Friday, February 29, 2008

R.I.P. WFB, Jr.--Obit anus abit onus

William F. Buckley, Jr., died this week, Dear Gentle Reader(s). Almost as distressing as his political views, are some of the encomia which have been heaped on his memory, exemplified, alas, by my hero, Andrew Sullivan.

Sullivan gave space several times over the past week to moments of reflection about Buckley. The one which is most disturbing appeared on February 28, under the title "Buckley and the Gays."

Here are some quotes Sullivan attributes to Buckley, presented in a letter written by Buckley to a colleague who had just come out to him: "I honor your decision to raise publicly the points you raise ... but you too must realize what are the implications of what you ask. Namely, that the Judaeo-Christian tradition, which is aligned with, no less, one way of life, become indifferent to another way of life ...National Review will not be scarred by thoughtless gay bashing, let alone be animated by such practices ... You are absolutely correct in saying that gays should be welcome as partners in efforts to mint sound public policies; not correct, in my judgement, in concluding that such a partnership presupposes the repeal of convictions that are more, much more, than mere accretions of bigotry. You remain, always, my dear friend, and my brother in combat."

Just what ill would befall a particular (Judaeo-Christian) way of life by its indifference is not limned. Nor is it exactly clear what Buckley meant by "much much more than mere accretions of bigotry." What could be so important to convictions of any sort than ridding it of convictions of bigotry?

Sullivan begins this posting with He was much too civilized to have been personally hostile or rude; and ends it with absent Buckley's grace and manners.

In the middle, he reminds us, and himself, that "gayness would bar [a person] from full inclusion as an equal in the conservative movement."

Buckley had grace and manners? Of the sort which is imperious, perhaps. Rather like the attitude celebrated by Rogers and Hammerstein in The King and I: "Don't let us up off our knees, your Majesty/ Give us a kick, if you please, your Majesty/ Give us a kick, if you would, your Majesty/ Oooph! Oh, that was good, your Majesty!"

The man scorned Sullivan's core being--with grace and manners, to be sure.

Schopenhauer's little quip seldom had more meaning than in the case of Mr. Buckley.

R.I.P. William F. Buckley, Junior.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Muckroom Follies 2.23.08 Another Gold Nugget

Like the parent of a kid who swallows a whistle, it is sometimes rewarding for one to squish through the muckroom's detritus. Over at Townhall's shoveling out room, another gold nugget penned by Diana West was recently found.

"Ignoring Sharia's Advance Extremely Stupid" takes to task E.J. Dionne, Jr., who recently (according to West) wrote a bit skeptically about the dangers of Sharia-encroachment, at least as viewed by conservatives: The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne Jr. thinks there's "something peculiar" about conservatives who turn "Islamic extremism into a mighty ideological force with the power to overrun the world."

West is more accurate than Dionne with regards to Sharia, one might speculate. Western democracies surely should not be expected to accommodate Islamic civil laws in their own legal structure. If religious persons wish to have an intra-religion set of laws, that seems perfectly fine. No one around here is agitating for the elimination of Mormons' or Catholics' abilities to set membership rules. Or with cultural "arrangements" for marriage.

In cases where religious observance seems to be in conflict with civil laws, a simple rule of thumb ought to be one of reliance on common sense. For instance, there is a woman suing the San Bernardino sheriff's office because she was required to remove her head scarf during recent problems.

Um, recent news reports indicate that some Islamic extremists have used the flowing robes, as well as women, at agents of bombings. Civil law and the Constitution are not suicide pacts. Of course people should be subject to search, especially when it is possible to conceal deadly weapons upon the body beneath loose coverings.

All of that is probably beside the point of West and Dionne. Too many people are desensitized about the dangers posed by all religious paraphernalia and thought.

It is peculiar that more people of all political persuasions don't pay more attention. And be more skeptical.

Trust, if you must, but verify.

And be wary.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Muckroom Follies 2.20.08 Right Hand v Extreme Right Hand

On occasion, Dear Gentle Reader(s), the Townhall Dot Com muckroom affords a nugget of enlightenment.

For instance, in today's email effort, there is an offering from one Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., with this title and teaser: 'John Doe' Telecoms While the House of Representatives is vacationing this week, terrorists are probably communicating about plots to kill Americans without fear that their plans will be intercepted by U.S. intelligence.

Suspecting this to be spin verging on an untruth, and having heard of a contrarian view in no less a source than The Washington Times, your correspondent, DGR(s), went to the WT website for information.

A quick Google leads one to "Analysts say FISA will suffice," By Sean Lengell. The article begins with "Many intelligence scholars and analysts outside the government say that today's expiration of certain temporary domestic wiretapping laws will have little effect on national security, despite warnings to the contrary by the White House and Capitol Hill Republican leaders," which seems to directly contradict the claim of Townhall's teaser.

The coup de grace, however, comes when Lengell quotes Timothy Lee of the Cato Institute (a conservative think tank). After establishing that President Bush praised the latest overhaul of FISA as a recognition of..."the realities and dangers posed by the modern terrorist", Lee states "Those are the rules we'll be living under after the Protect America Act expires this weekend. There's no reason to think our nation will be in any more danger in 2008 than it was in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, or 2006."

So there you have it, DGR(s). Townhall on February 20 offers one RWN column; WT offers a RW reporting job on February 16. Bonus: This WT Archive page offers links to both Lengell's and Gaffney's pieces.

Ah, those right wingers. They know not what the other does.

Perhaps Gaffney should do a little research before he swallows the administration line. Remember, Frank, Dana Perino is a mouthpiece, not an objective source.

Trust, but verify.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Grey Lady's Mud Room 2.18.08

Ah, Dear Gentle Reader(s), one must thank the Grey Lady (a.k.a. The New York Times) for its continuing forebearance for the sly dissembling of the right wing punditry in its presentation of essays by one William Kristol.

Today presents an excellent example. Kristol has penned "Democrats Should Read Kipling," in which he extols the virtues of the administration's attempt to amend, and, thus, strengthen the nation's security, the FISA law. Therein, too, oh, by the way, incorporate immunity for past, possibly illegal, actions of certain telecommunications companies.

That is, Kristol extols the virtues of the domestic spying elements of FISA and excoriates the Democratic leaders of the House. He uses Kipling to say that the president and his administration have responsibility for decisions; the House, on the other hand merely has the luxury of obstruction without responsibility. Kristol makes it seem that the Democratic opposition to the proposed bill would be counter to the national security. He doesn't even mention the sticking point retroactive immunity until the penultimate paragraph of the essay. Nor does his point out that the Democratic House leadership is only balking at the immunity provision.

That is a wonderful characteristic of the right wing: obfuscate and hope no one will notice. Mr. Kristol is a grand master of the technique.

Too many charges and counter charges are flying about to get a clear understanding of the brouhaha. One that was raised recently, and is as yet unverified by your writer, DGR(s), is that the government has been tardy in paying its bills, so the telecoms have removed themselves from unfettered cooperation. Further, the telecoms indicate they will no longer cooperate with the government sans a legal order to so do.

One wonders why Mr. Kristol doesn't encourage the telecoms to "do their duty" and provide the unfettered access to our emails and phone calls and faxes, trusting that there will be monies forthcoming. Unless, of course, Mr. Kristol knows that the possibly illegal wiretapping of the administration's past actions are just that--illegal, calling into question the wisdom of his administration cronies which, according to Kipling, "...are obliged to take responsibility..."

Remember, DGR(s), when the right wing was flaying Mr. Clinton for "lying" under oath? When the right wing was calling for "respect for the law?"

Now they're calling for immunity for possible illegal actions--not illegal--possible illegal.

Trust, but verify.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Muckroom Follies 2.5.08--Devil in the Details

Ah, Dear Gentle Reader(s), One of life's verities is "Remember to read the small print."

Take the Townhall's Muckroom today (Please!). In the email distribution, there is this intriguing title/subtitle: "Stuart Epperson: The Law of Unintended Consequences: Well meaning efforts to target indecency could come back to haunt us."

How could a progressive argue against that? Long have progressives argued against overreaching legislation aimed at protecting the defenseless but having the effect of impinging on adult discourse.

So, with an eye to sharing with you a pebble of sanity in the muckroom, your correspondent eagerly engaged the link. Ah, the admixture of strong agreement and profound disappointment.

First, the agreement: Epperson, Chairman of the Board of Salem Communications [from their web site: Salem is a leading U.S. radio broadcaster, Internet content provider, and magazine and book publisher targeting audiences interested in Christian and family-themed content and conservative values], concludes his column (actually, a transcript of his "testimony to the Senate Commerce committee on the FCC's involvement in regulating decency" on January 19, 2006, with Is it over reaching to request simple adherence to the First Amendment? “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Notwithstanding over two hundred years of highly emotional, contentious and often offensive speech, aggressive legislative action and widely diverse court rulings, “no law” still means “no law”!

Absolutely!!! Wise words, Epperson. Wise words.

If only they hadn't been preceded by the usual appeals to Christianist moral failings. To wit: two citations which leaped out during a quick perusal: 1) Of course the homosexual lobby would mobilize hundreds, perhaps thousands, of complaints against stations advocating our point of view; 2) Black activists could organize to shut down stations opposing affirmative action. Hispanic activists could organize to shut down stations supporting immigration reform.

Ah, DGR(s), your correspondent came to cheer Epperson, but found cause to jeer as well.

And "Salem," too leaps to mind. The name of a town in which occurred one of the most egregious examples of the Christianist extremist mind set in American history has been appropriated, surely unintended, to be the name of a contemporary example of the Christianist extremist mind set. Not to mention (That's a rather strange phrase, isn't it? Surely the intent is exactly the opposite of what it states?) the fact that Salem Communications owns To quote from Arthur Miller's The Crucible, "There are wheels within wheels" in our little world.

Before we take anyone's point of view, Dear Gentle Reader(s), it is incumbent upon us to Trust, but Verify.


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Sunday, February 3, 2008

Cinematic Oddities

There is at least one person, Dear Gentle Reader, who thinks that the director of Eyes Wide Shut, upon seeing a final cut of his latest cinematic offering, was so aghast at what he'd foisted upon the world that he took it upon himself to leave this mortal plane immediately.

[There is absolutely no factual evidence anywhere that this is true. No doubt the claim is hyperbolic, invented to display the person's disdain for the movie.]

Now we have There Will Be Blood. Unfortunately. It is a crashing bore.

Perhaps Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voters have been hoodwinked by movie pundits into thinking TWBB is worthy of an award nomination, but you, DGR(s), have been warned. More than one has gone to the theatre to cheer, but stayed to jeer.*

Trust, but verify.

*(That last bit is an hommage to the advertising genius who developed the campaign for the release of Batman serials in a feature length cut.)

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Friday, February 1, 2008

Brooks in a barrel

Tsk! No, Dear Gentle Reader(s)! Not that kind of a barrel! The barrel in which one shoots at fish.

Dear, dear David Brooks pens this wonderful sentence--"He [Senator McCain] has some excellent ideas, like his plan to control health care costs, which he doesn’t explain well"--in his column today.

Tsk #2. Dave, poopsie, what do you mean? If the idea is not well explained, then how do you know it's "excellent?"

Probably a slip of the metaphorical pen, eh? Editor out to lunch? Or does Senator McCain have a minion going around to right wing pundits clarifying his ideas so that they become "excellent?"

Excellent ideas without clear explanation are probably not that excellent--especially an idea about health care. Isn't that buying a pig in a poke?

Trust, but verify.

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