Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

I’ve survived my week of day shift. Time now to see if I can survive the remaining months of the Bush farce.

Digby points out why we should all sign the ACLU’s petition to stop the regime from declaring the entire earth a battlefield:


The ACLU has put together an action to try to stop this dangerous notion of the congress “declaring war” on Al Qaeda and terrorism. You can sign up here:


Tell Congress: Reject Endless War and a Torture Cover-Up

President Bush and Attorney General Mukasey have a plan to make the entire globe — including the United States itself — a “battlefield” where the president decides who will be locked up forever.

The legislation Mukasey is pushing would also subvert the Constitution, authorize indefinite detention, and permanently
conceal the Bush administration’s systemic torture and abuse of detainees.

[snip]


I think we all know what an awful policy this would be. If the United States is to ever regain the tiniest bit of its reputation for trustworthiness and decency, it has to reject this entire regime. This whole thing makes us less safe, not more.

But let’s get shallow and talk about the politics of this. The Republicans couldn’t be more obvious than to lay this minefield before they get out of office, giving themselves all the tools they need to hamstring every initiative that isn’t fully approved by their most fervent warmongers for years to come.

It is a huge mistake to let them revive the GWOT as an organizing principle for American foreign policy. Bush’s Iraq debacle managed to discredit the right wing’s patented flogging of the boogeyman as the dominating narrative of American politics. People no longer take for granted that we are under siege from enemies and must “sacrifice” everything to keep the babies safe. Now is the moment for Democrats to offer a different vision of American strength and leadership. Declaring unending war will put us right back in the pre-invasion mindset, as if Iraq never happened and we are fighting The War of The Worlds.

And it will put Democrats back in a perpetual defensive crouch. Endless war and “fiscal responsibility” are political straight jackets that keep the progressive agenda cramped and unrealizable, thus ensuring that
conservatism can make its big comeback, once they’ve rested up from all the raping and pillaging.

She’s absolutely right. All they have left is fear. They’re trying to make us afraid enough to let them put us in chains. Put a stop to it.

I don’t even know why these stupid fucks think they’re qualified to fight a war. Not after this little gem the Seattle Times ran today. If they can’t even run the military well enough to keep a missle crew from falling asleep while in charge of the missiles, how are we supposed to trust them to keep us safe, eh?

And then there’s the whole “Obama’s acting like presidental material OMG HOW DARE HE?!?!!” meme that’s going around since the European trip. They’re upset because Obama’s not following McCain’s lead and acting like a doddering fool. They toss around words like “arrogant” and “presumptuous” and somehow neglect words like “smart” and “prepared:”


Yesterday, The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder reported that “Sen. Barack Obama has directed his aides to begin planning” for his presidential transition, should he be elected. Sen. John McCain’s campaign responded with derision, saying that Obama had “poor judgment” and was “dancing in the end zone” by making such preparations. But over at the Wonk Room, Center for American Progress Action Fund Director of Homeland Security P.J. Crowley argues that such advance work is necessary for any potential president:


Why is this important? Attempted attacks have become a staple of groups like al Qaeda. Given this heightened risk, one of our earliest conclusions was that the two candidates cannot wait until November to focus on this challenge. Advance work will be necessary to have an effective leadership team ready, establish relationships with key stakeholders across the
country, prepare the public for what lies ahead and outline concrete priorities for the first 100 days and first year in office.

This is not being presumptuous. Actually, it is being presidential.


Imagine that. The nerve of a dude who wants to be elected president actually taking the responsibilities seriously when he should, right? I mean, who wants a president who’s actually prepared to run the damned country?

Just, you know, something like nearly 300,000,000 of us, give or take several million severely deluded Faux News viewers.

Seeing as how it’s Friday, let’s end this on a happy note. If this doesn’t put an enormous grin on your face, nothing will:


It’s been a slow burn at the hearing on the 2004 elections at the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. With two separate panels, Hans von Spakovsky didn’t get around to testifying until 5:00 PM ET.

But Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) made it all worth it.

Ellison threw tact to the wind in questioning von Spakovsky, berating him for the disenfranchisement of a group of a dozen elderly nuns and battering him with inquiries on his communications with U.S. attorneys on voter fraud prosecutions. We have video coming, but to tide you over, here’s the transcript:

ELLISON: Now here’s something that happened on the May 7th Indiana election. A dozen nuns and another unknown number of students were turned away from the polls Tuesday in the first use of Indiana’s stringent voter ID law since it was upheld last week by the United State Supreme Court. Mr. von Spakovsky, you wanna stop nuns from voting?

VON SPAKOVSKY: [silence]

ELLISON: Why don’t you want nuns to vote, Mr. von Spakovsky?

VON SPAKOVSKY: Congressman Ellison, uh-

ELLISON: I’m just curious to know.

Isn’t that delightful? You want more, don’t you? You know you do. Here ya go:


ELLISON: What involvement did you have in the voting prosecution brought by Brad Schlozman in Missouri?

VON SPAKOVSKY: I had none, I was at the Federal Elections Commission. Why would I have anything to do with what the Department of Justice was doing when I wasn’t even working there?

ELLISON: Maybe because you have an obsessive fear that people might vote who you don’t want to, so you try to contact the U.S. Attorney’s office to try to stop people from voting.

VON SPAKOVSKY: That’s a fantasy that you’re making up. I had nothing to do with federal prosecutions going on at the Department of Justice when I was at the Federal Elections Commission. That’s ridiculous.

ELLISON: Well, I’m asking you, you’re on record now. And we’ll see if it matches up with the facts.

VON SPAKOVSKY: Are you accusing me of lying Congressman?

ELLISON: I’m asking you questions sir, haven’t you been here?

Isn’t he terrific? Doesn’t he just remind you of a snarkier Lucius Fox from Batman Begins (tell me you remember the last “Didn’t you get the memo” bit)? I’m tempted to pull the entire damned transcript for both the hope that this is how Bush lackeys will be treated in the future and for the sheer entertainment value.

Thank you, TPM, for having a transcript! And thank you, Rep. Ellison, for giving these assclowns the respect they deserve!

Sapere Aude!


Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. Sapere Aude! [dare to know] “Have courage to use your own understanding!”–that is the motto of enlightenment.


- Immanuel Kant, “An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?”

The Enlightenment. Those two words send a cascade of awe and delight down my spine. They set synapses to firing like chains of fireworks. Names and ideas erupt from the sparks: Newton, Spinoza and Leibniz released science and mathematics from their classical and medieval cages and advanced them by light years in a virtual instant. Voltaire, Diderot and Rousseau struck through chains and risked their lives to set human minds free. Locke, Smith and Montesquieu set forth major components of political and economic philosophy that led to democracy and capitalism. Franklin, Jefferson, and Hamilton created a whole new kind of nation from scratch. Beethoven, Mozart, and Goethe elevated music and literature to heights they had never known before.

Men, and not a few women, dared to know, and changed the world.

There had been hints of an awakening for centuries. A few flames burned dimly in the Middle Ages. A few flames flared up brilliantly during the Renaissance. But the Enlightenment was a conflagration, a wildfire beside a candelabra. In less than two centuries, the scientific method arose and began advancing knowledge at an incredible pace; the foundations of democracy and liberalism were laid and thriving nations built on them; education was no longer a prerogative of the fortunate few, but a practical gift offered to a broad swath of the population. The entire Western way of thinking changed virtually beyond recognition. All of those ideas we take for granted – freedom of religion, equality, political and civil rights, and countless more – emerged because of men and women who refused to remain ignorant.

Look at the lives and work of any group of Enlightenment thinkers, and you’ll see similarities. They were desperate to know and understand. They were determined to use rational thought to overcome superstition. They believed in man’s ability to understand the world. They didn’t believe religion had all the answers, or even most. They weren’t afraid to challenge established authority; indeed, they often risked their lives to do so. They found ways to make end-runs around the censors, evaded every attempt to silence them, and believed beyond doubt that what they were doing was right, necessary, and valuable.

They argued with absolutely everyone, each other included. They accepted no limits to their curiosity. There was nowhere to them that Man was forbidden to go.


All is not lost when one puts the people in a condition to see it has intelligence. On the contrary, all is lost when you treat it like a herd of cattle, for sooner or later it will gore you with its horns.

-Voltaire

In the salons of Paris, the coffee houses and Gresham College in London, in the dining rooms and halls of power all throughout Europe, intellect raged. Pamphlets, books, magazines, scientific papers all poured into the streets and captured the imaginations of men and women who then used those ideas to create new governments, societies, and values. Knowledge was passed into the hands of ordinary people, and those ordinary people did extraordinary things with it.

The two revolutions of the 18th century, the American and the French, get all of the attention, but neither would have been possible without the revolution in ideas that preceded them. Never before in the history of Western civilization had common people been entrusted to govern. Even Greece, that thriving original democracy, was more of an aristocracy than anything else. But the Enlightenment thinkers believed that all regular people lacked was education and the freedom to use their native intelligence. Given those things, a peasant could rise to rule. Peasants eventually did.

It wasn’t just the aristocracy and absolute monarchy that the Enlightenment thinkers overthrew. They broke the stranglehold religion had over the populace. Religion didn’t escape their scrutiny. The sacred got subjected to the same empirical analysis as the natural world, and where it was found wanting, it suffered the same scathing criticism unleashed on politics, pseudoscience, and ignorance. Some of them treated Christianity with respect and reverence, but they were in a minority. Most Enlightenment thinkers had no use for a Church that sought to keep people in ignorance and servitude, a faith that led to intolerance and claimed miracles it couldn’t prove, and religions rotten with hypocrisy.

“Let’s eat some Jesuit,” Voltaire wrote in Candide. Baron d’Holbach proselytized for atheism, churning out a flood of books and pamphlets proclaiming that there is no God, only nature, and that only a society of atheists has any hope of being truly moral. He often had to publish his books under innocuous titles to evade the censors. But other philosophes left nothing to doubt with theirs: among the books on offer was Toland’s Christianity Not Mysterious. Pretty revolutionary for a world in which religion still ruled.

Other books might have seemed innocent enough until they were opened. Woolston’s Six Discourses on the Miracles of Our Savior proclaimed the Resurrection of Christ “the most notorious and monstrous Imposture, that was ever put upon mankind.” Voltaire, when completing the Philosophical Dictionary, wrote, “Theology amuses me. There we find man’s insanity in all its plenitude.” Jefferson removed all of the miracles from the Bible, a decision which Hume would have applauded.

The only sacred thing was the pursuit of knowledge. Rational thinking, empiricism, science, and intellect reigned supreme. The next world meant very little to them, if anything at all. People had to make a difference in this one. And that was exactly what they set out to do, and succeeded. They brought us the modern age.


A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to Farce, or a Tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance. and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

-James Madison

The Enlightenment never truly ended: its results permeate every aspect of our lives. But there hasn’t been another time quite like it since. The passion for knowledge has been eclipsed. We’ve entered an age in which ignorance rather than intelligence is celebrated. As Kant said, it’s easier to be immature, to let others do the thinking. We become habituated to the yoke: we become afraid of freedom. “The guardians who have so benevolently taken over the supervision of men have carefully seen to it that the far greatest part of them (including the entire fair sex) regard taking the step to maturity as very dangerous, not to mention difficult,” Kant wrote. “Having first made their domestic livestock dumb, and having carefully made sure that these docile creatures will not take a single step without the go-cart to which they are harnessed, these guardians then show them the danger that threatens them, should they attempt to walk alone.”

He could have been describing our age.

Fundamentalist religion is attempting to rein us in. Governments want to control, not serve, the governed. This has always been the case. The powerful never relinquish power easily, and they always desire more power. It’s easier for them to take it from people made willfully powerless.

War, poverty, ignorance and despair are rising all around us.

We should be thrilled
.

After all, the Enlightenment grew out of a desperate age. Europe was torn by war, crushed by despotic governments, ripped apart by religious strife, and it was from this harrowing that the philosophes grew. When I look at the conditions surrounding the Enlightenment, I see clear parallels. Strife can destroy people: it can also galvanize them.

I think we’re standing on the cusp of a new Age of Enlightenment.

Bloggers are the new pamphleteers. What bloggers are saying today about politics and religion, life and learning, show the same spirit as those tracts poured from the pens of subversive thinkers who went on to redefine the foundations of the world.

Comments threads and message boards have become the new salons, where ideas are exchanged and intelligence elevated. Those discussions wouldn’t have been out of place in the most illustrious gatherings of learned people.

All we need is the passion, the commitment, and the courage those revolutionaries displayed. Nothing is beyond us. But we have to step outside of the little boxes we’ve put ourselves in. Scientists need to brush shoulders with artists. Writers need to converse with mathematicians. Political philosophers and musicians should mingle. That cross-fertilization of knowledge is what leads to world-shaking ideas, quantum leaps in human understanding.

Politeness and deference are sweet social ideas, but we can’t defer to those who would impose ignorance and superstition. Contention was the order of the day during the Enlightenment. We should never shy away from it. Conventional thinking will get us nowhere. The world is on the cusp of a crisis: we’re never going to get anything solved if we don’t break away from tradition and habit. We won’t solve a damned thing if we don’t risk capsizing the boat.

The philosophes changed the world not by force of arms, but force of mind. Their ideas, their writings, their experiments, are what changed the world irrevocably.

It can happen again. Ignorance has no power to stand against those who dare to know. And those who dare have the power to change everything.


Here and today begins a new age in the history of the world. Some day you will be able to say – I was present at its birth.”

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Midnight Musings: The I of id

Author’s note: At the time of this writing it is past the Witching Hour, and thus I am completely within my legal bounds to disregard all responsibility for the content and, more specifically, the coherency of the following. I don’t make a hell of a lot of sense on a handful of hours of sleep.

Academia has been put on hiatus, if that hasn’t been apparent from the distinct lack of entries in the last several weeks. On the off chance that those articles were actually of interest to any readers, I apologize for their absence, and can claim only a lack of subject material and motivation for its cause.

Today, though, I want to take a more introspective look. It’s what I’m best at – I’m severely introverted myself, and I spend far too much time thinking and reflecting and generally disregarding the world around and outside of me. En Tequila is advertised as a blog about, among other things, truth and skepticism and such fun things. So let’s take a break from our usual curb-stomping of modern politics or attempts to overturn the constructs that have been responsible for our evolution since we grew our own branch on the proverbial genetic tree, and talk about something a bit more abstract.

Who are you?

Classic question, is it not? Specifically, though, I wanted to examine, how our knowledge of ourself, how our awareness, changes us. How we change ourself. How knowing that we can change ourselves, changes ourselves. See the spiral?

But let me back up. I was reading through those fun little astrology horoscope books, that is supposed to tell you all about yourself according to your sign, or sometimes specifically your day of birth, even the time. Now, do I necessarily buy the accuracy of astrology? No. Do I read horoscopes for anything but laughs? Absolutely not. Still, there are only so many times when I can read a description of a Virgo and find myself so meticulously defined. However, how does reading these change your perception of yourself? Whether you believe them or not, and whatever source they might be, does realizing you possess a certain trait, quirk, or character “flaw” change you due to your knowledge of it? Maybe it’s not the stars – perhaps its a break-up, and learning that they’re leaving you because you’re a psychotic control freak, or maybe its having someone tell you what a great listener you are; when we are confronted with ourselves, presented with a mirror and are allowed to glimpse our reflection, does that in itself change what we see? While there are so many mirrors we encounter in life, we’ll continue along this astrological vein.

For example. Let’s say that I read about how “typical” Virgo’s are very deep thinkers, how they tend to plan out everything. Their exacting nature can rob them of spontaneity, as they prefer to plan things out, analyze and criticize them. Now I examine myself, having read this, and recall times as a young child when I would stand in the store toy aisle for almost the entire time my mother was shopping, trying to decide what toy I want to ask for. Weighing the pros and cons of this or that action figure – this one has voice buttons, but that one has flexible joints. The simplest of decisions have always been made difficult due to analysis paralysis. So, having read this as a common trait of Virgos, and perhaps in some desperate attempt to “break the system”, to be undefined, I decide (after much consideration) to try to be more spontaneous. So, next time, I grab a toy at random, without even looking at it until I put it in the cart.

So, was it only my knowledge of how I think and make decisions, that changed me? Does that make me a “different” person for it? However, doesn’t the fact that I chose to be spontaneous kind of defeat the purpose? That I grabbed the toy at random, only after I considered it, and even though I knew that I would, indeed, be choosing a toy? It chases itself in circles, really.

Enough about me and astrology, though. The point I’m trying to get to, is what do we gain by examining ourselves? What is the cost? Does it really change us? In what ways? Is that change something good, something desirable?

Let’s take a different case. Frank here has a hard time letting things go – he always stands up for himself, even when he knows he’s wrong. He’ll shove if you push, and he won’t hold his tongue over etiquette. Perhaps, then, he realizes this, or is told this by a friend, a co-worker, maybe his brother. So, does he choose, then, to try to be more considerate? Or does he accept it as “who he is” and goes with it, perhaps even emphasizing those traits? If he goes with it, perhaps it makes matters worse; now Frank not only stands up for himself in a confrontation, but will actively seek conflict in which he can defend himself. Or, he goes the other direction, and decides to hold his tongue even when he knows that he is actually in the right, but is too afraid that he’ll return to “that part” of him again.

Practice makes perfect, but no one is perfect, so why practice? If no one is perfect, should we accept our “flaws”, as we perceive them? Our shortcomings, or perhaps just traits, neither good or bad in and of themselves, that we don’t like? We just accept them as part of us, and we are powerless to change it, and should not even if we could. Or do we try to change? Do we try to move ourselves towards our individual “ideal” self, even if it goes against your nature?

Know thyself? How does one know itself? Does knowing thyself, change thyself? What kind of self would thy be if you didn’t try to change or know it?

What is the definition of yourself? To what extent are your personality traits a decision you make, or a decision made for you? Can people ever really, truly change of their own accord? Or must they force change upon them?

I know several things about myself, both good and bad. I know that I can be generous, nice, and understanding – to a fault. I know that I am modest, that much of my humor is self-deprecating in an attempt to avoid egotism and arrogance, as well as having the experience that everyone likes laughing with someone who can laugh at themselves. What do I decide to try to change, if anything? At what point do we become unhappy with a part of ourselves – where do we make ourselves a “better” person? Why should we even think that can be achieved?

Just some brain food to munch on while you all enjoy the more productive and coherent entries in this blog.

edit: Thank you, blake, for pointing out my little astronomy/astrology mix-up. I’m incoherent enough as it is without using improper terminology. Fixed that particular transgression.

Always question.
-Kaden

Desecration Done Right

Old news by now, I’m sure, but PZ did the deed. The cracker, the Koran, and a twist entry have all suffered an ignoble fate. And while none of the religious loons will see it this way, this little act of desecration should lead to some important considerations.

PZ’s post on this is a tour de force. It’s not about getting up the noses of the religious: it’s about the power of symbols, and the danger of letting the symbols have too much power. It’s about the use symbols have been put to that led to pain, suffering and death for those deemed other. I’ll just give you the closing paragraph, because it says everything that needs to be said:


Nothing must be held sacred. Question everything. God is not great, Jesus is not your lord, you are not disciples of any charismatic prophet. You are all human beings who must make your way through your life by thinking and learning, and you have the job of advancing humanity’s knowledge by winnowing out the errors of past generations and finding deeper understanding of reality. You will not find wisdom in rituals and sacraments and dogma, which build only self-satisfied ignorance, but you can find truth by looking at your world with fresh eyes and a questioning mind.

Even if you think Jesus is your lord, and you believe God is great, the rest of that paragraph pertains to you. The moment you don’t think it does is the moment you run the risk of becoming one of those poor, deluded fools who believe that in order to save a cracker from an ignoble end, you must murder a human being. You disrespect your god by believing he is so limited that he can be injured by the actions of one non-believer. You show that faith is a fragile, hopeless thing, a weapon that harms rather than heals.

What is the sacred if it’s not something so transcendent that it can survive any attempt to destroy it?

It’s too bad so many people are so small and insecure that they miss the truth. I hope that PZ’s courageous cracker contempt drops the scales from at least a few of their eyes. Alas, I’m not holding my breath.

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

Every day, something happens that makes me wish we could just jump ahead to January. And every day, something happens to convince me that if McCain gets elected in November, I’m gonna become an Aussie. Or a Canadian. Possibly a Spaniard, Italian or Brit. Except my damned morals mean I’d probably end up right here, fighting for another four years to try to keep my country from being completely destroyed by raving fuckwits.

Damn you, morals!

So let’s see what’s out there today making me wish Bush was out of office and Obama in tomorrow.

Oh, look. Bush is in a big ol’ hurry, too. Didn’t I tell you guys he’d try to fuck up absolutely everything he possibly could before he got his arse booted from the White House? Lessee, in the last few weeks, Bush has ensured (with far too much help from Dems) that the Fourth Amendment got gutted. The EPA’s on a fast track to ensuring the air we breathe isn’t breathable, and that polar bears will have to worry about heat stroke. Rules got pushed through that try to control a woman’s right control her reproductive system. And now he’s smooching his big bidness buddies while giving workers every opportunity to die horrible deaths (thanks to Efrique for the tip):


Political appointees at the Department of Labor are moving with unusual speed to push through in the final months of the Bush administration a rule making it tougher to regulate workers’ on-the-job exposure to chemicals and toxins.

The agency did not disclose the proposal, as required, in public notices of regulatory plans that it filed in December and May. Instead, Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao‘s intention to push for the rule first surfaced on July 7, when the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) posted on its Web site that it was reviewing the proposal, identified only by its nine-word title.

The text of the proposed rule has not been made public, but according to sources briefed on the change and to an early draft obtained by The Washington Post, it would call for reexamining the methods used to measure risks posed by workplace exposure to toxins. The change would address long-standing complaints from businesses that the government overestimates the risk posed by job exposure to chemicals.


Fantastic. Is there anything that these fuckers don’t want seen turned into a toxic waste dump? They must be pining for the world before regulations, when rivers caught on fire and the air was one big chemical cocktail.

But they want you to think they like clean air and water. John McCain wants you to believe he believes in such things so much that he tried to use a hurricane as an excuse not to visit an oil rig. Of course, he’s a lying sack of shit, so let’s just dig around for the real reason, shall we? Ah, yes, Carpetbagger has him nailed:


Recognizing the interest in Barack Obama’s speech in Germany today, the McCain campaign came up with a photo-op that would have captured at least some attention — John McCain would hop on a helicopter and give a speech from an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, off the Louisiana coast. The campaign knows how important oil prices are to voters, so McCain assumed he could fool a few of them into thinking coastal drilling would give them relief at the pump.

But just an hour after the photo-op was finalized and the media was alerted, the event was off. The campaign said the weather just wasn’t cooperating. Jonathan Martin noted, “The campaign declined to comment any further about the quick decision to spike the trip other than to cite the weather.”

Truth be told, I hadn’t thought too much about this, other than to notice McCain’s streak of bad luck lately. But it turns out, there are two salient angles to this story.

First, as ThinkProgress noted, the cancellation of the photo-op doesn’t exactly reinforce the talking points about oil rig “safety.”


Ironically, the “weather” of concern is the strengthening Hurricane Dolly, which has been bumped up to a category 2 hurricane (Katrina was rated a category 5) with winds up to 100 miles per hour. Today, Dolly made landfall in Texas.

As the Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson has noted multiple times,
McCain and his surrogates have for weeks been peddling the false claim that Hurricane Katrina caused no major oil spills to push for expanded drilling. […]


As McCain makes his push for increased oil production, Louisiana officials are also dealing with a barge collision that caused a spill of an estimated 9,000 barrels of fuel into the Mississippi River, resulting in a 12-mile long oil slick. “Television stations reported the stench of diesel fuel wafting across the French Quarter.”


Which leads to the second point: the weather is actually fine off the Louisiana coast today, and it’s the oil spill that probably prompted the cancellation.


Yeah, ‘cuz it’s kinda hard to tell people how safe and clean oil is when tons of it are gunking up major shipping lanes and making the place stink to high heaven.

Speaking of things that stink to high heaven, guess what? The Bush regime thought torture’s just not torture without specific intent:


Today, the ACLU released a series of memos exchanged between the Justice Department and the CIA from 2002 through 2004. According to Raw Story, the memos effectively say that “as long as CIA agents could convince themselves they were not deliberately inflicting severe pain or suffering on detainees, they wer
e
free to do virtually anything in
their questioning of suspected terrorists, including waterboarding.” Here’s an example from
an August 2002 memo:

To violate the statute [against torture], an individual must have the specific intent to inflict severe pain or suffering. Because specific intent is an element of the offense, the absence of specific intent negates the charge of torture. As we have previously opined, to have the required specific intent, an individual must expressly intend to cause such severe pain and suffering.

This is useful. I’ll have to remember it next time I’m tempted to cause someone severe pain and suffering – I’m not actually torturing them unless I meant them to experience “severe pain and suffering.” So if I slam someone’s balls repeatedly in a hot oven door, as long as I believe I didn’t mean it to hurt a lot, we’re all good.

Does this make sense to you? Doesn’t to me, either.

And, finally, our day wouldn’t be complete without a bit of Grade-A fuckwittery from John McLame. This is actually beyond Grade-A:

The major Sunni sheik who John McCain said was protected by the surge and subsequently helped lead the Anbar Awakening, was actually assassinated by an al-Qaeda led group in midst of the surge.

On Tuesday evening, McCain falsely claimed that the downturn in violence in Iraq’s Anbar province was a result of the surge, when in fact the surge began months afterward. Moreover, he said, if it weren’t for the work of U.S. forces, the major Sunni figure leading that awakening wouldn’t have had the protection he needed.

“Colonel MacFarland was contacted by one of the major Sunni sheiks,” said the Senator. “Because of the surge we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others. And it began the Anbar awakening.”

The Arizona Republican’s campaign went further the next day, claiming that the major figures that turned around Anbar province would have been killed had the surge policy not been in place. “If Barack Obama had had his way, the Sheiks who started the Awakening would have been murdered at the hands of al Qaeda,” said spokesman Tucker Bounds.

Sadly, that murder took place even with the surge underway.

I’m not even going to say a word. Irony like that doesn’t need any added snark.

This is our nation’s government, ladies and gentlemen. Feel free to weep.

The Unintended Consequences of Unchecked Warrantless Wiretapping

Kevin Drum has an answer for all of those who dismiss the dangers of the government’s dramatic new warrantless wiretapping powers by believing the same government that brought us torture, unending war in Iraq, unprecidented levels of secrecy and lawlessness, and a slew of politically-motivated hirings, firings and prosecutions will nevertheless confine themselves to only listening in on the terrorists.

Let’s jump out on a very long, thin limb here and say this were so. The FISA law would still be a bad idea. Kevin knows why:


Former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges explains how the new FISA legislation will handcuff him and his colleagues:


This law will cripple the work of those of us who as reporters communicate regularly with people overseas, especially those in the Middle East. It will intimidate dissidents, human rights activists and courageous officials who seek to expose the lies of our government or governments allied with ours.

….The reach of such surveillance has already hampered my work. I was once told about a showdown between a U.S. warship and the Iranian navy that had the potential to escalate into a military conflict. I contacted someone who was on the ship at the time of the alleged incident and who reportedly had photos. His first question was whether my phone and e-mails were being monitored.

What could I say? How could I know? I offered to travel to see him but, frightened of retribution, he refused. I do not know if the man’s story is true. I only know that the fear of surveillance made it impossible for me to determine its veracity.

We rely on our reporters far too much to have them crippled like this. Think about it. What’s going to happen if the few reporters left who actually investigate and report facts can’t do it because their sources are too terrified to talk to them? How the fuck can we possibly stay informed enough of important world events to be able to make the critical decision as to who we vote into government to handle this stuff?

Not worried enough? Kevin has more:


Second, reporters who cover terrorism and the Middle East are pretty obvious targets for NSA surveillance since they talk to lots of bad guys. This surveillance is illegal, of course, and under the old FISA law it was hard to get around this because the FISA court had to issue a warrant if NSA wanted to tap the phone of an American citizen. But now? They don’t need to directly tap reporters’ phones. They’re listening to every piece of traffic that goes through American switches and NSA computer software is picking out everything that seems interesting — and no matter what they say, doesn’t it seem likely that their algorithms are going to be tweaked to (accidentally! unintentionally!) pick up an awful lot of reporter chatter? It’ll eventually be “minimized,” but algorithms are infinitely malleable, they’re hard for laymen to understand, and they can almost certainly be changed to accomplish the same thing if a judge happens to order modifications. What’s more, it hardly matters: the new law allows NSA to hold on to all those minimized conversations forever even if a judge eventually decides the surveillance was illegal.

I’ve highlighted the bits that should make you sweat. Remember that the government has a history of listening in on the conversations of people they don’t like. Remember that they could decide very quickly that they don’t like you. There’s no way now for you to be assured they have to have probable cause to tap you. There’s nothing standing between you and the curious ears of a federal agent, where there used to be a Fourth Amendment requirement for a warrant.

Laws like this are slippery slopes. They’ve justified it by saying they need it to fight terrorism. Tomorrow, it could be expanded to fight drugs. The day after that, financial crimes. The next week, they need it to chase down criminals who may have fled across international borders. The week after that, it’s subversive political groups that might turn violent. The following month….

And the thing is, all of those steps will sound reasonable. If you focus on the reasons you’re given for taking the next step, the next, the next, and never look up to see where you’re going, you’ll end up in a world where your government can tap you at any time, for the flimsiest reasons, and then use anything they hear against you, no matter how illegal it was for them to collect it, no matter if your only “crime” was being active with a political group the government didn’t like. After all, there are other slippery slopes that lead to opposition groups being painted with brushes broad enough to make them the same color as the terrorists or other undesirables.

That’s why I won’t let this FISA thing go. Neither should you. Even if you’re the government’s BFF right now and think you have nothing to fear, the next government may think you’re the devil incarnate and go after you.

They now have all the tools they need to do so.

The Fourth Amendment used to give you some protection. Might be a very good idea to restore it to its former glory, or we can expect more stories of unintended consequences. The next one just might be you.

Become a StrangeBedfellow and Hold Washington Accountable!

Could They Possibly Get Any More Ridiculous?

Un-fucking-believable:


Patrick Ruffini slams the Obama campaign for using a foreign language in its promotional material for an event in Germany. Apparently it’s now unpatriotic to so much as concede that they speak foreign languages in foreign countries.


Manufactured outrage is one thing. This isn’t even manufactured – it’s pulled straight from the intestines of the right-wing fuckwit and plonked still stinking in front of readers. I can smell it from here. I’m almost afraid to go look. I’d rather just settle for Matthew Yglesias’s delightful mocking. But for you guys, I’ll make the sacrifice so you don’t have to:


This is pretty extraordinary. A candidate for the American Presidency is using flyers printed in German to turn people out for his campaign rally in Berlin on Thursday. This flyer can be found on a bilingual page on BarackObama.com advertising the event:

[snip]

I’m surprised at this lapse in judgment in an otherwise well-oiled and professional Obama campaign. The last time they printed up campaign paraphenalia [sic] in a foreign language, it didn’t work out so hot for them.

Oh, for fuck’s sake. The only thing extraordinary here is the overwhelming stupidity of the writer. This is inane even by braindead right-wing mouth-breathing fucktard standards. Printing a flyer in German for an event in Germany is “lapse in judgement”? In what fucking universe, you dumbshit?

For an extra heaping helping of unbelievable dumbassitude, click the link for the “campaign paraphernalia.” Go ahead. Click.

That’s right.

It was that silly little official seal logo. The foreign language he’s bitching about is two (dos, 2) words of Latin.

Two. Fucking. Words. Of. A. Ceremonial. Language.

The same language used on our Presidential seal and about ten bajillion other things, mind you.

The language frequently quoted by our Founding Fathers.

It’s on our thrice-bedamned money, for fuck’s sake.

So not only is this dumbass upset over the fact that Obama has the audacity to print promotional materials for German events in Germany in the German language, he’s fainting over two fucking words of Latin.

Doesn’t that make you want to ask what language McCain’s promotional materials were printed in when he visited Columbia recently? How about Georgie boy’s flyers? How about, in fact, we track down every right-wing hero and see what language they use for their promotional materials when they go abroad, shall we?

Should be fun.

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

I’ve heard of rationing fuel, food and phone time, but this is utterly ridiculous:


It seems hard to imagine a presidential candidate, running in the midst of two wars, openly speculate about cutting back on veterans’ healthcare. And yet, here we are.


Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain appeared Tuesday to suggest rationing of veterans’ health care may be needed so combat veterans can receive the care they deserve.

At a town hall meeting in Dover, N.H., McCain talked about the need to “concentrate” veterans’ health care on people with injuries that “are a direct result of combat.”

“Right now, there are people who drive a long way and they stand in line to stand in line to get an appointment to get an appointment[sic],” McCain said.

McCain’s campaign press office did not return a telephone call asking for clarification of the remarks.


Well, that’s not good at all.


Ration health care for veterans? Seriously?

McCain’s record on veterans’ issues gets worser and worser. He doesn’t want them to get money for an education because they might leave the service, and now that they’ve sacrificed their health and future for this country, he thinks their health care should be rationed? Here’s what this would look like: you have medical issues from a combat injury, you’re supposedly first in line. You have medical issues from, say, a gun going off while you’re cleaning it, you’re bumped. And he thinks this is a good policy to suggest in the midst of a presidential campaign.

Brilliant. Thanks for helping the Democrats win.

McCain’s going full-speed ahead with the stupid. Here he is flapping his yap on Iraq, a subject he seems to know less and less about with each passing day:


It doesn’t much matter what the root cause of John McCain’s confusion is. Maybe he’s confused because he’s old. Perhaps he’s pretending to be confused to impress the Republican base. It’s possible he’s confused because he just isn’t the sharpest crayon in the box. I don’t know, and frankly, don’t much care.

Whatever the source, the bottom line remains the same: when it comes to Iraq, John McCain is hopelessly incoherent about the basics. To be sure, geo-political crises can be complicated, but McCain isn’t flubbing policy minutiae at an advanced seminar on foreign policy. As of yesterday, he doesn’t seem to even know what the surge is.


Kate Couric: Senator McCain, Senator Obama says, while the increased number of US troops contributed to increased security in Iraq, he also credits the Sunni awakening and the Shiite government going after militias. And says that there might have been improved security even without the surge. What’s your response to that?

McCain: I don’t know how you respond to something that is as– such a false depiction of what actually happened. Colonel McFarlane [phonetic] was contacted by one of the major Sunni sheiks. Because of the surge we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others. And it began the Anbar awakening. I mean, that’s just a matter of history.


Remember, according to McCain, he’s an expert on foreign policy. The basis of his entire presidential campaign is his ability to handle matters like the war in Iraq, and the notion that his unparalleled expertise makes him uniquely qualified.

Except the man is shockingly confused, and embarrasses himself more and more with each passing day.

[snip]

As has become far too common lately, McCain has the entire story backwards.In 2006, Gen. Sean MacFarland, the commander of the
1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division,
explained in September 2006 — months before Bush even decided to launch the surge — that the Awakening was already underway.

Spencer Ackerman, noting MacFarland’s remarks, added, “For McCain to say that the Anbar Awakening is the product of the surge is either a lie or professional malpractice for a presidential candidate who is staking his election on his allegedly superior Iraq judgment.”


Remember: this is the same fuckwit who thinks Pakistan borders Iraq and that Czechoslovakia still exists, who can’t tell the difference between a Sunni and a Shia, and who thinks that the solution to every international problem is bombs. Lots and lots of bombs. Professional malpractice indeed.

Speaking of malpractice, check out the Bush regime’s attempt to redefine chemistry to protect their polluting corporate friends:


Earlier this month, former EPA official Jason Burnett wrote to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) with explosive revelations on how the White House has neutered climate change science to protect corporate interests. For example, OMB general counsel Jeffrey Rosen asked for multiple memos on whether carbon dioxide (CO2) from cars and plants could be regulated differently.

In a Senate hearing today, Burnett further explained that under the Clear Air Act, “after a pollutant is a regulated pollutant, controls are required on a variety of sources.” During the “inter-agency process,” Burnett said, OMB officials looked for ways to define CO2 from power plants as different from CO2 from automobiles, in order to shield industrial power plants from regulation under the landmark Supreme Court decision Massachusetts v. EPA:


BURNETT: There was quite a bit of effort and interest to see whether the Supreme Court case itself and regulation of CO2 and other greenhouse gases from automobiles be restricted to just automobiles. … So there’s an interest to determine whether we could define CO2 from automobiles as somehow different than CO2 from power plants, for example –

SEN. KLOBUCHAR: Do you think that’s possible?

BURNETT: Clearly it wasn’t supportable.


Heh heh, yeah, clearly not. Drat those pesky laws of nature! Haven’t they ever heard of the Republicon desire to define reality as whatever they want it to be?

Sailing this Saturday? Please Read!

In light of what Bill Donahue’s minions have done to PZ’s inbox, it might be a very good idea for any Elitist Bastards planning to sail this weekend to send their links over to [email protected]. I’ve only got ten of you so far: I’m sure there’s more. Let’s make sure no one gets left on the docks because of Bill’s fainting fit.

If you sent your link to both boxes, you’re good to go. We’ll see you on the ship this Saturday!

For those of you who haven’t submitted yet, I’d suggest getting those links in by Thursday. Which means I’d best stop yammering at you and get to bloody work.

See you on board!

What a Fucking Hypocrite

Bill Donahue’s fuckwittery knows no bounds. I’m going to have to find myself a dictionary of invective, because my usual adjectives seem remarkably inadequate in the face of his hypocrisy. I don’t know how anyone can claim to be holding the moral high ground when neck-deep in the bullshit, but he’s claiming for all he’s worth despite the telltale stench.

Let’s deconstruct a few things here.

First off, the name of his pet project:

CATHOLIC LEAGUE
FOR RELIGIOUS AND CIVIL RIGHTS

He demands religious and civil rights for Catholics. Fair enough. What makes him a hypocrite? Well, perhaps the fact he doesn’t seem to believe in religious and civil rights for other folks. If he did, we wouldn’t end up with screeching such as this:


“The biology professor made it clear that he would never disrespect Islam the way he does Catholicism. When asked about those who abuse the Koran, for example, he said such an act was analogous to desecrating a graveyard. ‘That’s completely different,’ he said. ‘I don’t favor [that idea].’ But when it comes to the Body of Christ, he opines, ‘The cracker is completely different.’

“This isn’t the first time Myers has shown deference to Islam. For instance, two years ago he was critical of the Danish cartoons that simply depicted an image of Muhammad. ‘They [the cartoons] lack artistic or social or even comedic merit, and are presented as an insult to inflame a poor minority.’ So now the Planet-of-the-Apes biologist has divined himself an expert on the artistic value of cartoons. So thoughtful of him. He even went so far as to say that Muslims ‘have cause to be furious.’ (His italic.) Worthy of burning down churches, pledging to behead Christians and shooting a nun in the back, Professor Myers?”

My goodness me. Here’s what I’m hearing from him: it’s a no-good, despicable, terrible, awful thing to desecrate a cracker, cuz it’s important to Catholics. There’s a decided lack of condemnation of those who sent PZ death threats, which is as much as saying, “The bastard deserves ‘em!” He all but states outright that the Eucharist is far more sacred to Catholics than the Koran is to Muslims. And as for those cartoons perpetrating what, to Islam, is an outrageous sacrilege, well, their outrage was totally unworthy!

I have news for Mr. Donahue: Muslims feel pretty damned strongly about depictions of the Prophet, from what I understand. It’s pretty much on par with mistreating a consecrated cracker. So what, pray tell, is the fucking difference? Why was an atheist less dismissive of Muslim outrage than Crusader Bill?

Might have something to do with the fact he wasn’t being a raging hypocrite, unlike Bill “He Likes Moooslims More Than Us!!11!1!” Donahue.

PZ never did say that the Muslims who went overboard had every right to burn churches, pledge to murder Christians, shoot nuns, etc. In fact, let’s see what he did say:


So on the one hand I see a social problem being mocked, but on the other—and here comes the smug godless finger-wagging—I see a foolish superstition used as a prod to mock people, and a people so muddled by the phony blandishments of religion that they scream “Blasphemy!” and falsely pin the problem on a ridiculous insult to a non-existent god, rather than on the affront to their dignity as human beings and citizens. Religion in this case has accomplished two things, neither one productive: it’s distracted people away from the real problems, which have nothing at all to do with the camera-shy nature of their imaginary deity, and it’s also amplified the hatred.

It also doesn’t help that their riots are confirming the caricatures rather than opposing them. Once again, religiosity turns people into mindless frenzied zombies, and once again it interferes with progress.


Oh, there’s more, if that wasn’t enough. It wasn’t Islam PZ was deferring to at all. Read the whole post, and you’ll see that PZ’s principles stand inviolate, despite his sympathy.

Let us now turn to Bill’s creative quotemining of PZ’s interview with the Minnesota Independent. So nice of Bill not to provide a link, but never fear! I have the power of the Google. And here’s the section in question, sans elipses:


MnIndy: What about the stories of US military personnel urinating on and otherwise abusing copies of the Koran in Iraq? Were you outraged by that, or is that a different version of this for you?

Myers: There’s a subtle difference there — maybe an important difference. I don’t favor the idea of going to somebody’s home or to something they own and possess and consider very important, like a graveyard — going to a grave and desecrating that. That’s something completely different. Because what you’re doing is doing harm to something unique and something that is rightfully part of somebody else — it’s somebody else’s ownership. The cracker is completely different. This is something that’s freely handed out.


Oh, deary me. Bill had to do quite a lot of manipulating to twist that comment into something he could use to prove his point. He wasn’t making it clear he wouldn’t desecrate Islam: he was saying he wouldn’t desecrate something unique or something someone else possesses. That’s showing respect for the person, not the religious object itself. And I believe that would be why, now that some enterprising Catholics have sent PZ a few copies of the Koran, he can desecrate away without compromising that statement. Like the cracker, they were freely given. They’re not unique – Korans aren’t quite as cheap as Communion wafers, but they’re available for a decent price at any Barnes and Noble. There’s even a copy sitting on the shelf behind me.

So PZ’s going to do what so many concerned Catholics have asked him to: he’s going to give the Host and the Koran equal treatment. Bill should be happy. He practically begged PZ to show Catholic and Muslim sacred objects equal respect, and considering that PZ’s whole point is that religion doesn’t deserve this knee-jerk deference, what the fuck did he expect?


“The latest threat by Myers only makes matters worse. Instead of treating Catholicism with the respect he has previously shown for Islam, he now pledges to disrespect Islam the way he pledges to disrespect Catholicism (once again!). This is his idea of equal treatment. “


Why, yes. Yes, it is. He’s not a hypocrite, you see. Unlike Bill, who will go into a rabid froth over PZ threatening a cracker, bitch about how he respects Islam more (completely ignoring the context of PZ’s statements on Islam, which is that he doesn’t respect it at all), and, after allowing his followers to demand the desecration of the Koran, now decries PZ for offering to do it because what he really wanted was for PZ to run off with his tail between his legs.

You wa
nt to know what might have given you a quantum of credibility, there, Bill? Maybe you should have issued one of your famous press releases decrying the death threats, asking your mob of religious fuckwits to cease and desist (as PZ did when some of his – shall we say, enthusiastic but clueless – fans started sending hate mail right back to the haters), stating strongly that requesting the desecration of the Koran is just as wrong as threatening a cracker, and asking PZ for a dialogue to see if some understanding could be reached.

But Bill Donahue has no interest in doing any of those things. He doesn’t want to foster understanding between believers and non-believers. He doesn’t give two tugs on a dead dog’s dick what PZ does to a Koran, until it allows him to pretend a superior morality. And now he’s trying to set the Muslims on PZ, and it definitely seems like he’s hoping they’ll go all suicide bomber so that the Catholic League can say “See! We only threatened his life!”

I wonder how the Muslims’ deafening silence is sitting with him? They don’t seem unduly concerned. They’re not flooding PZ’s inbox with hate, death threats, and long rants about how important it is for PZ not to desecrate the Koran. I think it’s because the majority of them realize that PZ Myers messing about with a mass-produced copy of the Koran is going to do zero damage to Islam. I know it’s not because they haven’t heard about PZ’s promise: Bill’s made sure the news is spread as far and wide as possible. Way to show what a bigoted asshole you are, Bill.

I’m not sure what Ibrahim Hooper at CAIR is going to say to all of this. I hope he sees Bill “Fuck the Mooslims Unless I Can Use Them to Bolster My Martyrdom” Donahue for the batshit insane fucking hypocrite he is, and responds accordingly. After all, it’s Donahue’s followers who brought this on the Koran. PZ was going to stop at a Catholic cracker until they got involved.

Way to spread the Christian love, eh?