"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Saturday, May 15, 2010

with a purposeful grimace and terrible snarl...

As usual, the Rude Pundit nails it -- what we need here is Godzilla!



Maybe if a giant fire-breathing lizard was in charge of dealing with oil company execs, instead of Dick Cheney, we could make some progress.

Papers please!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Google to the rescue?

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel for journalism, and Google may be paying the electric bill for it, according to this excellent article by James Fallows  at The Atlantic (Just because they pay McMegan to warm a chair and fill valuable column inches with teh stupid doesn't mean The Atlantic is all bad).

h/t to Driftglass PTFW!

Update: Arrrgh! This is what happens when I try to multitask and post here while commenting elsewhere. Originally, the link to the Atlantic lead mistakenly led here, though it almost lead here too.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Armageddon tired of superstition dictating government policy

The Divine Ms. Z has a great piece in today's Toronto Star - an interview with Marci McDonald, author of the just-released The Armageddon Factor: the Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada, about which I blogged the other day. She points out the release of the book come on the very day that Canadian politicians are taking part in what has become a staple in U.S. politics - the prayer breakfast. These meeting of the pious and the political have been an annual event in Canada for 45 years, but have never had the prominence or the political import of similar events in the U.S.

These prayer breakfasts were begun in Seattle during the depression by a preacher named Abraham Veriede as a way to pull local business and political leaders together to beat the labor movement. Veriede courted the rich and powerful and built the organization now run by Douglas Coe and described in Jeff Sharlet's The Family. The group believes that the rich and powerful are given wealth and power by God to do his bidding and that minor considerations such as ethics and morality do not apply to them because they are doing God's bidding. Veriede and later Coe, often speak admiringly of the dedication of men such as Adolf Hitler and Lenin and want to harness the same sort of dedication to their cause. Read Sharlet's book, it is chilling stuff. The Family already has dozens of senators and congressmen in its "prayer cells" and it can be assumed their tentacles reach into these political prayer breakfasts in Canada too.
Then read Marci McDonald's book on the Canadian wing of theocratic movement and realize that it can and is happening here. 
Don't get me wrong, I don't really have anything against religious belief - I'm a believer myself, at least on odd-numbered days. What I object to is allowing any one religion to sway public policy, especially a religion as goofy as the North American brand of tent revival fundamentalist Christianity. How goofy are some of these people?
From Antonia Zerbisais' article in The Toronto Star:


According to The Armageddon Factor, evangelicals believe Canada has to clean up its act on abortion, feminism, and homosexuality because it has a special role to play in the “end times.”
That’s because of Psalms 72: 8-9, which leads off the book, and foretells of “dominion … from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”
Never mind that it was likely about an ancient tribal leader’s turf. Many evangelicals see it as a sign, as they see how Parliament Hill’s Peace Tower clock, which stopped because of electrical problems for the first time ever in 2006, stopped at 7:28.


Yeah, that's the kind of magical thinking that you really really want governing economic, education, environmental and defense policy, the kind that thinks Jesus will take of everything for us and that there is no point planning past next Tuesday because the Rapture is coming.

Expect the lead up to the next election to consist entirely of distracting "culture war" wedge issues like gay marriage, crime, and whether the National Gallery should have nude pictures in it. There will even be coded references to changes in abortion law rules on maternal health and funding for religious aid organizations. If the Conservatives have their way the economy, the war in Afghanistan and the mistreatment of detainees and the government's abandonment of its responsibilities to its citizens (see Omar Khadr, Abousfian Abdelrazik, et al) will never be mentioned.

"If they run, they're VC. If they don't run, they're well-disciplined VC"

Most of the news out of Afghanistan is depressing and occasionally enraging, but when I see Seymour Hersh's byline attached to a story, I make sure to read it even though I know it will probably be both depressing and enraging. This story is no exception. It seems "the good guys" are now executing prisoners on the battlefield, or at least that is the story that has been relayed to Hersh by U.S. troops.
I won't argue that Hersh is infallible -- no one is -- but he is one of the best reporters working today and his track record from My Lai to Abu Ghraib is pretty impressive.

This isn't a story, at least not yet. This comes from a talk Hersh gave at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Geneva on April 24, 2010.


HERSH: The purpose of my [Abu Ghraib] stories was to take it out of the field and into the White House. It's not that the President or the Secretary of Defense Mr. Rumsfeld, or Bush, or Cheney, it's not that they knew what happened in Abu Ghraib. It's that they had allowed this kind of activity to happen.
And I'll tell you right now, one of the great tragedies of my country is that Mr. Obama is looking the other way, because equally horrible things are happening to prisoners, to those we capture in Afghanistan. They're being executed on the battlefield. It's unbelievable stuff going on there that doesn't necessarily get reported. Things don't change. 
[...]
What they've done in the field now is, they tell the troops, you have to make a determination within a day or two or so whether or not the prisoners you have, the detainees, are Taliban. You must extract whatever tactical intelligence you can get, as opposed to strategic, long-range intelligence, immediately. And if you cannot conclude they're Taliban, you must turn them free. What it means is, and I've been told this anecdotally by five or six different people, battlefield executions are taking place. Well, if they can't prove they're Taliban, bam. If we don't do it ourselves, we turn them over to the nearby Afghan troops and by the time we walk three feet the bullets are flying. And that's going on now.



Monday, May 10, 2010

Chuckles McVety wants to give you a wedgie

Read this story on the rise of the religious right in Canada and don't get scared, get angry. Then get busy and stop this tiny minority from seizing control of the political agenda in Canada with the same kind of wedge tactics they have used in the United States.
The whole introduction of abortion into the national political agenda has been driven by the tiny religious right in Canada -- in poll after poll Canadians have been shown to favor the status quo on abortion and want to keep it legal, safe and broadly available.
The Reverend Doctor Chuckles McVety (whose credentials are as valid as my own) and his merry little gang of socially regressive theocrats will do their very best to try to push people's buttons and play to their fear, prejudices and worst, darkest sides to push their agenda of having their narrowminded view of morality dominate public policy.
To do this they will try to raise cultural wedge issues. How? Simple - they pick an issue where the state has endorsed a progressive position that may be slightly ahead of the social development curve and use an extreme example and negative stereotypes that might make some in the mushy middle ground on the issue uncomfortable and then claim that it is going to become the standard to scare that middle ground into picking a side.  The transformation of our society to a more open-minded, more progressive one is a slow journey and not everyone travels the road in the direction of progress at the same speed or travels the same distance, so if the religious right and other social regressives can pick off the stragglers and build their numbers, over time they gain enough political clout to throw up roadblock to everyone else's journey and drag more and more people back to the dark ages with them.
The strategy is to divide and conquer, the tactic is to use coded language, innuendo, suggestion and disinformation.
For example: Some people, especially older folks raised in a less open time, are still a bit leery of  open homosexuality - a mindset that is fading with each passing year as Canadians get less religious and the  laws granting equal rights become more broadly accepted and enforced. (Note:  I'm using broad generalizations here, so please, spare me the lecture about how you aren't a homophobe or how everyone is a homophobe or whatever - as far as I'm concerned, if you want to have sex with another consenting adult, do so - it is no one else's business. The public fight over equal rights for homosexuals is merely a convenient example to draw on, the same argument can be made on the fight over fair treatment of people accused of terrorism, women's rights, financial regulation - you name it). The religious right will condemn through various forums - speeches, complaints to government panels, press releases - the most excessive behaviour in the gay community and try to convince Mr. and Mrs. On-the-fence mushy-middle, "we don't know any gay people and we'd rather not talk about sex anyways" that all gays are perverts and degenerates diesel dyke bikers or the guy in the Gay Pride Parade in full make-up wearing nothing a feather boa and assless chaps (not, as the saying goes, that there is anything wrong with that - like I said, they use stereotypes) and claim that they are trying to force everyone to submit to accept gay sex. They will take this conclusion a step further and insist that by trying to inform people, especially young people, of issues of sexuality and sexual preference - for example telling kids that being attracted to someone of their own sex doesn't make them a bad person - is a form of seducing" "recruiting" those young people. Then they make an oh-so-very-brave declaration that just because the world is going to hell in handbasket doesn't mean that they will put up with  pedophiles molesting their children openly gay teachers our in our once proud schools. They will claim gay teachers and "activists" are "trying to cram the homosexual agenda down our throats" and the more extreme elements will make wild baseless claims and equate homosexuality with everything from disease and abuse to child-rape and cannibalism in an effort to drag the Overton window of what is acceptable in discourse back in their direction.
Then they drive the wedge by pushing a false choice that fits with their simplistic black-and-white view of the world: You are either in favor of child-rape and cannibalism or you are against homosexuality. A lot of it has to do with framing the question using loaded language about family or morality or even religiosity, but the goal is to force the subject to make an us-and-them distinction and side with the team conducting the campaign.
The strategy is a tough one to counter, especially if the side using it is willing to be blatantly dishonest in repeating the Big Lie until people start to believe it and has lots of money to spend on advertising, publishing books, magazines, newsletters, websites, building an infrastructure of institutions and networks of people who will back each other up and help mainstream the language and ideas of the extremists. (see Dave Neiwert's excellent The Eliminationists for more on this idea of mainstreaming extremist rhetoric).
Almost any social movement uses this strategy. It worked very well for the African-American civil rights movement and the women's suffrage movement and even the abolitionists. For all I know, early man used it to convince other early men to use fire and tools and move out of the caves - "remember how we found the cave bear in that one cave and it ate Ugg? Unless we leave the cave, the bears will eat us all!"
peckerwoods, they managed to achieve a massive lasting change in society.
Before I am accused of the crime of high Broderism for saying "both sides do it" let me point out some key differences in how and why both sides do it. Both sides want to present their goals in the most favorable light, but one side is using this strategy to oppress people and the other is doing it to achieve equality of treatment, opportunity or status. The aim of the strategy is important and goals are not value-neutral or equally valid -- ending slavery is a good and noble goal, filling you own pockets or keeping your boot on the neck of others is not.
I am not saying the end justifies the means either, because there are important differences in the tactics used to pursue this strategy. Klan lynch mobs and violent rednecks existed, you could see them attacking the civil rights marchers on television. Condemning lynch mobs and complaining about the mistreatment of African Americans in the Jim Crow South was telling the truth. Complaining that abortion leads to breast cancer, teen promiscuity and moral degradation is a Big Lie. Complaining that allowing gay marriage somehow damages heterosexual marriages or undermines families is a Big Lie. Complaining that increasing taxes on the top 2% of income earners back up to where they were 20 years ago or enforcing the existing rules governing financial fraud is socialism/communism/fascism or whatever other idiotic idea the teabaggers are misspelling on their signs this week is a Big Lie.
These are important differences - they are the difference between good and evil.