Friday, June 30, 2006

Exercises in Insanity

In case anybody has any lingering doubts about whether Adam Yoshida is in fact what the clinical psychologists refer to as "fucking nuts," this should put the matter to rest:
So, this is the situation with regard to the prisoners in Guantanamo:

1) They can’t be put on trial because, in most cases, they probably haven’t committed any crimes under American law and, in any case, it’s doubtful if the evidence collected would stand up to American criminal procedures (to begin with, I doubt if the Special Forces bothered to Mirandaize most of them).
2) They can’t be tried by Military Commission because the Supreme Court says they can’t.
3) They can’t be let go because, in most cases, they’d simply return to terrorism.

So, what is to be done with them? The answer is simple and elegant: kill them. Kill all of them.
There's much more nuttiness in his column (his assertion that he hates war as much as the next person, for example, as well as his dream alliance of an American superpower and British and Japanese empires), but this captures it most succinctly. He recognizes that option 2 is now way out, but somehow thinks that his option, to kill them all, will somehow fly. And once freed from the bonds of reality, he spins further off into space, far away from the constraints of civilization.

Video Links

Thanks to TBogg, this song "On the Radio," by Regina Specktor has been running through my head all morning, so I thought I'd pass the affliction on to you.

Ezra Klein posted this YouTube video last Saturday. I lack the proficiency to provide a direct link, so I'm just sending you to Ezra's place. It might help your appreciation of the video to know that Glenn Hubbard is a supply-side economist and the Dean of the Columbia School of Economics, who is believed to have aspired to the Fed Chairmanship. Okay, now try to enjoy it anyway.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Again With the Flag Burning Amendment

"The Congress shall have the power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States" - proposed consitutional amendment.

In Senator Dianne Feinstein's statement in support of this proposed amendment, she says,
"I have given this a lot of thought for a long time. I believe what we have before us is language that is essentially content neutral. It is on conduct -- not speech."
How would we describe a statement like that? It's a dodge? It's nonsense? It's horseshit? Yeah, I think that last one nails it.

Technically, she's right, of course. That language is content neutral, but that's because there's no indication in the language of the proposed amendment that the Congress actually will prohibit the physical desecration of the flag, even less so how such desecration of the flag will be defined. But you know that the Congress will pass such a law and that that law will not be content neutral. I myself take offense at people fashioning clothing out of the design of the flag. I believe that trivializes our nation's symbol. Do I want to see such behavior outlawed, though? Of course not. And frankly, I don't think there's any risk that the Congress would pass a law that would do so. We know that the type of law the Congress would pass would be one that would outlaw burning the flag or dragging it through the street. It would be a law that would forbid using the US flag to make a political statement that expressed disapproval of US actions or policy. And Senator Feinstein knows this, too. And yet she says the amendment is content neutral.

Feinstein says,
"The freedom of speech enshrined in the First Amendment is a cornerstone of our great nation.

However, there is no idea or thought expressed by the burning of the American flag that cannot be expressed equally well in another manner. While I might disagree with those who protest, I defend their right to do so.

Protecting the flag will not prevent anyone from expressing his or her point of view, regardless of what that point of view may be."

How can an educated woman, a US Senator no less, be so obtuse as to not recognize that once the government starts restricting expression because the message could be "expressed equally well in another manner" that the gates have been opened for the government to decide how, where, and when we may express ourselves? Furthermore, it's because desecrating the flag creates such a visceral effect that other avenues of expression are not its equal. I don't happen to believe that flag desecration is a particularly eloquent way of expressing one's self; the message is often unclear, but you can't match it for its emotional impact.

Feinstein argues that the Constitution is a living document, one that has been amended 27 times since its creation. Again, though, she is being at best disingenous. We all know from 7th grade civics that the constitution would not have been passed without the Bill of Rights. Of the remaining 17 amendments, the most spectacular failure among them was the 18th, establishing prohibition. What distinguishes that amendment from the others, aside from it being the only one since repealed, was that while the other amendments largely busied themselves with curtailing the power of the government, the 18th curtailed the rights of Americans. So it will be with this amendment and the laws it spawns if passed. That's a road we best not go down. The small comfort fearful people like Feinstein will derive by going to sleep knowing no flags will be burning is vastly offset by the damage done to the concept of freedom as established by our Constitution and traditions.

Earlier thoughts on this topic.

Friday, June 23, 2006

It's a slow day

"They" say that every year 13 people are killed by vending machines falling on them. So how do they bring those 13 people back to life every year? And why don't they stay the hell away from vending machines?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Moving the Goal Posts

How odd; the older I get, the closer I get to being young enough to enlist in the army. At this rate they'll have me by the time I reach 50. Kind of funny, though; I may soon have a better chance of enlisting at age 46 with trifocals and hinky legs than if I were 22, fit, and gay.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

On a Lighter Note, Also From Iraq

On a lighter note, my friend Maria sends photos of how her son passes the time in Iraq, with a Hummer pull.

Despite appearances, Maria's son, Gregory, the tiny fellow with dark hair, is among the kindest and sweetest men you could ever know. After he returned home from his first tour in Iraq he collected money, and spent a good deal of his own, to buy televisions and DVD players for wounded soldiers in VA hospitals after a friend of his who worked in one told him the soldiers had no entertainment. He does what he can to make life tolerable for the soldiers who work for him, and to try to improve the lives of the Iraqis he works with. When we hear of things like Haditha, we need to keep in mind that most of the men and women we send to Iraq represent the best in us. It's not their fault they can't save the country; the fault lies with the men who sent them on a poorly planned and supported mission.

Word From Iraq

The New Yorker's June 12 "Summer Fiction: Life During Wartime" edition feathers "Dispatches from Iraq," (can't find it online) stories from our men and women serving in Iraq. All the pieces are well written and moving, but a couple passages stand out for me.

Second Lieutenant Brian Humphreys, serving in Hit, Iraq, writes,
"Our occupation grinds on. Others will assign meaning to our lives here, noble or otherwise. For us, though, there is a close meanness to the fight. There are no flags, no dress uniforms. We are fighting a rival gang for the same turf, while the neighborhood residents cower and wait to see whose side they should come out on."
Humphreys also writes,
"Iraq is coming apart at the seams. Pictures of flag-draped coffins being unloaded from Air Force transports surface on the back reaches of the Interneet, as if they were a grainy celebrity sex video that decent people should avoid looking at. But I think otherwise. The images of flag-draped coffins show the end of war as we are meant to see it, and as we are meant to believe it. Uniforms, flags, patriotism, honor, sacrifice. In these images we are not street fighters struggling to survive and kill in a distant gangland but soldiers in the nation's service."

I'll leave the last word to Captain Lisa R. Blackman, serving as a clinical psychologist in Qatar, who writes,
"Next time you are hanging out with a friend, think about what you would do if he turned to you and said, 'My boss made me kill someone, and I know I'm going to hell for it, so why bother?' What would you say to 'normalize' that?

I will probably never see these folks again. I have no ieda if I have been helpful. Maybe I planted a seed of reprieve that will grow into self-forgiveness. Maybe I did absolutely nothing but sit here. Who knows?

I can't stop thinking about the fact that these folks have lsot something that they will never get back - innocence (and a life free of guilt). My heart hurts for them."

Monday, June 12, 2006

George Will's Inconvenient Truth

Reading George Will can be like reading science fiction. You're reading a science fiction tale and the author throws out a couple scientific facts that you know to be true. After a while he tosses a couple more in there that you're not sure of but they sound pretty plausible. Pretty soon you've got people rubbing hedgehog oil on the bottoms of their feet and walking on ceilings and now you're all but sure that you've left the world of science far behind and you're deep into the forests of fiction. You're not sure where you made that transition, but you know it was back on the road a bit.

A few weeks ago, George Will wrote an eminently reasonable piece on "values voters," laying bare the claim that one party has a lock on values. I had an uneasy feeling at the time, a feeling that something was amiss. That was old George pretending to be rooted in a reality based world, getting ready to lead us away from firm ground and into his fantasy world. We arrived there yesterday, with his column about Al Gore and "An Inconvenient Truth."

In this piece, Will hamhandedly snips Gore quotes, in an almost goldbergian way, to create an impression that Gore contradicts himself within "An Inconvenient Truth." Will writes
Minutes after Gore said that "the debate in the science community is over," he said "there is a debate between the American ice science community and ice scientists elsewhere" about whether the less-than-extremely-remote danger is a rise in sea level of a few inches or 20 feet . And he said scientists "don't know what is happening" in west Antarctica or Greenland. So when Gore says the scientific debate is "over," he must mean merely that there is consensus that we are in a period of warming.
Um, no, that's not what he "merely" mean. The debate within the science community that is over is about whether there is global warming and whether man is a significant contributor to it. The overwhelming consensus answer to both is yes. The debate is over the extent of the damage we can expect and how soon we can expect to see the most dire consequences. Will goes on to say that the serious debate is over "the contribution of human activity to the current episode and the degree to which this or that measure (e.g. the Kyoto Protocol) would make a difference commensurate with its cost." He is being, at best, disingenuous here. There remains no question over the contribution of human activity to global warming, but Will and his ilk want us to contine to focus on that question so we don't have to get to the second issue Will brings up. The problem with the cost analysis Will mentions, to Will, is that in addition to weighing the cost of ameliorative measures, a cost-benefit analysis has to weigh the cost, in human as well as financial terms, of doing nothing. Such an analysis, without question, indicates that doing nothing is not an option. So, in Will's world, the question must not be reached.

The thing is, Will is neither stupid nor ignorant. He understands what Gore is saying and he understands the consequences if Gore is right. You have to remember about Will, though, that he has demonstrated in the past that his commitment to integrity, reason, and truth is tenuous when they conflict with his self-interest. He famously opined on Nightline 26 years ago that Reagan had outperformed Carter in a presidential debate, never mentioning that he had helped coach Reagan for the debate, leaving out as well that he did so with purloined Carter briefing papers. In more recent years Will had praised since indicted Conrad Black, never mentioning that he was on Black's payroll. With this history of allowing his integrity to be rented if the price is right, it's hard not to wonder what Will's motivation is for naysaying the overwhelmingly held scientific belief that the climate is changing at a rapid pace that if not abated will drastically undermine man's ability to continue to survive on the planet, that man has contributed to this change, and that we can and must do something to avert this catastrophe. Is it irresponsible to speculate that Will might be heavily invested in oil or automotive company stocks, and that this guides his hand as he distrots the truth about Gore's message? Applying the ="Noonan rule, it's irresponsible not to.

Friday, June 09, 2006

They're Birds, You Nitwit

In a story about species evolving to adapt to global warming, William Bradshaw, a guy studying this phenomenon, is quoted as saying, "Take great tits for example," then goes on to explain how these birds are adapting. I'd like to think that Mr. Bradshaw has waited his whole career for the chance to be quoted saying that. Perhaps he went into the field of studying birds for just that reason. It's because of that possibility that I'm making this entry; to extend by just that little bit Mr. Bradshaw's moment in the sun. It has nothing at all to do with me having a juvenile sense of humor.

Just One of Those Cases...

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by