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In my fresh, wide-eyed younger years, I built an image of government as being a place where two passionate yet rational groups would come together, argue the merits of their respective positions — using facts and stories and logic and other such things — and usually come to some kind of reasonable compromise based on some semblance of reason and concern for their constituents.

Boy was I wrong.

Take a depressing case in point: Arizona.  Far-right reactionaries in the state have been fanning people’s fears of nefarious deeds committed by shadowy illegal ne’er-do-wells to justify encroachments on liberty that are, at best, draconian, xenophobic and unconstitutional.

What supposedly undergirds the fear-train that all these respectable reactionary leaders are jumping onto?

They keep telling us: Violence and Crime.  They’re way, WAY up!  Be SCARED!

Here’s Old Man McCain on the issue:

“Why is it that Phoenix, Arizona, is the number two kidnapping capital of the world? Does that mean our border’s safe? Of course not.”
 Is this shocking claim true?  PolitiFact says nope.
True, “Kidnapping capital” is a headline-grabbing label. But so far, we’ve seen no evidence that it’s accurate, or even close. And since we first considered this claim earlier this month, no one has stepped forward with more information.

Phoenix has experienced hundreds of kidnappings over the past few years. However, we couldn’t find reliable around-the-planet evidence to confirm that only Mexico City experiences more of them. In fact, experts advise that such rankings can’t be made based on available information. If they could, they speculate, other cities would prove to have more kidnappings than Arizona’s capital.

Now, even more cravenly, here is Arizona Governor Jan Brewer telling everyone how Arizona is currently experiencing a terrible orgy of criminality and lawlessness:
“Border violence and crime due to illegal immigration are critically important issues to the people of our state,” Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said at the signing of the controversial bill, SB 1070. “There is no higher priority than protecting the citizens of Arizona. We cannot sacrifice our safety to the murderous greed of the drug cartels. We cannot stand idly by as drop houses, kidnappings and violence compromise our quality of life.”
So, this is obviously great rhetoric for attracting tourists to your state, but is it true?  Also, nope:
Yet, a look at statistics from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency and the FBI indicate that both the number of illegal crossers and violent crime in general have actually decreased in the past several years.

According to FBI statistics, violent crimes reported in Arizona dropped by nearly 1,500 reported incidents between 2005 and 2008. Reported property crimes also fell, from about 287,000 reported incidents to 279,000 in the same period. These decreases are accentuated by the fact that Arizona’s population grew by 600,000 between 2005 and 2008.

According to the nonpartisan Immigration Policy Institute, proponents of the bill “overlook two salient points: Crime rates have already been falling in Arizona for years despite the presence of unauthorized immigrants, and a century’s worth of research has demonstrated that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or be behind bars than the native-born.”

First of all, I get it.  Cynical politicians have to stoke fears and lead the ignorant around by the rings in their noses — it’s just how the system works.

But how does one fight this level of fact-free irrationality?  How does one win?

It’s one thing to have two viewpoints on a set of policy proposals based on facts and genuine concerns.  You can weigh those and determine which you are more attracted to.

But when you’re fighting a position that is basically an amorphous soup of lies, fear-mongering and irrationality, what do you do when the voters are so easily cowed by this bullshit and let their fear drive them to vote for the cynical fuckers who are misleading and misinforming them?

I just don’t know what one is supposed to do…

Ah, the sickly, acrid tang of culture wars never-quite-gone-by:

Last week at a fundraiser for Michigan GOP congressional candidate Rocky Raczowski, conservative pundit Phyllis Schlafly added her voice to the chorus crying out against government assistance for the poor or unemployed:
One of the things Obama’s been doing is deliberately trying to increase the percentage of our population that is dependent on government for your living. For example, do you know what was the second biggest demographic group that voted for Obama? Obviously the blacks were the biggest demographic, y’all know what was the second biggest? Unmarried women. 70% of unmarried women voted for Obama. And this is because when you kick your husband out, you’ve got to have Big Brother Government to be your provider. And they know that. They’ve admitted it. And they have all kinds of bills to continue to subsidize illegitimacy…

The Obama administration wants to continue to subsidize this group because they know they are Democratic votes.

The puritanical hate that festers in the conservative heart is quite a thing to behold.

I know that I would be a heck of a lot more excited about the Democrats right now if more of them would sack up and actually fight for what they believe in:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  The only thing Democrats have to fear is themselves.

Update: Scott at the League gets it just about right*:

Weiner picked an issue he feels strongly about and in which it is hard to find fault: providing medical care for those rescue workers affected by 9-11. It doesn’t get much more altruistic than that in America these days. And Weiner’s point is not so much to argue about procedure, which puts voters to sleep, but rather to reassert the case that Democrats are on the right side of history here. That Democrats are the good guys.

There has been so much conceding and strong rhetoric followed by tepid incrementalism that I think a lot of the Democratic base has started to question just to what extent they are the good guys. And progressives’ full court press, as much as I’ve participated in and agree with it, doesn’t help with that doubt.

What Weiner is as much as saying here is, “We’re the good guys! You’re the bad guys!” And that, frankly, is what rank and file Democrats need to hear leading up to the midterms.

* Disclaimer: Yes, I think Scott’s point is a little too Manichean in the broader perspective, but he’s right on in terms of the value of highlighting the “You’re wrong and we’re RIGHT” contrast in the context of a particular legislative battle.

I’m actually fairly surprised that it took so long for Americans to start publicly demonizing Islam, either explicitly or implicitly:
When I heard that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) had issued a statement on the proposed Islamic Center near Ground Zero in Manhattan, I was relieved. […] The ADL’s statement started off really well. It reiterated its commitment to religious liberty, “categorically” rejected the “appeals to bigotry,” and condemned those “whose opposition to this proposed Islamic Center is a manifestation of such bigotry.”

But then the ADL went badly off course.

“The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location is counterproductive to the healing process. Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found.”

“Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain — unnecessarily — and that is not right.”

Adam Serwer had this to say:
Remarkable. An organization whose stated role is to “counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry” nonetheless opposes people building where they please simply because of the faith they adhere to. Sure “bigotry is unfair and wrong”, the ADL says, but we should give the bigots what they want anyway. It is inconceivable that the ADL would argue such a position if the building in question happened to be a synagogue, and the builders happened to be Jews. […]

I learned a very important lesson in Hebrew School that I have retained my entire life. If they can deny freedom to a single individual because of who they are, they can do it to anyone. 

Anyone heading down to the First Annual Burn a Quran Day?
On September 11, 2010, the extremist evangelical Dove World Church — whose pastor, Terry Jones, has written a book called “Islam Is Of The Devil” — plans to host “International Burn A Quran Day,” when it will burn Muslims’ sacred text and encourage others across the world to do so as well. Churchmember Wayne Sapp has even posted an instructional video that explains how and why to burn the Islamic text.
In my view there’s no better way to prevent Muslim youth in this country from becoming sympathetic to terrorism than by demonizing their religion.

Bravo, Americans. Brav-o.

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Just a random question but does anyone have to take a second before describing something as being either east or west of something else?  I don’t know what the deal is but I’ve always had this affliction.  North and south are obviously ok but the east-west axis always makes me pause.  Am I just weird?

I’ve been meaning to write a really long essay on this topic but I decided to just slam something out there because it’s been weighing on my mind.

Billions of bytes lately have been devoted to to the mainstream media phenomenon of equating two sides’ foibles by drawing a false equivalence between the two.  In construct, it goes something like: “The left does X so it’s ok for the right to do do Y.”  “Shape of the Earth.  Opinions Differ.”

This is usually predicated on some child-like notion that both sides are biased so we can equate the two without any thought.

The problem with this is that (1) nearly everyone who has something interesting to say is biased in
some way and (2) bias is not bad in and of itself.

To point (2), I think we all need to do our civic duty to point out that bias is not bad in the context of accurate and fair commentary and reporting.  Period. 

Bias only becomes bad when facts, figures, positions and issues are reported or commented on in an inaccurate or unfair manner.

We and our national media need to get beyond the question of whether someone is biased, and the natural false equivalencies that burst forth therefrom.

We need to instead focus on the accuracy and fairness of the points being made.

Eliminating bias from our discourse is a fool’s errand but eliminating inaccuracy and unfairness from our discourse is a laudable goal.

A national conversation without bias would be like a bowl of oatmeal robbed of warmth, sweetness and moisture.

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Who penned the below frustration-laden screed against the war in Afghanistan?  Paul Krugman?  Jeremiah Wright?  Vladimir Lenin?

Nope, it’s the ultra-right-wing editor of that eternal bastion of Birtherism, World Net Daily:

A record 60 Americans were killed in Afghanistan in June – the most ever in the nearly decade-long war that is not winding down, but rather intensifying under the leadership of Barack Obama, the “peace candidate” in 2008.

Worse yet, U.S. soldiers, no doubt demoralized by seemingly interminable wars on two fronts, neither of which has any clear definition of victory, are taking their own lives in record numbers – 32 just last month and 145 since Jan. 1.

My question: Where are the anti-war protests? What happened to them? Do those protesters from earlier this decade think the wars are over? Or did they really not care about these conflicts in the first place? Were they only truly interested in protesting the old leadership in the White House?

For the life of me, I cannot begin to understand our objectives in either Iraq or Afghanistan any more.

Because I appreciate the sacrifice our men and women are making over there, it is with a heavy heart that I make this proclamation. But enough is enough. We have spent over $1 trillion on these two wars and spilled far too much American blood. We are obviously unwilling as a country to do what is necessary to kill the bad guys in either place, so what is the point? Isn’t it time to declare victory and get out? What is the point? Can someone, anyone, tell me?

Coming on the heels of the following volte face from fire-breathing demon-spawn Ann Coulter, I am questioning whether I’m actually awake right now:
Ann Coulter is suddenly relevant again.

In a recent column, the right-wing polemicist expressed doubts about the Afghan War that immediately transformed how conservatives debate the subject. […]

Hawkish Republicans have been able to enforce foreign policy orthodoxy since 2001, especially among intellectuals and politicians intent on remaining movement conservatives in good standing. Cross them and they’ll question your ideological loyalty, your patriotism, and your fitness for a job inside the movement.

With a few deft phrases, Ann Coulter may have ended their whole game. “Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney have demanded that Steele resign…” she wrote. “Didn’t liberals warn us that neoconservatives want permanent war? I thought the irreducible requirements of Republicanism were being for life, small government and a strong national defense, but I guess permanent war is on the platter now, too.”

She added, “if Kristol is writing the rules for being a Republican, we’re all going to have to get on board for amnesty and a ‘National Greatness Project,’ too—other Kristol ideas for the Republican Party. Also, John McCain. Kristol was an early backer of McCain for president—and look how great that turned out!”

In other words, Ms. Coulter is questioning the patriotism of Afghanistan hawks, the Kristol/Cheney coalition’s ideological loyalty and their fitness for jobs inside the movement.

The inquisitors stand accused of heresy.

As Conor Friedersdorf put  it:
When even Ann Coulter is calling you a warmonger, it tends to frighten people.