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saturday, june 26, 2004

Ireland Forever II
irishgreet.jpg
 
The 2004 photo was picked up on Whiskey Bar.
 
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7:44 am | link

friday, june 25, 2004

Ireland Forever
 
Preznit Bunnypants made an asshole of himself on Irish television. The link to the video is on Dan Froomkin's WaPo column today, which you should read -- 'twill cheer you up -- but the video of an interview with an Irish journalist is Shrub at his most smug and oblivious worst.
 
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2:20 pm | link

Spotted on a Rightie Blog
 
This is rich ... some Kool Aiders are commenting on Al Gore's May 26 speech on the Rottweiler (the nice doggie may be jealous 'cause he's not linked on Bruce Springsteen's site).  And one of them (can't link to comments, sorry), actually said of Mr. Gore,

This blathering idiot almost became president. He would have single handedly brought down the democrat party.

Instead, we've got Preznit Bunnypants who is single handedly bringing down the Republican Party.

(Do these people not know what's going on in the world? Apparently not.)

Update: Another jaw-dropper -- David Horowitz comments on David Brock:

I do not intend to examine the thesis of Brock’s book, which I admit I find preposterous – that unscrupulous, partisan conservatives have invaded arenas previously governed by impeccable standards of fairness and objectivity, and thereby corrupted American journalism and politics in the process.

This is Horowitz, mind you. Too funny.

 
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1:01 pm | link

Naughty, Naughty
 
By now you've heard that the famously inscrutable Dick the Dick used the "F" word on the Senate floor. One might infer that Dick is feeling a bit stressed.
 
Meanwhile, the "president" is on his way to Ireland. And the Irish are planning a grand welcome!
Irish lawyers have signed a petition against Mr Bush and suggested he should be arrested as soon as he arrives. Clerics have questioned the president's morals and the leader of the Irish senate has boycotted a US embassy dinner to mark his visit. Anti-war protesters say they are being censored by a government desperate to keep a lid on demonstrations. The terrorism risk has resulted in the biggest security operation in the country's history. ...

The liberal establishment is fuming that Mr Bush might use his visit to Ireland for electioneering. Ireland is a favourite location for US presidents seeking re-election and, as one Irish journalist put it, "looking statesmanlike in a pretty Irish castle" will do no harm to Mr Bush's efforts to appeal to an estimated 34.3 million people of Irish descent at home. Bill Clinton was greeted like a film star when he visited Ireland, but Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon met protests.

Church leaders of various denominations have added their voices to the opposition.

Anti-Bush protests have been gathering momentum for weeks. The Irish folk singer Christy Moore has recorded an anti-Bush single with Damien Rice called Lonely Soldier. Proceeds will help the anti-war movement. White peace flags have gone up around Dublin, which will be the venue for a big anti-war protest tonight.

Tomorrow protesters will rally near Dromoland castle and march to Shannon airport, from where Mr Bush is due to depart. But the Irish Anti-War Movement is considering legal action against the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland after its adverts were taken off air. [Angelique Chrisafis, The Guardian, June 25, 2004]

I guess Irish eyes ain't smilin'.
 
 
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6:24 am | link

thursday, june 24, 2004

Too Weird
 
You gotta read this. Another embarrassment for America ...
 
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10:35 pm | link

Breaking News
 
I'm interrupting this blog for another blog ...
  • Dick the Dick appears to have won a court victory regarding his Energy Task Force papers, although maybe not. The Supreme Court told a federal appeals court "to reconsider whether Cheney should reveal who attended task force meetings in 2001 to help develop the government's energy policy. The appeals court had concluded that Cheney's bid to block any record disclosure was premature." [Bloomberg; emphasis added.] So the SCOTUS didn't decide anything; it just told the federal appeals court to reconsider what it had already decided? Uh-huh. I suspect Dick the Dick will be able to drag this out in court at least until after the November elections. But then ...
  • Bombs exploded in two Turkish cities today. One went off outside a hotel in Ankara where the "president" will be staying this weekend as he attends a NATO summit. Another explosion went off in a bus in Istanbul, killing three people. [AP]
  • Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" which is playing in selected theaters, "grossed $49,000 at the Loews Village 7 theater in New York and more than $30,000 at the Lincoln Plaza, breaking the single-day records for both theaters, said Tom Ortenberg, president of Lions Gate Films Releasing." [AP] See also "Critics Laud Moore Film."
  • "Bill Clinton's My Life broke first-day sales records for a nonfiction book and for an adult audiobook, Sonny Mehta, president of Knopf Publishing Group, said yesterday." [New York Newsday]
Now I'm returning to regular blogging.
 
A desperate Bob the Lizard thinks the just-released Clinton book and book tour will give "President" Bush a boost in the polls.

The reappearance of a dysfunctional Clinton is one of many events breaking Bush's losing streak. The image of Sen. John McCain embracing the president, the first of several such appearances, exploded all notions of a dream Kerry-McCain Democratic ticket foolishly promoted in recent weeks. Most important, Kerry's favorability rating has declined as he was pounded by Republican negative advertising.

Bob is usually smarter than this in his columns, although he'll say just about any damnfool thing on television. (I suspect he doesn't believe half of what he says on television; he's just playing a role. Think World Wrestling Federation.) The Reptilian One may realize he could be in legal hot water regarding Valerie Plame if Kerry wins in November, and the Bush White House will no longer be there to protect him.

During the recent Reagan Funeral Festival, Bob wrote a column claiming that Democrats were trying to "glom onto" Reagan when they called on Bush to change his stupid policies on stem-cell research.

This situation is predicated on Democrats kidnapping Reagan during the week of mourning. Fearful that Bush would seize the Reagan mantle, Democrats declared themselves born-again Reaganites. Kerry changed plans and viewed the former president's remains in California. Kerry was a junior liberal senator when Reagan took office 24 years ago, but he told reporters aboard his plane en route to Simi Valley: ''I met with Reagan a lot more than I've met with this president.'' The implication: I knew Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush is no Ronald Reagan.

Or, it means that George W. Bush is a dipshit who doesn't bother to meet with the Senate majority leader. Whatever. Republicans had hoped Bush would get a Reagan bounce. Apparently not, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll. So now they're hoping he gets a Clinton book bounce? Hello?

This is fantasyland stuff, Bob. Get a grip.

Next the Republicans will be predicting a Bush Fourth of July Bounce (Independence Day ties in to Iraqi independence), a Bush Back to School Bounce (he's the "education president," dontcha know), and a Bush 9/11 anniversary/Republican convention bounce. Hope springs eternal.

I must've missed the McCain embracing of Bush. That's supposed to give Bush a bounce? The Bushies have been running down McCain since 1999 and have the wingnuts convinced McCain is a closet liberal. I believe most of us think McCain is an OK guy for a Republican. Why wouldn't the image of McCain embracing Bush remind most people that it's too bad McCain wasn't the nominee in 2000?

And what about Kerry's negative numbers? According to some polls, Kerry may have lost a little since the end of the Dem primaries, but considering the Bushies just spent $85 million in a three-month campaign to tarnish Kerry's image, they didn't get much bang for the buck. And notice the Faux Nooze poll has Kerry's favorability rating going up; go figure.

 
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7:07 am | link

wednesday, june 23, 2004

What War?
 
Is the War on Terror a real war or a metaphorical war?
 
I'm asking because I've been shuffling along with the assumption that "war on terror" is a metaphor, sort of like "war on cancer" or "war on drugs." And the point of this "war" was not only to seek out and destroy al Qaeda but also to discourage other hotheads from commiting terrorist acts, especially in the United States.
 
If my assumptions are correct, then we are losing. Al Qaeda is still in business -- Jane's Intelligence Weekly says al Qaeda is stronger now than in 2001, in fact -- and terrorism is escalating. But who knows? There seems to be a lot of confusion about exactly what the War on Terror actually is. Maybe we're really winning?  Since the objectives seems pretty ephemeral, how would anyone know?
 
A senior CIA officer wrote a newly published book called Imperial Hubris that argues the War on Terror isn't really a war on terrorism.

"US leaders refuse to accept the obvious," the book says.

"We are fighting a worldwide Islamic insurgency - not criminality or terrorism - and our policy and procedures have failed to make more than a modest dent in enemy forces."

"In the period since 11 September, the United States has dealt lethal blows to al-Qaeda's leadership and - if official claims are true - have captured 3,000 al-Qaeda foot soldiers.

"At the same time, we have waged two failed half-wars and, in doing so, left Afghanistan and Iraq seething with anti-US sentiment, fertile grounds for the expansion of al-Qaeda and kindred groups."

"There is nothing that Bin Laden could have hoped for more than the American invasion and occupation of Iraq". [BBC]

Are we fighting an Islamic insurgency? The Bush Administration has said all along that we are not fighting a war against Islam. Perhaps our war is only with insurgent Islam. But shortly after 9/11, President Bush said,

“Americans understand we fight not a religion; ours is not a campaign against the Muslim faith. Ours is a campaign against evil.” - Bush remarks at O’Hare International Airport, Chicago, IL, September 27, 2001

Maybe we should call it the War on Evil? But then we'll have to come to some sort of agreement as to what "evil" is.
 
This charming fellow at FrontPage magazine seems to think we're fighting Islam:

As Ralph Peters has had the courage to declare, “It’s time to end the politically correct baby-talk insisting that Islam isn’t the problem.  In the decaying Arab world, Islam is the problem — because of the way bitter old men interpret and deform its more humane precepts while embracing its cruelest injunctions.” It’s time to end the baby talk, and the silence. For whatever combination of political correctness, fear, and indifference has made for the silence on these stories and others like them, it does nothing but play into the hands of those who would destroy us.

But President Bush still says we're not fighting Islam, although in actuality maybe we are. Might I suggest it's a bit difficult to know if you're winning if you aren't sure who or what you are fighting.
 
Edward Halas wrote in the Grand Forks Herald,

We now are entering a great event. It is called the war on terrorism. Who are the great leaders to fight this war? There are none. We have an incredibly efficient global communication system, and our leaders communicate platitudes. They all tell us they are for freedom and democracy and against evil. They sound like a bunch of cheerleaders chanting, "Go Team Go."

What they are not telling us is what kind of war we are in, what are the causes, how we will fight it, what will be the cost and how long it will last. Either they do not know the answers (which I suspect), or they are not telling us.

In support of my "metaphor" theory, Andrew J. Bacevich wrote for the Los Angeles Times,

According to President Bush, the global war on terrorism is the central event of our time, comparable "to the great struggles of the last century." As prior generations confronted the challenges of Nazism and Stalinism, so destiny summons the present generation to defeat global terrorism. This has become America's mission - to "defend the peace through the forward march of freedom."

Yet peeling back the rhetoric reveals a different story. By historical standards, the enterprise that some have described as another world war has turned out to be a niggling affair. Bush has asked nothing and required nothing of Americans. And nothing pretty much describes what we've anted up to support the cause.

With the third anniversary of the war on terrorism fast approaching, the administration has not expanded the armed forces and apparently has no plans to do so. It categorically rejects proposals to revive the draft. It has left untouched the rituals of consumption deemed essential to the American economy. It has studiously refrained from curtailing corporate profits or prerogatives. Old-timers will recall when big wars meant rationing and higher taxes. Not this time. Through deficit spending, we will slough off the cost of war onto future generations.

Thus, for most Americans, the global war on terrorism has become a little like global warming: We sense dimly that we ought to take it seriously, but in practice we go about our daily routine as if it doesn't exist.

Pass through a major airport, visit a mall, shop for a new car and look for any sign that this nation is engaged in anything approximating a great struggle. There is none.

I think for most of us the War on Terror is just a metaphor, and like any metaphor it can mean different things to different people. The FrontPage writer quoted above sees a real war against a real enemy, and he warns those who don't share his view,

Here's a new slogan for the zeitgeist: stay quiet and you'll be OK. This was the message, according to the tapes released last week, that Muhammad Atta gave to the passengers on the ill-fated airplane that he and his fellow terrorists had commandeered. ...

Stay quiet, and the jihad will continue to advance: in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and Israel, and Indonesia, and Nigeria, and the Philippines, and Western Europe, and elsewhere — and if you think we will not feel its impact here, just remember where Atta was when he said those words, and what happened next.

Oh, believe me, I don't forget what happened next. And I don't believe I've been all that quiet. What the FrontPage guy doesn't grasp is that his War on Terror may allow him to indulge in his fear and loathing of Islam, but it isn't slowing down jihad or terrorism or making him a damn bit safer. As an eyewitness to the collapse of the World Trade Center, may I say that safer is a perfectly respectable objective. I just wish it were an objective my country is fighting for. But it doesn't seem to be.

 
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9:37 pm | link

Us Versus Them
 
Another angle in the "conservatives are more religious than liberals" claim is highlighted in New York Newsday today. The author of this op ed, a retired social-studies teacher named Thomas E. Dennelly, says some stuff that is way stupid, but I'm going to shove that aside because the article is useful to illustrate a more important point -- that the Catholic Church treats its liberal, pro-choice members as an enemy.

No modern-day issue demonstrates such historical hostility toward the church than that of abortion. Indeed, it would be possible to cite a litany of prominent individuals who are both liberal and Catholic and who today are in the vanguard of secular liberalism in publicly challenging the official view of the church on this profoundly moral issue.

Contemporary Catholic elected officials who publicly support abortion must eventually decide that their faith will play a less important role in their public lives. This is especially true within the modern-day Democratic Party, where there is a virtual litmus test in support of abortion. The party has become an increasingly secular political entity. For example, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said recently - in complete defiance - that no one within the church is going to tell her as a Catholic when she can and can't receive Holy Communion because she supports abortion. Back in 1984, New York Gov. Mario Cuomo sought a public confrontation with the late Cardinal John O'Connor over the Roman Catholic official teaching on abortion. Both Pelosi and Cuomo are liberal and Catholic.

The writer implies that some people will have to choose between being liberal and being Catholic.
 
In the U.S., it's not just the Catholic Church that has declared war on liberalism. Recently the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) voted to withdraw from the Baptist World Alliance (BWA)-- an organization the SBA itself helped established in 1905 -- because the BWA is too liberal.
The Southern Baptist Convention voted today to quit the Baptist World Alliance after complaints that some members of the loose, global association had adopted liberal theology and "anti-American" thinking.

The SBC is the world’s largest Baptist denomination and America’s largest Protestant body, with 16.3 million members. It helped launch the alliance 99 years ago and was a supporter before shifting toward strict conservatism a quarter-century ago. ...

The December report complained that some in the alliance had questioned "the truthfulness of Holy Scripture," refused to affirm the necessity of conscious faith in Jesus for salvation, promoted women preachers, criticized the SBC and its foreign mission board, and adopted an "anti-American" tone.

The last straw came in 2003, when the alliance accepted as a member the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a rival group to the SBC formed by moderates who oppose denominational leaders’ conservative policies. [AP, June 15, 2004]

The Southern Baptists are experiencing a "conservative resurgence," which is the name of a program that began in 1979 to expunge liberalism (and thereby, liberals) from Baptist fellowship.

The convention had a few liberals, largely in the east and in some urban areas, a large number of fundamentalists, and large number in the middle. Holding the denomination together was a "Grand Compromise," a unifying theme of missions and Southern Baptist identity that united disparate parts as Southern Baptists. Regardless of one's individual theology, Southern Baptists had a shared language and shared identity that allowed liberals, conservatives, and people in between to unite.

The compromise was certainly tested significantly in the twentieth century, with Southern Baptists arguing about many of the same issues that divided Presbyterians and Northern Baptists. Southern Baptists alone did not divide. For the Baptists of Dixie, the fracturing would not begin until 1979, when theological conservatives launched a movement to reshape the convention in a more uniformly conservative manner. ... the Southern Baptist Convention became dominated by the conservative faction and many of the supporters of the "Grand Compromise" departed. [Link]

This month the Southern Baptist Convention met in Indianapolis to wallow in their conservative purity and cement ties with the White House:

Southern Baptists declined to consider a new name for the denomination, pulled out of the Baptist World Alliance, rejected a much-publicized education proposal and heard a speech from President Bush during their June 15-16 annual meeting.

The meeting was the 25th anniversary of the 1979 Houston meeting, which launched a movement now known as the conservative resurgence that returned the convention to its biblical, historical roots. At that convention Adrian Rogers was elected president, launching a still unbroken string of conservative presidents.

President Bush addressed messengers via satellite from the White House, reaffirming his pro-life stance and his support for a Federal Marriage Amendment. Touching on the embryonic stem cell debate without mentioning it by name, Bush said that life "is a creation of God, not a commodity to be exploited by man." Bush received one of the loudest ovations for his statement of support for a Federal Marriage Amendment.

"The union of a man and woman is the most enduring human institution, honored and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith," he said. "And government, by strengthening and protecting marriage, serves the interests of all." [Link]

Given that liberals have, in effect, been excommunicated from America's largest Protestant denomination and aren't too welcome in Catholicism, it's not surprising liberals are less likely to be churchgoers than conservatives.

And, of course, liberals by nature are unlikely to be attracted to the security-blanket theology promoted by America's holy rollers -- believe the right dogma and Jesus will protect you from whatever makes you uncomfortable. I guess Baptists are too impatient to wait for the Rapture and want to get rid of the rest of us now. Well, tough.

 
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12:17 pm | link

Fish Gotta Swim, Birds Gotta Fly
 
And Rush Limbaugh Gotta Lie. This item is on several blogs today, but I'm pissed off enough to want to blog about it, too, and expand on it a bit.
 
This is from Rush's June 17 program:
The other relevant information is included on page 8 of staff statement number 16. In the statement, which exhaustively discusses the 9/11 plot, we addressed the movements of the hijackers in the years leading up to the attacks. This paragraph addresses reports that Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague on April 9th, 2001. While some have criticized the questioning during public hearings, I've seen few quibbles with our staff statements. I urge you to look over all of the statements," and I got the link to the statements here. This is the spokesman. I just read an e-mail that he sent out yesterday, because they really have taken one sentence and totally turned and done a 180 with what this report says. The report says there were connections.
No, it doesn't, as I've already blogged about here, unless you consider a request from bin Laden that went unanswered by Hussein a "connection." Most people wouldn't. But here's the best part:
 The report says that Mohammed Atta did meet with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague on April 9th of 2001. We've known this for a long time.
This is from page 8 of Staff Statement #16:
While Hanjour and Hazmi were settling in New Jersey, Atta and Shehhi were returning to southern Florida. We have examined the allegation that Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague on April 9. Based on the evidence available--including investigation by Czech and U.S. authorities plus detainee reporting-- we do not believe that such a meeting occurred. The FBI's investigation places him in Virginia as of April 4, as evidenced by this bank surveillance camera shot of Atta withdrawing $8,000 from his account. Atta was back in Florida by April 11, if not before. Indeed, investigation has established that, on April 6, 9, 10, and 11, Atta's cellular telephone was used numerous times to call Florida phone numbers from cell sites within Florida. We have seen no evidence that Atta ventured overseas again or re-entered the United States before July, when he traveled to Spain and back under his true name. [emphasis added]
Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we have caught Rush in a lie. Anyway, as Rush continues,
The sentence that everybody is focusing on, "We have no credible evidence that Iraq and Al-Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States," which means 9/11.
The sentence that everybody really is focusing on, from the same paragraph, is "There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda also occurred after Bin Ladin had returned to Afghanistan, but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship." I posted the entire paragraph here. If you read the entire paragraph, you'll see that the panel was not just talking about 9/11, but about the entire history of al Qaeda and the fact that there is no evidence there was ever a collaborative relationship with Iraq. Rush is not the only wingnut to pick out that last sentence and claim the panel was only talking about 9/11, but the panel was not just talking about 9/11.
"No credible evidence," and so everybody is running. "There's no reason to go to Iraq!" Everybody has forgotten the reason for going to Iraq! It's to see that there wasn't another 9/11.
And invading Iraq would prevent another 9/11 how, exactly?
Once a 9/11 happens, the next stage is to see to it that it doesn't happen again. Research indicated there were connections between Al-Qaeda and Iraq.
"Research" pulled out of Dick Cheney's ass, but let's go on ...
We're not going to sit around and wait to find out if Iraq was directly tied 9/11. We were already headed into Afghanistan and already there.
So as long as we're in the neighborhood, let's invade Iraq. And don't forget to pick up some hummus.
The war on terror had been declared, and the war on terror was underway. We had all this stuff about weapons of mass destruction, that the whole world knew existed in Iraq, and are now starting to turn up.
When? Where? Did I miss something?
 
Note that in the echo chamber of Faux Nooze I believe there are some stories about WMDs turning up. I see them on rightie blogs from time to time. Some empty missle shell from Iraq will turn up someplace and the wingnuts pounce on it as a WMD sighting, not noticing that the shell dates from the late 1980s and seems to have been empty for at least a decade.
None of the chemical and biological weapons are, but plenty of weapons that violated UN resolutions, and so the move into Iraq was preemptive.
Nobody better dare violate any more UN resolutions, huh?
It was designed to stop another 9/11 from happening -- and nobody is focusing on this, because we're not looking at this.

Because it doesn't make sense. If al Qaeda is after our butts, why invade a country with no ties to al Qaeda? We might as well have invaded Venezuela. It's a lot closer, and it has oil, too. 

What isn't funny is the fact that Limbaugh and his ilk are a bigger threat to America than Saddam Hussein was. How can Americans make reasonable judgments about politicians and issues when a big chunk of news media is flat-out lying to them about what's going on? It's very disturbing, and I'm not sure what can be done about it except to plug away at presenting the truth.

If you happen to know a dittohead, please email that person a link to this post, OK? Thanks much. 

 
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9:37 am | link

tuesday, june 22, 2004

Oopsie!
The State Department said today that global terrorism in 2003 killed or wounded more than twice as many people as the department had reported earlier.

The department said the earlier report was based on flawed calculations.

In revising its annual "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report, the department listed 625 deaths last year from terror-related causes, down from the 725 in 2002, but well above the 307 originally declared in April. It also reported an increase in total terror attacks, to 208, up from the 190 listed in the original report and the 205 in 2002.

The revised report said that 3,646 people were wounded in terror attacks last year, more than double the 1,593 cited in April, and a substantial increase from the 2,013 in 2002. [Brian Knowlton, International Herald Tribune, June 22, 2005]

Another oopsie!

 
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5:14 pm | link

Dat Ol-Time Religion
To carry yourself forward and experience myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth and experience themselves is awakening. -- The Genjokoan
Maybe the name of this blog should be "Annals of Absurdity," because these days I seem to mostly write about the absurdities coming at us from the Right.
 
But for sheer Stupid, you can't beat David Brooks.
 
Today's column, "A Matter of Faith," is classic. Brooks says people want to know their leaders are religious:
Many people just want to know that their leader, like them, is in the fellowship of believers. Their president doesn't have to be a saint, but he does have to be a pilgrim. He does have to be engaged, as they are, in a personal voyage toward God.
The phrase "personal voyage toward God" can be interpreted a lot of ways, but however you see it is, well, personal. Right? It's between us and however we understand the Absolute.
 
But, Brooks says, Democrats don't understand the importance of religion.

A recent Time magazine survey revealed that only 7 percent of Americans feel that Kerry is a man of strong religious faith. That's a catastrophic number. That number should be the first thing Kerry strategists think about when they wake up in the morning and it should be the last thing on their lips when they go to sleep at night. They should be doing everything they can to change that perception, because unless more people get a sense of Kerry's faith, they will feel no bond with him and they will be loath to trust him with their vote. ...

It's mind-boggling. Can't the Democratic strategists read the data? Religious involvement is a much, much more powerful predictor of how someone will vote than income, education, gender or any other social and demographic category save race.

So, on the one hand religion is personal, and on the other hand it's something that must be exploited for political purposes.

Forests have been felled so people could publish articles and books on the religious right's influence on the Republican Party. But as the Baruch College political scientists Louis Bolce and Gerald De Maio have suggested, the real political story of the past decade has been the growing size and cohesion of the secular left, and its growing influence on the Democratic Party.

According to the American Religious Identification Survey, the number of Americans with no religious affiliation has more than doubled since 1990. There is now a surging but unself-conscious power bloc within the Democratic Party.

And John Kerry is supposed to alienate these people by acting like a Holy Roller? And what makes John Kerry "secular"? He does have a religious affiliation, as a practicing Catholic. He's only "secular" to Brooks because he doesn't cheapen his religious practice by waving it around in public.

The notion that conservatives are religious but liberals are not is hooey, anyway, as I've blogged here and here and here. The measures by which people are judged to be "religious" or not are nearly always skewed toward a very narrow definition of religion -- traditional, dogmatic, and monotheistic.

For example, one of the measures used in an oft-cited Pew Research study was belief in Judgment Day. Yet all manner of deeply religious people do not believe in a literal judgment day, whereas many who are only nominally religious probably say they do.

Further, as I blogged about here, much of Bush's support comes from what might be called the secular Right. If you're familiar with most of the high-traffic pro-Bush blogs, you will have noticed these bloggers are not a saintly bunch. They lean toward libertarianism and don't like Big Gubmint and taxes, but they are not much interested in religion and not chummy with the Religious Right.

Brooks continues,

Like the religious right in the Republican Party, the members of the secular left are interested primarily in social issues. What unites them more than anything else is a strong antipathy to pro-lifers and fundamentalists.

And why might that be, David? Is it because those of the "secular left" are against religion? Or are they against jack-booted "Christian" thugs who try to use the authority of government to enforce their personal views of morality, with which most "lefties," religious or otherwise, do not agree? And, believe me, I've seen plenty of antipathy to fundies expressed on Right-Wing blogs, as well.

While 75 percent of Americans feel little or no hostility to fundamentalists, people in this group are far more hostile to them than to other traditional Democratic bête noires, the rich or big business. They don't like to see their politicians meddling with religion in any way.

Yet when John Kerry goes to mass it doesn't bother us at all. It's not religion that bothers most of us, I think, but the prostitution of religion; the exploitation of religious belief as a political tool. That bothers me a lot.

IMO there's a huge difference between religion as a "personal voyage to God" and what might be called "popular Christianity," which is more like a self-help movement than a spiritual quest. This is from a recent Time magazine feature on "The Faith Factor":

Bush is also typical in coming to Jesus as an adult in part through the intimate, therapeutic machinery of a men's Bible study. ... he relied on a series of personal encounters, small group study and, most important, in the summer of 1985, a fateful beach walk with Graham—a man, Bush recalled in his memoirs, who "didn't make you feel guilty; he made you feel loved."

The original promise to empower faith-based social-service groups, a core piece of Bush's domestic policy, was very much in keeping with the self-help trajectory of his spiritual journey and that of millions of others as well. In a country in which Christian authors write diet books (to help you get Slim for Him) and addiction books (Holy Smokes! Inspirational Help for Kicking the Habit), Bush won broad support when he argued—to the dismay of church/state watchdogs—that drug-treatment and prison-fellowship programs that have good track records should not be denied federal funds simply because their methods are faith-based.

Bush likes to say he is following a "higher father," but his religious values seem to revolve only around himself. It may cheer him up to feel that God loves him, yet he can giggle about executions and let his cronies pollute the earth.

There's a big difference between self-righteousness and genuine piety. The self-righteous person thinks God is on his side. A pious person surrenders to God's side.* As Ron Reagan Jr. recently said of his father,

He never made the fatal mistake of so many politicians, wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage. After he was shot and nearly killed early in his presidency, he came to believe that God had spared him in order that he might do good. But he accepted that as a responsibility, not a mandate.

It's important to understand that most of what passes for relgion in the U.S. today is just a cheap imitation of the real thing. Just like Bush is a cheap imitation of a real president. But that's another blog.

* "God" = however you understand the Absolute.

Update: More on those religious Republicans at Whiskey Bar.

 
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11:22 am | link

monday, june 21, 2004

Gassing Bad, Boiling OK?
 
I'm boiling about this news story, believe me ...

Independent human rights groups estimate that there are more than 600 politically motivated arrests a year in Uzbekistan, and 6,500 political prisoners, some tortured to death. According to a forensic report commissioned by the British embassy, in August two prisoners were even boiled to death.

The US condemned this repression for many years. But since September 11 rewrote America's strategic interests in central Asia, the government of President Islam Karimov has become Washington's new best friend in the region.

The US is funding those it once condemned. Last year Washington gave Uzbekistan $500m (£300m) in aid. The police and intelligence services - which the state department's website says use "torture as a routine investigation technique" received $79m of this sum.

Mr Karimov was President Bush's guest in Washington in March last year. They signed a "declaration" which gave Uzbekistan security guarantees and promised to strengthen "the material and technical base of [their] law enforcement agencies". [Nick Paton Walsh, "US Looks Away as New Ally Tortures Islamists," The Guardian, May 26, 2004]

So, Saddam Hussein was a bad guy because he gassed his own people, but boiling them alive is OK?
 
The Guadian story was linked on Body and Soul. Jeanne d'Arc writes,

On his first day in office George Bush re-imposed the Global Gag Rule, which restricts foreign NGOs that receive USAID funds from using their own money to provide legal abortion services, lobby their governments for more liberal abortion laws, or even provide medical counseling or abortion referrals. The Gag Rule puts health care organizations in a terrible position, forcing them to choose between giving up money they desperately need to provide care and abandoning their obligation to provide patients with complete and accurate medical information.

The Center for Reproductive Rights has a good backgrounder on the consequences of the Gag Rule for women in poor countries.

Not satisfied with silencing advocates for women's health, two years ago Bush, at the behest of some of the nuttier elements of his base, cut off funds for the United Nations Population Fund, the world's largest source of money for reproductive health programs. ...

There's something I don't get. How come the same administration that believes we will be tainted by any association with abortion, no matter how much good can be accomplished, also works with and financially supports brutal governments on the grounds that some greater, long term good will come from it? In other words, why is it anathema to have a three times removed connection to a doctor in Africa telling a woman whose body can't take any more pregnancies how to get an abortion, but it isn't wrong to directly finance a government that boils people alive?

Synonyms of evil. iniquity, depravity, corruption, wickedness, scourge, curse, Bush.

 
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8:57 pm | link

Bill O'Reilly: Stupid or Demented?
 
I report ... you decide.
 
Disclaimer: I don't watch O'Reilly. My television is set to self-destruct if it is tuned to Faux Nooz for more than five minutes. I stumbled across this through Google. It appears to be some sort of regular feature called "Bill O'Reilly's Talking Points," dated today.
The Bush administration strikes back against the deceptive media. I hope you were watching The Factor last night, when we established beyond a reasonable doubt that there were indeed ties between Al Qaeda (search) and Iraq, and that newspaper headlines denying that were misleading and/or downright wrong.
Of course, the newspaper headlines were reporting on what the 9/11 panel staff reports said, which was that there were no ties between al Qaeda and Iraq. I blogged about what the staff reports said here. So, the headlines O'Reilly complains about were accurate.
Vice President Cheney agreed.  Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  What "The New York Times" did today was outrageous.  They do a lot of outrageous things, but the headline, "Panel Finds No Al Qaeda-Iraq Tie," the press wants to run out and say there's a fundamental split here now between what the president said and what the commission said.  Jim Thompson, who's a member of the commission, has since been on the air.  I saw him with my own eyes, and there's no conflict.

I'm not sure what Mr. Cheney thought Mr. Thompson said, but you can read the staff report in question for yourself (PDF format), and it plainly says there were no ties between Iraq and al Qaeda in any meaningful sense of the word ties.

Now, as you may have heard, Mr. Thompson and Tom Kean, the 9/11 panel cho-chairs, were interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week" yesterday. The two co-chairs clearly wanted to avoid an appearance of confrontation with the White House, and said one the one hand there was no conflict with the White House position, but on the other hand they had found no ties -- meaning, no relationship or collaboration -- between al Qaeda and Iraq.  

As a public service, I provide a transcript of the Hamilton and Kean interview here. You can read it and make up your own mind what they said. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

O'REILLY:  Cheney has a right to be angry, and so does every American who wants a truthful media.  "The Wall Street Journal" editorialized the situation this way:  "The 'no Saddam link' story is getting so much play because it fits the broader anti-war, anti-Bush narrative that Iraq was a 'distraction' from the broader war on terror.  So once again the 9/11 Commission is being used to tarnish the Iraqi effort and damage President Bush's credibility in fighting terror."

I don't have a link to that WSJ editorial, but the part O'Reilly quotes doesn't say the report of no connections between al Qaeda and Iraq was false. WSJ is basically just throwing a temper tantrum. In rightie world, any news that makes Preznit Bunnypants look bad, true or not, is verboten 

And that's the importance of this matter, ladies and gentlemen. Anti-Bush zealots are hurting the fight against terror by misleading Americans about what's actually happening. That puts all of our lives in danger.

The irrational and hysterical Mr. O'Reilly has stumbled into the crux of the matter. We who opposed the invasion of Iraq believed from the beginning that the invasion would draw attention and resources away from the real "war on terror," which was the effort to hunt down and destroy al Qaeda and its affiliates. And we were right.  Thanks in part to the re-allocation of resources to Iraq, al Qaeda is getting stronger and the rate of terrorism in the world has increased.

Jane's Intelligence Weekly reported recently that Al Qaeda and its international affiliates are probably stronger today than they were in 2001.  Jane's also argued that al Qaeda is winning the war. Al Qaeda is active in over 60 countries and may have as many as 18,000 potential terrorists at its disposal, says Jane's

And the State Department's own report says (after correction) that the amount of terrorism in the world increases every year.

Mr. O'Reilly, however, appears to believe that to criticize Mr. Bush's failed policies puts us in more danger. Notice he doesn't explain how he came to that conclusion, although I suspect the process involved either a Ouija board or some really funky pharmaceuticals. 

Now I knew when I presented the facts linking Al Qaeda to Iraq that the far left would accuse me of shilling for the president. 

This is stating the obvious. O'Reilly presented no facts. He presented lies on behalf of the Bush Regime. That's shilling on its face.  

Viewer Jason Gambone, who lives in Palm Coast, Florida quickly echoed the far left response.

I'm not sure what the far left response really is. The well-informed Mr. Gambone is just stating facts. Pretty sad when truth itself is considered partisan. 

O'Reilly, you and the Bush administration cheerleaders at Fox News are spinning the Saddam-Al Qaeda 9/11 connection like a frisbee.  It's time for you to face the reality that President Bush misled the nation." 

That opinion, of course, is nonsense, and here's the proof. 

Pay close attention to this part. This is rich.

In a CIA letter to the Select Committee on Intelligence dated October 9, 2002, then CIA Chief George Tenet writes, "We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda going back a decade...We have credible reporting that Al Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire WMD capabilities."

Now we have posted that entire CIA letter on billoreilly.com if you want to read it. 

My goodness, yes, of course I want to read it. This is what O'Reilly's web page linked (PDF format). And notice the date -- October 9, 2002. O'Reilly doesn't tell you, but the single page linked is a snip of the Senate's debate on the October 11, 2002 Iraq War Resolution.

You remember the war resolution debates; that was when the Bushies presented a pack of lies to Congress to get them to sign their constitutional powers to wage war over to Flight Suit Boy so he could dress up in quasi-military outfits and pretend to be a war president.

If you read all of the Tenet letter, you see Mr. Slam Dunk going on about Iraq having WMDs, which We Now Know he did not. Tenet also admits his "solid reporting" is "based on sources of varying reliability." The part about "senior-level contacts" agrees with what the 9/11 panel said. What Tenet and O'Reilly leave out is, of course, that the "contacts" didn't lead to any sort of collaboration. And the 9/11 panel also agreed that al Qaeda made requests of Iraq involving help with weapons. But the panel said Iraq did not respond.

Just for fun, here is the part of the letter O'Reilly quoted, including the parts represented by ellipses:

We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and al-Qa'ida going back a decade.

Credible information indicates that Iraq and al-Qa'ida have discussed safe haven and reciprocal non-aggression.

Since Operation Enduring Freedom, we have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of al-Qa'ida members, including some that have been in Baghdad.

We have credible reporting that al-Qa'ida leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire WMD capabilities. Ther reporting also stated that Iraq had provided training to al-Qa'ida members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs.

Since then, we've learned that any "intelligence" of al Qaeda members in Baghdad was about as solid as cottage cheese, and that Iraq did not provide training to al Qaeda to do anything. Yet Bill the Shill presents this nonsense as PROOF of a relationship between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq.

Also, just today, Russian President Putin said he himself gave the Bush administration intelligence, after 9/11, that Saddam was preparing to launch terror attacks inside the USA.  That report comes from the Associated Press.

I explain why this report is not to be taken seriously here and here.

Now all of this information "Talking Points" is giving you is solid.  It is fact, not opinion. 

[Sound effect: Hoots of laughter]

President Bush was told by the CIA and foreign intelligence outfits that there was immediate danger to America.  But those facts will not matter to the anti-Bush fanatics, who put partisan politics ahead of both truth and national security.

President Bush was told a lot of things by a lot of intelligence outfits, foreign and domestic, and he chose to believe some intelligence and disbelieve other intelligence, and thereby we invaded Iraq. And it was a damn big mistake to have done so.

As you know, we're independent here,

[Sound effect: Throat gag]

but I'm getting awful tired, awful tired, of the far left lying and endangering us all. 

And I think I speak for most of us when I say this is what we think of YOU, Bill

[Sound effect: Snore]

 
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11:46 am | link

sunday, june 20, 2004

Don't Know Nothin' About History
 
I wonder why it is that right-wing "patriots" know so little about their country's history? This (and variations thereof, which pop up from time to time) is supposed to be terribly clever, but only to the ignorant (in this case, the Rottweiler) ...

Sir Banagor reveals, in a shocking scoop from the Imperial 12/7/41 Commission, that there is no evidence of collaboration between Germany and Japan in the planning of Pearl Harbor.

It is therefore incumbent on His Imperial Majesty to apologize to the Germans for having allowed FDR to lead us into a war against them on false pretenses.

We apologize in particular for having accidentally liberated the french in the process

For the record: In September 1940, Japan signed a mutual-assistance pact with Germany and Italy, directed primarily against the United States. In September 1941, a German submarine attacked the U.S. destroyer Greer in the North Atlantic. In October 1941, another German submarine sank the U.S. destroyer Reuben James. 115 of 160 crewmen were lost, including all officers. The day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Congress declared war on Japan, but not on Germany or Italy. Instead, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States on December 11. And, of course, the little matter of Germany's attempt to overrun all of Europe was a concern.
 
Anyone who sees any similarity whatsoever between World War II and our invasion of Iraq is a flaming idiot. And you can tell the Rottweiler I said so.
 
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9:38 pm | link

The Right and Cognitive Dissonance
 
I'm listening to some talking head on "Meet the Press" claiming there is new intelligence on "numerous ties" between al Qaeda and Iraq, and he hauled the "aspirin factory" out of mothballs to argue the Clinton Administration had solid proof of corroboration between al Qaeda and Iraq. Fascinating.
 
A professor of psychology at Princeton argues that Bush and Bush supporters possibly suffer from cognitive dissonance. This is a well-documented psychological phenomenon that causes people to reject information that contradicts something they've come to believe. People with a really bad case of cognitive dissonance will cling to a belief, however irrational, in the face of contradictory evidence, however solid.
Many Republicans may well do the same. It is not that Republicans will change their opinions because they are convinced by the substance of the administration's argument; the substance of the argument is barely relevant. Seeing their leaders making statements that seem inconsistent with facts will cause group members to experience psychological discomfort, and they may resolve it by becoming adamant about supporting the Bush-Cheney position. The commission, they may conclude, is biased or ignorant, its report incorrect or flawed.

As time goes by, some Republicans may part company with the administration. They may take an alternate path to reduce dissonance by psychologically redefining their group and deciding that Bush and Cheney do not represent what it means to be a mainstream Republican. But for those voters who continue to identify with the administration, the result of the inconsistency between the president and vice president and the 9/11 Commission will lead to more polarization and hardening of attitudes. [Joel Cooper, "When the Pieces Don't Fit," New York Newsday, June 20, 2004]
This weekend I've been blogging about rightie denial of what the 9/11 panel staff statements actually say. We have the plain language of the staff statements on one side of a fat, bright line, and we have rightie spinning and fudging about what the staff statements actually say on the other side. Some of these people may realize they're fudging and spinning, but they have careers and book contracts on the line and are trying to brazen it out. But most of them, I suspect, cannot bring themselves to face facts. They've got too much invested in their faith in Bush. To admit the truth would destroy the foundations of their universe.
 
Bottom line, a big chunk of our fellow countrymen have fallen victim to a cult. Expect the Bushie apologists to become more and more irrational as time goes on. There's no point trying to argue with them. They're not going to change without intensive re-programming. Maybe not even then.
 
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6:37 am | link


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The Loyalties of George W. Bush

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"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918

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The War Prayer

I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·

It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

[Mark Twain, 1905]

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