Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Deconstructing a Defense, Part II

Shorter Jay Reding:

"Separation of powers means the Executive Branch can do whatever the hell it wants, including lying to Congress, suborning perjury, interfering with corruption investigations of Bush Administration allies, inserting language in legislation without Congress's knowledge to expand executive power, and using anti-terror provisions to spy on Americans for reasons that have nothing to do with terrorism."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Deconstructing a Defense

Shorter Jay Reding:

"Clinton did something like it, so it can't be bad; people I parrot tell me it's no big deal; just because there's questions doesn't mean there's a scandal; anyway, George Bush can do whatever the hell he wants."

This is basically Jay's litany any time there's emerging evidence of Bush administration wrongdoing, which, let's face it, is just about all the time. The simple truth is that Alberto Gonzales lied under oath to Congress, and that prosecutors were fired because they refused to manipulate the 2006 elections to the benefit of the GOP. Only someone drinking deeply from the Bush Cult of Personality kool-aid could come to the conclusion that this is "no big deal."

Monday, March 12, 2007

On Christianity

Jay says "me too!" to Steven M. Warshawsky:

Historically, he’s right. The American experience has been shaped by Christian thought from the very beginning. The revisionism that the Founders were somehow trying to create an atheistic state only holds if one ignores their own writings, thoughts, and actions. The United States was founded as an inclusive society that was nevertheless built upon a foundation of Christian thought — or at the very least thought which was deeply inspired by Christian principles.

I don't know of anyone, liberal, conservative, libertarian, or otherwise, who thinks that the Founding Fathers set out to create a nation of atheists. But it would indeed be weird to suggest that the Founding Fathers, who were typically not Christian in any way that would be recognized by today's Christians, set out to create a Christian nation. That would be akin to Oral Roberts building a Jewish synagogue.

As for Jay's contention that the United States was "built upon a foundation of Christian thought," well, couldn't that mean anything? Indeed, at no point in his post does Jay stop to define "Christian thought," or "Christian philosophy," leaving the reader helpless to judge the veracity of his claims. Which part of the philosophical underpinnings expressed in documents like the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence does Jay find so undeniably Christian?

Indeed, to play off the title of his post, Christianity and conservativism go together. As does Christianity and liberalism. As does Christianity and libertarianism.

As does Christianity and capitalism; as does Christianity and communism. The Christian experience is sufficiently broad, and the scope of its philosophies sufficiently wide, that it's impossible to say that any ethos, politic, or viewpoint is inconsistent with Christianity. Christians have gone to war and Christians have died for peace, and neither group have felt themselves to be acting contrary to Christianity.

I don't mean to limit my remarks to Christianity, of course. As an atheist it seems obvious to me that religion is, to use the words of Sam Harris, "built, to a remarkable degree, upon lies." Religion can be used to support anything at all, because religion is ultimately built on nothing.

Jay's thesis is ultimately meaningless, because to assert that America was built on a foundation of "Christian philosophy" without actually defining what that philosophy is is an exercise in sophistry. Jay's simply using a tactic of misdirection to portray people he disagrees with as bigots and opponents of faith.

But his revisionist history aside, it can't be denied that our nation was founded on ideas and principles that emerged in opposition to the great excesses and conflicts of a thousand years of Christian meddling in European politics. No student of history can deny that the Enlightenment that shaped American values had its origin in a rejection of the traditional values of Christian, European statecraft - rule by kings who used religion, rather than the needs of the people, as a guide.

When I open the Bible, I see the First Commandment: "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." When I read the Bill of Rights, I see the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or preventing the free exercise thereof." Only in the topsy-turvy world of the conservative can the latter be derived from the former.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Sometimes these just write themselves. That is to say - Jay is usually so predictably behind the curve that sharper pens than mine have already rebutted his points in advance. Since his blog is mostly days-old GOP talking points, I guess that's not so surprising.

Media Matters for America, the day of the verdict, ran an article on "Media myths and falsehoods to watch for", where they hit the following myths surrounding the Scooter Libby trial:

No underlying crime was committed.

There was no concerted White House effort to smear Wilson.

Libby was not responsible for the leak of Plame's identity.

Libby merely "left out some facts."

Libby's leak was an effort to set the record straight.

There is no evidence that the Plame leak compromised national security.

Fitzgerald is a partisan prosecutor.

Plame's employment with the CIA was widely known.

Hilariously, Jay hits nearly every single one in his post on the subject. As an exercise, let's cut his post into the prescient responses Media Matters offers in their article:

"Of course, Wilson’s claims were thoroughly debunked. No solid evidence has emerged that Bush “iied” in the 2003 State of the Union, there was no organized campaign to discredit Wilson or “leak” Plame’s name, the real leaker was Richard Armitage all along (a fact which Mr. Fitzgerald knew from the beginning)..."

In his October 2005 press conference announcing Libby's indictment, Fitzgerald alleged that, in 2003, "multiple people in the White House" engaged in a "concerted action" to "discredit, punish, or seek revenge against" former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. In August 2006, it came to light that then-deputy secretary of State Richard Armitage was the original source for syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak's July 14, 2003, column exposing CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity. Numerous conservative media figures subsequently claimed that this revelation disproved the notion of a "concerted" White House effort to smear Wilson. But to the contrary, David Corn -- Washington editor of The Nation and co-author of Hubris (Crown, 2006) the book that revealed Armitage's role in the leak -- noted on his Nation weblog that Armitage "abetted a White House campaign under way to undermine Wilson" and that whether he deliberately leaked Plame's identity, "the public role is without question: senior White House aides wanted to use Valerie Wilson's CIA employment against her husband."
"...and there’s no evidence that Plame was actually working as a covert agent."

This falsehood has taken at least two forms -- that Plame's employment with the CIA was known in the Washington cocktail party circuit and that her neighbors knew that she worked for the CIA. In fact, Fitzgerald stated in the indictment of Libby that Plame's employment was classified and "was not common knowledge outside the intelligence community," a finding he reiterated at a post-verdict press conference. Moreover, as Media Matters noted, contrary to The Washington Times' assertion that "numerous neighbors were aware that she worked for the agency," none of the neighbors cited in The Times' own news reports or in other reports said that they knew before reading the Novak column that Plame worked at the CIA. Her acquaintances told reporters that they believed she worked as a private "consultant."
"Nothing excuses perjury or obstruction of justice, but Fitzgerald’s case was weak and his prosecutorial indiscretion will have significant impacts in the future."

Since a federal grand jury indicted Libby in October 2005, numerous media figures have stated that the nature of the charges against him prove that special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's investigation of the CIA leak case found that no underlying crime had been committed. But this assertion ignores Fitzgerald's explanation that Libby's obstructions prevented him -- and the grand jury -- from determining whether the alleged leak violated federal law.

"This was a politically motivated prosecution by a prosecutor whose blatant partisanship was made clear in his closing."

Over the course of the CIA leak investigation and the Libby trial, conservative media figures have attempted to cast Fitzgerald as a "prosecutor run amok" who is engaging in "the criminalization of politics." But Fitzgerald's background and prosecutorial record undermine the suggestion that his pursuit of Libby was politically motivated. Indeed, Fitzgerald is a Bush administration political appointee who, as U.S. attorney, has investigated high-level public officials from both parties, including former Illinois Gov. George Ryan (R), Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley (D), and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D).

As I said it's like these blog posts write themselves - it's that easy, most of the time, to cut through Jay's ridiculous distortions.

Jay Reding Watch - Walter Reed, Indeed

Jay bloviates:

The Walter Reed scandal will hopefully make things better for America’s injured servicemembers — but it should also serve as a warning to the rest of us. The essential problem with a government-run healthcare system is that it lacks accountability. Eliminate the ability for people to choose another system and the only remaining choice will progressively get worse. The situation at Walter Reed is the result of a military bureaucracy run amok while those who were responsible for providing care had little authority. That isn’t a particularized fault to this instance, but a systemic one to any government-run bureaucracy.

Wrong - stupidly so - on any number of levels. Firstly, I must have missed it when the government closed down all the privately-run hospitals and clinics. Even in Canada, often used as an exemplar of the universal health care system that everybody knows America needs, they still have private practices and alternatives. I can't see any future where the government closes down hospitals or where there's no alternatives to government-provided health care for those who can afford it. Money, after all, creates options.

Of course, more importantly, as Roy at Alicublog points out:

As the whole thing ramped into a major scandal, conservatives got even more creative, declaring that the Walter Reed case was really an indictment of socialized medicine, hehindeed.

This defies both common sense and expert testimony. Normal people can easily imagine what a for-profit medical corporation would do with uninsured veterans -- shove their gurneys in the general direction of a county hospital, probably, or secretly grind them down into pet food. And a little reading reveals that the privatization of many functions at Walter Reed is actually part of the problem with that once-proud institution.

Indeed, as the reporting of (who broke this story months before the so-called liberal media ever picked it up) points out:

Critics say that Chu and Winkenwerder had the wrong priorities, focusing on cutting costs while greater numbers of returning soldiers struggled against an increasingly strained military health care system. Both men know how to manage costs: Chu is an economist and mathematician who once worked in an Army comptroller office. And Winkenwerder is a former health insurance industry executive.

But their résumés also point to the problem, according to their detractors. "The military tried to run military health care on the cheap -- like an HMO," said Paul Sullivan, who until March 2006 was a top project manager at the Department of Veterans Affairs in charge of data on returning veterans. "And the consequences are the medical catastrophe and the bureaucratic nightmare that we see right now."

So it's not so much that the Walter Reed facilities devolved into suckitude because of the corrupting touch of government; it's that Walter Reed devolved into suckitude out of an effort to make it more like an HMO!

Jay Reding, wrong as usual. And not even that well-read - you'll notice that his thoughts on th subject postdate the rebuttals by at least a couple of days. But that's par for the course at, where "conservatism with attitude" is taken to mean "conservative talking points served several days stale."

Not so timely

Well, one thing I'll say for Jay is that he takes blogging a lot more seriously than I do. In my defense I've had a lot of stuff to do, and Mark at has been more than a thorn in Jay's side, exposing his idiocy. So there hasn't been much of a need for Jay Reding Watch.

Not that he hasn't given me plenty of material. In the past few months he's been nearly consistently wrong about everything - promoting mythical opposition to sound climate science, the Iraq war, elections, etc. Most recently the Walter Reed scandal, which I'll address shortly.

I have some more time now, though, so I'm going to give this a serious shot.