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December 23, 2004

An early holiday gift

From Krup to you: highlights from the legendary Star Wars Holiday Special.

Merry Life Day.


December 22, 2004

O'Reilly's dark night of the soul

O'Reilly, last night, with minister and motivational author Joel Osteen:

O'Reilly: I want you to counsel me, pastor...I'm sitting here, I'm fighting this ferocious battle against people at this juncture who want to change America, all right? They want to change it to de-emphasize religion, they want a country like Sweden where less than ten percent of the population goes to church. Now I believe the Founding Fathers wanted religion in the public marketplace as a behavior deterrent because they knew they couldn't control the population, and they felt that a faith-based population would be more likely to behave. Very practical.

So I'm fighting against these secularists and they're sliming me, they're smearing me. Okay? So I can't go around like you with a happy face all the time, I gotta hit these people right between the eyes. I gotta have negative thoughts because they're bad people and I'm fighting. It's like a war. So I'm not really doing what you advise, am I?

Osteen: Well I don't know if that's true, Bill. You're doing what God's called you to do, and I'm doing what God's called me to do, but I mean, there's going to be negative things in life. The Bible says to do good to your enemies, but then there's other times when you gotta stand strong and fight the good fight and I think that's what you're doing out there every week. My calling is to encourage people and give them hope, but I think we all have different callings.

O'Reilly: Okay, so I'm not doing anything wrong in your estimation? Because I have to dwell on the negative an awful lot here, pastor. You know, I'm not skipping in to the Factor every day. I'm reading this stuff, and I know it's harmful, and I know it's bad, and I'm going, oh, I'm gonna get this S.O.B. I don't know if that stacks up.

Osteen: Well I don't know, I wouldn't say you're doing anything wrong, you know what you're doing, if it's what God's calling--

O'Reilly: I don't know if God's calling me. I'm taking a lot of punishment here. Sometimes I'd like to say, Michael the archangel, get down here and kick a little butt with me, you know? It'd be helpful, because I'm taking a lot of punishment, so is my family. I mean we are taking a lot--of--guff. And it's garbage.

So what I'm trying to get across to you is, you are putting out a message of hope, and I respect that. And you are putting out a message, think postive, and I respect that. But those messages, hope and positive thinking, don't win wars. They don't.


Osteen: ...you can't change it, I mean, can you change people, not saying stuff bad about you? I don't know.

O'Reilly (smiling): No, I can't, unless I execute them, which would be against everything we both stand for. Pastor, I want to wish you merry Christmas...

Another Christmas hater

My friend Greg at the Talent Show:

Okay, this whole "Happy Holidays" jihad is confusing me. As far as I can remember, people have been saying "HH" for many, many years now. Every time I've heard it, regardless of who's speaking it, I've always interpreted it as an act of kindness that's meant to imply "I know we may have different beliefs, but I hope your celebration is a happy one." Of course, with New Years in the mix, it's more than a pleasant inter-faith greeting. "Happy Holidays" is a nice, sincere expression of the whole season.

For a few humbugs out there, however, "Happy Holidays" has been stripped of its goodness and turned into a hideous attack on Christmas. Did you think you were being kind and inclusionary in your seasons greeting? Well, you were wrong! Little did you know that you were actually saying "Up yours, baby Jesus". Okay, I'm exaggerating here, but not by much.

Yes. Bill O'Reilly is actually playing a variation on Scrooge this Christmas--the cranky old man determined to ruin everyone's holiday. The twist is, in the O'Reilly Christmas Carol, Scrooge loves Christmas and spends all day harranguing Bob Cratchit for not loving Christmas as much as he, Ebenezer O'Reilly, does.

UPDATE: incidentally, why does O'Reilly's boss hate Christmas?

Democrats take note

What Kos said:

The Democrats need to offer an alternative agenda over the next four years. It won't be enacted, so they can shoot for the moon. The hell with good policy, make proposals that sound great. The GOP used flag burning and gay marriage to rally their side. We can find equivalents. Don't worry about them becoming law, because they won't. Worry about branding the party and placing every bit of bad news (and there will be plenty) squarely at the feet of the party that controls all levers of government.

We need to make the GOP radioactive. Their incompetence is providing the ammunition. It is our job to wield it. Remember, they control everything. We don't need to be bipartisan. We don't need to work with them for them to pass their agenda. So we offer up clear alternatives to everything they propose. We have to be aggressive.

We have nothing to lose. Being in the minority is being in the minority. Yet we have much to gain.


December 21, 2004

Cowardly Times

The documents the ACLU secured with a FOIA request are the subject of an article in the Times.

Of course, the Times somehow neglects to mention the document referencing Bush's direct knowledge and approval of torture.

That darn liberal media.


December 20, 2004

Oh my...
NEW YORK -- A document released for the first time today by the American Civil Liberties Union suggests that President Bush issued an Executive Order authorizing the use of inhumane interrogation methods against detainees in Iraq. Also released by the ACLU today are a slew of other records including a December 2003 FBI e-mail that characterizes methods used by the Defense Department as "torture" and a June 2004 "Urgent Report" to the Director of the FBI that raises concerns that abuse of detainees is being covered up.

"These documents raise grave questions about where the blame for widespread detainee abuse ultimately rests," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "Top government officials can no longer hide from public scrutiny by pointing the finger at a few low-ranking soldiers."

The documents were obtained after the ACLU and other public interest organizations filed a lawsuit against the government for failing to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request.

The two-page e-mail that references an Executive Order states that the President directly authorized interrogation techniques including sleep deprivation, stress positions, the use of military dogs, and "sensory deprivation through the use of hoods, etc." The ACLU is urging the White House to confirm or deny the existence of such an order and immediately to release the order if it exists. The FBI e-mail, which was sent in May 2004 from "On Scene Commander--Baghdad" to a handful of senior FBI officials, notes that the FBI has prohibited its agents from employing the techniques that the President is said to have authorized.

Another e-mail, dated December 2003, describes an incident in which Defense Department interrogators at Guantánamo Bay impersonated FBI agents while using "torture techniques" against a detainee. The e-mail concludes "If this detainee is ever released or his story made public in any way, DOD interrogators will not be held accountable because these torture techniques were done [sic] the ‘FBI’ interrogators. The FBI will [sic] left holding the bag before the public."


A few bad apples...

Holiday schedule

Will be taking a few days off around Christmas, and posting after that is likely to be light for a few weeks. I'm not going to shut the blog down entirely but I will probably take a bit of a break.

Yet another right wing myth demolished

A while back, there was a story floating around the right wing blogs about a soldier who got beat up by an anti-war peacenik in the parking lot of a Toby Keith concert (where anti-war peaceniks are, of course, known to lay in wait for unsuspecting soldiers.)

Well, gosh, as it turns out, the story was complete nonsense. As anyone with a functioning bullshit meter understood at the time. Alicublog updates us:

Yesterday Cornwell pleaded guilty to a felonious assault on Barton. In his statement to the judge, Cornwell did not denounce the Bush Administration or the Iraqi invasion, or cry "Viva La Huelga." He told the judge that the fight outside the Toby Keith concert "started after the two exchanged insults about the other's military unit," according to the local news.

On a related note, conservatarians also got the "ecoterrorist" story completely wrong. But I'll bet these stories will both live on in the great right wing pantheon of apocyphal idiocy. As Mark Twain said, a lie can make it halfway around the globe before the truth gets its boots on.

Where was Bill O'Reilly when they needed him?
When Oliver Cromwell took over England in 1645, Christmas was cancelled as part of a Puritan effort to rid the country of decadence. This proved unpopular, and when Charles II was restored to the throne, he restored the celebration. The Pilgrims, a group of Puritanical English separatists who came to North America in 1620, also disapproved of Christmas, and as a result it was not a holiday in early America. The celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed from 1659 to 1681 in Boston, a prohibition enforced with a fine of five shillings. The people of the Jamestown settlement, on the other hand, celebrated the occasion freely. Christmas fell out of favor again after the American Revolution, as it was considered an "English custom", and it was not declared a federal holiday in the United States until June 26, 1870.

From Wikipedia. (Hat tip: reader Eric E.)

The social security issue comes down to this: The Democrats should be able not only beat the Republicans on this, but also to beat them over the heads with it. It needs to be the cornerstone of the identity of the Democratic party.

Without debating the wisdom of any of these things, I want to point out that the Democrats have been running from or are in the process of running from their core positions on: gay rights, gun control, welfare, trade policy, affirmative action, reproductive rights, church/state separation, public education, progressive taxation, etc... etc... etc...

While policies are not ideology, they are the real world manifestation of it. If there is one issue which the Democrats should be able to claim loudly and proudly as their own, without apologies, it's social security. If they can't figure out how to do that, and to get their members in line, then they really will have lost.

If the Democrats can't win this one, and win big, then stick a fork in their collective ass and turn 'em over, because they are done.

From a reader

Nameless for obvious reasons:

Ever since Bill O'Really began his crusade to rescue Christmas from the dustbin of politcal correctness, the imminent demise of this rightfully and exclusively Christian holiday celebration has been the topic de jour around the Republican water cooler here at the office.

The amazing thing is the speed with which this message has been so thoroughly assimilated that everyone can speak with one voice without anyone have to explain what they mean when making snide remarks about this being "the Holiday season, because, you know, I wouldn't want to offend anyone by calling it Christmas." 
Ha ha ha, wink wink, nudge nudge.

The war so nice, we're sending you twice
Earlier this year, as Sgt. Alexander Garcia's plane took off for home after his tense year of duty in Iraq, he remembered watching the receding desert sand and thinking, I will never see this place again.

Never lasted about 10 months for Sergeant Garcia, a cavalry scout with the First Armored Division who finished his first stint in Iraq in March and is now preparing to return.


The change is leaving its emotional mark on thousands of military families. Some family members say the repeated separations have been like some awful waking dream, holding their breath for their soldiers to make it home safely, only to watch them leave once more. Some families who have lost loved ones on repeat tours of duty said they felt a particular ache - a sense that the second trip pushed fate too hard.

Among some of the soldiers themselves, the thought of returning to Iraq carries one puzzling quality: Unlike so many parts of life, in which the second try at anything feels easier than the first, these soldiers say that heading to Iraq is actually more overwhelming the second time around.

"The first time, I didn't know anything," Sergeant Garcia said. "But this time I know what I'm getting into, so it's harder. You know what you're going to do. You know how bad you're going to be feeling."

Story. And Bob Herbert writes on the same topic:

Greg Rund was a freshman at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in 1999 when two students shot and killed a teacher, a dozen of their fellow students and themselves. Mr. Rund survived that horror, but he wasn't able to survive the war in Iraq. The 21-year-old Marine lance corporal was killed on Dec. 11 in Falluja.

The people who were so anxious to launch the war in Iraq are a lot less enthusiastic about properly supporting the troops who are actually fighting, suffering and dying in it. Corporal Rund was on his second tour of duty in Iraq. Because of severe military personnel shortages, large numbers of troops are serving multiple tours in the war zone, and many are having their military enlistments involuntarily extended.

Troops approaching the end of their tours in Iraq are frequently dealt the emotional body blow of unexpected orders blocking their departure for home. "I've never seen so many grown men cry," said Paul Rieckhoff, a former infantry platoon leader who founded Operation Truth, an advocacy group for soldiers and veterans.

"Soldiers will do whatever you ask them to do," said Mr. Rieckhoff. "But when you tell them the finish line is here, and then you keep moving it back every time they get five meters away from it, it starts to really wear on them. It affects morale."

Occam's razor

It's worth repeating: if there's no problem with the humvee armor situation, if the question was a plant and the soldier who asked it was just some zombified tool of the liberal media--why did the room break into spontaneous applause when he asked it?

Update from a reader:

Even more glaring than the applause from the soldiers is the ramping up of the Humvee armoring program after the "you go to war with the army you have," comment. The administration knew that there was a problem, but didn't act until being publicly called out. Now the post that I work on has their contractors working 6 days a week 12 hour days to get the 3rd ACR armored before they go back to Iraq. As long as they weren't taking heat, there was no reason to protect the troops, now that they have a red face, they finally "have" to act quickly.

Social Security

A cartoon from a few years back, relevant once again.

Christmas in peril!

In case you don't watch much cable news, and this week's cartoon just leaves you scratching your head:

For most people, Christmas may be a time of peace and joy, but for Bill O'Reilly it's another chance to wage an us-vs.-them cultural war. O'Reilly and Fox News, along with a cadre of hard-charging right-wing talkers, have declared war on the anti-Christmas crowd, that dangerous mix of radical secularists and school board do-gooders determined to "bring about their own Godless version of this nation," as Rev. Jerry Falwell wrote in a column published Monday on the conservative Web site WorldNetDaily.com.


"All over the country, Christmas is taking flak," O'Reilly recently announced, as he complained about "the anti-Christmas jihad" that's gripping the nation. "If they could, secularists would cancel Christmas as a holiday. That's how much they fear the exposition of the philosophy of Jesus." During his syndicated radio show O'Reilly intoned darkly, "The small minority that is trying to impose its will on the majority is so vicious, so dishonest -- and has to be dealt with."


After Christmas is over, of course, it'll be back to the college professors.


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