Monday, August 31, 2009

My faboo new gig.

Swear to God I sit on stage every night and just look at what's going on around me, music, dancing, jumpin' around, hollerin', clapping, laughing, every other expression of happiness you can think of....

And I make a special effort to freeze it in my mind and appreciate it. Im not just in the room with it but I am part of why it happens. Plus they pay me. Its hard not to think that this is some kind of cosmic payback for the long bitter road of shit you slog through in this business.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why you should be against the death penalty.

This isn't new information. Texas executed a man who was innocent and there were compelling reasons to believe he was at the time but Gov. Perry took the path of least political resistance and ignored them. In doing so he fell into the unavoidable political trap here that confuses fundamental human decency with being "soft on crime".

The irony in much of the public's attitude towards the death penalty is that it has strong support among conservatives who generally assert the government isn't capable of doing anything effectively, but they evidently never pause to consider the implications of granting the state the right to take its own citizen's lives. These are the kinds of intellectual contradictions conservatives can't work thru because the concepts are mutually exclusive and they're unwilling to concede either position.

These kinds of errors in prosecution are unavoidable, humans make mistakes. So we can count as a certainty that this has happened in the past and it will happen again. Are we really willing to run that risk? Isn't our legal system predicated on the assumption that it is better for a guilty man to go free than an innocent man be prosecuted without merit? It is, until we start executing people. You can let a wrongly accused man go free, until you kill him.

That cinches the deal to my mind but even beyond that it seems to be a poor kind of punishment. Texas has been executing people in blase bunches for decades now you can be sure that people aren't breathing any easier or feeling less afraid because the state is constantly killing people. It's sheer vindictive retribution and it doesn't even do a particularly good job in that respect either.

It seems to me that if you're interested in making someone suffer it is the knowledge of what they are losing that generates the most emotional pain. Yes death row inmates know they are going to die and that's enormously stressful but I think that's a relatively easy out compared to the crimes we're talking about. Death frees them from the implications of their actions but the surviving victims live with their loss the rest of their lives. That is not equitable justice, its a political posture.

Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people and gave up his life for it. He got off easy. I would much rather he had ticked off every second of the rest of his life in an isolated cell with full and constant knowledge of the autonomy he had lost. If capital punishment were overturned I think someone like McVeigh would suffer more slowly rotting away than spending a few moments strapped to a gurney and being released from his confinement. And the state wouldn't be killing innocent people either.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Things about Michael Vick I don't understand...

As I write this Im fully confident that I will be misunderstood by at least a few people who will then get pissed off. So here goes....

Im not in favor of dog fighting. Never been to one, wouldn't go if I could, don't understand why anybody does it, likely don't know anyone who has ever gone to one, thinks they shouldn't, assumes people who do it are dumbasses compensating for little penises. But I don't understand why the state asserts an interest in prohibiting it.

Stay with me now.

As things stand currently I can go to jail if I fight dogs. But if I raise chickens say and kill them in huge factories designed for that purpose I likely qualify for a government subsidy. Somethin' aint right. I don't get why the government feels like it has a moral interest in the case of one species but not another, or why it just doesn't assert the same interest in the case of both species.

Dog fighting is undeniably cruel the argument might go, and while I don't want to demonize ag producers its fairly obvious that many aspects of factory farming are cruel as well. I suppose then one might say that dogs that fight suffer a great deal of pain but cows slaughtered for beef are killed instantly. True enough, but while I wouldn't be qualified to speculate on the mental state of bovines I've read many accounts of the animals beginning to wail and exhibit extreme stress as they smell the blood of their recently slaughtered comrades. And before they are even lead to their doom they spend the last several weeks of their lives crowded into feeding lots and fed corn which their bodies cannot digest properly which requires massive amounts of antibiotics to ward off the attendant infections. Is that cruelty? I think most people would say it was or at least be hard pressed to explain why it wasn't, but I cannot then parse why we have no issue with that but then cannot abide dog fighting.

It gets worse. Consider that Im perfectly within my rights as a hunter to go out and shoot an animal in a way that might just wound it. The animal will likely then run off and take hours to find before I can deliver a kill shot or I may never find it and the animal will lie in extreme pain for many hours as it slowly bleeds to death. Suffering? Uh, yeah, but its perfectly legal and the state takes an active interest in promoting hunting and fishing. What's the deal?

Well, I've heard people say that since animal slaughter is utilitarian whatever degree of harm or suffering is outweighed by the benefit and the cruelty inherent in dog fighting produces no legitimate benefit. Okay, good point. In fact its why Im not a vegetarian. But lets consider some other wholly frivolous activities that frequently work against the long term welfare of the animals involved. Not every greyhound or horse that races spends their golden years frolicking
in some kind farmers alfalfa field. Im not aware of any retirement plans for circus animals either. The analogy isn't perfect here, horses aren't raced for the purpose of killing them, but to the extent that any of these animals suffer pain or cruelty they do so to advance nothing more than our leisure so clearly we're willing to tolerate, legitimize, and promote a certain degree of suffering for pursuits that are entirely non-utilitarian.

It seems to me that we have some decisions to make here culturally because the contradictions are massive. Either we step up and expand our conceptualization of animal welfare or we step way back and tolerate some very stupid behavior. Im not sure which direction is the right one but I don't think we should continue to tolerate a system that legally vilifies Mick Vick but passes out a license to bow hunt.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Why Fox News is destroying the Right.

This isn't really a surprise, Limbaugh et al got rich off the Clinton presidency, but it points to a much larger problem for the Right. The Right Wing Entertainment Industry completely dominates the conservative landscape and they do so by either directly pandering to, or obliquely fanning the flames of, the lowest common denominator in their ranks. If a conservative should dare to speak against the dangers of a hype machine that is beholden to nothing more than last night's ratings then they soon find themselves having to do an "awe shucks I wuz mizundastood" soft shoe. To the extent that there is truly an intellectual base in the Right Wing they have lost completely the ability to influence policy on the ground. Conservatism today can be defined as the ultimate victory of volume over content. And I say let 'em yell as much as they want.

We're being treated to the death rattles of what used to be known as Movement Conservatism, a political force that got its passion from Goldwater but was balanced by the intellect of Buckley. That has morphed into a truly impotent rabble of tantrum throwers who get their passion from Palin and brains from Glen Beck. It aint the same, by a long shot. Once upon a time the GOP purged the wacko John Birchers from its ranks but today there isn't a conservative alive with the courage to stand up publicly and call out the lunatic fringe. Its an empty philosophy without the tools to address the issues we're dealing with today and lacking the courage or leadership to articulate a positive course for the future and Fox News along with talk radio make it increasingly more difficult to alter that course. As long as numbers are good they'll keep programming to the screamers at the expense of good policy. And I for one am enjoying watching the implosion.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Dogs Bark...

But the caravan roles on by. While conservatives get dumber and angrier with each passing day they have precious little to show for it. Meanwhile the party of responsible governance goes about the quiet business of getting real things done. But hey, that Kenyan birth certificate is sure to show up any day now and meanwhile there are all kinds of shiny things out there for conservatives to fiddle with when they aren't holding their breath and stamping their feet.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

More conservative debate.

That well known liberal rag the Napa Valley Register wonders why those opposing healthcare reform don't express their point more constructively. Because they can't. They have no answers, just tantrums

How conservatives debate ctd.

Anybody wanna throw out some more of those false equivalencies?

Took 'em awhile.

But the DNC starts to get its mind wrapped around a response to the screaming me-mees that are showing up ( at there own expense doncha know!) at Town Hall meetings whether they live in that congressional district or not. Its fun political theatre but I don't know how much one needs to worry about people who have nothing more than volume to offer the discussion.

In any event. The response:

There's been a lot of media coverage about organized mobs intimidating lawmakers, disrupting town halls, and silencing real discussion about the need for real health insurance reform.

The truth is, it's a sham. These "grassroots protests" are being organized and largely paid for by Washington special interests and insurance companies who are desperate to block reform. They're trying to use lies and fear to break the President and his agenda for change.

Health insurance reform is about our lives, our jobs, and our families -- we can't let distortions and intimidation get in the way. We need to expose these outrageous tactics, and we're counting on you to help. Can you read these "5 facts about the anti-reform mobs," then pass them along to your friends and family?
    5 facts about the anti-reform mobs

    1. These disruptions are being funded and organized by out-of-district special-interest groups and insurance companies who fear that health insurance reform could help Americans, but hurt their bottom line. A group run by the same folks who made the "Swiftboat" ads againstJohn Kerry is compiling a list of congressional events in August to disrupt. An insurance company coalition has stationed employees in 30 states to track where local lawmakers hold town-hall meetings.

    2. People are scared because they are being fed frightening lies.These crowds are being riled up by anti-reform lies being spread by industry front groups that invent smears to tarnish the President's plan and scare voters. But as the President has repeatedly said, health insurance reform will create more health care choices for the American people, not reduce them. If you like your insurance or your doctor, you can keep them, and there is no "government takeover" in any part of any plan supported by the President or Congress.

    3. Their actions are getting more extreme. Texas protesters brought signs displaying a tombstone for Rep. Lloyd Doggett and using the "SS" symbol to compare President Obama's policies to Nazism. Maryland Rep. Frank Kratovil was hanged in effigy outside his district office. Rep. Tim Bishop of New York had to be escorted to his car by police after an angry few disrupted his town hall meeting -- and more examples like this come in every day. And they have gone beyond just trying to derail the President's health insurance reform plans, they are trying to "break" the President himself and ruin his Presidency.

    4. Their goal is to disrupt and shut down legitimate conversation. Protesters have routinely shouted down representatives trying to engage in constructive dialogue with voters, and done everything they can to intimidate and silence regular people who just want more information. One attack group has even published a manual instructing protesters to "stand up and shout" and try to "rattle" lawmakers to prevent them from talking peacefully with their constituents.

    5. Republican leadership is irresponsibly cheering on the thuggish crowds. RepublicanHouse Minority Leader John Boehner issued a statement applauding and promoting a video of the disruptions and looking forward to "a long, hot August for Democrats in Congress."

It's time to expose this charade, before it gets more dangerous. Please send these facts to everyone you know. You can also post them on your website, blog, or Facebook page.

Now, more than ever, we need to stand strong together and defend the truth.

The problem simply put.

Cyncial C Blog sheds an awful lot of light on exactly what's wrong with our current system of healthcare coverage by simply asking readers where they get their insurance. The comments tell the whole story and as long as conservatives are unable or unwilling to eschew talking points and actually get down in the weeds and deal with these problems in an intellectually honest way by suggesting actual policies then Im not sure we need take anything they say, or yell, seriously at all.

Its tough all over

Im fascinated by the raw behind the scenes diplomatic machinations that must have certainly gone on before Clinton headed to Pyongyang but it makes me wonder what is Jesse Jackson going to do now?

Seems to me he used to be the go to guy for this kind of thing but I suppose his brand is fading. Hard times.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

How conservatives debate. This is who they are.

Its probably not for nothing that they're chanting "Just Say No" in this vid of a townhall meeting being disrupted as that articulates the sum total of the Right's intellectual and tactical position when it comes to the future. This is what fear looks like, when people have no rational basis upon which to move forward they will throw tantrums trying to stay still, they will confuse volume with content.

And like any good fit it feels good in the middle of it but I shudder to think how the GOP will be able to construct any sort of firewall between these screaming mimmies and the rest of the more temperate electorate. I wish the '12 GOP nominee luck with these folks.

...And F.A. Hayek even better still.

One of the intellectual giants of the conservative movement, on why he isn't a conservative.

He puts it out on Waveland here:

"Let me now state what seems to me the decisive objection to any conservatism which deserves to be called such. It is that by its very nature it cannot offer an alternative to the direction in which we are moving. It may succeed by its resistance to current tendencies in slowing down undesirable developments, but, since it does not indicate another direction, it cannot prevent their continuance. It has, for this reason, invariably been the fate of conservatism to be dragged along a path not of its own choosing. The tug of war between conservatives and progressives can only affect the speed, not the direction, of contemporary developments"

"This brings me to the first point on which the conservative and the liberal dispositions differ radically. As has often been acknowledged by conservative writers, one of the fundamental traits of the conservative attitude is a fear of change, a timid distrust of the new as such,[5] while the liberal position is based on courage and confidence, on a preparedness to let change run its course even if we cannot predict where it will lead. There would not be much to object to if the conservatives merely disliked too rapid change in institutions and public policy; here the case for caution and slow process is indeed strong. But the conservatives are inclined to use the powers of government to prevent change or to limit its rate to whatever appeals to the more timid mind. In looking forward, they lack the faith in the spontaneous forces of adjustment which makes the liberal accept changes without apprehension"

Andrew Sullivan. Better at this than me.

In this post he's giving an eloquent dressing down to yet another bigot wrapping himself in the cloth of natural law viz-a-viz gay marriage but he echoes my frustration with conservatives on health care and a host of other issues. He knocks it outta the park right here:

"I repeat to conservatives: we know what you're against, in healthcare, energy, counter-terrorism, taxation, gay rights, abortion. What are you actually for? How do you intend to actually address the questions of our time and place? And if conservatism cannot do that, what use is it?"

At least he's honest.

It's hard to say exactly how much higher my blood pressure is as a direct result of conservative's naivete and dissembling but I think "somewhat" would be a good bet. So imagine my relief when somebody at the National Review of all places actually fesses up and admits to thinking that, yes, it would be better if the tail wagged the dog.

Mark Steyn actually posts a fairly reasoned argument for an awful awful position and at the same time gives you a pretty good sense of the faux tough-guy, this-man-is-an-island-by-god, fantasy world that far too many of my middle aged white male peers like to imagine they swagger around in or used to in some long lost less complicated and freer time.

As I've noted too many times there is no conservative position on health care reform beyond "No". Doesn't exist. Look for it. Oh sure there is some reflexive vague babble about vouchers and the like which may or may not be a worthwhile bit of tweaking but does exactly nothing in terms of addressing the real issues of costs, uninsured, and market failures. Exactly nothing.

Its sort of a "we don't need no stinkin' ideas" approach to problem solving.

And Steyn nails it right under the title:

"Government healthcare would be wrong even if it controlled costs"


That's who they are. Even if it is right, its wrong. Even if it helps, it hurts. That's dogma for ya, which is handy because it fills in all the pesky blanks without troubling the adherent to consider the conflicting tensions of reality.

And the great irony here is that these big bad rugged individualists are too lost in their simplistic fantasies to realize they are intellectually beholden to the same basic utopian impulse that informs socialism and communism. The idea that we can be lead to our better and more noble natures by strict adherence to an economic system is a deeply dysfunctional world view that appeals to weak minds and fearful hearts. But like I say, that's who they are and its nice to see them own up to it every now and again.