SocraticGadfly: 12/25/05 - 1/1/06

December 29, 2005

Who says you have to have a link to a news story in every blog post?

Even on a political blog, I don’t think that’s 100 percent true, 100 percent of the time.

If blogs are indeed a form of online commentary, why can’t you write them like newspaper op-eds, unless you want to comment on a particular quote or statement. Even then, given fair use, if you’re just quoting a sentence or two from a news story, particularly if it in turn is a direct quote of a political figure made in a public event, you don’t need a URL for that, in my opinion.

On the other hand, coming from print journalism, I wouldn’t mind seeing URLs used in newspaper columns. And graphic illustrations, when appropriate and not just op-ed “bling.”

Are blogs creating too much “dittoism”?

I would argue that’s definitely the case on the right-hand end of the political spectrum (not counting far-right, racist, etc. blogs, news feeds, etc.), and that it’s becoming more that way on the mainstream liberal/left-of-center area of the mainstream political spectrum.

I think true left-liberals, serious one as well as nutter ones, are resisting that trend, though. And that’s part of why I call myself a progressive, not a liberal. (I do consider myself to have some left-liberal tendencies, especially in economics and foreign affairs.)

It’s also why I consider myself a skeptical progressive, and that in turn is why I made the post immediately beneath this one.

Wouldn’t it be ironic at the least, and tragic at the worst, if many of the very same people who tout how the Internet has expanded our intellectual freedom voluntarily make themselves into an ever-more-conformist herd of sheeple?

Read the news first, then blogs

That’s one of my 2006 New Year’s resolutions.

You can go to news feed websites such as Raw Story, which link to stories that are likely to be of interest to liberals in general and Bush Administration critics in particular, before you go to Kos, Eschaton, MyDD or other partisan blogs.

Decide for yourself what the news says, before letting the mainstream media, or blogs of either the left or right, further filter it.

December 28, 2005

Ted Rall gets it, Kevin Drum doesn’t

Before Christmas, Washington Monthly’s Kevin Drum once again descended into his nice-guy soft liberal squishiness.

This time it was over the National Security Agency’s warrantless spying on Americans. While saying it certainly appeared to be illegal, Drum went squishy as to whether it was unconstitutional or not, apparently taking a “police-state light” interpretation of the Fourth Amendment.

Fortunately, people like Ted Rallget it.

Rall lists just who’s been getting spied upon. What’s not to get about the unconstitutionality of actions like this?
So I was barely surprised to hear the big news that Bush had ordered the National Security Agency, FBI and CIA to tap the phones and emails of such dangerously subversive radical Islamist anti-American terrorist groups as Greenpeace, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the American Indian Movement and the Catholic Workers, without bothering to apply for a warrant. “The Catholic Workers advocated peace with a Christian and semi-communistic ideology,” an agent wrote in an FBI dossier, a man sadly unaware of the passings of J. Edgar Hoover and the Soviet Union.

Apparently, that’s “just” illegal to people like Drum.

Rall notes that, unfortunately, we never fully rolled back the Nixonian imperial presidency.
The return of brazen Nixon-style domestic eavesdropping --it undoubtedly occurred under presidents from Ford to Clinton, though on a smaller, more discreet scale--indicates that the White House is flipping ahead to the next page in its Hitler playbook, the part about exploiting a state of perpetual war to stifle internal dissent on a vast scale.

In reality, it’s arguable that such authority was never intended for the president by the authors of our constitution.
Actually, as Peter Irons documents in his outstanding “War Powers: How the Imperial Presidency Hijacked the Constitution,” the Founding Fathers never intended for the "commander in chief" to have any powers beyond ordering troops to repel an invasion force. As everyone understood in 1787, the title was strictly ceremonial. A president can't declare war, much less violate our privacy, based on his commander-in-chief ”authority.”

Hell, yes, it’s unconstitutional, no matter what quasi-liberal squishy defenders of the theory, at least, of the imperial presidency would say.

December 26, 2005

O'Reilly and the pseudo-War on Christmas

The spirit of Christmas, like the celebration of any other holiday, is always an inside job.

That’s why I find this recent political spin from Bill O’Reilly and the “we distort, you deride” folks at Fox News, and their fellow travelers, to be laughable until I look past that to the hypocritical. (The Fox network had a “holiday” party, not a “Christmas” party; apparently that didn’t stop O’Reilly from going.)

But let’s take just a bit of a further look at some of the claims by O’Reilly and his fellow travelers, above all their attack-dog comments about stores that say “Happy Holidays” and not “Merry Christmas.”

First of all, if you’re really pinning your pining for the “true meaning of Christmas” on the overworked, underpaid lips of some Target or Wal-Mart clerk, whose corporate bosses’ idea of rosy-red Christmas cheer is the red on your credit card statement, well, you probably couldn’t find the true meaning of Christmas or any religious or secular moment if it bit you or if you grabbed it with both hands.

The Jesus of the Bible chased the moneylenders out of the Temple rather than citing their extortionism, or the greed behind it, as example of communal social and moral values. He also pointed to a God who forbade his people from charging usurious interest, which is certainly what you get when you don’t pay off your credit card bill ASAP.

This same Jesus was also of the spirit that your Yes should be Yes and your words trusted enough that you can say that, which the Plano School District can tell you has escaped O’Reilly.

And, that very same Jesus also told his followers to “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s.” That would suggest that the Republican Congressmen whom O’Reilly served have missed the boat by politicizing an nonexistent “attack on Christmas” in the first place. That would be the same set of Republicans who had no problem “protecting” Christmas while at the same time denying “protection” to Hanukkah on the floor of the House of Representatives Dec. 14.

As far as what that Target or WallyWorld greeter says, the corporate masters will have him or her say whatever most fattens the corporate bottom line. If the Bentonville lackeys of the Walton second generation thought that the phrase “Splendiferous Saturnalia” would sell more made-in-China tchotchkes, the word would be on the lips of every greeter from Lancaster, Texas through Lancaster, Pa., to Lancaster, England.

In any case, contrary to the febrile imaginings of O’Reilly, there is no quasi-Bilderberger confab of American retail executives, no coffee klatch vote to ram “Happy Holidays” down American throats. As this nation is still theoretically well over 80 percent Christian, it can’t be that type of conspiracy.

Beyond that, if you really want to worry about ethical uprightness at the nearest retail store, my personal first suggestion would be, “If it’s made in China, don’t buy it. You don’t know who made it and under what conditions.”

Besides, as Ron Carlson makes clear this week in his church column — this is America, the land of millions of choices. That includes the choice to be responsible for many things, including one’s own happiness and one’s own inner mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.

If you hear some Wal-Mart drone bee say “Happy Holidays,” and you don’t like it, you’re free to counter with “Merry Christmas.” Or to complain to the boss. Or to go to Target.

Many Christian denominations didn’t even celebrate Christmas a century ago. Some still don’t celebrate it today.

Whether it was over concern that the observance was still too “popish,” or a desire to do the equivalent of praying in their closets in secret, they’ve probably kept more of the Christmas spirit of their belief burning inside than many other people have outside.

Finally, to riff on the book of Acts, and update the words of the Pharisee Gamaliel: “If this Christmas thing is really religious and not about partisan political point-making or crass capitalist commercialism, it will succeed. If not, it will fail.”

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or … Splendiferous Saturnalia.