Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Interrogated" to death

Glenn Greenwald dispels the common misconceptions that torture, aka "enhanced interrogation," isn't that big a deal and that the torture that did occur was isolated or the result of a "few bad apples" who have been held accountable for their actions.

In anticipation of the release of that report, there is an important effort underway -- as part of the ACLU Accountability Project -- to correct a critically important deficiency in the public debate over torture and accountability. So often, the premise of media discussions of torture is that "torture" is something that was confined to a single tactic (waterboarding) and used only on three "high-value" detainees accused of being high-level Al Qaeda operatives. The reality is completely different.

The interrogation and detention regime implemented by the U.S. resulted in the deaths of over 100 detainees in U.S. custody -- at least. While some of those deaths were the result of "rogue" interrogators and agents, many were caused by the methods authorized at the highest levels of the Bush White House, including extreme stress positions, hypothermia, sleep deprivation and others. Aside from the fact that they cause immense pain, that's one reason we've always considered those tactics to be "torture" when used by others -- because they inflict serious harm, and can even kill people. Those arguing against investigations and prosecutions -- that we Look to the Future, not the Past -- are thus literally advocating that numerous people get away with murder.

The record could not be clearer regarding the fact that we caused numerous detainee deaths, many of which have gone completely uninvestigated and thus unpunished.

The Nazis were not in favor of female reproductive rights

The alleged killer of late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, Scott Roeder, believed that for performing such abortions (for the health of the mother) Tiller was "the concentration camp 'Mengele' of our day and needs to be stopped before he and those who protect him bring judgment upon our nation." Bill O'Reilly, who ran a campaign of defamation and character assassination against Tiller for years, said that Tiller was doing "Nazi stuff" at his abortion clinic. Search the "pro-life" websites and you will find this comparison made over and over, that performing abortions is Nazi behavior.

It is true that the Nazis performed forced abortion and sterilizations on groups that they considered to be racially inferior. But what such anti-abortion proponents overlook is: 1) that Dr. Tiller and other abortion providers do not practice forced abortions and 2) the Nazis practice of forced sterilization/abortion stemmed from a larger policy of not respecting the reproductive rights of females. If one is going to make accusations of "Nazi" like behavior, you would have firmer ground to stand on proclaiming the militant anti-abortion stance to be such (also see here.)

This is because while the Nazis were perfectly fine with forcing abortions on those deemed inferior, abortions were criminalized for the "Aryan" race, and legal abortion/reproductive rights were considered to be a nefarious "Jew" plot; voluntary legalized abortion (with apparently some exception for risk to the life of the mother) was outlawed and family planning clinics were closed and access to contraception was severely limited. This is why I mentioned that Ann Coulter's rhetoric about "the governing principle" of liberals being "to always kills human life" and -

No liberal cause is defended with more dishonesty than abortion. No matter what else they pretend to care about from time to time – undermining national security, aiding terrorists, oppressing the middle class, freeing violent criminals – the single most important item on the Democrats' agenda is abortion.
- sounds like Nazi propaganda. If you look through the Nazi propaganda archive you will find multiple articles speaking in such terms against abortion (substituting "Jews" for "liberals".) Michelle Goldberg highlighted one such example, in her book Kingdom Coming, from Hanns Oberlindober.

In an article titled "The 'Decent' Jew" he wrote about how Jews loved killing unborn children for money and malice (recall O'Reilly's repeated assertion that Dr. Tiller would "kill a baby" for any reason for 5,000 dollars)

More than that, your racial comrades intentionally and cold-heartedly preached and encouraged the murder of the unborn children of our people through abortion. The racial hatred Jews had for their Aryan host people extended to the growing life in a mother's womb. Jewish scoundrels made this part of the programs of political parties. How many millions of unborn children and how many hundreds of thousands of mothers fell prey to the greed and racial hatred of Jewish doctors? The Jews kept the number secret by controlling and influencing the official statistics of the German Reich. To my knowledge, no "decent Jew" raised his voice against such organized murder.
And since Coulter likes to do the Jonah Goldberg/Glenn Beck dance of equating Nazism with liberalism,( e.g. also from Godless: "If Hitler hadn’t turned against their beloved Stalin, liberals would have stuck by him, too") maybe I should point out that Michelle Goldberg also notes the parallel in rhetorical style between another passage by Oberlindober and an article at Human Events (which features the syndicated columns of O'Reilly and Coulter). Quoting her

[T]he language that the right uses to describe its enemies echoes all the tropes of classic anti-Semitism. The day after the 2004 election, the right-wing magazine Human Events posted a pseudosatirical piece on its Web site called “Declaration of Expulsion: A Modest Proposal.” In it, the writer suggested excising several of the blue states from the union, saying,

As a class, liberals no longer are merely the vigorous opponents of the Right; they are spiteful enemies of civilization’s core decency and traditions. Defamation, never envisioned by our Founding Fathers as being protected by the First Amendment, flourishes and passes today for acceptable political discourse. Movies, magazines, newspapers, radio/TV programs, plays, concerts, public schools, colleges, and most other public vehicles openly traffic in slander and libel … When they tire of showering conservative victims with ideological mud, liberals promote the only other subjects with which they feel conversationally comfortable: Obscenity and sexual perversion. It’s as if the genes of liberals have rendered them immune to all forms of filth.
Compare that to “The ‘Decent’ Jew,” a 1937 missive by the Nazi Hans Oberlindober. In it, Oberlindober describes the Jewish (and gay) sexual researcher Magnus Hirschfeld as

one of a legion of Jewish corrupters of the youth, sexual criminals, pseudo-scientists, playwrights and novelists, painters and sculptors, theater and cabaret directors, publishers and distributors of pornographic literature. They competed with each other to produce their filth, surpassing each other in obscenity, making easier the work of their racial comrades seeking to dominate an unnerved and powerless people rendered susceptible by such “art.” The absence of moral rules was called freedom, and unrestrained drives were proclaimed to be the right of the young.
If you live in glass houses and what not, you know.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Ever wonder why Americans don't get science?

Chris Mooney of The Intersection and his co-blogger Sheril Kirshenbaum have a book coming out July 13th titled Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future about how the disconnect between what scientists and the general public know is not such a good thing. The book's homepage describes the thesis thus:

[S]ome of our gravest challenges—climate change, the energy crisis, national economic competitiveness—and gravest threats--global pandemics, nuclear proliferation—have fundamentally scientific underpinnings. Yet we still live in a culture that rarely takes science seriously or has it on the radar.

For every five hours of cable news, less than a minute is devoted to science; 46 percent of Americans reject evolution and think the Earth is less than 10,000 years old; the number of newspapers with weekly science sections has shrunken by two-thirds over the past several decades. The public is polarized over climate change—an issue where political party affiliation determines one's view of reality—and in dangerous retreat from childhood vaccinations. Meanwhile, only 18 percent of Americans have even met a scientist to begin with; more than half can't name a living scientist role model.

For this dismaying situation, Mooney and Kirshenbaum don't let anyone off the hook. They highlight the anti-intellectual tendencies of the American public (and particularly the politicians and journalists who are supposed to serve it), but also challenge the scientists themselves, who despite the best of intentions have often failed to communicate about their work effectively to a broad public—and so have ceded their critical place in the public sphere to religious and commercial propagandists.
Over at Island of Doubt, James Hrynyshyn notes that the recent passage of a cap-and-trade bill through the House despite a Republican rep. from Georgia calling global warming "a hoax" and being applauded for it by other Republicans is a perfect example of what Mooney and Kirshenbaum are talking about. If we manage to finally take action on climate change, it will be despite the fact that millions of Americans are misinformed about the subject and despite the fact that the media - not just the Republican noise machine - continues to misinform them.

Take, for example, the case of the "suppressed" EPA analysis of the climate change bill. For several days now, I've been hearing on AM radio, Fox News, corporate/industry funded "think-tanks"and the Drudge/Malkin-sphere of the net how the Obama administration is manipulating the science of climate change for political ends because the EPA did not include in its report a 98 page document generated within the agency that questioned the science of global warming. James Inhofe - possibly the most intellectually dishonest person in the United States Congress - is now calling for an investigation of this.

I'm sure it will come as a huge surprise to find that:

1. This was a "report" the same way Jame Inhofe's bogus "minority report" was a report. (See "the most intellectually dishonest person" link.) Two non-climate scientists working for the NCEE (a branch of the EPA) decided to put together some unsolicited comments about climate change for the EPA report.

2. Their "report" relied heavily on the work of a leading figure of an industry front group. And by "relied heavily" I mean that they basically transcribed a previous pseudo-scientific piece from that group's website.

Real Climate has the details. If you want to have some idea of how ridiculous this bit of global warming denialism is before reading the link, I'll go ahead and tell you that one of the sources cited by the authors is an astrologist who believes Hilter and Stalin were the result of cosmic cycles.

The Fox report I linked to above claims that this incident is similar to when the Bush administration censored James Hansen.

The controversy is similar to one under the Bush administration -- only the administration was taking the opposite stance. In that case, scientist James Hansen claimed the administration was trying to keep him from speaking out and calling for reductions in greenhouse gases.
Um, er ... not quite. There is a world of difference between having a 24 year old political relations appointee who lied on his resume about where he graduated from college attempting to censor one of the planet's leading climate scientists and the EPA administrators rejecting pseudoscientific global warming denialist nonsense (putting it kindly) generated by non-climate scientists.

Yet, one need not look only to Fox News to see the manufacture of unreality spread to the public at large, as Media Matters notes that a CBS.com report uncritically reported the claim of this document that the planet's temperatures "have declined for eleven years."

Right, then.

Yep, sure looks like declining temperatures to me. Tim Lambert, responding to an Australian politician who made the claim that there has been no warming for 15 years, quoted this blogger's apt response:

It's appropriate to end this post with a quote from Timothy Chase in recent reader comments:

... anyone who tries to establish the trend in global average temperature with much less than fifteen years data is -- in my view -- either particularly ignorant of the science, or what is more likely, some sort of flim-flam artist...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Theatre of the absurd

Way to dispel stereotypes about young Republicans.

This is communism?

Yesterday Glenn Beck said that the cap-and-trade bill that just passed the House is communist and treasonous. He followed up on this on his Fox show saying that this is just a scam for people like Al Gore to make money off of the Big Lie of global warming etc. Typical Beck.

But here's the thing that I find difficult to wrap my head around.* Beck also said that the bill would enrich Goldman Sachs. Matt Taibbi - someone whom I put a lot more stock in than Beck - has himself written about how Sachs stands to profit from this bill. Let's assume they're correct (I'm not familiar enough with the legislation to know one way or another, but it certainly wouldn't surprise me, given how supercapitalism works.**)

Is this how Beck thinks communism works? Lobbyists for giant banks and corporations give money to politicians (who are often themselves former or future members of those very groups) and then those politicians take a greater sum of tax money and give it to giant banks and mega-corporations? Allowing those banks and corporations to write the legislation that is supposed to regulate them? That's communism?

Sounds like plutocracy to me. And while action on climate change continues to be held up by fools like Beck and members of the House who consider global warming "a hoax" and plutocrats in both parties who can't seem to write any legislation that isn't heavily influenced by the pollutting industries who profit from wrecking the global environment that fund their political careers, the time for inaction is running short.

*Actually, it's the second thing I have a hard time understanding. The first being how creating a capitalist market mechanism to reduce carbon emissions as opposed to a straight tax on carbon emission is "communist," regardless of how that mechanism might be perverted to benefit those being regulated.
**For more on the bill, see Grist's primer.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Bush administration used false confession obtained by al Qaeda torture to falsely imprison a man

I previouly noted, after hearing Senator Harry Reid say that he won't allow President Obama to set "terrorists" free in the United States, that:

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.
Here's a perfect example of why it's so morally repugnant to use idiotic fear-mongering like Reid's to promulgate a systematic abuse of human rights.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to this story breaking today, the federal judge ordering the release of yet another prisoner at Guantanamo, the thirty-year-old Syrian national named Abdul Rahim Abdul Razak al-Janko, tortured by al-Qaeda in 2000, who accused him of being a Western spy, held by the Taliban for a year and a half, then held for years, for what? Seven years at Guantanamo? And the video that’s just been released? Explain this story.

ANDY WORTHINGTON: Well, it is the most extraordinary story, I think, and, you know, I’ve been following extraordinary stories of incompetence and wrongly imprisoned men for over three years now. But he was one of five men who were held in a Taliban jail. There were, I think, at least another three who were seized in—under other circumstances from Taliban jails, and yet were sent to Guantanamo. And all these other men have now gone home.

Now, a British journalist met him when he had been abandoned in this Taliban jail and came across his whole story, about how he had been accused of being a spy, tortured by al-Qaeda. And the extraordinary thing about this video is that initially the administration thought that it showed him being a potential suicide bomber. This is actually the false confession that he made as a result of being tortured by al-Qaeda.

I understand that the Bush administration would pursue this case, because they didn’t really want to admit that they had captured people by mistake, sent them to Guantanamo, when they shouldn’t have been sent there. For the Obama administration to have come in, for the Justice Department to have looked at this case, to have decided that it was worth taking in front of a habeas judge, and arguing that a man who was tortured and imprisoned for eighteen months by the Taliban still had some connection with these people, even though he had only ever been involved with them for about three weeks before they decided he was a spy, it just simply beggars belief, I think.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, the federal judge in the case, US District Judge Richard Leon, said, “This is a tragedy…This is a nightmare for an innocent men being accused of all of these things.” He said, “He is a brave person and wants to tell his story. Instead, he gets mistaken for being a terrorist.”
It's worth noting that this was another incident where the Obama administration maintained continuity of policy with the Bush administration and offered the same argument for keeping this man in prison for being an "enemy combatant" member of al-Qaeda/the Taliban. A truly bizarre argument given that he was found by US forces in a Taliban prison, then shipped to Gitmo.

Amnesty International has more info on the apparent pin-ball torture al-Janko suffered first at the hands of al-Qaeda then the United States.

Prior to being taken into US custody, Abdul Rahim al Janko had been imprisoned by the Taleban. In a declaration signed in January 2009, he recalled that in early 2000, "first in Kabul, and later in Kandahar, the Taliban, as well as Al Qaeda officials, subjected me to severe torture and threats of death during long and painful and frightening interrogation sessions". He said that the torture included "severe beatings, electric shock, being hung from the ceiling, water torture, striking the bottom of my feet with clubs, striking my hand with the butt of a gun, and sleep deprivation". He added that "they also extinguished cigarettes onto my legs".1He said that he "falsely confessed to being a spy for the United States and Israel", and that his "confessions" were videotaped. After "three months of torture", Abdul Rahim al Janko said he was transferred to Sarpusa prison in Kandahar in May 2000 and held there until the Taleban abandoned the prison in December 2001 after the US military intervention in Afghanistan. The following month, Abdul Rahim al Janko was taken into US custody.

Meanwhile, several videotapes had been found in the rubble of suspected al-Qa'idaoperative Mohammed Atef's house near Kabul bombed in a US air strike on 16 November 2001. In January 2002 in the USA, Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller held a press conference about the tapes. The Attorney General said that they "depict young men delivering what appear to be martyrdom messages from suicide terrorists", although there was no specific targets or timing indicated. He named one of the five as "Abd Al-Rahim", and stated that the men "may be trained and prepared to commit future suicide terrorist attacks".2In his ruling seven and a half years later, Judge Leon noted that

"Originally, the Government and the US media mistook Janko as one of a number of suicide martyrs based on videotapes at an al Qaeda safehouse. The tape involving Janko, however, was actually an al Qaeda torture tape."
Abdul Rahim al Janko said that after he was identified as one of the men on the videotapes, the interrogators at the Kandahar air base "began treating me very badly", including "striking me on the forehead; threatening to remove my fingernail; sleep deprivation; exposure to very cold temperatures; exercise to exhaustion doing sit-ups, push-ups, and running in chains; stress positions for hours at a time; use of police dogs; and rough treatment to take me to interrogation, although I did not resist or use violence".
Judge Leon, by Mitt Romney's standards, is obviously a "liberal." One who was appointed to his federal bench by George W. Bush, who as president, was notorious for appointing bleeding-heart liberals to the federal judiciary.

Update: Glenn Greenwald on reports that the Obama administration is contemplating using an Executive Order to recreate Bush administration claims of authority to indefinitely hold persons without due process.

*pssst* (Rush Limbaugh is racist)

Media Matters notes this rant was inspired by an American Thinker article. You can hear pretty much the same sort of rant at Stormfront, except they are up front with their racism and come right out with it.

Update: That didn't take long. The white nationalist Stormfronters (or at least one so far) are thrilled by Limbaugh's rant about President Obama the "African colonial" dictator.

On apocalyptic conspiracism

Chip Berlet was on Fresh Air last week to discuss the role that apocalyptic conspiracy theories (such as New World Order) about sinister cabals of demonized, scapegoated groups play in creating an atmosphere that tends to promote "lone wolf" violence such as that of Holocaust Museam shooter James Von Brunn and alleged Tiller assassin Scott Roeder. He also explains why such violence tends to kick up when a Democrat is in office.*

Dave Neiwert, in his item noting the discussion, quotes Berlet's summation of his position

People who believe conspiracist allegations sometimes act on those irrational beliefs, and this has concrete consequences in the real world. The shooting today is a prime example of why it is a mistake to ignore bigoted conspiracy theories. Law enforcement needs to enforce laws against criminal behavior. Vicious bigoted speech, however, is often protected by the First Amendment. We do not need new laws or to encourage government agencies to further erode civil liberties. We need to stand up as moral people and speak out against the spread of bigoted conspiracy theories. That's not a police problem, that's our problem as people responsible for defending a free society.

... Apocalyptic aggression is fueled by right-wing pundits who demonize scapegoated groups and individuals in our society, implying that it is urgent to stop them from wrecking the nation. Some angry people already believe conspiracy theories in which the same scapegoats are portrayed as subversive, destructive, or evil. Add in aggressive apocalyptic ideas that suggest time is running out and quick action mandatory and you have a perfect storm of mobilized resentment threatening to rain bigotry and violence across the United States.
In addition to being highly informative of the subject matter, I would also recommend listening to the Fresh Air interview since Berlet offers thoughtful critism of the DHS report on "right-wing extremism" that freaked out so many Malkin-sphere bloggers who believed it signified they were being targeted for oppression by the Obama administration (despite the report having been written by the Bush administration and the DHS having released a few months previously a similar report on "left-wing extremism." (To avoid being cryptic ... the bulk of Berlet's criticism is that the report does not demonstrate that it has a sufficient respect for the First Amendment freedoms of thought, expression and association.)

*It plays into their sense of time running out since the sinister forces are believed to be closer to achieving their ends. I forgot to note the parallel in my post about it the other day, but recall that the Holocaust Museum shooter's murderous violence was motivated in part by his belief that President Obama is being controlled by Jews and that retired Col. Ammerman's desire to see then President Bill Clinton executed was motivated in part by his belief that Clinton was under the control of NWO Jews.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

If Bill O'Reilly doesn't like being linked to the assassination of Dr. Tiller ...

... then maybe he ought to stop bringing hate-mongers like Ann Coulter on his show.

Ann Coulter is skilled at saying what she really believes while building in a certain plausible deniability, and that is what she has repeatedly done in justifying the assassination of abortion providers. But the beauty of her rhetorical beast is that her meaning ultimately, is always clear. We will get to her latest provocation in a moment, but first a little context.

She has a record of publicly justifying the assassination of abortion providers. Last year, she did this at least twice. Speaking at a national religious right political conference in Florida, she declared that she can "understand" the assassination of doctors who perform legal abortions. In demagogic fashion, Coulter first presented the shocking view -- and then wink, wink -- said she didn't really mean it; but in doing so, still held fast to the argument that leaders of the underground Army of God have used for years to justify the murder of abortion providers -- which she termed "a procedure with a rifle."


Then, appearing on The O'Reilly Factor, as reported by Politics Daily, she repeated her argument:

"I don't really like to think of it as a murder. It was terminating Tiller in the 203rd trimester."

When pressed by O'Reilly on this statement, Coulter replied,

"I am personally opposed to shooting abortionists, but I don't want to impose my moral values on others."
Update: That Politics Daily link has footage of the exchange betweeen O'Reilly and Coulter. She's basically recycling her material about "liberals" being inhuman death cultists that only object to killing when evil mass murderers are killed. Here are some gems of Nazi propaganda sounding rhetoric from her book Godless:

  • No liberal cause is defended with more dishonesty than abortion. No matter what else they pretend to care about from time to time – undermining national security, aiding terrorists, oppressing the middle class, freeing violent criminals – the single most important item on the Democrats' agenda is abortion.
  • That would not advance their governing principle, which is to always kill human life (unless the human life being killed is likely to fly a plane into American skyscrapers, in which case, it is wrong to kill it.)
  • The most important value to liberals is destroying human life.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Head of military chaplain endorsing agency calls for killing specific Democrats

Bruce Wilson has the unbelievable details.

As noted in the Newsweek story, last fall - as the presidential election was heating up, retired Colonel E.H. "Jim" Ammerman, in the official September 2008 newsletter [ PDF of newsletter ] of his Department of Defense approved chaplain endorsing agency, published a letter which suggested, per the advice of a fabricated Abraham Lincoln quote, that four US Senators should be be "arrested, quickly tried and hanged!!!"...

The alleged crime ? - voting against a Senate bill that would have established English as the official language of the United States. Newsweek did not reveal the names of the four senators. But a May 20, 2009 Huffington Post story by Military Religious Freedom Foundation Senior Researcher Chris Rodda does: Democratic Party senators Dodd, Biden, Clinton, and Obama.

It was not the first time that Jim Ammerman has suggested or called for the execution of top US government leaders from the Democratic Party. Unlike common stereotypes of those who promote such incendiary views, Jim Ammerman is neither a right wing talk show host or on the militia movement fringe.

[below: in widely broadcast 1997 video, E.H. "Jim" Ammerman claims Jewish bankers control the US economy and calls for execution of then-president Bill Clinton]
The article goes on and on like this. Here is the most disturbing part (once you take in all of Ammerman's repugnant, conspiratorial and racist NWO views):

Through his Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches, retired Colonel "Jim"Ammerman presides over more than 270 active duty military chaplains, perhaps 7-8 percent of the active duty chaplain force.
If you read through that article you'll see that Ammerman is fully steeped in the form of violent, apocalyptic (racist and conspiratorial) extremist Christianity that the alleged killer of Dr. Tiller emerged from.

Michael Shermer has a post up at Skepticblog that touches upon why the belief system of these groups can lead to violence

An ironic coincidence — on Monday, June 15, I read two articles back-to-back: Andrew Newberg’s op ed piece in USA Today entitled “This is Your Brain on Religion” and Jeff Sharlet’s cover story for the May issue of Harper’s magazine, “Jesus Killed Mohammed: The Crusade for a Christian Military.”

Newberg is a neuroscience specializing in “neurotheology”, or the study of what happens to your brain when you do religious things, like pray, or think spiritual thoughts, or read scripture, or listen to a sermon. Newberg begins by recounting that in high school he had a Christian girlfriend (he is Jewish) whose family called themselves “born-again Christians”. Although they were always pleasant to him, “they were quite clear that in their view I had deeply sinned by not turning to Jesus. Oh, and because of this, I was going to hell.” That’s nice.

What are the consequences of hearing such negative ideas? Newberg concludes:

There seems to be little question that when people view God as loving, forgiving, compassionate and supportive, this more likely results in a very positive view of themselves, and of the world around them. But when God is viewed as dispassionate, vengeful and unforgiving, this can have deleterious effects on one’s physical and mental health. Again, the research is clear: If you ruminate on negative emotions, they activate the areas of the brain that are involved in anger, fear and stress. This can ultimately damage important parts of the brain and the body. What’s worse, negative emotions can spill over into outward behaviors that generate fear, distrust, hatred, animosity and violence toward people who hold different or opposing beliefs. Thus, it becomes more easy to believe that “I, and my religion, is right and you, and your religion, are wrong.”
Newberg goes on to explain that most Christians are not so judgmental and negative. In fact, he says, it is maybe only one percent. “Unfortunately,” he explains, “this minority often attracts the greatest amount of camera time and ink, too. But what is truly frightening is the fact that 1% translates into 3 million potentially violent citizens in our country alone. And this certainly plays out on the global stage, as beliefs conflict and terrorism fosters fear, hatred and ultimately violence.”

Three dollars worth of Potter

Today I purchased the following J.K. Rowling books from the library book store for a dollar each:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (hc)

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (hc)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (hc)

I haven't read any of the books yet, but I'm not sure I'll be able to resist going ahead and reading these out of order (these are books 3, 5, and 6 of the series.) Unlike the Left Behind books which seem to all pop up periodically in the discount section, there's no telling when or if the rest of the Potter books will show up.

See if you can guess which one listens to too much AM radio


Monday, June 22, 2009

Scribbled madness

A perfect example of what I was talking about with Beck at the chalkboard.

Quote of the day

"I conclude that I’m a skeptic not because I do not want to believe but because I want to know. I believe that the truth is out there. But how can we tell the difference between what we would like to be true and what is actually true? The answer is science." - Michael Shermer, "What skepticism reveals about science"

Congratulations to Mr. Shermer for writing his 100th Skeptic column.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Now I know why LaRouche hates David Hume

A while back a reader sent me a link to an article about Lyndon LaRouche in which LaRouche made a rather strange comment about David Hume which I was not able to puzzle out the meaning of.

I don't know quite what to make of it, but fringe political figure Lyndon LaRouche doesn't seem to be a fan of David Hume (h/t Psyberian)

Lyndon Hermyle LaRouche was born in 1922 and raised in rural New Hampshire and in Massachusetts. Bullied at school, but forbidden by his Quaker parents to fight back, he turned to philosophy as his weapon, dismissing his schoolyard persecutors as the "unwitting followers of David Hume."
The rest of the article is an interesting examination of LaRouche's strange brand of political extremism (a mix of both far left and far right ideas.)
If I had a better memory I would have been able to make sense of that remark the first time around. Re-reading the entry on LaRouche in American Extremists the other day, the answer became clear

According to Johnson [author of Architects of Fear], the line separating the good guys from the bad guys in the LaRouchean world is whether they are on the side of Aristotle or on the side of Plato in the battle over how one views reality. One camp has a relativistic view of the world (Aristotelian), in which reality, i.e., the evidence of the senses, is primary and empiricism reigns; the other camp embraces an absolutist view of the world (Platonic), in which ideas exist in a metaphysical realm, and idealism and utopianism reign. Because of their particular idealistic perspective, LaRouche's followers believe themselves to be the equivalent of the philosopher-kings described in Plato's Republic.

LaRouche's animus against the British greatly stems from his view that Aristotelianism (as advocated by the British empiricists Hume, Locke, Bentham, Russell, Berkeley, and others) is responsible for many of the ills of society

Saturday, June 20, 2009

How Glenn Beck mainstreams the extreme

On multiple occasions Glenn Beck has characterized efforts to raise awareness about global warming and to mitigate its potentially devastating consequences for human civilization as a Nazi style ploy to install a one world socialist-Marxist-liberal fascist government.

Let's take a look at a few instances, starting here

On his radio program, Glenn Beck stated that Al Gore is using "the same tactic" in his efforts to fight global warming that Adolf Hitler used to vilify Jews in Nazi Germany, but Beck said that Gore's "goal is different. The goal is globalization. The goal is global carbon tax. The goal is the United Nations running the world. That is the goal."

CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck became the latest critic to compare the documentary film An Inconvenient Truth, about former Vice President Al Gore's campaign to raise awareness of global warming, to the Nazis. Beck dismissed many of the conclusions drawn from the documentary, stating, "When you take a little bit of truth and then you mix it with untruth, or your theory, that's where you get people to believe. ... It's like Hitler. Hitler said a little bit of truth, and then he mixed in 'and it's the Jews' fault.'"
And here for example.

If you didn't happen to catch Glenn Beck's discussion of global warming this morning, I'll give you the gist of it: global warming is to liberals what the Reichstag fire was to Nazis. He didn't use that analogy, but that was the gist.

Well, what the hell is "You can't have transfats, you can't smoke, you can't do this, you can't do that." That's fascism. That's what it is. It's fascism with a smiley face, and we are much closer to fascism, and you know it in your gut. You know it to be true because look at the debate on global warming. You cannot have a debate on global warming. "Science is solved." Just like eugenics was solved. "The science was solved. The scientists all agree. It's all peer reviewed." And so what happens? They shut down all debate. Well, that's what happens with fascism.

WILLIAMSON: Well, if you go back in and look at, you know, what they're arguing for, it's the same stuff that the left is arguing for, which is transferring wealth and power on to citizen's hands and into the government's hands.

You know, the left always needs an emergency, because they can't get this stuff done through normal democratic means. So in the '30's, it was the Depression, then it was World War II. Then it was the Cold War and the threat of nuclear annihilation. And after the Soviet Union fell apart, it became environmental movement.

BECK: Right. Let me — I'm going to go ahead and take you someplace that I like to call "one world government."

One more

GLENN: Let me tell you something. For those of you who think climate change is real and manmade, you should know this, that -- I mean, you don't have to be a socialist, I guess, to believe in global warming. It's just that almost everyone who does believe in global warming is a socialist. I mean, believes in manmade global warming that now can be fixed and reversed or whatever. And we've got the tools to fix it. Almost everybody who says, "I've got a plan to fix it" is a socialist. And let me just give you this quote. This is from An Inconvenient Book: Kyoto is -- and I'm quoting -- the first component of an authentic global governance, end quote. Jacques Chirac, 2000. It is a global governance idea. I read this weekend about a new green deal that the UN is starting to push, that there needs to be a new deal but it needs to be based on green. And guess who would go ahead and implement that for us. Isn't that great? We could take all of the money that we're spending on the bailouts -- this is really the idea -- take all the money that we're spending on the bailouts and put it into a commission to be able to have a global green society that we could have a revolutionary new government. Scary? Scare you yet? Huh? A revolutionary government, a world body that would concentrate on bringing the world together through clean energy. Wouldn't that be fantastic?
Ok, where to start? First, it's simply staggering to consider that someone who hold views which are so stupid and yet crazy at the same time has been elevated to a position of authority on a pretend news network. It's as if Fox News just picked some random guy that they found on the corner of the street passing out John Birch Society literature while ranting about that coming End of America and said, "hey, you should have a show on our network. Say whatever you like!" The rub is seeing Beck - in what has become pretty much a daily occurrence - standing at a chalkboard/markerboard in front of some scribbled madness, pontificating as if he's some sort of professor lecturing an auditorium of students (as opposed to his audience members who are invited at the start of each episode to "follow me.") I can't help but recall Richard Hofstadter writing, "The enemy may be the cosmopolitan intellectual, but the paranoid will outdo him in the apparatus of scholarship, even of pedantry."

Getting past the initial shock of seeing someone so demented given a tv show on what is believed to be a news network by a significant number of Americans, the next thing that jumps out at you is that Beck and so many other global warming deniers don't seem to realize that they are positing a conspiracy theory so massive and extensive that it makes 9/11 Truth conspiracy seem plausible in comparison. As I noted before when responding to Neal Boortz's belief that global warming is a socialist conspiracy

In Junk Science, Dan Agin explains what goes into the IPCC's report:

Organized under the auspices of the United Nations, the IPCC periodically presents a voluminous report on global climate change to the public. Every five years, approximately one hundred member governments propose the names of their own selected climate scientists, and from the thousands of nominations, the scientist leadership of the IPCC then selcts several hundred scientists for each of three working groups, the selection based on the publication of these scientists in scientific journals. Each scientist is assigned responsibility for the entire scientific literature on a particular aspect of the problem. Other scientists are drafted as reviewers and critics, and by the end of the five-year cycle, at least 1,500 experts, including nearly every important climatologist on the planet, is involved in one way or another in the process of creating the final report.
That means if Boortz is correct, the entire planetary discipline of climatology has been corrupted by socialists who have conspired to fabricate a global warming hoax in order to overthrow capitalism. But like the creationist who refuses to see the absurdity of his own ideological thinking, Boortz accuses scientists of being the ideologues.
And this is indeed what Beck is proposing, as evidenced by his statement that, "everyone who does believe in global warming is a socialist" who wants to institute a one world government. It's obvious that Beck has no clue what he is talking about, and is a dishonest anti-intellectual idiot, so I won't dwell on that.

What I think worth noting is that Beck is promoting a secular, non anti-Semitic version of New World Order conspiracy theory. Despite the generic nature of Beck's version of the meme, however, the structure of Beck's variant allows more traditonal, anti-Semitic versions to be superimposed on his (in sort of the same process that I've observed with O'Reilly and his generic conspiracy beliefs.) This helps to normalize and transmit extremist ideas to a larger audience; it creates the space for media transmitters to mainstream hate.

Which gets us to the incident that spurred this post. On at least two previous occasions (here and here) Glenn Beck has promoted global warming denier Lord Monckton as a credible source of information about climate change.

That's the same Lord Monckton who decided to do an interview with Lyndon LaRouche's EIR magazine about what the interviewer considers to be the fascist global warming plot to rule the world. The cover of that particular issue of the magazine has a picture from the Nuremberg trials and reads:

Evidence for a New Nuremberg: Obama's Nazi Health Plan
It's fairly disturbing that on first glance it's difficult to tell a difference between the insane ranting of a Lyndon LaRouche publication (LaRouche is an extremist par excellence, seeming to have mixed some of the worst aspect of various extremist ideologies from across the political spectrum) and the sort of thing you can hear on Fox News from Glenn Beck or Jonah Goldberg on any given day.

Obama DOJ sides with Bush administration. Again.

Commenting on the Supreme Court's ruling limiting access to DNA evidence, Glenn Greenwald points out that this is another instance in which the Obama administration has maintained continuity of policy with the Bush administration.

[T]his was yet another case where the Obama DOJ sided with the Bush administration and advocated the position that the conservative justices adopted. The Obama DOJ aggressively argued before the Court that convicted criminals have no constitutional right to access evidence for DNA analysis. Indeed, its decision to embrace this extreme Bush position caused much controversy and anger back in February. Law Professor Darren Hutchinson wrote back then:

The Office of the Solicitor General has adhered to Bush's position that the inmate does not have a constitutional right to re-test the DNA evidence, even though doing so could establish his innocence and despite the fact that his attorney will pay for the new scientific analysis of the evidence. . . .

As a state senator, Obama sponsored and lobbied for legislation that gave all inmates a post-conviction right to DNA evidence -- the same right that Osborne asserts in this case. . . . The Bush administration was not required to take a position in this case. Although the Bush administration decided to submit a brief in the case, the Obama administration could have refused to defend it, withdrawn it, or even switched position.
Indeed, the Obama DOJ rejected explicit requests from defendants rights advocates to repudiate the Bush position. Instead, the Obama DOJ announced that Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal would make his debut appearance before the Supreme Court in that capacity advocating the Bush position (and that's what then happened)

80s video of the day

"Dynamite" by Jermaine Jackson

Johnston on the bizarro Robin Hooding of our pension systems

David Cay Johnston in Mother Jones on "Pension Privateers"

John Snow won't have to worry about his retirement. When he left the csx railroad to become George W. Bush's second treasury secretary, he took with him a $2.5 million annual pension. The figure was based on 44 years of employment at csx, never mind that Snow had been there for only 25 (during which, incidentally, he brutally cut safety and maintenance, to the point where a jury awarded a widow $50 million in punitive damages after a derailment—money paid by the taxpayers because of a little-known law that insulated Snow and his company from the costs of his egregious judgment). That kind of boost is unheard of for the rank and file, but not at all uncommon for corporate executives and owners.

Snow's case is typical of the way corporate executives have, for the past 35 years, managed to gild their retirement benefits even as they hollowed out workers' pensions. It started with the 1974 Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the law ostensibly designed to ensure that workers could collect the retirement benefits they'd earned. erisa brought some important reforms—including establishing the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (pbgc) to help workers whose pensions went bust—but it also was riddled with favors to business. And in the decades since, legions of lobbyists have helped create numerous new loopholes, exemptions, and special deals. The result is two separate and unequal pension systems: Executives get the equivalent of antebellum mansions, while workers get leaky shacks liable to collapse at the first harsh economic wind. Here are 10 of the key ways in which it happened. (Be warned: This stuff gets a bit technical. Washington is full of people who are very well paid to figure out insanely complex ways to take money from you and me.)
Click the link to read the ten ways that this has happened.

I doubt many people have heard of the CSX scam, but it's one of the numerous examples recounted in Free Lunch of American democracy becoming a means for redistributing wealth from the many to the very few. Johnston previously talked about the CSX affair with Bill Moyers

BILL MOYERS: You have a chapter in here about an economics professor who embraced the idea of getting government out of the way of business. And yet then he turned around and made cultivating government his business, quote, leaving behind a trail of death and costs that were shifted onto the taxpayers. And he went on to become our government's Treasury secretary.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: John Snow was a brilliant young economics professor and lawyer who wrote about how the government system of regulating transportation was inefficient and causing difficult costs. And in the Ford administration-- had a prominent role in promoting deregulation of trucking. Then he got a job with the CF-- what's now the CSX Railroad.

BILL MOYERS: And what is CSX?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: It's one of the largest railroad companies in America. And that railroad, the-- his mentor, Hays Watkins, won an award from INDUSTRY WEEK magazine. And the whole reason for the reward was their success at milking the government for favors. And Snow, throughout his career, spent an enormous amount of time going and meeting not with presidents of the United States but with the congressmen and senators and the staff members and the bureaucrats you're never going to hear about in the Transportation Department and the Appropriation Department to get all the rules and favors that he wanted.

And one of the worst rules is this. If you're on an Amtrak train and there is an accident and something happens to you, the damages that occur are always paid by the taxpayer, even if, as in the case I tell about in the book, there was a known unsafe condition that CSX caused in its zeal to cut costs and to increase Mr. Snow's salary.

Even though Snow was warned and warned this is dangerous, we're not doing enough for safety. There were official investigations. They stuck to their policy. They saved $2.4 billion dollars. Well, people died because of it. One widow pressed her case, got all the way to the Supreme Court with it. Got $50 million in damages awarded by a jury. Couldn't today 'cause Governor Jeb Bush in Florida signed a law to prevent this from happening again. But got $50 million in damages. Didn't cost CSX a penny. They just handed the bill to the taxpayers and said, "You get to pay."

BILL MOYERS: Because this is a law.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: That's the law.

BILL MOYERS: Passed by Congress.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: That's right. And this is a moral hazard. It's another thing that Adam Smith warned us about. You shouldn't be able to say, "I get the rewards and you the taxpayer are going to take up all the risks."

Friday, June 19, 2009

The return of: when words and actions do not seem to match

While President Bush was president I did a series of posts (1, 2, 3, 4) noting the contrast between the rhetoric of President Bush and his actions. Glenn Greenwald has saved me the trouble of writing part 5 about President Obama's failure to live up to his own rhetoric.

And Scott Horton has more today on the latest case of the Obama administration seeking to protect the Bush administration (specifically Dick Cheney) from public accountability for potentially criminal behavior.

Denying justice: it's not just for "terrorists"

Ed Brayton on the Supreme Court ruling denying/limiting access to DNA evidence which may exonerate the falsely accused.

Update: Lawyers, Guns, and Money on the ruling:

Roberts and his right-wing colleagues share another longstanding trait of American conservatives: prioritizing "state's rights" over human rights. And as in most cases, the benefits of this as applied to this case are hard to discern. While federalism may promote liberty in some respects, there is no tangible benefit to permitting states to imprison potentially innocent people when assessing exculpatory evidence would ave little expense. And interpreting the due process clause to give the defendant a right to present exculpatory evidence in this case can only be a threat to the "sovereignty" and "dignity" of the states if one believes that there should be virtually no federal supervision of the state criminal procedure, which the 14th Amendment precludes even if it wasn't a stupid idea on the merits. If preventing illegal detention isn't at the heart of due process, I'm not sure what is. (And why the abstract "dignity" of states should trump the very real dignity of human beings I can't tell you.)

More on Glenn Beck's bizarro sense

I found a review of Beck's Common Sense

Ultimately, “Glenn Beck’s Common Sense” is just what you expect it is: an uninformed rant against enemies, perceived or otherwise, loosely tied together by that favorite trope of the far-right, anti-intellectualism. This type of screed is hardly revolutionary: indeed, it’s remarkable only for its commonality.

By no means is this an exhaustive list of the book’s faults. I could go on to highlight some of Beck’s scarier points – like his tendency to refer to ideological opponents as inhuman “cockroaches” (e.g. 84), and his insistence that Americans are right to stockpile guns and ammunition (87), though apparently we stockpile guns so that we may never use them (102). Enough said.
Cockroaches, eh. I see it's not the first time Beck has ranted about socialist "cockroaches."

I disagree with the reviewer a bit. The trope of the book is no doubt common on AM radio, but it's still steeped in revolutionary imagery, calling for a supposedly non-violent revolution (although Beck can't seem to help himself from fantasizing about actual war) to purify the nation of un-American elements. And let's not forget the larger context of violent, revolutionary rhetoric of the conservative movement.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

An idiot in Thomas Paine's clothing

I saw with some degree of horror last night, that Glenn Beck's new book is titled Common Sense: The Case Against an Out-of-Control Government, Inspired by Thomas Paine. That should read Inspired by bizarro Thomas Paine, since the actual Thomas Paine would be a totalitarian "liberal fascist" by Beck's standards.

Glenn Beck, an anti-intellectual, anti-science paranoid, conspiratorial kook, is invoking Thomas Paine, an avatar of the Enlightenment as inspiration for waging a "civilest" civil/revolutionary war to dismantle the welfare state, which Beck is incapable of distinguishing from the totalitarian governments of Stalinist Soviet Union, Mussolini's Italy, or Hitler's Germany. The same Thomas Paine who, in two of his major works, wrote that the French revolution could establish its legitimacy by creating a welfare state with progressive taxation.

Thomas Paine's "common sense" were views that he believed were the obvious consequence to rational, scientific consideration of an issue; in essence, Paine's "common sense" was a celebration of the primacy of reason over dogma and tradition (including that of religious tradition/superstition.) This is not Beck's "common sense." I have seen on at least two occasions Beck giving as an exemplar of "common sense" your household dog, who just knows when something is wrong, intuitively; for Beck, "common sense" is thinking with your "gut." In other words, Beck's "common sense" celebrates the primacy of emotion over reason.

Which is why you get exchanges like this from Beck

Eugene, Ore.: Mr. Beck, over the last 20 years we have seen deregulated free market capitalism make a mess of the energy market (Enron), the financial markets, and the planet -- unmanaged natural resource harvest, global species loss, industrial toxins in our water, all at the cost of the common man or woman. Isn't regulation really a common sense approach to containing human greed?

Glenn Beck: No. Self-regulation is the common sense approach to regulating greed. What our founders called indispensable, the application of the laws of nature's God. And we have totally abandoned those things. Corporations need to know that by screwing the other guy, be it the janitor or another company, is bad long-term for the company. Polluting the rivers and skies to make a tire cheaper is ultimately bad for the company.
Is it? Shucks, I suppose we should probably get rid of our totalitarian laws preventing people from robbery or fraud, too, since self-regulation is the only "common sense" way to regulate greed. It's not like a company would create a product that would be highly addictive, highly damaging and deadly, conceal that information while waging a public relations campaign against anyone who pointed out the dangers of the product for decades while the company's consumers got sick and died. Or that this pattern of behavior would occur over and over. If Beck was more interested in empirical investigation of reality than his "gut" impressions of the matter, he'd find his views on this matter refuted again and again by the real world. Just ask the people of Libby, Montana.

But, like I said, history doesn't exist for Beck.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Quote of the day

"The time will come when diligent research over long periods will bring to light things which now lay hidden. A single lifetime, even though entirely devoted to the sky, would not be enough for the investigation of so vast a subject ... And so this knowledge will be unfolded only through long successive ages. There will come a time when our descendents will be amazed that we did not know things that are so plain to them ... Many discoveries are reserved for ages still to come, when memory of us will have been effaced. Our universe is a very sorry little affair unless it has in it something for every age to investigate ... Nature does not reveal her mysteries once and for all." - Seneca, Natural Questions, Book 7 (63 CE)

As quoted by Carl Sagan in the introduction of Cosmos.

Want to read a book about Plato?

I see that John Holbo of Crooked Timber is in the process of finalizing the last draft of his book on Plato and that it's online:

Reason and Persuasion, Three Dialogues by Plato final draft by John Holbo

You can find out more about the book (and why it's currently on-line for review) here. Even if you have no desire to reat the book in its entirety, I would really encourage everyone to at least click through the links. One, the interface for reading the book is refreshingly user friendly (far superior to the typical pdf file format). Secondly, I just really admire the open intellectual atmosphere which will be apparent to anyone browsing around the book's home page (the "here" link.)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Today's discount book purchases

Today at the library's used book sale section I picked up:

Cosmos (hc) by Carl Sagan for 1 dollar.

The Stand: Complete and Uncut (hc) by Stephen King for 1 dollar.

Having previously subjected myself to the poorly written first Left Behind novel, I thought I might give Stephen King's pop-horror take on End Times literature a shot.* My desire to read The Stand has been piqued for some time now by Robert Price's Point of Inquiry discussion of the subject of Jesus second-coming literature (although Price, I seem to recall, actually liked the Left Behind books; which makes sense to me only in the sense that someone might like Ed Wood's movies.)

As for Cosmos, you can take for granted that I'm going to purchase any discount book written by Sagan that I come in contact with, as he is one of my favorite popular science writers. Every one of his books that I have read has been fantastic. Plus, maybe reading the book will help motivate me to find the time to watch the original tv series on Hulu.

*Check out the Left Behind archive of posts at Slactivist for page by page deconstruction of the books to see what I mean.

When history doesn't exist

Check out David Neiwert's post about Glenn Beck (Jonah Goldberg's bulldog for "liberal fascism") teaming up with Goldberg to explain that Holocaust Museum killer James Von Brunn was not "far right" politically. News to me, since the last time I checked Von Brunn's beliefs and associations place him exactly in extremist "right-wing" politics.

If you watch that video clip that Mr. Neiwert provides, you'll see Beck list off the reasons that Brunn was not "right-wing," the last of which is that he hates black people. Are you kidding me? It's as if history has no existence, no meaning, no reality for Beck or Goldberg outside of immediate expediancy at any given moment, in essence, for them, history in not merely bunk, but bullshit. Certainly one can find examples of racism across the political spectrum, but to act as if there is not a very real and continuing tradition of "right-wing" racism in this country is well beyond absurd. What, do Beck and Goldberg think that the "state's rights" White Patriots of the anti-tax movement are commies or something? Back when William Buckley was editorializing in the National Review (which Goldberg himself is currently an editor of) in favor of segregation and in opposition to the civil rights movement what was he? A leftist? And, as you'll see below in a moment, just as with hatred of blacks being wiped from the history of the American "right," they've managed to wipe anti-Semitism away as well; so when Henry Regnery was publishing anti-Semitic World War II revisionist material was he a leftist, too?

They also do the same dance that Limbaugh did before: Von Brunn hated Jews, hated Fox News, Republicans, targeted Weekly Standard, etc. - thus, he's not of the "right!" And just like Limbaugh, they fail to mention what he thought about: Jews -they are secretly controlling Obama, planning to take away Von Brunn's guns and install one world Marxist government; Fox News & Weekly Standard - ditto, he thought they were doing the bidding of the Zionist NWO Jews; Republicans - hated them because they were too soft and corrupt, not willing to fight the Left. It might have been worth noting that Von Brunn also targeted the Washington Post. But then again, all of this would get in the way of painting Von Brunn as a liberal fascist.

Aha! Beck and Goldberg might retort, but we didn't say in that clip that Brunn was of the left, we just said he's not of the right and is in fact a lunatic. To which we can reply that this is simply sleight of hand, as Goldberg clearly says that Von Brunn sounds like a Nazi, and Goldberg has already written a book - which he continues to plug - arguing that fascism equals liberalism. It was originally subtitled, "The totalitarian temptation from Mussolini to Hillary Clinton." Actually, he pretty much kept that subtitle, but instead of naming Clinton, he used cowardly code "from Mussolini to the politics of meaning" for Clinton.

Mr. Neiwert has also written a response - titled "Fascism is not liberal" - to Goldberg's latest attempt (or psuedo-attempt) to defend his book from its critics. It compliments rather well my own post on the subject about fascism not having a "happy face." As I did, Neiwert also quotes heavily from the definitive work of Robert O. Paxton, but really draws out with examples how truly and utterly bizarrely Goldberg has inverted reality.

There is one quote in particular, from Paxton, that I found interesting:

Fascist violence was neither random nor indiscriminate. It carried a well-calculated set of coded messages: that communist violence was rising, that the democratic state was responding to it ineptly, and that only the fascists were tough enough to save the nation from antinational terrorists. An essential step in the fascist march to acceptance and power was to persuade law-and-order conservatives and members of the middle class to tolerate fascist violence as a harsh necessity in the face of Left provocation. It helped, of course, that many ordinary citizens never feared fascist violence against themselves, because they were reassured that it was reserved for national enemies and "terrorists" who deserved it.
As I noted before in my previous post, Beck's immediate response to this act of violence was to tell his audience that it confirms that America's "cancer" - progessivism - is hastening Barack Obama's march to fascism.

Today Glenn Beck, on his Fox tv show said that this crime confirmed what he has been warning about all along on his show: that "liberal fascism" - a natural consequence of the "cancer" of progressivism - is on the way.

Indeed, Beck warned his audience

There is gonna be a witchhunt, I believe, in this country, and quite possibly all around the world. For two groups. First group: Jews. It happens every time.

Second group: I think, Conservatives.
Right. First the liberals came for the Jews, then they came for the conservatives. How much more damage to history, facts, and our understanding of reality can Beck possibly do?
I reworded this in the comments of Mr. Neiwert's post in relation to the bit from Paxton I've bolded:

Yes, and strangely enough, when white nationalist, self-professed anti-liberal, anti-Marxist neo-Nazi right-winger James Von Brunn shot a black security guard in a Holocaust museum because he thought the Right was too soft in combatting the Jew controlled Manchurian Marxist Barack Obama, Glenn Beck's immediate reaction was to go on air and say that this confirms that Barack Obama is trying to install a happy-faced Marxist-liberal-fascist regime, and that after liberals like Von Brunn round up the Jews, they'll come for the conservatives.
When history doesn't exist, we can draw no lessons from it. We've already seen the abrogation of civil liberties and human rights (and unprovoked war) that Americans are seemingly willing to tolerate when done in the name of combatting "Islamofascists," what might be an eventual result or consequence of Glenn Beck telling his audience that "liberal fascists" are coming to round them up?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Praying for assassination

From Free Thinking

According to the Associated Baptist Press, Wiley Drake, former VP of the Southern Baptist Convention, is convinced that God was behind the murder of abortion provider George Tiller. He hopes that God won’t stop there.

Drake said June 2 on "The Alan Colmes Show" that unless Obama repents, he is praying that God will kill the president.
Right. "God" was behind Tiller's death, which occurred as the result of an assassination by a very real human. So, ipso facto, Drake is pretty much saying that he hopes some other fanatic will go out and kill the President (and, by inference, the other two late term abortion providers left in this country.)

While I believe strongly in the right to free speech - including speech like this that is a tacit endorsement of murderous violence - I also believe it imperative to counter such extremist speech with speech holding such individuals ethically accountable for their irresponsible words. It is also important to point out how despicable and deleterious a psychological tool it is to excuse one's own murderous desires by attributing them to a vengeful, fictional deity that is by definition "Good." As John Stuart Mill put it in "The Utility of Religion": "Is there any moral enormity which might not be justified by imitation of such a Deity?"

Friday, June 12, 2009

Debunking 9/11 conspiracy theory

In light of a white nationalist who believed in an anti-Semitic variant of 9/11 Truth conspiracy (among other conspiracies) shooting up the Holocaust Museum in D.C., I thought it might be a good idea to link to eSkeptic's debunking of it. I recommend the entire article, but I'll quote from the conclusion, as it seems particularly relevant.

The great writer Thomas Pynchon memorably expressed this point in his novel Gravity’s Rainbow: “If there is something comforting — religious, if you want — about paranoia, there is still also anti-paranoia, where nothing is connected to anything, a condition not many of us can bear for long.”42 The promiscuity of conspiracy theories toward evidence thus becomes part of their appeal — they can link virtually any ideas of interest to the theorist into a meaningful whole. This point was illustrated nicely during the Q & A session following the conference screening of Rick Siegel’s Eyewitness: Hoboken. An attendee wanted to know what role the Freemasons played in the plot, and seemed very concerned that Siegel’s account had neglected them. After waffling on the answer for a few moments without appeasing his questioner, Siegel finally relented and said, “Sure, they’re involved.” And why not? With the standards of evidence used by conspiracy theorists, there is no reason why the Freemasons, the Bavarian Illuminati, or the Elders of Zion cannot also be involved in the 9/11 plot — it just depends on what you find the most solace in believing. As it turns out, some conspiracy theorists do throw one or more of these other parties into the mix, as a popular and bogus rumor that 4,000 Jews mysteriously failed to come to work on 9/11 shows.43

Solace is something all of us needed after the horrible events of 9/11, and each of us is entitled to a certain degree of freedom in its pursuit. However, there is no moral right to seek solace at the expense of truth, especially if the truth is precisely what we most need to avoid the mistakes of the past. Truth matters for its own sake, but it also matters because it is our only defense against the evils of those who cynically exploit truth claims to serve their own agendas. It is concern for the truth that leads us to criticize our own government when necessary, and to insist that others who claim to do so follow the same rigorous standards of evidence and argument. 9/11 was a powerful reminder of how precious and fragile human life and liberty are — the greatest possible rebuke to those who would live in service to delusions.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sure sounds like a "product of the Left" to me

Recall yesterday Glenn Beck and guests explaining in so many words that James Von Brunn is a liberal fascist.

Here's a sampling of ranting from this so-called "product of the Left"

The American Right-wing (RW) with few exceptions is totally Pacifist, and sometimes corrupt (see: Revilo Oliver letter to Col. Dall: Attatched) From the NA to neo-Nazis they preach non-violence. They are ‘educators.’ If you already know the score you are no use to them. Their Websites illuminate the problems that Aryans face. Each day new alarms are sounded, adding more fuel to the raging fire. Their sites receive ‘hit after hit’ from patriots, scared old folks asking to help — young folks asking for leadership. Business $$is good. But that’s as far as it goes. Their subscribers, smoldering with rage, ready for action, are told to take a cold-shower — or pray.

The RW does NOTHING BUT TALK. It offers no Goal, no short or long-term objectives, no plan of action against the well-known enemy. There is no strategy, no tactical advice. Only the warning: DO NOTHING, BREAK NO LAWS, SIT TIGHT (as it has for almost 100-years).

Exactly the advice Marxists/Liberals/Jews want to hear.
Wow! Von Brunn sounds just like that quintessential "liberal fascist" Hillary Clinton, doesn't he?

Oh, and for anyone wanting to see a perfect example of the intersection of mainstream conservative punditry and extremist hate facilitated by media transmitters like Jerome Corsi, see this entry from Media Matters in which Beck and Corsi talk about Obama being a "Marxist" following the lead of Saul Alinsky (happens to be Jewish), then see this thread at white nationalist Stormfront which quotes an American Thinker article discussing the same and also ACORN conspiracy theory. And after you do that, recall what I previously wrote about Beck and his own ACORN conspiracy mongering

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.
Update: I see that Beck is not alone, as Rush Limbaugh and others are saying that Von Brunn was a leftist. Limbaugh, in particular, has a lot of nerve in making that claim, given that part of the reasoning he offers is that Von Brunn believed in 9/11 Truth conspiracy. Because if that makes someone "left" (despite the conspiracy having adherents of both "left" and "right" political leanings) then does that mean that Limbaugh is also a leftist since the very same day that Von Brunn - who believed in the Obama birth certificate conspiracy - shot up the Holocaust Museum Limbaugh was telling his audience that Obama does not have a United States birth certificate? Additionally, Limbaugh mentions that Von Brunn hated neoconservatives and both Bush presidents, but fails to inform his audience that he hated Democrats and liberals as well.

David Corn points out some additional bits of information left out by Limbaugh. Also see John Cole and Jon Chait for more on Von Brunn being "leftist" because of his anti-Semitism. And speaking from personal experience, as someone who semi-regularly visits Stormfront, it is not at all unusual for these sorts of extremists to hate Fox News, neoconservatives, and such, which they believe to be doing the bidding of Z.O.G. (in other words, Jews). But this doesn't mean they are "leftists" - in reality, they hate the mainstream right/conservatives for being weak and ineffectual, and hate the left even more. They consider Republicans left and Democrats further left. And they were really pumped about Ron Paul's presidential campaign.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fascism doesn't have a happy face

Today, an aging white supremacist with promiment neo-Nazi ties, who denied the Holocaust and the existence of Obama's birth certificate, and believed that 9.11 was a "false flag" operation orchestrated by Jews (an assumption about his belief system I'm making with good reason which turns out to be correct*), went into the Holocaust museum in D.C. and began shooting.

Ok, look: this man is a fascist. This - and his writings, and the people who lionized him at Stormfront - is what fascism looks like. It doesn't have a "happy face," as Glenn Beck and Jonah Goldberg like to say. It isn't about providing universal healthcare, spending money on the infrastructure of society, or raising the the top tax rates back to where they were while Clinton was president. It's not about the "progressive movement" and doesn't have a connection to Woodrow Wilson or Teddy Roosevelt.

This shooting is what the face of fascism looks like. Pure hate given violent expression; redemptive, xenophobic violence meant to rebirth the nation by eliminating its corrupting internal and external enemies (often demonized as disease, vermin, or pestilence), justified by a sense of victimhood at the hands of these Others; that is the essential core of fascism.

Today Glenn Beck, on his Fox tv show said that this crime confirmed what he has been warning about all along on his show: that "liberal fascism" - a natural consequence of the "cancer" of progressivism - is on the way.

Indeed, Beck warned his audience

There is gonna be a witchhunt, I believe, in this country, and quite possibly all around the world. For two groups. First group: Jews. It happens every time.

Second group: I think, Conservatives.
Right. First the liberals came for the Jews, then they came for the conservatives. How much more damage to history, facts, and our understanding of reality can Beck possibly do?

Fascists - real fascists - historically were fiercely anti-liberal and came to power by making common cause with conservative elites. As Robert Paxton put it in The Anatomy of Fascism: "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."

What's more:

The language and symbols of an authentic American fascism would, of course, have little to do with the original European models. They would have to be as familiar and reassuring to loyal Americans as the language and symbols of the original fascisms were familiar and reassuring to many Italians and Germans, as Orwell suggested. Hitler and Mussolini, after all, had not tried to seem exotic to their fellow citizens. No swastikas in an American fascism, but Stars and Stripes (or Stars and Bars) and Christian crosses. No fascist salute, but mass recitations of the pledge of allegiance. These symbols contain no whiff of fascism in themselves, of course, but an American fascism would transform them into obligatory litmus tests for detecting the internal enemy.

Around such reassuring language and symbols and in the event of some redoubtable setback to national prestige, Americans might support an enterprise of forcible national regeneration, unification, and purification. Its targets would be the First Amendment, separation of Church and State (creches on the lawns, prayers in schools), efforts to place controls on gun ownership, desecrations of the flag, unassimilated minorities, artistic license, dissident and unusual behavior of all sorts that could be labeled antinational or decadent.
Indeed, "today a 'politics of resentment' rooted in authentic American piety and nativism sometimes leads to violence against some of the very same 'internal enemies' once targeted by the Nazis, such as homosexuals and defenders of abortion rights."

To translate that for Beck: the man who allegedly killed abortion provider Dr. Tiller was a fascist. So to the man who shot up a Unitarian church because he hated liberals and gays. And the man who shot police officers because he thought they and Obama were coming to take his guns.

Those were genuine fascists and, as Dave Neiwert observes, they share much of the same conspiratorial worldview as Beck.

[Von Brunn is] also a "birther." But the truly telltale aspect of his record: In 1981, he was arrested for attempting a "citizen's arrest" of Alan Greenspan at the Federal Reserve Building in D.C. and was sentenced to a prison term for it. Von Brunn claimed "sovereign citizenship" at the time, which almost certainly means he was an adherent of the white-supremacist/far-right movement called Posse Comitatus, and was acting on those beliefs.

More to the point, this is precisely the same belief system that today fuels the cottage industry in conspiracy theories -- promulgated by the likes of Ron Paul and Alex Jones -- that the Fed is part of a massive conspiracy of "international [read: Jewish] bankers" to enslave Americans and destroy the country. It's been around quite awhile, but lately it's been gaining the patina of being regurgitated for mainstream consumption on right-wing media. And in particular, on Glenn Beck's programs.
Not satisfied to revise reality on his own, Beck had on a couple of guests to help him out. One, from an Ayn Rand institute of some sort, explained to Beck that Von Brunn is obviously "a product of the Left" because he's a racist and racists are collectivists, QED. Defining racism as a "left-wing" phenomenon is sophistry, as groups or individuals on both the political left and right can be racist while still having an ideology characteristic of being "right" or "left." Otherwise, we'd have to say that the apartheid regime of South Africa - championed by prominent movement conservatives (and Rush Limbaugh to this day) as a bulwark against communsim -was left-wing!

Of course, I think the the obsessive need to categorize everything as right/left is stupid in the first place. Fascists were explicitly and vehemently anti-democratic, making them enemies of both conservatism and liberalism.

And I point out that Beck has promoted some of the same conspiracy theories (stripped of their overt racism, to be sure) that animate the world view of actual fascists not because it means that he shares their ideology or hate. He does not. But what it does mean is that he is promoting some of the same ideas, the same understanding of reality, that they use to lay the ideological groundwork for the violent political expression of their hate.

As Jeffrey Feldman puts it (also see here for a similar point from Chip Berlet)

To what extent has right-wing violent rhetoric that has obsessed about the 'take over' of the country by nefarious forces for over a year--to what extent did the 2008 Republican presidential campaign amplify and normalize that language and that logic? And if it did normalize it, what responsibility does the media have to monitor that culture so that it cannot inspire white-supremacists to commit violent acts in the public sphere?

I discuss these issues at great length in my book Outright Barbarous: How the Violent Language of the Right Poisons Our Democracy

What I argue in that book, and will also argue here, is that we make a fundamental mistake if we limit our questions to legal responsibility--if we limit ourselves to just asking questions about literal incitement. The media also has a responsibility to ask questions about the proper way to maintain a functioning civic debate. And a functioning civic debate is one that constantly pushes people away from the idea that violence is an acceptable form of politics.
Update: I couldn't help but remember Rush Limbaugh saying that there was no need for another 9/11 type attack from al Qaeda because the election of Obama is the second terrorist act, then debating with a caller whether it is George Soros (Jewish) or Saul Alinsky (Jewish) who is the puppet master of President Obama - whom Limbaugh has characterized as a repressive alien monster cockroach - in relation to Von Brunn's beliefs about Obama being a Manchurian plant (controlled by Jews, I'm guessing) and that 9/11 was a "false flag" event orchestrated by Jews.

Update II: No need to guess about Von Brunn thinking Obama is controlled by Jews.

In brief, the neo-Nazis with whom von Brunn associates himself in his writings believe the Jews control the "mud people." The "mud people" are all the non-white Aryans who, in the view of the racists, ought to be kicked out of the country.
*h/t Daily Kos