Saturday, February 12, 2005

Sunday Foto Funnies: This picture needs a caption! 

(via AP)

And no chimp jokes, please! It's way too easy—and not fair to the chimps!

Goodnight, moon 

There's no window for me to look out of, in my tiny room under the stairs in The Mighty Corrente Building.

So I can't tell if the moon is full, or not.

Given the level of bad craziness, though, the moon must be full ...

And, as your lawyer, I advise you: Vote for farmer now!

Alpo Accounts: How to get their attention 

More like this, please:

A large Midwest brokerage abruptly withdrew from a business coalition that backs President Bush's Social Security proposals after the AFL-CIO staged protests at two of the firm's offices and attacked it on the Internet.

Edward D. Jones & Co., which operates under the trade name Edward Jones, resigned from the Alliance for Worker Retirement Security, a coalition of corporations and trade associations that has long pressed for the creation of private accounts as part of Social Security. The St. Louis company has been a member of the coalition since 1998, the year of its inception.
(via WaPo)

Excellent. Kill the body and the head will die. More like this, please.

Winger doublethink: Condi on fear versus free societies 

I'm starting to think that there is, in fact, a winger purity test (back): It consists of being able to ignore the grossest possible contradictions between their values and their actions. The wingers might be able to do so well on this test because of WPS; or because of be a spiritual condition, called "being a Pharisee" (back); or because of something much more sinister: plain Orwellian doublethink—the mindset that enables totalitarian rule.

Regardless, ordinary people—at least those who've gone to AA or Al-Anon, unlike, alas, Inerrant Boy—have a catchier phrase for doublethink and its discontents: "Talk the talk without walking the walk."

Let's watch Bush's Enabler-in-Chief, Condi-lie-zza Rice, talk the talk:

Here is Condoleezza Rice, the new secretary of state, explaining last month what will guide her policy: "The world should apply what Natan Sharansky calls 'the town square test': if a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society. We cannot rest until every person living in a fear society has finally won their freedom."
(via Times)

(This is in the context of a Times book review of Natan Sharansky's recent book, "The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror," which apparently everyone in the Blest Wing is reading. It's a measure of the bankruptcy the Times—its absolute inability to connect one news event to another—that they miss the obvious consequences of Condi's remarks: Bush has created a fear society in the United States.

Now, et's watch the Bush administration walk the walk.

Set the wayback machine to October 2004, at a Partei rally in West Virginia. Xan writes (quoting Atlanta-Journal Constitution):

Like many Americans, Jeff and Nicole Rank have an opinion about their president. They wore it on T-shirts they unveiled after entering the West Virginia State Capitol grounds to hear him speak.

The his-and-hers shirts included a photo of the president and the word "Bush" with the international "no" symbol. His shirt also said, "Regime change starts at home." Hers said, "Love America, Hate Bush."

Shortly after the Ranks revealed the shirts, two men they believe worked for the Secret Service or the White House demanded that they remove or cover them. The Ranks refused and were arrested, handcuffed and jailed on trespassing charges.

Welcome to the wacky world of winger delusion: In Paris, quoting a book, being arrested for expressing one's views in "the public square" is a sign of a fear society. But in America, in a presidential campaign, the very same thing happens—and Condi is silent. And, amazingly (or not) the Times doesn't pick up the blatant contradiction.

Walk the walk?!

These guys aren't even trying to walk the walk. They're not even dragging their knuckles and shamelessly calling that walking! They're not even crawling! They don't know what walking the walk means!

NOTE: There are too many links for me to list, that show Bush creating a fear society here; if you want detail on His efforts during Campaign 2004, enter "MBF Watch" into the search box at the top of the page. [It's bad, but it's the best we have.]

Winger doublethink: The Times covers for WSJ [cough] Editor Bret Stephens 

OK, another winger circle jerk has come to its sad, and inevitable conclusion, and CNN executive Eason Jordan has resigned. ("First, they came for Dan Rather...."). But get this gem of a quote, at the very end (naturally) of the Times story covering the wank-fest:

Which is here online, edited as follows:

Bret Stephens, a member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board who attended the session in Davos, wrote in Thursday's Journal that Mr. Jordan had "made a defamatory innuendo" but added: "Mr. Jordan deserves some credit for retracting the substance of his remark, and some forgiveness for trying to weasel his way out of a bad situation of his own making." But [Stephens] questioned whether CNNs' news division should be headed by someone "who can't be trusted to sit on a panel and field softball questions."

Golly! That last sentence didn't make it into the online edition! I wonder why? Let's read it again:

[Stephens] questioned whether CNNs' news division should be headed by someone "who can't be trusted to sit on a panel and field softball questions."

Hmmm... That reminds me of something... But what could it be? I have it!

We have a President who wants to "field" only "softball questions"—and whose own press secretary's office has organized, in the person of Jeff "Not His Real Name" Gannon, a ringer to throw exactly that kind of softball question! A ringer funded by the Texas GOP, a ringer who was Unka Karl's channel for smearing Joseph Wilson in the Plame Affair, and a ringer who has evinced an, er, extracurricular interest in gay military porn (way to support the troops there, Karl).

Welcome to the delusional world of the wingers!

The doublethink:

It's OK to hound an executive who can't field softball questions out of his job—unless that executive is the winger chief executive of the United States!

So why did the Times slash that last sentence? Professional courtesy? They got hate mail already? You can ask Danny Boy here. He'll get to the bottom of it! Fer sure.

Purity test: God help us all, the Republicans are running on purity 

I hope the taxpayer's aren't funding this, but somehow I have the feeling they are:

In Arkansas, Gov. Mike Huckabee and his wife, Janet, will renew their wedding vows in the presence of hundreds of other couples at a ceremony promoting the state's covenant marriage law - a voluntary system that makes divorce harder to obtain. "The nation will be watching as we take a stand for marriage," the Huckabees' invitation says.

"This fun-filled, romantic evening will encourage and equip you as a couple to go the distance," said the Huckabees' invitation, which promised entertainment from a Grammy-winning gospel singer and inspirational speeches from marriage experts.

The governor, in a telephone interview, said he wants to make more Arkansans aware of covenant marriage - an option in which couples pledge to go through lengthy counseling before any divorce, unless there is a dramatic factor such as physical abuse.

"We're trying to combat the idea that covenant marriage is some kind of holier-than-thou religious act," said Huckabee. "It's an admission on our part that keeping a marriage together is very hard work; it's a commitment that if the marriage hits a crisis, we'll see counselors before we see lawyers - and see if we can work it out."

Arkansas has one of the nation's highest divorce rates. Thus far, few couples have exercised the option of covenant marriage - about 600 in three years out of roughly 40,000 marriages that occur annually in the state.
(via AP)

Doesn't sound like "covenant marriage"—hey, how's that for mixing church and state?—is doing too well. To the wingers, of course, that's just a sign that they should redouble their efforts...

Yep, what we need is, um, "national renewal"—followed, naturally, by "cleansing" of impure....

But the question that remains is this:

How do the wingers know they are pure?!

Fortunately, science—assuming that computer science is indeed a science, a topic for another day—has come to the rescue in the form of the purity test!

Answer 500 simple questions, and find out how pure you are!

There is, naturellement, software to construct your own purity test. Readers, anyone out there for constructing a winger purity test?

Man, it's pure something, anyhow...

Bill! Put down that loofah! Rush! Keep your hands away from your mouth! Jerry! Oh, Jerry... Newtie! Wait 'til after your wife gets her cancer operation done before you give her the divorce papers, m'kay? Georgie! Put down that frog!

Maybe I'm Wrong, Maybe NPR is Really OK... 

Okay, maybe this is a small thing and it's defintely just one more in a long line of NPR shitshowers, but it still puts my overalls in a twist. Yesterday on NPR there was a story about North Korea and their nookyoolar program, and the correspondent felt compelled to say “the Communist nation” with every oblique reference to the place. Arrgggh! Red-baiting and ignorance of political science, ya ask me. Which you didn’t, but I’m saying…

1. I don’t think Marx or Engels or any of the other theorists would call Dear Leader’s form of government “communist.”

2. I have sincere doubts that there has ever actually been a real communist government in actual operation for any length of time.

3. Socialism and Communism are not the opposite of “freedom” and “liberty.” It’s possible to have civil liberties in a socialist society. In fact, perhaps even more than in a capitalist society.

So, knock it off, awright, NPR? And while we’re at it, shaddap with the references to America being the “world’s greatest democracy” too, m’kay? Pacifica Radio is really all that’s left that’s worth listening to, I swear… or is it just me?

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Friday, February 11, 2005

Goodnight, moon 

Vote for Corrente!

Vote for farmer!

And be sure to drop a coin or two into the server lockbox at Wampum!

Mark of the beast 


SUTTER, Calif. - The only grade school in this rural town is requiring students to wear radio frequency identification badges that can track their every move.

The badges introduced at Brittan Elementary School on Jan. 18 rely on the same radio frequency and scanner technology that companies use to track livestock and product inventory.

Each student is required to wear identification cards around their necks with their picture, name and grade and a wireless transmitter that beams their ID number to a teacher’s handheld computer when the child passes under an antenna posted above a classroom door.

This latest adaptation of radio frequency ID technology was developed by InCom Corp., a local company co-founded by the parent of a former Brittan student, and some parents are suspicious about the financial relationship between the school and the company. InCom plans to promote the technology at a national convention of school administrators next month.

InCom has paid the school several thousand dollars for agreeing to the experiment, and has promised a royalty from each sale if the system takes off, said the company’s co-founder, Michael Dobson, who works as a technology specialist in the town’s high school. Brittan’s technology aide also works part-time for InCom.
(via MSNBC)

I'd say there are at least two teachable moments here, wouldn't you?

1. It's OK to treat kids like livestock or cattle

2. It's OK to use kids, and the public schools, as part of your company's marketing plan—especially when you work for the schools too!

Really, what's not to like?

All I want to know is: Why don't we miniaturize these badges and inject them under the skin? Much more hygeinic, and permament, too!

Hey, what are friends for? 


Pakistan pays tribe al-Qaeda debt
Pakistan says it has paid 32m rupees ($540,000) to help four former wanted tribal militants in South Waziristan settle debts with al-Qaeda.

Military operations chief in the region, Lt Gen Safdar Hussain, said the payments were part of a peace deal signed on Monday with tribesmen.

It is the first time Pakistan has admitted making such payments.
(via The Beeb from Kos)

Can someone explain why this would be a good idea?

Corrente a finalist for Koufax best group blog 


And (bien sur) farmer is a finalist for best writing!

Vote early and often! They say to vote in comments or email, but if they said what address to use, I missed it, so I'm sticking with comments...

The Thot Plickens 

Well, looks like Naomi Klein over at The Nation got Dahr Jamail’s memo, too:

Al-Mahdi is the Bush Administration's Trojan horse in the UIA. (You didn't think they were going to put all their money on Allawi, did you?) In October he told a gathering of the American Enterprise Institute that he planned to "restructure and privatize [Iraq's] state-owned enterprises," and in December he made another trip to Washington to unveil plans for a new oil law "very promising to the American investors." It was al-Mahdi himself who oversaw the signing of a flurry of deals with Shell, BP and ChevronTexaco in the weeks before the elections, and it is he who negotiated the recent austerity deal with the IMF. On troop withdrawal, al-Mahdi sounds nothing like his party's platform and instead appears to be channeling Dick Cheney on Fox News: "When the Americans go will depend on when our own forces are ready and on how the resistance responds after the elections." But on Sharia law, we are told, he is very close to the clerics.

Iraq's elections were delayed time and time again, while the occupation and resistance grew ever more deadly. Now it seems that two years of bloodshed, bribery and backroom arm-twisting were leading up to this: a deal in which the ayatollahs get control over the family, Texaco gets the oil, and Washington gets its enduring military bases (call it the "oil for women program"). Everyone wins except the voters, who risked their lives to cast their ballots for a very different set of policies.

Do they really think they can pull this off without the whole of iWaq exploding into violence? Why did Bushco really invade? WTF?

Attention Must Be Paid 

Arthur Miller has died. He was 89. He lived one of the more fabulous of American lives. He died at home, surrounded by family. You can't feel sad about such a life, such a man.

The same could have been, and should have been said here at Corrente, about Ossie Davis' passing from us. I meant to, but everytime I tried, it made me too sad to talk about it. Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis were part of my growing up years - unique American artists, separate and together, when an American president could talk about art as if it were central to American culture. They had remarkable staying power. They became such a class act, they moved above the kind of scratchy racism used against so many other artists. Nothing tickled me more than their appearance in "Do The Right Thing." They never paid it safe.

Arthur Miller was already a theatre classic, when Ruby Dee starred on Broadway in "A Raisin In The Sun," and was already struggling with the American curse - no second acts. He refused to name names, and he still got the blonde shiksa. Miller managed not to be destroyed by becoming a celebrity; maybe because he'd already been one, a threatre celebrity. What I think is most admirable about him, he kept on writing, he kept on commenting, he kept on paying attention. A second act and then some.

Certain people whom you don't know personally and are unlikely ever to meet, nonetheless, are part of your personal world, because living at the same time that they are alive makes your life different, better in some way. When they go, when their voices, their visions, are finally stilled, it feels like a personal loss. I've felt that way about a huge variety of people, from Stravinsky and Balanchine, to Jean Renoir, to Wallace Stegner, to Julia Childs, to Uta Hagen, to Johnny Carson to Ansel Adams and W.Eugene Smith, to Buster Keaton, To Fannie Lou Hammer.....I could go on and on....What occurs to me in looking at that list, in thinking about Arthur Miller and Ossie Davis, is that all of those figures, artists, writers, activists, citizens, were, in one way or another, part of a liberal world view, one that has always insisted that paying attention was a form of citizenship available to anyone who takes the time to do it.

Nursery of the Damned! 

Somewhere on the twelfth floor of the American Enterprise Institute: Children Scarred for Life


One Big Cat Blogging Friday 

William Greider, The Nation:
While dispirited Democrats stew over their party's uncertain future, they might check out an unusual cluster of progressive "activists" forming within their ranks. Some politicians with real muscle are pursuing far-ranging possibilities for reforming the economic system. Their potential for driving important change is not widely recognized, perhaps because the reformers are drawn from unglamorous backbenches of state government--treasurers, comptrollers, pension-fund trustees. Yet these state officials, unlike the minority Democrats in Congress, have decision-making power and control over enormous pools of investment capital. They are fiduciaries who manage the vast wealth stored by state governments in public-employee pension funds, invested in behalf of working people--civil servants, teachers and other types of public workers--who as future retirees are "beneficial owners" of the capital. ~ The New Colossus


Thursday, February 10, 2005


Atrios complains that the White House website is referring to several early Democratic-Republican presidents as "Republicans."

I'm afraid, Atrios, that those presidents all called themselves Republicans. Now, according to the Wayback machine, the earlier version of the webpages (compare the 2000 version of the Madison page here with the 2004 version here) during the Clinton era made it clearer what that meant, but those pages referred to them as Republicans as well.

It's what these men called themselves and historians have called them Republicans as well. The Democrats didn't start regularly calling themselves "Democrats" until Andrew Jackson started doing it in the middle 1820s.

Atrios, my man, I'm afraid you're all wet on this one.

Happy Chinese New Year! 

Last year? The year of the sheep.

No kidding.

Goodnight, moon 

Talon News "Service"? Snort! I mean, Talon's a brand of zipper!

(via eBay)

I mean, I don't mind a little gay subtext, but they keep shoving it my face. First the Bush mandate, now this. I mean, next they'll be denying Bush whistles show tunes. Oh, wait....

What will we tell the children?

Actually, I know what we'll tell the children. We'll tell them don't go here.

Alpo Accounts: Republicans now trying to compromise 

No, they're not destructionist....

A senior House Republican with long experience in Social Security matters outlined legislation Thursday that jettisons two controversial elements in President Bush's plan in an attempt to court Democratic support.

"I think politically it's the most salable," Rep. Clay Shaw, R-Fla., said of his alternative, although he conceded neither the White House, the House GOP leadership in the House nor any Democrat has yet to lend backing.
(via AP)

I guess I'm still just a bit confused, here.

Since there is no Social Security problem—and there are plenty of other problems, like 1 million Americans going bankrupt each year (RDF) because we don't have universal health insurance—why is there any need to tamper with Social Security at all?

And given that the Bush has run up the largest deficit in the history of the world in four short years, why on earth would anyone trust Him to make anything "solvent"?

Why would the Democrats let themselves be used as a shovel, so Bush and the Republicans can dig themselves out of a jam?

Bush gets letters 

Nice to see the Dems fighting back at last. It won't be easy, and it will take time, but if we're going to save the Constitution, and the country, from these guys, it has to be done.

Dick Durbin connects a few dots:

The letter [to Bush] was written in milder terms. "We urge you to keep your word about being a uniter and publicly halt these counterproductive attacks so that we are able to work together in a bipartisan manner and debate issues on the merits," it says.

Bush and the White House have denied responsibility for the attacks.
(via AP)

Right. Bush just made Rove His Reichschancellor, and then claims that he can't control the RNC. Please refer that one to The Department of How Stupid Do They Think We Are?

But Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate after Reid, ridiculed that assertion, as Reid did earlier in the week.

"This is the Abu Ghraib defense, that a few renegade soldiers are responsible for their own behavior and the commanders are not accountable," said Durbin. His remarks referred to claims by military officials that a few low-ranking enlisted personnel were responsible for the shocking abuses [um, torture?]
at a U.S.-run prison in Iraq.

What Durbin says isn't even a hit or a cheap shot; it's the plain cold truth. More like this, please.

Sick of Bankruptcy? 

Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor writing in WaPo, tears open another package awaiting delivery on Capitol Hill:

Nobody's safe. That's the warning from the first large-scale study of medical bankruptcy.

Health insurance? That didn't protect 1 million Americans who were financially ruined by illness or medical bills last year.

A comfortable middle-class lifestyle? Good education? Decent job? No safeguards there. Most of the medically bankrupt were middle-class homeowners who had been to college and had responsible jobs—until illness struck.

As part of a research study at Harvard University, our researchers interviewed 1,771 Americans in bankruptcy courts across the country. To our surprise, half said that illness or medical bills drove them to bankruptcy. So each year, 2 million Americans -- those who file and their dependents -- face the double disaster of illness and bankruptcy.
But the bigger surprise was that three-quarters of the medically bankrupt had health insurance.

Of course, faced with this shocking news, congress is off to make sure that something is done right away!

Many in Congress have a response to the problem of the growing number of medical bankruptcies: make it harder for families to file bankruptcy regardless of the reason for their financial troubles. Bankruptcy legislation—widely known as the credit industry wish list—has been introduced yet again to increase costs and decrease protection for every family that turns to the bankruptcy system for help. With the dramatic rise in medical bankruptcies now documented, this tired approach would be no different than a congressional demand to close hospitals in response to a flu epidemic. Making bankruptcy harder puts the fallout from a broken health care system back on families, leaving them with no escape.

There is no escape. Indeed. This hits close to home, because I went bankrupt some years ago behind medical bills. And I ain’t getting any younger. And if it’s this bad for folks with insurance, imagine…

If ya want the whole read, it’s at Sick and Broke with no registration required.

The Legacy Is A-Building 

Dahr Jamail has been talking to survivors of Fallujah. Remember Fallujah? According to Tony Karon in Time Magagazine from November of last year, “…the primary strategic purpose of recapturing Fallujah…was to facilitate Sunni participation in the January election, and more generally in the post-Saddam order authored by the U.S…” Yeah, that worked out real well, didn’t it? So, what has been happening in Fallujah since we were all so pissed off about the tactics used to destroy it last year? Oh, just an ongoing, boiling-over pot of resentment, as one Fallujah doctor interviewed by Mr. Jamail makes clear:

“You must understand the hatred that has been caused…it has gotten more difficult for Iraqis, including myself, to make the distinction between the American government and the American people,” he tells me.

His story is like countless others.

“My cousin was a poor man in Fallujah,” he explains, “He walked from his house to work and back, while living with his wife and five daughters. In July of 2003, American soldiers entered his house and woke them all up. They drug them into the main room of the house, and executed my cousin in front of his family. Then they simply left.”

He pauses then holds up his hands and asks, “Now, how are these people going to feel about Americans?”

How, indeed? Pissed off, I would imagine. I can only imagine my reaction in similar situation.

Well, let’s be reeeaallly clear about this: 49% of us fought as hard as we could to run these lying thieves out of office, and most haven’t quit yet. There is a difference between the American government and a large chunk of the American people. But how to make that clear to the rest of the world? I vote for running as many of them out of their federal, state and local jobs as possible in 2006. That would send a message. And the time to organize is NOW. Of course, demonstrations, letter writing and so forth are great, too. But it starts in your local party organization. If you’re Green, and you can get a Green in a local office, great. Otherwise, let’s build our local and state Dem parties a spine. Two local counties have already elected new chairs (with spines), and my county elects next month (it looks like a lock for the candidate with a spine). Then, it’s on to start pushing candidates for public office. Yes, even candidates for the school boards and county commissions and city councils. Don’t think those jobs matter? Think again.

Let's send a message to the world. Bushco is not us. We are not Bushco. And we will not rest until they've been driven from office, exposed for what they are.

Building A Better Media: Action, Action, Who's Got The Action 

Josh Marshall picks up on a George Will column that repeats a Presidential assertion regarding SS that isn't, well, accurate, and then proceeds to use the assertion to beat up on Harry Reid. It seems that Will thinks the option Federal employees have to invest in the Employee's Thrift Fund is in some way comparable to the President's SS proposal for "personal" accounts; that the President appears to share Mr. Will's confusion doesn't make it any more true.
Begun in 1987, the Thrift Savings Plan, which as of December 2004 had assets of $152 billion, is a retirement-savings plan open to all civilian federal employees, including senators, and all members of the uniformed services.

They can invest as much as 14 percent of their salaries in one of five retirement funds. Consider the rate of return of C Fund, one of the five. It is a common-stock fund, so it should represent the risks that Reid thinks should terrify Americans:


Reid participates in the plan, but opposes allowing all Americans the comparable opportunity that Bush is proposing. But if the numbers just cited are the result of roulette, the legislators should let the rest of us into the game in which they are prospering.

As Josh points out, Will has it wrong; the program in question is an add-on to SS, in which all Federal employees also participate, just like you and me; any funds an employee chooses to invest do not come from their or their employers SS contribution.

Read what Josh has to say. And note where he says, "Who will make the obvious point?"

Well, how about all of us, for a really pleasant bloody change?

I know this is rather ad hoc, and I plan to talk at greater length about how blogs might be a way to get some of the bang for our liberal buck (think metaphor, not actual money) that conservatives get from talk radio. But for now, let's talk about what a perfect example this is of how the Democratic Party gets shafted by the press, as well as a damn fine example of what can conceivably be done about it.

For instance, there are emails that could be sent directly to Mr. Will., correcting him, in an entirely civil manner, of course, and explaining his own confusion to him. It won't matter to him if he gets a couple of dozen, but the day we can generate 700 emails to someone like George Will, he'll begin to notice that he's being noticed.

An additional option, why not call Senator Reid's office and let him know about Will's column, what's wrong with it, and suggest that someone in the office needs to raise George's consciousness, in an entirely civil manner, of course, and that Senator Reid needs to request a correction of the inaccurate information about options for Federal employees, and suggest that George will also probably wish to apologize for his mischaraterization of hypocrisy on the Senator's part. Or call your own Senator and express the same concerns, and ask that your Senator's staff contact Reid's staff.

These suggestions lack a certain grandeur, I'm aware, compared with the storming of the Winter Palace, say. But what political action doesn't, compared with that?. And I hear it wasn't really all that grand, in the end. I think a lot of you younger folk might be surprised to know how many of the glories of the Civil Rights movement were the result of this kind of dogged organizing. (If you haven't ever read John Lewis' movement memoir, "Walking With The Wind," please, please, do yourself a favor and read it; immediately. Then, get others to read it. And if you have read it, read it again. I read it at least once a year. Seriously, I do.)

What matters in an action like this is volume; what helps to motivate people to make calls like this is knowing that their effort will be amplified by hundreds (and more) of others. One of the best organizational tools that Move-On had going for it when it was still an ad hoc grassroots attempt to avoid the Clinton impeachment, and helped it to become such an effective organization was its organizers' ability, (remember it was put together by a handful of people who had busy professional lives outside of their citizen-activisim), to use their internet savvy to let people know how many phone calls or emails or money contributions had been generated about a specific issue; there was immediate feedback. Does anyone doubt that the din of outrage from liberal blogtopia changed the dynamic of Democratic opposition to the Gonzales nomination, and to Condi Rice as well?

Yesterday eve, Josh was also highlighting an aspect of the President's propaganda about SS "reform," that we at the grassroots might have a major role in getting out to the rest of America.

I can scarce believe this, even as I type it, but it appears that this gosh-darned bolder-than-bold (see also bold-faced liar) President really thinks he can get away with defaulting on the T-Bills held in the SS Trust Fund, the better to be able to make tax cuts to the super-rich permanent, and, in a single stroke, genuinely bankrupt SS. Josh focuses on this paragraph from yesterday's Presidential dog-and-pony show held at the Commerce Department to push for the end to class-action lawsuits:

Some in our country think that Social Security is a trust fund -- in other words, there's a pile of money being accumulated. That's just simply not true. The money -- payroll taxes going into the Social Security are spent. They're spent on benefits and they're spent on government programs. There is no trust. We're on the ultimate pay-as-you-go system -- what goes in comes out. And so, starting in 2018, what's going in -- what's coming out is greater than what's going in. It says we've got a problem. And we'd better start dealing with it now. The longer we wait, the harder it is to fix the problem.
Read the whole folksy approach of Bush here; this is what you are going to hear repeated again and again; study it, figure out how to shred it.

It's simply not true that there is a Social Security Trust Fund? Well, knock me over with a feather boa? Damn, I wish someone woulda told me that back in '83 when I, like so many American voters, approved the huge increase in payroll taxes, matched by a similar increase paid by my employers, the raison d'etre for which was precisely that SS would be moved from a pay-as-you-go program to one that would deliberately start to bring in a surplus, which would be accumulated to pay for the coming demographic bulge represented by the retirement of the baby boomers. If I was misinformed-informed about that, frankly, I'd like my money back - all that money deducted from my salary for the past twenty-odd years, plus a reasonable rate of return, of course.

Here's Josh:

So if you've paid Social Security taxes in any of the years from 1983 until today, you've been advance paying. And now President Bush just said that money is gone. So, you thought you were advance paying to cover part of the future expenses of your generation's retirement. But it seems you were just a sucker since President Bush is now saying the money ain't gonna be paid back. You're just fresh outta luck, you could say.

So here's our question: Does Alan Greenspan think there's a Trust Fund? Does he believe those bonds are backed up by the full faith and credit of the United States government? Does he think they will and should be paid back? If he doesn't, he's got a hell of a lot of explaining to do since it was under his guidance that we came up with this whole idea.

Or how about Sen. Bob Dole? He was on the Commission too. What does he think? Does he agree? Or the recently-retired House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Archer (R). He was on it too.

Let's ask all of them ...

Exactly so. And let's ask a variety of Democrats to ask the President if what he is talking about is defaulting on the obligation to start repaying back to the SS Trust Fund what was borrowed by his administration to pay for huge non-stimulative tax cuts, not to mention a certain war and occupation, and an inefficient, poorly crafted Medicare prescription benefit that benefits almost no one but the President's base, and which we now know will be hugely more expensive than the hugely expensive price tag originally appended to the legislation.

Let's start a campaign to call key members of the House and Senate to ask them to organize themselves to better use the media in order to get this key question into the media echo chamber, until the President can't get away without answering it.

I'm not going to bother to provide specific links to Josh's discussion, because if you aren't reading him every day, several times a day, including weekends, and taking copious notes, you are failing in your obligations as a citizen and a patriot.

For a fine discussion of the Trust Fund, see Kevin Drum; read the comment threads to get a sense of some of the feints the administration will probably use to confuse and destroy all opposition. And not to get picky about this, but to suggest that the government might default on T-Bills could be considered an impeachable offense, but let's not go there; let's not have to go there; let's stop this gravy train for the already-have-too-much by making clear to the rest of American that what they are watching when they tune into the President's "Bamboozlepalooza" tour, is an economic train-wreck for the entire American economy.

As you can tell, these are tentative thoughts; all suggestions for how to organize ourselves will be gratefully read and blogged; use comments or email; we're dying to hear from everybody, because we're in the midst of discussions of how to expand Corrente to include more grassroots journalism, and to find the link between that and effective political grassroots organizing.

Alpo Accounts: Bubble-icious Partei rallies fail to persuade 

I guess if you only talk to the true believers who are willing to sign loyalty oaths, it's hard to persude anyone else:

Those who have been targeted by Bush's visits say so far they aren't feeling the heat. Last week, Bush tried to woo the backing of several Democratic lawmakers in a tour of five states that he won last fall.

But staff for several of those senators said they haven't seen any increase in calls of support for Bush's ideas. Bryan Gulley, spokesman for Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, said they've seen the opposite — more people have been calling in against private accounts, perhaps because of newspaper ads opposing his plan that the AARP bought to coincide with Bush's visits.

Chris Thorne, spokesman for Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said there hadn't been any upswing in calls to the senator's office, although there was some response to Bush's visit — editorials in some North Dakota newspapers praised Conrad for standing firm against the president.
(via AP)

What's that quacking sound I hear? It seems to be coming early this year.

"Despicable." Oh yeah? 

Let's review:

A "reporter" who is badged into the oh-so-secure White House every day, and who provides both Scott "Sucker MC" McClellan and Bush Himself with the lifeline of nice, fluffy questions whenever they're hard pressed, turns out to be (a) innocent of any journalistic training, (b) operating under an assumed name (though I can see why "Guckert" isn't a name I'd think myself lucky to be born with, shouldn't the Secret Service care?), and (c) funded by the Texas GOP.

But wait! There's more! Not only does Guckert (a.k.a. "Gannon" of Talon "News" Service) (d) post photographs of himself on the Internet that, well, make the gay subtext of the Bush mandate really evident, he (e) owns several domain names that evince an interest in gay military porn.

But that's not all! Guckert was (f) Rove's channel for smearing Joseph Wilson in the Plame affair—with classified information no other news organization had.

Well. And what is the reaction of the wingers? Let's quote Howie quoting Instapundit:

Glenn Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor who writes on InstaPundit.com, said the tactics used against Gannon "seem to me to be despicable.

"If I were a member of the White House press corps, I'd be really worried," Reynolds said. "If working for a biased news organization disqualifies you, a lot of people have a lot to be worried about. If being involved in a dubious business venture is disqualifying, I suspect a lot of people have a lot to be worried about. I guess I don't see what all this has to do with his job."

Beautiful. Um, what do points (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), and (f) have to do with bias? Exactly nothing. And as for "dubious"—I don't care what domain names Guckert owns, or what photographs he poses for. But the winger base seems to care a lot—at least when the guy wielding the loofah isn't one of their own, that is.

And as for despicable—$70 million to impeach a sitting President over a blowjob as part of slow-motion, right-wing, media-fuelled coup? Personally, I find fascist enablers despicable. But that's just me.

While we're at it, let's remember the math: The White House has a budget for 200 media whores Paid Policy Advocates. We knew about 3; Guckert makes 4. I imagine F/Buckhead, the famous typographic authority, is another. That's 195 to go. Um, is Glenn Reynolds one of them? Where is all that Ketchum money going?

North Korean nukes 

Don't worry! Condi's on the case!

"We have for some time taken account of the capability of the North Koreans to perhaps have a few nuclear weapons," Rice told a news conference after talks with the European Union.
(via Reuters)

Yeah, that "axis of evil" stuff played well with the 101st Fighting Keyboarders and the media whores Paid Policy Advocates, but the blowback was a bitch, wasn't it? Not that I have a "responsible" policy position—as usual, the malAdministration has so FUBARed the situation that there's no sorting out their propaganda from what's really going on. And as usual, the only "responsible" solution is to get them out of there and start cleaning up the mess with a reality-based approach.

52 Warnings 

"I don't think anybody could have predicted that ... they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile," National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, May 16, 2002 CBS News

Report: FAA Had 52 Pre-9/11 Warnings
U.S. National - AP

WASHINGTON - The Federal Aviation Administration received repeated warnings in the months prior to Sept. 11, 2001, about al-Qaida and its desire to attack airlines, according to a previously undisclosed report by the commission that investigated the terror attacks.

The report by the 9/11 commission that investigated the suicide airliner attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon detailed 52 such warnings given to FAA leaders from April to Sept. 10, 2001, about the radical Islamic terrorist group and its leader, Osama bin Laden.

The commission report, written last August, said five security warnings mentioned al-Qaida's training for hijackings and two reports concerned suicide operations not connected to aviation. However, none of the warnings pinpointed what would happen on Sept. 11.


Information in this report was available to members of the 9/11 commission when they issued their public report last summer. That report itself contained criticisms of FAA operations.


Spend a relaxing two weeks freezing in hell 

Found this Reuters story which reads as follows:
Iran Promises 'Burning Hell' for Any Aggressor
Feb 10, 7:23 AM (ET)
By Amir Paivar

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran, facing mounting U.S. pressure over its nuclear program, promised Thursday a "burning hell" for any aggressor as tens of thousands marched to mark the 26th anniversary of its Islamic revolution.

"The Iranian nation does not seek war, does not seek violence and dispute. But the world must know that this nation will not tolerate any invasion," President Mohammad Khatami said in a fiery speech to the crowd in central Tehran.

"The whole Iranian nation is united against any threat or attack. If the invaders reach Iran, the country will turn into a burning hell for them," he added, as the crowd, braving heavy snow blizzards, chanted "Death to America!."

Full story LINK

Ok, but, on the sidebar accompanying this story there appeared this offer below (red arrow added by me):

Yup. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, hmmm, I wonder if blizzards, burning hellfire, and throngs of angry locals chanting death threats would qualify me for some kind of discounted offseason rate. Perhaps an upgrade of some sort.

Then again, maybe I'll just stay home this year and clean the garage.

Plus, if you decide to stay at home, you can relax in front of your big 27" immitation hardwood BoobyTron console color tv and watch game shows on the Pentagon Channel! Show em what's waiting for them behind door number two Condi! It's Syria!

See grannyinsanity for further details on this exciting new info-tainment offer.


The Washington Times: Beltway Bigot Spigot 

Faces under the hood:
Long criticized for its brand of journalism, The Washington Times makes a habit of publishing the work of extremists — including the wife of the newspaper's managing editor. By Heidi Beirich and Mark Potok

Feb. 9, 2005 -- Marian Kester Coombs is a woman who believes America has become a "den of iniquity" thanks to "its efforts to accommodate minorities."

White men should "run, not walk" to wed "racially conscious" white women and avoid being out-bred by non-whites. Latinos are "rising to take this country away from those who made it," the "Euroamericans." Muslims are "human hyenas" who "smell blood" and are "closing in" on their "weakened prey," meaning "the white race." Blacks, Coombs sneers, are "saintly victims who can do no wrong." Black solidarity and non-white immigration are imposing "racial revolution and decomposition" in America.

Coombs describes herself as just "a freelance writer in Crofton, Maryland." But this is one writer who's a bit more well-positioned than she lets on.

Marian Kester Coombs is married to Francis Booth Coombs, managing editor of the hard-right newspaper The Washington Times. Fran Coombs has published at least 35 of his wife's news and opinion pieces for his paper, although his relationship to her is not acknowledged in her Times bylines.


Most of Marian Coombs' especially inflammatory writings have appeared in white supremacist venues such as The Occidental Quarterly, which ran her glowing review of a book on "racially conscious" whites by Robert S. Griffin, a member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance. But the Times has published its share.


The Washington Times has taken something of a public relations beating recently. This Jan. 20, it ran an ad attacking Jews as "those folks of the anti-Christ." After the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington complained, Times general manager Richard Amberg Jr. wrote the group to profusely apologize, claiming the Times "never knowingly" allows ads that "denigrate religions."

That may be. But in just one sample period in late 2004, the newspaper ran at least nine similar ads — on Oct. 11, 13, 15, 20, 22, 26, 29, 30 and 31 — many of them plugging an anti-Semitic book called For Fear of the Jews.

On Dec. 6, it went one better, publishing an ad for the Institute for Historical Review, a leading anti-Semitic hate group that specializes in denying the World War II Holocaust.

The Washington Times is relatively small (circulation 102,000) and money-losing (it's been estimated that its backer, the Unification Church, has spent more than $1 billion to keep it going over the past 22 years). But its influence cannot be measured in those statistics. President Reagan once described it as his favorite paper. The first President Bush said it "in my view brings sanity to Washington, D.C."

Read it all: "The News That Fits" via the Southern Poverty law Center


White Noise Media: Then and Now 

Turn on the bubble machine! Propaganda and "perception management"; the Mighty Wurlitzer tune mill keeps on cranking on...

Robert Parry connects the dots.
Money, Media & the Mess in America, By Robert Parry; January 28, 2005

Sometime after 2009, when historians pick through the wreckage left behind by George W. Bush’s administration, they will have to come to grips with the role played by the professional conservative media infrastructure.

Indeed, it will be hard to comprehend how Bush got two terms as President of the United States, ran up a massive debt, and misled the country into at least one disastrous war – without taking into account the extraordinary influence of the conservative media, from Fox News to Rush Limbaugh, from the Washington Times to the Weekly Standard.

Recently, it’s been revealed, too, that the Bush administration paid conservative pundits Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher while they promoted White House policies. Even fellow conservatives have criticized those payments, but the truth is that the ethical line separating conservative “journalism” from government propaganda has long since been wiped away.

For years now, there’s been little meaningful distinction between the Republican Party and the conservative media machine.

In 1982, for instance, South Korean theocrat Sun Myung Moon established the Washington Times as little more than a propaganda organ for the Reagan-Bush administration. In 1994, radio talk show host Limbaugh was made an honorary member of the new Republican House majority.

The blurring of any ethical distinctions also can be found in documents from the 1980s when the Reagan-Bush administration began collaborating secretly with conservative media tycoons to promote propaganda strategies aimed at the American people.

In 1983, a plan, hatched by CIA Director William J. Casey, called for raising private money to sell the administration’s Central American policies to the American public through an outreach program designed to look independent but which was secretly managed by Reagan-Bush officials.

The project was implemented by a CIA propaganda veteran, Walter Raymond Jr., who had been moved to the National Security Council staff and put in charge of a "perception management" campaign that had both international and domestic objectives.

In one initiative, Raymond arranged to have Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch chip in money for ostensibly private groups that would back Reagan-Bush policies. According to a memo dated Aug. 9, 1983, Raymond reported that “via Murdock [sic], may be able to draw down added funds.” [For details, see Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq.]

Besides avoiding congressional oversight, privately funded activities gave the impression that an independent group was embracing the administration’s policies on their merits. Without knowing that the money had been arranged by the government, the public would be more inclined to believe these assessments than the word of a government spokesman.

"The work done within the administration has to, by definition, be at arms length," Raymond wrote in an Aug. 29, 1983, memo.

In foreign countries, the CIA often uses similar techniques to create what intelligence operatives call "the Mighty Wurlitzer," a propaganda organ playing the desired notes in a carefully scripted harmony. Only this time, the target audience was the American people.


But these ad hoc propaganda tactics of the 1980s didn’t go away.

With the investment of billions of dollars over the next two decades, the strategy grew into the permanent conservative media machine that we know today, a vast echo chamber to amplify conservative messages on TV, in newspapers, through magazines, over talk radio, with book publishing and via the Internet.

This media machine gives conservatives and Republicans a huge political advantage both during elections and between elections. It has even changed how Americans perceive the world and what information they rely on to make decisions.

The clout of this conservative media machine explains why millions of viewers to Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News believe "facts" that aren't facts, such as their stubborn beliefs that the Bush administration did find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was collaborating with al-Qaeda in the Sept. 11 attacks.

These days, a large number of Americans are fed a steady diet of conservative propaganda disguised as information – and millions more are influenced by the conservative messages that pervade TV, radio and print.

There's much more. Go read the whole thing. Money, Media & the Mess in America

And, speaking of "perception management", CNN puddle muddler Wolf Blitzer teams up with Howie fuddle-scut Kurtz for a little CNN whorehouse glee club benefit performance on behalf of Jeff Porn-Cannon Gannon, or Guckert, or whatever the hell his name is. Digby has the transcript up in case you missed their act earlier in the evening.


Wednesday, February 09, 2005


The Bush legacy:

More than 200 Texas children died from abuse or neglect in the past fiscal year, up 11 percent from the previous year and double the number from a decade earlier, according to the state Department of Family and Protective Services.
(via AP)

Culture of life, my Aunt Fanny.

Goodnight, moon 

Obviously, all the proposed cuts in Lord Bush's budget (Amtrak, etc.) are a distraction—but from what?

Effing Republicans 

You know, I'm amazed that the idea of the rancid heart of the Republican party turning fascist—the F word—has finally been, well, transmitted into the mainstream. I would have thought that the LRWM immune system was stronger than that, but apparently it isn't. We've been flogging this idea, with images, polemics, history, sick jokes, and umlauts for two years—as the essential Orcinus has been through true scholarship—and now it looks like success is in our grasp.

Not the end. Not even the beginning of the end. But perhaps the end of the beginning.

I'm warming up to Harry Reid 


"They're not going to frighten me. You know, they call me an obstructionist -- they're destructionists."
(via CNN from Kos)

Destructionists. I like it. "Over and over and over again my friend..."

NOTE Though lose that negative "They're not...." The unconscious doesn't do Boolean values.

Sam's Clubbing the Workers 

According to AP:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Wednesday it will close a Canadian store whose workers are on the verge of becoming the first ever to win a union contract from the world's biggest retailer.

They say those unreasonable unionists are causing the store to lose money by demanding things.

The union's demands would have forced the retailer to add 30 people to the existing payroll of 190, and guarantee many workers additional hours, he [Andrew Pelletier, a spokesman for Wal-Mart Canada] said.

"In our view, the union demands failed to appreciate the fragile conditions of the store," he said.

W-why, these stores are practically on the verge of going under! Can’t they see that? What, do they expect to actually make a living at this?

Hey, remember when Wal-Mart’s meatcutters organized? Good old Sam eliminated all meatcutting positions, and went to prepackaged meats only.

Ain’t capitalism grand? It’s a great McWorld we live in. Yup.

Grow yer own.

Mainstreaming The F-word 

More and more DIY journalism over at KOS (and since the journalists won't do it, we have to):

[AMBASSADOR JOSEPH WILSON] I did not like fascists when I fought them as a diplomat for 23 years and I don't like them now in my own country.

Don't like them? Why not? You can sit down and have a beer with them. Or maybe play with their loofah. After all, they're just entertainers, scholars, "Paid Policy Advocates"... And torturers (but they only torture non-Christians).

So what's not to like? Let's be reasonable, now.

UPDATE Extremely and justifiably alert reader Tinfoil Hat Boy comments:

There's a great way for Dems to frame this without getting tarred with the shrieks of the right saying we compared Bush to Hitler.
"I don't know if I would use the word fascist, but I do know that this Administration often wraps itself in the flag, brands opponents as traitors, relies heavily on propaganda for dissemination of its ideas, invokes subversive enemies (at home and abroad), embraces militarism and permanent war, favors expansion of the surveillance powers of the state, scorns intellectuals, etc.

Now you may want to call that fascism - I call it a threat to freedom and democracy."

I don't care about shrieks from the Paid Policy Advocates—they will shriek no matter what we do. But I do care about getting people to listen whose minds have been warped by the $300 million a year the fascists spend on propaganda.

If we can't say "Fascist," can we say, say, Effhead?

Kerry does the right thing by Dean 

Always nice to see team play:

Sen. John Kerry is contributing $1 million to the Democratic National Committee to support efforts by the next chairman, Howard Dean, in building grassroots support for the party at the state level.
(via AP)


Bush uses more of every American's tax dollars to pay for rallies that only Partei members can attend. And, Philadelphians, He's coming tomorrow to a location near you!

Tickets to the [Montgomery Community College] event are available to the public through the county's GOP headquarters, said Adam Gattuso, executive director of the Montgomery County Republican Committee. Residents can call 610-279-9300 to get tickets, he said.
(via Morning Call from The Amazin' Froomkin)

Citoyens! Give Adam a call and see if you can get in! Hey, maybe two times: First time, say you're a Democrat, second time a Republican... Think there'll be any difference in your treatment?

I hear the after-partei is going to feature a fabulous torchlight parade....

Yet Another Bush Botch: Medicare drug benefit 

Of course, it's a "botch" only if you're a taxpayer, or a "beneficiary." If you're Big Pharma—not a Rush joke, really [rimshot]—you're laughing all the way to the bank:

The White House released budget figures yesterday indicating that the new Medicare prescription drug benefit will cost more than $1.2 trillion in the coming decade, a much higher price tag than President Bush suggested when he narrowly won passage of the law in late 2003.
(via WaPo)

What a surprise!

At a House Ways and Means Committee hearing, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) taunted Treasury Secretary John W. Snow about the rhetorical discrepancies.

"If you're looking for a crisis, I would suggest you look at a crisis that was self-made in just last year, because the crisis exists in what's happened to Medicare by weighing it down," Emanuel said. "Those of us who told you it was going to cost twice as much were right."

Only in the SCLM would saying the simple truth be described as "taunting." Sigh...

Of course, one way to lower the price of the program would be to allow the Federal Government to use its massive purchasing power. (Why do you think Canadian drug prices are lower?) But the law—I wonder why?—expressly forbids that.

Nice to see Rahm Emanuel ripping John Snow a new one, too. More like this, please.

Pardon Me. My Idealism Is Running. 

My, my, my…the BBC notes that freedom and democracy exports are rising. No trade deficit here:

...The former CIA officer acknowledged that some of the suspects sent to places such as Egypt could then be tortured.

But he said: "It wouldn't be us torturing them and I think there is a lot of Hollywood involved with our portrayal of torture in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

"Human rights is a very flexible concept... It depends how hypocritical you want to be on a particular day."

Human rights campaigners, however, find it difficult to reconcile rendition with President Bush's claims of upholding the United Nations convention against torture. It says: "No state shall expel, return or exradite a person to another state where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture."

Mr Scheuer was among other ex-CIA officers who told File On 4 that as well as sending people to Guantanamo Bay, both the CIA and the US military were sending dozens of others to prisons in countries such as Jordan, Syria and Egypt.

Say, isn’t Syria an outpost of tyranny? Oh well. As Thomas Jefferson said, “human rights is very a very flexible concept, and must account for political reality—for instance, we’ll keep slavery legal and exterminate the Native peoples.” Oh, no, wait. He didn’t say that.

Around here, when the corporate-run jails get full, the overflow goes to Texas, where, for some reason, they always have room.

Human rights are apparently as flexible as reality to some folks.

Some days, I marvel that we can idealistically talk about human rights atall, without crying or laughing, or both, until the snot and tears cover us completely.

Thank-You Dr. Cole 

Our visiting lyric genius, MJS, has been inspired by Juan Cole to anthem-heights; it's an effort too fine to be left to the vagary of Halo-scanned comments.


Show us how to bury the devil
So deep he can't get out
Paint a sign and we will follow
What you whisper we will shout

The knave bows to the power
The grinning skull behind the mask
Beyond the lightning and the thunder
And the questions never asked

They got the TV, the Radio
They got the highs, they got the low
They got the river, they got the stream
They're coming after our dreams
A pretty good scheme
A pretty good scheme
A pretty good scheme
They're coming after our dreams

Show us how the coward cringes
Show us the ways the game is played
How they made poison from the honey
Here in the land of the brave

Take us to the mountain
We will spy the land below
The clarity and structure
Borne on the wind that flows

They got the TV, the Radio
They got the highs, they got the low
They got the river, they got the stream
They're coming after our dreams
A pretty good scheme
A pretty good scheme
A pretty good scheme
They're coming after our dreams.

And if I may piggyback on Xan's graceful shoulders, there was another passage in Professor Cole's post yesterday on the strange phenomenon of Goldberg-fils which makes a crucial point about the source of what is pernicious in so much of rightwing opinion.
Goldberg is now saying that he did not challenge my knowledge of the Middle East, but my judgment. I take it he is saying that his judgment is superior to mine. But how would you tell whose judgment is superior? Of course, all this talk of "judgment" is code for "political agreement." Progressives think that other progressives have good judgment, conservatives think that other conservatives have good judgment. This is a tautology in reality. Goldberg believes that I am wrong because I disagree with him about X, and anyone who disagrees with him is wrong, and ipso facto lacks good judgment.

An argument that judgment matters but knowledge does not is profoundly anti-intellectual. It implies that we do not need ever to learn anything in order make mature decisions. We can just proceed off some simple ideological template and apply it to everything. This sort of thinking is part of what is wrong with this country. We wouldn't call a man in to fix our plumbing who knew nothing about plumbing, but we call pundits to address millions of people on subjects about which they know nothing of substance.

But I did not say that Goldberg's judgment is always faulty. I said he doesn't at the moment know what he is talking about when it comes to Iraq and the Middle East, and there is no reason anyone should pay attention to what he thinks about those subjects, as a result. If judgment means anything, it has to be grounded in at least a minimum amount of knowledge. Part of the implication of my assertion is that Goldberg could actually improve his knowledge of the Middle East and consequently could improve his judgment about it (although increased knowledge would only help judgment if it were used honestly and analytically). I don't think he is intrinsically ignorant, I think he is being willfully ignorant. He'd be welcome to get a sabbatical and come study with me for a year some time.
Cole's observation here ties together so much we already know about the American right - the two decades plus attack on universities, the crucial institutions for validating intellectual knowledge, but having shown themselves insufficiently welcoming to explicitly rightwing propaganda, continue to be attacked for being too ideological; the establishment of a separate corporate-sponsored infrastructure by which ideologically approved "intellectuals" can be given accreditation and then media access, the constant association of expertise with elitism, the constant re-writing of recent history to fit a rightwing perspective, often in contravention of the most obvious facts, and finally the insistent charges of liberal/left bad faith in the form of nasty personal attacks pretending to be humor, and God save us, wit, and a willed ignorance of all other inconvenient facts and opinions that might get in the way of what one wants to believe.

What Jonah Goldberg tried to do to Professor Cole he does all the time to whomever he pleases. He's especially good when the person he's attacking is dead. Here's a sample of Goldberg's analytic prowress. His subject, the conscious choice not to be "American" by mainstream American journalists. That the pundits he talks about have said some fairly silly things doesn't make Goldberg any less silly, but what I'd like you to look at is this little throwaway paragraph:

And then there's the simple fact that elite journalists find patriotism itself unfashionable. One telling example: When the writer I.F. Stone died, Peter Jennings dubbed him a "journalist's journalist." The Los Angeles Times said he was "the conscience of investigative journalism."

Well, I.F. Stone was also a life-long Communist propagandist who apologized for Stalin's murders, praised North Vietnam, Castro and Mao while fraudulently accusing the United States of, among other crimes, using chemical weapons in Korea.

Now, I don't think our leading journalists share Stone's views. But there is a vestigial attitude, reflected in the fact that Stone is such a role model, which seems to hold that America is more likely to be wrong than right. When journalists' goal is complete neutrality, that's more than enough to tip the scales against America.

I.F. Stone was NEVER a Communist propagandist, he NEVER apologized for Stalin's murders, he was, in fact, an anti-Stalinist, although he was also deeply suspicious of the value of the cold war, he didn't praise North Vietnam, he told the truth about why they probably couldn't be defeated by American intervention, a truth that we were to find out later was exactly what the CIA was saying in the Pentagon Papers, and he didn't fraudulently accuse the US of anything in Korea, he wrote a book which has proved over the years to be wrong. On the other hand, I'll give Jonah that one if we can agree that every time anyone at The Corner is caught saying or writing anything that proves to be factually inaccurate we can sue the magazine for fraud. To get the taste of vomit out of your mouth, I suggest you take a look at Wikipedia's notated summary of Stone's career here.

When not attacking the dead, one of Jonah's favorite tropes is to attack straw. In this thumb-sucker of a column, he rightly and roundly jousts with lame arguments on behalf of rejecting SS privitization based on a sentimental reverence for the memory of FDR's legacy, an argument I've never heard, but which he claims he hears all around him. As with his attack on Stone, there is not a single link to a single fact or example of same. Joshua Holland at The Gadflyer did a proper evisceration of the column at the time, but what is most depressing to consider is the fact that the column didn't just go up at the National Review of Townhall, it was syndicated to the likes of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Some commentators have wondered about the energy expended by a distinguished Professor to take on a critique by a source that is more recognizable as a nudge than as a journalist, a specialist in inaccuracy who mistakes breezy insults for analytic rigor, a pundit who practices ignorance by design. I'm sure it wasn't any actual fun for Dr. Cole. I'm glad he did take it on. I'm glad he stood up and said, very publicly, you're not going to get away with lying about me. I wish more of those who have public voices would do the same thing.

Jonah's last response to Dr. Cole is beyond contemptible; by turns incoherent, insulting, mendacious, and above all, terminally clueless as to the persona that Dr. Cole has established through his blog and his public appearances; Jonah seems to believe that he can convince the world that Juan Cole is who Jonah wants to believe he is, but Goldberg's characterizations of the good professor, (Manichean and messianic, for instance, and who believes Jonah came up with those two on his own, nor did Cole claim he was being personally silenced by Jonah, rather clearly he hasn't been), are laughable to any regular reader of "Informed Comment," as Jonah might have noticed, if he'd bothered to read so much as a single day's worth of the professor's output.

The one virtue I'll concede to Jonah Goldberg is that he has found the perfect vehicle to express the deep nature of his commitment and concern for the Iraqi people:

Anyway, I do think my judgment is superior to his when it comes to the big picture. So, I have an idea: Since he doesn't want to debate anything except his own brilliance, let's make a bet. I predict that Iraq won't have a civil war, that it will have a viable constitution, and that a majority of Iraqis and Americans will, in two years time, agree that the war was worth it. I'll bet $1,000 (which I can hardly spare right now). This way neither of us can hide behind clever word play or CV reading. If there's another reasonable wager Cole wants to offer which would measure our judgment, I'm all ears. Money where your mouth is, doc.

I cannot hope to add anything to that chilling moment of self-revelation.

UPDATE: It turns out I didn't need to add anything. Dr. Cole responds to that paragraph here.

What will the children tell us 

Maya Marcel Keyes brings up an issue that gets, well, none, or very little, attention. Especially from the media glitterati.
In the International Herald Tribune two days ago was an article about gay homeless kids. It said something anyone who knows anything about life for homeless kids will have noticed - "as many as half of all homeless youth are lesbian or gay, many of them tossed out by parents who scorn homosexuality for a variety of reasons."

I've had three friends in the past few years who've been kicked out of their houses for no other reason whatsoever than being gay. Two of those three are dead now (one from leukemia - his parents didn't know he was sick at the time they tossed him out but even after finding out didn't want to help him; the other was murdered by a group of other street kids who left the knife they stabbed him with still sticking out of his body, pinning a sheet of paper to his chest that just said "FAG") and the third (prior to being kicked out he was a straight-A student, captain of the track team, 1500 SATs, who didn't touch drugs or cigarettes or alchohol and who was planning on staying a virgin until marriage) was raped by two men and beaten nearly to death within two weeks of being thrown onto the streets and is now a heroin-addicted prostitute who has starved himself down to about 70 lbs.

Privileged straight people rarely ever believe you if you tell them that so many kids get kicked out for being gay. They say things like, "Well he must have been [insert bigoted sterotypical all-queers-do-this activity here; eg., having tons of promiscuous sex, going out to clubs all night, taking drugs] and that's the real reason they did it." Which is total predjudiced garbage and even if your kids were doing any of the above what on earth will it help them forcing them into an environment where they're going to end up doing much worse just to stay alive? Most sane parents would try and help their kids if they found they were promiscuous addicts, not just throw them out like so much trash.

Saturday, February 05, 2005
Shymmer was kicked out of his house a few years ago, the summer after his junior year in high school, because he is gay and his parents are conservative. Sounds familiar?

But unlike me, Shymmer's parents aren't famous, and he didn't have a huge online community supporting him. So Shymmer, for the past few years, has been actually out on the streets. He did manage to finish high school (like me also, he was Ivy-League accepted, but never made it to college - he was in my graduating year, 2003) but since then has been wandering. Any of you who deal with street kids at all will know at least somewhat what the streets can do to people - after a couple years it has certainly taken its toll on Shymm. He went from a bright cheerful kid with a potentially bright future to something of a wreck, having been beaten, raped, and otherwise abused during his time on the streets more than I like to think about. He ended up here where I am - in Chicago - on heroin and selling himself, until Shiva brought him back to DC and he cleaned up. But even off heroin and with Skyzombie's roof over his head, all the abuse is hard to get rid of, and emotionally he's just not been in a good place.


I suppose that more than anything this has just reminded me even more why Bria and I for so long have wanted to start a GLBT youth center; a place where queer homeless kids especially can find support - run by people who actually know what it's like to be in their position...


Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Goodnight, moon 

Froomkin makes a good point. Why are the taxpayers funding Bush to fly around the country, when only people who sign loyalty oaths can get in to see him?

Oy, Oy for Oyl! 

“Oil for guaranteed political power,” eh? The Shiite ticket is coming on strong, and United Press International reports that

Companies such as Shell, Exxon and Chevron are offering all sorts of pot sweeteners to get on a refinery short list, the official said. Each one wants a "one-off" production-sharing agreement that will make it worthwhile to deal with the volatility in Iraq, including a still-changing government.

Instead, U.S. advisers are recommending that the government write a petroleum law to keep things open and transparent. "One-off" deals create conditions that encourage corruption, the official said.
"If we go contract by contract, other companies will out-bribe the United States companies, and we will lose," the official said. "We want an fair, open, equal process, and U.S. companies have better technology."

No foreign company can own land or extract natural resources under rules written by U.S. administrators after U.S. troops came into the country in April 2003.

Also still up for discussion are existing extraction contracts such as one signed by former president Saddam Hussein with Russian giant Lukoil, which has now been joined by ConocoPhillips. The current interim government has said that contract is void, but a newly elected parliament expected to be seated by the end of the month, may think otherwise. Other deals are still up for grabs.

In the meantime, Ghadban [iWaq’s Oil Minister] and an interim government "ministers' council" have approved at least six smaller refineries in recent weeks. A 30,000 barrel-per-day "package refinery" will be built in Koysenja near the northern city of Suleiymania, officials say. Another one is slated for Koya, nearby. In northern Mosul, where recent fighting kept some polls closed on Election Day, a refinery is planned to deal with crude reserves, said Asim Jihad, an oil ministry spokesman.

In the south, a new 10,000 barrel-per-day refinery recently came online in Nasriyah. A 230,000 barrel-per-day refinery is to be built in Najaf, a Shiite Muslim religious site, and another in Musayab.

So, we make sure the Shia gain power, make sure the bidding process is “fair” (i.e., American companies get the contracts), and make sure that Najaf gets a refinery, too. (Hey, sorry about that whole holy shrine thing, y’know…oopsie!) (Now, of course, the Kurds get theirs, too, but autonomy? Well…) (And the Sunni are all okay with this because, well, heck, they lost the election fair and square…)

In other words, except for the whole ugly “royal family” thing (the Brits already tried that in their mideast colonies, recall), the “New iWaq” really looks a lot Saudi Arabia. Or is it more like Iran? Maybe there’ll be kinder, gentler imams and ayatollahs in the New iWaq. But this New iWaq will be where? In the south? North? My, my… who’d-a thunk it? Fighting over the oil carcass while others protect your interests. Where’d they learn behavior like that? Harken? Halliburton?

Give 'Em Hell, Juan! 

Juan Cole has an even-more-must-read-than-usual post up today. It's gotten a good amount of attention because of the conclusion of his evisceration of Jonah whatsisname (a hint on the outcome: in a battle of wits, Jonah is unarmed) but hidden down toward the end is one of the best summaries yet written of just why morons like Jonah, in their witless ramblings, are dangerous: they are serving as leading lemmings in our march to the cliffs:
Cranky rich people hire sharp-tongued and relatively uninformed young people all the time and put them on the mass media to badmouth the poor, spread bigotry, exalt mindless militarism, promote anti-intellectualism, and ensure generally that rightwing views come to predominate even among people who are harmed by such policies. One of their jobs is to marginalize progressives by smearing them as unreliable.

The corporate media failed the United States in 2002-2003. The US government failed the American people in 2002-2003. That empty, and often empty-headed punditry, which Jon Stewart destroyed so skilfully, played a big role in dragooning the American people into a wasteful and destructive elective war that threatens to warp American society and very possibly to end the free Republic we have managed to maintain for over 200 years. Already severe challenges to our sacred Constitution have been launched by the Right. Goldberg is a big proponent of "profiling," which is to say, spying on people because of their ethnicity rather than because of anything they as individuals have done wrong. That is only the beginning, if such persons maintain their influence on public discourse.

The "red-state bourgeoisie" pursue the Franco Way 

I'm not even sure where to begin with this post. So I guess I'll begin right here with this most recent item below which is posted to Digby's place: See Digby/The Last Temptation
With their usual up-is-downism, these are the same guys who claim that frivolous lawsuits are killing America. Evidently, it's only frivolous if somebody has been disabled for life. It's perfectly acceptable to use the courts to quell dissent.

Matt calls it Putinization. Neiwert calls it psuedo-fascism. I call it Republican totalitarianism. Whatever you call it, it's long past time that we started to speak out clearly about what is really happening here. Interestingly, some of the most pointed criticism of this nature is now coming from the right:

A reader alerted me to this fascinating article from this month's American Conservative in which yet another conservative goes off the reservation and utters the F word.

[SNIP] Several weeks later, Justin Raimondo, editor of the popular Antiwar.com website, wrote a column headlined, “Today’s Conservatives are Fascists.” Pointing to the justification of torture by conservative legal theorists, widespread support for a militaristic foreign policy, and a retrospective backing of Japanese internment during World War II, Raimondo raised the prospect of “fascism with a democratic face.” His fellow libertarian, Mises Institute president Lew Rockwell, wrote a year-end piece called “The Reality of Red State Fascism,” which claimed that “the most significant socio-political shift in our time has gone almost completely unremarked, and even unnoticed. It is the dramatic shift of the red-state bourgeoisie from leave-us-alone libertarianism, manifested in the Congressional elections of 1994, to almost totalitarian statist nationalism. Whereas the conservative middle class once cheered the circumscribing of the federal government, it now celebrates power and adores the central state, particularly its military wing.”

Ok, I guess that's as good a place to start as any. I pointed out this Raimondo column in a post I wrote about Paul Craig Roberts on Jan 19, 2005. Some of you may remember it. If not, and you'd like to read what I wrote then, it's here: Midnight In America.

In any case, what I wrote then isn't particularly important to this post aside from congratulating the Paul Craig Robert's and the Lew Rockwell's for finally emerging from whatever cloud cuckooland they were inhabiting. I don't buy Rockwell's contention that "the most significant socio-political shift in our time has gone almost completely unremarked, and even unnoticed." It certainly has'nt gone unremarked or unnoticed by many on the Left (including readers and writers here) for almost thirty years. But it's nice to see guys like Lew finally figuring it out for himself. Better late than never.

I also don't completely buy Rockwell's rosy good old days characterization of the "red-state bourgeois", whatever that is, as some kind of tragic lost innocence gone astray. Spare me that. Ok.

All that aside I'd like to get my two cents in here on what it is I think we have with respect to this New Order which seems to have arrived. And since I've been harping on this topic here and there since I began posting at Eschaton nearly two years ago I'd like to at least briefly summarize my thoughts on the matter.

Essentially, I'm gonna tell ya what I call it. Not that most people give a flying hot god-damned what I have to say on this matter - I suspect they do not - but that's ok too. I'll throw it out there for Corrente readers to make of it what they will.

Putinism. Psuedo-fascism. Republican totalitarianism.
What I think we have here - where we have arrived at - what I call it - is a stepping stone on a long path to some form of something very similar to Gen. Francisco Franco's Spain.

Francoism: A kind of hokey-pokey dance and high wire balancing act of varying right-wing ideologies and interests.

From populist nationalist right wing organizations, conservative Christian churches and ministries, and elitist (often laissez-faire "libertarian") corporatist special interests, to the Pax American power of the military industrial complex and the neoconservative movement today, this entire "fusion" of rightist interests resembles the key foundational elements that revolved around Franco's regime. Franco managed to position himself as a kind of central pivot orbited by multiple powerful like minded right wing ideological players.

Representative groups that played influential roles in Franco's Spain, and their current compares, included:

Falangists (fascism and radical pseudo-populist right wing nationalists) - Here you have what can be compared to todays radical "pseudo-fascist" populism of, lets say, the wing-nut radio right. Including some of the populist nationalist Christian Nation howlers, Neo-Confederates, Worldnut Daily types. And so on. Take a look at The American Falangist Party website if you like. You'll easily recognize what you'll find there. (URL: www.falange.us/faq.htm).

Monarchists/Militarists/Theocrats - Support for a constitutional monarchy was popular with many members of the military and those powerful moneyed elitists who argued for greater economic "liberalism". But not popular with Franco or the nationalist right wing factions and the conservative Catholic Church who saw messy representative democracy (and any kind of liberalism) as a danger to it's conservative traditionalist and nationalist theo-fascist styled patriarchal order. Franco was essentially a right wing military dictator. An authoritarian (and the object of heroic national renewal, strenght, and traditional grandeur, etc...), so any threat to that position was unacceptable to Franco himself. However, following WW2, as Falangist party favor waned due to the world's revulsion at Nazi fascism, Franco's alignments would ultimately be forced to adopt more a "liberal", "fee-market", economic stance in order to keep Spain engaged with the rest of post war Europe and America. Here you can make a similar compare to the strenght of the neoconservative, corporatist, militarist alignment. Throw in the ultra-conservative Opus Dei technocrat Catholic capitalistist intellectuals and you have the elitist "success" church (retaining conservative religious cultural values), meets corporatist business, meets militarist security state relationship, you see in America today.

So you have a kind of fusionist arrangement of pseudo-fascist nationalism and imperialistic glorification, ultra conservative religious traditionalism or fundamentalism, militarism, and corporatist elitist monarchism all orbiting a heroic figurehead. Sound familiar?

And, like most pseudo-fascist authoritarian ultra-conservative religious and corporatist elitist coalitions, liberalism, and "the left", as embodied in popular representative democracy, such as the one we thought we had in this country for a long time, are percieved as the ultimate enemy of the nation and the state. Aping the usual pre-WW2 conspiratorial boogeymen of fascist causes Franco would pose liberals, left secular so-called decadent culture, and representative democracy, alongside communism, as one of the greatest threats to Spains future.

That's where I think we may be in America toady. Especially when compared to old New Right alignments and the evolution of the conservative right-wing movement in this country since at least the late 1970's. With obvious refinements and updates of course. Except today, the kind of dictitorial authoritarian power once held by Franco alone, is more cooperatively distributed among the neoconservative clique and militarists and powerful multi-national corporatists. And their sympathetic elites. The decorative cultic figurehead we call a "leader" and embodied in the GOP and currently represented by president George W. Bush is relegated essentially to little more than a useful celebrated master of ceremonies. Or, the show-girl who jumps out of a cake from time to time. Wearing a cowboy hat and clutching a fourth of July sparkler and a bottle full of charismatic corn-fire and singing God Bless America. Love it or leave it.

Of course the morons of the land (for example, the "red-state bourgeoisie", to borrow a term), love it. It's like an endless stag (or halftime) party with beer and bunting and explosives and good old fashion Jesus shouting so called traditional 'Murican "family values". Give em a chance to hoot and holler and whoop it up and to essentially make a good deal of grunting noises on behalf of Jesus and bunting and explosives and boobies in general and they'll be eternally grateful at least from a practical useful idiotic perspective. They don't care who baked the cake or why there is some clown jumping out of it waving a bottle of moonshine around as long as its a good show and they're on the right side of the winning team and there's a big parade paid for by the bossman with plenty of saluting and marching about and everyone pretending that they'll be headed off to church services in the morning. It's an old story.

So thats it. Thats what it is. To me. In some context or another. I think. But who knows, maybe I'm just completely full of shit. I hope so. And I'm just kind of flinging this stuff out there at this point. So, if this hasn't been as carefully articulated as it should be, I apologize. Please let me know if you think I'm thrashing around in the weeds here.

In any case I think there is a lot more that can be said about this down the road and I'll try to throw up some more on this topic as soon as I can. There is just too much of it to run through in a single blog post. Like I said, I wasn't even sure where exactly to start with this one. And now I'm not sure how to end it. The fun never ends.


Monday, February 07, 2005

Goodnight, moon 

Pleasant dreams.

The problem of evil 

I know I've been harping on the problem of evil (back), and it isn't a popular meme; but it's real and important. Anyone who wants to think seriously about Abu Ghraib has to take the possibility and nature of evil into account.

As good liberals, we want to believe in human perfectibility; sometimes, I think, because we want so much to make things right, we believe that anything can be made right. But I'm afraid human nature, as revealed through history, is against us (the Holocaust; Pol Pot; the Irish potato famine, "Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees"). That's our problem of evil: we want to believe that evil is not real.

But conservatives—or should I say "conservatives"—believe so strongly that they are good, that they fall into the trap of believing that only others can be evil ("evil doers"). In fact, Christianity teaches that evil is an inherent part of the human condition; all of us are capable of; this is called original sin. That is the conservative's problem of evil: They want to believe that evil is only real in others (compare Winger Projection Syndrome.)

Interestingly, the problem of evil is now going mainstream. From The Times:

Western religious leaders, evolutionary theorists and psychological researchers agree that almost all human beings have the capacity to commit brutal acts, even when they are not directly threatened. In Dr. Stanley Milgram's famous electroshock experiments in the 1960's, participants delivered what they thought were punishing electric jolts to a fellow citizen, merely because they were encouraged to do so by an authority figure as part of a learning experiment.

In the real world, the grim images coming out of Iraq -the beheadings by Iraqi insurgents and the Abu Ghraib tortures, complete with preening guards - suggest how much further people can go when they feel justified.

Dr. Angela Hegarty, director of psychiatry at Creedmoor who works with Dr. Stone, said she was skeptical of using the concept of evil but realized that in her work she found herself thinking and talking about it all the time. In 11 years as a forensic examiner, in this country and in Europe, she said, she counts four violent criminals who were so vicious, sadistic and selfish that no other word could describe them.

One was a man who gruesomely murdered his own wife and young children and who showed more annoyance than remorse, more self-pity than concern for anyone else affected by the murders. On one occasion when Dr. Hegarty saw him, he was extremely upset - beside himself - because a staff attendant at the facility where he lived was late in arriving with a video, delaying the start of the movie. The man became abusive, she said: he insisted on punctuality.


Of course, evil is a spiritual category, not to be confused with psychological categories like psychopathology or sociopathology. And it's dangerous to think about or study evil too much; it's like a toxic material that can't be handled without endangering the mind or the spirit.

That said:

Researchers have found that some people who commit violent crimes are much more likely than others to kill or maim again, and one way they measure this potential is with a structured examination called the psychopathy checklist.

As part of an extensive, in-depth interview, a trained examiner rates the offender on a 20-item personality test. The items include glibness and superficial charm,, grandiose self-worth, pathological lying, proneness to boredom and emotional vacuity.

Broken homes and childhood trauma are common among brutal killers; so is malignant narcissism, a personality type characterized not only by grandiosity but by fantasies of unlimited power and success, a deep sense of entitlement, and a need for excessive admiration.

It really is not a coincidence that the boy who blew up frogs with firecrakers is the man who mocks those he has the power to execute and the man who authorizes policies of torture.


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