April 29, 2009


I watched the Daily Show's interview with Cliff May. You can watch the entire thing at their website if you want. It was infuriating to watch, and I am reminded why I dislike Cliff May. It isn't just that he rationalized and defends torture (though he claims he is anti-torture), but because he cheats with his arguments. He presents Geneva Conventions as if they required us to start our interrogation with KSM by asking his name, rank, and serial number. No one is arguing that, and he further argued that according to the Geneva Conventions, we could not make prisoners even uncomfortable or bored, as if there is no Common Article 3, and as if there is no problem with humiliating and degrading treatment. A good example of his disingenuous style of arguing, can be found on the NRO last night when talking about the show:
"Jon kept talking as though the war we’re fighting, defending ourselves against the militant Islamist jihad, is over. It is not.

And the policy he prefers – granting full Geneva protections even to al-Qaeda leaders we know possess knowledge of future attacks, which really means asking (nicely) only name, rank and serial number — is a return to the policy we had in place after the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center."
Jon did not suggest that we have no enemies, and he did not suggest that our conflict with terrorism is over. He isn't an idiot (though I suspect that May is). Further, he never, and no one has argued that all we have to do to captured terrorists is ask them their name and rank. This straw man style of argumentation may be the only way to defend torture and the torturers, but it is annoying as hell.

April 28, 2009

Tuesday and a post-op dog in pain, but recovering

Been a bit of a stressful day. Had to take my dog (Streak) into the vet to have an abscessed tooth removed. He is home now and the removal went fine, but the poor little guy is completely out of his head and in pain. He is sleeping right now. Man, I hate that. I hate seeing animals confused and in pain. But he will be better in a few days.


Busy day in news, of course. Swine flu capturing a lot of attention and anxiety, and deservedly so. Any student of history is well aware of the past outbreaks and just how serious they can be. I am glad to see Americans--and the rest of the world--taking this one seriously, even if it produces some inconsistencies along the way. Yesterday, Rick Perry, who has been threatening secession to woo his idiot base, asked the feds for extra doses of anti-virals in preparation for the outbreak. Perfectly reasonable and prudent, but not terribly consistent with the anti-washington mantra the right has perpetrated over the last 20 years. If the government is evil and the enemy, then shouldn't Texas be responsible for their hurricanes, fires, borders, and viruses? Why are they taking tax money from hard working Oklahomans?

Of course, when speaking about the swine flu and unbelievable stupidity, it is hard to match Michelle Bachmann, who suggested that swine flu outbreaks occur under Democratic presidents. You know. Like Gerald Ford. She is so dumb it really hurts to watch. Not much dumber, of course, than the leader of Concerned Women for America, who suggested that the Democrats were hyping the swine flu to get Kathleen Sebelius confirmed as HHS Secretary. Ouch. That hurts too.

Michael Steele didn't exactly show himself well, as he defended Republican opposition to pandemic preparedness under the stimulus with the defense of: "we didn't know about the pandemic threat when we voted that way." Kind of the point, Michael. Sort of like spending money on volcano monitoring.

Of course, it is not a great time to be a Republican. Polls showed yesterday that those identifying as Republicans has fallen to a 25 year low. That kind of thing is cyclical. I remember when being a Democrat was not very popular. But the GOP is not showing itself very well right now. They seem to be diluting themselves down to the very craziest of the crazy. Sorry, but that is how it looks. Those who don't listen to Limbaugh or dare to criticize him are not welcome in the party any more.

Take Arlen Spector, who switched parties today. Again, I remember the cycles. I remember when Colorado Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell switched the other way. I resented it then, very much. And I can understand those who resent Spector's change. More indicative than Spector's switch (which has more to do with the Pennsylvania primary than anything else) is how one of his moderate Republican colleagues, Olympia Snowe, responded.
Specter's switch to the Democratic Party "underscores the blunt reality" that the GOP is not a welcome place for moderates, she said.

So far, she said, she's staying put. "I believe in the traditional tenets of the Republican Party: strong national defense, fiscal responsibility, individual opportunity. I haven't abandoned those principles that have been the essence of the Republican Party. I think the Republican Party has abandoned those principles.
If you are a Republican grownup, you have to look at this kind of change and wonder what is happening to your party.

I am under no illusions that his switch will dramatically change the landscape of the national political battle. Democrats are not like Republicans, they include a lot of different camps--and camps that vote their own mind. Republicans seem to get lockstep support, while Evan Bayh and other Democrats go against their party routinely. But it is not a good day for Republicans.


And just a reminder that the the right continues to defend torture. So much so that they can no longer clearly identify torture done to Americans in the past. And now they are asking if torture is any worse than warfare itself. Larison responds:
I have started doubting whether people who are openly pro-torture or engaged in the sophistry of Manzi’s post are part of the same moral universe as I am, and I have wondered whether there is even a point in contesting such torture apologia as if they were reasonable arguments deserving of real consideration. Such fundamental assumptions at the core of our civilization should not have to be re-stated or justified anew, and the fact that they have to be is evidence of how deeply corrupted our political life has become, but if such basic norms are not reinforced it seems clear that they will be leeched away over time.
And we get a nice little hypocritical quote from our former President:
"War crimes will be prosecuted, war criminals will be punished and it will be no defense to say, 'I was just following orders,"
Unfortunately, Obama seems to think that following orders is a "get out of jail free" card as well. And we know what the Republicans think--that prosecution of torture enablers is pure politics.


I am going to tend to my dog. Him, I get.

April 26, 2009

Republicans still defending torture

And David Frum has been one of the few reasonable right wingers of late. Even he says that torture might be ok if it works. This morning on "Wait, wait, don't tell me," someone joked that this debate was similar to the shoplifter arguing, "call it what you will, but look at all this stuff I got!."

Just amazes me that the people who criticized liberals for their moral relativism, now embracing the tactics of the former Soviet Union and third world dictators. And, as Joan Walsh points out here, Ronald Reagan was notoriously soft on terrorists and too concerned about the rights of evil people to torture them.


And speaking of stupidity

Texas Governor Rick Perry has smartly requested federal assistance as a precaution for the swine flu. That part is smart. But didn't he just threaten to secede to great cheers from his Texas Republican brethren? Because the Federal Government is inept and always inefficient and taxes are bad and regulation is bad and federal agencies are bad.....

I keep telling you. That great Republican gambit of claiming that government is evil has permeated into the base to the point that they have no clue how much they rely on and need the federal government. Even as they bash it.

Because sometimes stupidity hurts to watch

You have to check out Texas' own Joe Barton asking Steven Chu "how all that oil ended up under Alaska. Barton later brags on Twitter that he "baffled" the Nobel laureate. And I think he really did baffle Chu. Chu was genuinely baffled to such a question from a grown man.

I know Democrats have their share of stupid people. Trust me, I know. But Republicans seem to have elected more than their share. Way more.

The stupidity hurts...

Facebook Follies, volume 3ish

Been a little busy with the remodel (see SOF's blog accounting of this here), but Friday night we enjoyed dinner with our friends. During our conversation, I was reminded of another Facebook story.

As i have previously mentioned, I have reconnected with some high school friends on Facebook. Some of those interactions have been positive, but most have been brief and meaningless, and a few have been weird. One, as I noted, occurred when I reconnected with a friend from high school, and then experienced a bit of flashback when he criticized, or mocked, my music tastes. My insecurity kicked in, and I thought to myself, "maybe my music tastes are lame." Irrational, in that music tastes are completely subjective, and further because it really doesn't matter if my old friend likes my music or not. We like it, and that is all that matters.

Well, last week, I opened my email one Friday morning to find that Wilco is coming to OKC this summer. I immediately purchased tickets and posted as much on my Facebook page. Several of my friends either proclaimed their jealousy, cheered our decision, or said they were going too. But my old high school bud--the same one who had suggested that my music tastes were lame when I was listening to the Fleet Foxes--asked "who is Wilco and why would you pay for it?"

Confession time. Just as my initial response to his first comment on my music taste was insecurity, this time it was different. I smiled and thought to myself: "He doesn't know Wilco?

No sin in not recognizing Wilco, mind you, but for someone who claims a bit of musical snobbery in the indie and alternative scene, it is a bit of a glaring omission. In some ways, my response was petty and juvenile, but in others, it was a good recognition that I didn't need to really care what my old high school friend thought of anything about my life.

Especially someone who mocks the Fleet Foxes, but doesn't even know about Wilco! :)

April 25, 2009

Smart Girl Politics?

A conservative women's movement, and their first interview is with Michelle Bachmann.

Um, I hate to break this to you, but if you interview Michelle Bachmann as a symbol of your movement, you will have to take the "smart" out of your title.

Someone in OK calls out the Oklahoma Republicans on the Flaming Lips and more

My state has not shown itself well of late, at least as seen through the legislature. They attacked Richard Dawkins' speaking on evolution, and have attempted to stop stem cell research in the state. They keep trying to promote voter id cards, and promoting their religious extremism. And let's not forget Sally Kern saying that my gay friends are a bigger threat than terrorism.


One of the other realities of Oklahoma is that here in the OKC metro era, the local media has been dominated by right wingers for recent memory, and that has included our metro paper, the Daily Oklahoman--nickname, the Daily Disappointment. But, this morning, SOF sent me this video from the editor, calling out the Oklahoma Republicans for what they are. Amazing.

Who Defends ‘Torture’?

That is an amazingly easy (and sad) question to answer. And I apologize, by the way for the fact that this blog has become a constant flood of stories on torture. I am just amazed that torture has been turned into a "policy debate" about which reasonable people can disagree. You know, like the difference between a 36% tax rate for the highest earners and a 39% rate. Oh right, even that is considered "tyranny" by the right.

But not torture. Not torture. Watching and reading the blogs it is amazing how many people out there are defending these actions. Here is a partial list. And here, Chris Matthews interviews a Republican congressman who defends torture and further denies that anyone higher up ordered the same kind of atrocities at Abu Ghraib. (Even though retired Maj. General Antonio Taguba says otherwise. But as Yglesias notes, he is clearly some kind of hippy leftist.)

Liz Cheney told Norah O'Donnell that since we developed this program from SERE, and SERE was used on our own people, it cannot be torture. Watch Lawrence O'Donnell's head nearly asplode trying to make sense of such stupidity. (And here is O'Donnel on why Hannity thinks that torture works. Oh, I do love a righteous and well deserved rant!)

As I have said repeatedly, I grew up Republican and evangelical. I cannot tell you how disturbing it is to see those two groups endorsing the techniques of the former Soviet Union as compatible with American (or Christian) values. That is a disconnect that I am not sure I will ever reconcile. Truly astounding. And yet, each day, people from the right go on the media to assure us that, while they might not like those individual techniques, they were employed to make us safe by people acting in good faith. And further, those people should not be prosecuted by any court. They deserve a medal instead.

Sully quotes from AL
...the Republican party has allowed itself to become a party of torture apologists. This is the kind of "analysis" that used to spill forth from the politburos of our communist enemies. It's really rather shocking to me that there aren't more conservatives out there who are embarrassed by this, that movement conservatives are so invested in protecting the reputation of the Bush administration that they're willing sign their names to this kind of morally bankrupt rationalization. It's beyond sad.
It is beyond sad.

OU's own David Boren attended a briefing on our techniques and came away shaken.
Boren, who chaired the Senate intelligence committee from 1987 to 1993 and is now president of the University of Oklahoma, said that attending the briefings was "one of the most deeply disturbing experiences I have had" and that "I wanted to take a bath when I heard it. I was ashamed of it." He said he concluded that "fear was used to justify the use of techniques that violate our values and weaken our intelligence" and that the agency did not prove those methods "are particularly effective at getting the truth."

Sully reminds us that when Bush introduced McCain at the RNC convention, he studiously avoided calling the VN treatment of McCain "torture." After all, if what the Vietnamese did to McCain was torture, then so was what Bush ordered, and Republicans now defend.

And here, a musical version of the torture memos. Chilling.

It is hard to not believe that the Republican party has become completely morally bankrupt. My own party has not shown itself particularly well either, but at least most of my party are not out there defending torture as moral and American. Until the Republican party repudiates torture, they will be the party OF torture.

I am a little sick.

April 24, 2009

Our torture policy

And the more we learn about it, the worse it gets. Likewise, I might add, the more we see the right defending torture to a sickening degree. Some cling to the idea that what we did wasn't actually torture by downplaying stress positions and hypothermia and making jokes about getting slapped. But still others openly embrace our torture and say that the techniques honed in the KGB and Nazi regime are perfectly at home in our society--all because of the evil we fight. Techniques designed, of course, to elicit false confessions.


Now, as Obsidian Wings notes, we learn that the administration had very little knowledge of the history of the SERE program, and seemed to have no interest in learning. They simply wanted a program that would give them what they already believed. That is right, according to other reports, the torture was used to get proof of the connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda to justify the war. Hmm. Using a technique designed to produce false confessions? To get proof that didn't exist?

TPM interviewed a sleep expert who was very surprised to find his work on sleep deprivation quoted in some of these torture justifying memos. The guy was pretty saddened that his work on sleep deprivation became a justification for torture. And further, he noted, that sleep-deprived people have very reduced mental abilities.
"I don't understand what you're going to get out of it," he said. "You can no longer think rationally, you just become more of an automaton ... These people will just be spewing nonsense anyway."
Meanwhile Dick Cheney is on a full court press to prove that their tactics saved us from an attack. Republicans everywhere are scrambling to defend torture and call it "policy differences." See? Reasonable people can disagree. Some say it is torture and that is ok, and others disagree. Everything is ok.

Yet, when they were in power, they certainly did not appear to see those who said it was torture, or those who said it was wrong as "agreeing to disagree." According to former Bush State Dept lawyer, and Condi Rice advisor, Philip Zelikow, he wrote a memo criticizing the techniques and arguing that it was "unlikely that any federal court would agree (that the approval of harsh interrogation techniques) ... was a reasonable interpretation of the Constitution." He was told by colleagues that the White House ordered all copies of that memo destroyed.

As I have said, I am most disappointed in the large number of Americans and conservatives who really don't have a problem with torture. Oh, they may not want to call it torture, but they have no problem with those techniques. All of it is framed in the moral equivalency of applying these techniques to people who are evil. As if, as we keep saying, our moral standard is now set by the terrorists who hate us. It is utterly baffling, and especially disappointing when Tony reports that SBC ministers have defended torture as consistent with Christianity.

Lawrence O'Donnell was in rare form last night on Olbermann. He said that people like Sean Hannity believe that torture works because it would work on Hannity. He didn't have a very good explanation why these people are so morally challenged that they then endorse torture.

I have no idea what we should do now. I think a good start would be to impeach Jay Bybee, under the idea that we don't appoint war criminals to a lifetime bench seat. I don't know if prosecutions will actually work or ever happen. But I would like for those who defended torture to feel a modicum of shame.

We shall see.

April 23, 2009

More on torture--another interrogator speaks out

Great interview on NPR with someone who was shunned and essentially threatened for stopping torture. What kind of culture did Bush create?


Most Texas Republicans approve Of Rick Perry's Secession Remarks according to a new poll. Maybe the poll is poorly written. Or maybe the Republican party is off the rails.


Just wow. Fox News' Shep Smith says it better than I could: "We do not f***ing torture!.

F-bomb warning, by the way. But he articulates this very forcefully and rejects what is the most unseemly part of this entire torture "debate." Many Republicans want to make this a matter of "policy," as in just another policy like taxation or agency management. Never mind that those same Republicans accuse those who disagree with their policies on taxes or marriage as being disloyal, but let's just remember how ridiculous it is to debate the morality of torture. Or at least, it used to be ridiculous. Karl Rove wants it to be about policy, because that makes torture prosecutions political. Unfortunately, I have heard that same line from conservative friends. Torture is just another policy. Like wiretapping or preemptive war. Or, hypothetically, like genocide.

I like Shep Smith's take better. It doesn't matter if it works or not, "we are America. We don't f***ing torture."


April 20, 2009

A friend of Dan Pearl's on torture

MyDD :: On the Waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed:
we have descended to the level of that butcher.

Listened to the BBC today, only to hear some tool former agent denigrating Obama on his "making the US less safe" nonsense. Worse, was shouting at the radio whenever the BBC announcer (normally, they are so much better than our people) referred to waterboarding as "simulated drowning." There is nothing simulated about it. They drown people--they just don't let them die--most of the time.

Something wrong with this

Something wrong with a country where an idiot like Pat Robertson gets to air his insanity to millions of "fans." Speaking on the new DHS report (I over heard a Republican in a coffee shop complaining about this, saying that with his voting record and gun ownership, he was considered a threat?--I considered telling him that his low intelligence was his biggest threat to our country, but decided to go my own way), Pat Robertson says that the person who wrote the report is
"either a convinced left winger or somebody whose sexual orientation is somewhat in question."
Stupidity combined with tremendous arrogance and bigotry makes for a very bad combination.

On belief and pain

Natalie has a nice post on faith and loss.

April 19, 2009

Why we should prosecute torturers

From a counter-terror expertand SERE trainer:
Now, at long last, six years of denials can now be swept aside, and we can say definitively: America engaged in torture and legalized it through paperwork.

Despite all the gyrations - the ducking, dodging and hiding from the facts - there is no way to say that these people were not authorizing torture. Worse yet, they seem to have not cared a wit that these techniques came from the actual manuals of communist, fascist and totalitarian torturers. It is now clear how clearly - how coldly - Bush's lawyers could authorize individual techniques from past torture chambers, claim they came from the safe SERE program, and not even wet their beds at night. That many U.S. service members over the years have died as a result of these same techniques was never considered.


If it were aimed at a U.S. Pilot, soldier or diplomat, I have no doubt all those defending the Bush Administration now would label these tactics torture. At SERE, I learned and taught that breaking the prisoner for compliance and instilling "learned helplessness" was our enemies' terminal learning objective.
And, as Sullivan reminded us today, many conservatives have cheered this all on. Deroy Murdock, for example, asserted in the NRO in 2007:
Waterboarding is something of which every American should be proud.

Sadly, Obama appears to want to move past this. Why? I am not sure. Perhaps he believes that such prosecutions will cost him valuable political capital when he is trying to fix the economy and healthcare. Perhaps he recognizes the full outcry that the idiots at Fox will pull out. Hell, they are talking about tyranny for a 3% tax increase (and a tax cut for the rest of us). Imagine what Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck would pull out if Obama prosecuted Al Gonzales.

This week is a very busy one for me. But I am going to try to sit down and write a handwritten letter to the Obama Administration urging prosecution for these crimes. America is better than torturers and sadists. We should goddamn well act like it.

Write a letter. Make a phone call to key Senators.

We are better than this.

April 18, 2009

Saturday remodel etc.

It has been a stressful week. Concrete guy poured our safe room foundation on Wednesday, and the room itself is scheduled to be installed on this coming Wednesday. Spent much of this last week dismantling things in the garage, and my back and neck show the signs. But it is all coming along. Just a little stressful for me, as I feel out of control at times and worry about my decision making. Our neighbor came over to inspect, and really urged me to just relax. That helped a lot.

Today is our spring cleaning day where the trash people pick up stuff they don't normally pick up. Most of the stuff is picked over by local Normanites driving around in trucks or towing trailers. Our own version of Freecycle, I guess. Speaking of Freecycle, they have been a real help. Our city trucks say they won't pick up remodel or construction trash, so I just posted some of the planking I removed from the garage and had 10 or 15 hits just last night. Pretty cool way to keep stuff out of the landfill a little longer.

And this week hasn't been all stress, btw. Some humor along the way. Yesterday, we participated in closing on a loan, and our company sent out a local notary who does this kind of thing. He was great. Had a sense of humor and liked our animals. He caught me, however, scratching out an error on one of the million times we had to sign and date. He had me put a line through it, redo it, and then both of us initial. This was to assure the company people that he, the notary, had not made the change himself. We laughed about that, and he noted that those kinds of things often just seem to confuse the company people.

By the end of all the forms, I was pretty worn out, and my normally illegible signature was getting even less so. On the very last page, I had to initial, and messed that up too. I looked up and said, "do I have to scratch out my initial, redo it, and then initial that?"

Our notary just looked at me and then really started laughing. He had never run into that. We just submitted a different clean form, and I was able to successfully initial that last page.

April 16, 2009


Some scenes from the "tea parties" yesterday. Yeah, I am aware that some people on the left referred to Bush as a fascist too. But most of those could at least say why.

Watch the video here and see the logical conclusion of right wing talk radio and anti-government sentiment. People hate government even though they rely on it for so much, and would throw a fit if those services disappeared. Their political philosophy has been reduced to the bare minimum Palinesque sentencing. "He is a fascist." Why do you say that? "Because he is." Why? And the idiot with the 2 year old has no clue what his government does to allow him to make money.

Elizabeth Warren on the Daily Show

And as good of a short articulation of why we need regulation as I have heard. Watch this at about the 2:00 minute mark. She connects regulation to the long history of boom and bust and instability, and how we approached that during the New Deal. All of those regulations have been undermined by conservatives who like to bash regulation, but as Warren says, if we continue with boom/bust economics, "good luck with your 401k."

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Elizabeth Warren Pt. 2
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April 13, 2009

Monday and a remodel week

And it looks like a busy week. The contractor is coming by this morning to take the garage side door out. I removed the stairs in the garage on Saturday. We are actually starting to tear shit up. :) Concrete guy comes on Wednesday and the safe room install is a week later. This isn't really week 1 as we have been working on this for sometime, but this is the first week in which we have removed something.

I think I am going to need a lot more coffee.

But before I do that, and before I prep for my week lectures, and before I plan how to pick up the new windows... a few news items that caught my eye.

We just finished Easter, but the news for some American Christians is not good. As Newsweek's Jon Meacham reported, "the percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 points in the past two decades." One can't help but wonder if conservative Christianity's love affair with Republican politics, and even the torture regime of George W. Bush aided that. Of course, it goes well beyond Bush, and from my perspective, it has been a complete upside down approach to traditional Christianity. How else to explain how the rich, powerful, and gated communities became hotbeds of Christians following an itinerant populist preacher who cautioned against accumulated wealth and challenged the, well, rich and powerful?

Or perhaps it is as simple as the tone taken by so many on the far right. As many of you probably heard, James Dobson is retiring from Focus on the Family (damn shame, mind you) and he recently gave a speech where he said that religious conservatives had lost the culture war. Look at how he describes the battle:
Dr. Mohler mentioned the pornography struggle; we made a lot of progress through the Eighties but then we turned into the Nineties and the internet came along and a new president came along and all of that went away and now we are absolutely awash in evil.
The Internets and Bill Clinton are the cause of decline? Seriously? We can torture and bomb, evidently, and be consistent with right wing theology.


Some of this has to do with the paranoid style in American history. As the late-great Richard Hofstadter noted, this theme is not unique to either side of the political spectrum. And one can argue that it played part of the angry left during Bush and Reagan. (Though, we have to note, how paranoid were we about W when everything we thought about his legal staff and his approach to torture is being born out?)

There is no doubt that leftists can be paranoid, but it seems also patently clear that those on the right are paranoid, at least right now. The tone from the right reminds me very much of the Clinton years where grown men took to the woods to play dress up army against Janet Reno's "jack booted thugs." In just three short months, the right has discovered its fear of deficits, but then leaped all the way back to 1953 to try and stoke up the newest version of the Red Scare. And one of the best bogie-men for the right, evidently, is ACORN. Kos diarist, Hunter, has a very cogent take on all of this:
ACORN fills a vital role in this conservative sphere of constant, imminent destruction -- but not as real danger. Instead it is a catch-all bogeyman, an avatar representing an unseen and generic enemy. The reason it is "ACORN" that is going to surreptitiously disrupt conservative Tea Bag festivities is because "ACORN" is the only nefarious bogeyman most conservatives know.
It could be any name, because the name is unimportant, only the narrative of all-powerful, omnipresent enemy. Before ACORN, it was the ACLU. Before the ACLU, it was McCarthy's invisible Communists.

As we have noted in the wake of the recent shooting, it is a dangerous game. Preying on fears as prime political philosophy runs the obvious risk of convincing your audience that those fears indeed exist. --snip--

In the end, it is enforced, carefully stoked paranoia, and it is made powerful precisely by months of repetition. It is the Big Lie, the easy lie. At some point conservatives decided, based on demographics and perhaps the existing general bigotries of their most hardcore supporters, that their ideas could no longer stand even minor scrutiny unless they were couched in terms of urgent disaster.
The entire essay is worth reading. As Fox News becomes a sponsor for the ironically named "tea bag" parties, and Glenn Beck expresses sympathy for mass murderers, you start to see how this "big lie" can be so easily spread and consumed.

Unfortunately, the right has lost its intellectual and skeptical moorings. Conservatives who used to have their policy grounded in principle and morality have endorsed and defended torture and the undermining of our constitution. The thinkers have been replaced with the shouters. We have those on the left too, I am quite aware. But the right seems to have only those. And meanwhile the surge of gun ownership continues....

I feel safer already.

April 11, 2009

Because I bet one of us will see this email somewhere

Be on the watch for an email saying that Snopes is run by a liberal couple, because, of course, they are anti-conservative, or some other such nonsense. I keep thinking about Colbert's brilliant line a few feet from Bush, "the truth has a well-known liberal bias."

The right continues to make parodies of them redundant.

April 10, 2009


And people wonder why I have lost all respect for the GOP? Republican Representative Spencer Bachus told his Alabama constituents that there were 17 unnamed socialists in the US House.

Well, why not go back to the old playbook. It worked for a long time. And I even have friends telling me that Obama is heading toward socialism.

This torture thing during Easter Week

I have been involved in a long and contentious debate on torture. A lot of it is about the difference between Bush and Cheney's policies and those Presidents who preceded him. Some of it has to do with the partisan divide in our country and the inability for our political elites to rise above that on something as ethically challenging as torture. I am more aligned with Eugene Robinson's suggestion that the information is out there, and we have to prosecute these people. I kind of wonder what kind of political world we have created places us in a position where no matter what the crime is, the claim of partisanship can over-ride that.

Part of the conversation turned angry yesterday when we turned to the subject of Easter and torture. I was reminded of how conservative Christians seemed to find Mel Gibson's Passion film meaningful mostly because of the ill-treatment that Jesus suffered during and before the crucifixion. I found it very interesting that those who pointed to the Roman's mistreatment of Christ were the most silent or even approving of Bush's torture regime. Not a new observation, but in yesterday's conversation, this idea was articulated most clearly when some one noted that perhaps conservative Christians saw a difference between torturing the Son of God and torturing someone who openly wanted to kill innocent people. I think that statement reflects a lot of the belief in conservative America.

Today is Good Friday. I have always had a pretty weird connection to Easter and one that I cannot quite explain (I have written about that here), and the conversation yesterday is still running through my head. Sometimes I don't know what I believe. But what I do know, is that these stories have meaning, and that meaning is important. A lot of the power in Christianity is embedded in this annual reflection on the death and resurrection story.

Thinking about these two thoughts--the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, and the issue of how we respond to others (yes, even those who profess to do evil)--and I have to say that I think the conservative theology is missing a pretty key element. I am no theologian, but isn't the power of the Easter story that Jesus gave himself as a sacrificial lamb for all of humanity? Isn't it based on the idea that he didn't deserve to die, but we all do? That we do not deserve grace or salvation, but he extends it to us anyway?

To go from that story to suggesting that it might be ok to mistreat others based on what they "deserve" strikes me as missing the point. I truly wonder if American conservatives have so conflated faith and country that they can no longer tell the difference between their own faith and their national arrogance. This week, many conservatives exploded in anger when Obama told the world that we were not a Christian nation--yet so many of them defend Bush's torture regime. Is that how it works?

I hope not.

April 8, 2009


As I have been going to the chiropractor in the afternoons, I have had more time to catch NPR during the drive. Listening to part of the story on the Israeli barrier in the West Bank has just been depressing. I understand, to a point. I certainly understand the concerns about suicide bombers, and the need to protect people at weddings and pizza parlors. That I get.

I also get the political failures of the Palestinian leadership, and the desire for certain people in Syria and Iran to stoke fires that the rest us (and probably most in the region) would prefer were not stoked.

But when I hear about places like Ariel, a settlement in the West Bank, it just makes me both sad and angry at the same time.

I certainly don't begrudge people wanting better for their life. But this little oasis in the desert is not that. It is people purposefully wanting to stop the peace process. It is American evangelicals who fully expect the Jews to either convert to Christianity or perish in order to facilitate the secret code that hastens the end times--sending money to secular Jews to build an olympic size swimming pool in contested lands. All justified by some reading of the OT, no doubt. Something is wrong here.

The worst part of the story came at the end, when they were discussing the mayor of this illegal settlement (Nachman) and his approach to the issue of the Palestinians.
"People like Ron Nachman are bringing the end to the two-state solution possibility," Sfard says. "And then we will have to face a different dilemma: that is, between a ... democratic, one-state, binational state, which I'm sure Ron Nachman doesn't want. And the other option, that Ron Nachman probably would support, is a real apartheid!"

Asked about the efforts by Sfard and other Israelis to help Palestinians protest the barrier, Nachman replies, "In some countries, they would have hanged those people by now."
Sigh. [Bang head on table] Sigh.

Jon Stewart on the crazy right

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April 7, 2009


The trickle of information on our torture policy continues. The International Red Cross has released its complete report, and Mark Danner has a right up of it here. It is always shocking for me to realize that our Christian president authorized policies taken from the Gestapo and KGB that were intended to produce false confessions.

And the former Vice President is still out there defending torture as essential. I found this quote from Colonel Wilkerson to be the most troubling:
Simply stated, this philosophy held that it did not matter if a detainee were innocent. Indeed, because he lived in Afghanistan and was captured on or near the battle area, he must know something of importance.... All that was necessary was to extract everything possible from him and others like him, assemble it all in a computer program, and then look for cross-connections and serendipitous incidentals—in short, to have sufficient information about a village, a region, or a group of individuals, that dots could be connected and terrorists or their plots could be identified.
Thus, as many people as possible had to be kept in detention for as long as possible to allow this philosophy of intelligence gathering to work. The detainees' innocence was inconsequential.

Glenn Greenwald notes:
Note how warped our political culture is: Sen. Dick Durbin was forced to tearfully apologize on the Senate floor for accurately comparing our treatment of detainees at Guantanamo to the techniques used in Soviet gulags and by Gestapo interrogation squads, but those who perpetrated these war crimes have apologized for nothing, remain welcome in decent company, and are still shielded by our Government from all accountability.


One bit of good news is the way our current President speaks about our history and religious tradition. As Rob Boston notes, Obama told a Turkish audience that we are not a Christian nation:
" "I've said before that one of the great strengths of the United States is - although as I mentioned we have a very large Christian population - we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation, or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation," Obama said. "We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values."
A few second later, Obama went on to praise the concept of "a secular country that is respectful of religious freedom, respectful of rule of law, respectful of freedom, upholding these values and being willing to stand up for them in the international stage.""
Doesn't mean that Christianity has not played a critical role in our history (though not always positively), but it simply means that we are a secular nation. Secular, as Boston notes, does not mean the same thing as being hostile to religion. And the right wing should stop acting as if it does.

April 6, 2009

Christians and torture

Obviously, the big question about why goes to George "Jesus is my favorite philosopher" Bush, but as Steven Waldman points out, the question of how a Christian could allow torture goes very much to the very visibly Christian John Ashcroft, who made a big point of leading Bible studies and arguing that he was only interested in doing what was right in God's eyes. Yet, there is no evidence so far, and none argued by Ashcroft himself, that he ever stood up and tried to stop the torture.
"On one of the greatest moral questions of the administration -- and arguably one of the greatest challenges to Christian ethics of the last decade -- he has nothing to say.

For sake of argument, let's say Ashcroft shouldn't have brought his religious beliefs into his decision-making. Perhaps we want our Attorney General to completely submerge his religion when dealing with policy. Indeed, on other occasions Ashcroft apparently went against his personal beliefs in order to enforce the law -- as when he had federal marshals protect doctors who perform abortions.

But if that's the case, I'm left wondering: what is the value of having a religious person in office? I don't mean that as a snarky rhetorical question. I'm honestly perplexed: if ever there was a situation when we actually could have benefited from having a self-righteous, moral, Bible-reading, God-fearing Christian in the room to morally challenge utilitarian thinking, the discussions about torture would have been it."

I am with Waldman here (though his reference to Richard Land as a "moderate" leaves me puzzled), if people like Bush and Ashcroft are not expected to actually act like Christians, then what is the point of electing them?

I would further add that this not only goes to Ashcroft, but the large population of conservative Christians who praised Bush's faith and reelected him--all without ever questioning the man on torture.

And people wonder why I have lost respect for the GOP

They are now holding Obama nominees hostage in order to keep Bush torture memos secret. I know too many Republicans who are offended by torture, but this kind of action makes it very hard to believe that the institutional GOP and leadership don't really support it. They have done everything in their power to help Bush and Cheney torture. Holding up nominees is political theater, and Democrats have done that as well. And the winning side, as Hilzoy notes, gets to say that they won and should get the nominees the President wants. But the bigger issue is why the GOP is threatening war on these nominees--to defend torture. It should make the grownup Republicans feel just a little ill.

And while I am reading Obsidian Wings, let me note this other great post by publius on our lost decade. It isn't just that Bush invaded Iraq and tortured people--something we may never dig our way out of. But all of the things that Bush and the Republicans refused to do and squandered. Work on climate change, health care, etc. Goes back to my continual rant that these particular Republicans have no interest in investing in anything for the public good, and have no interest beyond cutting taxes for the rich and regulations for the corporations. And we have seen just how well that has worked. Our lost decade.

Let's hope it is just a decade. I would like America back, thank you very much.

April 5, 2009

Sunday night feminist rant

I am making dinner and getting ready to watch the OU women play in the Final Four. They are a lot of fun to watch and I am hopeful they can make the finals.

But one of the OU players is Carlee Roethlisberger. ESPN keeps running this little thing about her and her older brother (Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers). I am fine with that, though I still resent Ben crediting Jesus with his starting job in college. Stupid theology just effects me that way, I guess.

But this ESPN coverage bothers me nearly as much. Here is a very good college player, and all they can talk about is her big brother, and the piece is about her watching Ben win the Super Bowl. Nothing about her 3 point shot, or how she contributes to OU's great team.

That just pisses me off. Ben gets his due all the time, and deserves it (in that sports context, mind you), but his little sister is pretty good on her own. To present her just as a fan of her older brother is demeaning and chauvinist. I am just tired of that stuff. Women are not defined by the men they love or share a family with. Get with it, ESPN.

Ah, family

A great essay by one of Rush Limbaugh's less conservative cousins.

April 3, 2009

And she could have been Veep

Palin, Ruedrich call for Begich resignation: Former Sen. Ted Stevens | adn.com. The entire GOP continues to surprise me with their stupidity right now. "Spending freeze?" Have any of these people read any history?

But Palin and JTP take the cake, and they are the people the "base" of the Republican party just loves. What more can you say about that "base?"