The NY Times blames “some Democrats and Internet bloggers” for “stirring up talk of a ‘secret plan’ by the Bush administration to resume the draft.” The stirring was prompted by a press report of a Selective Service plan to stage a mock draft “to determine how, if necessary, the government would get some 100,000 young adults to report to their local draft boards.” The exercise, the Service assures us, is unrelated to recent proposals to send a “surge” of new troops to Iraq. Heck, they schedule and cancel mock drafts all the time. Nothing to see here.
Speculation about a draft is actually stirred by surge proponents, who have yet to explain where they will find the surging troops without drafting them, by the secretary of veterans affairs, who recently opined that a draft might benefit the country, and by the president, who wants a bigger Army despite the military’s struggle to meet existing enlistment quotas. When the Selective Service director complains that “you have people trying to create fear when there’s nothing there” – referring, like the Times, to Democrats – he’s talking past the disconnect between Republican support for plans that require more troops and the absence of any meaningful plan to find them. If Republicans don’t want the country to worry about a draft, they should give us a realistic plan for increasing the size of the military without one.
Social Misfit Wingnuts, Possessed By Evil, Always Ruin the Party One of the best parts of writing about the right wing's racist war against brown people, which they hide under the rhetoric of "law enforcement," is the joy of[...]
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Reuters AlertNet:The decision to charge four Marine officers accused of failing to properly investigate the killing of 24 Iraqi civilians was a rare step and might never have occurred had the media not brought the incident to light, experts said on Friday.The Marine Corps on Thursday charged four Marines with unpremeditated murder in the killing [...]
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"The whole truth about Christmas . . . reveals why all can enjoy it. It is the perfect example of America's mainstream process, a national rite that dissolves the boundaries between sacred and secular, pagan and civilized, insiders and outsiders."
--Harvard sociology professor and current New York Times guest columnist Orlando Patterson, in his column today, "A Holiday for Us All"
Anyone who's read DWT a bit may have picked up the hint that among those of us who hang out here, Howie and I at least aren't exactly religiously fervid.
I am prepared to acknowledge, at least, that over the millennia there have been a large number of sincerely religious people whose religiosity led them to do good deeds and live good lives, lives that improved those of at last some portion of their fellow humans.
But then you have to set against that the routine destruction and even monumental evil perpetrated through history in the name of religion. Not to mention its apparently irresistible invitation to authoritarian control among the leaders (sometimes just for the sake of power itself, sometimes for profit, often for both), and surrender of mind and will, and with them moral responsibility, among the followers. Not a pretty picture.
But it's Christmas! How could anyone except Scrooge himself be a Scrooge on Christmas?
Don't try saying that to that puling pussyboy Bill O'Reilly or his fellow psychopaths who have dreamed up the bizarre psychotic fantasy that somebody has stolen Christmas, indeed that Christianity itself is somehow under siege here in the U.S. of A. Really now, what the heck is the point of having loony bins if it's not keep brain-damaged people like that from posing a threat to themselves and especially to the rest of us?
Anyhow, the point I was getting at is that DWT is not the optimal place to come for a heapin' helpin' o' Christmas cheer. About the best I can come up with--and it's not nearly as entertaining as the recent Studio 60 vivisection of the holiday--is this erudite pro-Christmas column by Orlando Patterson. (Although I think he thinks he's said the final word on the subject, I will actually have a more final word after he's had his holiday say.)
December 23, 2006
A Holiday for Us All
By ORLANDO PATTERSON
Christmas seems to bring out the worst in America's culture warriors. The Christian right continues its crusade against those waging "war against Christmas." Multiculturalists have nearly banished "Merry Christmas" and "Silent Night" from the public domain and are now going after outdoor Christmas trees. Atheist activists like Sam Harris are goaded into defending the outing of their Christmas trees with the argument that it's all secular anyway.
Harris is only partly right. The whole truth about Christmas is far more interesting and reveals why all can enjoy it. It is the perfect example of America's mainstream process, a national rite that dissolves the boundaries between sacred and secular, pagan and civilized, insiders and outsiders.
From the very beginning Christians have always had a tenuous hold on the holiday. The tradition of celebrating Jesus' birth on the 25th of December was invented in the fourth century in a proselytical move by the Church Fathers that was almost too clever. The pre-Christian winter solstice celebrations of the rebirth of the sun, especially the Roman Saturnalia and Iranian Mithraic festivals, were recast as the Christian doctrine of the re-birth of the Son of God. Like many such syntheses, it is often not clear who was culturally appropriating whom. Certainly, throughout the Middle Ages, Christmas festivities like the 12 days of saturnalian debauchery, the veneration of the holly and mistletoe, and the Feast of Fools were all continuities from pagan Europe.
For this reason, the Puritans abolished Christmas. As late as the 1860s, Christmas was still a regular work and school day in Massachusetts. By then, however, its reconstruction was well on the way in the rest of the nation. America drew on the many variants of Christmas brought over by immigrants. It is telling that, in the making of Santa Claus, it is the English Father Christmas, derived from the pagan Lord of Misrule, rather than the more Christian Dutch St. Nicholas that dominates.
The commercialization of the holiday began as early as the 1820s, and by the last quarter of the 19th century a thoroughly unique American complex had emerged--ornaments, Christmas trees and the wrapping of gift boxes. Christmas further evolved in the 20th century with department store displays, Santas and parades, the outdoor Christmas tree spectacle, postage cards and secular Christmas songs. All American ethnic groups contributed to this national ritual.
The re-Christianization of the holiday emerged in tandem with its commercialization during the 19th century. Secularists did not distort or steal Christmas from Christians: in America they made it together. What's more, as the cultural historian Karal Marling shows, the festival's most compassionate aspect, charity, came mainly from the influence of Dickens's "A Christmas Carol," which, however, drew heavily on the largely invented accounts of a romanticized Merrie Olde England by the American travel writer Washington Irving.
The outcome of all this is a uniquely American national festival perfectly attuned to the demotic pulse of the common culture: its openness and vitality, its transcending appropriation of eclectic sources, its seductive materialism. It is, further, a mainstream process that dovetails exquisitely with more local expressions of America like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, the former a reinvention of a minor Jewish rite, the latter a pure invention, in a manner similar to the wholly fictitious Scottish highland tradition that pipes up around the New Year. Kwanzaa borrowed heavily from Hanukkah, right down to the menorah, in fashioning the American art of mirroring the mainstream while doing one's own ethnic thing. Decorating public Christmas trees with menorahs should be a soothing natural development in this glorious hall of cultural mirrors.
Ejecting Christmas from the public domain makes little sense, and not simply because religion only partly contributed to its emergence as a national rite. It should be possible to enjoy Christmas while recognizing its muted Christian element, even though one is neither religious nor Christian, in much the same way one might enjoy the glories of a Botticelli or Fra Angelico in spite of the unrelenting Christian presence in their art. In much the same way, indeed, that one might enjoy jazz, another gift of the mainstream, without much caring for black culture; or the American English language that unites us, in spite of Anglo-Saxon roots that are as deep as those of Father Christmas.
Boy, did Elizabeth Dole blow it big time.
As early as last summer, Mehlman signaled he lacked full confidence in Dole's committee. In an unprecedented move, he set up an independent entity to control more than $12 million that the Republican National Committee spent for television advertising in Ohio, Tennessee and Missouri.
Aides at both party committees insisted at the time the decision was a joint one. But Mehlman privately told associates he was frustrated with the Senate campaign committee. His actions contrasted sharply with the battle for control of the House, where the RNC contributed funds to an existing campaign organization rather than create its own.
Frist also wanted an outside check. In an unusual move, he hired a polling firm, The Winston Group, shortly before Labor Day to conduct surveys in six important races.
Based on the results, officials said Frist stepped in to help overhaul Bob Corker's struggling campaign in his home state of Tennessee. Corker ended up beating Democrat Harold Ford Jr. Frist also pushed for a resumption of party-paid advertising in Montana and questioned plans for a multimillion-dollar investment in New Jersey.
This was truly bizarre, and I may have written about it once or twice during those hectic final months of the election -- we were getting polling results from the various Senate races from both the NRSC and the Senate Majority Leader's office. Considering that each poll costs $15-50K, it was a great way to squander money by needlessly duplicating efforts. Or perhaps it was so "needlessly", given that it was ultimately Frist who pulled Bob Corker's balls out of the fire in Tennessee. Dole and her NRSC appeared incapable of righting that ship.
Final fundraising figures show Dole's committee raised $30 million less than the Democratic counterpart headed by Sen. Charles Schumer of New York. Given the disparity, several Republican strategists questioned the decision to spend more than $4 million last fall in New Jersey and $800,000 in Michigan in an unsuccessful attempt to find a weak spot in the Democratic lineup. Democrats won both races by relatively comfortable margins [...]
NRSC officials said the White House and RNC had recommended the late-campaign investment in new Jersey and Michigan [...]
Interesting that Dole is getting all the blame for this one, considering that it was moves that Karl Rove was aggressively promoting. And not just Michigan and New Jersey, but Maryland as well. And while in New Jersey the polling justified the expense (Kean lead for some time), the numbers in Michigan and indigo Blue Maryland never justified the millions Republicans dumped into them. A fraction of that money, spent in either Virginia, Missouri, or Montana would've likely given us a 50-50 Senate.
At the same time, more than a dozen party officials and strategists criticized the steps the committee took — or did not take — in Montana and Virginia in the campaign's final weeks.
Burns and Sen. George Allen lost exceedingly close races — the margin of defeat a fraction of a percentage point. A victory in either one would have left the Senate tied at 50-50, giving Republicans control on Vice President Cheney's ability to break tie votes.
Two more weeks of ads in Montana might have made a difference, said one of many Republicans who expressed anger that Dole's committee aired no television advertisements in Burns' behalf for between Labor Day and Halloween.
In Virginia, Allen and the Senate campaign committee combined were outspent on television advertising in each of the last five weeks by challenger Jim Webb and the Democratic campaign committee, according to internal GOP figures. The gap exceeded $700,000 in the final seven days.
Numerous Republicans also have displayed anger at Bush for the party's election losses, in particular his decision to wait until after the election to replace Donald H. Rumsfeld as defense secretary [...]
At one point, officials said, White House aides wanted Bush to make a late-campaign trip to Missouri. NRSC strategists were opposed, fearing the impact of his low approval ratings. Ultimately, Sen. Jim Talent's campaign aides decided the president should go to strongly Republican areas, but not Kansas City or St. Louis, where surveys showed the president was particularly unpopular.
That Bush visit probably cost Talent his seat.
There's another Dole decision that gets a pass in this lengthy AP report -- the NRSC's decision to go in, guns blazing, on behalf of Lincoln Chafee in the Rhode Island Republican primary. The decision left every battleground state East of the Mississippi River without party staff for 10 days during the summer, which included most of the contested Senate seats this past cycle -- Ohio, Missouri, Tennessee, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey. They sunk millions of dollars in Chafee's effort over a popular movement conservative. Not only was the money wasted in an ultimately futile effort, but the move also angered activists and further demoralized an already dejected crowd. Picture the DSCC dumping money into Joe Lieberman's campaign against Ned Lamont in the primary, and you'll understand how they felt.
Dole was a disaster. Bush is a disaster (and always will be). The GOP playbook was a disaster. Candidates like Burns and Allen were disasters. And it's fun seeing them all blame each other.
Today, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that top American commanders — including Gen. George W. Casey, Jr. — have “decided to recommend a ’surge’ of fresh American combat forces” in Iraq.But exactly one year ago, Casey rejected a troop increase in Iraq and recommended to President Bush that the number of U.S. forces [...]
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I'm sympathetic to Kevin's thinking about this stuff, but it just doesn't work this way. There has been no grand bargain between war supporters and the rest of us such that they get their "one last shot" and if things don't work out then, you know, the dirty fucking hippies will finally be put in charge of things. As we've seen with both neoconservative hawks and liberal hawks, they're never wrong and the mess they've created will always justify the continued mess. Brookings' Michael O'Hanlon has informed us that "2007 will be make or break time in Iraq." Actually, that's not true, as tends to happen with this issue he informed us that it will "very likely" be "make or break time." A year from now we'll find out that no, 2008 is Pony Time. And O'Hanlon also tells us that if 2007 leans towards break instead of make, there are some wonderful New Ideas to try like, say, "a plan to help people to where they feel safer within the country." Which, once you run that through the Quiet American decoder ring, actually means "forced ethnic partition and mass relocation." Because once we do that there will surely be nothing to fight about anymore. Whatever.
And this is the Left Flank of acceptable elite discourse on the subject, almost 4 years after the dirty fucking hippies were proved fucking right.
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Steve Wiegand: If you ace this quiz ... seek help In his race against Democratic challenger Charlie Brown for the 3rd District congressional seat, incumbent Reep John Doolittle repeatedly accused Brown of being too cozy with NAMBLA, which stands for: a. The National Association of Metal Balloons of Los Angeles. b. The North American Man-Boy Love Association. c. The Nigerian Assembly of
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PLEASE NOTE: This is not exactly a political piece. Occasionally I put down thoughts that may not provoke debate. These thoughts sometimes have no master; they come up from behind you and force you to pay attention. I hope you may find good thoughts at the end of this.*******************************Yesterday, where I [...]
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Because some things you can't enjoy just once.
From Editor & Publisher, they give us the gist of the speech:
WASHINGTON -- A blistering comedy ?tribute? to President Bush by Comedy Central?s faux talk-show host Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondent Dinner Saturday night left George and Laura Bush unsmiling at its close.
Earlier, the president had delivered his talk to the 2,700 attendees, including many celebrities and top officials, with the help of a Bush impersonator.
Colbert, who spoke in the guise of his talk-show character, who ostensibly supports the president strongly, urged Bush to ignore his low approval ratings, saying they were based on reality, ?and reality has a well-known liberal bias.?
He attacked those in the press who claim that the shake-up at the White House was merely re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. ?This administration is soaring, not sinking,? he said. ?If anything, they are re-arranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg.?
Colbert told Bush he could end the problem of protests by retired generals by refusing to let them retire. He compared Bush to Rocky Balboa in the ?Rocky? movies, always getting punched in the face ? ?and Apollo Creed is everyone else in the world.?
Turning to the war, he declared, "I believe that the government that governs best is a government that governs least, and by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq."
He noted former Ambassador Joseph Wilson in the crowd, just three tables away from Karl Rove, and that he had brought " Valerie Plame." Then, worried that he had named her, he corrected himself, as Bush aides might do, "Uh, I mean ... he brought Joseph Wilson's wife." He might have "dodged the bullet," he said, as prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald wasn't there.
Colbert also made biting cracks about missing WMDs, ?photo ops? on aircraft carriers and at hurricane disasters, melting glaciers and Vice President Cheney shooting people in the face. He advised the crowd, "if anybody needs anything at their tables, speak slowly and clearly into your table numbers and somebody from the N.S.A. will be right over with a cocktail."
Observing that Bush sticks to his principles, he said, "When the president decides something on Monday, he still believes it on Wednesday -- no matter what happened Tuesday."
Also lampooning the press, Colbert complained that he was ?surrounded by the liberal media who are destroying this country, except for Fox News. Fox believes in presenting both sides of the story ? the president?s side and the vice president?s side." In another slap at the news channel, he said: "I give people the truth, unfiltered by rational argument. I call it the No Fact Zone. Fox News, I own the copyright on that term."
He also reflected on the alleged good old days for the president, when the media was still swallowing the WMD story.
Addressing the reporters, he said, "Let's review the rules. Here's how it works. The president makes decisions, he?s the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Put them through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know -- fiction."
He claimed that the Secret Service name for Bush's new press secretary is "Snow Job."
Colbert closed his routine with a video fantasy where he gets to be White House Press Secretary, complete with a special ?Gannon? button on his podium. By the end, he had to run from Helen Thomas and her questions about why the U.S. really invaded Iraq and killed all those people.
As Colbert walked from the podium, when it was over, the president and First Lady gave him quick nods, unsmiling. The president shook his hand and tapped his elbow, and left immediately.