Friday, March 31

There's Finally Something Decent on Teevee and It Only Lasted Five Minutes.

Alex Pareene on Olbermann. I did imagine he'd be taller.


Jonah Goldberg, LA Times: "Failing Their Own"

Joy Jones, Washington Post: "'Marriage Is for White People'"

I stuck my nose, briefly, into the Chuck Krauthammer/Frank Fukuyama pissfest--briefly enough that I'm not even sure if Fukuyama has pissed back, but long enough to read the Krauthammer AEI speech Frank called "strangely disconnected from reality." I have to side with Charlie on this one. The speech wasn't disconnected from reality, as that implies there was some connection which had been rendered inoperative, shorted out, perhaps, when the fact is there was none there to begin with. And "strange"? It was Krauthammer. What's strange about Krauthammer Unplugged? I might have pursued this further, but I realized that probably meant sitting in Borders reading Fukuyama's new page turner, I May Be the Last Man in America To Realize How Fucked Up Everything I've Said Before Was, That'll Be $35.00. And I'm really trying to devote more of my time to prostate massage.

Considering he was facing an AEI audience accustomed to rigorous intellectual methodology, Krauthammer took the brave position of arguing for American exceptionalism. I direct his attention to the Jonah Goldberg think piece above. Hell, I direct his attention to Jonah Goldberg.

If Divine Providence did indeed decide that the US of A was going to stand alone as a military superpower in order to teach the world a lesson, I think it's time we seriously started beseeching The Old Boy as to the exact nature of that lesson. Somebody distract Him so we can get a look at the Teacher's Manual, already.

Because if you ask me, the whole era of America as military superpower, hegemonic or no, is marked by the worst sort of domestic cowardice. Red scares, ginned up anti-Communism, a military-industrial complex with a track record that the Ford Motor Company could rightly sneer at, the curious failure of nerve, not to mention justice, that followed the Civil Rights movement, defeat in Vietnam, Watergate, the Reagan misadventures in Central America, the S&L looting, and, essentially, everything that's happened since November 7, 2000. We've thrown a tarp over our better instincts and ignored, if not cheered, as we stomped the very traits we used to proclaim made us exceptional in the first place. The same people who pine away in public for the lost glories of the 50s would have Superman behind Kryptonite bars in Gitmo if he dared fight for Truth, Justice, or any definition of The American Way not approved by George W. Bush.

Somehow, that makes me feel better about Jonah Goldberg in the LA Times; after all, he's small beer viewed against the timeline that landed him there, even if it's really piss in a bottle. But then I have to go and read him, fer chrissakes:
The [Congressional Black C]aucus lives in a fantasy in which it is the "conscience of the Congress." Immune to the sort of scrutiny that many other groups receive, it has benefited from the soft bigotry of low expectations for decades.

Feel free, as we go along, to change "[Congressional Black C]aucus" to "Jonah Goldberg" mutatis mutandis. See where it takes you.
As the Economist recently noted, gerrymandering and Democratic politics have resulted in a caucus well to the left of black America. Only four of 43 members of the group voted to ban partial-birth abortion in 2003, even though a majority of blacks favored such a ban. Most African Americans favor school choice, but because the caucus is firmly ensconced in the teacher-union racket, it bars the schoolhouse door to black kids who want a better education via vouchers. A majority of blacks oppose outright racial quotas, but don't tell that to the caucus. Or that blacks are heavily opposed to gay marriage.

Why pick on the blacks in Congress? Because they represent black leadership in America, and it has been on their watch that black America has descended into such a mess.

Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Dusky American, Jonah Goldberg feels your pain, because he reads what the pollsters say you think. And he wants you to know that the 43 "gerrymandered" members of the Black Caucus have let you down by not enacting those thoughts into law. Here's a fun fact: if you took every African American elected to Congress since Reconstruction and put them on the floor of the House, you wouldn't have a quorum. In fact, you wouldn't be half-way to a quorum. I suspect those let-down voters understand that a bit better than Mr. Pantload.

Look, it's no surprise that the Jonah Goldbergs of the world* think African Americans are basically stupid. What's surprising is just how stupid they think they are. They've been pitching this Reverse Discrimination crap for a quarter century. As a result, more than one Black Republican has been elected to Congress in the past fifteen years. In fact, it's twice as many as one!

(The "gerrymandered" thing there is a particularly lovely touch, echoed as it is by an admirer of the career of Dr. King who can't even be bothered to be honest about the long history of applying White-Out to black majorities on redistricting maps.)

But Jonah's not just about the politics; he feels your cultural pain, too, or at least he's read up on it:
If you include blacks in prison or not seeking work — which conventional unemployment surveys don't — the true jobless rate for black men in their 20s without a high school diploma is 72%. At the height of the economic boom, in 2000,...

Uh, wait a minute...your boys were telling us in 2000 we were in a recession.
it was still about 65%, according to the New York Times....

Statistics on the black family are, if possible, even more depressing. In a moving essay in the Washington Post, Joy Jones lamented how wedlock has become unfashionable in much of black America. A sixth-grader recently informed her that "marriage is for white people." The statistics back the kid up (though marriage among whites isn't that rosy either). More than two-thirds of black babies are born out of wedlock. Sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University says blacks were more likely to be raised by both parents during slavery days than they are today.

I've been working for a while collecting examples of the crackpot punditocracy's use of quotes. I'm not sure I'll ever finish, but here's a perfect example of my preliminary findings. It's something which ought to give any reasonably educated person pause, even before we reach the odiousness of some white guy telling us how good blacks had it under Mistah Charlie. Anything these types agree with is quotable, and moreover it qualifies as an appeal to authority. I don't know anyone who'd accept that sort of evidence, given without even any apparent interest in any opposing point of view, as a reason to hand over his wallet and not ask questions.

Then there's the reverse:
There's a lot of Marxist-infused nonsense about how economics are at the root of black America's problems. But this doesn't hold up to scrutiny. Of course poverty makes social pathologies worse, but it's the pathologies that cause poverty in the first place.

This being such a firm piece of revealed wisdom that no quote whatever is needed to establish it. I'd direct Jonah's attention to what has happened to the wages of semi-skilled and unskilled labor, black, white, or paisley, in this country over the past thirty years, but why should anyone bother? Besides, I'd like to sneak a peek at Ms Jones' moving essay:
I grew up in a time when two-parent families were still the norm, in both black and white America. Then, as an adult, I saw divorce become more commonplace, then almost a rite of passage. Today it would appear that many -- particularly in the black community -- have dispensed with marriage altogether.

Lemme just note here that while I was unable to find Ms Jones' date of birth I did see her picture, and if she was an adult when divorce became more commonplace she's remarkably well preserved. That happened in the 50s.
"Marriage is for white people."

That's what one of my students told me some years back when I taught a career exploration class for sixth-graders at an elementary school in Southeast Washington. I was pleasantly surprised when the boys in the class stated that being a good father was a very important goal to them, more meaningful than making money or having a fancy title.

"That's wonderful!" I told my class. "I think I'll invite some couples in to talk about being married and rearing children."

"Oh, no," objected one student. "We're not interested in the part about marriage. Only about how to be good fathers."

Funny how much Southeast Washington sixth-graders sound like cab drivers.
The marriage rate for African Americans has been dropping since the 1960s, and today, we have the lowest marriage rate of any racial group in the United States. In 2001, according to the U.S. Census, 43.3 percent of black men and 41.9 percent of black women in America had never been married, in contrast to 27.4 percent and 20.7 percent respectively for whites. African American women are the least likely in our society to marry. In the period between 1970 and 2001, the overall marriage rate in the United States declined by 17 percent; but for blacks, it fell by 34 percent. Such statistics have caused Howard University relationship therapist Audrey Chapman to point out that African Americans are the most uncoupled people in the country.

Not to sound like a discredited Marxist, but is it just possible that the economic explanations we've tossed out like yesterday's McDonald's trainee hat have something to do with it? Shit, I was a white boy with a reasonably good income in my twenties, and a Poor Girlfriend doomed to become my wife, working as a teacher, and marriage and child rearing was a dicey proposition for us thirty years ago. How can that percentage of young black males we haven't incarcerated consider it seriously? Other than that wagging moral index finger, and the extended economic middle one, what are you offering them?
Although slavery was an atrocious social system, men and women back then nonetheless often succeeded in establishing working families.

Ah, sheesh, are you willing to swear you write your own stuff?
But working mothers, unmarried couples living together, out-of-wedlock births, birth control, divorce and remarriage have transformed the social landscape. And no one seems to feel this more than African American women. One told me that with today's changing mores, it's hard to know "what normal looks like"

If all she has confounding her is that list of tongue-cluckings she doesn't know how lucky she is. I've been trying for a decade to remember what a normal government looks like
Sex, love and childbearing have become a la carte choices rather than a package deal that comes with marriage. Moreover, in an era of brothers on the "down low," the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and the decline of the stable blue-collar jobs that black men used to hold, linking one's fate to a man makes marriage a risky business for a black woman.

Okay, thanks for that "stable blue-collar jobs" bit, but "on the down low"? Can't that be taken as suggesting homosexuality as a root cause of STDs and economic instability? Please say you didn't mean it.
The turning point in my own thinking about marriage came when a longtime friend proposed about five years ago. He and I had attended college together, dated briefly, then kept in touch through the years. We built a solid friendship, which I believe is a good foundation for a successful marriage.

But -- if we had married, I would have had to relocate to the Midwest. Been there, done that, didn't like it. I would have had to become a stepmother and, although I felt an easy camaraderie with his son, stepmotherhood is usually a bumpy ride. I wanted a house and couldn't afford one alone. But I knew that if I was willing to make some changes, I eventually could.

As I reviewed the situation, I realized that all the things I expected marriage to confer -- male companionship, close family ties, a house -- I already had, or were within reach, and with exponentially less drama. I can do bad by myself, I used to say as I exited a relationship. But the truth is, I can do pretty good by myself, too.

Well, thanks for sharing. What is for society a death spiral of immorality, disease, irresponsibility, and what, back in the Good Old Days of the mid-18th Century we called "illegitimacy", is for you a sound personal choice. Ms Jones, you're officially qualified to lecture the rest of us. On everything but how to swim. That's Jonah's balliwick.

* I use this in the unusual sense which actually includes Jonah Goldberg.

Thursday, March 30

Pedalling in Place

I spent last night, after Jeopardy! and half of Olbermann, assembling the new Schwinn recumbent exercise bicycle purchased to help my Poor Wife's deteriorating deteriorating disc problem. The Schwinn came highly recommended, and after she checked out the various offerings at local sporting goods emporiums and decided not to pay half again as much for a step-through model, we ordered one online Sunday from The Stationary Bike Superstore (motto: "you get a link when I get some promotional materials") and it arrived Wednesday morning. Good job all around, but no mention of the shipping company (rhymes with Red Rex) whose minions left the box on the deck with the "This End Up" arrow pointing to the spot on the deck where they'd left it.

Like the Schwinns of my youth the thing weighed as much as a VW Beetle. Like most things that have happened to me since, someone else made the decision as to where the thing would go, a wrong decision to my way of thinking and one which caused me to spend the first forty-five minutes disassembling a bed and lugging the pieces to the basement. Got a little nook in your basement waiting to accept a mattress and box springs? Me neither.

But wonders of wonders, as it turned out the assembly procedure was the best I've been subjected to in a quarter century of Some Assembly Required. The connectors were vacuum-packed on two cards, sorted by which step they were needed for! And the instructions were clear and in English. There were a couple minor glitches, but I managed to put the thing together without having to disassemble anything I'd done two steps previous.

This was in the guest room, which now serves as Larry's overnight pen, probably until he's too old to jump onto anything and everything, so I was watching the teevee in there, the one which the aforementioned bundle of feline domestic intranquility disconnected from the cable last week, according to my wife, who was watching the thing at the time. Hooking it back up requires spelunking gear, because it sits on one of those cheap Home Entertainment centers which was Larry-proofed when we got him, to stave off the day when he started sticking hairpins into wall outlets and/or starting small fires. This is how I came to watch last night's ripped-from-the-headlines Law & Order, Original Recipe* and its examination of The Tricky Torture Conundrum We All Now Face.

The Set Up (da dum!): Two guys pull a bank job by getting the cooperation of the branch manager by kidnapping his small daughter. The bag man is discovered, pulls a gun and is shot dead. Dennis Farina learns where the accomplice is hiding and puts a gun to the guy's head demanding to know where the child is. "You won't shoot," he sneers.

So Farina drags the guy to the bathroom, and improvises a waterboard using the toilet. Fortunately for him, and our story, although we're in some ritzy real estate the toilet's an old-fashioned job, not a low-ride Water Savr™ model. (It's a remarkable feat, by the way, repeatedly dunking a man's head in a toilet with one hand while you hold a gun in the other. Try it for yourself sometime.)

Accomplice is defended by the recurring guest star Fast-Talkin', Crazy Like a Fox, Jewish Lawyer Guy. But his schtick is pretty much restricted to the arraignment scene, after which we spend a lot of time while he and Jack ("I Was a Radical in My Youth and Still Retain an Poignant Ember or Two When Required for Plot Advancement") McCoy agonize over what a conundrum this tricky torture thing is now that we all face it.

It's left to Jack's new Eye Candy Assistant to get squeamish. It's always the women who get squeamish, except Angie Harmon (wisely, as no one could imagine a drop of the milk of human kindness crossing those lactose-intolerant lips). Mercifully, the homilies from Fred Dumbo Thompson were kept to a minimum. (I know it's not original, but Fred Dumbo Thompson, NYC DA? What was his campaign slogan, "I'm One of Y'All"?)

Of course at one point, maybe two or three, we had to hammer out the "What if a terrorist was the only one who knew the location of a bomb set to kill millions in thirty minutes?" routine, just in case someone playing along at home had Missed the Significance.

The Denouement
(da-dum!) We're stuck for a Way Out (the judge had the same relationship to the Bill of Rights that James Dobson has to Will and Grace) when it looks like the defendant may go free (even Crazy Jewish Lawyer Guy has admitted his client deserves ten years in Attica!), until Eye Candy, ADA, posits a way around the exclusion of evidence. Everybody's satisfied, except Eye Candy, who says something pithy just before fade out. But I missed it.

The Epilogue, as they used to say on Barnaby Jones: McCoy and Crazy Jewish Lawyer Guy on the courthouse steps, talking about just what a conundrum this tricky torture thing is. We just don't have any answers!

But then of course we do, cunningly concealed in your vocation. The Law. And no, I'm not saying (stereotypical liberal loon voice**), "That's illegal! You can't do that!" I'm saying that we enshrine the distinction between something done in the heat of the moment (roughing up a suspect we know has the key to a little girl's life) vs. premeditation (the systematic brutalization of vast numbers of people on the grounds we don't like their looks). Show me the situation where someone had to extract information an hour before a bomb went off. Show me one where they even imagined they might be dealing with someone with that sort of information. Do that, and I'll hold the fucking toilet seat up. But torture for the sake of torture, or roughly 100% of the cases we know about, that's no Conundrum at all.

*s.z.'s joke, I think.

** Please, will somebody put an end to David Cross, liberal talk-radio schmuck, on The Colbert Report? Not only has the bit brought new meaning to the term pro forma, but it gets less funny every time out.

Wednesday, March 29

Pass the Soap

I took a few quick laps this morning with my tea, looking for examples of Right Blogostan's obsession with class cutting among school-age anti-Immigration Bill marchers. I figured it was good for a one-liner about how "Everybody Does It" only works as an excuse for underaged daughters of the President. I remembered John Cole pondering the question--more in the abstract than in full-on mock outrage--and I'd seen links to liberal Democrat spokesmunchkin Mickey Kaus spewing his party's traditional hatred of minorities. I knew I'd seen a longer hectorography on the subject somewhere, but I couldn't remember where that was. Powerline? Nope. Ben Shapiro? He just signed up this morning. Goldstein? I wouldn't have read him voluntarily, and TBogg had just taken on his bioweapons fantasies. If I'd read Goldstein twice in one day I'd have remembered it. But who? Malkins?


You'd imagine, if you'd never read ther, that the country's foremost expert/s on Japanese internment and hinge maintenance might learn to keep themself under control when the topic was ther area of expertise. You don't turn on Nova and see some lab-coated NASA spokesman with blood coming out of every pore. But not Malkins.

I think I counted four thousand pics before losing consciousness, many of them apparently taken by ther army of sewer rats. Lots o' focus on use of the Mexican flag and signage that Just Wouldn't Do if the gardener expressed those sentiments within hearing of his mistress. A crowd shot with a "Brown Is Beautiful" sign at the rear is captioned as only Michelles, or some other racist with a website, could:
Can you image the uproar over someone holding up a sign that read "White is Beautiful?"

Well, I think I can, Michelles, but I'd much rather here how it went down the last time you carried one. First-person interest, an' all.

Shapiro latched himself onto two of the vilest placards:
Some of those voices aren't particularly civil; certain signs at the Los Angeles rally read "THIS IS STOLEN LAND" and "If you think I'm 'illegal' because I'm a Mexican learn the true history because this is my homeland."

Benji, I'm going to put this as civilly as I can. Sometimes civility demands that we offer it to those who have not been quite civil to us, even, in some cases, to our inferiors. If you'd care to do a little research (I believe this sort of information is available at Harvard) you'll find that much of this land was, in fact, stolen, and that the vast majority of Mexicans and persons of Mexican heritage in this country are, in fact, U.S. citizens. Your kind attention is appreciated. Dipshit.

Happy Birthday

Dennis Wolfberg
March 29, 1946--October 3, 1994

Tuesday, March 28

Crunch. The Sound a Cockroach Makes in Certain Circumstances.

It's the final week of the Crunchy Bunch Book Club and Mutual Self-Admiration Society, and while it was weeks ago I lost interest in what they're talking about, what's being said can still bring the magic. For the record, they're discussing the future of Crunchy Condom, and for the record--though probably unnecessary to add--Roy has already summed it up for us:
After all, some of these guys want to follow St. Benedict into monasticism -- presumably with enough of a budget to keep the neo-monks in Priuses and organic toothpaste for as long as it takes Moloch to fall.

Crunch Master Dreher tips the cowl to Alasdair MacIntyre :
It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another; and among the more misleading of such parallels are those which have been drawn between our own age ... and the epoch in which the Roman Empire declined into the Dark Ages. Nonetheless certain parallels there are. ... A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. What they set themselves to achieve - often not recognizing fully what they were doing - was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness.

Now, I find this exceedingly strange on two fronts. One, because in my youth you couldn't sit still for over half an hour without somebody letting you know Why Rome Fell. It generally had something to do with whatever that person found particularly distasteful in that day's news: topless waitresses, student sit-ins, letting Negroes vote. And it was utter horseshit, of course; Rome fell for all the complicated and untrackable reasons anything happens, but hedonism and toleration weren't among them. Those are attributes of Rome at its height. So here we sort of turn that game inside out: Rome fell because Christians (presumably) decided to turn aside from shoring up the Imperium, even though Rome was explicitly Christian for the last 200 years of the Western empire.

So the lesson here seems to be that you can't trust Christians. As Nick Lowe warned us:

When the going gets tough, the tough get going,
Every now and then I've seen them running, running.

Not to mention the fact that they've had a 1600 year run in the West and now they're telling us we're back to square one. Maybe people who've managed to splinter the Truth of the Gospels among 200 plus Protestant sects in this country alone are not the last word in how to keep Society humming along. Dreher has an exegesis:
MacIntyre’s book argues that we have reached a decisive point of moral and cultural fragmentation in the West, having pushed radical individualism and moral relativism to the point where it is difficult to appeal to shared moral norms as a way of deciding public policy. Our moral language is increasingly empty, as we haven’t kept the communities and traditions that gave meaning to our moral language. He argues that we are at the point where the only sensible thing for traditionalists to do is to withdraw into smaller groupings and to construct “new forms of community within which the moral life [can] be sustained.”

Jesus, how we love the Apocalypse, especially when we know ahead of time we'll be the ones coming out on top. It sure is comforting to know that running for the hills will be a Christian calling when the Big One hits.

We've dealt before with this "shared moral norms" stuff. Dreher's complaint here is that we haven't solved our public issues by letting him do so by fiat. I'm not sure what era this represents a change from. One week Dreher can't find enough common ground to talk to liberal members of his own Church; the next he seems to have excommunicated them in bulk. Solve these issues within Christianity; I'm sure the remaining 10% of us wil be easily swayed after that.

This definition of society as something which it is so desirable to save that the application of the Supreme Ultimate's thumb to everybody who doesn't fit the requirements leads to an interesting revelation, as these religious debates tend to do:
We know how bad civil society broke down in New Orleans after Katrina, though happily many of the initial claims proved to have been exaggerated. What made an impression on me was three weeks later, when Hurricane Rita hit the Cajun country. I was down in south Louisiana that weekend, and it was instructive to watch the TV coverage of the aftermath on a Lafayette TV channel. Those rural and small-town Cajuns took care of each other.

Teevee! The Evil Living Room Eye rides to the rescue (God works in wondrous ways!) and provides us with pictures of (lowly) white people helping each other out in an emergency! They even got in boats and rescued people! Boy, that's something you didn't see in N'awlins, (where, praise de Lord, many of the initial claims proved to be exaggerated) huh ?

What contemptible, racist crap. And yes, I am aware how sensitive these types are to being called on their racism. Sorry. Community-lovin' Bayou whites took care of their own. Urban blacks looted and shot at medvac helicopters and raped infants, except when they didn't. Even when we acknowledge that our opinions are based on erroneous information, which was itself of a suspicously racist nature, we're justified in using that information, and in having no curiosity whatever about the real human beings who get slandered in the process. Because, I guess, we have no more shared moral norms to obliterate the objections in the first place. I need to get Amy Sullivan to guest blog for a week. Somebody needs to explain to me why I'm supposed to cede the moral high ground to someone who constructs an altar around his own white ass and everybody else be damned.

Monday, March 27


You may remember the Little Columbine episode from a Johnson County high school earlier this month.

Recall that a girl overheard two boys on her bus talking about taking over the school, that investigators arrested four boys aged 15 and 16, learned the plot involved holding the principal for ransom, and that at least one of the boys had access to guns. Bullying was said to be a motivating factor. The prosecutor made noises about charging them as adults.

As usual with such things, it took a couple of days of fifteen-minutes-per-half-hour teevee news coverage before anybody attempted an answer to the rather obvious question, "What are you going to charge them with?" "Conspiracy" was the answer, since "fantasy" is still at least as legal as bullying at that age.

In the middle of last week the Star mentioned, more or less in passing, that one of the four had already been released to home detention; this apparently wasn't news when it happened. That was the sound of one fuzzy slipper falling, albeit with ankle bracelet attached. Friday the big muthafuckin' Andy Griffith motorcycle boot hit the floor:
2 boys ordered released
1 suspect in high school takeover plot faces immediate expulsion

By Paul Bird
FRANKLIN, Ind. -- Two of four boys accused of plotting to take over Center Grove High School were ordered released from custody after a Thursday hearing in Johnson County Juvenile Court.

One boy, 16, was scheduled for release after the hearing, according to his attorney. Juvenile Magistrate Marla Clark ordered the other boy, 15, released Monday.
All four were ordered by Clark to submit to psychological evaluations.
The Indianapolis Star generally does not identify juveniles charged with crimes.
The 16-year-old faced Clark for the first time. He is the only one of the four charged who is not in special-education classes, according to his attorney, Brian Newcomb, Franklin.

Holy shit. Special education students, and it's the first time I've seen it mentioned. I'm flummoxed enough to quote myself:
What seems to be the first thing on everybody's mind is that the prosecutor will seek to try the boys as adults. This seems, if not outright bloodthirsty, at least a tad premature to me--at least insofar as the public interest, if not the prosecutor's actions, go--and I have a relative at the school and a wife who's a teacher.

So lemme rephrase that, or clarify. as they say at WaPo: this is an unfortunate case which the Prosecutor chose as a grandstanding moment he could only manage by leaving out the mitigating factors, and the local media climbed all over without ascertaining the fact, or recognizing its importance when it did come out. And no one looks twice at a Principal who "wasn't highly familiar with those individuals"; so not highly familiar, in fact, that he couldn't even tell the media they were in special education when it came time for his close-up.

Yes, "special education" can mean a lot of things, mental disabilities, emotional disabilities, learning deficits. And in this case it also means there is a big stinking pile of shit underneath another sensational news story du jour.

Saturday, March 25

The Death of Viola Liuzzo, March 25, 1965

"I stated the man himself doesn't have too good a background and the woman had indications of needle marks in her arms where she had been taking dope; that she was sitting very, very close to the Negro in the car; that it had the appearance of a necking party."

--J. Edgar Hoover, internal FBI memo on his conversation with AG Nicholas Katzenbach the morning after Liuzzo's murder. "The man himself" refers to her husband.

She was a couple weeks from her fortieth birthday, the mother of five, three girls, two boys. Viola Fauver Gregg was born in Pennsylvania, her father a miner until he lost a hand in a mining accident. She grew up poor. They lived in at least a couple Southern states before the War and its industrial jobs took the family to Michigan. She moved to Detroit. She married in '43, had two daughters, divorced in '49. Two years later she married Anthony James Liuzzo, a Teamsters organizer. They had three children, and he adopted her two daughters.

Never religious, she converted to Roman Catholicism for the marriage, became interested in Catholic mysticism, then Protestant evangelicalism, and finally joined the Unitarian church in 1964. She worked locally on education reform and economic justice, and was twice arrested for it. She joined the Detroit chapter of the NAACP the same year she became a Unitarian.

On February 18, 1965 in Selma, Alabama, another Viola--Jackson (née Lee)--took part in a night march for voting rights that began with a mass meeting at Brown Chapel. The marchers didn't get far before they were blocked by a line of Alabama State troopers the locals had called in for help. Police began beating and chasing the marchers. Viola Jackson's eighty-two year old father, Cager Lee, stumbled bleeding into Mick's Cafe, where he found Viola and her son Jimmie Lee Jackson. Some of the troopers were forcing marchers into the cafe; others came in and started driving them back out. They attacked Cager Lee again. When Viola went to protect him she was beaten to the ground. When Jimmie lunged to protect his mother he was shot twice in the stomach, beaten and tossed outside where he collapsed. He died of infection eight days later.

Three weeks later came Bloody Sunday, when 600 marchers led by John Lewis and Hosea Williams were attacked at the Edmund Pettus bridge by state and local police. The brutality against the nonviolent marchers focused national attention, and the whole of the national debate, on Selma. Two days later, in the face of a federal restraining order (the result of the SCLC seeking federal protection for a Selma-Montgomery march), Rev. Martin Luther King led marchers out to the bridge before turning back. Later that day a Unitarian minister named James Reeb was beaten on a Selma street. He died two days later.

His death, and her reaction to President Johnson's speech about the Selma violence, convinced Viola Liuzzo she had to get personally involved. When several other Detroit-area volunteers backed out at the last minute, she drove to Alabama alone. She arrived in Selma two days before the march to Birmingham, now under Federal protection, began. They arrived in the capitol March 25.

Viola had left her Oldsmobile to be used as a shuttle vehicle. While she was working at a first-aid clinic at the end of the march she was told she might want to reclaim it as it was now in the hands of someone rumored to lack a driver's license. She found the car, took over the driving duties from nineteen-year-old Leroy Moton. They ferried four marchers to Selma, pursued by two cars which tailgated them much of the way, then prepared for another run to Montgomery to pick up more.

On their way out of Selma a car carrying four Klansmen spotted the Michigan plates and the white woman with the black man. They chased the car at high speeds into rural Lowndes county and pulled alongside. Three of the men fired from the passenger side. Viola Liuzzo was struck twice in the head and died instantly. Moton survived unharmed.

The FBI arrested the four--Collie Leroy Wilkins, Jr., William Orville Eaton, Eugene Thomas, and Gary Thomas Rowe--within 24 hours. That was the easy part: Rowe was an FBI informant. The difficult part was concealing that fact, and the fact that Rowe had been given specific approval to join the Klan's "missionary team" that day, not only from the press and the judicial system, but from the President of the United States as well. The Bureau was showered with praise for its swift action in "solving" the case. The New York Times, in a glowing feature story on Hoover, called it "a spectacular feat"

Hoover's smear of Viola Liuzzo--there were no needle marks on her arms, no drugs in her system, and he chose to spread his trademark juvenile sexual sniggering despite knowing very well what she was doing there--would not be made public until 1978, with an investigation of the FBI's COINTELPRO program (which had also spread rumors that she was a Communist. Sorry to spring such a shocker on you.) It turned out that, contrary to what Hoover had told Johnson, the Bureau had not flipped Gary Thomas Rowe, Klansman, but had in fact recruited him as a spy and asked him to join the Klan. The investigation also implied that Rowe had been involved with the 1963 bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist in Birmingham. An FBI file which later came to light revealed that Rowe had attacked Freedom Riders in 1961 with a weighted baseball bat. The Bureau paid his medical bills and gave him a bonus. Rowe, in fact, had been the Klan's liaison with Birmingham Public Safety Director Theophilus Eugene "Bull" Connor, who had kindly held his men aside for fifteen minutes while the beatings occurred. Rowe had informed the Bureau of the planned attack, but Hoover declined to inform Attorney General Kennedy, and the Bureau did less to stop it than Bull Connor's men.

Not surprisingly, none of the four was ever convicted in an Alabama court. Rowe testified against the other three, who were later convicted under 19th century federal anti-Klan legislation. Eaton died of a heart attack in 1966. Wilkins and Thomas did ten years.

In 1978 the state of Alabama indicted Gary Thomas Rowe, now living in Georgia under the Witness Protection Program, for the murder of Viola Liuzzo. The state began extradiction proceedings. Extradition was blocked by a federal court on the grounds he was protected "as a federal agent." The ruling was upheld on appeal.

Viola Liuzzo's children sued the FBI for its responsibility in her death. The case was thrown out and they were ordered to reimburse the government $80,000 for the cost of its defense. That amount was later reduced to $3600.

By 2006 all four of Viola Liuzzo's murderers were long since dead, and enough time had passed that it was possible to convince the Executive Editor of the Washington Post that calling Coretta Scott King a Communist was merely a hyperbolic reaction to her association with other Communists.

Friday, March 24

This Is a Blog for the Majority of Americans

Can we imagine yet that the Eastern liberal elites at WaPo and the Times have met that Middle America they were so curious about and so solicitous of? It's right here:

The President visits the funeral of a Communist
By: Augustine

("Augustine", as you know by now, being the self-effacing nom de bigot of one Ben Domenec, the Post's most recent hire, and the funeral in question being that of Coretta Scott King.)

First, let's give Domenec a chance to explain, or rather, clarify:
Some people have taken issue with an old two-line comment of mine on where I referred to Coretta Scott King as a Communist on the day after her funeral. Coretta Scott King was many things, and her most significant contribution was the unflagging support of her husband in his own noble work to bring equality to all Americans. She was also a liberal activist on a number of issues, including same-sex marriage and abortion. The thread where my comment appeared discussed President Bush's attendance at Mrs. King's funeral, which was criticized by some for its political nature. My comment questioned the president's decision to attend the funeral after he had phoned in a message to the March for Life, the largest pro-life rally and a significant annual event. Mrs. King participated in many different political causes, some of which involved associations with questionable people, but referring to her as a Communist was a mistake, hyperbole in the context of a larger debate about President Bush's political priorities. Mea Culpa.

Yeah, Mea culpa. I didn't interrupt--I may have pulled something in the effort--so let's go back to the beginning. "An old two-line comment"? It was six weeks ago.

That's followed immediately by the standard "the heroic Dr. King" spew--is there anything more deserving of the hated PC tag than the radical rightist's homilies on race when forced to comment in public?--and a two-dozen-word clause proving, as if there was any doubt, that he doesn't know shit about Coretta Scott King. Mrs. King was a power in the Movement in her own right, long before some other racist cracker put a bullet in her husband's throat. She was not the black June Cleever.

On to the further clarification, the sort only the use of "liberal", "gay", and "abortion" can provide for these people, and the additional justification that "some"--namely other parts of the Republican noise machine in which he's a notably dull cog--criticized the "political nature" of her funeral. Of course, they did nothing of the sort, except in passing. They criticized the nature of the politics, not vice versa. (It's interesting to note that it was considered "unseemly" to voice support for the things she risked and lived her life for at her funeral, but it was open season to slander her provided you weren't invited.)

"[She] associat[ed] with questionable people..." This is simply the result of two generations of crypto-racists playing Telephone with the outright lies of John Edgar Hoover. I'd like to hear Domenec name one without referring to his Bigot's Handbook. It's forty years on, you punk-ass phony. We know the history. We have the FBI files. The Communist thing was Full of Shit, a desperate ploy to smear the Civil Rights movement by the racist, sexually-as-well-as-physically stunted head of the FBI, as anybody with half a brain knew at the time. For what it's worth, the Communists, both foreign and home grown, were supporting the human rights of people of color while your people were forcing them to drink at segregated fountains by day and firing indiscriminately into their houses at night. If I'd have had the opportunity, I'll tell you who I'd rather have associated with.

No, sir, that wasn't hyperbole on your part, it was the dimly- (and how appropriate that is!) remembered cover story of the racists of the day, the ones who beat, spat upon, and murdered their fellow citizens who marched with more courage than you'll command in a hundred years, to demand what this country promised them. You don't know enough about that to apologize, or clarify.

Mr. Domenec, you don't represent the majority of Americans, or the majority of so-called Red Staters, and to the extent you represent anyone I hope the Post gives you another twenty years to demonstrate just how odious they are.

(By the way, that picture, which I've used before with scant identification, is of King waiting his turn to speak at the 25th anniversary of the Highlander Folk School, an integrated labor training school which became involved in the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s. It was closed, and its land confiscated, by the State of Tennessee in 1961 for violating segregation laws. That's the noted Communist-in-training Rosa Parks seated on King's extreme left.)

What, Exactly, Is Your Freakin' Problem (as if We Can't Guess)?


Well, look at this addenda posted at 9pm EST tonight by the radical left-wing Christian Peacemakers Team:

Addenda 23 March 2006, 9 p.m. ET

We have been so overwhelmed and overjoyed to have Jim, Harmeet and Norman freed, that we have not adequately thanked the people involved with freeing them, nor remembered those still in captivity. So we offer these paragraphs as the first of several addenda:

We are grateful to the soldiers who risked their lives to free Jim, Norman and Harmeet.

BUT then the belated, grudging expression of gratitude is immediately followed by this:

As peacemakers who hold firm to our commitment to nonviolence, we are also deeply grateful that they fired no shots to free our colleagues. We are thankful to all the people who gave of themselves sacrificially to free Jim, Norman, Harmeet and Tom over the last four months, and those supporters who prayed and wept for our brothers in captivity, for their loved ones and for us, their co-workers.

We will continue to lift Jill Carroll up in our prayers for her safe return. In addition, we will continue to advocate for the human rights of Iraqi detainees and assert their right to due process in a just legal system.

Wow. Some radical left-wing Christian peace activists (note to Malkins: either find some right-wing Christian peace activists, or spare whoever does the typing a little effort) are not only grateful that no one got hurt when their colleagues were freed, they also refuse to become stark raving Crusaders as a result. Tell us the one about the Christian-hating Left again, would ya?

Thursday, March 23

Nooners and Nutters

Little Ben Shapiro: "If the mainstream media ran the country" (caution: satire)

Peggy Sue Noonan: "What Nobodies Know (caution: Peggy Noonan)

Benji, stop me if you've heard this before. You're what? 21? 22? Pardon my confusion, but that paid Google link for your speaking services--do they come with pie?--still talks about you being seventeen. Anyhoo, precocious as we know you are, Ben, there's still no way you were reading newspapers before the Reagan Revolution was in full swing, so tell me how it is that you manage to sound just like your father in some late-70s Young Republican coffeeklatsch? The "liberal MSM" is one thing, of course, but Michael Moore calling soldiers "baby killers?" That canard is from the war your father didn't fight in, not yours. And we were jabbing a stick in the UN's eye even before your mother had to hide out from the forced abortion squads. Of course, we'd been doing that periodically since its inception, but by the time Reagan rolled around we were even refusing to pay for the stick.

And Peggy Sue, I'm loath to criticize a first effort in finding historical parallels that reside somewhere other than your own brain, but the result isn't much different. Spirited attempt, though, at insisting that the Partition violence came about a) because the natural European rulers of the Subcontinent pulled out and b) because the Muslims started it (okay, okay, you mention Sikh violence first, but you save the graphic quotes for the Muslim reprisal). Points for having read enough of the thing to quote it selectively.

By the way, Collins and Lapierre are the authors of the excellent O Jerusalem! which I recommend to you despite knowing your book report will leave out the Irgun. Can't recommend it for Ben, though, as any balanced treatment of the Middle East, or even a mention that the place actually existed between 73-1947 would probably go through his system like that taste of pork went through Gandhi's.

Red Alert

Yeah, I know there's been plenty of righteous indignation and honest fun to be had over WaPo hiring Ben Domanech, but I would like to point out something everyone seems to have missed. We now can say with some assurance that watching violent gun porn trash like Red Dawn at a young age doesn't not lead one to become a violent gun-nut in adulthood. Or at least not one who goes anywhere where people might shoot back.

I Lost My Religion, and No, Thanks, I Don't Want To Borrow Yours

It's the latest topic for Rod Dreher and the Crunchy Bunch, which has proven to be the Christmas toy you lost interest in before the first set of batteries wore out:
Religion [Rod Dreher 03/22 09:08 AM ]

I didn't set out to write this book with this in mind, but it became clear to me that the base of this entire neo-traditionalist sensibility is religious conviction. It quickly became clear in doing my research that almost everyone to whom I'd spoken was in some serious way a religious believer. Why is that? I think it's because people who are serious about their religion understand in their bones how devotion to God and to His laws must be the basis for ordering our own lives, and that of our society.

Now, right off the bat, this to me, as someone raised in a liberal Protestant tradition (by conservatives, mind you; it was a liberal theological tradition) is anathema. My Church was a community of believers, not a civics lesson with organ music. I wouldn't presume to speak for Christians, but I can say I know plenty who do not feel their belief, or devotion, has anything to do with ordering society or ordering other people around. So is this the result of "research", or a criteria for filtering? Can one be a crunchy Hindu, or Buddhist, or does that require acknowledging that Christianity is the one true model for social order?

(This is something that fascinates me, really, how such Christians always speak as if every religion shares their basic assumptions about the order of the universe. There are plenty of Christians who don't like Christians presuming to speak for God, let alone what all those crazy Easterners think.)
That does not have to mean a theocracy, I hasten to add;

Of course you hasten to add it, though that "does not have to" doesn't exactly instill confidence in the skeptical mind.
I doubt anyone here would want to live in a theocracy, and the idea that the bishop could call the magistrate and have me put in jail is a revolting idea.

News flash, Mr. Dreher. If you do see an American theocracy, like it or no, bishops are not going to be high-ranking officials in it. Nor rabbis.
Why do I find it much easier as a Catholic to talk to a Southern Baptist or an Orthodox Jew about matters of faith, politics, society, etc., than with liberal members of my own church? It has to do with the way we view religious truth, and indeed Truth itself. Conservatives in whatever religion view Truth as transcendent, as something that can be known, however imperfectly, and as an objective standard that humans have to conform our own consciences to. The modern, liberal view is that Truth is mutable, and can be reinterpreted in every generation to suit the perceived needs of the community.

This is precisely where these types lose the good graces I try to offer: multiple objective Truths, transcendent yet known, known but imperfectly so? It's difficult for me to understand what sort of "mutability" liberal Catholics are offering to Dreher that can possibly lie outside that soggy mush. You cannot stand outside the mutability of Truth while simultaneously giving yourself an out for imperfect understanding, or granting others the power of Truth when you disagree with them. Every generation has reinterpreted Truth, as a casual glance at Christian history will confirm. That may be unpleasant and uncomfortable, but it's so. And you can't resolve the issue inside your own faith, but you presume to do so for the rest of us.

Re: Religion [Rod Dreher 03/22 01:01 PM ]

Given the direction of Amer
ican society, is it becoming harder or easier to be a good orthodox Christian or Jew and a good American? ( In most ways, yes.

Yes, it is becoming harder or easier?
(The decline of public morality hardly needs commenting on. The deeper problem is that we have lost the vocabulary of moral absolutes, and increasingly, the only “thou shalt not” our pluralistic society recognizes is, “Thou shalt not impose your values on others.”

Again, I do try to be generous about this stuff, but why is it that "people of faith" so often argue in bad faith? The "decline of morality" certainly does need commenting on, especially seeing as how you're using it to justify the imposition of your own. Are we less moral now than slaveowners were, or their 20th century lynch mob descendants? Or than the days of Native American genocide? Are people less honest today than the Civil War profiteers were, less exploitative than the employers of child labor, less charitable than the Robber Barons?

If you mean sexual morality, say so, and be prepared to defend it. You don't get a free pass for saying people are less sexually moral today just because Victorian hypocrisy can't be enforced on the same scale it was when most people lived in small villages. Lust in your heart, an' all that.
(This, of course, is only applicable to religious believers. A believer may keep his or her quaint devotions, but is expected to have the decency to keep them in the closet.

Aw, yes, the poor persecuted vast majority. Someone please tell me where all these religious believers who are forced to keep their mouths shut reside. It's got to be a lot quieter than this place.
(Much religious life in America today seems to have accommodated itself quite nicely to the culture. Which makes it harder to live in an orthodox fashion. What are you supposed to do when the only doctrine ever heard from the pulpit is “I’m OK, You’re OK,” and you cannot be certain what anybody else in your church believes, other than the near-certainty that they believe they have the sovereign right to decide for themselves — that they are their own Pope? )

Where does all this confusion come from? Surely not from outside religious tradition, where a scant 15% of us dwell. There's not a single complaint here that couldn't have been, or wasn't, made with absolute Christian assurance in the 19th or 18th century in this country. Whining that no one else lives up to your religious standards--and insisting that that same society which doesn't should do something about it--that's the only real immutability here.

Wednesday, March 22

Happy Birthday

Leonard Marx
March 22, 1887--October 11, 1961

Chico, the compulsive gambler (when asked how much money he'd lost, he replied, "Ask Harpo how much money he's made. That's how much I've lost.") was playing backgammon at Samuel Goldwyn's house. He grew increasingly frustrated by the interruptions from Goldwyn's young son, and Goldwyn's apparent inability to do anything about it. Finally, he got up, took the boy by the hand, and led him off. He returned, and they finished the game in peace.

Goldwyn was impressed by Chico's deft handling of children, and asked how he'd accomplished it. "Oh, I taught him how to masturbate," he said.

Tuesday, March 21

Snow Jobs

• I'm at home, not snowed in exactly, but there's already about six inches of snow out there and my car is under it, so I'm getting a leisurely start to the day.

• Did you see the Preznit's Q&A session in Cleveland, specifically the question about the Apocalypse? First, he looked like a man who's just farted, and, milliseconds after had an inkling that all was not right in his underwear. The audience started giggling, and then he started laughing, at what I'm not sure. This seemed to go on for several minutes.

I know it's hardly an original insight, but this man is so blatantly, so primally false that you wouldn't believe it if he sneezed. What is obvious is that his laughter was a stall for time, as he has no idea how to answer the question. He finally comes up with, "I never thought about it that way, har har hardy har har."

Which, I suppose, could be his answer for everything. But...George W. Bush, born-again evangelical, has never thought about the Middle East in Apocalyptic terms? George W. Bush, Commander-in-Chief, has never thought about whether some of his advisors think that way?

The other thing is, odds are most of the audience are self-professed Christians. And odds are their laughter was as nervous as his.

• From Zev Chafets' piece on the Liberty Baptist debate team in The New York Times magazine:
"If I had the money and the staff, we could enroll 200,000," [Falwell] said with a beatific smile.

There are building sites all over campus, including the recently dedicated LaHaye Ice Center, a hockey arena donated by Beverly and Tim LaHaye...

No, that wasn't edited for clarity. Those are actual consecutive sentences.

Like a Cat

We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it--and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove lid again--and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.
Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar

Fred Kaplan in Slate: "If Only … The lessons of our Iraqi bungles."

My wife likes to watch CBS Sunday Morning. or The Geezer News, as I've been known to sneer if I'm sitting on the couch with her reading the Sundays, as I was this week. She's interested only in the Arts features they usually run, so she'd actually flipped the channel just as their Third Anniversary coverage began, and for once I had to ask her to change it back and turn up the volume.

They had dueling three-minute essays on Our Little Mideast Adventure: John Murtha vs, inexplicably, Bill "Handles" Bennett, a man who not only has lost his standing in the area of expertise he chose for himself, but ranks at least a battery commander in the Chickenhawk Brigade. How they wound up with Bennett is anyone's guess.

I admire Murtha for his stand, and for standing up to the sliming he must have known was coming from pipsqueaks unfit to mention his name, but he's not much of a speaker, and he's never really made his case forcibly (there are, I think, two reasons for that; commissioned officers don't rock the boat while higher-ups are standing in the bow, and the real risks we face from a military which will be fractured for many years to come are probably too great to speak aloud, at least from one of Congress' leading military figures). But Bennett! If CBS' intention on booking him was to provide three minutes of disjointed sloganeering, they got what they paid for.

That's by way of explanation for my ignoring the first of Slate's twin anniversay pieces, Christopher Hitchens on "Why (again) We (again) Were Right (again) To Invade (again)". Hitchens is now reduced to citing Stephen Hayes and vowing we'll all change our tune after those key documents are translated. If you didn't know he surveys the world from a Park Avenue condo you'd be tempted to toss the man a couple of quarters.

Instead, it's Fred Kaplan and the conventional view of the unreality that is the reality of Iraq, the litany of Bush administration blunders: the failure to understand Iraqi society, the failure to deploy enough troops, the failure to stop the looting, disbanding the Iraqi army. Though Kaplan leads off by posing the question, "Were the fiascos inevitable—built-in products of the nature of the war itself—or could they have been avoided, or at least might their impact have been minimized, if President Bush and his top advisers had made smarter decisions?" he immediately settles in to the comfortable list of "bungles" without another glace back. So once again we're cats with burned asses: there were people of standing who warned against this or that mistake, O, had we but listened!

That list is, sadly, real enough, as we all know. But focusing on it begs the question: are those simple errors in judgment, or are they part of a larger cluster of ineptitude, incompetence, and criminally negligent homicide? And events have already answered that one.

The failure to understand Iraqi society. Is this something which is explained by George Bush's reported ignorance of the major divisions of Islam? No. It's military incompetence of the first order and the shining glory of right-wing American hubris. (Last week Jonah Goldberg presumed to lecture the French strikers on economics, fer chrissakes.)

The failure to deploy enough troops This is the nut of nuts, and Kaplan falls into the "blame Rummy and his lightning force doctrine" trap.

Is anyone paying attention here? It's utterly immaterial that James Dobbins of the RAND Corp. estimated that, based on historical precedents, at least 250,000 troops would be needed (immaterial, and decidedly low; counting Coalition forces--remember them?--the invasion force was nearly 200,000 and that proved, um, less than ideal). Ask yourself this question: what has happened afterwards? Why have we had continual manpower and rotation problems since 2003? It's because we didn't have the troops! The "Rumsfeld Doctrine" rather conveniently required us to use about the number of troops we had available for short-term deployment without major disruptions in our other manpower requirements. There is nothing whatsoever to suggest that we decided on ~150,000 US troops through some ideal planning exercises except the word of the Bush administration, something which isn't worth the paper you wipe it on.

We went into Iraq with insufficient troop concentrations because to do otherwise would have required a delay of one-two years, depending on whether we made up the difference by a) building an international coalition which would have insisted on at least a year of continued sanctions and inspections, something which would have saved a hell of a lot of lives, or b) a draft, which would have taken one-and-one-half to two years to increase force levels, and would have shot the whole idea right out of the saddle the minute it was proposed. Manpower was not the equation; getting the war started on the politically desirable timetable was, and since we're doing all this soul-searching, let's start there.

The failure to stop the looting, disbanding the Iraqi army Again, the real nut was manpower, as well as operational planning focused on the Oil Ministry building and the persons or parts thereof of Hussein & Sons, to the exclusion of most everything else. Sufficient manpower would have solved those problems, or rather rendered them moot. But two things, here: the looting was a tragedy of global proportions, but what beyond that? The early lawlessness was no way to run a railroad, but it's hardly a root cause of our current mess. And that disbanding the army thing is problematic. Bremmer may be right when he says there was no army left to disband; and so we may be talking about supposed offers by Iraqi units to switch sides in the field. Whether that was ever in the cards is debatable.

And again, it's only debatable because the whole thing was a disaster. Other than manpower, those "blunders" are symptoms; the real question isn't what mistakes we could have avoided. The real question is how the hell we wound up with this group of fuckups in charge in the first place.

Monday, March 20

Happy Anniversary!

Dear Ones,

The traditional third anniversary gift is leather (source: New York Public Library Desk Reference; vegetarians may avail themselves of the "modern" alternatives, crystal or glass). Caring for leather is very important, and here's a helpful household hint: don't buy expensive leather polishes and creams. Go to the drugstore and find good old-fashioned castor oil. Apply liberally, let soak in a few minutes, then wipe up the excess. Once a year should be sufficient. Without proper care your leather will begin to look like this:
Monday, March 20, 2006

Qaeda failing to foment Iraq civil war: Cheney

WASHINGTON: US Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday that Al-Qaeda is failing in its effort to spark a civil war in Iraq, insisting that the group has reached a “stage of desperation.”

Speaking to CBS television, Cheney rejected the idea that the country had descended into civil war, despite a “clear attempt” by Al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi to start such a conflict. “That’s been their strategy all along, but my view would be they’ve reached a stage of desperation from their standpoint.

“What we’ve seen is a serious effort by them to foment civil war but I don’t think they’ve been successful,” Cheney said. The vice president insisted that US efforts to establish a stable government in Baghdad are going well. “I think we are going to succeed in Iraq. I think the evidence is overwhelming,” he said.

or this:
What We've Gained In 3 Years in Iraq

By Donald H. Rumsfeld
Washington Post Sunday, March 19, 2006; Page B07

Some have described the situation in Iraq as a tightening noose, noting that "time is not on our side"and that "morale is down." Others have described a "very dangerous" turn of events and are "extremely concerned."

Who are they that have expressed these concerns? In fact, these are the exact words of terrorists discussing Iraq -- Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his associates -- who are describing their own situation and must be watching with fear the progress that Iraq has made over the past three years.

The terrorists seem to recognize that they are losing in Iraq. I believe that history will show that to be the case.
See what I mean? That stuff's so decrepit they would have refused to make soup out of it in Leningrad.

My wife and I like to celebrate our own anniversaries privately (wink, wink!), but for many people there's nothing like a gathering of friends and family to mark important occasions, so I was glad to get the opportunity to share a few minutes with Cokie, Sam, George, and Lil' George yesterday morning, even if it was by long distance, and even if I could only stay a few minutes before I had to scream. My, my, how that group has grown in just three years! You wouldn't know those were the same people who were so gung-ho about the project back in 2003. It's especially nice to see George F. figuring out for himself that maybe things in Iraq aren't going all that well. It raises hopes that someday he'll figure out what really happened in Vietnam.

And, of course, no anniversary would be complete without breaking out the scrapbook. This one is particularly hefty, isn't it? Rather than try to touch on all the highlights, I thought we'd just take a look at a couple of snapshots from the honeymoon:
Cheers, Tears and Looting in Capital's Streets
New York Times, The (NY)
April 10, 2003

Saddam Hussein's rule collapsed in a matter of hours today across much of this capital city as ordinary Iraqis took to the streets in their thousands to topple Mr. Hussein's statues, loot government ministries and interrogation centers and to give a cheering, often tearful welcome to advancing American troops.

After three weeks battling their way north from Kuwait against Mr. Hussein's hard-core loyalists, Army and Marine Corps units moving into the districts of eastern Baghdad where many of the city's five million people live finally met the kind of adulation from ordinary Iraqis that American advocates of a war to topple Mr. Hussein had predicted.
Amid the celebration, many of Mr. Hussein's troops and officials simply abandoned their posts and ran away.

Much of Baghdad became, in a moment, a showcase of unbridled enthusiasm for America, as much as it metamorphosed into a crucible of unbridled hatred for Mr. Hussein and his 24-year rule.

Oh, and this one:
Looting and a Suicide Attack As Chaos Grows in Baghdad
New York Times, The (NY)
April 11, 2003

It was a day of widening anarchy in Baghdad today as the jubilation accompanying the collapse of Saddam Hussein's rule gave way to a spree of violence and looting.

A suicide bombing attack on a checkpoint manned by American marines left at least four of them severely injured, Marine officers said. The attack took place on the east bank of the Tigris River about a mile from the central Palestine Hotel. Mr. Hussein, before his fall, had promised a wave of suicide bombings against American forces.
For many Iraqis, the scenes of adulation that greeted American troops in east Baghdad on Wednesday, when whole neighborhoods turned out to cheer and wave at the Americans and to shout abuse for Mr. Hussein, began to give way to misgivings as a tide of looting grew.

The power vacuum in the city appeared almost complete, with no immediate prospect of a new order rising from the old.

For the second day, bands of looters had the free run of wide areas on both banks of the Tigris, breaking into at least six government ministries and setting several afire, as well as attacking the luxurious mansions of Mr. Hussein's two sons and other members of his ruling coterie.

Looters made off with liquor, guns and paintings of half-naked women from the home of Uday, one of Mr. Hussein's sons. They also took the white Arabian horses he kept.

Although there were some reports of American troops firing into the air to discourage the marauding bands, most of the looters were able to pick targets at will in plain view of American units, without fear of any American response.

One Marine officer standing atop a tank at a checkpoint in east Baghdad said that he had been asked repeatedly by Iraqis why his unit had done nothing to stop the looting and that he had explained that he had no orders to respond. "I tell them the truth, that we just don't have enough troops," he said.

Wow, what a difference a day makes, huh? Let alone three fucking years. I guess we should be thankful we found enough troops to protect the Oil Ministry, huh?

Bye for now, darlings.

Saturday, March 18

Friday, March 17

It Could Be Worse, I Suppose. You Could Be Just Waking Up from a Decade-Long Coma and Trying To Make Sense of the World.

Forget it, Jake, it's Jim VandeHei, "GOP Irritation At Bush Was Long Brewing"

At No Child Left Behind? Really? At the conduct of the war?

So why, exactly is this the first we hear of it? With all the trading product-placement news for insider access, why is that?

Is there some collective noun covering this page A-01 story? It's not news, clearly (and I don't mean that in the sense of "fresh": it's not news because presenting unsubstantiated testimony from interested parties is only news if you frame it as such). It's not a sidebar, or a ramora: the reader has to supply all context of the mizzerable failure that is George W. Bush and his Republican enablers, though said reader has to swim against the current to do the latter. It's not analysis, nor a "think piece"; stenographers aren't paid to think.

The only thing left I can think of is "ad".

Yes, pity the poor Republican rank-and-file legislator, who's had to endure five years of top-down management from the Bush administration and the Denny and Tom Show. All those straight party-line votes he was forced to endure while shame flashed an almost imperceptible tic near his right eye. Why, if he'd been in charge all these years things would be different!

Of course they would, young firebrand! None of us taxpayers blames you now for voting them for what you said you supported. What is political life but the warm amniotic fluid of our eternal forgiveness? Really, I'm glad y'all could get this stuff off your chests (Thanks again, Jim! See you at the clubhouse?). Because for these past few years I've been wondering how the Republican party could be so respectful of honest dissent, so solicitous of its opposing viewpoints, so forgiving in the face of all that Bush hatred and pro-terrorist mendaciousness. And now I know; you're just like us! What say we nationalize America's Strategic Ovary Reserve, eliminate Medicare, and drink a toast to our newfound understanding? Here's to our True Conservative legislators, and the people they are pledged to represent, starting tomorrow, and This Time We Mean It!

Happy Birthday

Nathaniel Adams Coles
March 17, 1919--February 15, 1965

Thursday, March 16

Happy Birthday

James "Yank" Rachell
March 16, 1910--April 9, 1997

The legendary, which is to say fairly obscure, blues mandolin player, who played with Sleepy John Estes and Sonny Boy Williamson #1, lived in Indianapolis from the late 1950s, and we were privileged to see him several times. A great player and a great gentleman.


Quirky Cons [Jonah Goldberg 03/15 01:40 PM ]
Quirkiness is good. Quirkiness is valuable. Quirkiness is fun. Why, right now I'm wearing a very quirky hat.

I say Jonah has discovered those ironic trucker hats all the kids are wearin', and his is brown and orange, with white mesh side panels, and reads "Eat More Possum." My wife votes snood. Anybody else?

We're Gonna Need More Popcorn. Is There Any Under the Bed?

I was intending to write a travelogue of an evening spent trying, one more time, to make any sense at all of Crunchy-Condom...

[I will never develop whatever strength of character it is that's required to get through The Corner on a regular basis. Once in a while I get directed there, and make it though a half-dozen "posts", or brain-droppings; it's like wading through a communal stack of used Kleenex. The sheer novelty of the Crunchy Con business kept me going for the better part of a week, but in the end I trailed off, no better informed as to just what's wrong with these people. I went back last evening and forced my way through the flotsam of an entire day. The Jonah quote above was the big find.]

...when a comment there led me right to everybody's favorite Cornerite:

JEFF HART, BUSH, ETC [Jonah Goldberg ]

All due laud and honor to our colleague Jeff Hart. But I've only now read his LA Times piece . If you ask me, it makes his infamous Wall Street Journal essay seem cautious by comparison. I'm sure Rod loves parts of it, but I'd like to have a little more, you know, evidence . According to Hart, Bush is a free-market zealot and "privatization ideologue." Maybe someone could square that with this horrifying piece in today's USA Today which reports that:
A sweeping expansion of social programs since 2000 has sparked a record increase in the number of Americans receiving federal government benefits such as college aid, food stamps and health care. A USA TODAY analysis of 25 major government programs found that enrollment increased an average of 17% in the programs from 2000 to 2005. The nation's population grew 5% during that time.

Hart is a big believer in intellectual rigor but he throws out sweeping broadsides as if they are self-evidently true. Consider this passage:
Bush puts it this way: "It's wrong to destroy life in order to save life."

That works only if you think a dozen cells is the equivalent of an infant diagnosed with diabetes or an adult with Parkinson's disease. If you believe that, you will believe anything. In actuality, the supposed "culture of life" is a culture of disease and death.

Bush would like to abolish abortion. No one likes abortion. But a demand for it exists today that did not exist in 1950, let alone in 1920, when U.S. women got the vote. Today, look at a university campus. Half women. They are represented in all professions. They demand the right to decide if and when to have children. Criminalizing abortion would be folly, a disaster — and would fail, like that other prohibition. That's the actuality

Huh. So if you take the standard pro-life view on stem cell research "you'll believe anything." Does that go for the majority of the NR editorial board? Will Ramesh believe in unicorns and leprechauns because he believes respect for life requires a ban on embryonic stem cell research? In fairness, I don't think Ramesh ever said that a clump of cells is the same thing as an infant, but that just demonstrates how unfair Hart is being. He's created a strawman to debunk as an idiot and by association he calls a great many conservatives idiots as well.

As for the "demand" for abortion justifying abortion, this is really outrageous coming from someone who claims to despise populism. Indeed, he rests much of his criticism of Bush on the charge that Bush is a populist. But, simply because a large number of people want something he advocates -- in this case abortion -- pro-life conservatives should simply bow to "reality." By what standard of intellectual rigor should conservatives draw a line between what is right or wrong and what is merely popular if Hart is willing to cave to this logic on abortion?

I really don't get it.

Then we're in agreement. I wish his confusion of a figure of speech with its literal, ad absurdum consequences was a mere rhetorical flourish. But, y'know, I'm starting to suspect that maybe Jonah really is that stupid. How else do you explain the confusion of a market argument for legalized abortion with "populism", or that high school ethics conundrum?

Nor am I sure what he was getting at with that link to The Nation's High School Newspaper, but here's a link if you happen to be hungry for a meatloaf made entirely of bread crumbs which are made entirely of sawdust. I suppose Jonah can be forgiven for ignoring the "balancing" quote from "the liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities," pointing out that many programs have grown faster than the population because of the increase in poverty, because the piece seems to have ignored it, too.

Anyhoo, that took me to Hart's actual piece, entitled "He's a right-wing ideologue, not a true conservative", since nothing goes better with ersatz meatloaf than a bottle of reconstituted turnip purée mixed half-and-half with Grenadine and labeled Ketchup. The opener has a certain pole-dancer charm:
WILLIAM F. Buckley Jr. has defined conservatism as "the politics of reality." Ideology is the enemy of conservatism because it edits, omits or ignores reality. George W. Bush is an ideologue.

Yes, you see, Bill Buckley, the man who put "reality" back into the politics whence it had been missing since Democrats hallucinated the Great Depression:
As Buckley wrote in two recent columns, our Iraq policy "didn't work." The Bush centerpiece has been an astonishing flop.

Two recent columns! Reality apparently travels at different rates depending on the observer. Astonishment, too. Still, it's nice to see the old guys are still fighting the good fight, once "reality" has knocked the opponent senseless even more senseless.

And it's comforting to know that somebody still has all the answers. Too bad it's the same somebodies.

Wednesday, March 15


The funeral of my wife's student and her younger sister was paid for by an anonymous donor, meaning that the other monies collected will help other families victimized by fire.

Yesterday's teevee news was full of the story that Citizens' Gas is extending its service shut-off moritorium to next Tuesday as a response to predictions of cold weather this week. That, of course, wouldn't have prevented the shut-off in this case, but after seeing the story twice, including footage of that terrible fire, I hope somebody's conscience has been assuaged, at least in this life.

Death always sends me to the CD racks, generally with something already stuck in my head. Last Friday that was Fairport Convention's cover of "The Ballad of Easy Rider", never released by them, IIRC, but available on a Richard Thompson collection. Sandy Denny's blameless voice and Richard's incomparable playing caught between heaven and hell, and that lyric Dylan scribbled on a cocktail napkin. Wherever that river goes, indeed. I don't know where the choice came from, but I was reminded at some point that Sandy died young, which triggered the recollection of the saddest funny story, or funniest sad story I know. Early on Fairport was involved in a van crash, and Martin Lamble, their eighteen or nineteen-year-old drummer (a band of prodigies!), was killed. In the bios on the band's first press release, under "Previous Occupation" he had written "Child".

Isn't It Time the Party of Jesus Got Right with God?

misfeasance Law (A) transgression, (a) tresspass; spec (a) wrongful exercise of legal authority.

malfeasance Law Evildoing, illegal action; an illegal act; spec official misconduct by a public servant.

--New Shorter OED

The legal distinction is this: the former is an improper act which might be legally done; the latter is an act which the party had no right to do legally or contractually.

It seems clear that Carla J. Martin, an attorney for the Transportation Security Administration assisting in the prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui, is guilty of the latter. She was busily coaching seven witnesses from the FAA, including emailing them trial transcripts. It is possible that prosecutor David Novak, who had a joint telephone conversation with two witnesses, is guilty as well. The prosecution also seems to have prevented three potential defense witnesses from contacting attorneys for the defense or vice-versa.

It can't be overstated: prosecutorial malfeasance ranks at the very top of the worst abuses of our system of government. This may not be as stomach-churning as the physical and psychological abuse of prisoners, nor as extraordinary as Operation Infinite Incarceration, but it is on par with those. This is a death penalty case.

[Having trouble keeping up with our track record prosecuting terror suspects? This LA Times article will help.]

Of course with this administration that's barely page three news. Is somebody keeping a master list? Remember that practically the first order of business with these guys was to plant phony stories of shocking White House vandalism with Lloyd Grove and Andrea Mitchell, et. al.? Remember that the story didn't hold up to ordinary questioning, let alone demands for anything like proof, yet it persisted for nearly three months? Remember that at that point George W. Bush pronounced the matter closed--not apologized, not vowed to get to the bottom of it, not sacked Ari Fleischer before going on teevee to lecture his own administration that he really meant it about changing the tone in Washington--and was hailed for his statesman-like, Solomonic wisdom? At this point that kinda seems like memories of your high school prom, don't it?

That, of course, is to say nothing of how they got there in the first place, of the surreal anti-Gore campaign or Clinton Scandals, Inc., of Lee Atwater and Willie Horton, of Iran Contra, the looting of the S&Ls, and the fairy tale-slash-floating crap game that was the Reagan administration. Nor, moving forward, have we touched on Dick Cheney gathering his oil bidness pals together to set national energy policy, of the hands off the Middle East and stop negotiating with North Korea foreign policy, of six weeks on the "ranch", Bin Laden Determined To Attack US, and My Pet Goat. And that's the fucking prelude to these guys. Did I mention the party that took control of the House in 1994 by promising to end corruption in Washington? How'd that work out? I can barely juggle five, and that not for long.

Bin Laden Determined To Attack US! The National Security Advisor to the President of the United States took the witness stand and defended treating that piece of paper like a report on soil erosion, and she's now the Secretary of State rather than Prisoner # 0463107.

And this is the administration which in the last election was put over the top by moral values voters.

One of the tenets of conservatism--the real kind, not the present day sort that has to be surrounded by quotes--is the imperfectibility of humankind. Well, maybe it's a tenet, maybe it's just an old ad campaign. Those things stick with you; I can still sing the Pepsodint song, or "All Blatz is draft-brewed, that's why you'll hear/ Blatz is Milwaukee's finest beer." In the same way you might remember "The Law of Unintended Consequences," something which only works under Democratic administrations. So where's the right punditocracy, exactly, as their clear vision piles up around our ears? The tsk-tsking over Abramoff and DeLay lasted about as long as it did in the House. A few of them have recently discovered that the President, now as worthless to them as he's been to the country for five years, is a Big Spender. Plenty of outrage when it comes to Harriet Miers or the Dubai deal, the political equivalent of criticizing the posture of a man exposing himself to a schoolyard full of children. Where, even, is the sense that this is their mess? The Moussaoui shenanigans would have resulted in the death penalty being thrown out, at minimum, in a less-politically-charged case. It would have ended a trial if he'd had one. So here's what the three attorneys at the World's Greatest Blog had to say about it:

To be fair, there was a nice rundown on the literature on Leopold and Loeb. Those things don't just write themselves.

Tuesday, March 14

Happy Birthday

Diane Arbus (née Nemerov)
March 14, 1923--July 26, 1971


I ignored Amy Sullivan (though her piece last week stayed on my desktop all week), and then I ignored Steve Waldman (who was taken to task sufficiently by Digby and others). Then here comes Ogged and a link to this:
Yet I know that I’m in a long line of those who have stood up for justice: John Brown, Henry Ward Beecher, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mary Elizabeth Clark, Catherine Doherty, Mother Teresa, Walter Rauschenbusch, Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Nanne Zweip, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and on, and on, and on. Christians have stood against slavery, discrimination, war, poverty, homelessness, hunger, unemployment, regressive taxation, and on, and on, and on, often well before the secular world cared about the issues. In spite of the church’s shining record of progressive issues, however, the Christian left’s contribution to mercy and justice has often been forgotten, perhaps because the right so often yells louder and pounds its fists harder.

Without chiming in on Agnes Bojaxhiu, whose main contribution to American politics was a partnership with Charles Keating, let's just say it's reasonable, if we expect the good deeds of Christians to be remembered as Christian acts, to accept the opposite when it comes along without complaining about "hostility to religion". Slaveholders and segregationists could quote the Bible with the best of 'em. The opening chapter of the story of Christianity in the New World is the closing chapter of Arawak history. By the time the (essentially Christian) Abolutionist movement gathered momentum in this country there were 350 years of some very unsavory history to overcome.

That's not to ask anyone to wear a hairshirt today, though you are free to volunteer, but apart from some rather dubious political advice for Democrats, it's really your problem how you live in a secular world, not mine.

Chris took me to task, rightly so, I think, in the comments at HFPSTwN for asking where the liberal Christian response has been to the right "yelling louder and pounding its fists harder." I understand, and appreciate, how frustrating it is that the religious right, and the anti-abortion Church, are part of the accepted media script, while the other side is muffled. But that problem didn't begin yesterday, and when there seems to be more concern about Christianity receiving tacit obeisance from the "secular left" than the continuing message of hate in Jesus' name, at least in some quarters, I think a lot of us are going to regard that as an issue.