Thursday, January 24, 2008

Stop the Spying!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

On Language and Rational Thought

Language can be used to communicate -- to convey meaning -- or to obfuscate, and thereby obscure meaning. The Republicans currently occupying the White House, and the mindless drones who follow them, are particularly adept at the latter: using language to obscure meaning. For example, whenever rational people -- that is, anyone who opposes the Cheney-Bush cabal -- suggests that maybe, just maybe, we have overstayed our welcome in Iraq, the supporters of Bush's war intone, "The liberal Democrats have forgotten the lessons of 9/11." Well, what are those lessons, exactly? Let's see: ignoring your own intelligence sources leads to disaster. That's one lesson that Bush should have learned after he decided that a PDB on 8/6/2001 entitled, "Bin Laden determined to strike within United States" didn't require any action before he left for one of his numerous vacations. But, judging by how many experts at the CIA, State Department, and Pentagon Bush ignored before deciding to invade Iraq (he's the "decider," after all), it seems that Bush didn't learn a damned thing from 9/11. Hell, he couldn't even figure out who attacked us on 9/11. (Hmm...17 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis...Bin Laden is a Saudi...but most of my daddy's money comes from the Saudis...and Saddam once tried to kill my daddy...better attack Iraq.) And to think he figured all of this out while reading "My Pet Goat."

To hear the brain-dead right-wingers tell it, however, the lesson -- the only lesson -- of 9/11 was, "The terrorists want to kill us." NO! Really? I never would have guessed! What gave it away? Was it the two humongous skyscrapers crumbling to the ground after terrorists flew planes into them? Because I tell you, the Republicans were the only people in America who watched that horrendous scene over and over, and suddenly smacked their foreheads (I know, cause I heard the echoes) and exclaimed, "Goddamn it, these Ay-rabs are tryin' to kill us!" The rest of us just couldn't put it together. I mean, it sure seemed like an attack -- the kind that a competent president would politely excuse himself from a kindergarten class for in order to take command of the situation -- but if the president wasn't concerned, then who were we to worry? Fortunately for us, the Republicans who love war -- despite having moved heaven and earth to make sure that they themselves never had to serve a day in the armed forces -- had already figured out that the terrorists were trying to kill us. Now, why didn't anyone else think of that?

Which brings us to a definition, or rather, a pair of antonyms: "rational" versus "irrational." Lately, whenever I criticize Cheney, Bush, or that lying sack of excrement Alberto Gonzalez, some right-wing scumbag like Bill O'Reilly tells me that I have an "irrational" hatred of George W. Bush. Exactly why is it irrational to hate George Bush? The man who stole two national elections, who couldn't protect his country against foreign attack, who lied us into a bloody and unnecessary war, who trampled all over the Constitution, who ordered illegal spying against American citizens -- that George Bush? Hell, it would be positively psychotic not to despise the man! How is he deserving of anything other than our utter contempt?

If you want to talk about what's "irrational," let's try these on for size:
* Throwing out UN arms inspectors so that you can invade a country that neither attacked nor threatened us;
* Ignoring the advice of people far smarter and more experienced than yourself in grave matters of national security;
* Vetoing legislation that would have made use of frozen embryos due to be destroyed in research that could save countless lives;
* Supporting the teaching of abstinence-only sex education while suppressing information about condoms and safe sex;
* Declaring that the greatest threat to the American family is not the lack of affordable health care, the persistence of poverty-level wages, corporate dumping of toxic waste, or education programs that penalize instead of rehabilitate -- but gay marriage.

It's tempting to conclude that our "president" isn't just irrational, he's a complete loon. Except that one theme clearly emerges from the above statements: Bush is governing not like an American chief executive, but like an evangelical preacher. Ever heard an evangelical preacher ranting and raving? Totally devoid of any semblance of rational thought...which is bad enough in a "man of the cloth," but far more dangerous in the leader of the free world. God save us from those who claim to be doing His work, for surely they are babbling idiots.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Join Russ Feingold to help end the war

Monday, April 23, 2007

Tinsley's Fillmore is a Foul-Minded Fowl

In the past I have taken to task within the confines of this blog one Bruce Tinsley (and one is more than enough, thank you very much). Tinsley, you see, is the "cartoonist" who is responsible for that piece of journalist excrement known as "Mallard Fillmore." (Note that I use the term "cartoonist" with apologies to the many fine cartoonists who truly deserve the title; Tinsley does not.) "Fillmore" has almost always been offensive and in poor taste, while managing, unlike other taste-free offerings such as the "Borat" movie, to be not the least bit amusing. Now, however, Tinsley has strayed so far over the line as to be an affront to free speech itself.

A bit of a digression here: You will find no bigger defender of First Amendment rights than yours truly. As a proud, card-carrying member of the ACLU, I am a firm believer in Voltaire's maxim, "I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Contrast this with, say, Bill O'Reilly's habit of inviting guests with whom he disagrees to his show mainly so that he can shout, "Shut up!" at them, while ordering his producer to "Cut the other mike!"

But what some of my fellow Free Speech proponents fail to understand is that, as part of the Constitution, the First Amendment concerns itself with government and its relationship with the citizenry; so, for example, you cannot be arrested and thrown in jail for publicly criticizing the government. (We all know that George W and his Veep, Darth Vader, would eagerly do away with that little protection if they could.) However, if you are paid substantial amounts of money to express your opinion in a public arena, such as TV, radio, or the pages of a newspaper, and you offend a good portion of the viewers/listeners/readers, you can be fired, and there's not much you can do about it. The First Amendment guarantees that you won't be prosecuted for shooting off your fool mouth; it does not guarantee that you'll be paid for it. Don Imus learned this lesson the hard way.

There are other situations in which the government may step in to abrogate your First Amendment right to free speech for perfectly legitimate reasons. For example, you would not be permitted to shout, "Fire!" in a crowded movie theater and start a panic in which people would likely be injured. You would certainly be detained if you stood in front of an angry mob and urged them to smash windows, turn over cars, and set fire to storefronts; that's called incitement to riot. And if you decided to address a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan so as to bring to their attention the many fine contributions of black, Jewish, and Catholic Americans, the authorities would be justified in removing you for your own protection.

With all of that in mind, let's turn again to Mallard Fillmore. The Fillmore strip that ran on April 23, 2007 makes reference to the recent visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Damascus; to her credit, Pelosi was trying to inject a bit of diplomacy into Bush's headlong rush to mire the country into yet another pointless and unwinnable war in the Middle East. For her troubles, Pelosi was roundly condemned by the country's Republican-conservative cabal for "usurping the president's role as maker of foreign policy." (Oh, we have a foreign policy? Who knew?) The always-dependable Wall Street Journal even declared on its editorial page that Pelosi's trip to Syria - a nation with whom we are not at war (yet) - represented treason, and the fact that she did it at taxpayer expense made it all the more deplorable. That three Republican Congressmen had made the exact same trip one month earlier, also at taxpayer expense, was of course never mentioned by the WSJ.

So what did Tinsley's damnable duck Fillmore have to say about this? "Unlike other conservatives," he declared, "I didn't have a problem with Nancy Pelosi's going to Syria... until I found out she was gonna [sic] come back." Cue rim shot. With typical conservative mean-spiritedness, Tinsley's insult to Madam Speaker was about as sickeningly unfunny as Ann Coulter calling John Edwards a "faggot" for laughs, about as chillingly unfunny as Bush-butt-kisser John McCain crooning, "Bomb, bomb, bomb...bomb, bomb Iran." Can you imagine how Fillmore would have foamed at the bill if his nemesis Garry Trudeau, who draws "Doonesbury," had had one of his characters say something like, "I was glad to see that Dick Cheney had gone to Afghanistan... but I was sorry to see that he came back." And Tinsley has more than once taken pot-shots at Trudeau's "Doonesbury" in his own "Fillmore" strip, violating every rule of cartoonist etiquette while only serving to prove how little talent he possesses when compared with Trudeau.

Now, I could be just as crude and offensive as Tinsley, and make some kind of comment like, "It's too bad that Tinsley wasn't visiting Virginia Tech last Monday." But I would never do that, because I recognize the difference between tasteless humor and simple bad taste - a distinction that has always eluded the intellectually-challenged Tinsley. Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that Tinsley doesn't have the right to spew his pea-brained hatred in public. I'm saying that he's a no-talent moron, a worthless hack who doesn't deserve to make a penny off the garbage that he has the unmitigated gall to submit to his editor every day. I'm saying that, if anyone in the Media ever deserved to be fired for being stupid, offensive, and un-amusing all at once, it's Tinsley. Safeguarding free speech is a cornerstone of American greatness; so is not rewarding those who cannot even aspire to mediocrity.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Come Back, Tom Jefferson, We Really Need You

You know who we ought to listen to more? Thomas Jefferson. Oh, sure, he's sometimes called the "author of our democracy" because he wrote the Declaration of Independence, and his face is on the nickel and on the two dollar bill that no one uses, and he has that beautiful memorial by the tidal basin in Washington that no one visits because they're all jammed into the Lincoln Memorial. But let's face it: no one's really listening to ol' Tom Jefferson much anymore. If they were, they would have to face up to the fact that Jefferson is likely spinning in his grave over the mess that Americans in general, and the Bush Republicans in particular, have made of his vision.

Take, for example, those ninnies - who listen to bigger ninnies like Bill O'Reilly - who claim to be "patriotic," yet also insist that separation of church and state is a "liberal myth," and that the United States was founded on "Christian principles." Jefferson was neutral about religion, although he considered himself a Deist rather than a Christian, and was often critical of Christianity as practiced by those claiming to be Christians. He was especially disdainful of the clergy, however, writing first in 1800, "The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man," again in 1813, "History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government," and again in 1814, "In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty; he is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own."

Those who claim that the Founding Fathers did not intend for there to be separation of church and state should turn to Jefferson's 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists, in which he stated, "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their Legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State." And those - among them modern clergy like Rabbi Gellman - who defend displaying the Ten Commandments on government property because, in their delusion, "all secular law comes from the Bible," need to be reminded of what Jefferson wrote in 1824: "The common law existed while the Anglo-Saxons were yet pagans, at a time when they had never yet heard the name of Christ pronounced or knew that such a character existed."

Even that dramatic, thundering quote etched into the marble within the rotunda of the Jefferson Memorial itself is abbreviated and taken out of context: "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." Sounds like a nice, idealistic slap against tyranny, with a gratuitous nod to the Almighty, doesn't it? Consider, then, the entire quotation, taken from Jefferson's 1800 letter to Benjamin Rush: "The clergy...believe that any portion of power confided to me [as President] will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." Note the lower-case "g" in "god;" this is exactly how Jefferson wrote it, believing as he did that mindless tokens of worship did not exalt God (or "god"), but diminished mankind.

It is fitting that we close with Jefferson's crowning achievement, the Declaration of Independence, and what a magnificent document it is too. Despite the popular misconception that the Declaration specifically mentions "God-given rights," it does not: it first refers to "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God," sounding distinctly more Wiccan than Christian, and then to "unalienable rights" with which men have been endowed by their "Creator." Here, too, the mis-named "fundamentalists" assume too much when they point to the capitalized "C" in "creator" as proof of Jefferson's Christian sympathies; read the whole document, and you will find nearly every proper noun capitalized, as was the custom in official documents in Jefferson's day. And, other than a final brief mention of "Divine Providence," there are no other references to God or Christianity in the Declaration.

What the Declaration does say, quite clearly, is, "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." It then states "that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government." One can only wonder what Jefferson would think of a president and vice-president who continue to drag the nation through a costly and pointless war that the vast majority of Americans do not support; of a president who vetoes legislation, such as that for funding of stem-cell research, that both the Congress and people desperately want; and of a president who embraces religious extremism over the Constitutional rule of law that he has sworn to uphold. Would Jefferson not say that it was the right and duty of the people to remove a chief executive whose rule has become so destructive and so counter to the will of the governed?

Can you spell "Impeachment" - with a capital "I?"

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Stupid is as Stupid Does

My local "newspaper," Newsday, today published a series of letters from right-wingers who can't stop frothing at the mouth over the Democratic Representatives who passed the non-binding resolution condemning Bush's "troop surge." I put the phrase "troop surge" in quotes because, like nearly everything that comes out of the Bush administration, the term is a euphemism meant to deflect our attention from its true meaning; a "troop surge" is an escalation, pure and simple, just like those disastrous and costly escalations that another Texan president, Lyndon Johnson, foisted upon us during the Vietnam era. I put "newspaper" in quotes because Newsday is really a shadow of its former self. When it was owned by the Times-Mirror company, Newsday regularly won awards for its investigative journalism. But then the Chicago Tribune bought Newsday from the financially ailing Times-Mirror, and, as the saying goes, it was all downhill from there. The Chicago Tribune, which, as you may know, also owns that pathetic excuse for a newspaper known as the New York Daily News, is a conservative paper that prizes shilling for the Bush administration above accurate reporting - much like the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, the New York Post, and the National Review. All of these right-wing rags want us to believe that global warming is a liberal myth, that market forces are more reliable than government regulation when it comes to making corporations do the right thing, and that, whatever we think of the reasons for invading Iraq, the only patriotic thing to do now is to blindly support the president.

But I digress. Getting back to Newsday and its slow, painful demise at the hands of the Chicago Tribune, the Trib fired all of Newsday's investigative reporters, so that it now devotes its newsprint to redistribution of stories that originated at the Associated Press or Reuters. It no longer carries a Saturday editorial. Somehow, Newsday's liberal-leaning editorials have survived, although all of its brilliant left-wing columnists - names like Paul Vitello, Marie Cocco, and Sheryl McCarthy - have mysteriously vanished.

Anyway, regarding today's bunch of letters criticizing the House resolution to condemn Bush's Iraq war escalation, I know that name-calling is a poor excuse for intelligent argument, so please don't post an angry comment reminding me of that fact. Having acknowledged this, I must nevertheless point out that, after reading the aforementioned letters from conservatives who still support Bush, I can reach only one conclusion: these people are idiots. What other term fits someone who declares that the Democrats who voted in favor of the resolution are "guilty of treason?" Since, according to the Constitution, Congress is the branch of the federal government responsible for creating the law, it is not possible for Congress to commit treason against itself. Anyone who is not a knuckle-dragging imbecile would realize that. Conversely, the oath that the president takes on his inauguration has him swear to "protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Is lying to Congress to get the country embroiled in an unnecessary and illegal war "protecting the Constitution?" Is ordering illegal wiretaps without the required court orders "protecting the Constitution?" Is creating an entirely new, unsanctioned designation for detainees so that they can be deprived of the protections of due process "protecting the Constitution?" If you want to point fingers at "traitors," you can start with that babbling idiot in the Oval Office.

The other letters aren't any better. In addition to the expected gratuitous attacks on our first female Speaker of the House, we have the usual advertisement for terror: "Al Qaida is laughing with delight over the Democrats and their resolution." Personally, I don't think Al Qaida is laughing about the resolution itself, although they might have a good chuckle over the fact that an entire branch of government can't muster enough backbone to pass anything more than a "non-binding resolution." What they are laughing over, of course, is how many new recruits they have gotten out of our ill-conceived, poorly-executed invasion and occupation, as well as our indiscriminate torture and killing of foreign nationals, which is unquestionably the best possible advertisement for the insurgency. And a third letter is just plain stupid: "Democrats just take your tax money and throw it away." Whatever lower life-form scratched out that piece of drivel obviously doesn't consider the 400-or-so-billion dollars wasted on our collective misadventure in Iraq to be money "thrown away." Environmental protections, social security, education, health care - now that's a waste of money, at least according to this moron.

So, to these poor, deluded right-wingers, I present the following public service announcement:
Your president is a dangerous, incompetent fool who has gotten our beloved nation mired in a hopeless situation in Iraq. He refuses to recognize or acknowledge the truth, and, because you have deluded yourself into believing that not supporting the president in wartime is treasonous, you also refuse to recognize the truth. When you spew insults at those of us who knew from the very beginning that the war was a colossal mistake, you don't make yourself seem patriotic; you make yourself look stupid. If you've acknowledged that the Earth is round, that the universe is billions of years old, and that evolution is real, then it's time to take the final step and admit that love of country...and blind allegiance to a dangerous, dictatorial maniac who was never legitimately elected to office...are not the same thing. In fact, if you really love America and what it is supposed to stand for as much as you claim, you should be doing everything in your power to make sure that Bush is effectively neutralized - to get the Democratic Congress to do the job we elected them to do, and stop this lunatic from doing any more damage.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bush Defenders Want it Both Ways

When opponents of the war quite reasonably pointed out that our continued military presence in Iraq recruits additional support for enemy organizations such as Al Qaeda, defenders of Bush's disastrous actions countered with, "The United States does not allow its enemies to determine its policies."

Yet, just today, I read an opinion piece in which the writer asserted that, "Democrats and liberals who call for the impeachment of President Bush over alleged violations of the Constitution fail to realize that such public challenges to our Commander-in-Chief embolden our enemies; we must not sacrifice our security at home to what is essentially a political exercise." Excuse me? What happened to, "We don't let our enemies dictate policy?" All of a sudden, we're supposed to tolerate a president who violates our Constitution because to call him on it might "embolden our enemies?"

It seems that Bush's defenders want it both ways. They want to claim that it is not a legitimate criticism to point out that our ill-considered invasion of Iraq actually makes us less safe -- because we won't let fear of the enemy intimidate us -- but they want to stifle attempts to hold our elected Chief Executive accountable to the American people because "we don't want to embolden our enemies." Well, which is it, guys? Are we so sure of ourselves that we don't care how many mad mullahs and their fanatical followers we piss off? Or are we so afraid of what the terrorists might do that we're willing to grant an incompetent president dictatorial powers?

Actually, both positions are indefensible. A war built on lies should not be allowed to continue; neither should we tolerate the erosion of the very freedoms that define us by an arrogant imbecile whose favorite political ploy is to invoke the bogeyman. When your only device for holding onto power is manipulating fear, we know what to call you: a terrorist.