Friday, December 28, 2007

Peggy Noonan - Reasonable? Doubt.

I try not to comment on things that my betters (Jane Hamsher, Glenn Greenwald) have already cleaned up on, but the discussions on today's Peggy Noonan WSJ opinion column led me to one of the points I talk about in The Price of Right - the demonization of intelligence, which may be one of the most dangerous conservative myths out there; certainly one that has wreaked havoc upon the running of our government. Usually, too, I tend to stay away from people like Miss Peggy because it just riles me up unnecessarily. Why invite the aggravation? Two sentences in and I'm spluttering.

Noonan insists she (and the thousands, millions that she speaks for) wants someone 'reasonable' in the White House in 2008. She (that is, 'we') "would like a candidate who does not appear to be obviously insane." (She says this, ostensibly, with a straight face.) She proceeds to enlighten us in her seventh-grade 'slam book' way as to who she thinks is 'reasonable' and who she does not think is reasonable. She's generous to Biden and Dodd, positively swoony over McCain ("He makes me proud. He makes everyone proud." Yes, Peggers, you speak for all of us, dear.) Romney? He's a keeper, too, in spite of his flip-flopping. When Al Gore was accused of changing a position, she called him a liar - even when he was misquoted. ("His lying looks at this point not like a foible but a compulsion, a tendency that is ungovernable, like a tic. He doesn’t have to do it. He can always make his point without telling stories that aren’t true. Seeing Mr. Gore lie in speeches is like seeing a rich kleptomaniac stealing things he doesn’t need...") But when Mittens does it, it's OK. "I personally am not made anxious by his flip-flopping on big issues because everyone in politics gets to change his mind once. That is, you can be pro-life and then pro-choice but you can't go back to pro-life again, because if you do you'll look like a flake." Everyone in politics, that is, who's not a Democrat. Huckabee doesn't make the cut in spite of being God's Best Friend because he has the temerity to challenge the trickle-down corporatist mentality that Peggy equates with Republican Saintliness. Obama she likes cuz he's cute and smart (in that really-cute-guy-way kind of smart - not all arrogant), but her analysis of him is hard for me to parse - she thinks he's too young because men in their forties are on fire and like drama - but in the same sentence she says he's not on fire enough. You go figure - I can't. Edwards she summarily dismisses because of his hair. (Now, we're talking Reasonable with a capital 'R'!) And do I need to even mention Hillary? I don't believe I do.

Nevertheless, in reading a number of her articles, I was struck by a common theme that runs through her wet, sloppy junior-high kisses to Dubya and Saint Ronnie - and that is that the dumber they are, the harder she falls! If you have a brain in your head, P-Noonie has no use for you. Here's how she describes Bush's strengths (emphasis mine):
Mr. Bush is the triumph of the seemingly average American man. He's normal. He thinks in a sort of common-sense way. He speaks the language of business and sports and politics. You know him. He's not exotic. But if there's a fire on the block, he'll run out and help. He'll help direct the rig to the right house and count the kids coming out and say, "Where's Sally?" He's responsible. He's not an intellectual. Intellectuals start all the trouble in the world. And then when the fire comes they say, "I warned Joe about that furnace." And, "Does Joe have children?" And "I saw a fire once. It spreads like syrup. No, it spreads like explosive syrup. No, it's formidable and yet fleeting." When the fire comes they talk. Bush ain't that guy. Republicans love the guy who ain't that guy. Americans love the guy who ain't that guy.
There you have it. There's the crux of the matter. The more marbles Reagan lost (not that he was chock-full to begin with), the better President she thought he was. And as for Dubya - well, she can't praise his stupidity enough. She's written paeans, odes, hymns, to the glory that is Bush's stubborn refusal to know anything about anything. He 'speaks the language of business and sports and politics'? Sure he does - if by 'speaks the language' you mean 'miserably fails at until rescued by his daddy's powerful connections'. And she uses a completely fallacious analogy to try to equate 'intellectual' with 'inaction'. Really, when I read that, I had to go back to make sure I read that correctly - that someone paid her to write that. Yes, Peggo, that's just what us pointy-headed liberal eggheads do - stand around discussing the distinguishing characteristics of fire while little Sally's burning to death. Good thing you've pointed that out, or maybe someone might actually get the notion that some pinko chemistry egghead invented a fire extinguisher that could save little Sally's life. But I digress. The point is that she conflates stupidity with goodness, and intelligence with badness.

In an article she wrote about the 2000 race titled "Dumb-Good vs. Evil-Smart", she talked about a Dem friend of hers:

Both in New York and in the presidential race, she announced, we have been given a choice between a candidate who’s nice and not smart, and a candidate who’s bright but not nice.

I said yes, you get the impression it’s a battle between Dumb-Good and Evil-Smart. That’s exactly it, she said.

Honestly, she didn't even need to bother to write the article - the title pretty much sums it up. According to Peggy and to many, many other conservatives, these are your choices. You want bright, you get evil. You want good, you take dumb. As in so much of the Manichean thinking of the conservative mindset, it's either one or the other. No smart, good people; no stupid, bad people. Intellectuals start all the trouble in the world. The deep distrust and disgust that many conservatives feel for intellect and intellectuals is, sadly, reflected in the screamingly, staggeringly inept and unqualified people who have been put into positions of influence in this government. And, speaking of running out and helping when there's a fire on the block, what happened there on September 11? When informed of what was arguably the biggest fire on the biggest block in America, did President Duncecap immediately rush into action? We both know the answer to that one. His stupidity did not translate into instant response, that's for sure. And what about Katrina? His stupidity did not budge his butt off his vacation one second earlier than he had planned.

Noonan wants to come off all seriousness ("We are grown-ups" - well, Peggy, you're a grown-up; I'm an adult. People use the word 'grown-up' when speaking to children) but 'reasonable' is not the operative word in your particular paradigm. Faith is better than reason; human beings 'reason' but God is The Truth. In fact, the more preposterous the claim, the more 'faith' you have for being able to swallow it. To use reason to make decisions is hubristic; it's a slap in the face to the Almighty. Just ask Galileo. Humans are fallible; God is not. And the more money you have, the more God approves of you. So, come off of this 'reasonable' stuff. We know you don't like the smarty-pants know-it-alls.

Embrace the stupid, Peggy! You know you want to.

Update - I cross-posted this at The Smirking Chimp (one of my daily must-reads) and it got front-paged! Check it out!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto Assassinated

Benazir Bhutto was assassinated this morning by a shooter who then blew himself up, killing at least fifteen others in the process.

Juan Cole has analysis, via Digby.

Dubya Bush Superstar - over at Pottersville

I had a lovely Christmas - lovely, that is with the exception of a vile and foul stomach flu, which has had me bedridden for two days, and thus unable to be timely about telling you all about Dubya Bush Superstar, the epic rock opera by my brotha Jurassic Pork over at Welcome to Pottersville. It has become an annual tradition between Hooterville and Pottersville to produce a Xmastravaganza featuring JP's razor-sharp writing and my Photoshopping - see last year's "It's A Blunderful Life". We are already plotting next year's festivities.

Stop on by Pottersville for a post-Xmas treat!

Friday, December 21, 2007

"The Price of Right" - My Book Is Available For Pre-Order!

FYI - my book "The Price of Right" is now available for pre-order! You can order yours at one of these fine outlets:
Barnes and Noble (pay no attention to the synopsis - it's a mistake!)
Tower Books

I'm still in shock! Me - write a book? I think it does say pretty much what I want it to say - anything beyond that, I have no idea. The official publication date is the end of February 2008, so look for it sometime after that. And thanks to my friends who have already pre-ordered (bless you, Maria!)

Let's take back our democracy!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Must...Lighten...Up...For Christmas

I laughed my *ss off at this last year, because it's so unbelievably true to life - if you've ever done an ad session. Watch Santa's face as he goes from merry to murderous...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

In Which I Travel To Our Nation's Capital With Americans United

I was fortunate enough to be invited to Washington, D.C. last month by Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU for short) as part of a blogger outreach. This organization, in my opinion, is addressing one of the most important issues facing us as a democracy, for the blurring of the line between religion and government has a direct impact upon all the other problems facing us.

The lovely and talented Blue Gal e-mailed me the invitation (for which I am most appreciative!) - four days in our nation's capital with some of the brightest, most informed and passionate people I have ever met in one place. What I found especially intriguing was that it was a mixture of religious and non-religious people with the same goal - to keep church and state separate as it was outlined in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. It wasn't just a bunch of atheist religion-haters trying to stamp out Christianity, no matter what Bill O'Reilly and his ilk like to imagine. No matter how the right tries to spin it, it's very clear that the intentions of our Founding Fathers were to protect both Church and State by keeping them out of each other's domain. When religion and politics mix, they both suffer badly.

I got to meet some great bloggers face-to-face - some new friends, some that I had only known online -

BAC from Yikes! who is also Field Director for AU and just as charming as she can be - our 'hostess with the mostess'!
Addie Stan from, well, AddieStan, a new friend who took me to a very cool blues jam on Monday night (good times!)
DCup from PoliTits (my fave blog name ever!)
Bruce Prescott - MainstreamBaptist
Dennis Mansker aka Farnsworth - One Pissed Off Veteran
Eric Haas from the Rock Ridge Institute - the think tank that works with Dr. George Lakoff's framing ideas - awesome!
Vast Left
Leo Lincourt of Neural Gourmet and Carnival of the Liberals
Maryscott O’Connor from My Left Wing - my girl is fierce!
Phil Plait from Bad Astronomy - science is kool!
PZ Meyers of Pharyngula - University of Minnesota
Tristero of the mighty 'Digby’s Blog'
Lambert Strether with Corrente Wire

I just wish there had been time for me to talk with everyone I wanted to talk to. Pretty much every person there was someone that I would have liked to sit down with and pick their brain for several hours. As part of the conference, we were set up with lobbying appointments to talk with our congresspeople about church-state issues in our home districts. Most people were meeting up with their House members, but the California contingent were meeting with people from our Senators' office. The issues we were there to talk about were the earmarking of funds to pay for the upkeep of the California missions, which do have historical value, but are also owned by the Catholic Church and have active parishes in 19 of the 21 missions. Also on the agenda was the issue of the Mount Soledad cross - a giant 43-foot cross that sits on public land and is a violation of California's constitutional church-state separation provisions, which are stricter than the First Amendment. Both Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer had voted in favor of these issues, and we wanted to be able to present the AU take on it to our senators.

Our first appointment was with DiFi's office. When we got there we discovered that her aide, who we were supposed to talk with, was too busy to see us, so we had to talk to the 'aide's aide' - a girl who looked about 12. We were not even invited into the office - we had to stand out in the hall (there were about 10 of us) and tell our story to the little girl, who stood there wide-eyed, clutching her notebook, solemnly nodding her head and writing occasional notes, although it was clear that she had absolutely no idea what we were talking about. While we were standing there, who should come clip-clopping briskly down the hall but DiFi herself. Since we were standing in a sort of semi-circle, she walked right through the middle of our group without so much as a glance to the left or right. No matter that we were her constituents who had flown 3000 miles to see her - she had to have known that we had business with her office, considering that we were talking to her aidette. She couldn't even slow down.

Our visit to Barbara Boxer's office couldn't have been more different. We didn't get to talk to her, but we were ushered into a nice conference room and talked to her senior counsel, who was up to date on everything we were there to discuss, and we felt that, although she took a position that we opposed, her people were at least gracious enough to listen to our concerns and treat us with enough respect to have a dialogue. Boxer also had, displayed prominently at the front door to her office, a large placard listing the names of the soldiers killed in Iraq, which was updated every week. It's nice to know that someone in Congress is actually keeping them in mind.

AU is also at the forefront of the evolution-'intelligent design' issue, and I got to meet one of the chief warriors on that front, Dr. Eugenie Scott, who is the executive director of the National Center for Science Education. Not only brilliant but delightful, she's fighting the good fight to keep real science from being undermined by the 'stealth-creationism' that calls itself 'intelligent design'.

I am so glad to have gotten a closer look at AU. When I got back home, I immediately joined my local chapter and am now on the executive board. When the President of the United States believes that he has been divinely selected to lead our country, and that God told him to bomb Iraq, it is imperative that we deal with the crumbling wall between church and state and do it right now, for it is a cancer that is eating away at our democracy.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Another Thought On The Telecoms...

Does everyone realize that the telecoms did not just give our info to the Bush administration? I wrote about this a year and a half ago, but had forgotten it until I ran across this post from May '06:

One thing that I don't hear talked about a lot is the fact that the telcos did not give our records to the government; they sold them to the government. Note that the companies were not required to turn over the records to the NSA. If they had been required to cooperate by law, then Qwest would not have had the option not to cooperate.

The companies that did cooperate - AT&T, BellSouth and Verizon - are reported to be operating 'under contract' with the NSA. 'Under contract' means for a consideration. So, it is not unreasonable to infer that there is not a sufficient legal basis to require the phone records to be turned over to the NSA.

And, since the NSA, a government agency, has bought our records, whose money do you think they used to purchase these records? That's right, Einstein. Yours and mine.

Our tax dollars at work.

That should make us all sleep a little better, shouldn't it?
And, let's not forget that we have paid the telecoms for the service which steals our information and sells it to the government, which purchases that information...with our money! We pay out on both sides!

Aren't you a little bit tired of this? I know I am. It's like paying for your rapist's Viagra.

Man Up! Yes, Dodd Did It.

Chris Dodd has earned a closer look from me. He did what no other Democratic presidential candidate currently in Congress has done - actually demonstrated real leadership. Instead of talk, he brought action. By leaving Iowa, cancelling his campaign events, and spending 8 hours on the floor of the Senate arguing his case against retroactive immunity for the telecoms who conducted warrantless surveillance at the behest of the Bush administration, he showed himself to be that rarest of Democrats - one who acts according to his principles. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who seemed eager to grant the Republicans their every wish, ended up pulling the 'amended' FISA bill from the floor in the face of Dodd's determination to filibuster.

Dodd was joined by the ever-stalwart Russ Feingold and Ted Kennedy. Campaigning Senators Clinton, Obama and Biden boldly sent their best wishes from Iowa. Ho hum.

Although I've been an Edwards girl (in the sad absence of Al Gore), I certainly owe Chris Dodd a look-see, and I've already sent him a few bucks. I sure would like to see more Democrats man up like that, whether they're running for President or not. And as much as we dog our own when we feel that they're letting us down, we need to make sure we let them know we appreciate it when they do right.

Thank you, Chris Dodd.