Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Katrina - who's to blame?
The human brain is built to look for patterns in limited data. The brain often fills in the gaps to create a message where none is present. We've all glanced at a sign, caught a glimpse of a few fragments of words and "read" something completely different that what is written. Or we've seen someone in a crowd and, based on a bit of hair, a characteristic movement, or a general body shape, and "seen" someone we know when they are not really present.

There is nothing mysterious about this. It's a survival oriented trait. When our ancestors saw a bit of shadow move, they needed to be able to make a fast decision whether or not it was a predator or just a shadow. The ones who live to become our ancestors may have made a few mistakes and jumped away from shadows, but that's better than not jumping away from a well-camouflaged tiger.

Our brains don't just find patterns in visual information. We also impart meaning into sequences of events. This is something more than a survival oriented trait. There is something emotionally seductive in meaning. So much so, that we rebel at the thought of events that "just happen", events that have no meaning. Random events are intolerable and random painful events are even more so. So, sometimes we impart meaning where none exists. The most seductive and dangerous search for meaning is the search for cause. For many, a merely mechanical cause is not satisfying. To be be truly, emotionally satisfying a cause must be the result of intelligent agency. Someone must make things happen. When those things are painful, someone must be to blame.

Michael Marcavage says homosexuals caused Hurricane Katrina:
An evangelical Christian group that regularly demonstrates at LGBT events is blaming gays for hurricane Katrina.

Repent America says that God "destroyed" New Orleans because of Southern Decadence, the gay festival that was to have taken place in the city over the Labor Day weekend.

"Southern Decadence" has a history of filling the French Quarters section of the city with drunken homosexuals engaging in sex acts in the public streets and bars" Repent America director Michael Marcavage said in a statement Wednesday.

"Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city." Marcavage said. "From ‘Girls Gone Wild’ to ‘Southern Decadence’, New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. May it never be the same."

"Let us pray for those ravaged by this disaster. However, we must not forget that the citizens of New Orleans tolerated and welcomed the wickedness in their city for so long," Marcavage said.

"May this act of God cause us all to think about what we tolerate in our city limits, and bring us trembling before the throne of Almighty God," Marcavage concluded.

John Aravosis at Americablog points out that Marcavage isn't a lone looney like the excrable Fred Phelps.
This is a group that has been defended by scores of lead religious right organizations in just the past year, including the Southern Baptist Convention, Center for Reclaiming America (attached to D. James Kennedy), the American Family Association's AgapePress, WorldNetDaily, the men over at the Concerned Women for America, Lou Sheldon's Traditional Values Coaltion, the freepers, and more.

Columbia Christians for Life says abortionists caused Hurricane Katrina:
The image of the hurricane above with its eye already ashore at 12:32 PM Monday, August 29 looks like a fetus (unborn human baby) facing to the left (west) in the womb, in the early weeks of gestation (approx. 6 weeks). Even the orange color of the image is reminiscent of a commonly used pro-life picture of early prenatal development (see sign with picture of 8-week pre-born human child below). In this picture, and in another picture in today's on-line edition of USA Today*, this hurricane looks like an unborn human child.

Louisiana has 10 child-murder-by-abortion centers - FIVE are in New Orleans ('Find an Abortion Clinic [sic]')

Baby-murder state # 1 - California (125 abortion centers) - land of earthquakes, forest fires, and mudslides
Baby-murder state # 2 - New York (78 abortion centers) - 9-11 Ground Zero
Baby-murder state # 3 - Florida (73 abortion centers) - Hurricanes Bonnie, Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne in 2004; and now, Hurricane Katrina in 2005

God's message: REPENT AMERICA !

Personally, I think it's very creepy that the Columbia Christians for Life can tell at a glance how many weeks old a fetus is. They spend way too much time obsessing on those gory abortion pictures.

Some commenters at blogs and bulletin boards have darkly suggested that the project HAARP antenna array, a secret military weather modification system based on lost Tesla technology, is to blame. Most of these are just cryptic comments, but a site called Girls Go Fishing lays it all out for those of us too blind to see the whole pattern.
Are submarine scalar-magnetic-heating technologies being used to increase local oceanic temperatures, possibly by stimulation of volcanic vents, which creates the fuel for the exacerbation of hurricanes, like this tri-state disaster caused by Katrina? Think about it.

A desire to displace every black man, woman, and child who managed to survive may have been the goal, with the added benefit of being able to force experimental vaccinations on people for the benefit of corporations, force ID chip implants as a method of gradually getting the rest of the country to accept it themselves, to use poor black people as lab-rats and test subjects.

What could be the purpose of wasting three cities in the Black South? What could a government possibly gain by such destruction? They get to experiment with their hurricane manipulation techniques as a war tool. They get to vaccinate every single person with experimental -- even deliberately deadly population control substances, all the while pretending it is for everyone's good to prevent west nile and typhoid. They get to force technologies of a police state on Americans by incrimentally installing them, beginning with poor people who are displaced. Also, if you're going to turn America into a police state you're going to want to suppress any opposition before it starts, and you would most certainly begin with the folks who have risen up in the past. Southern Black America certainly fits that bill. These americans would recognize the implimentation of a slave state because they've lived through it before, and they have risen up before. They know slavery when they see it. And the initial signs of it wouldn't go unnoticed among them. They would voice opposition long before White-America ever caught wind that it was coming. Hurricane Katrina helped reduce that risk, didn't she?

Get it? "Caught wind..." Sometimes the ability to find patterns runs away with us and this is the result. Girls Go Fishing is not a left wing site. I don't think they fit anywhere on the recognizable political spectrum. At the same time a lot of right-wing blogs and trolls are accusing the Left of blaming Bush for the hurricane.

I have yet to see anyone on the Left actually blame Bush for causing the hurricane. What I have seen are lefties that have blamed Bush for the unpreparedness that allowed Hurricane Katrina to do the amount of damage it did. The Bush administration cancelled wetlands restoration projects that were designed to provide buffer zones for storm surge and flooding. The Bush administration cut money for levee improvements and repairs to their lowest level in decades (by 44.2 percent since 2001) . The Bush administration sent National Guard troops and equipment to Iraq that would have been available to try and repair the levees. The Bush administration took the responsibility for disaster planning away from FEMA in order to tranfer it to a new division that doesn't exist yet. For years, meteorologists, engineers, and environmentalists have known how vulnerable New Orleans is and have been very vocal trying to get some preventative action before it was too late. The Bush administration refused to even study the problem. For five years, the Bush administration has gone out of its way to block any meaningful action on global warning.

It's very nice to shake our heads and say "let's not make a political issue out of this" but lets not issue a blanket amnesty either. Bush did not cause Hurricane Katrina, but he is responsible for a share of the damage.
Sean Hannity is the stupidest person in America
Or even less ethical than even I thought. Either way, he managed to reach a new personal low in claiming that the gay-bashing Rev. Fred Phelps is a member of the "anti-war left."

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Oh, Ann...
Sometimes Ann Coulter is just too silly to ignore. From "Hannity and Colmes," August 25, 2005:
COLMES:...And I want to ask you about something, Ann, that you wrote in your most recent column. You had a very funny line, actually, that it is hard to find a parking spot in New York City. There's no question about it. You've had a pretty good day if you can do that.

But then you said, "It's far preferable to fight them on the streets of Baghdad than in the streets of New York, where the residents would immediately surrender." Now, some New Yorkers...


COLMES: ... felt that you were calling them cowards by making that statement.

COULTER: No, I think I was calling them supporters of Cindy Sheehan.

COLMES: Is that what that is? You certainly don't feel that New Yorkers are cowards?

COULTER: I think they would immediately surrender.

COLMES: So you do?

COULTER: I don't -- I don't think -- I think I'd rather have them trying to invade Mississippi or Georgia, Alabama, you know, the states where I want Cindy Sheehan's bus tour to go.

The Green Knight is good enough to point out to Ann that New York already has been attacked by the terrorists and didn't surrender. Maybe she was to busy promoting one of her books or wishing Timothy McVeigh would attack New York to notice such a small thing. And, since McVeigh was a New Yorker, does that mean New York would have had to surrender to itself? But, I digress.

The Green Knight explains what the problem is for people like Ann.
The right has always been uneasy with the specifics of what happened on September 11, 2001, because the people who were killed, who were permanently injured, who lost loved ones, who rushed heroically into danger to save their fellow human beings, were all mostly New Yorkers. New Yorkers, like other blue-staters, aren't supposed to behave like that, according to the right-wing culture-war narrative. They're supposed to be effete, latte-drinking, Europhiliac, wine-sipping wimps who shriek and run at the first sign of danger.

The right absolutely hated the fact that New Yorkers proved their culture war narrative wrong. It would have been so much better if it had been red-staters that were attacked by terrorists and behaved heroically in response (which no doubt they would have).

So, has Ann reached the point where she is in denial; she's managed to convince herself that New York wasn't attacked? The Green Knight goes on to examine how this narrative has played out on the right. On 9/11, New York wasn't attacked; America was attacked. It wasn't New Yorkers who acted heroically; it was Americans who acted heroically. The "heartland" gets to share in the heroism while minimizing the heroism of the hated coasts.

Ann carries this narrative to the ridiculous and creepy extreme of actually wishing terrorist attacks on the red states. This is not the same as apocalyptic survivalists wishing for the collapse of civilization so they cam prove their toughness (and kill the neighbors). Ann is wishing violence on a place where she doesn't live, so that those other people can prove their toughness while she looks on approvingly from her home in New York.

In fact, the red states have already had their terrorist attacks and behaved just as honorably and bravely as did the New Yorkers. Terrorists, with connections to religious extremists, attacked Oklahoma City and Atlanta. When they did that Ann responded by wishing they would attack New York.
No more vacation
Oh man, this poor guy can't get a break.
President Bush will cut short his vacation to return to Washington on Wednesday, two days earlier than planned, to help monitor federal efforts to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina, the White House said Tuesday.

First, those bad liberals camp out on the road demanding he talk to them about their dead kids and now this. He just wanted to spend a few weeks on his estate manly ranch cutting brush and practicing his bicycle dismount. Is it too much to ask to be allowed to take a mere five weeks off in the summer, two in the spring, two more at Christmas, a few days for Thanksgiving, Easter, the opening of bass fishing season, state and federal holidays, and a few personal days for family birthdays? After all, it's no more than the rest of us would like. And now he has to cut it all short and return two days early. There is no justice in this world. My heart bleeds for him.
Three dollars per gallon
Gas is already crossing the three dollar mark at some stations around here. I expect most of them to be charging that much for premium by the weekend. Mind you, they are charging this for gas that has already been paid for and delivered to the Northwest and is sitting in tanks and trucks down by the port. This is pure opportunistic gouging based on nothing more than the news that there will be shortages in the future. This is just a little extra profit to help with the executive Christmas bonuses. You can bet the retail prices will rise again when the actual wholesale price the stations are paying goes up.

How are prices where you live?

Friday, August 26, 2005

This is getting interesting
A senior representative of America's evangelical Christians is to make an attempt to set up a meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The Rev Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, wants to distance American Christians from the remarks of a tele-evangelist.

Pat Robertson earlier this week called for Mr Chavez to be assassinated.


Mr Haggard is in Mexico, where he is meeting a friend of Mr Chavez.

If that encounter goes well, the leader of America's evangelical churches will travel on to Caracas for a meeting which is bound to embarrass the White House.


A meeting with a senior evangelical would provide a stage for Mr Chavez to reach out to Americans and poke the White House in the eye - an opportunity he is unlikely to pass up.
A vet responds to the American Legion
Sean T. Lewis, a disabled veteran of the Persian Gulf War, lets the American Legion think of their recent resolution to stop anti-war protests "by any means necessary."
Despite the Legion's support for European Fascism and Benito Mussolini 70 years ago, I felt that those sympathies of the past were just that: the past -- a dark chapter in the otherwise stalwart history of The American Legion.

Yesterday, you proved me wrong.

That your address to the National Convention this week repeated as fact the lies by which this country was led down the path to war in Iraq is despicable, but of only secondary importance to me. Passage of Resolution #3, and your statement that anti-war demonstrations should be suppressed "by any means necessary" is taken directly from playbooks written by Goebbels, Marcos and Duvalier.

I cannot speak for you, but I enlisted, trained and fought with the ideal and willingness to protect and defend the rights of all Americans, not only the ones who agree with me. First among these rights, enumerated appropriately in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, are the freedoms of Speech, of Assembly, of Association, of Religion and of the Press.

Now The American Legion has taken an official stand against The Constitution of the United States. You should be ashamed.

I hope there are many more vets like Sean Lewis out there who let the Arerican Legion know what America stands for.
Friday random list
I wanted to participate in the Friday random lists like all of the other kids, but I still don't have an MP3 player. So I'll just set my brain on random -- oh, that seems to be the default setting -- and out pops a list of punchlines to old jokes.
  1. ...and the duck says, "at these prices you won't get many more."
  2. "What do mean 'we,' white man?"
  3. "Oh, don't do that; we need the eggs."
  4. "We can both go. The smartest man in the world just jumped out wearing my backpack."
  5. You take away his credit cards.
  6. "We had so much fun at the zoo that we thought we'd take in a movie today."
  7. "I never could teach that stupid dog to swim."
  8. "...but he's going to be a vegetable."
  9. "And that's how I ended up with a ten-inch pianist."
  10. Please!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Polling time

Isn't the real question, "Should he be allowed to come back?"
I was wrong
I didn't think we'd get a real apology out Part Robertson. This morning he lied and said he had never said we should assassinate Hugo Chavez. I assumed that would be his final word on the subject. But, with every news outlet in the hemisphere printing transcripts and broadcasting tapes of his comments, he finally caved in.
I want to take this opportunity to clarify remarks made on the Monday, August 22nd edition of The 700 Club where I adlibbed a comment following a very brilliant analysis by Dale Hurd of the danger that the United States faces from the out-of-control dictator of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. In this story, Col. Chavez repeatedly claimed that Americans were “trying to assassinate him.”

In my frustration that the U.S. and the world community are ignoring this threat, I said the following:

[Repeats Tuesday's comments]

Is it right to call for assassination? No, and I apologize for that statement. I spoke in frustration that we should accommodate the man who thinks the U.S. is out to kill him.

He still has that weird implication that thinking bad thoughts about America should be a capital offense, but other than that it looks like a real apology. And it would be a real apology if he had just shut up at this point. Instead he goes on for another 376 self-serving words during which he explains why we should all hate Chavez to the point of wanting him murdered and winds up comparing himself to Dietrich Bonhoeffer opposing Hitler. He finishes that comparison with these words:
Bonhoeffer decided to lend his support to those in Germany who had joined together in an attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Bonhoeffer was imprisoned and killed by the Nazis, but his example deserves our respect and consideration today.

In what way is he saying we should consider Bonhoeffer's example? By lending support to those who will attempt to assassinate Hugo Chavez. There is no other way to read that paragraph. So, Robertson's apology amounts to "I'm sorry I said we should kill him, but we should kill him."

That's very big of him to say that.
Street fighting thugs
For years now my friend David Neiwert has been following some of the uglier trends on the far right. Since he began blogging three years ago, he has been documenting a trend toward eliminationist rhetoric on the right. Here's one more for his collection. This one, however is more serious than a fat, drug-addict radio host mouthing off.
The American Legion, which has 2.7 million members, has declared war on antiwar protestors, and the media could be next. Speaking at its national convention in Honolulu, the group's national commander called for an end to all “public protests” and “media events” against the war, constitutional protections be damned.

"The American Legion will stand against anyone and any group that would demoralize our troops, or worse, endanger their lives by encouraging terrorists to continue their cowardly attacks against freedom-loving peoples," Thomas Cadmus, national commander, told delegates at the group's national convention in Honolulu.

The delegates vowed to use whatever means necessary to "ensure the united backing of the American people to support our troops and the global war on terrorism."

I don't have a lot of use for the American Legion. The Legion was founded in 1919 as a brownshirt, street-fighting organization. They were the exact American parallel to the Freikorps in Germany and the Fascists in Italy. In 1923 the leader of the legion openly embraced Mussolini as a brother in arms saying, "Do not forget that the Fascisti are to Italy what the American Legion is to the United States." The American Legion regularly served as violent strike-breakers in the 20's. The leadership of the Legion was also involved in the Butler coup plot against Roosevelt in 1933. In recent years, the Legion has been one of the defenders of the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII.

Why this group survived WWII is beyond me. They should have collapsed in disgrace sixty years ago. I think they often a bit of a free ride because people confuse them with the VFW (a group that I do respect).
Enough Pat for now
The Robertson brou-ha-ha has about run its course. Robertson's faithful aren't going to turn against him just because he called for the killing of a Muslim loving, Communist foreigner. Disney and ABC, who air his show, have no control over it; he has a contract that allows him to stay on the air and do whatever he wants as long as he wants.

Bush certainly isn't going to say anything critical about one of his most loyal supporters. If moderates or the press ask the administration for comment, they can point to Rumsfeld's non-comdenation (which amounted to "I'm not planning to kill Chavez; it's not my department") and say they've already dealt with it.

Robertson has already turned the story into one of him being persecuted by the liberal press:
Conservative religious broadcaster Pat Robertson said Wednesday that his remarks about the removal of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez were taken out of context and that he never called for the killing of the Latin American leader.

"I didn't say 'assassination.' I said our special forces should 'take him out.' And 'take him out' can be a number of things, including kidnapping; there are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted by the AP [Associated Press], but that happens all the time," Robertson said on "The 700 Club" program.

This is cute. He says "'take him out' can be a number of things" but he avoids telling us which one he meant. He doesn't mention how they misinterpreted "If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it...." I'd really like to hear what else "go ahead and do it" means in this context.

The story will probably fade off into the collections of wacky Robertson quotes that people like me keep. That's a shame. It would be nice if he were to be held accountable for once. Somebody really needs to take that dumb bastard out. And by "take out" I, of course, mean dinner and a movie with or without sex afterwards.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Robertson Fallout
When I wrote last night, the only coverage of Robertson's call for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez came from Media Matters, a few bloggers, and a short AP story that had been picked up by fewer than 20 news outlets. The blogger stories and the AP story all seemed to ultimately have been based on the Media Matters transcript. This morning hundreds of news outlets have stories and many have done some legwork of their own to dig up some background and fill out the story. Most encouraging is that in official Washington even the Republicans are condemning Robertson's words.

For example, the State Department:
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that Robertson is a private citizen and that his views do not reflect U.S. policy.

"We do not share his view and his comments are inappropriate," he said.

Republican Senators:
U.S. Senators Norm Coleman, Republican of Minnesota and Mel Martinez, Republican of Florida, said a call by U.S. televangelist Pat Robertson for the U.S. government to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was "irresponsible" and "incredibly stupid."

The senators, visiting Brazil to meet with government and business leaders, spoke with reporters today in Rio de Janeiro.

"It was an incredibly stupid statement and has no reflection on reality," said Coleman, the chairman of the Senate's Foreign Relations subcommittee on the western hemisphere. "I met with President Chavez on my last visit a couple of months ago and he related that concern to me, about how the U.S. was out to assassinate him. I told him not to lose any sleep about it."

Our department doesn't do that kind of thing. It's against the law.

Okay, that's hardly an unequivicable condemnation, but it's Rumsfeld. Interestingly enough, "unequivicable" is exactly the word the AP uses for it.

I want to emphasize that my point is not merely to giggle at a noted figure on the Religious Right getting himself in hot water for saying something "incredibly stupid." Though I do also want to do that. My main point is that Robertson is not a harmless loud-mouth. Robertson runs a media operation large enough to be called a network. He has a daily audience of over a million for his comments, and most of those million take him very seriously. Robertson is also big enough to be taken seriously on the international stage. He has influenced American foreign policy in the past and this time he has managed to cause an international incident.

The important thing to remember about a loose cannon is that it is first of all a cannon and capable of causing severe damage.

Monday, August 22, 2005

A nice Christian assassination
Pat Robertson thinks the United States should murder a neighboring head of state, Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela.
There was a popular coup that overthrew him [Chavez]. And what did the United States State Department do about it? Virtually nothing. And as a result, within about 48 hours that coup was broken; Chavez was back in power, but we had a chance to move in. He has destroyed the Venezuelan economy, and he's going to make that a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent.

You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war

This is not an ambiguous call for the Lord to bring him home, like some of statements on the Supreme Court; this is a very specific call for state sanctioned murder in our name.

Why does Robertson want Chavez dead? Is it really because Chavez is a bout to launch "communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent"? I don't think so. Is it because he already thinks we're trying to kill him and uncharitable thoughts should be punished a swift non-judicial death? Probably not this one either. Does it have something to do with economics? Bingo.
This is in our sphere of influence, so we can't let this happen. We have the Monroe Doctrine, we have other doctrines that we have announced. And without question, this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us very badly.

I don't know for a fact that Robertson has threatened investments in Venezuela, but, considering his record of mind-numbing hypocracy where his pockebook is concerned, I think it would be a safe bet to take. In 2003, Robertson stepped up to defend Charles Taylor, the murderous dictator of Liberia, from international calls for his resignation. He called Taylor a good Christian who was saving the continent from Muslim extremism and scolded Bush for tryingto get rid of a duly elected president. Roberson and Taylor were partners in a gold mining operation. When Robertson was in the diamond mining business with Mobutu Sese Seko he lobbied the State Department to lift a travel ban on the Zairian dictator. When he gained a cable concession in China, he suddenly understood their need for a policy of forced abortions, despite his being on record opposing the availability of voluntary abortion anywhere else on the planet.

Just for the record, the Monroe Doctrine was a statement that the United states would not allow the powers of Europe to try and recolonize the Western Hemisphere once they were thrown out. It did not lay claim to the ownership of the entire hemisphere and it did not lay claim to all of the resources of the hemisphere.
We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.

This more than another looney sprouting off. Robertson's 700 Club has over one million viewers. Forget about the Christian hypocrisy angle for a moment, this is coming from the mouth of a man that many Republicans were ready to vote into the White House in 1988.
I read the news today, oh boy
I don't know why he does this. Bush's speeches to the general public never accomplish much. Remember last year at the beginning of the summer when they announced that he would be making a major foreign policy speech every week for five consecutive weeks? He made one, the week that Kerry announced his choice of Edwards as his running mate, then dropped the whole thing. He's not a good public speaker; he doesn't appear to like it, unless it's before an adoring, pre-screened fan club; and he never changes anyone's mind.

And yet, there he goes again.
President Bush will launch a new round of speeches Monday to rally support for the war in Iraq, advisers said, as protesters camped outside Bush's Texas home and polls showed weaker support for the two-year conflict.

Senior aides say Bush will attempt to portray the Iraq conflict in the context of long wars like World War II, which U.S. forces fought from 1941 to 1945.

They said the president also will invoke the September 11, 2001, attacks...,

Wow. He's going to "invoke the September 11, 2001, attacks" to gain support for his failed policies. So this is going to be a different type of speech.

I wonder why he feels the need to interrupt his five-week vacation at this point. Let's see if we can find a clue elsewhere in the news.
George W. Bush’s overall job approval ratings have dropped from a month ago even as Americans who approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president are turning more optimistic about their personal financial situations according to the latest survey from the American Research Group. Among all Americans, 36% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 58% disapprove. When it comes to Bush’s handling of the economy, 33% approve and 62% disapprove.

Among Americans registered to vote, 38% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 56% disapprove, and 36% approve of the way Bush is handling the economy and 60% disapprove.

As other bloggers have pointed out, this puts Bush in the same range as Nixon during Watergate. According to a Gallup poll in the summer of 1973, Nixon’s approval rating was 39%. Well, that's a good reason to go out trolling for support. Anything else?
Shiites and Kurds were sending a draft constitution to parliament on Monday that would fundamentally change Iraq, transforming the country into a loose federation, with a weak central administration governed by Islamic law, negotiators said.


The draft also stipulates that Iraq is an Islamic state and that no law can contradict the principles of Islam, Shiite and Kurdish negotiators said. Opponents have charged that last provision would subject Iraqis to religious edicts by individual clerics.

The Shiite and Kurdish negotiators also said draft calls for the presence of Islamic clerics on the court that would interpret the constitution. Family matters such as divorce, marriage or inheritance would be decided either by religious law or civil law as an individual chooses -- a condition that opponents say would likely lead to women being forced into unfavorable rulings for them by opponents demanding judgments under Islamic law.

Two and a half years after invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, we have managed to spend hundreds of billions of dollars and over 2000 American and allied lives in order to replace a secular dictatorship with an Islamic republic. We have helped to reduce the civil rights of fifteen million or so women. We have created a massive training camp for urban terrorists and given big, bad Iran an ally.

So, I guess Bush wants to take a few moments from his busy vacation to brag about his successes. I can understand that.

Meanwhile in Crawford, Cindy Sheehan is still away tending to her ill mother, but Joan Baez dropped by to lend support and sing a few songs to the Camp Casey protestors. Sounds like things are in good hands down there, so I’m going to go back to bashing creationists for a few days. How about that Senator Frist? Is this a pathetic cry for help, or what?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

My favorite creationist argument
There used to be a Republican state senator from Moses Lake in Eastern Washington named Harold Hochstatter. For years he would introduce a creationism bill into each session of the legislature. For a while his favorite was the warning label for high-school science books that's now in use in much of the South. The bill he introduced was a boilerplate bill written by the Eagle Forum (the same one that has been used in Alabama since 1996). In 2002, Hochstatter apparently felt that conservativism was triumphant and it was no longer necessary to hide his true goals. A few days after introducing the "warning label" bill he introduced a second bill to completely outlaw the teaching of evolution in Washington state. That was his last creationism bill, he retired at the end of that session.

Hochstatter entered politics as an anti-abortion activist, and though he made the predictable attempts to get around Roe and abolish abortion in Washington, some of his most memorable legislative moments dealt with education, or perhaps I should say "education." He wanted Bible teaching and prayer to return to the schools, he thought teachers should be allowed to carry handguns in the classroom, and he thought evolution should be driven out of the schools.

I was reminded of old Harold by a post in Phayngula. PZ was doing his usual great job of demolishing creationist op-ed pieces. Today he gave us one Christopher Flickinger of Pittsburgh (or as he likes to call it, "The People's Republic of Pittsburgh: a cesspool of unionized liberalism"). Flickinger throws out a bunch of arguments that would embarrass an eight-grade debater including this goodie concerning the Declaration of Independence:
In the Declaration of Independence, our founders speak of "unalienable rights" by which (sic) we are endowed with (sic) by our Creator. If there is no Creator, then where do our rights come from? A piece of paper?

Which proves what? Most of us get past being impressed by these kinds of semantic arguments in Jr. High. They don't prove anything. Still, it made me think of SB 6500, Hochstatter's last and most ambitious anti-evolution bill.

With the "warning label" bills, Hochstatter was simply recycling the tactics tested and perfected by other and their lawyers. I believe SB 6500 was an argument original to Hochstatter. He based it on a little used law in Washington that bans teaching anything that contradicts the principles of the Declaration and Constitution. I can no longer find the full text of SB 6500, but the official summary read:
SB 6500 Finds that the teaching of the theory of evolution in the common schools of the state of Washington is repugnant to the principles of the Declaration of Independence and thereby unconstitutional and unlawful. Provides that all textbooks and curriculum that teach the theory of evolution shall be removed from the public schools forthwith and replaced with textbooks and curriculum that teach the self-evident truth of creation.

Hochstatter's killer argument, as he saw it, ran something like this: 1) the state constitution prohibits the teaching of anything that is against the Declaration of Independence, 2) the Declaration says "all men are created equal," 3) therefore the Declaration supports creationism, 4) evolution denies the existence of a creator or a special creation, 5) therefore evolution contradicts the Declaration, and 6) should be against the law. Oh yeah, 7) the teaching of creationism should be required in all Washington schools. Although SB 6500 was well co-sponsored by other Senate Republicans and a companion House bill was introduced, it never made it out of committee and died a well-deserved death at the end of the session.

I've never seen this argument used elsewhere, which is too bad. It's certainly a lot more fun than the same old misquotes of Stephen Jay Gould, babbling about thermodynamics, and misrepresentations of the nature of controversy in science.
The three faces of Cindy
Cindy Sheehan has become a sort of Rohorsach test of people's opinions on the war and Bush. There seem to be three rather rough narratives circulating about her character and actions. As you might expect, most people are predisposed to accept one particular narrative over the others. The primary factors in determining which narrative a person chooses are their opinion of Bush as a person and of the war as a policy. Equally unsurprisingly, the narratives are not being consistently applied. The narratives, and their appeal across the political spectrum, look something like this.

Sheehan herself is pushing the narrative that appeals to the Left. In this, she is a sympathetic character and her actions are sincere and reasonable. She is a grief-stricken mother who is not convinced by the reasons the president has given for having put her son in a dangerous situation to begin with. She thinks he owes her, all grieving mothers, and the general public a better explanation.

The middle narrative also makes Sheehan a sympathetic character, but her actions are confused and not altogether reasonable. In this narrative Sheehan, the grief-stricken mother, has become obsessed with explaining the unexplainable (why a particular person must die at a particular time). Unscrupulous political partisans and extremists are taking advantage of her to push their own agendas. The reasonable course would be for her to tend to her grief in private.

In the narrative that appeals to the Right, Sheehan is a devious character and her actions are insincere but reasonable given her goals. To the right, Sheehan was a ruthless partisan even before Casey was killed and she has rationally chosen to exploit his death to further her agenda. Because of this, she is a bad mother and forfeits any sympathy she might be entitled to.

I've simplified this a great deal. There are a large number of subtexts involved that could be interpreted in terms of marketing, politics, feminism, and cultural mythology. There are also a few off-the-wall narratives floating around that don't fit into this schematic. The broadest generalization I can make is that to the Left, both Sheehan and her actions are honorable and deserving of respect and to the Right neither Sheehan nor her actions are honorable or deserving of respect. The middle is inclined to be sympathetic of Sheehan but uncomfortable with her actions.

What is the source of this discomfort? I think the clearest source of discomfort is the American and Protestant sense that certain emotions should not be displayed in public. We see a level of impropriety in displaying "bad" emotions in public and in any display of strong emotion. There is very little political in this discomfort, we just feel that we shouldn't be seeing this and wish she wouldn't be stirring up our emotions like this.

Another level of discomfort comes from the feeling that she and others are exploiting the death of her son and her resulting grief. While this discomfort isn't especially political, the discomfort itself is being exploited in a political way. The right-wing narrative that she is a bad mother is based on this. It allows them to claim her grief in insincere and that the death of her son means nothing more to her than a political opportunity.

Because the majority is inclined to take her grief at face value, the Right itself has trouble consistently pushing this argument. When they face the middle, they back off and embrace the middle narrative of Sheehan as an innocent captive of partisan interests. This is implied in their loud trumpeting of the false anecdote of Sheehan "changing her story." That anecdote allows them to give respect to her grief in the past, while claiming that she has been corrupted into an wholly partisan creature who is not worthy of our sympathy in the present.

There is an interesting reflection here of the Right's tendency to divide people into categories of deserving and undeserving. Whether or not a person is deserving of our human kindness, sympathy, or charity is not determined by their need or circumstances. It is instead determined by innate markers of character. To the Right, Sheehan's response to her son's death showed the wrong character and so she forfeited her right to our sympathy. All of us have a little of this type of judgmentalism in us, but it becomes more absolute and more central to the world-view the further right you move. On the far right, it's easy to say she was always undeserving and leave it at that, but to appeal to the middle they must temper their judgment (or the public statement of it) and say that, while she might once have deserved our sympathy, she no longer deserves it.

The most overtly political source of discomfort is the issue of patriotism. We have been taught that in a time of war, we must all put aside our differences and unite to face our common foes. Patriotism means rallying around the flag. There is a long historical precedent for this and a large literature of the consequences of failing to do so. Although people will give lip-service to the concept of freedom of speech there is an implied "but" to the endorsement where war is concerned. "Supporting the troops requires you to shut-up and support the president" is an effective argument with too many people.

But now, a large number of people no longer support the war or the president. This makes many of them uncomfortable. War should make things nicely black and white and this war has not. It doesn't matter that most wars fail to bring moral clarity, for some reason, we still expect the next one to do so. Cindy Sheehan makes people confront the uncomfortable ambiguity of their feelings about the war. While they find her a sympathetic character and are starting to support her political position, they aren't sure they should. The accusation that supporting her makes them unpatriotic, frankly stings.

In the long run, I think the symbol of a grieving mother is more powerful than an accusation of lack of patriotism. While Cindy Sheehan might make people uncomfortable, she has probably had the effect of forcing people to clarify their positions on the war in their own minds. I'm not sure that she will have changed many minds, but I think this firming up of positions has probably been to the benefit of the anti-war side. And, since that's my side, I think that's a good thing.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Good morning Crawford
Here's the latest news from Crawford:
Dozens of war protesters camping in roadside ditches near President Bush's ranch have accepted a neighbor's offer to stay on his property.

Fred Mattlage, an Army veteran, offered the use of his corner 1-acre lot, saying he sympathizes with those participating in the vigil started Aug. 6 by Cindy Sheehan, who lost her 24-year-old son in Iraq last year.


"I just think people should have a right to protest without being harassed," Mattlage told The Associated Press late Tuesday. "And I'm against the war. I don't think it's a war we need to be in."


Larry Mattlage, a distant cousin of Mattlage's who owns nearby land, fired a shotgun twice into the air Sunday but no one was injured.

In case any Freepers are reading, let me stop her to explain that "Shotgun" Larry Mattlage is not the same person as Larry "Cross Killer" Northern. I know the whole Larry thing can get confusing; that's why we use family names and middle names in this country.

Moving the protest encampment onto private property should ease some of the tensions with the neighbors and make things a little safer for the protestors, should anyone decide to imitate "Cross Killer" Northern's antics. None of the news stories I checked out mentioned whether the counter-protestors or reporters would be moving. They also don't mention what effect this will have on Mattlage family relations.

Elsewhere, the Farmer reports that "Cross Killer" Northern will be awarded a specially designed Freeperkorps Order of the Dove-n-Cross Smiter medal, with oak leaves. Way to go Larry.

For those who want to show their support for Cindy Sheehan, but can't afford to travel to Crawford,, True Majority, and Democracy for America are hosting "Vigils for Cindy Sheehan" tonight in about 1000 locations across the country. MoveOn has a little locator device on their site to help you find the closest vigil to your home. In case any Freepers are planning on attending, I think you should know that they will probably make you leave your pick-ups and mowing equipment at the door. Just FYI.

For those of you breathlessly following the contest, we have a winner in the Freeper category, but there are still prizes to be awarded in the Major Pundit category, and in the Most-Outrageous-Defense-Not-On-My-List category. So, get your entries in while I hunt around here some piece of junk I can get rid of as a prize.

Update: Clever wife and I will be attending one of the vigils at Greenlake in Seattle. If you're in the neighborhood, come over and say hi. We'll be the ones with the candles.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Fabulous contest update
My cunning plan worked. I had hoped to protect my beautiful mind by getting someone else to do my dirty work (it's a trick I learned from the Bush family). Pam of Pam's House Blend went and checked out the freepers for dumbass defenses of Larry "Cross Killer" Northern's drive-by.

This defense, by one caisson71, is is my favorite from the collection Pam put together.
What happened to his "free speech" rights. You mean we can burn our flag but not run over some crosses?"

Caisson71 would prefer a world he can burn his cross but not run over some flags? I think this counts as the equivalency argument. Interestingly enough, Free Republic has this comment string searchable under the keyword "vandalism."

Pam also located this gem from finnman69.
Maybe it was stupid but in reality the crosses are FAKE!!!!

Um, I'll find a quick come-back for this one, even if it takes me all night. What, exactly, is a fake cross? One of an angle of other than exactly 90 degrees? Was finnman69 out there with a protractor measuring the angles of all of the alleged crosses? What about the St. Andrew's cross? Were the Scots and Confederates guilty of displaying FAKE!!!! crosses? I suppose that's why they kept getting their butts kicked by Britts and Yankees: God hated their crosses. As a Scot, let me be the first to say "doh!" Seriously, I think finnman69 fits the mol for arguing that it's okay to destroy a flag if it's a liberal flag.

Finally, Virginia Ridgerunner makes the frustrated local argument.
He should have quite while he was ahead, i.e. practicing his shotgun skills on his own property in anticipation of "dove" season. Running over the crosses was pretty stupid, even though they are part of Sheehan's sham, and even worse, he gave the anti-war morons the satisfaction of seeing him hauled off to jail.

VR gets points for spelling and for not being able to keep his Larrys straight. Larry Mattlage, a genuine neighbor of Bush's fired his shotgun in the air, Larry Northern of Waco ran over the flags and crosses.

My cunning plan wasn't really that cunning. I'm anal enough that I had to go to to Free Republic to confirn the quote and find out the freeper's names. Of the fifty Free Republic posts that I read (there were well over 200 posts, but fifty was all my beautiful mind could take), not one mentioned Northern destroying flags.It appears that the official party line is that he crushed the Arlington display to stop the dirty liberals from profaning the conservatives' cross (we had to destry the crosses in order to save the crosses). Ah, Free Republic. You'll go for the wingnuttery, but you'll stay for the garamar, the spelnig, and the logik.

Anyway, Pam wins the grand prize for locating all three arguments in one post. Coturnix, who pointed Pam out before I could properly link-whore this post is punished by getting billed for Pam's prize.

Did you know that "dumbass" isn't in the Word spell-checker dictionary? You did know that? Yeah, I'm not surprised.
Symbolic action, and a contest
We all know the story of Cindy Sheehan. Her son Casey was killed in Iraq last year. After attending an audience that Bush gave for parents of soldiers killed in action, Sheehan came away dissatisfied has joined the anti-war protest movement. She is camped outside of Bush's ranch in Crawford for the duration of his five-week vacation hoping to get a chance to ask him some questions. Bush refuses to meet with her.

You might agree with what she's doing or oppose it. That's a matter of individual opinion. What's indisputable is that the Crawford protest has been becoming something of a circus. Crawford's original encampment was a couple on the side of the road, near the turn off to Bush's ranch. Over the last two weeks, other anti-war protesters have come to join her. Counter-protesters have set up on the opposite side of the road. A stream of the merely-curious pass through every day. Porta-poties have been brought in. The local police have been stretched to the limit trying to control traffic and enforce private property rights. Naturally, the press has shown up. As of yesterday, there were about 300 people on Sheehan 's side, 100 counter-protesters, and an indeterminate number of police, reporters, and spectators.

One section of the protestor's camp is called Arlington West. There they have erected rows of small crosses, in the style of a military cemetery, with the names of all the American military dead in the Iraq War so far. It's said to be a very tasteful and moving display. Some of the counter-protesters have crossed the road to place flags and flowers among the crosses. Mourning and respect for the dead are not partisan properties.

Many of Bush's neighbors are, understandably, tired of the whole business which has interrupted their lives with noise, traffic snarls, and trespassers. While they are not completely agreed on who to blame, they are all tired of it. One group has petitioned the town assembly to pass an ordinance banning protests along Prairie Chapel Road. This would in effect move all protests into the town proper, seven miles away. There's no word on how the residents of the town proper feel about that suggestion.

Other residents have been more demonstrative and taken things outside legal channels.
Anti-war protesters outside President Bush's ranch here were startled Sunday by gunshots fired by a Texas rancher frustrated by the group's presence.

"Well, I'm getting ready for dove season," Larry Mattlage, 62, told reporters of the shots fired around 10 a.m. (noon EDT). Asked if there was an underlying message to the shots, which he fired harmlessly into the air, Mattlage told a reporter, "Figure it out for yourself."

Get it? He wants to shoot "doves." Oh, that wacky Texas sense of humor.

Last night, Larry Northern, of nearby Waco decided to express his opinion by driving over the crosses and flags of the Arlington West display.
About an hour ago, we got a phone call from our friends up at Camp Casey saying that the line of gravemarkers along the road (Arlington West) had been run over. People there said that as they were talking to a few members of the press, a pick-up truck came down the road and stopped at the fork by the edge of the tents. The driver then jumped out and attached a pipe to the undercarriage with a chain and began to "swerve into the line of crosses," said Tammara Rosenleaf from Montana. "Then we heard the pipe being dragged over the gravemarkers and the pick-up's wheels crushing them."

Out of the 800 crosses, 500 were knocked down and 100 are irreperable. However, the driver was arrested by the local authorities. This is a prime example of how the Crawford sheriff's department has helped to protect us and our freedom of speech over the past week and a half. A big thank you to them!

From the description of him stopping to prepare a device to mow down the crosses, it's clear this was not just another drunk who swerved into someone's mailbox. Northern made a special trip to destroy the memorial. And, please note, Waco is not Crawford. Northern cannot claim to be a neighbor frustrated by a media circus invading his home. He is someone from another town who decided to journey to Crawford to express take that action. In that way he is just like Cindy Sheehan, a citizen expressing a political opinion through actions outside the president's ranch. But while Sheehan expresses her opinion by sitting in a tent giving interviews, Northern expressed his opinion by using his pickup to grind the American flag into the earth.

I'm going to make a few assumptions about Larry Northern's political beliefs based on his actions. I'm going to assume that Northern is pro-Bush and pro-war, or at least anti-anti-war. That stand usually is united with xenophobia and nationalistic chauvinism that the holder believes is the same as patriotism. If this is the case, WHAT IS THIS ZIT HEAD DOING DRIVING OVER THE AMERICAN FLAG? It's the flag, dammit. The police who arrested Northern identified him because there were still shredded flags hanging from the undercarriage of his truck. The flag desecration amendment is usually an article of faith among these people. Does Northern imagine that the flag is worthy of protection only when he agrees with the sentiments of those using the flag?

Now, I could be wrong in assigning those views to Northern. He might be nothing more than a small town bully who saw an opportunity to terrorize some out-of-towners. In any case, as this story goes forward there are three arguments that we will inevitably hear from those who will feel compelled to identify with and defend Northern. Neither he nor they will be entitled to honestly use these arguments.
  • One: Northern is a local who got frustrated and acted out, like Larry Mattlage with his shotgun. No, he's not. Northern is not a Crawford local. He is from Waco, which is twenty miles southeast of Crawford. Sheehan's protest site is seven miles northwest of Crawford.
  • Two: Northern is a patriot who got frustrated and acted out. No, he's not. No one on the right is allowed to destroy American flags and crosses, wholesale, and claim patiotism as a defense. That's just how the rules work.
  • Three: Northern and Sheehan's protests are equivalent. No, they're not. Anyone who tries to present this as her free speech versus his is being disingenuous. The issue is vandalism. Though some damage to property must be occuring with the crowds that have joined Sheehan; it's not intentional. Vandalism was not their purpose in going to Crawford. Northern made a special trip to Crawford and improvised special equipment for the specific purpose of vandalizing the protest camp.

We know that in a very short while Malkin, O'Rielly, Coulter, and the freepers will have beatified Northern, so I'm offering fabulous prizes to the first readers who can find examples of each three of these arguments in use, to first to find all three, and to anyone who can find all three being used by the same person. Special honorable mentions go to anyone who finds any other particularly outrageous defenses of Northern's action.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The values president
Rememeber back when Bill Bennett was bemoaning the lack of a sense of shame in our society? My sense of shame for group, community, and nation have long since died of overlaod. Now my senses of irony and good grammar are on the ropes. At least we can be proud to have the best-rested head-of-state on the planet.
Bush said he is aware of the anti-war sentiments of Cindy Sheehan and others who have joined her protest near the Bush ranch.

"But whether it be here or in Washington or anywhere else, there's somebody who has got something to say to the president, that's part of the job," Bush said on the ranch. "And I think it's important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say."

"But," he added, "I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life."

The comments came prior to a bike ride on the ranch with journalists and aides.... In addition to the two-hour bike ride, Bush's Saturday schedule included an evening Little League Baseball playoff game, a lunch meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a nap, some fishing and some reading. "I think the people want the president to be in a position to make good, crisp decisions and to stay healthy," he said when asked about bike riding while a grieving mom wanted to speak with him.

Dammit, doesn't this insensitive woman know how important his vacation is?
I want to be number one

According to a search on Technorati, archy currently has the fourth and seventh most curreent posts for "disembodied anus." After this post, I'll be back at number one where I belong.

According to Google, I'm not even in the top ten. Google is a popularity contest. With your help, I'll bet we can get archy up there with the popular kids.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

This is why we have emoticons
Atrios suggests that this might be a joke, but also admits that he's seen as bad meant perfectly seriously. This appears deep in the comments following "enormous, mendacious, disembodied anus."

Just to be fair to tothe author, Floyd Alvis Cooper, I'll quote the whole thing.
I know this isn’t going to popular on this website, but may I just point something out?

A soldier’s #1 job is to stay alive. If you die, you can’t accomplish the mission, and you weaken your team and put your buddies in danger.

Obviously Sheehan’s son, I forget his name at the moment, didn’t die on purpose, and he may well have have had no control over the circumstances that let to his death.


In war, there are no excuses. You find a way to stay alive, whatever it takes -- if you’re a good soldier. Sheehan’s son didn’t do that. He paid the price. but he als [sic] failed the mission and let down his buddies.

As a soldier, he was a failure. He was brave (maybe), but he was also incompetent.

So, really, how much exactly are we supposed to grieve over this guy? Isn’t a certain amount of disapproval in order for the guy -- and by extension his mom, for making such a fuss over a person who was, in the last analysis, by definition a loser?

So shouldn’t Mrs. Sheenhan be showing a little more shame about the situation and maybe not wanting to get her son and his shortcoming splashed all over the media?

Something to consider, anyway.

While we're all trying to keep our heads from exploding, let's give a round of applause to The Editors for realizing the historical significance of such a comment "Now THAT’S how you troll a message board! Well done, FAC!" When Atrios retires from blogging to become the kindly old tour guide in the Winger/Wanker Hall of Fame, I'm sure Mr. Cooper's letter will have place of honor.

This changes everything I ever learned about "supporting the troops," "honoring the dead," and the reason we have red stripes on the flag. The Bataan Losers' March. Memorial Day: our national day of shame. Who knew those rows of crosses on Normandy were meant to be a big urinal?

Now we know why Bush won't go to any funerals. How big of a leap is it to go from letting America down like that to outright treason? The president can't go around honoring traitors.

Next time I see my uncle, who was awarded silver stars for starving for four months on Guadalcanal and getting shot five times on Tinian, I'll be sure to kick him and call him a disappointment to his comrades. Then I'll run like hell before he uses one of his malarial, gout-ridden feet to kick my butt till my nose bleeds. If I was stupid enough to say anything like that (I'm not), I'd deserve it.

Is this a joke? How could anyone say crap like that in all seriousness? It's one thing for people like Malkin to slime Cindy Sheehan for opposing their beliefs. Disgusting? Sure. But Malkin's kind of unimaginative invective is at least familiar. Cooper is pioneering new frontiers of unhinger vileness. Malkin says Cindy Sheehan is a bad person for wanting a better explanation for her son's death. Cooper says Casey Sheehan was a bad person for getting killed and causing his mother to question our president.

Cooper's imagined job description for soldiers is completely irrational. "Obviously Sheehan’s son..., didn’t die on purpose, and he may well have have had no control over the circumstances that let to his death. BUT. In war, there are no excuses." A real soldier knows where the shells will fall and doesn't stand there. A real soldier knows when a sniper is aiming at him and steps aside. When an act of God comes his way, a real soldier bitch-slaps God and tells Him to knock it off.

This is the type of comically macho nonsense that usually comes from the same trolls who show off their knowledge of things military by using WWII slang harvested from Nick Fury comic books.
Don't you hate it when this happens?
Yesterday I got all bent out of shape at the refusal of the authorities to call Charles Dreyling a terrorist. All Dreyling did was try to bring a bomb on to a passenger plane. The FBI press release seemed to imply that because he hadn't joined a terrorist club he might have been nothing more than your average mass-murderer next door. And committing mass-murder in Oklahoma City certainly wouldn't terrorize anyone would it? Today, it turns out Dreyling had a perfectly good excuse for having that bomb in his carry-on bag. He forgot it was there.
A University of Oklahoma student told federal investigators he forgot a pipe bomb he built for fun was in his luggage when tried to board an airplane....

FBI agents and Oklahoma City police officers said the pipe bomb contained a metal cartridge filled with gunpowder attached to a detonator made from model rocket parts. Dreyling could have detonated the bomb using his cellphone battery....

Boy, do I feel bad about my reaction today. Bringing a bomb onto a plane full of unsuspecting civilians is no reason to go calling a person bad names.

What disturbs me about this is not whether Dreyling is or is not a terrorist according to any objective standard. The FBI hasn't released enough information for us to form an opinion on that. Dreyling might be nothing more than a guy who never grew past the thirteen-year old boy kitchen-chemistry phase. The love making things that fizz, smoke, and go bang is often a sign of a healthy curiosity. Many great scientists possess that type of stunted development, and many of them are absent-minded enough to bring a bomb onto a commercial flight. I really do hope that's all it was.

What upsets me is the clear double standard. We liberals have joked that terrorism appears to be a crime that, by definition, is only committed non-white non-Christians. In this case, the government appears to be going out of it's way to let us know that really is how things work.

When a group of Muslim immigrants collect money for a charity, the authorities track down where every cent of that money goes and, if even a penny of it gets into the wrong hands, they have no problem shutting the whole operation down and prosecuting members of the charity under terrorism statutes. At every step of the way, they have no problem calling press conferences and making sure every other word is "terror."

Jose Pedilla was a not-very-bright, disaffected American citizen who, stupidly, went to hang out with real terrorists and shoot off his mouth. He got himself on record as wanting to build a radiological bomb (whether he was capable of doing it has never been addressed). He claims his new friends scared the hell out of him and he was running home to hide when the FBI picked him up. Based on his mouthing off, the Justice Department decreed him too dangerous to deserve constitutional protections or due process. They then alienated all of his inalienable rights and pitched him in a dark hole. Pedilla was brown to begin with and compounded his sin by converting to Islam.

When Pat Robertson wished, on national teevee, that "someone" would detonate an atomic bomb at the State Department in downtown Washington, DC, we all had a good laugh. "That Pat!" He still has access to the airwaves to tell his millions of paying followers that "someone" should commit unparalleled mass murder in our county's capitol. Pat Robertson is so white he make Rick Santorum look swarthy and claims to be some kind of Christian. If Pedilla would only have said "someone."

From his picture, Mr. Dreyling is clearly white. Being a college student, I'll guess he's middle-class. And I don't think I'm going out on a limb if I predict that he's, at least, culturally Christian. Within about two hours of his arrest, the FBI was able to confidently announce that he wasn't associated with terrorists. What kind of resources do they have that allow them to confidently make a claim like that in such an indecently short time? Did they look through his wallet for an al Qayda dues card and, not finding one, decide their work was done?

Dreyling is probably a harmless dope. Or more danger to himself than to anyone else. In any other time he might have grown up to be that weird uncle of your best friend--the talkative old guy with no kids and most of fingers on one hand missing. I'm not saying he should be persecuted and deprived of basic American rights just to make me feel better. I do, however, wish our authorities would, at least, make a show of believing in the constitution and being something other than a bunch of racist boobs. Naturally, I'd rather they really were those things, but even a insincere display recognizing that American values matter would be a good start.

I don't want Charles Dreyling pitched into jail uless he really was up to something. I want it to be proven in court in transparent and constitutional manner. I want Jose pedilla to have the same rights. Is that too much to ask?
Thanks Editors
I'm going to be humming "enormous, mendacious, disembodied anus" for the rest of the day.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Cheney '08
Armando, over at Kos, says, "God, please let it be true. I must dissent from those who think Cheney would be formidable." I have to agree.
Renowned journalist Bob Woodward predicts Dick Cheney will be the Republican Party's presidential nominee in 2008 and that the vice president could face Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton in a dramatic partisan showdown.

Speaking in the Paepcke Auditorium as part of the Aspen Institute's McCloskey Speaker Series, Woodward on Tuesday listed a number of reasons it is "highly likely" President Bush might implore Cheney to seek the Oval Office.

"He would be 67 if he ran and was elected. Reagan was 69. Republicans always like the old warhorse. ... Nixon was 68," said Woodward, best known for exposing the Watergate scandal that led to Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974. "Both parties like to nominate vice presidents. ... Cheney would do it, and I think it's highly likely, so stay tuned."

I'm not sure where the idea comes from that Cheney would be a formidable candidate. Last year in the Spring there was a sizeable "Dump Cheney" movement in the Republican Party aimed at drafting St. Rudy Giuliani. Part of that movement was based on Giuliani partisans trying to line their guy up in the strongest position for the '08 primaries. Part of it was based on shameless exploitation of 9/11 and the idea that "America's mayor" would make voters feel all warm and secure about the GOP. But the largest part of it was the perception that he was a loose cannon, a disagreeable old poop, and a liability to ticket.

Who is Cheney's natural constituency within the Party? The neocons love him, but they aren't a voting block. Even as behind the scenes power brokers, they aren't as influential as they were four years ago. Most of their influence comes from Cheney supporting them, not the other way around.

The social conservatives and religious extremists seem comfortable with Cheney, but are they enthusiastic? Will their leaders make a tactical decision to support Cheney, because he looks like a winner, rather than someone like Brownback, who is actively sucking up to their positions? Will that decision turn out the "values" voters? Or will they look at his soft-porn writing wife and lesbian daughter and stay home?

Private property nuts, anti-environmentalists, and beneficiaries of corporate welfare like him, but do they amount to much in numbers? That means he could deliver Idaho, Alaska, and Wyoming. And we all know how worried the Party is about those states going Democratic.

The only advantage I see him having in the '08 primaries is the insider advantage of the establishment's preferred heir. Bush had that advantage in 2000 and used it to bludgeon down other primary candidates, even in places where the voters clearly preferred those other candidates. He will have money and organization. Those are indeed formidable advantages and enough to carry him through the primaries to an easy nomination, but are they enough to get him elected?

When all of the balloons have settled to the floor of the convention center, the fact will remain that he's a disagreeable old poop.
Kafka lives
The news this morning has definite edge to it. A creepy, ironic edge. I feel like I woke up into an old Eastern European political novel.

My government once again openly defends suspending the Bill of Rights.
Foreign citizens who change planes at airports in the United States can legally be seized, detained without charges, deprived of access to a lawyer or the courts, and even denied basic necessities like food, lawyers for the government said in Brooklyn federal court yesterday.

A pundit claims killing people to intimidate their group isn't terrorism if your intentions are pure.
Tucker Carlson says on the air, twice, that he thinks it's a good thing the French government blew up the Greenpeace ship and killed some of its crew, unprovoked. He then goes on to call this "vandalism" rather than "terrorism."


I don’t support terrorism. It was not an act of terrorism, that is an important distinction. Since you are the head of Greenpeace you should do your research. The French Government did not intend to kill anyone, therefore it is not terrorism. This is an important distinction. Vandalizing the ship was impressive on France’s part. I don’t support terror.

A mourning mother becomes a threat to national security because she might mar the view for some important people.
Cindy Sheehan phoned me from Texas a few minutes ago to say that she's been informed that beginning Thursday, she and her companions will be considered a threat to national security and will be arrested. Coincidentally, Thursday is the day that Rice and Rumsfeld visit the ranch, and Friday is a fundraiser event for the haves and the have mores.

Taking a bomb onto a passenger airplane isn't terrorism. I'm terrorised just to know someone in authority might believe that. Gitmo. Politicised science. Extraordinary rendition. The Patriot Act. The phrase "Homeland security." Somehow my country has become East Balkoslavia, 1938.

If I go back to bed now, can I wake and discover it was all a dream? I want it to still be August 2000, with the Enlightenment still prevailing, international law still upheld by my country, the Bill of Rights still the law of the land, Clinton in the White House, and another Democratic president likely for the future. It looks like those people who thought the turn of the millenium whould bring forth something unspeakably horrible had the right dope.
Why isn't this terrorism?
I'm as baffled by this as Xan is.
An Oklahoma man was taken into custody after he tried to carry a bomb on board an airplane on Wednesday in Oklahoma City, an FBI spokesman said.

Charles Alfred Dreyling Jr., 24, was detained on Wednesday morning after a security screener using an X-ray machine saw the device in his luggage as he tried to board a flight to Philadelphia at Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City.

"Although the investigation is in its initial stages we have found no apparent connection to any type of terrorist activity or group," FBI spokesman Gary Johnson said.

Reuters and the AP have almost identical (probably based on the same short press release), tiny stories up. This is the Reuters version. I can't find any additional information anywhere.

A man tries to take a bomb on a plane. The authorities take him into custody and declare it's not terrorism related. Then what is it? Run of the mill extortion? Typical mass murder? We lefties joke about this (bitterly), but has it really become the case that it's not terrorism if a white Christian does it? Why aren't the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Transportation holding round the clock press conferences to congratulate themselves for their success in stopping him?

Very weird.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Prepare for bad history
We're just three weeks away from the next Carnival of Bad History. Horatio at Dodecahedron has volunteered to be the host. We have some submissions, but we can always use more. Want to review a bad historical movie? Know of a nonsensical conspiracy that needs debunking? Heard a politician or pudit make a really silly analogy? This is your chance to set the record straight. Send your submissions to John at archy, or to CoBH, or to Horatio at Dodecahedron.
Math is our friend
According to Chris Bowers and Matt Stoller, the total number of blogs has grown from 7.8 million to 14.2 million since March. The blogospere is doubling every five months. At this rate, every man woman and child on the planet will have three blogs by Labor Day 2010 -- even my mother!!!
ID rhetoric - Part 4: Not from apes
Utah State Senator Chris Buttars (R - of course) has a letter in USA Today on evolutionists and their crazed battle to remove all mention of God from our schools.
These vehement critics claim that there are mountains of scientific proof that man evolved from some lower species also related to apes. But in this tremendous effort to support Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, in all these “mountains of information,” there has not been any scientific fossil evidence linking apes to man.

The trouble with the "missing link" is that it is still missing! In fact, the whole fossil chain that could link apes to man is also missing! The theory of evolution, which states that man evolved from some other species, has more holes in it than a crocheted bathtub.

I realize that is a dramatic statement, so to be clear, let me restate: There is zero scientific fossil evidence that demonstrates organic evolutionary linkage between primates and man.

That, of course, is the crux of the issue. Evolutionary theory wouldn't cause any more excitement among fundamentalists than big bang theory does were it not for biologists claiming that humans are a normal part of nature. Sure, a few fundamentalists get bent out of shape over the idea of the universe being billions of years old, but most of them can't get that fired up about something that doesn't threaten them personally.

Human evolution is different. They see, in the idea that humans evolved, a repudiation of the idea that humans (or at least male humans) were made in God's image through a special act of creation. If we are an equal part of nature with other living things, the whole business of souls becomes very hard to explain. Christianity is very hierarchical (which is odd when you think about its origins). Anything that knocks us off of out perch at the very top of creation is a threat to the theological structure.

This hierarchical theology has to some very ugly attitudes during the last two thousand years. Most of the nastiest acts of discrimination in the West, while not always flowing directly out of religion, usually find religious defenders who find that some people are more like God than others and--surprise!--they just happen to be members of God's favorite group while the others are not.

Less commented on, is a tendency by some varieties of Christians to despise nature, even though it's God's creation. Many end-timers expect God to destroy this despised earth and provide a better one for the millennium. Of course, some parts of nature are more despised than others. Apes, by their very resemblance to humans, mock our pretensions of divinity. To be descended from the great apes is an insult piled on top of the indignity of being part of nature.

If being descended from the great apes is too much for Creationists to contemplate, let me set their fevered minds at rest. They are not descended from the great apes. Secularists are descended from the great apes; Creationists are descended from the chattering little monkeys.

John Cole has some more on Sen. Buttars.
Tactical backfire
Last month, Bush pushed up the announcement of his nominating John Roberts to the Supreme Court in order to push news about Karl Rove's problems off the front page. It worked for about a day, but news Rove hasn't entirely disappeared from the news and the Roberts announcement now has its own problems. By announcing a week early, Bush has given critics an extra week to go over Roberts' record.

The administration appears to have done the same splendid job vetting Roberts that they did with Bernard Kerik last fall. And, in their hubris, they completely miscalculated where their vulnerabilities were. The White House can handle congressional Democrats with their time tested tactics of stonewalling and crying "obstruction" (oops, that should read "unprecedented and possibly unconstitutional obstruction; 9/11, 9/11, 9/11"). They can handle the left, but they didn't expect trouble to come from the right. Like this:
A conservative group in Virginia said yesterday it was withdrawing its support for Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' confirmation because of his work helping overturn a Colorado referendum on gays.

The group, Public Advocate of the United States, is one of the first conservative organizations to announce anything but support for the judge...

Or this one from Dobson's group:
Conservatives reacted cautiously to the news this week that federal Judge John G. Roberts Jr. helped a group of homosexual rights activists win a seminal victory 10 years ago before the Supreme Court.


[Family Research Council President Tony] Perkins said his initial reaction to the news was concern that Judge Roberts had been "aiding and abetting" the groups. But after discussions with the White House and surrogates, Mr. Perkins urged caution in reaching that conclusion.

And my favorite:
But White House supporters said yesterday the hysteria over Judge Roberts' involvement in the homosexual rights case has been fostered by liberals hoping to split the right's support for the nominee among conservatives. "The goal of the left here was to try driving a wedge between conservatives and a nominee," said Leonard A. Leo, a conservative lawyer working with the White House to confirm Judge Roberts. "They have failed."

It's telling that hey feel the need to denounce a liberal conspiracy as the source of "hysteria" on the right. Meanwhile, the Justice Department has officially rejected the request by Senate Democrats for Roberts' papers from his days as deputy Solicitor General. No doubt they want to go over those papers and see if there are any other potential roadside bombs waiting to detonate on the right side of the road.

Of course, none of this is likely to derail Roberts' nomination, and we have no reason to expect a better nominee from Bush even Roberts does fall. The best we can hope for is division and strain within the Republican coalition. But a whif of conservative fratricide enough for me.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A little housekeeping
I've been falling behind on my hosting chores for a while. But no more. I just did the first round of updating my blogroll. New names will continue to appear all week. I'm toying with some ideas to make the site a little more exciting (more art, downloadable grilled cheese sandwiches, that sort of thing). So, stay tuned.

Friday, August 05, 2005

ID rhetoric - Part 3: Krugman gets it
Employment is intruding on my blogging time today, so I'm going to take the easy way out and point you at Paul Krugman's column today. Lucky for me, he's writing about how Intelligent Design Creationism propaganda is manufactured. Here is the Reader's Digest version:
Back in 1978 [Irving] Kristol urged corporations to make "philanthropic contributions to scholars and institutions who are likely to advocate preservation of a strong private sector." That was delicately worded, but the clear implication was that corporations that didn't like the results of academic research, however valid, should support people willing to say something more to their liking.


Corporations followed his lead, pouring a steady stream of money into think tanks that created a sort of parallel intellectual universe, a world of "scholars" whose careers are based on toeing an ideological line, rather than on doing research that stands up to scrutiny by their peers.

You might have thought that a strategy of creating doubt about inconvenient research results could work only in soft fields like economics. But it turns out that the strategy works equally well when deployed against the hard sciences.

The most spectacular example is the campaign to discredit research on global warming. Despite an overwhelming scientific consensus, many people have the impression that the issue is still unresolved. This impression reflects the assiduous work of conservative think tanks, which produce and promote skeptical reports that look like peer-reviewed research, but aren't....

There are several reasons why fake research is so effective. One is that nonscientists sometimes find it hard to tell the difference between research and advocacy - if it's got numbers and charts in it, doesn't that make it science?

Even when reporters do know the difference, the conventions of he-said-she-said journalism get in the way of conveying that knowledge to readers. I once joked that if President Bush said that the Earth was flat, the headlines of news articles would read, "Opinions Differ on Shape of the Earth." The headlines on many articles about the intelligent design controversy come pretty close.

Finally, the self-policing nature of science - scientific truth is determined by peer review, not public opinion - can be exploited by skilled purveyors of cultural resentment. Do virtually all biologists agree that Darwin was right? Well, that just shows that they're elitists who think they're smarter than the rest of us.


But what if creationists do to evolutionary theory what corporate interests did to global warming: create a widespread impression that the scientific consensus has shaky foundations?

Creationists failed when they pretended to be engaged in science, not religious indoctrination: "creation science" was too crude to fool anyone. But intelligent design, which spreads doubt about evolution without being too overtly religious, may succeed where creation science failed.

The important thing to remember is that like supply-side economics or global-warming skepticism, intelligent design doesn't have to attract significant support from actual researchers to be effective. All it has to do is create confusion, to make it seem as if there really is a controversy about the validity of evolutionary theory. That, together with the political muscle of the religious right, may be enough to start a process that ends with banishing Darwin from the classroom.

Go read the parts I left out. As always, Krugman is spot on.

As Krugman points out, the right has been using think tanks and manufactured experts to cloud political and economic issues for decades. Now right-wing religious extremists are using this technique to advance their agenda. This is a process that I've been watching with horror and dread for about ten years. I'll have more to say about this in a future installment (how many topics does this make that I’ve promised to get back to later? This is shaping up to be a very long series).

Meanwhile, here is some bonus reading. John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton are the experts on how the public relations industry manufactures fake expertise for their clients. Their books Trust Us We're Experts and Toxic Sludge Is Good for You! should be on the bookshelf of every propaganda watcher. Stauber and Rampton can also be found on the internets at the Center for Media and Democracy.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

ID rhetoric - Part 2: What's in a name?
I'm still grumpy about Bush weighing in to support Intelligent Design in an interview earlier this week. Isn't the whole point of him going on vacation supposed to be that he can do less damage to the country in Crawford than he can in Washington? Shouldn't he be out cutting brush in triple-digit temperatures or falling off a bike or something?

Here is part of Bush's statement on Monday: "I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought. You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes."

Kevin Drum was good enough to use his Nexis account to locate these quotes from then Gov. Bush during the 1999 primary campaign.
The Washington Post, August 27, 1999:
Bush spokeswoman Mindy Tucker said, "He believes both creationism and evolution ought to be taught.... He believes it is a question for states and local school boards to decide but believes both ought to be taught."

The Kansas City Star, September 9, 1999:
"I think it's an interesting part of knowledge (to have) a theory of evolution and a theory of creationism. People should be exposed to different points of view. Should the people choose in my state (to adopt a rule similar to Kansas') I have no problem" with public schools teaching both creationism and evolution.

Reuters, November 4, 1999:
Bush supports the teaching of creationism alongside evolution in public schools. Bush stated, "I have absolutely no problem with children learning different forms of how the world was formed." Bush believes decisions regarding curriculum should be made by local school districts.

I think there are two things to notice here. First, Bush is very good at staying on message. Over six years he has kept to the low-key "people ought to hear both sides of the story" theme. I call this the fairness tactic and I'll have more to say about it in a future post. What I want to look at today is the second noticeable point about his latest statement. He no longer calls it Creationism.

"Creationism" is a word that ID proponents do not like. It markets badly. Naming is, of course, an important part of any message strategy. By calling themselves "Pro-life" the anti-abortion crowd implies that their opponents are anti-life or pro-death. When ID proponents refer to their opponents by the terms "Darwinists" and the awkward "Evolutionists" they imply that evolution is an ideology, not a scientific theory. This makes it easier to dismiss and easier to make the claim that it is just a guess, no better than any other guess.

On the other hand, “Intelligent Design Theory” sounds very respectable and scientific, unlike “Creationism” that, along with its historical associations to the Scopes trial, also has that unfortunate –ism at the end.

Are these word games that serious? Unfortunately, yes they are. People who only pay casual attention to an issue are very susceptible to first impressions. That's the whole point of framing; establish a first impression that will serve as a framework around which the viewer will assemble any new information that you can't control. People filter information. If you can control the filters, most of the job of selling your product is done. It doesn't matter that evolutionary theory is not an ideology or that ID isn't science, once people are programmed to interpret them that way, it's almost impossible to change their minds.

I always refer to ID as Intelligent Design Creationism for three reasons. One, it is nothing more that "creationism in cheap suit," as one of the scientists who testified before the Kansas school board called it. Ever since the sixties, the strategy of religious opponents of evolution has been to dress their product up as science. Version 1.0 was called "Creation Science" and had its (unsuccessful) day in court in the early eighties. Two, it bugs them. In a debate, it never hurts to get under the skin of your opponent. Three, it muddies their message. Every time the words "Intelligent Design" are spoken, I want people to hear "Creationism." I want their minds to fill with images of Elmer Gantry, snake-oil salesmen, and flat earthers.

Words matter.