Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Culture of Life is Dead - From the Neck, Up

The reason I haven't weighed in on the Terri Schiavo fiasco in days is because I find the whole thing idiotic. This issue is really just the anti-choice crowd grandstanding for the sake of creating some kind of medical and legal precedent so they can overturn Roe v. Wade.

It is placing principle over common decency.

The so-called "culture of life" twits have, in their lip-diddling pathology: put up "wanted" posters featuring the faces and addresses of the judges ruling on this case and the representatives who did not vote the way the "culture of life" crowd preferred, made death threats against not only against those judges/representatives but also threatened their family members, offered a $250,000 "bounty" for the murder of Michael Schiavo and $10,000 for the murder of Michael Schiavo's attorney, consistently called for overturning 200-and-some years of the US Constitution by having law enforcement forcibly remove Terri Schiavo from Michael Sciavo's custody... among, oh, a dozen other attrocities.

Nice. Way to conduct yourselves like rational, law-abiding adults. Put your hypocrisy out there for us all to see, show us just how valuable "culture of life" really is as a guiding principle. And, oh yeah, by all means, don't distance yourselves from the numbskulls spouting garbage science, screaming for murder, and otherwise tainting your philosophy with abject ignorance.

Finally, remember that none of the people on the "culture of death" (or whatever you're calling it) side of this issue has called for the murder of anyone. Nope, no, shut it, no sophistry here, don't say the other side is calling for the murder of Terri Schiavo, that argument is groundless and disingenuous. Don't cover your own hypocrisy with a clumsilly constructed straw man.

Enough for me, my rant doesn't compare to Robert Friedman's piece in the St. Petersburg Times:
Like many of you, I have been compelled by recent events to prepare a more detailed advance directive dealing with end-of-life issues. Here's what mine says:

Thursday, March 24, 2005

CNN = Christian News Now?!?

Perhaps I should be sorry that I broke my boycott of CNN but on some piquant level, I'm glad I tuned in to watch how low that sorry-ass network has sunk. They're down on their knees, certainly. Praying for better ratings, perhaps, or preparing to receive the host of some hieratic phallus.

When I awoke today and saw the news that the US Supreme Court refused to hear arguments on the Schiavo case, I tuned in CNN to see what kind of noise they were making. From what I'd been reading around the blogosphere, CNN (and the rest of cable/network television news) had put themselves firmly on the wrong side of the issue - at least as far as polled Americans feel about this case and I tuned in to CNN with a kind of I-told-you-so glee.

James Wolcott clued me in how bad things had gotten at CNN with his report of CNN correspondant Bob Franken reporting in Florida. I missed that episode but I caught Franken and another reporter giving exclusive coverage to the right to life extremists with unashamed and appalling bias. On the screen rants some idiot preacher pleading with Jeb Bush to intervene stormtrooper-like to save Terri Schiavo, saying "if this was an african-american person who was being denied the right to attend a school or eat at a lunch counter, wouldn't we demand that the governor intervene?"

These people are shameless (i.e. Tom DeLay calling Michael Schiavo "a terrorist") in their willingness to twist the truth and indulge hate rhetoric to suit their agenda but CNN is especially venal in its genuflection to these nutjobs.

That report was followed immediately by yet another "lookee here" for Ashley Smith and the obligatory hosanna for "The Purpose Driven Life".

I'm not sure DC Media Girl is entirely correct that CNN is trying to outFox Fox but that CNN is doing what it can to capture the narrow demographic of the rabid evangelical right.

Monday, March 21, 2005

"Quorum? We Don't No Steenk-ing Quorum!!!"

I know a little Robert's Rules of Order but little about US constitutional law. So I ask, how does this happen?
The Senate approved the measure on an unchallenged voice vote during a rare Palm Sunday session that came amid charges of cynical political maneuvering. Only three members were on the floor and the bill's prime sponsor, Republican Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida, served as presiding officer.

If I was a congressman or a senator could I break into the chambers and just make shit up?
"Beets are the national vegetable"
"Lord Vadar rules the empire with the dark force"

I still don't get why no one finds this is a dodge by Tom DeLay to get out of ethics charges. As I said in the last post, grasping at straws in order to divert attention from DeLay's problems.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Don't Look at the Man With His Hand in the Till, Look at the Woman in a Coma

Early last week, things were heating up for Tom DeLay, so much that members of his own party were beginning to turn their backs on him. Monday promised dark days ahead for Tom DeLay.

DeLay needed something to divert attention from his snowballing ethics problems and his savior was a comatose woman. When the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the feeding tube could be removed from Terri Schiavo, The Hammer moved quickly, front and center, leading the battle cry to save Terri Schiavo - and save his own sorry ass.

Like a herd of sheep, the GOP lined up behind DeLay in a great show of kissing Christian Right ass, hundreds of clowns pouring out of a tiny little car causing the American electorate to wonder how they all fit. They all fit because they had been politicizing the Schiavo case all week in the grand tradition of GOP whoring. And of course, the media bit. Forget about DeLay's legal woes, we have a goddamn media circus to stage.

Timing is everything in show business and especially, comedy. What the GOP fails to realize is that the Schiavo story is tragic. No one's laughing except the gooper twits who think they've got the mother of all red herrings on their hands. With just a little digging, blogs have uncovered the monumental hypocrisy of a party that has pushed through legislation forcing doctors to pull the plug on patients. More than that, they've completely missed which way the winds of popular support are blowing on this one (almost 90% of Americans say they would not want to be kept alive were they in Terry Schiavo's condition). I'd wager another poll would show most Americans don't believe the GOP has no prinicpled stance on this that it is merely politics.

Yes, merely politics but also a means by which DeLay is ducking the spotlight on his declining political fortunes. If the Democrats are smart, they'll let the smoke clear on the Schiavo case and revive the other patient on the table - the investigation of DeLay's brain-dead sense of ethics.

Friday, March 18, 2005

If This is True, It's EXPLOSIVE

If true, this is extremely disturbing.
All is quiet in Falluja, or at least that is how it seems, given that the mainstream media has largely forgotten about the Iraqi city. But independent journalists are risking life and limb to bring out a very different story.

The picture they are painting is of US soldiers killing whole families, including children, attacks on hospitals and doctors, the use of napalm-like weapons and sections of the city destroyed.

One of the few reporters who has reached Falluja is American Dahr Jamail of the Inter Press Service. He interviewed a doctor who had filmed the testimony of a 16-year-old girl.

"She stayed for three days with the bodies of her family who were killed in their home. When the soldiers entered she was in her home with her father, mother, 12 year-old brother and two sisters.

She watched the soldiers enter and shoot her mother and father directly, without saying anything. They beat her two sisters, then shot them in the head. After this her brother was enraged and ran at the soldiers while shouting at them, so they shot him dead," Jamail relates.

To their credit, the Free Internet Press site qualifies this report as not being substantiated. My thinking is that it's not so far-fetched to seem just simple propoganda. However, I would like to see some verification from news sources other than Al Jazeera or sources within the military itself.

As I've said many times, I believe the vast majority of our military are people of conscience and I would welcome a soldier or soldiers stepping bravely up to admit that yes, this is indeed going on.

Had the Right not been so eager to spread rumor and innuendo - getting a lie out there without any basis in fact only to rescind the story after the damage is done - I would not be posting this at all. However, in this climate of attack politics and sadly aware at how effective those tactics have been, I have no compunction with posting this and waiting for independent verification later.

And as I said, this story seems too real to be in the tin-hat domain.

(Thanks to Skippy for the heads up)

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Need. To. Update. Mooooooooooooore.....

Problem is, no recent news stories have really twisted my nipples. Wolfowitz is Bush's choice for World Bank president. Whatever. Considering the spectacular success Bush had in the private sector, everyone was expecting him to make an enlightened choice? The Senate has a hard on for drilling in ANWR and we're just beginning to wonder if any of those crooks are drooling over the prospect of kick-backs?

It's not that I can't get excited about these issues (and the four-score and twenty others), it's that I'm sick of hearing the same tune played with only slightly different lyrics.

The Left remains on the defensive, reactive, letting the Right call the plays, rewrite the rules, determine where and when the game will be played. Which, of course, puts the Left in a dodgy position - and a losing one.

Same old tune again, this time from me: c'mon Dems, take the initiative, start calling the shots. Get on the winning side, for once.

Give me a reason to update more.

Monday, March 14, 2005

I'll See Your Tip, Atrios, and Raise You a "Hell Yeah"

An emailer over at Atrios suggests that the NYT, with only MoDo on board on the OpEd crew, should hire Katha Pollitt immediately.

I'm on board with that and if the blogosphere is indeed wrangling some influence with the SCLM and politics, a "Hire Katha" campaign is something I'm definitely down with. I've admired her work at The Nation for years and the NYT would only benefit from Pollitt's wit and immense style.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

"The Power of Pride" and Other Silliness

I've been focusing on the writing of a post over on my single-dad blog thinking I could shine in The Zero Boss's blog-writing contest "Blogging For Books" and you might want to go read my entry, it's potentially more interesting than anything I'll post here.

I've seen the post-9/11 bumper stickers "The Power of Pride" everywhere I go, it seems. Someone made a tidy sum from patriotism. Ribbon magnets and the entire schmeer, I have no objections really, I'm just reminded of John Prine's "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore".

"The Power of Pride", though, strikes me as a little troublesome. After all, isn't Pride one of the Seven Deadly Sins? I know these comments will draw some wingnut half-witticisms about me hating the country and how I should move to France or whatever, that I'm missing the point and, well, I'm wondering, what is the point? Are we selective about what sins are acceptable?

Obviously lying is something that comes easy for Republicans (although I don't recall "Dishonesty" being one of the Seven Deadly Sins), killing and sacrifice of others doesn't appear to bother neo-cons. Greed, also one of the Seven Sins, seems to be a virtue in the me-firstism of Red State morality. So why would I think that Pride is something that those folks would want to eschew?

Hubris is nothing new to BushCo. International adventures under the guise of furthering democracy is the epitome of Pride: "We know how to run a country, you don't, and we'll bomb you into submission until you understand that." The self-righteousness of the Religious Right and its determination to force its morality on the rest of us is Pride taken to dangerous extremes.

Instead of exercising a little humility, the country has lunged blindly behind a puffed up little twit girded with the arrogance of a rich frat boy convinced of his superiority to others. This is, in the grand scheme of things, a monumental mistake. The proud get their comeuppance because the proud are blind to their own humanity and their own failings. I'm no theologian but I can say I understand why Pride would be one of the Seven Deadly Sins. As a psychologist I know that Pride is invariably a defense mechanism used to cover an underlying sense of fear, usually an irrational fear.

Pride prevents us from admitting a need for improvement because in being proud, we're satisfied that everything is just as it should be. Pride is the mark of the emotionally immature. To continue learning, accumulating knowledge, requires the humility to admit that there are things that we don't know. The humble evolve; the proud decay.

"The Power of Pride" is really just the bluster of a bully. Assured of being right, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, the bully beats up on a weaker person until the weaker person cries "Uncle". The weaker person isn't really convinced but will tell the bully anything to avoid further pummeling.

I'm sure most of the people displaying "The Power of Pride" sticker are really just saying, "I'm proud to be an American," without thinking that what it's really saying is, "I'm proud to be a punk nazi bully". Unfortunately, acting without really thinking things through is what got us the result in the last election.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Playing Like We Want to Win

When are Democrats going to learn how to act like an opposition party?

There has been no shortage of tut-tutting from Left Blogosphere over Dems bowing to the Rice and Gonzales nominations, a noise that has only increased with the passage of the Credit Card Bankruptcy Bill, a piece of legislation that benefits fatcats and no one else.

Unfortunately, the noise has amounted to little more than "Whatcha' gonna' do?"

I came across this piece by Gene Lyons in (of all places) the Northwest Arkansas News Source
Naïve souls, they prefer to see national politics as a giant PTA meeting, and to comfort themselves with civics text bromides about the virtues of compromise and bipartisanship. Even in the face of the Clinton impeachment and the naked power play that decided the 2000 presidential election, they have trouble comprehending the sheer ruthlessness of the GOP political juggernaut. This is nothing new. Even during FDR’s presidency, Will Rogers joked that he belonged to no organized political party: He was a Democrat.

Again, we're left with the impression of "Whatcha' gonna' do?"

As much as I'd like to see Dems steel their spine and answer the GOP point-for-point, what Dems really need is a political infrastructure similar to what the GOP has built. The cohesion and gutter-level tactics we associate with the GOP today is the result of almost 30 years of patient plotting by conservative fanatics and idealogues. Since the early 70's (some say, since the early 60's), the Right has invested heavilly into think-tanks with intellectual and monetary capital, scheming the overthrow of a largely progressive tide that dominated American politics since the Great Depression.

The pit-bull style of attacking without substance is not the result of the Right's political instinct but the product of careful training and indoctrination developed during the past few decades. Indeed, there is a martial efficiency in how the Right trains its functionaries in how to wage political warfare and it's no coincidence how ex-military leaders have been highly esteemed in the conservative strategy machine. Discipline and unity are the winning qualities of the Right's soldiery. Just like a platoon of diverse elements - a kid from the streets of Philly, a kid from a Montana ranch - put aside differences to create an efficient fighting machine, the GOP has managed to attack as a cohesive whole.

It didn't hurt the Right that the Left had become diffuse and scattered. When the Vietnam War gound to a halt due in large part by pressure applied by the Left and the anti-war movement, liberals took the end of the war as a mandate for progressive politics. From the mid-70's on, the Left became diffuse and prone to in-fighting. With no central issue to unify the Left, liberals began marking territory, pushing one agenda at the expense of others, stepping on toes and generally dismantling the structure that had evolved under the civil rights/gender rights/anti-war movements.

Gender politics became factionalized, environmentalists stood opposed to the aims of the labor movement, various civil rights movements fought for primacy, while the entire Left became an annoying din of self-seeking Politically Correctness and irrelevant to the minds of many Americans. By the 1980's, the Left had become a parody of itself. Assured of their righteousness and invincibility (granted by that righteousness), the Left seemed unaware that it was becoming a parody of itself (aided, in no small part, by the media). Meanwhile, conservatives watched and waited, ready to take advantage of the melee.

To use the military analogy, it was as if Stalin had let his guard down after signing a mutual protection pact allowing Hitler to roll right in. The time was ripe for the Right to take advantage of the Left's lack of unity. Furthermore, with the US having lost its first war and having been humiliated by the Iran hostage situation, the GOP was in a good position to exploit a tide of backlash that was simmering in the middle sections of the country. The Right was prepared for the attack, the Left was busy navel-gazing.

Years of strategy meetings and planning allowed the Right to demonize "liberals", "the loony left", "feminazis", etc., in the media and in speeches. What's the matter with Kansas? Kansas doesn't know that the GOP works against the Kansas voter's economic interests because the GOP has been successful at creating scapegoats for problems that have nothing to do with economic self-interest. The think-tanks knew this would be the plan from the early 70's. Focus on the issues that tore at the moral core of the typical Kansas voter and gussy up the corporatist agenda in terms of those moral values. Classic Bait-and-Switch, a strategy that had been developed well before the conservative movement of the 80's.

Dems can't merely answer the attacks by the Right. The GOP's tactic is (and has been) to be on the offensive and make Dems reactive. "Reactionary", a term applied to conservatives as a characterization of their opposition to the progressive swing in national politics, no longer applies to the Right. Conservatives have set the agenda and the terms of the fight, it is their game and they change the rules as they see fit. Dems have to do more than to just be the opposition.

Dems need the same type of intellectual foundation that has carried the conservative movement since the early 70's. Conservatives have no devotion to philosophical purity other than its unifying function; theirs is a devotion to winning. Win and let philosophy take care of itself.

Dems have to develop the same kind of discipline and unity that has been the hallmark of the GOP. Think-tanks, political boot camps, and a willingness to put aside individual differences for the sake of providing a united front are all necessary for taking the momentum back from the Right.

A disadvantage that will hobble Dems in the years to come is the success of the Right in undermining the media and making it their own. Corporate-owned media is going to continue to support a corporatist agenda at the expense of objective reporting. The Left will need to acquire an alternative to Fox, ABC/Disney, NBC/GE, CBS/Viacom, CNN/Time-Warner, etc. but I have no suggestions for how that will be done. I doubt George Soros is prepared to become a media mogul and start a liberal alternative to a monochromatic media and not controlling the media (or being in a place to demand fairness) is a tremendous obstacle.

Fortunately, there is evidence that the cohesion of the Right is beginning to show some strain. The Bush administration has become enamored by its belief in invincibility and has reached too far, its hubris leading it to forget political expedience in favor of blind allegiance to ideology. Bush's commitment to scrapping Social Security (a move driven purely by ideology) has created immense dissension within Bush's own party as savvy politicians scramble to salvage their own destinies. Fanatical elements on the Right, likewise taken by hubris (specifically, members of the Religious Right), have driven moderates to step out of line with the discipline and unity that has made the GOP such a formidable force in American politics.

Liberals are not quite in the strategically advantageous position that conservatives were in the late 70's but there's no need to wait for that moment. Now is the time to close ranks, build an intellectual foundation for winning, develop strategies to win. The Right built their infrastructure as a way of negating liberal progress and asserting greed. Fortunately for the Left, the purpose for creating a similar infrastructure has a far more noble and positive purpose.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Why Don't We Have a Frank Luntz?

Because, gawdamighty we don't want him. Let me put it this way: I'm not dedicated to "liberal" or "progressive" values so much as the Truth - although those values tend to reflect my own, due to their foundation in Truth. I'm not enamoured with the Democratic Party (I'm a registered independent) but I find their platform more in line with my own values, certainly more than the GOP.

Thanks to a heads-up by Kos, the text of Luntz's GOP playbook is available online and it's a revealing document. It's a testament to the GOP's commitment to spin over Truth, the retention of power over the recognition of reality, and furthering corporate interests at the expense of average Americans.

Shorter "Republican Playbook": "9/11 changed everything. Sure, you've been unemployed for over a year but at least you're not a victim of terrorism. Those same terrorists don't want you to privatize your Social Security account."

See also: Oceania v. Europa, Victory Gin.

Monday, March 07, 2005


Having stepped away from this for almost a month, I was amazed I kept getting traffic. Not just some traffic but a lot of traffic. That's not to toot my own horn but to express my own amazement.

There are so many political blogs, I just felt I was not adding anything to the discourse but recent comments have made me re-think that. When I quit writing here, it was just as the Gannon/Guckert story was really heating up and it appeared to me that so many other blogs were doing a better job than me. Not that I felt intimidated, just redundant.

Believe me, the urge to write here has been strong (my normally apolitical single-dad blog has picked up some of that slack) but I was unsure of what my place in the left blogosphere should be. A couple months back I thought to tackle logical inconsistencies in conservative "thought" but it occured to me that conservatives aren't concerned with logic. No converts were going to be made by pointing out syllogistic flaws.

I thought about using this site to do something creative (not tipping my hand with that) but I realize there is a place for this blog.

So, I'm back.