Dangerous Dan Thoughts and musings on the world

3/5/2007

Ads in the Personals Section Will Be Next

Filed under: Media,Politics,World — Dangerous Dan @ 9:28 pm

ABC is reporting that the CIA is rushing resources into Pakistan to find Osama bin Laden:

Armed with fresh intelligence, the CIA is moving additional man power and equipment into Pakistan in the effort to find Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al Zawahri, U.S. officials tell ABC News.

"Reports that the trail has gone stone cold are not correct," said one U.S. official.  "We are very much increasing our efforts there," the official said.

People familiar with the CIA operation say undercover officers with paramilitary training have been ordered into Pakistan and the area across the border with Afghanistan as part of the ramp-up.

Apparently when these undercover officers arrive in Pakistan, they plan on finding bin Laden by driving around in firetrucks with the sirens going while shouting on megaphones, "Osama!  Osama, are you there?!  Ummm… candygram."

Honestly, who are these "U.S. officials" who are leaking what would seemingly be top secret and very important information that you probably don't want, you know, being broadcast to the world.  Either this is part of some kind of scheme against bin Laden or some idiot in the CIA with loose lips and a feeling of self-importance needs, in this order, a swift kick in the balls, a pink slip, and an indictment for revealing state secrets.

7/27/2006

A Bust of Hillary’s Bust

Filed under: Humor & Satire,Pics,Politics — Dangerous Dan @ 11:42 pm

Yikes!

Ha! The same wacky guy who produced this has struck again.

Artist Daniel Edwards has followed his piece "Monument to Pro-Life: The Birth of Sean Preston," with a buxom bust of the former first lady titled "The Presidential Bust of Hillary Rodham Clinton," which is slated to show at New York's Museum of Sex on August 9.

Edwards says the bust captures the senator, ""with her head held high, a youthful spirit and a face matured by wisdom. Presented in a low cut gown, her cleavage is on display prominently portraying sexual power which some people still consider too threatening."

Personally, it's her policies I find threatening as well as her persona repellant. As for her sexual power… well, I'll take Bill's actions as an indicator of that.

And is it just me or does the bust look a little like Jimmy Carter with boobs? Seriously… check it out:

Hill Jimmy

(via Moonbattery)

Tough and Smart Democrats

Filed under: Politics — Dangerous Dan @ 10:52 pm

So I was reading this Harry Reid blog post on HuffPo and noticed this line: "…we'll be tough and smart with a foreign policy that concentrates on our real threats…" This corresponded nicely to the line in the Six for '06 plan that goes, "Reclaim American leadership with a tough, smart plan to transform…"

So I googled 'Democrats tough smart.' Turns out they use this line a lot in relation to several things. Let's see, Evan Bayh uses it here from a February HuffPo post; here's the Dems saying we need a tough, smart immigration policy – it's from April; the Dems .gov site has it on their main page; last September Rep. Jane Harman said of the Dems that "We're tough enough to pull the trigger, and we're smart enough to hit the target."; oh, here's an interesting one – the Democratic Leadership Committee said we needed a "tough but smart" policy concerning China – in 1997!; Dean used the formulation last month; and you can find a large number of other instances.

I guess 'tough and smart' tested well. I think this, better than anything, illustrates the Democrats' perceived and real deficiencies and insecurities. The fact that they need to go around talking about how their plans are tough and smart indicates that they are neither tough nor smart. If they were either or both, it would be self-evident and the Dems wouldn't feel the need to constantly convince people otherwise.

Worse yet is that this is an obvious talking point that's been circulated among Democrats. Somewhere is a memo saying to talk up how smart and tough they are, especially those running for reelection. The problem is that with so many using the formulation so much, this is going to get severely overused. When it does, voters are going to start wondering why the Dems need to keep saying it so often and if it's supposed to convince them of something that's not true or just the Democrats themselves.

Newer Retread Dem Effort

Filed under: Politics — Dangerous Dan @ 10:11 pm

Does it ever seem like the Democrats try too hard? Responding to the accusations that they lack any kind of significant vision and are just anti-Republicans, they've come up with the "Six for '06" campaign agenda. Get it, there are six planks and it's '06 – clever, eh?

Here are the six planks, taken straight from campaign promotional material:


Honest Leadership and Open Government

We will end the Republican culture of corruption and restore a
government as good at (sic) the people it serves.

Real Security
We will protect Americans at home at home and lead the world by
telling the truth to our troops, our citizens and our allies.

Energy Independence
We will create a cleaner and stronger America by reducing our
dependence on foreign oil.

Economic Prosperity & Educational Excellence

We will create jobs that will stay in America by restoring opportunity
and driving innovation.

A healthcare system that works for everyone

We will join 36 other industrialized nations by making sure everyone
has access to affordable health care.

Retirement Security

We will ensure that retirement with dignity is the right and expectation
of every single American.

Yes, six mighty planks. And if you try scouring the Democratic website, you can't find a single detail on any one of them; at least I couldn't. If you can find some, please share them with me. The problem, of course, is that it's extraordinarily easy to promise grand visions, but it's very difficult to fulfill those promises when one has to provide details and admit to the costs. John Kerry was positively brimming over with multitudinous and nebulous plans in the 2004 election on which he never elaborated. It doesn't appear that the Dems have learned anything.

It seems that this is supposed to be some kind 2006 Democratic Contract with America. The difference, though, is that the 1994 incarnation had specific goals and legislation to introduce. It had content and wasn't so full of fluff as this is.

The House Democrats site has slightly more verbiage for each plank but no real additional substance; it's more like vague subpoints for vague headings. Nevertheless, let's look at each one in turn.

REAL SECURITY AT HOME AND OVERSEAS
Reclaim American leadership with a tough, smart plan to transform failed Bush Administration policies in Iraq, the Middle East and around the world. Require the Iraqis to take responsibility for their country and begin the phased redeployment of US forces from Iraq in 2006. Double the size of Special Forces to destroy Osama Bin Laden and terrorist networks like al Qaeda. Rebuild a state-of-the-art military capable of projecting power wherever necessary. Implement the bipartisan 9/11 Commission proposal to secure America’s borders and ports and screen 100% of containers. Fully man, train, and equip our National Guard and our police, firefighters and other first responders. Honor our commitments to our veterans.

What's the tough, smart plan (this reminds of daytime commercials for the "TOUGH, SMART LAWYER")? Aren't we already requiring Iraqis to take responsibility and aren't they doing it? What if they aren't entirely ready by the time we start pulling out? Will we sell them out and cut off aid like we did to the South Vietnamese in 1974?

Build the military and project power – when since Kennedy have Democrats done either? Do they know how anymore? Do they have the will to use military power?

BETTER AMERICAN JOBS – BETTER PAY
Prohibit the Congressional pay raise until the nation’s minimum wage is raised. End tax giveaways that reward companies for moving American jobs overseas.

The first part looks like a gimmick. The second part is isolationist. Funny how that used to be the Republicans’ bag.

COLLEGE ACCESS FOR ALL
Make college tuition deductible from taxes, permanently. Cut student loan interest rates. Expand Pell Grants.

How much will all this cost in lost tax and new outlays? And doesn't this mainly reward wealthier people who are able to pay for college tuition out of pocket instead of needing to use grants, scholarships, and loans?


ENERGY INDEPENDENCE – LOWER GAS PRICES

Free America from dependence on foreign oil and create a cleaner environment with initiatives for energy-efficient technologies and domestic alternatives such as biofuels. End tax giveaways to Big Oil companies and enact tough laws to stop price gouging.

Isn't Bush already throwing money at alternative energy? When has government spending advanced any technology outside of the military sphere? Won't the market fill a need and choose the best technology better than the government can?


AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE – LIFE-SAVING SCIENCE

Fix the Medicare prescription drug program, putting seniors first by negotiating lower drug prices and ending wasteful giveaways to drug companies and HMOs. Promote stem cell research that offers real hope to millions of American families who suffer from devastating diseases.

It's never a good idea to disrupt the market through artificial pricing. That sort of activity in the medical sphere is a significant factor in driving up prices. In this case, it will also lower research spending and activity by drug companies. As for stem cell research, this is misleading. Embryonic stem cell research does not receive federal funding. Adult stem cell research, which has shown much more promise thus far, is federally funded. Additionally, states and private entities may fund the embryonic variety.

RETIREMENT SECURITY AND DIGNITY
Stop any plan to privatize Social Security, in whole or in part. Enact real pension reform to protect employees’ financial security from CEO corruption and mismanagement, including abuse of the bankruptcy laws. Expand personal savings incentives.

Ah, social security, the sacred cow. Everybody admits it'll go bankrupt someday and be a massive burden on the treasury, but let's just ignore that. Perhaps while they're laying a new regulatory layer to businesses, they can do something about the corrupt congresses borrowing money from social security for pet programs. They can also explain how they encourage individuals to save their money and then don't allow them to do so with their social security.

So, again, how are the Dems supposed to achieve these things? What are the costs?

And how is this a new direction? This is just a repackaging of the same Democratic talking points from the previous 2-6 years. So far they haven't done much for the Dems so why are they supposed to work now? If you put a dress on a pig and call it a child, it's still a pig. Consolidating, restating, and providing a new moniker to initiatives that have gained no traction in the past is not a winning strategy. It also doesn't represent vision or new thinking. It represents stubborn persistence in a failed strategy. They accuse Bush of this all the time as concerns Iraq. They just do the same in the war of American politics.

7/25/2006

Counterintuitive Proposals

Filed under: Politics — Dangerous Dan @ 7:33 am

Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council have come up with a plan to win over American voters. They're calling it the focus-group friendly American Dream Initiative. Now see if these statements work together:

While much of the agenda covers familiar Democratic territory, it adds some flourishes. An "American Dream Grant" would award money to states based on attendance and graduation from state colleges, while American Dream Accounts would enhance retirement savings and federally funded $500 "baby bonds" would be issued to each child born in America.

It also includes a commission to evaluate corporate subsidies and new rules to rein in federal spending.

Federal money will go to states, will be used to go into retirement savings, will give each child born in the U.S. $500 (at about 4,057,000 babies born a year, that amounts to over $2 billion a year).. and yet still reign in federal spending. That'll be some feat of creative accounting. And let's not forget the new layer of bureaucracy required to administer such a program and the brand new element of federal meddling in state and local affairs.

If you look at the details of the plan, you'll also see the enforcement idea:

In return for this unprecedented increase in college aid, we must raise expectations for colleges and students alike, and address the high proportion of college students who leave without a degree. Students who don't finish college don't earn much more than their counterparts who never entered. We must challenge young Americans to go to college and graduate, and challenge colleges to do their part to make it happen. Colleges need to publish complete data on their success rates, and schools with chronically low graduation rates must present a strategy to increase them. Colleges should provide truth-in-tuition by setting multi-year tuition and fee levels so incoming freshmen know how much 4 years of college will cost.

Is it just me or is this basically No Child Left Behind for colleges? And note how money is being tied to graduation rates and the money itself is meant to defray tuition costs. Here's what will actually happen. Colleges will play with the numbers or lower their standards in order to get students out the door and keep the federal dole coming. And instead of using the cash to defray tuition costs, they'll put up some new buildings. I really dislike these bread and circus plans politicians come up with.

Others blogging: First State Politics

7/24/2006

Amazing Arguments

Filed under: Politics — Dangerous Dan @ 11:56 pm

Air America co-founder Sheldon Drobny has been posting on HuffPo (natch) and his latest entry contains a most amazing argument.

My brother warned me that the liberal blogs were becoming very anti-Israel and some were so violently critical of Israel that there was a tone of anti-Semitism in that criticism. Since I generally do not read the blogs, I was surprised that liberals and progressives would treat the Israel/Palestine issue in such a shortsighted approach. Most objective people understand that it takes two to make an argument and that an informed group would understand that the Israel/Palestine problem has historical roots where plenty of blame can be shared. And my experience with liberals and progressives is that they view the world in shades of gray as compared to the right wing black and white approach.

But, to my surprise, I got 67 comments from my last post that were mostly hostile to me and the ones that supported my analysis. Many of the other posts I had made got criticism from clearly right wing readers. The difference I observed with this subject had brought out what I thought was unlike my experiences with thoughtful progressives who could disagree rationally with different points of view.

I came to the conclusion that the hostile comments about Israel on these liberal blogs are not coming from true liberals. Most of the anti-Semitism comes from racism and most of the racism I have experienced has come from the far right, not the left. And history shows that the Christo-fascist policies of the right have been responsible for historical anti-Judaism.

So my conclusion is that the bloggers who violently hate Israel and see it in black and white terms are not really liberals. They may even be anti-Semites, but they are not representative of the liberal community that was so active in achieving racial and ethnic equality. It is a contradiction for a true liberal to be an anti-Semite. Furthermore, I would not put it past the right wing to flood the liberal blogs with hateful criticisms of Israel to advance a perception that liberals are anti-Israel or anti-Semitic. And I see Karl Rove's fingerprints all over this.

So the argument runs thus:
1) Some liberal bloggers are exhibiting anti-Semitism.
2) Liberals are not anti-Semitic
3) Only conservatives are anti-Semitic
4) Therefore, the bloggers in premise 1 are not really liberal, they are conservative.

Gosh, that's convenient for liberals. I can play this game too, though. You see… Drobny, despite his claims to the contrary, is actually a conservative. Wonder how? As he stated liberals "view the world in shades of gray as compared to the right wing black and white approach." Drobny has just said, though, that liberals are by definition not anti-Semitic while conservatives are, at least inductively, anti-Semitic and racist generally. That's a black and white distinction while allowing for anti-Semitic liberals would have been a shade of gray. Since he views this in terms of black and white, Drobny is, by his own definition, a conservative. I wonder if he realizes it?

Drobny's argument is really quite amazing and simply runs away from the rampant anti-Jewish tenor on many lefty blogs. When faced with the evidence of this phenomenon, Drobny simply disavows the possibility of such a thing and then, even more amazingly, accuses evil genius Karl Rove of intentionally making the left look bad by planting the anti-Semitism. Bizarre conspiracy theories are always a nice way to clear up that unpleasant cognitive dissonance.

(via Moonbattery)

Clinton Video Game Tax?

Filed under: Politics,Society — Dangerous Dan @ 10:39 pm

There are rumors (rumors, mind you, since I can't find independent confirmation of this, although the reporting blogger is respected in gaming circles) that Hillary Clinton is thinking about pushing for special taxes on video games:

Sources tell me that Clinton has been asking around for volunteers for a new anti-violence in video games initiative. Specifically, Clinton is trolling for someone who feels passionate about extreme violence in video games.

One of Clinton's brainbursts is to try and add a special tax to video games, sorta like what a lot of states do for cigarettes. The profits from the tax would then go to a child advocacy program.

The "concerned parent" would need to attend a press conference to make a short statement and should be able to deal with annoying reporters asking questions like: Did Sen. Clinton send out a memo asking for someone like you to talk for her at a press conference?

If true, this would be a nice calculated move intended to appeal to both liberals and conservatives. The fiscal liberals get taxes on something (anything) to funnel towards a feel-good cause and the social conservatives get to punish the evil video games destroying their kids' brains and .

Of course, this could just as easily backfire by torquing the social liberals who don't think such things as violent video games should be punished and the fiscal conservatives who think taxing generally, but especially social engineering through taxing, is severe governmental overreach.

I think the latter outcome is more likely. As this notes, it also won't play well with the Kos crowd that Hillary will appear to be pandering to conservative values-based issues, which they consider trivial or distracting, instead of focusing on the big issues.

(via Joystiq)

Kerry Says What?

Filed under: Politics — Dangerous Dan @ 7:52 am

Tell me if you can figure this one out. Here's John Kerry complaining about Bush's handling of the current mideast crisis and how it wouldn't have happened on his watch (he had a plan, no doubt).

"If I was president, this wouldn't have happened."

"The president has been so absent on diplomacy when it comes to issues affecting the Middle East. We're going to have a lot of ground to make up (in 2008) because of it."

Hezbollah guerillas should have been targeted with other terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaida and the Taliban, which operate in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Kerry said. However, Bush, has focused military strength on Iraq.

"This is about American security and Bush has failed. He has made it so much worse because of his lack of reality in going into Iraq.…We have to destroy Hezbollah," he said.

So…. the president's problem was that he wasn't using diplomacy. So he should have been using diplomacy? No, that appears irrelevant and Bush should have been using unilateral military force to invade northern Israel and southern Lebanon to take out Hezbollah. Yeah, that would have been helpful and wouldn’t have created tensions. And, honestly, how is it about American security when Hezbollah is almost exclusively Israel’s problem and, at best, tangentially ours?

Kerry is again proving himself the anti-Bush and he’s got nothing else to run on. Bush went into Iraq and, after the fact, Kerry wouldn't have. Bush didn't use diplomacy (false) and, after the fact, Kerry would have. Bush didn't use military force to take out Hezbollah and, after the fact, Kerry would have despite that this contradicts his diplomatic solution approach. I'm surprised the man hasn't started walking backwards just because Bush walks forwards.

Update: CQ has other thoughts here.

7/20/2006

Bush to the NAACP

Filed under: Politics — Dangerous Dan @ 10:34 pm

Tomorrow, President Bush will be speaking before the NAACP for the first time in his presidency. After inviting him for five years and finally having their offer excepted, he's being treated like a snake.

Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois warned NAACP delegates to be cautious of any civil rights promises Bush offers when speaking to the group today. The senators criticized Republicans for allowing the landmark 1965 voting act to nearly expire and said the Justice Department has failed to aggressively pursue allegations of disenfranchisement.

"Don't be bamboozled. Don't buy into it," Obama said, trying to anticipate Bush's speech, which is expected to touch upon his support for extending the act. "It's great if he commits to signing it, but what is critical is the follow-through. You don't just talk the talk, but you also walk the walk."

Yes, I wonder why he hadn't spoken there before. It's an exercise in futility really. If he doesn't go, he's accused of being a racist or at least of being someone who isn't concerned with black issues. If he does go, he's accused of being a racist or at least of being someone who isn't concerned with black issues. Seems real productive.

7/17/2006

Incompetent Dems

Filed under: Politics — Dangerous Dan @ 9:10 pm

One thing that has truly amazed about American politics in the past four years is that no matter how many problems the Republicans have, how many missteps they make, scandals that pop up (real, imagined, and exaggerated), or how low Bush's approval ratings go, the Democrats have been utterly bereft of vision and have been completely clueless as how to take advantage of any of it. What has kept the Republican party in power the last several election cycles, more than anything, has been the Democrats' complete incompetence. The Dems can't find their ass with both hands and the Repubs can at least manage to land one hand on a buttock when they go looking for it.

As I've skewed more libertarian (with a strong conservative streak) and seen the bang-up domestic job the Repubs have done with their majority status (yet more bread and circuses, bigger government, more pork, poor execution of priorities, and giving up when the going gets tough) I'm no friend of the Republican party, though I usually vote for them only because Dems are far more distant from my politics. So it is with some amusement and consternation that I watch the opposition party constantly being given golden opportunities to make inroads on the majority and to be a responsible minority party and then just messing up every time. Plamegate, Tom Delay's indictment, Duke Cunningham, Iraq, and others and the Dems haven't been able to make a single thing of any of them.

And now there are high hopes among Dems that they'll be able to retake the House in this year's election and possibly gain in the Senate. I wouldn't count on it. These same hopes were around in 2002 and 2004 and look what happened.

Some liberals like to tell themselves the fairy tale that they lose because they don't play dirty like the Republicans do or that they just don't know how to play dirty. Anybody who tells himself that is lying to himself. Both sides come to play, but at this point in American politics, the Dems just aren't very good at it. That is, they know how to play dirty politics and they do it; they just don't do it very well.

Ultimately, it comes down to leadership and vision and the Dems lack both. Harry Reid’s a stuffed shirt, Nancy Pelosi comes off as a San Fran loonball, and then there’s Dean. The Dems did themselves no favor by selecting Howard Dean as their party chairman. It's still amazing that they picked as their dear leader a guy with a failed presidential run whose campaign famously imploded and who amassed a phantom internet funding empire. What, was Gary Hart too busy? Typically, an organization chooses a proven winner to lead it, not a loser who became an instant punchline and who has a reputation for amazing soundbites.

And then the vision problem. Dean and the Dems can't seem to figure out anything to say about themselves other than that they're not Republicans. Here's Howie at a speech last week:

You know, people say the Republicans are tough on defense. How can you be tough on defense if five years after 9/11, Osama bin Laden is still at large, the Iranians are about to get nuclear weapons, North Korea's quadrupled their nuclear weapons stash. . . .

Explain to me how it is that this president is tough on defense? I think this president is weak on defense and he's hurt America because he hasn't done the right thing.

So what do you propose instead? What's that? Eh? Speak up!

Oh, but don't worry, through magic fairy dust, we wouldn't even be in this situation now:

If you think what's going on in the Middle East today would be going on if the Democrats were in control, it wouldn't, because we would have worked day after day after day to make sure we didn't get where we are today. We would have had the moral authority that Bill Clinton had when he brought together the Northern Irish and the IRA, when he brought together the Israelis and the Palestinians.

That's right, due to the persistence of the Democrats in an alternate timeline, they would have been able to salve over a centuries old problem. And they'd have the moral authority of Bill Clinton who popped in for a photo op for the Oslo Accords (but did no work in the matter) and who failed spectacularly at the end of his presidency to broker an agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. That failure (to be fair, it was mostly because Arafat was a snake not interested in peace) led to the latest ongoing intifada, which got to us to where we are today. Ironic? Sure.

Profane Bush

Filed under: Media,Politics — Dangerous Dan @ 7:48 pm

Eek, Bush cussed! Not that the piker could hold a candle to guys like Nixon or LBJ who could make a sailor blush. Do I care that he cussed? Nope. He was having a private conversation at the time (or as private as you can get under the circumstances), not making a public address.

What I got a kick out of was that if you watch the video, Tony Blair is trying to talk to Bush about the latest Mideast crisis and Bush is sitting there stuffing his face. Classic.

3/25/2006

Albright and Evil

Filed under: Pics,Politics,World — Dangerous Dan @ 1:00 am

In an LA Times editorial, Madeleine Albright takes the Bush administration to task for shaping foreign policy around 'good and evil.' Essentially, that it's not nuanced and pragmatic enough, which has been the common complaint from the left.

Her nuanced advice for the middle-east is to enter into constructive dialogue with Iran about its nuclear program and its role in Iraq:

…the Bush administration should disavow any plan for regime change in Iran — not because the regime should not be changed but because U.S. endorsement of that goal only makes it less likely. In today's warped political environment, nothing strengthens a radical government more than Washington's overt antagonism. It also is common sense to presume that Iran will be less willing to cooperate in Iraq and to compromise on nuclear issues if it is being threatened with destruction. As for Iran's choleric and anti-Semitic new president, he will be swallowed up by internal rivals if he is not unwittingly propped up by external foes.

Albright's problem is that she has no concept of evil regimes. You'll excuse me if I don't trust the woman who did this:

Clap, Maddy, Clap!

That's Albright alongside Kim Jong Il, happily clapping away at a massive stadium rally that only a dictator can assemble, and which is a display of pure power. This is the woman whose brilliant statecraft (along with Clinton's) allowed North Korea to extort the U.S. while NK reneged on its side of the deal, didn't do anything constructive with Iran, constantly hedged on Iraq, played footsy with Arafat, and turned a blind eye to terrorist attacks on American interests. The Clinton foreign policy as supported by and implemented through Albright punted on nearly every difficult international problem, which tended to be the ones that might require serious military intervention and could be publicly unpopular. Her negligence became Bush's problem and now her advice to him is to keep punting down the road.

Totalitarian regimes don't need an actual threat from the U.S. to stay in power. A voiced threat by them is all they need. Kim Jong Il announces every other month or so that the U.S. is about to invade North Korea. Castro will occasionally say something like that too.

Furthermore, when dealing with Iran, taking the threat of regime change or military force off the table is to take away our one major bargaining chip. Iran has been in talks with the EU about its nuclear program for years and those talks have gone nowhere. Iran has merely been stringing the international community along while its nuclear development continues apace. Euros and UN types don't care about results, they care about process. As long as the process is ongoing, they can pretend they're achieving something when they're not. Iran knows this well and knows that if it can tie up the EU or anyone else in beloved talks, then it can stall for time long enough to complete its weapons. Considering the history of negotiations with Iran and the EU, Albright is only displaying willful ignorance in saying we should disavow the use of force when dealing with Iran and should only enter into negotiations.

Albright makes it seem as if the mid-east would trend toward moderate democracies if only we were to leave things alone. That might be true if you extend the trend line out a hundred years or so. It certainly isn't the case now and the bare glimmers of democracy that we've seen the mid-east have been the result of U.S. intervention (for good or bad) and the fear in those countries of American force. Albright is right that a foreign policy shouldn't be based purely on notions of good and evil,1 but it also shouldn't be ignorant of them.

Others blogging: California Conservative and Uncorrelated,


  1. Albright's portrayal of Bush foreign policy as being oversimplified is itself oversimplified. [back]

3/21/2006

Conspiracy Nuts

Filed under: General,Politics,Society — Dangerous Dan @ 10:46 pm

While I'm not typically in the habit of reproducing comments I leave elsewhere, I'll do so this time. Given the time it took to write them and that my blogging hasn't otherwise been productive lately, it'd be a shame to waste them.

These were in response to this post over at Moonbattery about Charlie Sheen jumping on the conspiracy bandwagon and positing that a plane never hit the Pentagon. A few people took the opportunity to support Mr. Sheen and the conspiracy theories. I posted the following three comments taking them to task. The most interesting is, I think, the second in which I argue that conspiracy theories tend to be self-perpetuating and that for the dedicated conspiracy theorist, the theories cannot be disproved since all evidence necessarily proves the theories.

1)
The most telling quote from Sheen: "It feels like from the people I talk to in and around my circles, it seems like the worm is turning."

Ah, surely.

It's amazing these claims are still out there despite being debunked again and again.

I refer you to this very nice compilation of moonbat myths concerning 9/11 and their thorough smack down by Popular Mechanics.

2)
Interesting.

The problem with hardcore conspiracy theorists is that their theories become self-perpetuating. They start with motivated speculation and then add assumptions, coincidences, bad data, and poor reasoning. Anything that contradicts their hypotheses is merely added to proof of the conspiracy.

Thus, when I linked to the Popular Mechanics article debunking the multiple myths the theorists have generated, Moonbat Supreme, instead of confronting the content, merely rhetorically asked why PM would be motivated to discredit the conspiracy theories. That is, because what PM said ran counter to his conspiracy theories, that by default meant that PM itself was part of the conspiracy. That, bizarrely enough, is taken as further proof of the conspiracy.

The problem is that absolutely nothing can dissuade the determined conspiracy theorist. Anything that supports the theory proves the theory, and anything that discredits it (no matter how damning) also proves the theory. So in the mind of the conspiracy-minded person, the theory is impossible to disprove. All evidence only serves to prove the theory, despite whether it augments or detracts from it.

So to you conspiracy folks, please explain to me how I am the one being close-minded to possibilities when your minds funnel any and all evidence towards support of your pre-determined position? You accuse us of denying evidence. This is because we argue against it. You, however, merely and conveniently assert that all evidence supports you. This improperly absolves you of the responsibility to confront the content itself. Instead, the conspiracy just grows ever-larger. The problem with this, though, is that the larger the proposed conspiracy, the less likely it's true. How large have these conspiracies grown?

3)
Prince, indeed. So let's do something interesting and turn the pithy questions back on them. M. Supreme, though I have my doubts, I will assume you have an adequate amount of common sense. Let's think about the following.

Planting demolitions explosives is an intensive and time consuming endeavor requiring a great deal of skill. You don't just stick them in a building, you must strategically place them on key supports, cutting some supports, etc. If these were planted in the towers, how is that nobody noticed?

If 9/11 was a big conspiracy and the government flew two jets into the towers (that planes hit the towers isn't under debate), why would the government neglect to hit the Pentagon with a plane? I would think that if they had gone to the trouble to do so with the towers and that they lacked the moral scruples to do so, there would be no reason NOT to hit the Pentagon with a plane. Not to do so and then claim it had happened anyway would have been extraordinarily foolish and dangerous to the conspiracy. Are the plotters malevolent geniuses or sloppy amateurs?

The reason the likelihood of a proposed conspiracy being true is inversely proportional to its size is because larger conspiracies involve greater numbers of people. The more people who are involved, the more likely it is that someone will talk and expose the conspiracy. As it is, your conspiracy involves, at least, thousands – possibly tens of thousands. Among the people that would have to be in on it to some degree: administration officials, CIA, FBI, various local officials, police forces, foreign intelligence agencies and their governments, demolitions experts, the people on the airplanes, congressmen (both Democrat and Republican), various military entities, all media outlets, eyewitnesses, and the list continues growing. Why has nobody talked? In over four and a half years? These are not all government stooges, but many common people. Surely someone would have a crisis of conscience.

Democrats would have to know about the conspiracy. Why not reveal it and crush the president and Republicans?

Reporters would have to be in on it. Why not reveal it and crush the president and Republicans?

Foreign governments not friendly to the U.S. or at least those that don't like Bush would have to know about it. Why not reveal it to get rid of Bush?

Domestic intelligence agencies haven't been able to keep a lid on many, many classified operations due to "whistleblowers." Why have none blown the whistle on this, which is much larger and more important than any of the other operations?

Surely the civilians on the planes didn't volunteer to die and their phone calls to friends and family described the hijackers. If the 19 hijackers were government agents, why would they volunteer to die? Why wouldn't they also use weapons that would better guarantee them of success? Surely the conspiracy could have arranged some reason for guns to be planted somewhere on the plane.

Why have the experts in building demolitions not come forward? Especially since controlled building demolition isn’t particularly a government or military expertise, it’s a civilian one.

If it was a grand conspiracy, presumably the goal would be to inculcate fear without causing peripheral damage. That is, preserve the economy. Why pick a technique that destroyed a major financial center, grounded civil aviation, and severely hurt the economy which in turn hurt Bush? Why not do something that could still cause fear without the severe economic damage?

Why pick something so complicated as what happened on 9/11? For terrorists, they can identify weaknesses and exploit them. Exposure of their plot after it’s in action is unimportant. Conspirators, though, need to continue concealing their plot after the fact. So why do something as complex as hijacking four planes, flying one into a field, flying two others into the towers at roughly the same point where they had previously planted large amounts of explosives (while somehow keeping the explosives intact and keeping them from detonating until the appropriate time), apparently making the fourth plane disappear but detonating explosives in the Pentagon anyway and saying a plane hit it, etc. This would be an unnecessarily complex operation with too many people involved and too great a chance of being uncovered. It would be foolish. Real conspirators would have kept the operation small and with few or no loose ends.

Considering that the accepted opinion is that 9/11 was the result of terrorists and not a conspiracy, considering that you want to convince everybody that it resulted from a conspiracy, and considering that you are acting as a plaintiff indicting numerous people of malfeasance, the burden of proof is, at the very least, pragmatically yours. Thus far, you have presented speculations based on assumptions that are in turn supported by outright improbabilities which are suspended in the ether. What say you to my questions? And remember that it is not enough that you point out oddities or coincidences, you must be able to present a cohesive case for a conspiracy that cannot only explain the oddities and disprove accepted events, but also bear a reasonable chance of success and also remain concealed to this day. Can you do it? Can you make a thing that defies common sense and is of absurd complexity and improbable likelihood more plausible than what’s accepted?

3/20/2006

V for Vendetta

Filed under: General,Media,Politics,Society — Dangerous Dan @ 1:53 am

I saw V for Vendetta last Friday. I thought it was a well-executed movie with an engaging story.

Other than that, I thought it was dreck.

The modern political commentary was unmistakable, heavy-handed, and distinctly moonbatty. Possessing a Koran earned the death penalty. So, apparently, did being a homosexual. Many other cultural objects were prohibited for being unwholesome. A right-wing fascist dictator has taken over England and uses fear and Christian faith to control the populace. America's in a civil war after "its war" that started 20 years prior went horribly wrong (although it seems Texas is ok in this war since Dell is still making computer monitors). Government surveillance is omnipresent and the control of media absolute. Oh, and at one point, two central characters are aghast at discovering that the worst terrorist attack in the country's history was inflicted by its own government so as to generate fear and… to control the populace.

If there's something that's always annoyed the hell out of me, it's how movies always depict dystopian futures as being that of some conservative theocratic fascism. Why not make them about atheistic socialist dictators that control their citizenries through fear, killing their own people, constant surveillance, and control of the media? Nah, for liberals, the very concept of such a thing would just be too far fetched and unrealistic.

While the tools of control can belong equally well to a fascist or communist dictator, dystopias of the far left have been far more common over the past century as well as longer lasting and more pervasive. Two hands and at least one foot are required for rattling off the communist totalitarian regimes whereas the fascist ones need just a few fingers.

Moreover, while conservatives long ago learned what an ultra-right-wing government looked like and wholly rejected it as abhorrent, liberals have never thus rejected ultra-left-wing governments. The same people who pat themselves on the back for rebuking conservatives and waling about a slide towards an utterly improbable fascism are the same ones who for years denied that Stalin, Mao, Kim, and other communists were doing any wrong. Then when the atrocities became impossible to deny, they merely claimed that the same countries they had so long touted as paragons of leftist idealism were impure forms of socialism and so a socialist utopia should still be attempted. I imagine that Conservatives in the UK would be surprised to learn they're on the cusp of taking ultimate power since the Labour party has been thoroughly dominating them. All of Europe decidedly belongs to the left and most countries are at least quasi-socialist, if not outright so. Their surveillance methods are also far more liberal (ahem) than our own. The world is not in danger of a fascist dictator. It is in danger of a socialist or communist one. Or at least a new one since I can think at least five current ones just off the top of my head.

It is a further irritant that V for Vendetta intimates intolerance towards Muslims will outlaw them. This is high-handed morality considering that the only countries that outlaw religions are Islamic nations. While V portrays a future in which Korans are illegal, in the present, Bibles and any non-Islamic religious texts are forbidden in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and elsewhere. The movie shows a future Christian theocracy, though the only theocracies that exist now are Islamic. Instead of commentary on what isn't and won't be, why don't filmmakers criticize actual religious injustice? The thought that any modern Western society is a step away from outlawing unfavorable religions, homosexuals, and certain cultural artifacts borders on the absurd. Yet the very societies that already do this, the Islamic societies, are given sympathy as victims. Instead of placing V in an improbable future London, why not put him in actual modern-day Riyadh or Tehran?

Another real shame here is focusing on the terrorist tactics of some supernatural hero who is a latter-day Guy Fawkes, speaks of revolution, says words are powerful, and is more than mere flesh, but is also an idea and "ideas are bulletproof." These men don't exist. Real men who resist totalitarian regimes really are mere flesh and suffer because of it. They live in fear of the consequences of their resistance, they are arrested, imprisoned, tortured, and often executed directly by bullet or indirectly through work. These are the men of Tiananmen Square, of the Hungarian Revolt, of Solidarity, of the gulag in the Soviet Union, of the laogai in China, of the labor camps in North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Nazi Germany. These are Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Andrei Sinyavsky, Oskar Schindler, Raul Wallenberg, Lech Walesa, Wang Dan, Shen Liangqing, and millions more who go unrecorded. Their ideas may have been bulletproof, but they weren't. Where are the films in their honor? Schindler got one, what about Wang Dan? What about Sinyavsky? They didn't/don't have fancy knives, explosives, or kung-fu moves that get them out of trouble like V does. Real heroes are the men who persevere despite the overwhelming chance of failure, not the ones arrogantly guaranteed of success.

V for Vendetta is a morality tale warning of things that could be in the same way that Mars Attacks! implored us against complacency towards alien threats. The events (or anything similar to them) of neither are going to come about. V is another version of the oft-told tale liberals tell each other whenever history fails to steadfastly march to their drumbeat. Conservative power necessarily means fascism while liberal power means utopia. They ignore their own sins, they ignore the threats they present, and they ignore the sorry history of the extremism of their own ideology. And we're all the worse for it.

3/12/2006

The Dictator Chavez

Filed under: Politics,World — Dangerous Dan @ 11:30 pm

Hugo Chavez is continuing his dictatorial ways in Venezuela. One of a tyrant's favorite things to do is to continually reshape his country's symbols and institutions to his liking. By restructuring the institutions, he makes the machinery of government loyal to him. By remaking the symbols, he makes the people loyal to him as their national consciousness becomes slowly based not on their nation, but on their leader. What it means to be X is dependent on the man who creates what it means to be X.

All the great tyrants have done this: Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh, even Napoleon. Chavez is following in their noble tracks by redesigning Venezuela's flag. He's making the horse run left instead of right (not a coincidence, I'm sure) and has added a bow and arrow to represent Venezuela's indigenous people as well as a machete to represent the labor of workers. Oh, and he added an eighth star because Simon Bolivar originally wanted it (another tyrant trick: favorably compare yourself to some past national hero).

Among his other changes to national symbols and names: renamed the legislature the National Assembly, renamed the Supreme Court the Supreme Court of Justice, and renamed the country itself the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

But dictator techniques don't end there. Chavez also declares that his leadership is a revolution marking a new era in Venezuela: the Fifth Republic. Think Third Reich here or something similar. At least one lackey lawmaker says all the changes Chavez is making are justified because "Chavez's 'revolutionary' process should be accompanied by a new set of national icons." If you ever take over a country and want to become a good autocrat, always declare that you're so goshdarn important that you're personally ushering in a new epoch in history.

Seriously… is there a book of rules for this sort of thing? Maybe "Tyranny for Dummies"? 'Cause dictators all seem to do so many of the same things. Perhaps they're just tips that get passed around and Castro told them to Chavez. I'm sure Chavez has in turn told them to new Bolivian President Evo Morales and that's a cause of concern for Bolivia.

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