Friday, April 29, 2005

What to say?
I haven't been around the blogosphere lately, partly because I'm extremely busy, but partly because I'm totally detached from the whole Pope business. Still, I can't help but feeling that the wheels are coming off this whole thing. Oil is still absurdly high, and some scientists believe we've hit peak oil, the point at which production will begin to decline as demand skyrockets. I don't have to tell you what this means for industrial civilization. Meanwhile the media have spent three weeks falling over themselves covering the death of the Pope, who apparently ended communism, taking the honor away from Ronald Reagan and Maggie Thatcher. The fact that another obscurantist conservative who opposes birth control was chosen as the leader of the world's largest religion says a lot about how much organized religion has to say about our common predicament at the dawn of the 21st century.

The Republicans are busy trying to change the consensus decision-rules of the Senate to ram their Constitution-in-Exile judges through the moderate opposition, as President Bush continues on his idiotic and doomed quest to privatize Social Security. The Dow is still hovering around 10,000 where its been for roughly the entire Bush administration. Prominent members of the Iraqi parliament are being murdered as the Pentagon admits the military situation hasn't changed at all in the past year. Meanwhile, 2004 was the basically the worst year of terrorism in the history of mankind. It was so bad that Condoleezza Rice is having the State Department doctor a report on terror statistics -- something that has been a common Bush Administration tactic whenever one of their agencies figures out something they don't like. Delay it and deny it, and eventually the media will cover the Jacko story or the Olympics or some other thing. There's no getting around the fact that this adminstration has turned the state of Iraq into the biggest incubator of international terrorism in modern history, worse even than Afghanistan during the 80s. If just one cell of malevolent young men trained in Iraqi jihad perpetrates a mass murder of Americans sometime in the next ten years, will it have been worth it? I wish the embattled and courageous Iraqi parliamentarians and police well, but their task seems rather hopeless. And I feel certain that this whole tragic error will come back to haunt us in the years to come.

Meanwhile I'm still getting emails from Moveon and John Kerry and Wes Clark trying to fire me up about judicial nominees or filibusters or the bankruptcy bills. Sorry, but I need to save my energy for 2006 when we will finally get Mr. Man-on-Dog, Rick Santorum, out of the United States Senate. South Carolina and Oklahoma frankly deserve to be represented by churlish and miseducated bigots like Tom Coburn, but Pennsylvania has done nothing to bring this reign of idiocy upon itself. Besides, it looks like the Republicans may finally be in the process of bringing about their own political demise. The Schiavo disaster, the unpopular privatization of Social Security, the ongoing Iraq catastrophe, the totally unnecessary overthrow of age-old Senate tradition -- none of these things are playing well in David Brooks' "exurbs," where the megachurch flocks may finally be wondering why the economy still sucks four years into the restoration. Maybe some of them will finally realize that blind faith in 19th-century market plutocracy doesn't exactly gel with their values -- something the Pope recognized, whatever his many faults may have been.

Meanwhile, the skyrocketing costs of health care and energy are dragging the global economy into the sewer. As Lenin said, "The worse the better." The faster people realize the system is broken, the sooner Democrats can start saying things like "national health insurance" without getting called pinko commies. Things certainly aren't going to get any better with this corrupt clown show in charge of the free world, a group of leaders who believe that spending a week passing legislation that applies to one single corpse in Florida is more important than anything else. Of course, the only legislation that does get through this Congress is a bill that rips the heart out of bankruptcy protection for ordinary Americans. Make one mistake in this country, and you can kiss your pitiful little life goodbye. That's what the GOP calls "moral values." There are no second chances in George Bush's America, unless your name is Tom DeLay. It may take Americans a few years to connect the dots between their health care bills, their usurous credit card statements, the body bags, and their crummy leadership, but it will eventually happen. Say what you will about the Democrats, but they have never overseen a terrorist catastrophe, a military quagmire, and economic malaise and still gotten away with it. The Republicans, professional victims that they are, can't continue to blame it all on the feminists, the gays, the lawyers, and the pacifists, who, after all, aren't in charge of anything right now except a few English departments and the local chapter of PIRG. The ownership society starts at home. We own this mess, and we need to start cleaning it up soon.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The National Review -- The National Review! -- has published an article criticizing the salaries of corporate executives. And no, it's not a joke issue. I can just imagine the look on Donald Luskin's face when he loaded the web page this morning and saw his boss saying something negative about capitalism. I mean, it must have totally ruined his morning recitation of Dow 36,000.

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Saturday, April 09, 2005

Hang on there, Horowitz: Sliming via distorted photos and innuendo
This may have flown under the radar of normal people who don't think that John Kerry Hearts Osama Bin Laden, but David Horowitz and his creepy cronies at Frontpage have created something called, which links people like the fanatical obscurantist terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi with the eloquent liberal public servant Barack Obama. Like most of what Horowitz does, DTN is a tool designed for character assassination, carried out with out-of-context quotes, innuendo, and bad pictures, like the distorted picture above this post, of the renowned scholar of Islam, John Esposito, who is made to look like he is saluting the Fuhrer.

Dozens of people are smeared on this site, largely in the slime-and-run fashion patented by the right-wing attack machine. Consider the entry for that notorious enemy of the state, Roger Ebert:

Movie critic
Claims that George W. Bush stole the 2000 Presidential election "[W]e've had a concerted policy of taking money away from the poor and giving it to the rich wholesale, and at the same time, we have the runaway corporations and the greed."

In the August 2003 issue of The Progressive, Roger Ebert, perhaps the best-known movie critic in the world, spoke his mind about George W. Bush, Republicans, and the evils of American capitalism. Asserting that Bush stole the 2000 Presidential election, is simultaneously a religious zealot and disrespectful to the Pope, and is both devious and unintelligent, Ebert expressed disappointment and bewilderment over the fact that many Americans disagree with him.

"I think a lot of working-class people don't understand," said Ebert, "their money is being stolen. . . . [W]e've had a concerted policy of taking money away from the poor and giving it to the rich wholesale, and at the same time, we have the runaway corporations and the greed. I feel ordinary people really should be angry."

Ebert became politically outspoken in the fall of 2000 with his enthusiastic raves for "The Contender," writer-director Rod Lurie's story about a female senator (played by Joan Allen), nominated to replace a dead vice president, who nobly refuses to address Republican-spread rumors that she had been involved in college orgies. Lurie's labored attempt to equate the treatment of his heroine under fire with the treatment received by Bill Clinton after he was caught in the Monica Lewinsky scandal was widely panned - except by Ebert. In his print review in the Chicago
Sun-Times, Ebert called "The Contender" a four-star classic; he also devoted part of his review to criticizing Republicans and Clinton Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr.

Since then, Ebert has used his media platform numerous times to speak out on political matters:

-- His depiction (in a July 2001, Sun-Times general-news column) of presidential daughter Barbara Bush as an ignorant "yob" on the loose in London. Given her idiot father, Ebert reasoned, what could one expect?

-- His relentless championing of "Bowling for Columbine," the Michael Moore documentary.

-- His tirade about George W. Bush's alleged vicious insensitivity toward those on Texas' Death Row in his Spring 2003 print review of "The Life of David Gale," a melodrama about an anti-death-penalty crusader.-- His likening of the Bill the Butcher character in "Gangs of New York" - a cleaver-waving, mass-murdering thug - to Florida's former Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, whom Gore supporters condemned for what they perceived as her partisan role in the 2000 Presidential election controversy in Florida. Ebert's point, which he expressed on "Ebert & Roeper": Both Bill the Butcher and Harris used whatever means possible to take and keep power.

In keeping with Frontpage style, there are no citations in this "article," no links, no hint at the trajectory of Ebert's career or his broader beliefs, merely a handful of unreferenced quotes out of the thousands of reviews and thousands of hours of film available. The author does not provide a single reference to or even a quote from Ebert's "relentless cheerleading" of Bowling For Columbine. In fact, Ebert awarded the film only 3 1/2 stars out of 4, a very good review, but hardly "cheerleading." Even the link to the original Frontpage article from which this smear-and-run was taken does not illuminate anything -- there are no footnotes or links there either, and the "author," Chris Reed, has only written one thing for the magazine. No email address is provided. It is, more than anything else, sloppy and childish, two primary hallmarks of Frontpage discourse.

It seems that Ebert has earned his place alongside coldblooded killers like Zarqawi merely by reviewing positively a handful of films regarded as apostasy by right-wing zealots, including The Contender. It is not at all clear how Ebert, who seems to be a genuinely decent guy and one of the country's most insightful and eloquent film critics, is connected to the terrorists in the Middle East. But to David Horowitz, merely holding left-of-center views and liking movies that pissed off Newt Gingrich is enough to make you part of the same "network" as al-Qaeda. The site's administrators disingeniously claim that they have appropriately distinguished between Zarqawi and Ebert by placing them in different categories of "leftists," but the aim is clearly to obliterate the distinctions between them (as if there are any commonalities between Zarqawi and Ebert to begin with) and to associate mainstream Democratic politicians, pundits, and academics with lunatics and terrorists. The other is to label anyone who opposed the Iraq War as either a Marxist-Leninist or an "Islamofascist."

All of these tactics are described in detail in "The Art of Political War: How Republicans Can Fight to Win," Horowitz's pamphlet on crushing the Democrats by manipulating soundbites, reframing issues, and stoking fear. We should not be surprised when Horowitz actually employs the despicable tactics that he has publicly outlined. But we should return the fire.

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Friday, April 01, 2005

The full text
Here is a link to the full text of Brendan O'Leary's address after September 11th. In the first paragraph he refers to the events as "apalling atrocities." He most clearly does not come off as a "terror apologist," merely as someone trying to understand what happened that terrible day. Shame on Laksin for not even linking to these remarks or providing the full context. However, we should not be surprised at these smear-and-run tactics -- we should fight back. You can start by checking out this excellent series of links on academic freedom. I'll be putting up a long post on this subject soon, after my back recovers from an aggravation of my longstanding disc injury I suffered last night.

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