Monday, April 30, 2007
Update: I assumed it goes without saying, but the quote was inspired by the corruption of the Bush administration that is finally starting to be uncovered and investigated.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master,
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
I've got a framed copy of this hanging on my wall now. I had written a paper about this poem back when I was in college, and while going through my grandmother's house the other day I found the framed edition. Given that I recently went insane and am on the road back to sanity, I considered it serendipity.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Here is why. (h/t Orcinus)
That level of argument is not worthy of a response. It's so childish and pathetic that one need only look at it to see that the person has nothing of intellectual merit to contribute. And that is coming from someone who is a leading pundit within the conservative movement. She has one of the most popular blogs on the internet, is a regular contributor to Fox News, being a back-up host for the O'Reilly Factor and even groomed recently for her own show (which apparently did not do well enough to get picked up.)
And the intellectual circles that Malkin travels in are littered with this level of argumentation. I will treat it with the same level of respect that I treat Young Earth Creationism or some such other nonsense.
This isn't to say that I won't be responding to these figures in the future in the way that I've done in the past, but its just that from this point forth I'm going to take for granted that it has been established the Rush, Boortz, Malkin, Coulter, etc. are people of whom debate with is futile. They are fundamentalists for their political ideology, and will always find a way back to their original principles (e.g. "liberals" are the root of all evil) much like religious fundamentalists will always find a way to "prove" that evolution is atheist fantasy (you even get to see the overlap between these two groups with Coulter's latest bit of hate-literature Godless: The Church of Liberalism.)
Yet for point of reference, if anyone wants to be able to cite a specific source to demonstrate that these movement figures have been definitively refuted, I would direct your attention to The Angry Right: Why Conservative Keep Getting It Wrong by S.T. Joshi. Without vitriol or insult, Joshi very calmly, casually, and authoritatively focuses his attention on leading figures of the conservative movement and absolutely picks them apart.
So in the future I'd like to spend more time focusing on not so much the actual arguments made by figures like Malkin, but on the tactics that they employ and the style of thought that animates the movement.
Friday, April 27, 2007
I included Hitchens in the Links for a long time because I admire his humanist values and we both share as personal heroes Orwell and Paine; and although I disagree with his views about the "war on terror" I still enjoy reading him and respect his skill as a writer and orator. But what has started to bother me about Hitchens is that he has become careless with his facts, and has begun to start viewing facts and history through the prism of his current politics. I'm thinking specifically of this post from Dispatches From the Culture Wars where Brayton takes Hitchens to task for attempting to portray Thomas Jefferson as an atheist even though it's quite evident that he was a deist.
But this is the ultimate reason why Hitchens had to go from the links. That is a link to a Slate article Hitchens wrote two years ago praising the appointment of Paul Wolfowitz to the head of the World Bank. Given the current scandal surrounding Wolfowitz I simply can not keep Hitchens in the links anymore, as I think his credibility at this point on such matters is about nill. I will still be reading Hitchens on a regular basis (when I get back to reading things on a regular basis, that is) but I think the Link would be better filled with something that has more educational value.
3 Quarks Daily had previously been a blog recommendation of the day. The site provides an interesting round-up of info on art, politics, philosophy, pop culture, etc. Check it out and see what you think.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
I just finished this book the other day and will be writing a review in a day or so. But in the spirit of the previous post about the Moyers documentary about the complicity of the mainstream press in selling the Bush administration's war with Iraq, I will link to this post from Greenwald where he discusses the way that pre-invasion critics like Scott Ritter were smeared and dismissed by the same media pundits who we are expected to take seriously even though they've been proven dead wrong about Iraq while the "unserious" critics like Scott Ritter were actually the voices of reason.
I do so because Jimmy Carter was also one of those voices that protested presciently the invasion of Iraq, yet the noise machine is still busy demonizing him as an anti-American dictator loving anti-Semite.
In a March 3, 2003 op-ed entitled "Just War, or an Unjust War?" Carter voiced his concerns. I'll quote from the last paragraph just to illustrate how right he turned out to be.
The peace it establishes must be a clear improvement over what exists. Although there are visions of peace and democracy in Iraq, it is quite possible that the aftermath of a military invasion will destabilize the region and prompt terrorists to further jeopardize our security at home. Also, by defying overwhelming world opposition, the United States will undermine the United Nations as a viable institution for world peace.There is something profoundly wrong with our national discourse that voices of reason like Carter and Ritter are marginalized yet the likes of Bill Kristol (see here for a stunning list of wrongness from Kristol), Peter Beinart, Charles Krauthammer, Jonah Golberg, etc. seem to see no ill consequences from being systematically wrong about Iraq. As Glenn notes in the post I link, one has to search in obscure journals and what not to here what Ritter thinks about Iraq or Iran. Jimmy Carter is able to get his voice heard because of his stature as a former President and one of the world's greatest humanitarians, but just think how many other voices of reason were drowned out by the cult of Bush war loyalists via their tactic of ritual defamation of anyone who stands in the way of the neoconservative dream of permanent endless wars.
What about America's world standing if we don't go to war after such a great deployment of military forces in the region? The heartfelt sympathy and friendship offered to America after the 9/11 attacks, even from formerly antagonistic regimes, has been largely dissipated; increasingly unilateral and domineering policies have brought international trust in our country to its lowest level in memory. American stature will surely decline further if we launch a war in clear defiance of the United Nations. But to use the presence and threat of our military power to force Iraq's compliance with all United Nations resolutions — with war as a final option — will enhance our status as a champion of peace and justice.
The psychology underneath this and other cognitive fallacies is brilliantly illuminated by psychologist Carol Tavris and University of California, Santa Cruz, psychology professor Elliot Aronson in their book Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) (Harcourt, 2007). Tavris and Aronson focus on so-called self-justification, which "allows people to convince themselves that what they did was the best thing they could have done." The passive voice of the telling phrase "mistakes were made" shows the rationalization process at work. "Mistakes were quite possibly made by the administrations in which I served," confessed Henry Kissinger about Vietnam, Cambodia and South America.Shermer also contrasts the admit no errors style of Bush with these words spoken by President Kennedy after the botched Bay of Pigs invasion:
The engine driving self-justification is cognitive dissonance: "a state of tension that occurs whenever a person holds two cognitions (ideas, attitudes, beliefs, opinions) that are psychologically inconsistent," Tavris and Aronson explain. "Dissonance produces mental discomfort, ranging from minor pangs to deep anguish; people don't rest easy until they find a way to reduce it." It is in that process of reducing dissonance that the self-justification accelerator is throttled up.
This administration intends to be candid about its errors. For as a wise man once said, "An error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it." We intend to accept full responsibility for our errors.... We're not going to have any search for scapegoats ... the final responsibilities of any failure are mine, and mine alone.This administration, on the other hand, sees nothing but scapegoats.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Typical of O'Reilly, he denied he did any such thing and then proceeded to chalk up the Moyers documentary to being the product of Soros funded S-P propaganda (more paranoid conspiracy.) As you can see from this link at Newshounds, O'Reilly was wrong again. I don't really feel like wasting time delving into the wrongness of O'Reilly (or his go to "liberal" basher guest Michelle Malkin) so I'll just here link to the NewsHound coverage (see here and here.)
When I mentioned O'Reilly's making out Moyers to be an S-P minion of Soros over at Orcinus in this thread where Mr. Newiert does a round up of the various movement conservative hate-mongers blaming "liberals" for the Virginia Tech massacre (including Rush Limbaugh saying that the killer himself was a "liberal") one of the commenters pointed out that O'Reilly is obviously oblivious to the fact that Moyers is a former preacher and Baptist seminary graduate.
That's the point. O'Reilly is oblivious to facts that would get in the way of his personal crusade to rid the world of Bill O'Reilly critics. Either you're on board with O'Reilly or you are a far-left socialist America hating secular-progressive God hater who wants open borders and to surrender to Islamofascists. Any inconvenient facts, such as Moyers being a preacher, that get in the way of that can be bulldozed over ad hoc rationalizations. Hell, not to long ago the Pope had taken a position on some issue that O'Reilly routinely characterizes as being a "S-P" position but not even that managed to put a dent into his paranoid delusion of an rabid S-P plot to overtake the United States of America.
But back to Moyers. I have not yet had a chance to catch the documentary, so I will direct the reader to Mr. Greenwald's blog entry about it:
If you didn't watch Bill Moyers' documentary last night regarding the joint, coordinated behavior of our government and its media in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, I can't recommend it highly enough. You can watch it here.After going on to explain that the documentary has revealed how deeply corrupted our press has become and how unwilling it is to admit its errors and take the necessary steps to start performing its proper function as a guardian of democracy, Glenn notes
For those who have been following these issues, there was no single, specific blockbuster revelation that was not previously known, although Moyers' focus on the superb (and largely ignored) pre-war work of Real Journalists at Knight-Ridder (now at McClatchy) does cast a new light on the profound malfeasance of our most influential media outlets. Most of all, the documentary very powerfully compiles some of the most incriminating facts, and it unapologetically identifies many of the guiltiest and most destructive wrongdoers in our government and in the press.
For that reason, the documentary is -- in one sense -- a very valuable historical account of the corrupt behavior by our dominant political and media institutions which deceived the country into the invasion of Iraq. But on another, more significant level, it illustrates the corruption that continues to propel our political and media culture.
Moyers' documentary is a superb piece of journalism and makes inescapably clear how profoundly corrupt our dominant political and media institutions were prior to the invasion. But most national "journalists" will simply ignore the whole program (as Digby notes, The New York Times, one of the principal culprits, did not even review it).I here quote myself from the comments:
They will almost certainly dismiss Moyers as a liberal partisan, not a real journalist, and continue to insist that they are doing a superb and even-handed job. They will continue to revere the most guilty parties responsible for the deceit and destruction of the last six years.
During the Nixon administration Moyers was put on Nixon's enemies list for doing what journalists are supposed to do: perform a watchdog service for the public by questioning authority and making sure they're honest.
It was at this time that the conservative movement came up with it's wedge strategy of attacking the media for a "liberal bias" (this is documented in Brock's Republican Noise Machine). Moyers became the symbol of the hated "liberal bias" and its why he's been targeted ever since. He has become an Eternal Enemy of the movement. And of course, the movement's Eternal Enemy is synonymous with "far left liberal/socialist/communist".
And it is no coincedence that when the veterans of the Nixon administration came back into power in this current administration, Moyers again became targeted as an example of "liberal bias" and was actually driven off of Now for being insufficiently patriotic after 9/11 ("patriotic" here being defined to mean blindly loyal to George W. Bush.)
For the conservative movement, "liberal bias" is what actually is normal journalism. Or rather, it's anyone or anything other than propaganda for the conservative movement. But what is interesting is that the mainstream media, the supposedly "liberally biased" media, has begun to adopt the approach that Stephen Colbert lampooned so succinctly a while back (I took this from this Greenwald post)
As excited as I am to be here with the president, I am appalled to be surrounded by the liberal media that is destroying America, with the exception of Fox News. Fox News gives you both sides of every story: the president's side, and the vice president's side.In the future I hope to start explaining this phenomenon as a consequence of the movement's "liberal bias" wedge and the media consolidation that was kicked off during the first Reagan administration.
But the rest of you, what are you thinking, reporting on NSA wiretapping or secret prisons in eastern Europe? Those things are secret for a very important reason: they're super-depressing. And if that's your goal, well, misery accomplished.
Over the last five years you people were so good -- over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn't want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out. Those were good times, as far as we knew.
But, listen, let's review the rules. Here's how it works: the president makes decisions. He's the Decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home.
Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know -- fiction!
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Hofstadter begins by explaining
American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But behind this I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wind. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind. In using the expression “paranoid style” I am not speaking in a clinical sense, but borrowing a clinical term for other purposes. I have neither the competence nor the desire to classify any figures of the past or present as certifiable lunatics., In fact, the idea of the paranoid style as a force in politics would have little contemporary relevance or historical value if it were applied only to men with profoundly disturbed minds. It is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant.The gist of last night's Talking Point was that billionaire philanthropist George Soros is the head of a conspiracy to control the Democrat party and is funding through various front organizations Media Matters, a site which O'Reilly describes as a viscious smear site. In addition, Soros is the mastermind behind other far left America haters such as Paul Krugman, Rosie O'Donnell, NBC News, etc. (this is from O'Reilly's perspective, remember) Newshounds has further commentary and footage.
Of course this term is pejorative, and it is meant to be; the paranoid style has a greater affinity for bad causes than good. But nothing really prevents a sound program or demand from being advocated in the paranoid style. Style has more to do with the way in which ideas are believed than with the truth or falsity of their content. I am interested here in getting at our political psychology through our political rhetoric. The paranoid style is an old and recurrent phenomenon in our public life which has been frequently linked with movements of suspicious discontent.
First, please note that George Soros does not fund Media Matters. Secondly, as someone who has observed O'Reilly's program for some time now, I have come to the conclusion that O'Reilly has some kind of pathological inability to tolerate criticism of any sort.* Media Matters quotes him in context, providing links to transcripts or video footage when they do so. If the site challenges some assertion of his, they link to sources of evidence supporting their position so that a reader can read the links and come to a determiniation for oneself. That is how normal discourse works.
But not for O'Reilly. For O'Reilly he is above and beyond reproach, and anyone who does reproach him is a far left S-P America hater. He's developed quite an enemies list.
But here is the point that I will raise in brief. O'Reilly has been pushing his meme that traditional Americans (aka conservative Christian Americans) are under assault from radical far-left socialist Secular Progressives. And his paranoid mind has seen fit to announce that secular progressive George Soros is the Evil mastermind behind this nefarious S-P cabal.
Now one of the things that I plan on blogging about once I regain my mind is the development of paranoid "right-wing" authoritarian memes over the course of the 2oth century and up until today. I touched upon this previously in this post where I noted what appeared to be the evolution of the War On Christmas meme, where you see the demonological scapegoating evolving as such:
But the thing is that in the paleofascist groups that remain among us (Stormfront, for example) all three of the above are synonymous. And guess what, George Soros just so happens to be ethinically Jewish, so O'Reilly's paranoid conspiracy would fit perfectly into the hate-literature of the extremists which he claims to detest (and for what's it worth, I believe he does detest them.)
What I think we see here is what Ludwig Wittengestein (and Orwell) warned of. The use of language to hide the consequences of our beliefs from us. O'Reilly's S-P conspiracy, appears to me, to be little less than a politically correct version of the aforementioned Jewish and Communist conspiracies that have dominated the "right-wing" mind for the last century (with especially disastrous consequences when those conspiracies were put in practice in Nazi Germany). On one hand, we can look at this as a sign of progress, as the mind of the bigot has had his conscience raised in that he's no longer blaming international Jews for all the world's problems; but on the other hand, what O'Reilly is doing is providing a bigoted hate-ideology directed at an artifical stereotyped class (i.e. "S-P"s) which can be interjected in the mainstream, providing extremists the cover they need to make their hate seem legitimate. What's more, there tends to be this kind of feedback loop that triggers where O'Reilly becomes more defensive when he's criticized and tends to insulate himself and listen to the extremists as he sees them as common allies against his "S-P" enemies.
And when O'Reilly's millions of viewers or radio listeners start to make that journey with him there is a problem a brewing. For more on this phenomenon, I suggest reading this segment from Dave Neiwert's Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An exegesis essay on media transmitters.
Update: As I was finishing this up I went over to Media Matters and see that they've now put up a column responding to O'Reilly's paranoid delusions. As you can see from the link, virtually everything O'Reilly said in his Talking Point rant is factually false.
Update II: For more demonization of George Soros as the Evil mastermind behind Media Matters, see this rant by Melanie Morgan. And please, hurry up and read The Authoritarians if you haven't already done so. There is simply no other way to understand the insane persecution complex demonstrated by Morgan without some kind of understanding of the social psychology that produces such an individual who can routinely go on the radio and talk about killing people, then claim to be a persecuted victim when someone *gasp* records her and puts it online.
And while I'm at it, much credit should be given to Spocko, a blogger who started a personal campaign to alert the sponsors of Morgan's program that they are funding hate-speech. Spocko serves as an inspiration because he has demonstrated that an individual can make a difference and improve the level of discourse in this country. But he needs our help, as this column from Eric Boehlert demonstrates, the mediaocracy in this country would prefer to silence critics than have to part company with the hate-mongering ideologues that they employ.
Update III: Something else I think worth noting, is that up-is-down reality that O'Reilly seems to inhabit. Now, if someone wants to examine the influence that George Soros has on politics and the organizations that he funds, that is a perfectly legitimate enterprise. However, as demonstrated by the links above O'Reilly has not done that. He has instead just made wild allegations about Soros being a mastermind behind some vast S-P far left conspiracy that he fears is overtaking the country.
I really find it difficult to express how unfathomable I find it that a man working for a network created specifically to shill for the Republican party by media mogul Rupert Murdoch could be so worried about this phantom "S-P" movement that does not exist. What's more, there actually is a conservative movement in this country that is well funded, has a deep infrastructure and receives funding from the likes of Richard Mellon Scaife, the Coors family, the Coch family, Rev. Moon, etc. Yet somehow O'Reilly is completely oblivious to these folks and their influence on the Republican party, even as moderate Republicans like Christine Todd Whitman (see here) warn that the party is being purged by ideological religious and authoritarian zealouts. And recently a former Goldwater speechwriter released a book entitled Invasion of the Party Snatchers in which he writes that the Republican party has become "a party of pork-barrel ear-markers like Dennis Hastert, of political hatchet men like Karl Rove, and of Bible-thumping hypocrites like Tom Delay."
Yet still O'Reilly remains unconvinced, trapped in his hermetically sealed Fox world where he is always right, and everyone else is a far left S-P socialist open-borders America hater infected with Bush Derangment Syndrome. And the more you try and reason with him, the angrier he gets. And the angrier he gets, the more paranoid and irrational he gets. But remember, Bill's anger comes from his fear that the "traditional" America he loves is threatened by Mexicans and Islamofascists and S-Ps.
"Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” - Yoda
There's a lot of fear in the world right now. As well as anger. As well as hate. As well as suffering. It's time to take our country back, to put fear to rest. To put our anger and hate aside, and to start making the world a better and a safer place.
*This much has been evident to me ever since O'Reilly's incident with Al Franken in which he demonstrated both a juvenile inability to admit that he did not win a Peabody coupled with an obsessive desire to take down Al Franken (via a law suit that was laughed out of court.)
Monday, April 23, 2007
This man's name is Waleed Shaalan, and he was one of the 32 victims of Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech gunman who seems to have provoked so much "well I woulda given him the ol' kung-foo fighting cuz these hands are fast as lightning" fantasizing on the parts of so many arnchair critics of the victims' response to the rampage. Not to mention, of course, the ongoing speculation that Cho might secretly be a Muslim engaging in that jihad that Michelle Malkin swears is gonna swoop down on us any day now.The case of Waleed Shaalan offers them a little bit of a reality check. There weren't many heroes that day, but he was one of them. And oh yes: He's Muslim.You might also notice that in the comments I fired off a few comments about this post over at Greenwald's that I linked to in this post the other day. It really is frustrating not having the time to write about such things in the depth I'd like to. But I'd just like to reiterate how mind-boggling that post at Greenwald's is. The source that Melanie Phillips cited to say that WMDs really did exist in Iraq is a flat out white supremacist/rabid anti-semite who intends to map and catalogue the activities of every mosque in the United States. And that individual was promoted by Phillips, Malkin, Horowitz, Glenn Reynolds, and a number of other Bush loyalist blogs.
Now to be fair, they likely were unaware of his background. But then again, it's awfully convenient how Malkin et all manage to overlook extremism that can't be attributed to "the left." Especially in the case of Malkin, since she's famous for her "conservatives zealously police their own ranks for extremism" remark. So when she cites Gaubutz without nary a word about his extremism that counts as an endorsement that he is not an extremist. Granted I haven't had the time to surf around the net and see what she's had to say about him .... if I'm wrong and anyone knows it drop off a comment and I'll make the necessary corrections.
Additionally, I have an uncle that has been sucked into one of these dominionist churches and spends all of his time reading these novels. It's amazing, it's like the more he reads, the less of his brain remains. Hopefully, by reading the book I might be able to communicate with him and possibly bring to his attention some of the discrepancies between the book and reality (not to mention that the Rapture theology of LaHaye is not to be found in the actual Bible.)
Along these lines, I think it's going to be important that secular minded inviduals begin to educate themselves about religious tradtions and especially make efforts to increase their biblical literacy in order to begin communicating with the authoritarians amongst us who are beggining to give up on democracy.
I'm again in a hurry and can not develop my thoughts to the extent I'd like to, but I will link to this post from Mrs. Robinson over at Orcinus who covers this topic quite well. The first two parts of that series on authoritarianism are also well worth reading.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
"In every age, the bigot's rage requires another focus,
Another devil forced on stage by hatred's hocus pocus.
The devil used to be a Jew and then it was the witches,
And then it was the Negroes who were digging all the ditches.
The devil once was colored pink and labeled Communistic,
Now, all at once, in just a blink, the devil's Humanistic."
Saturday, April 21, 2007
1. As Charles Krauthammer said, we should not use the shooting to make political points. Unless you're Charles Krauthammer.
Lesson: do as neoconservatives say, not as they do.
2. The students who were murdered were cowards because they didn't rush the shooter like the heroes of Flight 93. The students were cowards because they've been wussified by liberals.
Lesson: Cowards are liberals, and liberals are cowards. Heroes are conservative, and thus the heros of Flight 93 were conservatives.
3. The killing happened because the students were not carrying concealed weapons. They weren't carrying concealed weapons because of liberals.
Lesson: Guns don't kill people, liberals who prevent America from reaching its full potential of a nation full of John Wayne style armed bad-ass gun heroes kills people.
4. The killer resented the rich kids at school, which makes him a liberal. So says Rush Limbaugh.
Lesson: Liberals are prone to be homicial mass murderers.
4. Somehow the shooting discredits atheism and Richard Dawkins. So says Islamic terrorist sympathsizer D'Nesh D'Souza (h/t James Still)
Lesson: Atheists are to be blamed for tragedies even if no one can come up with any sort of reason why they should be blamed for the tragedy.
Now I notice over at The Vanity Press (as far as I can tell, TVP is the blogger formely known as The Green Knight) that I'll comment on briefly. Vanity Press blogger writes:
In all the Very Serious Ponitificating from certain quarters on how the VTechstudents and faculty are a demonstration of the Decline of the West, and Not How We Did Things in the Old Days, I've noticed one glaring absence: namely, not one of these pontificators -- that I've seen, anyway -- has been able to come up with a single historical instance of a psycho killer on a shooting spree being stopped by a bunch of unarmed civilians.
What I find interesting about this passage is the them of a cultural decline. You're starting to see this more and more from movement conservatism, every tragedy that occurs is indicative of cultural decline, and every tragedy occurs has a silver bullet answer. Either we weren't conservative enough and/or "liberals" were to blame for some reason or other.
This sentiment that society is decaying as a result of liberal decadence and what not (the central premise of D'Souza's latest bit of hate-literature) is one of the key components of fascism.
Now, I'm not saying that any of this means these pundits are fascist. But what I'm saying and will be saying is that the elements and conditions that have historically metastasized into fascism are starting to coalesce, and I'm seeing dark clouds on the horizon. (Once you get to chapter 7 of The Authoritarians you'll see Altemeyer is seeing them, too.) More on this in the next month or so.
Update: I was on my way out the door, but I couldn't leave without linking to this piece at Greenwald's blog. It is simply amazing the depths to which neoconservatives will go to justify their love of endless and permanent warfare.
But to relate this to the issue of fascist creep, Glenn provides a number of bloggers and figures who have swallowed up the most ridiculous "discovery" of WMDs possible. The article was writtene by a British neoconservative who fears impending conquer by hordes of Islamic terrorists. These people are living in a fantasy world, a parallel reality of their own making. Hannah Arendt warned about that as one of the signs of nascent totalitarianism.
It would be laughable if these weren't the sorts of people who are influencing the president and still in control of the U.S. military.
But this is the most amazing of all
Jim Henley provides some additional information about Dave Gaubatz, including his organization devoted to celebrating the unique "White Christians" -- "a distinct people and privileged as such" -- who founded the country.
Fascist creep, indeed.
Friday, April 20, 2007
In the Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt called this process nihilistic relativism. In the future I will be talking more about Rush since I view him as the Father Coughlin of our times, but let me link to what has raised my ire this morning. From Media Matters:
On the April 19 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, host Rush Limbaugh declared that the perpetrator of the April 16 Virginia Tech shootings "had to be a liberal," adding: "You start railing against the rich, and all this other -- this guy's a liberal. He was turned into a liberal somewhere along the line. So it's a liberal that committed this act."Words like despicable, heinous, abominable, cretinous, etc. come to mind. Let see if I can make a point. Here's a link, also from Media Matters, in which another movement conservative, Debie Schlussel also speculates about the killer:
Responding to the April 16 mass shooting at Virginia Tech, right-wing pundit Debbie Schlussel "speculat[ed]" in an April 16 weblog post that the shooter, who had been identified at that point only as a man of Asian descent, might be a "Paki" Muslim and part of "a coordinated terrorist attack." "Paki" is a disparaging term for a person of Pakistani descent.Schlussel wrote, "The murderer has been identified by law enforcement and media reports as a young Asian male," adding, "The Virginia Tech campus has a very large Muslim community, many of which are from Pakistan." Schlussel continued: "Pakis are considered 'Asian,' " and asked, "Were there two [shooters] and was this a coordinated terrorist attack?"Here's the point I'd like to make. Schlussel's comment is obvious bigotry. Rush's is less so. Why is that? It's because "liberal" doesn't imply an ethnicity or religion. Which is why "liberal" is such a perfect Eternal Enemy for the conservative movement, the term let's them get away with hate-mongering under the pretense of attacking a political philosophy. But Limbaugh et all use the term as a perjorative label that has an amorphous meaning that at any time means little more than "anyone that stands in the way of movement conservatism." There is absolutely no reason to try to ascribe liberalism to this killer. That is so specious ... it's so absurd that one struggle to even know what to say to that (especially when one is recovering from a nervous breakdown.)
I understand that this is a bit undeveloped and what not, but I'm just writing this now to help me sort my thoughts and will later start builidng a more cogent and well-developed argument explaining this phenomenon.
And Limbaugh does this every day for 3 hours a day. Don Imus got fired (rightly so) for making a specific racist remark about a specific group of female basketball players. Limbaugh's entire career is centered around demonizing an entire class of people ("liberals"). Imus made a hateful remark, Limbaugh traffics in nothing but hate-mongering. But more than that, Limbaugh tells untruths to justify horrible, horrible things. For example, not to long ago he was saying we shouldn't provide food aid to starving Africans because they were becoming fat like Americans (and that's just off the top of my head, rule of thumb: if someone anywhere is trying to do something good that will help people, Limbaugh will demonize that person as a "liberal" and proceed to mock and scorn them.)
Here's one thing about Limbaugh that really bothers me. Like some church authority of old, he equates his own views and opinions with Conservatism, almost to the point of being orthodoxy. Thus, if you don't agree with Rush, that means you are "liberal." The amount of hubris is takes to set oneself up as the ultimate arbiter of right opinion is staggering. What I'd like to see is more conservatives and Republicans stand up for themselves and let Mr. Limbaugh know that he is not demi-god who has special claim to the mantle of conservatism. It reminds me of the authoritarian church leaders of days past saying that anyone who strays from church orthodoxy is a heretic.
Oh well, brain is scrambling so I'll stop here.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
I've always believed that the impeachment of Bill Clinton was one of the most inane and ridiculous things to ever happen in American politics, but the more I've started to look back on it the more I've started to see it as a harbinger of bad things to come in America's future. I say this because the more you look at that time period the more you see that Clinton's impeachment was the end result of an authoritarian anti-democratic movement's attempt to overturn the 1992 election. I will get more into this later, but here's the latest example I've come across ...
A few days ago after reading this post at the Atheist Ethicist about anti-atheist discriminatory laws in state constitutions I consulted my copy of The Fundamentals of Extremism: The Christian Right in America and sent Mr. Fyfe the following e-mail:
I just skimmed your post on Constitutional changes and thought you might find it worth noting that in the Fundementals of Extremism edited by Kimberly Blaker, there is chapter that covers that subject. In chapter 7, "Inerrancy Turned Political", Herb Silverman recounts his experience of trying to get the law prohibiting atheists from running for governor overturned. It went like this:
Silverman was a math professor, self-described as a "liberal, Yankee atheist Jew", who moved to S.C. in 1976 to teach mathematics at the College of Charleston. In 1990 a colleague pointed out to the aforementioned law and talked him into running for governor to challenge the law. he went to the local chapter of the ACLU and started going through the process, but was met with all kind of ridiculous legal obstacles and personal character attacks ... eventually he brought a case against ... someone, I forget who ... which was dismissed even though he was clearly in the right, at which point his resources and patience were spent and he gave up.
However, in the course of his efforts he had discovered that South Carolina's laws were even more primitive than he thought, as the constitution actually prohibited atheists from holding ANY public office. He dediced to challenge that law by applying for a notary public licene in October of 1991. His application was denied because he crossed out the section that said "so help me god". According to him, S.C. is one of the easiest states in the union to get a notary licence, but to his knowledge he's the only person in the history of the state to be rejected for one. Again, he had to go through all kind of legal obstacles and obstruction from as high up as the governor, but finally did receive his licence. Six years later on Aug. 8 1997!
Silverman remarked, "it took longer for me to receive my notary commission than my Ph.D. in mathematics!"
In that chapter Silverman mentions in passing that one of his court cases was based on precedent set by the case of Paula Jones. Her attorney was John Whitehead, founder of the Rutherford Institute, and author of The Second American Revolution, in which Whitehead argues that the Supreme Court striking down religous requirements for public office is anti-American and is itself religious persecution against Christians. What is significant here is that the "right-wing" of the religious right (I hope that makes sense, I'm dashing this off pretty quickly) thought that Clinton was an agent of Satan and part of a socialist/communist one world government conspiracy (New World Order conspiracy was one of the primary motivations of Timothy McVeigh.) I've got further notes on connections between efforts to impeach Clinton and dominionist organizations but I'll hold off on that until later (really, I'm probably going to have to write an essay series or something, as I've gotten so much about this stuff backed up in my notes.)
It is simply remarkable how figures within the conservative and dominionist movement (there is much more overlap than people generally are aware of) feel that unless they are persecuting someone they themselves are being persecuted. The best way to get an understanding about this authoritarian impulse is to read The Authoritarians by social psychologist Robert Altemeyer (it is available at that link for on-line reading free of charge). In the future I'm going to be relating a lot of what I write in regards to the conservatiev movement to Altemeyer's research.
I never understood why everyone was mean to Tim. I didn't consider him a friend, but I didn't see anything wrong with him or feel any need to torment or be mean to him. I recall on one occasion a group of us went to the movies and he ended up going along too. He was a cousin of someone or something like that, which is why or how he ended up there, and I remember everyone else being dissappointed that they had to bear his presence at the movies.
I also recall thinking how odd that was. It's a movie, you're going to sit there watching it. How could someone sitting a few seats away from you be something to be upset over? Unless the person smelled bad or talked or made noise or moved around a lot during the film.
Tim did none of those things.
So Tim was that guy. The guy that got picked on his whole life but probably never quite understood why. As far as I could tell, there was no reason why.
About a year after that movie incident Tim and one of his friends - his best friend, if I recall correctly - got into an argument over something, I don't know what about. Tim was really mad at his friend and wanted to demonstrate how angry he was. So he went into his house (the argument was taking place in front of his house) and got a gun. I don't know if the gun was his or a parents or whatever - the bottom line was that there was a gun in the house and Tim knew it.
So Tim gets the gun and comes back outside to show his friend (probably his best friend) just how angry he is. He starts waving the gun at his friend. Points the gun at his friend to demonstrate that he is so angry at him that he is considering killing him. Tim did this to scare his friend, but did not intend to actually shoot him (or so he said later.) Then for a literal split-second Tim's friend must have realized how angry Tim was, because by accident or on purpose the gun fired and a bullet shot out and traveled the 4 to 5 feet that separated Tim and his friend and lodged itself somewhere in his body.
Tim's friend died from that gunshot wound.
Tim would later say that he felt horrible. That he did not intend to kill his friend. That he got caught up in the moment.
I believed him then and I believe it now. But Tim still had to go to jail, because Tim ended a human life. It took the universe around 14 billion years to arrange the molecules of hydrogen, carbon, phosphorous, nitrogen, oxygen, and other elements in a pattern that comprised the being that was Tim's friend. It took Tim and that gun and that bullet less than a second to turn that human being back into a "whisp of undifferentiated nothingness."**
I don't know what became of Tim. But I expect that where ever he is he still regrets having felt the need to wave a gun at his friend in order to demonstrate his anger. He probably still wonders how he could have done something so horrible.
Part of me thinks that in that moment, Tim stopped seeing his friend and instead saw every person in his life that had ever picked on him or made fun of him, and he waved that gun at "them" to show them that he wasn't going to take it anymore. And maybe part of his brain wanted to pull that trigger to kill those phantoms. Maybe not. Who knows?
I don't mean to make any sort of statement with this story other than what the reader can take from it. But I will say that when remembering this story I do have in mind the pundits and figures within the conservative movement who have been saying over the past few days that the tragedy that occurred at Virginia Tech occurred because the students were not carrying concealed weapons and that they were not carrying concealed weapons because we live in a wussified (i.e. "liberal") society.
This sort of thinking is what is so frustrating to me. Yes, if some student had a gun she or he might have stopped the killer. That is true. But one might also consider what might happen when you have a college campus full of armed students. I mean, seriously, have any of these pundits ever been on a college campus lately? And at night?
Now, I don't have very well developed opinions about gun control. I'm for the right to own a gun and I'm for gun control regulation and that's about it. I do think on balance that our society has drifted too far in the direction of gun rights zealotry (especially in connection to the proto-fascist anti-tax/dominionist/militia movements) for reasons that are addressed in this post (scroll down to the last green section). I also think that we need to have a discussion as a society about the nature of the second amendment, which is why I've had my eye on A Well Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in America.
I will say something about guns and that is this: I don't like them. A gun is a device designed to deal death. It can be used in such a way that it doesn't deal death, but even so it's still a blunt force tool. I respect guns and respect that they are sometimes a necessary evil, but all the same, I do not like them. What I would like to see happen is we get to the point that technology will render guns obsolete, where police and/or citizens can use devices that employ non-lethal force to stop or prevent someone from doing harm.
Update: I see that Media Matters has a column up documenting the buzz I alluded to from the conservative movement. I also had in mind this comment from National Review's John Derbyshire. I did not want to go to much into this subject because I'm still suffering from what I would describe as a perpetual low-grade anxiety that makes it difficult for me to focus my thoughts long enough to put together a post (and the attempt itself tends to trigger a feedback loop of increased anxiety,) but I will say that I find this macho "I woulda done X" bullshit to be a troubling sign, for reasons that I hope to start addressing once I get back on my feet.
In short, however, I will say that I find it troubling because it seems to be symptomatic of a growing cult of masculinity that has developed within the conservative movement. Yesterday, I dashed off this comment in response to Glenn Greenwald's blog entry about John Edwards being smeared by the noise machine as a fancy-pants for getting a hair cut and going to a spa. I wrote:
Coulter expressed what the conservative movement believes about its eternal enemy, the "Liberal". Liberals a sissies, faggots, girly-men, half-men, wusses, pussies, etc. Real men are movement conservative. Which means that real men are manly because they are in favor of every U.S. citizen carrying a gun and doling out justice like Clint Eastwood in one of his spaghetti westerns. Real men are also manly because they want other people to go fight and die in endless permanent wars that they themselves will not fight in. And real men are in favor of the Leader torturing brown-skinned stinking raghead terrorists, cause god damn torture is about as manly as it gets.That's about all I can say for now without slipping into a panic attack. But I will (hopefully) return to this subject in the future. As an aside, I'm assuming the four to five readers that are still around are already well aware that Mr. Greenwald has moved his blog over to Salon (link) and has been doing excellent work there, but if you're not already reading it I'd highly recommend it. And since I lack the capacity at the moment to cover the cult of masculinity in the depth I'd like to, I'll go ahead and link to this post by Glenn where he addresses the cult of contrived masculinity. And Orcinus has been covering the authoritarian creep of movement conservatism for years now. I've got around 8 months of reading and notes built up on this subject and once I get my brain chemistry in order I should be able to start organizing this material and commenting on it.
You see the same cult of masculinity going on around the VaTech shooting. The buzz is that if the students carried guns that shooting wouldn't happen, and the only reason those students don't carry guns is because we've been wussified by liberals.
In fantasy movement conservative world, we'd all be carrying death machines in our pockets and that would make us all safer. This indicative of what is the animating spirit of the movement: it's inability to think over an issue in a manner that is more than a millimeter deep where all answers to any and all issues can be derived [instantly] from ideology.
* This is an arbitrary name to protect this individual's identity.
** That quote is taken from a Kurt Vonnegut novel that I'm re-reading in memory of Kurt's passage. I'll being writing something about it in a few days or so.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
YouTube of the day
I saw an episode of Family Guy a couple of days ago in which they made a joke about ever since Jim Henson died we've had muppets with wrong sounding voices (Henson voiced several of the muppets, but especially Kermit). For any aficianado of muppets, that's a joke that rings true. Anyways, that reminded me of the video linked. The world needs more Jim Hensons.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
This photo also serves as the cover to Life, Sex, and Ideas: The Good Life Without God by A.C. Grayling (a modern day Montaigne, in my opinion.) If I recall correctly, this photograph falls into the realm of surrealism (and I'm fairly certain I've seen it included in some surrealist collections.) I find it striking in how at first glance without looking at the title one might fail to notice how much the girl actually does look like a violin. The musical notes are also interesting, to me, in that back in '24 this would be considered surreal, but by today's standards those musical marks would be quite in style as a tatoo. I suppose one could also say something about the implied musical harmony of the female form and what not.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Resistless falls: The Muse obeys the Pow'r.
She comes! she comes! the sable Throne behold
Of Night Primaeval, and of Chaos old!
Before her, Fancy's gilded clouds decay,
And all its varying Rain-bows die away.
Wit shoots in vain its momentary fires,
The meteor drops, and in a flash expires.
As one by one, at dread Medea's strain,
The sickening stars fade off th' ethereal plain;
As Argus' eyes by Hermes' wand oppressed,
Thus at her felt approach, and secret might,
Art after Art goes out, and all is Night.
See skulking Truth to her old cavern fled,
Mountains of Casuistry heaped o'er her head!
Philosophy, that lean'd on Heav'n before,
Shrinks to her second cause, and is no more.
And Metaphysic calls for aid on Sense!
See Mystery to Mathematics fly!
In vain! they gaze, turn giddy, rave, and die.
Religion blushing veils her sacred fires,
And unawares Morality expires.
Nor public Flame, nor private, dares to shine;
Nor human Spark is left, nor Glimpse divine!
Lo! thy dread Empire, CHAOS! is restor'd;
Light dies before thy uncreating word:
Thy hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall;
And Universal Darkness buries All.
- Alexander Pope, The Dunciad, Book 4
Sunday, April 15, 2007
That sort of remark is the sort of thing where I just scratch my head. I scratch my head because I find it difficult to decide if Mr. Kristol really is that ideologically blinded or if he's just deliberately taking an opportunity to denigrate an artificial (and terribly arbitrary) class (i.e. "liberals") of political opponents for partisan gain.
Let me tell you what I know about Imus: he's a radio show host and in the Howard Stern movie Private Parts he's depicted as being a jerk and an early rival of Stern.
That's it. That's all I know about Imus.
But in what bizarre world does his vulgar comments about those basketball players have anything to do with being liberal? Could someone even give me a definition of liberal that works for this situtation? "Liberal" as used by Mr. Kristol may as well mean "anything I don't like."
Saturday, April 14, 2007
When I have more time I'lll add more to this entry, but one of Kurt's last books was a collection of essays entitled Man Without A Country. I'd just like to say that that isn't true - Kurt has a country in every part of the world where someone has read one of his books. Anywhere in the world where someone has some memory of the crazy ideas in his novels floating around in their head, Mr. Vonnegut has a country.
Blogger's Note - When I have more time I'll try to write up a more fitting tribute to one of my favorite authors. For the next few weeks or so I'll only be able to dash off short comments.