Friday, February 09, 2024

Letters, I send letters....

The American Friends Service Committee recently had an on-line letter to Congress. As I usually do in such cases, I re-wrote the text to"personalize" it. This is how it came out.


I call on you to demand a cease-fire and humanitarian access in Gaza by endorsing H.Res. 786 “calling for an immediate de-escalation and cease-fire in Israel and occupied Palestine” or a Senate equivalent. 

As part of that, I want you to oppose new military assistance for Israel, including the supplemental funding request under consideration, until there is clear progress toward an ultimate resolution that respects the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians.

According to data provided by the AFSC, since October 7, over 27,000 Palestinians have been killed, 40% of them children. Another 10,000 are estimated to be buried under the rubble. Over 2 million people have been displaced from their homes, and over 70% of homes and other structures in Gaza have been damaged or destroyed. 

The on-going Israeli blockade of Gaza, described more than once as "the world's largest outdoor prison," worsened by the intensified lockdown and now compounded by the US ending aid for UNRWA, has lead to shortages of food, water, fuel, and medical supplies. It is estimated that 85% of the population in Gaza is on the verge of famine.

A cease-fire is needed NOW.

The vicious, bloody attack by Hamas on October 7 deserves no defense and will get none from me. But neither will I defend Israel’s actions in Gaza that so far have killed more than 20 times as many Palestinians and which have been found by the International Court of Justice to plausibly amount to genocide

The lesson of October 7 that should be learned is that further military attacks will bring neither peace nor security for Israel or Israelis. Historically, efforts to militarily "stamp out" a group such as Hamas almost invariably fail, leading instead to decades of suffering for both sides - as this one long since has - that only end when the causes of the conflict are meaningfully addressed.

With that in mind, I ask you this:

    - Given that our Declaration of Independence claims the right, even the duty, of an oppressed people to resistance, and
    - given the existence of Israel is based on the world's recognition of the right of a people to a homeland, and
    - given that you are not going to deny Palestinians both the right of resistance and the right to a homeland,

what is it that you propose Palestinians could and should now do to advance the cause of an independent Palestinian state, particularly now that the Israeli government has openly declared it will "never" agree to that?

Note carefully: You cannot say "No terrorism" because I did not ask what they should not do, but what they should. The lack of a practical answer to that question condemns Palestinians to on-going suffering and oppression and Israelis to continued incidents of terrorism

But for the moment, for this instant, here is what is most important: Please, please do what’s right. Call for a cease-fire and humanitarian access - NOW.


Some of that, I know, repeats things I have said before. They bear repeating.

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Okay, I feel old

So I read that it appears that Kyrsten Sinema is not running for re-election. The observation is based on her doing what is for a Senate race a minimal amount of fundraising as opposed to previous years.

That’s no loss, in my opinion, but the point is that after the article saying she is spending "outsized amounts" on security, there was this paragraph:

Security has been an obviously special concern for the senator ever since she hid in a bathroom to avoid a confrontation with activists. “She’s Howard Hughes-level paranoid,” one former staffer told the New York Post, referring to the mentally ill entrepreneur portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Aviator.”

In other words, while I would have deleted everything after the last comma, the author felt it necessary to cite a 2004 movie starring a well-known now-49-year-old actor to make sure the article's audience understood the reference.

:sigh: Best get me my lap robe and cup of Postum. My joints are achin' in this chill.

The Rules

Recently, I saw a video about the "Reverse Gish Gallop." The Gish Gallop is a verbal tactic based on the premise that it almost always takes longer to rebut a claim than it does to make it, and, as you likely know, consists of firing out so many claims and charges so fast that there is no way the target can adequately refute of even contest all of them.

People came to expect this so tried to prepare rapid-fire responses to expected claims. The "Reverse Gish Gallop" consists of picking out something you said, some error no how minor, and attack that as if it discredited every other rebuttal you made or at least distracting attention from the fact you had presented them.

That reminded me of some things in what I call my "Rules for Right-wingers," which I post from time to time as reminders. Since the last time was about four years ago, I figured this presented an opportunity to do it again.

The fact is, flakes, nutcases, paranoids, and other assorted bozos are almost the totality of the present right-wing and almost the totality of the national Republican party apart from the bigots and bosses whose only interests are of the self kind. For some time I had observed with varying degrees of annoyance and bemusement the predictable tactics of the wingers in debates - or rather, their tactics in avoiding actual debates. But I finally came to a point where I had had it with the evasions, the dodges, the schemes and slime that make up winger discussions and began assembling a list of those tactics.

So here it is, the latest always-subject-to-expansion-or-refinement list of wingnut arguing tactics and operating procedures. They are listed simply in the order in which they got added. Thoughts (and suggestions for new rules) are welcome.


Rule #1: Attack, attack, attack!
In fact, try to level so many attacks so fast that your opponent never gets to make a criticism of their own because they are so busy trying to catch up to your attacks. However, don't forget to be deeply shocked and offended if anyone on the left responds in kind.

Rule #2: Deny, deny, deny!

Doesn't matter if it's something undeniable, deny it anyway.

Rule #3: When facts are beyond even your ability to deny, change the subject.
This can be done in various ways, for example:
- Introduce irrelevant details on a tangential point.
- Pluck out from what your opponent said an individual phrase you think you can attack, even if it's one that was just tossed out offhandedly, and treat that as if it's the focus of the entire discussion.
- Tie up the discussion in piles of minutia to the point where everyone, including your opponent, loses track of the actual issue.

Rule #4: Issue a lengthy, ranting denunciation of "the left."
This often can be initiated with "whataboutism," responding to criticisms by ignoring them and going "Yeah? Well what about" whatever seems most useful at the moment. Try to include the words "hypocrites" and/or "hypocrisy," arguing that the left can't legitimately criticize the right (because any such criticism is by your definition hypocritical) while insisting that the right can continue to criticize the left. (Note: Where possible, include the phrase "you liberals" or better yet, "you libtards.")

Rule #5: Make the particular stand for the whole.
Find something offensive or silly some liberal or leftist, somewhere, sometime, said or did and label it as identifying the entire left half of the American political spectrum. Demand that your opponent spend their time denouncing that example rather than discussing the original topic.

Rule #6: Never answer a question.
When faced with one, ignore it and respond with a question, preferably on a different point. If possible, the question should be accusatory. If you do not get an answer, repeat the question and loudly demand it be answered while continuing to ignore the original question you were asked. If you do get an answer, ignore it. If necessary, drop the matter without acknowledging having gotten a reply; if possible, repeat the question, insisting it has not been answered, even if it has.

Rule #7: No amount of proof is enough.
Demand every remotely questionable assertion by your opponent be proved in every conceivable detail, right down to dates, times, and places, complete with signed affidavits. Refer to all factual assertions by your opponents as "just your opinion" even if the level of proof you demanded is supplied.

Rule #8: Assert unsourced statistics and facts with great assurance.
Or, more appropriately these days, assert "alternative facts." Reply to requests for proof by saying some version of "You can look it up." You thereby demand that your opponents do the work of trying to prove your argument for you.

Rule #9: Frame the debate in false choices.
For example, "Do you support socialism or freedom?"

Rule #10: Accuse the accuser.
You could call this "I'm rubber and you're glue" method: Insist, even in the absence of any foundation, that any criticism of you actually applies to your opponent. For example, if someone notes you're avoiding a debate, insist "You're the one who won't debate!" Faced with examples of right-wingers lying, reply "That fits you lefties to a T!" If something you said is challenged as bigoted, say "You're being intolerant!" or better yet, "You're the real racist!"

Rule #11: When a claim has been debunked, continue to use it nonetheless.
When it has been debunked so thoroughly and completely that continuing to use it is counterproductive, stop claiming it for a time, after which assert it again as if the debunking had never happened. For numerous examples where this can be found, see climate change denialists.

Rule #12: Never accept responsibility.
Never, never, never admit any responsibility for the meaning or impact of your own words. If you want guidance, see almost any GOPper statement on January 6.

Rule #13: When all else has failed - and even when it hasn't - lie.
Just make crap up. Important: Keep repeating it. See Rule #11.

Rule #14: When you fear a contrary point may be raised, shout.
If that contrary point is a good one, shout very loudly. Your point may not get heard, but neither will your opponent's. (This is primarily for use on television.)

Rule #15: Seize control of the Clock of History.
Choose the period of time most advantageous to your argument and insist that any event outside that time frame, either before it or after it, is irrelevant and must not be considered.

Rule #16: "Both Sides Now."
If the behavior of some rught-wingers is so undeniably bad that it can't be explained away, airily dismiss it with "Both sides do it." Freely employ false equivalencies.

Rule #17: All debate stops when you win - and only when you win.
Remember that there are only two responses to anything in contention: It's "up for debate" and "We won, the debate is over, shut up." Gun control provides a good example: In the 2008, the Supreme Court, for the first time, held that owning a gun is an individual right. Even since then, the pro-gun claim has been "The Supreme Court has ruled. The debate is over." But for the 69 years preceding that, the controlling precedent was that the 2nd Amendment was about a collective right of collective self-defense, not an individual one. In all those years, no one on the right ever said "The Supreme Court has ruled. The debate is over. We lost."

Rule #18: If you can't win by the rules, change them.
A great example of this is the recent attempt by the GOPper-controlled Ohio legislature to toughen the requirements for an amendment to the state constitution in an attempt to head of protection of reproductive rights.

Rule #19: Intellectual consistency and honesty are for wusses and losers.
Should need no example, as there are new ones every day, but I happen to favor this classic: Late in evening of election day, 2012, it looked for a time that Obama might lose the popular vote to Mitt Romney despite having won the electoral vote handily. Tweetie-pie tweeted that such a result would be "a total sham and a travesty" and the electoral college is "a disaster for a democracy."

Rule #20: Sitzfleisch.
It's German for "sitting flesh" and it goes back to the days before chess clocks put time constraints on games and players would sometimes win by simply taking so long to move that their opponent would either give up or become so tired from the wait that they would make foolish moves and lose. More generally it now means winning by virtue of sheer, unmitigated, stubbornness. Right-wingers are past masters at that.

Rule #21: Play the victim.
Whatever it is, the right-wing claims they are the real victims. They are the ones facing discrimination, being oppressed, whose free speech is imperiled, who are being called names, the ones who can't get a decent break.


Okay, that's all the rules I have now, ones which collectively show up right-wingers for what they are: a bunch of selfish, whining, crybabies only interested in their own power and privilege. Which is why playing the victim comes so easily to them.

I'll wrap this up with an observation, one I've made before in discussing this: I frankly expect many of us have at some time or another been guilty of one or more of these sins in the course of a debate, especially if it got heated. But occasional sins in the heat of the moment is not what this is about. This is about a consistent pattern by the right of evasion and deceit. It is being an intellectual coward. It is about being a bully. It is about being a liar.

It is about being a right-winger.

Friday, February 02, 2024

Watch this!

 Trust me. I mean it. Watch this.

It will be worth the 26 minutes of your life.

Why would I do it?

Robert Reich had a poll up about the just-passed bill about the Child Tax Credit. He noted that half of the funding would go toward expanding the tax credit and half would got to tax cuts for the rich and Big Business, resulting in an average increase of 0.3% in after-tax income for beneficiaries and 0.5% for the rich. The question was if you would vote for the bill.

The choices were Yes, it helps the poor; No, it increases income inequality; and Other (in comments). I voted Other and this was my comment:

I would vote for it, but with great and vocal reluctance, using it as an occasion to point out as loudly as I could (not just on the floor but through social media and press statements) the disgusting, stomach-wrenching greed and moral bankruptcy of the rich, those "squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinners" whose only concern is "Gimmie more! Gimmie more!" and often have quite literally more money than they can use and so buy things from apartment-building-sized yachts to private islands to joyrides into the upper atmosphere just to have things to spend it on.

That, and just as loudly pointing out that the very fact that an average income increase of $60 a year potentially could make a difference in the lives of number of people is undeniable proof of just how screwed up, sick, and wretched our economy has become.

We regard the "gilded age" as a time of ostentatious wealth and extreme poverty. We are facing such a time again, one where being a multimillionaire is to be small fry, billionaires seem ordinary, and centibillionaires (with the arrival of the first trillionaire in sight) are presented by the media as affable folk heroes. Meanwhile, nearly 40 million among us remain in poverty with the "official" rate varying between 11 and 15 percent for the last nearly 60 years, some among us so poor that, again, $60 a freaking year makes an actual difference, and some legislators propose to deal with this by revoking child labor laws.

All in line with George Wills' statement "'Back to 1900' is a serviceable summation of the conservatives' goal."

We need to take that sense we have of the "gilded age" as being tacky, distasteful, and apply it to the present and add the moral outrage that radicals and reformers expressed at the time. We need to make possession of that level of wealth something shameful. We need, that is, to stop simply referring to economic inequality and instead make it both a moral campaign and the central economic issue of our age.

So why I would vote for this bill? Because for all the moral and ethical faults it represents, it does provide some benefits to the poorer among us. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, it would benefit some 16 million children in the first year and could raise over 500,000 children above the poverty line when fully in effect. (Bear in mind the $60 after-tax figure is an average for everyone eligible to apply for the benefit, including those above the poverty line, with shrinking benefits as income rises.)

So I would vote yes for the sake of the small benefit it does give those in need while expressing my thorough disgust at the shameless, immoral, inhumane, avarice of those who put me in the soul-killing position of having to do it.

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