Thursday, April 30, 2009

Condoleezza Rice Invokes Presidential Infallibility To Justify Waterboarding

Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks took Condoleezza Rice to task for her defense of torture that was, well, torturous. The former secretary of state is shown speaking to students at Stanford University:

Q: Is waterboarding torture?

Rice: The president instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside of our obligations, legal obligations under the Convention Against Torture. So that's -- And by the way, I didn't authorize anything. I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency, that they had policy authorization, subject to the Justice Department's clearance. That's what I did.

Q: Okay. Is waterboarding torture in your opinion?

Rice: I just said, the United States was told, we were told, nothing that violates our obligations under the Convention Against Torture. And so by definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against Torture. (h/t Think Progress)

Rice's statement, "I didn't authorize anything" contradicts recent Senate Intelligence Committee revelations that she played an active role in the implementation of waterboarding:

As national security adviser to former President George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice verbally approved the CIA's request to subject alleged al-Qaida terrorist Abu Zubaydah to waterboarding in July 2002, the earliest known decision by a Bush administration official to OK use of the simulated drowning technique.

Rice's role was detailed in a narrative released Wednesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee. It provides the most detailed timeline yet for how the CIA's harsh interrogation program was conceived and approved at the highest levels in the Bush White House.

The new timeline shows that Rice played a greater role than she admitted last fall in written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

...According to the new narrative, which compiles legal advice provided by the Bush administration to the CIA, Rice personally conveyed the administration's approval for waterboarding of Zubaydah, a so-called high-value detainee, to then-CIA Director George Tenet in July 2002.

Last fall, Rice acknowledged to the Senate Armed Services Committee only that she had attended meetings where the CIA interrogation request was discussed and asked for the attorney general to conduct a legal review. She said she did not recall details. Rice omitted her direct role in approving the program in her written statement to the committee.

...Days after Rice gave Tenet the nod, the Justice Department approved the use of waterboarding in a top secret Aug. 1 memo. Zubaydah underwent waterboarding at least 83 times in August 2002.

Note Rice's evasion of her responsibility in approving torture. She wasn't "authorizing," she was merely "conveying." Her role as secretary of state was merely to relay messages. The fact that waterboarding was approved after Rice spoke to Tenet is just a coincidence.

More Rice logic follows in her assertion of the legality of waterboarding by presidential decree through the following syllogism:

1) Bush states that we will obey our obligations under the Convention Against Torture.
2) Bush authorizes waterboarding.
3) The Convention Against Torture therefore sanctions waterboarding.

Rice is following the Republican doctrine of presidential infallibility: if the president approves it, it's legal. In an interview with Fox's Chris Wallace, Dick Cheney endorses this authoritarian doctrine:

Wallace: ...If the president during war decides to do something to protect the country, is it legal?

Cheney: General proposition, I'd say yes...

In 1997, Richard Nixon told David Frost that his decrees were legal based on the fact that he uttered them:

Nixon: When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Obama's Popularity Not Reflected In 100 Days Of Fox And Conservative Opposition

President Obama's 100 days in office finds him with high public support, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll:

Americans seem to have high hopes for the president; 72 percent said they were optimistic about the next four years. By and large, Americans expect him to make significant progress in health care, energy and immigration policy, issues central to his ambitious domestic agenda.

...Mr. Obama’s 68 percent job approval rating is higher than that of any recent president at the 100-day mark. Mr. Bush had the approval of 56 percent of the public at this juncture.

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows similar results. You wouldn't know it, though, by  watching the Fox channel. Fox was the only major broadcast network that did not carry Obama's press conference on Wednesday night. Appropriately, the station carried a program entitled, "Lie To Me." That's not to say that Fox doesn't provide plenty of presidential coverage; the coverage, however, should also be entitled "Lie To Me," based on a video montage, "100 Days of Fair & Balanced," compiled by Media Matters.

Beck, Hannity and O'Reilly, among other usual Fox suspects, are shown hurling their charges of "socialism," "blame America," "end of capitalism," "communism," "fascism," "jihad," "one-world government"–the terms are often contradictory but they hardly matter, as long as the slime is hurled. Repeatedly we're told that the "honeymoon is over," despite Obama's high approval ratings:

At the same time, Think Progress has put together a video report, "100 Days of Conservative Opposition," in which leading right wingers state that the president is taking us toward catastrophe. Watching it, one understands why a Republican like Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine wrote, "being a Republican moderate sometimes feels like being a cast member of 'Survivor.' " Watch:

At a town hall meeting in Arnold, Missouri, Obama alluded to Fox News and called upon his opponents to engage in a serious dialogue:

Obama: So, you know, when you see, you know, those of you who are watching certain news channels, on which I’m not very popular, and you see folks waving tea bags around, let me just remind them that I am happy to have a serious conversation about how we are going to cut our health care costs down over the long term how we're going to stabilize social security. [...] Let's not play games and pretend that the reason is because of the Recovery Act because that's just a fraction of the overall problem that we've got.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Specter's Switch Signals The Gradual Extinction Of Republican Moderates

Senator Arlen Specter's switch to the Democratic party is first a matter of political survival, in that he would have lost the Pennsylvania primary to Pat Toomey, his challenger to the right. Following Specter's vote in favor of the stimulus package, Republicans, who were always ambivalent about him, were ready to toss him out. 

Specter's change is also a sign of the gradual extinction of Republicans moderates. In making his announcement, Specter recounted past moderate Republicans who also were deserted by their party and opposed by the right-wing Club for Growth PAC:

Specter: ...And for the people who are Republicans to sit by and allow [the Club for Growth] to continue to dominate the party after they beat Chafee, cost us Republican control of the Senate and cost us 34 federal judges, there ought to be a rebellion, there ought to be an uprising.

Olympia Snowe, moderate Republican senator from Maine, wrote about Specter's departure in similar terms:

It is true that being a Republican moderate sometimes feels like being a cast member of “Survivor” — you are presented with multiple challenges, and you often get the distinct feeling that you’re no longer welcome in the tribe. But it is truly a dangerous signal that a Republican senator of nearly three decades no longer felt able to remain in the party.

Senator Specter indicated that his decision was based on the political situation in Pennsylvania, where he faced a tough primary battle. In my view, the political environment that has made it inhospitable for a moderate Republican in Pennsylvania is a microcosm of a deeper, more pervasive problem that places our party in jeopardy nationwide.

I have said that, without question, we cannot prevail as a party without conservatives. But it is equally certain we cannot prevail in the future without moderates.

...There is no plausible scenario under which Republicans can grow into a majority while shrinking our ideological confines and continuing to retract into a regional party. Ideological purity is not the ticket back to the promised land of governing majorities — indeed, it was when we began to emphasize social issues to the detriment of some of our basic tenets as a party that we encountered an electoral backlash.

The addition of Specter as a senate Democrat and the likelihood of Al Franken finally being seated as Minnesota senator would give the party a filibuster proof majority–in theory. Before we Democrats celebrate excessively, however, we should remember that the independent streak that enabled Specter to buck the Republicans can also be turned against the Democrats. Specter is opposed, for example, to the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation that would give workers the right to unionize either through signing cards or secret ballots. Such a bill is essential to the Democratic party's traditional support for labor rights. Watch:

Monday, April 27, 2009

Rove, Collins Among Republicans Who Fought Pandemic Flu Preparedness

Writing in The Nation, John Nichols recounts how Republicans fought against any provision for pandemic flu preparedness in the stimulus bill, denying the financial ramifications of an emergency:

[House Appropriations Committee chairman David] Obey and other advocates for the spending argued, correctly, that a pandemic hitting in the midst of an economic downturn could turn a recession into something far worse -- with workers ordered to remain in their homes, workplaces shuttered to avoid the spread of disease, transportation systems grinding to a halt and demand for emergency services and public health interventions skyrocketing. Indeed, they suggested, pandemic preparation was essential to any responsible plan for renewing the U.S. economy.

But former White House political czar Karl Rove and key congressional Republicans -- led by Maine Senator Susan Collins -- aggressively attacked the notion that there was a connection between pandemic preparation and economic recovery.

Now, as the World Health Organization says a deadly swine flu outbreak that apparently began in Mexico but has spread to the United States has the potential to develop into a pandemic, Obey's attempt to secure the money seems eerily prescient.

Collins, among the Republicans whose vote was critical to the passage of the stimulus bill, prevailed in her demand that pandemic preparedness be stripped from it. Indeed, Collins' insistence is recounted in a Wall Street Journal article on her web site:

After meeting with Mr. Obama, Sen. Collins expressed concern about a number of spending provisions, including $780 million for pandemic-flu preparedness. "I have no doubt that the president is willing to negotiate in good faith, that he wants to have a bipartisan bill," Sen. Collins said.

Watch Collins speaking about pandemic flu preparedness in regards to the stimulus bill:

Collins: There's $780 million for pandemic flu preparedness. ...What does that have to do with an economic stimulus package?

Karl Rove also didn't see the necessity, as he wrote in the Wall Street Journal: "There's also $4 billion for health programs like...$900 million for pandemic flu preparations. It is not surprising that the stimulus package is laden with new spending programs."

One hopes that Rove, Collins and other Republicans read a Reuters article today that might help them connect the dots between a potential swine flu pandemic and its disastrous effects on the economy:

Oil prices fell more than 2 percent to close to $50 a barrel as investors feared a new blow to an already fragile global economy if trade flows are curbed and manufacturing is hit.

The MSCI world equity index fell 0.8 percent and U.S. stocks also slipped.

Flu fears hit U.S. airline stocks hard as investors worried that the travel industry would suffer. Shares prices for UAL Corp, the parent of United Airlines, shed 14 percent, while Continental Airlines Inc lost 16 percent.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Texas Gov. Perry Asks For Help From "Oppressive" Federal Government

Governor Rick Perry (R) of Texas was recently filled with swagger and defiance, ready to stand up to the intrusive, heavy-handed federal government: "We think it's time to draw the line in the sand and tell Washington that no longer are we going to accept their oppressive hand in the state of Texas."

How far was the governor willing to go? Following an appearance at a "tea party" anti-tax rally where the crowd shouted for secession, Perry told reporters that Texas might split off from the country: "We've got a great union. There's no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that.”

It seems, then, that Governor Perry has been asserting Texas's sovereignty in a strange manner following concerns about swine flu:

Gov. Rick Perry today in a precautionary measure requested the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide 37,430 courses of antiviral medications from the Strategic National Stockpile to Texas to prevent the spread of swine flu. Currently, three cases of swine flu have been confirmed in Texas.

“As a precautionary measure, I have requested that medication be on hand in Texas to help curb the spread of swine flu by helping those with both confirmed and suspected cases of this swine flu virus, as well as healthcare providers who may have come in contact with these patients,” said Gov. Rick Perry. “We will continue to work with our local, state and federal health officials to ensure public safety is protected.”

So suddenly Perry sees the "oppressive hand" of the federal government as a helping hand? Wouldn't this have been a perfect opportunity for him to show how Texas could go it alone in terms of medical supplies, personnel, healthcare facilities and funding? Couldn't the state have come up with and paid for–without raising taxes, of course–37,430 courses of antiviral medications? Why rely on the CDC, a "big government" agency filled with "Washington bureaucrats"? 

Looks like the tea party's over.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: The Ramones Pay Tribute To Sheena The Punk Rocker

Rock operas, synthesizers and half-hour jams were not for The Ramones. They stripped rock down to a fast, raw and aggressive wall of electric sound, each song around two minutes long, no solos necessary. Guitarist Johnny Ramone described his playing as "pure, white rock 'n' roll, with no blues influence. I wanted our sound to be as original as possible. I stopped listening to everything." A conservative, Johnny was at odds with leather-jacketed singer Joey Ramone, a liberal, in more than politics. After Johnny took up with Joey's former girlfriend in the early 1980s, the two band members, who formed the core of the group, continued touring until 1996 but never spoke again. Both would die of cancer, Joey, 49, in 2001 and Johnny, 55, in 2004.

Band members met at Forest Hills High School in Queens, NY, also the alma mater of Simon & Garfunkel. They took their name from a pseudonym that Paul McCartney once used, Paul Ramon. The Ramones never had a hit, but they stayed together for 22 years, releasing more than a dozen studio albums and playing 2,263 concerts. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 and hailed for igniting the punk rock movement with their self-named 1976 album. 

The Ramones' punk sound included strains of '60s AM bubblegum and surf music, evident in their performance above of "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker."

Meghan McCain, Ed Schultz Slam Cheney's Criticisms Of Obama

Before just 100 days of the Obama administration have passed, Dick Cheney has been criticizing the president in a manner unprecedented for a member of a prior administration:

Mr. Obama has repeatedly repudiated the Bush administration; in the interviews, Mr. Cheney has hit back. Speaking to Politico in February, he warned of a “high probability” of another terrorist attack. On CNN, he suggested that Mr. Obama was using the economic crisis to justify a big expansion of government. On Fox, he agreed when Mr. Hannity asked if Mr. Obama was “telegraphing weakness.”

"Another terrorist attack"? I think we can rest assured that if President Obama received a President's Daily Brief, as Bush did on August 6, 2001, stating, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.," he would not play down the urgency of the information. "Big government"? the growth of government was actually a hallmark of the Bush years. "Telegraphing weakness"? Was Cheney referring to the right-wing hysteria over Obama's handshake with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, as if an act of civility, in contrast to Bush-style international bullying, is equivalent to waving a white flag?

Cheney's behavior is so over the top that even Meghan McCain, a loyal Republican who campaigned for her father John McCain, is telling the former vice president, along with Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich, to "go away." Here she is on "The View":

McCain: Well I mean it’s hard for people like me that really want new energy and new blood when they... It’s very unprecedented for someone like Karl Rove or Dick Cheney to be criticizing the President. It’s very unprecedented for a former vice-president, you obviously you know Karl Rove, and I just you know my big criticism is just you had your 8 years, go away. (h/t Americablog)

Ed Schultz, progressive radio and television host, made some powerful criticisms of Cheney:

Schultz: I also think that we need to remind Americans: we got hit on [Cheney's] watch. He had access to the presidential daily briefing on August 6, 2001. Mr. Cheney, you didn't do anything about it. We got hit on your watch. You were in the briefings back then. The counter-terrorist intelligence people in our government were trying to work with you, and you ignored them. ...[Obama's] got the weight of the world on his shoulders, he's diplomatically trying to reach out, we've got more troops in Afghanistan, he's fighting terrorism, he's trying to work on the economy, he's trying to create jobs, we're trying to go energy independent–the list goes on and on and you know what the conservatives are doing? They're trying to put him up against the wall, put his back to the wall, claiming that he can't keep the country safe. Is this the best thing the conservative movement can come up with? Is Dick Cheney once a month going out there rearing his ugly personality and his hatred for the country? I challenge you, Mr. Cheney: stand up in your next interview and say you don't want to see Americans get hit for political gain. Because I think that's where you are. ...This guy is nothing but a trash-talking coward from the sideline. And it's unfortunate that no one in the Republican party is denouncing what he's saying. They're just going along.

DNC Recognizes Republicans' "100 Days Of No"

Nancy Reagan's drug-prevention slogan, "Just say no," has become the GOP mantra on every issue since the election of Barack Obama. As the president nears his first 100 days, the Democratic National Committee is giving equal time to the Republicans by recognizing "The 100 Days of No" at a new web site. 

The site notes some of the more prominent unanimous–or nearly unanimous–Republican "no" votes on the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (fair pay for women), the Recovery Bill (economic stimulus measure) and the president's budget. Of course, the Republicans did propose their own budget, but even then they continued with the "no" theme. Their budget was highly unusual in that it contained no numbers.

Without further ado, here is the DNC's tribute to the GOP's "100 Days of No," one of several videos at the web site:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Col. Steven Kleinman: Abusive Interrogations Designed For Propaganda, Not Intelligence

Colonel Steven Kleinman, Air Force reservist and experienced intelligence officer, attempted  to put a halt to abusive interrogations he witnessed in Iraq in 2003–and was met with hostility. Kleinman was cited by a recent Senate Armed Services Committee report as being among those officials who who tried to stop the abuse.

Speaking to Robert Siegel of National Public Radio, Kleinman referred to the SERE (survival, evasion, resistance, escape) program, originally used to train American military personnel to resist communist interrogation during the Cold War. The military, under controlled conditions, subjected trainees to methods whose aim was not intelligence but propaganda. Kleinman discovered that the U.S., under the Bush administration, adopted SERE to interrogate insurgents in the Iraq war. Excerpts from the interview:

Siegel: What you're describing is taking techniques that U.S. military personnel had been trained to resist ... [and] using those very techniques on the people the U.S. was detaining in Iraq?

Kleinman: Exactly...the primary objective of that approach to interrogation was not truth…but somebody's political truth. In the Korean War, they actually compelled some of our pilots to admit to dropping chemical weapons on cities and so forth, when in fact that didn't happen. Now, that stands in stark contrast to intelligence interrogation, where the overriding objective is provide timely, accurate, reliable, comprehensive intelligence.

Siegel: Had you witnessed one rotten interrogation that had gone wrong or was it routine?

Kleinman: ...people were reaching out to other methods, not understanding the subtle yet profound difference — using a method that was proven successful in obtaining propaganda, while on the surface it seems very effective, underneath it all it is very ineffective and counterproductive. … Any individual can force any other individual to admit to practically anything, but that's not the purpose of interrogation.

One is reminded of the pressure that the Bush administration placed on American interrogators to establish "evidence" from captives of an Iraq-Al Qaeda connection that didn't exist. To listen to the entire interview, click here.

Col. Kleinman also spoke to Rachel Maddow about SERE and its misapplication by the Bush administration and the American military in Iraq. Watch:

Kleinman: ...The best interrogators in this country understand how to interrogate, and that's largely a relationship-based, culturally finessed approach. It's systematic and it's patient, and that's what produces information. To use SERE methods or to think that one can use physicality or heavy stress to obtain useful, reliable information is just a misnomer, it's not backed up by operational experience and it is not backed up by one shred of scientific evidence.

An article from The Washington Post (10/6/07) depicted World War II veterans who used the traditional methods of interrogation referred to by Kleinman–and who criticized the Bush administration's use of torture. To read the article, click here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Waterboarding Used In Failed Quest To Reveal Iraq-Al Qaeda Ties

A 2005 Justice Department legal memorandum has revealed that C.I.A interrogators waterboarded two Al Qaeda prisoners 266 times. The sessions include 83 times against Abu Zubaydah in August 2002 and 183 times against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in March 2003. 

If waterboarding was such an effective method under the employ of the Bush administration, why didn't the interrogators get the information they wanted at least by the 83rd time in one case and the 182nd in the other?

Jonathan S. Landay of McClatchy Newspapers reveals why interrogators used waterboarding and other abusive tactics relentlessly for most of 2002 and 2003–the period during which the 266 episodes took place. The interrogators were charged with forcing the captives to reveal something that simply did not exist, operational ties between Saddam Husssein's Iraq and Al Qaeda:

The Bush administration applied relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.

Such information would've provided a foundation for one of former President George W. Bush's main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003. In fact, no evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and Saddam's regime.

The U.S. intelligence official, who insisted on anonymity, spoke of the demands on the part of Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that the Iraq-Al Qaeda connection be established:

"There was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took to get that information out of the detainees, especially the few high-value ones we had, and when people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people to push harder.

"Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn't any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies."

Former U.S. Army psychiatrist Major Charles Burney, speaking to Army investigators in 2006, said that Guantanamo interrogators were under the same pressure to find evidence of the ties:

"While we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al Qaida and Iraq and we were not successful in establishing a link between al Qaida and Iraq. . . The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link . . . there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results."

So we have the use of illegal interrogation methods, i.e. torture, to seek evidence of Iraq-Al Qaeda ties that did not exist for a war in Iraq whose rationale also did not exist. As always, the more one examines the history of the Bush administration, the more layers of sordidness and deception one discovers.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Justice Department Considers Criminal Misconduct Probe Of Bush Torture Policies

The discussion about whether President Obama recommends prosecution of those involved with Bush administration torture policies has obscured the importance of one key governmental figure and institution in deciding how to proceed. Michael Isikoff and Evan Thomas, writing in Newsweek, remind us of the primary role played by Attorney General Eric Holder (left) and the Justice Department:

Senior Justice Department lawyers and other advisers...say Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has discussed naming a senior prosecutor or outside counsel to review whether CIA interrogators exceeded legal boundaries--and whether Bush administration officials broke the law by giving the CIA permission to torture in the first place. Some Justice officials are deeply troubled by reports of detainee treatment and believe they may suggest criminal misconduct, these sources say.

It would seem that, besides waterboarding, the interrogation techniques described in four recently revealed CIA memos present grounds for prosecution:

Together, the four memos give an extraordinarily detailed account of the C.I.A.’s methods and the Justice Department’s long struggle, in the face of graphic descriptions of brutal tactics, to square them with international and domestic law. Passages describing forced nudity, the slamming of detainees into walls, prolonged sleep deprivation and the dousing of detainees with water as cold as 41 degrees alternate with elaborate legal arguments concerning the international Convention Against Torture.

A New York Times editorial, "The Torturers' Manifesto," comments on these "elaborate legal arguments," which amount to torturous attempts to render the illegal and horrific as legal:

To read the four newly released memos on prisoner interrogation written by George W. Bush’s Justice Department is to take a journey into depravity.

Their language is the precise bureaucratese favored by dungeon masters throughout history. They detail how to fashion a collar for slamming a prisoner against a wall, exactly how many days he can be kept without sleep (11), and what, specifically, he should be told before being locked in a box with an insect — all to stop just short of having a jury decide that these acts violate the laws against torture and abusive treatment of prisoners.

In one of the more nauseating passages, Jay Bybee, then an assistant attorney general and now a federal judge, wrote admiringly about a contraption for waterboarding that would lurch a prisoner upright if he stopped breathing while water was poured over his face. He praised the Central Intelligence Agency for having doctors ready to perform an emergency tracheotomy if necessary.

These memos are not an honest attempt to set the legal limits on interrogations, which was the authors’ statutory obligation. They were written to provide legal immunity for acts that are clearly illegal, immoral and a violation of this country’s most basic values.

It now appears that President Obama recognizes the legal obligation of the Justice Department to investigate and possibly prosecute those who formulated and authorized such practices:

The Team Bush brain trust that approved CIA torture techniques faces a roughing-up after President Obama reopened the possibility of investigation - and even prosecution.

Just five days after urging against "recrimination" for the George W. Bush-era torture of terror suspects, President Obama said Attorney General Eric Holder is free to probe the White House higher-ups who authorized the tough treatment.

"With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general within the parameters of various laws, and I don't want to prejudge that," Obama said.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Saul Anuzis Ratchets Up The GOP Rhetoric With "Economic Fascism"

The term "liberal" has lost its sting as an epithet hurled by conservatives at their ideological enemies. The McCain-Palin campaign used the word "socialist" to describe Obama–but they lost the election. Others on the right tempted to score points with "socialist" may be discouraged by a recent Rasmussen poll that found that only 53% of American adults think capitalism is better than socialism.

So what is the Republican party to do about this lack of traction with labels? Put them aside and try to propose better policies? Nah. If "liberal" and "socialist" won't do, ratchet up the rhetoric! Thus we get the latest reference to the Obama administration: fascism.

Glenn Beck came up with a unique variant: "non-violent fascism"–a mixture perhaps of Gandhi and Mussolini, something the world has not seen before. Now Saul Anuzis (above right), who served as chair of the Michigan Republican party and lost in his attempt to serve as chair of the Republican National Committee, put his own spin on the term, calling Obama's domestic program "economic fascism."

Anuzis, however, made one startling admission, as reported in the New York Times:

“We’ve so overused the word ‘socialism’ that it no longer has the negative connotation it had 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago. Fascism — everybody still thinks that’s a bad thing.”

So the use of "fascism" is simply another label thrown at Obama by the Republicans in the hope that it will stick. But Anuzis, like Beck, tries to refine his use of the term:

[Anuzis] notes that he does not call Mr. Obama himself a “fascist.” Rather, he applies the “economic fascism” label to government tax and regulatory policies that seek, in the words of one magazine’s definition he cites, “to achieve the utopian socialist ideal.”

Fascism in the service of utopian socialism? These definitions are getting rather muddled. What they really signify is a party flailing around with nonsensical references since it has no program that addresses the priorities of the country.

This latest rhetorical excess will not work; the vast majority of Americans, with the exception of the most rabid wingnuts, will recognize the absurdity of comparing Obama to Mussolini or Hitler. Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio came up with a straightforward assessment:

“If what you’re trying to do is reach out to the middle, the more extreme the language, the less likely they are to pay attention. We sound like white noise in the background. It’s like a yipping Chihuahua.”

Saul Anuzis should take heed before the label "yipping Chihuahua" sticks to him.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Scarborough And Robertson Distort DHS Report On Right-Wing Extremist Recruitment

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently released a report warning of a rise in right-wing extremist activity and recruitment:

The Department of Homeland Security is warning law enforcement officials about a rise in "rightwing extremist activity," saying the economic recession, the election of America's first black president and the return of a few disgruntled war veterans could swell the ranks of white-power militias.

..."It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single-issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration," the warning says.

The report warns that “rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat.” That's not the same as saying that all veterans are right-wing extremists. Nonetheless, that's the way Joe Scarborough tried to spin the report:

Scarborough: They don’t want to use “the war on terror” because that makes them feel uncomfortable, but they have no problem targeting veterans returning from war. This is perverse. …There’s not a war on terror but there may be a war on veterans.

The report's point that extremism may be connected to abortion or immigration is also not the same as stating that all those with conservative views on these issues are terrorists. Regardless, Pat Robertson espoused that distortion, along with unique views of the political and sexual orientations of DHS officials:

ROBERTSON: It shows somebody down in the bowels of that organization is either a convinced left winger or somebody whose sexual orientation is somewhat in question. But it’s that kind of thing, somebody who doesn’t think that we should have abortion on demand, is labeled a terrorist! It’s outrageous!

While regretting the politicization of the report, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano emphasized that it does not smear veterans but focuses on their possible recruitment:

Napolitano: Here is the important point. The report is not saying that veterans are extremists. Far from it. What it is saying is returning veterans are targets of right-wing extremist groups that are trying to recruit those to commit violent acts within the country. We want to do all we can to prevent that. (Videos h/t Think Progress)

As a DHS official told Fox News, "This is the job of DHS, to assess what is happening in this country, with regard to homegrown terrorism, and determine whether it's an actual threat or not, and that's what these assessments do. This is nothing unusual..."

Crooks and Liars points out that an FBI report from July 2008 came to the same conclusions regarding the recruitment of veterans by white supremacist groups:

FBI reporting indicates extremist leaders have historically favored recruiting active and former military personnel for their knowledge of firearms, explosives, and tactical skills and their access to weapons and intelligence in preparation for an anticipated war against the federal government, Jews, and people of color.

In January 2009, the DHS completed a report on left-wing extremists, as did the U.S. Department of Energy in April 2001. These particular reports seem to have escaped the notice of conservative commentators now crying foul.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Peter Green And Friends

Peter Green played lead guitar with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and founded Fleetwood Mac, originally an outstanding English blues band. Rolling Stone ranked Green as the 38th greatest guitarist of all time, and B.B. King said, "He has the sweetest tone I ever heard. He's the only one who gave me the cold sweats."

Green's brilliant playing was arrested by a 20-year struggle with mental illness and institutionalization, brought on by experimentation with LSD. Emerging with the help of friends, he played with the Peter Green Splinter Group from 1966-2004. He revived his career again with Peter Green and Friends, recently touring in Belgium and Holland. Here the group performs the soaring, dreamy instrumental "Albatross," a Green composition, at a concert in Amsterdam in February 2009 (h/t Harpslide):

At the same show, Peter plays fine riffs to the Freddie King instrumental "The Stumble":

Green is truly a bluesman who has had, in the lyrics of Robert Johnson, a "hellhound on my trail." It is a pleasure to see him smiling and playing those sweet tones again.

Stephen Colbert Responds To National Organization For Marriage Ad

Stephen Colbert responded to the recent ad by the anti-equality National Organization For Marriage, which warned of a "gathering gay storm" and a loss of freedom based on the fact that, for example, a gay couple down the street might be free to get married. First Colbert commented on the introduction of a same-sex marriage bill by Governor David A. Paterson (D) of New York, making reference to former governor Eliot Spitzer:

“Governor Paterson’s obsession with same-sex marriage just proves that he’s a perv. Why can’t we go back to the good old days when our governor upheld the traditional definition of marriage as being between a man, a woman and an Emperor’s Club hooker?”

Colbert then introduced his own ad "supporting" the National Organization For Marriage. It does indeed demonstrate the danger of the "gathering gay storm," in that one of the characters is struck by "the homo storm." Watch:

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Jenny Holzer At The Whitney Museum: Protest Art For A Technological Age

The art of protest has a long legacy, bringing to mind Picasso's "Guernica," which depicts the bombing of Guernica, Spain, by German bombers during the Spanish Civil War; Goya's "The Shootings of May 3, 1808," commemorating the execution of Spanish citizens by Napoleon's occupation army; and Ben Shahn's "The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti," portraying the funeral of Italian-born American anarchists following their execution based on a controversial murder trial.

Jenny Holzer has brought the art of protest into a more technological age. "Protect Protect," Holzer's exhibit of work since the 1990s, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, uses electronic signs and other nontraditional media to explore personal desire and public policy. The latter predominated in this exhibit, particularly the policy of war pursued in Iraq and the ways such policy was communicated to the public. Holzer's L.E.D. electronic signs are programmed with declassified documents on the war and related matters, such as the Guantanamo Bay detention center. In a video that shows some of her electronic pieces, Holzer speaks about the relationship between her words and art:

In the "redaction" paintings, Holzer took declassified materials, collected by the National Security Archive and the American Civil Liberties Union, on autopsies and interrogations of detainees, hand prints of military personnel under indictment and military maps showing war plans. Each of the materials were redacted, or blacked out, in whole or in part. They call into question what we know, or are permitted to know by a government waging war. Here's a redaction of a hand print:

Holzer's "Lustmord," which means rape-slaying, sex-murder or lust-killing in German, consists of human bones on a wooden table. The display is based on the rape and murder of women and girls as a strategy of Bosnian-Serb forces during the war in the former Yugoslavia. Silver bands around some of the bones refer to these horrific events:

Unsettling, stimulating and pioneering, Jenny Holzer's "Protect Protect" is on view at the Whitney Museum through May 31, 2009.

Gov. Rick Perry Grandstands On Texas Secession

Governor Rick Perry (R) of Texas has been having a wonderful time advocating state's rights. Last week, as shown in the video above, he signed legislation asserting the sovereignty of the Lone Star State and told off the federal government:

"I believe the federal government…has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion in the lives of its citizens and its interference with the affairs of our state. We think it’s time to draw the line in the sand and tell Washington that no longer are we going to accept their oppressive hand in the state of Texas. There is a point in time when you stand up and say, 'Enough is enough.' ”

Perry was also out there with the "tea party" anti-tax protesters in Texas. The crowd chanted "Secede! Secede!" as the governor let it be known that he stands with the fanatical and reactionary elements of the population:

“I’m just not real sure you’re a bunch of right-wing extremists. But if you are, we’re with you.”

On a roll, Perry implied to reporters that secession was a possibility:

"We've got a great union. There's no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that.”

Also in the video above, Rachel Maddow pointed out the gap between Perry's irresponsible declarations of independence and the reality of his state's dependence on the federal government. There are times, and they're not necessarily infrequent, when Perry wants the involvement of the"intrusive" government. Maddow pointed out recent examples:

“ ‘Enough is enough,’ except when you’ve got to ask for FEMA to come in to help with wildfires like you did five days ago and except when you’ve got to call for federal troops to help out on the border like you did last month or when you‘ve got to ask for another year and a half ‘s worth of federal funds for cleaning up the hurricanes. Other than that kind of stuff, other than the help that Texas really wants from the federal government, other than that, down with that oppressive federal government!"

One wonders where Texas will find the funds and the staff to handle these emergencies when the "oppressive hand" of Washington has been sent packing. Will this newly sovereign state have to raise taxes?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Conservatives Totally Out To Sea On Obama's Handling Of Pirate Standoff

As far as I know, there's no word of an apology from conservatives who criticized President Obama during the standoff involving Captain Richard Phillips, who was taken hostage by Somali pirates. As the Navy and the president grappled with an extremely tense situation, right-wing pundits pontificated from the comfort of television studios–mostly the studios of Fox News, naturally. Watch (h/t Daily Kos):

Newt Gingrich: This is an administration which keeps trying to find some kind of magical solution that doesn't involve effort and doesn't involve risk and doesn't involve making hard decisions.

Glenn Beck: The U.S. Navy is now looking to the F.B.I. for advice on how to free an American cargo ship captain. Oh, no, they're sending over a hostage negotiator... The U.S. warship is near the pirates' drifting lifeboat and the Navy doesn't know how to fix this one. Wow!

Brit Hume: And what an image it presents to the world of this great military power unable at least so far to cope with this problem. ...Is this the test that Joe Biden warned when he was running against Obama would come? ...Well, I think it is.

What was Obama doing while these great minds were dismayed that the complex event wasn't resolved instantly? The president was assessing the situation and coming to a sensible response, as reported by The New York Times:

The Defense Department twice sought Mr. Obama’s permission to use force to rescue Captain Phillips, most recently on Friday night, senior defense officials said. On Saturday morning, the president agreed, they said, if it appeared that the captain’s life was in imminent danger.

Captain Phillips' life did appear in danger when a pirate pointed an AK-47 at his back. Snipers acted on the president's conditions and killed all three pirates holding the captain.

Does Gingrich still think that the president avoided risk and a hard decision? Does Beck still believe that sending a hostage negotiator is foolish in a hostage crisis and that the Navy didn't know what it was doing? Does Brit Hume now contend that Obama failed the test?

We can all be relieved that these armchair commanders, with their macho posturing and lack of patience, were not in a position to oversee the situation. Fortunately, we had an adult, President Obama, in charge.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fox News, Conservative Think Tanks Behind "Tea Party" Protests

The organizers of the anti-Obama, anti-tax "tea party" protests, leading up to and including tax day, are trying to sell the idea that their events are spontaneous uprisings of concerned citizens. In fact, they are being coordinated by conservative lobbies and a certain media outlet. Can you guess which one that is?

Surprise. It's Fox News, the propaganda wing of the Republican party that masquerades as a news station. Watch the parade of Fox pundits cheerleading for the event:

Karl Frisch, senior fellow at Media Matters for America, explains Fox's "fair and balanced" role:

...Fox has offered viewers and readers such vital organizing information as protest dates and locations and addresses of websites where people can learn more. It has even posted information and publicity material for the events on its own website. Tea-party planners are now using the planned attendance of Fox News hosts to promote their protests and listing Fox News contributors as "Tea Party Sponsor[s]" on their website. (h/t Huffington Post)

In fact, the Fox News Company (FNC) is so identified with the tea parties that it even claimed ownership of them. Check this image from Neil Cavuto's April 9 edition of "One World," with the usual suspects in various locations around the country (clockwise from top left: Neil Cavuto, Greta Van Susteren, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck) (h/t Media Matters):

Meanwhile, Think Progress has debunked the notion that the tea parties are organic uprisings. Behind them are lobbyist-run, right-wing think thanks:

Freedom Works staffers coordinate conference calls among protesters, contacting conservative activists to give them “sign ideas, sample press releases, and a map of events around the country.”
Americans for Prosperity is writing press releases and planning the events in New Jersey, Arizona, New Hampshire, Missouri, Kansas, and several other states.

Why would the tea parties take place on tax day? President Obama's plans to raise taxes on the wealthy raises the ire of the right-wing. Paul Krugman explains:

One way to get a good sense of the current state of the to look at the “tea parties” that have been held in a number of places already, and will be held across the country on Wednesday. These parties — antitaxation demonstrations that are supposed to evoke the memory of the Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution — have been the subject of considerable mockery, and rightly so.

...President Obama is being called a “socialist” who seeks to destroy capitalism. Why? Because he wants to raise the tax rate on the highest-income Americans back to, um, about 10 percentage points less than it was for most of the Reagan administration. Bizarre.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Representative Spencer Bachus Channels Senator Joseph McCarthy

Representative Spencer Bachus of Alabama (R) said at a breakfast meeting of municipal and county leaders that he is worried about the influence of certain members of Congress on President Obama, stating, "Some of the men and women I work with are socialists."

Asked to clarify his remarks, Bachus counted 17 members of the U.S. House of Representatives as socialists. Bachus did not address the fact that he voted for the bank bailout last fall, which was condemned as socialism by some members of the GOP. Bachus also did not respond to an email from Roll Call asking him to identify the socialists.

Bear in mind that 47% of the audience may not have been fazed by the 17 socialists. A recent Rasmussen Report poll states, "Only 53% of American adults believe capitalism is better than socialism."

In any event, Bachus's remarks bring to mind those of Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota (R), who called last year for the news media to "do a penetrating expose" into the "views of the people in Congress and find out if they are pro-America or anti-America."

Bachus and Bachmann are the latest in a line of Republicans that have stood against the domestic Red Menace, which includes the 17 members of Congress who are ready to throw us all into collective farms. Who started this proud GOP legacy? Listen:

More Beck Antics: Pretends To Be Obama Lighting An Average American On Fire

Glenn Beck reached a new high–or low–in buffoonery and derangement as he pretended to be President Obama pouring gasoline on an "average American" and lighting him on fire:

Beck was exercised about the meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus with President Raul Castro of Cuba:

By the way, under Castro, 93 percent of Cuban labor force works for the state. Sound familiar? Average worker -- making a whopping $9 a month there in Cuba. He's fantastic. We should buddy with him. What would it be like to work for $9 a month? Oh, we may all find out soon. (h/t Media Matters)

Of course, Beck, like all others who oppose relations with Cuba, didn't call for cutting U.S. ties to China, where worker abuse in sweatshops is widespread. The bulk of Beck's rant, however, was on Obama's plans for immigration reform:

I see that Obama wants to legalize the illegal aliens, you know, when unemployment is 8.5 percent and underemployment rate is 15.6 percent. You know, you're having a hard time finding a job, you know, without having to be forced -- do you have any matches -- forced to complete, you know, compete with a whole new crop of workers.

Once again, Beck reduces the debate to its most simplistic terms. The Obama administration does not plan to recruit new workers, but to acknowledge realistically that millions of illegal immigrants are already here and are not leaving. From The New York Times:

Administration officials said that Mr. Obama’s plan would not add new workers to the American work force, but that it would recognize millions of illegal immigrants who have already been working here. Despite the deep recession, there is no evidence of any wholesale exodus of illegal immigrant workers, independent studies of census data show.

Ultimately, the administration's goal would be to place controls on the current status of illegal immigrants and prevent illegal immigration in the future. Not exactly a plan to open the floodgates:

In broad outlines, officials said, the Obama administration favors legislation that would bring illegal immigrants into the legal system by recognizing that they violated the law, and imposing fines and other penalties to fit the offense. The legislation would seek to prevent future illegal immigration by strengthening border enforcement and cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants, while creating a national system for verifying the legal immigration status of new workers.

The most dishonest part of Beck's diatribe is when he states, "We didn't vote to lose the republic. We didn't vote for any of this stuff. We voted for change." Please. Beck voted for change? Beck didn't vote for McCain, the candidate who stood for the ongoing deregulation of the financial industry, more tax cuts for the wealthy and continued war in Iraq? Had McCain won, Beck wouldn't have considered these policies and asked, as he does of Obama, " much more can he disenfranchise all of us?" Does "all of us" include the fully two-thirds of Americans who approve of the president's job performance?

Beck's pretend use of gasoline and a match is an apt metaphor for a pundit whose entire goal is to inflame and burn.

Jon Stewart Puts Things In Perspective For The Wingnuts

As right-wing media pundits attempt to whip their followers into a frenzy on President Obama's supposed plans for socialism, fascism, one-world-government or whatever happens to be the panic term of the moment, Jon Stewart tried to put things in perspective for them. His well-meaning advice should be heeded by the wingnuts on Fox and the always loony Representative Michele Bachmann. Watch:

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Stewart: I think you might be confusing tyranny with losing. And I feel for you because I've been there. A few times, in fact one of them was a bit of a nail biter. But see, when the guy that you disagree with gets elected, he's probably going to do things you disagree with. He could cut taxes on the wealthy, remove government's oversight capability, invade a country that you thought should not be invaded. That's not tyranny. That's democracy. See, now you're in the minority. It's supposed to taste like a shit taco. And by the way, if I remember correctly, when disagreement was expressed about that president's actions when y'all were in power, I believe the response was, "Why do you hate America?..."

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Right-Wing Commentators Fill Cable News With Inflammatory Conspiracy Theories

Richard Poplawski, who recently murdered three Pittsburgh police officers, feared that President Obama was going to take his guns away. This type of right-wing paranoia finds expression in right-wing cable news, especially since the election of President Obama. 

Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs are among those who not only speak about the disarming of America, but also toss around such terms as "the new world order," "totalitarianism," "socialism" and "fascism." Political commentator Dick Morris even said, "Those crazies in Montana who say we're going to kill ATF agents because the UN is about to take over–well, they're beginning to have a case."

Such conspiracy theories and inflammatory rhetoric are extremely irresponsible and can only incite the likes of a Poplawski. Media Matters does a masterful job in making this connection:

Friday, April 10, 2009

O'Donnell To Buchanan: If Obama Shouldn't Speak At Notre Dame, Why Did Bush?

Lawrence O'Donnell caught Pat Buchanan in a contradiction regarding the controversy over the invitation to President Obama, a supporter of abortion rights, to deliver the commencement address at Notre Dame on May 17. O'Donnell wants to know why it's objectionable to extend an invitation to Obama while it was acceptable to extend one to President Bush. Bush not only supported and repeatedly applied the death penalty, opposed by the Catholic Church, but he also waged the war in Iraq against the Pope's objections. Watch:

O'Donnell: "This is the same university that invited George W. Bush. This is the same religion that stands in adamant contradiction to the death penalty. This is the same religion whose head, the Pope, pled personally with George W. Bush not to launch an unprovoked invasion and war in Iraq. That same president, George W. Bush, who used the death penalty more than anyone who has been in the oval office, that president was welcomed at Notre Dame with none of these objections..."

Crooks and Liars points out that Buchanan thinks this is his winning argument:

Buchanan: Every unborn child is totally innocent. And in the United States, everybody who goes to execution is guilt of murdering someone, of taking innocent blood.

The ACLU, however, states, "In the U.S., as of June 2002, 108 people including 12 death row inmates, have been exonerated by use of DNA tests." The main point, though, is that, like abortion, the death penalty is a matter of principle for the Catholic Church. Buchanan is picking and choosing among church teachings in objecting to one invitation while excusing another.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Following Victories For Equality, National Organization For Marriage Warns Of Gathering Gay Storm

The fact that the Vermont legislature overrode Republican Governor Jim Douglas's veto of a same sex-marriage bill removes, at least in this case, the conservative objection that "activist judges" are "legislating from the bench." Not that that argument has any validity; judges in Iowa who declared discrimination against same-sex couples unconstitutional correctly enforced equal protection under the law, as provided by the Fourteenth Amendment. In any event, even Newt Gingrich viewed the process in Vermont somewhat more favorably:

"The people of Vermont have every right to elect the legislators they want and if they disagree with this decision they have every right to replace them and so it is the people's branch overriding the governor, who's elected, and it's not an isolated imposition by the elite... Even for people who don't agree with the outcome, it's a much better process."

There are still conservatives, however, who object to any passage of gay marriage legislation, no matter how it is achieved. Among them are Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, who expressed himself as follows:

“It’s a bad day for the country. There is a palpable sense that something has changed and people need to get active... People are beginning to understand there is a systematic, targeted effort to get same-sex marriage through the legislatures in the Northeast to continue to work through the courts in other states, and ultimately to use these redefinitions of marriage to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act on the federal level.”

May it come to pass. Who can fathom why Mr. Brown feels so threatened and is compelled to engage in a campaign to deprive others of their rights? Despite the fact that gay marriage does not threaten anyone's straight marriage–I personally have not felt a sudden urge to divorce my wife this week–the task of the National Organization for Marriage is to boost hysteria throughout the country. Thus we have the following ad, which I must emphasize is not a parody:

The imagery of a "storm gathering" and the ideas that "my freedom will be taken away...those advocates want to change the way I live...I will have no choice" all try to foster the illusion that the everyday lives of straights will change for the worse. The Human Rights Campaign has effectively refuted the allegations recited by these paid actors. To characterize a group dedicated to discrimination as a "rainbow coalition of people of every creed and color...coming together in love to protect marriage" is pure deceit.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Jon Meacham On "The End Of Christian America"

Jon Meacham, in "The End of Christian America" (Newsweek, 4/4/09), cites the "declining percentage" of Christians in America and the rise of the unaffiliated, along with atheists and agnostics. The number of those who call America "a Christian nation" has also declined since George W. Bush's presidency.

Meacham explores the implications in terms of the country's political life. It is not the decline in the number of Christians per se that he views positively; instead, it is the fact that politics is less influenced by religion and vice-versa–something that could actually benefit Christianity:

...our politics and our culture are, in the main, less influenced by movements and arguments of an explicitly Christian character than they were even five years ago. I think this is a good thing—good for our political culture, which, as the American Founders saw, is complex and charged enough without attempting to compel or coerce religious belief or observance. It is good for Christianity, too, in that many Christians are rediscovering the virtues of a separation of church and state that protects what Roger Williams, who founded Rhode Island as a haven for religious dissenters, called "the garden of the church" from "the wilderness of the world."

It has been a tremendous irony of our times that many on the right who criticized Islamic theocracies sought to fashion the United States into a country whose policies are based on religious dictates:

...What, then, does it mean to talk of "Christian America"? Evangelical Christians have long believed that the United States should be a nation whose political life is based upon and governed by their interpretation of biblical and theological principles. ...If the church believes the theory of evolution conflicts with a literal reading of the Book of Genesis, then the public schools should tailor their lessons accordingly. If the church believes abortion should be outlawed, then the legislatures and courts of the land should follow suit. ...For more than 40 years, the debate that began with the Supreme Court's decision to end mandatory school prayer in 1962 (and accelerated with the Roe v. Wade ruling 11 years later) may not have been novel, but it has been ferocious. Fearing the coming of a Europe-like secular state, the right longed to engineer a return to what it believed was a Christian America of yore.

But that project has failed, at least for now. In Texas, authorities have decided to side with science, not theology, in a dispute over the teaching of evolution. The terrible economic times have not led to an increase in church attendance. In Iowa last Friday, the state Supreme Court ruled against a ban on same-sex marriage, a defeat for religious conservatives. Such evidence is what has believers fretting about the possibility of an age dominated by a newly muscular secularism.

While professing a belief in freedom and "small government," the religious right has been dedicated to restricting women's right to choose and gays' rights to marry. Its adherents attempt to harm science education by attacking the theory of evolution in favor of religious formulations of how the world came into existence. The weakening of the religious rights' reactionary policies is reason enough to view the increased secularization of America positively.