February 2006 Archives

A state senator from Ohio, Robert Hagan, has proposed legislation that would “ban households with one or more Republican voters from adopting children or acting as foster parents.” The reason is that “credible research” shows that children of GOP households have a higher incidence of:

"emotional problems, social stigmas, inflated egos, and alarming lack of tolerance for others they deem different than themselves and an air of overconfidence to mask their insecurities."

Hagan’s proposal, of course, directly parodies the homophobic legislation proposed earlier by Ohio Representative Ron Hood. I wonder how it feels for the bigots to get a taste of their own medicine; does their prejudice even register as such when they are directly confronted with it?

The Bradenton Herald has more details.

(Thanks to Pandagon for the tip.)

David Cole’s article in the latest issue of The Nation, “Tortured Exceptionalism,” begins with this passage:

"The torturer has become like the pirate and slave trader before him hostis humani generis, an enemy of all mankind." So proclaimed the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1980, in a landmark decision ruling that the prohibition on torture was so universally accepted that a US court could hold responsible a Paraguayan official charged with torturing a dissident in Paraguay. It is highly unusual to hold foreign officials responsible for wrongdoing committed within their own country, but the court declared that when officials violate such a fundamental norm as the prohibition on torture, they can be held accountable anywhere they are found. [emphasis added]

This is the sentiment I wish had been at my fingertips when I wrote about torture last year. As ML King once noted, "The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.” Pinochet and Milosevic could not parlay their “Senator for Life” and “head of state” chips into a winning position in regards to international law, and I suspect that they will have company in the future.

Kissinger, are you listening? Rumsfeld? Rice? Cheney? Dubya?

My local newspaper printed the article “Ministries spread the word of creationism across the country: Children as young as 5 learn to defend theory [sic]” (reprinted from the LA Times). It’s about evangelical creationist Ken Ham’s travels across the country “training kids as young as 5 to challenge scientific orthodoxy” (by which he means evolution) by parroting the biblical orthodoxy of creationism. The writer notes that:

…he was training them to reject much of geology, paleontology and evolutionary biology as a sinister tangle of lies. […] He aims to give people who trust the biblical account of creation the confidence to defend their views — aggressively.

That’s exactly what we need in this country: not just more ignorance, but aggressive ignorance. (As if the shouting heads on talk radio and Faux News weren’t bad enough, now they’re stepping up efforts to indoctrinate kids into their cretinous creationism.) The only consolation I can find in this article is that Ham is a former high-school biology teacher; at least he’s not currently teaching.

the politics of lying

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It isn’t online yet, but Henry Giroux’s article “The Politics of Lying: The Assault on Meaning in Bush’s America” from the latest issue of Tikkun hits all the right notes in criticizing the Bush administration’s mendacity problem. This passage was especially nice:

In what has to rank as one of the most egregious distortions that has emerged from the Bush administration, President Bush, in an interview with New Yorker reporter Ken Auletta, claimed, “No president has ever done more for human rights than I have.” Such a statement is extraordinary given that Amnesty International condemned the United States in 2002 for being one of the world leaders in human rights violations. [emphasis added]

I was already making a mental list of Bush’s human rights problems, which Giroux had anticipated:

Amnesty International, along with several other organizations such as Human Rights Watch, U.S. Human Rights Network, the ACLU, and the Center for Constitutional Rights, has also accused the Bush administration itself of engaging in various human rights violations. These include: preventing foreign nationals held as prisoners at Guantanamo Bay from gaining access to U.S. courts; executing juvenile offenders; engaging in racial profiling, detention, inhumane treatment, and deportation of Muslim immigrants after September 11; refusing to ratify the American Protocols on Human Rights, the Geneva Protocols, the International Covenant on the Rights of the Child, and numerous other international agreements aimed at protecting human rights.

Jimmy Carter, our greatest former president, stands as a powerful—and recent—rebuke to Bush’s braggadocio. Long after his time in the Oval Office, Carter was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for “his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.”

I’m not surprised that Bush can’t seem to remember Carter’s accomplishments; this is a common blind spot for many on the Right. For those of us with some historical knowledge, however, Bush’s statement is a particularly galling combination of ignorance and self-aggrandizement.

RJ Eskow writes in the “short takes” of this post at HuffPo:

Free at last, free at last, thank God we're free of conservative whining about the King funeral at last: Rev. Lowery got a chance to respond to critics who said the comments he made about the Iraq War with President Bush in attendance were sullying Dr. King's memory - as if a President whose running mate was one of only six Congressmen to vote against the King Holiday is the keeper of Dr. King's flame. I love these lectures about "Dr. King's legacy" from people who have always opposed everything he stood for. [emphasis added]

From the Washington Post piece that Eskow mentions,

Lowery said the criticism reflects a feeling among Bush's advisers and defenders that the president should not be confronted in public by people who hold opposing views -- a sentiment, he said, that explains why the audience at so many of Bush's events is so carefully screened.

"The problem is the Republicans always want to protect Bush," Lowery said. "They don't want to expose him to independent-thinking audiences. They want to shelter him from the truth."

Ann Coulter deliberately voted in the wrong precinct, possibly to avoid filling out a change-of-address form. She apparently committed a third-degree felony (up to a $5,000 fine and five years in jail) and then—as one would expect her to do—lied about it ("No, I don't live in Palm Beach.”) when confronted with the facts. (Here’s the deed to her Palm Beach home, if you’d like to see the proof.)

The best part, for those with a sense of irony, is Coulter's commentary about Florida voters who mis-voted with the 2000 election’s infamous “butterfly ballots:” she called them “stupid” “feeble-minded” “jackasses.”

At least they were smart enough to not lie about where they live.

Rick Santorum’s many ethical problems are the subject of the latest American Prospect cover story. (SantorumExposed and SantorumWatch have a great deal more information.)

The most succinct summation of Santorum’s problems comes from AmericaBlog:

Ricky is probably way too busy obsessing about gay sex to focus on mundane matters like ethics.

Anonymous Liberal takes the position that “It’s Time to Apologize to Jimmy Carter” for his unjustly-derided “malaise” speech.

He’s as right now as Carter was in 1979.

It just goes to show: after a few decades, conservatives will realize that liberals were right. (Just don’t expect them to ever admit it.)

Anonymous Liberal also wrote the following sentiment last September:

Carter's speech was disparaged not because it was wrong, but because it was not what people wanted to hear. He was too honest, too candid, too far-sighted in his vision. This allowed others to step in tell people what they wanted to hear: that there were easy answers, that there was no need to sacrifice or alter our lifestyles in any significant way. So instead of reducing our consumption, we greatly increased it. Instead of pursuing alternative fuels, we simply purchased more oil. Now we face all the same issues again, only much worse.

Mark Scott is even more of an ignoramus than I had expected.

The San Francisco Chronicle has an article about atheists banding together for their civil rights.

(Thanks to God Is for Suckers! for the tip.)

Here’s a brief article about musician/poet Henry Rollins and his experience with paranoia during a recent tour. A too-nosy-for-his-own-good flying companion noticed that Rollins was reading Ahmed Rashid’s book Jihad, and reported to the Australian authorities that Rollins was “a possible threat.” Rollins wrote this in reply to the would-be anti-terrorists:

Please tell your government and everyone in your office to go fuck themselves. Tell them twice. If your boss is looking for something to do, you can tell him I suggest he go fuck himself. Baghdad's safer than my hometown and your PM is a sissy. You have a nice night.

Rollins posted the details on this dispatch from his website.

(Thanks to James Wolcott for the tip.)

Sam Harris’ latest post at HuffPo, “Who Are the Moderate Muslims?,” starts from the premise that Muslim moderates “necessarily repudiate the theology of Osama bin Laden and disavow terrorism. Nor would they ever dream of killing another human being over a cartoon.” He then asks the question: “Where are these moderate Muslims?” and quotes a passage from the Telegraph:

"It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims... We cannot tolerate in our midst those who abduct journalists, murder civilians, explode buses; we cannot accept them as related to us, whatever the sufferings they claim to justify their criminal deeds. These are the people who have smeared Islam and stained its image. We cannot clear our names unless we own up to the shameful fact that terrorism has become an Islamic enterprise; an almost exclusive monopoly, implemented by Muslim men and women."

Agreement with that sentiment would be a good start for Muslim moderates.

I was initially puzzled by Dick Cheney’s latest claim of “inherent powers:” the heretofore unknown ability to declassify documents. I hope my cynicism may be excused, but I then realized that this provides a way to exonerate himself for Plamegate: he can declare that he willed Valerie Plame’s identity to become declassified, and she was no longer a covert agent. (This only holds true in Cheneyworld; the real world functions somewhat differently.)

The Washington Post has the transcript of toady Brit Hume’s interview with Cheney, and here’s the relevant excerpt:

Q Let me ask you another question. Is it your view that a Vice President has the authority to declassify information?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: There is an executive order to that effect.

Q There is.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes.

Q Have you done it?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I've certainly advocated declassification and participated in declassification decisions. The executive order --

Q You ever done it unilaterally?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't want to get into that. There is an executive order that specifies who has classification authority, and obviously focuses first and foremost on the President, but also includes the Vice President.

Andrew Sullivan points to a Secrecy News post on the subject. He also previously commented that:

the circumstantial evidence seems pretty clear to me that the president gave the vice-president constitutional authority to smear Joseph Wilson. It also seems to me that this is a big deal.

Thomas Schaller at Gadflyer mentioned Ryan Lizza’s “Cheney Shoots, Bush Ducks” at The New Republic.

Bush famously brought to Washington an MBA's approach to governing. He spoke incessantly of the importance of delegating authority and his aides internalized that obsession by insulating him from the gritty particulars of managing the federal government. Micro-management and over-attention to detail became managerial crimes in the Bush White House. The irony is that this fear of detail is what has led to Bush's greatest failures. […]

The Bushies are supposedly fans of the so-called unitary executive theory, an idea with roots in Alexander Hamilton's Federalist No. 70. Their reading of Hamilton is that the executive branch has to be powerful. But they have it wrong. Hamilton didn't call for a powerful executive, he called for an "energetic" one, the kind who cuts through bureaucracy during an emergency or commands his generals instead of deferring to them. But Bush's detached MBAism is the opposite of energetic. It's passive and lethargic. No wonder he's always the last to know. [emphasis added]

Lizza perfectly nails this administration’s MBA mentality toward governance (the long vacations, the ever-present air of entitlement, the arrogant aloofness, the delegation of anything resembling work, the blaming of underlings when things go awry, etc.) that continues to plague our nation.

I don’t need to comment on Cheney's hunting accident, other than to note that Pat Leahy (the recipient of his famous “Fuck yourself” remark) had the best observation:

In retrospect it looks like I got off easy.

Sam Harris is, quite naturally, at the forefront of criticizing Islamists for their barbarity. His piece at TruthDig on “The Reality of Islam.” Here’s the money quote, from his conclusion:

Our press should report on the terrifying state of discourse in the Arab press, exposing the degree to which it is a tissue of lies, conspiracy theories and exhortations to recapture the glories of the seventh century. All civilized nations must unite in condemnation of a theology that now threatens to destabilize much of the Earth. Muslim moderates, wherever they are, must be given every tool necessary to win a war of ideas with their coreligionists. Otherwise, we will have to win some very terrible wars in the future. It is time we realized that the endgame for civilization is not political correctness. It is not respect for the abject religious certainties of the mob. It is reason. [emphasis added]

MediaMatters has released the results of a new study of the political bias of Sunday talk show guests: “If It’s Sunday, It’s Conservative.” Here is the summary, the graphs (300KB PDF), and the full report (335KB PDF).

I wish that MediaMatters had, for the sake of completeness, included the ever-conservative Fox (Faux) and the formerly-moderate-becoming-conservative CNN and MSNBC (MSGOP) in their study.

Washington Monthly has two pieces on the study, one from Paul Waldman (“John Fund again? It’s not your imagination—the Sunday shows really do lean right”), and one from Kevin Drum (“The Usual Suspects”).

Media bias: it’s the gift that keeps on giving!

Glenn Greenwald’s question on Sunday, “Do Bush followers have a political ideology?” has drawn quite a bit of commentary around the progressive blogosphere.

It’s well worth reading.

Kos explains that the new Polipoint Press book, The Blue Pages, appears to be the product of unethical business dealings. As useful as the book might seem, don’t buy it unless Polipoint can explain their actions.

AlterNet has posted an excerpt from Michael Lerner’s new book, The Left Hand of God: Taking Our Country Back from the Religious Right. Rabbi Lerner, not shy about taking the Right to task in his magazine Tikkun, is even more straightforward here:

This political Right achieved power by forging an alliance with a Religious Right that is willing to provide a sanctimonious religious veneer to the selfishness and materialism of the political Right in exchange for the political power it needs to impose parts of its religious agenda on America. Capitalizing on a very real and deep spiritual crisis engendered by living in a society that teaches "looking out for number one" as its highest value, the Religious Right has managed to mobilize tens of millions of people to vote for candidates who end up supporting the very economic arrangements and political ideas responsible for creating the spiritual crisis in the first place.

With this alliance now propelling them into control of Congress, the presidency, and the judiciary, they have launched a cultural crusade against liberals, secularists, activist judges, homosexuals, feminists, and anyone who still believes in peace and social justice.

[…]

The point is that there is a real spiritual crisis in American society, and the Religious Right has managed to position itself as the articulator of the pain that crisis causes and as the caring force that will provide a spiritual solution. And then it takes the credibility that it has won in this way and associates itself with a political Right that is actually championing the very institutions and social arrangements that caused this problem in the first place. And with the power that each of these has gained by their alliance, they have become ever more arrogant in trying to impose their worldview on everyone else in society. Their alliance threatens to destroy the fragile balance between secular and religious people and to move the United States toward the very kind of theocracy that people originally came to this country to escape. [emphasis added]

I picked up the book last night, but haven’t had a chance to even crack it open yet.

Robert Jensen, one of the educators slimed in right-wing crank David Horowitz's new book "The Professors," fires back in "A Dangerous Professor Speaks" at AlterNet:

The ad for "The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America" describes me as: "Texas Journalism Professor Robert Jensen, who rabidly hates the United States and recently told his students, 'The United States has lost the war in Iraq, and that's a good thing.'"

I'm glad Horowitz got my name right (people often misspell it "Jenson"). But everything else is distortion, and that one sentence teaches much about the reactionary right's disingenuous rhetorical strategy.

[...]

It's easier to defame opponents using emotionally charged language than engage on real issues. Accuse them of being irrational and hateful. Ignore the substance of the claims and just sling mud. By even minimal standards of intellectual or political discourse, it's not terribly honorable, but it often works. [emphasis added]

It has certainly been working for David Horowitz.

I suspect that there are a hundred other stories of fabrication and misrepresentation in Horowitz's book. Unfortunately, the truth takes some effort to ferret out; it doesn't have a website or an advertising campaign, and it isn't on sale at the local bookstore.

Anatole Kaletsky’s article from the TimesOnline begins by describing the often-obscene responses he received from US readers to his criticism of Bush in a recent column. Kaletsky had planned to retaliate by noting that “American ultra-conservatives were the only people on earth who could possibly rival Islamic fundamentalists in their paranoia, touchiness and lack of humour,” but changed his mind in light of the recent cartoon controversy, Kaletsky turned instead to “a serious comparison between the Muslim and American fundamentalists’ intolerance of other people’s ideas.”

The three distinctions Kaletsky observes are betweem “civility and legality,” “verbal abuse and physical violence,” and “religion and other beliefs.” Christianists fare better than Islamists in each of these comparisons, and yet he concludes:

Far from commanding any special respect or protection from the State, religions must be exposed to relentless criticism, like all non-rational traditions and beliefs. […] In America, the Constitution, with its prohibition against the establishment of any state religion and its absolute defence of free speech, demands a robust competition between faith and reason and among the religions themselves. And in the end, as America’s surprising piety clearly shows, it is not just society but also religion that emerges stronger from the refiner’s fire of competition, criticism and even insult. [emphasis added]

Perhaps it is this rational criticism that has civilized the majority of American religious believers?

(Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the tip.)

Many people have heard the comments that Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery made at Coretta Scott King’s funeral yesterday :

We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there. [Standing Ovation] But Coretta knew and we know that there are weapons of misdirection right down here. Millions without health insurance. Poverty abounds. For war billions more but no more for the poor.

Former president Jimmy Carter mentioned that:

"It was difficult for them personally — with the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated as they became the target of secret government wiretapping, other surveillance, and as you know, harassment from the FBI."

Yes, some speakers actually had the temerity to mention that both Mrs. King and her late husband had a sometimes-unpopular tendency to speak out against war and poverty, and for civil rights and workers rights; some speakers even drew parallels between the sixties and our situation today. I feel so bad for Dubya, being at an event where his handlers couldn’t select the attendees, vet their speeches, and control the message for a perfect Fox-style soundbite against a blue slogan-laden backdrop. It must be so difficult for him to venture out into the real world, and find out that most people disagree with his policies and don’t trust him to tell the truth.

Kos has a retort (“Please, Politicize My Funeral”) to all the conservatives carping about this “politicized” funeral, as if the Kings and their legacies were somehow apolitical:

Here we have a woman who spent her lifetime speaking out, marching, lending her name to causes and fighting injustice with integrity in every breath she took. Her husband died for speaking out and she continued to do the same. Am I really to assume she would "tut tut" at the heartfelt and sometimes raucous, sometimes tear-inducing funeral we witnessed today? Am I really expected to presume that Michelle Malkin and the other winger crybabies know better than her family what would have pleased her at her last official ceremony?

Please, these people need - and I say this with all the respect it's due - to shut up. […] Just get out of our lives. And our deaths. And our funerals. And the way we honor our heroes, damn it.

I guess conservatives have forgotten that, in their eulogizing orgies for Reagan, they did plenty of politicizing: endless tributes to his Challenger speech, the fall of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall, their emotional reactions to his “Morning in America” sales pitch, etc. (I suppose, in their minds, politicizing is only bad when Democrats do it.)

Greg Saunders writes in “Stealing Coretta” that the GOP should keep an honest distance from Mrs. King:

Face it conservatives, Coretta Scott King was a liberal. While civil rights heroes like the Kings were leading a non-violent struggle for equality, your political heroes were finding new ways to court southern racists away from the Democratic party. The Republican journey to victory was fueled by the votes of bigots, so it’s a little late in the game to start acting like you have the right to speak for the leaders of a movement you fought against.

Bill Clinton’s challenge to the assembled mourners that, “You want to treat our friend Coretta like a role model? Then model her behavior,” was right on the money, but that kind of message is easy for many to ignore.

The worst example of blatant misrepresentation that I have seen is at Mens’ News Daily’s BlogWonks, where a few pathetic swipes at Carter are followed by referring to Lowery—who co-founded the SCLC with Dr. King—as a “no-name preacher” who issued a “racist assault on the president” filled “ugly intolerance and vile hatred.” That’s delusion at its finest, from someone so obviously incensed at criticism of his Dear Leader Dubya that he couldn’t comprehend the words being spoken.

Last, but certainly not least, are King’s own sentiments about what he wanted for his funeral (I suspect that he and his wife were of similar minds on this subject):

And every now and then I think about my own death, and I think about my own funeral. And I don't think of it in a morbid sense. Every now and then I ask myself, "What is it that I would want said?" And I leave the word to you this morning.

[…]

I'd like somebody to mention that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. I'd like for somebody to say that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody. I want you to say that day, that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day, that I did try, in my life, to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say, on that day, that I did try, in my life, to visit those who were in prison. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.

The desire to not mention what the Kings spent their lives fighting for is not a desire to avoid controversy: it is a desire for tacit politicization in the service of the status quo. Inoffensive platitudes and bland homilies would have been out of place at Coretta Scott King’s funeral, and ignoring important and relevant topics in this instance would have been far more offensive than mentioning them.

Jim Derych has penned an article, “Confessions of a Former Dittohead,” at HuffPo. After discussing his Kos blogging—and plugging his upcoming book—Derych describes breaking out of his dittohead bubble:

The world that I lived in refused to conform to the world Rush was telling me about. When my best friend turned out to be gay, I discovered it was easy to hate "the gay agenda," but it was hard to hate "Scott." Abortion was cut and dried until I heard my friend Amy's story. After that I decided maybe I should just keep my womb-less self out of it. I believed whole-heartedly in the gospel that tax cuts led to more federal revenue until W hammered the last nail in that particular coffin. No one thing changed my mind. Rather, everything would change my mind.

[…]

It's not an easy bubble to break out of, but neither is it an impossible one. There is a cure for the Full Frontal Limbaughtomy -- massive doses of the truth. It requires more than one treatment, the side effects are very unpleasant, and you'll need a lot of patience. But if you've got the stones for it, together we can change the world -- one dittohead at a time.

Congratulations, Jim. Good luck with the remaining steps of your recovery.

Chris Mooney (The Republican War on Science) writes about discussing science with the general public in the February/March issue of Seed magazine:

What we defenders of science must realize, if we want to combat political attacks effectively, is that we have much to learn about political communication and strategizing. Ideally, and in the best spirit of science, we should view the current political quandary as a problem to be addressed through trial and error—empirical attempts to determine what actually works when it comes to translating science for the general public.

(Thanks to Rockridge Institute for the tip.)

Cenk Uygur’s “A Secular Revolution” at HuffPo starts by railing against the Muslims rioting over so-called “blasphemous” cartoons:

Are all you religious fundamentalists so unsure of your so-called eternal truths that you cannot dare defend them with ideas? You must resort to violence or legal strictures because you have neither intellect nor facts on your side. Certainly, the Muslims rioting throughout the world this past week have proven this. They must resort to violence because they are ideologically bankrupt.

Uygur then talks about the Iranian drive to possess nuclear weapons, and the opposing desire of the West to prevent that from happening:

There are fundamentalists on both sides who are actively looking forward to Armageddon, where they think their prophet will come back and save them and kill every one else. These people are absolutely crazy. But we treat them with kid gloves for fear of offending their maniacal religions.

[…]

The moderates who believe in rational secularism must band together to fight the fundamentalists on both sides. If we don’t, they are going to drag us into endless wars to fulfill their sick prophecies. Except, there isn’t going to be a shining knight in armor at the end who saves humanity. There’s just going to be a whole lot of dead people.

His best line—not an original thought, but particularly germane—is toward the end of the article, as he laments more impending warfare in the Middle East: “God save us from your followers.”

the cartoon wars

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Muslims are up in arms (literally) over a series of Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, as this report from Reuters describes. I suppose we should be glad that the Defense Department is only whining about a Tom Toles cartoon critical of Donald Rumsfeld. Toles himself writes:

"It is the nature of cartooning that someone can read an analogy a cartoon uses to mean things other than what was intended. […] The only way to avoid that problem is to draw cartoons that have no impact."

Andrew Sullivan has written repeatedly about the Danish cartoons, and took a moment to comment on Pope Ratzinger's stand on free speech: "The right to freedom of thought and expression ... cannot entail the right to offend the religious sentiment of believers." Sullivan notes that “The Vatican, while deploring violence, urges legislation banning anti-religious offensive expression. In the end, the real fundamentalists are on the same side.” This parallels his comment in “Christianists and Islamists” that:

True fundamentalism is incompatible with liberal democracy. And that's why, although at the moment the Christianists are nowhere near as intolerant or as violent as the Islamists, we have to be vigilant at home as well.

Sullivan’s column at Time, “Your taboo, not mine” talks about the Muslim taboo against “any visual depiction of the Prophet:”

You can respect a religion without honoring its taboos. I eat pork, and I'm not an anti-Semite. As a Catholic, I don't expect atheists to genuflect before an altar. If violating a taboo is necessary to illustrate a political point, then the call is an easy one. Freedom means learning to deal with being offended.

[…]

The West's principles are clear enough. Tolerance? Yes. Faith? Absolutely. Freedom of speech? Nonnegotiable.

Christopher Hitchens’ “Cartoon Debate: The Case for Mocking Religion” at Slate follows this thread:

I am not asking for the right to slaughter a pig in a synagogue or mosque or to relieve myself on a "holy" book. But I will not be told I can't eat pork, and I will not respect those who burn books on a regular basis. I, too, have strong convictions and beliefs and value the Enlightenment above any priesthood or any sacred fetish-object. It is revolting to me to breathe the same air as wafts from the exhalations of the madrasahs, or the reeking fumes of the suicide-murderers, or the sermons of Billy Graham and Joseph Ratzinger. But these same principles of mine also prevent me from wreaking random violence on the nearest church, or kidnapping a Muslim at random and holding him hostage, or violating diplomatic immunity by attacking the embassy or the envoys of even the most despotic Islamic state, or making a moronic spectacle of myself threatening blood and fire to faraway individuals who may have hurt my feelings. The babyish rumor-fueled tantrums that erupt all the time, especially in the Islamic world, show yet again that faith belongs to the spoiled and selfish childhood of our species. [emphasis added]

(As Hitchens observes, Human Events Online has posted the twelve Danish cartoons. )

To a large extent, the fundamentalist strains of Judeo-Christianity have been civilized by their centuries-long exposure to liberal Enlightenment secularism. Islam, by contrast, is still in a much more primitive condition; the liberalization of their faith has barely begun, and it often fails quite miserably at integrating itself into the liberal and secular states of the West. While I have little doubt that such accommodation will eventually be made, incidents like the furor over these cartoons illustrate the maturity that many members of their faith community have yet to demonstrate.

Sam Harris defends his “Atheist Manifesto” in a follow-up piece at TruthDig. He once again defuses the “atheists as totalitarians” fables, noting that:

The problem that the atheist exposes is none other than the problem of dogma itself--of which every religion has more than its fair share. I know of no society in recorded history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.

Harris then tackles the “atheists can’t be moral” falsehood:

As a source of objective morality, the bible is one of the worst books we have. It might have been the very worst, in fact, if we didn’t also happen to have the Koran.

It’s a wonder that no one has burned Harris in effigy yet, or issued a fatwa against him and his writings.

(Thanks to Atheist Revolution for the tip.)

DemocraticUnderground has the best weekly commentary in today’s “Groundhog Edition:”

This week gives us two major annual events: Bush's 2006 State of the Union speech and Groundhog Day. One event involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a rat-like creature of little intelligence for prognostication. The other involves a groundhog.

If you aren’t sick nigh unto death of Bush’s mangling of the English language, DubyaSpeak is an even better resource than Weisberg’s Bushisms list at Slate.

Over at TruthOut, beachdweller has posted a summary of Dr. Lawrence Britt’s “Fascism Anyone?” from Free Inquiry’s Spring 2003 issue. (The original article is available on the SecularHumanism.org website here.) Britt begins with a historical overview:

For the purpose of this perspective, I will consider the following regimes: Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Papadopoulos’s Greece, Pinochet’s Chile, and Suharto’s Indonesia. To be sure, they constitute a mixed bag of national identities, cultures, developmental levels, and history. But they all followed the fascist or protofascist model in obtaining, expanding, and maintaining power. Further, all these regimes have been overthrown, so a more or less complete picture of their basic characteristics and abuses is possible.

After enumerating his 14-point list, his conclusion is guardedly pessimistic:

Does any of this ring alarm bells? Of course not. After all, this is America, officially a democracy with the rule of law, a constitution, a free press, honest elections, and a well-informed public constantly being put on guard against evils. Historical comparisons like these are just exercises in verbal gymnastics. Maybe, maybe not.

Does everyone remember Bush’s inane comment in his SOTU about the threat of “animal/human hybrids?” Bob Cesca does, and he gives it exactly the sort of attention it deserves in “The Pig Man Threat Across America.”

Did you hear about the terrorist who attacked three Boston-area men with a hatchet and a handgun? Probably not. The American media—like most Americans—are blind to Christian terrorism.

The Boston Globe has the details on Robida’s attack on apparent strangers at a gay bar.

Although the suspect “did not appear to be connected to any organized hate groups,” the article notes that:

In Robida's room at his mother's house, police yesterday found homemade posters slurring gays, African-Americans, and Jews; neo-Nazi literature and skinhead paraphernalia; a makeshift coffin; and an empty knife sheath, according to police, prosecutors, and court documents.

At least Robida didn’t have ready access to explosives, as did Ted Kaczynski, Eric Rudolph, and Timothy McVeigh.

(Thanks to Mikhaela for the tip. She a talented cartoonist in addition to being a blogger. Check out her work here.)

oops!

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MSNBC is reporting that the charges against Cindy Sheehan have been dropped.

“The officers made a good faith, but mistaken effort to enforce an old unwritten interpretation of the prohibitions about demonstrating in the Capitol,” Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said in a statement late Wednesday.

“The policy and procedures were too vague,” he added. “The failure to adequately prepare the officers is mine.”

At least someone in Washington DC can take responsibility for a mistake. I didn’t hear anything even remotely like that on Tuesday night.

(Thanks to Kos for the tip.)

John W. Loftus, author of the upcoming book Why I Rejected Christianity: A Former Apologist Explains, has been blogging under the title “Debunking Christianity.” It’s always nice to see someone with a degree in theology (ThM from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) stop apologizing for faith and start examining it.

One of his links is to Richard Carrier’s “Why I Am Not a Christian,” which is a fine—albeit lengthy—piece of work.

Bravo!

(Thanks to God Is for Suckers! for the tip.)

ThinkProgress has the most detail I’ve seen of any post-SOTU commentary. The White House has the official version of Bush’s speech, but for some reason they don’t mention Bush’s t-shirt phobia.

The San Francisco Chronicle has information about Cindy Sheehan’s arrest before the SOTU for wearing an anti-war t-shirt. The offensive message was "2,245 and how many more?'' (Thanks to NewsHounds for the tip.) Sheehan’s own article about what happened is here at CommonDreams.

Sheehan wasn’t the only ejectee. Kos talks about the wife of a GOP congressman being removed from the chamber for wearing a shirt that read: "Support the Troops Defending Our Freedom," which is apparently a verboten sentiment in Republican-held territory. As Kos summarizes:

This is no longer a partisan affair. Bush will restrict the free speech rights of anyone that might upstage his carefully constructed propaganda efforts.

Glenn Greenwald’s “Learning from Dear Leader” post, quoted by Kos, is well worth reading.

I was struck by several things while watching Bush read from the TelePrompTer:

His opening encomium to Coretta Scott King was brief, but beautiful:

Today our Nation lost a beloved, graceful, courageous woman who called America to its founding ideals and carried on a noble dream. Tonight we are comforted by the hope of a glad reunion with the husband who was taken from her so long ago, and we are grateful for the good life of Coretta Scott King.

I wonder, however, how Bush squares his disdain for gay civil rights with King’s support for them. Bush’s obligatory slap-in-the-face comments later in the speech about judges who “legislate from the bench” and “redefine marriage” are quite a contrast to CS King’s thoughts on the same subject. Here are her comments from the “Creating Change” conference (organized by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force) on 9 November 2000:

Freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation is surely a fundamental human right in any great democracy, as much as freedom from racial, religious, gender, or ethnic discrimination. […] Therefore, I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream to make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.

(Courtesy of Anthony Bradley. Thanks to Pandagon for the tip.)

Here is a passage from her remarks at Richard Stockton College (Pomona NJ) on 23 March 2004:

Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union. A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages.

(I wouldn’t ordinarily quote WingNutDaily, especially for something like this, but they had the goods. Of course, they think civil rights are evil; in wingnut land, they call civil equality “sodomy acceptance.”)

HateCrime.org has more anti-bigotry quotes from the late Mrs. King here. (Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the tip.)

There was also Bush’s comment about “ending the stigma of AIDS.” How does that complement his desire to rebuild and reinforce the stigma of homosexuality? (I do appreciate, however, that some progress has been made since the dark days of Reagan. At least Bush: isn’t afraid to mention AIDS, realizes that it is a significant problem, and doesn’t stoop to using right-wing rhetoric such as “deathstyle.” Bush’s bigotry, although couched in more neutral terms, is still dangerous.)

One of my favorite moments was when Bush was whining about “Congress did not act last year on my proposal to save Social Security,” and the Democratic side of the chamber erupted into applause. He wagged his finger at them, but the mistake could not be undone.

The straw man of “isolationism” and “protectionism” was a lame attempt at defending of his capital-uber-alles economic fundamentalism philosophy, his negative comment about us being “addicted to oil” was quite out of character for him, as was his stated support for the line-item veto. Was he trying to signal that there was pork that he would have vetoed? Or will he just use it to continue cutting funding for social programs?

What did Dubya think he was talking about when he mentioned “human/animal hybrids?” Has he confused some trashy science-fiction book with reality again, or is this an issue that his base is seriously concerned about?

I look forward to the day when I don’t cringe repeatedly while listening to a presidential speech.


SOTU update (2/2 at 8:46am):

FackCheck.org’s “Misstatement of the Union” notes that Bush utilized “selective facts and strategic omissions” in his speech, and their staff did a good job in checking his facts.


SOTU update 2 (2/2 at 11:44am):

Andrew Bacevich (a conservative author who writes on the subjects of militarism and imperialism) has an article in the LA Times about Bush’s straw man argument from the SOTU: isolationists.

Christmas Calumny” at Wall of Separation mentions a challenge to the Right’s bogus “War on Christmas.” One of the school districts in question is demanding an apology from the Falwell-affiliated Liberty Counsel [sic].

The Dodgeville School District has demanded that Liberty Counsel issue a public apology for a press release it issued in early December claiming that Ridgeway Elementary School officials had secularized the lyrics to numerous religious songs, such as “Silent Night,” in the school’s holiday programs. The district is also asking for $23,899.48 in compensation for costs that officials incurred in refuting the lies about their community.

“Your dissemination of false and misleading information and your threats of specious and frivolous litigation resulted in enormous cost the district,” wrote school attorney Eileen A. Brownlee, in a letter last week to Liberty Counsel. “You have yet to present the facts either through a press release, one of your ‘alerts’ or through any other means. You used this red herring to attempt to collect money through the form of donations.”



What happened to “Thou shalt not bear false witness?” Perhaps it was only a suggestion, after all; or perhaps the Right should start living by the Ten Commandments and stop force-feeding them to the rest of us.

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