Saturday, March 03, 2007

Elizabeth Edwards responds to Ann Coulter

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Update: For more on Elizabeth Edwards's phone-in challenge to Ann Coulter and her "language of hate," see my more recent post, "The unabashed bigotry of Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter".

For more on John Edwards (and I was once a featured blogger at his One America Committee), see here.

For more on the lunacy of Fox News, on which I have done many posts, see here.

For more on various assholes extraordinaire, such as John Gibson and Rush Limbaugh, see here.

For more on various dangerous idiots, such as Newt Gingrich, Dennis Miller, and John Yoo, see here.


As you may have heard, conservative darling Ann Coulter called John Edwards a "faggot" at the Conservative Political Action Conference yesterday. (We posted on it here and here.)

Well, Elizabeth Edwards has responded at the Edwards '08 blog: "Although her words did not hurt us, they may have hurt some in the gay community. We are all sick and tired of anyone supporting or applauding or introducing hate words into the national dialogue, tired of people thinking that words that cause others pain are fair game. And we are sick and tired of people like Miss Coulter thinking that her use of loaded words about the homosexual community in this country is remotely humorous or appropriate."

The problem is, many conservatives find such language both humorous and appropriate. The three leading GOP candidates -- McCain, Giuliani, and Romney -- have spoken out against Coulter's slur, but to think that Coulter and her views reside on the fringe of the conservative movement is to misunderstand the state of that movement. Conservatism today isn't just about low taxes, small government, and a big military, it's about specific cultural and moral values espoused by the evangelical right but embraced more broadly throughout the conservative movement as well as by the Republican Party it sustains. And one of the key conservative values concerns sexual orientation: straight is right, anything else is wrong. This manifests itself not just as opposition to gay rights but as opposition to homosexuality generally.

Did I say opposition? I mean hatred.

Of course, not all conservatives hate gays. But there is no excuse for what Coulter said. (And it's simply not enough to claim it was all a joke.) And there is no excuse for the fact that many conservatives obviously like Coulter a great deal and consider her to be one of their own, one of their leading media celebrities.


I disagree with conservative Rick Moran's suggestion that no blogger "write another blog post about Ann Coulter no matter how outrageous, cruel, or bigoted her language" -- as long as she's a popular conservative public figure, we need to call her, and her supporters, out. However, I agree with his five other suggestions, including this one: "Immediately write the Presidents of Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN demanding that they refuse to schedule Coulter on any show for any reason on their networks."

By the way, Moran makes the case that Coulter does not speak for conservatives. I disagree with him on this -- she obviously speaks for many conservatives, hence her popularity -- but I appreciate the sentiment.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Forget reality. Gimme that old-time religion.

By J. Kingston Pierce

Is it just me, or do American conservatives seem increasingly adamant (even shrill) about asserting their waning political influence? This last November’s midterm elections, which found Democrats executing a
complete shutout of Republican’ts on Capitol Hill and in state governorships, has led to such idiotic stunts as right-wing political commentator Ann Coulter calling former Senator John Edwards a “faggot,” pro-war candidate John McCain sucking up to Christianists by flip-flopping on his abortion stance, and George W. Bush threatening again to start a war with Iran in order to assert his relevance in the post-Rovian United States.

But the creation of Conservapedia, a right-wing alternative to the allegedly “anti-Christian and anti-American” Wikipedia online information bank, may be the clearest indication yet that political conservatives are determined to counter any viewpoints not in line with their own reactionary, denial-based, and too often exclusionary perspective on the world and its history. “Conservapedia is an online resource and meeting place where we favor Christianity and America,” the site says on its front page. “Conservapedia has easy-to-use indexes to facilitate review of topics. You will much prefer using Conservapedia compared to Wikipedia if you want concise answers free of ‘political correctness.’” Hmm. So how exactly does Conservapedia demonstrate its greater adherence to the truth and its rejection of “political correctness”?

In its write-up about former President Bill Clinton, it leads with the reminder that “Clinton never won a majority of the popular vote.” That’s followed immediately by the unsubtle editorialization that “In his first two years in office, 1993 through 1994, Clinton failed at his massive attempt to ‘reform’ health-care in the United States by some sort of government-backed universal health-care insurance, which would result in effective government control of the health care system.”

In an entry about “intelligent design,” a religion-based “alternative” to Charles Darwin’s accepted theory of evolution, Conservapedia insists that “Design Theory enjoys broad support within the scientific community which is steadily growing.” It goes on to denounce a federal judge (and a Republican) who ruled in a Pennsylvania case that intelligent design “cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents” as “an activist judge ... whose ruling has been described by influential opinion-makers as ‘biased and religiously bigoted.’” (Gee, way to go Conservapedia: no bias in your own write-up, is there?)

On a page devoted to the four-term presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Conservapedia contributors say absolutely nothing about FDR’s efforts to beat the Great Depression, beef up employment, and help Britain and France survive World War II. Instead, they devote 173 words of their 276-word profile of the 20th century’s greatest U.S. chief executive to Roosevelt’s statements about religion. (It seems he was for it.)

Defining the term “theocracy,” Conservapedia writes: “Government ruled by a divine means or by leaders considered to be divinely guided. Israel was a theocracy before King Saul. Modern theocracies include Iran, Turkey, and Afghanistan prior to the ousting of the Taliban by the military of the United States of America. With any luck, a new modern theocracy will be established within the United States by the end of the decade.”

Remarking on the presidency of George Washington, the site proclaims: “Washington is perhaps the only person other than Jesus who declined enormous worldly power, in Washington’s case by voluntarily stepping aside as the ruler of a prosperous nation.”

On a page about the Democratic Party, the site says little more than this: “The official platform of the Democratic party emphasizes strengthening America. Right-wing critics claim, however, that the Democrat [sic] voting record reveals a true agenda of cowering to terrorism, treasonous anti-Americanism, and comtempt [sic] for America’s founding principles such as freedom of religion.”

Trying further to make the case that it’s “an online encyclopedia you can trust,” Conservapedia has this to say on the important subject of global warming:

On February 2, 2007, an internatonal [sic] panel of hundreds of scientists and representatives of 113 governments issued a report concluding:

The observed widespread warming of the atmosphere and ocean, together with ice-mass loss, support the conclusion that it is extremely unlikely that global climate change of the past 50 years can be explained without external forcing, and very likely that is not due to known natural causes alone.

It should be noted that these scientists are motivated by a need for grant money in their field of climatology. Therefore, their work can not be considered unbiased, though no more than any scientist in any other field. Also, these scientists are mostly liberal athiests [sic], untroubled by the hubris that man can destroy the Earth which God gave him.

And I’m not sure what to make of Conservapedia’s entry under the word “religion.” I’d assumed, given the goals of this site, that it would have much to say on this controversial subject. However, the page contains nothing but this text:

Types of Religion
There is only one type of religion, Christianity. The others are frauds.

Sources of Religion
Christians used to look to the Bible for God’s word, but now they have the Blog of the Gods, which relays His word directly in modern language people can understand. It is also less silly than the Bible.

(Most of the Web links above have been added by yours truly, in order that readers can find more information on certain subjects. However, don’t blame me for that weird Blog of the Gods link; it’s original to Conservapedia.)

Obviously, Conservapedia is still in its formative stages, with subjects of seemingly greatest interest to its originators receiving the most attention first. Which might explain why, after attacking Bill Clinton throughout most of a 519-word write-up, its creators then devote only 168 words to his successor; and why extensive entries are written about homosexuality and abortion--both abject sources of evil, apparently--yet the site offers absolutely no information about the U.S. Congress, only a quote from Mark Twain: “It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.”

The creation of this sort of online “resource” isn’t really surprising. As Steve Benen of The Carpetbagger Report remarks: “A Bush White House aide famously said a few years ago, ‘We create our own reality.’ I suppose it stands to reason, then, that Bush’s supporters would want to do the same thing.”

And the whole enterprise would be quite hilarious, were it not merely pathetic. The idea that self-styled conservatives--trying to counter what they see as a too-liberal interpretation of the world’s complications by intellectuals and encyclopedia authors--need to edit history to fit their own biases simply emphasizes their minority viewpoints. Furthermore, in its effort to avoid what project leader Andy Schlafly (son of longtime conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly) calls the gossip, vulgarity, and long-winded writing of Wikipedia, this site actually insults its readers’ intelligence by trying to shield them from other opinions--not unlike what FOX News does by, say, sinking its resources into seemingly endless coverage of former Playboy playmate Anna Nicole Smith’s death, rather than reporting on the day-by-day increase of body counts from Bush’s Iraq occupation. Can’t let those readers find out what’s really happening in the world, and that most people think differently than they do, lest the sheep start to abandon their right-wing shepherds. Only chaos can ensue from that, am I right?

Of course, as Wired News points out, “Conservapedia isn’t the first example of the religious right turning to social software to reach a wider web audience--there’s also CreationWiki, an encyclopedia of creation science written from a Christian perspective.” And we all know how influential that site has been. Getting worked up about Conservapedia is probably just as much wasted energy.

(Cross-posted at Limbo.)

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Is Europe on the verge of another Great War?

By Heraclitus

Switzerland invades Liechtenstein.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

A major misjudgment

By Creature

A resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan. A surprise visit and a warning to do more by the vice president to President Musharraf of Pakistan. A conveniently quick arrest of a Taliban leader soon after. These were the major news stories coming out of Pakistan and Afghanistan this week, but did you know that the Taliban leader captured had already been in custody back in 2001? Did you know the United States gave their "tacit approval" of his release? I certainly did not. The Independent [UK] fills us in:

If Mullah Akhund is as central to the Taliban insurgency as now appears to be the case, the fact he was in custody as long ago as 2001 is likely to prove an embarrassment to the Americans and the Afghan authorities. When he was released under an amnesty after surrendering to the Northern Alliance, officially the US military claimed it did not know about it. But according to reports at the time, the Americans gave tacit approval.

With the Taliban insurgency looking increasingly dangerous as time goes on, that decision now looks like a major misjudgement.

How many more major misjudgments can our troops, our country, our allies, and the world at large endure?

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Greenwald on Coulter and her movement

By Heraclitus

I don't have much to add to this, but Glenn Greenwald's response to Coulter's latest round of hate-mongering is worth quoting:

None of this is news, particularly. This is a movement propelled by an insatiable hunger for more slaughter and more wars. It is centrally dependent upon hatred of an Enemy, foreign or domestic -- the Terrorist, the Immigrant, the Faggot, the Raghead, and most of all, the Liberal. As John Dean brilliantly documented, that is the only real feature that binds the "conservative" movement at this point, the only attribute that gives it identity and purpose. It does not have any affirmative ideas, only a sense of that which it hates and wants to destroy. So to watch as the crowd wildly cheers an unapologetic hatemonger is perfectly natural and not at all surprising.

But we should, at the very least, be able to have a moratorium on all of the scandals driven by their claims to be so offended and upset when anonymous commenters on a blog say mean things, or when bloggers use curse words, or when Senators transparently botch a joke. The ugliest and most obscene sentiments are openly expressed not by their blog commenters or even bloggers -- though that is true -- but by their most admired and successful political leaders, the ones whom their presidential candidates desperately seek to embrace and for whom their most committed throngs cheer wildly.


Bookmark and Share

Friday, March 02, 2007

Army Secretary steps down over Walter Reed scandal

By Michael J.W. Stickings

With the Walter Reed scandal still alive and well -- see here and here for our recent posts -- Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey resigned today:

Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey resigned today amid a burgeoning scandal over the treatment of wounded outpatient soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and President Bush ordered a "comprehensive review" of care for the nation's war wounded, as the administration sought to deal with growing anger in Congress and among the public over the issue.

A visibly angry Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced the resignation in a brief statement this afternoon, saying he was "disappointed" by the Army's response to disclosures of inadequate outpatient care at Walter Reed and bureaucratic inertia in dealing with wounded soldiers.

The Carpetbagger Report: "My opinion of Robert Gates just went up considerably. As Atrios put it, 'This is the first time in the entire Bush administration that we've had anything which even felt remotely like a genuine "accountability" moment.' There's still time for these guys to screw it up, but if Gates is cleaning house and firing people, I'm extremely encouraged."

I can't believe I'm writing this, but... so am I. At least someone in the Bush Administration is taking responsibility for something.

(For more on the scandal, see Think Progress, Taylor Marsh, NewsHog, Needlenose, and DownWithTyranny!.)

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Ladies and gentlemen, American conservatism

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Today at the Conservative Political Action Conference:

Mitt Romney: "I am happy to hear that after you hear from me, you will hear from Ann Coulter. That is a good thing. Oh yeah!"

Ann Coulter: "I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot,' so I — so kind of an impasse, can’t really talk about Edwards."

And the audience cheered.

(Think Progress has the video here.)


Andrew Sullivan (a self-defined conservative, but of a different kind altogether): "When you see her in such a context, you realize that she truly represents the heart and soul of contemporary conservative activism, especially among the young... She is the new Republicanism. The sooner people recognize this, the better."

Recognize it now.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

A-Wade's slam dunk

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I'm sure you've all been following this closely, but the results of Senegal's presidential election are finally in:

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade won re-election for a second term in Sunday's election, the country's electoral commission has said.

It said that President Wade, aged 81, won more than 50% of the votes cast, making a run-off unnecessary. [He won 55.86% of the vote. His two closest rivals, a former prime minister and a socialist, received just 14.93% and 13.57%, respectively.]

The results must still be reviewed and confirmed by the Senegalese Constitutional Council.

Opposition parties have said they have evidence of fraud and may challenge Mr Wade's victory.

Ah, yes, fraud. What would a corrupt developing-world "democracy" be without it? This election may have been no exception.

I was going to write more on the state of Senegalese politics, but instead I'll turn it over to a good Q&A at the BBC, as well as to the useful entry at Wikipedia.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Ancient sun cult in Peru

By Heraclitus

Here's an interesting story at the BBC, itself a summary of an article in Science, about a series of 2,300 year old towers in Peru. Although their existence has been known for about a century, archaeologists have apparently just realized or noticed that the towers line up with the sun's arc.

The Thirteen Towers of Chankillo run from north to south along the ridge of a low hill within the site; they are relatively well-preserved and each has a pair of inset staircases leading to the summit.

The rectangular structures, between 75 and 125 square metres (807-1,345 sq ft) in size, and are regularly spaced -- forming a "toothed" horizon with narrow gaps at regular intervals.

About 230m (750ft) to the east and west are what scientists believe to be two observation points. From these vantages, the 300m- (1,000ft-) long spread of the towers along the horizon corresponds very closely to the rising and setting positions of the Sun over the year...

The site where the towers are based is about four square kilometres (1.5 square miles) in size, and is believed to be a ceremonial centre that was occupied in the 4th Century BC. It is based at the coast of Peru in the Casma-Sechin River Basin and contains many buildings and plazas, as well as a fortified temple that has attracted much attention.

The authors of the paper... believe the population was an ancient Sun cult and the observatory was used to mark special days in their solar calendar...

Written records suggest the Incas were making solar observations by 1500 AD, and that their religion centred on Sun worship.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Still silencing the victims of Bush's warmongering

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I wrote yesterday about the silencing and mistreatment of soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Well, conditions may soon improve -- may. For the Pentagon has acted:

The commander of Walter Reed Army Medical Center was fired [today] after the Army said it had lost trust and confidence in his leadership in the wake of a scandal over outpatient treatment of wounded troops at the Northwest Washington hospital complex.

Army Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, who assumed command of Walter Reed in August, will be temporarily replaced by Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley. But the appointment of Kiley, who had earlier been the facility's commander, surprised some Defense Department officials because soldiers, their families and veterans' advocates have complained that he had long been aware of problems at Walter Reed and did nothing to improve its outpatient care.

So, okay. The mistreatment has been exposed, there is "new" leadership, and something may be done about the horrendous mistreatment of America's wounded in action.

But here's the thing. Aside from the mistreatment, which is bad enough, the Army Times (which I quoted in my previous post) reported that soldiers were being prevented from talking to the media. That is, they were being not just censored but silenced.

The mistreatment may end -- hopefully it will -- but the silencing presumably will continue.

The warmongers will do whatever they can to keep the truth from coming out.

And that's still not supporting the troops.


Bookmark and Share

Prisoners used to replace migrant workers

By Heraclitus

Check out this article in The L.A. Times about plans in Colorado to use prisoners as farmhands, after "tough" laws against illegal immigration left the state's farmers without anyone to harvest their crops.

Ever since passing what its Legislature promoted as the nation's toughest laws against illegal immigration last summer, Colorado has struggled with a labor shortage as migrants fled the state. This week, officials announced a novel solution: Use convicts as farmworkers.

The Department of Corrections hopes to launch a pilot program this month — thought to be the first of its kind — that would contract with more than a dozen farms to provide inmates who will pick melons, onions and peppers.

Crops were left to spoil in the fields after the passage of legislation that required state identification to get government services and allowed police to check suspects' immigration status.

Are those who complain about the ill effects of illegal immigrants on our economic well-being, what with all the free health care in this country and all, lying, hypocritical racists? Could they be? Could this handy, symbolically-rich little vignette illustrate that?

Prisoners who are a low security risk may choose to work in the fields, earning 60 cents a day. They also are eligible for small bonuses.

The inmates will be watched by prison guards, who will be paid by the farms. The cost is subject to negotiation, but farmers say they expect to pay more for the inmate labor and its associated costs than for their traditional workers.

Whoa, sixty cents a day! That's not exploitative at all (ACLU lawsuit in 3...2...1...). Oh, but it's still going to cost the farmers more than hiring "illegals" (which is about the best thing you can call someone when the law looks like this). That right there might tell you all you need to know about the condition of migrant workers in this country. Of course, the main expense is going to be paying the guards. Good sadists are expensive. Don't take my word for it; just check the back pages of your local free weekly.

Advocates on both sides of the immigration debate said they were stunned by the proposal.

"If they can't get slaves from Mexico, they want them from the jails," said Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, which favors restrictions on immigration.

Ricardo Martinez of the Denver immigrant rights group Padres Unidos asked: "Are we going to pull in inmates to work in the service industry too? You won't have enough inmates — unless you start importing them from Texas." know it's bad when the guy cast as the anti-illegal immigration fellow is saying migrants workers are treated like "slaves." Meanwhile, there won't be enough inmates -- unless you start importing them from the heart of wingnuttia, Texas.

Farmers said they weren't happy with the solution, but their livelihoods are on the verge of collapse.

"This prison labor is not a cure for the immigration problem; it's just a Band-Aid," farmer Joe Pisciotta said.

Alright, I don't know what this "Pisciotta" bullshit is. It might be Italian, but I don't like the looks of all those vowels.

He said he needed to be sure he would have enough workers for the harvest this fall before he planted watermelons, onions and pumpkins on his 700-acre farm in Avondale. But he's not thrilled with the idea of criminals working his fields.

"I've got young kids," he said. "It's something I've got to think about."

Pisciotta said he hoped the program highlighted what he viewed as the absurdity of Colorado's position — dependent on immigrant labor but trying to chase migrants away. He said the people leaving were not just those who entered the country illegally.

"Some of them have said, 'We think our paperwork is in order, but how about if it's not and we get caught on a glitch,' " he said.

Okay, that does it. Ship his ass off to Gitmo.

Social service agencies say they have discovered few illegal immigrants on public assistance since the laws were passed.

Gee, I wonder if that could be because they've all left the state. But, whatever the reason, the important thing is that migrant workers are no longer taking advantage of the vast system of social welfare programs we have here in the United States. And all it took was bringing the state's agricultural industry to the brink of total ruin.

In California, where growers also have complained about a lack of workers, inmates have not labored in private fields since the 1940s. Prisoners then were used as farmhands while laborers were fighting in World War II, said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections.

"The idea [of using prisoners on farms] has been floated before, but these are not unskilled jobs. They're jobs that require a lot of training and supervision," said David Kranz, a spokesman for the California Farm Bureau Federation. "It doesn't seem like a very practical alternative."

Wait...I don't...understand...migrant workers...?..."illegal aliens"...doing skilled labor? That...that can't be. Cannot...compute. Dobbs.

For more, see The Unapologetic Mexican.


Bookmark and Share

A fighter for history gone

By J. Kingston Pierce

February, the
shortest month of the year, finally brought to a close the life and career of one of America’s foremost political historians and social critics, Pulitzer Prize-winner and former Kennedy administration advisor Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. He died in Manhattan last night, after being stricken with a heart attack while dining out. Schlesinger was 89 years old.

Born in Columbus, Ohio, in October 1917, Schlesinger was the son and namesake of Arthur M. Schlesinger, a Progressive Era intellectual and Harvard University history professor who may have been best known for surveying U.S. historians on the significance of past presidencies. After graduating summa cum laude from Harvard himself in 1938, during World War II “Schlesinger drafted some statements for President [Franklin D.] Roosevelt and served as an intelligence analyst for the Office of Strategic Services, forerunner to the CIA,” according to an Associated Press obituary. His emergence from his famous father’s shadow was most clearly realized in 1945, when he published The Age of Jackson, a historical text that “offered a new, class-based interpretation of the [Andrew] Jackson administration, destroying the old myth that the country was once an egalitarian paradise. The book remained influential despite eventual criticism--even by Schlesinger--for overlooking Jackson’s appeasement of slavery and his harsh treatment of Indians.”

In the mid-’40s, Schlesinger helped found (with Eleanor Roosevelt, Hubert Humphrey, and others) Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal organization that, while it espoused anti-communism, also opposed the dogmatic Communist witch-hunting practiced during the 1950s by Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) and the nearly as “obsessive” anti-communism promoted by the Left. In 1949, he saw published The Vital Center: The Politics of Freedom, in which he advocated liberal democratic ideals but adamantly rejected totalitarianism (“Neither fascism nor communism can win so long as there remains a democratic middle way,” he wrote in The New York Times in 1948). Schlesinger’s staunch liberalism led him to pen speeches for Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and 1956, and then to do the same for John F. Kennedy in 1960. (Schlesinger conceded that switching his loyalty from Stevenson to the junior U.S. senator from Massachusetts was difficult; he called Stevenson, the former governor of Illinois, a “much richer, more thoughtful, more creative person,” but was drawn to Kennedy’s “cool, measured, intelligent concern.”)

After Kennedy’s thin conquest over GOP candidate Richard M. Nixon, Schlesinger served in the White House as a speech writer and presidential special assistant for Latin American affairs. At the time of Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, Schlesinger was left with voluminous notes he’d taken for the president, which Kennedy planned to use in writing his autobiography. Instead, Schlesinger used them to craft his own book, A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House, which won both the Pulitzer and the National Book Award in 1966. He returned to the Kennedy family more than a decade later with Robert Kennedy and His Times.

Although his job and inclination was to view politics through the lens of what had gone (and failed) before, he could also be a fierce Democratic partisan. And that had the unfortunate result of coloring his perceptions of what was possible. During the 1972 U.S. presidential election, for instance, Schlesinger forecast a decisive win for South Dakota Senator George McGovern “because he was ‘leading a constituency as broad as Roosevelt’s coalition in 1932,’” recalls Britain’s Guardian newspaper. Nixon, though, won re-election in a landslide. Schlesinger bet the wrong horse again in 1980, when he laid wagers on Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy stealing the Democratic nomination away from incumbent President Jimmy Carter. “Anyone observing that campaign,” opines The Guardian’s Harold Jackson, “could foresee the outcome almost from the start. Clearly Schlesinger was talking from his heart not his head and, as the years went by, it became increasingly important to determine which organ prevailed.”

Despite such disappointments, however, Schlesinger remained what he called, upon turning 80 in 1997, “an unrepentant and unreconstructed liberal and New Dealer. ... That means I favor the use of government to improve opportunities and to enlarge freedoms for ordinary people.” But he vociferously opposed the misapplication of political authority to advance extremist causes. In 1998, he joined more than 400 historians to denounce the poisonously partisan impeachment of President Bill Clinton, and he blasted George W. Bush’s decision to invade Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 2003, calling Bush’s supposed “preventive war” strategy “a fatal turn in U.S. foreign policy.” His 2004 book, War and the American Presidency, spoke disparagingly of Bush’s expansion of presidential power and the dangers of an “imperial presidency,” a term Schlesinger popularized (if not coined) during the Nixon administration. During an interview he did with Salon in 2004, the then 87-year-old historian predicted that Americans would come to “hate” themselves for sanctioning George W. Bush’s abuses of power:

Well, there’s a lengthy history of us doing just that. The Red Scare from the First World War, for example. The Wilson administration arrested a lot of people, sent them to prison, including Eugene Debs, the Socialist Party candidate, and deported some others of foreign birth. After the war, people began to wonder what the actual threat had been and we hated ourselves in the morning. As a result, the American Civil Liberties Union was founded and [Oliver Wendell] Holmes [Jr.] and [Louis] Brandeis led the judicial reaction.

After the Second World War, we finally paid reparations to the Japanese who had been interned. After the Civil War, the Supreme Court regarded Mulligan [a case in which a Confederate sympathizer from Indiana was imprisoned without charges] as a miscarriage of justice.

I think the best current example might be the Patriot Act--its excesses are a lot like those of the Alien and Sedition Acts. In fact, the spinmeisters of 1798 should have called the Alien and Sedition Acts “the Patriot Act.” America was engaged in undeclared naval warfare against France at the time, but afterward, the Alien and Sedition Acts were quickly repented as an overreaction to criticism of government.

We overreact and then we’re sorry. Panic is not a wise basis for judgment. I think it will happen like that again. The rather conservative Supreme Court has already rebuked the imperial president by ruling that the Guantánamo prison detainees are subject to due process.

However, as we’ve seen, the great virtue of democracy is its capacity for self-correction.

But it wasn’t through his political confrontations that Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. became most important to those of us who thrill at the thoughtful examination of American historical developments and presidencies. It was his books that made his name known to us, whether we’re talking
about The Age of Jackson or Robert Kennedy and His Times (both of which I have displayed on a high shelf beside my desk), or his three-volume history of the New Deal, The Age of Roosevelt, and what was to have been the first part of his memoirs, A Life in the 20th Century: Innocent Beginnings, 1917-1950.

Lately I’ve been working my way through a still-growing series of U.S. presidential biographies, edited by Schlesinger for Times Books, and have been reminded not only of this bowtie-wearing historian’s knowledge of America’s past, but his curiosity about it, as well. Contrary to what many history teachers seem to believe, the past isn’t merely a collection of occurrences with dates and players attached. It is a vital, ever-revealing stew of truths, tragedies, and triumphs that can only be fully understood by those who are made curious about its twists, not made resentful of having to learn it by rote. Schlesinger, understandably inspired to his future by his father, showed an obvious curiosity about what had been and what was to come, together with a faith that history is more tutor than tyrant--indicating but not demanding repetition. We owe him greatly for what he left behind, now that he himself is history.

(Cross-posted at Limbo.)

Bookmark and Share

Six months

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Guardian Unlimited: "An elite team of officers advising US commander General David Petraeus in Baghdad has concluded the US has six months to win the war in Iraq -- or face a Vietnam-style collapse in political and public support that could force the military into a hasty retreat."

Suffice it to say, however, there are certain "entrenched problems" that seem to stand in the way of victory.

Which begs a couple of questions:

-- How is victory now defined?
-- Is the war even winnable at all?

If the answer to the second question is "No" -- and it would seem to be -- then what's the point? Even an improvement in the security situation in Baghdad -- is that now "victory"? -- would likely just be temporary, what Andrew Sullivan has called a "phony peace".

Six months? Victory? Doubtful.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Alien technology and global warming

By Michael J.W. Stickings

This one merits a massive HUH?

From AFP: "A former Canadian defense minister is demanding governments worldwide disclose and use secret alien technologies obtained in alleged UFO crashes to stem climate change, a local paper said Wednesday."

That's right, Paul Hellyer -- defence minister under Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson in the mid-'60s and then a senior cabinet minister under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in the late-'60s (and more recently the founder of economic nationalist Canadian Action Party -- "would like to see what [alien] technology there might be that could eliminate the burning of fossil fuels within a generation... that could be a way to save our planet". His words.

Something tells me this won't make it into Al Gore's PowerPoint presentation.

(For more on Hellyer, see here.)

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Angelina on Darfur

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Do I really need a reason to post an arousing photo of Angelina Jolie here at The Reaction? Oh -- this isn't that sort of blog? Then how about a caricature?

(This one's from Jorge "Fico" Molina at Monkey Studio.)

Actually, let's take Angelina seriously for a moment. She has an interesting (and important) piece in today's Washington Post on the situation in Darfur -- from a refugee camp (Oure Cassoni) in Bahai, Chad. Here are a few key passages:

-- "By every measure -- killings, rapes, the burning and looting of villages -- the violence in Darfur has increased since my last visit, in 2004. The death toll has passed 200,000; in four years of fighting, Janjaweed militia members have driven 2.5 million people from their homes, including the 26,000 refugees crowded into Oure Cassoni."

-- "When I was in Chad in June 2004, refugees told me about systematic attacks on their villages. It was estimated then that more than 1,000 people were dying each week. In October 2004 I visited West Darfur, where I heard horrific stories, including accounts of gang-rapes of mothers and their children. By that time, the UNHCR estimated, 1.6 million people had been displaced in the three provinces of Darfur and 200,000 others had fled to Chad."

-- "Until the killers and their sponsors are prosecuted and punished, violence will continue on a massive scale. Ending it may well require military action. But accountability can also come from international tribunals, measuring the perpetrators against international standards of justice."

Angelina does not back away from military intervention -- and I tend to think that only military intervention by NATO (and not just the U.N. and/or the A.U. would have any chance of halting the genocide and securing Darfur and Chad -- but she is right that "there will be no enduring peace without justice". And this means that an empowered International Criminal Court can be an effective vehicle in bringing some semblance of justice to the region, investigating the many criminal acts and prosecuting the perpetrators of the horror. But the ICC will only be "as strong as the support we give it". With military action unlikely, there is no good reason not to empower the ICC.

"This might be the moment we stop the cycle of violence and end our tolerance for crimes against humanity. What the worst people in the world fear most is justice. That's what we should deliver."

Powerful words backed up by first-hand experience of what many of us in the comfort of our prosperous liberal democracies would rather pretend isn't happening.

Whatever else one can say about Angelina Jolie, she's emerged as a significant public figure in the fight for justice.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Digital cameras

By Heraclitus

Hello, readers. I've been wanting to get one of these digital cameras I keep hearing about (yes, I know, I am teh lame), but I don't know much about them. I'd mainly like to use it to take pictures outside, not just snap shots of family birthday parties and so on. What should I expect to pay? I notice the cheaper ones on Amazon are a little under $100. Are these going to be pieces of crap? The digital camera review sites I've seen mainly review cameras costing several hundred or even thousand dollars. I don't need anything that nice (read: I'm not paying anywhere near that much), but how much should I expect to pay for a decent digital camera that can take good outdoor photos? Thanks.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Silencing the victims of Bush's warmongering

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From Army Times (a rather reputable source):

Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.

“Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media,” one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity...

The Pentagon also clamped down on media coverage of any and all Defense Department medical facilities, to include suspending planned projects by CNN and the Discovery Channel, saying in an e-mail to spokespeople: “It will be in most cases not appropriate to engage the media while this review takes place,” referring to an investigation of the problems at Walter Reed.

The Gun Toting Liberal puts it well: "So there we have it; we now know what happens when the President becomes embarrassed. CENSORSHIP and more ABUSE of our fallen heros and heroines of the military. You keep hearing the President preach over and over again how much he feels for those who’ve given the 'ultimate sacrifice' but for those who’ve only given a limb or two, his actions speak louder than words, and that message is: 'Shut the hell up, quit your whining and go clean your rooms'. Just lovely, isn’t it?"

Lovely, indeed. Bush and his right-wing allies always talk about supporting the troops. "If you don't support Bush, you don't support the troops." That's the way the warmongers and their supporters try to back critics into a corner. After all, who wants to be against the troops? It's just like saying, and they also say it: "If you don't support Bush, you're with the terrorists."

But supporting the troops means something other than the pro-Bush spin. It certainly doesn't mean sending them into a war that doesn't make any sense, a war that has already been lost, an occupation that has been overtaken by civil war, a war that from the start has been grossly mismanaged. It may mean many things, including ensuring that they aren't put in harm's way without a clear mission, but it certainly means providing all necessary comfort and care to those who have been injured and who in the service of their country need to have their bodies and their lives rebuilt.

I have no doubt that many, if not most, are receiving excellent treatment. And yet there is evidently a Pentagon policy to silence and segregate from society those who have given so much for their country, as well as to subject them to mistreatment.

And where is the commander-in-chief in all this? Defending his war, more war, always more war, as troops at Walter Reed and elsewhere try to heal.

Who really supports the troops?

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Bagram blast fallout

By Michael J.W. Stickings

By now most of you have surely heard the news:

Vice President Cheney was inside the main U.S. air base in Afghanistan yesterday when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives just outside the gates, killing as many as 23 people and showcasing insurgents' growing capabilities in advance of a widely expected spring offensive.

Within hours, a purported Taliban spokesman asserted responsibility for the attack -- which killed a U.S. soldier and an American civilian contractor -- and said it was an attempt to assassinate Cheney. U.S. officials disputed the assertion that Cheney was the target, noting that his overnight stay at the sprawling Bagram air base had been unplanned and that he was well away from the blast.

There was a good deal of coverage of the attack all over the blogosphere, but see in particular Dustin's excellent live-blogging of the story over at Blue Collar Heresy. He's got some useful links and some solid analysis.

But the story is now not so much the attack itself, nor even whether or not Cheney was the target, but the reaction to the attack in the blogosphere.

Some leading conservative blogs -- Michelle Malkin, Little Green Footballs, Jules Crittenden, The Strata-Sphere, Wizbang, and Riehl World View, for example, as well as Pajamas Media -- have been falling all over themselves trying to make the case that liberals (or Democrats, or progressives, or whatever) wish that Cheney had been killed in the attack. What they point to are some of the 400+ comments that were later deleted from The Huffington Post's item on the attack, comments that did indeed express regret that Cheney was not killed. (For examples of those comments, see the posts linked above.)

There is no excuse for such comments. However much I may dislike Cheney, I do not wish him harm. And I certainly find him preferable to the Taliban. (Obviously.)

And yet the right is trying to make an issue out of this -- the comments of a few loose screws -- in order to reinforce its larger smear of liberals (or Democrats, or progressives, or whatever) as pro-terror and anti-American. Here's Glenn Greenwald, who, as usual, gets it right (in a must-read post):

The smoke had barely cleared from the suicide bombing in Afghanistan this morning, near a base where Dick Cheney was located, when right-wing pundits -- whose sole expertise seems to be in exploiting terrorism-related issues for political gain -- began their attempt to politically exploit the attack on or near Cheney. Seemingly in unison, they all went digging deep into the comment sections of various liberal blogs, found inappropriate and hateful comments, and then began insisting that these isolated comments proved something...

But stray, anonymous comments prove nothing. And those who rely on them to make an argument -- especially without bothering to make any effort to prove that they are reflective of anything -- should be presumed to have no argument at all. That is why they are relying upon such transparently flimsy and misleading methods to make a point. And the same principle applies to journalists -- those who write articles about "the blogosphere" by using random, stray comments (or mean emails they receive), by definition, have nothing to say, no point worth making.

Case in point: A couple of months ago I wrote a post called "Bigotry in the blogosphere: Barack Obama and the anti-Muslim paranoia of the right". It looked at how one particularly bigoted conservative blogger, Debbie Schlussel, was making a big deal about Obama's middle name and familial ties to Islam. The first several comments respond intelligently to the post. But then the bigotry truly begins, with various anonymous commenters using various racial slurs to attack Obama. I won't copy them here. I have thought about deleting the comments altogether -- even now I am tempted to -- but I realize that I should rather keep them up as a reminder of the bigotry that still exists out there in the real world.

Now, what am I to make of them? They are extreme in their language, reflective of astonishing ignorance and disturbing hatred. They are shocking. But are they representative of anything other than the bigotry of those who posted them? Put another way, do they represent the views of all others who oppose Obama?

No, of course not. You may oppose Obama -- you may even dislike him -- without being a racist and certainly without using the 'N' word. You may abhor such racism altogether. (I hope you do.) You may want to distance yourself as much as possible from such detestable ignorance and hatred. (You should.) You may, as I do, consider such comments to be isolated incidents of hate speech.

Well, just as some commenters use racial slurs against Obama, so do some commenters wish Cheney dead. The former do not represent Obama's opponents any more than the latter represent Cheney's opponents. To do as some conservative bloggers are doing now I would have to try to make the case that conservatives (or Republicans, or whatever) think Obama is a Muslim nigger terrorist piece of shit. I'm not about to try to make that case. However much I may dislike certain conservatives, including those who have smeared Obama publicly, I do not think that they all think that Obama is a Muslim nigger terrorist piece of shit. (Although I do think that racism of that kind is a much more serious and pervasive problem in America than the problem of those who wish Cheney dead. I suspect there are many more such racists than homicidal Cheney-haters out there.)

All of which is to say that the conservative blogosphere -- not all of it, but certainly some of its more significant members -- are making much ado about very little. Many of Cheney's critics -- and I count myself among them -- would like to see him refuted, disgraced, maybe even impeached. But dead? No.

Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Just another day in the life and death of Iraq XLIII

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The Washington Post: "Sixteen children playing soccer and two women were killed Monday in a car bombing in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi, an Iraqi official said Tuesday, in an attack that Iraqi leaders decried as horrific."

Well, Laura, I guess that's your discouraging bomb for Monday, huh? It's so annoying that the media bother to report it, huh? 'Cause things are going so well, huh? But... uh:


Do you get the point, Laura? Do you? Do you understand what is happening in Iraq? Do you understand what this war has unleashed upon the people of Iraq? Do you understand how your husband fucked up? Do you understand how remaining in Iraq won't solve Iraq's problems?

Seriously, pay some fucking attention to reality.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Weakening America

By Michael J.W. Stickings

According to Chairman of the JCS Gen. Peter Pace, as reported at USA Today, "there is a significant risk that the U.S. military won't be able to quickly and fully respond to yet another crisis". And the situation seems to be worsening, largely because of ongoing military action in Iraq and Afghanistan. Which means that the U.S. would have not be able to respond effectively to "any potential outbreaks in places such as North Korea, Iran, Lebanon, Cuba or China" -- i.e., some of the key trouble spots of the (near) future.

Steve Benen, as usual, provides the political context: "Let’s be clear. Bush ran on a platform of military readiness, vowing to reverse the 'hollowing out' of the military. Six years later, our over-stretched military may no longer be able to quickly and fully respond to another crisis."

See also Christy Hardin Smith.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Dema and Irma

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From the Globe: "Dema, a 26-day-old endangered Sumatran tiger cub, cuddles up to 5-month-old female Orangutan Irma at an animal hospital in West Java, Indonesia." Both were rejected by their mothers. Both, along with others just like them, are being taken care of at the animal hospital and finding comfort with one another.

Yes, there can be happiness in the world even with all the misery and mayhem.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Giving the finger

By Michael J.W. Stickings

According to The New York Sun, presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani wants the GOP to be "the party of freedom".

Isn't that like giving his party's evangelical base the finger?

(Think abortion, same-sex marriage, free speech, etc.)


I would say more about Giuliani's address to the Hoover Institution, a right-wing think tank, but why bother? Everything he has to say is so predictable and I'm awfully tired of the whole "I was the mayor of New York on 9/11" schtick.

But let me single out three points:

1) He criticized Democratic efforts to expand health care to the uninsured. Universal health care would be "socialization," he claimed. What he prefers are "free market solutions". And those solutions are? As I have said before, America's health-care system is a national embarrassment. America may have some of the best health care in the world, but it's only available to those who can afford it. And, increasingly, it's a system that is sinking the private sector. There are 47 million uninsured people in the U.S. Does Giuliani have a plan for them?

2) He suggested that Democrats would raise taxes to pay for America's wars? If America is at war -- particularly one as far-reaching as the so-called war on terror -- shouldn't Americans be asked to pay the necessary price for their security? Shouldn't they be asked to make a sacrifice? Shouldn't massive deficits be avoided? This is a debate worth having, but Giuliani, like Bush, doesn't want to have it. For them, the Democrats are all tax-happy socialists. To me, the Democrats are just being fiscally responsible.

3) He argued that "America doesn't like war. America is not a military country. We've never been a militaristic country." Either he's being disingenuous or, far more likely, he doesn't understand America, the country he wishes to lead in a time of seemingly perpetual war. He should take a trip to Arlington National Cemetary and the Vietnam War Memorial. He should read a history book, any history book. He should watch an American war movie, of which there are countless. And he should read Robert Kaplan's Imperial Grunts. America's history is one of expansion. Her present is one of empire. Any serious presidential hopeful should know that.

Beyond the hollow shell of image and reputation, Rudy Giuliani leaves much to be desired.

[Creature's Note: Once again, Michael's words, my cut-and-paste. Ignore all references to me below. Thanks.]

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Laura Bush should keep her mouth shut

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Because she doesn't know what she's talking about.

In case you missed it, she said this to Larry King last night: "I hope that they can build their government and reconcile with each other and build a country. This is their opportunity to seize the moment, to build a really good and stable country. And many parts of Iraq are stable now. But, of course, what we see on television is the one bombing a day this discourages everybody."

There is such enormous cluelessness there (and in much else of what she said) you'd think her husband was feeding her lines through a hidden earpiece. And, like her husband, her vacuous optimism seems to be based on nothing but hope. Apparently she knows nothing of Iraqi history, nor of the nature of Iraqi sectarianism, nor of present-day Iraqi reality.

It may be that some parts of the country are relatively stable, but her statement that "one bombing a day" -- as reported by the media -- is what "discourages everybody" is appalling in its ignorance and shocking in its insensitivity. The truth is that there is daily brutality and bloodshed all over Iraq. We try to cover some of it here with our "Just another day in the life and death of Iraq" series, but there's no way to gauge the full extent of the horror. We're not just talking about one single bomb here or there. We're talking about suicide bombers blowing up civilians, about mutilated bodies being tossed onto the streets, about corpses piling up at the morgues, about a virulent disregard for human life that has turned Iraq into a massive killing field.

And this is now their opportunity, Laura has the gall to insist?

The sectarianism was there long before Bush, but it was his war -- and his gross mismanagement of that war -- that unleashed the forces that had been locked down under Saddam. It was inevitable that they would resurface, but the disregard for Iraqi history and society that accompanied the war and the subsequent occupation contributed significantly to the state of turmoil that prevails today.

In getting it wrong, the warmongers made it all so much worse. But that doesn't stop Laura -- who, to be fair, was just regurgitating the party line -- from heaping all the responsibility on the Iraqis. As if it's all their fault when things go wrong. Perhaps she should take a good hard look at her husband. It was he who must bear the responsibility for the failure of the Iraq War.


Think Progress has the video, transcript, and a graph showing the steady increase in daily attacks by insurgents and militias. One bomb a day? Hardly.

(For more, see AMERICAblog and The Carpetbagger Report.)

[Creature's Note: Michael's words, my cut-and-paste. Ignore all references to me below. Thanks.]

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Red Herring

By Creature

"I don't think we need to send in the Marines, and it's not being contemplated." - Richard Perle, architect of the neocon policy to destabilize the world, speaking about Iran

Sure, sending in the Marines isn't contemplated -- by all accounts an actual invasion is virtually impossible, but the question should be: "Are you contemplating bombing Iran?" I bet the answer to that question would be a whole lot different.

[The quote comes from conservative and is worth a complete read for the folly of it all. If you would rather not venture to the Dark Side I recommend a trip to the All Spin Zone where SpinDentist has more.]

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Duke

By Capt. Fogg

"There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”

-- John Wayne

The picture of John Wayne dressed as a cowboy stands, thanks to Photoshop, in front of a huge flag, proudly asking us why in the hell we have to "press '1' for English."

A week does not go by and often not a day when I don't get some smirking e-mail about the efforts of the business community to make it easier for native Spanish-speaking people to buy things or get information about things or put money in the bank. Pressing '2' to continue in Spanish seems to have had more of an effect on America's sense of security than anything since Pearl Harbor, and people who profess passionate love of flags, John Wayne, and the Republic for which they stand often fail to see this sleazy campaign as the direct attack on freedom of speech that it is.

“Women have the right to work wherever they want, as long as they have the dinner ready when you get home.”

"My favorite e-mail ever," says the person who sent it to me, and he concludes with "Enough said". I don't think enough can be said. I have never been a fan of Marion Morrison, although I have enjoyed a couple of his movies. His support for the Vietnam War and his attacks on the doubters of its necessity, his McCarthyism and his belief in white supremacy left me with a lasting distaste for his stupid kind of patriotism and bigotry. It may be ironic, however, that the anti-Mexican rabble-rousers chose him as the boy for their poster.

Wayne was married three times: to Josephene Saenz, Esperanza Baur, and Pilar Palette. They were all Spanish-speaking women. As he was dying, Wayne requested that his headstone bear an epitaph in Spanish: Feo, Fuerte y Formal. No English translation was offered.

“Life is hard; it's harder if you're stupid.”

I have to disagree. It's hardest for those who have to deal with the stupid.

(Cross-posted at Human Voices.)

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share