Singing the Bite Me Song


Rhetoric


February 27, 2007

Utter Fucking Insanity... the idea of attacking Iran

Could somebody please give Vice President Dick Cheney a REAL psychiatric evaluation?! I mean, one that can actually determine WHY this man is so utterly out of touch with reality and so completely delusional?

And the bigger question is why we are letting this administration take the entire country down with their idiotic dick-waving and war-mongering for oil.

In my darker moments, I suspect Bush and Cheney think Iraq was Czechoslavakia, and Iran is Poland. Except unlike the Nazis they are trance-channeling from beyond the grave, we are (and will continue to, if these plans go through) get our asses kicked.

Meanwhile, Seymour Hersh strikes again. Go Sy! Meanwhile, we all need to go read the New Yorker.

Link: The New Yorker : THE REDIRECTION: Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism? by SEYMOUR M. HERSH

Here's just a little summary from the Guardian. BTW, the last paragraph below is just mind-boggling.

Link: US accused of drawing up plan to bomb Iran | Iran | Guardian Unlimited.

US accused of drawing up plan to bomb Iran

Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
Monday    February  26, 2007
The Guardian

  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad raises his fist during a public rally. Photograph: Mehdi Ghasemi/Getty

 
President George Bush has charged the Pentagon with devising an expanded bombing plan for Iran that can be carried out at 24 hours' notice, it was reported yesterday.

An extensive article in the New Yorker magazine by the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh describes the contingency bombing plan as part of a general overhaul by the Bush administration of its policy towards Iran.

It said a special planning group at the highest levels of the US military had expanded its mission from selecting potential targets connected to Iranian nuclear facilities, and had been directed to add sites that may be involved in aiding Shia militant forces in Iraq to its list.

That new strategy, intended to reverse the rise in Iranian power that has been an unintended consequence of the war in Iraq, could bring the countries much closer to open confrontation and risks igniting a regional sectarian war between Shia and Sunni Muslims, the New Yorker says.

Elements of the tough new approach towards Tehran outlined by Hersh include:

  • Clandestine operations against Iran and Syria, as well as the Hizbullah movement in Lebanon - even to the extent of bolstering Sunni extremist groups that are sympathetic to al-Qaida
  • Sending US special forces into Iranian territory in pursuit of Iranian operatives, as well as to gather intelligence
  • Secret operations are being funded by Saudi Arabia to avoid scrutiny by
    Congress. "There are many, many pots of black money, scattered in many
    places and used all over the world on a variety of missions," Hersh
    quotes a Pentagon consultant as saying.

As in the run-up to the Iraq war, the vice-president, Dick Cheney, has bypassed other administration officials to take charge of the aggressive new policy, working along with the deputy national security adviser, Elliott Abrams, and the former ambassador to Kabul and Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad.

Mr Cheney is also relying heavily on Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national security adviser, who spent 22 years as ambassador to the US, and who has been offering his advice on foreign policy to Mr Bush since he first contemplated running for president.

The New Yorker revelations, arriving soon after Mr Cheney reaffirmed that war with Iran remained an option if it did not dismantle its nuclear programme, further ratcheted up fears of a military confrontation between Washington and Tehran.

[...]

His assertion that the Bush administration was actively preparing for an attack on Iran was denied by the Pentagon. "The United States is not planning to go to war with Iran. To suggest anything to the contrary is simply wrong, misleading and mischievous," the Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, told reporters.

Hersh was just as adamant. "This president is not going to leave office without doing something about Iran," he told CNN. Hersh claims that the former director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, resigned his post to take a parallel job as the deputy director of the state department because of his discomfort with an approach that so closely echoed the Iran-contra scandal of the 1980s.

[...]

One prime arena for the new strategy is Lebanon where the administration has been trying to prop up the government of Fouad Siniora, which faces a resurgent Hizbullah movement in the aftermath of last summer's war with Israel.

Some of the billions of aid to the Beirut government has ended up in the hands of radical Sunnis in the Beka'a valley, Hersh writes. Syrian extremist groups have also benefited from the new policy. "These groups, though small, are seen as a buffer to Hizbullah; at the same time, their ideological ties are with al-Qaida," Hersh writes.


February 27, 2007 at 11:42 PM in Democracy, Favorite Links, Orwell, Politics, Rhetoric, War/Terrorism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 09, 2006

Only six fluent in Arabic at US Iraq embassy-panel

This speaks volumes, doesn't it? There are surely many more Arabic speakers in the U.S., but the Bush administration chooses not to send them to Iraq. Chooses also not to put them in the FBI, or the CIA, both of which are dangerously low on Arabic speakers as well.

Link: Reuters AlertNet - Only six fluent in Arabic at US Iraq embassy-panel.

Only six fluent in Arabic at US Iraq embassy-panel

06 Dec 2006 22:20:12 GMT Source: Reuters

WASHINGTON, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Among the 1,000 people who work in the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, only 33 are Arabic speakers and only six speak the language fluently, according to the Iraq Study Group report released on Wednesday.

"All of our efforts in Iraq, military and civilian, are handicapped by Americans' lack of knowledge of language and cultural understanding," the bipartisan panel said in its report. "In a conflict that demands effective and efficient communication with Iraqis, we are often at a disadvantage."

The report, written by five Republicans and five Democrats, recommended the U.S. government give "the highest possible priority to professional language proficiency and cultural training" for officials headed to Iraq.

It is interesting to note that the beginning, end, and middle of that lack of knowledge of language and cultural understanding was wrought at the hands of an administration that can barely disguise its overt bigotry and xenophobia. I mean, who would take the cultural understanding of an embassy seriously when the leaders who appoint people to that embassy suffer from the following embarassments:

A president ready to go to war in Iraq without knowing who the Shiites and Sunnis were, and what the significant differences were between them (this is documented in former Ambassador to Croatia (and son of the late economist John Kenneth Galbraith) Peter Galbraith's book, The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created A War Without End, claiming President George W. Bush was unaware that there were two major sects of Islam just two months before the President ordered troops to invade Iraq.)

A secretary of defense who had NO CLUE the historical and cultural value of the Baghdad Museum, which he sat and arrogantly allowed to be looted, with the dismissive comment, "Stuff happens." Ironic, especially because what existed inside those walls documented the birth of civilization as we know it, the birth of Sumerian literacy etched with a stylus on clay.

And only people who are functionally illiterate could not know the significance of what was being destroyed, bringing that birth of literacy into full circle with their utter ignorance.

The only thing I saw more outrageously xenophobic than that deeply embarrassing attitude came at the hands of a cable news network, which had the outrageous blindness (and lack of understanding of irony) to put a "branding" tag line on the part of the Iraq War that happened after the "Mission Accomplished" aircraft carrier speech, "The New Iraq."

See what happens when stupidity is allowed to run rampant? Did no one at that network understand that people in a 200-year-old nation had no right to call anything "New" in the fertile crescent, in an area that had kept civilization alive for thousands of years? In a place some had seen as the site of the original "Garden of Eden?"

The "New" Iraq, indeed. Someone should tell Rumsfeld how "stuff happens," as a far older nation outlasts him.

 


December 9, 2006 at 11:22 PM in Favorite Links, News to Note, Politics, Rhetoric, Television, Travel, War/Terrorism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 31, 2006

Another reason to be suspicious of foaming-at-the-mouth anti-abortion nutjobs

This Nation article on Rush Limbaugh's laughably lambastic attack on Michael J. Fox contains some interesting observations down below the lead.

Call me naive, but given all my past history of counter-protesting the Friday afternoon anti-abortion nutjobs outside our local Planned Parenthood clinic, this particular angle, that the anti-abortion groups are so ridiculous and crazy, they serve as a little-noticed front for GOP big money special interest funds, somehow never occurred to me before.

Anti-abortionists as a nutty button for big money corporate manipulators to push at will, with massive funds?

Well, think about it. They must be getting money somewhere, and right-wing money seems much more likely to come top down with fake astro-turfing than truly from grassroots bottom up (unless the so-called "grassroots" is on some GOP moneybags' payroll). The media doesn't take Flat Earther's seriously, or those who deny the Holocaust occurred. But no matter how nutty these folks get, how many clinics they bomb, how much they conspire like terrorists, they still get a fair hearing in the media.

I guess I got inklings of that in reading about the odd PACs that Tom DeLay was affiliated with, like that supposed "family" political action committee that his wife even worked for, but was nothing more than a front to funnel major influence-buying money from some Russian kingpins (why doesn't anyone cry "treason" when these folks are so eager to allow international cartels and money-bags to have more influence over legislation and U.S. policy than people in the U.S?).

Anyway, here's the deep down bits. I don't see documentation on these claims, but I do take refuge in the knowledge that The Nation is one of the most rigorously fact-checked long-running publications in the country. Although this is in a blog, and not in the print edition that I know of.

Link: The Nation: Limbaugh's Savage Crusade.

BLOG | Posted 10/28/2006 @ 12:44am

Limbaugh's Savage Crusade

John Nichols' "The Online Beat"

[...]

For the better part of three hours each day this week, the radio ranter has been "Swift Boating the television and film star for daring to do what Limbaugh -- who freely admits that he is an entertainer -- does every day.

In Limbaugh's warped assessment of the political process, it's fine for him to try and influence the votes of Americans. But woe be it to anyone else who attempts to do so.

[Don't you wish he'd used the phrase "woe betide" instead of "woe be it"? I think I'm going to try to find a reason to say "woe betide" at least three times this week. I just like the way it sounds.]

[...]

Because it is easier to criticize the way that Michael J. Fox looks than it is to criticize the content of his message.

Fox's ads are fact-based. They reference the voting records, public statements and policy initiatives of the Democratic and Republican candidates he is talking about.

That being the case, beating up on the "Back to the Future" kid would not seem like a smart political strategy. And it certainly is not going to help Limbaugh soften his image as a partisan hitman who knows a little too much about what it means to be on or off particular medications.

So why are Limbaugh and other readers of Republican talking points continuing to accuse Fox of "acting" sick, and of lying his own disease and about the role that stem-cell research may play in the search for treatments and a cure? Why devote so much time and energy to attacking one ailing actor and one set of commercials? It has a lot to do with the powerful lobby that is opposing serious stem-cell research.

Unspoken in much of the debate over this issue is the real reason why candidates such as U.S. Senator Jim Talent, the embattled Republican incumbent who is the target of Fox's criticism in Missouri, and U.S. Representative Mark Green, the Republican gubernatorial candidate who is mentioned in Fox's ads in Wisconsin, so vehemently oppose embryonic stem-cell research. [emphasis mine]

[...]

...it is because Talent, Green and other politicians who are campaigning not just against their Democratic opponents but against scientific inquiry want to maintain the support of the groups that oppose serious stem-cell research: the powerful and influential anti-choice political action committees that in each election cycle spend millions of dollars in questionable cash to support candidates who are willing to echo their faith-based opposition to research that could identify treatments and perhaps even cures for for life-threatening illnesses...

[...]

Groups that oppose reproductive rights are central players in our politics because they have established networks that serve as some of the most effective hidden conduits for special-interest money that is used to pay for crude attack campaigns against mainstream candidates. [again, emphasis mine]

They also mobilize voters on behalf of contenders who cynically embrace the ugliest forms of anti-scientific dogma to make the rounds since the evolution deniers ginned up the Scopes trial. For this reason, the antiabortion machine gets what it wants when it wants it.

[...]

In states across the country, so-called "Right-to-Life" and "Pro-Life" groups spend freely on behalf of the candidates they back. And much of that spending goes essentially undetected, as the groups often do not give money directly to candidates but instead run "issue ads" and mount independent-expenditure campaigns.

Republican politicians like Talent and Green fully understand that, without the behind-the-scenes work of antiabortion groups -- most of which flies under the radar of the media and campaign-finance regulators -- they could not possibly win. And Limbaugh, whose stated goal is to maintain Republican hegemony, is perhaps even more aware of the fact than the candidates he is working so feverishly to elect. That's why the radio personality is on a personal crusade against Fox. That's also why Limbaugh has been willing to stick to his outlandish claims about the actor, even while acknowledging that he's gotten the facts wrong.

Like the Republican politicians who are scrambling to smear Fox, Limbaugh is doing the bidding of one of the most powerful behind-the-scenes political forces in America -- a force that is essential to Republican prospects. And he is not going to let a little thing like the truth make him back off.

[...]

October 31, 2006 at 04:18 PM in Democracy, Favorite Links, Media & Journalism, News to Note, Politics, Privacy & Free Speech, Rhetoric, Science, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 24, 2006

A thing of beauty: Former President Clinton gives Chris Wallace a smackdown

I've been around and watched Bill Clinton work since he was governor in Arkansas. One of the oddest things about him was how he never let the nastiness (and in Arkansas, you would not believe the nastiness) get to him. His supporters would get riled up at some outrage, but he'd just blythely say, "Well, it's just politics."

Which makes the transcript below (and hit the link to get the video off the Crooks and Liars site) so wonderfully delicious, because when he lets loose, he lets loose with both barrels. I'm not sure what he's thinking about it now, but many of us are rejoicing. It is one thing never to let anyone see that they've pushed your buttons, but it's quite another to give someone a verbal smackdown they so richly deserve, and to do it well. Makes you long for the old days when oratorical skills actually meant winning arguments.

I think I have to nominate Clinton for the first-ever Bite Me award. Let's all give him a rousing chorus of the Bite Me Song! (sung to the tune of Yale's "Boola Boola" song)

Bite me bite me! Bite me bite me!
Bite me bite me. Bite me bite me!

Again, with feeling!

Link: Crooks and Liars | Fox Clinton Interview - Part 1 - Osama bin Laden.

Thanks to Crooks and Liars, for the transcription. This must be preserved for posterity.

Fox_fns_clinton_part1_060924a1 Here’s the transcript of the Wallace/Clinton interview below the fold:

CW:    When we announced that you were going to be on FOX News Sunday, I got a lot of email from viewers, and I’ve got to say, I was surprised most of them wanted me to ask you this question: Why didn’t you do more to put Bin Laden and al Qaeda out of business when you were President? There’s a new book out which I suspect you’ve read called The Looming Tower. And it talks about how the fact that when you pulled troops out of Somalia in 1993, Bin Laden said, "I have seen the frailty and the weakness and the cowardice of US troops." Then there was the bombing of the embassies in Africa and the attack on the USS Cole

WJC:   Okay…

CW:     …May I just finish the question, sir? And after the attack, the book says Bin Laden separated his leaders because he expected an attack and there was no response. I understand that hindsight is 20/20…

WJC:  No, let’s talk about…

CW:     …but the question is why didn’t you do more? Connect the dots and put them out of business?

WJC:  Okay, let’s talk about it. I will answer all of those things on the merits, but I want to talk about the context (in) which this…arises. I’m being asked this on the FOX network…ABC just had a right-wing conservative on "The Path to 9/11" falsely claim that it was falsely based on the 911 Commission Report with three things asserted against me that are directly contradicted by the 9/11 Commission Report. I think it’s very interesting that all the conservative Republicans who now say that I didn’t do enough claimed (then) that I was obsessed with Bin Laden. All of President Bush’s neocons claimed that I was too obsessed with finding Bin Laden when they didn’t have a single meeting about Bin Laden for the nine months after I left office. All the right-wingers who now say that I didn’t do enough said (then) that I did too much. Same people.

They were all trying to get me to withdraw from Somalia in 1993, the next day after we were involved in Black Hawk Down.  And I refused to do it and stayed
six months and had an orderly transfer to the UN. Okay, now let’s look at all the criticisms: Black Hawk Down, Somalia. There is not a living soul in the world who thought that Bin Laden had anything to do with Black Hawk Down or was paying any attention to it or even knew al Qaeda was a growing concern in October of 1993.

CW:    I understand…

WJC: No wait…no wait…don’t tell me. You asked me why I didn’t do more to Bin Laden. There was not a living soul…all the people who criticized me wanted to leave the next day. You brought this up, so you get an answer.

CW:    I’m perfectly happy to. Bin Laden says…

WJC:   And secondly…

CW:     Bin Laden says…

WJC:   Bin Laden may have said that…

CW:     Bin Laden says it showed the weakness of the U.S. …

WJC:   It would have shown the weakness if we left right away, but he wasn’t involved in that. That’s just a bunch of bull. That was about Mohammed Adid, a Muslim warlord murdering…thousand Pakistani Muslim troops. We were all there on a humanitarian mission. We had not one mission - none - to establish a certain kind of Somali government or to keep anybody out. He was not a religious fanatic.

CW:     But Mr. President…

WJC:   There was no al Qaeda…

CW:     …with respect, if I may, instead of going through ‘93…

WJC:   You asked, you. It (was) you (who) brought it up.

CW:     May I ask a general question that you can answer? The 9/11 Commission, which you talk about–and this is what they did say–not what ABC pretended they said…

WJC:   Wait, wait…

CW:     …They said about you and 43 and I quote, "The U.S. government took the threat seriously, not in the sense of mustering anything like that would be….to confront an enemy of the first, second or third rank"…

WJC:   That’s not true with us and Bin Laden…

CW:     …the 9/11 Commission says…

WJC:   Let’s look at what Richard Clarke says. You think Richard Clarke had a vigorous attitude about Bin Laden?

CW:     Yes, I do.

WJC:   You do?

CW:     I think he has a variety of opinions and loyalties, but yes.

WJC:   He has a variety of opinion and loyalties now but let’s look at the facts. He worked for Ronald Reagan; he was loyal to him. He worked for George H.W. Bush and he was loyal to him. He worked for me and he was loyal to me. He worked for President Bush; he was loyal to him. They downgraded him and the terrorist operation. Now, look what he said. Read his book and read his factual assertions - not opinions–assertions. He said we took "vigorous action" after the African embassies. We probably nearly got Bin Laden.

CW:     [..]

WJC:   Now, wait a minute…

CW:     …cruise missiles…

WJC:   I authorized the CIA to get groups together to try to kill him. The CIA was run by George Tenet, who President Bush gave the Medal of Freedom to and said he did a good job. The country never had a comprehensive anti-terror operation until I came to office. If you can criticize me for one thing, you can criticize me for this: after the Cole, I had battle plans drawn to go into Afghanistan, overthrow the Taliban, and launch a full scale attack/search for Bin Laden. But we needed basing rights in Uzbekistan, which we got (only) after 9/11. The CIA and the FBI refused to certify that Bin Laden was responsible while I was there. They refused to certify. So that meant I would have had to send a few hundred Special Forces in helicopters and refuel at night. Even the 9/11 Commission didn’t do (think we should have done) that. Now the 9/11 Commission was a political document, too? All I’m asking is if anybody wants to say I didn’t do enough, you read Richard Clarke’s book.

CW:     Do you think you did enough, sir?

WJC:   No, because I didn’t get him.

CW:     Right…

WJC:   But at least I tried. That’s the difference in me and some, including
all the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for
trying. They had eight months to try and they didn’t.  I tried. So I tried
and failed. When I failed, I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy and
the best guy in the country: Dick Clarke.

            So you did FOX’s bidding on this show. You did you nice little conservative hit job on me. But what I want to know..

CW:     Now wait a minute, sir…

WJC:   [..]

CW:     I asked a question. You don’t think that’s a legitimate question?

WJC:   It was a perfectly legitimate question. But I want to know how many
people in the Bush administration you’ve asked this question of. I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked ‘Why didn’t you do anything about the Cole?’  I want to know how many you asked ‘Why did you fire Dick Clarke?’ I want to know…

CW:     We asked…

WJC:   [..]

CW:     Do you ever watch FOX News Sunday, sir?

WJC:   I don’t believe you ask them that.

CW:     We ask plenty of questions of…

WJC:   You didn’t ask that, did you? Tell the truth.

CW:     About the USS Cole?

WJC:   Tell the truth…

CW:     I…with Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s plenty of stuff to ask.

WJC:   Did you ever ask that? You set this meeting up because you were going to get a lot of criticism from your viewers because Rupert Murdoch is going to get a lot of criticism from your viewers for supporting my work on Climate Change. And you came here under false pretenses and said that you’d spend half the time talking about…

CW:     [laughs]

WJC:   You said you’d spend half the time talking about what we did out there to raise $7 billion plus over three days from 215 different commitments. And you don’t care.

CW:     But, President Clinton…

WJC:   [..]

CW:     We were going to ask half the [interview time] about it. I didn’t think this was going to set you off on such a tear.

WJC:   It set me off on such a tear because you didn’t formulate it in an honest way and you people ask me questions you don’t ask the other side.

CW:     Sir, that is not true…

WJC:   …and Richard Clarke…

CW:     That is not true…

WJC:   Richard Clarke made it clear in his testimony…

CW:    Would you like to talk about the Clinton Global Initiative?

WJC:   No, I want to finish this.

CW:     All right…

WJC:   All I’m saying is you falsely accuse me of giving aid and comfort to Bin Laden because of what happened in Somalia. No one knew al Qaeda existed then…

CW:     Did they know in 1996, when he declared war on the U.S.? Did no one know in 1998…

WJC:    Absolutely, they did.

CW:     …when they bombed the two embassies?

WJC:   [..]

CW:     Or in 2000, when they hit the Cole?

WJC:   What did I do?  I worked hard to try and kill him. I authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since. And if I were still President, we’d have more than 20,000 troops there trying to kill him. Now I never criticized President Bush, and I don’t think this is useful. But you know we do have a government that thinks Afghanistan is 1/7 as important as Iraq. And you ask me about terror and Al Qaeda with that sort of dismissive theme when all you have to do is read Richard Clarke’s book to look at what we did in a comprehensive, systematic way to try to protect the country against terror. And you’ve got that little smirk on your face. It looks like you’re so clever…

CW:    [Laughs]

WJC:   I had responsibility for trying to protect this country. I tried and I failed to get Bin Laden. I regret it, but I did try. And I did everything I thought I responsibly could. The entire military was against sending Special Forces into Afghanistan and refueling by helicopter and no one thought we could do it otherwise. We could not get the CIA and the FBI to certify that al Qaeda was responsible while I was President. [Not] until I left office.  And yet I get asked about this all the time and they had three times as much time to get him as I did and no one ever asks them about this. I think that’s strange.

CW:    Can I ask you about the Clinton Global Initiative?

WJC:   You can.

CW:     I always intended to, sir.

WJC:   No, you intended to move your bones by doing this first. But I don’t mind people asking me. I actually talked to the 9/11 Commission for four hours and I told them the mistakes I thought I made. And I urged them to make those mistakes public because I thought none of us had been perfect.  But instead of anybody talking about those things. I always get these clever little political…where they ask me one-sided question. It always comes from one source. And so…

CW:     [..]

WJC:   And so…

CW:     I just want to ask you about the Clinton Global Initiative, but what’s
the source? You seem upset…

WJC:   I am upset because…

CW:     …and all I can say is, I’m asking you in good faith because it’s on people’s minds, sir. And I wasn’t…

WJC:   There’s a reason it’s on people’s minds. That’s the point I’m trying to make. There’s a reason it’s on people’s minds because they’ve done a serious disinformation campaign to create that impression. This country only has one person who has worked against terror…[since] under Reagan. Only one: Richard Clarke.  And all I’d say [to] anybody who wonders whether we did wrong or right; anybody who wants to see what everybody else did, read his book. The people on my political right who say I didn’t do enough, spent the whole time I was president saying ‘Why is he so obsessed with Bin Laden?’ And that was ‘Wag the Dog’ when he tried to kill him. My Republican Secretary of Defense, - and I think I’m the only person since WWII to have a Secretary of Defense from the opposition party - Richard Clarke, and all the intelligence people said that I ordered a vigorous attempt to get Osama Bin Laden and came closer apparently than anybody has since.

CW:     All right…

WJC:   And you guys try to create the opposite impression when all you have to do is read Richard Clarke’s findings and you know it’s not true. It’s just not true. And all this business about Somalia  – the same people who criticized me about Somalia were demanding I leave the next day. Same exact crowd.

CW:     One of the…

WJC:   So if you’re going to do this, for God’s sake, follow the same standards for everybody.

CW:     I think we do, sir.

WJC:   Be fair.

CW:     I think we do. One of the main parts of the Global Initiative this year is religious reconciliation. President Bush says that the fight against Islamic extremism is the central conflict of the century and his answer is promoting democracy and reform. Do you think he has that right?

WJC:   Sure. To advocate democracy and reform in the Muslim world? Absolutely. I think the question is: What’s the best way to do it? I think also the question is how do you educate people about democracy? Democracy is about way more than majority rule. Democracy is about minority rights, individual rights, restraints on power. And there’s more than one way to advance democracy. But do I think on balance, that in the end, after several bouts of instability, do I think it would be better if we had more freedom and democracy? Sure, I do. …[Do I think] the president has a right to do it? Sure, I do. But I don’t think that’s all we can do in the Muslim world. I think they have to see us try to get a just and righteous peace in the Middle East. They have to see us as willing to talk to people who see the world differently than we do.

CW:    Last year at this conference you got $2.5 billion in commitments, pledges.  How did you do this year?

WJC:   Well, this year we had $7.3 billion, as of this morning.

CW:     7…Excuse me…

WJC:   $7.3 billion, as of this morning. $3 billion of that is…that’s over a multi-year [commitment]. These are at most 10-year commitments. That came from Richard Branson’s commitment to give all his transportation profits to clean energy investments. But still that’s over $4 billion [raised excluding Branson’s donation]. And we will have another 100 commitments and probably raise another billion dollars. We have a lot of commitments still in process.

CW:    When you look at the $3 billion from Branson, plus billions that Gates is giving and Warren Buffet, what do you make of this age of philanthropy?

WJC:   I think that for one thing, really rich people have always given money away. They’ve endowed libraries and things like that. The unique thing about this age is first of all, you have a lot of people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, who are interested in issues around the world that grow out of the nature of the 21st century and its inequalities - the income inequalities, the education inequalities, the health care inequalities. You get a guy like Gates who built Microsoft and he actually believes that he can help overcome all of the health disparities in the world. That’s the first thing. Second thing, there are a lot of people with average incomes who are joining me because of the Internet. Take the tsunami, for example. We had $1.3 billion given….by [average income] households. The third things you have all these NGOs [non-governmental organizations] that you can partner with along with the government. So all these things together mean that people with real money [can contribute] in ways that help people that before would have been only the object of government grants and loans.

CW:     I know we’re over, but can I ask you two political questions? Let’s talk
some politics. In that same New Yorker article, you say you’re tired of Karl
Rove’s BS.  I’m cleaning up what you said.

WJC:    I also say I’m not tired of Karl Rove. I don’t blame Karl Rove. If you’ve got a deal that works, you just keep on doing it.

CW:     So what is the BS?

WJC:   Well, every even number year–right before an election–they come up with some security issue. In 2000, right before the election. In 2002, our party supported them in undertaking weapon inspections in Iraq and were 100% behind them in Afghanistan and they didn’t have any way to make us look like we didn’t care about terror. And so they decided they would [push] the Homeland Security bill that they opposed and they put some pill in it that we wouldn’t pass–like taking the job rights away from 170,000 people–and then [they could] say that we were weak on terror if we weren’t for it. This year I think they wanted to make the question of prisoner treatment and intercepted communications the same sort of issue until John Warner came and Lindsey Graham got in there and it turns out there were some Republicans who believe in the Constitution and their convictions…some ideas about how best to fight terror.

            As long as the American people believe that we take this seriously and we may have our differences over Iraq, but I think we’ll do fine this election.

            Even if they agree with us about the Iraq war, we could be hurt by Karl Rove’s new foray if we don’t make it clear that we care about the security of this country. We want to implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations, which they haven’t [done] in four years. We want to [..] Afghanistan against Bin Laden. We want to make America more energy-independent. If they want to talk about Iraq, say what they really want about Iraq.

            But Rove is good and [that is] why I honor him.  I’ve always been amused by how good he is. But on the other hand, this is perfectly predictable. We’re going to win a lot of seats if the American people aren’t afraid. If they’re afraid and we get divided again, then we’ll only win a few seats.

CW:     Do you think the White House and the Republicans want to make the American people afraid?

WJC:   Of course they do. They want another Homeland Security bill and they want to make it not about Iraq but some other security issue, where if we disagree with them, we are by definition endangering the security of the country. And it’s a big load of hooey. We’ve got nine Iraq war veterans running for House seats. President Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy is the Democratic candidate for Senate in Virginia. A three-star admiral who was on my NSC staff - who also fought terror, by the way - is running for the seat of Curt Weldon in Pennsylvania. We’ve got a huge military presence in this campaign and you can’t let them have some rhetorical device that puts us in a box that we don’t belong in.

          That’s their job. Their job is to beat us. But our job is to not let them get away with it and if we don’t, we’ll be fine.

CW:     Mr. President, thank you for one of the more unusual interviews.

WJC:   I promise you, I was not trying to [..].

 

September 24, 2006 at 02:04 PM in Best Essays, Favorite Links, Media & Journalism, News to Note, Politics, Rhetoric, Singing the Bite Me Song, Television, War/Terrorism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 11, 2006

Response to Part 1 of the ABC fictionalized "docu-drama" "The Path to 9/11"

I wrote this yesterday, and just now, on listening to the President's speech tonight, I decided to post my thoughts from last night here as well. I have to think and process more on Part 2 and the president's speech, but my immediate thought, upon listening to the ridiculous editorializing of the ABC program, is that the president's handlers coordinated and scripted his address, probably from an advance DVD of the film, or visa versa. But I'll talk more about the ham-handedness of it all in another post. Dear lord, I just watched the film gloss over the delivery of the NIE warning to the president on August 6. And there was just some odd editing with garbled audio over a discussion about how the press disclosed a surveillance system and that has hurt the terrorism fight. (I mean, can you get more ham-handed?)

But first, I need to post this essay below.

I started writing this on an impulse to send it as a tip for media accuracy, at the site MediaMatters. But after I got sorta long-winded, I realized it really isn't the type of thing MediaMatters can pin down and expose.

What this really needs, what I really need it to be, is a visual and aural rhetorical study, a scholarly approach that can reach and persuade a lay audience while holding to the standards of proof and reasoning that good scholarship demands. It shouldn't just be an academic article that rots in an exclusive and unread academic journal.

In other words, I think a grad student somewhere should do this study I propose in general terms below as a seminar paper in a Rhetorical Criticism course or a Visual Rhetoric course, and then, of course, she should post it to her blog, where it can find a real audience.

I dunno. Maybe at some point in the future, I'll have more time to devote to the ideas below. But right now, I offer it here as a heuristic, a rambling starting point of sorts. You go gettum!

Miasma

An Open Letter to Media Matters (mediamatters.org):

Story TIP: The REAL dangers and inaccuracies in ABC's "Path to 9/11"

I had to watch it this evening, to see what made it in the final edit, what was toned down (very little was toned down, that I can see). Good god, this film is awful.

So you MediaMatters guys will run down the inaccuracies, and I count on you for that. But I wanted to alert you to the greater damage this film is doing, very subtle stuff.

I am deeply concerned over a kind of unthinking racism that this film not only reinforces, it also FEEDS it.

I'm referring specifically to the depictions of Muslims and terrorists outside the U.S., what ABC would probably call "cultural depictions," or "realism." It is the deepest propaganda of this film, because it flattens out Muslim cultures, makes them so "other" that the most important audience for this film, the racists and borderline racist people IN the U.S. could even be motivated to commit violences like those shown in the global hunt for terrorists in their extreme fervor and anger and quest for vengeance.

I would not be surprised to see events similar to lynchings, to what happened to Matthew Shepherd, in response to this film, if we were closer to the events of 9/11. Six years of Republicans in power have emboldened the closet racists in our culture to claim hegemony and to thump their chests more openly, by wearing their cultural prejudices and bigotry in public, by preaching them as cultural norms to increase the greater unthinking cultural bigotry in our society with a kind of critical mass (I get the same freaky feeling watching this film as I get from looking at old TV cigarette commercials where doctors tout their favorite ciggies).

I have not traveled much, but I've been to a mixed Muslim/Hindu nation, and around many scenes similar to those setting portrayed in the film in Muslim cultures. I am also an avid watcher of all types of news channels.

I understand that shooting guns in the air is a documented part of of many Middle East and Asian cultures, even at weddings.

I understand there's a different kind of background noise in markets, in cultures where people move around on foot and actually interact with each other outside of the exoskeletons Americans call cars.

But listen to the SOUNDTRACK of this film. Listen to where the background noise loops.

Yes, drumbeats and such are used to dramatic effects in the more even-handed film, "United 93." Calls to prayer are part of the sounds of the culture. Women singing, someone patting hypnotically on small skin drums. Yet ALWAYS, ABC depicts these terrorist camps and bases as utterly chaotic, noisy, almost incomprehensible, sort of like that choreographed "golden calf" idolatry orgy scene in DeMille's "Ten Commandments."

I'm struck in some ways by the caricatures of US military bases in "boot camp/drill sergeant" movies. The bases always have a busy background on camera, with a group doing calisthenics at all times, or jogging and chanting military chants.

And here, "terrorist training camps" always have to have chaotic scenes where Toyota trucks full of turbaned people careen around wildly while the turbaned people yell at the top of their lungs constantly and shoot guns in the air. Activity must always be at a constant fevered pitch. I'm amazed ABC left out a "mad gleam" in every terrorists' eyes, or why they didn't add flecks of spittle at the corners of their mouths, the Muslim equivalent of U.S. early media "black face" films, or perhaps even "Reefer Madness."

Against this backdrop, Americans' racist buttons are being pushed. The Muslims portrayed are consistently shown as "Other." We rarely see scenes from any other point of view than the US soldiers or intelligence operative's POV (apart from the occasional informants' POV, or that of the Northern Alliance leader Massoud).

It's sort of like how stories of British colonial arrogance appear to us now, as in Kipling, Burroughs, or even in Orwell (Shooting an Elephant, a masterpiece): unthinking, unconscious. Not deliberate racism so much as the unthinking arrogance of power and white ascendancy as an unquestioned entitlement.

This is a military recruitment film. It is designed to whip up unthinking gut-level anti-Muslim, anti-brown people racism (see also Macaca incident in VA), and make people who already have those inclinations desire to go overseas and take out their rage on some brown people who chant incomprehensible things in loud and chaotic, incomprehensible cultural spaces.

Yes, it is also designed to whip up fear, make you wonder what bomb-making equipment the brown person in the next apartment is keeping behind drawn shades. But I think anger and violence with racist triggers are an even bigger boogie man in this film than simple fear-mongering.

And I believe the most insidious effect of the film can be found in the background soundtrack in overseas Muslim cultural scenes. The "noise" loop.

I'm reminded of how the Valkyrie scene of the anti-war film "Apocalypse Now" is played to whip up soldier rage before shipping out in the movie "Jarhead." I believe many scenes from this film will have similar motivational uses within the US military as well.

We never see what triggers the Muslim anti-American rage. American soldiers just walk into it and can't comprehend why they are so hated and spit upon.

The answer the film provides is that Muslim rage is incomprehensible and can only be met by trying to humiliate and beat down Muslims.

Instead of fighting terrorism, what we are getting is a religious/cultural race war, with a demonized enemy created by a propaganda machine.

Leni Riefenstahl knew that it was the cultural depictions that mattered most, not just the content of Hitler's rousing speeches. This film does what WWII propaganda did to the depiction of "Japs" as evil, more so than Germans, which were more widely sympathetic in US culture, as was that unthinking gut-level right-wing fascist tilt at that time, in ordinary folks, not just Ford and IBM.

The racism of the film also reminds me of conversations I've had with my neighbors, a family who moved here from an Israeli kibbutz, very nice people. Like many Israelis in the US, they are left speechless at what they call the incomprehensible anti-Israel bias in US media. From talking with them, I can tell their objections exist because the Palestinian (and now, Lebanese) POV is presented AT ALL. They can't figure it out. According to them, the media must be anti-Israeli, because it is such a sharp contrast to the myopic groupthink of Israeli media.

I like and respect my neighbors, and have eaten at their home for Sabbath. But on this issue, there is simply NO other viewpoint that they can hold.

Journalists often say that if two polarized groups complain that you're biased to the other side, then you must be doing something right, as an equal opportunity offender.

But the US media is SO embarrassingly pro-Israel that I've watched repeatedly and counted casualties from news stories on both sides. Yet I've watched television coverage report ONLY the casualties on one side, Israeli casualties, and if reporting Arab casualties, downplaying them heavily in comparison.

Palestinian deaths are as invisible in US media as Iraqi casualties before the Iraqis started killing each other, back when most of the Iraqi civilian deaths were caused by U.S. acts of aggression and war.

So it appears many of the Israeli people, good people, are so steeped in their deep cultural racism against their hostile neighbors, can't even see that what they call bias in the U.S. media doesn't even come close to being bias.

People steeped in Israeli-style racism see their Arab neighbors as subhuman, perhaps made subhuman by their anti-Semitism, but subhuman nonetheless. Any depiction of Arabs as anything but hate-filled and incomprehensibly subhuman is a bias against Israel.

And this film also applies the beginnings of that same subhuman bias to the Muslims in the story. They are portrayed as incomprehensibly evil, incomprehensibly violent.

(Oh, except ABC's ubiquitous heroic correspondent (is John Miller a composite or a real person? Oh, he's on ABC right now, works PR for the FBI. Go figure.), who almost speaks admiringly from his visit with bin Laden, of his religious purity and his charismatic hold over his followers.)

The result seems to virtually guarantee that we will never understand the cultures that spawn Muslim jihad terrorism, and it essentially sets up fascist-style ethnic cleansing (crushing the culture totally, as if that could be done) or some other "final solution" as the only option in a FALSE DILEMMA FALLACY.

Appeasement or violent annihilation are NOT the only two options. In the black and white world of this film, that is the way they're presented.

just something to think about.

Sincerely,

Miasma

p.s. you wanna know how crazy/paranoid the repression inside this country has gotten? I'm actually apprehensive about posting this publicly without some kind of disclaimer, noting that I'm NOT a sympathizer to ANY violent terrorist causes.

WHY? Because so few of the people in power right now, people who make blacklists, budding fascists that they are, actually UNDERSTAND reasoning and rhetoric enough to know what a False Dilemma Fallacy IS, at least enough to actually be able to literally read and understand the point I'm trying to make above.

The biggest problem is that logic and reasoning, uniquely Western cultural constructs, are amazingly absent (or deliberately absent) in the education of the class of people who currently hold (and grab) so much power for themselves and over others. They just aren't very well-read, even of the dead white men conservative literary critics tout as cultural literacy. They seem badly unable to understand any form of thought that doesn't involve blind-trust authoritarianism or fear-driven bigotry.

September 11, 2006 at 10:31 PM in Best Essays, Media & Journalism, News to Note, Orwell, Politics, Religion, Rhetoric, Television, War/Terrorism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 29, 2006

The old "Wonkette" as Time.com Washington Editor?

Link: COX IN THE HEN HOUSE.

OK, what's wrong with this picture? I get that Ana Marie Cox was a serious journalist before becoming Wonkette, as the article says below, working at Mother Jones and the Chronicle of Higher Ed. Fine. But Washington Editor?! Replacing Matt Cooper? WTF?

And I'm all for bloggers making an end run around the traditional journalistic pecking order gauntlet, where usually it means you came from a prep school and went to Harvard or a famous journalism program, then bought your famous media internship. Generally, the idea that the only way to the top in the Washington press corp was through an impossible labyrinth of trenches and who-you-know (right up there with K-Street? Do you get hired for your Rollodex? That reinforces the prep-school feeling about it all.) galls me greatly.

But a thousand political blogs are blooming in a reborn social commons, and there are some REALLY FINE voices out there, WOMEN, people I can respect a hell of a lot more than "Wonkette." You gotta be kidding me if you think she's the cream of the crop with all the heavy snark and sex talk. Time.com should be at Blogher Conference right now, like I wish I were.

And I LOVE that they picked a woman, but good god, why THAT woman? Please note, I don't know Ana Marie Cox from Eve, and while I'd probably immensely enjoy going out for beers with her, I take my opinion only from the tone and scope of the old "Wonkette" blog, which I'd call fun, but not exactly Washington editor material.

If they wanted someone who has taken a blog leadership role and rejuvinated a sense of holding government accountable, why not go after Arianna Huffington? (she probably wouldn't take it anyway, heh) She has accomplished something substantial in the blogosphere, creating a powerful stable of bloggers who are actively holding government far more accountable than Time.com is. (Maybe Time.com accurately realizes that Huffington Post is becoming its competition, something Wonkette NEVER was.)

I dunno, maybe Time.com was doing one of those GOP-token women things, where the women Republicans put in prominent positions are PR flash, fake placeholder fronts for the MEN who get the real responsibility (like Christine Todd Whitman, who didn't like being a fake woman figurehead all that much, or like our current president, who doesn't seem to mind being a fake figurehead leader at all), just so they can be seen to be publicly promoting women for the PR value of it, even though the good ol' boys in the smoke-filled rooms are deeply loathe to share any REAL power.

I sure would hope Cox would take 'em on, if that is the case, and I'm betting if they expect her to act properly de-fanged, she'd tell them precisely where they could stick it. I mean, of course I'd take the offer if I were in her shoes, but damn if I wouldn't be on the lookout for some other shoe to drop.

I'm just projecting, making all that up, but this just chaps my hide. Does Time.com expect to hold any crediblity with this? Or is that somehow the point? Perhaps Time is just delightedly certain that Cox will never be subpoenaed for her sources by the government, the way Cooper was.

I mean, would Time pick someone from a supermarket gossip tabloid to run other major coverage efforts?

Ana_marie_cox Is it a bald-faced play for that coveted youth-babe-loving male demographic with advertising buying power? Strictly a PR hire to "buy cred" in the blogosphere?

Does it reflect the male assumption that mature, experienced, competent women have no place in this newly-reborn out-of-the-closet 2000s sexism, where women are tolerated so long as they don't look like they know what they're doing or threaten the male power establishment? In other words, mouthy Ann Coulter clones, of any political stripe?

Would they have given this same job to Cox if she had the same writing "voice" and looked like, say, Madeline Albright or Donna Shalala or even Arianna Huffington?

Or is the Washington editor just a nothing job? (I bet there's a fair number of folks inside Time.com who'd been bucking for the job, working their way up, who just got leap-frogged.)

Maybe government sources are rejoicing at the potentially free-er ride they'll get from at least one major newsweekly, so long as they obfuscate with juicy sex and gossip bits to hide pork, kickbacks, incompetence, or other corruptions.

Or maybe Time.com actually strategized that the Ann Coulter-loving GOP power-brokers who don't take women seriously will let their guard down more with the likes of Cox. You know, the kind who let the "girls" froth and foam, take a puff from a stinky cigar, pat them on the head, and say, "There there, honey. You tell 'em, all right. Are you sure you won't fuck me now? I just love it when you get all worked up."

Cox in the Henhouse?

Former Wonkette Ana Maria Cox's transformation from blogger cover girl to Old Media's new hope is almost complete. Cox on Thursday was named Washington editor of Time.com, where she will coordinate political coverage and continue to contribute articles. "I've been trying to sell out for a very long time," Cox wrote in an e-mail to WWD. "I'm proud to say I finally have."

Cox will succeed Matt Cooper, who jumped ship for Condé Nast's upcoming business magazine Portfolio, and who often served as blog fodder in Cox's Wonkette days. Said Cox, "Matt asked me to inscribe his copy of my book with, ‘Thanks for all the material.'" She expects to write more often than Cooper did in the role, as well as amp up the magazine's quotient of "satirical, biting D.C. commentary."

Time, suffering like all newsweeklies to maintain its relevance in a 24-hour news cycle, is evidently pinning its hopes on Cox to bring buzz to its Web site. For those who remember her mostly for her bawdiness and outing of Capitol Hill indiscretions and who doubt her prowess on subjects such as the midterm elections, Cox cited her years as a serious journalist for publications like Mother Jones and The Chronicle of Higher Education. But that doesn't mean the new gig signals a new, soberer Cox. "I won't change much about what I write about or the way I write it," she said, "because that's how I got here." — Irin Carmon

July 29, 2006 at 11:35 AM in Best Essays, Cyberculture, Democracy, Favorite Links, Media & Journalism, News to Note, Politics, Rhetoric, Satire, Singing the Bite Me Song, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 16, 2006

Speaking of the brilliance of The Onion...

I've been thinking furiously lately about the growing pandemic of righteous relativism, not even trendy po-mo relativism. This is that odd concoction, AUTHORITARIAN RELATIVISM.

Quick! Go find the ghost of Harvard's William Perry Jr.! Let's do a study! My idea of what he might find with this new category of anti-intellectual development, after this brief word from Holy Writ, The Onion. (can you tell I'm sporting for a fight?)

Link: Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory | The Onion - America's Finest News Source.

Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory

August 17, 2005   | Issue 41•33          

KANSAS CITY, KS—As the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools continues, a new controversy over the science curriculum arose Monday in this embattled Midwestern state. Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held "theory of gravity" is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

"Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down," said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University.

Burdett added: "Gravity—which is taught to our children as a law—is founded on great gaps in understanding. The laws predict the mutual force between all bodies of mass, but they cannot explain that force. Isaac Newton himself said, 'I suspect that my theories may all depend upon a force for which philosophers have searched all of nature in vain.' Of course, he is alluding to a higher power."

[...]

According to the ECFR paper published simultaneously this week in the International Journal Of Science and the adolescent magazine God's Word For Teens!, there are many phenomena that cannot be explained by secular gravity alone, including such mysteries as how angels fly, how Jesus ascended into Heaven, and how Satan fell when cast out of Paradise.

The ECFR, in conjunction with the Christian Coalition and other Christian conservative action groups, is calling for public-school curriculums to give equal time to the Intelligent Falling theory. They insist they are not asking that the theory of gravity be banned from schools, but only that students be offered both sides of the issue "so they can make an informed decision."

[...]

Proponents of Intelligent Falling assert that the different theories used by secular physicists to explain gravity are not internally consistent. Even critics of Intelligent Falling admit that Einstein's ideas about gravity are mathematically irreconcilable with quantum mechanics. This fact, Intelligent Falling proponents say, proves that gravity is a theory in crisis.

[...]

Some evangelical physicists propose that Intelligent Falling provides an elegant solution to the central problem of modern physics.

"Anti-falling physicists have been theorizing for decades about the 'electromagnetic force,' the 'weak nuclear force,' the 'strong nuclear force,' and so-called 'force of gravity,'" Burdett said. "And they tilt their findings toward trying to unite them into one force. But readers of the Bible have already known for millennia what this one, unified force is: His name is Jesus."        

I just love physics humor. Beware of Quantum ducks! Quark! Quark!

Oh, for those who, for no fault of their own, don't know who William Perry Jr. was (no, not the oversized football player), above, here's a link.

Here's a bit from his New York Times obituary (why did the venerable Mr Perry have to have a PAID obituary?) about his famous book:

..."Forms of Intellectual and Ethical Development in the College Years'' (1970) described nine developmental stages. His framework started with a freshman's simplistic adherence to notions of absolute truth and morality, traced the discovery of multiple frames of reference regarding data, and the upperclassman's subsequent growth and eventual achievement of personal and ethical commitment in a relative world. This developmental framework has had nation-wide impact on the theories of the psychological development of late adolescence. ...

Another book that turns Perry's descriptive theories on their ear somewhat is:

WOMEN'S WAYS OF KNOWING The Development of Self, Voice, and Mind. By Mary Field Belenky, Blythe McVicker Clinchy, Nancy Rule Goldberger and Jill Mattuck Tarule. 256 pp. New York: Basic Books. $19.95.

Otherwise known to those of us who use it as Belenky et. al. [grin]

So anyway, Belenky et. al. got to expand on Perry's descriptions of Harvard (male) undergraduate intellectual development in the 1950s, and if they get to do it, I wanna do it too! The Onion is inspiring me!

OK, here's Perry shorthand, for your crib sheet:

You show up in college (if you are male and it's the 1950s) and your world is divided into Right and Wrong. In other words, you are an authoritarian thinker. Authorities tell you what is right and wrong, frequently using the "Because I said so" argument. You get to college expecting more of the same, but if your college is worth squat, they won't let you get away with that, no sir. They actually want you to THINK FOR YOURSELF!

Radical idea, I know. Some people become authorities unto themselves, Egoistic Authoritarians, I guess. Most go the way of Perry. (Oh, btw, Belenky et. al. found that while Harvard men in the 1950s were doing this, many women in the same boat didn't have a voice, and so their intellectual position was SILENCE. As in, they were silenced. They had to break through that before they could gain their authoritarian righteousness swagger).

Now I know Perry breaks it down more finely than I'm going to do here, for the sake of my own silliness, but the thing that comes after Right and Wrong Authoritarian Dualism is a kind of defeat for overwhelmed young intellectuals. They throw up their hands in exasperation and sing (to the tune of "Everything is Beautiful") "Ooooh, Everything is Relative... in its own wa-aa-ay." Simple Relativism, otherwise known as oatmeal mush.

Simple Relativists might say:

We all have opinions, everyone is entitled to their opinions, and would you just shut up and stop making me discuss and argue every single point? THERE IS NO WAY TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN MUSHY OPINIONS ANYWAY, so let's all just go home and eat worms.

Bully for them. Future situation ethicists in the making, all of them. All opinions are interchangeable, one is as good as any other, so if someone says the world is flat, that's just as worthy a thought as if the world were round. Same if the moon is made out of green cheese. What difference does it make?

Overwhelmed people like this haven't learned that there are very good methods for weighing one viewpoint against another, of evaluating points of view and opinions, so for them, the world is simply two monster-shouters in little boxes on the screen on Fox News, each trying to out-holler the other with no way to tell if one argument is superior to another. Fox News wants us all to believe that is true, but then I'm getting ahead of myself.

To succeed in college, you are supposed to eventually think for yourself, and with luck, some professors give you intellectual tools to do things like evaluate arguments. That way you don't have to go around throwing up your hands at a world of oatmeal mush like those poor folks who watch Fox News who secretly want the ones who shout the loudest to be the winners.

So you have to think your way out of Silence, Authoritarianism, Simple Relativistic Mush, and then what happens? You learn to play sneaky little games.

Like what? Brown-Nose Games! College 101, everyone knows, is Brown-Nosing. Listen to what the teacher says and parrot it. I know, that's not sneaky, but it gets better. Brown-Nose games are a variation of Lawyer Games. That's where you learn to argue any side in an argument, and win! There were some Greek guys who perfected this to a fine art, got so good at it, some lawyers were named after them, the Sophists.

Perry would call this sophistry sophomoric, I guess, and instead see how it becomes more Complex Relativism. See, a simple relativist who believes that everything is oatmeal mush wouldn't be able to function in a Brown-Nose Universe. Brown-nosers have to be discerning, intellectual even, to be able to tell apple-cinnamon oatmeal mush from peaches and cream oatmeal mush, in order to use it to their advantage.

Brown-nosers learn the rules of the game in order to play it well. They figure, one set of rules is just as good as another set of rules, so long as they can figure out the rules. With one teacher you flatter shamelessly, another you have to sleep with, another you just learn to parrot. Like a good lawyer who can argue either side of a case, game-players of any stripe don't stop to reflect on whether the game is worthy of them, or if the game is utterly stupid, or even if the game is immoral. They just play. Complex Relativism.

Our friends Belenky et. al diverge a bit here, go off into ways of knowing things, Committed Knowing, Constructed Knowing, Collaborative Knowing (I made up that last one, I think, because I like it).

What Perry's undergrads were supposed to figure out, as their intellectual toolboxes expanded (you know, if all you have is a hammer, suddenly everything needs pounding), is that all games are not created equal, just as all opinions are not created equal. Some are better than others for reasons that we can work out through logic, support, proof, and so on. There are CRITERIA with which we can formally evaluate things and dredge our way out of the mush.

And with such evaluative power, we can argue on behalf of the superiority of certain positions, argumentative stances. We become committed to particular ways of reasoning through an issue, not because a position is RIGHT and another position is WRONG, like those Harvard freshmen, but because we can back up our thinking from a position of considering multiple viewpoints and weighing them against each other.

Of course, around about that time, some postmodernists will show up and call you a "dirty rotten foundationalist" and rant about the "tyranny of the Enlightenment" and all that. That might confuse you for a bit, thinking you had actually wandered back into that oatmeal mush, until you stop for a second and look at your own intellectual processes.

The only reason postmodernists like to call you those names is that they think anyone who jumps up and down on the lumps in their oatmeal is ready to rebuild the rigid edifices of the Inquisition, that vast enforcer of Right/Wrong authoritarianism. Postmodernists think you're the bad guy. They think you are ready to make an authoritarian religion of the ladders of thought you've built into your Committed Relativism. But your mind is more open than that, if you've come this far.

And besides, if you leave structureless, foundation-less postmodernist oatmeal out in the pan too long, it will harden into a big gray rock too, a big gray authoritarian rock of po-mo oatmeal. There are some seriously rock-hard chunks of that floating around in this world too.

But my NEW boogeyman! I want to build on Perry and Belenky et. al. for this NEW intellectual development, Authoritarian Relativism, or RIGHTEOUS RELATIVISM, oppressive relativism, preached by the true believers.

Oatmeal is simply expedient for postmodernists, who are not true believers in anything, on principle, not even in themselves. It's their anti-principle principle, their anti-foundationalist foundation. They get off on watching dogs chase their tails too.

But these new converts to the cause of relativism, they are an odd lot, as exemplified and parodied in the Onion article above.

Ron Suskind knows of these folks, one of whom admitted to him that they controlled the world because they control reality. The people who are confused, this man said, are those who are still living in the "reality-based universe."

Think of it. Conservative Authoritarian Relativists. John Dean has a book out on this topic right now too, but I haven't read it yet. Conservatives Without Conscience. I won't speak to the book much, since I haven't read it, and instead riff off the idea.

I'm not talking about conscience, though. More like I'm talking of the level of discourse that Fox News is norming out into the media landscape, overpowering the intellectual tools we hope people find in college (it's a Hail Mary pass to even dream they'll find it in high school).

The idea? Not just that all arguments about things that can't be measured, counted, or attached to a dollar value are subjective shouting matches where the loudest talker wins, but instead, a RIGHTEOUS DEVOTION to and STRIDENT ENFORCEMENT of the idea that ALL OPINIONS ARE INTERCHANGEABLE.

It's like conflating the Authoritarianism of Perry's first stage, with the Simple Relativism of the next stage, and then instead of learning criteria or ways of evaluating arguments, support, and proof, it instead requires that we must COMMIT ourselves to the idea that NO ARGUMENTS, SUPPORT, or PROOF are sufficient, and if one can do that thoroughly enough, one would have made a case for faith, for God, for the Unknown, the big Out-There. (that last step is a big leap, so I best return to it in a bit)

That's a lot to wrap my head around, so let's try to come at that again from another angle. Look at The Onion parody above. Brilliant, isn't it? Such a finessed spin on Intelligent Design. In doing so, I think it holds this kind of thinking up to the light, by virtue of the apt analogy.

Can this intellectual somersault I'm proposing actually be done? Is it being done? Sure, like John Dean says, there are Crass, Sophistic Conservatives, what we might call the "Lee Atwater School," of which Karl Rove is clearly a graduate. They probably aren't the people I'm talking about, though.

This instead is more akin to an average person, not even an avid watcher of Fox News shoutfests. People could be affected by this changing intellectual climate and not know it, until they try to have a rational discussion with someone they respect intellectually, and that person not only refuses to engage or understand actual proofs or conclusive reasoning and rebuttals, but instead righteously makes a claim that there are NO SUCH THINGS as proofs, conclusive reasoning, or rebuttals, AND that anyone who would claim such a thing is deluded (that last step is important, because folks in this camp put a lot of energy into finding people to exclude so they can deny them the keys to the kingdom).

Disenfranchising the Enlightenment, in other words. Postmodernists would counteract and rebut the Enlightenment, but would they choose to wipe the Enlightenment out of history, out of our memory? Would they long for the "good old days" of the Inquisition, of Church and State and might making right? When authorities told you what to do and think and you obeyed them, not because you thought what they said was necessarily true, but because it was better than the information glut of oatmeal mush inside your own head?

Disenfranchising human intellectual activity, in other words. That would be the overt goal, from the "Lee Atwater School" standpoint. There is nothing in "reality" that is not baldly deniable (see also the Monty Python Argument Sketch), on a national political scale, but here's where it gets scary. This is also happening around the watercooler, over beers, in college coffeehouses. Ordinary interactions are becoming less rational, less thoughtful, less carefully reasoned and weighed.

It is as if the MEDIA AUDIENCE is being deliberately turned into those overwhelmed Harvard freshmen venturing out of authoritarianism, but with the tools to deal with the flood of ideas deliberately withheld from them, so that intellectual retreat is the only response.

I do know that this particular kind of media anti-intellectualism is being manipulated by some to create that overwhelmed retreat (perhaps in the name of sixth grade reading/comprehension levels in mass media), but how does that lead to greater faith in some Supreme Deity? That last step I threw in there above was a bit of a stretch.

It would appear on the surface that righteously-enforced sophism would lead to widespread cynicism, not growing faith. That's why my bullshit detector was going off on my own line of reasoning. Maybe I got it wrong.

Would those of a certain religious persuasion (belief) hold it as a truism that driving people to extreme cynicism will lead them to god? That hardly seems like a reasonable way to go about it, when I suppose there are other ways to induce duress, that "hitting bottom" moment addicts speak of, that foxhole/hurricane need to pray (no atheists in foxholes, or, we would assume, under the screaming winds of a hurricane). Would evangelicals willingly try to fill their pews by deliberately inducing duress? (That's ruling out Charles Colson, of course, who was probably recruiting evangelical Plumbers-for-Jesus in prison and giving them their own brown shirts when they got out)

See, it just doesn't make any sense to me. Not buying it. Maybe Lee Atwaters think that, but preachers in pulpits can't all be that crass.

So that leaves what? How does Authoritarian Relativism (note to self, copyright that phrase) fill up churches? How does it lead to a world that re-creates Inquisition authoritarian castes with no cultural memory that there ever was an Enlightenment?

Maybe I answered my own question. Maybe the goal isn't to create true believers at all. In true Orwellian Doublethink (or a McLuhan-style media reversal), perhaps the goal is to fill the churches up with game-players, sophists adrift in ennui and mush, but not really committed to anything enough to object if they're asked to do any particular thing.

Authoritarian Relativists are far more malleable, I think, even than inclusive, "big tent" ecumenical types so decried by fundamentalists as a sign of the coming of the AntiChrist.

Malleable in the consumerist sense, in that they've been ultra-conditioned to blindly accept marketing messages with righteous fervor and fannish devotion (and fascist violence?) yet the marketing messages are still interchangable and can be substituted one for another at any time. The xenophobic group hate switches from illegal aliens to gays and lesbians, until the next switch. We are at war with Eurasia; we have always been at war with Eurasia.

Authoritarian Relativists are simply buttons to be pushed, in other words. Tools to be manipulated by Sophistic Conservative Authorities.

Maybe that's what's filling up those 20,000-seat mega-churches. They really don't seem to get as nutty as the 1970's charismatics did. They're pretty people who want to sing and wave their hands in a big auditorium and maybe get on TV in their nice clothes (at least that's what we see in the carefully selected video clips), ready to vote the way they're told, believe what they're told, shop in the mini-mall in the church "basement", but not to believe in anything so much that they'd ever cling to the idea of the belief in their own heads all by their own selves, without guidance from those who create and craft their fluid "un-reality-based universe."

July 16, 2006 at 08:01 PM in Best Essays, Privacy & Free Speech, Religion, Rhetoric, Satire, Singing the Bite Me Song, Television, Theory | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 03, 2005

John at AMERICAblog wants to see Ann Coulter's penis

Link: AMERICAblog: Ann Coulter's penis, not that she has one, but I've never seen evidence to the contrary .

Noting that Coulter is busy insinuating that Representative John Murtha may not have really earned the Purple Hearts he got in Vietnam, because she's never seen the physical evidence of them, John starts wondering what Coulter may be hiding that we've never seen evidence of either...

It is a stunning bit of logic that Coulter (and John at AMERICAblog) both apply, but they are not the first to use it.

You may have to tax your memory, but think back to when Iraq was forced to account for the WMDs the U.S. was accusing it of having, back when Saddam's Iraq sent over that 1,200 (or was it 12,000?) page report to the U.N., the one that the U.S. waylaid on the way to the U.N. and managed to excise a few hundred pages or so.

Well, within one day, hell, maybe hours, of that report's reception at the U.N., the U.S. was blanketing the world with statements of stunning logic and reasoning, saying to the effect that Saddam's government had NOT PROVEN that they DIDN'T have the weapons they said they didn't have.

Right up there with Ann Coulter's invisible penis, isn't it? If we can't see the evidence that it's not there, then that surely must be lockdown logic that it's there.

So step right up, Anny-Girl, let's see the proof that you don't have a penis.

And remember, just like with Iraq, a bunch of photographs with stunning evidence of ABSENCE simply is not sufficient. Because, as the Bush administration so aptly pointed out, just because we can't see them doesn't mean they aren't there (and Donald Rumsfeld knows all about those known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns).

For those who are fond of Aristotilian Venn diagrams, you can make a fun game of this to play over the holidays! It's called "Prove Ann Coulter Has a Penis!" or "Find the Missing WMDs in Iraq," your pick.

First draw a big circle. Label it as the set of all things Ann Coulter. Now draw another circle inside that circle, and label it a set called "empty space where a penis might be if there were one."

Outside the big circle, draw another big circle and label it a set of ALL the penises in the world (has to be a big circle, because they wave them around so often, build monuments to them with obelisks, rockets, guns, etc.).

Now the real trick of this game is to show that the apparent empty space circle inside Ann Coulter's circle PROVES that the big penis circle should overlap with Ann Coulter's circle.

If you can do this, YOU WIN the Miasma Bite Me Song special prize! And for extra credit, you can also prove Iraq has WMDs the same way, and get the Senate to give you war powers to go find them. Don't worry. It should be as easy as looking for Ann Coulter's penis!

Miasma

December 3, 2005 at 01:11 AM in Best Essays, Favorite Links, Rhetoric, Singing the Bite Me Song | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 23, 2005

What did Scooter Libby complain to Tim Russert about?

This quotation is from earlier this month, but it bears recording for our memory in order to be ready when the conversation finally comes out in court with Russert's testimony (since he's less than forthcoming about it now, following that new trend of journalists like Russert, Woodward, and Miller concealing more than revealing in the stories they cover, with an astonishing and highly suspect coyness and lack of transparency that is old media's biggest credibility problem these days).

Libby says he talked about former Ambassador Wilson's wife in a phone conversation with Russert on July 10, 2003. Russert says Libby called to complain about an MSNBC report and never mentioned Valerie Plame.

So folks in blogland speculate endlessly on what Libby was so incensed about that day, that led him to follow the urge to call the NBC bureau chief with the desire to rip him a new one. The one guy other than Russert who could shed some light on the subject, Chris Matthews, the most vocal Bush administration critic at MSNBC, had this to say, reprinted from Michael Smerconish at the Philadelphia Daily News [emphasis mine]:

Link: Philadelphia Daily News | 11/03/2005 | Michael Smerconish | WILL MATTHEWS CORROBORATE RUSSERT?.

 

[...]

Watching from here, in Matthews' hometown, my instincts tell me that if Russert had received a complaint call about Matthews from the vice president's chief of staff, his next call would probably have been to Matthews himself to tell him what Libby had said. (At least that's how it worked in the schoolyard: "Guess what so-and-so just said about you.")

So, did Russert make such a call to Matthews after hanging up with Libby? I got the chance to ask Chris Matthews. His reply: "No, I never got such a call."

I'm glad I didn't leave it there. I immediately worried that my question had been too restrictive with regard to timing, so I asked Matthews he "ever" had any conversation with Russert where Russert told him that Libby had a beef with him? I was really asking whether Matthews could corroborate Russert's version.

He hedged a bit. Here's my transcription of what Chris Matthews told me:

"Well, let me just tell you this, without getting into that, because I know the answer generally to your question, is that, because all of this involves testimony that Russert is probably going to have to make, and let me just tell you this, that those people in the White House, especially Libby and the vice president, working as a team, "connected as a root," to use Libby's favorite phrase, basically pulled off an alley-oop play to get us into war in Iraq by feeding to the New York Times stories about nuclear potential in the hands of Saddam Hussein, to get it into the Sunday paper, and then deploying the vice president on "Meet the Press" and other administration officials like Condi Rice on the other Sunday talk shows in a kinda alley-oop play.

"So they put the ball in the air, and then on Sunday mornings, these guys put it in the basket, and then all of a sudden we're at war over Iraq because a lot of Americans in the middle politically say, 'I don't know how we're getting into that mess or why we're getting in it, but I guess we have to protect ourselves against a mushroom cloud,' that is Condi's phrase.

"So, having pulled this masterful move of moving the undecided middle into the war, they then became very sensitive to the charge by Joseph Wilson that they had done the very thing, pushed the nuclear button and then covered up any threat to that nuclear button, and Wilson was that threat, and then, going volcanic against anybody including me, who dared to say, 'Wait a minute, there is a pattern here of how we got into the war, and how they promoted the nuclear case and how they protected the nuclear case against Wilson.'

"They didn't like me doing that. I know that a number of administration officials were screaming at my network at all levels about me raising this issue, the very points I've just made. They don't like hearing it, Libby is in trouble now because he doesn't like hearing it, the vice president is very much a part of this, and the answer to your question is that you are on the right trail, Michael."

What does all that mean? To me, that Russert may not have called Matthews immediately after hanging up with Libby, but he did tell his colleague of that call, which doesn't bode well for Libby.


November 23, 2005 at 09:49 PM in Democracy, Favorite Links, Media & Journalism, News to Note, Politics, Rhetoric, War/Terrorism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 04, 2005

As DeLay goes down, don't forget about K Street

This Observer column is a good reminder of the House Delay Built in the odious world of DC Lobby firms, a plot not only to deliberately subvert democracy and the democratic processes, but also an overt attempt to insure that one party would remain in power in perpetuity, through corruption and cronyism, and with K Street and beyond (and it wasn't going to stop at K Street) BLACKLISTING.

Here's the part that boggles one's mind, however. The K Street Project wasn't blacklisting some minority in need of protection against lynch mobs and discrimination. IT WAS BLACKLISTING DEMOCRATS FROM THE INSIDER NEO-GILDED AGE BEING BUILT EXCLUSIVELY FOR THE SUPER-RICH.

What I'm saying is, in some ways, the K Street Project wasn't as much political as it was a form of social engineering for a particular class, the money class. It was an attempt to bully and coerce those of the moneyed class to goosestep, or else.

How peculiar, eh? Hitler's unique brand of fascism was populist. DeLay's fascism looks like it only applies to some faint "aristocratic" genetic remnant of Hitler's elite SS breeding program. A "Red Scare" for the rich, only the epithet isn't "Commie," it's "Democrat."

Link: The Observer | Comment | Something stinks in America.

Comment

Something stinks in America

As a leading Republican prepares to face corruption charges, the fallout will be felt as far afield as Westminster

Will Hutton
Sunday October 2, 2005
The Observer

The most important political event last week for Britain did not take place at the Labour party conference in Brighton, but in Travis County, Texas. District Attorney Ronnie Earle charged the second most powerful man in the United States, Tom DeLay, with criminal conspiracy. DeLay resigned as the majority leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives while he fights the case, a stunning political setback.

[...]

The story begins in the murky world of campaign finance and the grey area of quasi-corruption, kickbacks and personal favours that now define the American political system. American politicians need ever more cash to fight their political campaigns and gerrymander their constituencies, so creating the political truth that incumbents rarely lose. US corporations are the consistent suppliers of the necessary dollars and Republican politicians increasingly are the principal beneficiaries. Complicated rules exist to try to ensure the relationship between companies and politicians is as much at arm's length as possible; the charge against DeLay is that he drove a coach and horses through the rules.

If DeLay were another Republican politician or even a typical majority leader of the House, the political world could shrug its shoulders. Somebody got caught, but little will change. But DeLay is very different. He is the Republican paymaster, one of the authors of the K Street Project and the driving force behind a vicious, organised demonisation and attempted marginalisation of Democrats that for sheer, unabashed political animus is unlike anything else witnessed in an advanced democracy. Politicians fight their political foes by fair means or foul, but trying to exterminate them is new territory. [emphasis mine]

The K Street Project is little known outside the Washington beltway and its effectiveness as a political stratagem is only possible because of the unique importance of campaign finance to American politics. DeLay, together with Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and some conservative activists, notably the ubiquitous Grover Norquist who runs the anti-state, anti-tax lobby group 'Americans for Tax Reform', conceived the notion 10 years ago that they should use the Republican majority in the House as a lever to ensure that the lobbyists, law firms and trade associations that inhabit Washington's K Street, heart of the industry, should only employ Republicans or sympathisers. To be a Democrat was to bear the mark of Cain; K Street was to be a Democrat-free zone.

This, if it could be pulled off, would have multiple pay-backs. Special-interest groups and companies have always greased the palms of American law-makers and because of lack of party discipline, they have had to grease Democrat and Republican palms alike to get the legislation they wanted. DeLay's ambition was to construct such a disciplined Republican party that lobbyists would not need Democrats, and so create an inside track in which the only greased palms from legislators to lobbyists would be Republican.

Lobbyists, law firms and trade associations should be told not to employ Democrats, so progressively excluding them from access to the lucrative channels of campaign finance. Democrats would become both poorer and politically diminished at a stroke and the Republicans would become richer and politically hegemonic.

Key vocabulary word there, hegemonic. Where's Fighting Bob LaFollette when you need him? Where's Paul Wellstone?

It has worked. The most influential Washington lobbyist is Barbour, Griffiths and Rogers; it employs not a single Democrat. Last year, in a classic operation, House Republicans let the Motion Picture Association of America (the film industry lobby group) know that appointing a Democrat, Dan Glickman, as its head would mean $1.5 billion of tax relief for the film industry was now in peril. Glickman staffed up the MPAA with Republicans, but the threat remains. In 2003, the Republican National Committee could claim that 33 of the top 36 top-level K Street positions were in Republican hands. Today, it's even closer to a clean sweep.

Corporations get their rewards. The oil and gas industry now gives 80 per cent of its campaign cash to Republicans (20 years ago, the split was roughly 50-50), and influence on this year's energy bill was a classic sting. American petrol can now contain a suspected carcinogen; operators of US natural-gas wells can contaminate water aquifers to improve the yields from the wells; the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is open to oil exploration - concessions all created by DeLay's inside track. And to provide ideological juice, there's a bevy of think-tanks, paid for from the same web of contributions, cranking out the justification that the 'state' and 'regulation' are everywhere and always wrong.

[...]

In Congress, moderate Republicans don't want guilt by association and companies value their reputation. The K Street Project stinks, along with all those associated with it. So far, the US media have been supine. DeLay's tentacles, and those of Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser, have cowed media owners into the same compliance; if they want favours, best advance the Republican cause like Murdoch's Fox News. American newsrooms are fearful places.

But DeLay's indictment breaks back the dam. US politics moves in cycles. Once it was Republicans who were going to clean up corrupt Democrat Washington; now Democrats can champion the same cause. Nor can the media afford to be on the side of the Old Corruption; it's bad for business. The wheel is turning, an important moment both sides of the Atlantic.

October 4, 2005 at 11:24 PM in Best Essays, Current Affairs, Democracy, Favorite Links, News to Note, Politics, Rhetoric, Singing the Bite Me Song | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack