Thursday, July 21, 2011

Taking a Break From Having Standards

Everything I post to this blog comes with an implicit guarantee that I've made a sincere effort to base my thoughts, observations, and opinions on reality, rather than the other way around. I like to ridicule politicians and commentators when they say or do ridiculous things, but I want to be fair about it—a well-founded argument isn't worth much if the hundred that preceded it were entirely unfounded. Of course, the fact that so many politicians and commentators take the opposite approach is the reason I have anything to write about in the first place. The world they inhabit is a depressing wasteland of logical fallacies, non sequiturs, and ad hominen attacks, and the more we pay attention to it the dumber we get.

It also looks like a lot of fun.

It's not like I've never been tempted. For every idea that grows into a half-decent article, there's another that was promising at first—interesting, novel, maybe a little controversial—but ultimately had to be abandoned. Upon further investigation it becomes clear that what I thought was something is, in fact, nothing. To make it work I'd have to omit a key detail, take a quote out of context, blow something out of proportion, or simply make things up, and that's not the kind of blog I want this to be. But who says I need to have standards all the time? Would Sean Hannity let a fundamental flaw in his argument stop him from making it? Would Keith Olbermann? Hell no, they wouldn't.

In that spirit I present, in somewhat abbreviated form, three of those discarded articles. And not the dull, respectable versions either, because starting now, and for the rest of this post,[1] I will make no effort whatsoever to be fair.


Fox News Ignored the Republican Primary Debate
These three screenshots were taken at exactly the same time (give or take 30 seconds) on June 13, 2011, about 20 minutes after the beginning of the Republican debate:

Doesn't it seem like something's missing from that last one? And I'm not selectively cropping, by the way—there was no mention of the debate anywhere on the main page. I also went to the "Politics" page, and there was hardly anything there either. Just a single video—kind of hidden away off to the side—in which a correspondent spends two and a half minutes previewing the debate and reporting some mathematically impossible poll results:

So why was Fox News ignoring the debate? I don't know, but my two-part guess is, first, they didn't want to promote a rival network (MSNBC, whose ratings coincidentally suck, apparently does not have that concern), and second, they were afraid the Republicans would embarrass themselves. The candidates were in hostile territory, after all—a debate hosted and televised by CNN. What if the questions didn't presuppose that Obama's economic and foreign policies are disastrous? What if they were forced to defend the non-sensical premise that every incremental increase in gay rights destroys America a little bit more? Or that building a wall on the border is a viable solution to anything?[2]


Sarah Palin Supports the Libyan Government
It makes perfect sense that I follow Sarah Palin on Twitter, because I find them both oddly fascinating for reasons I can't explain without using the phrases "oddly fascinating" and "reasons I can't explain".

In April, Palin posted a series of tweets criticizing Obama's policy in Libya:
Libya deteriorates, Obama vacillates. Campaigner-in-Chief needs to justify why we're there or we shouldn't be there. Need to send world the
message: we'll only intervene in anyone's business if we're dead serious:get in, hit hard, get out. Listen to McCain
At least on this 1, wish POTUS would hear McCain MT "@weeklystandard: Decries Timid Approach in Libya: B York reports:"
Yeah, yeah, I completely agree with her points about Libya, and I was about to not give it a second thought, but then I noticed the links to the article about McCain. (Only the second link works; she broke the first one by adding "US" to the end, presumably in a misguided act of patriotism.)

.LY looks like a country code domain, I thought to myself. But which country? Lyberia? Lychtynsteyn? Lynyrd Skyrgyzstan?

Oh, right, it's Libya. Talk about sending mixed messages. isn't a Libyan company, but their URL means they're indirectly doing business with the Libyan government, and that means every time Palin tweets a URL she's putting a few more dirhams in Qaddafi's pockets.[3]


Michelle Malkin is an Anchor Baby
That's right. The person who wrote this:
Clearly, the custom of granting automatic citizenship at birth to children of tourists and temporary workers such as Hamdi, tourists, and to countless "anchor babies" delivered by illegal aliens on American soil, undermines the integrity of citizenship -- not to mention national security. Originally intended to ensure the citizenship rights of newly freed slaves and their families after the Civil War, the citizenship clause has evolved into a magnet for alien lawbreakers and a shield for terrorist infiltrators and enemy combatants.

If the courts refuse to close the birthright citizenship loopholes, Congress must. Citizenship is too precious to squander on accidental Americans in Name Only.
…was born in the United States to Filipino parents who may or may not have had time to unpack between the airport and the delivery room. Really.

She's not a hypocrite, though, because she's not necessarily excluding herself from her own insulting rhetoric. Our jus soli policy "undermines the integrity of citizenship—not to mention national security", Malkin says. And given her long history of absurd fear-mongering and fact- and logic-impaired anti-immigrant screeds, I'd argue that Malkin has indeed done her part to undermine the integrity of citizenship—not to mention national security.[4]

1. Not including the footnotes.
2. I wasn't watching the debate when I took those screenshots, but I caught parts of it later, and, honestly, if Fox's position was that it wasn't newsworthy enough to make a big deal about, I can't argue. To borrow a phrase from Neal Boortz, the debate was little more than a joint news conference. Perhaps it wasn't entirely unnewsworthy—we learned, for example, that Rick Santorum prefers Jay Leno to Conan (of course he does), and that Michelle Bachmann can't decide between Elvis or Johnny Cash (the correct answer is Johnny Cash, the second-best answer is Elvis, the worst answer is "both")—but if the alternative to ignoring the debate is plastering it all over the main page like there was nothing else happening in the world, I vote for the former.
    And yeah, I'm sure Fox's coverage is a bit more expansive when they televise one of these debates, but they are a TV network, after all. And they hardly make it a secret that they want people to watch Fox News at all times—as you can see in the screenshot, any time you go to the main page there are little boxes at the top indicating what's currently on the air, what's coming up next, and how you can watch whatever you just missed.
    As for the screwy poll results, there's a perfectly logical explanation for that one, too. I checked out the original data (the relevant stuff is on p.23), and here's what seems to have happened: 13% of respondents said they haven't decided who they'll support, and 21% said they support a candidate outside the Romney/Giuliani/Paul/Palin/Bachmann top five. Fox lumped these two groups together under the label of "Undecided", because all those Cain/Gingrich/Huntsman/Johnson/Pawlenty/Roemer/Santorum/Someone Else supporters are really just kidding themselves. Then, they added 21 and 13 and got 76, because they're incompetent.
3. I'm having trouble even pretending to get worked up about this one. The people say they aren't sure how much of their money has made its way to the Libyan government, but it's somewhere south of $75, which is the registration fee they paid to the non-profit corporation that runs these things.
    Maybe it still makes sense to take your URL-shortening business elsewhere as a matter of principle, but that slope is awfully slippery. We can all agree that Libya sucks, but what about, say, Colombia? What about Montenegro? I don't even know anything about Montenegro. And before too long you'll find yourself making a qualitative comparison of Grenada, Tokelau, and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, at which point it's probably time to acknowledge that whatever principled statement you're trying to make is almost certainly not worth the trouble.
4. Yes, Malkin was born to non-citizen parents who had just stepped off the plane, but there's no indication her parents were here illegally, or that they came to the U.S. specifically so their daughter would be a citizen.
    Oh, did I forget to mention above that Malkin's parents may have had permanent visas? Sorry about that. She's said before that her dad obtained a green card due to his medical training, and she was born right in the middle of the brief window in the late '60s and early '70s when the government made it substantially easier for foreign doctors to get visas. A high proportion of these doctors were from the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries. Some came in on temporary work/study visas and later adjusted to permanent status, but most were issued green cards right off the bat.
    People who argue for doing away with birthright citizenship, including Malkin herself, are almost invariably talking about "illegals" and temporary visitors, not legal permanent residents (i.e. non-citizens with green cards)—they just don't always make the distinction with a whole lot of clarity. The premise that an "anchor baby" can help the parents obtain legal status, which is largely bullshit to begin with, isn't even relevant in the case of parents who are legal permanent residents already.

1 comment:


    "We cannot elevate nature above people. That is against the Bible and the Bill of Rights."

    "If some of these environmental movements had been around in the days of dinosaurs, we'd be living in Jurassic Park."

    It is progress of a sort that they admit dinosaurs did exist and are not part of Satan's plot to get us to believe in a geologically ancient world.