Monday, March 29, 2010

Tracing Beck's intellectual lineage back to one of the most evil tracts in world history

Arthur Goldwag notes that you can draw a fairly straight line from Glenn Beck through his intellectual inspiration Cleon Skousen back to Boris Brasol, the man "who translated the [notoriously anti-Semitic hoax The] Protocols [of Zion] and brought them to America," where they were subsequently popularized by Beck's supposedly anti-fascist hero Henry Ford and went on to become part of the inspiration for the Holocaust in Nazi Germany.

This is consistent with what I've been writing about how about the parallel thinking and evolving hate memes of the pseudo-conservative mind which have transformed "progressives" into the bogeyman that Jews once were.

Goldwag additionally observes that, "if Beck could connect Obama to Lenin’s State and Revolution or for that matter to Bill Ayer’s Teaching Toward Freedom as neatly as I just connected him to the Protocols, he wouldn’t mince any words about it." The point being that Beck would see how ridiculous it is to link him to anti-Semitism using such tactics, yet he is perfectly willing to use even shoddier reasoning to smear Obama as an avatar of American armageddon.

My latest (and geekiest) discount book purchase

Men Of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book (hc) by Gerard Jones for two dollars.

Of course, I've been grabbing public domain books for my Kindle like crazy.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Quote of the day

'Imagine my surprise to see [Instapundit Glenn] Reynolds speculating that, “Possibly Obama just hates Israel and hates Jews. That’s plausible — certainly nothing in his actions suggests otherwise, really.” Obama’s crime is that he supposedly neglected to have a photo-op with Bibi Netanyahu, or something like that. I’m not sure what to say in response to that other than to note that Reynolds is apparently insane, which is to say that he is a rightwinger in the age of Obama.' - Clark Stooksbury

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Barack Obama's double think

Glenn Greenwald observes that

President Obama gave an interview earlier this week to an Indonesian television station in lieu of the scheduled trip to that country which was canceled due to the health care vote. In 2008, Indonesia empowered a national commission to investigate human rights abuses committed by its own government under the U.S.-backed Suharto regime "in an attempt to finally bring the perpetrators to justice," and Obama was asked in this interview: "Is your administration satisfied with the resolution of the past human rights abuses in Indonesia?" He replied:

We have to acknowledge that those past human rights abuses existed. We can't go forward without looking backwards . . . .
When asked last year about whether the United States should use similar tribunals to investigate its own human rights abuses, as well his view of other countries' efforts (such as Spain) to investigate those abuses, Obama said:

I'm a strong believer that it's important to look forward and not backwards, and to remind ourselves that we do have very real security threats out there.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Isn't there anyone at Fox that has noticed Glenn Beck is insane?

Look: Beck's belief that the Obama administration is planning to kill him -literally murder him - is a flat out paranoid delusion. Even the worst of the partisan hacks working at Fox should be concerned that Beck is losing his grip on reality. This is absolutely surreal that someone can go on the air on a mainstream American television network and says such things on a daily basis.

I'm flabbergasted.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Kindle is awesome (and a podcast recommendation)

Well, I finally got around to getting myself Amazon's Kindle e-reader since I could no longer resist the idea of being able to carry around 1,500 books in a single, small handheld device. That and the fact that I'm running out of space with the regular books I have piling up around the house.

I've been loading the device up with public domain material that you can get for free or a minimal price. For example, I got 27 books of pulp sci-fi innovator Edgar Rice Burroughs for the enormous sum of 1 dollar. It's also great for finding obscure books that I was previously unable to track down like the Tom Sawyer sequels Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer Detective.

The books download almost instantly and read - as promised - like regular book text. It's an extremely user friendly device which you'll be able to take straight out of the box and begin using without spending much (if any) time reading the instruction manual.

As for the podcast recommendation: Baggini's Philosophy Monthly.

As the title suggests, this is a podcast about philosophy, hosted by pop philosopher Julian Baggini, someone this blog has referenced more than once.

Still busy

I was hoping/expecting to be able to resume a more regular blogging pace, but it looks like my schedule won't open back up till mid or late April. This next week or so will be especially busy.

I have picked a Book of the Year for last year and that will be one of the first things I post when I get a chance; I also have a few book recommendations and what not that I'd like to make, as well as finally getting up the review of Dave Neiwert's The Eliminationsits that I've been promising for about a year.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Beck's selective stupidity

Fresh off of telling his audience that the United States is not a democracy but a republic, Glenn Beck had more to say about America supposedly not being a democracy on Monday.

Boy there are pesky phases that one that we should point out, social justice, shared community, and collective responsibility. Let’s not forget truly democratic society. Well, we’re not a democratic society. I think that was the Soviet Union. I believe it is the democratic socialist republic in China as well. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, everybody, all of the Founders repeatedly said because they knew democracies do not work, they never have, but Progressives, Marxists, really led by the Communists at the turn of the 1900s, they knew democracy was the way to get people to vote for dictators, and you hear it all of the time, how democratically elected Hugo Chavez, the democratically elected Saddam Hussein, Vladimir Putin, the democratically elected leadership in Iran.
1. Beck is saying that "democratic" is communist because a communist country includes the word in its title. He fails to notice that by the same reasoning, we're not a republic, because China is a "republic" and the U.S.S.R. was a union of republics (so much for union, too, I suppose.)

2. China is not titled as a "democratic socialist republic." The title is People's Republic of China. Going back to point 1., it would seem that Beck the bullshit artist just invented a title for China in an attempt to make his incoherent point.

3. In the latter half, Beck conflates holding an election with democracy. By this reasoning, the United States is a democracy.

4. Progressives at the turn of the 20th century knew they could get people to vote for dictators?There's not even anyway to respond to that assertion, as it's too untethered from reality to know where to begin. As Thomas Jefferson put it, "ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them."

The only thing that Beck says here that makes any sense and is sort of accurate is the founders skepticism about democracy, but even here he is not entirely correct. The founders viewed Athenian democracy as flawed and wanted to create a government that would avoid those problems, but that does not mean that the end result was not democratic. The first amendment itself - allowing citizens a voice in their government and a press that can keep them informed and can act as a check on political power - is a democratic institution, for example.

For a nuanced and intelligent discussion of how democratic America is or is not (and how the founders might have been too hard on the Athenians), I highly recommend Paul Woodruff's First Democracy.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Dumb and eliminationist

"Progressives" are a disease "infecting America" says Beck. This radical disease is trying to ruin America by turning the country ... gasp ... into a democracy! Oh, the horror!

I'm sorry, but the "we're a republic, not a democracy" line is moronic. Constitutional republic and democracy are not mutually exclusive: constitutional republic is the form of democracy we are. "Democracy" as so-called "progressives" use the term refers to citizens having a say in their government and adherance to the rule of law; Beck uses it to mean the straw man notion of pure majority rules: a notion that virtually no one advocates.

For more on the subject, see Dr. Taylor's essays (1 and 2) on the subject

My fundamental point is that there is no logical or conceptual reason to, in the US context, separate the notion of the US being a republic from the US being a democracy. It especially doesn’t make sense to create a false dichotomy between the two.

While it is true that we do not govern solely via majority rule, there is nothing in the definition of democracy that dictates utter majority rule. Indeed, functional democracy requires protection of minority rights, else one can’t actually have democratic governance.

One thing is for sure: it has nothing to do with whether a given country has a federal structure or not and certainly has zero to do with arguments about state power in the US context.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Goldberg's rhetorical ruse

Jonah Goldberg, while promoting his ahistorical book redefining fascism as a form of liberalism Liberal Fascism, has noted that it's terribly significant that Hillary Clinton has said that she considers herself a progressive rather than a liberal.

A non-movement conservative ideologue might have simply viewed Clinton's choice to be indicative of the success of the decades long campaign of Goldberg's ideological predecessors (including his mommy, who got him his job) to turn liberal into an epithet that no politician wants to be labeled with (see Talking Right for an analysis of the topic.) But for an ideologue like Goldberg, inhabiting a Manichean world where movement conservatives are Good and everything else is Evil, Clinton's identification as progressive exemplifies the fact that she's really a totalitarian fascist like Mussolini and Hitler.

Over at Salon, Mike Madden writes about this rotten game

A generation after Ronald Reagan and his allies turned "liberal" into an epithet, conservatives are going after the term many Democrats adopted in its place. Glenn Beck and his paranoid Fox News Channel ranting is just at the forefront of what appears to be a movement to demonize the word "progressive," in hopes of scaring voters away from the left. "Progressivism is the cancer in America, and it is eating our Constitution," Beck told thousands of adoring fans at the conservative CPAC conference last month. "And it was designed to eat the Constitution. To 'progress' past the Constitution." The National Review ran a whole special issue on progressives in December; staff writer Jonah Goldberg even published a book on the subject, "Liberal Fascism," two years ago. The latest ad for Liz Cheney's new group, Keep America Safe, prominently features Attorney General Eric Holder declaring that progressives are about to run the nation -- before seguing, sharply, into asking whether Holder's pals share the values of al-Qaida.
Democrats could identify as Fraggles and I expect that Jonah Goldberg and his lunatic disciple Glenn Beck would start explaining how Jim Henson was fascist and/or communist who hated America and created Fraggle Rock as part of some sinister plot to rule the world or something.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Quote of the day

"Why haven't America's old-school news organizations blown the whistle on Roger Ailes, chief of Fox News, for using the network to conduct a propaganda campaign against the Obama administration -- a campaign without precedent in our modern political history?" - Howell Raines

That Raines raised this question in the pages of the Washington Post is a big deal, as this sort of criticism - as obvious and factual as it is - is usually confined to blogs which lack the audience and influence of the Post.

Democrats so far left that they resemble the Maoist Republicans of 1993

AM radio bizarro world beliefs about how super duper left-wing extremist Democrats have become is slightly at odds with the actual universe that we inhabit.

Monday, March 08, 2010

What values do we value?

Scott Horton, commenting on Liz Cheney's "Keep America Safe" organization depicting lawyers who represent clients accused of terrorism as being members of Al Qaeda in a commercial which asks "whose values do they share?"

[T]he question that Liz Cheney asks is an appropriate one. “Whose values do they share?” Perhaps it’s the values of John Adams. After the Boston Massacre, when revolutionary sentiment was flaring, Adams stood up to represent the British soldiers accused of slaughtering his fellow Bostonians in a criminal trial, and he helped them beat the rap. Most of his fellow citizens were dumbstruck by his decision, but at the end of a long life, looking back, Adams decided that this was “one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country.” It’s the values of Kenneth Royall, the JAG colonel who defended a group of accused German saboteurs during World War II, bringing their appeal to the Supreme Court against the wishes of his commander-in-chief. Royall’s brilliant defense got him a promotion to brigadier general, and it later helped drive President Truman’s decision to name him the last American secretary of war. Vigorous defense of even the meanest person accused is an essential part of our democracy and our notions of justice—but it’s not a value that is shared by Liz Cheney.

Whose values does Liz Cheney share? Look at the nations around the world in which criminal defense counsel are harassed and persecuted. Look at Putin’s Russia and the case of Sergei Magnitsky, or Mugabe’s Zimbabwe and the case of Beatrice Mtetwa. Perhaps it is in countries like Russia and Zimbabwe that Liz Cheney and her Weekly Standard friends might find governments that share their values.

The shadow of unreasonable doubt

From The Duck that Won the Lottery: 100 New Experiments for the Armchair Philosopher by Julian Baggini

The fact that it is possible science has got it wrong is also uninteresting: science is by its nature fallible and to demand infallibility from it is to disobey Aristotle's wise injunction to expect only as much precision as the subject matter allows. Like the connoisseur of good vodka, the truth seeker should not demand 100 percent proof. We have to live with a small measure of uncertainty. Proof requires us to move only beyond reasonable doubt. It cannot require us to remove all possibility of doubt whatsoever.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The shrinking gap between mainstream conservative rhetoric and extremist rhetoric

Media Matters notes that you can find this charming rhetoric at Andrew Breitbart's Big Journalism website:

Mark Steyn is always right, whether he's writing about Andrew Lloyd Webber or, in this case, the suicide-bomber-in-chief, Barack Obama, who doesn't much care how many Democrats get sent to the electoral Elysian Fields -- or even whether he gets a second term -- as long as he can blow up the capitalist system from within. Excuse me -- effect "fundamental change." And what better way to get Hussein's camel's nose under your hospital gown than by taking over the American health-care system, all under the guise of "reform?"
That's quite a despicable achievement, being flatly defamatory and coyly racist while employing violent imagery to depict the president as being a foreign, terrorist enemy within.

That's the sort of rhetoric you might expect to be confined to the political fringes, but there it is on a mainstream conservative website.

This sort of mainstreaming and normalization both helps to close the gap between what is considered the extremist fringe and mainstream conservatism, but it also fuels and helps to legitimize the violent paranoia of genuine extremists. Extremists like the Oak Keepers who have received endorsement from such mainstream figures as Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs.

Oath Keepers is officially nonpartisan, in part to make it easier for active-duty soldiers to participate, but its rightward bent is undeniable, and liberals are viewed with suspicion. At lunch, when I questioned my tablemates about the Obama-Hitler comparisons I'd heard at the conference, I got a step-by-step tutorial on how the president's socialized medicine agenda would beget a Nazi-style regime.

I learned that bringing guns to Tea Party protests was a reminder of our constitutional rights, was introduced to the notion that the founding fathers modeled their governing documents on the Bible, and debated whether being Muslim meant an inability to believe in and abide by—and thus be protected by—the Constitution. I was schooled on the treachery of the Federal Reserve and why America needs a gold standard, and at dinner one night, Nighta Davis, national organizer for the National 912 Project, explained how abortion-rights advocates are part of a eugenics program targeting Christians.
See, when Glenn Beck calls himself a modern day Paul Revere warning that "the British are coming" or a modern day Thomas Paine trying to inspire resistance to the tyranny of a fascist/communist/black nationalist 100 year conspiracy to create an "economic holocaust" in order to destroy America, slaughter Americans, and install some form of one world totalitarian government, there are people who take him seriously.

The Oak Keepers is made up of former military who are preparing to wage war with the evil progressive nightmare state that Glenn Beck and writers like the one at Andrew Breitbart's Big Journalism keep warning them about. Call me crazy, but I don't think democracy works too well if the mainstream base of one of the only two viable political parties in the country panders to violent and extremist paranoids contemplating civil/revolutionary war to "eradicate" the "progressive cancer" everytime the other party wins an election.

Oscar Wilde quipped that "when the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers." Maybe the conservative mainstream might want to consider the implications of their rhetoric and consider if they really want their war prayers answered.

A book I had to add to my collection

Browsing through Barnes & Noble today to see if I could find anything worth using a recently received gift card on, I came across H.P. Lovecraft: The Fiction, a complete and unabridged hardcover collection of Lovecraft's sci-fi-ish Poeian type of horror fiction for 13 dollars. A relatively great price for a book this size.

No book geek's collection should go without.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Difficulty sourcing a quote

In my review of Blasphemy by Alan Dershowitz, I noted that Dershowitz attributes the following quote to Ralph Reed: ""[It is] the Jewish element of the ACLU which is trying to drive Christianity out of the public place ... because the ACLU is made up of a tremendous amount of Jewish attorneys."

A while ago I happened to notice that the particular section of Blasphemy that that quote comes from was recycled from the previous Dershowitz book The Vanishing Jew. Except in that book the quote is attributed to Billy McCormack of the Christian Coalition. Blasphemy does not offer a citation for the quote and I have not been able to find a copy of The Vanishing Jew to see if it sources the quote any better.

McCormack is the more likely source of the quote, as you can find it attributed to him through a google search (supposedly in a taped LA Times interview,) but not to Reed. Still, all of the links I have found have failed to source the quote to my satisfaction, so I would consider it dubious until further notice.

I wish I had posted this update when this first came to my attention, but I had intended to attempt to contact Dershowitz to ask about the quote and then forgot about it when I never got around to doing so.

Since the quote is a damning example of bigotry, it is fairly defamatory to attribute it to someone without having verified its veracity. I owe Ralph Reed an apology, regret the error and my neglect to resolve the matter sooner, and have removed the quote from the original post.

Glenn Beck spreading Christian nationalist lies to advance theocratic agenda

It shouldn't come as any surprise, since Beck has teamed up with infamous Christian nationalist liar for Jesus David Barton as part of his cultish sounding plan to create a 100 year map to save America from the "progressive" bogeyman, that Beck peddles fabricated history, but it is still infuriating to witness it in action.

On Friday's program Beck asserted that George Washington claimed, "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible."

This is a popular bogus Christian nationalist quote.

The US Library Of Congress has a massive collection of Washington documents that can be searched by word or phrase. Here's the description of that collection:

The complete George Washington Papers collection from the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress consists of approximately 65,000 documents. This is the largest collection of original Washington documents in the world. Document types in the collection as a whole include correspondence, letterbooks, commonplace books, diaries, journals, financial account books, military records, reports, and notes accumulated by Washington from 1741 through 1799.
A search on the alleged Washington quote, and phrases from within the quote, produces no results.
Here's a favorite George Washington 'quote' of mine: "Glenn Beck is an intellectually dishonest loony toon character who shouldn't be taken seriously by anyone."

Friday, March 05, 2010

Beck not satisfied with destruction of American history, also thinks that Armenian genocide denial is a laughing matter

What a hero of human rights Beck is ... I sure can see why he compares himself to such human rights champions like Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine, and MLK. He is so ignorant and stupid that I still marvel that someone as ignorant and stupid as he is has the influence that he does.

Deborah Lipstadt and Peter Balakian previously explained the importance of recognizing the crimes of the past

[I]t is equally crucial that historical denial of genocide be addressed in an uncompromising fashion. While historians are taught to be skeptical, it is absurd to be skeptical or neutral about events of the magnitude of the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust, which are attested to by reams of documents and material evidence as well as testimonies by victims, perpetrators and bystanders.

Neutrality or skepticism in the case of these two tragedies constitutes denial, which is the final stage of genocide in that it seeks to demonize the victims and rehabilitate the perpetrators.

The broad and international record on the Armenian genocide has been created by an international body of dispassionate scholarship for decades, and notably, affirmed by The International Association of Genocide Scholars in repeated statements that note that this history is not controversial anywhere in the world but in Turkey.

Raphael Lemkin, the noted legal scholar who lost 49 members of his family in the Holocaust, invented the concept of genocide, in part, on the basis of what happened to the Armenians in 1915.

The main actor here, however, is Turkey. It is time for Turkey to end its nine-decade campaign to erase the Armenian genocide. It is time to stop bullying and attempting to coerce states and organizations that engage history honestly. Such a campaign is immoral.

By passing the resolution (H.R. 106) before it, Congress must make it clear to Turkey that, even as we welcome its alliance with the United States in so many arenas, the time for this denial is over.

Turkey’s calls for a commission of historians to resolve this issue are disingenuous, especially for a country that has a law that makes it a crime to “insult Turkishness,” under which scholars and publishers who have spoken about the Armenian genocide have been prosecuted and even killed.
Also see here for a statement on Armenian genocide denial by a group of scholars.

"Quote" of the day

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Tip/Wag - James O'Keefe & Sean Hannity
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorSkate Expectations

"I need hooker boots and condoms" - Sean Hannity

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Liz Cheney demonstrates the wisdom of Robert Kennedy

"What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents." - Robert Kennedy

Liz Cheney's organization Keep America Safe has taken to calling DOJ lawyers who represent Guantanamo detainees as the "Al Qaeda 7" as if they are members of Al Qaeda.

Speaking of extremists who are extreme because of what they say about their opponents, isn't it ironic how Glenn Beck* sees an inevitable road to fascism in a healthcare proposal but doesn't seem to manage to get worked up about what scholar of fascism Robert Paxton described as "enough" for fascism to take hold in a society: "seemingly anodyne decisions to tolerate lawless treatment of national 'enemies'."

Glenn Greenwald has more on the vileness of Cheney's (and Bill Kristol's) attack on these lawyers

*Here's another one of Beck's smears of "progressives" as totalitarian monsters. I love this comment at the link

(Glenn's little into music)

"Hey, welcome to the show...and now,

Etc., Etc., Etc.,"

Day after day after day after day...the same sh!t.

Feel the fear. Feel the hate.