Saturday, November 14, 2009

Reactions to the upcoming 9/11 trials announced by AG Eric Holder

By Carol Gee

There was strong reaction to the announcement of the 9/11 trial to be held in a New York court. Liberals and civil libertarians were approving and Republican Right-Wingers were deeply disapproving.

What are we to call the widespread upset among Republicans? Today's post is a digest of opinion from writers whom I regularly follow as well as my own conclusions.

Fear Mongering -- Tom Andrews, writing late Friday night for The Huffington Post, said that, ". . . we all know that Right Wing critics will be out, en masse, using their favorite tactic of fear-mongering while relying on ignorance to manipulate the public." Read the whole thing: Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, others to finally face justice in NYC.

Surrender -- Other nations have trials of high level terrorists within their systems of normal justice. But since 9/11/01 we in the U.S. have not. I think Glenn Greenwald put his finger on the problem in his Saturday post. He minced no words, calling it "The Right's textbook 'surrender to the terrorists'." His intro line said, " 'We're too scared to have real trials in our country' is a level of cowardice unmatched in the world." And Greenwald closed with this straight up opinion:

. . . it's hardly surprising that they exude a level of fear of Terrorists that is unmatched virtually anywhere in the world. It is, however, noteworthy that the position they advocate -- it's too scary to have normal trials in our country of Terrorists -- is as pure a surrender to the Terrorists as it gets.

Cowardice -- At emptywheel Marcy Wheeler wrote a pungent little piece that asked, "Why is it that Republicans are such scardey-cats?" I love what Gregg Levine said in "Elephants on Parade" on Friday at Firedoglake, about the difference between Democratic and Republican reaction to the announcement of upcoming 9/11 trials. To quote Levine:

Cowards. Cowards. And again, cowards.

I can’t say that word enough because no one else seems to say it at all.

Contrast what a sampling of Republicans (and Republican wannabe) have to say about today’s decision . . .

Guilt -- Guilt and anxiety/fear are first cousins in the world of emotional motivation. Daily Kos' "thereisnospoon," thinks he has figured out why Republicans are having such a fear mongering fit. The author concluded:

There's a reason Republicans are pissing in their pants. . . they're afraid that their own policies of torture and indefinite detention will get the terrorists acquitted. So, like a stupid criminal, they're upping the ante by doubling down on their original criminal idiocy.

Un-American Demagoguery -- Leaders who make use of popular prejudices or false claims in order to gain power does not deserve followers. Representative Jim Moran used even stronger words than fearfulness in a post by Evan McMorris-Santoro at TPMDC. To quote from the story Friday:

Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) has strong words for the Republicans opposing Attorney General Eric Holder's plan to bring five 9/11 suspects to New York City to face trial.

"They see this as an opportunity to demagogue," he said. "They will seize on any opportunity to do that, and that means they'll even take a stand that's un-American."

"It's un-American to hold anyone indefinitely without trial," Moran added. "It's against our principles as a nation."

Medieval Romanticism -- These are probably the kindest words I found in my little news survey. Professor Juan Cole at Informed Comment defined the Republican reaction to AG Eric Holder's decision to prosecute as "medieval romanticism." To quote:

Predictably, Republican critics vowed to fight the decision, since they much prefer to hold people forever without trial while torturing them, sort of the way some English kings did in North America before there was that pesky American constitution. . . . its fascination with arbitrary arrest and imprisonment and with torture more recalls the star chambers of yore than the deliberations at Philadelphia over 200 years ago.
Fear is a natural and normal reaction to accurately perceived danger. But the key is using one's whole brain to ascertain just what constitutes a real danger. The terrorists acts in 2001 were very dangerous. Over three thousand people lost their lives as a result. This is 2009, however, and it is important to make distinctions that today's realities warrant. Wiser people than knee-jerk reactionaries are now in charge, thank goodness. The United States government must continue to act out of calculation toward confidence-building, out of justice and healing, out of intelligence and courage, and out of genuine patriotism. It is time.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Krazy Bill Kristol, un-American, says Fort Hood killer should be put to death without a trial

On Fox News the other day -- where else? -- Krazy Kristol, discussing Nidal Malik Hasan and the Fort Hood massacre, came out against due process, the rule of law, the U.S. Constitution, and, well, America herself:

I was very struck also by Janet Napolitano's comment, I hadn't read it before to see her say that, that the number one priority is to bring him to justice is such a knee-jerk comment and such a stupid comment. He's going to be brought to justice. He is not going to be innocent of murder. There are a lot of eyewitnesses to that. They should just go ahead and convict him and put him to death.

This isn't just stupid, it's appalling -- and rather un-American, and hypocritical, coming from someone who wraps himself in the flag the way Krisol does.

But was he kidding? Well, if pressed, he might back down and say he was just making a point that a guilty conviction is inevitable, but he seemed to be speaking seriously.

And it's typical of Kristol, just as it's typical of conservatives generally. They talk up America as the unrivalled peak of human history, as the exception, as a worthy hegemon, and yet they think nothing of tearing down the foundations of American democracy and constitutionalism. So they push for the unitary executive when one of their own is in the White House, dismissing Congress and the Supreme Court as lesser branches. And so they put down the justice system, along with its Constitutional supports, as an inconvenience when they want to put away "terrorists," alleged or not, without a fair trial, or when their bloodlust turns to state-sanctioned killing, or when they just want to impose their will on the people.

For the right, neocons included, it's often about power, not principle -- or, rather, power is their principle, and they don't much care for anything that might stand in their way, including the very basis of the American justice system.

Labels: , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Friday, November 13, 2009

Craziest Conservatives of the Day: G. Gordon Liddy and Gary Bauer

Quite a pair these two make, the fascist and the christianist, generally speaking, and there they were today on Liddy's radio show today spewing the usual right-wing bullshit about Obama:

LIDDY: I'm convinced that despite his protestations to the contrary, that Barack Obama is a Muslim. I don't believe that he's a Christian at all. I believe he's a Muslim.

BAUER: Well, you know the church that he famously or infamously attended was, was odd in many ways. Not only the rantings of its pastor, the clear racist rantings of its pastor, which the President chose to listen to year after year with his family and his children. You know something that still in my view has never been adequately explained. But it was also a church that had some real strange ideas about Islam and Christianity. I've seen a number of suggestions that there were many people in the congregation that considered themselves both Christian and Muslim. Something that I’m sure both real Christians and real Muslims would deny is possible.

No matter how many lies I hear from conservatives, it still amazes me that anyone can say with a straight face that Obama is a Muslim. To these bigots, though, it would seem that anyone who isn't fervently hostile to and hateful of Muslims, and of Islam, may be a Muslim. It could be that even being friends with, and perhaps even shaking hands with, a Muslim makes one a Muslim.

And, make no mistake, bigotry it is. During the conversation, Bauer lamented the "accommodation of Islam" in "our schools." By that, presumably, he meant acceptance and perhaps just simple toleration of Islam, and by "our schools" he surely meant Christian schools.

See what's going on here? The problem for conservatives like Liddy and Bauer isn't just Nidal Malik Hasan, it's the very existence of Islam in America. And they see it everywhere, a ubiquitous enemy threatening their fascist-christianist utopia, so much so that they've come to believe their own lies, if they've ever been able to distinguish their lies from the truth, which is doubtful, lies they direct at Obama, making allegations without a trace of evidence, all to reinforce their bigotry, and that of their followers.

It's easy to write of Liddy and Bauer, and especially the former, as crackpots on the fringe, but, on the right, the fringe is increasingly the mainstream, conservatism having succumbed to crackpottery. As well, both men are fairly popular on the right, if more with the Republican base than with the Republican establishment. And so they speak not just for themselves but for those who support them -- in Liddy's case, all those who listen to what is a fairly popular radio show.

I don't like paying so much attention to a wacko like Liddy, but it's important that we call out such craziness. Because if it's sheer craziness you want, along with bigotry and paranoia, you don't have to look any further than what's popular among conservatives these days.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Top Ten Cloves: New jobs being considered by Lou Dobbs

By J. Thomas Duffy

News Item: Lou Dobbs Leaves CNN to Pursue Activist Role

10. Become a Vampire Novelist

9. Front a buy of an NFL team for his buddy Rushbo

8. Plans on stalking Howard Dean

7. Devote the rest of his life to curing leprosy

6. Launch Moon.Com and start the franchise for Moon water

5. Become front man for Liz Cheney's group "Keep America Safe"

4. Devote the rest of his life to digging up President Obama's birth certificate

3. Rumor is, Lou off to Taco Bell to be the straight man for the little dog

2. Team up with Lady Gaga for a duo act

1. Just go out and build the cotton-pickin' border fence himself!

Bonus Lou Dobbs Riffs

CAP News: Lou Dobbs To Host Immigration Reality Show

Paul Krugman: Lou Dobbs

Will Bunch - Attytood: It's "Taps" for Dobbs

Joe Sudbay: CNN's on-air racist, Lou Dobbs, is gone after tonight's show

Thers - Late Night: Lou Dobbs Likely to Annoy Nation in New Capacity

No Doubt, Lou Dobbs Will Go Absolut-ely Apocalyptic

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Collateral damage after the Fort Hood massacre

Inspiration for this post comes from a close friend, Lindsay at Majikthise, who questioned the journalistic integrity of one of our major news gatherers in: AP trafficks in innuendo over Ft. Hood shootings.

My interest in the Fort Hood story is more than causal. My daughter is a career military officer who was once stationed there, and it was from Fort Hood where she deployed on the first of four missions to the Middle East.

Years ago, I received one of those telephone calls that parents dread: “Dad, I am shipping out, and if you want to see me before I go, the time is now.” Immediately, I booked a flight to Dallas with a transfer to Killeen to spend what few precious days I could with my daughter. As the years passed, I would repeat this drama again and again.

Military life can be almost as hard on families as on soldiers. Holidays are less than festive when there is an empty place at the table. There is always the missing person at family milestone events … the succession of births and funerals that mark our days … and the skipped heartbeat before answering unexpected knocks on the door.

There were times when the telephone rang in the middle of the night, and it was the voice of my daughter who said: “Dad, in case you haven’t heard the news yet, there was a rocket attack but we are okay.

Lucky for me, my daughter always returned home, shaken by flashbacks never discussed, but otherwise unharmed. Thousands of other families have been less fortunate. To date, there have been 4,362 deaths in Iraq and 918 in Afghanistan … the sons and daughters, husbands and wives, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles of someone, but not everyone.

I repeat “not everyone,” because less than a third of one percent of our citizenry has a family member in the military. Most Americans bear witness to war from afar … from the comforts of home in front of televisions that report frontline news from thousands of miles away. Flip the channel. On any given day, the voice of Wolf Blitzer hawking headlines segues into the voice of Billy Mays plugging OxyClean, which merge into one continuous deafening screech. Accounts of war interspersed with crass commercialism create an aura of banality that deadens the senses … until some strange act of violence takes place on native soil and shakes Americans from their stupor.

Mass murder has become so commonplace, we are almost too numb to be shocked. Scarcely a day after the Fort Hood massacre, a disgruntled ex-employee entered an office building in downtown Orlando and opened fire, killing one and wounding five. How quickly we forget the carnage at Virginia Tech that left 33 dead or this massacre at Fort Hood 18 years ago that left 23 dead.

What makes this bloodbath different from others? It occurred on a military base deep in the heart of Texas, and the shooter is an Army Major with a foreign name: Malik Nadal Hasan.

MSNBC: “At least three gunmen involved.
CNN: “One gunman “neutralized” and one cornered.
FOX: “Three gunmen dressed in fatigues.
CNN: “One shooter dead, two in custody.
FOX: “M-16s used.
ABC: “Gunman was a convert to Islam.
TWITTER: “Hasan handed out Korans before the shooting.

In retrospect, the headlines of the day were riddled with hearsay, and none of these accounts proved accurate or true. Have we grown so accustomed to junk journalism that we fail to notice anymore?

All too often, there are opinion makers willing to jump to conclusions and spin certitudes and platitudes before all facts are known. And all too often, there are bigots, demagogues, and political opportunists willing to spin false reports and half truths into inflammatory cants, such as the infamous Jerome Corsi, who wrote:

Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged shooter in yesterday's massacre at Fort Hood, played a homeland security advisory role in President Barack Obama's transition into the White House, according to a key university policy institute document.

This statement was so outrageously false, Frank Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University, issued an immediate disclaimer:

[Nidal Hasan] has no role on the task force, other than the fact that he attended these meetings as an audience member, as did hundreds of others.

The American Family Association, a conservative Christian group, posted a website article (caution: this link crashed my browser four times) calling for Muslims to be barred from military service. According to their spokesperson, Bryan Fischer:

It is time, I suggest, to stop the practice of allowing Muslims to serve in the U.S. military (…) Yesterday’s massacre is living proof [sic].

The infamous Islamaphobe Dave Gaubatz said in this interview:

Politicians, Muslims, and law enforcement are concerned about a "backlash" against Muslims. Now is the time for a professional and legal backlash against the Muslim community and their leaders.

Even more ominous and disturbing, four Republican members of Congress … Sue Myrick [R-NC], John Shadegg [R-AZ], Paul Broun [R-GA] and Trent Franks [R-AZ] … want to bypass a formal FBI inquiry and conduct their own investigation, an initiative supported by the undead Senator from Connecticut whose image no longer reflects in Democratic mirrors.

There are compelling reasons for conducting a non-politicized inquiry through proper channels. Is Malik Nadal Hasan really an Islamic terrorist (a forgone conclusion in the minds of Islamaphobes), or does he fit the profile of other criminally disturbed personalities who have committed past mass murders?

The hype and hysteria in the aftermath of the Fort Hood massacre concerns me. There are thousands of Muslims serving in our military. Some are bullied, subjected to ridicule and scorn, called “towel heads” and “sand n***ers” by fellow soldiers. Muslim-Americans serve as soldiers, translators, and military liaisons with our allies in the Middle East, which include the Arab Emirate States, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, and Turkey, as examples. Muslim-American families make the same sacrifices and suffer the same anxieties as my family when their soldiers deploy overseas.

How does our country appear in the eyes of the world and our allies when bigots and hate-mongers insinuate themselves into the public debate? My question is more than rhetorical. These malevolent voices dishonor the service of our soldiers and sabotage their efforts.

A blogger who calls herself an American Black Chick in Europe puts this issue into proper perspective:

Why do some elements of American society attribute the actions of an individual to an entire group of people? I'm tired ... tired of generalisations thrown out at folks who have a different name, different religion, different skin color, different look, different ideas than what's considered "mainstream America.

I raised similar concerns at the blog of our esteemed colleague, Robert Stein of Connecting.The.Dots, when a fly-by troll steeped in Fuzzy Logic said this to me:

Well, thank goodness you spoke up and aligned yourself with the mass murderer at Fort Hood instead of with my comment.

How smug and offensive! These days, hyper-partisanship respects no boundaries. Sometimes I feel as if we are at war on two fronts: The terrorists who attack us from abroad and the lunatic fringe that assails us at home. We have turned into a nation at war with ourselves when our most cherished beliefs and values, including civil liberties and the rule of law, are no longer considered sacred and sacrosanct and must be defended on all fronts.

(Cross-posted at The Swash Zone.)

Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

God is great. Bill O'Reilly? Not so much.

By Capt. Fogg

Blurry words and fuzzy logic are the tools of the deceiver. Take the word "terrorist." We're still trying to fit it into the Procrustean bed, or should we call it the Republican Bunk? In fact we can no longer distinguish between terror, the emotion or terrorism; the acts designed to produce terror. We're always arguing about who is a criminal and who is a terrorist but, always willing to help us find our balance, Fox News and Sean O'Reilly are on the job.

In order to keep the terror, angst, and anger flowing and the ratings high, it's important to keep the supply of terrorists visible and to keep them ethnic -- and here comes Sean Hannity to tell us that what makes a terrorist a terrorist is that he praises God before he terrorizes. It's not all that simple, though. He has to do that in Arabic, otherwise every foxhole would be full of terrorists of many faiths.

It's simple enough, however, to say that because Major Nidal Malik Hasan allegedly said Allahu Akhbar before shooting up Fort Hood. On the other hand, attacks from the bombing of Guernica to the Rape of Nanjing to the shocking and awing of Baghdad are not. Simple haters like simple rules for hating. They like simple things that can be used to create convenient groups: tropes like "political correctness" of which O'Reilly accused The Washington Post's Sally Quinn Wednesday night. It's much easier to condemn a group fabricated for the purpose than to address her reluctance to call the man a "Muslim terrorist":

You have a hard time saying the words "Muslim terrorist." I don't know why.

I do know why. If the only difference between Charles Manson, Timothy McVeigh, David, Son of Sam, Berkowitz, and Major Hasan is religion, it becomes awfully hard to launch the Fox Crusade against Muslims alone. So one hates along with Bill, or one is politically correct which means unwilling to hate along with Bill. One jumps to convenient conclusions with him or one refuses in that politically correct way, thus defining PC as smart and honest and responsible for people more logically adept than the Fox Fools.

One must be a hater of Muslims or a terrorist supporter, and without that assertion O'Reilly melts on the floor like the Wicked Witch. A nice binary, Good v. Evil choice to replace the kind of reasoning stupid people hate and fear and are incapable of, the kind of choice Lyin' Bill peddles like crack in the high school parking lot.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

Labels: , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Palin accuses Couric of "Badgering" her

In her soon-to-be-released memoir of self-congratulation, self-aggrandizement, and victimization, Going Rogue, Sarah Palin apparently writes -- or takes credit for writing, given that she didn't actually write the book, a right-wing ghost-writer did -- that Katie Couric, in that famous, defining interview last year, was "badgering" and biased.

This took me back to the five-post "Painful Palin" series I wrote on the Couric-Palin interview:

Palin can blame Couric all she wants -- and, of course, Palin is nothing if not full of blame -- but it was that interview that finally broke the repulsive Palin myth that had ruled the media narrative pretty much from the time she stepped onto the national scene as McCain's running mate. Remember, she was spun well by her admirers on the right. She seemed to be charming, a breath of fresh air, just what Washington needed. But none of that was true, of course. The Couric interview revealed her to be a fool, thoroughly unprepared for national politics, unprepared for public life generally.

To Palin, though, anything tougher than the softballs the bedazzled likes of Sean Hannity lobbed at her must have been seen as "badgering." With Couric, she couldn't even answer simple questions about politics. Was she put on the spot? Maybe, but isn't the ability to deal with pressure part of the test? In flunking that test -- with Couric and then with Charles Gibson -- it became clear why the McCain team had sought to keep her out of the media spotlight, refusing to answer any questions at all for much of the campaign, and why it sent her off instead to rally the mob, with occasional stops to be idolized by those infatuated with her on the right.

She's a twit, you see, and the Couric interview proved it. And instead of accepting responsibility for failing, she resorts to lashing out, as usual, against her perceived enemies, against all those who dare challenge her. That's the story of Sarah Palin, a nasty, vindictive thug who plays the victim and hen tries to push her weight around. And if it's biased to challenge her, to ask a few tough questions (if not all that tough), to present her with the truth, then all she is is a lie, both to herself and to the world. Which pretty much sums it up.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Get your abortions at the RNC

Hypocrisy, thy name is... oh, this is just too easy:

The Republican National Committee's health insurance plan covers elective abortion – a procedure the party's own platform calls "a fundamental assault on innocent human life."

Federal Election Commission Records show the RNC purchases its insurance from Cigna. Two sales agents for the company said that the RNC's policy covers elective abortion.

The RNC is apparently "taking steps to address the issue."

Let me just say that insurance plans should cover abortion. It's obviously not the Cigna plan I object to, it's the hypocrisy. And, in a way, it's just like Republicans in Congress enjoying the best health care money can buy while essentially denying even basic coverage to millions and millions of Americans. Ideology is strong, but, for Republicans, self-interest at the expense of others, and even at the expense of one's own principles, seems to rule.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Is Stifler's mom a terrorist?

Here's our Headline of the Day:

Wait... what?

Oh, I see, it's not Jennifer Coolidge, it's the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. And, actually, it's a good story:

Filipino militants released an elderly Irish priest late on Wednesday night after holding him in captivity for 32 days. Father Michael Sinnott had worked in the Philippines for nearly 33 years when six armed gunmen kidnapped him from a gated compound in Pagadian City on Oct. 11. He was released into the custody of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which turned him over to government authorities on Thursday morning.

So it wasn't MILF:

According to a high-ranking member of MILF, the rebel group acted as an intermediary between the kidnappers and the government as a goodwill gesture to show their commitment to peace.

Well, okay, maybe:

Filipino police and military authorities later identified Sinnott's captors as part of a pirate band that eventually turned the priest over to a rogue element of MILF...

Despite the potential involvement of a MILF-linked organization, the Filipino government praised the Muslim separatist group for its assistance and cooperation throughout the kidnapping. Major General Ben Dolorfino, a Filipino official, called the group's actions a "big confidence-building measure in forthcoming peace talks."

I don't follow the political situation in the Philippines, nor the separatist efforts of MILF, so I don't know if MILF is serious about peace, nor if the government is, but at least, whatever else is going on there, Sinnott is free.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Shameless in the morning

By Capt. Fogg

Fox may just be the most busted name on television, but it never seems to affect them or the faithfulness of their coven. We've heard plenty from them about how President Obama is a racist and the lack of evidence doesn't keep them from clinging to the slur or using it to disparage anyone who dares disagree. It also doesn't keep them from airing obnoxious and personal racist attacks without any disguise at all. What else would you call Bo Dietl, pulling on his eyes and mocking CBS anchor Katie Couric for looking Chinese and "oriental"? Probably the same thing he would call me if I put burned cork on my face and said "Holy Mackerel, Andy": a racist idiot.

Ten years ago, she looked American. Today she is an Oriental,

Dietl remarked, as though nobody of Asian ancestry could possibly be an American. As though nobody with dark skin could possibly be one either. As though Dietl weren't a nasty little racist prick.

Dietl, who is a frequent Fox contributor, former Bush appointee, and midwife to the "birther" hoax, chose Imus in the Morning simulcast on Fox for this infantile insult. In any other venue, he would immediately be fired and Imus, if he had a brain in that zombie-like head of his should have thrown him off instantly, but of course Imus is Imus and all he could do was to call Curic a rodent in that whiskey and heroin voice of his, but of course it was on Fox and the racism and ugly slander is fair and balanced, you dirty liberals.

Sure, they'll have an excuse, it wasn't racist, he was misunderstood, liberals have no sense of humor and yada yada. We've heard it all before. They'll get away with it because Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdoch, and their employees are pigs who deserve nothing better for Christmas than to be visited by the ghost of Bruce Lee, who can demonstrate to them just how hilariously funny it is to be Chinese.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

A thousand points of blight

By Carl

Much has been made by conservatives about the private sector and solutions to the problems that confront this nation and this world. Indeed, one might sum these positions as "
Thousand Points of Light," a phrase coined by Peggy Noonan, renowned drunk and speechwriter for President George Bush the Elder, way back in the late '80s.

Now, this is not a horrible thing to say: it's our community and people ought to take an active interest in helping their fellow man. Every religion and spiritual believe system talks about giving or sharing and indeed, we're taught way back in kindergarten to share.

When it works, that is. When it does not.....

It's hard to overstate the crisis facing charitable giving today. So let me just say it as plainly as I can: Much of current philanthropic giving, by foundations and individuals, neither meets the needs of our charitable organizations nor addresses some of our most urgent public needs.

Foundation practices today are too bureaucratic, inflexible and cautious, and too focused on short-term objectives. Too often, the process and procedures of grant making are more tailored to the needs of foundations and their trustees than to the requirements of nonprofits.

At the same time, our depressed economy is exacerbating this crisis—and making it all the more crucial that we address it. A severe reduction in available public and private funds has put many important nonprofit groups, especially at the local level, in grave danger. Cutbacks in their budgets and programs are depriving their clients of essential health and social services.

A number of nonprofit associations and foundations have called on the government to provide more funds and loans to struggling nonprofit organizations. Such aid would no doubt help, but the primary responsibility for maintaining the strength of the nonprofit community should rest with philanthropic institutions and individual donors.

I can sum the cause up in a short phrase: people don't give to what they need to give to, they give to what they want to give to.

Now, again, the free market is invoked here by those on the right: "Well, if cleaning up a river is desirable, then people will clean up the river."

If only charitable giving worked that way, but it doesn't. It does not exist in a vacuum, isolated from the social structure of people's lives. It is intertwined, and in some cultures deeply intertwined, with other social values.

Prestige, for one. If I want to be "seen" in society, I don't give to the river-cleaning charity unless someone higher up the social food chain is in charge and throws a big party. No, I give to the local ballet, or museum so I can be seated in the orchestra or be invited to the gala opening of the Vermeer exhibit.

Personal impact, for another. If I or a family member contracts a disease, I'm probably going to give some of my charitable attention to the foundation fighting that disease.

Indeed, at some levels of society, millions of dollars are given to hospitals to open a
(Your Name Here) Prostate Oncology Wing, because (Your Name Here) contracted prostate cancer. Which is hardly charitable giving. In truth, it's making a reservation at the finest table in the restaurant with the chef's (surgeon's) personal attention lavished on you, at the expense of other people who can't afford his services now.

Or to churches. Now, no one is denying the importance of religion in American culture, let's be clear about this. Like it or not, religion is an integral part of our society, and people give the lion's share of their charity to churches.

That's the facts, Jack. Roughly half of individual contributions go to religions. We hope those religions are actively pursuing programs that assist society, but let's face facts: feeding the poor, a noble effort, is not cleaning up a river and very few churches involve themselves in environmental programs.

Despite God's decree that this is the planet we men have been given dominion over. God might be a bit angry at us for our lack of attention.

But note something in the quote I pulled from the article I've linked to. Let me highlight it here:
A number of nonprofit associations and foundations have called on the government to provide more funds and loans to struggling nonprofit organizations.

What goes around, comes around on the merry-go-round. If conservatives are so all-fired about personal responsibility, then why is this phenomenon happening? Why are charities begging Obama for money? What happened to those tax cuts that Bush gave back to the rich over the past decade?

You don't think those folks spent it or put it in their mattresses or some hedge fund, do you?

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Whom would Jesus blackmail?

By Capt. Fogg

A high proportion of the atheists and agnostics I know are, or have been Roman Catholic and I have to say a good number of my favorite comedians as well. The sense of alienation and the sarcasm of such people no mystery to me when I read stories like The Washington Post's piece on the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. and its threat to discontinue being all charitable and Christ-like about feeding and sheltering the homeless and hungry if a proposed bill allowing same-sex marriage passes.

Although the Church would not, of course, be required to perform or to lend their floor space to such unions, they would be required to obey the same laws forbidding discrimination against gay men and lesbians as the rest of us:

The city is saying in order to provide social services, you need to be secular. For us, that's really a problem.

said Archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Gibbs. No, the city is saying that to be a partner with a publicly-funded service, you don't hold the city hostage until they deny civil rights to law-abiding citizens. Consider the homeless of the streets: Shall we let them starve if only two gay men are allowed to marry? Shall we let them die if we allow people to divorce? What other taboos must we as citizens observe before the Archdiocese of Washington will deign to obey Biblical commandments to help others?

I do understand that they have a problem recognizing certain lay employee's right to share employment benefits, I just can't see Jesus making an issue of it or attempting to use the homeless as a hostage if the Romans refused to implement Jewish law.

Of course, the peanut gallery will respond with nonsense about religious persecution and freedom and there will be no reasoning with them, but if a religious test to receive public services is repugnant, the demand that the public go along with their dogma or the poor will not be served is more so. It's another example lending credibility to all the warnings about "faith based" initiatives. It's another example illustrating just why Congress shall make no laws concerning an establishment of religion.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

The GOP purification police, on the hunt in South Carolina

How hilarious is it that Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has been censured by his own party?

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham -- in the name of bipartisanship -- continues to weaken the Republican brand and tarnish the ideals of freedom, rule of law, and fiscal conservatism,

stated the resolution passed unanimously by the Charleston County Republican Party's executive committee.

Oh, I know, that's not exactly the Republican National Committee or anything, but it gives you some idea of just how intense, and how bolshevik, the purification drive is in the GOP. Any Republican who sides with the Democrats on anything, it seems, is at risk of being targeted.

The resolution focuses on "Graham's cooperation with U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., on a bipartisan energy bill, and his support for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program and the time he called some opponents of immigration reform 'bigots.'" To be sure, Graham is a bit of a maverick lite, a junior McCain, independent on a few select issues but rigidly partisan and uncompromisingly conservative most of the time, but, from what the purification police are saying, he might as well be an Obama-infatuated socialist.

The committee claims that the resolution is "an effort to get [Graham's] attention." I'm sure Republicans across the country are getting the message.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Craziest Republican of the Day: Rick Perry

The governor of Texas thinks that:

[T]his is an administration hell-bent toward taking American towards a socialist country. And we all don't need to be afraid to say that because that's what it is.

He was referring to Obama's administration, of course, not his own, and I can't even begin to tell you how sick and tired I am of conservatives calling Obama and his policies socialist. Clearly, they don't have a clue what socialism is, nor do they seem to understand that all western democracies, including the more neo-liberal ones, are to some extent socialist insofar as they redistribute some wealth from the haves to the have-nots and have governments that provide services like health care and education.

Yes, even the U.S. -- I assume that Perry would like to shut down Medicare and Medicaid? Or is he smart enough to understand that voters might not like that, even in Texas?

Otherwise, how is providing another health insurance option to consumers, even a government-run one, in an attempt to expand the market, socialist? How is having Wall Street insiders bail out Wall Street, with the goal of keeping the big banks and investment firms afloat so as to be able to invest and lend for the supposed good of the economy, as well as of consumers, socialist?

I'm sorry, has Obama proposed raising tax rates to Scandinavian levels? Has he proposed the permanent nationalization of industries, like, say, the auto industry? No, not so much. Just ask progressives what they think of Obama's market-oriented policies. Not that progressives are all socialists, but those of us who are liberal/progressive know that, if anything, Obama has thus far governed too far to the right. A socialist he is not.

So while the socialism tag it's just a baseless, hollow smear that conservatives hope will resonate with fearful Americans, what's clear is that any society that falls short of an Ayn Rand-oriented paradise is socialist. Yes, they're that ignorant, and that extremist.

Labels: , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Looking for a way out of Afghanistan?

By Creature

If the AP report is true that President Obama has indeed rejected the options on the table for Afghanistan then this is very good news. My fear, however, is that Obama's looking for an off-ramp will involve a ramp-up first and he'll use the off-ramp language as a way to sell his surge to the American people. I hope I'm wrong. I want to do a we're-getting-the-heck-out-of-Afghanistan happy dance, but for now I'll settle for a cautious toe-tap.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lou Dobbs leaves CNN

Lou Dobbs, nativist xenophobe extraordinaire (if still less noxious than Pat Buchanan), announced tonight that he will be leaving CNN, effective immediately.

As far as I'm concerned, it should have been effective years ago, long before he became an icon of fearmongering, back when he was still a newsman. (He was actually one of CNN's original anchors.)

Not that I care all that much about CNN, as I wrote a couple of weeks ago in a post on how even Geraldo Rivera and John Stossel think Dobbs is crazy, but it has been rather troubling that Dobbs has been able to call a major cable news network, ratings woes aside, his home, and even more troubling that that home, which is supposed to be, or at least claims to be, a news network that actually cares about reporting the news and not just about spewing partisan, ideological spin, that is, something other than Fox News, provided him with such a prominent platform, and with a bullhorn, for so long. Shame on CNN, though we should have learned a long time ago not to expect much from it.

But what does it matter? We haven't heard the last of Dobbs.

This move may boost CNN's credibility, but, in the grand scheme of things, not much will change. Dobbs will just find a new home with a similar platform, a similar bullhorn, and outrageous pay. However much we may wish it were otherwise, after all, his brand of right-wing, protectionist populism with an independent twist still plays well. Where a fascist like Pat Buchanan talks up the Nazis, Dobbs at least seems to care about jobs and the plight of the American working class. Beyond his extremist niche, Buchanan is widely reviled, or at least seen as an insignificant fool not worth paying much attention to. Dobbs holds repugnant views on immigration, but his populism is generally palatable to a wide swathe of the American people, more so than ever given the current economic climate.

Where will he go? Fox News makes the most sense, even if Rivera admirably continues to campaign against him. No, he is neither Christianist theocrat nor Ayn Rand disciple, the two types that rule the right these days, but his populism fits in well there, and there will be an audience for him. If not there, though, somewhere else, for some media outlet will decide that, whether it agrees with him or not, he's worth it.

Regardless, Dobbs went out tonight in a blaze of bullshit:

Over the past six months, it has become increasingly clear that strong winds of change have begun buffeting this country and affecting all of us, and some leaders in media, politics and business have been urging me to go beyond the role here at CNN and to engage in constructive problem-solving as well as to contribute positively to a better understanding of the great issues of our day and to continue to do so in the most honest and direct language possible.

Yes, I suppose there is the possibility that Dobbs will throw his hat into the political arena, and I'm sure he'd find a good deal of support there.

I would only point out that those "strong winds of change" aren't exactly blowing at his back. Dobbs plays to the darker part of America, the part where fear and hatred rule, where nativism is a leading virtue, and where "constructive problem-solving" involves targeting Mexicans and other foreigners and blaming the Other, both internal and external, as the cause of all ills.

Call me a naive optimist, but I just don't think the world is going in that direction. Some of it is, yes, without doubt -- just watch Fox News or listen to the Republican Party -- but as long as Dobbs and those like him continue to be given prominent positions on the media and political landscape, all they'll be are obstacles to progress.

(Photo: MSNBC.)

Labels: , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Smaller, less intrusive religion

Just who owns your life and when you die, who owns your remains? Do you get to decide or does someone else's religion get to decide?

Let's say the great love of your life dies. Let's say you live in Rhode Island and you want to retrieve the body from the morgue, take it to a funeral home and plan a funeral. That's fine as long as you're legally next of kin, otherwise you're eroding traditional heterosexual marriages, says the governor. I'm not even going to try to figure out the tortuous path down which the Republican governor of Rhode Island, Don Carcieri, trod to get to that conclusion. I'm just going to assume that there is no logical process at all and that it's just the same nasty religious authoritarianism that sparked the existence of the Rhode Island colony in the first place.

I'm going to venture to assert instead that blocking such a simple act of decency toward people who are in a committed relationship; allowing any of us the freedom to decide who is our family or not, who we want to give a responsibility to or not, prevents a danger to heterosexual relationships is ludicrous and offensively stupid and that he is only acting in the traditional theocratic role of forcing his religious doctrine up the collective arses of the Rhode Island citizens.

Carcieri vetoed a bill yesterday allowing same sex couples to plan the funerals of deceased partners, although Democrats may have the votes to override it. Carcieri believes that elected representatives do not have the power to write such legislation and there should be a direct ballot referendum instead. I wonder if this will erode the institution of our republican form of government as much as treating domestic partnerships outside of a Church approved relationship with equal protection under the law will erode my own marriage. So far my wife and I have survived such "disturbing trends" and are getting along just fine minding our own business.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Jobs bill

By Creature

It sounds like a great idea, but please let's not call it a "stimulus." I can't take the crazy that would ensue.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Remembrance Day 2009

It is a day to remember those who served, those who fought, those who gave their lives. But it is also a day to remember the horror of war. While many of those who served did so nobly, war itself is not noble, even if it is somehow justifiable, and undeniably necessary, as was World War II.

But World War I, the "Great War," the specific war this day commemorates? That was a pointless, generation-destroying abomination that resulted in nothing but another war, a continuation of the war, 20 years later. It was a war of dying empires, heavily militarized after a century of relative peace following the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna, the generals and their political masters moving pieces around on their gameboard, the lines moving a bit this way, a bit that way, all for some greater glory that existed only in their illusions and delusions, while thousands upon thousands were dying for nothing at all on the fields and in the trenches. Think of the Battle of the Somme, one of the Great War's key turning points, with a death toll over a million. It was one of the worst, but it was also one of many such devastations. It is impossible, I think, to come fully to terms with such horror.

Let us not kid ourselves. Let us not forget that today is not a day to celebrate war, or to romanticize it.

The poem often recited on Remembrance Day is John McCrae's "In Flanders Fields." It is a beautiful poem. McCrae was a field surgeon, then the head of a Canadian hospital in northern France. He died in 1918, the victim of pneumonia, a casualty, in a way, of war.

Another casualty was Wilfred Owen, perhaps the greatest of the Great War poets. He was killed at the Battle of the Sambre on November 4, 1918 -- just a week before Armistice Day, the end of the war. This is one of his finest poems, "Dulce et Decorum Est":

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!–An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

It is a lie, that is, that it is sweet and right to die for your country. That may not be the sentiment one hears on Remembrance Day, when what is stressed is the opposite, the noble sacrifice of those who served, but it is a more accurate one. This is not to diminish that sacrifice, without which we would not be what we are today, it is just to note that the bitter truth about war mustn't be forgotten.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Pat Robertson says Islam "not a religion," calls for Muslims to be treated like Communists

Is it even worth quoting Pat Robertson? No, probably not, and it's a waste of time to pay him any attention, not to mention to devote any space to him here at The Reaction or anywhere else. And yet, given his influence, or whatever influence he has left (and he does have many, many followers still), he oughtn't be dismissed so readily, for he speaks to a certain strain of noxious right-wing bigotry, theocratic bigotry, that is alive and well throughout much of American conservatism today.

The other day, writing about the Fort Hood massacre, I noted the bigoted reaction of many on the right, and, in Robertson, we have one of the most explicit expressions of that bigotry. At Think Progress, Matt Corley delves into it:

This past weekend, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned against allowing "anti-Muslim sentiment" to emanate from the shooting at Fort Hood by Major Nidal Malik Hasan. But that is exactly what some conservatives are doing. Dave Gaubatz, the controversial author of the controversial Muslim Mafia, called yesterday for "a professional and legal backlash against the Muslim community and their leaders." On his 700 Club TV show yesterday, Pat Robertson claimed that Islam is "not a religion," but "a violent political system bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world and world domination":

ROBERTSON: That is the ultimate aim. And they talk about infidels and all this, but the truth is that's what the game is. So you are dealing with not a religion. You're dealing with a political system. And I think we should treat it as such and treat its adherences as such as we would members of the Communist Party or members of some fascist group. Well, it's a tragedy. Our hearts go out to the families who suffered. But those in the Army should be held on account for the fact they let this man loose.

And there you have it. In Robertson's view -- and he is certainly not alone in holding it -- Muslims, including American Muslims, ought to be blacklisted and persecuted.

As I have said before, Americans and Christians ought to be outraged -- and embarrassed that Robertson is one of their own.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Obama at Fort Hood

Some, including Marc Ambinder and Taegan Goddard, are calling it Obama's best speech ever. I wouldn't go that far, but it's definitely up there with his best -- and it may very well be his best as president.

Coming just a day before Remembrance Day, when we look back on the sacrifices and bloodshed of generations past, it shows not just that Obama is a great speaker, which we already knew, but that he is a great leader. Among other things, after all, this is what the president does, what is required of any president, namely, bring the country together in times of difficulty, including in times of grief. There is an expression of patriotism here that is distinctly American, and that translates less well beyond America's borders, where we tend not to think of America as unqualifiedly noble and just and exceptional, but there is no denying the power of Obama's words. At a time when Americans are seeking answers to questions that are not easily answered, and to which there may not be clear answers, he found an answer in America itself, in its hopes and promises, by paying tribute to the fallen and placing their deaths in the larger struggle for freedom that defines America at its finest:

Long after they are laid to rest -- when the fighting has finished, and our nation has endured; when today's servicemen and women are veterans, and their children have grown -- it will be said that this generation believed under the most trying of tests; believed in perseverance -- not just when it was easy, but when it was hard; that they paid the price and bore the burden to secure this nation, and stood up for the values that live in the hearts of all free peoples.

There can be beauty even in a time of great sadness.

The transcript of Obama's speech is here. And here it is:

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Sweeping the clowns away

By Carl

Kermit the Frog. Bert & Ernie. Big Bird. Grover. Elmo.

I mention those names, and what image appears in your head? Soft, fuzzy puppets, the Muppets, who teach pre-schoolers and elementary schoolchildren, some of whom cannot afford books and can't get to the (now shut) libraries of the inner cities and rural counties, how to read, and how to do basic math.

Oh. And give them tools and teach them good Judeo-Christian messages of peace and harmony, of getting along in your community. Of how you don't need to fear differences, because underneath it all, we're all just people.

For forty years, these messages have been brought to you courtesy the Children's Television Workshop.

You think, "How can anyone find fault with the basic messages inherent in any church service?"

need to think again. Meet Adam Baldwin:

Our tax dollars by the $tens of millions$ have been redistributed to the CPB/PBS for decades to ‘help’ its social change agents reach into our homes and preach the gospel of multiculturalism.

It is both ironic and hypocritical that the folks producing and airing such socially conscious segments for “Sesame Street” would certainly be among the very first to intolerantly decry the holy leftist “separation of church and state!” political canard.

In fairness to Alec Baldwin and that family, this is not a family member, but is desperate to hang onto the coattails of his in-name-only family.

Baldwin goes onto to point out that "The Star-Spangled Banner" is never sung on Sesame Street, nor is God Bless America. Nevermind that the message it teaches, without referencing any church, is precisely identical to the secular messages he received while wearing his "big boy panties" in Sunday school at Our Lady of Whateverthehell.

Nope. Sesame Street, because it is publicly funded, MUST be part of the Islamofascistcommiepinkohippiefaglesbowymnist movement.

Well, Bert & Ernie DO live together, after all.

I guess Ol' Adam missed this while wearing his (faux) uniform, filming Independence Day:

And indeed,
I pointed this out to him in comments and challenged HIS patriotism, since Sesame Street has been to military bases around the world.

But I digress...

Not every patriotic effort has to be borne in with flags waving and guns blazing, or morons in red, white, and blue clothing shouting "USA! USA!" at a sporting event or concert.

Sometimes, a patriotic effort is a matter of teaching a fellow countryman a fact he did not know before. How to count. How to read. How to look at the family down the street wearing yarmulkes and understanding that it's no different than the cross your daddy or older brother wears.

I admit, when Sesame Street started devoting a portion of its show to teaching in Spanish, I got a little uneasy.

Until I thought about it: how do you reach a kid who's parents may not even speak English, yet have thrust him into an English language school system?

And notice, this isn't about illegal immigration. Foreign language students have been in school systems for the past century and more. And we're fortunate here in America that much of the world, much of the wealthier parts at any rate, teach English in their school systems too.

But it's the poor that need our help, it's the poor that need to be given the tools to compete in society, to fully engage in the American dream of getting a job and paying taxes and buying a home and building a life.

It's sad to think that Baldwin, himself just one or two generations away from being a "filthy Irisher" doesn't understand this. A chicago native, a truck driver, and a representaitve of the target audience of Sesame Street, an inner-city working-class kid, he apparently has forgotten the lessons of the street: pick on someone your own size.

It even appears that in his cups, Baldwin has forgotten the lessons of his own movie debut My Bodyguard. Sometimes, kids in scary situations need a hand from a friend, no matter how tough they think they are.

Even if that friend is a fuzzy little puppet.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

A right-wing bigot owns our media

By Capt. Fogg

Well, there you have it. With Fox News, it starts right at the top. He's not sure if it's valid to compare President Obama with Stalin, he says, but he certainly is a racist and Glenn Beck was right in saying it, says Rupert Murdoch:

But he did make a very racist comment. Ahhh... about, you know, blacks and whites and so on, and which he said in his campaign he would be completely above. And um, that was something which perhaps shouldn’t have been said about the President, but if you actually assess what he was talking about, he was right,"

he said on Australian TV. Well, ahhh and um, indeed -- anybody who can look at Barack Obama in the context of early 21st-century America; stand him against Murdoch's race-baiting bogus journalism and call him a racist is either deranged, dishonest or stupid. I don't rule out that Rupert has hit the Trifecta here.

Of course Murdoch denied being aware that Beck had compared our president with Joseph Stalin even though, of course, he did just that and of course Fox in general is engaged in an often self-contradictory orgy of slanderous invention, deceptive video editing and stealing rumors from disreputable blogs without investigation. If Murdoch isn't aware or doesn't understand, it argues strongly for the deranged and dishonest. If we're looking for the reason behind Fox's loyalty to someone who is loosing advertisers and making our country and much of its media a laughing stock, here you have it: Rupert Murdoch thinks Glenn Beck is right and I don't mean far Right.

Obama may not hate white people, admitted Beck, but he has a problem with "white culture" and I suppose that might be true if you define white culture as Glenn Beck's kind of loathing for anything smelling of decency. I hate that kind of white culture too. Indeed, lumping together the "white" people of the world into one imaginary culture is in itself an act of idiotic, deceptive and ugly racism, but do we need to need to explain Glenn Beck or do we need to boycott every and any Rupert Murdoch enterprise until he feels it in his swollen bank accounts?

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

Labels: , , , ,

Bookmark and Share