< .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

It depends on the meaning of... (Part 2)

Tanned, rested and ready. Well maybe ready...

It's really fascinating to match conservatives struggle with the language and the meaning of common words. It's also fascinating to hear the silence when the outrageous words emanate from the Right.

Let's take for example the word "assassinate." Pat Robertson, that ol' hurricane chaser claims he really didn't say WE should pop the duly elected president of Venezuela. No, it was just that evil liberal media putting words in his mouth. Or maybe it wasn't. Anyway Rummy says we don't do that sort of thing so it's moot as far as the boys on the Right are concerned. Never mind.

Then there's Mittsy, the truly clueless empty suit posing as governor of the Commonwealth. I guess he'll need a new name today after popping off on Hardball. Landslide. Yeah, that's the ticket. So what if Deval Patrick is almost beating him right now.

If Burger King doesn't object (and they probably would) I'd suggest a new name for our beloved gov -- Whopper.

And am I wrong, but if Bill Clinton or John Kerry had spoken these kind of idiocies, would they not have been eviscerated by the Swift Boaties of the world. Must be because it's the dog days of summer.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Random thoughts on a hot summer day

  • Did you ever notice that the Red States who profess to have greater "moral values" than the Blue States comprise the same parts of the nation that supported slavery, Jim Crow and the KKK, while opposing the Civil Rights and Voting acts? (Hey, if the Right can use broad brush strokes, why not the Left?)
  • How do "moral values" mesh with being the only nation in the world to use atomic weapons on living beings?
  • Why does pedophilia not spark the same level of outrage as abortion on the part of our religious leaders? Barney Frank was right when he said that for Theocons, life begins at conception and ends at birth."
  • Why does the "right-to-life" not include opposition to capital punishment?
  • Where is the concern for the people of Iraq who we sought to liberate from Saddam? They were oppressed under his rule (and he is indeed a VERY evil person) but now are they all insurgent sympathizers whose deaths are so insignificant that they should not be catalogued and documented?
  • Where are the Islamic religious leaders professing outrage about the hijacking of their faith by extremists?
  • "I support the troops ... I just don't support the policy"

    Slowly but surely, too slowly for the men and women in uniform carrying the flag in Iraq, the tide is turning against Bush's War.

    Two stories today suggest the administration that had no plan for "the peace" is starting to lose the hearts and minds of what Richard Nixon called the "silent majority." The New York Times chronicles the heartbreak in Ohio caused with the loss of nearly two dozen Marine reservists in the past few months. The Boston Globe takes a look at the financial hardships foisted on self-employed reservists who are filing for bankruptcy because government promises of help for their needs are suspended in committee.

    Most poignant are the words of a grandmother of one Ohio reservists (words that prompted her granddaughter to walk out of the room): "I support the troops ... I just don't support the policies."

    The Armies of the Right will howl the stories are in two bastions of the evil liberal media and that John Kerry, a sponsor the bill languishing in committee, is just a sniveling coward. The words of those interviewed -- people in key states like Ohio and Michigan which can't be accused of being Lefty Loony Bins -- would suggest otherwise.

    The Bush administration has long had no use for those who complained about their horrible lack of planning for what followed "Mission Accomplished." As a result, the people who supported them in good faith, are now being carry the burden. The short list: the lack of sufficient troop levels; the refusal to augment those troops by any means other than extending and re-extending tours; failing to give those soldiers the armament and protection they need.

    Without the benefit of lefties marching in the streets (or perhaps because there are no long-haired hippie scum for Rummy and the boys to blame) the folks in the heartland are realizing that Bush's folly has left us no safer -- while exposing their sons and daughters to the horrors of a war that long ago forgot about its original rationale. And speaking of which, what is happening in Afghanistan? And where is Osama hiding these days?

    Thursday, August 04, 2005

    The Big Lie

    As a recovering political reporter, I'd be the first to acknowledge that the media has some real problems, especially in how it covers public affairs. Gotchas, horse race analysis and he said/she said "dissections" of attacks have been standard fare for so long now that it's pathetic.

    The Bush family are among the true masters of the "craft" dating back to the 1988 presidential campaign where George H.W. Bush and his media attack dog Roger Ailes used the flag, the ACLU and Willie Horton to change the subject, slime Michael Dukakis and win the White House.

    The Right has a memory problem too -- they think only the Left engages in such tactics (how else does the phrase "to bork" someone come into the lexicon?) And of course there is the canard about "liberal media bias," repeated so long and so often that it sticks in the public's mind. Forget that no less a media manipulator than Karl Rove, in a moment of refreshing candor, proclaimed the media are biased toward against authority, not conservatives.

    That selective memory is on vividly on display in Judge Richard Posner's New York Times Review of Books diatribe against the liberal media, all its sins and how bloggers are putting an end to the tyranny. Jack Shafer perform surgery on the arguments with such precision that no more time needs to be spent here.

    Rather (ooh, bad word!) let's look at the technique Posner uses (and hope he does not use the same less-than-exacting style in his judicial opinions. Because his is one of the fine examples of The Big Lie, repeating something over and over again -- with selective examples used to bolster your case -- until people believe it.

    The Liberal Media became a true American bogey man in the Nixon years, when Vice President Spiro "Nolo Contendre" Agnew, speaking the words of speechwriter (and former New York Times columnist) William Safire began railing against "the nattering nabobs of negativism" and "an effete corps of impudent snobs who call themselves liberals." The dodge worked for awhile, until those darn liberals uncovered the fact Spiro was taking cash in his office and he was forced to resign in disgrace after a plea bargain.

    One of the other great wordsmiths of the Nixonian Big Lie was Patrick Buchanan, whose career has taken him from columnist to White House advisor to presidential candidate (and whose speech to the 1992 GOP convention was such an ode to negativism that the running joke was the it sounded better in the original German.)

    Are you starting to see a trend here?: Ailes, now uberboss of the Fox News Channel, that great spin machine that parrots GOP talking points and savages liberals all the while insisting it is "fair and balanced;" Safire, the Times' house conservative for eons who labeled Bill Clinton a "congenital liar" as part of the impeachment farce (hey, even a broken clock is right twice a day!); Buchanan, cable TV shoutfest host at a variety of outlets including CNN and a master of the vicious attack. All members of the "liberal" media with the power to shape the discussion.

    To be fair (see, I am a liberal!) there are influential Democratic operatives in the media -- Tim Russert of Meet the Press fame and ABC's George Stephanopoulos. But like all weak-kneed liberals they do try to present what might be charitably called the other side with some degree of accuracy.

    But with a singlemindedness that the Left should emulate, the Armies of the Right go out daily with talking points that do their bidding -- Rush, O'Reilly, Hannity and bloggers by the score -- all parroting the same points.

    The mainstream media, who let us never forget are large corporations in their own right or affiliated with giants like General Electric, have been neutered by the Right's insistence that "fair and balanced" reporting requires an even-handed approach -- even if one side is telling outright fabrications (see for example, Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth or the rest of the story) told only after the Kerry campaign botched their response.

    The Big Lie perpetrators have managed to cow the mainstream media into action -- fearing the charge of bias so much that it commits the sin of telling what the Right wants it to say and not what really happened.

    The lies have grown longer than Pinocchio's nose-- but no one seems to have noticed. How sad, for democracy.

    Wednesday, August 03, 2005

    Intelligent design ... of a political strategy

    With a few simple coy phrases, President Bush has tossed red meat to the base, generated a slew of news stories, and helped to re-open a wound that has festered for years based on pandering by the theocons.

    "Intelligent design" is the slick phrase political marketers have come up to grace a theory that has been out of fashion (not to mention credibility) since the Scopes trial in Tennessee in 1925. Backers of this pseudo-theory contend that order of the universe could not be as random as postulated by Charles Darwin. There must be some "intelligent design," such as the hand of God, behind the development of the world.

    Tennessee teacher John Scopes was put on trial by the state of Tennessee when he violated a state law that banned the teaching of evolution. The pitched legal battle featured the "silver-tongued orator" William Jennings Bryant for the state versus Clarence Darrow for Scopes. Scopes lost at trial and won on a technicality during his appeal.

    The "Monkey Trial" was the most recent of the battles through the centuries over evolution. A good history of the trial -- and the battle -- can be found here.

    But the theocons have not been quiet and slowly but surely have ramped up the argument -- doing battle in far-flung places such as Dover, Pa., and Kansas, where school boards controlled by theocons have insisted that there are doubts about evolution and that these doubts should be taught in the schools. And of course they have found a willing ally in the Roman Catholic Church, where one theologian flipflopped on Pope Pius XII 1950 encyclical that declared that teaching evolution did not contradict Catholic teaching.

    Enter George. With the proverbial wink and nod he puts the issue near and dear to the heart of his rabid base on the front burner. While never explicitly endorsing the concept, he offers the broad plaudit that schools should be open to all ideas. A slab of red meat to any of the faithful who may not be sure that John Roberts is a true believer. Headlines to keep the base happy.

    And as an added gift, he made monkeys out of the reporters who took that slim gruel of a quote and made it into a story worthy of running in major dailies.