Monday, February 18, 2008

Support the troops

Apparently, the government is now offering $40,000 enlistment bonuses to high school graduates who join the Army. And noted liberal journalist Fred Kaplan thinks it's a crappy idea.

I think being in the military, especially the Army, especially the Army during wartime, is a crappy, crappy job, and I think people who do it should be paid very, very well. So the idea of this kind of bonus (which is meant to be applied to college tuition or buying a house, anyway, as opposed to just being a dufflebag full of twenties) doesn't bother me a bit. However, here is what I think may be a better idea for combat veterans, and which might also solve a few other problems we're having:

a) How about the government buys up every house currently on the market anywhere in the U.S., and then gives them to combat veterans after they complete their enlistments?

b) How about the government spends a couple of billion dollars tearing down the old, crappy VA hospitals and putting up brand new ones?

Just off the top of my head, these both strike me as fabulous benefits to offer our combat veterans once they are no longer in the service -- a free house, and free, top flight medical care for life.

Call me a starry eyed dreamer, I guess.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

No taxation without forced copulation

Jim Henley's blog is a fine one indeed, but should you choose to roll over there, try to keep one eye cocked towards the high grass. Henley's an avowed libertarian (whatever that means these days) and if you were to hack your way into the wilderness that is his blogroll, you might very quickly find yourself well past the tangled, overgrown foothills of unreason and deep into the very mountains of madness themselves.

Case in point, as Rod Serling might crisply intone: Some guy named Ted Frank, of a blog called Overlawyered:

Police more likely to sleep with than arrest prostitutes

The Venkatesh-Levitt paper on the economics of prostitution in Chicago shows that prostitutes are arrested about one out of every 450 tricks—but are forced to give "freebies" to police for about 3% of their tricks to avoid arrest.

On the one hand, I'm appalled at the utter corruption exhibited by law enforcement here, and wonder to what extent this illegal "perk" acts as a public-choice rationale for law enforcement to oppose legalization and regulation of brothels.

On the other hand, that 3% of labor extorted by the police is a heck of a better rate than the 30% or so tax rate various governments make me pay...

Libertarians don't exactly represent; put any eighteen of them in the same place at the same time and you'll quickly end up deluged and besieged with eighteen entirely individual iconoclastic visions of a The Way Things Ought To Be In A World Without Authority. Still, it bemuses me to imagine that 'sieur Frank might speak for a majority of his fellow surly reprobates with the above assertion. I mean, nobody likes taxes, and nobody HATES taxes like de libertarian mon, but, still, this is the first time I've seen one come right out and say that a forced face fucking from a random gendarme or two a couple of times a month would look good to him compared to paying a 30% tax rate on his income.

You wonder what the trade off ratio is there. Would the average libertarian pay 20% if he/she only had to take cop-dick up the ass once or twice every thirty days? Would he/she blow six or seven officers of de law a month if they could get their taxes all the way down to 6%? Would they take a flatfoot in every orifi twice a week if it let them live gloriously tax free? And would the built in advantage this would give male libertarians over female be acceptable to the libertarian community en masse?

These questions may be stupid, and they're certainly rhetorical, but, like the guy in the Styx song, I've got too much time on my hands.

Quote of the day

...well, yesterday, actually:

When Americans can no longer run their cars on a whim, they will simply go apeshit and you can kiss normal politics goodbye.

Jim Kunstler is someone I frequently quote and/or refer to on this blog. He strikes me as having a lot of expertise, in-depth knowledge, and wisdom (not to mention basic writing talent) and that's a combination I find hard to shrug off. Still, he's been dry-washing his hands together and cackling in barely repressed glee over the imminent death of what he calls America's Happy Motoring Utopia for years now and none of his predictions have come true as yet. I have to imagine he wonders why, and here's the answer I would give him, from the far reaches of my own inexpert, completely shallow, utterly non-wise (and not particularly well expressed) foolishness:

Mr. Kunstler, the world people live in is largely subjective, and while I know the merest thought of this drives you crazy, so, too, is the 'science' of economics. Things are largely what people think they are, and while markets may go up and down and businesses may thrive or fold, nonetheless, if the majority of people in the world do not really believe we are having a crisis, then we are not really having a crisis.

People understand that times are hard when they can't feed their kids any more, or they have to choose between necessities -- you want food on the table this week, you have to short the landlord and hope to dodge the deputies with the eviction notice, or not pay the utility bill and live by candlelight for a while. THAT's when times are hard, THAT's when people start to panic. I don't think the majority of Americans are living that way yet; at the very least, I don't think a significant number of Americans who have been managing to pay all their bills and still eat pretty well have seen that status drop precipitously to this point.

Yeah, everybody is hearing rumblings, and everybody is wondering what comes next... but for now, most people still have money coming in and can still cover their nut.

Times are bad, but what you do not seem to get, Mr. Kunstler, is that most Americans (the Great UnWealthy Class, as it were) honestly believe that times have always BEEN hard for them. You and I know this isn't true, but that's what most of us believe anyway, largely because we have never been able to go out and purchase all the toys that we see our more affluent co-citizens enjoying on TV. So the current coughing and rattling we're hearing in the economy doesn't trouble us much, cuz we think we're tough. When the banks all close and our debit cards don't work any more, when gas hits $4 or $5 a gallon, when the lights go out, when the deputy sheriffs show up to put our shit out on the curb... this is when the American people will finally understand that times really do suck, and all we ever were, really, was rough, tough cream puffs.

Until then, though, most of us will just continue with business as usual, because what the fuck else are we supposed to do? Buy gold? Stock up on emergency rations, guns and ammo? Become insanely religious? Fuck. As long as the TV works and there's something crappy to watch on it, the American Way of Life will remain non-negotiable.

I'm not really being as snarky as I sound; I kinda half believe that the average American's obstreperous capacity to ignore the bugling sounds of impending crisis all around him/her and just keep on truckin' may be our greatest resource for getting through the no-doubt impending calamity. If we continue to just rock on with our bad selves regardless of what tries to tip the boat over, who knows? Maybe our arms will yet hold us safe from a rolling sea... or some shit.

Having said all that, let me hasten to add -- when Americans really can no longer fill up and go wherever the fuck they want whenever the fuck they want in their private automobiles, they (we) will INDEED go apeshit... unless, of course, someone has schooled them (us) to the necessity of embracing other options prior to that point.

I have to hope that, however much they do not want to raise the possibility now (because truth-speaking doomsayers never get elected President), our front running Presidential nominees are aware of this necessity, and making plans to address it once they achieve their desires.

Otherwise, all the wishful thinking in the world will almost certainly not avail us.

Still, I think it can put off the crisis for a little while yet.

Or so I wishfully think, at this point.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

State of the primary

Bopping around the usual poli-blogs I pay attention to (Washington Monthly, Unqualified Offerings, Talking Points Memo, This Modern World, and a few others I'm too lazy to type in right now), I'm getting a sense that the liberal/progressive blogosphere is sharply divided as regards the potential role of superdelegates in deciding who the Democratic nominee for President is going to be.

One group is outraged, outraged at the notion that the Democratic Party's convention superdelegates might possibly swing the nomination to a candidate that the majority of voters in Democratic primaries and caucuses did not vote for. Mind you, the superdelegates have been part of every nominating process since the 1980 election and they haven't seemed to bother anyone to date, but, well, we haven't had a Democratic primary this close in all that time, either, so the superdelegates weren't really a factor. Now that they might be, a great many people are extremely upset about the possibility.

The other group is pretty much complacent about it -- yeah, the superdelegates can vote for any candidate they want to regardless of how the various votes in the various primaries and caucuses came out, but, y'know, don't sweat it, that's what the whole superdelegate idea was formulated for in the first place; this is the system, just sit back and relax and let it work itself out.

Here's what I'm noticing, though, and maybe it's just me, but, still, so far, this seems a reliable observation --

If you're deeply, deeply upset that the superdelegates might vote for a candidate who did not win the majority of the primary votes, then, well, you're an Obama supporter.

On the other hand, if you feel that all is copacetic and the system is fine and the superdelegates should be free to vote for whomever they think would make the best Democratic nominee for President, well -- chances seem pretty good you're wearing a Clinton button on your beanie.

Funny how that works.

It's ridiculous to think that this has anything to do with any sort of completely unfounded yet deep seated, nearly instinctive foreboding that the Clintons have long ago sewn up the superdelegate vote... right?

Yeah, that's just silly.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Hilzoy over at Obsidian Wings goes all plaintive over those who criticize Barack Obama on the grounds that he's all talk, no action:

I came to Obama by an unusual route: as I explained here, I follow some issues pretty closely, and over and over again, Barack Obama kept popping up, doing really good substantive things. There he was, working for nuclear non-proliferation and securing loose stockpiles of conventional weapons, like shoulder-fired missiles. There he was again, passing what the Washington Post called "the strongest ethics legislation to emerge from Congress yet" -- though not as strong as Obama would have liked. Look -- he's over there, passing a bill that created a searchable database of recipients of federal contracts and grants, proposing legislation on avian flu back when most people hadn't even heard of it, working to make sure that soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan were screened for traumatic brain injury and to prevent homelessness among veterans, successfully fighting a proposal by the VA to reexamine all PTSD cases in which full benefits had been awarded, working to ban no-bid contracts in Katrina reconstruction, and introducing legislation to criminalize deceptive political tactics and voter intimidation...

...Imagine my surprise, then, when I heard people saying that Obama wasn't "substantive". It was exactly like my experience in 2004 when, after hearing Wes Clark for the first time, I went and looked up his positions on a whole host of issues of concern to me, and only then started reading media accounts of him in which I "learned" that no one knew what his positions were.

As some of my students would say: I was like, wtf?

I've been making the point in conversation (it's not original to me, and I'd credit wherever I saw it first if I could remember it right now) that Obama is the Ronald Reagan of the 2008 election season -- he's all about emotionally stirring, even inspiring rhetoric that, unfortunately, seems to have little or no actual semantic value. "Yes we can!" and "Change we can believe in" strike me as little more than liberal/progressive flourishes rung on Reagan's "It's morning in America".

And, okay, I can see that Obama has some substance to him, even given his relatively short career in politics to date. What I can't see, though, is how he's using the enormous media attention generated by his Presidential campaign to address any of the truly urgent, truly global issues confronting every living being currently drawing breath or in some way processing energy on the planet today. Just one example of this is Obama's energy policy, as explained in this speech he gave in 2006. Dewey scholar/ecoblogger "David Roberts" advises that he thinks this is a 'pretty ballsy' speech and rejoices that "That man's got a pair, you gotta give him that" (perhaps underscoring the huge fundamental perceptual disadvantage Hillary Clinton has in this election, but never mind that for now)... but in point of fact, as an energy policy, this is all worthless feel-good Hollywood happy ending bullshit.

Obama calls for a much more marked increase in the fuel efficiency of American manufactured motor cars. He wants more hybrids, and he especially wants to see more production of alternative biofuels. Which is to say, this is more of what James Kunstler might call Happy Motoring horseshit.

Like every other ambitious politician out there, Obama is paralyzed by the thought of trying to tell the truth to the American electorate. The simple, brutal, horrible, unacceptable, unavoidable truth is, we have to change our way of living, because the cheap energy is running out. America uses up a massively disproportionate amount of the world's available consumables, especially petroleum derivatives and natural gas. And we are going to have to stop. If we don't, the rest of the world will do its level best to make us, and if it turns out they can't (and global civilization survives that eventual determination), well, eventually (not far in the future, at the rate we suck it down) the oil is all going to run out, anyway.

I can certainly understand why Obama is all style, no substance when it comes to, well, substantial issues. And, certainly, a Reaganite circa 1980, confronted with someone criticizing his or her candidate on the basis of what seemed like a lot of high falutin', pretty soundin', but ultimately empty rhetoric, might well shoot back that Reagan's two terms as governor were full of substantial political accomplishments -- Reagan legalized 'therapeutic abortion' in California (something he claimed forever afterward he regretted), he sent in the Highway Patrol and the National Guard to break up student protests in Berkeley, resulting in one student death and hundreds of injuries, he spoke out strongly in opposition to what he saw as excessive Federal tax rates and social spending, and in favor of capital punishment.

Yet what Reagan did not say when he was running for President in 1979 was, "I'll cut your taxes, eviscerate social spending, and, at the same time, run up historic deficits by increasing America's defense budget 40%." The first two would have sounded very good to both economic and social conservatives; the last one, however, would have probably lost him some votes among everyone but service members, their families, and defense contractors. Had Reagan also admitted that there was a very good chance his economic policies would result in the national unemployment rate rising from an unpleasantly high 7% to a staggering 10.8%, he most likely would have lost the votes of everyone in the country making less than $40,000 per year... and with them, the election.

Similarly, there is a reason Obama does not specifically and substantively address extremely serious problems like the global energy crisis, preferring instead to focus on stirring sounding but still essentially trivial microissues like weapons regulation, government corruption, and the welfare of our military veterans. And there's also a reason why, when he does address energy issues, he does it with half truths and half measures. Just as with Reagan, if Obama were to tell the whole truth about these issues, and what measures will really have to be taken to deal with them, it would cost him votes... in fact, were Obama to ever publicly state "Here's some change you can believe in -- if we want to survive as a species on this globe, Americans are going to have to give up our private automobiles, rebuild and substantially expand our mass transit systems, and stop wasting so much of the world's irreplaceable resources. Which means we have to eat healthier, exercise more, and stop using so much electricity" it would certainly cost him the election.

So I can understand why Obama prefers high flown elocution to talking about the actual nuts and bolts of tough policies that will not be even remotely popular with the American people.

Nonetheless, whether I understand it or not, whether it's justifiable or not, it's still valid to say that Obama avoids talking about substantive policy by substituting stirring rhetoric... and pointing to his past legislative record and saying "Look, look, he really has done stuff" isn't going to change that.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Thinking out loud

McCain is the presumptive Republican nominee.

Okay, what does this mean?

For Big Money, this is a big frickin problem. Big Money's most reliable ally in controlling the U.S. government has been, for the past century or so, the Republican Party. And Big Money hates McCain. Hates hates HATES him.

What does this mean?

It means that Big Money now has a choice. It can pull a complete 180 and start trying to build up McCain as a more palatable option to the conservative base. Unfortunately, they have to date spent millions making him completely unacceptable to that same base, and it's been money well spent, too. Do they really want to throw that investment away, when most people think McCain can't win the election anyway?

Conversely, Big Money can start investing heavily into someone it likes better. However, to justify that investment, whoever Big Money chooses as an alternate has to have a reasonable chance of winning the Presidency.

Big Money is sending conflicting signals right now, which indicates to me that a final decision has not yet been reached. On the one hand, one of Big Money's most powerful media voices, Ann Coulter, has come out and stated on Sean Hannity's FOX program that if John Cain becomes the Republican nominee, she will actively campaign for Hillary Clinton, because Clinton is the more reliably conservative candidate than McCain.

On the other hand, Mitt Romney has announced he's quitting his campaign:

Romney is as big a shill for 'the innerests' as Coulter ever will be, and if he's marching offstage, it's because someone bigger than him cut the marching orders. Romney himself says that he's doing this to shore up conservative support for McCain, and, yeah, I can see that. Within my admittedly limited understanding of the power dynamics here, that makes as much sense as anything else.

But... again... Romney is a shill for Big Money, and Big Money hates McCain. HATES him. So Romney stepping down is a pretty strong indicator that Big Money is giving serious thought to swallowing its intense dislike of McCain and getting behind his campaign.

Coulter's statement of support for Clinton over McCain, though, is an equally strong signal that Big Money is considering supporting someone else in this election. And when you can't find a Republican candidate you like well enough, where does a worried plutocrat go?

Straight to the nearest viable candidate named Clinton, that's where.

Right now, right this moment, The Innerests must be in a frenzy of frustrated indecision.

You're not even supposed to be able to get on stage nationally if you're not safely bought and paid for long in advance.

The most valuable thing any national campaign can have going for it is that mystical word 'viability' -- the perceived ability to win the election. As a general rule, viability is granted (or withheld) by the media -- if the media says a candidate has a good chance to win the election, then, as if by magic, that candidate does.

If, on the other hand, the media declares a particular candidacy to be non-viable, then that candidacy is dead in the water. Tell the electorate often enough that a vote for such and such is a wasted vote (worse, it will work out in actual effect to be a Vote For This Other Guy You Really Hate) and most people will swallow it hook, line and sinker. The candidate's positions, past record, and actual character become entirely moot once the public has been convinced that this candidate CANNOT win the election. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

The media, of course, by and large, works for Big Money. In effect, this means that for a candidate to be anointed as 'viable', Big Money must approve of them. Otherwise, they are 'crackpots', they are 'from the fringe', they are 'extremists' -- they 'cannot be elected'. And, guess what? They won't be.

Sometimes, though, candidates make their way through the cracks in the system. McCain has built a national, even an international reputation around being a maverick, an outsider, somebody who is willing to slap iron for the little people against the big movers and shakers in the Republican Party. Whether this is actual fact or not doesn't much matter; the point is, a lot of people believe it. McCain appeals to moderate Republicans and to independents, enough so to make him electable... if not in a general referendum, then, at least, at a Republican nominating convention.

More importantly, the press loves McCain. They want to see the guy become President, or at least, they want him to get a good shot at it. This is something political analysts often times overlook. Yes, there's a machine, and yes, the machine runs nearly everything... but the machine is made out of cogs, and sometimes, the cogs spin unpredictably. For whatever reason, the media has largely failed to embrace any other Republican candidate this year. They've gone, by and large, koo-koo for McCain puffs. That, combined with McCain's already noted appeal to moderates and independents, has made McCain's candidacy very 'viable'.

At this point, Big Money can still crush McCain like a bug. The press may love McCain, but the press can, ultimately, be brought to heel. Spend enough money on enough opposition ads, throw enough dirt around, form enough 527s, fire a few reporters who won't fall into line fast enough and promote a few others who will... Big Money will have no real problem tearing McCain down.

If they want to.

The problem is, who else have they got? Yeah, the Ann Coulter thing is a test balloon, but you have to figure it's a desperate long shot -- I don't honestly believe there is enough money in the universe to convince any significant percentage of the conservative base to vote for 'Hitlery'. That doesn't mean Hillary couldn't win with enough money behind her, but it's risky. If McCain takes the independents and the moderate Republicans, then Big Money has to somehow position Hillary to somehow be made appealing to conservatives who won't vote for McCain -- and, y'know, all the Democrats. Money and media can forge some weird coalitions, but that one stretches even my imagination to the breaking point.

Plus, Barack Obama has proven to be a dangerous monkey wrench in the works over on the Democratic side. It's very possible that Hillary may not even be nominated... in which case, Big Money has to go back to McCain. Who else are they going to buy up on the Republican side? Well, nearly anyone, sure, but again, I doubt there is enough money out there to simultaneously demolish McCain and build up, say, Huckabee or Paul to the point where either is 'viable'. Not that either of them much appeals to Big Money, either.

Here's how I'm figuring it, right now: the 2008 elections were supposed to be safe elections for 'the innerests'. After 8 years of rampant Bush/Cheney corruption, the Great Unwashed would be happy to vote for whoever wasn't a Republican, and Big Money was reasonably certain that would be Hillary. Yeah, the conservative base hates her, but 2006 shows that the conservative base is no longer in a position to decide elections. So let the 'other side' have one for 4 or 8 years.

Hillary has always been a reliable watchdog over big corporate interests. Bear in mind, her 'universal health care plan' is nearly entirely comprised of the Federal government forcing everyone in America to buy health insurance -- a gigantic economic windfall for The Interests, as it will directly profit the zillion dollar health insurance industry, while indirectly giving a big shot in the arm to every other U.S. company that currently pays substantial portions of their workforce's healthcare costs. Net winner, Big Money. Who takes it up the ass yet again? You and me.

So Big Money figured they had '08 locked down. They'd put up someone they could count on -- Rudy, maybe, or Mitt -- on the Republican side, and maybe he'd actually win, but even if Mr. Rich Guy lost (something all the smart money was predicting) well, they'd have another Clinton running on the other side, and could use their media mouthpieces to make sure that any other candidate who wasn't safely bought and paid for was pronounced 'non-viable'.

But McCain has royally screwed things up on the Republican side. Big Money can't stand him, but they haven't been able to tag him as 'non-viable', and he's picking up enough votes to make him a real pain in the ass for them.

Meanwhile, over on the Democratic side... well, we know who's been fucking things up for Big Money on the D side of the ticket.

So, once again... Big Money has a big problem. Suddenly there are way too many variables and things are getting wildly out of control.

What's going to happen next? It depends.

The next big signal will be who McCain picks as his VP. If it's Huckabee, or, worse, Paul, that's the end of him with Big Money. They'll go elsewhere for satisfaction. Look for 527 funded attacks on McCain to ratchet up to insane levels, and for some other candidate to start raking in big contributions.

On the other hand, if McCain picks Romney or Rudy or (more likely, for reasons I'll get to) some other corporate fat cat politician to run with, that's another signal -- he's telling Big Money that regardless of his history, he's their guy, and if he should get into office, he'll protect their interests. In that case, look for all the conservative media mouthpieces to suddenly turn on a dime and start up with the 'John McCain, a True American Hero' bullshit, and most if not all of the really nasty 527 attacks on McCain to get dialed way back, while, at the same time, the mud starts to be slung big time against whoever is running against him.

I have no faith in McCain's essential integrity, and he's pretty clearly a smart guy with a lot of self interest. If I had to bet, I'd bet he'll work very very hard to get Big Money back on his side. On the other hand, McCain has a lot of pride and can be as foolish as the next guy, and he'd hardly be the first to buy into his own self promotion. If he really enjoys the idea of being a maverick, he'll tell Big Money to go fuck itself and try to make himself over into someone who can fuse the moderates and independents together with enough of the conservative base to get him into the White House.

That's a very risky strategy, but who knows? He's a charismatic guy, and let's remember, George W. Bush was, in reality, not someone at all who should have appealed in any way to the conservative base, or to moderates, or to independents -- a spoiled little rich kid, a failure as a businessman, an alcoholic and a cokehead, who pulled strings to get out of combat duty and then didn't even bother to show up for the last year of his Air National Guard tour. When you have the media in your corner -- and McCain does -- you can work miracles. (To an extent, McCain already has.)

So here's how it looks to me right now -- if it's McCain and Clinton, then Big Money will strongly back whichever one of them seems most economically reliable... and I'm going to say that will probably be Clinton, as she's never gone after their nuts with any kind of serious legislative attempt at campaign finance reform. Look for a lot of anti-McCain swiftboating and a big summer-fall roll out of 'I hate to say it but Hillary is actually a better candidate on the issues that matter to Republicans than John McCain' from all the FOX News and conservative talk radio ventriloquist dummies.

Democrats and liberals will stupidly rejoice, Hillary will be elected President, the Bush tax cuts will remain permanent, no recent Republican legislation will be overturned, the rich will continue to get richer, the national security state will continue to become more oppressive and intrusive, and we'll all be offered jobs at $11 an hour working as call center customer service reps for Asian manufacturing firms -- and be assured that we should be grateful for the opportunity.

Of course, Big Money has to be careful to wait until Hillary is actually the Democratic nominee. Once she is, liberals and progressives and most Democrats can be trusted to swallow pretty much anything and vote for her in the general election. However, until she locks it up, Big Money does not want to seriously start flying that 'Hillary is more reliable on most conservative issues than McCain' flag. If they do, it's going to cost her the nomination. I'm surprised Ann Coulter jumped the gun the way she did... but it's important to understand that she did it a few days BEFORE Super Tuesday, and she was probably trying to throw those primaries to Romney. Now that it hasn't worked, don't look for this particular line of dialog to be repeated until when and if Hillary is finally coronated as the official nominee.

If it's McCain and Obama, and McCain has picked a pro-biz candidate like Rudy or Mitt as his VP, then I'm going to guess Big Money will swallow its pride and support McCain. Look for a lot of Osama Hussein Obama crap from the 527s and conservative talk radio, along with the usual 'John McCain, Greatest American Hero' nonsense. However, I wouldn't look for either Rudy or Mitt to be McCain's VP in this instance. Big Money knows both of them carry too much baggage to appeal to the theocons. They'll want to go out and find someone who can thump a Bible, rant a little bit about gay marriage and school prayer, and who is still rich enough to be willing to protect his own when it comes to economic policy. I don't know who that guy is, but I'll bet that if Big Money wants to bad enough, they can find him.

If, on the other hand, it's McCain the Maverick (running with someone like Huckabee or Paul as his VP) against Obama, well... things could get very interesting indeed. Big Money won't want either of those tickets in the White House. That, I suspect, is when we'll see Michael Bloomberg come out of the shadows with a whole lot of cash in his pockets.

Or it might be someone other than Bloomberg, but whoever it is, I guarantee you this -- campaign finance reform will not be part of their platform. And if they get into office, the first thing they'll push for is to repeal the McCain-Feingold Act... just to spit in John McCain's face.

I suppose this means I've finally talked myself around to supporting Barack Obama more or less unequivocally in the election. Yeah, I hate the way he panders to the Democratic religious base, but, well, I guess that's better than pandering to the Republican religious base, or to Big Money. I'm not crazy enough to think he can get into office without owing a few favors, but I am pretty sure he's not as completely sold out to high finance as everyone else. And who knows? He may be willing to put his boot up a few Congressional Democrats' asses, once he's in the White House.

At the very least, I don't think an Obama Administration will be 'business as usual'. Which is, I suppose, really the best we can hope for.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The center does not hold

Romney quits. Big money Republicans must be tearing their hair out right now, and Rush Limbaugh must be thinking about putting a gun in his mouth. I mean, seriously. All these powerful, elite people who are used to writing a few checks to various PACs and bundlers and 527s to express their will as regards the results of any significant election... will now have to cozy up to the one Republican they hate the most, because he's the one Republican who helped author the only substantial campaign finance reform legislation to become law since 1974. (It's crappy law, mind you, that doesn't really accomplish anything worthwhile or have any real effect, but, still, it's the principle of the thing. McCain did something to slightly inconvenience the wealthy players in our political apparatus, and they have never, ever forgiven him for it.)

And now they have to dance with the rat bastard. Ah, karma is sweet, sometimes.

That shitheap Limbaugh is an especially humiliating position. He's done everything except lead a lynch mob armed with pots of boiling tar and bags of feathers against Big John, and now he's going to have to climb on board the Straight Talk Express, too.

At this point, the only real alternatives these people have are Huckabee and Paul. I suppose they could decide to pour a lot of money into either of those campaigns, and maybe it would make a difference... but Huckabee seems to be what Bush only claimed to be, a genuinely compassionate conservative Christian who, for all his backwoods provincial ignorance, genuinely wants to see tax dollars spent to help the poor. I can only imagine how wealthy, powerful conservatives must shudder at that concept.

As for Ron Paul, well, to the wealthy conservative elite he's a fucking lunatic, straight up; the only guy running on the Republican ticket who has said right out loud that the minute after he finishes taking the Oath of Office, all our troops stationed in foreign lands are on the first plane home, and American foreign investments can look after themselves. You can't imagine anyone with a few million or billion bucks tied up in Middle Eastern redevelopment, or petroleum stocks, being happy about that prospect, either.

So it's McCain's way or the highway for all these pricks.

I have no doubt they'll all come around to embracing the new reality pretty goddam quickly; if there is one thing conservatives and Republicans both excel at, it is turning every single thing they claim to believe in 180 degrees the minute it suits them to do so. And Limbaugh can rely on his particular market share to honestly forget he ever said a word against McCain the instant he starts praising the guy instead. After all, every single Dittohead in the world seems to have had no trouble accepting the... hrm... unusual, shall we say... premise that every junkie in the world should be locked up forever or simply executed, just like Rush says... except, of course, for Rush himself, whose little excursion into oxycontin addiction was a completely forgivable, and apparently entirely forgettable, mistake.

I'm going to predict that within one week's time, every conservative pundit that has been bewailing McCain's campaign as 'the death of the Republican party' or some such horseshit (Ann Coulter actually went on TV and said if McCain is the Republican nominee, she will campaign for Hillary Clinton!) will be fully on board, and all we'll be hearing rolling out of Rush, or Michael Savage, or Ann Coulter, or Michelle Malkin, or any of those retards, will be "McCain, glorious McCain, war veteran McCain, patriot McCain, straight talking McCain, McCain, the Great Man Who Will Lead America Back To Greatness!"

And I will laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

And hope they all burst a few blood vessels every time they do it, too.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Turn and face the strange

Above video shamelessly stolen from Sadly, No! I'd credit the real author(s), but I have no idea who they are. Sorry.

EVERYbody's doing the We Need Real Deep Serious Change Polka. So, although I never watch David Letterman, here's my Top Ten List of Badly Needed Changes In Government and/or Politics Today, just in case any candidate for office wants to take notes:

10 - We need to stop spending so much money sending poor kids to foreign countries to kill wogs in funny hats, and start spending money on sending poor kids to high schools and colleges which will teach them not to think of their fellow human beings as wogs in funny hats, and especially, not to kill them just because some douchebag told them to.

9 - Let's stop spending money on private schools designed primarily to perpetuate the toxic tribal biases and superstitions of privileged parents on their smug, spoiled offspring, and start spending money making our public education system the greatest place in the world for kids to learn how to think analytically and independently, and through that process, to become civilized, tolerant, enlightened citizens of the modern world and responsible participants in a truly democratic form of government.

8 - Create a free cable channel that is just for campaign ads. Hell, create seven or eight. Pass a law restricting all campaign ads to those channels. Provide a yearly budget for the creation of campaign ads in government studios. A small budget. For small studios. Like a public access channel for political candidates. Then let them gibber and gabble like loons, 24 hours a day, and if you're masochistic enough to want to listen to them, knock yourself out.

7 - Pay all elected officials by the hour. Set their hourly rate at Federal minimum wage x 3, and give them exactly the same benefits package as, say, a woman working in an industrial laundry somewhere in Maryland gets. Sit back and watch how many days they take off, how many half days they work, how often they raise minimum wage, and how quickly they pass some kind of decent national health care package and how efficiently they fix up Social Security.

6 - Any elected or appointed official who thinks the U.S. should use 'enhanced interrogation techniques' has to spend two weeks undergoing same in Gitmo, just like they were a wog in a funny hat their damn selves. If they still think waterboarding ain't torture when they get back to their cushy Washington offices, so fucking be it.

5 - Impeachment is no longer a function of Congress; any elected official can be impeached by public referendum. If a majority of a particular official's constituents wants them out, they go to the polls and vote them out. Watch how fast Bush and Cheney hit the bricks when the American people are the ones handing out the pink slips.

4 - Fix all electoral districts and precincts to independently designated parameters, such as states and counties. And, kind of a subset, when we have elections, let's let everybody who wants to vote do so, and then let's have actual people count all the votes afterwards.

3 - Legalize all the stuff that we all know should be legalized, because it isn't anybody else's goddam business if somebody pays a hooker for sex or smokes a doobe in the privacy of their own home. Put our cops to work preventing and/or solving real crimes, and tax the hell out of all the newly legalized vice traffic.

2 - Sic the IRS, the FBI, the Treasury Department, the NSA, and the CIA on American corporations hiding all their profits in illegal offshore bank accounts. Send some CEOs to Turkey or Egypt for 'enhanced interrogation' if you want.

And the number one change I would like to see made in how our government and/or political system works:

1 - All elected officials, all political appointees, and all candidates for public office are required to wear wireless electrodes on their genitalia at all times. Whenever they say the word 'God' or 'Jesus' or 'Bible' or 'faith' or 'religion' or in any other way invoke their own personal superstitions in an attempt to get votes or reassure the public, I get to push a button sending 50,000 volts straight into their naughty bits. And I get to hold the fucker down for as long as I want to, too. Talk to me about your goddam church NOW, bitchez!

As a final note -- while I'm actually very serious about all of the above (well, maybe not the electrodes), I would like to say this: the last fifteen seconds or so of that YouTube video quite genuinely chill me to the bone. If watching that doesn't tell you that these people are all part of the same elitist club, that none of them actually give a shit about you or anything that's important to you, and that none of them will do a single goddam thing to meaningfully help any of us or hinder the enormous global trainwreck that we are all rushing inevitably towards (and why should they? they'll still be perfectly comfortable in the aftermath of any disaster that could possibly occur), then you can't see the hand in front of your face, which is most likely just about to put a gun to your head.

I wish to... well, I just wish, fervently and passionately, that I thought there was ever going to be a political candidate for high office in my life that I could honestly and genuinely vote FOR, because I honestly and genuinely believed they were trustworthy and would do a decent job once they got into office. I am so sick of voting damage control... but what the hell else can you do?

The also ran

So, here's a thing --

Couple of days ago on my other blog, some person named 'ran' showed up for the first time in a few of my older comment threads. This person, whoever they are, was agreeable and complimentary, advising me that they agreed with every word I'd posted and, in fact, stating enthusiastically that "you've got a new fan, fanboy".

Then, in a more recent comment thread, I mentioned my preference for Israel over other, less democratic, more insanely xenophobic, Arabic countries.

You could nearly hear the abrupt SCREEEEEEEECH! of emotional brakes, the sudden KRAK! of an appalled and astonished head whipping around and the POP! of eyes bulging as 'ran', whoever he or she might be, took that particular comment from me in.

Then I got:

I take it you were a big fan of apartheid era South Africa too?

good day sir.

Sic transit gloria mundi and all that other good Roman shit, I guess.

This seems like as good an occasion as any for me to stick my foot right back in it, so, with no further ado, I re-present, from one of my previous blogs, originally posted back in December of 2002 --


I just like Israel. Sue me.

I'm about to go on the sort of long screeching political tirade I'm really not very good at. Nonetheless, it's my blog and I'll make myself look like an idiot, for the very few who will every actually read this, if I want to.

Supporting Israel is one of those things that, these days, makes most of the other liberals I know want to disown me and insist that, no matter what I may say, I'm certainly no damned liberal they want to acknowledge as a comrade and kindred spirit. Over the course of my adult life, many of my opinions on hot button issues have convinced various left wing larynxes I'm acquainted with that I cannot, under any circumstances, be allowed to consider myself anything but, at best, a 'moderate', and in many ways, a raving 'conservative'.

For example, since I am a white male, and I regard affirmative action as being a well intentioned, poorly conceived, badly executed program whose logic has been insupportable from its inception, many of my liberal contacts over the years have looked upon me with horror. To my mind, you do not combat racism by enabling and institutionalizing reverse racism, but most of the liberals I know, especially the Caucasian ones, have had oppressor guilt imprinted on their DNA patterns since their gestation, and are apparently simply incapable of understanding that you do not wipe out bias by instituting a system in which everyone making any sort of choice or distinction MUST, as a matter of law, pay MORE attention to race, and in fact, prioritize their choices BY race, rather than ignoring race altogether and simply looking at the qualifications of each candidate, as should be the actual goal of any social initiative meant to wipe out racism.

Affirmative action is a big one, but my liberal acquaintances are also appalled by my reluctant, through-gritted-teeth, less than full throated affirmation of abortion rights (as a male, I acknowledge it's not up to me, nor should it be up to the government, to decide for any woman what she will do with her own reproductive system; nonetheless, I hate the very idea of abortion and would have a very difficult time respecting any woman who ever had one for frivolous or casual reasons, or as someone on CHICAGO HOPE once put it, I support birth control, not abortion), and they especially hate the way I insist that although I really like the idea of gun control, the Constitution of the United States simply and irrefutably prohibits it absolutely, and any statute being enforced within the United States, be they Federal, State, or municipal, that in any way inhibits or interferes with the people's right to keep and bear arms, is unConstitutional, until such time as we amend the Second Amendment.

And, lately, as I wryly note above, supporting Israel, especially in its most recent horrifyingly violent ongoing conflicts with Palestinians, has become yet another issue that liberals want to disown me for.

However, I will note that until very recently, supporting Israel was considered to be the very definition of liberalism. American conservatives, for the most part, have viewed Israel's existence with dubiety (to say the least) for decades since its inception. Most conservatives used isolationist bluster to make what was actually simply 'good old fashioned Jew hating talk' seem more acceptable, but the bottom line for the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s seemed to be, if you supported Israel, or, at the very least, if you supported the idea of the American government supporting Israel in any way, shape, or form, you were either a goddam yarmulka wearing commie symp pinko Marxist Jew undermining American values yourself, or you were a devious fifth columnist in the secret pay of the Zionist-Marxist International Axis trying to overthrow the American government and bring the U.S. into a one world government dominated by the godless commies.

My, how things have changed.

Bill Connoll, whose alarmingly thought free left wing blog Thoughts On The Eve Of The Apocalypse I was recently directed to by the generally excellent (if slightly too knee jerk for my taste) Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, seems to sum up the viewpoint of most of the left wing liberal bloggers I'm aware of these days, in this post , where he notes, among many other things, a report entitled:
Killing The Future, Mostly of Palestine
Two days ago, Robert Fisk reported on the release of Amnesty International's recent report, "Killing the Future: Children in the Line of Fire
In one of its most shocking reports on the Israeli-Palestinian war, Amnesty International today condemns both sides in the conflict for their "utter disregard" for the lives of children -- 250 of them Palestinian and 72 Israeli -- who have been killed over the past year.

Although the Fisk report then goes on to say, with remarkable sanity and balance:

"It also attacks Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority for imprisoning militants for political purposes rather than submitting them to fair trials for the killing of children. It says the assertion by Palestinian armed groups that international law imposes no constraints on them is untrue. "No violations by the Israeli army, no matter their scale or gravity, can ever justify the targeting and killing of Israeli children or any other civilians by Palestinian groups."

This clearly annoys Connoll, as it would most of my fellow self named liberals these days, who dislike it when anyone says anything mean about Palestinians, whom my fellow left wingers, in apparent knee jerk reaction to the current conservative and populist biases against Arabic culture, have embraced as oppressed, patriotic heroes and cultural martyrs. Connell notes :
Ironically, the very same day Fisk's report was published, the International Herald Tribune ran a storystating, "A 12-year-old Palestinian schoolboy was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers Monday and 22 other children were wounded by Israeli gunfire while throwing rocks and debris at army tanks in the besieged West Bank city of Nablus, local officials reported. Five adults were also wounded."

Remarkably, I've heard little about any of this in the American media.

Connoll's post is simply one of many I could have pulled off nearly any of the liberal blogs I read and generally enjoy and agree with. In fact, over on William Burton's always thoughtful and never, to my mind, knee jerk or reflexive, blog, someone whose name I cannot recall posted a several hundred word comment calling me a racist and a bigot, at great and enormous length, because I indicated in one of my own posted comments there that I like Israel a lot more than I like Palestine, in both sweeping general and pretty much every specific comparative point I was aware of.

Liberals, as I've stated, seem to have simply, for the most part, absorbed a maxim: American conservatives don't like Arabs right now, so we must love Arabs and defend their right to be Arabs and to exist as Arabs with every fiber and particle of our beings.

Since Israel is now, as it has pretty much always been since its inception as a nation, in a death-struggle with various Arab nations, but especially those who call themselves Palestinians, this apparently means that liberals are now against Israel.
Well, again, as I stated at the top of this: I just like Israel, especially as opposed to Palestine. And while I admit, I'm no minutely informed political power blogger who knows everything there is to know about domestic and international political affairs going back to the mid 19th Century, and I'll admit, I may certainly be guilty of oversimplifying things, nonetheless, I would like to state some hard truths, as I perceive them, on this subject.

I like Israel, especially as compared to their cultural and political opponents, the Palestinians, for many reasons. I'm going to try to set out those reasons on a couple of lists -- List (A), of things Israel does that I generally judge in a kindly and approving fashion, and List (B) of things Israel doesn't do that I view similarly. Ready? Here we go:

List (A): Israel does:

    • elect its government democratically

    • tolerate different religious views

    • live in peace with anyone, no matter what their origin, race, culture, or belief system, as long as they don't shoot at them

    • eschew the mutilation of its adolescent female population's genitalia as a social control mechanism

    • allow its women to wear whatever the hell they want to in public or private, pretty much

    • allow its women to vote, drive, and fuck anyone they feel like fucking, whether or not they're married at the time

    • allow its women to leave burning buildings regardless of their state of dress or undress

    • have an actual criminal justice system with courts and judges and juries and trials, as opposed to one where religious fanatics make snap judgements on the spot and carry out barbarous, cruel, often lingeringly torturous punishments and/or executions without any chance of appeal

    • commit most if not all of its violent acts with uniformed troops against an openly declared, sociopathically fanatical enemy, said uniformed troops generally acting only in either undeniable self defense or in retaliation for previous, terrorist style attacks by non-uniformed personnel who generally target civilians

I could go on and on, but -- no, wait, I think I will go on and on for a little bit longer, anyway, with List (B). Israel does NOT:

    • enforce its own particular religious doctrines by allowing bands of armed thugs to roam the public streets beating those they see breaking the Laws of Moses

    • punish girls caught taking walks with unsuitable boys by allowing government officials to gangrape them

    • punish adulterous wives by burying them up to their necks in the sand and then having mobs of men throw rocks at their heads until they die, with or without an actual trial to establish the guilt of this remarkable non-crime

    • dance and sing in the streets when large buildings full of non-combatant strangers fall burning to the ground, killing thousands

    • deploy biological and chemical weaponry on its own citizenry, or, as far as I know, anyone else

    • pay a death benefit to the families of sociopaths who strap bombs on themselves, walk into public areas frequented by Palestinian civilians, and then self detonate

    • call those same self detonating, murderous sociopaths 'heroes' and 'martyrs', not to mention 'soldiers' despite the fact that none of them wear a uniform when they carry out their 'military attacks'

    • dress up babies as suicide bombers as a hilarious cultural in-joke and then take pictures for the family photo album

    • hijack airliners full of non-combatants and drive them into large buildings full of non-combatants to make some insane geo-political point

    • embrace a rabid cultural ideology entirely devoted to the eventual eradication through any means necessary of an entire population of human beings they just don't frickin' like, regardless of whether or not that population actually accedes to their ridiculous demands or not

All of the above are reasons why, shockingly and appallingly, I support Israel, especially as Israel is contrasted with the Palestinians, and Arabic culture in general.

However, I realize that that list isn't enough. (Well, I realize that nothing I say will be enough; those who are adamantly opposed to me will not be persuaded by anything I say; only those who already agree with me before I ever sit down to write this will agree with me after reading it. But what the hell, it's a slow night.) So, a few more points to the 'why I like Israel and think Palestinians should shut up and go away' argument:

Let's look, once more, at one of the things my fellow left wingers (God, how they hate it when I call them that) bring up the most often in their 'Israel just sucks and so does the American media's coverage of the Middle East' blather, namely, the fact that lots and lots of Palestinian children have been killed in this conflict by evil Israeli Defense Forces -- apparently, far more of them, in fact, than Israeli children have been killed by Palestinian 'soldiers', 'martyrs', and 'heroes'. And this fact, my liberal fellow travelers endlessly trumpet, is all but ignored by the goddamned Israel hugging American media. (My fellow liberals do tend to eschew the terms 'Jew loving' or 'Zionist', but I swear I can sometimes almost hear them gritting their teeth as they force themselves not to type either of them.)

Looking at the report passed along by Connoll, I see the International Herald Tribune ran a story stating, "A 12-year-old Palestinian schoolboy was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers Monday and 22 other children were wounded by sraeli gunfire while throwing rocks and debris at army tanks in the besieged West Bank city of Nablus, local officials reported. Five adults were also wounded."

Now, this leads me to ask two rhetorical questions. The first I frankly admit, I don't know the answer to, and what I'd guess, based on my own beliefs and perceptions, could well be wrong. Still:

1. Exactly what is the percentage of dead Palestinian children that have been killed by unformed Israeli troops after violently provoking said troops by engaging them as an armed mob with missile fire, and, apparently, the support and encouragement, if not outright leadership of nearby Palestinian adults? As opposed to, say, the percentage of Israeli children who were killed by non-uniformed Palestinian terrorists walking into eateries and shopping centers and libraries with bombs strapped to their nutball asses and self detonating?

My guess, which again, I fully admit, could be wrong, is that both percentages are going to be pretty high. Furthermore, I'd also guess, just off the top of my head, that the percentages of Palestinian children killed by non-uniformed Israeli terrorists with bombs (or anything else) while they were just sitting around reading books or eating ice cream is pretty fucking low. Similarly, I'd also guess that the percentage of Israeli children shot down by uniformed Palestinian defense forces after they started screaming, charging, mobbing, and throwing rocks at said uniformed and armed soldiery is pretty low.

In fact, I'm going to guess that probably the reason so many more Palestinian kids have been killed by Israeli soldiers than Israeli kids have been killed by Palestinians, is that in general, Israelis, whether they are children or adults, do not attack armed soldiers with their bare hands, or with sticks and stones and pieces of street debris. (Unless, of course, the armed soldiers are trying to herd them into ovens or something.) This may speak to Israelis being more civilized than Arabs in general, or more intelligent, or more sane, or all three. In this specific case, I suspect it actually speaks to Israelis raising their children to be tolerant, as opposed to Arabs and Palestinians in particular raising their children to hate Israelis and to believe that if they die fighting the enemies of Allah they will automatically go to Paradise (and that last belief strikes me as not only being completely nuts and insanely irresponsible, but also simply an undeniably evil thing to teach a child). But what the hell do I know.

My second rhetorical question on this matter is this:

2. You're a uniformed tank commander in a region where you, the soldiers under your command, and the people you are there to protect and patrol, are surrounded at all times by violent fanatics who will stop at nothing to cause you, and them, harm. It has been demonstrated to you so many times, and so tragically, that no sane person can doubt it, and no responsible peace officer can disregard it, that among your enemy, there are no individuals who can be safely judged by appearance, gender, race, or age as non-combatants. It has also been demonstrated repeatedly that a mistake on your part will certainly lead to your death and the deaths of the people under your command, and those you are there to protect. Abruptly, while on patrol, you find yourself surrounded by a screaming mob of adolescents and some adults, all obviously hostile and vigorously and violently engaging you and your troops with sustained missile fire.

I want to take a moment to note, here, that 'you' as the uniformed tank commander in this example are not necessarily Israeli. You could be an American in Hanoi in 1968, surrounded by Vietnamese 'civilians'. You could be a Bosnian Serb. You could be a Sunni Muslim nervously patrolling a Shi'ite neighborhood, or a South Korean soldier in the DMZ. In some parallel timeline, you could be a Native American, fighting to defend your last remaining free territory from the evil encroachments of the Vile White European Invaders. And it's helpful (although those I'm writing this mostly to won't remotely want to) to try and take away the nationalist and cultural labels from this, and just see a generic situation. But, continuing the question, or thought exercise:

Utilizing what superhuman ability granted you by the deity of your choice, or perhaps your otherworldly origin or the effects of atomic radiation on your parents' DNA, do you instantly come to the conclusion that mixed in among the rocks, sticks, pieces of brick, bottles, and other missiles hurtling at you and your soldiers, there is no Molotov cocktail, grenade, or crude but effective homemade Semtex bomb? And, barring your use of said superhuman ability to instantly reach this crucial, life and death conclusion, what amount of force do you conclude is justified to preserve your own life, and the lives of your troops, and the lives of the people you are charged to protect, against this attack? And how much time do you think, in this exercise, you would have to ponder this before you had to take some sort of action?

Analogy is always suspect, but I'll tell you what: if I get a bunch of my buddies together, we all get rocks and clubs, and we head across town to the closest Islamic mosque and gather around it as a screaming mob, waving our clubs and hurling our rocks through the windows, I'm personally willing to bet that the cops are going to show up pretty goddam quick with guns drawn and tell us, in no uncertain terms, to stop doing that shit or they will shoot us dead. And I suspect even more that, if there were already cops standing around outside that mosque when we arrived, and we started tossing rocks at them, they'd start shooting back at us. And I suspect they'd do that even if me and my buddies were adolescents or teenagers, once they gave us a warning or two to cut the shit. American adolescents and teenagers have been known to carry guns and explosives, and the fact that an armed peacekeeper only sees rocks and clubs doesn't mean they won't necessarily respond with lethal force.

I'm also pretty sure, although the news reports Connoll reviles for their lack of balance (meaning, sympathy for Palestinian patriots, heroes, and martyrs) don't mention it, that the Israeli Defense Forces in question probably told the Palestinian mob in this particular example to cut the shit or they'd be fired on. Maybe more than once.

Now, suppose instead of cops protecting that mosque in my example, there are American Special Forces troops, with loaded M-16s and full combat ordinance, stationed there instead. And suppose instead of me and my buddies, or a bunch of obviously American kids that these Special Forces guys don't know, through generations of repeated atrocities, are willing to do anything to kill them, they are instead being attacked by a mob of -- I don't know -- fanatical Iroquois secessionists who have over the past forty years demonstrated a willingness to go to any extreme of violence to wipe out American soldiers and peacekeepers illegally occupying what they consider to be their own legitimate territory. Exactly what's going to happen to that screaming, attacking, rock throwing mob of zealous partisans?

My fellow liberal lefties seem to quite ardently believe that when Palestinian terrorists attack civilian targets with lethal weapons of indiscriminate effect, they are behaving patriotically and heroically. In contrast, when uniformed peacekeeping troops retaliate for those terrorist attacks, or even fire in self defense on fanatical mobs attempting to swarm their position, they are unconscionable war criminals who should be perfunctorily tried and then summarily hung.

Okay, that may be an overstatement; most of my fellow bloggers do, as a nominal afterthought, condemn Palestinian suicide bombers. Yet still, the vast and overwhelming impression I get is that the left wing of blogdom these days somehow, even while condemning Palestinian terrorism, views the actions of the Israeli Defense Forces as being somehow every bit as bad, if not actually worse.

One final rhetorical point and then I'm done with this, at least, for now:

"Land for Peace" is another biggie that both the liberal Israeli left wing, and the liberals over here, keep harping on. The Israeli occupation of the Left Bank is an immoral incursion. The Palestinians of the left bank are an illegally occupied and oppressed people. If Israel is serious about peace, then Israel has to get the hell out of the Left Bank, apologize for illegally settling it in the first place, pay reparations, and, I don't know, line up individually by the millions to kneel and kiss Arafat's ass and murmur sincere imprecations of their cultural remorse on live, internationally broadcast television.

I don't know whether or not the Israeli occupation of the Left Bank is an immoral incursion, and while I admit that, let me also state that I in no way am saying that the Israelis are some sort of fantasy Jedi Knight culture composed of nothing but noble heroes who are all wise and benevolent and good. Are there bad Israelis? I'm sure there are. Have the Israelis done bad things? I have no doubt. So has everyone. I've done bad things. Everyone I know has done bad things. America has done bad things, Russia has done bad things, France has done bad things, Belgium and Switzerland and, I don't know, goddam Luxembourg have all done bad things, I would imagine. And the occupation of the Left Bank, for all I actually know, is a Bad Thing that Israel has done. Nonetheless, I want to point out one more thing that seems to me to be obvious, but that no one else has even mentioned:

Based on what seems to be generally known and admitted by pretty much everyone of every political persuasion about Palestinians and Israel, what's going to happen if Israel just throws up its hands, says "Holy shit, you guys are right, we just suck -- we're outta the Left Bank, and y'all have a party, okay?"

My fellow left wingers all seem to think that, assuming the awful and intransigent and bloodthirsty Israelis would just open their eyes and embrace that most reasonable of all positions, why then, the Palestinians would fall to their knees and go 'lawsamercy, you Jews are our brothers after all!'. There would be a big group hug, everyone would dance and sing in the streets, two disparate cultures would embrace and learn from each other, the very heavens would open and manna would pour down and the Millennium itself would be fairly begun.

I'm sorry, I think that's just stupid. What I think is far more realistic is that the Palestinians would then say "About fucking time, you stupid fucking Jews. Now, since you've acknowledged that you have absolutely no moral claim on our holy ground, get the fuck out of Jerusalem right this instant, you infidel dogs, or we'll kill you all."

And I tend to think they'd put it exactly like that, too.

I also personally believe that if every Jew in Israel were then, at that point, to suddenly clap themselves on the forehead and exclaim woefully, “You know, you’re right, we have absolutely no moral grounds for living here in the Middle East, let’s just scatter ourselves back amongst the various nations of the Earth again", and got on planes and vamoosed, leaving the functional infrastructure of Israel behind for the Palestinians to take over without asking for one red shekel in compensation -- the Palestinians would still not say ‘thank you’. I suspect, at that point, that the Palestinians would move in, take over the houses and buildings and well irrigated fields built and paid for and died over by the Israelis for generations, and pretty much immediately lay plans to, using whatever methods were available or became necessary, wipe out the blot that they consider the Jewish people to be from the very visage of humanity itself.

(Actually, I suspect first there’d be a jolly damned big Islamic holy war over which particular subsect of Islam got to occupy the actual Dome of the Rock, and as long as they don't start throwing around nukes I say have at it, O Sons Of The Desert, but if there were any extremist Muslims left when the dust settled from that one, then they’d get around to plotting the deaths of every Jew in the world. After which, assuming there was ever an ‘after’ to that, they’d start plotting the deaths of every non-Moslem Shi’ite in the world.)

So, I don’t know. Maybe the Israelis should acknowledge that their occupation of the Left Bank is illegal and they should withdraw. Or maybe some of their detractors should acknowledge that Arabs in general, and Palestinians in particular, simply hate all outsiders in general, and all Jews in specific, and there is absolutely nothing Israel can do other than lie down and die, to placate them, or win lasting peace, in the Middle East.

Nothing, I mean, except wipe every Arab religious/cultural zealot off the face of the Earth. Which, to date, the Israelis have shown remarkable restraint in not actually setting out to do, in my opinion.

Ultimately, why do I like Israel, and dislike Arabic culture so much? Because Israel, and Judaism, are cultures of tolerance and permissiveness and individual freedom and democracy. Arabic culture, and Islamic culture, are based on intolerance, conformity enforced by instant, barbaric punishments, misogyny, autocracy, and violent repression. Jews, as far as I can see, raise their children to be tolerant and to not pick fights. Arabs, and especially Palestinians, raise their children to hate all non-Arabs (and some fellow Arabs) so virulently that they are willing to kill themselves, or send their loved ones off to horrible fiery deaths, in order to take a few of the enemy with them.

I sympathize with any innocents who get caught in a crossfire, and I also sympathize with those who are warped by spectacularly bad parenting, no matter what race or culture they may belong to. But when we’re talking about the victims of suicide bombers, as opposed to those killed when they willingly engaged armed soldiers in a violent confrontation -- well, sorry. My sympathies and support go to the Israelis.

I take it back. I’m not sorry at all.

It may be worth noting here, in closing, that it was probably this exact post that, long ago and far away, moved Dean Esmay, perhaps the prince of all right wing pro-war attack bloggers, to declare ringingly that I was his "new favorite blogger".

And it's this post, probably more than any other, that drives every left wing blogger who comes across it to near blithering insanity.

What can I say?

I just like Israel.