June 2006 Archives

It appears that the NSA’s telephone call database “is not complete.” USA Today has a follow-up to their earlier story. They add this mea culpa to the original revelation:

Based on its reporting after the May 11 article, USA TODAY has now concluded that while the NSA has built a massive domestic calls record database involving the domestic call records of telecommunications companies, the newspaper cannot confirm that BellSouth or Verizon contracted with the NSA to provide bulk calling records to that database.

We may never know the full extent of telco involvement with the NSA.

(Thanks to TPM for the tip.)

EconoCulture has a long interview with cartoonist Ted (Reagan in Hell) Rall. It reprints his controversial Pat Tillman cartoon—as well as his pieces critical of Art Spiegelman and Chris Ware—but doesn’t contain the infamous 2002 “Terror Widows” cartoon that prefigured Ann Coulter’s recent remarks by over four years.

I’m looking forward to his upcoming America Gone Wild! book, which will feature “a 35,000-word foreword detailing the hate mail, threats of death and dismemberment, client cancellations and the hypocritical behavior that originally inspired my "terror widows" cartoon.”

Druyan on Sagan

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Ann Druyan, Carl Sagan’s widow, had a great piece in the Nov/Dec 2003 Skeptical Enquirer (reprinted here at FindArticles). If you missed it then, as I did, read it now. Druyan talks about “the distorted view of science that prevails in our culture,” and assigns the blame for this situation squarely on religion:

I think the roots of this antagonism to science run very deep. They're ancient. We see them in Genesis, this first story, this founding myth of ours, in which the first humans are doomed and cursed eternally for asking a question, for partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.

She questions the conventional wisdom that Eden was a perfect place:

It's puzzling that Eden is synonymous with paradise when, if you think about it at all, it's more like a maximum-security prison with twenty-four hour surveillance. […] God places Adam and Eve in a place where there can be no love; only fear, and fear-based behavior, obedience. God threatens to kill Adam and Eve if they disobey his wishes. God tells them that the worst crime, a capital offense, is to ask a question; to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. What kind of father is this?

She follows this up with an idea I had not previously read:

Perhaps Genesis should be read as an ironic story. Here's a god who does not give us the knowledge of good and evil. He knows we don't know right from wrong. Yet he tells us not to do something anyway. How can someone who doesn't know right from wrong be expected to do the right thing? By disobeying god, we escape from his totalitarian prison where you cannot ask any questions, where you must never question authority. We become our human selves.

After some Copernican cosmology, Druyan discusses “a corrupt treaty that resulted in a troubled peace” between religion and science:

The churches agreed to stop torturing and murdering scientists. The scientists pretended that knowledge of the universe has no spiritual implications. It's a catastrophic tragedy that science ceded the spiritual uplift of its central revelations: the vastness of the universe, the immensity of time, the relatedness of all life and it's preciousness on this tiny world.

[…]

What I find disappointing about most religious beliefs is that they are a kind of statement of contempt for nature and reality. It's absurdly hubristic. It holds the myths of a few thousand years above nature's many billion-yeared journey. It says reality is inferior and less satisfying than the stories we make up.

She doesn’t dwell on the malicious myths of Sagan’s alleged “deathbed conversion,” instead preferring to talk about their life together:

Carl faced his death with unflagging courage and never sought refuge in illusions. The tragedy was that we knew we would never see each other again. I don't ever expect to be reunited with Carl. But, the great thing is that when we were together, for nearly twenty years, we lived with a vivid appreciation of how brief and precious life is. We never trivialized the meaning of death by pretending it was anything other than a final parting. Every single moment that we were alive and we were together was miraculous… […] I don't think I'll ever see Carl again. But I saw him. We saw each other. We found each other in the cosmos, and that was wonderful. [emphases added]

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

Bush at is full of faux outrage over the New York Times article discussing the administration’s financial monitoring program:

The disclosure of this program is disgraceful. We're at war with a bunch of people who want to hurt the United States of America, and for people to leak that program, and for a newspaper to publish it does great harm to the United States of America.

The SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) monitoring has been public knowledge since December 2002, when a public report specifically mentioned SWIFT and noted that “The United States has begun to apply new monitoring techniques to spot and verify suspicious transactions.”

MediaMatters notes that the Bush administration has spoken about the financial monitoring program at least eight times, including this statement from Dubya himself on 24 September 2001:

We've established a foreign terrorist asset tracking center at the Department of the Treasury to identify and investigate the financial infrastructure of the international terrorist networks.

It will bring together representatives of the intelligence, law enforcement and financial regulatory agencies to accomplish two goals: to follow the money as a trail to the terrorists, to follow their money so we can find out where they are; and to freeze the money to disrupt their actions.

We're also working with the friends and allies throughout the world to share information. We're working closely with the United Nations, the EU and through the G-7/G-8 structure to limit the ability of terrorist organizations to take advantage of the international financial systems.

Is this supposed to be an attempt on his part to keep the program secret?

Glenn Greenwald summarizes the administration’s real problem with the Times:

Prior to the "treasonous" Times articles, The Terrorists already knew that we were eavesdropping on their international calls and monitoring their banking transactions -- because that information was previously, and repeatedly, put into the public domain, often by the Bush administration and President Bush himself. What the Times revealed is the lack of oversight and checks on these intelligence-gathering activities, not the existence of the activities themselves, which were already well known. [emphasis added]

Since the NYT cannot be completely controlled they must be maligned for their failure to conform. MediaMatters lists the many instances of media mouthpieces doing the administration’s bidding, making their perpetual accusations of treason against anyone in the media who dares to criticize Dear Leader Bush. Over at Hughes for America, the indignation runs high:

Is this outrage really about the leaking and reporting of sensitive material? No, because, if it were, the administration and its supporters would be leading the charge against those who printed the Valerie Plame information. This isn't about that. It's about an administration's contempt for a press corps that sometimes pokes holes in its veil of secrecy. It's about the White House's efforts to turn the typically servile media into the official house organ of the Republican Party.

In another post, Greenwald—not a man given to baseless hyperbole—noted that:

After the unlimited outpouring of venomous attacks on the Times this weekend, I believe these attacks on our free press have become the country's most pressing political issue. […] A book could and ought to be written about the corrupt reasoning and truly unparalleled dangers characterizing this anti-media lynch mob. But for now, following are what I believe are the most noteworthy points:

(1) There is not a single sentence in the Times banking report that could even arguably "help the terrorists." […]

(2) The reason there is "no evidence of abuse" is precisely because the administration exercises these powers in total secrecy. […]

(3) The Founders unequivocally opted for excess disclosures by the media over excess government secrecy and restraints on the press. […]

(4) How can any rational person believe that the reporters and editors of The New York Times want to help terrorists attack the U.S.? [emphasis added]

Greenwald supports his assertions with facts, which is one of the things separating his analyses from those on the Right who specialize in unsupported smears and slander.

The latest Washington Monthly cover story, "Why Conservatives Can't Govern," is a great follow-up to the Lakoff piece on Bush's incompetence. Alan Wolfe leads with an observation that the Bush administration "if not the worst in American history, will soon find itself in the final four." After comparing the Busheviks to exiled Trotskyites, Wolfe notes [all emphases added] that:

The collapse of the Bush presidency, in other words, is not just due to Bush's incompetence (although his administration has been incompetent beyond belief). Nor is it a response to the president's principled lack of intellectual curiosity and pitbull refusal to admit mistakes (although those character flaws are certainly real enough). And the orgy of bribery and special-interest dispensation in Congress is not the result of Tom DeLay's ruthlessness, as impressive a bully as he was. This conservative presidency and Congress imploded, not despite their conservatism, but because of it.

[...]

Contemporary conservatism is a walking contradiction. Unable to shrink government but unwilling to improve it, conservatives attempt to split the difference, expanding government for political gain, but always in ways that validate their disregard for the very thing they are expanding. The end result is not just bigger government, but more incompetent government. [...] As a way of governing, conservatism is another name for disaster.

Using the examples of FEMA, Medicare, and Iraq, Wolfe observes the GOP's "ideological hostility toward government" leads inevitably to failure.

Bad government--indeed, bloated, inefficient, corrupt, and unfair government--is the only kind of conservative government there is. Conservatives cannot govern well for the same reason that vegetarians cannot prepare a world-class boeuf bourguignon: If you believe that what you are called upon to do is wrong, you are not likely to do it very well.

A number of brilliant bons mots sparkle among the paragraphs of Wolfe's polemic, which is well worth reading in its entirety.

John at AmericaBlog has some updated details on the latest Supreme Court's Hamdan v. Rumsfeld decision: the most reactionary court in our lifetimes has upheld the principles of the Geneva Conventions (specifically Common Article III) against the Bush administration’s demand to try detainees before military tribunals. (It also will likely mean that Bush’s torture regime is also unconstitutional.) The entire opinion is here (1347KB PDF).

Rule of law: 1
Bush: 0

Anonymous Liberal mentions a revelation from Ron Suskind’s The One Percent Doctrine that hasn’t gotten much attention yet: bin Laden’s pre-election endorsement of Bush. (Of course, he didn’t come right out and say it, but that’s obviously what he intended.) The CIA noted that “bin Laden's message was clearly designed to assist the President's reelection," and the acting director observed that "Bin Laden certainly did a nice favor today for the president."

AL has several quotes from the mainstream conservative media, whose mouthpieces consistently spun bin Laden’s tape to impugn John Kerry instead. He concludes by saying

Well, irony of ironies, al-Qaeda's real goal was apparently to get Bush re-elected, and it succeeded. All "without firing a shot." I wonder if the President ever sent Bin Laden a thank-you note.

Rush's Law

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Rush Limbaugh’s little drug problem (the Viagra, not the Oxycontin) has led to much laughter in the blogosphere. Digby has a good laugh at Rush’s expense, observing that the “impotent, thrice divorced, ex-drug addict, conservative, parolee” “went on a sex tour in the Caribbean and found himself rudely embarrassed for carrying recreational prescription drugs in his doctor's name.”

Who can't relate to that? This is a man who has been run through the mud and I think we would benefit from a thorough national conversation to try to understand Rush's urgent need for sex in one of the most poverty stricken countries in the world. Wouldn't he feel unburdened if he could share his thoughts with some of his staunch allies like James Dobson or Pat Robertson? Surely they'd be willing to hear his testimony.

And from the conservo-libertarian standpoint, I frankly think anonymous Viagra for every American male should be a right, not a privilege. The jack-booted customs agents should not be able to roust good taxpaying citizens who just need a little discrete help when they go on vacation and want to score a couple of underage sex slaves. It's unamerican. Perhaps some legislation is in order. We could call it Rush's Law.

Another of the GOP’s pandering project has gone down in flames: their proposed Constitutional amendment to solve the non-problem of flag “desecration” has failed to clear the Senate by a single vote. The New York Times mentions the conservative desire to overturn the 1989 Texas v. Johnson decision (491 US 397) that invalidated existing state flag protection statutes. This Washington Post article has the best anecdote:

The Citizens Flag Alliance, a group pushing for the Senate this week to pass a flag-burning amendment to the Constitution, just reported an alarming, 33 percent increase in the number of flag-desecration incidents this year.

The number has increased to four, from three.

I guess that, since all the real problems of our nation have been solved, the GOP felt justified in going after a few purely symbolic ones.


update (12:27pm)
ThinkProgress has Orrin Hatch’s comments on the relative importance of flag-burning when compared to “the Iraq war, terrorism, the energy crisis, the 45 million Americans without health insurance or the 37 million Americans living in poverty.” Senator Hatch says:

I was asked this afternoon by a large body of media: Is this the most important thing the Senate could be doing at this time? I can tell you: You’re darned right it is.

It’s “the most important thing” for whom, exactly?

George Lakoff has co-written a great piece at The Rockridge Institute (reposted at HuffPo) which states flat-out that “Bush Is Not Incompetent.” The authors point out that “Bush's disasters -- Katrina, the Iraq War, the budget deficit -- are not so much a testament to his incompetence or a failure of execution. Rather, they are the natural, even inevitable result of his conservative governing philosophy.” After listing his “accomplishments”—from “centralizing power within the executive branch to an unprecedented degree” to “Passing Orwellian-titled legislation assaulting the environment,” the article notes that

the Bush administration has been overwhelmingly competent in advancing its conservative vision. It has been all too effective in achieving its goals by determinedly pursuing a conservative philosophy.

It's not Bush the man who has been so harmful, it's the conservative agenda.

Among its main tenets are: expanding market fundamentalism, impugning social programs and regulatory agencies, trying to spread democracy via advanced weaponry, and the “unitary executive” theory of the Decider-in-Chief. In none of these areas has the Bush administration actually demonstrated incompetence. In fact,

Had Bush actually been incompetent, he would have never been able to lead us to war in Iraq. Had Bush been incompetent, he would not have been able to ram through hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts. Had Bush been incompetent, he would have been blocked from stacking the courts with right-wing judges. Incompetence, on reflection, might have actually been better for the country.

Andrew Sullivan has several recent posts (here, here, here, and here) about political philosopher Leo Strauss. Sullivan twice refers to a “paranoid left” that has “never bothered to read or engage Leo Strauss,” but I’m not sure to whom he is referring. When he quoted from a reader who opined that “the liberal attack on Strauss is a misguided, ignorant, and nasty campaign. I have not seen a single citation from a book by Strauss in one of these critiques,” I thought immediately of Shadia Drury and Anne Norton. Drury (The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss) and Norton (Leo Strauss and the Politics of American Empire) both quote liberally from Strauss, and they are the most prominent of his critics on the left (leaving out Daniel Flynn, who criticizes Strauss from the right). My own criticisms of Strauss (from the left, to be sure) stem directly from reading his books, as well as those of his protégé Allan Bloom. While paranoid and ill-informed liberal assessments of Strauss and Straussians have been written, such as the Lyndon LaRouche variety, it is disingenuous to claim that honest and informed criticism does not exist.

Having said all that, I nevertheless eagerly anticipate Sullivan’s treatment of this greatly revered (and greatly reviled) figure of American conservatism in his upcoming book.

Joe Conason writes at the New York Observer about the predictable pandering of the Right on the pseudo-issue of flag “desecration.” (Need I even make the point that, as a secular symbol, the American flag is technically not “sacred?”)

Noting that the House and the various state legislatures cannot be depended upon to defend the Constitution, Conason points out that

the final bulwark against this historic assault on freedom of speech consists of 34 Senators with enough courage to stand up for the substance of the nation’s ideals—and to resist transforming the beloved symbol of those ideals into an authoritarian fetish. That is the real danger to the flag, whose spirit the Republican majority is desecrating with a cynical partisan zeal.

After launching into Democratic minority leader Harry Reid for his support of the proposed amendment, Conason observes:

Fortunately, there is someone else in power who is willing to stand up for free speech, even at the risk of his own future prospects. If the Senate rejects the flag amendment and preserves the Bill of Rights from unprecedented disfigurement, a full measure of thanks will be owed to Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican whip and prospective leader. He has vowed to vote “nay,” even though his party plans to use the amendment to preserve their majority.

Conason concludes:

Like so many resolutions and acts of Congress—and like the proposed statutes to prohibit flag desecration—this misguided amendment is a “solution” without a problem. But unlike many of the stupid things that politicians do, this one is important. It is a statement of contempt for the First Amendment and a dangerous step toward further restrictions on speech and expression. Let’s hope that Mr. McConnell and at least 33 of his colleagues can resist the entreaties of those in both parties who would protect the flag by torching the Constitution.

Let us hope.

Some blue-staters have been feeling a twinge of triumphalism lately, between Bush’s abysmal approval ratings and the terminally stalled wingnut agenda (see my previous post), but it’s useful to see this Human Events satire as a cautionary tale.

Stare not into the abyss…

Here is my letter-to-the-editor in response to an unsigned editorial in the most recent issue of The Advocate.

Thank you for your editorial "Freedom and Its Limits" about the danger that fundamentalism poses to freedom. I think, however, that more care should be taken to distinguish theists from theocrats. "Christianist" is a useful term in this endeavor, for which we can thank several bloggers (particularly Andrew Sullivan) who have begun to popularize its use. Goldberg makes this differentiation in her book, writing that “Christian nationalism and Christianity are two very different things,” and noting that the word “Christianism” can be used to parallel how “political Islam is often called Islamism to differentiate the fascist political doctrine from the faith.”

Although we may disagree with others’ religious opinions—as an atheist, I regularly do so—we must recognize that believers are a large majority of this nation. They gave invaluable support to the movements for abolition, suffrage, and civil rights; they may do the same for gay equality if we don’t drive them away by conflating their honest faith with the Christianists’ power-hungry demagoguery.

Many fair-minded religious Americans are dismayed that homophobic hate-mongers like Fred Phelps have become the public face of their faith. Jim Wallis of Sojourners and Michael Lerner of Tikkun (authors of God’s Politics and The Left Hand of God, respectively) are the most obvious examples of religious progressives, and there are far too many others—drawn from Reform Judaism and the Unitarian Universalist Association to the United Church of Christ and the Metropolitan Community Church—to list here. Reconstructionists, Dominionists, and other Christian nationalists may get the most press, but a large proportion of religious believers have not closed their minds to modern knowledge about sexual orientation.

We slight them and their faith at our peril.

On Friday evening, Salman Rushdie led off Bill Moyers’ Faith and Reason series on PBS. Rushdie talked about being “a hard-line atheist,” discussed signing the manifesto against Islamism, and asked “What kind of a god is it that’s upset by a cartoon in Danish?” about the cartoon controversy earlier this year. The highlight was when Rushdie noted that “morality is previous to religion:”

…it's perfectly possible for me to say that we can as civilized people create moral codes to live by. We do not need that ultimate arbiter. And one answer to the question is democracy. And it seems to me that what happens in a democracy is that we don't have an absolute view of what is right and wrong. We have an argument about it, you know. And the argument never ends.

We have a continuing argument about what's okay and what's not okay, you know. At a certain point we believed that slavery's okay, you know. At the later point the argument develops and we decide-- I mean in that case with a lot of bloodshed--we decide that slavery's not okay. At a certain point we believed that women should not have the vote. Or that people-- or that only property holders should have the vote. At another point the, the argument proceeds and we say that that's not right, and that everybody--we have universal suffrage. So it seems to me that that argument is freedom. You know, it's not to win the argument, because actually nobody ever wins that argument. But the argument itself is freedom. [emphasis added]

You can read the first episode’s transcript here. Check the PBS schedule for information about the next episode.

Commenting on Bill O’Reilly’s “malign viciousness,” Andrew Sullivan points out the latest error from the Spin Zone:

…when trying to excuse what might have been a war crime in Haditha, and in attempting to ignore or belittle the first American president to order the pre-meditated torture of military detainees, O'Reilly went a little too far. He got his facts wrong, and attributed a World War II Nazi massacre of unarmed American soldiers to the victims, Americans. He did this twice. Faced with this error, he blustered, lied again and then altered the transcript. [emphasis added]

The video of Keith Olbermann demolishing O’Reilly is here.

Matthew Yglesias has some comments on the Coulter/Hitler quiz and how the Right’s writing style has changed over the past half-century:

Their rhetoric does have a lot of similar themes -- namely that liberals are evil and hell-bent on betraying the country -- but you really can tell them apart. For one thing, they have distinctive attitudes toward the question of the bourgeoisie. For Hitler, liberals are bourgeois (Hitler was, it's worth recalling, using liberal in the broader, European sense) and that's part of the problem. Coulter, by contrast, sees liberals as assaulting bourgeois values that she's defending.

Here’s a simple refutation of the “atheism is a religion” canard. It’s funny, too!

(Thanks to Delta at Freethought Weekly for the tip.)

Hank Steuver suggests a real “marriage protection” amendment over at The Stranger:

Amendment: Congress shall recognize no votes or opinions about the sanctity and preservation of marriage from its members who have been divorced and/or remarried while their first spouses are still alive. (To say nothing of those who are married while not-so-secretly fucking someone on their staff.)

The rest of his essay, and its discussion on “family-values” hypocrisy, is also worth reading.

(Thanks to John at AmericaBlog for the tip.)

The InterAcademy Panel on International Issues has issued a press release and a statement on the teaching of evolution. Backed by 67 of the world’s national science academies, including the US National Academy of Science, the IAP observes that the science of evolution is being”concealed, denied, or confused with theories not testable by science.” Here is the meat of the statement:

We agree that the following evidence-based facts about the origins and evolution of the Earth and of life on this planet have been established by numerous observations and independently derived experimental results from a multitude of scientific disciplines. Even if there are still many open questions about the precise details of evolutionary change, scientific evidence has never contradicted these results:

1. In a universe that has evolved towards its present configuration for some 11 to 15 billion years, our Earth formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago.

2. Since its formation, the Earth – its geology and its environments – has changed under the effect of numerous physical and chemical forces and continues to do so.

3. Life appeared on Earth at least 2.5 billion years ago. The evolution, soon after, of photosynthetic organisms enabled, from at least 2 billion years ago, the slow transformation of the atmosphere to one containing substantial quantities of oxygen. In addition to the release of the oxygen that we breathe, the process of photosynthesis is the ultimate source of fixed energy and food upon which human life on the planet depends.

4. Since its first appearance on Earth, life has taken many forms, all of which continue to evolve, in ways which palaeontology and the modern biological and biochemical sciences are describing and independently confirming with increasing precision. Commonalities in the structure of the genetic code of all organisms living today, including humans, clearly indicate their common primordial origin. [emphasis added]

(Thanks to CommonDreams for the tip.)

This quiz asks readers to distinguish between quotes from Adolf Hitler and Ann Coulter. I answered all of them correctly. This isn’t surprising, as many of them are outrageously easy. I’d like to see a revised version with more carefully chosen quotations.

(Thanks to John at AmericaBlog for the tip.)

John at AmericaBlog has the details and the photo. How will the constantly pandering wingnuts react to this?

Stephen Pizzo writes at AlterNer about being a “cut-and-run” liberal, and lists all the things the electorate should repudiate in November. (It reminds me of the list I wrote a week ago. I'm thinking that a t-shirt based on this list might be a good idea.)

NSAT&T

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Kim Zetter writes at Salon about a government presence (presumably the NSA) at an AT&T facility in St. Louis that manages their Internet backbone. (This appears to be similar in purpose to the secret spying room in San Francisco, as Zetter wrote last month.)

(Thanks to Josh at TPM for the tip.)

Hume’s Ghost writes over at Glenn Greenwald’s site about why the public square must not be ceded to the hateful and eliminationist rhetoric of media mouthpieces such as Malkin, Coulter, and Savage:

We must answer Coulter and her ilk, because unanswered their hateful rhetoric creeps into society, meant to divide us from our friends, family, and fellow Americans. The reason these pundits are incapable of disagreeing with someone without first labeling an opponent as liberal, Democrat, socialist, far left, moonbat, communist etc. (and the same can go for those who do the reverse) is because their tribal binary logic requires them to identify an outgroup, a "them" to be excluded, or worse, eliminated.

[…]

So it behooves us to answer and expose Coulter's puerile drivel so long as our national media continues to legitimize her and her compatriots.This isn't a partisan issue, it's a human decency issue, as principled conservatives recognize. If we want to stop the rot of our democratic institutions, then we must counter the putrid rhetoric of Coulter, Malkin, and company which acts as corrosive acid dissolving the bonds of our democratic society, dividing the country into "Us" versus "Them".

Randall Balmer’s “Jesus is Not a Republican” is an excerpt from his upcoming book Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America.

Noting the Bush administration’s support for torture, and how “[c]orporate interests are treated with the kind of reverence and deference once reserved for the deity.,” Balmer observes that “The leaders of the religious right have led their sheep astray from the gospel of Jesus Christ to the false gospel of neoconservative ideology and into the maw of the Republican Party:”

I went to Sunday school nearly every week of my childhood. But I must have been absent the day they told us that the followers of Jesus were obliged to secure even greater economic advantages for the affluent, to deprive those Jesus called "the least of these" of a living wage, and to despoil the environment by sacrificing it on the altar of free enterprise. I missed the lesson telling me that I should turn a blind eye to the suffering of others, even those designated as my enemies.

(Thanks to TChris at TalkLeft for the tip.)

Most people have, by now, seen the email purporting to prove the usefulness of racial profiling in preventing terrorism by means of questions like this:

In 2002, reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and murdered by:
  • a. Bonnie and Clyde
  • b. Captain Kangaroo
  • c. Billy Graham
  • d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40
  • Patrick Smith at Salon has a useful retort with questions like this:

    In 1962, in the first-ever successful sabotage of a commercial jet, a Continental Airlines 707 was blown up with dynamite over Missouri by:
  • a. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40
  • b. Ann Coulter
  • c. Henry Rollins
  • d. Thomas Doty, a 34-year-old American passenger, as part of an insurance scam
  • Smith writes that:

    The trouble with profiling isn't necessarily that it's racist or discriminatory. The trouble is that it doesn't work.

    Which data points are we supposed to use? Formulating some religious-ethnic template becomes extremely unreliable. Most of the world's Muslims aren't Arabs. Not all Arabs are Muslims. Nearly half of Lebanon is Christian. Iranians aren't Arabs. Neither are Turks. Plenty of Syrians have red hair and green eyes. The Bali bombers weren't Middle Eastern, they were Asian. And the blabbermouth reactionaries who scream for ethnic profiling were mum when USA Today reported that al-Qaida was actively recruiting white Chechens.

    Just think for a moment about our homegrown American terrorist incidents: Oklahoma City, the Atlanta Olympics, the Unabomber, and the DC snipers. You will notice that none of the perpetrators were men of mid-eastern descent. No one, however, suggests singling out white males—or ultra-conservative while males, or white male militia members—for special scrutiny.

    (Thanks to Bruce Schneier for the tip.)

    AirTorture

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    Amnesty International has put up a parody website called AirTorture, which advertises “No Fares, No Paperwork” flights:

    Air Torture is the premiere airline transporting detainees to select torture chambers around the world. Organizations such as Amnesty International like to call our business "outsourcing torture" because we deliver all our customers to countries where torture is routinely practiced - but our partners at the U.S. government have come up with a much better name: "extraordinary rendition."

    Thanks to the Bush Administration, the "war on terror" has been a big boon to our business. All flights are fully funded by unsuspecting taxpayers in the United States.

    Their “exclusive services” include:

  • All Air Torture reservations are booked through government intelligence agencies.
  • Air Torture takes seatbelts to a whole new level, providing passengers with restrains such as shackling in uncomfortable positions for the duration of their flight, and amenities such as hooding. As an added bonus, we'll forcibly drug you so you can spend the entire trip in a disoriented state!
  • Air Torture respects your privacy. We won't tell your family or loved ones where you are, what's happened to you, or when you'll be back - ever! It will be just like you disappeared.
  • I wonder if we progressives should leave this sort of humor to conservatives. Although the website makes several important points, I’m sure that none of this is funny to the victims.

    (Thanks to TalkLeft for the tip.)

    Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon keeps tabs on the wingnuts, and receives email from the American Family Association. Her latest post, “To the Christmobile, Jesus! It’s time to save traditional marriage!” illustrates another of the wingnut lies about the “gay agenda.” The AFA had this to say:

    Once homosexual marriage is legal, our religious liberties will be stripped away. Even pro-homosexual marriage advocates agree with that statement.

    and Marcotte responded:

    That’s completely wrong. For instance, he thinks lying is okay and I think it’s wrong, which is why he’s lying here about threats to religious liberty and I’m pointing out the truth, which is that the ban on same sex marriage is what is threatening to religious liberty. After all, the same sex marriage ban exists for only one real reason–the government is favoring bigoted churches over non-bigoted ones, which is a violation of the spirit of the First Amendment, if not the letter. [emphasis added]

    That is a good point, and one that I have not read before.

    Glenn Greenwald is righteously indignant about Specter’s ass-covering lies. Greenwald obtained a copy of the marked-up legislation wherein Specter proposed amnesty for the Bushevik lawbreakers, proving that Jack Cafferty was right: Specter is indeed a “gutless Republican worm.”

    In sum, Specter's legislation amends the provision of FISA which provides for criminal penalties, and then, astonishingly, makes those revisions retroactive all the way back to 1978 (when FISA was enacted). The effect and almost certainly the intent of those revisions is to immunize the President and anyone acting under his authority from criminal liability for violating FISA -- just as the Post and the ACLU correctly reported, and just as Specter falsely denied. [emphasis added]

    Why does the arcane process of amending a 28-year-old statute matter? Greenwald provides the answer:

    …if we stand by and allow the Republicans in Congress to legislatively exonerate the President and his aides from breaking the law, it is hard to imagine what we won't stand by and tolerate. If the President can break the law and then use his party's control over the Congress to grant him legislative immunity from the consequences of his criminal behavior, no hyperbole is required to say that the rule of law exists only as an illusion. [emphasis added]

    New Scientist reports that the Pentagon is

    funding research into the mass harvesting of the information that people post about themselves on social networks. And it could harness advances in internet technology - specifically the forthcoming "semantic web" championed by the web standards organisation W3C - to combine data from social networking websites with details such as banking, retail and property records, allowing the NSA to build extensive, all-embracing personal profiles of individuals.

    Jon Callas, chief security officer at encryption firm PGP, supplies words of wisdom for our times: “I am continually shocked and appalled at the details people voluntarily post online about themselves. […] You should always assume anything you write online is stapled to your resumé.”

    (Thanks to Bruce Schneier for the tip.)

    PZ Myers explains at Pharyngula why he still thinks it wise to wade into the fever-swamp of wingnut lunacy:

    I've watched good people do nothing about creeping lunacy and anti-intellectualism for decades. I watched appalled when that senile fool Reagan was elected. I was even more appalled when George W. Bush, airhead extraordinaire and utterly unqualified ignoramus, became president. The citizenry howls to destroy the science standards in our public schools, or complacently votes to lower property taxes at the expense of our children's minds.

    […]

    …at least some of us are obligated to stand against the tide of garbage and fight it. We have to be loud and we have to be vocal and we can't afford to just shrug our shoulders and let it all pass. If we accept the idea that we're wasting our time criticizing patent idiots, then we might as well retire silently with folded hands and let the liars and scoundrels and frauds and kooks continue their campaigns unhindered. It's really worked well for us so far, hasn't it?

    And for those who think Coulter is a buffoon and clown and opportunist, it doesn't matter how cynical she is, or whether she believes her own lies. Other people do. You don't want to take her seriously? Too bad. They do. [emphasis added]

    Intellectual pugnacity is often underappreciated. Myers is right to illuminate Coulter’s ignorance of evolution, just as RawStory and the Rude Pundit (here, here, and here) are right to publicize her plagiarism, and anyone who bemoans her slanders of the 9/11 widows is likewise correct in doing so.

    None of us should refrain from criticizing Coulter when she’s wrong, although it can be a time-consuming endeavor.

    Joe Conason’s piece in the New York Observer reminds us that, without the 9/11 widows who Ann Coulter likes to slander, Bush would have blocked the 9/11 Commission’s investigation:

    The truth about the Jersey Girls—Kristen Breitweiser, Patty Casazza, Mindy Kleinberg and Lorie van Auken—is that they loved their husbands deeply, of course. They and their children continue to suffer from the loss that Ms. Coulter so heartlessly mocks. The truth is that in their suffering, these courageous women joined with other widows and family members to demand a serious investigation of 9/11. Together, they organized, researched and lobbied for thousands of hours to win the appointment of an independent commission, against the determined political opposition of the White House. The truth is that their success was an important victory for every American, without regard to party or ideology, and a vindication of grassroots democracy. The nation owes them all a debt of gratitude. [emphasis added]

    (Thanks to Peter at the Daou Report for the tip.)

    Once again, the Christianists demonstrate their poor grasp of history in an attempt to justify keeping the phrase “under god” in the Pledge. CWA (Concerned Women for America [sic]) Director of Government Relations Lanier Swann said:

    Our country's founding fathers were men of faith who intentionally included the phrase 'under God' in an oath that serves as a symbol of loyalty and patriotism to our great country.

    “Men of faith” is an acceptable description of the Founders, although “Deists” would be more accurate; they were certainly not CWA-style fundamentalists. Swann is off by more than a century for the difference between the Founding and the writing of the Pledge of Allegiance in 1892. The phrase “under god” wasn’t added until 1954, compounding her error by another 62 years

    Some people will believe anything, as long as it fits their preconceptions.

    (Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the tip.)

    When Karl Rove said this about war heroes Sen. John Kerry and Rep. John Murtha,

    "They may be with you for the first few bullets but they won't be there for the last tough battles."

    Christy Setzer of the Senate Majority Project fired back with this:

    "Unfortunately for the American military, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and their merry band of draft-dodgers won't be with you for the first few bullets, the last tough battles, or anywhere along the way."

    Bravo!

    Amanda Marcotte’s “Morality 101 for the ‘Judeo-Christian’ Moralist” gives Dennis Prager’s Coulter-like opinions exactly what they deserve: ridicule and contempt. I have a few words of my own for Prager’s denunciations of Michael Berg and Cindy Sheehan, but I would rather reply with the words of another “morally twisted” pacifist, one who didn’t hesitate to lay down his life in the service of principle. The pacifist in question had some choice words for those consumed by anger, hatred, and revenge:

    Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. […] Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. (Matthew 5:5-9)

    But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5:39 and Luke 6:29)

    But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you… (Matthew 5:44)

    Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21-22)

    So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. (John 8:7)

    Would the “Judeo-Christian values” maven Prager dare to call Jesus a “fanatic” who had “lost his moral bearings” amid “moral darkness” and caused “far more cruelty and death” as a result of his pacifism?

    What a hypocrite.

    Tristero writes at Hullabaloo about the Libertarian/Democratic nexus, which reminded me of my comments on this Kos post from last week. Tristero writes:

    Libertarians were sold a bill of goods by Republicans. As all, repeat all, recent Republican history has shown, they are as much the party of Big Government as the Democrats. Before going blue, however, libertarians will need seriously to refine their notion of what government is. Make no mistake: Democrats do not loathe government. They recognize that there are some functions a government must do. And they are honest - unlike their red counterparts - about their belief that there are some things governments should do. Furthermore, Democrats are once again honest in asserting that there are some things governments do far better than private corporations or charities. (And it goes without saying there are many things the government should keep its filthy hands out of.)

    Discussions—even arguments—about which functions fall into which categories need to happen, and will help to show that Libertarians and Democrats are far closer on many issues than Libertarians and Republicans. Discarding the GOP’s caricature of liberalism is an essential part of this learning process. Here's tristero again:

    I am confident that you will come to the conclusion that liberalism is far more congenial to your worldview than you currently think. You may be remain seriously bugged by my particular brand of liberalism, but those kinds of disagreements are part and parcel of the liberal tradition. No genuine liberal ever wants lockstep agreement. That's for Republicans.

    Joshua Holland at Gadflyer absolutely decimates Charles Krauthammer’s anti-marriage screed from last Friday, “A Ban We Don’t (Yet) Need.” In response to Krauthammer’s extended tirade about the “arrogant solons of Massachusetts,” Holland observes that

    This argument is a perfect example of why a highly-educated populace is so dangerous to conservatives; constitutional scholars and historians studying the Supreme Court have argued, correctly, that the judiciary is the branch of government that is most conservative and the least likely to 'legislate their personal preferences.'

    That's because judges, like legislators (and presidents), are influenced by popular and political culture; their views change along with the social mores of society at large. But, because of the reliance on past precedents, members of the judiciary are bound much more tightly to tradition than legislators.

    […]

    Gay marriage is a perfect example. The Krauthammers of the world will tell you that the Massachusetts Justices imposed their views on the state against the will of the public, because polls show clearly that (a small and declining) majority oppose same-sex marriage.

    But the real story is that the courts decided, about twenty years after the rest of America (or at least 90 percent of it), that consenting adults shouldn't be prosecuted for things they do in their bedrooms. So, in Lawrence V. Texas, the Supreme overturned sodomy laws.

    Then came the part about being consistent. The argument that had prevented gays from being granted the same rights as everyone else, historically, was that they were breaking the law when they hit the sack. Once gay and lesbian sex was decriminalized, the courts had no reason not to give them equal treatment under the law -- it's the whole 14th Amendment thing.

    We don’t need a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages, we don’t need another federal ban, and we don’t need more state bans. We also don’t need those people with limited comprehension of the issue writing discrimination into law.

    This behavior from the Department of Homeland Security is nothing short of pathetic:

    Homeland Security, the $40-billion-a-year agency set up to combat terrorism after 9/11, has been given universal jurisdiction and can hold anyone on Earth for crimes unrelated to national security — even me for a court date I missed while I was in Iraq helping America deter terror — without asking what I had been doing in Pakistan among Islamic extremists the agency is designated to stop. Instead, some of its actions are erasing the lines of jurisdiction between local police and the federal state, scarily bringing the words "police" and "state" closer together. As long as we allow Homeland Security to act like a Keystone Stasi, terrorism will continue to win in destroying our freedom.

    Read it, it’s worth it. The DHS is morphing into a combination of Kafka and the Keystone Kops, if that wasn’t an intentional effect.

    (Thanks to Kevin Drum for the tip.)

    Coulter redux

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    David Carr’s “Deadly Intent: Ann Coulter, Word Warrior” from the New York Times says of her “lethally blonde franchise” that “no other author in American publishing is better at weaponizing words.” Carr concludes:

    You can accuse her of cynicism all you want, but the fact that she is one of the leading political writers of our age says something about the rest of us.

    That is perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the Coulter phenonemon.

    (Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the tip.)

    Glenn Greenwald discusses “The Completely Unreliable Washington Post” and how it impacted his article last Friday about Senator Arlen Specter, about which I commented here. Greenwald notes that

    Before I wrote the post, I searched for the actual text of Specter's bill in order to read it myself, but could not find it (Specter's website is one of the worst sites for any Senator, as it is usually a month or more behind). As a result, my post -- as I noted in a Comment -- was based upon the Post's reporting about Specter's bill, rather than my own reading of it.

    As it now appears, the Post article was simply wrong in what it reported.

    […]

    As soon as I realized this morning that my post on Friday was based upon the apparently false premise that Specter's bill contained an amnesty provision, I was mortified and furious that I posted something so inaccurate based upon the Post article. My immediate priority became looking into that error, figuring out what happened, and then posting about it in order to correct the inaccuracy. I would never leave a post uncorrected that I knew was likely inaccurate.

    Crooks and Liars has the transcript of Specter and Wolf Blitzer, and a link to the video. In it, Specter states that the WaPo article

    was an erroneous report. If anybody has violated the law, they'll be held accountable, both as to criminal conduct and as to civil conduct. And in no way did I promise amnesty or immunity or letting anybody off the hook.

    Since my post on Specter was based on Greenwald’s post, and thus on the Washington Post article, I offer the same correction.

    Glenn Greenwald’s take on Specter’s latest craven proposal is here. I’m not convinced that Specter's idea is a new low—after all, we have Bush I’s pardons for the Iran-Contra felons to consider—but it is rather despicable. Specter’s bill would make seeking a surveillance warrant optional, and grant amnesty to the Bushevik lawbreakers.

    The idea that the President's allies in Congress would enact legislation which expressly shields government officials, including the President, from criminal liability for past lawbreaking is so reprehensible that it is difficult to describe.

    […]

    What makes this proposed amnesty so particularly indefensible is that Specter himself has spent the last two months loudly complaining about the fact that he -- along with the rest of the country -- has been denied any information about how this illegal, secret eavesdropping has been conducted.

    Greenwald asks a few questions:

    Will any Democrats other than Russ Feingold object to the effort by the Senate to shield the President and his administration from liability for past lawbreaking? Will the media discuss in any meaningful way the rather extraordinary development of the Senate literally placing the President above the law by declaring that he cannot be punished for his patently illegal acts against Americans?

    before concluding:

    We are at the point we're at because the Congress and the media have been so eager to allow the President free reign to do what he wants. This new Specter bill drags the country to a still new level of lawlessness. We will soon see if there are any limits to the willingness of Congress and the media to tolerate and endorse transparent attacks on our system of government.

    Bennet Kelley has a great piece at HuffPo about how to become a conservative author in eight easy steps. The fourth rule, “Reagan = Good, Clinton = Bad,” is the best example of conservative pundits’ historical revisionism:

    Always remember that anything good happened because of Reagan and anything bad happened because of the Clintons -- no exceptions. For example, Reagan brought us "Morning in America" but is never responsible for the huge deficits of the 1980s that lead to the 1987 stock market crash (which either were immaculately conceived or the result of the big-spending Democratic Congress). At the same time, Clinton is as a "tax-and-spend liberal" for eliminating the deficits he inherited from Reagan and the elder Bush, but the economic boom that followed was solely the result of Reagan's policies and a Republican Congress.

    You will notice, of course, the absence of such mundane tasks as research and fact-checking from Kelley’s list: best-selling conservative authors have demonstrated that, for a large segment of their audience, such things are unnecessary.

    Tom DeLay’s farewell speech yesterday from the floor of the House was a mixed bag. In the midst of praising the virtues of partisanship, DeLay had this passage that was part truth:

    Liberalism, after all, whatever you may think of its merits, is a political philosophy and a proud one with a great tradition in this country…

    and part bullshit:

    …with a voracious appetite for growth. In any place or any time on any issue, what does liberalism ever seek, Mr. Speaker? More. More government, more taxation, more control over people’s lives and decisions and wallets.

    […]

    Conservatives, especially less enamored of government's lust for growth, must remember that our principles must always drive our agenda and not the other way around. For us, conservatives, there are two such principles that can never be honorably compromised: human freedom and human dignity.

    Let’s contrast his caricature of liberalism with the truth about Bush-era conservatism: more wars, more lies about WMDs, more torture, more lawlessness, more domestic spying, more restrictive “free speech zones,” more scandals, more coverups, more secrecy about government affairs, more K Street lobbyists and industry insiders writing legislation, more deficit spending, more tax giveaways for the wealthy, more poverty, more bankrupt families, more people without health insurance, more attempts to weaken vital social programs, more faith-based bigotry, more breaches in the church-state wall, more intrusions into our relationships and family decisions, and—thinking of you, Tom—more corruption in Congress.

    Enjoy your retirement, Tom. We will.


    update (6/13 @ 13:45pm):

    I’ve been thinking about the last paragraph, and felt that it needed to be reworked. Here is my “director’s cut” version of what the continuation of Bush-era conservatism will bring, absent a Congressional re-alignment in November:

    more lies about non-existent WMDs, and more “fixed” intelligence; more wars, more war crimes, and more war profiteering; more civilian “collateral damage,” more insufficient planning, more inadequate armor, and more of our soldiers dead or maimed; more extra-legal imprisonment, and more “extraordinary renditions,” more rapes, more “waterboarding,” more torture, and more murders; more Abu Ghraibs, more Guantanamos, and more Bagrams; more violations of treaties and international law (the UN Charter, the Nuremberg Charter, and the Geneva Conventions); more warrantless wiretaps, more domestic spying, and more restrictive “free speech zones;” more detentions, more deportations, and more “disappearances;” more government-funded propaganda, more collusion with the corporate media, more Swift-Boating, more faux journalism, and more politically motivated outing of covert operatives; more secrecy about government affairs, more scandals, more stonewalling, more cover-ups, and more obstruction of justice; more non-census redistricting, more disenfranchisement, more voter intimidation and suppression, and more judicial nominations like Roberts, Alito, and Miers; more gross negligence, more dereliction of duty, and more incompetence by “heck of a job” cronies; more K Street lobbyists and industry insiders writing legislation, more pork, more earmarks, more waste, and more fraud; more corporate welfare, more bailouts and giveaways, more no-bid contracts, and more crony capitalism; more “starve the beast” fiscal policy, more deficit spending, more tax giveaways for the wealthy, more raided pensions, and more “trickle-down” economics; more stagnant incomes, more poverty, more bankruptcies, more families without health insurance, and more attempts to weaken vital social programs; more union-busting, more environmental degradation, and more politicization of science; more disregard for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the rule of law; more disdain for the separation of powers and more “signing statements;” more faith-based bribery and bigotry, more Creationism in public schools, more breaches in the church-state wall, and more attempted intrusions into our relationships and our family decisions; more lawlessness, more abuses of power, and more high crimes and misdemeanors; more Frists, more Abmaroffs, more Safavians, more Cunninghams, more Neys, and more Delays.

    The Busheviks can’t possibly do more damage out of office than they did in it.

    John Kerry has a few remarks on Ann Coulter over at HuffPo:

    …grotesque as it is, this is her attempt to be provocative -- infamy's its own kind of fame -- to get her mug on TV and sell books. Coulter is counting on this "controversy" to get her ink and sell her angry harangue of a book.

    Which is why we owe all the 9/11 families Ann Coulter slandered so much more than just outrage.

    Despite Kerry’s spirited defense of the 9/11 widows and their efforts to prevent another terrorist tragedy, Andrew Sullivan has the best analysis of the ever-reprehensible Ann Coulter:

    Devoid of sincerity, detached from any value but performance, juggling rhetoric for its own sake, she is Stanley Fish's model student. Half the time, I tend to think that a Hannity or O'Reilly or Malkin actually believes their own rhetoric. With Coulter, I don't believe it for a second. And so her vileness cannot be taken seriously. She is worse than vile. She is just empty. [emphasis added]

    Perhaps she’ll go away if we stop paying attention to her.

    It appears that, on the heels of Coulter’s latest despicable remarks, the mainstream (corporate/conservative) media has finally started paying a little attention to her apparent vote fraud in Florida. Michelle Pilecki notes in a post at HuffPo that Coulter admitted on Hannity & Colmes last night that she actually lives in New York. That would appear to make her felony conviction a slam-dunk, not to mention the back taxes she would owe for illegally taking a tax exemption on the Florida house that is not her primary residence.

    This could get interesting.

    I just found out about the Secular Coalition for America, the first lobbying group “representing the interests of atheists, humanists, freethinkers, and other non-theistic Americans” in Washington. Their brochure is online here (96KB PDF). I’m glad to see so many freethought group banding together; perhaps now we can create a real secular humanist conspiracy for the wingnuts to be afraid of.

    (Thanks to PZ Myers at Pharyngula for the tip.)

    CNN’s Jack Cafferty called Senator Arlen Specter a “gutless Republican worm” for caving in so easily to the spying-without-a-warrant Bush administration. Here are a few of Cafferty’s words, thanks to Crooks and Liars:

    I actually thought at the time Senator Specter was going to exercise his responsibility to provide some congressional oversight of the executive branch, you know, see if the White House is playing by the rules. Silly me.

    In the end, Senator Specter has turned out to be yet another gutless Republican worm cowering in the face of pressure from the administration and fellow Republicans. There are not going to be any hearings. Americans won't find out if their privacy is being illegally invaded.

    You know what the Senate Judiciary Committee settled for instead? Senator Orrin Hatch said he has won assurances from Vice President Dick Cheney that the White House will review proposed changes to the law that would restrict certain aspects of the NSA program.

    Dick Cheney is going to decide if it's OK to spy on American citizens without a warrant. And this worthless bunch senators has agreed to let him do it. It's a disgrace. [emphasis added]

    I need a t-shirt of this poster. Now.

    Kos has an interesting post on what he calls “Libertarian Democrats.”

    Traditional "libertarianism" holds that government is evil and thus must be minimized. Any and all government intrusion is bad. While practical libertarians (as opposed to those who waste their votes on the Libertarian Party) have traditionally aligned themselves with the Republicans, it's clear that the modern GOP has no qualms about trampling on personal liberties. Heck, it's become their raison d' etre.

    The problem with this form of libertarianism is that it assumes that only two forces can infringe on liberty -- the government and other individuals.

    The Libertarian Democrat understands that there is a third danger to personal liberty -- the corporation. The Libertarian Dem understands that corporations, left unchecked, can be huge dangers to our personal liberties.

    Libertarian Dems are not hostile to government like traditional libertarians. But unlike the liberal Democrats of old times (now all but extinct), the Libertarian Dem doesn't believe government is the solution for everything. But it sure as heck is effective in checking the power of corporations.

    In other words, government can protect our liberties from those who would infringe upon them -- corporations and other individuals.

    John at AmericaBlog has broken the news: the GOP’s anti-marriage amendment has failed to clear the Senate. Again.

    When will they learn?

    Ann Coulter’s new book, Godless, was released yesterday (6/6/06, how amusing). Don’t miss her interview with Lisa De Pasquale of Human Events, where she talks about “the underlying mental disease that creates liberalism.” (Has she been stealing ideas from Michael “Savage” Weiner?) She accuses liberals of engaging in “crying and hysterics” and calls evolution a “discredited religion,” but her most insipid remark is this:

    Christianity fuels everything I write. Being a Christian means that I am called upon to do battle against lies, injustice, cruelty, hypocrisy—you know, all the virtues in the church of liberalism.

    Let me see if I have this correct: Coulter is claiming that her writings (filled with lies and hypocrisy, often in support of cruelty and injustice) are actually fueled by Christianity? If this is true, it may be the best argument yet for being an atheist.

    Even better than this unhinged interview were Coulter’s comments on the Today Show with Matt Lauer, where she attempted to defend this passage from Godless about the 9/11 widows:

    These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzies. I have never seen people enjoying their husbands’ death so much. [emphasis added]

    ThinkProgress has the transcript, and Crooks and Liars has a response from some 9/11 widows. In part, they tell Coulter:

    We are forced to respond to Ms. Coulter’s accusations to set the record straight because we have been slandered.

    Contrary to Ms. Coulter’s statements, there was no joy in watching men that we loved burn alive. There was no happiness in telling our children that their fathers were never coming home again. We adored these men and miss them every day.

    It is in their honor and memory, that we will once again refocus the Nation’s attention to the real issues at hand: our lack of security, leadership and progress in the five years since 9/11. [emphasis added]

    Mike Tidmus has designed a far more appropriate book cover for Slick Rick Santorum's It Takes a Family:

    20060607-santorumfamily.jpg

    Check out the detail page with large versions of the book's original design, the Nazi inspiration, and the remix.

    Great work, Mike! After checking out his CafePress store, I hope he has plans to rework other wingnut books.

    (Thanks to Pam Spaulding at Pandagon for the tip.)

    Dennis Prager’s attack on same-sex marriage at TownHall demonstrates what is wrong with contemporary right-wing argumentation.

    Prager list the three “dominant liberal reactions” to the GOP’s push for an anti-marriage amendment: political pandering, enshrining discrimination in the Constitution, and diverting attention from other issues. These are indeed the initial responses of most liberals, but—unfortunately for Prager’s argument—they are all true. The GOP is pandering to its base, the amendment would mandate marriage bias, and this is a distraction from Republican failures in other areas.

    Prager accuses liberals of the “narcissism” of being unable to “understand conservatives’ views about marriage as anything but bigotry and/or pandering.” The problem is that, absent bigotry and pandering, very little remains of conservatives’ arguments against same-sex marriage. If narcissism is to be accurately used in this context, it is the conservatives who are at fault, due to their inability to understand the personal validity and societal worth of same-sec relationships. To refute another of Prager’s charges, many straight liberals do not merely “feel bad” about conservatives’ anti-gay prejudice; they are willing to call it what it is and work to stop it from being written into federal law.

    His cries about “preserving the definition of marriage” are also far off the mark. Prager would likely have argued along similar lines for “preserving” the status of women as male property or for “preserving” miscegenation laws, but this resistance to change is as unjust now as it was then.

    Prager concludes with a pathetic plea for the “civilization-saving” powers of prejudice.

    What bullshit.

    Over at Pandagon, Amanda Marcotte zeroes in on a number of flaws in Prager’s screed, particularly his accusation that liberals are “radical:”

    It’s true. I radically oppose traditional marriage. I do not want my father to have the right to sell me to his next door neighbor for a bride price. I support the radical idea that women are full citizens, and marriage should be between legal equals. What’s not radical is realizing that if marriage is between equals, then male/female requirements are arbitrary.

    The problem with most conservative commentary, especially on this issue, is that it’s not even a challenge to pick it apart. The challenge is to read it with a straight (no pun intended) face.

    Over at The Nation, John Nichols dissects Bush’s statement yesterday that discrimination against same-sex married couples “serves the interests of all.” He parallels Bush’s mealy-mouthed platitudes in favor of marriage segregation to Wilson’s 1914 expansion of segregation among federal employees. In response to African-Americans who pointed out this “public humiliation and degradation,” Wilson remarked:

    "Segregation is not humiliating, but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen. If your organization goes out and tells the colored people of the country that it is a humiliation, they will so regard it, but if you do not tell them so, and regard it rather as a benefit, they will regard it the same. The only harm that will come will be if you cause them to think it is a humiliation."

    Nichols notes that "History has not been kind to Wilson. It will not be kind to Bush." Prejudice based on sexual orientation is no less onerous than that based on race, despite any ancient tribal prohibitions dredged up from Leviticus. We are still, despite the efforts of some, a nation without an established church. Attempts to base public policy on religion illustrate very clearly why we must remain a secular nation.

    If you only read one commentary on this issue, read the ThinkProgress comparison of Bush’s comments with the facts.

    News flash: Bush loses.

    Here is an interesting historical parallel: the language of a proposed Constitutional amendment from 1911, also “protecting” marriage:

    "Intermarriage between whites and blacks is repulsive and averse to every sentiment of pure American spirit. It is abhorrent and repugnant. It is subversive to social peace. It is destructive of moral supremacy, and ultimately this slavery to black beasts will bring this nation to a fatal conflict" (Rep. Seaborn Roddenberry of Georgia)

    The situations are similar because the prejudices are similar; fear and hatred of the other. It’s time to grow beyond this emotion-based reaction to those who are different.

    As Crooks and Liars observes:

    Influenced by Roddenberry and others, miscegenation bills were introduced in 1913 in half of the twenty states where this law did not exist.

    There’s another historical parallel for you. Unfortunately, it took until 1967 (with the Loving v. Virginia decision) to repeal all of that destructive discrimination.

    I hope our nation doesn’t make the same mistake again.

    Considering today’s opening debates in Congress about a proposed anti-marriage amendment to the Constitution—and Dubya’s upcoming Rose Garden speech—here are two particularly relevant quotes:

    "...as you all very well know, marriage is under vicious attack now, I think from the forces of hell itself.”

    (James Dobson, chair of Focus on the Family)


    "James Dobson's statement this week that those fighting for marriage equality are coming 'from the forces of hell itself' is not what's appalling -- what's appalling is that the president and leaders in Congress will do his bidding whenever he cracks the whip. Next week, the nation will see this puppet show in action: To appease this unabashed bigot -- and under his watchful eyes -- the president will hold a ceremony in the Rose Garden to push writing discrimination into the Constitution. This is more than outrageous. It's pathetic." [emphasis added]

    (Matt Foreman, executive director of National Gay and Lesbian Task Force)

    (Thanks to CivilRights.org.)


    update (11:36am):

    John at AmericaBlog is suggesting that we call our Congresscritters’ offices and ask them a few questions about how they’re defending their own marriages:

    Specifically, we'd like you to ask them to vow that in the past, now, and in the future they will abstain from sodomy (including same-sex and/or male-female analingus, cunnilingus, and fellatio), masturbation, adultery, prostitution, out-of-wedlock sex, and marriages that cannot procreate. We will also ask them about divorce, as there is no greater threat to marriage today than divorce (in addition, the Bible makes clear that divorce is a no-no).


    update 2 (12:01PM):

    Gene Stone writes at HuffPo that “Today is both a day of shame and pride:”

    President Bush’s pandering to the far right is reprehensible, and it will be a major part of his historical legacy, just as Strom Thurmond, Trent Lott, and George Wallace’s reputations will always be contaminated by their positions on civil rights.

    In some ways, George Bush has been a blessing for gays. His biased and cynical actions have created a stage where straight people feel comfortable opposing his positions on gay rights. Today, while the President is posing in the Rose Garden with some of the country’s most hateful bigots, a majority of the country opposes him. And finally, gays don’t feel so alone.


    update 3 (12:18pm):
    The Family Research Council has a succinct statement of their anti-marriage bigotry here (184KB PDF). They even use scare quotes when mentioning same-sex marriages in Massachusetts, and talk admiringly about states rights [sic] as if the civil rights of gay citizens in those states are not to be considered.

    (Thanks to the Rude Pundit for the tip.)

    As this New York Times article notes, Kerry is still fighting the Swift Boar Liars over his service in Vietnam. The data being amassed by Kerry against possible future smears may seem unassailable, but he shouldn’t get overconfident; we saw in 2004 that their viciousness knows no bounds.

    The Rolling Stone article that I saw mentioned online yesterday is finally available: the editorial is here, the full article is here, the charts are here, and more information is here.

    Some of Kennedy's conclusions are overstated, particularly those that rely on exit polls, and have been previously corrected. (See Russ Baker's articles "Election 2004: Stolen or Lost" and "What Didn't Happen in Ohio" at TomPaine.) Despite its flaws, however, I haven't seen a better article-length summation of the entire 2004 election-day debacle than Kennedy's piece. I sometimes reflect that Republicans would never have accepted such a situation if it had not worked to their advantage (witness the Brooks Brothers riots during the Florida fiasco); I'm still unsure whether the Democrats' reluctance to riot indicates a more mature attitude or--more telling--a weariness and resignation borne of previous "defeat."

    The GOP faithful will take one of two paths with this article, as they have done with the others: pretending that there were no problems with the 2004 election (because it benefited their party) or vilifying those who continue to discuss them. Both paths are low roads.


    update (6/6 at 10:12am):
    Mark Blumenthal at the Mystery Pollster has a piece (part one is here) criticizing the exit poll aspects of the Rolling Stone article:

    While it covers many topics involving alleged suppression and fraud in Ohio, the article disappoints in its discussion of the exit poll controversy, because on that aspect of the controversy Kennedy manages to dredge up nearly every long-ago discredited distortion or half-truth on this subject without any acknowledgement of contrary arguments or the weaknesses in his argument.

    Blumenthal does take pains to point out that Kennedy's article "raises some important and troubling questions about real problems in Ohio in 2004," and these mustn't be ignored despite flaws in Kennedy's other conclusions.

    Farhad Manjoo has posted an analysis of the article here. Kennedy responded to Manjoo's criticism, and Manjoo replied here at Salon. It's gratifying to see that, despite their disagreements on the statistics, Manjoo states that he would "like to first note that I agree with him on one main point -- that we should urgently begin the work of honest election reform."


    update 2 (6/9 at 9:01pm):
    Part two of Mark Blumenthal's analysis does further damage to Kennedy's conclusions about exit polls.


    update 3 (6/12@ 10:20pm):
    Mark Blumenthal has posted the third part of his series on the 2004 exit-poll issue. His analyses are increasingly devastating to Kennedy's article.

    Mark Karlin has interviewed Kingdom Coming author Michelle Goldberg over at BuzzFlash. The “Christian Nationalists” to which she refers are those “who believe that the United States needs to be remade as a specifically Christian nation.” Goldberg observes that:

    this is not just a political movement, but an entire parallel reality. It has its own revisionist history, including its own revisionist American history. There are volumes upon volumes that essentially rewrite the history of America, cherry picking various quotes and taking things out of context to try to show that the founders intended to create an Evangelical Christian America, and that separation of church and state is something that they never intended, and indeed would have been appalled by.

    She goes on to describe the historical revisionist goals of the reconstructionists and dominionists:

    They see this battle between the Renaissance and the Reformation, and they believe that the Renaissance and the Enlightenment are corrupted by the influence of the paganism of the ancients. They reject all classical knowledge and see, as opposed to that, a reformation as the closest thing to the kind of society they would like to create - either a kind of theocracy, such as in the Calvinist theocracy in Geneva, or the Puritan theocracy in the colonies.

    Goldberg’s piece at TPM Café, “What Is Christian Nationalism?,” explains in slightly more detail that:

    What I describe as Christian nationalism is not synonymous with evangelical Christianity or even Christian fundamentalism. It is, rather, a movement that purports to have extrapolated a complete governing program from the bible, and that claims divine sanction for its campaign of national renewal. It promotes a revisionist history in which the founders were conservative Christians who never meant to separate church and state, and in which America's true Christian character has been subverted by several generations of God-hating leftists. It explicitly condemns the Enlightenment and denies that Enlightenment values had anything to do with our nation's original ideals. The movement's literature is so vast, its alternative skein of pseudo-facts so intricate, that it often seemed totally impervious to outside argument.

    She goes on to posit that “the teaching of Christian nationalist history may turn out to be the next big educational battle after intelligent design -- a curriculum developed by several leaders in the movement has already been introduced in school districts nationwide.” That’s all we need: a faith-based education where students earn inaccurate “Christian nation” history along with inaccurate “intelligent design” science.

    Kevin Urich asks at AlterNet if the 30-year-old Project Censored, “The News That Didn’t Make the News,” is no longer needed in today’s media atmosphere. Peter Phillips, who has helmed the project for the past several years, has this answer to the persistent accusations of liberal bias:

    "We get accused of liberal bias all the time, but that is simply not the case… It's certainly not the case relative to the Republicans and Democrats. I think we have a bias in terms of free press, freedom of information and the public's right to know. Yeah, we are very biased in that regard. That's what we advocate for. […] There's probably bias relative to corporate power versus human rights, but that's the tradition of journalism, that's what journalists have done at least since the Progressive Movement."

    Anticipating objections to the word “censored,” political commentator Molly Ivins notes that

    Of course, the stories are not actually 'censored' by any authority, but they do not receive enough attention to enter the public's consciousness, usually because corporate media tend to under-report stories about corporate misdeeds and government abuses.

    For a comprehensive view of the corporate mass media, I still consider the year-in-review books from Project Censored to be quite valuable. They may no longer be invaluable, but that is a very difficult bar to clear; the Internet has made it more difficult for the government-industrial complex to bury stories as completely as they once did.

    Paul Waldman’s “Legislating Hate” from TomPaine yesterday spends some time detailing—for those who haven’t been paying attention—the GOP’s reliance on hatred as the motivating force for their donors and voters:

    What do the flag-burning amendment, the gay marriage amendment, the immigration issue and the national language amendment have in common? It’s not just that they seek to solve “problems” that a month or two ago no one felt required urgent attention. The real common denominator is the lowest one: hatred. If you’ve got hatred in your heart, the GOP has a piece of legislation for you. Twelve years after its historic victory, this is what the Republican Party has come to. Where are their “big ideas,” their grand visions of remaking American government and society? Abandoned, with some gathering dust and others, like Social Security privatization, soundly rejected by the public. Without much of an argument to make about their rule, they have been reduced to one more nasty campaign, but this time without even a fig leaf of a policy agenda. So with bad news piling on worse and electoral doom seeming almost inevitable, they reach down into the muck for that blunt instrument that has worked so well for them so many times before.

    […]

    As America continues its long, slow movement toward a more liberal and open society, and the failures of Republican government become clearer, we should hardly be surprised at the corruption spreading through Washington like a fungus. When the president proclaims that he is under no obligation to obey the law unless he feels like it, when the most powerful Republican in the House resigns under indictment, when an influential congressman literally types up a bribe menu for defense contractors, when the capital’s top Republican lobbyist operates a small but lucrative criminal syndicate, these are dark times for the GOP. They have become like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings , transformed by power into a gnarled, grotesque version of themselves. And with the repossession of that power seeming more likely with each passing day, they grow more and more hideous. [emphasis added]

    As soon as the GOP stops being rewarded in their pocketbooks—and at the polls—for hatemongering, they’ll stop doing it. Why do people still give such behavior positive reinforcement?

    A new poll from Quinnipiac University shows that Bush is ranked as the worst president of the past 60 years. Bush’s lead atop the “worst president” list is quite impressive: he was named by 34 percent of voters, with only 17 percent choosing Nixon as the runner-up. The top two presidents on the “best” list were much closer: Ronald Reagan with 28 percent, and Bill Clinton with 25 percent. Busheviks may note the one glimmer of good news from the article:

    "Bush's job-approval numbers remain in the cellar. But he might finally have hit bottom."

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