Saturday, October 20, 2007

Discussion Topic

I'll be away today. I thought I would offer an idea surely to rankle. Ripping off Ronald Reagan, I want you to discuss the following:
I believe the Republican Party is the focus of evil in the modern world.

Just so you know, I am not being facetious here. This is something I am coming to believe more and more each day.

Play nice, kids.

Read It And Weep; I Did

Pastor Dan at Street Prophets offers a link to this short piece at The Beatitudes Society. He writes, "For once, I'm speechless." And it's no wonder:
Sometimes those Beatitudes are just too much to take! After all, they ask us to change the world, to turn it upside down, so that the poor take their place at the table of plenty and the meek, not the mighty, inherit the earth, and peace gets made.

This means change, an upending of the status quo, a serious shift in economic and political priorities. That's why The Beatitudes Society is all about equipping seminarians to advocate for justice and peace and protection of our environment.

Sometimes that's just too much to take.

As today's rejection letter from a foundation said:
"Unfortunately the committee has denied your request at this time. The committee felt that this grant was for furthering the cause of social justice and not aligned with our mission of the charity of serving the poor."

One commenter defended the rejection, by stating that "equipping seminarians for ministry" is not "serving the poor". Saying the rejection letter was "poorly worded", the commenter said that, if the foundation's charter was such that it was only to offer grants for direct aid, giving seminarians scholarships doesn't cut it.

I can only say, "Wow." First, to the tone of the rejection letter itself - social justice is "not aligned with [a] mission of the charity of serving the poor"? Along with bad grammar, how is a sentence like this even possible? To the more pointed argument that seminary scholarships aren't about "serving the poor" - this is just nonsense. What is the ministry of Jesus but serving the poor - clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned, feeding the hungry? What is the ministry of Jesus but working for a world where the hungry are well fed and the full go away empty? What is the ministry of Jesus but actualizing the Magnificat, which states that the mighty are pulled down from their thrones? Social justice isn't charity. When this commenter argues that social justice is a "modern and liberal" idea, it seems clear to me that she hasn't absorbed just how radical Jesus' idea of ministry in the name of the God he called Father is supposed to be.

We Christians aren't supposed to be about protecting fetuses or hating gays and lesbians. We aren't supposed to defend family values or vote Republican. We aren't supposed to spout moral epigrams and defend the status quo. At its heart, the ministry of Jesus is a threat to every power, principality, and throne - it is the revolution of love that undermines the pride and power of those who think they rule the world. Those who don't understand that, don't understand who we are as Christians.

Saturday Rock Show

Thursday was payday, and I treated myself with a trip to Border's. My main reason for going was to purchase the Heaven and Hell DVD, which I found (although it was in the "B"'s, because of course "Heaven and Hell" is just a name Black Sabbath used on tour this summer - to separate it from the Ozzfest band). I had forgotten just how good some of the songs - "Children of the Sea", "Neon Knights", "The Mob Rules", and of course "Heaven and Hell" - are. If one ignores Dio's histrionics and the silly lyrics, losing oneself in the music, it's surprising how good, especially when one considers these are the same musicians who gave us "Black Sabbath", "War Pigs", and "Paranoid" (great songs all, but hardly in a class with the group named first).

I also got the first season of the Chris Carter show Millennium. Again, I had forgotten how intense this show was, how close to the edge it always seemed to run, how little light and joy there was. A show about the persistence of evil, and what happens even to the best people who spend too long exposed to it - some of the best, yet most disturbing, television ever.

Finally, as a bonus, I found the most recent Symphony X CD, Paradise Lost. For those who might wonder, it is exactly as the title says, a musical rendition of Milton's poem. Exactly the kind of thing rock critics hate prog for, a pretentious, over-technical, self-indulgent wallowing in complexity and obscurity. Born to Run it isn't. Since we have Bruce Springsteen still, always capable of giving us the best of what he does, it seems to me no need to reinvent that particular wheel, so the complaint of so many critics about prog makes no sense to me at all. It is what it is, and if they don't like it, there are plenty of things worth listening to. I would only say that, while it hardly destines the band for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this is a very good album by a very good band. Here's the title track:

Friday, October 19, 2007

More Gibberish From The Right

When Al Gore won the Nobel Prize, Marshall Art performed as required by some kind of inner mechanism. The post, while succinct and dreary by some standard, has a comment section chock-a-block with ravings and nonsense that gets further and further removed from reality as time has elapsed.

The "argument" (should one wish to grace it with the name) runs something like this:
- Al Gore is a lying sack of hypocritical crap, only promoting himself.
- The earth isn't warming at all.
- All those glaciers melting, the permafrost thawing, changing weather patterns are part of a cycle that I know about even though I haven't studied the issue at all.
- Even if global warming is happening, it's a good thing, and has nothing to do with peace.
- Even if global warming is happening, and even if it's a bad thing (which kind of wiped out the first four points) it's too far along to do anything about.
- Al Gore doesn't really believe in global warming because everyone knows that the only solution is to end industrial society as we know it and live as troglodytes. Al Gore lives in a big house; ergo he does not really believe in global warming.
- Carbon Caps and carbon trading are for rich people, not the polloi like us who can't afford them; Al Gore is a lying hypocrite.
- Did I mention Gore was a lying sack of crap?

It's like living among the Yahoos over there. Or an afternoon in the garden of the Queen of Hearts. In any case, literary delights all around!

It's Not About Me

I am reluctant to discuss the decision by the Portland, ME school board to allow the school nurse to give out birth control pills to Middle School students (you can read the original story, from the Portland Press Herald here). For one thing, this is one of those local stories that is only national because of the internet and the 24-hour news channels. For another thing, it gives right-wingers a chance to puff themselves up and appear all heroic, defending children from the sexual overtures of school nurses, forcing the youngsters to have the pill, and therefore sex, against their parents' wishes, etc., etc.

Listening to The Ed Schultz Radio Show yesterday, I was dismayed by the way Schultz framed his discussion of the issue with callers. While it was clear that Schultz was conflicted in his own mind, the questions seemed to come from a right-wing playbook. Most disturbing to me was the constant bleating, "What if this was your kid?" Since I didn't hear anyone call in from Portland yesterday, I honestly wonder what possible relevance a question like that has. We are discussing an issue of public policy here, not an individual's feelings about their children, or how that parent chooses to raise their children.

Underlying this is the narcissism of so much of the public discourse fed by the right. Please understand I am talking about narcissism as a clinical psychological illness, a personality disorder that manifests itself in a variety of ways, but whose most salient feature (for our purposes here) is the lack of any sense of self resulting in a constant shifting of focus to the self to prevent the public disappearance of the self. In other words, a narcissist fears he or she has no center, no self; fighting this sense of nothingness (what cultural critic Christopher Lasch called The Minimal Self) leads the person with narcissistic personality disorder to always move any discussion to his or her own self, in order to assure him-/herself that in fact he/she exists.

So much for the abstract. In the concrete, this means that constantly attempting to shift the focus of a complicated (and largely irrelevant) public policy issue to one of the personal feelings of a person addressing the issue is a non-sequitur. For myself, had I been a caller in to Schultz' show, and had he posed the question to me, I would have answered, roughly, as follows:
How I would or wouldn't feel were it my child is not the issue. The issue is whether or not the school nurse, as a public health care professional and provider, should, in the course of his or her duties, act in such a way as to protect the health of an individual. In a perfect world, such a discussion would be impossible. We do not live in a perfect world. We live in a world where children make bad decisions; we live in a world where parents do not listen to their children; we live in a world where parents hurt their children; we live in a world where children, effectively, have no parents. In these cases, it becomes necessary for someone to act in loco parentis in the interest both of the child and in the interest of broader public health concerns.

As the parent of a Middle School child (although here they just call it "Upper Elementary"), I applaud the decision of the Portland School Board to act realistically and responsibly for the sake of those children who do not live in a perfect world, and in the interest of the broader public health. Because, you see, it isn't about me. Or my daughter. It's about acting in the public interest, and the best interest of the public.

Seeking Understanding

I understand that President Bush and his allies in politics and the press push fear. I understand that the lower life forms of the right push hatred - hatred of brown and black people, hatred of gays and lesbians, hatred of women in positions of authority. I understand that the President seems hellbent on (at the very least) bombing the bejesus out of Iran before he leaves office.

The rationale behind so much of what is going on is so patently awful, one wonders if those who put it forward actually believe it. Glenn Greenwald highlights one example today. Michael Goldfarb, writing in The Weekly Standard says:
I]f federal agents show up at a corporate headquarters for a major American company and urgently seek that company's officers for assistance in the war on terror, the companies damn well ought to give it as a matter of simple patriotism, whether the CIA wants a plane for some extraordinary rendition or help in tracking terrorists via email. . . . [T]o expect a company to resist a plea from the government for help in a time of war is ridiculous.


The companies affected by the new draft Senate bill acted in the interests of their country when they decided to comply with the government's requests. If the requests were inappropriate, that's another matter.


To subject them to the whimsy of our judicial system would be outrageous.

As an act of "good faith," the government has no choice but to deny a bunch of litigious lefties the chance to sue over a decision that any reasonable American would have made.


As our Congress works heroically to make permanent the vast new warrantless eavesdropping powers it vested in the President two months ago and to protect the corporations which allowed warrantless surveillance in violation of the Leftist doctrine called "law," it is clearly understood in the Beltway that only the fringe Leftists -- the shrill partisan "activists" -- actually subscribe to this radical new agenda of "warrants," as well as the accompanying extremist doctrines such as the "rule of law."

Anyone who believes this is a serious argument offered in good faith is either foolish or stupid.

I understand the that. I understand what is being done. I do not understand the why. Unless, that is, there is no end here other than the maintenance of power, in which case my occasional declarations of "nihilism" apply. If that is so, there is no reason for arguing anymore. Argument, persuasion, the balance of various groups against one another in a pluralist society - none of it has any meaning anymore. We are dealing with something far more sinister, far more dangerous than mere ideological fervor here.

I suppose that, for all my braying about nihilism in the past, I still do not wish to believe it. So. I am seeking understanding here. I am seeking to comprehend what seems outrageous here. Why is an argument so patently ludicrous as the one above offered as serious commentary? Why is it considered as such by people who should know better?

Another Instance of "I Wish I Had Said That"

Over at Fire Dog Lake, TRex has a wonderful post on the nonsensical "Culture of Life" drivel we continue to hear from Republicans.
I’m reaching a point where the sound of Republicans talking out of their asses is like the voice of the teachers and other adults in the “Peanuts” specials, “Wah-wah waaaaaah, wah wah-wah waaaaaaah…” Why even bother with trying to make sense of it? It’s all just heinous gibberish.

Add to all this, of course, the Republicans’ stand against S-CHIP and you have to wonder what, exactly, they think is an ideal society. They want to deny everyone access to any form of contraception, but then, in the event of unwanted pregnancies that may arise, there would be no legal abortions. Of course, when you have the unwanted child, you can’t get health care for it unless you’re wealthy or “lucky” enough to be pinned down by some mindless corporate job where you daren’t leave for fear of losing your health insurance.

Do people on the Right think at all? Apparently not. They just believe. Cause and effect? What’s that? Don’t bore us with the facts, you stupid “Libtard”, we have faith, which is basically the same as believing in magic, and that’s no way to run a bake sale, let alone an entire nation.

Please, god, just let it end soon. Otherwise, we’re never going to able to wash the stink off this country.

Nothing to add but, "Hurrah!"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dodd Was Step One; Swopa Offers Us Step Two

The move by Senator Christopher Dodd (the only Democrat from Connecticut) to put a hold on the FISA bill is only the first step in ending the on-going beating the Democrats keep taking at the hands of Republicans. Swopa at Fire Dog Lake offers us the larger picture. Step Two, as it were:
Democrats need to engage in a wholehearted, full-tilt effort to redefine themselves as the party that knows the best way to defend the country. It’s ridiculously easy, with Iraq offering one-sentence proof that the Bushite path is the wrong one.

Fool Me Twice . . .

I wrote here yesterday that I was surprised by what I was reading about Michael Mukasey's hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee to become the next Attorney General. In comments, Democracy Lover pointed me to Glenn Greenwald, where I got a totally different take - from a Constitutional lawyer. It seems my surprise was a tad misplaced.

Why do I allow myself to believe these people I know to be incapable of telling the truth?

A Democrat With Balls

This is why Chris Dodd is getting my vote:
Senator Chris Dodd plans to put a hold on the Senate FISA renewal bill because it reportedly grants retroactive immunity to telephone companies for any role they played in the Bush administration's warrantless eavesdropping program . . .

He needs to give lessons.

Glenn Greenwald has more.

I forgot. Sign up, and send him some love from me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Scary Thoughts - My Encounter With Auburn, NY

Two weeks ago, I wrote a bit on my thoughts about ghosts. I told a couple spooky stories. Since then, I must admit, I have been a bit obsessed with the subject. I read earlier this afternoon about Blood's Point Cemetery, just a hop, skip, and two jumps from here, and motored on down. Not only did I encounter nothing, but I got not the least inkling there was anything untoward about the place. Most cemeteries claim a ghost or two, for obvious reasons. This one, however, just seemed like a typical, old, country boneyard.

Now, some may say that my feelings are hardly at issue. I would disagree, based on my feelings, as stated in the post above, during my visit to Gettysburg Battlefield. Indeed, in that earlier instance, I was looking forward to an enjoyable afternoon visiting one of the most important historic sites in America, and left quite quickly due to an overpowering sense of both sadness and horror. I would not return to Gettysburg if paid - the feelings were so overwhelming, I do not wish to go through them again.

I have had one other experience in my life similar to my sunny afternoon on the battlefield of Gettysburg. That was two nights spent wandering the streets of Auburn, New York.

My first job after graduating from college - a job wherein I learned only that sales is not my forte - was canvassing door to door for Greenpeace. They had just opened an office in Rochester, NY, and were canvassing throughout the Finger Lakes (I went on expedition from as far west as Aurora/Niagara Falls east to Skeneateles, south to Ithaca). Somehow, I finagled my way in to being (I forget the exact job title) a canvassing leader. My job was to get maps from city hall, draw up canvassing targets, drop the folks off, go do my own door-to-door work, then swing around and pick people up so we could head on back home.

To say I was "uneasy" from the moment we entered Auburn is to put it mildly. We stopped as a group at a Denny's (as I recall), and almost immediately, I commented on the fact that I didn't like the feeling of the place. The rest of the canvassers thought I was acting odd, but I distinctly recall not liking the town at all. I didn't like dropping the folks off, all by themselves, at various points around town. I didn't like being out on my own, especially once it got dark. I remember one house I walked by - a tall, brick Victorian, abandoned - and I refused to look in the windows, because I knew that something was looking out at me. I also remember going the wrong way down a one-way street, having to turn around in an empty lot - and seeing . . . something . . . that made me slam on the brakes, gasp, and peel out, panting in fear.

I returned, reluctantly, and was even more spooked by the entire town. The people I encountered were distinctly odd. Indeed, they got more odd (and more than odd) as time went on. I vowed I would never return to Auburn after that. I was lucky when I found another job soon afterward.

I relate all this not because there is anything objectively scary about what I went through. Indeed, I am retelling things as best as I can recall them 20 years and many experiences later. With the sole exception of that strange . . . event . . . in the vacant lot, which I cannot recall at all other than a feeling of abject horror, there is in fact little here but my own feelings. Yet, it is precisely here - at the level of feeling - that I have encountered what can loosely be defined as "the paranormal". My feelings about Blood Point Cemetery are simple - just another old place where people buried their dead. Auburn, however, is in a whole different category; like Gettysburg battlefield, I would not return to Auburn for love or money.

How Did He Get The Nomination? Or Is He Lying Through His Teeth?

From Talking Points Memo:
That was, um, unexpected. Not only did Michael Mukasey repudiate the so-called 2002 "torture memo" signed by Office of Legal Counsel chief Jay Bybee -- which appears to have survived in spirit, if not in letter -- but he compared U.S. torture to the Holocaust.

So far, eyebrow-raising.
Most significantly, Mukasey said that he is unaware of any inherent commander-in-chief authority to override legal restrictions on torture -- a huge repudiation of Dick Cheney, David Addington and John Yoo's perspective on broad constitutional powers possessed by the president in wartime -- or to immunize practitioners of torture from prosecution.

If he's lying to get the job, then I hope there is a chair in hell reserved for him. On the face of it, though, I just have to wonder how someone who says things like this made it past Cheney. Honestly.

For Example - They Hate (And Fear) Women (And Hillary in Particular)

Exhibit "A" in defense of my last post yesterday is this post at Hullabaloo yesterday, which highlights a discussion between Clifford May and Tucker Carlson on Tucker's TV show yesterday. Previously, Carlson has claimed that Mrs. Clinton's appearance on television makes him "cross his legs". He also has a problem with her voice. Indeed, like Chris Matthews, Tucker seems to have a bit of a problem with Mrs. Clinton's status as a woman. In this little tidbit, the misogyny is so palpable, one can cut it with a knife:
CARLSON: I'm not saying women shouldn't vote for Hillary at all. I'm merely saying the obvious: that you shouldn't vote for her because she's a woman. Here's what the Clinton campaign says: "Hillary isn't running as a woman. As Hillary says, she's not running as a woman candidate. The only reason to vote for her is that you believe she's the most qualified to be president."

Well, that's actually completely false, considering the Hillary campaign -- and I get their emails -- relentlessly pushes the glass ceiling argument. "You should vote for her because she's a woman." They say that all the time. She just said that on The View. I mean, that's like their rationale.

MAY: At least call her a Vaginal-American, as opposed to --

CARLSON: Is that the new phrase?

MAY: I think that is, yeah.

CARLSON: Boy, that's nasty. I don't think I can say that.

ROBINSON: No, you don't say that.

CARLSON: I shouldn't say that? I'm not going attempt it. No, no.

If it were just Tucker Carlson, or just Christ Matthews, or just Cliff May, or an isolated incident, we might just slough it off as the kind of mindlessness now rampant on the right.

It isn't, and we cannot, nor should we, pretend it isn't a long-standing game to attack Mrs. Clinton, not because of her policy positions, but because of her gender, demeanor, and her alleged motivations and personality traits.

I could go on to Nancy Pelosi, and even go back in time to attacks upon Bella Abzug, but I believe that the kind of blatant fear and hatred exposed by this little exchange should be enough.

What a bunch of little Nancy-boys.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

All They Have is Hate

Matthew Yglesias quotes Andrew Sullivan - "There is only one person who can rescue Republican fundraising, reunite the party, rally the base and win the presidency for the GOP. And you know who she is." - and agrees to an extent, although with caveats.

Without considering how one views her various policy positions and pronouncements, isn't it sad to think that the only thing true-believing Republicans feel they can grasp right now is hatred of Hillary Clinton?

Just as a side note, Yglesias' contention that "she has the best chance of losing" is not supported by polling evidence. In most head-to-head match-ups between Clinton and pretty much any of the Republican candidates, she has a lead that continues to widen. Indeed, the purported Republican front-runner, Rudy Giuliani, actually becomes less popular the more people get to know him.

In any event - that's all they have. That's where their hope lies - in a visceral hatred for a woman who has the temerity to be successful, and hold a family and marriage together despite all the troubles involved.

Press Freedom

Via my good friend the Portuguese Doctor, comes a report on press freedom around the world (in Portuguese with translation via Babelfish). The report, including the criteria and questionnaire, can be found here.

The United States ranks 48th out of 169 countries surveyed. We are not quite as free as Nicaragua, and a bit more free than Togo. Other countries with more press freedom than the United States include - Bosnia and Herzegovina (34), Ghana (29), Slovenia (22), and Trinidad and Tobago. The most free press environment is Iceland.

That haven for freedom in the Middle East, Iraq, is 157th out of 168.

Mission Accomplished.

For those incurious enough not to click the link - the survey was done by Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontieres), not exactly either a Communist/Fascist/Islamic/anti-American group.


Eric Boehlert has a good piece over at Media Matters today, analyzing the parasitic relationship between right-wing media figures Michelle Malkin, Bill O'Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh and the GOP. To be honest, I'm not sure who is the parasite, and who the host. All I know for certain is that each is destroying the other. And, as Boehlert details it - it's a beautiful thing, for all the horror involved.
With the Bush administration in a state of prolonged decline and with Republicans out of power on Capitol Hill, it's the right-wing media machine that maintains the highest profile among conservatives on a daily basis. And it's Malkin and Limbaugh and O'Reilly who have become the face of the Republican Party.

For liberals, that's a good thing, as the GOP is forced to deal with the sludge that keeps washing up on its shores, courtesy of its favorite media stars who now bide their time insulting black entrepreneurs, war vets, and injured children.


[W]ith specific regard to Limbaugh and O'Reilly, the fact that both men physically could not stop talking about the controversies (i.e. themselves) was a huge boost for progressives, many of whom were privately nervous the O'Reilly-goes-to-Harlem and Limbaugh-attacks-the-troops stories might fizzle after a day or two.

Instead, thanks to O'Reilly and Limbaugh's inability to look away from their own reflection or to turn down the volume of their own microphones, the stories motored on week after week, doing great damage to both men and to the conservative movement, which defends the talkers at any cost.


[T]he Malkin-led jihad unfolded like a parody of blood-thirsty Republican bloggers -- an Onion-worthy spoof -- the kind that even I would have been too sheepish to dream up because the premise made them seem even loonier than I thought they were. How far off the range did Malkin and company roam with their wayward attacks on the Frost family? So far that even the trigger-happy crew at Fox News refused to saddle up and join the midnight posse, out to unmask a sick kid and his needy parents. (Keep in mind that for years Malkin maintained a steady presence on Fox News, yet the channel still wouldn't touch her pet project of hate last week.)


[T]he Republican Party was on-board with the smear campaign. Fanning the flames early was an aide to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who sent out an email to journalists urging them to follow up on the online swarm that was enveloping the Frost family. Days later the White House rewarded for its litany of Frost attacks by sending the site an exclusive statement regarding the upcoming SCHIP vote. (That kind of White House nod is considered to be a major coup among the right-wing blogs.)


The examples of depravity were everywhere last week, with virtually every robotic right-wing blogger dutifully dumping on the Frost family, and often doing it with a demented sense of glee. Go here to read Weekly Standard blogger Samantha Sault's take on the Frost story and count the number of falsehoods she passed along, while making fun ("just for laughs") of the working family with two seriously injured children. Also note that when the right-wing lies about the Frosts were quickly disproved (i.e. they do not pay $20,000 a year to send their kids to private schools), Sault failed to acknowledge the litany of smears she helped spread about a 12-year-old boy who survived a coma. (No wonder so few people take the Weekly Standard seriously when it lectures The New Republic about journalism ethics; the Standard appears to have none of its own.)


Where did the right-wing bloggers learn their brand of drive-by invective? From Rush Limbaugh of course, who has made a career out of making hollow and erroneous allegations. So it was fitting that when Limbaugh recently stepped in it with his "phony soldiers" slur, it was right-wing bloggers who came to his rescue.

They wrote about the controversy obsessively -- you could almost hear the blood vessels pop over at RedState -- while most progressives were content to let the story play out, watching Limbaugh feed himself just enough rope each day. Like when he first claimed his "phony soldiers" comment (note the plural) was in reference to a single serviceman who faked his military service, then changed his story. Or when he later included Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA.), a retired Marine colonel and decorated Vietnam veteran who opposes the war in Iraq, on his list of "genuine phony soldiers." Or when Limbaugh claimed to play "the entire transcript" of his "phony soldiers" exchange and post it on his website, when in fact he edited out a large chunk of the discussion. Or when he likened U.S. Iraq war vet Brian McGough to a suicide bomber after McGough taped a television ad criticizing Limbaugh's comments.

But here's what was most telling: It wasn't just bloggers who rushed to Limbaugh's defense, it was also key leadership members of the Republican Party. It was presidential contenders Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney. It was Senate Republican Conference chairman Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ). It was House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and his number two, Roy Blunt (R-MO), along with fellow Reps. Mike Pence (R-IN), Scott Garrett (R-NJ), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who supported legislation that commended Limbaugh following his "phony soldiers" crack, and Eric Cantor (R-VA) who unveiled a Stand With Rush e-petition, urging "conservatives around the country" to fight for Limbaugh.

An attack on Limbaugh is now seen by Republicans as an attack on the party itself. Why the GOP prefers to have a polarizing, hateful, and widely disliked talk show host as its point person remains open to speculation. What's not debatable, though, is that Limbaugh can often be an anchor around the GOP's neck.

Does anybody think Limbaugh helped Republicans win a single extra vote last autumn when, on the eve of the midterm elections, he uncorked a startling attack on actor Michael J. Fox for having the nerve to tape a television commercial urging political support for stem-cell research. Limbaugh claimed Fox, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, was faking his life-threatening ailments during the commercial: "It's purely an act. ... This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox." While Limbaugh made his audacious claim on the radio, in-studio video captured him making mocking, herky-jerky motions, as he did his best Parkinson's patient impersonation.

As I wrote here, they can't help themselves, so on cue, we have a new target - a 2-year-old and her family. Boehlert's use of the word "depravity" doesn't even begin to catch the depth of ugliness involved here.
Like the Frost family, the Wilkerson family has already become the subject of right-wing attacks. Michelle Malkin — whose baseless smear campaign against 12-year old Graeme Frost was deemed too bogus for even Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — is now trying to rally the right against Bethany.

Heralding the arrival of a “new toddler-aged human shield,” Malkin writes that “the Wilkersons made a choice” — a seeming reference to the fact that Malkin now believes she has the license to attack the Wilkersons for their public support of SCHIP. “We need more ‘partisan bickering,’ not less,” added Malkin.

Malkin’s not alone in her rage. In a piece entitled “Meet the New Frosts, Same As the Old Frosts,” the National Review’s Mark Hemingway attacks the Wilkersons as irresponsible parents:

As Think Progress noted last night, Bethany's family understands what will happen to them, and they are moving forward with eyes open, courageously facing the shrieking demons of the right.
The last SCHIP family to go public about the value of the health insurance program — the Frosts — was smeared by the right wing. The Wilkersons said today they aren’t scared of the attacks that may come against them:

The Wilkersons said they are fully aware of the possibility that their finances and personal lives may be investigated by opponents of the SCHIP bill.

“We rent a house, we have one car that is a junker. Let them dig away,” Bo Wilkerson said. “I have $67 in my checking account. Does that answer your question?”

Why, you might ask, did I title this post "Doomed"? Why, that's easy! With the National Republican Campaign Committee broke and having trouble recruiting candidates, having a bunch of rabid wolves be the public face of the Party cannot be a help.

I do believe we are watching the slow implosion of the Republican Party we have known and loved ever since 1964.

As I said, it's a beautiful thing.

Music Monday (A Day Late)

Back in the mid-1990's, along with Van Der Graf Generator, I also got to know another early- to mid-1970's British prog band. They released their first album in 1969/1970, and never really made it on this side of the Atlantic. Like King Crimson, their initial album offered a pretty mature version of their sound (unlike, say Yes or Genesis, whose sound continued to change over the years as musicians came and went). Like Renaissance, they also had a female lead singer. Curved Air is not for everyone, but I find them refreshing, even in these old TV clips which do not do their music justice.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Server down all afternoon. Time to go to work. There are times I detest the internet.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Ridiculous. Absurd. Our Current Foreign Policy

Some might have noticed that I have added commentators Roger Ailes (not the FOXNEws executive) and The Atlantic's blogger Matt Yglesias to the blogroll line-up. Ailes I have discovered is both funny and incisive. Yglesias was a bit more troubling for me. Originally he supported the war. He's pretty moderate on most issues. Yet people whose views I both respect and agree with site him on a pretty regular basis. After reading quite a bit of what he has written, I have decided to break down and offer him here for your (and my) reading pleasure.

What tipped my preference for him? Digby highlights Yglesias' commentary on a Romney TV add on foreign policy:
The idea that we should be laying awake at night afraid that a group of at most several thousand people who control almost no territory or valuable military equipment might establish a universal caliphate or "collapse freedom loving nations like us" is ridiculous. Al-Qaeda's goals are absurd, and obviously so, and one ought to say so confidently. The fact that a relatively small group of people with lunatic goals can nevertheless knock down giant office buildings and murder a huge number of people is, indeed, something to be afraid of but not nearly on the grand geopolitical level Romney is postulating here.

I love the ability some people have of speaking the truth, and doing it both clearly, and with as few words as possible.

What's One More Scandal, More Or Less? (UPDATED)

Yesterday's Washington Post featured an article by Ellen Nakashima and Dan Eggen in which Qwest Communications CEO pushed back the date the Bush Administration began requesting illegal information from it and other telecoms. By noting the date of the request was February of 2001, the Bush Administration argument that all that illegal activity was necessary to fight the Great War on Terror launched on September 11, 2001 (or was it 1993? 1979? or perhaps the 7th Century when Muhammed emerged from his cave with the Holy Q'uran? I really can't keep track) kind of collapses, doesn't it.

As noted here at Think Progress last night, even if the Bush Administration now argues that it was doing this as part of a preemptive war on terror (or something like that, which no doubt we will be hearing, no later than tomorrow morning), it kind of failed, didn't it? Or perhaps had Qwest only complied September 11 might never have happened? Will we hear variations on either or both of these arguments? I believe it is entirely possible!

As usual, Glenn Greenwald takes the bald fact of Washington duplicity and drives home a central point, and in the process creates the framework for a new narrative structure for critics of the Bush Administration:
[L]eave to the side that these telecoms did not merely allow warrantless surveillance on their customers in the hectic and "confused" days or weeks after 9/11, but for years. Further leave to the side the fact that, as Hiatt's own newspaper just reported yesterday, the desire for warrantless eavesdropping capabilities seemed to be on the Bush agenda well before 9/11.

. . . Hiatt's claim on behalf of the telecoms that they broke the law for "patriotic" reasons is so frivolous as to insult the intelligence of his readers, but -- more importantly -- it is also completely irrelevant.

There is no such thing as a "patriotism exception" to the laws that we pass. It is not a defense to illegal behavior to say that one violated the law for "patriotic" reasons. That was Oliver North's defense to Congress when he proudly admitted breaking multiple federal laws. And it is the same "defense" that people like North have been making to justify Bush's violations of our surveillance laws -- what we call "felonies" -- in spying on Americans without warrants.

Let's sum up, shall we? The telecoms are seeking immunity from lawsuits stemming from lawbreaking that was initiated seven months before the attacks on New York and Washington. The Administration excuse has always been that they were pursuing this - illegal wiretapping of American citizens - in pursuit of the War on Terror. So, either they were lying, or the War on Terror began before September 11, 2001. If the latter is the case, then having the wiretaps didn't do much to prevent the attacks, did they? Indeed, seeing as Qwest was probably the only major telecom not to hand over information for wiretapping, all those illegal wiretaps didn't do a whole lot to prevent it one way or another, regardless of the arguments involved here.

As tristero notes here at Hullabaloo:
If this country still had a working system of laws and a government with at least some checks and balances left in place, it would be a huge scandal. . .

Of course, we don't have the former. It might be nice, however, if we could gin up enough outrage to create the latter. Obviously, we might get in to an argument over which scandal we need to deal with first. . .

UPDATE: I don't normally read Frank Rich, because he seems to lose any semblance of balance, or coherence, when he writes about Al Gore. On the other hand, the righteous outrage he displays in today's column is a beautiful thing (h/t, Steve Benen at Talking Points Memo):
“BUSH lies” doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s time to confront the darker reality that we are lying to ourselves.

Ten days ago The Times unearthed yet another round of secret Department of Justice memos countenancing torture. President Bush gave his standard response: “This government does not torture people.” Of course, it all depends on what the meaning of “torture” is. The whole point of these memos is to repeatedly recalibrate the definition so Mr. Bush can keep pleading innocent.

By any legal standards except those rubber-stamped by Alberto Gonzales, we are practicing torture, and we have known we are doing so ever since photographic proof emerged from Abu Ghraib more than three years ago. As Andrew Sullivan, once a Bush cheerleader, observed last weekend in The Sunday Times of London, America’s “enhanced interrogation” techniques have a grotesque provenance: “Verschärfte Vernehmung, enhanced or intensified interrogation, was the exact term innovated by the Gestapo to describe what became known as the ‘third degree.’ It left no marks. It included hypothermia, stress positions and long-time sleep deprivation.”

Still, the drill remains the same. The administration gives its alibi (Abu Ghraib was just a few bad apples). A few members of Congress squawk. The debate is labeled “politics.” We turn the page.


I have always maintained that the American public was the least culpable of the players during the run-up to Iraq. The war was sold by a brilliant and fear-fueled White House propaganda campaign designed to stampede a nation still shellshocked by 9/11. Both Congress and the press — the powerful institutions that should have provided the checks, balances and due diligence of the administration’s case — failed to do their job. Had they done so, more Americans might have raised more objections. This perfect storm of democratic failure began at the top.

As the war has dragged on, it is hard to give Americans en masse a pass. We are too slow to notice, let alone protest, the calamities that have followed the original sin.


It was always the White House’s plan to coax us into a blissful ignorance about the war. Part of this was achieved with the usual Bush-Cheney secretiveness, from the torture memos to the prohibition of photos of military coffins. But the administration also invited our passive complicity by requiring no shared sacrifice. A country that knows there’s no such thing as a free lunch was all too easily persuaded there could be a free war.

Instead of taxing us for Iraq, the White House bought us off with tax cuts. Instead of mobilizing the needed troops, it kept a draft off the table by quietly purchasing its auxiliary army of contractors to finesse the overstretched military’s holes. With the war’s entire weight falling on a small voluntary force, amounting to less than 1 percent of the population, the rest of us were free to look the other way at whatever went down in Iraq.


Our humanity has been compromised by those who use Gestapo tactics in our war. The longer we stand idly by while they do so, the more we resemble those “good Germans” who professed ignorance of their own Gestapo. It’s up to us to wake up our somnambulant Congress to challenge administration policy every day. Let the war’s last supporters filibuster all night if they want to. There is nothing left to lose except whatever remains of our country’s good name.

Harsh words. Implicating all of us in this travesty upsets our sense of ourselves as proper moral agents. Alas, Rich is correct - we are, indeed, guilty, and we can never do enough to try to clean up our fetid souls until this entire mess is ended.

Lest anyone think there is no Christian connection here, allow me to offer the opening lines of a post from a blog I found thanks to Blogrush:
The first verse of Leviticus 5 opens a big can of worms as we continue the instructions for the sin offering:

“If a person sins because he does not speak up when he hears a public charge to testify regarding something he has seen or learned about, he will be held responsible.”

Inaction is sin.

Enough said.

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