Saturday, May 31, 2008

Update for the New American Newspeak Dictionary

Today's update for the New American Newspeak Dictionary is:

Left-wing hater: Any individual, regardless of where their views fall across the political spectrum, who (in many cases) accurately criticizes the policies of a Republican president.

See here for the explanation.

About that imagining ...

"If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence.” — Bertrand Russell, Proposed Roads to Freedom

In a post a while back I quoted an excerpt from Tom Fenton's Bad News in which he recounts the testimony of Florida Dept. of Agriculture loan officer Johnell Bryant claiming to have been visited by Mohammed Atta in May 2001. Fenton had used this as an example of how better and more substantial news can contribute to American security.

Yesterday I mentioned this story in a comment at Glenn Greenwald's blog and someone expressed skepticism of the story. After looking into it, I see that Fenton apparently got his dates wrong. The transcript of the interview conducted by ABC with Bryant shows Bryant claiming to have met with Atta between April and May of 2000.

That would be at odds with the timeline established by the 9/11 Commission Report which has Atta out of the United States at the time Bryant claims to have met with him (although Atta was in Florida in May 2001.) The Bryant/Atta incident is also absent from the report.

I wish I could sort the story out definitively one way or the other but I can't seem to find confirmation or retraction or much commentary on it what so ever other than people pointing out that Bryant's story doesn't match the timeline.*

Fenton's over-all point about the need for real news instead of sensational junk news is still valid, but the Bryant/Atta example appears to be dubious. I'll see if I can track down contact info for Fenton so that I might query him about this ...

If my prejudice against the mainstream media hadn't over-rided by skepticism I might have avoided this error in the first place.

*One might suggest that this in itself is a reflection of the quality of our news and the lack of significant journalism being done. When it comes to the death of Anna Nicole Smith and her son the media left no stone unturned.

Quote of the day

"Those who view history as an all-encompassing struggle between God and the Devil may find it natural to regard political opponents as agents of Lucifer." - Joe Conason & Gene Lyson, The Hunting of the President

Which is why Manicheans like Sean Hannity and Michelle Malkin think "liberals" are Evil that Americans need to be delivered by God (or his emmissary) from. History tends to show us that people looking to be "delivered" from an intrasociety out-group defined as Evil is a dangerous road to head down.

Friday, May 30, 2008

"Left-wing haters"

Via Glenn Greenwald, we see that "left-wing haters" is now the label that is used to describe critics of the Bush administration who "have been proven empirically in many cases." Hats off to Mike Allen, for a rhetorical sleight-of-hand that would impress even Bill O'Reilly if he had the capacity to acknowledge there being such a thing as an accurate Bush critic.

Speaking of which, why is it that NBC is a "radical far left" organization - which is owned by the anti-capitalist Marxists at GE who build weapons for the US government and who ordered their employees to report uncritically of the Bush administration's push for war with Iraq (and fired those that didn't inspite of whatever rating success they had) and which still has not acknowledged any wrongdoing in participating in a Pentagon propaganda program and who's lead anchor thinks Rush Limbaugh is great and that Peggy Noonan should get a Pulitzer - when it has on someone who criticizes the White House for proven deception regarding Iraq and the outing of Valerie Plame, but it isn't a "right-wing" network when it has on Ann Coulter 195 times to promote her books in which she tells us stuff like the "governing principle" of liberals "is to always kill human life (unless the human life being killed is likely to fly a plane into American skyscrapers, in which case, it is wrong to kill it.)"?

Why is that? Because Fox News has unleashed - as it promised MSNBC executives it would - O'Reilly on NBC so that he can engage in a massive campaign of ego-justification. If he can convince himself and his audience that there is a "vast left-wing conspiracy" with MSNBC at the center then maybe he won't have to think about all the criticism and ridicule he keeps getting from Olbermann and everyone else.

The ACLU hates Christians

Which is obviously why it files lawsuits to protect the rights of Christians.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Buried in books

"This book is donated in recognition of the First Amendment rights of all Americans." - Anonymous

That is the dedication written in the copy of The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie that I bought the other day at the sale at the local Communist re-education center (aka the public library.) For a grand total of ten dollars I was able to get ten hardcovers:

Empire by Gore Vidal

Creation by Gore Vidal

The Hunting of the President by Joe Conason and Gene Lyons

State of War by James Risen

Armed Madhouse by Greg Palast

Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe

Disarming Iraq by Hans Blix

The Cousin's War by Kevin Phillips

Diderot's Selected Writings edited by Lester Crocker

I've already read State of War but I couldn't resist having a copy on hand, as I think it's an example of excellent journalism. I was particularly pleased to have the opportunity to rescue Disarming Iraq - the book was published in '04 and it has been in the library for at least two years but it has the appearance of being brand new (complete with new book smell and stiff binding.) I would be surprised to hear that it had ever been checked out.

Besides being busy flipping through these new aquisitions, I've been trying to finish off several other books that I'm nearly finished reading which has pushed back the book reviews I'd been working on for a few days or so.

Update: Make that 12 books for a total of $11.50. I went back yesterday and picked up a hardcover copy of Tempting Faith by David Kuo and a paperback edition of Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain.

What he said

John Cole on the RNC trying to depict Obama as unfit for president because of his having confused Buchenwald with Auschwitz.

Michelle Malkin is not a fascist

Last night, Keith Olbermann named Dunkin Donuts Worst Person for having pulled its Rachel Ray ad after it received criticism from the likes of Malkin and Little Green Footballs, and he criticized DD for bowing to pressure from "fascists" like Malkin. This is wrong and counterproductive.

Olbermann was using fascist as an epithet. Michelle Malkin is a fairly despicable person, but she is not a fascist. To call her so clouds the meaning of the word and turns it into a cheap insult.

Olbermann should have simply said what he meant: Malkin is an intolerant authoritarian (and/or a pseudo-fascist.)

On message

You gotta give it to them, the folks at Fox News sure do no how to smear someone on message. If I believed in such a thing I would say this is karma for McClellan having been part of that smear machine for 3 years. See here, for instance

Well, why, all of a sudden, if he had all these grave concerns, did he not raise these sooner? This is one-and-a-half years after he left the administration. And now, all of a sudden, he's raising these grave concerns that he claims he had. And I think you have to look at some of the facts. One, he is bringing this up in the heat of a presidential campaign. He has written a book and he certainly wants to go out there and promote that book. Certainly let's look at the politics of it.
That's McClellan on Richard Clarke's book that revealed that the White House team had been focusing - at the expense of not focusing on terrorism - on how to remove Saddam from day 1 in office.

McClellan has hinted that it's difficult for loyalists like himself to see reality when they're in the administration. That's why I'm not surprised the White House (and its extension at Fox News) is "puzzled" by McClellan's book. Of course they are. They live in an epistemic fun house of mirrors where all they see is their own views and opinions reflected back at them over and over again.

This process is best described by Nazi Albert Speer who experienced it in its most extreme manifestation

In normal circumstances people who turn their backs on reality are soon set straight by the mockery and criticism of those around them, which makes them aware they have lost credibility. In the Third Reich there were no such correctives, especially for those who belonged to the upper stratum. On the contrary, every self-deception was multiplied as in a hall of distorting mirrors, becoming a repeatedly confirmed picture of a fanstastical dream world which no longer bore any relationship to the grim outside world. In these mirrors I could see nothing but my own face reproduced many times over.

Bill O'Reilly has become completely untethered from reality

I guess between being mocked regularly in prime time by Keith Olberman and being mocked for his insane explosion behind the scenes at Inside Edition O'Reilly has completely lost it. Just listen to this ridiculous rant

All right. Be that as it may, the really interesting part of this story is the vast left-wing conspiracy in the media. Scott McClellan knows he's going to find plenty of sympathetic ears in the press. There's no doubt about it.

Since Iraq went south, a number of media vehicles have turned sharply left. We know about NBC News. And now we're seeing Newsweek magazine go crazy. Since John Meacham took over as editor, Newsweek has trashed Mother Teresa, hired the hateful founder of the Daily Kos, provided a cadre of far-left commentators to NBC, and generally lost all journalistic credibility. The result is that Newsweek's circulation is collapsing, down 11 percent in less than a year.

But — and this is important — there's no media counter for NBC News, Newsweek, The New York Times and dozens of other committed-left media. There's no right-wing media conspiracy. Conservatives generally aren't crazy about John McCain.
Says the guy who works for Fox News, a network run by a Republican political operative and former producer of Rush Limbaugh's tv show. A network that has hired Karl Rove* to offer "analysis" on a regular (indeed, nightly) basis. And yep, no counter to the "left-media" (aka media that isn't an arm of the GOP like Fox). Certainly not on the AM radio, you won't find any right-wing media there. And not at the Washington Times ... Also, nevermind establishment "Liberal Media" figures Mark Halperin and John Harris writing that "Matt Drudge rules our world."

Where do you even start to respond to someone this detached from reality as we know it - what he refers to as "the far left." He actually called MSNBC a "radical far left" organization last night.

Let's think about this for a second. The New York Times has William Kristol working for it. CNN HN has Glenn Beck. MSNBC hired Michael Savage after it fired Phil Donahue. Is there anything equivalent to this going on at Fox News or any of the other Murdoch owned media? Hell no. They'd have to hire Howard Zinn; or fire Hannity and replace him with Randi Rhodes. This is just pure lunancy on O'Reilly's part: does he not remember the ABC News debate where Obama had to answer questions fed to the moderator by Sean Hannity? Who in there right mind expects Fox News to host a debate and have one of the moderators ask a question fed to them by - hell, I don't even know who a left-wing equivalent in the media to Sean Hannity would be ... heck, let's say - Randi Rhodes?

And how stupid is this guy? "Conservatives" aren't crazy about John McCain because they are right-wing extremists who think he's TOO LIBERAL.

*Karl Rove being hired by Newsweek is also part of its left-wing tilt, apparently.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What he said

'How much longer can this preposterous myth be sustained when even the [former] White House Spokesman not only mocks the phrase [liberal media] but derides the media for being "too deferential" to the right-wing Government "in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during [his] years in Washington"?' - Glenn Greenwald (also see this post for more on the "liberal media")

The instant I heard of McClellan's book I new what the scripted response would be from Bush loyalists who reiterate the same rationalization everytime someone leaves the Bush administration and then says something critical of it. Think Progress confirms that it is indeed the same as always for Bush loyalists.

Quote of the day

"smaismrmilmepoetaleumibunenugttauiras" - Galileo

The above is a Latin anagram written by Galileo in 1610 and meant to make sure no one would steal a yet unpublished discovery. Once decoded, it translates to: "I have observed the highest planet to be triple-bodied." Galileo was referring to Saturn, which appeared to him to have two moons on its left and right. Galileo had observed the rings of Saturn without realizing it. Their appearance as two companion bodies was a consequence of his telescopes poor resolution.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

In an Alternate Universe, mainstream pundits issue apology

Michael Berube offers a dispatch from an alternate universe in which "liberal" pundits learn from their mistakes and apologize for attacking bloggers critical of the Bush administration and/or the Iraq war in language difficult to distinguish from that of the GOP noise machine.

The Christocrat election of '08

From the editors of Free Inquiry

[A]ll the presidential candidates now seem to support President Bush’s faith-based initiatives, which enable federal funds to support religious charities. John McCain has affirmed that he would use federal monies to support faith-based charities, especially in education. (Mike Huckabee established a faith-based office when governor of Arkansas.) Hillary Clinton sees no contradiction between “our constitutional principles” and “faith-based initiatives.” And Barack Obama depicted faith-based programs as a “uniquely powerful way of solving problems,” especially for substance abusers.

The faith-based initiatives were never enacted into law by Congress but rather were created by George W. Bush’s executive order. A new president could end them with the stroke of a pen—but apparently that will not happen.
I remember when I first saw President Bush making a speech about his Faith-Based Initiatives saying that it was common sense (a phrase he often invokes when he is advocating something that is not common sense)* and being flabbergasted. Flabbergasted because faith-based initiatives are unambiguously exactly the sort of thing that the 1st amendment was intended to prohibit. They represent a direct attack on the principle of church/state separation.

And as the editorial notes, President Bush created this program by Executive order when he was unable to get this program through Congress. Not only is the program a violation of the 1st amendment, but its existence represents the President usurping the powers of Congress. Yet none of the remaining candidates with the exception of Ron Paul are openly critical of a program that is a combination of a cynical Karl Rove plot to purchase evangelical votes and Marvin Olasky's Christian Reconstructionist inspired vision of recreating the 19th century religious charity model.

The monarchical concept of a Unitary Executive which has animated this presidency seems like it will be surviving at least in some water-downed form no matter who wins the '08 presidential election. The candidates question the implementation of this program but not the legitimacy of its existence and thus the "center" of American politics takes another shift in the direction of the conservative movement.

This is why I will not give Obama (whom I presume to be the eventual Democratic candidate) a pass for his Christocrat campaigning. Just because the Bush administration has been bad (indeed, possibly the worst ever) we should not forget our principles because we manage to elect someone who will be significantly less bad (i.e. better.)

*This might be a reflection of Bush's education in Luntz speak.

How can anyone possibly take these people seriously?



Those links lead to Michelle Malkin and Pamela Oshry finding a hidden jihadi Islamo-fascist agenda in a Dunkin Donuts ad featuring Rachel Ray wearing a Middle Eastern scarf.

I think this commenter gets it right.

This has to be one of the most ridiculous things I have ever read here. She is wearing a scarf. Do you hate Muslims and Middle Eastern people so much that you can find their hidden agenda even in a doughnut ad? Should we dress like John Wayne and Ma Ingles to make sure everyone knows how American we are?
Update: I also like this response from a commenter at Balloon Juice to Malkin wondering if Dunkin Donuts should be boycotted over the ad.

I, for one, plan to follow Malkin’s lead by boycotting the education system until “Algebra” is renamed “Liberty Math”. I’m also thinking of boycotting ... any brewery and distillery that doesn’t substitute the phrase “Democracy Juice” for “alcohol”.

That will show them.

Friday, May 23, 2008

McCain renounces endorsement of Hagee and Parsely

John McCain has now rejected the endorsements of both of the extremist religious figures that had been associated with his campaign. (See here and here.) But in doing so McCain made the distinction that he had not been a member of their church for 20 years as Barack Obama had been of Jeremiah Wright, which would seem to indicate that the McCain camp intends to make Wright an issue in the election.

Two points:

1. Jeremiah Wright has a blindspot for the extremism of Louis Farrakhan and holds some personally ridiculous beliefs, but nothing, absolutely nothing he has said that had been played non-stop by Fox News and AM radio compares with Hagee's statement regarding Jews and Hitler and other such extremist comments from he and Parsley. (See Gary Kamiya's article putting Wright in perspective.)

McCain is making a false equivalency.

2. McCain accidentally gets to the crux of the issue. McCain did not have a personal relationship with either figure, but he was attempting to forge a political relationship with both. And the theological extremism of both figures was no secret ... McCain's explanation that he was not aware of specific comments is no excuse for having overlooked their openly on display general views in the first place.

Hagee has a doctrinal desire for global armageddon and nuclear holocaust, and Parsley shares Hagee's apocalyptic Manichean worldview, as Sarah Posner has pointed out.

If McCain wants to make an issue out of Wright - who holds no political power within the Democratic Party - he must be expected to answer why it is that he felt the need to insincerely seek out the approval, support, and endorsement of Religious Right extremists whom he had previously identified as agents of intolerance. That answer, of course, being that the Republican Party has to a large extent transformed into "the first religious party in U.S. history."

While our media is busy worrying about how Obama's personal relationship with Wright might somehow translate into policy, mabye they could spend an equal amount of time examining how the Republican Party's political relationship with the Religious Right has already translated into actual policy.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


John McCain has said that he is glad to have the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee (one would think so given McCain sought his endorsement), and although he has repudiated some of Hagee's offensive remarks, specifically his anti-Catholic ones, he has said that he agrees with Haggee's support for Israel.

As I've noted before, "supporting" Israel for Christian zionism has a history of anti-semitism and is not neccesarily about caring about the people of Israel so much as its about seeing that the Rapture occurs. Well, Talk 2 Action has uncovered the mother of all cases in points. Here's Hagee from a sermon in the '90s

"Again he said unto me “Prophesy unto these bones, and say unto them, ‘O you dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!” [Biblical reference: Ezekiel 37, New King James Version, “Dry Bones” prophecy], and he spoke to them and they stood and they became an exceeding great army - meaning they physically came to life. Now how is God going to bring them back to the land? The answer is fishers and hunters. The answer is given in Jeremiah 16, verse 15 and following. God says in Jeremiah 16 - “Behold I will bring them the Jewish people again unto their land that I gave unto their fathers” - that would be Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - “Behold I will send for many fishers and after will I send for many hunters. And they the hunters shall hunt them” - that will be the Jews - “from every mountain and from every hill and from out of the holes of the rocks.” If that doesn't describe what Hitler did in the Holocaust... you can't see that. So think about this - I will send fishers and I will send hunters. A fisher is someone who entices you with a bait. How many of you know who Theodore Hertzel was? How many of you don't have a clue who he was? WOO... Sweet God! Theodore Hertzel is the father of Zionism. He was a Jew that at the turn of the 19th century said - “this land is our land, God wants us to live there”. So he went to the Jews of Europe and said, “I want you to come and join me in the land of Israel”. So few went, Hertzel went into depression. Those who came founded Israel; those who did not went through the hell of the Holocaust. Then god sent a hunter. A hunter is someone who comes with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter. And the Bible says - Jeremiah righty? - “they shall hunt them from every mountain and from every hill and out of the holes of the rocks”, meaning: there's no place to hide. And that will be offensive to some people. Well, dear heart, be offended: I didn't write it. Jeremiah wrote it. It was the truth and it is the truth. How did it happen? Because God allowed it to happen. Why did it happen? Because God said, “my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come BACK to the land of Israel”. Today Israel is back in the land and they are at Ezekiel 37 and 8. They are physically alive but they're not spiritually alive. Now how is God going to cause the Jewish people to come SPIRITUALLY alive and say, “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He is God”?"
Yes, you read that correctly. The Holocaust was the will of God. Adolf Hitler was an agent of the Lord, doing what had to be done because Jews didn't go to Israel like they were supposed to.

This doesn't necessarily mean that Hagee is anti-Semitic (although he most certainly appears to be part of the tradition of anti-Semitic zionism), but it does demonstrate how indifferent he is to mass death and horror if he thinks its helping to make Biblical prophesy a reality. Indeed, if you scroll through the Talk 2 Action link you'll see that Hagee is looking forward to war with Iran and expects that God will kill most Americans living via a nuclear strike.

So here's the thing. This is all rubbish, ok? There is no sky-god that wants a nuclear war to break out in the M.E. But if you think that there is one then that tends to make you support actions that you think are the will of your imaginary genocidal maniac deity, thus making your fantasy beliefs into self-fulfilling prophesy.

And this is the guy whose views on Israel and Iran the person campaigning to be Commander-in-Chief of this nation's armed forces wanted to get the endorsement of. This is a representative of a constituency that McCain wants to have the support of.

So can we now have a media frenzy worrying about how these sort of lunatic beliefs might affect a McCain presidency?

Update: There is no need for qualification. John Hagee is a flat out anti-Semite. I skipped over the Talk 2 Action post, but just now went back and read the whole thing to come across this part

In the following audio sermon, which I have put into a video [and that includes other viciously anti-Jewish statement from John Hagee], Hagee says:

- Jews are not "spiritually alive".I have a copy of John Hagee's "Prophecy Study Bible", which makes quite clear Hagee is talking about all Jews now living - whom Hagee singles out, from among all other non-Christians on Earth, to note that they specifically do not have living souls. Indeed, Hagee says the souls of all Jews now living are dead. Dead souls. McCain endorser John hagee says Jews have dead souls.
So for all you pundits out there like George Stephanopoulos - the next time Sean Hannity or some other brainless partisan noise machine pundit feeds you some smear about Obama and people whose views he has already repudiated perhaps you can think about this and have a Chris Mathews moment.

Quote of the day

"We must seek an intelligible cause for all these phenomena. The moment you fail to find one, you run off to a god like a suppliant to an altar." - Cicero, responding to intelligent design arguments in On The Nature of the Gods (45 BCE)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

ACLU launches new blog

Blog of Rights: Because Freedom Can't Blog Itself

I recommend adding it to your bookmarks.

ACLU executive director Anthony Romero explains the new blog here

We envision this blog as a marketplace of ideas and discourse on pressing civil liberties issues, from surveillance and extraordinary rendition to religious freedom and the rights of protestors.


People who know the importance of defending the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, like the more than 500,000 card-carrying members of the ACLU, don’t just live on the coasts in cities like San Francisco and New York. They are spread all over America, from the Midwest to the Southeast. This blog is a place where everyone concerned about civil liberties can come together.

Whether you’re in San Diego or Salt Lake City, and whether or not you carry an ACLU membership card in your wallet, we hope you’ll be a regular visitor to Blog
of Rights. Please join us in keeping civil liberties at the forefront of public dialogue.

And speaking of the ACLU and civil liberty ... I should finally have my review of Bill of Wrongs, which I received courtesy of the ACLU, up sometime next week.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Quote of the day

"On résiste à l'invasion des armées; on ne résiste pas à l'invasion des idées." (One resists the invasion of armies; one does not resist the invasion of ideas.) - Victor Hugo, The History of A Crime

An example of faux tolerance

"Toleration is not the opposite of intolerance but the counterfeit of it. Both are despotisms: the one assumes to itself the right of withholding liberty of conscience, the other of granting it." - Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man

Can someone please translate this for the Dutch?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Obama's semi-creepy Christocrat campaign flier

Is it possible that we can get a candidate for president who doesn't feel the need to turn the executive office into a matter of theology? We are electing someone whose job is to execute the laws and uphold the Constitution and to be a public servant for the entire American people, we are not electing a Preacher-in-Chief for evangelical Christian Americans.

The Bush presidency should have taught us that being an evangelical Christian is in no way, shape, or form a qualification for becoming president, and I'm sad to see that the Obama campaign feels the need to employ this tactic (though it should still be noted that Obama is explicitly in favor of the separation of church and state.)

I suppose we can consider this a subset of the Cult of the Presidency.

Booklist: Stuff I really want to read but haven't

Ok, these are books that I've highly antcipated reading ever since they first caught my eye, but for one reason or another have put off reading them for at least several years.

Mind: A Brief Introduction by John Searle - A book which looks at the problems relating to the understanding of the mind from a philosophical perspective. And it has Son of Man for the cover.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert Pirsig - A 17 day motorcyle trip is the framing device for a book featuring philosophical discussions over a range of issues.

Crimes Against Humanity: The Struggle for Global Justice by Geoffrey Robertson - A history of the development of international human rights law.

A Comprehensive History Of Western Ethics: What Do We Believe? by Warren Ashby - The culmination of nearly 40 years of work by Dr. Ashby.

The Holy Land by Robert Zubrin - A sci-fi satire of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

The Satanic Verses: A Novel by Salman Rushdie - Hard to consider yourself a humanist and not read at some point one of the most famously subversive of religious orthodoxy texts of our lives.

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond - Examines how ecological factors have often contributed to the failure of societies. This is sitting on my bookshelf; considering that Diamond's previous work - Guns, Germs, and Steel - is one of my favorite non-fiction works it's pretty amazing I haven't managed to find time to read this yet.

Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe by Roger Penrose - Also on my bookshelf. An extremely comprehensive survey of the math and physics that makes up the universe.

On the Nature of the Gods by Cicero - A skeptical look at the religions of Cicero's day, this is the work that David Hume modeled his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion after.

The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne - A sequel of sorts to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It's also already on my bookshelf.

Soul Made Flesh: The Discovery of the Brain--and How it Changed the World by Carl Zimmer - I was sold on this as soon as I saw the title. Nevermind that it's one of my favorite science writers writing about one of my favorite subjects.

In Darwin's Shadow: The Life and Science of Alfred Russel Wallace: A Biographical Study on the Psychology of History by Michael Shermer - A biographical look at the "co-discoverer" of evolution and how his personal history contributed to his subsequent pseudo-scientific beliefs.

The Girl Who Gave Birth to Rabbits: A True Medical History by Clifford Pickover - This has to be one of the strangest hoaxes ever perpetuated.

Twenty Years After by Alexandre Dumas - The sequel to The Three Musketeers, one of the best adventure books I read as a child. An on-line edition is available at the Online Literature Library, and that site also has Ten Years Later, which is the third book in the Musketeers series.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Another example of why I abhor Dinesh D'Souza

I've done this before, but I will continue to do it everytime I come across something like this. D'Souza needs to be haunted for his vile apologetics for the repression of human rights.

"[T]he left is waging an aggressive global campaign to undermine the traditional patriarchal family and to promote secular values in non-Western cultures." - Dinesh D'Souza, explaining why the "cultural left" is responsible for causing 9/11 in the introduction to The Enemies at Home.

In Iraq

For Abdel-Qader Ali there is only one regret: that he did not kill his daughter at birth. 'If I had realised then what she would become, I would have killed her the instant her mother delivered her,' he said with no trace of remorse. Two weeks after The Observer revealed the shocking story of Rand Abdel-Qader, 17, murdered because of her infatuation with a British solider in Basra, southern Iraq, her father is defiant. Sitting in the front garden of his well-kept home in the city's Al-Fursi district, he remains a free man, despite having stamped on, suffocated and then stabbed his student daughter to death. Abdel-Qader, 46, a government employee, was initially arrested but released after two hours. Astonishingly, he said, police congratulated him on what he had done. 'They are men and know what honour is,' he said.
Yes, how dare we undermine such wholesome "traditional patriarchal family" values. Of course, we, the "cultural left," have given terrorists a legitimate reason to want to kill Americans by trying to put a stop to such practices.

It went down the memory hole

Glenn Greenwald reminds today's war-o-philes that their deified hero Ronald Reagan was a Neville Chamberlain-esque "appeaser", too.

Footage of O'Reilly's Inside Edition producer

Friday, May 16, 2008

China puts the music of Robbie Williams to good use

From 20 Things You Didn't Know About ... Recycling

Meanwhile, in China, more than 1 million unsold copies of British singer-songwriter Robbie Williams’s latest CD will be used to resurface roads.

Caller suggests tyranny, Limbaugh doesn't blink an eye

A caller to Rush Limbaugh's radio show yesterday said that America has foreign and domestic enemies. That America's domestic enemies are liberal Democrats like Nancy Pelosi who should be locked up in prison.

Limbaugh did not disagree. Indeed, he did not comment at all, as there is nothing remarkable about a caller expressing his desire to see the American government transform into an oppressive one party state which puts political opposition in prison.

I can't remember if that call occurred before or after the segment in which Limbaugh demonized Democrats as "limp-wristed linguini liberals" and "new castrati" aka castrated/homosexual males.

Can we at least get some internal consistency here? Are Democrats sissy girly men or are they dangerous violent thugs?

I guess we can't all be as tough as a fat draft-dodging chickenhawk radio jock. Really, how f'ing delusional does this guy have to be to consider himself more manly than, say, combat veteran Jim Webb (who is "liberal" by Limbaugh's definition.)

Chris Mathews explains it to a noise machine idiot

Thank you. Is that so hard? Can our pundit class do this more often when some parrot recites the latest moronic GOP propaganda? (h/t The Vanity Press)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hillary Clinton's conservative populism

Jonathan Chait, author of the excellent The Big Con (which I'll have a review of sometime next week), explains how Clinton's dismissal of criticism from economists makes sense only if you view it as part of the Clinton strategy of triangulation.

The dying days of the Hillary Clinton campaign have brought the breathtaking spectacle of a candidate lashing out at every element of public life that has nourished her career. The über-wonk has disparaged economists and expertise. The staunch ally of black America has attacked her opponent for lacking support of "working, hard-working Americans, white Americans." People who thought they knew Hillary Clinton have gazed in astonishment: What has she become? The answer is, a conservative populist.

Conservative populism and liberal populism are entirely different things. Liberal populism posits that the rich wield disproportionate influence over the government and push for policies often at odds with most people's interest. Conservative populism, by contrast, dismisses any inference that the rich and the non-rich might have opposing interests as "class warfare." Conservative populism prefers to divide society along social lines, with the elites being intellectuals and other snobs who fancy themselves better than average Americans.


Hillary Clinton's embrace of the gas tax holiday is a miniature example of the same pattern. Her plan, which rests upon the political principle that high gasoline prices are unacceptable and that the federal gas tax is a burden on hard-pressed Americans, is highly congenial to the interests of oil companies. Yet she presents it as an assault on Big Oil, much as Bush presented his tax cuts as a way to force the rich to pay a higher share of the burden of government.
This is another reason why I do not want Clinton to be the nominee (the biggest problem I have being this). If you continue to "triangulate" partisans who are reactionary ideologues with a Manichean worldview then the "center" of American politics will continue to shift in the direction of the ideologues. That's because they define themselves in opposition to their political opponents - if Bill Clinton runs as centrist new Democrat (which comes out looking something like an Eisenhower Republican) then Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and then Karl Rove and everyone else now define that as being the "far left" of American politics (E.g. the conservative Democrat Howard Dean was the "left-wing" of the Democratic Party in the '04 election according to the Republican noise machine.)

I understand that Bill Clinton was able to accomplish much that he would not have been able to do without co-opting Republican narratives. But America has gone so far off course that it is time to start building a new consensus that rejects the extremism of the conservative movement and its front organization, i.e. the Republican Party while better reflecting the views of majority of Americans who already reject the policy positions of the conservative movement (poll after poll reveals this to be the case.)*

It's time to be partisan for principles. Principles that are at the core of America's democratic Enlightenment traditions. Principles that for too long now have been defined as "far left" or "radical."

*See Why We're Liberals for an extended examination of this topic.


The case for impeachment continues to grow

This is why. We have a president who believes that he can quite literally create and modify law in secret with secret reasoning at his discretion. This is absolutely bewildering. We have a president who has zero understanding of how our government is supposed to work, of what the role, purpose and limitations of his office are - a President who believes that he has the powers of an authoritarian despot.

And yet this will continue to be a blip in the media, drowned out by a signal to noise ratio that ensures as a culture we know whether or not Britney Spears retains custody of her children but remain largely in the dark about a President who has been busy dismantling American democracy.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

If global warming is real then why is the next decade predicted to experience cooling?

Flip on the AM radio and you'll hear that question asked over and over again. Here is the answer: because you stupid fools have once again taken someone's research and read into it what you wanted to hear. Which is why you all have managed to miss this part of the paper you're citing as evidence that global warming is a hoax.

[T]he results were just the initial findings from a new computer model of how the oceans behave over decades and it would be wholly misleading to infer that global warming, in the sense of the enhanced greenhouse effect from increased carbon emissions, had gone away.
Gristmill explains further. Meanwhile, Real Climate challenges the accuracy of this forecast in the first place. (See here and here.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My notebook is a graveyard for posts

I have in my notes (both on paper and on my laptop) notes for numerous posts that I never got around to writing. One such post that died in my notebook is one where I was planning to examine the way that Bill O'Reilly's hypothetical future inauguration speech from a "S-P" president at the start of Culture Warrior transmits and reflects extremist ideas to a mainstream audience.

Well, I was just taking a look at Jeffrey Feldman's Frameshop which I've newly discovered today and see that Feldman has already written something along those lines.

In his imaginary future, the election of a Latina represents the downfall of 'traditional' America and a total loss of the culture 'war' that O'Reilly describes in the rest of the book. In O'Reilly's twisted vision, the final outcome of liberal love for abortion, sexual depravity, seizure of private assets, elimination of educational standards, and abrogation of independent U.S. government--is a Latina being elected president. "Gloria Hernandez," the reader easily concludes, is not just the opposite of everything "traditional" in O'Reilly's vision of America, she is the terrible outcome that will come to pass if O'Reilly's readers do not dedicate themselves to winning the culture 'war.'
And the following seems especially relevant given the recently surfaced footage of O'Reilly behaving as a deranged mad-man

O'Reilly's role as a key right-wing pundit is rooted largely in his strategic use of three kinds of rhetorical violence.

First, O'Reilly blurs the line separating verbal and physical confrontation during his interviews. Anyone who has seen The Factor has witnessed O'Reilly using this technique, and the video linked above is a perfect example. When we watch O'Reilly, his physical persona creates a particular kind of violent tension. As his voice rises and his body leans into his guests personal space, the threat of an actual physical outburst seems imminent. It is a calculated tension.

Second, O'Reilly couches his punditry in a self-stylzed image of a street fighter. Culture Warrior, for example, is as much a call to cultural arms as it is O'Reilly's attempt to describe himself as some kind of hair-trigger street fighter and inheritor of an Irish warrior spirit. But the idea that his work is 'war,' is one that O'Reilly constantly brings to the fore of his commentary and writing.

Third, O'Reilly uses a vast majority of his political commentary to frame liberals as a dangerous threat to American citizens. To achieve this, O'Reilly does much more than simply describe readers of liberal websites as 'Nazis.' He renames them 'Secular-Progressives' or 'S-Ps' and then proceeds to equate these terms with supposed guerrilla programs to seize control of the United States.
I've observed myself that O'Reilly's bullying is step away from a fight.

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.)
And of course I've already noted that O'Reilly directs laundered extremist hate at "S-Ps".

Feldman had written his post in response to Hillary Clinton having sat down for an interview with O'Reilly recently. He concludes with some advice that I think should be generalized out to anyone invited onto the Factor

Bill O'Reilly is a key voice of a cohort of right-wing pundits who use violent-rhetoric to undermine American political debate, the result of which is a weakening of our Democracy.

Democratic candidates for President should denounce him and explain why, not walk into his studio and sit down.

Radio Rush

Via Crooks and Liars, I came across this thoughtful essay by Jeffrey Feldman, who I had not heard of before, but whose book Outright Barbarous: How the Violent Language of the Right Poisons American Democracy I now will be sure to read. In the essay, Feldman examines the rhetoric of Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos" and compares and contrasts it to the way Radio Rwanda was used to incite Hutu genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

Feldman notes the difference in that Limbaugh is not calling for direct violence as did Radio Rwanda, but that he is intead hoping to create the conditions that lead to violence. Another key difference is that although the ultimate goal shared by the RR propagandists and Limbaugh is political violence, in the case of Limbaugh he is hoping for Democrats to perpetrate violence against other Democrats.

Now we get to the core of Limbaugh's purpose: to demonize Democrats as violent thugs who are a threat to the nation. In this respect, Limbaugh is acting very much as did Radio Rwanda

Namely, while Limbaugh defines the American Left as a clear, violent threat to the well being of his listeners. The broadcasts, in other words, are framed as an effort to incite violence amongst the Left as a larger strategy for preventing that so-called Left from committing acts of violence on his listeners (emphasis mine):

We don't burn our cars. We don't burn down our houses. We don't kill our children. We don't do half the things the American left does. We need the American left -- and this is another great thing about Operation Chaos; nothing to do with my ego. We need as many ignorant Americans to wake up and find out exactly who the modern-day Democrat Party is as dominated by the far left in this country. We need that to be seen. Now, I am not inspiring or inciting riots. I'm dreaming. (singing to the tune of White Christmas) "I'm dreaming of riots in Denver." Remember 1968? And which party did that? It was the radicals in that party, the anti-war radicals, the same bunch of clowns that are running around defining the Democrat Party today.
(from "Screw the World! Riot in Denver!")
The violence in Limbaugh's broadcasts, in other words, is not just the attempt to incite riots, but also a way of defining the Left as destructive murderers of children--as a violent threat to the American people.

In Rwanda, the radio broadcasts did not just invoke Hutu to kill Tutsi's, but did so by claiming falsely that Tutsi's had killed large numbers of Hutu and that, therefore, Hutu must form self-defense groups to prevent Tutsi from killing again. Defining Tutsi as murderers, in other words, was a crucial part of violent Hutu broadcasts that led to the genocide of Tutsi.
Finally, Feldman touches upon the nationalism of Limbaugh's Civil War rhetoric and how he "suggests that Liberal ideas have led to the destruction of American institutions and mass starvation--an situation his listener might naturally interpret as a pretext for civil war."

I would add that Feldman has not even mentioned that Limbaugh has equated Democrats with al Qaeda (see here and here), which has implications that are fairly obvious. Namely, if we're at war with al Qaeda, then we're at war with Democrats. Of course, Limbaugh again uses a Radio Rwanda tactic: I've never heard him say that Republicans are at war with Democrats, but I have heard him say that Democrats are at war with America. Again, presumably his listeners will find in this justification to defend America from the Democrats - Democrats whom Limbaugh has fantasized about deporting. And then there is Limbaugh equating "liberals" with cockroaches, which is the same way that the Hutu thought of the Tutsi.

But who am I kidding? There is no need to presume the reaction of Limbaugh's audience. We already know that some of them - at least those who write letters to critics of Limbaugh - think that "liberals" are traitorous enemies of America who may need to be dealt with violently.

Feldman ends his essay by stating plainly that he is not calling for censorship of Limbaugh. What he does expect, however, is for journalists to take seriously and examine Limbaugh's rhetoric. I must say that I find it perverse and disturbing that an individual such as Limbaugh who is such a disgusting propagandist, who says things that are demonstrably false on a literally sentence to sentence basis and who holds views that if can't be described as racist can certainly be described as absolutely disgusting can maintain such a place of high esteem in our political discourse.

Key members of our political class, including the Vice President, routinely appear on his program. Brian Williams is an admirer of his. Katie Couric made sure Limbaugh was one of the first guests she had on when she took over the evening news at CBS. There is something profoundly wrong here. Limbaugh's career is based on promoting hatred of "liberals" which parallels traditional sectarian and ethnic forms of hate-mongering.

His right to speak should be respected. But the content of said speech deserves no such respect. Our "fair and balanced" news class needs to recognize this distinction.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Uh ....

Yes, he is insane. (h/t Think Progress)

Update: As Think Progress notes, CBS has ordered YouTube to take down the video clip. It can still be viewed (at the moment at least) here. I really recommend watching this while it is still available, as it has to be seen to be believed. I had thought O'Reilly's eruption at Geraldo Rivera was bad, but this is far beyond even that. He really does appear to need some serious therapy or something ... In case this goes down again I'll sum it:

O'Reilly is reading from a teleprompter when he begins having difficulty reading it. At this point he starts getting angry - very angry. After stating that there are no words on it for him to read (by point he is shouting) he ask shouts "what does that mean, play us out?" and has to be told it means to end the show. So he begins another take, botches it and appears to snort a deep breath of pure rage. He tries another take and at then transforms into a raving lunatic screaming that he can't do it, he'll do it live - "FUCK IT - DO IT LIVE!!!!", he'll write it himself and do it live. "THIS FUCKING THING SUCKS!!!!!"

Next, he manages to pull himself together for approximately 20 seconds to actually do the take. Now the sound cuts out, but you can see O'Reilly rip off his coat and storm off while still screaming at someone. It is just bizzarre how furious he becomes over something so trivial.

I have to wonder how often O'Reilly explodes like this off screen. There is no way in hell I would work for or with anyone screaming like that. I'm surprised his heart hasn't exploded yet.

Update II: Crooks and Liars has it, too.

Al Gore caused the global food crisis

That's the latest dirty rotten smear from the transparently stupid Sean Hannity - who apparently has some kind of pathological inability to be intellectually honest. It is bewildering that someone so lacking in moral fiber can get rich being such a dishonest jackass while working for a network that calls his relentless efforts to demonize Democrats "news".

Hannity said that Gore caused the global food crisis because of the push to use biofuels as an alternative to C02 releasing fuels that contribute to global warming. During the segment Hannity featured a quote from Gore from 1998 about supporting a tax exemption for corn ethanol. But guess what the dimwit forgot to mention? That Gore no longer supports corn ethanol and favors the development of cellosic ethanol or that there are other factors besides corn ethanol which have contributed to the food crisis. He also fails to mention that the corn lobby which is currently lobbying politicians who are not Al Gore might have something to do with the current corn ethanol policies which Gore does not himself support.

See, for instance, the Fresh Air discussion we were just talking about. At 25 minutes into the discussion Terry Gross asks Gore about ethanol and the global food crisis and if there were policies that he watched being created that contributed to the problem. Gore answers that corn ethanol is at best a transition fuel, that the nature of the global food crisis is complex, and that some biofuels are good, some are bad yet we should continue to attempt to develop workable fuel alternatives.

Hannity followed up the "Gore caused the food crisis" segment* with the lie that Gore said global warming caused Cyclone Nargis.

*A google search shows that this meme is one of the latest never-ending stream of anti-Gore bullshit that circulates the conservative movement media circuit. What is particularly sickening is that Hannity is essentially saying that the very act of working towards sustainable biofuels is causing a food crisis - just what the oil industry wants the world to think. In reality, global warming is also a threat to the world's food supply.

Update: To give you an example of what a hypocritical bullshitter Sean Hannity is.

President Bush on Friday defended his emphasis on ethanol to help the nation meet its energy needs even though increased production of the corn-based biofuel has been blamed for contributing to sharp increases in food prices.

"As you know, I'm a ethanol person," he said, explaining his belief that it can help reduce U.S. dependence on oil. "It makes sense for America to be growing energy."
I won't hold my breath waiting until Hannity does a segment saying that George W. Bush caused a food crisis.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Quote of the day

"Die warheit ist untödlich " (Truth is immortal.) - Balthasar Hubmaier

Hubmaier, advocate of religious liberty (including that of atheists*) and author of Concerning Heretics and Those Who Burn Them (1524), was executed by burning in 1528.

*"[N]o one may injure the atheist who wishes nothing for himself other than to forsake the gospel."

Friday, May 09, 2008

"Climatologists" dispute Al Gore

Friday on the Fox-bots morning progam Fox and Friends, Steve Doocy said that "climatologists" disagree with statements from Al Gore on NPR (about 27 minutes into the discussion) that there is an emerging consensus among climate scientists that although any specific event can't be attributed to global warming we can expect that AGW will contribute to increased frequency of higher intensity storms such as that of Nargis.* So who did they have on to support this claim? William Gray, a meteorologist out of touch with modern climate science, whose beliefs are at odds with the scientific literature and the bulk of expert opinion when it comes to AGW. This is also the same William Gray who has previously stated that "Gore believe[s] in global warming almost as much as Hitler believed there was something wrong with the Jews," which gives you some indication of the objectivity of Gray as a reliable source on this topic.

But at Fox News, Gray gets presented without challenge as the scientific authority on the matter. This is complete intellectual dishonesty; if Fox wanted to promote the discredited views of Gray it could at least inform the audience that his views are at odds with the bulk of scientific opinion on this matter.

Up is down in Fox News bizarro world.

*Gore's precise statement that set off global warming denialists is that "we're seeing consequences that scientists have long predicted might be associated with continued global warming." By consequences Gore means melting glaciers and ice (and possibly he also meant increasing frequency of high intensity storms), yet the denialists took that to mean Gore stated that Nargis is the fault of global warming even though he pointed out that you can't link individual storms to warming.

Post script: As I was getting ready to publish this post I did a quick search to see if I could get a clip of Doocy and Gray distorting reality, and saw that Wonk Room had caught another level to their dishonesty that I overlooked: that Gore's comments had actually been spliced to make him say something he didn't.

Update: Another liar at Fox reads from the anti-Gore script.

"Headline News"

One might think that a network titled "CNN Headline News" would cover headline news. You would be wrong, however. CNN HN is of little more substance than Entertainment Tonight, it provides the sort of "news" coverage one might expect from the E! network.

As it becomes clearer and clearer that the citizens of this nation were the victims of a massive covert domestic propaganda campaign foisted upon them by their government, CNN HN found time to devote a significant portion of its programming today to live coverage of the reckless driving hearing of Hulk Hogan's son. They followed this "headline news" with coverage of the R Kelly trial.

What's that you say, Juvenal? Bread and circuses?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Over 100,000 dead

Cyclone Nargis has had a catastrophic effect, and yet the goverment of Burma doesn't want to let aid workers in. Instead of dealing with this humanitarian crisis, the military junta is interested in going forward on a sham referendum in order to increase military control of the nation.


Baleful quote of the day

"[S]cience leads to killing people." - Ben Stein

Ok. How about construction leads to killing people? Constuction workers must have built the Nazi death camps, so this is obvious logic, right?

Or how about: transportation leads to killing people. Trains transported people to the camps, so trains are a slippery slope to the Holocaust.

Edit - And since Nazis shot people with guns, I no longer believe Newtonian physics is valid science. Instead, we should teach Intelligent Motion theory.

Update: Kenneth Miller reviews Expelled (h/t Lippard Blog)

[B]y far the film's most outlandish misrepresentation is its linkage of Darwin with the Holocaust. A concentration camp tour guide tells Stein that the Nazis were practicing "Darwinism," and that's that. Never mind those belt buckles proclaiming Gott mit uns (God is with us), the toxic anti-Semitism of Martin Luther, the ghettoes and murderous pogroms in Christian Europe centuries before Darwin's birth. No matter. It's all the fault of evolution.

Why is all this nonsense a threat to science? The reason is Stein's libelous conclusion that science is simply evil. In an April 21 interview on the Trinity Broadcast Network, Stein called the Nazi murder of children "horrifying beyond words." Indeed. But what led to such horrors? Stein explained: "that's where science in my opinion, this is just an opinion, that's where science leads you. Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place. Science leads you to killing people."

According to Stein, science leads you to "killing people." Not to cures and vaccines, not to a deeper understanding of nature, not to wonders like computers and cellphones, and certainly not to a better life. Nope. Science is murder.

My favorite blogs that use the same background layout as this one

Since I've got lists on the brain:

Rationally Speaking

Robert Reich's Blog

The Lippard Blog

Pressing Issues

Jon Swift

Any other good blogs with this background I've overlooked?

Post spotlight

What killed the mammoths?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Quote of the day

"The media silence on this is absolutely staggering to me. While the cable news shows and blogs obsess over Rev. Wright, not a single major media outlet covers this story about an American president in a decades-long relationship with a man who has spoken openly of taking over the United States and establishing a one-world theocracy under his rule. Absolutely mind-boggling." - Ed Brayton

Introductions to stuff

Professor Pigliucci has compiled some Amazon book lists of his favorites relating to his two areas of expertise: evolution and philosophy. They are:

What you should read about evolution

My favorite philosophical classics

Philosophy, the basics

I've thought about creating some lists at Amazon, before, but have been too lazy to get around to it.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The crazies are coming

Ed Brayton has found a rather creepy commentary from WorldNetDaily by the sites VP David Kupelian. In it Kupelian expounds upon a Manichean leader cult notion of the presidency in which he argues the president has some kind of magical power to effect the "spirit" of the nation; with Republicans effecting it positively and Democrats naturally effecting it negatively. According to Kupelian, if we elect one of the evil Democrats, but especially Hillary Clinton, it will result in Hell being unleashed in America, which he appears to mean literally.

My first thought upon reading it is that it is the sort of sentiment you might expect to see expressed in North Korea or some kind of pre-industrial civilization that worshipped a (believed to be) demi-God ruler or something.

I guess at WorldNetDaily "conservative" means wishing to bow at the feet of a supreme "Father."

Monday, May 05, 2008

EPA administrator fired for doing her job

An EPA official attempted to force Dow to clean up a site with high levels of dioxins. Dow said dioxins aren't that dangerous.

Whose side do you think the Bush administration took?

For more on the politicization of the EPA and the consequent decline in its ability to perform the function it was created for, see Chris Mooney's "Enormously Pathetic Agency: The Evisceration of the EPA" op-ed.

Double standard? What double standard?

While Sen. Obama has to explain what he knew and when he knew it about Wright’s angry sermons, the Bush Family floats above its financial and political associations with the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, a South Korean theocrat who had denounced the United States as “Satan’s harvest” and likened American women to “prostitutes.”

In his angry sermons, Moon has gone further than saying “God-damn America” – as Wright did – to vowing to sweep aside American democracy and individualism as he builds a one-world state.

Once his plan to “swallow entire America” is complete, Moon told his followers in one sermon, there will be “some individuals who complain inside your stomach. However, they will be digested.”

But Moon’s hatred of America is not deemed news, in part, because Moon has financed the Washington Times since 1982 to the tune of more than $3 billion, according to former newspaper insider George Archibald.

Moon also has lavished many millions of dollars more to pay for conservative conferences and to bail out key right-wing figures when they have found themselves in financial distress, including Republican direct-mail guru Richard Viguerie and the late Jerry Falwell.

Plus, Moon has paid large speaking fees to former President George H.W. Bush – estimated in the millions of dollars – and has feted President George W. Bush’s brother Neil at recent events for the Moon-sponsored Universal Peace Federation.

In 2004, thankful Republicans even gave Moon use of a room in the Senate Dirksen Office Building so he could be crowned the “King of Peace” in a ceremony that Moon’s followers hailed as proof the U.S. government was bowing down to this new Messiah. [See John Gorenfeld’s Bad Moon Rising.]
--Robert Parry, "The Right's America Hating Preacher"


Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi went undercover in the megachurch of Rev. John Hagee as part of his research for his new book The Great American Derangement. In one of the group sessions, Taibbi was expected to relate what part of his past had given him a spiritual "wound." This is what he came up with:

My heart was pounding. I obviously couldn't use my real past — not only would it threaten my cover, but I was somewhat reluctant to expose anything like my real inner self to this ideologically unsettling process — but neither did I want to be trapped in a story too far from my own experience. What I settled on eventually was something that I thought was metaphorically similar to the truth about myself.

"Hello," I said, taking a deep breath. "My name is Matt. My father was an alcoholic circus clown who used to beat me with his oversize shoes."

The group twittered noticeably. Morgan's eyes opened to tea-saucer size.

I closed my own eyes and kept going, immediately realizing what a mistake I'd made. There was no way this story was going to fly. But there was no turning back.

"He'd be sitting there in his costume, sucking down a beer and watching television," I heard myself saying. "And then sometimes, even if I just walked in front of the TV, he'd pull off one of those big shoes and just, you know — whap!"

I looked around the table and saw three flatlined, plainly indifferent psyches plus one mildly unnerved Morgan staring back at me. I could tell that my coach and former soldier had been briefly possessed by the fear that a terrible joke was being played on his group. But then I actually saw him dismissing the thought — after all, who would do such a thing? I managed to tie up my confession with a tale about turning into a drug addict in my midtwenties — at least that much was true — and being startled into sobriety and religion after learning of my estranged clown father's passing from cirrhosis.

It was a testament to how dysfunctional the group was that my story flew more or less without comment.
I have to admit that I find it hard to believe that this scene could have occurred, mostly because I can't manage to say that clown bit out loud with out bursting into laughter. If Taibi was able to do that with a straight face in that situation that is a truly impressive feat.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

A reason not to vote for Hillary Clinton

From TPM

Hillary Clinton has just started doing an Indiana town-hall meeting being broadcast on ABC, and George Stephanopoulos asked her a direct question:

Could she name a single economist who agrees with her support for the gas tax holiday?

Hillary sidestepped the question, and tried to use the complete dearth of expert support for the idea to her advantage, pointing to it as proof that she's on the side of ordinary folks against "elite opinion" -- a phrase she used twice.

"I think we've been for the last seven years seeing a tremendous amount of government power and elite opinion behind policies that haven't worked well for hard working Americans," she said.

A bit later she added: "It's really odd to me that arguing to give relief to a vast majority of Americans creates this incredible pushback...Elite opinion is always on the side of doing things that don't benefit" the vast majority of the American people.

That is a classic anti-intellectual argument. The position is popular, therefore experts who are critical of it are "elitists" out of touch with the comman man. And the problem with the Bush administration is not that it listened to "elite" (aka expert) opinion as she suggests, but precisely the opposite: that it did not.

We don't need more of the same.

Steve Benen at The CarpetBagger Report is also not happy with this nonsense from Clinton.

Seriously, “elite opinion” has been the driving force behind Bush’s failed policies? Since when? Reality shows the exact opposite — the policy experts have been warning everyone since Day One that Bush’s economic policy, his foreign policy, his environmental policy, his judicial policy, etc., are a disaster and a recipe for failure. In fact, Hillary Clinton has been citing these experts for years.

“Elite opinion” hasn’t been “behind policies that haven’t worked well for hard working Americans”; elite opinion has been pushing in the other direction. Bush hasn’t been operating with the support of policy experts; he’s been blowing off policy experts as liberal eggheads who think too much. And now Clinton appears ready to join him.

Jeffrey Sachs lecture on Common Wealth

To be able to watch lectures like this on the internet really is a remarkable resource. Although it would be nice if everyone had the time to read an important and informative book like this one, that's just not the case. But finding an hour to watch a talk like this is probably the next best thing.

Sachs is a model of the public intellectual. He is a man who has combined both academic research with practical experience, having worked across the globe to help developing countries escape the poverty trap. In Common Wealth, he warns that our current economic trajectory is not sustainable, but that if we can find the political will we can correct that.

Good for her

I just noticed that ERV - a grad student doing HIV research - has moved from Blogger to ScienceBlogs. I knew her before she had a blog from a message forum we both visited in which she would tirelessly attempt to combat anti-evolutionary ignorance and hokum. I'm glad to see her efforts garner a wider audience.

Saturday, May 03, 2008 No nasty comments, just white supremacist op-eds

Remember our last encounter with the O'Reilly Rule as it applies to, in which we noted Pat Buchanan's racism? Well, in his newest syndicated column featured at Townhall (among other places) he really does outdo that last performance.

Dave Neiwert explains.

Better live

Natasha Bedingfield is currently promoting her new album Pocketful of Sunshine, which means that she's doing live performances of the first single released - "Pocketful of Sunshine" - all over the tv circuit. I've watched 3 or 4 of those performances now, and it seems to me that she sounds better live than she does on the studio track. And I'm no singing expert, but it also seems to me that it wouldn't be that easy for most pop artists to hit the high notes she's hitting live in the chorus outside of the studio.

Judge for yourself:

The official video

And her first live tv performance (of the single) in America

There's are two more live performance (at American Idol and The View) on YouTube, and I'm guessing her performance on Chelsea Lately will be up soon.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Another low for global warming deniers

You might recall the Liars for Exxon coming up with a bogus list of climate skeptics and claiming that it debunks global warming. Well, now the Heartland Institute - which probably is more accurately described as a Liar for Industry - has come up with another bogus list. This one being even more of an egregious example of intellectual dishonesty.

Quote of the day

"Honesty and sincerity of heart is not imposed on man by legal command or by the state's authority. It is an absolute fact that nobody can be constrained to a state of blessedness by force or law; to this end one needs godly and brotherly exhortation, a good upbringing, and most of all, a judgement that is independent and free.

"Therefore, as the sovereign right to free opinion belongs to every man even in matters of religion, and it is inconceivable that any man surrender his right, there also belongs to every man the sovereign right and supreme authority to judge freely with regard to religion, and consequently to explain it and interpret it for himself." - Baruch Spinoza, A Theologico-Political Treatise (1670)

As quoted by Austin Dacey in The Secular Conscience.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Nick Gillespie interviews Susan Jacoby for Book TV

Who doesn't love Bizarro America?

Well, as far as I can tell, Fox News has turned itself into virtually 24/7 bash Barack Obama over his association with his former pastor Jeremiah Wright. My favorite part is night after night seeing Karl Rove - a career Machiavellian Republican operative who has worked his entire adult life towards one goal: amassing power for the Republican Party - on to offer "analysis". As if Rove is capable of such a thing as dispassionate objectivity ... Rove is doing the same thing that he did as the political brain of the still current administration but now he's given a platform on the Republican propaganda network that is Fox under the pretense of being journalism. There is just something terribly insidious about that. (And nevermind that Rove is at the least an undisclosed informal advisor to the McCain campaign.)

But even print newspapers that do engage in journalism - such as the New York Times and the Washington Post - have been following Sean Hannity's lead in covering the Wright "controversy" while not focusing on McCain having apparently betrayed his own principles in now pandering to the theocratic Christian nationalist movement.

Meanwhile, our current President who campaigned as the candidate of the Religous Right continues to "associate" with religious extremists with no "controversy" managing to erupt. Funny how that works, isn't it?

Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh and Peggy Noonan and the rest are all oh so concerned about Barack Obama being influenced by the dangerous Jeremiah Wright who hates America. And "liberal media" stars like Brian Williams and George Stephanopolous consider it their duty to be "fair and balanced" and cover the "controversy."

Except I have not once seen it been demonstrated in what way the substance of Obama's campaign platform is a reflection of the views of Jeremiah Wright. Where is the connection? In what ways will an Obama administration be influenced by Wright? All I see is conspiratorial guilt by association.

Yet that is enough to send our press corps into a frenzy over this matter. Again, funny how that works, because I don't remember the press corps going into overdrive speculating about how then candidate Bush might be influenced by Rev. Rushdooney when he was campaigning as a "compassionate conservative." The press could not be bothered to tell the American public that compassionate conservatism which Bush was actually going to translate into policy was the brainchild of one Marvin Olasky - a Communist ideologue turned Christian ideologue - who was influenced by Rushdooney's nightmarish theocratic movement Christian Reconstuctionism.

You know what might make a decent news story instead of 24/7 Wright watch? Maybe something about how McCain's proposed fiscal policy would bankrupt the U.S. goverment leaving it incapable of functioning without massive budget slashing ? Is maybe that something worth covering?

Not in in Bizarro America.