Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens

It was pretty much literally impossible to agree with everything Christopher Hitchens said.

For example, I was 100% in agreement with his position that Henry Kissinger should be prosecuted, tried, and imprisoned for his myriad crimes against humanity. As he said in The Atlantic:

Many if not most of Kissinger's partners in politics, from Greece to Chile to Argentina to Indonesia, are now in jail or awaiting trial. His own lonely impunity is rank; it smells to heaven. If it is allowed to persist then we shall shamefully vindicate the ancient philosopher Anacharsis, who maintained that laws were like cobwebs-strong enough to detain only the weak and too weak to hold the strong. In the name of innumerable victims known and unknown, it is time for justice to take a hand.

On the other hand, if you agreed with him on Kissinger and Vietnam it was almost certain that you would disagree with him on Bush's invasion of Iraq, which he not only supported, but called "a war to be proud of".

You could agree with his positions on atheism and religions but wish he would be a little more polite and tolerant of the sensitivities of religious people, or at least that he would refrain from criticizing that beloved icon, Mother Theresa:

“[Mother Teresa] was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.”

Or you could take pleasure in his obvious enjoyment of language and learning, but just wish that he would be a little less sure of himself.

Hitchens was one of the greatest public intellectuals of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, A man whose English breeding and education were evident with every word he spoke, but who became an American and embraced that identity.

“Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the 'transcendent' and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don't be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.”

Hitch died yesterday of esophageal cancer at the age of sixty-two. It is a great loss for all of us.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Wanna be adopted?

Former Catholic? Atheist? General-purpose heathen?

If that's you, the Catholic League thinks they have what you need.

Today we are launching our “Adopt An Atheist” campaign, the predicate of which is, “We want atheists to realize that there may be Christians in their community, even if those Christians don’t even know they are Christian.”

Here’s what our campaign entails. We are asking everyone to contact the American Atheist affiliate in his area [click here], letting them know of your interest in “adopting” one of them. All it takes is an e-mail. Let them know of your sincere interest in working with them to uncover their inner self. They may be resistant at first, but eventually they may come to understand that they were Christian all along.

I only ask one thing: if you do hear from the Catholic League, and they do try to adopt/convert you, fair's fair. Give them every chance to become an atheist, but don't show them the secret handshake until you're sure.

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Friday, December 09, 2011

Inside the Bizarro World of the extreme right

Some of my comic book friends will be aware of the Bizarro World, a DC comics construct designed to be the opposite of earth. As Wikipedia teaches us: In the Bizarro world of "Htrae" ("Earth" spelled backwards), society is ruled by the Bizarro Code which states "Us do opposite of all Earthly things! Us hate beauty! Us love ugliness! Is big crime to make anything perfect on Bizarro World!" In one episode, for example, a salesman is doing a brisk trade selling Bizarro bonds: "Guaranteed to lose money for you". (And this was before AIG and credit default swaps!)

We've long thought that conservatives have a backward, bizarro understanding of how the world works, and today we have some excellent evidence of that fact.

Let's start with what's going on on Congress. Yesterday Republicans in the House of Representatives passed a resolution to block those power-mad regulators from adopting a rule regulating farm dust. After all, who wants our stout yeoman farmers crippled by the nettling impositions of the pointy-headed bureaucrats in Washington?

Only one tiny quibble, though: EPA had never proposed tightening rules on farm dust, and the agency said lawmakers were raising concerns based on a myth about the rulemaking.
. . .
In her letter dated Oct. 14, [EPA administrator Lisa] Jackson said that she decided to keep the 1987 dust standard in place after a review of the science, an analysis by agency scientists and recommendations from an outside advisory panel.

That's right, the Republicans have protected farmers against an imaginary regulation.

I guess that's better than spending their time on legislation that would actually do something, since we know how badly that comes up when Republicans get their way.

Or, to go to a more fertile hotbed of unreality, the right-wing talk radio.

You've undoubtedly heard something about President Obama's speech earlier this week (although, strangely enough, it seemed to get a lot less news coverage than what any number of Republicans said this week).

Here's what Rush Limbaugh said about it:

The elected president of the United States said in Osawatomie, Kansas, trying to be Teddy Roosevelt, that the United States of America has never worked. That is a quote, “has never worked.”

And here is what President Obama actually said:

Now, just as there was in Teddy Roosevelt's time, there is a certain crowd in Washington who, for the last few decades, have said, let's respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. "The market will take care of everything," they tell us. If we just cut more regulations and cut more taxes – especially for the wealthy – our economy will grow stronger. Sure, they say, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, then jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everybody else. And, they argue, even if prosperity doesn't trickle down, well, that's the price of liberty.
Now, it's a simple theory. And we have to admit, it's one that speaks to our rugged individualism and our healthy skepticism of too much government. That's in America's DNA. And that theory fits well on a bumper sticker. But here's the problem: It doesn't work. It has never worked. It didn't work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It's not what led to the incredible postwar booms of the 50s and 60s. And it didn't work when we tried it during the last decade. I mean, understand, it's not as if we haven't tried this theory.

As anyone with elementary reading ability can see, what has "never worked" in President Obama's statement is the boldfaced language: that if we just cut more regulations and cut more taxes, especially for the wealthy, our economy will grow stronger and jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everybody else.

There are two important observations to make about this:

1. He is incontrovertibly correct.
2. The people who believe in the assertion about the magical powers of cutting regulations and taxes, regardless of what they say, care nothing about what trickles down to poor people. As long as the rich are better off, that's literally all they care about.

But most importantly, we see that the only way Limbaugh was able to find to attack Obama's speech is by attacking the opposite of what Obama actually said. What we see time and again is that the Republicans are not only unaware of reality, they are actively hostile to it.

So in closing, I think there's only one thing to say: Hello!

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It's our birthday!

Hard to believe it's been six years, but the first post at Rational Resistance was exactly six years ago today, December 9, 2005.

I couldn't count, or even estimate, the hours I've spent writing here, or the hours that people have spent reading my posts. I hope I continue to be interesting, thought-provoking, and entertaining.

Whoever you are, I also hope that sometimes I post things you don't agree with, or that you wouldn't have thought of. If I do, let me know.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Proof of Republican vote Suppression

One of the hotly contested areas in state legislation in recent years has been Republican attempts to create new, onerous identification requirements for voting and registering to vote. Republicans claim that all they are interested in is the integrity of our sacred ballot, while liberals and Democrats have pointed out that these efforts are no more than a thinly veiled attempt to prevent one of the most reliable Democratic voting blocks from voting.

For example, Attorney General Eric Holder has argued that voter suppression efforts are inconsistent with the values embedded in American democracy.

“I am not talking about any one particular state effort, but more generally I think for those who would consider trying to use methods, techniques to discourage people from coming to the polls — that’s inconsistent with what we say we are as a nation,” Holder said.

Evidence in a new case in Maryland proves that the Republican claims are the transparent lies we have argued they are, and that they have, in fact, been engaged in a systematic effort to keep black voters away from the polls.

The case is a prosecution for election law violations by the campaign of former Maryland governor Robert Ehrlich. The Washington Post reports that in the lead-up to the 2010 gubernatorial election, Ehrlich's campaign placed over 100.000 anonymous robocalls to the predominantly black Baltimore and Prince George's Counties, telling voters there that the election was in the bag for the Democratic candidate and that they could “relax.”

Without anything more this seems like a pretty clear-cut case of suppression, right? The jury agreed, and convicted Ehrlich’s campaign manager Paul Ehrlich of four counts of election law violations.

Documents obtained in the case prove beyond any question that the whole point of this campaign was to suppress the black vote. For instance in a campaign briefing document called the Schurick Doctrine the consultants say “The Schurick Doctrine is designed to promote confusion, emotionalism, and frustration among African American democrats, focused in precincts where high concentrations of AA vote. As a result of the doctrine, the three favorable outcomes will benefit Republicans on Election Day. The three outcomes are: Don’t Vote (Stay Home), Don’t Vote at the Top of the Ticket ( Skip Box/Bracket for Governor), and Vote Republican (largely due to our persuasion messaging).

Another page of handwritten notes from Rhonda Russell, who worked for the campaign, included the note “suppress turnout in Black communities”.

How do you defend the indefensible? Well, the Republican defendants claimed that the robocalls had nothing to do with suppressing black vote, it was just part of a “reverse psychology” strategy, whereby their calls to black voters would somehow motivate their white conservative base to get out to vote.

Of course, anyone who has worked on campaigns and knows about how they work knows that the Get Out the Vote (GOTV) effort is designed to make sure that identified supporters vote by calling them and reminding them to vote, not by calling people who you expect to support your opponent.

In other words, what we have argued for many years, racism in Republican efforts at vote suppression, has just been proved beyond a doubt.

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