Saturday, June 14, 2008

McCain Lie Watch

I despaired over finding something so early in the morning. But, finding something from yesterday at Crooks & Liars, I was relieved to discover that McCain wouldn't disappoint. In brief, with actual words to follow in a bit, on the one hand, John McCain is out-Bushing Bush, campaigning to make his 2001 tax cuts permanent. In an effort to appear fiscally sensible, however, his campaign is arguing that, along with eliminating earmarks, cutting the defense budget might do the trick. So far, OK.

I'll leave aside the campaign strategy stuff for now, and focus on the odd sight of John McCain cutting the defense budget. What follows is from an article John McCain published in Foreign Affairs:
Along with more personnel, our military needs additional equipment in order to make up for its recent losses and modernize. We can partially offset some of this additional investment by cutting wasteful spending. But we can also afford to spend more on national defense, which currently consumes less than four cents of every dollar that our economy generates — far less than what we spent during the Cold War. We must also accelerate the transformation of our military, which is still configured to fight enemies that no longer exist.

So, do we cut the defense budget to pay for tax increases, including a ten-percent reduction in corporate taxes? Or do we spend more money on defense? Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing? Does either hand care?

Rewriting The Rules

ER has a link to an Associated Press article on the fear of libel some bloggers experience, and some information and guidelines offered by traditional journalists to keep the lawyers at bay.

My own comments on this particular thread dealt with the differences between blogging and journalism, and my own thought that, since they are different animals all together, trying to apply the rules and ethics of journalism to blogging just won't work. ER, being a journalist, disagrees. We can agree to disagree on this particular issue, because I believe that we come from different mind-sets. I don't think, at least between the two of us, there is any bad faith on this issue. We were both honest enough to state our positions, and on the general point we have both said all there is to say. To each other. On his blog.

Last night, just before going to bed, I was cruising around and saw that atrios had named the Associated Press his Wanker of the Day. I clicked the link, and discovered there is a bit more to the Associated Press story than the earnest good intentions of the traditional press for new media. From the Newshogger's report:
Bloggers beware, Associated Press are on the warpath, starting bogus copryright suits against those linking and quoting even the merest fraction of an AP news report.

Ah, the old carrot and stick. Or perhaps it's bait and switch. Or even not reporting the whole story.

See, they are going after the Drudge Retort and some small-timers for fair-use violation. From the post at Drudge Retort:
I'm currently engaged in a legal disagreement with the Associated Press, which claims that Drudge Retort users linking to its stories are violating its copyright and committing "'hot news' misappropriation under New York state law." An AP attorney filed six Digital Millenium Copyright Act takedown requests this week demanding the removal of blog entries and another for a user comment.

The Retort is a community site comparable in function to Digg, Reddit and Mixx. The 8,500 users of the site contribute blog entries of their own authorship and links to interesting news articles on the web, which appear immediately on the site. None of the six entries challenged by AP, which include two that I posted myself, contains the full text of an AP story or anything close to it. They reproduce short excerpts of the articles -- ranging in length from 33 to 79 words -- and five of the six have a user-created headline.

If the folks at Drudge Retort want to sue me for quoting the first two paragraphs of their story, they can file away.

So, is the AP being a good, well-heeled big brother to all those newbies on the block, giving sage advice? Or, perhaps are they publishing a PR campaign to hide the fact they are filing lawsuits against bloggers who link to, and quote snippets from, their articles? From the letter the folks at Drudge Retort published, which they received from AP, it seems there might be an argument over what the words "fair use" mean. Yet, is a nuisance lawsuit against small-time, relatively poor bloggers by a major corporation the way to figure that out?

Bloggers are rewriting the rules (to keep Salon and Glenn Greenwald from suing me, that is the link, and you should scroll down to item (2), which is an example of a "citizen-journalist" who is doing just that, causing much hyper-ventilation among some journalist-types). Along with the rules of how information is disseminated and discussed, framed and set in context, they are also challenging certain entrenched ideas of what it means "to report". I think this is good, and a good discussion topic. I do not think, however, that simply falling back on "professional standards" and "codes of conduct" and "this isn't as easy as it looks" are actual points in an argument. They are points of contention, the center around which the whole controversy swirls.

I open the floor to all of you.

Saturday Rock Show

I've been treating myself to some new music recently. Two weeks ago, I purchased Porcupine Tree's Fear of a Blank Planet. On Monday, I got their Lightbulb Sun CD, remastered. Last night, along with Porcupine Tree's live DVD Arriving Somewhere, I purchased Scarsick by the Swedish band Pain of Salvation. They are different in so many ways, and so good.

I first heard of them when I purchased Transatlantic's Live in Europe DVD. Daniel Gildenlow, the song-writer for PoS, was on stage as a sideman, playing guitar and keyboards and helping out on backing vocals. I have resigned myself to not being able to get hold of any of their releases until I found out that Best Buy has a much better variety of CDs than Borders. This is the song "Cribcaged" from Scabscar. If this is your cup of tea, enjoy. If not, well you can always stop the song.

Friday, June 13, 2008

My Point, And I Do Have One (As I Rip Off A Lesbian)

In this little thread over at Marshall Art's blog, I make the following comment:
[I]f a journal has the word Thinker in its title, and the presentation of these thoughts is sloppy, confusing, illogical, contradictory, and error-prone, this isn't so much "attacking the messenger" as it is pointing out a big old glaring inconsistency.

To which the host replied:
Why do I get the feeling you haven't read nearly enough at AT to pass such judgements. In addition, you aren't likely to be able to truly debate the points made in most, if not all, of the articles successfully. I take this position due to the fact that you spend all your time attacking the grammar or sentence construction, as if any of that truly confounds the sentiment and/or point of any piece within. Frankly, when I read some lib nonsense, sentence structure is the last thing that concerns me.

First of all, my criticism was addressed to the specific article in question. I have not, nor do I ever intend to, read all the articles in American Thinker. Marshall asked, rhetorically, if the original piece to which he linked "wasn't Thinking". I said that, in fact, it wasn't. One of my criticisms was its poor presentation. I address why that is important, to me, in my comments. I thought I was clear enough, so I do not think I shall repeat myself.

Marshall says that he doesn't worry about sentence structure. He should, though. One of the first things I was taught in college was that, no matter how great one's ideas, how original one's insight, how thoroughly researched one's paper, if one cannot string together a grammatically correct sentence, then structure these sentences in to paragraphs, etc., then all that other stuff means nothing. Furthermore, to repeat myself, if a journal has the word "Thinker" in it, and a glaring lack of thought is strikes the reader in bad writing and illogical argumentation, there is a bit of a discrepancy.

My point here is simple - I was criticizing the structure of the article to which Marshall Art linked. I find it quite funny that my point, as simple as it should be obvious, is lost on him.

Why Are These People Such Clueless Hacks?

I suppose the question might be considered rhetorical if not for the fact that we are dealing, in this post, with David Brooks. Brooks only impresses himself with his own insight and wisdom. Most people who actually know things about subjects like history and sociology find him comically ignorant. The author of Bourgeois Bohemians is perhaps the most ridiculous example of a journalist trying and failing miserably to be what only Walter Lippmann managed to do, be a practicing journalist and a public intellectual at the same time (George Will, for all his striving and pouring over Bartlett's Quotations to spice up his columns failed before Brooks entered the scene, but struggles gamely on). In any event, his New York Times column today begins with an almost comical caricature of what passes for American history. It needs to be quoted in full in order to be appreciated for its bountiful ignorance.
The people who created this country built a moral structure around money. The Puritan legacy inhibited luxury and self-indulgence. Benjamin Franklin spread a practical gospel that emphasized hard work, temperance and frugality. Millions of parents, preachers, newspaper editors and teachers expounded the message. The result was quite remarkable.

The United States has been an affluent nation since its founding. But the country was, by and large, not corrupted by wealth. For centuries, it remained industrious, ambitious and frugal.

Over the past 30 years, much of that has been shredded. The social norms and institutions that encouraged frugality and spending what you earn have been undermined. The institutions that encourage debt and living for the moment have been strengthened. The country’s moral guardians are forever looking for decadence out of Hollywood and reality TV. But the most rampant decadence today is financial decadence, the trampling of decent norms about how to use and harness money.

Obviously, in no other era of American history have Americans pursued money.

If I were an eighth grade American history teacher, I would fail this column. Factually inaccurate, grossly over-simplified presentation of our hyper-Calvinist roots (I don't know if Brooks realizes that Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, while a landmark achievement when it was first published, has been superseded by more detailed studies more fluent in the languages of history, religion, and sociology), this beginning is so woefully absurd as to be, in the end, meaningless as a jumping-off point for anything other than ridiculous word play. Fortunately, Brooks doesn't disappoint in that department.

I usually make it a policy not to engage arguments based upon demonstrably false premises, but Brooks' column misses something important, and so we shall continue and see if anyone can spot the glaring hole in his argument.
The loosening of financial inhibition has meant more options for the well-educated but more temptation and chaos for the most vulnerable. Social norms, the invisible threads that guide behavior, have deteriorated. Over the past years, Americans have been more socially conscious about protecting the environment and inhaling tobacco. They have become less socially conscious about money and debt.

The agents of destruction are many. State governments have played a role. They aggressively hawk their lottery products, . . .

Payday lenders have also played a role. . . .

Credit card companies have played a role. . . .

Congress and the White House have played a role. The nation’s leaders have always had an incentive to shove costs for current promises onto the backs of future generations. It’s only now become respectable to do so.

Wall Street has played a role. . . .

There are dozens of things that could be done. But the most important is to shift values. Franklin made it prestigious to embrace certain bourgeois virtues. Now it’s socially acceptable to undermine those virtues. It’s considered normal to play the debt game and imagine that decisions made today will have no consequences for the future.

Does anyone see what is missing from Brooks' list of who is to "blame"?

If you answered "stagnant and even deteriorating real wages by a shrinking middle class, forced to borrow to continue to enjoy a lifestyle to which it had become historically accustomed" you win the booby prize. This is a direct result of malign neglect and various Republican tax cut proposals that have further burdened an already over-burdened working and middle class with financial obligations it is less and less prepared to meet. If we had a sound corporate and wage policy, the debt probably wouldn't be necessary. The necessity of both spouses working would disappear. All sorts of social ills could be dealt with.

Changing our "values" - whatever Brooks means by that particular word in this instance - only works if there is the social and cultural infrastructure in place to support those changes. They don't exist, so all the emphasis on thrift will fall on deaf ears until we have real social change.

McCain Lie Watch (UPDATE Making It A Two-fer) (UPDATE II And The Lying Never Stops)

This is so easy.

Last night, McCain held a "Town Hall" meeting that was broadcast by the McCain News Channel (FOXNews). Here's a bit from Fox itself:
I reported at the top of this hour that the campaign had told us at Fox News that the audience would be made up of Republicans, Democrats, and independents. We have now received a clarification from the campaign and I feel I should pass it along to you. The McCain campaign distributed tickets to supporters, Mayor Bloomberg, who of course is a registered Republican, and other independent groups.

(h/t Atrios)

UPDATE: According to Think Progress, at this same "Town Hall" Potemkin Village, McCain managed to lie about his record on Social Security privatization:
During his town hall event in New Hampshire yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) got into a verbal back and forth with a voter over his support for Social Security privatization. McCain told the man, “I’m not for, quote, privatizing Social Security. I never have been. I never will be.”

But McCain’s record begs to differ:

- “Without privatization, I don’t see how you can possibly, over time, make sure that young Americans are able to receive Social Security benefits.” [C-Span Road to the White House, 11/18/2004]

- “As part of Social Security reform, I believe that private savings accounts are a part of it — along the lines that President Bush proposed.” [Wall Street Journal, 3/3/2008]

UPDATE II: It's like the guy who gets sloppy drunk, lies about it, then lies about lying about it. Just man up, dude, and accept the fact that you said what you said, and have either changed your mind (it's a human thing) or are now or were then lying your ass off. From Think Progress:
Yesterday, despite his clear record on the issue, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told a crowd in Nashua, NH that he has “never” been for the privatization of Social Security.

At another town hall in Pemberton, NJ today, McCain tried to push back against criticism of his position on the issue by telling the crowd, “I will not privatize Social Security and it’s not true when I’m accused of that.”


The problem for McCain is that his current stance means he was either lying in March when he told the Wall Street Journal’s Bob Davis that he supported private accounts “along the lines that President Bush proposed” or he doesn’t understand the nature of the private accounts he campaigned for in 2005.

The author of the post gives McCain an out, as it were. He might not be lying. He might just be ignorant.

My money, to be honest, is on both.

Sage Advice From Someone Who Has Been Consistently Wrong

The headline alone is precious enough to make one smile.
Make the Election About Iraq

That is Charles Krauthammer's column in today's Washington Post. One is tempted not to move one because, after all, the election is about Iraq. Should John McCain work overtime at making this election solely about Iraq, I do believe that he could be building the scaffolding for the inauguration of President Obama at the same time. Indeed, it is one and the same thing.

Before we go to Krauthammer's attempt to square the circle of how John McCain's unpopular position on an unpopular war will somehow woo an electorate that is already predisposed to vote for his opponent and his opponent's party on any number of issues, let us be clear. The war is unpopular. The Republicans are finding it extremely difficult to get traction on issues, to get candidates to stand for office, to raise money for candidates. America wants the Iraq occupation over. America wants its troops to come home as quickly as possible. It's that simple. Anyone who attempts to say otherwise is lying.

Furthermore, to pull out of Iraq would be both strategically and tactically smart. The running sore of our continued presence there; the drain on our troops and financial resources maintaining the occupation would end. We could use the time and resources to pursue actual terrorists through the means of international law enforcement, and cooperate with other countries on threats that face us all. Those who want to say that withdrawal from Iraq may be popular, but would be a military or political or diplomatic or whatever blunder are just plain wrong. Period. There is no argument here; there is no "other position" that "reasonable people" can disagree on. This isn't a partisan or ideological or other difference. It is a difference between people who understand what an absolute cock-up the entire Iraq business has been since day one, and those who continue to believe, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that we are engaged in some high-minded, noble pursuit that combines defending our country with spreading freedom around the world. The latter position is simple delusional fabulism.

Anyway, back to Krauthammer.
The disconnect between what Democrats are saying about Iraq and what is actually happening there has reached grotesque proportions. Democrats won an exhilarating electoral victory in 2006 pledging withdrawal at a time when conditions in Iraq were dire and we were indeed losing the war. Two years later, when everything is changed, they continue to reflexively repeat their "narrative of defeat and retreat" (as Joe Lieberman so memorably called it) as if nothing has changed.

It is a position so utterly untenable that John McCain must seize the opportunity and, contrary to conventional wisdom, make the Iraq war the central winning plank of his campaign. Yes, Americans are war-weary. Yes, most think we should not have engaged in the first place. Yes, Obama will keep pulling out his 2002 speech opposing the war.

But McCain's case is simple. Is not Obama's central mantra that this election is about the future, not the past? It is about 2009, not 2002. Obama promises that upon his inauguration, he will order the Joint Chiefs to bring him a plan for withdrawal from Iraq within 16 months. McCain says that upon his inauguration, he'll ask the Joint Chiefs for a plan for continued and ultimate success.

There is so much weaving of wishful thinking, selective fact citation, and out and out ridiculous delusion in this short excerpt as to be almost beyond belief.

With one exception. I think the election will be about Iraq, and only about Iraq. I believe that both John McCain and Barack Obama will spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with the issue. I think that Barack Obama will skip across the finish line, with McCain repeating his "bomb-bomb-bomb-bomb-bomb-Iran" parody of the Beach Boys, wondering why and how he lost. Krauthammer's advice will be heeded, and it will bode ill for Sen. McCain.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Hitch In The Bush Administration Response To The Supreme Court's Guantanamo Decision

If you've spent the day living under a rock, you might have heard that the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 today that Guantanamo Bay prisoners have habeas corpus rights. MSNBC reports that Bush said today, in response, "We'll abide by the court's decision. . . ."

The loophole in this response is simple unless you don't look carefully enough. My bet is that Bush moves them somewhere else, and argues the Court's decision only applied to detainees at Guantanamo Bay. These people are not to be trusted.

McCain Lie Watch

OK, this is more a flip-flop than a lie. On the other hand, if you embrace a position you once opposed, and do so with vigor, one can't help but lie along the way. From Crooks & Liars:
Remember the good ol’ days? When John McCain used to occasionally say sensible things and break with his party when they embraced ridiculous policy proposals? Good times, good times.


McCain used to see through this nonsense.
. . .I remain opposed to full repeal of the estate tax.

That is, until he became the Republican presidential nominee. Now, McCain finds the estate tax offensive.
Another of my disagreements with Senator Obama concerns the estate tax, which he proposes to increase to a top rate of 55 percent. The estate tax is one of the most unfair tax laws on the books, and the first step to reform is to keep it predictable and keep it low. After a lifetime building up a business, and paying taxes on every dollar that business earns, that asset should not be subjected to a confiscatory tax.

Is This Thinking? Is This Relevant?

I am engaged in a discussion with Marshall Art over the alleged strengths and weaknesses of an article at an on-line magazine called American Thinker. The article in question attempts to argue that "all liberals are appeasers". After it is pointed out this is demonstrably untrue, Marshall flails around. I pointed out that the piece in question is poorly written, but Marshall wants to know what I think of the "argument". I hand this one off to all of you, dear readers. I would like your opinions, which may differ from mine (which you can read in the comments).

A Christian Message I Can Believe In

Eboo Patel, a member of the On Faith Forum panel at the Washington Post on line, quotes Brian McLaren, one of the leading lights of what is known as the Emergent Christian movement, as follows:
A lot of us believe that the reason for Jesus is to get our souls to heaven. But I don’t think Christianity is a fire escape message. I think the message of Christianity is about the Kingdom on Earth.

Such a succinct summation of my own view of Christianity is wonderful to behold.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Little Help

For next Monday's music post, I would like to post songs that have borrowed their melodies from classical compositions. The only one that comes to mind is the execrable "All By Myself", which is lifted from part of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2. Any assistance here would be helpful, even if it's something silly like the disco hit "A Fifth of Beethoven".

Michael Gerson Slobbers All Over McCain

It is really quite embarrassing to read Michael Gerson's op-ed in today's Washington Post. In the first place, attempting to put some kind of "family-friendly" headline on this post defied description, because Gerson wears out his kneepads in this one.
A year ago this summer, the McCain campaign was a bankrupt political joke; the political class only mentioned it to speculate when it would be mercifully euthanized.

What followed was one of the most improbable comebacks of American political history. The electoral stars aligned into a powerful, unpredicted syzygy: The surge in Iraq worked, the immigration issue faded, the conservative movement did not coalesce around a single opponent. McCain won by shedding his early, bloated campaign structure and emphasizing his own large personality.

Now, it is a fact that, last summer, most observers regardless of political persuasion pronounced McCain's candidacy DOA. The guy to beat was Mitt Romney. Mike Huckabee surged in Iowa, tarnishing the sheen on Romney's hair, er, I mean image as the nominee. Yet, there was a certain coalescing of forces that led, like that rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem, to McCain's nomination. While hardly of the historic proportions of the Democratic primary (two minority candidates as leaders, with an African-American winning the race), McCain certainly did seem to pull out of nowhere to beat back the galloping hordes.

Yet, rather than deal with the odd mixture of things that propelled McCain to the top of the GOP ticket, Gerson just seems entranced by McCain's manliness.
McCain's experience, unlike some war stories, grows more shockingly impressive upon examination. Physical courage and mental toughness may not be requirements for the presidency, but they are at least as relevant as service in the Illinois legislature. And McCain's election as president would, in its own way, be historic -- finally and fully honoring the lessons of heroism that came out of America's conflicted experience of Vietnam.

All these experiences, political and personal, have created a unique candidate -- a man more driven by instincts of honor than ideology, predisposed to believe in his own virtue, equally predisposed to confuse opposition with dishonor. At its worst, this approach has alienated many of his Senate colleagues, and it reportedly led McCain to the brink of leaving the Republican Party in 2001, more out of pique than principle. At its best, this approach has seemed like a populist, reform-minded conservatism, aimed at breaking up concentrated, selfish interests that threaten the public good -- from his campaign against big tobacco, to his anger at inflated corporate salaries, to his disgust with congressional earmarks and pork-barrel spending, to his support for increased automobile fuel efficiency standards and a cap-and-trade system to limit carbon emissions.

In the paragraph prior to the above two quoted, Gerson compares McCain's experience as a POW in Hanoi to an improbable images of George Washington in British hands and Einsenhower in a Gestapo cell. The problem with these analogies might be missed by Gerson but is dealt with easily enough. The latter two men - Washington and Einsenhower - became President precisely because they didn't become POWs. Indeed, had Washington become one it is highly likely there would have been no such office in the first place.

This is not to say that McCain's POW status is a hindrance. Rather, it is to point out that, for the most part, voters aren't really all that interested in it. It's a wonderful biographical touch - he survived that hell, showing his mettle - but is largely irrelevant to the concerns of most voters today.

Yet, Gerson just has this image of McCain in his cell, years stretching on after year, and flop-sweats himself to the finish line of his column.
Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution calls McCain's policy agenda "a promiscuous heap of interesting ideas that will not cohere in one administration" -- a judgment some Republicans share. Up to this point in the campaign, the charge has not been much of a problem -- in this environment, a reliable, robotic Republican of the Romney sort would be nowhere near Obama in the polls.

But the personality- and destiny-driven McCain campaign of the primaries is reaching its natural limits. Eventually, a presidential campaign needs a national organization. And eventually, McCain must define McCainism.

Except, to take the last line of Gerson seriously enough, he doesn't have to, because journalistic fellatio artists like Gerson have done it for us for years - all that straight-talk, maverick, former-POW crap is already out there. Who cares about policy positions, when all you need do is consider "the McCain miracle", and how far he has come from "the Hanoi Hilton". Gerson aids and abets this nonsense with a column like this. He wants to be critical, but he gets all goosepimply when he pictures the once-distraught McCain now on the verge of the White House. What a road he has traveled! Barack Obama's biography and history and achievements are as nothing compared to this!

One hopes Gerson wasn't wearing a blue dress when he typed this nonsense.

McCain Lie Watch

First, via Think Progress:
Q: A lot of people now say the surge is working.

McCAIN: Anyone who knows the facts on the ground say that.

Q: If it’s working, senator, do you now have a better estimate of when American forces can come home from Iraq?

McCAIN: No, but that’s not too important. What’s important is the casualties in Iraq. Americans are in South Korea. Americans are in Japan. American troops are in Germany. That’s all fine.(emphasis added)

That was this morning on Today. The Democrats started to criticize McCain, whose campaign responded as follows, via TPM Election Central:
The Obama campaign is embarking on a false attack on John McCain to hide their own candidate's willingness to disregard facts on the ground in pursuit of withdrawal no matter what the costs. John McCain was asked if he had a 'better estimate' for a timeline for withdrawal. As John McCain has always said, that is not as important as conditions on the ground and the recommendations of commanders in the field. Any reasonable person who reads the full transcript would see this and reject the Obama campaign's attempt to manipulate, twist and distort the truth.

Greg Sargent, who reported this for TPM, continues immediately with the following:
The thing is, though, that McCain didn't merely say that when the troops come home is "not as important" as other factors, as the statement says. Rather, he said that it was "not too important" when they come home.

This is precisely what Dems are criticizing today, and it's unclear to me why the larger context changes this basic fact about what he said. Indeed, McCain's belief that the timing of withdrawal is not too important is really the centerpiece of the argument between the GOP and Dems, who argue that withdrawing without delay is extremely important -- both to the troops themselves, and because of our overstretched military.

But at any rate, you now have the McCain campaign's push-back on this.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I Don't Care Who You Are, That's Funny Right There

I know I will regret this at some point, but I am reversing my previous decision and linking to Marshall Art. The reason is simple. In an exchange with reader Dan Trabue on this post, Marshall says something so uproariously funny that I am still chuckling over it. In order to put everything in its proper context, I will put up, first, Dan's comment rebutting Marshall's dismissal of his, Dan's, comments:
Make the same mistakes of which you accuse the author. If you think his points are wrong or false or even lies, you offered not one proof in support.

1. I accused the author of ridiculously over the top hyperbole.

2. I offered the evidence (ie, he said "ALL liberals...")

3. That would be the "proof" which you request

And should you present the one person that is outside his "all" statement, you'd still not have succeeded in rebutting his general point.

1. ?

2. His specific point was that ALL liberals are appeasers. I am not an appeaser nor are any of my liberal friends.

3. Nor have I ever read any liberals who advocate appeasing our enemies.

4. Therefore his specific point is clearly wrong.

5. His general point - that liberals tend to be appeasers (I guess that is what you're suggesting his general point is - he didn't say that anywhere so I was going by what he said, not what I assumed he said) - how would I disprove that? Offer more than half of liberal opinion that says specifically that they are opposed to appeasing the enemy?

You're asking me to disprove a negative and it is not possible. If he wants to allege that liberals are appeasers, the onus is on him to support the argument. He did not offer one serious argument to show that Carter, Clinton or Obama want/wanted to appease the enemy.

The closest he came to this was his offering the case of the Shah (suggesting that he was appeasing the Ayatollah, I guess?), but his argument did not support his claim.

You can't just say, "Remember when Reagan was president? And how he supported the president of Guatemala? And remember how many Guatemalans were killed by their gov't? Yeah, that shows that Reagan was an appeaser, because, you know, he cooperated with a bad gov't to help them stay in power..."

THAT is not a good argument that Reagan was an appeaser. And it is no different than your author's "evidence."

6. And, even if he did "prove" that Carter and Clinton were appeasers (which he did not come even close to doing), that is not the same as proving that "liberals tend to be appeasers."

It's a lame article. Except, as noted, that one could make the case that it's a good rallying cry for people who already agree with him.(italics at top in original, quoting Marshall's previous response in part)

Marshall deals with this lengthy argument, with the following RFLMAO line:
I see. So you are attacking the letter of what he said, rather than the spirit.

Such hilarity is not to be ignored.

Cal Thomas Makes A Grammatical Oopsie

While surfing around the Washington Post online On Faith forum, I found this piece by Cal Thomas on Barack Obama and his former church. Following is the opening sentence:
I am less interested in whether Obama resigned from his church than I am in whether he resigned from the theological tenants of the church.(emphasis added)

I believe the word he wanted was "tenets".

Southern Baptist Decline

With a hat tip to Faith in Public Life, this article in the Washington Post should be far bigger than it is.
Alarmed by a drop in membership and baptisms, members of the Southern Baptist Convention are set to consider at their annual meeting, which starts Tuesday, a 10-year initiative to reverse the decline.

The number of people baptized in Southern Baptist churches fell for the third straight year last year to the lowest level in 20 years, and membership in the nation's largest Protestant denomination decreased by close to 40,000 to 16.27 million last year. Leaders of the convention say the numbers could represent a turning point for the organization.

For thirty years, we have been hearing over and over again how the more conservative denominations have been gaining ground as mainstream denominations - the United Methodists, the Presbyterians, the UCC, the Episcopalians - were losing them. At the time, I remember reading an article that showed that some of the reports used misleading information (imagine that!) to show the difference; in particular, I remember how graphs were used, although it had to be pointed out the graphs used different scales of measurement, and were therefore incomparable. Yet, we have heard over and over again that the mainstream churches are dying, or even dead.

Now, the Southern Baptists are facing a numbers crunch as well.
"There is a challenge before us to not stagnate," said Jeff Ginn, executive director of Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, which is part of the convention but is bucking the trend and has seen an increase in baptisms. "Many of the mainline denominations are facing that challenge. It's been slower to come to us, but I think it is on our doorstep. We don't want to go into decline."

My favorite part of the article follows immediately from this passage quoted above, as it demonstrates that the mainstream denominations aren't the only ones flailing about trying to find a way to change things.
But some are doubtful about the initiative, which includes strategies to reach out to younger demographics, such as college students and families with young children, with programs and worship services geared more to their interests and tastes.

It also encourages Southern Baptists to become more proactive about sharing their religious beliefs with non-Baptist friends and co-workers. Skeptics say Southern Baptists have launched similar plans before, with little success.

"There is just not a lot of enthusiasm for programmatic solutions from the churches and specifically from pastors," said Greg Warner, executive editor of the Associated Baptist Press, an independent media outlet. "What they say is, 'It's not a program that we need; it's a renewal of commitment or renewed commitment [to the Baptist faith], and you can't package that in a program.' "

For a generation, the United Methodist Church has tried, and failed, to come up with The Solution to its membership decline. The most vocal one has been an attempt to become more conservative, aping the worst aspects of fundamentalism, which is ill-suited to the far more open theological and pastoral history of the denomination. Like every other attempt, it, too, has failed.

Now, before some concluding remarks, I thought I'd put up a laugh-out-loud (LOL) quote from the article that shows how purblind some people, ignorant of the fundie takeover the of Southern Baptist Convention, can be:
In recent years, young conservative ministers and seminary students, who helped elect Page, have used blogs to rush into the debate on the denomination's future, raising questions about its tight leadership structure, the status of women and its ban on alcohol for fear that the church is becoming too fundamentalist.(italics added)

It was twenty years ago that the fundies cemented their hold on power in the denomination. When I was at Wesley, back in the early 1990's, we had a transfer student come from Southern Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, because the fundies were taking over, including demanding theological conformity, itself a heresy once upon a time in Baptist circles.

My own sense of what is happening is the further secularization of the United States has finally leaked down to the fundamentalist denominations. There will always be a religious element in American society, far larger than in Europe, where churches are empty. Relatively speaking, however, I believe that the general trend toward smaller church membership, attendance, and presence in the larger society, is something that has less to do with programmatic decisions than it does with larger social and cultural forces. Whether I think this is a good or bad thing is irrelevant; it is what it is, and all churches are going to have to deal with it at some point, in a way that is far more realistic than trying to come up with The Solution that rescues the denomination from oblivion, relative or otherwise.

McCain Lie Watch*

This might become a daily feature! Thanks, again, to Think Progress:
In a conference call yesterday, Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) top economic adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, said McCain voted against the 2005 Energy Policy Act because it contained massive tax breaks to big oil companies. McCain’s economic plan, Holtz-Eakin claimed, would eliminate “all special tax breaks” to these oil companies, who are currently enjoying record profits. . .


Holtz-Eakin’s claims are bogus. In reality, McCain wants to continue these “special” tax breaks to Big Oil, not stop them. McCain’s signature tax cut plan would deliver $3.8 billion to the five largest oil companies, as a recent Center for American Progress Action Fund analysis noted. . .

*While some may argue that McCain didn't "lie" because the words did not spill from his mouth, it is important to remember whose campaign Holtz-Eakin works for, and whose economic policy he constructs. The buck stops with McCain.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Music Monday

There are few musicians as temperamental, profound, infuriating, and transcendent as Sonny Rollins. Continuing a career that began 50 years ago (!), Rollins has retired many, many times, despairing of having anything new to say, only to come back and not only have something new to say, but to say it in a way no one dreamed was possible. I realize it is highly presumptuous of me - Rollins constant self-immolating criticism is based on a desire to always be better, and who can argue with that in a musician? - but, you know what? Shut up and play!

First, from 1963, here he is with Don Cherry on trumpet:

There are times when Rollins will just riff, apparently, not really moved. There are times, however, when he takes whatever he has and makes something not just beautiful, but profound out of it. Here he is in 1982, with "My One and Only Love":

Here he is, from ten years ago, playing a song called "Global Warming" in Finland:

I managed to do a post on Sonny Rollins without putting up "St. Thomas"! I should be congratulated for that.

Innovative Approaches

The United Methodist website has a feature story, by United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) reporter Melissa Hinnen on the work of Julie Taylor, Faith community nurse of Pathways UMC in Springfield, MO.
Faith community nurses customize their practice to meet the needs of each congregation. Services might include arranging for the communion elements to be brought to people in the congregation who are unable to come up, helping people navigate the healthcare system, or offering weight loss or nutrition programs. A faith community nurse might send a special grief holiday letter to those who lost a loved one in the past year or coordinate a casserole ministry to members who are ill at home. They offer prayer and comfort; as well as affirming guidance and wellness advice.

“It is important for United Methodists to be aware of the opportunities they have to develop this type of ministry,” Magyar notes. “We often forget that part of being disciples is caring for our bodies as a temple of God.” She adds, “Faith community nurses like Julie Taylor are providing a meaningful service to their local congregation as well as to other churches in the regional conference.”

I suppose it goes without saying that I love this. Any attempt to broaden the way we think about "ministry", and about addressing the needs of a community is not just OK with me, but beautiful. I am working on a proposal for our church to set up a comprehensive center for women and families seeking to escape domestic violence, with the centerpiece being a safe house. I told the senior pastor, and she likes it; right now I'm still tweaking it and working with some church members on how to move forward with it. There are hundreds of questions and details to work through, but just reading this article gives me a boost. Any information on different ways churches are reaching out and helping, utilizing the talents of church members - this is all to the good.

McCain Lie Watch

With Obama firmly in place as the Democratic nominee, and John McCain trudging with his walker to November, I think it only fair that we keep an eye on the way McCain's almost daily prevarications, confabulations, and malapropisms play out in our national press. Much has been made over Barack Obama misstating which German camp his uncle participated in liberating, which while puerile, is also fair. In the interest of furthering fairness, I think it important that we highlight the other nominees . . . occasional . . . misstatements (?). From Think Progress
In a recent interview with Newsweek, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) denied saying in a recent speech that “the media often overlooked how compassionately” Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) “spoke to the concerns and dreams of millions of Americans.” “I did not [say that] — that was in prepared remarks, and I did not [say it],” McCain told the reporters. “I’m not in the business of commenting on the press and their coverage or not coverage.” But as Politico’s Jonathan Martin points out, the video of his speech shows that McCain actually did say it.

I didn't make it up. I just put it out there for you to see.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

How Much Have We Changed, Part II

Earlier this week, I put up a post on the racist vitriol Sen. Paul Douglas of Illinois received in the run-up to the 1966 elections regarding open housing legislation. I noted that such ugliness existed "in living memory", wondering whether or not we had changed all that much.

Since then, in a discussion at ER's, I got this comment thrown at me:
So long as you're not inferring I'd not vote for him because of his race, . . .

What's interesting to note about this is it came in a discussion of Obama's religion. I wonder why some on the right would think we on the other side of the political spectrum would think there were racist elements in their rejection of Obama?

Like clockwork, they managed to cough up evidence.
As I’m sure you all know, very little in life gives me more pleasure than stupid people getting incredibly irate over totally meaningless things. It’s the reason I post on this site. So when Michelle Obama threw the dap at her husband a few days ago, I prayed a tiny little pray to my good friend Jesus: “Dear Lord in Heaven above,” I said, “If you love me the way I love you, you will let crazy right-wingers totally flip their shit over this utterly noncontroversial event.”

Well, folks, I don’t know about you, but I have proof that Jesus loves me, because not only did every square-butted news magazine in America stand agog and write a hilariously embarrassing “What is this crazy Negro fist-bump, anyway?” article, but enough Fightin’ Keyboarders percieved in the dap elements of gang affiliation, foreign nationialism or terrorist sympathy to keep me in tears all weekend.

To be fair to the wingnuts, most of them focused on the fact that a big deal is being made over nothing, and that the excessive coverage of Barry Obama and his wife throwing dap is sort of embarrassing. This is true, but it’s not funny. So, to be unfair to the wingnuts, many of them reacted exactly the way I hoped they would. Let’s watch!

Here's a sample, provided by Sadly!No (no links to these nuts, so sorry):


I love the idea of a racist mullato being president. History has shown repeatedly, when Whites set up new countries and then give the control to the blacks, or any non-White race, it will soon collapse into another third world catastrophe. This is exactly what this ‘politically correct’ country needs so people will wake up. I hope OBAMA throws hip hop concerts on the White house lawn! (“heathengrafix”)


Obama’s wife is so ghetto!!! Our country will be in big trouble if he is elected!!! A video will be coming out of her telling “whitey to die”. Meaning white people! Higher taxes!!! Barack Hussein Obama??? A Muslim president??? We are fighting Muslim’s in Iraq for goodness sake!!! Come on people! (“Mark”)


At least Gore acted like a human. I can’t be denied that just about all their dance moves , walks and crazy handshakes mimik some kind of animal motion. What’s next? the knee in the crotch-hands above the head greeting? or maybe the Elbow thing. Putin will love that. If Prsident Obama disapproves of something will he be grabbing his balls with both hands and telling people where to go? (“cl652000”)


Another dispaly how Black “keep it real”-real dumb. Picture Obama and wife having to meet world dignitaries. 1st of all this Punk of a wanna-be presient doesn’t even salute his OWN flag. that will look retarted when the national anthem is played as he stands in front of other world officals. He never mentions race yet he acts more Black everyday. Russia China & Korea come! makes us all slaves now. (“Donnie O.”)


You got to be kidding, The fist “bump”, .America “WAKE UP”, You are getting your first taste of what it is going to be like electing Barack HUSSEIN Obama for president. Next you are going to see southern fried chicken, black-eyed peas, corn bread, and watermelon as your daily meal. Let’s not forget what Obama’s middle name is, funny thing, he never wants to use his middle name on his campaign. (“hoooch71”)


I find it to be tacky furthermore, it lessens the formal class of the White House. This is exactly what we are possibly letting into our nations leadership. I expect next we may see white house orchestra begin playing “hip hop”. If Obama is elected, I am retiring to the Bahama’s. (“jrw315”)

So, I ask again, how much have we changed? Some elements haven't changed at all.

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