Daily Archives: April 9, 2006

Links and Stuff

Lots of interesting stuff out there that I briefly want to touch on, so:

* There’s a lot of media schadenfreude going on about the Republican meltdown last week. Both the New York Times and the Washington Post have stories about how the GOP now has an inkling that November could be very bad indeed for them (which dovetails into the entry here from the other day). I think there are definite parallels between where the GOP is today and the Democrats were in 1994, but as I’ve said a number of times before anyone, who underestimates either the GOP drive to win at any cost or the recent Democratic ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory needs to beam back down to planet Earth. There’s still quite a lot of time between now and November.

* Speaking of schadenfreude, the writers of Time and Newsweek’s articles on the discovery of the Tiktaalik creature, which sits in the evolutionary gap between fish and amphibians, are positively gleeful on banging on the “intelligent design” people because here’s yet another transitional fossil (of course, now that means there’s just two more transitional fossil gaps, aren’t there. They’re just half the size).

The Newsweek piece has an adorably defensive quote from the Discovery Institute about how ID doesn’t have a problem with transitional forms, and then stuffs them with the observation that “fossil gaps are cited many times in the controversial ID textbook “Of Pandas and People.” The book takes particular note of the large difference between ‘the oldest amphibian’ and ‘its presumed [fish] ancestor.’ It’s a gap wide enough for a fish to walk through—and now we know that one did.” The Time piece is even more snarky: “Evolution is, as ID supporters love to say, “just” a theory. It also happens to be one of the most successful scientific theories in history, whose predictions of what should be found in the fossil record have been proven out… for the zillionth time.”

Yeah, the “sell by” date on ID has come and gone. It won’t stop morons from continually trying to push it, of course. But the bloom is off the intelligently designed rose.

* Time has an interesting article from a retired Lt. General who was also the Pentagon’s top operations officer, talking about what a pointless war Iraq has been, and share the blame between clueless civilian leaders (which you may understand to mean Secretary Rumsfeld, although he’s not the only one) and timid military brass, who didn’t speak up while the war was being planned. Here’s a key quote, which I can get behind: “The troops in the Middle East have performed their duty. Now we need people in Washington who can construct a unified strategy worthy of them.”

* Over at the New York Times, a long magazine piece on El Salvador, where there is a constitutional amendment that says that the government must protect life from conception onward, and where abortion of any sort has been illegal for eight years. Just in case you’re wondering what that would be like, if, say, the Supreme Court decided South Dakota’s new abortion law was Constitution, or if a “right to life” Constitutional amendment got passed. For those of you who don’t want to bother with the entire article, three choice words for you: “forensic vagina inspectors.” El Salvador’s got ‘em.

To be clear, I have an exceptionally hard time imagining a circumstance in which the US goes down the same road as El Salvador, whose anti-abortion position is enabled by a small, homogeneous population of Catholics whose government was apparently rather intensely susceptible to pressure from the Vatican. Nor do I think that even in a post Roe v. Wade America, some place like South Dakota would be able to get away with sentencing a woman to 30 years in prison for having an abortion, as can happen in El Salvador. The first time someone tried that here in the US (to a rich white girl, he said, oh-so-cynically), that would be the end of the anti-abortion movement as a recognizable political force.

On the other hand let’s not pretend that the end result of making all abortion illegal is not what happens in El Salvador, where women become criminals. If you want to make abortion illegal, no exceptions, this is what it looks like.

Everybody Welcome

Given how testy I’ve been in a recent comment thread, I thought I’d mention this in an entry of its own:

Everyone is welcome here, even the people who think I’m full of crap.

One of the things I have been deeply happy about here at the Whatever is that the “crowd” here — the people who comment and participate in discussion — includes people with all sorts of points of view, political, social, economic and so on. Having all these points of view here makes me feel good because it means I’ve created a place where all sorts of people feel comfortable visiting. I really love that.

Often times these folks have points of view wildly different from mine, and often times when I write something they’ll be happy to tell me in the comment threads that I’m full of crap. My thought on this: Good. I don’t like being told I am full of crap, but you know what? It doesn’t matter if I like it. Sometimes I am full of crap (please note the disclaimer, point #2), and therefore someone pointing that fact out is not outside the bounds. If you’ve got facts and figures to go along with the assertion, so much the better.

If you suggest that I am full of crap, I will most likely get annoyed; that will probably be evident in my response. But! My being annoyed does not mean you have either shut up or leave. If I think you’ve overstepped some bound (as noted in my comment thread rules), I’ll either reel you in with a follow-up comment, or (if you’re truly obnoxious enough) I’ll delete the message. I have yet to delete a message from a person who was genuinely participating in a discussion (I’ve deleted some flyby dickishness, but even that is rare), so make of that what you will. Short of me saying something to you in a very explicit fashion (i.e., “Dude, you’ve gone beyond the bounds, and here’s why, and if you don’t stop I’ll delete you”) you are golden and may continue to poke and prod.

I prefer you treat other commenters with respect and confront their ideas and not them. However, you need not be terribly gentle with me. I mean, I prefer you attack my ideas and not me, too. However, I know myself well enough to know that personal attacks don’t bother me in a long-term fashion. By the same token, be aware I am not always gentle when I think something you’ve said is full of crap, and from time to time I might go over a personal bound with you. If you think I’ve gone too far into the personal realm when we’re going around, let me know in a comment or e-mail. I’ll recalibrate.

No, seriously. I do try to be sensitive to people’s comfort zones; some people can take more of this sort of thing than others. Because I can take a lot of crap and because I’ve spent over a decade talking various sorts of crap on the ‘net, by default I assume other people can take a similar amounts of crap and brush it off. If I am wrong in your case I want to know, as soon as you feel uncomfortable. I want this place to be challenging and sometimes confrontational — I don’t want people to feel like they’re being abused, particularly by me.

In a general sense, I do try to follow the Inverse Golden Rule in comment threads, which means I do onto others as they have done to me. I’m confrontational to people who are confrontational, mellow with people who are mellow, substantive with people who are substantive, nasty to people who are nasty. That’s what I try for anyway. I am human. I don’t always succeed. I do hope you’ll forgive me if (when!) I go off the rails.

This next thing is important: When I start a new entry, I hit the reset button. Whatever arguments, confrontations or disputes are in an earlier comment thread get left there. You and I might argue in one thread and agree in another. Each comment thread is its own event. I treat them that way and I suggest you do too. Life is too short to carry grudges based on comment threads.

The reason I can hit the reset button with each new comment thread is simple: At the end of the day I believe people who come and comment here are good people whom I would be happy to know in real life. I assume that no matter how heated an argument can get in a comment thread, at any point in time we could stop and one of us would say “I’m getting this round.” This is in part rooted in my real-life experience with friends; my best friend from high school and I, for example, can get into arguments that to an outside observer looks like we’re about to stab each other to death, and then after we’re done we’ll go get something to eat at the nearest family restaurant. I assume that people who like each other can and do argue passionately and even politically incorrectly and still like each other when the argument is done.

If I’m arguing with you, it doesn’t mean I don’t like you, or wouldn’t like you if we were to meet. Believe me, if I don’t like you, you’ll know, because I’ll tell you. There’s no point in being coy about it. Unless I tell you that, however, please do assume that as a human, I think you’re all right. Because, really, aren’t you? Exactly.

In sum: Whoever you are, I’m glad you’re here. I hope you’ll stick around. And I hope you’ll feel free to tell me when you think I’m full of crap. It happens, you know. It’s okay to point it out.

Everybody Welcome

Given how testy I’ve been in a recent comment thread, I thought I’d mention this in an entry of its own:

Everyone is welcome here, even the people who think I’m full of crap.

One of the things I have been deeply happy about here at the Whatever is that the “crowd” here — the people who comment and participate in discussion — includes people with all sorts of points of view, political, social, economic and so on. Having all these points of view here makes me feel good because it means I’ve created a place where all sorts of people feel comfortable visiting. I really love that.

Often times these folks have points of view wildly different from mine, and often times when I write something they’ll be happy to tell me in the comment threads that I’m full of crap. My thought on this: Good. I don’t like being told I am full of crap, but you know what? It doesn’t matter if I like it. Sometimes I am full of crap (please note the disclaimer, point #2), and therefore someone pointing that fact out is not outside the bounds. If you’ve got facts and figures to go along with the assertion, so much the better.

If you suggest that I am full of crap, I will most likely get annoyed; that will probably be evident in my response. But! My being annoyed does not mean you have either shut up or leave. If I think you’ve overstepped some bound (as noted in my comment thread rules), I’ll either reel you in with a follow-up comment, or (if you’re truly obnoxious enough) I’ll delete the message. I have yet to delete a message from a person who was genuinely participating in a discussion (I’ve deleted some flyby dickishness, but even that is rare), so make of that what you will. Short of me saying something to you in a very explicit fashion (i.e., “Dude, you’ve gone beyond the bounds, and here’s why, and if you don’t stop I’ll delete you”) you are golden and may continue to poke and prod.

I prefer you treat other commenters with respect and confront their ideas and not them. However, you need not be terribly gentle with me. I mean, I prefer you attack my ideas and not me, too. However, I know myself well enough to know that personal attacks don’t bother me in a long-term fashion. By the same token, be aware I am not always gentle when I think something you’ve said is full of crap, and from time to time I might go over a personal bound with you. If you think I’ve gone too far into the personal realm when we’re going around, let me know in a comment or e-mail. I’ll recalibrate.

No, seriously. I do try to be sensitive to people’s comfort zones; some people can take more of this sort of thing than others. Because I can take a lot of crap and because I’ve spent over a decade talking various sorts of crap on the ‘net, by default I assume other people can take a similar amounts of crap and brush it off. If I am wrong in your case I want to know, as soon as you feel uncomfortable. I want this place to be challenging and sometimes confrontational — I don’t want people to feel like they’re being abused, particularly by me.

In a general sense, I do try to follow the Inverse Golden Rule in comment threads, which means I do onto others as they have done to me. I’m confrontational to people who are confrontational, mellow with people who are mellow, substantive with people who are substantive, nasty to people who are nasty. That’s what I try for anyway. I am human. I don’t always succeed. I do hope you’ll forgive me if (when!) I go off the rails.

This next thing is important: When I start a new entry, I hit the reset button. Whatever arguments, confrontations or disputes are in an earlier comment thread get left there. You and I might argue in one thread and agree in another. Each comment thread is its own event. I treat them that way and I suggest you do too. Life is too short to carry grudges based on comment threads.

The reason I can hit the reset button with each new comment thread is simple: At the end of the day I believe people who come and comment here are good people whom I would be happy to know in real life. I assume that no matter how heated an argument can get in a comment thread, at any point in time we could stop and one of us would say “I’m getting this round.” This is in part rooted in my real-life experience with friends; my best friend from high school and I, for example, can get into arguments that to an outside observer looks like we’re about to stab each other to death, and then after we’re done we’ll go get something to eat at the nearest family restaurant. I assume that people who like each other can and do argue passionately and even politically incorrectly and still like each other when the argument is done.

If I’m arguing with you, it doesn’t mean I don’t like you, or wouldn’t like you if we were to meet. Believe me, if I don’t like you, you’ll know, because I’ll tell you. There’s no point in being coy about it. Unless I tell you that, however, please do assume that as a human, I think you’re all right. Because, really, aren’t you? Exactly.

In sum: Whoever you are, I’m glad you’re here. I hope you’ll stick around. And I hope you’ll feel free to tell me when you think I’m full of crap. It happens, you know. It’s okay to point it out.

Iran and Saber-Rattling

Are we getting ready to bomb the crap out of Iran? Maybe (here’s another take on the matter, from the New Yorker). It’s all saber-rattling at this point, but it’s saber-rattling with a goal, which is spooking the Iranians into giving up their nuclear ambitions. Yeah, that’s going to happen. It’s also to get Americans used to the idea this is on the table. Happy Sunday!

Here’s my thing: I believe without the slightest hesitation that Iran is trying to build a bomb (more than one, clearly); I also believe rather strongly that Iran should not be allowed to build a bomb. This is part of a larger philosophy that as a general rule, no other nations should be allowed into the nuclear club that aren’t already in it (and that some of them should have their membership revoked), but specifically speaking, Iran as a nuclear power makes me nervous on all sorts of levels. So as a matter of policy, I would not have much of a problem gutting Iran’s nuclear production capability via bunker busters if it came to that.

What I worry about, naturally, is at what point in the diplomatic process we get to “if it came to that.” I don’t suspect that based on previous experience that the Bush administration is all that patient with diplomatic maneuvers — which to be honest is not necessarily a criticism. Say what one will about the precipitate speed with which the Bush administration rolled into Iraq, Saddam’s ability to subvert the diplomatic process both was appalling in itself and gave the Bush folks an ample rationale for firing up the tanks. As a practical matter, I think there is some value in the perception that the US is going to fiddle around diplomatically for only so long before it gets down to cases and fires up the steath bombers.

On the other hand, while I did not oppose going into Iraq, for my own personal reasons, I also thought it would have been far better there simply to carpet bomb any inspection site Saddam refused to let inspectors into, as a way to bring Iraq back to a useful diplomatic process. If one posits a large-scale attack on Iran on one end of the spectrum and doing nothing on the other, is there something effective in the middle ground? I don’t know at this point, but I’d like to think there is — and I wonder, if there is a useful “middle ground” solution, whether we’ll consider it before going the solution where Iran’s skies are dark with American bombers.

The New Yorker piece suggests two things — first, that Bush sees himself as the only President who is politically capable of attacking Iran, and two, that the use of tactical nuclear weapons, by us, to destroy Iran’s nuclear capability is not off the table. Toward the first of these, I’m certainly willing to believe that Bush does think he’s the right man for the job, although as you might expect based on how poorly it’s managed the Iraq situation after the unquestionable tactical victory of the first few weeks, I question whether his administration is indeed competent enough to do the job right. I also strongly suspect that unless Bush is completely stupid, he’ll wait until after November to make any move, because given how unpopular his Iraq position is at the moment, he doesn’t want to give any more electoral ammunition to the Democrats than they already have.

Toward the use of tactical nuclear weapons, I have a very hard time imagining that would happen, and I suspect the repercussions for the US if it did would be immensely damaging. If Bush really wants to bring down every single US-friendly foreign government in the world, he’d allow the use of tactical nuclear weapons. I have serious questions as to the overall competence of this adminstration, but you have to draw a line somewhere. I believe the Bush administration is competent enough not to use nuclear weapons.

My hope is that if we do bomb Iran, we avoid mission creep. I would say our job is to gut their nuclear production capability, end of story. Keeping to that single goal will be difficult and complex enough, but if nothing else it could be possibile with only minimal ground involvement (from my admittedly very limited understanding of the situation), which means a minimum of death involved on our side, and it would be a goal that most of the world community could get behind (no one else wants Iran to have nukes, either). God forbid someone starts talking “regime change.” That would be Bush’s undoing; there’s no way the armed forces could do a land war as they are now, and attempting to institute a draft would be political suicide. Even if the Bushies wanted regime change, I suspect they would have to settle for something less.

Thoughts?

Iran and Saber-Rattling

Are we getting ready to bomb the crap out of Iran? Maybe (here’s another take on the matter, from the New Yorker). It’s all saber-rattling at this point, but it’s saber-rattling with a goal, which is spooking the Iranians into giving up their nuclear ambitions. Yeah, that’s going to happen. It’s also to get Americans used to the idea this is on the table. Happy Sunday!

Here’s my thing: I believe without the slightest hesitation that Iran is trying to build a bomb (more than one, clearly); I also believe rather strongly that Iran should not be allowed to build a bomb. This is part of a larger philosophy that as a general rule, no other nations should be allowed into the nuclear club that aren’t already in it (and that some of them should have their membership revoked), but specifically speaking, Iran as a nuclear power makes me nervous on all sorts of levels. So as a matter of policy, I would not have much of a problem gutting Iran’s nuclear production capability via bunker busters if it came to that.

What I worry about, naturally, is at what point in the diplomatic process we get to “if it came to that.” I don’t suspect that based on previous experience that the Bush administration is all that patient with diplomatic maneuvers — which to be honest is not necessarily a criticism. Say what one will about the precipitate speed with which the Bush administration rolled into Iraq, Saddam’s ability to subvert the diplomatic process both was appalling in itself and gave the Bush folks an ample rationale for firing up the tanks. As a practical matter, I think there is some value in the perception that the US is going to fiddle around diplomatically for only so long before it gets down to cases and fires up the steath bombers.

On the other hand, while I did not oppose going into Iraq, for my own personal reasons, I also thought it would have been far better there simply to carpet bomb any inspection site Saddam refused to let inspectors into, as a way to bring Iraq back to a useful diplomatic process. If one posits a large-scale attack on Iran on one end of the spectrum and doing nothing on the other, is there something effective in the middle ground? I don’t know at this point, but I’d like to think there is — and I wonder, if there is a useful “middle ground” solution, whether we’ll consider it before going the solution where Iran’s skies are dark with American bombers.

The New Yorker piece suggests two things — first, that Bush sees himself as the only President who is politically capable of attacking Iran, and two, that the use of tactical nuclear weapons, by us, to destroy Iran’s nuclear capability is not off the table. Toward the first of these, I’m certainly willing to believe that Bush does think he’s the right man for the job, although as you might expect based on how poorly it’s managed the Iraq situation after the unquestionable tactical victory of the first few weeks, I question whether his administration is indeed competent enough to do the job right. I also strongly suspect that unless Bush is completely stupid, he’ll wait until after November to make any move, because given how unpopular his Iraq position is at the moment, he doesn’t want to give any more electoral ammunition to the Democrats than they already have.

Toward the use of tactical nuclear weapons, I have a very hard time imagining that would happen, and I suspect the repercussions for the US if it did would be immensely damaging. If Bush really wants to bring down every single US-friendly foreign government in the world, he’d allow the use of tactical nuclear weapons. I have serious questions as to the overall competence of this adminstration, but you have to draw a line somewhere. I believe the Bush administration is competent enough not to use nuclear weapons.

My hope is that if we do bomb Iran, we avoid mission creep. I would say our job is to gut their nuclear production capability, end of story. Keeping to that single goal will be difficult and complex enough, but if nothing else it could be possibile with only minimal ground involvement (from my admittedly very limited understanding of the situation), which means a minimum of death involved on our side, and it would be a goal that most of the world community could get behind (no one else wants Iran to have nukes, either). God forbid someone starts talking “regime change.” That would be Bush’s undoing; there’s no way the armed forces could do a land war as they are now, and attempting to institute a draft would be political suicide. Even if the Bushies wanted regime change, I suspect they would have to settle for something less.

Thoughts?