view from mars

"Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day."

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

c-ville weekly hearts goode

So the C-ville Weekly threw its $.02 into the MZM/Goode story. It ain't worth much more than that.

I gotta say, I'm really disappointed in their coverage of the story. While this week's cover features a huge head-shot of Goode with the words "Bad times for Virgil Goode?" splashed across the bottom, I was hard pressed to find much criticism of any substance.

This passage seems to be the thesis:
However, Goode’s association with the lurid scandal could hurt his political fortunes. The affable Goode is immensely popular throughout most of the huge Fifth District, which is roughly the size of New Jersey, having won at least 63 percent of the vote in the last two elections. Even the two Democrats who are vying for his seat say the MZM affair will not be enough, by itself, to sway voters away from Goode. But it may have tarnished his squeaky clean image.
This passage seems to be the conclusion:
It’s too early to tell whether Goode’s constituents care about the scandal. Watkins of the Fifth District Republicans says people will view efforts to equate Goode with Cunningham or Wade as nothing but partisan attacks.
Watkins is actually Tucker Watkins, chairman of the Fifth's Republican committee. The author relies quite heavily on Watkins' remarks elsewhere in the piece:
Tucker Watkins, the Fifth District’s Republican chairman, agrees, predicting that the MZM case will have no impact on Goode’s run in Congress. “You’re talking about a guy who’s worked hard to bring jobs into the District,” Watkins says. “I think they’re barking up a real bad tree on this one.”
And here:
In both Richmond and Washington he developed a reputation as a man of the people (despite a net worth of between $1.2 million and $3.3 million). His office in Rocky Mount is rickety and his car has 270,000 miles on it, according to Watkins.

And here:
“Virgil Goode has a 33-year record in public office,” Watkins says. “Almost nobody questions Congressman Goode’s integrity.”

To further justify this storyline that appears throughout the article, the author includes this bit:
James H. Hershman, a professor at Georgetown University and expert in Virginia politics, thinks only revelations that Goode knowingly broke the law could force the popular congressman out of office. After all, he says, many of Goode’s constituents will see his dealings with MZM as being just that of their loyal Congressman trying to bring much-needed jobs to the Southside.

“He’ll probably survive it politically,” Hershman says.

The author relies on Hershman's assessment to make this bold claim:
But despite Goode’s brush with wonkish infamy, it will probably take more than a confusing Capitol Hill imbroglio to take down the entrenched, five-term incumbent.
It's actually not that confusing, and any reader who bothers with the article can see that right away as the majority of the text is spent summarizing the suspicious activity Goode has engaged in. "Expert" criticism is limited to comments made by Al Weed and Bern Ewert.

In the timeline that follows, the author notes that the initial $3.6 million earmark occurred during an "undisclosed month" in 2003 and then correctly identifies Wade's reimbursement of MZM employees to Goode as occurring in "March." From a previous article I cited from USA TODAY we learn the following:
By the time Goode arranged an initial $3.6 million for the center in 2003, MZM's PAC and its employees had given the congressman nearly $33,000 in campaign contributions, making them at that point by far his biggest financial supporter for the 2004 election.
According to USA TODAY at least, contrary to the Weekly's timeline, the contributions occurred before Goode's earmark arrangement. This bit of information is missing completely from the Weekly's timeline, and is even implied that the opposite is true. Wrong, and completely irresponsible.

Nowhere in the Weekly's article does the author note that these contributions were given within a very short time period, and fails to add that none of the contributors had donated prior to this burst.

Here's what I think the thesis statement of the article ought to be:
Goode did not respond to C-VILLE’s questions, faxed at his request, by press time.
If they had waited, maybe they would have been able to point out some of those questions that Goode curiously refused to answer from the Roanoke Times. Instead, we get drek like this:
Rev. Cecil Bridgeforth of Shiloh Baptist Church in Danville told C-VILLE during the 2004 election season that when federal money comes to the Southside, “people think he’s ridden in on this white steed and he’s given us this money.”

Goode was trying to fill precisely this role, at least in his public machinations, through his relationship with MZM.

Nice. What a man of the people.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

passage of the moment

I'm in the middle of reading 1984, one of those books I bought for a class long ago that has since stood unopened on my bookcase. I'm through the first book -- it's become one of those stories that haunts me long after I've put it down, that becomes the framework through which otherwise unremarkable mundanities are illuminated by the powerful symbols and themes that are at the front of my mind, and as a result take on new meaning and cause me to hesitate and ponder. I love that feeling. Here's a particularly powerful passage -- I got chills:

In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable -- what then?

...

The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command. His heart sank as he thought of the enormous power arrayed against him, the ease with which any Party intellectual would overthrow him in debate, the subtle arguments which he would not be able to understand, much less answer. And yet he was in the right! They were wrong and he was right. The obvious, the silly, and the true had got to be defended. Truisms are true, hold on to that! The solid world exists, its laws do not change. Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall toward the earth's center. With the feeling that he was speaking to O'Brien, and also that he was setting forth an important axiom, he wrote: Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.

-- 1984, George Orwell: Signet Classic (1950) p. 69

Monday, March 06, 2006

oh goode-y

The Roanoke Times comes through again! Marvel at the lack of bias, bask in the light shining free from the toxic cloud that is Media General!
"At no time have I or, to my knowledge, any member of my staff been contacted by federal authorities," Goode said in a written statement released Sunday.

"I do not have an attorney," he said. "Since I have not done anything wrong, I see no reason to get one."

The statement is the most detailed response the Rocky Mount Republican has made to date about the now-defunct MZM Inc., his largest source of campaign contributions in recent years and a key player in one of the political corruption cases shrouding Capitol Hill.

[snip]

Goode's two-page statement, e-mailed at 5:42 p.m. Sunday, came seven days after his office directed reporters to submit in writing their questions about Wade's guilty plea and the continuing investigation.

Although it was Goode's most detailed account so far, the statement left many questions unanswered.

For example, Goode offered no response to the following question from The Roanoke Times: "Other than campaign contributions, did you ever receive anything of value from either Mitchell Wade or MZM?"

[snip]

No one has publicly accused Goode of taking such gifts.

But there have been questions about the campaign contributions he received from MZM's political action committee, its employees and their family members -- questions that Goode chose not to address in his statement Sunday.

[snip]

At the same time he was receiving more than $90,000 in MZM-linked campaign contributions, Goode requested $3.6 million in defense funding that eventually went to MZM, then worked closely with state and local officials to draw up an economic incentives package that offered unusually generous benefits to the company for locating an operation in Martinsville.

Goode did not respond directly to a question about whether that amounted to a quid pro quo arrangement with MZM.

He did say he has submitted hundreds of funding requests during his tenure on the House Appropriations Committee that would benefit his district.

[snip]

The statement also left unanswered written questions about whether Goode should have realized that something was amiss about the MZM-linked money, given the amounts and the nature of the contributions.

[snip]

Goode -- who gave his MZM-linked money to charity when the scandal became public -- said some of the contributions were mailed to him and others he received in person at fundraising events.

But he did not respond to additional questions about the donations.

Nor did he answer a question about an additional $9 million in defense funding he sought for MZM that is mentioned in court papers related to Wade's case.

Go read the Times-Dispatch for Media General's take on Goode's statement. I won't blockquote it here, but here's a whiff of the stench that is their partisan sludge:
Defenders maintain that the popular Goode, a lawyer, has shown unreproachable integrity over a long career in the state legislature and Congress.
So, here's what we learn from the Times piece:
  1. Goode will not answer whether he received anything of value besides contributions from Wade.
  2. He did not answer whether his little arrangement with MZM/Wade that amounted to, you know, receiving contributions-then-inserting earmarks that would directly benefit his corporation amounted to quid pro quo. I guess it's just how things are done in Washington, is that accurate?
  3. He did not answer whether or not the contributions were suspicious. I'll just let that one speak for itself.
  4. He did not respond to inquiries into a more recent earmark attempt that was almost three times the size of the most suspicious earmark. (Special thanks to the Times for bringing this one up -- I thought I was going a little crazy about it.)
It takes exactly two seconds to tell the truth. Time to put the popcorn in the microwave.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

mom, i'm gay

Raw Story links to this bit from the AP via Washington Post from Saturday:

Parents Complain About Book's Undertones

The Associated Press
Saturday, March 4, 2006; 12:22 PM

SAVANNAH, Mo. -- A children's book about two male penguins that raise a baby penguin has been moved to the nonfiction section of two public library branches after parents complained it had homosexual undertones.

The illustrated book, "And Tango Makes Three," is based on a true story of two male penguins, named Roy and Silo, who adopted an abandoned egg at New York City's Central Park Zoo in the late 1990s.

The book, written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, was moved from the children's section at two Rolling Hills' Consolidated Library's branches in Savannah and St. Joseph in northwest Missouri.

Two parents had expressed concerns about the book last month.

Barbara Read, the Rolling Hills' director, said experts report that adoptions aren't unusual in the penguin world. However, moving the book to the nonfiction section would decrease the chance that it would "blindside" readers, she said.

Even if it happens in nature, presumably as their intelligent designer intended, but it's a little too gay, whatever you do don't let the children see it.

The poor children! -- they might get the wrong idea, like that not everything in this hugely complicated universe as we know it follows their precious tradition their parents have made damn sure infects their entire worldview.

I know this might come as a shock to the wingnuts out there, but sometimes shit happens. Sometimes you just have to accept what comes, and make the best of it, even if it doesn't happen as you (or your Book) predict.

To me, this is really what they're talking about and what a few others have been talking about lately with the attempts in South Dakota to enact a society that believes forced childbirth is okay. (Read Digby. Now.)

I mean, isn't that what we're really talking about here? Look, I know we're talking about penguins -- but this just seems like such a perfect example of the type of thinking that makes people believe this hateful shit. Look at it like this: at least as far as the penguin scenario, when the mother isn't present because, oh, she was eaten by some sea lion/shark/killer whale/other predator or dies because she gets sick or maybe falls off some ice-cliff and breaks her back, and there's absolutely no individual else left to ensure the survival of the offspring, penguins (and I assume many, many other social creatures) have the capacity to sacrifice the procreation of their species (because two males occupied with child-rearing obviously can't occupy themselves with child-making) to ensure the survival of a sure-thing -- at least as much as they can. Let's not even talk about the broader implications for this type of behavior, like how it might have come to be or why it continues to exist -- they're freaking penguins and they have no capacity for self-reflection as we do; it's all biology and brain chemistry.

What is at the heart of the up-in-arm-ness these particularly batty wingnuts are displaying in Missouri, of all places, really is that they just can't handle that sometimes shit happens. Sometimes you are forced to survive, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it that fits into some perfect preconceived way of How Things Ought to Be.

Imagine these parents' reactions if one of their own children were gay and lived their entire life burdened with the unimaginable guilt/insecurity/self-loathing that would undoubtedly come about as a result of that.

See, before we can even talk about it, the wingnuts have framed it as a choice because surely-God-wouldn't-want-things-to-be-that-way. They've managed to distance themselves so much from reality that this idea of choice fundamentally underlies any of their arguments about it. Being gay is living in sin, living exactly contradictory to What God Wants. He just wouldn't have planned it that way, thank you very much, because that's not how It Should Be.

It's so easy for them to look at the world in this cause-and-effect, black-and-white, sin-or-not way because it eliminates the unpredictability and shittiness (and pain and sadness) that life really is. It's easier to live thinking that if some slutty waitress mother of two gets pregnant, she should have kept her legs shut if she knew what was best for her. That if you get AIDS by having sex with someone who didn't tell you about it, you deserve it because God Said Being a Fag is Wrong anyway.

Well what if that mother of two waitress was impregnated when her husband raped her when she was asleep or drugged. It happens, so STOP telling me that abortion is murder and we need to stick up for those poor babies because their murderous mothers hate them.

This is the same type of fear-based argument wingnuts use all the time to rationalize bad shit in the world, but sometimes bad shit just happens and we have nothing else to do except accept that we're still alive (hopefully) and that we have people who love us and that we can love back (hopefully.) When I walk out of my house and some drunk driver hits me and paralyzes me, what could I have done that would have saved me?

Look, you can always say that if you are a good Christian God will help you out and make sure shit like that doesn't happen. But that's not reality. Shit like that does happen and it happens every day to thousands of people for no reason at all. People who ban gay-penguin books or chastise women who become pregnant when they didn't want to argue the way they do because shit like that hasn't happened to them, yet, or they've managed to alienate the people who come to them for help (e.g. gay children) so much that they can function in perpetual denial, or they've religiocized it enough that it becomes "God's will." Well that's bullshit and no one can deny that bad shit happens to good people.

To bring what I've said here more directly into the argument over whether or not women should be forced, against their will, to have a baby, let's just look at the magnificence that is Digby's writing:
People have sex and lots of it, even when the "consequences" are severe. It's basic. And sometimes birth control fails or people lose their heads in the heat of the moment. Accidents happen. It is so banal and mundane and common that it's a bit bizarre to even have to make that explicit in the argument. Accidental, unwanted pregnancy happens every single day by the millions on this planet. Nature (or perhaps the "intelligent designer") expects women to get pregnant as often as possible and created the human sex drive to make that happen. Women, independent sentient beings that they are, want to control how many children they have. It's a constant battle and often times "nature" wins. It isn't a matter of morality. Sex between consenting people is simply human. And the right to abortion is simply a matter of human liberty --- a woman's right to decide her own fate and a woman's right to be a normal sexual being. Without both of those things, she can never truly be free.
Because sex doesn't always lead directly to pregnancy. In fact, a lot of stuff has to be "check" for a woman to get pregnant -- and often after an egg has been fertilized something will go wrong and the zygote will be flushed out of a womb, NATURALLY. All that aside, wingnuts love to argue that if a woman doesn't want to get pregnant, she shouldn't have been such a whore in the first place. Respectfully, WHAT THE FUCK?! So if a woman is married but she and her husband are in dire straits financially, but holy-shit the condom breaks and she gets pregnant, she should have just kept her slutty legs closed in the first place? Yeah, I think a judge would find extended periods of abstinence in a marriage grounds enough for divorce. So I guess that's the next step for South Dakota -- forced marriage, scheduled procreation, forced sterilization after a certain number of kids? (As if the man doesn't have just the same amount of responsibility for a pregnancy -- where are wingnut calls for forced vascectomy?)

To bring this back to the original intention behind this post, why can't we just understand that shit happens, but change the way that we react to it (and by we, I mean you rightist-Christians out there) -- just accept that your life is unpredictable. Your existence is unpredictable. Shit will happen to you that doesn't fit into your view of how things are or how they ought to be. Innocent people are dying by the MILLIONS around the world RIGHT NOW because of war, famine, poverty, disease, exploitation. Maybe they should have been better Christians so that they wouldn't be born into some shithole country where the government is engaged in genocide (I guess it's different because they're brown and smelly,) or mega-corporations think it's okay to pay their workers next-to-nothing and force their female workers to have abortions because it's hard to make flip-flops when you're pregnant.

Everyone and everything you know will die and there's not a damn thing you or God can do about it. That's what it comes down to.

We're all here -- now -- and none of us know how long we're going to be here. You decide: are you going to use your time here to hate and condemn and judge and make this hatred law? Or are you going to live as Jesus did, and leave the judgment to God. Are you going to Love, or will you choose to hate?

It's pretty clear to me -- the penguins loved when they were faced with adversity. Even if it meant -- gasp! -- looking gay. And they didn't even think about it. They just acted as their Designer intended them to act. What will we tell the children?

this, too

For more background on my last post, firedoglake and Crooks and Liars has the goods on what David Gergen said on Kurtz' "Reliable Sources":

"I am glad you brought that up. This administration has engaged in secrecy at a level we have not seen in over 30 years. Unfortunately, I have to bring up the name of Richard Nixon, because we haven't seen it since the days of Nixon. And now what they're doing -- and they're using the war on terror to justify -- is they're starting to target journalists who try to pierce the veil of secrecy and find things and put them in the newspapers.

Now, in the past what the government has always done is go after the people who leak, the inside people. That's the way they try to stop leaks. This is the first administration that I can remember, including Nixon's, that said -- and Porter Goss said this to Congress -- that we need to think about a law that would put journalists who print national security things to...bring them up in front of grand juries and put them in jail if they don't -- in effect, if they don't reveal their sources."

He's referring to this front page article in the Washington Post today:
The Bush administration, seeking to limit leaks of classified information, has launched initiatives targeting journalists and their possible government sources. The efforts include several FBI probes, a polygraph investigation inside the CIA and a warning from the Justice Department that reporters could be prosecuted under espionage laws.

In recent weeks, dozens of employees at the CIA, the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies have been interviewed by agents from the FBI's Washington field office, who are investigating possible leaks that led to reports about secret CIA prisons and the NSA's warrantless domestic surveillance program, according to law enforcement and intelligence officials familiar with the two cases.

[snip]

Some media watchers, lawyers and editors say that, taken together, the incidents represent perhaps the most extensive and overt campaign against leaks in a generation, and that they have worsened the already-tense relationship between mainstream news organizations and the White House.

"There's a tone of gleeful relish in the way they talk about dragging reporters before grand juries, their appetite for withholding information, and the hints that reporters who look too hard into the public's business risk being branded traitors," said New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller, in a statement responding to questions from The Washington Post. "I don't know how far action will follow rhetoric, but some days it sounds like the administration is declaring war at home on the values it professes to be promoting abroad."

I caught this article this morning, and I think it justifies a lot of the points I made in my last post. It's all about controlling the type of information that makes its way into the national consciousness.

They would not be doing this if actions that were legitimate were leaked to reporters. What we are seeing here is an attempt to crack down on those few media outlets that want to get to the bottom of it all (largely, here, we're talking about newspapers which of course are only read by 1-in-10 Americans.) They are doing this because of leaks about warrantless domestic spying, the Plame scandal, prisoner abuse/torture, lies about WMD -- you get the idea.

Redd at FDL says: "Given the stories on the White House efforts to go after leakers who make them look bad or expose illegal activites on the part of the President -- but selectively fail to really take their own selective leaking seriously (hello -- Dick Cheney can declassify whatever the hell he feels like, even though that's not what the law says?) -- I'd say that's certainly a topic worth some serious public discussion...Can someone explain to me how the Bush Administration expects anyone to take them seriously on this matter when Karl Rove still works in the West Wing with his security clearance intact after admitting to discussing Valerie Plame Wilson with two reporters?...When you use the laws to punish your critics -- even to the point of abusing this to try to silence whistleblowers -- yet you fail to punish your allies for illegal behavior that violates national security regulations...well, you don't really expect to have any credibility at all, do you? And to threaten journalists with jail for printing true information on how the Bush Administration may be breaking the law -- well, all I can say is that Stalin would be awfully proud, wouldn't he?"

Love those FDL ladies!

"recent surge in violence"


EarlG at Democratic Underground has the current top spot in Greatest Threads -- for good reason. He googled the phrase "recent surge in violence" and came up with this:

There are a few notable periods where violence is not reported as a "recent surge," (for example, Nov 2003 - Mar 2004) and there are a few notable periods where the violence is much worse (for example, May 2005).

But overall, it appears that there is a "recent surge in violence" reported in Iraq pretty much every few weeks [since September 2003].
I can't say that I'm shocked or surprised. It's that feeling I get daily when I encounter a new outrage -- those of us who bother to get to the bottom of things have become innoculated against this type of outrage. We come to expect it from the current regime. But I was staggered a bit by Earl's findings because it's been under our noses all along and I don't think anyone else has picked up on it before (well, we all have on some level) and presented it like he has. Go read the original post and see it for yourself.

The storyline the corporate media have been laying down since the war's inception is that the occupation of Iraq has been thorough, well-planned, and effective at containing "terrorists." When we have an administration whose primary goal is to create anarchy for the facilitation of the establishment of 'free-markets," their second goal must be to create an atmosphere in which the average citizen can at least partly justify the deaths of fellow citizens. They accomplish this by, well, lying to us via a complicit media structure.

In order to understand how this has occurred, it's necessary to understand that in today's media -- which is wholly controlled by a few uber-corporations with all sorts of ties to the government, GE (NBC) -- one equation constantly underlies the information that makes its way to us: favorable coverage = access.

If you don't understand how fundamentally this norm has infected our media/power structure, you cannot understand how this administration has accomplished what it has.

Because an alternative media structure has arisen in conjunction with the demise of media-as-pure-information -- this alternative, of course, is the internet -- the distinctions between the information provided by each media framework have become clearer. Truth and, well, something else. Truth influenced by some Other holder of truth. Filtered truth, I suppose. Wait, more accurately -- filtered truth that is again filtered by a media framework concerned with its ability to access filtered truth.

Just go read Amy Goodman's Exception to the Rulers. She does this for a living, okay? (And she's coming to McLeod Hall on March 24th.)

We're chipping away at the Embedded Media framework -- notice how many stories lately have either been broken by bloggers (and I'm not talking about Dan Rather, here, that's totally different) or broadcast through the corporate media because it has made a huge impact in the blogosphere? I mean, can you imagine the type of information we'd receive from the embedded media if not for a real and dynamic alternative venue for dissent? What if we had to keep it all to ourselves? Can you reasonably argue that our corporate media would be in the business of effectively digging into the information the Bush regime has been so concerned with filtering?

In the end, our embedded media represents the mega-corporations that own its components. Favorable coverage = access. Access = ratings. Ratings = advertisements.

It's that simple. And Joe-Blow-republican will tell me to my face today, if I asked him, that the liberal media is only out to get Dear Leader.

If they were doing their jobs they would be. Anything else is propaganda.

And now it's easier to understand the significance of Earl's analysis. To present violence in Iraq as they have (as Earl has found) is to simultaneously imply, over the course of the greater multi-year storyline, that things are largely under control. They portray incidents of violence as sporadic breaks from the general calm, or else they wouldn't be modified by "recent" or "surges." It's undeniable. What Earl's analysis clearly reveals is the emptiness of those modifiers. Violence in Iraq is steady, constant, and fierce. But the embedded media can't frame it in that way -- they are slaves to the storyline. Dissent, or critical analysis, breaks the equation.

Favorable coverage = access. Access = filtered stories. Stories = advertising revenue.