May 2008 Archives

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Berger, John, et al. War With No End (New York: Verso, 2007)

Verso's War With No End is a sister book--at least in subject matter and design--to Not One More Death, which I reviewed here. The slightly larger size and higher page count of the new book are factors that work in its favor, although the sixteen pages of Joe Sacco's graphic narrative "Down! Up!" (from Harper's) are reproduced at too small a size to fully appreciate his artwork.

A glaringly obvious error arose early in the book, when Lindsey German claimed in "The Long War" (p. 8) that Bush landed aboard the USS Vincennes. (It shouldn't require a fact-checker to note that Chimpy McFlightsuit's photo-op landing was aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln; the USS Vincennes is the guided missile cruiser responsible for destroying an Iranian civilian airliner in 1988.)

Hanif Kureishi's "Weddings and Beheadings," an autobiographical piece about a videographer who is forced to film beheadings for terrorists, is the most harrowing essay in the book. Before reading it, I had assumed some technical ability on behalf of the terrorists; reading about their co-opting innocents into barbarism may be nearly as heinous as their murders.

As with all anthologies, War With No End is a mixed bag; Sacco's and Kureishi's pieces--along with an essay on "Disaster Capitalism" from Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine--are the standouts. If you have an anti-war shelf in your home library, you might consider adding this book to it.

Steve Benen decries "molehill politics" at Crooks and Liars, and dissects the Right's argument that Buchenwald was "merely a slave labor camp" (and therefore not really a concentration camp) at Carpetbagger Report.

D. Aristophanes at Sadly, No! has a great retort from a representative of the 89th Infantry Division to a wingnut blogger looking for more smear material:

Please crawl back under the rock you came out from.

Good day

Raymond Kitchell, veteran 89th Inf Div

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Vaisman, Sima. A Jewish Doctor in Auschwitz: The Testimony of Sima Vaisman (Hoboken, NJ: Melville House, 2005)

It is difficult to discuss memoirs, particularly ones written in one language and read in another, and tales about the Holocaust are perhaps impossible to judge impartially. The most one can reasonably do is discuss how the telling of a particular tale resonates with the reader, and to relate what the writer has done to increase one's understanding of modern history's most horrific event.

In taking us from Auschwitz to Ravensbruck, and finally to Neustadt for liberation by the advancing Soviet army, Vaisman has penned a memoir that easily stands aside other survivors' accounts of the Holocaust--such as Primo Levi's The Drowned and the Saved, and Elie Wiesel's Night. Her voice is less well-known that theirs, but it is no less powerful.

This book is even briefer than it appears; it weighs in at less than 100 pages, of which Vaisman's actual testimony constitutes barely half. Her story has weight beyond its page count, and her voice is not weakened by its succinctness. Serge Klarsfeld writes in the Introduction:

Sima's text deserves, despite its brevity, to be published in a book, since it so concisely reveals the conditions of the extermination of the Jews in this slaughterhouse that was Birkenau. Not only does Sima know how to explain how the concentration camp system functions, but her descriptions are haunting and unforgettable... (p. 14)

I can add little else, so here are some of Vaisman's words:

The sick are already naked, which eliminated the bother of undressing them. They are piled into gas chambers, we still hear a few cries, a few calls for help, a few names, which they shout out at the approach of death, and then, a silence, a profound silence, a silence of death floats over everything.... In the night, huge flames rise up from the chimneys, enormous fat flames, red, which cry out for revenge.... (p. 47)

glass houses

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Obama is being soundly mocked for claiming on Monday that his great uncle helped to liberate Auschwitz; here's how the RNC attacked him:

Barack Obama's dubious claim is inconsistent with world history and demands an explanation. It was Soviet troops that liberated Auschwitz, so unless his uncle was serving in the Red Army, there's no way Obama's statement yesterday can be true. Obama's frequent exaggerations and outright distortions raise questions about his judgment and his readiness to lead as commander in chief.

(Actually, Obama's great uncle was in the 89th Infantry Division that freed the Buchenwald camps, not Auschwitz...oops!)

I find it comical that conservatives are upset over a gaffe this insignificant. Their buddy W has made dozens (if not hundreds: see Bushisms, The Truth about George, and DubyaSpeak for examples) of far worse verbal errors, and their idol Ronnie Reagan repeatedly claimed (to none other than Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir) to have liberated Auschwitz. (Reagan was, of course, lying; he never left the US during World War II.)

Big lies (from Republicans) are fine; slips of the tongue from Democrats are inexcusable.

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Darnall, Steve & Alex Ross. Uncle Sam (New York: DC Comics, 1998)

In honor of Memorial Day, I'm looking back at Uncle Sam, the two-issue 1997 mini-series by Steve Darnall (writer) and Alex Ross (artist) that took on the issue of American patriotism in an engaging and thought-provoking way. (The two issues were collected in both paperback and hardcover volumes.) The collections feature a six-page essay from Darnall and four pages of Ross' sketches and supplementary paintings. Greg Plantamura's annotations to Uncle Sam (parts one and two) may be useful for many (most?) readers who are overwhelmed by the numerous historical quotations and allusions.

Ross renders the title character very closely to that of James Montgomery Flagg's iconic "I Want You" military recruiting poster, which is an appropriate choice for a work this laden with symbolism: a lawn jockey lectures Sam about lynchings, and he has discussions with the living representations of Great Britain, Soviet Russia, and his American predecessor Columbia. This passage (pages 37-39, click to enlarge) shows the electoral celebration of Senator Lou Cannon (modeled after Rush Limbaugh) and the effect of his transparent doubletalk on Uncle Sam and other protesters:

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As edgy as the book itself is, I suppose it's not too surprising that the editors didn't push their audience a little farther by including this Ross image of Uncle Sam from The Village Voice (19-25 November 2003):

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(Ross has a sketch of it here on his website.) It's a beautifully direct image that carries a great deal of iconic weight; if it were offered as a poster or a t-shirt, I'd definitely buy one (it appears to have been sold as a 500-copy print, but I've never seen one for sale).

The question of what constitutes patriotism is the heart of the book, as this must be considered by the reader before the book's final pages of dueling Uncle Sams--and thus dueling conceptions of patriotism--can be understood. The patriotism of Uncle Sam is often--as in the Village Voice cover--a provocative stance, a challenge for us to live up to the ideals that our founding documents espouse. It thus denies the flag-waving, slogan-chanting, lapel-pin-wearing, deity-praising, jingoistic pseudo-patriotism that is often served in its place by politicians, pundits, and their media allies.

Not that this will come as a surprise to any reader of the book, but the following exchange from The Comics Journal (#223, May 2000, pp. 38-73), fixes writer Steve Darnall's and artist Alex Ross' position on the political spectrum:

[Chris] Brayshaw: Uncle Sam has what I would identify as a stridently leftist political viewpoint, which is one that I have some small sympathy to. Is it an accurate reflection of your personal politics or of Steve Darnall's personal politics?

[Alex] Ross: Yeah, we're pretty much lefties. But at the same time, we've been caught in arguments with people who have said that this is too much leftist rhetoric. When we will say, "Wait a minute. Every historical issue that we bring to bear in that story, everything that we show you, that's all a part of real history." (p. 52)

Leaving aside the issue of history and its interpretation, Uncle Sam is not without its flaws. While Ross' panel design is very effective, his page design is somewhat less so; it's as if, by way of analogy, his design thinking often stops at the atomic level and rarely considers the larger molecular issues. This may partially be a result of his decision to use full-bleed images as page backgrounds rather than the white of the paper; for most artists, the white gutters between panels serves to simultaneously separate the panels from each other and unify the page as a whole.

Uncle Sam is, on the whole, a satisfying book. Ross' rendering is first-rate, his color sense is delightful, and he has produced (with writer Steve Darnall) a solid piece of storytelling that doesn't sacrifice the dramatic for the didactic. Ross turns our national icon into a superhero of sorts, but one thoroughly humanized by the struggles of the preceding centuries rather than being blinded by them.


links:

Nate Solloway's review of Uncle Sam at Sojourners

R.C. Baker's "American Gods" from the Village Voice

starry night

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I must thank Jason Kottke for mentioning the New Yorker article "The Dark Side: Making war on light pollution" by David Owen. Owen notes that "most Americans are unable to see the Milky Way in the sky above the place where they live:"

To see skies truly comparable to those which Galileo knew, you would have to travel to such places as the Australian outback and the mountains of Peru. And civilization's assault on the stars has consequences far beyond its impact on astronomers. Excessive, poorly designed outdoor lighting wastes electricity, imperils human health and safety, disturbs natural habitats, and, increasingly, deprives many of us of a direct relationship with the nighttime sky, which throughout human history has been a powerful source of reflection, inspiration, discovery, and plain old jaw-dropping wonder.

I've long deplored the largely unmourned loss of our galaxy from the night sky; with light pollution nearly ubiquitous, most of us live out our lives without ever seeing the Milky Way as our ancestors saw it:


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How much more would we appreciate these wonders if we could actually see them?

Our incessant chatter deafens us to the sounds of nature, and our glare blinds us to its sights; we're creating an impenetrable cocoon for ourselves, one in which our senses are deprived and we are regressing into ignorance rather than maturing. If we have the strength to emerge, will we be able to understand the world around us?

Greta Christina writes about why she and her partner are going to officially tie the knot in California:

When we get married in June, the State of California will officially recognize that our relationship has the same weight as our parents' did, and their parents', and theirs. It will officially drop this "separate but equal" bullshit. It will officially stop seeing us as kids at the little table, poor relatives who should be content with leavings and scraps, second-class citizens. It will officially see us as actual, complete, honest- to- gosh citizens.

[...]

Legalizing same-sex marriage isn't just about the legal and practical recognition of our love and our partnership. It's about social recognition. It's about being seen as a full member of society. Kudos for the California Supreme Court for understanding that. Let's hope the rest of the country figures it out eventually.

There are a million stories like theirs, ones that will enrich our society as "liberty and justice for all" gradually expands to embrace all families.

Today, the Center for Sex and Culture is promoting "National Masturbation Month" with their annual Masturbate-a-Thon (h/t: Amanda at SkepChick) in support of sex education and sexual safety...if you have some free time, lend a hand to the cause!

Family Circus

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We all know that Bil Keane's Family Circus comic strip is a waste of ink and paper, but these two sites (The Other Family and The Free-Floating Dysfunctional Family Circus) improve his trite hackwork immensely. A big tip of the hat goes to Bay of Fundie for mentioning (here and here) these great parodies...I wish the actual comics pages in the newspaper were this funny!

funny money

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Hasbro's website has printable PDFs of Monopoly money (h/t: Jason Kottke)...now I might be able to buy that hotel on Boardwalk!



The second issue of Lapham's Quarterly has been available for a few weeks, and--as with the first issue--it's taken me a while to carve the necessary time out of my reading schedule. I'm a junkie for substantive squarebound magazines: American Interest, American Scholar, The Baffler, Common Review, Democracy, Dissent, Foreign Policy, and Wilson Quarterly are my socio-political favorites, with BBC Music and Gramophone to keep me informed about classical music; LQ is the only one (so far) of a historical bent.

I very much enjoy LQ's breadth of source material, and (from Hammurabi through the home mortgage crisis) the obvious choices are included in this finance-oriented issue--Matthew 19:24, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Thorstein Veblen, John Maynard Keynes, Ayn Rand--although the selections are somewhat idiosyncratic. For example, Rand is represented by the Danneskjold/Rearden "Robin Hood" encounter from Atlas Shrugged rather than the renowned earlier speech from that same book in which the copper-baron character Francisco d'Anconia declares that money is "the root of all good."

On the LQ website, the previous issue has been displaced by the current one rather than being archived. Does this strike anyone else as an inappropriate decision for a history magazine? (Also, the LQ blog still has no feed...)

Paul Shlichta examines "Some Logical Corollaries of California's Gay Marriage Decision" at American Thinker.

Consider, for example, two old friends of mine, Felix and Oscar, who have shared an apartment for decades. Their friendship has no homoerotic overtones; they are in fact persistently if unsuccessfully heterosexual. The legalization of gay marriages wouldn't help them a bit. But if they were to claim to be gay partners, they would, under the present CSC [California Supreme Court] decision, be eligible for all the advantages of a gay marriage. If that isn't "discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation", please tell me what is.

Sure, I'll tell you; this odd couple of friends would be committing fraud by "claim[ing] to be gay partners" in order to obtain marriage benefits. It is true--but irrelevant--that "[t]he legalization of gay marriages wouldn't help them a bit," but as straight men they are already able to marry (women, as they prefer) under current state law; people in a legally advantageous position don't need "help."

Shlichta's example doesn't prove some sort of reverse-sexual-orientation-discrimination, although the new law does create the potential for straight people to commit same-sex marriage fraud (just as they can do now with opposite-sex partners). This possibility for abuse (Chuck & Larry, anyone?) is insignificant compared to the positive benefits of recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples.

Over at American Prospect, Paul Waldman wonders about "The Backlash That Wasn't," and asks "why is it that same-sex marriage doesn't seem to have the political potency it did just a few years ago?"

We've been down this road before. It has been four and a half years since same-sex marriages were legalized in Massachusetts, and for some reason the Bay State has not descended into a perverted bacchanal, families have not been torn asunder by the destructive power of these new unions, and the bonds holding society together have not been torn to shreds. Incredibly, the prophesies of doom were wrong.

[...]

With each passing year, straight Americans become more and more comfortable with gay Americans. This doesn't mean their opinions on marriage are going to be transformed overnight, but it does mean that they will be less susceptible to scare tactics.

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Sertillanges, A.G. The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods (Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1987)

Sertillanges touts Thomas Aquinas' "Sixteen Precepts for Acquiring the Treasure of Knowledge" as "priceless" in his Foreword (p. xxix) to The Intellectual Life, but I found Aquinas' suggestions to be rather trite. Aside from that, this book's advice--though occasionally dated--is invaluable for anyone with a scholarly bent. Sertillanges discusses organizing one's life to do intellectual work, avoiding distractions, reading, note-taking, and writing. There is a smattering of useless god-talk (such as "Intelligence only plays its part fully when it fulfills a religious function" from p. 30) but it is easily ignored as non-essential.

I took inspiration from some passages:

The true intellectual is by definition a man who perseveres. He takes on himself the task of learning and teaching; he loves truth with his whole being; he is consecrated to his work; he does not give it up prematurely. [...] The man of character who has worked unfailingly throughout a long life can go down like the sun into a quiet and splendid death; his work follows him, and at the same time remains to us. (p. 226)

You must write throughout the whole of your intellectual life. [...] When you write, you must publish, as soon as good judges think you capable of it and you yourself feel some aptitude for that flight. (pp. 199-200)

and a gentle rebuke from others:

The passion for reading which many pride themselves on as a precious intellectual quality, is in reality a defect; it differs in no wise from the other passions that monopolize the soul, keep it in a state of disturbance, set up in it uncertain currents and cross-currents, and exhaust its powers. We must read intelligently, not passionately. (pp. 146-7)

Particularly for those readers with a taste of the aphoristic, Sertillanges has penned a minor masterpiece. If you do scholarly work, do yourself a favor by reading The Intellectual Life; it may help you in ways you can scarcely imagine. Here are my Quotes of the Day:

Do you want to do intellectual work? Begin by creating within you a zone of silence, a habit of recollection, a will of renunciation and detachment which puts you entirely at the disposal of work; acquire that state of soul unburdened by desire and self-will which is the state of grace of the intellectual worker. Without that you will do nothing, at least nothing worth while. (p. xviii, Preface)

If you are compelled to earn your living, at least you will earn it without sacrificing, as so many do, the liberty of your soul. (p. 11)

[typos fixed]

Every time I visit the Landover Baptist Church website (or their similarly snarky WhiteHouse.org site), I am overcome by envy for their cutting humor. The LBC proposal to amend the Constitution to conform to "BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES REGARDING MARRIAGE" is a delightful parody of Christianist demands (h/t: Hemant Mehta at Friendly Atheist), and I recommend that everyone read it to see what we're up against when arguing with the "traditional marriage" con men.

Bravo!

This blog has been added to Mojoey's Atheist Blogroll, as he mentioned in this welcome post. I'm not exaggerating when I say that this is excellent company to be in; I've added several of the blogs to my RSS reader over the past year or two since I found the blogroll, and have used some of them for source material as well.

If you enjoy my blog, click the icon on my sidebar (or the list below it) to visit some of the other members of the blogroll...you're bound to find something you like!

I picked up the May-July issue of What Is Enlightenment? a few days ago, hoping that the article on "Atheists with Attitude" (pp. 38-42) would be worth reading. It was about as good as I could have expected, at least until this passage:

"In the delicate balance of natural ecosystems, a predator cannot exist without its prey. Similarly, in the world of human theology, an atheist cannot exist without a God to deny. And just as predators have co-evolved with the creatures they've hunted for thousands of years--an adaptation in one leading to a further adaptation in the other--atheism, and the God (or gods) it denies, has also been evolving. From the first Christians who were labeled atheists for rejecting the pagan gods of Rome to the Enlightenment philosophers who denied the God of the Church, each new stage of atheism has been a criticism of the ruling ideology that made way for humanity's next understanding of the ultimate nature of reality." [p. 39, emphasis added]

Leaving aside the atheist-as-predator analogy--which strikes me as a remnant of the writer's persecution complex--this passage is nonsensical. We atheists can exist quite well without theists' belief in their gods. We were all atheists before mankind created gods to believe in, and (someday) we with all be atheists again when theistic belief is no more.

There may not be a permanent need for the word "atheist," but the reality it describes is nonetheless constant. Others have pointed out that we all exist as a-fairyists and a-unicornists (except, perhaps, for some readers of What Is Enlightenment?) without fairies and unicorns to deny.


update (5/18 @ 10:55am):

Here is the passage that inspired my last remark:

As it happens, no atheist should call himself or herself one. The term already sells a pass to theists, because it invites debate on their ground. A more appropriate term is "naturalist," denoting one who takes it that the universe is a natural realm, governed by nature's laws. This properly implies that there is nothing supernatural in the universe--no fairies or goblins, angels, demons, gods or goddesses. Such might as well call themselves "a-fairyists" or "a-goblinists" as "atheists"; it would be every but as meaningful or meaningless to do so.

(A.C. Grayling, "Can an Atheist Be a Fundamentalist?" from Christopher Hitchens' The Portable Atheist, p. 475)


As expected, the wingnut whining has been especially annoying ever since the California Supreme Court's pro-marriage decision yesterday. Pam Spaulding writes about "Freeper, fundie heads exploding over CA marriage decision" over at Pandagon, and here are a few other examples of right-wing rhetoric:

Janet LaRue breathlessly exclaims at ClownHall that the court has "ordered" same-sex marriages, and asks "Will Citizens Submit?" (The decision, of course, does no such thing...but why should facts get in the way of a sensationalistic headline?)

National Review's William Duncan claims "Supreme Overreach," but his terminology is so confused that he calls his anti-marriage allies "pro-marriage."

At Human Events, Ernest Istook refers to equal marriage rights supporters as "the Neville Chamberlains of the cultural wars." Istook is confused as well: California's pro-equality ruling may become the Brown v. Board of Education or Loving v. Virginia of our era; it is nothing like Chamberlain's Munich Agreement (which gave part of Czechoslovakia--Sudetenland, for those who paid attention in history class--to Hitler).

On the other (sensible) side of the aisle, Glenn Greenwald has pre-debunked most of the conservative "arguments" already. At Washington Monthly, Kevin Drum looks at the polling trends and foresees "a very tough campaign" to defeat the anti-marriage ballot initiative. Over at Slate, Dahlia Lithwick asks "Who You Calling Activist?" and thoroughly demolishes that anti-marriage (and anti-factual) "activist judges" trope:

When it comes to gay marriage, California is a hotbed of activism. Their activist Legislature has twice passed bills that would legalize gay marriage, and their activist governor has twice vetoed those bills. That same activist Legislature also enacted a ban on same-sex marriage in 1977, and its activist citizenry passed a statewide ballot initiative in 2000 doing the same thing. While polls show that Californians are increasingly supportive of gay marriage, other activist citizens have been collecting what now amounts to 1.1 million signatures to amend their constitution in November to say that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." But then today the state's activist Supreme Court got in on the activist action, finding in a 4-3 decision that the California ban on same-sex marriage violates the "fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship." That makes everybody an activist in California, just by virtue of the fact that they are acting. (Let it be noted that it's particularly activist of the state Legislature and its citizens to be banning and legalizing gay marriage all at the same time.) [emphasis added]

Andrew Sullivan thinks through the situation, and comes to a principled--although still conservative--conclusion:

People can talk about activist liberal judges all they want. But the simple truth is that what has changed these past twenty years is not the nature of judges, but our collective understanding of what sexual orientation is. [...] It is simply that the next generation has grown up with a different definition of who gay people are. They see gay people as interchangeable with straight people. They don't think we're inferior to them. Because they know us.

Once you alter that basic understanding, then re-fitting the law to account for it may, at first blush, look liberal or activist, but in fact, it's just removing what now appears a massive anachronism and anomaly. Yes: this means that the court is dong something the first Californians would have regarded as outrageous. But that goes for so many other issues as well, especially race and gender, where our core definitions have shifted with time and knowledge.

Is this shift an ideological one? I don't believe so. It's an empirical one, based on increased knowledge of who gay people are.

The California Supreme Court has issued a ruling on marriage in that state, noting that "an individual's sexual orientation -- like a person's race or gender -- does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights:"

"We therefore conclude that in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples." (p. 7)

Also, in relation to California's domestic partnership legislation, the Court writes "we cannot find that retention of the traditional definition of marriage constitutes a compelling state interest:"

"Accordingly, we conclude that to the extent the current California statutory provisions limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, these statutes are unconstitutional." (p. 12)

The usual bigoted ballot initiative is already being touted as a means to stop marriage equality, but it may very well fail; scare tactics don't work as well as they did four years ago. For one example, read this exchange from Richard Wade at Friendly Atheist.


links:

The CA Supreme Court has posted all sorts of information related to the case

Here are reactions from the ACLU, Freedom to Marry, Human Rights Campaign, and Marriage Equality USA.

Over at Gaytheist Agenda, Buffy announced that she and her fiancée will get married instead of domestically partnered...congratulations!

Greta Christina is getting married, too...congrats to her and Ingrid!

...that Obama's Kentucky campaign poster (h/t: lambert at Corrente) bothers me:

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We're voting for a president, not a priest.

I doubt that Obama would be reaching out so explicitly to Christians if he didn't have to counter the right-wing noise machine that conned some people into believing that he's a Muslim. For one example, check out this exchange (h/t: Andrew Sullivan):

Woman: "I don't know about that Obama guy."

Me: "I'm an Obama supporter, do you mind if I ask what you're unsure about."

Woman: "He's a muslim and there is a biblical prophecy that a muslim will take over our country and destroy the world."

Me: "You're aware he is not a Muslim."

Woman: "He can say anything he wants."

Remember: these people vote.

I heard snippets of John Edwards' endorsement speech this morning on NPR, and I was struck by his repeated "man" references:

There is one man who knows and understands that this is a time for bold leadership. There is one man that knows how to create the change, the lasting change, that you have to build from the ground up. There is one man who knows in his heart that it is time to create one America, not two. And that man is Barack Obama.

Would it really have been so difficult to refer to Obama as a "one candidate" instead of "one man" in this context, particularly considering the gender of his primary opponent?

Daniel Drezner's "Public Intellectuals 2.0" (h/t: Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly) has a well-reasoned take on the false dichotomy of books-versus-blogs:

There is also little evidence that blogs have substituted for books - in terms of consumption or production. Prominent bloggers - Andrew Sullivan, Matthew Yglesias, Virginia Postrel, Glenn Reynolds, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, Ross Douthat, George Packer - have managed to author well-received books. Academic intellectuals who started blogging in recent years - Richard Posner, Steven Leavitt, Dani Rodrik, Cass Sunstein, James Fallows - have not slowed down in the slightest. Authors have also been eager and willing to blog in order to jumpstart a conversation about their books.

Drezner makes several other good points in this piece, and his list of intellectuals has prompted me to update my list.

MediaMatters has analyzed the Pentagon propaganda scandal; they found that:

...since January 1, 2002, the analysts named in the Times article -- many identified as having ties to the defense industry -- collectively appeared or were quoted as experts more than 4,500 times on ABC, ABC News Now, CBS, CBS Radio Network, NBC, CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, and NPR.

Atrios has the best comment:

Still the question remains: if the media doesn't tell you that they were a conduit for government propaganda, did it really even happen?

Down the memory hole.

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Taibbi, Matt. The Great Derangement: Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2008)

Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi has written an entertaining book about his experiences with some of the more whacked-out segments of American society. Taibbi's recurring encounters with John Hagee's Christianist Zionism are the strongest part of his book, and the excerpt published in Rolling Stone ("Jesus Made Me Puke," an abridged version of Chapter Three's "The Longest Three Days of My Life") is the tale of an "Encounter Weekend" with some of Hagee's worshippers who seem a few pews short of a sanctuary.

Variously embedded in Baghdad, enmeshed in the Congressional budget process, embroiled in the NFL draft and a Mitt Romney campaign rally, Taibbi demonstrates an ear for authentic dialogue and for the details that bring his anecdotes alive in the mind of the reader. His experience with the "9/11 Truth" movement parallels the Hagee church lunacy, but Taibbi tries too hard to make them equally significant:

On both the left and the right, huge chunks of the population were effecting nearly identical retreats into conspiratorial weirdness and Internet-fueled mysticism. (p. 4, Introduction)

This is a false equivalence. Left-wing weirdness lacks the political component that is frequently present in its right-wing counterpart; 9/11 Truthers and crystal-caressing crackpots on the Left are no match for the organized Christianist movement on the Right.

Taibbi errs again in the Introduction, calling the Internet "an escapist paradise for the informationally overwhelmed." (p. 5) This is nonsense. While it's easy for Internet surfers to use this vast resource solely to reinforce one's opinions, it's absurd to claim that it is a low-information medium. While the signal-to-noise ration is often low, the Internet is a high-information paradise...even more so than most libraries.

His sexist stereotypes also grate on my ears, as these two examples:

...that sheepish, ashamed-to-have-a-penis look I had seen so many other men wearing in church. (p. 57)

...there is something very odd about modern Christian men--although fiercely pro-military in their politics and prehistorically macho in their attitudes toward women's roles, on the level of day-to-day behavior, they seem constantly ready to break out weeping like menopausal housewives. (p. 64)

I'm inclined to cut him some slack, however, considering the identity of his targets. Reagan comes in for some criticism, referred to as "as skilled and telegenic a liar as politics has ever seen," (p. 161), but even better is Taibbi's smackdown of Bush's "they hate our freedoms" claptrap:

Bush's famous explanation for 9/11 was a new low in American politics. It was a lie, obviously, but it wasn't even a good lie. We were watching, live, the last stage of a fifty-year decline in the performance standards of the White House's propaganda professionals. (p. 162)

"They hate our freedoms" was possible the dumbest, most insulting piece of bullshit ever to escape the lips of an American president. (p. 164)

If you're looking for a light and enjoyable political romp through modern American society, you could do worse than picking up Taibbi's Great Derangement. (Also recommended is Hemant Mehta's interview with Taibbi at Friendly Atheist.)

David Barstow's three-week-old piece in the NYT about the Pentagon propagandizing the news media by sending 75 analysts to spout the party line should have generated a firestorm of indignation. Instead, the media have buried this expose of the Pentagon's pro-Bush propaganda so completely that--for those whose media diet consists on only MSM sources--it may as well not even exist. Here's a primer on the scandal:

What happened?

...a Pentagon information apparatus that has used [military] analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration's wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

What did the Pentagon do besides issue talking points to the analysts?

As it happened, the analysts' news media appearances were being closely monitored. The Pentagon paid a private contractor, Omnitec Solutions, hundreds of thousands of dollars to scour databases for any trace of the analysts, be it a segment on "The O'Reilly Factor" or an interview with The Daily Inter Lake in Montana, circulation 20,000.

Omnitec evaluated their appearances using the same tools as corporate branding experts. One report, assessing the impact of several trips to Iraq in 2005, offered example after example of analysts echoing Pentagon themes on all the networks.

What about the 8,000 pages of information released by the Pentagon?

These records reveal a symbiotic relationship where the usual dividing lines between government and journalism have been obliterated.

Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as "message force multipliers" or "surrogates" who could be counted on to deliver administration "themes and messages" to millions of Americans "in the form of their own opinions."

This story has largely been ignored by the mainstream "liberal" media, except for PBS (h/t: Ari Melber at HuffPo), largely because of their complicity in disseminating the Bush administration's propaganda. Howard Kurtz's segment on CNN's "Reliable Sources" is another exception to the media's radio-silence rule (h/t: John Amato at Crooks & Liars).

How extensive has the news blackout been?

More than two weeks after the New York Times reported on the Penatgon's military analyst program to sell controversial policies such as the invasion of Iraq, the broadcast television news outlets implicated in the program are hoping to tough out the scandal by refusing to report it. Recently Media Matters of America (MMA) reported that, according to a search of the Nexis database, "the three major broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, and NBC -- have still not mentioned the report at all."

The Pew Excellence in Journalism project has a chart showing that " there was virtually no mainstream media follow up to The Times' expose" with the only national TV coverage being the introduction segment and live debate featuring CMD's John Stauber on the PBS NewsHour.

(John Stauber at AlterNet)

In the midst of a personal take on the scandal at HuffPo, Jeff Cohen points out that the cover-up is worse than the crime:

The biggest villain here is not Rumsfeld or the Pentagon. It's the TV networks. In the land of the First Amendment, it was their choice to shut down debate and journalism.

No government agency forced MSNBC to repeatedly feature the hawkish generals unopposed. Or fire Phil Donahue. Or smear weapons expert Scott Ritter. Or blacklist former attorney general Ramsey Clark. It was top NBC/MSNBC execs, not the Feds, who imposed a quota system on the Donahue staff requiring two pro-war guests if we booked one anti-war advocate -- affirmative action for hawks.

Taking an even broader view, the unsigned editorial "Our Lapdog Media" at The Nation notes that "the tendency of the corporate press is to serve as stenographer for the powerful rather than the muscular check and balance intended by the country's founders:"

Rapid consolidation has brought us dumbed-down media, with broadcast and cable networks that rarely challenge the status quo, even as they maintain their monopolistic stranglehold on the airwaves. What do the people get in return? A diet of "news" and commentary with retired generals telling us quagmire wars are going well, former CEOs telling us a sputtering economy is "basically sound" and former political aides telling us presidential campaigns are about lapel pins and made-up scandals.

Glenn Greenwald has written a series of excellent pieces on the scandal, the first of which observes that:

...what is most extraordinary about all of this is that huge numbers of Americas who were subjected to this propaganda by their own Government still don't know that they were, because the television networks which broadcast it to them refuse to tell them about it, opting instead to suppress the story and stonewall any efforts to find out what happened. As corrupt as the Pentagon was here, our nation's major media outlets were at least just as bad. Their collective Pravda-like suppression now of the entire story -- behavior so blatantly corrupt that even the likes of Howie Kurtz and The Politico are strongly condemning them -- has become the most significant and revealing aspect of the entire scandal.

Greenwald was even tougher on the media in this subsequent post:

Clearly, the principal reason the story has received virtually no coverage on the television networks is because the story reflects so poorly on them. [...] The public has long been inculcated with the notion that we have a "liberal media" that opposes and undermines whatever Republicans do, etc. etc. Yet here is mountains of evidence as conclusive as can be as to how the Government/media cartel actually functions -- media outlets and their corporate parents rely on the Government for all sorts of favors and access and, in return, do nothing to displease them.

Quote of the Day: Barstow wrote that Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, claimed it was "a bit incredible" that retired military personnel would be "wound up" and turned loose as "puppets of the Defense Department."

Really? Then how do you explain the big silver keys sticking out of their backs?


links:

Mark Fiore's "General Happy Swellspin" at Truthdig is a sarcastic animated look at the issue

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) requested the GAO's "legal views" on the scandal (h/t: Crooks & Liars)

Eric Alterman and George Zornick at Center for American Progress

Diane Farsetta at AlterNet

John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton at AlterNet

John Stauber wonders "Will the Media Pay Attention?" at AlterNet

Also at HuffPo, Arianna Huffington asks "Why Won't the Media Pursue the Pentagon Propaganda Scandal?"

Paul Starr is changing the subtitle of his book Freedom's Power (see my review here) for its release in paperback. The old subtitle was The True Force of Liberalism, and the new one is The History and Promise of Liberalism; for what it's worth, I think this will be an improvement.

To an extent, the book's original title--with its juxtaposition of "power" and "force"--played too easily into the hands of conservative caricaturists who won't read past the cover, as in "Those liberals want to use all that power to force us to do things." Starr notes this when mentioning the "right-wingers who argue that power is all liberals want."

Also in the here's-my-two-cents'-worth department, I found the book to be very light on the sort of "empty rhetoric" that litters many other political tomes. I may pick up the paperback as well if it has a new afterword...how about it, Mr Starr?

After writing about the Foreign Policy list of "The Top 100 Public Intellectuals," I picked up the print issue and was pleased to see an essay from none other than Christopher Hitchens on "The Plight of Public Intellectuals" (subscribers only). Hitchens shines in highlighting the intellectual as a dissident force:

As far as I have been able to determine, the very word "intellectual" was popularized as a term of abuse during the Dreyfus Affair, the late 19th-century political scandal that divided France over the supposed loyalties of its young Jewish artillery officer. The coinage then suggested that the pro-Dreyfus faction was insufficiently rooted in nation and loyalty, preferring as they did the urbane abstractions of "the intellect" to the verities of church and soil. I personally hope that the word never quite loses this association with the subversive. [emphasis added]

Daniel De Groot writes a nice piece on the Right's rumor-mongering on the Internet at OpenLeft, kicked off by quotes from this McClatchey article on the Obama rumors. The one-sidedness of the Internet rumors--they are almost all conservatives lying about liberals, and rarely the reverse--is a phenomenon I've noted previously, but I am no closer to having an explanation than De Groot is.

I received a request to answer this comment posted elsewhere:

I will vote for the Democrat's nominee in the general election. Period. I just think Obama is a long shot to win the general election. Yes, he has won more states than Clinton, but take a look at those states.

Republican States:
Alaska, N Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Nebraska, Utah, Kansas, Mississippi, S Carolina, Alabama, Colorado, Louisiana, Missouri, Virginia, Georgia, N Carolina, Montana, S Dakota, W Virginia, Kentucky

That's 124 electoral votes pretty much in the bag for McCain.

Democrat States:
Delaware, Vermont, DC, Hawaii, Maine, Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, Washington, Illinois

76 electoral votes pretty much in the bag for the Dem Obama.

Swing States:
Iowa, Wisconsin

17 electoral votes

For Clinton
Republican States
Nevada, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Indiana, Tennessee

That's 50 votes McCain will get anyway

Democrat States:
New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, California

That's 159 electoral votes

Swing States:
Ohio, Florida

That's 52

So, while I realize that my logic isn't 100% perfect here, my point is that Obama is winning in Republican states where he doesn't have a chance!

And I think once the nomination is secured for him, the Republicans will rip him to shreds.

I consider Obama to be a stronger candidate against McCain in the general election, but I'll leave it to the experts to crunch the numbers. Some of the data supporting this opinion follows:

Survey USA estimates the electoral results, which show that Obama's electoral numbers are stronger than Clinton's (i.e., he's not a "long shot" at all):

Obama 280 / McCain 258

Clinton 276 / McCain 262

Gallup notes that Obama is stronger in both red and blue states (although not in purple ones) than Clinton:

Democratic front-runner Barack Obama has a four-point advantage over presumptive Republican nominee John McCain among registered voters residing in states that were competitive in the 2004 election. Obama has a comfortable lead in states John Kerry won comfortably in 2004, as does McCain in states George W. Bush won easily. [...] Hillary Clinton also leads McCain by the same 47% to 43% margin among purple-state voters. But she does not fare quite as well as Obama does in blue states, and she trails McCain by a slightly larger margin than Obama does in red states.

Pew shows that Obama does better than Clinton among every category of independent voters (except the 50+ group, which is a tie).

in addition to the difficult red/blue/purple guesstimates, there are a few factors not captured in these polls that are in Obama's favor:

1). a greater enthusiasm for Obama, especially among younger voters;

2). Obama's stronger fundraising ability (he didn't have to lend his campaign millions of dollars, as Clinton did, just to stay afloat); and

3). Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos" has encouraged conservatives to vote for Clinton in the primaries. They did this to drag out the primary process in the hopes that the weaker candidate (Clinton) will be the Democratic nominee.

As far as Obama goes, of course the GOP will "rip him to shreds" when he becomes the nominee...that's what their kind of campaigning is all about. He has weaknesses, as we've seen in great detail over the past few months, but the Republicans won't go easy on Clinton if she gets nominated. Much like a group of monkeys with a hoard of feces, the GOP loathes her very name and has years of pent-up hatred to fling at her. (She'll find that their Swift-Boat-style attacks will be much tougher to deal with than that "sniper fire" in Bosnia.)

This tactical analysis doesn't include the genuine policy issues (his determination to "immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq," and his pro-LGBT "moral imperative" remark, to name just two) that will serve to further differentiate Obama from John "just-like-Bush-only-moreso" McCain in the campaign.

Some wingnuts are actually planning a protest against the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut decision that legalized contraception (h/t: Andrew Sullivan and Dan Savage)...can you believe it?

20080507-thepillkills.jpg

Your protest is 43 years too late, and we are not going back to the early 1960s, fuck you very much.

"First they came for the birth control pills..."

This passage from the late Mildred Loving's address (h/t: Andy at Towleroad) from last year's 40th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia (Wikipedia and FindLaw) is spectacular:

I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people's civil rights.

I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about.

Bravo, Mrs Loving...and RIP.

amazon.com

Alterman, Eric. Why We're Liberals: A Political Handbook for Post-Bush America (New York: Viking, 2008)

After reading a series of books (ranging from Paul Krugman's Conscience of a Liberal and Louis Hartz's The Liberal Tradition in America through David Barash's The L Word and Douglas Massey's Return of the L Word up to John McGowan's American Liberalism, Jumonville & Mattson's Liberalism for a New Century, and Paul Starr's Freedom's Power) on liberalism last December, I was looking forward to Alterman's Why We're Liberals for a fresh take on the subject. Unfortunately, despite the title, Alterman's book is less a straightforward explication of liberalism that a defense of it against conservative attacks. A more accurate title for the book might be Why We're Not the Traitorous, Unpatriotic, Immoral, Elitist Scum That the GOP Says We Are.

Alterman leans perhaps too heavily on his own book What Liberal Media? during parts of this book, although doing so may have been unavoidable when criticizing the media's shortcomings. He makes a valuable observation, however, that conservatives' perception of the media is rooted in the past:

It's a cliché that the media is biased in favor of liberals, but a profoundly outdated one. The accusation, while true thirty years ago, perhaps, has been overtaken by the growth of a massive conservative media establishment that, to a considerable degree, has not only displaced the old media but simultaneously transformed it (a process I described in What Liberal Media?). (p. 98)

Later, Alterman does the same with their small government/low taxes plank, noting that "somehow liberals still retain a reputation for fiscal responsibility based on actions taken more than forty years ago" (p. 123) and observing that liberals' mistakes in the 1960s "pale in comparison to the fiscal and economic nightmare that so-called conservatives have intentionally inflicted on the nation." (p. 299). The spendthrift nature of modern conservatism--particularly from Reagan through Bush II--is rather hard to ignore, though some true believers still make the attempt. Speaking of true believers, Alterman makes two errors at the beginning of his chapter on Christian nationalism:

In his book The Myth of the [sic] Separation, religious conservative David Barton argues that America's founders simply did not support the separation of church and state. (p. 196)

In the first place, apart from its prohibition against religious tests for public office in Article 6, and the First Amendment's refusal to allow the countenancing of an established religion "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," the U.S. Constitution makes no reference whatsoever to God. (pp. 196-7)

First, David Barton's book The Myth of Separation (1992) was superseded by Original Intent (2000), and--while his odiousness is apparently undimmed--it is more sporting to at least use the latter as a reference. Second, this sentence immediately precedes the signatures at the end of the Constitution:

Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth In Witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names,

I've commented before on the pro forma nature of the phrase "in the Year of our Lord," but it is nonetheless present in the Constitution.

Alterman errs more severely in commenting about abortion that "I am hardly the first writer to note that if pro-choice advocates put as much energy into passing policies that sought to make abortions unnecessary--and did so explicitly under this rubric--they would find considerable common ground with religious Americans" (p. 219). While this common ground may in fact exist, redirecting the defense of abortion rights toward other endeavors would allow right-wing restrictions to be enacted without opposition, making abortion even more unavailable. A few pages later, Alterman notes that this is already the case:

While the rhetoric of Christian conservatives gives the impression that American is awash in abortions, the fact is, while in most places in the United States abortions are technically legal, they are nearly impossible to obtain. A mere 13 percent of counties in the nation now offer the service. This number can only decrease, as every one of the more than four hundred or so federal judges appointed by George W. Bush will seek to reduce it to zero. Even where abortions are available, getting one can be such an ordeal that it's difficult to imagine many women actually going through with the process. (p. 221)

Medicaid funding has for nearly thirty years restricted abortions for low-income women, and eleven states now restrict abortion coverage in insurance plans for public employees. Forty-three states require parental consent or notice before a minor obtains an abortion. Thirty-one states demand that women receive "counseling" before an abortion, and eighteen offer it only in a misleading and frequently inaccurate form designed to scare them into changing their minds. Six states insist that this "counseling" be provided in person, ensuring at least two visits to the clinic. In addition, over a dozen states have so-called TRAP laws, which force abortion doctors and clinics to adopt especially difficult regulations. (pp. 221-2)

His point that "Abortion rights won democratically will be far stronger and more stable than those secured only by what many consider to be judicial fiat, as they would be protected by the will of the majority and the politicians sent to defend them" (p. 223) is, again, an accurate one, but one wonders how such a war could be won if the pro-choice movement were to surrender all the battles along the way.

As good as Alterman's work is, the time spent debunking conservative misinformation is time no longer available for advancing our own ideology. If we liberals continue to be consumed with preventing conservatives from dragging us backward, we no longer have the energy to move our nation forward. These are the traps into which Alterman falls. In his conclusion, there is a beautiful passage that begins to actually explain Why We're Liberals, but it's too little, too late:

Liberalism is the natural political philosophy of our nation because it respects and encourages what is both good and great in all of us. It embraces freedom of thought rather than ideologically or theologically imposed certainty. It inspires the spirit of discovery in science and technology. It embraces the ideal of teamwork through its commitment to the common good, which allows us to make the best use of the wisdom of the many while at the same time respecting the sanctity of the rights and talents of the individual. (pp. 333-4)


links:
at this FDL book salon, Matt Stoller writes:

"...it's really a first-rate and meticulous piece of work. If you want to know why a certain stereotype is held about liberals, there's no better book than this one."

Scott McLemee's review at NYT

Eric Alterman & George Zornick discuss the book at Center for American Progress

Brent Bozell III calls it the "Dumbest Book of the Year" at ClownHall

at the NJ Star-Ledger, Elaine Margolin calls the book:

"...a masterful new thesis about the distortion of the liberal agenda on every frontline of American society during the past decade. His book is a passionate call to arms to his brethren to reclaim their nobility of purpose."

The Foreign Policy / Prospect list of "The Top 100 Public Intellectuals" states that "the criteria to make the list could not be more simple:"

Candidates must be living and still active in public life. They must have shown distinction in their particular field as well as an ability to influence wider debate, often far beyond the borders of their own country.

Rather like Time's "Person of the Year," then, there is no merit qualification; "distinction" and "influence" are value-neutral. Thus, the administration's error-prone neocons (or the "public intellectuals" whose pronouncements give their ideology the gloss of respectability) would be just as eligible for this list as real historians, economists, and political scientists (such as Eric Alterman, Jacques Barzun, Michael Berube, Harold Bloom, Eric Foner, Thomas Frank, George Lakoff, Lewis Lapham, Bill Moyers, Juliet Schor, and Andrew Sullivan, none of whom made the list).

The criticism from HTML Mencken at Sadly, No! is brutal, but not inaccurately so: "Many of the 'intellectuals' are actually something between 'stupid' and 'clueless fucktard stupid.'" He names a few names, and then concludes:

See, it's not just that political scientists and pundits are shamelessly over-represented; it's not even that contributors to Foriegn Policy [sic] seem to be "intellectuals" by definition (and thus "earn" inclusion to the list); it's that "intellectualism," for the list-makers, seems to often mean, "the capacity to fuck-up hugely and be praised for it."


[editor's note: the list of omitted intellectuals has been updated]

Today is Free Comic Book Day:

Free Comic Book Day is a single day when participating comic book shops across North America and around the world give away comic books absolutely free to anyone who comes into their stores.

Go to the FCBD store locator to find a participating retailer; visit them to receive one of these comic books, which are reviewed here by Douglas (Reading Comics) Wolk.

On the way home, you could stop by a movie theatre to see Iron Man, which is already garnering some solid reviews (check out Gizmodo for an example). It appears to be a banner year for comic-book movies, with The Incredible Hulk (13 June), Hellboy II (11 July), and The Dark Knight (18 July) on the way. ComicBookMovie has more news about big-screen comic-book stories, but remember two things: the movies wouldn't exist without the comic books, and there is a lot more to the comics medium than superheroes.

Visit your local retailer to find out more.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that McCain was overheard (by three reporters) dropping the c-bomb on his wife; he's finally been asked about it, but not by the media...they're still having a love affair with their alleged "maverick." Here is a transcript of a Wednesday town hall Q&A, along with the video.

Q. Is it true that you called your wife a (expletive)?

McCain: Now, now. You don't want to... Um, you know that's the great thing about town hall meetings, sir, but we really don't, there's people here who don't respect that kind of language. So I'll move on to the next questioner in the back.

McCain is concerned about "that kind of language" when it might affect his public image, but he had no problems with it when he was insulting his wife. I guess that's how he earned the nickname "McNasty." In an echo of Bush, when he was questioned in 1999 about his cocaine use, McCain did not deny the charge.

Iowa Politics notes that McCain's questioner, a Baptist minister, "was escorted from Sen. John McCain's town hall meeting by Des Moines police and members of the Secret Service...[h]e was not charged in the incident."

Free speech is not free, especially for citizens who dare to ask the questions that the media so studiously avoid.

Thanks in part to the Protect SMU Petition, the United Methodist Church has resolved to "prevent leasing, selling, or otherwise participating in or supporting the presidential library for George W. Bush at Southern Methodist University:"

We should support separation of church and state and if the Bush library goes on the SMU campus or property it will appear to the country and the world as an endorsement of that president by the United Methodist Church.

Maybe Bush's good buddy Prince Abdullah can scare up a replacement site in Saudi Arabia...you know, just as a little favor from one theocratic-minded authoritarian oilman to another.


(White House photo by David Bohrer)

"I don't like all the big words in them books, anyhow...so I'm thinkin' about a theme park instead of a library. Mr. Toad's Extraordinary Rendition Ride can go over here, with the Country Brush-Clearing Jamboree over there. Down this way, we can put the Pecos Bush Café and the Iraqland Shootin' Arcade..."

The complete lack of comprehension--and introspection--in the Bush White House apparently knows no bounds. Dubya proclaimed today to be "Law Day" (h/t: David Kurtz at TalkingPointsMemo), and he declared that:

The theme of this year's Law Day, "The Rule of Law: Foundation for Communities of Opportunity and Equity," recognizes the fundamental role that the rule of law plays in preserving liberty in our Nation and in all free societies. We pay tribute to the men and women in America's legal community. Through hard work and dedication to the rule of law, members of the judiciary and the legal profession help secure the rights of individuals, bring justice to our communities, and reinforce the proud traditions that make America a beacon of light for the world.

Bush goes on to note that:

Nearly 800 years ago, the Magna Carta placed the authority of government under the rule of law; centuries later, the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution marked tremendous advances in the march of liberty. These documents established enduring principles that guide modern democracies.

The irony, it burns...

PZ Myers channels the Rude Pundit in his take on the National Day of Prayer:

Fuck the National Day of Prayer.

I can scarcely believe my country is officially pandering to such willful stupidity -- elevating evangelical kooks to positions of prestige, trumpeting the virtues of sectarian religion, and actually crediting the successes of America to the fact that a subset of deluded, demented fools sit on their asses and beg an invisible man to protect us and help us kill people in foreign countries. What a waste, and what an encouragement of further waste.

I left a comment on his suggestion to ""Fuck the National Day of Prayer:"

I'd be tempted to, but I find the demand for missionary-position-only-with-the-lights-off far too restrictive...

;-)


update (11:55am):
Tristero writes at Hullabalo:

Well, I say Fuck the National Day of Prayer but use a condom. These people are diseased degenerates so be careful, ok?

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