News Roundup for 8/31/10

Group of kids with NO TO BULLYING sign
Looks like somebody needs a beatin'

-Headline of the Day-
"Focus On The Family: Anti-Bullying Efforts Are A Gay Front."

Does your kid beat up pansies at school? No? Then he's probably a homo! According to Focus on the Family, birthplace of most of America's insane bullshit, anti-bullying campaigns in schools are just a front for the Homosexual Menace. "We feel more and more that activists are being deceptive in using anti-bullying rhetoric to introduce their viewpoints, while the viewpoint of Christian students and parents are increasingly belittled," FotF's Candi Cushman told the Denver Post.

See, it works this way: bullies tend to pick out kids who are different. And gays are different. Being gay is wrong, so -- it just stands to reason -- that in this case the bully is right. The bully's only real crime is in being a jerk about it. Really though, Little Lord Fauntleroy there was just asking for it by being all gay and stuff. If he'd just knock off being a six-year-old flamer, everything would be cool. But with anti-bullying campaigns, the bully's God-given right to be an asshole is abridged and, really, is that the message we want to send to our kids?

The Homosexual Menace was, of course, less than silent on this. "In terms of LGBT youth, we certainly hope that Focus on the Family agrees that the current environment in which nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students experience harassment each year in school is simply unacceptable," said Eliza Byard of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). "But we won't hold our breath."

Yeah, good luck holding your breath while little Bruno's slapping the shit out of you anyway. That's Focus on the Family, folks, telling Americans it's OK to be pricks since 1977. (Talking Points Memo)

-Pretty much the same guy-
After Glenn Beck's big "White-People-are-Sad" rally at the Lincoln Memorial this weekend, people are wondering what he would've been like if he'd been around when Martin Luther King jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. Turns out, it's not all that hard to figure out. Political cartoonist David Fitzsimmons demonstrates:

Beck rails against King as a communist
Click for full size comic

"And that whole 'cash a check' thing in the 'I Have a Dream' speech? It's about reparations!! Wake up, America. I beg you. Wake up!!!" (CagleCartoons.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"Robert Gibbs Accuses Gretchen Carlson Of Playing 'Political Games'."

C'mon Gibbs. She's FOX's pretty and cheerful morning imbecile. Political games? I think she'd have trouble mastering Chutes and Ladders. (Mediaite, with video)

The Terrorists Among Us

America is under attack from violent religious extremists with no respect for human life. They hate our freedoms and stand against liberty. They do not respect our laws and would dismantle our Constitution. They commit crimes against Americans regularly, speak out against our system of law daily, and spread their hatred through internet chatter every minute of every day. They seek nothing less than the takeover of our nation, so they can force us all the live under the oppression of their religious laws.

Damned Christians.

Jesus with a gunLook, I'm willing to accept that there are moderate Christians. Good people who just want to live their lives the way they want. But it's hard to believe that the extremists don't speak for them when they're all so silent on their brethren's crimes. Our wake-up call actually came back in May, when a mosque in Jacksonville, Florida was firebombed by radical Christian extremists. It was overlooked -- called an isolated incident -- and we all moved on, foolishly believing that it wouldn't happen again. We aren't some backwater third world nation, we thought, surely our Christian population is civilized.

Then came the cowardly attack on a Muslim cabbie, the desecration of a mosque with urine, a suspected case of arson, and shots fired near those picking through the wreckage of that arson. Not enough? David Gibson has more:

A brick was thrown through the window of a California mosque last week and a few days earlier signs were left at the mosque that read, "No temple for the god of terrorism at Ground Zero." Earlier this month, a plastic pig inscribed with messages such as "Remember 9-11" and "MO HAM MED the Pig" was stuffed into the mailbox of another Islamic center in California. (Like Jews, Muslims have a prohibition on eating pork.)

Clearly, they hate our First Amendment freedoms. So far, I've come across one prominent Christian leader willing to speak out against this hate-wave, but even then, the condemnation was conditional.

"The First Amendment guarantees people the right to worship where they live," [Southern Baptist leader Richard Land] said. "I am calling for all people of faith and good will to stand up for the rights of our Muslim fellow citizens."

Land has criticized plans to build a mosque near the site of the World Trade Center in New York City, saying it was too close to the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"This is different," he said. "There's no Ground Zero in Murfreesboro."

The message is clear. The jihad against the mosque in Murfreesboro is getting too much attention, so cool it off for a bit. But the fatwa against a Muslim community center in Manhattan still stands. Incredibly, this terrorist leader was allowed to go free and remains at large. Already, fellow Christians openly discuss carrying out terrorist attacks on their extremist websites.

Some Christians may find being tied to the extremists in their midst offensive, but I'd just point out that I'm only applying the unassailable logic of the Christian right to the Christian right. For example, toward the middle of August, jihadi talk show host Bill O'Reilly ran with the familiar theme. In defense of building Christian and Jewish houses of worship, Bill said, "Nobody would be complaining because Christians and Jews weren't involved in the 9/11 attack. Radical Muslims were. And you may remember the Muslim world largely did not condemn the al Qaeda action, while most Christians and Jews did."

But the Muslim world did condemn the 9/11 attacks. They did it right away. So I can only assume that the condemnation must either be universal or come from the leaders of his choosing before O'Reilly would accept it. We must also assume that these leaders have to actively seek out O'Reilly to make those condemnations in person, since it's clear that he couldn't be bothered to actually look for them in news stories. So I'm just holding O'Reilly to the same standard; I've chosen you, Bill. Come over to my house and condemn Christian terrorism or I'll be forced to assume you're a jihadist yourself. Really, it's the only safe assumption I could make. We can't be too careful in these dangerous times. The only wise thing to do is assume a Christian is terrorist until it's proven otherwise.

Think I'm overreacting? Consider this chilling passage from their holy book, "The Bible":

Suppose you hear in one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you that some worthless rabble among you have led their fellow citizens astray by encouraging them to worship foreign gods. In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully. If you find it is true and can prove that such a detestable act has occurred among you, you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock. Then you must pile all the plunder in the middle of the street and burn it. Put the entire town to the torch as a burnt offering to the LORD your God. That town must remain a ruin forever; it may never be rebuilt. Keep none of the plunder that has been set apart for destruction. Then the LORD will turn from his fierce anger and be merciful to you. He will have compassion on you and make you a great nation, just as he solemnly promised your ancestors. "The LORD your God will be merciful only if you obey him and keep all the commands I am giving you today, doing what is pleasing to him."

Obviously, their holy book calls for the destruction of all infidels, as well as their cities and buildings. The arsonist in Murfreesboro was only obeying his insane god's edict. Unless people like Bill O'Reilly renounce this passage, we can only assume he supports it as well -- as all observant Christians must. Again, it's right there in their holy writings. They cannot deny it.

We mustn't let down our guard, even for a moment. Because if we do, the Christian jihadists will surely see it as a sign of weakness. We are at war with terror, no matter what form that terror takes. If we ignore the fact that we're the target of Christian terrorism, Christians will take advantage of it. It's the logic their leaders apply to the War on Terror, so it only makes sense that we apply it to them as well.


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News Roundup for 8/30/10

Woman in tinfoil hat
Pam Geller

-Headline of the Day-
"Anti-Mosque Agitator Pam Geller: Mosque Supporters Ginned Up The Cabbie Slashing."

OK, so follow this "logic": Michael Enright got hammered and stabbed a cabbie for being Muslim. Enright volunteered for something called Intersections International. II supports the Park51 project. Therefore, Enright's crime was a setup by them crazy Islam-lovers to make Real Americans look bad. The end.

Asked if she was really saying that Park51 staged a crime to make crazy people look crazier, Geller said no, she "would never say that, I don't know that." She then went on to explain that yeah, that's exactly hat she's saying.

"He is affiliated with them, we do know that. He is pro-mosque, he works with [them]..." she said. "It's obvious what the intent was. That's how vile and debased this difference of opinion has gotten. People are not allowed to be insulted or offended."

So another conspiracy theory. That's wingnuts' answer to everything. (Talking Points Memo)

-Concise and comprehensive-
Caught at Glenn Beck's big white-people-are-angry party this weekend:

t-shirt: PALIN - Babies - Guns - Jesus
Click for full size

And that's all you gotta say about that. (Imgur)

-Bonus HotD-
"Taliban Operative: We Are Using Protests Against Park51 To Get 'More Recruits, Donations, and Popular Support'."

Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Pam Geller, et. al., the terrorists thank you. (Think Progress)

The Emphatic Pointlessness of the Tea Party

"Look, we'll have aerial photography here shortly," Beck told Wallace. "But I can tell you it's in the hundreds of thousands, let's be on the low end -- 300,000 -- and it may be as high as 650,000."
-"Beck rejects running with Palin," Politico

An estimated 87,000 people attended a rally organized by talk-radio host and Fox News commentator Glenn Beck Saturday in Washington, according to a crowd estimate commissioned by CBS News.
-"Glenn Beck Rally Attracts Estimated 87,000," CBS News

Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally at the Lincoln Memorial this weekend was billed as the most important thing to happen in your lifetime. It was going to be the moon landing, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the Wright brothers' first flight in three rings at once. Beck himself would be Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglas, and Thomas Edison all rolled up into one. I'm not kidding. Here's a promo from from Beck's website, courtesy of Media Matters.

How has this most important thing ever been received by its intended audience? According to a first-hand account, with yawns:

[Right Wing Watch:]

The Glenn Beck fans on my subway car after today's rally were a subdued bunch. They didn't seem energized by having spent time with their idol and many thousands of fellow fans. Why not?

"It was kind of boring," said one. "It wasn't what I expected," said another. "It was good," one said with an unenthusiastic shrug. "He had some good speakers." One recalled someone sitting near them grumbling, "I didn't come all this way for an awards ceremony."

Not the reaction you're going for when you've declared your intention of fundamentally transforming the country and sparking a Great Awakening that will turn the country back to God.

Beck's speech was rambling and unfocused, bland and tactically inoffensive. America is awesome, we've got to turn back to God, etc. It wasn't actually about anything, other than his ability to cry on cue. It brings to mind another experience I had recently.

This weekend, I attended a street fair. We were watching a band on stage and someone who'd already had just a little bit too much malty Wisconsin fun insisted, quite passionately, that one act was going to completely embarrass another one. The problem: he had his bands mixed up and was insisting that the band on stage sucked and would later be shamed by The Rousers -- who were the band on stage. After he was done with this rant, I turned to another friend and said, "It's fun to be emphatic."

And that sums up Beck and his crowd of teabaggers; emphatic, but that's it. They are against things and imagine that the Founders were against those same things and that's pretty much the entirety of their argument. As Steve Benen wrote in a must-read piece, movements are about something real.

Movements -- real movements that make a difference and stand the test of time -- are about more than buzz words, television personalities, and self-aggrandizement. Change -- transformational change that sets nations on new courses -- is more than vague, shallow promises about "freedom."

Labor unions created a movement. Women's suffrage was a movement. The fight for civil rights is a movement. The ongoing struggle for equality for gays and lesbians is a movement. In each case, the grievance was as clear as the solution. There was no mystery as to what these patriots were fighting for. Their struggles and successes made the nation stronger, better, and more perfect.

The folks who gathered in D.C. today were awfully excited about something. The fact that it's not altogether obvious what that might be probably isn't a good sign.

It's fun to be emphatic. But if you're wrong or -- as is the case here -- don't really have any point, it's not as much fun for everyone else. Ross Perot's Independent Party's only real argument for its existence was that there ought to be a third party. And that whole movement, which was pretty big, eventually collapsed. Without any central reason for being, the "movement" wasn't so much a movement, but a fad. The Tea Party is moving in that same direction. They're reactionary and all they really stand for is being against the things President Obama and the Democratic Party are for. Benen is right -- there is no there there.

But Beck's choice of date, as much as he claims its coincidental, was deliberate. You don't accidentally organize a rally at the place Martin Luther King jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech -- on the anniversary of that speech. Further, you don't get to say that the rally is to "reclaim" the civil rights movement and claim the date and the location are coincidental.

Beck is trying to start a new civil rights movement for the poor, oppressed white Christians. And he's doing it by waving King's corpse around like a flag. Both white and Christian populations are on the decline as America becomes more diverse. Why do you think the "We're against things!" crowd is against immigration and the building of mosques? Rendered tunnel-visioned about history by their own conservatism, teabaggers look at the civil rights movement and see only a movement of racial grievance, not a fight in defense of constitutional principles. Well, white Christians have grievances too -- they just aren't very clear about what those grievances are. Look at the crowd, it was white, white, white, and white. Is it any coincidence that these white Christians talk about themselves as the "real" Americans who want to "take their country back?"

About as much of a coincidence as the date. For them, "real" Americans are white and Christian. And they want to "take their country back" from the non-white and heathen hordes. They seem to believe that having white Christian concerns front and center in American politics is their birthright.

So, will Beck's big Whitesock rally change our nation forever? I don't think it'll even change much this week. Without some sort of point, the Tea Party is basically just a tantrum over the 2008 elections by sore losers. Why do you think Sarah Palin -- whose last big headline-grabbing move was defending blatant racism -- was hired as Beck's warmup act? She wouldn't be the first choice to help praise and "reclaim" the work of Dr. King. Not if they were serious, anyway. The 2008 Republican presidential campaign never actually ended, it just became hopeless and pointless and more than a little sad. They march around in circles, following Sarah and Glenn to nowhere, under the banner of anger.

But hey, it's fun to be emphatic.


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News Roundup for 8/27/10

Noted lazy bum

-Headline of the Day-
"Republican State Official Gets Fired Instead Of Resigning -- So He Can Collect Unemployment."

Unemployment benefits are the worst thing ever, because they keep lazy people from needing to get jobs! There are plenty of jobs out there, but shiftless hobos just don't want to work! Of course, this contradicts the "Obama's stimulus didn't create jobs!" argument, but who looks for consistency in Republican talking points? Not me, that's for sure.

And apparently not former Education Commissioner Bret Schundler, who got canned for "errors and misrepresentations" that cost New Jersey $400 million in "Race to the Top" money they would've got from an evil federal handout.

"Back in the day Brett Schundler was the rising star of the NJ GOP, making his mark as the uber-conservative Mayor heavily Democratic Jersey City," notes Josh Marshall. "He made his name in the 'cut every benefit cut every everything' wing of the party."

But things look different when you're the lazy vagrant out of work. According to the report, "Schundler preferred to be fired, rather than submit his resignation."

"I asked if they would mind writing a termination letter, instead of a resignation letter, because I do have a mortgage to pay, and I do have a daughter who's just started college," Schundler said. "And I, frankly, will need the unemployment insurance benefits until I find another job... And they said fine. They said sure." "They" being the also ultra-Republican Christie administration.

So there you go. Republicans rewarding the lazy with fat big gummint checks. Clearly, the terrorists have won. (Talking Points Memo)

-Crazy in love... and just plain crazy-
Providence, Rhode Island mayoral candidate Chris Young made minor news when he proposed to his now-fiance Kara Russo from the podium of a mayoral debate. Awww!

Cable news networks couldn't let something like that go, so they got Young and Russo to go on MSNBC to talk to Tom Roberts about the big "aw shucks" moment. It did not go well. Check out this here video, which I can't embed because Mediaite thinks they can dictate how wide my central column should be. A big "fuck you!" to Dan Abrams for that, by the way. Hope you're reading this Dan.

As you can see, Chris Young is crazier than a box of snakes. Worse, in addition to being insane, he's kind of a dick. Yeah, he's soft-spoken and all, but look at what a control freak he is with Kara -- he even wrote her a script. Of course, she blows her line (Pfft, women!) and he has to whisper it in her ear. He's like a cult leader who isn't very good at it. And I challenge anyone who knows who Chris Farley is to watch that clip and not have "I live in a van down by the river!" go through your mind at least once.

You know what should have tipped MSNBC off that this guy was a nut? A couple of backwater sites named "Google" and "YouTube." Here's Young's last TV interview before the MSNBC debacle:

Yay, double-video day! That was on the internets when they booked Young and Russo. Doesn't MSNBC have anyone to run a little background on their interviewees? Roberts was lucky the guy didn't show up with his band.

Anyway, I'm totally sure that Chris Young is going to be the Mayor of Providence. Because if there's one thing voters really like, it's a lunatic who won't shut the hell up about Jesus. Ask the Republican Party. (Mediaite, YouTube)

-Bonus HotD-
"Racists Need Funds to Give Terrorist a Viking Funeral."

This is the world we live in and it really is that stupid. (Hatewatch)


News Roundup for 8/26/10

Stupid-looking guy drinking beer
Note to mosque-haters: try not to be such jackasses, OK?

-Headline of the Day-
"Drunk shouts 'terrorists,' urinates on mosque rugs."

Apparently, the new big, crazy fad among wingnuts is getting hammered and attacking Muslims. At least this guy didn't stab anyone, so there's that. I guess in this circle, that passes for restraint.

Anyhoo, this guy named Omar Rivera (I know!) decided that he'd had it with those damned Musselmen in Queens and he was going to do something about it. Not something constructive mind you, but something. So he went into a mosque during evening prayers, yelled "terrorists!" at the congregants, then took a whiz on their rugs.

"He stuck up his middle finger and cursed at everyone," Mustapha Sadouki told the New York Post. "He calls us terrorists, yet he comes into our mosque and terrorizes other people." According to the report, "Rivera has been charged with criminal trespassing." You think there'd be some sort of destruction of property or vandalism charges, but there no charges of criminal leakage. So I guess taking a piss on someone's rug is totally legal in NYC. Good to know.

Still, here's a tip for wingnuts: don't make these sort of decisions when you're smashed. Omar here will spend the rest of his life answering the question, "I see from your police record that you're an incredible asshole. Can you explain that?" at job interviews. This does not bode well for his future.

In fact, just to be on the safe side, don't make those kind of decisions at all. Just stop being an idiot. Do it now.

If America ever needed you not to be you, this would be that time. (MSNBC)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, wanna see a fairy tale? Well good, because Uncle Mark has one for us today! Yay!

Tax cut fairies
Click for animation

So what did we learn? The moral of this story is, "Shut up and eat your tax cut (assuming you have an income to tax)." (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"New Reid ad: Sharron Angle is a dangerous maniac."

Score one for truth in advertising. (Plum Line, with video)

Lighting a Very Short Fuse

Yesterday's attack on a Muslim cabbie understandably caught a lot of people's attention. While it's now unclear that the assault was connected to the Park51 controversy, a lot of people -- myself included -- immediately assumed that it was. Allow me to demonstrate why:

That was a protest against the Cordoba House community center at Park51 last weekend. Mr. Brimless Cap there was mistaken for a Muslim and the crowd turned on him, with Mr. Hardhat trying his damnedest to start a fight. Of course, Mr. Brimless Cap would've been torn apart by the crowd if Mr. Hardhat was successful. Mr. Hardhat's courage is the courage of knowing that a hundred equally crazy idiots have your back. In short, Mr. Hardhat is a coward and a bully. Given that this crowd is completely terrified by the prospect of what will essentially be a YMCA, finding cowardice within it isn't all that surprising. Mr. Brimless Cap is escorted out of the crowd, followed by some idiot shouting "Mohammed's a pig! Mohammed's a pig!" which is always helpful and constructive. Later, we learn that Mr. Brimless Cap is a carpenter at Ground Zero, not a radical jihadist. His only crime was making a fashion choice that hate-filled morons found confusing. Worse, had they been correct, his crime would've been being Muslim on a New York City street.

Is he for the project, is he against it? Who knows? All we know is that they saw someone who wasn't white, dressed in a way that was vaguely similar to Muslims they've seen on the teevee (I'm having a hard time believing these were New Yorkers for that reason), and decided that someone needed a good old-fashioned threatening. This could so easily have turned into a lynch mob, a riot, or both. In fact, this video is so embarrassing to the anti-Muslim cause that the main author of the hysteria, rightwing nutcase Pam Geller, has washed her hands of this protest altogether, saying "I had nothing to do with this rally and knew nothing about it." She couches her denial in an attack on a tweet by blogger Max Blumenthal -- as if the media is hanging on Blumenthal's every 140 characters, waiting to pounce and destroy Pam Geller.

And, of course, he doesn't take her denial lying down:

Geller's claim that she had "no idea" about the August 22 rally is ridiculous. According to the Daily Caller, "Beth Gilinsky, an organizer for The Coalition to Honor Ground Zero and founder of the Jewish Action Alliance, is coordinating the rally." And Gilinsky and Geller have worked hand-in-glove for years. At the April 25 Stand With Israel rally in New York City, Gilinsky introduced Geller as "a very dear friend" for whom she holds "enormous admiration." (Geller proceeded to wave a scarf reading "Yid Army" before the crowd, making a cartoonish attempt at Jewish ethnic identification while at the same time expressing her admiration for violent British football hooligans.) Geller has also lavished praise on Gilinsky, hailing her as one of the "warriors" who attempted to stop the Khalil Gibran Academy from opening in Brooklyn.

Considering that Geller and Gilinsky spearheaded the campaign against the Girban Academy and that they at least claim to be "very dear" friends, it is hard to imagine that Geller had "no idea" that Gilinsky and company were planning a major rally on August 22. So Geller is simply deceiving her readers. And given that many of those on the list of organizations and individual racists supporting The Coalition To Honor Ground Zero are scheduled to appear at the rally Geller is planning on 9-11 against Cordoba House, Geller appears to be disparaging her own allies as well, conceding that they are in fact a bunch of deranged, potentially violent bigots whose actions are "harmful to the cause of freedom of expression."

But Geller isn't just deceiving her readers. She knows that this phony outrage she helped create has made her a minor celebrity, so what's on her blog is aimed as much -- or more -- at the media as it is her supporters. Bllumenthal's tweet is just her excuse to distance herself from the whole thing. In this case, P.T. Barnum's rule doesn't apply: there is such a thing as bad press and Geller doesn't want any of it. Still her irrationality shines through, as she begins her post with "Max Blumenthal, notorious Jew hater, is lying, slandering and making up racist propaganda against me again." Racist? Really? In what way? And Blumenthal, like Geller, is Jewish. Like all rightwingers, Geller resorts to hurling random insults and strawmen when backed into a corner. Their model for a perfect debater is Don Rickles. How do you know when a wingnut thinks they're losing a debate? They get really, really nasty.

So, what we see is Geller completely terrified that all the hatred she's heated up is on the verge of boiling over and spoiling her fifteen minutes of fame. If she's so certain this is on the the edge of the cliff, why is it so surprising that everyone else is as well?

It should also be noted that, while the man who assaulted the cabbie, Michael Enright, is associated with an organization that supports the Park51 project, he is not an employee (I originally reported otherwise, consider this my retraction). He was a freelance film maker. And the only thing suggesting that he isn't opposed to Park51 is this association to the pro-Park51 Intersections International. Ideologically, I think stabbing a guy for being Muslim might just put you in the same camp as Mr. Hardhat up there. Just a guess, mind you. But it doesn't seem like much of a leap of logic. I also think a budding documentary film maker (Enright is still a student) wouldn't be extremely choosy about the groups helping him expand his film catalog. You don't have to have a good opinion of Park51 or Muslims to make films about veterans with PTSD.

So, did I and a lot of other people jump the gun in assuming that Enright's crime was based on opposition to Park51? I suppose we did. But that's only because we share something with Pam Geller: we know this stands a good chance of blowing up eventually. The difference is that we're interested in stopping that explosion, while Geller is only interested in not being there when it happens.


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News Roundup for 8/25/10

Large gathering of klansmen
First annual meeting of the Pam Geller Fan Club

-Headline of the Day-
"White Supremacists Find Common Cause with Pam Geller's Anti-Islam Campaign."

Rightwing lunatic blogger Pam Geller's anti-Muslim crusade is making waves with other rightwing lunatics. In fact, she's quickly becoming the neo-Nazis' favorite Jew. Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center recently took a trip through the racist wingnutosphere and -- you've got to assume after taking a shower -- comes back to report that the farthest-right thinks Geller is just the bee's Aryan knees.

"Geller's views are now also finding support from nearly every sector of America's racist right," Beirich reports. "This is rather surprising because Geller is Jewish, a fact that is normally enough to dissuade radical rightists from too tight an embrace. Apparently, Geller is a Jew the racist right can love." And boy, do they ever.

User "Thunderbird" on the white supremacist site VDARE.com wonders if "notorious right wing conservative Jewish bloggers are... on our side on many issues." Others don't wonder at all. Another user on the site notes that "Jewish Nazi's, Fascists, right wingers etc. are small in number but they can make sense."

Not everyone is a fan, however. But it's not her Jewishness that's the problem, it's that she's not branching out her hate enough. "She singles out Muslim immigrants in Europe for their uncivilized animal-like behavior and likeliness to commit crime," writes a user on the Nazi site Stormfront, "yet she refuses to mention anything about blacks or Latinos in the US... Shame on her."

Shame on her indeed. But don't worry Adolph, she'll get around to it. One hate campaign at a time. Remember your Aesop fables and The Tortoise and the Hare: "Slow and steady wins the race war." (Hatewatch)

-The enemy within-
America is beset by Muslims, commies, and probably the Boogeyman. Everyone knows it's true, so why pretend otherwise? Let it not be said that crazy desert hobo Sharron Angle looked the danger in the eye and blinked. Nosiree Bob, it's time to dance with the devil and she brought her steel-toed tap shoes.

On a talk radio interview with some minor patriot or other, the conversation turned to America's enemies. "We have domestic enemies," said talk radio guy Bill Manders. "We have home-born homegrown enemies in our system. And I for one think we have some of those enemies in the walls of the Senate and the Congress."

"Yes," Angle said. "I think you're right, Bill."

Enemies of America in the House and Senate! OhMyFuckingGodAndDearJesusHelpUsPLEASE!!

Clearly, the time has come for Second Amendment remedies. Which kind of makes you wonder -- why bother with an election? I mean, if you're just going to overthrow the gummint anyway, why waste the effort?

But look at me, expecting Angle's reasoning to make any damned sense at all. Seriously, what was I thinking? (Plum Line)

-Bonus HotD-
"Meet Bruce Majors: The Tea Partier Advising Beck Rally-Goers To Stay Off The Green And Yellow Lines."

This is a whole big thing, but I can boil it down for you pretty easily: insane, horrible, offensive, hate-addicted, racist people really seem to like Glenn Beck. Go see for yourself. (Think Progress)

Glenn Beck, Free Speech, and How Hurt Feelings Trump the First Amendment

Sad smiley facrIt makes me feel sad, so of course, they shouldn't be allowed to do it. Glenn Beck and his racist, anti-government forces will gather in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial -- a memorial to a president killed by a racist, anti-government nutjob -- on the anniversary of Martin Luther King jr's "I have a dream" speech. A speech King gave that day from the same location. He too was killed by a racist. Keep an eye out for confederate flags. It was Lincoln who centralized the federal government these people despise so much. And beyond his civil rights work, King was also anti-war and in support of the hated unions. Clearly, Beck's rally is meant as a victory march on the graves of Lincoln and King, a stab at the heart of a nation still healing -- these many years later -- from the wounds inflicted by the deaths of these two men and the war that nearly tore our nation apart. Sure, they technically have the "right" to do it. But it'll hurt a lot of people's feelings, so "rights" should be ignored in favor of psycho-babble about closure and our deep emotional injuries. Perhaps it would be wisest to add "unless it makes us feel sad" to the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

I mean that paragraph only half-mockingly. I doubt the intention is to insult Lincoln and King, but Beck's rally -- as well as his attempt to hijack the legacy of Dr. King -- is offensive. The people attending have been told to leave the signs at home (it's not technically a political rally, you see), but these are the same people whose signs attack the president's race and religion and these are the same people who fly the confederate flag. Expect to see a t-shirt or two that features either/or. And these are the same people who believe a Muslim version of a YMCA "desecrates" the memory of those who died on 9/11. They'll gather in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, on the day that Dr. King told us about the "fierce urgency of Now" -- a phrase that the despised President Obama later took as a title for a book -- and desecrate the memories of Dr. King and President Lincoln. That may not be their intention, but that will be the result all the same.

And they'll be allowed to do this, to deliver this insult to blacks and liberals and anyone who believes that people working together can solve problems (they call this "collectivism" and insist it's inherently evil). They'll be allowed to do this because that's the law and we're not insane. And the massive hypocrisy of what they're doing will be lost on them.

I want you to consider how Beck and the rest of the rightwing media would react to this section of King's speech if it were delivered today:

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

Beck himself has already accused Obama of seeking reparations for slavery -- a charge completely without evidence to back it up. Does anyone out there really believe that he wouldn't glom onto this "cash a check" metaphor and cast it literally? Beck would be a friend of King's in the same way he's a friend of Shirley Sherrod and the NAACP. He'd attack him in the very same way. In fact, the tactics haven't changed at all from King's day; Beck would attack him as an anti-patriot and a communist, just as they did back then. Glenn's not fooling many people here.

"Beck is hijacking the imagery and symbolism of August 28 and the Lincoln Memorial to promote an agenda of intolerance," said Marc H. Morial, president of the National Urban League, told Media Matters. Morial said that Beck "is deliberately trying to poke a stick in our eye, or kick sand in our faces" by holding this rally.

"His vision of America is a vision of America from yesterday and our vision is an America of tomorrow that builds on yesterday," he said.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks racist movements in America, calls Beck's rally a "sick farce" and points out that his attacks on Obama and minority leaders have "earned him grudging respect from hardcore white nationalists who usually have little patience for major media."

Even the normally slow-on-the-uptake teabaggers have caught on. "I call it 'Beckaplooza,' because it seems to be all about Beck," Andrew Ian Dodge, the Maine state coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, told Politico.

"There have been discussions continuously over the last year about whether he is necessarily a force for good or not necessarily," he said. "Beck takes it outside of the realm of fiscal conservatism into issues that are more emotional and make you wonder if we really want to be associated with this guy." According to the article, Dodge cites "Beck's inflammatory rhetoric, including his blasting of Obama as a racist."

So, when Beck and his little robots are marching around the Lincoln Memorial pretending to be patriots, remember that they're allowed to do this under the First Amendment. A counter-demonstration is planned, because that's freedom of speech too. And when Glenn Beck gets up behind the podium, squirts Vick's Vapo-Rub into his eyes, and starts "weeping for his country," remember that -- as stupid and phony as those tears are -- they're free speech.

Somehow, I doubt Beck and his robots will give that any thought at all. They're big fans of the First Amendment only when it applies to them. Let it apply to Muslims in Manhattan and they couldn't care less.


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News Roundup for 8/24/10

Man in carrot costume
John Boehner

-Headline of the Day-
"John Boehner Mocked His Deficit Reduction Plan Before He Proposed It."

Would-be house speaker and the nation's leading Orange-American John Boehner has a plan to fix the economy. Fire Obama's economic team and go back to what Bush was doing -- because that was working so well. "When Congress returns, we should force Washington to cut non-defense discretionary spending to 2008 levels -- before the 'stimulus' was put into place," he said in a speech today. "This would show Washington is ready to get serious about bringing down the deficits that threaten our economy." And bringing down deficits would help the economy how? I'm still waiting for someone to come up with an answer to that one. So far, no luck. It's not extremely clear how they "threaten our economy," either.

But here's the fun. This is John Boehner in January, when, according to the report, "President Obama proposed freezing non-defense discretionary spending in 2010 for three years, which would have brought it in line with 2008 levels."

"Given Washington Democrats' unprecedented spending binge," he said, "this is like announcing you're going on a diet after winning a pie-eating contest."

So, for the record, when the president proposes it, it's a ridiculous suggestion. When Boehner suggests it, it what "grownups" do.

Gotta love that consistency of reasoning. (The Atlantic)

-FOX News: Protecting America from FOX News-
Jon Stewart connects the dots in the "Ground Zero mosque" controversy and finds that the money trail leads to... FOX News!

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Parent Company Trap
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Why does FOX News hate America? (Comedy Central)

-Bonus HotD-
"John Stossel Wants To Save Us From The Government Tyranny That Is Traffic Lights."

You can't even parody the guy anymore. (Mediaite)

If You Liked "Fahrenheit 9/11," You're a Terrorist

Man holding sign reading 'Support Freedom of Religion'The so-called "Ground Zero mosque" (which isn't actually a mosque and isn't at Ground Zero) is a mere distraction from the larger issues of unemployment, wars, and the economy. It is but a trifle and beneath the notice of intelligent people. It's a blip on the national radar screen that frivolous people have decided to make the fad of the moment. So say the Serious People in Ties. This argument tells us that congress isn't in session, the election campaigns are firing up, so we're entering the "silly season" of American politics, when demagoguery and grandstanding rear their less-than-serious heads and this isn't something we should really pay a lot of attention to. But this line of reasoning ignores the months of hysteria-whipping by the likes of Newt Gingrich and lunatic blogger Pam Geller. This has been brewing for some time and the idea that it's only now gotten the attention of the Serious People in Ties is laughable. They've watched it unfold, reported on it, and now they want to pretend it spontaneously ignited sometime last week. Apparently, the Serious People in Ties have grown weary of this particular story. Time to move on.

Salon's Glenn Greenwald noticed this "it's a distraction" trend in punditry and, as he often does, took the contrary position. According to Greenwald, the issue of Cordoba House at Park51 isn't some momentary outbreak of stupidity. Rather, it underlines a deep and growing misunderstanding of what America is all about and gives us the opportunity to ask ourselves if we like where we're headed.

[The "distraction" meme is] an artificially narrow and misguided way of understanding what this dispute is about. The intense animosity toward Muslims driving this campaign extends far beyond Ground Zero, and manifests in all sorts of significant and dangerous ways. In June, The New York Times reported on a vicious opposition campaign against a proposed mosque in Staten Island. Earlier this month, Associated Press documented that "Muslims trying to build houses of worship in the nation's heartland, far from the heated fight in New York over plans for a mosque near ground zero, are running into opponents even more hostile and aggressive." And today, The Washington Post examines anti-mosque campaigns from communities around the nation and concludes that "the intense feelings driving that debate have surfaced in communities from California to Florida in recent months, raising questions about whether public attitudes toward Muslims have shifted."

To belittle this issue as though it's the equivalent of the media's August fixation on shark attacks or Chandra Levy -- or, worse, to want to ignore it because it's harmful to the Democrats' chances in November -- is profoundly irresponsible. The Park51 conflict is driven by, and reflective of, a pervasive animosity toward a religious minority -- one that has serious implications for how we conduct ourselves both domestically and internationally...

Case in point: the Wall Street Journal reports that "Islamic radicals are seizing on protests against a planned Islamic community center near Manhattan's Ground Zero and anti-Muslim rhetoric elsewhere as a propaganda opportunity and are stepping up anti-U.S. chatter and threats on their websites." For a mere "distraction," this seems to have serious ramifications. According to that report, "One jihadist site vowed to conduct suicide bombings in Florida to avenge a threatened Koran burning, while others predicted an increase in terrorist recruits as a result of such actions." It's obvious that this extends beyond even constitutional issues like the freedoms of speech and religion. As important as those are, there are concerns less abstract and more concrete.

But what is this doing to our rhetorical landscape? The aforementioned Pam Geller posted some quotes from one of the organizers of the Cordoba House project, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, "proving" he's some sort of Islamic radical bent on destroying Israel and promoting terrorism in the United States. Among the evidence: Rauf likes Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, a film customers give 3-and-a-half stars on Amazon.com. Who knew there were so many terrorist sympathizers in the United States?

One of Rauf's statements that Geller finds outrageous is the following:

We tend to forget, in the West, that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaida has on its hands of innocent non Muslims. You may remember that the US-led sanctions against Iraq led to the death of over half a million Iraqi children. This has been documented by the United Nations. And when Madeleine Albright, who has become a friend of mine over the last couple of years, when she was Secretary of State and was asked whether this was worth it, said it was worth it.

Apparently, math hates America. What Rauf says here is undeniably true; more people died because of Iraq sanctions than have from terrorist attacks in the west. In 1999, the BBC reported, "Unicef estimates that at least 500,000 children have died, who ordinarily would have lived." Madeline Albright may have thought those deaths were worth it, but it doesn't strike me as incredibly unreasonable to disagree -- especially considering the fact that I do disagree. Again, by Geller's reasoning, this "proves" I'm a terrorist sympathizer or an Islamic extremist.

Another "radical" quote has Rauf saying, "The West needs to begin to see themselves through the eyes of the Arab and Muslim world, and when you do you will see the predicament that exists within the Muslim community." Because putting yourself in someone else's shoes is fundamentally un-American or something.

Another: "So men will say: women, you know, they're emotional, ..... whatever, whatever, and women will say: men, they're brutes, insensitive, etcetera [sic], and you have the beginning of a gender conflict. If gender is not what distinguishes us we'll look at skin colouring and say: n#####s or whities, or whatever." This one proves he's... I don't know, racist I guess. Seriously, you have to actively try to read these as offensive. Geller provides zero context (there's a surprise), so anything you try to read into it comes from your own head. And even taken out of context, nothing here seems especially bad. He talks about a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, which would necessitate Israel becoming a secular nation, like the US. Geller casts this as Rauf arguing that Muslims -- and I quote -- "must destroy the tiny Jewish state." Needless to say, Rauf says nothing remotely like that, it's just Geller's ham-handed attempt at spin.

I don't doubt that Geller and her crowd aren't big fans of a one-state solution or Michael Moore, but do we really need to elevate these disagreements to the level of some sort of hate speech? Is saying that a lot of people died needlessly because of the sanctions on Iraq really some sort of verbal terrorism? Is it really necessary to equate everyone who watched Fahrenheit 9/11 with Islamic extremists?

Here's the problem in a nutshell: if there's one thing I've noticed about the right over the years, it's that they never let anything go. If something is declared politically incorrect by the right, it remains verboten for decades. So, if it becomes accepted on the right that Michael Moore and criticism of US foreign policy equates to Islamic extremism, then the left can expect to be accused of it until 2020, at least. Probably longer. Republicans started accusing Democrats of socialism after FDR -- look how long it's taking them to let that one go. Similarly, Sarah Palin came just short of accusing Barack Obama of being a terrorist in the '08 presidential campaign. Notice that one fading into the background?

Now, being Muslim is becoming politically incorrect in itself. People like Geller spend tremendous amounts of energy trying to convince people that every Muslim is a terrorist and that there's no such thing as progressive or moderate Islam. If Democrats are still called socialist after WWII, imagine how long Muslims will remain terrorists. And imagine how long it'll be before it's politically correct to criticize belligerence in American foreign policy again.

So no, the focus on Park51 is not a part of the "silly season." It's a struggle for the future of America and what little sanity remains in our national discourse. Far from a distraction and beyond even questions of fundamental fairness and constitutional law, it's essential. It's the answer to a very simple question: will a new McCarthyism rise in this country, to remain a facet of our politics for decades, or will we nip this idiocy and hatred in the bud?

I know which answer I'm rooting for.


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News Roundup for 8/23/10

Michael Ian Black
Fucking defending fucking Obama to the fucking hilt

-Headline of the Day-
"Michael Ian Black's Tirade Against a Racist Obama-Hater During Set."

Maybe you don't know who comedian Michael Ian Black actually is, but you'd recognize him if you saw him (that's him up there). Anyway, he was doing a gig and he mentioned that he liked Obama, so some dumbass heckler yells out, "Heil Hitler." Black describes his response this way:

I just started screaming at the guy. Screaming. I don't even know what I was screaming, although the gist was, "How dare you compare Hitler to this president or any president? How dare you equate what he did with Obama is doing? Do you have any idea how insulting that is? Do you know anything about history? Do you have any idea what Hitler did? He killed six million of my people, which is six million more than Obama has killed. You're a fucking idiot. You're a fucking moron. You're the fucking problem with this country. You and your reflexive retardation. You're a fucking this-and-that&" and then I just basically started yelling "fuck" a lot at the guy. Fuck fuck fuck fuck.

Then he stood up and left.

It felt really, really great.

He says he felt bad about it later.

I say fuck that. (Gawker)

-You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes-
So who's behind the opposition to the Cordoba House Muslim community center in Manhattan? Let's take a look at a screenshot of their big protest of it this weekend and see if we can discover any clues:

If you can't make out that banner, it reads "MOSQUE AT GROUD ZERO - THE MONUMENT TO TERRORISM!" So, I'm guessing teabaggers. No big surprise there, since the whole purpose of the fad is to declare, "We're against things!" in various forms of creative spelling. But hey, at least they spelled "mosque" without a K.

They're improving. (Balloon Juice)

-Bonus HotD-
"Rhode Island Democratic Lawmaker Goes After 'Anchor Embryos'."

Next up, dealing with the massive problem of "Anchor Sparkles in Their Fathers' Eyes." (Think Progress, with video)

When Did Cable News Become a 24/7 Shouting Match?

I ended out last week with a complaint about the media. One of the big stories of the week was that about 1 in 5 think that President Obama's a Muslim. Of that 18%, 60% said they got that "information" from the media. In response to the polling, media pundits concluded it was Obama's fault -- not theirs -- that so many held this misconception. He has to go to church more -- never mind that the only time George W. Bush saw the inside of a church was for a wedding or a funeral. No one ever called him a Muslim, did they? As they so often do, the press ignored a fact that didn't fit their pre-written narrative.

But that was only part of my argument. I also worried that cable news is a mix of opinion and news, with the proportion of opinion growing radically. TV news "analysts" don't analyze at all, they offer speculate, and this blurs the line between fact and opinion. When you have to have two or more partisans chime in, the purpose should be to interview, not "analyze." They should be used to illustrate what both sides of an argument believe and no more. When they start throwing out straw men, spin, and propaganda, the anchor should step on them. That's not news, that's useless information.

I came across an example of the problem yesterday with a clip from PBS Newshour. The issue: the Cordoba House Islamic community center in Manhattan. The people: anchor Gwen Ifill, New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio, and the Muslim and Democratic mayor of Teaneck, NJ, Mohammed Hameeduddin. The problem: the whole thing turned into a cable news-style free-for-all.

[Gwenn Ifill on Newshour's blog, The Rundown:]

If the camera had continued rolling Monday night at the NewsHour after I completed a segment on the debate over the so-called Ground Zero mosque, you would have seen me beating my head against the anchor desk.

I am not one to tell tales out of school, but we got a ton of mail from viewers this week who were dismayed by a discussion I conducted that night on the president's decision to weigh in on the debate about whether to build an Islamic center a couple of blocks away from the Ground Zero reconstruction site in lower Manhattan.

The discussion was loud, erratic and, frankly, kind of out of control. It was not the
NewsHour's style. More important, it did nothing to move the debate forward. I'm still kicking myself about it...

The segment was nothing exceptional, really. Not by TV news standards. In fact, it was pretty tame, comparatively. Still, PBS viewers didn't find "you suck" vs. "no, you suck" very informative and they wrote into to Newshour to make that clear. Ifill writes:

There are plenty of places where this would have been considered entertaining television. The NewsHour is not one of them.

Viewers apparently agree. "PLEASE, no more yelling, feuding interviews, as was the Ground Zero Muslim center 'discussion' on today's
NewsHour," one viewer wrote me on Twitter. The rest of the mail got a lot meaner than that.

I should point out that, according to research by the Pew Center for the People & the Press, viewers of PBS' Newshour are easily the most informed of all viewers of TV news broadcasts. And when the show breaks down into a typical TV news partisan brawl, those highly-informed viewers don't like it at all. The reason is that after the smoke clears, you discover you haven't learned a damned thing.

I could explain the problem in more detail, but it's already been done for me. Let's go back in time to a 2004 appearance by The Daily Show's Jon Stewart on CNN's shouting heads program, Crossfire:

What a dick Tucker Carlson is, huh? This reinforces my belief that people who wear bow ties are evil and they're just wearing them to look less evil. If Lexx Luthor were real, his PR handlers would have him in a bow tie. Anyway, Stewart's appearance was probably the first and last time anyone who watched the show learned anything they didn't already know -- a few months after this interview took place, Crossfire was canceled.

But Crossfire didn't actually die. Instead of "debate" programs like Crossfire becoming more like news shows, TV news shows became more like Crossfire. We now have segment after segment after segment of morons and hacks shouting at each other -- which apparently brings ratings -- but when the segments are over, you haven't learned a damned thing other than that people really, really disagree about the issues. What an enlightening realization, huh? Worse, all that's being shouted are market-tested talking points and self-aggrandizing spin.

Who's right, who's wrong... who cares? The only thing that matters is that enough people see that commercial for Gold Bond Foot Powder in between the segments. I'm not saying that there should be no opinion on TV news networks. If you want to watch Glenn Beck, that's your choice. If you want to watch Rachel Maddow, hell, I recommend it. But if you want some damned actual, factual news, forget about TV. It's close to useless. Personally, of all the cable news networks out there, the one I watch most is probably The Weather Channel -- they never seem to have two idiots arguing over whether or not it's going to rain.

If you have to watch cable news, then maybe it might be a good idea to be more like those PBS viewers; when two suits start yelling at each other, write to the program and tell them it sucked. Make sure to point out that you learned nothing from the segment, which made it a huge waste of time. And make sure to point out, as Stewart did way back in 2004, that these useless shouting matches and the endless repetition of partisan talking points are "hurting America."

Because they are.


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News Roundup for 8/20/10

Vintage photo of steno pool
OK sweetheart, now go back to your powder puffs or bonbons or whatever

-Headline of the day-
"Chamber Of Commerce COO Apologizes For 'Ridiculous' Post Blaming Women For The Gender Wage Gap ."

Yesterday, the US Chamber of Commerce's blog featured a post by Brad Peck that blamed women for the pay gap between men and women. Turns out that women should just choose higher paying jobs or marry rich guys. It's so easy. Of course, we all know about women drivers, so you know how good they are at making decisions.

That didn't go over too well with the ladies, who nagged and nagged and nagged the Chamber until they issued an apology. Saying Peck's post was "simplistic and misguided," Chamber Chief Operating Officer David Chavern shot the whole thing down. Peck's post was an "argument from the 1960's," he said. "The 'glass ceiling' is real and simply blaming it on women's work-life choices is ridiculous." Still, some are unimpressed.

According to the report, "Unfortunately, the Chamber of Commerce has a long history of opposing legislation that would improve women s lives. From opposing the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to lobbying against legislation that would allow rape victims to bring lawsuits against their employers, the Chamber s record is firmly anti-woman."

What, it's not enough to apologize for being sexist now? You have to do something about it? It just never ends with you women's-libbers, does it? (Think Progress)

-Backing the wrong horse-
You might remember just a few days ago when talk radio advice-person-thingy "Dr. Laura" tried to set the world record for saying the n-word the most times in less than a minute. Unfortunately, she failed and that record still belongs to former game show host Wink Martindale (not really. I just think Wink Martindale is a really funny name and wanted to drop it just once in a roundup Woohoo! Mission accomplished!).

Anyway Dr. Laura pretended to quit so people wouldn't know she got fired. And then Sarah Palin rode to her defense on the twitter-machine. "Dr.Laura:don't retreat...reload! (Steps aside bc her 1st Amend.rights ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence'isn't American,not fair')" Palin pounded out -- apparently with a pair of hammers.

"Dr.Laura=even more powerful & effective w/out the shackles, so watch out Constitutional obstructionists. And b thankful 4 her voice,America!" she followed up.

"OMG! 2b snowmachine&Dr.Laura=flag grizzly , boy howdy!" she tweetled later.

All this "Yay for the n-word!" activism on Sarah's part had some taken aback. Black Republicans said Palin was "no longer fit to lead," "might finally have gone too far," and admitted "Sarah Palin scares me."

Join the club, guys. (Raw Story)

-Bonus HotD-
"After defending Dr. Laura, Palin will help Glenn Beck 'reclaim the civil rights movement'."

Apparently, they're going to reclaim it from people who are for civil rights. (Media Matters)

-Extra bonus HotD-
"Thirteen Really Muslim Things Obama has Done."

A slideshow proving that 1 in 5 Americans are really, really stupid. (New York Magazine)

Note to 24-Hour Media: You're Just Awful at this News Stuff

Last night, I broke out the ladder, climbed up on my roof, and pointed my face to the sky -- where the airwaves live -- and shouted, "You're not helping!"

Ok, so I didn't. But I wanted to. In yesterday's roundup, I mentioned a Pew poll that found that 18% of respondents thought President Obama is a Muslim. It's not the sort of thing I normally get worked up about, since -- as I pointed out when I wrote about it -- in any poll, approximately 1 in 5 always gives an insane answer. 1 in 5 believe that space aliens walk around in people-costumes. When it comes to reporting on polling, I think we should all agree that about 20% of respondents will be shown to be either stupid or mentally ill and just cut those people out of the equation. We've got a margin of error, so call this the "crazy quotient." Or maybe lump them in with the other answers we ignore -- something like "don't know/no opinion/goofy in the head."

But the crazy quotient in this poll had some interesting qualities. Greg Sargent looked into the internals and found that (surprise!) the believe was Republican driven. But more interesting was that 60% of those who held the mistaken belief that Obama was a Muslim said they learned this from the media.

"Ha ha ha! FOX News sucks," I thought (as I often do) and went about my business. Then I came across a post by Amanda Terkel at Think Progress that made me want to go up on my roof. In response to a poll showing that the media was 60% responsible for the screwball belief that Barack Obama is a Muslim, TV talking heads had a remedy -- President Obama should go to church more, because this is somehow his fault:

And then there's this CNN screenshot, posted by Dave Weigel:


As an atheist, I could care less, really. If the president is a Muslim or a Christian or a worshiper of Aphrodite, it's not really a step up or down for me. They're all equally weird and everyone, the president included, has the constitutionally guaranteed right to believe in the magical cosmic being of their choosing.

But the answer to the problem presented in the clip is suggested by the screenshot -- stop treating every question as if it's a matter of opinion. Has the media gotten so awful, so useless, that they'll treat even disagreements over plain, easily proven facts as an argument where both sides' points are equally valid? CNN might as well have said, "1 in 5 think the President's a Muslim. The White House says he isn't. Who's right? No one knows! Color us clueless. It's all a big freakin' mystery!" And then the rest of the networks chime in with, "If he went to church more often, then we'd know. How did the White House screw this up so badly?" In bending over backwards to try to be unbiased and tell "both sides of the story," they completely fail to inform. They couldn't be doing a worse job of reporting if they were actually trying to confuse you.

Starting to feel like getting out the ladder yet? The way you handle this story is like this: "18% of respondents to a new Pew poll answered that they believe President Obama is a Muslim -- which is interesting only for the fact that it's just so completely wrong. Apparently, the respondents blame the media for this mistaken belief, so I guess we'll have to step up our game in the future. Apologies all around. Now what's the weather like in Kansas?"

Neat, clean, factual, and -- most importantly -- informative. And the last thing we need is a parade of "analysts" and "political strategists" telling us how the president ought to handle this, because it was these same opinionated blowhards who got us in this mess in the first place. You don't have to get someone's opinion on everything; sometimes, you can get away with just reporting the facts. And sometimes, the only thing you should do is report the facts... this being one of those times. They bill it as 24-hour news, not a 24-hour op-ed page. Maybe cut back on the constant editorializing for a change.

TV reporting should be fairly straightforward: just report the truth, then cut to commercial while you enjoy a nice hot cuppa STFU. When 1 in 5 believe something that's ridiculous and 60% of those mistaken believers said they learned it from the media, maybe -- just maybe -- it's time to approach journalism a little bit differently.

Because the undeniable facts show that they're blowing it. Maybe the TV wonks can put their heads together and figure out what it is they're doing wrong. My only fear is that they'd decide the only answer is to go to church more often.


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News Roundup for 8/19/10

FOX host interviews girls in their underwear
Real news for real idiots

-Headline of the day-
"Poll: Most of those who think Obama is Muslim learned it from media."

Big news! 1 in 5 Americans think Barack HUSSEIN Obama is a Muslim. It's all over the news media, because really, nothing else important has happened recently. So the news was a welcome story on a day when there was nothing else to talk about.

Anyway, the Pew poll found that 18% of respondents thought Obama was a Muslim, which is big super-important news to know, because it's roughly equal to the percentage of birthers found in other polls. In addition, George W. Bush's approval rating on leaving office was 22%. in fact, still another poll has found 20% of people worldwide believe that aliens are here on Earth and walk around in disguise to fool us. No, really.

So I think the big news here is that, no matter what the polling question, somewhere around 20% of respondents will give you an answer that's freakin' insane. Talk about burying the lede.

But Greg Sargent dug through the internals of the poll and found a further buried lede: of the people who think Obama's a Muslim, 60% say they learned this fact from the media. He also found out that the vast majority of those holding that opinion were Republicans. So you know who we're talking about here: Republicans+media=FOX, Limbaugh, Beck, O'Reilly, Hannity, etc.

I think we've got enough data here to say that it's a scientifically proven fact that rightwing media will turn you into an idiot and that 20% of people are frootloops. (Plum Line)

-Cartoon time with Mark Fiore-
Hey kids, Dogboy and Mr. Dan are back and they're going to tell us about the latest Muslim plot to take over America!

Cat and Mosque
Click for animation

OK, so it's not as much a "Muslim plot" as it is a "rightwing panic attack," but still... (MarkFiore.com)

-Bonus HotD-
"While Demanding Muslims Be Sensitive To 9/11 Victims, Sarah Palin Defends Dr. Laura's Racial Insensitivity."

Boy howdy! Mama Grizzlies sure do like that N-word, huh? (Think Progress)

A War that Broke Two Nations

Combat troops withdraw to Kuwait
The war in Iraq is over -- except that it's not. Last night, the last combat troops rolled out of Iraq, entering Kuwait on their way home. "Operation Iraqi Freedom" has come to a close, even if our presence in the country is ongoing and active. "The remaining 50,000 troops are viewed as trainers and logistics support to the Iraqi government," writes Juan Cole. "But they include special operations units, helicopter gunship crews, and other war fighters who are still going to be engaged in combat but will not be categorized as being in Iraq for that purpose. Iraq has no air force to speak of, and the US will be providing the air support until at least 2018." This time, no one's being stupid about it; no "Mission Accomplished" banners hang anywhere, there are no "WAR OVER!" headlines in newspapers or crawling along on cable under the chins of talking heads. It's just a quiet, orderly, incomplete withdrawal from a nation we had no business occupying in the first place. Cole writes of the "true significance of Thursday's last convoy":

...It is a symbol of a turnaround in US policy, a repudiation of the Bush administration doctrine of preemptive war. "Preemptive war" is a euphemism for the rehabilitation of aggressive war, which the world community attempted to abolish in the United Nations charter. While many blame Obama for escalating the Afghanistan War, that war at least grew out of the al-Qaeda attack on US soil, which was planned out in Khost and Qandahar, and it has the backing of the UN and of NATO, which invoked article 5 of its charter (an attack on one is an attack on all).

In contrast, the Iraq War was virtually without legal foundation. In the United Nations order, there are only two legitimate preconditions for going to war. One is clear self-defense, in response to an aggressive attack. (The Gulf War, responding to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, is a case in point). The other is authorization by the UN Security Council. But W. had neither precondition on his side when he invaded Iraq, and so he acted lawlessly, as Obama saw clearly at the time.

The US Republican Party has increasingly become the party of fear. Shock and awe was designed to scare the international community. At home, the party sought to rule on behalf of the super-wealthy and of White nationalists and the Christian Right by making the public afraid -- of terrorism, of Muslims, implicitly of minorities. Fear as a tool of statecraft has no place in an Enlightenment republic.

As obvious as Cole's statement is, there are some who'd disagree. While Bush at least tried to make a distinction between Islam and terrorism, it'd be hard to argue that he tried hard enough or enjoyed any success on that front. Our current situation, where the right has become a pack of cowards afraid of religious liberty, demonstrates that well enough. The War on Terror has become a War on Islam. And Bush's statement that "You're either with us or you're with the terrorists" has many concluding that President Obama is with the terrorists, since he supports the Constitutional principle of religious freedom. One in five now believe the president is a Muslim -- an increase driven mostly by Republican responses to a new Pew poll. Islam is the enemy, the president is siding with Islam, therefore the president is the enemy. A decade of neoconservative fearmongering as produced a nation of lunatic cowards who wave the flag and talk about liberty a lot, but whose only real issues are safety from various and sundry international conspiracies that exist mostly in their imaginations.

But of course, the rehabilitation of George W. Bush and his catastrophically stupid invasion has been underway for a long time. And, for some, now is the time to step up the effort.

[The Hill:]

...McCain criticized President Obama's approach to the Iraq War as a senator, saying if he and congressional Democrats had their way, the war would have been lost.

"If Barack Obama had his way as a United States senator," U.S. troops would have had to withdraw early and "over time radical Islamic extremists would have taken over that country," the senator said on KFYI Radio in Arizona.

"We would have surrendered -- waved the white flag of surrender and lost," he said, adding that "none of those people [Democrats] are being held accountable."

Actually, if Barack Obama had had his way, we would never have even been in Iraq. In 2002, as an Illinois state senator, Obama said, "What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income
to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression... That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics... I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history."

Beat that, Senator McCain.

Yesterday's withdrawal was not the end. Not by a longshot. But it was an important step toward peace. It was also a step that no sane nation should ever have had to take. There was no reason to invade Iraq and, having made that mistake, the only reason to stay was to try to limit the damage from that idiotic action. The war became a self-justifying thing, a monster put together from the remaining shreds of our sense of responsibility and our conscience. As Colin Powell warned would be the case, we broke it, so we bought it. And we're supposed to forget we broke it on purpose. We're also supposed to ignore the fact that we've turned into a nation of pansies, afraid of our own shadows and the mosque down the street. We mistake bluster for strength and belligerence for courage and we believe that hate is a virtue, so long as that hatred is pure and passionate enough. If the hatred is of high enough quality, we call it "patriotism."

I'm tempted to say that we may have done as much damage to America as we did to Iraq, but that would be insanely hyperbolic. Still, it'd be hard to argue that the long period of hate and fear and lies and idiocy that was the Bush administration and their wars have left us unscathed. This isn't the country we used to be. This is a stupid country, a fearful country, a reactionary and gullible country, poorer now both morally and materially.

But last night, we took one step down a long road, back in the right direction. It's going to be a real hike, but we don't have any choice but to take it.


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