It seems one reason both Wright and Obama are in this mess is they share a way of thinking about themselves and their respective projects. Obama expressly said that Wright represents the "black community." Wright says an attack on him is an attack on the "black Church." Obama often suggests that a vote for him is a vote for "change" and for moving beyond division and discord and all bad things. And while he's wisely refrained from expressly saying that his skin color is the medium of exchange for this grand world-historical purchase, that's certainly been the subtext for him and the plain text for many of his supporters. (And, to be fair, Hillary is nearly as bad when she talks about being the first woman president, though the fact she talks so much detail and is so much worse a speaking in lofty rhetoric ties her to the ground a bit more).
The problem with this sort of thing is that people aren't abstractions, they cannot in fact "personify" anything, not really. Voting for Obama may be a sign of change, a harbringer of change, a catalyst for change, but Barack Obama is not in fact Change with a capital C anymore than Jeremiah Wright is the "black church" made flesh. He's a man. They're both men, regardless of what their rhetoric suggests.
It's not surprising that Obama, who surely sees himself as the incarnation of Something Big, would be seduced by the tendency to describe others in the same terms. If Obama had resisted the temptation to turn the Wright episode into a profound meditation on Race and Other Big Things and instead stuck with something more humble (like the crazy uncle stuff and his own failure to recognize Wright's extremism) he wouldn't be in so much trouble. But he's set the terms of the debate, saying that Wright is the black community so his explanations and maneuvers sound weak and self-serving.
I think the Christian Right understands this dynamic a bit better than most of us because so many of fundamentalist or evangelist spokespeople have been exposed in embarrassing ways. What's interesting is how liberals, journalists and other non-members of the Christian right think these sorts of scandals demonstrate the rottenness of evangelical or fundamentalist Christianity, but actual subscribers to these views and members of these flocks tend to understand that the man is different than the message, save of course in the case of Jesus.
Search This Blog
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
God bless the Rev. Jeremiah Wright!
After Barack Obama gave his big race speech in mid-March, many critics noted that the Illinois senator had thrown his own grandmother under the bus to defend his controversial pastor. Well, Wright proved over the last few days that he would not be outdone. He not only threw Obama under the bus, he chucked much of the liberal and mainstream media under there with him. If this keeps up, to paraphrase Roy Scheider in Jaws, he’s gonna need a bigger bus.
For six weeks, Obama’s supporters have diligently argued that to so much as mention Wright is, in effect, racist. When Hillary Clinton said that Wright wouldn’t have been her pastor, Andrew Sullivan gasped on his Atlantic blog that this was “a new low” in the election. When Lanny J. Davis, Clinton’s consummate spinner, defended her on CNN by describing what Wright actually said, Anderson Cooper lambasted Davis for daring to repeat Wright’s comments. Time’s Joe Klein chimed in, “You’re spreading the poison right now.”
Obama and his defenders have insisted that the bits from Wright’s sermons that got wide circulation last month had been taken out of context. His infamous sound bites were grounded in concrete theological or factual foundations, they claim. He was quoting other people. He’s done good things. Nothing to see here, folks.
And so God bless Wright because he’s left all of these folks holding a giant, steaming bag of ... well, let’s just call it a bag of “context.”
Let’s start with the news out of his speeches Sunday and Monday: Wright, Obama’s mentor and former pastor, is worse than we thought. He’s a bigot, at least by the standards usually reserved for white people such as former Harvard president Lawrence Summers or The Bell Curve co-author Charles Murray.
Sunday in Detroit, Wright explained to 10,000 people at the Fight for Freedom Fund dinner of the NAACP — an organization adept at taking offense to far less racist comments from non-blacks — that black and white brains are simply wired differently. Whites are “left-brain cognitive” while blacks are “right-brain” oriented. Each has “different ways of learning.” One wonders why Wright opposes separate-but-equal education.
CNN carried the speech live, and anchor Soledad O’Brien reported from the scene that it was “a home run.”
Then, Monday morning at the National Press Club, Wright attempted to clear the air about all of the supposedly deceptive sound bites he’s been reduced to.
So, does he stand by his “God damn America” statement?
Well, yeah. He explained that until American leaders apologize to Japan for the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as to black Americans for slavery and racism, we will remain a damnable nation.
What about that bit about America’s chickens coming home to roost on 9/11? Yep, we heard him right. “You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you; those are biblical principles,” he explained.
Asked whether he stood by his assertion that the U.S. government created HIV as part of a genocidal program to wipe out the black race, Wright mostly dodged but ultimately offered this nondenial denial: “I believe our government is capable of doing anything.” He also offered a zesty defense of Louis Farrakhan — “one of the most important voices in the 20th and 21st century” — and dismissed criticism of Farrakhan as an anti-Semite.
To cap it off, Wright threw Obama under the bus. First, the pastor explained, Obama himself had taken Wright out of context. Moreover, Obama neither denounced nor distanced himself from Wright. And, besides, anything that Obama says on such matters is just stuff “politicians say.” They “do what they do based on electability, based on sound bites, based on polls.” So much for Obama’s new politics.
On Friday, Wright appeared on Bill Moyers’s PBS show, in which Moyers all but shouted “Amen!” every time Wright took a breath. The impression viewers were supposed to take away: Wright is on the side of the angels, not like those Swift-boating crazies at Fox News.
But then Obama himself told Fox News Sunday that he considers Wright fair game — as long as you don’t quote him out of context.
It’s a deal.
Wright is every bit as radical as his detractors claimed and explodes Obama’s messianic rhetoric about standing foursquare against divisiveness. But, on Tuesday, Obama denounced Wright for repeating what the pastor had been saying all along, bolstering critics and diminishing himself even more. Which is why that chorus you hear rising up from the John McCain and Clinton campaigns sounds an awful lot like this: “God damn Jeremiah Wright? No, no, no: God bless Jeremiah Wright!”
The key problem for Hillary's campaign is that normal people reel back in horror at her association with the Clinton administration. (Which is why, as her supporter, I refer to her as simply "Hillary.")
If Hillary could run exclusively on her record since becoming a senator from New York, she'd be a relatively moderate Democrat who hates the loony left -- as we found out this week when a tape of Hillary denouncing Moveon.org surfaced. Think Joe Biden in a pantsuit.
But because of her unfortunate marriage, Hillary comes with a cast of undesirables like James Carville, Paul Begala, Terry McAuliffe, Joe Conason -- and of course Bill Clinton, along with his trusted impeachment manager Larry Flynt. Buy one, get the entire dirt-bag collection free!
No one wants those people back.
Even semi-respectable Democrats look sleazy by their association with the Clintons. No serious Democrat defended Clinton over his "presidential kneepads" incident with Monica Lewinsky. OK, that's not including adult film star Ron Jeremy, if you consider him a serious Democrat. Which I do.
That's why cable TV producers had to call in the O.J. defenders to flack for Clinton during his impeachment. Any Democrats still clinging to Hillary at this point appear to be soulless climbers desperate for jobs in the next administration.
So repellent are Bill Clinton's friends (to the extent that a sociopathic sex offender with a narcissistic disorder can actually experience friendship in the conventional sense) that B. Hussein Obama's association with a raving racist reverend and a former member of the Weather Underground hasn't caused as much damage as it should.
On one hand, Obama pals around with terrorists. On the other hand, Hillary pals around with James Carville. Advantage: Obama.
Asked why he would be friends with the likes of Weatherman Bill Ayers, Obama said: "The notion that ... me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values doesn't make much sense."
That's a slick answer -- even "Clintonian"! -- but the problem is, Ayers and his Weatherman wife, Bernadine Dohrn, won't stop boasting about their days as Weathermen.
It's not simply that they haven't repented. To the contrary, those were their glory days! And Ayers isn't just someone who lives in the neighborhood: He and Dohrn were there at the inception of Obama's political career, hosting a fundraiser for Obama at their home back in 1995.
Besides wanton violence, including a dozen bombings of buildings such as the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol, historic statues and various police stations, the Weathermen's "revolutionary" activity consisted primarily of using the word "motherf-----" a lot, dropping LSD, coming up with cutesy phrases -- like "the Weather Underground" -- and competing over who could make the most offensive statements in public. (I also believe Dohrn may have set the North American record for longest stretch without bathing.)
At one rally, Dohrn famously praised the Manson family for murdering Sharon Tate and others, shouting: "Dig it. First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them. They even shoved a fork into a victim's stomach! Wild!"
In a better country, just saying "Dig it!" in public would get you 20 years in the slammer.
Dohrn has recently tried to clarify her Manson remarks by saying it was some sort of "statement" about violence in society and, furthermore, that she said it while under sniper fire in Bosnia. Also recently, the members of the Manson family have distanced themselves from Ayers and Dohrn.
At other rallies, Dohrn said, "Bring the revolution home, kill your parents -- that's where it's at."
After a Chicago Democratic official, Richard Elrod, became paralyzed while fighting with a privileged looter during the Weathermen's "Days of Rage," Dohrn led the Weathermen in a song sung to the tune of Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay":
Lay, Elrod, lay,
Lay in the street for a while
Stay, Elrod, stay
Stay in your bed for a while
You thought you could stop the Weatherman
But up-front people put you on your can,
Stay, Elrod, stay
Stay in your iron lung,
Play, Elrod, play
Play with your toes for a while
Only because of a merciful God is the author of that ditty, Ted Gold, not teaching at Northwestern or the University of Illinois now, alongside Dohrn or Ayers. That's because Gold is no longer with us, having accidentally blown himself up with a bomb intended for a dance at Fort Dix for new recruits and their dates.
While trying to assemble the bomb at an elegant Greenwich Village townhouse that belonged to one of the revolutionaries' fathers, the bungling Weathermen blew up the entire townhouse, killing Gold and two other butterfingered revolutionaries. Leave it to these nincompoops to turn their glorious Marxist revolution into an "I Love Lucy" sketch.
So in addition to being stupid and violent, the Weathermen were also incompetent terrorists. Would that Timothy McVeigh had been so inept!
If he had only said he bombed the building in Oklahoma City to protest American "imperialism," McVeigh, too, could be teaching at Northwestern University, sitting on a board with and holding fundraisers for presidential candidate B. Hussein Obama.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
By staying on the attack and not engaging Mr. Obama on the substance of issues like terrorism, the economy and how to organize an orderly exit from Iraq, Mrs. Clinton does more than just turn off voters who don’t like negative campaigning.
And there you see it:
“how to organize an orderly exit from Iraq.”As if the only legitimate discussion of Iraq should be the speed of our retreat.
Oh, and referring to 9/11 is now “waving the bloody shirt.” A nice bit of smearing that is designed to take discussion of the most deadly attack on the American homeland off the table; making any discussion of terrorism, Afghanistan, Iraq and Islamofascism totally without context. Yet this is exactly what the Left has tried to do: the War on Terror without 9/11, Afghanistan without 9/11, Iraq without 9/11, the search for WMD’s without 9/11, and Iran’s nuclear weapons program without 9/11. It's as if George Bush and most of the country woke up on 9/12 and thought "this seems like a good day to attack a country half way around the world for laughs and giggles"
There is something pathetic about this flailing dinosaur. It begs the superdelegates to put the Democrats out of their misery by ending the primary which has highlighted the radical nature of the Left that has absorbed the Democrat party.
It is getting to be time for the superdelegates to do what the Democrats had in mind when they created superdelegates: settle a bloody race that cannot be won at the ballot box. Mrs. Clinton once had a big lead among the party elders, but has been steadily losing it, in large part because of her negative campaign. If she is ever to have a hope of persuading these most loyal of Democrats to come back to her side, let alone win over the larger body of voters, she has to call off the dogs.
What is being shown decisively in Pennsylvania and Ohio is that the party of Obama, the party of the NY Times, Hollywood, Howard Dean and San Francisco billionaires is no longer the party of blue collar workers. Not since Ronald Reagan will the Democrats suffer such a stunning defeat, all due to the Left’s incredible belief that the ordinary people in this country, the ones that make the country work, will vote for an elitist snob that hobnobs with black racist preachers and radical bombers from the 60s.
By all means, let’s get this process over with. John McCain may win all 50 states.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
John Lott has this interesting op-ed arguing that "gun-free zones" are actually more dangerous because they spawn attacks. He mentions that in my home town of Salt Lake City, the Trolley Square massacre (6 killed last year) took place at an area where the property owner had excluded firearms -- even those carried by concealed permit holders. He relies on anecdotal evidence for the argument, but seems to make a reasonable case for the proposition that "gun-free zones" are at greater risk of attack.
President Obama was eating his morning waffles. "I sure love waffles," he said to no one in particular.
His aide rushed into the room. "Sir, Iran has--"
"Why can't I just eat my waffle?" Obama asked angrily.
"Sir, there is a crisis and--"
"Can you not see the waffle I am eating? You will wait until my waffle is gone to talk to me! I'm the president!"
Obama took another bite. "I sure love waffles. I guess its the shape I like best. The waffle shape."
"Maybe you should just eat your waffles instead of talking about them so we can get to business," the aide suggested.
"Don't tell me how to eat my waffles!" Obama screamed. "I'm the president!" He then muttered to himself, "Dumb cracker." He looked back to the waffles. "Mmm... waffles!"
In case you're wondering what brought this on, read here.
Domestically: this is Blll Ayers. (Slate link.) Get to know the lad; you’ll be hearing more. In today’s paper I read a brief excerpt of a Chicago Tribune defense, taken from an editorial called “Guilt by Association” :First, you have to wonder why ABC News thought it was a good idea to have George Stephanopoulos, who was one of President Bill Clinton's highest-ranking aides, serve up questions at a debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Because we’ve been told that members of the network media are above partisan concerns?Second, you have to wonder why Stephanopoulos, who has been resurrected as a television commentator, thought to ask Obama about . . . Bill Ayers.
Because of Mr. Ayers’ illustrious past as a domestic bomb-planter, perhaps. Strange as it may seem some people have a few questions.Obama knows Ayers, a former radical and member of the Weather Underground who is now an academic in Chicago. They met years ago. They served together on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago, which provides money for anti-poverty efforts.
These are magic words, meant to inoculate: Academic. Anti-poverty efforts. You may believe that an “academic” is someone devoted to a disinterested pursuit of truth bravely following logic down the harrowing corridors where ideology is the first casualty; you may also be a freshman in college with your tuition paid by your parents. There’s a touching naïvete about the description of Ayers as a college professor, as if that means he has entered a realm of pipe-smoking rumination about Truth and Beauty. Doesn’t that make him an Authority? Aren’t we supposed to question Authority? Note to Dick Cheney: get yourself to the Department of Political Science at the U of Wyoming, and watch those calls for war-crime prosecutions melt away. The editorial also notes that it's difficult to move in Chicago academic circles and not encounter Ayers, and no doubt truck drivers and housewives and guys heading to the office on the train nodded in agreement: boy, true dat.
The editorial continues:So we're going to side with Mayor Richard Daley on this one. "There are a lot of reasons that Americans are angry about Washington politics. And one more example is the way Sen. Obama's opponents are playing guilt by association, tarring him because he happens to know Bill Ayers."
Actually, I think this is an example of Chicago politics, but we’re not supposed to be angry about that. At least it’s good to know that “guilt by association” is off the table, and McCain needn’t fear any photos of him in the same room with Trent Lott. The mayor continues:
"I don't condone what he did 40 years ago but I remember that period well. It was a difficult time, but those days are long over.”
It was a difficult time. What a wonderful absolution. Oh, we all went a little mad. Some of us listened to Steppenwolf, some of us bombed government buildings and plotted robberies that killed people, some of us were rotting in Vietnamese prisons having our teeth bashed out by torture experts. Those days are behind us now, best forgotten. (Unlike the McCarthy era, which will be the subject of 163 movies about the blacklist next year, bringing the total to 45,203.)
You know, it may be hard to find a candidate who doesn’t belong to a church whose leader delivers eyebrow-singing speeches on the evils of America and also built a house Jim Bakker would approve, and it may be hard to find a candidate who doesn’t move with ease in the same social circles as some people who bombed the Pentagon, but it can’t be that hard to find one who doesn’t do both.
If these positions – serial killers shouldn’t be fat or given holiday parties; religiously-inflected science is empirically suspect; religious identity should not trump national identity automatically in a news story; one ought not shrug at an association with previously romantic terrorists who did naughty things in a “difficult time” because they’re academics now – if these positions are dismissed as “right wing positions,” well, I thought the same thing when I voted for Carter. Of course, I could have been insane then, unable to grasp the delicate nuances of a complex world. The ground ever moves beneath our feet, doesn’t it.
Who is El Sayyid Nosair?
Well, I know him. I spent an awful lot of time around him. I know all about his background. So what if, upon being asked that question, I told you, “Oh, Sayyid — yeah, he’s an engineering student from Egypt who became a mechanic for the New York State courts.”
You might respond, “Wait a second. Wasn’t he the guy who murdered Meir Kahane (founder of the Jewish Defense League) in front of a room full of people at some hotel in Manhattan?”
“Oh, that. Yeah, well — but that was nearly 20 years ago.”
“And didn’t he, like, shoot a 70-year-old man who tried to block him from getting away?”
“… And then shoot it out on the street with a cop while about a thousand people buzzed around?”
“Technically speaking, it was a postal police officer, but I take your point.”
“Wasn’t Nosair pals with that big red-headed Egyptian guy whose picture they used to show on TV all the time?”
“Sure, Mahmud Abouhalima. He was a cabdriver from Brooklyn.”
“A cabdriver from Brooklyn? Wait a second. I remember this now. This Mahmud guy was here on some immigration scam, right?”
“Well, ‘scam’ is such a divisive term. He was legally in our country: he had a work permit under the Agricultural Workers Program.”
“Agricultural worker? In Brooklyn?”
“Er, yes, okay, but that just underscores that we have to do something to bring these people out of the shadows — ”
“Hold on. Didn’t Mahmud end up bombing the World Trade Center? Didn’t he work for that blind sheikh who kept telling everyone to kill all the Americans?”
“You mean Omar Abdel Rahman. Well, actually, he was a doctor of Islamic jurisprudence graduated from one of the world’s great universities — became a professor and a renowned expert in Muslim law. I don’t know why you keep dwelling on ancient history that distracts us from the real issues …”
Such inanity is not far from last week’s Philadelphia debate, when ABC’s George Stephanopoulos displayed the audacity of hope that Barack Obama might try to explain his friendly relationship with Bill Ayers, a terrorist.
A terrorist, Stephanopoulos elaborated, who bombed the Pentagon and the United States Capitol, among other targets.
The T-word, though, would not pass Obama’s lips.
Look, he responded, “this is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who’s a professor of English in Chicago.”
Sure he is: A professor of English … who professes that his bombings weren’t really terrorism because he was merely seeking “to educate” — and if, during the, er, lessons, “the bastards” finally got “what was coming to them,” so be it.
The Candidate of Hope seamlessly mixed pathetic understatement with bald lying and, naturally, righteous indignation. Ayers, whom Obama carefully cultivated as a young “community organizer” in sharp-elbowed Chicago politics, was not someone he had “received some official endorsement from.” No, of course not. Ayers and his wife (and fellow terrorist) Bernadine Dohrn merely launched his political career by hosting his coming out fundraiser in 1995 — an imprimatur that credentialed the up-and-coming Obama in the hard Left circle where he remains most comfortable.
Ayers, Obama added with Clintonian flair, is “not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis.” Well, Senator, it all depends on what the definition of “regular” is, doesn’t it?
Ayers and Obama most certainly did exchange ideas. Like on the importance of not jailing young criminals. Like on who should get the money they were jointly in charge of doling out when they served together on the board of the Woods Fund, a Leftist charitable foundation: The beneficiaries included Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity Church (a cauldron of bigotry to which Woods awarded $6,000 expressly as homage to church member Barack Obama), and the Arab American Action Network co-founded by Rashid Khalidi, a long-time admirer of Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian “resistance” — or, as Obama might put it, a professor of Arab studies.
Yes, Obama whined to Stephanopoulos, “the notion that … me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values, doesn’t make much sense.”
Actually, Senator, it makes perfect sense. Yes, the bombings happened many years ago, but the seething hatred of America that inspired them lingers still. Indeed, it lingered for all to see on September 11, 2001 — when America’s latest terror nightmare became the fitting stage for Ayers’s brazen taunt that he regrets only his failure to carry out more bombings. America, he told the New York Times, still makes him want “to puke.”
Obama didn’t cut him off at that point, and why would he? Anyone who knew Ayers and spent any time around him had to know exactly where Ayers stood. Nothing Ayers told the Times could have surprised Obama. The unrepentant terrorist was simply reflecting the worldview that makes the hard Left the hard Left.
It’s the hard Left Obama comes from. That’s why he’s got the most liberal voting record in the United States Senate.
Here in 2008, the point is not that we should hold Obama accountable for “detestable acts” Ayers committed decades ago.
It’s that the vision which drove Ayers to savagery back then — a revolutionary vision “progressives” have vaporously relabeled “social justice” — is the same vision to which he still clings: the vision of a racist, imperious, exploitative America in need of upheaval. A vision we have every reason to think Obama, the Agent of Change, shares.
In the alternative, you could, I suppose, just tell yourself that Obama — a star at Harvard Law School who has risen like a meteor to a seat in the United States Senate and the verge of his party’s presidential nomination — somehow managed the feat despite being utterly clueless. Perhaps he looks at Ayers and really does see an English teacher, looks at Wright and sees only your average Christian pastor.
The question then becomes, are you comfortable with a president who looks at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and thinks, “Oh yeah, he’s that engineering student who was mayor of Tehran”?
Some readers seem to assume I want to argue in favor of intelligent design, and have sent me various arguments against the hypotheses. I can't imagine where they get the notion that I have any such need -- and in particular that I have any need of arguments that are made daily nearly everywhere. I'm familiar with them.
I have neither defended nor tried to refute the intelligent design hypothesis. What I have said is that if the intelligent design hypothesis generates falsifiable theorems then it is at least potentially useful. In particular, some intelligent design theorists have postulated that the Darwinians cannot explain how certain structures of "irreducible complexity" were able to evolve through natural selection: what were the steps, and how each step did not add a reproductive burden (and ideally would convey a reproductive advantage).
In some cases these challenges have resulted in rather detailed theories from the Darwinians. To the extent that these generate falsifiable hypotheses, this is all to the good, increasing our understanding of how natural selection works; and to the extent that these intelligent design assertions have shown the Darwinians that they don't understand how some features might evolve, that is all to the good as well. It never harms to know that there are limits to the utility of current theories.
Now I am aware that there are some "intelligent design theorists" who seem to be naive creationists incapable of following a scientific argument or appreciating evidence. What I don't know is how that is a refutation of intelligent design? I have heard high school physics teachers try to explain the basic quantum two-slit theory in terms that ought to have their students rolling on the floor. So what? Niven long ago observed that there is no cause so noble that it will not be espoused by fuggheads -- and that the fuggheads will often get all the press, making the cause look as if only fuggheads are in favor of it.
As to teaching "intelligent design" in schools, it doesn't happen often. The real question is who shall decide? Local school boards, or experts? And be very careful how you answer, because there are a number of propositions of far greater practical import, such as IQ, and phonics vs. "whole word" methods of teaching children to read English, and such like that have been imposed from above by the experts on the grounds that local bumpkins shouldn't have control since we, the experts, know what the right answers are; and we don't want public money wasted on teaching nonsense like phonics, and having children learn the addition and multiplication tables when every expert knows that The New Math, or Fuzzy Math, is a far, far better way to teach arithmetic... And that it is far more important to have diversity in history textbooks than to have very much about the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Etc.
So long as the idea of scientific method -- the generation and testing of falsifiable hypotheses -- is shown, I don't have any great worries that bright kids won't figure out their own answers to matters like intelligent design; and I don't really care if my auto mechanic believes in his heart of hearts that he was divinely created and endowed by his creators with certain inalienable rights as opposed to his having evolved from bonobos without attention from his creator. I do worry that he knows how to read the output of the computer test equipment, and that he can figure out what the funny squeak is.
What I don't understand is the passion on suppressing intelligent design in the name of science. Some readers are convinced that the end of the Republic is at hand if one school district, anywhere, decides to mandate intelligent design as an alternative to Darwinian Evolution. Given that the entire state of California forbade the teaching of English as a phonetic language for more than a dozen years, and still has very few teachers who understand how to teach that, which is the greater danger?
Mandating the "correct" position and requiring local schools to adopt that is a more dangerous principle than teaching an alternative to Darwin, without regard to whether Darwin is "really true" and belief in Darwin is so fragile that teaching an alternative would undermine belief in Natural Selection. I am not convinced that there is a school district that would teach "flat earth" as an alternative to the conventional wisdom, but if there were, I do not think the republic would fall if that were allowed. There would be ridicule and merriment and mirth, but I doubt the consequences would be much greater than that.
I suspect that too many readers have far too much confidence in our ability to shape beliefs in the public schools -- and too little in the education bureaucracy's abilities to undermine all learning in those schools.
" That's an email from . . . Michael Yon, who knows his Mosul. Here's the story on last weekend's violence. Still, they're different: One has crooked officials, violent gangs with their hooks into government and law enforcement, and a culture of corruption that has resisted the central government's effects to clean it up, and the other is a city in Iraq.
Here's the headline about Chicago: 36 people shot, 9 die, during weekend in Chicago
Monday, April 21, 2008
Sunday, April 20, 2008
True statement, despite having come from Hillary: "MoveOn didn't even want us to go into Afghanistan"
"Justice, not terror"
Our leaders are under tremendous pressure to act in the aftermath of the terrible events of Sept. 11th. We the undersigned support justice, not escalating violence, which would only play into the terrorists' hands:
In bringing terrorists to justice, the U.S. must commit to protecting innocent civilians everywhere and ending the cycle of violence....
To combat terrorism, we must act in accordance with a high standard that does not disregard the lives of people in other countries. If we retaliate by bombing Kabul and kill people oppressed by the Taliban dictatorship who have no part in deciding whether terrorists are harbored, we become like the terrorists we oppose. We perpetuate the cycle of retribution and recruit more terrorists by creating martyrs.
Please do everything you can to counsel patience as we search for those responsible. Please ensure that our actions reflect the sanctity of human life everywhere. Thank you.
If that sounds like support for the war in Afghanistan, you are on serious drugs.
If the words "swift" and "boat" must be combined and turned into a verb, then let us insist on its proper use. The word as a verb originates from the campaign undertaken in 2004 by the Swift Boat Veterans in response to the John Kerry presidential candidacy. The word means, or should mean, the exposure of a fraudulent autobiography of one seeking political office or public influence. It is the correction of a personal and professional record that has been selectively and dishonestly compiled, as the Swift Vets did so effectively to that of John Kerry.
Although swiftboating may be a neologism, there are other recent examples of this phenomenon. Justus Reid Werner, in a seminal Commentary article, exposed the fraudulent life story created by Edward Said to advance his political agenda. Dan Rather's macho claims to be an "ex-marine", when he did not finish marine basic training, were also revealed to be fraudulent. This is swiftboating in its truest sense.
The Left is now redefining and, therefore, misusing the term swiftboating, and this misuse has become one of the many notable aspects of the 2008 presidential campaign. Democratic candidates and their partisans in the blogosphere use this word to mean smearing their candidates for public office with lies and innuendo. For some blog sites, the word is now synonymous with "screeds," the "politics of smear and fear," and "character assassination of proven effectiveness." Recently, some candidates have angrily declared that they will not be swiftboated.
Every time that a candidate today complains of being smeared by calling it swiftboating, he seeks the same exoneration or immunity that this redefined word gives to John Kerry, and, perversely, that candidate reinforces the false impression that the Swift Vets did something dishonorable in their campaign against John Kerry and in Vietnam years ago.
This clever manipulation of the meaning of words and its exoneration of John Kerry has much broader implications. In the 1970s John Kerry led a high profile movement that not only defamed American servicemen as crazed killers, but Kerry and his real "band of brothers" also successfully pushed policies that had truly genocidal consequences in Southeast Asia. To exonerate John Kerry is to exonerate his movement and all who participated in it for their role in the genocide. It is to whitewash all of them from the consequences of their actions. (It also, peremptorily, excuses them of their behavior in the current war.) For them, to raise issues or to expose these facts is now to be summarily dismissed as swiftboating in this newly pejorative sense. So, down the memory hole is flushed another sad chapter authored by John Kerry and his ilk. Oh well, they were only a few million Asians; and history is conveniently sanitized.
John Kerry and the movement that he led have demanded and, for the most part, received a free pass for over a generation. They even had the effrontery to demand a memorial celebrating the "bravery" of their movement back here in the United States where they so heroically endured the hardships of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. In 2004 the Swift Vets made them pay a little for that otherwise free pass by setting a small part of the record straight. This is the meaning of swiftboating, and we should demand more of it. All we have to lose are the dishonest autobiographies from our self-serving political class.
Movie stars, singers, sports stars, and other entertainment celebrities
CEOs who head “politically correct” companies.
Finally, Congress should take a look at the salaries of officeholders who run for higher office.
Mookie" Sadr, who they and the rest of the MSM declared the winner in Basra, is fading away.
Via Belmont Club
Despite the apparent concession of Basra, Mr. Sadr issued defiant words on Saturday night. In a long statement read from the loudspeakers of his Sadr City Mosque, he threatened to declare “war until liberation” against the government if fighting against his militia forces continued.
But it was difficult to tell whether his words posed a real threat or were a desperate effort to prove that his group was still a feared force, especially given that his militia’s actions in Basra followed a pattern seen again and again: the Mahdi militia battles Iraqi government troops to a standstill and then retreats.
Why his fighters have clung to those fight-then-fade tactics is unknown.
The problem for the Left is their certainty. When they are united, their voices are virtually he only ones heard and no rational alternatives are explored. That was the case in Basra. The Iraqi army meeting resistance was immediately interpreted and trumpeted as a defeat - it was virtually willed as a defeat. To the Left it MUST be a defeat for the Iraqi government because for it to be a victory, it would imply that the Iraqi army is now capable of taking on a real fight. It would imply that the US military is actually succeeding in training the Iraqi army to stand up to the militants. It would mean that we are succeeding which - to the Left - is simply not a possible outcome to the war in Iraq. The war has been declared lost and winning is simply unthinkable.
One of the reasons the Fall of the Berlin Wall came as such a surprise to the Western intelligensia is that they had dismissed Ronald Reagan's strategy as a losing one. Therefore no one was more astounded than the newspapers when the former Soviet Union collapsed. Like Sadr's pathetic retreats, it wasn't supposed to be that way. None of this is to say that the US War on Terror, which has had committed many mistakes, should be compared to Reagan's push. But surely it is rational to argue that it has gotten some things right.
Dali once famously said “The difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad.” Something similar could be said for the differences between the Obama on the stump and Obama the real person. This became abundantly clear last night when the largest campaign crowd yet – more than 35,000 by most estimates – thronged to the park in front of Independence Hall to hear the probable/potential/possible next President of the United States chant his “hope and change” mantra while totally ignoring the reality of a man whose past associations include an incredible group of hate mongering anti-Americans, racist pastors, crooked “fixers,” and “politics as usual” politicians who give the lie to his pretty words and noble sentiments:“In four days, you get the chance to help bring about the change that we need right now,” Obama said. “Here in the city and the state that gave birth to our democracy, we can declare our independence from the politics that’s shut us out, let us down, and told us to settle.”
And he blasted Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, his rival for the party’s nomination, even as he called her “a tenacious opponent and a committed public servant.” She is the front-runner in Pennsylvania, as Obama acknowledged last night, even though he leads her nationally.
“She’s taken different positions at different times on issues as fundamental as trade and even war to suit the politics of the moment,” Obama said. “And in the last few months, she’s launched what her campaign calls a ‘kitchen sink’ strategy of negative attacks, which she defends by telling us that this is what the Republicans would do.”
The crowd – the estimate of 35,000 came from officials at the Independence Visitors Center – began assembling early, filling Independence Mall and spilling into the surrounding streets. They waited with relative patience, chanting “O-ba-ma” whenever the music stopped, until 8:45, when the rally finally started. They gave him a thunderous greeting and cheered often throughout a speech that was crafted with the setting in mind.
That’s only the half of it. Marc Ambinder reports on what happened after the rally was over:It wasn’t so much that Barack Obama had real fight in him tonight, or that more people attended his rally in front of Independence Hall than any other event since he announced his candidacy. It was the spontaneous demonstration of support that happened when it ended.
5,000 people (at least) had nowhere to go but up Market Street. Obama’s charge of the night: “Declare independence!” was with them. They started with the familiar “O-Bam-A.” By 7th and Market, they had graduated to “Yes we can!” By 10th and Market, with hundreds streaming in between cars on the road, they were just cheering. At first, a few Philly cops, killjoys, tried to rough the crowd to the sidewalks. It didn’t work. The cops retreated to the sidewalks. By the time I ducked into my hotel, a full mile away from Independence Park, the Obama crowd was still marching.
Have we become so cynical that despite all the evidence to the contrary – his lack of any track record in effecting change (even eschewing opportunities to do so when the presented themselves), his accepting help from politicians who practice the very kind of politics he rails against, his association with people who have no desire to “unite” the country, only tear it down – that so many would become besotted with “Obamamania” that they deliberately look the other way at this hypocrisy coming from their candidate?
This disconnect became all too visible the last few days as left wing blogs supporting Obama were beside themselves over the efforts by ABC debate moderators Charlie Gibson and George Stephenopolous to pull back the curtain and reveal Obama as the hypocrite he truly is. Their primary beef with ABC? The moderators asked questions the candidate didn’t want to answer and his supporters didn’t want to hear. As long as the press coverage limits itself to the “issues,” only the Obama on the stump will be highlighted. As long as the press reports on the incredible crowds, the adoring fans, the candidate’s rhetorical gifts (not “issues” in any sense of the word but hey! – no one ever accused the left of being consistent about anything), Obama’s Legions are satisfied.
But let the press actually do their jobs and ask the candidate why he is on a first name basis with someone who is “proud” he tried to blow up the Pentagon and the crap hits the fan in Obamaland. Any attempt to reveal the life Obama has led outside of politics isn’t relevant. Not because it has nothing to do with why someone would cast their vote for their candidate – an incredibly stupid assumption that bespeaks an ignorance of why people vote – but simply because they don’t want to know and more importantly, they don’t want the rest of us to know.
Read the rest.
Former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges (author of American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America) has a thought-provoking Op Ed in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. He's fed up with the left for having sold out to "respectability" and to corporatism. And, in a charming echo of such conservative luminaries as Dobson, Coulter, and Buchanan, he's urging principled leftists to walk away from whoever the Democratic Party candidate is and support third party candidates:The failure of the American left is a failure of nerve. It has been neutralized and rendered ineffectual as a political force because of its refusal to hold fast on core issues, from universal, single-payer, not-for-profit health care for all Americans, to the steadfast protection of workers' rights, to an immediate withdrawal from the failed occupation of Iraq to a fight against a militarized economy that is hollowing the country out from the inside.
Let the politicians compromise. This is their job. It is not ours. If the left wants to regain influence in the nation's political life, it must be willing to walk away from the Democratic Party, even if Barack Obama is the nominee, and back progressive, third-party candidates until the Democrats feel enough heat to adopt our agenda. We must be willing to say no. If not, we become slaves.
It's an entertaining read. And for reasons more strategic than principled, I have to agree with Hedges that it's a shame that so many leftists have sold out for respectability and corporatism.
Let the Left be the Left. Let Obama unload his real thoughts. The people will then flock to him and he'll be elected in a landslide!!!!
Even though Ben Stein’s Expelled was released on over a thousand screens and Morgan Spurlock’s Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden? was released on 102, Expelled still managed to pull in three-times the business in the all-important per theatre average and come in at #8 overall.
With some entertaining and informative commentary. Scroll down.
From Hot Air by Ed Morrissey
But in a way, this is all secondary to the real issue of the film: academic intolerance. The debate over ID vs Darwinism sets the table for a truly disturbing look at academia. Science should be about the free debate and research of ideas and hypotheses for duplicable results and provable theorems. However, as the examples Stein and the film provide amply show, the Darwinist academic establishment will brook no dissent from the orthodoxy — and scientists have to be shown with hidden faces to speak to the issue for the film.
Amusingly, Stein asks people how the first cell came to be. None of the scientists could give him a straight answer. Dawkins himself admits he doesn’t know and that no one else does, either — but postulates that aliens could have brought life to this planet, and then postulates that another alien civilization could have brought life to that planet, and so on. He then concedes that one entity could have been the original source … but insists that entity could not possibly have been God. For this he gives absolutely no evidence at all, relegating it as a belief system somewhat akin to Scientology.
From Comic Log we get an "open mind?????" Not having seen the movie he simply wonders how wacky it is!
I haven't seen "Expelled" yet, so it's hard for me to judge how wacky the movie really is, but plenty of other folks are already weighing in.
Yes, that's the one, scientific way to look at controversial ideas. By the way, Richard Dawkins - atheist supreme -
Richard Dawkins, in the end of the movie, was given an uninterrupted period of time to hang himself was an interesting section. Without prompting or twisting, Dawkins said that he believes an INTELLIGENT race from another planet may have started a carefully DESIGNED cell on the earth that evolved into all life.Dawkins will not believe in God but does believe in little green men.
Ben Stein on Glenn Beck's show about Intelligent Design.
Bill O'Reilly and Ben Stein on Intelligent Design
CNN personality Richard Quest was busted in Central Park early yesterday with some drugs in his pocket, a rope around his neck that was tied to his genitals, and a sex toy in his boot, law-enforcement sources said.
Scroll down for fun reading. All is explained and you will know more about this episode than you ever wanted to know.
Every four years, we’re told that this is the most important election since a caveman asked for a show of hands. So some skepticism seems warranted when we hear the same refrain this year.
But then there’s the question of the Supreme Court. And here, at least for me, skepticism melts away into real anxiety, even panic.
Consider the stunning decision handed down from the Supreme Court this week.
The court ruled that the state of Kentucky may continue to use lethal injections when administering the death penalty. But that’s not what’s shocking. Nor was it surprising that for the first time Justice John Paul Stevens admitted he thinks the death penalty is unconstitutional.
What is staggering, or at least should be, is that Stevens freely admits that he no longer considers “objective evidence” or even the plain text of the Constitution determinative of what is or isn’t constitutional: “I have relied on my own experience in reaching the conclusion that the imposition of the death penalty” is unconstitutional.
Justice Antonin Scalia, in a blistering response, justifiably exclaimed that, “Purer expression cannot be found of the principle of rule by judicial fiat.”
I say “justifiably” rather than “accurately” because I think we hear purer expressions of the principle that “good” judges are those who make it up as they go along all the time. Consider Barack Obama. The Democratic front-runner and former lecturer on constitutional law at the University of Chicago has explained his thinking toward judicial appointments thus: “We need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom, the empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old — and that’s the criteria by which I’ll be selecting my judges.”
When defending his vote against Justice John Roberts’ confirmation, Obama explained that the standard for a justice must be “one’s deepest values, one’s core concerns, one’s broader perspectives on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one’s empathy.”
Now that is a pure expression of the principle of judicial fiat.
Indeed, by Obama’s own words the best justices are those who will most shamelessly violate their own oath of office.
Supreme Court justices must “solemnly swear that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent on me as a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States under the Constitution and laws of the United States, so help me God.”
Note the bit about doing right to poor and rich alike. Feeling sorry for the poor guy who violates the Constitution or the law has no role in how a Supreme Court justice is supposed to make a decision. Legislators can write laws based on empathy. They can invoke their pet theories about “how the world works.” They can even, as Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsberg are fond of doing, consult foreign laws and court decisions in their efforts to make a more perfect union. But Supreme Court justices are supposed to decide what the written law requires, not pick winners and losers based upon some sense of noblesse oblige. That’s why all of those statues of Lady Justice show her standing blindfolded, not bent over kissing the boo-boos of the unfortunate and the downtrodden.
In a very real sense, this election year we face the question: Do we want to live in a monarchy or a nation of laws? Is this to be a country where justices serve as a reliable backstop against encroachments upon the constitutional order, or is this to be a country where the most undemocratic branch of government serves as the tip of the spear for such intrusions?
Five of the last seven presidents have been Republicans at least nominally committed to appointing conservative justices. Some have fallen short in that department (though not President George W. Bush), which is why the Supreme Court today hangs in the balance. John McCain could conceivably make the mistake of appointing a Souter or a Stevens or some other justice who sees the Constitution as an ink blot. But the key difference between McCain and his Democratic rivals is that he promises not to appoint such justices. Clinton and Obama consider it among their top priorities. That’s at least one reason for saying this is one of the most important elections in a very long time.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Despite the news media’s apparent insistence on clinging to their narrative of defeat and disaster in Basra, Nouri al-Maliki’s operation to restore control of the city to the elected government achieved its major goal today with the fall of the Mahdi militia’s stronghold in the city. An early-morning offensive against the Hayaniyah district of Basra netted dozens of arrests as the central government took control of the area for the first time...
Heh. You know, when times are politically tough, those in the elite media cling to what works for them, their godlessness and defeatism and hatred of their own country and its allies.
The press is not supposed to ask such questions. They are supposed to invite the candidates to expatiate on how generous their health care plans are. Or to allow them to proclaim that "we are the change that we are seeking." Or to once again bash George W. Bush.
Obama fans are upset that ABC News' Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson broke the unwritten rule that you are not supposed to ask Democratic candidates about these things. Associations with unrepentant radicals and comments made to contributors at a San Francisco fund-raiser in a billionaire's mansion are supposed to be kept indoors. Only the face that the candidate wants to place before the public should be seen.
Beliefs that most activist liberals share should be kept under wraps if they are unpopular with most of the voting public. That is how mainstream media have operated for the last generation or more. But not at Philadelphia's Constitution Center on April 16. The rules had changed. And Barack Obama was not well prepared.
If you think the only weapons of jihadis are guns and bombs, you're wrong. They're already using lawsuits to push Sharia law and silence free speech. Last Thursday, PJM's Roger Kimball hosted a conference on “Free Speech in An Age of Jihad: Libel Tourism, “Hate Speech,” and Political Freedom” at the Princeton Club in New York.
A while back, I was struck by the words of Oscar van den Boogaard, a Dutch gay humanist (which is pretty much the trifecta of Eurocool). Reflecting on the Continent's accelerating Islamification, he concluded that the jig was up for the Europe he loved, but what could he do? "I am not a warrior, but who is?" he shrugged. "I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it."
Sorry, it doesn't work like that. If you don't understand that there are times when you'll have to fight for it, you won't enjoy it for long.
Paranoia runs deep
Into your heart it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
Step outta line, the Man come and take you away
Remember the song from Buffalo Springfield (1967)?
This has to be the most paranoid Democrat party in memory as they see a “sure win” in November fade away due to internecine fighting for the nomination between two socialists. One is a money grubbing inveterate liar with an entitlement complex, part of a couple that have made the Presidency a profitable family business. The other is a smooth talking crook/racist/radical from the Chicago political machine who is the dictionary definition of an “empty suit.” Going at it hammer and tongs; and the deliciousness of it is that the Leftists are throwing mud at each other. We have not seen such vicious internecine fighting among Leftists since the Commies and the Nazis battled it out in the street of Germany and the 1930s.
And each side is invoking the most horrible boogie man they can imagine: Karl Rove, who they refer to as “Bush’s brain.”
In a previous post on a 60 Minutes smear of Karl Rove, I mentioned that
"Karl Rove" has begun to be a substitute for accusations of "Nazi" or "Fascist" in the lexicon of many on the Left. You can see it on screeds on blogs as Hillary Clinton is accused of "Karl Rove" tactics or of George Stephanopoulos of being an agent of “Karl Rove” during a Democrat debate.
So now we have the latest iteration of these cynical paranoid fantasies in an attack on Obama by the Hillary camp. Via Ed Morrissey at HOT AIR:
We could see this coming for months, and the results should be delicious. Huffington Post writer Tom Edsall reveals that a union has developed an extensive and detailed attack on Barack Obama’s connection with William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, the former Weather Underground terrorists, while at the same time deriding it as “McCarthyism”. How do they square that circle? They wrap it into a cautionary message that asks, “What will Karl do?”
A high-ranking labor supporter of Hillary Clinton is distributing to union leaders and to Democratic strategists a document detailing the radical activities of Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, two former members of the ’70s group the Weather Underground, who decades later, in Chicago, crossed paths with Barack Obama.
The document - a three-page emailed essay by Rick Sloan, communications director for the International Association of Machinists as Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) — takes both literary and political license to outline what Sloan believes would be the thrust of a hypothetical Republican campaign against Obama focusing on his tangential connection to Ayers and Dohrn.
The goal of the essay appears to be to discredit Obama as the prospective Democratic presidential nominee. …
Sloan contends that the purpose of his document is to outline what he conjectures will be the tactics of Republican operative Karl Rove, an informal adviser to John McCain’s campaign, if Obama is the nominee. The title of Sloan’s paper is: “What Is Rove Up To?”
Meanwhile, the real Karl Rove can sit on the sidelines while the Democrats diminish themselves at the speed of light in an orgy of hypocrisy. That’s what this really is — a way to campaign hard while blaming others for the damage it causes, as hypocritical an effort as one will ever see in politics.
All we can say is, “Rove, you magnificent bastard!” — and ask when we can get our WWKD wristbands and bumper stickers.
Is it paranoia on the part of Hillary's operatives or are they just feeding the paranoid fantasies of the gullible Leftists who are in charge of the Democrat nominating process? My guess is number 2, but I have not had so much fun in years.
Reporters don’t like it when you pick on their anointed candidate. Joe Klein sums up in the Washington Post.
Instead, we are supposed to be terribly interested in the 22nd iteration of their stands on global warming (against), Iraq (against), government controlled healthcare (for), taxes (higher) and other issues that are part of the Left’s agenda.
And woe to the reporter that breaks these rules. But back to Powerline, they refer to this scenario:
Peter Werner in Commentary:
Consider this thought experiment: Assume that a conservative candidate for the GOP nomination spent two decades at a church whose senior pastor was a white supremacist who uttered ugly racial (as well as anti-American) epithets from the pulpit. Assume, too, that this minister wasn’t just the candidate’s pastor but also a close friend, the man who married the candidate and his wife, baptized his two daughters, and inspired the title of his best-selling book.
In addition, assume that this GOP candidate, in preparing for his entry into politics, attended an early organizing meeting at the home of a man who, years before, was involved in blowing up multiple abortion clinics and today was unrepentant, stating his wish that he had bombed even more clinics. And let’s say that the GOP candidate’s press spokesman described the relationship between the two men as “friendly.”
Do you think that if those moderating a debate asked the GOP candidate about these relationships for the first time, after 22 previous debates had been held, that other journalists would become apoplectic at the moderators for merely asking about the relationships? Not only would there be a near-universal consensus that those questions should be asked; there would be a moral urgency in pressing for answers. We would, I predict, be seeing an unprecedented media “feeding frenzy.”
The truth is that a close relationship with a white supremacist pastor and a friendly relationship with an abortion clinic bomber would, by themselves, torpedo a conservative candidate running for president. There is an enormous double standard at play here, one rooted in the fawning regard many journalists have for Barack Obama. They have a deep, even emotional, investment in his candidacy. And, as we are seeing, they will turn on anyone, even their colleagues, who dare raise appropriate and searching questions–the kind journalists are supposed to ask. The reaction to Stephanopoulos and Gibson is a revealing and depressing glimpse into the state of modern journalism.
Of course these people are not just the dinosaurs of the old media, they are rabid denizens of the new.
JOHN F. HARRIS & JIM VANDEHEI comment on this issue in the Politico: Obama's secret weapon: the media. They assert:
The shower of indignation on Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos over the last few days is the clearest evidence yet that the Clintonites are fundamentally correct in their complaint that she has been flying throughout this campaign into a headwind of media favoritism for Obama.
Last fall, when NBC’s Tim Russert hazed Clinton with a bunch of similar questions — a mix of fair and impertinent — he got lots of gripes from Clinton supporters.
But there was nothing like the piling on from journalists rushing to validate the Obama criticisms and denouncing ABC’s performance as journalistically unsound.
The response was itself a warning about a huge challenge for reporters in the 2008 cycle: preserving professional detachment in a race that will likely feature two nominees, Obama and John McCain, who so far have been beneficiaries of media cheerleading.
Moreover, those questions about Jeremiah Wright, about Obama’s association with 1960s radical William Ayers, about apparent contradictions between his past and present views on proven wedge issues like gun control, were entirely in-bounds. If anything, they were overdue for a front-runner and likely nominee.
If Obama was covered like Clinton is, one feels certain the media focus would not have been on the questions, but on a candidate performance that at times seemed tinny, impatient and uncertain.
The difference seems clear: Many journalists are not merely observers but participants in the Obama phenomenon.
The authors disuss four trends in reoprting; the first:
The breakdown of journalistic conventions about point of view. In an earlier era these standards — favoring austere, stoical language conveying voice-of-God authority — were designed in part to ensure that stories betrayed no hint of the writer’s real feelings.
But the convention was a pretense. There is a generally laudable move toward more conversational — and more candid — language in stories. This shift allows a respected pro like the Associated Press’s Ron Fournier to unsheathe a knife and write this sentence earlier this year about Mitt Romney: “The former Massachusetts governor pandered to voters, distorted his opponents' record and continued to show why he's the most malleable — and least credible — major presidential candidate.”
Ah yes, the media assuming the tone of the “Voice of God.” As the authors see it, this has always been a lie, now it’s an obvious lie. Now the biases are revealed for even the most innocent victim of media bias to see.
In the past, news was manufactured in ways that hid the truth of subject “A” and focused like a laser beam on problem “B.” Today, pressies get their panties in a bunch when subject “A” is revealed and happily pile into the media scrum to destroy the poor victim with problem “B.” And if there is a mistake - like the media’s declaration that the Iraqi army was defeated in Basra to take one recent example entirely at random – the subject is forgotten while corrections are made about minor misspellings or wrong answers on the puzzle page.
As suggested by a Samizdata reader called Hugo, I am going to kick off a Friday discussion which takes the following line: "A barrier to people accepting libertarianism is the notion that we'd let people starve in the streets."
I think the contention would be grossly unfair, to put it mildly. Libertarians oppose the welfare state, we do not oppose welfare. That logically means that we support charity, although not necessarily existing charities, many of which have been subsumed by the state. As history has shown, mutual aid and philanthropic societies typically thrive because of, not in spite of, a powerful pro-freedom, pro-free enterprise culture. The belief that we are entitled to pursue our self-interest (so long as it does not involve aggression, theft or fraud) does not clash with the idea that it is good to be generous and helpful to those who have been dealt a crap hand in the cardgame of life.
In fact, the philosopher David Kelley recently wrote a book, which I heartily recommend, saying that feelings of generosity and benevolence towards one's fellow Man are an actual consequence of a society where people feel no shame or guilt about the pursuit of happiness in this life. In many cultures, including the Judeo-Christian one, generosity is a duty that is owed at the command of God. However, in the sense that Kelley and I use it, a generous, friendly approach to our fellows does not have to be commanded because such a trait generates long-term benefits to the giver as well as the recipient. This guy makes a good set of points in a review of Kelley's book. Okay, vicious, grasping people may be happy in the very short run after they have achieved their goals, but they usually have very few friends and often end up getting shunned. And being shunned is not very nice.
Given all this, a society in which every able-bodied person had to work if they had no private income, and where the rise in wealth would be great because of a free market system, is likely to be one in which there would be plenty of people willing to give to charity to help out the infirm, the handicapped, and so on. It also goes without saying that the idea of poor people starving in the streets would be a near-impossibility in a dynamic economy oozing with wealth and ideas.
The one place where starvation of the poor is a likely occurrence, of course, is under collectivism. Just look at the great socialist disasters of the 20th Century.
It's great to see Jeremiah Wright back from retirement now writing Obama's speeches. Or maybe 20 years of 'God Damn America' sermons which Obama accidentally didn't hear infected him anyway. If you're Obama, you go into these towns like San Francisco, and like a lot of other places such as Berkeley and Madison, filled with deranged liberals, whose delusions fell through the "Gore administration" and the "Kerry administration", neither of which actually happened, and each successive campaign has said that somehow liberalism is going to regenerate and it has not. So it's not surprising, then, that libbies get bitter, they cling to abortion or evolution or antipathy to mouth-breathing, six-fingered nukkel-dragin church goh-ing gunn-klinging skripsure-reeding Bibel-thuhmping hiks like me as a way to eksplain theeir own frustrashens.
Oh dear. I deeply regret those remarks. Slip of the lips. I misspoke at 11:00 at night and I was exhausted after campaigning in a combat zone, digging up landmines under sniper fire -- oops, wrong candidate.
To win the blue-collar vote in Pennsylvania, Obama rode his campaign bus for a week and bowled "37". But now he's a renowned authority on small towns because of that bus he rode. (Just like Howard Dean became an authority on the Book of Job, 'the one in the New Testament,' because he read three Bible verses once.) At a fundraiser in the American heartland of San Francisco, the national uniter said that yokels in small towns go to church because the economy is bad and are bitter because they worship God and not liberals and go hunting because they have lousy jobs. And these typical white people are guilty racists.
It's remarks like that which make me bitter. And now, if you'll excuse me, I must clean my evil Smith & Wesson. No, wait. Time to cling to a Bible. I'm so bitter!
Being supposedly the 'greatest' orator since Abraham Lincoln, Obama now says he made a poor choice of words and that he didn’t mean that small-town Americans are gun-toting xenophobes and Jesus freaks, that he really only meant that small-town America is bitter, and that the bitterness drives them to become gun-toting, xenophobes and Jesus freaks, and he also says he deeply regrets if anyone got offended, because branding small-town Americans as bitter gun-toting xenophobes and Jesus freaks was meant in a good way, since "these traditions that are passed on from generation to generation, those are important, that’s what sustains us," so he also stands by his choice of words because he says they’re “true”. Got that?
How do these things get started?
Well, getting smeared on “60 Minutes” is one way.
Since the real Karl Rove is not dead, he has the ability to respond, and when he does, he lands a haymaker.
Dear Mr. Abrams:
On April 7th, you again devoted a substantial part of your show to the claim of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman that I was behind his prosecution. Your continued coverage of this issue raises questions about your journalistic standards and those of MSNBC and NBC. During your broadcast, Mr. Siegelman referred to Ms. Dana Jill Simpson as a “respected Republican political operative,” a reference it seems you accept because of the frequent attention you give her in your broadcasts.
Have you, during your coverage of Ms. Simpson, ever actually looked into her claims? For example, have you ever asked her what campaigns she worked as “an operative” with me?
And if so, did you check out what she said by calling the candidates who were my clients or their campaign managers to ask if she was involved in those campaigns? Did you review campaign expenditure reports to see if her name appeared as a paid operative? Or did you check with the DeKalb County Republican chairman or activists (such as the Moore campaign chairman, an effort she told the Judiciary Committee she was active in) to see if she really was a “respected Republican political operative?”
Did you inquire when it was that I first asked her to undertake unnamed campaign tasks, as she alleged happened in the years before 2001? And did you try to ascertain whether she was telling the truth about those requests?
Did you inquire when and where her supposed 2001 meeting with me took place at which she was asked to follow Siegelman and photograph him? If so, did you make any effort to see if she could document her claim?
And if you were personally convinced by her answers that there was a good likelihood of such a meeting, did you try to figure out if there was any way that I was likely to have been available for such a meeting? Or is it merely enough for her to assert for you to repeat?
Didn’t it strike you as foolish for me to ask someone with no particular experience to undertake a task requiring adroit surveillance and shadowing skills, a mission with such potential to blow up in everyone’s faces?
Then consider Ms. Simpson’s September 14, 2007 interview with the House Judiciary Committee that followed an earlier extensive interview by a Democratic committee lawyer. Did it not bother you Ms. Simpson failed to mention the claim she made to CBS for their February 24, 2008 story that you then repeated on February 25th? After all, wouldn’t that be something Congressman John Conyer’s people would find interesting?
Don’t you find it odd that in 143 pages of testimony in September she said nothing about having worked with me in campaigns, nothing about being asked by me to undertake various tasks, nothing about my supposedly having asked her to follow Governor Siegelman and photograph him in a compromising position, nothing about having had meetings with me? In fact, she never says she knows me or has met me. Don’t you find that odd? Or were these considerations that got lost as you attempted to catch-up with CBS on the story? Did the pressure of competition lead you to discard tough questions and sober reflection?
In fact, did you even read the transcript of Dana Jill Simpson’s testimony? Did you try to ascertain if there was any evidence that would lead a reasonable person to believe the claims she made to the Judiciary Committee staff about Don Siegelman, Terry Butts, Judge Fuller and others were likely to be accurate? Did it matter to you that following the release of her interview, as one observer has written, that “every single person whose name Simpson invokes as she spins her stories says that she is either lying or deluded?” Are you aware that the list of people denying her claims includes Don Siegelman, whom she claims repeatedly urged her to provide her original affidavit?
Did you try to discover whether there was any evidence she did in fact shadow Don Siegelman? Did you ask for travel records, itineraries, or expense reports that showed Ms. Simpson’s travel from Northeastern Alabama matched up with the Governor’s schedule?
Did you ever consider that the Governor’s security detail might have taken note of an ample-sized, redheaded woman who kept showing up at his events with a camera? Did you talk with the Alabama Department of Public Safety?
In fact, did you ever ask her how she attempted to find him in a compromising position? Was it her practice to follow him from his events and shadow him late at night when he was on the road? Peek through hotel windows? Hang out down the hallway from his hotel room? Were you satisfied she actually did what she was supposedly asked to do?
In your February 25th broadcast, she said she had phone records of calls to “Virginia and Washington” that corroborate her charges. Have you made an effort to review those records and ascertain what they point to? Since I lived and worked in Washington, D.C. in 2001, I can’t imagine what her cryptic reference to Virginia could mean. The Bush/Cheney transition office (where I was rarely, working instead in Austin) was in Virginia until late 2000, before the transition was moved to a government building near the White House before year’s end. But what number and who was she calling in Virginia (presumably) later in 2001 when she was being asked to shadow Siegelman? And what were those Washington numbers? Did you ask her? Or was it good enough for you that she said had them so you were content to let the matter drop?
In fact, what did you do to ascertain if anything she told you and that you repeated or relied upon was accurate? Or is it good enough for you to simply repeat her charges without examining them personally to satisfy yourself that she is – and has done – what she says she did?
Does it bother you that your coverage asserts, as Governor Siegelman summarized it in his April 7th appearance on your program, that he is the victim of a vast conspiracy involving two U.S. Attorneys, the Alabama Attorney General, unnamed career officials in the Public Integrity Unit at the U.S. Justice Department, unnamed higher-ups in the Justice Department and, oh yes, Karl Rove and that there is not a single piece of paper, not a single email, not a single conversation, not a single disgruntled career employee who’s came forward, not one credible witness to the workings of the conspiracy?
And do you really believe such a scheme could be operated so efficiently and effectively that it would manipulate the career prosecutor who brought the case so that he did not understand he was doing the bidding of this vast conspiracy? And that the FBI agents who conducted the investigation could similarly be so easily and subtly subverted?
In fact, it seems you believe that the absence of any concrete evidence is itself evidence of the conspiracy. If you don’t have any proof Karl Rove did it, that absence is proof enough. I am that good.
And is it your habit not to challenge a guest, as long as he is following your chosen theme for the night? For example, let’s take your December 13, 2007 broadcast.
Scott Horton said “We don’t have all the links in place but we do know that certainly beginning from 2002, Karl Rove out of the White House was deeply involved in the election of Rob [sic] Riley, structuring it, raising money for it, putting together a strategy for it. A part of that strategy involved the criminal justice system nailing charges, landing charging [sic] on Siegelman on some sort. As we know that it involved at some point, consultation with the Justice Department and also two U.S. Attorneys in Alabama…”
Just how does Mr. Horton know all this “certainly”? Did you ask him what proof he had that I was deeply involved in Congressman Riley’s gubernatorial bid? What evidence does he have that I structured it, raised money for it, put together a strategy for it? What evidence does he have that “my” strategy included indicting Siegelman? With whom and when did I consult with the Justice Department about this “strategy?” When did I consult with the two U.S. Attorneys in Alabama about it? He said, “we do know that certainly” this all happened. If you consider yourself a journalist or even a lawyer, wouldn’t this be the point where you should have asked Mr. Horton, how do you know that, what evidence do you have?
What about you? Did you review campaign spending and news report to identify the Riley campaign consultants or ad team and call them to see if I played a role? Did you do some sleuthing of your own, phoning Republicans in Alabama who might have been in a position to know? Did you call any major donors to Congressman Riley’s gubernatorial bid and ask if they were contacted by me and encouraged to give money? Did you talk with your colleagues in NBC covering the White House and ask them how credible the argument might be that I was serving as the political consultant and campaign manager of a candidate for Governor of Alabama in 2002 while also serving as Senior Advisor to the President of the United States? Or because Mr. Horton’s assertions fit your story line for the night, did you think he didn’t need to prove anything he claimed and you didn’t need to do any work?
As a matter of fact, I had other things to occupy my time in the White House in 2002 rather than “structuring” a campaign for an Alabama gubernatorial candidate, calling people to raise money for his race, and going through the arduous task of “putting together a strategy.” And I certainly didn’t meet with anyone at the Justice Department or either of the two U.S. Attorneys in Alabama about investigating or indicting Siegelman. My involvement in the campaign was to approve a request that the President appear at a Riley campaign fundraising event, one of several score fundraising events the President did that election cycle.
It boils down to this: as a journalist, do you feel you have a responsibility to dig into the claims made by your guests, seek out evidence and come to a professional judgment as to the real facts? Or do you feel if a charge is breathtaking enough, thoroughly checking it out isn’t a necessity?
I know you might be concerned that asking these questions could restrict your ability to make sensational charges on the air, but don’t you think you have a responsibility to provide even a shred of supporting evidence before sullying the journalistic reputations of MSNBC and NBC?
People used to believe journalists were searching for the truth. But your cable show increasingly seems to be focused on wishful thinking, hoping something is one way and diminishing the search for facts and evidence in favor of repeating your fondest desires. For example, while you do ask Siegelman what evidence he had to back up his charges, you did not press him when he said "We don't have the knife with Karl Rove's fingerprints all over it, but we've got the glove, and the glove fits."
The difficulty with your approach is you reduced yourself to the guy in the bar who repeats what the fellow next to him says – “The glove fits! The glove fits!” - only louder, because it suits your pre-selected story line ("Bush Justice") and you don’t want the facts to get in the way of a good fable. You have relinquished the central responsibility of an investigative reporter, namely to press everyone in order to get to the facts. You didn’t subject the statements of others to skeptical and independent review. You have chosen instead to simply repeat something someone else says because it agrees with the theme line your producers slapped on your segment, created the nifty graphic for and promoted in the ads before your appearances.
Who will call him on that?
Glenn Reynolds and the blogosphere, for one.
The MSM? Probably not.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Well, it's politicians' apologies that have been most prominent in the news, in these years of the Permanent Campaign. ...
Except that they seldom actually admit to error, do they? We get a lot of "I misspoke" and "I should have phrased that differently." We get even more "I'm sorry you were offended," which isn't an apology at all but rather a statement deploring an event outside the speaker's control. Only in the rarest of cases will a politician say, plainly and without qualification, "What I said / did was wrong; you were right to be offended by it, and I promise to change my ways."
It's possible to discern a politician's convictions -- or whether he has any at all -- from his actions in office. It's not even particularly difficult. Only the absolute newcomer, never before granted a position of authority, has a record of words alone.
Such as Obama. And his defenders are asking us to judge him on his promises, his words, and ignore his associations and what they reveal about his beliefs.
Any man who's held such a position will have a public record which can be compared to his espoused views...and to whatever apologies he might issue.
In the commonest case, a politician who apologizes for some utterance has expressed his convictions, or lack thereof, with greater accuracy than he intended. The evidence is usually unambiguous from his record. Did he claim that his ideological opponent is a criminal or a traitor? Did he call for taxes as a punitive measure against "the rich," who got where they are by "exploiting the worker?" Did he denigrate gun owners, or Christians, or persons who love their country and prefer that it not be overrun by foreigners who don't love it? He meant it -- probably with more intensity than he dares to expose.
It's not your Curmudgeon's intention this morning to castigate the specific views tabulated above. He'd rather focus on the apology and what it implies about the issuer. Such an apology can be translated as follows: "I didn't expect the negative reaction I'd get by showing my cards this way, and I'd appreciate it greatly if you would all just forget it."
Such a politician lacks the courage of his convictions. He wants the power to act on them, but fears to have them publicized and analyzed beforehand.
Note how frequently politicians vying for higher office object to having their records in office held up for public scrutiny. If they were honestly proud of their stands and deeds, or if it were difficult to divine their beliefs from their records, would they protest as often or as loudly?
Altogether too many politicians would prefer that we accept their words and deeds as the revealed Will of God. This is especially true of their campaign statements and their decisions in power. They're merely bashful about expressing that desire in its fullest and most arrogant form: "I'm smarter and more moral than the lot of you put together, so sit down, shut up, and accept what I give you." When one's mask slips and his moral and intellectual hauteur is unintentionally revealed, he must explain it away somehow before it can cost him what he holds or seeks, yet without actually acknowledging fault. Thus is born the secular theology of political apologetics.
Reuters has been a prime purveyor of the propaganda and lies emanating from the terrorist organizations of the Middle East. In Israel's 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, for example, Reuters was caught disseminating doctored propaganda photos that came to be dubbed fauxtography.
Fauxtography includes staged and falsely captioned photographs, both of which Reuters has also perpetrated on behalf of terrorist organizations in the Middle East. Gaza in particular has been a fertile source of Reuters fauxtography. For a falsely captioned set of photographs disseminated by Reuters from a Gaza hospital, see this. For a staged propaganda photograph of Yasser Arafat at a Gaza hospital, see my own post "He didn't give at the office" and my related Weekly Standard article on Arafat's post-9/11 public relations production.
Earlier this week the 23-year-old photographer Fadel Shana was killed in Gaza during an Israeli military operation. News reports such as this Reuters story and this CBC television report relate the assertion of Gaza doctors that Shana was killed by an Israeli tank round. Shana may have been hit by an Israeli tank shell fired from a tank he was filming at a distance of at least several hundred yards.
We last heard of Shana in the immediate aftermath of the Hezbollah war. In August 2006 we published a series of posts on an alleged Israeli attack on a Reuters vehicle in which Shana was traveling with an employee of an Iranian television network. We doubted that an Israeli missile (or two) hit the vehicle as alleged. Our posts included this, this, and this. Caroline Glick summarized the story involving Shana in "Terrorist theater tricks."
Pat Dollard has posted video that corroborates the Reuters account.
With your Yale Art School degree, the sky's the limit! Our graduates can be found pooping, peeing and bleeding in some of the finest art galleries and warehouse performance spaces from the East Village to Park Slope. But that's only part of the opportunity story for Yale Art alumni. Here are some of the other exciting things you can do:
Spark an intellectual conversation about the
hermeneutic boundaries of gender semiotics, art, and crap
Start a ruckus
Get a part time job at Kinkos for rent money
Return home to live with your wealthy parents for a while
Go back to graduate school at Yale Art
Get a job teaching Art
Liberal talk show host Bill Maher, whose controversial comments about the pope drew fire from the Catholic community, is planning to apologize Friday night for falsely accusing Pope Benedict XVI of being a Nazi, the Catholic League announced Thursday.
People who laugh at this are sick. People who make comments like this are scum.