Thursday, April 30, 2009

Remember This Face

Some day, you might want to get right up in it.

You stay classy now, Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC).

(pic. source)

Fat Kid Talks Tough. Again.

So much for the big day, two weeks ago, that was going to change the world (highlighting added):

Erick Erickson wanking(enlarge image)

Shorter Erick Erickson:

My call for armed insurrection over dishwasher detergent having succeeded so brilliantly, I will now conduct a Reign of Terror because the rest of the Teabaggers won't take orders from me, the "sixty-ninth most influential conservative in the United States" Grand High Exalted Mystic Ruler of the RedState Trike Force.

(h/t: TBogg)


[Added] More of the great teabag unraveling (via).

[Added 2] Nice commentary on the hilarity described in the above, from Brian Beutler (no relation) at TPM. Here's an excerpt:

What could "#tcot" mean, we thought? Teabagging Conservatives' Organizing Tool? Tremendous Collection of Ornery Tweets?

In fact, it stands for "Top Conservatives On Twitter," and it is, in a way, a perfectly accurate moniker.

Following on the advice of former RNC chair Mike Duncan, who recently told his party faithful to "do it in the Facebook, with the Twittering," famous tweeters--including, you may recall, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX)--soon began appending their messages with the #tcot hashtag. Some even thought that this little convention would reignite the conservative movement, and, predictably, a a central hub for twitter's top conservatives.

But, alas, a national (or formerly national) political party can't organize around a tic-tac-toe sign. Just look at the record: #tcot didn't bring us the tea parties. FreedomWorks did. And just when the #tcot juggernaut seemed unstoppable, Norm Coleman lost his legal challenge, Jim Tedisco lost his New York congressional race, and Arlen Specter became a Democrat.

And it is with this record in mind, that we report, more in sadness than in laughter, the demise of #tcot.

Paging William Beutler …

[Added 3] That Meghan McCain is looking pretty smart all of the sudden, isn't she? Who wants to be first to apologize?

Infiltration: Successful

Dave Noon gets tenure and reveals what we've all suspected for years.

Congratulations, Dave. Leave no student brain unwashed.

Saaaaaaay ... Who's The Messiah Now?

Below is the background image for Sarah Palin's Twitter page.

Sarah Palin, bigger than Alaska itself(enlarge image)

Libtard Photoshoppers are go!

And, as Ken Layne observes, it took her all of two tweets to start complaining about the liberal media. Also.

So Much For "We Report. You Decide."

I'm late to this, but it's still worth noting for the record:

They don't even try to pretend anymore:

The AP reports that Fox has decided to stick with its regular line-up on Wednesday, meaning it won't air President Obama's prime-time news conference marking his 100th day in office. Instead, viewers will see an episode of "Lie to Me." ABC, CBS, and NBC will be airing the press conference.

Obvious irony of their alternate programming choice aside, was there ever even a Bush photo op that Fox did not cover?

(h/t: maru)

Purity Bawl

Jon Huntsman. Governor of Utah. Republican (obvs). Approval rating in his own state: 84%.

Worth canceling a GOP fundraiser because he was scheduled to speak.

Reason: Not conservative enough.

Any Relation to Stuart?

A short while, I received an email letting me know that:

Hoot Smalley (hootsmalley) is now following your updates on Twitter.


OIC (via). See also.

(title: cf.)

Your Moment of Juxtaposition

Michael Steele: Pot, Meet Kettle(enlarge image)

Top: Partial screen capture of Michael Steele's latest bulk email. Note subject line.

Bottom: The latest news about the Republican Party's chairman (from AMERICAblog, via Wonkette).

Sometimes it's worth being on spam lists.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Same-Sex Marriage: Progress Report

Short version: In Connecticut, it isn't just a good idea; it's the law, as of last week. In New Hampshire, both houses have approved bills legalizing same-sex marriage; the House is expected to approve what the Senate passed, and it's soon going to be up to the governor, who is iffy. In Maine, a bill made it out of committee; both houses may vote on it as soon as next week, and the governor's stance is unknown.

Some details:

• Connecticut    Last week, Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed into law a bill that formally legalizes same-sex marriage. This new law will also cause the existing civil union law to expire in October 2010; all existing civil unions will automatically convert to marriages. (h/t: Roy Edroso)

Civil unions had been legal starting in April 2005. (Connecticut was the first state to pass such a law without being told to by a court.) In October 2008, the state's Supreme Court declared the civil union law unconstitutional and as a consequence of that decision, same-sex marriage became officially legal starting on 10 November 2008. I'm not sure of the details, but it appears as though the latest news amounts to formalizing and codifying the judicial result. However, it does strike me as worth noting that we now have two states (Vermont was the first) where same-sex marriage has been legalized through the legislative process.

• New Hampshire    Today, the state Senate voted to approve same-sex marriage. The state House approved a different bill last month, and must now vote on the Senate's version; it is expected to pass it.

It is less clear what Gov. John Lynch will do. He is on record as opposing the use of the M-word while favoring civil unions. He has not said whether he will veto the bill. He may let it pass without signing it. If he does veto it, the narrowness of the winning margins in both houses of the legislature suggests they won't be able to override a veto. If you'd like to urge Gov. Lynch to do the right thing, visit his contact page.

• Maine    A bill to legalize same-sex marriage easily passed the Joint Judiciary Committee today. It now goes to the state House and Senate for a vote, which may happen as soon as next week. Gov. John Baldacci has not said where he stands on the bill. He, too, has a contact page.

• Religious issues    Both the Connecticut law and Senate version of the New Hampshire bill had language added at the last minute to provide legal protection to churches and other religious organizations that don't want to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.* This is being claimed as a "major religious liberty victory" by the NOM-nom-nomers.

My considered reaction is: Whatever.

In both cases, the language speaks of reaffirming existing law, which strikes me as the right way to put it. I think a given religious organization ought to be able to have its own rules about eligibility of a couple to be married within its own bailiwick. This seems well within the bounds of what "freedom of religion" means to me, identical in spirit to, say, a church refusing to conduct a marriage ceremony for previously married (straight) persons. Members of a religious organization who object to that organization's refusal to perform a marriage ceremony are free to find another place to worship or to agitate for change from within. I don't think they should be allowed to sue or otherwise bring the machinery of the state down onto the religious organization in this regard.

I also don't think there are a whole lot of same-sex marriage supporters who want to compel priests, etc., to perform marriage ceremonies against their will. I'm sure there are a few gay couples for whom this is important, and I hope they can find another place that's more welcoming, if it's really that important to them. But generally, if the opponents want to crow about this bit of face-saving, I say, let 'em. My guess is that, over time, fewer and fewer churches will refuse to perform marriage ceremonies for two women or two men, whether because they'll come to realize what "all God's children" really means, or more pragmatically, because they'll realize they're alienating more of their congregations by opposing rather than embracing.

* If you're interested, here are the most recent versions of the official text of the Connecticut and New Hampshire bills that I could find. I can't be sure that these are the final versions, but both have them have the religious protection portions included.

John McCain's Twittering Is So Last Season

Because, it is spring, and we now have "The Official White House Photostream's photostream," on Flickr!

Fire the branding consultant. Keep the photographer.*

Here is your president, doing what Apple won't let iPhone users do:

(h/t: Ken Layne/Wonkette | pic. source)

* Yeah, that sounded oddly familiar to me, too.

Another Fansite

Via Steve Benen, I see the DCCC has started


Granted, they just launched it, but I think they should have just linked to the definitive site: Dump Michele Bachmann.

Yeah, and Archie Bunker was, too!

Apparently, some conservatives think Stephen Colbert is serious.

Some Jump

The historical highs are good, but it's the sudden change that really caught my eye (emph. added):

Forty-two percent of Americans now say same sex couples should be allowed to legally marry, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds. That's up nine points from last month, when 33 percent supported legalizing same sex marriage.

Support for same sex marriage is now at its highest point since CBS News starting asking about it in 2004.

Twenty-eight percent say same sex couples should have no legal recognition – down from 35 percent in March – while 25 percent support civil unions, but not marriage, for gay couples.

The post on CBS's site doesn't say, nor does a related NYT analysis piece, but I'm going to presume they're comparing with their own polling data from March, which was conducted using the same methodolgy (sue me, I trust the LIEbrul media sometimes). So I wonder what that quick, large shift could be explained by. Think Iowa (a "heartland" state, plus the unanimous decision by their state supreme court) and Vermont (first state to approve via legislation, not court decision) made that many people suddenly relax, nationwide?

Could be somewhat of a fluke, I suppose. The margin of error is +/- 3% for these polls, so maybe if the error in March's poll was all the way to one end and April's the other ……… but even with all that hand-waving, it'd still be a three-point change for the good, and odds are strong it's better than that.

Only one way to react to this news, right?

(h/t: Steve Benen | pic. source)


  1. In the interests of equality, I was going to post a picture of two women kissing, too, but I couldn't find any on the Internet.

  2. In the interests of equality, I will link to a nice wholesome heterosexual kiss, for Rick Santorum.

Oh, Snap

Look what res ipsa loquitur came across in the Peggy Noonan archives, dateline November 4, 2004:

I do not know what the Democratic Party spent, in toto, on the 2004 election, but what they seem to have gotten for it is Barack Obama. Let us savor.

For once, I agree with Nooners.


I was gonna go delete six or seven old posts just to make this come out even, but it turns out I have nothing particularly profound to say to mark the occasion of the milestone.

Imagine that.

Anyway, the 3000th post just appeared on this blog not too long ago, so, hurray!

And thanks for reading.

Blog Post Title of the Day


Cutting off your nose despite your faith

Yeah. It's about yet another Very Serious Wingnut having a cow because President Obama is going to speak at Notre Dame. A good takedown by TBogg.

Advice to a D-List Pundit

Besides what KL found, looks like there's not much comedy gold to be mined from Wingnuttia about this Arlen guy …

But, wait. Hey, Jennifer Rubin:

Specter’s Exit an Opportunity for the GOP

The one thing you don't ever want to do is be on the same page as Bill Kristol:

Good News for Republicans!

There are reasons, ya know ...

(h/t: DougJ/Balloon Juice)

[Added] Good grief, it's worse than I thought. Jennifer, retract, retract!


Ken Layne has a hilarious collection of Freeper reactions to the new Democratic Senator.

(title: cf.)

News Item Summary of the Day

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is using the slogan “Yes We Can” in his re-electionc campaign. Obama will be so jealous, that Ahmadinejad gets to yell “Yes We Can” in Farsi, the way it was intended to be yelled.
-- Juli Weiner/Wonkette

Line of the Day: 2009-04-29

She makes it really hard for us Minnesotans to act all snooty and superior around the Texans, you know.

That's PZ Myers's response to the following 15-second clip, which only adds to the alarmingly flourishing collection of Bachmannia:

(alt. video link)

And for the record, just in case there is anyone left who doesn't already take everything Michele Bachmann says with a Pacific Ocean's worth of salt, Eric Kleefeld notes:

As the Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages points out, Bachmann has the 1970s flu outbreak all wrong. It happened in 1976 when Gerald Ford was in office.

(h/t: John Evo, via email)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

An Hour Very Well Spent

Here is a diavlog between Reihan Salam and Reza Aslan that I urge you to watch.

(alt. video link)

If I had to say in one sentence what it's about, I'd say it is a scholarly view of the differences between Islamism and jihadism combined with practical recommendations for how the US and western Europe should use these understandings to deal with the problems caused by Muslim disaffections at home and abroad.

Here are the segment titles, swiped from the show page:

  • Reza’s new book, “How to Win a Cosmic War”
  • America as a model for Muslim integration in Europe
  • Reza: Ditch the “war on terror” rhetoric
  • Jihadism can’t be defeated without solving Israel-Palestine
  • Can Islamic nationalism be an antidote for jihadism?
  • Reza to Obama: Don’t abandon the one thing Bush got right

If you would rather not sit in front of your computer to watch an hour of streaming video, you can visit the show page and download a video or audio file.

I did not agree with every last thing that Reza said, but I found what he had to say hugely instructive. Reihan conducted a superb interview. I can't recommend this one highly enough.

For more:


Welp, that didn't take long. Just got an email from Michel Steele, chairman of the RNC, reacting to the Arlen Specter news (see previous post). Of course it is primarily motivated by fund-raising desires; as with any political organization, the RNC is well aware that wallets will open more easily when people are aroused by a hot-button issue, especially presented as breaking news.

I have to wonder, though, why it is in the face of obvious trends that Chairman Steele thinks the best thing to do is to continue preying on the worst part of far right-wing paranoia? Check out the graphic that was embedded in the email:

RNC hysteria

This is the sort of thing that I'd say would be plausible right before Election Day, to rally turnout, but right now? No. It's stupid. If you've got one of your Senators leaving your party, the lesson that should be learned is that this endless appeal to the extremist wing is backfiring. What the Republicans ought to be working on now, a year and a half away from the next national election, is broadening their appeal.

But hey, I'm not gonna cry too hard about the GOP driving themselves into utter irrelevance as long as they care only about appealing to the wingnuts. Good riddance.

I Read The News Today, Oh Boy!

Well, I have only just started. But John Cole's take on Sen. Arlen Specter's (R-PA) switch to the Democratic Party was a good first thing to read. It's especially pertinent, given that John himself made this switch a few years ago.

(h/t: claymisher)

[Added] Video of Specter announcing his decision here. Long write-up of the news here.

Blog Post Title of the Day

Doghouse Riley:

Oh, So That's What Lou Cannon Thinks About Ronald Reagan

All words underneath are good, too.

(pats self on back for making a prediction that could not fail to come true)

Remember yesterday when I was babbling out loud to myself about health care reform? If you made it all the way through (thanks!), you'll recall near the end I predicted OUTRAGE from the usual suspects about legislation being jammed down their throats. You know, because there will only be six months for Congress to pass a bill in the usual way before the reconciliation process is invoked to put an end to Republican desires to see people die in the street for the crime of being poor obstructionism.

And now, speaking of things being jammed down throats … Ladies and gentlemen, the man who put the best in bestiality … Rick Santorum!

(h/t: watertiger)

[Added] Also in the pot, meet kettle department: raspberries to almost-mole Judd Gregg and Bond, Kit Bond, two more Republican senators who ought to be as ex- as Santorum.

More On Quarter-Mill Bill

If my snippiness regarding the tiara recently given to the queen of wingnut welfare left you wanting more, then Eric Alterman has got you covered: "Bill Kristol's guide to falling upward."


To what do these numbers refer?

32, 25, 21

Give up?

They are, respectively, the percentage of Americans who identified themselves as Republicans on Election Day 2008, at the end of March 2009, and last week, three weeks through April.

One more number, reported in March:


That's Rush Limbaugh's "favorable" rating.

Another way to think about this: maybe it's the explanation for Michele Bachmann's 80%, and she just forgot to say "not."

[Added] Still another way to think about it, as maru observes: the most recent dip in GOP affiliation came after the big day of teabaggery.

This looks potentially handy

Just stumbled across something on the WaPo's site: "The US Congress Votes Database," which "lets you browse every vote in the U.S. Congress since 1991."

John Cole on Eric Cantor

Here is how the proprietor of Balloon Juice views the House Minority Whip:

This is government by frat boy smooth talk ...

He's right.

[Added] Had I not already posted the above, this from JC in a different post would have been a line of the day:

Maybe standing athwart history shouting “Porkulus” might have been a bad idea.

More of that Famous Texas Go-It-Alone Goodness!

(Previously on Secession Watch ...)

And now whiny Rick Perry, President of the Free State of Greater Crawford, wants Barack Obama to protect him from scary neighbors!


(h/t: Sara K. Smith/Wonkette)

Firefox Security Update: Latest Version Now 3.0.10

Mozilla has released a patch for Firefox that closes one security hole and fixes "a major stability issue," according to the release notes. This brings the version number of the latest release to 3.0.10, which is pronounced three point naught dot one ought okaynotreally.

If you don't have automatic updates or notifications enabled, do Help → Check for Updates. The whole process went off without a hitch for me, and took less than a minute.

Ross Goes to Work

Ross Douthat's debut weekly column on the NYT's op-ed page is up. Thanks to graz for pointing this out.

Ross's column is on the torture debate, and it involves a fairly imaginative scenario, beginning thus:

Watching Dick Cheney defend the Bush administration’s interrogation policies, it’s been hard to escape the impression that both the Republican Party and the country would be better off today if Cheney, rather than John McCain, had been a candidate for president in 2008.

The idea is we should have had (started?) this national debate about torture that's heating up now during the campaign instead. I'll leave it at that and not try to paraphrase his whole argument.

I don't buy Ross's scenario, although it is fun to imagine how it might have played out. As I said back to graz:

If, however, Cheney actually had been the candidate, I think it is far more likely that he would have stonewalled on the torture issue. I think he is panting for face time on TV now because he is worried about what recent revelations have done to the public mood. A year ago, when these reports and memos were still incomplete and/or classified, Cheney would have had no reason to bring up the issue, and I don't think Obama would have pushed on it any more than he did when running against McCain, either.

Bottom line: The piece is worth a read, and I was happy to read this:

... we’ve heard too much to just “look forward,” as the president would have us do. We need to hear more: What was done and who approved it, and what intelligence we really gleaned from it.

All together now, wingnuts: HE'S NOT A REAL CONSERVATIVE!!!1!

Good luck, Ross.

P.S. Just so you know, Ross's columnist page has links to his column and earlier work he published in the NYT as a contributor.

LOL(non)CAT of the Day


(pic. source)

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Things I Learn From Spell-checkers

Up until two minutes ago, you could have won money from me by betting that I could not correctly spell barbiturates.

I have gone my whole life unaware of the second R. I certainly don't pronounce it, and my aural memory is that no one else does, either. (Am I wrong about this? (too?))

In case you're wondering, no, I don't say "Feb-yoo-ary," but I might have to stop getting so irritated at people who do.

But "nuke-yoo-ler" is still right out.

And no, I am not contemplating a change in my chemical intake, either. I'd explain the context in which the word came up, but I think I have already written the most boring blog post on the Internet.

Now Do You See ...

... why we do nothing but mock them?


In watching reaction to that DHS report about right-wing extremists from a couple of weeks ago, I have noticed that the farther out on the fringe I go, the larger the fraction of the population I see claimed to be targeted. I thought the absolute limit, even for the crazies, had been reached at "all conservatives." However …

... I forgot to keep an eye on Michele Bachmann.

It is intriguing to me, we have a report now that says — as Mr. Brady said and as Judge Carter said — 80 percent of the American people would be classified as “right-wing extremists” under this report.

Eighty percent. Seriously. She said that on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, shortly before applauding "law-abiding citizens" for stocking up on guns and ammunition and reminding them, "We need to be outraged." And then she called for Janet Napolitano to resign.

There's an upside to this, though: Given that Obama's approval ratings are now close to 70%, we are forced to conclude that more than half of all right-wing extremists love our president.

(h/t: The Minnesota Independent, via ShortsandPants)

Another Official Torture Document Comes to Light

The lede from an article by Peter Finn and Joby Warrick in Saturday's WaPo:

The military agency that provided advice on harsh interrogation techniques for use against terrorism suspects referred to the application of extreme duress as "torture" in a July 2002 document sent to the Pentagon's chief lawyer and warned that it would produce "unreliable information."

The document (PDF) was a two-page attachment to one of a bunch of memos that were written when the CIA interrogation program was being formalized. Parts of it were quoted in the Senate Armed Services Committee report released last week, the article says, and the WaPo apparently just got their hands on a copy of the whole thing.

It's hard to tell from reading the article what to make of this. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) is reported as saying he thinks that the attachment was "ignored" or "suppressed" shortly after it was submitted, and is quoted as saying that this was "part of a pattern of squelching dissent." Finn and Warrick say no one has been able to find out how high up it was passed. Various anonymous spokespeople are saying various top dogs didn't see it. So, I could believe it was a butt-covering exercise by the Pentagon, who weren't thrilled to be asked to help set the rules for the CIA's interrogators, or I could believe that the military really truly did not want any part of codifying a program of torture, thought the very idea was stupid, tried to say so, and then some apparatchik somewhere along the line took it upon him- or herself to give the bosses plausible deniability and stopped it from going any higher.

Reading the document itself makes me think the latter; i.e., at least whoever wrote it thought torturing was wrong for operational reasons alone. (The introduction makes plain the intent to focus only on this aspect and not "the myriad legal, ethical, or moral implications of torture.") This part seems pretty much like a straight slap at the 24-porn crowd who were running the show, albeit in a tone of voice more measured than my own:

The requirement to obtain information from an uncooperative source as quickly as possible-in time to prevent, for example, an impending terrorist attack that could result in loss of life-has been forwarded as a compelling argument for the use of torture. Conceptually, proponents envision the application of torture as a means to expedite the exploitation process. In essence, physical and/or psychological duress are viewed as an alternative to the more time-consuming conventional interrogation process. The error inherent in this line of thinking is the assumption that, through torture, the interrogator can extract reliable and accurate intelligence.

Some good specifics:

As noted previously, upwards of 90 percent of interrogations have been successful through the exclusive use of a direct approach, where a degree of rapport is established with the prisoner. Once any means of duress has been purposefully applied to the prisoner, the formerly cooperative relationship can not be reestablished. In addition, the prisoner's level of resolve to resist cooperating with the interrogator will likely be increased as a result of harsh or brutal treatment.

For skilled interrogators, the observation of subtle nonverbal behaviors provides an invaluable assessment of the prisoner's psychological and emotional state. This offers important insights into how the prisoner can be most effectively leveraged into compliance. Further, it often enables the interrogator to form a reasonably accurate assessment of the prisoner's veracity in answering pertinent questions. The prisoner's physical response to the pain inflicted by an interrogator would obliterate such nuance and deprive the interrogator of these key tools.

The rest of it says things you would almost think wouldn't need to be said; e.g., people being tortured will say anything to make it stop, and if word gets out that we're torturing, then US personnel abroad are going to pay the price. On the other hand, having these solicited recommendations on the record means nobody can say "I didn't know." Or it should mean that, which is why Sen. Levin's thought that this document was purposely not passed up the chain has merit.

The document is titled "Operational Issues Pertaining to the Use of Physical/Psychological Coercion in Interrogation." It was produced by the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, the branch of the military that does SERE training, which among other things means teaching pilots and others how to resist harsh interrogation. (Two-page PDF, same link as above, via the WaPo article's sidebar.)

(h/t: digby, via Glenn Greenwald)

And Speaking of Cleaning Up the Internets

Geocities is shutting down.

Unsurprisingly, Geocities has declined in popularity in recent years thanks to the plethora of similar and easier-to-use services—not to mention the rise of social networks like MySpace that allow the same demographic to make equally horrific pages and try to pick each other up at the same time.

(h/t: Righteous Bubba)


Ah, you know when James Wolcott decides to point his well-sharpened quill at the wingnut blogs, it's going to be good times.

But this bit that he quotes from Ace of Spades (2007 CPAC Blogger of the Year) might have satisfied my schadenfreude fix for all of April:

I'm trying to get some advertisers -- with the lone exception of a Killing Time ad from blog-friend Pegu, I haven't made a dime this whole month -- and so I'd appreciate if people calmed down a bit with the language.

More evidence that the wingnut welfare gravy train is grinding to a halt. I love it.

Ah, to remember the glory years, eh, Ace? When men were men and sheep were nervous, when the Pajamas Media blog ads network was keeping everyone in Cheetos and Funyuns, or Play-Doh and bacon, as the case may be, and you could curse out liberals all you liked.

Let Me Be The ...

... 1,000,000th non-wingnut to say, "Whoa. I thought you were planning on seceding there, Governor Perry!"


Where's Molly Ivins when you need her?

(Okay, so that wasn't such an original thought, either.)

(h/t: Blue Texan/Instaputz)

Read Frank Rich's Column

In his column this week, Frank Rich provides an excellent summary that is both comprehensive and succinct about the torture policies of the Bush Administration. He offers numerous links, as well. If you're at all unclear on what happened, how extensive it was, and how far up the chain it went, please give it a read.

Some key points that, to my mind anyway, strike me as less well-known or understood, based on how I hear others talk:

We’ve learned much, much more about America and torture in the past five years. But as Mark Danner recently wrote in The New York Review of Books, for all the revelations, one essential fact remains unchanged: “By no later than the summer of 2004, the American people had before them the basic narrative of how the elected and appointed officials of their government decided to torture prisoners and how they went about it.” When the Obama administration said it declassified four new torture memos 10 days ago in part because their contents were already largely public, it was right.

The newly released Justice Department memos, like those before them, were not written by barely schooled misfits like [Lynddie] England and [Charles] Graner [of Abu Ghraib infamy]. John Yoo, Steven Bradbury and Jay Bybee graduated from the likes of Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Michigan and Brigham Young.

The [Senate Armed Services Committee] report found that Maj. Paul Burney, a United States Army psychiatrist assigned to interrogations in Guantánamo Bay that summer of 2002, told Army investigators of another White House imperative: “A large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq and we were not being successful.” As higher-ups got more “frustrated” at the inability to prove this connection, the major said, “there was more and more pressure to resort to measures” that might produce that intelligence.

In other words, the ticking time bomb was not another potential Qaeda attack on America but the Bush administration’s ticking timetable for selling a war in Iraq; it wanted to pressure Congress to pass a war resolution before the 2002 midterm elections. Bybee’s memo was written the week after the then-secret (and subsequently leaked) “Downing Street memo,” in which the head of British intelligence informed Tony Blair that the Bush White House was so determined to go to war in Iraq that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” A month after Bybee’s memo, on Sept. 8, 2002, Cheney would make his infamous appearance on “Meet the Press,” hyping both Saddam’s W.M.D.s and the “number of contacts over the years” between Al Qaeda and Iraq. If only 9/11 could somehow be pinned on Iraq, the case for war would be a slamdunk.

Last week Bush-Cheney defenders, true to form, dismissed the Senate Armed Services Committee report as “partisan.” But as the committee chairman, Carl Levin, told me, the report received unanimous support from its members — John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman included.

Reminder: See earlier posts for links to full text of the Justice Department memos and the Senate Armed Services Committee report.

Storm Warning

Steve Benen made some good points on today's edition of Poli-Sci-Fi Radio. Well, he made a lot of them, as he always does, but let's stick to one topic for the moment: health care legislation is moving forward. Hurrah!

Steve said that he was amazed that what should be seen as very encouraging signs weren't getting more play in the media or the blogosphere, and speculated that this might well be due to the progress involving arcana of the legislative process.

The basics, as you probably know, are that in order to get pretty much anything through the Senate, you have to get at least 60 votes. If not when voting on the bill itself, then you have to get this many to vote for cloture to allow the bill itself to be voted on, or at the very least, you have to get 60 Senators to agree not to support launching a filibuster in the first place.

There is a way around this, called the reconciliation process, which as I understand it, was something come up with to get absolutely critical spending bills through the Senate once filibustering, or the ever-present threat of it, became the norm in the Senate. A bill following this reconciliation route can't be filibustered, which means it only requires a straight majority vote to pass; i.e, 50 votes (or 51, if Norm Coleman ever faces up to reality) instead of 60. And just as the filibuster has morphed from its original narrow intent, so has the reconciliation process.

One of the recent encouraging signs for those of us who would like the US to have a national health care plan is that the White House and Democratic leaders in Congress agreed to include a "reconciliation instruction" in their road map for crafting the legislation. That is, rather than trying to go the usual route and either having the bill stall, or risk having to water it down to get votes from a few conservative Dems, and then water it down further to get three grudging GOP votes, there is a deadline. This means both that the GOP won't be able to obstruct forever and that those who actually want to create a real health care plan won't be under as much pressure to give away the store just to be passing something. In plainer language, President Obama has shown he knows that there are times when you try to compromise with Republicans, and there are times when you realize that playing a little hardball is what's good for the country and what's wanted by a strong majority of the people.

Did we say "hasn't been getting much play?" Expect that to change soon, as the usual suspects start howling about Obama's "lack of outreach," "hyperpartisanship," and depending on how far to the right your channel or Web surfing takes you: SOCIALISM! TYRANNY! THIS IS JUST LIKE HITLER!!!1! NOW WE'RE REALLY GOING TO SECEDE THIS TIME WE MEAN IT REALLY!!!1!1!

Paul Krugman offers a useful reminder about past uses of the reconciliation process as we batten down the hatches:

Republicans will, of course, scream that this is a terrible, terrible thing — something they themselves would never have done — except, of course, to cut food stamps, pass both major Bush tax cuts, and more.

I've jotted all this down to see if it would help me understand it better, so kids, if you're using the Internet to do your homework, beware. Probably better to get it straight from Steve, whose thoughts I've been trying to summarize, and you can do that by downloading the podcast from the home page for Poli-Sci-Fi Radio. It should be available Monday or Tuesday.

Meantime, there's always Steve's fine blog, Carpetbagger Report (pay no attention to that blog; that's an old blog) Political Animal, which I'm sure will be covering this health care business closely.

Also, I got a few more details from a helpful post by Jonathan Cohn, via PK.

Just to be clear, this isn't going to happen overnight. The deadline which the reconciliation instruction specifies is October 15th. So, there will be plenty of opportunity for the Republicans to contribute meaningfully to the process. The "jamming down our throats" whining that you're sure to hear will be even less true than usual. But the important point is that there is a real deadline, which means that we really will get a health care plan passed, and assuming we're not all dead from the flu by then, we'll be able to live happily ever after, the end.

[Added] Short follow-up post here.

"The End of Wingnut Welfare?"

... asks claymisher, before passing along a post from Paul Krugman, part of which appears below.

But you have to understand what Bybee is: he’s someone who made a career as a movement conservative apparatchik. In his world, following orders and getting rewarded for his obedience was what it was all about; he’s completely shocked to find that the rules have changed.

And here’s the thing: most prominent Republicans are just the same. We wonder how someone as hapless as John Boehner could be minority leader, why one Congressman after another abjectly apologizes to Rush Limbaugh, and so on; the answer is that they’re hollow men, careerists who thought they had a safe ride. If someone like Newt Gingrich seems like a giant in his party these days, that’s because, say what you like about him (and I don’t like much about him!), he got into the business when doing so involved taking some actual risks.

And that, I think, is why the Republicans have fallen apart so completely since losing the election. Careerism is what held the party together; an environment in which the party no longer has the patronage to reward all its loyalists, and may not even be able to protect apparatchiks who broke the law, destroys the whole system.

To his own question, clay answers, "I wish." But it is nice to think the gravy train will be parked on the siding for at least a little while.

In addition to reading the rest of PK's post, it's also worth having a look at the one from Adam Serwer that got him started. The final line is money.

[Added] Adam is also dead-on about the WaPo article on Jay Bybee that got him started: it's part of charm offensive on behalf of Bybee, and amazingly (he said in as sarcastic a tone as he could muster), the WaPo asks, "How much water may we carry for you, sir?"

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Big Time, Baby!

I'm movin' on up, it appears. To illustrate a claimed "trend over the past few weeks" about "a tendency on the Left to dismiss Twitter both for its apparent limitations as well as its embrace by the political Right," conservative blogger and self-described Internet analyst William Beutler quoted part of a comment I posted on the forums. My comment was in response to one of the diavloggers, blogger Matt Lewis, who had asserted that conservatives "are dominating on Twitter." Here's the part William quoted:

Is this anything worth bragging about? What does it even mean, that there are more Republicans spewing out sound bites and ill-considered thoughtlets? … [G]iven the choice to “dominate” on Twitter compared to, say, the blogosphere, let alone actually getting people off their couches to go knock on doors, I know which one I’d pick.

But that's not the important part. The important part is that my words are sandwiched between references to John Cole and Markos Moulitsas.


From now on, I will be referring to myself as the number-three man in the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy.

Or a #3, maybe.



As to William's thesis, well, meh. It's hard to agree with the idea that there is a recent trend, for one thing. It seems to me that "the Left" has been mocking "the Right" for their belief that Twitter is their new magic bullet since about three seconds after one of them first made this claim. Certainly the #dontgo "movement" was a target-rich environment for snark for a couple of weeks, way back when.

Wait, what was the #dontgo movement again?
My point exactly.

William also claims that this dismissiveness is more than just libtards being libtards …

We can’t ignore sour grapes — for the first time in a while, the Right is being recognized as doing something online better than the Left. It only makes sense the Left would want to minimize that, both to reassure themselves, discourage the Right and encourage skepticism among outside observers.

... to which I can only respond: sounds like a whine. (And nitpick that you can't say "both" and then list three things.)

But seriously, it is far from clear to me that "doing better" on Twitter is measurable or is even a meaningful concept. And who besides you, Matt Lewis, #TCOT co-founder Michael Leahy, and Erick W. Erickson is doing this recognizing?

(For those just joining in: #TCOT is a Twitter hashtag,
and it stands for Top Conservatives On Twitter.)

I might also raise an eyebrow about who is reassuring whose self, in light of a recent lament from your fellow #TCOT, Milo Yiannopoulos.

Milo Yiannopoulos frets about liberals dominating on Twitter

Sweet raisins!


As to Twitter's importance -- or not -- overall, what I said in that forum post still applies. Here is some elaboration.

First, let's have some perspective. Here is a side-by-side comparison of screen shots taken a few minutes ago of the "followers" part of the respective Twitter screens for the #1 of all the #TCOTs and some random liberal, from Hollywood:

Gingrich and Kutcher Twitter followers compared

So, never mind orientation, left or right. There is, right off the bat, some reason to question the political significance of a Twitter presence at all.

I think Twitter is fine for what it is: handy for sharing jokes, quick thoughts, and links. It is potentially useful for coordinating meet-ups. Maybe, occasionally, it helps to build or sustain excitement for a short time about some event or talking point among a few people, although it seems to me that most such people are already interested and would just as willingly stay interested and in touch through some other technological channel. In particular, I do not think, as William seems to, that Twitter was a significant factor in boosting the much-ballyhooed teabagger rallies; I'd be strongly inclined instead to credit Fox News, conservative talk radio, and bulk emailing by corporate lobbying outfits for the turnout, such as it was, by anyone who wasn't already a committed conservative activist.

Twitter, it seems to me, is just another way to reinforce cocooning among like-minded people (e.g.), to allow politicians to spew more self-promotion, often to unintended comic effect (e.g.), to aggravate simpleminded divisiveness (e.g.), and to further encourage people to unleash their ids (e.g.).

Do I use Twitter? Sure, sometimes. But I don't kid myself that it's doing anything much to develop ideas or foster useful debate. The liberal in me is delighted that conservatives are wasting time obsessing over the latest shiny object rather than doing anything substantial to get themselves back into the game. On the other hand, the cynic in me realizes that the best thing that can be said about most Democratic politicians is that they are only slightly less worse than their Republican counterparts, so I'd like an intelligent check on them. The idealist in me wants those on the right to acknowledge the seriousness and depth of the problems we now face, and to think about how they could make substantive contributions, rather than clinging to their attitude of obstructionism and their belief in quick fixes.

So, depending on my mood, I find it either hilarious …

Right-wing dorks

... or depressing that so many conservatives activists are still prioritizing messaging over message, and message over ideas.


By the way, I came across this notice of my promotion to the big time mention of my name not by ego-surfing, believe it or not, but by happenstance: I followed a link from a fisking of William's post over at Whiskey Fire, one of my regular reads. You might be interested in what Thers has to say about this "the Right is winning on Twitter" business.

(dorks pic. source)

Line of the Day: 2009-04-26

As Thers from Whiskey Fire reminds us, sometimes obscenities are needed, to describe obscenities (emph. added).

Sorry about the light posting; busy, for one thing. For another, the "torture memos" stuff is not conducive at all to humorous blogging. I've started and then deleted any number of posts in the past few days because, well, what's there to say about the idea that the United States can use torture and that's just fine, besides the word "fuck"? I mean... fuck. I am glad that I'm not a "conservative," though, because I'm not obligated to come up with convoluted apologias for torture, which if nothing else just looks like incredibly hard work. I am however grimly amused by the notion that if we prosecute any of the Bush apparatchiks complicit in the Bush torture regime, that somehow would make America a "banana republic."

Because, after all, the defining feature of a "banana republic" is the idea that when government officials break the law and use torture, they're held accountable.

I mean... well, fuck, that's what I mean. Fuck.

Follow the link to read about another obscenity: Sen. John Ensign, R-NV.

[Added] I know what Thers means about the recent news about torture inhibiting humor. Here is a cartoon that I bookmarked a couple of days ago that I thought (think) is funny, but I have hesitated to pass along because I don't like the idea of contributing in however small a way to making a very serious problem be thought of more superficially. On the other hand, being too serious, even about horrible things, is not too good either. So, up to you if you want to click. Apologies for dumping the moral quandary on you.

Two More Reasons Why We Call Them Wingnuts

TBogg catches a couple of truly unbelievable statements from two people who are so reprehensible that I hate even typing their names: Bill Kristol and Michael Goldfarb.

Ah, well. Let us add a little link juice by making those names the hyperlink, in the hopes that future Googlers who are unfamiliar with these slugs will start learning about them there.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

We're Gonna Need Another Load of Pitchforks

Sorry, I meant to pass this along when I first came across it. Maybe you have already seen it; if not, you really ought to have a look. It's an article by Andrew Revkin, headlined "Industry Ignored Its Scientists on Climate."

Here is how it begins.

For more than a decade the Global Climate Coalition, a group representing industries with profits tied to fossil fuels, led an aggressive lobbying and public relations campaign against the idea that emissions of heat-trapping gases could lead to global warming.

“The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood,” the coalition said in a scientific “backgrounder” provided to lawmakers and journalists through the early 1990s, adding that “scientists differ” on the issue.

But a document filed in a federal lawsuit demonstrates that even as the coalition worked to sway opinion, its own scientific and technical experts were advising that the science backing the role of greenhouse gases in global warming could not be refuted.

“The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied,” the experts wrote in an internal report compiled for the coalition in 1995.

And here is another bit.

Environmentalists have long maintained that industry knew early on that the scientific evidence supported a human influence on rising temperatures, but that the evidence was ignored for the sake of companies’ fight against curbs on greenhouse gas emissions. Some environmentalists have compared the tactic to that once used by tobacco companies, which for decades insisted that the science linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer was uncertain. By questioning the science on global warming, these environmentalists say, groups like the Global Climate Coalition were able to sow enough doubt to blunt public concern about a consequential issue and delay government action.

George Monbiot, a British environmental activist and writer, said that by promoting doubt, industry had taken advantage of news media norms requiring neutral coverage of issues, just as the tobacco industry once had.

“They didn’t have to win the argument to succeed,” Mr. Monbiot said, “only to cause as much confusion as possible.”

Very likely, you'll say, "Just as I've long suspected -- big energy companies covering things up and paying to foment FUD." But it is good to know the details of the shenanigans and to have these things nailed down for sure, so you really ought to read the whole thing.

If you weren't already sure about it, this is the point where anyone who still tries to deny the reality of anthropogenic global warming is officially declared a crank. That is no longer a legitimate debate by any stretch.


Thanks to Attaturk for the link in the first place and to Al Gore for the reminder. And yes, Joe Barton is an ass. But you already knew that.

[Added] Still more Barton. Moron's on a roll.

Until We Send Them To Re-education Camps, Can We Please Take Away Their Computers?

PZ reports:

We in academia are part of an insidious plot to promote Obama's socialist agenda by teaching nothing but "community organizing" all the time. At least, that's the impression you might get from right wing anti-academic freedom sites, as this quote might suggest.

Google the phrase "college and university courses in community organizing" and you get 9,990,000 entries, at least as of today.

One problem: the goon who did this search typed it into google without the quotes, which means that it returned every page where a college used the word "college" and a university used the word "university" and a community used the word "community". Properly enclose the phrase in quotes, and the number of entries you get is…two.

(h/t: marindenver/Rumproast)

Nobody Could Have Predicted

And no one under 35 will believe for a second that this is real.

(alt. video link)

What's kind of amazing to me is that for all the prehistoric look to the computers, let alone the electronic newspapers, the way TV news tells a story has not evolved much at all. Change the hairstyles and add some swooshy graphics, and boom -- 1981 would be 2009, just like that.

(h/t: ShortsandPants)

[Added] The YouTuber who posted this clip appears to be the guy who did the reporting -- Steve Newman. More stuff on his channel page, starring him. And really, who doesn't want to watch weather reports from 1973, etc.? It's like a time capsule.

[Added2] You might also like this video covering the dawn of the Internet.


Scott Murphy, a Democrat, has won the special election in New York's 20th Congressional district. Jim Tedisco, a Republican, conceded by phone call and press release yesterday afternoon (Friday). This election was held to fill the seat vacated by Kirsten Gillibrand, who was named by Gov. David Paterson to fill Hillary Clinton's Senate spot after Clinton became Secretary of State. The district is a red one; there are about 75,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats, the largest district edge for the GOP in the entire state, according to the New York Times.

Tedisco once held better than a 20-point lead in the polls. Consequently, there was a word beginning with R that was very popular among conservatives for a while …

John Fund, Wall Street Journal columnist, 28 March 2009:

New York Has a Referendum on Obama

The special House election upstate could have far-reaching consequences.

Susan Davis, Wall Street Journal political reporter, 26 March 2009:*

A U.S. House special election in upstate New York on Tuesday is turning into an early referendum on the Obama administration's economic agenda …


The Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee have spent nearly $1 million combined on the contest. The conservative National Republican Trust political action committee also stands to spend as much as $1 million on the race, using almost all of the money for negative ads against Mr. Murphy for his support of the stimulus.

Orange County Register editorial writers, 25 March 2009:

There’s a special election on Tuesday in NY’s 20th CD to fill the seat of Kirsten Gillibrand, who was appointed to Hillary’s US Senate seat. It could turn out to be an early referendum on President Obama …

Rick Pedraza,, 25 March 2009:

The special-election race between Murphy, a venture capitalist, and Tedisco is shaping up to be a referendum on the Obama administration's economic policies.

David Freddoso, National Review Online, 24 March 2009:

But now Obama's popularity is slipping everywhere as his honeymoon ends. [...] For this reason, the race is being viewed as an early referendum on the stimulus.

Representative Pete Sessions, chairman of the House Republican campaign committee, chose a different R-word on 1 April 2009 that is as laughable as his attempt to spin Tedisco blowing a 20-point lead as "closing the gap:"

Jim Tedisco has closed the gap in a district that has come to exemplify Democratic dominance. That is a testament to the strength of Jim’s campaign and the effectiveness of the Republican message of fiscal responsibility and accountability.

And let's just dip one toe into True Wingnuttia. From, 1 April 2009:

The winner of the special election in New York is Jim Tedisco, although you would never know by reading the mainstream press.


... this is the first significant election since Obama took office, the first one in which he attempted to spread coattails, and in truth a crushing defeat for Democratic political operatives. There is no moral victory in losing an election you expected to win.

And no, I don't think that was an April Fools' post. Remove the month and I'll go along.

Anyway ...

Let the backpedaling begin!

Congratulations, Representative Murphy!

And hurrah for President Obama! For winning his first referendum!

* The version of the Susan Davis article that is available for free is for some reason dated 15 April 2009, which makes no sense, because the election was held on 31 March. I got the 26 March date by Googling the headline on the WSJ's site and noting the datestamp on the link to the archived version behind the pay wall.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Check-offs for Jagoffs

Charles Johnson is now offering a form letter for use by creationist kooks who feel compelled to complain every time he puts up a post having something to do with science.

I can only hope PZ Myers picks up on the idea, too. The savings in purple crayon alone would balance the US budget.

You Know That Creepy Old Man Who's Always On Fox News These Days?

Doghouse Riley is tired of seeing Big Dick Cheney waving it -- his view of torture, I mean -- on teevee, too. Not to mention his mutterings being taken seriously by the rest of the MSM.

Here's a taste:

Let us say this again: if you wouldn't accept the argument from the garage mechanic who was trying to charge you $950 for a repair he estimated at forty bucks, then a "controversy" has not been created just because the same sort of crap comes out of the mouth of an opposition politician, especially an unindicted war criminal with a 0-4000 won-lost record over the past eight years.

Just as with Marc Thiessen, the Former Co-Disastrous Fucking Occupier of the Oval Office is welcome to provide us with some evidence, instead of screeching to a halt before demanding President Obama do it for him; otherwise what they say should be treated as nothing more than a yelp of pain coming from someone who shot himself while drunk. Sheesh, Cheney had plenty of opportunity to release them himself back when he controlled the records and what was selectively leaked from them. Okay, so Judy Miller lost her phone privileges; Tim Russert was still kickin', and Andrea Mitchell will be with us always, apparently. Guess he didn't care to call attention to the program back then. If pointing West and yelling, "The Library Tower! The Library Tower!" did the trick the matter would have been settled [back in] 2005.

[Added] Meant to pass this along earlier, but here's the start of what he had to say about Marc Thiessen a few days ago, after the latter was enabled, once again, by Fred Hiatt, Village Gatekeeper:

THE average man, caught naked at high noon on the courthouse square, save for his fedora, will use it to cover his genitals and beat a rapid retreat. It will probably not occur to him, later that same afternoon, to pen a 900-word panegyric to his hat size.

Nor to the Washington Post to print it.

Ali Soufan Speaks

The writer was an FBI supervisory special agent from 1997 to 2005:

FOR seven years I have remained silent about the false claims magnifying the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding. I have spoken only in closed government hearings, as these matters were classified. But the release last week of four Justice Department memos on interrogations allows me to shed light on the story, and on some of the lessons to be learned.

One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based.

How can you not want to read the rest?

(h/t: uncle ebeneezer)


Some useful background on Soufan can be found in this 2006 interview with Lawrence Wright.

More on the Justice Department memos in an earlier post.

Slow(?) and Steady

Via Andrew Sullivan, here is a chart from showing Americans' view of the direction in which our country is headed, based on surveys conducted from last September through about now, late April 2009. We've got a ways to go yet, but you have to love the trends, and moreover, the consistency of the growth in confidence.

In words, the percentage of people who think the country is on the wrong track has dropped from a high of about 85% (in October 2008) to about 50%. Put another way, the percentage of people who think the country is headed in the right direction is up from a low of about 10% to about 45%.

Mike Allen of Politico, no Democratic cheerleader he (cf.), puts it this way:

Although the outcome of Obama’s ambitious agenda for Congress is unknown, he can count one certain victory: In poll after poll, the number of people who feel the country is going in the right direction has soared since his Inauguration — a much greater increase than recorded by any of his four most recent predecessors.

You want to know who's not helping? Your DNC will be happy to explain it to you, if you've got a minute:

(alt. video link)

Dead Man Talking

From the perspective of Real Republicans™, at least. If by some remote chance Steve Schmidt's speech last week wasn't enough, these remarks will surely mean banishment:

Schmidt, the father of hundreds of attacks on Obama, spoke of the president’s political skills with unabashed admiration.

“This was, in my view, the unfinished Bobby Kennedy campaign – the idealism, the passion, the inspiration he gave to people, it was organic and it was real and it wasn’t manufactured at a tactical level in the campaign.”


Schmidt, for his part, granted that Obama had been a success, politically at least, so far – and was harder on his own party.

“As a matter of reality, in the first 100 days, [the GOP] has not done anything to improve its political position with regards to the fact that it has been a shrinking entity,” he said.

Elsewhere in the article, just in case there was any doubt remaining, he says on the record that Joe Lieberman was John McCain's first choice for running mate, and continues:

“It was communicated back to us very clearly from within the party that not only was Senator Lieberman not acceptable, but any pro-choice nominee was not acceptable, [and] it would lead to a floor fight at the convention with an alternate nominee for Vice President put into play.”

In other words: You go into a presidential campaign with the wingnuts you have, not the constituency you wish you had.

Think his efforts to reform from within have any hope? Or should we start placing bets on which Democratic politician's campaign he'll be running next?

Snark aside, it's interesting to contemplate what might have been. Schmidt says in that article, and has said repeatedly elsewhere, that there was always very little chance that McCain could win. While I have my doubts about that, and also think it's an obviously self-serving thing for the guy who ran the losing campaign to say, let's pretend it's true for the moment. That floor fight might have been a good thing for the GOP, from the long term point of view, and I wonder if Schmidt wishes, deep down, that he could have made it happen.

Sooner or later, the Republicans are going to have to have such a fight, because the longer they let the religious right exercise veto power, the longer they'll be the minority party. I suppose it doesn't have to be a sudden change, involving a big showdown (although of course I would love to watch that), but it does seem like the alternative of hoping for a smoother and more gradual transition is going to take at least a generation, and I don't see the business side, or any of the other five strands of the party being any too happy with that.

(h/t: DougJ/Balloon Juice)

More Advice to the Dumb at Heart

Following up from my earlier post, please go visit Wonkette for video footage of insanely stupid and hysterical Republican members of Congress John Carter and Michele Bachmann. Also in that post, note the numerous links to examples of why, you know, SOME far-right extremists might bear keeping an eye on.

If there is anyone who ought to resign, Reps. Carter and Bachmann, it is you two. Your rabble-rousing is grossly irresponsible. This is not leadership or reasonable dissent by any stretch.

Another one of those "Damn, I should have thought of that" moments

Not sure who came up with it first, but thanks to The Reliable Source via Wonkette, I am now gnawing irritably at one of my own forelimbs.



Thursday, April 23, 2009

Another Shot

Evidently, I did not empty my spleen with my earlier post. Or perhaps, John Evo's note of support in the Comments there reinvigorated me. Or maybe it's just that I note that as of this moment, a link to Carrey's piece is still near the top of the HuffPo's home page. At any rate, here are some more thoughts on the same subject.


Remember back not too long ago, say, around 2004, when we thought we were on the homestretch to eradicating polio worldwide?

Sadly, we are less optimistic lately. Thinking about why that should be is useful.

Along with funding shortfalls and regional insecurities due to war, one of the biggest stumbling blocks, one not so far overcome as far as I am aware, has been radical Muslim clerics in parts of Africa and Asia who have managed to scare their followers into refusing the vaccine for their children. They have told them that the injections were contaminated by HIV, or were a plot by the infidel West to render their children sterile, or whatever. The details of the lies aren't so important; my focus is on the general principle of misleading people and causing them real harm by preying upon their fears.

I wonder how many of the people responsible for letting Jim Carrey's nonsense stand in the HuffPo, and how many of those who see no reason why the HuffPo should take the post down, were also tsk-tsking about the gullibility of Those Other People and criticizing the fearmongering of their mullahs.

It strikes me that there are at least two elements of the liberal stereotype on display here at the HuffPo -- an excessively uncritical tolerance for "all points of view," and too much of an instinct to embrace a pitch that demonizes any group who can be tagged with a name that starts with "Big." I'm not sure which one bothers me more.

This is not a call for censorship. I am not saying that Carrey is not entitled to say whatever he wants. It is, however, a call for responsibility. The HuffPo is read by millions of people, and as such, has attained the status of a credible source of information. People who don't know any better, or who are too lazy to seek out multiple sources, may take Carrey's misinformation as gospel. And unlike, say, running an astrology column, there are serious risks to health and safety here, and not just at the individual level. Have a quick Google for measles outbreak, for example. It's enough to make you think we're sliding back into the Dark Ages.

By the way, on my specific example, it is not enough that Carrey adds a few weasel words to his post ("We have never argued that people shouldn't be immunized for the most serious threats including measles and polio …"). The point is, too many readers will come away from reading his blatherings remembering only "vaccines: bad." The results of the above search bear this out; clearly, earlier charlatans selling the same message as Carrey is have already had an effect.

As I said, Carrey has the rights to hold whatever crazy notions he likes, to refuse to learn anything about science, and to say whatever he wants. But the Huffington Post should not be a party to his anti-vaccine hysteria. They should take down his post and tell him to get his own damn website. They should also apologize for putting it up in the first place and for letting it stand as long as it has. If they won't do that, they should at least commission a responsible piece from someone who actually knows what he or she is talking about, and place a prominent link to this piece at the beginning of Carrey's stream of garbage.