Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Jobbing Her Again

One of the most hilarious comments on the resignation of Amanda from the Edwards campaign is that of inordinately self-inflated pimple Matthew Yglesias, who seems to be quite serious when he writes:
Indeed, that's why think I wouldn't take a job even with a candidate I was super-enthusiastic about -- I like to speak (and blog) my mind in a way that's not conducive to being on the staff of a presidential campaign.
Similarly, I would like to announce in advance that I would not welcome anyone's nominating me for the Nobel Prize for Literature, only because that would cause heightened expectations of the seriousness of my work, therefore disappointing readers when I penned my next silly political parody.

Contrary to Matthew's protesting-too-much, the brain-deadening task of wading through the pompous pablum he produces would be so intimidating, to even the Concentration Camp Lady, that he would be almost an ideal campaign blogger, safe from retroactive scrutiny. In the unlikely event he ever took a solid stand that wasn't generally held by the masses in criticizing anyone, it would probably be either meaninglessly personal or an attack on the left. For example, in that same piece about Amanda, he adds:
How is it that the Edwards campaign didn't manage to say in advance that people were going to have to stop blogging if they want to work on the campaign? Similarly, based on their own reaction to the controversy it appears that nobody at the campaign decided to vet Marcotte before they hired her?
The "grammar" of that second sentence is either one more example of how overrated are Harvard degrees, or an example of how to display "uptalk". More to the point, it accepts the premise of Donohue and other critics, which was also accepted by Edwards in his "no, they're not fired; go and sin no more" statement. What you write -- or say, or do -- before or outside of the campaign is okay to criticize the campaign for. Hogwash.

Once more, the more-or-less-not-as-far-unleft will be held to a standard of total blamelessness and inhuman perfection in their lives, by foul-mouthed dishonest bigoted scumbags like many well-known examples leading the charge against Amanda and Melissa. Matthew, along with Edwards himself, and a host of other Democrats, are unilaterally disarming themselves before this. By their comments (Matthew's here, and Edwards in his previous statement) they are even doing the work of the rightwingnuts for them, by criticizing things that should be out of bounds to begin with. If Cheney can say questions about his grandchild are out of line (and he was right about that one), then why can't we do likewise?

As for the final spark causing Amanda leaving, Matthew offers the suggestion, first noticed perhaps at Blue Mass Group, that it was her writing a review, after she went to work for the campaign, of a movie called Children of Men. Since I love works of deep moral conflict, her review makes me think I'll enjoy this. Unfortunately, she included some gasoline for the cross already burning on her lawn:
The title loudly proclaims the movie to be about the Children of Men (very patriarchal sounding), but the one child in the movie is born to a woman who is dismissive of the idea that the identity of the father is even relevant. And it makes sense, actually, that if there hadn’t been a baby born on earth for an entire generation, the paramount importance of paternity would fade away and the obvious fact that maternity is more time-consuming and immediate would become undeniable. The Christian version of the virgin birth is generally interpreted as super-patriarchal, where god is viewed as so powerful he can impregnate without befouling himself by touching a woman, and women are nothing but vessels. But this movie offers an alternative interpretation of the virgin birth—one where “virginity” is irrelevant and one where a woman’s stake in motherhood is fully respected for the sacrifice and hard work that it is.
It was that sentence in boldface above that caused cafeteria Catholic Donohue to have another verbal seizure (no link, it's at the site of his "group"):
Anyone who actually believes that the birth of Jesus by the Virgin Mary is ‘generally interpreted’ as being a sexist exercise obviously lives in an anti-Christian ghetto. The 85 percent of Americans who are Christian do not believe this, and most of the other 15 percent do not either.
I'm sure he's right, in the same sense that most people don't think about earth life as possibly planted by microbes on rocks knocked off of Mars by meteor impacts there. It has never occured to them to even wonder about the possibility. In both cases, their lack of thought devoted to the issue is irrelevant to its truth or falsity.

Most Americans probably unthinkingly parrot many other things they had drilled into them in school, like how the United States is the exception to history, making few mistakes and rectifying them when pointed out, and in short, that this is the absolutely bestest nation there absolutely ever was. This proposition, not being subject to falsification, is held to all the more tightly by many people who therefore think of themselves as patriots, and regard anyone who criticizes our government or its role in history as evil traitors. Donohue is merely spinning out the denominational version of this widespread technique of promoting your own collective faux self-esteem by condemnation of any iconoclasts out there in touch with a different interpretation of the truth. See the experience of the Dixie Chicks for another example.

By not standing up to deny the very premises from which the attack is made, we implicitly accept them for the purpose of public discourse. Once that concession is made, the game is all but over. Only distracting personal scandals (Delay on money, Foley on sex, or whatever) will make it possible for us to win. The unknowing audience, unfamiliar with logic or research, hears one side being certain and pointing to why (usually a sacred text). They hear the other side saying "we don't think we really did anything as bad as they say, at least not intentionally, but we're not saying what they accuse us of wouldn't be an awful thing, if we had done it, and we sure aren't challenging any sacred cows, which we really are fond of". Frightened by a campaign of terrorizing through the media, they lean to the side which seems sure about what it is doing.

Matthew, and Edwards, are not the first ones to cluelessly toss women or men over the side of the U.S.S. Poltical Driftboat. They still don't get the lesson that such tactics never win unless by accident. Compromise with the forces of repression, even by implicit acceptance of their rhetoric, is like compromise with poison. Nothing good will come of this.


Oh, and by the way, taking an idea originally from an old blacklistee (Howard Fast, whose best work was really not this novel and movie, but The American), and following the lead of driftglass and Blue Gal, there is this, which you might consider emulating if you have a site of your own:

I'm Spartacus.

Platonic Archetypes

On this day in 1984 at the Olympics, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean proved that artistic perfection is possible.

Make them change the rules just to hamper you.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Another Angel Spreads Her Wings

Melissa McEwan of Shakespeare's Sister, the other blogger who had been hired by the John Edwards campaign, has now also resigned. Her post is at her old site, where presumably she will be returning to writing again. If it's swamped the way Amanda's was last night, then Chris Bowers has posted the whole thing at MyDD, along with a very understandable expression of frustration over this incident:
Clearly, the right is able to attack us with impunity. Japanesse internment justifying Michelle Malkin goes on the air to bash Marcotte and McEwan, while the people who read Malkin's blog send death and rape threats to them. And even the media reports on the matter make the Michelle Malkin's of the world look like the sane hero in this situation, while Marcotte and McEwan are evil. And then a bunch of Democrats, including a few commenters at MyDD, will give Malkin, O'Reilly and Donohue cover for this by saying that Marcotte and McEwan were out of line. Rinse and repeat.

You know what? I don't want Hillary Clinton to apologize for her war vote anymore, because I am sick of Democrats apologizing.
I strongly support that attitude. I doubt that any campaign consultants do. Unfortunately, Melissa herself doesn't seem to agree, since she writes:
I understand that there will be progressive bloggers who feel I am making the wrong decision, and I offer my sincerest apologies to them. One of the hardest parts of this decision was feeling as though I'm letting down my peers, who have been so supportive.
She has my sympathy and best wishes, but I don't need her apology. You do what you can, and if it isn't cost-effective, stop. No problem, Melissa. Make us proud on your uncensored site.

Listen, non-reactionary and un-moderate webworld (no, I coined that one just now!), sometimes, don't you just hunger for some moral certainty on our side? A candidate who will take the Patrick Henry approach and stand up proudly to say what we believe in is the truth, and if you are offended by reality, then you'll suffer the consequences you will bring on yourself, but I'm damned if you'll make me pretend to pay homage to your delusions!

It ain't Johnny, but he's very far from the worst this year. It ain't anyone I've heard yet. But I'm listening and willing to be convinced. And I'm willing to vote for a temporizing inoffensive triangulator if that's the best we can finally offer against the legions of Hell the Republicans will throw against us. I just think we have a better chance of winning if we throw back our head and say "make the most of it".

Let me know if you see any encouraging signs of such spine developing. Good luck, Melissa, now that you too are free to say whatever you want. Take a shot of nerve tonic and let it rip.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Amanda Finds Freedom... the sense of the old song about "nothing left to lose". The now blogfamous Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon, hired by the John Edwards campaign, denounced as anti-Catholic by a viper's nest of rabid reactionaries venting faux outrage over her *gasp* rudeness and profanity, left hanging for over a day after an Edwards staffer said they were considering her position, then denounced for her language by Edwards himself when he said she could stay on, has now given up fighting on that front. Her announcement is on Pandagon. If it's still too busy when you read this, here are some highlights:
I was hired by the Edwards campaign for the skills and talents I bring to the table, and my willingness to work hard for what’s right. Unfortunately, Bill Donohue and his calvacade of right wing shills don’t respect that a mere woman like me could be hired for my skills, and pretended that John Edwards had to be held accountable for some of my personal, non-mainstream views on religious influence on politics (I’m anti-theocracy, for those who were keeping track). Bill Donohue—anti-Semite, right wing lackey whose entire job is to create non-controversies in order to derail liberal politics—has been running a scorched earth campaign to get me fired for my personal beliefs and my writings on this blog.

In fact, he’s made no bones about the fact that his intent is to “silence” me, as if he—a perfect stranger—should have a right to curtail my freedom of speech. Why? Because I’m a woman? Because I’m pro-choice? Because I’m not religious? All of the above, it seems.

Regardless, it was creating a situation where I felt that every time I coughed, I was risking the Edwards campaign. No matter what you think about the campaign, I signed on to be a supporter and a tireless employee for them, and if I can’t do the job I was hired to do because Bill Donohue doesn’t have anything better to do with his time than harass me, then I won’t do it. I resigned my position today and they accepted.

There is good news. The main good news is that I don’t have a conflict of interest issue anymore that was preventing me from defending myself against these baseless accusations. So it’s on. The other good news is that the blogosphere has risen as one and protested, loudly, the influence a handful of well-financed right wing shills have on the public discourse.
She goes on to denounce Donohue some more, and quote others campaigning to point out his hypocrisy, like "Frances Kissling, the president of an organization I adore called Catholics for a Free Choice." Go read it all when the link isn't overwhelmed by everyone trying to read it (or spam it -- the righties are spilling champagne in the streets all over the web, including usual suspects like Our Lady Of The Internment Camps, and using headings like "Potty mouth fembigot down").

So much for the facts; now the gossip and innuendo behind the headlines.

On the left (and I suspect this will happen on the middle as well) some commenters are now disbelieving that Amanda volunteered to do this, and voiceing suspicions that this is Edwards' own doing. I don't believe that, because this is the worst way to do that. He would have gotten some points -- even if he offended many bloggers -- by just letting her go at the start of this, but by berating her former words and not striking back at Donohue and other faux-loyal Catholics and then shoving her out the back door a few days later he would just make every possible person angry at him. One could say Amanda has let him down, by not deciding to do this herself at the first break of all the brouhaha, and saying "okay I'll go on and just not be profane anymore on the campaign blog", then backing out anyway.

Nevertheless, I can feel the agony she must have been going through, fighting with herself in her own mind what was the best way to help the candidate she believes is the best to restore sanity to the White House in 2008. And I can feel from here (hopefully much closer soon, if she moves back to Austin from North Carolina) the relief as the weight of responsibility lifts from her shoulders. I imagine Donohue and company ain't seen nothing yet, on the profane denunciation of their pious theocracy. Serves them right.

But this whole thing will not be good for Edwards. He made the right decision about not kicking her out over this nonsense, but did it in a late and tin-eared fashion. And now the sub-surface worms will feel victorious and empowered, and they will not only go after Melissa (the other Edwards attackee of theirs) but after every other campaign. Indeed, they have already begun, as The Carpetbagger Report notes here:
The national Catholic-based advocacy group Fidelis sent letters to Democratic presidential candidates Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama calling on them to publicly condemn the anti-Catholic and anti-Christian blog posts of Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, who serve as the official bloggers for the John Edwards for President Committee.
The struggle must go on. As Len Deighton said, "Eternal paranoia is the price of liberty. Vigilance is not enough."

But there is a darker side. Also on Pandagon now, two posts later (and still too busy to access as I post this) is another post by Auguste, called "Don Qui-who?", which in Br'er Rabbit and briar patch style sarcasm, links to a pdf of the IRS Information Referral form, saying
One thing I would certainly NOT expect is that anyone would go here[PDF], using the above as a template (or not), and stick that fucker in the mail. I certainly would be shocked if anyone were to alert all their friends and loved ones to behave similarly.
They also provide a sample of a filled-out form which complains about the tax-exempt status of Donohue's organization, since it engaged in improper political activity. Those who believe that analysis (it is not obviously wrong, given the existence of the current tax code), can go there and decide for themselves whether this is a jest or a heavily-deniable suggestion.

I will hope for the humor interpretation, since calling out bloggers and protesters and boycotters is still, however vicious and hypocritical, genuinely free speech. Attempting to use the state's power to retaliate against someone who does that sort of ugly campaign by getting them in trouble with the taxmen is something else indeed. I'm sure many will disagree with me; feel free. Like Amanda, I can say what I want, and like the character my blog was named for, "Je peux dire «non» encore à tout ce que je n'aime pas et je suis seul juge." Live long and prosper.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Triple Standard

On this day in 1992 a jury convicted Desiree Washington's assailant of one count of rape and two counts of deviate sexual conduct. This was upheld despite several appeals.

She was widely denounced as a liar, and had to undergo treatment for a sexually transmitted disease she contracted from him.

The president of her own denomination was indicted on a federal count of perjury for telling a grand jury he did not offer Washington $1 million to drop her charges, but a judge later dismissed this charge. Still later he was found guilty by a court of concocting evidence to justify a lawsuit against his own successor's election.

The man who assaulted her served only three years for crimes with a maximum penalty of sixty years, and was allowed to return to his former profession and earn tens of millions of dollars despite ongoing instances of violent assaults.

Just because a jury believes you, don't assume justice will be done.

(That statue of Justice as a prostitute with thigh boots and dollars stuffed in her garter was done in London in 2004 by guerrilla artist Banksy.)

Thursday, February 08, 2007


There now, that wasn't so tough, was it, John?
John Edwards
2/08/2007 at 11:36 AM EST

The tone and the sentiment of some of Amanda Marcotte's and Melissa McEwan's posts personally offended me. It's not how I talk to people, and it's not how I expect the people who work for me to talk to people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign, whether it's intended as satire, humor, or anything else. But I also believe in giving everyone a fair shake. I've talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word. We're beginning a great debate about the future of our country, and we can't let it be hijacked. It will take discipline, focus, and courage to build the America we believe in.
It was far too long, but at least he did ultimately do the right thing. It looks like it will be up to the rest of us to keep pointing out the bigotry and hypocrisy of the people who called for firing those bloggers. But he did stand up for them at last. Praise where it's due.

Crickets Continue In Chapel Hill

There has been nothing more to add yet to Letter from Here's comments from yesterday at "When attacked by swiftbloggers, you need to do the right thing. Fast. And you need to know what it is."
The longer there's no word from the Edwards camp, it's hard to avoid the cynical speculation that his people have been trying to broker a phony agreement whereby Edwards supports Amanda and Melissa's free speech rights 100%, while they say they're resigning to spare the campaign the "distraction." In any event, the longer this thing drags on, the more the outcome becomes a foregone conclusion. Not good.

Edwards is rapidly sinking deeper and deeper into a quagmire where there's no good alternative -- and where "do the right thing" becomes an oxymoron. Sound familiar?
I voted for Edwards in the 2004 Primary. If he still wins the nomination despite this display of weakness under rabid reactionary attack, I would still be willing to vote for him in November. Unfortunately, the righties would be able to play this up as waffling and flip-flopping and knuckling under to bullies. "If he caved in to mere conservative bloggers, what would he give up to Osama?"

The only way I can see him pulling out of this nosedive now is if he emerges at a news conference saying the two bloggers are staying on, because he doesn't take orders from hypocritical bigots, but that they had wanted to quit and he's been quiet so long because he's been convincing them not to leave, since that would be fanning the flames for those hatemongers.

(I hope this post winds up looking silly because it turns out he's already doing something like that as I speak.)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Let Us Reason Together

In all of the angry accusations bouncing around the web over the Edwards-bloggers brouhaha, the most level-headed, moving, and hilarious piece I've seen yet is by the Anti-Essentialist Conundrum at All right, John. We need to talk.

Dr. Kevorkian, Please Report To North Carolina

Salon has an iffy claim up that the John Edwards campaign has just fired their new bloggers, Amanda Marcotte, formerly of Pandagon, and Melissa McEwan, of Shakespeare's Sister. Caution must be taken, since
Speculation from sources that the two bloggers might be rehired was bolstered by Jennifer Palmieri, a spokeswoman for the Edwards campaign, who said in an e-mail that she would "caution [Salon] against reporting that they have been fired. We will have something to say later."
All of this comes after today's New York Times piled on spreading the rightist swiftboat of the week, condemning the Edwards campaign because these two bloggers had written things on their own blogs which were profane (guilty as charged -- but any leading righty site has as bad or worse), unfair to the Duke lacrosse players accused of rape (yes, Amanda did write as if they were guilty, just as most of the media did about O.J. -- but that is hardly a usual concern of the righties, going back at least as far as Nixon denouncing Charles Manson as guilty), and, worst of all and the prime spark, anti-Catholic (this came from Bill Donohue, a proven hypocritical bigoted reactionary demagogue who himself openly disagrees with his church on many things such as the death penalty, but who hypocritically condemns any disagreement with the church from a liberal point of view as anti-Catholic hatred).

The campaign denouncing this has been all over the righty sites (no links -- all the usual suspects were involved). If Edwards is caving in to their demands now, he doesn't have the spine to stand up to them in the campaign or in the White House. This foolish spokesperson, saying earlier that they were considering those bloggers' position, and now "cautioning" instead of just saying yes or no, thus leaving them dangling in the wind, is incompetent and should be fired instead. If the Edwards campaign is going to fight back, it will need a clear voice of moral certainty to say so. Palmieri isn't that person.

The jury is still out. Edwards: flip-flopper, incompetent manager, or strong champion of free speech against bigotry? The web awaits.

UPDATE: Zuzu at Feminste has more, including videos of the bigoted Donohue, at This Is Really Getting Out Of Hand:
John Edwards, if you are at all serious about getting the votes of liberals, of women, of people who care passionately about the issues you talk about, then you can not cave to the likes of Bill Donohue.

Because there will be no end to the demands for capitulation. They won’t rest on their laurels after having taken out two relatively small fry. No, their demands will only increase, and there is no appeasing them.

And in the end, they’re not going to vote for you anyway. And the people who agree with them aren’t going to vote for you anyway.

The people you’ll lose, if you cave, are the people who hunger for someone who will stand the hell up to these kinds of loudmouthed, anti-Constitutional hacks who stand for nothing but their own selves.
UPDATE 2: This kind of wobbliness has even outraged good Dems in Texas, a state that has shown a lot of support for Edwards. Charles Kuffner, dean of Texas bloggers at Off the Kuff, writes in If you want me to vote for you, here's what you've got to do:
If you want my vote, the bare minimum that I expect of you is that when a two-bit thug like Bill Donahue threatens you, you fight back instead of handing over your lunch money like a little weak-kneed fraidy cat. Anybody who tries to appease the likes of William Donahue instead of standing up for himself or herself is not going to be able to survive the general election, so I'll be looking for someone else to represent the Democratic ticket. You would think that John Kerry's running mate would understand that.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Where Have I Been?

Those who may have missed my usual snarks, rants, or risible parodies, not to mention occasional pointers to discoveries elsewhere, can find me posting daily another of my Today's Birthdays or Today in History, over at the American Street. Longer items (like the crossposted one below) are more rare, due to lack of time. But I've not gone away, just busy, and there will be more to come as the inspiration strikes.

Come Back, Shams

The United States completely withdrew its final remaining few military forces from the former nation of Iraq in May of 2007. This followed the passage of the Persian Gulf Stability Act of that year, which cut off all funding for the war. Passed by only a bare majority in both houses of Congress, it was quickly signed into law by President Pelosi. That was only made possible by the impeachment and removal from office of both President George W. Bush and Vice-President Richard Cheney. While Cheney was removed for abusing his authority to enhance his stock options with his former company, Halliburton, the incident which sparked the removal of Bush involved, like Nixon before him, obstruction of justice. This remains controversial because it seemed to conflict with an explicitly designated Constitutional power of the President.

In February of 2007, U.S. Brigader General Joshua Coventry spoke to a large assembly of female students in Baghdad. This was a politically-chosen audience. It was intended to show both that the new surge of troops had so pacified the city that normal education was possible, and to show U.S. commitment to equal opportunities for women, beginning at the school level. Only a promise of massive military protection sufficed to produce a group of several hundred girl students for him to speak to.

The talk began poorly, when the General said, through his translator, that he was sent there personally by President Bush to help them. The result was an explosion of laughter from the teenagers. The General went on assuring the girls that Bush really did care about them, and the laughter began getting out of hand. The angry officer then began shouting at them to shut up, because when they laughed at our President they were laughing at the United States of America, which, since we were a Christian nation, meant they were laughing at the Lord Jesus Himself. This had no effect, except catcalls of the Arabic equivalent of "right on!" Finally he had a guard fire a gun at the roof, which quieted them down, at a serious cost to his reputation for level-headedness.

At this point one of the now-quieted girls began humming an Arabic tune. This was rapidly picked up by all of the others, until almost the entire room of students was loudly humming, and then they began singing the lyrics out loud. Asked what they were singing, the translator advised the General that it was a song called "Ahlan! Ezayek?", which meant "Hi! How are you?" That is what caused the General to completely lose control of himself, since he had already seen the popular YouTube of the music video of that song as shown widely on Arab television. He had also read about how the Kuwaiti singer, named Shams, was mocking and satirizing Bush. The popular video even showed her hitting U.S. troops over the head with a shoe. Worst of all, it ended with her walking off into the sunset, wearing a wedding dress and holding hands with Handala, the well-known Arabic cartoon symbol of the displaced Palestinians, thus implying unified Arab support against both the Americans and the Israelis.

That was just too much for the fundamentalist Christian General, who was publicly awaiting the upcoming Rapture. In a rage he ordered the guards to shoot down the singing students. Unfortunately, he forgot that the assembly was being broadcast live on local Arabic television, which showed plenty of blood spewing from bodies jerking about as new bullets crashed into them. The massacre led to an unprecedented unity among Shias and Sunnis, who both took to the streets rioting and attacking Americans, finally leading to orders to evacuate even the Green Zone itself.

The General did make it back to base, and then fled the country along with tens of thousands of troops whose supply lines were no longer considered secure. The world universally denounced the General's actions. The outrage reached thermonuclear proportions when President Bush promptly pardoned the General of any charges, leaving him free to retire and retreat from the public eye. The backlash from that pardon was what produced sufficient votes for the House to vote to impeach Bush for obstruction of justice, and for a narrow two-thirds margin of the Senate (including several Republicans) to convict and remove him. Charges were promptly filed against Cheney for corruption, and by May, dragging it out as long as possible, he too had been tossed aside. (Needless to say, Congress never even took up Cheney's attempted appointment of John Ashcroft as Vice-President.)

Ex-President Bush went into hiding at his family's new estate in Paraguay. Ex-President Cheney foolishly went on a hunting trip in Canada, where a clever local police officer arrested him on charges of war crimes. After a long legal battle over extradition, Cheney was finally shipped off to the Hague and tried by the International Criminal Court, denying their jurisdiction all the way. Untimately his final heart attack ended the trial before a verdict was reached. Shams the singer went on to become even more wildly popular, heralded as the woman who helped bring down the Last Crusader (as the Arab media began referring to Bush), and ultimately sharing the Nobel Peace Prize that year with environmental crusader Al Gore.