The Eclectic Quill

October 31, 2008

On Obama, Israel and Fallacies

Filed under: Politics — Kelly @ 12:34 pm

A couple of days ago, highlighting his "expertise" on foreign policy Joe the "Dumber" Wurzelbacher agreed that a vote for Obama would mean the death of Israel. Incredibly, he stated that he was able to make this analysis based on his reading. I suppose that one could come to that conclusion if they read their email, but not if they actually made the honest effort to get informed. The bashes on Obama’s Israel policy consist of certain common fallacies and set the record straight on where Obama actually stands on Israel.

There is an argument which logicians refer to as a "straw man," which is perhaps the most common type of fallacy found in the political world. A straw man refers to when a person’s actual position is misrepresented or distorted into something other than what it actually is. The perpetrator of the fallacy then attacks the "straw man," the distorted viewpoint to "prove" their case. It is a fallacy because in erecting the straw man the arguer never has to address the actual issue. In attacking Obama’s position on Israel they never actually attack Obama’s position on Israel, they attack a straw man. The danger in encountering a straw man argument is to defend the straw man. To defend the straw man legitimizes the straw man and the straw man is not the real argument. For that reason I have no intent to get into specific details in regards to the straw man they have erected, but rather I will dismiss it by addressing how and why it was erected.

Back in the day fox hunters would drag a dried, smoked herring across the path of a fox to throw off the scent for the dogs, and make the hunt more challenging. The smoked herring would be red in color, or a "red herring." In logic a red herring refers to a similar tool of fallacy, i.e. an argument which is designed to throw the discussion off the subject. The official term is Ignoratio elenchi, meaning "irrelevant conclusion." One type of red herring is "guilt by association" where the perpetrator of the fallacy tries to associate a person with other persons, and then equate the position of those persons with that of the original person. In this case the "trail" is Obama’s position on Israel, and the "red herring" is the position other peoples on Israel. Whatever people loosely connected with Obama think is not the same as what Obama thinks. Some might say that it is if those are in an advisory position. I’d agree insomuch as it is to the degree to which he is taking their advice, i.e. if I advise someone to go jump off a bridge, that doesn’t make them suicidal unless they act on the advice. If someone wants to point to a person who is anti-Semitic and who provably has Obama’s ear, and wants to share that information with me I’ll be happy to address it. However, to simply point to one person who may or may not have acted in some advisory role at some point in time and then was fired for some anti-Semitic thing they said in an unrelated forum is a red herring. Pointing to someone who has Palestinian sympathies and has had conversations with Obama is a red herring. Pointing to someone who simply endorsed Obama, but doesn’t even have conference with him is a big, stinking red herring. I will not chase down red herrings, giving them equal weight with sound logic, and neither should anyone else.

In the Middle Ages when a town was struck by the bubonic plague the Christians would sometimes accuse the Jews of poisoning the well. The Jews would then be unfairly persecuted, attacked, and thrown out of town. If they defended themselves they were reminded that they had poisoned the well, and they were just saying they hadn’t because they were being punished. Ergo, the poisoned well became the basis both for attacking the Jews and for them not being able to defend themselves. It is where we get the expression in logic, "poisoning the well." Poising the well occurs when a person is not allowed to speak for themselves because they have a personal interest in the argument. In a bizarre twist of logic the Obama attackers arbitrarily dismiss anything that Obama has to say about what Obama thinks about Israel because he’s just "saying it to get elected." Such an argument is impossible to defend. The perpetrators of these fallacies put themselves in a unique position, being able to uniquely point to who does and doesn’t speak for the candidate. Only those people who agree with the predisposed conclusion are given credence. It’s poisoning the well, it’s bad logic, and it’s proof of nothing. It’s also ironic that what begin as an anti-Semitic logic is now being used to paint someone as anti-Semitic.

In discussing these issues with certain people like Joe the Dumber they get very adamant and thrust out their fingers and get red faced and accuse the logical of ignoring the facts. This is not ignoring the fact though, it’s ignoring the fallacy. The facts are not what other people, remotely associated with Obama have said, it is what Obama himself has to say. It is ridiculous that it should take four paragraphs of discussion regarding the rules of logic to get to the relatively simple point that Obama is the most qualified person to speak about what is going on in the mind of Obama but it has.

So what does Obama say? Let’s first establish a common ground here, a universal point of agreement, a premise from which we may begin our discussion. Namely, I think it’s pretty easy to agree that the situation in Israel and the Middle East is complicated and controversial. Because of this combination of complexity and controversy it would be virtually impossible to have any authentic discussion of it without having statements that can be taken out of context and misrepresented. So when the smearers take a single statement of Obama’s, parse it, spin it and then try to present that as that as some bizarre sort of synecdoche of Obma’s entire thought on Israel, it should raise flags. The particular quote I refer to is this:

"I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt a unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you’re anti-Israel and that can’t be the measure of our friendship with Israel."

For those that don’t know, and I imagine there may be some, the Likud Party is the fourth largest party in Israel. The Likud charter calls for the annexation and settlement of the entire Land of Israel, which comprises the current territory of the State of Israel, as well as West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, and the whole of Jerusalem. The Likud party also was instrumental in the David Accords, which was the first peace agreement between Israel and the Arab States, but that’s not what Obama is talking about here, and it would be disingenuous to bring it up. What Obama is referring to is that here in America there is a certain segment that feels the only type of pro-Israel stance there is is a hard-line, hawkish stance Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It is a minority view of Jews both here and in Israel, but those who hold it scream that anyone who does not is an anti-Semite. Hmmmm—an extremist group within a minority party that argues unless you hold their view you are against the country in question—that’s starting to sound awfully familiar. What Obama is saying in that statement is that our friendship with Israel cannot be equated with whether or not we take an extremist position that most in Israel disagree with.

Here’s the irony of this statement: it actually comes from a pretty detailed discourse in a speech dedicated to Obama’s thoughts on US relations with Israel, (a speech which, apart from the above quote, is conspicuously absent in all the speculative emails and youtube videos on the subject.) In this speech Obama actually does give a statement which characterizes his overall view on the subject of Israel.

Our job is to never forget that the threat of violence is real. Our job is to renew the United States’ efforts to help Israel achieve peace with its neighbors while remaining vigilant against those who do not share this vision. Our job is to do more than lay out another road map; our job is to rebuild the road to real peace and lasting security throughout the region.

That effort begins with a clear and strong commitment to the security of Israel: our strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy. That will always be my starting point. And when we see all of the growing threats in the region: from Iran to Iraq to the resurgence of al-Qaeda to the reinvigoration of Hamas and Hezbollah, that loyalty and that friendship will guide me as we begin to lay the stones that will build the road that takes us from the current instability to lasting peace and security.

In this statement there are three things to take note of 1) It lays out unequivocally that the US and Israel are allies, and Obama considers that alliance to be critical. 2) The US has a "job" to do, namely, not forget the threat of violence, renew our efforts to help Israel achieve peace, and be vigilant against those who don’t share this vision. 3) Obama specifies who "those" are unequivocally, the Hamas, the Hezbollah, Iran, and the al-Qaeda. Any suggestion that Obama’s position on any of the above is anything else is wrong, blatantly wrong. It is a straw man, and the straw man has been dismantled.

Having said all that I’d like to point out why the straw man has been erected. If you take a step back and consider it, it seems very odd that to some people the essential criteria in voting for who the President of this country is what would be best for another country. Of course the same people would look at that and accuse me of being an anti-Zionist or something of the sort. The primary reason they feel it is so important is not political but theological. In their view it’s all about the Lord’s second coming. To them Israel needs to have the promised territory and rebuild the temple. In short they suggest that God needs our vote because a vote for McCain means a vote for Likud and a vote for Likud is a vote for the West Bank and Gaza strip, and a vote for that is a vote for the Lord’s return. It’s ridiculous.

I am a Christian, and I believe in the Lord’s return and I don’t think that how I vote on Tuesday has a hill of beans to do with when the Lord comes back. To suggest anything of the like is to suggest that God, who raises and establishes kings, is subject to democracy, and particularly the democracy of a single nation. Such arguments are not only illogical, they are heretical. I believe that God is sovereign, even when I don’t understand what He’s doing. There’s no question about whether God’s sovereignty will be represented—it will be, the only question is whether those Christians who don’t vote for the winner will accept God’s arrangement the day after the election. The bottom line is God is God, and he needs neither our vote nor America to establish what He needs to establish in Israel in order to make the way for His return.

Still one might argue that God moves through men etcetera. The presumption of such argument is that McCain automatically is somehow better than Obama for Israel. I’m not so sure. First we’ve already established that Obama will do whatever is necessary to defend Israel, so in terms of willingness there’s really no difference between the two. McCain and Obama are both equally willing to aid Israel if and when it needs our help. However, willingness and ability are two different matters. There are at least three different ways that a President Obama would be better situated to help Israel than a President McCain would.

First, Obama is willing to meet with Iran without preconditions. While much has been made of this wording and who would be willing to meet with who and so on, the bottom line is that there’s an underpinning logic that Obama has that gets ignored in all the rhetoric, that being that you can’t change people’s minds unless you talk to them. Does this mean that Obama thinks that he’s going to have meeting with Ahmadinejad, who will then have an epiphany and change his mind about wanting to nuke Israel? Of course not! It’s pretty plain that’s not what Obama’s thought is. No, just sitting down and talking is not going to solve the answer the answers to all the world’s problems, but it might solve some of them. By refusing to talk to Iran unless they agree to agree to us is just plain silly. That’s the whole point of negotiating. So whatever ground can be made up by diplomacy stands a better chance of being made up with a President Obama than with a President McCain based on the simple fact that McCain thinks diplomacy is "naïve" while Obama thinks it’s a starting point.

Second, militarily speaking the nation is stretched thin. We are fighting a war in two countries, and if we needed to defend Israel, that could extend to three, or even more. Suffice to say that the sooner we get safely out of Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving behind stable nations, the sooner we will be able to strengthen our military and be able to defend Israel if they were attacked. You can pretty much draw a straight line from our responsibly getting out of the current wars to our ability to defend Israel. As long as we are bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan our ability to defend Israel is restricted. McCain is opposed to timelines in Iraq and pushes for a surge in Afghanistan, a strategy that conflicts with the General on the ground there, David D. McKiernan. It’s my belief that McCain’s views on both fronts will prolong our presence there, and in turn, inhibit our ability to defend Israel.

Third, and finally, is our economy. Any nation is only as strong as its economy. Witness the fall of the USSR and the so called "failed experiment." McCain’s continued commitment to the notion of "trickle down" economics suggests that were he President, he would continue the failed policies that have brought about the worst economy in the country since the Great Depression. It’s hard to believe that the same policies which caused this crisis are going to cure it. As long as America is suffering economically its decision to defend Israel would remain moot if it simply can’t afford to. For these three reasons I’m persuaded that even if you accept the premise that God uses man, Israel is better off with an Obama presidency than one with McCain.

Joe the Dumber is ignorant and ill-informed. He has no business at all prognosticating about the future of Israel, and even less preaching about the virtues of being informed. Unfortunately, unlike the millionaire plumber, a rarity and in Joe’s case a myth, the misinformed champion Joe the Dumber serves a much more ubiquitous character in American society. If you meet them, or people confused by them, please feel free to send them to this blog.

October 24, 2008

Three Parts Crazy, Three Parts Stupid, Two Parts Liar, and All McCain

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 7:35 pm

I keep looking at this Todd story, and it’s been beat to death all day long, but it’s been hectic and busy, and I still have to type this one out. I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or just shake my head in disbelief. I keep trying to figure, was she more stupid or crazy? I mean this woman carved her own face up to “prove” a point that wasn’t true. Seriously! What is wrong with these people? The conservative pundits were on this thing all day long. I didn’t hear Rush’s comments, but I imagine he was prattling away about this, the same way he was blaming “Obama supporters” for trashing Norm Coleman’s house (while ignoring that Amy Klobuchar, the other Minnesota Senator and a Democrat also had her house trashed by the same people).

Violent language at McCain and Palin rallies begin to escalate into violence at McCain and Palin rallies as a group of “little old ladies” all attacked a couple of young men who were videotaping the verbal hate at a McCain rally. A dead bear cub was found on a college campus, draped in Obama signs. A man was stopped by the McCain campaign from passing out literature saying that Obama was an “Islamic Socialist.” Rush Limbaugh accused of Collin Powell of not being able to get past race in making an endorsement for Obama. Supporters of Obama, who had signs on their lawns, received death threats unless they removed their signs. A supposedly “Christian” lady said that she couldn’t “imagine a President named Obama“. In Texas an Obama worker had his car trashed while he had dinner with friends. At a McCain rally Robin Hayes said “liberals hate real Americans that work, and achieve and believe in God.” And while McCain was virtually silent on all of this, all the while insisting that he’s always the first person to stand up such things, and at the same time arguing that the same things were being said and done at Obama rallies (of which there is no evidence) it became more and more apparent that there was a discrepancy in the reality and perception that McCain was trying to create. Ashley Todd to rescue, ready to add her brand of crazy and stupid to the already illustrious mix!

You really have to wonder what she was thinking as she carefully drew the fake black eye on herself and carefully carved that backwards “B” on her face. Was she thinking, “I’ll show them that Obama supporters are just as nasty as we are!?” Was she thinking, “I’m going to HELP John McCain be the next PRESIDENT of the United STATES!” I mean seriously, what was passing through that Palin sized brain of hers? And as I followed the progression of the story through the day by the browser on my cell phone and read various comments and explanations about how a 5 inch knife barely left a scratch, why it was a backwards “B” (upside down they claimed), or how it was so utterly perfectly drawn, as though no struggle ensued, no reflexive pulling away from the knife held to her face, the thing that I kept asking myself is “stupid or crazy.” Only thing is now I wasn’t asking it about her I was asking it about all the loons who were buying this story, and flocking to her defense. I mean even the description of her attacker, a 6 foot 4 BLACK man with BLACK shirt and BLACK jeans and BLACK shoes should have made someone wonder.

Then the inevitable started to happen, the very thing Todd was hoping for, bloggers and commenters alike started to draw a line from the guy that attacked Todd to the guys that were yelling “kill him” and “terrorist” at the McCain and Palin rallies. Now let’s set aside for the moment the most obvious distinction, the McCain supporters were real and the Obama supporting mugger was fictional, and consider the analogy. There’s an obvious distinction in that McCain WAS THERE and Obama WASN’T! Somehow Obama is just as responsible for the actions any of the 50 million plus people who plan to vote for him (real or imagined) as McCain is for the tone and tenor of his own rallies. So as I started to realize this I had to come to grips with another part “stupid” and another part “crazy” to add to the illustrious Todd, along with all those McCain supporters.

And as I was considering this there was another thing that kept gnawing on me all through the day. It reminded me of another story, Joe the Plummer. Both thrust themselves into the spotlight based on complete and total fabrications. For all the talk about Joe the Plumber and whether he’s a plumber or whether he even pays his taxes, for all his quoting him and presenting him as the “everyman” McCain seems to forget the most telling thing about the whole exchange with Obama, that the entire thing was a lie. Sam wasn’t going to buy a 250 thousand dollar business, he was lying through his teeth. Todd wanted to tell a story but she too had to make one up to get it out? What does it tell us about McCain’s message that the only two “real Americans” that he can point to are liars? What does he think of us when he says that liars represent the “real America?”

Where did you go John McCain? Where’s “maverickness” that you are so proud of? Why don’t you stop using your campaign to sell liars as real Americans. Why haven’t you fired Todd yet? Why haven’t you publicly acknowledged that Joe the Plumber lied? Why haven’t you publically renounced all these things that your supporters are doing? Why do you dismiss it as just crazy people but refuse to tell these people that they shouldn’t be doing and saying these things on your behalf. No, I don’t think you are responsible for every crazy, stupid, lying thing done on your behalf, but I think you are responsible to denounce them, especially since you claim you do. So until you do, I think this might be three parts crazy, three parts stupid, and two parts liar, but I think it’s all John McCain.

 

*EDIT* Now I just read that the McCain campaign pushed this story long before all the facts were out, and it sounds like the Pittsburgh police are peeved about it. Additionally, the Obama campaign is RIGHTLY pointing out that the McCain camp was wrong to so irresponsibly push such a potentially racially charged incident.

October 21, 2008

Progressive Taxation, Socialism and Godwin’s Law

Filed under: Politics — Kelly @ 3:26 pm

In case you missed it last night Maddow tied accusations of socialism to Godwin’s Law. Godwin’s Law essentially stipulates that all online discussions are headed towards accusations of "Nazi" or "Hitler" and the first person who by hyperbole, invokes the accusation, essentially loses the argument based on being an idiot. That’s my definition anyway. Maddow suggested that the thought be amended to include the accusations of "socialism" in political campaigns. It appears to this blogger that that is long overdue.

In recklessly tossing around accusations about socialism McCain dates himself and Palin exposes herself. McCain seems to think that we are still in the eighties, perhaps that is why he keeps running a campaign about the issues from then, earmarks, welfare and communism. Palin’s discussion on the issue suggest that everything she needed to know about socialism she learned from Rush Limbaugh. In both cases there is a danger associated with their errors though, and these errors merit discussion.

There are two ways of understanding socialism; the first is what it actually is, the second is how the conservatives present it. What it actually is can be described as the redistribution of wealth through state owned and/or controlled distribution of goods and services. The conservative crowd just likes to equate it with anything that faintly resembles a redistribution of wealth. Ergo you talk about something like universal health care, they say socialism. You talk about equally funded public education, they hear socialism. Most of all to them progressive taxation is tantamount to socialism. All of these underlie their misconception of socialism in that they confuse the goal of socialism with the means of accomplishing it. In actuality socialism is much more about the means than the objective though. In other words unless there is state control of goods, services or means of production there is no socialism.

I point this out for two reasons. First, the candidate making serious overtures in the direction of socialism is the one who is throwing around the "S" word with abandon and disdain. How anyone can advocate buying up 300 billion dollars worth of private mortgages and then complain about socialism is beyond me. On several levels I think the proposition is so patently stupid that it would never get passed anyway, even if McCain were to manage to pull his campaign out of the wood chipper so I’m not really going to discuss that part of it in detail. I just think it merits mention that McCain is actually advocating the more socialist agenda here. The second reason I wanted to point out what socialism actually is is that Obama hasn’t come close to socialism by advocating a progressive tax structure. Explaining how a progressive tax structure is not socialism is like trying to explain why a sperm whale is not a duck even though they both eat fish. Just because they have one thing in common hardly makes them the same thing. A progressive tax structure still operates under the paradigm of capitalism and free enterprise.

(Before moving on I want to address one other argument though, that free enterprise is always better than socialism. I disagree and can more or less sum up my argument in a single word, "Halliburton." Whatever the folks on the right say, free enterprise doesn’t always do everything better. In fact, sometimes they do things a heck of a lot worse. The premise is that free enterprise will always do things better because they are seeking a profit, but that presumes that profit is always the goal; that efficiency can always be measured in dollars. Even in their most mundane of tasks Halliburton failed miserably, offering to our troops what can be generously described as a horrible dining experience, and what may be more accurately described as malnourishment and food poisoning. They may have saved money in the process but they cost our troops considerable morale. The dining experience is the most mundane and least dangerous of the tasks that Halliburton was responsible for. They did a lot more than that, but the effect was the same, less benefit for our national security, more profit for Halliburton. My point here is that "socialism" is not always bad, and in fact sometimes it’s better. The question should not be whether it is a nation’s best interest to be socialist, but to what degree it is to be socialist. It’s not my intent to answer that question here, but I do want to point out, that in the backdrop of all of this conversation, socialism isn’t a dirty word.)

Moving on now though, let’s return to the subject of progressive taxation. I’m not an economist and I don’t really pretend to be, yet I’m a pretty reasonable person and I think I’ve made certain observations in life. One thing I’ve noticed is that money doesn’t flow down, it flows up. When I go to Microcenter and buy this laptop my money goes to Microcenter. Now some of that theoretically went to the salesman who helped me, some went to the manager of the store, some went to the CEO, some went to the shareholders of both corporations. The money I spent went to a lot of people, and they spent the money in turn, and in turn they spent money. Always a little percent of that money ends up working its way up to the top, until eventually almost all of it works its way up to the top. In this little example we can intuit two things about progressive tax cuts. 1) If I have an extra $500 to spend it’s a lot more than $500. The more hands it passes through the more money it is. If you give an extra 500 dollars to a million people it is a lot more than 500 million dollars because each of those little $500 tax cuts are going to go through an exponential number of people, each of which will in turn have more money to spend. That this benefits the economy should be pretty obvious. 2) Money flows up, not down.

The "trickle down" theory of economies is at this point in time another "failed experiment." The underlying problem with it is money doesn’t trickle down, it trickles up. Imagine that the economy is a fountain, and that money is the "water" of that fountain. The idea is to keep the fountain going, to keep the water moving through the fountain. The free market, capitalism, by virtue of the way it works keeps the "water" flowing up. The problem that can occur though is that the top of the fountain can get gummed up, blocking the water from being able to come down. When that happens the water at the base dries up and the entire economy stagnates. What progressive taxes do is clean up the top of the fountain and force the flow of wealth to reach the base of the fountain. When the top of the fountain gums up the whole fountain stops flowing, and the whole fountain suffers.

Now I imagine there are some Chicago-Schoolers, puffed full of theory who are going to be quick to lecture me on the virtues of supply side, and lecture me on how if that money is given to the wealthy then they can have money to invest in generating jobs etcetera. The problem with theory though is that it has to get tested, and tested this theory has been, for the last 30 years, and the final grades have come in, to the tune of a trillion dollar bailout, a 150 billion dollar stimulus package and a 10 trillion dollar plummet in the stock market. I’m no student of economics but I am one of history, and I can tell you that certain things are historically true. When you cut the taxes on the wealthy and shift the primary burden to the middle class you get a wealthier version of wealthy, an increase in those below the poverty level and a smaller middle class. When you increase the taxes on the wealthy and cut the taxes on the poor and middle class the trend is to take more people out of poverty, enlarge the middle class, and incredibly, to also increase the wealth of the wealthy. How can that be? Simple. Money flows up. The economists and theorists can worry about what should happen; I’ll worry about what has happened.

Perhaps the problem with the liberal presentation of this argument is that in the past it has relied too much on the fairness of it. After all there is an argument to be made that if you have a billion dollars and have to spend an extra 100 million in taxes that will have no effect on your standard of living, but with that same 100 million 100,000 families can get health insurance. In such a case, there’s something fundamentally fair about you paying more. That doesn’t need to be the end of the argument though. It can be extended that because those 100,000 families get insured you get your 100 million dollars back, with interest, and with the knowledge that your hundred million dollars actually made the nation a better nation, and a stronger nation, and a better place to live. It’s time for Americans to realize that progressive taxation is better for everyone, and you can’t do away that that by shouting the word "socialist." Godwin’s Law now says so!

October 19, 2008

Whose America?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 8:11 pm

I recently had lunch with a friend who is a Republican. He complained about how hateful the people on the left were. Later that day I came home and a friend of my wife’s was there. She’s a Democrat married to one of those far-right Christian types. Apparently it is his desire that McCain get elected, then die, so that Palin can step into the role of President. I don’t know what the folks on the left were saying, but I don’t believe they are hoping for McCain’s death. Then this morning, in reading some articles I started coming across some comments that are shocking in their message.

Reading through the news I came across a couple of comments in an article. One person argues, “Why is it that blacks are the only American ethnic group that is so insecure about who they are. I would vote for JC Watts for President in a heartbeat. I wouldn’t vote for Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Kim Jong or Vladimir Putin. No American that loves their country would. Why would they vote for Barack Obama. Do they think that all those people that immigrate to this country come here because our system needs “change”. Change to what?” Here’s another comment I read “I say that if the rest of the country wants a “commie” for Pres, The Governor of Texas should refuse to sing the treaty that makes Texas a state. Let Barack start his Presidency with a civil war.” One suggests that Obama is an immigrant who wants to change “America,” another suggests an Obama presidency is cause for another civil-war. On the campaign trail Palin has suggested that red states are “pro-America” while blue states are “anti-America”. Karl Rove, John McCain and other have argued for Palin’s credentials for her “ability to inspire America.” Once again the question is being raised, with new vehemence, whose America?

That’s not a typo, or a grammar error. I don’t mean who’s (who is) America, but whose (possessive) America? On the right there’s always been this notion America belongs to them and we on the left are something else, something undefined except as other than American. To them, America is not “our country” and we don’t belong here. When the right begin implementing their irresponsible deficit spending and plunged us into being the most indebted nation on earth, those who protested were told, if you don’t like it, leave. Move to Canada. When we’ve advocated for universal health care, the response has always been, move to Canada if you don’t like it. When we defended Clinton over eight years of unprecedented vitriol and slander we were told if we don’t love America, we should leave it. When the Supreme Court named Bush the first unelected President of the United States we were told to “get over it, it’s time for America to move on.” When a war was being manufactured under false pretenses and we tried to pronounce that we were told we hated America. When it became apparent we’d been right we were called Monday morning quarterbacks and told to support “our nation” in a time of war. Liberals have been accused of hating America while the flag wavers on the right have insisted that the only kind of patriotism is the blind support of whatever they believe.

I have news for them; America does not belong to them, and on November 4th that will become abundantly clear. Even now they are beginning to awaken to the impending reality, and it is why the anger, the sheer magnitude of their hatred is intensifying. It is difficult enough for them to accept that there is another voice as it is, but to have that voice in the majority is anathema to them. The question is though, whether they can find the wherewithal to dig past all their hate and rhetoric and find something nobler than their version of patriotism. Their patriotism has been partisanship and they’ve rarely seen the difference. Will they accept the outcome of the valid election the way they have asked of us with Bush and his appointment, or will they spend the next four years prattling on about ACORN?

The nation is at a precipice at the moment. Perhaps the most challenging times since the last first term Senator from Illinois was elected lie immediately before us, and it is crucial that we set aside the hate, the animosity, the rhetoric and the accusations. We need a unified America, and America is not an ideology. It is a nation of 300 million people, with many and varied opinions and religions. It is not just the nation of “Sam-the-not-quite-a-plumbers,” it is the nation of real plumbers, painters and carpenters, of small business owner, middle managers, and cubicle workers; it is composed of CEOs and university professors and greeters at Wal-Mart. It is a nation of people, not an ideology. America is not an ideology it is the people, all of them, in all their various beauties. To love America is to love her people.

To the right I would like to invite you to stay. In our America, my America, we have room for you, but not for hate. Please check that at the door. We have room for your faith, your ideas, your courage, your work ethic and your generosity. We don’t ask you to leave, we merely ask you to believe that there’s more to America than you’ve seen. We ask you to exchange resentment for hope and allow the changes that America is choosing to be implemented. We ask you to give these changes an opportunity. We ask you to truly embrace America, all of her. We ask you to acknowledge her failings and faults and recognize that she is not perfect, that there is room for improvement. We ask that you work to improve her and not try and sabotage her from within. We don’t believe we ask for too much. We call it patriotism.

 

 

October 15, 2008

Live Debate Blog, Debate #3

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 6:30 pm

It’s time for the third debate! Rumor has it that John McCain is going to mention the name of William Ayers tonight. He’s probably going to lie about Obama’s tax plan too. But the question everyone wants to know but no one is asking is, will he find Mr. Puddles ? Find out the answer to all these questions tonight in the debate, and if you wish, feel free to join me for the debate, here at the Quill.

Here’s something to play with until the debate starts.

-Kelly

October 14, 2008

The Fallacy of False Equivalence

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 5:32 pm

David Frum was on the Rachel Maddow show last night, and attempted to equate the sarcasm of Maddow with the hatred that has been spewed on the McCain Campaign trail. Maddow rightly called him out on this fallacy, calling it a "false equivalence." I found this utterance striking in it’s ability to succinctly and perfectly articulate what many of the pundits have been doing with this and other negative issues on the campaign. Much of it is like responding to someone who has kicked you in the shin with a knee to the groin, and then declaring "we both hit below the belt." Technically the statement may be true, but they are hardly the same degree of offense. There are a host of issues which have been defended in similar ways.

Among them is the Acorn issue, in the news again today. It seems that if you bring up voter purging the response is "what about voter fraud," as though there any similarity between the two. In one case a couple of thousand voter cards were filled out, flagged as being dubious, and turned over to the proper authorities as required by law. In the other, hundreds of thousands are being purged from voter registration. In the first even Republicans admit that fraudulent voting is not an issue, only fraudulent voter registration. Few, if any illegal votes will be cast as a result of ACORN, certainly not enough to alter the course of the election. In the latter, at least one, and possibly two election have hinged on the outcome of the mass disenfranchisement of voters. This year seems no different as there are reports of voter purging in just about every battleground state. There’s little reason to believe that "Jimmy Johns" will turn up to vote, but there is plenty of reason to suspect that James Johnson might be deprived of that right because his namesake is a felon. Yet, while the MSM has contributed considerable focus to the former, they’ve almost conscientiously avoided the latter. This is not a comparison, it is a false equivalence.

In his latest column Glenn Beck seems to say that comparing John McCain to Rush Limbaugh is even worse than Obama being compared to William Ayers. He argues that Limbaugh’s relationship with McCain is better known for being adversarial. While I will agree that Obama’s ads linking certain statements of Limbaugh to McCain were indeed unfair, I would hardly say that that comparison is in the same league as trying to persuade the public that Obama has ties to terrorists. Beck then goes on to suggest that there’s no hint of racism in McCain’s and Palin’s attacks on Obama because Ayers is a "pasty white guy." The Obama attack ad ran for a couple of days. The animosity between McCain and Limbaugh was in large part over an immigration bill authored by McCain which Rush did not like. In fairness to Obama McCain now opposes that legislation and promised to veto it if he were elected. In other words, on the issue in question there actually isn’t an ideological difference between the two. With Ayers, Obama has condemned the acts by Ayers, didn’t know him when he was committing them, and oh yeah, he was also an eight year old kid. Now he condemns the acts. In suggesting that he "pals around with terrorists" as Palin does, or in accusing Obama of "holding a career-launching state Senate campaign event at the home of an unrepentant terrorist" the inclusion of the word "terrorist" suggests some ideological connection, that somehow it is not William Ayers, the UIC professor, Chicago citizen of the year, and renown education reformer with whom there may be some ideological sync, but William Ayers, the domestic terrorist. Including the word "unrepentant" seems to annul the notion of reformed. William Ayers is not presently a terrorist, and Obama has never known him as such. Yet John McCain and Rush Limbaugh do presently have an ideological symmetry in terms of immigration, yet to Glen Beck the terrorist attacks are fair, but the Rush attacks are not.

As I wrote yesterday there is another false comparison made by Joe Scarborough, who wants to say that on the right there are those who scream terrorist and kill him at political rallies, who take things too far to the right. Then he says that on the left there are those who won’t admit that Barack’s middle name is Hussein. He almost seems to suggest that if only we on the left would "admit" that were his middle name then all the hatred would stop. This is not some point on which we take middle ground! There’s no "balance" to death threats being hurled at campaign rallies! There’s no equivalence on Obama’s side. Sometimes it seems to be this festering need of those on the right that if they admit they have done something wrong they have to point a finger along with their admission. Scarborough’s suggestion is yet another false equivalence.

I’ve been reading about how with the economy there is "plenty of blame to go around" and how "both sides" have contributed. Again, I’ll say that to a degree some of those things are true. Yet in some ways, it is a stretch to say so. For instance it was the Democrats who pushed through the legislation which allowed for sub-prime mortgages and for years they existed without abuse. Then Phil Gramm pushed through the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, and that’s when all the abuses started. In a sense it is like stating that whoever invented fire was equally at fault for starting the Chicago fire. Furthermore, the primary problem with the economy is not just what has happened in the last few weeks. That’s just the blooming of the black rose; the bush has been growing since 1980. The economic collapse is the result of 28 years minus eight of laze-faire, supply-side, flat tax, big deficit economics that has been reckless and irresponsible. Yet now we are going to see how the democrats are "equally" responsible. Sorry, that just isn’t true. This is yet another false equivalence.

These guys may be disingenuous in their attacks, but they are not stupid. Don’t think for a minute that there is no purpose to their madness. Even in admitting their guy is wrong they encircle it with accusations and disdain for the other guy, and innuendo that he has done the same. The thing to remember here is that they are not trying to get you to for McCain, they are trying to get you disgusted with the process. They are hoping you become so disgruntled that you will decide that no on one deserves your vote and you won’t go. I hope that enough of us will be able to see through the proverbial smoke. We simply can’t afford to have another four years of the same failed policies and the only method we have to change it is to vote. Remember this on election day.

October 13, 2008

Hatred and Glass Houses

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 7:16 pm

John McCain has demanded that Barack Obama renounce the remarks of John Lewis, who said McCain had been “sowing the seeds of hatred and division.” McCain seems to believe the remarks are “beyond the pale.” Before McCain throws too many stones here, he really should take note that he is standing in a glass house. He is, after all, a man who has literally spent millions of dollars over the last few weeks to persuade Americans that Obama is a terrorist sympathizer who is not to be trusted.

There can be no question there has been hatred and scorn pronounced at the McCain and Palin rallies. Shouts of “terrorist,” “traitor” and “kill him” have become a veritable staple at McCain’s campaign stops. For a week these continued, unhindered, unabated by McCain or Palin. Through all of the hate for the first four days, even when the chant to kill him was heard, they did nothing. Perhaps McCain sees no link between threatening the life of the first black nominee of a major party, and the hate rhetoric of George Wallace, but to fail to see it would require a blindness that would make the most persuasive argument yet against a McCain presidency. It’s my opinion though, that John McCain is smarter than that. He knows. His pretense at being decent for a moment on Friday night for five minutes demonstrates that much.

Yet what the repudiation of the lady who made the “Arab” comment didn’t address is that Obama, too, is a patriot who loves his country. It’s a nice start that he admit Obama’s a decent man, but what about all the accusations he’s been making directly or by proxy, through his running mate and messages he’s “approved?” This notion that somehow the masses whom he’s incited and the message he’s delivered to them are disconnected is what is beyond the pale. This hatred was not summoned out o nowhere, it was in fact sown, and it is now being reaped. McCain and Palin ask us to take note of their faith, but I’d ask them to take note of their Bible. In Galatians 6:7 Paul maintains that we reap according to what is sown. Ergo, we can know by the fruit what the seed is. McCain’s campaign has reaped hatred and death threats, yet he would have us believe that is not what he’s sown, and McCain hardly stands alone here. Joe Scarborough and a host of conservative pundits all, with all the sincerity of a prepubescent villain with the proverbial hand in the cookie jar, offer up their dismay as to why anyone would even consider it.

The defense Scarborough offered was mind boggling. According to Morning Joe, he thinks both sides are at fault, the radicals on the right who show up and yell “kill him” at the rallies and the folks on the left who “can’t admit that Obama’s middle name is Hussein.” Joe then went on a 10 minute diatribe about how it is a good Muslim name and nothing to be ashamed of, and then said that it was racist for liberals to deny that Obama’s middle name was Hussein. After punching myself in the head a couple of times to make sure I was awake, and then rewinding the DVR to watch the painful diatribe again, I realized I wasn’t having a dream, I was awake and the argument was actually being made. Yes he was equating yelling death threats with denying Barack’s middle name. Of course all cloaked in this “moderate” stance was the insinuation that Obama is a Muslim, which he isn’t. And let’s not forget the obvious point that no one is denying Obama’s middle name. The only reason that is used though, is because of its coincidence with a certain famous Arab’s whose name is associated with terrorism. Even in their mock dismay they continue the attack and demand that Obama should condemn accurate remarks, because those accurate remarks are condemning the very fire they are stoking. Honestly the only thing wrong with remarks that Lewis made is that McCain hadn’t made them already. Consider what he didn’t condemn.

McCain refused to condemn the remarks of Virginia State Party Chair, Jeffrey Fredrick, who said that the similarity between Obama and Osama is that they “Both have friends that bombed the Pentagon. That is scary” He refused to condemn the remarks of Fox News correspondent Linda Trotter when she suggested it would be “good” if someone “knocked off” Obama. He refused to personally condemn Pastor Arnold Conrad, who suggested that any who are opposed to McCain are opposed to God himself, and thus, His enemy while he offered the invocation at McCain’s rally. McCain refused to condemn his running mate for saying that Obama is “palling around with terrorists.” McCain never pulled the ads which suggest Obama is a terrorists. McCain has either passively or actively been involved in much of the stoking which has resulted in the kind of spite at his rallies, yet has never said a word, except that “Obama is not an Arab, he’s a decent man.” I don’t see where Obama needs to condemn Lewis’ comments, and I don’t see anything wrong with the comments themselves. I sincerely mean it when I say that I hope it does not take a bullet for McCain to realize the consequences of his campaign.

October 12, 2008

The Sarah Palin IQ Test

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 2:10 pm

Do you have what it takes to make it as a Republican in politics? Care to find out? Take the Sarah Palin IQ test!

  1. Name a Supreme Court decision other than Roe vs. Wade? (1 point for each decision named)
  2. Name a newspaper and/or magazine that you read? (1 point for each publication)
  3. What is the Bush Doctrine.? (5 points if you can answer the question)
  4. Name a regulatory act which John McCain has voted for?(1 point for each act)
  5. Is Barack Obama a terrorist? (1 point for the correct answer of “no”)
  6. Are people suspected of crimes allowed to carry out their own investigations? (1 point for no)
  7. Are people suspected of crimes allowed to serve as their own jury (1 point for no)
  8. Should people suspected of crimes be allowed to serve as their own judge? (1 point for no)
  9. An independent investigation has found you broke the law, have you broken the law? (1 point for yes)
  10. You are asked a question in an interview you don’t know the answer to. Is it your fault or the interviewers? (1 if you answer it is your’s)
  11. Are you married to anyone who wants to secede from the US? (1 point if no)
  12. Should taxpayers pay you when you stay at home? (1 point if no)
  13. Should taxpayers buy you a tanning bed? (1 point if no)
  14. Should taxpayers pay you to go to church (1 point if no)
  15. Can you see Russia from your house? (1 point if no)
  16. Can you say you can see Russia from your house, regardless of your previous answer (1 point if no).
  17. Your child is about to be born in Texas. Will you endanger his life to avoid this? (1 point if no).
  18. You are at a rally when someone threatens the life of your opponent, saying “Kill him!” Do you tell him not to? (1 point if yes)
  19. Can you conjugate a sentence (1 point if yes)
  20. Is God pro-oil? (1 point if no)
  21. When are earmarks wrong? (1 point unless answer is along the lines of “for anyone other than you).
  22. The “Bridge to Nowhere has been cancelled. Do you still spend federal money to build the road that goes to it? (1 point if no)
  23. Who were the bad guys in the Salem Witch Trials? (1 point unless answer is “witches”)
  24. You are trying to defend your daughter as people are suggesting you are covering up for her promiscuity. Do you use her pregnancy to defend her? (1 point if no)
  25. Is God a Republican? (1 point if no).

 

Total up your sore and check your Palin IQ.

0: Perfect Sore!!! Congratulations! You have everything it takes to be the next VP on the Republican ticket! Start running for office now, as you are a future superstar!

1-5: Campaign Manager: You’re very close, but it seems you might have accidentally read something or given thought to something. If you watch more Fox News, there’s hope for you. You could yet be President.

6-10: Partisan Supporter: Palin is counting on your support. When she says “domestic terrorist” she knows you will believe her. However there are signs that you have some sense of common decency to you. She really needs you to watch more Fox News, but you also may need to turn that dial to Rush on weekday afternoons.

11-15: Wavering Supporter: Please! You’re brain is becoming WAY too active!!! You’re lack of faith has to do with the overstimulation of your brain. You MUST stop reading now! You need to watch Fox, listen to Rush, and read Drudge in order to maintain the faith.

16 and Over: Commie-Pinko-America-Hating-Liberal-Scumbag: We WARNED you not to read!!!!

October 11, 2008

How to Talk to Republicans, A Guide to Converting Conservatives

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 10:16 am

It is becoming increasingly apparent that this election is even more important than the last one, which is remarkable. With our economy in turmoil, fighting a two front war, Iran on the brink of having nuclear weapons, and there being nothing to suggest that things are going to get better our next President is crucial. Yet there are still some people that honestly believe that continuing to support the same sorts of policies that created all of these problems is the way to get out of them. We who know better can blame this on the Bush Administration and those who vote for him and there’s certainly a degree of legitimacy to that. Going forward though, we need to realize we have a responsibility to properly inform more voters to end this travesty.

We have to learn to talk to Republicans in a way that persuades them to change their vote. So far in this election cycle I have converted 17 conservatives to voting for Obama, but I still feel like I need to do more. To facilitate this I will begin a weekly guide from now to the election highlighting the week’s key stories and how to present them to Republicans. Please take the time to talk to your conservative friends in a responsible way. We need to make this election theft proof, and 11 points in the poll is not safe. Why do you think there’s been all this talk about the “Bradley Effect” of late? They are already trying to explain the difference between the polls and the results. Every vote will matter, including those of the people we know.

I believe that there are two types of Republicans the misinformed and the uninformed. Here how to discuss this week’s stories. Therefore in persuading Republicans on the key issues we need to first, properly frame the issues, thereby addressing the misinformed, and then we need to make are arguments, thereby properly informing them. Each week I will address the issues, the proper framing of them, and what voters need to actually know about them.

 

ACORN

Perhaps the most misreported story is the ACORN story. It is shocking much difference there is between the actual story and the reported story. The story is that ACORN is piling up fraudulent voters. The suggestion is that all of these fraudulent voters are going to steal the election from Obama. Here’s what you need to need to know about this story.

  • ACORN is an agency which registers new voters, both Republicans and Democrats. They are a non-partisan group.
  • ACORN, as well as any agency which does get out the vote drives, is required by law to turn in all registration forms.
  • ACORN tries to verify the contact information of every single card. Those that aren’t verified are “flagged” and kept in a separate stack.
  • ACORN notified authorities that they had a large number of potentially fraudulent cards and were ignored until they were “raided” recently.
  • The reason that such a high percentage of those being reviewed are being found to be fraudulent is because they are reviewing the stacks of flagged cards.
  • Overall 99.8 percent of the 1.2 million voters ACORN has registered are legitimate.

The issue has been framed as a partisan group complicit in fraudulent voter registration. The actual facts indicate a non-partisan group concerned about fraudulent voter registration.

The Economy

Most people now have struggled with understanding what is happening with the economy and what has caused it to get so bad. Generally speaking the conservative spin machine has made this about the subprime mortgage crisis. Certainly subprime mortgage defaults have played a role in the recent events but the role is not as significant as suggested. Here’s what you need to know about the subprime mortgage crisis.

  • The laws which allowed for subprime mortgages were passed in ’95. Only 2 percent of these mortgages defaulted between ’95 and ’00. By themselves they would not have caused a crisis.
  • Since 1981 “Reaganomics” has been the operating paradigm of the Republican Party. This paradigm essentially says that the problem with the economy is that rich people don’t have enough money; if we just give them more cash and take regulation out of the way the free market will solve everything.
  • In 2000 Phil Gramm passed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, heavily influenced by this false paradigm.
  • This Act allowed for mortgages to be bundled together and traded in what are called “swap markets” with no regulation whatsoever, essentially turning the entire mortgage industry into a crapshoot. Essentially banks were spending billions of dollars with little to know idea of what they were buying because there was no regulation to oversee this kind of trading.
  • Much of this buying and selling was on “margin” meaning that the risk far exceeded the investment.
  • This caused the banks to lose hundreds of billions of dollars.
  • All of this caused the banking industry to be terrified of lending money, leading to the current credit crisis.

The issue has been wrongly framed as being about poor families lying about their incomes and not paying their mortgages. The notion that a few poor people brought down the world’s economy is ludicrous. The fact is that this is a culmination of 28 years of the notion that the free market is infallible.

 

“Troopergate”

The picture the Republicans are trying to paint here is one of a rogue, partisan investigation trying to inject itself into the campaign, somehow at the guidance of Obama. Nothing could be further from the truth and there are actually some things very relevant to election. Here’s what we need to know about the whole thing.

  • Sarah Palin was found guilty of using her position as governor to manipulate the firing of Mark Wooten.
  • The report of the investigation states, “Gov. Palin knowingly permitted a situation to continue where impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda.” She was found guilty of 18 counts. Each of these is a violation of the law.
  • It also found that Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan’s refusal to fire State Trooper Mike Wooten from the state police force was “likely a contributing factor” to “carry out a family grudge“. While the report determined that this was not a violation of the law they did determine that it was a breach of ethics.
  • The report also found that Todd Palin used “extraordinary access to the Governor’s office” to apply pressure to have Wooten fired.
  • The commission was composed of a majority of Republicans, and was started before Palin was announced as the candidate for Vice President.
  • The only campaign found by courts to be meddling in the proceedings was the McCain campaign.

Palin has been saying that Obama has put “ambition over country” yet these findings indicate that she has put not only ambition, but vengeance and personal animosity above country. They also demonstrate that Todd Palin, who spent a large portion of his adult life advocating for Alaskan secession from the United States, seems to think that he shares in whatever elected position his wife attains. Finally this reflects on John McCain’s judgment in selecting Palin to be his running mate with virtually no vetting of her, but it also calls into question his priorities in interfering with a legal process to protect his own political aspirations. The misframing of this issue has been that it is a partisan witch hunt. The facts demonstrate that there were actual crimes committed and McCain tried to obstruct justice.

 

 

October 9, 2008

McCain Campaign in Images

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 6:36 pm

Just your average McCain supporters

McCain supporters struggle to stay awake through nap time.

Think Beach Boys

Who says Obama is getting all the ladies?

We can start with spelling lessons.

You know about the apple and the tree?

God loves McCain supporters!

I WUUUUUV You!!!

More intelligent debate

Now THAT’S who he reminds me of!

I don’t want to forget "that one."

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