Sunday, December 31, 2006

Nowhere to go but up?

So we end the year with Saddam Hussein hanged and the 3000th American death in Iraq. As much as the Bush Administration would like to put weight on Saddam's death, it has effectively changed nothing. If "democracy" exists over there, it's almost entirely on paper and not in practice. Even if the average Iraqi citizen could force away the grim reality of their incompetently occupied nation and look to some shiny, Neverland version of American democracy, we as a nation are not excelling as a beacon of hope.

As Glenn Greenwald said, to say our current system is superior than the Baathist regime is setting a low bar for what the United States of America is supposed to be. The "great experiment" of the 18th century is beginning to more cracks than an Arctic ice shelf. We have a responsibility, as a nation heavily invested in the welfare of the world, to prevent ourselves going down the historical path to an empire of complacent overlords and an incurious citizenry. To say this is the year that we start is naive at best, considering that none of us will ever know the true breadth of the domino effect of events. But now that we have a majority in Congress that is more predisposed to listen, it's time for us to speak up, loud and long, for doing right not only by ourselves, but for the powerless as well.

We can do it. So... happy New Year.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Liberal Eagle's yearly top ten

The songs I think will make me think of 2006, in the future.

10. Elliott Smith, "Roman Candle"
9. Carbon Leaf, "A Girl And Her Horse"
8. Keane, "Everybody's Changing"
7. Bob Dylan, "Levee's Gonna Break"
6. James Blunt, "High"
5. Built To Spill, "Liar"
4. Decemberists, "Summersong"
3. Röyksopp, "Remind Me (Someone Else's Remix)"
2. Neko Case, "Hold On Hold On"
1. James Blunt, "Wisemen"

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Speaking ill of the dead

There's this taboo against speaking ill of the dead, especially the recently dead. And especially the popular recently dead.

I once did a Keenspot newsbox that involved Llewellyn from "Ozy and Millie" holding up two fingers behind Richard Nixon's head, and got an angry letter about how you should never speak ill of the dead. (I replied "you're right. I shall never again speak ill of any dead person. Boy that Stalin was efficient.")

And Ted Rall, of course, got savaged by the Hannitys of the world after Reagan died and Ted suggested that the Gipper was probably toasting in Hell.

And all the obits of Gerald Ford are going to play up the good stuff. Because funeral bios always do.

But, I'm going to join a handful of other funeral party poopers and point out that Ford specifically greenlighted the Indonesian genocide and occupation in East Timor. He specifically greenlighted President Suharto's invasion of his country's relatively peaceful neighbor, which posed no threat to it:

As a lifelong presidential history junkie, it pains me to say it, but there isn't a US President without blood on his hands. Not a one.

Monday, December 25, 2006

I hope they're all enjoying their lumps of coal

Michael Savage advocates nuking the U.N. building, Ann Coulter calls for Lincoln Chafee to be shot, Michael Medved frets about the gay animated penguin menace, Fox News wonders oh-so-objectively if Democrats have declared war on America, and John Gibson frantically urges white people to breed so they don't wind up outnumbered by the scary evil brown people.

Media Matters lists the most outrageous right-wing comments of 2006. Good for a grim laugh.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Xmas

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Truth in the House

Beagle's post reminded me of a rerun of the TV show "House" I saw the other day.

In it, Dr. House, having been (temporarily) cured of the crippling leg pain that has come to define him, finds himself strangely devoid of meaning. His friend Dr. Wilson puts it to him this way:

"I didn't say it was rational. HIV testing is 99% accurate, which means there are some people who test positive who live with their own impending doom for months or years before finding out everything is okay. Weirdly, most of them don't react with happiness or even anger - they get depressed. Not because they wanted to die but because they've defined themselves by their disease. Suddenly, what made them them isn't real."

I think it's that way for a lot of people on the left. I think a lot of this "eh, it's hopeless/it doesn't matter/the Democrats will screw this up/the Republicans will just outflank us again" defeatist talk, on the face of it kind of incongruous after a historic Democratic election victory, comes down to something similar--so many of us have defined ourselves for so many years as underdogs, perpetually in the minority. Cassandras. I think for a lot of people it's disorienting and upsetting to have to rethink such a fundamental point of political identity.

Me, I don't have that problem. I love not finding election results depressing. But, there you have it.

They're not invincible

Six years of paranoia and worry have produced this image of the Invincible Right. We worry endlessly that whatever gains the progressive movement can be made in the field of good governance will be sabotaged by the scions of big business and religious extremism. But our fears don't match the reality of our foes being just as human as we are. Consider this anecdote about Jim Talent's campaign in Missouri:

At one point, officials said, White House aides wanted Bush to make a late-campaign trip to Missouri. NRSC strategists were opposed, fearing the impact of his low approval ratings. Ultimately, Sen. Jim Talent's campaign aides decided the president should go to strongly Republican areas, but not Kansas City or St. Louis, where surveys showed the president was particularly unpopular.

You have to imagine this conjures up an image of a nervous politician with lots of money, hoping that his cash flow edge and the still right-leaning trend of a semi-purple local electorate will get him through, suddenly faced with insulting a Big Cheese that's been left to ripen in the cupboard too long. "Sir, would you mind going to Backwoods Bend instead of St. Louis? I mean, that's where the real voters are and you'd be so helpful..."

The Republican Party was in disarray in 2006. Elizabeth Dole made bad financing decisions. George Bush didn't care about anything but himself and made bull-in-a-china-shop whistle stop appearances. And Conrad Burns and George Allen made devastating campaign mistakes that even the media couldn't cover for. There were blunders cascading from their campaigns, displaying plain evidence of a lack of organization. And yet, still we feared. Still we cowered. And still we wanted to blame the progressive leaders for a defeat which didn't happen.

Liberal Eagle talked about Saturday morning mentalities. We have to dispense with a few of our own. There is no one out there with a magic hand creating an infinite neocon tyranny. The ruling classes are made of human beings, and prone to the same failings as the rest of us. Only when they blow it, they're more likely to blow it big time. And the results can either be catastrophic or a blessing, but they're not forgotten.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Muslim is the new gay/black/Jewish

Right after 9/11, George Bush went out of his way to make it clear that he was against scapegoating Muslims as a group for 9/11. He was absolutely right to do so (and you know I don't often say that about things he does).

A few people on the right, though, obviously didn't get the memo:

1) Rep. Robin Hayes (R-NC) says the key in Iraq is converting the locals to Christianity: "Stability in Iraq ultimately depends on spreading the message of Jesus Christ, the message of peace on earth, good will towards men. Everything depends on everyone learning about the birth of the Savior."

2. Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) sent out a letter warning constituents that if we don't restrict immigration, Congress will wind up overrun by big scary Muslims like Minnesota Congressman-elect Keith Ellison: "I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran."

3. Right-wing pundit Debbie Schlussel, who is a third-tier pundit but even at that gets way more cable airtime than we as a nation should be letting her have, thinks that because Barack Obama's father was a Muslim and his middle name is Muslim (it's "Hussein"), he's not really an American and his loyalties in fact probably lie with al Qaeda or some moronic thing like that: "So, even if he identifies strongly as a Christian ... is a man who Muslims think is a Muslim, who feels some sort of psychological need to prove himself to his absent Muslim father, and who is now moving in the direction of his father's heritage, a man we want as President when we are fighting the war of our lives against Islam? Where will his loyalties be?"

Bigotry is alive and well; it's just that America's haters have a new group to hate.

Liberal Eagle's weekly top five

I'm going to do them all from one album, for once, because I've been listening to pretty much nothing else this week. From the Foo Fighters' "Skin and Bones":

5. Foo Fighters, "Another Round"
4. Foo Fighters, "Times Like These"
3. Foo Fighters, "Skin and Bones"
2. Foo Fighters, "Big Me"
1. Foo Fighters, "Marigold"

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

News from Wingnut Land

Why are some people homosexual? Scientists have grappled with that question for years. But now, thanks to WorldNetDaily and James Rutz of MegaShift Ministries, we now know it's all because of soy:
Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality. That's why most of the medical (not socio-spiritual) blame for today's rise in homosexuality must fall upon the rise in soy formula and other soy products. (Most babies are bottle-fed during some part of their infancy, and one-fourth of them are getting soy milk!) Homosexuals often argue that their homosexuality is inborn because "I can't remember a time when I wasn't homosexual." No, homosexuality is always deviant. But now many of them can truthfully say that they can't remember a time when excess estrogen wasn't influencing them.
Thanks for clearing that up, Jim. Now we just have to figure out who's been feeding soy to penguins, and we'll be all set.

(Link snatched from Slog.)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I practice safe cupcakes

I swear I am not making this up. Via Media Matters:

On his television program, Bill O'Reilly asked "why," if children suffer no psychosocial deficit from being raised by same-sex parents, "wouldn't nature then make it that anybody could get pregnant by eating a cupcake?"

Words fail me.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Pronoun of the year

So, Time Magazine's 2006 Person of the Year is...get ready for

As in, pretty much everybody.

"Yes, you," says the sub-headline, apparently anticipating my reacting with some amount of incredulity (which is pretty much the case). "You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world."

Time's Person of the Year ("Man of the Year," in a less gender-balanced age) is allegedly given to the person most responsible for shaping the news, in that year. By that reasoning, Adolf Hitler was the magazine's pick for 1938.

I think August J. Pollak has a point when he argues here that 2001 was the year Time officially turned the designation into an award--rather than giving it to the undeniably biggest newsmaker of 2001, one Osama bin Laden, they gave it to Rudy Giuliani, because they didn't think Americans were bright enough to get that it wasn't necessarily praise, and they wanted to sell magazines. Which makes 2006 the year they made it not only an award, but a participation award. Everybody gets a trophy!

So, yeah, the world did get more democratic and interactive, this year...and what was the result of that? A historic Democratic party sweep of Congress, with netroots-fueled candidates like Jim Webb, Jon Tester and Sherrod Brown making the difference. And therein lies my point.

In 1994, Republicans swept into control of both houses of Congress, taking 29 House seats for a 14-seat lead in that chamber. The media treated this not only as the biggest story of the year, but as inarguably so, a political shifting of continents. Not only was Time's Person of the Year incoming House Speaker Newt Gingrich, it was difficult to imagine any other choice.

In 2006, Democrats swept into control of both houses of Congress, taking 30 House seats for an 18-seat lead in that chamber. So, surely, this must be at least as big a story, right? An even bigger realignment. Barring some earth-shatteringly enormous event--we're talking 9/11 sized--is there really any excuse for the Person of the Year not being either incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, or DNC Chairman Howard Dean, whose 50-state strategy basically gave the Democrats Congress?

Apparently. Because not only did Time not name the architects of the as-big-as-1994-sweep as Person of the Year, they didn't even mention them in their recap of the year's other big events:

To be sure, there are individuals we could blame for the many painful and disturbing things that happened in 2006. The conflict in Iraq only got bloodier and more entrenched. A vicious skirmish erupted between Israel and Lebanon. A war dragged on in Sudan. A tin-pot dictator in North Korea got the Bomb, and the President of Iran wants to go nuclear too. Meanwhile nobody fixed global warming, and Sony didn't make enough PlayStation3s.

Oh, yeah, and Congress changed hands, in an even bigger way than what we thought was earth-shattering news 12 years ago. But that's not important enough to mention. Anywhere in the article.

What got me especially was their claim that, had they picked a single person for the designation, it would have been Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Really? Why? What did he do other than be a raving bigot and a convenient scapegoat? He doesn't even have any real power.

The bottom line for me is this. When Republicans succeed, they're the leaders of a revolution. When Democrats succeed even more, it's a non-story, a fluke.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: liberal media, my tailfeathers.

Liberal Eagle's weekly top five

5. Michael Penn, "Walter Reed"
4. James Blunt, "High"
3. Decemberists, "The Island"
2. Chris Cornell, "You Know My Name"
1. Eric Schwarz, "Clinton Got A Blow Job"

Let's try this again

Blogger decided to be weird and stop allowing this blog (and, from the look of their forum, a bunch of others) to publish correctly. After about two days of this, I got impatient and restarted the whole thing.

Sorry about that; hopefully it'll be a one-time thing. (If it's not, Seagull and I have been exploring Wordpress and some other options, and are entirely prepared to move the blog if it breaks again.) I know that means RSS-subscriber readers will have to resubscribe; I'm sorry. If anyone up there likes us, it will happen only the once (Blogger is apparently beta-testing a new system, so the problems should be temporary, and the problem seems not to have affected most blogs; I think we just got lucky).

Blogger is free; I suppose the moral is, you get what you pay for.

The old blog is here if you want to review the old posts.

Anyway, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, do welcome new blogger Liberal Beagle to our midst. We shall not hold it against him that he isn't a bird, and I hope you enjoy his insights. (I've had him repeat his last post.)

Also, do give his comic, Something Happens, a read.

Digging the grave

You know the old murder mystery cliché. The dying elder patriarch is about to kick off, and his anxiously hungry relatives are all sitting around his bed, wondering who he'll write in and/or out of their will. Or who will take control of the family once the old man is gone. The relatives have all but buried him in their minds; all that matters to them is gaining the reins and taking over.

If you confronted a person with that mindset, they'd probably only tell you that they were being practical. Just thinking ahead. I mean, it's a done deal that the man is going to die, isn't it?

Certainly the media showed its true colors when Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota had to be rushed to the hospital. The average person certainly found out about the thin balance of power the Democrats had. Some outlets were willing to assume Harry Reid would be sent packing, that South Dakota senator Mike Rounds was cracking his knuckles in wait to reset the balance of power in Congress to the way it should be -- that is, with it split down the middle and Dick Cheney gallumphing into break any ties.

Um, folks. The man isn't dead yet. In fact, there was no reason to assume the worst right from the gate, considering how other political leaders have survived worse and still stayed active in their fields.

Why were the shovels and picks not brought out when Craig Thomas was diagnosed with leukemia? Could it be that Wyoming's governor was a Democrat and it wasn't that gleefully exciting to think of who he could appoint as a replacement? And let's not even bring up 100-year-old Strom Thurmond, barely aware of his surroundings, who spent a great deal of his last term hospitalized.

Yet the media, drool dripping from their lips, sought a scenario where Rounds replaced Johnson because he was incapacitated. This isn't even in accordance with constitutional law. As much as it hurts the far right to realize this, Johnson would have to resign before anyone could replace him, and that would be his decision. Not CNN's, not Mitch McConnell's, not Mike Rounds', not Fox News' and not Dick Cheney's.

If I were Tim Johnson right now, I would stay focused on recovery for its own sake, which is all anyone should be focused on now. Even us liberals, increasingly on edge about maintaining the majority, need to step back from the political angle. Yes, there's a lot at stake. But this isn't what we're here for. We're here for the humanity. And we've seen the corporate media's lack thereof in full flower. There was never a better way to define ourselves in terms of opposites.

(Oh, and by the way, this is my first blog entry, so thank yous go to Liberal Eagle and Liberal Seagull for allowing a dog in their midst.)

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