Monthly Archives: January 2008

Baucus and Tester against Real ID

Another stupid government program that hopefully won’t come to pass:

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Amid the reports of yet another delay in the implementation of the federal Real ID Act, Montana Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester reaffirmed their opposition to the national identification system.

The federal Real ID Act calls for drivers’ licenses to be used as a national identification networking system, requiring extensive private information from all U.S. citizens. It would also require states to standardize their drivers’ licenses at their own expense.

The Department of Homeland Security announced today that states would have until May 2011 to implement new regulations that would require its citizens to submit a digital photograph, birth certificate and other information to their department of motor vehicles. Today’s delay marks the second time in a year that implementation has been pushed back by the Bush administration as concern has grown about how the states could reissue all 240 million existing licenses.

More here.

In the market place of ideas, the currency is stupidity

I already complained that William Kristol (Wikipedia article) is now an op-ed contributor at The New York Times. Today, the public editor, Clark Hoyt, wrote a softball article defending the decision, heavily comparing Kristol to William Safire. Safire, of course, was The Times’ token conservative with a long legacy of being sloppy at best.

In The Times, the columnists seem to be given something akin to tenure. They write about what they want with little fear of reprisals; factual errors aren’t corrected by the paper. Tenure, of course, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In academia, tenure provides protection from reprisals when a professor makes an unpopular statement. Likewise, judges get a similar benefit in the political system. Nobody wants judges to be afraid to be impartial because they’ll be fired by biased politicians. But does the idea work for newspapers? The flip side of tenure is obvious: while somebody can’t be tossed out for being unpopular but right, they also can’t be tossed because they’re insipid, stupid, dishonest, counterproductive, etc.—and that’s whether they’re right or wrong. As Salon notes, Safire seemed to take advantage of that (“William Safire, minister of disinformation,” by Barry Lando, 2005-02-21).

First of all, the flow of the article went from specific to general reasons why Kristol’s contribution isn’t the end of the world. Most generally, The Times itself (not the public editor, but the editor of the paper) felt they wanted “a columnist who brought to our pages a deeply held and well articulated point of view in line with what you might call the conservative Republican movement. … Our Op-Ed page is a marketplace of ideas. He’ll strengthen the discussion.” The article implied that the paper was on a mission to find such an individual, and as such Kristol only gets a year-long contract as a test-run before he really gets tenured next to Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, David Brooks, and the rest. Much as I personally despise the “conservative Republican movement” (I would describe so-called conservative thought as as “Republican movements”), I can’t argue with hearing them out—I feel it’s best to know what people are thinking, not least of all dangerous people like William Kristol. On the other hand, Hoyt describes the choice as “a decision I would not have made.” Amongst his reasons, Safire has made statements to the effect that the The Times should be prosecuted for reporting on government activities. He goes on to say, “But it is not the end of the world. Everyone should take a deep breath and calm down.”

So, The Times wants to expand the “marketplace of ideas,” a phrase we’ve heard before in reference to some other rather insidious things. But does hiring Kristol meet that goal? As the public editor makes clear, Kristol isn’t hard to find for those looking for him. He’s on Fox News, and he’s in The Weekly Standard.

So, how much is The Times expanding the “marketplace of ideas” with this decision? I would say, not very much. As a matter of fact, I’d say it’s doing quite the opposite. By giving people like Kristol a soap box to stand on in a respectable newspaper, they’re taking dangerous and dishonest hegemony to a whole new level. Safire was pretty bad, but Kristol is probably worse. Ideas like Kristol’s have been around a while, and haven’t exactly served us well. Kristol is one of the “intellectuals” who helped draw the United States into Iraq.

Finally, remember, nothing I’m saying here constitutes censorship. Censorship is legal suppression of information by lawful authorities. I’m not calling for that. I’m just calling for the fourth estate to use its powers responsibly.

President Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel?

William Kristol is now a contributor to The New York Times. Good, they haven’t had a sufficient hardcore liar since William Safire retired. Kristol says (“President Mike Huckabee?” Jan. 7, 2008):

Who, inquiring minds want to know, is going to spare us a first Obama term? After all, for all his ability and charm, Barack Obama is still a liberal Democrat. Some of us would much prefer a non-liberal and non-Democratic administration. We don’t want to increase the scope of the nanny state, we don’t want to undo the good done by the appointments of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, and we really don’t want to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory in Iraq.

Well, uh, there seems to be a bit of a disconnect here. Nanny state? Isn’t that the kind of state that keeps an eye on you to make sure you don’t do anything wrong? But I digress.

After the last two elections, featuring the well-born George Bush and Al Gore and John Kerry, Americans — even Republicans! — are ready for a likable regular guy. Huckabee seems to be that.

Blah! Likable? Isn’t that what we were promised with the current numbskull? Why, yes, yes it was. George W. Bush, born with all the advantages in the world and able to be defeated to victory twice, was supposed to be a likable, regular dude who’d be fun to have a drink with. Al Gore and John Kerry were stuffy intelligent types who were out of touch with the rest of the country (whatever that means).

I say that’s all BS. Having a nice guy president doesn’t get you a job. Liking hunting isn’t a qualification for fixing the healthcare system. Wearing cowboy boots instead of suits and ties isn’t going to help the stock market.

Maybe if we had one of those silly, out of touch, intellectual types, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in now, or at least not as badly. We wouldn’t be spending the economy of a small, wealthy western European country on Iraq every year. We might have a rational healthcare system (single payer or not, anything that provides universal coverage is an improvement over the current mess which has us spending more and getting less than just about anyone).

In the interest of reducing the nanny state and increasing competence, here are some qualities that would be nice in the next president:

  • doesn’t hunt
  • when cutting taxes, reduce the federal transfers to states that already get more back from the federal government than they send (that mostly means red states)
  • doesn’t wear a cowboy hat
  • end highway funding; let the states handle it
  • supports rational healthcare; single payer, universal, socialized, public-private partnership, whatever—anything is better than what we have now

Bad parenting

From CNN (“‘Meanest mom on planet’ sells son’s car,” January 9, 2008):

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Jane Hambleton has dubbed herself the “meanest mom on the planet.”

After finding alcohol in her son’s car, she decided to sell the car and share her 19-year-old’s misdeed with everyone — by placing an ad in the local newspaper.

The ad reads: “OLDS 1999 Intrigue. Totally uncool parents who obviously don’t love teenage son, selling his car. Only driven for three weeks before snoopy mom who needs to get a life found booze under front seat. $3,700/offer. Call meanest mom on the planet.”

This is pretty damn sick. What kind of irresponsible parent gets their kid a two-ton killing machine anyway?

Kids: don’t drive. Just stick with booze.

Mor(m)ons!

Okay, I guess I got to stop writing about what an asshole Mitt Romney is:

But most Mormonism-related discomfort with Romney may, in fact, reflect less a view of religious truth than a sense that there is something vaguely troubling or unfamiliar in the Mormon manner or worldview. …. [S]uch reservations are not simple prejudice; they are a complicated outgrowth of the tortured history of the faith’s relationship to mainstream American political life over the nearly two centuries since God first spoke to Joseph Smith.

I find it even more troubling that Romney is a Republican.

I’m glad Romney lost the Iowa Caucuses, though I’m a little saddened that Huckabee won. I don’t say that because I think Huckabee is worse than the others (he’s arguably better than any Republican in years), but he’s still a Republican and the less prima facie repugnant Republicans are, the more the media promotes them as the best candidate.

See “What Is It About Mormonism?” in The New York Times for a verbose, yet somewhat educational, article.