Saturday, March 24, 2007

The joke line

-- by Dave

Eric Alterman yesterday:
Have you noticed that every time Klein is asked to defend something he has written, he responds with a personal attack against the person making the charge? It's not just me; it's anyone. Look at the names he calls Media Matters and the bloggers generally. Note that Tom Friedman and Howard Kurtz, among others, react similarly. Pundits are used to making Olympian pronouncements and then having everyone praise their wisdom and courage, the way Walter Lippmann defined the job. Asking people whatever happened to the last 10 times you said Iraq has only six more months, or that Bush is sure to be a centrist, and they flip out and call you an ideologue or an "obsessive."

Much of the cause of the current dysfunction in "mainstream" media, as I think Alterman has correctly identified (and I've discussed a bit myself previously), is the fundamentally elitist architecture of the Lippmann/Laswell model of communications theory: wisdom is handed to the masses by a special corps of "wise men" atop the media hierarchy and distributed downward through the system.

What's especially noteworthy about this model is that it was designed as a means of social control -- that is, it is fundamentally both authoritarian and antidemocratic in nature. Rather than trusting in the ability of citizens to become reasonably informed and aware participants in a democracy, it presumes that most people are fundamentally incapable of this and actually need to be controlled. Lippmann in particular was prone to observing that "the common interests elude public opinion entirely," and he argued that they can only be understood and managed by a "specialized class" of "responsible men" wise enough to figure things out for the rest of us.

Well, the presidency of George W. Bush and the war in Iraq has demonstrated pretty clearly how well that model has worked out. And a large part of the tide that has finally turned against this presidency, and conservative rule generally, is predicated not just on opposing their insane policies but on breaking down the old model of elite rule and social control -- beginning with the media. And the people atop the heap, the people who have benefited profoundly from that model, are rather predictably lashing out at those responsible for their slipping grip.

Journalism is a funny business. It does indeed attract some of the most civic-minded people in our society, people who truly believe that an informed electorate is the essence of democracy, and that providing the best and fullest information they can to that electorate is a sacred task. They're the only reason to continue to hold the current mainstream media in any kind of esteem.

But it also attracts some genuinely malignant personalities, and people who've been in the biz for any length of time at all can tell you about their many misbegotten dealings with them: ruthless backstabbers, cynical manipulators, and generally sociopathic users who see media work as a means for self-aggrandizement, enrichment, and most of all control over a public they hold in rather low esteem.

I've known any number of these personalities over the years, and one of their more noteworthy traits is that they are all incredibly insecure people -- the kind of people for whom the primary value of an advanced academic degree is that it certifies your superiority over others. Being atop the heap, continually moving up the ladder, is their entire raison d'etre. The only friendships, as such, that they form are with acolytes who see some value in being pulled up the ladder with them.

And what they really can't tolerate is being questioned by people they consider their lessers. It touches every little button in their insecurity complexes. Their response, uniformly and without fail, is to attack the person of the questioner -- attacking them as bad and incompetent people, rather than responding to the actual facts raised.

The other funny thing about the news biz is that, unfortunately, these are the same people who make it farther up the hierarchy and become our "elite" pundits, partly because the elite model is something of a self-sustaining system. The authoritarian personalities of the ladder-climbers clearly appeal to the authoritarians who have ruled the roost for years themselves.

This is the model that gives us people like Joe Klein, Maureen Dowd, Bill O'Reilly, David Broder, and Howard Kurtz. News Corpse the other day dissected Kurtz's response to those dirty-hippy bloggers who questioned his newsgathering methods, and satirically gave us the penultimate formulation of the elite punditry's attitude toward their lessers:
What these critics fail to understand is that it is none of their business. I don't have to answer to them. For what it's worth, I could have created the sites myself to provide corroboration for my preconceptions. Or I could have had my wife, Sheri Annis, do it. As president of Fourth Estate Strategies, she has the requisite skills and experience to produce convincing right wing propaganda. So what if we did invent these sites? What are you going to do about it, tell my boss? Go ahead. You'll be lucky if you get a response back that tells you to "stuff a sock-puppet in it."

In the end, these sniping parasites need to get off my back. Don't they know who I am? I'm Howie Kurtz of the Washington Post and CNN. I am the unassailable voice of Mainstream Media™ and I will not tolerate such impertinence from my lessers. F.O.

I really don't think any of these characters has any conception yet just how far, how deeply, and how permanently they have fallen in the estimation of the news-consuming public. Their continuing insistence in their unassailable authority, their elite wisdom, expressed mostly as ad hominem attacks on anyone undermining that authority, even in the face of exponentially mounting evidence of their buffoonery, just keeps digging the hole deeper. They are, indeed, fast becoming their own joke lines.

[Note: Lightly edited for corrections, minor additions.]

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Geography Lessons

by Sara

All right, that does it. Somebody needs to do a fundraiser and buy the Minutemen a map. Or do the whole country a favor and send them back to school for a mandatory geography refresher.

"See here, guys? This big country up at the top? That's C-a-n-a-d-a. It's cold and prosperous and does not have any Mexicans. There are lots of Chinese and Indians and even a fair number of Muslims (no, Jim, we don't spell "Muslim" with a T and two Rs -- please erase your work and try again) and a whole lot of white European people from all over the British Empire. But Canada has almost no Mexicans at all. Isn't that interesting?

"Now, boys, let's look at this horn-shaped country at the bottom of the map. We call that M-e-x-i-c-o. That's where all the Mexicans come from. In fact, it's about the only place Mexicans come from. That's right, Chris: Mexico-Mexicans -- it does sort of sound the same, doesn't it? Good observation. Think you can remember that until, oh, say, after lunch? Good. Then let's move on..."

This kind of geographical confusion is the only possible explanation for today's announcement that the Minutemen will be back on the northern border (that's the one with Canada, for any geography-challenged Minutemen who may be reading this -- remember, there are no Mexicans in Canada -- it's OK, you'll get the hang of this) again next month. Evidently, they greatly enjoyed their vacation up here last year, in spite of the fact that they spent a month sitting in the back of their pickups on lawn chairs 24/7 for four weeks and caught no Mexicans to speak of (because there are no Mexicans up here, as I think I've mentioned).

Which suggests that catching Mexicans may not even be the point. It may be as simple as the fact that sitting out in lawn chairs in the green, temperate fields of northwest Washington in April is just so much more pleasant than sitting out in those same chairs in the middle of the Sonora Desert in June.

Or, maybe, as they announced in their press release, it's not about Mexicans at all. Maybe they really are coming up to “deter drug smugglers, illegal aliens and terrorists who can slip through the borders.”

Um, guys, I hate to break it to you, but BC's world-class bud is right up there with film and timber on the list of major exports; and the gang that controls the lion's share of the cross-border trafficking in it is called the Hell's Angels. (You may have heard of them.) They are not retired. They are not brown. They speak English at least as well as you do (having gone to Canadian schools, which still insist on literacy in at least one, and preferably two, languages). They do not sit out in pickups in lawn chairs with walkie-talkies.

They do, however, do this for a living. They carry real loaded semi-automatics, which they use with some regularity. They are not nice to people who get in their way. I'm just, y'no, gently suggesting that you might want to re-think this "deterring drug smugglers" part.

As for "illegal aliens." There are a lot of them down on the border with Mexico (that's where all the Mexicans are, remember? Good! I knew that, with a little work, you'd get this!). But not many at all up here on the border with Canada. Also, this may or may not matter to you, but Canada gets really persnickety when America messes with their citizens -- you might want to google "Maher Arar" to find out more about how well that goes down up here. Just sayin'.

Also: I know it's hard, but try to imagine this. In Canada, the Charter of Rights (that's like the American Bill of Rights -- yes, Tom, I see your hand; come see me after class, and I'll explain what that is) actually protects the rights of brown people. Even immigrant brown people. Even Muslim and Mexican immigrant brown people. I know. It's just really different up there, isn't it? You might want to be just a little bit careful about this, 'K?

Which brings me to that "deterring terrorists" thing. Some of you already know first-hand that it's not all that easy to spot illegal Mexican immigrants coming over the Arizona border, even if you've got really good binoculars. So I'm just wondering: How will you know when you've found yourself an inbound Canadian-spawned terrorist? Oh, I see. They'll be Muslim. Or Mexican. Or brown. Are you sure that'll work? Really? Well, OK. Good luck with that.

How about a hint? If you want to find brown Canadian terrorists in western Washington, you can spot entire terrorist families, complete with dogs and children, crossing the border in vans every weekend. They come down from suburban Vancouver to spend their Al Qaeda Swiss bank account funds buying sneakers and sunglasses at the Tulalip outlet mall, which is owned by the Tulalip Indian tribe. But do be careful -- the Tulalips are brown, too, even though they're Americans -- I know, it's just so confusing! -- so be sure it's a gen-u-wine terrorist you've got ahold of, and not somebody whose ancestors were here 10,000 years ahead of yours and may still consider YOU an illegal immigrant, OK?

Finally, I've just got to share a little-known fragment of Minuteman global philosophy that the Bellingham Herald coughed up while covering the blessed return of this year's flock of fat old armed racists (couldn't we just have swallows, like San Juan Capistrano?). According to Washington State Minuteman leader Bob Baker, “No nation has ever succeeded with two different languages."

OK, make that a geography refresher plus a history update. Either that, or we need to figure out who's going to gently deliver the heartbreaking news of their "failure" to quadralingual Switzerland, China (with a minimum of six), and India -- which recognizes a breathtaking 23 official languages.

Can't read a map. Never read world history. Come to think of it, maybe night school isn't the answer here, after all. Maybe, if they're volunteering to be our front line of defense against the brown horde, we just skip this whole border nonsense, raise the enlistment age to, oh, say, 70, and ship these big old yellow elephants directly to Iraq.

You guys want to play soldier? Have we got a sandbox for you! And I guarantee you'll learn some lessons about world geography and culture you'll never be able to forget.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Bush cabal and 'executive privilege'

[Ted Olson outside the Supreme Court in 2000. Photo by Robert Borrea/AP.]

-- by Dave

Glenn Greenwald proves his indispensability yet again with another must-read post, this time regarding the Bush White House's assertion of executive privilege in combating congressional subpoenas for investigations into the fast-spiraling scandal over the firings of nine U.S. Attorneys last December.

As Greenwald explains, it is an assertion that appears to fly in the face of generally acknowledged guidelines regarding the scope of such privilege:
When the U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v. Nixon (1974) rejected Nixon's invocation of that privilege to resist a Grand Jury Subpoena for the Watergate tapes, this is how the Court defined its scope (emphasis added):
The President's need for complete candor and objectivity from advisers calls for great deference from the court. However, when the privilege depends solely on the broad, undifferentiated claim of public interest in the confidentiality of such conversations, a confrontation with other values arises. Absent a claim of need to protect military, diplomatic, or sensitive national security secrets, we find it difficult to accept the argument that even the very important interest in confidentiality of Presidential communications is significantly diminished by production of such material for in camera inspection with all the protection that a district court will be obliged to provide.

Similar reasoning was invoked by District Court Judge Norma Holloway Johnson in her decision denying Clinton's attempt to rely on this privilege to resist Ken Starr's subpoenas.

This raises the question: Is Bush hoping to provoke a constitutional crisis? It's hard to say, but it is quite clear that, as Tom Schaller observes in a Baltimore Sun op-ed, this is being driven by Team Bush's longstanding agenda of seizing executive-branch power:
But here's the thing: Mr. Bush never cared much about influence. From the beginning, he aimed to expand power by assertion, not persuasion. And this is why he finds himself in trouble again, this time over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

The firings are only the latest power grab by Republicans. The GOP understands that real power has less to do with election results than legal maneuvering. In fact, conservative lawyers worked hard during the last decade to limit presidential power, before promptly reversing course after Mr. Bush won:

• During President Bill Clinton's final six years, the Republican-led majority in Congress issued more than 1,000 subpoenas to the White House; during Mr. Bush's first term, the Republicans issued none. Of course, this is the same Republican majority that took 140 hours of sworn testimony about alleged misuse of the Clintons' Christmas card list but a mere 12 hours on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

• During the 1990s, conservative lawyer Theodore B. Olson had a key role in the "Arkansas Project," which was tasked with digging up dirt on the Clintons. His reward for such unseemly behavior? Mr. Bush appointed him solicitor general, the country's highest-ranking lawyer, and Mr. Olson is rumored to be under consideration to replace Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales if Mr. Gonzales resigns.

• At the president's request, a provision was added to the USA Patriot Act to allow the White House to replace U.S. attorneys without Senate confirmation.

Moreover, as Kagro X at DailyKos noted yesterday, this showdown has been in the works for some time. Kagro notes a Karen Tumulty piece in Time that suggested this back in 2006, even before the fall's election results were in:
[W]hen it comes to deploying its Executive power, which is dear to Bush's understanding of the presidency, the President's team has been planning for what one strategist describes as "a cataclysmic fight to the death" over the balance between Congress and the White House if confronted with congressional subpoenas it deems inappropriate. The strategist says the Bush team is "going to assert that power, and they're going to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court on every issue, every time, no compromise, no discussion, no negotiation."

As Kagro X puts it:
Realize that the resolution of this stand-off will determine the extent to which the Congress is able to investigate everything that's still on their plate. If they lose this showdown, they lose their leverage in investigating NSA spying, the DeLay/Abramoff-financed Texas redistricting, Cheney's Energy Task Force, the political manipulation of science, the Plame outing... everything.

And that's why Bush is playing it this way. Remember, too, that his "administration" is populated by Watergate and Iran-Contra recidivists, chief among them Dick Cheney, who has wanted to relitigate the boundaries of executive power since forever. Cheney and others on the inside believe that this time, with a friendlier judiciary, these issues can be decided the "right" way, overturning the victories won against Richard Nixon's insane theories of executive power.

Their thinking is that they'll either win it in courts, or run out the clock trying.

And the day they get five Justices to say they're right, everything you thought you knew about checks and balances becomes wrong.

Indeed, one of those Reagan-era Nixonites directing this strategy all along is none other than Ted Olson, who as Schaller notes is being mentioned as a potential replacement for Gonzalez. Personally, I can't see Bush being willing to weather a resurrection of the debate over Olson's role in 'The Arkansas Project', but rest assured that even if Olson is not currently guiding the White House on this matter, his legacy is one built around pushing the Bush administration inevitably toward this showdown.

This is especially clear if you consider Olson's tenure in the Reagan Justice Department, which I explored in some depth for Salon back in 2001. As I explained then:
Ted Olson's career as a battling Republican lawyer really began the day he stood next to James Watt as the interior secretary defiantly declared executive privilege.

That was in October 1981, a few months after President Reagan had named Olson assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel. Watt had been subpoenaed by Michigan Rep. John Dingell, the Democratic chairman of the subcommittee assigned to look into environmental cleanup efforts, to provide Dingell's subcommittee with documents relating to that work. Watt had deemed these papers "enforcement sensitive" -- that is, making them public, he said, would compromise the department's ability to enforce cleanup laws.

However, Watt's privilege assertion and the controversy accompanying it did not last long. Sensing a political fiasco, Reagan's White House counsel, Fred Fielding, negotiated an access agreement with the Dingell subcommittee in early 1982. Olson strongly opposed the terms of the agreement, and he apparently viewed the compromise as a personal defeat.

Another opportunity for Olson to again tackle the executive-privilege question presented itself in short order. In September 1982, another House subcommittee -- chaired by Rep. Elliott Levitas, D-Ga. -- sought access to EPA files involving enforcement of the so-called Superfund hazardous-waste cleanup provisions, particularly focusing on the activities of Rita Lavelle, assistant administrator for solid waste and emergency response. Dingell's subcommittee also asked for documents involving the same matter. EPA staff members were reluctant to disclose some information, again fearing the documents were "enforcement sensitive."

Olson proceeded to lead the Reagan White House to claim executive privilege in spectacularly groundless fashion, with little regard for the requirements of the law:
The biggest flaw in Olson's Oct. 25 memo, however, was the statement that the documents he was seeking to keep from investigators contained no evidence of wrongdoing. In fact, Olson's staff had not even conducted a thorough review of the documents Dingell wanted -- some 51 pieces in all -- and would not do so until Dec. 9, well after executive privilege was asserted. There had been a preliminary review in early October, and even then red flags had been raised; the OLC lawyers forwarded them at that point to Dinkins' attorneys for more detailed review. There is no indication that review was ever completed; Dinkins conducted a cursory check and then apparently let the matter lapse.

Most of all, when Congress finally cited the EPA Administrator, Anne Gorsuch Burford, for contempt in the matter, Olson then led the charge in a remarkable display of contempt for the separation of powers issues that were at the foundation of the executive-privilege laws:
When the full House cited Burford on Dec. 16, he and his team responded with an extraordinary civil suit in federal court contesting the constitutionality of Congress' contempt powers, charging that the invocation of privilege was proper and that the contempt citations should not stand. The suit, however, had a short shelf life; it was dismissed by the court on Feb. 1.

The Olson team's effort was "without a doubt the sloppiest piece of legal work I had seen in 20 years of being a lawyer," Burford later wrote in her memoirs. It only cited in its support nonbinding opinions from a single case -- former President Richard Nixon's suit against the House Judiciary Committee -- and Burford notes that no factual defenses were raised.

Certainly in many other areas -- particularly the aggressive assertion of executive powers in setting up military tribunals and designating citizens "enemy combatants," as well as various surveillance powers under the so-called Patriot Acts -- the Bush White House has displayed all the signs of attempting to reacquire powers lost to the executive branch in the 1970s … a belated "Nixon's revenge," as it were. There is a high likelihood that Ted Olson has been one of the guiding lights in these acquisitions.

"Executive privilege" is especially an area near and dear to Olson's heart. And it is clear, from his record, that Olson believes such privilege should be nearly illimitable -- unless, of course, the president is a Democrat. This view is rampant among Republicans, as Greenwald details rather colorfully.

What his record especially suggests is that Olson is now leading the Bush White House on a merry goose chase, attempting to extend executive privilege into areas where it was never intended, and where almost certainly legal mischief could turn up afoot. It has the makings of a real train wreck. As I noted at the end of the Salon piece:
Olson's actual record in that period raises doubts about even this answer. His single-minded effort to assert executive privilege actually overlooked what the law permitted, and it wound up costing President Reagan dearly. One is only left to wonder what dubious legal tangles he has in store for President Bush's agenda.

Looks like we're in the process of finding out.

Moral Authorities

by Sara
One gray day in November 1940, the old Tacoma Narrows suspension bridge began to writhe and shimmy in the winds passing through the strait. Over the next hour, an oscillation pattern emerged and gathered speed, soon snapping the span entirely in one of the more catastrophic failures in engineering history. There's still film of this bridge, which was known forever after as "Galloping Gertie."

Something like that is happening to the religious right these days. Its own internal contradictions are shuddering against its external self-righteousness with increasing force, causing the whole thing to oscillate in ever-widening arcs as it continues to shake apart. The movement is a Galloping Gertie in progress: the rest of us can only stand back and watch in wonder at the sheer enormity of the collapse as it unfolds before our very eyes.

Our first Orcinus Galloping Gertie award (this could become a regular thing) goes the Southern Baptist Church. The SBC is, quite simply, the biggest Protestant church in America, with over 16 millon members. (To put that in perspective: the SBC has more members than #2 and #3 -- the Methodists and Mormons, respectively -- combined.) Its ordained ministers include Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell....and Bill Moyers.

Over the last decade, the SBC -- always a conservative church -- has become more so as moderate members were systematically driven out by Christian Reconstructionists, in a process that's been very well documented at Talk2Action. These theocrats believe that they are charged by God to replace the Constitution with Biblical law, with them as God's handpicked "regents." They believe their moral authority gives them the divine right of kings to rule over us all.

Over the past seven days, though, three separate news stories revealed just how far the mighty SBC has fallen, and how unfit its holier-than-us leaders are to serve as anybody's moral authorities.

Paging Dr. Mengele
The PR Week from Satan kicked off last Wednesday, when the AP reported that the president of the Southern Baptist Seminary was re-thinking his views on homosexuality. The good news is that he hinted that he's starting to accept that it may be biological. The bad news is that he thinks that when the day comes that we have the medical technology to "fix" these unfortunately disabled fetuses in the womb, we should.
The Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., one of the country's pre-eminent evangelical leaders, acknowledged that he irked many fellow conservatives with an article earlier this month saying scientific research "points to some level of biological causation" for homosexuality.

Proof of a biological basis would challenge the belief of many conservative Christians that homosexuality -- which they view as sinful -- is a matter of choice that can be overcome through prayer and counseling.

However, Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., was assailed even more harshly by gay-rights supporters. They were upset by his assertion that homosexuality would remain a sin even if it were biologically based, and by his support for possible medical treatment that could switch an unborn gay baby's sexual orientation to heterosexual.

"He's willing to play God," said Harry Knox, a spokesman on religious issues for the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay-rights group. "He's more than willing to let homophobia take over and be the determinant of how he responds to this issue, in spite of everything else he believes about not tinkering with the unborn."

Mohler said he was aware of the invective being directed at him on gay-rights blogs, where some participants have likened him to Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor notorious for death-camp experimentation.

"...I realize this sounds very offensive to homosexuals, but it's the only way a Christian can look at it," Mohler said. "We should have no more problem with that than treating any medical problem."
Homosexuality, in Mohler's world, is a genetic disorder right in there with Down's Syndrome and autism. And this man is in charge of educating the SBC's ministers.

Big Love
Two days later, on Friday, an report revealed that a Southern Baptist Army chaplain was being sent to jail for threatening to kill a woman he'd imported to be his sex slave in order to "spice up his marriage."
FORT DRUM, N.Y. - A 10th Mountain Division chaplain was stripped of his rank and sentenced to five months in military prison after pleading guilty to adultery and threatening to kill his mistress when she wanted to end their relationship, Fort Drum officials said Friday.

Capt. John Lau — a Southern Baptist minister described by the mistress as a manipulative sadist — was tried by a military judge who also ordered him dismissed from the Army with all pay and allowances forfeited.

Lau, 50, admitted he threatened to hunt down and kill Amanda Tyler, a 34-year-old British woman he met in 2004 while stationed in England, brought to the United States and "married" during a mock ceremony last year at Niagara Falls.

Lau was so cavalier about his extramarital relationship that he routinely brought both women to official Fort Drum functions and introduced Tyler as his "wife's friend," he testified during a general court-martial Thursday.

"My wife and I were in a lull in our relationship and looking for something to spice up our sexual relations," the ordained Southern Baptist minister said during the proceeding.

Tyler lived at his home as his "second wife," Lau said, and took vacations with the family to Cyprus, the Caribbean and the Florida Keys. He said Tyler wanted to live with the couple indefinitely in an "exclusive relationship."

Tyler, however, told The Watertown Daily Times that Lau was a sexual sadist and expert manipulator who lured her into a relationship with promises of emotional stability and a life in the United States.

"It wasn't like I just fell in love with them and decided to be 'the second wife,'" Tyler said. "What I thought they were doing was putting me on the straight and narrow, restoring my confidence."

Lau said the three had sexual relations, which he described as consensual but which Tyler described as occurring "under duress."

"The price for objections is severe. If you object, you pay because he's 'The Master,'" she told the newspaper.

At one point, Tyler said, Lau said she should become a prostitute to help pay her tuition.

Asked why she didn't report her situation to military or civilian authorities, Tyler said she was "petrified."

In September, while Lau was deployed in Iraq, Tyler informed the family that she planned to move out.

Lau responded by sending three e-mails threatening to kill Tyler.

Lau was sentenced to 14 months in military prison. But under the terms of his plea agreement he will serve only five months.
Evidently, Lau didn't get the memo: Fundamentalist Baptist patriarchs only get issued one wife per lifetime. Only fundamentalist Mormon patriarchs have God's go-ahead to collect the entire set.

Jesus Suffered Torture, So It Must Be OK
After a weekend at rest, those SBC mischief-makers were right back on the job Monday, this time putting one of the denomination's ethics experts forward to publicly defend America's right to torture. From
A Southern Baptist ethicist accused the National Association of Evangelicals of using tortured logic in a recent statement denouncing cruelty toward detainees in the U.S.-led war on terror.

Daniel Heimbach, professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, last week in Baptist Press termed an NAE-endorsed anti-torture statement "a moral travesty managing not only to confuse but to harm genuine evangelical witness in the culture."

Heimbach, who has supported the use of torture in certain cases in an online dialogue, faulted the 18-page NAE statement for moralizing against torture without specifying particular acts to which it objects.

The danger of the NAE's "diatribe," Heimbach said, is "that it threatens to undermine Christian moral witness in contemporary culture by dividing evangelicals into renouncers and justifiers of nebulous torture--when no one disagrees with rejecting immorality or defends mistreating fellow human beings made in the image of God."

Heimbach has long argued against an outright ban on torture, saying the United States should instead base interrogation of prisoners on "just war" principles guiding use of force in military conflict.

"Heimbach misuses the rules of just war to support a pro-torture position," said Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics. "Just war rules are intended to restrain the rush to war and violence. Just war rules are misused when they become a pretext for moral cover that allows death and denigration. Given the nature of this guerrilla war, the principle of non-combatant immunity by itself is enough to rule out torture as a morally acceptable step."

"He and other Southern Baptist fundamentalists are again isolating themselves from the larger evangelical community for high-partisan reasons," Parham continued. "They are so hardwired to violence that they have abandoned the core Christian conviction that all human beings are made in God’s image and deserve human rights.”

"Torture is morally wrong," said Parham. "Southern Baptists are becoming the pro-torture denomination."
Proof that those repeated church-sponsored viewings of The Passion of the Christ have made their impact on Southern Baptists everywhere.

This what passes for moral leadership in 21st century America. These are the kind of leaders the Christian theocrats intend to set over us. Over six short days in the past week (two of them weekend days!), the leadership of the SBC, which represents five percent of all of Americans, stood tall for eugenic responses to homosexuality, sexual subjugation and violence, and torture. That's got to be a new record, even for them.

Large as it is, the SBC can no longer be treated as a "mainstream" religious organization in America. It's time for Americans to recognize this, and shun it as the radical extremist group it it -- because any group with leaders like this is as dangerous to traditional American values as any racist group Dave's ever covered here. More to the point: they need to be closely watched, because when a group like this starts publicly endorsing eugenics and torture and harboring sexual sadists, it's already made all the psychological justifications and ethical leaps needed to carry out larger-scale acts of authoritarian violence. Sixteen million pre-programmed proto-brownshirts, already organized in every village and town, is not a prospect that should make any of us sleep well.

Many of us have friends and relatives who are SBC members, or work alongside people who belong. We need to query them, sincerely and honestly, about how far they support these leaders, these ideas, and this organization. They deserve to know what is being done in their name by people who purport to be their authorities, and who aspire to exercise their authority over the rest of us as well.

Because when the bridge that connects them to consensus reality finally snaps, they're either going to fall apart spectacularly (the more likely scenario, to be sure) -- or else see their moment, and seize the chance to make their own New World Order out of the chaos.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Doing what we do

-- by Dave

I've been putting off my annual fund-raiser this year, mainly because I've been weighing, once again, whether or not to continue with Orcinus as I've been operating it for the past four years.

In many ways, one of this blog's original purposes -- to get in print much of the research material I've compiled over the years as a journalist -- was largely fulfilled with the completion of the recent series on eliminationism. Along the way, I've attracted a steady readership of about 3,000 daily readers, which as Atrios pointed out to me awhile back would have been mind-boggling numbers back when we started this thing.

On the other hand, I can't help but notice that things have tailed off quite a bit in the past couple of years. While the general audience of blog readers has continued to rise, my share of that readership has remained largely stagnant. I don't seem to get many links these days (my Technorati ranking has been in a death spiral), I'm no longer on the DKos blogroll, and the just-finished series created only the barest of ripples. Combined with the general death-march quality of maintaining a good blog, it really came as no surprise to me when Billmon, for instance, finally shuttered the Whiskey Bar this year; it's hard work, and when the meager rewards begin to diminish, it can be very discouraging.

Part of this, I recognize, has to do with what some readers complain of as the "one note" or "depressing" quality of the blog, which is something I've struggled mightily with myself. The reality I have to confront is that, unlike many of the blogs that have risen to prominence in recent years, I'm a journalist working out in the hinterlands, largely disconnected from the Beltway and major media centers. My ability to contribute to the larger discourse of the blogosphere lies primarily with my ability to report on my "beat" -- namely, right-wing extremism as it manifests itself in the general populace and among the powerful.

I could write more on other subjects (and have), including the environment, regional politics, even bigger philosophical/life issues. These attract few readers and even fewer links, but that's OK -- I've never really pretended that Orcinus was anything other than an outlet for the Northwest-based journalism that has always been the core of what I do. I recognize that most readers come here for the monitoring work of the extremist right I perform, and I just hope that along the way they'll enjoy some of my other work.

And there are some blessings to not having a really big-name blog with a gargantuan readership: the pressure to produce can be tremendous. Even worse, you have to put up with playground nonsense from the other bloggers out there jostling for your attention and demanding you give it to them. Though it hurt, I couldn't fault Markos for leaving me off his revamped blogroll -- for God's sake, it's his blog, and if he isn't reading me, that's not his fault. The idea of other bloggers telling me who to blogroll feels patently noxious.

Now, I could always try reshaping the blog's mission as a way to attract new readers -- say, offering Digbyesque political commentary, or zeroing in on fresh subjects that involve political scandals. And while I'm capable of those things, there's also no doubt they'd dilute my ability to write about the subjects I already specialize in.

Moreover, my main reason for starting up Orcinus -- to provide people with a source of information and analysis that they can't get elsewhere, emphasizing subjects that go largely ignored or underplayed by the mainstream press -- remains a valid one. It is, as I've argued before, the real substantive role that blogs now play in our national discourse, and I'm glad to be able to contribute in a way that's meaningful, even if not particularly popular.

Now, something Glenn Greenwald wrote the other day caught my eye in regards to this:
Writing about extremist right-wing blogs can be tedious at times, but the point in writing about them is never the blogs themselves (let alone their commenters), but rather, how the national media depicts political movements and the assumptions embedded in how they referee our country's political discourse. That is always the point. It isn't news that LGF and other large right-wing blogs are the venues for sociopathic and violence-inciting rhetoric on a daily basis. Standing alone, there is limited value in writing or thinking about that topic.

The point here -- as always -- is to try to force the media to write about the stories it covers in a more critical and factual manner, to compel them to abandon the cheap and lazy cliches that otherwise frame everything they write. That is one of the most critical functions of blogs, and it is one of the goals that is realistically attainable by bloggers and their readers working together.

Greenwald is right that the role the media play in picking up and transmitting extremist ideas and coddling a far-right agenda is a critical one -- and no one does a better job, frankly, of examining this role than Greenwald, though obviously it has been a subject here for a long time. (See also The Editors' recent take on the debate between Matt Yglesias and Steve Sailer for a recent example of how this trend is being documented.)

However, there are other ways of thinking about and analyzing this trend, particularly in terms of the broader effect that eliminationist rhetoric has on its intended audience. And as the volume and frequency ratchet upward, it becomes important to observe that as well, because the net effect on the public, and on the national discourse, is going to be well worth remarking.

Moreover, there's a real reason for cataloging and documenting this rhetoric whenever it arises: It is important not just to chastise media figures for pretending they don't hear it or that it's insignificant, but also to call out the speakers themselves. It is essential, in the end, to stand up to hate speech, largely because it is very much protected speech; the only means we have of countering it is to stand up and oppose it.

There's a limited value, I suppose, in doing this -- certainly it will restrict the reach of your work, and as I've seen here, it will lend a one-note quality to the blog. But in my mind, it remains an essential function -- one of the other things that blogs are capable of doing where the mainstream media tends often to fall down.

It's important, I think, to let the haters know that the things they say and advocate will not go unnoticed and unopposed. This, of course, is what I've been doing for a long time here -- and, for the coming year at least, will continue to do.

Discussing not just the broader social ramifications of this growing extremism, as well as how to adequately deal with it and ultimately defuse it, is also something that we need to discuss more -- and, over the coming year, I'm hoping to write more on that subject. More to the point, one of the reasons I brought on Sara Robinson as a co-blogger this past year is that, unlike me, she's a person who has done a lot of thinking about the practical ramifications of the current political realities, particularly regarding how they shape our future.

Between the two of us, expect to see, in addition to the usual documentation and analysis, a lot more discussion in the coming year regarding strategies for confronting and defusing right-wing extremism.

If that's something you want to support, please plug a few nickels into the tip jar. It'll be greatly appreciated, and it'll keep Orcinus up and running for another year.

Crony Conservatism

by Saraimage Tom Tomorrow

My, my, my. It's such a cozy little world….especially if you're a conservative.

We all know Ann Coulter's said some grotesquely hateful things over the years. What you may not realize, though, is how many of the most memorable bombshells got dropped in just one venue. She seems to save up her most horrific stuff for the annual CPAC conference, where she's been a fixture for many years. In fact, looking back on just her CPAC performances alone is a fairly comprehensive summary of Coulter's most gobstopping moments:
CPAC 2007 -- "I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word ‘faggot,’ so I — so kind of an impasse, can’t really talk about Edwards.”

CPAC 2006 -- "I think our motto should be post-9-11, 'raghead talks tough, raghead faces consequences.'"

CPAC 2005 -- “Liberals like to scream and howl about McCarthyism, I say let’s give them some. They’ve have intellectual terror on campus for’s time for a new McCarthyism.”

“Since they’re always acting like they’re oppressed…I say let’s do it, let’s oppress them.”

“In addition to racist and Nazi, how about adding traitor to the list of things that professors can’t be? And yes, I realize I just proposed firing the entire Harvard faculty.”

CPAC 2004 -- "You can never be too scandalous in talking about liberals. These people are animals; they want to destroy the country and they support the Taliban and al-Qaida the way they supported Stalin in McCarthy's day." (She also characterized the Democratic Party as being run by "breathtakingly stupid women").

CPAC 2003 -- “Why not go to war just for oil? We need oil."

CPAC 2002 -- "In contemplating college liberals, you really regret, once again, that John Walker is not getting the death penalty. We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals by making them realize that they could be killed, too. Otherwise they will turn out into outright traitors."

According to PFAW, in this same talk Coulter also accused U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta of being consumed with hatred for America, belittled his experiences in Japanese-American internment camps during World War II, and appeared to imply that she would celebrate if he were killed.

CPAC 2001 -- From PFAW's coverage: Ann Coulter informed the crowd that George W. Bush has done a spectacular job during his first month in office, and speculated that perhaps he is far more clever than people had believed. In less than a month, Coulter stated, Bush has managed to totally disarm the Democrat's most cliched criticism: that Republicans are mean. Coulter suggested that Bush has apparently figured out that "all you have to do is go around calling yourself nice," making it surprisingly "easy to hornswoggle liberals." Bush has managed to control the agenda, and will continue to do so, said Coulter, as long as he continues to "treat liberals like small children having nightmares." According to Coulter, it seems as if "the mistake Republicans have been making for years was to treat liberals like adults."

CPAC 2000 -- Coulter received CPAC's annual journalism award. (Hard to believe we've endured over seven years of her already, isn't it?)
It’s obvious that there's a lot of synergy between CPAC and Coulter: each has leveraged their fame on the platform of the other. It's not surprising, when you consider the ties between the two. And here's where it gets cozy.

Conservative blogger Lydia Cornell (no friend of Ann, she) recently pointed out that Ann's personal bodyguard, Floyd Resnick, is also Director of Security for CPAC. Resnick, a sometime stuntman and extra on various TV cop shows, is the owner of New York Close Protection Services, which says this about itself on its website:
" NYCPS is the only firm specializing in the safety and accessibility of the conservative philosophy. In a time when conservatives are physically and verbally attacked by those who disagree with them, the NYCPS Team is dedicated to ensuring that their clients are protected while getting their message out on college campuses, in local communities, and through media appearances.
For all their talk of liberals as effeminate wimps, evidently Mr. Resnick's clients find us very scary indeed. (Though as Cornell's blog illustrates, Resnick and his goons are not at all restrained about taking their aggression out on apostate conservatives as well.)

More interesting, however, is Resnick's partner is NYCPS, Lisa de Pasquale. De Pasquale is apparently a very busy lady: she's not only in the bodyguard business, but she is also the Director of CPAC (which means, basically, that it's her show). And she's also Ann Coulter's publicist -- which is why Ann saves her biggest steamers for CPAC events.

As a side job, de Pasquale & Resnick were researchers for Malkin's book, Unhinged. She mentions them by name in the blog post announcing the release of the book:
My intrepid researchers, Lisa de Pasquale and Floyd Resnick of New York Close Protection Services, dug up many of the photos featured inside the book's Unhinged Gallery and many more that didn't make it into the book.
It’s a small, small world.

h/t to an anonymous cat

Monday, March 19, 2007

Selective outrage

Last week I pointed out Pastor John Hagee, the leading voice of the fundamentalist we-support-Israel-so-it-can-host-the-Apocalypse crowd, who recently gave a keynote speech at the annual AIPAC conference. Indeed, Hagee is a strange kind of Judeophile, considering that he also promotes "New World Order" conspiracy theories.

Yet none of this seems to bother Scott Johnson at Powerline (via Scoobie Davis), who reported that Hagee's speech "had me crying."

But as one of Johnson's commenters noted, Hagee also practices a fairly invidious kind of Catholic-bashing. Indeed, back in 1997, the Catholic League protested Hagee's preachings:
The league viewed and protested a video produced and distributed by John Hagee Ministries, which cited certain "historical facts" designed to link the Catholic Church with Hitler's program of genocide in Germany. In its apparent attempt to drive a wedge between Catholics and Jews, the video, Southern Steps: Jerusalem and Bible Prophecy, ignored statements by various Jewish leaders citing the Catholic Church for its efforts to save Jews from the Nazis during World War II.

Moreover, as Frank Cocozzelli at Talk2Action details, Hagee has not softened his Catholic-bashing one whit in the intervening decade since that report -- while the Catholic League, over the same period, has remained oddly silent. For instance, in his recent book Jerusalem Countdown, Hagee opines:
Anti-Semitism is sin, and as sin, it damns the soul. Most readers will be shocked by the clear record of history linking Adolph Hitler and the Roman Catholic Church in a conspiracy to exterminate the Jews.

As Cocozzelli observes:
Donohue is quick to complain about the lack of Christmas trees or religious songs not being sung during school pageants. What Hagee wrote was maliciously inaccurate.

In fairness, the Catholic League spoke out against similar statements by Hagee-ten years ago, but evidently, it didn't do any good. And since then, Hagee has grown more prominent and more powerful. Does that make him untouchable?

Johnson offers a brief disclaimer: "One reader notes an anti-Catholic tilt to Dr. Hagee's speech that I missed. My appreciation of the speech obviously relates to its expression of support for the state and people of Israel."

But you can't separate Hagee's views on Israel from his views on Catholicism -- they're all part of the same ideological package. One wouldn't, for instance, celebrate a speech by David Duke simply because it managed to avoid overt anti-Semitism.

More to the point, Powerline was nothing if not dedicated in chiming in with Donohue regarding the supposed "assault on Catholic sensibilities" by the John Edwards' since-resigned staff bloggers. It also attacked them as "unhinged, anti-Catholic bloggers" while accusing Edwards' response of "lacking in the intellectual honenty [sic] department" -- with no apparent irony.

Indeed, Powerline has been similarly assiduous in decrying supposed anti-Catholic bigotry wherever it might be adduced (the dubiousness of such claims notwithstanding).

Funny that it can't see fit to denounce such bigotry when it rears its ugly head on the right.

The tide keeps rising

Another day, another entry for the eliminationism appendix. This time, courtesy of "calipygian" at the Victory Caucus:
If we Americans have a fateful flaw in our national character, it is forgetfulness. This failing speaks well of our human decency and generosity, but not always for our political wisdom or intelligence. We think everyone else as is good natured as we are. Our military defeated Iraq in mere days, after which we saw American soldiers giving MREs to hungry Iraqi women and children. That's how we Americans are. Our national virtue is our national weakness. We do not want to change all that much, and as long as our world-famed good nature does no great harm, why should we? There is one thing to keep in mind: Don't be too good natured, since our enemies are not noble enough to overlook our mistakes.

If this advice applies anywhere, it apples to our relations with the libs. Carelessness here is not only a weakness, it is disregard of duty and a crime against the security of the state. The liberals long for one thing: to reward our foolishness with surrender to the terrorists. It must never come to that. One of the most effective defenses is an unforgiving, cold hardness against the destroyers of our people, against those who would benefit if we lose the war, and therefore also against the victims, if we win.

Therefore, we must say again and yet again:

1. The liberals are our destruction. They want to destroy the United States and our people. This plan must be blocked.

2. There are no distinctions between liberals. Each liberal is a sworn enemy of the American people. If he does not make his hostility plain, it is only from cowardice and slyness, not because he loves us.

3. The liberals are to blame for each American soldier who falls in this war. They have him on their conscience, and must also pay for it.

4. If someone pulled the lever for Kerry, Pelosi, et al., he is an enemy of the people. He earns the contempt of the entire people, for he is a craven coward who leaves them in the lurch to stand by the enemy.

5. The liberals enjoy the approval of our enemies. That is all the proof we need to show how harmful they are for our people.

6. The liberals are the enemy's agents among us. He who stands by them aids the enemy.

7. The liberals have no right to claim that their arguments and opinions equal ours. They should be ignored, not only because their are simply wrong, but because they are liberals who have no right to a voice in the community.

8. If the liberals appeal to your sentimentality, realize that they are hoping for your forgetfulness, and let them know that you see through them and hold them in contempt.

9. A decent enemy will deserve our generosity after we have won. The liberal however is not a decent enemy, though he tries to seem so.

10. The treatment liberals receive from us is hardly unjust. They have deserved it all.

It is the job of the government to deal with them. No one has the right to act on his own, but each has the duty to support the state's measures against the liberals, to defend them with others, and to avoid being misled by any liberal tricks.

The security of the state requires that of us all.

And just to keep current, here's Mike Adams at TownHall a few days ago (hat tip to archy.):
But enough about what Ann ought not to do. Here's what she should do immediately:

1. Start a website called "Global War on Fags" today.

2. Begin writing essays calling for the cleansing and purification of society via the mass murder of homosexuals.

3. Distribute videos on the website showing the actual murders of homosexuals.

4. Circulate instructions on how to bomb gay bath houses in San Francisco.

5. Circulate a "battle dispatch" to give people specific information on America's most notorious bath houses.

6. Apply for a job at Kent State University.

Adams is evidently referring to the case of the jihadist professor at Kent State -- neglecting to observe, of course, that the prof in question has tenure and is not currently applying for a post there. Unsurprisingly, John Hawkins at Right Wing News wants this professor "put on trial for treason and executed if he's convicted (and if the blog referenced is his, he deserves to be convicted)".

Adams is trying to make a "satirical" point, of course. But it's always worth noting when the "satire" describes the actual beliefs and actions of right-wing domestic terrorists. But that, you know, is the kind of terrorism that the Coulter Right "understands."

As one of his admirers says, "I do understand that this column is tongue-in-cheek about how PC everyone is these days, but there is a disturbing inkling I get that the things Mike wants Ann to do are the things he really wants to do."

After all, if Coulter had made a "nigger" or "Jewboy" joke, you have to wonder if Adams would have penned a "satire" proposing she undertake a "Global War on Blacks and Jews" campaign.

UPDATE: "Calipygian" chimes in here: "It is a modification of a Goebbels speech he gave in November 1941 called 'The Jews are Guilty' where I pretty much substituted 'Liberal' for 'Jew'. It does pretty much fit in at the site, doesn't it? There is another speech I modified there based on his Toteler Krieg speech. There are more details at The General's place.

"I'm kind of flattered in a sick sort of way that it fit in so well over there."

So, just to be clear: His post was a deliberate spoof of antiliberal eliminationist rhetoric. Considering how well it went over at the forum, though, I'd have to say he made his point.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


The stupids!!! They burn!!!

Isn't this the Glenn Reynolds model for dealing with the Plame Affair? Pretend to be utterly ignorant and incapable of rubbing two brain cells together, which thereby lets you live in the Bizarro World where Libby's conviction means nothing, nothing, nothing, just move along please.