So there is Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, on a Sunday morning talk show, looking like the cat that had swallowed the canary. The question was, words to the effect of, "so, Gov., what do you think about the Sanford mess and the future of your party?" Man, he just ate it up. (This was just a few days before he was forced by the Minnesota Supreme Court to certify the election of Al Franken, an event he was presumably not so happy about, but what the hey, you can't win 'em all.) Here was one big rival for the 2012 GOP Presidential nomination caught up in an adultery scandal.
Not that adultery automatically disqualifies one from seeking a leadership position in the GOP and being taken seriously for it. Rudy Giuliani was a serial adulterer (and may still be, for all we know). He is being taken seriously as a candidate for the Governorship of New York in 2010. But with the current and previous occupants of the post being adulterers as well, hey, maybe in my state that's a qualifier for the post. Newt Gingrich was also a serial adulterer (remember the story about him telling his first wife when she was in hospital recovering from cancer surgery that he was leaving her and he already had her successor lined up?) He's being taken very seriously as a candidate for the 2012 Presidential nomination (at least by himself and from some adulatory cable channel anchors). And oh yes, he's now on his third wife, apparently having committed adultery on, as well as with, his second. Then there is the GOP 2008 Presidential candidate, John McCain. After his return from Vietnam, it has been said that he was kanoodling with the present Mrs. McCain before her predecessor was officially an ex-Mrs. McCain. Then he may well have been doing the same thing much more recently with one of his publicists, with the second Mrs. McCain still very much in the picture (or at least in the campaign pictures).
When the Shah of Iran was overthrown in January 1979, a moderate, bourgeois-democratic pro-Western one, led by Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar, replaced his government. Although for most of his time in power the Shah had been content to reign as a Constitutional monarch, he became increasingly enamored of himself as a potential dictator. In 1975, he had abolished multi-party government and installed himself as the head of a one-party state. He literally outlawed all other parties than his own. He labeled members of the principal opposition party, the Tudeh, "traitors" (are you listening, Coulter, Limbaugh and Le-vin?). He in effect declared, in words that might sound familiar to citizens of the United States, "you are either with us or against us."
Any opposition activities were criminalized and his at least in part CIA-trained secret police, the SAVAK, terrorized and tortured his enemies, real and perceived. When finally overthrown, this butcher was then allowed to go into exile, an event that was immediately greeted by an outpouring of public rage against him and everything he stood for. Eventually, President Jimmy Carter, succumbing to great pressure from a group of leading Republicans at the time, permitted him to enter the United States, against very strong warnings of what might happen sent by the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Their warnings proved to be tragically correct. And so ensued the hostage crisis and the accession to power of the Mullahs, as reactionary in their way as the Shah was in his, led by the Ayatollah Khomeini.
So the Republican Scream Machine, this time both in Congress and on the airwaves, are screaming that President Obama should "do something about Iran." He should be going hammer and tongs on the issue of the obviously stolen election there. Of course if President Obama had done the foolish thing and proclaimed long and loud about what is happening inside Iran, the Republicans would be yelling at him for doing that. But that reality just reflects what the GOP is all about: Just Saying "No" to everything the President says "Yes" to. After all, you can't blame them, can you? After all, they have nothing positive to offer.
So let's analyze what previous U.S. meddlings in Iranian affairs have produced, all but one of them the product of Republicans and, in all cases, the product of Republican policies. Before we do that, let's ask the question why the current GOP crop, the Georgites, and their political residue are so upset with the present Iranian government. After all, I said in BuzzFlash commentary some time ago, George Bush and Mahmoud Ahmedinejad have a lot in common.
And so we have another tragedy. Here is another law-abiding citizen holding to a particular religious belief about when life begins, following the law as prescribed in his state, who is murdered. He is murdered by another citizen who happens to disagree with that particular religious belief as to when life begins as well as with the law concerning abortion. The murderer is convinced that his religious belief as to when life begins is the only correct one, and that all others, in his non-legal concept of the law, are criminal. He holds to the view that his particular version of "the truth" is "ordained by God," which somehow, in his view, and in the view of many others of his ilk, justifies violence against those who disagree with them, up to and including murder.
He holds to this view despite the fact that there are many other people who believe in God who do not agree with that particular religious position, holding rather that a) life begins at the time of viability, b) that in certain circumstances where the life of the mother is in grave danger if the pregnancy is allowed to proceed to term, abortion after the time of viability is justified, and c) that in certain circumstances the fetus is so fundamentally damaged that if it came to term the result would not be considered "life" by some significant portion of the body politic, and so abortion, with the express permission of the pregnant woman, in those cases is justified. So this man has a particular mind-set and thinks that because "God" and a whole range of ministers have told him, in one way or another, that it's OK, he can just go and kill somebody.
In our society, most such people dealing with issues other than abortion-rights are roundly condemned and if caught, punished, either before or after taking such actions, for whatever reasons. Let's say that someone thinks that Bernard Madoff deserves to be killed because he has ruined or at least severely damaged the lives of who knows how many thousands, perhaps tens of thousands or people. No one (and certainly not the Bill O'Reillys and Ann Coulters of this world) would defend that person's right to commit murder in that case. Suppose a disgruntled GM autoworker or dealer thought that Rick Waggoner deserved the death penalty because of the state to which his leadership brought General Motors. No one (and certainly not the Bill O'Reillys and Ann Coulters of this world) would defend that person's right to commit murder in that case. You get my drift, I'm sure.
BuzzFlash is currently featuring the book Dead Silence: Fear and Terror on the Anthrax Trail by Bob Coen and Eric Nadler. The header notes: "If you think Al-Qaeda Had Anything to do with the Anthrax Attacks, Don't Read This Book. This Was Domestic Terrorism, And Most Likely at the Highest Levels." Of course there are and have been conspiracy theories galore in American history, from the one that the Confederate Secret Service was behind the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, through what really sunk the battleship Maine in Havana Harbor, to what had Churchill (in WW I the British First Lord of the Admiralty) arranged to have squirreled away in the forepeak of the Lusitania (the sinking of which was a major factor drawing the United States into that war), on to both Kennedy and the King assassinations, and so on and so forth.
It happens that conspiracies in the Western world are more often linked to right-wing forces than they are to left-wing forces. (Actually, considering just the United States, since there have not been any militant left-wing forces other than the short-lived and ill-fated Weathermen for almost a century, that is hardly surprising.) So whenever a conspiracy theory is put forward, the Right jumps on it in full throat: "Conspiracy theory, conspiracy theory," as if just saying that would be the end of it. Well, that isn't the end of it. To illustrate the point let's just take an historical meander through just some of the more prominent conspiracies that the U.S. Right and on occasion the U.S. Center (as in a Democratic President), in power, have hatched and both successfully and on rare occasions unsuccessfully brought to a conclusion over the last half-century or so.
Michael Vick is one of the most talented players ever to play in the National Football League. He is a throwback to the days of the "triple-threat man." He could run, pass, and kick. Well, offensive backs no longer kick in either the college or the pro game, but Michael Vick could both run and pass. A fine passer (quoting here from Wikipedia) "Vick owns several NFL records, including the most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season (1,039 in 2006), highest average per carry in a single season (8.45 in 2006), 100-yard career rushing games by a quarterback (eight), best two-game rushing total (225 in 2004) and rushing yards in a single game (173 in 2002)." In the pro sport, where the league goes out of its way to try to protect its quarterbacks from physical contact except when it's absolutely essential, here's a quarterback who, when he ran, went out of his way to make it. And generally stayed healthy. And oh yes, he happens to be an African-American.
Dog-fighting is an unpleasant "sport" that is common in many countries around the world, and has a long history. It is illegal in most countries even where it is widespread (not including Japan; again, see the Wikipedia entry on "Dog fighting"). In the U.S., both the fighting itself, apparently quite widespread, usually between two pit bulls bred for the purpose, and the gambling on it, also apparently quite widespread, are illegal. For some reason that is yet to be determined, Vick, highly paid with much endorsement income as well, got caught up in both sponsoring dog-fighting and sponsoring the gambling associated with it, across state lines. He was caught, and prosecuted under both Federal law and that of several states.
"Angels and Demons" is the second film to be made from one of Dan Brown's books on various aspects of the history of the Roman Catholic Church and the impact of that history on its present role and structure. The first of course was the wildly successful film "The DaVinci Code," based on the wildly successful book of the same name. Having been a life-long action-adventure-historical novel reader (I started reading the historical novels of Howard Fast, which had plenty of action in them, when I was nine), I think that Brown is good at his craft. He does keep you on the edge of your seat and has a real knack at keeping you guessing about heroes and villains. He has obviously done a huge amount of research about both art history and the history of the Roman Catholic Church. So he does have a huge treasure-trove of facts about both at his command. He liberally shares that research with his readers, while making it very clear from his fanciful plotting that he is writing a novel, not a history book.
One only need look at his hero, symbologist Robert Langdon. I am a reasonably well-educated person, but frankly before I saw "The DaVinci Code," I had never heard of symbology. In fact, when I saw the movie I thought Brown had made up that occupation. He didn't, but he most surely did invent a person who, without a whip and skills at the martial arts, has much in common with Indiana Jones. So much so that in "Angels and Demons" at the Vatican's call, he is off to Rome within 20 minutes of being invited to deal with an emerging emergency. A Harvard professor who hops out of a swimming pool where he is doing laps and then barely has time to dry off before he flies off (apparently without bothering to pack for such a trip)? Once at The Vatican, he becomes not only a practicing symbologist, but also a kind of super-detective trying to figure who the bad guys are. He has got to be a fictional character.
So it's a fictional story about the Catholic Church. The Vatican didn't much like "The DaVinci Code," apparently because of its strong implication that Jesus Christ was not only not celibate, but also was actually married to Mary Magdalene and had one or more children with her. If Jesus Christ was an actual historical person (and there is a good deal of debate about that one), and Mary Magdalene was his wife (and there is some debate about that) and they had one or more children who themselves had children and then on down through human history since then there have been offspring, that creates certain problems for the Church.
For months, the torture debate has been focused to a significant extent on the issue of whether it "works" or not for eliciting useful intelligence from captured military operatives, quasi-military operatives, suspected terrorists, or people caught in some "anti-terrorist" dragnet who might well have nothing to do with the activity. Virtually every expert on gaining useful intelligence from captured operatives "from the other side," whatever their particular classification might be, has said that it doesn't. One must note that there are a handful of non-experts in addition to Cheney who think that torture does "work."
The list includes the well-known GOP shill (so The New York Times said in a May 9 editorial) and MSNBC morning talk-show host Joe Scarborough and the prominent Christian-Rightist Gary Bauer. Bauer stands in favor of the use of torture along with a number of other Christian Rightists for whom that fact that Christ himself was tortured to death by the Romans (who used crucifixion to punish their enemies over a period of centuries) seems not to be of import.
Of course there was never any reason to think that the torture techniques put together by Dick Cheney and his staff and specifically approved for use by President Bush (so Cheney has told us, quite publicly) would "work," in terms of gaining useful intelligence. After all, the techniques specified for use, as we know in (literally) painful detail from the post hoc memo written by "Judge" Bybee, were, as almost everyone knows, drawn from a torture program used on captured U.S. servicemen by the Chinese People's Liberation Army in North Korea over 50 years ago. It is also well-known that these techniques were specifically designed to elicit false confessions, not useful intelligence, from the U.S. POWs. On that level, it was successful.
Dick Cheney, John Boehner, Porter Goss, Condi "We were terrified" Rice, Fox "News" Channel, Savagely O'RHannibaugh. They are all telling us that "they," meaning the Cheney-lead decision-makers on torture, made us safe. By using torture that is. After all, they say, they were no attacks after 9/11. And so there weren't. That justifies the use of torture, or anything else for that matter, I suppose. After all, at one time relatively early in the Iraq War, but at the time when things started to go not so well in Anbar Province, O'Reilly said "nuke 'em." Hey, why not? The end justifies the means, doesn't it?
But hey, isn't that what the anti-Commies used to hang the Commies with, especially Stalin? "They are so awful. You know, for them, the end always justifies the means. That such shows how low they will go. Why even to the use of torture and the Gulag to accomplish their ends. Well, that's what the Commies are," the Cheney-types would say (and worse). But hey again, you know, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. The GOP is never consistent (well, hardly ever). It thus becomes obvious that when some accuse them of having small minds the accusers are being just totally unfair. But that's another question.
Oh those "tea parties." They just go to show you how much publicity you can get for a cause that troubles not very many people when you've got a powerful Privatized Ministry of Propaganda behind you. And boy, was the Fox "News" Channel there for several weeks running up to the event. They ran both paid and unpaid ads for it incessantly. The main line? The Republican mantra that has been tried-and-true since the time it first worked in the battle over "Prop. 13" in California in 1977. That was the one that slashed funding for education in California under the guise of "cutting your taxes."
No one mentioned what the reductions in state and local revenue would do to education in the state nor the fact that the bulk of the cuts would go to businesses, not individuals. But it did solve the problem that the so-called "small government" Republicans (that is small government for anything smacking of national domestic spending, not small government for matters ranging from freedom of religious belief as to when life begins to supporting a mountainous military-industrial complex) had. Goldwater had found that he couldn't run against specific programs. But when his successors discovered running "against taxes," away they went.