Stephen W. Browne Rants and Raves

April 24, 2010

Here’s the image that’s causing the fuss

Filed under: Politics,Terrorism — Stephen W. Browne @ 9:02 am

Mohammed in a bear suit

“May Allah kill Matt Stone and Trey Parker and burn them in Hell for all eternity. They insult our prophets Mohammed, Jesus, and Moses.” – Zachary “Abu Talhah al-Amrike” on Revolution Muslim website, now taken down.

Well as I said before, whenever jihadists start threatening cartoonists for images that offend them, and craven media types cave in, we bloggers should make it a point to post the images.

That’s the image. In case you’ve been on vacation in Antarctica, it’s supposed to be Mohammed in a bear suit. The bear suit is South Park’s clever way of satirizing Comedy Central which previously censored images of the Prophet on the show.

Now to be fair, preliminary reports indicate Revolution Muslim is a fringoid group of perhaps a dozen members. Our boy Zachary was evidently born Zachary Adam Chesser and appears to be a convert.

He insists he didn’t threaten them when he posted on the site that Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, “will probably end up” like Theo van Gogh.

And to make his point clear, he reportedly posted pictures of van Gogh’s butchered body.

Chesser/Abu Talhah al-Amrike told FoxNews.com, “It’s not a threat, but it really is a likely outcome. They’re going to be basically on a list in the back of the minds of a large number of Muslims. It’s just the reality.”

Oh that’s all right then. He wasn’t threatening, he was predicting. And from what has been found out about him by FOX, he doesn’t seem like the kind with the huevos to carry out a threat.

FOX news reported:

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, characterized Revolution Muslim as a loosely-organized group with such outrageous beliefs he believes it may be a “setup” to smear Islam.

“They say wild and irresponsible things periodically,” Hooper told FoxNews.com. “There’s a strong suspicion that they’re merely a setup to make Muslims and Islam look bad. They say such wild and crazy things that you have to wonder.”

Me, I think that’s BS. CAIR appears to be the aboveground legal face of jihadist terrorism in the U.S. A common strategy for terrorists operating in more-or-less democratic countries is to have such an aboveground arm as their spokesman, vis-a-vis the IRA and Sinn Fein in Ulster.

But I concede they might think of the Revolution Muslim group as a loose cannon bad for their image. The group reportedly published a poem about killing Jews on their website in October, for example. That’s not good for the we-aren’t-anti-Semites-just-anti-Zionists line.

However, they have now moved their online operation to the Revolution Muslim blog.
I urge you to have a look. The article on the South Park controversy is articulate, well-written, and not at all raving. I’d say it’s the work of a native English speaker, or someone who speaks English with near-native fluency.

It discusses with calm rationality, citing precedent as an academic writer would cite his/her sources, the scholarly justification for murder

Many are proclaiming that the South Park episode’s insult was minimal and some might inquire about a situation where the insult is not that great. The renowned scholar Imam Malik said, “If someone says that the button of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is dirty, then he should be executed!”…

In the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) two key events stand out that provide evidence for the permissibility and indeed preference for retaliation against those that insult him. In the first, a blind Muslim man who had a Jewish wife (and some say servant) assassinated his wife when she continuously cursed and mocked Muhammad (peace be upon him). In the other, a Jewish poet by the name of Ka’b bin al-Ashraf was killed for his poetry insulting the Prophet even though he was living under peaceful covenant with the Muslims and was within his own territory. If anyone is in need of details and sources for these occurrences feel free to contact us and we will forward them to serious inquirers. At this point, it must be known that this is the position in Islam, that there is consensus in it and that for those that argue the harm coming as a consequence exceeds the benefit, then they should know that this is at best an argument that entails a difference of opinion although the evidence suggests that adopting the platform that we ourselves have taken is best.

“The law, known as shariah, in Islam is sacred and it is for no man to change, alter, or disregard when reacting to events like the recent degrading of the Prophet Muhammad (saws) on South Park. Indeed there is an Islamic ruling on nearly every affair and Muslims must seek their response in the religion and not in the personal desire and false manipulation of subjective introspection via philosophy or, as in most cases, emotional attachment to socialized norms.

And note this:

Thus the postings that have caused so much controversy on revolutionmuslim.com with regard to this matter were actually not the publication of the opinion of some Muslims but a referral and deferment to Islamic Law, thus fulfilling our divine obligation to command the good and forbid the evil by teaching and preaching the religion of Islam no matter how strange that way of life may seem to some. This is a divine order, obligatory for at least some Muslims in any community to fulfill. Allah says,

وَلْتَكُن مِّنكُمْ أُمَّةٌ يَدْعُونَ إِلَى الْخَيْرِ وَيَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَأُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ

Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity. (3:104)

But do read the entire piece. Among other reasons, I’d like to know if anybody else sees something familiar in this. This reads like a lot of post-60s Marxist rhetoric to me. They were good at scholarly suport for murder too.

And while I suppose I could spend time debating a lot of specific points in the post, I’m not going to.

My reply: We are enemies. I concede you have legitimate grievances mixed with the sophistry, but I’m not interested. In the long-but-growing-shorter run, I’m only interested in the judgment of battle.

Gentle readers, read the post. Know what you’re up against.

I will address one point. Early in the post, the author said, “Free speech is a vital tool in the staving of oppression, but this function has its limits.”

Nope.

April 18, 2010

Fun and games in New Orleans

Filed under: Politics — Stephen W. Browne @ 11:07 am

They’re he-e-e-e-ere!

Here’s what we know as of now: On Friday, April 16, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s fundraising staffer Allee Bautsch and her boyfriend Joe Brown were coming out of a Republican fundraising dinner in New Orleans organized by the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. They were set upon by a group of demonstrators. He reportedly got a broken nose and fractured jaw, she got her leg broken in several places – the kind of breaks you get from a stomping, not a fall. She’s got surgical scars and pins in her legs to show for it.

The New Orleans police first said “insults of a political nature” were shouted as the demonstrators did their thing, then backed off, then reconfirmed.

In dispute was whether the victims were wearing Palin buttons or not.

The demonstrators in the area were reportedly from a left-anarchist group called the Iron Rail Collective.

One thing worthy of note, Walter Abbot in Lincoln Parrish News Online blog reported that earlier in the evening:

“In an interview this afternoon, Louisiana GOP Chair Roger Villere, Jr. told Lincoln Parish News Online he and several others were pursued by protesters last Friday night after a political fundraiser, but managed to get into a cab and avoid the mob. “We started to leave out the front door after the event, but the protesters had us blocked – there were six of us in our group – so we went out through the kitchen,” Villere said. Once they got outside, the protesters spotted them and began to pursue them, but they managed to get into a cab and avoid confrontation.”

So who are the Iron Rail Collective? Their website (and Wikipedia page) describes them as mostly a lending library.

“Our lending library is one of the largest collectively-run radical libraries in the country. The Iron Rail was the first library in metro New Orleans to re-open after the disastrous failure of the government levees in 2005, and for several months were the only functioning library in the city. In 2009, we were invited to be the official bookseller for the Family Violence Prevention Fund’s 5th annual National Conference on Health and Domestic Violence. We were super-duper stoked about this opportunity and we did a great job, because we’re awesome.”

What the Louisiana Hayride has to say about them is:

“So, what’s the Family Violence Prevention Fund? Well, it’s one of your standard-issue leftist non-governmental organizations. We say that because they say they advance a cause – the prevention of domestic violence – that nobody could possibly disagree with, and yet on their website one will find a grab-bag of hard-left advocacy.

Like what?

How about banning of guns, chatting up unions about making employers put domestic abuse prevention programs in collective bargaining contracts and granting asylum to women on the basis of domestic abuse in the home country.

FVPF is also covered in George Soros’ fingerprints. The organization’s President is Esta Soler, whose bio says:

She has been a consultant and advisor to numerous public and private agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Soros Justice Fellowship Program, the Ford Foundation/Harvard University Innovations in American Government initiative, and the Aspen Institute. She was a member of the Violence Against Women National Advisory Council when it was co-chaired by Health & Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala and Attorney General Janet Reno.

And on the FVPF’s Board of Directors is Ellen Friedman, who is a vice president at the Tides Foundation, an outfit partially funded by Soros and whose board chairman is Wade Rathke of SEIU and ACORN fame.

So that’s who the Family Violence Prevention Fund is. Their 5th annual National Conference on Health and Domestic Violence was held in New Orleans. It says on the Conference’s web site that:

The Conference is primarily funded by the Administration for Children and Families, Department of Health and Human Services.

ACF’s staff bio page is a mixed bag with some people who actually look like professionals in the field of social work and others whose backgrounds are not so appetizing. Its Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Mark Greenberg, is a veteran of the Soros-funded/John Podesta-led Center For American Progress.

The fact that the Iron Rail Book Collective was the “official bookseller” for that FVPF conference in New Orleans probably bears further research. The obvious question one would imagine is whether that title afforded to the Iron Rail Gang came with a grant or fees from the conference – because if in fact that did happen it would signify taxpayer funds indirectly making their way to an anarchist commune which brags about vandalizing banks in the French Quarter, holding book-study groups to teach The Coming Insurrection and organizing demonstrations which turn violent against people they don’t agree with politically.

And that would be worse than the idea that an outfit tied into George Soros would be directly providing funds to just such an anarchist commune.”

OK, now go do your own research, I just want to make a couple of points.

One, I just hate it that these folks call themselves “anarchists.” In my younger days when I was enchanted with revolutionary romanticism, I wore the term myself sometimes. But I called myself an “Individualist Anarchist” or “Anarcho-capitalist.”

I don’t anymore, for a number of reasons, mostly having to do with other anarchists, but I retain a certain fondness for the tradition and still recommend reading Lysander Spooner’s critique of representative government. Agree or not, Spooner raises points that have to be addressed.

I’ll even concede that I’m very glad I read anarcho-communist Prince Peter Kropotkin’s ‘Mutual Aid.’ Although he disturbingly uses the term ‘communism’ favorably too damned often, he’s worth reading for his critique of the metaphor of evolution as a “war” among other things.

But Individualist Anarchists Spooner, Benjamin Tucker, and even that hopeless nerd Murray Rothbard intelectually have nothing in common with these thugs. (Though admittedly Rothbard was at times in his life also attracted to Left adventurism and had a brief flirtation with the Black Panthers before getting mugged by reality – and the Panthers.)

Two, the Left has shown their ability, like sociopaths and alcoholics, to stay always a step ahead of you in their thinking. For a while they’ve charged that Right-wing speech, on venues like talk radio, is creating a “climate of violence” that is in some way responsible for everything from the Oklahoma City bombing to the Holocaust Museum shooting, and tarred Tea Party demonstrators as dangerous extremists.

No matter that Timothy McVeigh’s politics are largely unknown but appear to have been a mishmash of anti-war/anti-government views not terribly different in tone from Michael Moore or Ward Churchill. Never mind that the Holocaust Museum shooter was a neo-Nazi, that is to say a National Socialist. And never mind that the FBI considers the most dangerous domestic terrorist groups to be the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front.

They’ve pre-emptively tarred the Right as violent extremists. So who is it that’s getting a free pass?

Yahoo news reporter reporter Bret Michael Dykes ends his story, “Victims of brutal New Orleans attack relay their story and contradict police report, but uncertainty about attackers remains” on this note:

“Of course, even if Bautsch and Brown’s recollection is correct and the attackers did come from the group protesting the event, they can’t know for sure what their motives were. Their account of the non-political nature of the verbal assault matches the one Brown gave police and the homophobic, misogynistic nature of the insults would be unusual coming the kind of person one might expect to protest a Republican fundraiser.”

Three, I’ve said it before, a controlled economy, i.e. fascism, needs a thug corps. Told you.

The beating of that black conservative guy by the Purple Shirts from SEIU was just a shot across the bow. Wait for the escalation.

I do not mean the president is part of a conspiracy to recruit a Brownshirt army. I mean it happens spontaneously, of necessity, whenever a dirigiste comes to power.

I don’t think Woodrow Wilson the professor, or Franklin D. Roosevelt the genteel patrician had the stomach for the kind of street violence Mussolini reveled in. And admittedly, the mob violence during WWI and thugish behavior of supporters of the National Recovery Administration* during the Great Depression, was restrained compared to the Fascisti or Brown Shirts.

Nonetheless, a leader who aims at the use of unrestrained power to shape society and the economy, all to the good of course, will always be followed by enthusiasts who don’t share his distaste for the cruder methods of social change.

He in fact creates a “climate of violence.”

Look for more of this. And if you’re free with your conservative or libertarian opinions in public, you might give a thought to what extent your personal ass is on the line.

*As chronicled in Jonah Goldberg’s, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change.

April 15, 2010

Tragedy in a tortured country

Filed under: Uncategorized — Stephen W. Browne @ 9:48 am

Note: My weekend op-ed.

Last Saturday morning I waited until my wife woke up to tell her the news. An airplane crash in Smolensk, Russia had killed the president of her country, his wife, and 94 others, including the Polish equivalent of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, government ministers and other notables.

The horrible irony was, the crash occurred at the site of one of the 20th century’s most tragic events for Poland, the massacre in the Katyn Forrest of over 22,000 Polish military officers by the NKVD Soviet secret police, on Stalin’s orders in 1940.

At that time, virtually all Polish university graduates had reserve commissions. Most became prisoners when the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany invaded and divided Poland between them. The victims included doctors, lawyers, police, priests, and academics, as well as professional military officers.

The aim was to decapitate Polish society, culture, and the military. The prisoners were handcuffed, taken out one-by-one, shot in the back of the head, and buried in mass graves. One NKVD agent alone killed an estimated 6,000 with his pistol, over the course of a week. Some of the murderers are still living.

Because the USSR was our ally at the time, Britain and the United States found it expedient to believe the Soviets, who said the massacre was done by Nazi Germany. But Roosevelt and Churchill both knew the truth.

The truth came out in the U.S. in the 1950s, though those who did publicly mention it at first risked being branded as “McCarthyites.” It was only in 1990 the Soviet Union grudgingly acknowledged responsibility for the massacre in its last year of existence. It was only in 2008, in an interview with a Polish newspaper, that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called Katyn a “political crime.”

And it was only this year Russian television broadcast the film Katyn, by director Andrzej Wajda, the son of a Polish officer murdered by the NKVD.

That is what the Poles were waiting for. That is why the heads of Polish government and society were on that plane. And that is probably why they were determined to land in spite of the dangerous conditions on the airfield.

Lech Kaczynski, hero of the Solidarity resistance and third president of free Poland, his wife Maria and their colleagues were traveling to a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the massacre. Traveling with them was Ryszard Kaczorowski, the last president of the Polish government-in-exile in London.

From the fall of Poland in 1939 the Polish community abroad maintained the government-in-exile as a reminder to the world that Poland was a captive nation, not a free partner in the Soviet bloc. In December, 1990 Kaczorowski formally dissolved the government-in-exile and presented the presidential banner, the presidential and state seals, the presidential sashes, and the original text of the 1935 Constitution, to Lech Walesa, first president of the Polish Third Republic.

In 1992, the new government officially recognized the military medals and other decorations awarded by the government-in-exile during the years of the Soviet occupation.

That same year in Poland I met Pan Gorski, who had fled Poland to England during the World War II. There he joined the Royal Air Force and flew bombers. After the war he became a test pilot, and immigrated to America, where he earned a degree in aeronautical engineering, and worked on the Apollo and Minuteman missile projects.

He first returned to a free Poland to escort the standards of the Polish Air Force, kept in London since World War II, and present them to the Polish Air Force Academy. He stayed at the invitation of the academy to teach the history of aerial tactics.

“The were not the Polish Air Force,” he told me. “There was no continuity. They became the Polish Air Force when we presented them with the standards.”

He, like Kaczorowski and many other Poles, looked forward to seeing Poland a free and prosperous nation again, rather than one of what a colleague called, “the tortured countries.”

And that’s what hits so hard. Aside from the tragedy, the symbolism is ominous.

When Kaczynski’s predecessor in office Aleksander Kwasniewski was interviewed about the tragedy, he called Katyn, “A cursed place.”

April 9, 2010

Foreign policy lessons nobody likes

Filed under: Op-eds,Politics — Stephen W. Browne @ 9:19 am

Note: My weekend op-ed.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”

The Gods of the Copybook Headings – Rudyard Kipling

Just to remind everybody, when President Obama was running for office the Surge wasn’t working, the troops were going to be out of Iraq in 18 months, the USA Patriot Act was an affront to civil liberties, the prison at Guantanamo Bay was the ruination of our international reputation, and terrorists were criminals who came under the same constitutional protections as American citizens.

Now in case you hadn’t noticed, the troops in Iraq aren’t packing their bags, the administration has quietly renewed the Patriot Act with minor modifications, Guantanamo is not closing any time soon, and plans to try terrorists in civilian courts on the mainland are being scrapped.

The current administration seems to have adopted the Bush anti-terror policy whole, with two exceptions. The use of silly euphemisms begun in the Bush administration (like “War on Terror”) has extended to the point of banning terms like “Islamic extremism” from official documents. And Predator drone attacks to kill terrorist leaders in the remote borderlands of Afghanistan have almost quadrupled, without being too finicky about family and bystanders.

One American citizen has just been added to the bomb-on-sight list too.

We’ve reverted to the ancient, reliable policy of, “It’s dangerous to be our enemy. It’s dangerous to be related to our enemy. It’s dangerous to stand next to our enemy.”

Both American and European media are remarkably silent about all this. Except for the occasional kvetch from the Right that George Bush would have been crucified for this, and from the pacifist Left that Obama has sold them out.

Well, yes. So what happened and what does it mean?

Could it be that foreign policy is largely event driven, and less a matter of choice than we proud citizens of the mightiest nation on earth would like to believe it is?

In an interconnected world with a lot of really scary, heavily-armed people who don’t like us much, maybe we don’t really have a wide range of available options that might produce anything good.

If you’ll give a moments thought to your own life, you’ll realize there are always more ways to screw up than to do something right. It’s just the way things work.

When you’re running for high office, you can be holy all you like. But once you get there, you start getting those intelligence briefings the rest of us don’t get to see, unless someone carefully leaks them to journalists like Yours Truly.

That’s when you learn the scary stuff about the world. Worse, that’s when you learn what we don’t know – and that’s really, really scary.

And if you’re paying attention, that’s when you realize the value of consistency of policy. Having a policy that’s consistent over time may be more important than having one that actually makes perfect sense. Because both our friends and our enemies need to know what to expect from us, lest the former get nervous and the latter get bold.

And secondly, a lot of political preference is far more personality-driven than issue-driven. We like or loathe our presidents depending on how sympatico we find them personally. If we like them, we’ll excuse almost anything they do. If we loathe them, nothing they do will get any more than a grudging acknowledgment, if that.

Notice nobody on the Right side of the aisle is saying, “Mr. President, we’ll fight you tooth and nail on the domestic agenda, but we’re behind you 100 percent on fighting the war on terrorism now that you’ve seen the light.”

Nobody on the Left side ever said to Bush, “Hey you’re a warmonger but that was a bold move on that first stimulus, thanks for the idea.”

The world is still an arena of warring tribes, and our loyalties are still more tribal than we like to admit.

April 5, 2010

Celebrity Follies

Filed under: Uncategorized — Stephen W. Browne @ 7:31 pm

Two items of celebrity news actually affected me recently, and that’s odd for me.

Usually I could give a flying frack about celebrity lives, deaths, hook-ups, break-ups, and train wrecks.

If a celebrity, and this usually means movie/TV star, dies it’s either, 1) the case of an actor whose work I enjoyed who died after a rich full life with no regrets. In this category I remember: Jimmy Stewart, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck, Michael Landon, more recently Patrick Swayze… I could go on.

Or 2) it’s a sad, totally unsurprising case like Michael Jackson. Enough said, de moriturus nihil nisi bonum est.

The last celebrity death that really affected me was Brandon Lee. What potential he had! He was just at the position where he could make the kind of martial arts flicks with class his father wanted to.

Celebrity break-ups are boring and/or incomprehensible. Ethan Hawke, you had the choice of waking up every morning next to Uma Thurman (not to mention your kids) and you…? Never mind, I don’t understand it either.

That said, I have to say, Sandra Bullock’s shame and pain bothers me.

Sandra seemed, from her movies and from interviews, to be a genuinely nice person. You know, one of the eight percent of the people in Hollywood Dean Koontz assures us are neither stupid nor evil. And it really seemed like she’d married a real mensch – not one of these modern Hollywood pansies.

And he didn’t slip up, or even have an affair with someone who had comparable beauty and class, he – you know what he did. It’s all over the front pages of the magazines by the checkout counter.

I could feel the same way about Tiger Woods’ wife Elin, but she’s led a more reclusive life and we don’t know her as well. She has my sympathy just the same.

It’s not just the fact these guys stepped out on beautiful and to all appearances very nice ladies – it’s who they stepped out with. Porn stars, groupies, star-fracking tatooed perverts, all of whom turned out to be attention sluts eager to sell their stories to the tabloids.

Jesus guys, I understand wanting to get a little strange – every married man does. (And probably every woman, though I can’t speak for them, I haven’t got the equipment.) As a the well-known source Anon said, “Show me the most beautiful woman in the world, and I’ll show you a man who’s tired of fracking her.”

But as a bud of mine who damn near lost his family for the same kind of behavior told me, after realizing he might have lost his kids, “A man who don’t take care of his kids ain’t a man at all.”

And the ladies might heed the words of Dear Abby (the original,) “A woman who gets a man who’s cheating on his wife, gets a man who cheats on his wife.”

Of course, if the man is a gazillionaire who’ll pay plenty to be shut of you after he gets tired of you, that may not matter.

And I recently read the most surprising thing that I really hope is true about a celebrity.

Megan Fox, is a stone fox for sure. One of my biggest guilty pleasures of late was seeing her play the naughty-girl-with-a-heart-of-gold in the Transformers movies.

Jesus she was every nerds fantasy, and for this former nerd… well I thought she played the part of the woman I did in fact eventually marry rather well. In the Transformer flicks she’s clever, resourceful, loyal and brave, as well as dynamite in cutoffs and a tank top.

“I won’t leave Bumblebee!” she says about a comrade-in-arms she only recently thought was a car.

And when she takes the wheel of the tow truck and tells Bumblebee, “I’ll drive, you shoot,” yeah!

It was almost heartbreaking to think of her public personna as a slutty, bull-busting, bi-rhymes-with-witch.

And then she went and told the press, on the occasion of her engagement (is it official?) that she’s only slept with two men in her life, her first boyfriend and her fiancee, and couldn’t think of sleeping with someone she didn’t love.

Wow, is that true? Could it be that the screen Megan is the real one and the press-release party girl the fake?

I’d like to think so.

But the question that this prompts in my mind is, we used to have female Hollywood stars who projected purity in public to protect their careers, and had sometimes perverse, self-destructive, or just plain scarily weird lives in private. Now we apparently have the case of a pretty good person pretending to be all that, for career advancement.

What the heck does that say about our culture now?

April 3, 2010

A miscellany of comments

Filed under: Uncategorized — Stephen W. Browne @ 8:18 am

One wise piece of advice I actually took in my life made me a writer. And come to think of it, I got it second-hand.

I’ve never actually found the primary source, but a friend once told me that Stephen King said something to the effect of, “You lift weights every day, you get big muscles. You write every day, you get to be a good writer.”

I don’t read King’s fiction much. Though if you only wanted to sample one piece of horror fiction, I have two words for you: Pet Sematary. But King’s writing about writing is well worth reading.

Of course I write every day for a living. But that’s a particularly specialized kind of writing and I need to get out of the news-writing genre on a regular basis.

I do write a weekly column, which is another kind of formula, the under-700 word essay. I’m starting to peddle longer magazine-article length essays as a venue to explore issues and ideas in more depth. I also have a book in the works – with sand in the gears. I’ve found a book-length essay (if it’s not a collection of column-length pieces) is another formula entirely with a different structure and style. I’ll get back to it.

What I’ve found myself doing lately is practicing the Art of the Short Comment, mostly on Townhall posts. Townhall allows almost unlimited comments on a column below below the text.

In some ways this is the traditional Letters to the Editor all newspapers have had for… how long is it? Must look up.

But this is Letters to the Editor on steroids and meth. Every letter gets published instantly, usually with minimal moderation. Debates rage within the comment section. Insults are hurled. Sneaky ads posted.

And it’s a great way to practice making salient points in a short, pithy manner. You also find out how vile people can be when they get to be anonymous, which is one reason I don’t do that unless it concerns the safety of my family.*

For sure it’ll disabuse you of the notion that your side, whichever it is, is the repository of couth, civility, and reasoned discourse.

Some examples: last week I posted on Jonah Goldberg’s column ‘The Hostility Follies,’ which is about the incivility in political debate these days, and charges and counter-charges of inciting to riot, terrorism, insurrection, genocidal fury, and general nastiness.

Jonah Goldberg is one of my favorite writers. I say, again and again, get and read ‘Liberal Fascism.’

A quote from the column:

“This combination of state power and murderous, genocidal intent is nowhere on display in America today, not in the Obama administration (contrary to what some overheated right-wingers claim) and certainly not among out-of-power conservatives and “tea partiers.” It’s amazing anyone needs to point this out, but a few fringe libertarians throwing bricks to beat back an expansion of government is not the same thing as the tightening fist of the National Socialist Third Reich. Indeed, it’s an anti-American slander to suggest anything like it is going on here, and it cheapens the moral horror of the Holocaust.

Don’t tell that to the Democrats and their media transmission belt, who largely turned a blind eye to partisan vandalism and extremist rhetoric against Republicans for eight years but now express horror at what they claim to hear from the right.”

My comment:

It’s nice to hear a voice of calm in all this Jonah, but there are also legitimate worries we may be confining ourselves to the Marquis of Queensbury rules while the opponent is allowed to use gutter fighting rules, i.e. none.

Case in point, (you said) “and the claim by Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) that the N-word was chanted 15 times is pure dishonesty.”

Why didn’t you say “a lie”?

To be clear, I’m not urging any course of action, I don’t know the answer. Just worried like everybody else.

Today I posted at Ken Blackwell’s column, ‘Hillary Invades Canada.’

Madam Secretary, after warming up castigating the prime minister of Israel, has evidently unleashed her charm on – the Canadians.

Canada!

Evidently the Canadian government is not pro-abortion enough for her.

My comment:

Wasn’t there some preternaturally wise candidate for president, a veritable messiah, who humbly apologized to the world for America’s “arrogant, dismissive” attitude towards other nations?

Gee, too bad he’s not president. He’d never have sent a Secretary of State abroad to hector and lecture foreign heads of state, would he?

I’m rather fond of that one. A dollop of sarcasm, a tightly focused point. Pretty good if I do say so myself.

Last October I took the opportunity to castigage Carol Platt Liebau with frosty politeness (a useful skill that frosty politeness) for her column, ‘Time for the GOP and Tea-Partiers to Grow Up.’

I took exception to the general tone, and one sentence in particular. My comment:

Clueless
(You said) “But for a partnership to work, both sides will have to grow up.”

Your patronizing and insulting attitude is yet another sign of the disconnect between Washington “conservatives” (i.e. Big Government Republicans) and those of us who live outside the Beltway.

The Tea Party movement is NOT an arm of the Republican Party, but a general disgust with Big Government no matter who is expanding it.

You do not own it, and have no right to dictate to it.

This horrendous mess (bailouts, massive increases of entitlements etc) began under the last administration. No wonder the Democrats took it as permission to max out the credit cards.

Democrats are merely wrong – Republicans betrayed the principles they assured us they stood for.

Now it looks like there’s a good chance you’ll get another chance in 2010.

God help you if you betray us again. God help all of us.

There were some other good comments – and some of the usual drivel, but it must have struck a nerve. Ms Liebau replied to me personally with a brief message, all credit to her.

I’m finding the comments sections more and more fascinating; and horrifying, disgusting, disturbing and everything else life is about.

We’ve speculated about “online Democracy” for a while now. This is where it’s happening, the online Agora.

* For example, Ken Blackwell (whom I’ve met briefly) is, like a lot of social conservatives, kind of fixated on the abortion issue. Abortion, late-term abortion at least, makes me kind of queasy too. But what I’m tempted to reply in a heavily sarcastic vein, is something like:

Freedom is being extinguished in our country and you’re worried about abortion? This is a horrible thing to say, but these are horribly dangerous times. Have you not noticed that it’s the opposition killing their own children? How is this a bad thing in terms of ultimate victory? That’s why they have to have control of public education and destroy private education, they need control of our kids to reproduce their destructive memes.

See what I mean? I’d be on the hit list of both sides.

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