Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fun with quotes or: a taste of his own medicine

If you watch Glenn Beck's program, one of the tactics he likes to use is to read from some obscure radical literature, then to take some innocuous quote from someone he doesn't like and then conclude that because it reminds him of the radical quote, that that person is linked to all kinds of extremists and is secretly carrying out a radical agenda, implementing a conspiracy to overthrow the US government or some such.

Take for example, the segment I noted yesterday about The Simpsons and Everybody Loves Raymond signalling the triumph of the Weather Underground at subverting American society. That segment actually kicked off with Beck using the tactic described above on Michelle Obama:

Beck kicked off his show tonight claiming that the Weather Underground manifesto just might be "the story of America." The cast of characters in tonight's episode of "who's helping Obama destroy America" included -- gasp -- the New Black Panther Party, Mao, Obama's parents, the Tides Foundation, and the people of Springfield.

In a moment of pop-culture analysis for the ages, Beck aired footage of Michelle Obama saying, "Barack knows that we are going to have to make sacrifices. We are going to have to change our conversation. We are going to have to change our traditions, our history. We're going to have to move into a different place." He then asked, "What does that mean?" before reading from the Weather Underground manifesto. Beck then said:

The most important aspect of any family is the wife-mother, and she's just a reactionary capitalist plot to destroy women's rights? What? I mean, I thought I was supposed to be the conspiracy theorist.
This is not a standard that Beck would want to be employed universally. Otherwise, I would be able to conclude that Beck is secretly trying to install an American fascist regime.


Because Beck is always talking about Christianity and divinity being the basis of the American government, that being a devout believer is necessary to save the country and such. And that reminds me of this quote from the "Jayhawk Nazi" Rev. Gerald Smith in The Plot Against America, "Christian character is the true basis of real Americanism." I'm not sure if that's an actual quote (the book is historical fiction) but it is an accurate reflection of Smith's general belief and message. For example, White Protestant Nation observes that Smith formed the Committee of One Million "in 1937 to save Christian America from communists and unions."

And tell me this doesn't sound like Beck: "To millions I am a racketeer, crackpot, and lunatic. To other milliions I am a crusader, a lover of truth, and a devotee of those vital principles on which our whole civilization depends." What's more, this essay from Smith, sounds an awful lot like Beck, with Smith expressing his desire to preserve Christian America from communist world government and such.

We believe that the destiny of America in relationship to its governing authority must be in the hands of our own people. We must never be governed by aliens. We must keep control of our own money and our own blood. In other words, we must be true to the Declaration of Independence. That is Nationalism. Like General MacArthur, we believe that the spiritual symbol of our statesmanship is the Cross, which is indeed the symbol of Christianity. We believe that the inspiring dynamic out of which America grew is Christianity. We believe that there would be no real America such as we love and for which we are willing to die if there had been no Christianity. Thus, when a Christian is a Nationalist he becomes necessarily a Christian Nationalist. This movement, which now reaches into every state and community of the Nation, launched its campaign some years ago in relationship to ten high principles to which we have committed ourselves.
If you subtract the naked racism and/or replace the named enemies (Jews) and organizations (Jewish ones) with Beck's preferred scapegoats (progressives and progressive institutions) you will notice a remarkable thematic similarity.

So by using the Glenn Beck standard of reasoning, we can conclude that Beck is secretly, yet deliberately trying to carry on the legacy of Rev. Gerald LK Smith.

Of course, I'm being facetious, and do not think for a moment that Beck is trying to follow in the footsteps of Smith. But the more important point is the one that I've been making about the way that Beck presents a mainstreamed, generic form of hate that resembles more obvious, previous forms of prejudice and bigotry, resulting from a combination of parallel thinking and memetic evolution.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Glenn Beck jumps the conspiratorial crazy shark

I literally just watched this madman on my tv named Glenn Beck who cited The Simpsons and Everybody Loves Raymond as part of his case that the Obama administration is secretly using a Weather Underground manifesto to install a world communist dictatorship.

What else needs to be said about this guy? How can sane adults take him seriously?

Update: Told you so.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Upcoming books to look out for

Death of the Liberal Class by Chris Hedges (Oct. 26)

The liberal class plays a vital role in a democracy. It gives moral legitimacy to the state. It makes limited forms of dissent and incremental change possible. The liberal class posits itself as the conscience of the nation. It permits us, through its appeal to public virtues and the public good, to define ourselves as a good and noble people. Most importantly, on behalf of the power elite the liberal class serves as bulwarks against radical movements by offering a safety valve for popular frustrations and discontentment by discrediting those who talk of profound structural change. Once this class loses its social and political role then the delicate fabric of a democracy breaks down and the liberal class, along with the values it espouses, becomes an object of ridicule and hatred. The door that has been opened to proto-fascists has been opened by a bankrupt liberalism

The Death of the Liberal Class examines the failure of the liberal class to confront the rise of the corporate state and the consequences of a liberalism that has become profoundly bankrupted. Hedges argues there are five pillars of the liberal establishment – the press, liberal religious institutions, labor unions, universities and the Democratic Party— and that each of these institutions, more concerned with status and privilege than justice and progress, sold out the constituents they represented. In doing so, the liberal class has become irrelevant to society at large and ultimately the corporate power elite they once served.
Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War by Andrew Bacevich (Aug. 3)

From Publishers Weekly
U.S. Army colonel turned academic, Bacevich (The Limits of Power) offers an unsparing, cogent, and important critique of assumptions guiding American military policy. These central tenets, the "Washington rules"--such as the belief that the world order depends on America maintaining a massive military capable of rapid and forceful interventions anywhere in the world--have dominated national security policy since the start of the cold war and have condemned the U.S. to "insolvency and perpetual war." Despite such disasters as America's defeat in Vietnam and the Cuban missile crisis, the self-perpetuating policy is so entrenched that no president or influential critic has been able to alter it. Bacevich argues that while the Washington rules found their most pernicious expression in the Bush doctrine of preventive war, Barack Obama's expansion of the Afghan War is also cause for pessimism: "We should be grateful to him for making at least one thing unmistakably clear: to imagine that Washington will ever tolerate second thoughts about the Washington rules is to engage in willful self-deception. Washington itself has too much to lose."
Both Bacevich and Hedges have a history of writing thoughtful, introspective books about American culture; with Hedges having written both about the general culture and our militarism, while Bacevich focuses more specifically about American militarism.

Both offer the sort of intelligent, incisive criticism that is almost completely devoid from our media culture, drowned out in a cacophony of vapid irrelevance, stupidity, relativistic he said, she said "reporting," and plain demagoguery. Their works are the sort of books that while the subject material may be depressing or frustrating, their clear thinking and thought-provoking commentary still serves as a breath of fresh air, reminding one of how much is actually missing from what passes for debate and commentary in the mainstream press.

To get a hint of what I'm talking about, check out this excerpt of the previous Hedges book Empire of Illusion and this discussion between Bacevich and Bill Moyers about The Limits of Power.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Today's discount book purchase

Moral Politics (pb) by George Lakoff for 50 cents.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Quote of the day

"The majority of mortals ... complain bitterly of the spitefulness of Nature, because we are born for a brief span of life, because even this space that has been granted to us rushes by so speedily and so swiftly that all save a very few find life at an end just when they are getting ready to live ... It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested. But when it is squandered in luxury and carelessness, when it is devoted to no good end, forced at last by the ultimate necessity we perceive that it has passed away before we were aware that it was passing. So it is—the life we receive is not short, but we make it so, nor do we have any lack of it, but are wasteful of it. Just as great and princely wealth is scattered in a moment when it comes into the hands of a bad owner, while wealth however limited, if it is entrusted to a good guardian, increases by use, so our life is amply long for him who orders it properly." - Seneca the Younger, "On the Shortness of Life"

Friday, July 23, 2010

Beck casually accuses "the Jews" of deicide

From Talk 2 Action

[D]uring the Glenn Beck Show, Beck stated the following:

"Jesus conquered death. He wasn't victimized. He chose to give his life. He did have a choice. If he was a victim, and this theology was true, then Jesus would have come back from the dead and made the the Jews pay for what they did."
While the Anti-Defamation League has not been especially vigorous recently in opposing virulently anti-Semitic claims from Christian Zionists such as John Hagee, the ADL nonetheless can be considered an authoritative source concerning what anti-Semitism is. The ADL identifies Glenn Beck's claim that "the Jews" killed Jesus as one of the top four most destructive of anti-Semitic lies.
The fact that Beck himself may not hold a grudge against "the Jews" for killing Jesus does not change the fact that Beck is casually propagating an idea that has been at the root of the very sort of anti-semitism that he likes to pretend is an outgrowth of progressive politics. (See Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ for example.)

As Joe Conason puts it,

Dubious and deluded though Skousen surely was, he is not the most disreputable figure admired by Beck. That distinction still belongs to Elizabeth Dilling, Nazi propagandist and Axis agent, whose 1935 tract "The Red Network" he endorsed just last month.

On June 4, Beck told his radio audience that he had been reading Dilling's book, sent to him by a fan, "last night," and that it was a "handbook ... for patriots." If he actually read the book, he must have perused the sections in which Dilling blamed the anti-Semitic outrages of the Nazi regime on the Jews themselves because of "the large number of revolutionary Russian Jews in Germany," who "doubtless contributed toward making Fascist Germany anti-Semitic." A few years later she revealed her unabashed admiration of Hitler, attending Nazi party rallies in Germany and conspiring with Axis and Nazi elements in the United States.

How does Beck compare with Thomas, whose scandalous babble reverberated so powerfully through the American media? Although her statement was undoubtedly offensive and clearly subject to interpretation as anti-Semitic, she said nothing about Jews per se. She repeated none of the classic slurs of anti-Semitism and endorsed no Nazi authors.

In fact, she apologized humbly before resigning from Hearst and surrendering her seat in the front row of the White House press room. Beck has yet to apologize for his promotion of the Nazi Dilling, let alone his rancid remark about making the Christ-killing Jews "pay for what they did."


Perhaps it is most appropriate to turn to Beck's own judgment, however, at the time of the Thomas blowup. On June 7, when he aired the Thomas sound bite that quickly became so notorious, Beck was unsparing. "The old hatreds are reappearing," he said. "Now, how Helen Thomas has a job today is beyond me ... You know, may I tell you, this Jewish-run media, really, they're bad at running the media, if they are indeed Jewish. You know what I mean? The Zionist masters really suck at being Zionist masters ... if you still have Helen Thomas sitting in the front row after saying go back to Germany, go back to Poland. Play it again, please."

Fox News should replay Beck's rancid blather so he can hear it again -- and then, if he has any self-respect, he should resign.
Unfortunately, Beck has no self-respect and Fox News has no decency, so the show will go on.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Quote of the day

"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know." - Napoleon Bonaparte

Via Unspeak

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Open letter to one of the "worst of the worst"

Dear Mr. Odaini,

Gee wiz, we're sorry we stole eight years of your life from you - the prime of your youth - by putting you in prison and holding you there while denying you the basic human liberties that are supposed to be the bedrock principles of the nation and the basis of our legal system and what not; and we're gosh darn sorry that we conspired to keep you in prison even after we knew you should be released, but you have to admit, you do have a Muslim sounding name, and you were transfered into our Kafka-esque prison camp, which is your fault and not ours, but rest assured that we'll put this behind us by Looking Forward, Not Back, as we'll do for the other 75% of such persons who fell victim to America's extralegal prison camp. We are sure this will be a great comfort to you, to know that we will not think of this again, and to help us not think of it again, we will make an exception to our Looking Forward, Not Back motto, to persecute anyone who has the nerve to bring to our attention any other such perfidy. With a little bit of time, we'll be able to forgive you for getting yourself wrongfully locked up in Guantanamo all those years, giving people the silly notion that we're the sort of country that goes around locking up Muslims while denying them due process. Shoot, some of us will probably have already done you the favor of never even having heard of you, as is a habit with such matters.

You are welcome.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Barbie O'Reilly strikes again

"Don’t make me cut your mic." - Megyn Kelly, the female version of Bill O'Reilly

Click the first link to see Fox News Democrat Kirsten Powers subject herself once again* to shrill rudeness from one of Fox's stable of perpetually angry, outraged and indignant conservafems for daring to disagree with them. Conservafems get very upset when their prop "liberal" doesn't stick to the narrative. Because they are so immersed in their hermetically sealed conservaverse that actual reality doesn't matter.

Lesson to be learned for any prospective Fox News "liberal": don't stand in the way of a Fox News pundit and their favorite pasttime - racebaiting.

*Powers previously received a veiled threat from Michelle Malkin for daring to point out that Ann Coulter calling John Edwards a "faggot" at the 2007 CPAC was not a sudden abberation but part of Coulter's history of such remarks. Malkin angrily warned Powers that she wasn't one that Powers should try to pick a "fight" with.

Update: Strike 2 for Kelly, this time with Fox News liberal Juan Williams.

Update II: Dave Weigel gets it about right.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Recipe for disaster

George Lakoff on disaster messaging

• The Republicans outmessage the Democrats. The Democrats, having no effective response, face disaster: They lose politically, either in electoral support or failure on crucial legislation.
• The Democrats then take polls and do focus groups. The pollsters discover that extremist Republicans control the most common (“mainstream”) way of thinking and talking about the given issue.
• The pollsters recommend that Democrats move to the right: adopt conservative Republican language and a less extreme version of conservative policy, along with weakened versions of some Democratic ideas.
• The Democrats believe that, if they follow this advice, they can gain enough independent and Republican support to pass legislation that, at least, will be some improvement on the extreme Republican position.
• Otherwise, the pollsters warn, Democrats will lose popular support — and elections — to the Republicans, because “mainstream” thought and language resides with the Republicans.
• Believing the pollsters, the Democrats change their policy and their messaging, and move to the right.
• The Republicans demand even more and refuse to support the Democrats

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Al Gore has a blog?

It just came to my attention that Al Gore has a blog which appears (from my cursory examination of the site) to focus on human induced global warming. Given that Gore is probably the planet's leading activist when it comes to raising awareness of the climate crisis facing humanity, this is a site worth bookmarking.

Another reason that Gore's blog gets a Daily Doubter thumbs up is that he has written one of the best and most accessible modern defenses of Enlightenment values as applied to current events; and did so addressing many of the same issues that have been covered here.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Glenn Beck cares oh so much about history

The other day, Beck was outraged and indignant that progressives had erased from history footage of Robert Byrd's filibustering of the Civil Rights Act, stating, "We have re-written history, and we are only looking now for the truth that helps our side. It must stop."

First, I'll give you a moment to click the link to see exactly how dumb Beck and apparently his research staff are.

Secondly, notice that Beck is doing exactly what he's accusing "progressives" of doing. While Beck is very, very concerned that people not forget the racist past of Byrd, he doesn't seem so interested in informing his audience about the racist history of many of his own intellectual heroes, a curious omission since Beck keeps recommending their work to his audience. This is, after all, a man who recently gave the commencement speech at Liberty University and received an honorary doctorate - I don't recall hearing Beck talk about how the late Rev. Falwell opposed Brown v. Board of Education on the grounds that it was a satanic plot.

And this is the same Beck who is charging his audience ten dollars a month for the privelige of being brainwashed with Christian nationalist lies. (Did you know that the argument for independence first made in Common Sense, then distilled in the Declaration of Independence, was "nothing more than a listing of all of the sermons that folks had been hearing in church in the decades leading up to the American Revolution"? Right. Because Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson were such huge fans of preachers and churches.*)

And this is the same Beck who found the US House of Foreign Relations committee passing a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide to be a matter of ridicule and derision, incredulous that anyone would waste their time with concern over something that took place during the World War I era ... so says a man who spends every one of his programs talking about how evil Woodrow Wilson was.

I wish Beck's audience would or could notice this sort of inconsistency. Beck the humanitarian hero, saving history to preserve human liberty, is a narrative that doesn't mix all that well with the reality of the Beck who finds genocide denial - the most sinister form of historical revision possible - a laughing matter.

*"In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is easier to acquire wealth and power by this combination than by deserving them, and to effect this, they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer engine for their purposes." - Thomas Jefferson, to Horatio G Spafford, March 17, 1814

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A refreshingly good book

I'm only about a third of a way through with Steven Poole's Unspeak, but I am going to go ahead and recommend reading it. With concise, razor like intellectual clarity, Poole goes about analyzing some of the most common and prevalent "unspeak" - language that is designed to smuggle in a viewpoint without having to argue it - of our times.

Given current events, with BP and the federal government working to censor journalists from covering the disastrous results of their incestuous collusion; and despite BP having recently catastrophically damaged the Gulf Coast ecology, a continuance of BP's history of safety negligence, just having received an EPA waiver to dump more pollution into Lake Michigan, I'll quote this excerpt from the book:

The idea that everything is now subordinate to what ‘capital’ wants to ‘see’ is not merely an idée fixe of paranoid anti-globalisation protesters, but stated clearly in public by those who minister officially to capital’s desires. Back in the US, George W. Bush declared: ‘We need to reform our legal systems so the people, on the one hand, can get justice; on the other hand, the justice system doesn’t affect the flows of capital.’ First a hasty sop to liberals – acknowledging that, sure, people should still be able to ‘get’ justice, just as they pop down to the store to get a can of soda – and then the remarkable notion that justice, on the other hand, should never interfere with the operations of money. So justice is a subeconomy within the larger one (you can ‘get’ justice), but it has no right to interfere with overarching systems of profit. Justice is subordinate to and dependent on capitalism

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Don't let ignorance stop you

Media Matters notes Michael Savage denigrating fire fighters, saying that because of unions we have too many firehouses, and need to consolidate them into single units that respond to large areas.

Anyone who knows anything about firefighting will find this laughable: the whole point of more units covering smaller areas is quicker response time, which is vital to mitigating a situation safely.

The rest of his rant is just juvenile. Yes, firefighters relax during their downtime at the station (when they're not busy training or going out in the community and providing public education/fire prevention services) - and they do workout while on shift - so that they are mentally and physically prepared to respond to a potentially life threatening situation at a moment's notice.

Unlike Savage, who sits on his ass for hours a day running his mouth about things he knows nothing about, firefighters may go from sitting around doing nothing to being fully geared out, breathing air and putting water on fire inside a burning structure in under five minutes.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Quote of the day

"Ideas don't have rights. People do." - Tom Flynn

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Updates for the New American Newspeak Dictionary

Today's updates for the New American Newspeak Dictionary are:

Public diplomacy: propaganda
Politically correct: used to describe terms that are in fact, not politically corrrect, while using a politically correct euphemism
Misleading: not misleading; pointing out that the person making the charge is obfuscating, which is to say, misleading
Tendentious: not tendentious, pointing out that the person making the charge is being tendentious; the cry of the relativist, indignant at reality being described as reality

See Unspeak for discussion of "public diplomacy." It should be noted that Poole makes a distinction between newspeak and unspeak, where as I'm using "newspeak" in a more generic manner to create an umbrella category for the political misuse of language (which may itself constitute a bit of unspeak.)

For the other three, see this post by Glenn Greenwald, and marvel at Bill Keller's audacity to assert that those who call waterboarding torture are being "misleading", "tendentious", and "politically correct."

Quote of the day

"[I]t is a common topic to dwell on the wickedness of that man who endeavors to wrest to his own purposes not only the effect of things, but also the meaning of words, in order both to do as he pleases, and to call what he does by whatever name he likes." - Cicero

Via Unspeak by Steven Poole

Thursday, July 01, 2010

A blogger returns with a bang

I just noticed that the always thoughtful blogger The Anonymous Liberal is now back from blogging hiatus. His first post back, explaining the frustration that led him to spend some time away from his keyboard, is a must read. I can say I share his frustration at the alternate universe being fabricated by the conservative movement; this same frustration animates much of my blogging.

[T]he Right has constructed its own Bubble World, a sort of political Truman Show complete with its own facts and rules (albeit facts and rules that are constantly changing based on political expediency). The writers, directors, and actors in this conservative version of Seahaven are the legions of GOP politicians, operatives, and conservative media outlets that relentlessly push this politically expedient alternative reality, and the Trumans are the millions of regular Americans who don't realize the joke is on them.


In Bubble World, there is a movement known as the Tea Party, whose members are simultaneously incensed about the size of the deficit and the fact that they have to pay taxes (even though they have the lowest tax rates in the free world and just got significant tax cuts--from Obama--in the past year). Moreover, they're not angry at the party that built the deficit--by starting wars and giving massive tax cuts to people who are much richer than them--or that presided, just recently, over the near collapse of the economy. But they are furious at the party that just recently took the reins, inheriting both a crumbling economy and massive deficit. And if they had their way, they would put back in power a party whose only policy idea is, that's right, cutting taxes; which, of course, would only make the deficit much worse.


Freed from the burden of any actual governing responsibility, the GOP has been free to devote all of its efforts to reconstructing their Bubble World. And they've been largely successful. An entire movement has formed that is based, almost entirely, on confusion and mis-directed anger, a movement that sees the world only through the lens of Fox News and other right wing outlets. The Tea Party is an army of Trumans, a movement of people who have whole-heartedly embraced the false reality with which they've been presented.