Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Culture of Death 

First, briefly: some of you probably already know that the editor of the Washington Post's online edition, Jim Brady, has given a long interview to hate-radio host Hugh Hewitt, in which he complains about all of us crazy readers who have been harassing his good, decent, morally upright reporters.

References to "words I didn't know existed," "fever swamps" of the blogosphere, etc.

Rigid adherence to the idea that Abramoff "directed" the Indians to contribute to the Democrats, with no citations to back this up.

No acknowledgment of Howell's real mistake at all.

Visit firedoglake for the run-down. Jane Hamsher will also direct you to pages where you can view the deleted comments yourself. You'll see that Jim Brady is lying, that he is slandering his own readership.

Also: the White House won't give any details about the several meetings that Abramoff had with White House staffers. As Atrios noted, this would have set off an orgiastic murder-frenzy among the MSM Zombies in the good old Clinton days.


The title of this post refers to Pope John Paul II's term for the cess-pit of modern culture. That utterly bloodthirsty and desperately nihilistic fundamentalist pseudo-Christians have stolen the other half of the Pope's opposition (the "Culture of Life") with no respect at all for what he was trying to say, is quite ironic, though the irony is trivial in the larger scheme of things.

You may hate the former Pope--there were things to hate about him, no doubt, and I'm really not intending to focus on him here. But he was quite serious when he referred to the Culture of Death, and he was talking about what Digby writes about in the following must-read post. He was talking about much more than abortion. He was talking about nihilism, despair, self-hatred, reflexive cruelty, endemic dissociative states, the abyss of televisual simulacra, learned helplessness, and murder. He was talking about the United States of America.

I'm stealing what Digby wrote and putting it below. Go to his page to follow the numerous informative links. Please click through once, just to give him the page-visit numbers that he deserves. He's probably the best blogger out there.


Limbaugh Nation

by digby

A commenter alerted me to this article in The American Prospect that explains why the Democrats picked Tim Kaine to give the Democratic response at the State of the Union: he speaks in religious moral terms. Good to know.

But the article is interesting because it profiles a new and influential polling and analysis group that is trying to change the way the Democrats look at the electorate. And as far as I can tell, the Democrats (or maybe just the author) are taking the wrong lessons from them.

Here's the story:

In April 2005, Nordhaus left his job at the opinion research firm Evans/McDonough Company to start, along with Shellenberger, an American branch of the Canadian market research behemoth Environics, which specializes in the study of consumer behavior, right down to the level of “neighborhood lifestyle segmentation.” Though such data are not collected on behalf of political figures, it’s the kind of information political operatives often use to slice and dice the electorate into ever thinner pieces. Similar data allowed Republicans in 2004 to make sure they targeted last-minute calls and fliers to domestic SUV-drivers, subscribers to hunting magazines, and women who watch Will and Grace. American Environics intended to use the detailed data its parent company had collected since 1992 for a different purpose, however: to challenge progressive interest-group orthodoxies and the progressive movement itself.

In the great debate about how Democrats can stage a comeback (beyond simply waiting for the coming Republican implosion that never seems to arrive), American Environics rejected some of the more popular recommendations out there. Rather than focusing on reframing the Democratic message, as Berkeley linguistics and cognitive science professor George Lakoff has recommended, or on redoubling Democratic efforts to persuade Americans to become economic populists, as another school of thought suggests, the American Environics team argued that the way to move voters on progressive issues is to sometimes set aside policies in favor of values. By focusing on “bridge values,” they say, progressives can reach out to constituents of opportunity who share certain fundamental beliefs, even if the targeted parties don’t necessarily share progressives’ every last goal. In that assessment, Shellenberger and Nordhaus are representative of an increasingly influential school of thought within the Democratic Party.

Nothing too revolutionary there, you say? Well, no, when described in that predictable way. We all love values. Values are, in fact, the basis of all poltiics. What a good idea. Let's talk values. The article also (for inexplicable reasons) spends a great deal of time discussing the data produced by Stanley Greenberg who, like clockwork, interviews a bunch of rural voters in Arkansas and finds out that they care more about gay marriage than putting food on the table. Which means we will lose because of values and we need to get some. (Those of us who disagree with the rural Arkansans are assumed to have no values, apparently.)

But the article skews that way for reasons that have little to do with the study. Here's what Environics actually found out and it's quite interesting:

Looking at the data from 1992 to 2004, Shellenberger and Nordhaus found a country whose citizens are increasingly authoritarian while at the same time feeling evermore adrift, isolated, and nihilistic. They found a society at once more libertine and more puritanical than in the past, a society where solidarity among citizens was deteriorating, and, most worrisomely to them, a progressive clock that seemed to be unwinding backward on broad questions of social equity. Between 1992 and 2004, for example, the percentage of people who said they agree that “the father of the family must be the master in his own house” increased ten points, from 42 to 52 percent, in the 2,500-person Environics survey. The percentage agreeing that “men are naturally superior to women” increased from 30 percent to 40 percent. Meanwhile, the fraction that said they discussed local problems with people they knew plummeted from 66 percent to 39 percent. Survey respondents were also increasingly accepting of the value that “violence is a normal part of life” -- and that figure had doubled even before the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks.

Lumping specific survey statements like these together into related groups, Nordhaus and Shellenberger arrived at what they call “social values trends,” such as “sexism,” “patriotism,” or “acceptance of flexible families.” But the real meaning of those trends was revealed only by plugging them into the “values matrix” -- a four-quadrant plot with plenty of curving arrows to show direction, which is then overlaid onto voting data. The quadrants represent different worldviews. On the top lies authority, an orientation that values traditional family, religiosity, emotional control, and obedience. On the bottom, the individuality orientation encompasses risk-taking, “anomie-aimlessness,” and the acceptance of flexible families and personal choice. On the right side of the scale are values that celebrate fulfillment, such as civic engagement, ecological concern, and empathy. On the left, there’s a cluster of values representing the sense that life is a struggle for survival: acceptance of violence, a conviction that people get what they deserve in life, and civic apathy. These quadrants are not random: Shellenberger and Nordaus developed them based on an assessment of how likely it was that holders of certain values also held other values, or “self-clustered.”

Over the past dozen years, the arrows have started to point away from the fulfillment side of the scale, home to such values as gender parity and personal expression, to the survival quadrant, home to illiberal values such as sexism, fatalism, and a focus on “every man for himself.” Despite the increasing political power of the religious right, Environics found social values moving away from the authority end of the scale, with its emphasis on responsibility, duty, and tradition, to a more atomized, rage-filled outlook that values consumption, sexual permissiveness, and xenophobia. The trend was toward values in the individuality quadrant.

No kidding. Is the culture growing more coarse? Check. Cruel? check. Nihilisitic? check. Xenophobic? check. Consumption worshipping? check. Sexist? check. Rage filled? check. Hmmmm.

Exactly my point! This is no different than what happens at the skull and bones initiation and we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You of heard of need to blow some steam off?

This is a very revealing portrait of what's happening in America and it explains some things about why the right is so successful. And it's the opposite of what everybody says it is. It isn't because they've become more moral and religious. It's because they've fostered and exploited extremism, nihilism and cruelty. After all, if it was the libertine culture of "Brokeback Mountain" or "unwed motherhood" or (gasp) abortion that was creating this shift, you'd think we would have benefitted, not them. For all their crowing about traditional values, it's the right that has embraced decadence, sadism, vice and corruption.

Yes, it's a trend. It started years ago when the feminist movement decided that their best friends were going to be German shepherds. You know. So that's -- well, it's true. You go to the right airports and you can see it.

I have little doubt that most of the people who listen to Rush also believe that they are good practicing Christian conservatives. And many Christian conservatives probably don't listen to him. But they listen to this:

You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war.

And this:

How about group marriage? Or marriage between daddies and little girls? Or marriage between a man and his donkey? Anything allegedly linked to civil rights will be doable, and the legal underpinnings for marriage will have been destroyed." Now, that's more or less a prophecy. Not a divine prophecy, but a prediction.

Notice how Limbaugh and the preachers pander to the depraved imagination? It's not religious values these people are selling. They are selling a brutal, domineering, degenerate culture, making their listeners and viewers wallow in it, plumbing the depths of the subconscious, drawing forth Goyaesque images of bestiality and violence and death. That's a feature of some religions, to be sure, but it's not the nice upright Christian morality everybody's pretending it is.

If the culture is careening into a crude, dog-eat-dog corrupt "Pottersville" it's because the greedheads and the juvenile authoritarian thugs, whether in street gangs or talk radio or K Street, have taken it over. And it is hard for liberals to counter this because our bedrock values include tolerance, free expression and personal autonomy and that enables this decadent turn in many ways. But let's make no mistake, it is only on the right that purveyors of brutal, sadistic, depraved political discourse are welcomed into the houses, offices and beds of the nation's political leadership.

I'm not sure what the answer to this is, but I know that this is where the real political problem for Democrats lies. So, perhaps we can stop bullshitting ourselves that we can solve this problem by speaking in rightwing approved religious language and pulling our punches on abortion. That is not the real reason the right is winning and we won't win that way either. Religion is cover for these people. Rush Limbaugh is the guiding spirit of the Republican Party.

LIMBAUGH: And these American prisoners of war -- have you people noticed who the torturers are? Women! The babes! The babes are meting out the torture...You know, if you look at -- if you, really, if you look at these pictures, I mean, I don't know if it's just me, but it looks just like anything you'd see Madonna, or Britney Spears do on stage. Maybe I'm -- yeah. And get an NEA grant for something like this. I mean, this is something that you can see on stage at Lincoln Center from an NEA grant, maybe on Sex in the City -- the movie. I mean, I don't -- it's just me.

When Limbaugh came under fire for those vulgar comments, the leading lights of the Republican party quickly came to his defense.

Rush's angry, frustrated critics discount how hard it is to make an outrageous charge against him stick. But, we listeners have spent years with him, we know him, and trust him. Rush is one of those rare acquaintances who can be defended against an assault challenging his character without ever knowing the "facts." We trust his good judgment, his unerring decency, and his fierce loyalty to the country he loves and to the courageous young Americans who defend her. For millions of us, David Brock is firing blanks against a bulletproof target.

— Kate O'Beirne, Washington Editor for National Review.

Figure out how to deal with that and we might be able to make some headway.


For those of you who read all this, I hope you found it worthwhile. Sorry to take up so much space. And sorry to Digby, too, for stealing--please click through! I put this up while drunk in the middle of the night, it was probably inappropriate of me. But I'll leave it now that it's up.

The crucial thing in all of this, in my view, is the survey's discovery that the shift in valuation away from "fulfillment" (which is really another word for depth of meaning) and towards the brutality of mere "survival"--this shift is accompanied by another shift, away from the "authority" and towards (a crass, acquisitive, selfish) "individuality."

So much of this has to do with the absence of real authority. People are unmoored because no one is speaking the truth; and the truth is the only real authority.

People crave authority, and that's why they genuflect before these idols, these simulacra of authority--the President, the "nation," toxic "Christian" racist xenophobia...This idolatry reflects a desperate craving for authority.

But--and this is the key point, the counter-intuitive but essential point--idols lack true authority, even for the people who hopelessly try to believe that they're real. Idols aren't real. And knowledge of their falseness is inescapable.

They can only be propped up by violence--it is spectacular displays of merely physical power that make them seem authoritative. But authority must be believed in to be real. The merely physical violence of idol-worship is a sorry substitute for the transcendent, non-physical power of truth. Only truth releases us into the realm of true individuality. Only the truth sets us free.

Bush is Donne in 2008 

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those, whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy picture[s] be,
Much pleasure, then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou'rt slave to Fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And Death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Hate speech and mass death 

I assume a lot of you have been following the latest spat between would-be readers and the flaming assholes that run the Washington Post. But in case you haven't, I wanted to tell you about it. I'm not going to come up with a list of relevant links because it would take a long time. But this is what's happened, briefly:

1) Background: when Abramoff was indicted, mainstream TV reporters positively fell over themselves in their eagerness to declare that it was a "bipartisan" scandal. CNN's Ed Henry and MSNBC's Chris Matthews said over and over again that the Democrats wouldn't be able to avoid the "culture of corruption" tag that they were trying to stick on the Shitlickers. Over and over and over and over and over again on television reports, vague language was used connecting Abramoff with both parties.

In a remarkable and perhaps unprecedented turn of events, DNC chair Howard Dean was asked by CNN's Wolf "My throat is a constipated large intestine" Blitzer how the Democrats could accuse the Fascists of corruption when the Democrats themselves were implicated in the Abramoff scandal. Dean said forcefully (and truthfully, too!) that no Democrat has ever received a single penny from Abramoff. Blitzer looked like the asshole that he is.

In response to this moment of revelatory truth-utterance and word-emission by Dean, the Killers and the media Zombies began repeating, ad nauseam, a new talking-point: both parties had received money from "Abramoff-clients." What this means is that the Indian tribes gave money to members of both parties.

At this point (at least one week ago) bloggers like Jane Hamsher at firedoglake and the people at Wampum (a blog associated with Indian issues) began pointing out the obvious: receiving money from Indian tribes is not in any way bad; Indian tribes can give money to whomever they please, and it is hardly surprising that they give money to Democrats who have represented their interests consistently. Indian tribes do not deserve to be tarred with Abramoff's bad reputation--especially when it is understood that the Indians were in fact Abramoff's victims.

Abramoff was--perhaps some human beings in the United States have had occasion to learn this via the mediation of one of the diverse news outlets offering them certified news information--taking money from his Indian-casino clients and fraudulently and criminally passing it over to anti-gambling Christ-killing fundamentalist "Christian" organizations. It is not the Indians' money that is bad; it is money stolen from Indians that is bad. Abramoff was stealing their money and giving it to the likes of the Christian Coalition's Ralph Reed and other Christ-killers.

So, anyway, Hamsher and Wampum and Atrios and others were pointing all of this out, and in addition asking their readers to note the racist implications of this way of thinking: is something "dirty" about "Indian money"? Are Indians so stupid and drunk that they can't decide to whom they give their money, so that if they hire Jack Abramoff to represent them, it should then be understood that Abramoff had absolute control over all of their donations, and therefore that all "Indian money" is as "dirty" as money from Abramoff himself?

4) The "Abramoff-client" talking-point has taken hold over the course of the last week and is now lodged in the assholes of the media shitters. No one says that Democrats got money from Abramoff, and everyone says that they got money from Abramoff clients. But the new obmudsman at the Washington Post, a humanoid effigy or simulacrum named Deborah Howell, who has been utterly atrocious from day one, apparently did not get the memo about how exactly to tar Democrats with the line about "money from Abramoff's clients." So she made the mistake of saying that Abramoff gave money to the Democrats in one of her columns.

Jane Hamsher alerted her readers to this mistake, and we went to one of the Post's open forums to voice our discontent. I scrolled through the list of comments. I saw hundreds of letters, each individually written. Of the many that I read, none featured profanity, though of course many were angry and frustrated, as the authors of these letters knew in advance that writing to Howell was like spitting in a sewer.

There was no response or acknowledgment from Howell for several days. Howard "I am so dead that I'm flaccid and the loose skin on my face hangs in something resembling a smile" Kurtz brilliantly proclaimed that Howell had "inartfully worded" her sentences about Abramoff and the Democrats.

Media Matters publicized Howell's illegal slander and contacted her directly. She wrote back to them saying that the main point was that both parties were involved, even if Abramoff gave no money directly to the Democrats, because the Indians gave money to the Democrats. Media Matters explained that this was nonsense, and Howell wrote an internal memo to her colleagues explaining that because Media Matters had not been satisfied with her response, she would never respond again. Media Matters was referred to as "they" throughout the memo, so it seems as if Howell was saying that she would never respond directly to querulous readers, of any kind, again. But this remains unclear...

5) Finally, Howell wrote a column in which she acknowledged that she should have said that Abramoff "directed clients" to give to both parties. Jane Hamsher alerted her readers, and we went back to the Post forum and pointed out that this is nonsense, that Indian tribes give money to lots of organizations, etc., etc., etc. Again, I examined the comments and they were angry, but they were not form letters and they were not profane, at least for the most part.

But at 4:30 yesterday, the comments were shut down. The Post announced that there had been too many, and also that there were "personal attacks" and, of course, "hate speech."

6) The shut-down has now become a pretty big story, the subject of discussions on CNN and C-SPAN. The "hate speech" canard has been trucked out by Post editors against concerned readers on national television. A new forum run by Jim Brady (the Post's online editor) was opened today to discuss the shut-down. He started it by quoting from a profane and nasty message in order to show why the shut-down was necessary. As I said, this sort of thing was not typical of most of the complaints. And in any case, as Atrios and Jane have pointed out, it's easy to find and delete inappropriate messages.

Of course, the larger question is Howell's criminal slander, which has still not been acknowledged, let alone corrected or retracted. Also: no one should be surprised when criminal slander makes some people angry, causing them even, perhaps, to curse.

On CNN today, Kyra Phillips said this:

"The Washington Post turned off the reader comments feature on post.blog after it was flooded by what the Post describes as personal attacks, profanity, and hate speech. Post.blog is a site dedicated to sharing news by and about the newspaper. What set off readers was a Sunday column by Post ombudsman Deborah Howell who wrote that corrupt former lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave money to Democrats as well as Republicans. That's true but most of the money went to Republicans."

8) Yesterday, Bloomberg News reported that all of the tribes that ever hired Abramoff had given money to Democrats for years, on a long-standing basis, before Abramoff was ever hired. In fact--surprise!--they gave much more money to Democrats before they hired Abramoff. They still gave some money to Democrats after hiring Abramoff, but much less. This is what Deborah Howell was apparently referring to when she said that Abramoff "directed" his clients to support members of both parties. I have not seen or heard reports of this story in any of the big assholes/outlets (Post, Times).


So, to sum up: we have racketeering, extortion, money laundering, and at least one murder (probably more) being commissioned and performed by the leaders of the Republican Party machine. This is reported widely. But no mainstream media sources will acknowledge any of it.

Everyone should be clear that there is nothing--not a single fucking thing you can possibly imagine--that the MSM zombies will feel obliged to report in a straightforward way to the public. There is no line that the Killers have to worry about crossing. They will always--always--be able to concoct bullshit and stuff it down the throats of the MSM zombies. And the zombies will always--always--take it. This will not stop until the Killers stop. And they won't stop.

Just a brief reminder: George Bush presided over the televised destruction of an entire major American city this fall. He oversaw the murder of thousands of American citizens on television. We all saw it happen. People dying, Bush telling jokes, his henchmen saying that the dying people weren't dying, or weren't people, or weren't there...while we were shown images of the dying people on live television. Thousands are still unaccounted for.

This happened on live television. No one stopped lying. They won't stop.

Addendum: In this post, Josh Marshall quotes from an AP story, published yesterday, that says: 1) the Abramoff scandal "threatens to ensnare at least half a dozen members of Congress of both parties," and 2) "Democrats have tried to link Abramoff to Republicans."

Marshall points out that, of course, not a single Democrat is even under investigation for ties to Abramoff, let alone "threatened" by such an investigation, and that Abramoff is, of course, a card-carrying Republican. This is really an understatement, as I'd bet the AP reporter himself would tell you when not wearing his "professional reporter" hat. Abramoff was the center of the financial mechanism of the Republican Party as such. He was the party. That is simply not an exaggeration. The party is a machine. He greased the wheels and made it run.

Addendum 2: Lou Dobbs said this evening on CNN:

"The Washington Post has shut down one of its blogs after a Washington Post executive wrote that disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave money to Democrats as well as Republicans. The comments weren't well received by many Washington Post blog readers, in fact using the blog to launch highly personal attacks against ombudsman Deborah Howell. For the record about a third of the money from Jack Abramoff and his clients did in fact go to Democrats and 2/3 to Republicans. That's the reality. Don't blog me! It's the fact."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Democrats to respond to State of the Union Address with a plea for immediate party-wide assisted suicide 

Instead of Jack Murtha, newly elected Virginia governor Tim Kaine will issue the official national Democrat party response to Bush's State of the Union Address.

Via Arianna Huffington, we learn that Kaine thinks the war being fought in Iraq is analogous to the American Revolution--that the Iraqis are just like Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson: those great Virginians of the past "stood here at a time, just as today, when Virginians serving freedom's cause sacrificed their lives so that democracy could prevail over tyranny."


But: on a brighter note, Max Baucus and Patrick Leahy have announced that they will not approve of the nomination of the murderous swarthy ethnic Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

Call your senators to make sure they join Baucus and Leahy in opposing the Southern European menace. Hillary (212-688-6262) and Chuck (212-486-4430) have not yet made their positions on this "issue" known.


CNN headline:

CIA says terror voice is bin Laden

"Terror voice"? What is a "terror voice"?

The message said attacks against America "are in the planning stages and you will see them in the heart of your land as soon as the planning is complete."

Can we know if the translation is accurate? When bin Laden says "the heart of your land" can we understand him to be using that idiom ("heartland") literally?

If so, [sigh of relief]. Watch out, Iowa.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

New Year Reading List 

From my in-box:


My name is Anastasia and I have been tasked with contacting a select group of bloggers to offer free copies of a new novel I think you will be interested in, Prayers for the Assassin.

The Islamic States of America, could this ever happen? America's resources stretched razor thin by an extended war on terror. Our economy falters under this strain. Our leaders fail to have a plan. Western Europe's Muslim minority becomes the majority.

The premise Robert Ferrigno puts forth in Prayers for the Assassin is eerily close to the events we see in the news everyday.

Prayers for the Assassin will be published by Scribner in February and limited copies are left from the advance reader press run. Go to this link and I'll make sure we reserve a free copy for you. You should receive the book in January.



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