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The Godstick and the Shame Cave

Yes, really, $1.3 billion.

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It Burns

Oh, the hypocrisy, it burns, don’t it?

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Great Moments in Amnesia

[ 66 ] May 8, 2008 |

From a blog that calls itself, impossibly enough, “The Realist”

I want to know what the possibilities are of Hillary going Independent and taking all of us with her? What would be the ramifications if this were to happen?

Hmmm….(looks skyward)….erm….(counts fingers, then recounts)…dum de dum….(pulls abacus from closet, spins wooden beads thoughtfully)….uh….(exhales slowly, staring at shoes)….well….(scratches ear, grimaces slightly)….

No, I can’t imagine there’d be any problems with that. (Wanders off and drowns himself in a toilet.)

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Presidential Statement of the Day

[ 19 ] May 8, 2008 |

Ronald Reagan, proclaiming National Digestive Diseases Awareness Month, 8 May 1987:

I urge the people of the United States and educational, philanthropic, scientific, medical, and health care organizations and professionals to participate in appropriate activities to encourage further research into the causes and cures of all types of digestive disorders.

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Love the Free Market…

[ 17 ] May 8, 2008 |

…especially when freedom from regulation gives mine shafts the liberty to collapse on people:

The general manager and possibly other senior staff at the Crandall Canyon Mine near Huntington, Utah, where 9 miners died in August 2007, hid information from federal mining officials that could have prevented the disaster and should face criminal charges, according to a Congressional investigation whose results were released Thursday.

The report also said that the mining company should never have submitted a request to remove coal from the section of mine where the collapse occurred, and that federal mining officials should not have approved the proposal, because of foreseeable dangers.

It’s simple enough; gutting safety regulations and eliminating government enforcement capacity leads to people dying, whether through unsafe working conditions or through poor product safety. There’s no other way to tell the story.

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Prisoner Surge

[ 5 ] May 8, 2008 |

And so it goes:

U.S. forces are holding nearly all of these [24,000] persons indefinitely, without an arrest warrant, without charge, and with no opportunity for those held to defend themselves in a trial. While the United States has put in place a formal review procedure that supposedly evaluates all detainees for release on a regular basis, detainees cannot attend these reviews, cannot confront evidence against them, and cannot be represented properly by an attorney. Families are only irregularly notified of the detentions, and visits are rarely possible. . . .

In addition to the U.S. detainees, the Government of Iraq is holding over 26,000 prisoners. Some of those held in Iraqi facilities have been convicted of crimes, but many others are being held in unlimited detention without charge. Some have even been tried in court and, even having been found innocent, continue to be held indefinitely. Many prisoners have been convicted in trials that do not measure up to minimal standards of legality. As the UN concludes in a recent report, “substantial improvement is required to prevent gross miscarriage of justice.”

It should go without saying that paying and equipping forces that are unlikely ever to be reconciled to the national government is an ineffective way of developing a viable Iraqi state; similarly, a pacification strategy founded on an open disregard for international human rights norms is an ineffective means of persuading a people that you’ve done them a favor by invading and occupying their country. I don’t know why this is so difficult to comprehend.

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Armandologic Goes Mainstream!

[ 49 ] May 8, 2008 |

Shorter Verbatim Hillary Clinton: “I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on…Sen. Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.”

See, Obama’s coalition is bigger. But Clinton’s is broader, because it consists of more Real Americans and fewer [insert adjectives from RNC attack ad here] elitists and Shiftless Negroes.

Please tell me she was misquoted here; I really never thought that the worst arguments of her hack defenders would start coming from the candidate herself. I may have to retract what I said earlier — if she cares at all about her reputation it may be wise for Clinton to drop out before she says more stuff like this.

see also.

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He’s Getting Too Many Votes!!

[ 4 ] May 8, 2008 |

Chuckle.

…Speaking for me only.

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Phony Costs, Phony Benefits

[ 12 ] May 8, 2008 |

On the question of whether Clinton should drop out, my position continues to be one of indifference. It’s her decision, and I doubt that it matters much either way. I suppose I would prefer that she not attack Obama using GOP talking points now that the nomination has been effectively decided, but even there as Dilan says the effects of this kind of thing are greatly overstated. (Barring a major change in fundamentals, if the election is close enough something so minor could turn the election, I’ve seriously overestimated Obama as a candidate.) I also object to assumptions that Clinton is trying to tear the party apart or sabotage Obama or whatever. I have no doubt that she will strongly support Obama as soon as she concedes. And I think one has to have some empathy here; it can’t be easy to run a race you reasonably expected to win, assemble a very strong coalition of supporters, and fall just short. I can’t really blame her for not quite wanting to concede the inevitable just yet. If staying in is “selfish,” it is only in the sense that anyone running for that kind of office is going to be.

On the other hand, claims that she’s serving some kind of noble ideal by staying in are no more plausible. I’ve seen in some quarters claims that it would undermine democracy or some such to state that Clinton should leave. The thing is, candidates drop out of races they can no longer win all the time without anyone claiming that it undermines democracy. Democracy means that Clinton can stay in until the convention if she chooses, and it also means that anybody can suggest that her staying in is bad for the party, decide to stop giving money to a lost cause, come out for Obama as a superdelegate, etc. McGovern is no more doing anything undemocratic than Clinton is. (Obviously, the argument becomes farcical when anyone who suggests that advising Clinton to drop out violates democratic values also sees nothing objectionable about counting the results of “primaries” that wouldn’t meet Vladimir Putin’s standards of legitimacy.)

In another common move, Ambinder says that it “may well be that Clinton refuses to officially drop out until she is satisfied that the voices of Florida and Michigan are heard.” The thing is, though, that the voices of Florida in Michigan will not be heard in any meaningful way no matter what happens. A fair contest is not going to be held for their delegates. Michigan Democrats do not suddenly become enfranchised if you declare ex post facto that a one-major-candidate straw poll was an ordinary primary. If “hearing their voices” just means seating them at the convention after it’s clear that they won’t be used to try to reverse the outcome of the nomination, then Clinton staying in the race prevents the issue from being resolved.

In essence, this is a trivial issue. Clinton is neither doing significant damage to the party nor acting as some sort of crusader for democracy by staying in although she’s drawing dead.

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Some Things that are Trueish…

[ 0 ] May 8, 2008 |

Reading this thread and following the links has got me to thinking some not terribly original thoughts…

  • Yeah, there really is an echo chamber effect. The division of the progressive blogosphere into Clinton and Obama factions seems to have produced an internally reinforcing radicalization that makes preferences more intense than they would be in the general community. Having even weak arguments vetted by an ideologically sympathetic crowd of co-bloggers and commenters seems to detach these chambers from the larger community. Intragroup dynamics, in other words, seem to reward radicalism and limit perspective on empirical evidence. To the Clinton people, Obama and his allies are sexist because hey, everybody you know agrees that they’re sexist. To the Obama folks, the Clintons are racist under the same logic. The medium is central to this effect; in the blogosphere, more than in any other facet of our lives, we associate with those whom we choose to associate, and consequently disassociate with those whom we find unpleasant.
  • Yeah, there is a lot of purely team drive bitterness. This isn’t surprising at all from a social science perspective, in which we have robust findings that people will bitterly defend even arbitrary group distinctions, regardless of merit associated with the case. In this case, we see arguments that run, more or less “I will never vote for Candidate X, because his/her supporters are such assholes”. The drive for Team victory has a tendency to overwhelm what we might consider more rationalistic appeals; I think that since the blogosphere is such a participatory medium, there’s an even greater tendency towards team solidarity.
  • Yeah, the previous two tendencies mean that there’s a lot of unnecessary vitriol. While I’m sure that some folks on either side would have declared that Clinton or Obama were, respectively, the daughter and son of Satan six months ago, the intra and inter group dynamics have contributed to a situation in which these views are, within the blogosphere, more widely held than they otherwise would be. This is both group driven and medium driven; those who perfect particularly vicious and vitriolic attacks are rewarded within the group by kudos, links, and so forth.
  • Fortunately, there’s probably less reason for concern outside the blogosphere than within it. Just because Clinton bloggers hate Obama bloggers and vice versa doesn’t mean that Clinton voters hate Obama voters; identification with one team or another, participation in the activities of that time, and access to the echo chamber contribute strongly to the kind of radicalization that produces very stark division. This is to say that strong blogospheric Clinton partisans may follow through on their promises not to support Obama, but since the general voting public is altogether less invested in the battle itself, we probably shouldn’t worry about a large percentage of Clinton supporters sitting the general out.
  • Contributing to this last is the phenomenon of multiple group affiliation; while many of us are Clintonistas or Obamaniacs, this is not the only group affiliation which is meaningful, or the only one that activates the aforementioned intra and inter group dynamics. We are also, of course, leftists; while it’s possible that a McCain supporter visiting TalkLeft will win kudos three months from now for his attack on Obama, it seems more likely to me that the general election will mobilize a new group identity and consequently different group dynamics.
  • That said, all of what I’ve listed deserves a certain degree of skepticism; yes, psychology and group dynamics and media matter, but people all have good, real, rational reasons for supporting one candidate or another. For my part, I know that my own preferences are wholly rational, well considered, dependent on evidence, and completely free of animosity towards the other side, even hacks like Jerome Armstrong and Armando. To take tongue slightly out of cheek, I think that most of us are to some degree aware of the tendencies described above, and that we try to correct for all of them, either through weighing evidence with great care and fairness or through trying to avoid identification with one team or another for as long as possible. I know that I want to have fair and good reasons for the vote I expect to cast for Obama on the 20th, and I think that I do, but at the same time I’m aware that there are various forces not entirely within the purview of my own rationality that push me to have a stronger opinion that I otherwise would, or to view evidence differently that would a disinterested observer.
  • Finally, we have to accept that there are real limits to the blogosphere as space for political discussion. What’s going on here, either between Clinton and Obama supporters or between the right and the left, isn’t exactly a perfect free speech situation in which the participants carefully consider the arguments made, then weigh judgment. The blogosphere is a wonderful space, and the left blogosphere a particularly wonderful space, but like all media it has its drawbacks and limitations.

In any case, be excellent to one another; I say that having violated the prescription as often and as viciously as anyone.

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Presidential Statement of the Day

[ 0 ] May 7, 2008 |

Dwight Eisenhower, in a letter to the French president Rene Coty, 7 May 1954:

The entire free world has been inspired by the heroism and stamina displayed by the gallant garrison at Dien Bien Phu. Their devotion and the quality of their resistance have been so great that that battle will forever stand as a symbol of the free world’s determination to resist dictatorial aggression and to sustain its right of self-determination and its dedication to the dignity of the human being. France has in the past suffered temporary defeats, but always she has triumphed in the end to continue as one of the world’s leaders in all things that tend to bring greater richness to the lives of men. Those who fought and died and suffered at Dien Bien Phu should know that no sacrifice of theirs has been in vain; that the free world will remain faithful to the causes for which they have so nobly fought.

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And Now For Something Completely Different

I realized with a bit of a grimace this morning that I have been neglecting my feminist blogger duties. Not the blogger part. The feminist part. What up with that? Now that I am starting to emerge from the hole that has been law school (t minus 20 pages to go), it’s time for me to bring some of my focus back to feminism.

And with that, to making sure that John McCain sure as hell does not win the White House, for oh so many reasons. Not the least of which is that it would potentially spell disaster for federal protection of abortion rights. Happily, the How Much Time campaign (organized in part by some of the big national reproductive rights organizations I think, though this is nowhere on the website) is trying to make sure that doesn’t happen. Here’s an ad from their new campaign:

My initial reaction was that it’s about damn time that someone started framing the issue this way in the mainstream media (though bloggers have been doing this for some time). But part of me is nervous about this tactic. What do you all think?

(via feministing)

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