Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Conservative Press

A new book out, The Obama Nation, has shot up to number one on the charts and is causing quite a stir, not least because of its factual inaccuracies. Of course, this is not the first time its author Jerome Corsi has been in the spotlight. He...

...rose to prominence as the co-author of a book attacking 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, penned another tome asserting oil is a nearly infinite resource that continues to generate naturally, and posted a series of online comments through 2004, including suggestions that Hillary Rodham Clinton is a lesbian and Muslims worship Satan.

Not surprisingly the publisher is not concerned about pesky things like "facts."

Ordinarily, when an author or an editor discovers errors in a book's text, he or she arranges to correct them in the next printing. I've done this myself. But neither Corsi nor Matalin responded to e-mails from me asking whether they intended to correct any errors in The Obama Nation—it would be a miracle if there were none. In the Times, Corsi brushed aside the Media Matters critique because of its politics.

And why do these books get printed? Take a guess.

Quite the contrary. Simon & Schuster and the other big publishing houses have started conservative imprints, at arms' length and with noses held, because they recognize them to be a gold mine. The Obama Nation, the Times reports, will debut on its best-seller list this Sunday at No. 1. But part of the deal, clearly, is that conservative imprints aren't required to adhere to the same standards of truth as the grown-up divisions.

This is one of my major beefs with the modern conservative movement. Too many conservatives are wedded to the Republican party at the expense of their principles. Look at all the people who still support George Bush. A principled person - conservative or liberal - would care more about their political beliefs than the political party. Sadly, most people seem to treat it like sports. No matter how bad your team is, you still root for them.

If only people would remember that politics is not a game, but an activity that has far-reaching impacts on everyone. I know that's asking a lot, though. It's much easier to close your eyes and loudly cheer for your team.

The Shock Doctrine

Another book has been added to my Need to Read list. Naomi Klein has written a book called The Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism in which she claims that governments and corporations have begun to use disasters to further their own agendas. She talked with the AVClub about it recently.

The book is an alternative history of the triumph of a set of ideas. That this set of ideas has triumphed is actually an incredibly uncontroversial thing to say. We call this globalization, or the age of globalization. And it's been documented many times, but differently. We do know that over the past 35 years there has been an incredible sea change in the way the world economy functions. This has been advanced through bureaucratic institutions like GATT and the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and that's why it sort of goes, usually, by the friendlier name "globalization" or "free trade." But, beneath those phrases are a set of policies that call on countries to lower their trade barriers, to privatize industries that had been in the public domain, and that require cuts to social spending. The fact that this change has happened is not controversial. We know that there has been a dramatic change. It has minted billionaires in every country where it has triumphed. As soon as you privatize the entire economy in Argentina, Mexico, Russia—it creates an oligarchic class. What we're all struggling with right now is the legacy of these policies and the fact that it has opened up this dramatic income gap between the winners of this economic model and the losers, the people who have been excluded from it. That has been the disconnect of the Bush years, of the Bush administration saying the economy has been doing well where people are going, "Well, it really doesn't feel like it's doing well." The answer is that it really was doing well for the Bush administration and their friends.

I'm really not advancing a "great man" theory of history, or some idea of a back-door conspiracy, I just think this is the way history works. After the market crash in 1929, the tide really did turn in favor of the middle class and workers. We saw a period over 30 to 40 years where the middle class rose to unprecedented levels in the United States, but not just in the United States, in any country that adopted these types of policies. And it really did work, in terms of creating class mobility. But it really did eat into profits and this stage that we've been living in since Reagan is really about the people in the highest income brackets saying, "We want our New Deal. We don't want to share so much." The basic demands of this counterrevolution, or this revolt of the elites, have all been about taking back those gains—breaking unions, being able to pay lower wages, having the freedom to scour the world for the lowest wages—and it's really been a liberation movement—the liberation of capital from all constraints.

So, is that a conspiracy? I don't see that as a conspiracy, I actually just think this is the way the tides of history work. It swings in one direction; it swings in the other direction. I don't think it's any more of a conspiracy than the New Deal was a conspiracy. Interests do organize and launch movements and campaigns and have tactics and win victories. It's worth looking at how they do it.

Read the whole thing. It is very fascinating. I would also recommend The Corporation, a great documentary about the history of corporations from their beginning 150 years ago as small, limited operations to the global megaliths they are today. The creators paint a devastating picture of something we all need to be more aware of.

The Car is Back

I got my Toyota back today after my recent difficulties. Thankfully, it was no charge to me. They told me that it hadn't been properly rewired the first time. If that shop hadn't come highly recommended by someone who knows cars, I probably wouldn't go back to them, but as it is I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. God knows, I'll no doubt need to take it back for something sooner rather than later. Of course, I still need to get the transmission taken care of as well. *sigh*

Blog Additions

I've added a label cloud on the right-hand side. You can find it between the search bar and the archive list. It has the most frequent labels I use around here and clicking one will bring up all of the relevant posts. Something to make surfing around here a little easier.

Friday, August 15, 2008

McCain Says Nations Don't Invade Other Nations Anymore

Do you think McCain realized the irony in his statement? I really doubt it. McCain, more than anything else, has positioned himself as a war junkie. Witness his statements in recent days on the Russia/Georgia conflict. Do we really want someone in the White House who is forgetful, has a temper, and gets excited about war? I know I don't.

H/T: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Dads Get the Short End of the Stick

A blogger on Slate laments the fact that feminism has often had an inverse impact on dads.

When you think seriously about it, the way custody laws are set up is inescapably unfair. As it stands, there's a hypocrisy at the heart of the second-wave feminist movement: It demands that men be equal partners in child-raising, but when push comes to shove and a marriage dissolves it also implicitly claims that women are the true parents and men are not. While the letter of the law gives men certain rights, divorce lawyers are often shameless about using the threat of claiming there was child abuse to get fathers to back off from fighting for more custody rights. Over the past few months, by total chance, I've talked to a couple of newly divorced fathers, including old college friends, who have suddenly seen their children swept away from them. They were dedicated fathers; they now pay child support, and yet their right to see their children is severely circumscribed. I know there's no perfect solution; but couldn't we come up with one that's better than this? If women really want equality in child-rearing, don't we have to acknowledge that this extends even to divorce?

As a divorced father who does not get to see his kids near enough, I certainly have a first-hand account of this. Deadbeat dads get most of the press, but there are a lot of damn good fathers out there who want to do more for the children, but are not given the chance. In the long run, it is only going to hurt the kids.

Your Kids: Cheaters or Sticklers for Rules

An interesting article at Slate on when you should tell your kids its okay to break the rules and when they should stick to them.

No one likes a cheater, for sure. But no one likes a stickler, either. What if your kid is the one who tends to wave the rule book while yelling "no fair"? Teaching kids about playing games is a subtle enterprise, when you stop to think about it. On the one hand, the point of a game is to win it. For some kids, the competition is itself a stumbling block—whether it's Monopoly or kickball or soccer, they back away from contests that end with winners and losers. These kids don't focus much on the rules; they're not invested enough. But then there are the kids for whom competition is an almighty thrill. They're not interested in just hitting a tennis ball around. They want to keep score. And once you're doing that, whatever the setting, the rules do matter. To break or bend them is to take advantage. And so it can be perfectly called for to object to cheating.

The problem is that the point of playing games isn't only to win, most of the time. It's also to hang out with friends, have a good time, while away a sunny or rainy afternoon. Viewed through that lens, it's important to tolerate a little rule bending. Did the dice fly off the board? OK, roll them again. Game playing takes a lot of that kind of compromise and improvisation. We want kids to care, sure, but not so much that they send the board flying when there's a question about whether doubles means roll again. It's a lot to expect for kids to master all the nuances, to know when to let a stolen base go during a social kickball game, and when to insist on recording the out.

I teach my daughters to twist the rules to their own advantage if possible, or if not to break them and just don't get caught.

Okay, I kid.

Guantanamo Meeting

I had a meeting with someone from Jon Tester's office today about closing down Guantanamo Bay. This one actually occurred unlike the meeting we were supposed to have with Max Baucus. Kyle, Lacey, and I talked to Vicky Stephens, one of Tester's "Field Representatives." She was very pleasant and sympathetic to our request. She promised to pass along our information to the Senator and said we could call her to follow up.

I really enjoyed this opportunity. We still are going to try to meet with someone in Baucus's office and we also briefly talked about putting together a community forum or something similar to spread the word to people. Being a part of something bigger than yourself is exciting.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Don't Coddle Your Kids

Another study out showing the risks in being too soft with your children. As a proud parent of two beautiful daughters, I certainly understand the impulse to shield and protect your children from all potential harm. If any harm were to befall them while they were with me, I don't know how I could handle it.

Unfortunately, however, we don't live in a perfect world and the fact of the matter is that kids need to learn risk management. If that means bumps and bruises, scrapes and tears, and even the occasional broken bone, then so be it. Eventually the kids have to grow up and enter the real world and learn that it isn't all roses. If they can learn some of those lessons while they are young, they will be better prepared for adult life and it won't come as such a shock when mommy and daddy aren't right there holding their hand every step of the way.

Violence is Worth It...For Money

Jackie Chan has some words of wisdom for us all.

Never, ever take a fist to another person unless you're profiting handsomely from it.
I recall one bully who used to taunt me when I was growing up in Hong Kong. He would call me horrible names and try to egg me on, but I always stuck to my principles. "My friend, I have no quarrel with you," I would say. "I will not fight you unless I'm given $5 million up-front, 3 percent on the back end, and first rights to star in any sequels."

Monday, August 11, 2008

I Don't Like Cars

It was just a couple of weeks ago that I got my car back from the shop. They rewired both cables coming off of the battery and told me I had to take it to another shop that did transmissions to take care of the oil leak. I planned on taking it in this week since I am taking a few days off work and then I wouldn't have to worry about transportation to and from there.

Well, that was the plan. This morning when I pulled out of the driveway, I saw sparks coming out from under the hood near the battery. I pulled over, but didn't think much of it because there was no smoke and I didn't smell anything. Maybe I was seeing things, but oh, no. Driving home from work today, when I pulled into my driveway, the power blipped (radio flipped off and came back on) and a bunch of smoke started coming out from under the hood. Sighing, I popped it to take a look. The (new) wires are starting to melt and the metal piece that goes over the battery to secure it was sinking into the battery which was starting to melt. I could only think, "You've got to be shitting me."

Now I don't know what the hell I'm going to do. I do know I'd much rather deal with autoimmune diseases than cars.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Religious Right Gets a Little Dramatic

Isn't hyperbole great?

The primary focus of the call was Proposition 8 in California, described by Colson as “the Armageddon of the culture war.” Many speakers invoked the language of warfare, raising up an army of believers, putting soldiers in the streets, being on the front lines of a battle. Lou Engle actually described a massive rally planned in Qualcomm stadium on November 1 as a “blitzkrieg moment.”

While speaker after speaker spoke of the dire threats same-sex married couples pose to “traditional” marriage, religious freedom, and civilization itself, the overall tone of the call was confidence that victory would be won with God’s help, 40 days of prayer and fasting before the election, teams of intercessors and prayer warriors around the country, and a massive highly organized deployment of volunteers in a systematic voter identification and turnout campaign.

"Armageddon of the culture war," huh? Wow. You'd think that they might reserve such harsh language for things like the American President authorizing torture or the billions going hungry every day. But, no. The Religious Right is more concerned about two people in love who happen to be the same gender. How they can twist this into the fall of Western civilization is beyond me.

Weekly Music Video

Is there any situation not improved with the addition of some Billy Idol?

Billy Idol - "Dancing With Myself"

Weekly Secret


The Line Between Church and State

This is an interesting case I have been reading about. A woman is suing a church for emotional distress caused by an exorcism done on her when she was 17 and led to her attempting suicide.

Mrs Schubert Pearson, 29, claims she was left bruised and traumatised after members of her church group allegedly kept her captive for two days so they could perform an exorcism in which was pinned to the ground and "pummelled".

The incident happened after fellow members of the church group became convinced she was possessed by demons. She was 17 at the time.

After the alleged ordeal, she dropped out of school and tried to slit her wrists.

A Texas court originally ruled in her favor, but a higher court overturned it and it may head to the Supreme Court. The church and those supporting it claim that the lower court overstepped its bounds and that the church's actions were protected by the First Amendment.

Mrs Schubert Pearson's claims were largely emotional and "so interwoven with religious practices" there was no way for a court to get involved, he added.

"The government can't get involved in overseeing religious practices. The best way to say it is it's not American.

"If she did prevail that would erase about 150 years of law in this country from the Supreme Court saying the government does not get involved in the internal affairs and operations of the church. It would effectively be the end of church independence and religious freedom in our country."

Here are some more articles: Left of Center, Religion News Blog, and

This is certainly a tricky matter. I think the separation of church and state is vital for our country and important for both entities. They would each be diminished by an intermingling. That said, in this case I am inclined to come down on the woman's side. She was only 17 when this happened, still a minor, and her parents were not around, nor aware of this incident until afterward. I think it would set a dangerous precedent to sanction the church's actions under the guise of the First Amendment. Where would the line be drawn for similar cases?

It would be different if the woman had been an adult or if the parents had been a part of this. Neither is true, however, and so I think the lower court made the right decision in siding with the girl. She is vowing to take her case to the Supreme Court which would be very interesting indeed. Which side would the conservative leaning court take? Either way, this is one to watch.