Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The most ludcrious argument about political terrorism...

...I have possibly ever heard.  As ludicrous a display of fallacious reasoning as Glenn Beck condemning income taxes and, in the same speech, explaining that he learned his beliefs by reading books in the public library (the quip that will go down in dumbassery history as the "books are free" line, or the moment where performative contradiction met itself).

This one is just as bad, maybe even worse because more people are committing it.  My friend David Rhaesa deserves credit for calling this kind of argument a "self-induced reductio ad absurdum"--when one side in a dispute makes an argument so ludicrously and gratuitously (unnecessarily) bad that it devastates their ethos. I call it an ill-conceived desperation play of an argument, brought about by an unquenchable desire to deflect, equivocate, and equalize.  So here it is:  Some folks on the right side of the spectrum are arguing that alleged Alabama-Huntsville shooter, professor Amy Bishop is the example of leftist violence the media has ignored in the wake of Joe Stack, patriots and oath-keepers, the Tiller murder, etc. Since this is possibly the worst argument since "She's a witch because she weighs the same as a duck," it is coming in strange fora around the blogosphere, but it reflects, in my opinion, a desire to strike back at the left for the obvious displays of right wing violence over the last year.

What was the political nature of Amy Bishop's shooting of a tenure committee? When pressed (meaning, when the time comes to make the obvious connection), none is ever made.  There was no political message in the shootings, nothing constructed by Bishop--eg, no online note, no deliberate targeting of her political enemies, no history of embracing or advocating political violence, no copies of other people's manifestos or notorious political tracts among her possessions, no public statements by her or authorities after the fact, and (distinguishing the Bishop case from the complex but clearly political Stack case) no followers creating Facebook pages in Bishop's honor.

Are these people really arguing that political terrorism is reducible to what side of the aisle you are on, irrelevant of the nature of your crime? Well, it's not even that explicit.  Those calling for Bishop to be branded the leftist Roeder are simply demanding the media treat him that way without establishing the primary linkage. Others are at pains to establish a configural, Beck-like connection, always falling short of making a case based on Bishop's ideology or purpose of the horrible act in question. A conservative blogger politicizes it by pointing out that "liberal" Democratic Congressman and then-Massachusetts DA Bill Delahunt dropped the ball on Bishop. But professional negligance, if that's indeed what happened, does not make this a political act.  Others point out the potentially racist motive or context in the killings, then skip to, see, she was a leftist who killed minorities because she was denied tenure--don't you see how this is political terrorism from the left? "The poor Moonbat is suffering from Obama Derangement Syndrome," another blog reads. Others, knowing this couldn't possibly be the lefty-terrorist act they are looking for, attempt to make it contextually leftist: Bishop was a case of affirmative action gone bad, or the product of liberal tolerance toward crime.

I wondered about the lazy nature of these arguments for a while. I searched for the enthymeme. Then it hit me: Some of this is about Bishop being an academic.  It's an enthymeme because the suppressed premise--that all academics are dangerous leftists--doesn't need to be explained to a right wing audience; that audience, having been taught from birth to fear both academics and females, already sees every female professor as a potential terrorist. 

And before getting into a game of body counts: For the record, I know there have been self-proclaimed, and even organizationally sanctioned, ultra-lefty political murders in the past. There may still be a few going on now and then. Individual, terroristic political violence is pervasive in history, and it may perhaps be of little comfort that at least the Trotskyists condemned it (the Stalinists exploited it, like they exploited everything else). But one is tempted to ask where one might find the right's Trotsky. I am not interested in defending the Red Brigades, or the Unabomber (Luddism is arguably conservatism with a populist-leftist-anticapitalist fur hat, but again, let's discuss that some other time).  Antisystemic movements sometimes embrace the killing of innocents and when they do, we should roundly condemn it.  What's happening on the right, from the right, at this historical juncture (economic crashes, Black POTUS, large-scale global misery and alienation) is approaching epidemic, and you have talk show hosts, protest signs, and several other rhetorical channels calling for violence.  There's simply no present analog from the left, whatever the left "is" or isn't. 

That so much of the right can't see its own inconsistencies and freakouts on this issue makes me kind of sad for them, and frustrated at humanity's inability to more critically discern good and bad public arguments. But I would be remiss if I didn't note an important exception: Jonah Goldberg saves the credibility of mainstream conservatism by very reasonably concluding that Bishop's politics had nothing to do with her killing spree. This is an important distinction because Scott Roeder's politics so very obviously did have something to do with killing Tiller.

A follow-up, and a rather inspiring one, in my opinion. Bishop's daughter, Lily Bishop Anderson, a genetics major at Alabama-Huntsville, went back to class this week. One of her classes had been taught by Maria Davis, killed by Amy Bishop. While some unspecified parents expressed concern to the media that Ms. Bishop Anderson was "allowed" to return to her classes, Davis's widower was actually supportive, while still obviously in pain.

Davis’ widower, Salumote Davis, said he didn’t realize Bishop’s daughter was a student of his late wife, but he would not hold the tragedy against her. “I don’t have a problem with it,” he said, his voice breaking.
That's the model--both emotional and moral-that we need right now.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Obama's Latest HCR Offer

Obama puts his proposal on the table. Public option not included. GOP continues to lie about (a) public support for public option and (b) effectiveness of tort reform. If progressives had hit the streets and town meetings in proportion to our numbers last summer, we wouldn't be praying for the success of a watered-down version of HCR. It's not a majority of people who opposed meaningful reform, it's a majority of money .

there is an element that desires the shedding of blood

Blood has been shed. That's what some people want. They're happy about it. Some are celebrating the act. Others are preparing for future acts. There is an element that desires the shedding of blood.

As Marvin Gaye asked in a similarly angry and pathological period, what's going on?

Friday, February 19, 2010

G. Will Intellectually Spanks S. Palin

I don't even care about Will's typically arrogant and bourgeois dismissals of populism. I am just loving the conservatives beating up on each other like in this column, or inviting Birchers to co-sponsor CPAC, making racial remarks in their speeches, all the stuff that old people do as know, get old: bicker and gaffe, bicker and gaffe. I don't even care if the GOP takes it all back in 10/12. They won't have it for long.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Suicide Flight in Austin: what we know so far

In the wake of what are, after all, still only threats of anti-government violence from wannabe incipient fascists out there, I was stunned to hear of the suicide attack on the Internal Revenue Service in the beautiful city of Austin.  Ben Wear, at the Austin American-Statesman's news blog, reported that
The plane that crashed into a Northwest Austin office building today was a Piper Cherokee PA-28-236 Dakota, a discontinued single-engine plane first produced in 1977. According to, an aviation Web site, the 236 Dakota has four seats, 235 horsepower and a top speed of 148 knots. That’s about 170 miles per hour. It carries a maximum of 72 gallons of fuel, weight about 3,000 fully loaded and has a range of 650 miles. The plane is just under 25 feet long and just over seven feet high.
The Associated Press, among other mainstream news agencies, have simply reported that Joseph Stack was angry with the IRS. I imagine that in the coming days we will hear liberal lefties claiming Stack was a teabag-like anti-IRS nut, while righties will emphasize the "class war" nature of his suicide note. The note, however, is, at least on my first reading, irreducible to leftist or rightist rant, but clearly angry at a government that props up the rich while soaking "the middle class." You can read the suicide note here. It concludes, in part: “Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well." --which, sorry for sounding insensitive, doesn't strike me as coherent politics in any sense. 
Market Watch felt it important to point out that it was an isolated incident. This was after F-16s were deployed over the crash site, surely a matter of routine, but one which must have been unnerving to an already shocked city. At the high end, it's estimated there were 190 employees in the building:  The GovExec blog reports that some media are saying one person is unaccounted for, while the IRS is saying all employees are accounted for--many of whom are receiving treatment for burns and smoke inhalation.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lipstick on a Crocodile (crocodile tears, get it? sigh...)

I think Family Guy is hit-and-miss, and I don't think Seth Macfarlane and the gang would be put off by that judgment.  But Sarah Palin doesn't get to complain about people making jokes about disabled children anymore.  Not after she cynically, shamelessly, and unironically gave Rush Limbaugh a free pass.  Nope, sorry, done, thanks for playing, you crazy, crazy person. 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

In praise of What You See Is What You Get by Chumbawamba

Ah, WYSIWYG. My copy of this CD is 11 years old and well-worn, mistreated, lost and found. It ripped nicely though, and sounds better than ever. It's incredibly well-produced. It is better than Tubthumping in spots. It was a commercial failure, which was probably good for Chumbawamba as artists. It's a scathing critique from the reluctant inside of techno pop culture. "Politics doesn't exist. Automobiles screetch when they come to a halt." Noteable tracks--all of them, but check out "Ladies for Compassionate Lynching" and "Pass It Along."

Friday, February 12, 2010

up down turnaround please don't let me hit the ground

Maybe my favorite song from the 1980s?

having what it takes

From a recent conversation about this silly, silly person.

XXX: One does not need to be 'anti-gay' to advocate against gay marriage.

Me: You're right: one merely needs to be incredibly, unbearably boring.

Shared Sacrifice Weekend Dissident Soldiers with special guest Jeff Paterson 2/13/2010 - Shared_Sacrifice on Blog Talk Radio

Shared Sacrifice Weekend Dissident Soldiers with special guest Jeff Paterson 2/13/2010 - Shared_Sacrifice on Blog Talk Radio:

We will explore the story of Marc Hall, Fort Stewart soldier and Hip Hop artist, who wrote an angry hip hop song about stop-loss and is being court-marshalled for it (the Army will actually ship him to Iraq or Kuwait for the trial). We will play the song, 'Stop Loss,' on the podcast. Jeff Paterson is a former dissident soldier himself, and is project director of Courage to Resist. He will talk to us about Marc's case, and his own refusal to deploy in the first Iraq war in 1991. During livestreaming, please share your opinions in the chat room or give us a call at (347) 327-9615.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

What's in a name?

I'm sorry, but any movement funded by FreedomWorks, dontGO and Americans For Prosperity, and which pays Sarah Palin $100,000 to give a speech at a convention, isn't a "grass-roots movement."

The convention, by the way, is a for-profit event.  Sort of like a boat show or a tupperware party rather than a political convention. 

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

McCain and DADT: latest in a pathetic history of lies, opportunism, and betrayal

It's not that John McCain hates the military.  It's just that, like everyone else around him, soldiers exist to be exploited for his own political ends.  Three years ago, John McCain stated that, should the military's top brass support repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, he would be behind the change. Now, tainted by three years of divisivenes, a Republican Party that has surrendered to racists, conspiracy theorists and fundamentalists, clinging to national party status when a majority of its members are not sure Obama was born in the U.S., (while a fat majority believe the president should be impeached for...something), times have changed. McCain is like the unpopular boy at school who, desperately tagging along with whoever will accept him, changes his beliefs more often than his underwear. McCain's behavior in front of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Secretary of Defense was as disgraceful as it was opportunistic:

with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen testifying to senators after President Obama's announcement that he would seek a congressional repeal of the 15-year-old policy. Mullen called repealing the policy, which bans openly gay men and lesbians from serving, "the right thing to do" and said he was personally troubled by effectively forcing service members to "lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens." Gates told the Armed Services Committee, "I fully support the president's decision." In response, McCain declared himself "disappointed" in the testimony. "At this moment of immense hardship for our armed services, we should not be seeking to overturn the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy," he said bluntly, before describing it as "imperfect but effective."
Pathetic and ethically indefensible, this latest unpredictable growth in McCain's brain calls into question the entire McCain narrative. Since he knows that, in his own military career, he served alongside brave soldiers of all sexual orientations, he is basically taking a giant whiz on veterans, the joint chiefs, and the Commander-in-chief. It's time to remind readers that, whatever the authenticity of McCain's actual suffering during Vietnam, there is strong evidence that he has since told a series of whopper-quality lies about that ordeal.  He plagiarized Alexander Solzhenitsyn's story about the "cross in the dirt" episode that allegedly occurred during his imprisonment (Solzhenitsyn himself, never above embellishment, likely lied about the episode in the first place). McCain has been particularly nasty on the Senate floor to Vietnam veterans, perhaps thinking he is in some way qualified to judge them and their life experiences. And obviously, he has never shown qualms about exploiting his POW history (whatever it may objectively be) to score political points. It's understandable that he thinks he's entitled to do that; he's enjoyed a life of government-supported privilege for all but three years of his life. But his unwillingness to share that privilege with other soldiers, when he knows deep down that his opposition to the repeal is just another McCain BS story is inhuman and, by the rules he purports to subscribe to himself, unpatriotic.

It's time to write John McCain's political obituary. More philandering than John Edwards, more profane than Dick Cheney, more deceptive than Richard Nixon, and a bigger political whore than Max Baucus, John McCain is everything we don't like about old politics.