Monday, December 22, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Just like old New York, Was once New Amsterdam

"Why they changed it, I can't say, people just liked it better that way!"

With apologies to They Might Be Giants, of course.

Seems like you might be familiar with Mumbai's previous name: Good old fashioned Bombay. Can't say I blame them. I believe the former name was the product of the name given to it by Portuguese Traders. So remember, it's Mumbai, not Bombay, and it's Istanbul, not Constantinople.

So why did Constantinople get the works? That's nobody's business but the Turks.

Sorry, couldn't resist. :-)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What a difference a month makes...

One of the hazards of being involved in three blogs at once is that you concentrate your efforts unequally most of the time. This blog was meant to be something of an overflow blog to deal with the items too minor to be dealt with on my once daily blogs. So, if you missed me here, in that unlikely event, I'm over at Watchblog, and Daily Kos on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, history passed me by on this blog, but fortunately enough, I was able to mark the occasion at Watchblog.

I certainly feel better, now that Obama won. And he didn't win by a slim margin, he won it walking away. You know, like those people in the movies who walks away from an explosion without flinching. That cool. And now we begin to see how his cabinet takes shape. Am I excited? Not yet. Too many years under Bush have darkened my perspective on government. Hopefully, Obama will make good on his promise and make me proud of how we govern in America again.

Don't be a stranger here, I won't be, if I can help it.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Right Wing Biting It's Own Tail:

Bill Kristol: NYT iz teh stupid!|!1!!
Jon Stewart: NYT iz ur base.

Pwn3d.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Monday, October 6, 2008

Keating Economics

I think this is like the skinny kid with glasses cold-cocking the bully when he pokes his fingers into the nerd's chest one too many times.

Meanwhile, the McCain campaign is in full-on flail mode.

Apparently, nobody told him about this called "The Spirit of the Law"

There is more to law than mere letters on a page. Bush has some nerve making a statement like this, given his habit of making signing statements where he announces his intention to ignore what's written in the law.

The truth is, there are larger purposes to the law, its interpretation, and its enforcement. Judges should be allowed the flexibility to determine the best way of interpreting the law.

Judges ultimately can be held accountable by other judges, if they overstep their bounds, but tying their hands with narrow interpretions don't do people much good.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What is it that offends us about this?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not on this guy's side. But let's not delude ourselves: throwing a puppy over a cliff is probably neither the worst thing he's ever done, nor is it likely to be the worst abuse inflicted on an animal in this war or any other.

To be honest, I don't see what reason, besides negative publicity, this guy's getting kicked out. Under most circumstances, I would think this might be a minor or even ignored offense.

It was seen, though, and there are legitimate concerns for Armed Services who are likedly not to popular as it is at the moment. To put it plainly, the callous nature of the act is what's giving it the most condemnation.

Psychologists following sociopaths list this kind of callousness towards human and animal life as one of the major signs of the disorder, a hallmark of an evil attitude in general. As appealing as it might be to watch folks become heroic killing meachines in movies, the reality of that rightly scares us.

We think, when we see a guy calmly and callously chuck the dog off the cliff, we have to wonder, is he going to gravitate as callously towards people?

Now I know, logically speaking, that some will make the point that soldiers are supposed to be like that. That, though, is a problematic point if you depart from the notion that the ideal for a soldier is to be mindless killer.

Soldiers kill by the very nature of their profession, but they are supposed to know the sharks from the guppies and act accordingly. In a war like this, where such fish don't exactly swim separately, some suggest that a callous disregard for innocent life is a necessity. However, given the damage this attitude does and has done to our strategic aims in Iraq and elsewhere, we have to ask whether such cold-bloodedness is really what we want.

Undoubtedly for many soldiers, the killing of others will break down certain normal inhibitions, and certain actions that would be difficult for a civilian will become easier, less thought upon. Nonetheless, we hope and pray, and usually see our soldiers come back having resisted the temptations of needless infliction of pain and suffering, rather than given in to it.

Point is, when we see some guy throw a puppy off a cliff, we worry that this person has gone over the edge, or has already or maybe even always been over that edge. We don't want to entertain the notion that in fighting to defend ourselves or our principles, that we've turned ourselves into folks little better than the badguys.

That's why this guy's getting sent home: not political correctness, but distinctly scary, callous behaviors.

Define Irony...

Gas Prices are so bad that even the world's most profitable oil company doesnt' make enough money selling it to justify remaining in the gas station business.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Triumph of Rhetoric over Education

I watched the following clip in amazement:



I have a theory that often ideas get their facts worn off as people use them and overuse them. People simply grab on to convenient pop culture moments and pop off. Munich has become the Right Wing's convenient handle for alleging that the left will talk the country into further danger, rather than act to head off danger.

But like others have pointed out, it wasn't talk that was the problem with the European's actions at Munich, it was believing that by giving away territory and claims to Hitler, they'd satiate his hunger for power. That didnt' work, obviously. There's something more to this, though. The Republicans neglect what lead to Munich. They neglect the aftermath of World War I.

The Allies defeated the Germans and decided to get tough with them, to create this no-tolerance kind of policy. They imposed such draconian consequences on them that it caused a backlash among the German people, lending popular within Germany and even international support to the rise of Hitler's regime.

The horrors of the previous war were not ones people were keen on repeating. For the Europeans, who sent millions of poor souls to die in the trenches, the desire to repeat that horror was low indeed. Faced with Germany's resurgence, with deep-seated repugnance towards new wars, their hawkish attitudes were hollow at best. They had some choices. They could have stood up to them and said "This Far, No Further". They could have simply refused. Instead, they appeased, and got little for it in terms of peace.

My point is two-fold here: Talking isn't appeasement. Giving problematic regimes incentives for good behavior isn't appeasement. If we have control over the situation, if we're not simply desperately offering something to keep them from attacking us, it's not appeasement. If, for example, we offer them something positive, and they fail to do what they're supposed to do, we can take whatever we were giving back. Appeasement would be Iran threatening to roll into Israel unless we give them a territorial claim somewhere around them. Then and only then would we be truly trying to appease them. Remember where you've heard the world elsewhere: you appease a God through sacrifice, a conqueror through obedience and capitulation. The Dragon asks for virgins, and you give them that so it doesn't burn down your village.

Republicans want to pose Iran as a threat, but they're not mobilizing for war. Hell, they dismantled their nuclear weapons program five years ago. The threat we face is purely speculative, and as hard as it would be at this point, we could handily muster up the forces to defeat them. We're not nervously waiting for an army parked at our border to roll over it in their tanks.

We're doing just fine, thank you. If anybody is leading us down the path to Munich, it's those who are so hawkish, so intent on exhausting this country through unnecessary wars that we will have to capitulate on our interests to maintain our own defenses at some point.

It is useful at the end of the day to recognize that we're not infinite in our power, and that our best strategy is to be effective in choosing where we use the sticks, and judicious in where we give the carrots, to understand that the credibility of both lies in our selective use of both.

In other words, if you really want to avoid appeasement, don't get so full of bluff and bluster, so quick to pick fights and get caught up in endless quagmires, that you come to a point where somebody is stronger than you and knows it, and can wring this kind of capitulation out of you. Keep yourself strong and your powder dry.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

On The Reverend Wright Interview with Bill Moyers

Here's a link to my thoughts on the media reaction, the transcript, and video of the interview.

Corleone Family Tactics... Or Montana?

The question is, after she's done wiping out the disloyal, freezing out the interest groups who betrayed her, who's left to elect her in November? This is less like The Godfather, and more like Scarface, even if it works out for her. Unfortunately for her, just about everybody recognizes that whatever she says about Barack Obama's electability, she's kneecapped herself with major constituencies of the party, and many find her politics against her own party distasteful.

And that really is the heart of it: It isn't just that she attacked Obama. That's to be expected; politics ain't beanbag. It's that she's attacking her own party in a certan fashion. She's cooperated with folks on the right to do this(even folks that hounded her in the past), folks looking for strategic advantage on their own side who won't vote for her. She's taken up many of the Republican standards against her own party, with a party that no longer has any patience for the demonization of the left, and which can get independents and disaffected Republicans without having to sell themselves out.

So, in the end, she's dug her own electoral grave, and pretty soon the party's going to start burying her candidacy with no small sense of relief.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

From the Files of "You know you're in deep s*** when..."

For the Republicans, you know you're in deep s*** when the Democrats beat you in Mississippi.

Should we call it Mississ-hippy now? Damn dirty hippy Southern States.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

This is just Disgusting.

Read this for yourself.

This is the nightmare our government's become.

Loyalty Defined Down

I will have serious reservations about backing the Clintons in future contests because of this one. This article in the New York Times isn't what pushed me over the edge, I think their behavior over the past few weeks has been more the cause of that.

I'm really sick of politicians who define loyalty one way, towards themselves, but don't give back. It would be easier for the Clintons to keep friends if they acted like friends; friends of the party, friends of the middle class, friends to those who helped them, supported them, but have had differences of opinion.

If they took these things more maturely, if they accepted that they weren't entitled to win every contest, and that letting a few fights go might help keep them in the running for future candidacy, they might not have screwed themselves so royally. As it is, now, they've turned a huge portion of their party against them. What the hell now makes them the better candidates? Obama's not going to punish people for supporting Clinton. They won't be so forgiving, but as they decline, Obama's open arms are going to look a lot more welcoming than their turned backs.

Sorry no embedded video on this one, but...

...This is freaking Hilarious. (John Edwards doing The Word on The Colbert Report, for the click through challenged)

I want a jet-ski, too.

THE ANGER JUST COMES OFF PENNSYLVANIANS IN...

...RIVULETS.

Turns out nobody's bitter about Obama saying they were bitter, and even some really are bitter. Except they're not.

Excuse me, I've got a headache.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

New Video: Obama's response to the "Bitter" controversy

I went off walking the dogs after seeing this with a sense of hope I've rarely had in the last few years. I have rarely seen a candidate I've support so quickly and powerfully demolish that kind of attack, and so elegantly.



I hope to do my part to get as many people to see this as possible. The "bitter" controversy needs to be shot down as quickly as possible. It's good to have a candidate who makes support this easy!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Street Money

Found a video in this comment on DailyKos that should interest you all out there.



Word is, Barack Obama has refused to do this Pennsylvania, just like he refused to do it in South Carolina. In fact, that was the news in this Kos Diary.

This is one more reason why I like Obama. It takes a lot of balls to refuse to kowtow to the system, to not play the machine game.

I think I know what lead up to this bizzare commercial.

A bottle of tequila, shared between the political director of the McCain Campaign, and an eager young media student who can't wait to try out his new video effects program. (original link to article where I found this.)



Hey, I'm not judging, I've been there. Only I've never put out anything this... original. Yeah. That's the word for it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Strategic Credibility

Here's how I think McCain gains his credibility. He publically arranges to do something substantially different from the party line, or makes some statement critical about a policy, and then makes sure the media covers it as if he's what he says he is.

The rest of the time, he does the standard things. The trick is to have those moderate, bipartisan things (or things that seem that way) be the face of his political career, rather than the stuff he actually does.

The key is to get the maverick, bipartisan, moderate stuff out in front, so when he backslides in private, he still appears like he's got the potential to do something surprising.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Problem is not that we're pulling troops out...

...too fast or not fast enough. The real problem here is that regardless of what we've been doing, we've had no real control over the situation in Iraq, which right now seems to be worsening.

Last year, we benefited from the cooperation of the Sunnis, and the cooperation of the al-Sadr in reaching a ceasefire. The way things are arranged, though, even with the numbers of soldiers we had at the height of the surge, it's not enough to smackdown the insurgents if they want to get rowdy. Meanwhile, we stand in the way of the Iraqis and their government coming to a modus vivendi, which they'd pretty much have to reach if they didn't want things to utterly fall apart.

Withdrawal was the best of bad options in 2006. Now it's the best of genuinely terrible options now, and things have become quite a bit more complicated now that we've been arming sides. The best we may have done is allowed certain groups to consolidate at the expense of others, making them stronger in comparison to the weak central government. I know some might say, but isn't that the best government? But looking at a failed state, I say, no, not really. You need a government that people actually listen to. It doesn't help the Iraqis that they're living in this kind of system of de facto tribal feudalism, unmanaged, unchecked by a strong modern government.

Bad Idea. Terrrrrrrible Idea.

I'll tell you what the problems with holding a Superdelegate convention before the real one to decide who gets them are:

1) It won't prevent a nasty public fight, it will likely just relocate it.

2) It would have all the elitist charm, if it's results went a certain way of somebody trying to appeal to the superdelegates at the convention.

3) Mathematically, we already have a decent standard on hand: pledged delegates. And that has the bonus of having a winner ready made, even if some in the party don't like it.

4) There's already a way for the superdelegates to decide what to do on their own. Follow the general state of the primary. If some catastrophe happens, you can always turn around and goe the other way.

At the end of the day, if the Superdelegates weren't so craven, we'd have a candidate already. And if we didn't have them at all, we'd hardly be having this conversation. We'd have a candidate. But that would be doing things the easy way, and the Democratic Party's hardly been interested in that for the generation or two before this one. Oh well, said the hydrologist.

The Long and Short of this...

Is that if they're being this reckless with letting Bill out to do damage, they are really desperate.

Bill's problem is that he's not merely a loose cannon on deck, but essentially a second captain on a ship that should only have one. Ideally, he should have have remained in the background, because he's hardly the kind to stay on the bench and let Hillary shine for herself.

Reality Call for Evan Bayh, Steve Daugherty on the Line...

I know the Indiana senator's just trying to back his candidate, but it's a little too early to start calling these states for Hillary in the General Election.

Here's how it breaks down: she's a long shot in the general election if she can't unite her party behind her. No matter what the poll results say now, they will say something else entirely eight months from now.

Senator Clinton has a chance to beat McCain that's better than even odds, but she will depend upon and campaign mainly in the swing states, and in the safe states that form our core constituency. This will make for a fragile set up, where local victories by McCain will make more of a difference.

Obama has the skills and organization to move past this, to make our victory more robust. Every time we've depended on swing states to win, we've lost. We need to move into new territory to win. Obama can take on challenges in both the Swing States and the Red States, and by doing that lead us to a comfortable win and mandate, as opposed to a weak 50+1 victory that only benefits Clinton politically, and that, by getting her into office.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Warning Signs

McCain is the only Senator, much less presidential candidate, to get an incomplete on a recent survey about Middle Class Responsiveness.

Stroke patient Tim Johnson, debilitated from serving until September of last year, showed up to vote, good or bad, fifty percent more of the time.

I'm afraid I can't say I share this guy's pessimism

There needs to be some confrontation, I think, so Obama has a chance to shine once again, and Hillary has the chance to announce that's she's returned to her senses and has ditched the advisors who are sinking the Clinton's popularity.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

They Won't Dance Because of Obama...

...They'll dance because of that crazy Casssbaah Sooooound!

Seriously, folks, the racism and fearmongering doesn't get any more obvious than this.

This ranks right up there with concerns that electing Kennedy would put America under the control of the pope.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Clinton's Experience?

She goes around, talks with people, gets people organized, makes strong statements on moral matters.

So says the Chicago Tribune.

Which means the only real thing she has on Obama is a couple of years in the Senate. And he has six years on her in elected office.

Experience might count, if you have it, and have learned properly from it. Otherwise, all experience is a collection of bad habits made more confidently.

Support the Troops*

*Just not their education.

ThisDudesArmy tells us about the brilliant reasoning faculties of the college-educated Defense Department, who in their infinite wisdom have decided it's a bad idea to back an updated GI Bill to reward those who will put their life on the line for their country, since folks might leave after one tour to attend college.

Well, gee, that shouldn't be their problem. You might consider that people might be attracted by the idea of free college to serve their country. It's probably better for the economy in the long run than a recruitment bonus.

Besides the fact that this was one of the most successful government programs in history, laying the foundation of our economic dominance, making education a middle class reality, I think their real concern might just be that if our soldiers get educated, those folks might have to compete with people who actually know how wars really are run. And we just couldn't have that, could we?

Well, the least you can say is that she's got guts...

...because otherwise, I don't know how you can say this after your campaign has done this, otherwise.

More to the point, what Powers said actually makes some kind of sense. You want somebody in the loop when they're hashing out the details of the plan. You could make claims taking certain words out of context, of course, if you were inclined to do that, but as a whole she's saying that the Obama campaigns committed to getting us out, just not doing it in some ideologically imposed way. An ideologically imposed entrance into the war is what got us into trouble in the first place. Why should we allow ourselves to make the same mistake going out?

Michigan and Florida: A Path to Forgiveness (or how to pay for new primaries)

If both states are willing to do new elections in order to leave the illegitimate first tries behind, but neither is willing or able to pay for it, then I have a suggestion.

We've seen both candidates raise massive amounts of money to fund their presidential efforts. We've proven that this can be done within a matter of weeks.

So here's what we do: we set up a fund for these primaries, and both candidates implore their supporters to donate to it, the same way they've donated to their campaigns.

The advantages of this approach is that we have no one candidate funding the election, with the conflict of interest that brings, no drain of Party or candidate funds currently going to win races. If distributed widely enough, it would hardly have an effect on what people give to the candidates.

If we all give to the fund with the same commitment we've given to our respective candidates, we can easily pay for these new primaries. But that's not all.

The funding drive, if successful, would show that the Democratic Party is more united than it seems at the moment. It would show that our party is committed to keeping voters enfranchised. It would allow us to do this within the party's rules, maintaining their integrity.

Last, but not least, it would welcome Michigan and Florida back into the fold in a way sure to improve party morale. The national party, this drive would say, came together to give these two states their voice. All is forgiven. It would also reflect positively upon the party in those states, which might give our candidate an advantage in November.

MAGIC MARKET FAIRY MAKE PONY!1!1!! LOL

Not only does Atrios' entry at Eschaton contain the funniest snark I've read all day, it also contains the most astute economic analysis of the matter I've seen in a long time.

Now where's that pony?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Maybe it don't mean a thing...

But could Texas have that Swing?

Do wop do wop do wop do wwwwooooop!

Burnt Orange Report is reporting that poll results indicate that Obama might be within striking distance of winning Texas this next election.

When one decides to throw bombs at others...

...one is advised not to be within the radius of the blast when it goes off.

This is further evidence of how disorganized and ill-informed this campaign is.

If she tries to push this point in a debate, It will be all too easy for the Obama to say, "according to these reports, your own campaign was making such assurances as you described."

Don't throw razor boomerangs without padded gloves.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Diminished Returns

I would like somebody in the Bush White House to explain to me how we can be spending the most money for our military since WWII, and yet still be losing the war we're currently fighting. A big defense budget doesn't add up to success.

We're paying mostly to outsource things we could do more cheaply, and do better internally. We're paying mostly to run an unsuccessful war into the ground, rather than admit we screwed up. We're paying mostly to fund cold-war style projects for an international situation that has rendered them obsolete. American needs a sustainable defense, not an unsustainable war in Iraq or corporate welfare program for defense contractors.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What I Really Think is Pathetic About The Republican Party at This Point...

Romney and McCain are hacking each other to pieces trying to make the other candidate look like they're a quitter, a yellow, white flag waving coward who wants to tell the enemy everything we're doing by giving ourselves a timetable for leaving.

Or, put another way, the Republicans are fighting to see which one of them can, with the most conviction, tell the American people they're wrong and contradict their wishes.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Yeah, I thought the De-Baathification Reform was a good idea...

But I was sort of counting on them getting it right.

Spencer Ackerman's saying it got screwed up.

I know the Bush Adminstration likes to talk about milestones reached, but it helps if you're not celebrating empty victories, such as loophole-laden laws that might lead to even greater disenfranchisement.

Repeat after me: results matter.

That's Why This Man Scares Me

Apparently, Bush has decided to ignore another inconvenient truth.

Fortunately, this one only has the potential to embroil the Middle East in near-perpetual warfare, not cook the planet on HI.

Do any of these people get that provoking needless conflict will make defending Israel more difficult than plain Diplomacy will? So many people out there think of war as being the Gordian knot strategy cutter of all time, but many times, it can entangle the knot even more.

The problem with the Neocons is that they nearly always underestimate the complexity of military force and its consequences. They are accustomed to being the stinging gadflies of tough foreign policy, but in practice, they've become blusterers and bluffers who who hope for the best and blunder after it. Their policies, in both Israel and America, have made us less safe rather than more, as they'd desire.

The sooner these people lose power, the better.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Fascio-Fascism

I kind of shake my head at calling Jonah Goldberg "the doughy pantsload", but I've already had the privilege of taking shots at his previous pronouncement on his fascism.

Well, I think he just robbed a bakery, because this takes the cake.

Mussolini got labelled a fascist because he supported WWI.

Just one problem: Mussolini WAS the original Fascist. He founded the party that gave the 20th century a name for totalitarian, brutal governments.

The real problem here is that some people identify fascism with any political cause that steps on their toes by preventing them from indulging whatever impulse they want, or does something they can't keep them from doing. Hence, Jonah's previous equation of Ivy-League educated school teachers with Nazi brownshirts.

At the end of the day, what Jonah can't tolerate, is somebody teaching or advocating what he disagrees with, in a way where he or others can come back in and reverse the "damage". He wants control, and fears the Left's influence on all levels.

And this is how, Ironically enough, they justify indulging in the paranoia and political acts that get them defined as fascists. Fascism, more than anything else, is defined by the impulse towards authoritarian control of society. Now, bureaucracy and government intrusion can be part of this, when not balanced by civil liberties, but what truly defines fascism is the vicious will to employ violence and other abuses of power to maintain power over the society, and the impulse to use violence to untie the Gordian knot of problems both internal and external.

Are the Republicans Fascists? No. But the party's become the closer of our two to that. The Democrats once strayed in that direction, and paid the price for it.

If we wish to stay clear of this problematic kind of politics, we must realize one thing: at the end of the day, we may have adversaries in politics, but we have very few true enemies.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

While we're on the subject of charming...

Let's try the new catchphrase in the war: Iraqi Solutions. Which more or less amounts to saying, we're not going to force policy changes on unwilling Iraqis, we're just going to let them sort out things for themselves.

Naturally, it should beg the question: if we're going to let them sort out things for themselves, why are we keeping tens of thousands of soldiers in Iraq? Oh, that's right, so they don't kill each other sorting things out. Brilliant!

But should that be our job, for the indefinite future, especially given the fact we're running low on referees- sorry, peacekeepers- to send over there?

If they're going to sort things out themselves, eventually it's going to come down to them sorting it out between themselves, and that's either going to happen with us in the middle and in the way, or with our presence minimal. I don't think we should suffer from the illusions that this is going to be pretty whatever course we pick. We should also, though, not suffer from the illusion that staying in Iraq will do anything but continue to aggravate the problem, and get Americans killed for the sake of procrastinating, ass-covering politicians.

You know, those likeable fellows. How many Americans have to die so that Congress and the President can save face and avoid political risks?

Are they naturally charming, or do they have to work at it?

In Blackwater's distinguished career, this has to rate as one of their more beautiful foul-ups, probably highly appreciated by our men and women in uniform: dropping tear gas on our own troops, not to mention a bunch of Iraqis, at an intersection in Baghdad.

The blog this links to notes that both the Helicopter in the air and the vehicle on the ground released this stuff, so it begs the question, not only why this was released, but why they had it to release in the first place.

Update: For those considering the innocent mistake defense for Blackwater, This Wired Blog entry on the matter should put that bad idea to rest. Repeat after me: Smoke grenades are yellow on green, CS grenades are red on grey. Unless Blackwater is employing visually impaired people just for the purpose of confusing these two different kinds of grenades, they ought to know the difference, and they ought to have people with the sense not to inflict tear gas on friendly forces.

Here endeth the lesson.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

I Eat Plenty of Oatmeal...

But that's not going to make me vote for John McCain.

Just click the link, Will ya?

A Word of Advice from a Media Student to Bill O'Reilly

"We're sorry we had to have that little confrontation," O'Reilly added, "but no one on this earth is going to block a shot on The O'Reilly Factor. It is not going to happen."


Bill , mugging your future interview subject's employee will hardly endear you to him, nor will claiming that assault and battery, criminal behavior, is justified in the name of getting your shot. When I was videotaping a presentation, and the people got in the way, I raised the camera up, or planned the shot from a vantage point that I knew would be clear.

There is absolute no excuse for shoving somebody to get a shot.

Oh, another suggestion: if somebody blocks a shot, make lemons into lemonade. It makes it more cinematic to stage in depth, and as long as you frame it right, you can shoot over somebody's shoulder, and have them be in the foreground without getting distracting.