Wednesday, August 31, 2005

It's time I'm walkin' to New Orleans


Via Steve Gilliard, we have this from Jonah Goldberg:

I think it's time to face facts. That place is going to be a Mad Max/thunderdome Waterworld/Lord of the Flies horror show within the next few hours. My advice is to prepare yourself now. Hoard weapons, grow gills and learn to communicate with serpents. While you're working on that, find the biggest guy you can and when he's not expecting it beat him senseless. Gather young fighters around you and tell the womenfolk you will feed and protect any female who agrees to participate without question in your plans to repopulate the earth with a race of gilled-supermen. It's never too soon to be prepared.

Continues Steve:

Let me translate:

Poor niggers, New Orleans is yours. Act like your usual animal selves and die killing each other. Us safe, dry white folks will laugh at your plight, since you are only niggers and not human.

When will these people act like adults and not spoiled children.

A post like Jonah's would embarrass a normal person, and infuriate a decent person.

He is neither.

Laugh about it, spanky. I know sympathy and empathy are just so over, but you might try a little bit, especially since Louisiana voted red in '04.

We'll let them know what you said, we'll put it on posters pasted on the FEMA relief packages they get from the Federal Government:

Jonah Goldberg envies you, and your Mad Max adventure.

Invite him down for a beignet. Oh, wait, you're underwater. Well, he should be too.

Thanks for the memories

Blogger broke the old template, so we now have a new one.

Thanks. I had nothing better to do tonight than hack html.


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Insane teacher be there reminded of the rhyme

Joseph from MartiniRepublic's invitation to discuss the spiritual world recently led me to post about religion. As well, we saw interesting responses from RJ Eskow and Pamela at TheDemocraticDaily.

Followng in that proud tradition, I'm going to attempt, without a net, a multi-part mini-series about spiritual and religious issues facing the Left today.

Today, let's consider Leo Strauss.

Often both praised and reviled as the Capo to the Neo-Conservative movement, Strauss is indeed a complex figure. While teaching philosophy at the University of Chicago's Department of Poli Sci, he made many lofty pronouncements, and excited both admiration as well as revulsion in many who delved into his works. Think Noam Chomsky of the Right.

Many graduates of U of Chi made their way into public service, as well as prominence in conservative politics, among them John Ashcroft, Paul Wolfowitz, Ahmed Chalabi (!) as well as authors Saul Bellow and Allen Bloom.

While reading Nicholas Xenos' "Leo Strauss and the Rhetoric of the War on Terror" at, we find more information.

Other devotees of Strauss include William Krystol, Nathan Tarcov, a University of Chicago professor and a former student of Strauss, and Carnes Lord, who was a member of the National Security Staff, and Paul Wolfowitz. Later on, William Kristol and Carnes Lord were part of Vice President Dan Quayle’s staff.

As Xenos continues:

Straussians have been around Washington for twenty years. In a sense, they invite the criticism of being a cult or a conspiracy by the networking that they do, by their purposive replication, and by the use of a certain kind of coded language. (For example, whenever Strauss talked about someone’s theory he referred to his “teaching,” and this is a term similarly deployed by all Straussians.) Strauss and his descendants use all kinds of stilted, oftentimes archaic language, and some of that language has found its way into the rhetoric of the so-called war on terror.

The most obvious place where one sees it is in the administration’s use of the term “regime.” Some people were surprised by what it turned out “regime change” meant, but one would not have been surprised if one were familiar with Leo Strauss’s writings or those of the Straussians. “Regime” is the term that Strauss used to translate the Greek politeia, an Aristotelian category, and Strauss understood it to mean—what it more or less does mean in Aristotle—the form of a city; that is, its essence as opposed to the unformed humans, the matter, that the city forms. Aristotle, in Book Three of the Politics, makes the case that there are different kinds of polities—democracies, aristocracies, and so on—and that in each case, if one changes into another one it changes essentially; it changes its form into something else. And the citizens are different, they are changed—the citizen of a democracy is not a citizen in an aristocracy—so it is a total transformation of the city’s essence, a formal transformation. Thus Strauss wrote that “a change of regime transforms a given city into another city,” into something totally different. So to talk about “regime change,” which was a relatively new term in the discourse of international relations, meant a total transformation of the model of the society in question rather than a simple change of government in the narrow sense. This has had immediate effects in the policy in Iraq.

Sounds about right. But let's look back into Strauss' history for some context. Xenos again:

He wrote a book on Spinoza published in 1930 and left Germany in 1932 on a Rockefeller Foundation grant for research on Thomas Hobbes in Paris and London. He was thus in Paris when the Nazis took power. However, Strauss should not be confused with the anti-Nazi refugees who soon arrived in the French capital, because at this time he was a committed anti-liberal, in the German sense of anti-liberal, which is to say, among other things, an anti-parliamentarian. Also in 1932, he wrote an extended review of a book by the German legal and political theorist Carl Schmitt entitled The Concept of the Political, in which Schmitt articulated his notion that the core of the political problem is the distinction between friends and enemies. Schmitt later became a member of the Nazi party and a leading figure in the main legal organization of the Third Reich. In Strauss’s review, he criticized Schmitt from the political right. He argued that “the critique introduced by Schmitt against liberalism can . . . be completed only if one succeeds in gaining a horizon beyond liberalism. In such a horizon Hobbes completed the foundation of liberalism. A radical critique of liberalism is thus possible only on the basis of an adequate understanding of Hobbes.”[ii] His point was that Schmitt was, in his criticisms of liberalism, working within the bounds of liberal society because liberalism had become so dominant that it was difficult see beyond it anymore, and it was thus necessary to go back to Hobbes to see what was there before. What was there before was a very strong sense of the absolute dichotomies of good and evil. For Strauss, Hobbes represents the foundation of liberalism and modernism in the claim that these notions of good and evil are nominalist; they simply do not exist in anything other than our judgment about them. So Strauss was suggesting that you had to go back before liberalism to reconnect with the sort of absolutist distinctions upon which Schmitt was attempting to ground the political.

. . .

Strauss wrote to Löwith in May 1933, five months after Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor and a month after implementation of the first anti-Jewish legislation, that “Just because Germany has turned to the right and has expelled us,” meaning Jews, “it simply does not follow that the principles of the right are therefore to be rejected. To the contrary, only on the basis of principles of the right—fascist, authoritarian, imperial [emphasis in original]—is it possible in a dignified manner, without the ridiculous and pitiful appeal to ‘the inalienable rights of man’ to protest against the mean nonentity,” the mean nonentity being the Nazi party. In other words, he is attacking the Nazis from the right in this letter.

That's an especially detached and de-personalized assessment of the Nazi Party. I would conclude from that that Strauss had an established agenda, and found support wherever he could, damn the inconveniences.

Two months later, in July 1933, he wrote to Schmitt—he did not realize that Schmitt had joined the Nazi party, or seemed not to fully understand what the regime was about in terms of its anti-Semitism—asking for help in getting entrée to Charles Maurras, the French right-wing Catholic leader of the Action Française. What all of this suggests is that in the 1930s Strauss was not an anti-liberal in the sense in which we commonly mean “anti-liberal” today, but an anti-democrat in a fundamental sense, a true reactionary. Strauss was somebody who wanted to go back to a previous, pre-liberal, pre-bourgeois era of blood and guts, of imperial domination, of authoritarian rule, of pure fascism. Like Schmitt, what Strauss hated about liberalism, among other things, was its inability to make absolute judgments, its inability to take action. And, like Schmitt, he sought a way out in a kind of pre-liberal decisiveness. I would suggest that this description of fascist, authoritarian, imperial principles accurately describes the current imperial project of the United States. Because of this, examining the foundational elements of Strauss’s political theory helps us to see something important about our current situation, independently of any kind of Straussian direct influence, although there is certainly some of that.

Regarding his tenure at U of Chi, Francis Boyle, Professor of Law, University of Illinois School of Law and graduate of U of Chi has this to say:

It is now a matter of public record that immediately after the terrible tragedy of September 11, 2001, U.S. Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld and his pro-Israeli "Neoconservative" Deputy Paul Wolfowitz began to plot, plan, scheme and conspire to wage a war of aggression against Iraq by manipulating the tragic events of September 11th in order to provide a pretext for doing so. Of course Iraq had nothing at all to do with September 11th or supporting Al-Qaeda . But that made no difference to Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and the numerous other pro-Israeli Neo-cons in the Bush Jr. administration.

These pro-Israeli Neo-cons had been schooled in the Machiavellian/Nietzschean theories of Professor Leo Strauss, who taught political philosophy at the University of Chicago in their Department of Political Science. The best expose of Strauss's pernicious theories on law, politics, government, for elitism, and against democracy can be found in two scholarly books by the Canadian Professor Shadia B. Drury: The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss (1988); Leo Strauss and the American Right (1999). I entered the University of Chicago in September of 1968 shortly after Strauss had retired. But I was trained in Chicago's Political Science Department by Strauss's foremost protege, co-author, and literary executor Joseph Cropsey. Based upon my personal experience as an alumnus of Chicago's Political Science Department (A.B., 1971, in Political Science), I concur completely with Professor Drury's devastating critique of Strauss. I also agree with her penetrating analysis of the degradation of the American political process by Chicago's Straussian cabal.

Chicago routinely trained me and numerous other students to become ruthless and unprincipled Machiavellians. That is precisely why so many neophyte Neo-con students gravitated towards the University of Chicago or towards Chicago Alumni at other universities. The University of Chicago became the "brains" behind the Bush Jr. Empire and his Ashcroft Police State. Attorney General John Ashcroft received his law degree from the University of Chicago in 1967. Many of his "lawyers" at the Department of Injustice are members of the right-wing, racist, bigoted, reactionary, and totalitarian Federalist Society (aka "Feddies"), which originated in part at the University of Chicago.

Although miseducated at Yale and Harvard Business School, the "Ivies" proved to be too liberal for Bush Jr. and his fundamentalist Christian supporters, whose pointman and spearcarrier in the Bush Jr. administration was Ashcroft, a Fundie himself. The Neo-cons and the Fundies contracted an "unholy alliance" in support of Bush Jr. across the board. For their own different reasons, both groups also worked hand-in-hand to support Israel's genocidal Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, an internationally acknowledged war criminal. Strange bedfellows indeed.

. . .

It was the Chicago Straussian cabal of pro-Israeli Neo-cons who set up a separate "intelligence" unit within the Pentagon that was responsible for manufacturing many of the bald-faced lies, deceptions, half-truths, and outright propaganda that the Bush Jr. administration then disseminated to the lap-dog U.S. news media in order to generate public support for a war of aggression against Iraq for the benefit of Israel and in order to steal Iraq's oil. To paraphrase something Machiavelli once advised his Prince in Chapter XVIII of that book: Those who want to deceive will always find those willing to be deceived. As I can attest from my personal experience as an alumnus of the University of Chicago Department of Political Science, the Bible of Chicago's pro-Israeli Neo-con Straussian cabal is Machiavelli's The Prince.

As for the University of Chicago overall, its Bible is Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind (1987). Of course Bloom was another protege of Strauss, as well as a mentor to Wolfowitz. In his latest novel Ravelstein (2000) Saul Bellow, formerly on the University of Chicago Faculty, outed his self-styled friend Bloom as a hedonist, pederast, and most promiscuous homosexual who died of AIDS. All this was common knowledge at the University of Chicago, where Bloom is still worshipped and his elitist screed against American higher-education still revered. In Ravelstein Wolfowitz appeared as Bloom's protege Philip Gorman, and Strauss as Bloom's mentor and guru Professor Davarr. Strauss/Davarr is really the eminence grise of the novel. With friends like Bellow, Bloom did not need enemies.

As to Strauss' feeling about religion, my primary reason for writing this, we turn to Jim Lobe writing for Alternet:

According to Drury, Strauss had a "huge contempt" for secular democracy. Nazism, he believed, was a nihilistic reaction to the irreligious and liberal nature of the Weimar Republic. Among other neoconservatives, Irving Kristol has long argued for a much greater role for religion in the public sphere, even suggesting that the Founding Fathers of the American Republic made a major mistake by insisting on the separation of church and state. And why? Because Strauss viewed religion as absolutely essential in order to impose moral law on the masses who otherwise would be out of control.

At the same time, he stressed that religion was for the masses alone; the rulers need not be bound by it. Indeed, it would be absurd if they were, since the truths proclaimed by religion were "a pious fraud." As Ronald Bailey, science correspondent for Reason magazine points out, "Neoconservatives are pro-religion even though they themselves may not be believers."

"Secular society in their view is the worst possible thing,'' Drury says, because it leads to individualism, liberalism, and relativism, precisely those traits that may promote dissent that in turn could dangerously weaken society's ability to cope with external threats. Bailey argues that it is this firm belief in the political utility of religion as an "opiate of the masses" that helps explain why secular Jews like Kristol in 'Commentary' magazine and other neoconservative journals have allied themselves with the Christian Right and even taken on Darwin's theory of evolution.

Aligned thus with Marx, at least in re: religion (Religion is the opiate of the masses), we understand Strauss as a devotee of Machiavelli. At a time when the Right is seeking domination of both US policy and World influence, it makes sense that Strauss' ideology would attract folks who believe these goals to be worthwhile.

Keep in mind that while the Radical Right pundits have made a talking point of the words "Liberal Elite," in Straussian philosophy it is a Right-wing elite who rule. Apologists for Strauss contend that he offers wisdom to all who chose to follow his path, and that no one is denied knowledge. Perhaps, but his contention still stands that, like "The Prince," a "wise" class will rule, not that the ruling class be wise. Big difference, in my opinion.

To be continued.

Monday, August 29, 2005

I'm walking on sunshine

Lefty Pam (stay tuned for more) says that Bush is probably crapping his pants withh joy over Hurricane Katrina, as he spends taxpayer money pimping Social Security destruction.

As long as Katrina is in the news, says Pam, we won't see anything on CNN about:






Intelligent Design

Rowe v. Wade

Voter Fraud

Missing white women

Good news for Bush.


Sunday, August 28, 2005

marching as to war

The witty and erudite Joseph at Martini Republic (drinks are on us) suggested to some of the members of the Greater LA Bloggers Alliance (I made that name up) that we follow his lead and make a concerted effort to post about topics of religion and faith on Saturdays, and I think that's a grand idea.

Well, it's still Saturday night here, as anyone who knows my rules is aware, "It's still today until you go to bed. When you wake up it will be tomorrow."

When I wake up tomorrow, Sunday, I'll be afraid to find this from

Oklahoma is one of the few states where influential people have little fear that their credibility could be undermined by being openly identified with Rushdoony or with the Chalcedon Foundation that he started. I suspect that the Daily Oklahoman is the only major daily newspaper in the world to eulogize Rushdoony on its editorial page and State Representative Bill Graves of Oklahoma City is one of the few elected officials in the country who writes articles for the Chalcedon Report -- the Foundation’s monthly newsletter. Bill Graves has articles published in both the January and the March 2002 issues of the Chalcedon Report.

Openly identifying with Rushdoony and the Reconstructionist movement is problematic for people in the public eye because Rushdoony was an adamant opponent of the First Amendment to the constitution. His magnum opus, published in 1973, is an 800 page tome patterned after Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion that Rushdoony entitled The Institutes of Biblical Law. On page 294, Rushdoony gives an indication why he believes that the American system of pluralistic democracy is heresy. He wrote, “In the name of toleration, the believer is asked to associate on a common level of total acceptance with the atheist, the pervert, the criminal, and the adherents of other religions.”

The writer, Dr. Bruce Prescott, of the Interfaith Alliance forum on Religious Extremism, goes on to say:

If Rushdoony and his disciples had their way, democracy would be abolished and a Christian theocracy would be established. A theocracy based on the Bible along the lines of John Cotton’s Massachusetts Bay Colony. Rushdoony wrote, “The only true order is founded on Biblical Law. All law is religious in nature, and every non-Biblical law-order represents an anti-Christian religion.” (p. 113) He also made it clear that he expects that force will be necessary to impose such order, “Every law-order is in a state of war against the enemies of that order, and all law is a form of warfare.” (p. 93)

At its root, Reconstructionism is a militant Biblicism. In many ways, it is a revival of the holy war theology of the Hebrew Bible under the guise of Christianity. The chief difference being that Reconstructionists believe they have a mandate to claim more than the land of Palestine, they believe they are commanded to conquer the entire world and exercise “dominion” over all its peoples. That is why Reconstructionism is also known as “dominion theology.”

To a man, Reconstructionists believe that Biblical prophecies assure them that they will ultimately be victorious in the war they wage. This chief thing that distinguishes them from a lot of the conservative Christians who have been influenced by them is that they are not pessimistic about the possibility of men ushering in the millennial reign of Christ. A lot of conservative Christians are pre-millenialists. They think Jesus has to return to usher in the kingdom of God on earth. Reconstructionists are post-millenialists. They think Jesus expects them to usher in the kingdom of God before he returns and they expect to do it by force – by force of law and/or by force of arms.

This was found by my lovely wife Pam in a comment to a Huffpo article by Russell Shaw: What's Really Bothering Pat Robertson About Chavez.

I have some substantial experience with the evangelical right, from my days in Orange County, when I took care of technical issues for recording studios belonging to 2 of the largest of these organizations. How they went about running Christian record labels is another story, but I can state with certainty that these feelings are colse to the surface with many people, even those who seem calmer and more sane.

That the US would assume a theocratic government is a true dream of many of these folks. They prefess to love the Original Intent of the framers of the Constitution, but never mind, Jefferson's "Separation" seems inconvenient. And yet the Dominionist ideology is riddled with inconsistencies.

When quoting scripture to support Radical Right positions on poverty (7Jesus replied, "Leave her alone. She did it in preparation for my burial. 8You will always have the poor among you, but I will not be here with you much longer."), they seem to believe in a laissez faire attitude, in other words, that which is ordained will be.

And yet regarding other issues they preach that zealous activism is needed. On the one hand" "Unto Caeser what is Caesar's", on the other hand:

The laws that Reconstructionists want to enforce are those of Ancient Israel. They believe that the Mosaic law is God’s blueprint for all societies. Transported to the context of twenty-first century America, they see themselves as “Christian Libertarians.” Stripped to its barest essentials, here is their blueprint for America. Their ultimate goal is to make the U.S. Constitution conform to a strict, literal interpretation of Biblical law. To do that involves a series of legal and social reforms that will move society toward their goal. 1) Make the ten commandments the law of the land, 2) Reduce the role of government to the defense of property rights, 3) Require “tithes” to ecclesiastical agencies to provide welfare services, 4) Close prisons – reinstitute slavery as a form of punishment and require capital punishment for all of ancient Israel’s capital offenses – including apostacy, blasphemy, incorrigibility in children, murder, rape, Sabbath breaking, sodomy, and witchcraft, 5) Close public schools – make parents totally responsible for the education of their children, and 6) Strengthen patriarchically ordered families.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Friday, August 26, 2005

And I said, "Hello, Satan, I believe it's time to go."

I took the position yesterday that Air America Radio, as one of the most visible representatives of the Left, should be somewhat immune to loud public criticism. I had some private email about this, and Oliver Willis left a comment:

I'm all about marching lockstep, but when AA is doing things that actively are counterproductive I think its worth calling them out. For instance I think Franken's show needs to have callers or else it sounds like an NPR program. Rhodes and Schultz clearly understand the medium.

Thanks, ODub, I get your point. I still stand by mine that the Left needs some public solidarity these days for us to be taken seriously, so criticisms of any visible representative have to be carefully considered.

Having said that, here's my first complaint. I'm not sure if it's network wide, but the LA station, KTLK 1150, is playing ads by, get this, Kevin Trudeau.


Convicted felon Kevin Trudeau tops book charts

Infomercial Marketers Settle Various Charges

Kevin Trudeau Banned from Infomercials

Best-seller ‘Natural Cures’ sparks court battle

Cancer ‘cures’ are empty promises in Kevin Trudeau’s ‘Natural Cures’ book

Oh, that Kevin Trudeau. The weak-chinned creep that is always peddling some crap or other on an infomercial set that looks like Larry King's. Hmm, never seen them both in the same place at the same time.

That AAR, at least here in LA, takes ad money from this doucebag is worthy of criticism. My guess is that their policy is that the color of anyone's money is green, unlike, say, the 3 major networks.

So, I'm torn. If some bottom feeder wants to give our cause money, should we care? We can say he's the rube, the mark, that we're fleecing.

On the other hand, is he fleecing AAR, and by extension all of us, by making millions selling worthless crap, and using our airwaves to do it?

I would sleep better if he wasn't on our air. But that's just me. As usual, your mileage may vary.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Always look on the bright side of life

Jess at Pandagon organized "Blog Like A Conservative" day on Monday, and it was fun. And it helped increase hit count for some of us less traveled blogs.

But today I want to propose Blogging Like a Conservative for real. Here's what I mean.

At the First Annual LA Bloggers Poolside Barbecue some of us talked about Air America Radio. Some of us admitted we had reservations about certain hosts. Nothing wrong there, as we can love the speech, and well, not really care for the speaker.

And just yesterday at Ezra Klein's place some commentors made some pretty disparaging remarks about, again, certain AAR hosts.

Here's how we need to really "Blog Like A Conservative." I have a respectful request of everyone everywhere that wants to win elections for the Left:


There, I said it. Sorry if it seems, well, harsh, like I'm trying to stifle fair dissent and discussion. Well, dammit, I am. They are what we have to work with. Not every host may be your personal cup of tea, but they are part of the public face of the Left, and as such, need our pretty darned near unconditional love, at least in public.

You will never hear a Right Winger publicly demean Rush, Hannity, et al, even if, privately, they think the person is an idiot. They show unity, and they stay on message, and we need to learn how to do that. Until then, IMHO, we will continue to be right about almost everything, and still lose elections.

Calm down, resisting carping about Franken or Schultz won't make or break anything, but it is emblematic of the type of focus the Left needs. It will help us to stay on message and present a united front to undecideds. Democrats historically organize circular firing squads. Let's try to stop this cycle. Part of it is the nature of Lefties, to discuss, consider other's viewpoints, ponder, and even change our minds.

But no more, at least visibly.

Any offended by this suggestion, that we march in lock step about anything, too damn bad. You can be right all you want about anything you want. That's cool.

Me, well, I want to start winning elections.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Did we really tell lies, letting in the sunshine...

Yesterday's Pandagon inspired "Blog Like A Conservative" was pretty interesting. Some participants really got it, others less so.

But obviously some of the readers didn't get it. Found in the comments to my post, from Bruce:

Depends on what you mean by "liberal." From my reading, I seem to be a 'South Park liberal,' or is that a South Park conservative?

When I read the self-congratulatory hate-filled rants of what passes for thinking on many left of center blogs, I am frankly repulsed.

When I left a comment recently elsewhere suggesting that Casey Sheehan was a 24 year old second time enlistee who believed in something bigger than himself and put his own life at risk, the rants, including ad hominem attacks by people who have no knowledge whatsoever of who I am, were very numerous and became quite vituperous.

Fortunately, my ego is able to handle unhappy people; it's part of my real life job.

What struck me, however, was the complete lack of any clearly thought out refutations of my positions.

My response: Dude, that's the whole point! I seriously have a hard time understanding how someone could take my post at face value. I was attempting to channel Dennis Prager, who is a deluded buffoon of the first order, and who, in completely circular fashion, supports his points on moral authority by saying "Because I said so."

He goes on:

I have seen dogpiles of this sort on thoughtful liberals elsewhere. I have also read about them, say, in Russia in the early part of the last century.

I don't know if this is a deliberate tactic by Move-on and it's supporters to Bolshevek the left(let me remind you that they are in fact a Stalinist-era legacy group) or simply a reversion to yahooism by overly-under- educated wanna-be radicals. (cough cough hack Saul Alinsky hack cough)

Let me finally observe, additionally, that while you kind, lovely folks are congratulating each other about how morally superior you all are, the Republicans are kicking the motherfucking shit out of you and your oh so pure ideals.

Some of my ideals, too.

Politics is the art of the possible. Quit giving each other blow jobs, and start organizing.

Oh my! Is he saying that is a Stalinist era group? I rather doubt that, as during the Russian revolution the people weren't really into political action groups that much, what with the Czar's and Lenin's tyranny. Or is he saying, more likely, that the Bolsheveks (sic) are? Thanks, I had forgotten everything I knew about Russian history.

I would have responded directly to the commenter, but since the web site he listed has no email, I will do it here.

Seriously, Bruce, had you taken the time to follow any of the link crumbs I left, you would likely have figured out that this was all parody of the loony right. And I don't know what lefty sites you are reading, because most of the ones I do have either really intelligent, well sourced snark, or actual policy discussions.

And finally, in re: Cindy Sheehan, don't get suckered in the smears by the right. You clearly miss her point, her ONLY point: Why did Casey have to die?

Monday, August 22, 2005

I've seen all good people

As Jesse at Pandagon says, it's been clear for some time now, at least to Americans with any moral values, that liberalism is the ideology that carries the most moral authority.

Based on empirical observation and inherent truths, this fact can not be denied.

If one examines the Torah, for example, one finds many references to liberalism, too many to quote, in fact. Moving liberally forward to the Bible, we find it, again, replete with references to liberalism. I leave the reader to, well, simpy believe me, and not do any further exploration of these documents, since my scholarship is definitive.

However, when examining the Koran, we also find references to liberalism. Since that document is false, however, we must, by purely intellectual parsing, ignore it.

Nowhere is this more clear than in the liberal Blogtopia (yes, skippy coined that phrase.) Blogging by its very nature is a liberal act, and conservatives who attempt to blog are soon frustrated by the nature of blogging. As is readily apparent, blogging requires thought, preferably original and thoughtful thought, and conservatarians historically can't think. It's obvious, it's been proven, by me.

Obsidian Wings has more moral scholarship on this, as does Winding Sheet, and FSHK. If you read these, as well as our sponsor Pandagon, you will be edified by our moral authority.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Hey now baby, get into my big black car

Yesterday in Iraq, from the Assoc. Press:

Masked gunmen killed three Sunni Arabs in front of horrified witnesses outside a mosque in Mosul on Friday, after grabbing them as they hung posters urging fellow Sunnis to vote in a referendum on the new constitution.

Today, Krugman in the NYTimes (bow down and worship even unto him):

In his recent book "Steal This Vote" - a very judicious work, despite its title - Andrew Gumbel, a U.S. correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent, provides the best overview I've seen of the 2000 Florida vote. And he documents the simple truth: "Al Gore won the 2000 presidential election."

Two different news media consortiums reviewed Florida's ballots; both found that a full manual recount would have given the election to Mr. Gore. This was true despite a host of efforts by state and local officials to suppress likely Gore votes, most notably Ms. Harris's "felon purge," which disenfranchised large numbers of valid voters.

But few Americans have heard these facts. Perhaps journalists have felt that it would be divisive to cast doubt on the Bush administration's legitimacy. If so, their tender concern for the nation's feelings has gone for naught: Cindy Sheehan's supporters are camped in Crawford, and America is more bitterly divided than ever.

From this I would infer that America is truly a lucky place to live. At least when elections are stolen here, no one dies.

P.S. The best news in Krugmans' post is a small tidbit at the bottom:

"Thomas L. Friedman is on vacation."

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Coretta Scott King suffered a minor heart attack and a major stroke that impaired her ability to speak and affected her right side, but she is ''completely aware,'' a doctor said Thursday.

King's daughter said the family expected a full recovery.

Dr. Charles Wickliffe, a cardiologist at Piedmont Hospital, where the 78-year-old widow of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. had been hospitalized for two days, said a blood clot had moved from King's heart and lodged in an artery in the left side of her brain.

''This same clot caused a small heart attack and a big stroke,'' said Wickliffe, addressing reporters along with King's four children.

''She's completely aware,'' he said. ''She's not able yet to relay her wishes.''

The stroke caused weakness in King's right arm, her right leg and the right side of her face, and she was not able to speak, Wickliffe said. He said she would remain in the hospital for days and would need intensive therapy.

Folks, she's a symbol of something that started happening many years ago, and is still happening. Civil rights is dynamic, not static. The process is never ending.

It demands vigilance as some people can and will always succomb to evil and base instincts. It is a process, never ending, always beginning.

Dr. King came along at a time when many in the US were truly appalled by the rampant and vicious racism promoted and practiced here. It was not new in the '60s but had been festering since the country was founded. There was always some group to hate, mistreat, and demean. By the time of Dr. King's ascendance to the role of national spokesperson, many, especially on the left, were more than just ashamed and angry about racism, but were willing to take action (see: Schwerner, Goodman, & Chaney).

I spoke to someone in their 20s a year or so ago, we talked about racism. This person DID NOT KNOW that apartheid was practiced in South Africa until '90, when Nelson Mandela was released from prison. That's an indictment of our education system, certainly, but even more, an indictment of our culture in general.

We can't ever forget what happened before, lest it happen again, And it's still happening on a daily basis, in smaller ways perhaps, but it's still there. We don't have Bull Conner anymore, but we have David Duke. We still have the KKK, the Confederate battle flag, and "dumb Caribbean hitters." When one of my conservative friends opines that we don't need affirmative action anymore, I say that I will work to stop AA the minute any school in South Central LA gets the same money per pupil as does Beverly Hills High.

Ms. King is a symbol, but also a person. Since all people have flaws, she, as is everyone, is imperfect. So she should be recognized and revered as the symbol, the proud partner of her late husband in his historic quest for major change in the US. He also was a flawed person, but his cause was righteous. And that's all that counts.

Cindy Sheehan is also a person, who has become a symbol. The bleating goats on the right have focused on her personhood, and have lost sight of her symbolism. But that is exactly her true strength. She is standng up and saying 'look at me, listen to my words. It's not who I am, but what I am asking'. As she says on HuffPo,

Even after my repeated attempts to keep the focus of my protest on the war, the Drudge Report and others continue to try to make the issue about me. But I am not the issue. The issue is a disastrous war that's killing our sons and daughters and making our country less secure. They attack me because they can no longer defend this war.

I am not trying to show equivalence between Sheehan and Dr. King. Only history, fairly told, can do that. But I can say that she has the potential to jumpstart a huge anti-war movement now, and so far seems to have avoided, by her purity of purpose, any missteps that would tarnish her image. I think she is poised to become an even bigger symbol, of a change that hopefully will take place in America.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Tomorrow belongs to me

There are several archetypes of punditry. Among them are the Zealot (David Horowitz, Michelle Malkin), the Snot (O'Reilly), the Condescending Prick (Hannity), the Calm And Serious (Buckley), the Ranter (Fred Barnes), the Intellectual (Bill Kristol) and several others.

But the most annoying of all is the Wise Man. Such personalities combine calmness with condecension, and display a smug self assuredness that can only come from years of eating their own poo.

High on this list is Dennis Prager (I'm a Jew except for when I'm a Christian.) I can recall years ago on his local LA radio show when he said he would prefer that if his kids smoked anything, it would be a pipe like Daddy and not the evil herb. Makes sense to me.

Jesse at Pandagon has a truly awe inspiring take down of Prager's recent myopic assesment (read: blow job) of James Dobson, wherein Dobson compares Nazis with stem cell research:

Sez Dobson:

" . . . people talk about the potential for good that can come from destroying these little embryos and how we might be able to solve the problem of juvenile diabetes. . . . But I have to ask this question: In World War II, the Nazis experimented on human beings in horrible ways in the concentration camps, and I imagine, if you wanted to take the time to read about it, there would have been some discoveries there that benefited mankind. You know, if you take a utilitarian approach, that if something results in good, then it is good. But that's obviously not true. We condemn what the Nazis did because there are some things that we always could do but we haven't done, because science always has to be guided by ethics and by morality. And you remove ethics and morality, and you get what happened in Nazi Germany."

Sez Prager:

It should be clear to any honest reader that Dobson was not morally equating embryonic stem cell research to the hideous Nazi medical experiments on human beings (mostly, but not only, Jews). If he did, I would join the chorus of protesters. Only a moral fool would compare what Nazi doctors did -- such as exposing men and women to prolonged radiation of their genitals, slowly freezing naked men and women to death, or putting a person into a decompression chamber to watch his eardrums burst -- to medically experimenting on embryonic cells that have no self-awareness, no feeling, no capacity to suffer, and no loved ones who suffer. As Dobson himself put it to me on my radio show: "In the case of killing embryos there is no suffering, no grieving victims, and so they're not the same, obviously."

Sez Jesse:

People talk about the good that conservative columnists can do. The Nazis had their own propoganda artists who willingly put forth a doctrine of complete evil, who spent all their time repeating the words and slogans of the most evil man on the face of the planet. That's what happens when a movement recruits propogandists to promote its ideas.

What comparison are you talking about? I never made a comparison, shitcan.

Using Nazis as the sole point of comparison. Here's the thing about comparisons - you don't use Nazis unless you mean to make a statement about moral parallels to Nazism.

Read the rest. Concise, and to the point, like, on a skewer.

Sunday will never be the same

To all that came to our First Annual Los Angeles Blogger Poolside Barbecue and Ethics Conference, a big thanks.

In attendance were the big, the small (moi, but it was my house, so I was invited), the professional, the amateur (most of us), the famous, in other words, bloggers of every socio-economic strata, every profession imagineable, with one common thread stitching us all together:

We're Proud Liberals.

We believe the Bush administration is making the wrong choices for our country.

We support the troops in the only meaningful way: we want them home ASAP.

We believe the less fortunate deserve help from the more fortunate.

We believe the government is empowered to help society move forward, not resist change.

We believe people can exercise their rights under the Constitution to speak and assemble freely.

We believe the government should protect people's rights, and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

We believe the highest life form in the US is the person, not the corporation.

We believe armed aggression by the US is a last resort, and should never be used for mere ideological purposes.

Anyone else want to chime in here? Let's write the New Liberal Declaration of Ideals.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Heavy metal thunder

My family went through a tragedy 3 years ago, with medical causes. During that time, I spent many long hours in the internets, looking for possible cures or other answers.

During this time I found Medscape. I signed up for, and still receive updates from them, espically re: Oncology, & Neurology.

Here's part of the latest, titled "Low-Level Environmental Lead Exposure and Children's Intellectual Function: An International Pooled Analysis":


Lead is a confirmed neurotoxin, but questions remain about lead-associated intellectual deficits at blood lead levels < 10 µg/dL and whether lower exposures are, for a given change in exposure, associated with greater deficits. The objective of this study was to examine the association of intelligence test scores and blood lead concentration, especially for children who had maximal measured blood lead levels < 10 µg/dL. We examined data collected from 1,333 children who participated in seven international population-based longitudinal cohort studies, followed from birth or infancy until 5-10 years of age. The full-scale IQ score was the primary outcome measure.

. . .

We conclude that environmental lead exposure in children who have maximal blood lead levels < 7.5 µg/dL is associated with intellectual deficits.

. . .


Before 1970, undue lead exposure was defined by a blood lead level of 60 µg/dL or higher--a level often associated with overt signs or symptoms of lead toxicity, such as abdominal colic, anemia, encephalopathy, and death. Since then, the blood lead concentration for defining undue lead exposure has been reduced: from 60 to 40 µg/dL in 1971, to 30 µg/dL in 1978, and to 25 µg/dL in 1985 (CDC 1991). In 1991, the CDC, and subsequently the WHO (1995), further reduced the blood lead value defining undue lead exposure to 10 µg/dL (CDC 1991). These ongoing reductions in the acceptable levels of children's blood lead were motivated by evidence showing that blood lead concentrations as low as 10 µg/dL were associated with adverse effects, such as lower intelligence (CDC 1991; WHO 1995).

. . .

In this pooled analysis, we found evidence of lead-related intellectual deficits among children who had maximal blood lead levels < 7.5 µg/dL. Indeed, we found no evidence of a threshold. Other studies reported a similar finding, but questions about the relationship at lower levels remained because they involved smaller numbers of children with blood lead < 10 µg/dL or they did not adjust for important covariates (Canfield et al. 2003; Fulton et al. 1987; Lanphear et al. 2000; Schwartz 1994; Schwartz and Otto 1991; Walkowiak et al. 1998). In the pooled analysis, we estimated the blood lead-IQ relationship with data from the 5th to 95th percentile of the concurrent blood lead level at the time of IQ testing, which tends to underestimate the adverse effects of blood lead levels. For the entire pooled data set, the observed decline of 6.2 IQ points (95% CI, 3.8-8.6) for an increase in blood lead levels from < 1 to 10 µg/dL was comparable with the 7.4 IQ decrement for an increase in lifetime mean blood lead levels from < 1 to 10 µg/dL observed in the Rochester Longitudinal Study (Canfield et al. 2003).

Deep, dry, and yes, somewhat boring. But awfully important.

I'm sure you get my points, which are several:

1. Anti-science as a science, (I.D.) is crap.

2. Ignoring the environment is crap.

3. Pollution is crap.

4. Corporate polluters who force the public to clean up their misdeeds are crap.

5. Governments which pass laws in favor of polluters are crap.

6. Governments which pass laws relaxing standards on lead are especially crap. Here, and here.

7. Right wing think tanks that propose relaxing lead standards are crap.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Well, don't you know happiness is a warm gun, mama?

The discussions with the Gun Guys continue (see 2nd post down.)

Since the email list is (sort of) confidential, I will quote me, but not them, I'll just paraphrase. But there are some interesting observations from Guys Who love Guns.

To recap, I wrote that John Lott is a pathetic fraud. I did not criticize the Gun Guys, but rather stated that their chosen Messiah-du jour was a pretty flawed vessel for their adoration.

Here is some of the discussion (again, paraphrased to protect the group):

FWIW, if you read what I posted on my blog, you saw that my issue was
with John Lott's fraudulent scholarship, and political hackery, not with
guns. Clearly the public has a right to own guns, and the fact that I
personally hate them doesn't change that. And I'm glad there are folks
who carry guns professionally to protect us.

Any movement or ideology would do well to police it's own adherents, to
keep out those who are intellectually dishonest. And that was my sole
point about Lott. He's not such a good poster child for either gun
owners or critics of party funded political expression.

John Lott: they say he's a righteous dude. His book "More Guns, Less Crime" is factual and exposes the anti-gun quackery. Read that book; it is a real education in manipulated statistics to back up lies. The book is a landmark because it supports my fervent wish (Oh please, that it were true) that arming citizens will have a harmful effect on their safety.

Personally, I can't see how anyone can love an Ampex machine and not be equally fascinated with firearms. To my thinking, firearms are the ultimate combination of form, function, and even art. The amazing part is that many firearms made in the 19th and early 20th centuries are still with us and as well as the day they were made.

Respectfully, Lott is anything but unimpeachable. Just because you share his beliefs doesn't make him a valid source. I documented on my blog, with many links available, several of the sources that take him apart.

Re: firearms as engineering, that might also be said for implements of torture, guillotines, animal slaughtering equipment, etc. There are way too many wonderful and fascinating engineering examples for me to concern myself with. Tape machines, mixing consoles, guitars, computers, I just don't like the death and destruction that can't be separated from guns.

Sorry, I just don't get the testosterone rush some of you seem to re; guns. Different strokes...Frankly, it always seems to remind me of the weird kid in 5th grade who ate his own boogers, and burned up ants with a magnifying glass.

But Lott is a tool, not a good spokesman for your viewpoint. Go, read, open your mind, learn.

Sorry. People kill people, not guns. Except cars, trains, ships, and airplanes kill people too.

Have you read Lott's book?

Some believe that loud music kills eardrums, so should Marshall 100-watt heads be outlawed?

Folks, pay attention:

Cars were designed for transportation.

Guitars were designed to play music.

Guns were designed to kill people.

So, you let others form your opinion without having ever examined the work in question.

We all do that. Anyone who has ever read any book, dictionary, encyclopedia, heard a lecture, has gotten information 2nd hand. NO ONE can get all the info they feel they need for developing a belief system first hand. Those of you who are Christians, or who adhere to any faith tradition that accepts a higher being or power do that on faith, as we do many times a day in life.

When I had life threatening major surgery a few years ago, I took it on evidence, most of it 2nd and 3rd hand, that the doc was competent. Call it faith. Don't preach to me about forming opinions without proper research.

I've tried to report the exchange fairly, with a minimum of snark. Lord, it was Hard Work. But there it is.

If you sincerely believe that "Something is something" (insert subject and object of your choice) then so be it. But my only point, which clearly got pushed aside, was that if I were writing in support of child care organizations, I wouldn't pick Michael Jackson as my spokesman.

And I still don't like guns. I don't like them because they appeal to what I consider our base instincts, the reptilian hind brain that, as expressed by adolescent boys, wants to rip the wings off flies, throw spitballs at the girls, hurt other people, and play soldier.

If you really want to play with guns, join the fucking army.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Ave Marinara, gratia plena

Bow down and worship even unto him:

I am writing you with much concern after having read of your hearing to decide whether the alternative theory of Intelligent Design should be taught along with the theory of Evolution. I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design.

Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.

It is for this reason that I’m writing you today, to formally request that this alternative theory be taught in your schools, along with the other two theories. In fact, I will go so far as to say, if you do not agree to do this, we will be forced to proceed with legal action. I’m sure you see where we are coming from. If the Intelligent Design theory is not based on faith, but instead another scientific theory, as is claimed, then you must also allow our theory to be taught, as it is also based on science, not on faith.

Some find that hard to believe, so it may be helpful to tell you a little more about our beliefs. We have evidence that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe. None of us, of course, were around to see it, but we have written accounts of it. We have several lengthy volumes explaining all details of His power. Also, you may be surprised to hear that there are over 10 million of us, and growing. We tend to be very secretive, as many people claim our beliefs are not substantiated by observable evidence. What these people don’t understand is that He built the world to make us think the earth is older than it really is. For example, a scientist may perform a carbon-dating process on an artifact. He finds that approximately 75% of the Carbon-14 has decayed by electron emission to Nitrogen-14, and infers that this artifact is approximately 10,000 years old, as the half-life of Carbon-14 appears to be 5,730 years. But what our scientist does not realize is that every time he makes a measurement, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there changing the results with His Noodly Appendage. We have numerous texts that describe in detail how this can be possible and the reasons why He does this. He is of course invisible and can pass through normal matter with ease.

I’m sure you now realize how important it is that your students are taught this alternate theory. It is absolutely imperative that they realize that observable evidence is at the discretion of a Flying Spaghetti Monster. Furthermore, it is disrespectful to teach our beliefs without wearing His chosen outfit, which of course is full pirate regalia. I cannot stress the importance of this, and unfortunately cannot describe in detail why this must be done as I fear this letter is already becoming too long. The concise explanation is that He becomes angry if we don’t.

There's more. Much more. Go, worship, and believe.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

I've got a little red bullet, let's kill Saturday night

"And so it begins..."

I participate in an email list with some pretty colorful members. It's called "The Backroom", it's invitation only, and it's a spin off of the Ampex list, wherein lots of us audio and studio types talk about the finest tape machines built in the USA.

A few of the members of the back room are pretty seriously right wing, and proud to be called that. And bless their hearts, they can take a licking and keep right on ticking.

One of them posted this tonight:

It has been a little quiet here...

Well, it's nice to see that John Lott is up to his old tricks. Keep in mind that he's a "Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute" as you wade through the mispelling, bad grammer & punctuation, and incomplete and run-on sentences. (And dammit, as I have said recently, it really pisses me off when the Right Wingers smugly use 'Democrat' as an adjective. It really only makes them look ignorant.)

Here's some of what John says:

Democratic Leadership Council use PR firm to push more Gun Laws

A Washington based PR Firm called DCS - Internet Advocacy Group thats used by a list of who's who in the Democrat party as well as the official PR firm for the Democrat leadership Council (DLC) that Sen. Hillary Clinton is the 'Chair' member as well as reportedly hand pick DCS to do ALL of the DLC PR work.

DCS Has register a bogus 'Pro-Gun' sportsmen group in the attempt to make it appear as hunters and trap shooters are in favor of Assault weapon 'bans as well as other anti gun related issues.

By creating this made up group called The American Hunters and Shooters Association (AHSA), who will inevitably be used in future Democrat led anti gun campaigns in the near future as so called 'expert' witnesses or a 'sane' voice of sportsmen. just so the anti gun democrats can grandstand for gun control non-issues via their willing accomplishes in the press. I'd imagine the closer we get to the '08' presidential election the more (AHSA) will be in the news.

Dick Morris , former Clinton PR man has stated numerously how the Democrats and Sen. Hillary have personally created made up Internet based advocacy groups repeatedly in the past to drum up false public support to site at their press conferences and Senate hearings, just so the Democrats will get their names put out in the news. According to Morris, During the Clinton administration there was a brainstorming group under then first lady Hillary's oversight inside the white house who did this kind of fabricated PR all the time.

So who did DCS make as the head of their bogus gun group, well none other than John Rosenthal, Co founder of Stop Handgun Violence (SHV). SHV has supported every anti-second amendment rights bill since the organizations creation.The personal pet anti gun group of the anti-gun Democrats.

The following background on all involved was uncovered.

[1.] The bogus Pro gun group: The American Hunters and Shooters Association (AHSA) is located at: 600 Pennsylvania Ave SE, suite 200, Washington, District of Columbia 20003 As listed on their website and on their domain name registration.

Its domain name: was registered on 25-Apr-05 by Registrant:DCS - Internet Advocacy Group, 600 Pennsylvania Ave SE,suite 200,Washington, District of Columbia

20003 As listed on DCS website and on their domain name registration.
DCS website is located here:

[2.] The Democrat leadership council
is located at: 600 Pennsylvania Ave SE, suite 400, Washington, District of Columbia 20003 As listed on their website and on their domain name registration.

[3.] The PR Firm called DCS- Internet Advocacy Group
is located at: 600 Pennsylvania Ave SE, suite 200, Washington, District of Columbia 20003

[4.] So ALL three groups:The Democrat leadership council (DLC) , DCS - Internet Advocacy Group and The American Hunters and Shooters Association (AHSA) Are located in the same building and all three groups are pushing to take away your rights via their made up causes for the sake of getting their faces in the news.

According to Bernstein Management Corp. the Property Managements website:
Location: 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE Washington, DC,
Contact Number: (202) 363-6301 Austin Herndon

Please click through on the main link to get the original source for this.

Fascinating. Before we even consider this rant, return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear where we learn this from The Brady Campaign: (sorry, too tired/lazy to html the links)

The NRA has long used John Lott's work, "More Guns, Less Crime" to push for enactment of concealed handgun laws (CCW) that force police to let almost anyone carry a concealed handgun in public. But as more scholarly researchers examine Lott's work, serious questions about Lott's findings, and even his personal credibility, are emerging.

Exhaustive New Study Directly Refutes Lott's "Research"

Professor John Donohue of Stanford has recently completed an exhaustive new study that examined crime data across the country - updating the research that John Lott claimed showed concealed handgun laws reduce crime. Professor Donohue's study, published by the Brookings Institute, directly refutes Lott's findings and demonstrates that the concealed handgun laws (CCW) pushed by Lott and the NRA most likely caused more crime rather than the reduction in crime claimed by Lott. While John Lott's study covered only a short period of time, during which urban crime was already rising, Professor Donohue studied the longer impact of CCW laws. Professor Donohue joins a long list of respected scholars who have debunked Lott's study as flawed and misleading.


Lott Co-Author Admits to Gaping Flaws in Study

Professor David Mustard, the co-author of Lott's study, has conceded that there were serious flaws in their study - flaws that seriously undermine the conclusions. Mustard was deposed under oath in the Ohio concealed handgun case Klein v. Leis. Mustard admitted that: 1) the study "omitted variables" which could explain that changes in the crime rate are due to reasons other than changes in CCW laws, and 2) the study did not account for many of the major factors that Mustard believes affect crime including crack cocaine, wealth, drugs and alcohol use, and police practices such as community policing. These serious flaws completely undermine Lott's findings.

Lott Claims Computer Ate His Controversial CCW Survey

In his published research analysis, John Lott has claimed that a 1997 survey he conducted found that concealed handguns deterred crime without being fired an astoundingly high 98% of the time. That claim allowed Lott to explain away the fact that extremely few self-defense uses of handguns are ever reported. But when scholars began questioning his survey results, Lott began a series of evasions that culminated in the claim that his computer had crashed and he had "lost" all the data. The University of Chicago, where Lott claims he conducted the study, has no record of it being conducted so Lott began claiming that he funded it himself (and kept no records) and that he used students to make the survey calls (though no students have been identified who participated). Indeed, no records of the survey exist at all. Lott is now facing serious questions about whether he fabricated the entire survey - raising serious questions about his ethics and credibility.



Lott Caught Posing as a Student to Praise Himself and His Work

Lott has recently confessed that to counter growing skepticism from researchers examining his data, he repeatedly posed as a fictitious former student of himself named "Mary Rosh" to praise and defend himself in online forums and debates with researchers. Lott has been doing this since 1999 but was caught when an internet sleuth was curious about "Mary's" extreme defense of Lott and traced the "Mary Rosh" identity back to John Lott's own computer. What else has Lott been fabricating?


Lott Uses Fictitious Name to Push His Book on

John Lott has gone so far as to post a fake glowing review of his book, "More Guns Less Crime," on, using his phony "Mary Rosh" identity. (Lott now claims he let his young son use his computer to post the review). The fake review praises both Lott himself and his book. has now pulled the Mary Rosh review, but this is part of what it said:

"SAVE YOUR LIFE, READ THIS BOOK -- GREAT BUY!!!! If you want to learn about what can stop crime ... this is the book to get. It was very interesting reading and Lott writes very well. He explains things in an understandable commonsense way. I have loaned out my copy a dozen times and while it may have taken some effort to get people started on the book, once they read it no one was disappointed. If you want an emotional book, this is not the book for you. If you want a ... book that will explain the facts in a straightforward and clear way, this is the book to get. This is by far the largest most comprehensive study on crime, let alone on gun control."

Mary Rosh

Experts Challenge Lott's Research

Numerous experts have published peer-reviewed articles exposing flaws in Lott's research. Professors at John Hopkins School of Public Health, Harvard School of Public Health, University of Chicago, Georgetown, Emory, Carnegie-Mellon University, Northwestern, Stanford and Yale have written articles challenging Lott's research and conclusions.

*"We and others find numerous errors in Lott and Mustard's study which bias their findings, and little support for their conclusions that RTC [Right To Carry] laws reduce violent crime."
(Daniel Webster, Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research)

*"One would have expected that, given the problems with Lott's model, it would have gone back to the drawing board.... [Lott] deserves failing marks for pressing policy makers to use his results despite the substantial questions that have been raised about his research. Lott's results do not provide credible evidence one way or the other."
(David Hemenway, Harvard School of Public Health in the New England Journal of Medicine)

*"If somebody had to say which way is the evidence stronger, I'd say that it's probably stronger that the [CCW] laws are increasing crime, rather than decreasing crime" said Professor John Donohue of Stanford who described Lott's work as "deeply flawed" and "misguided."
(Professor John Donohue, Stanford, in the Los Angeles Times)

*"Shall issue laws have resulted, if anything, in an increase in adult homicide rates."
(Professor Jens Ludwig, Georgetown University)

*Even gun advocate Gary Kleck found Lott's concealed carry findings implausible, and said "More likely, the declines in crime coinciding with relaxation of carry laws were largely attributable to other factors not controlled in the Lott and Mustard analysis"

Yeah, I know, not credible, since they want to pry the guns from your cold dead hands. But wait, there's more.

Here's noted Liberal and gun control advocate Michelle Malkin re: Lott:

The most disturbing charge, first raised by retired University of California, Santa Barbara professor Otis Dudley Duncan and pursued by Australian computer programmer Tim Lambert, is that Lott fabricated a study claiming that 98 percent of defensive gun uses involved mere brandishing, as opposed to shooting.

When Lott cited the statistic peripherally on page three of his book, he attributed it to "national surveys." In the second edition, he changed the citation to "a national survey that I conducted." He has also incorrectly attributed the figure to newspaper polls and Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck.

Last fall, Northwestern University law professor James Lindgren volunteered to investigate the claimed existence of Lott's 1997 telephone survey of 2,424 people. "I thought it would be exceedingly simple to establish" that the research had been done, Lindgren wrote in his report (posted online at

It was not simple. Lott claims to have lost all of his data due to a computer crash. He financed the survey himself and kept no financial records. He has forgotten the names of the students who allegedly helped with the survey and who supposedly dialed thousands of survey respondents long-distance from their own dorm rooms using survey software Lott can't identify or produce.

Assuming the survey data was lost in a computer crash, it is still remarkable that Lott could not produce a single, contemporaneous scrap of paper proving the survey's existence, such as the research protocol or survey instrument. After Lindgren's report was published, a Minnesota gun rights activist named David Gross came forward, claiming he was surveyed in 1997. Some have said that Gross's account proves that the survey was done. I think skepticism is warranted.

Lott now admits he used a fake persona, "Mary Rosh," to post voluminous defenses of his work over the Internet. "Rosh" gushed that Lott was "the best professor that I ever had." She/he also penned an effusive review of "More Guns, Less Crime" on "It was very interesting reading and Lott writes very well." (Lott claims that one of his sons posted the review in "Rosh's" name.) Just last week, "Rosh" complained on a blog comment board: "Critics such as Lambert and Lindgren ought to slink away and hide."

There's more from Michelle, it's enjoyable to see someone on the far right actually criticize someone on the, well, far right.

Here's what Mark Kleiman, UCLA Professor and invited guest to the LA Blogger Barbecue (obviously a commie) has to say:

Based on what I had read, I opined that some time ago that (1) Lott was probably making it up and (2) if so, that ought to count as a very serious -- career-ending -- instance of scientific misconduct. [Previous post and links here. Tim Lambert keeps a running box score.]

Imagine my dismay, then, when someone came forward who recalled having been one of the interview subjects for the survey in question. Lott's original accuser, James Lindgren (the same scholar who delighted the gun-rights folks by demonstrating the fraudulence of much of Michael Bellesiles's Arming America), interviewed the person and found him convincing. Lott's defenders were relieved, and announced that the controversy was over.

What a revoltin' development! If the survey had actually taken place, I had done Lott a serious injury by asserting that the balance of probabilities was against it and drawing personal conclusions about him (albeit tentatively) on that basis. It still seemed to me, as it does to others, that the 98% claim was unjustified and that Lott must surely have known that, but publishing a dubious interpretation is a long way from making up data.

It was put to me in an email that I owed Lott a retraction, and I procrastinated, trying to decide whether to eat my crow with salt & pepper only or try to dress it up with a sauce bordelaise about confidence intervals and Lott's curiously variable account of where the 98% number came from in the first place.

Then Atrios (oh, come on, you didn't really think you were going to get through a story like this without encountering Atrios, did you?) dropped the bombshell. Not only was the supposed interviewee a gun-rights activist (which Lindgren knew when finding him credible) and former NRA board member, he was the practitioner of an especially sleazy trick by which a gun-rights group appropriated the name of a gun-control group that had neglected file its annual report on time, thereby (unbeknownst to its organizers) losing its charter and leaving its name free for anyone to grab.

Tim Lambert, who did great work on this fraud, has more here:

In 1998, John Lott published a book entitled More Guns, Less Crime. In that book he presented statistical evidence that concealed-carry laws were associated with lower crime rates. My critique of his book is here.

In 2002, Ian Ayres and John Donohue analysed a more extensive data set and found that, if anything, concealed carry laws lead to more crime. Lott that using even more data confirmed the “more guns, less crime” hypothesis. Ayres and Donohue’s response (April 2003) was devastating—Lott’s data contained numerous coding errors that, when corrected, eliminated the results and, this was the second time these sorts of errors had been found in Lott’s data. My posting here has more on the coding errors and Mark Kleiman has a nice summary.

While I could go on and on about the Right Wing using any fraudulent research and data to, you know, support their already existing hypotheses, let's arrange an introduction courtesy of Brad, (also attending the Blogger Barbecue): "Pot, meet kettle":

Republicans seem to have a new found interest in the Electoral Reform movement. An article today from the extremist rightwing web publication WorldNetDaily attacks Sen. Hillary Clinton's election reform bill with quotes from several critics, but none from either Clinton or other supporters of the bill.

In Ohio, state Republican legislators are attempting to raise the cost for candidates seeking a recount after an election. While in Georgia, Republican legislators are trying to pass laws requiring voters to produce Photo ID at the polls.

And yesterday, Ohio Republican Congressman, Bob Ney, chairman of the U.S. House Administrative Committee held hearings in Columbus on the massive reported problems during the 2004 Presidential Election in the Buckeye state.

Perhaps something is suddenly causing Republicans to try and get on the offensive when it comes to the drumbeat of Election Reform now surging across America.

But it's a brand-spanking new, outta-nowhere, just-in-time-for-yesterday's-hearings, Talon News-like "Voting Rights" organization that has caught our eye for the moment.

As reported here earlier today, the U.S. House Administrative Committee hearings yesterday in Columbus featured testimony from St. Louis attorney, Mark F. (Thor) Hearne, II of the "non-partisan" American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR).

According to Internic records, the ACVR was established on the web just last Thursday and early investigation into this group would seem to indicate that it is little more than a front group for Republican operatives with little or no interest in actual "Voting Rights" at all.

While Hearne is listed as a witness for yesterday's hearings on the U.S. Committee for House Administration website as "National Counsel, American Center for Voting Rights", there is no mention of his affiliation or extensive work for Bush/Cheney '00, '04 and other Republicans.

Hearne, a former Reagan Administration official, is the National Election Counsel to Bush-Cheney ’04 Inc. and was Missouri counsel to Bush-Cheney ‘00 Inc. As well, he was General Counsel to Republican Missouri Governor Blunt.

He is pictured, at a March 5, 2005 Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA) reception in Ohio, at the bottom of this article. The RNLA is an off-shoot of the national Republican Party.

But Hearne is not the only high-level Republican operative working for the tax-exempt "non-partisan" 501(c)3 organization...

ACVR publicist, Jim Dyke -- the contact person given on a press release issued by ACVR yesterday -- is the one-time Communications Director for the Republican National Committee!

Look, if you seriously have a viewpoint, that's fine. We can argue it. But don't use ideological pinheads as your support system. Do some research, if you find contradictory evidence then analyze it, and come to conclusions. But don't hitch your wagon to someone who is an irrational zealot, it doesn't help your case.

My wife's ex-husband is a life long hunter, living in upper Wisconsin. He keeps his guns locked in cabinets, ammunition locked in other places, and only he has the key. He is a fiscal conservative, social liberal (whatever you want to do is fine so long as it doesn't infringe on my rights), and he thinks the NRA is absolutely crazy.

On an episode of West Wing, the token Republican assistant Counsel, Ainsley Hayes (Emily Proctor) delivered a really great line:

Your gun control position doesn't have anything to do with public safety, and it's certainly not about personal freedom. It's about you don't like people who do like guns.

While interesting, it's only partly true. Gun fanaticists really, really want to have guns. Whatever the reason, they are sincere. I don't like people who like guns, and that's also sincere. Guns exist to kill people. Hunting is merely a byproduct of the technology.

I don't want to kill people.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Say the word, and you'll be free

Scoobie Davis mentions one of my pet peeves, the use by the Radical Right of Democrat as an adjective:

Brad Blog has the goods on the Republican front group, American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR) and its sham report on voter intimidation and how much of the right-wing blogosphere fell for it. What I found most revealing was how transparently phony this GOP front group was; it was if they didn't make an attempt to fake us out. It took me two seconds to do a Google search that shows the group is a front group. Also, the title of the "study" on the group's web site is a dead giveaway: "Democrat [sic] Operatives Far More Involved In Voter Intimidation And Suppression In 2004, Thousands Of Americans Disenfranchised By Vote Fraud On Election Day." For those of you who don't know, a favorite habit of wingnuts is to use the word "Democrat" instead of "Democratic" as a adjective (e.g., Bob Dole's famous "Democrat Wars" comment in 1976). This is just sad.

I previously mentioned this insulting grammatical error here:

Some time ago, the Wingers started using the word “Democrat” as an adjective. I first heard it on Rush, but I don’t really care where it started. It’s become a pejorative term to the Wingers. I remember years ago a friend chided me for listening to that “Democrat radio station” (KPFK, Pacifica station, BTW.)

And now we are doing it too! I hear Randi Rhodes use it everyday, as well as others.

People, please use the words correctly. I know, it’s a minor issue, but like Lakoff says, it’s about framing. And it’s got to be our framing, not the Radical Right’s.

Here’s the definition of democrat, according to Merriam Webster:

Main Entry: dem·o·crat
Pronunciation: 'de-m&-"krat
Function: noun
1 a : an adherent of democracy b : one who practices social equality
2 capitalized : a member of the Democratic party of the U.S.

Here’s the definition of democratic:

Main Entry: dem·o·crat·ic
Pronunciation: "de-m&-'kra-tik
Function: adjective
1 : of, relating to, or favoring democracy
2 often capitalized : of or relating to one of the two major political parties in the U.S. evolving in the early 19th century from the anti-federalists and the Democratic-Republican party and associated in modern times with policies of broad social reform and internationalism
3 : relating to, appealing to, or available to the broad masses of the people

And please note entry #4:

4 : favoring social equality : not snobbish

So thanks, Scoobie. Perhaps we can recapture the language. Maybe even the country.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

I owe my soul to the company store

That poor mistreated company WalMart has found some new apologists.
Today in the NYTimes
, you can read:

NOWADAYS, mighty Wal-Mart's headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., must feel less like a hotbed of retailing than like a war room. The company faces a groundswell of criticism, largely focused on its treatment of workers. From low wages to limited health care coverage, Wal-Mart has some issues to tackle, and it has mostly responded with feel-good television advertisements and denial. But to chalk up Wal-Mart's success simply to the exploitation of its work force, as many of the company's most ferocious critics do, is simply wrong, for two reasons.

First, Wal-Mart hasn't just sliced up the economic pie in a way that favors one group over another. Rather, it has made the total pie bigger. Consider, for example, the conclusions of the McKinsey Global Institute's study of United States labor productivity growth from 1995 to 2000. Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics and an adviser on the study, noted that the most important factor in the growth of productivity was Wal-Mart. And because the study measured productivity per man hour rather than per payroll dollar, low hourly wages cannot explain the increase.

I'm pretty sure that galley slaves were productive workers, too. The lash is an effective incentive.

Here's a guy who might have a valid opinion on "productivity":

Looking back to that night, Michael Rodriguez still has trouble believing the situation he faced when he was stocking shelves on the overnight shift at the Sam's Club in Corpus Christi, Tex.

It was 3 a.m., Mr. Rodriguez recalled, some heavy machinery had just smashed into his ankle, and he had no idea how he would get to the hospital.

The Sam's Club, a Wal-Mart subsidiary, had locked its overnight workers in, as it always did, to keep robbers out and, as some managers say, to prevent employee theft. As usual, there was no manager with a key to let Mr. Rodriguez out. The fire exit, he said, was hardly an option — management had drummed into the overnight workers that if they ever used that exit for anything but a fire, they would lose their jobs.

"My ankle was crushed," Mr. Rodriguez said, explaining he had been struck by an electronic cart driven by an employee moving stacks of merchandise. "I was yelling and running around like a hurt dog that had been hit by a car. Another worker made some phone calls to reach a manager, and it took an hour for someone to get there and unlock the door."

The reason for Mr. Rodriguez's delayed trip to the hospital was a little-known Wal-Mart policy: the lock-in. For more than 15 years, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, has locked in overnight employees at some of its Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores. It is a policy that many employees say has created disconcerting situations, such as when a worker in Indiana suffered a heart attack, when hurricanes hit in Florida and when workers' wives have gone into labor.

So much for productivity. As Wall Street says,

Combining high quality with stunningly low prices, the shirts appeal to upscale customers - and epitomize why some retail analysts say Mr. Sinegal just might be America's shrewdest merchant since Sam Walton.

But not everyone is happy with Costco's business strategy. Some Wall Street analysts assert that Mr. Sinegal is overly generous not only to Costco's customers but to its workers as well.

Costco's average pay, for example, is $17 an hour, 42 percent higher than its fiercest rival, Sam's Club. And Costco's health plan makes those at many other retailers look Scroogish. One analyst, Bill Dreher of Deutsche Bank, complained last year that at Costco "it's better to be an employee or a customer than a shareholder."

The shills from the NYTimes continue:

Second, most of the value created by the company is actually pocketed by its customers in the form of lower prices. According to one recent academic study, when Wal-Mart enters a market, prices decrease by 8 percent in rural areas and 5 percent in urban areas. With two-thirds of Wal-Mart stores in rural areas, this means that Wal-Mart saves its consumers something like $16 billion a year. And because Wal-Mart's presence forces the store's competitors to charge lower prices as well, this $16 billion figure understates the company's real impact by at least half.

These kinds of savings to customers far exceed the costs that Wal-Mart supposedly imposes on society by securing subsidies, destroying jobs in competing stores, driving employees toward public welfare systems and creating urban sprawl. Even if these offenses could all be ascribed to Wal-Mart, their costs wouldn't add up to anything like $16 billion.

Forcing the competitors to lower prices. How brave, how noble, how altruistic. Bullcrap. Here's some clarification from the sad state of Ohio:

It’s an unbelievable article that shows the crunch that Walmart puts on even those who do business with them, such as Vlasic pickles and Huffy. Vlasic sold more pickles with Walmart, but they lost millions in profits because of their heavy handed pricing approach. Fewer profits mean fewer jobs. Huffy had bicycle-manufacturing plants in Ohio, Oklahoma, and Missouri before it partnered with Walmart. Huffy now imports 98% of all their bicycles from other countries due to cost cutting measures they had to partake in because of Walmart. Looks like Walmart has been rolling back American jobs as well as prices.

Here's another perspective:

Year after year, Wal-Mart’s low pay and meager benefits force hundreds of thousands of employees to resort to Medicaid, food stamps, and public housing. We call it the "Wal-Mart Tax." And it costs you $1.5 billion in federal tax dollars every year.

That doesn’t include the cost to states. And it doesn’t include the millions of dollars every year that communities pay to provide new roads, electricity, sewer, and water lines for Wal-Mart stores. The company has a $10 billion annual profit, but still relies on taxypayer subsidies to even build driveways to some stores.

"Wal-Mart is the world's largest corporation, with more than 1.3 million employees around the country. It had gross profits of $10.5 billion during 2004. It is also the largest employer of people on Medicaid or state-run child health insurance programs in about a dozen states...Customers may be getting bargains at Wal-Mart, but they're paying for it on April 15." (St Louis Post-Dispatch - 7/9/05)

"Wal-Mart’s blowing people out of the water and if they’re doing that by having the public sector subsidize their health care, that’s wrong." (Speaker Bruce Newcomb - R, Idaho House)

And here too:

New figures disclosed in Arizona reveal Wal-Mart, yet again, tops the list of companies with employees on state-funded healthcare. The Arizona Daily Star has the details:

Close to one of every 10 Wal-Mart employees is getting health insurance paid for by Arizona taxpayers, according to figures obtained Friday from the state.

The nearly 2,700 Wal-Mart workers represent about 1.9 percent of working people who are getting benefits from the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System.

The company is the largest private employer in the state and has more workers getting state-paid health care than any other.

By contrast, other retailers in the top 15 list of private employers had rates of AHCCCS enrollment among their workers about half that of Wal-Mart's.

Predictably, Wal-Mart responded by casting doubt on the government’s statistics:

Dan Fogleman, a Wal-Mart corporate spokesman, questioned the accuracy of the numbers. He said there is no way to know whether those applying for AHCCCS, the state's Medicaid program, were telling the truth.

Nice. "They're lying about us! Poor poor pitiful us!"

But the NYTimes idiots continue:

This last point suggests that the debate around Wal-Mart isn't really about a Marxist conflict between capital and labor. Instead, it is a conflict pitting consumers and efficiency-oriented intermediaries like Wal-Mart against a combination of labor unions, traditional retailers and community groups. Particularly in retailing, American policies favor consumers and offer fewer protections to other interests than is typical elsewhere in the world. Is such pro-consumerism a good thing?

The answer depends on who these consumers are, and Wal-Mart's customers tend to be the Americans who need the most help. Our research shows that Wal-Mart operates two-and-a-half times as much selling space per inhabitant in the poorest third of states as in the richest third. And within that poorest third of states, 80 percent of Wal-Mart's square footage is in the 25 percent of ZIP codes with the greatest number of poor households. Without the much-maligned Wal-Mart, the rural poor, in particular, would pay several percentage points more for the food and other merchandise that after housing is their largest household expense.

So in thinking about Wal-Mart, let's keep in mind who's reaping the benefits of those "everyday low prices" - and, by extension, where the real conflict lies.

(Note: Boldface by me)

"American policies favor consumers?"

Where the hell was I when the Energy Bill just passed?

Where the hell was I when Tort Reform was proposed?

Where the hell was I when Enron was looting my state?

Where the hell was I when corporations were granted person hood? (Note to "Strict Constructionists: Huh? Where in the, hell, forget it)

You pinheads, this isn't about helping the poorest Americans, it's about taking advantage of them, by making sure that they have no other options.

Here's the logic, follow me, it's really quite simple: WalMart goes into low income areas because that's where they can make the most money, by killing off any competition. One may pay $.02 per pound less for bacon, but what are the real costs?

I think they are higher than these twits present.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Something's coming

Could be! Who knows?
There something due any day
I will know right away
Soon as it shows

While this post really has nothign to do with music, and everything to do with insider stuff, I still can't help use the version of this great Sondheim/Bernstein song recorded by Yes, the band that got me through the early '70s.

13 days and counting.

Could it be
Yes it could
Something's coming
Something good
If I can wait

There's just a little bit of magic in the country music

While I consider myself pretty well steeped in country and roots/Americana music traditions, it's still pretty easy to fall behind the curve. In some part I pay attention to my good friend Dusty Wakeman, who owns Mad Dog Studio here in Burbank, and has impeccable credentials as a supporter and creator of great music. He was part of the great Dwight Yoakam/Pete Anderson team, and has worked on some really wonderful music besides.

Dusty recently produced a new album for Michelle Shocked, called Don't Ask, Don't Tell, to be released anytime now.

But I was reminded of another wonderful singer/songwriter, vaguely in the same tradition of Dwight, by listening to Fresh Air on NPR the other day, where they played an interview and songs by Robbie Fulks.

Folks, this guy writes seriously great, and often witty, country music. This isn't Alan Jackson or Tim McGraw. This is Hank Williams through Lefty Frizell through early Johnny Paycheck through Marty Robbins, with a dose of Roger Miller.

His new CD, Georgia Hard, has some wonderful music on it, and for those of us here in the LA area, he's playing at McCabe's in Santa Monica, Friday, 8/5. I'm gonna try to go.