November 6, 2007 archive

Reality Aversion Is SO American

Over at Salon, Michael Massing wrote a disturbing post about the use of language by American traditional media and government to distort, obfuscate and hide truth. And how Americans overwhelmingly embrace this and attack purveyors of accuracy and truth.

We are the Thought Police By Michael Massing

Orwell’s Big Brother never showed up. Instead of centralized Iraq war propaganda, we have an America in which the public and the press jointly impose their own controls.

Salon Editor’s note: This essay is excerpted from the anthology “What Orwell Didn’t Know: Propaganda and the New Face of American Politics,” edited by András Szántó. A related conference on journalism and public discourse takes place at the New York Public Library on Nov. 7.

Join me below the fold for more.

Look Who’s Made the Big Time


In an article today over on MSNBC, national affairs writer Tom Curry wrote a piece titled “Judiciary Committee approves Mukasey – Latest in a string of setbacks for Bush administration foes”.

Some selected quotes (by far the easiest form of blogging known to mankind, it’s been a busy day) from the article below the fold…

Four at Four

Some news and your afternoon Open Thread.

  1. The situation in Pakistan remains fluid. Here’s a brief rundown of what’s going on:

    • Reuters – Benazir Bhutto says no talks with Musharraf. “Bhutto said she was going to Islamabad for a meeting of the opposition Alliance for Restoration of Democracy.”

    • AFP – Ousted Pakistan judge urges anti-Musharraf uprising. “Sacked top judge Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry called on his countrymen to save the constitution, prompting authorities to sever mobile phone coverage in parts of Islamabad as he addressed a meeting of lawyers by telephone.”

    • CNN – Pakistan’s courts locked down. “Baton-wielding police fought with lawyers outside courthouses in Islamabad and Lahore again Tuesday, arresting dozens more as they enforced… Pervez Musharraf’s crackdown on judicial activism… ‘Don’t be afraid of anything,’ Chaudhry told the lawyers gathered in Islamabad. ‘God will help us and the day will come when you’ll see the constitution supreme and no dictatorship for a long time.'”

    • AP – Opposition leader flees house arrest. “Imran Khan, a former cricket star and now the outspoken leader of a small opposition party in Pakistan, released a statement on Tuesday through his ex-wife, saying he has fled house arrest and gone into hiding.”

    • AP – Pakistan protests UN chief’s statement about imposition of emergency rule. “Pakistan lodged a protest against Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s statement expressing great concern at the imposition of emergency rule and ‘strong dismay’ at the detention of hundreds of human rights and opposition activists, Pakistan’s U.N. Mission said Tuesday.”

    • NYT – Bush Urges Musharraf to reverse course but signals no penalty if he doesn’t. “Mr. Bush also praised General Musharraf as a ‘strong fighter against extremists and radicals.'”

  2. In America’s forgotten occupation, The Guardian reports MPs and children killed in Afghan suicide bombing. “A suicide bomber today killed at least 50 people, including five MPs and several children, in northern Afghanistan. The attack took place as a parliamentary delegation was visiting a sugar factory in the town of Baghlan, 95 miles from the capital, Kabul. The bomber was on foot and blew himself up as the delegates entered the factory. The death toll was particularly heavy as large crowds had turned out to greet the MPs, who were on an economic factfinding mission. Many of the dead were schoolchildren. If the number of fatalities is confirmed, the attack would be the deadliest in Afghanistan since the 2001 US-led invasion.”

  3. Ethnic cleansing is well underway in Iraq. The Los Angeles Times reports 2.3 million Iraqis reported displaced. “Iraq’s displaced population has grown to 2.3 million people, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society said Monday on the heels of a warning by another humanitarian aid group that border tensions are exacerbating the plight of those who fled north to escape sectarian violence. The Red Crescent report says an additional 67,000 families left their homes in September, continuing a pattern that has multiplied the number of displaced people more than fivefold this year. About two-thirds of the total are younger than 12, the Red Crescent said.” And how many of those children will grow up with a deep-seated ‘grudge’ against the occupying nation and their people and soldiers?

  4. More bad news for rain-soaked south Mexico. BBC News reports a Landslide buries Mexican village of San Juan Grijalva. “Rescue workers in Mexico are searching for at least 16 people reported missing in the southern state of Chiapas after a landslide buried their village. The village is the latest victim of heavy rains which have flooded 80% of neighbouring Tabasco state, leaving at least 500,000 people homeless. At least 20,000 people are still trapped by floodwaters and many people are still waiting for aid supplies.” As many as 30 people could be missing in the landslide. According to the AP, Mexican officials described the landslide as a “mini-tsunami” and village residents said they “had been awakened by a rumbling roar and the sound of rocks rolling down from surrounding mountaintops” in the middle of the night.

    “It was a roar, like a helicopter was passing overhead,” recounted farmer Domingo Sanchez, 21. “We didn’t know what was happening, and then we went outside, and there were cracks opening the earth,” he said, apparently recounting the initial collapse of a nearby hillside into the river. “We ran up the hill … but soil kept coming down on us.”

    The New York Times reports that As floods ebb in south, Mexico tends to displaced. “In Villahermosa, the state capital of Tabasco, lines up to seven hours long formed at government relief centers as tens of thousands of displaced people waited to pick up water, milk, food and medical supplies… Yet in parts of the city on Monday, life went on as if its inhabitants had not just been through the worst flooding in its history… Those who could — even some in shelters — returned to work. Schools that had not been damaged reopened for classes.”

So, what else is happening?

We Ow.

Well, I owe this find to digby (who misidentifies Maureen Orth, the actual author, as the wife of Tim Russert when Timmeh’s wife is Laurie Firestone, who is merely one of the interviewees)(I was wrong and digby was right)

But I’m not really here to quibble with digby, but to direct you to the original Vanity Fair piece- When Washington Was Fun.


As digby trenchantly points out-

Capitol Hill hasn’t become the laughing stock of the nation because of its partisanship. It’s become the laughing stock of the nation because the Republicans have spent the last seven years diagnosing brain injuries from the floor of the senate, molesting high school boys, stealing the country blind and starting wars for no good reason (all of which the Republicans seemed to “get done” very handily.) In the eight years before that they spent the entire time obsessing about phony scandals and semen stains. If we don’t laugh we’ll never stop crying about what they’ve done to our country.

What I’d like to add is that the main article confirms every contention I’ve ever made about how vacantly vapid and incestuously insular the Beltway Bozo Pundit Poltroon Media Myopia Class is and how little they care that they’re ruining our country and destroying our Constitutional system.

You’re hurting America.


On Five Ways of Thinking: Pythagoras

Philosofactory: Pythagoras
Philosophy On A Porch

(by pyrrho for publishing jointly at MLW and DocuDharma)

Pythagoras: A Mathematical Universe

zeno I will be using the print version of the Oxford “Dictionary of
Philosophy” to refresh myself for this series.

Links offered may or may not have been referenced to research this post. I
may or may not believe their assertions or have been exposed to them, but
they are given to ease your direct research further into Pythagoras. I try to
present them fairly and clearly. I am a skeptic myself, a relativist with
opinions on all these schools, and a tendency to eschew the doctrinaire side
of each of these schools, but as a skeptic, I’m equipped to give a philosophy
a fair shake. Myself, and tend to seek and emphasize the reusable tools each
school has to offer.

Most of you will know Pythagoras from the Pythagorean Theorum, but
Pythagoras was not just a mathematician and geometrician. His mathematics was
not separate from his life and his ideas were not limited to mathematics. As
with all these ancient philosophies I am covering in this series, Pythagoras’
is also has a whole system concerned with how to live… a worldview. This
worldview is what I am looking at in this series, because these philosophies
serve as archetypes for worldviews, archetypes I seem to encounter daily, and
which you do to. Archetypes not fundamental, but nevertheless ancient and
soaked into us. The epicurean is looking for a pleasurable life, to find the
small pleasures and live simply Simply, perhaps, but still nearby these
pleasures. The stoic is more hardened, does not expect pleasure as reward and
even scoffs at it as such, being as indifferent to pleasure as they have
chosen to be to pain. The pythagoreans then are those that have their head in
abstractions. One imagines the sort that has had no time for epicurean
pleasures like meals, having been preoccupied with a logical proof. To these
sort, the sublime superiority of a mathematical pattern was and remains as
obvious as the rising sun.

This series is presenting five ancient schools of philosophy as
archetypes. In the interest of honesty I must state my own philosophical
archetype is skepticism, but skepticism affords me the freedom to see the
strengths of these other archetypes. By no means are these five archetypes
meant to be limiting, according to a relative and skeptical approach any
number of archetypes can be constructed and used, but these do have the
particular quality of having been developed and infused into our “Western
Culture” over thousands of years, at least.

Their framings still exist, not merely as maxims come to mean other
things, linguistic ornaments merely, but at conceptual levels, such that one
can recognize a well worn conceptual tool with novel expressions in

The archetypes are so far as follow:

  • Epicurean: “Enjoy the simple pleasures, such as friendship, food and
    wine. Nature is filled with pleasure and suffering alike.”
  • Stoic: “Live with virtue and be indifferent to the harshness of life.
    Nature is indifferent but ordered.”
  • Pythagorean: “Truth and beauty lie in the abstractions of mathematics
    and geometry. Nature can be described with number.”
  • ???
  • ???

Indeed, the followers of Pythagoras were prone to taking Pythagoras himself
as a god become human to teach mankind these sublime truths. I do not find it
surprising that such a man led to a philosophy including vegetarianism and a
semi-divine presumption. If that sound dismissive, I share the pythagorean’s
sensibilities, if more humbly so, with an eye to the errors it introduces
with its beauties. As for the nearly religious awe I can feel before a
mathematical truth, take pi, a ratio that relates, among other things, the
length of the side of a circle to the length of the sides of a square, such
that, if you were to take the width of a square, and the radius of the circle
having the same circumference as the “circumference” of the square, then the
relation between the two involves a number whose digits never end, which
cannot be finitely represented. To me that’s stunning, but that turning
square into a circle requires a transcendental number is not stunning but
fitting. It is sublime, divine, and while expected, only ironically. And that
the ratio is well named as a “transcendental” number is no doubt a product of
our shared if inexplicable love for the beauty of math and geometry.

Concomitant to this, however, is removal of the self from the material
world into the world of abstraction and the illusion that abstractions are
not even of this world. The pythagorean spirit, as archetype, might not even
concern itself with math or geometry, but some other family of abstractions.
But abstraction are made from material facts, from astronomy, from counting,
from imperfectly drawn lines in the sand, and from deducing concepts that can
explain the facts abstracted all at once. This has proved a practical and
rewarding endeavor, but it is a part of the loss of reason to consider an
abstraction so fine it’s not a part of this world. But now I have begun to
describe Plato… Pythagoras himself might in fact object, thinking the world
of mathematics imbued the world around us all the material reality it had for
us to perceive. If I may accept this archetype in such a light, it remains a
tactile abstractionism, we feel the mathematical world about us always. We
are not imperfect beings separated from this glory, but are abstract beauties
ourselves, actually made of it.

Mexico Donations: Ask a Kossak and ask a Dharmatist

There have been several diaries on the devastating floods in Mexico in Jalisco and Tabasco.  The flood is frontpaged here and I thought I could crosspost a diary I sent over to Daily Kos where is is sadly falling flat.  Probably bad timing on my part, but here goes! link, linkmariachi mama and mango on Ask a Kossak, community members in Mexico, have written asking for us to help but warned us to be cautious where to send money.  mango personally collected funds to redistribute in a regional flood in her area recently and many of her diaries were recommended.  This was great, but we can’t be sure that this will be as effective in a flood of this magnitude, with a million people displaced.  At that level, you need volunteers AND organizations that know what they are doing.  Over a million people are displaced, 40% children.  Many will have lost everything they own as well as their crops for this year.

Canadian Kossacks – Call to Arms

cross-posted at Dkos and the Canadian blog A Creative Revolution


O.K., Canadian Kossacks, we’re going to put our money where out mouths are, and we’re taking the fight to Harper and his cronies before he can get his “Bush-lite” act out from backstage.

The relying cry, tentatively, is to be, “Not In Our Country, Not In Our Names…”  Come up with a better one and we’ll go with it…

The last straw, for NoPoint, was the Rachel Marsden column in the weekend Sun applauding torture, and I for one am not going to sit by while this garbage is published in Canadian papers…

It’s time for some action, folks!!! Follow NoPoint over the flip…

A Netroots Identity Crisis

At the Big Orange Satan, our old friend from Wales provides strong evidence that he does not understand the only effective role the Netroots can play to promote progressivism. He bemoans the mean attacks on Speaker Nancy Pelosi, arguing, more or less, she is doing the best she can.

It is unfortunate though that the critques of the diary in the comments thread are rather wild and ineffective. Impeachment? Raising money for Al Wynn? Is that really where Pelosi is failing? Puhleeeaze. The reason Dems won in 2006 was the promise to end the Debacle in Iraq. It is obvious, as I have written in the past, that the Congress can not enact its agenda. But what it CAN do is stop the Bush agenda. It can end the war  – by not funding it. It can not grant extraordinary powers to the President to engage in warrantless surveillance. It can disapprove of torture and not approve an AG nominee who will not say waterboarding is torture. It can prevent the most egregious excesses by the worst Administration in history. The Congress has done none of these things.

But let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, the Welshman is right. That Pelosi is doing all she can. If the Netroots wants to change the field of play, what would be the smartest course of action. Should it rationalize away the failures of the Congress, as the Welshman suggests? Should it say, ‘oh well, that’s all they can do?’ Should it settle? Of course not. The Netroots and the progressive base is the left flank of the Democratic Party. If they accept the status quo, then no progressive change will EVER occur. The proper role of the Netroots, in my opinion, is NOT to cheerlead and rationalize Democratic failure. The proper role of the Netroots and the progressive base is to pressure, cajole, push and prod for progressive movement in the Congressional agenda. If it does that, Pelosi’s job (assuming she really wants progressive change) becomes easier. She needs to feel and see pressure from her Left. Some would see the Netroots and the Progressive base as just an arm of the Democratic Party, there only to support Democrats in elections. I’ve discussed this phenomena in the past. It is wrong and will lead to the utter irrelevance of the Netroots in particular.

It’s funny because if Welshman understood the quote from Nancy Pelosi that he defends, he would not have written the diary. Pelosi said:

“They are advocates,” she said. “We are leaders.”

Advocates do not excuse the failure of leadership on the issues they care about. Advocates ADVOCATE for the issues they care about They do not worry about being “fair.”

In essence, the Welshman chose to be an advocate for PELOSI, not for progressive issues. This is a variation of the Cult of Personality that infects the Presidential primary season. The Welshman demonstrates the flip side of the coin of Hillary Hate. It is an Apologia for a Politician. It demonstrates another aspect of what ails the Netroots.

Pony Party, a little shy?

Beowulf is a computer-animated fantasy film based on the classic epic.  Angelina Jolie plays Grendel’s mother, a lizardy creature who is basically nude but painted gold over her entire (computer-animated) body.

I was really surprised that I felt that exposed,” she said at a press conference for the film. “There are certain moments where I felt actually shy – and called home, just to explain that the fun movie that I had done that was digital animation was, in fact, a little different than [what] we expected.”

The film, which uses animation over existing film footage, was a new experience for the film veteran.
…from the Yahoo!News article

Docudharma Times Tuesday Nov.6

This is an Open Thread: No Secrets


The Pakistan Mess

Published: November 6, 2007

By imposing martial law, Gen. Pervez Musharraf has pushed nuclear-armed Pakistan further along a perilous course and underscored the failure of President Bush’s policy toward a key ally in the war on terrorism. The events should not have come as a surprise to administration officials. This is what you get when policy is centered slavishly on a single, autocratic ruler rather than more broadly on his country.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

The muses are ancient.  The inspirations for our stories were said to be born from them.  Muses of song and dance, or poetry and prose, of comedy and tragedy, of the inward and the outward.  In one version they are Calliope, Euterpe and Terpsichore, Erato and Clio, Thalia and Melpomene, Polyhymnia and Urania.

It has also been traditional to name a tenth muse.  Plato declared Sappho to be the tenth muse, the muse of women poets.  Others have been suggested throughout the centuries.  I don’t have a name for one, but I do think there should be a muse for the graphical arts.  And maybe there should be many more.

Please join us inside to celebrate our various muses…

Musharraf Plays Bush for a Fool

Admittedly not a hard thing to do to a man who would lose a game of checkers to a 16 oz. bag of shredded mild cheddar cheese.

We learn today that all of the reasons the White House has been backing Musharraf, and all of the ways in which the White House was trying to make it look pretty — make it look like they weren’t ever backing a dictator — are falling apart.

* The White House had hoped former Pakistani Prime Minister Bhutto would take part in a for-show power-sharing agreement with Musharraf.  It now apprears she will not do so.

* Musharraf’s aides are now admitting the declaration of martial law had little to nothing to do with cracking down on extremists.

* Those aides also say no moves are planned against said extremists.

More after the jump . . .

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