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Hullabaloo


Monday, January 10, 2005

 
When He's Right He's Right

Moral Clarity, Courage Needed, Bush Aide Says:

President Bush's chief political adviser told graduates of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University on Saturday to judge leaders on the basis of character.

America needs people who have "the moral clarity and courage to do what's right, regardless of consequence, fashion or fad,'"Karl Rove said.

"You either have values ingrained in your heart and soul that will not change with the wind, or you don't," he said.


He's right. This is their message and it's on the money. Of course they are faking it in every possible way with their vacuous brand name in a suit prancing around on aircraft carriers and such. But that's because they only pretend to have "values" when what they really have are political instincts. They are not the same thing.

If either party could give them the real thing instead of an ersatz, superficial rendering of smarmy religiosity, they would gain the support of a large majority of this country. You have to give Rove credit. He has done a lot with what he has to work with. Sexual priggishness, vengeance and racism are very difficult concepts upon which to build a positice values argument, but they've managed to create the illusion that they have "moral clarity" by garbing their narrow vision in religious and patriotic terms --- and because we have failed to stand up for our universal values of liberty, justice and equality. They win by default.




Sunday, January 09, 2005

 
Under The Radar

John at STF says something I think is very interesting about the role of the blogosphere and why the SCLM is so hostile to it:

Two things are happening here. First, there is no middle any more. This is mostly because the hard right is trying to take over the country by any means necessary, and destroying moderates (including Republican moderates) is part of their game. They have many plants in the media itself -- especially at the relatively-anonymous high levels, including ownership – and rightwing activists outside the media have learned that if they complain all the time about everything, often they’ll get their way. (This accounts for a supposed paradox: why do both liberals and conservatives hate the media? It’s because the conservatives are faking it. They know as well as liberals do that Dan Rather wasn’t really a liberal, but they can win by lying and smearing, so they do it.)


This has actually been well documented.

"William Kristol, without a doubt the most influential Republican/neoconservative publicist in America today, has come clean on this issue. "I admit it," he told a reporter. "The liberal media were never that powerful, and the whole thing was often used as an excuse by conservatives for conservative failures.


There is no liberal media. There is a partisan Republican media and an establishment media and since the establishment is conservative there is only conservative media.

John continues:

The second thing is more positive. Faceless copyeditors and other behind-the-scenes pros try to control the spin of news by highlighting some stories, downplaying others, and hardening or softening the main point. Various tricks can be used to suppress a story: putting it on page 16 with a small, misleading headline and burying the point of the story in the 9th paragraph sum up the most common ones.

With the internet, this arbiter function is lost. Every man can be his own I.F. Stone now. Stone used to say that you could always find the truth in the newspapers, but it would often be in a short paragraph on page sixteen. Most of the damage that bloggers do to the established media doesn’t come from independent reporting, but from displacing the copy editors by highlighting stories the editors wanted to downplay.


This is quite correct, but it really only applies to our side. We on the left are sorting out the political spin and trying to get the establishment media to focus on issues and stories we think are important. And we don't get especially good results. Our success has been with grassroots organizing, not message pushing. This can be attributed to the political and media establishment's reluctance to deal with us (as we can see with the "liberal" media and the "liberal" academia represented at this conference.)We are out there, hundreds of thousand readers are reading us and yet we exist under the radar of all the liberal institutions while the right wing bloggers are "handled" by rightwing PR outfits and pushed into rightwing media and eventually into the mainstream.

On the right, the blogosphere has been incorporated into their message machine. (Indeed, the political blogosphere was really invented by a guy named Drudge, wasn't it?) They feed and are fed, without explicit direction. They know what they are supposed to say and it filters up down and around talk radio, cable news and into the mainstream. We all know how it works. This is why only a right wing freelance political blogger was invited to the conference --- the mainstream of both political parties are really only aware of the bloggers who have been pushed to the forefront by the Mighty Wurlitzer. Just as they are only aware of ... so many things that have been pushed to the forefront by the Mighty Wurlitzer. It's the essence of our political weakness.

Corrected to reflect John Emerson as the poster on STF.




 
Why Don't They Like Us, Heinrich?



David Low


A veteran interrogator at Guantánamo told The New York Times in a recent interview that it became clear over time that most of the detainees had little useful to say and that "they were just swept up" during the Afghanistan war with little evidence they played any significant role.

"These people had technical knowledge that expired very quickly after they were brought here," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"Most of the emphasis was on quantity, not quality," the interrogator said, adding that the number of pages generated from an interrogation was an important standard.


Well, say hallelujah! The truth shall set us free. This has been known for at least a year, but who's counting? In January of 2004, David Rose wrote in Vanity Fair:

According to General Miller, Gitmo's importance is growing with amazing rapidity:"Last month we gained six times as much intelligence as we did in January 2003. I'm talking about high-value intelligence here, distributed round the world."


Unsurprisingly, the same nonsense took place at Abu Ghraib

"...they were frustrated by intense pressure from Colonel Pappas and his superiors - Lt. Gen Ricardo Sanchez and his intelligence officer, Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast - to churn out a high quantity of intelligence reports, regardless of the quality. "It was all about numbers. We needed to send out more intelligence documents whether they were finished or not just to get the numbers up," he said. Pappas was seen as demanding - waking up officers in the middle of the night to get information - but unfocused, ordering analysts to send out rough, uncorroborated interrogation notes."


I wrote back in June about this absurdity.

Daily success or failure in guerilla wars is notoriously difficult to assess. Unlike a war for territory you cannot say that you took a certain hill or town. Political types are always looking for some measurement, some sign that they are succeeding (or failing.)

Billmon noted this back in October in an interesting post on Rumsfeld's angst at being unable to assess success or failure in the WOT:

Above all, Rumsfeld cries out for "metrics" that can be used to measure progress in such a war:

"Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror," he wrote. "Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?"




Billmon makes the obvious comparison between Rummy and the most recent war criminal sec-def, Robert McNamara, concluding:

The same mindset also spawned McNamara's preferred metric: the infamous "body count." In that earlier, more naive, era, it hadn't yet occurred to management theorists that numeric targets can quickly become bureaucratic substitutes for real objectives, such as winning wars. So McNamara (and the military) had to learn it the hard way, as industrious field officers dispatched soldiers to count graves in Vietnamese civilian cemetaries in order to hit their weekly numbers.



Like the mediocre, hack bureaucrats they are, they [Rumsfeld et al] decided that they would guage success or failure --- certainly they would report to the White House success or failure --- based upon the sheer numbers of raids, arrests, interrogations, reports, confessions and breakdowns achieved, regardless of whether any of it resulted in good intel or enhanced security anywhere.

This was the only metric they could conceive of and in order to get those numbers up they had to detain large numbers of innocent people and torture them for false information to fill the endless reports of success on the ground in Afghanistan, Gitmo and Iraq. They could hoist up a huge pile of paper in a meeting with their president and say, "look at how much intelligence we're getting. We're really getting somewhere."

McNamara quotes TS Eliot at the end of "The Fog Of War":

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time




Well, not everybody apparently. Thirty years after the hell of Vietnam, it's the same shit, different fools. Lyndon Johnson is laughing his ass off in hell.


Actually, Johnson is probably only in the 8th circle. The 9th will be reserved for the Bush administration because they wilfully ignored the experience of their own lives.

Now we find that in addition to a bunch of false intelligence gained through torture and other means, we are going to lock up a lot of these guys at Gitmo forever. Sadly, we can't give them any kind of due process because we don't have enough evidence. And that's because many of them were innocent of any affiliation with the Taliban or al Qaeda and many others were very low level grunts. But they've known this for years. From the January 2004 VF article:

In late summer 2002, a senior C.I.A. analyst with extensive experience in the Middle East spent about a week at the prison camp observing and interviewing dozens of detainees, said officials who read his detailed memorandum.

While the survey was anecdotal, those officials said the document, which contained about 15 pages, concluded that a substantial number of the detainees appeared to be low-level militants, aspiring holy warriors who had rushed to Afghanistan to defend the Taliban, or simply innocents in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Senior military officials now readily acknowledge that many members of the intelligence team initially sent to Guantánamo were poorly prepared to sort through the captives. During the first half of 2002, they said, almost none of the Army interrogators had any substantial background in terrorism, Al Qaeda or other relevant subjects.


It gets worse, though. Since we kidnapped these innocent men and threw them into a hellish gulag they have, unsurprisingly, become radicalized.


American and foreign officials have also grown increasingly concerned about the prospect that detainees who arrived at Guantánamo representing little threat to the United States may have since been radicalized by the conditions of their imprisonment and others held with them.

''Guantánamo is a huge problem for Americans,'' a senior Arab intelligence official familiar with its operations said. ''Even those who were not hard-core extremists have now been indoctrinated by the true believers. Like any other prison, they have been taught to hate. If they let these people go, these people will make trouble.''


They now hate our fucking guts and will work until their last breaths to kill as many of us as they can. Perhaps this is one good reason why:


During late 2002, FBI Special Agent [blank] was present in an observation room at Gtmo and observed [blank] conducting an interrogation of an unknown detainee, [blank] was present to observe the interrogation occurring in a different interrogation room)[blank] entered the observation and complained that curtain movement at the observation window was distracting the detainee, although no movement had occirred. She directed a marine to duct tape a curtain over the two-way mirror between the interrogation room and the observation room [blank] characterized this action as an attempt to probinit those in the observation room from witnessing her interaction with the detainee. Through the surveillance camera monitor [blank] then observed [blank] position herself between the detainee and the surveillance camera. the detaiunee was shackled and his hands were cuffed to his waist. [blank] observed [blank] apparently whispering in the detainee's ear and caressing and appluying lotion to his arms (this was during Ramadan when physical contact with a woman would have been particularly offensive to a moslem male.) On more than one occasion the detainees appeared to be grimacing in pain and [blank] hands appeared to be making some contact with the detainee. Although [blank] could not see her hands at all times. He saw them moving toward the detainee's lap. He also observed the detainee pulling away and against the restraints. Subsequently, the marine who previously taped the curtain and had been in the interrogation room with [blank] during the interrogartion re-entered the observation room. [blank] asked what had happened to cause the detainee to grimace in pain. The marine said [blank] had grabbed the detainee's thumbs and bent them backwards and indicated that she also grabbed his genitals. The marine also implied that her treatment of the detainee was less harsh than her treatment of others by indicating that he had seen her treatment of other detainees result in detainees curling into a fetal position on the floor and crying in pain.


One wonders if they had become "dehydrated" and had been forced to have one of those therapeutic enemas against their will.

Yes, they hate us. The ones who have been locked up and the ones who haven't. And it's you and me and your kids who they hate now, not just the leadership or the troops. They hate us personally. And they hate us because we don't seem too worked up about this disgusting breach of human rights. In fact, a majority apparently think it's just dandy, including the most powerful leaders in the land who continue to support the war criminals who concieved this disasterous blunder, even this week elevating one of them to the highest law enforcement office in the land.

So let's have another lecture on morality and values. I really need to hear one. Let's hear some more talk about how liberals are leading this country down the path to perdition with our lack of restraint and our inability to draw lines between right and wrong and good and evil. I need to bask in the glow of republican righteousness and beg for forgiveness for sinfully indulging gays in their quest to form families and cleanse myself of the shame of forgiving a man for committing adultery. God help me, I need some moral clarity and I need it damned quickly because I'm really wondering just who in the hell is evil in this war on terror and who isn't. It's getting hard to tell the difference here. It's getting really hard.




 
Doomsday For The Democrats

Via DAOU I see that Adam Yoshida is prognisticating about 2008:

If I were going to guess, the Republican primaries in 2008 may well end up looking a great deal like the Democratic ones in 2004. We'll have a slew of major establishment players running simply because it's 'their time to run.' One of them (early guess: Bill Frist) will emerge as a shallow front-runner, holding 20% in the polls versus 10% or so for other candidates. The race will be thrown into disarray when a candidate who connects to the Republican Party's conservative base catches on fire. I've also got a suggestion as to who that candidate may be: former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.


Oh, I fervently hope not. Why, if Judge Roy Moore emerges as a powerful spokesman for the Christian Right (who feel betrayed by the rampant liberalism of George W. Bush) it will be just terrible for us. I get scared just thinking about it. We should publicly beg the Republicans every chance we get not to let Moore run for president. Maybe they will listen to us. They so often do.




 
Shameless

If anyone in history has ever emitted a bigger pile of oozing, sanctimonious, unctuous, fetid, perfidious, malodorous offal than this, I'd like to know what it could possibly be:


CONGRESSIONAL RECORD — HOUSE H121

January 6, 2005


Mr. DELAY. Mr. Speaker, I rise to
claim the remainder of the time.


The SPEAKER.
In the tradition of
the House, the gentleman from Texas
is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. DELAY. Mr. Speaker, what is happening here today is amazing but not surprising. Mr. Speaker, what we are witnessing here today is a shame. A shame. The issues at stake in this petition are gravely, gravely serious. This is not just having a debate. But the specific charges, as any objective observer must acknowledge, are not.

That is because the purpose of this petition is not justice but noise.

It is a warning to Democrats across the country, now in the midst of soul searching after their historic losses in November, not to moderate their party’s message.

It is just the second day of the 109th Congress and the first chance of the Democrat congressional leadership to show the American people what they have learned since President Bush’s historic reelection, and they can show that, but they have turned to what might be called the ‘‘X-Files Wing’’ of the Democrat Party to make their first
impression.

Rather than substantive debate, Democrat leaders are still adhering to a failed strategy of spite, obstruction, and conspiracy theories. They accuse the President, who we are told is apparently a closet computer nerd, of personally overseeing the development of vote-stealing software.

We are told, without any evidence, that unknown Republican agents stole the Ohio election and that its electoral votes should be awarded to the winner of an exit poll instead.

Many observers will discard today’s petition as a partisan waste of time, but it is much worse than that. It is an assault against the institutions of our representative democracy. It is a threat to the very ideals it ostensibly defends. No one is served by this petition, not in the long run. And in the short term, its only beneficiaries are its proponents themselves.

Democrats around the country have asked since Election Day, and will no doubt ask again today, how it came to this. The Democrat Party, the party that was once an idealistic, forward- looking, policy colossus. The New Deal, the Marshall Plan, the Great Society, the space program, civil rights. And yet today one is hard pressed to find a single positive substantive idea coming from the left.

Instead, the Democrats have replaced statecraft with stagecraft, substance with style, and not a very fashionable style at that. The petitioners claim that they act on behalf of disenfranchised voters, but no such voter disenfranchisement occurred in this election of 2004 and for that matter the election of 2000.

Everybody knows it. The voters know it, the candidates know it, the courts know it, and the evidence proves it.

We are not here to debate evidence, but to act our roles in some scripted, insincere morality play.

Now, just remember: pre-election memos revealed that Democrat campaign operatives around the country were encouraged by their high command in Washington to charge voter fraud and intimidation regardless of whether any of it occurred.

Remember,neither of the Democrat candidates supposedly robbed in Ohio endorse this petition. It is a crime against the dignity of American democracy, and that crime is not victimless.

The Democrat leadership came down to the floor and said this is a good debate;we ought to be having a debate on this issue.

This is not a normal debate. This is a direct attack to undermine our democracy by using a procedure to undermine the constitutional election that was just held.

If, as now appears likely, Democrats cry fraud and corruption every election regardless of the evidence, what will happen when one day voters are routinely intimidated, rights are denied, or, God forbid, an election is robbed?

What will happen? What will happen when, God forbid, this quadrennial crying wolf so poisons our democratic processes that a similarly frivolous petition in a close election in the future is actually successful, and the American people are denied their constitutional right to choose their own President?

Mr. Speaker, Democrats must find a way to rise above this self-destructive and, yes, plain destructive theory of politics for its own sake. A dangerous precedent is being set here today, and it needs to be curbed, because Democrat leaders are not just hurting themselves.

By their irresponsible tactics, they hurt the House, they hurt the Nation, and they hurt rank-and-file Democrats at kitchen tables all around this country.

The American people, and their ancestors who invented our miraculous system of government, deserve better than this. This petition is beneath us, Mr. Speaker; but, more importantly, it is beneath the men and women that we serve.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues, both Democrat and Republican, to do the right thing. Vote ‘‘no,’’ and let us get back to the real work that the American people hired us to do.


Yes, by all means, let the House get back to the work the American people hired it to do --- payoffs, character assassination, political intimidation, stealing elections and impeaching for blowjobs.

Really, we should listen to Monsieur Delay's deeply sincere analysis of what is wrong with our party. After all, nobody knows more (except maybe Governor Schwarzenegger) about launching "attack[s] to undermine our democracy by using a procedure to undermine the constitutional election." And there is not an American alive who is a greater expert on employing a "strategy of spite, obstruction, and conspiracy theories" or staging a "scripted, insincere morality play". Lord knows he virtually invented the "destructive theory of politics for its own sake." And well, I think we already know the answer to "what will happen when one day voters are routinely intimidated, rights are denied, or, God forbid, an election is robbed" don't we?

Most importantly, when he says, "what will happen when, God forbid, this quadrennial crying wolf so poisons our democratic processes that a similarly frivolous petition in a close election in the future is actually successful, and the American people are denied their constitutional right to choose their own President?" I think it's pretty clear that he's issuing a threat not a prediction.

I have said many times that Democrats have been stupid by not seriously focusing attention on Rove, Delay and Rush. This crooked triad forms the head of republican power. We should have been working much harder to decapitate it. It won't solve the problem, but it would go a long way toward crushing its effectiveness. Support the DA's who have the cojones to go after these crooked bastards. Gawd knows the media isn't interested.

In other GOP megalomaniac news, it looks like Newties back!
Garlic won't work with these people. It takes a stake to the heart.




Thanks to Pandora at BCF





 
What A Surprise

Some of us predicted this the minute John Negroponte was named as ambassador.


Newsweek has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration's battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported 'nationalist' forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success-despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal. (Among the current administration officials who dealt with Central America back then is John Negroponte, who is today the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Under Reagan, he was ambassador to Honduras.)

[...]

Also being debated is which agency within the U.S. government-the Defense department or CIA-would take responsibility for such an operation. Rumsfeld's Pentagon has aggressively sought to build up its own intelligence-gathering and clandestine capability with an operation run by Defense Undersecretary Stephen Cambone. But since the Abu Ghraib interrogations scandal, some military officials are ultra-wary of any operations that could run afoul of the ethics codified in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. That, they argue, is the reason why such covert operations have always been run by the CIA and authorized by a special presidential finding. (In "covert" activity, U.S. personnel operate under cover and the U.S. government will not confirm that it instigated or ordered them into action if they are captured or killed.)


Well now, this certainly explains the ongoing need for that pesky finding that the president can ignore any laws he chooses, doesn't it? And good old Porter is certainly unlikely to have any qualms about doing it.

The interim government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is said to be among the most forthright proponents of the Salvador option. Maj. Gen.Muhammad Abdallah al-Shahwani, director of Iraq's National Intelligence Service, may have been laying the groundwork for the idea with a series of interviews during the past ten days.

[...]

Shahwani also said that the U.S. occupation has failed to crack the problem of broad support for the insurgency. The insurgents, he said, "are mostly in the Sunni areas where the population there, almost 200,000, is sympathetic to them." He said most Iraqi people do not actively support the insurgents or provide them with material or logistical help, but at the same time they won't turn them in. One military source involved in the Pentagon debate agrees that this is the crux of the problem, and he suggests that new offensive operations are needed that would create a fear of aiding the insurgency. "The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists," he said. "From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation.


Yeah, "shock and awe" just needs to be fully unleashed. Surely, if we just scare them enough they'll learn to love us.

If there has been a worse idea, I don't know what it is. If anyone thinks in this day and age in a country like Iraq that ongoing "covert" operations will stay covert, they are dreaming. The details of the operations will emerge replete with pictures and testimony. It will naturally make us even more hated and even more vulnerable to terrorism.

On the other hand, it's also true that the Pentagon has run out of options. We don't have the troops to quell this insurgency with any humanity and even if we did, it's probably too late. The civil war that everybody from Scowcroft and Bush Sr to Joseph Cirincione predicted is already in full swing. The US is in the middle of it, universally mistrusted and widely hated with all the predictable results. It's a cock-up of historic proportions and it gets worse with every passing day. I'm not sure we can do anything but withdraw and institute immediate energy conservation on a scale previously unheard of. It may not have been the only reason we invaded in the first place, but losing, which we are, means that Iraq's oil fields are now a battlefield. It's time to trade in those SUV's folks.




Saturday, January 08, 2005

 
Boo!


"A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?" --- Albert Einstein

Via Daou I see that some on the right are kind of disturbed at all the Dem activity these last few days.


Out of the Gates:DEMS GO CRAZY

OFF WITH A BANG!: It only took seconds for the Dems to set the new record for crazy...Kerry bashing the U.S. while in Iraq, Boxer and Conyers pulling the "dimented act of the year" award, and the Gonzales grilling was accompanied by the MSM's coordinated attack in the five most recognizable daily newspapers in America. My new World Net Daily column gives you the blow by blows...as the DEMS GO NUTS.


Better keep your heads down, little wingnuts. We're OUT OF CONTROL. Who knows what we'll do next!

It's quite liberating being completely out of power after hearing the right insult, browbeat and demonize us for more than 15 years. After this over the top post election end zone dance in particular, we no longer have anything to lose by making it our business to simply fuck with Republicans for the pure entertainment value. In some ways it's a kind of political insurgency. They refuse to compromise, they insist on being demeaning and crude, so all that's left is to make their lives unpleasant is a thousand little ways every single day.

And the really fun part is that we represent 49% of the people so there are quite a few of us around.




 
Help Us Understand Ourselves

This is so cool. An academic conference on Blogging, Journalism & Credibility with select journalists and bloggers discussing the issues surrounding this incredible year in political blogging. Check out the panel of experts. At least four or five of them even have blogs of their very own!

It's good to see that they did invite at least one non-media or academic blogger -- Hinderocket. (We on the left are well represented by the corporate media and liberal academia, of course, so we needn't have any similarly popular grassroots partisan bloggers on the panels.)

They seem extremely concerned about the bloggers inconscionable lack of ethics so I'm hoping they can find some ways to correct our egregious practices. Perhaps they could convene a panel with John Ellis, Howell Raines and Judith Miller to give us some guidance.

If anyone were to ask, I might point out that there are a few blogging practices that the media might want to adopt for themselves. One is that we back up our assertions of fact through linking. The internet makes it quite easy to footnote our posts and our readers demand that we do it. (Too bad journalism doesn't have the same requirements or the public wouldn't be constantly misinformed by "opinion" writers who dishonestly whore for corporate interests on the op-ed pages of major newspapers.) And, as shocking as it is, most of us adhere to that "ethical guideline" without even a professional association or stylebook to guide us. Imagine that.

Not that I would ever presume that those who created and fuel the blogosphere 24/7 from cubicals and laptops in Starbucks around the country have anything useful to say on the matter. Best leave it to the experts.




Friday, January 07, 2005

 
Mixed Nuts

Yglesias says that the neocons may not be as triumphant as we thought since John Bolton has been eighty-sixed. I'm not so sure. Bolton, for all of his insane ramblings, wasn't really a neocon. He was Jesse Helms's boy --- reflexively anti-international, confrontational and crude. He's more of a paranoid John Bircher than a starry-eyed neocon intellectual and while it's true that their interest in unilateralism and American hegemony intersect, they really come from different schools. Bolton was a loose cannon. I'm not surprised the neos would want to see him gone.





Thursday, January 06, 2005

 
Wampum Needs Some Wampum

Stat.

These guys are hosting the Koufax Awards for us at considerable expense. If we all kick in a few bucks we can help them get over the hump.

And don't forget to vote in the semi-finals as they roll out over the next few days. (I'm pretty sure I'm going to be nominated for Best Costumes.)




 
Fact Checking The Asses

Via the Poorman I see that the Columbia Journalism Review does a little fact checking on the fact checkers in the glorious blogospheric triumph of "Memogate." The kerning sleuth's scoops were actually inferior to the average newsflash in the Weekly World News, but in these heady days of faux internet journalism, as pioneered by our own William Paley --- Drudge --- it ranks right up there with "Monica's talking points" for making utter fools of the mediawhores. That in itself is a triumph since they are so good at making fools of themselves.

...much of the bloggers’ vaunted fact-checking was seriously warped. Their driving assumptions were often drawn from flawed information or based on faulty logic. Personal attacks passed for analysis. Second, and worse, the reviled MSM often followed the bloggers’ lead. As mainstream media critics of CBS piled on, rumors shaped the news and conventions of sourcing and skepticism fell by the wayside. Dan Rather is not alone on this one; respected journalists made mistakes all around.

[...]

Would-be gumshoes typed up documents on their computers and fooled around with the images in Photoshop until their creation matched the originals. Someone remembered something his ex-military uncle told him, others recalled the quirks of an IBM typewriter not seen for twenty years. There was little new evidence and lots of pure speculation. But the speculation framed the story for the working press.

The very first post attacking the memos — nineteen minutes into the 60 Minutes II program — was on the right-wing Web site FreeRepublic.com by an active Air Force officer, Paul Boley of Montgomery, Alabama, who went by the handle “TankerKC.” Nearly four hours later it was followed by postings from “Buckhead,” whom the Los Angeles Times later identified as Harry MacDougald, a Republican lawyer in Atlanta. (MacDougald refused to tell the Times how he was able to mount a case against the documents so quickly.) Other blogs quickly picked up the charges. One of the story’s top blogs, Rathergate.com, is registered to a firm run by Richard Viguerie, the legendary conservative fund-raiser. Some were fed by the conservative Media Research Center and by Creative Response Concepts, the same p.r. firm that promoted the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. CRC’s executives bragged to PR Week that they helped legitimize the documents-are-fake story by supplying quotes from document experts as early as the day after the report, September 9. The goal, said president Greg Mueller, was to create a buzz online while at the same time showing journalists “it isn’t just Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge who are raising questions.”


Doggonnit to heck. And after all those false tips during the Clinton years. Whodda thunk that liberul media would get taken again?

There was actually a big story of blogospheric triumph this year that the mediawhores have conveniently ignored since they weren't spoonfed the delicious details by their trusted RNC sources.(They're very busy.) It was the story of a big media player being forced to back off a plan to air partisan propaganda as news in the waning days of the presidential campaign when the internet organized a boycott that made it's way to institutional Wall Street investors and snowballed into a precipitous stock dive. But that's a very dull story that didn't feature even one adorable tale of an intrepid blogger cracking the DaVinci Code in his pyjamas. Who cares?


The Poorman notes another real blogospheric reportorial triumph with serious real life consequences. Not that it matters.






 
Stand Up

Ezra says:

Unfogged is right; barring a miracle of competence and media responsibility, opposing torture will end up making the Democrats look like we get the vapors whenever the menfolk whip out the cigars and talk terrorism. Our press flacks are are ineffective, our caucus can't stick to a message, and we don't have a party leader charged with articulating our position to the public.

Doesn't matter. Torture just isn't something you compromise on. I'm as coldly political as the next guy, but not torture. That's not part of the country I grew up believing in.


But, you see, the mere act of finally drawing that line in the sand, of saying "No More" is the very thing that refutes the charge. It's hemming and hawing and splitting the difference and "meeting halfway" and offering compromises on matters of principle that makes the charge of Democratic splinelessness believable. This isn't about a special interest giving money or bending to the will of a powerful constituency. People can feel the difference. There is nothing weak about simply and forcefully standing up for what is right.

A number of the commenters to the post below are convinced that the American people actually approve of torture so this will not be a very salient issue for the Democrats. I disagree. I think it may just be a defining issue for Democrats.

It's not that I believe that all Americans are horrified, or even a majority of Americans are horrified. Clearly, the dittoheads think it is just ducky. But that isn't the point. Just because they aren't horrified or even endorse it on some level doesn't mean that they don't know that it's wrong. They do. And it is very uncomfortable to be put in the position of defending yourself when you know you are wrong. Even good people find ways, but it cuts a little piece out of their self respect every time they do it.

Every person alive in America today grew up with the belief that torture is wrong. Popular culture, religion, folklore and every other form of cultural instruction for decades in this country has taught that it is wrong, from sermons and lectures to films about slavery to photographs of Auschwitz to crime shows about serial killers. It is embedded in our consciousness. We teach our children that it is wrong to torture animals and other kids. We don't say that there are exceptions for when the animals or kids are really, really bad. We have laws on the books that outright outlaw it. The words "cruel and unusual" are written into our constitution.

The problem is not that there isn't a widely accepted admonition not to conduct torture, it's that many people, as with all crimes, will choose to ignore the admonition under certain circumstances. However, that does not mean that they do not know that what they are doing is wrong. There is nothing surprising in that. It's why we have laws.

The arguments for torture being raised by the right are rationalizations for what they know is immoral and illegal conduct. Their discomfort with the subject clearly indicates that they don't really want to defend it. (Witness the pathetic dance that even that S&M freak Rush Limbaugh had to do after his comments were widely disseminated.) Will they admit that they know it's wrong? Of course not. But when they take up their manly jihad and accuse the Democrats of being swooning schoolgirls they will also be forced to positively defend something that many of them know very well is indefensible. And every time they do that their credibility on values and morals is chipped away a little bit.

I don't expect them to change their tune. Way too much of this comes from a defect in temperament and garden variety racism and that's not going to go away. But Democrats have to thicken their skins and be prepared for the usual attacks and insist over and over again that it is against the values and principles of the United States to torture people, period. It is not only right, it is smart.

As I wrote below, the opposition will bluster and fidget and scream bloody murder. But listen to the tenor of their arguments. The WSJ article below rails against the "glib abuse of the word" as if they can run away from the issue by engaging in a game of semantics. They are reduced to claiming that unless we torture it will be unilateral disarmament. We, the most powerful military force the world has ever known, will be defeated by a bunch of third world religious misfits if we don't engage in torturing suspects. Just who sounds weak?




 
Moral Quicksand

I see that right is fulminating about the Democrats' objection to torture as an American value. Yeah, it's tough, isn't it?

The WSJ said today:

The White House appears to be dreading today’s confirmation hearings for Alberto Gonzales now that Democrats seem ready to blame the Attorney General nominee for Abu Ghraib and other detainee mistreatment. But this is actually a great chance for the Administration to do itself, and the cause of fighting terror, some good by forcefully repudiating all the glib and dangerous abuse of the word “torture.”

For what’s at stake in this controversy is nothing less than the ability of U.S. forces to interrogate enemies who want to murder innocent civilians. And the Democratic position, Mr. Gonzales shouldn’t be afraid to say, amounts to a form of unilateral disarmament that is likely to do far more harm to civil liberties than anything even imagined so far.


Gonzales certainly wasn't afraid to use the word torture. In fact, he personally asked for a definition and a legal finding as to whether the president had the authority in wartime to ignore the laws against it, both American and international. Why the squeamishness about the word now?

Perhaps because they have waded into quicksand on this issue and they know the only thing that will save them is if the Democrats throw them a lifeline by refusing to expose the shallow prurience of their "values." We should not do it. We should turn the spotlight back on those who made a fetish of morals and show them for what they are.

The right is going to accuse us of not caring about winning the GWOT but we should stand tough and not flinch when we say that torture is immoral. They are now caught in the bind of having to defend it (indeed, some relish defending it) and it is indefensible on both moral and practical grounds. We should not be afraid of their bluster. It is the sign of their weakness. Let them bellow.

The American people know that torture is wrong. They know. That does not mean, of course, that some don't think we should use it. Even so they know it's wrong . And because the modern Republican party has sold themselves as the party of values this discussion leaves them uncomfortable, squirming and impatient. Their smugness has turned to waspishness. They want desperately to change the subject.

This is the dawning of a new values debate and one which is far more defining for a great nation than tendentious posturing about personal sexual morality. This goes to the very core of what we, as Americans, really are. It's time for us to take that fight to those who constantly use their cramped definition of morality to bludgeon us into a corner.




 
Torture Debate

Human Rights First Blog is blogging the Gonzales confirmation hearings. There are also links to the audio in case you are tired of watching that Ken doll anchor on MSNBC commend the president for saying he doesn't believe in torture.




Wednesday, January 05, 2005

 
L'etat C'est Moi

As long as I'm approvingly linking to myself, I might as well pat myself on the back for seeing this one coming.Atrios points to a Nelson Report that says Junior refuses to hear bad news and has personally directed that his staff not burden him with it.

Our sources are firm in that they conclude this "good news only" directive comes from Bush himself; that is, it is not a trap or cocoon thrown around the President by National Security Advisor Rice, Vice President Cheney, and DOD Secretary Rumsfeld. In any event, whether self-imposed, or due to manipulation by irresponsible subordinates, the information/intelligence vacuum at the highest levels of the White House increasingly frightens those officials interested in objective assessment, and not just selling a political message.


I am not surprised. In fact a couple of weeks ago I wrote:

This is the big story of the second term. Bush himself is now completely in charge. He did what his old man couldn't do. He has been freed of all constraints, all humility and all sense of proportion. Nobody can run him, not Cheney, not Condi, not Card. He has a sense of his power that he didn't have before. You can see it. From now on nobody can tell him nothin. It makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, doesn't it?


They can't control him.




 
Cat's Out Of The Bag

OK, so I'm linking to Josh Marshall twice in one day, but that's tough. Here he talks about the Wehner memo and points out something important:

In other words, this isn't about the fiscal soundness of Social Security or the babyboomers moving toward retirement or anything else. As Wehner himself says, this is the best chance the opponents of Social Security have had in six decades of trying to phase-out the program.

And this allows us to see the whole matter clearly. Social Security has been around for seventy years. How many people do you know who really don't like Social Security? Back when I was younger I'd go spend part of my summer at the subsidized retirement community where my grandparents lived. And I don't remember many people who lived there bad-mouthing Social Security. And those folks had lived under the program for pretty much all of their adults lives.

Or, the more relevant question, how about people today? How many people think Social Security is a bad thing? A program that never should have existed? I'm not saying how many worry that the program may not be there when they retire. How many people don't even like the whole concept?

I think they're in a distinct minority.

So now you can see from memos emerging from the White House itself that this isn't about 'saving' Social Security. If it were, what would that sentence mean -- ("For the first time in six decades, the Social Security battle is one we can win")? The first time in six decades they can save it?

Clearly, this isn't about 'saving' Social Security. It is a battle to end Social Security and replace with something that Wehner clearly understands is very different, indeed the antithesis of Social Security.

This entire debate is about ideology -- between people who believe in the benefits Social Security has brought America in the last three-quarters of a century and those who think it was a bad idea from the start


No kidding. The Republicans have always wanted to destroy Social Security:

Their motive for destroying social security is that it puts the lie to their contention that government can't be trusted to do any positive social good. They are wrong and social security proves it. That's why they must create the lie that it won't work even while it's clearly working. As the quotes above prove, they've been crying wolf for decades and yet the program continues to provide millions of old and disabled people a bare minimum of income when they are past their working years and it will continue to be funded, fairly painlessly, for at least another forty years. It's very existence is a slap in the face to the Republican philosophy. That's why they must destroy it.


And the fact that most people do not believe that social security is wrong means that they have to pull this dishonest scam.

"For the first time in six decades, the Social Security battle is one we can win -- and in doing so, we can help transform the political and philosophical landscape of the country."


They can't make it any plainer than that. They have always wanted to destroy Social Security.


Update: Here's a letter Tamara Baker sent to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. I don't know if they printed it, but it gets to the point quite nicely:

Don't let the crocodile tears of the Republicans fool you. They have
wanted to destroy Social Security from the time President Roosevelt started it nearly seventy years ago. And they've always been using trumped-up claims of imminent doom as a way to con Americans into letting them at the Social Security cookie jar.

[...]

Republicans hate Social Security because it proves them wrong. They and their big-business buddies have spent many decades and many hundreds of millions of dollars saturating the media with bogus horror stories about Social Security. But as with everything else they say they want to "reform", their real goal is to kill it. Don't
let them.

Sincerely,

Tamara Baker





 
Credit Where Credit Is Due

I'm with Josh Marshallon this (regarding the DLC and Third Way reportedly coming out publicly against privatization of SS.)

Before proceeding, a side note: Democrats have plenty of things more important to do right now than to fight amongst themselves. And I know a lot of readers of this site have strong suspicions or negative feelings about the DLC -- in some cases because of very real policy differences. But members of a coalition party have to strive to celebrate moments of agreement at least a bit more than they rush to clamor over the inevitable disagreements. So maybe take a moment to give these guys (DLC and Third Way) some encouragement for doing the right thing.


Whether we like it or not, the centrist groups are key to winning the fight on SS and it looks as though they are going to come through. If we care more about being right than doing right then we will spit in their faces. If we really want to preserve Social Security, a successful program that affects the real lives of real people, and which serves as the economic centerpiece of everything we believe in, then we will be generous right now and be thankful that these guys have decided to help us hold the line. We need every single ally. This battle is deadly serious.

Also, one other note. I noticed that Somerby gave Kevin Drum a serious going over for his op-ed in the LA Times because he claimed that Clinton and Gore and other democrats had participated in giving the impression that SS needed "saving." I'm not sure why Somerby got so hot under the collar, but Kevin was right. They did and for some good tactical reasons at the time.

But more importantly, I think, some of us have to realize that Clinton and Gore are not sacred icons to be protected at all costs. I love both of those guys, but they would be the first to tell you that sometimes you have to be tough in politics and right now Kevin's argument is key to persuading people that SS is not in crisis. By putting some of the blame on Clinton and the Democrats you can get some people to listen who otherwise wouldn't. It's just good politics.

Clinton and Gore are big boys and will be around a long time to defend their legacy. They don't need to be defended on every single issue. (The witch hunts will do quite well to illustrate the perfidy of the media.) On policy, it can be very useful to use them as foils if need be. I suspect they'd be the first to agree.




 
I Was Only Issuing Orders

The New York Times reveals that Alberto Gonzales circumvented established guidelines and personally requested the Justice Department to draft an opinion as to whether Commander Codpiece could order that detainees be given forced enemas and the like:

Until now, administration officials have been unwilling to provide details about the role Mr. Gonzales had in the production of the memorandum by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. Mr. Gonzales has spoken of the memorandum as a response to questions, without saying that most of the questions were his.

[...]

Mr. Yoo said that Mr. Gonzales was merely seeking to 'understand all available options' in a perilous time, when the United States faced unprecedented threats.

But a senior administration official disagreed, saying that the memorandum's conclusions appeared to closely align with the prevailing White House view of interrogation practices. The official said the memorandum raised questions about whether the Office of Legal Counsel had maintained its longstanding tradition of dispensing objective legal advice to its clients in executive-branch agencies.


What senior administration official do you suppose that is?

The last few days have seen a flood of off the record statements to the NY Times indicting Gonzales. Evidently, there are quite a few people even within the administration who want to see this guy bloodied up if not derailed. This is highly unusual in the Bush administration, to say the least.

Gonzales is one of Bush's closest cronies and like Kerik, there's probably no telling the King that his boy is a problem. It looks to me as if plenty of people know that Gonzales is pathologically loyal to Junior and enables his worst impulses. And they also know that he's likely to do even more harm to this country than even they are willing to do. That really says something.

I'm beginning to wonder if there maybe isn't a chance to offload this guy completely rather than just bloody him up. Yesterday, Jeffrey Dubner at TAPPED set forth the idea that rehashing the Bernie Kerik episode might be a wiser use of the committee's time. My initial reaction was that it was better to concentrate on the torture (I can't believe I'm even writing that) because this was really an opportunity for Democrats to use a losing battle to put the Republicans on the defensive in the values debate. Now, I'm not so sure. If there is any real chance of peeling off a few Republicans, the Bernie Kerik episode is the one that will get the press to pay attention. Sleaze and trivia is what they understand, and the story is quite recent and still unfolding. Torture is so last spring.

I still lead heavily toward the idea that the hearings must be used to highlight the extreme immorality of the Republican Party, but this has certainly made me wonder if maybe Gonzales isn't a lot weaker than we think.




Tuesday, January 04, 2005

 
Welcome To The Evolutionary Elite

In the beginning . . . Adam walked with dinosaurs

The new multi-million-dollar Museum of Creation, which will open this spring in Kentucky, will, however, be aimed not at film buffs, but at the growing ranks of fundamentalist Christians in the United States.

It aims to promote the view that man was created in his present shape by God, as the Bible states, rather than by a Darwinian process of evolution, as scientists insist.

The centrepiece of the museum is a series of huge model dinosaurs, built by the former head of design at Universal Studios, which are portrayed as existing alongside man, contrary to received scientific opinion that they lived millions of years apart.

Other exhibits include images of Adam and Eve, a model of Noah's Ark and a planetarium demonstrating how God made the Earth in six days.

The museum, which has cost a mighty $25 million (£13 million) will be the world's first significant natural history collection devoted to creationist theory. It has been set up by Ken Ham, an Australian evangelist, who runs Answers in Genesis, one of America's most prominent creationist organisations. He said that his aim was to use tourism, and the theme park's striking exhibits, to convert more people to the view that the world and its creatures, including dinosaurs, were created by God 6,000 years ago.

"We want people to be confronted by the dinosaurs," said Mr Ham. "It's going to be a first class experience. Visitors are going to be hit by the professionalism of this place. It is not going to be done in an amateurish way. We are making a statement."


Here's the exhibit Bobo will just have to visit for his next anthropological expedition into the Real America:


More controversial exhibits deal with diseases and famine, which are portrayed not as random disasters, but as the result of mankind's sin. Mr Ham's Answers in Genesis movement blames the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado, in which two teenagers killed 12 classmates and a teacher before killing themselves, on evolutionist teaching, claiming that the perpetrators believed in Darwin's survival of the fittest.

Other exhibits in the museum will blame homosexuals for Aids. In a "Bible Authority Room" visitors are warned: "Everyone who rejects his history – including six-day creation and Noah's flood – is `wilfully' ignorant.''

[...]

"Since President Bush's re-election we have been getting more membership applications than we can handle,'' said Mr Ham, who expects not just the devout, but also the curious, to flock through the turnstiles. "The evolutionary elite will be getting a wake-up call."


I don't think I'll ever sleep again.


Thanks to Doug for the tip.



 
Karenna's Revenge

All I can do is quote The Poorman:

God love you, Al, but not only are you a fifty-something rich white guy in a suit with local-news hair, you are also the world's very biggest nerd. There's nothing wrong with it - it is an admirable quality if you want to be, for example, President of the US, it's important to realize that it's not a great starting point for making "youth" TV. I'm trying as hard as I can to believe this won't be a total disaster, but I'm coming up short.


I don't think we're looking at the alternative to FOX News coming from this quarter.




 
Arrogant and Ashamed

Via Daou, I found this gem at The Rude Pundit:

"But, you know, there's something interesting that happens whenever you engage anyone who believes these things in a conversation: they get really, really defensive about Bush. And not in a coherent way. And not even in the knee-jerk-'I-support-my-President' kind of way. No, it's more of an 'I don't wanna talk about it - shutupshutupshutup' kind of way, with ears covered and eyes clenched shut. In other words, they know. "


I have been trying to write something about my foray into the Heart of Darkness, but the Rude Pundit beat me to it. (In a way, I'm relieved. It's actually kind of painful to think about.) This observation about their reaction to Bush is absolutely spot on. I found the exactly the same reaction -- no comment, eyes glazing over, an immediate change of subject to Clinton (or "Fifi LaBourget" as my father dubbed Kerry.) Endless discussions of Kerry's alleged cowardice in battle, Clinton draft dodging but a total unwillingness to address the similar deficiencies with Bush. You couldn't joke about him or rail about him or even try to corner any of these people about him. They just refused to address him at all. It was as if he wasn't even a part of their equation. In a weird sense the Republican party itself has become somewhat vague to them. Their entire political calculation was built around the continuum from McGovern to Carter to Clinton to Gore to Kerry and a general disgust with liberals. Their political worldview is completely shaped by their hatred of the Democratic party now.

It wasn't always like this. Needless to say, they all watch FOX and listen to Rush.

I doubt that the Rude Pundit has this problem, but I find that Republicans are just much more willing to be complete assholes in public by loudly proclaiming their political beliefs and daring others to disagree. It's a matter of temperament more than anything else. There was a time when I would go at it, but at this point I don't have many Christmases with my father left so I just sit back and let it flow. (There are other members of my family, however, who need to watch their step.)

Read RP's entire post. It is absolutely correct and he nails one very particular point that can't be said often enough:

"...all the many pundits and prognosticators of the "future" of the Democratic party have it absolutely, exactly wrong when they think the Democrats can triangulate themselves back into consequence. That way lies irrelevance and madness.

The simple truth is that Democrats, moderates, liberals, anyone, won't win by saying, "Lookeeme, I'm like you, Farmer Brown or Factory Worker Sally, look at me compromise on abortion rights and put on shit-stained boots to go out into the fields and talk about how much I hate queers." No, winning comes by saying, "Look here, Farmer Brown and Factory Worker Sally, you are like me." And that means on each and every coming battle - Social Security, judges, tax cuts, Iraq. The people don't want leaders who identify with them. They want leaders who they identify with. It's a fine, but important distinction.


That's why they call them leaders.

lead:

1. To show the way to by going in advance.
2. To guide or direct in a course: lead a horse by the halter.
3.
1. To serve as a route for; take: The path led them to a cemetery.
2. To be a channel or conduit for (water or electricity, for example).

4. To guide the behavior or opinion of; induce: led us to believe otherwise.
5.
1. To direct the performance or activities of: lead an orchestra.
2. To inspire the conduct of: led the nation in its crisis.

6. To play a principal or guiding role in: lead a discussion; led the antiwar movement.
7.
1. To go or be at the head of: The queen led the procession. My name led the list.
2. To be ahead of: led the runner-up by three strides.
3. To be foremost in or among: led the field in nuclear research; led her teammates in free throws.

8. To pass or go through; live: lead an independent life.
9. To begin or open with, as in games: led an ace.
10. To guide (a partner) in dancing.




 
Drowning the 9/11 Cheerleaders

On Rush Limbaugh's web site we find a transcript for January 3rd, called From Across The Fruited Plain: No Compassion for Saddam's Victims; Tsunami Victim Sports Bin Laden T-Shirt:

"CALLER: (Giggle) Well, I was pretty upset and even getting madder the more coverage I watched, and I was thinking, 'Why am I not feeling so charitable, and I'm seeing all these bodies,' and then I see this picture on the Internet that was sent to me, and it was them carrying a body along in Sri Lanka, it said Galle, G-a-l-l-e, Sri Lanka and they had a crowd of people watching and this guy in the middle is standing there looking at the body wearing an Osama bin Laden T-shirt.

RUSH: I saw that picture.

CALLER: And I thought, it just validated the way I felt and I thought these are the same people that were the cheerleaders on 9/11, and we're going to go rebuild their world for them.

RUSH: Yeah.

CALLER: Now, I love President Bush. I respect him. I voted for him, but when I saw him come out and I realized they were asking for more money --

RUSH: Yeah.

CALLER: -- I got even madder, and I thought, 'I don't think we should be asked to give any more.' "


Rush goes on to babble some blather about how we give because we are good and how liberals are "screwed up" because we supported Saddam and are taking Christ out of Christmas and that proves that we have no compassion for the people of Darfur. Typical hypnotic wingnut gibberish that doesn't make any sense but sounds soothingly meaningful in that it identifies one thing clearly --- liberals are the root cause of all problems.

Anyway, what interesting about this is what the caller said and I think it's probably pretty common. I certainly heard quite a bit of it in my foray into wingnutland over the holiday:

Well, I was pretty upset and even getting madder the more coverage I watched, and I was thinking, 'Why am I not feeling so charitable, and I'm seeing all these bodies,'


Madder and madder the more coverage she watched. "Why am I not feeling so charitable?" That's the real question, isn't it?

Later, she saw a picture of one guy wearing a bin Laden shirt that the wingnuts have been circulating and she understood why she was so mad. These people are terrorists.

A couple of calls later a Sri Lanken man called in:

CALLER: Yeah, Rush, hi. I wanted to answer the lady called earlier regarding to the guy is wearing a T-shirt. I don't know he was a dead guy or not. I'm from Sri Lanka. I've been listening to you for a long time. Sri Lanka is not a Muslim nation. Sri Lanka is 68% Singhalese people, that influence all the Catholics and the majority is Buddhist.

RUSH: Yes, yes.

CALLER: There are Muslims around that, you know, probably hate America, but we don't hate United States of America. The Singhalese people do not hate America. I just want to tell you that because we have our own problem for years with Tamil, and Muslim people. I just wanted to tell you that.

RUSH: That woman was calling from Pennsylvania, and there's picture going around the Internet, and I've seen it. Some aid is arriving while a body is being carted away, and there's a kid, a young man watching it all with a bin Laden t-shirt. She said the picture is from Sri Lanka. I don't know that it is. I don't know the picture is from Sri Lanka, but you have to understand the power of pictures. You know, there are going to be some Americans who are just going to recoil at the thought that we are bailing out and helping people who swear an oath of loyalty to Osama bin Laden, whether it's in Sri Lanka or not. I don't think her comment was actually aimed at Sri Lanka per se, specifically. It was just in reaction to that picture she saw. What are the Muslim nations that were affected by this tsunami, if not Sri Lanka?


Yes, which countries am I allowed to get "madder and madder" about and recoil at the idea of "bailing out" their innocent children, again? It's so hard to remember which ones to openly hate and which ones I have to pretend to give a shit about. (And besides, those Sri Lankens are... well, they're rather dark, aren't they? )

Let's not kid ourselves about the base of the Republican party, the dittoheads, the alleged Christian Right. A vast number of them are primitive tribalists at best and racists at worst. There have always been many Americans who are racists and many of those have always been and remain very political. It is part of our national psyche. They are now fully sewn into the fabric of the Republican party's big tent (as they once were the Democrats') and they wield considerable clout. They have made strides in accepting those African Americans who agree not to discuss race into the fold. (And the leadership have learned how to effectively neuter this entire debate by hoisting the left with our own petard by accusing us of racism whenever we criticize a Republican racial minority.)

But at the heart of their reaction to 9/11, the invasion of iraq, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror in general is a knee jerk racism that says "those people" are our enemy and they must die. Ann Coulter sells millions of books that say it right out loud. Michelle Malkin and Daniel Pipes are both making quite a respectable stir making the case for "muslim" internment. And people are getting all steamed up about illegal immigration again.

It is intense tribalism that fuels the right wing, not ideology. In fact their ideology mostly flows from their tribalism. It fuels their resistence to redistribution of even the smallest amount of wealth (the "wrong" people will be helped) and it fuels their hyper nationalism (those "other" people are our enemies.) They make no distinctions between the "wrong" and the "other", it is anyone who isn't like them.

The reason that the Senate of the United States is about to confirm a man who designed an illegal system of detention and torture against any Muslim or Arab (and others to come, no doubt) is because a fair number of people in this country believe that "they're all alike." Terrorists today, commies yesterday, japs, gooks, wogs, niggers everyday. It is a measure of progress, I suppose, in the fact that this hispanic man is even given the opportunity to make his bones with executions, torture and lifetime detention for public relations purposes. Still, one wonders how long it would take, were he to stray from the party line, for someone to call Rush and say, " I couldn't understand why I disliked him so much..."

There are many cosmopolitan writers and think tank intellectuals on the right who have come up with some elegant ideological arguments that explain all this to each other in salons and greenrooms. But in barrooms and factories and churches in Republican dominated parts of America, the reason is pretty simple. Us against them. And basic human empathy for anyone who isn't a strict member of their tribe is in short supply. Hence, this.

Too bad about this whole globalism thing. These people are going to be very, very angry for eternity. But then they always have been, haven't they? At one time I thought our history of immigration and assimilation would be what kept us on top during this transition. I was wrong. Our original sin of slavery is probably what's going to lead to our downfall. It's infected us much too deeply for us to be able to handle the responsibility of being the world's only superpower. When you get right down to it, it's why a majority of the country supported the invasion of Iraq -- all Arabs are the same --- and that horrible miscalculation is very likely to be our Waterloo.




 
Armchair Hero

May I just echo Atrios's outrage at Andrew Sullivan's pithy little retort to the soldier who says that he'd much rather be helping people than fighting a war saying "Earth to Whitsett: You're A Soldier."

Earth to Sullivan: He's a fucking human being.

Evidently Sullivan believes that soldiers are supposed to prefer killing over helping people in need. Indeed, they should prefer dying over helping people in need.

Here are some words that express this soldier's humanity a bit more fully, from a man who also knew a little bit about war:

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron." --Dwight Eisenhower 1953 speech



What a wimp.




Monday, January 03, 2005

 
What's The Real Skinny?

So the House Republicans have pulled back the DeLay exception to the no-sex-with-house-pages rule at the last minute and at the behest of The Hammer himself. How odd. Is it even remotely believable that Monsieur Delay had a change of heart and decided that he should face the music like every other public servent?

Well, maybe not so odd, really. He may have taken care of the problem another way:

In Texas, state Republican legislative leaders and party officials are considering some maneuvers of their own in light of the investigation. One proposal would take authority for prosecuting the campaign finance case away from the Democratic district attorney in Austin and give it to the state attorney general, a Republican. Another possible move would legalize corporate campaign contributions like those that figure into the state case.


Or maybe seomebody had a serious heart to heart with David Drier, the chairman of the rules committee, and explained to him that changing the no-sex-with-house-pages rule for Tom Delay won't exempt him from the no-gay-sex-with-house-pages-for-GOP-hypocrites rule. You never know.




 
WTF

Via See The Forest I found this story.

AS MANY as 5000 Americans are still unaccounted for a week after the world's deadliest tsunami pounded a dozen countries across the Indian Ocean, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said today.

Mr Powell told reporters aboard his plane en route to Bangkok that the confirmed toll of Americans still stood at 15 with a defence department worker listed as missing.

"The number of private citizens or citizens unaccounted for still lingers around 4-5000," he said, adding the figure was based on phone calls from relatives or friends inquiring about their whereabouts.

Mr Powell said this did not mean they were necessarily casualties in the catastrophe.

But he added: "We can't ignore the very distinct possibility that there are Americans within this number who have lost their lives. We just don't know that".


Is this for real?

Camille at STF points out:

... the Swedes have declared a day of mourning for the Swedes who died in the tsunami. The Germans are preparing their citizens for the worst.


I certainly have not heard anything about this. Is there a good reason why the US government wouldn't want people to know that American casualties are potentially so high? What gives?




 
It's The Values Stupid

I remember that before the Iraq war vote, millions of Democrats wrote to their Senators begging them not to vote for the resolution. Many of them voted for the resolution anyway, some for regional reasons like Schumer and Clinton and some because of presidential ambitions. (And then there was Joe, true believer.) Ok. It was only a year after 9/11, Bush stood at 75% approval rating, an election was imminent and nobody knew quite how the wind was going to blow. But none of those conditions are currently present. There is absolutely no excuse for Democrats to compromise or preemptively cave on anything of importance. None.

The first thing on the table in this new congress is going to be Alberto Gonzales. He will be confirmed (barring naked pictures of him and Bush in a hammock drinking tequila slammers. And even then... ) But, because of that, the temptation for many Democrats will be to vote with the Republicans on this in hopes of holding a chit or two down the road on something that really matters to them. This is as dumb as it is wrong.

As Matt Yglesias says (regarding social security) today on TAPPED:

It's compelling logic, that is, if you've been living under a rock for the past four years. Democrats have tried this approach several times during the first term, and with only the partial exception of No Child Left Behind, they've gotten screwed each and every time. At some point, you've got to learn the lesson that the White House and the GOP leadership isn't interested in constructive compromise. Ask Charlie Stenholm where his bipartisanship on Social Security got him.


I honestly don't know what it's going to take to teach this to the Democrats in congress. It's as if the Republicans have attached a "kick me" sign to their backs and nobody's told them. We need to tell them in no uncertain terms.

Now, there may be some tactical usefulness in producing some sort of alternative to social security "reform." There are those who think it will be necessary to do so in order to credibly obstruct the Republican plot to dismantle the program. I'm not convinced that this would be the best way to handle it, but I'm open to the argument. The Republicans used their alternative plans to continuously hobble Clinton's health care plan as it wended itself tnrough the legislative process.

On Gonzales, however, there is nothing to be gained by doing anything but grilling him under a hot light with everything we have and voting no. As Michael Froomkin said:



Whether Sen. Schumer was expressing a normative or a positive view, that is whether the quote represented Schumer’s personal view or only Schumer’s impression of the views of his fellow Senators on the committee, it’s pretty horrible when the Senate’s advice and consent role is this stunted. The bar is pretty low when that "lowered threshold" will admit a nominee who, in commissioning and passing on the torture memos participated in a scheme to

1. attempt to put a patina of legality on war crimes and
2. totally twist the Constitution to suggest the President has powers akin to Louis XIVth’s and
3. mis-state the relevant precedents to make it seem like the above have substantial judicial support when in fact the opposite is true.

There is of course an element of political calculation here. Many chickenhearted Senators believe that they expend political capital by opposing cabinet nominations, when in fact opposing the right ones may create it. But even if I’m wrong about that, for some things -- torture, fundamental constitutional principles -- the calculations should be left aside.

As far as I’m concerned, Congress was almost as much to blame for Iraq as Bush --- they wrote him a blank check, with the Gulf on Tonkin precedent sitting there in front of them. If there isn’t some serious attempt in Congress to come to grips with the torture scandal in the next year, then some of the torture dirt will stick to them as well.


I have long defended the Democrats from charges that they are "spineless" and "cowardly." I think that character attacks on our own side mainly helps the Borg convince people that we aren't worth voting for. But, I have no compunction about calling out our representatives when they are making a mistake. Capitulating on Gonzales is not only wrong it is entirely counterproductive to our cause.

If we are going to be fighting about "values" and "morals" over the next couple of election cycles (as the right seems determined to do) we need to throw down the gauntlet right here, right now. Torture is immoral and even the most craven right wing racist knows that he's playing with fire to endorse it publicly. They don't want to have this argument because they know they are wrong.

Torture is not an American value and it's certainly not a religious value. If they are determined to elevate the architect of Bush's illegal and immoral torture and detention schemes to the highest law enforcement office in the land then they are begging for a fight. It's a fight we should be more than willing to wage because there is absolutely no doubt who has the moral high ground.

For once it's our stance that benefits from today's political requirement for simplicity and clarity. Torture is illegal,immoral and ineffectual. Period. Let Jerry Falwell dance around trying to explain why it isn't.

Update: Attaturk points to this nonsense from Federal Judge Richard Posner in which he says:

I just think that almost all Americans would consider that turning back the civil liberties clock to, say, 1960 would be worthwhile if as a result some horrendous terrorist attack was prevented. I am of the same mind. I find it hard to understand the contrary position, but I would not argue against it. I would point out, however, the self-defeating character of civil liberties absolutism. If as a result of such absolutism another major terorrist attacks occurs, civil liberties are pretty sure to go out the window.

I would also argue against those who say that history shows that the threat of terrorism is much less than other threats that we have overcome. That is a misuse of history. History does not contain nuclear bombs the size of oranges, genetically engineered smallpox virus that is vaccine-proof, and an Islamist terrorist (Bin Laden) who visited a cleric in Saudi Arabia to obtain--successfully--the cleric's approval to wage nuclear war against the West.


Yeah, living with thousands of nuclear missiles pointed at every American city and depending on the sanity and competence of a slowly dying super power not to miscalculate or have an accident was nothing compared to what we face now. Evidently, "Dr Strangelove" needs to be put into the curriculum of the University of Chicago.

(And what in the hell is this talk of nuclear bombs the size of oranges? Calling Richard Hofstadter.)







 
Priorities

This is very telling. Throughout the last week, everybody from schoolkids to major newspapers have been collecting money for the victims of the tsunami or at least publicizing where people should send it.

Except for one group. The Christian Right. This article by Bill Berkowitz from December 30th showed that none of the major Christian Right groups such as Focus on the Family or the Christian Coalition had mentioned anything on their web sites. I just checked all the links and as of January 3rd, 8:25 PST there is still nothing.

I know Republicans hate to have their Christmas vacations rudely interrupted by disasters of Biblical proportions, but you would think that at least the Christian Right organizations would have sent somebody in to put up a notice about the tragedy and organized some fund raising. Like President like followers, I guess.

Christian right's compassion deficit

It took President Bush three days to ready himself to go before the television cameras and make a public statement about Sunday's devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck southern Asia. Even though he was late, and much more money will be needed, the president pledged at least $35 million in aid to the victims of the disaster. But, as of December 30, some of the president's major family-values constituents have yet to be heard from: It's business as usual at the web sites of the American Family Association, the Family Research Council, the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, and the Coral Ridge Ministries.

These powerful and well-funded political Christian fundamentalist organizations appear to be suffering from a compassion deficit. Organizations which are amazingly quick to organize to fight against same-sex marriage, a woman's right to choose, and embryonic stem cell research are missing in action when it comes to responding to the disaster in southern Asia. None of their web sites are actively soliciting aid for the victims of the earthquake/tsunami.

In fact, there is no mention of the giant earthquake and tsunami that devastated southern Asia. There are no headlines about the dead, injured or the tremendous damage; there are no urgent appeals for donations; there are no phone numbers to call; there are no links to organizations collecting money and providing aid for the victims.

[...]

At the Reverend Donald Wildmon's Mississippi-based American Family Association (AFA) web site, the preferred cause -- and top story -- concerns the upcoming battle over the president's judicial appointees. The AFA hasn't forgotten about gays and lesbians: Under the headline "P&G Chairman Gives Thousands to Promote Homosexual Agenda" the AFA claims that "A.G. Lafley, CEO of Procter & Gamble, recently gave $5,163 in P&G stock to help the homosexual community repeal a law in Cincinnati that prohibited giving special rights to homosexuals."

[...]


Over at the Family Research Council's web site, the powerful Washington, DC,-based family-values lobbying group is outraged that Christians are getting cheated out of Christmas, with two stories, "Is the Grinch Stealing Christmas?" and "Merry BAH HUMBUG-mas!" focusing on this. There are no alerts about the earthquake/tsunami.

At the Christian Coalition's (CC) web site, the organization's president, Roberta Combs, is busy thanking CC supporters for their "time and effort in getting millions of Christian Coalition voter guides (English & Spanish) distributed to your family, friends, churches, Christian bookstores and neighborhoods all across America."

Family.org, the web site of Dr. James Dobson's Colorado Springs, Colorado-based multi-media mega-ministry, Focus on the Family, is all over the map with its features: From messages to "remember Focus on the Family in your year-end giving," to helpful hints on how to survive Christmas without "The Lord of the Rings," to movie reviews of "Fat Albert" (thumbs up), "The Aviator (thumbs down), "Meet the Fockers" (a disappointed thumbs down), and "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (a reluctant thumbs up). [They have put up a little blurb since then. They have their year end appeal to give to Focus on the Family on top of the page, however. There are priorities.]

First and foremost, Concerned Women for America (CWA) wants you to know "The Truth About Alfred Kinsey." The twenty-five year-old organization, which bills itself as "the nation's largest public policy women's organization," is also offering a "Special Christmas Feature" from Dr. Beverly LaHaye, founder of the organization, and Dr. Janice Crouse. But not a word on the earthquake/tsunami.

Coral Ridge Ministries (CRM), Dr. D. James Kennedy's Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based operation, is also looking in other directions. At its web site there are advertisements for the CRM's upcoming Reclaiming America For Christ Conference, which will be held in mid-February, and for several of Dr. Kennedy's sermons.

[...]

Over at falwell.com, the Rev. Jerry Falwell is explaining "The True Meaning of Christmas," recruiting for his new organization, The Moral Majority Coalition, and soliciting cruisers for a late July sojourn aboard the Queen Mary II.


Lecture us some more about morals, guys.

But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? (John 3:17)


Update: Americablog has more


Sunday, January 02, 2005

 
Let's Rumble

The DAOU REPORT says:

Coalition to stop torture organizing advertising and public relations push against Gonzales nomination (includes MoveOn, True Majority, others) – plans to hit CNN, New York Times this week…


I'll bet Al From is just frothing at the mouth over this one. Why, the Republicans are going to say that the Democratic Party is soft on terrorism, oh my gawd! Peter Beinert will caution that we are giving up the moral high ground by failing to show that we are serious about fighting islamic fundamentalism. Oh heck!

But then, others might think that SOMEBODY SHOULD STAND UP FOR THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, goddamnit. Apparently that isn't popular these days, but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and do the right thing. This is the right thing.

Don't get me wrong, though. Many in the Republican party (some of whom I've just spent a week listening to gloat and strut about their dominance) are going to immediately attack with everything they have. This goes to the racist base in which it is assumed to be a-ok to torture "those who do not look or sound like us." There are more of them than you think. But they are uncomfortable with criticism and their reaction is to lash out viciously. (Quite a few of the wingnut "Year End" lists were quite adamant that Abu Ghraib was overblown by the liberal media.) They will get hysterical about the existential threat we face and talk about the constitution not being a suicide pact. They'll paint us all as a bunch of wimps who can't stand up to terrorism.

Fuck 'em.

We should fight back with righteous anger and authority. We needn't be reasonable and argue like lawyers. Make them go on the record defending torture, over and over again if possible. This is the real values fight for the heart and soul of this country, not Janet Jackson's nipple or "Under God" in the pledge of allegiance. If we let them blatently despoil the Bill of Rights without a furious battle then everything else we care about will go right down the drain with it. It is the source of it all.

Let them call us shrill. At least people will know that torture is a line beyond which we will not cross. Jesus, to think there isn't a consensus on even that...





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