A Rare Moment of Unqualified Clarity From The AP

It’s a pet peeve of mine that journalists so often confuse being “unbiased” with “never suggesting that anyone’s facts, ideas, or claims are better than anyone else’s.” Actually its not so much a pet peeve of mine and more like one of the things I think is most wrong with the country, but close enough.

That’s why I enjoyed reading the first sentence of this AP story just now:

Former Sen. Rick Santorum said Tuesday that Sen. John McCain, who spent 5 1/2 years enduring brutal treatment at the hands of his North Vietnamese captors, doesn’t know how effective waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques can be.

It seems that sometimes, by mistake, a reporter includes relevant information in the logical place for it and winds up making it clear right off the bat that one of the people involved in the story is an idiot.

Now if only we could get this to happen in purpose. But somehow, I suspect we are still a long way away from our chance to read a lede that says “Sarah Palin claimed today that an independent commission report had cleared her of all legal and ethical wrongdoing in a recent scandal, in spite of the fact that we’re all sitting here reading the report which contains the sentence ‘I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110 (a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.’ And frankly we’re all having a good laugh about it.”

Okay, that’s all I have time for. Sorry I didn’t make that return-to-blogging that I promised last week. Finals and friends’ graduations have had me swamped. Try me again this Friday.

Should we celebrate Osama’s Death?

So the big news tonight, in case you were living under a rock, is that, in the culmination of an extended operation to locate, identify, and pursue Osama Bin Laden, US special forces have killed him in a compound outside of Islamabad, Pakistan.

There is a lot to be said or discussed about this turn of events, but one in particular is on my mind tonight, and as much as I should be working on some physics right now, I can’t seem to get it out of my head, so I’ve decided to try thinking it out in blog form instead. Which is meant to count as a disclaimer: the following thoughts are still in draft form, but there’s no guarantee that I’ll have time to put them down if I wait until tomorrow when they’re better thought out.

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Wisconsin, Continued.

I tried to avoid dabbling in this aspect of the topic before, just because I knew I would spend forever blogging if I did, but it pained me so much to try to make any kind of excuses at all for Gov. Walker that I eventually discovered I couldn’t really go back to concentrating on my homework. Here’s one last thought; let me try to be brief.

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A Few More Words About Unions

Specifically, the ones in Wisconsin. There are two things on my mind, and no one here care’s to talk about them so I’m sharing them with you instead.

First, I’m absolutely appalled by Governor Walker’s behavior here, in the sense that he seems to me completely unserious about fixing the state budget, and simply fixated on starting to erode the foundations of unionization. I have a couple of friends here from Wisconsin, and both of them tell me that, while this is increasingly less true elsewhere in the country, labor unions and the Democratic party remain tightly wed in Wisconsin, to the point that people still talk about “voting labor.” So it’s hard not to assume Governor Walker’s real objective here is just the destruction of a key piece of an organization that strongly supports his opponents (it would be a bit like a Democratic governor trying to outlaw the Chamber of Commerce, or Fox News).

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The Baffling, Frustrating Ignorance of John Horgan

Sigh… I’ve been taking a bit of a break from reading and/or thinking about politics during the last 10 days or so (I know, I know– ironically the past week has been full of some of the year’s biggest geopolitical headlines!) and had decided just to concentrate on science, physics, and a new origami technique I’m learning. The whole thing has been very relaxing. Granted, I’m usually one who enjoys a good debate, and hence tends to enjoy reading people’s opinions about politics, because even if it’s some one stupid making shockingly fragile arguments, I get a weird rush from thinking about all they ways I could expose their intellectual osteoporosis if I ever got to go toe to toe with them in a battle of wits. Unfortunately, it seems to me that something about the increasingly high political tensions in America today has caused even people with access to the mass media to say incredibly, insultingly idiotic things, regardless of whether they themselves are actual idiots. And there’s something about that which spoils the fun for me, because if these people are too smart to sell the kind of partially-hydrogenated snake oil* they’re traficking, then I can’t comfort myself by imagining a fantasy world where I get to rebut their arguments right before their eyes and convince them of their own ignorance. These people are sharp enough that they should have been able to see through their lies and elisions as easily as I can, so they must either be peddling falsehoods on purpose or else their subject to some kind of mass delusion. Either way, I don’t think anything I could say to them would affect their thinking in the slightest, so I just end up wishing they’d loan me their spare brain cells if they aren’t going to be using them for their own purposes.

So anyway, it was precisely because I’d had enough of smart people saying braindead things that I had been restricting my reading list to science blogs and textbooks lately. And then I encountered this piece by John Horgan, which was actually published last year but had recently been republished in the campus newspaper of the Stevens Institute of Technology and thus made it’s way into my daily reading. On the plus side, I guess it helped convince me that I might as well start reading about politics again.

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Just a Small Political Thought

I’m feeling a tad betrayed by both political parties tonight so I’m going to dispense with my usual preferene for tempered language.

You remember all those pundits who were afraid to answer questions about their ethnicity when the census was going on? Because they were afraid the government would use that information to kill them in their sleep? And do you know all those same pundits who tend to freak out whenever the government tries to take their submachine guns away? The ones who say they need those guns so that they can defend themselves when Obama’s army of Organizing for America goons come to slaughter them?

So why aren’t the same people opposed to the current government programs that allow drone-strike assassinations of US citizens? And the latest reports that the Obama administration is drafting an executive order to allow indefinite detention? Is it because they trust that the administration won’t use these tools for anything besides fighting terrorism? That can’t be right. These people didn’t even trust Obama when he said he was born in Hawaii and produced the necessary paperwork. 

Look, guys, I don’t usually share your anti-government paranoia, so why have you forsaken me on the one occasion we might be on the same side??

That is all. I have a plane to board.

Some Brief Words About the Estate Tax

I’ve had so many political opinions lately that I’ve had trouble isolating one that I can take some time to put into words, but here’s a short one that’s been bugging me. Maybe some of my more conservative readers can help me figure out the explanation for this, but to be honest, I don’t know what’s up with right-wing opposition to the estate tax. It often seems to be one of the most-criticized policy proposals in Washington, and yet to me, it seems like it should actually be one of most palatable tax ideas out there.

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