Saturday, August 02, 2008

Monster Mash

I am sure that if you are seeing this blog, you know about this:

Now, I have no opinion on what it might be, if it is anything at all.

Since I was a kid, I have had a fascination with this kind of thing. I remember well reading and re-reading a book - I must have been in the fifth or sixth grade, because I read it in the library of Elm Street School, and I only attended that school during those years - on the history of werewolves. The book was a compendium of information, including woodcuts, on the phenomenon. I even learned about lycanthrope from from reading that book, and its possible connection to the werewolf phenomenon. The reason I bring up werewolves is, while perusing a Google search, I came across this at a site called The National Post, which had a link, which I clicked because it concerned something called "The Beast Of Bray Rd." I had not heard of this before, but was surprised to learn this was just over the border from where I currently reside. One sighting noted at the last link I provided occurred in Williams Bay, WI, just half an hour from where I live.

Now, I have a healthy skepticism about this kind of thing. Please don't get me wrong. At the same time, I find these stories fascinating, if for no other reason than the people involved certainly seem to have experienced something out of the ordinary. I would enjoy such an experience myself, even if I could not relate what, exactly, it was I had experienced.

Anyway, what say any or all of you? Is this Montauk Monster thing a hoax? Some cryptid, as-yet documented by biology? Is it a partially rotted sea turtle?

Have any of you had an experience that was both out of the ordinary and still impervious to any explanation? Now, I want serious things here, folks. Take your time, I will not laugh or disparage your account.

Why I Think Obama Will Win

I have been very clear. In a recent comment, I predicted a pretty wide electoral college victory for Barack Obama. I think there are ample reasons for such confidence.

Yet, much of the left blogosphere has been in panic mode all week because of the ridiculous, racist Britney/Paris ad, and the constant barrage of attacks McCain has leveled against Obama. Jamison Foser's Media Matters column points out the odd juxtaposition of the media - correctly - pointing out that McCain's recent spate of attacks on Obama are all false, all the while pushing a narrative based upon these falsehoods. Brad at Sadly, No! has penned a couple doomsaying posts in which he sees the imminent death of the Obama candidacy and another Republican victory on the horizon. Digby used a review of late-night monologue jokes from 2004 to show that, even when lies are shown to be just that, they still sit out there, becoming fodder for our public discourse. We have been force-fed an endless stream of nonsensical, irrelevant, and not-very-vaguely racist nonsense, attempting to portray the presumptive Democratic nominee for the Presidency of the United States as "presumptuous", "arrogant", "overconfident" - because he acts like every single Presidential candidate has done in the past.

Now, it is quite possible that Obama could still lose, because there are any number of unknowns - Don Rumsfeld's "unknown unknowns" as it were - that could effect the outcome. Yet, all other things being equal, and barring either catastrophe or some odd event, such as Pres. Bush suddenly bringing home American troops from Iraq, I think Obama will win. I also think that the Democrats, and many liberal bloggers, are making the single biggest mistake - they are forgetting the elections of two years ago, and what they portend for this fall.

Two years ago, the Republicans were so over-confident, they really didn't do much in terms of an overall strategy for the mid-term elections. Even as that long, hot summer bled in to a pleasant autumn, and there were more reports of scandals - most especially the Mark Foley business, and the involvement of the office of then-Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert in covering up his predilections - they continued on their "message" that the Democrats were all dangerous radicals, who once put in office would destroy our way of life. Even as polls showed the Democrats in a position to make serious gains in both Houses of Congress, both the press and liberals warned of all sorts of horrid events, not the least of which would be Rovian dirty-tricks to ensure a Republican victory. Some of my earliest posts, when I started this Mark II version of my blogging life, were in the waning hours before the fateful election of 2006. At the time, Karl Rove was still seen as some grand political genius, and in a now-infamous interview the weekend before the election, spoke of having "the math" in the Republican's favor. Except, of course, he didn't and it was all bluff, a bluff some Democrats and liberals fell for.

We have been so used to this kind of nonsense for so long that a lie like Rove's carries a certain cachet among those supposedly in the know. The entire premise of a site like The Daily Howler is that the press, somehow either befuddled or out-right partisan in its practices, does the work of framing our politics in such a way that Democrats are hapless to counter. Of course, in actual practice, the Democrats do appear hapless, and befuddled, incapable of figuring out how to deal with Republican tactics, whether it's House Democrats running scared from the buffoons on the other side of the aisle or Democratic Presidential candidates tacking in to the hot air coming from the McCain campaign.

The examples of liberal sites crowing about how Republican tactics, and the lapdog national media will create an environment in which McCain will eke out another Republican four years in the White House has a lot going for it as a thesis.

It is also wrong because, even more than in 2006, the American people are demanding things get done. One thing eight years of George Bush in the White House, six of them with a Republican Congress at his beck and call, have proved is that the Republicans are administratively bankrupt. They are incapable of governance. This is no grand conspiracy to prove the small-government types correct by screwing things up on purpose. No, they are really that bad.

John McCain has shown himself to be a desperate old man this past week. Unlike Obama, whom he accused of being willing to lose a war to win a political campaign - as scurrilous a personal attack as I've heard in a long time - McCain seems willing to show that he has absolutely no ideas, no policies, no plans. He is an empty suit who believes he should be President because he flew a fighter plane. That's it and that's all. He's got nothing.

We are in the doldrums, politically speaking, from now until after Labor Day. Between the Olympics and the national party conventions, and the end of the summer rush to get stuff done, no one is really paying attention right now. When people return to a certain routine of life that always emerges as summer ends, I have no doubt that, come November, Obama's win will be historic on a number of levels.

I do believe we have nothing to fear from the Republicans. They have no money. They have no ideas. They offer nothing but fear and trembling, war and bankruptcy. Everyone knows it. Their time has come and gone. It's that simple.

Saturday Rock Show

Ray Lamontagne's new CD, Gossip in the Grain, is due this October. If you haven't heard of him, or heard him - imagine Neil Young's acoustic music mixed with the raw, naked expression of early Ray Charles and Otis Redding. Some of his songs remind me of Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks - an album so raw it is almost embarrassing to listen to. His first release, Trouble contains some of the most powerful music I have heard in years. In a sane world, he would be a superstar. From that first release, here he is on Letterman, doing "Forever My Friend". As great as this song is, it should be said that there isn't a weak song on that first release, or his second, Until The Sun Turns Black, either. The quality of the song-writing, the arrangements, even the song order - this is the way music should be presented.

God Bless you, Ray, because you are one of those rare gifts to the world.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Dick Move Of The Week - The Media And John McCain's Narrative Shredded By Jon Stewart

This is one of those moments in television that work because all the pontificating and concern trolling and other nonsense on the blogs are distilled down to a simple, commonsense approach - you simply use a person's own words and attitudes to point out the stupidity and emptiness of the developing narrative. There is nothing partisan about this approach. Stewart is simply hoisting McCain on his own petard. One sentence, after a collage of images and words tossed out in the news media calling Barack Obama "presumptuous" and "arrogant", should end any attempt to make this narrative work. It should also be repeated as often as possible.

He's running for President.

Here's the video with the dirty words bleeped out.

Dana Milbank Thinks He's Funny . . . (UPDATE)

. . . But he comes off like a bad character cut from My Dinner With Andre. Seriously, how "funny" is it to buy in to right-wing talking points about Obama's "presumptuousness", especially when he is doing nothing different in kind from what McCain did on his trips to Canada and Colombia? Since the McCain campaign is attempting to portray Obama as a presumptuous celebrity, entranced by his own persona (and a black man who likes blonde white women, to boot), I see very little to laugh at here.

Indeed, the whole "Whine" thing is no more than rank bitchiness. Had you written something that was actually funny, Dana - see The Daily Show or read Sadly, No! - it might have appeared amusing. Instead, it appeared as nothing more than a rejected Maureen Dowd column.

Since you don't like taking criticism, any more than most reporters, I guess, like most reporters, I'll ignore you.

UPDATE: It seems Media Matters has caught my wave. I do so love Millbank's claim that no one is disputing the words, only the context. As if the words had meaning outside of any context, just floating there, waiting to be snatched up by Millbank as fodder for his piece. Dday, at Hullabaloo, also comes a day late the my party, even noting, as I did, the Dowdishness of Millbank's piece. All self-tooting of my horn aside, I think it important to repeat that this reveals Dana Millbank to be a ridiculous individual, shallow, thin-skinned, and without any credibility whatsoever.

Would it ever, even once, hurt these people to admit they screwed up?

The Anthrax Suspect

One of the most mysterious and frightening events in the aftermath of the September, 2001 terrorist attacks were the mailing of letters to various politicians and media types containing anthrax. These "other" terror attacks killed some postal workers who were exposed to the bio-toxin. Surprisingly, these events disappeared down a memory hole, except for the reports of a payout to Steven Hatfill, who managed to get six million bucks from the feds for leaking his name as "a person of interest" in the events, based on nothing more than hearsay.

Tuesday, a man from the lab where tests on the anthrax took place committed suicide after he was informed he was to formally charged in the mailings.

The death of Bruce Ivins raises far more questions than it answers. Glenn Greenwald goes in to great detail, not only on the fear these mailings engendered in the wake of the attacks on New York and Washington, but the way they were manipulated, from the very start, in to a casus belli with Iraq. Now, it seems, they came from our own military research facilities. This is like a really, really bad Tom Clancy novel (I suppose that's redundant).

Greenwald also implicitly raises questions about the involvement of a major news organization - ABC, in this case - as well as federal officials, in continuing to cover up the sources of information long ago proved to be false. As now seems clear, it might well be Bruce Ivins himself pointed a finger of blame at Iraq (the notes inside the envelopes certainly helped; you can view one of them at Greenwald's blog).

I do not think speculation about such things is "wild" at this point precisely because Ivins' death raises so many questions that are, or should be, unsettling. They should not just be unsettling to a few liberal bloggers, or conspiracy nuts (I do not consider myself such a one, but this event certainly raises my hackles). These mailings, coming as they did so soon after 9/11 (indeed, I had forgotten until reminded of the chronology by Greenwald's post, that the first letter was sent on September 18, 2001), heightened a sense of vulnerability, that we were, indeed, not safe here at home from the depredations of terrorists bent on killing us. Of course, the sniper shootings in MD, DC, and VA later that same autumn in to winter didn't help, either (another event that has disappeared down that strange memory hole reserved for events we would rather soon forget).

I do hope that Ivins' death is not the end, but rather the beginning of some serious investigative work by competent journalists. Unlike the much-hyped "China spying" at Los Alamos Laboratories, that turned out to be a huge crock of stinking poo, here we have a civilian employee at a military facility dedicated to bio-weapons research being a soon-to-be-indicted suspect in the most blatant attempt at bio-terrorism directed at senior figures in government and the media. This story, as they say, has legs.

I do so hope someone teaches them to run.

I have about a thousand million questions. And none of the answers I think might be coming will be pleasant.

Thursday, July 31, 2008


Part of the Republican playbook, since 1968, and more explicitly since 1988, has been that Democrats are elitist. They do not mean "elite" in the socio-economic sphere, because clearly the Republicans have them beat there. They mean that Democrats believe they are intellectually and morally superior to the run-of-the-mill folks who didn't go to graduate school, don't know who Jacques Derrida or Gilles Deleuze are, and just try to live their lives day-to-day as best they can. They are speaking, in other words, of cultural elitism.

Let's face it. In the 1970's, liberals gave them plenty of ammunition. There are few more smug, self-satisfied people than ERA-button-wearing, consciousness-raising 1970's liberals. Earnest, filled with a sense of their own superior wisdom and knowledge, they were annoying and, in the end, helped destroy the liberal coalition. I realize this is a minority view, and might tick off some of my fellow liberals.

It is also true.

The events of the 1960's created a sense of self-righteousness on a number of social and cultural issues, be they race, class, gender, or the content of popular art and its relationship to fine art that I find difficult to defend. I believe I am far more radical than any of the limousine liberals who partied with Fidel Castro during his visit to the UN in the late-1970's, or had cocktail parties with Black Panthers in the late 1960's because I find Castro an abhorrent figure deserving of nothing more than a trial before the ICC, and I can't imagine what I would have to talk about with Bobby Seale other than agreeing that organized community action is a good thing.

Yet, this is 2008, not 1968. American liberals are not the smug superior folks we once were. The events of the past eight years, I believe, have demonstrated that there might be some need for simple competence in public administration, and this requires a certain amount of education and a serious-mindedness that comes with being intelligent and insightful. Since the policies of the Republican Party have clearly benefited the most wealthy in America, the issue of elitism has shifted back to far more honest territory - referring to those who hold the reins of power rather than who has read the most books.

Let's face it. Barack Obama is among the elite in this country. So is John McCain. Neither one is a NASCAR kind of guy, and neither one should pretend he is. To give Obama credit, he doesn't pretend to be. Yet, McCain's - and the entire Republican establishment's - attempt to paint Obama as some kind of "elitist" because he eats arugula is really kind of silly. It shows they have nothing left. They have no ideas, no plan, no serious policy initiatives. They know nothing other than Rovian politics of divide and conquer to get that 50 percent-plus-one-vote majority, then declare a mandate to govern as if they won a landslide.

I do not believe it will work. For one thing, their attempts are being vivisected the moment they appear. For another, they are transparent and stupid, pale imitations of the Willie Horton ads of yesteryear. Finally, the times being what they are, and Republicans clearly demonstrating they lack the ability to govern (I do not buy the argument that this is all some ploy on the part of anti-government types to show how bad government administration is; I just think they are grossly incompetent), I think Obama is running a smart campaign by not addressing Senator McCain all that much, except to point out that he is a flailing, desperate old man whose policies are no different than the past eight years of abject failure we have known. Since Obama also points out that McCain's campaign ads are full of lies, this is all to the good, learning a lesson from John Kerry's delay in dealing with the Swift Boat nonsense of four years ago.

We want our Presidents to be part of the elite. George Washington was. Franklin Roosevelt was. Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, Thomas Jefferson, even Abraham Lincoln - they were all part of the elite. Harry Truman may not have been as much as the rest, but since he was unpopular and had an Administration filled with corrupt underlings whom he tolerated for purely partisan reasons (the resurrection of Truman's reputation is in part a Republican strategy to rewrite history; Truman, Carter, and Bush are the three least popular Presidents in modern American history), I do not see where elevating him to iconic status helps all that much. Warren Harding was a regular guy sitting around the White House playing poker with his buddies while they all violated the Volstead Act. Meanwhile, his Interior Department managed some cozy deals that became known as the Teapot Dome scandal that was every bit as big and illegal as Watergate and the entire eight years of the Bush Administration. When you elect regular folks to office, you tend to get inefficiency and corruption.

All this discussion of who is an elitist because of diet, haircuts, or the price of loafers is really silly. I no more like the nonsense when it's tossed at John McCain than when it's tossed at John Edwards or Barack Obama because it really carries the topic forward, rather than dismissing it as lacking any relevance whatsoever.

Barack Obama and John McCain. Two elites running for President. That's the reality. Everything else is just a lot of blue smoke and mirrors.

A Life Of Its Own

The Obama/Britney/Paris ad has become the Prometheus Unbound, the creature that has come to life through electricity. By opening up all sorts of discussion about the way our public discourse is distorted by nonsense, it is, in a way, the "daisy girl" ad of this election cycle. For those who may not know, in 1964, President Johnson's re-election campaign designed and ran and ad, exactly once, of a young girl plucking the a daisy's petals. The sound of her voice faded out as a countdown faded in, and the image suddenly exploded in to a mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion. As the sound of the blast faded, the campaign ran a stump speech of Johnson's on the dangers of nuclear war. The Goldwater campaign complained the ad was beyond the pale, and Johnson pulled it.

Since those halcyon days, when an ad could be pulled because the opposition complained about it (even if it was fair; Goldwater was going around the country talking about turning North Vietnam in to a glass parking lot, rolling back the Warsaw Pact through military means, and other nonsense), we have had Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Jim Bakker (Reagan's campaign manager and first Chief of Staff, who, before he became a Washington darling and Secretary of State, was a below the belt hitting political operative who got Reagan to begin his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, MS, site of a notorious Civil Rights-era murder; it should have been obvious to anyone paying attention that Reagan was signaling the bigots still bitter about the Civil Rights era that he was on their side, considering Reagan was a California politician; why else would he be in the sweaty south?), Lee Atwater, and, of course, the Swift Boaters. Screaming about "playing the race card", preferably in an aggrieved, even Inspector Reynauldish, tone ("I'm shocked, shocked!") when it is pointed out they are doing something racist is a nice way to divert attention from reality. It has worked in the past. My instinct, however, tells me it isn't going to work this time.

As I said yesterday, the ad works on a number of levels, all of them legitimate readings. Trying to tease out "the" meaning from the ad is ludicrous, because it is doing a number of things all at once, which is part of its (evil) genius. Yet, now they are being called on it pretty much across the political spectrum, and, as Atrios notes, even Andrea Mitchell (Mrs. Alan Greenspan to those not in the know), in an interview with McCain campaign chair Rick Davis, points out (or attempts to point out; Davis tries to get his talking points in no matter what) the ad can only mean that McCain thinks Obama is an empty-headed slut. One of the nice things about this interview, again as noted by Atrios, is that Rick Davis not only lies and lies some more, but comes off sounding really quite stupid. He needs to be out there even more than he has been in order to give Obama a boost.

I think the kind of "meta" discussions prompted by the Britney/Paris ad are a good thing. They are shining a light in to the most dark recesses of the Republican Party's political strategy. Obama doesn't have to do much of anything about it, because the blogs and reporters are doing it for him. This is all to the good, because we can finally talk about the way these folks operate in an honest, open way.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Carefully Chosen Thoughts And Words

When tragedy strikes, we try to figure it out. We try to find meaning in a situation that is inherently meaningless. We try to find some link to the larger society and culture that might help us understand how and why such a horrid event could occur. Arguments ensue over the relative strength of the relationships between various cultural factors and the actors who carried out these horrid acts of violence.

Sometimes, however, that meaning just doesn't exist. In 2000, at my place of employment, a high school student was doing some homework during down time. She had to write an essay on Lord of the Flies, and asked me for help in understanding what the book was describing. Without hesitating, I said, "The Columbine High School shooting is Lord of the Flies in real life." Some Christians tried to make hay out of the death of one of the students, because she allegedly refused to denounce her beliefs before being murdered. Yet, all the students who died that day, Christian or not, died not because of what they believed or didn't believe. They died because the two young men who went on that killing spree were interested in killing. Period. No amount of post hoc scrutiny of this or that particular case will wrest anything more out of that event.

When a Luddite left-winger mails bombs to those he believes are destroying our world, the right goes in to overdrive on the dangers of liberal ideology.

When a small group of right-wing extremists bomb a building, killing 159 people, including children at an on-site day care facility, it might be important to look at the way popular anti-government talk - especially all the descriptions of government employees as "faceless bureaucrats" - might have helped depersonalize the victims enough to allow those responsible to carry out their act of terrorism.

When a young man is beaten to death for the heinous crime of hitting on one of a pair of bar-hopping buddies, his body left on display as a warning to any other young gay man, I would think the demonizing of gays might need to be paid attention to just a bit more (although, to be fair to the murderers here, the murder of gays for this particular crime against masculinity goes hand-in-hand with the rhetoric of anti-gay hatred).

Assessing the level of social and cultural culpability in any tragic event is, to a certain extent, a fools errand. Even should clear lines of cause and effect, or at the very least correlation, exist, their relative merits and strengths will always be a matter of dispute. One can allow rage to overwhelm one, as Tony Kushner did in a November, 1998 article in The Nation, in which he hung the death of Matthew Shepard around the necks of every politician and religious figure who ever spoke out against gays and "the gay lifestyle".

The facts of the David Adkisson case in Tennessee are pretty clear. A man, frustrated over lack of work, and directing his hostility out at "liberals" enters a Unitarian Church and opens fire, killing two and wounding several others before being subdued by members of the congregation as he reloads. At his home are book by radio personalities Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly. The lines of correlation are pretty clear here; these and other right-wingers routinely insist that liberals are responsible for our social ills, even if what they describe as social ills aren't at all, but figments of their own perfervid imaginations. While the shooter reached a breaking point due to a confluence of unfortunate circumstances, his grievances against a society that seemed to exclude him from making a positive contribution was certainly fed by a book describing liberalism as a mental disorder.

This is not to say that such books should not appear. This is not to say that right-wingers are not entitled to their opinions. This is only to say that when a right-winger goes on a shooting rampage, and leaves a note behind blaming liberals for all his troubles and explicitly targeting these same liberals, and there is abundant evidence that the man in question was exposed to the slurry coming from right-wing talking-heads and blabbermouths, it might be nice to hear a thoughtful word or two from these same folks acknowledging a certain level of culpability.

Stephen King removed from print copies of his pseudonymous novel Rage after Columbine. Are Savage, Hannity, and others who have written pages and pages of scurrilous nonsense about how liberals are destroying our country going to respond in a like fashion? Are they even going to acknowledge that in the fever-swamps of the right, there might be those who take their words so seriously as to end the threat to our way of life by murdering a bunch of church-goers watching a children's program?

I'm John McCain And I Approved This Piece Of Racist Garbage

First, a video of the latest McCain ad against Obama. It seems so innocuous. In fact, I think part of it might hurt McCain, reminding people that Obama can get 200,000 people to come out and hear him speak, while McCain has a hard time filling a room without his advance people dragging in local supporters. Yet, it is the first few seconds of the ad that count. Watch, and I'll explain after:

I had seen a reference and commentary on this ad over at Talking Points Memo (to which I shall repair in a moment), but it was watching it in this post at Hullabaloo, in which dday points out that McCain has hired the guy responsible for the Harold Ford "Call me, Harold" ad, perhaps the most transparently racist ad since the Jesse Helms "white hands" ad in 1990, that I was gobsmacked.

Here's the thing. Those images of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton last barely a second, fading out as images fade in. The image of Ms. Hilton fades directly to a picture of Barack Obama smiling. Do I have to spell this out for you? I will be honest and say that, before I saw the ad, I thought this was a bit of a stretch. Indeed, textually, the ad seems to imply that Obama is an empty-headed celebrity, famous for being famous, with policies that don't quite jibe. That might even be a fair criticism to make. Seeing the ad, and the way those images fade out over one another, with the final shot of Obama smiling fading in over a photo of Paris with the only expression she ever wears - I just sat here in my empty house and said, "Wow!"

To be clear, I want to quote at a bit of length from digby's discussion of "racist dogwhistles":
I think we need to have a little discussion of what "racist dogwhistle" means. It is a word or phrase that conjures up certain subliminal images in those who are predisposed to see things in racial terms. It doesn't mean that everyone who hears the word as a criticism sees it in that way --- only those who get "the code." So, when Karl Rove sends out McCain's minions to spread the word "presumptuous" all over the place, the idea is to signal to the racists among us that Obama is "uppity." It doesn't mean that if you think Obama is presumptuous that you are a racist. You might just think, "yeah, he's acting like it's in the bag already." But racists hear that Obama is an uppity black man.

See, it works on two levels. That's why it's called a dogwhistle --- only the racists can hear the racism in it.

This is a complicated mode of communication that's been developed on the right for many decades. It's not something I just made up. There are dozens of examples: "welfare queen" and "Willie Horton," the "Hands" ad by Jesse Helms and most recently, the Harold Ford "Call Me" ad in 2006. The most famous of all was Ronald Reagan slyly beginning his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where one of the worst atrocities of the civil rights movement happened. Over the years it's gotten more subtle as the nation becomes less tolerant of overt racism, but it's never completely gone.

Josh Marshall has a couple things to say about this particular bit of garbage as well.
[I]t is the norm that obvious campaign tactics that are treated as obvious after a campaign is over are nonetheless treated by most reporters as ambiguous or unclear during a campaign. But in this case it would be nice if that were not the case. Because here we have a candidate, John McCain, who is running on a record of straight talk and honorable campaigning running a campaign made up mainly of charges reporters are now more or less acknowledging are lies. But there's precious little drawing together of the contradiction. What's more, as everyone will acknowledge after the campaign, the McCain campaign is now pushing the caricature of Obama as a uppity young black man whose presumptuousness is displayed not only in taking on airs above his station but also in a taste for young white women.

Not only is he an empty-headed preener dazzled by all the attention he's getting, but he's a (nudge, nudge) black guy who likes (wink, wink) blonde white women (a nod's as good as a wink to a blind bat, eh?). Obviously, the McCain campaign and his supporters will cry foul - how dare they call Sen. Straight Talk a racist? I am not doing any such thing. What I am doing is calling out the subtle racist message encoded in this ad. It is one of those things you can take or leave. If you take it though, you were looking for it, and I mean that in both a positive - Yeah, he's an uppity Negro with a hankering for white meat! - and negative - What a bunch of racist claptrap! - way. Just because it's subtle doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Music Monday

I got such a great response last week, I find it hard to limit my choices to just three. Someone said "anything by Johnny Cash", and this is a great song to listen to as one winds his or her way down country roads in the south (I did it myself):

The next is my own choice. I honestly had a hard time picking which Allman Brother's song I'd use. "Statesboro Blues"? "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed"? Shoot, the 20-minute version of "Whipping Post" is great for those long hauls. I settled on "Midnight Rider" because it has a certain atmosphere about it. Doesn't everyone imagine, for a moment or two, that they're the outlaw type, wanting nothing more than to just hit the road, live a life outside any restriction or boundary? It was hard to find a good version, but I like this, despite the bad sound quality, because it's all stripped down, and Greg's vocal performance matches the song so well (as it should, as he wrote it):

Finally, no road trip would be complete without an honest-to-Elvis classic. Here's Chuck Berry with "No Particular Place to Go":

Two things. He reused this same melody for a song called "School Days". Second, if you didn't see your choices here, have no fear. Next week, we shall do more of your requests for top-down, summer driving songs. Since people are driving less because gas is so damn expensive, we can at least enjoy the music we would listen to if we were driving.

Affirmative Action Republican Style

The Department of Justice' Office of Inspector General released a report today on the suspicious hiring practices of the Justice Department under former Attorneys General John Ashcroft and Albert Gonzalez. Two key figures, Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling, were repeatedly named as violators not just of department policies and procedures m - usually enough to get someone at least suspended from a job if not fired - to violating federal law by inappropriately asking questions regarding the political views of persons seeking positions at the department. An example of the kind of thing is highlighted at TPMMuckraker, where the pdf. file report is being gone over with a fine tooth comb. I offer this particular snippet for those who might want to argue "they all do this don't they?":
Federal immigration judgeships were especially targeted for politicization. In October 2003, shortly after Sampson started working at DOJ, then as Counselor to Attorney General John Ashcroft, he began to overhaul the selection process for immigration judges. "[We] were only considering essentially Republican lawyers for appointment," Sampson said, according to the IG's report. (It was not clear from the report whether Sampson said that to IG investigators or in another setting)

Prior to 2004, immigration judges were appointed in an essentially non-political bureaucratic process handled by the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge. Vacancies were posted, resumes sorted, interviews conducted and decisions made by lower-level DOJ officials, according to the report.

Sampson's new process involved "coordination" with White House and an extra effort to get friends of the Bush administration into the judgeships when possible. Sampson circulated a document outlining the new process.

"Many lawyers seeking positions within the Administration, including judgeships, become known to the White House offices of Political Affairs, Presidential Personnel, and Counsel to the President." The document stated that some lawyers might qualify to be IJs, and that "coordination" was needed to ensure that such lawyers were "informed of the opportunity" to become IJs."

Think Progress highlights two examples of Monica Goodling's antics while working as a liaison between DoJ and the White House. For those who may not have been paying attention, Ms. Goodling was a graduate of Regent University Law School, and appeared out of her depth when called before Congress to testify. Actually, she appeared as if she would have been out of her depth outside a candle party. I felt bad for her, because all those mean Congress folks were asking her tough questions when, as the OIG report clearly shows in detail, all she was doing was trying to make the Department of Justice safe for George W. Bush:
In April, NPR reported that the Justice Department Inspector General was investigating whether former DOJ White House liaison Monica Goodling dismissed a career DOJ attorney “because of rumors that she is a lesbian.”


As the report notes, the assistant U.S. attorney (AUSA) received “outstanding” performance reviews, the highest possible rating, and was subsequently granted a work extension in 2006. Goodling, however, opposed it.


When Executive Office for U.S. Attorney Associate Counsel Natalie Voris told Goodling she supported the extension, Goodling “responded that Voris did not know the AUSA as well as she thought she did“:

Voris said that Goodling then told her that the [assistant U.S. attorney] had a homosexual relationship with the U.S. Attorney in the AUSA’s USAO and that the two took trips together at government expense. Voris told us she believes that the AUSA’s alleged sexual orientation was a factor in Goodling’s decision not to extend the detail.

Furthermore, when the assistant U.S. attorney sought a detail in the Office of Violence Against Women, Goodling objected “because it would look like the Department was sanctioning the homosexual relationship.”


[T]he report states.

“We concluded that Goodling’s actions violated Department policy and federal law, and constituted misconduct,” the report adds. Both the assistant U.S. attorney and the U.S. attorney denied the relationship.(italics added)

So much for a valiant effort to protect us all from Teh Gay. She also figured that it was important to maintain the purity of the Department on a purely partisan basis (for fun, replace the word "Democrat" with the word "Jew" and violate Godwin's law):
In one disgraceful example, Goodling refused to hire “one of the leading terrorism prosecutors in the country” because his wife was a Democrat

Here are some of the interview questions Ms. Goodling used, via Sadly, No!:
* Tell us about your political philosophy. There are different groups of conservatives, by way of example: Social Conservative, Fiscal Conservative, Law & Order Republican.

* [W]hat is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?

* Aside from the President, give us an example of someone currently or recently in public service who you admire.

As I noted above, the report is clear that these examples all violate the policies and procedures of the Department of Justice. They also, per the report, violate federal law. Whether that matters much - no law enforces itself - only time will tell. It might be nice if Ms. Goodling no longer has a license to practice law, or her version of it anyway, so she can go to some happy Christian home, where the man is the priest, and she can dutifully serve him by providing all sorts of children for him. Isn't that what Christian women are supposed to do?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Easy Like A Sunday Morning

Just back from church, where the preacher talked about Jesus saying, "I am the resurrection and the life." Had communion - always a good thing. It's time to rest, as Sunday night is the first day of my work week. Sat and listened to a Schubert Mass this morning, much to the chagrin of my older daughter, who sat impatiently while her father enjoyed some sacred music.

What's your day been like so far, and what are your plans for the rest of it?

Defending The Constitution Must Be Anti-American

I haven't recommended a Glenn Greenwald piece in a while, but his discussion from this past Thursday on the horrid, radical, anti-American efforts of the American Civil Liberties Union to force the Bush Administration to make public the paper trail of its decision-making regarding the treatment of detainees clearly shows what a dangerous organization it is.
It has been left to the ACLU and similar groups (such as the Center for Constitutional Rights and Electronic Frontier Foundation) to uncover what our Government is doing precisely because the institutions whose responsibility that is -- the "opposition party," the Congress, the Intelligence Committees, the press -- have failed miserably in those duties. And while Democrats in Congress passively ignore their oversight responsibility or do the opposite by helping to conceal Bush crimes, the Democratic Party establishment goes around repudiating and even demonizing the factions that have tried to step into the void that they've left . . .


When Jesse Helms died last month, there was a discussion about Helms in an online email group of prominent liberal Beltway journalists, and one participant asked whether the Left has any equivalent to Jesse Helms, and a well-known "liberal" journalist responded: "Yes -- the ACLU extremists." Time's Joe Klein said last year that objections to the Senate's warrantless eavesdropping bill were merely "fodder for lawyers and civil liberties extremists" -- a phrase which GOP Rep. Pete Hoekstra then praised in National Review. The very same Beltway denizens who have so submissively enabled the radicalism of this administration simultaneously harbor and continuously spew contempt for those Shrill, Unserious "activists" -- such as the dreaded ACLU extremists -- who challenge and disrupt their little Beltway fiefdom.

While I think that Greenwald misses Jonathan Alter's larger point - bloggers don't do "journalism", which is the biggest straw argument there is - by demonstrating the abject failure of the press to move beyond the conventional wisdom and practices (which Alter describes, in a quite Greenwald cites earlier in his piece, as contacting mid-level officials who have the real skinny on doings), except in rare instances, which Greenwald also cites, this particular little snippet captures a surprising reality in Washington culture. An institution dedicated to ensuring the Constitution is not only adhered to, but that violations of the Constitution and abuses of power are brought to light is, 20 years after George H. W. Bush could make hay of Michael Dukakis' being a "car-carrying member of the ACLU", still held in contempt.

While torture and its variants are debated with all seriousness, and it take months for Joe Klein to finally jump off the John McCain bandwagon, the ACLU, perhaps the most idealistic organization, most American organization I can imagine, is depicted as being "extremist". Oh, to be a civil liberties radical! Oh, to believe the Constitution is not just a scrap of paper, but a body of laws to which all of us - including those in government - must adhere! Send these Commies to China or Cuba so they can see how far their special pleading for civil liberties gets them!

The depth of silliness and stupidity and superficiality of our Inside-the-Beltway conventional wisdom rivals the Mariannas Trench. It crushes common sense and thought.

Virtual Tin Cup

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