As Luck Would Have It Opinionjournal's James Taranto wrote a blog today titled "Blaming Clinton--at last" in which he gleefully reports about Bush press secretary Ari Fleisher's decision to say the Clinton's administration's push for peace in the Middle East led to more violence in that area. Taranto wrote this right before Fleisher retracted his blame-America-first argument that took away responsibility from the fighting parties. Now if only Fleisher would apologize for the White House vandalism smear.
Is Sacramento Breeding Bolsheviks? I have to hand it to WorldNetDaily’s Joseph Farah. He outdoes himself with the loony ideas and smears he puts forth, such as his Scaife-funded activities trying to blame the Clintons for the death of Vince Foster. Today's column by Farah makes the following observation about the mild-mannered moderate Governor Gray Davis:
Though I no longer live in California, I did for more than two decades. Part of my reason for flight was the election of Gray Davis as governor and, thus, the complete transformation of the state's political apparatus into a vehicle for full-scale collectivism and top-down people control on a scale worthy of China or the old Soviet Union.
Farah's antidote to the communist Davis, a Nam vet, is Republican candidate William Simon. To Farah, former LA mayor, Richard Riordan is also a communist because, according to Farah's logic, "there's not a dime's worth of difference between Davis and Riordan."
David Brock's Redemption In case you missed Frank Rich’s New York Times Magazine article on disaffected cog in the right-wing smear machine David Brock, click here. Brock, whose forthcoming book, Blinded by the Right, an expose of the right’s smear tactics against former President Clinton and Anita Hill, is due out in March. Expect some bombshells to emerge from this book. One of the more amusing aspects of Rich’s article about a very sad topic (though less sad than attempts by the current right-wing smear machine to discredit Brock) is the utter pretentiousness of the American right. Brock wrote of his attempts ''to look like an old fogy in training, donning a bow tie and horn-rimmed glasses and, ludicrously, puffing on a pipe and occasionally even carrying a walking stick.'' Throughout the years, I have noticed the hilariously affected manner of much of the American right. Pundit Tucker Carlson, who is from San Diego, wears a bow tie. Nobody from San Diego wears a bow tie—especially someone under the age of fifty. I agree with Dress For Success author John Malloy that “the average person who wears a bow tie is distrusted by almost anyone.” Brock’s comments remind me of the observations of another disaffected member of the American right, Michael Lind, who in his book Up From Conservatism, noted the cult-like adoration of young members of the right for Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.
The Reagan Literary Legacy Brendan Nyhan of Spinsanity fame wrote a persuasive article for the American Prospect regarding how the Reagan legacy is being hijacked by Newsmax.com and his son Michael Reagan (for a companion article from ConWebWatch’s Terry Krepel, click here). Newsmax is a right-wing web site and magazine run by Chris Ruddy, a Scaife-funded former peddler of Vince Foster conspiracy theories (Ruddy challenged 60 Minutes to examine his Vince Foster theories; 60 Minutes took Ruddy up on the challenge and promptly tore Ruddy a new one). Nyhan’s article convincingly demonstrates that Newsmax epitomizes what historian Richard Hofstadter called the paranoid style. In addition to its jaundiced reporting, Newsmax is notorious for spreading a particularly nasty urban legend: Newsmax falsely claimed that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton snubbed the Gold Star Mothers, a group of mothers of combat soldiers killed in action, when they visited her office. The Gold Star Mothers were forced to put a disclaimer on their web site correcting Newsmax’s urban legend because their office was inundated with letters and emails.
The only thing I disagreed about Nyhan’s article was his statement that “… it's certainly questionable that [Reagan] would endorse Newsmax magazine as the key to his legacy.” Reagan’s political legacy (that embodied massive corruption, extremism, and arms sales to an “axis of evil” nation) includes a long history of fervent support for profoundly kooky publications. Reagan proudly declared that the Washington Times (the self-proclaimed “America’s Newspaper” owned by South Korean megalomaniac Sun Myung Moon) was the first newspaper he read each morning. Reagan also admitted to being a devoted reader of Human Events a far right Washington tabloid that recently had Ann Coulter on its staff. In fact, Newsmax is tame stuff compared to the reading material that Reagan perused on a regular basis.
Sean Hannity Drops the Ball With Pat Robertson Last month I was listening to Rush-clone Sean Hannity decrying the efforts by Democrats to take on the sectarian right (see my 2/12 blog for the reasons I use this term). Hannity’s pathetic apologia for the activities of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell (whom Hannity called “the real deal”) really stuck in my craw. So I called Hannity’s show, got past the screener, and confronted Hannity about Falwell’s fraudulent infomercial and libelous video. Also, while I applauded George W. Bush’s criticism of the Taliban’s anti-Hindu bigotry, I pointed out that Robertson, a major Bush ally, had called Hinduism “demonic” and suggested that Hindus not be allowed into the United States (click here for the full story). My reward for, at long last, informing talk radio listeners about the sectarian right's hate and bigotry was for Hannity to accuse me of “[making] up phony lies about [Falwell and Robertson]". Nevertheless, I consider my call a success not only because I was right but also because I was able to relay some information to talk radio listeners--information they certainly would not receive if talk radio jocks had their way.
Today, Hannity had Robertson on his show to discuss his recent comments about Islam that many view as one-sided and bigoted. I held out the dim hope that Hannity would have done some follow-up on the charges I brought up about Robertson's bigotry against Hindus (a simple keyword search would lead to many reputable sites documenting my charges as well as many other instances of Robertson’s religious bigotry). To take Robertson to task on these matters would not only make for great radio but it would also be newsworthy. To no surprise, Hannity dropped the ball: Robertson prattled on about how his anti-Islamic statements were unfairly maligned as bigoted. Because Hannity wasn’t doing his job, I called the show to confront Robertson about his statements. The screener said that Hannity wasn’t taking any calls during the Robertson segment. Once again, undiluted propaganda was being broadcast to the people without a chance for an informed rebuttal.
We Distort, You Abide Joe Conason has a good column on the Ken-Lay-Slept-In-The-Lincoln-Bedroom-During-The-Clinton-Administration smear. What I found particularly revealing is that Conason reports that right-wing conspiracy theorist David Bossie appeared on Greta Van Susteren’s Fox News program to spread the falsehood. For those of you not familiar with Bossie, in 1992, Bossie and his colleague Floyd Brown attempted to manufacture a rumor that Bill Clinton had impregnated a law student who later committed suicide. Brown and Bossie mercilessly hounded the family of the deceased woman; Bossie was so obsessed that he barged into a hospital room where the deceased woman's mother was visiting her sick husband. CBS’s Eric Engberg did a report on this noxious episode; this caused Brown and Bossie to be such a liability to the Bush campaign that it finally repudiated the duo—calling them “the lowest forms of life.” After Clinton became president, Bossie jumped aboard the Vince-Foster-was-murdered conspiracy train. Bossie was hired by Representative Dan Burton; on the government payroll, Bossie doctored Web Hubbell’s prison phone tapes to make exculpatory statements sound as if Hubbell implicated Hillary Clinton in wrongdoing. Ms. Van Susteren and Fox News have every right to have whomever they want on their programs. But it speaks volumes about Fox News's right-wing bias that they would have as a commentator a man who has a history of doctoring tapes, character assassination, and outright dishonesty.
Big If George W. Bush enjoys high approval ratings (though lower than they had once been). This is largely a function of the American people's need to believe that they have a president who is capable, accomplished, and legitimate (qualities that George W. Bush does not possess). Before September 11, Bush had anemic approval ratings (with good reason) of barely fifty percent. Had 9/11 not occurred, the Enron scandal would have hit Bush much harder than it did. In addition, had there been no 9/11, the news media (that Bush bemoans as biased) wouldn't have buried the fact that Bush's people stole the election (there is a new analysis on this; click here). It's no big surprise: Bush's life story (no, not the phony campaign bio book A Charge To Keep) consists entirely of catching breaks from others (usually Daddykins's rich friends). It's time to change that.
Web Site Of The Day ConWebWatch is not well-known yet but it has some compelling information about right-wing internet sites that one cannot find elsewhere. Recently, ConWebWatch posted a hilarious article in which they take on Joseph Farah of WorldNetDaily about the ownership of the site (Farah has a history of running front organizations for Richard Mellon-Scaife). Check it out.
Moon's Power Is At Its Height Since the decline of the American Unification Church (despite a growth spurt in the 1970's), the Moonies and their founder, Sun Myung Moon have not gotten a lot of attention (except when Moon was thrown in the slammer for tax evasion in the 1980's). Moon's media empire--subsidized to the tune of over 100 million dollars a year--has tremendous influence. Even though few people read Moon's "newspaper" The Washington Times, stories from the Times are cited on talk radio, misinforming millions. During Iran-Contra, the Times was a de facto part of the cover-up. Now, with Enron, the Times--to no surprise--has been part of the Bush diffusion strategy. For instance, the Times repeated the falsehood that Ken Lay slept in the Lincoln Bedroom during the Clinton presidency. Today's Times has a story attempting to further link the Clinton administration to Enron (click here)
Another Getting Lay'd in the Lincoln Bedroom Update Not to be outdone by Spinsanity, today's Daily Howler does another analysis of the Ken-Lay-Slept-In-The-Lincoln-Bedroom-During-The-Clinton-Administration falsehood.
Getting Lay'd in the Lincoln Bedroom Update One of the people who repeated the false claim that Ken Lay stayed in the Lincoln Bedroom during the Clinton administration was talk radio's Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh claimed that Lay stayed in the Lincoln Bedroom during Clinton's presidency but not under the current administration because under the current administration, the Lincoln Bedroom is not for sale. Now that it turns out that Lay stayed in the Lincoln Bedroom during George H. W. Bush's administration, will Limbaugh retract his criticism of Clinton and accuse George H. W. Bush's administration of venality? I'm not holding my breath.
Getting Lay'd in the Lincoln Bedroom For the past few days, I have been criticizing the right for trying to diffuse the political blame for the Enron collapse. I mentioned that Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard made the erroneous claim that Enron's then-CEO Ken Lay spent the night in the Lincoln Bedroom during the Clinton administration (it was actually George H. W. Bush's administration). Spinsanity has an article on the genesis and perpetuation of this myth. Click here.
Talk Radio Update The latest hot item of discussion on talk radio is the decision by some UCLA students and faculty to question the university’s choice of Laura Bush for commencement speaker. This caused talk radio jocks to get their panties in a bunch. Yo, dudes, when people on the left start to accuse Mrs. Bush of murdering people who actually committed suicide (as talk radio jocks had done with Hillary Clinton), then give me a call.
The Talk Radio Medicine Show The makers of Body Solutions, a diet product heavily advertised on talk radio, is facing a class action lawsuit from disgruntled customers who were taken in by the product ads that claimed that one will lose weight just by taking the product (sold at a high mark-up) and not eating for three hours before bedtime.
That shady operators take in talk radio listeners is no big surprise with anyone familiar with the medium. Marketers of questionable goods and services purposefully aim their advertisements at people who will fall hook, line, and sinker for their claims. Thus, it makes sense that astrologer Miss Cleo advertises on The Jerry Springer Show and not on Meet The Press. Likewise, talk radio makes for easy pickings for mountebanks looking for people unconcerned with logic and common sense. People swayed by the uninformed demagogues of talk radio are a goldmine for those selling medical and financial nostrums at a high mark-up; it’s as easy as clubbing a baby seal. Remember the ads that proliferated on talk radio in 1993 exhorting listeners to invest in gold because, under the Clinton administration, the stock market would plummet? These are the same type of people the Body Solutions company is targeting.
Bush's Nevada Lies Must-Read Article On Monday, I noted how the Bush-Cheney ticket lied through their teeth when they campaigned in Nevada regarding the waste site at Yucca Mountain. Today, Joe Conason has a detailed article on the matter that shows that Bush and Cheney had known long before they made their false promise to the Nevadans that they would use Yucca Mountain for nuclear waste dumping. Click here.
The Enron Collapse: A Gay Plot? For the past few weeks, the American right has tried to deflect blame from George W. Bush for the Enron collapse. The most popular tactic is to diffuse blame to the Democrats in order to portray it as a bipartisan scandal. The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes has spun the scandal this way to the point of listing canards, such as the one that Ken Lay spent the night at the Lincoln Bedroom during the Clinton administration. If one depended on getting one's information about Enron from the Rush Limbaugh show, one would be led to believe that Enron is a Clinton administration scandal.
The latest diffusion-method is to blame gays. I'm not making this up. It's bad enough that Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson said homosexuals were partly responsible for the September 11 attacks, now Warren Smith, editor of a chain of Christian newspapers in the American South, points the finger of blame for the Enron meltdown at gays. Read about it here.
Dr. Laura is—ugh—Right Yesterday, Dr. Laura devoted the first half hour of her show to denouncing the Ramada Hotel Corporation for the decision by the Chicago O’Hare franchisee to host a sadomasochism group for their annual seminar. I was skeptical about the accusation. Dr. Laura has a reputation for shooting first and checking the facts later (such as the hilarious debacle in which Dr. Laura falsely accused a surf shop of selling pornography—which led to her paying an undisclosed settlement to the shop). There are no buckles on my shoes but I share with Schlesinger some misgivings about the hotel's decision to host the conference; moral and aesthetic issues aside, the S & M group planned to have live demonstrations that include bloodletting—something that would be a violation of Illinois law.
Hard Times For British Pundit Who Caters To The Hard Right Andrew Sullivan has been getting beaten up recently; however, the pummeling couldn't have happened to a nicer guy: Sullivan’s recent work has proven that he is a hack—not to the point of being a Fred-Barnes-reading-off-the-GOP-talking-points hack--but he is very close. For instance, Sullivan, joining the right’s chorus that heaped the blame for September 11 on the Clinton administration, wrote a reckless and slipshod article on the matter for Salon. Joe Conason refuted Sullivan’s article, showing the multiple errors, omissions, and half-truths in Sullivan’s egregious diatribe. Among other things, Conason debunked Sullivan’s false charge that the Sudanese government offered bin Laden to Clinton; Conason showed how Sullivan ignored Clinton’s repeated efforts to fight terrorism—many of them opposed by Republicans in Congress. In sum, Conason handed Sullivan his head. (This didn’t, however, prevent Sullivan from posting his error-laden smear-piece on his web site sans the Conason rejoinder.)
Sullivan criticized what he thought was a news story as having a liberal bias it referred to an obscure clergyman, the Reverend Peterson, as “conservative” but didn't refer to Jesse Jackson as "liberal." The media watchdog the Daily Howler exposed the sophistry of Sullivan's argument by pointing out that most Americans are familiar with Jesse Jackson and his politics, while most are not familiar with the Reverend Peterson, so it was necessary to indicate that he is a conservative. The Daily Howler further pointed out the absurdity of Sullivan's complaint: The "news story" that Sullivan cites as having a liberal bias was not a news story, but a press release put out by conservative activist Larry Klayman of Judicial Watch. Duh!
The latest Howler has some new funny observations about Sullivan’s “journalism.” Click here.
Well, He Was, Uh, Not Technically Lying During Campaign 2000, the Bush campaign had Dick Cheney go to Nevada and tell voters that under a Bush administration, there would not be an interim nuclear waste site at Yucca Mountain. The Bush campaign even had an ad saying the same thing. They were sort of correct: the nuclear waste site the Bush administration decided to put there is permanent, not interim.
Glass Houses During the Clinton administration, one of the people who had a morbid interest in Bill Clinton's sex life was Wall Street Journal editorialist John Fund, an unofficial liaison to the sectarian right. In the early days of the administration, Fund was part of the team whose goal was to dig up dirt in Bill Clinton’s personal life (see The Hunting of the President by Joe Conason & Gene Lyons). During the Lewinsky scandal, he was an omnipresent fixture on political talk shows where would he piously and unctuously denounce Clinton for his sexual activity. As a member of the Wall Street Journal editorial staff, Fund was one of the main voices in a particularly noxious editorial titled, “Smashmouth Politics” that accused the Clinton administration of employing a secret apparatus to silence its critics (it included the discredited story of the “jogger” who intimidated Kathleen Wiley; no subsequent apologies or retractions were issued from the Journal). More recently, Fund excoriated Congressman Gary Condit when it came to light that he had sex with missing intern Chandra Levy.
As luck would have it, soon after Fund’s Condit column was published, investigative journalist John Connolly broke the story that Fund had sexual relations with the daughter of a former girlfriend. According to the former girlfriend, "Six or seven years ago, John called and during the conversation he told me, ‘Melinda, if any of your children come east, have them look me up.’ I didn't realize that he was using me as a dating service!" The twenty-seven year old daughter of Fund’s former girlfriend became pregnant and had an abortion with Fund’s knowledge. Explaining why not attempting to dissuade her from the decision doesn’t contradict his publicly stated anti-abortion views, Fund said, “I never told you I was a strict right-to-lifer. I have respect for life and I also make judgment calls and I also have variations on that theme.” As the Church Lady might say, “How convenient!”
The latest development in this Jerry-Springeresque saga is a story by The American Politics Journal that Fund allegedly has hired a conservative webmaster to create a web page to besmirch the reputations of both the mother and the daughter. If this is true, let’s recapitulate Fund’s actions: he used his trust with a former girlfriend to have sex with her daughter. The daughter becomes pregnant and the self-proclaimed pro-lifer stands by while she has an abortion. Now, he wants to cover his tracks and discredit his accusers. It seems that being a family-values conservative means having sex with two branches of the same family tree and then using the same kind of hardball tactics one falsely accused the Clinton administration of using.
Fulsome Praise Update I read Peggy Noonan's cloying praise for Ronald Reagan (and now George W. Bush) for the same reason others slow down to look at car accidents. My favorite unintentionally funny lines by Noonan were from her Wall Street Journal column denouncing the Clinton administration's raid to recover Elian Gonzalez: "And the last one in the house to hold [Elian], trying desperately to protect him, was the fisherman who'd saved him from the sea -- which seemed fitting as it was Eastertide, the time that marks the sacrifice and resurrection of the Big Fisherman." Also, this gem: "Mr. Reagan would not have dismissed the story of the dolphins as Christian kitsch, but seen it as possible evidence of the reasonable assumption that God's creatures had been commanded to protect one of God's children."
Norman Solomon's Media Beat column provides a good parody of Noonan's effusive rhetorical style: "Are we to become a land of mediocrity or meritocracy? I see a shining city on a hill. May the spirit of America, with its free enterprise and hard-working God-fearing citizens, lift our hearts to rejoice in our nation's triumph over the slow suffocation of envying freedom's apostles. Yet some wish to tarnish the legacy of saintly Ronald Reagan, while disparaging me in the process. Forever is the memory of one spring morning when I met with President Reagan in the Oval Office, and I gazed into his eyes, crystalline windows of his spiritual magnificence..."
Bush/Enron Dissemblethon Update Yesterday, I mentioned George W. Bush's blatantly misleading attempts to distance himself from Enron's radioactive former CEO Ken Lay. The inimitable web site the smoking gun obtained some personal correspondence between Bush and Lay. Check it out here.
Good Article on the Continuing Attack on Daschle On Tuesday and Wednesday, I wrote about the latest manifestation of the coordinated smear campaign against Tom Daschle. In the aftermath of some mild criticism by the Senate Majority Leader of George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” rhetoric, Rush and his clone Sean Hannity distorted Daschle’s criticism to accuse Daschle of aligning himself with the “axis of evil” regimes. Today Brendan Nyhan of Spinsanity wrote an analysis of this attack on Daschle.
New York Times Whitewash?
Democrats.com, admittedly a partisan web site, published an exclusive report on a decision by the New York Times to scrub from its web site a story on Osama bin Laden originally published on September 9; Democrats.com "unscrubbed" the story that makes the Bush White House look bad in light of the 9/11 tragedy. I found the story through Buzzflash.
Must Reading Gene Lyon's latest column points out the contrast in the Washington Post's recent rejection of a call for an independent counsel to examine the Enron fiasco with its 1994 endorsement of an independent counsel to look into Whitewater. Lyons also refutes a false charge made by Bush White House suck-up Fred Barnes that Ken Lay stayed in the Lincoln Bedroom during the Clinton Administration. It is important to note that the column by Barnes containing the false allegation is subtitled "After a few days of media hyperventilating, the first round of the Enron scandal is over--and George W. Bush looks good". Mind you, Barnes wrote this immediately after Bush dissembled badly, calling Lay a supporter of his 1994 gubernatorial opponent Ann Richards and suggested--against all evidence--that he first got to know Lay only after he became governor of Texas.
Good Chastity Versus Bad Chastity The other night on Politically Incorrect, 27-year-old babelicious virgin Mary-Louise Kurey debated the inventor of the birth control pill on sex. It was quite an event. Although I think Ms. Kurey's no-sex-before-marriage approach is impractical for most people, I was impressed that she was well-spoken and expressed respect for those who disagreed with her.
This is in contrast with born-again chastity advocate Dr. Laura Schlesinger. Schlesinger's view of the matter is as follows: 1) People should wait for marriage to have intercourse; 2) People should wait until they are in their late twenties to marry. These premises form a syllogism, the conclusion of which is that people should wait until they are in their late twenties to have intercourse. Unlike Ms. Kurey, Dr. Schlesinger doesn't have any patience for those who disagree with her impractical advice (advice that she never bothered to follow herself); whenever a masochistic female caller to Dr. Laura's radio show says that she is intimate with her boyfriend, the compassionate Dr. Laura gives a constructive retort like, "Oh, so you're spreading your legs for this guy. Why don't you become a call girl--at least you could make a living from it." Yuck!
Attack On Daschle Update Yesterday, I wrote about Rush Limbaugh's grievously unfair attack on Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle for his measured criticism of George W. Bush's use of the term "axis of evil" to describe Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. Limbaugh had responded to Daschle's criticism with the McCarthyite accusation that Daschle was "aligning himself" with these three regimes. This is just the latest in a string of coordinated attacks by the right against Daschle. Limbaugh-clone Sean Hannity has echoed the charges made by Limbaugh against Daschle; Today, the media watchdog, the Daily Howler analyzed in detail the way in which Hannity distorted Daschle's statements and motives.
The American Right's Love Affair with Urban Legends In the urban legends web site, Snopes, there is an update over the flap on supposed liberal over-permissiveness and John Walker Lindh. The upshot is that the American right has seized upon the fact that Lindh is from largely liberal Marin County, California; this has been used by right-wing pundits that liberalism leads to extreme sectarianism. National Review's Rich Lowry tried this ploy on the McLaughlin Group recently but was shot down by Eleanor Clift. The left needs to fight back again this type of smear. Whenever right commentators try to attribute Lindh's descent into nihilistic fanaticism to a liberal upbringing, pundits on the left should point out that the Tampa suicide pilot, Charles Bishop, was a member of the Young Republicans. Buzzflash did this, but few others on the left have used this counterpoint.
The right seems in love with urban legends--to the point of spreading these misrepresentations to millions--often intentionally. A case in point was the false rumor spread by the right-wing web site Newsmax (run by Christopher Ruddy, a Vince Foster conspiracy theorist) that Senator Hillary refused to meet with a group of mothers whose sons were killed in combat. Also, in my review of the late Barbara Olson's cut-and-paste hatchet job on the Clintons, The Final Days, I was the first to expose Olson's inclusion of a widely discredited urban legend:
Olson was intent on portraying every accusation against the
Clintons as established fact, even to the point of repeating urban legends.
Olson wrote: "Some even noticed that when Clinton was President,
Marine guards failed to execute a right face to stand facing his back as he
walked away. The Marines somehow relearned this maneuver on January
20, 2001, when the new Commander-in-Chief, President George W.
Bush, took office." This petty smear of President Clinton, debunked by
several urban legends web sites, is especially pernicious because it
besmirched the reputation of the guards, who have no dog in the fight.
Some people took issue with my taking on someone who can't defend herself. My defense of this criticism follows this logic: 1) What Olson wrote could not be defended by anyone, dead or alive; 2) It was not a personal attack but an attempt to correct misinformation that smeared both former President Clinton and the Marine guards; 3) Olson had no compunction against speaking ill of the dead: she once referred to Bill Clinton's dead mother as "a barfly who gets used by men." and 4) Olson had portrayed the book as an "insider's" view of the Clinton White House; the exposure of such untruths show that her insider role was not the case. Soon, in my columns section of this web site, I will publish a comprehensive list of urban legends spread by the right. Look for it.
What's In A Name? In my previous post, "Who Is Cooking The Data?", I used the term "sectarian right." I do this for a purpose: the commonly-used terms to describe those I refer to as the sectarian right are inapt. The commonly-used terms are the religious right, Christian conservatives, people of faith, and the Christian right. Terms with the word "Christian" are misleading because the sectarian right represent only a small percentage of American Christians. For instance, Pat Robertson once said, "You say you're supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense. I don't have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist. I can love the people who hold false opinions but I don't have to be nice to them." I wonder if he still thinks this way toward George W. Bush, a Methodist.
"Religious right" and "people of faith" are worse because this is a movement that is almost entirely fundamentalist Christian (true, there are some Jewish supporters but they are, for the most part, marginalized). In fact, members of the sectarian right have literally demonized non-Abrahamic religions (again, Pat Robertson has called Hinduism "demonic" and suggested that they not be allowed into the United States).
I'm not the only one who has seen the inadequacy of these commonly used terms; several years ago, Playboy had a contest to give a new and more accurate name to the Christian right. I don't remember the term that won but my favorite entry was "Smuglicans."
Who Is Cooking The Data? Earlier today, I jokingly suggested that the Washington Times was providing some ideological balance in their editorials and op-ed pieces. One Times op-ed that illustrates that I was not serious in this assessment is one by James Dobson, who takes on the American Academy of Pediatrics for endorsing gay and lesbian adoption of children (click here to read the piece). Dobson writes of "the academy's apparent willingness to distort the scientific literature on this subject." Dobson goes on to accuse the AAP of having "chosen to sacrifice scientific integrity in order to advance an activist agenda."
It is not my brief to say whether Dobson's accusations are correct; I simply don't have the time or the patience to do a literature review of scientific studies on the topic. It is my place, however, to point out that Dobson is hardly the person to make accusations of the misuse of research to advance a political agenda. Dobson and his organization, Focus on the Family, extensively used the discredited research of Dr. Paul Cameron to legitimize the sectarian right's anti-gay agenda (Dobson isn't the only one to use Cameron as a source;self-appointed virtue czar William Bennett has knowingly used Cameron's phony statistics to disinform millions; so has Dr. Laura). In fact, Cameron is such a well-known pariah in the scientific community that it is hard to believe that Dobson didn't know that Cameron cooked his research.
How Old Is That Vomit? Today, in an attempt to be witty, Opinionjournal.com's James Taranto juxtaposed a story about former President Bill Clinton with a story about the discovery of the world's oldest fossilized dinosaur vomit. However, what I thought was hilarious was yesterday when Rush Limbaugh broke the dinosaur vomit story to his listeners. He acknowledged that a significant percentage of his listeners would have a problem with the discovery of a 160 million year old vomit pile because they believe that the cosmos is less than 10,000 years old. Now that's funny!
Chutzpah Update Worldnetdaily's Joseph Farah devoted an entire column lauding the receipt of 500 pages of documents relating to the 1996 IRS audit of Farah's organization the Western Journalism Center, a Scaife-funded group best known for buying full-page newspaper ads putting forth Christopher Ruddy's crackpot conspiracy theories about Vince Foster's death (Farah also has defended Pat Matrisciana and his Clinton Chronicles fraud; click here and here for more information on this noxious episode). Farah assures us that he and his ilk will "continue to pursue justice." Actually, one simple first step in the pursuit of justice would be an apology to the Foster family. I'm not holding my breath.
Talk Radio Watch I'm going to postpone my analysis of yesterday's talk radio for some breaking news. Today (2/12) Rush Limbaugh accused Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of "aligning himself" with Saddam Hussein, North Korea, and the Iranian regime simply for expressing concerns about George W. Bush's "axis of evil" metaphor. Limbaugh has outdone himself: last week, Limbaugh used Bush's metaphor to describe congressional Democrats. According to Limbaugh, "'Evil.' There's that word. Bush used it and now Rush. Evil. Yeah, the evil axis of the House and Senate Democrats--it has thus been proclaimed on the EIB [Excellence In Broadcasting] network. "
Ideological Balance in the Washington Times? In the past year, the Moonie-owned Washington Times (not to be confused with the respectable Washington Post) has irked me more than usual. First, the Times excerpted portions of the intellectually dishonest book At Any Cost: How Al Gore Tried to Steal the Election by Times reporter, Bill Sammon. Next, last November, an article by Times reporter Joseph Curl distorted a speech by Bill Clinton in order to give the impression that Clinton said that America deserved the WTC attacks (click here and here for detailed analyses of this particularly noxious smear).
This morning when I went to the Times web site, it was no big surprise to see the headline “Enron woes not sticking to White House” (this was the newspaper that shamelessly tried to spin away the Iran Contra scandal for the Reagan White House). However, I was pleasantly surprised—no, floored—to see an op-ed column by Bruce Fein that takes Dick Cheney to task for withholding information about the Energy Task Force meetings he held with members of Enron. This shows that either the Times is either putting forth a more balanced approach to the news or that Cheney’s stonewalling is so egregious that even the Washington Times could not ignore it. In my opinion, the unrelenting bias of the Times lends support to the latter explanation. This isn't good news for Messrs. Bush and Cheney.
Transpersonal Psychology and 9/11. The horrific events of September 11th led many to place the events into a theoretical framework. To me, one of the most cogent analyses is from Ken Wilber, one of the most highly regarded transpersonal psychologists. Click here then here for his perspective. I also highly recommend one of Wilber's most recent books, A Brief History of Everything.
BookWatch I was in the Barnes and Noble in Santa Monica and I came upon two books that caught my attention for very different reasons: The Radical Center by Ted Halstead and Michael Lind and the graphic novel Left Behind. The Radical Center points out why both parties are out of touch with the needs of Americans. It proposes an alternate way that transcends the ossified policies of both the Democrats and the Republicans. My personal favorite by Michael Lind is Up From Conservatism: Why The Right Is Wrong For America in which Lind discusses his own excommunication from the ranks of American conservatism for his reasoned criticisms of the Reverend Pat Robertson’s whacked-out conspiracy theories.
While we’re on the topic of whacked-out conspiracy theories, the second book that caught my eye was the graphic novel, Left Behind. It deals with what fundamentalist Christians call the Rapture. According to fundamentalist beliefs, with the Second Coming of Christ, believers will be transported instantaneously to Heaven, leaving unbelievers to do double takes while the clothes of believers fall to the ground. You’ve probably seen the fundamentalist bumper sticker “IN CASE OF RAPTURE THIS CAR WILL BE UNMANNED” as well as the counterpart sported on the bumpers of unbelievers, “IN CASE OF RAPTURE I’M GOING TO STEAL YOUR CAR.”
Left Behind author Tim LaHaye has had a long career in New Right politics. He co-founded the Moral Majority and assisted in the formation of the Institute for Creation Research, a creationist think tank (is that an oxymoron or what?); his wife Beverly founded the anti-feminist group, Concerned Women for America. His best-selling book, The Battle for the Mind put forth the theory that American society was controlled by godless secular humanists. Anyhow, even though Left Behind is in comic book style, it doesn't give the reader the unintentional laughs of a Jack Chick comic tract, but it does make for good straight camp. Since a graphic novel is nothing more than a glorified comic book, I suppose that Marshal McLuhan was right when he said, "the medium is the message": a comic book is the most appropriate way for a comic book philosophy to be expressed.
Scoobie Davis Blog Launch.
This is the first in what I hope are a long line of daily lists of observations of the day. Much of this web site is under construction, but in a few days, it should be fully functional.