Sunday, May 30, 2010

Imperial presidency still in effect

While I've been busy focusing on the daily erupting volcanoe of conspiratorial crazy that is Glenn Beck, Glenn Greenwald has lately written a series of important posts documenting and commenting upon the ongoing human rights abuses by the Obama administration, as well as about its hypocrisy in prosecuting whistleblowers despite campaign promises of transparency in government and the vapid mantra of Looking Forward, Not Backward which only seems to apply to people involved in torturing people to death, unleashing devastating illegal war or massive illegal surveillance, not to people who expose government wrongdoing.

I really can't add anthing to what Greenwald has written, but I can tie it into why I find Beck's prominent role within conservative politics to be so distressing (and infuriating): above you have Greenwald - who has consistently written against the abuse of civil liberties in the name of waging war on "terror" - giving actual, real world examples of the imperial presidency being abused. Meanwhile, Glenn Beck is busy telling his audience that it should be preparing itself for an apocalyptic battle with a fictional foe (the Satanic, Marxist Manchurian Obama administration that is a figment of Beck's imagination) that is going to take away their liberties. And that would be the same Glenn Beck who helped propagandize the populace in favor of giving the imperial presidency powers to abuse civil liberties in the name of fighting "the war on terror."

Latest discount book buy

Violent Politics: A History of Insurgency, Terrorism, and Guerrilla War, from the American Revolution to Iraq (hc) by William Polk for 2 dollars.

For more on the book, see (or hear) this discussion between Polk and Melissa Block on All Things Considered.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


A must read article by actual historian Joeseph Palermo

Beck has emerged as the most influential promoter of the Jonah Goldberg/Amity Shlaes contention that President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal were unmitigated "calamities" for the country. Almost nightly, Beck tells his several million viewers that FDR, Woodrow Wilson, and other "progressives" (even TR) were engaged in a long-term project to strip Americans of their freedom and impose some kind of totalitarian state. Historians whose specialty is the early 20th Century probably could never have dreamt that a TV and radio personality could convince so many ordinary Americans that laws that ensure the safety of meat and drugs, minimum wages, expanding voting rights, etc. undermined their "freedom."

Beck, Goldberg, Shlaes and others seem to be pursuing a long-term project of their own to misinform their rather gullible audiences into believing that anytime a government imposes limits on the ability of private business (especially giant corporations) to exploit the country's land and labor it is an attack on individual "liberty." It's the identical argument that the representatives of corporate trusts deployed at the turn of the last century when they demanded the "freedom" to do anything they wished. In the wake of the Wall Street financial meltdown and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill catastrophe, both brought to us by the less than benevolent actions of unrestrained corporate power, Beck's views are not only stupid and false, but dangerous.

My bookstore nightmare

I walked into a major chain book retailer today to be confronted in the Politics section by 61 - yes, I counted them - sixtyfriggin'one! copies of Sean Hannity's Conservative Victory: Defeating Obama's Radical Agenda and 45 copies of books by Glenn Beck, mostly consisting of Arguing with Idiots and Common Sense.

Irony being that the prospective buyers of those books are likely convinced - thanks, in no small part, to the authors themselves - that they are the victims of oppressive liberal media bias.

Update: It's actually worse than I thought. Revisiting the store, I see that I failed to notice two large, prominent display stacks of Conservative Victory strategically located. I didn't have the heart to count 'em, but by eyeball estimate, there appears to be close to two hundred copies all together on the floor.

More discount book buys

Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the UN and Overthrow Saddam Hussein (pb) by Scott Ritter for 1 dollar.

Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul (hc) by Kenneth Miller for 3 dollars.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Latest discount book buy

Unspeak: How Words Become Weapons, How Weapons Become a Message, and How That Message Becomes Reality (hc) by Steven Poole for five dollars.

The author also writes a blog of the same title. Here's a somewhat recent entry from the blog, responding to John Bolton describing President Obama as "Post-American.

There is a difference, of course, between arguing that Obama’s policies are somehow post-American-exceptionalism, and saying that Obama himself is post-American. The insinuation blatantly is that he is not really American, a notion that will doubtless give succour to “birthers”, racists, and other nidiots. Indeed, one might even suspect that the phrase is designed to do just that, to act as a little slow-fused bomb of hatred and contempt secreted within an ostensibly rational discussion of foreign policy in a broadsheet newspaper. I don’t recall any Republican wingnuts arguing that, say, Bill Clinton or Al Gore were not actually American; presumably there is something about Obama other than the colour of his skin that renders the accusation more relevant in his case, though I cannot right now think what it might be.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Beck to reveal his own "New world order" conspiracy

So how long before Beck publishes something about the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Progressivism?

In the same episode, he dismissed Media Matters' criticism of his promotion of Christian nationalist pseudohistory on the grounds that the site is funded (it isn't) by Jewish Progressive international financier George Soros.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Quote of the day

"No tyranny is more cruel than that which is practiced in the shadow of the law and with the trappings of justice: that is, one would drown the unfortunate by the very plank by which he would hope to be saved." - Montesquieu

h/t Scott Horton

The American Founding Fathers were influenced by the lessons they drew from a study of antiquity and particularly helped in this process by Montesquieu and his essay of the rise and collapse of liberty in Rome. In Montesquieu’s study of Tiberius, he reflects how the institutions of government were steadily corrupted by those who sought the favor of the emperor. Judges convicted and sentenced anyone of whom Tiberius grew suspicious; senators vied with one another in denouncing their rivals to him. This reflects the weakness of human nature in the face of power, but Montesquieu focuses on how it causes the disintegration of the justice system. There is something particularly pernicious about a situation in which the outer trappings of justice exist, but the substance has been replaced with a craven homage to the power of the executive.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A bargain buy for the Kindle

Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda by Noam Chomsky for $2.31

Excerpts of the book can be read here.

Those who have had their political understandings informed by Glenn Beck will be surprised to see that leftist intellectual icon Chomsky is a fierce critic of the propaganda efforts and civil liberties abuses of the Wilson administration. Although Chomsky, unlike Beck, does not fail to mention that Wilson was suppressing the liberties of "the left" with the approval of the business community.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Quote of the day

"Just out of curiosity — exactly how much of a wuss does your God have to be, do you think, if he can’t take being picked on by a Swedish cartoonist?" - Matt Taibbi

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Irony: sounding like a Nazi while comparing someone to Nazis

"The Left has thoroughly infiltrated nearly every cultural commanding height of our civilization. That is, they hold power, influence and control of academia, the elite news media, Hollywood, union leaders, trial lawyers, the courts, the Congress, and the bureaucracy at all levels of government. They are radically redefining our very culture by deciding what is news, what is entertainment, what our children learn in school, and what kind of government we should have." - Newt Gingrich

Switch "the Jew" for "the Left" and you'd have rhetoric that would fit right in with the rest of the hate at the white nationalist web forum Stormfront.

Beck now finds the Christian Coalition too Marxist for his tastes

Obviously, the Christian Coalition's support for Marxism is reflective of the ultra-leftwing radical socialism of the organization's commie founder Pat Robertson. (As Beck would say, isn't it interesting how the Marxism remark seems to have been scrubbed from the segment's transcript.)

Or, as Inigo Montoya might say if confronted with Beck and his repetition of the term "Marxist": "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Most murder victims aren't attractive white females?

I've mentioned before my disgust with the way that our national tv news media exploit the deaths of attractive, young white females by elevating those stories for obsessive coverage. I consider such behavior vulture like: the networks feed off of the corpses of the women. The purpose of such stories is not to serve any of the civic purposes of journalism, but to increase ratings with sensationalistic stories that require no actual journalistic work.

And while they are busy doing hard hitting stories about such issues of national importance as the death of the father of a murder suspect (are you f'ing kidding me, Nancy Grace?), the real story of homicides in America is lost

Now a senior reporter at the L.A. Times, Jill Leovy started The Homicide Report in 2007 after noticing the huge disparity in the way murders were covered by the news media. The sensational stories, mostly the outliers and anomalies, got the most attention. But the majority of homicides were largely ignored.

"The first year I was in the Watts homicide unit, that unit had 60 murders that year," she tells NPR's Guy Raz. "I was shadowing the detectives, and we were running on murders every other day. Every morning they had CNN on, or something on, and it would have the latest installment of the Laci Peterson murder." The sensational case of a pregnant wife murdered by her husband enthralled the nation for months.

"The detectives in that unit were fascinated with it. Every day, we would have a moment of discussing the newest development in that case, and then they'd go on to do the 60 other murders that year — and that is homicide in America.

"The truth about homicide," she says, "is that it is black men in their 20s, in their 30s, in their 40s. The way we guide money and policy in this country, we do not care about those people. It's not described as what's central to our homicide problem, and I wanted people to see that. I wanted people to see those lives and to see that that's our real homicide problem in America.

"The money needs to go to black male argument violence," she continues. "Anything else … you're dealing with the margins of the problem, statistically, and it's not right."

Saturday, May 15, 2010

On Sylvia Browne's track record

From Skeptical Inquirer

According to Browne, “my accuracy rate is somewhere between 87 and 90 percent, if I’m recalling correctly.” This article disputes that statistic by examining the criminal cases for which Browne has performed readings. The research demonstrates that in 115 cases (all of the available readings), Browne’s confirmable accuracy was 0 percent.

On faux Nazi comparison outrage

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Back in Black - Glenn Beck's Nazi Tourette's
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Quote of the day

"I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." - Isaac Newton

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Latest discount buys (and other bargains)

Lord Jim (pb) by Joseph Conrad for $0.50
Nostromo (pb) by Joseph Condrad for $0.50

For the Kindle:
The Necessity of Atheism by Percy Bysshe Shelley for $1.84
The Last Man by Mary Shelley for free (fancier editions are also available for increasing prices)
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects by Mary Wollstonecraft for $0.95
The Complete Wizard of Oz Collection by L. Frank Baum for $0.95
The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison for $1.05

The Worm Ouroboros is a somewhat obscure (and forgotten) 1922 fantasy novel that helped define the genre and served as an inspiration for authors like J.R.R. Tolkien.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Why Glenn Beck sounds like an anti-Semite (but isn't)

In response to a post by Arthur Goldwag noting how structurally and rhetorically similiar Glenn Beck's conspiracy theories are to classic anti-Semitism, I commented

“I don’t know if Glenn Beck is an anti-Semite or not”

I don’t think he is; he just thinks about “progressives” the way anti-Semites think about “Jews” and the lineage of ideas he has been influenced by come from a tradition of anti-Semitic conspiracism. It’s kind of like a vestigial anti-Semitism: it’s not his intent, but just kind of a vestige of the ideology he has absorbed and co-opted.
Take for instance who he was targeting last week: Louis Brandeis for being in the Wilson administration and dying “wealthy.” Perfect, Beck has once again managed to target someone who anti-Semites demonize. Beck didn’t do it for anti-Semitic reasons, but for anti-progressive reasons.
Chip Berlet also noted that Beck's attack on Brandeis sounded like anti-Semitism.

As Media Matters for America observed, apparently the most significant aspect of the story for Beck was that the university was named after the late Jewish scholar and Supreme Court justice, Louis D. Brandeis. For Beck, wrote a Media Matters researcher, the "Brandeis University symposium on political extremism is suspect because Louis Brandeis was in [Woodrow] Wilson's cabinet;" the quip accompanies a link to that portion of Beck's tirade which skirted on the thin ice of classic antisemitic conspiracy claims about manipulation of politics by powerful elite Jews.
But the thing is that Brandeis being Jewish likely never entered his mind. What did enter his mind was that he was a "progressive."

Like I've been saying: Beck thinks about "progressives" the way anti-Semites think about "Jews". Both equate the preferred scapegoat with controlling the media, being Bolsheviks, an enemy of Christianity, and an internal threat to the nation.

Monday, May 03, 2010

A new Fox News niche

Familiar with the Fox News "Democrat", I hadn't realized that Fox also has a resident Fox News "atheist" who has a similar function: to act as if reasonable atheists agree with fundamentalist Christian nationalists that liberals worship evolution as a religion and in fact promote evolution as part of a conspiracy to destroy Christianity.

That resident would the previously mentioned SE Cupp, someone who I generally ignored since she's the usual attractive Fox conservative lacking any obvious intellectual merit who casually tosses off extremist sounding remarks; she came on my radar with her new hate-mongering book demonizing both atheists and "liberals."

Here's an example of some of the rhetoric from her new book:

- The debate over the legitimacy of evolution isn't really about a battle between fact and fiction. It's about Christianity, and the liberal media's attempt to eradicate it from all corners of society.

- This revolution [led by the Obama administration], already in full throttle around the country is being waged against you and me and every other American, and its goal is simple: to overthrow God, and silence Christian America for good.”
I once again marvel at the normalization of extremism in American politics. The Daily Howler sums up Cupp's credentials

Who the heck is S. E. Cupp? She’s a young, extremely fresh-faced star pundit on Fox, so positioned because a pair of glasses have let her attain the catchable sexy librarian look. Can we talk? Among its various approaches, Fox News spills over with hot young women who are dragged out each night to offer analysis. Some of these women are perfectly bright; in some cases, this ain’t required. Beyond that, Cupp comes from a particular stall in the growing Fox stable of pundits—she plays a slightly off-center conservative, letting Fox present the world with the illusion of diversity. (A string of well-known “Fox Democrats” helps Fox complete this deception.) Most specifically, Cupp can be cast as an off-center conservative because she says that she’s an atheist. This makes her a vastly more shaggable version of “Fox feminist” Tammy Bruce.

Given her looks, her look and her off-center pose, the fact that Cupp is cosmically banal hasn’t retarded her rise at Fox. And that, of course, is where the culture of stupidification comes in! Because Cupp once found a pair of hot glasses—she wouldn’t have made it with her pre-glasses look—things have actually reached the point where the Washington Post feels it must review her utterly banal new book.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Quote of the day

"I spent twenty years in intelligence and four years in the SERE program waterboarding people before I ever opened my mouth on the subject. Marc Thiessen is a fool of the highest magnitude if he thinks he knows anything about waterboarding. His claims are based not on first-hand experience but on a classified briefing from people with an agenda of justifying what was done. That makes Thiessen into a court stenographer for war criminals rather than a person with any real claim of expertise." - Malcom Nance

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Now this is "fascism with a happy face"

While the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh - the uneducated anti-intellectual champions of a populist movement which believes in the primacy of "the gut" and "common sense" and believes it is fighting a nationalist war to save and rebirth the country from a subversive, alien, atheistic anti-American menace - concern themselves that environmental regulations or raising the top marginal tax rate a few percentage points are evidence of incipient fascism, a never ending stream of "conservative" pundits promote a bigotry and a prejudice which appeals to the sentiments and emotions that actual scholars of fascism have long recognized to have been at the core of fascist movements. For instance, here is the smiling face of one S.E. Cupp expressing her desire to see supposed atheist liberals eliminated - entirely - from the media

Glenn Beck has himself taken to promoting the pseudo-history of Christian Nationalist David Barton who revises history in an Orwellian effort to lay the ideological groundwork to establish a Christian theocracy. He was on Beck's tv show the other day, with Beck absolutely glowing over the idea of the Massachussets Constitution saying that it is a duty of citizens to worship God. Now, for someone who supposedly hates "big government" I would have to ask this: is there any government "bigger" or more intrusive than one that attempts to command the minds and free conscience of its citizens? There is no greater tyranny than of that which attempts to dictate what a person must think and believe.

Yet Beck, the supposed enemy of "fascism", is busy telling his audience the "progressive" elites are part of a 100 year conspiracy to destory America in order to install a global, atheistic and communist new world order.

Beck and Cupp and the rest of their ilk might do well to listen to a man who actually experienced fascism first hand:

Let’s consider not the banality of evil but its triumph in a deeply civilized country. After the Great War and Germany’s defeat, conditions were harsh and Germans were deeply divided between moderates and democrats on the one hand and fanatic extremists of the right and the left on the other. National Socialists portrayed Germany as a nation that had been betrayed or stabbed in the back by socialists and Jews; they portrayed Weimar Germany as a moral-political swamp; they seized on the Bolshevik-Marxist danger, painted it in lurid colors and stoked people’s fear in order to pose as saviors of the nation. In the late ’20s a group of intellectuals known as conservative revolutionaries demanded a new volkish authoritarianism, a Third Reich. Richly financed by corporate interests, they denounced liberalism as the greatest, most invidious threat, and attacked it for its tolerance, rationality and cosmopolitan culture. These conservative revolutionaries were proud of being prophets of the Third Reich—at least until some of them were exiled or murdered by the Nazis when the latter came to power. Throughout, the Nazis vilified liberalism as a semi-Marxist-Jewish conspiracy and, with Germany in the midst of unprecedented depression and immiseration, they promised a national rebirth.

Twenty years ago, I wrote about “National Socialism as Temptation,” about what it was that induced so many Germans to embrace the terrifying specter. There were many reasons, but at the top ranks Hitler himself, a brilliant populist manipulator who insisted and probably believed that Providence had chosen him as Germany’s savior, that he was the instrument of Providence, a leader who was charged with executing a divine mission.

God had been drafted into national politics before, but Hitler’s success in fusing racial dogma with a Germanic Christianity was an immensely powerful element in his electoral campaigns. Some people recognized the moral perils of mixing religion and politics, but many more were seduced by it. It was the pseudo-religious transfiguration of politics that largely ensured his success, notably in Protestant areas, where clergy shared Hitler’s hostility to the liberal-secular state and its defenders, and were filled with anti-Semitic doctrine.

German moderates and German elites underestimated Hitler, assuming that most people would not succumb to his Manichean unreason; they didn’t think that his hatred and mendacity could be taken seriously. They were proven wrong. People were enthralled by the Nazis’ cunning transposition of politics into carefully staged pageantry, into flag-waving martial mass. At solemn moments the National Socialists would shift from the pseudo-religious invocation of Providence to traditional Christian forms: In his first radio address to the German people, 24 hours after coming to power, Hitler declared, “The National Government will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built up. They regard Christianity as the foundation of our national morality and the family as the basis of national life.”
Just like Glenn Beck, king of the spurious guilty by association linkage, and man who also claims to be God's messenger.