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Thursday, June 30, 2005
Being A Chickenhawk Means Never Having To Say You're Sorry, Part II
The Nation's Max Blumenthal wrote this hilarious piece about the excuses college Republicans are coming up with to avoid military service. He hung out with a bunch of junior wingnuts at the national College Republican convention. Blumenthal started his conversation with a clean-cut young feller named Kelley:

Kelley told me he's "sick and tired of people saying our troops are dying in vain" and added, "This isn't an invasion of Iraq, it's a liberation--as David Horowitz said." When I asked him why he was staying on campus rather than fighting the good fight, he rubbed his shoulder and described a nagging football injury from high school. Plus, his parents didn't want him to go. "They're old hippies," Kelley said.

Munching on a chicken quesadilla at a table nearby was Edward Hauser, a senior at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas--a liberal school in a liberal town in the ultimate red state of Texas. "Austin is ninety square miles insulated from reality," Hauser said. When I broached the issue of Iraq, he replied, "I support our country. I support our troops." So why isn't he there?

"I know that I'm going to be better staying here and working to convince people why we're there [in Iraq]," Hauser explained, pausing in thought. "I'm a fighter, but with words."

At a table by the buffet was Justin Palmer, vice chairman of the Georgia Association of College Republicans, America's largest chapter of College Republicans....he batted away my question about his decision to avoid fighting the war he supported with the closest thing I heard to a talking point all afternoon. "The country is like a body," Palmer explained, "and each part of the body has a different function. Certain people do certain things better than others." He said his "function" was planning a "Support Our Troops" day on campus this year in which students honored military recruiters from all four branches of the service....

By the time I encountered Cory Bray, a towering senior from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, the beer was flowing freely. "The people opposed to the war aren't putting their asses on the line," Bray boomed from beside the bar. Then why isn't he putting his ass on the line? "I'm not putting my ass on the line because I had the opportunity to go to the number-one business school in the country," he declared, his voice rising in defensive anger, "and I wasn't going to pass that up."

And besides, being a College Republican is so much more fun than counterinsurgency warfare. Bray recounted the pride he and his buddies had felt walking through the center of campus last fall waving a giant American flag, wearing cowboy boots and hats with the letters B-U-S-H painted on their bare chests. "We're the big guys," he said. "We're the ones who stand up for what we believe in. The College Democrats just sit around talking about how much they hate Bush. We actually do shit."

With patriots like these guarding our shores, America couldn't be safer.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005
A Story So Nutty, It's Gotta Be True

Fly the friendly skies of Xenu airlines.

Tom Cruise, who's been inflicting his idiotic personal beliefs on America for months now, seems to think we want his opinion about extraterrestrial life as well.

Asked in an interview with the tabloid daily Bild if he believed in aliens, Cruise said: "Yes, of course. Are you really so arrogant as to believe we are alone in this universe?

"Millions of stars, and we're supposed to be the only living creatures? No, there are many things out there, we just don't know," Cruise, 42, said in the interview published in German.

Well, anyone who knows anything about Scientology knows there are space aliens: After all, space aliens figure prominently as the basis of the so-called "Church of Scientology", and its super-secret, unintentionally hilarious creation story. This is a summary of the tale provided by an ex-Scientogist:

Once upon a time (75 million years ago to be more precise) there was an alien galactic ruler named Xenu. Xenu was in charge of all the planets in this part of the galaxy including our own planet Earth, except in those days it was called Teegeeack.

Now Xenu had a problem. All of the 76 planets he controlled were overpopulated. Each planet had on average 178 billion people. He wanted to get rid of all the overpopulation so he had a plan.

Xenu took over complete control with the help of renegades to defeat the good people and the Loyal Officers. Then with the help of psychiatrists he called in billions of people for income tax inspections where they were instead given injections of alcohol and glycol mixed to paralyse them. Then they were put into space planes that looked exactly like DC8s (except they had rocket motors instead of propellers).

These DC8 space planes then flew to planet Earth where the paralysed people were stacked around the bases of volcanoes in their hundreds of billions. When they had finished stacking them around then H-bombs were lowered into the volcanoes. Xenu then detonated all the H-bombs at the same time and everyone was killed.

The story doesn't end there though. Since everyone has a soul (called a "thetan" in this story) then you have to trick souls into not coming back again. So while the hundreds of billions of souls were being blown around by the nuclear winds he had special electronic traps that caught all the souls in electronic beams (the electronic beams were sticky like fly-paper).

After he had captured all these souls he had them packed into boxes and taken to a few huge cinemas. There all the souls had to spend days watching special 3D motion pictures that told them what life should be like and many confusing things. In this film they were shown false pictures and told they were God, The Devil and Christ. In the story this process is called "implanting".

When the films ended and the souls left the cinema these souls started to stick together because since they had all seen the same film they thought they were the same people. They clustered in groups of a few thousand. Now because there were only a few living bodies left they stayed as clusters and inhabited these bodies.

As for Xenu, the Loyal Officers finally overthrew him and they locked him away in a mountain on one of the planets. He is kept in by a force-field powered by an eternal battery and Xenu is still alive today.

That is the end of the story. And so today everyone is full of these clusters of souls called "body thetans". And if we are to be a free soul then we have to remove all these "body thetans" and pay lots of money to do so. And the only reason people believe in God and Christ was because it was in the film their body thetans saw 75 million years ago.

That crappy story, my friends, is Scientology's "big secret". It includes space aliens, evil overlords, space-planes that just happen to look just like DC-8s, laser beams, and giant 3-D cinemas. It must have seemed like bad science fiction even when L. Ron Hubbard cooked it up in the early 1950's. Today it creaks, it groans, it shambles around like a charnel-house monster from an old Bela Lugosi movie. No wonder the Scientologists have taken legal action to keep this story secret (it's reportedly only revealed to members who have forked over tens of thousands of dollars). I don't like to attack other people's religions, but Scientology is such a transparent scam that it in this case I'll make an exception. Tom Cruise has attacked psychiatrists because psychiatrists were the perverted minions of Xenu. He's declared that space aliens are out there because Xenu was a space alien. The only thing I can't figure out is why Tom Cruise is in the movies -- since movie theaters were created to fill the thetans with cruel misinformation.

Maybe he's still got a few thetans in the attic, eh?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Being A Chickenhawk Means Never Having To Say You're Sorry
Pro-war buffoon Chris Hitchins says it's unfair, really unfair, that supporters of the war get asked why they aren't volunteering to fight, or encouraging their children to do so:

Did I send my children to rescue the victims of the collapsing towers of the World Trade Center? No, I expected the police and fire departments to accept the risk of gruesome death on my behalf. All of them were volunteers (many of them needlessly thrown away, as we now know, because of poor communications), and one knew that their depleted ranks would soon be filled by equally tough and heroic citizens who would volunteer in their turn. We would certainly face a grave societal crisis if that expectation turned out to be false.

But when it comes to the confrontation in Iraq, the whole notion of grown-ups volunteering is dismissed or lampooned. Instead, it's people's children getting "sent." [....]Nobody has to join the armed forces, and those who do are old enough to vote, get married, and do almost everything legal except buy themselves a drink. Why infantilize young people who are entitled to every presumption of adulthood?

Hitchen's cynical use of September 11 imagery is obviously intended to blur the line between firemen and soldiers. This is a gold-plated example of false equivalence. Firemen were indeed the first reponders to the attacks of September 11th, and showed great courage that day, but that does not mean that firemen are the same thing as soldiers. It is true that soldiers are charged with protecting American lives, but they do so by going overseas and killing people who are actively trying to kill them. That is very different than putting out fires. There's no moral question about whether it was right or wrong for firefighters to risk their lives to save others on September 11.

But there is a moral question about this war -- about whether it is right or wrong to send young men and women to die for this cause. It is only reasonable to assume that those who believe most fervently in the moral rightness of this war would be the first to volunteer to fight in it -- especially when we have, as Hitchens points out, an all-volunteer army. But the hawks have been extremely reluctant to volunteer to fight in this war, and it is only reasonable to ask why.

Now that our volunteer military is consistently falling short of its recruiting goals -- and by serious margins -- it seems clear that the time for excuses is over. It's time for the chickenhawks to head on down to the recruiting station.

But even now they're twisting and turning, hiding behind their children, afraid to admit that they are afraid to go.

Monday, June 27, 2005
Life Before The Internet: Nasty, Brutish, And Short
CNN is doing another of its tiresome retrospectives on the primitive world that existed before the Internet. What a strange world it was!

In 1994, people had to call the bank to check their balances. Or inquire in person, or wait for a paper statement to arrive in the mail. Baseball box scores were found in the newspaper. Weather forecasts came over the phone from the weather bureau, or on TV.

Back then, most Americans still had to lick a stamp to send mail.


The World Wide Web has transformed the way people live, work and play. People can play travel agent and book all the elements of a vacation online. They can arrange for their bills to be paid automatically while they are gone. They can put a hold on mail delivery, find directions to tourist attractions and get a long-term weather forecast before they pack.

What the CNN article leaves out is that the early Internet was not perceived as a means of doing any of these tasks. People at the time predicted that the Internet would level the playing field of communications, allowing individuals unfettered access to free information around the globe, with thousands of libraries and museums and databases linked up like one big electronic brain. And people would be able to share their own knowledge with others -- again for free. Individuals would be able to build their own online newspapers by flagging the sorts of articles they would want to read and discarding those that didn't interest them. It was seen, way back then, as an almost subversive technology, a huge electronic playground for anarchists.

Businesses sensed that this was powerful information technology, and they clamored to "get on the Internet" even though they had little idea of what to do once they got there.

In the end, of course, it was corporations that eventually tamed the frontier that was the Internet. The idea that advertising was somehow beneath this new medium (an idea that also haunted the early days of radio) was quickly vanquished, and now commerce makes up much of what you find on the Internet.

But it is true that there is still a subversive streak to be found on the web. A group of parents have banded together to build an intriguing site that provides free information to other parents about their rights to thwart the hard-sell tactics increasingly employed by military recruiters on high school campuses. It seems to me this is really in the spirit of the Internet. But this sort of thing was entirely ignored by CNN, which was much more dazzled by online banking and automatic bill-pay.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Weird, Weird Things Are Afoot
Daily Kos is an entertaining site to read, but the 101-diarists format make it a bit too much of a three-ring circus for my tastes. But the site had an online presidential straw poll the other day that surprised me. More than 12,000 readers voted.

Now obviously, it's a self-selecting group that votes in these things, but these are hardcore Dems and what you see below is not the result I would have expected from the oh-so-liberal Kos readership:

Who would you like to see as our '08 nominee?

· Evan Bayh 2%

· Joe Biden 3%

· Wesley Clark 26%

· Hillary Clinton 10%

· John Edwards 7%

· Russ Feingold 10%

· John Kerry 2%

· Bill Richardson 4%

· Mark Warner 5%

· Tom Vilsack 0%

· Other 7%

· No Frickin' Clue 17%

Hello? Wes Clark way out front with 26%?

Some of the readers complained that Dean was not an option (apparently unaware that Dean promised not to run for President while he serves at DNC chair) and others inexplicably pined for another Al Gore run for the White House (will somebody sprinkle holy water in Gore's casket already?)

Still and all, Wes Clark's strength in this poll -- and the apparent weakness of Kerry, Edwards, Biden and Richardson -- are interesting. I wouldn't read too much into it, but this might be an early indicator that rank-and-file Dems are fed up with seasoned party insiders and want someone to shake up the party. And not a moment too soon, I think.

Monday, June 20, 2005
Of Course I Know -- Too Bad I Can't Tell You
The same people who knew exactly where Sadaam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction would be found are now saying they know exactly where Osama Bin Laden is hiding. In an interview with Time magazine, Porter Goss manages that old spokes-spook trick of being direct and oblique at the same time:

The magazine asked Goss when bin Laden would be captured.

"That is a question that goes far deeper than you know," he said. "In the chain that you need to successfully wrap up the war on terror, we have some weak links. And I find that until we strengthen all the links, we're probably not going to be able to bring Mr. bin Laden to justice.

"We are making very good progress on it. But when you go to the very difficult question of dealing with sanctuaries in sovereign states, you're dealing with a problem of our sense of international obligation, fair play.

"We have to find a way to work in a conventional world in unconventional ways that are acceptable to the international community.

Asked whether that meant he knew where bin Laden is, Goss responded: "I have an excellent idea where he is. What's the next question?"

Translation: "Boy, are we hosed. I have no fucking idea where he is. Pretty embarrassing, eh? Here I am, in control of the world's premiere spy agency. I've got thousands of high-paid global operatives, state-of-the-art satellites, surveillance technology that would seem right at home in a science-fiction novel, and a blank check from the American taxpayers. Can't find one crazy-looking guy in a turban though, how do you like that? Can we talk about something else now?"

Saturday, June 18, 2005
In For A Penny, In For a Pound
E. J. Dionne, writing in the Washington Post, said exactly the right thing about the Terri Schiavo autopsy:
Most Americans were uneasy about compelling Schiavo's husband, Michael, to keep his wife alive if -- as the state courts had concluded and as the autopsy confirmed on Wednesday -- she had suffered irreversible brain damage and was incapable of recovering.

So the big-government conservatives had to invent a story. They had to insist that they knew, just knew , more about Terri Schiavo's condition than the doctors on the scene. They had to question Michael Schiavo's motives and imply that he wanted to, well, get rid of her....

Dr. Frist, as he likes to be known, didn't just make his case as a pro-lifer. He invoked his expertise as a member of the medical profession. "I close this evening speaking more as a physician than as a U.S. senator," Frist said during the March 17 debate on the bill forcing a federal review of the case.

Proffering references to medical textbooks and journals, Frist led his colleagues through to his conclusion. He argued that "a decision had been made to starve to death a woman based on a clinical exam that took place over a very short period of time by a neurologist who was called in to make the diagnosis rather than over a longer period of time."
Dr. Frist, in other words, was offering a second opinion.

In an appearance yesterday on ABC's "Good Morning America," Frist insisted: "I raised the question, 'Is she in a persistent vegetative state or not?' I never made the diagnosis, never said that she was not."

Well, that depends on the meaning of "diagnosis." In the midst of his impressively detailed medical review, Frist declared flatly: "Terri's brother told me Terri laughs, smiles, and tries to speak. That doesn't sound like a woman in a persistent vegetative state."

So, Frist wanted to be seen as having the medical expertise to support his conclusion when doing so was convenient -- and now wants us to think he did nothing of the sort.

But if Dionne thought he would get an apology from Frist or from any of the other theocon lunatics involved in this fiasco, he was wrong.

Here was the story in Friday morning's Washington Post:

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Gov. Jeb Bush said Friday that a prosecutor has agreed to investigate why Terri Schiavo collapsed 15 years ago, citing an alleged time gap between when her husband found her and when he called 911.

Bush said his request for the probe was not meant to suggest wrongdoing by Michael Schiavo.


In a letter faxed to Pinellas-Pasco County State Attorney Bernie McCabe, the governor said Michael Schiavo testified in a 1992 medical malpractice trial that he found his wife collapsed at 5 a.m. on Feb. 25, 1990, and he said in a 2003 television interview that he found her about 4:30 a.m. He called 911 at 5:40 a.m.

"Between 40 and 70 minutes elapsed before the call was made, and I am aware of no explanation for the delay," Bush wrote. "In light of this new information, I urge you to take a fresh look at this case without any preconceptions as to the outcome."

"Without any preconceptions" -- what a joke. Maybe Jeb should get the GOP's medical expert, Dr. Frist, to explain Michael Schiavo's psychological state in February of 1990. There might be some home videos or something he can watch. No doubt Dr. Frist can quickly arrive at a diagnosis. He can stand in the well of the Senate and intone that Schiavo has all the characteristics of a cold-blooded murderer.

I'm thinking that if I woke up before dawn to find my wife lying unconscious on the floor, I wouldn't be too concerned about what time it is. And do you think an attempted murderer would be less careful to adjust his testimony to the time of the 911 call -- or more careful?

Remember that the Schindler family had been asserting that Michael Schiavo wanted Terri's body cremated because an autopsy would prove that Terri had been physically abused. That was the reason Michael Schiavo asked for an autopsy himself. The autopsy showed no evidence of physical abuse.

So what, exactly, is the point of an investigation into the reason for Terri Schiavo's collapse fifteen years after the fact? The autopsy failed to determine a cause. It seems clear that Jeb Bush wants to do two things: punish Michael Schiavo by destroying his reputation, and salvage some of his own shredded dignity. I think he will fail at both, but who knows? Jeb can't debase himself more than he already has. And as witless as they are, the wingers still excel at character assassination. In fact, it seems to be the only thing they're good at.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005
The Smirk Is The Hardest Thing To Master

"I'm as intelligent as I am handsome."

Looking like the lead players in a community theater production of Compulsion, geeky teenage Republicans from all over America flocked to Washington, D.C. last week. This year's crop of Heritage Foundation summer interns will help their government masters figure out new ways to....well, bash the government:

Scott Hurff, a senior at Wake Forest University, wanted the internship so badly that he filed three applications. Rachael Seidenschnur had set her eyes on Heritage since her youth in Little Rock, Ark., where she revived the teenage Republicans club at Central High School.

Kenneth Cribb came with family ties and a book by the conservative author Russell Kirk, which he said "sends chills up my spine." Daren Stanaway and Brian Christiansen welcomed Heritage as an escape from the liberal orthodoxies they said they experienced at Harvard and Yale.

"In the face of derogation, many intelligent young conservatives have simply responded by hiding their beliefs or going with the crowd," Ms. Stanaway wrote in an application essay. "I refuse to be one of them."

Like all Heritage applicants, she also answered a 12-item questionnaire designed to ferret out latent liberalism with questions about guns, abortion, welfare and missile defense.

Note that the applicants are screened not only for political orthodoxy -- that's a given -- but Ms. Stanaway's successful essay indicates that the Heritage Foundation is looking for something more profound: an evangelical fervor mixed with an acute persecution complex. Conservatives seem to be comfortable only when they feel part of a despised minority. And looking at the pictures of these interns, I'm sure they feel despised much of the time. Don't you just want to beat them up and take their lunch money?

Since conservatives now control the government and have a good chunk of the media in their control to boot, that sense of persecution is harder to justify; so the winger focus is more on academia than ever. God help these guys if they get control of America's colleges and universities. Who will persecute them then?

Now, I mentioned Compulsion, and not by accident. Had those Leopold-and-Loeb-esque characters lived today, they probably would have applied for the Heritage Foundation summer internship. After all, they were rich kids with a strong sense of entitlement and a shaky sense of superiority over those around them. They took their cues from Nietzche and pretended to hold human society in contempt -- never admitting that their real problem with human society was that they didn't quite fit into it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005
The V-Word
America is getting increasingly impatient with the war in Iraq. It was supposed to be over by now, long over; and now that the public is slowly but surely turning against the war, Republicans in Congress are getting cold feet. Martinez wants to close down Gitmo; so does Hagel. A few Republicans in Congress are even calling for a timetable to exit the conflict. And among winger pundits -- like Bill Murchison -- the V-word can no longer be ignored:

It is discouraging to dredge up the example of Vietnam. It can for one thing encourage the wrong people: those, here and abroad, who want us to think that again we're fighting "the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time." But resort to the Vietnam parallel also provides encouragement.

I can't wait to hear this.

For one thing there's no "student movement" demanding pullout -- lest more students get caught in the proceedings.

Wait until you start drafting those students to fight in Iraq, sunshine -- you'll think it's the Summer of Love out there.

Unlike Vietnam, there's no powerful Soviet-equipped army in the field against us; our foes are the equivalent of a criminal gang.
Yeah, they're all "dead-enders" and "Sadaam loyalists". We'll have them mopped up by the end of 2003 at the latest.

Criminals can cause plenty of harm, but in the end, criminals are all they are. If we can't prevail over a bunch of hoods and psychos, have we any business holding ourselves out as the model nation?

Funny, I asked myself the same question on November 3rd.

Nor -- thanks to Vietnam -- is it as hard as it once was to understand the consequences of quitting when the going gets tough, like now. America's premature pullout from Vietnam before the job was done finished off the United States morally and emotionally for some little time, during which our enemies advanced relentlessly -- in Afghanistan, among other places.

Yeah, remember how all of southeast Asia fell to the Communists? Just like the wingers predicted.

It's too bad this job has turned out to be tougher than expected. But "bad" isn't "calamitous" -- the condition into which everything would fall were we to say to democratic, liberty-seeking Iraq: Over to you; call us if you need anything, like advice on franchising pizza delivery service.

The president knows the consequences of copping out. We may count on him both to recognize and live up to his understanding, which is that as awful as Iraq might be, more awful still would be a stampede now for the exits. No sensible government allows itself to be governed in turn by pollsters.

Who ever said this government was sensible?

Monday, June 13, 2005
Don't Mess With The Spark Plug Collectors Of America

An X-ray of the mysterious Bush administration foreign policy

The Masters of Destiny at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue are clearly starting to get nervous at the latest stories in the hated MSM about Gitmo, Iraq, and the ominous cracks that are starting to appear in the Republican-run Congress. Nevertheless they have decided that it makes much more sense to deny reality and just keep pretending that things are going their way. I know that the members of Team Bush never read history (see, they're too busy making it) but just in case I thought I would throw an appropriately unhappy parallel from the history books out there, just to show them. Problem is, I can't find an historical parallel that fits this bunch of self-deluding messianic hooligans, but I can think of a cautionary tale from the annals of the paranormal. And that tale is the story of the Coso Artifact.

Now, the story of the Coso Artifact begins in 1961, when a group of rock hounds were out collecting geodes a few miles from the town of Olancha, California. If you've never seen a geode, they are spherical in shape, usually three or four inches in diameter, with a dense silicate shell. Usually quartz crystal is found in the hollowed out center of a geode.

However, back at the local rock and gem shop, when cut in half one of the geodes didn't have a hollowed-out center. Instead, this geode had at its center what appeared to be a piece of machinery. Clearly visible was a two-millimeter wide metal shaft surrounded by a dense insulating material.

X-rays of the object revealed that at one end was some sort of helix or spring, and at the other a series of metal rings that surrounded the insulating material.

It wasn't clear just what the object was, but the x-rays suggested that it might serve a purpose similar to that of a contemporary spark plug. A geologist supposedly confirmed that the object was inside a 500,000 year-old geode. But how could a spark plug end up inside a geode?

Imaginations ran wild in the paranormal community. Perhaps it was a component from an internal combustion engine from the antedeluvian era. Perhaps it was an antenna from an ancient communications device. Perhaps it was even an advanced superconductor. Perhaps this object proved that an advanced civilization existed on the earth a half-million years before we arrived.

But Pierre Stromberg of the Northwest Skeptics, a Washington State-based group of debunkers, allowed himself to see the object not for what it might be, but for what appeared to be. And what it appeared to be was an odd-looking spark plug.

Stromberg discovered that there was a group called the Spark Plug Collectors of America. And if the Coso Artifact was a spark plug, Stromberg reasoned, the Spark Plug Collectors of America should be able to identify it.

And they did -- in no time at all. The Coso Artifact turned out to be a Champion spark plug from the 1920's.

Now, how did a Champion spark plug get inside the middle of a geode?

The answer is: it didn't. The object wasn't a geode. It was an old spark plug with a hard accumulation of crud around it. The owners of the Coso Artifact, after all, had only allowed a few believers get close to it. And while the owners claimed that a geologist had verified its authenticity, no one could actually name the geologist.

One of the amazing things about the whole story is how all the fanciful speculation and all the wishful thinking evaporated when hit with a few cold, hard facts. And that is lesson the Bush adminstration is desperately trying not to learn.

Thursday, June 09, 2005
The "Vlad The Impaler" Defense

The Mark Felt Four sounds like a pop group from the mid-60's, but in fact it's the moniker given to the latest winger conspiracy theory.

You will remember that ever since the Watergate scandal, "Deep Throat" was dismissed by Republicans as a fanciful invention of Woodward and Bernstein, who were being egged on by editor Ben Bradlee and the hated Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham. At most, it was said, "Deep Throat" was a composite of many different sources. Haig and Gergen (who were viewed as "Deep Throat" suspects) voiced this latter opinion. So did Mark Felt, but since he wasn't a prime suspect (i.e., he wasn't on TV much) no one paid much attention.

But ah, now that Mark Felt has been outed, it's time to invent a new cabal of evildoers to satisfy the paranoid needs of the aluminum-foil-hat crowd. Now the wingnut line is, it couldn't have been Mark Felt acting alone -- it was a conspiracy of rogue FBI agents who hated America!:

Let’s review what was happening in our country during the Nixon presidency: entire cities were being burned to the ground, and banks and universities bombed, while hard-Left Marxist radicals like Bernadine Doran called for “Revolution!” even as they stuffed cash into their pockets that had been funneled to them by the Soviet Union. This environment would seem to supply little justification for the selling-out by these four FBI executives, even if they did believe they were forcing an FBI investigation of monumental proportions into the public eye so that it could not be quashed by an “abusive” president.

Claims that “there was only one thing that Mark Felt could do” seem especially hollow when you consider that there was always a legal way available to this cabal. There is a third branch of government on Capitol Hill called the U.S. Congress, who at that very time was gleefully sharpening their knives, salivating at the chance to impeach a detested president.

Are we to believe that these politically-savvy top FBI officials believed that not only was the White House compromised, but also the U.S. Congress? If they actually believed that, then I would say that they were very dangerous men in very high posts who were in a position to do serious damage to this country.

The Felt Four were not heroes – they were politically- and selfishly-motivated, out-of-control bureaucrats who believed they had a right to break the very laws they were paid to enforce. In hindsight, President Nixon was correct in passing over Mark Felt for the position of FBI Director. For that we owe Nixon and his men a debt of gratitude, because if there is something worse than a corrupt politician, it is a corrupt bureaucrat with a badge and arrest powers.

Oh, by all means, let's review.

America was not under seige by Soviet-funded gangs of hippies. Cities were not being burned to the ground by Marxist radicals. Richard Nixon was not the only thing standing between America and anarchy. Mark Felt (the number 2 man at the FBI) did not need a group of FBI insiders to tell him what was going on in the agency. We do not owe Nixon and his men a debt of gratitude. In attempting to whip up -- one more time -- the boogeyman of 60's radicalism in order to justify Nixon's contempt for the law, the wingers are going for what I call the Vlad the Impaler Defense. Brutal dictators always claim their tactics are necessary in order to save the country from anarchy.

Why didn't Mark Felt go the the U.S. Congress? Because Congress didn't begin investigating Watergate until the whole ugly mess got dragged into the light of day; and that would not have happened if Felt hadn't tipped off Woodward and Bernstein. Felt knew about a criminal conspiracy being run out of the White House and the DOJ. What was he supposed to do, write to his congressman?

Here's what really bugs me: the "Mark Felt Four" are described as "out-of-control bureaucrats who believed they had a right to break the very laws they were paid to enforce."

Look who's talking.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005
You Want CNN To Cover This Story? Maybe If Jessica Simpson Was The Whistleblower, And She Was Abducted....

A worker at Los Alamos named Tommy Hook was about to testify to a congressional committee about procurement irregularities at the facility. But on Sunday night, Hook was savagely beaten by "three or four" thugs who "threatened him to keep silent". His testimony has been postponed.

You can read the whole story at the Defense Tech web site. But you won't read about it at CNN.com -- their reporters are apparently too busy covering the Michael Jackson trial and the latest cute blonde female who has gone missing.

Funny that unattractive women never seem to disappear -- or maybe they aren't getting the same coverage on CNN?

Monday, June 06, 2005
A Little Walk Down Mammary Lane

"My women's studies prof warned me against taking this gig."

We all have our weird little obsessions. For me, it's Godzilla movies. For Hindraker over at Powerline, it's beauty pageants (which he keeps insisting -- a little too strenuously -- are manly things to be interested in).

Our own Nemo has many, many weird little obsessions (that's part of his charm), but in our college days I remember that "Gilligan's Island" ranked high among them. Apparently the woman who played Mary Anne on the show had written a book (not about the battle of the Ardenne, I'm guessing) and Nemo had gone to her book signing. "She touched me hand," he reported -- holding up a hand as if her touch had changed him forever, as if she had spent the afternoon healing lepers and making the blind see and casting out demons.

I told him I wouldn't have walked across the street to see a faded sitcom star milking the fans for one more paycheck. Nemo gave me a funny look, probably thinking that I was just jealous -- after all, Mary Anne hadn't touched my hand.

But here it is, the 21st century, and people are still obsessed with "Gilligan's Island". The syndicated misadventures of seven witless people who lived in huts and who never changed their clothes became a ubiquitous pop-culture touchstone for my generation. TBS apparently has a mock-reality show called "The Real Gilligan's Island" that is both homage and pastiche of the original series.

This show (which I'd never heard of, much less seen) has suddenly become controversial because of an advertisement that TBS purchased on the Daily Kos site. The advertisement links to a video clip of the show.

The clip depicts two actresses, who resemble Ginger and Mary Ann from the original series (although bustier and more athletic-looking) getting into a coconut cream pie fight. Covered in whipped cream, they fall onto a table and wrestle around playfully, giggling and moaning suggestively. They are then doused with a bucket of water, which creates a sort of wet T-shirt-esque denouement to our little drama.

Like the ad itself, the reaction of Kos readers was lurid and predictable. The ad was raunchy and sexist, readers complained; it went against all the progressive principles Kos champions. And Kos, taken aback, got very defensive:

I won't sit there and judge pop culture and act as gatekeeper to what I think is "appropriate", and what isn't.

And I certainly won't let the sanctimonious women's studies set play that role on this site. Feel free to be offended. Feel free to claim that I'm somehow abandoning "progressive principles" by running the ad. It's a free country. Feel free to storm off in a huff. Other deserving bloggers could use the patronage.

The use of the phrase "sanctimonious women's studies set" got everybody riled up again, and Kos had to back off:

I honestly didn't mean to smear anyone who has ever taken a women's studies course, or majored or minored or gotten an advance degree in it. Just what is, to me, a small, extremist set looking for signs of female subjugation under every rock. So yeah, a poor choice of words that cast the net far too wide to cover the people that have, in fact, pissed me off.

I did my senior seminar in feminist lit, so I feel pretty safe in saying this:

The whole idea behind feminism is that patriarchal biases are so deeply embedded in our culture that most of us don't even see them. There is no cabal of men plotting against women; there are just a lot of assumptions about gender roles and expectations that are passed down from one generation to another and which are echoed and rewarded in our media and in our popular culture (Susan Faludi's Backlash is an excellent book on this topic).

While I agree with the Kos readers that the ad is tasteless and stupid, "The Real Gilligan's Island" really doesn't seem any more demeaning or patronizing to women than the original series was. It isn't fair to brand Kos as a sell-out because of one brain-dead ad.

Nevertheless, I thought Kos was a bit too thin-skinned on his response to this. He's accepting ads for his site and he is at least partly responsible for the content. He ought to view criticism as an opportunity for a good, old-fashioned debate.

But if he starts calling his critics "feminazis", then I know we have a problem.

Saturday, June 04, 2005
The Magical World Of Gitmo

I like science fiction, so it was really interesting to read the Pentagon's explanation about how urine from an American soldier ended up splashing all over a Guantanamo inmate's copy of the Koran.

It was spelled out in the military's summary of a three-week investigation into charges of Koran abuse at Guantanamo. That report was released Friday evening at 6:00 p.m. -- the government's chosen dumping ground for bad news.

(The release of the May recruitment numbers for the military, by the way, has recently been changed to -- you guessed it -- this coming Friday at 6:00 pm.)

Here's how the Washington Post describes the incident in question:

The most recent, and perhaps strangest, case of mishandling was documented on March 25, 2005, when a detainee complained to the guards that urine came through an air vent in his cell and "splashed on him and his Koran while he laid near the air vent." According to Hood's investigation, the guard who was responsible reported himself to his superiors and was reassigned to gate duty. The detainee was given a new uniform and Koran.

"The guard had left his observation area post and went outside to urinate," according to a summary of the incident. "He urinated near an air vent and the wind blew his urine through the vent into the block."

Look, I know a lot of weird stuff goes on at Gitmo, but could we please leave the magic realism to Gabriel Garcia Marquez? The guard goes outside to urinate (don't they have toilets at Gitmo?) and his urine is carried magically by the wind through an air vent into an inmate's cell?

Now, who in your estimation is dumber -- the person who makes up a bullshit story like that, or the person who believes it?

Friday, June 03, 2005
Extreme Makeover: Watergate Edition

The wingers are desperately spinning the Deep Throat thing as best they can, and finally they're reaching a consensus. You will remember that the previous winger consensus was that Deep Throat didn't exist. He was, the Repubs reasoned, a composite, or else a complete fabrication. But now that Mark Felt has stepped forward, a new line is required. The day the story broke, Mary Matalin said that she personally thought that Felt was "a traitor", but that she wanted to "wait for the talking points" before she gave her official opinion.

Now the right-wing can breathe easy; the official opinion has been issued. The other day Rush Limbaugh opined that Woodward and Bernstein, in uncovering the Watergate scandal, distracted Nixon from the war in Vietnam and therefore caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Cambodians. Now Pat Buchanan is chiming in:

And so they resolved to finish [Nixon]. And by his failure to act decisively and ruthlessly to clean his campaign and White House of loyalists who had blundered and, yes, committed crimes, he became ensnared in a cover-up that would destroy his presidency. He gave them a sword, and they ran it right through him. And when he went down, Southeast Asia and everything 58,000 Americans had bled and died for went down with him.

And that is upon the conscience of us all.

But the Establishment did not care, for it had gone over the hill the day Nixon became commander in chief.

When you look back at it, what was Watergate all about? A black bag job at Larry O'Brien's place like the ones "hero" Felt used to run for Hoover. Liddy and Hunt on an escapade to get Daniel Ellsberg's file from his shrink, which probably would have been too heavy to carry anyway. And, oh yes, 200 pizzas Segretti sent with those 30 African ambassadors in native costume to Ed Muskie's D.C. fund-raiser.

This is the same cheap, cynical line that Buchanan and the other Nixon cronies have been peddling for over 30 years. Nixon, they say, was just loyal to a fault, that's all. And Watergate wasn't a big deal anyway. It was an "escapade", a college prank. Happens all the time in big-league politics. It was all blown out of proportion by a liberal media that was out to get Nixon.

The new wrinkle is the idea that Nixon the Peacemaker was about to bring the war in Southeast Asia to a peaceful conclusion (after bombing the bejeezus out of Vietnam and Cambodia for six years), but that Watergate prevented him from doing so. This is patented winger blame-shifting. We didn't lose the war, they whinge -- the hippies and the Nixon-haters did. It wasn't us. It couldn't have been us.

But it was.

Thursday, June 02, 2005
Nathan Tabor Googles His Way To The Awful Truth

Nathan Tabor has checked it out, and it's official. National Public Radio is liberal. How does he know? Simple. He googled the words "liberal democrat":

The first page of results contained mostly links for the Liberal Party in the UK and Europe – nothing at all to do with either Liberals or Democrats in America. The paid ads dealt with topics like “Dating for Democrats” and “Anti-Bush Gear,” and of course the Leftist propaganda website MoveOn.org was prominently featured.

However, the most interesting aspect of this Google search was the paid ad for National Public Radio at the top of the page. The ad declared:

“Liberal Democrat. www.NPR.org. Objective, in-depth & informed political coverage & analysis.”

NPR does have "sponsored links" at the top of Google search pages that key in to certain topics -- "2004 Elections", for instance, or "Democrats" or "Republicans". Here's what it looks like:

www.NPR.org Unbiased, In-Depth and Informed Reports about Election 2004. Sponsored Link

But in spite of a dozen or so attempts I could not find any NPR ad on Google when searching for "liberal democrat", "conservative republican" or any similar phrases.

If you search Google for “Conservative Republican,” however, you will not find any ads for NPR. It is obvious what type of listener NPR really wants to reach. Their political content is clearly biased and leans strongly to the Left.

What is NPR? One online encyclopedia calls National Public Radio a “loosely organized public radio network” that was founded in 1970 (after passage of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967) and created to broadcast news and cultural programming. Here’s how the encyclopedia glowingly describes that network:

“NPR is an internationally acclaimed producer and distributor of noncommercial news, talk, and entertainment programming. A privately supported, not-for-profit membership organization, NPR serves a growing audience of 26 million Americans each week in partnership with more than 780 independently operated, noncommercial public radio stations.” (See http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/ National-Public-Radio.)

I personally suspect that “growing audience of 26 million” consists mostly of the hardcore Left-wingers left over from the student radical movements of the 1960s and 70s.

Huh? A "growing audience" of 26 million left over student radicals?

He's drawing some pretty big conclusions based on a Google search and a quick cut-and-paste job from an online encyclopedia. Tabor's methodology -- if you can call it that -- is so slipshod and intellectually lazy that I don't know what to make of it; I don't even know where to begin in refuting it. His conclusions wouldn't pass muster in a high school composition class. He's made no attempt to substantiate his claims of programming bias; he didn't cite a single example.

But then, why should he? Perhaps NPR's bias is so obvious, it doesn't bear examination. And perhaps when you have all the answers, your critical thinking skills start to get a little rusty.

Yep, That Would Hurt

Today is June 2, the Feast day of Saint Erasmus. It was on this day in 302 that Erasmus, an Italian bishop who had fled to Mount Lebanon during the persecutions of Emperor Diocletian (and who had already been kept alive in the wilderness by a divinely-inspired raven, and who had already been rescued from certain death by the intervention of an angel) was martyred.

Martyrdom usually indicates an uncommonly cruel death, and Erasmus got a humdinger.

He was literally disemboweled. That is to say, he was tied down and forced to watch as his intestines were wound slowly around a windlass.

A windlass with somebody's intestines wound around it looks surprisingly like a windlass with a length of rope wound around it, and perhaps this explains why Erasmus -- who is also known as Saint Elmo -- is the patron saint of sailors.

And because Saint Elmo is the patron saint of sailors, the electrical phenomenon seen occurring near ships at sea was named "Saint Elmo's Fire" in his honor.

Not surprisingly, he is also the patron saint of people with appendicitis, women enduring the pain of childbirth, and people with gastrointestinal disorders.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005
Rodney Copperbottom, The Boss Would Like A Word With You

One of the most interesting obsessions of the right wing is their belief that liberals control the universe. Yes, yes, the Republicans run the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives; they hold the majority of governorships and control the majority of state legislatures; Republican presidents have appointed the vast majority of judges to the federal bench and seven of the nine Supreme Court justices.

And yes, the Republican political machine is thickly greased with an enormous amount of private-sector money; large corporations give generously to the Republican cause and enjoy a great deal of access to their candidates.

In spite of this, however, conservatives see themselves as powerless victims of unseen forces, like characters in an A.E. Van Vogt novel. The winger persecution complex runs deeper than anyone imagined, and the Beacon Hill Institute has set out to prove that American attitudes about big business are shaped by Hollywood:

The animated Robots is another example of anti-capitalist ideology run amuck. Its protagonist Rodney Copperbottom, an affable, boy-wonder inventor, works against a plot by Bigweld Industries to commit what amounts to genocide of older robots. This company was taken over by a MBA-refined and Gekko-inspired corporate tyrant named Ratchet. Becoming aware that an upgrade campaign is a nasty effort to eliminate competition, Rodney stirs up a revolt that prevails in David and Goliath fashion.

Ironically, Robots simply misses the crucial element of the capitalist system - competition. For example, true free markets would allow Rodney to start a spare parts business that would compete with Bigweld Industry’s flashy new upgrades. Both would be able to enter and exit the market to meet the needs of their consumers. But such nuances are certainly to be lost on impressionable children. By the time the movie’s over the intended message is clear: big business is bad.

Maybe the story would be more realistic if Rodney started a successful spare-parts business and then was the victim of a hostile takeover by Bigweld. Or how about this: Bigweld's CEO goes to his good friend, the majority leader in the Robot Senate. The CEO reminds the majority leader what a good friend he was to him during the last campaign, and so the majority leader helps arrange a series of tax breaks and corporate subsidies for Bigweld that Rodney's spare parts business just doesn't qualify for.

After Rodney is forced into bankruptcy, Bigweld buys up Rodney's equipment for pennies on the dollar. Embittered and destitute, Rodney throws himself into the recycling bin.

See? Hollyood hates America. This chart proves it.

BHI's helpful plot suggestions, like those from Michael Medved, are disturbing because they keep pointing out an alleged problem and then get very coy about the solution. Is BHI advocating censorship? It sounds like it to me; the suggested change in "Robots" is exactly the sort of ideologically-driven plot point that Mosfilms censors used to impose.

But Hollywood is not a government agency. It is part of the vaunted private sector, and studios compete fiercely for audience dollars. Isn't that what conservatives want? Could it be that "Robots" features a David and Goliath plotline because that's what audiences will pay money to see?

God help us if the wingers begin dictating Hollywood movie plots. Like the Soviet "Boy Meets Tractor" stories, we'll get inspiring cinematic homilies about obeying the rules and learning to be grateful to your corporate masters.

And like the Soviet movies, the new, politically sanitized Hollywood propaganda will play to empty houses.

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