Saturday, April 17, 2004

One Question (about the Use of the Word "Massacre") 

Anyone seen anything in any mainstream US corporate media outlet about the massacre in Fallujah?

Are you a gatekeeper or a clever sheep? 

Mickey Z does it again:

Undoing the Latches Recognizing the Gates Around Us

In his brilliant book, The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson writes: "I was told by some New Zealand sheep farmers that sometimes a particularly smart lamb will learn to undo the latch of a gate, evidently not an uncommon skill, and the sheep farmer then worries that the lamb might teach his less clever companions to do the same."
Masson asked a group of farmers, "What do you with sheep who can undo the latch?"
"We shoot them," came the reply, "so they can't pass on their knowledge."
"Others nodded in agreement," Masson continued. "They all had anecdotes about particularly intelligent sheep who were shot as a reward for their cleverness."
While this excerpt stands alone as a telling indictment of human behavior in general and the treatment of animals in particular, it additionally reminds one how important it is to not only undo the latches on the gates that keep our minds imprisoned...but to pass on that knowledge.
Of course, those who have learned to undo the latches in human society are "rewarded for their cleverness," too. Deported (Emma Goldman), murdered Gestapo-style (Fred Hampton), framed and imprisoned (Leonard Peltier)...the tactics vary, but in America, these tactics are typically more subtle than overt terror.
"If you come from the more privileged classes, if you're a white middle-class person, then the chances that you are going to be subjected to literal state terror are very slight," says Noam Chomsky. "It could happen, but it's slight. What will happen is that you'll be marginalized, excluded. Instead of becoming part of the privileged elite, you'll be driving a taxi cab. It's not torture, but very few people are going to select that option, if they have a choice. And the ones who do select it will never be heard from again. Therefore they are not part of the indoctrination system. They don't make it. It could be worse, but it's enough to discipline people."
To a point, it certainly is more than enough to discipline people...but even the most conditioned of societies can be pushed too far and that's when the latches get undone, the knowledge passed on, and the gates fly open....

There's not much more, but the rest is worth reading, too.

Impeach Bush NOW 

From cbsnews.com, via atrios:

"President Bush, after a National Security Council meeting, takes Don Rumsfeld aside, collars him physically and takes him into a little cubbyhole room and closes the door and says, 'What have you got in terms of plans for Iraq?' What is the status of the war plan? I want you to get on it. I want you to keep it secret," says Woodward.

"... The end of July 2002, they need $700 million, a large amount of money for all these tasks. And the president approves it. But Congress doesn't know and it is done. They get the money from a supplemental appropriation for the Afghan War, which Congress has approved. ... Some people are gonna look at a document called the Constitution which says that no money will be drawn from the treasury unless appropriated by Congress. Congress was totally in the dark on this."

How is this not Iran/Contra all over again? How is this legal? How does he get away with this crime?

The Republicans. They are letting him piss all over the Constitution--and US. For the sake of keeping their party from becoming another Whig Party--extinct--they are letting Bush lie, steal, cheat and run rampant.

This is an undisputed fact. Bush has been exposed as having STOLEN MONEY FROM THE AFGHANI ECONOMIC AND DEVELOPMENT FUND to research and begin THE INVASION OF IRAQ.

Where the fuck are the neocons NOW? Defend the indefensible! Let's HEAR it! And MAKE IT GOOD!


Friday, April 16, 2004

Sexy New Logo 

I've hit a new low with this one. A politically conservative friend called my story on America's Golfer-in-Chief "sophomoric" the other day. I happen to think it's rather sophisticated, myself. It's built entirely on a foundation of valid news and fact-based opinion pieces that are critical of Bush, and packed with links. To make its point, the satire juxtaposes images of Bush golfing while Americans and Iraqis die under his orders. Etc.

So, I challenged myself to make something that truly deserves the label "sophomoric":

Bush Declassifies Presidential Briefs

If you scroll down to the bottom (no pun intended), you'll find a new logo linking back to this blog.

As my father says, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch... 

(Thanks to Josh Marshall, for pointing out this one...)

Fred Kaplan writes, in SLATE:

In an otherwise dry day of hearings before the 9/11 commission, one brief bit of dialogue set off a sudden flash of clarity on the basic question of how our government let disaster happen.

The revelation came this morning, when CIA Director George Tenet was on the stand. Timothy Roemer, a former Democratic congressman, asked him when he first found out about the report from the FBI's Minnesota field office that Zacarias Moussaoui, an Islamic jihadist, had been taking lessons on how to fly a 747. Tenet replied that he was briefed about the case on Aug. 23 or 24, 2001.

Roemer then asked Tenet if he mentioned Moussaoui to President Bush at one of their frequent morning briefings. Tenet replied, "I was not in briefings at this time." Bush, he noted, "was on vacation." He added that he didn't see the president at all in August 2001. During the entire month, Bush was at his ranch in Texas. "You never talked with him?" Roemer asked. "No," Tenet replied. By the way, for much of August, Tenet too was, as he put it, "on leave."

And there you have it. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has made a big point of the fact that Tenet briefed the president nearly every day. Yet at the peak moment of threat, the two didn't talk at all. At a time when action was needed, and orders for action had to come from the top, the man at the top was resting undisturbed.

Throughout that summer, we now well know, Tenet, Richard Clarke, and several other officials were running around with their "hair on fire," warning that al-Qaida was about to unleash a monumental attack. On Aug. 6, Bush was given the now-famous President's Daily Brief (by one of Tenet's underlings), warning that this attack might take place "inside the United States." For the previous few years—as Philip Zelikow, the commission's staff director, revealed this morning—the CIA had issued several warnings that terrorists might fly commercial airplanes into buildings or cities.

And now, we learn today, at this peak moment, Tenet hears about Moussaoui. Someone might have added 2 + 2 + 2 and possibly busted up the conspiracy. But the president was down on the ranch, taking it easy. Tenet wasn't with him. Tenet never talked with him. Rice—as she has testified—wasn't with Bush, either. He was on his own and, willfully, out of touch.

And in case you missed it, here's our satiric take on the Golfer-in-Chief.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Members of both parties praised the president's performance 

Best grin of the day, from the Slacktivist.

Honest and responsive

Members of both parties praised the president's performance.

Clearly, he had "battened down the hatches to prepare for this very methodically," one observer said, which made him very "forthcoming and responsive" on all the issues discussed.

A prominent Republican said despite "some pretty detailed questions," the president "was just totally frank -- totally frank, totally honest, and forthcoming."

"He did very well," said another Republican observer. "He gave us a lot of very helpful insights [and] policy approaches."

Yes, former President Bill Clinton seems to have impressed the members of the Sept. 11 commission with his testimony last Thursday. (See here and here.)

You didn't actually think I was talking about President Bush's press conference last night, did you? I mean, "forthcoming and responsive" is pretty much the opposite of what we saw yesterday.

Hmm...these stories about Clinton being praised by Republicans are appearing in...Contra Costa County and Canada...and not on the NBC Nightly News or CNN?

This is a real story. Republicans praising Clinton. I mean, talk about your "man-bites-dog" story. That liberal media!


The Cato Institute 

This has me thinking I have to respect these people, whether they're hard-core conservatives or not. In this, they are honest.

I never would have thought that, except for the many articles criticizing Bush for his deficits. If Rove loses the Cato Institute...that is BAD.


Panel Says Bush Saw Repeated Warnings 

I know everyone's seen this. It was an eye-opener. Bush had more than one warning other than the August 6 PDB.

As a blogger, it's my job to think of something new to say about this situation. All I can come up with is: Is it just me...or is Dana Priest...hot?


Ashcroft bears false witness; endangers everlasting soul 

But he was lyin' for JESUS!

Ashcroft also said that one of the first things he did after becoming attorney general was to conduct a "thorough review" of the authorities that the Clinton administration had given the CIA to take covert action against bin Laden. His review showed, he testified, that there was "no covert action program to kill bin Laden."

But several commissioners disagreed. They cited the 1998 "memorandum of notification" signed by Clinton, which was found among the documents that the Bush White House originally refused to turn over to the commission.

Everybody knows Clinton signed an order to assassinate bin Laden. Everybody knows he lobbed cruise missiles at the guy. Ashcroft must be talking to his True Believers, because everybody else can see instantly that he's LYING.


I confess 

Last night my daughter and I were driving home from the pond store. We saw Felix the Fish, a 2-foot-long lemon koi who nibbles on my finger to the delight of Sophie, and I bought a few trifles. Then we headed home.

Bush was on the radio, giving his opening remarks for his press conference.

On the radio, where I couldn't see his body language or his face, he sounded good. He sounded firm. He sounded resolute and strong, albeit a little simplistic, but that's not necessarily bad. His message was fairly concise and, God help me, sounded sensible.

Something happened to me last night while I listened to him. I was able to suspend disbelief. Screenwriters and playwrights know what I mean--you have to suspend disbelief when you watch actors perform, the disbelief that tells you this is not real, it's a play, etc. Somehow I was able to think of Bush as a helluva lot of Americans obviously see him. I could see why they have not turned against him, as they should have by now. There's a lot of performance in every politician, and I could hear how Bush sells it. It was amazing.
Then I came home and turned on the TV. And by that time, he'd gotten to the reporters' questions. And it was topsy turvy, kids.

He didn't answer a single question. He was testy. Whenever he made a point strongly, he would smile, poke his little head in the direction of the person he was addressing, as if to say, "This is easy to understand. Don't you get it? Why do I even have to explain this?" As if he were talking to a child...!

On TV, his hesitations look terrible. On radio, it just sounds like someone pausing to think.

I can't see Bush winning this election. I see him STEALING it again...but I can't see him winning. He's un-electable except for his True Believers.


Proof that the tax cuts are working! 

Well, I'm convinced.

Bushes, Cheneys Reaped Tax Benefits

Now, where's my 1040-EZ?

"A Stream of Alarming Reports..." 

Don't miss this story in the Washington Post.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004


Though the text does not do the exchange justice, here's an excerpt from the text of Bush's Tuesday night news conference:

BUSH: Let's see here, hold on. Michael?
QUESTION: Mr. President, why are you and the vice president insisting on appearing together before the 9-11 commission? And, Mr. President, who will we be handing the Iraqi government over to on June 30th?
BUSH: We'll find that out soon. That's what Mr. Brahimi is doing. He's figuring out the nature of the entity we'll be handing sovereignty over.
And, secondly, because the 9-11 commission wants to ask us questions, that's why we're meeting. And I look forward to meeting with them and answering their questions.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) I was asking why you're appearing together, rather than separately, which was their request.
BUSH: Because it's a good chance for both of us to answer questions that the 9-11 commission is looking forward to asking us. And I'm looking forward to answering them.
Let's see. Hold on for a minute. Let's see. Oh, Jim.
ANOTHER REPORTER (Jim): Thank you, Mr. President.
BUSH: I've got some must-calls. I'm sorry....
He may as well have said, "I am choosing to evade your question" or "Who the hell let you in here?"

Open Thread 

What's on your mind? Sound off here. Bush impressions strongly encouraged.


My prayers have been answered 

Ross Perot isn't available--but Judge Roy Moore is stepping up to the plate. As bartcop would say: Thank Koresh!

We need some serious media focus on this guy, so he can drain as many votes from Bush as possible. He'll need money, too. But if every real conservative whackjob would vote their CONSCIENCE, Bush would get about a quarter of the votes cast in November. And Kerry would win.

Link HERE.


Will the war dead change US public opinion? 


Linda Colley has our number:

...Since the 80s, the US has devoted far less effort than most European governments to eradicating poverty. Incomparably rich, it contains within its boundaries millions of poor people with few prospects or state perks. For these Americans, especially in the agrarian, conservative south, military service is a lifeline, even if it sometimes leads to violent death.

The huge US military installations (all called forts) that exist in most states, but that cluster in the south, are well-provided, insulated worlds to themselves. The eight forts in Texas and Georgia, for instance, hold together some 100,000 troops, as well as tens of thousands of civilian aides and family members. Each fort has its own schools, hospitals, dentists, shopping malls, bowling alleys, pools and houses of a style and size most of the men and women within its guarded walls could only dream about outside. Here, the American dream is on offer to a sector

of the population that could otherwise never hope to share it.

What this means is that the US has engineered for itself in the present what most successful empires in the past have striven to create: a highly professional, self-conscious and privileged military caste that is substantially cut off from the doubts and distractions of civilian society. This is why predictions that the sharp rise in US casualties in recent weeks must of necessity result in large-scale American disillusionment with the war are way off the mark. Naturally, Americans grieve for their warrior dead. But since - in sharp contrast with Vietnam - there has been no draft, the US military is just too cut off from civilian experience, and also too privileged, for these kind of losses by themselves to cause widespread and lasting revulsion at the war. Moreover, I come back to the point that most US soldiers are from the poor. By contrast, most of the decision-makers in Congress and the senate are rich. Few have military histories or relatives in the armed services.

It is not individual soldiers dying in Iraq so much as growing doubts about the judgment, effectiveness and truthfulness of President Bush, and about the war's purpose, that are currently leaching support from his administration....


At least there's this:

Dead Soldier's Sisters Excused from Duty in War Zone
Guardian (UK), 14 April 2004
EXCERPT: The two surviving sisters of a soldier killed in Iraq will not be compelled to return to the battlefield, US military officials said yesterday. Michelle Witmer, 20, died last Friday in an ambush of her Humvee, and her father's plea to the Pentagon to spare his two other daughters, who were also serving in Wisconsin national guard units in Iraq, received attention throughout the US.

No Longer a Corpse 

Here's a standing ovation for the White House press corps, who asked a few tough questions tonight and earned the removal of the letter 'e' at the end of their label:


Did anyone catch Bush's line to the effect of "...now that we're asking questions..." Even he saw the difference.

One highlight: Bush steadfastly refused to answer the question about why he will go before the 9/11 commission with Dick Cheney instead of individually, as the commission requested; and THEN he turned that evasion into a joke (intended at the reporter's expense) that Bush had other "must-calls" to answer.

Another highlight: I'll admit, this one's trivial--but, by my count, Bush misprounounced seven words in the first couple minutes of his prepared speech tonight.

Yet another highlight: Included in Bush's definition of a free country (while talking about Iraq) was an increased likelihood for citizens to earn a living. So the two million jobs lost since Bush took office mean we're no longer free in the US?

More later, after I've gone to turn in my application at Burger Hut.

Mr. President, sir... 

From John Doble, in Editor & Publisher, here are 13 (Excellent!) Questions for Bush.

If I hear even ONE of these tonight, I'll be thrilled! In fact, I'm going to print them out in scorecard form, pop some corn, drink some organic tofu-beer, and enjoy the whole damn show.

While I'm dreaming, here's one more question I'd love to hear:

Mr. President, sir, it has been established that you have spent 40% of your term AWAY from the office, and that as governor of Texas you worked significantly fewer than the 40 hours that America considers "full-time" (including two-hour lunch breaks that included jogs and naps). In August of 2001, on the day after you were given the PDB entitled "," which clearly established that bin Laden was planning to hijack planes and blow up buildings in New York, you were in Texas golfing and joking around with reporters. And, in fact, this weekend, while dozens of American troops and hundreds of Iraqis were dying in some of the worst fighting seen in that country since the start of the invasion, you were in Crawford, Texas, fishing. How do you plan to demonstrate to Americans that you're actually on the job, paying attention to details, taking care of business, and actively trying to protect us from terrorists? Or, sir, if you consider yourself a leader whose example should be followed, would you advance a proposition to your friends and supporters in the higher echelons of the corporate world that they establish a 40% paid-time-off policy for all of their employees?

-Eric Bosse

These are Taxing Times--Or Not... 

It's tough to predict which pieces of horrible news (drops of water, blasting from a firehose) will cause a bit of scandal or unwanted attention for the White House. Doubt it will be this one, but why not?

Corporate Risk of a Tax Audit Is Still Shrinking, I.R.S. Data Show
By David Cay Johnston
New York Times, 12 April 2004

Since taking office, the Bush administration has repeatedly promised to get tough with tax cheats, saying it has ended a long slide in enforcement of tax laws.

But an independent analysis of new Internal Revenue Service data released today shows that tax enforcement has fallen steadily under President Bush, with fewer audits, fewer penalties, fewer prosecutions and virtually no effort to prosecute corporate tax crimes. The audit rate for the 11,200 largest corporations, which pay nearly all corporate income taxes, has fallen by almost half over the last decade, as has the audit rate for unincorporated businesses.

David Burnham, a director of the Syracuse University research organization that reviewed the government data, said that "President Bush and the I.R.S. commissioner have been running around talking about how they are going after corporate scofflaws, but the I.R.S. data suggest that the effort against corporate scofflaws is continuing to decline."

Today, the I.R.S. has about half the law enforcement resources for each tax return that it did in 1988, the Syracuse researchers said. The university's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse will post the data at trac.syr.edu.

President Bush has maintained a hard-line stance on white-collar crime, which typically involves tax cheating. In September 2002, he said that his administration was sending "a clear message to every dishonest corporate leader: you will be exposed and you will be punished."

A few weeks ago, he said his administration had responded strongly to corporate crimes, saying "we're not going to tolerate dishonesty in the boardrooms of America."

The I.R.S. data reviewed at Syracuse showed that in the 15-month period that ended on Dec. 31, 2003, convictions had been obtained against six corporate officers in five cases in which the I.R.S. was the lead investigative agency. That was barely more than one-half of 1 percent of such cases, indicating that the law enforcement focus remains on individuals.

Separate data from the Justice Department show a long trend down in federal tax prosecutions. The department, citing United States court records, says that total federal tax prosecutions declined to 483 in 2003 from 1,431 in 1981....

Monday, April 12, 2004

Two brand new Bush flip-flops 

1) The U.S. military in Iraq has decided to re-admit former Saddam army personnel into the new Iraqi army, because of the army's refusal to fight insurgents in the last week. Bremer disbanded the entire army nearly a year ago--bad move, Garth.

2) And, the RNC is re-thinking that whole NYC Ground Zero convention locale. Story here:

The Republican Party's hope that its convention in New York would highlight a nation healed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks could backfire as the White House comes under fire for its handling of the crisis and the war in Iraq, strategists said on Monday.

President George W. Bush's re-election effort is plagued with questions on whether his administration could have prevented the attacks, and holding his party's convention just minutes away from the World Trade Center, where nearly 3,000 people were killed, could make matters worse, they said.

"It was the wrong place to go from the beginning," veteran Republican political consultant Roger Stone said.

"They wanted to highlight the president's strong leadership in the days after 9/11, which includes the conduct of the war, and now that is going to be a contentious, hard-fought issue," he said, adding that, "The backdrop here has the potential to dominate the story."

They can't do this to me. I've been telling everybody, including my wife, that I'm going to NYC to watch the riots. It'll be Chicago '68 all over again. Not that I'm relishing the thought of beaten heads and police brutality, but this was such a brash and arrogant gesture--securing NYC and a special Ground Zero dedication for the politicization of garnering Republican votes--that there was bound to be a backlash they were too stupid to see coming. But I could see it a mile away.


Food for Thought on Tax Day 

The proposed US Military budget for 2005 is $420 billion. And that doesn't include the cost of operations in Iraq.

Shell Game: Your Taxes Weren't Cut, Just Shifted
By Chuck Collins
TomPaine.com, 10 April 2004

EXCERPT: As we all prepare our tax forms and pony up to fund our government, it's important to understand that there's another invisible element at work here. The "tax cuts" that most working Americans have received under the Bush administration are actually not tax cuts, but tax shifts.... Because of this tax shift, any "cuts" that ordinary taxpayers get will be lost to state and local tax increases and services cuts. Even the "married with children" families who have been thought to be big beneficiaries are losers after the tax shifts. The real winners in three years of Bush "tax cuts" are the very wealthy, those with incomes of more than $500,000. For them, these tax cuts are real windfalls. For the rest of us, though, they end up being burdens. So as you prepare to crank out your tax forms, take note of how much you're paying. You might get the sensation—as I do—that your dollars are being shuffled around in a grand shell game of paperwork and political rhetoric.

Vermont War Tax Resister Follows His Conscience
By Carolyn Lorie
Battleboro Reformer via Common Dreams, 12 April 2004

EXCERPT: The Rev. Thaddeus Bennett considers himself to be a law-abiding citizen, a believer in the American system and a good Christian. He also happens to be a war-tax resister. Every year since 1982, Bennett writes a check out to the Internal Revenue Service for 48 percent of the taxes he owes, withholding the portion that would go to fund the military. "I knew my relationship with my soul and my God was not going to be okay if I was paying for the military budget," said Bennett, who is the pastor of St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Wilmington. The exact number of people who refuse to pay all or a portion of their income taxes in protest of military spending is not known. Not everyone chooses to file or make a public statement and many avoid contributing by scraping by on about $8,000 a year, the most that can be earned before federal taxes apply. The numbers also fluctuate -- they ebb in times of peace and surge in times of war, with the Vietnam era marking the peak of war tax refusal.
SEE ALSO: National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee
SEE ALSO: US Military Budget Dwarfs Every Other Country's (Eight Times Larger than #2 China)
SEE ALSO: 'Highlights' of the 2005 Military Budget Request
SEE ALSO: Where Your Income Tax Money Really Goes

Dennis Kucinich on Military Spending
Kuchinich.us, no date posted

EXCERPT: The U.S. military is the strongest in the world, by far, and will remain so. But Democrats cannot lead the nation without being strong enough to confront the bloat and waste in the Pentagon budget. Our military budget is almost as big as that of all other countries combined. While we have unchallenged superiority in military strength, we also have more people without health care than any other advanced industrial country -- and Democrats must be bold enough to say the two issues are linked. I don't agree with other Democrats that we can continue to increase military spending and still deliver on our domestic agenda for middle class and working Americans. We can't. That's voodoo budgeting. I propose trimming the Pentagon budget by 15% or $60 billion, and diverting that money to dwindling domestic priorities such as education.

Happy Ides of April!

Bob Barr still reaching for the brass ring, via frivolous lawsuit 

I read this today, and it just about made my day.

ha ha

I imagine that it made Bill Clinton's day, too, except for the legal fees. Carville, too.

Barr tries to revive Clinton-Flynt suit


Carville's attorney, William Alden McDaniel Jr., has called the allegations against his client "absolute horse manure."

"They don't have one shred of evidence James Carville ever saw any FBI file," McDaniel said. "These people are delusional."

That just about covers it. Delusional.


Left Behind: The books based on lies, supposedly from the Bible 

Some of you have expressed a curiosity about the End Times, the Rapture and all those other so-called "Christian" myths that a lot of fundamentalist born-again Christians believe. I can't reproduce every single article and post I've ever read on the subject, but this is a good place to start.

And in case you're wondering, the only reason I mention this is to further my case that Bush and the Neocons may have failed to plan for a post-Iraq war because of their fervent belief that Saddam was the anti-Christ, and that the Iraq War should have been Armageddon, and Jesus should be hanging out at Starbucks right about now. But that didn't happen.

The people who read these books are True Believers. You have to be one, just to make it through them. I know. I tried.

And Bush is a fan. He's read at least one of these books that I know of, and liked it, and thought it was a realistic presentation of the end of the world. According to "Scripture".

From the Slacktivist:

L.B.: Carl Olson sits in

I'm not accustomed to being in total agreement with something posted at the National Review Online, but I have to offer a hearty "Amen" to Carl E. Olson's devastating dismissal of Glorious Appearing, the latest book in Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' Left Behind series.

Olson is an orthodox Catholic and the author of Will Catholics Be Left Behind?: A Critique of the Rapture and Today's Prophecy Preachers. (For a long list of Olson's articles debunking apocalyptic Rapture-mania, see here.)

As such, he is offended by the strange 19th-century heresies that L&J peddle as biblical truth. And he's just as offended -- almost just as angry -- with their aesthetic and literary sins:

... episode #12, titled Glorious Appearing, is underwhelming and pedestrian, poor qualities for a novel about a Big Event. ...

Having read many of the other "Left Behind" books, I readily admit that I expected Glorious Appearing to be bloated, stilted, and corny. As it turns out, that combination would have been a welcome relief from the 400 pages of repetitive, numbing bombast that assaulted my weary eyes. ...

This apparent cynicism isn't a matter of theological triumphalism (I believe in the return of Jesus Christ) or literary snobbery. I've enjoyed books by Louis L'Amour, Robert Ludlum, and Wilbur Smith and have never mistaken them for literary giants, although they did have the commendable ability to tell a story, a talent not employed in the writing of Glorious Appearing. That is, unless you think a good story can consist of endless details about weaponry, vehicles, telecommunications, Palestinian geography, and premillennial dispensationalist theology, interrupted by the conversations of bland characters who elicit no sympathy whatsoever.

Olson also catches LaHaye in what is at best an arrogant delusion, at worst a lie. LaHaye told Pentecostal Evangel magazine that "Left Behind is the first fictional portrayal of events that are true to the literal interpretation of Bible prophecy." LB's premillennial dispensationalism is hardly based on an obvious or literal reading of the Bible, but let that pass for the moment. The problem here is that L&J's books are merely the latest in a long line of PMD novels -- novels from which L&J derived their basic template and borrowed many essential tropes.

I noted earlier how Buck Williams is plainly based on the journalist-protagonist Tom Hammond in Sydney Watson's 1916 Rapture novel The Twinkling of an Eye. Olson notes that many of the details of LB are "remarkably similar" to Salem Kirban's 666, a best-selling Rapture novel published in 1970 by Tyndale House -- L&J's publisher. (Olson explores these similarities in more detail in "Recycled Rapture.")

As Olson writes, the LB series:

... weren't the first Rapture novels, nor are they the last. Whether or not they are the most painful to read is still open for vigorous debate ...

Many others have written scathing reviews of the newest book in L&J's series, but what sets Olson's review apart is that he rejects the authors' claim that the theology informing their series is biblical, or even Christian:

First, the "left-behind" theology is not the "Christian" or the "biblical" view of the end times, despite what LaHaye says, or what the media sometimes echoes. Premillennial dispensationalism and the belief in a Rapture event separate from the Second Coming is rejected, either explicitly or implicitly, by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox churches, and nearly every major Protestant denomination. Dispensationalism, with its particular views about the nature of the Church and the role of Jews in end-times events, was created in the 1830s by former Anglican priest John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) and later systematized in the United States by C. I. Scofield (1843-1921) and Lewis Sperry Chafer (1871-1952). Hal Lindsey's 1970 best-selling The Late Great Planet Earth took popular dispensationalism into secular culture, a feat repeated by the "Left Behind" series.

As Evangelical scholar and Wheaton College graduate Ronald M. Henzel has decisively shown in his book, Darby, Dualism, and the Decline of Dispensationalism, Darby built his entire theology on a radical dualism between heaven and earth that was unprecedented in the history of orthodox Christian thought.

A key phrase here is "despite ... what the media sometimes echoes." Olson puts his finger on what I find infuriating in the vast majority of coverage of the LB series. Naive and ignorant journalists (such as Morley Safer) simply take at face value L&J's preposterous claim that they are presenting biblical, Christian theology. They're not. And by repeating this claim, even otherwise critical reviews wind up bolstering LaHaye's dubious authority as a "biblical scholar."

I have no problem with people writing novels based upon their religious beliefs, no matter what those beliefs may be. Authors like L. Ron Hubbard or Ayn Rand had every right to promote their esoteric pseudoreligious claims in didactic novels. But authors do not have the right to pretend these views are something they are not. You can't write a book about Scientology or objectivism and then claim that it's actually based on Buddhism or Santeria. You can't write a book about premillennial dispensationalism and then claim that it's actually based on orthodox Christianity.

I'm not arguing for the persecution of heretics. I'm devoted to pluralism -- let a million flowers bloom. But don't write an Arminian novel and then tell me it represents strict Calvinism. Don't write a Mennonite novel and then tell me it represents Roman Catholicism.

And don't fecklessly fictionalize a 19th-century American mistake and tell me it represents "biblical Christianity."


The Latest Bush Lies 

I couldn't have put this any better. From the Daily Kos:

Somebody help Bush lie better

Bush opened his mouth Sunday.

President Bush said yesterday that a memo he received a month before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks did not contain enough specific threat information to prevent the hijackings and "said nothing about an attack on America."

Said "nothing about an attack on America? You already know this, but here's a friendly reminder -- the memo is titled "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US".

The memo also says, in part:

FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

So "nothing about an attack on America"?

Bush is a liar.

Update: David Sirota nails Bush on the lie above and a second one:


"I asked the intelligence agency to analyze the data to tell me whether or not we faced a threat internally, like they thought we had faced a threat in other parts of the world. That's what the PDB request was." - President George W. Bush, 4/11/04


According to the CIA, the briefing "was not requested by President Bush." As commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste disclosed, "the CIA informed the panel that the author of the briefing does not recall such a request from Bush and that the idea to compile the briefing came from within the CIA." - Washington Post, 3/25/04

I've said it before, I'll say it again: Bush just makes shit up.


Sunday, April 11, 2004

Be Careful What You Wish For 

It hasn’t been talked about much, but Rumsfeld and Pentagon neocons have created most of the conditions in Iraq they had in mind before they conned the U.S.into invading to depose Saddam and “stabilize” the world’s oil supply. The CPA has successfully limited those to whom "power" could be transferred on June 30th. (That date really doesn't mean much, of course. It only marks when the U.S. selected leadership of the governing council, plus other token "sympathizers" will begin to receive the first trickle of mundane governmental authority.) Democracy really doesn’t have anything to do with it.
The "plan" so many critics of the administration believe not to exist was partially revealed by Colin Powell the other day when everyone else in the administration was out of town. The idea is simple-- to place those Iraqis who support a U.S. presence in control and slowly turn power over to them. Since security will be directed and provided by the U.S. and billions in aid will be doled out to our favorites, neocon thinking is that that should be enough to leverage a continued American influence in Iraq and the Middle East. The trick, of course, is not to ignite a civil war in the process. It is hoped that U.S. troops can remain in the background enough to keep from breaking a threshold of animosity among Iraqi citizens that would threaten our client government. This latest “little uprising” is only a bump in the road of the grand strategy. The administration believes the risks are high, but that the rewards are great. Others might be convinced that this is just another way America expresses a belief in its guiding principle of “ends justifying the means.”


Right before the 9/11 attacks, when he had explicit warnings that Osama bin Laden had agents scoping out targets in New York and planning hijackings, Bush took the LONGEST VACATION IN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORY.


It's true.

No fooling.


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