Friday, July 23, 2010

The Canadian Census Flap

Excellent article, fascinating discussion thread.
Libertarians and the census

The announced reasons for making the 2011 census long form voluntary is that it is 'intrusive' and that it is 'coercive' to make it mandatory. If this were the the position of a principled, reality-based libertarian government, then it would be a powerful argument. But it isn't.
But that's a policy wonk blog. Very perceptive - indeed, perhaps too perceptive to quite grasp the Harper government's essential thinking... to be charitable about it.

From the Globe and Mail:
while many voters won’t notice or care about what happens to the census, “it will resonate deeply with certain swathes of voters by communicating to them that this government shares their suspicion of stats and the pointy-headed, out-of-touch academics who analyze them,” he writes.
Because, for conservative activists and intellectuals, what is “truly infuriating to them is the suspicion that these types of knowledge play a role in actively cultivating non-conservative values and a public philosophy that acknowledges a role for government in addressing and reducing certain structural inequalities of society,” Prof. Saurette writes.

“The less visible these structural issues are, the less likely it is that advocacy groups will be able to persuade Canadians that government programs are necessary. The less government programs seem necessary, the less government itself seems valuable. And the less government itself seems valuable, the more likely it is that conservative market-oriented values and principles can flourish.”
Of course, a conservatism that depends upon being insulated from reality and which takes steps to gut meaningful review of it's policies is barely distinguishable from an autocracy.

I, for one, am beginning to look forward to a federal election.

Ugly America

Some Things  Can


I just saw something like that today. It was over at the Daily Beast, and it has to do with the Odious Breitbart. Lloyd Grove writes:
For the media-savvy Breitbart, it’s an unalloyed triumph—even better than last year’s redacted videos of a fake pimp and prostitute seeking business advice from ACORN, which resulted in Congress voting to defund the community group. But lest anyone think he’s savoring his moment in the sun, he says think again.
“I hate this!” Breitbart told me Wednesday morning. “I feel bad for this lady.”
Well, as they say, sincerity is the key to success. Once you can fake that, the world's your oyster. Grove continues, apparently capable of processing such an enormity with a straight face.
“[Breitbart's source] told me about this back in early April—he said ‘I just heard a really sensitive speech, where this lady recounts this story and the entire audience affirms it,’ ” Breitbart said about the unidentified man who provided the video of Sherrod’s March 27 speech, adding that he can’t explain the highly selective editing. “I don’t know this person. I can’t divine what that person’s motivation was. I don’t know.”
In the full video—which Breitbart has since posted as well—Sherrod tells NAACP members about her experience decades ago as a case-worker for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund helping a financially strapped white farmer, and how she overcame her own prejudices to embrace the notion that whites and blacks share common interests and problems. “When I made that commitment, I was making that commitment to black people and to black people only,” Sherrod tells the crowd. “But [with God’s grace] you realize that the struggle is really about poor people.”
I asked Breitbart if he regretted posting the redacted video: Wouldn’t the full context of Sherrod’s words be considered exculpatory? “’Exculpatory’ is in the eye of the beholder,” Breitbart answered. He stoutly defended his redacted video, claiming that the audience’s approving response to Sherrod’s confession—of initially not wanting to help the white farmer more than minimally necessary—demonstrates that the NAACP is guilty of the same racially charged attitudes for which the civil-rights organization recently slammed Tea Party activists.
Within hours of Breitbart’s post, Fox News stars such as Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity were inaccurately presenting her remarks as though they reflected the current policy at the Department of Agriculture, and demanded her head on a pike. Weirdly, the NAACP, which had access to her full remarks, joined in calling for Sherrod’s resignation—and Vilsack followed suit.
Oh of COURSE it's a triumph! Yep. If that's what you need to tell yourself. And of course, by the way, the full version of the tape PROVES that "reverse racism" is a terrible, terrible problem, and that black people are out to get "whitey." Didn't people applaud when Shirley Sherrod revealed that she hadn't "gone the extra mile" for a white farm family? Well that proves she's a racist!
In the full video—which Breitbart has since posted as well—Sherrod tells NAACP members about her experience decades ago as a case-worker for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund helping a financially strapped white farmer, and how she overcame her own prejudices to embrace the notion that whites and blacks share common interests and problems. “When I made that commitment, I was making that commitment to black people and to black people only,” Sherrod tells the crowd. “But [with God’s grace] you realize that the struggle is really about poor people.”
I asked Breitbart if he regretted posting the redacted video: Wouldn’t the full context of Sherrod’s words be considered exculpatory? “’Exculpatory’ is in the eye of the beholder,” Breitbart answered. He stoutly defended his redacted video, claiming that the audience’s approving response to Sherrod’s confession—of initially not wanting to help the white farmer more than minimally necessary—demonstrates that the NAACP is guilty of the same racially charged attitudes for which the civil-rights organization recently slammed Tea Party activists.
That's the message the people who like Breitbart want to hear. But, you know, they really don't need him to tell them. They can pull it right out of a Media Matters interview. The truth is irrelevant.
timeisnow (The Daily Beast Forums)
She is a racists, the tape was not edited, which would mean the tape was tampered with. When she refers that she gave the white guy to one of his own kind, that is sooooo offensive to a white person, who are you kidding.
The fact in Media Matters interview she was very Racist shows how racist she really is. She also admitted she didnt help him the best she could have, again thats racist... pay attention and stop making excuses, thats the double standard Breitbart is talking about. 
Breitbart - and Beck, and Limbaugh and Boortz and quite a few others make quite a nice living serving up the stupid for those who want to be told what they want to hear. I'm starting to think that there ought to be some recourse, beyond economic pressure, for those who feel the public airwaves are being abused for private profit at the expense of the Social Contract.  This clearly exceeded the bounds of protected speech;  it was a deliberate and malicious ploy, performed with the clear intent to do grave, personal and unjust harm; disrupt the administration and deprive it of a surprisingly poised and competent civil servant.

Few of us would do so well under such circumstances. I'm sure that's what Brietbart presumed - that she'd do no better than any other person in such circumstances.

The political appointee turned out to be an ass - and admitted as much. He's embarrassed, as well he should be. And I can't even imagine what went through the minds of the people over at the NAACP. That utterly baffles me, as has been pointed out; they had the full tape. I presume they are humiliated. 
 "We were snookered," [into believing that Ms Sherrod made racist remarks] Benjamin Jealous, the NAACP president, noted ruefully.
Apparently nobody considered the source, and there were those involved who should know very well that Brietbart is in fact a committed political enemy - a propagandist, not a journalist.

But this is not about them; Mr. Grove, you treated Breitbart in the way one would treat a colleague. 

I shall presume that judgement to be accurate on your part. Meanwhile, Sir, here's how the pros do news and analysis.



Quick update:
Some useful introspection seems to have come out of all of this. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It reminds me of Mulroony

The CBC reports:



Industry Minister Tony Clement has dismissed growing calls for him to reverse his decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census, saying he and Prime Minister Stephen Harper are on the same page on the issue.

"There's not a micron of difference of opinion between myself and the prime minister on this," Clement told the CBC's Rosemary Barton in an interview on Power & Politics with Evan Solomon.
During the interview from London, Clement said the government has taken a "compromise position" between privacy concerns and ensuring usable data from the next census in May 2011. Clement's comments came a day after Munir Sheikh, the head of Statistics Canada, the national statistical agency, resigned in protest over the move to scrap the mandatory survey.
The Conservatives have been on the defensive since Clement announced at the end of June that the long-form part of the 2011 census would no longer be mandatory because of privacy concerns. Canadians who receive the long form would be able to refuse to fill it out.
The furor escalated after Sheikh cancelled a planned town hall meeting with Statistics Canada staff, then announced Wednesday evening on the agency's website he was resigning over the issue.
In his statement, Sheikh insisted a voluntary survey cannot be a substitute for the mandatory form.
I'm philosophically opposed to pandering to our tin-foil party fringes. And that is all this seems to be about. Considering how well things have gone south of the border with that strategy.

On Behalf of Truth, Justice and Shirley Sherrod, Olbermann Leaves a mark...

Substantially expanded.

A Special Comment about La Affaire Sherrod: (H/t All That Natters)


Let that stand in all it's magnificence. I can but raise my lighter high...

From the transcript:
Let me make this utterly clear: What you see on Fox News, what you read on Right Wing websites, is the utter and complete perversion of journalism, and it can have no place in a civilized society. It is words crashed together, never to inform, only to inflame. It is a political guillotine. It is the manipulation of reality to make the racist seem benevolent, and to convict the benevolent as racist — even if her words must be edited, filleted, stripped of all context, rearranged, fabricated, and falsified, to do so. 
What you see on Fox News, what you read on Right Wing websites… is a manipulation. Not just of a story, not just on behalf of a political philosophy. Manipulation of a society, its intentional redirection from reality and progress, to a paranoid delusion and the fomenting of hatred of Americans by Americans. And nearly every last word of it is never, in any tangible sense, true. Ask Shirley Sherrod. 
But this evil has not become institutionalized just because of the hard, soul-less work of Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes and the scum Breitbart. Our society has not bought into the premise of this 24-hour parade of feces dressed up as news just because of a clever marketing plan. The assassins of the Right have been enabled on the Left.
The legitimate media didn't first look at the whole videotape. We didn't first ask if the doctored clip perverted by the scum Breitbart didn't seem to be leading up to a "however." We didn't, even today, when even this network let this pornographer of propaganda Breitbart come on and spew his lies and his venom and his fraudulent self-defense like a quack doctor attending a life-or-death surgery, we didn't once…consider the source.

Shirley responds.



The whole affair is covered in excruciating and embarrassing detail on Media Matters - and even here, despite everything, despite the obvious facts in evidence, it's clear that the right wing and conservative posters are either wilfully missing the point, or even more disturbingly, incapable of comprehending it. Read the comments for yourself.

President Obama. This incident has been pointed to as a "teachable moment." The time has long passed to play patty-cake with the pooh-flingers and panderers. It is, indeed, time to simply put the rock in the hole. It's clear that people who would do such a thing have no regard for civilized behaviour, that they are cheats, liars and propagandists.

There is no place here for "dialogue." No room for understanding. No room for compromise. They will not suffer such a thing, so you may as well admit it. They refer to it as "Cultural warfare." You are in their minds the icon of everything unholy, and they are perfectly willing to tear your nation down around their own ears rather than suffer the "unholy" ideals of the "liberalism" they think you champion.

One comment from Media Matters shows how deep and ancient the hatred is:

I will take a liberal over a progressive or communitariast any day. Too bad the liberal party has been taken over by radicals who used to live in communes, wear flowers in their hair, hate the establishment, call the military baby-killers, call the police pigs, burned their brains with acid, pot, and cocaine, and said that you should never trust anybody over the age of 30.

Great group.
Yep. Those people, who protested the war, marched with MLK, campaigned for Bobby Kennedy, worked their asses off to pass the Equal Rights Amendment; those who bled and puked during the Stonewall Riots; those who stood up intending only to mildly assert out that rivers should not catch on fire all by themselves, that air should not be poisonous, that water should not be toxic, that equal access to education is a damn right, and if it ain't, it ought to be; those that championed the rights of the disabled, those that spoke up against racism... hell, those who fought and died side by side under the bombs of the Stukas, the first to die in hopes of arresting the Fascist tide - these are YOUR people, Sir!

Yeah, some of them were outright Commies, most were not. For what the "left" is, as described by "rightists" of the authoritarian stripe are those that hold humanity to be capable of improvement, that each person must and can be expected to live up to their own better nature and that Civilization that does not support this end is no civilization at all. I don't call that "Liberalism." Unless you'd call C.S. Lewis, Gandhi and Jesus Christ "godless liberals."

Brietbart, on the other hand, stands firm with the dark and bankrupt side of history, in which the dominant assertion is that humanity is depraved, damned and doomed from birth to always make the wrong choice, that women are inherent vessels of sin and that children are wilful little spawns of hell that must be have thier disobedient natures crushed so they may earn salvation through robotic obedience to "proper authority." It is a long and brutal history of spiritual and physical abuse that runs from the very Pyramids to Augustine through George Wallace and now dribbles and spurts from the toxic twerps on "Fox and Friends."

They have picked you as being the nail that must be hammered down, the man who represents, however imperfectly, everything they despise. They want to defeat you and destroy you. And don't take that as an impersonal distaste, if they could skin you alive and draw and quarter you live on FOX, not only would they do so, FOX would gain it's highest ratings ever. It's personal. It's as personal as it gets.

And for everyone, who they CAN get to, who they can destroy, who serve as their surrogate targets, it is personal. You owe them your position, and you owe them better.

Sir, you wished to be a Leader. Lead. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Even More Reliable than Glenn Beck!

...just click here...

Lies, Tony Clement, and Statistics

Canada's Conservatives have been trying to turn the Conservative Party into The Northern Tea Party, but unfortunately for them, Canadians do not tend to polorize along idiologial fracture lines as easily as do people in the US. Therefore, "Red Meat Treats," such as the Harper Government's decision to reward the Social Conservatives of the Prairie Provinces has rather backfired. (When only Alberta fails to disagree with you, in a conditional sort of way, it's not exactly a sign of broad consensus support.)
The Alberta government, however, said it backs the move, but wants to see details about how the quality and availability of data will be maintained – particularly so that it can still be compared to past records.
“We don't have a problem with removing threat of prosecution for the long form. We really don't. Quite frankly, it seems kind of heavy-handed,” said Cam Hantiuk, spokesman for Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach. 
And I'd agree with that. But it does go rather farther than that. It's not just making it voluntary. It's changes in the sampling rate, and also changes in what data is being gathered - and with little to tell me (or more importantly, the people with direct need for the data in order to plan budgets) what public good might be served. 


You see, we really do like having facts at hand when making decisions. And the Census - well that's the entire point to the damn thing. Of course, it does bring with it the possibility of providing demographic and economic information regarding government policies that a particular government might devoutly prefer to disavow.

But that's the entire point to the damn thing. Inconvenient truths. 


We have considerable aversion to autocratic and whimsical decision making, particularly when major stakeholders in the process and the results are pointedly ignored. The Globe and Mail (Canada's Grey Lady of Journalism, generally reliable in it's support of moderate conservatism,) grilled Industry Minister Tony Clement regarding the logic behind it. It's not in the least deferential. 


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It's the Agenda, Stupid

A Digg commenter made this post come together for me:


It's a Corporate agenda, disguised as your mean old white alcoholic Dad's agenda, disguised as a Christian agenda, disguised as a Libertarian agenda.


And Alan Grayson, a Democratic Representative from Florida, is either courageous or desperate enough to just lay it out. H/t Down with Tyrrany.



Now, in a seeming non-sequeteur - this bit of news...

As ads on energy/climate go, the new one from VoteVets, a progressive organization founded by veterans of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, is a little harder hitting than most.

The spot features commentary from retired Brigadier Gen. Steven Anderson, who was the chief of logistics for U.S. forces in Iraq under Gen. Petraeus, and who is now urging the Senate to pass a clean energy plan.
In the ad, Anderson tells viewers, “Breaking our addiction [to foreign oil] must not only be a military priority, but America’s mission, and why the Senate needs to pass a clean energy climate plan. It’ll put Americans to work developing new energy technologies that’ll save lives overseas, make us less dependent and more secure…. It’s time for our senators to choose: Pass a clean energy climate plan that makes us more secure, or let America keep paying the price.”

It’s a powerful argument from a compelling figure, and VoteVets is reportedly spending a half-million dollars to run the minute-long ad on national cable networks.

Why, you might wonder. There's a general, there's money, and it's talking about national security...



Oh. My.
CNN and MSNBC began airing the commercial today, but not Fox News. The Republican network has rejected the ad without explanation.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s happened before. In May, VoteVets put together a similar ad, which Fox News deemed “too confusing” for its audience.
An American Hero talking about Green Stuff? I can see how they might think that would "confuse" their audience with "facts" and stuff. Like, all that money going to Iran. I wonder how much sticks to Murdoch's hands on the way there and back again.

Monday, July 19, 2010

On the other hand, Mr. Greenwald, we both need more Porkypine!



Yes, Glenn. We must make a little room in our day to remind us why we bother.

The National Insecurity State and the Twitterpation of America

Everyone's abuzz and atwitter about the WaPo's investigative report, Top Secret America. 


It certainly inspired Glenn Greenwald, and your really must read every single substantive word. It is an on-point piece about the National Security State and a howl of frustration toward the endless flood of trivial drek that we must all wade through to find anything, anything at all of actual importance.

Ironically, it's exactly the same problem that the "Intelligence" community has... a flood of information that overwhelms one's intelligence.
If you read and write about politics full-time and are thus forced to subject yourself to the political media -- as I am -- what's most striking aren't the outrages and corruptions, but the overwhelming, suffocating, numbing stream of stupidity and triviality that floods the brain.  One has to battle the temptation to just turn away and ignore it all.  Every day, day after day, is consumed by some totally irrelevant though distracting melodrama:  what Sarah Palin wrote on her Facebook page, some "outrageous" snippet of a comment made by John Boehner or Harry Reid, some "crazy," attention-attracting statement from some fringe idiot-figure or TV blowhard that is exploited for superficial partisan gain or distraction value (hey, look over there:  I think Michelle Bachmann just said something outrageous!!!!).
Now compare that to this excerpt:

NSA whistle blower Adrienne Kinne, when exposing NSA eavesdropping abuses, warned of what ABC News described as "the waste of time spent listening to innocent Americans, instead of looking for the terrorist needle in the haystack."  As Kinne put it:
By casting the net so wide and continuing to collect on Americans and aid organizations, it's almost like they're making the haystack bigger and it's harder to find that piece of information that might actually be useful to somebody.  You're actually hurting our ability to effectively protect our national security.
Glenn goes on and I'm certain I could find others saying much the same. Indeed, it would take very little effort to pick up instructive examples of waste and duplication of effort. I learned to pad the bibliography in grade school. But in fact, it would add very, very little to what I'm going to say next, which is, sadly, mostly based on things I've known for quite a long time, and you probably know too.


Now, this is actually what an intelligence and policy analyst does. Ideally, they do it a long, long time ahead of the curve, so that infrastructure, government and regulation - all slow moving entities - are able to respond and adapt. 


This entire, completely mad situation occurred because national panic created a situation that could be exploited by political and economic opportunists; people who put their own agendas far ahead of any rational view of National Security.  So the US is now far less secure than it was, with less reliable intelligence than it had before, with a bizarre degree of available force deployed in the wrong places, addressing the wrong threats, generally in the worst possible way. Consequently, it's ability to wield power usefully and effectively in order to secure it's own national and economic interests is much diminished, to the extent that it explains why there has been no serious attempt to follow up on 9/11.


"Never distract an enemy who's in the process of destroying themselves."


The whole point to "national security" is making the nation secure; that means every single citizen and indeed, even the unwelcome visitors and the rats in the walls must be secure; it must be a perceived and genuine reality. 


They must know they are secured against predictable threats and hazards, and that their governments are both willing, able and capable of responding to emergencies effectively, so when things like Katrina or the oil spill in the gulf happen the competent response to a visible emergency will reassure them that they are in good hands in regard to situations that must be kept under a cloak of secrecy.


One way to demonstrate competence is to deal with the obvious in an intelligent and proportional way. If you are serious about a policy, if it's not merely an exercise in diverting funds to cronies, then there are certain things that must be done, things that will displease some constituencies while pleasing others, but which proceed logically from the proposition. 


If you want a good football team, you don't dump a quarter of the budget into the glee squad. You don't spend time playing tennis to "develop a rounded athleticism."  Most of all, you do not choose the squad based on which player's parents whine the loudest. Once the process is corrupted, the only predictable outcome is that you won't have a football team that can put the ball in the end-zone. Putting it in the end-zone is the point to the exercise, and between corruption, distraction and pandering - that's the national security situation in a nutshell.


A team that doesn't know what game they are playing, how to work together, or where the other team is.


One of the first things that should have happened in the weeks following 9/11 would have been to secure the petroleum infrastructure, since large piles of things that can leak or go bang with effects that dwarf any pitiful little WMD that might be cobbled together in a garage are a problem


Security, regulation and oversight for critical infrastructure should have been an immediate and obvious priority. Hasn't been done. Hell, the routine maintenance of critical infrastructure has not been done. 


When procedures and inspections are so sloppy as to permit a well to just blow up all by itself, it would be amazingly trivial to sabotage a pipeline, pumping station or tank farm. Considering the industry track record on safety and cover-ups, I'd venture a guess that the sabotage, if ever detected, might never be reported. 


The same for securing the ports; ensuring that it's impossible to casually transit a few shipping containers filled with God Knows What routed to Who Knows Where. Hasn't been done.


And consider the substitution of National Security Theatre for anything that might actually promote National Security, such as the TSA and the "no fly list." Meanwhile, air cargo remains largely unscreened and the baggage handling system is easily penetrated. People concerned about the potential for cheap, high-impact terrorism have been screaming about this for decades. Decades. Since the time it was fashionable to hijack planes and fly them to Cuba.


Fixing infrastructure and communications mis-matches are not sexy. Precautionary regulations that cost Boeing and Exxon money are third-rail double-plus un-sexy. It's a quick ticket to being taken down in a primary by some useful idiot who will rant on about god, guns, gays and "American Exceptionalism."


Meanwhile, various levels of law enforcement are making it increasingly clear that if you have a bad situation, the quickest way to make it worse is to ask a cop for help. So, aside from all the inherent wrong that presents, you can fairly much forget getting any ground-level intelligence out of the very communities that any terrorist would first think to hide within. "The revolutionary swims within a sea of peasants" - Chairman Mao. 


He owed everything to the astonishingly corrupt "legitimate" government.  


So the way to avoid that outcome is to govern honestly and have as few ignorant, sullen resentful peasants as humanly possible. That's a lot easier and far less expensive than running a counter-insurgency.    


When it becomes clear to ordinary people that they will be treated as aliens, subversives and criminals by agents of the state, that the worst might happen to them regardless of their innocence, what incentive is there for them to not be smuggling blow, spying for foreign powers or trafficking in illegal weapons and people? 


There would have been no Robin Hood without the Sheriff of Nottingham. Now, here's the obvious thing. From the viewpoint of people who fondly believe that they are in charge, the Sheriff is "one of them." He's one of the good guys. But in actual fact, he's the guy who's escalating the situation. It's hard to find Robin, but you know where this guy lives. Dealing with him sends a message and just incidentally, makes a whole bunch of really bad situations never happen in the first place. 


That is the goal of national security. Making sure that most bad situations never happen. 


Looking at the concentration of effort going into "narcoterrorism" at the WaPo site, it's clear there is dramatic concern about the overlap between drug trafficking and it's ability to generate funds and camouflage for terrorism. Or at least, concern within each intelligence community that they aren't getting their share of drug dollars.


And yet the most obvious response would be to literally legislate the problem away. 


Legalize drugs, regulate them in a sane manner, tax them cautiously, so as to avoid significant grey and black market activity and an enormous amount of human capital and a giant pile of wasted money will be released for other uses.


It would take a relatively small amount of that money to deal intelligently and humanely with the actual consequences of individual drug use - which, I might add, are largely un-addressed due to there being no money and a lack of warm bodies. And suddenly, without the influx of "drug offenders" into private enterprise prisons, those prisons could retask themselves and their staffs towards something actually useful - say, perhaps rehab and treatment for drug use, chronic PTSD and vets affected or disabled by traumatic brain injuries. 


In other words, you want to get as close to the root of a problem as possible, and that leads me to refer once again to petroleum infrastructure. Clearly it's vulnerable. Hell, it's falling apart and blowing up at random! Phasing it out in favour of renewables, and distributing fuel and energy production as widely and evenly as possible would be a Very Good Thing. 


Consider how much havoc could be caused by simply triggering an overload of the power grid on a hot summer day at rush hour on the Eastern Seaboard. The best way to avoid this is to ensure that power is generated diffusely so that there are many fewer obvious, high-value targets.


But the most important thing to understand about National Security is this - you always, always, always want to get at least two bangs for your buck. Worse, any dollar that is directly spent on guns and spies is pretty much wasted, because those are fall-backs; ways to address the worst case. So you really do not want to invest more than you actually need, and you really want to spend even those dollars in ways that develop capabilities that can be used for more mundane things.


It's like building a city wall, in olden days. It is a HUGE investment. It's required, of course, and it must be maintained, and manned. If you don't have it, you will be exploited or attacked. But the point to the effort is to secure everything else, and if it becomes half of everything, and makes everything else that much harder... it's not actually doing it's job. Indeed, if it actually gets in the way of those it's intended to keep secure, they will subvert it as a matter of course.


Government should foster, encourage and regulate toward the end of seeing the nation secure itself, organically, in the ordinary course of affairs. That is to say, you regulate and legislate so that things that tend to make the nation more secure against external threats, and promote domestic tranquility and prosperity happen as a happy and natural side effect of what people are ordinarily doing. 


This generally means securing lines of communication, encouraging inter-dependencies between classes and regions, fostering trust, building relationships and generally being responsive and useful. In other words, when you call, they should come - and they should have better things to do than show up for no good reason.


When it starts to look to large portions of your population that they have a greater natural alliance and a greater reason to owe loyalty to foreign governments, drug lords, street gangs and of course, personal networks and families - that signifies national irrelevance - and at that point, you don't really have a "state" to "secure."


So, maybe you all should get to work on that. Me, I'd deal with the unemployment crisis. Can't really think of a bigger threat to national security than a large number of hungry, desperate, well-armed peoplewho can find out where you live by poking a few buttons on their smartphones. But that's just me. Carry on as you will.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Perps And Consequences

The war on drugs has to be one of the single stupidest policies ever devised.


The War on Drugs
Via: Medical Coding Certification


Even if every single thing D.A.R.E. and the various "drug warriors" said about slippery slopes and inappropriateness for medical use were factual (a matter of some considerable dispute between those who care more than I, one way or the other), the unregulated consequences predicted by the pearl-clutching nannies would still be less severe than the current state of affairs.


This is leaving aside the entire question as to whether people should be "permitted" to use drugs - since it's clearly failed to change drug usage in any detectable way, it's my presumption that the war is exactly what it seems to be - an ongoing war against people, and that the violence and repression is not a means to an end, it is the entire point. 


I refer to it as the "Bigger Hammer" theory of governance. If things don't go as you desire, if people don't behave as you think they should, pull out your biggest hammer and hit them as hard as you can. I'm quite certain I've referred to it as the Gallagher School of Public Policy. I had no actual idea at the time that it is also Gallagher's idea of Public Policy. Go figure. 


So like I said above, the whole point is to smash shit. That's the whole act. Smash shit, say something viciously stupid, and the audience laughs nervously. Confuse that with approval, and carry on.


Speaking of assholes who smash people when they don't behave as he thinks they should; Mel Gibson is selling his property and returning to Australia. It seems hardly worth commenting about - but that certainly didn't stop people. Eww. I do so enjoy seeing all the upstanding people crawl out from under their rocks to assure us all that it's all the victim's fault for making the perp angry enough to beat her up.

If I need to explain why this is so very wrong to you - well, I doubt I can. But you should probably seek help.
This cycle has both personal and political relevance - and I wryly observe that my advice to Democrats would be to take out a restraining order against the radical right, rather than to attempt to reason with their perps; advice that is even more relevant to the serial abuse victims of the Moderate Right.


Without in any way trying to discount the personal impact on people who are victimized personally by real abuse and sexual violence, it's worth observing that it is not a separate thing; moreover, it's most likely a public expression of much worse private behaviours. 


Not that it will stop the shouting of abusive, hateful perps that I'm an evil abusive perp. Here's the tactics directed at the NAACP with professional and amateur variations.








Um. There IS a racist element. I wouldn't say it's the only questionable thread, it's one of many sorts of grouchy, mean spirited, simple-minded and ugly messages to be found.



They should be condemned, if for no other reason than to keep the Tea Party on point. When you accuse critics of being racists for having noticed not even subtle racism, it makes people watching wonder if your stated politics is just another Jim Crow Shuck and Jive.

Rebuttal to Bill O'Reilly's Opposing Gay Marriage by Ishtarmuz shows the technique of fisking to good advantage. But to be quite fair, it was aiming plunging fire a great big fat soft target. 

Shame, blame and patronizing dismissals of the validity of the person and their plaints are, of course the very first response to anyone who dares to "whine" about ill treatment within such a dynamic, at least, before the tapes are released to the press.


For the coverage of this particular weeks events - hell, these cartoons tell you all you need to know. The difference between an ethicist, a comedian and a clown? Comedians are funny.  


That's because they tell the truth, regardless of consequences. Clowns, on the other hand... clowns exist to enforce social norms and, just for extra fun, scare the crap out of children. This usually happens because children have a far better grasp of the difference between "normal and to be expected" and "justice." 

There are lessons from history to be studied, lest we all find ourselves living in times even more interesting than our current state of disarray. This history of the troubles supported and encouraged in Argentina by Authoritarian Catholic Fanatics who failed to pacify Algeria and failed to assassinate France's Charles De Gaulle. More than 30,000 "disappeared". In the end, such a revulsion was bred toward the Catholic Church that one of their worst nightmares came true, aside from the consequential fact that barely a quarter of the population are practicing Catholic. It does not seem from this remove that the proponents are a much better class of leader - it was that such self-inflicted karmic wounds tend to attract predators. The issue of same-sex marriage was an opportunity to split an opposition coalition - and it seems to have worked quite well.


Examples of the obliviousness to the consequences of the authoritarian mindset abound. The ACLU, in speaking of Yet Another Ham-Fisted Backdoor Ban on Abortion, quotes the legal decision, and of course mentions the impact upon persons such a law would have.
The idea of providing patients with thousands of scientific studies dating back as much as 100 years would be laughable if it wasn't so dangerous. A woman's health and well-being are best supported when she can trust that her doctor will provide medical information that is accurate and unbiased. Rather than ensuring that a woman's choice to end her pregnancy is meaningful and informed, this law forces her doctor to provide her false and misleading information, undermining the trust between a woman and her doctor.
Fortunately, Judge Laurie Smith Camp found that compliance with the law "would be impossible or nearly impossible," and would likely deter physicians from providing abortion care in the first place. Additionally, Judge Camp determined that "no such legislative concern for the health of women, or of men, has given rise to any remotely similar informed-consent statutes applicable to other medical procedure."
Both the court and the ACLU seem to have missed the larger point, save in the title itself. "Respecting Women's Decisions." 

Those who demand respect for their authority without respecting those they are given authority over deserve neither respect, nor deference, nor obedience, particularly when they abuse the law and society and the intelligence of critics and courts in so doing.

This is something that is intuitively understood by the least and youngest among us. Bullies may steal your lunch money but it's no great achievement; they deserve no respect, no allegiance, nothing but contempt.

When those in power conspire to use the law against the helpless, seemingly just because they can, and when the authoritarian fringes cry out in protest against entirely basic human rights being asserted in court, it's clearly time to sharply curb the presumptuous bumpkins and abusive toads who seem to think that power only exists to be flaunted and abused. A general disrepect for the values and visions of the Authoritarian of the Moment emerges. Resistance and evasion emerges quickly, more and sharper oppressions follow, derision and disrespect ensues, until you find yourself in something that might be called a "Cold Civil War."


Well, it's really no wonder there's such fear and loathing and suspicion of authorities, government, media and law enforcement. For, all too often, it's seen as a means to an end, which is quite at odds with any piously stated ideals. 


The way we avoid that is that we adhere to the ethical prime directive, which is to live your life while avoiding harm to others; a concept that scales perfectly well to churches, governments and corporations. Why? Well, because! 


Because when you don't - this is your legacy.


The Man

the aftermath of gallagher

The Mess


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