Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The so-called Liberal Media at work

Read this, then this.

Trivia of the day

Question: Who coined the term scientist?

Answer: William Whewell in 1833.


Liberal Media news anchor Brian Williams nominates the most vapid, substance free pundit in America for a Pulitzer for doing the same thing that she does every single time there is an election: question the character of the Democrat based upon a stereotypical narrative, praise the Republican candidate's character based upon a stereotypical narrative.* It's the same script over and over for Peggy Noonan, who writes columns not based on intellectual considerations but on how she feels about candidates or issues. And it just so happens that she feels that the Republican is awesome and the Democrat is lame.

If she did write columns based upon substance she might not have cited the infamously anti-Semitic personal hero of Adolf Hitler - Henry Ford - as an American to get "misty eyed" about.

I must confess I'm not surprised, however, given that Williams is a big fan of America's #1 demagogic propagandist Rush Limbaugh.

*You'll notice in her column that she gives some slight praise to Hillary Clinton. It's a rhetorical device to make the bashing of Obama stand out more.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Cool site of the day

The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online

From the site's Introduction

The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online (or Darwin Online) began in 2002 to assemble in one scholarly website all of Darwin's published writings and unpublished papers. It does not cover his unpublished letters which were already the focus of the Darwin Correspondence Project.

Darwin Online is by far the largest Darwin publication in history. It contains over 43,000 pages of searchable text and 150,000 electronic images. This site contains at least one exemplar of all known Darwin publications, reproduced to the highest scholarly standards, both as searchable text and electronic images of the originals. The works reproduced here were lent by helpful institutions and individuals. Some of the books are worth over £100,000 ($196,800), which means that few libraries can afford to collect all of Darwin's works. The site also provides the largest collection of Darwin's private papers ever published in c. 20,000 items in c. 90,000 images, thanks to the kind permission of Cambridge University Library.
Most recently the site put up Darwin's entire private papers online. (h/t New Humanist Blog)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Jeffrey Sachs on sustainability

I just so happen to currently be reading Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet. It's wonkish, but the sort of critical multi-lateral thinking from a public intellectual about America and its relation to our global future that is generally missing from the ever growingly vapid and substance free mainstream media.

Sachs was also on Science Friday a couple of weeks ago to discuss his book (in more detail, of course, than the brief appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher.)

h/t Crooks and Liars

Quote of the day

"Secularism is a code of duty pertaining to this life, founded on considerations purely human, and intended mainly for those who find theology indefinite or inadequate, unreliable or unbelievable. Its essential principles are three: (1) The improvement of this life by material means. (2) That science is the available Providence of man. (3) That it is good to do good. Whether there be other good or not, the good of the present life is good, and it is good to seek that good." - George Holyoake, English Secularism (1846)

Holyoake is credited with coining/popularizing the modern usage of the term secularism.

Friday, April 25, 2008

But ... but we "support" Israel

Bruce Wilson at Talk 2 Action has written a post demonstrating that John Hagee was probably lying when he told a group of Jewish bloggers that his organization's support for Israel does not have anything to do with fulfilling some eschatological prophesy.

For more on Christians United for Israel, see this discussion at Bill Moyers Journal.

I also would remind the reader about this previous post in which Gary Wills points out that "supporting" Israel does not preclude anti-Semitism, given that Christian zionism has anti-Semitic origins.

More fake outrage followed closely by a megadose of hypocrisy

Here's another example of phony indignation, again provided by Eric Alterman in Why We're Liberals.

Many conservative and even centrist media figures ... attack[...] liberal bloggers for alleged anti-Semitism in their opposition to the senatorial candidacy of Joe Lieberman or for providing space on their blogs where anti-Semites and other lunatics occasionally post comments, until they are noticed, taken down, and condemned. When an instance of this occurred on the Web site of the liberal organization MoveOn.org, one writer, Marshall Wittmann (now Lieberman's spokesman), asked, "The question is why Democratic leaders continue to collude with the anti-Semitic appeasing left." Actually it's not such a tough question to answer, and a blogger responded immediately: in this context, "collude" means that Democratic leaders work with people who run a Web site on which some readers have posted some allegedly anti-Semitic material. Wittmann, in contrast, worked directly for the extremist anti-Semite Pat Robertson as he was in the process of disseminating the familiar ideology of the far right: a conspiracy theory blaming wars and revolutions on a secret cabal of Jewish bankers, Freemasons, Illuminati, atheists, and internationalists. Wittman's complaint was nevertheless picked up by William Kristol on the Wall Street Journal editorial page, the Washington Times, and all over the right-wing media blogosphere, and yet, strangely, no one thought to point out the irony. (In fact, the entire extent of the offense on MoveOn's part was to have a bulletin board where anyone could post; as soon as the offending comments were discovered, they were immediately removed.)
For more on Alterman's book, see the hour long discussion below from Alterman on the subject.

Susan Jacoby on the Colbert Report

Global warming has not stopped

Deltoid points out another debunking of the latest attempt to revise reality.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The characteristics of extremists

Laird Wilcox's list of extremist characteristics is worth perusal (and bookmarking.)

Ann Coulter is a left-wing Democrat?

"[T]he left wing of the Democratic Party, frankly, kind of admires American terrorists" - Newt Gingrich, offering "analysis" on the Fox News "news" network.

"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building" - Ann Coulter, Aug. 26, 2002

Gingrich went on to say that the left-wing Democrats (by which, of course, he means Democrats - thank you for the heads up, George Orwell) don't care that Louis Farrakhan is anti-semitic and that they "shrug off Jeremiah Wright."

This is the sort of stuff that ought to make every reasonable American in the country want to see the Republican party in its current incarnation crumble into the dust of history. Louis Farrakhan is an extremist and a bigot but has zero influence over the Democratic Party (when was the last time we heard of a Democratic president vetting Supreme Court nominees with Farrakhan?) There are scores of extremist bigot religious figures, however, that have significant influence over the Republican Party. Pat Robertson, with his promotion of New World Order anti-semitic conspiracy theory, springs to mind.

In a fiery speech delivered in Chicago on Feb. 26, Louis Farrakhan attacked"international bankers" for promoting this century's wars so that their "central banks" could collect interest off loans to the combatants. The bankers he singled out for ignominy were Jewish -- the Rothschilds in Europe, and, in America, their alleged agent Paul Warburg.

Does any of this sound familiar? It will to students of the anti-Semitic ravings of Depression-era demagogues. But, far more disturbing, some of Mr. Farrakhan's points might also hit home with the members of the Christian Coalition, who have scooped up more than a half-million copies of their leader Pat Robertson's tome "The New World Order" since its publication in 1991.

Like Mr. Farrakhan, Mr. Robertson overdramatizes Paul Warburg's role as the "true draftsman" and "catalyst" of the sinister U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve, in 1913. Such is Mr. Robertson's fascination with the Rothschilds that he calls The Economist, an independent magazine that once had a Rothschild as its chairman, "the Rothschild publication."

And then there's the overlap of logic.

Farrakhan: "In order to fight a war, governments had to borrow money. They borrowed money from these central banks. The central banks waxed rich because they loaned money and charged interest. . . ."

Robertson: "The money barons of Europe, who had established privately owned central banks like the Bank of England, found in war the excuse to make large loans. . . ."

But it gets better. One of the motivating factors for Timoth McVeigh was that he believed he was striking a blow against the New World Order. Frank Rich, the author of the above editorial, had also noticed the ideological connection between Timothy McVeigh and Pat Robertson in a previous editorial

The prime radio crackpot in proximity to the bombing is Mark ("of Michigan") Koernke, the janitor and short-wave broadcaster who is a favorite of far-right militias in general and, by many accounts, of Timothy McVeigh and the Nichols brothers in particular. Koernke transcripts on the Internet -- as well as his Tuesday interview on "Prime Time Live" -- reveal that his ideas are not only incendiary but mimic the published credos of Pat Robertson, president of the Christian Coalition and a major force within the Republican Party.

Death to the new world order!" is a typical Koernke sign-off. In his conspiratorial view, a new one-world government, the so-called "new world order," threatens to rob Americans of their liberties, most especially the right to bear arms, and bring about "the conversion of the United States into an asset for the United Nations."

Defining "The New World Order" in his book of that title in 1991, Mr. Robertson also asked if it would force "the government of the United States to defer to the United Nations" and warned that "our constitutional right to keep and bear arms would be one of the very first casualties." As Mr. Koernke believes the new world order to be a plot by the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations abetted by George Bush, so Mr. Robertson ominously wrote that "a single thread runs from the [ Bush ] White House to the State Department to the Council on Foreign Relations to the Trilateral Commission. . . ." As Mr. Koernke has said that the Persian Gulf war was a plot "to see whether or not the American people would eat the new world order," so Mr. Robertson speculated that the gulf war was "a setup" for the same subversive purpose.

There are differences of emphasis between these two conspiracy theorists. Mr. Koernke refers only glancingly to Mr. Robertson's now-notorious canards about the role played by Jewish bankers. For his part, Mr. Robertson, writing before Waco, did not include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms among his large web of co-conspirators. But the overall drift is identical: a potentially dictatorial Government is the enemy, and, in Mr. Robertson's words, "the task of good men now will be to fight with all their strength" to counter its threats to liberty.

That last bit from Rich is a bit dishonest, as by that Robertson meant to encourage people to join the Christian Coalition and take over the goverment via non-violent means. But it is beside the point: if you were to apply the standard of guilt by association that Gingrich and the rest are doing to Obama and Democrats then the Republican Party would be far more guilty by association. Once again we see how utterly phony these attacks are, which are not motivated out of principle but out of pure partisanship.

What Gingrich has done is to attempt to invert reality by accusing Democrats of doing the very thing that he and his Republican cohorts do.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Speaking of Huffington ....

Arriana Huffington comments on the Rove-ification of mainstream news.

Fox "News" on Obama

"And then I had this dream that my whole family were just cartoon characters and our success had led to some crazy propaganda network called Fox News." - Bart Simpson

Townhall.com: bastion of internet virtue

Ok, we know that whenever Bill O'Reilly says that Arianna Huffington is "no different" than Nazis he likes to have on someone from Townhall.com to talk about how they make sure not to allow mean and nasty comments like all the liberal blogs do and what not.

Allright, let's play another round of: what's more similar to Nazi hate-mongering?

What's more similar? Individual anonymous commenters saying hateful things about an individual or a site columnist promoting a century old anti-semitic meme about secular/leftist Jews waging war on Christmas?

Witness "The Jewish Grinch Who Stole Christmas" by Bert Prelutsky

And I blame my fellow Jews. When it comes to pushing the multicultural, anti-Christian, agenda, you find Jewish judges, Jewish journalists, and the ACLU, at the forefront...


It is the ACLU, which is overwhelmingly Jewish in terms of membership and funding, that is leading the attack against Christianity in America. It is they who have conned far too many people into believing that the phrase “separation of church and state” actually exists somewhere in the Constitution.
Nothing warms the heart more than seeing someone arguing against his own freedom of conscience (Prelutsky is Jewish and presumably doesn't grasp that it is the concept of church/state separation entailed in the first amendment of the Bill of Rights which guarantees him the freedom to practice his religion without interferance from the state) while concomitantly promulgating bigotry against those of his own religion.

"Écrasez l’infâme!"

(h/t Eric Alterman)

How Malkin-sphere bloggers "think"

You know, after having played a role in putting an innocent man in prison, you would think they might offer some sort of apology. Not Michelle Malkin and friends.

Quote of the day

"The devotion of conservatives to America's military seems to consist, primarily, of two aspects: expressing one's love rhetorically while specifically avoiding service oneself, and refusing to offer appropriate funding or support either for soldiers fighting abroad or wounded veterans returning home." - Eric Alterman, Why We're Liberals

Although I'm not comfortable with the quote's broad stroke (there are plenty of conservatives in the military or who are upset with the administration's treatment of the troops), it does hit home with the Limbaughs and Cheneys of the movement. In fairness to Alterman, however, in the context of the book it's fairly clear that those are the sort of people he's speaking of.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

AP board member Rupert Murdoch set to buy Newsday from AP board member Sam Zell

Maybe we could get some press coverage of the feudalization of journalism? We're seeing fewer and fewer people owning more and more of the media in America.

I flipped to Fox News randomly earlier today and I saw this. Yep, Fox was reporting that "Sir Rupert" doesn't like Democrats.

I'm sure we're going to see nothing but high quality news reporting once "Sir Rupert" takes the helm at Newsday.

Update: George Monbiot on Murdoch's history of obtaining "anticipatory compliance."

Update 2: De ja vu. That's a link to a post I wrote about media consolidation and the danger it is to democracy a year ago, at a time when Murdoch was getting ready to purchase the Wall Street Journal. Add to that commentary this post by Greenwald pointing out that once again our press doesn't seem to mind so much being turned into a propaganda arm of the government, something similar to what I myself wrote about in the first guest post I wrote for Unclaimed Territory two years ago (where as he focuses on the press, I focused on our failure as a society to take corrective measure against the corruption of journalism.)

And while we're at it, I may as well quote from this post, seeing as we still haven't taken corrective measures to prevent the government from lying to us in an effort to subvert democracy

Think about what the purpose of this lie is. Its purpose is to fabricate a reality that will allow officials to institute policy that suits the ideological interests of this administration, while hiding the consequences of that policy from the public, who might not agree to it if they were aware of what the truth of the situtation was. If you consider that for a moment, you can see the germ of every thing that is wrong with this adminstration.

Yet there will be no consequence for this action. No one will be held accountable. Indeed, the public will likely never know, or care to know. But that's the absurdity of it. In a democratic society, shouldn't lies like this be simply intolerable? Shouldn't any individual in government who is caught engaging in such a blatant deceit be shamed into contrition or resignation?

If we tolerate lies that we catch, what kind of incentive does that give people in power to tell the truth? In a previous post about gov't secrecy I quoted Walter Lippman writing in 1919 that "there can be no liberty for a community which lacks the information by which to detect lies." Well, how much liberty can there be for a society which doesn't care about being lied to in the first place?

Quote of the day

"If an autocratic despot is the manacle that chains its society to the wall, our current establishment media dysfunction is the gangrene that slowly robs us of our ability to stand and walk." - Inside-Out the Beltway

President Bush's "progressive" tax cuts

You may recall that I expressed some frustration at Neal Boortz and the NCPA attempting to revise reality to argue that the Bush tax cuts were progressive. It would seem that their economic gaslighting is a variation of a "consistent theme on the right in general and on the [Washington] Journal's editorial page in particular," according to Jonathan Chait in his exceptional The Big Con: The True Story of How Washington Got Hoodwinked and Hijacked by Crackpot Economics.

After mentioning a recent Journal editorial that had argued the tax code had grown more progressive from 1979 to 1999 and another which had stated that a study showed "the [tax] share of the lowest quintile was 1.6 percent, while the share of the highest quintile was 60.2 percent. Karl Marx, call your office," Chait responds

It is true that the very richest have been paying a higher share of the federal tax burden. But that is entirely because they have earned a larger share of the income. In 1979, the highest-earning 0.1 percent took home about 3 percent of the national income and paid about 5 percent of the taxes. In 1999, they earned about ten percent of the national income and paid about 11 percent of the taxes. What this means is that while the share of income held by the richest one thousandth tripled, their share of the tax burden only doubled. Why the discrepancy? Because the average tax rate faced by that grouped dropped from 32 to 23 percent. The reason they're paying more taxes is that their slice of the income pie has grown faster than their tax rate has fallen. The rich are earning a larger and larger share of the income base and paying a lower and lower tax rate on that base. If you have even a passing familiarity with Marx, you probably know that this is not what he had in mind.
What's more

The implication of the conservative argument, then, is that we must cut taxes for the rich as their share of the national income grows. As the economy becomes less equal, we must also make the tax code less equal to keep too large a share of the tax burden from falling on a small group, and they argue this as a matter of social justice.
Chait continues on to rebut the assertion that the tax cuts for the rich were merely a consequence of proportional cuts accross the board

Bush's tax cuts were not merely pared down tax rates in a proportional way up and down the income ladder. They have sharply cut the proportion of taxes paid by those at the top and therefore raised the proportion paid by those elsewhere. There is nothing indiscriminate about it. Let me briefly explain why. You can look at the federal tax code as a kind of layer cake. At the bottom is the payroll tax, used to finance Social Security and Medicare. This tax is a flat rate and covers wage income only up to about $100,000 a year, with all income above that level exempt. This is the most regressive tax imposed by Washington. Above the payroll tax sits the income -tax. The income tax is moderately progressive, exempting low-income workers and making high earners pay a higher rate. On top of that are taxes on capital gains and dividends. These taxes are even more concentrated at the top, since they affect only those who receive lots of income from accumulated wealth. The most progressive tax of all is the estate tax, the bulk of which is paid by a tiny handful of fabulously wealthy heirs.

Compare the layer cake to President Bush's policies. The tax at the bottom, the payroll tax, he has not touched at all. The tax above that, the income tax, he sliced by around a tenth. The taxes just above that, on capital gains and dividends, he cut in half. And the tax at the very top, the estate tax, he abolished altogether (though he has not mustered enough votes to abolish it permanently). Bush's opposition to any given tax is exactly proportional to the degree to which it affects the rich.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Let That Be Your Last Battlefield ...

... is one of my favorite episodes of the original Star Trek series.

Click here to watch it on-line.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Pseudo-doubt is the product of pseudo-skeptics

Slate's Daniel Engber explores the conspiratorial nature of various forms of anti-scientific pseudo-skepticism in "The Paranoid Style in American Science." (h/t Deltoid)

A choice quote that gets to the point succinctly (bold emphasis mine).

What makes this mode of [manufactured uncertainty about established science] thinking so effective—and so prevalent? Like David Berlinski, the doubt-mongers swear by the foundational motto of organized science, first pronounced by the Royal Society of London in 1663: Nullius in verba, "on no man's word." They show a deep commitment to the evidentiary record, always testing the established theories and demanding more data; they attempt to undermine science from within, by aping its vaunted incredulity. But in practice their contrarian mode amounts to something like the opposite of science—a tireless search for nonanswers, a quest for the null hypothesis.

Barry Goldwater's ghost rebukes Newt Gingrich

"If there’s a threat, you have a right to defend society. People will give up all their liberties to avoid that level of threat." - Newt Gingrich

"[W]e would rather die than lose our freedom ... There are ways ... in which we may save both our freedom and our lives; but all such suggestions are meaningless and vain unless we first understand what the objective is. We want to stay alive, of course; but more than that we want to be free." - Barry Goldwater, The Conscience of a Conservative

Friday, April 18, 2008

Radicalism is totally unacceptable. That is, if we can establish a tenuous insignificant link between a prominent Democrat and a (former) radical.

Sean Hannity and the rest of the GOP noise machine are super-duper concerned that presidential candidate Barack Obama might secretly be a communist extremist because he's met former member of the left-wing extremist group Weather Underground William Ayers and didn't punch him in the nose (or something like that.)

As Michelle Malkin put it, this isn't just a smear based on the lame, tired, and slimey stereotype of Democrats being secret communists developed by movement conservative extremists that is trotted out over and over again, it's a matter "of character, truthfulness, and judgment."

Which is why Michellle Malkin and Sean Hannity and Fox News and the rest made such a big deal about the link between David Horowitz and President George W. Bush, as described in Banana Republicans by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber

During the 2000 presidential and congressional elections, every Republican member of the U.S. Congress received a free pamphlet, compliments of Congressman Tom Delay, the party's majority whip. Written by conservative activist David Horowitz, the pamphlet was called The Art of Political War: How Republicans Can Fight to Win. It came with an endorsement on the cover by Karl Rove, the senior adviser to then-candidate George W. Bush. According to Rove, The Art Of Political War was "a perfect pocket guide to winning on the policial battlefield from an experienced warrior." In addition to DeLay's gift to members of Congress, the Heritage Foundation, one of the leading conservative think tanks in Washington, found Horowitz's advice so impressive that it sent another 2,300 copies to conservative activists around the country.

True to its title, The Art of Political War argues that "Politics is war conducted by other means. In political warfare you do not fight just to prevail in an argument, but to destroy the enemy's fighting ability ... In political wars, the aggressor usually prevails." Moreover, "Politics is a war of position. In war there are two sides: friends and enemies. Your task is to define yourself as the friend of as large a constituency as possible compatible with your principles, while defining your opponent as the enemy when ever you can. The act of defining combatants is analogous to the military concept of choosing the terrain of battle. Choose the terrain that makes the fight as easy for you as possible."

This concept of politics as warfare is intimately connected to Horowitz's personal political roots. In the 1960s, he was a militant Marxist and editor of Ramparts, one of the most radical leftist magazines in the United States. He also lent his vocal support to the Black Panther Party, which advocated and practiced armed "self-defense" against what it viewed as the "foreign occupying force" of racist white police. After becoming disillusioned with the Panthers, Horowitz took a hard swing to the right, thereby winning the admiration of the conservatives he used to denounce. His memoir of the 1960s, Destructive Generation, was one of the three books that Karl Rove recommended to George W. Bush in 1993 as Rove began grooming Bush for the presidency. Horowitz has visited personally on several occasions to offer advice, beginning with Bush's days as governor of Texas and continuing during his presidency.

Of course, Horowitz is not the only disillusioned leftist from the sixties. What makes him significant is that his militancy has remained constant, even as his worldview has changed. In a strange way, he remains a Leninist, right down to his appearance (balding, with a Lenin-like goatee.) He even continues to offer Lenin's words as advice. "You cannot cripple an opponent by outwitting him in a political debate," he explains in The Art of Political War. "You can do it only by following Lenin's injunction: 'In political conflicts, the goal is not to refute your opponents argument, but to wipe him from the face of the earth.'"

And the principled opposition to radicalism associated with the power of the presidency is why Malkin, Hannity, Limbaugh et all were so vocal in their protests of Horowitz's creepy efforts to divide the world into "friends and enemies."

Hm. Now where have I heard of someone suggesting that the proper role of a governing regime is to divide the world into "friends and enemies" before. Oh, that's right:

It was the patron philosopher of the Nazi party, Carl Schmitt, who suggested that the state has one essential function: distinguishing friends from enemies. This friend-enemy distinction has two classifying functions: friends make up the members of the national body (based on a number of possible criteria for inclusion and exclusion—race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious and political beliefs) while enemies are targeted for destruction in an effort to rid the state of the inconvenient schisms caused by a pluralistic society.
Obviously, this must be why Sean Hannity is so outraged about Horowitz and why he brings the subject up every single time he talks about (or to) President Bush.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hypocrisy Watch


That's reportedly what conservative movement impresario Grover Norquist describes himself as. Now, can you imagine what the Republican Noise Machine would do if some Democratic mover and shaker was a self-described "Environmental-Leninist" or some such?

Also, when Norquist first came to Washington D.C. his first thought was to compare it to Nazi Germany.

As he drove into the nation's capital after his graduation, Grover was sickened by the sight of the imposing federal buildings, by the very idea that bureaucrats had forcibly taken money from the people to build those marble halls. "Neo-American fascism," he called blocks of federal buildings, "stuff that looks like Albert Speer designed it."

And recall that Norquist believes that the principle underlying the estate tax is the same that caused the Holocaust.

Of course, if someone that is going to play a prominent role in setting the agenda of the Democratic presidential candidate (as Norquist did with Bush and will likely do with McCain) compared D.C. to Nazi Germany, called some policy favored by movement conservatives a road to the Holocaust and described his/her-self as some kind of Leninist we know that Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin and then the mainstream media would ignore it. Right?

Cause, you know, Norquist actually plays a central role in the way that this country is governed. Where as William Ayers is little more than someone that Obama has been cordial with. And we know which story the press considers important.

Michelle Malkin: "Liberal media" Champion

Last night, ABC News hosted what is going to be remembered as one of the most substance free presidential debates in modern American history. Instead of asking the candidates about issues of the day that concern the lives of citizens and the future of the nation the moderators spent the bulk of time asking the candidates to answer the Republican Noise Machine "scandals" that have been circulating the Drudge-Hannity-Limbaugh propaganda axis.

Editor and Publisher's Greg Mitchell writes of this trainwreck

In perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate, ABC News hosts Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous focused mainly on trivial issues as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama faced off in Philadephia.Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the health care and mortgage crises, the overall state of the economy and dozens of other pressing issues had to wait for their few moments in the sun as Obama was pressed to explain his recent "bitter" gaffe and relationship with Rev. Wright (seemingly a dead issue)and not wearing a flag pin, while Clinton had to answer again for her Bosnia trip exaggerations. Then it was back to Obama to defend his slim association with a former '60s radical -- a question that came out of rightwing talk radio and Sean Hannity on TV, but delivered by former Bill Clinton aide Stephanopolous. This approach led to a claim that Clinton's husband pardoned two other '60s radicals. And so on.

More time was spent on all of this than segments on getting out of Iraq and keeping people from losing their homes.
The Washington Post tv critic observed

For the first 52 minutes of the two-hour, commercial-crammed show, Gibson and Stephanopoulos dwelled entirely on specious and gossipy trivia that already has been hashed and rehashed, in the hope of getting the candidates to claw at one another over disputes that are no longer news. Some were barely news to begin with.
And plenty of other bloggers have noticed how horrible the debate was for its failure to promote issues that are actually relevant to the future of democracy in America.

But guess who loved it? That's right. "Liberal media" defender Michelle Malkin

How dare the ABC moderators ask questions about topics that are, you know, topical?

How dare they ask questions that–gasp!–conservatives are asking.

How dare they explore questions of character, truthfulness, and judgment?
See, questions about: that war in that country that we've turned into the terrorist capital of the world, global warming - "the most daunting challenge humanity has ever sought to meet with a united front", the economy, civil liberties, torture, the Yoo Unitary Emperor-in-Chief, etc are "dull."

But perpetuating the same tired character attacks that movement conservatives have scripted about Democrats for the last 40 years? That's exploring "questions of character, truthfulness, and judgement."

Which is why, of course, Michelle Malkin was so adamant about questions of George W. Bush's record in the Texas National Guard or his shady insider trading that got swept under the rugh by his pop's SEC get answered in previous presidential cycles. Unlike the "nutroots" - Michelle Malkin is a woman of principle.

It's understandable that Malkin would be so pleased with this debate, given that character assasination is the m.o. of the conservative movement. It has to be for two reasons:
1. The public at large doesn't agree with the agenda of the conservative movement
2. Movement conservatives have a Manichean world view. If you're not one of them your character is by definition questionable.

Salon has released a timely excerpt of Glenn Greenwald's new book dealing with how the press continues to help the noise machine divert democratic discourse. I'll quote a bit of that in a moment, but just to stress how absolutely rotten this debate was I'll reiterate that one of the "questions" (aka a coordinated conservative movement smear dressed up as a legitimate issue) in the debate came directly from the partisan hack attack dog that is Sean Hannity. Maybe in the next ABC debate they can ask the candidates Rush Limbaugh's question of why Islamofascists are campaigning for them?

Onto the Greenwald excerpt

Leave policy and ideology to the side. Just ignore it. What matters is that Democrats and liberals are weak, effete, elitist, nerdy, military-hating, gender-confused losers, whose men are effeminate, whose women are emasculating dykes, and who merit sneering mockery and derision. Republican right-wing male leaders are salt-of-the-earth, wholesome, likable tough guys -- courageous warriors and normal family men who merit personal admiration and affection.

The Republican Party pioneered by Lee Atwater, Roger Ailes, and Karl Rove will redeploy these same personality-based themes in the 2008 election because it is all they know and, more important, because nothing has yet ended the efficacy of such deceitful strategies. A shallow and gossipy press continues to eat it up.

Indeed, the GOP has been able to pervert our political process this way only because of the indispensable aid of the establishment media, which reflexively views the political landscape through the lens of this GOP-generated mythology.
Update: Greenwald has written a post on this topic, as well.

Last night was a perfect microcosm of how our political process works. The Right creates stupid, petty personality-based attacks to ensure that our elections aren't decided on issues (where they have a decisive disadvantage). Media stars -- some due to sloth, some due to ideology, some due to an eagerness to please the Right and convince them how Good and Fair they are -- eat up the shallow trash they're fed and then spew it out relentlessly, ensuring that our political discourse is overwhelmed by it, our elections dictated by it. That happens over and over. It's how our media and our elections function. Last night was just an unusually transparent and particularly ugly expression of it.
Update 2: This is really starting to upset me the longer it sets in. We've recently had confirmation that the President voided the 4th amendment for the entire nation and yet getting presidential candidates to speak on that issue is of little concern to ABC News, which is more concerned with trying to appease Sean Hannity and his ilk.

A matter of perspective

"The cost of the Bush tax cuts going to just the richest one percent in 2008 (about $79.5 billion) is more than the entire budget for the Department of Education this year ($68 billion), almost twice as much as the entire budget for the Department of Homeland Security this year ($42.3 billion) and over ten times as much as the budget for the Environmental Protection Agency ($7.5 billion)." - Citizens for Tax Justice

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Doubt Is Their Product

I saw this today in the new books section at the book store. The more this message gets out the better:

Doubt is our product," a cigarette executive once observed, "since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy."

In this eye-opening exposé, David Michaels reveals how the tobacco industry's duplicitous tactics spawned a multimillion dollar industry that is dismantling public health safeguards. Product defense consultants, he argues, have increasingly skewed the scientific literature, manufactured and magnified scientific uncertainty, and influenced policy decisions to the advantage of polluters and the manufacturers of dangerous products. To keep the public confused about the hazards posed by global warming, second-hand smoke, asbestos, lead, plastics, and many other toxic materials, industry executives have hired unscrupulous scientists and lobbyists to dispute scientific evidence about health risks. In doing so, they have not only delayed action on specific hazards, but they have constructed barriers to make it harder for lawmakers, government agencies, and courts to respond to future threats.

The Orwellian strategy of dismissing research conducted by the scientific community as "junk science" and elevating science conducted by product defense specialists to "sound science" status also creates confusion about the very nature of scientific inquiry and undermines the public's confidence in science's ability to address public health and environmental concerns Such reckless practices have long existed, but Michaels argues that the Bush administration deepened the dysfunction by virtually handing over regulatory agencies to the very corporate powers whose products and behavior they are charged with overseeing.

In Doubt Is Their Product Michaels proves, beyond a doubt, that our regulatory system has been broken. He offers concrete, workable suggestions for how it can be restored by taking the politics out of science and ensuring that concern for public safety, rather than private profits, guides our regulatory policy.
The home site - DefendingScience.org - is worth checking out, as well.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pay attention to who we smear, not what we do

Karl Rove and Sean Hannity and Bill Kristol think Obama is a Marxist (and so does Glenn Beck). Brit Hume and Charles Krauthammer think so, too.

Why? Because Obama said that there are rural working class Americans who have grown bitter over an economy and a government that has left them behind; and that they have turned to religion or guns or scapegoating as an means of filling the vaccuum left by the lack of a meaningful and responsive civic realm.

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate, and they have not."

And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or anti-trade sentiment, as a way to explain their frustrations.
For this Obama is being smeared (with help from the Clinton campaign) with the prepackaged conservative movement memes that he's an elitist and a communist and what not.

The message that needs to be said over and over again is this: they are full of shit. Because you don't see those same folks being indignant and outraged over the Straussian view of religion

There is a certain irony in the fact that the chief guru of the neoconservatives is a thinker who regarded religion merely as a political tool intended for the masses but not for the superior few. Leo Strauss, the German Jewish émigré who taught at the University of Chicago almost until his death in 1973, did not dissent from Marx’s view that religion is the opium of the people; but he believed that the people need their opium. He therefore taught that those in power must invent noble lies and pious frauds to keep the people in the stupor for which they are supremely fit.
So, unlike Obama - who did not say anything about religion being true or false but said citizens who feel left out by our political process will look insulate themselves with religion - neoconservatives disbelieve in religion but feel it is a valuable tool to manipulate the public with.

Why aren't Sean Hannity and Karl Rove and Brit Hume asking questions about the elitist views of Bill Kristol's dad

Kristol has acknowledged his intellectual debt to Strauss in a recent autobiographical essay. "What made him so controversial within the academic community was his disbelief in the Enlightenment dogma that `the truth will make men free.'" Kristol adds that "Strauss was an intellectual aristocrat who thought that the truth could make some [emphasis Kristol's] minds free, but he was convinced that there was an inherent conflict between philosophic truth and political order, and that the popularization and vulgarization of these truths might import unease, turmoil and the release of popular passions hitherto held in check by tradition and religion with utterly unpredictable, but mostly negative, consequences."

Kristol agrees with this view. "There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people," he says in an interview. "There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn't work."
I must cut Sean Hannity some slack, however. Hannity isn't an amoral Machiavellian such as Karl Rove who is perfectly happy to use religion and the evangelical leaders he reportedly called "the nuts" as a political tool. No, Hannity is just a witless authoritarian follower and partisan hack who attacks which ever Democrat is on the sheet of paper he's gotten from his producers; Hannity also has an ability which is key to his success as a Fox News pundit and radio personality - he has an unlimited capacity for self-blindness, double standard, and hypocrisy.

Glenn Greenwald's new book - Great American Hypocrites - couldn't be timed more perfectly.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Thinking about stuff

Steven Pinker gives a talk about his most recent book The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature.

From the TED description

In an exclusive preview of his new book, The Stuff of Thought, Steven Pinker looks at language, and the way it expresses the workings of our minds. By analyzing common sentences and words, he shows us how, in what we say and how we say it, we're communicating much more than we realize.

You've got to be kidding me

Rupert Murdoch joins the board of directors for the Associated Press.

It is truly both remarkable and perverse how such things occur with little to no public discussion.

Speaking of which ...

P.S. You know, recalling yesterday's post about the linguist Nunberg, this sort of thing goes a long ways towards making his point about how the term "elite" has been robbed of its meaning by the conservative movement, which is always talking about "liberal elites" and the "liberal media" - but here we see that the true elites are the Rupert Murdochs of the world who sit in on the board of directors of what is supposed to be one of the bastions of the mythical liberal media. (Michelle Malkin calls the AP the"Associated with terrorists Press".)

The sociologist C. Wright Mills addressed this kind of interlocking set of powerful interests across the top of society half a century ago in The Power Elite.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Creepy quote of the day

"I'm more of a man than any liberal." - Ann Coulter

By Coulter's conservative movement Cult of Masculinity (il)logic, one is "manly" by virtue of being a movement conservative. So fat geeks like Karl Rove or fat slobs like Rush Limbaugh are more "manly" than war veterans like John Kerry or Max Cleland.

Although George Lakoff is better known, the linguist Geoffrey Nunberg has given a more penetrating analysis of the way that the conservative movement attempts to (and has largely succeeded at) capturing our political discourse in order to claim a monopoly on such things as manliness or patriotism. Skimming the link above I noticed a commenter provided the link to the excellent hour long discussion featured below from Nunberg about his equally excellent Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show.

NPR interviewed Nunberg about his book (which hasn't gotten the attention that it should in my opinion - or perhaps I missed it while I was gone from blogging?) and provided an excerpt, here.

You might be a science geek if ...

You think the above map from "The Statistical Neuroanatomy of Frontal Networks in the Macaque" of "interconnections of frontal reward and decision-making networks with sensory, limbic, and motor systems" is awesome (I do.)

h/t The Loom

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Daily Show pays tribute to the "balance" of Fox News

"We have a ludicrous amount of flags. Get used to it."

President Bush was aware his team was choreographing torture methods

Color me not surprised.

And yet they dared blame "a few bad apples" for the lawlessness of the abuse at Abu Ghraib.

Via Glenn Greenwald

What should Sean Hannity do?

Sean Hannity is supposed to be a Christian, but seeing as he seems to have deified Ronald Reagan, I'm not sure that he hasn't become some kind of off-shoot sect onto himself (or at least with a few other Church of Reagan members.) Which got me thinking ...

Hannity, worshipping Ronald Reagan as he does, regularly asks as a Christian might of their chosen savior: What would Reagan do?

And I'm surprised the answer hasn't occurred to the credulous Hannity, who always runs features about the supernatural and what not on his Sunday program*. He should bring on, as did Fox and Friends, John Edwards so he can speak to Reagan and give Hannity the beyond the grave guidance that he so desires.

*My all time favorite being when he had on a man who claimed to have traveled to Hell and back. The segment expressed zero skepticism.

Friday, April 11, 2008

On Jewish fundamentalism

We're fairly familiar with Christian and Muslim fundamentalism, but with Jewish fundamentalism, less so. Tim Callahan reviews Bondage of the Mind: How Old Testament Fundamentalism Shackles the Mind and Enslaves the Spirit by R.D. Gold for eSkeptic.

Most of us involved with issues of critical thinking are accustomed to dealing with what we think of as fundamentalism, which implies specifically Christian fundamentalism. Bondage of the Mind deals, specifically, with Jewish fundamentalism. Just as evangelicalism, and particularly evangelical fundamentalism, is a potent force in Christianity, so too is modern Orthodox Judaism a potent force among Jews today.

Orthodox Judaism, like fundamentalist Christianity, claims to be the only valid form of Judaism. In the process of evangelizing Jews, particularly Jewish youth, it refers to Jews who switch their allegiance from Reform Judaism to Orthodox Judaism as returnees.
Continue reading ...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

"We have to solve the democracy crisis"

Al Gore speaks about the need for not only active citizen participation but a political leadership willing and ready to confront - in the words of Nature - "the most daunting challenge humanity has ever sought to meet with a united front."

h/t Island of Doubt

More fun with the O'Reilly Rule

Ok, we know one of O'Reilly's favorite things to do is to call Daily Kos or HuffingtonPost hate sites "no different" than Nazis or the KKK.

Allright, now lets consider the Family Research Council. The FRC is one of the groups that O'Reilly has designated as being part of "traditional" America and representatives from the Council appear regularly on the Factor.

And yet the VP of FRC wants to export gays from America because "homosexuality is destructive to society."

So in O'Reilly's up is down universe, commenters at a site he has designated as Secular-Progressive saying mean or cruel things about a particular person makes the site owner, writers, and all of its actual content just like the Nazis, but the VP of a designated "traditional" organization can say that the entire of category of humans who are homosexual should be deported so that they don't destroy society and that's find and dandy.

Another favorite routine is for O'Reilly to bring on someone from Townhall.Com to talk about how unhinged and nasty the commenters are at Daily Kos and HuffingtonPost and how Townhall.Com in contrast does not allow such hate which is in O'Reilly opinion "no different" than the hate-mongering of Nazis.

A couple of weeks ago, Townhall.com featured - along with several other prominent conservative websites - Pat Buchanan's syndicated column "A Brief for Whitey." Here's an excerpt

Barack says we need to have a conversation about race in America.

Fair enough. But this time, it has to be a two-way conversation. White America needs to be heard from, not just lectured to.

This time, the Silent Majority needs to have its convictions, grievances and demands heard. And among them are these:

First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people [Blogger's Note - This is a revisionary figure that is off by millions], brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.
After that Buchanan continues on to rail about how whites have done so much for blacks but have been repaid with black racism against whites and what not.

This is familiar rhetoric for me - I hear it on a regular basis from white supremacists. But don't take my word for it: let's take a look at some of the responses that this article got at the white supremacist website Stormfront (you can find it with Google) which is full of Nazi worshipping racists and fans of former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke.

  • For a minute there, I thought I was reading an article from Dr. Duke. It's been some time since Buchanan has been that blunt and strong about race and I've read his articles since the 80's. He's had plenty before, but its been a while since the whole, blunt, unapologetic truth was told; as in, MASSIVE rape of White women by these filthy, savage negro BEASTS!! that infest our land.
  • I always thought of him as being a just a good conservative for our side, rather than a secret White Nationalist. Lately though, he seems to be much more outspoken about racial issues. I give him a lot of credit for saying what he feels he can get away with in these ultra PC times we're living through. If only more conservatives would speak up that would be just great.
  • Jesus, he is my new hero. I have never heard Pat this hard hitting before. His articles are always good, but this one is a grand slam. We really need to get this article out to Joe Six-Pack, no matter how deluded he is, this article would really hit home with almost any white male.
  • Mr. Buchanan should run for office again, but this time ask Dr. Duke to be his running mate, what do you say Dr. Duke, duty calls? Mr. Buchanan should now come out andspeak the truth about the zionist stranglehold over our nation!
  • Pat Buchanan has injected a huge amount of truth, and reality to the discussion, and has in essence......just gave every person who shares our [White Nationalist] concerns, yet feels intimated to speak out or act, a template to work from in the fight to expose the truth! I urge everyone to repost his article to everyone you know, and everywhere you can...........Pat Buchanan started this fire........let's make it an inferno!
  • Whites are beginning to wake up (at least the worthy ones are) Katrina/New Orleans, the Duke "rape" fiasco, Channon/Chris murders, crazy violent black preachers and professors calling for our extermination, etc..
  • Negroes: just another evolutionary cul-de-sac, and if not for White man's charity would be part of the ash heap of history.The sooner this genetically failed species goes for the big chimp out, the better; more White eyes will opened... what the hell, they're pretty long overdue for a riot.
  • Buchanan's column today was awesome. He debunked the mainsteam media myth of Obama being "above race" and showed that Obama is a typical negro grevience monger politician. He also mentioned that whites are victimzed 100 fold by blacks than vice-versa, which will come as a suprise to many in the politically correct world. He asked rhetorically are whites responsible for this? Hell no, White America isn’t responsible. Something must be done to stop the U.S. govt from raiding our pockets to subsidize the negro experience of criminality and immorality. They don’t have these problems nearly as much in the Nordic countries (only among the Muslims, and smaller black communities, all on a much smaller scale). Whites need to wake up and join the White Nationalist movement, to stop this massive threat to Judeo-Christian values, our livelihoods and our society as a whole.

So, again, the comments at HuffingtonPost saying insenstive/hateful things about a particular person make Arianna Huffington a Nazi and Townhall.com is held up as the model of internet decorum despite featuring white supremacist propaganda which is cheered on by actual Nazis.

"Écrasez l’infâme!"

At Fox "News" Up literally is Down

Via Media Matters

On the April 4 edition of Fox News' America's Pulse, host E.D. Hill falsely claimed, in a teaser for an upcoming segment, that "the U.N. [United Nations] says the planet may actually cool off for the 10th year in a row." Later on, during a discussion of the issue with Greg Gutfeld, host of Fox News' Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld, Hill similarly stated: "U.N. meteorologists now saying that we could have, for the 10th year in a row, a colder year, temperatures ... decreasing, not warming, getting colder." But Hill offered no source for her assertion that "U.N. meteorologists" say that temperatures could decrease "for the 10th year in a row," and in fact, global mean temperatures, as measured in two widely used data sets, have not decreased in each of the past 10 years. Moreover, according to those data sets' producers, the data continue to show a long-term warming trend.
Heck, if O'Reilly and Hannity get to make shit up at will without consequence Fox may as well let everyone else do it. Maybe they should bring on John Edwards again for some expert testimony: E.D. Hill can ask him if he can communicate with the ghosts of the people who are likely to die as a result of increasing global temperatures - he can then debunk global warming as soundly as he did Terry Schiavo being in a persistent vegitative state.

Perhaps, E.D. Hill has some form of ideological dyslexia where she looks at a graph like this and sees the opposite of what is on the graph?

Quote of the day

"This propaganda production would make Joseph Goebbels proud." - Michael Shermer, reviewing Ben Stein's anti-evolution film Expelled

Another review at Scientific American (h/t Lippard Blog) also pointed out the shameless/clueless nature of Stein's propaganda.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Anti-science off sets

Alonzo Fyfe at Atheist Ethicist has come up with an idea to help off-set the damage that Ben Stein's Intelligent Design Creationism propaganda film may do to scientific literarcy in America.

I would like challenge each of my readers to buy a "Truth Ticket" related to the movie "Expelled"

A "Truth Ticket" is a donation, equal to the value of a movie ticket (let's just assume $10 as a nice round number), sent to the National Center for Science Education.
Link to NCSE Donations Page

You can make a donation only, without joining, by selecting the "Donation Only" option at the bottom of the membership/donations page.

Everybody who actually buys a ticket to the movie is contributing to the funding of ignorance in America, and to the suffering that results from people making plans based on ignorance and superstition. So, I think that it is important that, for every person who contributes to dumbing down America by buying a ticket to this movie, it is important that somebody, somewhere, purchase an offset "Truth Ticket", and send it to the National Center for Science Education, which is involved in countering the malicious and pernicious effects of those behind the movie "Expelled".
I would also suggest being able to articulate concisely to people why Intelligent Design is stealth creationism. With the quickest route being to point out the Wedge Document and the fact that the Of Pandas and People Intelligent Design text was originally a creationist text, but after the Supreme Court ruled against teaching creationism in biology the book's editors simply went through the book and replaced mentions of "creation" with "intelligent design."

Of course, you might also want to be familiar with the reasons that IDCreationism is not science. And if you do know someone interested in seeing Expelled you might suggest as a (free) alternative watching the on-line version of that award winning Nova special Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on Trial.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Quote of the day

"Men are rather reasoning than reasonable animals, for the most part governed by the impulse of passion." - Alexander Hamilton

About that al Qaeda in Iraq

When I responded to Tony Snow's misinformation about the nature of the conflict in Iraq I pointed out how deceptive it is to frame the Iraqi conflict as the U.S. fighting al Qaeda. This Bill Moyers Journal segment from last summer says the same thing but in greater detail and from people who have expertise on the subject.

Monday, April 07, 2008


I keep getting visitors from this site which linked to this post. Apparently, someone read that post and was able to conclude it "show[s] the proof that global warming is nothing more than just a bunch of hot air (pun intended)."

Quote of the day

"Glib, contemptuous, ignorant, incurious, a dupe of anyone who humors his deluded belief in his heroic self, he has bankrupted the country with his disastrous war and his tax breaks for the rich, trampled on the Bill of Rights, appointed foxes in every henhouse, compounded the terrorist threat, turned a blind eye to torture and corruption and a looming ecological disaster, and squandered the rest of the world’s goodwill. In short, no other president’s faults have had so deleterious an effect on not only the country but the world at large." - An historian on George W. Bush (h/t Digby)

An observation

As I sit staring at the latest column of neoconservative propaganda masquerading as opinion from William Kristol in the New York Times, it's hard not to observe how narrow and restricted the range of American political discourse is. Here we have what is the most demonized paper in the world of the conservative movement giving space to one of the most ideological leaders of that conservative movement despite his very serious credibility problems. And yet it is unthinkable that the Times would employ someone who is the ideological equivalent of Kristol but not from the conservative movement - can you imagine Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn in the pages of the paper?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The torture team

Phillip Sands writes in Vanity Fair about the team of lawyers who created the pseudo-legal framework for this administration's torture policies in violation of US and international law.

As the first anniversary of 9/11 approached, and a prized Guantánamo detainee wouldn’t talk, the Bush administration’s highest-ranking lawyers argued for extreme interrogation techniques, circumventing international law, the Geneva Conventions, and the army’s own Field Manual. The attorneys would even fly to Guantánamo to ratchet up the pressure—then blame abuses on the military. Philippe Sands follows the torture trail, and holds out the possibility of war crimes charges.

Quote of the day

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself -- and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that." - Richard Feynman, "Cargo Cult Science"

Saturday, April 05, 2008

American media dares us not to think, not to care about the destruction of our most cherished political values

I confess I had recent revelations about the President having decided - against all possible reality - that the 4th Amendment doesn't apply to "domestic military operations" and another memo linking this adminstration to torture and lawlessness in mind when I made this the quote of the day.

Instead of informing the American public that their president believes the Constitution gives him the authority to use the armed forces to violate the Constitutionally guaranteed liberties of US citizens - a vision that would be a nightmare to the framers of the Constitution - and that the abuses of Abu Ghraib that his administration tried to scapegoat on "a few bad apples" resulted directly from the pseudo-legal framework created by his authoritarian lawyers it is concerned with trivial nonsense and noise machine smears.

Every day, it becomes more difficult to blame George Bush, Dick Cheney and comrades for their seven years (and counting) of crimes, corruption and destruction of our political values. Think about it this way: if you were a high government official and watched as -- all in a couple of weeks time -- it is revealed, right out in the open, that you suspended the Fourth Amendment, authorized torture, proclaimed yourself empowered to break the law, and sent the nation's top law enforcement officer to lie blatantly about how and why the 9/11 attacks happened so that you could acquire still more unchecked spying power and get rid of lawsuits that would expose what you did, and the political press in this country basically ignored all of that and blathered on about Obama's bowling score and how he eats chocolate, wouldn't you also conclude that you could do anything you want, without limits, and know there will be no consequences? What would be the incentive to stop doing all of that?

More America haters raise concerns over extended troop tours

Via the New York Times

Army leaders are expressing increased alarm about the mental health of soldiers who would be sent back to the front again and again under plans that call for troop numbers to be sustained at high levels in Iraq for this year and beyond.

Obviously, these army leaders hate America.

What would Bill O'Reilly have to do to be taken off the air? Is there any level of absurdity whatsoever that he can fall to that would upset his employers at Fox?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Quote of the day

"Let us tenderly and kindly cherish ... the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write. Let every order and degree among the people rouse their attention and animate their resolution." - John Adams, "A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law" (1765)

Speaking of O'Reilly ...

Here's a game:

Can anyone spot what is missing from O'Reilly's Talking Points last night commenting on the movie Stop Loss that might be relevant to a commentary about the movie?

Apparently the staff of the O'Reilly Factor have allready failed to notice what is missing.

Scroll to Highlight the Answer: O'Reilly does not address in any way, shape or form what the content of the movie is or is about.

The O'Reilly Rule

The O'Reilly Rule: If Bill O'Reilly criticizes someone for something, odds are favorable he's done that very thing but worse.

Case in point:

O'Reilly likes to say that the press is "in the tank" for Barack Obama; that the "S-P" media is biased for Democrats. That's coming from a guy who works for a network that is difficult to distinguish from the Republican Party, e.g. "Fox contributor" Karl Rove.

More directly, former Fox News employee turned White House press secretary turned regular Fox News Radio Factor guest host Tony Snow has lately been on O'Reilly's radio show making up shit about Obama.

Guest-hosting the March 28 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor, former White House press secretary Tony Snow distorted Sen. Barack Obama's voting record, falsely claiming that "since [Obama has] been in the United States Senate, he has voted present more often than any other member of the Senate." According to The Washington Post congressional vote database, Obama has never voted present during his time in the U.S. Senate, unlike other senators. Snow also claimed that Obama "has described" Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, who recently retired as pastor at Obama's church, Trinity United Church of Christ, "as one of his key political advisers, and he said that he didn't make any key political decision without consulting him"; in fact, Obama has specifically stated that Wright "has never been my political advisor; he's been my pastor."
This is in addition to the previous bullshit that Snow had made up about Obama on the Radio Factor. That being several weeks ago when Snow said that Obama believes if we pull our troops home and quit fighting [in Iraq] al Qaeda will leave us alone. The number of falsehoods contained in that are staggering:

1. Obama does not believe that al Qaeda will cease to a problem if we simply bring our troops home [from Iraq.]

2. One of the very specific reasons Obama wants to withdraw troops from Iraq is so that we actually have the resources necessary to concentrate fighting al Qaeda where they actually are.

3.The al Qaeda in Iraq is a franchise of the seperate and distinct al Qaeda that attacked us on 9/11. It is able function in Iraq because Iraq is a failed state. Obama believes that withdrawing troops from Iraq will facilitate the political process in Iraq that will stabilize the country. This is not the same thing as believing al Qaeda will lay down their weapons once the US leaves.

4. Snow acts as if the fighting in Iraq is the U.S.A. versus al Qaeda when in reality al Qaeda could completely cease to exist this very instant and the sectarian chaos in Iraq would continue on.

It really is amazing how members of the conservative movement leader cult like Snow seem to have a limitless ability to distort reality for ideological ends.

I have more examples of the O'Reilly Rule in action (in addition to several other posts I'd hope to finish) but I'm feeling a bit sick at the moment.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Quote of the day

Via Kevin Drum

"It continues to astound me how focused conservative thinkers are on purely subjective factors as key influences on events in the world. Does it really make sense to think that the main thing we should worry about is that al-Qaeda operatives will get bolder? (for the thousandth time, they seem pretty bold already) The Iraq War is, in an objective sense, squandering American resources and degrading the operational effectiveness of the U.S. security services while also, in an objective sense, bolstering al-Qaeda manpower. This sort of thing — the impact of our policies on the real world — seems much more important to me than the subjective emotional state of hard-core killers." - Mathew Yglesias

Excerpt of the day

But if you look at the [Medieval] warm centuries with a global perspective, the wide incidence of drought is truly striking and offers a sobering message about tomorrow's world. Prolonged aridity was widepread in medieval times and killed enormous numbers of peope. Evidence is mounting that drought is the silent and insidious killer associated with global warming. The casualty figures are mind numbing. About 11 million people between Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea were in serious danger of starvation as a result of multiyear droughts in 2006. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria estimates that by 2010 around 300 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, nearly a third of the population, will suffer from malnutrition because of intensifying drought ...

The long-term future is even more alarming. A study by Britain's authoritative Hadley Center for Climate Change documents a 25 percent increase in global drought during the 1990s, which produced well documented population losses. The Hadley's computer models of future aridity resulting from the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions are truly frightening. At present, extreme drought affects 3 percent of the earth's surface. The figure could rise as high as 30 percent if warming continues, with 40 percent suffering from severe droughts, up from the current figure of 8 percent. Fifty percent of the world's land would expereince moderate drought, up from the present of 25 percent. Then the center ran the model without factoring in the impact of greenhouse gases, which they assumed were the temperature change villans. The results implied that future changes in drought without anthropogenic warming would be very small indeed.

In human terms, the United Nations Environment Program reports that 450 million people in twenty-nine countries currently suffer from water shortages. By 2025, an estimated 2.8 billion of us will live in areas with increasingly scarce water resources.
-- Brian Fagan, The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations

It's only news if you can link the radical religious figure to a Democrat running for president

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