Saturday, April 26, 2003

Nothing wrong here...

Just some travelling, which is making timely update a little difficult. We're also working on a project regarding the media, corporate monopolies, Clear Channel Communications Inc. and more!

For more commentary, be sure to check out the Daily Weasel! In particular, Milt Shook's Rush Detector series is very much worth a look-see.

Friday, April 25, 2003

Worth repeating word-for-word

This from Atrios:

White House Admits Exaggerating Threat

You know, lying. War was just about proving to the world we had the biggest dick, as if they didn't know that already.

Reason for War?
White House Officials Say Privately the Sept. 11 Attacks Changed Everything

By John Cochran

W A S H I N G T O N, April 25
— To build its case for war with Iraq, the Bush administration argued that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, but some officials now privately acknowledge the White House had another reason for war — a global show of American power and democracy.

Officials inside government and advisers outside told ABCNEWS the administration emphasized the danger of Saddam's weapons to gain the legal justification for war from the United Nations and to stress the danger at home to Americans. "We were not lying," said one official. "But it was just a matter of emphasis."

Officials now say they may not find hundreds of tons of mustard and nerve agents and maybe not thousands of liters of anthrax and other toxins. But U.S. forces will find some, they say. On Thursday, President Bush raised the possibility for the first time that any such Iraqi weapons were destroyed before or during the war.

Hey, they didn't lie about blowjobs or anything REALLY important.

Some explaining

(via Demagogue)

Mr. Bush yesterday demanded an explanation regarding why his tax cuts are a bad idea. Here's what he said in a stump speech in Ohio:

Some in Congress say the plan is too big. Well, it seems like to me they might have some explaining to do. If they agree that tax relief creates jobs, then why are they for a little bitty tax relief package? If they believe tax relief is important for job creation, they ought to join us and join this administration and join many in Congress and have a robust package that creates enough work for the American people. (Applause.)

Well, Mr. President, it's something like this. You can argue working an exhausting maintenance job for $2/hour, commuting for two hours both ways will earn you some money. So you should go in to work as many days as you can, right? But you might actually end up losing money in the process, so what's the point?

It's the same story with the tax cuts you propose: they may create some jobs, but the efficiency in doing so is horrible ($500,000 per job in tax cuts, using your own figures!) and considering the cuts in spending that will be necessary to make room for the tax cuts (especially at the state level), we may very well end up losing jobs for our effort.

There are far more efficient ways to create jobs and stimulate the economy, just as there are better ways to make money. If you could take a job for $25/hour, wouldn't you do that instead of one paying $2/hour? If the job location reduced your commuting time to half an hour both ways, so much the better.

For that matter, I'd much rather commute in a car for two hours than walk the distance in two days. Just because something works doesn't mean it's a good way to reach your goal.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Bush insists on screwing America

Like an incompetent CEO who won't listen to the voices of reason, never learns from his mistakes and insists on repeating them regardless of whether his company tanks, Bush today continued to demonstrate his complete disregard for the welfare of Americans. He simply can't let his irresponsible and universally-condemned tax cut die:

"The debate over whether we ought to have tax relief is over," the president told an audience in Canton. "That's positive. Now we're talking about how big the package ought to be and what it ought to look like."

Of course, Mr. Bush said, he has some ideas about the size of the tax cuts. "The package ought to be at least $550 billion in size over a 10-year period in order to make sure that the economy grows," he told a group of factory workers, who applauded frequently.

As we've noted many times before, only in Bush's dreamworld will his tax cut "make sure the economy grows over the next 10 years". No serious economist agrees with this notion, and Bush doubtless knows it. Put simply, Bush is lying through his teeth. It's not hard to see why Bush failed several businesses before becoming governor of Texas, yet profitted personally through shady maneuvering.

Unfortunately, we seem to be living in a time when CEO's can run companies into the ground, screw over thousands of employees and still profit handsomely -- hell, if it feels good, do it, right, Dubya? It remains to be seen whether the voters will throw the current incompetent leadership out on its ear in and opt for new management in 2004. But if the Weasels have anything to say about it...
Right-wing idiots again advocate criminal behavior

Administration apologists are still trying to spin their negligence in failing to secure cultural treasures in post-war Iraq, and they're stooping to ridiculous lows to do it (it would be hillarious if these guys didn't have the ear of the President). Talk about sick. From today's Wall Street Journal (with a few responses):

The world weeps over the wanton destruction of the treasures of the ill-guarded National Museum of Iraq and the burning of Baghdad's unique Islamic library.

The media have devoted much time and space to this tragedy. However, mentioning one aspect of it seems to be taboo: the grave danger of having too large a part of a culture's art gathered in just one place on earth. The preachments of the archaeological community notwithstanding, the retentionist program they advocate is a prescription for future catastrophes.

The history of our time offers a record of cultural destruction both from the forces of nature and the uncaring actions of man. (A partial list appears nearby.) The major lesson to be learned from the Iraq disaster is the desirability of dispersing widely the art of past civilizations. As folk wisdom has it, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket."

This, of course, implies it was the Iraqis' fault that the looting happened. They shouldn't have had everything stored in one place, so poorly guarded. And it's our fault September 11 happened, since we had those big ol' towers standing there with nary an antiaircraft gun to defend them.

Contrary to what some believe, trade in ancient objects is not the enemy of preservation. The great contribution the art market makes to this cause is to endow works of art with value. When objects have no value they are inevitably at grave risk of destruction because preserving them is a costly enterprise. Storing, safeguarding, heating and air conditioning, and conserving art can only be done for a relatively few things. In practice, there is a constant triage which saves a few treasured objects while consigning the remainder to destruction through benign neglect.

The valuing of art, of course, doesn't depend upon it being bought or sold, just as your house retains value even if you don't put it up for sale. The above is absurd on its face.

One curious point in this debate is that the present-day population of so many archaeologically well-endowed regions consists of the descendants of the invaders who destroyed the very cultures whose remnants their modern governments now so jealously claim as exclusively theirs. Turkey's Adriatic coast is rich in ancient Greek art--but in the 1920s, the remnant of its Greek population was expelled in an early instance of ethnic cleansing. Most modern Latin Americans are descendants of the Spanish Conquistadors who destroyed the Aztec and Inca empires and all their works within reach. Do these descendants have a better moral claim to the buried artifacts of earlier civilizations than the rest of humanity?

The same can be said for virtually all land and most other property currently owned--at some point in its history, most property has been transferred by conquest. By this logic, of course, pretty much all theft can be justified.

The basic thrust of this article is that artifacts belong on the open market, anyway. So how can we complain about the looting? The thieves weren't thieves at all: they were doing the world a favor by "saving" all those ill-gotten artifacts from the poor conditions in which they were undoubtedly kept.

Tell you what: if I ever choose to "liberate" your ill-gotten car from your clutches, you can be sure I'll defend the action on the grounds that you weren't maintaining it like you should have been.

Nice try, guys.
North Korea isn't playing ball...

First came the news (via CNN) this morning that North Korea had explicitly stated it had nuclear weapons. Not really a surprise to those of us who follow such things, but still interesting that it was explicitly stated.

Now we hear that the talks between the US and NK, scheduled for three days in Beijing, have broken up a day early with Colin Powell issuing strongly-worded statements warning that the United States doesn't respond to threats.

Hmmm...we don't have all the details yet, but could it be that the North Koreans, far from being intimidated by war on Iraq (as neocons in the administration had predicted), are basically threatening to nuke our ass if we try the same thing there?

As the second day of talks wrapped up, Pyongyang said the situation on the peninsula was "so tense that a war may break out any moment due to the US moves."

Sounds a little scary. I wonder if the Bush administration has the slightest clue how to deal with this situation without getting millions of people killed? Or do they only know how to make messes, not clean them up?

Looks like the end of the war hasn't done much for the economy. According to the latest seasonally-adjusted weekly unemployment figures, there were 455,000 new filings in the week ending April 19th, up from 447,000 the week before. If this continues, any uptick in consumer sentiment thanks to the end of the war is likely to be short-lived. Note to voters: Hussein wasn't the problem when it comes to the economy. The responsible party dwells in the Oval Office.

On and on rolls the Bush Economy...
A thought on the Dixie Chicks

As as well-connected source recently told me, while the Dixie Chicks have been doing very well among their core fan base in the Country market (so much for a "groundswell of public backlash among their fans in response to their comments"), the GOP-engineered boycott of their singles at the radio level has badly hurt sales in crossover markets. The Chicks' music depends heavily on crossover sales from the much-larger Pop market for most of their revenue (this means that the GOP has had absolutely no problem with damaging private citizens--or whomever else gets in their way--for blatantly partisan purposes. More and more, the GOP and its shills resemble a criminal enterprise, in some respects).

Anyway, it would now appear that the 'Chicks are fighting back. As Atrios has noted, they're on the cover of Entertainment Weekly in a fairly, well, eye-catching fashion, and they're taking their fight public. These are not women who tend to back down when they get a raw deal (witness what they did to Sony Music Entertainment when that organization failed to live up to its contracts), and one suspects it will happen again. The GOP may live to regret using them as icons to press its political agenda.

Speaking of which, the Dixie Chicks' past actions, music, etc. might provide some insight into why the GOP slander apparatus went after them in such savage fashion. This is a group of women who (despite their allegedly un-feminist name) doesn't put up with mistreatment, and instead promotes the idea of women standing up for themselves. One wonders whether dislike of "uppity women" didn't play a bit of a role in the ever-backward, ever-bigoted GOP's political calculations. First, they went after Martha Stewart (I know, I know, most people don't really like Stewart, but it is notable that the GOP preferred very public hearings on a strong woman's misdeeds to going after the multiple Kenny Boys in industry who had been guilty of far more. It's also notable how much people not liking that "ball-breaking" Stewart was part of the story), and now this. Sure, they went after Daschle and others, too, but the 'Chicks were the main target.

Pointing this out might be a rather effective counter-strategy.
Santorum's meltdown going critical

The blogosphere is going nuts over Rick Santorum's target-inscribed backside; the man seems to be tailor-made to bring shame upon his associates (namely, the entirety of the GOP, which -- as well-represented by Sens. Frist and Spector -- refuses to disown him).

Now, some Republicans are getting the message that Santorum must be stopped, or at least receive a public wrist-slapping. It would seem several of them have demanded that he issue an apology:

A Republican group whose officials include former President Gerald R. Ford and Mary Cheney, the daughter of the vice president, demanded today that Senator Rick Santorum apologize to gays for his remarks equating homosexuality with bigamy and incest.

. . .

Today the Republican group, the Republican Unity Coalition, joined the critics. But the coalition, which describes itself as a "gay-straight organization dedicated to making homosexuality a non-issue" did not call for Mr. Santorum to relinquish his leadership position.

The main problem, of course, is that bigotry is endemic to the GOP -- it's impossible for them to disown it while maintaining their far-right bent. Calpundit may be right -- this may be quite the winning issue in 2004.
What the hell is it with Fox, anyway?

First, Fox News asserted the right in court to mislead their viewers at will. Then, Geraldo was forceably removed from Afghanistan for endangering American lives by blatantly violating the terms of being an embedded reporter. Now, one of their engineers has been caught by US Customs trying to bring a stolen Iraqi painting into the States.

Is this what's meant by "fair and balanced"? Giving equal time to sliminess and unethical behavior?

If this is the sort of "moral fiber" conservatives want to bring back to America, we Weasels firmly believe we can do without it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

The Barr's closed...again

Looks like former Georgia Senator Bob Barr, best known as the right-winger primarily behind the Congressional witch-hunts of Bill Clinton, is bowing out of a campaign to re-start his Congressional career:

Barr had touted himself as the front-runner to fill the seat being vacated by Republican Johnny Isakson, but said Wednesday he was withdrawing to spend more time with his family and pursue other opportunities.

"I was looking forward to getting back in there, but it was a decision based on some long conversations with Jeri, our kids and our grandkids. We concluded the time was just not right," Barr said.

Barr, a fierce opponent of gun control and abortion rights, may have been "too raw" for voters in Atlanta's northern suburbs, said Merle Black, a political science professor at Atlanta's Emory University.

We're really not sorry to see this. Clearly, the Congress needs fewer hard-line right-wingers, not more, and this guy's a piece of work. The taxpayers could certainly have seen their money put to better use than Barr put it in going after Clinton.
GOP tries to head off reporting about the inevitable rock-bottom Bush approval ratings

Looks like the GOP has read the writing on the wall, knows they have an extremist in the White House who can't hold poll results up without a war, and is trying to pre-empt reporting about it:

A GOP memo being sent to Republicans across the country predicts that President Bush's high approval ratings will soon "drop to more realistic levels" and that some polls may show him behind Democratic rivals, but cautions that such a development should not be cause for alarm.

The memo -- an advance copy of which was obtained by CNN -- comes from Matthew Dowd, a senior adviser for the Republican National Committee, who tells fellow Republicans that the expected drop in approval ratings will likely prompt "a chorus of 'the sky is falling.' "

But that, Dowd writes, is not the case, and he urges his party colleagues to keep their cool in the weeks and months ahead.

"Every incumbent president in the last 25 years has been behind the opposition in the latter part of his first term -- the sky is not falling," Dowd writes.

Time will tell. But judging by Bush's approval ratings compared with those of other Presidents, they have quite a bit to worry about. In fact, the only other presidents in the last 25 years who has had non-war approval ratings drop as far and as fast as Dubya's were the first George Bush and Jimmy Carter.
Heaven loves a tightwad

Here's a bit of good news: according to those who know him, Senator George Voinovich (Ohio), one of several GOP holdouts against Bush's gigantic tax giveaway to the rich, is not likely to change his opinion because of pressure by Bush (to say nothing of the slander campaign orchestrated by the "Club for Growth").

Nice to know there are some Republicans who stick to principles, even if we would normally disagree with them.
Will common sense get to Nader in 2004?

The surprisingly bellicose and hard-right direction of the Bush administration has given many Greens pause about running a third-party presidential campaign next year. One prominent Green Party activist -- journalist and former Nader confidant Ronnie Dugger -- has publicly and privately pleaded with his old friend not to run for president, urging him instead to run for senator or governor. Dugger argues that the extremism of the Bush presidency has created a "national emergency" that requires a unified effort on the left to beat the Republican ticket in 2004.

Don't get us wrong -- Nader has a long history of fighting on the side of the angels, even given the part he played in the 2000 election. But the Left absolutely needs to unify around the effort to vote Bush out in 2004. The future of the country is at stake.

And who knows? Maybe progressives who have abandoned the Democratic Party will once again discover the value of using that vehicle to enact their policies.
Unintended Consequences

You know those pictures of thousands of Shi'ite Muslims being shown on TV as an example of the glorious religious freedoms we've broungt to Iraq? It would appear that the Shi'ites in southern iraq are looking for foment civil war and an Islamic state. Although many warned about this very thing (it became an issue after the 1991 Gulf War), Wolfowitz and other hawks seem to have held sway with their simplistic notions that ethnic tensions would not explode, and the administration now says it is unprepared to deal with the crisis. To make matters worse, Iranian agents appear to have infiltrated southern Iraq to promote certain Shi'ite clerics and Iranian interests.

This is very bad news, people; it would seem that we may have created another hard-line Islamic state. What's worse, if there are, in fact, WMDs hidden around the country, we may very well have created the exact situation Bush wanted a war to prevent.

I'd like to say "I told you so", but this could actually turn into a worse situation than even most anti-war people predicted -- except for our very own Milt Shook, who warned that democracy in Iraq wouldn't necessarily be what we think it should be.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Christian Evangelical missionary work -- a matter of national security

This has to be read to be believed. Wingnuts are trying to shut down TIME Magazine's reporting on private-organization Evangelical Christian missionary activities in Iraq on the grounds that it will "put countless American lives at risk". This is as clear a statement on their dream for America and the world (the creation of a theocratic empire) as you'll ever find; essentially, they're saying converting Iraqi Muslims to Christianity is equivalent to a matter of national security:

As Joel Rosenberg at WORLD reports, "For months, TIME reporters have been working on a sensational cover piece: the inside story of evangelical 'special ops,' missionaries working undercover in the Muslim world. They've been told repeatedly it's a story most Christian leaders don't want told. The risk of imprisonment, torture or death for Christians in the Middle East is just too real. But an aggressive reporting effort continues."

. . .

Of special interest to TIME: "Often, to avoid detection by authorities, this new breed employs a tactic called 'tentmaking' or 'tunneling.' Essentially, this means doing some kind of other work as a cover or pretext, when [the] real goal is preaching... How exactly do they get away with preaching in such a hostile climate? (We are fascinated by this secret-agent aspect and would like to hear about it in great detail.)"

Yet it is precisely this level of detail -- what the Pentagon calls OPSEC, "operational security" -- that most Christian leaders don't want publicly discussed, since it could put countless numbers of innocent Americans under fire.

The arrogance, the hubris, the bigotry and warped view illustrated in this memo are almost too much to be believed. These people do not represent the United States, nor are their actions (going into a hostile post-war zone to create religious strife) in any way mandatory. I don't want to see Americans get killed, but if Evangelicals want to go do something foolhardy and create problems for the rest of us at the same time, they can hardly cry foul when the press reports on it.

One suspects, though, that the real reason behind the conern over publicity is that they know full well that most Americans would find their actions abhorrent, counterproductive and perhaps downright dangerous to America's national security.

The Boss weighs in

From Brucespringsteen.net:

The Dixie Chicks have taken a big hit lately for exercising their basic right to express themselves. To me, they're terrific American artists expressing American values by using their American right to free speech. For them to be banished wholesale from radio stations, and even entire radio networks, for speaking out is un-American.

The pressure coming from the government and big business to enforce conformity of thought concerning the war and politics goes against everything that this country is about - namely freedom. Right now, we are supposedly fighting to create freedom in Iraq, at the same time that some are trying to intimidate and punish people for using that same freedom here at home.

I don't know what happens next, but I do want to add my voice to those who think that the Dixie Chicks are getting a raw deal, and an un-American one to boot. I send them my support.

Bruce Springsteen

Sentiments that could only have been born in the USA.
Gotta love the town of Arcata, CA.

The city fathers have passed an ordinance which makes it illegal to voluntarily comply with the USA Patriot Act. I think this is just the kind of thing more cities and states should do.

It's ironic, isn't it, that the junta constantly brays about "states' rights," yer they constantly try to bully their will onto the states and cities of this country. The best news in all of this, of course, is that Arcata most assuredly will not be the last municipality to do this. Might we suggest claling your local city or town council and ask them to repeat this courageous act.

Foranyone who is not familiar with the USA Patriot Act, go to the Daily Weasel Web Page and sroll down the left side of the page, where you will see links to it and Patriot Act II. Basically, law enforcement can go to your local library or bookstore and demand all of your records, and the librarian or store owner is forbidden from telling you about it.

If that doesn't scare the shit out of you, then go listen to Rush Limbaugh, because you don't really understand what America is all about.

Read more about Arcata HERE...

Monday, April 21, 2003

Nastiness from my own neck of the woods

(via Hesiod)
Looks like the central Iowa weekend pass Jan Mickelson, a.k.a. "I can out-idiot Limbaugh" has decided to spew his vitriol on local high-school students:

in the past few weeks, a Des Moines talk-radio host has crossed the line between idle raving and inciting. He's used the power of his control room to pick on teenagers. And it's gone beyond ignorant and offensive to downright creepy.

What provoked WHO radio's Jan Mickelson into his weeklong rampage was a national Day of Silence that members of Roosevelt High School's Straight and Gay Alliance were taking part in April 9. SAGA is one of 52 student-led extracurricular clubs (Bible Studies is another). It supports gay and lesbian students and has some members who are neither.

. . .

When the news reached Mickelson, the darling of local conservative talk radio - a man who can't seem to let a mention of gay folks go without grabbing his mike and his soapbox - it was manna raining down from heaven.

For starters, he referred to SAGA as "the sodomy club" so often that, according to Al Foote, the counselor who is club sponsor, some listeners thought that was its actual name. He made the false claim that its activities were on school time with taxpayer money and involved all students. He concluded the school was pushing sexual activity and homosexuality on the kids.

"You've got activists now in control of the Des Moines school system and . . . they are defining the rules," he railed. "They didn't ask your permission, they're just doing it. And, then if you say no you don't like it, they call you a bigot."

What follows is a point-for-point rebuttal of Mickelson's answer to the above-quoted article:

MICKELSON: Reka's words are in Bold Type, mine aren't.

Much of what passes for discourse on talk radio isn’t worth dignifying with a response. Wild assertions are offered without supporting facts. Trivial things are generalized and distorted out of all proportion to score political points. Bluster and ridicule are turned on efforts for justice and equality, and scapegoats are made of easy targets.

MICKELSON: Much of what passes for print journalism isn’t worth dignifying with a response, especially when wild assertions are offered without supporting facts. Important things are trivialized and distorted by activists who pander to the loony left while politically correct sniveling replaces concern for the health and safety of our children, sacrificed to the narrow political agenda of gay lobby.

You'll note immediately that most of Mickelson's response is at the childlike level of repeating his critic's words, modified with hotkeyed Mickelson soundbytes. This isn't written by someone with a triple-digit IQ, folks, nor by someone with even a passing affinity for the truth. Ironically, though, Mickelson's lowbrow response illustrates beautifully the tendency to scapegoat easy targets Rekha mentions in her piece.

One question raised by Mickelson's response that might be worth pursuing: what, exactly, is the "narrow political agenda of gay lobby [sic]"?

There’s a simplistic if paranoid formulation behind these rants: Government and taxes are bad. America needs to be rescued from the clutches of the politically correct. The country lacks morals and discipline. The world is going to hell in a hand basket.

MICKELSON: There’s tiresome familiarity to these rants: Traditional morality equals oppression. Concern for the health and safety of students equals intolerance. And the motivation of concerned citizens equals bigotry and hatred.

With this one-liner, of course, Mickelson attempts to change the subject from his harrassment of high-school students to What's Wrong With America (TM). Mickelson is actually attempting to claim victim status for having been called to task for his remarks, minimizing them to expressions of "traditional morality" and "concern for the health and safety of students". This is akin to a rapist using "she asked for it" and "all we did was have sex" as a defense in court -- and it isn't any more logical or reasonable here.

Perhaps it would be instructive for Mickelson to explain, however, using something other than wild assertion, exactly how his harrassment of the SAGA club has anything to do with "concern for the health and safety of students".

But in the past few weeks, a Des Moines talk-radio host has crossed the line between idle raving and inciting. He’s used the power of his control room to pick on teenagers. And it’s gone beyond ignorant and offensive to downright creepy.

MICKELSON: But over the past several years, a Des Moines Register columnist has repeatedly crossed the line. Reka (without a Clue) Basu has taken every occasion to bash every decent institution of our Christian heritage. She continually miz-uses her column to support every silly politically correct nostrum that’s in vogue. It’s gone beyond ignorant and predictable…it’s downright hilarious. Now that Badgad Bob is gone, I’ll have to back to reading Reka for my daily dose of unintended humor.

Mickelson here switches from whine to attack, using amateurish, unsupported ad-hominem assertions to divert from the charges against him. This is actually fairly damning for Mickelson, since one has to ask why he chooses to "kill the messenger" rather than take on the message (surely an easy task if truth were on his side).

What provoked WHO radio’s Jan Mickelson into his weeklong rampage was a national Day of Silence that members of Roosevelt High School’s Straight and Gay Alliance were taking part in April 9. SAGA is one of 52 student-led extracurricular clubs (Bible Studies is another). It supports gay and lesbian students and has some members who are neither.

MICKELSON: What provoked the Clueless One into this rant? Any time anyone who disagrees with any part of the Gay Agenda, Reka can be called upon to give mindless assent to any of its claims. What provoked my dealing with Roosevelt High School’s Day of Silence was parental concern. Several sent me the flyer which was distributed from the counselor’s office and asked me to bring it to the attention of the community.

Once again, Mickelson minimizes his own actions to "parental concern", throwing in the unrelated jab at the "Gay Agenda" for good measure. It would really be helpful if Mickelson could define exactly what the big ol' scary "Gay Agenda" is. Perhaps if he'd follow his fears through to conclusion, he'd realize most of them are groundless. But then, what would he have to hawk on his show?

The event was in solidarity with victims of intolerance. Remember Matthew Shepard, the gay Wyoming college student who was beaten, tied to a fence and left to die’?

MICKELSON: Here it is! It took only five paragraphs to get to the clichéd logic, “We are victims, therefore we are virtuous” tactical argument.

Mickelson seems entirely unable to argue without soundbytes, and they leave his response a classic study in strawman. No one has claimed gay people are especially "virtuous", nor is it necessary for them to be to warrant the same freedom from harrassment everyone else enjoys. Mickelson evidently feels it's OK to publicly harrass children whom he finds less than "virtuous". He's judge, jury and executioner, and obviously above trivial concerns like common decency (to say nothing of the avoidance of on-air slander).

When the news reached Mickelson, the darling of local conservative talk radio - a man who can’t seem to let a mention of gay folks go without grabbing his mike and his soapbox - it was manna raining down from heaven.

MICKELSON: When the news reached her that one of her sacred cows had been jostled, Reka, the useful idiot of the Gay Lobby, couldn’t restrain her impulse to hit the E (Effluvia) button on her word processor. Another chance to put the daily, sometimes twice daily pro-gay news story in the Register... another “We are the World” moment.

Evidently at a loss for a reasoned response, Mickelson again resorts to the 5th-grade "I know you are but what am I" retort. He has still failed to justify his remarks or withdraw them.

For starters, he referred to SAGA as “the sodomy club” so often that, according to Al Foote, the counselor who is club sponsor, some listeners thought that was its actual name. He made the false claim that its activities were on school time with taxpayer money and involved all students. He concluded the school was pushing sexual activity and homosexuality on the kids.

MICKELSON: Twice. Good name. Nope, nope, and nope.

Even once would have been slanderous. One would have to obtain a transcript to tell whether Mickelson is lying through his teeth here (I haven't been able to find one), so the jury's out on the truthfulness of his denial. However, it is notable that a mere seven paragraphs later in this very piece, he claims that the club is school-sponsored. Oops.

“You’ve got activists now in control of the Des Moines school system and… they are defining the rules, “he railed. “They didn’t ask your permission, they’re just doing it. And, then if you say no you don’t like it, they call you a bigot.”

MICKELSON: Yup, by activists, who added “sexual orientation” to the district’s discrimination policy. Activists, such as Des Moines School Board member, Jon Neiderbach, who will publicly call you a bigot if you disagree with the idea of granting minority status to a behavior-based, self-designated group. Or others who will call you even worse. CityView My response. I’m almost tempted to claim, “I’m a victim, therefore virtuous”. ;)

Given Jan's clear belief that he's both a victim and virtuous, such is hardly necessary. Note again the minimalization of his actions to "disagreement". One can disagree without harrassing, or inciting ones followers into harrassing through slander. I'd bet even Jan would see the difference, if he really thought about it.

Complaining that society cares too much about gay people’s feelings, Mickelson said such concern is unwarranted “if you are a pervert and want to spin a sexual agenda at our expense. “But then he suggested being gay is a myth. “It’s junk science that says they are, and tells them to define themselves on the basis of their inclinations.”

MICKELSON: Complaining that no group dealing with a sexual agenda needs to be on a high school campus at all. The Kinsey Myth is junk science and his legacy is still hurting kids long after he’s gone. Obviously there are are people who engage in same-sex behavior. Kinsey tried to re-define people upon the basis of their inclinations or behavior. That's the junk science. That's the myth. Do a little homework Reka.

As the proud holder of a Bachelor's degree in Psychology, I can state unequivocally that Mickelson is full of crap -- the research simply doesn't support his contention. Sexual Orientation has both environmental and genetic components, and neither involve "choice" -- the exhibited behavoir does indeed indicate something intrinsic to the person, and there are real differences between people when it comes to orientation. I don't imagine that will get in the way of his believing what he wants (and harrassing others based upon those beliefs), however -- it is Mickelson who holds on to "junk science" for dear life.

Mickelson even tried to link the SAGA event to falling test scores.

MICKELSON: Des Moines test scores are in the dumper and both parents and teachers are sick of wasting precious resources mastering PC glop instead of mastering the ABCs.

Even if this were true (Mickelson provides no evidence for any part of his hotkeyed non sequitur), it would have absolutely no bearing on whether the existence of SAGA or its activities have anything to do with Des Moines test scores(which are average to above average). Mickelson is backpedalling even as we watch, and it isn't pretty.

He graphically described to one student caller how he envisioned a sex act between two men. Foote says, “I thought it was totally out of line to be talking like that to a high-school student.”

MICKELSON: Here’s the conversation in total.

“...how he envisioned...” ? Like I’m making it up? This guy is a counselor? “Out of line to be talking like that to a high-school student”? Ya gotta be kidding. A self-identified gay high school student calls and asserts the equivalence of gay and straight sex. After years of sex education, AIDS lectures, condoms on bananas and cucumbers, NOW a school counselor gets squeamish? Yea, Right. Perhaps instead of handing out pro-gay T-shirts, the counselor should be passing out information about the health risks of the gay life-style.

Despite his clumsy defense, we can glean that this brainiac evidently feels pointing to others' perceived wrongdoings excuses virtually anything he chooses to do. It's an odd tack for a right-winger to take, akin to the "society made me do it" defense he would undoubtedly find abhorrent and rant against on his show, if the opportunity presented itself. In this case, Mickelson feels he can talk inappropriately to a teen-ager because he believes others have likely talked to the same teenager in the same way. Mickelson has thus admitted becoming part of the problem he evidently perceives.

And the radio host exhorted listeners not to stand for any of it.

MICKELSON: Stand for what? Oh yea, I forgot.

Or, more likely, didn't understand it in the first place.

Roosevelt’s phones lit up with hundreds of calls from outraged listeners, some so offensive that Principal Anita Micich had to replace student phone clerks. She had adult campus monitors ready in case of trouble. Repeatedly, she explained the school isn’t pushing anything on anybody, and whatever your view of homosexuality, it’s wrong that people are being discriminated against.

MICKELSON: Yes, hundreds of narrow-minded, bigoted, misinformed, ignorant callers who hate children…only truly wretched people could possibly disagree with the "enlightened" Basu and company. Reka, is it possible that those parents have a better answer to these questions than you do?

Once again, Mickelson tries to play the victim to deflect responsibility for his actions. It's easily the most frequent tactic in used in this diatribe.

At least he got the "narrow-minded, bigoted, misinformed, ignorant" part right.

Foote says he also fielded calls after Mickelson or someone on the show accused him of “promoting my gay agenda with taxpayer money.” One caller said, “Shame on you,” and told Foote he was praying for him. For the record, Foote has been married 26 years and has three sons, and the event was student-planned.

MICKELSON: SAGA is a school-sponsored organization. It exists to advance an agenda. The agenda begins with the Kinsey Myth and proceeds to assert minority status based upon junk science assumptions. Foote’s marital status is a non sequitur. Nobody said he was gay, though he is the faculty sponsor of a SAGA.

Actually, it may be a straw man (it was probably included to correct misinterpretations common among those with Mickelson's mindset that those who promote tolerance of gays are likely gay themselves), but it's not really a non sequitur, at least not in the way Mickelson suggests. Perhaps this explains why he commits so many non sequiturs himself: he doesn't know what they are.

Studies suggest gay students are two to three times as likely to attempt suicide as straight students. So schools have an obligation to help them find strength and support. “They’re concerned about these issues,” said Micich of SAGA members. “They did none of this with any malice toward anybody.” And she’s proud of them.

MICKELSON: I’m inclined to say, “I rest my case.” The school administration buys into the Kinsey Fraud and its assumptions completely.

(In short, the Kinsey Myth is to measure one’s orientation based upon one’s own sexual inclinations on a sliding scale. Ten percent [the 10 percent myth] perceive themselves to be only attracted to same sex partners and are therefore homosexuals. On the other end of the scale, people who are attracted exclusively to opposite sex partners are therefore heterosexuals. People who are “unaffiliated” in the middle of the curve somewhere are bisexuals. Therefore, what you feel is what you are)

This nonsense is junk science, socio-babble, sexual snake-oil. But that doesn’t stop educrats from swallowing it hook, line and sinker, or columnists uncritically reporting it.

He could rest his case, but he'd be laughed out of court: this is like the afore-mentioned rapist arguing that since women are more likely to suffer rape than men, then the problem is with the women, not the rapist.

That, my dear Mickelson, is a non sequitur.

As for the "Kinsey Fraud" comment, where would right-wing talk show hosts be without the "Grand Conspiracies" to peddle? It's clear he is entirely ignorant of the state of psychological research on this topic; one doesn't even know where to begin to address his colossal lack of knowledge -- especially since it's clear Mickelson will warp anything and conveniently ignore any facts to maintain his existing world view, which seems to be that homosexuality is a mistaken behavior that can be cured with a little willpower.

Suffice it to say that Kinsey's work, regardless of its flaws, is a small minority of the total research that's been done in this area.

For all the grief and disruption Mickelson caused, maybe he did SAGA a favor. He put a face on the hatred they were trying expose: his face.

MICKELSON: For its incoherence, hysteria, and dissembling, perhaps the Gay Lobby has done the taxpayers a favor. They have been caught again using our schools, money and children for a destructive political agenda.

And for all the electrons Mickelson murdered to post his non-response, he failed to define what that "gay agenda" is, why it's dangerous, or how it in any way excuses his inexcusable on-air conduct towards a bunch of high-school students whose only crime is supporting those different than certain hateful talk-show hosts.
In their own words...

Extremists are best described using their own words. At the web site for "Citizens Against Celebrity Pundits" (a small right-wing group evidently peopled and frequented by the same Freeper types who think Rush Limbaugh is just dandy and Attila-the-Hun too liberal, and perhaps organized by the GOP itself) can be found a petition with such lovely "patriotic" comments as those listed below:

"I think all liberals, not just celebrities, should be lined up and shot, and their wives and children raped." -- Steve Branson, OK

"These scum ar putting our soldiers at risk. they are probably responsible for some brave soldiers lives already." -- Pete Kivlen, CA

"Please escort all these traitor celebrities out of the country. I won't watch any of their movies again!" -- Howard Sanders, TX

"Although you are entitled to your opinions, I would appreciate it if you would stop abusing your status as a celebrity to undermine our country. Just because you hold an opinion does not mean you have to voice it." -- Kari Brodin, WA

"Any of you commies who disagree with us can move to France, but if you keep yapping and undermining our country, you need to be contained like our prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. WE ARE AT WAR PEOPLE!!! WAKE UP! GOD BLESS PRESIDENT BUSH!" -- Reb Browning, TN

"For his support of Saddam Hussein, Martin Sheen should be executed for treason." -- Joe Hepfer, NY

"You people really need Jesus Christ in your life . . . then you would see the evil nature of your ways. You truly are a evil cancer of the entire world. Christ died for you . . . I hope someday you accept him and turn from your perverse lifestyles . . . AND GET A CLUE!!!!!!" -- Dan Feldt, WI

Obviously, we're talking the cream of society, here.

Some suspiciously common themes from the signees: "celebrities don't speak for me", "they're arrogant", "they live in a make-believe world", "they're high-school dropouts" -- it's fairly clear most signees were told what to say.

Among the most ironic sentiments: "they don't know what they're talking about" (since when do Hannity, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, etc. know what they're talking about?), "they haven't served in the military" (how many Bush administration and right-wing pundit types have served?) and "they wouldn't be able to say what they are saying if they lived in Iraq" (since when do we honor the right to free speech, for which our brave servicemen and servicewomen have fought and died, by telling someone else to shut up?). But easily my favorite is "why should being rich and connected entitle them to speak out and have a platform? One person, one vote!" (what do you think the whole right-wing movement is about? Where is the criticism of Limbaugh, Hannity, etc. who abuse their positions of power daily? Where is the criticism of Coors, Scaife, etc. who have bought a movement and a country? Where is the support for getting money out of politics?).

A large percentage of signees were directed to the site by Fox News and Talk Radio (specifically, Sean Hannity, Mancow and others). Surprise, surprise.

Also, no mention of criticism of Arnold Schwartzenegger, Travis Tritt, Charlie Daniels, etc. I wonder why?
Using gains from the War on Iraq in the War on the Economy

Looks like the Dofus administration is still looking to wreck the country by boosting the amount of the 2003 Tax Giveaway to the Wealthy (TM), and they're banking on Dubya's wartime popularity to do it.

As we've written here many times, most reputable economists and clear data from economic history strongly disagree with Bush's assertions that his huge tax cut will promote job or economic growth. Even the most optimistic supply-side models of future economic behavior show his tax cut having, at best, a break-even effect on the economy. At worst, it will make things much, much worse. Bush is pushing thoroughly-discredited snake-oil economic policy, and virtually everyone outside of the extremist anti-tax movement knows it. If anything, we should be looking at holding the line on tax cuts, temporarily increasing spending to boost economic activity, and rescinding the tax cuts that come later in the decade.

Two courageous Republican senators (George V. Voinovich of Ohio and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine) are currently keeping Bush's economic madness somewhat in check. But they're the target of a vicious campaign by the slyly-named "Club for Growth" (the only thing they're trying to grow is the size of the wealthiest Americans' share of the income pie). It would be nice to let those senators know their moderation and civic-mindedness would be very welcome on the other side of the aisle.

Meanwhile, the States are cutting lots of "wasteful" spending (like lightbulbs in government buildings, having teachers be teachers and janitors be janitors, and incarceration of criminals for their full sentences) and long-range budget projections continue to deteriorate, both thanks to lack of federal government revenue and cash infusions. Still think we can afford even $350 billion in new tax giveaways?
Was Bush right all along?

(via Demagogue)

Judith Miller at the New York Times writes this morning about a US WMD search team's claims it has tracked down a scientist who has given them some information regarding Iraq's banned weapons programs and cooperation with Syria/al Qaeda:

A scientist who claims to have worked in Iraq's chemical weapons program for more than a decade has told an American military team that Iraq destroyed chemical weapons and biological warfare equipment only days before the war began, members of the team said.

They said the scientist led Americans to a supply of material that proved to be the building blocks of illegal weapons, which he claimed to have buried as evidence of Iraq's illicit weapons programs.

The scientist also told American weapons experts that Iraq had secretly sent unconventional weapons and technology to Syria, starting in the mid-1990's, and that more recently Iraq was cooperating with Al Qaeda, the military officials said.

. . .

An American military team hunting for unconventional weapons in Iraq, the Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha, or MET Alpha, which found the scientist, declined to identify him, saying they feared he might be subject to reprisals. But they said that they considered him credible and that the material unearthed over the last three days at sites to which he led them had proved to be precursors for a toxic agent that is banned by chemical weapons treaties.

The article notes that the scientist claims Iraq's programs were highly compartmentalized, and it's not clear how he would know the information he says he possesses.

This article raises a couple of interesting issues.

First, it's a certainty some will wonder whether this administration (which does so many things secretively and corruptly) is keeping the search for such evidence on the level. Can we get independent corroboration?

If we can, and if the scientist's information is legitimate, such could certainly seem to vindicate, at least in part, Bush's claims regarding the potential danger Iraq posed to the United States via al Qaeda. If we can't get such confirmation, much of the world will undoubtedly view any such evidence as planted (given Bush's history of prevarication, this view wouldn't be unjustified).

Second, even if the information can be verified, some troubling questions would still need to be addressed:

  1. Just how extensive and unusual were any real ties to al Qaeda, and how closely did the two share information on WMDs?

  2. Was it necessary to keep intelligence of links between Iraq and al Qaeda under such tight wraps before the war that no one believed us, providing only "proof" so weak that much of it turned out to be fraudulent? Or was this a case of guesswork (given the shifting rationales going into the war) that turned out to be correct?

  3. Did we have to destroy and damage so many of our international ties to prosecute this war?

I'll certainly give credit where credit is due. But one shouldn't have to retroactively justify a war, and Dubya's ham-handed handling of the whole affair may have created more problems than it solved. After all, Iraq certainly wouldn't have been al Qaeda's only source for weapons information, materiel and other support, and if we want to nail that terrorist organization, it makes the most sense to go after the organization itself, doesn't it? And does it make sense to expend so much capital with the world taking out one potential source for al Qaeda armament that we end up a) creating more Islamic militants and b) lose international support and cooperation in dealing with the organization itself?

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Interpreting the polls

Calpundit (check out his nice new site -- with comments!) discussed an LA Times poll yesterday regarding popular opinion of why we went to war. Remarking on the categories chosen most frequently,

The first three of these are all related to possession of WMD, I think, and they add up to 49%. The final two are related to liberating Iraq from an odious dictator, and they add up to 26%.

So, roughly speaking, by a margin of 2 to 1 war supporters felt that it was possession of WMD (either now or in the future) that was the main reason for going to war. Liberation was a very weak second.

An interesting question is how this squares with polling results that say finding WMDs aren't important to whether people feel the war was justified. Also, recent polling indicates humanitarian aid for the Iraqis trumps finding Saddam Hussein as Americans' highest priority in post-war Iraq (as we noted here yesterday). Perhaps not directly applicable to the results Kevin mentioned here, but still interesting in light of them.

I think there are a number of contradictions on this issue in the public eye, at least as revealed by polling. For example, it very well may be that concerns over terrorism were the most important reason to go to war, but most people will still say "liberating" the Iraqis was good enough reason even had concerns over terrorism not been present.

My guess is that a bit of cognitive dissonance may manifest itself on this topic; most people supported the war (perhaps as a "rally around the flag" effect), and it would be difficult to now convince them that going to war was the wrong idea.

What this means is that it may make more sense for liberals to go after failures in the post-war rebuilding effort than to try to play "I told you so" with a lack of WMDs, for example. Not that pointing out the lack of WMDs is not worthwhile, but the implications should be stated very carefully.

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo today notes a very disquieting possibility regarding the failure to find WMDs. He quotes Time.com:

The failure to turn up anything to date raises two possibilities, neither one good, says Joseph Cirincione, chief of the Non-Proliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. "It may be that there aren't as many weapons as the President said, in which case we have a major intelligence failure, a huge embarrassment for the President and a huge blow to U.S. credibility—and that's the good news," he says. "The other option is that there are as many weapons as the President feared, and they're no longer under anyone's control."

What this means is that the way the administration has waged the war (and particularly the incompetent planning for the aftermath) may have directly increased, not decreased, the danger of terrorists obtaining WMDs. That's something worth bringing up in 2004.

(Posted also, in modified form, as a comment to Calpundit's article.)
Having a life...

...demands a little time. Speaking of which, blogging will remain a little spotty over the next few days, as the house gets re-arranged and historic breakthroughs are made en route to finishing my research.

Well, maybe not historic.

We'll do our best to update regularly. The world goes on.

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