Something More Serious

This morning I blogged about the silly wingnut "SpongeBob Squarepants is gay story." Well, it turns out it might be more serious than it looks at first glance. I added an update to that post that reads as follows,
David Neiwert points out why this is not just wingnuttery, it's more dangerous. It's an attack on the "leftist" Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). SPLC is an organization that keeps an eye on the violent right -- the Tim McVeigh types. Seeing the mainstream right now attacking the SPLC as "leftist" is very, very worrisome.
I wanted to bring this more attention than just an update.

What Doc Says

Facing evil:
I know pictures like this serve as propaganda for the enemy, which has no remorse about routinely doing worse than what these American soldiers will regret terribly for the rest of their lives.

We can debate strategy for the duration. Meanwhile, we have this, and countless other tragedies like it. Blame who you will; it won't make this little girl one bit happier. It won't bring back her parents, who lost their lives for... what?

I don't have an answer. If you do, tell it to that girl.
I cry every time I see the picture. And this one.

What happened:
Nighttime Anguish
An Iraqi girl screams after her parents were killed by U.S. troops during a dusk patrol in the northern city of Tall Afar. Witnesses said the soldiers, from the 1st Battalion, 25th Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade), fired on the family's car after it failed to heed warnings to stop and come toward the troops. One of the five children riding in the back seat was injured. The military said it was investigating.

School Policy - No Dems

Gingrich Speech at CU Opposed:
Newt Gingrich's scheduled speech at Catholic University next week is prompting criticism from students who contend that the appearance would violate the school's policy barring speakers who have espoused positions contrary to Vatican teachings.

Frank Lankey Jr., 20, political director for the College Democrats, said that Gingrich's support for the death penalty and his extramarital affair in the 1990s contradict church teachings and should prohibit him from appearing.

Last fall, organizers of an Italian film festival considered inviting actor-director Stanley Tucci to their event, but Catholic University officials objected because of his support for abortion rights organizations.

[. . .] Victor Nakas, the university's spokesman, denied that Gingrich's appearance violates the speaker policy, though he declined to explain the substance of the regulations.
In other words, clearly the school's policy is that Republicans and their cronies may speak, and others may not!

(By the way, besides adultery and support for the death penalty there's also Gingrich's greed, lying, support for war, contempt for the poor, lust, gluttony, pride, sloth, and wrath. Have I missed any? Oh yeah, envy.)

(Found at Crooks and Liars.)

No Williams

So where did the Armstrong Williams case go? One more instance of blatant criminality by Republicans... Maybe it's that we all know it won't be investigated - who would investigate? Who would be held accountable? And anyway, Bush has said that the "accountability moment" is so last year. Even bloggers dropped it - taking the so obvious bait when the Right falsely accused two bloggers of taking payments from the Dean campaign. "LOOK OVER THERE!" Off they went...

I came across a column on the subject, by John Young. He thinks the reason might be:
"This is what I've come to believe: It's all about business. The White House is an enterprise of which members of a slim voting majority see themselves as stockholders. Those on the outs are stockholders of a group that didn't win the contract.

To the stockholders whose firm again won the bid, what the management group does to achieve its business plan is of less importance than what it delivers--say, tax cuts and a stock market that purrs."
Maybe, but something he wrote just before that got me thinking:
"...in pondering the lack of a sufficient uproar over the administration's having paid black commentator Armstrong Williams $240,000 to tout the No Child Left Behind Act on the air. It's one of several examples of a stealthy use of tax dollars to manipulate opinion.

What explained the lack of public outrage? I asked."
I think a good part of the answer is right there: "Stealthy use of tax dollars to manipulate public opinion." And not just tax dollars - although that is a big deal, and a big, big crime (that we know no one will answer for). There's also the $300-million-a-year stealthy persuasion campaign of the Right's network of think tanks that I frequently write about here. Combine that with the effect of Fox News, almost all of AM radio's all-day-every-day right-wing persuasion campaign, the $100 million per year put into the Washington Times, and let's not forget the corporate money involved.

After a while this kind of money just has to have an effect.

"What explained the lack of public outrage?" he asked? I think maybe the well-funded manipulation of public opinion is ... wait for it ... manipulating public opinion.

Study How They Did It

I just posted a comment over at Kos: "Study How They Did It":

We all need to study how the Right has built such an influential "infrastructure" and how they use it to manipulate the press and public discussion. They craft "framed messages" and repeat them over and over (and over) until they become "conventional wisdom."
For example, Social Security is NOT going broke. But it is "conventional wisdom" that it is because they have repeated this message over and over. Another one is "children trapped in failing public schools."

They have been working to change minds for 30 years. But they have also created a model for how we can fight back. It is up to the people on our side who have money to start funding a counter-infrastructure of organizations designed to bring basic UNDERLYING ideas to the public. DEMOCRACY and COMMUNITY are fundamental concepts that have been undermined. Popel believe in one-dollar-one-vote solutions to problems now. They talk about "market solutions to public probles." Well that's not democracy, folks.

Read Brock's book The Republican Noise Machines. Spend some time at Media Transparency and read everything there! Check out Commonweal Institute's page of links to articles about how the Right has built and uses this movement. Read EVERYTHING by George Lakoff. And start giving money to organizations like Media Matters, Media Transparency, Center for American Progress, Commonweal Institute so they can start working to turn this around.

Serious, Serious Nuttery

At Heritage Foundation's ConservativeLog: The big deal about SpongeBob they are defending wingnut attacks on SpongeBob, saying that the mainstream media "continually tries to paint religious conservatives as nuts."
"Bottom line: Religious conservatives are not calling SpongeBob gay. They are attacking a video (remake of the song "We Are Family" that features cartoon characters) that liberals are trying to shove into schools to promote "tolerance" and "diversity."
The post includes links to another blog. You have to read both posts to get just how absolutely nutso the right-wing cult is getting. From the other post,
"The song itself is about multiculturalism and diversity. But some things on the WAFF webpage go further, including a Tolerance Pledge which says, "I pledge to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own."
Oh, it goes even "further" than multiculturalism and diversity! It actually dares talk about respect! Well, then!

Update - Thanks to Angry Bear, I learned the definition or C.R.A.C.K.P.O.T.:
"Many, if not most, Christians understand the true message of Jesus. But there is a frightening number of so-called Christians who can be best described as creepy, rigid, arrogant, cruel, know-it-all, pompous, obnoxious and treacherous — better known by the acronym C.R.A.C.K.P.O.T."
Update - David Neiwert points out why this is not just wingnuttery, it's more dangerous. It's an attack on the "leftist" Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). SPLC is an organization that keeps an eye on the violent right -- the Tim McVeigh types. Seeing the mainstream right now attacking the SPLC as "leftist" is very, very worrisome.


Fox News Meltdown

See the Fox News Meltdown.

Alert Your Member

Chris at MyDD writes Attention All Democratic Congressional Chiefs of Staff.

Please read this, locate your member of Congress' office address, and mail a printed copy of Chris' post.

Why Did NY Times Attack ACLU?

OK, I haven't read past the first sentence in this story, and I have to back up and say, "Wait a minute!" The story A.C.L.U. Will Consider Disciplining 2 Officials begins,
"The American Civil Liberties Union, which since its inception has fought to protect free speech rights, is scheduled to begin a debate today over whether to discipline - or potentially move to oust - two board members for speaking to reporters."
I am familiar with the First Amendment, which is the source of our "free speech rights" that the ACLU fights to protect. The First Amendment reads,
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Now, there is a very big difference between the government, which the amendment prohibits from abridging the freedom of speech of its citizens, and anything any private organization does. The ACLU is not the government. In fact, the ACLU has fought to protect the rights of private organizations to do as they please.

This is not just a mistake -- a misunderstanding of the distinction between a government and a private organization -- this is an attack. The construction of this sentence declares that the ACLU is acting hypocritically by pretending to be an organization that protects rights while violating those very same rights of its Board members. The sentence might as well read, "ACLU says one thing but does another." And, of course, such hypocrisy undermines the credibility of the organization in the mind of the reader.

It is a serious matter when a newspaper like the New York Times so forcefully attacks the credibility of an organization like the ACLU. The editors at the Times must have been aware of this when they approved this story. Yet the attack rests on a misuse of the term "freedom of speech" that any informed person would catch, along with a reversal of the positions that the ACLU has taken! Why did the Times do this? It is like I am reading the Moonie right-wing Washington Times!

I guess I'll go read some blogs instead.

Air America recoups, expands

Media Life reports that nine months after it looked like Air America radio network would fold almost as soon as it started, it is expanding to three more large markets to reach 45 total. Programming will begin today on affiliates of the heavily Republican-oriented Clear Channel Network in Washington, D.C., Detroit and Cincinnati – an irony many listeners will understand. After Air America launched last spring, two affiliates accused it of failing to pay bills, and it soon went off the air in Chicago and Los Angeles, leaving it in only a handful of small markets. After two of its founders were forced out and some of the staff went without salary, the network stabilized over the summer and began adding markets. Advertising has picked up boosting revenues. Additionally, Media Life says that $19 million of private funding has been secured, and that the network is in talks to get back on the air in LA, one of the most critical and largest media markets in the nation.


Blog Action on Social Security

A new site is going up tonite called ThereIsNoCrisis.com.

ThereIsNoCrisis.com is intended as a fact repository and an initiator of action on this issue. It will help you with letters to editors, FAQs, links to articles, and, of course, a blog. The site will be promoted through a press and media campaign, including radio ads (which you can hear on the site). Chris at MyDD adds, "The site will also feature, among other things, rapid response, fact-checking, Google-bombing, links to allied organizations, printable resources, fainthearted faction updates, and new ads when they are ready."

From the site:
America promises that those who work hard and play by the rules deserve a secure retirement. For 70 years, Social Security has made sure we kept that promise. Social Security is in a healthier financial situation now than it has been for most of its history. Even the most pessemistic of economists agree it will remain solvent for decades. There is no crisis.
The Bush administration is using strategic lies to scare people into supporting a phase-out of Social Security. They are telling the public that there is a "crisis" and that Social Security is going "bankrupt." This is a lie. This is a strategic lie designed to lead the public down a path toward accepting their phase-out plan.

But the truth is: There Is No Crisis. And the truth can be more powerful than lies, if the public can hear the truth.

Blogs reach opinion leaders. Their reach goes far beyond just their daily readership because blogs link to each other, and are read by the press and political leaders. When enough bloggers pick up a subject you soon see what they are writing reflected in the press. You can already see the press reacting to blogger complaints about their coverage of the "crisis."

Bloggers - grab the blog ad below and put it on your site. Tell your readers about this new site, and ask them to tell others.

I'm asking my readers to send an e-mail to your list, asking people to visit ThereIsNoCrisis.com

Update - More here.

Flu Blogging

I didn't get a flu shot, and now I have the flu. Fever, bad cough, aching, fatigue, etc. Ugh.

Take The MyDD DNC Poll

There is a poll over at MyDD asking who you support for head of the Democratic Party.

This is for real, because Washington Democrats have started paying more attention to the "netroots" lately. (That's you.) If you care about this race for DNC Chair, go take the poll, it's in the right-hand column.

Throw Cursor a Buck

Cursor and Media Transparency are trying to raise a bit of cash to cover expenses.


Letter to Editor


Why do you run a comic strip that tells your readers not to read or trust newspapers? How does that fit into your business model?

Prepare for the Onslaught

Recently I've been posting less for various reasons -- a family event, long-postponed non-political writing, and the need for R&R and time to think things over.

Another reason, though, is pessimism. To an extent I've been reluctant to say what I think because what I think is so depressing. Nonetheless, it has to be said.

In a recent New Yorker piece, Seymour Hersh has reported that the Bush administration plans to begin air attacks and covert actions against Iran this year, with the goal of toppling the Islamic regime. Bush himself has made it clear that he believes that the voters have given him a blank check, and that his critics (left, right, and center) are now irrelevant. I think that we can count on these attacks as a done deal. (The "Salvador option" we recently heard about might also still happen, though it might very well have just been a smokescreen. Even the Social Security reform he's been talking about might just have been intended to distract us from his big international plans.)

These new attacks are presumably just the second stage in the multi-nation plan Wolfowitz spoke about right before the war. In other words, we can plan to be at war for five to twenty years.

The Army and Guard are already being pushed to the limit. Thus, there will have to be a draft. But in order for there to be a draft, anti-war groups and spokesmen will have to be marginalized and crushed. So those of us who are anti-war should prepare to be called traitors and cowards with an intensity that we haven't seen so far. Ann Coulter is soon going to go completely mainstream.

As long as the wars are going reasonably well, they will be almost impossible to oppose. A lot of so-called moderates decided last November 2 to take another chance on Bush, and if they change their minds now it won't make a damn bit of difference. A big chunk of the Democratic Party will try to curry favor by supporting the new wars, too, but that won't do anyone any good either. The Democratic hawks won't be able to bring the whole party with them -- and anyway, why would the voters want to switch hawks in midstream? Bush is going to be in the driver's seat for some time.

As soon as the Iran phase starts, all of our criticisms of what happened before will be forgotten (if they haven't been already.) This is what Suskind's source meant when he talked about "creating reality". By using the power of the Commander in Chief to completely change the ball game, Bush is going to make a big chunk of recent political discussion permanently inoperative.

I always hated the complacency of the people who smirkingly bragged about being "reality-based". They missed the point of what had been said. Democrats figure out what past reality was like, and assume that future reality will be pretty much the same. Republicans figure out how future reality will be different from past reality, and then ask themselves what they can do to change and exploit this new reality. And they win that way.

I don't think that anyone in the Democratic Party (or the left blogosphere) is at all prepared for what's coming next. What I see now is people doing and saying the things that they should have been doing and saying in 2000.

As for me, I'm getting ready to hear myself being called a traitor by more and more, louder and louder voices during the next several years.

And wondering how the Patriot Act will change things. And wondering whether I'll be able to stay here. And wondering whether this is really my country at all any more.

Revised 8:30 AM PST Jan 18

P.S. Nobody seems as worried about this as I am. I've raised the issue at Yglesias and Drum's sites -- not everyone is as complacent as Matt and Kevin are, but I haven't noticed a feeling of urgency anywhere except at the The Talking Dog. The specifics of Hersh's piece aren't the most important thing -- they just confirm some conclusions that I think were already pretty reasonable without his piece.

Nobody really seems to be asking themself what the Bush people are getting ready to slam us with, now that their power is secure for another four years. In a way I can't blame anyone, because my conclusions don't lead to a plan of action or to any optimistic scenario. But in the face of the Bush onslaught which I expect, the slight tweaks of business-as-usual that Democrats are talking about seem really futile.

Digby! Digby! Digby!

Just go read every word!


This is a guest post

It has become painfully obvious that the Republicans have stolen a march on everyone else in regards to getting their message across. And they are successful despite the patent dishonesty of that message. The question is, how can such a pack of lies be so enthusiastically embraced by those whose personal interests are clearly damaged by the Republican program?

A goodly part of the answer can be found in three books, all by Richard Bandler and John Grinder: "Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, M.D, Vol 1;" and "The Structure of Magic," volumes 1 and 2. All are available through Amazon and presumably Barnes & Noble or Powells as well. For anyone involved in the political scene today, they are must-reads.

Dr. Milton Erickson was the most prominent hypnotist of his age (d. 1980 at age 79), and the innovative master of both the indirect hypnotic induction and the indirect suggestion. This made him famous, since by using these techniques he was able to bypass resistance in his patients and quickly gain surprising results (sound familiar?). He could both hypntotize and implant post-hypnotic suggestions in the minds of people without them knowing it, and they would faithfully carry out his commands without ever realizing that the idea came from outside of themselves.

The names of the authors Bandler and Grinder should be familiar to many readers; shortly after writing these books they went on to found "Neuro-Linguistic Programming" (NLP) which was primarily tailored for the use of salesmen and was offered through seminars worldwide; in fact, if a salesman ever talked you into buying some expensive item you didn't realize you wanted, it's likely that he or she was a graduate of the NLP program. What Bandler and Grinder did in "Patterns" was to analyze in "down to the fingernails" detail the use by Erickson of both body and verbal language, pacing, emphasis, etc, in Erickson's practice. The two volumes of "Structure of Magic" are developments on the work with Milton, generalizing it so it could be used by anyone in routine human interaction. This formed the basis of NLP. Today, NLP techniques are routinely and successfully used in advertising, sales, and in Republican politics.

One of the key points (and I'm sure you will recognize it in Republican activity) is "Rapport," which is obtained by acting consciously in the manner in which your "target" acts unconsciously: mirroring speech patterns, body language, customs, etc. It's a fact that only about 6% of the information transfer between normally conversing humans is done through the actual words being used. The other 94% comes through body language, inflection, and similar non-verbal channels. Example: the usually wealthy Republican candidate or operative has almost nothing in common with the lower-income "Angry White Male" or "Christian Conservative" yet he is effective in recruiting him because he has caused the target to believe that they are two of a kind, that they have much in common. The Republican operative has taken command of the non-verbal channels, so the factual contradictions and hypocrisy of the Republican program are buried in the totality of the message.

Bush's pose as a "rancher" (a fine old American archetype) is another example of this- the reality of course being that he only bought the ranch just before his first presidential campaign, and had never shown any inclination in that direction before. But by acting the part, he signals non-verbally to a great many people that he is a "man of the earth" who "understands where we come from." And the message is effective, despite its total dishonesty.

It is a confirmed fact that the Republicans are using these techniques, and using them with great success. The key GOP innovator was Newt Gingrich, and the "Contract with America" was stunningly well framed in NLP terms. Gingrich studied political speech and then wrote the famous memo "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control," which may be found here: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article4443.htm This went out to Republican candidates, activists, and wingnut talk show hosts.

It's worth reading carefully, and its worth remembering while you read it that this is a classic application of NLP in the real world. It is also worth remembering that this was written in 1996, and that the Republican brain trust has had an additional nine years to refine the techniques and to put us where we are today- in a very deep hole.

We have a lot of catching up to do.

Big Lies

Whiskey Bar: Game Plan

Increasing Our Numbers - Things You Can Do

I have been writing about how Progressive blog readers are so much more well-informed than those who get their information only from the "mainstream" media. There are many factors at work, including the Right's targeting of mainstream opinion leaders with what I call their "conventional wisdom machine." There's also concentration of ownership, corporate control and general cost-cutting (leading to overworked members of the media trying to quickly cover subjects about which they are not well-informed.) So I think we all agree that blogs are an important supplement for those wishing to understand what is happening in the country and the world - including members of the media.

There is also a surprising consensus of opinion on many issues among progressive bloggers. (My favorite is how bloggers and blog-readers were almost unanimous in their support of Senator Boxer for voting to examine the Ohio election results.) And this consensus is so often at odds with the elected officials of the Democratic Party.

So here's the thing. If we're going to have an effect on events - and get more leaders to stand up for us like Boxer - we're going to have to get more people reading Progressive blogs. So I am asking blog readers to recruit more readers. This is a call to action. Send e-mails to like-minded friends and relatives suggesting blogs to read. Send this post to political e-mail lists. Write letters to editors mentioning blogs - and include the web addresses of those blogs. Call phone-in radio shows and mention blogs. Leave flyers at coffee shops listing blogs and their web addresses. Hand out these flyers at Democratic Party meetings, environmental group meetings, etc. (Here is an article I wrote for local Democratic Party organizations (alternate source) that can serve as a template for a flyer. Add your favorite blogs.)

Religious Right outraged at Consumer Reports birth control comparison

The Religious Right is outraged at a Consumer Affairs comparison of birth control methods that includes some very innocuous language on abortion. CR tells readers that “Women having an abortion in the U.S. can choose one of two methods: the so-called abortion pill or a surgical procedure”, and goes on to describe each in factual terms. Anti-choice activists are shocked that CR (a) discussed birth control, (b) discussed abortion, and (c) did not tell readers about the non-existent dangers of abortion falsely claimed by the anti-choice crowd. To date, CR seems to ignoring the whole thing, but it did note on its website that CDC information on condoms suddenly disappeared in 2002 and was replaced with a statement urging abstinence as the only way to prevent pregnancy. And they gave Lollipop, a brightly colored condom packaged on a stick, a best Buy recommendation.