Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Fish Slaps for Peace and Sanity

I'm generally opposed to violence, but comedic violence is another matter. Given the vileness of the right-wing these days (ongoing if not escalating), even a peace-inclined DFH might find him or herself feeling filled with anger. But how best to respond?

Writing a scathing blog post can help, as did the many fine posts (linked above) taking on the sliming of Graeme Frost. However, I often think of this exchange at a party in Woody Allen's film Manhattan (Allen plays Davis):

Isaac Davis: Has anybody read that Nazis are gonna march in New Jersey? Y'know, I read this in the newspaper. We should go down there, get some guys together, y'know, get some bricks and baseball bats and really explain things to them.

Party Guest: There is this devastating satirical piece on that on the Op Ed page of the Times, it is devastating.

Isaac Davis: Well, a satirical piece in the Times is one thing, but bricks and baseball bats really gets right to the point.

I can relate. (Sorry, no clip — I'm hoping that by next year I'll be set up to make my own.)

Jonathan Schwarz suggests:

My position is that all heads of state of all countries at all times should, when appearing in public, be showered with rotting garbage. This garbage should consist of at least 5% rancid mayonnaise by volume.

It's not that there are no worthwhile heads of state. At any time Planet Earth may enjoy as many as two of them. But the worthwhile ones will appreciate the garbage-pelting policy and not be deterred, while the non-worthwhile ones may decide to move into a less destructive career, such as serial killer.

Some propositions are issue-specific. The Smirking Chimp, among many others, has suggested that folks such as Rudy Giuliani, who insist that water-boarding isn't torture, undergo it themselves.

Still, the best route probably remains satire, mockery and relentless ridicule. It's not limited to Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and clown posses. Many a liberal blog can and does mock the right-wing, but most of us can always use a few new tools.

As with so many of life's problems, solutions arrive via... Monty Python. There are so very many people deserving of a smack from a knight with a chicken:

It can even scale. Why not rate different pieces of hackery? The average National Review post, for example, might warrant three chicken smacks out of a possible ten:

I'm also a big fan of fish slapping, well suited for Bill Kristol and Jonah Goldberg:

Extra points if the fish is rancid.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Monday, October 29, 2007

What Do You Stand For?

The Poetry Man is one of ten finalists for a "What Do You Stand For?" video contest, as part of a promotion for the film Lions for Lambs. His entry is above. You can see the rest, and vote, here. You can vote once per day from now until 11/7. Although the site says you can vote for up to ten finalist videos per day, the official rules further explain:

Each day during the Public Voting Period anyone may vote a maximum of ten (10) times but may not exceed one (1) vote per Finalist Video. Persons voting are encouraged to use the Judging Criteria in Section 6 to evaluate Finalist Videos. Subsequent votes in excess of stated maximum per voting day by a single person will be disqualified.

The prize? "The winner gets to help choose what charity should receive $25,000 and will have his/her video featured on the YouTube homepage." Pretty cool, and a pretty smart promotion by MGM/UA, since $25,000 is pocket change for them, and director Robert Redford certainly has some credibility both as an activist and for supporting new filmmakers.

If you're interested, NPR has a few good stories involving Lions for Lambs (official site here). Here's a recent piece on Tom Cruise's attempt to re-invent himself. NPR's Bob Mondello did a fall preview almost two months back as well as a recent, thoughtful piece on the many sober, somber films for adults rolling out this fall, a dynamic that seems to go beyond the usual Oscar season glut.

We'll see how Lions for Lambs turns out. When politically-oriented films fail, it's typically because they're so heavy-handed with their "message" (however worthy) the piece winds up dramatically lopsided. Still, it definitely can be done, and trying to tell an adult story in Hollywood is most welcome ambition. Here's hoping the film is good.

Meanwhile, here's hoping that the best finalist in this contest wins. It's always a good thing to support good films and filmmakers, but it's even more crucial to support good short pieces, blogging and activism. Personally, I'd say The Poetry Man's piece is a standout, but check out all the short videos, and make your DFH vote count!

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Our Incompetence is Proof the System Doesn't Work

I have a guest post up over at The Big Con, about Mitt Romney's mighty efficient bullsh — err, hogwash, at the most recent Republican presidential candidates' debate. Hey, I don't about you, but I'm shocked.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Song Remains the Same for Howard Kurtz

Last week, Howard Kurtz downplayed his pal Michelle Malkin's crazy and vicious smear campaign against twelve-year old Graeme Frost and his family, toddler Bethany Wilkerson and her family, and whoever else dared to challenge her blatant inaccuracies and complete lack of decency. This past Friday, in "CHIP On Their Shoulder," Howard Kurtz demonstrated both what's not so bad about him and what's infuriating and contemptible.

First, let's note what Kurtz does right in this online column. He covers the under-covered story that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's office had a hand in this smear campaign, and lied about it. Kurtz also links Greg Sargent, who asks, "When are the cable nets and the Capitol Hill press and the pundits going to dig into the role that GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell played in pushing the smear of the Frost family?" Kurtz also quotes Digby, one of the best writers on this whole debacle. All of that is to his credit, as is his general pro-blog bent.

Now to his faults. He leads with this:

On the left, commentators are really ticked off over what they view as the smearing of a 12-year-old boy.

On the right, pundits say they are raising legitimate questions about a family that the Democrats trotted out as a symbol of the child health insurance program.

The House, as expected, failed to override Bush's veto of a $35-billion expansion of the program yesterday. But the real emotion seems to surround Graeme Frost, the brain-damaged boy who delivered the Democratic radio address about the S-CHIP program.

You will not be surprised to learn that I am not in favor of beating up on young kids. But I also don't think it's unfair for opponents to question a family's income qualifications for a federal program after the other side has put the family forward as a symbol of why the program is needed.

The problem is that some of the early attacks on the Frost family (the parents have already chatted with Keith Olbermann) were misleading. Yes, the kid goes to a private school, but on scholarship. Yes, the father owns a home, but he bought it in 1990, in a rundown neighborhood, for $55,000.

Such hedging isn't that surprising from an entrenched media figure trying to do "straight" reporting without pissing anyone off, specifically the right-wing. Kurtz won't state that smearing actually occurred, but that it's 'viewed' that way. That's not too bad. But Kurtz glosses over that for those "misleading" attacks (notice the passive construction he uses), the right-wingers made no effort to fact-check them. Kurtz also glosses over the viciousness of those attacks, declining to show any examples. Keep in mind that he didn't write this in print, but in his online column, where he doesn't have a length requirement (the blog versions of his columns are often longer). I'd say this is gutless "he said-she said" coverage and whitewashing, but still not godawful.

Later on, he quotes Digby at some length (again, that's to his credit):

Journalists will say that using political 'oppo research' is a legitimate way to get tips, as long as they always check them out before they run with them. Fair enough. But what they fail to acknowledge is that this allows the best story-planters to set the agenda for coverage, and the best story-planters are those who know how to get the media interested.

And after watching them for the past two decades very closely, I think it's obvious that what interests the media more than anything is access and gossip and vicious little smears piled one atop the other. And why not? They are easy to report, require no mind numbing shuffling of financial reports or struggling through arcane policy papers. In fact, the press has made a virtue of the simple-mindedness by calling what used to be known as gossip, 'character issues', which are used to stand in for judgment about policy.

The press, therefore, will go to great lengths to protect the people who give them what they crave, most of whom happen to be Republicans since character smears are their very special talent. There was a reason why Rove and Libby used 'the wife sent him on a boondoggle' line. Stories about Edwards and his hair and Hillary and her cold, calculating cleavage are the coin of the realm. Why we see so little of the same kind of feeding frenzies on the other side isn't hard to fathom. Nobody is spoon-feeding them to the press with just the kind of cutesy meanness they prefer.

Kurtz' response in the next paragraph is:

I agree that leakers often get to set the story line, but I also know that Democrats are not unfamiliar with the practice. (Remember the Bush DUI leak just before the 2000 election?) And those who leaked information about domestic surveillance, Abu Ghraib and secret CIA prisons also had an impact.

Where to begin? I did a quick search and found that Paddy at Cliff Schecter's blog beat me to a response. As he writes:

I'm only going to say it once Howie, since I think any other attempt at explaining it to you would be wasted breath-

The first example is of rabid monkeys flinging poo at a wall trying to see what will stick and/or smear.

The second example is of reporters digging up truths that are harmful, whether to a nascent presidency or our country.

The fact that you can't tell the difference explains it all.

Digby also responded, taking on the DUI issue specifically, but first dissecting Kurtz' ridiculous paragraph:

Can everyone see what's wrong with that picture? I knew that you could.

It's hard to believe but Kurtz seems to be implying that those who leaked the illegal wiretapping, Abu Ghraib and secret CIA prisons stories were Democratic operatives who were feeding the press a deliciously, gossipy storyline for political gain. Maybe he knows something I don't know, but to compare the whistleblowers who blew the lid off of Abu Ghraib and the others with those smarmy little staffers in Mitch McConnel's office who trafficked in smears against the Frosts says a lot about how the Village views "leaks."

Glenn Greenwald also weighed in on the same paragraph, writing:

For the moment, leave aside the fact that Kurtz is so desperate to defend Republican operatives that he just recklessly asserts things as fact here even though he has no idea whether they are true. Kurtz has absolutely no idea who leaked the NSA story to Jim Risen and Eric Lichtblau and whether they are "Democrats." The same is almost certainly true for Dana Priest's sources for her CIA "black site" story, whom Priest described as "U.S. and foreign officials" and "current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents" -- not "Democrats."

Worse, the Abu Grahib whistleblower was U.S. Army Sgt. Joseph Darby, not a Democratic Party operative. And the Bush DUI story was uncovered by a local reporter in Maine through actual old-fashioned reporting -- pursuing a copy of the arrest record and interviewing the arresting officer. But Kurtz, like most Betlway journalists, has such a compulsion to assert equivalencies that he literally just invented facts -- Democrats leaked these stories -- in order to support his "balance" mantra. And this is CNN's and the Post's "media critic."

But far more significant than Kurtz's willingness to invent facts is that he sees no distinction between (a) revelations that the Bush administration is torturing detainees, holding them in secret prisons, and spying on Americans in violation of the law and (b) what Digby described as "stories about Edwards and his hair and Hillary and her cold, calculating cleavage." Digby's whole point was that Republicans dominate political press coverage because they feed vapid, slothful, tiny-minded "journalists" with vapid, tiny-minded, malicious gossip that reporters eat up and spew out in lieu of reporting on actual matters of substance. To rebut Digby's claim, Kurtz argued that Democrats do it, too -- and then cited the leaks about torture, secret prisons, and warrantless surveillance as his proof.

Of course, none of this is that surprising, considering that during his online chat on Monday, 10/15/07, Kurtz tried to equate The Baltimore Sun showing a photo of the Frost's home with Michelle Malkin publishing "their address and telephone number on her blog so more people could harass them" (also noted at FireDogLake). Kurtz handled this affair like a GOP hack, not an objective (and fearless) journalist.

I wanted to wait to finish this post until after Kurtz' online discussion today, to see if he fielded any questions or comments on the matter. I submitted the following two, although the chat was already underway and Kurtz may never have seen them:

Dear Howard, thanks for covering the Frost attacks and the role of McConnell's office in them. However, I felt you glossed over the character of those attacks. The initial Free Republic post that so many right-wing bloggers and McConnell passed around was full of inaccuracies, falsehoods and silliness (is this the idea of a scholarship to private school so inconceivable?). The Frosts would have been eligible under SCHIP even under Bush's version of the plan. Malkin, Reynolds and the gang and McConnell all rushed in without bothering to verify anything. Many of the attacks were vicious and personal, such as calling the Frost parents "spoiled brats" and wishing to see them 'destroyed' or 'hanged.' It would have been easy to say "we all feel sympathetic to the Frosts, but this is a bad program because…" They didn't. While you provided some good details and links, a reader would be unaware of the true venom of these attacks reading your piece alone. Thanks.


Howard, I've read your work for the past three-some years, and while I appreciated you covering the attacks on the Frosts, I was really dismayed to read this:

"I agree that leakers often get to set the story line, but I also know that Democrats are not unfamiliar with the practice. (Remember the Bush DUI leak just before the 2000 election?) And those who leaked information about domestic surveillance, Abu Ghraib and secret CIA prisons also had an impact."

Do you see the false equivalencies here? As far as we know, Democrats were not responsible for all of those leaks, if any. Shouldn't the standards for the newsworthiness of any "leak" be 1) it's true and b) it serves some public need? (Obviously you don't disclose troop movements, operational details, etc.) Warrantless eavesdropping violates the Constitution, Abu Ghraib violated our prohibitions against torture and standards for due process and fair treatment, as do secret CIA prisons. All of these have also severely hurt our image abroad. Exposing those should not be a matter of partisanship. How are those possibly comparable to, say, the swift-boating of Kerry, the attacks on the Wilsons, or the sliming of severely-injured, 12-year old Graeme Frost and his family? Sure, questions can be raised, but all of those attacks contained lies, inaccuracies and an extreme viciousness. As citizens, we depend on the media to fact-check and call BS. Passing on unverified and inaccurate oppo research may fill a column or air time, but it hardly serves the public. As I recall, you've made similar distinctions yourself before, and you were right to do so. Thanks.

Again, I can't fault Kurtz for not responding to my specific submissions, since he may not have even seen them. I dashed these off quickly, and the second one is quite long, although many WaPo online discussions will feature a few of that length. I just wanted to provide context to help avoid another glib dismissal. However, since I read his chats almost every week, I know that when the big liberal blogs raise some question about Kurtz' reporting, it almost always makes it to the chat in some fashion. I would be really surprised if no one offered a similar comment or question, but the chat didn't feature a single challenge on his handling of the story.

I've read virtually every piece Kurtz has written in the past three or more years (although I've only caught clips of his CNN show Reliable Sources). My take on Kurtz is that he leans conservative (his wife is "Republican consultant and commentator Sheri Annis") and does make some effort to be fair, but he's blind to many of his faults and biases. That's the most charitable take. I do give him credit for chatting with readers nearly every week, and often responding to some tough questions. At times he's even apologized for errors. Every so often he produces a splendid column, as when he took on the ridiculous Murdoch-driven Obama madrassa story, and actually did so ahead of the curve.

However, much of the time he's playing catch-up, and his starting frame of reference is almost always right-wing blogs and publications. He sometimes challenges right-wingers, but generally not that vigorously and has spread false claims by them unchallenged. He's run with BS stories spread by Malkin and others that were debunked by the major liberal blogs days before he posted his column. All in all, his blog isn't bad as a conservative reader's round-up, with a sprinkling of liberal pieces as well. He's a sampler more than a debunker, although he seems to have a double standard for what outrages him (no one who reads conservative blogs as regularly as he does could be ignorant of how violent rhetoric is commonplace and even encouraged by them in a way that is just not the case for the liberal blogosphere).

Kurtz's sporadic quality work has been enough to make me feel disappointed in him rather than completely writing him off. I would like to think he's redeemable, and with the chattering class, I generally like to give credit where deserved and condemnation where justified. (I also feel compelled to dissect bullshit.) Still, others such as Scott Horton have savaged Kurtz on several occasions, and with good reason. Kurtz has his moments, but he's shown a double standard several times now, as well as a stunning unwillingness to call bullshit on the right-wing. If he were a GOP operative, his rationalizations and false equivalencies might not be so maddening, but he's a supposedly objective media critic at one of the nation's best, most prestigious newspapers. Film critic Pauline Kael sagely observed that Hollywood confuses what people want with what they're willing to settle for. The same dynamic holds true for most politicians and certainly most pundits of "the Village." Given that moral vacuum, it's all the more important for bloggers and activists to keep up the pressure, especially with pundits too gutless to condemn sleazy attacks on a severely-injured seventh grade kid.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Recap of the Sliming of Graeme Frost

The right-wingers' attacks on twelve-year old Graeme Frost and his family have been despicable, and a new low even for them (let's hope it takes them a long time to outdo this one). It's not as if their poor arguments, distortions, outright lies and personal attacks are anything new, but their true inner ugliness has been on full display, more blatantly than usual. To date, I haven't seen any conservative say anything like, "We all feel bad for Graeme and Gemma Frost and their entire family, but this law would still be bad because..." Of course, arguing against health care for poor and middle-class children is hard on the merits, and arguing anything on the merits isn't the conservative style anyway. More pointedly, such a statement would require an expression of compassion, an acknowledgement of humanity, and perhaps some slight recognition that bad things happen to good people, the same thing could happen to any of us or our kids, and we're all in this together. But all of those are pretty antithetical to conservatism.

While the right-wing machine — and Michelle Malkin especially — have been at their most rabid and contemptible, many of the challenges to them have been superb. Outrage over how the Frosts have been treated doesn't make up for how they've been treated, of course, and sadly, they and other families continue to be targeted by the right-wing. It can't be easy, especially given everything else they've been forced to handle. Perhaps, though, enough exposure and outrage can help pass some good legislation and push these far right extremists a little further to the fringe, where they belong.

In case you missed any of the hubbub, here's a recap of some of the outpouring. It's a long post whose main use is to skim over as a resource. Feel free to add any related links in the comments, since of course I missed or skipped many worthy pieces, and unfortunately, the attacks are ongoing.


Graeme Frost delivers the Democratic Radio Address for the week, which can be heard and read here. He explains the benefits of the SCHIP program. As the Democratic Party site states:

Graeme Frost, 12, was in a serious car accident a few years ago and suffered severe brain trauma. He was in a coma and lost his ability to eat and walk. Fortunately, Graeme was covered by the CHIP program and was able to get the medical care he needed. After extensive therapy and continual treatments at a clinic he goes to every summer, Graeme has regained his functional abilities. He still needs to visit several different specialists, and his mother, Bonnie, says he would not have survived - or would at least be wheelchair-bound - without medical coverage.


Crooks and Liars posts The Daily Show's coverage of Bush's veto of the SCHIP law.


Whiskey Fire: "Next Time You Get Sick You'll Know -- You Might Even See" — Thers makes quick work debunking the initial Freeper lies about the Frost family and other conservative attacks.


Think Progress: "Right Wing Launches Baseless Smear Campaign Against 12 Year Old Recipient Of SCHIP" — As did Thers' piece, this excellent post sums up the key facts and attacks. Much linked, it helps bring the smear campaign to larger attention.

Digby: "Fetid Compost Where Their Hearts Should Be" — Digby voices the outrage perfectly:

This is so loathesome I am literally sick to my stomach. These kids were hurt in a car accident. Their parents could not afford health insurance --- and sure as hell couldn't get it now with a severely handicapped daughter. And these shrieking wingnut jackasses are harassing their family for publicly supporting the program that allowed the kids to get health care. A program, by the way, which a large number of these Republicans support as well.

They went after Michael J. Fox. They went after a wounded Iraq war veteran. Now they are going after handicapped kids. There is obviously no limit to how low these people will go.

They'd better pray that they stay rich and healthy and live forever because if there is a hell these people are going to be on the express train to the 9th circle the minute they shuffle off their useless mortal coils.

Whiskey Fire: Speaking of eloquent outrage, Thers is on a tear, producing "Uniquely Human," "Sad Freaks of the Nation," "Let Them Be and That's the Lesson" and "Kicking Loud Trash", noting how "Mark Steyn decides that dammit, nobody on the right is going to be nearly the asshole he is." As Thers puts it:

Nothing in this family's story is remotely implausible, and anyone who pretends otherwise is making up crap because they don't like a healthcare program that benefits the middle class. Period.

A word for all the wingnut "Citizen Journalists": you're no such thing. You're just crazy assholes.


Think Progress: "Rush Smears 12-Yr Old: ‘They Filled His Head With Lies Just As They Have Some Of These Soldiers’" — Rush joins the scrum, debasing it further as is his special gift.

Ezra Klein: "What Has Happened To The Right?":

This is the politics of hate. Screaming, sobbing, inchoate, hate. It would never, not in a million years, occur to me to drive to the home of a Republican small business owner to see if he "really" needed that tax cut. It would never, not in a million years, occur to me to call his family and demand their personal information. It would never occur to me to interrogate his neighbors. It would never occur to me to his smear his children.

The shrieking, atavistic ritual of personal destruction the right roars into every few weeks is something different than politics.

Joan Walsh: "Right-wing bullies pick on children."

Digby: "Judgment Daze," "Don't Go There," "Outsourcing The Dirt Gathering" on the apparent role of Republican leader Mitch McConnell's office in all this, and "Word To The Wise" on the GOP's use of kids in ads.

Kevin Drum: "The Looney Brigade" — "As near as I can tell, the right-wing blogosphere has spent the past three years fantasizing obsessively about uncovering a new Rathergate."

Balloon Juice: "When Rhetoric Meets Reality", The Distinction Is Clear" — "Questioning a political General is treason, bullying a 12 year old is patriotic," and "The Nut Of It." In the first piece, conservative John Cole writes:

I simply can not believe this is what the Republican party has become. I just can’t. It just makes me sick to think all those years of supporting this party, and this is what it has become. Even if you don’t like the S-Chip expansion, it is hard to deny what Republicans are- a bunch of bitter, nasty, petty, snarling, sneering, vicious thugs, peering through people’s windows so they can make fun of their misfortune.

The Moderate Voice: "The War Against Graeme Frost: Get That School Kid" — Moderate Joe Gandelman goes off.

Whiskey Fire: "King Shit and the Golden Boys" — Molly Ivors weighs in.

Sadly, No!: "Ahem," "OMG EXPLOITING KIDS IN POLITICS!!!!11!" "Let Them Eat Ayn Rand Novels" — Mark Steyn's pal Kathy Shaidle asserts that the poor "are no more real than Bigfoot" and Jesus wouldn't mind us hating them or something wacky, Worse Than Even I Could Imagine — Dan Riehl calls the Frost parents "spoiled brats," and "More on the Frost affair."

Crooks and Liars: "Graeme Frost: What Would You Do If This Was Snooping Around Your House? (Updated)."


The Baltimore Sun: "Frost family draws ire of conservatives" — this good article highlights characteristic comments (despite Malkin's protestations) from the right-wing site Redstate about the Frosts:

"If federal funds were required [they] could die for all I care. Let the parents get second jobs, let their state foot the bill or let them seek help from private charities. ... I would hire a team of PIs and find out exactly how much their parents made and where they spent every nickel. Then I'd do everything possible to destroy their lives with that info."


"Hang 'em. Publically," the contributor wrote. "Let 'em twist in the wind and be eaten by ravens. Then maybe the bunch of socialist patsies will think twice."

Media Matters: "NY Times uncritically reported that Senate GOP leadership "has not issued a press release criticizing the Frosts" over SCHIP."

Ezra Klein: "Let's Debate": Ezra Klein challenges Michelle Malkin to debate SCHIP with him on the merits.

Digby: "What, Me Worry?":

One of the things these snotty critics fail to acknowledge is that even if the Frosts had had private health insurance, after their kids got sick they would very likely have had to go bankrupt. Those kids spent five months in the hospital. The bills came to the millions of dollars and no middle class person, no matter what good "choices" they make, can afford to pick up the 20% or so they'd have to pay under an "affordable" health care policy when something like that happens. Medical bankruptcy happens every day, although our fabulous new bankruptcy laws make it far more difficult to get a fresh start than it used to be, even if you have a special needs kid and can't work full time.

Obsidian Wings: "The First Rule of Holes."

Whiskey Fire: "The Cartoon Bubble Explodes," and "Sink to the Depths":

...Why this garbage matters, to the extent that it does matter (not that I don't have sympathy for those who ask why on earth it should). It matters for two reasons: one, to minimize the damage wingnuts can and will do to those people they choose to target, and two, in order to discredit the system by which slime bubbles up from the wingnut cesspits and ends up as Conventional Media Wisdom.

Sadly, No!: "Brad Saved The Best For Last" — more wankerdom from Dan Riehl, "Will Someone Please Think Of The Children?" "Shorter Stalkin’ Malkin," "The Ezra Challenge" — features a great graphic, "Prosperity: Bad For America [Updated]," "Gods Help Us" and "Malkin vs. Malkin."

The News Hoggers: "Good faith arguments":

Voters also have choices. We can let people like Michelle Malkin run interference for a party that wants to punish us and take away everything we've worked for if, God forbid, something terrible happens, or we can vote for a different kind of society, where a safety net exists to ensure that a family in need doesn't lose its home when a car accident lands two children in the hospital.

Balloon Juice: Arise, Wingnuts, Arise! "A Republican Cloth House," "Next Stage: Denial" and "A Comparison" of "Real Journalism" and "Wingnutosphere Journalism." As John Cole notes in the "Denial" piece:

...We could go on and on, through [Malkin's] links and through her comments, and we will see it is simply not the case of one Red State commenter. It is Michelle’s monster that she helped to create and helps perpetuate. You didn’t get smeared by the Baltimore Sun, petunia, you were called out.

Crooks and Liars: "Malkin Debases Herself With Further Attacks On A 12 Year Old."

The Plank: "When Right-Wing Attacks Backfire."

"Dangerous, Hateful, Amoral Scumbags: Right Wing Bloggers and Radio Hosts" by Stephen at Shakesville and The Thinkery.

James Wolcott: "Calista Flockhart Confronts Cornholio" — Wolcott segues from pop culture to Limbaugh and the Malkin "orc pit" as he does so well:

Rush Limbaugh and his fellow talk-radio troll dolls didn't "pervert" conservatism--he didn't lay siege to some maiden fair and debauch her virtue. Rush Limbaugh didn't inject an "ideology of hate" into conservatism, he extracted the contemptuous, divisive animosity inherent in the Gingrich doctrine and sugared it up with comedy and his own personal saga for popular consumption. He, like Clarence Thomas, was just what the Republican overseers ordered. Rush Limbaugh is modern mainstream conservatism in all its bullying bluster, hypocrisy, jolly ignorance (global warming etc), slavish submission to military, corporate, and executive power, and slimeballing of political opponents. To believe otherwise is like putting your faith in those few remaining Republican moderates who always manage not to come through in the clutch, who put up a brief show of conscience or faint dissent before the inevitable capitulation. It's a little late to suddenly look around and realize what sleazebags you've got on your team, especially since those sleazebags were there before you arrived. The only difference between Limbaugh and the orc pit of the right blogosphere is one of degree, or perhaps I should say radius.


Ezra Klein: "An Answer!" - Shockingly, Michelle Malkin declines to debate Klein, who writes:

Remember this next time Malkin pretends to be interested in serious argument. I gave her the opportunity for one, on a subject she claims to care mightily about, and she hid behind ad hominem attacks and bizarre rantings. "'Debate' Ezra Klein?" She wrote. "What a perverse distraction and a laughable waste of time that would be. And that’s what they really want, isn’t it? To distract and waste time so they can foist their agenda on the country unimpeded."

That's what she believes policy argument to be. "A perverse distraction and a laughable waste of time."

The Plank: "Drat, Foiled Again!" - Riffing on Malkin and Klein, Jonathan Chait quips:

Yes, that was the plan. And now that she's on to it, I might as well confess our scheme: Dispatch Klein to tie up Malkin for an hour or so, and while she's distracted, push universal health insurance through Congress. Indeed, we've used similar tactics in the past, such as 1993, when we passed the Clinton tax hike after luring Rush Limbaugh to an all-you-can-eat buffet for much of the afternoon. Next time we'll have to be even smarter.

Via Crooks and Liars comes Countdown, with "Olbermann And Maddow On The Right’s Jihad On 12 Year Old Boy."

Digby: "MSM On The Frosts" — CNN's John Roberts literally parrots GOP talking points, and "Post Modern Serfdom" — exploring the right-wing hunger for social control over others.

Tom Tomorrow: "Health care continued" — Tom Tomorrow links many of his past (excellent) cartoons on health care, although as he writes, "It’s particularly depressing to see how relevant sixteen-year-old cartoons on the topic remain."

Obsidian Wings: "Why Coulter is Better Than Malkin" — and drowning is preferable to electrocution, but as always, Publius makes good points. Essentially, Coulter is an act, but Malkin actually wants to be taken seriously (I've argued the same about Coulter here).

Jon Swift: "Fair Game" — Jon turns his dry, satirical wit on the right-wing feeding frenzy.

Whiskey Fire: "Efforts Not Wasted" — Thers makes the point that covering this story is important, but it's also crucial to expose the existing dynamics that allowed it to occur. This entails giving credit where credit is due and "placing the blame precisely where it belongs -- with the right-wing "movement" and how it operates on every level, all the way from bottom feeder freepers to Rush Limbaugh to Mitch McConnell. It was not "blogs" who smeared the Frosts. It was movement conservatives." Amen.

Sadly, No!: "Then what do you suggest, Mr. Drum?" — Dr. Rocket addresses the whole "civility" issue:

You can’t fight these people by being calm and nice. You have to let people know that they’re vile, hateful scumbags with no sense of standards or simple human decency. You have to stand up to them and (rhetorically speaking) punch the sick SOBs right in the nose. Otherwise, they will walk all over you for the rest of your life.

Also from Sadly, No!: "Stalk Amongst Yourselves," "Shorter Amy Ridenour" and "Stalkin’ Malkin Is Losing It": "I’ve become convinced that Michelle Malkin is capable of feeling precisely two emotions: blood lust and self-pity. And the self-pity only comes around when people point out how bloodthirsty she really is."

Orcinus: "Stalking, then balking" — David Neiwert reminds us of Malkin's history of ducking honest debate (Neiwert's written several excellent posts on Malkin's intellectually dishonest, revisionist history of the Japanese-American internment camps).

Balloon Juice: "And Another Thing," "The Genesis of the Smears" — more on McConnell, and "Balkin’ Malkin." As John Cole observes in the first piece:

To what end are these Freepers and Malkinites and Corner readers attacking these people, as even if the Bush veto of the expansion holds, they are going to still qualify for the program? The inability to recognize this, and the instinctive need to just attack, attack, attack and smear, smear, smear is what has surprised me the most. This is not a policy dispute to these folks- this is tribalism, and something deeper and darker and more sinister. It was a mob whipped into a frenzy, a blind rage, and there was no point to it other than the rage itself.

TBogg: "Misty watercolored memories of the way she slurs" — Tbogg posts the video of Malkin in 2004 getting smacked down for telling Chris Matthews that John Kerry's wounds in Vietnam were self-inflicted (this is my favorite Malkin performance, and I wish she always received this response).

FireDogLake: "Late Nite FDL: See Malkin Run."

Mahablog: "Malkingate."


Paul Krugman in the New York Times: "Sliming Graeme Frost" — just read the whole thing. A taste:

I don’t know about you, but I think American children who need medical care should get it, period. Even if you think adults have made bad choices — a baseless smear in the case of the Frosts, but put that on one side — only a truly vicious political movement would respond by punishing their injured children.

E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post: "Meanies And Hypocrites":

Most conservatives favor government-supported vouchers that would help Graeme attend his private school, but here they turn around and criticize him for . . . attending a private school. Federal money for private schools but not for health insurance? What's the logic here?

The Non Sequitur: "Ad puerum" — Jcasey responds to Dionne's query about the logic of it all: "There isn't any."

Think Progress: "White House Embraces Right-Wing Blog That Called For ‘Destroying’ Graeme Frost" — an underreported aspect of the smear machine.

Whiskey Fire: "Smudged & Fiddled with" — Thers eviscerates right-winger Rick Moran's " unpersuasive defensive befuddlement" that he just doesn't understand how anyone can say he "smeared" Graeme Frost.

Balloon Juice: "Frost, Continued" and "A New Mission For The Wingnuts."

Crooks and Liars: "SCHIP Stories: Republicans Getting Grief From Traditional Supporters."


Crooks and Liars: "Malkin Debunks Malkin over Health Care: WSJ calls them the “Internet Mob.”

Whiskey Fire: "The Ogre's Trumpet Blaring."

Sadly, No!:"Insert Clever Title, Pt. Eleventy-Whatever' and "Ladies and Michelle Malkin, We Have a Winner."


The Horse's Mouth: "Even Right-Wing Wall Street Journal Edit Page Says Wingnut Assault On SCHIP Family Is Bogus."


Via Crooks and Liars, on Countdown, the "Frost Parents Talk About The Right’s Jihad Against Their Son." The photos are heartbreaking — unless you happen to be Michelle Malkin, as noted by Logan Murphy and Nicole Belle.

The Big Con: "Watching the Bus Plunge" — David Neiwert recaps many of the attacks and some of Malkin's greatest hits.

Balloon Juice: "Paging DougJ, Master Better" — Will predictions about Howard Kurtz defending Malkin pan out? Do you really need to ask?

"Human Shield" by Chet Scoville at Shakesville and The Vanity Press.


Crooks and Liars: "New SCHIP Video: Bethany’s Story" — Two-year old Bethany receives essential heart surgery thanks to SCHIP. (You know what's coming next, don't you?)

Think Progress: "Right Wing Gleefully Smears Two Yr-Old SCHIP Recipient Bethany Wilkerson."

Joan Walsh: "Another SCHIP family smeared."

Via Crooks and Liars, on Countdown: "The Right’s Attacks On Children Continue - This Time It’s A Toddler ."

Digby: "Valuez" — the attacks on Bethany and Graeme show a pattern:

This is what Republicans call "solutions to problems:" all of you people who work in jobs that don't offer health insurance, and can't afford the ridiculously expensive private health care plans that are available, well, you need to get a job that provides health insurance for your whole family --- or don't have kids.

Oh, and while you're at it, you'd better be prepared to do whatever it takes to keep that job no matter what, especially if your kid gets sick, because if you find yourself without health insurance for any reason it will be because it was your choice. This is what Republicans call "freedom"...

Of course, this doesn't actually have much to do with health care or the economy, does it? This is about the right wing hit squad doing everything it can to intimidate people who speak out in favor of progressive programs. (When they are in the minority, this is where their focus lies --- character assassination.) However, underlying this destructive sniping is a serious idea, and it is that children are a privilege that only those with means should be allowed to have.

Sadly, No!: Meanwhile In Malkinland — "‘Human shield’ is a clever one. It says that some people are so callous, so mercenary, that they’ll put a toddler where Malkin and her friends are sure to go berserk and savage her."

The Horse's Mouth: "McConnell Aide Acknowledges That He Tried To Spread Bogus Smear Of Graeme Frost," "McConnell Aide Keeps Dissembling About Role In Smear Of Graeme Frost" and "Video: McConnell Misleads Public About His Office's Role In Pushing Smear Of Graeme Frost."

More Crooks and Liars: "Senator McConnell Staffer Admits To Smearing 12 Year Old Graeme Frost" and "Jane Hall on the Frost family: "Right Wing bloggers swiftboated a 12-year old boy!”"

FireDogLake: "Ethics Schmethics."

Eric Boehlert at Media Matters: "Malkin and Limbaugh and O'Reilly! Oh my!"

Balloon Juice: "Danger, Will Robinson!"


The Horse's Mouth: "Imagine If A Democrat Had Done This, Part 9,487."

Digby: "Village X-Treme," "Beta Testing Their Product" and "Feeding The Beast."

Media Matters: "NY Times uncritically reported that Senate GOP leadership "has not issued a press release criticizing the Frosts" over SCHIP."

Sadly, No!: "Shorter Mark Hemingway."

Whiskey Fire: "Sad Freaks of the Nation (2X)."

Balloon Juice: "Mukasey Testifies, Right Wing Yawns" — Mukasey, Durbin and Graeme Frost.


Via Crooks and Liars, on Countdown: "Bethany Wilkerson’s Parents Talk About SCHIP Success And Right Wing Smears." Also at C & L: "The House Fails To Get Veto Override on SCHIP" and "Kurtz' Law."

Sadly, No!: "Wingnuttery" — the crazy attacks on SCHIP continue, but have moved to the House floor.

Whiskey Fire: "This Is Not a Vacation."

Rick Perlstein at The Big Con: "We Are Progressives" — a call to arms.

Digby at the Big Con: "Follow the Leaders" —"something truly ugly seems to be bubbling up from the primordial ooze of the conservative movement," and Digby offers a good recap.

And there you have it, so far. It'd be nice all conservatives were civil and argued the substance of issues in good faith, but it would take astounding naïveté or fierce denial to think Malkin and the rest have been doing that, or will at any time in the future.

Despicable attacks like theirs will continue until conservatives pay a cost for them. That's why it's important to grill Mitch McConnell's office for its role in all this, and expose Malkin and the gang for the hateful thugs they are. It's crucial to press the media to cover the real story and provide proper context, rather than letting them be bullied into passing on falsehoods or shamelessly and uncritically mouthing GOP talking points.

Honestly, even after a strong political backlash, Malkin and her ilk are likely to continue, because they're just that mean-spirited, unhinged or — dumb. It's not as if they want to debate anything on the merits, or even that many of them can. Ezra Klein's challenge to Malkin and her response drives that home. Attacking everyone and everything outside their authoritarian conservative bubble goes far beyond politics. It's a ritual, a group affirmation that serves some deep, twisted psychological need. The less they drive the national discourse, the better.

Thanks, and feel free to leave any other good links in the comments. Apologies for those I missed.

Update: More on Howard Kurtz' weak response.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mugged By Logic

Over at The Non Sequitur a short while ago, jcasey dissected the tortured logic of a 10/4/07 Roger Cohen op-ed for the The New York Times. Cohen's agenda? Bashing liberals for criticizing the neocons, and creating a false equivalency about how both sides engage in unfair name-calling, yadda yadda yadda. Of course, Cohen doesn't go after actual liberal positions, just the evil phantoms he's conjured. What's all the more laughable is one of the few liberals he actually cites is Matthew Yglesias, one of many "liberal hawks" who advocated for invading Iraq (although at least Yglesias has apologized for it).

I've previously described Cohen's sort of assertion as "a straw man argument with an ad hominem attack nestled inside." (It's a GOP favorite.) Jcasey uses similar terms, but also observes that Cohen employs "the basic bait and switch typical of all fallacies of relevance." Over at Gin and Tacos, Ed delves into the same article and considers its other "false or misleading analogies." Check out both their takes.

Of course, as Jonathan Schwarz points out, "America's conservatives either cannot or will not construct accurate analogies." Cohen may not be an official conservative, but like Richard Cohen (more on him in a subsequent post), Roger Cohen offers a ridiculous, unfounded and poorly argued attack on liberals. He and other "liberal hawks" often achieve the same goals as their more conservative brethren, and with the same means to boot. As Ed notes:

It's quite amazing, the depths to which even papers like the New York Times will sink. They give column space to dreck like this for the sole purpose of precluding allegations of bias. Nevermind if said columnist is thunderingly ignorant or can't make an argument to save his soul - the important thing is having someone who will talk about how great of an idea the Iraq War is on a bi-weekly basis.

Similarly, jcasey writes, "Often I think newspaper editors across the globe ought to get together and ban the following kind of argument pattern, much as they would any insistence on violating the rules of subject-verb agreement."

A splendid idea. Honestly, I'm pretty sure most high school and college teachers would at least make a comment on Cohen's ridiculous bait-and-switch, straw man argument. I guess they just have higher standards for their students than the editors at the Times have for their columnists (or some columnists have for themselves).

Why does this happen? For one thing, papers need to fill space. However, Ed's take seems dead on to me. The reasons neocons are so discredited is because they've been wrong about virtually everything. The reason they still deserve discrediting and mockery is because they're still wrong, loudly and insistently. But I guess saying so too often feels harsh to the Times, so they try to create an artificial "balance." Plus, as Glenn Greenwald has written in several posts, the entrenched foreign policy community almost always views war advocacy and imperialism as "Serious" and opposition as naïve. Add in that so very many pundits were dead wrong on Iraq, and desperately want to protect their brand. Thus, we're still being lectured by folks who got it wrong the first time and are still wrong. Worse, they continue to manufacture reasons for berating those of us who had it right all along. It's not just the bomb-happy Norman Podhoretzes, Michael Ledeens, Max Boots and William Kristols of the world (neocons all, by the way). We're even lectured by folks who are supposed to be objective journalists, and folks who are supposed to be liberal. I'm pretty damn sick of it. The only purpose of Cohen's column (besides filling space) was to bash liberals. He didn't make a honest case, perhaps because there wasn't an honest case to be made. The problem with Cohen is not his attitude per se but the quality of the work itself. Where are the New York Times' standards?

In any case, a good, clean logical dissection of faulty arguments such as Cohen's is always a boon. Still, especially in cases such as this, moral umbrage also has its place. I'm sick of writers such as Cohen getting a column or air time when so many much more worthy analysts are denied. Cohen invokes a Broder-esque "civility" in his responses to reader comments. Politeness is a virtue, but not at the cost of honesty when discussing important issues. A news organization's job is to call bullshit, not to spread it.

Update: Speaking of moral umbrage, over at Hullabaloo Tristero rips Cohen apart here and here for his "blatantly misleading, self-serving, and malicious essay." My favorite passage in the first piece is probably: "You deplore the lack of "nuance" amongst those of us who were right about Iraq from the beginning. And yet, you lump us together into some amorphous category called "the left."" Cohen's responded to readers here. One of his key lines is: "What I find intolerable is the way a smug left personnified [sic] by Michael Tomasky (see his attempt at humor in God, what a bunch of whiners) can drone on about Iraq for 25 paragraphs or so without ever mentioning what Saddam’s murder-central was like."

You can read Tomasky for yourself here, but it's hardly an "attempt at humor" minimizing human suffering as Cohen seems to suggest. I'd say it's a savage and extremely accurate critique of "the liberal hawks' infuriating and dishonest need for self-justification":

But Cohen's more maddening error is this. In his world, there are three categories of foreign-policy debate: the neocons; the liberal hawks; and then everyone to the left of, say, Jeffrey Goldberg - or Cohen himself - who constitute the left…

But Cohen completely ignores the fourth category of foreign-policy debate: liberals who are neither hawks nor on the left. People who, for example, supported the US invasion of Afghanistan. People who, for that matter, supported the interventions of the 1990s. People who would very much like to have seen the United States do something, earlier and more forcefully, about Darfur.

Who are these people? Mainstream liberals who aren't the anti-militarist left but who also opposed the Iraq war (or, in a small number of cases, supported it originally but quickly recognized the horror of the situation and withdrew their support)…

The Cohen taxonomy is not merely infuriating and stupid. It is, I suspect, intentional in its oversight. It's far easier for a liberal who supported the war to sleep at night if he can shrug off everyone to his left as an appeasing radical. He and Hitchens and others can go on believing they're on "the right side of history" if they wish. What they cannot do is pretend that the people who were right about Iraq, and who represent a point of view that they can't easily dismiss, don't exist.

To my mind, if anyone's minimized human suffering, it’s Cohen and the neocons, most of whom have yet to acknowledge their mistakes, and many of whom are hell-bent on repeating them. As Tristero pointedly says in his second piece: "PS By the way, Roger. I don't need anyone whose pen and mouth are as engorged with the blood of dead Iraqis as yours are to lecture someone like me on the evils of Saddam Hussein. You've got one helluva lot of nerve."

Yes, Roger Cohen, wrong on Iraq before, wrong now, but still eager to chastise us for mischaracterizing warmongers such as himself while he simultaneously grossly mischaracterizes us. He reads a piece that directly calls him on the obvious straw man at the heart of his column and cravenly tries to change the subject. That's pretty intellectually dishonest, suggesting his first column was no fluke. But Cohen cannot be wrong, for he is Serious, and an Honorable Man (so are they all, all honorable men). Evidently, he hasn't learned much since 2002. It would be lovely if Cohen and his ilk prized honesty, accuracy and wisdom as much as "civility," but I ain't holding my breath.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Roundup 10/12/07

I read many interesting stories and posts every day that I never get around to writing about, mainly due to lack of time (or maybe it's just personal sloth). In any case, I thought it'd be good to try to link some of those pieces more regularly.

Newshoggers' Cernig interviewed General Petraeus' spokesman, Colonel Steven Boylan. They have some follow-up pieces here and here. Well done!

Over at Truth in Politics, Little Miss Know It All is starting a series looking at the Democratic presidential candidates' campaign ads. First up is Bill Richardson. She also has a good piece about politicians and autism.

Speaking of Democratic presidential candidates, via Blue Gal, here's Dennis Kucinich at Santa Barbara City College, pro-blogging and pro-activism.

Finally, blogger Maura Keaney of My Left Nutmeg rocked the house explaining blogging on Connecticut's Face the State. Way to represent, Maura! (Via Melissa at Shakespeare's Sister.)

(The cartoon is of Will Rogers.)

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Amish Grace

It's now been a little over a year since the horrific Nickel Mines tragedy, when an extremely disturbed man murdered several Amish schoolchildren.

Then there's the Amish response. They visited the man's wife and children. They visited his father. They cried with them. They attended the man's funeral. They donated money. They mourned others' losses as well as their own. Anger would have been completely understandable, but instead they offered compassion.

That's a completely different moral and emotional vocabulary than, to speak for myself, I'm used to. I understand it as a concept, I've tried to practice it myself at times, but I can't say I've found myself in that sort of world too often. I certainly don't see that sort of reflection or maturity tempering current war-mongering. I think it takes a particular type of petulance, callousness and vanity to eagerly clamor for violence, even when the likely disastrous consequences are intellectually if not emotionally clear. Meanwhile, it takes a certain kind of grace to face someone with that sort of attitude honestly, yet still respond in a positive way.

As Hilzoy observed in her post "Liberating Iraq," (linked previously here):

Violence is not a way of getting where you want to go, only more quickly. Its existence changes your destination. If you use it, you had better be prepared to find yourself in the kind of place it takes you to.

Forgiveness does not mean the absence of grief, and losing a child, especially to violence, is one of the harshest of blows. The Amish community still has its pain, and some of the surviving victims still have significant if not severe health problems.

The actual shooting was astoundingly tragic. If there's something sad at this anniversary, besides its continuing effects, it's that the Amish response is so startling and unusual. If there's something hopeful, it's that their grace is both startling and inspiring. I find true virtue does give me pause, and the best way to honor the dead is to invite in that sort of reflection.

Here's NPR's fine coverage on the anniversary and listener's responses. Here's the Bill Moyers Journal piece on the same story, which also focuses on the book Amish Grace.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald and The Peace Tree)

Ann Coulter's Remarks on Jews

Not content to advocate for banning women from voting, Ann Coulter's just said that "We just want Jews to be perfected"... by converting to Christianity.

Oh, but there's much more. Hey, she's been a bigot to virtually every other group already! Why not spread the hatred?

(There may be better copies of this interview up later, but this one covers the key lines I've heard reported so far. Please note that there are commercials in the middle you can scroll through.)

I dissected Ann Coulter at length in an earlier post, "The Aryan Minstrel Show." It should be no surprise to anyone that Coulter is a bigot and homophobe, or at least plays one on TV, since much of it's an act for her. However, most conservatives have dismissed any outrage over her various remarks or have even cheered her on. Although others have led the charge, the current attacks by the right-wing on the Frost family are the epitome of Coulter — nasty, shameless, personal attacks with a conscious avoidance of substance.

Coulter is not entertaining, except to movement conservatives and paid hacks, but the public reaction to her latest remarks could prove to be quite entertaining. Most conservatives were fine with her calling Bill Clinton gay, Al Gore a "total fag," and John Edwards a "faggot." They were fine with her smearing military veterans who didn't agree with her (just as with Limbaugh's "phony soldiers" comment). Most were fine with her smearing the 9/11 widows, and some applauded her when she called Arabs "ragheads." Hell, conservatives took her statement about Muslims, that "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity," and put it on T-shirts. That statement was six years ago. So her bigotry is not exactly breaking news.

On the right, it's considered fair game to slander liberals, and among movement conservatives, it's encouraged to demonize Muslims. But anti-Semitism is another matter altogether. As racist as much of the far right is, in public they normally speak in code, because they know it's frowned upon. While many Christian evangelicals may feel as Coulter does in this clip, most of them are smart enough not to say it aloud. Coulter has normally been pretty savvy about calculating her level of obnoxiousness. But here, she was playing to a Christian fundamentalist crowd and forgot both her immediate and larger audience. Some of her staunchest allies just had their heritage and religion besmirched. How will they respond?

Some conservatives will indeed condemn Coulter, and rightly so. Some will make excuses, and it'll be interesting to see who does what (Hannity's support is a given). Coulter will continue to defend herself and claim she was taken out of context. I would be shocked if she apologized, because her entire persona is based on not apologizing for even her most outrageous provocations. With Rush Limbaugh's phony soldiers remark and the Michelle Malkin-led crusade against the Frosts, it's suddenly a most fascinating period to observe movement conservatives. They've always been a hateful, vicious, petty lot, but suddenly it's on full public display.

Anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry are serious matters. Meanwhile, Coulter has never deserved a serious platform to spew her bile. Several newspapers have dropped her column over the past two years due to the public's growing disgust or simple fatigue. If Coulter's latest outrage costs her and further shrinks her platform, then surely all America has benefited.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Happy Leif Erikson Day

Yeah, Monday was Columbus Day, but he wasn't even the first European to discover America, and he's got a helluva lot of cultural baggage. It's always better with a Viking!

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Celebrate Banned Books Week 2007

September 29–October 6 is Banned Books Week this year (it always creeps up on me). It's not too late to start reading something great that somebody else doesn't want you to read. The American Library Association site has much more.

The ALA keeps several different lists, but among the books "challenged, restricted, removed or banned" in 2006-2007 were:

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings By Maya Angelou
The Awakening By Kate Chopin
Girl with a Pearl Earring By Tracy Chevalier
Manufactured Consent By Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman
The Chocolate War By Robert Cormier
Fat Kid Rules the World By K.L. Going
Real Girl/Real World: Tools for Finding Your True Self By Heather M. Gray and Samantha Phillips
100 Greatest Tyrants By Andrew Langley
Kaffir Boy By Mark Mathabane
Beloved By Toni Morrison
The Bluest Eye By Toni Morrison
The Things They Carried By Tim O'Brien
The Learning Tree By Gordon Parks
The Botany of Desire: A Plant's Eye View of the World By Michael Pollan
Various books in the Harry Potter series By J.K. Rowling
Of Mice and Men By John Steinbeck
The Adventures of Mark Twain By Mark Twain
Slaughterhouse-Five By Kurt Vonnegut
Black Boy By Richard Wright


Fahrenheit 451 By Ray Bradbury

Oh, the irony!

The graphic above is the adult poster for Banned Book week. Here's the young adult and children's versions.

Regardless of how you do it — reading a book, reading a book to a kid, thanking a teacher or librarian — it's a nice way to finish off the week.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Right-Wing Cartoon Watch (Hall of Infamy Edition)

For the one year anniversary of Right-Wing Cartoon Watch, I thought it might be fun to look at the cartoons that inspired it, as well as offering a retrospective.

As the RWCW blurb says, most cartoonists have an irreverent and slightly anti-authoritarian streak. Most comedy has a bit of anarchy to it, after all. There's certainly nothing wrong with expressing a conservative viewpoint, and most politicians deserve to be mocked or at least questioned, but I was quite struck by how extreme and far right the following cartoons were.

(Read on here.)

Right-Wing Cartoon Watch #25 (9/18/07 — 9/30/07)

During the two weeks covered by this new installment, conservative cartoonists warned us of the dangers of health care, attacked a former conservative icon, and made sure to scold the working man and woman. They offered reflexive attacks on John Kerry and the Clintons, which is like warm milk, cookies and, uh, red meat to the faithful. Still, nothing could compare with their fury denouncing The Greatest Threat the World Has Ever Faced since - um - their previous Hitler du jour!