Archive for February 13th, 2008

Great Moments In Propaganda

From the NRCC:

A suspected foreign terrorist calls the United States from overseas to plan an attack on U.S. soil. Our intelligence agencies monitor the situation and secure critical information about the call.

Because of our ability to monitor terrorist cells overseas and gather this important information, we are able to thwart off this particular threat.

“Thwart off”?

Oh, and then there’s the usual bullshit about how if Congress doesn’t close the “terrorist loophole” right away, we will be Perilously Exposed To Terrorist Attack. Complete with animated countdown clock, ticking away the days, hours, minutes, seconds, and milliseconds until the FISA extension expires. Clearly this is one of those ticking timebomb situations where torture is justified.

1 comment February 13th, 2008 at 11:37pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Elections,Politics,Republicans,Terrorism

Tales Of The O-Cult

I sell the things you need to be…

Truth be told, I marginally prefer Hillary over Obama, but this cult of personality crap is just overblown:

Every political news outlet, from the networks to the blogs, is abuzz today with the question: Is the Obama phenomenon a cult?

People — particularly Hillary partisans — are eagerly putting this idea out there. I want to make it very clear before I get started that I’m not a partisan of either candidate: there are things about them both that have my skepticism pegged to the limit. Personally, I’m for the Democrat. But when it comes to the topic of what is or ain’t a cult — that’s something I know something about. Or, at least, I seem to understand it a bit better than most of the people who are bandying the term around today.

Any number of religious sociologists have assembled various tools and devices to be used in assessing whether or not a group can be classified as a “cult.”… Perhaps the most comprehensive of the bunch is the one assembled by folklorist Dr. P.E.I Bonewits in 1979, which laid out 18 behaviors that are common to religious cults:

1. internal control
2. external control
3. wisdom or knowledge claimed by leaders
4. wisdom or knowledge credited to leaders
5. dogma
6. recruiting
7. front groups
8. wealth
9. sexual manipulation
10. sexual favoritism
11. censorship
12. isolation
13. dropout control
14. violence
15. paranoia
16. grimness
17. surrender of will
18. hypocrisy

It’s important to note that these criteria describe an overarching pattern: a group needs to score high on at least 10 or 12 of these to be within even hailing distance of “cult” status. On the other hand, just about any group trying to create social change is going to partake of at least a few of these qualities. When people are setting out on a new course, they tend to put out tremendous amounts of energy. They trust their leaders, ascribe all manner of wisdom and magical power to them, accept their words as dogma, and enthusiastically recruit new members. (Or, in this case, voters: Obama is, after all, running a political campaign.) It’s offputting at best and worrisome at worst; but as you can see from the list, it takes a whole lot more than that to make any group qualify as a full-blown cult.

There is no evidence anywhere that Obama is running front groups, using his campaign to enrich himself, sexually manipulating his followers, censoring anyone, or insisting that people isolate themselves from the larger society. There are no draconian efforts at dropout control. Nobody’s arming up out of paranoia. And “grimness” is about the last word you’d use to describe an Obama event.


So if Obamamania doesn’t come close to making the cut as a “cult,” then just what the hell is going on there?

What’s going on is that we’ve finally got a Democratic candidate who understands exactly how the Republicans did it. As I pointed out my very first week on this blog, the GOP didn’t come to power by talking about plans and policies; they did it by using strongly emotional appeals that grabbed people by the gut and didn’t let them go. Theirs was never a movement based on reason. It was, from the very beginning, a movement of hearts and souls. And it was that deep, emotionally sustaining commitment that drew people in so deeply that they were willing to give 25 years of their lives to bringing about the New World Order their leaders promised them. We may hate what they’ve accomplished — but we’re never going to be able to do better until we can inspire that same kind of passion for change.

And Obama’s doing just that. He’s tapped into a deeply pressurized seam of repressed fury within the American electorate, and he’s giving it voice, a focus, and an outlet. Are the results scary? You bet: these people want change on a scale that much of the status quo should find terrifying. Are they unreasoning? The followers may be — but as long as their leader keeps a cool head, that’s not as much of a problem right now as we might think; and the heat will dissipate naturally in time. Is this kind of devotion even appropriate? You bet. You don’t get the kind of deep-level change we need without first exposing and channeling people’s deep discontent. Obama’s change talk may be too vague for most people’s tastes (including mine); but the fact is that if we’re serious about enacting a progressive agenda, rousing people’s deepest dreams and desires and mobilizing that energy is exactly how it’s going to happen. And Obama’s the first candidate we’ve had in a generation who really, truly gets this.

The frustrating thing here is that if Obama were a Republican candidate, this would all be considered perfectly normal, even admirable. But when a Democrat attracts the same kind of unquestioning enthusiasm, suddenly it’s a cult.

As personally unenthused as I am about Obama, I think his charisma and ability to inspire give him the best chance of beating McCain in November. He might even have the coattails to get a few extra Democrats elected to Congress… assuming that he generates mostly Democratic turnout, which is not necessarily a sure thing.

2 comments February 13th, 2008 at 10:57pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Elections,Media,Obama,Politics,Republicans

It All Depends On What The Meaning Of “Straight” Is…

Behold, The Straight Talk Express in action:

Today, the Senate brought the Intelligence Authorization Bill to the floor, containing a provision from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that establishes one interrogation standard, requiring the intelligence community to abide by the same standards as articulated in the Army Field Manual and banning waterboarding.

Just hours ago, the Senate voted in favor of the bill, 51-45.

Earlier today, ThinkProgress noted that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a former prisoner of war, has spoken strongly in favor of implementing the Army Field Manual standard. When confronted today with the decision of whether to stick with his conscience or cave to the right wing, McCain chose to ditch his principles and instead vote to preserve waterboarding:

Mr. McCain, a former prisoner of war, has consistently voiced opposition to waterboarding and other methods that critics say is a form torture. But the Republicans, confident of a White House veto, did not mount the challenge. Mr. McCain voted “no” on Wednesday afternoon.

The New York Times Times notes that “the White House has long said Mr. Bush will veto the bill, saying it ‘would prevent the president from taking the lawful actions necessary to protect Americans from attack in wartime.'”

After Bush vetoes the bill, McCain will again be confronted with a vote to either stand with President Bush or stand against torture. He indicated with his vote today where he will come down on that issue.

John McCain: He was against waterboarding before he was for it.

If it weren’t for the media’s slobbering Saint-McCain-can-do-no-wrong hero worship, he would have absolutely no credibility at all. Who else could get away with speaking out against waterboarding and torture (having personally been tortured themselves) and then voting for it?

Hopefully it will occur to the Democratic presidential nominee to mention this little flip-flop a time or two. It’s a double-whammy, after all: It shows McCain to be a double-talking liar and the second coming of Gee Dubya, which is absolutely the last thing America wants. Really, anything that makes McCain look like Dubya is going to be a winner for the Democrats.

February 13th, 2008 at 09:59pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Corruption/Cronyism,McCain,Politics,Republicans,Torture,Wankers

Trickle-Up Economics

Robert Reich points out the bloody obvious:

WE’RE sliding into recession, or worse, and Washington is turning to the normal remedies for economic downturns. But the normal remedies are not likely to work this time, because this isn’t a normal downturn.

The problem lies deeper. It is the culmination of three decades during which American consumers have spent beyond their means. That era is now coming to an end. Consumers have run out of ways to keep the spending binge going.

The only lasting remedy, other than for Americans to accept a lower standard of living and for businesses to adjust to a smaller economy, is to give middle- and lower-income Americans more buying power – and not just temporarily.

Much of the current debate is irrelevant. Even with more tax breaks for business like accelerated depreciation, companies won’t invest in more factories or equipment when demand is dropping for products and services across the board, as it is now. And temporary fixes like a stimulus package that would give households a one-time cash infusion won’t get consumers back to the malls, because consumers know the assistance is temporary. The problems most consumers face are permanent, so they are likely to pocket the extra money instead of spending it.


The underlying problem has been building for decades. America’s median hourly wage is barely higher than it was 35 years ago, adjusted for inflation. The income of a man in his 30s is now 12 percent below that of a man his age three decades ago. Most of what’s been earned in America since then has gone to the richest 5 percent.

Yet the rich devote a smaller percentage of their earnings to buying things than the rest of us because, after all, they’re rich. They already have most of what they want. Instead of buying, and thus stimulating the American economy, the rich are more likely to invest their earnings wherever around the world they can get the highest return.

The problem has been masked for years as middle- and lower-income Americans found ways to live beyond their paychecks. But now they have run out of ways.

[Reich enumerates the ways: Two-income families; longer hours; borrowing]

The binge seems to be over. We’re finally reaping the whirlwind of widening inequality and ever more concentrated wealth.

The only way to keep the economy going over the long run is to increase the wages of the bottom two-thirds of Americans. The answer is not to protect jobs through trade protection. That would only drive up the prices of everything purchased from abroad….A larger earned-income tax credit, financed by a higher marginal income tax on top earners, is required. The tax credit functions like a reverse income tax. Enlarging it would mean giving workers at the bottom a bigger wage supplement, as well as phasing it out at a higher wage. The current supplement for a worker with two children who earns up to $16,000 a year is about $5,000. That amount declines as earnings increase and is eliminated at about $38,000. It should be increased to, say, $8,000 at the low end and phased out at an income of $46,000.

We also need stronger unions, especially in the local service sector that’s sheltered from global competition. Employees should be able to form a union without the current protracted certification process that gives employers too much opportunity to intimidate or coerce them. Workers should be able to decide whether to form a union with a simple majority vote.

And employers who fire workers for trying to organize should have to pay substantial fines. Right now, the typical penalty is back pay for the worker, plus interest – a slap on the wrist.

Over the longer term, inequality can be reversed only through better schools for children in lower- and moderate-income communities. This will require, at the least, good preschools, fewer students per classroom and better pay for teachers in such schools, in order to attract the teaching talent these students need.

These measures are necessary to give Americans enough buying power to keep the American economy going. They are also needed to overcome widening inequality, and thereby keep America in one piece.

I’m not entirely sold on using the tax credit as a substitute for actual wage increases – it’s like a taxpayer subsidy to the employers who are responsible for wage inequality – but it’s better than nothing.

sadly, as with almost everything else, it is no longer possible for our government to choose a practical solution over a political one. As with the economic stimulus, our politicians would rather sacrifice our economic well-being to the greater good of keeping their corporate constituents happy. They don’t care about the lower- and middle-class’s buying power and its ability to sustain our economy, only about their donation power and its ability to sustain incumbency.

I wish I could make this a solely anti-Republican rant, but I think at least half of Senate Democrats are every bit as captive to corporate and moneyed interests as the Republicans are (see also: Telecom Immunity). The House might be a little better, but it too has enough reactionary “Democrats” to prevent any kind of substantive economic reform.

February 13th, 2008 at 09:34pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Economy,Republicans

Quote Of The Day, Part II

Olivia Judson ponders how best to commemorate the shared birthday of Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln:

I considered observing their joint birthday with a discussion of slave making in ants, but rejected that idea in favor of another.

You see, it’s almost Valentine’s Day, so she decided to speculate on the sex life of the tyrannosaurus instead. Ah, romance.

I want to take a journey 68 million years back in time to see a Tyrannosaurus rex couple mating. What was it like? Did they trumpet and bellow and stamp their feet? Did they thrash their enormous tails? Did he bite her neck in rapture and exude a musky scent? Somehow, I imagine that when two T. rex got it on, the earth shook for miles around.

And if I could only take this journey, I could answer a question that sometimes bothers me. Did T. rex have a penis? Did he even, as lizards do, have two?


The reason we don’t know whether T. rex had one is that the organ is generally too soft to leave a fossil trace. (There’s an exception to this: some mammals have a bone in their penis, the os penis or baculum. This can fossilize. Humans are unusual among primates in not having one; in case you’re wondering, it’s not clear whether the bone plays a role in maintaining erections.)


Moreover, whether a male has a penis at all varies from one group to the next. Male salamanders, for instance, don’t: they deposit sperm on the ground and the female collects it. Among birds, penises are rare: ostriches, emus, ducks, geese and swans are among the few. The rest just have a cloaca – an all-purpose opening also used for urination, defecation and, in the female, laying eggs. To copulate, two birds bring their cloacae together in what’s called a cloacal kiss.

I am so turned on right now.

Anyway, her guess is that male tyrannosaurs did have penises, because their closest living relatives, crocodiles and primitive birds (ostriches, emus, rheas, cassowaries, kiwis and tinamous) did. As to what kind of penis, I guess we’ll never know, unless we get lucky and find a fossilized one, or some miraculously preserved T. rex porn.

February 13th, 2008 at 09:00pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Quotes,Science

Quote Of The Day, Part I

From a fascinating Wired slideshow about the surreal Kaiju Big Battel wrestling:

In the second round, Sun Buster reels from a rough blow from Team CIA Plantains, two of many bananalike creatures in the Kaiju universe.


They’re not kidding, either:


I like how Zombie Plantain has a little drawn-on villain mustache, and possibly goatee.

February 13th, 2008 at 08:24pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Quotes,Weirdness

Wednesday Surrogate Why-I-Love-The-Weekly-World-News Blogging


Turns out Cheney’s location isn’t the only thing that’s undisclosed…

Bat Boy to Dick Cheney – “Don’t You Love Me, Daddy?”

(by Alicia Morgan of Last Left Turn Before Hooterville)

MORGANTOWN, West Virginia – In the small mining town of Ticksville, West Virginia, population 357, a lonely little boy cries for the daddy he’s never seen. While other little boys he knows have fathers that play catch, take them fishing, and coach their Little League teams, this little boy has never known the love of the man responsible for bringing him into the world.

A fatherless boy is not unusual in this impoverished mountain town; a succession of unfortunate mining accidents has seen to that, and the difficulty in finding work in this once-booming area has driven many men away from their families in search of bigger and better things. But this particular boy is not like other boys, and the father he has never seen is not like other fathers.

This little boy’s name is Bat Boy, and his mother now claims that the father he has never seen is Vice-President Dick Cheney.

Little Bat Boy, part human, part bat, first gained national attention when he was found in a West Virginia cave in 1992. At first thought to be an abandoned orphan, his mother, Susan Boy, was subsequently located in a bar in Morgantown three weeks later, where she had “stopped on the way home from work, and just lost track of time.”

Professional recycler Susan Boy has refused to comment on the subject of her son’s father up until now, but in a sensational statement has named Vice-President Cheney as the real father of Bat Boy.

“I never wanted to make no trouble for Batty’s dad,” she said in an exclusive interview with the Weekly World News. “I figured my boy had enough unwanted attention as it was, and him and me have always made our own way. It ain’t that unusual round these parts to be a single mom anyhow, and I always told him his daddy was a no-account drunken bum. That seemed to satisfy him for a while. But now that he’s older, he’s askin’ more questions, and since his daddy is almost done being Vice-President, I think my son deserves to know who his father is.”

Ms. Boy asserts that there is no financial angle in seeking to reunite Batty with his dad. “I never asked Dick for no money. Even when times was tough, me and Batty had our pride. But it broke my heart to watch poor Batty trying to ‘prove himself’ to a daddy he’s never known. All he ever wanted was a father’s love, and I think it’s time he had it.”

Susan Boy claimed to have had a long affair with the Vice-President in the late seventies and early eighties. “We met in a bar in Morgantown,” she said. “The chemistry was undeniable after five boilermakers, and Dickie put me up in a motel room for the next four years. He came to see me every time he could get away from that ball-busting harpy he was married to.”

She said that the real Dick Cheney was very different from the public’s perception of him. “He was just the sweetest thing,” she said. “Always bringing me flowers and Jack Daniels. He’d cry and cry about how no one really understood him except me. He was always crying around me, now that I think back on it. You might not know it, but my Dickie was a very emotional guy. Sometimes all he’d do when he came over would be to stay up all night, crying and cleaning his shotgun. He was sensitive like that. I think he could only be his real self around me.”

She claimed that one of the great disappointment’s of Cheney’s life was that he never had a son.

“I loved Dickie so much that I decided to make his dream come true and give him the son he always wanted.” But by the time she found ot she was pregnant with Bat Boy, she said, Cheney was “long gone. Lynne found out about me, and threatened to make a public spectacle and destroy his career if he didn’t break it off with me. It broke both our hearts, but I knew he was destined for greatness, so I let him go.” By that time Susan Boy was pregnant and homeless, and took up residency in a deserted cave.

“Times was hard, all right – real hard. But somehow I managed to get by and make a home for Batty. When he was born, it was all I could do to keep from calling his daddy and telling him that his fondest wish had come true. But I knew that I had to keep our secret.”

She kept that secret for twenty-five years, but now she feels that it’s time to break her silence.

“Batty did everything he could to impress his dad – he even joined the Marines and was a war hero in Iraq. He only did it hoping to make his daddy proud.”

She believes that the Vice-President will be proud when he meets his son at last.

“I just know that Dickie will be crazy about him,” she says. “What father wouldn’t be proud of a son like Batty? He’s a big celebrity now in his own right who made his own way without any help from his father, unlike those sorry coat-tail-riding daughters of his. He tried to make the second one into the son he never thought he’d have and look how that turned out. And the older Batty gets, the more you can tell that he’s Dickie’s son. He’s never without his shotgun, and he cries a lot, too.”

Bat Boy has a message for his father, too. “Daddy, I love you,” he said in a statement to the Weekly World News. “All I ever wanted was to make you proud of me, Daddy. I don’t want your money. Just a phone call, a hug, a father-and-son hunting trip – that’s all I want from you. I don’t need anything else – just my Daddy’s love.”

Both Bat Boy and his mother are willing to undergo DNA testing to prove that the Vice-President is Batty’s father. “Any time, any where,” says Ms. Boy. “Dickie, do the right thing. Don’t lose out on the love of the son you always wanted! If you need me to kick Lynne’s dried-up old ass, I will. I’m here for you, Dickie!”

When contacted for a response by our reporter, Vice-President Cheney neither confirmed nor denied the allegation, but in a statement said, “Go f*** yourself.”

On the other hand, Weekly World News’ own reporting casts some doubt on Ms. Boy’s story…


2 comments February 13th, 2008 at 05:55pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Weekly World News


Donna Edwards wins! This is really great news. Not only is Donna a great progressive knocking off a corrupt Bush Dog sleaze, but it helps to send the message to other Bush Dogs that they can’t ignore their constituents with impunity: they can be removed if they ignore the wishes of their district.

Hopefully Wynn won’t pull a Lieberman and run as an Independent…

Also, the writer’s strike is over.�

February 13th, 2008 at 07:25am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Elections,Politics

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