Great Moments For Democracy

Perhaps not entirely by coincidence, the New York Times homepage presented its readers with the following juxtaposition:

Great Moments for Democracy

Moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava committed the unforgivable sin of supporting abortion rights, marriage equality, and the economic stimulus package. She had the endorsement of the RNC, Republican leaders in Congress, and fer chrissake Newt Gingrich; more importantly, she reflected the views of her district’s Republican voters. This was not enough for a coalition of mostly D.C.-based crybabies from throwing huge amounts of money and high-profile endorsements (yes, that means Sarah Palin) at Douglas Hoffman, whose qualifications for office consist of being a millionaire and supporting tax cuts.

It’s a little uncomfortable for me to admit that I pretty much wholeheartedly agree with Newt Gingrich’s comments on the affair:

“I felt very deeply that when you have all 11 county chairman voting for someone, that it wasn’t appropriate for me to come in and render my judgment,” he said. “I think we are going to get into a very difficult environment around the country if suddenly conservative leaders decide they are going to anoint people without regard to local primaries and local choices.”

The whole thing conveniently ignores that States’ rights idea the right like to throw around when it supports their thinking. Meanwhile, RNC Chairman Michael Steele has cheerily flip-flopped (“Doug’s campaign will receive the financial backing of the R.N.C. and get-out-the-vote efforts to defeat Bill Owens on Tuesday.”), demonstrating the kind of courage in one’s convictions he hasn’t become famous for.

So what does this have to do with a corrupt president appointing himself to another term? Mainly just the one very important overarching theme: The Democratic process getting cornholed. In one case we have utterly disconnected party elites hand-picking an unqualified candidate because he passes the litmus tests that qualify him as the type of bonafide right-wing moron that lost the 2006 and 2008 elections for the GOP. In the other case, we’ve got a sham electoral process driving an opposition candidate from the race. In both cases, the voter loses the right to back the candidate of his or her choice. Democracy FAIL.

Spade not referred to as spade; public irritation increases

NPR’s On the Media this week features a discussion with NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard about their news department’s refusal to refer to waterboarding and other — what’s the word? Oh, yes — torture techniques as torture. I urge you to listen to the segment, in which host Bob Garfield rightly poses an utterly logical case for using the word torture, using question after question for which Shepard has absolutely no satisfying answer. The following is the full text of a comment I left, edited for length because there’s some sort of foolishness about using fewer than 2,000 characters in comments. It outlines the case that basically anyone with an ounce of sense and half as much courage would make.

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During this week’s discussion of whether or not NPR should use the word torture when referring to waterboarding, Ms. Shepard stated more than once that it was not up to her or to NPR to define what is and is not torture. This is quite correct. In the process, she also mentioned enraged people e-mailing her demanding to know why abortion doctors aren’t called murderers on the air, though she did not follow that up with an explanation.

The answer is the same in both cases: Abortion doctors are not referred to as murderers because the legality of performing is not in question, nor is the proper terminology for referring to them. In other words, it has been determined by our nation’s legal authority that abortion doctors are not murderers. Continue reading

The Holocaust AND Darwin in the Same Week?!?

The Vatican chipped a wee bit from the religious ignorance boulder yesterday when they acknowledged that Darwin was right about that whole evolution thing. In doing so, they officially gave the kiss-off to Intelligent Design, more or less dismissing it out of hand, as any thinking person has already done.

I’m not Catholic, and I don’t want to fall into the trap of gushing on and on about how something I’m not now, nor have ever been a part of, is sooooo much better than what’s closer at hand. That said, it strikes me as particularly powerful, the degree to which the Vatican seems to have actual scholars actually thinking about these issues, as opposed to the American fundamentalist Protestant approach of creating a think tank to generate misinformation that flies directly in the face of painfully obvious science.

Granted, the Vatican’s scholarship only goes so far in the face of their continued anti-straight-male rights positions, and I also seem to remember something about a coverup and some kids? Something. Still, let’s give them credit for cracking a book.

Another important point that’s brought up in the article:

Professor [Marc Leclerc, who teaches natural philosophy at the Gregorian University] said that too many opponents of Darwin – above all Creationists – had mistakenly claimed that his theories were “totally incompatible with a religious vision of reality,” as did proponents of Intelligent Design.

I would say I’m baffled by the fact that nobody in the American Taliban has stood up and acknowledged this idea (really, could all-powerful God have NOT created things He knew would evolve?), but doing so would remove a hugely popular bludgeon from their arsenal in the ongoing, completely fabricated culture war. The idea that Christian ideals and ideas are being persecuted by a callous Liberal Elite Establishment is key to keeping the wedge between fundamentalists and everyone else firmly in place. They keep their people feeling alienated, their alienation unifies them, and they flock to the polls when another W shows up on election day.

If it drinks like a duck …

Hooboy. So, look: I know it’s bad form to revel in the misfortunes of others, and doubly so when those misfortunes spring from mistakes that I, and every single person I’m friends with, have personally made. Repeatedly.

But.

All I’m saying is that when the Father of Mallard Fillmore Himself gets busted for blowing twice the legal limit, mere months after another bust for public drunkenness … well, friends, echoes of Bill Bennett’s Excellent Gambling Adventures are ringing across this great nation of ours, is all I’m saying. Once you read the story, be sure to check out the post on The Comics Curmudgeon, one of the very best sites I can think of, that first tipped me off to this joyous bit of schadenfreude.

God bless,

- Brian

Slightly Less Bleak, Except Not.

Greetings, friends. My name is Brian, and I’ll be posting something this evening. It’s a tale about a dewey-eyed, sensitive multinational media conglomerate that woke up one morning, a few weeks after announcing a deeply disgusting and totally unsurprising publishing decision, and realized what it was doing was wrong, and that it had a duty, a moral obligation, to do the right thing and reverse that decision.

The right thing for the shareholders, I mean. Of course there’s the pretty much unanimous public revulsion at the entire project, even at the basic idea that our societal plummet down the bottomless pit of dissolving standards has taken brought us so rapidly to this point — obviously that’s what Fox and Rupert Murdoch are concerned with, is public sentiment, and Fox’s repsonsibility to serve the public:

“I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project,” Mr. Murdoch said. “We are sorry for any pain this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson.”

They’re concerned, all right, and oh dear heavens are they sorry. They’re concerned about public backlash hurting their bottom line, and they’re sorry the book-buying, TV-watching public has by some miracle not been able to meet Fox’s expectations when it comes to building up our basic depravity enough to pay $28 for a hardbound, 200-page snuff film. Please remember, gentle reader: By having enough of your humanity intact to maintain your horror at how eager Fox was to cash in on Orenthal The Bus-Drivin’ Murderer, you are hurting News Corp’s bottom line. Which means that in some small way, you’re hurting the economy. Which most assuredly means you’re helping the terrorists win. I hope you’re happy, you Baathist stooge.

So yes, in summation, a reminder of an obvious truth: Fox’s decision was a business decision through and through, not a moral one; morals, after all, invariably get in the way when trying to do the kind of business News Corp. likes to do.

P.S. — For those of you worried if the Juice will land on his feet, don’t! Looks like he’s still getting paid in full for the book!

The People vs. Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Diana Rehnquist and the Supremes ruled yesterday that a couple of former spies who sued the CIA ? not necessarily for back pay or an outright cash settlement, but for a hearing of their case ? were, if you’ll pardon the legalese, “Shit outta luck.”

By a vote of 9 to 0, the court dismissed a lawsuit by two former Soviet bloc diplomats who said the CIA induced them to betray their countries during the Cold War in return for a pledge of resettlement in the United States and a lifetime income — then refused to live up to the deal without so much as a hearing after the U.S.-Soviet conflict ended.

Writing for the court, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist said the applicable rule had been laid down in 1876, when the court threw out a suit by a former Union spy seeking his promised pay from the federal government. In that case, the court held that a suit to enforce an espionage contract is inconsistent with the mutual pledge of secrecy that forms a central condition of any such arrangement.

The decision was a victory for the Bush administration, which had argued that anti-terrorism efforts could be hampered if case officers attempting to recruit intelligence sources had to worry about being sued every time they tried to cut a deal with a would-be spy or defector.

Admittedly, trying to verify any of the facts in a case like this ? one in which nearly everyone involved very likely needs to keep their identity a secret, and in which most of the particulars of the case are probably still classified ? would be pretty much impossible.

But John and Jane Doe weren’t asking for a public trial, they were asking for a review of their case by the CIA, which, if I’m not mistaken, is at least sort of skilled when it comes to keeping things under wraps. Further:

It reversed a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which had ruled in 2003 that the two former diplomats, a married couple who sued as John and Jane Doe, should be allowed to proceed because they sought not merely to get paid but to enforce a constitutional right to a fair hearing. The government’s interests could be protected by conducting all or part of the case behind closed doors, the 9th Circuit said.

But yesterday, the Supreme Court said that the 9th Circuit was “quite wrong” and that the 1876 ruling, Totten v. United States, was a broad one, intended to forbid all claims against the government stemming from clandestine espionage agreements.

As for the possibility that leaks could be prevented by conducting a lawsuit in secret, or permitting the government to invoke a state-secrets privilege to prevent the disclosure of national security information, Rehnquist wrote that such measures “simply cannot provide the absolute protection we found necessary in enunciating the Totten rule. … The possibility that a suit may proceed and an espionage relationship may be revealed, if the state secrets privilege is found not to apply, is unacceptable.”

Clearly it’d be possible to separate a classified review of their case from a public hearing, but Rehnquist (and apparently the rest of the court) seems flatly opposed to this.

Look: The business of spying is obviously rife with deception. But this case seems to be much more about government agents (in this case, the ones who promised the Does a lifetime annual stipend) being held accountable for their promises as it is about the actual particulars of spying.

Maybe it’s just my own knee-jerk reaction to the phrase, “The decision was a victory for the Bush administration,” but this certainly seems like an extension of the gleeful lack of accountability they seem to practice ? think abu Ghraib and/or the spiraling deficit ? while preaching the opposite ? see the pending bankruptcy “reforms,” a grotesque giveaway to consumer lenders and a simultaneous punch in the kidneys to indebted consumers themselves. Four more years, ladies and gentlemen.

“Prime Time.”

A reminder, good ‘Murkins, that the State of the Retarded Fake President Elected by Very Easily Led People and Also Fundamentalist Lunatics Address is tonight.

Normally I’d suggest you take a drink every time he says the word “freedom,” but I’d rather not make myself liable when everyone who follows that advice drops dead of alcohol poisoning by 8:03 CST. Ditto the words ‘Murka, ‘Murkins, and especially Karl Rove’s Dub’s new favorite phrase, “Ownership Society,” which is a really progressive idea as long as you can afford to own your own chunk of society, which, statistically speaking, you probably can’t.

Frankly, if you’re like me, you won’t be anywhere near a TV set. I get more than enough lies from that moron in the course of listening to the news every day. I don’t plan on subjecting myself to that horse shit when I can avoid it; more productive uses of my time might include vacuuming the floors, huffing scotchguard, teaching the cats to play basketball, or drinking mouthwash straight from the bottle. Any of these activities, it’s worth noting, will provide you with as many undistorted facts about the Social Security “crisis” as will Whistle Ass’s speech.

Finally, as for non-fake-Social-Security-crisis-related predictions, I can only surmise that if George sees his shadow tonight, he’ll be making plans to declare war on the Sun by the end of the week. Enjoy.

So long, heartthrob

As a fearful nation bids farewell to outgoing Attorney General John Ashcroft, there’s a certain part of his legacy I’ll always remember fondly. No, it’s not the fact that thanks to the Patriot Act, my wife the librarian could theoretically be sent to federal prison for telling her boss what happened, if one day federal agents were to seize every computer in the library as “evidence.” It’s not the expanded freedom to wiretap enjoyed by every law enforcement officer in this great nation of ours. It’s not the way he and his administration have embraced wholeheartedly the idea of extended imprisonment without charges.

It’s not even the way, according to a dryly hilarious report by the Guardian, “Each time he has been sworn in to political office, he is anointed with cooking oil (in the manner of King David, as he points out in his memoirs, ‘Lessons from a Father to His Son’).” (Did everybody else know about that story but me? I’d long considered myself an avid follower of Ashcroft’s fucked-up Pentecostal behavior, but man, if I didn’t know this …)

No, friends, what I’ll remember about the guy neocon moron commentators insist on referring to as “General Ashcroft” (I believe he was in the same branch of the military as Cap’n Crunch) is one simple, heartfelt song. (My favorite line from the afore-linked Guardian story is the one that describes Ashcroft as “a grittily determined singer.”)

Like any reasonable American, my faith in the mainstream media is at an all-time low these days. Thank heavens for Jon Stewart, who on last night’s “Daily Show” brought back this world-obliterating footage for one hurrah. And to give credit where credit’s due, I regained a little bit of faith in CNN when I discovered they’ve given the “Ashcroft Sings!” footage its very own dedicated page. Maybe the press isn’t dead; maybe it’s just sleeping.

Paging Dr. Jesus

Um, okay. Does it seem a wee bit disingenuous when Bush condemns “activist judges,” then turns around and makes appointments like this?

I mean, I don’t know how much political capital a 51% win earns you, but if he keeps spending like this, he’ll have a cartoon moth fluttering out of his political capital wallet by Christmas.

(thanks to tomn. and Janice for the link.)

Game plan

WARNING: Long entry. Get comfortable.

As has any good liberal, I’ve been doing a hefty load of soul-searching in the past few days. It’s a tremendous loss one feels when one looks up and realizes that not only did the wrong guy win, but more than half the electorate helped him do so. It’s a hell of a ride: You go from hating the candidate to hating the people who voted for him, then back to hating the candidate, then to heavy drinking, then to a near-complete loss of faith in your fellow North Americans (Canada excluded), then back to heavy drinking, and finally to unconsciousness, where you’re plagued by dreams of Ashcroft in a toga, giving the thumbs down to the gladiator who’s about to impale you and your secular humanist friends on a barbed trident.

It was particularly bad here in Oklahoma, where the state went red (as it predictably will), but opted against conservative Democrat Brad Carson (who’d likely run as a Republican in most other states) and chose instead Tom Coburn, sterilizer of the poor and proponent of murdering his fellow doctors who perform abortions. The guy is beyond conservative, and probably beyond fascist in some cases; Coburn is, to put it as delicately as possible, just fucking crazy.
Continue reading

Phew!

Good news, everybody! Oklahoma’s esteemed Senator Jim “Flat Earth” Inhofe just informed the nation, during the senate Armed Services Committee hearings on the Iraq prisoners’ mistreatment, that the entire fiasco was the work of exactly seven bad apples. Seven misguided servicemen and women, and not the lax command and supervision structure above them, or the vague instructions they got to “soften up” prisoners who might have valuable information.

Don’t worry, folks: Nothing out of the ordinary here. Just a momentary lapse. Just a few tired GI Joes and Janes who missed the “-n’t” on the sign that said “Please don’t strip the prisoners naked and pile them up in a big pile and take several rolls of photographs of yourself doing so.”

It’s reassurances like this I miss from Inhofe. I haven’t felt this relieved since hours after the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed, and Inhofe showed up on TV assuring us that Arabs were responsible for the whole thing. Way to vote for quality, my fellow Oklahomans. Good work on that.

An Observation, or The Other Dean For America

I was listening to Diane Rehm on NPR the other day, and her guest was John Dean, who served as Richard Nixon’s lawyer during the Watergate scandal. Apparently he’s written a book called “Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush.”

Now, I’m far from an expert on the Watergate scandal, and John Dean’s place therein, and how corrupt he himself may or may not have actually been.

But all I’m saying is, if Richard Nixon’s lawyer wrote an entire book trashing your administration, I think it’s safe to say you might have a slight credibility problem.

Fair, Balanced, and Whiny

So you may or may not have heard the interview of known Fox News jackass Bill O’Reilly by Terry Gross of NPR’s “Fresh Air.” (If you’d like to listen to it before continuing to read this, you can listen to it by clicking the link above.) Among frequent NPR listeners, it’s been a hot topic this week, as O’Reilly ends it with typical decorum by whining about how biased NPR is and actually storming out of the interview.

I listened to the entire interview as it was aired; there may have been more of it than I heard, as “Fresh Air” tapes very long interviews, usually an hour and a half or so, then edits them down to the most interesting stuff.

The middle of it was kind of interesting. After the first ten minutes or so, wherein Terry Gross challenged some of his more retarded public assertions (among them that he won a Peabody Award while working for “Hard Copy,” or some crap show like it; Gross actually did win a Peabody Award for “Fresh Air,” but this is no doubt due to liberal bias by the good folks at the Peabody Awards), prompting him to deny obvious facts, she kind of gave up on that tack and asked him about what growing up was like for him, which was actually kind of interesting to me. In the way asking, say, Jeffrey Dahmer about his childhood would be.

By the end, though, he got all incensed about how she was being harder on him (a political commentator, who bills himself as such) than she was on Al Franken (a political satirist, who bills himself as such) when he was on the show. He did so without letting her finish a sentence, except when he kept yelling the question, “WERE YOU THIS HARD ON FRANKEN? WERE YOU THIS HARD ON FRANKEN?” in a way that made me fear for his children, if he has any. He capped things off by blustering about how biased NPR is, and, as mentioned before, leaving.

I understand there’s some stuff on O’Reilly’s Web site about the interview; I haven’t investigated, as the second I opened the site up I felt like I was entering some horrible, forbidden corner of the web. (Seriously, I’ve seen porn pictures of a woman taking a dump in some guy’s mouth, and I felt about equally dirty typing “www.foxnews.com” into my browser.) At any rate, it’s all basically to say that the interview went about like you’d expect it to.

If anything, I thought Terry Gross was too easy on him at the end, when he started bellowing at her like a drunk dad, and that she didn’t push her rebuttal about Franken being a satirist far enough. But she’s always been a soft touch, and very nonconfrontational, so I imagine she was a little rattled by the whole thing. It’s worth listening to if you’re looking to irritate yourself on a Saturday afternoon; they’re replaying the interview on “Fresh Air Weekend” this weekend, so if your local NPR affiliate carries the show you can hear it there.

Finally, in the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I work for KWGS, Tulsa’s NPR affiliate. I tried to work for Fox News, but they muttered something about my “lack of trainability.”

Stick that in your Santorum and smoke it

Wow. Supreme Court, you’ve officially sort of restored my faith in you:

In a landmark 6-to-3 decision announced yesterday, America’s highest court commanded the states to get out of the business of attempting to regulate what can or can’t happen within private, intimate relationships between consenting adults. Instead, five of the six majority justices ruled that Americans enjoy a fundamental right to conduct the most personal and private aspects of their lives free from the prying eyes of government officials.

Except, of course, for Scalia, the crusty old turd, but hell, what do you expect. There are a lot of really great things about this ruling, not the least of which is that not only does this invalidate state laws against “sodomy” (which invariably, in these laws, means “anything other than missionary, procreational sex,” with or without the sheet with a hole in it thrown over your woman to keep her from enjoying herself), but because of the following:

The case is significant in constitutional terms because in recognizing a fundamental right to relationship privacy, the majority justices have bolstered one of the pillars of the high court’s controversial 1973 abortion ruling. Yesterday’s decision, by finding once again that privacy in “intimate conduct” between adults is a constitutionally protected right, will make it much harder for a future court to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade precedent.

Vastly outvoted, Scalia had some helpful comments about how, since the majority disagreed with him, they’ve obviously “signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda.” I’ve never been quite clear on the homosexual agenda; my gay and lesbian friends and family members refuse to discuss it and regard me with suspicion when I bring it up; I can only assume this means they know that Justice Scalia and I are on to them. Either their agenda is to make everybody be gay, or else they just want to redecorate everything and to mince on public streets. I can’t tell which.

In a semi-related note, the SCOTUS sent the Nike case back to the California Supreme Court, basically declining to say all that much about it, except that they weren’t sure it was a federal issue. Draw your own conclusion.

Raise your hand if you’re bought and paid for! And also kind of insane!

I think this can be considered yet another official warning sign that our elected officials are far beyond out of touch :

The chairman of the senate Judiciary Committee said Tuesday he favors developing new technology to remotely destroy the computers of people who illegally download music from the Internet.

The surprise remarks by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, during a hearing on copyright abuses represent a dramatic escalation in the frustrating battle by industry executives and lawmakers in Washington against illegal music downloads.

During a discussion on methods to frustrate computer users who illegally exchange music and movie files over the Internet, Hatch asked technology executives about ways to damage computers involved in such file trading. Legal experts have said any such attack would violate federal anti-hacking laws.

“No one is interested in destroying anyone’s computer,” replied Randy Saaf of MediaDefender Inc., a secretive Los Angeles company that builds technology to disrupt music downloads. One technique deliberately downloads pirated material very slowly so other users can’t.

“I’m interested,” Hatch interrupted. He said damaging someone’s computer “may be the only way you can teach somebody about copyrights.”

The senator acknowledged Congress would have to enact an exemption for copyright owners from liability for damaging computers. He endorsed technology that would twice warn a computer user about illegal online behavior, “then destroy their computer.”

I’m assuming Hatch keeps a sledgehammer handy around the house at all times, in case any pesky flies come buzzing around. I don’t know whether it’s more disturbing that he’s proposing a solution as insane as this one, or that Congress is so blatantly in the pocket of heavily moneyed interests that they waste their time on crap like this when unemployment’s just topped six percent (that’s nearly 18 million people, if my math is right), every state in the union is experiencing budget shortfalls — in short, when they’ve got better things to do than protect the rights of the very rich to keep getting very rich.

The record industry keeps using the same losing strategy: They try to stop the progress of digital music, rather than figure out how they can make it work for them, and actually profit from it. Apple’s new online music service is the closest the industry has come to accepting progress; who knows if it’ll actually work, though initial results have seemed pretty impressive.