Sunday, May 31, 2009

"Tiller the baby killer" murdered ... but don't blame O'Reilly ...

Bill O'Reilly likes to call sites like the Huffington Post and Daily Kos hate sites no different than the KKK and/or Nazis. He has attempted to link the sites to a rise in hate crimes and has stated his belief that someone is going to be killed because of the alleged demonizing these sites engage in.

I have to wonder: when Bill O'Reilly looks in a mirror, is he capable of seeing his own reflection?

I previously made mention of O'Reilly being a medium for the transmission of Religious Right lies, specifically some lies about abortion clinic doctor George Tiller.

O'Reilly had on someone from an anti-abortion organization that said that Kansas abortion doctor George Tiller has a crematorium in his clinic and somedays when the organization's protesters are standing outside dead baby ashes rain down on them. I kid you not.
A look through O'reilly's archives - see here for instance - will find multiple segments over a course of years demonizing Tiller as a "baby killer" guilty of "executing" children.

Tiller was murdered today in Wichita, shot to death as he entered church.

As Brad Blog notes

Tiller was better known to Fox "News" viewers as "Tiller the Baby Killer", as he's long been described by Bill O'Reilly who has spent years targeting Tiller on the most-watched show in cable news. O'Reilly has long demonized him with allegations of performing illegal late-term abortions, characterized as murder by O'Reilly and his guests.

Of course, it's no more O'Reilly's fault when a lunatic takes action to murder someone the Fox host has targeted for years on his popular television show, than it was when another lunatic gunned down church-goers in Tennessee last year claiming in his pre-murder "manifesto" that it was "a symbolic killing", and that he had "wanted to kill...every Democrat in the Senate & House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg's book." Goldberg is a regular featured guest on O'Reilly's show, and the author of 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Al Franken is #37).

Jim David Adkisson, the Knoxville, TN murderer, also advocated the murder of "liberals" in his manifesto, echoing comments frequently made by O'Reilly that "The Major News outlets have become the propaganda arm of the Democrat Party. Liberals are evil, they embrace the tenets of Karl Marx, they're Marxist, socialist, communists."

Those are all merely coincidences, of course. Nobody, other than the murderers themselves, should feel it necessary to take any personal responsibility whatsoever when such events occur.

In March of this year, after Tiller had been acquitted of charges alleging that he'd performed late-term abortions in violation of Kansas state law, O'Reilly continued his series of programs focusing on the Kansas physician, charging him with "operating a death mill" (video here), and alleging that he was "executing babies" (video here).

O'Reilly had previously been highly critical of the state's Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, charging, during his Talking Points commentary in 2007, that she was "allowing [Tiller] to continue the slaughter."

Now, O'Reilly won't have to worry about that anymore.
This is the first abortion clinic murder in over a decade. Recall that I previously predicted terrorist attacks on abortion clinics would be making a comeback, thanks, in part, to Fox News mainstreaming extremist rhetoric.

This also gets back to what I wrote about the need for hate crimes legislation, as this is an act of violence directed not just against Tiller, but at anyone - as few as they already are - who would provide such abortion services. As Steve Benen put it

Amanda Marcotte recently noted, "[Tiller] is one of the two doctors in the country that specializes in the very small percentage of abortions performed late in pregnancy (but before viability) done for health reasons, usually because the pregnancy is a danger to a woman's health or life, or because the fetus is dead or dying.... He's been shot in both arms, stalked by the attorney general's office under Phill Kline ... and charged with the crime of performing a bunch of illegal abortions, for which he was acquitted."

I emphasize this because it's a point that may go overlooked in much of the media coverage -- Tiller performed therapeutic abortions for women who wanted children.

Tiller, in other words, worked past the constant threats of violence to provide a service to women that few would. Today, he was apparently murdered for his efforts.
Update: Brad Blog updated its post with this link, but I want to spotlight it, too, as it's well worth reading.

O'Reilly didn't tell anyone to do anything violent, but he did put Tiller in the public eye, and help make him the focus of a movement with a history of violence against exactly these kinds of targets (including Tiller himself, who had already been shot). In those circumstances, flinging around words like "blood on their hands," "pardon," "country club" and "judgment day" was sensationally irresponsible.
That article also notes that O'Reilly had described Tiller as doing "Nazi stuff." Which goes along ways towards making the point about the dangers of O'Reilly's "culture warrior" rhetoric: Stop the ACLU earlier today spotlighted this "interesting" comment justifying the murder of Tiller from another blog: "Someone just shot a Nazi guard manning the gas chamber at Aushwitz. I should feel bad about this?"

Update II: The police have a suspect in custody. He's a tax protester, "sovereign citizen" militia type, and member of Randal Terry's Operation Rescue (itself promoted by Fox News) who had previously been arrested for having bomb components in his car. And he, too, appears to have been motivated by the notion that killing Tiller would be like killing a Nazi whom the Kansas authorities had given a "pardon" to.

It seems as though what is happening in Kansas could be compared to the "lawlessness" which is spoken of in the Bible. Tiller is the concentration camp "Mengele" of our day and needs to be stopped before he and those who protect him bring judgement upon our nation.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

How crazy is Fox News going to let Glenn Beck get?



Ok, I understand that Fox News is a Republican propaganda operation disguised as a news network, but I still would think there's got to be some line of decency and sanity that the executives would not be willing to cross. But as Glenn Beck continues to spiral further and farther into the fevered world of his own demented imagination, I'm starting to conclude that there is no such line. As Matt Taibbi observed

It’s not often that we get to watch someone go insane on national television; trapped in an echo chamber of his own spiraling egomania, with apparently no one at his network willing to pull the plug and put him out of his misery, Beck has lately gone from being a mildly annoying media dingbat to a self-imagined messiah who looks like he’s shouldering more and more of the burdens of Christ with each passing day.

That video above is just unbelievable, unbelievable that it was broadcast on what is supposed to be a mainstream tv network. It could just as easily fit in here, with these other fringe/lunatic conspiracy theories (Someone left that link in response to a Ron Paul post I wrote.) Really, let's think about this: Beck is floating the idea that the economic meltdown was manufactured by ACORN as part of a 40+ year plot to usher in a socialist government and that Obama is ACORN's Manchurian frontman of the conspiracy.

That's just as crazy as any other conspiracy about sinister forces secretly working behind the scenes to control the fate of the world. ACORN plays the role in Beck's conspiracy that Jews, Illuminati, Masons, or the Bilderbergs play in other paranoid, New World Order type conspiracies. One can't help but recall Richard Hofstadter

The enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman—sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving. Unlike the rest of us, the enemy is not caught in the toils of the vast mechanism of history, himself a victim of his past, his desires, his limitations. He wills, indeed he manufactures, the mechanism of history, or tries to deflect the normal course of history in an evil way. He makes crises, starts runs on banks, causes depressions, manufactures disasters, and then enjoys and profits from the misery he has produced. The paranoid’s interpretation of history is distinctly personal: decisive events are not taken as part of the stream of history, but as the consequences of someone’s will.
If Fox News was even remotely interested in being an actual news network they would not let Beck go on the air and promote this nonsense. There are multiple reasons behind the nation's economic woes, but a deliberate plot to crash the economy to secretly take over the country and install a "liberal fascist" regime is not one of them.

While Glenn Beck imagines that ACORN magically crashed the economy, actual news organization The Center for Public Integrity has released a report on actual reasons for the meltdown. (h/t Lippard blog)

Dispatches from the realm of crazy

I listened to a few minutes of Tammy Bruce's radio program tonight. She was saying that she will not be intimidated by Obama and his "liberal gestapo" and that she believes President Obama is "at war with America."

This sort of rhetoric may work well to motivate the increasingly insular and radical base of the Republican Party, but I can't imagine that this wholesale lunacy coupled with hate and anti-intellectualism is going to be of benefit to the party in the long run.

Although I can imagine how this sort of rhetoric can influence listeners to the edge of violence and beyond.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Today's discount book purchase

The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic - and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World (hc) by Steven Johnson for 1 dollar.

This book had quite an adventure. It started as a library book, made its way into a retail book store as a reduced sale item (as evidenced by its pricing stickers) and then ended up back at a different library in its sale section.

Having read Johnson's excellent The Invention of Air a few months ago (or so), I couldn't pass up this book, despite its subject material never really having interested me before. Johnson explains the book below

"The Most Important Fact of the Last 200 Years" Steven Johnson discusses THE GHOST MAP (#1) from Book Videos on Vimeo.

And there is more info and videos at Johnson's website.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The other Pinocchio

Disney seems to have a proclivity for taking tragic or dark stories (even real ones!) and turning them into children's movies. Until recently, however, I didn't realize this tradition extends to Pinocchio, one of the all-time great films.

This came to my attention while listening to the April 27 New York Review of Books podcast discussion with Tim Parks about his review of the new English translation of the original book the film is based upon, The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, translated by Geoffrey Brock.

To give you an immediate idea of the difference in tone between the original story and the Disney film: in the book Pinocchio actually kills the Talking Cricket character (the Disney analogue being Jiminy Cricket.)

The celebrated and sugary Disney film adaptation (1940), by which most people outside Italy have come to know Pinocchio's story, announces itself as an example of how, if sincerely desired, even the greatest of wishes can come true: a reassuring message. Nothing could be further from the acid spirit of Collodi's "Story of a Puppet." The question with a puppet is: Who will manipulate him? When the puppet turns out to have a stubborn and stupid will of his own, that question becomes: Whom will he allow himself to be manipulated by?

Having got Geppetto arrested, Pinocchio rushes home, only to experience a shock like the one he earlier gave the carpenter: a voice speaks from nowhere: "Cree, cree, cree." It is the Talking Cricket (Disney's Jiminy Cricket) who has "lived in this room for more than a hundred years." Revealing himself on the wall, the officious insect proceeds to give Pinocchio some hundred-year-old advice: "Woe to any little boy who rebels against his parents and turns his back on his father's house!" A surprisingly well-informed Pinocchio is having none of it: he's off, he declares,

because if I hang around the same thing that happens to all the other kids will happen to me, too: I'll be sent to school, and I'll be expected to study whether I like it or not....
When the cricket warns that this attitude can only lead to disaster, "Pinocchio jumped up in a rage, grabbed a wooden mallet from the workbench, and flung it at the Talking Cricket." Far from crooning his way through the puppet's many adventures with blue top hat, red umbrella, and yellow dancing shoes, the creature dies at once, splattered on the wall. It is typical of Collodi that while the rest of the book will show just how right the cricket was, the author nevertheless seems to take as much delight as any child in having this wearisome pedagogue obliterated with such panache. That said, he then has fun resurrecting the insect on two or three occasions to exchange insults with his killer.
The whole article, as well as the podcast, are quite interesting, as in addition to exploring the edgier and subversive approach to its moral message in Collodi's work they also examine how the original story is a product of the cultural and political environment of 1880's Italy.

Latest neoconservative argument for more war crimes: kill journalists

Recall Glenn Greenwald's post about the hypocrisy of those who championed the release of Roxana Saberi from Iranian prison seemingly having no problem with the United States itself targeting journalists for persecution, and his other post about the absurdity of those who claim to worry about inflaming anti-American sentiment yet are more concerned with suppressing evidence of American wrongdoing than stopping it in the first place, as background for this bit of reporting from Jeremy Scahill.

A new report for a leading neoconservative group which pushes a belligerent “Israel first” agenda of conquest in the Middle East suggests that in future wars the US should make censorship of media official policy and advocates “military attacks on the partisan media.” (H/T MuzzleWatch) The report for JINSA, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, was authored by retired US Army Colonel Ralph Peters. It appears in JINSA’s “flagship publication,” The Journal of International Security Affairs. “Today, the United States and its allies will never face a lone enemy on the battlefield. There will always be a hostile third party in the fight,” Peters writes, calling the media, “The killers without guns:”

Of course, the media have shaped the outcome of conflicts for centuries, from the European wars of religion through Vietnam. More recently, though, the media have determined the outcomes of conflicts. While journalists and editors ultimately failed to defeat the U.S. government in Iraq, video cameras and biased reporting guaranteed that Hezbollah would survive the 2006 war with Israel and, as of this writing, they appear to have saved Hamas from destruction in Gaza.

[…]

Although it seems unthinkable now, future wars may require censorship, news blackouts and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media. Perceiving themselves as superior beings, journalists have positioned themselves as protected-species combatants. But freedom of the press stops when its abuse kills our soldiers and strengthens our enemies. Such a view arouses disdain today, but a media establishment that has forgotten any sense of sober patriotism may find that it has become tomorrow’s conventional wisdom.

The point of all this is simple: Win. In warfare, nothing else matters. If you cannot win clean, win dirty. But win. Our victories are ultimately in humanity’s interests, while our failures nourish monsters.
It is, of course, very appropriate that such a despicable battle cry for murdering media workers appears in a JINSA publication. The organization has long boasted an all-star cast of criminal “advisors.” Among them: Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, James Woolsey, John Bolton, Douglas Feith and others. JINSA, along with the Project for a New American Century, was one of the premiere groups in shaping US policy during the Bush years and remains a formidable force with Obama in the White House.
After noting that the United States already has a history of targeting journalists in warfare (which has no doubt been influenced by the sort of argument Peters and other neoconservatives have made) in a follow-up post, Scahill also noted the hypocrisy regarding Saberi.

This reminds me of how the US held Al Jazeera journalist Sami al Hajj at Guantanamo from December 2001 to May 2008. He alleges he was tortured at Guantanamo and that he had been interrogated over 130 times (as of 2005) with his interrogators insisting in 125 of those interviews that he link al Jazeera to terrorism and Al Qaeda, which he wouldn’t. “He is completely innocent,” his lawyer Clive Stafford Smith said during al Hajj’s imprisonment. “He is about as much of a terrorist as my granddad. The only reason he has been treated like he has is because he is an Al Jazeera journalist. The Americans have tried to make him an informant with the goal of getting him to say that Al Jazeera is linked to Al Qaida.” Al Hajj was eventually released after an international campaign and the tenacious work of his lawyers.

When you hold up Iran’s handling of Roxanna Saberi against the US handling of Jassam, the comparison is striking. So too is the level of outcry from other journalists. Loud voices demanded Saberi’s freedom. Websites were established. Some 400 people reportedly joined a hunger strike in solidarity with Saberi. The same is not true for Jassam, who has spent many months in US custody without charges. It is time for journalists, particularly US journalists, to break their silence and demand Jassam’s release. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad released Saberi pretty swiftly after her arrest on espionage charges (and subsequent conviction and sentencing). Obama should follow Iran’s example and release Ibrahim Jassam. But, in the absence of outcry and protest from other journalists, Obama has little to lose by ignoring Jassam’s case.
The argument that Peters has set forth is obscene. It is not merely a call for waging war on freedom of the press, but a call to disregard laws of war, period ("win dirty"). This is an argument that says that the Nazis, Fascists, Imperial Japanese, or any other past perpetrator were not wrong because of what they did, but because they did not win. Indeed, "the greatest 'war crime' the United States can commit is to lose," writes Peters.

And speaking as someone who has written things critical of the war efforts of both the United States and Israel, I'm not exactly thrilled with any argument that tacitly equates with me with legitimate military targets. Really, Peters' call to win at any cost is an invitation to unravel not merely international law but domestic law, as well (as doing so is necessary in the first place to be able to commit the crimes Peters longs for.)

Peters' views might easily be mistaken for those of a sadistic maniac, but this is someone well within the mainstream of American political discourse. For example, Peters is an analyst for Fox News, where he can be seen saying that the United States should kill the people at Gitmo "because they aren't human any more."

Jason Linkins gets it about right when he says

The whole essay immediately reminded me of the book War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, in which author Chris Hedges -- himself a veteran war correspondent -- documents at length the way the experience of war is too often absorbed by its participants like an intoxicant that collapses moral edifices. I wish there was a single good pull from the book that sums this up, but it probably speaks well of the book that it can't be simply boiled down to a single paragraph. Nevertheless, Hedges' work is ably summarized here:

Hedges argues that war is both a deadly addiction -- a drug that offers an unmatchable intoxication, the thrill of being released from the moral strictures of everyday life -- and a unifying force that provides a sense of meaning, purpose, and self-sacrifice that can wash away life's trivial concerns. But the meaningfulness of combat, Hedges suggests, depends upon the myth of war. In reality, no matter what grand cause it is supposed to support, war is simply the basest form of aggression: "organized murder." Once war begins, the moral universe collapses and every manner of atrocity can be justified in the eyes of those who wage it, because the cause is just, the enemy is inhuman, and only war can restore balance to the world.
The simplest way I can summarize Peters' essay is to say that it is like the most monstrous form of the pathology Hedges describes has crawled from the pages of his book to defecate upon the pages of JINSA.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Battle of the dumbest conspiracy theories

In this corner, Andrew Breitbart



vs.

Michael Savage (and others)

According to transcripts provided by the watchdog group Media Matters, blogger and former Fox News personality Michelle Malkin took a triumphal attitude over the handful of cases that have popped up in the U.S., writing: "I've blogged for years about the spread of contagious diseases from around the world into the U.S. as a result of uncontrolled immigration."

Hate-radio host Michael Savage also advanced the argument, saying, "Make no mistake about it: Illegal aliens are the carriers of the new strain of human-swine avian flu from Mexico."

Savage then took it a step further, weaving the swine flu outbreak into a larger conspiracy that included another of his favorite monsters. "[C]ould this be a terrorist attack through Mexico?" he asked. "Could our dear friends in the radical Islamic countries have concocted this virus and planted it in Mexico knowing that you, [Homeland Security chief] Janet Napolitano, would do nothing to stop the flow of human traffic from Mexico?"
Of course, we're only considering stupidity in this battle. Because when it comes to hate, there is no contest, as the xenophobia of Savage and others is classic eliminationism.

Everything's "left" of AM radio world

I spent some time today listening to various AM radio programs discuss the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor. The impression that I would have gotten were I someone who considered AM radio credible is that she is a left-wing radical Leninist of some sort. In reality, she was appointed to the bench by notorious communist extremist George H.W. Bush.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Rejali on torture



This is a Google video of Darius Rejali, author of the definitive book Torture and Democracy, giving an hour+ long lecture on the subject of its title. It is a highly informative and highly recommended watch for anyone interested in knowing more about the topic. When you can turn on the tv or the radio or your computer at any given moment and are likely to be confronted by some fool offering lame justifications for torture, being able to listen to Rejali speak authoritatively and intelligently on the topic is like a breath of fresh air.

On an atheism that you might not have heard of

Until I read Jennifer Michael Hecht's Doubt: A History, I had never heard of the ancient Indian philosophy of Carvaka, an atheistic materialism which rejected as superstition Hinduism. Hecht identifies the Carvaka of late 7th century BCE as "the earliest example of radical doubt in the human record." (See here for excerpts of the relevant portions of the book.)

Namit Arora at 3 Quarks Daily has also written about the fascinating Carvaka.

The historian Romila Thapar has observed that "until recently, it was generally thought that Indian philosophy had more or less bypassed materialism." But scholars now widely recognize that in ancient "spiritual India", atheistic materialism was a major force to reckon with. Predating even the Buddhists, the Carvaka is one of the earliest materialistic schools of Indian philosophy (named after one Carvaka, a great teacher of the school, with Brhaspati as its likely founder). Its other name, Lokayata, variously meant "the system which has its base in the common, profane world," "the art of sophistry," and also "the philosophy that denies that there is any world other than this one."

The Carvakas offered an epistemological justification for their materialism that echoes British empiricist and skeptic David Hume, as well as logical positivists. The Carvakas admitted sense perception alone as a means of valid knowledge, and challenged inferential knowledge on the ground that all inference requires a universal major premise (e.g., "All that possesses smoke possesses fire") but there is no way to reach certainty about such a premise. The premise may be vitiated by some unknown "condition," and we can't know that such a vitiating condition does not exist. Since inference is not a means of valid knowledge, all supersensible things like "destiny," "soul," or "afterlife," do not exist. To say that such entities exist is regarded as absurd, for no unverifiable assertion of existence is meaningful.[4]

The Carvaka denied the authority of all scriptures. First, knowledge based on verbal testimony is inferential and so vitiated by the flaws of inference. The scriptures, they claimed, are characterized by three faults: falsity, self-contradiction, and tautology. Based on such a theory of knowledge, the Carvaka defended a complete reductive materialism according to which the four elements of earth, water, fire, and air are the only original components of being; all other forms are products of their composition. Consciousness arises from the material structure of the body and characterizes the body itself—rather than a soul—and perishes with the body.[4] Ajita Keshakambalin, a prominent Carvaka and contemporary of the Buddha, proclaimed that humans literally go from earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust

Does Dick Cheney's pro-torture dishonesty know any bounds?

Former Vice President Cheney recently gave a self-serving national security speech at AEI as part of his "don't prosecute me" reality revision media tour. The entire speech was generally hideous and morally repugnant, but the most despicable, heinous aspect of it was Cheney having the nerve, the audacity to describe the abuse at Abu Ghraib as the result of

a few sadistic prison guards [who] abused inmates in violation of American law, military regulations, and simple decency. For the harm they did, to Iraqi prisoners and to America's cause, they deserved and received Army justice.
The reality is that the abuse that occurred at Abu Ghraib was a systemic problem throughout America's gulag prison system and was the result of top down policy decisions that Cheney was himself very much a part of. It is absolutely disgusting (and cowardly) for Cheney to secretly advocate for and help implement an illegal prisoner abuse regime, yet to only then denounce and blame "a few bad apples" for the results that followed directly from the actions of Cheney and the rest of the Bush torture team.

McClatchy - one of the few news services that sytematically does it job - has noted some of the inconvenient truths that Cheney left out of his speech.

But the final word should go to U.S. Air Force veteran criminal investigator and a former senior interrogator in Iraq, Matthew Alexander, author of How to Break a Terrorist.* Alexander notes that Cheney leaves out the facts that: foreign fighters have been recruited to fight in Iraq because of revelations about American prisoner abuse, that the US has prosecuted waterboarding as a war crime, that we have an anti-torture tradition that stretches back to George Washington, and that Cheney's policies have not only made the use of more effective interrogation techniques more difficult, but that they also interrupted and put an end to interrogations that were yielding valuable intelligence (although they weren't generating false confessions of an al Qaeda/Iraq link that could be used to sell a war with Iraq.) And lastly

[T]he point that is most absent is that our greatest success in this conflict was achieved without torture or abuse. My interrogation team found Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, the former leader of Al Qaida in Iraq and murderer of tens of thousands.** We did this using relationship-building approaches and non-coercive law enforcement techniques. These worked to great effect on the most hardened members of Al Qaida -- spiritual leaders who had been behind the waves of suicide bombers and, hence, the sectarian violence that swept across Iraq. We convinced them to cooperate by applying our intellect. In essence, we worked smarter, not harsher.
And while we're at it, it's a fairly disturbing sign that our news media considers Liz Cheney - herself the beneficiary of nepotism*** - to be a credible, objective source of analysis on her father's pro-torture views (and possible war crimes.)

That's 12 appearances, in nine and a half days, spanning four networks. (On today's "Morning Joe," Liz Cheney was on for an entire hour -- effectively becoming a co-host of the program.) And this is just television, and doesn't include Liz Cheney's interviews on radio or with print media.

There's no modern precedent for such a ridiculous arrangement. Dick Cheney launches a crusade against the White House, and major outlets look for analysis from Cheney's daughter? Who everyone already realizes agrees with everything he says about torture?

This is just crazy.
Yep.

*Which I will be reviewing (at some point soon, at least.)
**This seems like an inflated claim of Zarqawi's influence in Iraq, in my limited understanding of his role. I'm having difficulty finding information on-line about how many deaths should be attributed to him.
***Something of a tradition for the conservative movement, and, more generally, a troubling trend in American politics.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

More Radio Rush

Rush Limbaugh, de facto leader of the Republican Party, has declared that President Obama is a dictator.

I keep track of which dictator is nationalizing more industries - Barack Obama or Hugo Chavez.
Nevermind that Hugo Chavez is not a dictator, either (which isn't to say that there isn't much to criticize Chavez for, but I think proto-dictator might be more accurate.)

But Limbaugh doesn't think that Obama is merely a dictator. He's a giant alien monster cockroach dictator!

From Lindsay Lohan it was on to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, as Limbaugh noted that Chavez "announced the government would nationalize several iron and steel companies to pave way for a large 'socialist' state-run enterprise." Rush said he's keeping a tally, on a spreadsheet, of which "dictator" can nationalize more industries: Obama or Chavez? According to Rush, the tally depends on how you measure this stuff -- do you want to own a lot of little things or a few giant ones? Obama has chosen the latter, said Rush, and eventually he's going to own California. How is he going to end up owning California, you might be asking? Well, you need look no further than Men in Black -- specifically, the climactic scene in which, as Rush recounted it, the giant cockroach is trying to leave earth, and one of the tricks that Will Smith uses is to smash little cockroaches on the ground to distract the giant cockroach. "Imagine Obama as the big cockroach and union workers as the little cockroach, and he looks at union workers getting stomped on by CEOs and everywhere else, and of course, the union government, union workers of California getting stomped on. So he's the big cockroach and he's going to make sure these little cockroaches don't get stomped on and don't get avenged, and that's why he's going to nationalize California."
Hm ... stomping on cockroaches. Well that's familiar eliminationist imagery. The Hutus of Radio Rwanda and RTLM before and during the Rwandan genocide identified Tutsis as inyenzi ("cockroaches.")

See here for my previous post on Radio Rush.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

More on "preventive detention"

Glenn Greenwald has written an omnibus post addressing President Obama's proposal of a "prolonged detention" program which is well worth reading. I don't have much to add, since Greenwald covers the issue better than I can, but I will point your attention to Human Right's Watch's response and will reiterate what I said in the comments at Greenwald's blog.

The most basic foundation of our democratic experiment is that the government's legitimacy is grounded in its recognition of fundamental, inalienable human rights. Our Constitution guarantees these rights may not be abrogated by the state. A "prolonged" or "preventive" detention system creates or runs the danger of creating two categories of persons: those who have such fundamental rights and those who do not. This alters the entire dynamic of our system of government, as it means that those rights are not inalienable, but in fact, alienable; that the government has shifted from guaranteeing such rights to granting them. This puts us on the path of having our rights be a matter of fiat.

It is thus why creating a system of indefinite system, which parallels our legal system and thus circumvents and subverts it, in which a war on an abstract concept ("terror") is used to justify designating persons a threat to the "homeland" and putting them in prison is such a bad idea and a dangerous precedent. The whole idea is, putting it kindly, Kafka-esque; the inability to convict someone in a court is the justification for putting them in prison based on the potential that they might commit a crime. Not putting it kindly, this is the sort of reasoning that Hannah Arendt identified as totalitarian logic.

Speaking about the warrantless NSA surveillance program Skitolsky explains how Vice President Cheney's contention that the program helps "prevent possible terrorist attacks" is circular totalitarian logic that justifies the program on the grounds that it might prevent a possible attack. She also notes that "in a world where 'all is possible,' facts take a backseat to possibilities, and, since every citizen is a possible terrorist, then every citizen is a possible threat and so also a possible detainee."

The possibility than any citizen might be a terrorist provides the rationale for making every citizen the target of surveillance. And since the world is full of possible, if not actual, threats, preemptive war threatens to turn into perpetual war, perpetually justifying the police state powers claimed by the administration.
Preventive detention is an attempt at the impossible, an attempt to eliminate the possibility of crime, of uncertainty. As the philosopher Michael Oakeshott put it, "to try to do something which is inherently impossible is always a corrupting enterprise."

Requoting Robert Bolt's A Man for all Seasons

Wife: Arrest him!

More: For what?

Wife: He's dangerous!

Roper: For all we know he's a spy!

Daughter: Father, that man's bad!

More: There's no law against that!

Roper: There is, God's law!

More: Then let God arrest him!

Wife: While you talk he's gone!

More: And go he should, if he were the Devil himself, until he broke the law!

Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down - and you're just the man to do it - do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Radio host gets waterboarded to prove it's not torture, discovers it is torture

Via Matthew Yglesias

Via John Chait, it seems that conservative talk radio host Eric “Mancow” Muller decided it would be a fun stunt to have himself waterboarded in order to prove that it’s not really torture. Didn’t work so well:

“It is way worse than I thought it would be, and that’s no joke,”Mancow said, likening it to a time when he nearly drowned as a child. “It is such an odd feeling to have water poured down your nose with your head back…It was instantaneous…and I don’t want to say this: absolutely torture.”

“I wanted to prove it wasn’t torture,” Mancow said. “They cut off our heads, we put water on their face…I got voted to do this but I really thought ‘I’m going to laugh this off.’”

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Republicans suffer collective amnesia as a political tool

Today former vice president Dick Cheney gave a speech in which, among other things, he denounced the Obama administration for the use of euphemisms, as noted by Steve Benen.

One of the concerns that stood out for me, though, was Cheney's frequent references to "euphemisms."

"Behind the overwrought reaction to enhanced interrogations is a broader misconception about the threats that still face our country. You can sense the problem in the emergence of euphemisms that strive to put an imaginary distance between the American people and the terrorist enemy.... In the category of euphemism, the prizewinning entry would be ... It's one thing to adopt the euphemisms that suggest ... "
It's amazing isn't it? Like when O'Brien destroyed a document in front of Winston in 1984 by throwing it into a memory hole and then claiming, sincerely, the very next moment that he didn't remember it existing. In the very sentence Cheney is denouncing the use of euphemisms he is using enhanced interrogation as a euphemism for illegal torture. In the space of only a few words Cheney had thrown his own utterance down the memory hole. Presumably, all the other extensive uses of euphemisms by Cheney - such as extraordinary rendition for the outsourcing of torture - have long since similarly been wiped clean from his recollection.

In another example of the Republican memory hole in operation, key Republicans in Congress and their surrogates in the media are demanding Nancy Pelosi lose her Speaker of the House position because she denigrated the CIA by accusing it of having misled her. Yet some of the very persons who are doing so have themselves accused the CIA of misleading.

In fact, Boehner and his Republican colleagues worked extremely hard to portray the intelligence community as misleading Congress and the President on Iran’s nuclear capability. At the time, Boehner said that he doubted the CIA’s conclusions, while Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) called the presentation that the intelligence committee delivered to members of Congress on the Iran NIE “pathetic.” “Members didn’t find them forthcoming, or even well-versed in answering very tough questions,” Hoekstra added.

More broadly, Boehner said yesterday that he agreed with Hoekstra’s claim last fall that the CIA had lied to Congress about a 2001 incident in which the CIA killed a U.S. citizen in Peru.
Newt Gingrich has been of the most vocal of these Great American Hypocrites. Although now feigning to be indignant about anyone daring to question the integrity of the CIA, that wasn't always the case.

For his part, Newt Gingrich, who claimed that Nancy Pelosi had "disqualified herself" from the same Speaker's position he once held, took to the op-ed pages to make his case for her to "step down" and to the airwaves to defend Hoekstra. But while Gingrich today redefined what the meaning of "is" is by claiming Hoekstra "did not say the CIA routinely lies," back in December 2007 he accused the CIA of precisely that over the Iran NIE:

"[The NIE] is so professionally unworthy, so intellectually indefensible and so fundamentally misleading that it is damaging to our national security.

[The NIE appears to be a deliberate attempt to undermine the policies of President Bush by members of his own government by suggesting that Iran no longer poses a serious threat to U.S. national security because we apparently have credible reports that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003."
At the CPAC conference in February 2008, Ginggrich ratched up the inflammatory rhetoric. The Benedict Arnolds in the American intelligence community, he insisted to applause from the assembled, had essentially committed treason:

"The National Intelligence Estimate on Iran can only be understood as a bureaucratic coup d’état, deliberately designed to undermine the policies of the United States, on behalf of some weird goal." (Applause)
As it turns out, in attacking the CIA over its Iran assessment, Gingrich and Hoekstra enjoyed the backing of the same conservative commentariat attacking Nancy Pelosi now. And as you'd expect, it was many of the same people who helped bring you the war in Iraq.
Several more examples are given in that link of the CIA's integrity being questioned by prominent movement conservatives. I'm glad that so many bloggers have already done the leg work on this because I've been dying to post something about it now for a few days but haven't had the chance. The reason why is because the current of movement conservatism which holds the CIA in disregard hasn't gone down the memory hole for me.

At Human Events - which features Gingrich's call for Pelosi to lose the Speaker position for denigrating the CIA - you can find Jed Babbin interviewing Rowan Scarborough about his Regnery published book Sabotage: America's Enemies within the CIA

How Bush-hating CIA Bureaucrats Are Sabotaging the War on Terror

Since the attacks on September 11, 2001, intelligence collection has become the number-one weapon in the effort to defeat al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. A plot penetrated is an attack stopped. And to the outside observer, the CIA has performed well as a key partner in the Bush administration’s War on Terror. But as Rowan Scarborough reveals in this groundbreaking new book, significant elements within the CIA are undermining both the president and national security through leaks, false allegations, and outright sabotage.
Guess what? Scarborough is currently a columnist at Human Events. And back when his book was released, he was on Fox News, a station which is currently featuring an endless stream of persons oh so outraged by Pelosi accusing the CIA of lying, to promote the book.

For those who haven't made use of the memory hole, Scarborough's book epitomizes neoconservative efforts to discount the CIA in order to make use of ideologically fixed intelligence organs like Douglas Feith's Office of Special Plans.

Here's another example: Powerline, which is currently speculating how long it will be before Pelosi loses her job for accusing the CIA of misleading Congress "all the time," plugged the book previously in a post titled "The CIA Speaks, With Forked Tongue."

With Google you can find more of this hypocrisy in action.

Of course, the "debate" over Pelosi's comment is nothing but political theatre meant to distract us from the true issue at hand. I find it completely plausible that Pelosi may have been misled; I also believe it likely that she failed to provide effective oversight of the administration and may thus be complicit in the crimes that have been committed. But none of that changes the fact that we need disclosure and investigation, followed by prosecutions and other means of accountability for those who have committed crimes or failed to do their duty.

Preventive detention

The New York Times reports

President Obama told human rights advocates at the White House on Wednesday that he was mulling the need for a “preventive detention” system that would establish a legal basis for the United States to incarcerate terrorism suspects who are deemed a threat to national security but cannot be tried, two participants in the private session said.
Jane Mayer wrote a few months ago about the Obama administration considering such a "preventive detention" system. It sounds, frankly, Orwellian.

A number of national-security lawyers in both parties favor the creation of some new form of preventive detention. They do not believe that it is the President’s prerogative to lock “enemy combatants” up indefinitely, yet they fear that neither the criminal courts nor the military system is suited for the handling of transnational terrorists, whom they do not consider to be ordinary criminals or conventional soldiers. Instead, they suggest that Obama should work with Congress to write new laws, possibly creating a “national-security court,” which could order certain suspects to be held without a trial.
Great. Fantastic. Nothing makes me feel more secure about United States respect for the rule of law and civil liberties than creating a "national-security court" which can operate largely in secret and parallel to our legal system in order to order persons designated a threat to the "homeland" held indefinitely without charges or a trial.

See Unclaimed Territory for further commentary.

A dollar of books

Today I purchased:

The Paradox of American Power: Why the World's Only Superpower Can't Go It Alone (pb) by Joseph Nye for 50 cents.

Leviathan (pb) by Thomas Hobbes for 50 cents.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Contempt for human rights: then and now

I watched Bill O'Reilly's latest two minutes hate (or however long his Talking Points segment lasts) which defamed the ACLU as "the most dangerous, anti-American organization in the country" and warned that if Americans do not "confront" the ACLU then "people will die," but I wasn't going to blog anything about it since this is standard eliminationist rhetoric from O'Reilly; there's nothing remarkable about O'Reilly demonizing the ACLU as being an anti-American group which threatens "traditional" values and threatens the nation's security because he does it so regularly.

But Dave Neiwert made a great point in response to that segment

Gee, this all has a familiar ring to it. Back when the ACLU was the only organization to take up the legal cause of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, the jingoistic Bill O'Reillys of the day similarly attacked them for ostensibly hating America and siding with the enemy.

[Image of graffiti saying Americans Die But We Love Japs ... Japs Work Here Pauling]

This was the graffiti painted on Linus Pauling's garage door in San Francisco after he hired a Japanese gardener after the internment camps closed. Pauling's wife was an ACLU activist who had been vocal in opposing their forced evacuation and internment, while Pauling himself had been a "center right" Republican up until the jingoes attacked him and his wife in 1945. It included death threats.
Update: The ACLU responds to O'Reilly's characterization of its opposition to "stop-and-frisk" policy in New York as anti-American.

Two dollars of books

The other day at the library I purchased:

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal (pb) by Eric Schlosser for 1/2 dollars.

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana (pb) by Umberto Eco for 1/2 dollars.

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (hc) by Barbara Ehrenreich for 1 dollar.

I've already read (and reviewed) the excellent muckraking work of Schlosser, but didn't have a copy. The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana I was pleased to discover, as it has a really neat premise and is full of great illustrations that are like candy to a fan of pop culture/history like myself.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Senate Democrats use Republican propaganda as reason to not close Gitmo

It's stuff like this that makes me feel like rereading Liberty Under Siege (see here for excerpts.)

But then I read things like this:

In an abrupt shift, Senate Democratic leaders said on Tuesday that they would not provide the $80 million that President Obama requested to close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

....The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, seemed to ramp up the concerns of Congressional Democrats, insisting during a news conference that lawmakers would never allow the terror suspects to be released into the United States....Pressed to explain if that meant they could not be transferred to American prisons, Mr. Reid said: "We don't want is them to be put in prisons in the United States. We don't want them around the United States."
To repeat: I read things like this. And I realize all over again just what Obama is up against. His own party won't support him against even the most transparent and insipid demagoguery coming from the conservative noise machine. The GOP's brain trust isn't offering even a hint of a substantive case that the U.S. Army can't safely keep a few dozen detainees behind bars in a military prison, but Dems are caving anyway. Because they're scared. And then they wonder why voters continue to think that a party that can be bitch slapped so easily might be viewed as weak on national security.
"We will never allow terrorists to be released into the United States," said Harry Reid, echoing Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the idiot kings of the conservative movement. As Kevin Drum noted, it's no wonder that Republicans have been so effective at defining the spectrum of political debate even as their party suffers major electoral defeats. The failure of Democrats to actually offer an opposing "frame" to the spin of Republicans has been addressed extensively by the likes of George Lakoff and Drew Westen, so I'll set aside the practical futility of this sort of rhetoric as an election strategy.

What is really so disgusting about Reid's statement is that it reflects and promotes the same lawless contempt for human rights that led to so many of the human rights abuses that have transpired since September 11. 2001 in the name of fighting "terror." The majority of individuals who have been held at Gitmo were not terrorists, nor were they picked up on a battlefield. They were not given a fair or honest system of due process. To designate those there as "terrorists" is reprehensible; nevermind the transparently idiotic notion that closing Guantanamo means terrorists would be set free in the United States.

Update: Greenwald demolishes the fear-mongering about terrorists being "released in the United States."

Quote of the day

"O youth deprived of understanding, who has bewitched you into believing, that the Supreme and Eternal is eaten by you and held in your intestines?" - Baruch Spinoza, letter to Albert Burgh (Dec. 1675), as quoted in Betraying Spinoza

Burgh had been a student of Spinoza's, but during a trip to Italy he converted to Roman Catholicism and sent Spinoza a letter in September vehemently denouncing Spinoza's philosophy. Spinoza died two months after sending his response.*

Debunking Christianity has a full text of the exchange.

*Some sites list Spinoza's death in 1677, nearly two years after the letter. I'm using the date given by Goldstein in Betraying Spinoza.

More reviews of The Eliminationists

Dave Neiwert links to some more reviews of his book. I should have more time after tomorrow to get around to writing my own review.

Monday, May 18, 2009

W.R. Grace acquitted despite widespread asbestos poisoning

Following up on my previous sarcastic post about Libby, Montana, W.R. Grace managed to come up with a not guilty verdict despite it being no secret that their actions led to an entire town being coated with asbestos - and that they knew about the dangers they were unleashing (but kept that information to themselves.)

Liz Borkoski at the Pump Handle tried to makes some sense of the verdict

From what I’ve been reading on Andrew Schneider’s blog, it sounds like the trial might’ve gone very differently with a different judge. It also appears that the specific charges in the case might also be an issue. Here’s an explanation from Tristan Scott and Rob Chaney of the Missoulian:

Grace and three former employees – Robert Bettacchi, Jack Wolter and Henry Eschenbach – were charged with a federal conspiracy involving Clean Air Act violations and obstruction of justice.

The charges relate to whether the company and its top employees knew they were endangering the community of Libby by mining asbestos-laced ore, and whether they did so in violation of federal law.

The jury of six men and six women had the difficult task of determining whether the evidence proves that Grace’s alleged criminal conduct occurred within an applicable time frame. For example, the criminal provision to the Clean Air Act, which charges knowing endangerment, wasn’t enacted until 1990, the same year the Libby mine ceased operations.
I can see reasons why this trial turned out the way it did (and I’m sure there are plenty more reasons that will be discussed in the weeks ahead). Still, it’s disturbing that a company can do something so utterly, horribly wrong and destructive and still receive a “not guilty” verdict.
Indeed.

The Democracy Now discussion of the verdict has more extensive commentary about the case.

Like taking a sledge hammer to the wall of separation

From The Wall of Separation

GQ’s Web site reveals troubling information about former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s daily top-secret briefings to former President George W. Bush. These briefings, called “Worldwide Intelligence Update,” were “a daily digest of critical military intelligence so classified that it circulated among only a handful of Pentagon leaders and the president,” according to GQ.

During the early part of the Iraq War in 2003, the covers of the briefings included photos of soldiers praying or in action in Iraq. These photos were accompanied by Bible verses.

For example, one cover sheet showed a photo of a large Baghdad monument of two crossed swords, with a tank beneath it. The quote above the image, from Isaiah 26:2, is: “Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith.”

Another slide depicts the cover of an April 2003 briefing. It shows images of soldiers fighting with the quote from Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

GQ has compiled a slideshow of select cover sheets to these daily briefings that Rumsfeld often delivered to the White House by hand.
It's a bit of an understatement to say that invading another country claiming to be on a mission from God is a at odds with the basic foundations of American secular democracy. The Bush administration clearly viewed itself in Iraq as an army of God, fulfilling some sort of Biblical mission ("crusade".)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Quote of the day

"[B]uild an impenetrable wall of separation between things sacred and civil." - James Burgh, Crito (1767)

Excuses, excuses

I still intend on putting up these posts as soon as possible, but have put it off for several reasons, some legitimate, some more on the side of procrastination. I've written most of those posts (but haven't finished them to my satisfaction) and have completed reading The Eliminationists.

Update: In the meantime, here's a good review of The Eliminationists.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Obama uses Bush administration "few bad apples" defense

The Obama administration - which had previously promised Americans a move away from the obsessive secrecy of the Bush administration towards transparency and accountablity - has decided not release photographic documentation of prisoner abuse in Afghanistan and Iraq which had been scheduled for release on May 28. President Obama offered this justification for his reversal on the matter:

The publication of these photos would not add to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals.
Not only is the Obama administration becoming complicit in the crimes of the Bush administration by continuing to cover-up evidence of its wrongdoing, but it is now also using the same disgusting scapegoating tactic of blaming a "few bad apples" for abuse that has well now been demonstrated to be a systemic problem that arose from policy implemented at the highest levels of government. Johnathan Turley and Rachel Maddow addressed this aptly last night


Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Many defenders of this move maintain that release of the photos will endanger the lives of American soldiers. What endangers the lives of American soldiers is prisoner abuse that undermines American morale and inflames anti-American sentiment. What promotes prisoner abuse is a lack of transparency and a lack of accountability. Failure to release the photographs fosters a culture of impunity for criminal actions; sweeping them under the rug or blaming a few low level nobodies for the actions doesn't make them go away. What makes them go away is disclosure, investigation, accounting and punishment for those responsible.

If we want to not inflame anti-American sentiment we should be concerned with not abusing prisoners in the first place, not hiding abuse after the fact. As Glenn Greenwald notes today

If we're actually worried about inflaming anti-American sentiment and endangering our troops, we might want to re-consider whether we should keep doing the things that actually spawn "anti-American sentiment" and put American soldiers in danger. We might, for instance, want to stop invading, bombing and occupying Muslim countries and imprisoning their citizens with no charges by the thousands. But exploiting concerns over "anti-American sentiment" to vest our own government leaders with the power to cover-up evidence of wrongdoing is as incoherent as it is dangerous. Who actually thinks that the solution to anti-American sentiment is to hide evidence of our wrongdoing rather than ceasing the conduct that causes that sentiment in the first place?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Glenn Beck thinks ACORN might assassinate him

Today on his tv show, Glenn Beck told his audience to be skeptical if he dies in a car wreck or a suicide. He was only half kidding, and was implying that he might be killed for the paranoid segments he's been running supposedly exposing the nefarious mega-conspiracy that is ACORN. The notion of a phony suicide also recalls the sickening conspiracy theories that were generated during the Clinton presidency about the suicide of Vince Foster; a man who was driven to suicide by a relentless conservative movement media attack (his suicide note read that the Wall Street Journal editorial page lied with impunity) only to then have that same media then speculate that he was murdered by the Clintons.

I'll update this post later when I have more time and other bloggers have gotten a chance to comment, but for the moment I just want to observe, again, how disturbing it is that someone with the issues Beck has has been given a heavily promoted tv program on an alleged news network.

Update:

Monday, May 11, 2009

A brief case study of the propaganda model

If you've ever read Manufacturing Consent you'll be familiar with the authors' notion that American media tends to give coverage to a particular event if it occurs in an enemy regime and serves to reinforce negative imagery of the regime, while ignoring or marginalizing the same event if it occurs in a client regime, or better yet, in the United States.

Glenn Greenwald's post today about the contrasting way that the release of Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi and the journalists who have been imprisoned by the United States is being covered would seem to fit the propaganda model proposed by Chomsky and Herman.

A Nexis search for "Roxana Saberi" reveals 2,201 mentions in press reports, virtually all of them in the last two months regarding her arrest by Iran. By stark contrast, a search for "Ibrahim Jassam" -- the Iraqi journalist still held without charges by the U.S. even in the face of an Iraqi court finding that there's no evidence of his guilt -- produces a grand total of 71 mentions. A search of "Sami al-Haj" for the first five years of his detention in Guantanamo (2001-2006) reveals a grand total of 101 mentions. For the entire period of his lawless detention, Bilal Hussein's name was mentioned 556 times. See those Nexis searches here.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hunting for Jesus

Despite being aware of evangelical efforts to use the United States military for proselytization purposes (something that is antithetical to the principles upon which this nation was founded,) recently surfaced footage of a military chaplain in Afghanistan encouraging soldiers to hunt persons for Jesus in order to convert them to Christianity is truly shocking. What's even worse is that while listening to a podcast of the Democracy Now episode about this incident I was introduced to an even more egregious incident that occurred in Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: The title of your piece in Harper’s is called “Jesus Killed Mohammed.” Tell us where this comes from.

JEFF SHARLET: Well, after about a year of interviewing military personnel, this was, in some ways, the most frightening story that I encountered. A man named Staff Sergeant Jeffery Humphrey, one of the very few soldiers who, in this military climate, had the courage to come forward and speak out about what he had seen, he had been stationed in Samarra. It was Easter. The day began calmly. A chaplain brought around a copy of Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic film Passion of the Christ, which they then put on constant play throughout the day.

When they came under attack, the Special Forces, Army Special Forces to whom he was assigned, had their Iraqi translator, an Iraqi American Christian, paint in giant red Arabic letters on the side of a Bradley fighting vehicle the words “Jesus killed Mohammed.” Then, while they put the translator on the roof with a bullhorn, shouting in Arabic, “Jesus killed Mohammed,” and then training their guns, training American guns on anybody who responded, the Bradley fighting vehicle rolled out into the city of Samarra and drawing fire everywhere it went, leading the Special Forces to conclude that every single Iraqi who took offense at these words, “Jesus killed Mohammed,” was part of the enemy and therefore needed to be destroyed.

And I spoke to the man who drove that Bradley, Lieutenant John DeGiulio, now Captain John DeGiulio, promoted since. And he describes wreaking almost biblical destruction on one whole block, blowing up every single thing he saw. And he said he was able to do this, because God was on his side and because he had been spiritually armored by watching Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. And then he thanked his chaplain for preparing him for that kind of spiritual battle on the streets of Iraq.
I'm sure that went a long way towards winning hearts and minds.

Maybe these soldiers and chaplains on a mission from God can have a get together with their Israeli counterparts and see who can be the most eliminationist.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Quote of the day

"[T]he door of this part of the federal government is open to merit of every description, whether native or adoptive, whether young or old, and without regard to poverty or wealth, or to any particular profession of religious faith." - James Madison ("Publius"), The Federalist #52

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Are there any views too extreme for Fox News?

A couple of nights ago, Pamela of Atlas Shrugs, an extremist bigot with an affinity for European crypto-fascists, made her second appearance on Fox News (the first on the late night Red Eye, the second on the primetime Hannity show.) Visiting her blog, hysterical hatred for all things Muslim ("Islamofascist"), Democrat ("Dhimmicrat" or "Democrap") and "liberal" leaps off the page at you. A recent post compares President Obama to Idi Amin, another calls him a "jihad sympathizer." One below that one describes 'another treasonous action by the seditious "commander in chief".' All members of the news media that aren't Fox News, AM radio, or the Washington Times and other such disreputable publications are considered communists.

There are so many heinous views expressed on her blog, so many paranoid and delusional conspiracies that are promoted on a regular basis that it is literally overwealming trying to figure out where to start describing her views. Here's a typical example, in which she speculates that President Obama had someone murdered to hide the fact that he's not a US citizen. Really, this is someone who by comparison makes Sean Hannity look like a genius and Ann Coulter the voice of measured reason. Yet here she is being promoted by Fox News (and having previously been granted an interview with the United States ambassador to the U.N.) as someone who has something constructive to add to political discourse.

I was going to ask that short of a flat out fascist, is there anyone too extreme for Fox News, but this post yesterday from Glenn Greenwald reminded me that even that bar isn't too low for Fox. Greenwald was writing about certain individuals complaining about curtailment of free speech who don't seem interested in free speech so much as they are concerned with speech privileges for themselves.* Which led me to recall Fox News having brought on Holocaust denying white supremacist Paul Fromm as a "free speech activist."

While there are many individuals and groups that think the prosecution of Steyn harms free speech in Canada — including PEN Canada and the Canadian Association of Journalists — Fox News correspondent Steve Brown chose to interview a decidedly odd source: Paul Fromm, who was very sparingly identified on the broadcast as a “Free Speech Activist.” That’s a pretty weak, not to say completely misleading, description of Paul Fromm. As anyone who lives in Canada or who has access to Google should know, Fromm is Canada’s most notorious extremist, whose views form a trifecta of hate: he’s a white supremacist, a Holocaust denier and an anti-Semite. And he’s got a history of extremism a mile long.
I find this disgusting. The ACLU are free speech advocates, an organization that defends free speech rights regardless of the source. Paul Fromm isn't interested in free speech, he doesn't believe in free speech. He believes in a speech privilege for himself, a privilege he would deny to the others that he would persecute were he able to. That's what Holocaust denial is about for someone like Fromm, it's a final assault on the victims of the Holocaust, a last attempt at denying them their humanity by denying their existence so that future such horrors might become achievable.

And you know what the most sickening bit is? Here we had Fox News bringing on a fascist with ties to David Duke and other white supremacist organizations, presenting him as a mainstream political activist, a promoter of "free speech," while Fox News routinely demonizes the ACLU for its genuine free speech activism. In a truly insidious segment of the late but still noxious 1/2 Hour Comedy Hour which demonstrated Fox News' own contempt for free speech, the ACLU was ridiculed for defending the free speech rights of white supremacists.

So to recap: defending the free speech of extremists = bad (if you're the ACLU.) Normalizing the anti-free speech hatred of extremists as "free speech activism" = good (if you're Fox News.)

*Greenwald might have made his point stronger had he mentioned that the supposed champions of free speech have previously favored criminalizing an American free press and/or criticism of the Bush administration, which he has written about extensively. See the archives of the original Unclaimed Territory at blogspot for posts on either.

Finally

I've been waiting for sometime now for some psuedo-conservative to say that Barry Goldwater wasn't really a conservative, primarily for reasons like this and this, half expecting him to be described as liberal leaning. Now I see that the wait is over.

It's always special when the King and Queen of Wingnuttery get together. And last night on The O'Reilly Factor, BillO and Ann Coulter didn't disappoint ...

O'Reilly: But isn't that the split, though, the Colin Powell wing vs. the Ann Coulter wing?

Coulter: But the evidence keeps proving them wrong. But no matter how many times we run the experiment, they'll turn around to us and say, 'But you aren't liberal enough.' We just ran the most liberal Republican in the party, other than Arlen Specter, and he's no longer in the party. I mean, we tried a liberal Republican, and they lost, and now they're coming back and blaming us again.

O'Reilly: If the party is divided between the Powell wing and the Coulter wing, how can it ever come together, and defeat a machine that has the American media on its side?

Coulter: Right, it certainly does, which is why it's not just liberal Republicans, it's the entire media, haranguing, hectoring Republicans because we have to stop being conservative.

O'Reilly: So you have a divided party. You may be right, you may be wrong, it doesn't matter. But the GOP is divided, against the Democratic Party and the media. That's tough!

Coulter: It certainly is. But the party is a lot smaller than conservatives. I mean, these polls that keep being cited about the number of people who call themselves Republicans, it's only 21 percent -- well, OK, something like 34 percent call themselves conservatives, whereas only 17 percent call themselves liberals. Or something like that. It's been like that for decades. There are more conservatives than there are Republicans. So it's not a coincidence that the people who want us to lose -- the media and the Democrats -- keep telling us to stop being conservative. We win when we're conservative, and we lose when we're liberal. And we just ran that experiment again last November.

O'Reilly: But you don't always win when you're conservative. Barry Goldwater got his butt kicked.

Coulter: And he's the one who's always being cited today as not being conservative on social issues!
Yep, in the Coulter-verse, Barry Goldwater didn't become president because he was too liberal!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Cargo cults 50 years on

Scientific American has reprinted an article it wrote on Melanesian Cargo Cults in its May 1959 issue. Cargo Cults were written about, recently, in both Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion and Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell.

Smithsonian.com also has a good summary of what cargo cults are.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Liberal fascists invade Libby, Montana

From the EPA gestapo's website

Set in the northwest corner of Montana, 35 miles east of Idaho and 65 miles south of Canada, is the small town of Libby. The town lies in a picturesque valley carved by the Kootenai River and framed by the Cabinet Mountains to the south. Libby has population of less than 3,000, and 12,000 people live within a ten-mile radius. Libby is the Lincoln County seat. The community's assets include clean water, beautiful scenery, and recreational opportunities such as fishing, hiking, hunting, boating and skiing.

EPA has been working in Libby since 1999 when an Emergency Response Team was sent to investigate local concern and news articles about asbestos-contaminated vermiculite. Since that time, EPA has been working closely with the community to clean up contamination and reduce risks to human health.
These liberal fascists invaded the Libby Superfund site because the town was poisoned by the strip-mining of vermiculite by W.R. Grace.

In Libby, 70 years of strip-mining an ore called "vermiculite" and marketed as the wonder material "Zonolite" exposed workers, their families and thousands of residents to a toxic form of asbestos, creating what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has called the worst case of industrial poisoning of a whole community in American history. That this poisoning continued for more than 30 years after W. R. Grace knew of the dangers — as charged in criminal indictments going to trial this fall — is made patent by the film even as the company raises a curious no-denial defense. But don't weep only for Libby; an estimated 35 million homes in the U.S. contain Zonolite insulation.
As Jonah Goldberg has astutely observed, if the EPA can interfere with The Market by regulating how much asbestos (or CO2 in the case Goldberg comments on) can be put into the environment, "it has the power to regulate everything."

So obviously, the clean-up in Libby is the very definition of totalitarianism.

And bringing law suits against Grace for asbestos related disease is the ultimate in greenshirted liberal fascism.

Which is why it's so unfortunate that we don't have such a stalwart for liberty like George W. Bush in office anymore. I still recall the chills I got when Bush had the courage to stand up against the fascist assault on our liberties in his 2005 State of the Union Address

To make our economy stronger and more competitive, America must reward, not punish, the efforts and dreams of entrepreneurs. Small business is the path of advancement, especially for women and minorities, so we must free small businesses from needless regulation and protect honest job-creators from junk lawsuits. Justice is distorted, and our economy is held back, by irresponsible class actions and frivolous asbestos claims -- and I urge Congress to pass legal reforms this year.
Obviously, this hit close to home for President Bush, since Vice President Cheney's former company Halliburton is one of the prime defendents in asbestos suits. Watching first hand the pain and suffering that Cheney experienced from the totalitarian liberal fascists who expected compensation for the cancer and asbestosis they received motivated him to take this bold stand in defence of democracy (i.e.,The Market.)

Of course, it doesn't hurt that President Bush is a self-professed Christian. He obviously must have also been influenced by The Bible:

"You shall not pervert the justice due to your needy brother in his dispute" - Exodus 23:6

"For I know your transgressions are many and your sins are great, You who distress the righteous and accept bribes And turn aside the poor in the gate." - Amos 5:12

"Oppressing the poor in order to enrich oneself, and giving to the rich, will lead only to loss." - Proverbs 22:16

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Factory farms a farm for disease

From Wired

Scientists have traced the genetic lineage of the new H1N1 swine flu to a strain that emerged in 1998 in U.S. factory farms, where it spread and mutated at an alarming rate. Experts warned then that a pocket of the virus would someday evolve to infect humans, perhaps setting off a global pandemic[although that, thankfully, doesn't appear to have happened].
And, as 60 Second Earth notes (bold emphasis mine):

this H1N1 strain has not yet been found in the pigs near La Gloria [home to a factory farm with 950,000 pigs], nor is it clear how it would have jumped from the factory farm to little Edgar [Hernandez - "Patient Zero"].

But what is clear thanks to the hard work of virologists is that this particular strain of flu got its genetic start on U.S. hog farms back in the 1990s. That's according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. How the virus jumped from pigs to humans may have nothing to do with factory farms, but confined animal feeding operations helped to breed the disease.
In other words, we haven't been able to implicate factory farming in Mexico for the disease mutating into a human strain, but can definitively link its original evolutionary kickstart to an American factory farm.