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Monday, March 06, 2006

When Bile Displaces Reason

The only reasoned debate left in US politics is amongst conservatives. If you're not a conservative, too bad. Your pundits are letting you down. They've traded reason for bile. What distinguishes reason from bile are rules. Primarily the rules of logic, but also rules of decency. One thing that distinguishes conservatives from their leftist opponents is moral equivalence - the idea that there is no objective right or wrong, only different points of view. Leftists believe in moral equivalence. Unfortunately you can't claim moral equivalence is right without contradicting yourself. The idea is not only illogical, it is indecent. Without right and wrong logic and decency have no meaning. But we know they do have meaning. They are important. In good politics, as in science, to be taken seriously when advancing your ideas logic and decency are not optional. But the leftist belief in moral equivalence at least explains why they come unarmed to every exchange of ideas, and why those exchanges inevitably get nasty.

Among the several gathering places of non-conservative opinion I have to admit visiting truthout is my guiltiest pleasure. Most visitors I suppose go there because it reinforces their worldview. There they find the mendacity and corruption of Bush and his cronies exposed, harrowing alarms of religious extremist influence and imminent environmental doom, disturbing pictures of trouble and strife from around the world. It's a veritable smorgasbord of sour, cynical messages. Strange that anyone would enjoy such depressing fare, but they must because the site is popular.

For me the pleasure comes from looking at the arsenal of my ideological enemies and seeing nothing but spitballs. That and confirmation of the source of the wacky ideas I often hear from political sparring partners. Ideas disconnected from reality. Ideas that form in the kind of philosophical and informational bubble that President Bush is sometimes accused of living in. truthout is a window into a giant leftist conspiracy theory echo chamber from which inanities continuously leak out and find their way into the mouths of your liberal friends and family. "Global warming." "The American Taliban." "Bush lied." A previous generation of nattering nabobs of negativity were upset about similar things. "Global cooling." "The Moral Majority." "Bush lied." It's hard to take such pollyannish fears seriously. truthout however does provide a useful service even to those of us whom it repels. It gathers leftist ideas together in pure form, where we can see them in all their glory before they are disguised and diluted and disseminated to the unsuspecting masses through more popular and supposedly objective outlets.

'No One Could Have Anticipated ...'
By William Rivers Pitt
Thursday 02 March 2006
It is gut-wrenching, more than anything else, because of this: four days later, when questioned about his flaccid response to the catastrophe in Louisiana, Bush stated, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." Right. No one anticipated the breach of the levees except the Director of the National Hurricane Center, the Director of FEMA, and a half-dozen other experts who implored Mr. Bush to take this storm seriously a full day before the hammer dropped.

No one could have anticipated it? That has a familiar ring to it.

No one could have anticipated the failure of the levees.

No one could have anticipated the strength of the insurgency in Iraq.

No one could have anticipated that people would use airplanes as weapons against buildings.

No one could have anticipated these things ... except all the people who did. We are forced to get into some very large numbers today to accurately assess the body count from all the things the Bush administration would have us believe no one could have anticipated.
Readers of Power Line, where reasoned arguments rule, know they skewered this variation of "Bush lied" the same day AP released it. Pitt, on the other hand, eagerly supplied the conclusions AP could only dream their readers would jump to. By ignoring the difference between "overtopping" and "breaching", and twisting "I don't think" into "No one could have" Pitt beats up a classic straw man. He simply asserts that more than half a dozen people warned Bush of levee failure, and verily it becomes so. He hath seen it even though it doth not reside in the source he quoteth. Is a professional like Pitt, who has taught and written books, unaware that it's logically invalid to just make shit up, or is he counting on the fact that his readers are weak-minded sheep?

We can anticipate that Pitt will continue to blame Bush for everything he thinks is wrong with the world. We can anticipate that he will never provide his favored alternatives to the things he criticizes or estimates of the body counts such alternatives would produce.

Iraq: Pure War, Pure Crime
By David Swanson
Friday 03 March 2006
The Iraq War is a pure war, a war for the sake of war. Congress is debating whether to spend another fortune on it, another fortune that could completely remake this nation if spent on useful projects, and Congress has no reason for the war. The reason is purely that the media won't like you if you vote against a war, but there's no actual reason for the war - not the weapons of mass destruction that Bush always knew weren't there, not the ties to 9-11 that Bush always knew did not exist on behalf of a ruler who, anyway, is no longer in power, not reducing terrorism which has been increased by this war, not improving global relations when this war has driven global opinion of the US to a record low, not preventing a civil war which the US attack and occupation have created, not supporting the troops when most of the troops want to come home - and almost half of them openly admit to pollsters that they don't know why they're there.
A war for the sake of war. That's right. We just went there to kill people and blow stuff up. Oh, and to burn money and piss off the world. Yes these things have happened. No it is not why we went to war. If Swanson wants reasonable explanations for why we're at war he'll have to broaden his information sources. If he wants to be reasonable he should avoid confusing cause and effect.

Which media won't like you if you vote against the war? And why would it matter anyway? Congress gets their mandate from the people (or their lobbyists), not the media. Bush is by far the politician most maligned by a hostile press, and it seems to affect his decision making not one wit. That quality alone is a sound reason to respect the man, though I suspect Swanson would find some way to contradict his own standards on that point.

Like most leftists Swanson seems not only to have tremendous powers of hindsight, he can read minds as well. He knows so well what's inside Bush's head he should write a book about it.

The Pursuit of Democracy
By Michael Kinsley,
Friday 3 March 2006
The case for democracy is "self-evident," as someone once put it. The case for the world's most powerful democracy to take as its mission the spreading of democracy around the world is pretty self-evident, too: What's good for us is good for others. Those others will be grateful. A world full of democracies created or protected with our help ought to be more peaceful and prosperous and favorably disposed toward us. That world will be a better neighborhood for us than a world of snarling dictatorships.
There is no valid case against democracy. You used to hear a lot that democracy is not suitable for some classes of foreigners: simply incompatible with the cultures of East Asia (because deference to authority is too ingrained there), or the Arab Middle East (because everybody is a religious fanatic), or Africa (because they're too "tribal," or too predisposed to rule by a "big daddy," or something). But this line of argument has gone out of fashion, pushed offstage by free and fair elections in some surprising places. Even those who still harbor doubts about whether democracy is possible in this place or that - and even those who think that any democracy achieved in such places is likely to be a real mess - don't generally oppose the attempt. As someone else once said, "Good government is no substitute for self-government."

But the case against spreading democracy - especially through military force - as a mission of the U.S. government is also pretty self-evident, and lately it's been getting more so. Government, even democratic government, exists for the benefit of its own citizens, not that of foreigners. American blood and treasure should not be spent on democracy for other people. Or, short of that absolute, there are limits to the blood and treasure that the United States should be expected to spend on democracy elsewhere, and the very nature of war makes that cost hard to predict and hard to limit.
Kinsley is much more clever than Pitt or Swanson. His positions are reasonable and his argument is almost sound. The best reason to spend American blood and treasure on democracy for other people is because it helps preserve our democracy. Kinsley is honest enough to admit that, and to step away from absolutes. Because of this and in that same spirit I will say not everything at truthout is completely illogical.


Blogger flippityflopitty said...

Well-written piece...
I for one dont see this as a conservative-liberal battle. Both conservatives and liberals have good ideas and bad ideas.

This is about Bush Doctrine (aka Neo-conservatism) and whether it is a good or bad idea. The biggest difference between the Bush and anti-Bush factions is that the Bush factions have mastered the ability to deceive, redirect, politicize, reduce, re-invent and back-burner every major issue.

No one could have anticipated...
There is no better example of the Bush play - time and time again, the Bush Admin use this tact, despite evidence of officials with contrary opinions or observations (i.e., Dir Hurricaine for Katrina; DOE & aluminum tubes; State Dept INR & yellow cake; chief actuary for Medicare & prescription drug costs; pre-war military/civilian intelligence and the pentagon vs. rumsfeld on potential for iraq insurgency... i stop here for lack of time). Then stress what a "heckuva job" the boys have done. Then use the "your an anti-american" if you point out the problems. Then say "you have a better idea?". Then use the ole "lets put this behind us and work together, we have more serious business to attend to then investigate where things went wrong."

Iraq War:Pure War
Why did we go to war (another Bush play)? WMDs, links to Al queada, national security, oil, spread democracy? I still hear the spin-meisters stating the WMDs were sent to syria. We all know the congress supported war on the basis of national security - WMDs, imminent threat, links to Al Qeuada. So lets say the argument is that all this was TRUE - that means we did not secure and destroy ANY WMDs and we did not eliminate Al Queada from the region (contrarians say we actually increased their #'s) - that would be a failure in my book.

Pursuit of democracy ... talk to the people of Najaf who had their local elections deferred (indefinitely - they are still waiting for their ballots) because the CPA didnt like the guy who was ahead in the polls. Of course the CPA spin was that they wanted to follow the process of electing a parliamnet and adopting a constitution (but then there were all those other local elections around the country).

Did I mention the Bush Policy AGAINST nation-building - we are not going to make the same mistake we made in Kosovo. We wont need troops for rebuilding Iraq because we will not be there. I faintly remember rose petals...

The Bush doctrine is not conservative, thats why many conservatives are moving away from Bush in this election year because his reach ("sphere of influence") has been shortened. For example, Dubai was a ridiculous lightning rod issue that should have been addressed far differently. Oh well, as it turns out, Secretary Snow's old friends at the Carlyle Group are looking into the port business.

There's always a silver lining (or a good backup plan).

3/16/2006 07:52:00 AM  
Blogger flippityflopitty said...

One more ...

Remember all the chatter about the centrifuges found hidden at an Iraq nukular scientists home...

At the time, how many people understood that it takes hundreds of centrifuges running continuously for months (if not years) to enrich weapons grade material.

I dont remember the liberal media educating the community on this.

Flashforward: Iran

BBC News (2002) "Israeli officials insist that Iran is less than three years from developing a nuclear weapon and is developing long range weapons that could deliver it."

Frontline (2002) "The CIA identifies Iran as "one of the most active countries" pursuing weapons of mass destruction. Yet Iran steadfastly denies that it is seeking to build nuclear weapons."

World Peace Herald (05/2005):
"Prior to the invasion of Iraq, many of the same voices pooh-poohed the notion of an Iraqi insurgency following the liberation of the country from Saddam's despotic rule. Now they tend to dismiss Iran's retaliatory capabilities. They believe air attacks on Iran's nuclear facilities would accelerate "regime change."

No one could have anticipated the Iranians would retaliate against Isreal...

Rummy: Who knew?

W: Iraq...Iran...same difference. I dont spend much time thinking about that.

Here's one about the axis of evil (to lighten up):

3/16/2006 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

You can ridicule it but Bush's (or the CIA's) identification of the Axis of Evil was spot on. That it's not a stretch to add Syria, China, and Libya is supposed to be funny? Do people really think the only reason there has been or will be conflict between the US and these countries is because Bush is a deceiving cowboy?

I don't use the word liberal much anymore. Its meaning has shifted over time. Hayek and other classic liberals are spinning in their graves. The strain of traitorous thought I focus on at this blog is leftism. I'll have to write a long blog post about what "leftism" means to me.

You can criticize Bush for his cronyism and the bumbling bureaucracy he heads all you want. That's not treason. Calling Bush "the biggest traitor in the world" is. The ground in between is up for debate, but you shouldn't be surprised if being critical of X gets you labelled anti-X. "But I'm critical of Bush and his factions, not America" is playing coy.

Apply your definition of the "Bush play" to any other president. What distinguishes Bush most is his lack of pandering to the press. And they despise him for it. It shows in their selection of what to report and how they portray it. Katrina was a natural disaster, not an act of Bush. The pork and corruption riddled government in LA had far more to do with the levee failures and botched evacuation. But you wouldn't know that from the popular reporting. And why do they label it "domestic" wiretapping? Calling it "foreign" wiretapping would be just as accurate. "Terrorist" wiretapping would be even better. I stop here for lack of time.

You're right, Bush is not conservative. I support him because he's president, and mostly right, not because he's conservative.

3/21/2006 07:38:00 AM  

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