What Goes On A Memorial?

November 8, 2009

In Connecticut a furor has arisen over the wording on a memorial for those who were killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks. The town of Kent is putting up a memorial to a young man, James Gadiel, from there who was killed that day in New York City. Work on the memorial has been halted, though, because his father, Peter Gadiel, demands that it say his son had been “killed by Muslim terrorists.” He claims any other wording is “too soft” and would only be caving in to “political correctness.”

I’m no fan of “political correctness” myself, but what the elder Mr Gadiel wants is just not done on monuments of this sort. “Political correctness” is not at issue here … rather, custom and propriety are. If it were, there’d be lots of World War II memorials saying, “Blown up by Nazi bootlickers” or “Shot by imperialist Nips,” and Korean War memorials saying, “Slaughtered by Red invaders.”

I get that the elder Mr Gadiel is angry about his son’s death, but his emotions should not dictate what the town of Kent does with its money. He may appear — as the father of the deceased — to have the moral authority to make this decision, but the cold reality is that he does not.

What has made this case worse than it needed to be, is that the bellicose and sanctimonious Bill O’Reilly has taken up the Gadiel cause and rallied the troops of the Right against the town of Kent, condemning their “political correctness.” Unfortunately — and as usual — O’Reilly’s furor is displaced; his claim is, as I explained, moot.


Lots Of Bills Have Lots Of Pages

October 29, 2009

House Minority Leader John Boehner is whining about the length of the latest healthcare reform bill. It’s too long, he says. I agree it’s long, but to assume that all bills that long must, by definition, be “bad,” is not logical.

The truth of the matter, as Slate explains, is that lots of bills are long. The length of many of them is because pork is thrown in, in order to encourage members to vote for it. “Omnibus spending bills,” which are nearly an annual ritual in Congress, typically number well over 1,000 pages.

Sorry Mr Boehner, but the length of this bill has nothing to do with whether or not it’s good or bad.

Concentrating on one aspect of this bill while ignoring the rest is hypertrivia. Opposing the bill because Democrats authored it, is partisanism. Whining about yet another version of a healthcare bill — which has been worked on in Congress in one way or another since January, with none of it going anywhere — is hyperreacting. Appealing to people’s fears of “bureaucracy” … which is not evidenced in the number of pages in the bill, especially if those pages are more Congressional pork than anything else … is emotivism. Let’s grow up, Mr Boehner, and stop being maturity-deprived.

The Right Runs Aground On Godwin’s Law

October 27, 2009

There’s an old saw among veteran Internauts like myself — famously coined by Mike Godwin and known therefore as Godwin’s Law — that in any discussion, comparisons to Nazis will inevitably be invoked. A further assumption about this is that, when it happens, it’s because the person or side making the comparison, has run out of ideas, meaning the discussion is over, and that person/group lost the argument. The reductio ad Hitlerum — to give the “appeal to Nazis” a more formal name — has become commonplace in American ideological discussion. It’s also a juvenile way to make one’s point … since it rarely has any meaning or relation to reality.

During the Bush Jr administration, the Left sometimes made Nazi comparisons of the White House. But with a Democrat as president, the Right is throwing the old reductio ad Hitlerum at Obama and the Democrats. The New York Times Caucus blog mentions the increasing frequency of this phenomenon:

But [the debut of the RNC’s new Web site] got sidelined, or rather sideswiped, by some other Republican moves, that seemed to harken back to Hitler and the Nazis, yet again. In fact, Glenn Beck of Fox News, likened the feud with the White House as one that was akin to the Nazi movement that first came after the Jews?

To back up, this morning, the Republicans showed the ease with which they now put social media to work, when the National Republican Congressional Committee posted a message on Twitter directing readers to a parody video of a doctored Hitler bio-pic showing the Fuhrer on health care and thanking his lucky stars that he has Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, on his side.

The Caucus blog entry mentions more such examples from the Right, including this:

Fox News’ Glenn Beck compared the White House decision to shun his network (remember when the President went on five Sunday talk shows and skipped Fox?) to the seeds of the Holocaust. Media Matters, the left’s watchdog against the right, captured it, with Mr. Beck saying:

When they’re done with Fox, and you decide to speak out on something. The old, “first they came for the Jews, and I wasn’t Jewish.” …

When they’re done with Fox and talk radio, do you really think they’re going to leave you alone if you want to ask a tough question? …

If you believe that, you should open up a history book, because you’ve missed the point of many brutal dictators. You missed the point on how they always start.

Mr Beck is making it seem that the White House’s feud with Fox News is a form of censorship. But it’s not, because the White House is not lifting so much as one pinky in the direction of shutting down Fox News. What it is doing is avoiding its correspondents. And they have every right to do so. They can choose who to talk to and who not to. (Because honestly, if the president were obligated to talk to everyone who wanted to talk to him, there wouldn’t be anywhere near enough hours in the day. It’s just not possible.)

Really, this is an example of fascification by the Right (i.e. declaring the Left to be Nazis in the making). It’s also emotivism (since images of Nazis is an emotional one.) If they justify it by pointing to when the Left accused Bush Jr of being a fascist, that would be an example of relativizing.

At any rate, that Glenn Beck and the rest of the crew over at Fox News is accusing Obama of being a Nazi, then you know he’s run out of useful and meaningful things to say.

Defending The Indefensible

October 26, 2009

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, R-MN, is a true Right-wing nutcase. She has made a number of extreme claims, all of which are not only false, but obviously false. She’s such a whacko, she makes guys like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh appear reasonable by comparison.

But when push comes to shove, no one on the Right will condemn her … not even when she has overtly and unapologetically lied. In fact, conservative columnist George Will recently penned an article that pretty much makes her appear a saint of the Right. Not only does he whitewash her lies, he actually defends them:

Some of her supposed excesses are, however, not merely defensible, they are admirable. For example, her June 9 statement on the House floor in which she spoke of “gangster government” has been viewed on the Internet about 2 million times.

This is the danger with any ideology: It forces people who know better, to defend the indefensible, in order to promote the ideology itself — because no loyal ideologue is capable of admitting his/her ideology has any fault, not even within any of its partisans.

So George Will … who knows better than to defend liars … winds up defending a liar and the lies she told. All because he cannot admit the possibility that another Rightist might occasionally be wrong about something. Yes, it’s whiney and juvenile, and a guy George Will’s age is far too old to have any excuse for being so childish … but he is.

Bracelet Brouhaha

September 28, 2008

If it’s not American-flag lapel pins, it’s bracelets bearing the names of deceased soldiers. Unbelievably, a conflict is brewing over whether or not Barack Obama has permission to wear such a bracelet. As ABC’s Jake Tapper reports, it was given to him by the soldier’s mother. But the soldier’s father (who divorced the mother) is a McCain fan and has apparently decided that Obama doesn’t have permission to wear it.

Exactly where his right to give or deny such permission — aside from the emotional hook of being the soldier’s father — is not exactly clear. Maybe I missed the law that was passed giving fathers of deceased soldiers this permission?

At any rate, the mother is apparently waffling … she gave Obama the bracelet, then later said he shouldn’t wear it, but then was happy he had it at last Friday’s debate.

There’s a lot here I confess not to understand … beginning with the relevance to being president, of whether or not one has “permission” to wear bracelets of this type, not to mention exactly who is entitled to grant it and under what conditions s/he can do so. When you get right down to it, what do bracelets have to do with the Oval Office? Answer: Absolutely nothing whatsoever!

While this probably means a great deal to the two parents (and one of them is confused about it), it really has nothing to do with who should be president, and should play no part in the election.

But it does … because Americans have been fooled into thinking that sentimentality means something. It doesn’t and never will, but most refuse to understand it. Thus the two parties will keep pulling the wool over Americans’ eyes and prevent them from making a bona fide, rational choice based on the facts.

It’s All About … the Cars?

September 21, 2008

Here is a shining example of hypertrivia. The major criterion for the presidency, according to Newsweek, has become … how many cars the candidate owns.

You read that right, the number of cars they own.

Lying Liars And The Lies They Tell

September 20, 2008

Politicians lie all the time. Don’t believe me? That’s fine by me, you don’t have to take my word for it, and I don’t expect you will. Go and browse the fabulous Web site FactCheck. They’ll let you know what lies politicians have been telling and demonstrating exactly how they are lies. They even have an Ask FactCheck page where you can ask about something a politician has said.

The St Petersburg Times also offers their own political fact-checking service, called PolitiFact. It’s also very useful.

I recommend frequent trips to both sites, in order not to be swindled by the liars of the Left or the Right.