Friday, May 30, 2008

McCain “Smitten with the Celebrity of Power”

As I remarked in a couple of posts last week, I often find attempts to limn Republican presidential wannabe John McCain’s motivations to be overly complex. Most notably was Matt Bai’s NYT Magazine piece that tried to somehow link McCain’s experience as a POW with his ridiculous embrace of Bush’s war in Iraq. My response was that there really is no complex worldview when it comes to McSame, no nuanced position on the use of American military might, and certainly no sense of honor bound duty to his fellow fighters.

Rather, McCain’s “positions”—if you can dignify his empty posturing as such—are the result of political expedience. John McCain, though touted as a maverick, just put his “Straight Talk Express” on what he thought was the straightest road to the White House—if he wanted the Republican nomination, he had to go along not just to get along, but to get the financing he needed, too. What motivates this third generation Navy man to embrace a “strategy” that continues to send his brothers and sisters to their needless deaths? Naked ambition, pure and simple.

Many who have crossed paths with McCain in the last few decades have observed as much, though some try to put in nicer terms. Now, writing in the New York Times, David D. Kirkpatrick has given us more evidence of McCain’s lust for power. . . not to mention his penchant for hypocrisy.

Mr. McCain has often said he decided to run for office because he felt his war injuries would make attaining the same rank as his father and grandfather “impossible.” But Mr. Lehman, now an adviser to the McCain campaign, and two other top Navy officers familiar with Mr. McCain’s file insist that was not the case.

Instead, many who knew him say, Mr. McCain seemed bored by Navy life. “Sitting down with Anwar Sadat or Deng Xiaoping and being treated as an equal — that is pretty heady stuff,” said Rhett Dawson, a former aide to Mr. Tower who is now president of an electronics trade group. “It had opened his eyes to a much broader world.”

Mr. McCain was captivated, recalled Jeffrey Record, then an aide to former Senator Sam Nunn, the hawkish Georgia Democrat. “He thrives on competition, and he thrives on political combat,” Mr. Record said. “He saw the glamour of it. I think he really got smitten with the celebrity of power.”

Considering that former Press Secretary Scott McClellan, who is now making the rounds promoting his book, attributes much of what went wrong during the Bush Administration to what’s been called the “permanent campaign”—using the authority of the office for partisan gain—and the president himself becoming overly impressed with his own power, does America really want another chief executive that thrives on political combat? And can we survive another four years of a man so taken with the idea of power for power’s sake?

I think the whole world—from the sultans to the serfs, from the admirals to the GIs, from the celebrities to the wannabes—knows the answer. Well, the whole world minus one, I guess.

(cross-posted on guy2k and The Seminal)

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Bush: For Troops this Memorial Day, Time = Money

Fresh off Thursday’s rejection of an additional 0.5 percent pay increase for America’s active military, President George W. Bush has a better idea for how this country might honor our troops: A “moment of remembrance.”

President Bush asked Americans to pay tribute to veterans by pausing on Memorial Day for "a moment of remembrance."

Bush had several suggestions for how to honor the sacrifices of those who have fought for the United States -- place a flag at a veteran's grave, go to a battlefield or say a prayer. He said the moment of remembrance would be marked Monday at 3 p.m. local time.

"At that moment, Major League Baseball games will pause, the National Memorial Day parade will halt, Amtrak trains will blow their whistles and buglers in military cemeteries will play taps," he said in his weekly radio address.

The president said that as people "fire up the grill" and mark the unofficial beginning of summer, they need to honor the sacrifices that make freedom possible.

"No words are adequate to console those who have lost a loved one serving our nation," Bush said. "We can only offer our prayers and join in their grief."

No, Mr. Bush, sir, I believe we can offer a heck of a lot more than “our prayers.” You could start by paying the living that you and your folly have so needlessly placed in harms’ way something close to what they deserve. I don’t expect you to go so far as to pay the troops as much as you dole out to your elite mercenaries at Blackwater and the like, but surely you could spare the extra half-point approved by the Congress in the recent Defense Authorization Bill—an increase that would bring the entire raise up to a whopping 3.9 percent.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, that tiny added increase in troop pay would mean spending an extra $324 million next year—or less than the cost of one day of war in Iraq. It is 0.2 percent of the $165 billion requested by the White House for continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To put it another way, that money amounts to roughly a quarter- less than four percent of what a recent pentagon audit found was paid by the Army to private contractors—and for much of what was purchased with that $8.2 billion, there is no record that anything was received.

Or, Mr. President, you could drop your opposition to the new GI Bill that just overwhelmingly passed both houses of Congress. That small expenditure would offer much deserved medical and education benefits to returning veterans.

While you’re at it, you could really fix the VA. You could de-privatize all the programs you farmed out to your cronies and political benefactors. You could clean up and repair the hospitals and clinics, you could expand mental health services, you could stop your minions from purposefully minimizing the number of PTSD diagnoses, and stop them from classifying those still hampered by mental or physical injuries as fit for combat so that they can be sent back into your meat grinder.

Or, I’ve got an even better idea still. You could start bringing the troops home—for once, for all, for good. You could admit your mistake and end the occupation that needlessly adds—each and every day—to the list of those that we must memorialize.

Do that, and I’ll make you a deal—I’ll not only forgive you your patronizing, fatuous, callous, insulting “moment of remembrance,” I’ll agree to let you go back to your golf game.

(cross-posted on guy2k, The Seminal, and Daily Kos)

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Friday, May 23, 2008

McCain: I’ve earned the right to screw the troops

The US Senate passed Jim Webb’s (D-VA) update of the GI Bill yesterday by a vote of 75 – 22. The Math will tell you that three senators did not cast a vote on this measure: one was Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), who was just this week diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor after suffering a seizure, one was Oklahoma’s own Tom Coburn (R)—and, honestly, who knows what’s going on inside his head—and the third? That would be presumptive Republican presidential nominee, part-time Arizona senator, and full-time asshole John W. McCain.

McCain—who, by the way, did you know, was a POW in Vietnam—was too busy insulting Ellen DeGeneres and attending two big-ticket Silicon Valley fundraisers to make it back to Washington to do his job vote. However, Johnny Mad Cow—who absolutely does NOT have anger-management problems, and I don’t give a FUCK who says otherwise!!!—still had time to dash off one of his patented vitriol-laced, uh, I mean, straight-talking missives to his likely opponent in November, Senator Barack Obama.

It is typical, but no less offensive that Senator Obama uses the Senate floor to take cheap shots at an opponent and easy advantage of an issue he has less than zero understanding of. Let me say first in response to Senator Obama, running for President is different than serving as President. The office comes with responsibilities so serious that the occupant can't always take the politically easy route without hurting the country he is sworn to defend. Unlike Senator Obama, my admiration, respect and deep gratitude for America's veterans is something more than a convenient campaign pledge. I think I have earned the right to make that claim.

. . . .

But I am running for the office of Commander-in-Chief. That is the highest privilege in this country, and it imposes the greatest responsibilities. It would be easier politically for me to have joined Senator Webb in offering his legislation. More importantly, I feel just as he does, that we owe veterans the respect and generosity of a great nation because no matter how generously we show our gratitude it will never compensate them fully for all the sacrifices they have borne on our behalf.

. . . .

I know that my friend and fellow veteran, Senator Jim Webb, an honorable man who takes his responsibility to veterans very seriously, has offered legislation with very generous benefits. I respect and admire his position, and I would never suggest that he has anything other than the best of intentions to honor the service of deserving veterans. Both Senator Webb and I are united in our deep appreciation for the men and women who risk their lives so that the rest of us may be secure in our freedom. And I take a backseat to no one in my affection, respect and devotion to veterans. And I will not accept from Senator Obama, who did not feel it was his responsibility to serve our country in uniform, any lectures on my regard for those who did.

Now, Mc—wait, excuse me one second, can I just say, What an A-Hole!—sorry, where was I? Oh, yes, now McCain not only doesn’t take a backseat to anyone on military issues, he doesn’t take any seat at all! McCain not only missed the GI Bill vote, and multiple other votes concerning military matters, he was also absent from Thursday’s confirmation hearings for Generals David Patraeus and Ray Odierno before the Senate Armed Services Committee—a committee of which McCain is Ranking Member!

Did McCain have nothing to ask of or say to the next head of CENTCOM? Did the highest ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee have no questions for the next guy to run the pig circus we call the war in Iraq?

But hey, OK, little John, you were busy with things that were more important to you—it’s just one day, right?

Not right.

It was just last February when McCain chose to skip a vote that could have provided additional assistance for a quarter-million disabled veterans. He apparently couldn’t squeeze it in, even though he was in DC at the time, on his way to speak at the ultra conservative CPAC conference.

And then there was last year, where, by May, McCain had missed 10 of the first 14 votes on the Iraq War. (There is a partial list of important votes that McCain missed or used to vote against aid for troops or veterans here.)

And don’t forget, I’m just talking about military matters, here. McCain has missed any number of important votes (like every important environmental vote this session).

But, credit where credit is due—McCain is right: running for president is different from being president. You see, running for president is something you choose to do. How you run your campaign, where you go, whose endorsements you seek, whose money you take, how much time you spend campaigning and fundraising, those are all choices you get to make. Running for office is not a job.

Being president, however, is a job. One to which you are elected, sure, but once sworn in, you do have an obligation to show up and do what is expected by your constituents.

Why, it’s kind of like being a senator! Yeah, that’s it, it’s like being senator of the whole country. And if that is the case, then it looks like Senator Obama has McCain beat—Obama showed up for the GI Bill vote, and most of the other important military votes this Congress. (Hell, Johnny, even Senator Clinton—who we all know needs to do as much campaigning and fundraising as she can these days—took the time on Thursday to both vote on the GI Bill and other Iraq-related measures and fulfill her duties as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee by sticking around to question Patraeus and Odierno.)

All of which leaves me wondering where McNasty gets off attacking Obama about responsibility. . . specifically about the responsibility to serve his country.

It seems McCain is now implying that you can only serve your country as a member of the military—ridiculous on its face, but let me make one more point.

Since just after the end of the Vietnam War, the United States has had an all-volunteer force. That means (unlike a job to which you are elected) you can choose whether or not to serve. Of course, there are circumstances that might arise that make it seem like it would be the duty of most patriotic Americans to enlist, but these are (and should be) rare.

Senator Obama is considerably younger than John McCain. Born in 1961, Obama would have been eligible to enlist starting in 1979, and would have been of prime service age (18 – 27) through the end of the Reagan Administration. What great causes, what threats to our democracy might have convinced a young man to give up college, law school, or his work with the urban poor to join the US military?

Lebanon? Grenada?


So what comparison is McCain seeking to draw here exactly? Is he really telling all of America that unless we have served in the military—maybe unless we’ve seen combat—we are not qualified to question candidate and/or President McCain? Not that there aren’t plenty of active and retired military personnel who have big problems with McCain, but really, if they’re the only ones that McCain will tolerate, then, uh, wow!

No wonder he likes to say that he’s running for “Commander-in-Chief”—which is not a real position, just a nice turn of phrase—“president” sounds just way too, you know, civilian.

The last eight years have been scary enough with a guy who once went AWOL using the authority of the presidency to politicize the military and then have it serve his partisan domestic agenda. And this decade has been more than sad enough because the result of that misuse is a military stressed to the breaking point—and countless men and women who have been killed, maimed, or just ill-served by a Republican government that will not pony up to really support our troops. But imagine a “commander” that won’t countenance the counsel of civilians and can’t be bothered to do the minimum required of him to care for his fellow servicemen and women.

Imagine a president that, by virtue of his experience, believes he has earned the right to discount everyone else’s.

(cross-posted on The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Evaluating McCain’s Vietnam “Experience”

Jason’s comment on my Wednesday post got me thinking a little more about McCain’s biography—most specifically the Vietnam War part—and what role it should play in the 2008 battle for the White House. . . and what was going to be a one-sentence response grew into something more like a post of its own.

First, the comment:

McCain will absolutely say anything to be elected, but I did find interest in Bai's piece. Not so much for the psychoanalyzing as for the Vietnam question.

For whatever reason, McCain believe[s] we could have and should have won Vietnam by committing more troops. That's a very interesting question to start debating right now, with the parallels with Iraq so obvious. Yet, I feel, lots of portions of America don't really want to ask that question. It brings up an era many would like to forget. Very interesting indeed.

Indeed. Therefore, my response:

That McCain thinks we could have "won" the Vietnam War is not only ignorant, it's dangerous.

Many questions were asked about Vietnam throughout the '70's and '80's. There are lots of good books (Karnow, Halberstam, and Shawcross come to mind), with lots of good insights, and they all tell us that we didn't just fight incorrectly, we fought for the wrong reasons.

Was there a way to "win" in Vietnam? I suppose we could have talked with Ho when he first turned to the US—and he did turn FIRST to the US—for help fighting a repressive colonial occupier. Short of that, there is no right answer.

I feel the right is forcing us to re-debate Vietnam history as a rehearsal for the eventual rewrite of Bush's Iraqi incursion. Imagine, even now, asking the "how could we have won Iraq" question.

The only answer is by not invading in the first place. That McCain still does not understand this makes for a bad omen when considering how or whether he would end the Iraq fiasco, and is a scary indication of just how terrible McCain might be at handling other foreign challenges.

I think the most interesting tidbit in the Bai piece—and I touched upon this the other day—was the revelation, of sorts, that "Mr. Experience" actually decided how to handle a crisis from what he read in a few books, and not from some special lesson learned at the Hanoi Hilton.

I am not against psychobiography—I have read some good ones—but I would want to look at the total of McCain's life experiences. Having been in a POW camp or in the jungle doesn't by itself predict how a veteran/lawmaker sees Iraq (take Bob Kerrey, for instance, an Iraq hawk that witnessed the worst of the Vietnam war firsthand during two tours as a Navy SEAL).

When I look at McCain's life, I see the son and grandson of very successful men who goes into the family business and quickly finds he's just not as smart and not as good at it. He then spends the rest of his life trying to one-up Daddy to prove his worth.

Sound familiar?

(cross-posted on guy2k and The Seminal)

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Let’s go to the videotape! (aka I told you this asshole would say anything to get elected)

As I wrote yesterday, I wasn’t particularly impressed with the complex rationalizations and simplified psychoanalysis that went into Matt Bai’s Sunday NYT Magazine piece about what might have shaped John McCain’s worldview—most notably what could inspire a man to embrace Bush’s failed and dangerous course in Iraq. It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the attempt at understanding the Asshole from Arizona, it was just that the highfalutin’ explanations provided in the article give McCain too much credit for thinking this through—and, more importantly, Bai’s “analysis” crowds out what to me is the most obvious and likely reason behind McCain’s ever-shifting positions: John McCain will say whatever he thinks he must to get elected president.

Think I’m oversimplifying? Then I ask you to take a look at the latest Real McCain video from Brave New Films.

And don’t just take my word for it (or McCain’s—again, watch the video), former Rhode Island Senator (and, now, former Republican) Lincoln Chafee agrees. Appearing Tuesday on WNYC’s The Leonard Lopate Show, Chafee said of his one-time friend and Senate colleague that his political shifts were clearly born of an overriding desire to grab the presidency (just before the 13 minute mark on the audio, or at about 1:30 on the YouTube):

Lopate: [McCain’s] gone back on any number of things. Do you think he’s done it because it’s the only way he sees to win, or do you think he’s had a change of heart?

Chaffee: I think the former—that he’s just looking at it politically—which is unfortunate from my perspective. I am also surprised that once locking up the nomination he hasn’t tacked toward the middle more. He’s still kowtowing to that rightwing base.

So, there you have it. No complex worldview. No nuanced shifts. Just naked ambition.

John McCain: Empty. Cynical. Hypocritical. Ruthless. Pandering to the extremist right. It’s really not that hard to understand, and really not that hard to recognize, either. In fact, we are all painfully familiar with the type.

Update: Oh, yeah, here’s what Barack Obama had to say on the matter last night in Iowa:

We face an opponent, John McCain, who arrived in Washington nearly three decades ago as a Vietnam War hero, and earned an admirable reputation for straight talk and occasional independence from his party.

But this year's Republican primary was a contest to see which candidate could out-Bush the other, and that is the contest John McCain won. . . .

I will leave it up to Senator McCain to explain to the American people whether his policies and positions represent long-held convictions or Washington calculations, but the one thing they don't represent is change.

(cross-posted on guy2k and The Seminal)

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Other McCain Doctrine

Here’s my biggest problem with Matt Bai’s longwinded window on the mad cow mind of presidential wannabe John W. McCain: it’s complete and utter hogwash.

Desperately seeking an angle by which to sell editors and America alike on yet another feature article on the faux-maverick of the moment, Bai rolls out this theory at the beginning of his Sunday New York Times Magazine cover story:

There is a feeling among some of McCain’s fellow [Vietnam] veterans that his break with them on Iraq can be traced, at least partly, to his markedly different experience in Vietnam. McCain’s comrades in the Senate will not talk about this publicly. They are wary of seeming to denigrate McCain’s service, marked by his legendary endurance in a Hanoi prison camp, when in fact they remain, to this day, in awe of it. And yet in private discussions with friends and colleagues, some of them have pointed out that McCain, who was shot down and captured in 1967, spent the worst and most costly years of the war sealed away, both from the rice paddies of Indochina and from the outside world. During those years, McCain did not share the disillusioning and morally jarring experiences of soldiers like Kerry, Webb and Hagel, who found themselves unable to recognize their enemy in the confusion of the jungle; he never underwent the conversion that caused Kerry, for one, to toss away some of his war decorations during a protest at the Capitol. Whatever anger McCain felt remained focused on his captors, not on his own superiors back in Washington.

Net-net: McCain, locked up and tortured to his breaking point by what he understood to be his country’s enemy, never got to see for himself that quagmires like the war in Indochina cannot be “won” in any meaningful way through the use of any amount of US military force. Senators John Kerry, Jim Webb, and Chuck Hagel (and former Senator Max Cleland), having stayed out of North Vietnamese hands, can now understand the futility of the Bush-McCain approach to the Iraqi war and occupation.

That former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey (who is quoted in the article dismissing the “McCain sees it differently because of his war experience” theory) was a hawk on Iraq, despite serving all of his time in Vietnam outside of a POW camp, is not broached by Bai.

I do not mean to dispute the idea that a man’s experiences in war might color his worldview from there on out, or even that Senator McCain’s view might be different because of his imprisonment. Rather, I take issue with the premise that McCain’s stance on matters Iraq can be explained through this particular glossy, psych-lite analysis.

And I’m not alone in my doubts. Beyond the aforementioned disbelief from Senator Kerrey, Bai himself seems to abandon the thesis by midway through the article—or earlier—ping-ponging between the notion that McCain has been erratic in his approach to the use of US military force, and the Senator’s own protestations that he has been nothing but consistent throughout his public life.

Bai does mention how the returning POW chose to study at the Naval War College—implying (to my way of seeing it) that a man whose “experience” we are supposed to favor over his election year competitors actually got his ideas from books. But Bai then explains that the intellectual history of the Republican Party breaks it into three groups—the isolationists, the realists, and the idealists—and then helps to burnish McCain’s “maverick” status by basically taking the Senator at his word when he infers that McCain’s views on military force don’t neatly fit into any camp (though Bai does write that he believes McCain to be closer to the idealists—those that would use military force to promote what they call democracy).

That the article’s central theory (theories?) serves as nothing more than a structure awkwardly wrapped around an excuse for a (another) canned and detail-deficient McCain peroration is made abundantly clear by one of Bai’s own realizations:

What was startling about this conversation was that, while McCain was talking about the dangers of intervening in a Zimbabwe or a Burma, he might just as well have been talking about the invasion of Iraq. Didn’t that country, too, have a colonial history that had been carelessly considered, to say the least? Didn’t the war’s proponents fail to plan more than a few weeks out or to ask the hard questions about how their soldiers might be greeted in the streets?

McCain disarmingly agrees with Bai, but then goes on to perpetuate the lie that Iraq was different because everyone believed at the start of the war that the alleged existence of WMD justified invasion. Bai, to his credit, mentions that this is an arguable point. Sadly, rather than argue it, though, Bai contends that the 2008 election is not about why we invaded, but whether we should stay.

That is convenient for the candidate, since avoiding the first five years of this war’s history allows McCain to skirt accountability for a long list of proclamations about Iraq—many of them contradictory, and all of them wrong.

As if to underscore that point, Bai mentions to McCain that he received a 10-page booklet from the Center for American Progress filled with the Senator’s unimpressive prognostications on Iraq.

McCain shrugs this off and insists that he will never waver from his support of the war, no matter what the personal cost. “As I said a year ago,” he told me, “I would rather lose a campaign than a war.” If he doesn’t make the most persuasive argument of his life, he risks losing both

And that’s the final line of the article—that’s where Bai leaves it. And, no doubt, Bai would like that to tie a nice little bow on his thesis—the steadfast candidate with the consistent worldview shaped by time spent as a POW 40 years ago.

Well, the quote, and, even more to the point, Bai’s last line, are revealing, but not of anything that Bai discusses in his long story.

If there is a constancy to be gleaned here, if there is a motivation that is uncovered by McCain’s current conversation and his various political conversions, it is, to me, the most obvious one: ambition.

What runs consistently through John McCain’s lifetime of discourse on the use of his country’s military might is his own desire to win—not any war, but his own, personal battles. And, since the early 1980’s, those battles have been for higher and higher public office. If there appear to be inconsistencies in McCain’s positions, it is because deep down, at his core, John McCain is a man that wants above all else to be president—and his positions need to serve that ambition. McCain might rather lose a war than a campaign (though I would dispute even that), but the war in Iraq has already been lost, while the campaign is technically still an open question.

That the war was lost by the men that McCain was forced to embrace in order to win his party’s nomination just makes his true motivations more obvious. That the presumptive Republican nominee must now try to shoehorn that bear hug into a respectable narrative makes him rather pathetic.

Pathetic, too, is the way Bai and many of his establishment media cohorts can’t quite bring themselves to report on the obvious. The title of this article is The McCain Doctrines—plural—so Bai is apparently open to the idea that the POW theory is rife with inconsistencies. Granted, my take on this McMess is also psychoanalysis of the most amateur rank, but it seems just as plausible, and, being far more simple, much more likely.

Alas, Occam’s razor would probably not get Bai on the cover of the Times Magazine—and, if experience is any guide, it might get him thrown off the “Straight Talk Express.”

Which, of course, would not serve Bai’s ambition in the least.

(cross-posted on The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Bush thinks he lands a zinger; world tastes a little bit of its own vomit

As I remarked (in a comment) yesterday, I actually got a little queasy thinking about the discussion among the Bush speechwriters that hit on this idea of having the grandson of a Nazi sympathizer/financier/profiteer (you choose which) invoke the Holocaust to make a US domestic political point. . . while standing before the Israeli Knesset.

Bad enough that the president abandoned the “all politics stop at the water’s edge” axiom. Bad enough that he (or the speechwriter) was dumb enough to quote a Republican Senator’s wish of talking to Hitler. Bad enough that Bush would mar what was supposed to be a celebration of Israel’s founding with a nakedly political speech. Bad enough that he would cheapen the Holocaust and dishonor its victims by invoking it just to serve his partisan goals. And certainly bad enough that a sitting president would sink so low as to liken the Democrat running against Bush’s third term to a Nazi appeaser. . . but. . .

As bad as all of this is—and it is very, very bad—I didn’t know how high my disgust could rise until later in the day when I watched the Bush speech a few times on TV.

It’s not as easy to see on this YouTube, but look closely at Bush’s face when he finishes the quote from Senator Borah. Right after Bush says, “All of this might have been avoided,” but before he engages his over-rehearsed headshake, you will see a little smile break across the president’s face. It’s just a flash, almost a micro-expression of a smile, but it is, to me, clearly macro-filled with self-satisfaction.

Watch again—Bush thinks he got in a good one! He thinks he’s landed a zinger! You almost expect to hear a rim-shot or a “bang! zoom!” You know the president hears it in his own hollow head. (It takes him back to the days when he would towel-snap his naked classmates in the locker room.) I will go out on a limb and bet that the guy is basically congratulating himself for working in a Hitler reference for a room full of Jews.

“Aced it!” he’s thinking. “These Israelites [sic] know there’s nothin’ worse than makin’ nice with Hitler. They’ll eat this up like a pastrami sandwich!”

So, yes, I not only think that Bush is a vain, indecorous moron—I think he’s an anti-Semite.

Like (grand)father, like (grand)son.

And the president’s speechwriters—the guys that turned Bush’s thumbnail stereotype into a full-bleed portrait—what to make of them?

Idiots? Anti-Semites? Apple-polishers? Pigs?


(cross-posted on guy2k and The Seminal)

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Is this America?

I know, I know. . . in year eight of the Bush-Cheney regime, we all know: things are not how they should be. They break our laws, take our money, and kill our children—and lie, lie, lie—it’s like breathing to them, and nothing should surprise us anymore. At this point, our cynical meters have pinned in the red zone; we console ourselves—or try to—with the knowledge that come next January, these criminals will be ushered into the dustbin of history. We’d like a little more accountability, but we’ll start with just getting these imperious, greedy cowards the fuck out of our White House.

And, yet, with all that scumbag fatigue, two stories from Wednesday’s news were still enough to spike my blood pressure, and dilate the pupils in my half-open/half-shut eyes.

First was the fourth part of a series called Careless Detention running in the Washington Post. The headline on page A1:

Some Detainees Are Drugged For Deportation
Immigrants Sedated Without Medical Reason

The carefully researched piece by Amy Goldstein and Dana Priest describes how the US government injected powerful psychotropic drugs into hundreds of people awaiting deportation—injected them with high doses of Haldol, Ativan, and Cogentin for reasons that could best be described as lazy, vengeful, and venal.

In a Chicago holding cell early one evening in February 2006, five guards piled on top of a 49-year-old man who was angry he was going back to Ecuador, according to a nurse's account in his deportation file. As they pinned him down so the nurse could punch a needle through his coveralls into his right buttock, one officer stood over him menacingly and taunted, "Nighty-night."

Involuntary chemical restraint—that’s what it is called—and it is a violation of several international human rights treaties, not to mention our own government’s rules:

Federal officials have seldom acknowledged publicly that they sedate people for deportation. The few times officials have spoken of the practice, they have understated it, portraying sedation as rare and "an act of last resort." Neither is true, records and interviews indicate.

Records show that the government has routinely ignored its own rules, which allow deportees to be sedated only if they have a mental illness requiring the drugs, or if they are so aggressive that they imperil themselves or people around them.

Stung by lawsuits over two sedation cases, the agency changed its policy in June to require a court order before drugging any deportee for behavioral rather than psychiatric reasons. In at least one instance identified by The Post, the agency appears not to have followed those rules.

That body, the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), didn’t follow the rules some 250 times in the last five years. At least that’s what the Post team was able to document. (I urge you to click over and read that documentation—the article gives several graphic example—though I warn you, it is extremely disturbing.)

Equally as disturbing was a press release I got yesterday from the American Civil Liberties Union. That story summarized what the ACLU learned from Department of Defense documents it obtained under the Freedom of Information Act:

"These documents provide further evidence that the torture of prisoners in U.S. custody abroad was not aberrational, but was widespread and systemic," said Amrit Singh, a staff attorney with the ACLU. "They only underscore the need for an independent investigation into high-level responsibility for prisoner abuse."

The papers contain the stories of several men that died in US custody after some degree of Bush Administration-directed “enhanced interrogation” (what decent people call “torture”), the objections raised by Army and Navy investigators, previously withheld DoD criminal investigation files, and communications from the Departments of Justice and State.

The documents have only just been released (after a legal battle), so it is pretty sure that there is more unsettling news to come.

Common to both stories is how our civil machinery has been harnessed by Bush and Cheney to do harm to other human beings. Unjustified, unconscionable, and yet carefully orchestrated harm. Cabinet-level government agencies, staffed with living, breathing Americans—vetted, no doubt, to insure their ideological solidarity with the administration—organized to break our laws, inflict pain, and destroy lives.

It left me with the voice of Fannie Lou Hamer echoing in my head: Is this America?

That voice, that question—is this America?—tells me that these stories are not something that I can just put on a shelf. And they are not something that we—as a country—can just put aside while we wait for our next president to “fix it.”

In fact, I don’t even know what “fix it” means.

The Bush-Cheney crew brought with them a sickness, and it has thoroughly infected almost every organ of our government. Justice Department lawyers categorize and catalog the torture; trained medical professionals administer the illegal injections. Bush’s wars (on terror, truth, science, political opposition) are malign pathogens that have wormed their way into the very tissue of our society.

I don’t know of any one thing that cures us of this sickness, but I do know that we need to start treatment—or at least start looking for a treatment—stat.

Congressional investigations into each of the travesties discussed here need to start this summer. Indeed, we have to commit ourselves to a complete workup, a stem-to-stern examination of what went wrong, how it went wrong, and what happened as a result. We should start it now, and we should be prepared to keep the inquiries going well past the end of the Bush regime.

And, right now, we should demand something very simple from our presidential candidates—a commitment to the investigations and a promise to stop the practices.

Upon swearing in, our next president could sign executive orders prohibiting the involuntary chemical restraint of ICE detainees and the torture of anyone in our custody or under our control—why not commit to it now? Why not tell us voters—and the entire world—that because this is America, this will not happen. . . at least not anymore.

So, Senators, are you up to it? Tell me right now that you will not tolerate unnecessary sedation or unconscionable torture—tell me that you won’t allow it, tell me that you will hold accountable those that do it—because a country that does permit such behavior isn’t, as you see it, America.

(cross-posted on The Seminal)

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Rauschenberg’s legacy

Robert Rauschenberg, one of America’s most prominent and prolific visual artists of the post-war period, died Tuesday. He was 82.

Much is sure to be written in the coming days and weeks about the work, meaning the artistic work, of Rauschenberg—and that attention is much deserved. But there will likely be much less said of his political work, which, though perhaps less transformational than his art, is certainly worthy of some praise, as well.

As the New York Times obituary mentions in passing, Robert Rauschenberg was not only an artist, but also a patron of the arts, an advocate for arts education, and a longtime supporter of (mostly) Democrats and Democratic causes.

In fact, the notice of his death during this political season had me curiously looking about the web for whom Rauschenberg had supported this cycle, and here I found a small surprise. Though Rauschenberg had supported many individuals (along with some PACs) in years past—mostly in his adopted home states of Florida and New York—in 2008, the artist had put his money behind only one candidate: Democrat Scott Kleeb of Nebraska.

And it wasn’t just a little money. Rauschenberg gave the legal maximum to Kleeb—for both the primary and the general.

Scott Kleeb is seeking the Senate seat now held by Republican Chuck Hagel, who is not running for reelection, and yesterday, only handful of hours after Rauschenberg’s death, Kleeb took the first big step, winning the Nebraska Democratic primary over a much older and wealthier (RR’s money notwithstanding) opponent. Kleeb will face former Nebraska Governor and GW Bush Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns in November.

My congratulations go out to Scott Kleeb and his wife Jane Fleming Kleeb—a very exciting victory—but the question of the night for me referenced Rauschenberg. How was it that the eighty-something East Coast artist came to max out for a thirty-something Plains State rancher and college professor?

It turns out, I didn’t have far to go for the answer. Jane’s MTV blog made note of Rauschenberg’s passing, calling him one of Scott’s dear friends. Apparently, Rauschenberg had met Scott through a mutual acquaintance, and Bob, as the Kleebs knew him, had done some events for Scott’s campaign, in addition to donating his own money.

So, along with my congratulations, I extend my condolences to the Kleebs.

One of the great things (assuming your worldview swings this way) about being a visual artist—especially one of some renown—is that your work can continue to inspire and affect others, even after you have gone. For Robert Rauschenberg, there is a nice little coda to this idea. Having donated to Scott Kleeb’s general election campaign prior to his passing, Bob has a chance to inspire and effect change in the political arena, too.

That’s a sweet grace note on an already rich legacy.

("Retroactive I," 1963 – via NYT - Art © Rauschenberg Estate/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY)

(cross-posted on guy2k, Daily Kos, and The Seminal)

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Craven Bush co-opts Lebanese suffering to advance current favorite lie

There really is no limit to how low this pompous little shit will go to satisfy his fragile ego and retarded worldview. Speaking to the BBC in advance of a trip to Middle East, George W. Bush used the recent civil strife in Lebanon to again push his latest crusade (and I do not use that word lightly):

[Bush] said the US was helping the Lebanese army become effective enough to act against Hezbollah's armed wing.

"I don't see how you can have a society with Hezbollah armed up the way they are.

"In this case though, they moved against the Lebanese people, they're not moving against any foreign country, they're moving against the Lebanese people and it should send a signal to everybody that they're a destabilising force."

"The first step of course is to make sure that the Siniora government has got the capacity to respond with a military that's effective," he said.

Hezbollah would be nothing without Iranian backing, he said, adding that Iran was the source of much instability in the Middle East.

First, if the US is helping the Lebanese army the way we’re helping the Iraqi army, or the Pakistani army (or, frankly, our own army), then good luck to them—they’ll need it.

Second, how dare he—Bush—piggyback his bloodlust on the suffering of the Lebanese—suffering he helped bring about.

Don’t forget, it was Bush who was among the loudest advocates for the exit of Syrian forces from Lebanon three years ago. Though, of course, the administration had no plans for how to fill the power vacuum left by the departure of Syria.

And don’t forget that is was Israel’s failed invasion of Lebanon/war on Hezbollah—a fiasco backed by the Bush administration as practice for a broader push against Iran—that substantially strengthened the hand of Hezbollah.

(And don’t get me started on the fact that if it weren’t for Bush’s refusal to deal with the previous Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami, Iran wouldn’t have elected Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the first place.)

I’m not saying that the Lebanese people themselves didn’t play a large role in the departure of Syrian troops—as did the international community—and I’m not saying that Syrian occupation didn’t need to end. And, I will not deny that Hezbollah receives support from Iran. But by using the Lebanese situation—the loss of life, the threat of greater instability and violence—to advance his naked political agenda, Bush treats the Lebanese people with the same callous disregard he has shown most of the world’s peoples—they are but pawns in the service of his greater aggrandizement.

I feel pretty certain that the Bush bunch has no real plan for improving stability in Lebanon, and I feel pretty certain that GW himself doesn’t much care. If the dead of Beirut can get the US president closer to raining a few-thousand pounds of explosives on the latest in a list of perceived threats to his already rock-bottom self-esteem—and to his friends’ already sky-high profits—well, god bless ‘em.

And we’re not supposed to talk about why “they” might hate us. . . .

(cross-posted on guy2k and The Seminal)

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Following the money?

From this morning’s New York Times:

Her campaign is deep in debt and believed to be near broke, and her advisers made the unusual move on Tuesday night of refusing to confirm or deny whether Mrs. Clinton had made a loan to her campaign to keep it afloat.

Now here’s why this is really important (beyond the usual questions about being able to compete with Obama on TV ad buys and the like): With Tuesday’s primaries in the books, there are now more publicly uncommitted super-delegates than there are uncommitted pledged delegates. Many of those super-delegates are Democratic officeholders—elected officials, many who themselves must run for reelection this cycle. To the best of my knowledge, there are no rules that prohibit the presidential campaigns from making campaign contributions to the super-delegates.

Yes, you are thinking correctly—in effect, presidential hopefuls can buy the votes of some super-delegates.

This is one of the things I hate most about the super-delegate system—in fact, I hate it far more than any general principle about how all convention delegates should be selected by popular vote (this being a rather thin argument given that every state allocates pledged delegates by slightly different—or sometimes very different—rules).

If Clinton’s campaign has no cash on hand, then it has no money to spread around to the SD camps. I will even go out on a limb and say that if HRC were to loan her campaign money only to have the campaign turn around and donate it to other campaigns, it might raise an FEC eyebrow or two (that is, if we actually had a sitting FEC). Loaning her own money to her campaign to buy delegates, to my mind, just ain’t going to happen.

Of course, by the time you read this, things may have changed. MSNBC is reporting that Clinton has cancelled all appearances for Wednesday—or at least all electronic media appearances. The Times article says that HRC has scheduled a rally in West Virginia for this afternoon.

I have also read that Hillary’s morning e-mail does not have a money ask included. That seems odd, but I can’t say how odd.

All this said, I, no fan of Clinton, would like to see her hold off quitting just yet. The rationale is best explained by Markos:

If Clinton were to drop out this week, we'd face an uncomfortable situation in West Virginia, with Clinton likely crushing Obama. That would look terrible for the presumptive nominee.

Better than that would be to garner enough superdelegate commitments this week, so that Oregon can push Obama past 2,024. That way, it isn't the supers who clinch it for Obama, but actual voters.

Given my and the rank and file’s current misgivings about super-delegates, I like this scenario/idea. However, I’m not sure that Clinton has the stomach—or the cash—to see it through.

(cross-posted on guy2k and The Seminal)

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Clinton Ad Quotes “Top Economist”

Clinton was for economists before she was against them.

As I mentioned yesterday, in the course of pushing her gas-tax holiday, Yale and Wellesley educated anti-elitist Hillary Clinton dismissed economists’ critiques of her plan by saying, “I’m not going to put my lot in with economists.”

Except, of course, when she does. . . .

Take, for example, this February campaign ad touting the Clinton plan for universal health care:

In case you didn’t catch that, the voiceover said:

Now she’s the only candidate for president with a plan to provide health care for every American. A top economist calls Hillary’s plan the difference between achieving universal health coverage – and falling far short.

And the graphic on screen reads:

"…the difference between achieving universal health coverage…and falling far short." –Paul Krugman, The New York Times, 2/4/08

Now, the fact of the matter is that I think that Krugman—that’s economist Paul Krugman—was right to give higher marks to the Hillary Clinton (by way of John Edwards) health care plan. The thing is, I also think that Krugman is right to pan the Hillary Clinton (by way of John McCain) gas-tax gimmick.

How can these two facts exist in the same head? Quite easily, of course. It would also be OK if I agreed with Krugman on one point, and disagreed with him on another. . . just as it would be OK for Senator Clinton to say that she was happy that Krugman liked her health plan, but disagrees with his assessment of her gas-tax holiday.

Unfortunately, that is not what she did. In an effort to score a bigger political point, candidate Clinton went for the broad brush, condemning all economists and all of their advice! It was a move perhaps as stupid as the gas-tax gimmick, itself.

And it was a moment that bodes ill for a Clinton presidency. Hillary Clinton went for the easy “fix,” she opted for political expedience rather than seize the chance to use a crisis as a teaching opportunity, as a way of moving the country toward a better, long-term solution. Worse still, when her plan is met with criticism, she stiffens, calcifies, and attacks the critic rather than the idea.

Policy based on short-term political gain, stubbornness, uninterested in new ideas, deaf to criticism, ad hominem attacks—does this sound familiar?

Of course, HRC is not GWB—but it does her, her party, and her country no good for her to act in such a Bush-like fashion.

And it does her campaign no good to be seen as so transparently ignorant of the facts, either.

Hannah McCrea (over at The Seminal) explained it all last week: the Clinton-McCain gas-tax holiday is an awful idea. Now, hundreds of those inconvenient economists have thrown their lot in with us elitist bloggers:

More than 230 economists -- Democrats, Republicans, advisers to past presidents and four Nobel laureates -- signed a letter today opposing proposals by Clinton and presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain to suspend the 18-cent federal gas tax for the summer driving season.

"First, research shows that waiving the gas tax would generate major profits for oil companies rather than significantly lowering prices for consumers," they wrote. "Second, it would encourage people to keep buying costly imported oil and do nothing to encourage conservation. Third, a tax holiday would provide very little relief to families feeling squeezed."

But those economists—including four Nobel laureates—are writing in May, so they don’t count. They really should have gotten out in front on this back in February. . . when it was still OK to tout expertise and experience.

John McCain, who was responsible for the latest rehabilitation of this stupid gimmick, has freely admitted that he doesn’t really know very much about economics. McCain’s response to his knowledge deficit was to read Alan Greenspan’s book. That’s not much—but at least he has one economist to lean on (however wrongheaded and elitist that economist might be).

Greenspan, however, is still an economist—he won’t do for the “people’s cherce” Hillary Clinton. So, what then?

Soon, summer will be here, and, more than likely, there will be no gas-tax rollback. The problem of higher gas prices, flat supply, and growing demand will still be with us, as will many other economic problems. When searching for solutions, with whom will Clinton cast her lot?

(cross-posted on The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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Monday, May 05, 2008

The Gas-Tax Holiday: A Gimmick Too Stupid to Die

You know it is truly the silliest of silly seasons when journalists get audibly excited (as WNYC’s Brian Lehrer did last week) because they get to take a break from covering Rev. Jeremiah Wright in order to cover what is being called an “actual issue.” I say the silliest of silly because that “issue” is the John McCain/Hillary Clinton proposal for a summertime federal gas-tax “holiday.”

In case you’ve been under a rock (or just too busy watching and re-watching youtubes of Rev. Wright), presumptive Republican presidential nominee John W. McCain proposed suspending the federal tax on a gallon of gasoline (roughly 18 cents) for the summer driving season. Democratic contender Hillary Rodham Clinton quickly added, “me, too!”

The tax “plan” purports to be a response to the financial pain felt by consumers as a result of skyrocketing gasoline prices (up over 50 cents this year alone): the theory being that by cutting 18 cents from the price of a gallon of gas, you save drivers something like $20 or $30 a month. . . and that will—I actually don’t know what it is supposed to do beyond that.

Oh, yeah, buy votes—but more on that in a moment.

It should probably be enough to say of any economic proposal that it was proposed by John McCain, and, therefore, must be ridiculous. But because the Clinton campaign seized on the gimmick as a way of differentiating their candidate from Barack Obama (who has rejected the tax holiday), the point bears reinforcing: A gas-tax holiday is one heck of a bad idea.

This is not a conclusion borne only of this campaign season. Two years ago (to the day, as a matter of fact), Congressional Republicans—then in the majority—were forced to abandon a package of proposals that had in its evolution included the exact same gas-tax holiday (or, in another incarnation, a $100 tax rebate check) because it was so universally discredited.

“That’s a stupid idea,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). “It is short term; it’s not a fix.”

The 2006 Republican plans were an attempt to co-opt a pair of Democratic proposals. One was a similar gas-tax suspension offered by New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez; the other a $500 rebate plan offered by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). Senator Menendez, a 2008 Clinton backer, came out last week in favor of her current gas-tax proposal.

The problem is, the plan for a tax holiday isn’t a good idea no matter which party proposes it, and it is no better or more serious a plan in 2008 than it was in 2006. There are lots of reasons why; Paul Krugman explained the economic one last week on his blog:

Why doesn’t cutting the gas tax this summer make sense? It’s Econ 101 tax incidence theory: if the supply of a good is more or less unresponsive to the price, the price to consumers will always rise until the quantity demanded falls to match the quantity supplied. Cut taxes, and all that happens is that the pretax price rises by the same amount. The McCain gas tax plan is a giveaway to oil companies, disguised as a gift to consumers.

Is the supply of gasoline really fixed? For this coming summer, it is. Refineries normally run flat out in the summer, the season of peak driving. Any elasticity in the supply comes earlier in the year, when refiners decide how much to put in inventories. The McCain/Clinton gas tax proposal comes too late for that. So it’s Econ 101: the tax cut really goes to the oil companies.

But Paul Krugman is an economist, one of many who have labeled the tax holiday a bad idea, and economists are not to be trusted with their evaluations of matters economic. . . or so says Senator Clinton. I’ll let, um, economist Robert Reich pick up the story:

When asked this morning by ABC News' George Stephanopoulos if she could name a single economist who backs her call for a gas tax holiday this summer, HRC said "I'm not going to put my lot in with economists.”

I know several of the economists who have been advising Senator Clinton, so I phoned them right after I heard this. I reached two of them. One hadn’t heard her remark and said he couldn’t believe she’d say it. The other had heard it and shrugged it off as “politics as usual.”

That’s the problem: Politics as usual.

The gas tax holiday is small potatoes relative to everything else. But it’s so economically stupid (it would increase demand for gas and cause prices to rise, eliminating any benefit to consumers while costing the Treasury more than $9 billion, and generate more pollution) and silly (even if she won, HRC won’t be president this summer) as to be worrisome. That HRC now says she doesn’t care that what economists think is even more troubling.

I will add that it is also troubling that Clinton decided to ditto a bad plan from McCain (albeit with the twist of a windfall profits tax to pay for the holiday—a proposal that itself has problems)—again blurring the difference between her and Republicans in a year where Democrats should be doing anything but.

Let’s call that “bad politics as usual.”

Which leads us to the other politician still standing in this presidential race, Senator Barack Obama. Obama has wisely chosen not to jump on the tax holiday bandwagon, calling it what it is, a gimmick that will siphon money out of the fund that goes to repair roads and bridges while netting little influence on the price of gas. His campaign even started running ads this weekend in upcoming primary states saying (and I paraphrase), The Clinton plan isn’t designed to get you through the summer—it’s designed to get her through the election.

That is a point that is spot on—I can’t imagine Clinton or McCain would be trumpeting this idea scam if it didn’t poll well—but Obama’s ad doesn’t quite close the deal. I would say that it is not enough to warn about what Clinton will do to you, Obama must also add what he can do for you.

Mark Shields, doing his usual weekly segment opposite David Brooks on The NewsHour, put it this way:

What Obama ought to do is say: This is the worst of Washington politics. This is what it is. This is bait-and-switch. This is Washington politics at its cheapest. They really think you're dumb. They think you're so dumb that they can buy you off.

We're a country -- everybody who drives a car knows that the roads in this country are in disrepair, that the bridges are in disrepair. What we're going to do is take 300,000 jobs out for this little gimmick of people working because that's where the gas tax goes, to rebuild the highways of this country and to maintain the bridges of this country.

And he ought to do it just on the basis and tie it -- this is the same kind of politics that had a "Mission Accomplished" sign up five years ago, that said there were weapons of mass destruction. That's what's wrong.

And I'm telling you what you don't want to hear. You want someone that tells you what you want to hear? You've got McCain, and you've got Clinton.

And that's -- if he did it in those terms, then if he did lose, he still would have lost standing on a principle and being different.

I would like to hear even a little more—maybe not in a 30-second ad, but on the stump or in television appearances—I would like Obama to communicate that rather than look for ways to afford just as much gas as always, or drive just as much as always, we should be looking for ways to maintain our standard of living while using less gasoline or just driving much less.

But first things first, I suppose, and first we all need to pitch in to help kill this latest sham issue. If this gas-tax holiday can be exposed once-and-for-all as bad economics, as a pander-fest, as nothing but an election year gimmick, then maybe, just maybe, we can get back to issues that really affect the personal economics of working Americans—issues like affordable healthcare, the Iraq war, tax inequity, and George W. Bush’s recession.

Then again, if history is to be our guide, the gas-tax holiday will never be dismissed once-and-for-all. To quote the now ex-Senator from Montana Conrad Burns (R) from the 2006 gas-plan discussion: “If you believe in reincarnation, you want to come back as a bad idea because it never dies.”

(Thanks to LGS for forwarding the 2006 NYT article my way.)

(cross-posted on The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

An update to yesterday’s post about the words of Rev. Wright

(I wanted to make a point of updating yesterday’s post about the words of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and, because I think it is important not to leave any misconceptions or mistakes on my part simply hanging out there, contributing to all the noise on this subject, I wanted to do it in a separate post, instead of a simple update, so that more people might see it. I thank you for your indulgence. –guy2k)

I may have misunderstood Rev. Wright’s sodomy reference Friday night on Moyers. A reader sent me a link to a post that includes this passage from David Mendell:

Wright remains a maverick among Chicago's vast assortment of black preachers. He will question Scripture when he feels it forsakes common sense; he is an ardent foe of mandatory school prayer; and he is a staunch advocate for homosexual rights, which is almost unheard-of among African-American ministers. Gay and lesbian couples, with hands clasped, can be spotted in Trinity's pews each Sunday.

If this is the case, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, what to make of this Wright quote from Friday?

That the perception of God who allows slavery, who allows rape, who allows misogyny, who allows sodomy, who allows murder of a people, lynching, that's not the God of the people being lynched and sodomized and raped, and carried away into a foreign country. Same thing you find in Psalm 137. That those people who are carried away into slavery have a very different concept of what it means to be the people of God than the ones who carried them away.

A search of other posts around the ‘sphere indicates that many believe that when Rev. Wright included Sodomy in this litany, he was making a reference to Abner Louima, the Haitian émigré who was beaten and sodomized with a plunger handle by New York City police officers (who allegedly told Louima it was “Giuliani time”) in 1997.

Given both the broader context of Wright’s words, recently and in the past, this seems like a valid interpretation, or at least a strong possibility. I fear, however, that if the subtlety was lost on me, it was lost on many whom would not take the time nor show the desire to understand it further. I’m not sure that Wright cares about that; I do think that Moyers might.

A discussion of hermeneutics—which is what Wright and Moyers are engaged in here—is not really the stock and trade of the establishment media. They of the black-and-white print and the color TV are not so much into explaining shades of gray. Whatever would they make of Wright’s reference to Psalm 137?

Psalm 137 is the one that recounts the yearnings for Jerusalem by enslaved Jews. It begins with “By the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept,” and then tells of how the slaves cannot comply with their captors’ request for a song of joy: “How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?” It ends with the enslaved dreaming of avenging the sacking of their city by seizing Babylonian children and dashing their heads against rocks.

A difficult passage? Certainly. An angry passage? It seems so. A vengeful, dangerous—radical, even—tract from a man named Jeremiah? Why, as a matter of fact, yes—the prophet Jeremiah. . . from the Bible.

(You know, maybe it’s for the best that the establishment media is too busy/lazy for this part of discussion after all. . . .)

I now return you to your regularly scheduled war/recession/discussion of flag pins.

(cross-posted on The Seminal)

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