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Saturday, January 11, 2003

 
BLAME AMERICA FIRST.

A second reason for right-wing bloggers to hate Abraham Lincoln.

Here's more left-wing, blame-America-first whining from that idiotarian Abe Lincoln:

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. ...

"Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."


(from his Second Inaugural Address -- which should be read aloud at least monthly)


posted by Fred Clark 10:37 PM

 
BLOGGING ADVICE FROM 1924.

Got this as an e-mail at work. Change "newspaperman" to "blogger" and "he" to "she or he" and it's still pretty good advice ...

What makes a good newspaperman? The answer is easy. He knows everything. He is aware not only of what goes on in the world today, but his brain is a repository of the accumulated wisdom of the ages. He is not only handsome, but he has the physical strength which enables him to perform great feats of energy. He can go for nights without sleep. He dresses well and talks with charm. ... He hates lies and meanness and sham but he keeps his temper. He is loyal to his paper and what he looks upon as a profession, whether it is a profession or merely a craft, he resents attempts to debase it. When he dies, a lot of people are sorry, and some remember him for several days.


> Source: Stanley Walker, New York Herald Tribune, 1924
posted by Fred Clark 4:59 PM


Friday, January 10, 2003

 
"WE KNOW FOR A FACT ..."

Why is President Bush hiding his "secret proof"?

In yesterday's press briefing, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer had the following exchange with a reporter about weapons inspections in Iraq:

Q: But it wouldn't be disappointing, would it, if there were no weapons there?

MR. FLEISCHER: We know for a fact that there are weapons there.


The White House maintains that it already has proof of Iraq's possession of BNW (big, nasty weapons). The White House therefore maintains that the failure of the UN inspectors to find such weapons only proves that the inspectors are incompetent, not that the weapons aren't there -- and since proving a negative is nearly impossible it's difficult to challenge them on this secretly proven assertion.

The question for the American people -- the people paying for this war, the supposedly sovereign, of/by/for people -- is whether we will support a war based solely on secret evidence.

To do so would, for a fact, surrender our sovereignty to the good will of our benevolent leaders. We should not do so even if our leaders were people of unquestioned wisdom, prudence, good judgment and honesty. No such leaders exist -- which is why we have checks and balances in this country -- and the current batch is even farther from the ideal than most.

Secret proof won't cut it. If the president asks us to go to war over secret proof, we should impeach him. On what grounds? I'm not at liberty to share that information because I cannot compromise my intelligence sources, but trust me -- I have secret proof.

(Some day soon I'm expecting Fleischer to just freak out and yell at a reporter: "Look, they can deny it all they want, but we know they've got these weapons 'cause Cheney sold them to 'em back in the '90s at Halliburton and we've got the receipts right here!")
posted by Fred Clark 3:05 PM


Thursday, January 09, 2003

 
TURD BLOSSOM.

Why, exactly, are we supposed to be impressed with Karl Rove?

The latest from Maureen Dowd has this to say about Karl Rove:

... the grandmaster of political chess — who spent his baby-faced youth shouting "Nixon's the One!" and honing his skill at being "Oppo Dude" with coded messages, dirty tricks, smear tactics, say-anything-and-clean-up-the-mess-later campaigns and clever blueprints to decimate Democratic strongholds ...

I suppose it's pundit-like to assume an air of worldy wise sophistication and admire Rove for his "dirty tricks, smear-tactics, say-anything" campaigning. Sure, this line goes, he's a rumor-mongering race-baiter, sure he's bought-and-paid-for by wealthy special interests, but he wins! That must mean he's a political genius!

But Karl Rove didn't invent sleazy political hardball, nor has he perfected it. And this, from Ron Suskind's infamous Esquire profile of Rove, hardly sounds like genius or originality:

"We will fuck him. Do you hear me? We will fuck him. We will ruin him. Like no one has ever fucked him!"

That sounds like a bad imitation of Joe Viterelli in Bullets Over Broadway, it sounds like second-rate Bobby Knight, or like every bullying gym-teacher who ever wished he was Bobby Knight -- none of which constitutes genius or anything particularly impressive.

So what explains Rove's alleged successes? Sleazy hardball often works, and this guy is willing to push it further (or lower) than many of his predecessors.

If Lee Atwater's life taught us anything, it's this: should Karl Rove ever be cursed with an iota of self-knowledge, he's in for one doozy of a dark night.


posted by Fred Clark 4:08 PM

 
DOUBLE-SPEAK ON "DOUBLE-TAXES."

Bush claim is "conceptually unsound and factually untrue."

Grover Norquist, the Bush adviser immortalized by Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate, is quoted in Terry Neal's overly polite Washington Post article as saying:

It's never a bad time to have a tax cut. It is wrong to double tax dividend income. Bad on a moral level. Bad on an economic level. When Bush's tax cut gets passed, it's going to jump the value of shares 15 to 20 percent.

Three quick reactions ...

1. The U.S. is facing soaring deficits and growing joblessness while failing to fund the war on terrorism (e.g. Congress passed a port security bill, but did not fund it -- feel safer?). And we're about to go to war with Iraq.

Considering all that, most Americans think this is the wrong time to be cutting taxes -- but not Grover Norquist and not George W. Bush. And don't hold your breath waiting for Norquist or Bush to decide it's a good time to cut taxes to benefit the working poor.

2. Norquist predicts a "15 to 20 percent" jump in stock values as the immediate result of President Bush's dividend scheme. Should Congress fail to represent the majority of Americans and go along with Bush's proposed cut, I hope Neal and others in the media will remember Norquist's prediction. And I encourage Norquist to invest all of his personal wealth on the basis of this prediction coming true.

3. Norquist and Bush employ this "double tax" even though this confuses more than it clarifies -- which is a polite way of saying they're lying through their rich, white teeth while waging their despicable war on the poor.

Here's how Citizens for Tax Justice sums up in their helpful fact sheet [.pdf]:

In defense of his plan to exempt dividends from tax, President Bush claims he's merely serving tax equity. Corporate profits are unfairly "double-taxed," he says, first when companies earn them and second when they're distributed to shareholders as dividends. This argument, however, has two defects: it's conceptually unsound and factually untrue.

When you think about it, the number of times something is taxed isn't an enlightening concept. Instead, it's the total amount of taxes, whatever the number of levels, that matters. Who wouldn't feel better, for instance, about paying two taxes of 10 percent each rather than a single tax of 40 percent?

So the real question is: does the so-called "double tax" on corporate profits cause them to be overtaxed compared to other kinds of income? It sure doesn't look that way.

Let's start with the corporate income tax, which, as is well known, corporations have become extremely agile and aggressive at avoiding. CSX, the company run by Bush's new treasury secretary, John Snow, is a case in point. Snow brags in CSX's latest annual report that his firm "pursue[s] all available opportunities to pay the lowest federal, state and foreign taxes ... [and] works through the legislative process for lower tax rates." As a result of all that clever accounting and lobbying, CSX paid nothing at all in federal income taxes on its $934 million in U.S. profits over the past four years. Instead, it got tax rebate checks from the Treasury totaling $164 million. Obviously, CSX's profits can't possibly be "double taxed."

CSX's tax dodging may be particularly egregious, but most other companies do their darnedest to avoid taxes too -- so much so that last year, less than half of actual total corporate profits were subject to corporate income tax. As for personal taxes on dividends, well, only a small portion of profits are paid out as dividends, and most of those dividends are tax-exempt, too, because they're paid to pension funds and tax-exempt retirement accounts.

Here's the bottom line: last year, barely over half of corporate profits were subject to tax at any level. In other words, the so-called "double tax" doesn't come closing to taxing corporate profits even once.







posted by Fred Clark 1:31 PM

 
THE PITY OF BILBO.

Of Slinker, Stinker and Shapiro.

Now let us turn our attention to the pitiable case of a twisted little Hobbit, grotesquely warped by the allure of evil power. I mean of course young Ben Shapiro, the nasty-minded right-wing wunderkind, racist and celebrated virgin.

There's something undeniably Gollum-like about the Stoorish Shapiro -- his incessant, incoherent babbling; his back-stabbing misanthropy and thinly veiled self-loathing; his allconsuming urge to draw ever-closer to the inner-circle of evil; his penchant for lurking in the dark, stroking his precious.

The comparison was actually suggested by young Ben himself in a recent post:

The Palestinians . . . Millions of Gollums?

A thought occurred to me tonight. I'd like to throw it out there for comment, to those who have seen The Two Towers. Aren't the Palestinians and the Arab/Islamist world a lot like the psycho-evil Gollum personality? "Those tricksy Zionistses, they stole it from us. Tricksy, false! We'll poke out their eyeses. Or . . . we could have Saddam do it. Yes! That's it! We'll have Saddam do it. And then, when they're dead, we takes the precious."


Like much of Shapiro's output, this is disturbing at so many levels it's hard to keep track.

He seems somehow to have missed the idea that Gollum's "precious," the One Ring of Sauron's, is a corrupting evil that must be destroyed by the forces of good. Either: A) young Ben believes, like Saruman, that power is good in itself and he is immune to its capacity to corrupt; or B) he is arguing that the Holy Land is a talisman of pure evil that must be cast into the fire and destroyed.

Since he misses the main point of the entire story, it's little surprise that Shapiro also misses the significance of Gollum -- a parable of justice and mercy. Gollum is the most central of the treacherous and evil characters who are shown mercy in the story: Aragorn spares Grima, Gandalf spares Saruman, Bilbo and Frodo spare Gollum. In each case, an evil character is granted mercy and freedom for another chance. None of them takes it -- they all go on, rather, to commit further evil.

So was all that mercy foolishness?

It might be if the story was about Gollum, but it isn't. It's about Frodo, and it is Frodo -- the one who shows mercy -- who is saved by it.

Tolkien has a lesson here for those of us forced to contend with a stunted, twisted and murderously hateful creature like Smeagol/Shapiro. Show mercy and mercy and still more mercy and mercy again.

Ultimately though, when push comes to shove -- give him the finger and let him burn.


- - - - - - - - - - - -

"What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature when he had the chance!" Frodo cried.

"Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity."

"I am sorry," said Frodo. "But I am frightened; and I do not feel any pity for Gollum."

"You have not seen him," Gandalf broke in.

"No, and I don't want to," said Frodo. "I can't understand you. Do you mean that you, and the Elves, have let him live on after all those horrible deeds? Now at any rate he is as bad as an Orc, and just an enemy. He deserves death."

"Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many -- yours not least. ..."

posted by Fred Clark 9:48 AM


Wednesday, January 08, 2003

 
TODAY'S READINGS.

Scriptures in honor of George W. Bush's war on the poor.

(Order of service modeled on the Anglican blog of common prayer)

- - - - - - - - - - - -

The Old Testament reading, from Isaiah 58:2-12.

2 Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness
and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments,
they delight to draw near to God.

3 "Why do we fast, but you do not see?
Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?"

Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers.
4 Look, you fast only to quarrel and fight and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.
5 Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bullrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Why call you this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?

6 Is not this the fast that I choose, to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
10 if you offer food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy the needs in parched places, and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.
12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

The Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

The Psalm.

(May be read or sung to one of those arbitrary, tuneless "airs.")

Give the king your justice, O God,
and righteousness to a king's son.

May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice.

May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness.

May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy,
and crush the oppressor.

-- Psalm 72

- - - - - - - - - - - -

The New Testament reading, from the book of James, chapter 5.

1 Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. 2 Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days.

4 Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you.

The Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

(Congregation stands for an appropriate hymn. Remains standing for the Gospel reading.)

- - - - - - - - - - - -

The Good News of our Lord from the book of Matthew, chapter 25.

Glory to you Lord Christ.

31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.

34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundations of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.'

37 Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you in prison and visited you?'

40 And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'

41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not come to visit me.'

44Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' 45 Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

The Good News of the Lord.

Praise to you Lord Christ

- - - - - - - - - - - -

(Everyone is invited to the coffee hour in the fellowship hall after the service.)







posted by Fred Clark 2:39 PM


Monday, January 06, 2003

 
REVERSE ROBIN HOODS.

Bush is waging class warfare.

Seeing the Forest has a fine post up about George W. Bush's tendency to overtax the peasants while indulging his baronial cronies.


posted by Fred Clark 6:16 PM

 
ABRAHAM LINCOLN IS DEAD, IV.

GOP can't control embarrassing "bigot eruptions."

The term "bigot eruptions" is from the estimable Oliver Willis. I've adopted the phrase here, as everyone should.

Willis also provides this link to Thomas Edsall's Washington Post article "White House Silent on Racial Controversy":

The White House and the Republican National Committee declined to comment yesterday on a racial controversy involving a Bush administration ally who is campaigning to become chairman of the California Republican Party.

Bill Back, the California party's vice chairman running for the top job, sent out an e-mail newsletter in 1999 that reproduced an essay that said "history might have taken a better turn" if the South had won the Civil War and that "the real damage to race relations in the South came not from slavery, but from Reconstruction, which would not have occurred if the South had won."


The Republican plan to improve "race relations"? Repeal reconstruction!

Atrios -- who has been all over this story -- points to this follow-up story reporting that Mr. Back is losing backers.

Mr. Back's defenders in the article point out that he didn't invent the racist notions espoused in his e-mail, he merely disseminated them to influential political leaders.

BONUS QUOTE: After a White House Christmas Party, Back said they "made it very clear to me that I am a member of the Bush family.''




posted by Fred Clark 5:24 PM


Sunday, January 05, 2003

 
LITTLE RICKY.

Sen. Santorum steps aside to make room for the bigot.

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa. -- Bob Roberts without the guitar) is the sacrificial lamb allowing the GOP to save face and keep on strategy by allowing Trent Lott to retain enormous influence and party leadership away from the spotlight.

From a Jan. 5 AP story:

The Senate's No. 3 Republican, Rick Santorum, confirmed on Sunday that he was stepping aside as a committee chairman in favor of ousted GOP leader Trent Lott. ...

Santorum, recently elected to a second term as GOP conference chairman, pointed to ... Lott's institutional experience in explaining his decision to let Lott take over as chairman of the Rules and Administration Committee.


I suppose the Big Story here is whatever it is Lott would've said or done if the party hadn't arranged for him to retain his leadership-by-other-means. But for those of us here in Pennsylvania -- Little Ricky's constituents -- the big story is that his willingness to be a coprophagous "team player" diminishes the influence of our delegation in Congress.

"We need to put our best team on the field," said Santorum.

Is Santorum saying he doesn't belong on "the best team"? Or just that he should be hitting much lower in the lineup? In either case -- what would you think if your senator admitted as much?

"[The Rules and Administration Committee] basically runs the Capitol" and the chairman is "sort of the mayor of Capitol Hill," Santorum said.

So, just to clarify Mr. Santorum -- Trent Lott is too much of a bigot to be majority leader, but not too much of a bigot to serve as "the mayor of Capitol Hill"?

The times are a changin' back ...

posted by Fred Clark 7:58 PM


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