and three tours in VietNam, I think questioning Murtha's service is ludicrous. The Marine Corps' award system does not pass out Bronze Stars much less those combat "V"s on a whim. Purple Hearts have to be substantiated as well and there is a letter from the Corps to Murtha attesting to his awards.

The award matter is a non-issue!

I do not find fault with what he has said, only how he said it. He has a strong conviction and what he said came from much soul searching and deep feeling. That too is a non-issue as far as I am concerned.

What is despicable is the person whose aZZ he whipped resorted to such gutter sniping. I am pleased Murtha has been the gentleman he is through these sordid attacks. I don't agree with his politics either but have high regard for him as a Marine.

Those of us privileged enough to be called Marine certainly understand that the Marine Motto, Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful), is a way of life, not just words. He shows faith to his office and to his Corps. No one can fault him for that!
My good friend Jane's crusade to have Murtha give the Dem rebuttal to the SOTU address seems not to have born fruit. Still, this guy may be a Godsend to the Left. The Swiftboating hasn't seemed to hurt him yet, other than among the really foul freepers and LGFrs. And the Democratic Underground board that they and Jane set up seems to have been swamped right out of action, which, although sad, still says volumes about the Left and our passion.

Murtha came across on 60 Minutes as someone well spoken, articulate, and NOT AFRAID TO SAY HE WAS WRONG THEN AND RIGHT NOW! A position, I might add, would do well to be adopted by some on the left (Lieberman meet Beinert).

Oh, and filibuster Alito.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

I don't know how to love him, what to do, how to move him

We had a friend many years ago who suffered, and eventually died, from Cystic Fibrosis. It's a bitch of a disease, and, like AIDS, doesn't kill you directly but by allowing opportunistic infections to do its dirty work.

She commented one time that she felt she could be refreshingly honest and blunt in her dealings with other people because she metaphorically "had a tumor." In other words, when one has a deadly disease, one has the freedom to speak their mind. After all, who is going to criticize someone who "has a tumor?"

Which brings me to my point. From this NYTimes editorial:
There was a telling moment at the start of the Alito hearings when Senator Arlen Specter, the committee chairman, offered Judge Alito a way out. He asked whether Judge Alito believed, as some commentators do, that the Supreme Court's 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, strongly reaffirming Roe, made Roe a "super-precedent" - and therefore rendered the judge's 1985 views obsolete.

But Judge Alito would not give Senator Specter, who supports abortion rights, even that small bit of comfort, saying he did not believe in super-precedents. All of that should make things hard for Senator Specter and for three moderate Republicans - Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine - who have said they will oppose any nominee committed to overturning Roe.
. . .
The single most important thing a senator can do to support abortion rights is to vote against Supreme Court nominees who would take such rights away. Given Judge Alito's record and his testimony, it is hard to see how Senators Specter, Chafee, Snowe and Collins - or any other pro-choice senators - can call themselves strong advocates of abortion rights if they support him.

What I'm wondering is, what's in this for Spector? He figuratively and literally has a tumor, and has already been beaten up by the Bush administration for not exactly playing by their rules. See this in the National Review:
Specter's unhelpfulness on the presidential level also showed itself in some very concrete and visible ways. Most striking were the "Kerry and Specter for Working Families" signs posted around Southeastern Pennsylvania. Was the culprit some particularly ambitious freelance ticket-splitter? The signs were created, paid for, and posted by a 527 created by Roger Stone, chairman of Specter's 1996 presidential campaign.

Dick Cheney went to Pennsylvania in the final week before the election, and NRO's The Corner caught the priceless transcript:

THE VICE PRESIDENT: The president and I are delighted to be part of a great Republican ticket here in Pennsylvania this year. I want to thank Congressman Tim Murphy for his kind words and the great leadership he provides. (Applause.) And I also want to put in a good word for Senator Arlen Specter, although he couldn't be here today.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: This is a tough crowd.

A poll released on the day of Cheney's appearance showed Specter up by 20 points, and yet Specter didn't have the time to help the top of his ticket, which was trailing by five that same day.

So what's the deal? He already has one of the plum committee chairs. He is old and not in great health, and certainly not telegenic enough to run for higher office. I can't think of anything the administration has to offer the old fart, and he really seems to dislike Bush & Cheney. Chaffee, Snowe, and Collins, on the other hand, have political futures. We can deplore, but also understand their backing down on deeply felt convictions because, well, that's what Republican politicians regularly do.

So is Spector's support for Sam "can't comment on Roe" Alito based on any principles other than sucking up to an administration that has already slapped him silly (see: McCain, John) or is it something deeper; could it be that his Choice stance was simply pandering to the Pennsylvania electorate? Either way, he looks less like a warrior of conviction who faced the White House down, and more like a buffonish sidekick in a TV Western: snickering in the background when his boss does something dumb, but bowing and scraping to his face.


Friday, January 13, 2006

But gather together to greet the storm, tomorrow belongs to me.

With things potentially spinning out of control for Republicans, and American politics in general, they (the Repubs) are trying to stay on message and maintain control of at least one thing: Supreme Court nominee Alito.

That this seems short-sighted, as do many things political, is evident to many, including Lindsey Graham. Even he said that the Repubs might not be in power forever, and they should consider what their power grabs might mean when reciprocated under a Democratic administration. Ah, such a dreamer, that Lindsey.

Alito's writing on the Unitary Executive are interesting, well thought out, and scary as hell. As The Nation says:

Time magazine reported that in 2001 Alito acknowledged that he is a strong proponent of the theory of the "unitary executive" under which all executive branch power is vested in the President--and any incursion on it by Congress should be resisted. This theory has been used by the Bush Administration to justify various extralegal activities, including the infamous torture memos. In Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, Justice Clarence Thomas used the "unitary executive" theory to argue that the Supreme Court's restrictions on the President's unilateral power to lock up US citizens constituted "judicial interference"--a view rejected by the Court's majority.

Here is some further advice I imagine Alito might want GWBush to follow as well:
1. A dictatorship requires three things: a man, an idea and a following ready to live for the man and the idea, and if necessary to die for them. If the man is lacking it is hopeless; if the idea is lacking, it is impossible; if the following is missing, than the dictatorship is only a bad joke.

2. A dictatorship can rule against a parliament when necessary, but never against the people.

3. Sitting on bayonets is uncomfortable.

4. A dictator's first task is to make what he wants popular, bringing the will of the nation in tune with his own will. Only thus will the broad masses support him in the long run and join his ranks.

5. A dictator's highest duty is social justice. If people sense that the dictator only represents a thin upper class that has nothing to do with them, they will see the dictator as a hateful enemy and quickly overthrown him.

6. Dictatorships will rescue a nation when they know better ways than the previous governmental forms that they are fighting, and when their power is so anchored in the people that they do not depend on weapons, but rather on their followers.

7. A dictator does not need to follow the will of the majority. He must however have the ability to use the will of the people.

8. Leading parties and masses is the same as governing a nation. He who ruins a party will lead a nation into the abyss. Political ability is not demonstrated by using treacherous methods to rise to a ministerial chair on the labor of others.

9. Dictatorships must be able to survive on their own spiritual reserves. It will not work if what is good in their ideas comes from their opponents, and what does not come from their opponents is bad.

10. The ability to speak is no shame. It is shameful only when actions do not follow words. To speak well is good. To act bravely is even better. The typical reactionary can neither speak nor act. He has somehow gained power, but has no idea what to do with it.

11. Nothing is more foreign to dictatorial thinking than the bourgeois concept of objectivity. A dictatorship is by its very nature subjective. It takes sides by its nature. Since it is for one thing, it must be against another. If it does not do the latter, it runs the risk of having people doubt its honesty about the first.

12. A dictatorship speaks openly about what it is and what it wants. Nothing is farther from it than to hide behind a facade. It has the courage to act, but also the courage to affirm.

13. Dictatorships that hide behind the law to give themselves an appearance of legality even if their actions disagree, are short-lived. They will collapse of their own incompetence, leaving behind chaos and confusion.

14. Only those who lack the courage to join a party value being above party. When worlds collapse, when foundations shake, when revolutionary fevers spread through peoples and nations, one must join a party, one must be for or against. He who stands between will be torn apart by the contradictions, a victim of his own indecisiveness.
This is only part of the advice. There are several more points. If you're curious about the source, the rest are here:

Sunday, January 08, 2006

With one breath, with one flow, you will know synchronicity

A few bright minds have pulled quotes from the Communist Manifesto lately, such as these:
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to the civil power

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices

Interesting. Probably all liberal bloggers, damn Communists, want to overthrow this Christian nation...oh, sorry, started to get all riled up there.

Actually, you might be surprised. For those who are browser savvy, a simple mouse-over the links will give you enough information to get the gag. The rest of you can either follow the links, or...keep reading.

Actually 2 of the 3 are indeed from liberal bloggers: tbogg, one of the snarkiest wits in the biz, and BooMan23, one of the contributors to Daily Kos.

But the writer using the other quote from Mein Kampf was Christopher S. Bentley, writing at the really really extra super duper far Rightwing New American. Still don't recognize it?

It's the official organ for the wacky kids at the John Birch Society.

Before we all commit ritual suicide rather than be in agreement with them about anything, hold up a sec. Most things in life, including politics, involve sets, in the mathematical sense. Here's a refresher on sets and Venn diagrams:

Venn diagrams are illustrations used in the branch of mathematics known as set theory. They are used to show the mathematical or logical relationship between different groups of things (sets).

The orange circle (set A) might represent, for example, all living creatures which are two-legged. The blue circle, (set B) might represent all living creatures which can fly. The area where the blue and orange circles overlap (which is called the intersection) contains all living creatures which both can fly and which have two legs - for example, parrots. (Imagine each separate type of creature as a point somewhere in the diagram).

There are areas of overlap among all 'groups', be they Christian or Muslim, liberal or conservative, speed metal freaks and Cure fans...OK, scratch the last one. Still, I think there are certain elemental ideas that virtually all can agree on:
  • pretty large amounts of personal freedom
  • pretty limited government interference into our lives
  • government that doesn't actually harm the country
  • military that keeps ready in case something really important needs doing
Beyond that is where the disagreements start. I, like many progressives, want government to be helpful, by doing things only an organization with that vast an infrastructure can do, like universal health care, free education, and bunches of other really neat utopian stuff.

The Birchers venture pretty close to black helicopter tinfoil hat types, and they think the UN is actually the cathedral for the Church Of Satan. But check out some other quotes from them:
Proponents of keeping our soldiers in Iraq repeatedly offer the same rationale for their viewpoint. Here, their most often cited reasons are refuted. [Click here to send online letter to Congress, "Bring Our Soldiers Home From Iraq -- Now!"]

FALLACY: If the United States pulls its troops out of Iraq now, the country will collapse into chaos, civil war, and dictatorship, and will almost certainly end up being ruled by a regime hostile to us.

REBUTTAL: That is certainly possible if we pull out now, but we have no guarantee against that same outcome if we remain in Iraq three more years, 10 more years, or 20 more years, after expending thousands more lives of American soldiers and hundreds of billions more taxpayer dollars. In fact, the current "friendly" regime we have installed is very friendly with Iran, and the growing Baghdad-Tehran axis should be a major concern to all Americans.

When Iran's foreign minister visited Iraq in May of 2005, he was warmly received by Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari. Mr. Jaafari is a radical Shi'ite Muslim and a disciple of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, who, it may be recalled, labeled the United States the "Great Satan," inspired the overthrow of the pro-American Shah of Iran, held our embassy and American citizens hostage, and launched a new age of terror. Prime Minister Jaafari, "our ally" in Iraq, made an historic pilgrimage to Tehran in July 2005, with eight of his cabinet ministers in tow, to lay a wreath on the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini. Jaafari spent nine years (1980-1989) in Iran, and at Ayatollah Khomeini's behest, became a founding member of the Ayatollah's Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).

With Shi'ite Muslims comprising 90 percent of Iran's and 60 percent of Iraq's population, and Iraq's pro-Iranian radical Shi'ite "pope," Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, being the most influential religious leader in the country, we are already witnessing the transformation of Iraq into an ally of Iran.

Might have beeen written by Howard Dean. The startling thing is that they do make sense about some things. It's like the old saying goes: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Ewww, not really. But still, nice to know even the really extreme right wing of the wingnut wackjob Right thinks GWBush is wrong.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Whatever gets you through the night is alright

Evolution Philospher Daniel Dennet makes an interesting point in Der Spiegel:
Dennett: I think it is because evolution goes right to the heart of the most troubling discovery in science of the last few hundred years. It counters one of the oldest ideas we have, maybe older even than our species.

SPIEGEL: Which is what exactly?

Dennett: It's the idea that it takes a big fancy smart thing to make a lesser thing. I call that the trickle-down theory of creation. You'll never see a spear making a spear maker. You'll never see a horse shoe making a blacksmith. You'll never see a pot making a potter. It is always the other way around and this is so obvious that it just seems to stand to reason.

Interesting, never quite thought about it that way. So since we're smart, smarter I assume than our envirnment, like, you know, rocks and trees, then something larger and grander than us made us.
SPIEGEL: You think this idea was already present in apes?

Dennett: Maybe in Homo Habilus, the handyman, who began making stone tools some 2 million years ago. They had a sense of being more wonderful that their artifacts. So the idea of a creator that is more wonderful than the things he creates is, I think, a very deeply intuitive idea. It is exactly this idea that promoters of Intelligent Design speak to when they ask, 'did you ever see a building that didn't have a maker, did you ever see a painting that didn't have a painter.' That perfectly captures this deeply intuitive idea that you never get design for free.

SPIEGEL: An ancient theological argument...

Dennett: ... which Darwin completely impugns with his theory of natural selection. And he shows, hell no, not only can you get design from un-designed things, you can even get the evolution of designers from that un-design. You end up with authors and poets and artists and engineers and other designers of things, other creators -- very recent fruits of the tree of life. And it challenges people's sense that life has meaning.

Hmmm. I suppose it should logically follow that humans create that which is less than them. This 'Trickle-down' theory of Intelligent Design seems to be contradicted by everyday human behaviour, though. Parents raise children and then set them free, and as adults, children no longer need parents. Are such children then less than the parents? Depends on the kids, one might say. But this behavior happens throughout the animal kingdom, each generation moving forward, at the very least becoming equal to the generation before. In humans, each generation creates greater achievments, however, so one can argue that each generation supercedes the previous. Except for the guy who invented the "Baby On Board" sign for car windows. Clearly an evolutionary setback.

In this vein, Dennett goes on:
Dennett: One has to understand that God's role has been diminished over the eons. First we had God, as you said, making Adam and making every creature with his hands, plucking the rib from Adam and making Eve from that rib. Then we trade that God in for the God who sets evolution in motion. And then you say you don't even need that God -- the law giver -- because if we take these ideas from cosmology seriously then there are other places and other laws and life evolves where it can. So now we no longer have God the law finder or the law giver, but just God the master of ceremonies. When God is the master of ceremonies and doesn't actually play any role any more in the universe, he's sort of diminished and no longer intervenes in any way.

SPIEGEL: How is it, then, that many natural scientists are religious? How does that go together with their work?

Dennett: It goes together by not looking too closely at how it goes together. It's a trick we can all do. We all have our ways of compartmentalizing our lives so that we confront contradictions as seldom as possible.

This also is interesting:
SPIEGEL: Do successful religions have similar features?

Dennett: They all have to have features for prolonging their own identity -- and a lot of these are actually interestingly similar to what you find in biology, too.

SPIEGEL: Can you give an example?

Dennett: Many religions started before there was writing. How do you get high fidelity preservation of texts before you have texts? Group singing and recitation are efficient mechanisms for maintaining and spreading information. And then we have other features too, like you really want to make sure there are some parts of religion that are really incomprehensible.

Look, if you need to believe in ID, fine. But so many in the Creationism and ID communities get something very wrong, sometimes with intentional dishonesty, and that's really quite disturbing:
In layman’s terms, if something is said to be “just a theory,” it usually means that it is a mere guess, or is unproved. It might even lack credibility. But in scientific terms, a theory implies that something has been proven and is generally accepted as being true.

Here is what each of these terms means to a scientist:

Scientific Law: This is a statement of fact meant to explain, in concise terms, an action or set of actions. It is generally accepted to be true and univseral, and can sometimes be expressed in terms of a single mathematical equation. Scientific laws are similar to mathematical postulates. They don’t really need any complex external proofs; they are accepted at face value based upon the fact that they have always been observed to be true.

Some scientific laws, or laws of nature, include the law of gravity, the law of thermodynamics, and Hook’s law of elasticity.

Hypothesis: This is an educated guess based upon observation. It is a rational explanation of a single event or phenomenon based upon what is observed, but which has not been proved. Most hypotheses can be supported or refuted by experimentation or continued observation.

Theory: A theory is more like a scientific law than a hypothesis. A theory is an explanation of a set of related observations or events based upon proven hypotheses and verified multiple times by detached groups of researchers. One scientist cannot create a theory; he can only create a hypothesis.

In general, both a scientific theory and a scientific law are accepted to be true by the scientific community as a whole. Both are used to make predictions of events. Both are used to advance technology.

The biggest difference between a law and a theory is that a theory is much more complex and dynamic. A law governs a single action, whereas a theory explains a whole series of related phenomena.

An analogy can be made using a slingshot and an automobile.

A scientific law is like a slingshot. A slingshot has but one moving part--the rubber band. If you put a rock in it and draw it back, the rock will fly out at a predictable speed, depending upon the distance the band is drawn back.

An automobile has many moving parts, all working in unison to perform the chore of transporting someone from one point to another point. An automobile is a complex piece of machinery. Sometimes, improvements are made to one or more component parts. A new set of spark plugs that are composed of a better alloy that can withstand heat better, for example, might replace the existing set. But the function of the automobile as a whole remains unchanged.

A theory is like the automobile. Components of it can be changed or improved upon, without changing the overall truth of the theory as a whole.

Some scientific theories include the theory of evolution, the theory of relativity, and the quantum theory. All of these theories are well documented and proved beyond reasonable doubt. Yet scientists continue to tinker with the component hypotheses of each theory in an attempt to make them more elegant and concise, or to make them more all-encompassing. Theories can be tweaked, but they are seldom, if ever, entirely replaced.

Those who know this, especially scientists, who persist in claiming "Evolution is only a theory" are alarmingly duplicitous. Heck, I remember this point from High School & college science classes, and almost everyone took at least one of those classes, yet so many seem to have forgotten this.

Believe what you need to, just be honest about it, and don't lie to me about it.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Are you selling your soul to a cold gun?

Via RJ Eskow and Atrios, from Boing Boing we learn that Coldplay has given their fans a complete and utter steaming pile of insult packed in a shiny jewel case:
Coldplay's new CD comes with an insert that discloses all the rules enforced by the DRM they included on the disc. Of course, these rules are only visible after you've paid for the CD and brought it home, and as the disc's rules say, "Except for manufacturing problems, we do not accept product exchange, return or refund," so if you don't like the rules, that's tough.
What are the other rules? Here are some gems: "This CD can't be burnt onto a CD or hard disc, nor can it be converted to an MP3" and "This CD may not play in DVD players, car stereos, portable players, game players, all PCs and Macintosh PCs." Best of all, the insert explains that this is all "in order for you to enjoy a high quality music experience." Now, that's quality.
(Note: emphasis mine)

Some who read here may be surprised by my saying that, considering that some called me a corporate fascist and worse for suggesting that artists have actual, you know, RIGHTS regarding the music they WRITE, RECORD, SELL, and otherwise CREATE.

I annoyingly capitalize those words to make a point: that when you create something, you have some say in how it is distributed and marketed, including the right to charge for use. To those who criticized my previous post about copyright, and said that all music should be free, my reply is that kind of socialistic attitude should make the work you do free as well, so come on, fix my car, paint my house, and give me groceries for free, too. No? I thought not. I know that's an over-simplistic analogy, but still, work for reward is a pretty basic concept.

But for Coldplay to do this, apparently disallowing me from ripping the CD into iTunes and loading it into my brand new shiny iPod is not only mean-spirited, but it's a terrible business model. When I buy a CD, I have the right to do anything I want with it as long as it doesn't infringe on the copyright. That means I can load it into whatever media player I own, and play it anytime I want. That doesn't give me the right to re-sell it, or make and give away copies, but I should otherwise be able to listen to it any way I want. To refuse me the right to do this is incredibly short sighted. And, I wonder if it also might be considered actionable, as everyone buys CDs today with the intent to play them in many players, as well as ripping them into MP3s. Seems like this CD might be considered a flawed product, with false advertising.

And to think I actually liked some of their music.