Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Myth of Voter Fraud

The Myth of Voter fraud:

Money Quote:
"Firing a prosecutor for failing to find wide voter fraud is like firing a park ranger for failing to find Sasquatch."

Gonzales prediction

I predict Gonzales will be gone by the end of April. Any rational person would have fired him already, but we all know Bush is not all that rational when it comes to personnel decisions. There, ideology and loyalty trumps competence. Plus, whenever Bush has been forced to do things by reality, he usually is stubborn enough that he does it late enough that the damage done is maximized.

I think he'll be no different here, so while I think any sane president would have fired Gonzales already, I think he'll not give in to it until the end of April at the earliest. I'll be happy if I'm wrong - I want Gonzales out now, but I won't be surprised if I'm right.

UPDATE: Well, since the GOP just halted testimony today, after Sampson threw Gonzales overboard, maybe I'm wrong, maybe Gonzales will go down sooner just to save Rove's ass.

Denial is definitely not just a river in Egypt...

Ok, I suppose it is like slowing down to watch an accident, but I saw a few good posts on that same racism thread that articulated better than I did the problems with the defintion change for the word "racism" and also pointed out how TFS is a one-note band.

There was also a post that made a very good point about the strange definition of racism - if one is racist for being a beneficiary of a system that exploits others, that means everyone in the US is racist for enjoying the benefits the US enjoys from exploiting the poor in the rest of the world (all those nice 1 penny a day factories in China or wherever).

Of course, this sort of logical argument is then countered by TFS with his usual penetrating mind, as he says that nope, still only whites are racist, because blacks don't control anything and are just along for the ride. Gotta love it. He'd make a good textbook entry on denial.

Of course this is based on a premise that if you are white, you control society just for being white. Let's just explore if this is really true. I'll do an experiment. The next time the legislature opens in the State Capitol, I'll head on in, and go up to the lawmakers. I'll give them my list of how I want them to vote on all of the bills pending. I'll even give them my own bills I've written from scratch. And I expect that they will all do my bidding because hey, I'm white, so that gives me the power to control everything, according to TFS.

If that doesn't work, I'll go to the local city council meeting. Surely there, my whiteness will allow me to set the agenda and pass some of my great ordinance ideas.

Or better yet, I'll just walk into the local supermarket and start rearranging the place and taking the merchandise, because hey, I'm white, and so I control and own all of it. That makes it my store.

Anyone want to place some bets on whether or not any of the above will work?

I'd say the absurdity of the notion that sharing the same skin pigmentation with the tiny minority that does have actual power does not, in itself, give one any real power at all. The absurdity is made abundantly clear with a simple hypothetical. Imagine there is a nation that is all one race. Maybe it is a small nation, but it is still a nation. Now if the hypothesis that sharing the race of the rulers gives one anything like real power is true, that nation must be the most unique place on Earth, because then every single person in that nation would be in power, and yet, we all know that this is NEVER the case. Always, there is a tiny minority that has actual power. This tiny minority usually guards this power jealously against everyone else, and fights for it within that tiny minority. If anyone outside of that minority asked for power based on shared race, those in the tiny minority would fall over laughing, and would share nothing. So race by itself gives no one any power at all. The tiny minority is not letting anyone in if it can avoid it.

It is clear that one's race does NOT give one power. It is like me saying I have power because my hair color is the same as the president's. I think he'd beg to differ on that.

Class is what determines power, not race. Rich parents have rich kids. This doesn't change depending on the race of the parents. Poor parents have poor kids. This also does not change for race. What is often forgotten is that there are far far more poor white people than there are poor black people. And right in the middle, the middle class - if you are middle class, your kids will be too. It again has nothing to do with race. And finally, if you are born in one class, it is extremely difficult to get out of it - one generally has to be exceptional to do so. It certainly is far easier to just stay in the same class. And this also has nothing to do with race. White poor people also tend to stay poor. The number of white poor people has been increasing.

Really, this illogical position is just another attempt for those who hate based on race to avoid labeling themselves as racist even as they label those who do not hate as racist just for their skin color. But then what use is logic when you have your hate.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

On a more positive note...

Looks like the "Gonzo-meter" over at slate is now up to 80%. Can you see my huge grin?

Racism is apparently the only discrimination that matters

I read some more of the discussion I mentioned yesterday.

In that discussion on racism, I mentioned forms of discrimination I have faced or my family has faced in the past. Apparently, though, that just made some there mad because to mention any form of discrimination that doesn't involve labeling all white people as racist against non-white people is just denying racism exists and insulting them. Uh, ok.

Yet by that same logic, their talk about racism belittles all the discrimination I've faced and denies it. In other words, it has no logic at all.

People are discriminated against in ways big and small all the time. It is not always about race. It is not always that significant. If you get on a crowded bus, and one person hasn't bathed that day, and another person smells like flowers, you will discriminate against the non-bather and sit next to the flower child. And with good reason. Now, perhaps the non-bather was homeless and it wasn't her fault she couldn't bathe that day, or maybe her water was shut off, or who knows, but that isn't the point. By not sitting next to her, you've discriminated against her. But no one would begrudge you for doing so. Of course, those with a racial filter on full-tilt would say that you didn't sit next to her because of her race if her race doesn't match yours and the flower child does. Because they see everything as about race, even when its not. When everyone on that bus is the same race, they'll still say everything is about race. It gets rather tiresome.

I think it speaks volumes that any mention of discrimination I or my family has faced is dismissed out of hand, not only that, but then is included as further evidence that I'm racist, for being insensitive enough to point out that there are other forms of discrimination, some of which are actually still socially acceptable, such as discrimination against atheists. It is like they think racism is the only form of discrimination that matters. Anything else is a threat to their status as number one victim. Not even when that discrimination takes the form of genocide does it matter - it is still all about how I'm a racist, despite a few dozen members of my family being sent to the gas chambers by the nazis. Then they get mad at me for bringing it up at all because hey, I'm a racist, I don't get to complain about being discriminated against. I'm white, I should just take my privilege and shut up. Except they don't quite articulate any real privilege, just vague nonsense that has more to do with demographics than racism.

Basically, the whole conversation can be boiled down to being told "shut up, you're white, you're a racist - say otherwise and you are a bigger racist for not accepting that you are a racist for being white - and now we're blocking any further conversation on the subject because if you don't understand that just being white makes you a racist and that claiming any form of discrimination against yourself makes you a racist just proves you're a racist." Not exactly a constructive conversation. Mostly it is about hate, if you ask me.

The really sad thing is that by trying to redefine racism to a blanket term that applies to all white people (and only white people) just for being white they dilute the word to meaninglessness. If one doesn't want to be called a racist or be a racist, and yet what one does as an individual is irrelevant to that label, then why not refuse to hire minorities, denigrate them, and shout the n-word at them, because to do so apparently makes you no more a racist than the person who is sitting quietly at home reading a book (but had the audacity to be born white). Once racism is no longer about what you do, but is only about skin color, then you've robbed the word of all real meaning. Michael Richards's n-word scream fest on stage then is not news, because hey, we already knew he was a racist because he was white. So let's not even report on it, because racism isn't about what you do anymore. Some white folks drag a black man behind a truck and kill him for being black, well, that's not news either. No need to report it to anyone. After all, we knew they were white. So we knew they were racist. Their murder was beside the point.

I wonder if it will ever occur to these left-wing types that being filled with such hate and directing it at those who wish to engage you in discussion will not convince anyone of anything except that they are not worth talking to.

I'm not going back to that thread, or any other on that site. Not because of anything they said - not even for the insults. I can take that. That is even part of the conversation, when you get down to it. I'm not going back because, though I was respectful and stuck to the topic at hand, I was still semi-blocked (put in moderation status) simply because they disagreed with my ideas and did not wish to engage them on that level. If that's what they have to resort to, then the conversation is over.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I'm apparently a racist just because I'm white

I've been participating in a comment thread discussing racism. You can read the thread, but the basic premise is that I'm a racist (and so are all white people) because I'm white. Because there is some invisible force field in our society that automatically makes me get all sorts of special goodies (which apparently I'm unaware of).

Oh, and for not agreeing with that basic premise, I'm also accused of denying there is such a thing as racism.

Last I checked, the best way to convince someone of something was not to start out with an insult, then repeatedly insult someone until you somehow change their mind. I did suggest that perhaps "racism" is not the proper word to discuss the concept that, perhaps being a member of the dominant demographic in any given society gives you advantages over members of other demographics in that society. Which is not a concept I disagree with. But taking that concept and then expanding it to then call all members of that dominant demographic "racist" just for being in that demographic, to me, is nonsense.

To me, and to most sensible people, one calls someone a racist based on personal characteristics - like, for instance, saying racial slurs, or not hiring someone just for their race. Which most in our society consider to be unacceptable. Which is why to call someone a racist is to insult them. Sure, there are racists, but it is rather nonsensical to call someone that when you know almost nothing about them except for their race.

Of course, the other benefit of this definition is it allows members of minorities to hate white people for being white and not think of themselves as racist for doing so. It also allows self-loathing in the more radical liberal whites, who can then feel guilty about it. Or at least that's my theory. Truthfully, I just don't understand why anyone would want to hate themselves like that, and for no real reason other than their race.

I comment here now because I am now "moderated" there for - apparently instead of answering my arguments, it is easier to just lock me out. There was one post in response from "The Free Slave" that again, did not answer my points at all, just accused me of further vileness and insulted me. Which I take to mean that this person has no real answers, just hatred, and an inability to deal with his ideas being challenged logically.

Sorry to all, but I'm not a racist just because some racist asshole says I am, based only on the fact that I'm caucasion, and who insults me for not bowing down to his ridiculous ideology.

Hatred may feel good to some, but it convinces no one of anything. It has convinced me that there is no point talking to some people because their minds are closed - it is just a waste of time. How sad.

I guess this also is a grim reminder to me that while I loathe the ridiculousness of the right-wing, I have just as much problem with the left-wing. Why can't we all just be reasonable? *sigh*

Friday, March 23, 2007

Kiss Hank's Ass

Thanks to Gratuitous Common Sense for posting this about Kissing Hank's Ass - I love it.

Yet another empty "Bush Hater" claim

Yet again, we see the "Bush hater" meme taken out, used when there is clearly nothing else one can say and one doesn't want to just let the facts be said without opposition.

In response to an article about the lying Karl Rove on Salon (detailing why such a proven liar, especially one who has shown he will even lie under oath, needs to be transcribed and put under oath if you are to have any chance of getting the truth out of him), I saw a comment from an anonymous coward:

Why not just say. . .

I hate Bush. . . as opposed to trying to put together a structured argument. At least you wouldn’t look so snide.

1. Would someone please clarify a point for me; is it, is it not true, that the President is entitled to fire federal prosecutors at his will, for whatever reason he chooses.

2. If the answer to question 1 is yes, is this “scandal” then reduced to “the reasons given for the firings were inconsistent”? . . . they were lies?

3. Joe, you continue to discuss Karl Rove and his role in the Valerie Plame “scandal”. Why can’t I find outrage directed toward Richard Armitage, the guy who actually leaked her name to Robert Novak? I remember people claiming that Karl Rove put people’s lives in danger by exposing Valerie. Their anger (and supposed concern over Val’s co-workers) doesn’t seem to translate to Armitage. Why not?

4. If learning the truth is vital for the survival of our democracy, shouldn’t we know why Sandy Berger jammed classified documents down his pants and stole them from the national archives? Remember the “oh that’s just Sandy” line? Talk about a cute explanation. Where’s your outrage over that?

Like I said, why not just leave it as “I hate Bush”. . . you could type less, save electricity, and get closer to being carbon neutral. It would be the truth. You're filled with hate.
-- No Name Given

And that just annoyed me so much, so I responded:

To answer you:
1. Yes, the president can hire and fire at will. But that does not mean he can fire for ANY reason - for instance, firing attorneys for not filing charges in a case where there is no evidence (but would be politically advantageous) or for filing charges in a case where there IS evidence (because it was a political ally) is NOT allowed, and in fact, could be a crime - obstruction of justice, for one. Having operatives call and ask about sealed indictments is also a crime.

2. Even if there were no legal problems with what happened around the firings, lying under oath is a crime, and also begs the question - why lie under oath and risk prison unless there is something you are trying to hide? Administration officials committing felonies to hide something is a big deal and bears further investigation.

3. What Armitage did or did not do has nothing to do with whether or not Rove lied under oath. This article was about why one can't trust rove. Nice try to dodge that and ignore that point.

4. Funny how basically every crime committed by any Republican from now until the end of time will be ignored because hey, someone from a former administration, who isn't even in any government position anymore, might have stuffed some papers down his pants. I guess you're right, let's just let Bush and Rove execute anyone they don't like because, hey, it's justified by shouting "Sandy Berger took some pieces of paper!"

That, or you can just shout "Bush hater" and then you ignore the main argument, which was that Rove is a proven liar, even when he's under oath. I note how you did NOT address what the whole article was about. Usually that is a sign that one has no refutation, so I guess that shows just how strong your position is. I think the phrase "quicksand" is appropriate for what you are standing on.


I doubt that the poster will read my response or even care that I wrote it - they obviously are just posting GOP talking points in an attempt to side-step the issue. I sometimes wonder if we should put together a talking-point exposure channel, just to track where they come from, what they are, and to refute them as they come - so every time someone uses one the utterer can be shot down with a reference back to the source of the bullshit.

UPDATE: He actually responded:

To Disgusted

1. Thanks for the response. I’m not a lawyer. I still don’t really understand what crime, if any is alleged. I do think, however, that crimes should be investigated by a special prosecutor, or even an impeachment. Not by grandstanding politicians. They work for themselves, not us.

Rove and Miers could be interviewed. At the conclusion of the interviews subpoenas could be issued. The democrats are going straight for the subpoenas. Why? . . . they want to grandstand.

2. What officials committed felonies? What crimes? We just concluded a long investigation into the Valerie Plame leak. The result was Scooter Libby was found guilty of lying and obstructing justice during the investigation (not for leaking anything). Serious crimes for which he should be punished. . . . If Karl Rove is still guilty of something (other than you hate him), why no indictment?

3. You’re right. Armitage’s actions do not undo anything Rove did. The reason for my question (which you didn’t answer) was to point out that Joe Conason, and other critics don’t appear to care about the underlying principles. They just want to skewer, quench their hate.

4. Crimes by Republicans should not be ignored. Please clearly state the crime committed with regard to the firing of the federal prosecutors. In my opinion, stealing classified documents (and destroying them) is at least as significant as what Scooter Libby did. Look at the press coverage of the two events. I think the amount of coverage is related to who the media hates more, as opposed to the seriousness of the crime. My opinion.

Let me put it this way, I think Scooter Libby got what he deserves. I think Sandy Berger did not.

Hey I almost forgot, what about that guy that stuck $90k in his freezer? What committee did he just get appointed to? When is the house going to subpoena
-- No Name Given

And I responded:

1. I am a lawyer, but that doesn't necessarily make me a legal expert on this issue. That said, I think you miss the point. Congress is not a prosecutorial body. They are, however, a co-equal branch of government that is tasked with providing oversight of the other two branches. As part of their oversight function, they need to gather facts from the other branches. That's what the subpeona power is for. That's why they swear people in and have them testify - to assure that people show up, and that they tell the truth. Anything less than that, like a non-sworn interview behind closed doors, is something Congress could do as a courtesy, but is not part of their official oversight powers.
Is there grandstanding involved? Its politics. The main reason they want oaths and transcripts is that they have been lied to already, multiple times, on this subject. If you were trying to get truthful information after repeated lies, you'd want an oath and transcript, I'm sure. I know I would. More to the point, unless Rove has something to hide, you'd think he'd welcome the chance to clear the air by testifying under oath, in public. He's certainly not shy about speaking in public.

2. The officials that committed felonies were those who testified before Congress and lied about the firings, Gonzales being one. Lying like that is a felony. And again, you bring up a red herring. The criteria for being called to testify before Congress under oath is NOT prior conviction or indictment for a crime. It is about oversight. So whatever crimes Rove has or hasn't done have nothing to do with whether or not it is legitimate to call him to testify. He has information relevant to this inquiry. That's all that is relevant.

3. You offer another non-sequitor. This was an article about why one would want to talk to Rove only when he was under oath and trascribed. Anything outside of Rove is irrelevant to that issue and therefore irrelevant to the article. Armitage has no information to offer about this issue, he has no reason and no need to testify, he will not be called to testify. So it would be rather absurd to throw him into an article about how Rove lies and should be under oath when questioned. One does not need to hate Rove to come to the rational, empirical conclusion that he is a liar.

4. You brought up a completely unrelated topic. Again, tell me how what Sandy Berger did has anything to do with whether or not Rove is a liar. The articlew as about how Rove is a liar. I see this again and again -any time a Republican does something bad and gets caught at it, or is otherwise criticized, someone brings up Sandy Berger. Get a new talking point. This one is tired and pointless. As a lawyer, I can tell you, when one is being prosecuted, bringing up the crimes or accused crimes against others in unrelated incidents is not only not done, but not allowed, because it is irrelevant, and only relevant evidence is admissible. I think that's why the GOP hates the courts so much - their usual empty-talking-point PR tricks don't work there, and so they lose.

Sandy Berger, whatever he got, is irrelevant to this discussion. And I would think it is a much bigger media story when you have wrongdoing by someone CURRENTLY ACTIVE IN GOVERNMENT, like our Attorney General, committing crimes, than some guy who hasn't been in office for 5 or 10 years stuffing documents down his pants.

As for your $90K - well, again, what does that have to do with Rove lying? I think you are trying to do everything you can to avoid that basic issue, because you know Rove is a liar and so you have no response to that basic fact.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Are you hot enough?


There is apparently a dating website that only allows you to join if you are rated as an '8' or higher by existing members based solely on three photographs of yourself, including a full body shot.

Interesting concept. I know I'd never make it on there. I'd probably be rated closer to a 3 or a 4, though really, I have no idea exactly where I'd rate. In fact, it might be interesting to apply just to see what that number is for me. I'd be willing to bet that probably the most interesting thing is not the number one would generate, but whether that number corresponds to one's own percieved "number" and if not, whether it is higher or lower. I guess that could be one measure of self-esteem. It is probably important to have some idea how attractive one is, just for informational purposes.

For instance, studies have shown that how attractive one is, male or female, is a strong determining factor on whether one gets a job or a promotion and on how one's performance is rated. Hiring managers deny this when confronted with it, but then they'd have to for fear of being sued.

Part of the justification for the site, probably accurate, is that people tend to date only people of their own attractiveness level, whatever that means. I wonder if someone would take that further and have a site that allows everyone, but then only allows you to interact on the site with people within two points of your rating. That would be an interesting social experiment in itself. It would probably also help foil on-line scammers who often post on dating sites with fake photos of "hot" men and women in an effort to lure a lonely, probably not as attractive person to send money.

Ah, the "joys" of dating. I'm glad I opted out of that game.

UPDATE: I was thinking about this as I was walking down the hall, trying to exercise my legs after sitting in a chair reading yet another trial transcript, and I wondered if there was some bias in giving someone an '8' rating, even if you thought they were slightly less than that, in the hopes of getting them onto the site so you can then have the opportunity to date them. Because there is that cut-off, I wonder if people who would otherwise be rated 6.5 to 7.9, say, will get rated an '8' just so they can participate. This wouldn't mean much if only one or two people were interested - in other words, if they were really a '4' or '5' and one of the '8' through '10's on the site wanted them on, well, since that is just one vote, they'd probably still be out, but if they were close to an '8', well, maybe that creates a critical mass of people just giving them an '8' to get them in. So on a site with that cut-off, you will get a distortion in your data right around the '8' mark.

This not to imply there is any such thing as an actual '8', but it is probably pretty informative to see what a large group of people rates an individual.

My idea of a site that allows '1' through '10' would get rid of this bias, because though you would be limited to someone within '2', say, of your number, odds are anyone you would want to select for would have naturally been within '2' of your number anyway. Though now I wonder if there would be a downward selection bias - i.e. if someone who would be a '2' on the site decides that they want a chance at a '6' so they rate them a '4'. Hmmm... maybe I just think about this nonsense far too much. I guess I take the anthropological approach. Doing actual dating is a pain in the ass.

Rove Under Oath

That is my dream. I hope the Democrats don't cave. I hope they force this. It looks like they will. It seems clear the White House is afraid of what might be revealed if Rove testifies.

I wonder what would be revealed. Rove is not above lying, even to law enforcement, like when he lied about his office being bugged. I wonder if he wouldn't just lie his ass off, even if under oath.

Still, I want to see him grilled. I want to see him pushed into a corner where he has to decide if he'll perjure himself and risk prosecution or if he'll tell the truth and sink Bush even further.

In the meanwhile, I hope Gonzales is out soon. He's such a Bush toadie.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Comment on Commenting

I think I've been commenting too much on other blogs - perhaps I should direct my enegery more here. Then again, here I'd be having a conversation with myself. Which is fine and dandy, except it makes it hard for followup and it is hard to play ping-pong by yourself.

I'll have to rectify this. I think I'm going to make a list of all the things I want to talk about and then just go down them one by one, day by day.

I already have one in mind.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

An Appeal on Appeals

This can be considered a public service announcement. Or maybe not.

Appeals are usually pointless. I'm not talking about whining to your parents that you want the $50 AT-AT Imperial Walker or the Millenium Falcon (*sigh* I never got either as a child). I'm talking about the legal kind.

Appeals are usually pointless because of something called the standard of review, which is basically what the appeals court is allowed to look at and potentially change from the lower court's decision. The standard of review is often quite deferential to the trial court. Basically, unless the trial court judge jumped up on the table and danced with a bottle of vodka, you are pretty much stuck with the result. Ok, it is not quite that deferential. Sometimes it is even "de novo" which means the appellate court can ignore the trial court and look at things fresh. This is usually the case if the appeal is about a purely legal issue, such as does the statute require X or not.

I mention this because over 85% of appeals are generally about things that basically there is no chance you can win, and it is pretty darn apparent that there is no chance at first glance. This makes filing an appeal both a waste of time and a waste of money. Of course, if you lost and you are trying to delay paying money, that might be a nasty way of doing so, but if the money you spend on the appeal is more than the interest you'd save by delaying, it is rather pointless.

Criminal appeals are another matter - they are even more pointless, generally, with over 95% affirmed, but then at least you can understand about someone appealing for their freedom and besides, what do they have to lose? Most of the time it is a court-appointed attorney who handles it and they have nothing but time as they rot in prison.

I just felt the need to post it because, in my work on appellate cases, I way too often see cases where it is just stupid that someone filed an appeal - a waste of money and time, and I hope that maybe someone will take this to heart and not waste their money on futility. A good lawyer should tell his or her client when an appeal is pointless. I wonder how many appeals are about lawyers trying to get more money and how many are about clients who aren't interested in listening to their lawyers because of the same stubborn streak that led to the lawsuit in the first place.

As a side issue, what is even better to note is that it is always cheaper and quicker and easier to resolve a dispute without going to court. Many lawsuits could be avoided if people just acted more reasonable, less stubborn, and frankly, less like assholes. That's legal advice you can take to the bank. Beyond the costs, there is also the fact that if you sue your neighbor, win or lose, you still have to live next to them.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Parable of the Broken Window - My View

I thought I'd take a break from the latest depressing news about our corrupt government, and also from posting about other such depression-inducing subjects such as rape, and discuss economics, specifically, the fallacy of the parable of the broken window.

You can follow the link, but in short, it is the idea that if a shop keeper's window breaks, it is really a "stimulus" to the community because it gives work to all sorts of people who then have to fix it. And the fallacy is that it really doesn't stimulate anything, because the shop keeper is out money on the window he would have otherwise spent elsewhere. And I think it is true as far as that goes. But there is one thing that is not taken into consideration here, and that is insurance.

I think the existence of insurance takes this out of fallacy land back into a real stimulus, and I'll briefly explain why. Any smart shop keeper is going to have insurance that covers such things as broken windows. That is only good business. Leaving aside the issue of deductibles and such (we can assume he does not have one for the sake of illustration), when that proverbial window breaks, all the stimulus mentioned in the fallacy happens AND the money does NOT come out of the shop keeper's pocket, so it is, in fact, a net stimulus to the local community. So what seems like a fallacy, with insurance, is not a fallacy at all.

Ah-ha! says the libertarian (that being me) there still is only a break-even here because now the insurance company is out that money. But not so fast, says the libertarian back (still me), paying claims is part of the cost of doing business for an insurance company. The fact that they will be paying them is already factored into their business. In fact, if they did not pay any claims, they would not exist, for no one would buy any insurance. (In point of fact, they are very good at calculating just how many claims they should expect to pay, i.e. how many windows are likely to break, and this is already factored in to their business model). Thus, when that window breaks, there really is a stimulus to the local economy, one that does not take away from anyone, because the shop keeper does not pay out of pocket, and the insurance company is just paying for what it already expected to pay (just as the shop keeper, a baker, expects to pay for the dough for his bread and the electricity for his ovens).

Now, this can break down if there is a huge disaster that the insurance company did not count on - now the insurance company is out more money than it anticipated and then rates go up for everyone - but on a non-disaster scale, I think it holds true.

Now, one could argue and quibble about details such as deductibles, but unless the deductible is so high that the shop keeper pays the whole cost for the window himself (as if he had no insurance), you still have a net stimulus to the community because the amount of stimulus (the cost of the window replacement) still exceeds the loss to the shop keeper (who pays less than that cost, up to the amount of the deductible).

That's just something I had to get off of my chest. I've seen this fallacy come up on various libertarian sites and now it is even on wikipedia, but something always missing is the mention of insurance, which is a core part of how our economy and the world operates - in other words, the parable really is unrealistic without consideration of insurance.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Puritan Society

We live in a puritan society. I mean that in the literal sense that we are in a society founded by puritans and that still, at its core, has some pretty strange puritan sensibilities. Some might object that our culture has gone "bad" apparently because of the visible flesh of women shown at an earlier and earlier age. But then that makes my point.

To illustrate, and what got me thinking about this in the first place, consider the latest stupid thing said by a public figure, this time the head of the military, namely, that homosexuality is immoral. And so they have gotten rid of lots of qualified personnel, including translators, arab translators, who are in critically short supply. In the meanwhile, psychopaths and hardened criminals are let in as they relax standards. And the question is, why are we letting in psychopaths, rapists, robbers, and murders while kicking out highly qualified homosexuals?

I think it has its roots in our puritanism. Our society has, perversly, always found legal, adult, consensual sex to be something far worse than the worst crime, murder. Witness our movie rating system. Loving, consensual sex between adults is rated X. Brutal murder, with blood and torture is rated R or even PG-13, shown in prime-time on shows like 24. Only in a puritan society is sex considered far worse than brutal murder and torture.

And so, in that society, soldiers who have a sexual orientation that some object to, well, that's a FAR more serious crime than mere robbery or murder, so the military has no problem making exceptions for psychopaths (so long as they are heterosexual pyschopaths), but has a huge problem letting in gays.

For me, I'm sorry, I think violence is what should be rated R and X, and sex should be rated PG-13. I'd much rather my kids be having sex than they be violent. Everyone eventually has sex. One would hope that only a very small minority of us ever turn to violence or crime. But puritanism rules.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Hatred of Bush?

UPDATED (I and II and III and IV)

Something I have been accused of by defenders of Bush (and that I've seen others accused of as well) when I've criticized Bush is that I "hate" Bush or that I'm "just a Bush hater." I'll leave aside any comment about what this says about them or their movement in support of their great Leader for the time being. Of course, I denied that I hated Bush, because I did not think that I did. But I did not put a great deal of thought into it. Then the latest scandal over the US Attorney firings happened. And so came a realization.

As I was sitting, thinking about this and what Alberto Gonzales has done in relation to this, I had an epiphany. I really don't hate George W. Bush. I know this for a fact now because I know that I do truly despise Alberto Gonzales, and that feeling is completely different from how I feel about Bush. Andrew Sullivan has said that he has an irrational feeling of cooties when he thinks about Hillary Clinton that he has not fully explained. I thought of that when I tried to come up with why I didn't hate Bush, despite everything he has done. Why I didn't hate him even though I despised his own handpicked Attorney General. If I would hazzard a guess, it would be because Bush just seems so lost, even though I know he really isn't. He seems so out of his league. So incurious. It is like he is a bad president more by negligence than by his personal design, which he leaves to Cheney, Rove, et al. Whereas I see Gonzales and I see someone who apparently should know better, but still revels in being a total toadie to Bush. He's supposed to be the top law enforcement officer in the nation, yet he instead ignores, violates, and spits on the law. He lies to Congress. He lies to us. And he does it with a smug look on his face, likely because he thinks he is bulletproof because of his close ties to Bush and perhaps also from being used to a do-nothing, rubber-stamp Congress.

So I've come to the conclusion that I despise Gonzales, but I really just don't have it in me to feel anything for Bush more than pity. That doesn't mean I would not want him impeached. That doesn't mean I don't want him out of office this second. But it does mean I just don't have any personal animosity for the man, for reasons that may be as difficult to fathom as Sullivan's cooties.

UPDATE I: Ok, this was a quick update. If you want to see why you too should despise Gonzales, read this, this, and this. (h/t Andrew Sullivan).

UPDATE II: Ok, and now there's this.

UPDATE III: Thanks to taz for this. Gonazales has to go. Now.

UPDATE IV: It is not nice to tease me like this.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Scandal and Corruption Fatigue

I hate to say it, but I'm so sick of the scandal-ridden, corrupt Bush administration and their GOP toadies in the media, congress, and the think tanks that I have finally acheived scandal fatigue.

I enjoy reading Glenn Greenwald, for instance, but I am actually starting to almost get bored reading them because, sadly, post after post is all about the same thing. It is sad because we all should pay attention to this, but I'm starting not to even care because it is clear that the scandals will continue, the corruption will continue, and nothing will really be done about it. The Democratic Party retook Congress, and yet Bush and his GOP toadies are still there, and Bush isn't even slowing down. It is like nothing gets through to him, and there is no one in power willing to really stand up to him and the GOP because again, the GOP set the narrative, and the only way to stop the war is to stop funding it, and the GOP-set narrative is that to do so is political suicide even though stopping the war is supported by a large majority of Americans.

Maybe I would not feel so depressed about it all if it seemed like we could do something about it. At my most optimistic, I think there will be a transformation of our politics in that libertarians will come over to the Democratic party, shifting the balance in elections and changing the Democratic Party for the better. Wouldn't that be ironic if the net result of Bush is that the Democratic Party, always more to the middle than the GOP, became the new, real conservative party?

Maybe I'm also depressed because I know that the core supporters of the Bush movement will never see the light because they are all RWAs and so they are immune to logic, reason, and evidence to the contrary of following the great Leader.

Please, can't someone get me out of my depression about this pathetic state of affairs. I feel like I should be more optimistic due to recent events, but instead I'm feeling more and more ambivalent. This concerns me because if I feel this way, what must others out there be feeling, others who could fight the RWAs? A little optimism would be most welcome.

UPDATE: I just read Glenn's entry for the morning and I have to say it made me feel a bit better. Not because Ann Coulter got yet another article pulled, which never seems to slow her down, but because he reminded me that the Democrats finally showed some backbone and shunned the Fox Nothing Channel's planned debate in Nevada. Now if only they would boycott Fox Nothing Channel entirely. It is pure propeganda, and you gain nothing by being on the propeganda channel of the opposing party.

Friday, March 9, 2007

If a blog falls in a forest...

... and nobody reads it, is it still there? Such philosophical questions I will probably seldom ask and never attempt to answer. I bring it up because I suspect that I'm the only one reading this as of yet, so I feel no strong push to say much. There are plenty of blogs I read regularly, and I must admit I'm always disappointed when there are days with no new entries. So in that sense, I'd hate to disappoint someone. Thus far, I don't think I have to worry.

As promised, here's a bit about me.

I'm a lawyer. Not sure what else one can say about that, except to promise that I don't drink blood and I do go out during daylight hours, usually with no ill effects. Though I do admit I don't much like garlic.

I lean libertarian, but in the small 'l' sense of the word, not in the Libertarian Party sense of the word. I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat, and probably never will be either.

I'm someone quite content to not know something when I have insufficient information, as opposed to filling in the blanks with wishful thinking. As such, I am an atheist, and quite happy to be one. I know that one does not need religion for morality, or really, for anything, though I also understand that many cling to it like a warm blanket, a feeling I am familiar with because I used to carry around a blanket when I was a small child and my parents had to rip it away from me and hide it after a while because I would not give it up.

I have an interest in politics and history, though I'll likely never be involved with either except as a spectator. I have almost zero political skills, and though my interpersonal skills have vastly improved since my shy, sometimes painfully so, childhood, I'm no social butterfly and I am quite content to stay home all weekend, never leaving my pajamas. (Though that seldom happens these days). So not only am I nerdy looking, I am a certified nerd. Or whatever the equivalent term is these days. I lose track. I can explore that subject in greater detail later - for instance the sorts of recreation I enjoy.

I like to comment on topics that interest me, so I've commented often on other blogs. Sometimes there are things I want to say that don't seem to quite fit into the comments, and so I made this blog. Thus far, I think part of the reason I haven't posted much is that I am still commenting on other blogs, so my venting is vented out and I have little left for this. Maybe I'll try changing that by posting comments here instead of on other blogs, but then I can't participate in discussions. I'll have to think on that.