Thursday, April 24, 2003

Excerpt from yesterday's press conference with Ari Fleischer. One journalist finally takes the drone artist to task:

Q. But, I mean, in general with relations with France, over any number of issues? I mean, obviously, this has been a difficult moment in U.S.-French relations. How should we anticipate this will be reflected in U.S.-French relations?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think it?s been the history of U.S. relations with France, on some issues we agree, on other issues we disagree. Typically, there are, indeed, more that we agree on than we disagree. The disagreements can sometimes become pointed.
I noted with interest France?s statement about sanctions and whether the sanctions should be lifted in the United Nations. It?s important to note that France has recognized the Iraqi situation has changed as a result of Saddam Hussein?s regime now being gone. With it being gone, the President believes that economic sanctions on Iraq are no longer needed. They shouldn?t be merely suspended, they should be out-and-out lifted. And that?s a difference of opinion between the United States and France on how to get the job done. We?re pleased that France has made some moves in this direction; they?ve got a little more to go.

Q. You?re saying they?ve turned the corner, they just haven?t gone quite far enough?

MR. FLEISCHER: I?ll leave it as I put it.

Q. Why won?t you answer the question about --


Q Hold on. We?re entitled to follow up, Ari -- this isn?t homeroom.


Q Why won?t you answer the question about whether or not -- he said there are going to be consequences --

MR. FLEISCHER: David, there are other qualified reporters in here, too, who can follow-up.

Q. I didn?t say they were not qualified, Ari. I?m saying you?re running it like it?s homeroom, like we can?t follow-up when you?re refusing to answer a question that?s been posed twice to you, directly. The Secretary of State said that there would be consequences. Why won?t you say what they might be?


Q. Do you want to elaborate on what those consequences would be?

MR. FLEISCHER: I addressed it earlier. You heard what I said about consequences.

Q. You didn?t address it, which is the point. But you can?t tolerate that kind of dissent.

Eric Alterman noted this on his excellent Blog.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Republican Senator Rick Santorum explains his frothing homophobia this way: "I have no problem with homosexuality -- I have a problem with homosexual acts," which is kind of like saying "I have no problem with soccer -- I have a problem with kicking the ball around."

Come on, Rick, just come on out and say it: you really just despise gays.

That pillar of anti-intellectualism Gary Bauer rushed to Santorum's defense, declaring, "I think that while some elites may be upset by those comments, they're pretty much in the mainstream of where most of the country is."

Well, it wasn't long ago the mainstream believed in spontaneous generation and that the earth was flat, Gazza, and a lot of folks do still believe in ghosts and goblins and the Holy Spirit, too. But I ain't convinced that the mainstream is so anti-gay anymore. So would you care to proffer some evidence to bolster your claim, Mr. Bauer?

I thought not.

In a bid to wrestle down Gary Bauer for least intellectual observation of the day, Santorum has also recently said, "The basic liberal philosophy is materialistic, is relativistic, to the point of, you've got candidates for president saying we should condone different types of marriage. That is, to me, the death knell of the American family.''

I say any type of marriage allows for the raising of a healthy child who's the recipient of living care and attention has got to be a good one, whether it involves a man and a woman, two men, three women or the Manchester United football team. There are plenty of heterosexual couples doing lasting damage to psyches of our society's little ones. I doubt most gay couples could do any worse. In fact, they might do better than many, considering all they could teach so many of us about acceptance of others' differences.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

From the National Review, John Derbyshire's grotesque attempt to shrug off the looting of the Iraqi National Museum.

My response:

I'm astonished that anyone would go this far to trivialize the looting, not to mention the wanton destruction of ancient treasures in a transparent attempt to justify the coalition's decision to stay out of the picture.

The essence of Derbyshire's argument: Those treasures didn't belong to Iraq anyway. Well, even if they didn't, that doesn't excuse the coalition's distinct lack of a plan to defend these priceless treasures, especially since the armed forces had already executed an elaborate plan to safeguard Iraqi oil. In fact, if these items belong not to Iraq but to mankind, as he infers, then wouldn't that have allowed, even necessitated that they be properly protected? But Derbyshire shrugs off the loss and writes that eventually these "objects will find their way to institutions here in the West." Well, ignoring the inherent arrogance of that statement (which Derbyshire tries to preemptively defend by including Australia and Japan in "the West"--gee, thanks, I'm an Aussie), even if many of the stolen items are recovered and protected by the benevolent West, those items that were smashed to smithereens for kicks, those aren't going to be recovered are they? No, in order to maintain his teetering thesis, Derbyshire has to overlook these details. He has to in order to accomplish his true intent: to deflect attention from the military's profound dearth of helpful intervention.

I suppose when you're incapable of thinking outside of party lines, these are the sort of rhetorical calisthenics you have to indulge in. Consequently, Derbyshire's "optimistic take" on things was bound to be a blindered defense that desperately stretches the facts in an effort to excuse the crass values of this neo-imperialist excursion.

The fact that he has the chutzpah to try to twist lemons into lemonade in this instance is saddening.

Friday, April 04, 2003

Recently, Charlie Daniels wrote a particularly venomous attack on anti-war folks and it's been getting some undeserved attention as it circulates virally on the Net. I've written a point for point response to Daniels' "Open Letter." If you enjoy my response and sympathize with its themes, please feel to copy and paste it and pass it on.

An Open Letter To The Hollywood Bunch by Charlie Daniels

A Response to an Open Letter by Charlie Daniels by Robert S.

OK let’s just say for a moment you bunch of pampered, overpaid, unrealistic children had your way and the U.S.A. didn’t go into Iraq.

Immediately, Mr. Daniels, you resort to name-calling to make your case, establishing from the get-go that you’re not really interested in winning people over to your position, but only in receiving rapturous applause from the choir.

Let’s say that you really get your way and we destroy all our nuclear weapons and stick daisies in our gun barrels and sit around with some white wine and cheese and pat ourselves on the back, so proud of what we’ve done for world peace.

Mr. Daniels, you make the assumption that all who oppose the war are pacifists. Actually, many of us simply oppose a shift in American foreign policy that allows the United States to attack another country pre-emptively, immediately endangering the lives of our troops and millions of innocent Iraqis. The long-term results, of course, may be incalculable blowback as the unprovoked attack serves as a recruiting campaign for Al Qaeda and to birth who knows how many new Osama Bin Ladens. 

Let’s say that we cut the military budget to just enough to keep the National Guard on hand to help out with floods and fires.

I imagine it’d be a very small percentage of anti-war protesters who’d propose anything this extreme, but apparently you’re not interested in accuracy, Mr. Daniels.  You misrepresent the anti-war point of view and exaggerate the views of a few to the point of absurdity to make your case.  But you haven’t formulated an actual argument.

Let’s say that we close down our military bases all over the world and bring the troops home, increase our foreign aid and drop all the trade sanctions against everybody.

Same as above. Some of these idea have merit, though.

I suppose that in your fantasy world this would create a utopian world where everybody would live in peace. After all, the great monster, the United States of America, the cause of all the world’s trouble would have disbanded it’s horrible military and certainly all the other countries of the world would follow suit.

Again, it’s usually conservatives with limited imaginations who declare that all protesters think of America as “the great monster” or “great evil” or “Amerika” or whatever.  They’d like us to believe that everyone against the war is an irrational nut case. There are probably far more conservatives claiming liberals believe these things than there are liberals actually saying it.

Also, since you’re tacitly applauding the military, perhaps you’d like to lay down your fiddle, pick up a rifle and head off to the front line, Mr. Daniels?

After all, they only arm themselves to defend their countries from the mean old U.S.A.

I honestly don’t think I've met anyone who believed this. Have you?  Show of hands, how many of you think Saddam Hussein has been stockpiling weapons to ward off an attack from the United States?  I may see a couple of hands waaaay back there in the crazy section, but, no, I don’t think anyone really believes that.

Why you bunch of pitiful, hypocritical, idiotic, spoiled mugwumps. Get your head out of the sand and smell the Trade Towers burning.

Again with the name-calling.  That’s not how you fashion an effective argument, Mr. Daniels. Of course, “mugwumps” is a colorful old-timey word that’s good for a laugh, but some may find the words “bloated, imbecilic country musician” amusing, too.  And that wouldn’t prove anything either.

And there’s that groundless connection you’re making between Al Qaeda and Iraq. Despite the fact that 70% of Americans believe that Iraq attacked the United States on September 11th 2001, it was actually Al Qaeda, a terrorist group, not a country, and none of the suicidal, fanatical *individuals*
involved were from Iraq.

Do you think that a trip to Iraq by Sean Penn did anything but encourage a wanton murderer to think that the people of the U.S.A. didn’t have the nerve or the guts to fight him?

I’m not sure how you draw that conclusion, Mr. Daniels. Perhaps you didn’t actually listen to what Sean Penn said upon his return to the United States.  His trip likely had little or no effect upon Saddam Hussein, but I don’t see how the nerve it must’ve taken for him to visit a country run by a vicious dictator against his own government’s wishes proves anybody lacked nerve or guts.

Barbra Streisand’s fanatical and hateful rankings about George Bush makes about as much sense as Michael Jackson hanging a baby over a railing.

The fact that you disagree with Barbra Streisand makes her fanatical and hateful? Read your own essay, Mr. Daniels.  It’s simply overflowing with vitriol and unfounded beliefs. I find your blind allegiance to this unelected President somewhat fanatical myself.  At last, however, we do find something to agree on: Michael Jackson’s hanging his baby over a railing didn’t make any sense.  And neither does your essay.

You people need to get out of Hollywood once in a while and get out into the real world. You’d be surprised at the hostility you would find out here.

You speak of hostility as if it were a virtue. Perhaps that explains the tone of your essay.

Stop in at a truck stop and tell an overworked, long distance truck driver that you don’t think Saddam Hussein is doing anything wrong.

Now, I’m positively stupefied.  Ask nearly anyone at an anti-war rally in America (or Hollywood since that seems to be your primary target) if they think Saddam Hussein is doing anything wrong. I’m sure they’ll give you a resounding “Yes!”  Your argument is an empty non sequitur.  Nobody’s against the war because they think Hussein didn’t do anything wrong.  They’re against it because they don’t want the United States to do wrong to correct a wrong.  They don’t believe the ends (the decapitation of the Iraqi regime) justify the means (a pre-emptive attack).

Tell a farmer with a couple of sons in the military that you think the United States has no right to defend itself.

I think most folks agree that the United States does indeed have the right to defend itself, Mr. Daniels.  And if Iraq had attacked the United States the vast majority of us would be supporting the war in Iraq. 

Go down to Baxley, Georgia and hold an anti-war rally and see what the folks down there think about you.

I’m sure many people would tolerate such a rally and some might even join in. Anyone who opposed such a rally must not want to live in a democracy or be a particularly strong defender of free speech, Mr. Daniels. I propose a deal: you agree that it’s OK for Americans to oppose the war, and I’ll agree that you’re freed to spew hate and disseminate half-baked explanations of liberal thought. Wait, I’ll defend your right to freedom of speech whether you defend mine or not: I’d like to be consistent and defend my position with some integrity.

You people are some of the most disgusting examples of a waste of protoplasm I’ve ever had the displeasure to hear about.

More name-calling.  Not a way to win anyone to your position, Mr. Daniels.  Since you use the word “waste,” I wonder if you’re suggesting that anyone who doesn’t hold your position should be disposed of. Are you really that militant, sir?

Sean Penn, you’re a traitor to the United States of America. You gave aid and comfort to the enemy. How many American lives will your little, ”fact finding trip“ to Iraq cost? You encouraged Saddam to think that we didn’t have the stomach for war.

Now you’re just making things up.  As I recall, Mr. Penn was very careful not to make any judgments upon his return to the United States. I saw him do absolutely nothing to engender hate against Iraq or the United States. In fact, the only person I see herding hate here is you, Mr. Daniels.

You people protect one of the most evil men on the face of this earth and won’t lift a finger to save the life of an unborn baby. Freedom of choice you say?

How exactly does a peaceful protest several thousand miles away from Iraq protect Saddam Hussein?  Especially given the fact that nearly everyone agrees that Hussein is a bad man who needs to go, whether they agree that a pre-emptive American attack is the solution or not.

Well I’m going to exercise some freedom of choice of my own. If I see any of your names on a marquee, I’m going to boycott the movie. I will completely stop going to movies if I have to. In most cases it certainly wouldn’t be much of a loss.

Good on you, Mr. Daniels. I applaud you for asserting your right to act as a free American.  Now, if you’ll only agree that every American has that same right, even when you disagree with what they have to say. As for me, you’ve inspired me to a boycott of my own. I’m going to continue not buying your albums.

You scoff at our military who’s boots you’re not even worthy to shine. They go to battle and risk their lives so ingrates like you can live in luxury.

All this attention you’re lavishing on the military is getting little disturbing to be honest. Can we presume you are worthy to shine their boots?  I for one am certainly grateful for a military that will defend us against invasion.  And engage in legitimate endeavors of humanitarian aid.  And even protect the lifestyles of wealthy country musicians, so they can continue to create web sites and post their opinions there to be copied and pasted and spread like vicious seed around the world.

The day of reckoning is coming when you will be faced with the undeniable truth that the war against Saddam Hussein is the war on terrorism.

We’re a couple of weeks into the war now, and still no evidence of any ties between Hussein and Al Qaeda has been found.  Even if those ties were found, they would not justify a pre-emptive strike on Iraq, which is likely to provoke incalculable retaliatory violence upon our children and perhaps our children’s children.

America is in imminent danger. You’re either for her or against her. There is no middle ground.

I was relieved earlier when you didn’t use a feminine pronoun to describe the United States, Mr. Daniels. (You said, “you think the United States has no right to defend itself.”) Referring to the United States as “she” or “her” is a cheap old way to personify a country in an attempt to make whatever propaganda you’re peddling more palatable. But now you’ve resorted to that, too.

Yes, sir, there most certainly is a middle ground. Just one way to find a middle ground is to be against this dangerous new unilateral pre-emptive policy and for a more sophisticated and co-operative foreign policy.  Another way is to be against the war and for the troops. You see—and I hope President Bush is reading now, too—the world isn’t black and white, sir. There are many grays. There’s a whole lot of middle ground.

I think we all know where you stand.

Apparently not. You’ve tried to relegate the diverse, complicated thoughts of millions of Americans to a single simplistic point of view that represents very few, if any.  I do think we all know where you stand, sir. In a world without nuance.  In a world where might makes right.  In a world where a nation can move arrogantly and thoughtlessly throughout the world, doing whatever it wants, without thought of future repercussions. In other words, you’d like to live in a world that doesn’t exist.

What do you think?

I’ve told you what I think.

God Bless America,

Please don’t bring God into this now after spewing so much hate and intolerance. 

May you live in interesting times.

Charlie Daniels

Robert S.

"Nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself." -- Herman Hesse

Thursday, April 03, 2003

First, the Bush government disparages world opinion to stage an unprovoked attack on Iraq. Now, in its characteristic adolescent fashion, the administration has declared that any rebuilding in Iraq will be lead by the U.S., not the U.N.

Sympathizers to this point of view are already bleating that this is like the little red hen claiming her right to the acorns she’s gathered once winter has come. After all, those nations who didn’t enlist in the coalition shouldn’t have the opportunity to partake in the rebuilding, right? The comparison is ludicrous. The recovery of the earth’s most ancient civilization can’t be reduced to a questionable lesson from moralistic children’s storybook. Besides, we’re told the coalition didn’t go to Iraq to gather assets for itself—after all, that is what the little red hen was doing, right?—but to liberate the people. So the metaphor doesn’t and shouldn’t follow—unless those offering the metaphor are making some sort of Republican slip.

If the United States insists on leading the reconstruction of post-war Iraq and on refusing the help of those who opposed the war, it will only cement in the minds of many the idea that the U.S. came to Iraq not as a liberator, but as neo-imperialist force bent on “exporting democracy” and importing exotic oil.

Let’s also hope that the Iraqis first exposure to democracy isn’t a revolting rush by big business to capitalize on the recent carnage and to sink their teeth into Iraq’s resources. The rebuilding period in Iraq could serve an opportunity for renewed cooperation among countries that bickered in the months before. The world’s companies could conceivably provide models of ethical collaboration in order to enable a time for period of growth and renewal for the Iraqi people. OK, I’m really reaching here.

Regardless, the best way for the United States to help would be to turn the rebuilding effort over to the United Nations and to the Iraqi people. Then we should ask how we can help.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

"Just being provocative just for the sake of being provocative doesn't interest me right now." - Madonna upon pulling her latest video, "American Life," fearing its anti-war sentiment would not be well received now that the war's begun. Apparently, the video had already been toned down before the war began, perhaps editing out anti-Bush material it was said to have included. It's said to have ended with Madonna throwing agrenade at a Bush look-alike. Now, she's pulling the video entirely out of respect for the troops, and her labels is even asking that excerpts from the video be returned.

But back to that quote: "being provocative just for the sake of being provocative doesn't interest me" - boy, the world really has turned upside down.

Doubt the video could have been quite as striking as George Michael's recent effort "Shoot The Dog" anyway.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Just saw an ad for "Condition Red" biohazard suits on CNN. Four easy payments of $19.99. I thought it was some sort of black humor at first. A joke. Apparently not. What vulgar opportunists.

"President Bush has said that he does not need approval from the UN to wage war, and I'm thinking, well, hell, he didn't need the approval of the American voters to become president, either." - David Letterman