Monday, January 31, 2011

Babel fish translation of Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh: "We do know Obama has been focused on changing America. We do know that Obama has spent his time abroad apologizing for our past. And he's been lauded for doing this by our media, the Left ... the likes of Colin Powell.* If he were a traditional American president, Obama would have been using our authority - our moral authority - and experience to ensure our best interests remain intact."

Babel fish translation: "We do know Obama has been focused on changing America. We do know that Obama has spent his time abroad apologizing for our past. And he's been lauded for doing this by our media, the Left ... black people. If he were a white president, Obama would have been using our authority - our moral authority - and experience to ensure our best interests remain intact."

What was it that Chris Hedges was saying?

*Relevant background context.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The talent of AM radio hosts

I didn't have pen and paper on hand as I watched Chris Hedges discuss The Death of the Liberal Class on BookTV yesterday, so I was unable to transcribe this entire quote, but I thought it worth noting what I was able to get down.

He said that the "one talent" of idiot demagogues on AM radio and elsewhere is "to mobilize hatred with under-currents of racism."


Saturday, January 29, 2011

And today the book gods smiled upon me

After randomly being overtaken with the urge to stop by the discount book store at the public library today, I left with:

East of Eden (pb) by John Steinbeck for 1/2 dollar.
The Trial of Socrates (hc) by I.F. Stone for 1 dollar.
The Name of the Rose (hc) by Umberto Eco for 1 dollar.

I was extremely pleased to find a copy of The Trial of Socrates, which I have been meaning to read for a number of years now, inspired both by the kind words Paul Woodruff had for the author in First Democracy (I was very impressed to hear that Stone taught himself ancient Greek specifically for the purpose of doing research for the book) and by Stone's pioneering work as a journalist and proto-blogger.

Welfare Queen Rand

"In the end, Miss Rand was a hypocrite but she could never be faulted for failing to act in her own self-interest.” - Michael Ford, on Ayn Rand accepting Social Security benefits

Thursday, January 27, 2011

How does Megyn Kelly take herself seriously?

As noted the other day, Megyn Kelly childishly declaring "you're wrong" to a guest who stated that Fox News personalities regularly invoke Nazis to attack Democrats and liberals is an utter joke.

But leave it to Jon Stewart to really demonstrate the utter absurdity of Kelly's assertion. (h/t Massimo Pigliucci)

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
24 Hour Nazi Party People
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook

Within 3.5 hours of Kelly's claim, Glenn Beck was doing exactly what Kelly said doesn't happen at Fox "News." But, better yet, is footage of Kelly herself interviewing Bernie Goldberg as he calls opponents "brown shirts."

As Mark Vuletic notes, perhaps a more pertinent question is, how is it that Megyn Kelly's audience takes her seriously?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gulet Mohamed allowed back into the US

The US citizen who was being denied his right to return home to the United States has been allowed home after a month of detention in Kuwait.

Just another casual incident in the never-ending war on "terror" in which rights take a backseat to the government's desire to use extralegal, sometimes both Orwellian and Kafkaesque, actions against its citizens.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

More evidence of the vast distance between Earth and Bizarro World

On Bizarro World, Megyn Kelly authoritatively tells a guest "you're wrong" when he says that Fox News personalities invoke Nazi imagery to attack Democrats and liberals. On Bizarro World, she is correct.

On Earth, however, Fox News personalities regularly invoke Nazi imagery to attack Democrats. A sample:

O'Reilly: Huffington Post Uses "Same Exact Tactics That The Nazis Used." On March 5, 2008, O'Reilly said "And I said that these tactics that are being used on this website, The Huffington Post, are the same exact tactics that the Nazis used in the late '20s and early '30s to demonize certain groups of people, so it would become easier for them, the Nazis, when they took power, to hurt those people." Earlier, on February 27, 2008, O'Reilly said that "I don't see any difference between [Arianna] Huffington and the Nazis. ... I don't see any difference." O'Reilly later said: "I didn't say she was a Nazi. ... I said there's no difference between what the two do. I want everybody to know that." [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 3/10/08, 2/28/08]

O'Reilly Compared Tim Robbins' Comments To Those Of "Von Ribbentrop In The Nazi Hierarchy." On December 13, 2007, Jane Hall said that comments made by actor Tim Robbins while campaigning for John Edwards were "valid." In response, Bill O'Reilly said, "But Von Ribbentrop in the Nazi hierarchy made valid points, Jane." [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 12/14/07]

O'Reilly: Daily Kos Is "Like The Nazi Party." On July 16, 2007, O'Reilly said that the Daily Kos is "like the Ku Klux Klan. It's like the Nazi party. There's no difference here." A day later, O'Reilly said "That website traffics in [hate], as do the Nazi websites. No difference." On July 19, 2007, O'Reilly said of Daily Kos: "The hate this website traffics in rivals the KKK and Nazi websites." [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 1/16/07, 1/17/07, 1/19/07]
On Bizarro World, Kelly declares that "I'm an anchor" to portray herself as some kind of above-the-fray, straight news reporter; while back on Earth, Kelly routinely works herself into a partisan rage, to the point that you can almost imagine seeing cartoon steam billowing out of her ears.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Behold the vast gulf between Earth and Bizarro World

On Bizarro World

Jimmy Carter is an evil man. It is painful to label a past president of the United States as a force for darkness. But it is dangerous to let a man like Jimmy Carter stalk around the globe cloaked in the garb of American royalty, planting the seeds of Western civilization's destruction.
Meanwhile, back on Earth

In the 1950s the 3-foot-long guinea worm ravaged the bodies of an estimated 50 million people, forcing victims through months of pain while the worm exited through a swollen blister on the leg, making it impossible for them to tend to cows or harvest crops. By 1986, the number dropped to 3.5 million. Last year only 3,190 cases were reported.

Today the worm is even closer to being wiped out. Fewer than 1,700 cases have been found this year in only four countries – Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali and Sudan, where more than 95 percent of the cases are. The worm's near-eradication is thanks in large part to the efforts of [Jimmy] Carter and his foundation.
On Bizarro World, Newt Gingrich can be heard on Sean Hannity's radio program talking about how conservatives are disadvantaged by their respect for truth because liberals and Democrats lie ruthlessly and without conscience.

While back on Earth, Newt Gingrich, when not demonizing Democrats with rhetoric similar to which the Nazis employed against Jews, can be heard demonizing Democrats as merchants of death with pure lies for the sake of partisan gain; and when he's not doing that, he can be found telling lies about other matters: the consistent thread being telling lies.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Betraying our own laws and values - and hypocritically, too

From the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 13.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
From the US State Department

The protection of fundamental human rights was a foundation stone in the establishment of the United States over 200 years ago. Since then, a central goal of U.S. foreign policy has been the promotion of respect for human rights, as embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United States understands that the existence of human rights helps secure the peace, deter aggression, promote the rule of law, combat crime and corruption, strengthen democracies, and prevent humanitarian crises.
From Unclaimed Territory

I've written several times about the plight of Gulet Mohamed, the American teenager detained without charges more than three weeks ago in Kuwait by unknown captors, relentlessly interrogated about numerous matters of interest to the Obama administration, and, he claims, severely beaten and tortured ...


Last night, the Kuwaiti deportation officers took Gulet, along with the ticket, to the airport and were prepared to send him back to the U.S. But when he attempted to board the plane, he was told that he was barred from doing so. According to Mohad, no reason was given, but it is presumably due to the U.S.'s placement of him on the no-fly list (which State Department officials, to The New York Times, previously confirmed they had done). As a result, Gulet -- thinking he was finally headed home -- instead was returned to his detention facility, where he remains, and his prospects for release are now very unclear.

What's going on here is a pure travesty. As an American citizen, Gulet has the absolute right to return to and re-enter his country. But by secretly placing him on the no-fly list while he was halfway around the world -- and providing no information about why he was so placed -- the U.S. Government is denying him his right to return. Worse, they know that this action is not only preventing him from returning, but is keeping the 19-year-old in a state of absolute legal limbo, where's he imprisoned by a country that admits it has no cause for holding him and does not want to hold him, yet which cannot release him. The U.S. government has the obligation to assist its citizens when they end up detained without cause; here, they are doing the opposite: they're deliberately ensuring it continues.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Quote of the day

"[Leibniz's] capacity for study and learning would seem terrifying were it not so spectacular." - Matthew Stewart, The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of the Modern World

More crypto-antiSemitism from Glenn Beck

From Media Matters

And then there was tonight's episode, the theme of which was that the 20th century should be seen as "the era of the big lie." According to Beck, during the past 100 years a loose association of shadowy figures who believed themselves to be the "intelligent minority" infected the country with their notion that the people are "animals" who can be controlled through propaganda. He further warned that this same elite was leading the modern progressive movement and would similarly seek to manipulate the masses in the twenty-first century.

So who are these nefarious figures from government, finance, media, and academia who believe they can and should control everyone's choices, "not just in politics, but everywhere"? In tonight's episode, Beck singles out nine of them.
And,in the immortal words of Gomer Pyle, surprise, surprise, surprise - eight out of the nine are Jewish. Of course, international financier George Soros - who Beck has previously characterized as being the "pupper master" perpetrating a Protocols of Zion type conspiracy against the planet - made the list.

To summarize: Beck believes that George Soros and a bunch of Jews Progressives secretly control President Obama; white supremacists believe that George Soros and a bunch of Jews secretly control President Obama.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Quote of the day

"[Conservative demagogues] should ... stop inadvertantly plagiarizing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion for the venomous material attacking Democrats as traitors out to destroy America. Words have consequences." - Chip Berlet

Monday, January 10, 2011

A pathology of descent

Shortly before this new year began, Chris Hedges, unleashed this monster of a column, both fantastic and depressing. In it, Hedges notes the two contrasting visions of totalitarianism of Orwell and Huxley, but where as the tendency is to usually pick one as having been more correct than the other, Hedges argues that the Huxley style amusing ourselves to death distraction of our entertainment driven culture is itself opening a path to more overt and Orwellian forms of oppression.

The two greatest visions of a future dystopia were George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” The debate, between those who watched our descent towards corporate totalitarianism, was who was right. Would we be, as Orwell wrote, dominated by a repressive surveillance and security state that used crude and violent forms of control? Or would we be, as Huxley envisioned, entranced by entertainment and spectacle, captivated by technology and seduced by profligate consumption to embrace our own oppression? It turns out Orwell and Huxley were both right. Huxley saw the first stage of our enslavement. Orwell saw the second.
Hedges notes that while a consumerist public has been distracted by a corporate state which marginalizes voices of dissent like that of Noam Chomsky, our country has increasingly come to resemble Orwell's Oceania, where perpetual war leads to perpetually abrogated liberty; and where Manichean dichotomy is used to justify extralegal excess

The psychological torture of Pvt. Bradley Manning—who has now been imprisoned for seven months without being convicted of any crime—mirrors the breaking of the dissident Winston Smith at the end of “1984.” Manning is being held as a “maximum custody detainee” in the brig at Marine Corps Base Quantico, in Virginia. He spends 23 of every 24 hours alone. He is denied exercise. He cannot have a pillow or sheets for his bed. Army doctors have been plying him with antidepressants. The cruder forms of torture of the Gestapo have been replaced with refined Orwellian techniques, largely developed by government psychologists, to turn dissidents like Manning into vegetables. We break souls as well as bodies. It is more effective. Now we can all be taken to Orwell’s dreaded Room 101 to become compliant and harmless. These “special administrative measures” are regularly imposed on our dissidents, including Syed Fahad Hashmi, who was imprisoned under similar conditions for three years before going to trial. The techniques have psychologically maimed thousands of detainees in our black sites around the globe. They are the staple form of control in our maximum security prisons where the corporate state makes war on our most politically astute underclass—African-Americans. It all presages the shift from Huxley to Orwell.


The noose is tightening. The era of amusement is being replaced by the era of repression. Tens of millions of citizens have had their e-mails and phone records turned over to the government. We are the most monitored and spied-on citizenry in human history. Many of us have our daily routine caught on dozens of security cameras. Our proclivities and habits are recorded on the Internet. Our profiles are electronically generated. Our bodies are patted down at airports and filmed by scanners. And public service announcements, car inspection stickers, and public transportation posters constantly urge us to report suspicious activity. The enemy is everywhere.

Those who do not comply with the dictates of the war on terror, a war which, as Orwell noted, is endless, are brutally silenced. The draconian security measures used to cripple protests at the G-20 gatherings in Pittsburgh and Toronto were wildly disproportionate for the level of street activity. But they sent a clear message—DO NOT TRY THIS. The FBI’s targeting of antiwar and Palestinian activists, which in late September saw agents raid homes in Minneapolis and Chicago, is a harbinger of what is to come for all who dare defy the state’s official Newspeak. The agents—our Thought Police—seized phones, computers, documents and other personal belongings. Subpoenas to appear before a grand jury have since been served on 26 people. The subpoenas cite federal law prohibiting “providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations.” Terror, even for those who have nothing to do with terror, becomes the blunt instrument used by Big Brother to protect us from ourselves.
Update: Glenn Greenwald on a government induced climate of fear

Anyone connected to WikiLeaks -- even American citizens -- are now routinely detained at the airport and have their property seized, their laptops and cellphones taken and searched and retained without a shred of judicial oversight or due process. And this treatment extends to numerous critics of the government having nothing to do with WikiLeaks. In the past month, I've spoken with American writers, photographers and filmmakers -- who are not ready yet to go public -- who have experienced similar and even worse harassment when entering the U.S. Notably, like anyone remotely connected to WikiLeaks, all of them -- given the government's broad surveillance powers -- insist upon communicating only behind multiple, highly fortified walls of encryption. The U.S. Government plainly wants any genuine critics to feel fear, and is willing to use any means -- no matter how lawless and extreme -- to induce it.

Yesterday, computer security expert Chris Soghoian documented how little the DOJ can hope to learn from the court-ordered Subpoena issued to Twitter (given how limited is the information stored on Twitter). But that's the point: the goal of that Order isn't to learn anything; it's to signal to anyone who would support WikiLeaks that they will be subject to the most invasive surveillance imaginable. I met two months ago with a former WikiLeaks volunteer who believes as fervently as ever in its cause, but ceased working with them because his country has a broad extradition treaty with the U.S. and he was petrified that his government, upon a mere request by the U.S., would turn him over to the Americans and he'd disappear into the world of the Patriot Act and "enemy combatants" and due-process-free indefinite detention still vigorously applied to foreigners.

This is the same reason for keeping Bradley Manning in such inhumane, brutal conditions despite there being no security justification for it: they want to intimidate any future whistleblowers who discover secret American criminality and corruption from exposing it (you'll end up erased like Bradley Manning). And that's also what motivates the other extra-legal actions taken by the Obama administration aimed at WikiLeaks -- from publicly labeling Assange a Terrorist to bullying private companies to cut off ties to chest-beating vows to prosecute them: they know there's nothing illegal about reporting on classified American actions, so they want to thuggishly intimidate anyone from exercising those rights through this climate of repression.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

How I'm starting the New Year

I took The Life You Can Save pledge to donate an appropriate amount - the site has a built in calculator that considers your income and provides you with a target figure - to charity.

I dare you to watch Peter Singer's lecture on his book The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty - and see if you can resist the urge to donate, too.

Here is a clip:

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Quote of the day

"We do not live in several different, or even two different, worlds, a mental world and a physical world, a scientific world and a world of common sense. Rather, there is just one world; it is the world we all live in, and we need to account for how we exist as a part of it." - John Searle, Mind: A Brief Introduction

Monday, January 03, 2011

Constitutional doubt

"The writers of the Constitution knew of the value of doubt. In the age that they lived, for instance, science had already developed far enough to show the possibilities and potentialities that are the result of having uncertainty, the value of having the openness of possibility. The fact that you are not sure means that it is possible that there is another way some day. That openness of possibility is an opportunity. Doubt and discussion are essential to progress. The United States government, in that respect, is new, it's modern, and it's scientific." - Richard Feynman