Saturday, July 21, 2007

What Is Trying to Tell Us?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Keith Ellison: Muslims and Atheists and Nazis, Oh My!

Will the state of public discourse, freighted with postmodern ironies and disengenuous anti-intellectual sloganeering, ever emerge from its current condition as something resembling principled, reasoned debate? I don't consider myself naive, or a fool, or even an old fogey pining for "the good old days". I understand that (for now) postmodern America overlooks hypocrisy or character deficiencies in anyone as long as the person or persons involved a) have no moral standards to begin with, b) are perceived as "fighting the good fight" in a different cause deemed worthy to the given worldview, or c) are part of a protected class created as a result of priviledge-based guilt, notions of a universally inclusive, morally neutral society, or in reaction to perceived historical injustices. So those who fail us and also fail to meet the above requirements are given the equivalent of a "Go Directly to Jail - Do Not Get 15 More Minutes" card and the rest are perhaps rapped on the knuckles but are otherwise free to go. How else explain can one explain Al Sharpton, or the Clinton Dynasty?

In addition, the growing partisan desire to "defend one's own" and "get the word out at all costs" has led to even higher level of sniping and crosstalk, instead of issue-oriented debate. As a result loons and publicity hounds with suspect motives like Anne Coulter and Michael Moore are still getting airtime because their high visibility and easily identifiable ideology trump their often insidious rhetoric.

I guess it's going to get worse before it gets better because, like tryouts for a new season of reality TV, there seems to be no shortage of new applicants for the Crazy (Like a Fox?) Club.

The Newest Kid on the Block is a freshman Muslim congressman named Keith Ellison. Ellison's remarks at at a noontime speech before the group Atheists for Human Rights have already made the rounds in the blogosphere and are now radiating out into the world at large. This is the same Ellison who, aided by a one-two punch from a sympathetic MSM and a couple of comically rabid reactionary pundits, successfully painted his colleague Virgil Goode as a racist when Goode objected to Ellison's decision to be sworn into office using the Qu'ran.

It sounds strange to use "muslim pundit" and "chutzspah" in the same sentence, but I guess we're all Semites on this bus. In any case, here are a few choice excerpts from the afore-mentioned love fest from Gehenna:

"You'll always find this Muslim standing up for your right to be atheists"
Well, at least he used a qualifying "this", but apart from the fact that he makes no sense (does this mean he is a "bad" Muslim?) the statement not only makes the incredible claim that Islam is the only tolerant religion in the world but does so in the most nauseatingly sycophantic tone pssible. That's pretty good for a 13 word sentence!

"It's almost like the Reichstag fire, kind of reminds me of that. After the Reichstag was burned, they blamed the Communists for it and it put the leader of that country in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted. The fact is that I'm not saying [Sept. 11] was a plan, or anything like that because, you know, that's how they put you in the nut-ball box -- dismiss you."

The "Bush is Hitler" slur in the above has been remarked on everywhere, but I think this paragraph's real significance is it's detailing of an increasingly common tactic of the Political Thug:

1. Make a sweeping and offensive statement.
2. Give the statement the appearance of historical credibility or deeper truth.
3. Immediately and subtly qualify your statement to cover your rear in case of controversy.
4. Take a last postmodern swipe at the opposition by complaining about the fact that you have to even engage in such subterfuge, thereby retaining your ideological purity among your listeners.

How someone can make such a public pronouncement and still feel a sense of personal dignity is beyond me. I mean, the checks cash and the people applaud, but it's just you and your Maker and your reflection in the hotel mirror when all is said and done.

Finally, if you thought the above was some kind of political joke or Theater of the Absurd, Atheists for Human Rights spokesperson Marie Castle provides the punch line:

"We're trying to upgrade the image of atheists. They don't think we have a moral compass."

As with a child who exhibits bad behavior to get attention it is tempting to shout, Sean Hannity-like, "Where's the outrage here!?" but you know that's only giving this guy what he wants. The current political climate rewards these kind of outbursts by giving people like Keith Ellison a platform - unless, of course, their target is white males or the current administration.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

L'Homme d'Acier

It's okay - all my ancestors were French.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Salon's Glenn Greenwald, or why do these guys always have such friendly drawings for their byline?

Glenn Greenwald is a Salon columnist who almost makes you think he's a conservative plant. His mean-spirited, virulently partisan writing would probably make anyone outside of his normal Salon/Huffington Post/Kos readership cringe. Why then, you ask, am I even bothering to write about him? Perhaps because this past hour is one I will never get back, and by documenting what I've found I can save someone else the trouble. Okay, that's neither true nor honest, for there is already too much reliance on secondary sources and canned rhetoric in the world. So, for no good reason, here is a fairly complete sampling of the titles of Glenn Greenwald's blog entries for the past few weeks followed by my own commentary. I found myself getting more confrontational as I wrote, so I apologize upfront for the general tone - next time I won't try to read so much bad-tempered writing in one sitting.

Tucker Carlson, stalwart defender of sexual privacy A good introduction to the world of Glenn Greenwald, a world where sarcasm, cherry-picking facts and a generous helping of self-righteous anger are your unwavering diet.

Our broken political discourse A standard if unoriginal topic for discussion in political circles becomes unintentionally ironic given his tone. C'mon, Glenn - be part of the solution.

Sen. David Vitter, a leading Christian social conservative Sigh. Sarcasm again. What's unsaid here is that if you're possessed of an amoral or materialist worldview then you can't to be labeled a hypocrite - just ask Jon ("So, was that out of line? Well I'm only a comedian!") Stewart.

The ongoing journalistic scandal at the New York Times and
The NYT's growing pro-war fan club Mr. Greenwald fumes that the usually reliable liberal Paper of Record has drunk the wrong Kool-Aid. Well I thought dissent was patriotic.

Yesterday's ruling on NSA warrantless eavesdropping Spinning a setback into a victory based on wordy technicalities is certainly nothing new in political circles, but Mr. Greenwald's greatest strength seems to lie in this very lack of novelty, this dogged insistance on sticking to familiar talking points. Oh my goodness! I just had the thought - perhaps he think he's the liberal George Bush! Well, no wonder he's so angry!

Why has world opinion of the U.S. changed dramatically since 2000? Perhaps the millionth expression of liberal incredulity over how the current Administration can't see the obvious uncoolness of it's brazen nationalism and utter lack of introspective nihilism.

Notes on A Tragic Legacy - "Various matters concerning my book, including its debut on the NYT BestSeller List"

The tragic collapse of America's standing in the world Mr. Greenwald's unending reliance on standard liberal tropes has by now lulled me into a dream state where I see an image of Barbara Streisand and Jane Fonda staring intensely into the camera cheek to cheek, a single tear from each commingling in mute encomium to the infinite sadness of a progressive Paradise Lost.

Lewis Libby owes his freedom to our corrupt political elite Even more galling is that in Bush's America patriots like Mark Rich are afraid to show their faces outside of New York and LA. Oh well, you can't get good Chinese takeout in Flyover States anyway.

Michael Gordon trains his stenographer weapons on Iran Once again noting that if the NYT can't be counted on to toe the line, the "real" War - the War of Ideas - is going very badly. Wake up, sheeples!

Our rotted press corps, a division of "Camp Victory" The irony of lambasting the press corps using the same "if you're not for us, you're against us" logic of his simian evil twin seems to be lost on him.

Interview with Helen Thomas If you're going to interview someone else to hammer home your own speaking points, it's probably safest to choose someone who thinks as much like you as possible.

How did the Bush administration use its secret eavesdropping powers? Without pieces like this, it's easy to forget that many liberal pundits are, sadly, a product of their environment, relying heavily on the scaremongering and distrust of authority they learned from all those scary dystopian books and movies they were exposed to in high school.

Blogs and the establishment media Summary: "Without the fearless liberal blogosphere around to recognize my inestimable genius, you would all now be reading William Bennett purchased under duress from the state-run Barnes and Noble."

Standards of American justice under George W. Bush Hmm, higher or lower? I know - let's ask our friends at the NYT Op-Ed page!

A Tragic Legacy released today
FDL Book Salon FireDogLake momentarily relieves Mr. Greenwald of his tireless self-promotion duties.

McClatchy reports on shift in Iraq propaganda and
Everyone we fight in Iraq is now "al-Qaida" Flogging - I'm sure he thinks boldly - the familiar liberal canard that Al Qaeda in Iraq is a nothing more than a Bushite fabrication designed to facilitate the Administration's consolidation of power. I didn't read far enough to see if he gets bonus points for making references to a) The Skull and Bones Society b) Bush family ties to Arab sheiks or c) Orwellian ideas of continual war and thought crime.

Krauthammer's plan to deny Palestinians gas and electricity A fitting last citation and another bold, Greenwaldian choice - ridiculing a braver and much deeper intellect by using his Weapons of Choice: misrepresentation and sarcasm.

Well, with writing that runs the gamut from "conservatives are really stupid and evil" to "did I mention I'm on the NYT Bestseller list?" you can count on Mr. Greenwald to always meet your expectations. By the way, the practices elaborated on above called to mind another prominent example of the genre, although the pundit pictured on the left seems a little unsure of his greatness, thus requiring the strategic placement of cuddly animals and a distant admirer. I'll have to keep a lookout now, for perhaps we are witnessing the emergence of a new phenomenon: The Acid-Tongued-but-Cartoon-genic Blogger.

UPDATE: I have just been reading about Mr. Sullivan's recent pronouncements as well as some long-standing controversies regarding him of which I was unaware. (really I'm just too busy to keep up and too disconnected to care). In retrospect, my singling out of him now feels more like overkill. He has refined the Art of Alienating All Hues of the Political Spectrum and brought it to a level not seen since Richard Nixon, and to further dwell on his situation would be petty. He is also a man with some vestiges of religious sensibility, so I think he would rather have my prayers than my feeble attempts at humor.