Sunday, September 30, 2007

Eschew Binarity

Another ridiculous Sunday morning, beautiful clear sunshine -- it was cold last night, I actually got out my jacket and put it on. I slept in this morning. Last night the greatest movie was on TV, like at one in the morning. They don't tell you the name of the movie at that hour, they just show it, but it might have been called "Door-to-door Maniac," or "Five Minutes to Live," or "Last Blood." As I see it on the Internet, this movie has been released under all those names. Johnny Cash is a bad guy who has a plan to rob a bank by holding the bank president's wife hostage and ... well, it was a really surprisingly good movie. She's the president of the Women's Club, y'know, all in curlers and stuff. Johnny breaks into the house, he says, "Bank presidents might like their women looking like that but I don't." Blurry focus, low budget, Ron Howard is in it, he looks like he's about five -- pre Opie, I'd guess. So anyway, that was over at three or so, and I woke up with the sun burning my face through the window.

But I've been thinking about something.

Being that we live here in the bedroom of Washington, DC, a lot of our readers work for the government. And you guys know, the fiscal year starts tomorrow. Right now, you can't buy anything, you can't sign up for classes or training, you can't plan any travel, because you don't know what your budget's going to be.

Congress doesn't have to decide how many paper-clips you get this year. Their budgeting doesn't go that far. They'll decide though if the program you work for is going to have little things like ... salaries, say. I don't know how it actually looks on the inside, but it seems that they allocate money for particular agencies, and even within the agency they subdivide it down into programs, this one gets this and that one gets that. When you look at how big the federal government is, this is a huge job.

October first is the start of the fiscal year. Last week, nobody in the government had any money, because everything had to be accounted for, these last weeks, and once there's a budget nobody will still have any money because the agencies have to find out how much they're getting and then divvy it up internally. Both houses of Congress vote on it, and then the President signs it. It is never ready at the start of the year. Never. (How do you spell CR?)

This has got to be about a forty-hour-a-day job. Nobody could really do it right, you can't know what's going on in every little office out there, you have to have some kind of policy guidelines and a bunch of people working for you who gather information, and then you juggle the numbers blindly and see what you think ought to be done, who ought to get what.

Looming behind all that, you have a gazillion-dollar-a-month war going on, pointless, ineffective, winning us enemies around the planet, implemented both deceptively and ineptly, sucking money out of the country's bank account at a rate that is unknown but estimated in the cotillions (that's a one with a gazillion zeroes after it, in a floor-length dress). You've got the spectre of China calling in their loans, busting our bank overnight. The constitution is being ripped to shreds, the environment is boiling over, sick people can't see a doctor and poor people can't pay their mortgage.

So now I see Congress is ... censuring

Scuse me, I like to goof off at work as much as the next guy. I'm sympathetic, but ... isn't there a better time for this? put an ad in the New York Times, with a little pun: Petraeus or Betray-Us. Everybody knew the general was sitting over at the White House getting instructions for his presentation at the Capitol. Everybody knew he was going to say the war is going wonderfully great, and everybody knows that's not true. It's a military guy giving a political presentation -- a very dangerous combination. We saw it before, when Colin Powell went out and cashed in all his respect to tell a string of lies at the UN, that was a hard one, because you really did think the guy was honorable, but they sucked it out of him, he betrayed us too. So a general lies to Congress, what's new about that? --Well, it might not be new, but we cannot let it become acceptable.

Certainly we can't make it a crime to say something when the emperor comes out in a transparent, weightless suit of big ol' nothing.

Why did Congress stop everything, in the middle of the busiest time of the year, with all this going on, to discuss and vote on whether they were bad people or not? Do you understand that?

We get the Washington Post, there are full-page ads in there all the time. Israel, Syria, Russia, whole countries buy a page in the Post and put some stuff in there, with a bunch of names at the bottom of the page endorsing it -- hey, isn't the whole first section mostly bra ads? Does Congress want to vote on whether Playtex actually lifts and separates?

The real question is, how did they let this issue, the issue of some group buying an ad in the Times, rise to the top of their list of priorities? I guess anybody with money can buy an ad. So somebody bought an ad that took one side, as opposed to the other, so what?

Somehow the Democrats have let the Republicans define the situation. Again. It's just bizarre that this has happened to us. It seems to me they all -- both parties -- have such a low estimation of the American voter that they think all that matters is slogans. They may be right, that's the hard part, this might actually be what matters to people.

But no. Nobody really cares about, this is bull-oney. Look at this SURVEY. Fifty-six percent of people have never even heard of Twenty-two percent have an unfavorable opinion of them. Look: nobody cares.

Here's the deal, it seems to me. When Aristotle systematized the rules of logic, he included something called the Law of the Excluded Middle. It seemed obvious at the time. Everything is either A or not-A, it can't be both. A sentence is either true or false. The sky is either blue or it's not. Given that, the rest of the principles of logic follow pretty easily.

Problem is, it's wrong, for two reasons I can think of. First of all, there are degrees. If you held up a paint sample labeled "Blue" and compared it to the sky, you'd find that the sky isn't actually blue. It's bluish, but blue doesn't really look like that, it's darker, and you gotta get rid of the greenish tint. This is the basis for fuzzy logic, which allows degrees of truth and is extremely useful as far as engineering applications go, because that's the way the world actually works, your motor doesn't suddenly overheat at whatever number of degrees it says in the manual, it gets hotter a little bit at a time. In between, the statement "the engine is overheating" is partly true.

Second of all, the negation of a statement can be two things: it can be the absence of a quality, or it can be the opposite of it. If I say I'm "not angry" at somebody, for instance, it can mean I actually like them, or it could mean I've never given them a thought. And this is the trap.

MoveOn put an ad in the paper. Seems to me the correct response, if you think they went too far, is to not notice. The general is working for the administration, OK, we've seen this before, there're worse things going on over there. You might think the MoveOn wording was a little harsh, or extreme, or poorly timed (I don't happen to think any of the above), but really -- why does this call for a vote in Congress?

Because if you're dumb enough to stay in the chambers when they call for a vote, you have to say if you're for it or against it. The smart thing is to go get a drink of water, or go out in the hall and talk on your cell phone, or practice your wide stance, something. Abstain, don't vote. Don't encourage them.

Here's the bad thing that's going on, and I don't know if this is new or if America has always been this way. It comes down to the idea that "If you ain't fer us yer aginst us." It's the reduction of the world to a single binary dimension, where you're either at the zero end or the one end, with no middle. In this case, Congresscritters thought they either had to support MoveOn or oppose them. Even Democrats. So they filed into the hallowed halls and sat in their places and voted on whether was being nice when they made a pun on General Betraeus' name.

This need to bifurcate is at the heart of our controversy here in Montgomery County, with the sex-ed curriculum. Here's an example: the curriculum says "Some transgender individuals want to live their life as the opposite gender or have surgery to become the opposite gender. Many others do not want to do so," and somewhere else it says, "While cross-dressers change their clothes, transsexuals sometimes change their body by means of hormone therapy or sexual reassignment therapy to match how they feel." OK, those are facts. You go out into the world, you go out in public, you're going to see somebody like that. It seems sensible to me to take a few minutes out of a kid's long life to tell them what this is about, just so they know. Never mind the ones that are sitting there confused and disoriented about living in a world that requires them to live a lie.

But look how the CRC paraphrases that on their shadow web site. They say the curriculum "directs students to chop off body parts and change their gender." That is it, really, a direct quote from their down-low web site, their paraphrase of the sentences in the curriculum I just quoted to you.

How does that happen? It happens because they are defining the world in extreme binary terms. They are confusing the two kinds of negation. To their minds, you have to either approve of something or oppose it. There's no option to live and let live, you're either with em er yer aginst em. You can't just learn a fact, you have to take sides. And telling a kid a fact is the same as directing them to behave in that way.

Reading through their whining complaint to the state court, I was struck by how much of their case depends on the excluded middle. The fact is, some people are gay, some are transgender, some people speak a different language from us -- you don't have to choose if you're for it or against it, it's just how things are. When I go to Portugal, they eat blood. I don't know how they do it, they bake it or something, and there's just this big blood clot on your plate. They love it. I don't eat it. I have found that people are pretty good if you say, sorry, but in my country we don't eat that sort of thing. They usually laugh -- though three times I have had Chinese people trick me into eating some kind of guts or bugs -- but they don't feel offended, because it's not a binary world. Normal, intelligent people understand that. If you don't like to eat the blood, so what? It just means more for them, right?

No, the CRC would want to go to court to stop Portuguese people from eating stuff like that. Because yer either fer em er aginst em. If you're one of those blood-lovers, you're a liberal and a sissy. And by blood-lover, I mean somebody who doesn't actively oppose the Portuguese diet.

Don't fall for the dichotomy. There is always something higher that reconciles the two sides, you need to look for that. Don't react with ones and zeroes, find the continuum in between, we need to take a breath and think some of these things through, you can't live in a constant state of panic. We need to start using our brains again.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Olbermann to Bush: ‘Your hypocrisy is so vast’
A reaction to Thursday’s press conference: the president was the one who interjected Gen. Petraeus into the political dialogue in the first place

By Keith Olbermann
Anchor, 'Countdown'
Updated: 9:59 p.m. ET Sept 20, 2007

So the President, behaving a little bit more than usual, like we would all interrupt him while he was watching his favorite cartoons on the DVR, stepped before the press conference microphone and after side-stepping most of the substantive issues like the Israeli raid on Syria, in condescending and infuriating fashion, produced a big political finish that indicates, certainly, that if it wasn’t already – the annual Republican witch-hunting season is underway.

“I thought the ad was disgusting. I felt like the ad was an attack not only on General Petraeus, but on the U.S. Military.”

“And I was disappointed that not more leaders in the Democrat party spoke out strongly against that kind of ad.

“And that leads me to come to this conclusion: that most Democrats are afraid of irritating a left-wing group like or more afraid of irritating them, than they are of irritating the United States military.”

“That was a sorry deal.”

First off, it’s “Democrat-ic” party.

You keep pretending you’re not a politician, so stop using words your party made up. Show a little respect.

Secondly, you could say this seriously after the advertising/mugging of Senator Max Cleland? After the swift-boating of John Kerry?

But most importantly, making that the last question?

So that there was no chance at a follow-up?

So nobody could point out, as Chris Matthews so incisively did, a week ago tonight, that you were the one who inappropriately interjected General Petraeus into the political dialogue of this nation in the first place!

Deliberately, premeditatedly, and virtually without precedent, you shanghaied a military man as your personal spokesman and now you’re complaining about the outcome, and then running away from the microphone?

Eleven months ago the President’s own party, the Republican National Committee, introduced this very different kind of advertisement, just nineteen days before the mid-term elections.

Bin Laden.

Al-Zawahiri’s rumored quote of six years ago about having bought “suitcase bombs.”

All set against a ticking clock, and finally a blinding explosion and the dire announcement:

“These are the stakes - vote, November 7th.”

That one was ok, Mr. Bush?

Terrorizing your own people in hopes of getting them to vote for your own party has never brought as much as a public comment from you?

The Republican Hamstringing of Captain Max Cleland and lying about Lieutenant John Kerry met with your approval?

But a shot at General Petraeus, about whom you conveniently ignore it, was you who reduced him from four-star hero to a political hack, merits this pissy juvenile blast at the Democrats on national television?

Your hypocrisy is so vast that if we could somehow use it to fill the ranks in Iraq you could realize your dream and keep us fighting there until the year 3000.

The line between the military and the civilian government is not to be crossed.

When Douglas MacArthur attempted to make policy for the United States in Korea half a century ago, President Truman moved quickly to fire him, even though Truman knew it meant his own political suicide, and the deification of a General who history suggests had begun to lose his mind.

When George McClellan tried to make policy for the Union in the Civil War, President Lincoln finally fired his chief General, even though he knew McClellan could galvanize political opposition which he did when McClellan ran as Lincoln’s presidential opponent in 1864, nearly defeating our greatest president.

Even when the conduit flowed the other way and Senator Joseph McCarthy tried to smear the Army because it wouldn’t defer the service of one of McCarthy’s staff aides, the entire civilian and Defense Department structures, after four years of fearful servitude, rose up against McCarthy and said “enough” and buried him.

The list is not endless but it is instructive.

Air Force General LeMay—who broke with Kennedy over the Cuban Missile Crisis and was retired.

Army General Edwin Anderson Walker—who started passing out John Birch Society leaflets to his soldiers.

Marine General Smedley Butler—who revealed to Congress the makings of a plot to remove FDR as President and for merely being approached by the plotters, was phased out of the military hierarchy.

These careers were ended because the line between the military and the civilian is not to be crossed!

Mr. Bush, you had no right to order General Petraeus to become your front man.

And he obviously should have refused that order and resigned rather than ruin his military career.

The upshot is and contrary it is, to the MoveOn advertisement he betrayed himself more than he did us.

But there has been in his actions a sort of reflexive courage, some twisted vision of duty at a time of crisis. That the man doesn’t understand that serving officers cannot double as serving political ops, is not so much his fault as it is your good, exploitable, fortune.

But Mr. Bush, you have hidden behind the General’s skirts, and today you have hidden behind the skirts of ‘the planted last question’ at a news conference, to indicate once again that your presidency has been about the tilted playing field, about no rules for your party in terms of character assassination and changing the fabric of our nation, and no right for your opponents or critics to as much as respond.

That is not only un-American but it is dictatorial.

And in pimping General David Petraeus and in the violation of everything this country has been assiduously and vigilantly against for 220 years, you have tried to blur the gleaming radioactive demarcation between the military and the political, and to portray your party as the one associated with the military, and your opponents as the ones somehow antithetical to it.

You did it again today and you need to know how history will judge the line you just crossed.

It is a line thankfully only the first of a series that makes the military political, and the political, military.

It is a line which history shows is always the first one crossed when a democratic government in some other country has started down the long, slippery, suicidal slope towards a Military Junta.

Get back behind that line, Mr. Bush, before some of your supporters mistake your dangerous transgression, for a call to further politicize our military.

© 2007 MSNBC Interactive

September 30, 2007 9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, yeah.

That inconvenient war. And the uncanny relevance to gay classes in MCPS.

If only the U.S. would stop fighting and teach everyone to never be mad at a gay person, we could all hold hands around a big campfire and sing "Incense and Peppermints"!!

Has anyone noticed that the Democrats swept into Congress last year vowing to put an end to U.S. involvement in Iraq and we're still there? Just last week, Democrats were all asked if American troops would be out of Iraq by the end of their terms and the three leaders in the polls said they don't know.

The tide has turned, people, and Gen Petreaus has been instrumental in that.

He didn't betray you, MoveOn.

He was never on your side!

September 30, 2007 11:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, the tide is turning all right. It seems like every day, another tide turns...

An Unlikely Vote Forces No Change

By Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 30, 2007; Page A06

On Wednesday morning, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) walked onto the Senate floor and committed an act that for him is highly unusual: He voted with the Democrats on Iraq.

The measure, offered by Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr., was a nonbinding statement of support for a new Iraqi political model consisting of a central government in Baghdad and three semiautonomous regions for the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. Isakson was one of 26 Republicans who supported the Biden plan, making the 75 to 23 result the biggest bipartisan showing since the Iraq debate began in January...

On Warming, Bush Vows U.S. 'Will Do Its Part'
Critics Praise Attention But Call Ideas Lacking

By Peter Baker and Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, September 29, 2007; Page A03

President Bush assured the rest of the world yesterday that he takes the threat of climate change seriously and vowed that the United States "will do its part" to reduce the greenhouse gases that are warming the planet, but he proposed no concrete new initiatives to reach that goal.

The president's speech at a conference of major economic powers represented a symbolic turn for a leader who once expressed doubt about global warming and angered foreign partners by renouncing the Kyoto treaty. After nearly seven years on the defensive, Bush tried to assume a leadership role in crafting "a new international approach" to preserving the world's climate...

U.S. to Allow Key Detainees to Request Lawyers
14 Terrorism Suspects Given Legal Forms at Guantanamo

By Josh White and Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, September 28, 2007; Page A01

Fourteen "high-value" terrorism suspects who were transferred to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from secret CIA prisons last year have been formally offered the right to request lawyers, a move that could allow them to join other detainees in challenging their status as enemy combatants in a U.S. appellate court.

The move, confirmed by Defense Department officials, will allow the suspects their first contact with anyone other than their captors and representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross since they were taken into custody.

The prisoners, who include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, have not had access to lawyers during their year at Guantanamo Bay or while they were held, for varying lengths of time, at the secret CIA sites abroad. They were entitled to military "personal representatives" to assist them during the administrative process that determined whether they are enemy combatants...

October 01, 2007 7:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WorldNetDaily Exclusive

Christian leaders threaten to abandon Republicans
Dobson, others meet in Salt Lake City to plan options in presidential campaign

Posted: September 30, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern

WASHINGTON – Some of the top leaders in Christian pro-family activism – including James Dobson of Focus on the Family – met in Salt Lake City yesterday to plot a strategy should Rudy Giuliani or another supporter of legalized abortion be nominated by the Republican Party as its presidential candidate.

Not only was there a consensus among activists to withhold support for the Republican nominee, there was even discussion about supporting the entry of a new candidate to challenge the frontrunners.

It's no secret that Dobson, founder of one of the largest Christian ministries in the country, has no use for Giuliani.

Dobson reportedly drove from his headquarters Colorado Springs to the private meeting, held between sessions of the Council for National Policy in Salt Lake City this weekend, just to weigh in with other leaders of family groups, including the Family Research Council, Bott Broadcasting, Capitol Resource Institute, Salem Communications, Eagle Forum and Concerned Women for America.

While some of those present found candidate Mitt Romney acceptable as a nominee because of his current positions, others were skeptical of him because of his past positions on issues of life and death.

Some of those present, including Dobson, have expressed skepticism about Fred Thompson's bona fides as a leader on the key social issues of concern to the groups.

Perhaps the most surprising development in the meeting was the floating of an idea to recruit yet another candidate to enter the fray.

Among the more intriguing names mentioned was billionaire Foster Friess, a major Republican contributor and philanthropist who lives in Jackson, Wyoming.

October 01, 2007 7:33 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home