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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Today's Bible reading is Matthew 21:12-13, King James Version: "And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, 'It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves'."

From their Website "Store" (at FaithandActiondotorg):

Thank you for purchasing your Christian resources at Faith and Action On-Line Judeo-Christian Resource Center. You can directly support Faith and Action by clicking "Support our Ministry" in the upper left, or by visiting us at www.faithandaction.org.

God bless you and God bless our nation!

Dr. Paul Chaim Schenck, Chairman

Rev. Rob Schenck, President

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So, Brethren and Sistren, why would we begin this homily by pointing out the shameless hypocrisy of the Brothers Schenk? (Their home page urges you to check out their "Special Deals For Spring!", I kid you not.) To tell the truth, before yesterday, I had never heard of them. But the Lord Moves in Mysterious Ways, and I happened to have been watching the Senate debate on the filibuster prior to appearing on Nancy Stapp's radio show on KOPT AM 1600 yesterday afternoon.

[NB: The afternoon was a delight, even though one gentleman decided to play "cute" and selectively quote "hate radio" stuff from Randi Rhodes, Mike Malloy, et al, before using the "F"-word and being summarily removed from the air. High moral person, no doubt. Another happy camper objected to MY objection to the potential death of my son in an unjustifiable war-crime called "Iraq." But then, it's always easy to sacrifice someone else's child for your beliefs, isn't it? Civility does NOT apply to the uncivil, so, perhaps it's better that I didn't respond at any length. But, other than that we live in an age of barbarians and bullies claiming to be moral, it was delightful. And that's a segue, kiddies: Moral barbarians .... ]

When I got back, and after dinner, I turned on the television, merely wanting to watch mindless sex and violence on the premium channels before retiring for the evening. But the station was still on CSPAN2, and I found myself watching an astonishingly hateful, self-righteous press conference by a group of Right Wing ministers and their lawyer, representing groups such as "The Christian Defense Coalition" (who, alas, are too cheap or technically incompetent to have a website) and Rob Schenk's website, as cited above.

And I watched, as a cobra is transfixed by a mongoose, as they validated yesterday's blog, point by point, but specifically that this was a PAYBACK for those "activist" judges that had "legislated" Roe v. Wade from the bench in 1973.

One fellow decried the "unelected judge" -- which is, when you think about it, a lie already. Didn't he have to be elected to the federal judiciary by the senate? Oh well, factuality and truth was not in particular evidence amidst all the phony pieties.

And then he screamed about the unelected judge who had overturned the will of "477,000 Nebraska voters" in enshrining bigotry towards gays into the Nebraska Constitution. Oddly enough, then either he or one of his fellows went into a tirade against "abortion, euthanasia and doctor assisted suicide."

Funny. As one of Oregon's millions of voters who had to vote on "Death With Dignity" more than once -- stymied by endless lawsuits brought by just such clerics against OUR will (and yes, I voted FOR it) -- one would think that attempting to overturn our FAR GREATER numbers in that law would cause equal outrage. But then, we weren't "right" were we?

Anyway, this yahoo leading the prayers was one Rob Schenk -- whom I will not dignify with the title "Reverend" after watching his rather UN-Christlike performance, and given his credentials -- in which HE doesn't identify himself with the title.

"Mr. Schenck is a Presbyter (ordained minister) in the Methodist Episcopal Church USA, Mid-Atlantic Conference and an Ordained Member of the Evangelical Church Alliance. He holds a certificate in Bible and Theology from the Buffalo (NY) School of the Bible, a degree in Ministerial Studies from Berean College, Springfield, MO., and a Master of Arts in Christian Ministry from Faith Evangelical Lutheran Seminary, Tacoma, WA. Rob lives in the suburban Washington, D.C. area with his wife, Cheryl, a school-based occupational therapist." (From his bio on the website)

This is his quasi-religious/Right Wing organization in their own words:

"Faith and Action is a Christian outreach whose mission is to to reintroduce the Word of God into the public debate surrounding legislation and policy matters. Our mission field spans Pennsylvania Avenue, from the White House to the U.S. Capitol and the U.S. Supreme Court."

The organization was co-founded by his twin brother, Paul Schenk:

"co-founder and Chairman of Faith and Action in the Nation's Capital. He attended a missionary Bible college, received a seminary degree and was awarded the honorary Doctor of Humanities from Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire. He is a trustee of three colleges, and has taught in Sunday School, Bible College, seminary and university. He is the author and or editor of six books and has published columns in many newspapers, magazines and journals. Before coming to the Washington area, he was Executive Vice President of the American Center for Law and Justice, and before that served as a pastor and Christian educator." [emphasis added]

(ACLJ, from their website, is the: "Law firm founded by Pat Robertson to represent Christians in church-state cases.")

Note the typical Right Wing affinity for endless organizational affiliations and the sleazy manner in which he moves seamlessly between denominations and Right Wing think tanks. AND note that no denomination is given.

But it gets better.

Our buddy Paul (seemingly not in evidence at a VERY sparsely attended press conference) wasn't anywhere to be seen ON camera (probably off selling those Sean Hannity homilies). BUT brother Rob, coincidentally enough, is "President" of "The National Clergy Council," which brother Paul obligingly founded, as well, and serves as its Founder/Chairman, with this partial mission statement:" As you will discover on these pages, our desire is to see Biblical virtues and historical, Christian moral instruction promoted in modern American culture."

And did I mention that our old Buddy, Father Frank Pavone -- he of "Priests for Life" who wangled his way right up to spokesnake status for the Schindler family after the death of Terry Schiavo -- is "an executive member of the National Clergy Council"? as in:

"The Rev. Frank Pavone, an executive member of the National Clergy Council (NCC), was with the Schinlders (sic) during the final visit as well.

"'This is not only a death with all the sadness that brings, this is a killing. And for that we not only grieve that Terri has passed, but we grieve that our nation has allowed such an atrocity as this, and we pray that it will never happen again,' said Pavone to CNN. The President of the NCC, Rev. Rob Schenk, meanwhile said Terri will be remembered as a 'modern martyr' whose death will be redeemed for the greater good." - The Christian Post (whatever that is), March 31, 2005)

So, at the press conference, as they screeched that "unelected judges" were responsible for taking prayer out of the schools, the Ten Commandments out of court buildings, were the cause of abortion, homosexual rights, euthanasia, assisted suicide and every other woe that angers them, they were led by the President of the National Clergy Council. It's not as blatantly stupid as "Christian Defense Alliance" (A ripoff of the JDL, one would imagine), but it's highly misleading.

This is the whole GOP/Radical Right newspeak: create endless associations, organizations, etc. and interlink them so that no one ever realizes that this is just the cornball churchy version of the old shell game. Paul founds the National Clergy Council. Rob is "president" (while Paul remains founder -- and isn't it a bit ODD that his bio mentions that he was a pastor, but neglects to mention the denomination? Rob, on the other hand is with the "Methodist Episcopal Church USA," a rather obscure hyper-conservative sect.

Rob has or had, a three-storey banner on FIA's headquarters stating: "50 Years Under God'(sic -- why God requires an apostrophe is not apparent from the banner) 1954-2004 Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of 'Under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance."

And while Rob has his lovely ministerate from the Methodist Episcopal Church USA, evidently they like to hand out (highly credible no doubt) honorary Doctorates of Divinity in conjunction with the National Clergy Council: "on Jan. 21 [2003], when he stepped onto the campus of Georgetown University to get his honorary degree - a Doctorate of Divinity from National Clergy Council Board of Scholars and the Methodist Episcopal Church USA - it was because of a much more prominent role. Moore happens to be chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court...." -- Matt Kaufman, Focus on the Family

Kaufman doesn't note that Rob brags about being a "personal friend" of Moore, but Schenk certainly does in his recent press releases: "A personal friend and confidant to "the Ten Commandments Judge," former Alabama Chief Justice Roy S. Moore, Mr. Schenck helped organize large-scale demonstrations in support of the public display of the Ten Commandments in Alabama's Judicial Center during the summer of 2003 ... More recently Mr. Schenck was widely seen in the media with his colleague and friend, the Reverend Patrick Mahoney, speaking out against the forced starvation and dehydration of brain injury victim Terri Schiavo. NBC nightly news featured an in-depth report on Mr. Schenck's contribution to the Schiavo debate." He also claims to be a "board member of both the Institute on Religion and Public Policy and the National Pro-Life Religious Council, and holds membership in the National Association of Evangelicals and the Academies of Ministry and of Religion." [2005 Press Release]

"The National Clergy Council and the Mid Atlantic Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church U.S.A. announced today that they will confer the honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree (D.D.) on January 23, 2005 on Deacon Keith A. Fournier for his lifetime service to authentic ecumenical activity."

Oh, and let's not forget the lawyer who argued that Jefferson would want the Ten Commandments displayed in public buildings, "David W. New is an attorney and author in the Washington, D.C. area ... In January 2003, he received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from the Methodist Episcopal Church USA. David is the author of several publications supporting the original intent of the Constitution."

Begin to pick up a pattern?

Here's Schenk's Press Release description of the M.E. Church, USA: "Mr. Schenck is an ordained minister with dual affiliation in the Evangelical Church Alliance, America's oldest continuous association of Evangelical clergy, and the conservative Methodist Episcopal Church that traces its origin to the appearance of evangelical Methodism in Maryland at the end of the eighteenth century." -- 2005 press release

In other words, being a fundamentalist whose philosophy is derived from sources that wouldn't make it as an antique (gotta be more than 100 years old to be an antique), Schenk is obsessed with giving you the antiquity of his (dual) religious affiliation. Which immediately makes me suspicious.

This whole camera-grabbing, false piety, phony martyrdom ("He was arrested at that time for kneeling in front of the famous Ten Commandments monument that was eventually removed by federal court order. Mr. Schenck's organization has filed two Supreme Court briefs on the display of the Ten Commandments." -- ibid.) this whole SCHTICK rings astonishingly false.

And, as pointed out, what's a couple of Commandments among friends?

But when Schenk told the assembled (not very) multitudes (before donning his red sash and leading not one but TWO prayers) that ONE judge, Judge Greer of Florida, had defied the State of Florida, the Congress of the United States and the PRESIDENT(!) to kill Terri Schiavo, well, I seem to recall that lying is prohibited by one of those commandments that Schenk wants to go to jail over.

Greer was reviewed by each appellate level of the Florida judiciary (more than once); and, after the astonishing intervention of Bush, DeLay and Frist (the Three Stooges of The Rule of Law), Greer was reviewed by a federal judge, a federal appellate court, and the appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court of the United States, tacitly affirming the judgment of every court that ever reviewed the case.

So, the National Clergy Council lies to get its way.

Then, Schenk waved a spiral-bound pamphlet in the air, and announced that they were going to be "praying" for the representatives AT ALL LEVELS who weren't of the right mind on their issues.

"We will send this by OVERNIGHT mail," quoth Schenk, "To anyone who wants one." And announced that you should go to their website to order.

But, when I went to the website (24 hours after the event) no such pamphlet was offered. So, I guess he was mistaken or lying. Why was I not surprised that he had promised something that he was unable to deliver on?

Maybe because he stumbled as he said "We've given out ... many of these." One could see "thousands" or "millions" forming, and his split-second debate as to whether to be factual or hyperbolic. Which was what piqued my interest finally. The guy wasn't playing on the up and up.

Even though, he and his twin and bigots like Father Frank Pavone KNOW exactly what God wants, and lead perfect lives, and know the exact and precise answers to all moral questions.

Did he lie again? (They have, speaking of Ten Commandments, twin projects at FIA: one to present every lawmaker with a fake stone reproduction of the Ten Commandments in the original English, and two, a petition to have the USPS issue a "Ten Commandments" stamp featuring Michaelangelo's sculpture of a seated Moses from Pope Julian II's tomb ... if I'm not mistaken. It isn't worth wasting the time to research definitively.)

Who knows? And, frankly, I don't think he cares, as long as he and his fellow fanatic clergymen, our own American Taliban, get their way on the Noo-klee-ar Option, which was the point of the press conference, anyway.

So I don't care, either. Maybe he thought he was telling the truth. Stranger things HAVE happened, after all.

But before we leave these squalid "moralists" to the well of hypocrisy that they so ably inhabit, let's take a moment to talk about the two prayers.

The first prayer was one of those most ANNOYING of prayers wherein the shaman involved (herein denoted by a red sash that he suddenly decided to put on to sanctify himself) pretends to be speaking to God, but is actually preaching to those who are attempting to pray. Were he actually addressing a God who, as he believed, hears his entreaties with an active ear, a bolt of lightning would have most assuredly punctuated the gathering.

And only a steaming little pile of ashes would have remained.

Then, with a bit more histrionics (and before asking a bored media to ask questions), they knelt together on the bare wood floor, in their $400 suits, and, in very uncomfortable voices recited "The Lord's Prayer."

However, the "amen" at the end was evidently insufficient, so Mr. Rob Schenk, he of the barely-masked-religious-hit-list "prayer menu" that isn't available for free, and he of the lying for Jesus sect, and he who wants to get even with "unelected" judges, added another, feeble, "amen."

Thus girding their loins, the assembled moved resolutely forward to shove their religion down our throats and down the throats of our children.

Praise the Lord.
Friday, May 20, 2005

Today's the day: Shootout at the I'm OK, You're Not OK Corral, High Noon, Hatfields v. McCoys, Earps v. Clantons, People v. Larry Flynt.

Well maybe not that last one (That's for later in the year).

And maybe it won't be today. But it will surely come. So it might as well be today.

It is rare but not unusual that the historical forces of an era will coalesce around a single crisis node, but today may well be that day.

Consider: ever since 1973's Roe v. Wade decision, abortion on demand has been the law of the land, catalyzing two powerful movements into absolute opposition. The feminist movement of the 1960s ('70s, actually) against the "Jesus People" movement underground of the same era.

The Women's Movement of that era represented, I believe, the strongest push towards equality since the seventy-year battle for suffrage.

The Women's Suffrage movement began in 1848 with the "Declaration of Sentiments" produced at the first woman's rights convention in Seneca Falls, N. Y. Susan B. Anthony joined the movement in 1852, declaring that "the right women needed above every other...was the right of suffrage."

Wyoming Territory ceded women full political rights in 1869, but stood alone until nearly 1900, when Idaho, Utah and Colorado had joined it. It still took until August 18, 1920 for the Nineteenth Amendment to be ratified, after a whirlwind year from its adoption in Congress on June 6, 1919.

Like many historical movements, the movement towards equality and full rights had gone through periods of great turmoil and fruitless, fallow periods. In many circles -- including my own and in my own mind -- the legalization of abortion represented a fundamental human right: the right of a woman to NOT be a brood mare at the behest of the state; her inalienable right to CHOOSE whether or not to carry a zygote to term.

It was not so much "legislating from the bench" as the final realization of something that had been there all along, only realized at that late date after an odyssey to the appreciation that women were actually people, too, and not chattel, as the current wave of"parental notification" laws attempt to remind us that children remain: property of the husband (and, to and extent, his newly enfranchised wife). But to the Jesus People, this was the true sin, the fall from grace: Roe v. Wade. The apple of temptress Eve.

On the other side, the Jesus People movement emerged during the same period as a religious and social underground. Also known as the "Charismatic Movement" and represented by groups such as the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International (or FGBMFI pronounced by my brother and I as "fug-MA-buf-FEE") the old-line Assembly of God Churches ("Holy Rollers") Charismatic Catholics, the bases of the 700 Club, and Jim Bakker's "Praise the Lord" or PTL (the acronym based on the catch-phrase of the movement), the "Jesus People Movement" tended to be a reaction against the hippies, who were dutifully paraded before approving congregations much as reformed alcoholics had been a staple of tent-revivals a century earlier.

Enraged at the liberalization of society, which they considered satanic and/or demonic, the Jesus People began building an alternate media and reality.

Ironically, the seeds of this battle were planted during Watergate and the fall of "Law and Order" candidate Nixon in the mid-70s. As "The Movement" of the Vietnam Era died out in the aftermath of peace and impeachment, the Women's Movement became the primary social movement of the 1970s, opposed, secretly, by the Jesus People, who loved quoting Paul's letters to the Corinthians about how women should submit to their husbands.

The first real battle was over the Equal Rights Amendment, which was, ultimately, killed, one state short of ratification. "Submissive" wives such as Phyllis Schlafly arose as crusaders to challenge the dread specter of Women's Equality. Score one for the Jesus People.

And for a strange time at the end of the decade, Feminists and Fundamentalists joined forces to oppose pornography, an uneasy shotgun marriage that was never able to really jell. The two groups were, at too many levels, diametrically opposed to each other.

Nixon had cast a covetous eye towards the fanaticism (and votes) that the Jesus Movement represented, and it was part of his "Southern Strategy" to split off the "Solid South" from the Democratic Party. He had been unable to take advantage of it. But Ronald Reagan, by 1980, was.

After Reagan's two terms, and a careful dance between the traditional secularity of American politics and the gratuitous invocation of the Deity that's always been part and parcel of the same tradition, what we now call the "Right Wing Fundamentalist" movement felt sufficiently empowered to field pseudo-evangelist Pat Robertson as a presidential candidate.

["Pseudo-evangelist" because, while he has a master of divinity degree, his real training is as a lawyer, and his major effort has been as the privileged son of a multi-term congressman, a businessman, founding the Christian Broadcasting Network, Regent University, Operation Blessing, the American Center for Law and Justice, and many other institutions broadly characterizable as a strange melange of right wing politics and fundamentalist Christianity -- a movement of surprisingly recent historical vintage.

According to the University of Virginia's Religious Movements homepage:
Fundamentalism traces "its origin in a series of pamphlets published between 1910 and 1915. Entitled "The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth," these booklets were authored by leading evangelical churchmen and were circulated free of charge among clergymen and seminarians. By and large, fundamentalism was a response to the loss of influence traditional revivalism experienced in America during the early years of the twentieth century. This loss of influence, coupled with the liberalizing trends of German biblical criticism and the encroachment of Darwinian theories about the origin of the universe, prompted a response by conservative churchmen. The result was the pamphlets. In 1920, a journalist and Baptist layman named Curtis Lee Laws appropriated the term `fundamentalist' as a designation for those who were ready "to do battle royal for the Fundamentals."
http://religiousmovements.lib.virginia.edu/nrms/fund.html ]

Jerry Falwell's "Moral Majority" and Robertson's "Christian Coalition" had proven a powerful mix of hyper-conservative politics, fundraising and ballot-box muscle. And Robertson made a game run against old-line Republican George Bush (who had been the RNC Chairman during the Nixon years).

It was widely reported that George Bush, The Elder, lost to Bill Clinton in 1992 due to the massive inaction of this new Christo-political activist wing of the Republican Party, who were also increasingly in control of the party apparatus.

By 2000, Bush's son, Dubya The Younger, openly embraced this social movement, as no national politician ever had before. And the Fundamentalist/Jesus People agenda came to the forefront, setting up a long-awaited confrontation with abortion rights, the "activist judges" who had enshrined them in law, against "Darwinism" and, finally, against science itself. They had successfully taken complete control of the party, the White House, the Congress, and, seemingly, the Supreme Court.

This left the women's rights movement, and all other progressive (significanly, NOTHERN movements -- and can you name a modern social movement to come out of the old South? Reactionary movements do not count, nor does the Civil Rights movemenmt, which is a movement AGAINST the old South) -- it left a century of progressive tradition reeling, as the Fundamentalists seemed intent on rolling back not just the New Deal, and not just Wilsonian policies, but those of Teddy Roosevelt and Howard Taft, and all the way back to the Enlightenment, if not the Reformation.

For such a new movement, the Fundamentalist Right has shown a decidedly medaeval mindset.

And, in a very real sense, it is these twin riptides of American social movement that find themselves squared off on the floor of the United States Senate today.

Ironically, it will be Dick Cheney, a native son of the "Equality State" of Wyoming -- whose wife Lynn, with a PhD. is better educated than he, and who has schizophrenically exploited her gains via the Suffrage movement to fight against its liberalism, while, at the same time, writing a steamy lesbian romance novel, etc. -- will stand as presiding officer of the US Senate, on the side of the Jesus People, to wreak havoc on an "out of control" federal judiciary. And he will accomplish this high moral purpose by cheating.

Today's Boston Globe puts it this way:
Republican leadership in the Senate, supported by President Bush, is seeking to give lifetime judgeships to right-wing nominees by a simple majority vote, after changing Senate rules by a simple majority vote.

No one claims the maneuver is unconstitutional, but each part constitutes an assault on time-tested institutions of the Senate. It is the tyranny of the majority that James Madison, Alexis de Tocqueville, and countless others have warned against.

Most attention has focused appropriately on the judicial nominees themselves, and the GOP's hypocritical argument that each deserves an up-or-down vote, when the Republicans denied a vote to dozens of President Clinton's nominees. If their strategy works with seven currently pending nominees, Republicans will likely be able to railroad a far-right conservative into any vacancy on the Supreme Court with little trouble."

Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) yesterday compared the Democrats to Hitler and accusingly (and falsely) claimed that they'd already cheated so it was OK for HIM to cheat. (Evidently he never took logical fallacies in college, or was sick on the first day, when this one was discussed.) J'accuse!

And Senator Majority Leader Bill Frist is such a good, moral fellow that even when exposed time and time again in glaring, shameless lies, he shrugs and continues as if nothing had happened, so utterly convinced of the correctness of his cause that breaking a few Commandments doesn't faze him in his zeal to institute a righteous regime.

But make no mistake: this is the Battle of the Alamo in the fight to destroy reproductive rights, avenge themselves on the judiciary, discipline the Darwinists, and impose the "will of God" on an unwilling nation. The Fundamentalist Right plays the part of Santa Ana.

And the Democrats, poorly organized, and endlessly equivocating, have chosen their Jim Bowie in Harry Reid.

"No quarter" is the cry. The women's movement comes squarely against the Fundamentalists; the old liberal traditions of the North clash tragically with the reactionary philosophies of the old South.

It isn't often that this happens, but history has a way of funneling itself regularly into such bottlenecks.

When Horatius stood at the bridge against the army of Lars Porsenna, and saved Rome, it was the narrowness of that bridge that allowed the critical moment to focus history into a tight field. When the Persians invaded Europe, it was the narrow pass at Thermopolae that allowed Leonidas and his small, doomed band of Spartans to frustrate the ambitions of the Persian Emperor, and allow the Greeks to gather at the Plains of Marathon.

The Texans who found a delaying action at the Alamo allowed Sam Houston to get his army away before the forces of Santa Ana could engulf and destroy them, and the geographic trap of San Jacinto allowed Houston's forces to rout Santa Ana.

The narrow bottleneck of Glorieta Pass allowed Union Forces to stop the Texan invasion of New Mexico at the Battle of Pigeon's Ranch, and ended the Civil War in the West.

And so on and so forth.

Today, history focuses itself on the floor of the United States Senate. And, unknowing, history will pass most people by, much as my parents didn't want to leave a picnic at a Wyoming cabin to watch the moon walk in 1969. I realized at the time -- pestering them until they, annoyed, relented -- that a lot of people have no sense of the profound and momentous when it is happening.

After this day, it may well be that many a senator's reputation in history is permanently blackened, or surprisingly ennobled: remembered for this one vote that either forgives a multitude of sins, or damns them despite a plethora of virtues and good deeds.

One wonders if any senator will be able, after this day, to say, as a metaphoric Leonidas:
Go tell the Spartans,
That here, obedient to their laws,
We lie.
Epitaph for the Spartans who fell at Thermopylae -- Simonides, Greek poet (556 BC - 468 BC)
Instead, it is reported, senators are scurrying, willy-nilly, to find a 'compromise.' This seems astonishingly ironic in a body that has refused to act collegially or in a conciliatory manner for so long.

When someone wants to castrate, compromise between the castrator and castratee really isn't possible. It's all or nothing. But the heroes and villains of history are rarely known before-hand, nor realize what they have done even while they're doing it.

Both will be born this day.
Thursday, May 19, 2005

I was greedily reading my advance review copy David McCullough's new tome "1776" -- which will be available June first -- and was taken with the opening description of the pomp(ous) train that King George III required to go anywhere.

From the twin mounted officers with drawn swords (to make way! make way!) to the entourage, to the four-ton carriage of the king hisownself (that made the ground literally tremble, according to McCullough) with its ornate gilded sea gods, crown over the contraption and "allegorical scenes" of British history on the doors, I could only think of our modern presidential motorcade ... down to the two motorcycle cops in the lead.

The British people, notes McCullough, knew that no other monarch in the world had a more grandiose pageant in his arrival and departure.

And then I remembered something.

Here's a little datum that ought to bother: The United States, through its military, now maintains permanent bases in 160* countries around the world. Considering that there are only 193 countries IN the world, that would seem pretty outrageous.

Remember, this country BEGAN as a nation opposed to foreign entanglements (as George Washington warned against in his farewell address).

Now, I do not propose a return to isolationism. I don't think any reasonable American would argue that we should not be engaged in the emerging global society. BUT, when we consider the Monroe Doctrine (Europe keep OUT of the Americas, North and South) we have to wonder at the astonishing reversal of our policy at the turn of the century.

It really begins, of course, with the Spanish-American War -- although Commodore Peary's militant entry into Japan in the waning years of the XIXth Century was part and parcel to it).

We established permanent military bases in the Philippines and in Cuba (e.g. Guantanimo Bay) at that time, and have NEVER left. Teddy Roosevelt engineered a revolution against Columbia to establish Panama, which instantly agreed to our building of the Panama Canal -- which, though conceived in perfidy, still ranks as one of the great engineering marvels of the ages, and which we only "gave" to the Panamanians in 1999.

Ronald Reagan ran, you might recall, on NOT giving away the Panama Canal, and did quite well. And when the "leader" of Panama, a former CIA client named Noriega, went afoul of the USA, we trumped up 'drug' charges against him, invaded and then installed a regime in Panama that would continue to administer the Canal Zone in a manner that we approved of. Did we "give up" the Panama Canal?

We finally left the Philippines AFTER the democratically elected government of Corazon Aquino DEMANDED that we leave. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo directly above Clark Air Force Base seemed to underscore the displeasure of the very LAND at our presence.

And consider Diego Garcia (in the Indian Ocean, and in which detainees MAY be being held) which we cleared of indigenous peoples and made our fortress in the region.

In World War II, we invaded Germany and have never left. We invaded Okinawa, and have never left. We entered the "UN Police Action" in Korea ... and have never left. And so on and so forth. We staged bomber runs on Germany from the British Isles ... and have never left.

Had not Charles De Gaulle not demanded that we leave France, we'd still be there, too. Through NATO we maintain bases in most European countries, and Turkey, too.

Now, let me ask you this: When was the referendum on whether or not we wanted to be an Empire? When were We, The People, ever asked whether or not we wanted to garrison the world?

Right now, US forces are building permanent bases in our latest two invadees, Iraq and Afghanistan. Ask yourself what you would feel, had China invaded Mexico and Canada, and now were building permanent bases along our borders. Now ask yourself, were you an Iranian, and had US bases on YOUR borders with Afghanistan and Iraq how do you think THEY feel?

They used to say that the Sun Never Sets on the British Empire. And they were literally correct. Now, it applies to the United States.

Are we an empire? What do you think?

And, if so, do you agree that we should be?

We now interfere openly in "elections" worldwide. American political doctors and spinmeisters were instrumental in the re-election of Boris Yeltsin. And they were instrumental in the re-election of Tony Blair weeks ago. They were in for the Iraq elections. And they were used in the Afghan elections.

Is this what we mean by "exporting democracy"? Or, is this an unconscionable meddling within sovereign nations that WE, ourselves would not stand for one moment?

Ye, who screeched your Americanism when the Chinese allegedly funneled a few hundred thousand dollars into the Clinton campaign, what do you say to our funding of millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars overtly and covertly into swinging elections in countries all over the world? Like Venezuela. Like Russia. Like Great Britain. Like ... Panama?

And do you get the feeling that our armed-to-the-teeth base on Cuba is fundamentally illegal and frankly belligerent?

I know that this will upset the Cuban exile community, but Cuba's government IS, in fact, their government, and I don't believe that we have much of a moral right to that base.

But look at the way that we interpret Indian treaties; and consider the manner in which we now interpret a treaty signed with a Cuban government that WE signed after setting up that self-same government? Remember the Maine.

You see, I believe passionately in America. I believe strongly in what the Constitution means, its spirit, and in the Enlightenment -- post-Modernism notwithstanding.

I come of old American stock: a Captain in the Revolutionary War (who also fought in the French and Indian Wars) whose daughter married a grandfather who was a Private in that same war. Quakers who ran underground railroads.

A great-grandfather served in the Iowa Volunteers in the Civil War. My wife's great-grandfather fought at Vicksburg in the Battle of Chickasaw Bluffs (which he recalled as the "Battle of Chickasaw Bayou" which is how it appears in Sherman's Memoirs). His union uniform forms a significant portion of a quilt that we sleep under on cold winter nights.

My adoptive father's grandfather was a buffalo hunter, then Marshal of Ellsworth, Kansas, replacing Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp. He contended that he'd taught young William Cody how to shoot buffalo.

Dad was raised by a man we called "Uncle Sam" who was with Black Jack Pershing in the vicious trench-warfare of WW I, and his blind eyes were permanently clouded from being gassed. He LOOKED like Uncle Sam, too, which was kind of eerie.

I was partially raised by a childless couple who "adopted" me: originally enlisted in the Army Air Corps, he remained a "gooney bird" mechanic all the way through Vietnam and the TET offensive.

I've been a Cub Scout, a Boy Scout, and attended Boy's State, in Roswell, New Mexico. I was a member of the Student Council, a debater (high school and college), a page at the 1968 Wyoming State Republican Convention, and a Delegate from Oregon to the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.

I have voted in virtually every election I have been eligible for.

I am not bragging here, but I need you to understand that I have very deep roots in this democracy we call "The United States of America."

(Fine, nitpickers: this REPUBLIC).

And I do not ever recall that 'empire' was a value that we agreed to. In fact, after the Mexican War of 1846 (a war that Ulysses S. Grant calls, in his memoirs: "one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.") we took that pretty much uninhabited half of Mexico that we coveted, and returned the current territory to the Mexicans.

We liked adding territory, but we didn't care to conquer other nations. Even in an unjust war, the national character rebelled against conquest. (The myopia of not considering the native inhabitants of Turtle Island as worthy of independence is still enshrined in the schizophrenic notion of Tribal "Sovereignty" -- which is an AWFUL lot like the "sovereignty" that we cede to Panama, after all.)

The post-Civil War experience of occupation of the former South by Union armies left a sour taste in the collective mouth that has maintained itself to this very day.

So, whence this creeping imperial occupation? Why are our armies, increasingly spread hither and thither, manned generally by our "volunteer" army, which, as with the British Imperial Army, tends to collect the dregs of society: those with few prospects in the "private" sector. Thus, the incidence of petty crime, rape, etc. is quite a bit higher around our bases than we care to admit.

Anyone who has ever lived around a military installation will agree that the surrounding perimeter is NOT a greensward of high-end restaurants, art galleries and boutiques.

More like pawn shops, bail bondsmen, tattoo parlors, liquor stores and porn shops.

I remember when the Navy pulled out of Long Beach in the late 1970s. The huge buffer zone of porn theaters, tattoo parlors, pool halls, and other "rough trade" establishments vanished almost overnight, along with the street prostitutes, the low-end drug dealers and ripoff artists.

This is, in many lands -- too many lands -- what America is seen as. And I want to know WHY we are there in the first place.

SOME bases, sure. But in THAT MANY countries?

No. I never signed up for Empire. Neither did I sign up for kings who rule by Divine Right. My people laid their lives down to fight those concepts. And I cannot countenance it, in good conscience. If we are to avoid having foreign governments interfering in OUR internal politics, then we must cease interfering in theirs. The "Golden Rule" of Jesus tells us this. So do Mohammed, Confucius, Buddha, Zoroaster, and countless others. The "Golden Rule" is nearly universal in all world religions -- probably because it represents a fundamental apprehension of basic reality.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

If this spiritual homily is true (and given what we've practiced) then karmically, we're screwed.

Deeply ingrained in my nature and my nurture: I remain a democrat, little 'd.' I wish that our imperious leadership would take the concept to heart again.

I will embrace no king. Nor will I accept empire: of the people, by the people, for the people.

1787 words, appropriately enough

* NOTE: On any given day before September 11, according to the Defense Department, more than 60,000 military personnel were conducting temporary operations and exercises in about 100 countries. -- Los Angeles Times, January 6, 2002
Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Third post today. Things are starting to break fast. I saw about three hours of the CSPAN2 Senate debate on the judges today, and true to Republican phony tokenism, some of the biggest crypto-racists/sexists in the Senate lied unrelentingly about how the woman and the black woman (no need for names, symbolism is all here) are being denied their right to be horrific Bush appointees. Why, to hear Sens. Jeff Sessions and Sam Brownback, you'd think the sun shone where the sun DON'T shine, anatomically, from both of these Ms. Take-Prone Nominees.

And that the Democrats were the party of evil, given to horribly acting like ... Republicans. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Why you'd swear that Brownback and Sessions and Frist had just returned from a homosexual orgy and confabulation with Martin Luther King and Jesus H. Christ. And Arlen Spector did an amazing job of aping a "reasonable" man using the old "plague on both your houses" dodge. Too bad that Tybalt hadn't just run him through the intestines with a rapier. It would have added that cachet of credibility that Specter somehow lacks.

The odor was overpowering. Meantime ...

I'm not gifted with any psychic powers. But two of last week's predictions came true today.

Jesse J. Holland of the AP reports, in part: "[Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist] picked up an additional senator on his side Wednesday, Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore. Smith said he had decided over the weekend that he would vote to change Senate rules that let members block nominees by threatening to filibuster. "I think to do otherwise has a chilling effect not only on the meaning of elections, but as to the intellectual vigor of the judicial branch of the government," Smith said.

Told you he'd vote with the Noo-kyoo-lar Option. After all, as he likes to remind us at every opportunity, he's a high-minded and deeply principled Mormon. Thus, the rationalization sound-bite.

And, on today's Al Franken show, a NEWSWEEK reporter Jonathan Alter was scheduled, but then suddenly cancelled. NEWSWEEK didn't want to "tarnish" its image by having their reporters appear on AirAmerica.

Here's Howard (Quisling) Kurtz, the "media critic" for the Washington POST (whose parent company owns NEWSWEEK, interestingly enough) and who was the source for CNN's sound bite on how that awful NEWSWEEK had done such a disservice and wrecked our reputation around the world.

By "our" I mean (as Scott McClellan, White House Spokesnake, alleges) the reputation of the United States, and not journalists or reporters.

"Not since Newsweek had to admit that it was duped into running phony Hitler diaries in 1983 has the magazine been at the center of a storm of this intensity. Rarely have so few words sparked such deadly consequences. By Saturday night, Whitaker had concluded that the fateful half-sentence in a May 1 "Periscope" item - saying military investigators had confirmed that a U.S. interrogator at the Guantanamo Bay prison flushed a copy of the Quran down a toilet - was wrong. Star reporter Michael Isikoff had checked again with his unnamed source, who backed off the account.

"On Sunday, Newsweek released Whitaker's apologetic editor's note and a follow-up piece, but he was a bit vague in interviews about whether he was fully retracting the story. That left an opening for Bush administration officials to further denounce Newsweek, prompting Whitaker to rush out a formal statement of retraction. He has made misjudgments before ...."
Well, told ya so. Not that I'm exactly thrilled to be right. I'd have much preferred being wrong.

But isn't there something chillingly robotic about these people when their actions are so easy to predict? Even minus psychic powers?

Ah, America: home of the rugged individualist.

ELEC-SHUN SPECIAL - Democracy in Activity!

Yes, there was a minor, local election today. And I'm sure that we're all glad to know it was on the up and up. After the debacle of November 2nd, it's important to make sure that our local elections are squeaky clean. You'll be happy to know that the final unofficial results bear this out.

Some notables ... (from the OFFICIAL Lane County Elections Results Page)
@ 3:29 AM PDT
(I am NOT making this up! I saved the actual page, so I've got ... er ... proof?)

20.50% voting

Dir Pos 3 Zone 3 LANE CCD
Vote For: 1 Candidate Name PAT RIGGS-HENSON
Vote Count 22,704
Percentage 106.37%
(even people who didn't vote voted for her. Next election: Cuba!)

Dir Pos 4 Zone 4 LANE CCD
Vote For: 1 Candidate Name SUSIE JOHNSTON
Vote Count 22,113
Percentage 106.31%
(gee, guess she's not as popular)

Dir Pos 1 Zone 1 LANE COUNTY Ed Svc Zone
Vote For: 1 Candidate Name JOEL ROBE
Vote Count 3,198
Percentage 104.82%
(even less popular, dang!)

Vote For: 1 Candidate Name ALAN LAISURE
Vote Count 1,714
Percentage 106.06%
(Wildly popular, but not so much so as Ms. Riggs-Election)

Vote For: 1 Candidate Name PAUL JORGENSEN
Vote Count 1,778
Percentage 105.71%
(another friend of the deceased voter)

Vote For: 1 Candidate Name KEITH ANDERSEN
Vote Count 1,680
Percentage 105.66%
(who ya gonna call? Ghost Voters!)

And, finally,

Dir Pos 1 Zone 1 LANE CCD
Vote For: 1 Candidate Name
PAUL HOLMAN Vote Count 11,557
Percentage 45.14%
ROB SPOONER Vote Count 4,584
Percentage 17.90%
RICH CUNNINGHAM Vote Count 11,258
Percentage 43.97%

(Take a moment to tally up the TOTAL percentage ...)

(Wow! A real squeaker, decided by 1.17% out of 107.01% of the votes cast!)

I wonder what the outcome might have been had a mere 100% of the votes been cast?

(And, of course, with numbers like these, we can TRUST Lane County Elections -- until, that is, they find the obligatory lost box of ballots that seems to turn up for EVERY election.)

Thank Ghod the last STAR WARS movie is almost (Thursday) out. We really need something uplifting to cheer us up about Democracy!

America: the best democracy that money can buy
(with apologies to Mark Twain and Greg Palast).



Spanish: oh-LYAH poh-DREE-dah. (lit. rotten pot) A Spanish stew, mixture; medley. Cf. potpourri (Dictionary of Foreign Terms; Mario Pei & Salvatore Ramondino; Dell/Laurel, 1974)

Today or tomorrow will be the most critical day for the Constitution thus far in your lifetime. Certainly mine.


**** writes me, regarding LIES MY SENATOR TOLD ME (May 15):

[quoting me]This may well be, historically, the single most important vote in the Senate since the Andrew Johnson impeachment trial

I'd say the vote to impeach Clinton was more important. If that had succeeded, the radical right might've taken over the government then instead of now.

One also could talk about the vote to reject Robert Bork, the vote to confirm Clarence Thomas, and the prospective vote to confirm whichever radical this administration nominates to fill the next Supreme Court opening. These votes are what the filibuster debate is all about. The debate and corresponding vote is just a means to this end.


[My reply]:

I mildly disagree, ****.

The Clinton impeachment was a revisitation of the Johnson impeachment, true, but they never had a chance in hell of pulling it off. At best, they probably hoped for a majority vote in the Senate (to convict), which they didn't get. So it was a tactic to steal the lifeblood of President Clinton's term, and all the more ugly for it, but it was not a Constitutional crisis -- because it never had a chance of succeeding.

T'was mere demagoguery, and lord knows we've had more than our share in American history.

The period from the end of the Civil War until the administration of Grover Cleveland (or Teddy Roosevelt, take your pick) was one long, unrelieved stain on the pages of our history, for example.

The McCarthy "Red-Scare" was far more dangerous than any of the examples cited, but still wasn't a fundamental structural crisis. The system took care of McCarthy.

Bork and Thomas are interesting, but neither represented any fundamental threat to our system, either.

In fact, THIS particular issue not only threatens the Senate as an institution (its "cooling tray" function, meant to stop the passions of "the mob" from creating monsters) but, if it goes through, it will bring about a fundamental restructuring of the judiciary, so, I'd say, it's even MORE critical in a Constitutional sense than the Johnson impeachment.

There is a difference between controversial BS (and everyone forgets that Robert Bork was the first ranking member of the AG's office who was willing to carry out the illegal firing of Archibald Cox during the Saturday Night Massacre -- A.G. Elliot Richardson and his deputy both resigned rather than carry out Nixon's putsch) and something that strikes to the very core of the Constitution.

And Thomas, while an uneducated, unqualified jurist -- placed SOLELY in office via phony tokenism -- represents no fundamental threat to government. We've had a long and inglorious history of the most squalid political hacks being shoved into the Court without fundamental harm. Clarence "Me Too" Thomas can only pray that Scalia doesn't die before him, else he'll have no one to "me too" to.

Here is what Edmund G. Ross wrote, after his political ouster and public disgrace for "daring" to stop the Johnson impeachment:

In a large sense, the independence of the executive branch of the government was on trial ... If .. the President must step down ... a disgraced man and a political outcast ... upon insufficient proofs and partisan considerations, the office of President would be degraded, cease to be a coordinate branch of government and ever after subordinated to the legislative will. It would practically have revolutionized our splendid political fabric into a partisan Congressional autocracy." (deja vu, and the ellipses are Kennedy's not mine)
The difference there was that the whole country (that could speak) was wildly on the side of impeachment. With Clinton, a majority was NOT. So the threat was never really there.

Here, however, even though the country is, again, NOT on the side of the "filibuster busters" -- by nearly the same percentages -- this Rubicon, once crossed would be a double-whammy to the other two institutions the Republicans haven't YET attacked with an intent to destroy, the judiciary and the congress itself.

Jeez, given the impeachment, they're three for three in attacking the three pillars of our system.
AND they call themselves "conservative."

I guess we live in a "hypocrisy free zone" these days or surely these snakes would slither under a rock to hide as the din of derisive laughter grew ever greater. Appreciation of irony must be taking a long sabbatical.

So, while we can agree to disagree, I can't place those three examples on the same plane as this crisis.


(me) *

(Actually, I strongly disagree. But I am being polite. When someone doesn't consider the Black Plague a public health emergency, what can you do? Might as well be nice, and get back to triage.)


Many times in our history we have taken up arms to protect a minority against the tyrannical majority in other lands. We, unlike Nazi Germany or Mussolini's Italy, have never stopped being a nation of laws, not of men.

But witness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends. Historian Alan Bullock writes that Hitler's dictatorship rested on the constitutional foundation of a single law, the Enabling Law. Hitler needed a two-thirds vote to pass that law, and he cajoled his opposition in the Reichstag to support it. Bullock writes that "Hitler was prepared to promise anything to get his bill through, with the appearances of legality preserved intact." And he succeeded.

Hitler's originality lay in his realization that effective revolutions, in modern conditions, are carried out with, and not against, the power of the State: the correct order of events was first to secure access to that power and then begin his revolution. Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality; he recognized the enormous psychological value of having the law on his side. Instead, he turned the law inside out and made illegality legal.

And that is what the nuclear option seeks to do to Rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate.

It seeks to alter the rules by sidestepping the rules, thus making the impermissible the rule. Employing the "nuclear option", engaging a pernicious, procedural maneuver to serve immediate partisan goals, risks violating our nation’s core democratic values and poisoning the Senate's deliberative process.
read the whole speech that the Free Republic Scum continue to smear at: http://byrd.senate.gov/byrd_speeches/byrd_speeches_2005_march/byrd_speeches_03012005.html

Here's a litte timeline with some explanations:
(adapted from http://www.hermes-press.com/nazification_step3.htm)

On February 28, 1933--the day after the Reichstag fire--President Hindenburg and Chancellor Hitler invoked Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, which permitted the suspension of civil liberties in a time of national emergency.

A Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of the People and State abrogated the following German constitutional protections:

  • Free expression of opinion
  • Freedom of the press
  • Right of assembly and association
  • Right to privacy of postal and electronic communications
  • Protection against unlawful searches and seizures
  • Individual property rights
  • States' right of self-government
(I'm not saying that this has happened yet. But note the historical parallels).

A supplemental decree created the SA (Storm Troops) and SS (Special Security) Federal police agencies.
(Nothing like the "Department of Homeland Security." Hey! At least it's not the "Fatherland." Whew! We're safe!)

October 1933: the entire press was now under Nazi control

New laws destroyed editors' and journalists' independence and expression of personal opinion
(Nothing like the Dan Rather/NEWSWEEK thing, right?)

The film industries were taken over one by one.
(Those "Hollywood Liberals" and the news, yesterday that a theater owner was refusing to show the new Jayne Fonda film because he couldn't get the "image": out of his mind of "Hanoi Jane" applauding those Vietnamese antiaircraft crews shooting down American planes. Gee. I wonder what he was smoking, because that's NOT what happened. She posed on an anti-aircraft gun, to be sure. But that's not what his "image" is. And the southern IMAX theaters that refuse to show a current nature film because it talks about "Evil-YEW-shun.")

The Gestapo built up its surveillance apparatus to make mass resistance impossible. So German people felt an ever-present sense of terror and fear, as if they were living in a country occupied by foreign troops.
(Maybe THAT's why I was so chilled when we had black-beret'd troops in combat gear, bearing semi-automatic weapons at all our airports. I sure as hell felt like I was living in a country occupied by foreign troops. Churchill once warned that if Britain and her allies lost World War II, the entire world could be plunged "into a new dark age, made more sinister and, perhaps, more protracted by ... a perverted science.")

meanwhile, back here at home, our free press continued its sterling record of reporting the truth, fearlessly: from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/fight/sfeature/sf_nazis_02.html

The Cleveland Press, March 27, 1933
U.S. Finds Nazis Virtually End Mistreating German Jews

The American embassy in Berlin reports that physical mistreatment of Jews in Germany has been "virtually terminated."

The report was summarized by Secretary of State Hull in a letter to two Jewish leaders, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise of New York City and Cyrus Adler of Philadelphia.

Answering a criticism that the report from Germany sounded as though it had been written by the German Foreign Office, the State Department said today it was intended to render the best possible service to the Jews in Germany in the light of the official facts that have come to the United States...
Still, flawed as it is, and remains,



"Freedom of the press is an extremely problematic concept for most non-democratic systems of rule as, in the modern age, strict control of access to information is critical to the existence of most non-democratic governments and their associated control systems and security apparatus."
From Thom de Hartmann

"You are now witnessing the beginning of a great epoch in history," he proclaimed, standing in front of the burned-out building, surrounded by national media. "This fire," he said, his voice trembling with emotion, "is the beginning." He used the occasion - "a sign from God," he called it - to declare an all-out war on terrorism ... Immediately after passage of the anti-terrorism act, his federal police agencies stepped up their program of arresting suspicious persons and holding them without access to lawyers or courts. In the first year only a few hundred were interred, and those who objected were largely ignored by the mainstream press, which was afraid to offend and thus lose access to a leader with such high popularity ratings.
Now, who is this? OK, here's a more obvious bit of history:

"Within the first months after that terrorist attack, at the suggestion of a political advisor, he brought a formerly obscure word into common usage. He wanted to stir a "racial pride" among his countrymen, so, instead of referring to the nation by its name, he began to refer to it as "The Homeland," a phrase publicly promoted in the introduction to a 1934 speech recorded in Leni Riefenstahl's famous propaganda movie "Triumph Of The Will." As hoped, people's hearts swelled with pride, and the beginning of an us-versus-them mentality was sewn. Our land was "the" homeland, citizens thought: all others were simply foreign lands. We are the "true people," he suggested, the only ones worthy of our nation's concern; if bombs fall on others, or human rights are violated in other nations and it makes our lives better, it's of little concern to us.

"Playing on this new nationalism, and exploiting a disagreement with the French over his increasing militarism, he argued that any international body that didn't act first and foremost in the best interest of his own nation was neither relevant nor useful. He thus withdrew his country from the League Of Nations in October, 1933, and then negotiated a separate naval armaments agreement with Anthony Eden of The United Kingdom to create a worldwide military ruling elite."
Yes. It was Hitler. Don't worry about the USA. We're spreading freedom and democracy around the world.

The essay was entitled: When Democracy Failed: The Warnings of History

And the terrorists? They hate us for our freedom, of course.


(And Helen Thomas.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

French: poh-poo-REE. (lit. rotten pot) mixture; medley; hodgepodge. Cf. olla podrida (Dictionary of Foreign Terms; Mario Pei & Salvatore Ramondino; Dell/Laurel, 1974)

From a friend who writes for the WASHINGTON POST (and whose identity, for obvious reasons I am protecting), commenting on yesterday's blog entry on the NEWSWEEK imbroglio:

And may I add: Conservatives continue to call for Izzy's head over one mistake. At least Newsweek had the decency to retract and apologize. Whereas the White House, which went to war on a clear mistake (about Saddam's nonexisten WMDs) has never admitted it was wrong, or apologized. And in the case of Iraq, tens of thousands have died -- by one estimate, civilian casualties during the war were around 100,000 -- but the Pentagon never tallied the civilian deaths, so we'll really never know. As reported by "Frontline," our bombing to kill "high value regime" officials didn't kill any of them: we went zero for 50 on that front. Instead we killed civilians.

All deaths are tragic, but some mistakes are more tragic and cause more carnage than others.
The other big news today is about this blog. It has been typeset for publication (weighing in at 457 pages) and galleys will be delivered next week. There is additional material to include, of course, and line drawings will have to be upsampled to 300 dpi, but the Sunday column (LIES MY SENATOR TOLD ME) marked a natural breaking point.

The original intent of this blog was to illuminate how politics and media ACTUALLY work, rather than what you were told in (if you were lucky) Civics and Government courses.

So, beginning with yesterday's NEWSWEEK blog entry, we begin a new phase of SKIING UPHILL.

To refresh your memory, I've been writing professionally since 1976, and in print since 1973, or 29 years and 32 years, respectively. I've written for newspapers from The WASHINGTON POST to the KANSAS CITY STAR, to the SANTA FE SUN, The PORTLAND OREGONIAN, LOS ANGELES TIMES, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, THE TUTUVENI (Hopi Tribal Newspaper) and, finally, wrote for and founded the (Eugene, Oregon) REGISTER-GUARD's book page (in 1994).

I've also written for the LOS ANGELES FREE PRESS, HUSTLER, OUI, PLAYERS, NEW WEST, and other magazines; my writings have appeared in the Eugene WEEKLY, in the SANTA FE REPORTER, the BOULDER (Colo.)WEEKLY, LA NEW TIMES, etc. and I've been quoted (and mis-) in the ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL, THE WASHINGTON POST, THE AGE (Australia), the OREGONIAN, etc. etc.

I've written ad copy for UCLA (and others), Musician bios for A&M Records, novels, screenplays, short stories, interviews, photo captions, filler, and all the rest. On and off for 20 years, I was also a typesetter, working on everything from books to NASA proposals for the Space Station, Spanish supermarket flyers, record album covers and labels, and Lee Nails boxes. I've founded a magazine, produced radio ads, and played eight-ball for money.

Finally, my work has been archived online with The Rama Page (part of my cult-busting writings), The Theodore Sturgeon homepage, the Lewis Carroll Society page, Ex-Cult, the Camille Paglia page, the RAME archive (usenet), Powell's Books and many many more.

I've been a webmaster for several organizations, including the Democratic Party of Oregon, the Democratic Party of Lane County (I'm the only webmaster who will ever have been webmaster in two centuries and over two millennia), the Oregon Society of Enrolled Agents, the Eugene Astronomical Society, Lane County for Kerry, the Santa Fe High School Class of '73 Reunion, and many more. In 1996, I won a Gold Medal in the first 'virtual' World's Fair (beating out the Cannes Film Festival, and the nation of Egypt, among others and including $1000 worth of prizes) for my homepage, founded in 1995, 'his vorpal sword' (all lowercase, per e.e. cummings). It's celebrating its first decade on the web, this year.

If you want to do a Google search, type in this:

"Hart Williams" -Fred -Nick

and you'll get about 1000 hits.

All of which is not to toot my own horn (which is why all the 'etc.'s) -- nor are all those hits "me" per se -- but to give you confidence that I'm more than a little familiar with HOW media works.

Familiarity, as the old saying goes, breeds contempt.

But it doesn't have to be thus, and at least if you know how things work, you'll have the tools to filter what you hear into something resembling facts.

For those tuning in because of today's interchange on KOPT AM 1600, welcome. For those returning ... here we go again.
Monday, May 16, 2005

The White House, ever opportunistic in their quest to quell all information that they do not like -- and aided and abetted by a moronic and compliant media -- have turned their torturing eyes to the matter of NEWSWEEK.

Listen to White House spokesnake Scott (Mr. Mendacious) McClellan via Reuters:

"It's puzzling that while Newsweek now acknowledges that they got the facts wrong, they refused to retract the story," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "I think there's a certain journalistic standard that should be met and in this instance it was not."

The report sparked angry and violent protests across the Muslim world from Afghanistan, where 16 were killed and more than 100 injured, to Pakistan to Indonesia to Gaza. In the past week it was condemned in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Malaysia and by the Arab League.

McClellan complained that the story was "based on a single anonymous source who could not personally substantiate the allegation that was made."

"The report has had serious consequences," he said. "People have lost their lives. The image of the United States abroad has been damaged."
First, of course, Scott McClellan talking about high journalistic standards is akin to listening to listening to John Bolton talking about good manners.

Well, isn't that convenient? As the BBC points out, and as was pointed out in more thoughtful pieces, this charge is pure smoke and mirrors. It also verges on the criminal.

There is a REASON that the Muslim world is readily believing of such a charge -- and note the Dan Rather-esque smear underway: NEWSWEEK was solely responsible for the protests.

And listen to AP "reporter" Dino Hazell's lead on this: "NEW YORK May 16, 2005 - Newsweek magazine, under fire for a publishing story that led to deadly protests in Afghanistan, said Monday it was retracting its report that a military probe had found evidence of desecration of the Quran by U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay."

Yup. The jury verdict is in even before the charges have been fully delineated.

But listen to John Simpson of the BBC:

"These are not even the first allegations that US guards and interrogators have desecrated the Koran in order to frighten prisoners or humiliate them.

"On his website the respected US authority on the Middle East, Professor Juan Cole of the University of Michigan, carries a despatch from the Italian news agency Ansa on 18 August 2004. It quotes accusations from former Guantanamo prisoners that a Koran was thrown into a toilet.

"Perhaps these specific allegations are true, and perhaps they are not. But people tend to believe them, because there have been so many other allegations of deliberate anti-Islamic acts from Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq - of prisoners being forced against their religious convictions to shave their beards, and even to eat pig-meat.

"The shaving clearly happened: there is pictorial evidence for that. As for the forcible feeding of pork and bacon, and the desecration of the Koran itself, these things have not been proven. But such reports are instantly believed across the Islamic world.... this was by no means the first time that allegations of the desecration of the Koran by US guards and interrogators have emerged ...."
So, WHO is responsible for the outrage of the Muslim world? One paragraph in NEWSWEEK, or an ongoing, concerted series of outrageous and criminal actions by the White House-sanctioned torturers of Guantanimo, Abu Gharib et al?

This "nuance" was, of course, ignored by Scott McClellan, which isn't surprising, but it was positively trampled on by Dino Hazell -- whose "report" is carried in hundreds if not thousands of news outlets. The current situation is akin to that of the satellite radio stations of the 1980s and 1990s, where one feed is streamed to local stations that are fundamentally no more than microwave repeaters. Whatever the AP story is, that's what your newspaper will report.

I remember a few years ago, in a story about the seemingly unending and incredibly complex Navajo/Hopi land dispute (which I have covered extensively) a story was filed by the AP's "southwest" reporter, a tyro based in Austin, Texas!

She was, evidently, only a couple years out of journalism school, but was happy to travel to the terra incognita of that West-Virginia-sized chunk of New Mexico and Arizona that comprises the Navajo and Hopi reservations.

And even though it was apparent that the only background she had was a sheaf of old AP clippings, she filed her stories, and dutifully returned to Austin, Texas, about a thousand miles away (it's 855 miles as the 747 flies from Austin to Phoenix; driving mileage would be considerably further).

Yes, Virginia. In the twenty-first century, the AP considers a thousand mile 'beat' to the wild wild West to be acceptable. Pick a place a thousand miles away, and ask yourself how much credence you would give a reporter who traveled to your town from there to spend two days and report on your most complex and intimate local controversy.

That's the AP. But in a thousand newspapers across the land and around the world, Dino's snap judgment -- certainly not very well thought out, and coincidentally EXACTLY mirroring the White House 'spin' on the issue -- is the ONLY news story that many will ever read.

Which is WHY, when you think about it, shouting down NEWSWEEK and Dan Rather is the issue. Notwithstanding that "bias" in the media is "bad" I guess I just want to know why it's OK to be blatantly and unapologetically biased to "counterbalance" the "liberal media"? I mean, if bias is bad, aren't those most against it MOST obligated to try and avoid it themselves?

The story that touched off the entire firestorm, by the by, was a short item in NEWSWEEK's Periscope section, bu reporters Michael Isikoff and John Barry. How powerful NEWSWEEK must be to wield such power. That one or two paragraphs could set off global riots! Come on. That doesn't pass the giggle test. Clearly, if anything, it might have catalyzed (picked up and rebroadcast as a top story about Al Jazeera, about which the White House is saying nothing, since Al Jazeera is not the 'target of opportunity' for this bombing run.

I'm sorry. I forgot that we're living in a Hypocrisy-Free-Zone called "Post Nine-Eleven." You know: "everything is different!"

No. Two buildings were bombed (three if you count the Pentagon and don't accept the astonishingly parochial bias and, frankly, bigotry of the New York media that only New York actually matters). In numbers only was it substantially different than Oklahoma City.

But no one said, after Oklahoma City, that "Now everything is different." And no one declared war on Kansas and everything that Kansas stands for (not that that wouldn't be such a bad idea).

Still, freedoms disappear everywhere, and freedom of the press is just another one. Is it surprising that NEWSWEEK is the target this time? Remember CBS wouldn't kiss Bush's behind the way that ABC, CNN and NBC were, and so CBS became the target, with the stifling of investigative reporting and the chilling of ALL media the result.

And, to this very day, the morons who didn't follow and whose malleable minds are easily twisted by lies repeat the calumny that Dan Rather used a "forged" or "false" document. No. There is a world of difference between something that can't be assayed as 24 karat gold, and fool's gold.

The story, it is all but forgotten, was substantially and provably TRUE. Now, the NEWSWEEK story is, again, substantially true -- although you can be certain that any corroborative evidence is associated at this very moment with the not-unpleasant whine of the industrial-strength document shredder.

Instead of the story being about WHY the Muslims are outraged at our outrageous behavior, the story is now about how NEWSWEEK killed alla them people with their LIBERUL BIY-ESS!

(CNN news is reporting to my ears right now that the Newsweek Editor is mea culpa'ing to the Lehrer News Hour that they accept SOME responsibility for the rioting. It continues, as the war to mold public opinion into a final form, set in concrete, continues).

And so it goes. The chilling effect on speech, as the Supreme Court has often noted, is real. And it is, again, a high profile journal that has been taken on: NEWSWEEK will pull back in the face of unrelenting vilification, hate-mail, cancelled subscriptions, et al.

And management will implore their reporters to NOT to rock the boat. Perhaps a sacrificial lamb will be tossed to the wolves.
I fully expect that one of the reporters on the story, Michael Isikoff, will be banned from appearing on the Al Franken Show, and perhaps reassigned to the Siberian beat.

Or, perhaps, they'll just send him to Flagstaff, a full thousand miles outside of the United States, proper.

An independent press? Take a look at the Google Homogeneity Around the World:
Bloomberg - 3 hours ago
May 16 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush's spokesman said the image of the US was damaged by an inaccurate Newsweek report about American interrogators

Voice of America - 5 hours ago
By Robert Raffaele. Newsweek has apologized for errors in a story that outraged Muslims, triggering several days of deadly riots.

Reuters AlertNet, UK - 1 hour ago
By Steve Holland. WASHINGTON, May 16 (Reuters) - Newsweek magazine on Monday retracted a report that US interrogators at Guantanamo ...

Xinhua, China - 1 hour ago
WASHINGTON, May 16 (Xinhuanet) -- The Newsweek magazine retracted on Monday a report that claimed US interrogators at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had desecrated the ...

Bloomberg - 39 minutes ago
May 16 (Bloomberg) -- Newsweek magazine today retracted a report it published earlier this month that sparked riots in Afghanistan and elsewhere, leaving at ...

Sify, India - 47 minutes ago
Washington: Newsweek magazine on Monday issued a retraction of an article alleging abuse of the Koran at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility which sparked ...

CBC News, Canada - 21 minutes ago
NEW YORK - Newsweek magazine has retracted a story that said US interrogators desecrated the Qur'an to get inmates at Guantanamo Bay to talk - a report that ...

Calcutta Telegraph, India - 1 hour ago
Washington, May 16 (Reuters): The White House said today that a Newsweek report based on an anonymous source had damaged the US image overseas by alleging that ...

BBC News, UK - 1 hour ago
US magazine Newsweek has issued a full retraction of its report that a Koran was flushed down a toilet at Guantanamo Bay by US interrogators. ...

San Francisco Chronicle, CA - 1 hour ago
By SADAQAT JAN, Associated Press Writer. Pakistan on Monday reiterated its demand for an investigation into the alleged desecration ...

The Tribune, India - 2 hours ago
Newsweek has apologised for errors in a story that claimed that US interrogators had desecrated the Koran at a detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, and ...

Xinhua, China - 2 hours ago
WASHINGTON, May 16 (Xinhuanet) -- The White House said on Monday that a recent Newsweek magazine article on Koran desecration by US interrogators at Guantanamo ...

MarketWatch - 5 hours ago
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Newsweek may have committed the most costly mistake in modern journalistic times after publishing and then apologizing for a report ...

News24, South Africa - 5 hours ago
Shannon, Ireland - US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice on Monday blasted an unsubstantiated report of Koran desecrations by US troops as "appalling" and ...

Voice of America - 8 hours ago
By VOA News. Newsweek magazine has apologized for possible errors in a report alleging US interrogators at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, desecrated ...

Australian, Australia - 8 hours ago
THE incendiary account of US interrogators flushing a copy of the Koran down a toilet at Guantanamo Bay may not, after all, be true, the magazine behind the ...

International Herald Tribune, France - 8 hours ago
WASHINGTON Newsweek magazine said Sunday that it might have erred in reporting that US interrogators at the Guantánamo Bay naval base in Cuba might have ...

National Post, Canada - 8 hours ago
NEW YORK -- Newsweek has apologized for errors in a story alleging that interrogators at the US detention centre in Guantanamo Bay desecrated the Qur'an. ...

New York Times, NY - 9 hours ago
Newsweek apologized yesterday for printing a small item on May 9 about reported desecration of the Koran by American guards at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, an item ...

Newsday, NY - 15 hours ago
BY INDRANI SEN. Newsweek has partially backed off its report that interrogators at the US detention center in Guantanamo Bay desecrated ...

Guardian Unlimited, UK - 12 hours ago
The Pentagon has attacked as "irresponsible" an article in Newsweek magazine alleging that US military interrogators desecrated copies of the Qur'an and ...

Ireland Online, Ireland - 17 hours ago
Newsweek magazine has apologised for errors in a story alleging that interrogators at the US detention centre in Guantanamo Bay desecrated the Koran, saying it ...

New York Post, NY - 18 hours ago
May 16, 2005 -- Newsweek magazine has apologized for errors in its story claiming that US interrogators at Guantanamo Bay desecrated the Koran - a report ...

Detroit Free Press, MI - 18 hours ago
NEW YORK -- Newsweek magazine has apologized for errors in a story alleging that interrogators at the US detention center in Cuba desecrated the Koran, saying ...

Malayala Manorama, India - 21 hours ago
New York: Newsweek magazine has apologised for errors in a story alleging that interrogators at the US detention center in Guantanamo Bay desecrated the Quran ...

Special Broadcasting Service, Australia - 22 hours ago
US magazine Newsweek, whose story about the alleged desecration of a Koran holy book at Guantanamo Bay sparked anti-American protests in Muslim countries last ...

Daily Times, Pakistan - May 15, 2005
WASHINGTON: The US magazine whose report of the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran sparked deadly protests in Muslim countries, said on Sunday that its ...

Calcutta Telegraph, India - May 15, 2005
Washington, May 15 (Reuters): Newsweek magazine today said it may have erred in a May 9 report that said US interrogators desecrated the Quran at Guantanamo Bay ...

News24, South Africa - May 15, 2005
Washington - The US magazine whose story of alleged desecration of a Qu'ran holy book sparked deadly protests in Muslim countries, said on Sunday that its ...

Aljazeera.com, UK - May 15, 2005
Newsweek, the US magazine whose report of 'Qur'an desecration' sparked the Muslim world's outrage, claimed on Sunday that it may have erred in its ...
In such a rhetorical universe, is 'plagiarism' actually a meaningful concept?

Yup. There's nothing like a free and unfettered press bravely reporting the news: because THIS is nothing like a free and unfettered press bravely reporting the news.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The filibuster rule action will be coming up this week, perhaps as early as tomorrow. So I thought it synchronistic that I received a reply via snail mail yesterday from our own Republican Senator, Gordon Smith, to the letter I wrote him on the subject.

Here is his letter:

April 28, 2005
Gordon H. Smith

Dear Mr. Williams:

Thank you for your thoughts regarding changes to the Senate filibuster rule. I found your comments informative and I welcome this opportunity to respond to your concerns.

Under the Constitution of the United States, the President (sic*) nominates and appoints Supreme Court justices and judges to the nine federal court systems. The Senate, however, must confirm the President's (sic) nominees by a majority vote. Recently, critical judicial seats across the country have remained vacant due to the delaying tactics of some senators.

[*NB: AP Styleboook rules for capitalization "President - Capitalize president only as a formal title before one or more names: President Stinebeck, Presidents Stinebeck and Mazzeno. Lowercase in all other uses: Dr. Stinebeck is our president." Or, from the BAND-AID AP STYLEBOOK By Dave Feldman, The San Diego Union-Tribune and Stan Ketterer, Oklahoma State University: (g) When the title stands alone, spell out the title and DO NOT capitalize it. The pope will visit next week. The president vetoed the bill.]

These senators have blocked confirmation votes with a tactic commonly known as a filibuster. A filibuster prolongs debate on the nominee indefinitely, thereby preventing the Senate from voting on the nominee. Last Congress, the Senate was unable to vote on many judicial nominees [NOTE: AP is currently claiming 10, while mysteriously it was 12 in January. In neither case was this exactly "many."] including Miguel Estrada and Priscilla Owen [Note the deft use of Republican tokenism: a Hispanic and a WOMAN!], due to this filibuster tactic. Unfortunately, future filibusters on nominees have also been threatened. [Note: Does Senator Smith mean, like the re-nomination of all those previously rejected?]

The recurrent use of this tactic led Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to propose changing Senate rules for ending debate, known as cloture, on nominations. [Senator Smith is being disingenuous here: Senate Rules changes require a two-thirds majority to pass. But listen to what he says, instead:] An initial cloture vote on a nomination would have still required 60 votes for passage. Subsequent votes would have required 57, 54, 51 and finally a simple majority of Senators (sic - see above) present and voting.

The Senate fills a critical role [he means "crucial"] in the confirmation of judicial nominees. It is my sincere hope that a change the Senate rules will not be necessary to ensure that the Senate can fulfill its duty to vote on judicial nominees. Please rest assured that I will keep your comments in mind should this issue be brought before the Senate again during the 109th Congress for debate.

It is an honor and privilege to serve Oregon in the United States Senate. If I can be of further assistance to you on this or any other matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Warm regards,

Gordon H. Smith

While Senator Smith's letter doesn't outright SAY that he'll vote with Frist's sleazy parliamentary trick (nomination is brought up. Filibuster begins. Republican raises a point of order. The Chair -- Dickweed Cheney, having waddled down from his secure location specifically for this little trick -- "rules" that the filibuster is out of order. Someone questions the ruling of the Chair -- which requires ONLY a majority to sustain. The Republicans twist 51 arms, and, voila!, the rules change is effected with a simple majority and NOT the required 2/3rds majority. Thereafter, until the end of time, the majority party does whatever it wants, and the minority party has no rights. Slick.) -- the letter pretty much guarantees that he will.

Of course, we DO know that it's boilerplate (e.g. Letter # 42a, March 2005 Revision) that is sent to all constituents. So it's not REALLY patronizing. Nossir. Just another form letter.

Now, gentle reader, do you suppose for a moment that El Gordo the Mormo will "keep in mind" my letter?

Here is what I wrote:

Sent to Sen. Smith's website: 4-27-05 @ 1:19 AM PDT

Dear Senator Smith:

If the votes needed for changing Senate rules is 2/3rds (66 or 67) and a Parliamentary dodge is being used to dodge that fundamental issue, HOW can anyone claim that this is being done in the name of what is "right"?

This may well be, historically, the single most important vote in the Senate since the Andrew Johnson impeachment trial, and I would urge you to show the same courage that Senator Edmund G. Ross of Kansas showed, to his eternal credit, in voting to acquit a man that he personally couldn't stand, knowing that he would probably destroy his own political career if he did so. Thank God for the Republic THAT he still did so.

Because once this Rubicon is crossed, there will be no going back. And what is sauce for the goose will be sauce for the gander, to the detriment of us all.

I would hope that you would show the same selfless respect for the separation of powers and the rule of law that Senator Ross did.



I'd say it's obvious from the letter that he didn't even READ what I wrote. I said the issue was malum in se (bad in itself, basically wrong). His response? A disingenuous civics lesson, using improper style. A non sequitur (i.e. "it does not follow").

That's OK. In the past 32 years, I've grown accustomed to people not reading what I write.

But take note: the very fabric of the Republic is under attack, and Senator Smith of Oregon is worried about the "critical" role of voting for judicial nominees.

Funny. He didn't seem very upset when 64 Clinton nominees were consigned to procedural limbo without hearings or votes. But I guess none of them were Hispanic or women, right?

Whoops. Guess not. Sorry.

For Senator Smith's enlightenment let me quote another senator, one John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts in the Pulitzer-prize-winning book that he purportedly wrote, published in 1955, fifty years ago:

In a lonely grave, forgotten and unknown, lies "the man who saved a President" (sic) and who as a result may well have preserved for ourselves and posterity Constitutional government in the United States -- a man who performed in 1868 what one historian has called "the most heroic act in American history, incomparably more difficult than any deed of valor upon the field of battle" -- but a United States Senator (again, sic) whose name no one recalls: Edmund G. Ross of Kansas.
The book is Profiles in Courage, and Senator Smith is invited to check a copy out from the Library of Congress, assuming that he can find his library card.

Sortez du batiment, s'il vous plait.
hart williams
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