Saturday, December 29, 2007

Muckroom Follies 12.29.07--A Horse Shoe Nail?!?

Alert the Press! A search of the Townhall muckroom today has uncovered a small nail which looks like it might've come from a horse shoe! Could Townhall's muckroom be close to exposing the "there must be a pony" pony?

Michael Barone's piece, "Lessons From the Surge," starts off, little surprise, with euphoric praise of "the Surge": the dazzling success of the surge strategy in Iraq. Or: George W. Bush, like Lincoln, took his time finding the right generals. But it's clear now that the forward-moving surge strategy devised by Gens. David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno has succeeded where the stand-aside strategy employed by their predecessors failed.

Naturally, Barone takes a pot shot or two at Bush critics: Some of George W. Bush's critics seem to have relished the prospect of American defeat and some refuse to acknowledge the success that has been achieved.

Buried near the bottom of the piece, however, is this gem: But the impetus for change has come from the bottom up, from tribal sheiks in Anbar province who got tired of the violence and oppression of al Qaeda in Iraq, from Shiites and Sunnis who, once confident of the protection of American forces and of the new Iraqi military, decided to quit killing each other.

So, the decision of the Shiites and Sunnis to "quit killing each other" is "the impetus for change," not the "dazzling success of the surge strategy?" Perhaps the surge strategy played a part? Perhaps the huge walls now lining Baghdad neighborhoods played a part?

Barone enthusiastically proclaims: A year ago it was widely thought, not just by the new Democratic leaders in Congress but also in many parts of the Pentagon, that containing the violence in Iraq was impossible. Now we have seen it done. Really? "Done?" The violence is contained? Where? The violence is, perhaps, factually less today than it was one year ago. Does that mean it has ended? No. It is contained? To what? Do the families of the newly dead give thanks that the violence is contained?

The horse shoe nail is that the Sunnis and Shiites are responsible for their own safety. The surge might have helped. If it did, then why did it take so many years for the President to begin to follow the advice of General Shinseki, who, remember, called for 500,000 American troops to keep the peace.

There's not much here for which Mr. Bush and his supporters might be proud. Once you look past the spin of Barone and his muckroom cohorts, it's still a grim chapter in American history.

Trust, Dear Gentle Reader(s), but verify.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Muckroom Follies 12.25.07 HoHoHo--Bah! Humbug!

Season's Greetings, Dear Gentle Reader(s)!

Sadly, but unsurprisingly, the Muckroom cadre takes no holiday on this holy day for Christian adherents, but where' the surprise in that, right?

Confounding logic with some strange usages is a minor theme of the day. For instance:

Dinesh D'Souza offers this: "Taking Christ Out of Christmas." His final paragraph begins with this sentence, "We've reached a sad state in the West when we acquiesce in a hate-filled campaign to deny our Christian roots and heritage." Now, DGR(s), let's establish immediately that the problem here is "hate-filled." Hate is far too harsh a word to assign to the effort to have the Constitution interpreted in such a way as to allow all U.S. citizens to enjoy their religion or their choice to pay no attention to organized religion. Seeking to keep the various governmental entities "secular" has nothing to do with the emotion of hate. It is more to do with the emotion of love--for the U.S. Constitution. It is difficult to understand why D'Souza does not acknowledge this? Surely he knows it to be true. No one wants to take "Christ"out of Christmas. (That would leave "mas," surely that would confuse our Spanish speaking brethren, and not make sense at all.) It might be more in keeping with the Constitution to take "Christmas" out of our secular government.

Additionally, dear, sweet Bill Murchison offers a piece entitled: "Christmas vs. The Rejectionists." Billy's piece turns out to be the usual argument about Christian faith versus science (virgin birth, Biblical creation, salvation). The problem is Rejectionists. When Murchison goes shopping and selects an apple, is he a rejectionist when he chooses one apple over another? A pale blue shirt over a white shirt? Why is it then that a person raised in a particular society decides as an observant, critical adult to go on a different personal path is suddenly a rejectionist? Why not a "disagreeist?" A you-go-your-way-and-I'll-go-mineist?

DGR(s), there is no obvious answer to the question. One might surmise, though, that it's a defense mechanism. A person who has so much of him/herself invested in a particular belief that were that belief to be somehow rendered irrelevant the person would think him/herself also rendered irrelevant might turn irrational in defending the belief, while actually defending the self.

Enjoy the solstice season.

Trust, but verify.


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Friday, December 21, 2007

Muckroom Follies 12.21.07 Quickie

Bert Prelusky over at the Townhall muckroom has this title: I'm Happy to Live in a Christian Nation.

Um...Nope. Where you live, Bertie, is in a nation which you share with a whole lot of Christians, real and ersatz.

Trust 'em, if you must, Bertie, but verify their religious credentials!

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

The slow Malkinization of Sullivan

Oh, Dear Gentle Reader(s), what to do? What to do? I fear my dear Andrew Sullivan is slowly succumbing to the prevalent journalistic malaise of slipshod investigation.

Here's a quote from AP which Andy uses: "The destruction in late 2005 of the tapes, showing harsh interrogation treatment of two terrorism suspects, is being investigated by the Justice Department, the CIA itself and by several congressional panels."

Here's what he has to say about that quote, especially the phrase "harsh interrogation," "No serious source denies that these two individuals were - at the very least - waterboarded. " Sullivan writes that the AP is "shilling for the Bush administration" because it uses "harsh interrogation" instead of "waterboarding." He might be absolutely correct in his assertion, and he might be absolutely correct in that the destroyed tapes show waterboarding; but he is certainly on thin ice when he relies on serious source[s], or, later, "serious, reasonable student[s] of history, warfare or basic ethics" as a primary source.

Until copies of the tapes emerge, or someone who has seen the tapes or participated in the interrogation speaks on the record, the AP is within their rights and possibly their journalistic obligation to use harsh interrogation.

Don't lose sight of veracity, Andrew. You may have been ousted from the ranks of the RWN punditry, but surely it is only temporary. They'll forgive you any day now. How could they not, given your penchant for the near-hysterical, subjective attacks on Hillary. Don't take the easy way back in by being loose with facts.

Trust, but verify.

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Parenting and Responsibility and Children and Corporate, what, Greed?

It isn't nice to kick a person who's down. Every once in a while, though, it seems appropriate, and certainly satisfying.

On the metaphorical ground (warning: the following is based on an article in the New York Daily News email of 12.20.07 by Ben Widdicombe, "Jamie Lynn Spears bumps ma's book;" that's a gossip item folks; I can't verify), is one "Christian" publishing house, Nashville based Thomas Nelson. This company has "quietly stepped away from a planned book by Mama Lynne on parenting, due to be released for Mother's Day 2008. (Which, coincidentally, is quite near Jamie Lynn's due date!)."

The question which immediately arises is, What on earth is a Christian publishing house doing publishing a book on mothering by the mother of Britney Spears? Certainly the difficulties Ms Spears-Federline has undergone are beyond the control of Mama Lynne, but other than a plea for continuing prayer from the book's readers, what good could come of it?

The proposed title of the book was Pop Culture Mom: A Real Story of Fame and Family in a Tabloid World."

Hmmm. If it were to be a guide on how to avoid some of the pitfalls of parenting in this age of instant information and fame, perhaps it was a good idea. Actually, it is a good idea, and it should most probably go forward.

But if it were to be a guide on how to raise a child and instill values with which most parents agree, then it wasn't a good idea, although it would surely have made money as a source of laughter.

It isn't going forward, so the cynic raises questions. How much money does a publishing house, identified as "Christian," seek to make by publishing a book by a "pop culture mom?" And wouldn't the "gossip" element of the book's author be even more profitable with the disclosure of her 16-year old's pregnancy?

Probably. But look what it took for the publishing house to wake up to "values."

At long last, responsibility.

Someone should write a song.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Muckroom Follies 12.17.07 Schizophrenia!

What an interesting grouping today over at the TownhallDotCom Muckroom. (And, Dear Gentle Reader(s), what an interesting chance to see the old "stopped clock is correct twice a day" in esse.)

First we have this column by one Charles Mitchell. Here is the operative sentence from the opening paragraph: "Conservative evangelicals need a president who shares our political and moral values and priorities, can win in 2008, and can govern effectively thereafter by articulating and implementing a values-based governing strategy."

Without clearly respecting the "political and moral values and priorities" of the hundreds of millions of U.S. citizens who are not "conservative evangelicals," why on earth would the general public even consider voting for someone who had the backing of such a religious group?

What, exactly, is a "values-based governing strategy?" Whose values? President Bush, largely a product of conservative Christians in 2004, has played fast and loose with truth and responsibility (not to mention lives of an entirely innocent civilian population in Iraq). Is this an example of "values-based" government?

Don't we have enough examples of governments world wide which are dominated by religious organizations and which are deeply disturbing? Just today the news carries the item of the Saudi king setting aside the 200 blow caning of a rape victim, not because the punishment is unjustified, but, in spite of agreeing with the sentence, the king is responding to outrage outside of Saudi Arabia. And that's an example of excessive religious pressure in the country of an ally!

We might have to rephrase the Reagan quip into Verify, but never trust!

We move, DGR(s), down the page to one Star Parker. Now, personally, I think Ms Parker is a bit too strident on her RWN positions, and I also think she's one of the "jail house converts." (That's one of the Charles Colson ilk...good opportunity for you to take a Google detour and check out the backgrounds of Colson and Parker...conversions might be sincere, they might also be convenient--and lucrative!)

Parker's point today is one with which I totally agree (the old stopped clock is correct twice a day phenomenon). She contends that questions asked of Mr. Romney about his religion are fair game. She further contends that criticism of Mr. Huckabee for raising the "Jesus and Lucifer brotherhood" is unjustified; especially since the brotherhood is a Mormon teaching.

I have to agree with Parker. Why is it a "low blow" to ask someone who wishes to lead our nation just how he justifies saying "I believe in the faith of my fathers" when that faith included abject racism as recently as the late 1970's?

Ah, the Muckroom. It is exasperating to shovel through the horse
droppings, but occasionally there are more tangible traces of a pony. We just have to keep digging.

And verifying, before we trust.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lawrence v. Mitt (in absentia)

In case you missed it, on last week's McLaughlin Group, Lawrence O'Donnell in very strong terms explained how the Mormon church has had a long racist history. O'Donnell's comments have hit a couple of nerves.

Over at the Huffington Post Ryan J. Davis has penned a defense of O'Donnell: Lawrence O'Donnell was right about Mormonism. It's a fun piece to read.

There was an additional moment in the broadcast which Davis doesn't mention, but which I think, Dear Gentle Reader(s), is notable. O'Donnell looked at each member of the panel and said something to the effect that none of his fellow panelists believed for one moment most of whatever they knew of Mormon theology. "You don't believe in it, and you know it." Or something like that.

Yea! Ryan J. Davis. Hooray, Lawrence O'Donnell.

Trust Mitt? Verify first!!!!

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The NIE and the Iranian Bomb

See, Dear Gentle Reader(s), what happens when one cries "Wolf" too often without reason: People stop believing you. That could be very dangerous. One of these days, there could very well be a threat from a wolf.

Within a few hours of last week's CIA National Intelligence Estimate which stated that Iran had stopped working on an atomic bomb in 2003, President Bush was making statements that there was still a threat from Iran's continuing to process and "enrich" uranium.

Iran's program to enrich uranium is a very real threat in this atomic age. In order to make a bomb, the manufacturer must have enriched uranium. At this stage, Iran's enriched uranium is not bomb quality, but all that needs to be done to have bomb quality uranium is to continue to enrich it.

Except for a few voices, most notably Tom Friedman in The New York Times, not enough people are paying attention to this continuing threat from Iran. Part of the problem the President is having is of his own making. He has rattled so many sabers, and spoken of World War III in connection with Iran's nuclear threat, that, with this new NIE, he has lost credibility.

The President and his administration must stop being scaremongers. They must assess the threats to America with an objective eye, and they must inform the American public of the precise nature of the threat and what exact steps America must take in order to protect itself from the threat.

Friedman put it very well: "Some things are true even if George Bush believes them, but good luck getting anyone to buy that anymore."

Iran is still a very likely nuclear threat; just because they won't have a "bomb" in the next couple of years doesn't mean they won't have the ability to construct one a couple of years after that.

Trust but verify.

Tell the truth.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Townhall Tax Follies 12.05.07 publishes a daily e-letter which contains columns from, generally, right wing pundits. Most of the time their language is simply red meat for the fringe element of red states. Occasionally there's a logical piece, but the authors of these sane discussions appear far too seldom.

Once in a while a "balloon" is floated which has some merit, but which, on a moment's reflection, causes a furrowed brow.

For instance, one David Strom has a piece today entitled "Eliminate the Federal Gas Tax."

Sure. Strom lists it at $0.184. For every six gallons that would be $1.00 less out of our pockets. Who wouldn't like that?

Strom's entire argument is based on how effective the tax is for its original purpose, to foster "interstate commerce and ensuring a first-rate transportation infrastructure that serves as the backbone of our national economy."

Um. Yes. Then one thinks of the current state of affairs relative to the use of petroleum and the automobile.

Many persons are advocating an increase of Federal gas taxes in order to make driving the gas fed internal combustion engine so expensive that car owners will figure out ways to cut back on the consumption of petroleum thereby weaning ourselves from our dependency on Middle East (read Islamic terrorist here) oil fields.

As a matter of fact, in all the calls for lower taxes, there has been precious little said lately about the Federal gas tax, and one supposes the reason for that is exactly the huge consumption of petroleum in the U.S. and the subsequent realization that we're actually helping fund Al Qaeda at the same time we're spending additional billions fighting bin Laden.

No. A cut in the Federal gas tax is not a good idea at this time.

Trust in the sincerity of tax cut advocates, but verify the efficacy of their proposals.

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Monday, December 3, 2007

More Erosion (update 12.04.07)

Remember the brouhaha, Dear Gentle Reader(s), about the United Arab Emirates company, Dubai Ports World, which was poised to take over the operations of six U.S. ports? That kerfuffle resulted in the company deciding against assuming control of the ports.

Last week the two local newspapers, The Press-Enterprise and The Desert Sun carried an AP story which reported on a $7.5 billion intention of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority to help invest in Citigroup Inc., one of the major financial institutions in the country. Joe Bel Bruno's story includes this statement by Sheik Ahmed Bi Zayed Al Nahayan, "[Citi is] a premier brand and with tremendous opportunities for growth."

What that means, DGR(s), is that our gas prices are allowing "premier" companies to become heavily dependent on Middle East oil profits to maintain their "tremendous opportunities for growth."

There has been no kerfuffle nor brouhaha over this "investment," which makes the city-state of Abu Dhavi one of the "bank's largest shareholders"

The logic is elusive: they mayn't have our ports, but our banks are on the market.


Trust, but verify.

Update: Zip over to Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.'s, column at It's entitled "Sharia's Trojan Horse." It should give pause to all of us. This theocracy is a danger. We must guard against it.

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Saturday, December 1, 2007

World AIDS Day

Inform yourself.

Encourage programs which fight this disease be based on reality, not wishful thinking.

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