Monday, April 30, 2007


Andrew Sullivan is stressing:

The 20 percent or so of Americans who still think we're winning in Iraq happen to be the Republican base. And so the GOP in Congress has to pick between surviving their own primaries, maintaining civility with their own faithful, and potentially getting wiped out in the next election. The game of chicken is getting very intense. I guess we'll know how strong the kool-aid is by September.

So is David Brooks:

... there has been a clear shift, in poll after poll, away from Republican positions on social issues and on attitudes toward government. Democratic approaches are favored on almost all domestic, tax and fiscal issues, and even on foreign affairs.

The public, in short, wants change.

And yet the Republicans refuse to offer that. On Capitol Hill, there is a strange passivity in Republican ranks. Republicans are privately disgusted with how President Bush has led their party and the nation, but they don't publicly offer any alternatives. They just follow sullenly along....

They are like people quietly marching to their doom.

Hey guys, you want this situation to change?

Then tell your colleagues in the press, the Broders and the Dowds and the Matthewses, to stop describing Democrats as out-of-touch wacko extremist freaks, as traitors and sissy-boys, and to stop insisting that it's Republicans who always have their fingers on the pulse of the country.

Why are Republicans still blindly following the president? Because the media keeps implying that, regardless of any signs of disaffection, America really wants (or should want) Republicans to run things forever -- because Pelosi and Reid are traitors, Hillary Clinton's a phony, and John Edwards is a big girl, while McCain and Giuliani and Fred Thompson are admirable tough guys with the right stuff.

Republicans read this and believe the situation isn't necessarily hopeless. Republicans look at the polls of head-to-head presidential matchups for '08 -- which show named Republicans beating named Democrats largely as a result of this media blather -- and they really believe the situation isn't necessarily hopeless.

Republicans aren't going to stop being Bush end-timers until the press stops saying that Democrats are all a bunch of wackos. So, Andy, Davy, if you're fretful, tell your pals in the media to stop feeding us this malarkey.

(Steve Benen at the Carpetbagger Report has a very different take on all this.)
Well, this (from today's New York Times) just seems really naive:

After Virginia Tech, Testing Limits of Movie Violence

If the horror at Virginia Tech has changed the chemistry of America's popular culture, those who count box-office receipts at Lionsgate would be among the first to know.

The independent studio, a clearinghouse for some of the entertainment industry's most graphically violent fare, still plans to release on June 8 its "Hostel: Part II," about the torture killing of college students.

... Peter Dekom, a longtime entertainment lawyer and author, with Peter Sealey, of "Not on My Watch: Hollywood vs. the Future" ... predicted that fallout from the killings would hurt the film's performance....

Er, Abu Ghraib came to light in early 2004. The breakthrough film in the torture-porn genre, Saw, was released in the U.S. just a few months later -- and made 15 times what it cost to produce in just its opening weekend here.

In fact, Saw became a hit in a year full of beheadings that were videotaped and posted on the Internet. If anything, all those real-life images of imprisonment and brutality seem to have whetted American moviegoers' appetites for torture-porn.

Oh, and, of course, that was also the year we reelected Bush.

The Times article goes on to suggest that the genre is starting to fade, and was doing so even before Virginia Tech. Back when it emerged, of course, Bush had a simple message: there are sick crazy psychos in the world, and if we don't do a few sick crazy psycho things, they'll do really bad sick crazy psycho things to us. It made sense to a lot of people then -- in real life and maybe on screen, too. But maybe it's all played, at the cineplex and in politics. Or maybe it is until someone (Giuliani?) revives the genre.
A gossip columnist at E! Online wrote earlier this month that Laura and George Bush are living apart because he's drinking again and she can't stand it. While not offering any opinion as to the truth of the rumor, Atrios says it would absolutely be news if it were true, as does Jim Henley at High Clearing.

I say: Yeah, it would be news, but would it matter?

Here's the question: Do you notice a sudden downturn in Bush's competence lately? I don't -- he seems as mind-bogglingly inept as ever. If he wasn't drinking in the first term and he really is drinking now, I can't tell the difference.

The myth of Bush is that he was a dipsomaniac who screwed up everything he touched in his career until he hit middle age, after which he became sober and competent. But he didn't become competent. He just hitched his wagon to an evil political brainiac -- and to a tidal shift in party identification in his home state that any idiot could have ridden to political success -- and from there he got one of the easiest high-profile jobs in politics, which he used as a stepping stone to the hardest. Was he ever truly competent throughout this whole period?

So if he's gone back to drinking now, I say, so what? What difference does it make?
TBogg readers: here are my BattleCry posts.

(The link in the first one leads to the second one.)
I don't want to be harsh or superficial here, but I'm reasonably certain that there's more botulinum toxin in this face than there was in all of Iraq before the fall of Saddam.

And yeah, I know it was a regent of Pepperdine University who said this -- that's where Laura Bush gave the commencement address on Saturday -- but is she really "our nation's comforter in chief"? Do even people in red states think of her that way? She is unnervingly popular, according to public opinion polls, but does anyone in the country, even Bush end-timers, regard her as the person who soothes the nation's troubled soul in difficult times?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

It beats the hell out of me why McCain doesn't do more of this. It's precisely what the knuckledraggers in his party want, even if The New York Times doesn't understand that:

Banter, of course, is not without its risks. When Mr. McCain replaced the words of the Beach Boys tune "Barbara Ann" with "Bomb Iran" this month, he became a curious sensation on YouTube and angered many who are against the war. But the move seemed to appeal to hawkish voters -- as evidenced by the warm reception Mr. McCain's campaign got when it played the original song at several rallies this week.

They liked it? Well, of course they liked it.

So where are the risks? Isn't he running for the Republican nomination? He'd probably gain in the polls if he put up a damn rock video of this, with guys in McCain shirts on surfboards. Double-digit gains if he got Worst Person from Keith Olbermann. That's what would win it for him, not this mixed-praised-and-criticism thing he keeps doing with regard to the war.

His problem, given the nature of his party, isn't that he's occasionally "politically incorrect" -- it's that he isn't that way often enough.

And if that wins him the nomination, the mainstream press will love him again, and portray him however he wants to be portrayed for the general election.

There's an article in today's New York Times about the armies of child soldiers that have fought in African wars in recent years. A scholar notes something odd about them:

Neil Boothby, a Columbia University professor who has worked with child soldiers across the world, said this new crop of movements lacked the features associated with the winning insurgencies of yesteryear -- a charming, intelligent leader, persuasive vocabulary, the goal of taking cities.

The typical rebel leader emerging today wants most of all to run his criminal enterprise deep in the bush. "These are brutally thuggy people who don't want to rule politically and have no strategy for winning a war," Dr. Boothby said.

They have "no strategy for winning a war" -- that sounds awfully close to "They can't possibly win," which is what supporters of the Iraq war are always telling us about the Sunni insurgents.

But what if you're fighting an insurgent group whose leaders know (at least on some level) that they can't win? What if the group you're fighting isn't looking ahead to victory and just wants to keep fighting?

Supporters of the Iraq War would tell you that if the other guys can't win, then victory over them is inevitable, if not imminent. But that's not how it seems to work in Africa:

In Somalia, within the last month, more than 1,000 people have been killed in Mogadishu, the capital, in a complex civil war compounded by warlords who command armies of teenagers. The war traces to 1991, when the central government was brought down by clans fighting over old grievances. But soon it became a contest among the warlords for control of airports, seaports and access to international aid. Sixteen years later, they are still blasting away.

The leaders of the child armies in Africa tend to be messianic and half mad. But what if there's a logic to what they're doing? What if their goal is merely not to lose? What if surviving and fighting for as long as possible and never having to capitulate, while denying their enemies peace and stability, is victory enough for them?

And what if that's also what's going on with the Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq?

Do we misunderstand the groups we're fighting because we think their goal is victory rather than staving off surrender? And is that one more way we've botched the fight against them?


ALSO: It occurs to me that that description -- "thuggy" leaders "deep in the bush" who are "don't want to rule politically and have no strategy for winning a war" -- could be applied to al-Qaeda. Think of the worst AQ attack anyone imagines: say, nuclear devices detonated in several Western cities simultaneously. That would be unspeakable, but the West would still be much, much stronger than al-Qaeda; governments would be intact, armies would still be standing, retaliatory missiles would still be ready to be launched. Maybe we need to see al-Qaeda as just the Lord's Resistance Army on a global scale -- able to brutalize, but never able to win, and quite possibly not even trying to win, but only to survive and to destabilize.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


I don't know how many wingnuts read the Saturday business section of The New York Times, but I really think I hear some of them freaking out at this:

…Consumer companies and advertising executives are focusing on ways to use the cultural aspects of the Muslim religion to help sell their products.

Grocers and consumer product companies are considering ways to adapt their goods to Muslim rules, which forbid among other things, gelatin and pig fat, which is often used in cosmetics and cleaning products. Retailers are looking into providing more conservative skirts, even during the summer months, and mainstream advertisers are planning to place some commercials on the satellite channels that Muslims often watch.

Marketing to Muslims carries some risks. But advertising executives, used to dividing American consumers into every sort of category, say that ignoring this group -- estimated to be about five million to eight million people, and growing fast -- would be like missing the Hispanic market in the 1990s….

I love this. I want Muslim-Americans to hear the media message "We like you! You're welcome here! We embrace you as Muslims and as Americans, and we'd be delighted if you'd spend money on our products, which we'll tweak, if necessary, so you'll buy more of them from us!"

I especially love it because nearly all of the wingnuts who despise Muslims have embraced capitalism wholeheartedly -- unlike nativists from America's past, they love big business. How can they complain about this?

Anti-Muslim wingnuts love to refer to anyone who makes any accommodation whatsoever for Muslims as a "dhimmi" -- a reference to the requirement under sharia law that non-Muslims pay a tax to practice their religion. Obnoxious as the widespread use of that term on the right has become (in reference to all Muslims everywhere), wingnuts can't call this "dhimmitude" -- it's the exact opposite of "dhimmitude," because the people reaching out are doing it to make money.

Plus, it will be fun to hear wingnuts squeal at this:

Companies in the Detroit area, where there is a dense population of Muslims, are leading the change. A McDonald’s there serves halal Chicken McNuggets; Walgreens has Arabic signs in its aisles. And now, Ikea, which recently opened a store in the suburb of Canton, Mich., that has had trouble attracting as many Muslim customers as it had hoped, has been touring local homes and talking to Muslims to figure out their needs.

The store there plans to sell decorations for Ramadan next fall and is adding halal meat to its restaurant menu, or meat that is prepared according to Islamic law. Catalogs in Arabic are being planned, and…

-- this is my favorite part --

…and female Muslim employees are expected to be given an Ikea-branded hijab, to wear over their head if they wish.

Brilliant -- cultural respect plus branding. You gotta love the Swedes.

Am I supposed to be upset at this? How does any of it harm me? I eat kosher meat. I've pressed the occasional elevator button for Orthodox Jews who didn't want to operate machinery on a Saturday. What, am I desperately attached to gelatin and pig fat in my consumer products if there's a perfectly good alternative?

This is a good thing. This will help us all get along.

Friday, April 27, 2007


How astonishingly convenient: at the exact moment when Democrats are mounting their strongest challenge to Bush's foreign policy, a top al-Qaeda operative is captured! The exact moment!

Or, er, not, according to AP:

The Pentagon announced Friday the capture of one of al-Qaida's most senior and most experienced operatives, an Iraqi who was trying to return to his native country when he was captured.

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said the captive is Abdul al-Hadi al-Iraqi. He was transferred to Defense Department custody this week from the CIA, Whitman said, but the spokesman would not say where or when al-Iraqi was captured or by whom.

A U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said the Iraqi had been captured late last year in an operation that involved many people in more than one country....

And CNN quotes an intelligence operative as saying that he was captured sometime between September and the end of last year.

Oh, but there's no reason to question the timing of this announcement. The Bushies just wanted to keep it a surprise. They know we love surprises.

I just want to be sure you saw Steve Benen's post about the amazing question Brian Williams asked Joe Biden in last night's debate:

WILLIAMS: Senator Biden, a question for you. A friend of mine who's in the leadership of the Democratic party says that if the party goes down a third straight time, what will happen is what he defines as "modern day extinction" of the Democratic party. Putting yourself aside, perhaps, is there a winner on this stage tonight, and does your party have what it takes to reverse this trend and win the White House?

"Trend"? Excuse me -- the Democrats just won back both houses of Congress, are likely to retain congressional control in 2008, are far ahead of the Republicans in party identification in public-opinion polls, and won the popular vote in three of the past four presidential elections -- what "trend" points to "extinction"?

Yes, some Democratic doomsayer (or Democrat-hating Democrat) fed Williams the line, or so Williams says. But that doesn't compel him to find it at all plausible. Yet he does -- and so, almost certainly, do most Beltway journalists.

And they're going to do everything in their power between now and Election Day '08 to make reality conform to their worldview.


More from the New York Sun. (And click the "Now" and "Then" links above for the full texts of the Raw Story piece and the signing statement.)

John Kerry should run this year and announce that even if he was once a flip-flopper (which he wasn't), it's OK because flip-flopping is now not a liability, it's a job qualification.

(Story via Memeorandum.)

Here's the beginning of a sentence in David Broder's latest Washington Post column:

So McCain, recognizing that neither Giuliani nor Romney is likely to challenge him from the right...

What? What the hell is he talking about? Giuliani just said if you vote Democrat in '08, you'll die in a terrorist attack. That's not coming from further to the right than McCain?

Up in the ether where Broder dwells, the way you prove your right-wing bona fides is to show off wounds from fighting a real war while issuing a tough-love mix of criticism and praise for the current administration's foreign policy. (The bulk of Broder's column is praise for McCain's "straight talk," by which he means precisely that mix.)

Down here in the real world, the way you prove you're a genuine right-winger is by accusing Democrats and liberals of treason, while never, ever, ever showing even the slightest disrespect to our godlike War President or the holy angels and saints who sit at his right hand.

McCain's way isn't working. The people furthest to the right hate him. Maybe if the Dean spent a little more time among the common people, or even just reading what they tell pollsters and say on the Internet, he'd know that.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A story from earlier this week:

LEWISTON, Maine -- A Lewiston man who rolled a pig's head into a local mosque last summer, touching off tensions in minority communities in the city and beyond, shot and killed himself in a parking lot after a brief standoff with police, authorities said.

According to Lewiston police Sgt. Michael Whalen, 34-year-old Brent Matthews committed suicide after police tried to persuade him to put down a semiautomatic handgun, the Maine Sunday Telegram reported.

...Matthews had been charged with a misdemeanor count of desecrating a place of worship and pleaded not guilty. State prosecutors obtained a court order to keep him away from the mosque.

The Sun Journal of Lewiston reported that Matthews phoned 911 in distress at 8:14 a.m., according to police and that when officers arrived Matthews was outside his car and alone.

They tried speaking with him, but Matthews never responded. After just a few minutes, he raised a handgun to his head and fired once, the Lewiston newspaper reported....

He seemed like a jerk when the incident occurred, but now it seems as if he was just a messed-up guy. (It's possible that that was the case long before the pig's head incident.) And yet a few people called him a hero.

There's pretty much the reaction you'd expect at Free Republic:

... I kind of feel sorry for the guy, probably shouldn't have done that with the pig's head, but sometimes you have simply had enough of diversity.


... it took all of 8 months for liberal Maineiancs to drive this man to desperation.

We should begin delivering live hogs to the premises of that mosque, letting them defecate all over the property.

Too bad he did not choose life and go to trial and contest the issue of whether Islam is a religion.

It is not a religion actually, but a mental illness of submission.


Sounds like suicide-murder by a city after a making a false charge
to COMFORT murderous Islamonazis.

Calling Nifong. Your courtesy phone please. It's Maine calling.


I'm all for diversity. One should own a variety of makes and models of firearms to protect oneself from Islamics.


What in the hell is going on in Lewistown, Maine?

Bill Clinton is what is going on. He rewarded the Somali people for Black Hawk Down by brining 90,000 of those savages into America free and clear....

Always a pleasure to be enlighted by these folks, isn't it?


(This story is not to be confused with the "ham sandwich" story that's been making the rounds, in two versions -- the accurate one and the parody version, which was taken seriously around the country, notably at Fox News. The lewiston Sun-Journal sorts it all out here, if you're interested.)

Two polls. Poll #1:

Americans siding with Dems against Bush

As the Democrat-controlled Congress and the White House clash over an Iraq spending bill, ... the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that a solid majority of Americans side with the Democrats.

... the poll shows that 56 percent say they agree more with the Democrats in Congress who want to set a deadline for troop withdrawal, versus the 37 percent who say they agree with Bush that there shouldn't be a deadline.

What's more, 55 percent believe that victory in Iraq isn't possible. And 49 percent say the situation in Iraq has gotten worse in the last three months since Bush announced his so-called troop surge. Thirty-seven percent say the situation has stayed about the same, and just 12 percent think it has improved....

Poll #2:

Giuliani Now Leads Clinton In All Three Swing States; ... FLORIDA: Giuliani Up 49 - 41; Clinton, McCain Tied at 45; OHIO: Giuliani Over Clinton 46 - 41; McCain at 44 to Clinton's 42; PENNSYLVANIA: Giuliani Tops Clinton 47 - 43; McCain Up 45 - 43

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani leads New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and other Democrats in the 2008 presidential race in three critical states -- Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to Quinnipiac University's Swing State Poll....

(More results: Giuliani beats Obama in all three states; McCain beats Obama in Ohio, ties him in Florida, and loses to him in Pennsylvania; Giuliani beats Gore in Florida and Ohio and ties him in Pennsylvania.)

Where the hell is the war effect in these results? Why isn't it showing up? When, if ever, is it going to?

In a rational world, Giuliani and McCain would be hurting simply because of the "(R)" after their names. But nothing like that is happening. If anything, we may be seeing the opposite effect: Clinton, Obama, and Gore are hampered by being Democrats, even though the public agrees with the damn Democrats on the most important issue facing us (and a lot of other issues besides). Is it just that Republicans (with the help of the press) have simply succeeded in making "Democrat" a pejorative, while "Republican" still isn't?

Or are the Republicans simply better at looking like Daddy?

Please don't tell me it's early yet. How much more dissatisfied with the status quo can the public get? Bush isn't going to lose the base, and he's lost just about everyone else. Why haven't McCain and Giuliani?

(Quinnipiac poll via Taegan Goddard.)

The headline is a joke. The image above comes not from a left-wing blog, but rather from a comic strip that appears on many right-wing blogs, Chris Muir's "Day by Day." The full strip is here.

Righty blogger Rick Moran has questioned the appropriateness of the image (here and here). Captain Ed (who runs the strip daily) makes note of Moran's observations.

And there the matter rests, apparently.

(At this big right-wing blog and this small one, the strip is seen as just plain terrific.)

Last year, Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake included a picture of Joe Lieberman in blackface in a post at the Huffington Post. The image has since been cited repeatedly in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other very, very mainstream media outlets. It's a favorite example when anyone wants to talk about the uncivilized nature of the left.

Will there be a similar reaction to this? Short answer: No. Long answer: Hell no.

"The uncivilized right" doesn't fit anyone's script -- certainly not the "liberal media's" -- so this will be ignored.


(If you want my take on Hillary's accent, see this post and the latter part of this one.)


(Oh, and let's not forget that this aroused no outraged harrumphing in the mainstream press. Yeah, it wasn't at a big-name blog, but the standard for the left seems to be anyone posting on the Internet gets to stand in for the entire left.)


UPDATE: Jon Swift has much more on this strip -- and on Chris Muir's oeuvre as a whole. A sample:

As [Muir] admits in an interview, "I have templates of bodies, heads, expressions, etc. If you look at the cartoons closely, you may notice that, at this time, each character has about 5-6 head positions only." Coincidentally, these 5 to 6 head positions correspond to the 5 or 6 political positions Muir takes, which he relentlessly drums into his readers' heads.

If Chris Muir drew Charles Schulz's Peanuts, for example, he wouldn't have bothered drawing a panel showing Lucy pulling the football away at the last minute when Charlie Brown tries to kick it. That would be too Old School for him. Instead, Muir would just have Lucy say, "Democrats always pull the football away at the last minute when you are trying to kick it, Charlie Brown." Lucy and Charlie Brown would also probably be in their underwear.

Which is true.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Kevin Drum is unimpressed with the responses of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to Rudy Giuliani's "vote Republican or die" speech; Kevin calls the Democratic candidates' responses "whining." He says:

Whining just reinforces the message that Democrats are wimps. The real way to be "hard hitting" is to explain why Giuliani is wrong and what Democrats would do instead -- and why the average Joe and Jane would be safer and better off without guys like Giuliani bumbling recklessly around the globe leaving a stronger al-Qaeda and a weaker America in their wake. Until they do, Rudy and the Republicans are going to win every round of this fight.

I'd agree -- except for the fact that Americans (at least non-Republican Americans) have already rejected the argument Giuliani is making. It's not 2004; Giuliani isn't going to win by making this argument. My worry is that he's going to win in spite of making it -- he's going to get the votes of red-meat Republicans in the primaries and then win the general election as a "centrist," with the collusion of the press, which will pretend he's a warm, friendly guy you'd love to have a beer with and he's never said anything of this nature.

I don't think you have to rebut an argument like this anymore -- you just have to draw attention to it. Obama and Clinton did.

AP yesterday:

DRACUT, Mass. -- The brother of a pilot whose hijacked airplane was flown into the World Trade Center in 2001 announced Tuesday he is running for Congress.

Air Force Lt. Col. James Ogonowski is the first Republican to announce his intention to run for the seat of Democrat Rep. Martin Meehan, who is leaving Congress to become chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.

Ogonowski's brother, John, was one of 92 people killed aboard American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles on Sept. 11, 2001.

He said his brother's death played a "significant part" in his decision to run for Congress....

Ann Coulter last June, in an interview with Matt Lauer:

COULTER: ... This is the left’s doctrine of infallibility. If they have a point to make about the 9-11 commission, about how to fight the war on terrorism, how about sending in somebody we are allowed to respond to. No. No. No. We have to respond to someone who had a family member die. Because then if we respond, oh you are questioning their authenticity.

...LAUER: So if you lose a husband, you no longer have the right to have a political point of view?

COULTER: No, but don’t use the fact that you lost a husband as the basis for being able to talk about, while preventing people from responding. Let Matt Lauer make the point. Let Bill Clinton make the point. Don’t put up someone I am not allowed to respond to without questioning the authenticity of their grief.

... That is the point of liberal infallibility. Of putting up Cindy Sheehan, of putting out these widows, of putting out Joe Wilson. No, no, no. You can’t respond. It’s their doctrine of infallibility. Have someone else make the argument then.

I look forward to Ann Coulter's denunciation of Mr. Ogonowski's candidacy.

(AP story via the Newshoggers.)
Maureen Dowd on the Obamas:

Usually, I love the dynamics of a cheeky woman puncturing the ego of a cocky guy. I liked it in '40s movies, and I liked it with Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel, and Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis in "Moonlighting."

So why don't I like it with Michelle and Barack?

Er, because they're Democrats?

Gosh, that was easy.


I won't bore you with an excerpt from the column -- click on the link above to read it free -- but if ribbing your politician-hubby in a speech is so emasculating, as Dowd claims, why did the White House send Laura out to do it at the '05 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner? And why did it get rave reviews from the press and the right-wing blogosphere alike?

Apparently, according to some gun advocates in Pennsylvania, it's the first freedom:

Story here.

I missed Liz Smith's decision to publish utterly implausible propaganda in her New York Post gossip column last Thursday:


... Here's the rumor du jour on Rudy Giuliani and his snappy and with-it wife Judi. 'Tis said that Mrs. Giuliani has on several occasions sent Rudy's estranged two (almost grown) children Bibles as gifts. The other part of the story? That the children have always sent them back.

Wow. What red-state-bred campaign operative wrote that and spoon-fed it to Liz? City-slicker Judi given Bibles as gifts -- cue the Carter Family tunes! And those kids Rudy doesn't speak to? They're ungrateful Bible-haters in the grip of Satan!

(Both Judi and Rudy were raised Catholic well above the Mason-Dixon line. So was I. Northern Catholics own Bibles, but I've never known one to give a Bible as a gift. And I'm thinking of working-class Catholics who've mostly been married once at most.)

This item didn't get a whole lot of notice, though, per the item's sidebar, it's reportedly the most e-mailed Liz Smith story right now. Successful propaganda or not, it's incredibly cynical. Hey, Liz, I hope the check cleared.

Today, a report that Rosie O'Donnell will soon leave The View has certain corners of the political blogosphere abuzz -- or still abuzz, given that many of these bloggers were already in a tizzy about some things she'd previously said at an awards ceremony. That's in addition to the uproar over Sheryl Crow's toilet paper proposal, which had some of the same political bloggers all worked up.

I'm talking about right-wing political bloggers. Notice what you don't see? What you don't see is the left blogosphere -- or, really, the left as a whole -- rallying to defend O'Donnell and Crow as politically important figures. That's for a simple reason: we don't think they are.

Yeah, many lefties took note of the fact that Crow and Laurie David were told by Karl Rove that he doesn't think he works for them, even though they're American citizens. But we would have had precisely the same reaction if he'd said that to an average citizen sitting in the audience at a speech.

We're not obsessed with celebrities. The right is.


UPDATE: O'Donnell departure confirmed. I don't think the right blogosphere would be happier if bin Laden were caught.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


If we want someone who talks like this as our next president, we may as well elect Cheney:

Rudy Giuliani said if a Democrat is elected president in 2008, America will be at risk for another terrorist attack on the scale of Sept. 11, 2001.

But if a Republican is elected, he said, especially if it is him, terrorist attacks can be anticipated and stopped.

"If any Republican is elected president - - and I think obviously I would be the best at this - - we will remain on offense and will anticipate what (the terrorists) will do and try to stop them before they do it," Giuliani said.

..."I listen a little to the Democrats and if one of them gets elected, we are going on defense," Giuliani continued. "We will wave the white flag on Iraq. We will cut back on the Patriot Act, electronic surveillance, interrogation and we will be back to our pre-Sept. 11 attitude of defense."

He added: "The Democrats do not understand the full nature and scope of the terrorist war against us." ...

Oh, and there's more:

Giuliani said terrorists "hate us and not because of anything bad we have done; it has nothing to do with Israel and Palestine. They hate us for the freedoms we have and the freedoms we want to share with the world."...

No! Please! Not "they hate us for our freedoms"! Make it stop!

But you can actually say these things to a Republican audience and no one will wince. Time hasn't moved on in GOP Land; all the calendars simply stopped on Mission Accomplished day. For Republicans, time just goes in a loop, ending on that day and starting on 9/11.


UPDATE: Thank you, Barack Obama, for this:

Rudy Giuliani today has taken the politics of fear to a new low and I believe Americans are ready to reject those kind of politics. America's mayor should know that when it comes to 9/11 and fighting terrorists, America is united. We know we can win this war based on shared purpose, not the same divisive politics that question your patriotism if you dare to question failed policies that have made us less secure. I think we should focus on strengthening our intelligence, working with local authorities and doing all the things we haven't yet done to keep Americans safe. The threat we face is real, and deserves better than to be the punchline of another political attack.

It could have been even stronger, though -- Harry Reid, your thoughts? And I agree with the comment by racerx:

I can't believe Obama called Giuliani "America's mayor"

Yes, people need to wise up: that's not a nickname at this point, it's a campaign slogan. If you're a Democrat, unless you're laying on the sarcasm, don't use it. It's like saying "morning in America" if you were running against Reagan in '84.
There was a "full-scale riot" at a prison in Indiana today. Two people were hurt. Tear gas had to be used to break it up.

The problem, obviously, is that our prisons are gun-free zones. If prisoners were allowed to carry concealed weapons, someone could have nipped this in the bud before it got out of hand. Too bad it's politically incorrect to say so.

Still wondering about the reason for the Virginia Tech rampage? And other school shootings?

Well, wonder no longer. Over at WorldNetDaily, Dr. Judith Reisman explains it all for you:

Cho's erototoxic addiction

...So, what are the common factors shared by most recent mass school killers?

Start with a boy who will never be a football hero or homecoming king.
Place him in a society drenched in sadosexual arousal as entertainment.
Toss in some family troubles of a trivial and/or serious nature.
Bring him to a local video game arcade to painstakingly perfect both a killer's attitude and aim.
Sit him at the Internet every night, angrily lusting after naked young blondes who provoke his loins.
Give him psychiatric drugs for his depression -- drugs known to facilitate violent behavior.

... The killer's poetry professor Nikki Giovanni said his poems revealed someone engaged in ''a personal violation … objectifying his subjects,'' doing things ''to your body parts."

Giovanni was describing erototoxins -- pornography.

...Law enforcement needs to collect and report all the information on killer addictions to violent video games, erototoxins and medications. Our mass media needs to stop celebrating mass killers and pandering sexual violence. Our universities need to stop pandering pornography. Our medicine men need to stop prescribing drugs likely to cause vulnerable users to violence.

...Meanwhile, a major lawsuit waits in the wings if Virginia Tech has been a pornographic/erototoxic tolerant environment.

Wow, that was easy. It appears we have a one-size-fits-all solution: All we have to do is ban porn, video games, and SSRIs and we'll never have a school shooting again. All school shooters are troubled losers who become porn-obsessed gamers on prescription drugs. Evidence? Who needs it? This is perfectly obvious!

Just another right-wing kook spouting nonsense, right? Well, as Max Blumenthal reported a couple of years ago, Dr. Reisman is not just any right-wing kook:

... in recent years she has found herself kibitzing with the likes of GOP senators and Bush administration officials.... this November she provided expert testimony on Capitol Hill for Republican Sen. Sam Brownback on the scientific perils of pornography. There, she also lobbied for the reintroduction of a bill that would mandate an investigation into her claim that Kinsey sexually abused children during his research. Through friends in the Justice Department, Reisman has helped push for an increased focus on prosecuting porn. And she is a favorite speaker at conferences of the Abstinence Clearinghouse, a federally funded non-profit which provides technical assistance to controversial abstinence-only programs in public schools.

... The Abstinence Clearinghouse, advised by members of conservative Christian groups like Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America and Coral Ridge Ministries, is funded in part by the Department of Health and Human Services. As the spearhead of the abstinence-only movement, its primary task is to design and disseminate curricula to public schools which administer abstinence-only courses....

(I'm amazed that Bush hasn't actually appointed her to a government job. Then again, he still has 21 months.)

Obviously, there was a sexual component to Cho's pathology -- he was a sexual harasser and (as Reisman notes, correctly) he was said to photograph female classmates' legs with a camera under his desk. Reisman is right to say that this behavior should have been taken more seriously by the university. But what evidence do we have that that was the cause (rather than just one more symptom) of Cho's problems? Or that his sexual behavior would have been any different in the era before easily available Internet porn?


(Oh, and if the "erototoxin" obsession and the Tom Cruise-like aversion to pharmaceuticals isn't enough kookiness for one essay, Reisman also argues that killers like Cho are "de-stigmatized" by being called "shooters." Hunh? Who on earth has a better feeling about Cho when he's referred to as a "shooter" rather than as a "killer"? This is as nutty as the right-wing crusade to replace "suicide bomber" with "homicide bomber." Right-wingers, I don't know where you get the notion that people have very different responses to these expressions, but you're imagining it. Please -- get help.)

Oh, those silly Europeans and Asians -- don't they know that people hate trains, and that subsidized transit systems are inevitably doomed to failure?

Running Like a Clock ... and Fast

On overseas trips, many American business travelers do what is almost unthinkable back home: they take the train. And they board in increasing numbers, as high-speed rail service expands in Europe, China and Japan.

"I wouldn’t even consider taking the train in the U.S. except along the Northeast Corridor -- and that might be just a commuter train from North White Plains to New York," said Ralph Smith, who searches the globe for low-cost supplies for the Tennant Company of Minneapolis, a maker of industrial cleaning machines.

"But trains in Europe run like a clock," he said. "They're nice and clean and fast. And the rail staffs are very helpful to Americans who kind of don't know where they're going."

..."Virtually all the big global companies use trains worldwide more than ever," said Bill Connors, executive director and chief operating officer of the National Business Travel Association, a trade group. "They want travelers to be productive and happy. The train takes a lot of the hassle out of going to airports."

..."You just don't fly anymore between Paris and Brussels -- they're that close on a [high-speed] TGV-type Thalys train," said Nico Zenner of Travel Bound, a New York travel package wholesaler. "It takes one hour and 20 minutes instead of the old three hours. And it’s got everything, including Wi-Fi."

...some of the airport-train connections in Europe are models of convenience. "You fly to Frankfurt and just go downstairs below baggage claim and take a train to wherever you want -- for instance, Dusseldorf," said William P. Kinane, vice president of the international division of Guardsmark, a leading security firm....

Fortunately, we don't have to worry about speed and efficiency like this depleting the animal vigor of business travelers here in America -- the Bush White House is proposing an Amtrak subsidy for 2008 of a whopping $800 million, and all Amtrak's CEO dares to ask for is $1.53 billion. (As a point of comparison, the Iraq supplemental is more than $120 billion.) God bless America!

(Yeah, I know -- our cities are far-flung. But we have very little like this, and probably nothing first-rate, even between cities that are relatively close.)

The campaign blog of Congressman Ron Paul, the anti-war Texas Republican who once ran for president as a Libertarian and is now running a hopeless campaign for the '08 GOP nomination, is asking visitors to his Web site to pick his running mate. Current front-runner: John Stossel. (I voted for Karen Kwiatkowski, who denounced the Bush administration's manipulation of intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq War -- I didn't know she was admired in these circles.) Among the other candidates proposed by the site's vast readership: Jon Stewart (hunh?), Jerome Corsi (presumably less for coauthoring the Swift Boat liars' book than for his dire predictions of a forthcoming "North American Union" that, we're told, is meant supersede the U.S. government), Alan Keyes, Ten Commandments judge Roy Moore, Penn Jillette, Ralph Nader, and, er, Mr. T.

I have no theories about any of this. It seems vaguely like a drug hallucination.

Monday, April 23, 2007


Today Crooks & Liars linked this appalling story, which appeared last Monday in a small Texas newspaper:

History will be made today when Copperas Cove resident Bill Thomas and his wife, Georgia, present President George W. Bush with a Purple Heart at the Oval Office.

Thomas said he and his wife came up with the unprecedented idea to present the president with the Purple Heart over breakfast one morning a few months ago as they discussed the verbal attacks, both foreign and domestic, the commander in chief has withstood during his time in office.

"We feel like emotional wounds and scars are as hard to carry as physical wounds," Thomas said.

The medal was awarded to Thomas on Dec. 18, 1965, following injuries he sustained while serving in heavy combat with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam....

(I don't know if this actually happened -- it was scheduled for the day of the Virginia Tech shootings, so it may not have. There's no mention of it on the White House Web site.)

Now, I'm not a veteran (though my father and two uncles fought in World War II), but it strikes me as appalling that even a competent president, even a president who didn't take great pains to avoid combat as a young man, would consider accepting a Purple Heart for sitting at a desk while others were shedding real blood overseas. But this is Bush we're talking about.

I was wondering what might have motivated Bill Thomas to do this, and then I ran across the Web site of Cove News, for which Bill is managing editor and his wife is publisher. At the site I spotted a "news" item, apparently written by Bill, entitled "American Soldiers Once Again Disrespected by Congress: Democrats Strike Old Glory and Show White Flag to Terrorists." And I read this:

Let there be no question that the Bush administration has made mistakes in the War on Terror. The major difference in our current Commander in Chief and his predecessors who have all made mistakes in every war effort in the history of America is that George Bush in man enough to admit his mistakes.

Now I get it -- Bill Thomas has Bush confused with somebody else! Someone who actually admits when he's wrong!

I knew there had to be a rational explanation.


(By the way, if you're clicking around at the Cove News site, just hit "Cancel" when asked for a password. You can read everything anyway -- at least I could.)


UPDATE: Last link fixed.

David Carr, writing about the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in today's New York Times, reports that the Last Honest Man has had it up to here with D.C. clubbiness:

Christopher Hitchens, the writer and Vanity Fair columnist, walked out of the dinner at about the time [Rich] Little got around to his Ronald Reagan impression.

"The event was disgraceful, so lame and mediocre that it is beyond parody," he said later. "It is impossible to decide which is more offensive: the president fawning over the press or the press fawning over the president. It expresses everything that the public means when they talk about inside-the-Beltway and access journalism."

Yeah, fawning over the president -- how dare those people! That's Hitch's job!

Back to Carr in the Times:

Mr. Hitchens didn't storm out of the city. He stormed back to his house, where he ...

He what? Showed his contempt for the power elites by getting together with a group of longshoremen and stevedores and drinking Bud with them straight out of the can?

Er, no, not exactly:

... co-hosted (along with fellow Vanity Fair contributor Todd Purdum and former Clinton aide Dee Dee Myers) the magazine's post-dinner party, a much sought-after ticket.

Mr. Hitchens ... still serves as something of a social arbiter in Washington.... Paul Wolfowitz, the embattled World Bank president, was chatting amiably in a roomful of journalists at Mr. Hitchens' home.

Well, how do you expect the Hitch to speak truth to power if power doesn't get an engraved invitation to show up for cocktails?


As for the entertainment at the WHCA dinner itself:

Mr. Little, a one-man time machine, obliged by dialing the room back decades to a time when Uncle Walter told us that's the way it is, Johnny Carson tucked us all in and a bit about Richard Nixon singing "My Way" was considered naughty fun. A painful piano ditty that would not pass muster in the Catskills made fun, not of the president, but of something we can all get behind: Osama bin Laden’s turban.

OBL's turban? Jeez, if that's what you want at the WHCA, just hire this guy.


I should add that I don't agree at all with Carr's main thesis: that the WHCA dinner is a desperate attempt to preserve the dying Beltway of old, which is giving way to a brave new Comedy Central/YouTube world. Maybe that day is coming, but I still think 2008 will have a very old-school election, if only because what we know (or think we know) about so many of '08's candidates -- Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Al Gore if he runs -- was disseminated in the pre-YouTube era by old-school bloviators from the very establishment the WHCA represents. Even John Edwards became the "Breck Girl" in that essentially old-media bygone year 2004. And, of course, we got to know Fred Thompson via one of the dinosaur networks, for heaven's sake. The mainstream media's framing of all these candidates is what's driving the polls right now (Generic Democrat kicks Generic Republican's butt, but America's Mayor and the Maverick demolish the Witch or Ozone Man) -- and, alas, I think that's going to continue for the next year and a half.

I'm ready for Election 2.0, but I'm afraid it's a cycle or three away.

Well, it's a free country, so the Reverend Donald Wilmon's American Family Association has the inalienable right to post "The Day They Kicked God Out of the Schools," a video making those old familiar arguments -- that school shootings are the fault of Madalyn Murray O'Hair, gay pride parades, and Dr. Spock's criticism of spanking.

But the AFA's not just posting it. The AFA is selling it.

That was quick.

And the AFA isn't selling a longer version of this -- the AFA is selling this video, and no more, for a "donation" of five bucks. Running time of the above video? About three minutes. Running time of the video you purchase? About three minutes. (You can also purchase just the audio track, for the same price.)

(Jesus, I guess, doesn't want you to go to any of these sites.)

Cho was a monster, but at least he gave his videos away.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I agree with Tom Hilton: It would be a lot easier to accept the argument that widespread availability of guns helps individuals defend themselves against powerful oppressors if it ever actually worked out that way.

This is disgusting:

...Cho is a classic example of "someone who felt he was a loser in the cruel social rat race", [Camille] Paglia says. The pervasive hook-up culture at college, where girls are prepared to sleep with boys they barely know or fancy, can be a source of seething resentment and alienation for those who are left out.

"Young women now seem to want to behave like men and have sex without commitment. The signals they are giving are very confusing, and rage and humiliation build up in boys who are spurned again and again." ...

Yup -- Cho didn't do this. You did it, you tramps. There'd be no mass murderers if you'd just act like ladies.

(So this is bad and unfeminine now, Camille? I'm confused. When Madonna was hooking up with anything that moved, didn't you call her "the future of feminism"?)

Paglia's full of theories. Here's another one she borrowed from an equally deep thinker:

...Cho's ethnicity may have prevented the university authorities from intervening in his life, Paglia suggests. Voicing a theme that conservative talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh have taken up with gusto, she wonders whether political correctness about his background and culture may have led them to make excuses for him.

"He was Korean and so people were hesitant to declare he was abnormal in American terms," she says.

Right -- that's why eight of his college teachers tried to do something about him, his college suitemates talk about how odd they thought he was, and he was mocked and bullied in high school: because everyone was afraid to say he was different.

(Paglia and Rush, of course, have admired each other for quite some time.)

The runner-up idiot, from the same article, is Francis Fukuyama:

"It really is young men between 15 and 30 who are responsible the vast majority of crimes, although it is politically incorrect to say this too loudly," he says.

Huhn? Show of hands: Anyone have a problem with saying that males, especially young males, commit more crimes females? Me either.

Right-wingers who want to blame a liberal culture of enforced godlessness for what happened at Virginia Tech ought to know this about the shooter's sister, Sun-kyung Cho, who attended Princeton:

For nearly two years, Alan Oquendo ate meals with her almost every night. He remembers "a very humble person," a deeply spiritual woman who did not smoke or drink and wore little makeup. She worked at the college library and spent much of her spare time at prayer meetings and Friday night Bible studies with the Princeton Evangelical Fellowship.

As we learn from that article, in the Los Angeles Times, and this one in The New York Times, the Chos were churchgoing Christians. And there was Sun-kyung Cho, in the belly of the Eastern liberal establishment beast, and yet the totalitarian thugs of progressive culture couldn't prevent her from clinging to her faith in God and embracing evangelical Christianity.

So why should we be blamed (as Newt Gingrich was blaming us just now in an interview with George Stephanopoulos) for what her brother did?


UPDATE: Crooks and Liars has video and a transcript of that Gingrich appearance.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


At first glance, this seems like a pleasant surprise:

House Democratic leaders are working with the National Rifle Association to bolster existing laws blocking mentally ill people from buying guns.

...The measure, a version of which has passed the House in two previous Congresses but died in the Senate, could come to a House vote as early as next month. It would require states to supply more thorough records, including for any mental illness-related court action against a would-be gun purchaser.

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., a strong NRA ally, is negotiating with the group on the background check bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has tapped Dingell and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., a leading gun control supporter whose husband was fatally shot by a deranged gunman on the Long Island Railroad, to broker a swift compromise measure that could win passage in the House and Senate....

And yes, in fact, the NRA does support the NICS Improvement Act of 2007. (NICS is the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.)

However, the NRA isn't the only 800-pound pro-gun gorilla in the room. Here's a report from CNSNews from the last time the bill was up for consideration:

...Gun Owners of America also admits that it is the only national pro-gun group to oppose the "NICS Improvement Act of 2005" (H.R. 1415).

...Gun Owners of America warns that the bill would give the states hundreds of millions of dollars to "further prop up the unconstitutional Brady Law." GOA argues that the federal government lacks the authority to conduct background checks on gun buyers under the Second and Tenth Amendments.

...According to Gun Owners of America, the bill is "anything but harmless" because it will make available to the federal government millions of state records "that could include state tax returns, employment records, library records, DMV, hospital, mental health and some misdemeanor records -- all in the name of making sure you're not prohibited from owning a gun." ...

Mental health records! Imagine!

(By the way, I can't find any sign in the bill that it could be used to deny you a gun if you have an overdue library book, or whatever GOA is charging here, and I seriously doubt the NRA would back the bill if that were the case.)

In January 2007, GOA said that the bill "could prove to be the most serious threat to the Second Amendment we face under the new congressional leadership," adding,

The fact that metal health 'experts,' a notoriously anti-gun community, would have a say in who is allowed to possess a firearm is, quite frankly, frightening.

Yup, that's what these guys think.

And there's nothing on their site to suggest that they've changed their minds. So who'll prevail in Congress, the NRA or the GOA? My money's not on the NRA.

Why, oh why does Rudy Giuliani have a 61% favorable rating among Americans overall -- Democrats and independents as well as Republicans -- when he says things like what he said in Texas on Friday?

President Bush has brought the same aggressive approach to the global terrorism struggle his father and Ronald Reagan used to win the Cold War, Republican presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani said Friday.

Before Bush's response to the Sept. 11 attacks, "we were on defense against terrorism," Giuliani told about 1,500 students and other guests at Texas A&M University. "They were setting the agenda."

... After the 1993 attack on New York's World Trade Center, "the people who did it were arrested and convicted of crimes," Giuliani said. "But it wasn't just murder. It was an act of war."

Bush's grasp of the realities of terrorism, he said, is not matched by Democratic leaders in Congress who support a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

"They don't see the big picture," Giuliani said. "They don't see it as part of the overall war on terror."

The same naivete is evident in Democrats' efforts to limit electronic surveillance to investigate suspected terrorists, he said. This tool is needed to gather intelligence and stay on the offensive rather than retreat to half-measures, Giuliani said.

The ad would write itself. The tag line would be: "Four more years?"

Oh, and by the way, so much for Frank Rich's claim a couple of months ago that Giuliani is sidestepping the issue of the Iraq War and "actively avoids speaking about it in any detail."

Oh, and I love this from Giuliani:

Responding to questions from the audience, Giuliani drew an analogy between fighting terrorism and preventing domestic kidnappings. He said kidnapping is far more common in Mexico than in the larger, more prosperous United States.

The difference, he said, is Mexican authorities typically pay the ransom kidnappers demand, while U.S. officials recognize that doing this encourages more kidnappings.

"Mexico has a lot of kidnappings because Mexico treats kidnapping the way we used to treat terrorism," Giuliani said....

Got that? Convicting terrorist conspirators and putting them in jail for life is the equivalent of paying ransom to thugs for the return of hostages. If I were one of the people who helped bring the people responsible for the WTC bombing to justice and I ran into Giuliani, I'd spit in his face.

Friday, April 20, 2007


Via the spring movie preview in Entertainment Weekly, we get a sense of how we look to the rest of the world after six-plus years of Bush from this synopsis of a forthcoming British film:

There was no shortage of casualties in 2002's 28 Days Later, Danny Boyle's surprise hit about a plague-stricken Britain where almost the entire population had been transformed into blood-soaked psychopaths -- or been chewed to death by them....

28 Weeks Later takes place six months after the last of the "infected" have died off and stars Robert Carlyle as a survivor who is reunited with his two children in London as the city is repopulated with the help of U.S. troops.... "Well, what happens, of course, is the disease comes back," says [producer Andrew] Macdonald. "And it gets out of control, and the Americans just say, 'Kill everybody.' First of all they shoot the infected, then they shoot everybody, and then they firebomb them with napalm, and then gas them with chemical weapons." ...

I believe this is what Dick Cheney would describe as "porn."
Dinesh D'Souza has responded to the Virginia Tech shootings by picking a fight with atheists. His point (expressed here and here) is that

atheism has nothing to offer in the face of tragedy except C'est la vie. Deal with it. Get over it. This is why the ceremonies [at Virginia Tech] were suffused with religious rhetoric. Only the language of religion seems appropriate to the magnitude of tragedy. Only God seems to have the power to heal hearts in such circumstances.

Is that his standard? Religion is preferable to atheism because religion is more comforting?

The ancient Greeks had a belief:

NEMESIS was the goddess of indignation against, and retribution for, evil deeds and undeserved good fortune. She was a personification of the resentment aroused in men by those who commited crimes with apparent impunity, or who had inordinate good fortune.

Nemesis directed human affairs in such a way as to maintain equilibrium.... As one who checked extravagant favours by Tykhe (Fortune), Nemesis was regarded as an avenging or punishing divinity....

Nemesis was the goddess of righteous indignation who punished boasts of hubris....

That's comforting. It's also wrong. Some people overreach, or have unearned good fortune, and never suffer for it. Happens all the time. Should we ignore that reality and continue to teach our children about hubris and Nemesis because it's comforting?

It's interesting that a right-winger would make an argument like this, because it's not very different from what we're being told about the Iraq War. Say that the war can't be won and you're denying the troops hope -- never mind whether it's the truth.

Now, I'm not one of those atheists who revel in saying, "Life is meaningless! Deal with it!" What I'm saying is that my belief system, alas, doesn't offer those who are grieving a great deal of hope -- a fact that says absolutely nothing about whether I'm right or wrong. (Although I think, if I lost a loved one in this massacre, I would take some comfort in my belief that I wasn't being punished for cause by a vengeful God.)


SHORTER LATEST UPDATE BY D'SOUZA: There are angry comments on my blog! That means everyone who disagrees with me is stupid and evil!
More like this, please:

The liberal group is launching an ad against Republican John McCain and his joke about bombing Iran, arguing that the nation "can't afford another reckless president."

The group plans to spend about $100,000 to air a commercial on network and some cable television stations in Iowa and New Hampshire, states that hold early contests in the presidential nomination process, spokesman Alex Howe said Friday.

McCain, campaigning Wednesday in South Carolina, answered a question about military action against Iran with the chorus of the surf-rocker classic "Barbara Ann."

"That old, eh, that old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran," he said. "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, anyway, ah ..."

..."America has lived through six years of a reckless foreign policy," an announcer says in the ad. "We're stuck in Iraq. More than 3,000 Americans are dead. And thousands more wounded.

"Now comes John McCain with his answer to what we should do about Iran. John McCain? We can't afford another reckless president." ...

Anything that reminds voters that the '08 Republicans are very much in agreement with the hated Republican who ran in '00 and '04 is a good thing.

(Watch the ad here or here.)

I'm sure a lot of you don't think Cho Seung-Hui's videotape and photos should have been aired (I disagree, as I'll explain below), but Hugh Hewitt's response has more than a faint whiff of jackboot -- he seems to like the notion that NBC might be sued for this:

There is a tort --the intentional infliction of mental or emotional distress-- which punishes via civil liability parties whose outrageous conduct injures the emotional well-being of private parties.... I wouldn't be surprised to see a parent or spouse of one of the victims bring such a claim against NBC for its conduct yesterday as a vehicle to discover exactly what was said and done inside the news organization and to demonstrate that the public has lost its patience with the self-appointed lords of the public airwaves. The tort generally requires four elements: 1) the defendant(s) must act intentionally or recklessly; (2) the defendants' conduct must be extreme and outrageous; and (3) the conduct must be the cause (4) of severe emotional distress.

... don't be too quick to assume that the First Amendment protects NBC in this instance. The closest Suprme Court case on point is the 1988 decision in
Hustler v. Falwell, which while protected the right to satirize public figures in repuslive ways said nothing about news organizations obligations towards victims....

Talk about a slippery slope. If NBC can be sued for this speech act, what would be next? Pro-war troops' families suing news organizations for showing dead GIs or soldiers' coffins? Or suing news organizations for reporting on anti-war demonstrations? Or suing those who hold anti-war demonstrations?

Of course, Hewitt is probably being deeply cynical -- he's proposing something outrageous and chilling to basic freedoms just to boost his radio ratings and readership.

But his relish for this is made clear by his willingness to ignore the plain words "intentional infliction of mental or emotional distress" (which means -- I'm venturing an interpretation even though I'm not a lawyer -- having the intent of inflicting emotional distress, i.e., thinking, "Gee, let's put this on the air because we really want to make those people miserable") because he's rubbing his hands together in anticipation of a suit that would "demonstrate that the public has lost its patience with the self-appointed lords of the public airwaves."

Meanwhile, we in the public did watch didn't we? The "lords of the airwaves" couldn't force us to do that -- we did it on our own.


I understand criticism of the decision to air this material, though I think people legitimately want to know what goes on in the mind of someone like this. I'll admit it: I do.

And what would have happened if the material hadn't been aired?

I think the tape would have acquired mythical status. I think conspiracy theories would have abounded: NBC isn't airing the material because it shows that the FBI or CIA was using this incident as a distraction from Bush's troubles. Or: NBC isn't showing it because the "MSM" is pro-terrorist and the material shows that Cho was a convert to jihad.

The former theory might have been expounded by a few nuts. The latter theory, on the other hand, might well have become a talking point all over the right-wing media. The same people who make up Hugh Hewitt's fan base would be arguing that NBC was suppressing the uncomfortable truth because NBC hates America and wants the terrorists to win.


I think it might have been better for NBC to wait a while before airing the material -- but I don't agree that airing the material will make Cho a hero to a certain number of people. That was already likely the minute his death toll surpassed the one in Columbine. Will his face wind up on T-shirts? Maybe -- but it might well have even if the only photos we had of him came from other sources. Will songs be written about him and bands be named after him? Maybe -- but they'll be named Ismail Ax or Richard McBeef, and those terms entered the language before the package arrived at NBC.

What should we do? Should we take the approach suggested by Noel Sheppard of the right-wing site NewsBusters?

(Please be advised: I refuse to use his real name, or publish pictures of him, for reasons that should be obvious, and wish all members of the media would adopt the same anonymity strategy when referring to this animal.)

Is that how we should handle incidents of this kind? Treat them the way TV broadcasters handle fans who run onto the field at baseball games? Turn the camera away? Hell, maybe we shouldn't report these incidents at all. Is that the solution?


UPDATE: Shorter Howard Kurtz: People all over America were so upset at the outrageous decision to air this material that they couldn't tear themselves away from it long enough to watch Alberto Gonzales.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

From this morning's Knoville News Sentinel in Tennessee:

TN moves to allow guns in public buildings

NASHVILLE -- In a surprise move, a House panel voted today to repeal a state law that forbids the carrying of handguns on property and buildings owned by state, county and city governments -- including parks and playgrounds.

"I think the recent Virginia disaster -- or catastrophe or nightmare or whatever you want to call it -- has woken up a lot of people to the need for having guns available to law-abiding citizens," said Rep. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains. "I hope that is what this vote reflects."

This is only a "surprise move" to someone who's paid absolutely no attention to gun politics in this country in recent years. Expect more of this. Don't expect anything that goes the other way.

It's long been in fashion to believe that people are innately good, and that upbringing and environment are responsible for nasty personalities.

It has? Really?

That sentence jumped out at me from a New York Times op-ed about the Virginia Tech shootings by Barbara Oakley, a professor at Oakland University.

My response is: Maybe in the academy it's still in fashion to believe people are innately good, but I haven't heard that belief expressed seriously since I threw out my last pair of bell-bottoms.

Here's what people in the real world think: We think no one is 100% good. We think a lot of people are jerks, and some people are a lot worse than that -- they'll do real harm to others unless stopped. Many of us think environment played a big part in making the last group, or at least a large percentage of them, into the dangerous people they are. But we don't think of them as "innately good." Some of them could conceivably change, but some of them surely can't. And if they're doing harm to people and they can change, we think they damn well ought to.

Oakley says she had a student admirer who slept in a lab and sent her love notes festooned with cockroaches -- when he wasn't following her out to her car, or boasting about his large collection of weapons. When she went to the dean of students, she was told, she says, that nothing would be done because "students have rights, too."

Excuse me, but no -- Professor Oakley was being sexually harassed, by someone who had signs of possible mental illness (semi-homelessness, obsession with weapons), and anyone who thinks that kind of behavior ought to be tolerated is an idiot.

I live in a very liberal city and work in an industry that's culturally liberal -- yet I've seen two co-workers dismissed when their behavior started to seem threatening and psychotic. One began to utter and post anti-Semitic messages directed at colleagues; another concocted an impossible sexual-harassment fantasy that, she claimed, took place in her female septuagenarian boss's office during work hours, when, in fact, the (utterly innocent) goings-on were in full view of everyone who passed in the hallway. (This woman later wrote elaborate letters from the institution to which she'd been committed, some of which were first-person narratives of being beheaded at work. She was simply insane.)

Neither of these firings offended anyone's liberal sensibilities. No one argued that the essential goodness of humanity meant that the behavior of the two co-workers needed to be tolerated. We were just happy that the company got them the hell out. Yes, we hoped the truly crazy one was getting help and might improve someday. But nobody thought for a minute that it was our duty as loving, groovy people to put up with what they were doing.

John McCain -- recently praised by Peggy Noonan as "a serious man addressing a serious issue in a serious way" after an Iraq speech -- now shows us a bit more of that gravitas (via Drudge):

Even though he was nursing a cold, Republican Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain spent nearly 90 minutes talking to nearly 500 people who crammed into the Murrells Inlet VFW Hall [in South Carolina] Wednesday morning....

[One] man -- wondering if an attack on Iran is in the works -- wanted to know when America is going to “send an air mail message to Tehran.”

McCain began his answer by changing the words to a popular Beach Boys song.

"Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran," he sang to the tune of Barbara Ann....

Good grief.

Video at YouTube.

This isn't even a new gag, by the way, as I explained last year (see this post, or just go to this direct MP3 link to the 1980 single "Bomb Iran" by Vince Vance and the Valiants).

But it should be noted that, according to a new Washington Post/ABC poll, John McCain's numbers are holding steady among Republicans, while Rudy Giuliani's are dropping. That tells me his Iraq market stroll and other recent bits of outreach to right-wing crazies are starting to work. Yeah, his general-election numbers are dropping, presumably because of his newly high-profile bellicosity, but if he gets the nomination he'll just run to the center and trust the press to pretend he hasn't said and done all those things he's actually said and done. Which will probably happen.
This market [car-]bombed today was attacked only ten weeks ago. U.S. military spokesmen said there was supposed to be a ban [on cars] inside it.

--Hillary Brown of ABC News last night discussing yesterday's bombing of the Sadriya market in Baghdad, which killed approximately 140 people



by Mustafa al-Reynolds

On Wednesday, as the news of a wave of car bombings was unfolding, I went into my advanced law seminar here in Baghdad to find one of my students upset. My student, Miryam al-Wyllie, has an automobile, as well as a large collection of explosives looted after the fall of Saddam, but right now she isn't allowed to drive in Baghdad, and she is never allowed to drive while carrying explosives. That left her feeling unsafe. "Why couldn't we meet off campus today?" she asked.

My student is a responsible adult; if she chooses to turn her vehicle into a car bomb, I trust her not to use it improperly, and if something bad happened, I'd want her to have explosives in her car because I trust her to respond appropriately, making the rest of us safer.

The government doesn't have that kind of trust in its citizens. It believes that by making Baghdad "car-free," and "explosive-free," it will make people safer, when in fact it's only disarming innocent people, rather than allowing them to build their own car bombs to kill off car bombers before they can set off their car bombs.

This merely ensures that the terrorists have a free hand. If there were more responsible, armed car bombers in Baghdad, car bombing would be harder.

Coalition and Iraqi forces can't be everywhere, and by the time they show up at a car bombing, it's usually too late. On the other hand, one group of people is, by definition, always on the scene: the victims. Only if they have their own car bombs, they may wind up not being victims at all.

"Car-free zones" and "explosive-free zones" are premised on a fantasy: That car bombers will follow rules, and that people like my student would be a greater danger to those around them if they had car bombs than crazed car bombers like those responsible for the latest attacks. That's an insult. Sometimes, it's a deadly one.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


A magazine cover by the National Rifle Association protesting Mayor Michael Bloomberg's campaign against guns is raising questions for its depiction of him as an octopus, which has a history of use as an anti-Semitic symbol.

The cover of this month's issue of the NRA publication America's 1st Freedom features an evil-looking cartoon of the Jewish mayor, with a headline warning: "Tentacles!"

The eight-armed sea animal has been used as the Nazi representation of Jewish conspiracy and control, and was referenced by Adolf Hitler in "Mein Kampf."

The NRA magazine dedicates several stories around a central theme of alarm that the "rogue Mayor Michael Bloomberg is working to bring his gun-control schemes to your hometown." ...

David Twersky of the American Jewish Congress said he did not think the NRA was trying to be purposely anti-Semitic, but that it had nonetheless committed a blunder by not being aware of the symbol's hateful past.

"For them not to know this is really, really stupid," he said. "You take a powerful Jewish figure, and show him in a way that provokes traditional anti-Semitism, it's really unforgiveable." ...

(Right: Cartoon by Josef Plank, circa 1938)

If our people and our state become the victims of blood-thirsty and money-thirsty Jewish tyrants, the whole world will be enmeshed in the tentacles of this octopus.

--Mein Kampf

First paragraph of "People Don't Stop Killers. People with Guns Do," an op-ed by Glenn Reynolds in the New York Daily News:

On Monday, as the news of the Virginia Tech shootings was unfolding, I went into my advanced constitutional law seminar to find one of my students upset. My student, Tara Wyllie, has a permit to carry a gun in Tennessee, but she isn't allowed to have a weapon on campus. That left her feeling unsafe. "Why couldn't we meet off campus today?" she asked.

May I say something harsh here? If there's a maniac on the loose in central Virginia and that makes you afraid for your safety in Tennessee, then I'm not exactly sure I want someone with your temperament carrying a gun at my school.