Friday, February 10, 2006

Katrina Victims Still Homeless

For all the criticism which they so richly deserve, I don't want to pass over the times where the media, especially cable tv "news" programs, come through. Tonight, on CNN, Anderson Cooper was in New Orleans, documenting the continued hardship of the people there, and the desolateness of much of the community and neighborhoods five months after Katrina struck.

Worst of all are what appear to be continual problems with the availability of housing for New Orleans residents wanting to return, and for those who already have and are gamely trying to get on with their working lives. Apparently there continues to be a vast shortage of available housing and the hundreds if not thousands of trailer units that FEMA has, or were supposed to purchase, that remain sitting idly in trailer parks nearby while Katrina's victims live out of their vehicles or for those still in FEMA supported Hotel/Motel lodging, wait for this and next week's deadlines to come and evict them.

At a time when many of the other networks and cable "news" outlets, MSNBC *cough* Fox *cough* are running with the Entwistle murder case, CNN and Anderson Cooper are attempting to keep the focus on the substantive. Kudos to CNN for staying on the story.

Fighting the Liberal Bias--in Ice Cream

Not an Onion article.

Firm Has Answer to Liberal Bias in Ice Cream Industry

Coming to a store near you.

Good grief.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Puncture This, II

In our last post, we saw that the Don Imuses of the Media Industrial Complex have become bored with the "war" in Iraq, and to the extent that it reflects badly on the present ruling regime, they're just tired of the "whole debate", the jokes about "Rummy", the complaints about unarmored troops, etc.

So what does this mean? Well, it at least suggests that the MIC has implicitly, if not explicitly, accepted the notion that the war, as a vehicle of smashing the Middle East, neuturing Islam, and giving birth to a new American hegemony, born of either intimidation or good will, is lost. That some form of government will eventually form in Mesopotamia, whether as one or three nations, won't change the essentials of this conclusion.

So the war as an explicitly foreign endeavor, a symbol of America's international ambitions and prestige, has gone up in smoke.

But this doesn't mean that the "war" is over or that it doesn't still matter for the talking heads on MSNBCFoxCNN. This is because the war's other, more important internal dimension is still hanging by a thread. For many backers of the "war" in Iraq, its domestic aims were as important as its stated and contrived international ones.

And what were these domestic aims? To silence and, if possible, punish opposition to the Bush presidency and to the conservative establishment. To continue the climate of fear 911 had delivered. To help enforce conformity and remake American life. To spur a new ethic of "obedience", mass passivity, and submission to authority. To eradicate liberal individualism, academic freedom, and political and religious pluralism.

As I write these lines I'm a little shocked at myself. You're going overboard Bulworth. But am I? How has the MIC, particularly its cable variation, responded to Democratic Party opposition to the president, to the NSA spying reports, to the Alito nomination, first to Howard Dean and then to John Kerry's candidacy, to the movies and ads of so-called liberal symbols like Michael Moore and In 2002-2003 we heard how vital it was that the country follow Bush's lead and go to war, "pre-emptively" against Iraq; what little war opposition existed was roundly treated as treasonous. And when the invasion failed to turn up WMD, it was 2004 and the MIC was then able to focus on John Kerry's alleged "flip-floppiness" rather than his war service, saluted the GOP's 2004 convention speakers who reiterated the "opposition to war as treason" line, failing to question the "purple heart bandaids" and angry talk of conventioneers like Zell Miller, and later trumpeted Bush's 51% victory in November as a "mandate".

As 2005 bloomed, the president's failing Social Security campaign, followed by the Terri Schiavo debacle, followed by the Harriet Myers nomination, and then the disasterous Katrina Hurricane and FEMA bungling made MIC cheerleading for the president difficult. Nonetheless, as 2006 began the MIC began sounding notes of the president's public opinion "rebound" although his approval numbers remained mired in the upper 30's and low to middle 40's.

The NSA spying report, meanwhile, has given the MIC the opportunity to reinsert the GWOT theme, criticizing opponents of the previously secret and poorly defended wiretapping project as "not wanting to do anything and everything possible to fight terrorism".

Simultaneously, the nation's political and religious pluralism is coming under increasing attack and scorn. The "war", for whichever country or "operation" that term is meant to imply these days, serves however indirectly, as a vehicle for strengthening the forces of theocracy, who see in it as a means of destroying Islam and enhancing America's global and religious prestige, and instilling fear and conformity at home. Emboldened by having "one of their own" in the WH, America's religious right, comprised of both Catholic and Protestant elites who were once bitter enemies, have dictated judicial selections, court and executive appointments and public policy generally, while inciting the passions of the faithful through three "Justice Sunday" events designed to draw attention to America's supposed Christian heritage and plea for substituting the Torah for the Constitution.

Coincidentally, the president's list of court applicants is composed almost entirely of representatives of The Federalist Society, formed in the 1980's in response to the liberalizing affects of the Warren and Burger Courts, and calling for a new judicial model known as "originalism" or "strict constructivism", which regardless of its name dejure, happens to support the restriction of privacy rights and civil liberties, while expanding the power of corporate and governmental elites.

In the lead up to the war, and during the war's initial months, one of the two or three media companies that owns and runs all the radio stations in America helped organize so-called "pro-war" rallies, events that were in truth more anti-American than pro-war, as speakers denounced regular and celebrity Americans opposed to the Iraq war or those who were in any way critical of the president. Records by the Dixie Chicks were smashed.

The two institutions largely insulated from the conservative reaction, university campuses and black churches, have come in for their own inspection and retribution. So-called "Academic Bills of Rights" have been initiated by several states with their stated intentions to target "liberal" or "unAmerican" professors and modernist views generally for punishment and expulsion. Meanwhile, when black civil rights leaders speak against the war during the funerals of their leaders, they're labeled as unnecessarily political and disrespectful of authority.

Right wing radio and cable TV hosts and guests routinely attack liberals and liberalism as unAmerican, vile, and degenerate, and call for the religions and peoples of foreign lands to be invaded and destroyed. In a bizarre irony, Democratic members of Congress, who have limply responded to the conservative agenda, are labeled as "angry", and liberal Internet bloggers are called "uncivil" for speaking out.

So while the war abroad is collapsing, and the MIC is in many ways attempting to ignore it, the war at home continues in blatant as well as subtle ways. While many of these conservative attacks would be happening irrespective of a foreign war, the existence of the Iraq war and the maintenance of an indefinite "war on terror" has enabled conservatives to weave the spector of fear and treason in with their regular attacks on pluralism, liberalism and modernity.

From someone who saw where we were headed half a century ago:

War is Peace

The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent.


War, it will be seen, accomplishes the necessary destruction, but accomplishes it in a psychologically acceptable way. In principle it would be quite simple to waste the surplus labour of the world by building temples and pyramids, by digging holes and filling them up again, or even by producing vast quantities of goods and then setting fire to them. But this would provide only the economic and not the emotional basis for a hierarchical society. What is concerned here is not the morale of masses, whose attitude is unimportant so long as they are kept steadily at work, but the morale of the Party itself. Even the humblest Party member [citizen] is expected to be competent, industrious, and even intelligent within narrow limits, but it is also necessary that he should be a credulous and ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph. In other words it is necessary that he should have the mentality appropriate to a state of war. It does not matter whether the war is actually happening, and, since no decisive victory is possible, it does not matter whether the war is going well or badly. All that is needed is that a state of war should exist. The splitting of the intelligence which the Party requires of its members, and which is more easily achieved in an atmosphere of war, is now almost universal, but the higher up the ranks one goes, the more marked it becomes. It is precisely in the Inner Party that war hysteria and hatred of the enemy are strongest. In his capacity as an administrator, it is often necessary for a member of the Inner Party to know that this or that item of war news is untruthful, and he may often be aware that the entire war is spurious and is either not happening or is being waged for purposes quite other than the declared ones: but such knowledge is easily neutralized by the technique of doublethink. Meanwhile no Inner Party member wavers for an instant in his mystical belief that the war is real, and that it is bound to end victoriously, with Oceania the undisputed master of the entire world.


In past ages, a war, almost by definition, was something that sooner or later came to an end, usually in unmistakable victory or defeat.


But when war becomes literally continuous, it also ceases to be dangerous. When war is continuous there is no such thing as military necessity. Technical progress can cease and the most palpable facts can be denied or disregarded. As we have seen, researches that could be called scientific are still carried out for the purposes of war, but they are essentially a kind of daydreaming, and their failure to show results is not important. Efficiency, even military efficiency, is no longer needed. Nothing is efficient in Oceania except the Thought Police.


...the citizen of Oceania is like a man in interstellar space, who has no way of knowing which direction is up and which is down. The rulers of such a state are absolute, as the Pharaohs or the Caesars could not be. They are obliged to prevent their followers from starving to death in numbers large enough to be inconvenient, and they are obliged to remain at the same low level of military technique as their rivals; but once that minimum is achieved, they can twist reality into whatever shape they choose.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Puncture This

In the field of public policy studies, there's this little thing known as the punctuated equilibrium theory. Basically it says that policymaking is mostly stable, consisting of small, incremental steps here and there until things kind of explode and big things happen. Then, after the big thing happens and some significant policy change has ocurred, the system settles in at the new level of equilibrium and policymaking marches on in the same relatively quiet incremental level as before.

In today's political-media climate, we've seen a lot of this. Katrina was really big for about a week or so, maybe two. There was a hearing thrown in there, where FEMA flunky Michael Brown got grilled by the members of the House of People's Deputies. Everybody felt good about that. Blame was assigned, sort of, although there was a lot of concern on the part of the Media Industrial Complex that nobody be blamed for anything in the case of Katrina; after all, nobody knew how bad it would be, that the levies would break, and why didn't the poor blacks just leave N.O. before hand anyway?

And anyway, before long, we needed a new set of concerns to keep our attention. So when NBC's Brian Williams persisted in keeping the Katrina story afloat, months after it ocurred, well, some viewers just thought that was making too much of the whole deal.

After reading
James Wolcott's skewering of Don Imus' Emily Post moment re: the Coretta Scott King funeral, something Wolcott said made me realize that the nation's concern with foreign policy has undergone a similar punctured equilibrium kind of thing, particularly when it comes to Iraq, Iran, and the war on terror.

In the months leading up to the Iraqi invasion the Media Industrial Complex was red-hot on the case of Iraq: Iraq and Saddam Hussein weren't living up to their agreements; they were in "material breach" of UN resolutions (this from a media and country that routinely spits on international law and cooperative mechanisms); they had WMD (in stockpiles); they were harboring terrorists; when the inspections resumed, they were immediately declared to be "not working"; Iraq's people were being held hostage by a vile "dictator" bent on our, and his own people's destruction; Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons against his neighbors and his own people (with the U.S. government's past collusion in such undertakings going un-mentioned); even though Saddam Hussein's Iraq was an imminent and potentially lethal threat to America and the world, its conquest would be a "cakewalk" and the Iraqi people would great us as "liberators"; we would quickly round up the WMD Saddam Hussein was hiding because "we knew where it was"; America had to act quickly, now, to take out Saddam Hussein, liberate Iraq, and prevent another 9-11. Yada Yada Yada.

But now, three years later, well, the Media Industrial Complex, or at least the Right Wing Intelligencia that owns the media and is more frequently hosting or otherwise bloviating on its cable tv "news" programs, is just really bored with the whole thing. Yes, yes, the "war" is still going on, 130,000 American troops are still mired in the country of Iraq; the only functioning safe part of the country is a concrete-barricaded "green zone" behind which the media's correspondents hide out in the hotels, few venturing outside to see any of the action first-hand. Some of those who have, have either been bombed or kidnapped.

And now, we hear that Iran is using the opportunity to get all uppity with the International Nuclear Arms Inspection regime and the UN over its nuclear energy projects. The west, which continues to hold onto its stash of nukes, thinks Iran, and the fanatical mullahs that run it, would be deathly dangerous with any nuclear capabilities. Such weapons would enable the violently Shiite country of Iran to harass Israel and "our vital resources" throughout the Middle East. Iran is breaking its agreements and is "defying" the UN and the world community.

And yet, while a looming confrontation with Iran thrills some members of the MIC in general and its division of neoconry in particular, and even though events in Iran and its nuclear ambitions has generated some paranoidish media coverage, I get the sense that their hearts aren't really in it. Nor do I sense the real Americans of Bobo's world are all that motivated by Iran either. They got their yah-yahs out in Iraq already. The thirst to smash some hopeless, backward, undermilitarized country has been satiated. Now they are just bored.

Getting back to James Wolcott's column, here's what he says about Imus:

"...Imus has a new fundraising crusade, the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a nonprofit state-of-the-art facility for veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts. It's commendable for Imus to raise money and awareness for the facility, but he knows as well as anyone that the reason military men and women are returning home with missing limbs, psychic trauma, nervous disorders, and loss of sight and hearing is because they were sent to fight a war that was based on deception and waged with cavalier disregard for the consequences. Many if not most of those fallen heroes suffered their severe injuries because Bush, Cheney, and their neocon advisors didn't prepare adequately for war and underestimated the enemy, to the sorrow of thousands. And yet Imus wants to attend to the veterans' pain and suffering without holding those accountable for their plight the least bit responsible. Instead, we're told, as the warbloggers often say, to 'get over it.' Why? Because Imus is bored with the whole debate. And when Imus is bored, the whole world is supposed to move on to accomodate his attention span."

I think the attitude Wolcott hears Imus and those like him exuding is reflective of this. They've had their fun. But now they're "tired" of hearing complaints about Bush, about FEMA's cronies, about "Rummy", about Iraq, the deficit, and on and on. It's all just so blandly partisan after all. So when people who forget their place get all uppity on national television, and mention the war in Iraq that Imus and his media buddies were so psyched about three years ago but now want to forget when its all gone to pot and its continuance has no further useful purpose, well, that's just too much, too offensive for their virgin ears. Can't the unwashed masses be kept away from the truly decent folk, like those on Imus' show that spout rascist, homophobic, and anti-democratic inanities day in and day out?

And Iran, terrorism and WMD? Please. Don't bother the kool kids on Imus or Tweety about that stuff. And don't bring up the NSA spying thing either. They're really just bored of the whole thing and want to move on to something more to their liking. Presidential criticism was in when it was Clinton and when it was about sex. But it's not now. So you liberals, don't you be angry no more. And now with the war they started overstaying its welcome, they're not really so excited about somebody else's WMD either. Just go back to your regularly scheduled program.

Cartoons and Movies

It probably was entirely coincidental that as the cartoon outrage in the Middle East continues, and as Westerners creepily lecture Muslims to not get all indignant about the blasphemous drawing of its Prophet, I today read in the NYT where America's Christian Right is getting creepily indignant about the soon to be released movie version of the wildly popular novel, The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, wherein the Christian Right's Prophet is blasphemously said to have been married to Mary Magdalene. The movie company has set up a webpage for agrieved fundamentalists, affectively giving opponents of the Da Vinci book and movie a "bullhorn" to trumpet their objections.

One of the representative "evangelists" to post on the site will be Gordon Robertson, the son of Marion "Pat" Robertson.

The apocalypse is upon us.

Monday, February 06, 2006

"Love Won Out"

The post's title comes from the Focus on the Family's anti-gay project. By demonstrating that formerly gay people can be converted back to a straight lifestyle, the totalitarian right hopes to prove them capable of "change" and their underlying gay "choice" or condition unnatural and undesirable. Because such an endeavor isn't naturally very kind to the reality of gayness, the project's directors have to somehow cloak it with the word "love" to hide its malignant designs.

Unfortunately, the idea that there is something wrong, even anti-social, about gay people lends itself to some more rather direct and outright unloving responses. Such as this one:

MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. - The teenager suspected of attacking three men at a Massachusetts gay bar and killing an Arkansas officer and a female companion left a note indicating he planned "something violent," authorities said Monday.

Jacob D. Robida, 18, was fatally wounded when he opened fire on officers at a roadblock following a high-speed chase through the Arkansas hills. He was shot twice in the head and died at a hospital Sunday.

In New Bedford, Mass., where police say Robida attacked patrons at Puzzles Lounge with a hatchet early Thursday and then opened fire with a handgun, detectives found what they considered a troubling message in Robida's room, Bristol County District Attorney Paul Walsh Jr. said Monday.

"We didn't interpret it necessarily as a suicide note, but it was certainly the note of a desperate man who had some plans to continue doing something violent," Walsh said.

Police said the high school dropout had returned to his home after the attack at the bar, but it was unclear whether he left the note before or after the attack. The content of the note was not immediately released.

In addition to the message, police found an apparently homemade poster with a Nazi swastika and anti-Semitic writings, as well as a makeshift coffin, Walsh said. He said the significance of the coffin isn't known.

Police also were trying to determine whether Robida had any accomplices in New Bedford or elsewhere, though evidence suggests he acted alone, Walsh said.

After the New Bedford attack, which police labeled a hate crime, Robida surfaced Saturday in Arkansas, where he killed Gassville police officer Jim Sell at a traffic stop, setting off a 20-mile chase from Gassville to Norfork as deputies and state troopers fired shotguns at Robida. Spike strips finally slowed Robida's car to around 30 mph.

"The tires were deflating, at least two of the tires were now running on rims," Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler said. "It was apparent he was losing control of the vehicle."

Officers had a clear view of Robida and his passenger, Jennifer Rena Bailey, 33, of Charleston, W.Va., after Robida's car spun nearly 180 degrees and crashed.

"Investigators now believe Robida raised a handgun to the head of Bailey, fired, and it is believed she was killed instantly by that gunshot," Sadler said. "Robida raised that same handgun and fired on the officers who were present at the scene. They returned fire."

Walsh said he had feared Robida's arrest could have been even bloodier. New Bedford authorities had issued public warnings that they considered Robida armed, dangerous and possible suicidal.

"I really thought he was going to take five or six people with him," Walsh said. "My fear was that he'd shoot up the works."

"Someone who's just bent on rage, there's no way they're going to go out without a hail of gunfire," said New Bedford police Lt. Richard M. Spirlet.

It's hard to imagine what motivates someone like this. But the fact that he chose to act out his rage in the way he did, and given the contextual indications of his "hobbies" and worldview, it does raise the obvious question as to how this guy came to believe gays were the source of his problems, or an appropriate target of his frustrations.

Groups like Focus/Family are fond of drawing causal connections between social vices, like pornography, and violence against women. I wonder what causal connection they might make between anti-gay zeolotry by Christians and this man's beliefs?

Where's The Party?

Since being caught smooching W at the SOTU address, there's been a lot of attention paid to the approaching primary in Texas's 28th congressional district between real Democrat and former rep Ciro Rodriguez and faux Democrat, current rep, and Bush smoocher, Henry Cuellar.

I have a hard time understanding how this guy, Cuellar, could have even been allowed to file as a Democratic to begin with. He supported Bush in 2000, even went to Wisconsin during the campaign to make his case that a Republican should be elected prez.

Having different voting patterns from national party members I can partially understand. But this is a heavily Hispanic and Democratic district, meaning that conservative votes here shouldn't be needed to hold the seat, so no conservative pandering shouldn't be needed. But most imporantly, if you don't support your party's candidate for president, that sounds like a pretty clear cut case that you shouldn't be allowed to campaign for any offices under your party label.

I hope you'll do as I did and go over to Ciro's webpage and make a donation. Before we can defeat the Republicans who call themselves Republicans and can be plainly seen to be such, we need to defeat any Republicans posing in sheep's clothing, trying to hide in our caucus.

Morality is only for the rabble

I occasionaly tune in to programs on conservative Christian TV, so I like to think I'm pretty familiar with the various players and themes. But I was surprised to read this in yesterday's Wash Post Style section on religious orthodoxy and divorce:

Southern Baptists launched their own debate about divorce in 2000 when Charles Stanley, past president of the Southern Baptist Convention and a popular television preacher, got divorced.

Charles Stanley is one of the old-timers. He preaches with his Bible in hand, a rarity in today's evangelical world. He's been around forever. He's also your standard Republican Party apologist, America Firster. Yeah for the Iraq war, our cause is just, pray for the troops, etc. Anyway, I didn't realize this annoying blowhard was recently divorced. But let's keep reading:

Long-standing tradition in that denomination holds that men are disqualified from being pastors once they divorce, based on the biblical mandate that ministers be "blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior." But some questioned how to apply those words, and an official at Stanley's church in Atlanta said to loud applause that Stanley would stay in his position, his "personal pain" having validated his ability to minister.

So all that stuff about family values...moral absolutes...they don't really mean it. Well, I should say, they mean it for you, and for the Hollywood elite, but it doesn't apply to them.

As Lance Mannion said a few weeks ago:

What most contemporary Republicans call conservative in themselves is really just authoritarianism. There is nothing conservative about that because of how easily they exempt themselves from the rules they lay down for others to follow.

Divorce is wrong, except mine which was necessary and proves my last marriage didn't count.

Mothers should stay home and take care of the kids, except my wife who is bringing in 6 figures and so we can hire a really good nanny who is not a person in her own right, merely the incarnation of our love for our kids, and so we get credit for being involved parents through her.

Homosexuality is wrong and gay marriage a threat to society, except for my brother and his partner, who aren't really gay.

Duty comes before self, which is why your kids should be proud to die in Iraq but my kids have the opportunity to go to law school so leave them alone.


All the supposed "traditional" values the Right preaches are rules for keeping the plebes in line.

Real conservatives do not exempt themselves from the rules. In fact, they believe in holding themselves to a stricter standard---real conservatives believe that it is the job of the elite and the privileged to set an example not just to make rules.