Kristol Klarity

Bill KristolI’ve written about this weasel before. I guess I find it amusingly ironic that someone with the name “Kristol” would see it as his duty to muddy issues — to make them anything but crystal clear.

Let’s look at the weasel’s latest spray of piss in the Times. Billy boy writes…

Obama was explaining his trouble winning over small-town, working-class voters: “It’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

“It’s not surprising then that they get bitter…” Does that clause seem a little odd to you? What’s the “then” for? Ah, of course. Rule #1 in the mudslinger’s handbook: if you’re going to quote your target, be sure to take it out of context. So maybe we should look at the full quote:

You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

There’s your “then.” Whether you agree with the statement or not, at least you understand the history that Obama is blaming for the situation. I can see why his opponents and their supporters would jump all over this. It’s incredibly easy to grab that last sentence and claim it’s equivalent to something like, “I need to find a way to tell these simple-minded rednecks that I can help them.”

But you need to think about the source. If I had said this (if I were stupid enough to try to run for elective office), it would be pretty safe to conclude that I meant it the way people are describing it. But that’s because I’m an atheist, I would support an effort to rewrite the second amendment to make it clear that it’s not about private ownership of guns, I feel thoroughly alienated when I’m in the Midwest (and I felt that way for the year and a half that I lived there), and frankly, I’m not particularly patriotic. I don’t personally think of myself as an elitist, but that’s just my opinion. But if I were a politician and I said something like that, I think it’s fair to say that my opponents would be justified in saying about me what they’re saying about Obama.

I’m not Obama. I didn’t lose my father when I was a baby. I didn’t lose my mother when I was a teenager. I wasn’t raised by my grandparents. I didn’t go to school on scholarships. For the most part, my parents paid my way. And I’m not a Christian. He is.

When the weasel compares Obama to Marx, he knows that it’s not applicable.

…[I]t’s one thing for a German thinker to assert that “religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature.” It’s another thing for an American presidential candidate to claim that we “cling to … religion” out of economic frustration.

And it’s a particularly odd claim for Barack Obama to make. After all, in his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, he emphasized with pride that blue-state Americans, too, “worship an awesome God.”

What’s more, he’s written eloquently in his memoir, “Dreams From My Father,” of his own religious awakening upon hearing the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s “Audacity of Hope” sermon, and of the complexity of his religious commitment. You’d think he’d do other believers the courtesy of assuming they’ve also thought about their religious beliefs.

I agree. It doesn’t make sense. If I’d said it, no problem, because you’re not going to find a record of me saying the opposite. If Obama says it, considering his history, you can conclude that either his apparent respect for religion for the past twenty years has been an attempt to fool people, you can conclude that, for some reason, he wasn’t being honest to the people he was speaking with that day, or you can conclude that what Obama’s quoted as saying in California has some meaning other than the easily attacked “elitist” interpretation. See, weasel? More than one easy conclusion, and the one that you, your pals at Fox, McCain and Clinton have chosen, it seems to me, is the one that makes the least sense. Why would a religious person believe that religion is the opiate of the masses?

But whatever you choose to believe, don’t you have to wonder what Obama’s point was in making the statement in question? What does it mean that these people who didn’t experience much if any of the growth of the national economy during good times, and who’ve borne the brunt of bad economic periods more than most others happen to put a lot of reliance in (that is, “cling to”) the elements of their lives about which they feel most secure?

It’s pretty simple, if you ask me. They’re the Reagan Democrats. They’re a big part of the people who’ve been targeted for decades by operatives like Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. And what strategy was used on those people? Take the aspects of their lives that these people rely on, and scare them into thinking that your political opponents plan to take them away. Make them believe they’re going to lose their guns, that there’s a plot to seriously weaken their religious freedoms, or that their bitterness is the fault of someone other than the government that’s ignored them and the corporations that used them and then threw them away. In other words, they’re the people who receive nothing more than pandering and lip service from most politicians, who play on their fears to turn them into single-issue voters.

With that in mind, look at how Obama’s opponents and detractors have responded to what he said: they’ve denied that there’s any truth in his statement, and they’ve told the people he spoke of that they’re not bitter at all; that they’re proud, godly people with strong traditions. That is to say, they’ve pandered to them and blamed their troubles on someone else. Clinton in particular has tried to get their votes (most of which she already had) by pretending to be one of them and convincing them that people like Obama (the “elite”) are the enemy. She’s giving them one issue to override any other issue they may have been considering, hoping it will scare them enough to get them to vote for the alternative to the enemy she’s pointed out to them. And who is that alternative?

Atwater would be proud.

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Killin’ Terrist Comix

I never got into comic books as a kid. I bought a dozen or so issues of Heavy Metal in my teens, but that’s different: it was French, it was arty, and it had bare breasts. When I was about 10 my maternal grandfather gave me a Flash Gordon (king of impossible) comic, and while it didn’t thrill me, I still had it somewhere in my desk when I was in high school — probably because of my father’s story of owning the original Superman, which his mother threw away while he was in college. Oops. Of course, if that hadn’t happened to thousands of guys his age, the remaining ones wouldn’t be so valuable. I’m actually not so sure that story’s true, anyway, as my father would have been three years old when the comic came out.

Then there are graphic novels and underground stuff. I’ve got Maus and a couple of issues of Raw, and my little brother, during his dead head days, had lots of issues of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and similarly themed hippie crap.

comic book frame

I’ve never seen anything like this, though. Northrup Grumman have put out a series of comic books promoting advanced weapons systems. In this one, the Murcans stop the evil terrorists by bombing the bejeesus out of their hidden camp through the use of (hurrah!) Nothrup Grumman technology.

I guess you can’t make a lot of judgments about propaganda. It’s propaganda, so of course it’s not likely to employ a lot of subtlety. But look at the frame I’ve got here. Bad Swarthy Arabian Fellow #2 says, “Those Americans have foiled our evil plan to rule the world.” Are they kidding? Using the word “foiled,” as in “Curses! Foiled again!” is bad enough, but “our evil plan”? That’s just astonishingly stupid. Even if we think these people are evil, and I know many of us do, only simpletons like Bush think that they think they’re evil.

Stephen Trimble, the original poster, writes,

I am withholding judgment, except to just wonder aloud who they think is the target audience for this (… surely not the Pentagon’s weapons buyers, right?)?

Nope. This was written for people who are stupid enough to believe that somebody like Mussolini would wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and exclaim, “Good morning, you beautiful evil-doer!

Tip o’ the hat to the fine folks at Boing Boing.

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Kudos to Nike

As I’m sure you already know, Nike has decided to hold back on releasing its latest Michael Vick product line because of the football player’s alleged involvement in a dog fighting network. The company put out the following press release on July 19:

Nike is concerned by the serious and highly disturbing allegations made against Michael Vick and we consider any cruelty to animals inhumane and abhorrent. We do believe that Michael Vick should be afforded the same due process as any citizen, therefore, we have not terminated our relationship. We have however made the decision to suspend the release of the Zoom Vick V and related marketing communications. Nike will continue to monitor the situation closely and have no further comment at this time.

Poster for film SweatThey’ve certainly done the right thing, both from a humanitarian and a marketing perspective. Just think of the damage it would inflict on their reputation if they just callously ignored these accusations of almost unbelievable cruelty. It was right for them to respond to the situation as quickly as they have and to make it clear that they abhor this kind of inhumane treatment. I think they deserve to be lauded for this.

If they just decided that human children deserve treatment as humane as dogs do, I might even consider spending money on some of their products.

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Michael Moore vs. Wolf Blitzer

Michael MooreThis time it’s personal.

Michael Moore was on CNN during the 5-6 pm (Eastern) hour today for a live interview conducted by Wolf Blitzer. The interview was preceded by a report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, which attempted to fact check Moore’s film Sicko. After the report ran, they went live for the interview, and Moore proceeded to slam Blitzer, Gupta, CNN, and the mainstream media. He accused them of being water carriers for their sponsors, including the pharmaceutical and health care industries, of refusing to ask tough questions of the powerful, of cowardice, dishonesty… it was beautiful.

It ran long (Jack Cafferty complained that they’d dug into his time), but Blitzer was barely able to get a word in edgewise. The best he could do was defend Gupta as a doctor and a journalist, and admit that CNN is a business and has to make money.

Blitzer offered to continue the interview on tape, but Moore insisted that he would only do it live because he didn’t want to be edited against his will. Blitzer replied that he’d play the whole thing, uncut. I don’t know if Moore agreed to that or not.

If I can get my hands on a video of the interview, I’ll post it here. Moore says he’s going to answer all of Gupta’s points on his site, so maybe he’ll upload the interview too.

Update: Blitzer just did a tease for the 7:00 hour, and he says he’s going to have the first part of the interview and the second tomorrow, so hopefully that means they’ll show all of the stuff that was live earlier today and more — uncut — tomorrow. I wish I had a DVR.

Update to update: today’s interview is up at YouTube. It’s non-embeddable, so you’ll have to go way over there to see it. Thanks, Mike.

OK, one more update: Moore, as promised, has published a blow by blow response to Gupta’s report on his site, closing with the following:

CNN: “But no matter how much Moore fudged the facts, and he did fudge some facts…”

This is libel. There is not a single fact that is “fudged” in the film. No one has proven a single fact in the film wrong. We expect CNN to correct their mistakes on the air and to apologize to their viewers.

We shall see…

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Maybe Huckabee Has a Point

Mike HuckabeeAh, that Mike Huckabee. I could make fun of his name, I suppose, asking if America “hearts” him, or suggesting that his name puts me in mind of Twiki, the cute little sidekick robot voiced by Mel Blanc on the horrible Buck Rogers TV series. Can’t you just hear him habitually mumbling “huckabee huckabee huckabee huckabee huckabee huckabee huckabee” instead of his usual “bidibidibidibidibidibidi”?

But I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to point out something he said when interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on Sunday:

BLITZER: Let’s talk a little bit about what the former secretary of state General Colin Powell said earlier today on “Meet the Press” when asked about the status of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, whether suspected terrorists should be housed there. Listen to what General Powell said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL: If it was up to me, I would close Guantanamo. Not tomorrow, but this afternoon. Every morning I pick up a paper and some authoritarian figure, some person somewhere is using Guantanamo to hide their own misdeeds. And so essentially, we have shaken the belief that the world had in America’s justice system by keeping a place like Guantanamo open.
(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Governor Huckabee, you agree with Secretary Powell?

HUCKABEE: I know it’s become a symbol of what’s wrong. I visited Guantanamo just about a year ago. My sense was, because I visited every single prison in the Arkansas prison system, and I can tell you most of our prisoners would love to be in a facility more like Guantanamo and less like the state prisons that people are in in the United States.

It’s more symbolic than it is a substantive issue, because people perceive of mistreatment when, in fact, there are extraordinary means being taken to make sure these detainees are being given, really, every consideration.

BLITZER: But the argument isn’t so much the physical condition as to the legal system that they face. These suspected terrorists, these detainees are being held, by and large, without charges, without any evidence. They’re just being kept there indefinitely. And that’s causing a smear on the U.S. reputation.

HUCKABEE: I understand that. But I’ll tell you, if we let somebody out and it turns out that they come and fly an airliner into one of our skyscrapers, we’re going to be asking, how come we didn’t stop them? We had them detained.

There’s not a perfect solution. The perfect solution is to get people to quit being terrorists. And that’s not something we can easily control. If we’re going to make a mistake right now, let’s make it on the side of protecting the American people. That’s the number one role and responsibility that an American president has right now.

It’s an interesting thought. Maybe we really should make some mistakes, erring on the side of protecting the American people. I don’t personally think Huckabee is an Islamofascistoanarchotheocratic terrorist, but frankly, I’ve never even met the guy, so I’m in no position to vouch for him. Assuming he really is on our side, I’m sure he’d understand if we mistook him for an evildoer and sent him away to Gitmo for an unspecified period of time. Besides, he sounds like he’d like it there more than an Arkansas state penitentiary, so we’d actually be cutting him a break. If he doesn’t go along with the plan, it may be an indication that he’s not on our side, which would mean that in our effort to err on the side of safety, we got lucky.

It’s a win-win.

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Just in Case You Haven’t Heard

Marty Kaplan posted the following at the HuffPo today:

This week, the Iraqi parliament “passed a binding resolution that will guarantee lawmakers an opportunity to block the extension of the U.N. mandate under which coalition troops now remain in Iraq when it comes up for renewal in December.” But if you didn’t read that in an exclusive alternet.org story by Raed Jarrar and Joshua Holland, or if you didn’t get an email from a friend (as I did) saying, Didja see this?, you might not know that a majority of Iraqi lawmakers has now fashioned a two-by-four to thump President Bush on the head and end our occupation. But no doubt you would know about the girl locked in a tiny room in Connecticut.

This week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s top political adviser said “he doubts the prime minister will be able to win passage of key legislation ardently sought by U.S. officials, including a law governing the oil industry and one that would allow more Sunni Arabs to gain government jobs.” But if you didn’t read that in Ned Parker’s exclusive story in the Los Angeles Times, you might not now know that even the Iraqi government has given up on meeting crucial political benchmarks by September. But surely you’d be thoroughly familiar with the anorexia plague stalking starlets.

And as for military benchmarks, a few days ago al-Maliki said, “I have to watch the army, because those still loyal to the previous regime may start planning coups. Those people don’t believe in democracy, and for that reason we are monitoring the status of the army very closely.” A military coup – by the army we’re training! But if you didn’t see Lara Logan’s exclusive interview with al-Maliki on the cellar-rated CBS Evening News, or watch the clip online, you wouldn’t know how close our “freedom agenda” is to becoming a Musharaf-style “democracy.” But you’d definitely know that the TB guy’s bride is a hottie.

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Does Mitt Know the Lord?

Mitt RomneyI found this at Crooks and Liars.

Mitt Romney was chatting up a group of people (I don’t know where this happened, but based on the pronunciation of the word “god” I’d say it has to be the Midwest, maybe Chicago) and one man indicated how important it was to him that he vote for “a man who stands for the lord Jesus Christ.” He then went on to say that he’d never vote for Romney because, as a Mormon, Mitt just doesn’t “know the lord.” He’s identified in the title of the video as a “heckler,” but as far as I can tell he was polite in the way he said what he said, whether you think the message was pleasant or not. The crowd booed. They’d have none of this religious persecution.

Romney’s response was so… American. Mitt understands that you don’t have to be a Methodist, a Congregationalist, a Presbyterian or some such thing to be President of the US of A. Why, we’ve got freedom of religion! It brought a tear to my eye.

One of the great things about this great land is we have people of different faiths and different persuasions, and I’m convinced that the nation does need to have people of different faiths, but we need to have a person of faith lead the country.

Translation: You may not like my religion, but at least I’m not some filthy atheist.

I love you too, Mitzi.

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My Problem With Christmas

Santa ClausWhy do I have a problem with Christmas? The obvious reason is that I’m not a Christian, and I have no desire to celebrate the supposed birthday of the supposed messiah.

When I mention that to people, I usually get the response that Christmas isn’t about religion. It’s completely secular, and it’s just about giving, sharing and fun. It’s just a celebration in the dead of Winter intended to perk us all up. Banks are closed, there’s no mail picked up or delivered, no government work is done. It’s a national holiday, not a religious holiday. Sure, it started as a religious holiday, but that’s pretty much been filtered out of it, so it’s not a valid point to refuse to celebrate it on the grounds that you’re not a Christian.

Even observant Jews celebrate it, putting up “Chanukah bushes” in their yards so they won’t miss out. Chanukah itself is a nothing holiday, but American Jews chose to give it more importance just so their kids wouldn’t feel left out of the celebration. Add in Kwanzaa and Diwali and just about everybody in the country has something to do around this time of year so that they can participate, and it all gets mushed together into this obviously-no-longer Christian national holiday.

Well, in my view, that fits in quite nicely with how the holiday came about in the first place. Early Christians, looking to increase their numbers, made little alterations in their religion’s story in order to get it to fit in with traditions that were already in place among other groups. Of course Jesus wasn’t born in December; we all know that. But the Winter Solstice was a big enough deal to enough people that the Christians knew they’d be better able to proselytize folks by pointing out their faith’s similarities with the beliefs and traditions people already had.

No matter how secular, how all-inclusive Christmas may become, no matter how many people say “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas,” it’s still a religious holiday in my book.

On top of that, the fact that it’s been as secularized as it has allows the Christians to have it both ways. They’ve got just about everybody celebrating the birth of Jesus, whether they’re Christian or not, and they always get to turn around and preach that this national holiday, this secular celebration has a “true meaning.” That gives them the opportunity to give us all their messianic miraculous claptrap about the birth of the one and only true savior.

Well, if that’s what they want, that’s what they should insist upon. If Christmas is about the birth of the son of god, the man who is the personification of the Christian faith, then it’s not for Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, or members of any other religions, and it’s certainly not for atheists. And if that’s the case, then it’s not a reason to shut down the whole country. And you absolutely should not expect anyone who isn’t a practicing member of your religion to participate in it, promote it, decorate for it, or wish you a happy it. It’s yours, not ours.

Hell, if I were a member of your little club and someone who I knew disagreed with our tenets wished me a merry Christmas, I’d probably thank them, but the question “what do you know about it?” would be echoing in my head. Christians cheapen their faith when they expect non-believers to play along.

So please, Christians, pick one or the other. If you want Christmas to be about Jesus, then dump Santa Claus, get serious about this messiah of yours, and leave the rest of us out of it. If you want the day to be a celebration for everyone, Christian and infidel alike, then shut up about its “true meaning” because we don’t want to hear it. You can celebrate Jesus’ birth on his real birthday, whenever that is.

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Communist Manifestoon

Hey Kidz! Put down those boring books and let Uncle Karl and his pal Freddy explain it all for you the fun and exciting way!

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