"The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." Orwell
"“The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” Plato
"The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant" Robespierre
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
You Can't Get There From Here
Monday, August 30, 2010
If blogging is an exercise in egotism, then what's it called when you rent the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of one of the most important speeches in American history, and use the occasion to proclaim that by the force of your personal perfection, it marks the moment when the country turns back to God?
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Probably a breach of blotiquette, not to mention the law, I'm just going to reprint in its entirety this piece. It says everything, hitting all the important notes I've tried to play. Everything I've been saying, he says; but in a respected and widely-read venue, not to mention in gooder writing than I's. So here it is (and what could be a more appropriate day than this one in D.C.):
Building a Nation of Know-NothingsBy TIMOTHY EGAN
Timothy Egan on American politics and life, as seen from the West.
Having shed much of his dignity, core convictions and reputation for straight talk, Senator John McCain won his primary on Tuesday against the flat-earth wing of his party. Now McCain can go search for his lost character, which was last on display late in his 2008 campaign for president.
Remember the moment: a woman with matted hair and a shaky voice rose to express her doubts about Barack Obama. “I have read about him,” she said, “and he’s not — he’s an Arab.”
McCain was quick to knock down the lie. “No, ma’am,” he said, “he’s a decent family man, a citizen.”
That ill-informed woman — her head stuffed with fabrications that could be disproved by a pre-schooler — now makes up a representative third or more of the Republican party. It’s not just that 46 percent of Republicans believe the lie that Obama is a Muslim, or that 27 percent in the party doubt that the president of the United States is a citizen. But fully half of them believe falsely that the big bailout of banks and insurance companies under TARP was enacted by Obama, and not by President Bush.
Take a look at Tuesday night’s box score in the baseball game between New York and Toronto. The Yankees won, 11-5. Now look at the weather summary, showing a high of 71 for New York. The score and temperature are not subject to debate.
Yet a president’s birthday or whether he was even in the White House on the day TARP was passed are apparently open questions. A growing segment of the party poised to take control of Congress has bought into denial of the basic truths of Barack Obama’s life. What’s more, this astonishing level of willful ignorance has come about largely by design, and has been aided by a press afraid to call out the primary architects of the lies. [Emphasis mine.]
The Democrats may deserve to lose in November. They have been terrible at trying to explain who they stand for and the larger goal of their governance. But if they lose, it should be because their policies are unpopular or ill-conceived — not because millions of people believe a lie. [Me, again.]
In the much-discussed Pew poll reporting the spike in ignorance, those who believe Obama to be Muslim say they got their information from the media. But no reputable news agency — that is, fact-based, one that corrects its errors quickly — has spread such inaccuracies.
So where is this “media?” Two sources, and they are — no surprise here — the usual suspects. The first, of course, is Rush Limbaugh, who claims the largest radio audience in the land among the microphone demagogues, and his word is Biblical among Republicans. A few quick examples of the Limbaugh method:
“Tomorrow is Obama’s birthday — not that we’ve seen any proof of that,” he said on Aug. 3. “They tell us Aug. 4 is the birthday; we haven’t seen any proof of that.”
Of course, there is proof as clear as that baseball box score. Look here, www.factcheck.org, for starters, one of many places posting Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate.
On the Muslim deception, Limbaugh has sprinkled lie dust all over the place. “Obama says he’s a Christian, but where’s the evidence?” he said on Aug. 19. He has repeatedly called the president “imam Obama,” and said, “I’m just throwing things out there, folks, because people are questioning his Christianity.”
You see how he works. He drops in suggestions, hints, notes that “people are questioning” things. The design is to make Obama un-American. Then he says it’s a tweak, a provocation. He says this as a preemptive way to keep the press from calling him out. And it works; long profiles of Limbaugh have largely gone easy on him.
Once Limbaugh has planted a lie, a prominent politician can pick it up, with little nuance. So, over the weekend, Kim Lehman, one of Iowa’s two Republican National Committee members, went public with doubts on Obama’s Christianity. Of course, she was not condemned by party leaders.
It’s curious, also, that any felon, drug addict, or recovering hedonist can loudly proclaim a sudden embrace of Jesus and be welcomed without doubt by leaders of the religious right. But a thoughtful Christian like Obama is still distrusted.
“I am a devout Christian,” Obama told Christianity Today in 2008. “I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.” That’s not enough, apparently, for Rev. Franklin Graham, the partisan son of the great evangelical leader, who said last week that Obama was “born a Muslim because of the religious seed passed on from his father.”
Actually, he was born from two non-practicing parents, and his Kenyan father was absent for all of his upbringing. Obama came to his Christianity like millions of people, through searching and questioning.
Finally, there is Fox News, whose parent company has given $1 million to Republican causes this year but still masquerades as a legitimate source of news. [Yep.] Their chat and opinion programs spread innuendo daily. The founder of Politifact, another nonpartisan referee to the daily rumble, said two of the site’s five most popular items on its Truth-o-meter are corrections of Glenn Beck.
Beck tosses off enough half-truths in a month to keep Politifact working overtime. Of late, he has gone after Michelle Obama, whose vacation in Spain was “just for her and approximately 40 of her friends.” Limbaugh had a similar line, saying the First Lady “is taking 40 of her best friends and leasing 60 rooms at a five-star hotel — paid for by you.”
The White House said Michelle Obama and her daughter Sasha were accompanied by just a few friends — and they paid their own costs. But, wink, wink, the damage is done. He’s Muslim and foreign. She’s living the luxe life on your dime. They don’t even have to mention race. The code words do it for them.
Climate-change denial is a special category all its own. Once on the fringe, dismissal of scientific consensus is now an article of faith among leading Republicans, again taking their cue from Limbaugh and Fox. [Yes, e. m.]
It would be nice to dismiss the stupid things that Americans believe as harmless, the price of having such a large, messy democracy. Plenty of hate-filled partisans swore that Abraham Lincoln was a Catholic and Franklin Roosevelt was a Jew. So what if one-in-five believe the sun revolves around the earth, or aren’t sure from which country the United States gained its independence?
But false belief in weapons of mass-destruction led the United States to a trillion-dollar war. And trust in rising home value as a truism as reliable as a sunrise was a major contributor to the catastrophic collapse of the economy. At its worst extreme, a culture of misinformation can produce something like Iran, which is run by a Holocaust denier. [Irony mine.]
It’s one thing to forget the past, with predictable consequences, as the favorite aphorism goes. But what about those who refuse to comprehend the present? [Me: We know the answer, I've said it: they're literally killing us all.]
Note: In an earlier version of this piece, a statistic for the percentage of Republicans who believe the president is Muslim was given wrong; it has been corrected.
Of course, it's in the NYT which means it'll be dismissed, without as much as the depolarization of a single axon, by the true believers. Why listen to reason when you have Rush, and Glenn, and Sarah?
Friday, August 27, 2010
Man Of La Manchuria
A person I know writes to me and says,
What drives me nuts with you, honestly, is that you cannot see that BO is here by design, from his handlers in Islamic nations who financed his election, who paid for his campaign, to cut us down and destroy us as a nation. He is a Muslim or at least a black Marxist fundamentalist extremist...with a smooth delivery and a good looking face which bought your dollars and those of Soros and others.
I'm quite certain he's serious.
In fact, there's more evidence that GW Bush is an al Queda plant, given that everything he did in his presidency served their purposes and weakened America while handing AQ more recruits than they could handle. What wreckage there was left, smoking and dying, at the end of his eight years of reign: economy in shambles, military exhausted (and its wounded uncared for), while his oil buddies (and their Arab cohorts) made out like Ted Haggard with a pretty boy. Coincidence? And the historical coziness of the Bush family to the bin Laden family does nothing to diminish the theory. So, you pick your conspiracy, and I'll pick mine. Except mine has facts to support it (and even so, I don't believe it.)
Thursday, August 26, 2010
The Hate Monger
Words from Imam Feisal Rauf, just now, in Bahrain:
"Bahrain is already a bridge but we need to put more traffic on it," he told a group of religious experts representing Islam, Christianity and Judaism, at the majlis of Gulf Council for Foreign Relations chairman Dr Mansoor Al Arayedh in Segaiya.
"How many Americans know Bahrain has a US naval base and a Christian and Jewish community and that Bahraini Ambassador to the US Huda Nonoo is Jewish?
"How many Muslims know there is a sizeable community of Shi'ites in Bahrain? So we need to be more proactive in educating Muslims."
"We are Christians, Jews and Muslims, but one of our faults is instead of worshipping God, we worship our religion and use that to cause division between us," said Imam Feisal.
"The sense of brotherhood and unity that the prophets had for each other as servants of the true God is the primary lesson we should all learn.
"The demand is on us (Muslims) to feel a special brotherhood with the Christian and Jewish faiths and certainly our own.
"We shouldn't see differences, but see the differences that unite us and are part of one theme.
"It's time we also saw that if we followed the laws of Moses, Jesus and Mohammed they were not opposed to each other."
This, lest anyone not know it, is the guy the Foxobeckains would have us believe is a terrorist.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Between Darkness And Light
The best I can say about those that oppose the so-called mosque at so-called ground zero is that they've been played like Glen Hansard's guitar. "I'm not prejudiced," they claim. Right here, even, in comments. Okay. Like Mitch McConnell, who takes President Obama "at his word" that he's not a Muslim, I'll do likewise toward their claim. Although it's hard to say which ought to be more shameful: bearing prejudice and hatred towards those of differing religions, or the dullish credulity that allows them to be manipulated so easily by people with cynical agendæ. Either way. Take your pick. You're bringing us down.
Opponents of the Park51 Islamic community center held a rally yesterday in Lower Manhattan, and a 4-minute video, posted below, reveals the true sentiments behind this campaign. It has little to do with The Hallowed Ground of the World Trade Center -- that's just the pretext -- and everything to do with animosity toward Muslims. I dislike the tactic of singling out one or two objectionable people or signs at a march or rally in order to disparage the event itself. That's not what this video is. Rather, it shows the collective sentiment of those gathered, as well as what's driving the broader national backlash against mosques and Muslims far beyond Ground Zero.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
For some reason, I can no longer embed clips of The Daily Show. They work in my preview mode, but when I try to publish, I get an HTML error message. It's a shame, because Jon Stewart has been excellent of late. So, here's a link to last night's opening, in which he addresses the fundamental question of our time: is Fox "news" evil, or is it just stupid?
One of the crazier of the R congresspeople (a comparative around which it's hard to get one's mind) says the US is "under siege" by terrorists.* Now, I'm no scholar but when I hear the word "siege" I think of a place, a village maybe, surrounded by enemies, communications cut off, running out of food, its survival in question. So I think the guy may be a little over the top.
Here’s what’s been lost in all the screaming. The prime movers in the campaign against the “ground zero mosque” just happen to be among the last cheerleaders for America’s nine-year war in Afghanistan. The wrecking ball they’re wielding is not merely pounding Park51, as the project is known, but is demolishing America’s already frail support for that war, which is dedicated to nation-building in a nation whose most conspicuous asset besides opium is actual mosques.So virulent is the Islamophobic hysteria of the neocon and Fox News right — abetted by the useful idiocy of the Anti-Defamation League, Harry Reid and other cowed Democrats — that it has also rendered Gen. David Petraeus’s last-ditch counterinsurgency strategy for fighting the war inoperative. How do you win Muslim hearts and minds in Kandahar when you are calling Muslims every filthy name in the book in New York?
.... Some have also argued that the construction of the mosque would hand a propaganda victory to Osama bin Laden. I think the opposite is true. Al-Qaida justifies its murder by painting America as a nation at war with Islam. Celebrating our freedom of religion and Muslim Americans' place in our communities is a blow to al-Qaida's ideology of hate and division. We strengthen America by distinguishing, clearly and unequivocally, between our al-Qaida enemy and our Muslim neighbors.
.... Speaking at a mosque just six days after the World Trade Center attack, President Bush said, "These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith, and it's important for my fellow Americans to understand that."
I have great respect for the sentiments of the survivors and family members of those who died on 9/11, and understand that some may not regard the situation this way. But our fundamental religious freedom and our national security -- in addition to fairness for our fellow citizens -- will be well served by drawing a bright line between our Muslim friends and neighbors at home, and our al-Qaida enemy abroad.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Propaganda + Sheep =
Is, in fact.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Not That It Matters
Friday, August 20, 2010
Among the many examples of RWS™, Congressional Rs, and their willing teabagging fodder neither respecting, agreeing with, or understanding the US Constitution is the way they respond to the occasional person who questions their venom or lies. "My First Amendment rights are being violated!!!" they shriek, tears flowing, waves of victimization slopping the shores of their self-pity.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Anathema to the RWS™ and to all of those who sup at their untidy table, there follow some facts about the Cordoba Initiative. As I mentioned recently, the leader is Sufi. To those who, at the urging of the demonstrably mendacious and venal Newt Gingrich, mindlessly repeat the notion that the center would be a symbol of terrorist triumphalism, I say (recognizing it'll make no difference, as facts are like rubber bullets on a mylar vest to these people) read this informative piece:
The problem with such claims goes far beyond the fate of a mosque in downtown Manhattan. They show a dangerously inadequate understanding of the many divisions, complexities and nuances within the Islamic world — a failure that hugely hampers Western efforts to fight violent Islamic extremism and to reconcile Americans with peaceful adherents of the world’s second-largest religion.Most of us are perfectly capable of making distinctions within the Christian world. The fact that someone is a Boston Roman Catholic doesn’t mean he’s in league with Irish Republican Army bomb makers, just as not all Orthodox Christians have ties to Serbian war criminals or Southern Baptists to the murderers of abortion doctors.Yet many of our leaders have a tendency to see the Islamic world as a single, terrifying monolith. Had the George W. Bush administration been more aware of the irreconcilable differences between the Salafist jihadists of Al Qaeda and the secular Baathists of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the United States might never have blundered into a disastrous war, and instead kept its focus on rebuilding post-Taliban Afghanistan while the hearts and minds of the Afghans were still open to persuasion.Feisal Abdul Rauf of the Cordoba Initiative is one of America’s leading thinkers of Sufism, the mystical form of Islam, which in terms of goals and outlook couldn’t be farther from the violent Wahhabism of the jihadists. His videos and sermons preach love, the remembrance of God (or “zikr”) and reconciliation. His slightly New Agey rhetoric makes him sound, for better or worse, like a Muslim Deepak Chopra. But in the eyes of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, he is an infidel-loving, grave-worshiping apostate; they no doubt regard him as a legitimate target for assassination.For such moderate, pluralistic Sufi imams are the front line against the most violent forms of Islam. In the most radical parts of the Muslim world, Sufi leaders risk their lives for their tolerant beliefs, every bit as bravely as American troops on the ground in Baghdad and Kabul do. Sufism is the most pluralistic incarnation of Islam — accessible to the learned and the ignorant, the faithful and nonbelievers — and is thus a uniquely valuable bridge between East and West.
It's just another example of how our mindless and simplistic approach to our problems is leading us to self-destruction. As Sarah Palin continues to laugh at thinkers, and as Newt presents his non-thinking as the Republican version of intellect, teabaggers and people like them empower their own destruction.
How sad. For letting it happen, in the case of most of our media, and for making it happen, in the case of the rest, and for our unwillingness to speak up, we deserve what we're about to get. Long since, we've abdicated our place in the world as a voice of reason, innovation, and education. It's assisted suicide.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
The deck is stacked.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
The last thing bin Laden and other radical Islamic terrorists want is a Muslim community center, open to all and run by an imam who preaches peace and tolerance, built anywhere near Ground Zero; or, for that matter, anywhere in the US. It defeats their most central message of jihad against the crusaders. Whatever else is true about those guys, they're not unaware of American politics nor of how to play it like an oud.
Monday, August 16, 2010
I've referred to him before, if obliquely, in my never-ending search for a reasonable conservative, an entity all but disappeared from the national scene, even as it's sorely needed. He, Ronald Reagan's former chief economic advisor, has spoken again:
.... In my own mind, I have the same political philosophy I've always had--basically libertarian but tempered by Burkean small-C conservatism. But I am no longer a member of the Republican Party and no longer consider myself part of the "conservative movement." That's not because I changed, but because I believe that they have. The Republican Party of today is not the party of Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan that I was once a member of; it stands for nothing except the pursuit of power as an end in itself, with no concern whatsoever for what is right for the country. In a recent interview with The Economist magazine, I characterized the Republicans as the greedy, sociopathic party. I stand by that.What he says is self-evident, except to those who need to hear it most. "... no concern whatsoever for what is right for the country."
I think Russell Kirk and Bill Buckley would be absolutely aghast at the things it stands for today and the people that are acclaimed as its leaders. When clowns like Glenn Beck are its leaders and right-wing bigots pander to ignorant yahoos about a planned mosque in lower Manhattan, I want to be as far away from any such movement as I possibly can. And readers of this blog know what I think of the know-nothing tea party movement, which conservatives have latched onto en masse.
From the mouth of the ultimate Reaganite, one who sat at the right hand of God: "... no concern whatsoever for what is right for the country." Readers of this blog have read virtually those exact words before.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
One of my trolliest of commenters, in response to my usual debunking of his typical respouting of Foxobeckian drivel, asks:
"Really, Sid. Is this how you speak to people in real life? Does this make you feel more manly on the Internet? Are you unable to be polite to people with whom you disagree?"
Aside from the hilarity of the framing, coming as it does from a guy whose comments are, in most cases, the equivalent of dropping by to take a dump, there is a grain of a reasonable question there.
This being a blog which by its own title announces my intention to rant, readers ought not expect silken speech. However: I base everything I say on fact, demonstrable and demonstrated with relevant links. I make no excuses for responding to ubiquitous idiocy and craven cynicism with strong language, but I most strenuously lay claim to careful thought and open-eyed assessment.
Similarly, the careful reader will note that when challenged by commenters with reasonable questions and interesting documentation (yes, it has happened) I respond -- happily! -- in kind. I love to engage those who disagree, when the disagreement amounts to something -- anything, in fact -- more than the schoolyard taunts and -- what shall we call it? Blue language? -- that usually appear. It's particularly amusing to read the above questions, coming from a person who evidently has no idea how uninteresting and unoriginal his (or her) comments are. "I know you are but what am I" is not a style that carries much weight after about the third grade.
So. Were it ever to happen that the person in question engaged in actual discourse, responding to a point I'm trying to make in a given post with actual counter-arguments while keeping at least a toe on the firmament, he (or she) would be engaged most enthusiastically, with respect commensurate with that given to my argument. In the case of this individual, however, there's no evidence that there's the capability.
Meanwhile, I suppose I owe answers:
Friday, August 13, 2010
The Man Behind The Smear
As the RWS™ carry out their usual hatchet job, retracing the bloody footprints they left after destroying Van Jones, Shirley Sherrod, and many others less well known, it might be revelatory to get to know the victim of their latest attack, Donald Berwick, nominated to head Medicaid and Medicare. To them, he's evil incarnate. To the reader of his recent graduation speech at the medical school in which his daughter was among those graduating, a different man emerges.
.....Let me read to you an email I received on Thursday, December 19, 2009. It came from Mrs. Jocelyn Anne Gruzenski – she goes by “Jackie.” I did not know Jackie Gruzenski at the time; she wrote to me out of the blue. But I have since connected with her. And, she gave me permission to read her email to me to you. Here's what she wrote:…“My husband was Dr. William Paul Gruzenski, a psychiatrist for 39 years. He was admitted to (a hospital she names in Pennsylvania) after developing a cerebral bleed with a hypertensive crisis. My issue is that I was denied access to my husband except for very strict visiting, four times a day for 30 minutes, and that my husband was hospitalized behind a locked door. My husband and I were rarely separated except for work,” she wrote. “He wanted me present in the ICU, and he challenged the ICU nurse and MD saying, "She is not a visitor, she is my wife.‟ .....What might a husband and wife of 19 years, aware of the short time left together, wish to talk about – wish to do – in the last days? I don‟t know for Dr. and Mrs. Gruzenski. But, I do know for me. I would talk about our children. I would talk about the best trip we ever took together, and even argue, smiling, about whose idea it was. .... We would have so much to talk about. So much. The nurses would pad in and out of the hospital room, checking i.v.s and measuring pulses and planning their dinners and their weekends. And none of what the nurses and doctors did would matter to us at all; we wouldn‟t even notice them. We would know exactly who the visitors were – they, the doctors and the nurses. They, they would be the visitors in this tiny corner of our whole lives together – they, not us. ..... [T]oday you take a big step into power. With your white coat and your Latin, with your anatomy lessons and your stethoscope, you enter today a life of new and vast privilege ..... [S]ociety will give you access and rights that it gives to no one else. Society will allow you to hear secrets from frightened human beings that they are too scared to tell anyone else. Society will permit you to use drugs and instruments that can do great harm as well as great good, and that in the hands of others would be weapons. Society will give you special titles and spaces of privilege, as if you were priests. Society will let you build walls and write rules.
......... But, now I will tell you a secret – a mystery. Those who suffer need you to be something more than a doctor; they need you to be a healer. And, to become a healer, you must do something even more difficult than putting your white coat on. You must take your white coat off. You must recover, embrace, and treasure the memory of your shared, frail humanity – of the dignity in each and every soul. When you take off that white coat in the sacred presence of those for whom you will care – in the sacred presence of people just like you – when you take off that white coat, and, tower not over them, but join those you serve, you become a healer in a world of fear and fragmentation, an “aching” world, as your Chaplain put it this morning, that has never needed healing more. Congratulations.
Read the whole speech, then tell me: is he the devil the screamers say he is?
If, as I said recently, the worst thing the right-wingers have done to our country and our world is the killing of climate legislation, then the runner-up is their characterization of health care reform as "death panels" and "genocide" (as a group of Larouche supporters, complete with Obama-as-nazi signs, claimed a couple of days ago, parading near my local post office). In the latest of uncountable examples, these people, the screamers, the radio guys, the talking headless of Fox "news", Congressional Rs, teabaggers who've dipped and drunk deep, who have no desire or ability to enter the marketplace of ideas, would rather don the vestments of hate and hyperbole, and blow themselves up like al Queda in a farmers' market, taking down as many innocents as possible. What, I wonder, do they expect to see when they find their imaginary paradise?
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