April 2006 Archives

angry atheists?

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Rabbi Marc Gellman tries—or so Newsweek says—to understand atheists in this article. Unfortunately, Gellman has made little or no attempt at understanding; he instead falls back on lazy rhetoric that accuses atheists of unprovoked anger.

Understanding atheists isn’t something that one can glean from spouting nonsense about us being angry or “clinging to Camus's existential despair” as a result of some purported “uncomfortable personal histories.” Understanding atheists isn’t something that one can accomplish by studying the Torah, the Bhagavad Gita, or the Hadith. Understanding atheists isn’t aided by spouting a rosy-glassed view of religion, as Gellman does:

Religion must remain an audacious, daring and, yes, uncomfortable assault on our desires to do what we want when we want to do it. All religions must teach a way to discipline our animal urges, to overcome racism and materialism, selfishness and arrogance and the sinful oppression of the most vulnerable and the most innocent among us.

What is truly audacious, daring, and uncomfortable is to realize—as atheists do—that the easy answers of the past are often inadequate for the present. The continual repetition of ancient platitudes about life’s most difficult questions doesn’t mean that those questions have actually been answered.

Gellman appears to have done some thinking about atheists, but he needs to do much more.

(Thanks to No God Blog for the tip.)

Glenn Greenwald has posted a piece about his generalizations regarding the Bushites’ mentality (his original post is here, and mine is here).

Reading someone's blog on a daily basis is almost like sitting with them at the breakfast table every day -- with them in a whole array of moods -- while they sit and read the newspaper and talk aloud in an unmediated, unedited way about their views on pretty much everything. If you have that level of raw exposure to someone's thought processes, you come to learn how they think and reason, what their level of intellectual honesty is, and what motivates them.

Much of what I have come to believe about how Bush defenders think, how they behave, what motivates them, what tactics they use, is based upon the insight one develops as a result of having that level of exposure to their thought processes. With almost everyone opining so regularly and continuously on the Internet, how Bush defenders think and what they believe is all right there to look at -- it's all out in the open -- and, as a result, it can be amply documented.

On the two major questions—are the facts correct, and do the facts support the conclusion—Greenwald’s position is unassailable, despite the cries of overgeneralization from his critics.

Glenn Greenwald’s latest post, “Anatomy of the ‘thought’ process of Bush defenders,” is a brutal evisceration of today’s faith-based conservative ideology:

As much as anything else, Bush defenders are characterized by an increasingly absolutist refusal to recognize any facts which conflict with their political desires, and conversely, by a borderline-religious embrace of any assertions which bolster those desires. It's a world-view which conflates desire with reality, disregards all facts and evidence that conflict with the decreed beliefs, and faithfully embraces any assertions and fantasies, no matter how baseless and flagrantly false, provided that it bolsters the myths. [emphasis added]

Greenwald uses several examples (including a recent—baseless, of course—accusation by Matt Drudge) to illustrate his thesis, and concludes with this:

Being able to pick and choose what facts you want to believe based upon which ones feel good or vindicate your desires can be emotionally satisfying, but there is no more destructive and dangerous mental approach than this for determing [sic] how the world's sole superpower will be governed.

new GOP slogans

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Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon writes about advertising on sheep, and suggests some slogans for the GOP:

“Vote for us or we’re call you a fairy.” “Wave that flag harder. No, harder!” “Educating yourself on the issues makes you a nerd.” “If you don’t vote Republican, Jesus hates you.” “Don’t you know Democrats don’t wear deodorant?” “Vote for us or O’Reilly will have a stroke.” “Because the fat man on the radio told you to.”

Andrew Sullivan excoriates Ponnuru for the title of his new book, which refers to Democrats as “The Party of Death:”

To call half the country "a party of death" and to assign that label to one's partisan political opponents is not, whatever else it is, an invitation to dialogue. It's demagoguic abuse. It's worthy of Ann Coulter (who, tellingly, has a blurb on the cover). It is one thing to argue that you are pro-life, to use the positive aspects of language to persuade. It is another to assert that people who differ from you are somehow "pro-death," (especially when they may merely be differing with you on the moral status of a zygote or the intricacies of end-of-life care). To smear an entire political party, and equate only one party with something as fundamental as life, is a new low in the descent of intellectual conservatism from Russell Kirk to Sean Hannity. [emphasis added]

Max Blumenthal’s piece at HuffPo, “The Demons of David Horowitz,” should be required reading for regular visitors to Horowitz’s FrontPage online magazine. Blumenthal starts off by saying

Since David Horowitz switched his political allegiance from the radical left to the authoritarian right, he has engaged in one embarassingly paranoid crusade after another. Each one is designed to stifle a liberal conspiracy which exists only in the hollow canyons of his own mind, and each one fizzles out in a mist of his own petulant frustration.

Each time, insidious liberal influence is to blame for his own failures.

and he doesn’t let up throughout the entire piece. It’s a good read, and I look forward to Horowitz's response.

It appears that Tony Snow will be announced as the new White House Press Secretary sometime this morning.

The jokes are going to write themselves.

On a more serious note, Snow has actually criticized and disagreed with the Bush administration. MediaMatters has been paying attention, and lists some suggested questions for the press corps to ask Snow when he steps behind the podium. ThinkProgress also has a selection of gems from Snow’s columns, posted on websites like TownHall.

(Thanks to NewsHounds for the tip.)


update (9:18am):
ThinkProgress posted “Tony Snow on the Issues,” another interesting collection of quotes.


update 2 (10:19am):
It’s official; the Decider-in-Chief has made the announcement:

My job is to make decisions, and his job is to help explain those decisions to the press corps and the American people.

Later in his comments, Dubya addresses Snow’s criticisms:

He's not afraid to express his own opinions. For those of you who have read his columns and listened to his radio show, he sometimes has disagreed with me. I asked him about those comments, and he said, "You should have heard what I said about the other guy."

Andrew Sullivan’s piece “The Left Awakens” talks about the Euston Manifesto, calling it “an important British-based statement of left and liberal principles in the new era of fundamentalism.” He refers to “the anti-Americanism, moral relativism and defeatism of the cut-and-run left,” and concludes:

We must fight that tendency as relentlessly as we must fight Christianism and Islamism. But a new coalition is forming - against all these isms. For freedom. For the West.

Food for thought: Do Sullivan’s criticisms of the far right (“Christianism and Islamism”) and the far left (“anti-Americanism, moral relativism and defeatism”) balance each other to make him a centrist?

Back to the Manifesto itself: It is a fine statement of principle, particularly this passage on freedom of ideas:

We uphold the traditional liberal freedom of ideas. It is more than ever necessary today to affirm that, within the usual constraints against defamation, libel and incitement to violence, people must be at liberty to criticize ideas — even whole bodies of ideas — to which others are committed. This includes the freedom to criticize religion: particular religions and religion in general. Respect for others does not entail remaining silent about their beliefs where these are judged to be wanting. [emphasis added]

Most people will not have heard of the signatories, except perhaps Norm Geras, Paul Berman, and Michael Walzer; nonetheless, the manifesto is worth reading for insight into modern progressive thought.

Gene Stone asks as HuffPo whether gay Republicans are, as a group, an oxymoron or a collection of morons:

Gay Republicans can be among the most homophobic of all Americans. They may protest that they are not single issue voters, that taxes, terrorism, and trade matter more to them than gay rights, but that rationale doesn't wash anymore. In the days of a Republican party that embraced moderates, an argument could be made that the party might someday accept gays, or that by working from within, change could be achieved.

But no more. Today the bottom line is that there simply is no excuse left for any gay man or woman to embrace a party whose prime agenda is to stop him or her from enjoying the same rights as every other American. [emphasis added]

Last week’s list of Tony Snow falsehoods was too brief, so here is a supplement.

Of course, being a talking head on Faux News and a substitute host for Rush Limbaugh is just bush-league lying in comparison to what Snow will have to do if he is actually hired by the Bush league.

too funny

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This take on Easter candy is too good to not share:

20060424-bunnies.bmp

Translation:

"My ass is killing me."

"What?"

Jonathan Weiler at Gadflyer follows up on the WaPo article mentioned here, and bemoans both the “angry left” stereotype and the false equivalences that the media use to prop it up. Weiler quotes Glenn Greenwald’s “Mistaking caricature and generalization for journalism,” which notes that extreme rhetoric “has been a staple of the mainstream Right for more or less two decades now:”

The Right's best-selling author calls liberals traitors and urges that they be beaten with baseball bats and attacked with bombs. Its most popular radio talk show host -- with his 20 million daily followers -- has spent the last 20 years urging that liberals be deported and praising the kidnappings of his political opponents, while other favorites on Right-wing radio routinely call for the imprisonment of leading Democrats. Similarly, some of the Right's favorite commentators have urged that those who espouse liberalism be tried for sedition, or worse.

One favorite right-wing commentator has written two books - one devoted to showing that liberals are mentally ill, and the other defending the internment of innocent American citizens in prison camps. The Right's leading elected officials and pundits just in the last couple of years have repeatedly taken to threatening federal judges who issue opinions they dislike.

[…]

…the Right, including its most powerful figures, long ago relinquished any limits when it comes to rhetorical attacks. The only difficult part of compiling this list is deciding what the worst offenders are and which examples should be left out. And that is to say nothing of the daily doses of hatred and bile that spew forth from the Right blogosphere, which I have no doubt someone else will be compiling shortly -- again.

It is just astonishing to have to read an endless article from the Post about the supposed rage and anger on the "Left" -- all based on the sought-out, most extreme sentiments of people with little or no real influence -- while the eliminationist and traitor rhetoric that has been a central rhetorical tool of the Right's primary power centers for decades is mentioned only in passing, only by way of explaining how the Right used to engage in this sort of rage-driven politics until the Left took over. But anyone who listens on any given day to Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly, or who reads the hate-mongering and treason-accusing screeds of Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin and Powerline, know how fundamentally false that picture is.

Horowitz update

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Some researchers at MediaMatters took the trouble to tabulate David Horowitz’s anecdotes from his recent book The Professors, which I commented on here. Horowitz has declared that he was evaluating the professors’ conduct in the classroom, and that he didn’t criticize them based on personal outside-the-classroom incidents. No surprisingly, Horowitz lied:

The study found that of the 100 professors profiled (not 101 as the book's title indicates), Horowitz noted the outside-the-classroom speech and activities of 94 professors in seeking to support his assertions that they are America's "most dangerous academics"; in other words, contrary to his claims on the April 6 edition of Hannity & Colmes, Horowitz criticized only six professors exclusively for their in-class activities (including their speech in class, course titles and/or texts used). Furthermore, in most cases (52 out of 100), Horowitz listed only out-of-class activities, apparently basing his entire claim that a professor is "dangerous" on events that occurred outside the classroom, without mention of anything that went on inside the classroom. [emphasis added]

The full report is here.

Rolling Stone's latest cover story asks if Dubya is indeed our country's worst president, as many historians think.

rolling stone

In almost every survey of historians dating back to the 1940s, three presidents have emerged as supreme successes: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. These were the men who guided the nation through what historians consider its greatest crises: the founding era after the ratification of the Constitution, the Civil War, and the Great Depression and Second World War. Presented with arduous, at times seemingly impossible circumstances, they rallied the nation, governed brilliantly and left the republic more secure than when they entered office.

Calamitous presidents, faced with enormous difficulties -- Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Hoover and now Bush -- have divided the nation, governed erratically and left the nation worse off. [emphasis added]

The remaining time of Bush's second term must be examined as part of a complete presidential evaluation, but it is already obvious at which end of the spectrum he will be ranked.

(Thanks to John at AmericaBlog for the tip.)

anonymous speech

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This incident demonstrates why revealing too much information in a public forum can be dangerous: the GOP McCarthyites may accuse you of sedition and confiscate your PC. (The VA nurse in question, who had written a critical letter to a local newspaper, was cleared with help from the ACLU.)

It also demonstrates why blogging anonymously is sometimes a good idea.

(Thanks to Matthew Yglesias at TPM Cafe for the tip.)

According to Faux News,

One of the people the White House has approached as a possible replacement for McClellan is FOX News Radio host Tony Snow.

The best rejoinder I’ve seen was from John at AmericaBlog who, upon hearing the speculation about Snow becoming the White House spokesman, wrote, “I thought he already was.”


update (12:25pm):
MediaMatters has documented “The many falsehoods of Tony Snow,” indicating that he’s capable of fulfilling the position to the same abysmal standards as Ari Flesicher and Scott McClellan.

the 16-word lie

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Jason Leopold writes at AlterNet about Bush’s infamous “16 words” in the SOTU about the Iraq/Niger uranium hoax:

Sixteen days before President Bush's January 28, 2003, State of the Union address in which he said that the US learned from British intelligence that Iraq had attempted to acquire uranium from Africa -- an explosive claim that helped pave the way to war -- the State Department told the CIA that the intelligence the uranium claims were based upon were forgeries, according to a newly declassified State Department memo.

I await the White House admission that Dubya was either a) lying, or b) out-of-touch.

the decider

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This temper tantrum came from Dubya at a Rose Garden press conference today:

I hear the voices and I read the front page and I know the speculation, but I'm the decider and I decide what is best and what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense. [emphasis added]

(Thanks to digby at Hullabaloo for the tip.)

angry Democrats

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This Washington Post article on anger in the left-wing blogosphere has generated some commentary online; Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon has a great response:

The sane response of people who are actually living in the world to infuriating things is to be infuriated. So being called angry can be taken as a huge compliment, since it means you are sane and you aren’t a sociopath and you actually love life and hate that others are trying to fuck things up.

The “angry” frame is a no-win situation for the Democrats, because a lack of anger means (according the mainstream conservative media) that they’re not energized enough to win; an excess of anger means that they’re unhinged, unstable, and unelectable. The manufactured “Dean Scream” is the most obvious example, but there’s a double standard in place that never allows the “too angry” charge to work against the GOP. Yellin’ Zell Miller wasn’t criticized for his vein-popping display of histrionics at the 2004 GOP convention, and the ever-infuriated Christianist preachers receive respectful hearings throughout the media.

I await a companion piece from WaPo examining the verbal vitriol emanating from right-wing websites; FreeRepublic would be a good starting point, although there are many others.

The administration has found a way to render the LGBT community as invisible as possible for today’s Easter Egg festivities. Faced with the spectre of gay families’ kids publicly cavorting on the White House lawn, the Bushites decided to change procedure to keep those dangerous rainbow-sporting types away from the opening ceremonies. Pam Spaulding has the details over at Pandagon.

Is there anything this administration won’t do to placate its hardcore bigot fringe?


update (4:04pm):
365gay.com has the story on the event:

Mrs. Bush and the President posed for pictures - but only with the families of White House staff. By the time the gay and other families were allowed in the First Lady had left - a carefully orchestrated move to avoid being caught on film meeting any of the children of same-sex couples as the Administration pushes for a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage.

(Thanks to Pam at Pandagon for the tip.)

CNN has an article on lesbian and gay parents lining up with their kids to participate in Monday’s Easter Egg Roll at the White House. Mark D. Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy complains, "I think it's inappropriate to use a children's event to make a political statement,” but Jennifer Chrisler (executive director of the Family Pride Coalition) observes that:

"I don't think this is a protest. […] Showing up, participating fully in an American tradition, showing Americans that we do exist, that in our minds isn't a protest."

Excluding kids from such an event based on their parents’ sexual orientation would be both inappropriate and a political statement, but including them is neither; it’s called equality before the law. Second-class citizenship for the LGBT community is beginning to crumble, and those who don’t like it need to learn how to live with it.

(Thanks to John at AmericaBlog for the tip.)

This is too good to pass up: the latest Tom Tomorrow cartoon skewers Tom DeLay and the Christianist crucifixion complex in an homage to whackjob cartoonist Jack Chick. It’s online here at Working for Change.

No, it’s not the professors: it’s the students!

Emerging Democratic Majority discusses the new study from Harvard’s Institute of Politics (176KB PDF). When asked about “most political issues,” 47% of the students classified themselves as “liberal” or “moderate liberal,” with 41% using “conservative” or “moderate conservative” and 18% “moderate.” Party identification is 32% Democratic and 24% Republican, with 41% independent and a few others.

The EDM summary is:

Of course, there's no guarantee IOP’s college students and Gen Y adults in general will stay as progressive as they are now--change is possible (but much less likely after the age of 30 which is not so far away for the leading edge of this generation).

But they're off to a good start! Their current progressive views can only make those on the center-left smile. And the conservative Establishment in Washington scowl.

Someone at Faux News will be get outraged about this trend any second now.

Do you remember Bush crowing triumphantly, “We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories” when those two trailers were found in Iraq? It has been apparent for years that Bush was lying, but it is now also apparent that he knew he was lying at the time. As noted in the Washington Post this morning,

A secret fact-finding mission to Iraq -- not made public until now -- had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons. Leaders of the Pentagon-sponsored mission transmitted their unanimous findings to Washington in a field report on May 27, 2003, two days before the president's statement.

The three-page field report and a 122-page final report three weeks later were stamped “secret” and shelved. Meanwhile, for nearly a year, administration and intelligence officials continued to publicly assert that the trailers were weapons factories.

[…]

"Within the first four hours," said one team member, who like the others spoke on the condition he not be named, "it was clear to everyone that these were not biological labs."

[…]

…the trailers were "impractical for biological agent production," lacking 11 components that would be crucial for making bioweapons. Instead, the trailers were "almost certainly designed and built for the generation of hydrogen," the survey group reported. [emphasis added]

Tom Tomorrow has some questions for conservatives in light of this revelation:

Why do you still believe anything this administration says? How many times do you have to be shown that pretty much everything they tell you is a lie before you stop trusting them? Seriously, do you have some kind of mental disorder, or are you just not very smart? (Or do you understand that it’s all bullshit, but don’t care?)

His questions are phrased more harshly than I would prefer, but I wish someone would have enough cojones to answer them. (I also think it unfair that he asks them of conservatives, rather than Republicans. There are often, especially lately, distinctions to be drawn between the two. Conservatives of principle are nearly as likely as liberals to ask these questions.)

GOP Newspeak

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Ernest Partridge’s latest article, “Newspeak and the Corruption of Politics,” is up at DU. He starts of with a quote from George Orwell’s popular essay “Politics and the English Language” before both defending liberal/progressive thought and—with some help from George Lakoff—redefining the Right as “regressive” rather than “conservative.” (I’ve done so myself; the “progressive-versus-regressive” meme has a nice ring to it, in addition to being accurate.)

Partridge’s hyperbole does come off as slightly overblown, as in the conclusion below:

What we are enduring today is an aberration. The regressives are now in control, and they will be ruthless in their determination to remain in control. But their rotting foundation is beginning to crumble. Dissenting messages of truth and justice are breaking through in the mainstream media, while they are thriving in the alternative media. The public is waking up, as the approval ratings of the Bush and his crime syndicate continue to fall. The coalition of the right is falling apart, as libertarians, evangelicals and moderate Republicans defect. We may all pay a terrible price in the struggle ahead to bring down this regressive regime. But a regime based upon groundless faith, lies, greed and injustice cannot stand forever.

That flaw can hardly be criticized by the Right, given the rhetorical excesses of their media megaphone personalities. Partridge is a more-than-adequate counterweight to any of the GOP gasbags: Coulter, Hannity, Limbaugh, Malkin, O’Reilly, Savage, et al.

Unfortunately, he’s not a match for all of them.

Writing about Dawkins, Dennett, and evolution-versus-creation in "Attacking Atheists," David Horton has the quote of the day:

Scientists must confront these people at every turn. Acquiescing, and pretending that there is some merit to their beliefs, leads to teachers being increasingly frightened to even mention the E word, and to others faced with nonsense such as teaching creationism alongside evolution in science classes because children should know there is a debate. There is no debate.

Andrew Sullivan defends his use of the concept “Christianism” here:

The truth is: I do not recognize my own Christianity or the Christianity of millions in the blasphemous words of Tom DeLay or Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson. These individuals are political figures, using faith as a weapon to advance a political agenda that aims at policing people's moral lives, removing people's civil rights, and marginalizing minorities.

[…]

People who believe in the Gospels of Jesus Christ are Christians. People who use the Gospels of Jesus Christ for political gain, and for a political program of right or left, are Christianists. And Christianism, like many "isms", is an ideology that will corrupt faith and poison politics. It has already done both, under the auspices of this president and his acolytes. It is long past time that real Christians took their faith back from these political charlatans. [emphasis added]

Marcus at God Is for Suckers! has several choice Hitler quotes, which he used to (yet again) debunk the “Hitler was an atheist” meme that is still used to slander atheism in general and atheists in particular. Despite how strongly some religious believers want to push Hitler out of the church, he was still Catholic; his words reveal his Christian beliefs quite clearly. Additionally, the existence of the Christian Identity movement proves more than adequately that Christianity is just as compatible with racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia now as it was during the mid-twentieth century.

Hitler's religion is ultimately a red herring, though: even if he had been a closeted atheist, he
used pro-religious rhetoric to garner public support for his racist policies. The same principle applies to his sexuality: even if Hitler had been secretly gay--as alleged by Lothar Machtan in The Hidden Hitler--his actions were still those of a homophobic monster.

P.S. By the way, Marcus, the correct term is "Godwin's Law."

Andrew Sullivan writes a more measured analysis of Bush’s leaks in “’Declassifying’ & ‘Leaking’” than I did yesterday:

In this case, we're merely talking about the following set of circumstances. A president is challenged in his public account of pre-war intelligence. The president authorizes a selective leak of classified information to rebut the challenge. He selects only those parts of the classified information that supports his case, and omits the rest that actually show parts of the government disputing his case. He authorizes the veep to authorize Libby to give the selected information to a pliant reporter for the New York Times. Meanwhile, his public statements reiterate an abhorrence of all unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

This is an interesting insight into the president's character. It simply shows his willingness to use the prerorgatives of his office as the guardian of our national security to play political hardball against opponents. It shows a conscious capacity to mislead people by selectively disclosing data that skews - for a while - the public's understanding of the facts. It proves that this president is capable of deliberately misleading the American people… [emphasis added]

Kevin Drum has a few questions over at Washington Monthly:

Basically, Bush is saying that it's all right for him to selectively leak classified information whenever he feels it would help him politically.

Are conservatives OK with this? Should presidents be allowed to leak classified information whenever they're under pressure and need to strike back at their opponents?

Christy Hardin Smith has more questions at FDL:

What else has been selectively declassified for public manipulation purposes?

How many times has the Bush Administration used its declassification power for their own, personal political gain — how many times have they lied to the public by omitting the whole truth? How many media-planted lies have then been used by Administration officials in public interviews as justifications for their actions? Did Condi know when she was prattling on about mushroom clouds that she was flat out lying to the public?

Shouldn’t someone in this Administration be held accountable at some point for all the lies — and for being so weak, so craven, so unwilling to face the whole truth, especially after so many of our brave men and women in uniform have lost their lives and limbs in a war ginned up on these public lies? Isn’t declassifying something solely to bolster your political position with the American public a misuse of your power — especially given the sensitivity of the information and the fact that public disclosure of it without a thorough vetting by the intelligence agency might mean that sources were burned by your actions? Does the Bush Administration even care about the consequences of their petty and impulsive behavior — or has cheating simply become their preferred mode of operation?

Someone needs to start answering these questions, preferably under oath.


update (1:30pm):
Sullivan writes in “When is a leak not a leak?” that

… the president picked a few items to declassify - items that clearly misled the public - and told underlings to give them to selected members of the press. I think that's a fair ethical description of a leak. At the very least, it's a clear intent to mislead, by selectively releasing evidence. And if he deliberately misled the people after the war on intelligence, doesn't that imply he was fully capable of doing so beforehand? This is not a matter of law ultimately. It's a matter of character and honor. And it's not a pretty perspective on this president. [emphasis added]

Sullivan understates the case; the past five years haven’t been a “pretty perspective” on Bush.

Does everyone remember Plamegate? ThinkProgress and The Gadflyer both have substantive updates on today’s big news: Scooter Libby has fingered Dubya as authorizing the leak via Cheney. NationalJournal has the piece by Murray Waas with the details:

According to the court papers, "At some point after the publication of the July 6 Op Ed by Mr. Wilson, Vice President Cheney, [Libby's] immediate supervisor, expressed concerns to [Libby] regarding whether Mr. Wilson's trip was legitimate or whether it was in effect a junket set up by Mr. Wilson's wife."

Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a covert CIA officer at the time, and Cheney, Libby, and other Bush administration officials believed that Wilson's allegations could be discredited if it could be shown that Plame had suggested that her husband be sent on the CIA-sponsored mission to Niger.

Two days after Wilson's op-ed, Libby met with then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller and not only disclosed portions of the NIE, but also Plame's CIA employment and potential role in her husband's trip.

Regarding that meeting, Libby "testified that he was specifically authorized in advance... to disclose the key judgments of the classified NIE to Miller" because Vice President Cheney believed it to be "very important" to do so, the court papers filed Wednesday said.

As ThinkProgress notes, “Bush has repeatedly implied that knew nothing about leaks from the White House,” when it is now apparent that he personally authorized leaks::

“There’s just too many leaks, and if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is.” [Bush, 9/30/03]

“I want to know the truth. … I have no idea whether we’ll find out who the leaker is, partially because, in all due respect to your profession, you do a very good job of protecting the leakers.” [Fox News, 10/8/03]

“I’d like to know if somebody in my White House did leak sensitive information.” [Bush, 10/28/03]

Bush was condemning leaks unfavorable to him, while approving leaks that worked to his advantage. Is anyone surprised by his hypocrisy?

Steven Waldman posted a piece at Slate yesterday about The Religious Left. He breaks the group into what he views as its constituent parts, and then analyzes each in turn: Bible-thumping liberals, pious peaceniks, ethnic churchgoers, conflicted Catholics, and religious feminists. Whether or not one agrees with his categorizations, this is still an important group of citizens that has been largely unaddressed on its own terms. The Democratic Party needs to pay attention.

Blair Golson’s interview with Sam Harris was published at TruthDig on Monday. Harris attacks fundamentalism, as usual, with well-chosen barbs like this one:

There’s nothing worse than the first books of the Hebrew bible: Leviticus and Deuteronomy and Exodus, these are the most barbaric, most totalitarian, most Taliban-like documents we can find.

Near the end of the interview, he discussion plans for an atheist foundation to “produce media events, documentaries, conferences, and other means of waging this war of ideas,” and then mentions the really good news:

I’ve got a book coming out around Thanksgiving, by Knopf, entitled “Letter to a Christian Nation.” It’s going to be a short broadside against fundamentalist Christianity. It’s a book that a person could simply hand to a member of the religious Right and say, “What’s your answer to this?” It will be my best effort to arm progressives and secularists against the religious certainties of Christian fundamentalists—in about a hundred pages.

(Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the tip. He even referred to Harris as “one of the more fearless and bracing public thinkers out there today.”)

war crimes

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Norman Solomon’s “When War Crimes Are Impossible” at AlterNet talks about journalist Robert Parry’s work at Consortium News. In “Time to Talk War Crimes,” Parry writes:

While many Americans think of the Nuremberg trials after World War II as just holding Nazi leaders accountable for genocide, a major charge against Adolf Hitler’s henchmen was the crime of aggressive war. Later, that principle was embodied in the United Nations Charter, forbidding armed aggression by one state against another. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, who represented the United States at the Nuremberg Tribunal, made clear that the intent was to establish a precedent against aggressive war.

“Our position is that whatever grievances a nation may have, however objectionable it finds the status quo, aggressive warfare is an illegal means for settling those grievances or for altering those conditions,” Jackson said, adding that the same rules would apply to the victors in World War II.

“Let me make clear that while this law is first applied against German aggressors, the law includes, and if it is to serve a useful purpose, it must condemn aggression by any other nations, including those which sit here now in judgment,” Jackson said.

“We are able to do away with domestic tyranny and violence and aggression by those in power against the rights of their own people only when we make all men answerable to the law. This trial represents mankind’s desperate effort to apply the discipline of the law to statesmen who have used their powers of state to attack the foundations of the world’s peace and to commit aggression against the rights of their neighbors.”

In light of this, Solomon asks:

Is Congress ready to consider the possibility that the commander in chief has committed war crimes during the past few years? Of course not. But the role of journalists shouldn't be to snuggle within the mental confines of Capitol Hill. We need the news media to fearlessly address matters of truth, not cravenly adhere to limits of expediency.

It was only a few years ago that the media couldn’t bear to use the word “lie” in conjunction with the words that came out of Bush’s mouth; it wasn’t until his façade of veracity crumbled beyond repair that it became possible for the media to admit the obvious. The concept of war crimes will probably follow a similar timeline: a long refusal to see the evidence as the expression of torture-friendly policies, followed by a partial and grudging acceptance of the facts. Only then will the Bush administration’s war crimes become facts that the media allow themselves to see. For the time being, the concept isn’t merely invisible to them—it is completely incomprehensible.

MediaMatters has completed a three-month follow-up study to their “If It’s Sunday, It’s Conservative.” Their new study, unsurprisingly titled “If It’s Sunday, It’s Still Conservative,” shows an unsurprising continuation of the same rightward bias on the Sunday talk shows Meet the Press, This Week, and Face the Nation. The nine-year-long pattern of conservative bias documented in the initial study isn’t something that will be reversed in a few months, no matter how foul the stench of GOP corruption in Washington becomes.

Sherman Yellen writes over at HuffPo that the GOP should be referred to as “The Republicants” because “It is clear that they can't do anything right.” Here is an abbreviated version of his list:

1) For starters, the Republicants can't tell the truth.

2) It appears that the Republicants can't provide an economy that benefits anyone but the top 10 percent of Americans.

3) The Republicants can't provide real protection from terrorists. Remember, 9/11 happened on their watch.

4) They can't control pork barrel spending and destructive deficits.

5) They can't understand science, but they can attempt to block scientific breakthroughs.

6) They can't protect our citizens, particularly the least privileged ones, when a natural disaster such as Katrina occurs.

7) Most of all, and worst of all, they can't appeal to the best instincts of the voters, so instead they choose to divide people with bogus issues such as gay marriage.

8) And they can't bamboozle seniors with a phony Medicare drug benefit which mainly benefits the pharmaceutical companies.

Yellen concludes:

So REPUBLICANT it is for me, and it shall ever be, until some Republicant comes along who is capable of speaking truth plainly and representing the interests of the American people and I will gladly drop the telltale t. Until then, I'll stick with the Democratic Party.

secret war plans

Mark Danner’s The Secret Way to War: The Downing Street Memo and the Iraq War’s Buried History compiles some of his commentary from The New York Review of Books. Although brief, it also includes the infamous DSM and several related memos. When describing the media’s gullibility in parroting the Bushevik pro-war line, Danner notes:

The Downing Street memo serves, among other things, as a not very subtle reminder that much of the press was duped by the government in a rather premeditated and quite successful way. No one likes to be reminded of this, certainly not reporters and the institutions they work for… […] When it comes to the war, much of American journalism has little more institutional interest in reexamining the past than the Bush administration itself. [p. 63, “The Memo, The Press, and the War,” NYRB, 11 August 2005, emphasis added]

John Prados, author of Hoodwinked: The Documents that Reveal How Bush Sold Us a War, has an article “Bush’s Paper Trail Grows” at TomPaine discussing the Manning memo, which finally began getting some attention in the US last week. The New York Times notes that, despite Bush’s assertions to the contrary, he had already decided to invade Iraq while he was lying to Americans—and the rest of the world—that military action was a “last resort:”

During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair's top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The New York Times.

"Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning," David Manning, Mr. Blair's chief foreign policy adviser at the time, wrote in the memo that summarized the discussion between Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair and six of their top aides.

"The start date for the military campaign was now penciled in for 10 March," Mr. Manning wrote, paraphrasing the president. "This was when the bombing would begin."

[…]

The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein. [emphasis added]

David Corn compares Bob Woodward’s description (from Plan of Attack) of the meeting with Manning’s, and analyzes the two in detail:

Woodward likes to say that his best-selling books--which are good reads--are the first drafts of history. That's true. But they can also be tilted drafts--especially when his high-level confidential sources have an interest in tilting the facts. Whoever gave him the details of this Bush-Blair session--Rice, perhaps?--left out the best and most important stuff. The net result was a less-than-full but Bush-positive account of the event. This goes to show that Woodward is only as good as his sources and that those insiders are not always so good when it comes to disclosing the real story.

If Iraq becomes the next recipient of Bush’s “last resort,” I will be curious to see what documents become public years later to shed light on Bush’s decision-making process.

Kevin Philips wrote a piece in the Washington Post yesterday that reprises the thesis of his latest book, American Theocracy. Phillips talks about “the recent transformation of the Republican presidential coalition," and observes that:

Since the election of 2000 and especially that of 2004, three pillars have become central: the oil-national security complex, with its pervasive interests; the religious right, with its doctrinal imperatives and massive electorate; and the debt-driven financial sector, which extends far beyond the old symbolism of Wall Street.

(Thanks to billmon at Whiskey Bar for the tip.)

Not only has John McCain announced plans to give a commencement speech at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, but he had the following exchange with Tim Russert on Meet the Press yesterday:

MCCAIN: I believe that the “Christian Right” has a major role to play in the Republican Party. One reason is because they’re so active and their followers are. […]

RUSSERT: Do you believe that Jerry Falwell is still an agent of intolerance?

MCCAIN: No, I don’t.

Russert’s choice of the phrase “agent of intolerance” was quite deliberate, because that’s what McCain called Falwell back in 2000:

"Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell on the right."

McCain is clearly no longer a “maverick” within the GOP, but simply another potential candidate grubbing for wingnut endorsements. Cenk Uygur details McCain’s transition to the dark side, and refers to his nascent 2008 campaign as the “Sell-Out Express.” Uygur notes:

I voted for John McCain in the 2000 Republican primaries. I thought he would have made an excellent president. I was proud to support this American hero and rare courageous politician.

So, it is with profound disappointment that I say that we have lost John McCain. He has become what he warned us against. He has turned into a pandering politician who will stop at nothing to get elected.

What a disappointment, indeed.


update (4/4, 8:57AM):

In “The Tragic Irony of John McCain's Faustian Bargain,” Arianna Huffington lays down her bona fides:

I come here not to condemn John McCain but to weep for him.

Watching a true American hero hang a For Sale sign on his principles is a profoundly sad thing. Especially for me.

I've long admired, respected -- indeed loved -- John McCain. I've written many columns about him citing his courage and integrity, traveled with him on the Straight Talk Express, been to his home and met his wonderful family, and introduced him as the keynote speaker at the 2000 Shadow Convention I helped organize by calling him "the most prominent voice for reform within the political system." In fact, I am still on the advisory committee of his Reform Institute.

Even though we've frequently disagreed on issues, I have always been impressed with the unfailingly above-board way he has navigated the often choppy waters of political leadership. Until now.

[…]

It's worse than a Faustian bargain. At least Faust got what he desired in exchange for his soul. McCain, in giving up the core of who he is -- as a man and as a leader -- may actually be destroying his chances of getting what he so desires.

The saddest thing is not how McCain has betrayed us -- it's how he has betrayed himself.

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