Monday, October 29, 2007

Blogging still slow

My other political project continues to consume much time.

Op-ed: Coming soon in the funny papers.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Propagandists Next Door

The right-wing Pass-It-On e-mails that come to me (via friends and relatives who know I collect it) was were a source of amusement for years. But what with the machinations of this administration and its lackeys - and a pending attack on Iran - I've come to see them in a darker light.

Folks, you're not just forwarding e-mail from friends. You're being used as propagandists by propagandandists.

An old one from 2002 came around again last week, already debunked by Among the lies it traffics in are:
Oliver North warned an unfriendly Senate inquisitor about Osama bin Laden during the 1987 Iran-Contra hearings. "Quotes" are included.

North's inquisitor was Al Gore.

9/11 mastermind, Mohammad Atta, in prison in Israel for a bus bombing conviction, was released from prison in 1993 at the behest of the Clinton administration. This "fact" was reported in the U.S. press immediately after 9/11, but subsequently censored.

Oceana has always been at war with Eastasia.
Okay, that last bit wasn't really in there. But as is customary, the spam urges readers to pass it on (to everyone in your e-mail list).

All lies, of course. It was Abu Nidal, not Osama bin Laden. Gore wasn't on that panel. It wasn't that Mohammed Atta - different guy, same name. Ollie North even disclaimed the e-mail on his own site. Newspapers did report the Atta story after 9/11, but stopped after the Boston Globe discovered the error.

The disquieting thing is, these things continue to crop up - along with new ones - and fan out like a chain reaction. And they fly comfortably below the radar, day after day, passed from e-mail list to e-mail list. The mail I got had 75 e-mail addresses on it.

What makes Pass-It-On mail such an efficient conduit for spreading propaganda is that it arrives from a friend, colleague or relative - sources less impeachable, and much less likely to be challenged than the Mainstream Media. A 30-sec Google search would reveal the mail to be false, less time than it takes to attach dozens of your friends' addresses to the forward. Yet few bother. It reinforces existing prejudices. It came from a friend. Why inquire further?

What especially strikes me about this one is, it's not just one falsehood that slipped through the cracks, but many. The newspapers got the Atta story wrong. Okay. But Oliver North (Iran-Contra transcripts are readily available)? Al Gore?

As with other mailings in my collection, somebody went to a lot of trouble to assemble and distribute these lies with World Trade Center graphics and extra-large, extra-bold red, white and blue formatting - not uncommon for Pass-It-Ons. Given what we've seen from the administration and its supporters, it's not a stretch to assume that the authors already knew these things were lies ... and didn't care so long as they furthered the cause and poisoned the well of public discourse.

Such tactics filter from the top down. We shouldn't be surprised.

With evidence that the recent right-wing blogger smear campaign against twelve year-old SCHIP recipient, Graeme Frost, was orchestrated out of Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's office, one wonders if the persistent Pass-It-On spam has similar parentage, though perhaps not regularly originating in the Senate.

These things do their jobs discretely, quietly poisoning minds, breeding mistrust of the unpatriotic Others, laying a foundation of support - almost subliminal - for secret prisons, military tribunals, indefinite detention, kidnapping, torture of prisoners, and the next preemptive war.

As a child reared during the Cold War, I was cautioned what would happen to freedom-loving "trouble-makers" if the Communists ever took over: surveillance, imprisonment, show trials, friends and relatives informing on each other, secrecy and ubiquitous propaganda.

They just never anticipated talk radio and the Internet.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Greatest Hits Party

At recent and not-so-recent Democrat events I've attended, invariably someone gets up to remind us what Democrats are all about. To cheers and applause they reel off a list of 40-to-70-year-old programs and policies of which Democrats are justly proud. Only it begins to have the air of a late-night K-tel commercial: Democrats' Greatest Hits - All your favorites from the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s.

Makes me want to put on some plaid golf pants, a white patent-leather belt, and dance the Shag with Mrs. Blue.

Folks, you'd better get off your widening rear ends and create some new hits if you want to remain relevant in the 21st century. This democracy may not survive your biding your time until the end of Bush's term.

Here are a few off-the-cuff suggestions:
Restore habeas corpus.

Insist the Executive branch obey the law or impeach the blackguards.

Cut off the Boy King's war-waging allowance -- give him a G.I. Joe and send him to his room.

Demand an Attorney General who's not another presidential toady.
Need more ideas? You know where to find me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Eliminationists United

This is a few days old, but worth reading in full.

Ezra Klein renders a diagnosis of the latest Malkin/wingnut crusade -- against 12-year-old Graeme Frost -- into plain English:
This is the politics of hate. Screaming, sobbing, inchoate, hate. It would never, not in a million years, occur to me to drive to the home of a Republican small business owner to see if he “really” needed that tax cut. It would never, not in a million years, occur to me to call his family and demand their personal information. It would never occur to me to interrogate his neighbors. It would never occur to me to his smear his children.

The shrieking, atavistic ritual of personal destruction the right roars into every few weeks is something different than politics. It is beyond politics. It was done to Scott Beauchamp, a soldier serving in Iraq. It was done to college students from the University of California, at Santa Cruz. Currently, it is being done to a child and his family. And think of those targets: College students, soldiers, children. It can be done to absolutely anyone.

This is not politics. This is, in symbolism and emotion, a violent group ritual. It is savages tearing at the body of a captured enemy. It is the group reminding itself that the Other is always disingenuous, always evil, always lying, always pitiful and pathetic and grotesque.
To punctuate the point, Klein cites a recent account by Jim Henley of road rage, threats and a near assault provoked by simply ... well, let him explain it:
I yell back when he stops for air, “What is your FUCKING problem? What did I do to you?”

He leans out to point at my car bumper. Which is entirely unadorned except for a Kerry-Edwards sticker from 2004.

“YOU FAGGOT YOU VOTED FOR THAT WAR CRIMINAL. I’M GOING TO BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF YOU.” Guy is turning a shade of purple. I don’t think he’s just putting on a show. He actually sped up, nearly rammed with his car at high speed and is now seriously contemplating attacking me over a bumper sticker.
Liberal protesters may camp out in front of Nancy Pelosi's house, but that's about it. Malkin's mob falls into this disturbing brand of conservatism, the kind of insecure, easily threatened people who beat up guys with long hair in the 60s before wearing theirs long in the 70s.

There are plenty of sane people on the right, to be sure -- some of my relatives among them -- but for too many twisted individuals conservatism isn't a political philosophy, it's a personality disorder.

Dave Neiwert has the last say:

It's important to make an issue of eliminationist talk precisely because it is so poisonous to the national discourse. For starters, its innate divisiveness belies its practitioners' demands for "national unity." Moreover, its targets are in a lose-lose position: if they attempt to continue to practice the old-fashioned politics of traditional civility out of principle, they are doomed to be bulldozered; but if they stand up and fight back, they're accused of being uncivil. (It's funny how bullies act all wounded and picked on when somebody punches back.)

This is easily the ugliest facet of a conservative movement that doesn't have many attractive ones to begin with, and the more the general public sees it in all its mouth-foaming glory, the less they want anything to do with them. With polls a month ago showing something like 86 percent support for SCHIP, nasty attacks on 12-year-olds seem unlikely to change the public's mind. (A more recent Rasmussen poll showed 57 percent disapproved of President Bush's veto of the SCHIP bill.) More important, there's a growing consensus that, like the centrists at Poliblogger, we are "sick to death of these people and their views of both politics and public discourse."

Yet at the same time, eliminationist rhetoric creates a vicious upward spiral that inevitably expresses itself in violence: When its practitioners face the inevitable retaliation, their response always is to ratchet it up another notch, until the back-and-forth gets so ugly that hardly anyone can tell who is worse. This is not discourse; it's a recipe for the destruction of our democratic institutions.

[h/t Dave Neiwert/]

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A little history lesson

from "Last of the Mohicans," on cable tonight:
I believe if they set aside their law as and when they wish, their law no longer has rightful authority over us. All they have over us is tyranny, then. -- Jack, a militiaman

Monday, October 15, 2007

Wake up on the wrong side of the bed?

Every day for the last several decades?

Rick Perlstein (citing James Fallows)observes that Al Gore isn't the first Nobel winner to give conservatives a hissy fit.

For conservatives, everything is political war. Al Gore wins the Nobel Peace Prize, reflecting the entire world's consensus that man-made climate change is a crisis? For conservatives, that means: time to discredit the Nobel Peace Prize itself as a pathetic racket—or, as National Review's Steven F. Hayward puts it, "a once-prestigious award," now suffering its "final debasement."

It raises an interesting question. When did conservatives first begin questioning the prestige of the Nobel Peace Prize? Steve Benen and James Fallows point out that would be 1964, when the Prize was won by Dr. Martin Luther King.

[. . .]

As I wrote in an essay last January (subscription only; email me at and I'll email you a copy), conservatives "hated King's doctrines. Hating them was one of the litmus tests of conservatism." Prominent conservatives even went so far as to blame him for his own death—for didn't the doctrine of "civil disobedience" mean you got to choose the laws you followed? Strom Thurmond: "[W]e are now witnessing the whirlwind sowed years ago when some preachers and teachers began telling people that each man could be his own judge in his own case." Ronald Reagan: this was just the sort of "great tragedy that began when we began compromising with law and order, and people started choosing which laws they'd break." Civil rights? That was just a front. A have here in front of me a slim 1965 pamphlet c0-authored by Lee Edwards, a present-day fellow at the Heritage Foundation, entitled Behind the Civil Rights Mask, whose cover features King's face as a mask, hiding their true goal: "revolution."

And they go after children the same way.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Separate and unequal

Glenn Greenwald opines today on the naked corruption on display in the Telecom Immunity law winding through Congress with bipartisan support. It's designed to exempt telecoms from lawsuits spawned by violations of communications laws, committed at the behest of the NSA for the White House's domestic surveillance program.
. . . these corporations are using their vast resources to give money to key lawmakers and pay huge lobbying fees to politically
well-connected former government officials
to pressure the Congress to write a new law that has no purpose other than to declare that they are immune from accountability for their lawbreaking. They're conniving, literally, to be specially exempted from the rule of law.

[. . .]

By definition, our Beltway establishment does not believe in the rule of law -- at least not for them. They are creating a completely segregated, two-track system where high Beltway officials and their corporate enablers arrogate unto themselves the power to decide when they can break the law. They are thus literally exempt from our laws, even our criminal laws, while increasingly harsh, merciless, and inflexible punishments are doled out for the poorest and least connected criminals -- who receive no consideration of any kind, let alone presidential commutations or special laws written for them by Congress retroactively rendering legal their patently criminal behavior.

The Telecom Immunity law that Congress seems well on its way to enacting is one of the most conclusive pieces of evidence yet not only that our Royal Beltway Court is corrupt and decayed at its core. It also proves that they no longer care who knows it.
This weekend, the WaPo reported allegations by former Qwest Communications CEO, Joseph P. Nacchio, that "the government withdrew opportunities for contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars after Qwest refused to participate in an unidentified National Security Agency program that the company thought might be illegal."

Per Nacchio's lawyer:
"Mr. Nacchio made inquiry as to whether a warrant or other legal process had been secured in support of that request," Stern said. "When he learned that no such authority had been granted and that there was a disinclination on the part of the authorities to use any legal process, including the Special Court which had been established to handle such matters, Mr. Nacchio concluded that these requests violated the privacy requirements of the Telecommunications Act."
Granted, Nacchio is appealing convictions for insider trading, and the substance of his allegations could be suspect, but company records of the alleged Feb. 27, 2001 meeting with the NSA could easily confirm whether the NSA was working on a domestic surveillance program six months before September 11, 2001.

Friday, October 12, 2007

What will Fox News say?

Gore Wins Nobel Peace Prize

First Jimmy Carter, now Al Gore. Clearly, the Nobel committee is weak on defense and hates America. They don't even have a Nobel Belligerence Prize do they?

Those socialists are as crazy as Gore is.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

More from the Times

Today's editorial:
Is this the country whose president declared, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” and then managed the collapse of Communism with minimum bloodshed and maximum dignity in the twilight of the 20th century? Or is this a nation that tortures human beings and then concocts legal sophistries to confuse the world and avoid accountability before American voters?
Uh, "B"?

And worse. These "leaders" are giving license for their followers to behave likewise.

“Surprise, surprise, surprise."

"That ain’t my finger, neither.”

From this morning's New York Times:
Tens of thousands of Medicare recipients have been victims of deceptive sales tactics and had claims improperly denied by private insurers that run the system’s huge new drug benefit program and offer other private insurance options encouraged by the Bush administration, a review of scores of federal audits has found.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Road to Damascus

experience -- circa 1st century A.D. -- is what America needs: scales falling from eyes. Courtesy of Glenn Greenwald, evidence that that's happening from John Cole at Balloon Juice:
Seriously- what does the current Republican party stand for? Permanent war, fear, the nanny state, big spending, torture, execution on demand, complete paranoia regarding the media, control over your body, denial of evolution and outright rejection of science, AND ZOMG THEY ARE GONNA MAKE US WEAR BURKHAS, all the while demanding that in order to be a good American I have to spend most of every damned day condemning half my fellow Americans as terrorist appeasers.

And that isn’t even getting into the COMPLETE and TOTAL corruption of our political processes at every level
Follow the link above and this one. I was only vaguely aware of the Siegelman case in Alabama. The article in Time should change that for a lot of people.