Sunday, March 28. 2010
I have definitely evolved over time…Erick Erickson Explaining to Howard Kurtz Why he Regrets, Among Other Things, Publicly Calling retiring Justice Souter a “Goat-F*cking Child Molester”
Erick Erickson says he’s evolved. Honest he has! He learned his lesson after that Tweet he posted last May – twice – about Justice Souter.
Yeah, really, it was about the dumbest thing I’ve done. You now, counter-intuitively, I guess, some good came out of it, the very first time I’ve realized, Howard, how what I do for a living affects my family as well. Uhhh, having my three year old heckled and booed in the front yard by a neighbor, having my wife be berated at her office…
Yes, in the course of less than a year, Erickson has learned his lesson -- which is that Erick Erickson posting grossly irresponsible tweets accusing a public figure of bestiality and pedophilia is wrong because it adversely affects Erick Erickson and the people Erick Erickson loves.
Justice Souter’s family possibly getting heckled and berated? No biggie. It’s all about Erick Erickson, whose greatest crime in the past, really, if you listen to Erick Erickson, was being too darned modest about anyone paying attention to little ol’ him. As he blushingly confesses, “Up until that moment I always considered I was just a guy chatting with friends even on Twitter, and realized I’ve actually reached a point where people listen to what I say and care about what I say.”
Because in addition to being modest, he’s passionate! Back in 2008, when Erickson wrote a piece entitled “Is Obama Shagging Hookers Behind the Media’s Back” and concluded that “Obama’s Marxist harpy wife would go Lorena Bobbit on him should he even think about it,” he was just being “very passionate and aggressive in defending” his side. He wasn’t attacking! He was defending!
And really, he’s just an ordinary concerned citizen like any other American driven into a state of insensate rage after reading the ingredients on his box of Calgon. When Erickson wrote “At what point do people march down to their state legislator’s house, pull them aside, and beat him to a bloody pulp for being an idiot,” he was responding to the kind of provocation, the sort of “unwarranted government intrusion” that would drive any reasonable human being to react in that manner.
“The case in that situation was Washington State banning phosphates from dishwasher detergent,” he explains.
Thursday, March 25. 2010
Cantor said a bullet was shot through the window of his Richmond, Va., campaign office this week, and that he's gotten threatening emails.
A preliminary investigation shows that a bullet was fired into the air and struck the window in a downward direction, landing on the floor about a foot from the window. The round struck with enough force to break the windowpane but did not penetrate the window blinds. There was no other damage to the room, which is used occasionally for meetings by the congressman. From the Police Report on the Incident Cantor is referring to
So Eric Cantor is trying to convince everyone that someone shooting a gun into the air in the vicinity of an unoccupied building where he has an office - the bullet fell, hitting a window pane but not breaking it* -- is the equivalent of a blog-directed attack in which people hurled bricks through the windows of several Democratic headquarters. Not to mention the relative of a Democrat pol whose home was rather dangerously vandalized after a couple of right-wing bloggers mistakenly posted it as the pol's address.
It looks like he and others on the right are gearing up to blame the victims if and when more serious violence actually breaks out -- so long as the victims are Democrats.
There are nutballs on either side of the political spectrum, and strong feelings can bring them out of the woodwork. If health reform had failed, I have no doubt that some Republican lawmakers would have gotten threats and obscene FAXes from supporters of reform. There might even have been some smashed windows.
But there’s a difference, one that ratchets up the danger quotient here. It can be summed up in two words. “Guns” and “Influence.”
Liberals did not react to the “election” of George W. Bush by running out and buying guns and ammo to the point where gun stores were running out of stock. They did not invite attendees at demonstrations to bring weapons, even in areas where carrying a gun in public is legal. They did not post numerous messages online citing armed insurrection as an option.
Yes, there were liberals who said they were leaving the country if George Bush were re-elected, but, no prominent elected Democrat stood before a cheering crowd and invoked secession. Yes, there were left-wing bloggers who claimed George Bush was using FEMA to build and man concentration camps, and insisted that Bush had himself engineered the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11. There was, however, and there still is, no left wing equivalent to Glenn Beck coming on the air almost every night and spouting half-mad (or just plain mad) conspiracy theories to a national audience. Yes, there were rocks thrown and windows broken at some demonstrations, often in the heat of the moment. What we did not see was a coordinated effort, organized online, in which cowards planned and executed night-time vandalism on party headquarters – or released the home addresses of prominent Republicans (or their relatives) and invited their constituents to pay them a visit. When a well-known liberal blogger did once confront someone at their home, he got called out for it -- by Keith Olbermann on national TV.
And that’s an important difference. Nobody is claiming that stupidity and irrationality are unique to the right wing. Unfortunately, leaders of the Republican party have, for the past twenty years, sought to use this irrationality as leverage in a manner the Democratic party has not.
Under the circumstances, Cantor's recent effort at shushing Democrats comes across as pre-emptive damage control -- the nervousness of someone who realizes that the mob he and his friends have been inciting all these years just might not be as controllable as he thought they were.
*correction: It did break the pane.
Monday, March 15. 2010
Here's a theory about why President Obama is having a tough political time right now: He doesn't seem all that happy being president.
Can’t you just hear that resigned sigh as Hiatt types the word “still?” He’s enacting the role of the reasonable man, oh-so-reluctantly driven to a conclusion he doesn’t want, (Honest he doesn’t!) about an inescapable, inherent defect he notices in the president’s demeanor.
The little second paragraph is an example of what I call “magic words.” “Magic words” are words presumed by the speaker or writer to have the supernatural power of undumbing dumb statements, unracisting racist statements, and unnastying nasty statements. “I know it sounds irrational/bigoted/callous” someone will declare, adopting the posture of an intelligent soul truly anguished by what the facts are driving him to say. “But…” (or “still,” or “however”)… And the speaker then dives head first into several hundred words of irrationality and/or bigotry and/or callousness.
In Fred Hiatt’s case, it’s a Washington Post piece about how the president’s problem is that he’s just too damn sullen.
Monday, March 8. 2010
My votes reflect the wishes of the people in my district. I have always felt that my faith and allegiance was to the people, there, in the district, my constituents. And so as each of these individual measures came before the Legislature I cast 'no' votes, usually 'no' votes, because the measures were . . . almost always acknowledging rights or assigning identification to homosexual persons." Senator Roy Ashburn, recently outed as gay, explaining his consistently anti-gay rights voting record
See, you don’t need integrity, honesty, and a grasp of the issues to be a Senator.
You just need to be able to count a show of hands.
Wednesday, March 3. 2010
ACORN does indeed operate like the Mafia, but it more closely resembles another organization that began as an affiliate of the Democratic Party, the Ku Klux Klan. Aside from intimidating some bank executives, ACORN does not engage in violence, but like the KKK it has vote fraud as a top priority. Michael Zak, at Biggovernment.com
If I’ve learned anything, as I’ve watched the right wing trajectory over the past two decades, it’s not to expect the American conservative establishment to actually hit the wall. There seems to be no point in sight where the right will draw back and say, “Whoa! That’s going a bit too far!” I stopped watching for such a thing years ago, and instead began wondering what form American conservatism would assume the further right it went and the closer it drew in philosophy and tactics to past traditions of repression, racism and violence.
It’s not that the movers and shakers in the Republican Party playing to their base “base” are sadists who enjoy the prospect of human suffering. I doubt that Boehner is plotting with other GOP leaders to bring about the return of the mainstream American Klan. But the mindlessness driving their base is too valuable to them. If they directly reject the irresponsible rantings of Limbaugh, Beck, etc, they run a very real risk of losing that tool. So, they’re willing “go there.”
They just don’t want the onus of “going there.”
As the racism becomes more and more obvious, the threats of violence less and less oblique, and the raw inhumanity less veiled, more and more reliance must be placed on willful stupidity. Gross historical revisionism and false equivalencies proliferate. The Nazis’ crimes, we are told, did not result from their embrace of racism and a virulent hatred of the their political opponents (especially the left), but from the meaningless and cynical “socialist” planks in their original party platform. The crimes of the Klan, we are told, were not based on their reactionary white supremacy, but on the fact that they were Democrats and therefore (in the minds of those who are either truly historically illiterate or willing to pretend they are) “liberal.”
What these dangerous rationalizations share is the premise that callousness, dishonesty, and brutality are minor matters, that refraining from them is a form of squeamishness rather than a significant ethical difference. This premise opens the way for Jonah Goldberg to write a book comparing liberals who worked for racial equality through voter registration and non-violent demonstrations to Nazis who murdered entire ethnic groups. It enables a blogger at Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government to equate ACORN, an organization dedicated to getting out the minority vote through registration, with the Klan, an organization dedicated to repressing the minority vote through violence and intimidation.
And on a more mainstreamed level, it enables Washington Post writer Kathleen Parker to equate Louise Slaughter citing a case where a woman was so poor she ended up using her dead sister’s dentures, with Sarah Palin’s grotesque lie about “Death Panels.” Parker, of course, is a bit more sophisticated than the right wing pundits who openly guffawed at the account. Her style is to tut-tut about the plight of the poor woman while politely tittering. You can almost see Parker’s effort at keeping a straight face as she shakes her head over the naivete of Louise Slaughter. The fact that Palin’s story is untrue and unbelievable and Slaughter’s apparently true and quite believable is treated as if it were beside the point.
Why, Slaughter actually thought the story was an important and damning example of how desperate some Americans are getting when it comes to medical care! Isn’t that just priceless?
In order for the American right to sell their agenda today, they must unfetter the discussion from human consequences. At the blogging, talk-radio and cable “news” base, Michael Zak, Glenn Beck and Jonah Goldberg invite their fans to ignore the most obvious difference between political groups that use violence and intimidation to push forward their agenda, and political groups that use voter registration and legal activism. Higher up on the food chain, “sophisticated” reporters like Kathleen Parker treat the issue as if she were covering a horse race, politely unfocusing her eyes to the difference between an apparently true story and a blatant lie.
Where will this nonsense end? Where will it lead us?
Sunday, January 31. 2010
"The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday--but never jam to-day." -- The White Queen in Lewis Carroll's Through The Looking Glass
We want to get into this debate now because, for the right wing, it’s never a good time to talk about issues like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
Really, when would be a good time? After all terrorism is defeated? After we’ve made a complete economic recovery? How many years will that take? And are we to believe no other problems are going to crop up that people like Boehner can point to and say, “this should take priority?”
So the answer, Representative Boehner, is “yes.”
We want to talk about this now.
Monday, January 4. 2010
From Nile Gardiner's "The Top 10 Conservative Movies of the Last Decade":
I love this.
Yes, The Lives of Others is everything Mr. Gardiner says it is, but here’s the thing -- one point it makes about the despicable Stasi is that isolation and sleep deprivation -- you know, methods that conservatives have insisted are NOT torture -- are, in fact, torture.
This is made clear in the film from almost the very beginning, when the Stasi agent main character, Gerd Weisler, teaches a class in interrogation and advises his students to use sleep deprivation as a method of extracting information.
An article in The Boston Globe that came out at the same time The Lives of Others was released in the United States quotes a victim of the Stasi named Matthias Melster:
"Was I beaten? No, I was never beaten. I have no scars to show," Melster said.
Or, as another agent of the Stasi in the The Lives of Others observes:
Your guy, Dreyman, is a Type 4, a "hysterical anthropocentrist." Can't bear being alone, always talking, needing friends. That type should never be brought to trial. They thrive on that. Temporary detention is the best way to deal with them. Complete isolation and no set release date. No human contact the whole time, not even with the guards. Good treatment, no harassment, no abuse, no scandals, nothing they could write about later. After 10 months, we release. Suddenly, that guy won't cause us any more trouble. Know what the best part is? Most type 4s we've processed in this way never write anything again. Or paint anything, or whatever artists do. And that without any use of force. Just like that. Kind of like a present.
Can you imagine the reaction of the right wingers who laud The Lives of Others as a great “conservative” movie if, instead of depicting dissidents in a communist country being treated in this manner, it had depicted middle easterners picked up on suspicion of terrorism being treated in that manner?
Can you imagine the reaction of these right wingers if, instead of a dissident East German director being driven to suicide by a blacklist, it had depicted a leftist American director during the McCarthy era?
Come to think of it, I don’t have to “imagine” that last one. The late great McCarthyism apologist William F. Buckley positively raved about the film when it came out. He thought it was great.
I guess it’s only bad when the commies do it.
Monday, November 23. 2009
There’s been a bit of a stir a Right Wing bumpersticker and slogan making the rounds – “Pray for Obama: Psalm 109:8"
The verse in question is from one of the angrier psalms and reads:
“Let his days be few; and let another take his office.” It then goes on to say, “Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow."
An often ignored rule about quotes is, “LOOK THEM UP.” Famous quotes taken out of context are endemic online, especially if understanding them requires a grasp of nuance. The old Shakespeare quote, “let’s kill all the lawyers,” for instance, is often cited without the quoter showing any awareness that the great playwright put it in the mouth of a scoundrel.
Daily Kos diarist NewDealer did what the rest of us should have done – read the relevant psalm in its entirety.
Which begins with the great Biblical hero Kind David saying:
“For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues…”
What are these wicked and deceitful mouths saying? Well, among other things…
They say, Appoint a wicked man against him; let an accuser stand on his right. When he is tried, let him be found guilty; let his prayer be counted as sin. May his days be few; may another seize his position…
An accuser on King David’s RIGHT?
Apparently, tea-partiers have been around longer than we thought.
Thursday, November 19. 2009
Reporter: Was Loving vs. Virginia decided correctly by the Supreme Court of the United States?
I find it pretty hard to believe that someone who graduated from Tulane Law School would not know about Loving vs. Virginia, the landmark Supreme Court decision that effectively struck down laws against interracial marriage. What we're getting here is more likely an indrect but still unlovely glimpse of Senator David Vitter's voting base. He'd rather come across as an idiot than risk alienating the racists among his supporters by coming out, even obliquely, in favor of interracial marriage.
Friday, October 30. 2009
I don’t understand sort of showing up with the White House Press Pool with photographers and asking family members if you can take pictures. That’s really hard for me to get my head around. I think its an honorable and important thing for us to pay tribute. There’s no greater sacrifice people make to the nation. It was a surprising way for the president to choose to do this. Liz Cheney, October 29, 2009
Liz Cheney has announced that she just can’t “get [her] head around” Obama being photographed at Dover honoring the caskets of soldiers killed in Afghanistan. She appears to be politely shocked. “It was a surprising way for the president to chose to do this,” she tells John Gibson.
A very young, very uninformed listener hearing this could be forgiven for imagining that Obama had engaged in an appalling, absolutely unprecedented breach of taste by a Commander in Chief.
An older, even moderately informed viewer has no excuse.
Liz Cheney was born in 1966. That means she was about 17 years old in 1983, when President Reagan delivered a radio address announcing:
In a few hours I'll undertake one of the saddest journeys of my Presidency. I'll be going to Andrews Air Force Base to meet one of our Air Force planes bringing home 16 Americans who died this week in the terrorist attack on the United States Embassy in Beirut.
And yes, there were pictures, this one courtesy of Bluetexan at Firedoglake.
Surely Liz had read or heard, or seen something about this when it happened? I mean, given her Dad’s job in the House of Representatives, and all? It’s not like she was just an ordinary high school student being raised an apolitical family.
She knows better than most that a president being photographed as he honors the dead is not some new, tasteless intrusion by an upstart Chief Executive. This outrage Cheney's miming is, at worst, a conscious act of hypocrisy and at best, an elaborately rationalized “noble lie” calculated to whip up the Republican Tea-Partier “base.” It’s remotely possible she suffered a head injury we know nothing about that wiped out her memory of the 1980s, but the simplest explanation is the most likely.
Liz Cheney is counting on her listeners either not being familiar with recent history, or being as willing as she is to feign ignorance about it.
Monday, June 8. 2009
When I did a Twitter about her, having read what she said, I said that was racist — but I applied it to her as a person. And the truth is I don’t know her as a person. It’s clear that what she said was racist, and it’s clear — or as somebody wrote recently, “racialist” if you prefer.Newt Gingrich on Sotamayor, 6/7/09, Face The Nation
And why, exactly, would we “prefer” it?
This quote from Newt Gingrich illustrates the right wing contempt for meaning that has degraded American political rhetoric to the point where Glenn Beck has been given a national platform. Gingrich is a major architect of the current GOP approach to language, which counts on the listener reacting, not to the actual meanings of words, but to their rough connotations. It’s that brand of dishonesty that enables Ann Coulter to accuse Democrats in general of “treason” and then act put upon and then furiously duck and weave when she’s asked to apply the term treasonous to specific Democrats.
Bad feedback about using the word “racist?” Just use another form of the same word, and frame it as though it’s a graceful apology.
Tuesday, May 19. 2009
Torture is apparently where the moral rubber hits the road for a lot of people, and the result has been an unprecedented epidemic of aggressive and competent debaters on cable and network news.
Colmes, (whose jump in self-esteem after leaving Hannity and Colmes is palpable) takes on Fox & Friends and the issue of Nancy Pelosi:
Ventura flattens Sean Hannity on Hannity’s own show:
The Daily Kos’ David Waldman shows the folks at CNN how it’s done:
But hands down the best debate, recently posted on Youtube, is the one between Lindsey Graham and Lindsey Graham:
Cudos to Graham for, unlike most torture proponents, not filibustering and constantly interrupting his opponent (himself) in the course of this heated discussion.
Friday, May 8. 2009
It’s not that this grotesque double-standard hasn’t been obvious for years to anyone with a basic understanding of English and history. An entire chapter of Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago described in its English translation sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, and stress positions as “torture” without the slightest demurral from the conservatives back during the Cold War.
But now we have an example in today’s New York Times. Both Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Sullivan have already zeroed in on this and I doubt I can improve on their comments, so I’ll just post the relevant excerpts.
Col. Harold E. Fischer Jr., an American fighter pilot who was routinely tortured in a Chinese prison during and after the Korean War ….
But a few weeks earlier:
“I have resisted using torture without qualification or to describe all the techniques. Exactly what constitutes torture continues to be a matter of debate and hasn’t been resolved by a court. This president and this attorney general say waterboarding is torture, but the previous president and attorney general said it is not. On what basis should a newspaper render its own verdict, short of charges being filed or a legal judgment rendered?” Jehl argued for precision and caution. I agree. < (Clark Hoyt. the Public Editor of The New York Times defending Washington Bureau editor Douglas Jehl’s decision not to use that icky word “torture” to describe the Central Intelligence agency “strip(ping) Al Qaeda prisoners naked, bash(ing) them against walls, keep(ing) them awake for up to 11 straight days, sometimes with their arms chained to the ceiling, confin(ing) them in dark boxes and mak(ing) them feel as if they were drowning.” 4/26/09
Friday, May 1. 2009
"Now we must listen, learn and lead through an honest, open conversation with the American people that will result in building policy proposals that will yield the best results for our nation's long-term success," it said.
So the Republicans have announced a new initiative called the “National Council for a New America,” which involves a series of “town hall-style meetings” in which high profile Republicans like Jeb Bush, John McCain, Bobby Jindal and Haley Barbour will accept questions from “small audiences.” These events will, they imply, not be a replay of those carefully vetted “town halls” of the past. No, this will involve actual questions from honest-to-God NON-Republicans. According to the AFP, “One source familiar with the campaign, who requested anonymity, stressed that it aimed to reach mixed audiences of Republican, Democrats and independents on issues like national security, the economy, and energy.”
That’s nice, but I do wonder whether the word “Democrat” actually appears anywhere in the letter itself.
Actually opening up events to honest-to-God hard questions from “the enemy” would be a dramatic shift in tactics on the part of Republicans. Ever since Newt Gingrich published that famous 1996 GOPAC memo, “Language, a Key Mechanism of Control”, the GOP leadership has exerted a rigid grip over the party’s message -- one that assiduously avoids actual public dialogue with Democrats, liberals, etc. After all, one can’t trust that DemRat pinko in the audience to use the right words when framing the debate.
What Gingrich and the Republican Party leadership in general have fostered over the past twenty years has been a hot-house for extremists, one where Republicans could talk amongst themselves about liberals and Democrats, using approved words like “disgrace,” and “pathetic” and “sick.” This tactic only has a chance of working if it’s done without actually interacting with liberals and Democrats. After all, one can’t have the party faithful deciding for themselves whether or not words like “disgrace,” “pathetic,” or “sick” are appropriate.
Are we really expected to believe that the GOP has suddenly decided to embrace actual communication?
More likely, those small audiences are going to consist of carefully chosen right wing libertarians or other independents, with maybe one or two strategically inept Democrats or liberal crackpots added for appearance’s sake.
It would be nice to be proven wrong.
Sunday, February 22. 2009
Shelby mentioned that he hadn't seen the birth certificate only as a "throwaway line" while listing the qualifications for office and explaining that the issue had been examined at length and put to rest.
A “throwaway line.” Right. In front of a “packed room” at a Steak House in Alabama, Senator Richard Shelby responded to a question about rumors surrounding Obama’s citizenship with the “throwaway" line that: “Well his father was Kenyan and they said he was born in Hawaii, but I haven’t seen any birth certificate. You have to be born in America to be president.”
But “he doesn’t have any doubt about Obama’s citizenship and eligibility.”
He just threw in that bit about not seeing “any birth certificate” for the Hell of it.
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