Sunday, August 31, 2008

Will this remind anyone in the Malkin-verse of Nazis?

"Fascist regimes functioned like an epoxy: an amalgam of two very different agents, fascist dynamism and conservative order, bonded by shared enmity toward liberalism and the Left, and a shared willingness to stop at nothing to destroy their common enemies." - Robert Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism

While conservative movement figures are busy being reminded of Hitler and Nazis by Barack Obama and the ominous figure of Dennis Kucinich, police and the FBI have been targeting leftist groups that are planning or may be planning to protest the Republican National Convention in St. Paul for armed police raids and detentions.

But heck, these folks must have deserved it right? They must have ... why else would they be targeted? That's what Lady of Liberty (and concentration camps) Michelle Malkin thinks when the government spies on peaceful leftist groups - that if any "leftist" does something wrong then every "leftist" can justifiably be made the target of surveillance. Of course, if an Obama administration were to start targeting Michelle Malkin for surveillance because of her opposition to abortion on the grounds that some abortion opponents bomb family planning clinics she'd understand, I'm sure. Principles are what Malkin and friends are about, after all.

But back to the police raids: this type of assault on the First Amendment obviously doesn't rise to the level of Nazi brown shirt thuggery against the Left, nor the sort of tactics that Robert Mugabe currently employs in Zimbabwe against his opposition, but is that really the standard we want to apply? The point is that we shouldn't even be taking - in the (quoted from memory) words of Paxton - a step in that direction.

We can talk about how America stands for freedom and all that, but like Rachel Dawes told Bruce Wayne in the 2005 film Batman Begins, "it's what you do that defines you." If you target opposition groups for para-military raids so that they can't disturb the image you want to sell at your convention; if you use the military to engage in massive unchecked surveillance of your country's citizens; if you create legal blackholes where you can deny people habeus corpus and torture them; if you kidnap people and drop them off in a country that has been known to boil prisoners alive (Uzbekistan); if you launch an unprovoked war justified by lies and deception on a non-threatening country bringing death and ruin there; and if you remain silent while all that is going on and you turn your back on the values and principles that are supposed to be the bedrock of American democracy, then that will be what comes to define you.

Will John McCain (or anyone in our political/media class) denounce this unAmerican action of treating American citizens exercising their Constitutional rights like terrorist suspects?

[T]here is a widespread sense that the targets of these raids deserve what they get, even if nothing they've done is remotely illegal. We love to proclaim how much we cherish our "freedoms" in the abstract, but we despise those who actually exercise them. The Constitution, right in the very First Amendment, protects free speech and free assembly precisely because those liberties are central to a healthy republic -- but we've decided that anyone who would actually express truly dissident views or do anything other than sit meekly and quietly in their homes are dirty trouble-makers up to no good, and it's therefore probably for the best if our Government keeps them in check, spies on them, even gets a little rough with them.

After all, if you don't want the FBI spying on you, or the Police surrounding and then invading your home with rifles and seizing your computers, there's a very simple solution: don't protest the Government. Just sit quietly in your house and mind your own business. That way, the Government will have no reason to monitor what you say and feel the need to intimidate you by invading your home. Anyone who decides to protest -- especially with something as unruly and disrespectful as an unauthorized street march -- gets what they deserve.
It seems like it is now more appropriate than ever for me to finally review the copy of Bill of Wrongs: The Executive Branch's Assault on America's Fundamental Rights that the ACLU courteously sent me last December. Once I finish reading the library books I have out I'll write it up.

By the way, on the ACLU's front page you can find this article.

"The physical removal of ABC reporter Asa Eslocker from public property and his subsequent arrest are a blatant assault on the First Amendment. Arresting a reporter for simply doing his job is both unconstitutional and un-American. That free speech is curtailed during the Democratic Convention underscores the need for continued protection of civil liberties, regardless of the party in power."
Boy, I sure can see why Bill O'Reilly would think the ACLU is a "fascist organization." Nothing more fascist than believing that anyone and everyone should have the protections of the Bill of Rights "regardless of the party in power." And there is nothing more anti-fascist than former regular O'Reilly Factor guest host Michelle Malkin's approval of Ben Shapiro suggesting that Bush administration critics might need to be put in concentration camps.

At some point, opposition must be considered disloyal. At some point, the American people must say "enough." At some point, Republicans in Congress must stop delicately tiptoeing with regard to sedition and must pass legislation to prosecute such sedition.

"Freedom of speech!" the American Civil Liberties Union will protest. Before we buy into the slogan, we must remember our history ...

During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the internment of hundreds of thousands of Japanese-Americans, as well as allowing the prosecution and/or deportation of those who opposed the war. The Allies won World War II...

This is not to argue that every measure taken by the government to prosecute opponents of American wars is just or right or Constitutional. Some restrictions, however, are just and right and Constitutional -- and necessary. No war can be won when members of a disloyal opposition are given free reign to undermine it.
Gee, convenient of Mr. Shapiro not to mention which authoritarian act of tyranny he approves or disapproves of being used against the "disloyal opposition."

Update: Democracy Now's Amy Goodman was arrested Sept. 1.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Richard Feynman on not knowing

"I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing."

Friday, August 29, 2008

Science reading

Via Jim Lippard, Cocktail Party Physics is compiling a top science book list. The rules:

1. Highlight those you've read in full
2. Asterisk those you intend to read
3. Add any additional popular science books you think belong on the list
4. Link back to me (leave links or suggested additions in the comments, if you prefer) so I can keep track of everyone's additions. Then we can compile it all into one giant "Top 100" popular science books list, with room for honorable mentions. (I, for one, have some quirky choices in the list below.) Voila! We'll have awesome resource for general readers interested in delving into the fascinating world of science!
The list:

  • Micrographia, Robert Hooke
  • *The Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin
  • Never at Rest, Richard Westfall
  • Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman, Richard Feynman
  • Tesla: Man Out of Time, Margaret Cheney
  • The Devil's Doctor, Philip Ball
  • The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Richard Rhodes
  • Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos, Dennis Overbye
  • Physics for Entertainment, Yakov Perelman
  • 1-2-3 Infinity, George Gamow
  • The Elegant Universe, Brian Greene
  • Warmth Disperses, Time Passes, Hans Christian von Bayer
  • Alice in Quantumland, Robert Gilmore
  • Where Does the Weirdness Go?, David Lindley
  • *A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
  • A Force of Nature, Richard Rhodes
  • Black Holes and Time Warps, Kip Thorne
  • A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
  • Universal Foam, Sidney Perkowitz
  • Vermeer's Camera, Philip Steadman
  • The Code Book, Simon Singh
  • The Elements of Murder, John Emsley
  • *Soul Made Flesh, Carl Zimmer
  • Time's Arrow, Martin Amis
  • The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments, George Johnson
  • Einstein's Dreams, Alan Lightman
  • *Godel, Escher, Bach, Douglas Hofstadter
  • The Curious Life of Robert Hooke, Lisa Jardine
  • A Matter of Degrees, Gino Segre
  • The Physics of Star Trek, Lawrence Krauss
  • E=mc<2>, David Bodanis
  • Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea, Charles Seife
  • Absolute Zero: The Conquest of Cold, Tom Shachtman
  • A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines, Janna Levin
  • Warped Passages, Lisa Randall
  • Apollo's Fire, Michael Sims
  • Flatland, Edward Abbott
  • Fermat's Last Theorem, Amir Aczel
  • Stiff, Mary Roach
  • Astroturf, M.G. Lord
  • The Periodic Table, Primo Levi
  • Longitude, Dava Sobel
  • The First Three Minutes, Steven Weinberg
  • The Mummy Congress, Heather Pringle
  • The Accelerating Universe, Mario Livio
  • Math and the Mona Lisa, Bulent Atalay
  • This is Your Brain on Music, Daniel Levitin
  • The Executioner's Current, Richard Moran
  • Krakatoa, Simon Winchester
  • Pythagorus' Trousers, Margaret Wertheim
  • Neuromancer, William Gibson
  • The Physics of Superheroes, James Kakalios
  • The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump, Sandra Hempel
  • Another Day in the Frontal Lobe, Katrina Firlik
  • Einstein's Clocks and Poincare's Maps, Peter Galison
  • The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan
  • *The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins
  • The Language Instinct, Steven Pinker
  • An Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears
  • Consilience, E.O. Wilson
  • *Wonderful Life, Stephen J. Gould
  • Teaching a Stone to Talk, Annie Dillard
  • Fire in the Brain, Ronald K. Siegel
  • The Life of a Cell, Lewis Thomas
  • Coming of Age in the Milky Way, Timothy Ferris
  • Storm World, Chris Mooney
  • The Carbon Age, Eric Roston
  • The Black Hole Wars, Leonard Susskind
  • Copenhagen, Michael Frayn
  • From the Earth to the Moon, Jules Verne
  • Gut Symmetries, Jeanette Winterson
  • *Chaos, James Gleick
  • Innumeracy, John Allen Paulos
  • The Physics of NASCAR, Diandra Leslie-Pelecky
  • Subtle is the Lord, Abraham Pais
My additions:

  • *Tower of Babel, Roger Pennock
  • *Expressions of Emotions in Man and Animals, Charles Darwin
  • *Mystery of Mysteries, Michael Ruse
  • *Defending Science - within Reason, Susan Haack
  • *The Value of Science, Henri Poincare
  • *Logic of Scientific Discovery, Karl Popper
  • The Ancestor's Tale, Richard Dawkins
  • No Turning Back, Richard Ellis
  • *The Third Chimpanzee, Jared Diamond
  • Guns, Germs, and Steal, Jared Diamond
  • Fads & Fallacies, Martin Gardner
  • *Road to Reality, Roger Penrose
  • *Relativity, Albert Einstein
  • *Galileo's Daughter, Dava Sobel
  • The Scientists, John Gribbin
  • Field Notes from a Catastrophe, Elizabeth Kolbert
  • The Dragons of Eden, Carl Sagan
  • What Evolution Is, Ernst Mayr
  • Voodoo Science, Robert Park
  • *Mind, John Searle
  • The Moral Animal, Robert Wright
  • Hitler's Scientists, John Cornwell
  • *The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan
  • *Einstein, Walter Isaacson
  • Time, Clifford Pickover
  • The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, Oliver Sacks
Obviously, I'm biased by recent memory and the books I currently have on my bookshelf, so lots of great science books are going unmentioned. But for all time great science books there is Discover magazine's list of 25 Greatest Science Books of All Time.

And for the record, were it up to me I'd remove the fiction books from the list (Flatland and Neuromancer.) I'm not sure I'd even call Flatland a science book ... it's more like mathematical religious allegory, although conceptually a very neat book.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

If you stare into the abyss, say hello to Glenn Beck

I now have a better understanding of why Glenn Beck and Jonah Goldberg think that Captain Planet is fascist propaganda.

GOLDBERG: [Snip]In the harsh totalitarianisms like Stalinism and Nazism, that kind of thing, children were encouraged to inform and to spy on their parents. They made heroes of the state out of children who turned their parents in to have them executed. Now obviously nothing like that is going to happen here. At least, I hope not. But if you -- since your kid goes to a typical school in this country, your kid is encouraged to sort of rat out his parents about whether or not they`re recycling at home.

[snip]

BECK: But not through government. And yet I watch these TV commercials where, all of them, for these SUVs, these green SUVs, are all the children saying, "I don`t know if I can ride in that car, mom. I don`t want to be dropped off in that car." They`re using the children almost to shame the parents into it. I mean, it`s the same kind of thing, isn`t it?

GOLDBERG: You should find some clips from the old cartoon "Captain Planet." It was just relentless propagandizing of children where the villains ere all these cartoonish -- literally cartoonish -- corporate CEOs who wanted to destroy the environment. And all that -- the only thing that could save the world was if all the children from all over the world got together and formed this super hero to save the planet.

It was pure environmental propaganda. But you find that kind of thing all over the place.
Allright, now here's some more recent idiocy from Beck (via Ed Brayton)

And what we're trying to do is to erase all of the carbon offsets for the Democratic party. What we'd like to do is we would like to raise 70 million pounds of carbon. Now, this is going to take a Herculean effort, it really is. I don't know if we can do it. We can't mandate it. I can't say, hey, you've got to do this as a listener. What I'm just, I'm asking you to participate because it's for the children. You go to the website. Now, how many, how many extra miles can you pledge? Can you drive five extra miles a day? Can you take the long way home, the long way to work? Can you just warm up your car? I know it's August. Can you cool down your car? Can you get up like you do in the winter and just start your car? You know, it's hot or it's tepid when I get into my car. I would like it to be ice cold. Can you get up, start your car 15 minutes early and just let it run so it cools down. You know what I'm saying? Do your part. It's for the children. Why do you not care about our planet? Can you give me an extra day of increased garbage, maybe two, maybe three? Can you throw away some stuff that you don't really need to throw away? Can you not recycle? Can you throw your cans into the nonrecycling bin just for this week?...

Can you turn your thermostat down unnecessarily? I know you probably like it at a nice 70 degrees, maybe 72 degrees. Can you turn it down to 68 just this week. Can you take an extra long shower. How many loads of laundry can you do? Can you pledge just a few extra minutes in the dryer, after your clothes are dry, just let it go a couple of extra minutes. Do you have any fluorescent light bulbs? Can you would you pledge, would you pledge just to replace one of your fluorescent light bulbs with an incandescent light bulb today, just one. That's all we're asking, just one. We're trying to raise 70 million pounds of carbon and it's not going to be easy.
One of Brayton's commenters asked, 'When did Glen Beck become one of the bad guys from "Captain Planet"?'

Heck, I thought Captain Planet was a lame cartoon myself - although unlike Goldberg, I wasn't surprised that a cartoon villain would be cartoonish - but Beck is a living cartoon himself. No wonder Beck doesn't like Captain Planet - he's a frickin' Captain Planet villain.

Giving "Hitler" the power to take away your civil liberties

Ok, via Ed Brayton, here's Nat Hentoff on the Bush administration attempting to pass onto the next president J. Edgar Hoover era power to spy on American citizens.

Finished reading? Ok, then. Here is Media Matters on the latest comparison of Obama and Nazis.

Summary: In her online column, The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan wrote that Sen. Barack Obama's DNC speech at Denver's Invesco Field "has every possibility of looking like a Nuremberg rally." Other conservative pundits have made references to Nazis when talking about Obama or discussing his speeches, including radio host Tom Sullivan, who once aired what he called a "side-by-side comparison" of an Adolf Hitler speech and an Obama speech.
See, this is the sort of nonsense that is going to strain our constitutional form of governance. Pseudo-conservatives are willing to invest their Leader with limitless power and authority to act above and beyond American law. Yet they view any non-movement leadership as by definition illigitimate and as Evil that can not be trusted with power at all. Which is part of the dynamic that sends the extremist fringes of the conservative movement off into the woods to stockpile weapons and prepare to wage war with the "Liberal Fascist" Hitler.

As I've said before, however, they are not the real threat to our democracy. The real threat is that "rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible" because of a Republican noise machine that will work non-stop to undermine and attack any governance at all that isn't controlled by the conservative movement.

The terrible irony is is that the same pundits who'll be worried about liberty being taken away by a Democratic president are the same pundits who accuse Democrats of being "weak" on terror for not endorsing the Bush administration's expansion of the national surveillance state.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"Weak" on national defense

One of the strangest aspects of American political discourse is the fact that despite the ruinous and catastrophic effects of neoconservative militarism being put into action, in the mainstream media Democrats are still expected to demonstrate that they aren't "weak" on national defense.

Glenn Greenwald wrote about this in relation to Howard Dean a couple of years ago

The only way to see the Bush movement as "serious, weighty, tough" foreign policy thinkers, and the only way to see Democrats like Dean as "frivolous and weak on defense," is to completely ignore (or distort) history and to operate from the premise that being terribly wrong is a sign of seriousness and wisdom and being completely right is a sign of frivolity and weakness.

And it is worth noting -- in fact, it is critical to ingest -- that the President pronounces himself more certain than ever that he is right about his foreign policy approach. The same approach that brought us the unparalleled disaster in Iraq, North Korean nuclear tests, a neglected and therefore resurgent Taliban, and an Iran that is seemingly determined to acquire nuclear weapons is what will continue to guide our country's behavior over the next two years if the President can continue to operate with a free hand. Only in the up-is-down world of the American media political dialogue would Republicans be deemed "strong and tough" on national security and foreign policy be considered their strong suit. It is almost impossible to have been more wrong than they have been, and to weaken this country more than it's been weakened over the past five years.
Yet we have a presidential contender - McCain - whose foreing policy plans can be thought of as Bush plus and he still is widely considered in the media to have an advantage on his opponent when it comes to being "strong" on national defense.

So in the spirit of the Greenwald post above, I'd thought we'd take a look at another shrill, left-wing, anti-American liberal communist who hated America and proved how unserious he was about national security because of his opposition to the invasion of Iraq in contrast to pundit superstars like William Kristol.

Jeffrey Sachs, writing in The New Republic (pdf file) March 3, 2003

It is now a mark of honor for many in the administration to stand up to the complaints of the Europeans and the United Nations. They smugly trust that American power will carry the day. But they are wrong. The White House is vastly underestimating how painful and difficult the Iraq conflict and reconstruction will be, because it is making a broader, deeper mistake: It is vastly overestimating the utility of military power. And, because of this mistake, the collapse of worldwide trust in the United States will have prolonged and pernicious effects, greatly multiplying the costs that our country will soon bear in a conflict. We will find that the president’s belief in the redemptive power of the military is misplaced—not because we’ll lose the war but because we’ll lose the peace or, more accurately, suffer prolonged instability and violence in the region and around the globe as the world turns increasingly hostile to American ideology and pretensions.
And

Three profound lessons about military power will be replayed in the aftermath of a war with Iraq. First, a conventional army on the ground cannot suppress local uprisings or guerrilla warfare without tremendous bloodshed and years of agony. For decades, the British could not suppress the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland. The vast military might of Israel cannot suppress the Palestinian uprising. The Russians could not suppress the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s or the Chechens in the 1990s. The United States took casualties and quickly departed from both Lebanon and Somalia and even now is struggling to gain control in Afghanistan outside of Kabul. Under much worse circumstances, the United States is about to insert itself for years into the vicious internecine struggles of Iraq, where tens of thousands of angry young men will be keen to pick off the occupying force. Our smart bombs won’t prove as helpful at ground level as they do at 35,000 feet.
And

In addition to our military power, therefore, we have to translate our economic wealth and technological prowess into a different kind of power—the power to help shape the global cooperation institutions on which we will depend for our livelihoods and our long-term prosperity. The much-maligned United Nations, the very institution we are doing so much to threaten by our current unilateralism, remains the single best hope for shaping a world to our liking in the twenty-first century. Through the United Nations and specialized agencies, such as the World Health Organization, unicef, or the Food and Agriculture Organization, we could deploy our economic strengths to overcome poverty, deal with climate-change problems, and fight debilitating diseases. We could help rid the world of the poverty that provides fertile ground for upheaval, dislocation, and terrorism. Over the long run, we would build international goodwill and shared values that would diminish the anti-American fury that threatens our lives and economic well-being. War with Iraq will, tragically, do the exact opposite.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sci-fi innumeracy

From Death by Black Hole by Neal deGrasse Tyson

The 1997 film Contact, inspired by Carl Sagan's 1983 novel of the same name, contains an especially embarrassing astro-gaffe. (I saw the movie and never read the book. But everyone who has read the book says, of course, that it's better than the movie.) Contact explores what might happen when humans find intelligent life in the galaxy and then establish contact with it. The heroine astrophysicist and alien hunter is actress Jodie Foster, who recites a fundamental line that contains mathematically impossible information. Just as she establishes her love interest in ex-priest Mathew McConaughey, seated with the largest radio telescope in the world behind them, she says to him with passion: "If there are 400 billion stars in the galaxy, and just one in a million had planets, and just one in a million of those had life, and just one in a million of those had intelligent life, that still leaves millions of planets to explore." Wrong. According to her numbers, that leaves 0.0000004 planets with intelligent life on them, which is a figure somewhat lower than "millions." No doubt that "one in a million" sounds better on screen than "one in ten," but you can't fake math.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Pat Buchanan has also visited a "pro-White" radio program

From Media Matters

As Media Matters for America has noted, Obama Nation author Jerome Corsi reportedly canceled an appearance on the August 17 edition of The Political Cesspool Radio Show -- a program whose "Statement of Principles" asserts that it "represent[s] a philosophy that is pro-White" -- after Media Matters for America, the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hatewatch blog, and several media outlets noted Corsi's reported plan to appear on the show. Corsi had appeared on the show's July 20 edition. But Corsi isn't the only conservative media figure to appear on Political Cesspool; MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan appeared on the program's June 29, 2008, and September 14, 2006, editions. Buchanan's June 29 interview was streamed "Live" on the self-described "White Nationalist" and "White Pride" website Stormfront.org.
Color me not surprised. Remember when I said that Buchanan was disseminating white nationalist memes in his columns featured at Townhall.com (and elsewhere) in response to Bill O'Reilly using representatives from Townhall to denouce the Daily Kos as a Nazi/KKK type hate site?

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.
Case in point: the host of the "pro-White" radio program James Edwards - whom the SPLC described as "overtly racist, anti-Semitic" - has previously written that

For blacks in the Americas, slavery is the greatest thing that ever happened to them. Unfortunately, it’s the worst thing that ever happened to white Americans.

Quote of the day

"Conscience is the most sacred of all property" - James Madison, "Property" (1792)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Robert Reich talks Supercapitalism











I previously reviewed the book here.

Sean Hannity says Sean Hannity should be fired

"You know, if I were to say on my 530 radio stations or right here on the FOX News Channel half the stuff that liberals say about me, lies told on a regular basis — and I don't really pay attention to it because I don't care — I would be probably thrown off the air, targeted for boycotts." - Sean Hannity

The most amazing (and disturbing) thing about Sean Hannity's belief that there is a double standard in the media which allows "liberals" to say mean and horrible things about pseudo-conservatives like himself is that it is a complete and utter inversion of reality. The reality is that Sean Hannity's career is based specifically on his ability to say mean and horrible things about "liberals" without conscience; he is paid lucratively precisely because of his ability to spread lies and misinformation on a regular and systematic basis.

The clearest indication of the real double standard is Ann Coulter: there is simply no "liberal" equivelent to her. Coulter's career suffered not a bit from her absolutely inexcusable derogatory comments about the "Jersey Girls". Indeed, a Google search will reveal that she was lauded for telling 9/11 widows that they gloried in the death of their husbands (she received an ovation from from Sean Hannity's audience for them at the end of this clip.)

Hannity's latest defamation campaign involves his relentless promotion of the Liars for Jesus propaganda that Obama favors infanticide. It is a sad irony that people who are so determined to plaster the Ten Commandments in public schools and courtrooms can't see fit to abide by the 9th commandment's injunction to Not Bear False Witness against others. And the thing to remember is that the so-called "born alive" legislation that sparked all this was designed as heads we win, tails you lose political legislation. The lives of live infants were already protected under Illinois law; the purpose of the legislation was to create backdoor precedent for making abortion illegal and to demonize anyone who didn't vote for it as a proponent of infanticide.

If you read the above link you will see that there is grounds for criticism in regards to Obama's explanation about his voting record on the matter, but there is nothing that remotely comes close to justifying the frenzy of accusation that Obama favors killing children.

Update: Media Matters has some background on Hannity's newest favorite Liar for Jesus relating to her credibility.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Michael Savage's message

I listened to about ten minutes of Michael Savage's radio show yesterday. The gist of the message was thus: the homosexual/liberal vermin must be killed.

I think he meant that metaphorically, but the metaphor sort of dropped out at the end. He had been talking about how the "vermin," i.e. liberals/hippies, homosexuals, and the media are trying to stab a knife into the heart of America in order to kill America and that he wants to fight and kill Americas enemies in response. Notice how that shifts from a metaphorical death to one that just sounds like plain old death.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sean Hannity vies for title of most clueless human on the planet

Via Dave Neiwert, Sean Hannity on "liberals"

HANNITY: I think — I think they think we're evil. You know, I mean, if you read, you know, the things — it's funny because there is this double standard out there in both radio and television.

You know, if I were to say on my 530 radio stations or right here on the FOX News Channel half the stuff that liberals say about me, lies told on a regular basis — and I don't really pay attention to it because I don't care — I would be probably thrown off the air, targeted for boycotts.

It's like this is how they let the liberals — they say they like free speech, but they want to silence anybody, Fairness Doctrine included. Anybody they disagree with.
Right, so says the author of a book which says that liberalism is an evil that America needs to be delivered from. So says the guy that promotes conspiracy theory that Vince Foster was murdered by the Clintons, that Michael Schiavo put his wife in a persistent vegetative state so that he could claim the insurance money, etc. So says the guy who works at a network that spends a good deal of time promoting the message that the entertainment industry should "shut up and sing."

Gee, look at the image and see if you can see any sort of aysemmetry there. Mr. Hannity is correct about one thing, though. I sure as hell do think that propaganda tactics like naming individuals with political views you disagree with "Enemy of the State" and equating them with dictators is pretty god damn evil.*

*It should be noted that while Hannity may think Hugo Chavez is a dictator, he is not (although he has been attempting to aggregate power for himself.) The image should also be considered in relation to Hannity's book Deliver us From Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism. Hannity considers (left-wing) dictators, terrorists and liberals to be a sort of Satanic axis of Evil that must be defeated.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Another global warming/creationism parallel

This had escaped my attention until the other day.

Kent Hovind has an offer of $250,000 for anyone who can give a scientific proof of evolution. Now Steve Milloy is following in Hovind's footsteps with the Ultimate Global Warming Challenge: $100,000 if you can provide a scientific proof of harmful man-made warming.

Critical thinking is an ethical obligation

From "The Ethics of Belief" by William Clifford

A shipowner was about to send to sea an emigrant-ship. He knew that she was old, and not overwell built at the first; that she had seen many seas and climes, and often had needed repairs. Doubts had been suggested to him that possibly she was not seaworthy. These doubts preyed upon his mind, and made him unhappy; he thought that perhaps he ought to have her thoroughly overhauled and and refitted, even though this should put him at great expense. Before the ship sailed, however, he succeeded in overcoming these melancholy reflections. He said to himself that she had gone safely through so many voyages and weathered so many storms that it was idle to suppose she would not come safely home from this trip also. He would put his trust in Providence, which could hardly fail to protect all these unhappy families that were leaving their fatherland to seek for better times elsewhere. He would dismiss from his mind all ungenerous suspicions about the honesty of builders and contractors. In such ways he acquired a sincere and comfortable conviction that his vessel was thoroughly safe and seaworthy; he watched her departure with a light heart, and benevolent wishes for the success of the exiles in their strange new home that was to be; and he got his insurance-money when she went down in mid-ocean and told no tales.

What shall we say of him? Surely this, that he was verily guilty of the death of those men. It is admitted that he did sincerely believe in the soundness of his ship; but the sincerity of his conviction can in no wise help him, because he had no right to believe on such evidence as was before him. He had acquired his belief not by honestly earning it in patient investigation, but by stifling his doubts. And although in the end he may have felt so sure about it that he could not think otherwise, yet inasmuch as he had knowingly and willingly worked himself into that frame of mind, he must be held responsible for it.

Let us alter the case a little, and suppose that the ship was not unsound after all; that she made her voyage safely, and many others after it. Will that diminish the guilt of her owner? Not one jot. When an action is once done, it is right or wrong for ever; no accidental failure of its good or evil fruits can possibly alter that. The man would not have been innocent, he would only have been not found out. The question of right or wrong has to do with the origin of his belief, not the matter of it; not what it was, but how he got it; not whether it turned out to be true or false, but whether he had a right to believe on such evidence as was before him.
Or what if someone convinced himself an United States invasion of Iraq would finance itself. That the United States would be greeted as liberators. That Iraq had "weapons of mass destruction" and ties to al Qaeda. What if people who were actually planning an occupation were dismissed for ideological reasons? If before the invasion generals warning that it would require a greater number of troops were ignored and after the invasion what if he ignored critical reports warning of a growing insurgency? Etc.

What shall we say of him?

Mainstreaming hate

I noted this in an update to my previous post about Jerome Corsi having been scheduled to appear on a white supremacist radio program which is syndicated at the white nationalist web forum Stormfront, but Corsi failed to appear on the radio show, supposedly because of a change in travel plans.

A LA Times review of Corsi's book that Digby spotted demonstrates why Corsi's message would be so well received by such bigots.

You can pretty well sum the whole thing up this way: The Democratic candidate is a deceitful jihadist drug addict who, if elected, plans to impose a black supremacist, socialist regime.
That's the same sort of thing that the racists at Stormfront say on a regular basis. When they say it, we know its bigotry. Yet Corsi gets to go on Fox News and say it and get published by a major book publisher and pretend its not the extremist cant that it is.

At least one Stormfronter know white nationalism when he sees it

Lovely, far right wing White books like The Obama Nation are beoming number one according to the New York Times. And the so called White Hate group writings are becomng respectable in America.

The jews and blacks must be having convulsions over this.
Digby points out that Dave Neiwert has written extensively about the way that media transmitters within the conservative movement help to inject extremist views into the mainstream.

Not only do they inject the extremist meme into mainstream conservatism, they also condition the mainstream to think of extremists in a generous and even collegial light. Simultaneously, they persuade extremists who might otherwise align themselves with marginal and powerless fringe groups to instead perceive that mainstream conservatives are capable of addressing their issues, thereby drawing them into the political ranks of mainstream conservatism.
Jerome Corsi is a perfect example of that.

One day he's appearing on a white supremacist radio show. Another day he's on Fox News promoting a book he had published by a publishing imprint run by a Republican political operative.* Corsi walks in both worlds, making the extreme, as the quoted Stormfronter puts it, "respectable."

Digby makes this same point, and observes the asymmetry in the nature of the way what is "extreme" is defined in mainstream American political discourse.

Dave Neiwert has, as you all undoubtedly know, written reams about how the right mainstreams its extremists. And this is one case where I think it's come fully to fruition, right out in the open. Corsi is not just a right wing ideologue. He's a full fledged nutcase, and yet he was hired by a major publisher, "edited" by a star GOP villager, to write an incendiary book of lies about the Democratic presidential candidate. They aren't even trying to keep their fingerprints off this thing.

In fact, the default position among Democrats, Republicans and the media is that the only kooks in the country with whom it is unacceptable to be professionally or financially involved are on the left. And "the left" is defined so broadly that it includes groups like MoveOn and Vote Vets. The right, in contrast, has fully integrated even their extremist fringe into the mainstream and everyone accepts it.
*More on that in a future post.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cool site of the day

Orwell Diaries

The Orwell Prize, Britain’s pre-eminent prize for political writing, is publishing George Orwell’s diaries as a blog. From 9th August 2008, Orwell’s domestic and political diaries (from 9th August 1938 until October 1942) will be posted in real-time, exactly 70 years after the entries were written.

Orwell’s ‘domestic’ diaries begin on 9th August 1938/2008; his ‘political’ diaries (which are further categorised as ‘Morocco’, ‘Pre-war’ and ‘Wartime’) begin on 7th September 1938/2008.

The diaries are exactly as Orwell wrote them. Where there are original spelling errors, they are indicated by a ° following the offending word.
George Orwell is one of the 20th century's most acute critics of totalitarianism. I have a friend who previously had ridiculed me over my concerns regarding the Patriot Act and the treatment of individuals such as Padilla and Hamdan. A while ago he finished reading 1984 for the first time and he e-mailed me to let me know he had begun questioning and re-thinking such things.

In Orwell's political diaries - written as the world descended into hellish world war - we get to see the personal insights that allowed Orwell to write such powerful anti-totalitarian allegory.

Update: Jean Seaton of The Orwell Prize talked to NPR about the release of these previously unreleased diaries.

As it so happens, I've been reading Why Orwell Matters by Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens provides another example of the lasting anti-totalitarian power of Orwell's writing that I had not been aware of: that the people of Zimbabwe considered their dictator Robert Mugabe to be the equivalent of Napoleon from Animal Farm.

THE exploits of Napoleon, Snowball and Squealer in Animal Farm have been gripping readers of Zimbabwe's most popular newspaper as they revel in its striking parallels with the autocratic President Robert Mugabe.

The Daily News, the biggest selling independent newspaper, has criticised Mr Mugabe and suffered two bomb attacks and numerous violent demonstrations.

Yet its serialisation of Animal Farm, in which George Orwell sought to parody the communism which swept Russia and was spreading to Europe, has marked its most effective attack on his government.

Kingston's bookshop, the largest in Harare, sold out of copies of Orwell's book within days of the serialisation beginning last month.

In the daily instalments Napoleon, the greedy and brutal pig who leads the revolution, is depicted in the black thick-rimmed spectacles favoured by Mr Mugabe.

The Jesus who isn't best pals with Rush Limbaugh and "the Right"

Gary Wills' op-ed "Christ Among the Partisans" is a couple of years old, but is worth re-reading in this election year.

Money quote: "The institutional Jesus of the Republicans has no similarity to the Gospel figure. Neither will any institutional Jesus of the Democrats."

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Abortion clinic bombings will be making a comeback

Thanks, in no small part, to people like Jerome Corsi promoting the vile and evil lie that Obama favors legalized murder of babies to the White Nationalist website Stormfront (founded by a former KKK member) and people like Rush Limbaugh telling his audience of millions that

But what's fascinating to me is that the drive-bys are spending 10 times the amount of energy trying to get who -- the background on Corsi than they are on Obama. They have spent no time working on the background of Obama. It is other people having to come up with the fact that this guy, numerous times, three times in Illinois voted for legislation that would allow doctors and patients to murder babies who survived abortions and were out of the womb. Radical stuff. Three times he voted for this.
Meanwhile, Bill O'Reilly is so very worried that someone is going to get killed because of the supposed Nazi style hatred of conservatives being cultivated in a fraction of a percentage point of the comments posted in response to the articles at Daily Kos.

I will adress the rest of this post to O'Reilly:

Mr. O'Reilly,
Jerome Corsi is telling white nationalist, Nazi worshipping racists that Barack Obama favors killing babies. He is doing so with the help of Fox News star Sean Hannity. If you want to at least pretend to be anything other than a delusional, ego-maniacal generic Joe McCarthy out to demonize anyone and everyone that ever says a critical word about you, then you should speak out and denounce these evil smears from your Fox News family.

Of course, I won't be holding my breath waiting for that to happen. Especially when one considers O'Reilly's own vile extremist anti-abortion propaganda.

Friday, August 15, 2008

More things that don't exist in Mr. O'Reilly's alternate universe

From Orcinus

Bill O'Reilly has taken his war on the blogs to the next level, engaging an "Internet Cop" who regularly appears on his show to provide examples of just how over-the-top outrageous those potty-mouth liberal bloggers are. The argument is that while conservative blogs may be rough-and-tumble, they're nothing like those liberal blogs, where commenters routinely make death threats against conservatives. (I know. I know. Conservative projection in action, once again. When Ann Coulter calls for us to be executed as traitors on national TV, that's just incisive commentary in Bill's World. When some hothead with issues corks off on our pages -- even when the rest of us cut him off or shut him down -- it's a cardinal sign that liberal blogs have become a danger to the nation.)

The really funny part of this is that his "cop" is Amanda Carpenter of Townhall.com, a site that recently called Michelle Obama a "race pimp" and said that congressmen who "damage the morale and undermine the military" should be executed as saboteurs. And no, those weren't comments -- those calls came on the front page. You'd think that would pretty much disqualify her as the Amy Vanderbilt in charge of enforcing good manners on blogs -- but, y'no, it's Fox, and reality is what they say it is.

The not-so-funny (and not-so-surprising) part is that Carpenter's own comments threads contain their fair share of precisely the same kind of ugly speech she purports to be digging up on the threads at liberal blogs -- and, in fact, much worse. Brad Friedman went out and found a choice series of eliminationist screeds that should give all of us pause
Read the rest at the link. One thing, however, that bothered me is that Robinson suggests that reading the comments linked would perhaps give one reason to go out and purchase a gun (for self-defense purposes.) While I can understand the sentiment given the nature of the comments, I think that kind of rhetoric is counter-productive.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Things that don't exist in the alternate-reality O'Reilly lives in

I flipped by the O'Reilly Factor last night or the night before (I forget which) and saw O'Reilly doing the old Daily Kos are Nazis routine with Amanda Carpenter from Townhall.com - a site which features Pat Buchanan's quasi-white supremacist articles (see here and here.)

Look, the comments -rejoicing in the death of Robert Novak - O'Reilly and Carpenter were talking about are attrocious. I saw similar comments at The Secular Web, a site which is in my Link section, and found them to be highly objectionable. But, again, these are individual commenters with little to no influence.

Meanwhile, Jerome Corsi, who has become a regular fixture on Fox News promoting his new anti-Obama book which smears Obama as an infanticidal radical communist Manchurian candidate secret Muslim is going to go on a white nationalist radio show that will also be broadcast on a New World Order conspiracy network to promote that narrative.

Anonymous commenters at web forums versus best selling authors. Were O'Reilly's mind not hermetically sealed, this might indicate to him an asymmetry in the nature of "liberal" and "conservative" hate.

O'Reilly's mind is sealed, however, and he is fine with Corsi's book. What's more, he's fine with having Ann Coulter on his show despite her having previously expressed her regret that Timothy McVeigh did not blow up the New York Times building.

Update: I didn't notice until I read Jeffrey Feldman's post about this, but this won't be Corsi's first appearance on the white supremacist radio show.

While it should go without saying, the ramifications this holds for the broadcast and print media are profound. While the media has widely reported that Corsi was the author of a previous 'Swift Boat' smear campaigns against John Kerry, major media outlets have yet to report Corsi's affiliation with white supremacist radio.

News of white supremacist ties to an author of a book maligning Senator Barack Obama's candidacy for President should be a top story within hours of its being reported.
Update II: Corsi decided not to go on the radio show minutes before air time because of changing "travel plans."

A review of the new Thomas Franks book

Chet Scoville reviews The Wrecking Crew.

Western Fuel Association's p.r. campaign against reality

Historian of science Naomi Oreskes explains the tactics the Western Fuel Association uses to confuse the public about the science of global warming and how this strategy parallels the way that the tobacco industry lied to the public about the health effects of smoking for decades in this lecture.

Via Deltoid

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Something to keep in mind if confronted by an O'Reilly Factor stalker-producer



If you find yourself confronted by one of Bill O'Reilly's stalker-producers demanding to know why you won't answer Factor questions, explain to him that you refuse to answer questions from a program that dishonors the service of military veterans by attempting to minimize the plight and existence of homeless veterans.

In about the middle portion of this segment, Olbermann explains O'Reilly's latest attempt to bend reality to his will in an effort to discredit the economic message of John Edwards.*

*In the final bit of this clip, Olbermann attacks O'Reilly over his sexual harassment law suit. While this may generate ratings, it isn't all that intellectually honest. O'Reilly had raised the issue of potential Edwards campaign funds being used as hush money and Olbermann used that as an opportunity to bring up O'Reilly's settlement. This is non sequitur.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Quote of the day

'Those in the [Christian nationalist] movement speak of "liberty," but they do not speak about the traditional concepts of American liberty - the liberty to express divergent opinions, to respect other ways of believing and being, the liberty of individuals to seek and pursue their own goals and forms of happiness. When used by the Christian Right, the term "liberty" means the liberty that comes with accepting a very narrowly conceived Christ and the binary worldview that acceptance promotes.' - Chris Hedges, American Fascists

Monday, August 11, 2008

White House seeks to bypass reality

From Think Progress

Today, the AP reports on new draft rules being proposed by the Bush administration to gut the Endangered Species Act. This would be the biggest change to the groundbreaking legislation since 1988, and would not require the approval of Congress.

Currently, federal agencies are required to consult with an independent agency — the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) or the National Marine Fisheries Service — to determine whether a project would harm an endangered species. The AP reports that under the new rules, agencies would simply be able to “decide for themselves”
I have long said that you can see in microcosm everything wrong with the Bush administration by looking at its approach to the environment. This is still the case. The White House wants to cut independent scientific analysis out of the process because the White House does not believe that there should be any such thing as a non-political truth or reality; that, and then there's the desire of the White House to find a way to circumvent laws it does not like.

It's the same reason that the White House was able to never learn that Iraq did not have WMDs. This kind of governance by ideology inspite of factual evidence is excellent at putting ideological beliefs into practice. It is terrible at yielding competent, non-corrupt government that can deal with and respond to reality.

Eliminationist rhetoric from a Christian Nationalist

'In terms of the conservative constituency of the Republican Party, Sen. McCain is an opportunistic infection that threatens to ravage and destroy its defenseless body. Tragically for America, in the larger context of our national political life he still plays the role of the AIDS virus, masquerading as a republican while opening the way for Barack Obama, the opportunistic infection that will ravage the defenseless body of our republic. If we accept the McCain/Obama choice, we resign the republic to its demise. I guess the "lesser of evils" crowd will take comfort in the notion that though infected with HIV, the patient actually died of pneumonia. Unfortunately, this is false comfort, since the choice they make increases the virulence of the opportunistic infection.' - Alan Keyes

(h/t Andrew Sullivan)

What would it take to embarrass William Kristol?

In today's New York Times, in an op-ed that seems to suggest we should be going to war with Russia, William Kristol wrote: "In Iraq, we and our Iraqi allies are on the verge of a strategic victory over the jihadists in what they have called the central front of their struggle."

No matter how many times one of these breezy statements that Kristol routinely tosses out turns out to be catastrophically wrong, he continues making them. With no sense of remorse, contrition, or the apparent consideration that he should maybe retire and go take a time out somewhere where his dead wrong pronouncements can't translate into dead people.

Here's a previous gem from the pundit superstar on April 28, 2003

The United States committed itself to defeating terror around the world. We committed ourselves to reshaping the Middle East, so the region would no longer
be a hotbed of terrorism, extremism, anti-Americanism, and weapons of mass destruction. The first two battles of this new era are now over. The battles of Afghanistan and Iraq have been won decisively and honorably. But these are only two battles. We are only at the end of the beginning in the war on terror and terrorist states.
It is absolutely bizarre seeing someone who has been so absolutely wrong about the most important issues of the day on one of the largest news channels in the country and in one of the most influential newspapers. I find this sickening.

Given that the quality of Kristol's opinion is so poor, the only purpose it serves is as propaganda.

YouTube of the day

"What I've done" by Linkin Park

Something I forgot to mention

In this post I wrote that the McCain ad with allusions to the Left Behind books conception of Antichrist were not merely unethical, but irresponsible and dangerous given that New World Order conspiracy beliefs had been a prime motivation for Timothy McVeigh's Oklahoma City bombing. What I forgot to mention is that the Left Behind books are explicitly New World Order conspiracy books. The Antichrist character in the book plainly states that he is forging a "new world order."

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Tim LaHaye hears McCain's dog whistle

As I mentioned before, I've been reading (and am now a few pages short of finishing) Tim LaHaye's first Left Behind novel. The most impressive thing about the book is that the quality of writing gets progressively worse, page by page.

My having read the Left Behind book is one of the reasons I could state with confidence after watching McCain's ad depicting Obama as Antchrist that "there will be many a Tim LaHaye reading 'liberal' hating Christian Nationalist who sees this commercial and will have the circuitry in his brain light up to say: Danger, AntiChrist coming!" If you've read the book, the way the ad draws upon the characterization of Carpathia (the Antichrist) to characterize Obama is obvious.

Well, Slactivist - who has been doing truly excellent and informative page by page analysis of the Left Behind series* - points out that Tim LaHaye noticed the ad borrowing from his books, too.

That steaming pile of spin from Brian Rogers is quoted in a Wall Street Journal article that also includes commentary from Tim LaHaye himself:

The End Times, a New Testament reference to the period surrounding the return of Christ, were popularized in recent years by the "Left Behind" series of books that sold more than 63 million copies. The Rev. Tim LaHaye, co-author of the series, said in an interview that he recognized allusions to his work in the ad but comparisons between Sen. Obama and the Antichrist are incorrect.

"The Antichrist isn't going to be an American, so it can't possibly be Obama. The Bible makes it clear he will be from an obscure place, like Romania," the 82-year-old author said.
Let me repeat the key part of that:

"LaHaye ... recognized allusions to his work in the ad."

LaHaye recognized those allusions in the ad because those allusions are in the ad. They were put in the ad.
The whole post is worth reading, but this part will help makes sense of something else I wrote in my previous post:

LaHaye is talking about what we have repeatedly seen as a recurring, emphatic theme in Left Behind and throughout the entire premillennial dispensationalist sect: Those who seek peace and pursue it might be the Antichrist; those who speak of love, peace, unity and brotherhood might be the Antichrist.

So beware the peacemakers, recoil in horror from Middle East peace talks, fear the United Nations, wet the bed over nightmares of a One World Government and keep a terrified, watchful eye on anyone who suggests that international relations might consist of anything other than hot and cold war.
With that in mind, it's also fairly obvious why Gerard Baker's satire about Obama touring Europe and the Middle East, magically bringing peace as he goes, is a dog whistle. Indeed, I consider it to be a more effective whistle than the McCain ad, which Slactivist says is:

It's a very clumsy kind of dogwhistle, though. When torture-apologist Michael Gerson inserted evangelicalisms into President Bush's speeches he did so seamlessly. The intended evangelical audience understood the dogwhistle message, but it was embedded within a coherent message addressed to the larger audience. McCain's ad works as a dogwhistle, but there's no larger message for the larger audience. The Left Behind readers will understand his coded message, but the larger audience will just see him standing there, growing red-faced from blowing into a whistle that appears not to work.
The Baker piece, however, will make sense to a secular audience, who will get it as using a Biblical tone to mock expectations of what Obama presidency will accomplish; and yet it is also less obviously an appeal to the Left Behind novels.

Update: Time magazine explores the Left Behind evoking appearance of the ad. (h/t Framing Science)

Update II:
RedState is now selling this t-shirt as a "joke."

*If you have or haven't read the books, his archives on it are a fantastic resource. I plan on using them in several future posts, as I've already done in this post and this post.

Friday, August 08, 2008

"He attacked the man most likely to help him."

First, remember (i.e. re-read) what I said about scape-goating. Then read Chet Scoville's post about Straw Liberals. Ok, now here's a portion of an e-mail I sent to another blogger:

Another issue that this brings to light: Thomas Frank has a new book coming out in a few days called The Wrecking Crew about how the conservative movement in power yields incompetent and ruinous government. Yet, whether in power or not, the noise machine figures spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week blaming "liberals" for all problems in America.

For example, they say vote for Republicans as a solution to fiscally irresponsible Democrats. They get in power and bankrupt the country and then say vote for Republicans as a solution to fiscally irresponsible Democrats. You get the idea ... they're very good at scapegoating, not so good at governing.

This guy Adkisson felt down and out. And he scapegoated "liberals" in the same terms that the authors of the books found in his home scapegoat "liberals" on a daily basis. I turned to Hannity's radio show yesterday - no lie - randomly and the instant I flipped it on I heard Hannity telling me "liberals" are to blame for high gas prices and that if Obama becomes president his tax policy will cause another Great Depression.

Kevin Phillips - a disenchanted Republican - had a chapter in his 1993 book Boiling Point about how middle class frustration after a decade of Reaganomics gave rise to "the politics of resentment" during the '92 presidential campaign which resembled the dynamic by which national socialism began to flourish in the Weimar Republic (remember that David Duke was making his runs for office back then.)

Fascism's violent populism tends to prey upon people feeling down and out like Adkisson - who read Michael Savage who pretty much is a fascist - and gives them a Demon to hate. This review of Boiling Point touches on the subject

While today's middle-class revolt is just the latest manifestation of a populist thread that has run through American history, a hidden danger exists. Not all populist movements were inclusive. As John Judis points out in the summer 1993 issue of The American Prospect, while some populists in the late 1800s unwaveringly supported a movement of black and white, many southern populists, particularly after 1892, sought to exclude blacks. Similarly, while many populists during that era and in the 1930s identified the privileged elite as business tycoons or financiers, others identified the members of the elite as Easterners and even as Jews.

In other words, one current of populism has always sought to unite the middle with the bottom of society, including whites and blacks, small business owners and labor, tenants and homeowners – against uncaring big business and the wealthy. The other tendency pitted the people against both the top of society and the bottom including blacks and immigrants. The more inclusive populism formed the underlying rhetoric of progressive populism. The more exclusive populism underlaid the appeal of modern conservatism represented by people like George Wallace, David Duke and Pat Buchanan.
Allright, now listen to what Rev. Chris Bruice, pastor of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, has to say about Jim Adkisson.

Baleful quote of the day

"It is imposisble for us to reach these people, but we can rest completely assured that we must stop them from gaining power - the plans they have, the lunatic assumptions they hold, are the stuff with which civil wars are made. Essentially, the left wishes to criminalise non-leftist actions and ideas, and as we on the right won’t ever agree to that, push may very well come to shove if the left gains power and seeks to prosecute us for what they consider to be crimes. I wish never to see anyone who is a fellow citizen of the United States as an enemy - but anyone who thinks putting President Bush et al up on war crimes charges - or even attempting to set up a truth commission - is someone who has definitively set themselves up as my enemy. Not a fellow citizen with ideas I think wrong, but an enemy I’ll fight." - Mark Noonan

Ok, let me get this straight. If "the left" - which now includes arch-communists like Bob Barr and Bruce Fein - sets up a commission to investigate the Bush administration for violations of American law Mark Noonan will be prepared to wage war - indeed Civil War II - against "the left."

Of course, Dahlia Lithwick is not suggesting that the Bush administration be investigated for holding "non-leftist ideas" or committing "non-leftist actions," nor is she suggesting the Bush regime has committed crimes equivalent to that of the Nazis. She is suggesting that if American laws have been broken - and in at least the instance of domestic surveillance they have been by admission of the Bush administration - we should find out about it and then hold the law-breakers accountable. What Lithwick (and I for that matter) "consider to be crimes" are, um, crimes.

Listen

There's not much dispute that domestic and international laws were broken in pursuit of the war on terror (see our monster Venn diagram). A federal judge recently ruled that President Bush violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in ordering the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants. Jane Mayer reports in her superb new book, The Dark Side, on a classified report from the International Red Cross finding that Bush administration officials authorized interrogation tactics that were "categorically" torture. And today we learn, from government memos released by the ACLU, that the Department of Justice authorized the use of "enhanced" interrogation techniques, including "the waterboard," on specific detainees. A handful of Bush administration officials continue to insist that water-boarding and eavesdropping are legal. Of course, they tend to be the same people who refuse to say that being buried alive or boiled in hot oil is illegal, so long as the president orders it.

Such contortionism aside, the question for most of us now is not whether laws were broken, but what to do about it. The War Crimes Act of 1996 makes it a federal crime for any American—military or civilian—to cause a "grave breach" of the Geneva Conventions' ban on inhumane treatment for prisoners. U.S. interrogators have been inhumane. Some of them have not only tortured but, in at least 100 cases, killed prisoners. A smattering of relatively low-ranking soldiers have been prosecuted, but in most instances there has been little or no accountability and none whatsoever at the top.
What this means is that Noonan believes that any attempt to hold "conservatives" accountable to the rule of law is grounds for civil war. Or to put it another way: not allowing Bush administration officials to break American laws with impunity amounts in Noonan's mind to ideological persecution!* This seems to be a psychological phenomena related to the way that movement conservatives consider any news that reflects poorly on a Republican to be evidence of liberal bias: not only is reality liberally biased, but so are our laws, it would seem.

Noonan considers this to be "the stuff with which civil wars are made." But what this "stuff" is is they way that our system of government is supposed to function. We are a country of laws, not of men. Our public servants are expected to serve the law, not vice versa. It is the rule of law which is the backbone of our civic body. It is the glue that holds our society together, and contrary to what Noonan believes, it is in reality the abandonment and atrophy of the rule of law which threatens to unravel the fabric of our system of government.

As it so happens, I started drafting a post the other day which argues the need for another entity like the Church commission to investigate the damage to democracy that has been done over the course of the Bush administration. Apparently, I should be worried that Noonan sees me as an enemy that he needs to fight a civil war against.

Do you think Jim Adkisson considered he was striking the first blow of Civil War II?

*Yet expelling a Democrat from the Senate for proposing the President be censured for admitted law breaking is fine by Noonan.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The White House has an interrogation cellar?

Are you kidding me? This sounds like the sort of thing you'd expect in some banana republic.

Let me just go on record saying I'm terribly uncomfortable with the notion of my country's president being able to have people interrogated in his basement.

Glenn Beck is stupid

What else can you say about someone like this?

Last month, author Andrew Klavan wrote that the new Batman film is a “paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war.” CNN’s Glenn Beck agreed today, listing off controversial Bush policies he claims were vindicated by the film’s showcase of “conservative values on the war on terror”:

But Batman goes into another country and with a C-130 snatches a guy out, and then throws him back here into Gotham. So there’s rendition. At one point the Morgan Freeman character says to Batman, wait a minute, hang on, you’re eavesdropping on everyone in Gotham? And Batman says, yes, to stop this terrorist. Morgan Freeman says, I can’t be a part of it. And yet Morgan Freeman does become a part of it, and they find the Joker. One of the ways they find the Joker is through eavesdropping. I mean the parallels here of what’s going on is to me stunning.
Could someone at CNN or CNN HN- supposedly news networks - inform Beck that the Batman movie is a fictional adaptation of a comic book, not a documentary of actual events.

Update: Someone should have him read this, too.

Killing in the name of _____

Rant & Reason notices some striking similarity in the methodology of animal rights extremists and anti-abortion extremists:

"The causes might be different, but fanaticism brings the methods closer and closer together. And along the way, the message of the fanatics is lost in the hatred and the fire, until only the violence remains."

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Anthrax: Did it go down the memory hole?

If you haven't been reading Glenn Greenwald's series of posts about the 2001 anthrax attacks then I highly recommend you take the time to read through them. Here are the first three:

Vital unresolved anthrax questions and ABC News
Journalists, their lying sources, and the anthrax investigation
Additional key facts re: the anthrax investigation

After pointing out that these anthrax attacks were purposefully designed to create the impression they were part of additional attacks from the 9/11 terrorists, Greenwald reminds us about the role that ABC News had in creating the false perception in the public's mind that Iraq was responsible for the attacks - which played a major role in generating the public perception that Iraq was linked to the 9/11 attacks. If it had not been for this perception, the Iraq invasion may not have happened.

Much more important than the general attempt to link the anthrax to Islamic terrorists, there was a specific intent -- indispensably aided by ABC News -- to link the anthrax attacks to Iraq and Saddam Hussein. In my view, and I've written about this several times and in great detail to no avail, the role played by ABC News in this episode is the single greatest, unresolved media scandal of this decade. News of Ivins' suicide, which means (presumably) that the anthrax attacks originated from Ft. Detrick, adds critical new facts and heightens how scandalous ABC News' conduct continues to be in this matter.

During the last week of October, 2001, ABC News, led by Brian Ross, continuously trumpeted the claim as their top news story that government tests conducted on the anthrax -- tests conducted at Ft. Detrick -- revealed that the anthrax sent to Daschele contained the chemical additive known as bentonite. ABC News, including Peter Jennings, repeatedly claimed that the presence of bentonite in the anthrax was compelling evidence that Iraq was responsible for the attacks, since -- as ABC variously claimed -- bentonite "is a trademark of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program" and "only one country, Iraq, has used bentonite to produce biological weapons."

ABC News' claim -- which they said came at first from "three well-placed but separate sources," followed by "four well-placed and separate sources" -- was completely false from the beginning. There never was any bentonite detected in the anthrax (a fact ABC News acknowledged for the first time in 2007 only as a result of my badgering them about this issue). It's critical to note that it isn't the case that preliminary tests really did detect bentonite and then subsequent tests found there was none. No tests ever found or even suggested the presence of bentonite. The claim was just concocted from the start. It just never happened.

That means that ABC News' "four well-placed and separate sources" fed them information that was completely false -- false information that created a very significant link in the public mind between the anthrax attacks and Saddam Hussein.
It is difficult to overstate the significance of this. And, yet, as Greenwald points in the rest of this and the other posts, Brian Ross and ABC News have not revealed who those sources were!

That is simply unacceptable. The point of protecting sources is to protect whistle-blowers and to uncover malfeasance and what not. The point is not to help anonymous entities mislead the public and disseminate propaganda lies that now run with the blood of hundreds of thousands of people and which have been used to roll back the Bill of Rights.

Brian Ross has apparently been to the Judy Miller school of journalism.

Good news for gorillas

From the New York Times

A grueling survey of vast tracts of forest and swamp in the northern Congo Republic has revealed the presence of more than 125,000 western lowland gorillas, a rare example of abundance in a world of rapidly vanishing primate populations.

As recently as last year, this subspecies of the world’s largest primate was listed as critically endangered by international wildlife organizations because known populations — estimated at less than 100,000 in the 1980s — had been devastated by hunting and outbreaks of Ebola virus. The three other subspecies are either critically endangered or endangered.
Read the rest of the article to see that the gorillas - and many other of our primate cousins - aren't out of the woods yet. (And, yes, I mean that in both sense.)

Do raptured blastocysts turn into immortal blastocysts?

As I mentioned, I've been reading the first Left Behind book. Just the other day I read a passage that left me wondering the question in the post title. The section is about a conversation between one of the main characters and someone who has a sister that works at a family planning clinic. The sister is depressed because she no longer has work to do since all "unborn children" have been raptured. (Slacktivist points out everything wrong with the coversation). In other words, apparently every single pregnant woman on the planet had the human life growing inside her raptured, regardless of what stage of development it was in. Including the newly implanted blastocyst.

(image of blastocyst shortly before implantation from here) So, um, what exactly are these tiny balls of cells going to be doing for all of eternity?*

*Obviously, the question is facetious. But I'm simply pointing out how incoherent these beliefs are. Some believe that the unborn will be magically fast fowarded to their "ideal" age. In which case, where does the personality come from? Ech ... all gibberish.