Saturday, June 30, 2007

James Foser on the media and Ann Coulter

From Media Matters

In 1996, MSNBC hired Ann Coulter as a contributor. The Washington Post later quoted an MSNBC official describing Coulter's performance: "What she said was so outrageous she was immediately put on probation, and the next one was even worse." Coulter has acknowledged: "They kept firing me, but then they'd rehire me." Coulter barely lasted a year before MSNBC fired her for good for on-air comments she made to Vietnam Veterans of America founder Bobby Muller.


It may be tempting to conclude that, despite the ridiculous decisions to hire the likes of Coulter and Savage in the first place, the firings indicate that MSNBC understands that their violent and hateful rhetoric adds nothing of value to the public discourse.

But maybe MSNBC has simply decided that it doesn't make much sense to pay the bigot when you can get the bile for free.

On Tuesday, for example, MSNBC's Hardball featured Ann Coulter as the sole guest for the entire hour. MSNBC continues to provide a platform for Coulter's hate; the network's just stopped paying her.

During Coulter's last appearance on Hardball, in July 2006, host Chris Matthews told her, "You write beautifully," and, "You have a brilliant brain." He described her as "the picture of heaven." Then Coulter called former Vice President Al Gore a "total fag," and Matthews ended the interview by saying of Coulter, "We'd love to have her back."

That says so much, doesn't it? Ann Coulter, despite her vile comments, despite her intellectual bankruptcy, and despite that everytime she writes a book The Rude Pundit demonstrates that significant passages of it are plagiarized, she shows up all over the place to promote her hate.

The bottom line, as Foser puts it, is:

It isn't Elizabeth Edwards who gives Ann Coulter publicity. It is the nation's leading news organizations. They may claim to find her distasteful, but they keep promoting her.

And they not only provide a forum for her hate speech and let her lie and dissemble without consequence, they repeat her false attacks on progressives as though they are true.

What he said

Via MediaChannel, Bill Moyers on Rupert Murdoch.

"Instead of checking the excesses of private and public power, these 21st century barons of the 1st Amendment revel in them. The public, be damned."

Friday, June 29, 2007

Wish I wrote it

Jon Swift's take on the Coulter/Edwards phone call.

But then Matthews played a terribly mean trick on Coulter, the beloved conservative pundit. It turns out he had agreed to let Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of Presidential candidate John Edwards, call in and confront Coulter without informing his guest beforehand. Coulter seemed shocked that Edwards even had a wife, since she had once called him a "faggot." Was her gaydar not working properly? she seemed to be wondering. Had all those men who had told her they were gay only done so to get her to leave them alone?

Sensing Coulter's vulnerability, Edwards then pounced, laying into Coulter for making personal attacks against her husband. Earlier that morning Coulter had said, "If I'm gonna say anything about John Edwards in the future, I'll just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot," which was a line she had probably worked on for months to prepare. By sandbagging Coulter like this, Matthews gave her no time to think of a witty put-down of Elizabeth Edwards, a cutting reference to Edwards' cancer perhaps, and Coulter looked off-balance. It was terribly unfair to Coulter.

Relentlessly, Edwards pressed on with her cruel assault: "I'm asking you politely to stop, to stop personal attacks."

"You're asking me to stop speaking? 'Stop writing your columns. Stop writing your books,'" Coulter asked incredulously. Clearly, Coulter's career would be over if she could no longer use personal attacks. What else would she do? It would be like asking Picasso to stop painting or asking Paris Hilton to stop doing whatever it is she does that makes her famous. Isn't it hypocritical to run a campaign that is supposedly based on helping people rise out of poverty, and then to turn around and attempt to impoverish Coulter?

But Edwards wasn't finished. She then laid into Coulter for her jokes about their son's death in a car accident. Coulter had hilariously claimed in a 2003 column that Edwards had a bumper sticker on his car that said "Ask me about my son's death in a horrific car accident." Apparently, Elizabeth Edwards is one of those humorless liberals who can't take a joke.

Forgotten oaths

"We will always fight for progress and reform, never tolerate injustice or corruption, always fight demagogues of all parties, always oppose privileged classes and public plunderers, never lack sympathy with the poor, always remain devoted to the public welfare, never be satisfied with merely printing news, always be drastically independent, never be afraid to attack wrong, whether by predatory plutocracy or predatory poverty." - Joseph Pulitzer, New York World (May 1883)

"Every issue of the paper presents an opportunity and a duty to say something courageous and true; to rise above the mediocre and conventional; to say something that will command the respect of the intelligent, the educated, the independent part of the community; to rise above fear of partisanship and fear of popular prejudice." - Joseph Pulitzer, letter to the editor of New York World (1911)

My contempt for Bill O'Reilly grows every day

Last night, Bill O'Reilly had as a guest the soulless immoral bigoted hate-mongering black-hearted right-wing authoritarian idiot Ann Coulter.

Did Bill O'Reilly bring Coulter on to condemn her for calling John Edwards a "faggot" or for writing this about the Edwards' dead son:

John Edwards injects his son's fatal car accident into his campaign by demanding that everyone notice how he refuses to inject his son's fatal car accident into his campaign.

Edwards has talked about his son's death in a 1996 car accident on "Good Morning America," in dozens of profiles and in his new book. ("It was and is the most important fact of my life.") His 1998 Senate campaign ads featured film footage of Edwards at a learning lab he founded in honor of his son, titled "The Wade Edwards Learning Lab." He wears his son's Outward Bound pin on his suit lapel. He was going to wear it on his sleeve, until someone suggested that might be a little too "on the nose."

If you want points for not using your son's death politically, don't you have to take down all those "Ask me about my son's death in a horrific car accident" bumper stickers? Edwards is like a politician who keeps announcing that he will not use his opponent's criminal record for partisan political advantage. I absolutely refuse to mention the name of my dearly beloved and recently departed son killed horribly in a car accident, which affected me deeply, to score cheap political points.
Or did Bill condemn her for writing a vile, bigoted hate-book in which she asserted that all non-movement conservatives (aka, "liberals") are atheists and wrote that the default position for "liberals" is to always kill human life unless it is going to fly planes into a building and in which she told the 9/11 widows who lobbied for an inquiry into the nature of why their government failed to prevent terrorists from killing their husbands that had their husbands lived they would have divorced them?

Or did Bill bring her on to tell her that enough is enough and that she should have stopped with her over-the-top rhetoric when she made the racist remark of calling Muslims ragheads?

Nope. Nothing like that. Bill just wanted to get her opinion on immigration and her phone confrontation with Elizabeth Edwards on Hardball. Did Bill point out to Coulter that Edwards was not asking Coulter to stop writing or talking but instead to stop slinging hurtful insults? No. Did Bill tell Coulter that she should stop trying to change the subject or deny any wrong doing whenever someone points out her immoral actions? No.

What Bill did was portray Coulter as the victim. Yeah, that's right. Poor Ann Coulter, beat up on by Elizabeth Edwards who called in to ask Coulter to stop trivializing her son's death, to stop calling her husband a "faggot," and to stop making jokes about wishing her husband would die in a terrorist attack.

Why did O'Reilly do this? Because he called Elizabeth Edwards and asked her to come on The Factor to talk about Coulter and she declined. And since his show has a larger audience than Hardball, reasoned O'Reilly, Edwards must not have been sincere when she called into Hardball and instead was just engaging in a political stunt to raise money for her husband's presidential campain. Later in the program, O'Reilly had on political slime-ball Dick Morris to further smear Mrs. Edwards.

Let me offer Mr. O'Reilly an alternative explanation for why she declined to come on his program. Perhaps she declined because Mr. O'Reilly is a brutish bully and a hack demogogue who had previously announced her husband's campaign dead because he hired two "anti-Christian" bigot S-P bloggers, that is, according to the allegations of right-wing hate-mongers like Michelle Malkin and Bill Donohue. And perhaps she declined because she rightly recognizes that Bill O'Reilly is not a journalist and does not behave as a professional, but instead as spoiled tyrant, yelling and screaming at guests and/or cutting their mics on a regular basis - and in at least one instance physcially threatening a guest - when they fail to act as props to help O'Reilly disseminate his opinions.

After watching Bill O'Reilly two nights ago start hollering and shaking with rage at one of his guests while charging the man with being an apologist for murder when he tried to offer the background information that Chris Benoit's son had a rare condition in order to dispel the caricature O'Reilly had painted of Benoit as some madman who had been injecting his son with human growth hormone for no reason I myself became livid at O'reilly.

Why? Because that kind of yelling and threatening demeanor is an act of intimidation. It is confrontational, and watching it, the antagonism of such an act is visceral. How is a guest supposed to respond? O'Reilly obviously believes that by yelling and shaking with rage at a guest that he is putting them in their place, but what if the guest were to respond in kind? Would the person who yelled the loudest be correct? No, because the escalated yelling tends to be followed by physical confrontation. I've witnessed many many fights break out over the years and this is an essential pattern. Every time O'Reilly does his yelling routine, on a primal level there is an implicit hidden threat of force, which I've remarked, has only once that I know of become explicit (when he told Jeremy Glick he didn't know what he'd do to him if he saw him off camera in the studio.)

If O'Reilly were working for an actual news network he would be told by management to behave professionally or he would lose his job, but since he is working for Fox News he instead gets paid for precisely this kind of behavior. It's sickening.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A couple of atheist book reviews

There have been a number of polemical anti-religion atheist books that have come out recently and in the last couple of years. They tend to be somewhat polarizing, and tend to turn off religious moderates. The book I just finished says that God ain't out there, but it isn't really one of them.

In God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist physicist Victor Stenger in a very straight forward fashion explains chapter by chapter that God - as most commonly defined in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition - is proven to not exist because the empirical evidence that should be present were such a God to exist is not present, and in other instances empirical evidence refutes claims of God's existence (e.g. the universe is approximately 13.5 billion years old, therefore a God that created the universe in 6 days 6000 years ago does not exist.)

Along the way, Stenger very briefly touches on some of the philosophical arguments against God's existence, but mostly he concentrates on writing about how the God concept fails on every account to be consistent with the observed nature of the universe.

The book is easy reading and can be finished in a day or so. The only thing I would say critical of it, is that Stenger's style of prose is very plain, and comes across as a kind of dry college lecture. In other words, he lacks the ability of a Sagan or a Gould to bring popular science to life and draw the reader in. But given that some people find the work of authors such as Harris and Dawkins too vitriolic or find Dennet's latest too academic, then this might be a book somewhere in the middle.

To get an idea of how the book is laid out, you can click here to see a chapter by chapter summary of arguments from Stenger's home page. For a fuller review, here's the eSkeptic take on God: The Failed Hypothesis.

And for the polemical, A.C. Grayling gives a glowing review of God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens. Slate offers 3 excerpts from the book, starting here.

The Limbaugh 30 second rule

I've said before that you can turn to Rush Limbaugh's radio program randomly at any moment and he'll either be lying, or will tell a lie within 30 seconds. To date, I have yet to have this fail to happen.

Yesterday, I flipped to Limbaugh and immediately heard Rush saying that the wildfires that are currently raging are happening because "liberals" won't allow dead trees to be logged.

At first glance, that looks like one lie, but its actually two. There is an explicit lie - that liberals stand in the way of forrest fire prevention - and an implicit lie - that Bush's Healthy Forrest Iniative was about forrest fire prevention (see here, for example.)

Now technically, Rush probably isn't lying. He's bullshitting, which is worse.

Impeach Cheney

So says Bruce Fein.

Missing words

"America is ... a nation founded on the principle that all human life is sacred ... Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical" - President Bush, from an address on stem cell research

There are some missing words that the President forgot to mention. That quote should actually read:

"America is ... a nation founded on the principle that human is life sacred unless designated by me as an enemy combatant or placed on death row in Texas ... Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical unless you're signing 152 of 153 death warrants in Texas."

Yep, those are the missing words. And I haven't forgotten then Governor Bush saying during the Oct. 11 2000 presidential debate, " 'guess what's going to happen to them? They're going to be put to death," as a big gleeful smile came across his face.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Quote of the day

"The population of the United States now exceeds 300 million, and the talent pool of the world's only superpower is deep and rich. How is it that the country is on the verge of filling its highest office for the sixth consecutive term from one of two families? That every President from 1989 to 2017 may be a Bush or a Clinton is a national disgrace. What has happened to the American Republic? How does it differ from a banana republic -- where a couple of dominant families often run everything for generations? Have we driven the vast majority of the potentially best Presidents out of the contest because of the high personal and professional costs of running for office? Are we the voters responsible because we are too lazy to go beyond the simplistic attractions of familiarity and high name identification? Or, most disturbing of all, has our political system become ossified, so that we are too fearful of change to seek out the most outstanding leaders among us for the toughest job in the world?" - Larry Sabato (via Media Matters)

This could easily go under the heading of the previous post. Where in our national media, is a serious discussion of the possibility of having a Bush or Clinton occupying the President/V.P office for 32 consecutive years?!! This is supposed to be a meritocratic country, after all, not War of the Roses era English monarchy.

See here, for what I've previously written about the decline of meritocracy and the rise of de facto aristocracy in America.

While we're talking about the media

From the Center for Media and Democracy

According to a new poll by Newsweek, "Even today, more than four years into the war in Iraq, as many as four in 10 Americans (41 percent) still believe Saddam Hussein’s regime was directly involved in financing, planning or carrying out the terrorist attacks on 9/11, even though no evidence has surfaced to support a connection. A majority of Americans were similarly unable to pick Saudi Arabia in a multiple-choice question about the country where most of the 9/11 hijackers were born. Just 43 percent got it right—and a full 20 percent thought most came from Iraq."

Um, does this maybe suggest that something in our media isn't working properly? Do journalists look at these numbers and what ... what do they do? How can you work in an industry which is supposed to be making sure that the American people are an informed citizenry so that democracy can properly function and see numbers like this and not be up in arms about the failure of the press to play its proper role in preserving liberty?

Promoting hate

Ann Coulter, after calling John Edwards a "faggot" at this year's CPAC, was rewarded with an appearance on Good Morning America - a program deemed to be part of the "liberally biased" media by the conservative movement - where she got to offer this oh-so sincere bit of contrition:

"So I've learned my lesson ... If I'm going to say anything about John Edwards in the future I'll just wish he'd been killed in a terrorist assasination plot."

Ha ha, get it? Coulter is saying that "liberals" are hypocrites because "liberals" think jokes about Vice President Cheney being killed by terrorists are funny. Except by "liberals" she means a handful of anonymous commenters at the Huffington Post.

But great job Good Morning America, at giving Coulter a window to further demonize "liberals" and a chance to engage in the favorite response of movement conservative hate-mongers whenever they are called out on some act of bigotry, namely, the "'liberals' do X which is worse" red herring switch-a-roo.

Last summer, I wrote a post at Unclaimed Territory explaining why it was necessary to respond to the likes of Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter. Nothing has changed.

Not too long ago a friend of mine told me she was trying to become more politically informed. To do so, she continued, she had begun reading Ann Coulter's How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must). Think about that for a moment. This was an individual who did not know much about politics, was a non-ideological independent and the first person she could think of to learn more about politics from was a hate-mongering hack. This should have never happened, because Coulter should have been exposed for the vile, bigoted, intellectually bankrupt propagandist that she is by journalists a long time ago. In this regard, my friend was failed by a mainstream media which is more interested in using Coulter as a figure to drive up ratings than they are in doing their jobs of promoting a responsible national discourse.
It should be noted that the appearance was part of Coulter's promotion tour for the paperback edition of her latest anti-"liberal" hate-mongering book, Godless, the book that inspired my post last summer.

Update: It appears I was both wrong and being too generous to Coulter. As Media Matters makes clear, Coulter wasn't alluding to the comments from Huffington Post, but instead was making up a defamatory lie about Bill Maher.

Vice King Cheney

In the post I wrote about the NSD issued by President Bush which apparently effectively makes the president dictator of the USA in the case of a "catastrophic emergency" I remarked that, "what it sounds like is that after 9/11 we were presented with a Potemkin president, while V.P. Cheney was running things from the shadows."

The Washington Post is currently running a 4 part series about the unprecedented power and role that Vice President Cheney has, which tends to reinforce my above statement, although the Post is clear to point out that what role Cheney has, it is with the approval of President Bush. The series - Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency - "examines Cheney's largely hidden and little-understood role in crafting policies for the War on Terror, the economy and the environment." The first three parts are already available and the final installment will be published tommorow.

So you can add this series to the recent episode of Cheney asserting that his office isn't part of the executive in order to avoid the oversight of the National Archives and the rumors circulating Washington that Cheney has been trying to work around President Bush and the State Department to start a war with Iran and everything else that he's done in secret over the last 6.5 years that demonstrate Cheney to be the dangerous power-monger that he is.

More on the Pitts death threats

In the entry I did on Leonard Pitts receiving death threats after a white supremacist posted his personal information on his website I remarked, "This should be illegal, as this is a standard harassment tactic of white supremacists and extremist groups."

Today, Dave Neiwert has blogged about this, and he adds

What's much harder to explain, exactly, is why White hasn't been charged with making threats against Pitts. It is difficult to read White's words and not comprehend them as an exhortation to violence and a threat against Pitts.This is not a free-speech issue. Threats and intimidation are crimes in every state, and a crime by its nature is not a form of protected speech. I'm not certain why authorities haven't taken White's threats seriously, but their inaction, unfortunately, speaks volumes. If this were George Will being threatened by a Nation of Islam figure, you know you'd have seen the perp walk already.
Additionally, Neiwert provides info on White's history of fomenting violence and a link to Atrios which has even more background on White.

And I added in the comments, here, some additional links further highlighting White's pattern of targeting individuals for elimination and the disgusting pride he is taking in the death threats that Pitts has received.

Also, a bit interesting, at least from a sociological point of view, "Whiteman" - a white nationalist commenter who frequents Orcinus - offers this bit of insight:

"White nationalists consider Bill White a gov't operative who gets away with illegal behaviour in the hopes that others will do the same, thinking they'll get away with it too."

I've encountered this before, having had a white nationalist tell me that the government has infiltrated and controls the KKK in order to make white nationalists look bad for propaganda purposes, and the government has also done the same with the militia movement; at which point said nationalist accused me of being a government operative.

Recall that when dealing with the extreme right-wing we are fully dealing with the paranoid mind.

Monday, June 25, 2007

"Neal Boortz is a moron" forthcoming

I had intended to finish and post Pt. 2 of the "Neal Boortz is a moron" series on Friday, but I didn't for several reasons:
1. I got sidetracked by other pursuits
2. I ended up writing more than I had initially planned on writing
3. (The biggest reason). I am on medication now to cope with/alleviate the depression and anxiety I had been experiencing. It has helped tremendously in that regard, but an unfortunate side effect is that it seems to mellow and sedate me to the point where I don't mind not finishing posts, where as before I would spiral into a panic attack if I didn't get one done. I've actually half-done on about ten posts that I haven't gotten around to finishing ...

So I hope to be done with part 2 in a day or so, but here's a sample of the very typical brilliant analysis from Boortz's radio program. Today I turned to Boortz to hear a Senator (from his voice I believe it was James Inhofe, who is a delusional man - church/state separation and global warming are two of the greatest hoaxes in US history, according to Inhofe - that the state of Oklahoma should be embarassed to have representing them in the Senate) saying that the report on the structural imbalance of talk radio produced by the Center for American Progress* was actually ochestrated by Hillary Clinton (and Bill) as a conspiracy to end the careers of conservative talk radio hosts. Both Inhofe and Boortz agreed that the Center for American Progress is a holding tank for future Clinton appointees and that it is doing the bidding of Hillary Clinton, and that the report would not have been released had Clinton not believed that the Democrats had enough power in Congress to begin their covert assault on talk radio and then given the Center the go-ahead. Paranoid, much?

Then Boortz explained that the report (which he has apparently not read, more on this in my Pt. 2 response) is nonsense because its been proven that liberals are not commercially viable in talk radio. He gave three reasons why. I didn't have my notepad with me, so I might be off a bit, but this is what I recall him saying were the reasons that "liberals" can not succeed in radio:
1. Liberals have no sense of humor.
2. Liberals are factually challenged.
3. Liberals are emotional and irrational. Liberals can not or do not think logically.

Ok, other than a movement conservative ideologue, is their anyone to whom I actually need to bother responding to that?

Let me throw out some names at you: Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Neal Boortz, Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, Melanie Morgan, Hugh Hewitt, Michael Reagan, Bill Bennett, ...

Would you say that funny, factually accurate, and rational, logical argumentation are characteristics that describe this group?

*Actually co-produced by the CAP and Free Press, but conservative movement pundits like to leave that out so as to better promote their conspiracy theory

Quote of the day

"Extreme orthodoxy betrays by its very frenzy that the poison of skepticism has entered the soul of the church; for men insist most vehemently upon certainties when their hold upon them has been shaken. Frantic orthodoxy is a method for obscuring doubt." -Reinhold Niebuhr

Friday, June 22, 2007

2006 Book of the Year

Allright, it's almost 7 months late, but I've finally gotten around to picking the Daily Doubter 2006 Book of the Year. Drumroll ..................................

Postcards from Mars: The First Photographer on the Red Planet by Jim Bell

(image Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)

When I was a child in elementary school I remember that every morning before school I would go into the library and check out a book. One of my favorite things I ever checked out was a 9 or 10 part series on the planets and the solar system. I loved those books and they helped spark in me a life long interest and enthusiasm for science and space exploration.

This magnificent book brought back those childhood feelings of wonder and awe. It consists of pictures taken by the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers which have been traveling across the surface of Mars for about two years now, literally, taking photographs of the scenery. And it also tells the (surprisingly interesting) narrative of the work that went into getting those two rovers to Mars.

Looking through the book, the pictures are beautiful and amazing. They are striking in how crisp and detalied they are, in how they bring Mars to life, make it more 'real,' somehow. If the word had not been corrupted in the 80s by Bill & Ted and the Teenage Ninja Mutant Ninja Turtles, "awesome," would be the most appropriate description of the pictures. Since I lack the literary skill to come up with a better description, I'll use it it anyway - those pictures of the surface of Mars are truly awesome.

There is something amazing about looking at the first pictures of a sunset on another planet ... it's almost as if one is transported through space and time to walk on the surface of Mars... it just opens the mind to the wonders of the universe. At least, for me that is.

Images from the mission can be found here, and the image you see in the upper left was taken on May 19, 2005. It's original release caption reads

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit captured this stunning view as the Sun sank below the rim of Gusev crater on Mars. This Panoramic Camera (Pancam) mosaic was taken around 6:07 in the evening of the rover's 489th martian day, or sol. Spirit was commanded to stay awake briefly after sending that sol's data to the Mars Odyssey orbiter just before sunset. This small panorama of the western sky was obtained using Pancam's 750-nanometer, 530-nanometer and 430-nanometer color filters. This filter combination allows false color images to be generated that are similar to what a human would see, but with the colors slightly exaggerated. In this image, the bluish glow in the sky above the Sun would be visible to us if we were there, but an artifact of the Pancam's infrared imaging capabilities is that with this filter combination the redness of the sky farther from the sunset is exaggerated compared to the daytime colors of the martian sky. Because Mars is farther from the Sun than the Earth is, the Sun appears only about two-thirds the size that it appears in a sunset seen from the Earth. The terrain in the foreground is the rock outcrop "Jibsheet", a feature that Spirit has been investigating for several weeks (rover tracks are dimly visible leading up to "Jibsheet"). The floor of Gusev crater is visible in the distance, and the Sun is setting behind the wall of Gusev some 80 km (50 miles) in the distance.

This mosaic is yet another example from MER of a beautiful, sublime martian scene that also captures some important scientific information. Specifically, sunset and twilight images are occasionally acquired by the science team to determine how high into the atmosphere the martian dust extends, and to look for dust or ice clouds. Other images have shown that the twilight glow remains visible, but increasingly fainter, for up to two hours before sunrise or after sunset. The long martian twilight (compared to Earth's) is caused by sunlight scattered around to the night side of the planet by abundant high altitude dust. Similar long twilights or extra-colorful sunrises and sunsets sometimes occur on Earth when tiny dust grains that are erupted from powerful volcanoes scatter light high in the atmosphere.
I wish I could do this book justice in a review, but really, you have to just pick up a copy and flip through the gorgeous images to be able to appreciate it.

One thing that I would note is that it took about 810 million dollars to send the rovers to Mars and operate them for 90 days. Jim Bell, the lead scientist on the project, notes that we spent about 9 billion dollars on donuts last years. So how about this America? we can stop being fat and find some money to fund this amazing research that will and can inspire a new generation of children to enter into the sciences and explore the universe.

Here's the link to The 2005 Daily Doubter Book of the Year.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Quote of the day

"I seldom passed five minutes of my life however circumstanced in which I did not aquire some knowledge." - Thomas Paine

Neal Boortz is a moron: Pt 1

I'm doing this in two parts because I'm feeling too drowsy to write the whole thing at once, so I'll just quickly respond to one of the typical idiot things that I saw on Boortz's website yesterday, then tomorrow I will respond to another bit of militant idiocy from Boortz.

Here's it is:

"China is now the world's biggest polluter. Well, at least when it comes to CO2. Interesting, isn't it, that China is exempted from the liberal's favorite pact, the Kyoto Accords? "

When it comes to talking about global warming, Neal Boortz is possibly one of, if not the, dumbest pundits that I have heard speak on the subject. Boortz talks about global warming the way creationists talk about evolution, and will say something like "it's warming on Mars" smugly as if that someone how refutes the work of the world's climate scientists, much like a creationist might tell you that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics.

Even though from listening to Boortz it is clear that he has not the slightest rudimentary understanding of the subject, he routinely pontificates about global warming being some big fraud/hoax. Again, like the creationist, Boortz "knows" that global warming is false because it conflicts with his ideological beliefs (i.e. his "free" market orthodoxy) and is incapable of accepting the reality of warming and instead conceives that global warming is a socialist conspiracy against capitalism, much like the creationist considers evolution to be an atheist conspiracy against Christianity.

Which is why Boortz routinely says things like what I've quoted above that are plainly stupid. They are stupid, but they support the "knowledge" that he derives from ideology, which saves him the trouble of actually having to think about too deeply about any given subject.

So what is so stupid about what I've quoted? It's simple: CHINA IS NOT EXEMPT FROM THE KYOTO PROTOCOL. The Kyoto Protocol sets a cap on per capita emmission. Every nation that signs the treaty is bound by that cap. If you're above the cap, then you have to reduce your emissions; if you're below, then you can raise emissions until you reach the cap limit.

That's pretty simple to understand, right? I mean, Major League Baseball has a salary cap ... would you say a particular team was exempt from the cap because it's salary was below the set limit and thus unfair because a team that was over the cap would have to reduce its salary while the other team could increase its? No, of course not.

The other bit of stupidity contained in the Boortz quote is the bit about Kyoto being pointless because China is the world's leading producer in CO2 emmissions. Boortz fails to consider that China's population is four times larger than ours, and fails to tell his audience that the United States per capita emissions are four times greater than China's.

Peter Singer responded to this very common conservative movement myth about Kyoto in The President of Good and Evil, noting "The Bush administration's position [that Kyoto "exempts" China and India and is unfair because the US would have to reduce emissions] amounts to saying that the poor nations of the world should commit themselves in perpetuity, to much lower levels of greenhouse gas production per head of population than the rich nations have. There is no way in which that principle can be defended as ethical."

But Boortz is not capable of understanding that. His ideological orthodoxy inhibits his ability to think. Which is why he's also unable to understand that the Bush administration's failure to commit the US to own up to it share of pollution acts as an incentive for nations like China to disregard emissions control. Once again, we see where the Bush adminstration has rendered the US impotent on the world stage by taking away our moral authority on a given issue - how can we ask developing nations to work towards limiting their emissions when we ourselves have no intent of doing so?

Update: Commenter Tony brings up another excellent point.

People keep forgetting that annual carbon emissions need to be into the context of cumulative carbon emissions, since CO2 stays in the atmosphere for centuries.

A full 29% of the carbon released by human activity into the atmosphere from 1900-2002 is from the US, which produced almost double the carbon emissions of Russia and China combined.
The anthropogenic warming that we are currently experiencing is the result of pollution that the already industrialized nations have put into the atmostphere during the 20th century. This further illustrates the unethical nature of President Bush's and Boortz's expectation that developing nations be required to reduce their total CO2 emmissions on par with industrialized nations.

What's more troubling to me, is that China has begun to adopt President Bush's bullshit tactic of "addressing" CO2 emmissions by creating goals to reduce CO2 emissions "intensity" as a percentage of economic output. This is a form of Enron'ing environmental data, as improved emissions "intensity" says nothing about the total amount of CO2 emissions that are released. Indeed, CO2 emissions have risen while CO2 emission "intensity" dropped in the US.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Editor and Publisher

A white-supremacist Web site angered by a Leonard Pitts Jr. column alluding to the murder of a white couple posted The Miami Herald writer's home address and phone number -- leading to threats against the 2004 Pulitzer Prize winner.

When Herald Managing Editor/News Dave Wilson asked to delete the address and phone number, site editor Bill White replied: "We have no intention of removing Mr. Pitts' personal information. Frankly, if some loony took the info and killed him, I wouldn't shed a tear. That also goes for your whole newsroom."
This should be illegal, as this is a standard harassment tactic of white supremacists and extremist groups.

Update: Commenter Rob, I'm assuming Robert Redding Jr. notes that the Redding News Review broke this story before Editor and Publisher did. But more interestingly, he identifies Bill White's past contributions to the Washington Times, having had four letters published on a page edited by his "pretty good friend" Robert Stacy McCain. Redding News also quotes White as stating that Times managing editor Francis Coombs "is a big fan" of White's website (although Coombs's secretary denied that Coombs knows White) and also reports that White claims to know Francis's wife Marian Kester Coombs.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has previously identified Marian Kester Coombs as a racist.

The exposé also disclosed the racist views of Marian Kester Coombs, wife of the managing editor of The Washington Times, Fran[cis] Coombs. Coombs has seen his wife's columns published in his paper several times, and her articles have also appeared in white supremacist publications. Most of her especially inflammatory writings have appeared in white supremacist venues such as The Occidental Quarterly, which ran her glowing review of a book on "racially conscious" whites by Robert S. Griffin, a member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance. In it, Marian Coombs opined that white men should "run, not walk" to wed "racially conscious" white women and avoid being out-bred by non-whites.

But the Times has also published its share of her extremism.

In one opinion piece in the Times, Coombs described the whole of human history as "the struggle of ... races." Non-white immigration, she wrote in another column, is "importing poverty and revolution" that will end in "the eventual loss of sovereign American territory." In England, Muslims "are turning life in this once pleasant land into a misery for its native inhabitants."
But the SPLC also identified the extremism of McCain

Also working for Fran[cis] Coombs is Robert Stacy McCain, a Times assistant national editor and a member of the white supremacist hate group League of the South. McCain is in charge of the paper's "Culture Briefs" feature, into which he has often inserted excerpts of material written by hate groups. At Coombs' direction, McCain has been allowed to cover "Southern heritage" issues for the Times, while citing as experts fellow members of the League. In addition, McCain is the only national reporter to cover four conferences put on by American Renaissance. Until 2004, McCain had never mentioned its controversial nature.
Here is a SPLC report on the aforementioned theocratic/supremacist League of the South and another article from the SPLC notes that the Times has published 35 news and opinion pieces of the apparently virulently racist/supremacist/nativist Marian Kester Coombs without disclosing her relation to the paper's managing editor. It also further explains McCain's use/promotion of racist and supremacist material in the pages of the paper that he manages

But McCain still works at The Washington Times, where his articles run under headlines like "Backlash Building in White America." Under the direction of Fran[cis] Coombs and National Editor Ken Hanner, in fact, McCain puts together the paper's page-two "Culture Briefs" section.

In that section, McCain has used excerpts from racist venues including American Renaissance magazine and the VDARE Web site. (For her part, Coombs has written articles for VDARE and once wrote to American Renaissance with this: "Whites do not like crowded societies, and Americans would not have to live in crowds if our government kept out Third-World invaders.")

In fact, McCain may be the only mainstream newspaper reporter to have covered four American Renaissance conferences. Twice, he offered no description of the group, which is devoted to race science. Once, he said it was "critical of liberal positions on race and immigration." Only in 2004 did he note that some viewed it as racist.

McCain, who declined all comment, has also been identified by the League of the South hate group, for whom he occasionally writes, as a member.

Despite his well-known sympathies, McCain has written in the Times about the "pro-South" groups he favors. Last June 27, for instance, he penned an extremely long front-page article headlined "Southern Pride Rallies 'Round the Flag." He was talking about the Confederate battle flag.
Oh, but there's more. In yet another SPLC article documenting the Washington Times habit of defending neo-confederate organizations, we here that

McCain's beliefs often creep into his stories in ways that readers might not notice. In 1998, McCain wrote the Times' obituary for George Wallace, the Alabama governor who became the South's most famous segregationist.

Hailing Wallace as "a man who transformed American politics" and paved the way for conservative electoral triumphs, McCain quoted three scholars on Wallace. All the scholars were identified as history professors — but not as leaders in the same hate group McCain belongs to, the League of the South.

"[A]s a working journalist with 10 years' experience," McCain once wrote on the League's DixieNet Web site, "I am well aware of how reporters can subtly frame their stories to suggest which side in any controversy is in the right." McCain's stories for the Times often display this expertise, relying on sources from hate groups without acknowledging the controversial nature of their views — and immediately shooting down any opposing viewpoints, like those of the NAACP leader in McCain's story on Dixie-loving as a "hate crime."

If McCain's not-so-subtle framing of the news has raised eyebrows around the Times' newsroom, it doesn't appear to have affected the kinds of stories he's assigned to write. In 2000, when African-American writer Lerone Bennett Jr. published a controversial book accusing Abraham Lincoln of being a racist (see related story Lincoln Reconstructed), McCain wrote an approving feature about the book even though — perhaps unbeknownst to his editors — he had already expressed vehement opinions on the subject.

In an Internet discussion group, McCain had written that Lincoln was a "war criminal" who should have been tried for "treason." On DixieNet, McCain — using his own name — had even concocted a mock "Wanted" poster for Lincoln, whom he described as the "1st RULER and TYRANT of the AMERICAN EMPIRE" and a perpetrator of "Murder, False Imprisonment, and numerous HEINOUS crimes against the SOUTHern states and AMERICANS in general!"
So to sum: The Washington Times is another one of the media transmitters that Dave Neiwert has written so much about at Orcinus. Here we see how one of the leading and most influential papers of the conservative movement injects covert extremism into our political discourse.

Quote of the day

"I am persuaded that the human race was created to be free and that I was born to serve that cause" - Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

My stupidity on display

In yesterday's post I wrote

Gore made the claim [that retreating snows on Mt. Kilimanjaro were attributable to global warming] based upon the research of Lonnie Thompson, a geologist who attributed the melting snows of Kilimanjaro to global warming, using the inductive reasoning that the snows on Kilimanjaro were part of the global retreat of glaciers due to increased global temperatures.
While inductive reasoning certainly played a part in Dr. Thompson's work, it is a gross mischaracterization on my part to imply that was the only reason he suggested that snow retreat was due to warming. As Andrew Revkin explained back in March 2004

Dr. Lonnie G. Thompson, the Ohio State University glaciologist whose work first focused attention on Kilimanjaro's fading ice, said he saw ample evidence that melting was eating away at what remained.

His specialty is extracting cylinders of layered, ancient ice from tropical glaciers, and when his team drilled into one of the mountain's ice fields in 2000, water flooded out of the hole. In the resulting cores, shallow layers contained elongated bubbles -- strong evidence of melting and refreezing -- while deeper layers had none.

More jarring was the violent collapse of a 10-story-tall clifflike face of one of Kilimanjaro's ice fields in January 2003, witnessed and photographed by trekkers. The collapse sent a huge cascade of ice and water gushing across the flanks of the ancient crater.

''This all suggests that what we are seeing at least in the last 20 years or so is different,'' Dr. Thompson said. He believes the mountain may be close to a threshold at which melting will become the dominant force eroding the ice. ''The balance of evidence says something bigger is going on in the system,'' he said.
But the criticism that Gore, at the least, should have included a qualification about the uncertainty of how much warming was responsible for the amount of decline on the mountain remains, as Revkin also pointed out that

Most experts in the Kilimanjaro debate accept three things: for more than a century, its ice has been in a retreat that is almost assuredly unstoppable and was not caused by humans; so far, there is scant data on conditions there; and the main scientific question now is how, and how much, climate shifts driven by heat-trapping emissions are accelerating that trend.
That information should have been included in Gore's slideshow presentation, and without such qualification the images of Kilimanjaro should have not been included in the presentation, and should be removed from future versions, especially given the paper just published with further challenges the view that warming is playing a role in the retreating ice trend.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Stupidity on display: Sean Hannity edition

Last night Sean Hannity said that recent research indicating that the retreating snows of Kilimanjaro is not related to global warming is further evidence that Al Gore is a liar and propagandist because in An Inconvenient Truth Gore cited the snows of Kilimanjaro as evidence of global warming.

This is Sean Hannity putting on display his stupidity in regards to how science works. Gore made the claim based upon the research of Lonnie Thompson, a geologist who attributed the melting snows of Kilimanjaro to global warming, using the inductive reasoning that the snows on Kilimanjaro were part of the global retreat of glaciers due to increased global temperatures, BEFORE this new research paper* came out indicating that the snow retreat on Kilimanjaro was not attributable to global warming.

There is genuine criticism to be made about Gore having asserted the retreating snows on Kilimanjaro to be due to global warming (without the proper qualifications about the certainty of that conclusion), as this blogger points out by noting that as a test of deductive reasoning it does not follow that retreating snows on Kilimanjaro are necessarily attributable to global warming. But what Hannity failed to mention to his audience was that the new research paper did not dispute that the majority of retreating snows and glaciers around the world are due to global warming.

Here Hannity has not only revealed his own stupidity, but his own intellectual dishonesty and nature as a propagandist. The paper itself mentions:

What factors may explain the decline in Kilimanjaro's ice? Global warming is an obvious suspect, as it has been clearly implicated in glacial declines elsewhere, on the basis of both detailed mass-balance studies (for the few glaciers with such studies) and correlations between glacial length and air temperature (for many other glaciers). Rising air temperatures change the surface energy balance by enhancing sensible-heat transfer from atmosphere to ice, by increasing downward infrared radiation and finally by raising the ELA and hence expanding the area over which loss can occur. The first and only paper asserting that the glacier shrinkage on Kibo was associated with rising air temperatures was published in 2000 by Lonnie G. Thompson of Ohio State University and co-authors.
Before going on to conclude that the best evidence now indicates that the "lines of evidence do not suggest that any warming at Kilimanjaro's summit has been large enough to explain the disappearance of most of its ice, either during the whole 20th century or during the best-measured period, the last 25 years."

Hannity failed to inform his audience that the researchers stated

The fact that the loss of ice on Mount Kilimanjaro cannot be used as proof of global warming does not mean that the Earth is not warming. There is ample and conclusive evidence that Earth's average temperature has increased in the past 100 years, and the decline of mid- and high-latitude glaciers is a major piece of evidence. But the special conditions on Kilimanjaro make it unlike the higher-latitude mountains, whose glaciers are shrinking because of rising atmospheric temperatures. Mass- and energy-balance considerations and the shapes of features all point in the same direction, suggesting an insignificant role for atmospheric temperature in the fluctuations of Kilimanjaro's ice.

It is possible, though, that there is an indirect connection between the accumulation of greenhouse gases and Kilimanjaro's disappearing ice: There is strong evidence of an association over the past 200 years or so between Indian Ocean surface temperatures and the atmospheric circulation and precipitation patterns that either feed or starve the ice on Kilimanjaro. These patterns have been starving the ice since the late 19th century—or perhaps it would be more accurate to say simply reversing the binge of ice growth in the third quarter of the 19th century. Any contribution of rising greenhouse gases to this circulation pattern necessarily emerged only in the last few decades; hence it is responsible for at most a fraction of the recent decline in ice and a much smaller fraction of the total decline.
So if Gore were to continue to assert that the loss of snow on Kilimanjaro were due to global warming Hannity would be correct to call him a liar and a propagandist. But instead Hannity uses this finding as propaganda that global warming is not happening and/or that it is not a problem that we should be alarmed about, when in fact that is not what the paper says.


The climate scientists at Real Climate wrote - as of May 23, 2005 -

Kilimanjaro has attracted special attention not because it is an unusually important indicator of tropical climate change, but because it is well known through the widely read Hemingway short story. If anything, it is the widespread retreat of the whole population of tropical glaciers that provides the most telling story. Perhaps one can regard the Kilimanjaro glaciers as a kind of "poster child" standing in for this whole population. It is not yet clear whether this photogenic and charismatic poster child is a good choice for the role. Certainly, if Hemingway had written, "The Snows of Chacaltaya," life would be much simpler.

Based on what is now known, it would be highly premature to conclude that the retreat and imminent disappearance of the Kilimanjaro glaciers has nothing to do with warming of the air, and even more premature to conclude that it has nothing to do with indirect effects of human-induced tropical climate change. On the contrary, a study of the glaciers' long history argues powerfully that the recent retreat is happening in an environment significantly different from that which the mountain experienced during past equally dry periods.
In that linked post Real Climate takes into consideration the research being done by the authors of the paper that was just released and offers a different interpretation of the evidence that suggests that global warming does play a role in the melting of the snows, so again, the issue is not as black/white as Hannity would have you believe. The criticism of Gore's lack of qualification over the on-going status of this research stands, but Hannity is not interested in making that sort of honest criticism.

I expect that Real Climate will comment on this new paper within a few days, at which point we'll be able to see if they find the new paper more compelling.**

*The paper is new, the research is not, as the researchers have been compiling evidence for twenty years. A genuine criticism can be made of Gore for overlooking this research, although I'm not able to tell from the paper how well known this research was before Gore made the documentary.
**Don't let that fool you. The Real Climate entry is quite nuanced, and the authors state that they find the research of Kaser - one of the lead authors of the new paper - "interesting and thought provoking."

Authoritarian thinking in action

"The west is accusing Muslims of extremism and terrorism. If someone exploded a bomb on his body he would be right to do so unless the British government apologises and withdraws the 'sir' title" - Pakistani religious affairs minister Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq on Britain knighting Salman Rushdie


Being a ghost and all, I get to talk to other ghosts. Here's what the ghost of Tom Paine had to say in response to ul-Haq:

To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture. Enjoy, sir, your insensibility of feeling and reflecting. It is the prerogative of animals. And no man will envy you these honors, in which a savage only can be your rival and a bear your master.

Robert Green Ingersoll also chimed in:

And how any human being ever has had the impudence to speak against the right to speak, is beyond the power of my imagination. Here is a man who speaks -- who exercises a right that he, by his speech, denies. Can liberty go further than that? Is there any toleration possible beyond the liberty to speak against liberty -- the real believer in free speech allowing others to speak against the right to speak? Is there any limitation beyond that?

So, whoever has spoken against the right to speak has admitted that he violated his own doctrine. No man can open his mouth against the freedom of speech without denying every argument he may put forward. Why? He is exercising the right that he denies. How did he get it? Suppose there is one man on an island. You will all admit now that he would have the right to do his own thinking. You will all admit that he has the right to express his thought. Now, will somebody tell me how many men would have to emigrate to that island before the original settler would lose his right to think and his right to express himself?

In The Authoritarians, Altemeyer observes that a mind that has been corrupted by authoritarian thinking is compartmentalized, capable of massive doses of double-think, and highly resistant to change.

A filing cabinet or a computer can store quite inconsistent notions and never lose a minute of sleep over their contradiction. Similarly a high RWA can have all sorts of illogical, self-contradictory, and widely refuted ideas rattling around in various boxes in his brain, and never notice it.

So can everybody, of course, and my wife loves to catch inconsistencies in my reasoning when we’re having a friendly discussion about one of my personal failures.But research reveals that authoritarian followers drive through life under the influence of impaired thinking a lot more than most people do, exhibiting sloppy reasoning, highly compartmentalized beliefs, double standards, hypocrisy, self-blindness, a profound ethnocentrism, and--to top it all off--a ferocious dogmatism that makes it unlikely anyone could ever change their minds with evidence or logic.
Here we see that in full effect, with this authoritarian individual being unable to see the inherent contradiction between being upset that "the West is accusing Muslims of terrorism and extremism" while simultaneously justifying a potential extremist act of terrorism.

Altemeyer is careful to point out repeatedly not to make the mistake of thinking that an authoritarian thinker is in possesion of some sort of qualitative mind difference that makes he or she an authoritarian: authoritarianism springs from mind traits that are instrinsic to human nature. In other words, the authoritarian mind consists of a quantitative difference.

How does religion fit into the picture, then? Religious fundamentalism is parasitic upon the worst characteristics in the human mind, reinforcing and amplifying one's capacity for authoritarian thinking by providing a template for dogmatism.


From Notes and Comments, another response to ul-Haq

Insult is it. Rushdie earned notoriety is it. Harm to our image is it. Contemptuous is it. What about the serious and dedicated effort to get the novelist murdered merely for writing a story about 'early Islamic figures' you contemptible apologist for theocratic tyranny? What about that? Eh? Eh? Why are you so worried about an award given to a novelist and so unworried by murder and attempted murder? Why do you have such a pathetic, ludicrous, immoral, twisted sense of priorities? What is the matter with you?
And also from Notes and Comments, in regards to the BBC reporting that Rushdie "offended Muslims worldwide"

It's terribly misleading to say that Rushdie's novel 'offended Muslims worldwide' without qualification. There's an enormous amount wrong with that offhand statement. One, many and probably most people who were 'offended' by Rushdie's novel never read it, so the simple and active phrasing there - his book offended Muslims - is just inaccurate. An accurate version would be something more like 'some Muslims were offended by what they heard or were told about Rushdie's novel and by the fact that he had written it.' Yes but they don't have the space to say that in the second sentence. Okay, but if they don't have the space, they shouldn't say anything - they shouldn't say something grossly and tendentiously misleading instead, especially not about someone who is under a standing death threat for doing the very thing they described so ineptly and inaccurately. What they do by phrasing it that way is half-endorse the attitude of the people who issued the fatwa, and they really ought not to do that on the basis of bad sloppy inaccurate phrasing.

But what do we do about this authoritarian fundamentalism? Well, for starters, as "OB" points out, we don't give it any ethical or moral legitimacy. Secondly, we must strive to encourage secularism and an end to indoctrinating children with hateful dogma (easier said than done, I know.) Thirdly, we must work to reduce the geo-political factors that are conducive to the growth of religious fundamentalism (another big BIG easier said than done.)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Gone reading

I probably will not post much or any, for the next 3 to 4 days as I make an effort to finish reading a number of books that I've been working through.

When I get back I'll do a review of The Assault on Reason by Al Gore and I'll do a belated 2006 Daily Doubter book of the year pick. I've been working on a few other posts and I might get around to finishing those, too.

A sampling of Michael Savage's 8 million listeners ...

From ThinkProgress, the clip speaks for itself.

I beg to differ with the blogger at ThinkProgress, Matt, who writes "Michael Savage is obviously not responsible for the content of these emails."

Why is this obvious? Savage is not responsible in the sense that he did not physically send the emails, nor did he instruct the senders what to specifically write, but the tone of the emails is in keeping with the tone of Savage's show. Savage identified C-Span as facists and the modern day version of Hitler's brownshirts. Obviously, this is nothing but pure demonization, as "fascist" for Savage and his listeners has no meaning other than "evil", as evidenced by Savage conflating the insults of fascist and communist. Savage then sicked his mob of authoritarian (and apparently proto-pretty close to being actual fascist) listeners on C-Span and they released the same sort of invective on the station that they here from Savage on a daily basis. So in that sense he is responsible.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Quote of the day

"If there is anything more dangerous to the life of the mind than having no independent committment to ideas, it is having an excess of committment to some special and constricting idea." - Richard Hofstadter, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Inspirational video of the day

"Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson

A friend of science has died

Via Respectful Insolence, Don "Mr. Wizard" Herbert died yesterday at age 89.

If you grew up in the 50s or 60s or 80s and were a fan of science, then there's a good chance that Mr. Wizard played a role in developing that interest.

This YouTube clip brings back memories. He will be missed.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Paranoid, xenophobic/nativist pseudo-fascist quote of the day

Via Rory O'Connor

"But do you understand what the New York Times wants, and the far-left want? They want to break down the white, Christian, male power structure, which you're a part, and so am I, and they want to bring in millions of foreign nationals to basically break down the structure that we have. In that regard, Pat Buchanan is right." - Bill O'Reilly to John McCain on immigration

This isn't the first time O'Reilly has revealed his "white, Christian, male" persecution complex.

On the other side, you have people who hate America, and they hate it because it's run primarily by white, Christian men. Let me repeat that. America is run primarily by white, Christian men, and there is a segment of our population who hates that, despises that power structure. So they, under the guise of being compassionate, want to flood the country with foreign nationals, unlimited, unlimited, to change the complexion -- pardon the pun -- of America. Now, that's hatred, too.
Now notice that O'Reilly usually frames the so-called culture war in terms of "secular-progressives" (e.g. New York Times) trying to tear down "traditional" America. I tend to think that s-p/traditional was something O'Reilly came up with for marketing purposes, but I begin to wonder if it has something more to it than that ... perhaps O'Reilly is creating a cognitive model that allows him to blind himself to the inherent prejudice of his beliefs.

An easy way to help fight breast cancer

Via reader/commenter Psyberian

The Breast Cancer Site needs to receive 6 million clicks in the month of June to get an additional $20,000 from one of their sponsors. This money goes towards free mammograms for women who otherwise cannot afford them. Please set this up as a daily reminder and click each day. Thanks! (Please share this with others)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Ten animals that might be extinct within the next decade

I mentioned here that it's important to raise awareness about biodiverstity because we're currently experiencing the 6th mass extinction in world history, and given the post immediately preceeding this one, I thought it fitting to link to Scientific American's slide show "10 Animals That May Go Extinct in the Next 10 Years." Here's the description of the show from the link

Extinction is a natural process. As evolution hums along, species disappear and new species emerge in an ongoing dynamic called "background extinction." Geologic history has also been punctuated by five great "mass extinctions"—precipitous declines in the number of species spurred by dramatic events such as an asteroid impact or changing sea levels.

Today we are witnessing what some experts believe to be the "sixth wave of extinction," a species diminution that appears to be the handiwork of humankind. Experts estimate that the current extinction rate is somewhere between 100 and 1,000 times higher than the background rate (others say it is even higher, up to 10,000 times the usual background extinction rate).

There are currently 3,071 "critically endangered" species in the world, according to the World Conservation Union, also known as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), a collaboration of 83 countries, 800 nongovernmental organizations and 10,000 scientists and experts devoted to preserving Earth's biodiversity. According to the IUCN, species assessed at the critically endangered level "face an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild unless the pressures on them are relieved." Here are just a few of these species

Inspirational video of the day

"Mercy Mercy Me (The ecology)" by Marvin Gaye

Apparently, this video was someone's student project.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Working for Fox means never having to say you're sorry

"The press…is not free to publish false information about anyone…intending that it will cause a public furor, while knowingly, or in reckless disregard of, its falsity."

The above quote is from the court ruling in favor of Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Ernest Murphy's libel suit against the Boston Herald and its reporter Dave Wedge who falsely claimed that Judge Murphy had said about a 14 year old rape victim, "tell her to get over it." After Wedge went on the O'Reilly Factor and spread the slander again to a national audience, Murphy began to receive hate-mail and death threats.

Via Crooks and Liars, Keith Olberman wonders why O'Reilly is allowed to get away with this without legal ramification? And at the least, why doesn't Fox News force O'Reilly to issue a retraction and apology on his program? Don't bother, the question is rhetorical. Fox News has no journalistic integrity, otherwise O'Reilly would not be allowed on the air in the first place, neither would Sean Hannity and several other of the network's personalities.

So O'Reilly can play a role in promoting a libelous story that leads to a man receiving death threats and never have to issue an apology or inform his audience that the story is false, but he can at the same time whine like a little baby that "the far left smear machine has cranked up against him" because, as New Hounds notes, someone "reproduced his own words and pointed out his misrepresentation."

But its not just Fox. Fox is just the most mainstream part of a noise machine that operates on a level that is nearly indistinguishable from slander/libel. Turn on the AM radio for any extended period of time to see what I mean. Or read this Alternet article.

Moreover, we live in an age in which an increasing number of unscrupulous media creatures make phony/misleading rhetorical arguments and cover themselves by "citing" media reports that may be still floating around on the internet, long after they've been debunked. Rush Limbaugh is the master of this technique. A classic Limbaugh news-reference involved a mountain-lion attack in Colorado (hyping alleged liberal overconcern for deadly mountain lions is a surprisingly hardy staple of right-wing radio entertainment); Limbaugh wanted to argue that PC-mad animal rights activists had raised more money for the lion cub than had been raised for the victim's family. "As of May 23, the orphaned mountain lion had received $21,000 in donations and Barbara Schoener's two kids had received around $9,000," was how Rush put it, way back in 1994. The story was total bullshit and had been exposed as such for more than a month at the time Rush came out with that story.

And once he realized he could do this without suffering consequences, he just kept on doing it, which is why his listeners over the years have been treated to such nuggets of wisdom as "There's no such thing as an implied contract," "It has not been proven that nicotine is addictive," "The condom failure rate can be as high as 20 percent," "The poorest people in America are better off than the mainstream families of Europe," "Banks take the risks in insuring student loans," "Anita Hill followed Clarence Thomas everywhere," and "$14,400 for a family of four-- that's not so bad." There are endless lists of these casually-told lies that stick long after debunking -- anyone interested in seeing the full list can check out sites like


The very fact that the liars are allowed to continue their trade unpunished is a sort of endorsement of their original versions of the "truth." I have absolutely no doubt that many Americans believe deep down in their gullible hearts that if people like Hannity and Limbaugh were really liars, they would be pulled off the air, or punished for some reason. They see that a Michael Savage can be yanked from a lucrative job for gay-bashing, but there appears to be no punishment at all for unchecked, intentional lying, which is at least as serious an offense for a journalist.

I'm not sure I'm ready to endorse the author's suggestion that politicians should start firing off litigation suits against these lying bastards, but there is definitely something wrong when as a society serial liars are rewarded rather than punished for their efforts to distort and destroy the truth: which is a commodity of perhaps the highest value in a democracy.

Molly Ivins on "fair and balanced" journalism

From Who Let the Dogs In?

And when the going gets tough for the press in America, the press fudges, the press jellies. That's what we're doing now. We are retreating to a fine old American press cop-out we like to call objectivity. Russell Baker once described it: "In the classic example, a refugee from Nazi Germany who appears on television saying monstrous things are happening in his homeland must be followed by a Nazi spokesman saying Adolf Hitler is the greatest boon to humanity since pasteurized milk. Real objectivity would require not only hard work by news people to determine which report was accurate, but also a willingness to put up with the abuse certain to follow publication of an objectively formed judgement. To escape the hardwork or the abuse, if one man says Hitler is an ogre, we instantly give you another to say Hitler is a prince. A man says the rockets won't work? We give you another who says they will.

"The public may not learn much about these fairly sensitive matters, but neither does it get another excuse to denounce the media for unfairness and lack of objectivity. In brief, society is teeming with people who become furious if told what the score is."

The American press has always had a tendency to assume that the truth must lie exactly halfway between any two opposing points of view. Thus, if the press presents the man who says Hitler is an ogre and the man who says Hitler is a prince, it believes it has done the full measure of its journalistic duty.

This tendency has been aggravated in recent years by a noticeable trend to substitute people who speak from a right-wing ideological perspective for those who know something about a given subject. Thus, we see, night after night, on MacNeil/Lehrer or Nightline, people who don't know jack about Iran or Nicaragua or arms control, but who are ready to tear up the pea patch in defense of the proposition that Ronald Reagan is a Great Leader beset by comsymps. They have nothing to offer in the way of facts or insight; they are presented as a way of keeping the networks from being charged with bias by people who are replete with bias and resistant to fact. The justification for putting them on the air is that "they represent a point of view."

The odd thing about these television discussions designed to "get all sides of the issue" is that they do not feature a spectrum of people with different views on reality: Rather, they frequently give us a face-off between those who see reality and those who have missed it entirely. In the name of objectivity, we are getting fantasyland.

- "The Fudge Factory," March 1987
And we're still getting fantasyland. And we're going to keep getting it until a media reform movement gets off the ground. And that will be an integral part of reforming (and saving) democracy itself.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A post for C2H50H

A good while ago I remember commenting at the original incarnation of the now defunct I Just Don't Like This George Bush Prick blog that I don't think of Ann Coulter as conservative, remarking that I doubt Edmund Burke would enjoy the pleasure of her company. If you read this blog long enough, you'll also notice that I make a distinction between being conservative and being a movement conservative.

Well, anyways, in the comments of this post C2H50H remarked

Forgive me, Oh Conservatives, but from where I sit, what it looks like is a loose affiliation between the authoritarians, who will follow any sufficiently "manly" leader, plus several single-issue constituencies, such as those who are uncomfortable with the freedoms conferred on humanity by the march of modern medicine, those who suffer from excessive fear that their guns will be taken away, and so on, plus a bunch of people whose only impetus to be conservative appears to be that they could never be nominated by any remotely liberal party.
I think this is pretty spot on as far as the conservative movement is concerned, and being too lazy myself to find my previous comments on the subject, I'm happy to see that Digby has today written a post that does the work for me. Check it out to see why I made the Edmund Burke reference.

But to further answer C2H50H's question about the nature of modern conservatism, I'll defer to F.A. Hayek's seminal essay Why I Am Not a Conservative.

The position which can be rightly described as conservative at any time depends, therefore, on the direction of existing tendencies. Since the development during the last decades has been generally in a socialist direction, it may seem that both conservatives and liberals have been mainly intent on retarding that movement. But the main point about liberalism is that it wants to go elsewhere, not to stand still. Though today the contrary impression may sometimes be caused by the fact that there was a time when liberalism was more widely accepted and some of its objectives closer to being achieved, it has never been a backward-looking doctrine. There has never been a time when liberal ideals were fully realized and when liberalism did not look forward to further improvement of institutions. Liberalism is not averse to evolution and change; and where spontaneous change has been smothered by government control, it wants a great deal of change of policy. So far as much of current governmental action is concerned, there is in the present world very little reason for the liberal to wish to preserve things as they are. It would seem to the liberal, indeed, that what is most urgently needed in most parts of the world is a thorough sweeping away of the obstacles to free growth.

This difference between liberalism and conservatism must not be obscured by the fact that in the United States it is still possible to defend individual liberty by defending long-established institutions. To the liberal they are valuable not mainly because they are long established or because they are American but because they correspond to the ideals which he cherishes.
Go ahead and read the whole thing. I'm feeling too lazy to pick out anymore sections or do any commentary.

Finally, my review of Whose Freedom? by George Lakoff might be of some service.

Hope that helps.

80s Video of the Day

"One Moment in Time" by Whitney Houston

"Give me one moment in time
When I'm more than I thought I could be ..."

I love that line.

Friday, June 08, 2007

A microcosm of our broken democracy

I've walked by a television maybe 8 or 9 times today in different locations. In every single instance that I passed the television, some sort of coverage of the Paris Hilton prison "saga" was on the tv. Every time. I kid you not.

Meanwhile, I get on-line, go on over to Glenn Greenwald's blog and I come across this (bold emphasis mine)

I'm currently at a conference of education professors concerning the Bush administration's radical executive power theories, and normal blogging will resume tomorrow. One of the points I attempted to emphasize this morning as part of the presentation I made was that as much as we think we know about the range of controversial Bush policies, it is almost certainly the case that what we do not know, what remains concealed, vastly outweighs what we know.

On a break from the conference, I see that Hilzoy this morning is discussing an amazing new report (.pdf) issued jointly by six human rights groups concerning 39 individuals whose whereabouts are unknown and at least some of whom, it seems quite likely, the U.S. has simply "disappeared," secretly holding in detention. Among the disappeared ... are likely children as young as 7-9 years old.
So you tell me. What's the bigger story? Whether or not Paris Hilton goes to jail, or the possibility that our government HAS DISSAPPEARED CHILDREN AS YOUNG AS 7-9 YEARS OLD?

I would interject some profanity here, but I know of none strong enough to convey the disgust and anger I have that I am living in an America that I even have to consider the possibility that such a thing has occurred.

Now let me qualify this: there is no conclusive evidence that such has happened. But the mere fact that the allegation merits investigation, that there is any chance it is true is a travesty and a shame. And regardless of whether or not children have been dissappeared remains the fact that PERSONS were dissappeared, been turned into ghosts living in a realm beyond the rule of law. This is not democracy in action, it is totalitarianism in action. I again quote Hannah Arendt from The Origins of Totalitarianism:

The first essential step on the road to total domination is to kill the juridicial person in man. This was done, on the one hand, by putting certain catergories of people outside the protection of the law and forcing at the same time, through the instrument of denationalization, the nontotalitarian world into recognition of lawlessness; it was done, on the other hand, by placing the concentration camp outside the normal penal sytem, and by selecting its inmates outsdie the normal judicial procedure in which a definite crime entails a predictable penalty.
So what really poses a graver threat to democracy? Hm? What does the public need to know about ... Paris Hilton's fate or if our country has engaged in on what Hannah Arendt identified as "the first essential step on the road to total domination?"

Instead of the press "covering" Paris Hilton (e.g. rolling footage of her and having pundits offer "commentary") maybe we can send out some journalists and see how much democracy has been hacked away by this administration. The founders of this nation imagined, when they wrote the 1st amendment, the press playing the role of the public's watchdog, to serve as a guardian of democracy. They did not imagine it would be a means of keeping people distracted while democracy died.

Cool site of the day

Actually, this is the coolest Cool site of the day so far, via The Island of Doubt

The Encyclopedia of Life

Comprehensive, collaborative, ever-growing, and personalized, the Encyclopedia of Life is an ecosystem of websites that makes all key information about life on Earth accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world. Our goal is to create a constantly evolving encyclopedia that lives on the Internet, with contributions from scientists and amateurs alike. To transform the science of biology, and inspire a new generation of scientists, by aggregating all known data about every living species. And ultimately, to increase our collective understanding of life on Earth, and safeguard the richest possible spectrum of biodiversity.
To get an idea of how cool this site is going to be, watch the intro video on the entry page. The only thing is that the site isn't going to launch until 2008. The site hopefully will be able to raise the public's appreciation of biodiversity, which makes the project especially timely given the fact that we are currently experiencing a precipitous decline in world levels of biodiversity, i.e. we're experiencing a mass extinction (the 6th in world history )that the public isn't even aware of.

You can check out the FAQs section for more information on the project.

1. What does Encyclopedia of Life seek to accomplish? What are its objectives?

Ultimately, the Encyclopedia will serve as an online reference source and database for every one of the 1.8 million species that are named and known on this planet, as well as all those later discovered and described. Encyclopedia of Life will be used as both a teaching and a learning tool, helping scientists, educators, students, and the community at large gain a better understanding of this planet and all who inhabit it.