Thursday, June 08, 2006

Ann Coulter – Crazy, psycho, lesbian bitch

One of the comedic high points of Ann Coulter’s ‘rebuttal’ on Hannity & Colmes this evening was a statement she made about the 9/11 wives – ‘when that’s your claim to fame…’

I call it comedic, when it’s more ironic – pot calling kettle black, if you will. What, exactly, is Coulter’s ‘claim to fame’? Interjecting herself (unsuccessfully) into the Paula Jones scandal? Her success there was limited to convincing Jones not to settle, and pushing for a trial, which Jones lost on summary judgment. Working as a congressional aid? Not hardly. Working as a lawyer for four years? Nope.

Coulter’s claim to fame is nothing less than her unabashed willingness to make incendiary arguments based on half-truths and misstatements.

Stepping away from the “Jersey Girls” controversy, let’s look at another argument she posits in her book “Godless”: the argument whether the death penalty is a deterrent for crime or not. Coulter claims that before “judges stopped applying the death penalty because of their beliefs”, it worked as a successful deterrent for murder. She uses an example of how she doesn’t kill certain persons she doesn’t like because of the death penalty as her proof. She even goes so far as to include a citation at the end of her comment that the murder rate was lower in the 1940’s and 50’s.

This is a great example of a disingenuous argument. First of all, are we to believe that the only reason Ann doesn’t commit murder is the existence of the death penalty? No moral inhibition? Or, for a woman who complains that liberals don’t believe in God, is she saying that her purportedly religious upbringing didn’t teach her that murder was evil?

Secondly, she claims that murder rates were lower in 1940 than today. This site shows that, while that may technically be true, the difference in murder rates is not statistically significant. And if you look back at 1935, murder rates in the U.S. today are lower than they were then. The saying is lies, damn lies, and statistics. You can always pull out a statistic to support your argument. (It should be noted that the website, a website for an arguably conservative group (they support restoring prayer in schools, among other issues) includes murder statistics on its site which largely mirror the ones cited above).

Coulter, however, doesn’t believe in needing any statistic to support her arguments. She’s got a citation, remember? And if you look at that citation, you’ll see she’s quoting an article which states that crime rates have risen since 1940. Ahh…and there’s the disingenuous part. Not murder rates, crime rates. One is a subset of the other. And she’s attempting to draw a line from one to the other. Crime rates are up; ergo, murder rates are up. But crime rates include things today – such as identity theft – which weren’t even imagined sixty years ago.

Coulter’s worst crime however is in her shrill presentation. She prefers to attack, rather than engage in honest discourse. For example, she dislikes the fact that four women have banded together to bring public attention to their cause. Fine. Everyone’s entitled to his or her opinion. But the woman who attacks Cindy Sheehan for her comments about President Bush, who complains that Sheehan called Bush a Nazi, or compared him to Hitler, follows the exact same tactic by calling the “Jersey Girls” harpies, and making comments like ‘how do we know that their husbands weren’t going to divorce them?’

Coulter posits that Kerry called American soldiers ‘traitors’. I don’t recall him using such words, but even so, there’s a difference between saying ‘American soldiers are traitors’ and “Sgt. Langdon Smith’s platoon is a bunch of traitors’. One is a generic remark; the other a specific attack.

Coulter refused to allow Alan Colmes to make a Terry Schaivo analogy, saying “we were trying to keep a woman alive. There is no comparison. Liberals just don’t understand analogies.” But she’s wrong. Every year, thousands of people are pulled off of respirators, my friend’s grandfather included. But they don’t have a medical professional who happens to be a Senator arguing their case. Schaivo’s case was a clear example of political grandstanding, as claims and statements were made (on all sides) with little or no proof. Schaivo’s family argued that Terry should be kept alive, on the off chance that she might recover, and ignored the fact that the $80,000 per month hospice bill was being paid for by taxpayers. Ultimately, the autopsy showed that she had truly been in a vegetative state for some time. But by then, the election had passed, and Terry Schaivo became nothing more than a footnote in the history books.

Ann Coulter, believe it or not, was an Order of the Coif graduate from the Michigan School of Law. But her shoddy writing, poor research and atrocious arguments make her nothing more than an embarrassment to what is supposedly a prestigious achievement.

Oh, and as for the title – I don’t know if she’s crazy, psycho or a lesbian. But I figured if she can engage in name-calling – calling the “Jersey Girls” harpies, and alleging that they may have been on the brink of divorce – and hide behind First Amendment freedom of speech, well, I can too.

Politics as usual – again

In San Diego, the good citizens wonder where all the controversy will end. A recent New York Times article claimed that San Diegans wondered if they could ever trust their government again, and felt that they’d lost the luster of being a model city.

In Chicago, any such feeling disappeared around 1890. For years, Chicago has been giving the country how-to lessons on corruption – from Big Bill Thompson, who on the one hand portrayed himself as a reformer, while having the other squarely in Capone’s pocket, to the current mayor Richard Daley, who’s attempting to downplay controversy surrounding three different scandals.

Corruption and Chicago have gone hand-in-hand so long that natives quip that the city’s motto is “what’s in it for me?” While standing in line at the alderman’s office recently, a woman was asked, “Is this the line for the alderman’s office?” She answered, “Depends. If you want a city sticker or permit, yes. If you’re dropping off a bribe, you can go right in.”

Given that attitude, it’s no surprise that few people are up in arms over what’s happening in the Cook County Commissioner’s office. 76-year-old John Stroger won the primary in March for the position he’s held for around the last 10 years – despite the fact that he had suffered a debilitating stroke a few weeks before, and was in the hospital at the time of the election.

Now the battle to succeed Stroger – who’s recovering in an extended care facility – has been joined. The first shot was fired – naturally – by Stroger’s own son, who volunteered to fill in if Dad was unable to competently do his job after the November election (he’s expected to easily win). Soon other African-American politicians (Stroger is African-American) jumped on the bandwagon, aiming for their shot at glory. Even Jesse Jackson – junior, not senior, whom no one in Chicago takes seriously – piped in his opinion.

For now, Stroger insists on staying in the job he’s had a virtual lock on – so much so, that he was able to rename Cook County Hospital for himself while still in office. But it’s a long summer, and there’s plenty more time for political grandstanding.

President Bush comes out – in support of a gay marriage ban

Monday, the President threw his support behind a Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage, an amendment that even supporters acknowledged was doomed to fail. Sure enough, today the amendment failed to garner passage in the Senate, failing 49-48, 3 votes shy of what had been predicted. It needed 67 votes to pass. Four Republicans – including John McCain – voted against the amendment, while 2 Democrats voted for it.

What was the point then? Obviously, the ‘gay marriage card’ worked in the 2004 election, as Bush won several states – including Ohio – where such a ban was on the ballot. So Bush’s support is an attempt to recapture the magic of 2004, in a year in which Bush has seen his popularity drop to below 40 percent.

What’s lost in that perception – that the religious right carried the 2004 election, so appealing to them again is a good move – is that Bush would have lost the election handily had John Kerry found a way to differentiate himself from Bush. Kerry had no clear message – other than ‘I’m not Bush’ – and the Democratic Party chose to push issues it thought important instead of listening to voters and addressing their concerns (case in point: a meetup in the summer of 2004, in which I hosted a ‘breakout group’. I was given a list of talking points, from which attendees quickly deviated. Instead, they wanted to know about Kerry’s position on health care, and how he was going to help them get jobs. When I attempted to relate that back to the organizers, I was told that ‘wasn’t in our message. Let them read the policy statements’.)

So the gay marriage amendment is a transparent attempt by the Bush camp to focus attention away from other issues – jobs, the economy, Iraq – by drawing attention to a polarizing issue. When the Bush position was announced on Monday, the talking heads of TV were quick to pull out video of Pat Robertson’s speech at the 1992 RNC, where he declared, “President Bush (I) is on [the side of morality], and Bill Clinton is not.”

The first Bush attempted to capture the Religious Right, and ride its coattails to re-election, but it was not to be. After saying, “Read my lips – no new taxes,” and then raising taxes, Bush’s re-election bid was tied to the economy, not to religion or morals. His religious move was a failure, and he lost in November. By throwing his support behind an admittedly superfluous amendment – while more compelling problems such as identity theft, gas prices, slow economic growth and immigration – Bush runs the risk of alienating the moderates, the ones who will decide elections come November.

Clinton famously claimed ‘it’s the economy, stupid,’ while riding high to victory in 1992. Fourteen years later, and history looks ready to repeat itself. Proponents of the gay marriage ban claim that ‘marriage is under attack in this country’. But the fact is, few people care about another’s marriage, and don’t see any impact on their lives whether or not gays marry. But when gas prices rise, companies outsource, and inflation makes goods more expensive, consumers can clearly see an impact on their lives. And come November, the Republicans may very well see an impact on their hold in the House.