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Don't Lynch Me, Bro! Lynch That Guy!

Friday, December 07, 2007 by Michael Reynolds

Huge surprise:

A spokesman for the Mitt Romney campaign is thus far refusing to say whether Romney sees any positive role in America for atheists and other non-believers, after Election Central inquired about the topic yesterday

It's a sign that Romney may be seeking to submerge evangelical distaste for Mormonism by uniting the two groups together in a wider culture war. Romney's speech has come under some criticism, even from conservatives like David Brooks and Ramesh Ponnuru, for positively mentioning many prominent religions but failing to include anything positive about atheists and agnostics.

Well, duh. What else is new? We're everyone's favorite punching bag. Obviously Mitt's looking for a victim, someone the Mormons and the Evangelicals can agree on as a scapegoat. A unity goat.

Huckabee tried to get evangelicals to unite in hatred of Mormons, so Mitt the Flip responds with, "No! Don't lynch us. Lynch . . . those guys!" It's hate jujitsu. Huckabee will have to be quick on his feet if he's not to be drawn inexorably into the wrong mob.

This qualifies as moral leadership in modern America. Huckabee and Romney. Profiles in courage. Battling for control of the mob.

Here are the top ten groups any American can attack with impunity:

10) Ugly women
9) Drug addicts
8) The French
7) Mormons/Scientologists (guilty)
6) Mexicans
5) Kidnapped and molested children (Bill O'Reilly only)
4) Smokers
3) Liberals
2) Fat people
1) Atheists

You can see why a Mormon would want to shift focus to Atheists. Mitt's offering Evangelicals a chance to trade a #7 hate object for the #1 hate object. Plus, he's offering to tie the noose. It was either us or fat people, and given the fitness level of Iowans . . .

It's okay. We're not upset. We are secure in our insufferable arrogance.

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You Gotta Have Aliens

Thursday, December 06, 2007 by Michael Reynolds

David Frum, National Review Online:

To be blunt, Romney is saying:

It is legitimate to ask a candidate, "Is Jesus the son of God?"

But it is illegitimate to ask a candidate, "Is Jesus the brother of Lucifer?"


Look, although I'm an ethnic Jew, I was raised a Christian. Most people I know, most people I like and respect, are religious to one degree or another. I don't have a problem with Christians, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, mystics, new agers, Buddhists, Hindus . . . Let me make this perfectly clear: all you people are nuts as far as I'm concerned. But then again, I assume you all feel the same way about me and my ilk, so no harm/no foul.

But if you're going to have a faith, and assert that your faith is central to your thinking, you cannot then place the details out-of-bounds.

And the simple fact is, if you happen to belong to a religion that is obsessively secret about its beliefs and practices, your "faith" probably qualifies as a cult. You can't have a cult without secrecy.

Secrecy. And one other vital element: aliens.

These are, from my purely non-theological position, the two elements that define a cult:

1) Secrecy.
2) Aliens.

The Jews, my people, have a number of crazy beliefs. They think God wants you to wear a beanie and cut off the end of your dick. This is, by any reasonable standard, insane. But because they're quite open about all this, and because they don't import space monsters to do the dick-cutting, they are a religion, not a cult.

Catholics believe that a never-married priest should give marital advice to married couples. And they believe that in certain circumstances, a person can become possessed by an ancient demonic spirit who will flee when sprayed by holy water. Further, thy think when they eat blessed bread it becomes the flesh of a dead Jew. Again: loony tunes. But they make no bones about it: it's all right out in the open. And again, the demons are domestic, not imported from outer space.

Muslims believe they have the stamina to handle 72 virgins. 'Nuff said. And yet, none of the virgins is from another planet. (None is from New York, either. Badumpah!)

Secrecy and aliens. Secrecy alone isn't enough, otherwise Opus Dei, Skull and Bones and Hillary's health care task force, would be cults.

Aliens alone isn't enough, otherwise Trekkies and Galactica freaks would qualify.

No, it takes both. And from where I sit, Mormonism has both in spades.

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Mitt the Flip

by Michael Reynolds

Mitt Romney, Rodent-eating alien.

When Mitt Romney's father, George, ran for president in 1968, no one paid the slightest attention to the fact that he was a Mormon. What's happened since 1968? The GOP's deliberately divisive faith-based politics. Mitt Romney today paid the price for his party's deeply un-American, utterly ruthless and unprincipled exploitation.

Most unintentionally funny line from Mitt the Flip:

"Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs even to gain the world."

From there he wandered into contradictory drivel both reaffirming his belief in Jesus and then denying that he would, or should explain his religion.

Totally leaves agnostics and atheists out of the laundry list of creeds he respects. Gosh, imagine my surprise. Then he pivots and attacks "secularists," demonizing one group in order to make his point that we shouldn't demonize his group. Lovely.

Mitt spends the speech having it both ways: only the religious are qualified to lead, and denomination doesn't matter. Faith is vital, and yet not so much the question of faith in what, exactly. Faith in, um, good stuff. Shhh. No details.

Yeah? How about if we were talking bout snake handlers, Mitt? Still you'd insist that a person of faith is preferable to one without, and still you'd assert that details are irrelevant?

What a greasy creep this guy is. That having been said, given the state of the electorate (particularly in Iowa) it was a very effective speech.

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I'm Only Trying To Help.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007 by Michael Reynolds

Tomorrow night Mitt Romney will deliver the much-anticipated, some might say threatened, Mormon speech. In a sincere desire to help, I have put together some ideas of my own. Mitt, buddy, use as much or as little as you want.

Ladies and gentlemen, my fellow Americans, my fellow Christians.

That's right, I said my fellow Christians.

Now, some of you may have a problem with that. Especially those of you who are Jews. Or Buddhists, Muslims, atheists or so on. But this speech isn't really for you people, because frankly, you won't be attending the Iowa caucuses, so shag off. This speech is for my fellow Christians. Of Iowan descent.

My fellow Christians, in this season when we celebrate the arrival on earth from an alien planet of Jesus, the son of Elihu, (and Lucifer's brother,) it's appropriate that we reflect on the spirit of religious tolerance that both mainstream Christians and Mormons have been forced by secularists to accept.

We all worship the same God. You may call him Jehovah, and believe he began as the storm god favored by a pack of middle-eastern camel traders. We call him Elihu, and believe he flew here from the planet Kolob. See? No difference.

You revere the virgin Mary. We revere the virgin-until-Elihu-nailed-her Mary.

You believe in life after death in a heaven that exists in an undisclosed location. We also believe that we will live on after death, ruling over one of the many available planets in the universe.

Both maintream Christian and Mormon must rely on faith, and faith alone to fully grasp the nature of this wondrous afterlife. The Christian has faith that, deprived of ambition, sex drive or meaningful employment, he will enjoy an eternity of singing "Hosanna!" and chilling with the ladies of the altar guild. Some might think that would get old after a few days, but because you have faith, you understand that even after a thousand years, a million years, a billion years, it will still be sweet, sweet joy. Hosanna!

Mormons, for their part, must have faith that eternal life forever joined with their earthly families, is paradise, as opposed to a vision of hell. They must trust that the wife whose charms began to wane several years ago will nevertheless satisfy their needs forever. For ever. And ever. And of course they have to assume that whoever currently inhabits those endless available planets will welcome the domination of toothy, white bread Utahans.

The point is that whether we wear magic underwear or not; whether we believe that Jesus hopped a flight to North America or stayed in the middle east; whether we believe that God arranged to show us the path to salvation by burying golden plates in a hole in New York, there to be discovered by a known fabulist, or believe that a loving God had no choice but to arrange the hideous execution of his son; whether we believe we are destined to become gods ourselves, or merely god's eternal cheering section; we can come together in this certain knowledge: we may all be crazy as hell, but we're still not as crazy as Scientologists.

Ladies and gentlemen, all religion is crazy. Granted we seem to have a little more crazy than is strictly necessary. But this, after all, the United States of America, not Lebanon. And despite the relentless exploitation of religion by the Republican party, I'm running for president and not pope or pastor or prophet. I'm a Republican candidate, not a Mormon candidate. So maybe, just a thought here, people, maybe we should shut up about our "Faith." Then we could talk about things like war and health care and education. You know, things that have to do with the whole President of the United States gig.

And thank whatever God you like that at least we're in no danger of ever electing an atheist.

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by Michael Reynolds

Get out of our lives you awful little man.

David Gregory's question:

Q Mr. President, thank you. I'd like to follow on that. When you talked about Iraq, you and others in the administration talked about a mushroom cloud; then there were no WMD in Iraq. When it came to Iran, you said in October, on October 17th, you warned about the prospect of World War III, when months before you made that statement, this intelligence about them suspending their weapons program back in '03 had already come to light to this administration. So can't you be accused of hyping this threat? And don't you worry that that undermines U.S. credibility?

THE PRESIDENT: David, I don't want to contradict an august reporter such as yourself, but I was made aware of the NIE last week. In August, I think it was Mike McConnell came in and said, we have some new information. He didn't tell me what the information was; he did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze.
In August the president's intelligence chief says, "Hey, we have something new on Iran," and Mr. Bush asks no follow-ups.


During the subsequent three months, even as the president and Mr. Cheney are applying their war paint and dancing naked around the fire to the thrilling tom-tom-tom of the war drums, no one from the intelligence community says, "Hey, Mr. President, maybe you should calm down because it turns out the Iranians are not making a bomb."

Liar. You are a simple liar, Mr. President. Liar.

But hold up, Michael, surely Mr. Bush just misspoke. Surely he did not mean to imply that even as he was ranting about World War III and Mr. Cheney was throwing back his head and howling at the moon like a mad dog, no one in his administration warned him off.

Q Mr. President, thank you. Just to follow, I understand what you're saying about when you were informed about the NIE. Are you saying at no point while the rhetoric was escalating, as "World War III" was making it into conversation, at no point nobody from your intelligence team or your administration was saying, maybe you want to back it down a little bit?

THE PRESIDENT: No, nobody ever told me that.

One of two possible conclusions: 1) The entire intelligence leadership of this country should be fired en masses for dereliction of duty, or, 2) Mr. Bush is a liar.

It is becoming clearer by the minute that my first instinct was right: Rumsfeld and assorted neo-cons and toadies out, Gates and McConnell and others in, and suddenly the intelligence community decided enough was enough. Having been cherry-picked, bent-over-without-so-much-as-a-reach-around, and hung out to dry over Iraq, the intelligence community, with new leadership forced on the administration by desperation, an electoral beating and historically low poll numbers, decided "No. Not again."

Which leaves the other conclusion. Mr. Bush is a liar. His vice president is a liar. They lied in an attempt to push us -- and the Israelis -- into war with Iran.

So now, with that conclusion firmly in hand, let's roll back the clock and look at the last war. I am one of those naive souls who has maintained that Mr. Bush was only an incompetent nincompoop, not a criminal. I believed he believed there were WMD in Iraq. I believed that he believed in remaking the Middle East by re-inventing Iraq as a hotter, less yuppie-infested Vermont.

But now, with Mr. Bush's hand so undeniably deep in the cookie jar, we have to give a great deal more credence to the theory that Mr. Bush isn't just an idiot, but a deliberate, coldblooded warmonger.

Maybe its time to amend the Constitution to clarify what constitutes an impeachable crime. Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney are guilty of staining American honor, weakening the country they swore to protect, lying, lying, lying and also lying to the American people, violating their oaths of office.

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The Big "Never Mind." [updated]

Tuesday, December 04, 2007 by Michael Reynolds

Different takes on the "never mind" National Intelligence Estimate.

Here's one:

The real story behind this NIE is that the Bush Administration has finally concluded Iran is a bridge too far. With Iranian-backed Shi'a groups behaving themselves, things are looking up in Iraq. In Lebanon, the anti-Syrian coalition and pro-Syrian coalition, which includes Iran's surrogate Hizballah, reportedly have settled on a compromise candidate, the army commander General Michel Suleiman. Bombing Iran now would upset the fragile balance in these two countries. Not to mention that Hizballah has threatened to shell Israel if we as much as touch a hair on Iran's head.
Here's another:
I think I may be able to help clear this up. My impression is that NIE’s aren’t findings of fact, they are estimates of likelihood. And, equally importantly, they are consensus documents. Consensus is a human political process not a binary choice. No new data need have come up to change the consensus. The consensus will change as personnel are hired, retire, move on, or merely as people re-evaluate the data at hand through reflection and discussion with their peers. If I’m wrong about this perhaps some more knowledgeable person will correct me.

Saying that “such and such lied in 2005” or “so and so is distorting policy with politics” are off-base. An NIE can say that the consensus in the U. S. intelligence community of something is highly probably in 2005 and the consensus about its opposite highly probable in 2007 and both be true since it’s measuring the consensus. It’s sticking a toe in the water. You can stick your toe in the water in 2005 and say “it’s warm” and stick it back in in 2007 and say “it’s cold” and neither your toe nor the water need have changed—only the perception.
Here's a third:
Newly declassified portions of the latest National Intelligence Estimate, which indicate that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, prove that the US intelligence community is finally showing some spine, according to one nuclear analyst.

Appearing on the BBC World news program, Joseph Cirincione (above right), the director of nuclear policy at the Center for American Progress, said that the US military and intelligence agencies were reasserting themselves as President Bush enters the final year of his administration. Cirincione agreed with the BBC host that intelligence had "rediscovered its spine."
Here's mine:

Between the "Oh, Sweet Christ, They're Building a Nuke!" NIE of 2005 and the "Never Mind," NIE of 2007, here are some things that happened:

1) The Democrats took Congress, which means that they took over appropriations for the intelligence community and acquired the power to launch investigations of said agencies.

2) Donald Rumsfeld -- the least-deservedly smug person on planet earth -- was booted out and replaced by Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense. Gates is a Bush 41 guy, not one of Bush 43's coterie of nitwit Machiavellis. Gates either has integrity, (I know, it's an archaic word, look it up,) or perhaps just the native good sense not to let himself be carried down beneath the cold, cold waves by this Titanic of an administration.

3) President Bush and Vice President Cheney achieved Nixonian levels in the polls.

Which means that if you're a lifer in one of the civilian intelligence agencies you are wise enough to know that your future is much more about getting along with Congressional chairman than with dead-in-the-water, cherry-picking, war-is-always-the-answer chief executives.

And, if you are a lifer in one of the military intelligence agencies your new boss has made clear that he has precisely zero interest in bombing Iran.

And, lo! A 180 was executed. A somersault. A death-defying mid-air reversal the likes of which we haven not seen since 1989 when the CIA was forced to retract its report entitled, "Russians: Ten Feet Tall!" and replace it with, "Russians: Pffft!"

Right now I don't have a clue in hell whether Iran is or is not building a nuke. Neither do you. Nor do we know whether the intelligence community is incompetent, dishonest, misunderstood, or just the world's largest boondoggle. To American voters trying to decide what to support and what to allow, the intelligence community is useless. That's right: useless. Of no use. A nullity.

Given the Bush administration's absolute lack of credibility, and the intelligence community's absurd record of failure, we are left with only one sensible conclusion as American citizens: nobody bombs anybody until George W. Bush is permanently back clearing brush on his little Potemkin ranch in Crawford.

Mr. President, step away from the bombs.

Jesus H. Christ: will November never come?

[update] Some other POV's:

It troubles me that both sides in the debate over this document are cherry picking information to buttress their cases. Seen in its totality, I believe this NIE is cautious (perhaps overly so), prudent – in that it takes into consideration what we might not be able to see, – and careful in drawing conclusions. It’s main point – that Iran halted its dual use program in 2003 – appears solid as does its warning that we don’t know if that is still true today. In retrospect, I was too harsh on the Administration yesterday (thanks to my new Watchers Council colleague GW of Wolfs Howling for pointing this out) when I took them to task for their rhetoric. The fact that the White House is still warning the world about possible Iranian nukes is a sound policy that this NIE does nothing to undermine.

America’s spooks have put together a truly pathetic record over the years, ranging from failing to anticipate the collapse of the Soviet Union and the 9/11 threat to being diddled by Saddam over what turned out to be his nonexistent nukes program, as well as willingly allowing themselves to be used as political pawns.

And so while I would like to share the sense of relief many people seem to feel, I am unable to do so. Besides which, Iran could restart its nuclear weapons program tomorrow — or maybe already did yesterday amid great glee with the release of the intelligence report — since it continues to enrich uranium.

Congress, of course, was dithering while all of this was going on. If there are any good guys, it may be those weapons inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency who had it right with Iraq and apparently had it right with Iran, as well. Nevertheless, the agency has been viewed as demon spawn by the U.S., which intercepted dozens of its director general’s phone calls with Iranian diplomats in an unsuccessful effort to have him ousted.

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A Song That's Not Really About A Schlage.

by Michael Reynolds

Somebody done changed
Somebody done changed the lock on that door
Somebody done changed
They done changed the lock on that door
'Cause the key I got won't fit that lock no more

Now I came home last night about half past ten
Tried to get the key in the lock but I couldn't get it in
'Cause somebody done changed
They done changed the lock on that door
'Cause the key I got won't fit that lock no more
I looked through the window to see what I could see
She was talking to someone else
I know it wasn't me
She said, "daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, you don't have to go
'Cause I done changed, I done changed that lock on my door"

She changed the bed around, even painted the door
She even changed the carpet, I mean on the floor
My baby changed
Oh she done changed the lock on my door
'Cause the key I got won't fit that lock no more

Well, I walked down the street, lookin' where I used to go
She's got a mean black snake, and I can't go there no more
My baby changed
She done changed the lock on my door
And the key I got won't fit that lock no more.

-- B.B. King.

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Monday, December 03, 2007 by Michael Reynolds

There are any number of adjectives I might have expected to apply to Hillary Clinton. Stupid was not one of them. But this is stupid:

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – At a news conference here just now, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton expanded her attacks on Senator Barack Obama by suggesting that he has a character issue because of his assertions that his health insurance plan covers all Americans (which she disputes) and because his old political action committee spread around money in early presidential nominating states.

Asked if Mr. Obama had a character problem, Mrs. Clinton first said it was up for voters to determine, but then added:

“It’s beginning to look a lot like that – it really is, where we can’t get a straight answer on health care, where somebody runs on ethics and not taking money from certain people is found to have at least skirted if not violated F.E.C. rules and to use lobbyists and Pac money to do so. You’re going to have ask the Obama campaign, but I have said for months that I would much rather be attacking Republicans and attacking problems of our country because ultimately that’s what I want to do as president.

“But I have been for months on the receiving end of rather consistent attacks – well now the fun part starts,” Mrs. Clinton said, punctuating the word “fun.” “We’re into the last month, and we’re going to start drawing the contrasts, because I want every Iowans to have accurate information when they make their decisions.”
No, Hillary, no. This is not the way. The way to play this with Obama is condescension. Your role is the unintentionally belittling mother. Obama's the gawky, easily-humiliated teenager. That's how you play it. You're amused by his presumption. You like him, too, he's cute, he's sweet. Aw, wook at him trying to be pwesident, isn't that pwecious? That was the play. Not pulling out a shiv and trying to stab him in the throat.

Then, there's this:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign has used words attributed to Sen. Barack Obama from when he was a kindergartner -- and from when he was in third grade -- to accuse him of "rewriting history" when he says he hasn't been planning for a long time to run for president.

I mean, Jesus. You're doing oppo on the man's kindergarten records now? When he was three and wet his bed, then tried to cover it up, was that a character issue? Did he flip-flop in his mother's womb? Do we know all we should about his time as a zygote? Better find out!

Hillary's trouble began some weeks back when she blew the famous drivers license question. But that was -- should have been -- a mere flesh wound. Sadly, it seemed to knock her off her stride. Since then, she turned in a strong performance at the, um . . . I'm gonna say 74th . . . debate, but she has not regained her mojo. Bill hasn't helped. Oprah, announcing for Obama, hasn't helped. Hillary's whining and playing victim hasn't helped.

But you know what really hasn't helped? The latent romanticism of Democratic voters. There's no joy in a Hillary story. There's no love, there. No throat choked with emotion on inauguration day. Hillary is the candidate of cold calculation, of ruthlessness and competence.

Obama? Obama is the narrative we want. Obama's the one whose presence in the race flatters us. We want the answer to be Obama. And he's showing just the tiniest bit of backbone, lately. He's no tough guy, yet, but his wrist seems just a bit less limp.

We were trying to content ourselves with low-fat competence rather than chocolate-frosted romance. Then Hillary went and spoiled it all by showing that she could be derailed by a trifle. That wasn't competence on display. And this panicky, misbegotten attack on Obama, isn't competence. And if Borg Queen Hillary isn't competent, what the hell is she?

I'd still trust the country to Hillary before Obama. Obama still hasn't grown tall enough, and broad enough, and shown that he can throw an elbow. But what was once a wide lead in my mind is a razor's edge now. Can Hillary get her death star back on course? Or will the kid step up and make the sale?

Show us something, Barack. You know we want you.

Hillary? We don't like you, so we have to be overawed by you before we'll vote your way. So stop the stupid.

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