Monday, August 23, 2010

Debate: Should a mosque be built near Ground Zero?

I really can't pass this one up. For anyone who takes seriously our Constitution and our heritage as a free nation, the answer to the overarching question is obvious and unalloyed. Americans do not discriminate against religion. Period.

Leave aside that what's planned for lower Manhattan is not a mosque, and that it's being planned by Sufis, who are to al Qaeda's radical Wahabbis as free-love Jesus freaks are to Inquisition Catholics. Leave aside that the people involved are not in any way related to the criminal zealots who took down the towers. Never mind that they have clearly and repeatedly expressed their mission in terms of healing and solidarity against terrorism. Leave aside the distress of a few revenge-addled relatives of terrorism victims. None of this matters in light of the larger principle.

Freedom to practice religion is a sacred founding right of this nation, and our fundamental rights are never subject to votes or current public opinion. If that ever happens, this nation is well and fairly lost, and to the extent that we tolerate public "debate" like this, we shame ourselves. There is no equivalency here, no reasonable "other side."

Now knock it off. This is another phony issue raised by evil, power-hungry men and promoted by money-grubbing corporations to make you angry and careless about your vote. Don't fall for it.

Dentists push Gosar fundraising to top in crowded CD1 primary race

Joanna is taking a lot of heat in the comments over her citation that Gosar led Beauchamp in the tea-party poll. Coupled with Beauchamp's clear identification with the tea-party crowd, the pure volume of comments and lack of refutations made it inevitable that the story would need correcting, and a correction indeed appeared this afternoon. Take care of those tea partiers, they bite.

The real question is: where was the editor when this counterintuitive 'fact' showed up in Joanna's story? Did s/he leave Joanna out there on her own?

Between Beauchamp's tea-party endorsement, Gosar's Palin endorsement and the red-meat-addicted R primary voters, we can be pretty confident that Rusty Bowers, the only credible Rep in the race, will go down in flames, leaving a reasonable and experienced D up against a nutbar, amateur R in a Dem-leaning district.

Wiederaenders: Courier is working to catch 'mythtakes'

Tim responds to a reader complaining about "letters to the editor that present 'facts' as 'truth'," implying that he intends to fact-check such letters and do something unspecified about them. He tangents into a comment on "policing the online comments," citing "libel" and "fighting words."

"Have we made 'mythtakes'? Of course," he admits, but then shows that he doesn't really understand what that means, defending himself with, "There's always another side to the story, folks." No Tim, there are sides to a story, but not to facts -- facts don't take sides. "Fact" is the value the reader (and I!) want you to uphold separate from opinion, slant, analysis, dogma and human interest. You missed the point, and with your cute and folksy stylings you denigrate your own integrity.

I also notice painfully that you're willing to step up in response to criticism of letter and anonymous comment writers, who have no impact on the value of your product, but not the more serious criticism of the Courier's own myth-propagation and failures to fact-check. A regular and serious ombudsman's column, along with policy enforcement in response to it and real change, will go a long way to repairing the Courier's awful reputation and giving it a chance of survival in a future that's all about trust.

Editorial: Iraq War's purpose still unclear as troops return

Catching up on my writing after a few "days off" (read: real life), this headline would make me laugh out loud if the Bush apologists had been less successful in muddying American minds about the debacle we now refer to collectively as "Iraq."

Many readers are too young to remember the events of the late '80s that led us directly here, and generations have grown up since the US began running the serious dirty tricks in the region that brought Saddam Hussein to power. If you don't know this history, I'm sorry, it's too complicated for a blog, read a book. But what I can say definitively is that there has never been any question among serious people as to what has motivated the US to intervene militarily in Iraq -- not now, not in 2003, not in 1990, and not before. The US has only one practical strategic goal in the region, and that's to secure the supply of oil. Everything else derives from that -- including, ultimately, the politely termed "defense" of Israel. If you think you've got a cogent argument against that, you're allowing yourself to be bamboozled.

So no, editor, it's not "Washington's responsibility to see Iraq as a country and not as a war." It's our responsibility to see Iraq as a sovereign people and not as a strategic resource.

The editor writes, "scholars will dissect the past seven and a half years and no doubt will find elements of fault, deception and untold costs of human life and money," as if the reporting on what actually happened versus what you, editor, would have had us believe was happening* is some sort of academic exercise for the enlightenment of future generations.

*: Like this. Or this. Or this, fer gadsake. More lies here. More prevarication here. Ack.

The hard truth for the editor to swallow is that he has allowed himself to be deceived by better propagandists about the Iraq adventure for years. There has never been any serious doubt that the war was venally motivated, illegal, and doomed to abject failure and horrible follow-on consequences in a hundred predictably duh-level ways. But because empty-headed flag-wavers wanted to feel heroic and hit back a someone Arab-looking for 9-11, and because small men saw it, accurately, as a way to win power for themselves, we killed at least half a million innocent Iraqis. That was not an academic exercise, and it will haunt us for yet more generations.

No, editor, you can't get off that easy. That flag you're waving is missing its drape of mourning for our victims and our national integrity.

PS: My nephew is a casualty of the Iraq adventure, by the way. That's not academic, either. Our troops and their families deserve to know clearly what their sacrifices were meant to accomplish. Above all, it was never "our freedom."

Band coverage!

Thanks to Steve for his review of Down, Boy! in the online edition, and to Bruce for working in a reference to it in print. Read more on the band and hear samples at

I'm happy to take the Muddy reference, but I haven't much use for Canned Heat. And as for "a repeat winner of our Courier Reader of the Week award," I'm afraid I'm still trying to work out where I can hang all those testimonial plaques.

And seriously, is it really so hard to get my name right? Gad.