Rad Geek People's Daily

official state media for a secessionist republic of one

Posts tagged Bullshit

And now they bring up you.

Here’s the opening of a MoveOn fundraising letter that I got just before going out of town last week. I’ve cut it off at the point where I stopped reading:

From: Nita Chaudhary, MoveOn.org Political Action <moveon-help@list.moveon.org>
Subject: 60 votes to win
Date: 3/19/2008 6:46 AM

Dear MoveOn member,

It’s happened again and again this year, on every issue we care about. Iraq. Health care. The climate crisis. Strong bills have sailed through the US House, only to stall in the face of Republican obstruction in the Senate. Republicans are on pace to double the Congressional record for the most filibusters.

Here’s the good news: Republicans are defending 23 Senate seats next year, compared to just 12 for the Democrats. Democrats could gain as many as 60 seats in the Senate, enough to break Republican filibusters and usher in a new era of progressive reform.

We’ve got a plan to take advantage of every seat that’s in play, make even more races competitive, and create a progressive majority that will last for a generation. But it’s going to take sustained support from you to pull it off and there’s no time to waste. Can you contribute $15 per month (you can cancel at any time) from now through Election Day?

Last year, the Senate Republicans obstructed numerous bills including stalling health insurance for the children who need it most and blocking a time-line to bring the troops home from Iraq.

Now look at some of the proposals from the Democratic presidential candidates that will almost certainly take 60 votes in the Senate to pass:

  • No more blank checks in Iraq

. . .

I stopped reading here because this is a lie.

It does not take 60 votes in the Senate to pass No more blank checks in Iraq. It does not take a filibuster-proof supermajority in the Senate — any more than it takes a veto-proof majority in the House — to halt blank-check funding for the Iraq War.

It doesn’t take positive legislation of any kind at all to halt funding for the Iraq War; all that it takes is a lack of any more laws to keep on funding it, whether in the form of regular budget line items or in the form of the repeated off-the-ledger infusions of cash which go to fund the Occupation’s perpetual state of emergency. Republican Senators can’t filibuster a non-bill and neither can President George W. Bush — or any President who might succeed him — veto it. It doesn’t take 60 Senators or 290 Representatives to stop bills from passing. All you need is a simple majority, which the Democrats already have, and have had for the last year and a half, and with which they have done worse than nothing over and over again.

The reason that those blank checks keep getting written, with Democrat Harry Reid and Democrat Nacy Pelosi’s signatures right by the X, is because the Democratic leadership, so-called, doesn’t give enough of a damn about ending the war to take on the political costs of blocking funding for it. The only reason that they could possibly think that doing what they want depends on having a larger majority than they already have is if what they want to do is something other than halting war funding.

The Democratic leadership clearly wants a larger majority in Congress, and they are going to keep on giving George Bush every dollar he asks for unless and until they get that larger majority. They don’t need the larger majority to stop sending him the money, so one of two things must be true. Either the Democratic leadership is waiting until they consolidate more political power so that they can pass a plan which will prolong the war rather than ending it, or else they are waiting until they consolidate more political power because they don’t want to end the war until after they’ve fully exploited it as a campaign issue in the upcoming Congressional and Presidential elections. In either case, the strategy is despicable. And in either case, it’s shameful to see a putatively antiwar group repeating their opportunistic lies.

No union with war-mongers, spiritually or politically.

Further reading:

Damn the facts–full speed ahead!

As far as I can tell, Jamie Kirchick, assistant editor for The New Republic,[*] has devoted most of his young professional life to becoming exactly the sort of bright boy at the The New Republic whom Randolph Bourne had in mind when he wrote The War and the Intellectuals, and who, decades later, would make the best and the brightest into a bitter national joke. In any case, here’s something from his latest, a TNR blog post on Barack Obama’s relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and his recent speech on race:

Finally, what concerns me most about the Wright controversy isn’t the Pastor’s racist statements or even his unhinged views of Israel. I don’t think Obama agrees with any of that nonsense. What concerns me is the sort of comment that Wright made about Harry Truman’s ending World War II, that We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye. This smacks of the Howard Zinn/Noam Chomsky/Nation magazine wing of the American left that Democrats serious about this country’s security (and winning in November) should not want within 100 miles of the next administration.

— James Kirchick, The Plank (2008-03-21): Thoughts on a Speech

Let’s set aside, for the moment, Rev. Wright’s confusion about personal pronouns. I didn’t bomb Hiroshima or Nagasaki, and I don’t think that he did, either. But that’s apparently not what Kirchick has a problem with. What he has a problem with is what such statements about the U.S. government smack of.

But, Mr. Kirchick, no matter what it may smack of to mention it, isn’t it true that the United States Army bombed Hiroshima?

No matter what it may smack of to mention it, isn’t it true that the United States Army bombed Nagasaki?

No matter what it may smack of to mention it, isn’t it true that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed somewhere around 210,000 civilian men, women and children — about 70 times the number of civilians killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?

As far as I can tell, nothing that has provoked Jamie Kirchick’s outrage here is actually, you know, false. Perhaps he thinks that these are facts which it is rude to mention in public. But if being taken for serious about this country’s security (which is TNR-speak for this government’s wars) requires not mentioning them–that is, if being taken for serious requires silence or dissembling about the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people for the sake of a shared vision of American power, then it is well worth asking just who the hell these assholes are who we’re supposed to prove our seriousness to. And what their notion of seriousness really amounts to. And why anyone should think she has to prove a damned thing to them.

(Via David Gordon, via Lew Rockwell 2008-03-23.)

* You may remember Kirchick from an earlier piece he published in TNR during the late unpleasantness. ?

Further reading:

The Genital Correctness Busybody Blowhard Brigade

(Story via Holly @ feministe 2008-02-17. Video thanks to GLAAD 2008-02-13.)

There are a couple of different points to make about conservative reactions to the recent story of a government elementary school in Douglas County, Colorado making some accommodations for a transgender girl in the second grade. Both are well illustrated by the ridiculous discussion of the story by professional blowhard Neil Cavuto on Fox News.

The first point to make is about the first-order issue — how to run an elementary school and what to do if a kid who has been living and attending school as a boy decides that she wants to live as a girl instead. As far as this goes, Cavuto’s reaction is based on a tissue of nastiness, nonsense, and a few plain lies. As far as I can tell, for example, the claim that any student other than this little girl will be using unisex bathrooms is simply false — the school will have its normal girls’ and boys’ bathrooms; the girl in question just won’t be forced to use them. The claim that it will cost millions of dollars also seems to be something that Cavuto just made up out of thin air; the school already has plenty of bathrooms, doesn’t need to build more, and is just reclassifying a couple of already-existing bathrooms — which from the sound of it are probably single-stall rooms in the teacher’s lounge, or something similar — for this girl’s use. More broadly, the entire discussion is premised on the positively bizarre notion that the school should be ragged on for bending over backwards to suit this girl’s delicate sensibilities, just so long as they don’t follow the Genital Correctness Busybody Blowhard Brigade in deliberately trying to make the kid’s life more unpleasant, e.g. by refusing to call her by her chosen name, or by forcing her to use the boys’ bathroom when she doesn’t want to use it, or by refusing to intervene against bullies as they would with any other child being bullied for any other reason, or by harassing her, punishing her, or throwing her out of school for wearing the wrong set of clothes. Apparently it’s the acme of liberal hypersensitivity and authoritarian political correctness run amok, and indeed it’s robbing children everywhere of their childhood (!), if you should ever fail to go out of your way to be as obnoxious as possible toward an eight-year-old kid, who never did anything to you, all in the name of heteropatriarchal gender-role social engineering.

The second point to make is about a second-order issue — whether or not the local government in Douglas should be taking a role in promoting one way of running a school or interacting with transgender students over others. Cavuto tries to invoke the issue implicitly by repeatedly referring to tax dollars, and although his specific claims about millions of tax dollars are obvious bullshit, there is a legitimate point buried under it. It should not be the local government’s business to promote either a tolerant or a punitive school environment for this kid — because while I think it’s stupid for any school to harass this kid or try to force her into the right gender identity, I also think that it is tyrannical for any government to force local taxpayers to pay for projects that they personally find abhorrent (whether because they are being forced to pay for violations of their own religious beliefs, or for any other reason). Nor should local parents be forced to enroll their kids in a school that allows openly transgender students to participate in classes. Again, I think that’s a stupid policy to make, but is tyrannical for the government to force parents to put their children in environments that they deeply believe that their children shouldn’t be in.

If we had an argument to the effect that local taxpayers should be able to withhold funding from schools that establish policies they consider wrongheaded, or to the effect that anti-trans local parents should be free to withdraw their kids from this school and make other arrangements (homeschooling, parochial schooling, or whatever), without having to jump the government’s normal punitive bureaucratic hurdles, and without being forced to continue paying for a school that they no longer feel to be fit to educate children, then I would be perfectly willing to take their side on that one — I may disagree with everything that they want to teach kids, but I’ll defend to the death their right to teach it. But, of course, principled small-government conservatives that they are, Cavuto and the rest of the GCBBB are constitutionally incapable of making that kind of second-order argument. Instead, we find a lot of phony-concern hand-wringing from letter writers about local government and school authorities promoting gender confusion, deviance, professional help, a lifetime of pain, etc. (As far as I can tell there’s no evidence that the girl is at all confused; she seems to be pretty clear on what she wants. And there’s no reason to believe that her decision to live as a girl promises a lifetime of pain, unless and except to the extent that other people, i.e. these same busybody blowhards, go out of their way to make it painful. There’s no promise here; only a threat.) But it is no more the job of government authorities to promote conformity to traditional gender roles and their assignment based on biological sex, than it is their job to promote the opposite; it would be just as immoral as them to force me to pay for harassing and penalizing transgender children who would otherwise be happy as clams until they fit back into their proper gender, when I consider that abhorrent. Cavuto, meanwhile, shows his principled conservative bona fides by arguing that no matter how many transgender kids there may be in elementary schools, they are far from the majority. We live in a country where majority rules, which apparently, to his mind, means that when 99% of kids follow traditional gender norms for the sex they were assigned at birth, it must be the government’s job to direct school authorities to treat the remaining 1% like shit, so as to spare the 99% from the terrible confusion of possibly learning something. The majority rules, the minority drools, and if you don’t like it they’ll force you to pay for their Right-wing social engineering anyway. And, oh yes, you will pay.

Further reading:

Masculinity Studies 102: Let’s ask the experts.

Over at Hit and Run, Kerry Howley, a contributing editor at Reason, explains part of what she finds lacking in a common anti-feminist argument to the effect that large-scale socioeconomic disparities between men and women are the result of inborn differences, rather than pervasive forms of sexism.

The different-preferences-create-different-outcomes argument is ambitiously superficial and question begging. Absent any account of how preferences are shaped, I’m not sure why anti-feminists think they’re saying something intelligent when they boldly assert that men and women want different things. IWF loves to talk about Title IX, and it’s a great example of a cultural shift affecting preferences in young women. Did 14-year-old girls just not like sports before Title IX and the rise of the girl jock? Or did Title IX help create a culture where a broader range of interests could be engendered and cultivated? Does the fact that girls in 1950 did not aspire to captain high school soccer teams say anything interesting about women? I don’t think so.

— Kerry Howley, Hit and Run (2007-11-29): Men Are From North Dakota and Women Are From South Dakota

I’m sure she’s entitled to her opinion. But now let’s see what a real expert has to say about whether or not women experience discrimination in America today: Mr. Brian Sorgatz!

What gender inequality? I ask in earnest. In 2007 in the United States, discrimination based on gender is like highway robbery. Technically, it still exists, but it’s been shrunk to a tiny remnant of the problem it once was.

— Brian Sorgatz, 29 November 2007, 1:55 pm

Well, that’s that. If some dude can’t think of any major examples of inequalities that American women face in 2007, must not be a problem after all. Any woman who thinks she has noticed counterexamples had better get on board with a theory that can make some kind of peace with the realities of human nature.

Like this one, offered by another male expert on discrimination against women:

I think it has much more to do with mate selection criteria — women tend to place more emphasis on men who earn large amounts of money, while men tend to place more emphasis on women who are physically attractive and have the personality traits to make a good mother. This sexual selection pressure would result in men making the tradeoffs and sacrifices that result in higher average salaries, while women would be more likely to pursue other values. Both are rationally pursuing the goals that they perceive benefit them most.

— prolefeed, 29 November 2007, 4:01 pm

Did you know that if you take a series of 1950s sitcom punchlines and slap a sticker with the words mate selection criteria on top of them, that makes it Scientific?

Meanwhile, three minutes later:

Prolefeed, you just raised the I.Q. of the entire thread. Thanks for that.

(Again, it’s not that Prolefeed is necessarily right in every particular. But his thinking is admirably sophisticated.)

— Brian Sorgatz, 29 November 2007, 4:04 pm

The hedge is important. We do have to leave room for other well-researched theories proposed by other men. For example, we must remain open to the possibility that 13,000 years and more of patriarchy turns out to all be the result of the (probably genetic) advantage in upper-body strength that the very strongest men have over the very strongest women. Who knew that so much could turn on a bench-press?

Further reading:

Sin Fronteras

We are often told that immigration is a complex policy issue, with a lot of competing interests to sort out, finicky bureaucratic details to adjust, and a desperate need for civility and compromise. We’re told that it’s complicated because we need to balance complicated economic and humanitarian needs, on the one hand, with the varying interests of U.S. workers, the social welfare system, the education system, our culture and heritage, law and order, and national security. Hand-wringers, both liberal and conservative, like this line, because it allows them to portray themselves as sensible middle-of-the-roaders without actually committing themselves to any serious challenge to the immigration system as it currently stands. Taking a principled stand on immigration policy will likely get you involved in emotional fights; fiddling with the system to tweak it here and there, but leaving it essentially as it stands, allows you to dismiss opponents as unrealistic zealots and try to move on to something that you feel more comfortable talking about, like Social Security or the upcoming Presidential election.

But immigration is not a complex policy issue. It is a simple moral issue: peaceful people should never be physically attacked just for trying to move from one place to another. Innocent people should not be at the mercy of the State just because they have moved into a home where they are welcome and gotten a job with a willing employer, in a desire to make a better life for themselves.

Nativist bullies often like to pretend to be friends of labor; so they whine about the effects that immigrant workers have on wages, forgetting, or deliberately ignoring, the fact that the immigrant workers’ wages go up when they come to the U.S. — that is, after all, why they do it — and therefore their proposal boils down to using government violence to prop up one set of workers’ wages, by physically forcing another, poorer set of workers out of the country. That’s outrageously immoral.

Nativists who complain endlessly about the alleged burden that undocumented immigrants place on the welfare state or the educational system wilfully disregard the fact that undocumented immigrants pay most state and local taxes (as well as federal taxes, if they’re working with forged documents), while having no access to most federal benefits and many state benefits. When confronted with the fact that, even in those cases where undocumented immigrants are net tax recipients, they are no different from any suburban brat, elderly pensioner, or subsidized plantation-owner in the ever-expanding welfare state, they will routinely state that, since the welfare system is unlikely to be abolished in the near term, they prefer to get the government to attack immigrants, because undocumented immigrants are more politically vulnerable than native-born welfare recipients, or the welfare system as such. Targeting the weakest people, even though they are not to blame for the existence of the political system at the root of your complaint, because it’s easier to take it out on them than it is to challenge that system, is grossly immoral.

When challenged, nativists are often unwilling to cop to the fact that they are, in fact, proposing for force to be used towards these ends — as if deportation consisted of a nice crossing guard escorting you home, rather than forcible exile from your current home at the hands of armed men who will restrain, beat, or shoot you if you don’t comply with their orders. A while ago, when I dared to explain to a commenter at Vox Populi that his proposal of ending massive unskilled immigration necessarily entailed being willing to forcibly restrain, beat, shoot, confine, and exile from their current homes those unskilled immigrants who did not volunteer to leave at your command, my interlocutor was outraged that I’d go around telling me I’m willing to do hitler like things and that even deportation does not mean forcibly restrain, beat, shoot,. [sic] If you think the US government would do that, and if you think white americans would countenance that, you are deluded. Well, what do the mass deportation and mass interdiction plans mean, then? A polite request that the immigrant can ignore and remain in the country unmolested? If so, I have no real quarrel with it, but it’s not a deportation policy. If you do intend to back it up, then forcible exile is indeed what you intend to do, and forcible restraint and confinement, with beating or shooting as necessary to make it happen, are the necessary means. If you’re not actually willing to cop to that, you’re not actually willing to enforce an immigration policy. If you’re willing for it to be done, but prefer to cover the fact over with bullshit euphemisms, then you are no less immoral; you’re just insisting on immorality with a P.R. campaign to cover it up and spin it beyond recognition.

Meanwhile, the efforts that professional-class Sensible Liberals make to intervene in the debate rarely amount to anything more than minor fiddling. While they rightly condemn the violent racism of the most bellicose nativist factions, their concrete proposals would almost never make any large-scale or systematic changes to the existing system of international apartheid and internal anti-immigrant surveillance. At most they would like to carve out a few new exceptions — perhaps for the same-sex partners of gay immigrants — or lift a few caps here and there — perhaps allowing a handful more political refugees per year. Mostly what passes for pro-immigrant rhetoric from liberals and Progressives is calling for increases to the funding or scope of government welfare and social work agencies, perhaps with some bilingual application forms. As worthwhile as it would be to liberalize immigration policy wherever and to whatever extent it can be liberalized, it must never be forgotten that all these proposals invariably leave La Migra, the border cops, the immigration courts, the detention centers, the Ihre Papiere, bitte treatment for new employees, and all the rest of the sprawling system of government command and control still in place. Millions of peaceful, productive people will still be stopped, screened, harassed, restrained, confined, or exiled by the government based solely on their nationality. Millions of undocumented workers will continue to live with the looming threat of losing their livelihoods, their homes, and even their families to a forced deportation. Millions of refugees will continue to languish, to starve, and to die in concentration camp hellholes because the wealthy nations of the world continue to stop them, at bayonet-point, from moving on to a new home and a new life.

Meanwhile, any extended debate or controversy over immigration policy is usually waved off by Sensible Liberals as unimportant, or as a distraction from issues that white liberals are more comfortable talking about. In the few cases where they do say a few words about the need for a substantially new approach to immigration, their proposed moderate reforms end up dressing up crude nativism in reformist language. While calling for a mild liberalization of immigration policy, they scrupulously avoid the unforgivable sin of supporting an extremist or unrealistic idea by reiterating and reinforcing echt-Nativist nonsense about assimilation or American jobs. Occasionally this is followed up by suggestions for creating new programs, or escalating existing programs, that are actively harmful to the lives and livelihoods of undocumented workers, such as so-called demand-side policies to penalize Americans who offer work, loans, homes, or other goods and services to undocumented immigrants. The idea is to forcibly drive down the demand for immigrant labor, which means forcing willing immigrant workers into unemployment, and whitewashing this anti-worker legislation with pseudo-populist rhetoric about greedy corporations–sometimes on the implicit claim that American workers are more deserving than other workers, simply on the basis of their nationality, and sometimes on the even more outrageous claim that forced pauperism is for the immigrants’ own good.

Perhaps the only consolation is that Sensible Liberals’ attempts to intervene in the debate and shift the rhetoric towards moderation have been so completely ineffectual. This controversy, like the debate over slavery, like the debate over abortion, and like all other controversies over simple moral issues, is and should be a debate between extremists, not a case for middle-of-the-roader rhetoric or halfway-house solutions. It is immoral for the government to stop, harass, restrain, confine, and exile peaceful people from their current homes, solely on the basis of their nationality. It is criminal that even one refugee cannot immediately escape from danger, or must live even one day longer penned up in a refugee concentration camp, simply because governments in the U.S. and Western Europe continue to enforce the SS St. Louis immigration policy. It is inexcusable that even one undocumented worker should have to live in fear of emergency workers, neighbors, or her boss, simply because she failed to get a signed permission slip from the federal government before she set out to make a living.

And it is ridiculous that these facts continue to be obscured by nativist bullying, by national security mysticism, or by pseudo-reformist wonkery-wankery. Goodbye to all that. The demand for open borders and immediate amnesty is simplistic, naïve, starry-eyed, unrealistic, extremist, uncompromising, radical, and also obviously correct. It is your job, reader, to live up to the best part of yourself and make that demand loudly, courageously, without compromise and without apology. Mumbling dismissal and pseudo-reformist compromise mean not prudence, but complicity.

Smash international apartheid, now and forever.

Anticopyright. All pages written 1996–2021 by Rad Geek. Feel free to reprint if you like it. This machine kills intellectual monopolists.