Politics: February 2005 Archives

Maureen Dowd

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Maureen Dowd is incredibly tiresome. Everything with her is part of some larger narrative, all part of some big story that only she can tell us, because we don't have her insight. Nothing simply happens, it all happens because of some deep psychological factors that explain absolutely everything, and nothing outside of that explanation is possible.

Dowd wrote a book trying to explain every action President Bush has ever taken in reference to his relationship with his father. Pardon me while I pause to yawn broadly.

She was at it again on "Meet the Press" this week. According to her, the reason Putin talked about the electoral college was because "(Bush's) daddy's friends on the Supreme Court" selected him as President and Putin wanted to say if this is good enough for the U.S., why not good enough for Russia? OK, even if Putin was making this basic point about how Bush lost the "popular vote" but won the electoral college, it had nothing to do with Bush's father. Augh. Please, just shut up.

When the Queen of Snark was asked if the actions in Iraq are helping to create democracy throughout the Middle East, she said, "It's so '20th century' to go to war because you have to; now we go to war because we want to." When he asked again, was Iraq the appropriate course?, she still gave a snarky nonanswer: "Well, I'm old-fashioned: I think you actually have to tell the American people the truth before you go to war." Please, please, shut up.

Then, she continued: "But the problem with that is that kind of moral absolutism gets into a lot of 'ends justifies the means' traps, and that's what we saw in Europe and with Putin, because Putin can also say 'our ends justify our means.'"

I am not sure if she meant that we gave Russia the idea that it could use this argument, or if the U.S. is incapable of responding negatively to it because that would be hypocritical. Either way, it doesn't work.

First, let's dispense with this notion of ends and means, at least in the sense she implies -- that we went to war with bad means (lying, invading) to accomplish good ends (democracy) -- the obvious problem being that many people disagree that the means were as characterized by her.

Iraq is about ends and means in the same way Just War Theory -- which pretty much the entire world adheres to -- is. Critics would say that the U.S. did not have common prerequistites for conducting a just war: cause, authority, proper intentions, etc. Honest and intelligent people can -- and should, in a properly free nation -- disagree on these points in a given situation, as they are open to broad interpretation. In the end, the decision is a sovereign one, meaning that no external authority gets to tell the U.S. that it did not properly follow these principles. i.e., it's not the end justifying the means, it is sovereign proclamation that the means are acceptable given the desired end.

Some people may think those are two ways of saying the same thing, but it isn't so. The connotation of "end justifies the means" is that the means are bad ones, but since it is all turned out OK, that's what counts. But Just War Theory says no, the means must be proportional to the desired end. You can't wipe out all the people in China to protect Tokyo.

So unless she wishes to go far deeper and attack the Just War Theory itself, let's admit this is about making unpopular sovereign decisions, the means or ends of which others may find uncompelling.

Now, if in all this she meant that our "misdeeds" -- however defined -- allow Russia to use the same argument to defend its misdeeds, then she's really got a problem. The U.S. did not set any new precedents in this regard. It has always, since long before the U.S. existed, been the case that a nation could justify unpopular actions by appealing to its own best interests, because it is sovereign.

Just look at the last nearly 100 years of Russia: it has been the principle advocate of the application of this idea in using force against others, controlling half of Europe for 40 years based on it. The Russians have been battling the Chechens for more than 10 years, long before we invaded Iraq. When Clinton was President, in 1999, Yeltsin sent 100K troops into the Chechnyan capital, creating a quarter-million refugees. Russia was aiding Iran and doing business with Iraq for years preceding the invasion of Iraq.

So, I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she didn't mean we gave Russia the idea. However, if in all this she means that the U.S. is incapable of responding to Russia's use of the argument, then she is not much better off.

This argument is, essentially, that if I asked a court to let me out of a speeding ticket because someone in cardiac arrest was in my car and I was en route to the hospital, I could not favor speeding tickets for people who were merely late for work.

It's a similar argument that people make when they say, "why don't we invade North Korea or Iran, since they have WMD and Iraq didn't?" It's failing to even acknowledge that differences exist, let alone that they must be evaluated and dealt with accordingly.

Since the beginning of the Republic, we have had to evaluate claims of "best interests" on their own merits, and in relationship to our own interests, just as every other nation does. The Revolutionary War itself was based on this fundamental problem of conflicting sovereignties.

Now, it certainly makes temporary political and journalistic hay to attack someone for being apparently hypocritical in such regards, but history doesn't normally recognize such lack of differentiation. History can tell the difference between North Korea and Iraq, between Grozny and Baghdad, between Putin and Bush. History evaluates claims on their own merits: it doesn't lump them all together just because similar justifications were used for them.

It may be that our justifications are no better than theirs. But that is something that everyone decides for themselves, and if Putin advances this notion, it is not because it's true, but because he is hoping to gain the support of people who might agree with it or be otherwise convinced, which would be precisely what Putin might do even if Dowd agreed with the U.S. justifications, because it is at that point about politics, not truth. The U.S. has to worry about this problem and guard against it no matter what we've done and no matter what our means or motives.

All this just to say that this is the problem with the Dowd narrative style: it dismisses information that don't fit, and misrepresents much of the information in order to make it fit, all for the purpose of fitting into some artificial and arbitrary narrative that makes her feel superior. It makes for entertaining articles for people who like to bitch about the President at Manhattan cocktail parties, but it is shallow and boring. slashdot.org


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I do not understand why "reporters," for whatever that means, should have special legal rights.

If I have information about a crime, I may be forced to say what I know about it to the authorities. If a "reporter" does, they may -- depending on the state law (the majority of states have such "shield laws," whereas the federal government doesn't, I believe) -- be allowed to refuse to provide that information.

Why should reporters have special legal rights that I (assuming I am not a reporter in the given context) don't have? It's ridiculous. I understand if a reporter chooses not to provide information, but either I as a non-reporter should also be able to make that choice, or else they should be handed the same penalty as I would, if I were to refuse.

End Shield Laws Now! slashdot.org

"Secret" Tapes

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Yesterday Bill Kristol said something to the effect of, "these tapes made Bush look good, Karl Rove must be behind it." Finally, the mainstream press is catching on! slashdot.org

Dean Dean Dean Dean Dean

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Howard Dean, the Grand Poobah of the Democratic Party, told a room full of the Democratic Black Caucus, "You think the Republican National Committee could get this many people of color in a single room? Only if they had the hotel staff in here."

I am not here to bash Howard Dean. I am here to give him advice.

Howard: shut up. You only hurt yourself and your party when you talk where people can quote you. Have private meetings with donors and activists. Don't let the public get wind of what you're saying, because you're stupid and you end up saying stupid things. That's why you lost in Iowa. People don't like you. And they never will.

Oh, some people will like you, but most won't. And those that will are the people you need to speak to, away from microphones and reporters. That's the only way you can be effective as Grand Poobah, because the more the rest of the country hears you, the less they will like you and your party.

I'd like to say I wish you luck, but, well, I don't like you either, and I work for the other party. And perhaps I am only giving you this advice because I know you won't heed it anyway, so I won't belabor the point. slashdot.org

WA Governor Race Update

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The Republicans won their latest court battle in the effort to get Dino Rossi made the governor of WA, which was to get a court order to move on to the next step, to try to prove the election should be nullified, so a new election is held.

The Democrats claim victory, but of course, it isn't a victory for them. They were denied everything they were asked for, including a provision in the order that would require the Republicans to prove who each fraudulent vote was for, which is impossible, which is why they wanted it.

The Democrats do have one half-decent point: the Republicans have not laid all their evidence of fraudulent votes, in detail, on the table. But then again, it's not yet time for that information to be required. Maybe it's best to wait until they have it all together and ready to make a cohesive case, instead of releasing it all in pieces.

Anyway, the point is simply that it's all moving forward for the Republicans. slashdot.org

Social Security Calculations

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Our new old friend Harry Reid was on NewsHour last night, plugging his social security calculator on "democratic.gov." I guessed and then confirmed that no such site exists, and tried http://democrat.gov/ which I thought might be right until I noticed this is the *House* Democrats. So I tried http://democrats.gov/ (the 'S' stands for 'Senate'!) and saw Harry's happy shiny face.

I found the calculator and punched in some numbers. I was born in '73, and I picked a nice round number, $100,000. To my surprise (*cough*), Reid's calculator said with that income I would get less money from a private account than from social security.

But another calculator said I would get more. A lot more. Like, more than twice as much.

Who to believe? Well, it won't be Harry, that's for sure. Especially since the Heritage calculator gives me all the details and assumptions, and the Democrats aren't nearly as detailed in the assumptions listed in their linked PDF. And because it runs against common sense that if I put that much money in an account for 30-something years with compounded interest that I would get only $8,000 a year in return. But as I cannot evaluate their exact assumptions, I can't tell what the heck they are doing (I could try to read their JavaScript I suppose ... maybe for another day).

One thing I do think is hilarious is that in that linked PDF, they say there's a "privatization tax." A what? They take the concept that half my money goes into a private account instead of social security, and thus half my benefits come from same, and say that my social security benefits are getting "taxed" because I am not getting the full government-funded benefits I otherwise would. They call this a "tax:" not getting benefits I choose to not get, and don't pay into in the first place. This is doublespeak at its best. I almost admire it.

Another thing worthy of note is this little bit on the page: 'Since [Bush] has not made a specific proposal, these estimates assume that benefits are “price indexed,†a proposal made in Plan 2 of President Bush’s Social Security Commission.'

Huh. Bush has not made a specific proposal? Yes, that appears to be correct. This is one of the plans on the table from other people working for Bush, and Bush has not endorsed or pushed that one in particular.

Then why does Reid keep saying he has, such as in this quote from his response to Bush's state of the union?

There's a lot we can do to improve Americans' retirement security, but it's wrong to replace the guaranteed benefit that Americans have earned with a guaranteed benefit cut of up to 40 percent.

Make no mistake, that's exactly what President Bush is proposing.

At least I agree with the Democrats on something: that Reid was lying when he said to the nation that Bush was proposing guaranteed benefit cuts. slashdot.org


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America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.
-- John Quincy Adams

Pat Buchanan quoted this on Meet the Press last Sunday. I agree with it. The problem is that I disagree with Buchanan that if we leave the monsters abroad alone, that they will leave us alone.

Buchanan sat next to Natan Sharansky on this occasion, the author of the popular "The Case for Democracy," which Bush has drawn significantly from recently. Sharansky -- a human rights activist, Russian gulag prisoner for nine years, and now Israeli Minister -- argued that the U.S. was attacked because it is the leader of the free world. Because the free world threatens their way of life, and we are the symbol of that, so we are a target.

This is really the crux of the argument about Iraq, apart from whether the enterprise can succeed: is it in our interests to bring democracy to Iraq? Is it in our interests to prevent nukes in Iran? If we leave them alone, will they leave us alone?

200 years ago, in the days of Adams and his son, the answer was yes. Today, I believe it is no.

Whether our mission to bring democracy to the Middle East will succeed is another matter, and we can only try our best and hope and pray. slashdot.org

Karl Rove Did It

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Lincoln Day Dinner

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On Saturday night I went to the Lincoln Day Dinner, an annual county Republican fundraiser.

It was interesting seeing, essentially, everyone countywide who is important in the party in one place. The county councilmen, county sheriff (who is running for county executive in 2007), party officials, etc. We sat next to one of our district's two reps to the state House, Kirk Pearson. Mike Siegel gave a speech, as did former governor-elect Dino Rossi. The keynote was from Bob Williams, former WA candidate for governor.

Williams said one thing I've known, but just made me think. He said majorities don't change things; small groups of people committed to change accomplish change. It made me think of this journal and how my recounting of involvement with politics has encouraged others to, at least, think of becoming involved themselves.

It's why I am involved at all. I want to change things, so I get off my rear and do something about it. And it's why I bother posting this stuff: so any of you who wish to get involved will have the process demystified a bit, as that was always my biggest barrier to entry. I didn't know how to do things, what to do, how anything worked. I still don't know these things very well, but I figure, whatever I can pass on can help. slashdot.org

Lynne Stewart

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Attorney Lynne Stewart was convicted this week, of illegally passing information from one of her clients to other terrorists.


Far too long have lawyers like Stewart thought they could do anything they wished in the name of "free speech" and attorney-client privilege. Giving material support to terrorists is not justified on any grounds, and I hope she goes away for a long, long time. slashdot.org
A few days ago, North Korea announced they were pulling out of the multilateral talks. They said they were not working because the U.S. was being hostile.

So how has the U.S. been hostile? They never quite said, until today: "If the U.S. moves to have direct dialogue with us, we can take that as a signal that the U.S. is changing its hostile policy ... ."

Incredible. This is like a little kid who doesn't want to let you play with his ball, and then you finally convince him to, and then he gets mad at you for playing with his ball.

North Korea fought tooth and nail to avoid multilateral talks, because they have always been able to get away with cheating on bilateral agreements. That is precisely why the U.S. has, for a few years now, insisted on multilateral talks.

Back then, in 2002, North Korea actually claimed that the U.S. insistence on multilateral talks was evidence of hostility, as they are now. And yet, North Korea eventually agreed, but now is backing out, because the U.S. is proving itself hostile by insisting on multilateral talks, which they've been doing all along.

It's maddening.

And they said they have nuclear weapons, although every time in the past they've said they could prove it, they've failed to do so. (Literally, last year, they were going to prove they were further than we thought, to a U.S. envoy on site, and just before they got to that part of the tour, they said, "oops, time's up!" So forgive me for being skeptical.)

It doesn't get much crazier than this. And I wonder who they think they're fooling. It is terribly obvious this is all just a ploy to get back to bilateral agreements that they can then easily cheat on, just like before. Maybe they do have nuclear weapons, maybe they don't, but this whole thing about the hostility of the U.S., it is all about trying to break up a potential agreement that would actually have some weight behind it. slashdot.org


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No one has yet been able to tell me why this Jeff Gannon story matters.

Anyone wanna try?

I mean, people have tried to tell me. They've said he is not a real journalist. Even if that is true, so what? Since when does someone have to be stamped by CNN or CBS to get access to the White House?

I really don't see the point of this at all. If MoveOn.org wants to send some activist with a blog to be a correspondent at the White House, more power to them. Who cares? slashdot.org


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I am the newly elected Communication Chair of the 39th District Republicans.

So like, I say stuff, and stuff.

My primary job is to aid communication between the members, between the county party and us, and from us to the public. So I'll be doing mailing lists, letters to the editor, press releases, that sort of thing. slashdot.org

Sex Letter

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My previous journal entry was read, in part, on the air on Sunday (the show was on during the Super Bowl, but my TiVo has two tuners ... but probably no one else saw it). Robert Mak, the host of the show, read a portion of the letter:

"I wish your program had devoted some time to the notion that public school is not the place to teach anything about personal sexual activity, be it abstinence or not ... that's my job." slashdot.org
<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Politics category from February 2005.

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