Plots and Thoughts

Why Democrats Are Failing – Pay Attention Republicans

Posted in Analysis, Observations by Captain Optimistic on February 19, 2010

Memo to delusional conservatives who view anything left of Glenn Beck as socialist: you are ignoring why the Democrats are failing:

Nor are the Democrats having trouble because things have become “too partisan” – or have they forgot how they behaved towards Bush?

There’s a simple reason why their agenda is failing – it’s the same radical left agenda they’ve tried to shove down our throats time and time again.

Radical left?  PLEASE.  The current Democrat agenda is watered down centrism with appeals to the moderate right.  Its not even leftist, never mind radical!

The reasons it is failing are:

  • Democrats are too weak to stand up and fight
  • Republicans are doing everything they can to block all legislative progress in DC while simultaneously claiming credit back home.

The Republicans are obstructing government.  The Democrats are letting them.

Real liberals haven’t forgotten how Democrats behaved towards Bush – they gave him nearly everything he wanted.  Nor have we forgotten how Republicans screamed that opposition to a sitting President was treasonous, only to turn around and cross far beyond mere opposition into obstruction without batting an eye.

ACORN Pimp Video a Deliberate Fake

Posted in Analysis, Observations, Strategy by Captain Optimistic on February 18, 2010

Just in case you all missed this, have a read:

While O’Keefe is a whackjob and should be in jail, the greater absurdity here is how the media pushed and then defended this story, which anyone who has shame now has to accept was a carefully-edited YouTube propaganda piece reported by every single network as “investigative journalism.”

Anyone who tells you “but ACORN was going to give money to a PIMP” is a fucking idiot, and ought to be corrected right then and there.  The video was a fake:

Harshbarger also shed light on the controversial videos, noting that portions had been “substantially” edited, including some voice overdubbing.

A seriously fucked up fake:

The lying, the media complicity, the vicious racism of O’Keefe and his buddies have been covered elsewhere.  I just want to point out what vicious misogynists they are, too.  They went out of their way to turn people’s kindness towards marginalized women into a bad thing. When they encountered decent human beings who take responsibility when asked for help to stop violence against women, they brimmed over with hate for those people, and they set out to destroy them.  And while they think kindness towards prostitutes is a weakness, and violence against women is a joke, they exploited the public’s horror at sex trafficking and violence against women to slur people who were the only people in the room who actually had a problem with violence against women.

That is some fucked-up, woman-hating shit.

It is indeed.  Don’t doubt that conservatives will continue to use it as a weapon.  That is their mistake.  It is a weakness, and the second you see it exposed pounce and use it to give them a merciless ethical thrashing.

Yahoo’s Annoying @Work Series

Posted in Analysis, Observations by Captain Optimistic on February 18, 2010

Warning, fusty language below the belt:

(more…)

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Evan Bayh – The Third Party Establishment Candidate

Posted in Analysis, Observations by Captain Optimistic on February 18, 2010

Evan Bayh (with conservative columnist David Brooks’ help) is trying to position himself as a third party contender for 2012 with hilarious results:

“You remember back then, the deficit was unsustainably high,” Bayh said, referring to the economic conditions of the early-1990’s. “The economy was struggling. People had a sense that Washington was just broken, and they looked for someone from completely outside the system. So, you know, let me be clear. I support the president. I think he is making a major effort, and I’m going to do what I can to help him succeed. But just my political take on it, I think–I think David is–he’s on to something.”

Bwahahahaha.  Outside the system?  Bayh?  Wow this guy has balls.

What Brooks and Bayh are aiming for is a stock conservative.  The kind of person much of the horribly and purposely misnamed “liberal media” actively want as President.

ROSE: My friend David Brooks, who was on the program recently and over the
weekend, said at long last, he believes that third party may be a viable
alternative if the president runs for re-election and someone from the right
of the Republican Party is the nominee, that there is today, in today’s
atmosphere, because of a feeling that issues are not being addressed well, an
opportunity for a third party candidate with very–with appropriate
credentials to run and win the presidency.

The only “opportunity” for a conservative pretending to be a centrist is the one Brooks, Bayh, and other villagers/establishment power brokers are working hard to create.

It is fairly easy to see through it now.  I wonder how clear it will be if they manage to run such a candidate in 2012.  More likely they will use this as pressure to pull Obama even further to the right of his current stance, pressuring Democrats to continue giving in to every Republican demand without getting an ounce of cooperation in return.

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The Politico has a Crush on Thune

Posted in Analysis, Observations by Captain Optimistic on January 13, 2010

Awwwww.  Johnathan Martin thinks Thune is ever so dashing.  He’s written the sort of soft-journalistic intro piece one often sees gently ushering conservative hopefuls onto the national stage.  Remember the reader’s digest article that praised George W. Bush as a bipartisan guys-guy who got stuff done?

John Thune is presented as someone Democrats and Republicans can agree upon:

“At a time when we’re burning taxpayer money like coal in a 19th-century steam engine, Thune’s message of focused fiscal restraint, coupled with aggressive small-business incentives to drive growth, will resonate extremely well with the GOP base and independents as well as Democrats,” said Jeff Kimbell, a Republican lobbyist and Thune enthusiast.

Wow, he sounds great!

But McKinnon sees a third possibility: “He could be the 2012 federal version of Bob McDonnell,” said the GOP adman of the Virginia governor-elect. “He’s unquestionably conservative but not in an ideological way — more in a Midwestern, rural, country, small-town way. So he’s acceptable to all factions.”

Not in an idealogical way huh?  Check out this interview with Christianity Today:

Having a Christian worldview shapes my decision-making with respect to all aspects of my life. I always respect people in public life who are principled, and those principles have to be connected to something. And my faith is what serves as the anchor and directs my actions.

Ladies and gentleman we have ourselves another theocrat being groomed as mainstream.  He’ll be a reliable force for anti-gay, anti-women values.  You know, family values.

As the Politico article briefly mentions:

Though he doesn’t promote it, and it wasn’t listed on his 2004 campaign website, Thune is a graduate of a California Bible college. And on cultural issues such as gay marriage and abortion, he’s pure to the party base.

It also mentions that the the former lobbyist … is liked by lobbyists:

Though he doesn’t have the infrastructure of Romney or even Pawlenty, Thune has many fans among operatives and lobbyists, and he’s surrounded by savvy strategists, including the well-regarded Brasell and longtime GOP adman Scott Howell.

Great.  A slick “Republican Obama – minus the brains” lobbyist theocrat.  He’s already getting promotional press.  He should do well in a crowded GOP field.  2012 is looking ever more interesting.

Congress: Term vs Age Limits

Posted in Analysis, Observations, Strategy by Captain Optimistic on January 10, 2010

I find myself disagreeing – strongly – with Amanda Marcotte.  This of course has me a bit startled.  At issue is the question of term and age limits.  Amanda is upset about old out of touch white men in public office.  Which is understandable.  It isn’t like our generation will be any better when we find ourselves in power.  These men – across both parties – represent positions and hold perceptions that are way out of whack with the rest of the country.  Her solution is to avoid term limits and their associated problems and instead institute a mandatory retirement age.  There are a number of problems with this solution.

  • Medicine and Technology are turning 65 into 75, and 75 into 85.  At what point is a citizen no longer allowed to hold office because their world view is no longer relevant?  Should we instead of a citizenship test of sorts – a litmus test – to ensure aged political hopefuls are with the times?
  • Is there any premium at all on differing perceptions?  Do we want to make our governing body more homogeneous?

What we ought to be doing is removing age limits.  There is no reason a 20 year old cannot run for the highest office in the land.  Part of the problem is that congress is dominated by entrenched power, and entrenched power and age go hand in hand.

I’m hesitant to suggest term limits.  I think they’re a bad idea for a lot of reasons, starting with the fact that the existence of senior politicians is often a good thing—experience and stature helps them get things done. While we were talking about this last night, Marc also pointed out to me that term limits encourage corruption by encouraging the Dick Cheney-style revolving door between holding office and working for corporations.

We therefore need to couple term limits with strong and effective anti-corruption laws.  Encouraging the ageism in our political system does not strike me as an effective way to gain allies or improve our representation.

What if, instead of encouraging politicians to hang onto their seats as long as humanly possible, we created an incentive for politicians to groom and root for their successors?  One reason we’re all so scared to see someone like Ted Kennedy or Robert Byrd leave office is we’re afraid of who will take their place, but I think if these politicians were looking forward to retirement instead of waiting for death, that might not be so.  They would have much more of a reason to groom someone suitable for their seat, and help get them elected while they still had the energy to do so.

These incentives would increase the stranglehold of entrenched politicians even further, so they could continue to exert their influence after they leave through their successors.  Take a good hard look at Putin and Medvedev.  Do we really to encourage that here?

To strengthen our representation in Congress we need to increase diversity of representation and freedom of choice while simultaneously restricting entrenched power and corruption.  Here is what we need to agitate for:

  • Removing age limits
  • Instituting term limits
  • Selecting a new system of voting (along the lines of instant runoff) that allows people to rank their choices
  • Make elections entirely publicly financed, outlawing the spending of any private funds

It would be a start, a small step forward.  Age limits would be a step backwards, an act that legitimizes existing age limits when we need to do what we can to remove them entirely.

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Strategy – Letting Health Reform Fail

Posted in Analysis, Observations, Strategy by Captain Optimistic on December 22, 2009

We have three options going forward.  Agitate for meaningful change in the health care reform bill, allow it to fail in Congress and pin that failure firmly on right wingers in both parties, or allow it to pass as is.  If we allow this bill to pass, it will fail to contain costs, fail to reform industry practices, and serve only as a precedent for corporations using government to force a noncompetitive market on the public.  Such a failure will appear to validate conservatives and be disastrous for midterm elections.

The third option isn’t viable for liberals, Democrats and supporters of meaningful healthcare reform.  The first two options are both the fruit of the same essential strategy:  Pushing as hard as we can against the misogynist and corporatist forces aligned against reform.  It is a true win-win strategy.  If we succeed we will have decimated Stupak-Pitts and Nelson – attempts to use the urgency of the health care debate to force the abortion issue and religious inspired law into an unrelated bill.  If we succeed we’ll have created real competition for the private insurance industry, offered reforms that curtail abuses and protect consumers, and stood up against corporate lobbyist controlled legislation*.

If on the other hand we fail, we walk into the midterm elections strong and fierce.  Our campaign language is written for us.  Vote for reformers, vote against the Congress critters beholden to Bibles and corporate donations.

If we take the advice of our adversaries and shut the fuck up we will lose.  We will lose health care reform, and we will lose power in both bodies of Congress come midterms.  If we want power we must win this battle, and the only way to do so is to dig in and fight.  Anything less than a ferocious commitment to an authentic reform effort will end in our loss.

*All things our President promised fervently to do during the campaign.

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Stories the Politico Just Made Up

Posted in Analysis, Observations by Captain Optimistic on December 2, 2009

John F. Harris @ the Politico writes:

Presidential politics is about storytelling.

And so, apparently, is journalism.  John the concern troll continues:

But they all are serious threats to Obama, if they gain enough currency to become the dominant frame through which people interpret the president’s actions and motives.

Here are seven storylines Obama needs to worry about:

Let’s explore these one by one:

He thinks he’s playing with Monopoly money

Oppose or support the stimulus, it is beyond ridiculous to suppose that Obama doesn’t understand the amount of money at play or the gravity of the situation.

Too much Leonard Nimoy

Might Johnny have something here?

Obama, a legislator and law professor, is fluent in describing the nuances of problems. But his intellectuality has contributed to a growing critique that decisions are detached from rock-bottom principles.

His intellectuality isn’t the problem for anyone but Sarah Palin fans.  There is a concern his decisions are detached from the rock-solid principles he espoused during his campaign though.  But that makes him less a spock and more a run of the mill politician.  Aka totally an agent of change we can believe in.  Really.  4 Serious.

Both Maureen Dowd in The New York Times and Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post have likened him to Star Trek’s Mr. Spock.

Right and we should take them seriously?

That’s the Chicago Way

This is a storyline that’s likely taken root more firmly in Washington than around the country. The rap is that his West Wing is dominated by brass-knuckled pols.

Heh.  Well this sounds true.  Also?  Fine by me.

He’s a pushover

If you are going to be known as a fighter, you might as well reap the benefits. But some of the same insider circles that are starting to view Obama as a bully are also starting to whisper that he’s a patsy.

It seems a bit contradictory, to be sure.

Only when applied to his entire administration.  When viewed issue by issue, position by position – it becomes clear.  Brass knuckles on some issues, patsy on others.  Patsy on single payer health care.  Brass knuckles on pre-existing conditions.  What this actually indicates is that his administration doesn’t place the same value on all issues and positions.  Which is fine, except that elected Obama’s values differ from campaigning Obama’s values.  What may seem like weakness might instead by willful disregard.

He sees America as another pleasant country on the U.N. roll call, somewhere between Albania andZimbabwe

That line belonged to George H.W. Bush, excoriating Democrat Michael Dukakis in 1988. But it highlights a continuing reality: In presidential politics the safe ground has always been to be an American exceptionalist.

Bull.  There are plenty of Americans who do not conflate working towards respect of international law (not that Obama is doing this fully) with giving up our sovereignty.  It also doesn’t reflect Obama.  What it does reflect is Fox-News fueled anxiety about Obama giving speeches in countries where there are too many Muslims in the audience for the liking of reactionary and racist Americans.

Politicians of both parties have embraced the idea that this country — because of its power and/or the hand of Providence — should be a singular force in the world.

The hand of Providence?  Way to slip some theocratic goodness in there John.

President Pelosi

The great hazard for Obama is if Republicans or journalists conclude — as some already have — that Pelosi’s achievements are more impressive than Obama’s or come at his expense.

Johnny might be onto something here, only in that we expect far more of Obama than he’s delivered.

He’s in love with the man in the mirror

No one becomes president without a fair share of what the French call amour propre. Does Obama have more than his share of self-regard?

Who the hell cares?  When did the Politico turn into People magazine or Slate?  We don’t need witty little insight’s into Obama’s quirks.  What we could really use is investigative journalism.  Uncovering secret negotiations over intellectual property and internet censorship.  Tackling similarities in legal arguments between the Bush and Obama administrations.  Explorations of the impact of the decisions Obama has made, such as finally gutting the global gag rule.  Failing that, let’s at least have journalism.  Address serious political points.  Avoid cutesy little articles masquerading as rhetorical advice.

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Evolution, Religion and Bullshit

Posted in Analysis, Observations, Strategy by Captain Optimistic on November 19, 2009

Gather round for a lesson in poor reporting.  The NYTimes has an article on the relationship between evolution and religion, and wow do they make a zinger of a mistake (I’ve gone ahead and highlighted the stupid for your convenience):

This and other research is pointing to a new perspective on religion, one that seeks to explain why religious behavior has occurred in societies at every stage of development and in every region of the world. Religion has the hallmarks of an evolved behavior, meaning that it exists because it was favored by natural selection. It is universal because it was wired into our neural circuitry before the ancestral human population dispersed from its African homeland.

For atheists, it is not a particularly welcome thought that religion evolved because it conferred essential benefits on early human societies and their successors. If religion is a lifebelt, it is hard to portray it as useless.

Let’s look at the fallacies:

  • Failure to consider co-evolved vs evolved traits
  • Failure to consider vestigial traits

If the traits necessary to support religion did evolve for a purpose, what proof do we have that purpose still persists to this day?  Or that those traits are the best solution?

It is easier to see from hunter-gatherer societies how religion may have conferred compelling advantages in the struggle for survival. Their rituals emphasize not theology but intense communal dancing that may last through the night. The sustained rhythmic movement induces strong feelings of exaltation and emotional commitment to the group. Rituals also resolve quarrels and patch up the social fabric.

What effects do rituals have today?  How does this kind of tribalism and tendency to follow the leader play out in today’s global society?  Looking at religion through the lens of an evolved trait lends it an additional appearance of usefulness and legitimacy.

All this allows that the traits which support religion evolved directly, and didn’t co-evolve with other directly beneficial evolutionary traits.  Following the logic present in Nicholas Wade’s article, one might consider anything from red hair to armed conflict to be “evolved”.  They too have “occurred in societies at every stage of development”.

This article is one in a long line of “gee golly” articles meant to lend religion the legitimacy of science.  They let faith put on a labcoat and call itself doctor.

Could the evolutionary perspective on religion become the basis for some kind of detente between religion and science? Biologists and many atheists have a lot of respect for evolution and its workings, and if they regarded religious behavior as an evolved instinct they might see religion more favorably, or at least recognize its constructive roles

Religion can be viewed, and judged, within the context of its impact on society today and historically.  The addition of pseudo-scientific hypothesis about religion as an evolved trait will not clarify the debate over the role of religion in society.  It can only muddy the water.  And at some point we must question why so many of religion’s proponents feel the need to dip into trickery and dishonesty to prop up their cosmology. And we must re-evaluate our own responses keeping that tendency in mind.  Especially when responding to apologists who hide under a guise of science.

 

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Using Tasers on Children

Posted in Analysis, Observations by Captain Optimistic on November 18, 2009

Feministing reports that a taser had been used on a 10 year old girl.  From MyEyeWitnessNews:

A police officer in a small Arkansas town used a stun gun on an unruly 10-year-old girl after he said her mother gave him permission to do so. Now the town’s mayor is calling for an investigation into whether the Taser use was appropriate.

Uh, NO IT WAS NOT.  There, that was a quick investigation.

“We didn’t use the Taser to punish the child – just to bring the child under control so she wouldn’t hurt herself or somebody else,” Noggle said.

If the officer tried to forcefully put the girl in handcuffs, he could have accidentally broken her arm or leg, Noggle said.

By using a taser the accident could very well have been death.

Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for Taser, said it’s up to individual law enforcement agencies to decide when Taser use is appropriate.

In some cases, a Taser “presents the safer response to resistance compared with the alternatives such as fists, kicks, baton strikes, bean bag guns, chemical agents, or canine response,” Tuttle said in a statement.

Are we to suppose the police officer might have used chemical agents on a child of 10?!

The context in which the taser was used was complex and difficult, to be sure.  But it seems like as we learn more and more about how very deadly tasers are (to the point their manufacturer now warns about where on the body to target), we are becoming more cavalier about their use.

This when we need to become more critical, especially of their usage on vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly.

Keep in mind when reading that in this case, the mother of the child consented to the taser being used.