Friday, November 16, 2007


So I watched the Democratic Debate last night and all I kept thinking was......

Is Wolf Blitzer really that fucking stupid?

.... Seriously.


Don't Be Afraid of that feeling in your back, Harry. Well Played Sir.

BREAKING: Reid shut downs Bush recess appointments during Thanksgiving
by John Aravosis (DC) · 11/16/2007 11:50:00 AM

Now who's relevant? A statement from Senator Harry Reid:
The Senate will be coming in for pro-forma sessions during the Thanksgiving holiday to prevent recess appointments.

My hope is that this will prompt the President to see that it is our mutual interests for the nominations process to get back on track.

While an election year looms, significant progress can still be made on nominations.

I am committed to making that progress if the President will meet me half way.

But that progress can’t be made if the President seeks controversial recess appointments and fails to make Democratic appointments to important commissions.

As Democratic leader, I recommend nominees to the President for many important commissions like the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

These independent agencies are required by law to have Democratic representation.

As a result, the President has a statutory obligation to honor my recommendations and move on them in good faith.

And, up until recently, the President has generally discharged that obligation.

In the last several months, however, the administration has been stalling progress on Democratic appointments.

This problem existed before the August break.

In an effort to solve it, I worked hard to confirm over 40 administration nominees in exchange for a commitment by the President to make progress on a number of important commissions.

When we reconvened after August break, I also worked to quickly move on the President’s new Attorney General.

I did this despite my own opposition to that nominee.

Even with all this hard work on our side, the commitments the administration made to me before August break were not met.

In the almost three months since that break, we have received no Democratic nominees to full-time commission positions.

For some, in fact, absolutely no discernable progress has been made.

With Thanksgiving break looming, the administration informed me that they would make several recess appointments.

I indicated I would be willing to confirm various appointments if the administration would agree to move on Democratic appointments.

They would not make that commitment.

As a result, I am keeping the Senate in pro-forma to prevent recess appointments until we get this process back on track.


Religious scholars mull Flying Spaghetti Monster

(AP) -- When some of the world's leading religious scholars gather in San Diego this weekend, pasta will be on the intellectual menu. They'll be talking about a satirical pseudo-deity called the Flying Spaghetti Monster, whose growing pop culture fame gets laughs but also raises serious questions about the essence of religion.

The appearance of the Flying Spaghetti Monster on the agenda of the American Academy of Religion's annual meeting gives a kind of scholarly imprimatur to a phenomenon that first emerged in 2005, during the debate in Kansas over whether intelligent design should be taught in public school sciences classes.

Supporters of intelligent design hold that the order and complexity of the universe is so great that science alone cannot explain it. The concept's critics see it as faith masquerading as science.

An Oregon State physics graduate named Bobby Henderson stepped into the debate by sending a letter to the Kansas School Board. With tongue in cheek, he purported to speak for 10 million followers of a being called the Flying Spaghetti Monster -- and demanded equal time for their views.

"We have evidence that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe. None of us, of course, were around to see it, but we have written accounts of it," Henderson wrote. As for scientific evidence to the contrary, "what our scientist does not realize is that every time he makes a measurement, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there changing the results with His Noodly Appendage."

The letter made the rounds on the Internet, prompting laughter from some and vilification from others. But it struck a chord and stuck around. In the great tradition of satire, its humor was in fact a clever and effective argument.

Between the lines, the point of the letter was this: There's no more scientific basis for intelligent design than there is for the idea an omniscient creature made of pasta created the universe. If intelligent design supporters could demand equal time in a science class, why not anyone else? The only reasonable solution is to put nothing into sciences classes but the best available science.

"I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; one third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence," Henderson sarcastically concluded.

Kansas eventually repealed guidelines questioning the theory of evolution.

Meanwhile, Flying Spaghetti Monsterism (FSM-ism to its "adherents") has thrived -- particularly on college campuses and in Europe. Henderson's Web site has become a kind of cyber-watercooler for opponents of intelligent design.

Henderson did not respond to a request for comment. His Web site tracks meetings of FSM clubs (members dress up as pirates) and sells trinkets and bumper stickers. "Pastafarians" -- as followers call themselves -- can also download computer screen-savers and wallpaper (one says: "WWFSMD?") and can sample photographs that show "visions" of the divinity himself. In one, the image of the carbohydrate creator is seen in a gnarl of dug-up tree roots.

It was the emergence of this community that attracted the attention of three young scholars at the University of Florida who study religion in popular culture. They got to talking, and eventually managed to get a panel on FSM-ism on the agenda at one of the field's most prestigious gatherings.

The title: "Evolutionary Controversy and a Side of Pasta: The Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Subversive Function of Religious Parody."

"For a lot of people they're just sort of fun responses to religion, or fun responses to organized religion. But I think it raises real questions about how people approach religion in their lives," said Samuel Snyder, one of the three Florida graduate students who will give talks at the meeting next Monday along with Alyssa Beall of Syracuse University.

The presenters' titles seem almost a parody themselves of academic jargon. Snyder will speak about "Holy Pasta and Authentic Sauce: The Flying Spaghetti Monster's Messy Implications for Theorizing Religion," while Gavin Van Horn's presentation is titled "Noodling around with Religion: Carnival Play, Monstrous Humor, and the Noodly Master."

Using a framework developed by literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin, Van Horn promises in his abstract to explore how, "in a carnivalesque fashion, the Flying Spaghetti Monster elevates the low (the bodily, the material, the inorganic) to bring down the high (the sacred, the religiously dogmatic, the culturally authoritative)."

The authors recognize the topic is a little light by the standards of the American Academy of Religion.

"You have to keep a sense of humor when you're studying religion, especially in graduate school," Van Horn said in a recent telephone interview. "Otherwise you'll sink into depression pretty quickly."

But they also insist it's more than a joke.

Indeed, the tale of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and its followers cuts to the heart of the one of the thorniest questions in religious studies: What defines a religion? Does it require a genuine theological belief? Or simply a set of rituals and a community joining together as a way of signaling their cultural alliances to others?

In short, is an anti-religion like Flying Spaghetti Monsterism actually a religion?

Joining them on the panel will be David Chidester, a prominent and controversial academic at the University of Cape Town in South Africa who is interested in precisely such questions. He has urged scholars looking for insights into the place of religion in culture and psychology to explore a wider range of human activities. Examples include cheering for sports teams, joining Tupperware groups and the growing phenomenon of Internet-based religions. His 2005 book "Authentic Fakes: Religion and American Popular Culture," prompted wide debate about how far into popular culture religious studies scholars should venture.

Lucas Johnston, the third Florida student, argues the Flying Spaghetti Monsterism exhibits at least some of the traits of a traditional religion -- including, perhaps, that deep human need to feel like there's something bigger than oneself out there.

He recognized the point when his neighbor, a militant atheist who sports a pro-Darwin bumper sticker on her car, tried recently to start her car on a dying battery.

As she turned the key, she murmured under her breath: "Come on Spaghetti Monster!"


Self-satire scales new heights

It's genuinely hard to believe that the writers of George Bush's speech last night to the Federalist Society weren't knowingly satirizing him. They actually had him say this:

When the Founders drafted the Constitution, they had a clear understanding of tyranny. They also had a clear idea about how to prevent it from ever taking root in America. Their solution was to separate the government's powers into three co-equal branches: the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. Each of these branches plays a vital role in our free society. Each serves as a check on the others. And to preserve our liberty, each must meet its responsibilities -- and resist the temptation to encroach on the powers the Constitution accords to others.
Then they went even further and this came out:
The President's oath of office commits him to do his best to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." I take these words seriously. I believe these words mean what they say.
To top it all off -- by which point they must have been cackling uncontrollably -- they had him say this:
Others take a different view. . . . They forgot that our Constitution lives because we respect it enough to adhere to its words. (Applause.) Ours is the oldest written Constitution in the world. It is the foundation of America's experiment in self-government. And it will continue to live only so long as we continue to recognize its wisdom and division of authority.
Here is the still-valid and binding September 25, 2001 Memorandum, written by then-Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, concerning Bush's view of his own power:
In both the War Powers Resolution and the Joint Resolution, Congress has recognized the President's authority to use force in circumstances such as those created by the September 11 incidents. Neither statute, however, can place any limits on the President's determinations as to any terrorist threat, the amount of military force to be used in response, or the method, timing, and nature of the response. These decisions, under our Constitution, are for the President alone to make.
That Memorandum also "conclude[d] that the Constitution vests the President with the plenary authority, as Commander in Chief and the sole organ of the Nation in its foreign relations, to use military force abroad" and hailed "the President's inherent constitutional powers to use military force" free of Congressional interference. It declared "the centralization of authority in the President alone . . . in matters of national defense, war, and foreign policy." And while the powers of Congress are virtually non-existent, "congressional concurrence is welcome." Thus:
The President's broad constitutional power to use military force to defend the Nation. . . would allow the President to take whatever actions he deems appropriate to pre-empt or respond to terrorist threats from new quarters.
And when the Gonzales-led Justice Department issued a 42-page single-spaced Memorandum in 2006 justifying the President's decision to spy on Americans in violation of our "laws," it was explained to us that the President is the "sole organ for the Nation in foreign affairs"; that "the President has independent authority to repel aggressive acts by third parties even without specific congressional authorization, and courts may not review the level of force selected"; and that statutes restricting the President's actions relating to war "could probably be read as simply providing 'a recommendation' that the President could decline to follow at his discretion."

These are the still-valid premises that led the Constitution-revering George W. Bush to spend the last six years ignoring and violating statutes whenever he wanted to, keeping Congress completely in the dark about what he was doing, and issuing one signing statement after the next explaining why he has no obligation to comply with what Congress adorably calls their "laws."

Tonight the President will give a speech warning of the evils of torture. Tomorrow night he will speak out against the immorality of deficit spending. And on Sunday he will vigorously condemn those who preemptively attack other countries. Then, next week, Rudy Giuliani -- with his his ex-mistress (and now-third-wife) in the other room -- will explain how vital it is to protect the sanctity of marriage. Oh, wait -- that was last month.

UPDATE: I should really know better than to try to satirize the Bush administration. No matter how far you go, no matter how absurd of a caricature you depict, they always manage to surpass it. From earlier this week: "President Bush, delivering another budget veto to a Democratic-led Congress whose spending he calls out-of-control, accuses leaders of "acting like a teenager with a new credit card" (h/t Kitt).

From McClatchy last month:

George W. Bush, despite all his recent bravado about being an apostle of small government and budget-slashing, is the biggest spending president since Lyndon B. Johnson. In fact, he's arguably an even bigger spender than LBJ. . . .

Take almost any yardstick and Bush generally exceeds the spending of his predecessors. . . ."He has presided over massive increases in almost every category . . . . a dramatic change of pace from most previous presidents," said [Stephen] Slivinski, [the director of budget studies at Cato Institute].

The same hilarious speechwriters who wrote last night's Constitution-revering speech must have written the righteous line about Congress acting like a "teenager with a new credit card."

-- Glenn Greenwald


Pakistanis Growing Frustrated With U.S.

Envoy to Bring Tough Message For Musharraf

By Emily Wax and Imtiaz Ali
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, November 16, 2007; A24

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Nov. 15 -- Inside call centers and in high school social studies classes, at vegetable markets and in book bazaars, Pakistanis from different walks of life here say that ever since President Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency rule two weeks ago, he's been the most unpopular figure in the country. But running a close second, many say, is his ally: President Bush.

"We used to love America. Give me Tom Cruise and a vacation in Florida any day," said Parveen Aslam, 30, who like many Pakistanis has relatives in the United States. "But why isn't the U.S. standing up for Pakistan when we need it most? Is America even listening to us? We are calling them Busharraf now. They are the same man."

While many Pakistanis lament that the Bush administration is involved in their country's politics, they also see the United States as the only force strong enough to do what they say is necessary to temper the crisis: pressure the military-led government to restore the constitution, release thousands of political prisoners and lift restrictions on the news media.

The White House has taken note as Pakistanis' ire has risen. Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte is due in Islamabad on Friday, carrying what diplomats say will be a tough message for Musharraf, who has been a U.S. ally on counterterrorism. Negroponte is also expected to visit with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who was placed under house arrest in Lahore on Tuesday just hours before she was to lead a procession to Islamabad in protest of emergency rule. [The Pakistani government lifted the detention order early Friday.]

"Let's just say the visit is better late than never," Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani lieutenant general, said of Negroponte's trip. "The U.S. is saying what they should have said a long time ago."

Bhutto, in a telephone interview with foreign reporters Thursday, said she would press the Bush administration to facilitate an "exit strategy" for Musharraf. "I don't believe it's in the United States of America's interests to have Pakistan implode. I give my fair, honest advice that the longer that General Musharraf stays, the more dangerous Pakistan will grow."

Musharraf, meanwhile, went on Pakistani television Thursday night to defend emergency rule as the best way to battle terrorism.

"Things would be much worse in Pakistan if we didn't have emergency rule," he said. "I'm not a selfish or greedy man. I am doing this for Pakistan."

Musharraf's government announced that Mohammedmian Soomro, chairman of the upper house of Pakistan's parliament and a Musharraf loyalist, would be sworn in as the country's caretaker prime minister on Friday. Thursday would have marked the final day of the government's current term had the president not extended it by declaring emergency rule on Nov. 3.

The caretaker government will oversee parliamentary elections scheduled for early January. Opposition parties have said that those elections will be inherently unfair because their most prominent leaders are now under house arrest or in prison.

The detention of political opponents is among the many factors causing the Pakistani public to lose patience with Musharraf, whose approval ratings have dropped to dismal levels. But patience with Musharraf's U.S. backers is also wearing thin. Even before the latest crisis, Pakistanis were highly suspicious of U.S. intentions. A poll released in September by the Washington-based nonpartisan group Terror Free Tomorrow found that only 19 percent of Pakistanis had a favorable view of the United States.

Pakistanis' relationship with the United States is a complicated one. Many see Bush's "war on terrorism" as a war on Islam. At the same time, they view the United States as a source of prestige and prosperity. Pakistanis wealthy enough to afford a U.S. education for their children display bumper stickers from elite American universities in the back windows of their cars.

"But we've lost our faith in the U.S. now," said Aqdos Aftab, 15, who said her classes have been filled with discussions on why the United States is still backing Musharraf. "I thought America stood for human rights."

Pakistan receives much of its foreign aid from the United States -- more than $10 billion since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when Musharraf pledged to help the Bush administration in counterterrorism efforts. With that money has come leverage to influence Pakistani affairs.

"We are a banana republic, and nothing here happens without orders from the Americans," said Danish Yazdani, an artist who sends her children to the American School in Islamabad. "At the end of the day, we know the U.S. can make Musharraf change, not the people of Pakistan."

In testimony to Congress last week, Negroponte said Musharraf was an "indispensable" ally of the United States. Such remarks have led many Pakistanis critical of Musharraf to fear that Negroponte's visit will serve as little more than a photo opportunity.

"Frankly speaking, I'm not all that hopeful," said Omar R. Quraishi, op-ed editor of the News, an English-language paper in Pakistan. "I think the U.S. is not going to cut off aid anytime soon, although publicly it may make some noise."

In explaining the need for emergency measures, Musharraf has cited growing Islamic extremism, particularly in the North-West Frontier Province. In the province's Swat Valley, fighters loyal to a pro-Taliban cleric have taken control of several towns in recent weeks. They have also occupied some police stations and other government buildings in Swat's Shangla district, residents say.

On Thursday, the Pakistani military announced that its forces in northern Swat, backed by helicopter gunships, had killed at least 33 guerrillas, although residents described some of them as civilians.

Government critics, in a sign of their skepticism about Musharraf, said the timing of the operation was suspect.

"We don't know what the game is, but certainly it's no coincidence that each time a high-level U.S. official comes to Pakistan, there is a major military operation and claims of killing dozens of militants. And Pakistanis are raising eyebrows," said Fazal Rahim Marwat, who teaches at the University of Peshawar.

"Even a layman on the street says that the army is going to conduct operations in Swat because Negroponte is coming," he added. "The government just wants to show some kind of performance in the war on terror."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Bush and Reagan - Two sides of the same coin. Let's talk a walk down memory lane and remember Reagan's U.S. Secretary of the Interior: James G. Watt.

James Gaius Watt (born January 31, 1938 in Lusk, Wyoming) served as U.S. Secretary of the Interior under President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1983.

Watt's tenure as Secretary of the Interior was marked by controversy, stemming primarily from his alleged hostility to environmentalism and his support of the development and use of federal lands by foresting, ranching, and other commercial interests.

For over two decades, Watt held the record for protecting the fewest species under the Endangered Species Act in United States history. The record was broken by Dirk Kempthorne, a George W. Bush appointee who, as of August 27, 2007, had not listed a single species in the 15 months since his confirmation. [3]

Greg Wetstone, who was the chief environment council at the House Energy and Commerce Committee during the Reagan administration and later served as director of advocacy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said Watt was one of the two most "intensely controversial and blatantly anti-environmental political appointees" in American history.[4] According to the environmental groups, Watt decreased funding for environmental programs,[5] restructured the department to decrease federal regulatory power,[5] wished to eliminate the Land and Water Conservation Fund (which had been designed to increase the size of National Wildlife Refuges and other protected land),[5] eased regulations on oil[5] and mining[6][5] companies, and favored opening wilderness areas and shorelands for oil and gas leases.[5]

Watt resisted accepting donations of private land to be used for conservation purposes.[7] He suggested that all 80 million acres (320,000 km²) of undeveloped land in the United States be opened for drilling and mining in the year 2000.[7] The area leased to coal mining companies quintupled during his term as Secretary of the Interior.[7] Watt proudly boasted that he leased "a billion acres" (4 million km²) of U.S. coastal waters, even though only a small portion of that area would ever be drilled.[7] Watt once stated, "We will mine more, drill more, cut more timber."[8]

In 1983, Watt banned the Beach Boys from playing a Fourth of July concert on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., saying that rock concerts drew "an undesirable element" (the group had played the Mall each Fourth of July since 1980). This drew howls of outrage from the many of the Beach Boys' fans, who stated that the Beach Boys sound was a very desirable part of the American cultural fabric. First Lady Nancy Reagan later apologized, and in 1984 the group appeared on the Mall again.

Watt periodically mentioned his Christian faith when discussing his approach to environmental management. Speaking before Congress, he once said, "I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns, whatever it is we have to manage with a skill to leave the resources needed for future generations."[9] Controversy over his religious beliefs continued long after his years as secretary.

A public controversy erupted after a speech by Watt on September 21, 1983, when he said about his staff: "I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent."[14] Within weeks of making this statement, Watt submitted his resignation letter.[14][15]

In 1995, Watt was indicted on 25 counts of felony perjury and obstruction of justice by a federal grand jury.[16] The indictments were due to false statements made to a grand jury investigating influence peddling at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which he had lobbied in the mid to late 1980s. On January 2, 1996, as part of a plea bargain, Watt pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of withholding documents from a federal grand jury. On March 12, 1996 he was sentenced to 5 years probation and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and perform 500 hours of community service.[17]

During a March 1991 dinner event organized by the Green River Cattlemen's Association in Wyoming, Watt said, "If the troubles from environmentalists cannot be solved in the jury box or at the ballot box, perhaps the cartridge box should be used."[18][19]

In a 2001 interview, Watt applauded the Bush administration energy strategy and said their prioritization of production above conservation is just what he recommended in the early 1980s.[20] "Everything Cheney's saying, everything the president's saying - they're saying exactly what we were saying 20 years ago, precisely ... Twenty years later, it sounds like they've just dusted off the old work."[20] Environmental groups concur that Bush's policies are similar to Watt's.[21][20].

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George Bush and The "Big Government" Republicans are Spying on You. Anybody remember the 4th Amendment?

AT&T whistleblower: I was forced to connect 'big brother machine'
David Edwards and Jason Rhyne
Wednesday November 7, 2007

A former technician at AT&T, who alleges that the telecom forwards virtually all of its internet traffic into a "secret room" to facilitate government spying, says the whole operation reminds him of something out of Orwell's 1984.

Appearing on MSNBC's Countdown program, whistleblower Mark Klein told Keith Olbermann that a copy of all internet traffic passing over AT&T lines was copied into a locked room at the company's San Francisco office -- to which only employees with National Security Agency clearance had access -- via a cable splitting device.

"My job was to connect circuits into the splitter device which was hard-wired to the secret room," said Klein. "And effectively, the splitter copied the entire data stream of those internet cables into the secret room -- and we're talking about phone conversations, email web browsing, everything that goes across the internet."

Asked by Olbermann how he knew what was being sent along those particular lines, Klein said it was all part of his former job:

"As a technician, I had the engineering wiring documents, which told me how the splitter was wired to the secret room," Klein continued. "And so I know that whatever went across those cables was copied and the entire data stream was copied..."

According to Klein, that information included internet activity about Americans.

"We're talking about domestic traffic as well as international traffic," Klein said. " And that's what got me upset to begin with."

Previous Bush administration claims that only international communications were being intercepted aren't accurate, Klein says.

"I know the physical equipment, and I know that statement is not true," he added. "It involves millions of communications, a lot of it domestic communications that they're copying wholesale, sweeping up into that secret room."

When Olbermann asked Klein if being involved in the process reminded him of a scene in the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the former technician said he had another movie in mind.

"Actually, I'm a little older so my thought was George Orwell's 1984 and here I am forced to connect the big brother machine," he said. "And I felt I was in a funny position, but I needed my job, so I didn't want to make a fuss a the time. But after I retired, I thought about it some more." According to ABC News, Klein believes AT&T has similar operations in place in as many as 20 other sites.

He is in Washington to lobby Congress not to pass a proposed telecom immunity bill, which would provide legal immunity to companies who secretly participated in NSA warrantless eavesdropping programs. Some of the nation's largest telecommunications companies are currently facing an array of class-action lawsuits related to the matter.

The following video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast on November 7, 2007.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Impeach Bush and Cheney

Majority believe Bush has committeed impeachable offenses.

A new American Research Group poll finds that 55 percent of voters believe President Bush has “abused his powers” in a manner that rises “to the level of impeachable offenses under the Constitution,” yet just 34 percent believe he should actually be impeached. Fifty-two percent say that Vice President Cheney has similarly abused his powers, with 43 percent supporting impeachment.


Righting Reagan’s Wrongs?

Let’s set the record straight on Ronald Reagan’s campaign kickoff in 1980.

Early one morning in the late spring of 1964, Dr. Carolyn Goodman, her husband, Robert, and their 17-year-old son, David, said goodbye to David’s brother, Andrew, who was 20.

They hugged in the family’s apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and Andrew left. He was on his way to the racial hell of Mississippi to join in the effort to encourage local blacks to register and vote.

It was a dangerous mission, and Andrew’s parents were reluctant to let him go. But the family had always believed strongly in equal rights and the benefits of social activism. “I didn’t have the right,” Dr. Goodman would tell me many years later, “to tell him not to go.”

After a brief stopover in Ohio, Andrew traveled to the town of Philadelphia in Neshoba County, Mississippi, a vicious white-supremacist stronghold. Just days earlier, members of the Ku Klux Klan had firebombed a black church in the county and had beaten terrified worshipers.

Andrew would not survive very long. On June 21, one day after his arrival, he and fellow activists Michael Schwerner and James Chaney disappeared. Their bodies wouldn’t be found until August. All had been murdered, shot to death by whites enraged at the very idea of people trying to secure the rights of African-Americans.

The murders were among the most notorious in American history. They constituted Neshoba County’s primary claim to fame when Reagan won the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 1980. The case was still a festering sore at that time. Some of the conspirators were still being protected by the local community. And white supremacy was still the order of the day.

That was the atmosphere and that was the place that Reagan chose as the first stop in his general election campaign. The campaign debuted at the Neshoba County Fair in front of a white and, at times, raucous crowd of perhaps 10,000, chanting: “We want Reagan! We want Reagan!”

Reagan was the first presidential candidate ever to appear at the fair, and he knew exactly what he was doing when he told that crowd, “I believe in states’ rights.”

Reagan apologists have every right to be ashamed of that appearance by their hero, but they have no right to change the meaning of it, which was unmistakable. Commentators have been trying of late to put this appearance by Reagan into a racially benign context.

That won’t wash. Reagan may have been blessed with a Hollywood smile and an avuncular delivery, but he was elbow deep in the same old race-baiting Southern strategy of Goldwater and Nixon.

Everybody watching the 1980 campaign knew what Reagan was signaling at the fair. Whites and blacks, Democrats and Republicans — they all knew. The news media knew. The race haters and the people appalled by racial hatred knew. And Reagan knew.

He was tapping out the code. It was understood that when politicians started chirping about “states’ rights” to white people in places like Neshoba County they were saying that when it comes down to you and the blacks, we’re with you.

And Reagan meant it. He was opposed to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was the same year that Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney were slaughtered. As president, he actually tried to weaken the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He opposed a national holiday for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He tried to get rid of the federal ban on tax exemptions for private schools that practiced racial discrimination. And in 1988, he vetoed a bill to expand the reach of federal civil rights legislation.

Congress overrode the veto.

Reagan also vetoed the imposition of sanctions on the apartheid regime in South Africa. Congress overrode that veto, too.

Throughout his career, Reagan was wrong, insensitive and mean-spirited on civil rights and other issues important to black people. There is no way for the scribes of today to clean up that dismal record.

To see Reagan’s appearance at the Neshoba County Fair in its proper context, it has to be placed between the murders of the civil rights workers that preceded it and the acknowledgment by the Republican strategist Lee Atwater that the use of code words like “states’ rights” in place of blatantly bigoted rhetoric was crucial to the success of the G.O.P.’s Southern strategy. That acknowledgment came in the very first year of the Reagan presidency.

Ronald Reagan was an absolute master at the use of symbolism. It was one of the primary keys to his political success.

The suggestion that the Gipper didn’t know exactly what message he was telegraphing in Neshoba County in 1980 is woefully wrong-headed. Wishful thinking would be the kindest way to characterize it.


Happy Veterans Day! Support the Troops!

Monday, November 12, 2007


"Global Warming is a Hoax" Story makes it half way around the world before the Truth can get out of bed.

Last week the Journal of Geoclimatic Studies released a new report "pointing to ocean bacteria as the overwhelming cause of global warming," according to Reuters. Chaos ensued:

Skeptics jumped on the report. A British scientist e-mailed the report to 2,000 colleagues ... Another from the U.S. called it a "blockbuster." Blogger skeptic Neil Craig wrote: "This could not be more damaging to manmade global warming theory ... I somehow doubt if this is going to be on the BBC news."

Even Rush Limbaugh trumpeted the story on his radio show. But there was just one problem: the whole thing was a hoax. There is no "Journal of Geoclimatic Studies," and the authors of the study don't exist. The whole thing was a big trick to expose climate skeptics as the non-scientific propaganda-pushers they really are. In an interview, the apparent author of the spoof study wrote:

Its purpose was to expose the credulity and scientific illiteracy of many of the people who call themselves climate sceptics. While dismissive of the work of the great majority of climate scientists, they will believe almost anything if it lends support to their position.

Apparently so. Well done, sir.

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