Monday, May 16, 2011

Flip, Flop, Don't Stop: Newt Gingrich Comes On Strong

Sheesh, the fickle public - complain about the unwavering surety of George W. Bush, the President Who Harbors No Regrets, and along comes the I'll-Try-Anything-For-One-Voting-Cycle claque of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, and still we complain.

Well.....certainly. Iron clad opinions often encase little more than mirthless ideologies, which is why many of us continually push back against the puritans. It's one thing to admire Rand Paul's stance on any given matter, applying basic follow-the-libertarian-arrow directions from Point A to Point B. Comforting as an old sweater. It's another to actually put such principles into place, or to even find them appealing (I mean, any ne'er-do-well can have their principles). Questioning minds coming face to face with the slack-jawed glaze of the utterly convinced is what partly sustains the myth of the Independent Voter - non-wonks who think one thing and maybe think another and just might hear you out on the debt ceiling or Libyan firefights.

Given the unimpeachable offense of political figures changing their mind, why do so many of us throw up our hands when political figures do just that - prove in real time that opinions or stances may shift to either the left or right column? Why do we squirm in embarrassment for Mitt Romney as he attempts to distance himself from one of his most lauded political achievements, or roll our eyes as Newt Gingrich doubles back with gymnastic agility from a decree thundered out just weeks or days prior, or pound the table when John Kerry refuses to cop to the "liberal" tag because he isn't sure it will go over in Indiana? It must be because in each instance, we can almost smell the carbon burn from the klieg lights just out of view - that sinking realization that our political class is once again barfing up a line of well-oiled weathervanes.

Both Gingrich and Romney strike me as rational individuals who probably occupy a centrally-located aisle of political theater when not running for president. But if Romney has long suffered from the disdain of GOP faithful who can't forgive any politician for working with the Massachusetts legislature, may I humbly suggest we begin paying more mind to the thrice-married adulterer currently hawking his wares outside the evangelical camp? At least Romney has the decency to let a few years elapse before returning as a Changed Man. Gingrich seems to be under the mistaken impression that simply because he announced his run for the Oval Office via Twitter that his many pronouncements can drop with the eerily foreshortened half-life common to social media tools. The poor fella can barely wait out a single news cycle - be it one month or even a single twenty-four hour span - before showing off his latest breakthrough.

I'm an ideas man myself. Coherent theories come together slowly, sometimes sloppily. Take your time, I say. Don't be afraid to change your mind, reverse direction, even rip up the design. Even great political theorists double back on themselves. Maybe only the great ones do. But somebody please prescribe Mr. Gingrich some Ritalin. ADHD is obnoxiously over-diagnosed, but I think we've got the real deal here.


Newt Gingrich on Paul Ryan's GOP Budget Plan, April 5, 2011

"Paul Ryan has stepped up to the plate. This is a very, very serious budget and I think rivals with [what] John Kasich did as budget chairman in getting to a balanced budget in the 1990s, just for the scale and courage involved…..

Paul Ryan is going to define modern conservatism at a serious level. You can quibble over details but the general shape of what he's doing will define 2012 for Republicans."

- Bill Bennett interview, April 5 2011

Newt Gingrich on Paul Ryan's GOP Budget Plan, May 15, 2011

REP. GINGRICH: I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering. I don't think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate. I think we need a national conversation to get to a better Medicare system with more choices for seniors. But there are specific things you can do. At the Center for Health Transformation, which I helped found, we published a book called "Stop Paying the Crooks." We thought that was a clear enough, simple enough idea, even for Washington. We--between Medicare and Medicaid, we pay between $70 billion and $120 billion a year to crooks. And IBM has agreed to help solve it, American Express has agreed to help solve it, Visa's agreed to help solve it. You can't get anybody in this town to look at it. That's, that's almost $1 trillion over a decade. So there are things you can do to improve Medicare.

MR. GREGORY: But not what Paul Ryan is suggesting, which is completely changing Medicare.

REP. GINGRICH: I, I think that, I think, I think that that is too big a jump. I think what you want to have is a system where people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options, not one where you suddenly impose upon the--I don't want to--I'm against Obamacare, which is imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change.

-Meet The Press interview, May 15 2011


Newt Gingrich Discussing Mandates in Health Care, 2005

"You have the right to be part of the lowest-cost insurance pool and you have a responsibility to buy insurance. ... We need some significant changes to ensure that every American is insured, but we should make it clear that a 21st Century Intelligent System requires everyone to participate in the insurance system.....

People whose income is too low should receive Medicaid vouchers and tax credits to buy insurance.....Large risk pools (association health plans are one model) should be established so low-income people can buy insurance as inexpensively as large corporations. Furthermore, it should be possible to buy your health insurance on-line to lower the cost as much as possible."

-from his book "Winning The Future," 2005

Newt Gingrich Discussing Mandates in Health Care, May 15, 2011

"I've said consistently we ought to have some requirement that you either have health insurance or you post a bond or in some way you indicate you're going to be held accountable."

-Meet The Press interview, May 15 2011

Newt Gingrich Discussing Mandates in Health Care, The Next Day

"I am for the repeal of Obamacare and I am against any effort to impose a federal mandate on anyone because it is fundamentally wrong and I believe unconstitutional."

-video message posted to Gingrich website, May 16 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tweets From A Twit: How Sarah Palin Welcomed The Spring

A little Madness in the spring / Is wholesome even for the King

-- Emily Dickinson

The underlying theory behind the talk radio critique of [Mitch] Daniels is basically that you can’t trust a man who disarms liberals with his seeming reasonability, and what you need instead is somebody who takes the fight to the left at every opportunity. This is an excellent description of the qualities required … to be a good talk radio host. But when applied to the presidential scene, it amounts to a kind of politics of schadenfreude, in which actual conservative accomplishments count for nothing, the ability to woo undecided voters is downgraded or dismissed, and all that matters is how much a prospective candidate irritates liberals.
-- Ross Douthat

Sarah Palin is one notable “political” figure (more on those scare quotes later) who shows up quite irregularly on this blog, especially given what some might note as her rather ubiquitous presence on the national scene. Along with Rush Limbaugh, she offers a certain kind of equilibrium to political discourse – namely, the braying of simplistic slogans meant to thrill the besotted and horrify the opposed. In this, she is quite successful. I long ago concluded that paying more than bemused attention to her drivel was serving little purpose other than driving up an already-high blood pressure, and seeing how both Palin and Limbaugh time and again offered nothing but minute variations on their copyrighted shtick, there seemed little reason to pay them any mind. Give me George Will, Robert Brooks, Ross Douthat, John Tierney, David Frum, Reihan Salam – I’ll digest and ponder whatever they have to say, no matter how much I may disagree with their worldview or conclusions. But considering the accruing tweets and bromides of the intellectual lightweight that is Sarah Palin is literally a waste of time – my time, your time, everybody’s time save media wonks and the Mama Grizzly set.

This type of stance – refusing to acknowledge the existence of a divisive cultural figure who has proved incredibly important to millions of “ordinary” citizens – is often derided as elitism, perhaps even Elitism with a Capital E. But let’s not get confused here. I am in no way denying the existence, impact, or popularity of Wasilla’s greatest export. Nor will I blunder into the typical “I don’t know anybody who likes her” explain-away. Rather, I’ll grant Plain her place in the sun and simply note that if one approaches politics and a national stage as a one-dimensional figure – a caricature, and one set on endless loop at that – people should be forgiven for refusing to check back and peruse every latest outrage against the English language, common sense, or decency. Having seen one thirty-minute segment of the artistry that is Benny Hill, I’m fairly confident that I grasp his essence, and that by changing the channel or clicking away each time he appears, I’m in no danger of missing out on anything I haven’t seen before. Similarly, having visited more than my fair share of McDonald’s establishments, I can pass by any number of Big Mac franchises without worrying whether or not there’s something inside that might prove eye-opening. Hence my attitude towards Sarah Palin, a McPolitician of the Benny Hill stripe is ever there was one.

However, even this “politician” designation is an injustice. For Sarah Palin is no more a politician than she is anything other than a celebrity. While she once chose the political path, and she may well choose it again, at the moment she serves no constituents, answers to no legislature, writes no laws, discloses no expenditures. Like members of the Royal Family and Paris Hilton, she is famous for being famous, and commands a national stage in which to bask in her famousness. Through the magic of social media, she remains at the epicenter of political discourse even though she currently wields no greater power than any other non-elected individual bending over their iPhone to complain about Washington. Yet with her book deals, reality TV gigs, costly speeches, and a popular Twitter account, one might be forgiven for confusing Palin with something other than an extremely opinionated celebrity. And perhaps she even is.

Why else this long lead-in to an investigation of Palin if I’ve already laid out the many reasons why I do not pay attention to her? Even hermits get some whisperings of the outside world, and if I’m plugged into the media machine enough to know that Meredith Vieira is being replaced by Ann Curry, I’m plugged in enough to ingest a few dispatches from the land of Palin. Besides, the wonderful thing about our Alaskan entertainer is that one needn’t suffer through endless hours of interviews (she tends not to grant them), magazine profiles (she’s shut herself off from anything other than puff pieces), or even her TLC-based reality show (I don’t get TLC, and the show has thankfully not been renewed for a second season). Instead, one can go directly to the source and eavesdrop on her very-much-alive Twitter feed, in which daily nuggets stream forth to both the faithful and the curious. Twitter may be a very imperfect vehicle for the transmission of sophisticated thought – limited to 140 characters, messages must by necessity (unless one is some kind of poet and/or master compressor) be devoid of nuance, depth, insight, explanation, explication, and/or discussion. Which is why it works so well in transmitting the thoughts of Hollywood celebrities, hip-hop stars, and D-grade politicians. While most people might feel constrained by such limitations, Kim Kardashian and Ashton Kutcher most likely do not. And while you or I might find ourselves at a loss to unfold the knotty details of any given political controversy in the same amount of space granted to a typical haiku, Sarah Palin suffers no such loss. Indeed, given that Twitter shines most when one is practicing self-celebration and/or barstool hectoring, one might suggest that Twitter remains the ne plus ultra of Palinian thought.

Hence the following graded attempt to identify Sarah Plain’s springtime Tweets, which have unfolded with the natural regularity, if not the grace, of April petals. Follow along as these simple messages reveal not a politician, or even much of a wit, but nothing more or less than an Internet Troll – always divisive, never wrong, and certainly not anybody’s friend.

Guide To Grading :

D : A poor showing, suggesting little in the way of calculation and perhaps even a heartfelt opinion. No attempt to divide, will outrage or delight few. Keith Olbermann will not read it.

C : Moderately successful, even a bit catty. Those attuned to Palin-code may nod in approval. Likely to coast below the radar of even the most attentive blogger. Might betray a hint of desperation, or simply a slow news day. Will not be mentioned by Keith Olbermann, although it might pop up in his inbox, forwarded by staff for consideration.

B : Solid showing - mean-spirited and generally uncalled-for. Often deployed against defenseless or harmless targets. Arguably stems from a political belief, yet now shares little resemblance to anything echoing thought. Will annoy or delight, depending on audience. Keith Olbermann will probably reference it.

A : Extraordinary work – a fine-tuned slice of bile. Highlights the most absurd and simplistic position possible on a given topic and runs with it. Likely to be repeated in some misspelled fashion on sandwich board. Primary function is to initiate rage. Keith Olbermann may devote an entire segment to it.


The Tweets

March 2

Common sense & decency absent as wacko "church" allowed hate msgs spewed @ soldiers' funerals but we can't invoke God's name in public square

Rather run-of-the-mill slam against Supreme Court decision allowing The Westboro Baptist Church to protest funerals and other events. Details are scarce, and Palin exempts herself from addressing issues of freedom of speech. Rather lazily references the absence of “common sense and decency,” which she neatly ties in with separation of church and state. Hopeless confusion of two very distinct issues. Subtle insistence on first-person plural personal pronoun “we” to describe those unfairly kept from shouting God’s name in public [as in, “we can’t invoke God’s name in public square”] excludes all who might not wish to proselytize, or perhaps just pretends non-believers don’t exist. Ultimately suggests two crimes are being committed, both involving freedom of speech and both making Jesus very sad. C+

March 8

WaPo, you're through. Have u no shame? MT"@weeklystandard: WaPo Mocks 82-yr-old Natl Medal Arts Winner,Cancer Survivor"

Hopelessly obscure bromide against Washington Post blogger Alexandra Petri, who initiated a “caption this photo” contest for a snapshot of a very disheveled Donald Hall, noted New Hampshire poet, receiving a National Endowment of the Arts medal from President Obama. The photo is undeniably very odd, Petri’s contest just as undeniably unfunny. Exactly why Sarah Palin felt the need to weigh in on this matter, much less to announce the Washington Post was “through,” remains a mystery, although one notes Palin rarely skips any opportunity to lambast the press. Perhaps she holds a soft spot in her heart for Hall’s 1979 Caldecott winner Ox-Cart Man. Many of us do. Docked a notch for mostly consisting of a link to somebody else’s article. D+

March 9

We're $14,000,000,000,000+ in debt, yet rodeo clowns still want to fund the Cowboy Poetry Party.That must be 1 helluvahigh natl priority shindig

A return to form – nearly a textbook example of lashing out at a defenseless target. Perhaps to distance herself from accusations of going Commie by praising a no doubt left-aligned poet, Palin casts her gaze across our debt-besotted land and affixes clear blame to the Cowboy Poetry Festival, held each year in Northern Nevada. A simple Google search might enlighten the ignorant, but suffice to say Cowboy Poetry is as distinct and fully matured an indigenous art form as any other slice of regionalism on offer. Tying “rodeo clowns” to supporters of “cowboy poetry” is a nifty piece of work, though. Major props for distancing herself from a form of national discourse in which participants must wear cowboy hats. And for dropping the mild epithet “helluva,” which surely wouldn’t get the nod from the average evangelical pulpit. B+

March 26

So very sad, the passing of Geraldine Ferraro. God bless her family&friends;thank you for sharing this accomplished American with all of us.

Poor showing. Suggests a genuine emotion, perhaps even an idea with no political calculation. Uses the passing of a fellow female politician for nothing more nor less than a remembrance. Given the massive differences in political opinions between Ms. Ferraro and Ms. Palin, however, one might note that had Ms. Ferraro not spoke out sympathetically on Ms. Palin’s treatment by the press during the 2008 election. Attack the media, and you’re on Palin’s good side, even if you vocally support abortion. D

April 8

Appalling Commander in Chief action: Announce veto of troop funding in time of war. Troops sacrificing life & limb & he plays politics at . . .

. . . their expense. UNBELIVEABLE. Memo to the President: Insurgents won't stop & wait for govt shutdown to end before resuming actions

Her outrage runneth over. Two tweets for the price of one, the better to outline the unconscionable actions of those who might politicize Department of Defense appropriations. One might plausibly note that by adding ludicrous strings to a stop-gap funding measure meant to continue funding troops in the wake of a government shutdown – by in effect holding troops hostage unless extortion fees to the tune of $624 billion in cuts are agreed to via H.R. 1363 – the party Palin claims fealty to had already lurched into the realm of sacrificing the troops. Such an acknowledgment might require an unprecedented third Tweet for the price of one. Lovely misspelling of “unbelievable” – it’s a tough one, isn’t it? And finely crafted warning of insurgents lying in wait regardless of government shutdown or not. Let's hope the President got the memo. Splendid effort. B+

April 8

GOP: don't retreat! The country is going broke. We can't AFFORD cowboy poetry & subsidizing abortion.

Lame pro forma exercise. Possibly Tweeted from a prone position. Falls back on previous flogged horse – the horror that is Cowboy Poetry – while “roping in” (see? I can do it, too!) women’s health and reproductive rights under the catchall boogeyman term “abortion”. One might suggest the need to further elucidate the difference between funding and subsidizing abortion, although one supposes it makes little difference. Even somebody willing to acknowledge that abortion treads on shaky moral ground might balk at conflating it with the likes of Cowboy Poetry, or vice versa. Come on – what is it about Cowboy Poetry that so inflames our Wasilla warrior? Don’t they ride horses up in Ay-lass-ka, city girl? C-

April 19

Paul Ryan reads Ayn Rand, he branded a terrorist. Obama starts his political career in a domestic terrorists house? No big deal.#tcot #p2@diggrbiii

Stunning foray into mock outrage. Manages to hoist aloft two sacred cows in one Tweet – groveling at the foot of Ayn Rand in one breath, smearing Obama with the “terrorist” brush in the other. Even the oafish “he” instead of “he’s” suggests a breathless rush to fury – why break for proper pronunciation when things are so deeply wrong? If only these were her own words, and not a simple re-Tweet from another. Nice try. B-

April 27

Media: admit it, Trump forced the issue. Now, don't let the WH distract you w/the birth crt from what Bernanke says today. Stay focused, eh?

A dazzling display of talent. First, lay into the media with your opening word, uttered in an almost casual just-you-and-me-baby kind of leer. Only the caress quickly becomes a noogie. “Admit it” – none of these spineless denials, media. Next, cozy up to Trump, fellow clown and poll bait, even though he hails from the PIG APPLE. Then: return to the media, only this time as a concerned friend, warning the confused rabbits not to let wily Obama to “distract” them. With what? His much-vaunted birth certificate, here rendered “crt,” as we all know of which we speak. Finally, goose ‘em with the dreaded Bernanke and a solemn plea to “stay focused”. The “eh” is a needless twist of the knife – to the right, decidedly to the right. So, hold on – what about this birth certificate? A-

May 4

Show photo as warning to others seeking America's destruction. No pussy-footing around, no politicking, no drama;it's part of the mission.

A splendid effort. Cuts directly to the chase, refers almost blithely to “the photo” – if you have to ask which one, why don’t you go ask your good friend Bill Ayers? Opens in strong declamatory mode – “show photo as warning” – dismissing any “who asked you?” queries through sheer firepower. Warning to who? “Others”. What kind of “others”? Those “seeking America’s destruction”. One notes that if Mutually Assured Destruction is no longer a compelling tactical or defensive guiding principal, Show Them The Photo is unlikely to replace it. From her comfortable position in whatever limousine she was riding in while putting fingers to mobile device, this resigned Governor of a National Park sneers “No pussy-footing around” [gender wars again?], “no politicking” [politician, heal thyself], “no drama” [but think of the rodeo clowns]. She closes with the finality of a gavel coming down on the expiring life of the guilty – “It’s part of the mission”. Whose mission, one might ask? And when did she get security clearance? The message could just as easily have been uttered by your drunken uncle sinking deep within his beanbag chair,and this is what I call a thing of beauty. A+

May 10

Oh lovely, White House. . .

And here I thought we were showing such progress. Have we really retreated back to the pre-social media days of the 1990s, when hip-hop artists were routinely held up for scorn by the Moral Majority? Can our heroine do no better than Bill Clinton slamming Sister Souljah or Dan Quayle going after Ice-T? More to the point, at least back in the day, people were getting worked up over the Geto Boys’ “Let A Ho Be A Ho,” not my idea of a finely-turned phrase. But Common? As woman-friendly and gat-avoiding as any rapper of note? Let me guess – it was Common’s ode to Black Panther Assata Shakur in 2000’s Like Water For Chocolate that rubbed Sarah the wrong way. Only seems Palin’s wrath stems from Common’s off-hand call to “burn a Bush” for peace. While we both might agree such a fiery act would most likely not bring peace to da Middle East, if the outrage is a musician talking smack against George W. Bush, well, get ready to book Yo-Yo Ma. Even America’s other working-class musical tradition that celebrates substance abuse, violence, and firearms isn’t entirely free of those looking askance at Dubya (Dixie Chicks, most obviously). And I would note a third negative Tweet against rhymers. Our Sarah, a playa hater? B-

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Protocols of Sheehan: A Dispatch From the Conspiracy Frontlines

When the news broke late Sunday night that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in his compound outside the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, my first thought wasn't to crack open a beer, pump my fist, or drive around the neighborhood honking the car horn, although it seems as if others acted on such impulses. There wasn't even the sense of relief, joy, or exultation that others have reported via social media tools, although I certainly didn't light any candles in mourning. A decade after the September atrocities, it proved difficult to channel the rage and horror of that day into a jubilant 420-character update on Facebook. As details were added to the breaking news, others continually added their thoughts, and while all were certainly heartfelt, I felt at times like a dispassionate observer watching an after-game celebration victory for a team I knew nothing about.

This is not to suggest I've followed the advice of the religious leaders who have urged followers to remember the soul and humanity of any deceased being, or that I begrudge people for expressing their emotions upon news that is certainly welcome. It's just that the death of Osama Bin Laden - and his actions, philosophy, place in history, and influence - seems a very different thing from the Patriots being crushed in the Super Bowl or some loudmouth going down in the seventh round courtesy of Manny Pacquiao. These sports metaphors are not chosen lightly - much of the news coverage featured on all forms of media have highlighted crowds of people chanting "USA! USA! USA!" in classic championship victory mode. To be sure, our "team" has scored a decisive, even surprising, victory. But the deaths in Manhattan and Washington in 2001, along with the two wars we've sustained since, have pushed any conception of Osama Bin Laden as an opponent beyond the realm of loss or victory. His entire pathetic earthly existence was a major loss to the human race.

But there's no need to dwell on the comments and observations I've combed through over the past day, from paid columnists to regular folks with iPhones, even though some offer surprising insights into the many facets of the ongoing War On Terror. I will skip over the numerous "Osama Bin Shot In" drops, the doggerel offered up by aspiring poets, the religious dogma mixed with references to burning hell fires, the swipes at Donald Trump. For while some are disturbed by images of jubilant people waving flags in celebration of the death of a terrorist, it's difficult to condemn the release of such honest feelings, even if I have no desire to join in. The passing of a tyrant always leads to celebration. Bin Laden's acts slashed a deep scar across the American psyche, and even the most dispassionate of observers should find it difficult to deny some sense of closure, finality, justice - however incomplete, however simplistic. It's right to be wary of jingoism and bloodlust. But it's also right to be wary of those who place the late Bin Laden on the same moral scale as themselves or others. In any case, my sense of justice and proper retribution wasn't challenged by Sunday's actions. Life is too short, and too cruel, and tyrants abound.

Far more fascinating are the opinions of those occupying the opposite spectrum of Team USA cheerleaders - the conspiracy theorists who have parlayed their skepticism of authority and an eye for political spin into the dizzying web of lies that is the bread and butter of all those who seek An Answer to the evils and abuses of the world. Lately, the conspiracy tent has been dominated by the shrill voices of those who would question our current president's place of birth - a movement dominated not by the rational types of various political backgrounds who have raised legitimate concerns over the Obama administration's lack of transparency, but by those who truly believe Barack Hussein Obama to be an African-born, Indonesian-raised, Muslim non-American. The implications of such charges are worthy of a separate column. There's much to be said on the question of whether the entire Birther movement owes its mainstream success to racist suppositions of who is or is not a "true" American, just as much could be said about Obama's less-than-forthcoming behavior and the complicity of the press in offering up a half-assed vetting of the candidate during the last presidential election. But while there is little doubt voices on the right will soon apply the lessons of the Birthers to this latest score in the War On Terror, it's the left-leaning remnants of the Truthers who have so far taken the lead in questioning the official line on the death of Osama Bin Laden.

Truthers, one must recall, coalesced around widespread concerns that key details of 9/11 were being ignored, glossed over, manipulated, or denied. Few of my acquaintances were pleased by or satisfied with the official findings of the 9/11 Commission, myself included, although I don't recall anybody seriously claiming any great conspiracy was underfoot, save for a friend beholden to the thoughts of David Ickes and his reptilian bloodline meta-theory. When the first traces of graffiti declaring 9/11 to be an inside job began making their mark on the streets of Albany and later San Diego, I greeted them with the sneering contempt I thought they deserved. The rumors linking George W. Bush to the attacks - as either mastermind or witting accomplice - were beneath the discourse of rational beings. The anti-Semitic undertones to the fevered scribblings of "Big Picture" theorists seemed obvious to anybody capable of nuance. When I had the misfortune to share a three-hour train ride from Los Angeles to San Diego with a rather messianic Truther, my disdain for the movement became complete. Surprised to discover somebody both tangentially involved with the military and relatively unsympathetic to the Iraqi incursion, she blathered on about Building 7 and iron-rich spheres, Israel and NORAD stand-down orders, Operation Northwoods and Pax Americana. By the time she insistently pushed burned DVD-ROMS of speeches by David Ray Griffin and performances by the Dixie Chicks into my hands (I warned her it was very unlikely I'd get around to watching either), I had long since concluded anybody even slightly sympathetic with the Truther cause was not one I wished to share close quarters with. In point of fact, I'd taken my stance about the time she related to me, lip quivering and tears oozing from her eyes, that she'd "successfully channelled" the life spirit of an Iraqi schoolgirl during a sit-in protest at an Orange County mall.

I was unaware until recently that one prominent leftist keeping alive the Truther bonfire was Cindy Sheehan, the mother of fallen soldier Casey Sheehan and a prominent critic of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sheehan's presence in the anti-war movement was undeniable and, at times, even inspiring, making concrete the grief and concern many had for the reckless actions propelling forward our presence in the Middle East and serving as a welcome counterweight to the gung-ho image of the military and their families favored by many who cheered on the offensive while never once considering making a sacrifice more demanding than waving a flag during community parades. When David Letterman slammed guest Bill O'Reilly for his attacks on Sheehan, the liberal community could be sensed nodding as one - how dare anyone be callow enough to impugn cries for peace by a grieving mother?

I nodded along, and still hold that Letterman the stealth-liberal does us much good. And yet, several years removed, it's difficult not to agree slightly with the odious Mr. O'Reilly that Cindy Sheehan is, among other things but perhaps foremost, a colossal ignoramus of the highest order - a cartoon rendering of leftist sympathies, an overbearing and hackneyed town crier dedicated to any issue so long as they chip away at the edges of weakly-defined hegemony, and a hectoring enabler to the weakest impulses of the progressive cause to which I am such a proud contributing member. Right, Sheehan and I may fight the same sort of fight. But it's hardly traitorous to reject outright paranoia, or conclude any movement would be better off without lightweights carrying bullhorns.

Perhaps you'd thought Cindy Sheehan had shuffled offstage to undertake some other form of public therapy. Perhaps, like me, you'd hoped she found some kind of peace or closure for the senseless death of her son. Perhaps you'd simply forgotten about her. But a fortuitous link led me to the temple of irrationality that is Sheehan's Facebook page, an enterprise that has attracted nearly 5,000 "friends," surprisingly few of whom are mockers or contrarians. Blessed with a piercing artistic rendering by Rob Shetterly, whose Americans Who Tell The Truth series is much-admired in this house, Sheehan's profile showcases the expected Thoreau quotations and links to Israel Kamakawiwo'ol album tracks, along with daily updates of a feisty nature from a truth-speaker.

And what truth might one glean from befriending Cindy Sheehan? Most recently, one might peer into the smoky logic extending from Trutherism into what has been clumsily dubbed "Deatherism" - namely, that Osama Bin Laden was decidedly not killed in a firefight in Pakistan nor buried at sea, but has either already been killed or remains on the loose, and has been inserted as a pawn into a game controlled by the steady hands of.....well, insert stock villain here, but if they are Jewish and perhaps embedded within the media you'll collect at least Marvin Gardens and perhaps even score Free Parking. Three posts from Sheehan regarding the death of Osama Bin Laden leave little confusion of her stance on the issue - one doesn't kick off festivities by declaring "if you believe the newest death of OBL, you are stupid" if you haven't already declared war on nuance, and one doesn't routinely fall back on the colloquialism "Duh-merican sheeple" to describe anybody who disagrees with your prophecies if one is opening the door to a wider debate. To glance through Sheehan's brief thoughts and the many comments of her acolytes is to glance unhindered into the inky black depths of grape kool-aid thought - kool-aid tendencies that can easily stain any earnest individual open-minded enough to periodically lose track of their brains.

The kool-aid analogy is consciously chosen - it's the preferred metaphor within the Truther crowd. To offer any sort of push back to even the most outlandish claims of global conspiracy - to even raise the possibility that worshiping at the altar of conspiracy introduces as many complicated objections as any worship at any altar - is to steady oneself against the accusation of playing the lead role of Jim Jones in the Guyana pageant that is American consciousness. One foolishly thoughtful individual suggested as much when he dared to venture his opinion that Sheehan's mission had shifted over the past few years and that he was uncomfortable with the dictum that "Jews cause all the problems". The response was swift - (and I do quote, typos and all, seeing how misspellings are one unifying factor among Internet cranks, and please note the only word chosen for proper capitalization out of a possible four) "ok so got watch cnn more exciting there I am sure".

Spend a few painful minutes perusing the fever dreams of Sheehan and her acolytes, and one will go away with far greater insights than simply the ease with which one may dispatch Doubting Thomases as "fuckwads" (a favorite epithet of the thesaurus-deprived matron). One will correctly begin to view the supposed violent death of Osama Bin Laden as yet another etching in the grand art project that is the "Lying Murderous Empire"- a fabrication swallowed whole by the "sheeple" as easily as they swallowed the 1969 moon landing and the hijacking of American Airlines Flight 77. One reads of the many lies of DNA testing, of World Trade Center steel shanghaied to China, of machinations to target Syria for annihilation, of Al Qaeda in Venezuela, Facebook clandestinely seizing user-uploaded activist photographs of the Vigil For The Wood Carver. One paws through claims of American assassins blowing up Benazir Bhutto, knowing references to George Soros and the House of Rothschild, and attacks against Army wives. One wide-eyed commenter opens and closes every post with a full caps FOR THE LOVE OF WAR tag. Another compares Bin Laden to nuclear power, while another suggests details don't matter as we're all fated to die from breathing in carbon fuel.. Yet another continually references The Matrix. I counted several involved explanations of how this "obvious" hoax was purposefully designed to be clumsy and easily uncovered, thus blinding many to other, more sinister and more expertly assembled, hoaxes - a conspiracy conspiracy, if you will. Several confuse or mistype "Osama" and "Obama". Others simply kiss the feet of their appointed idol - "You are a voice of sanity in these end times" -- "I love you Cindy!!!!!" -- "My favorite thing about Cindy is how each day she gives us more reasons to love her!"

Since we're trafficking in rabid overstatement here, can I just point out that what springs to my mind when reading the last three encomiums is the hero worship accorded to the likes of Kim Jong-Il? If you think my analogy too heavy handed, why not point out that the very title of this blog essay alludes to the most notorious example of fraudulent text impacting global hatred and even genocide. This analogy was not chosen lightly. Part and parcel of the Truther movement - and thus part and parcel of Cindy Sheehan and her many followers - is a covert and at times overt anti-Semitic narrative that poisons all it touches. Investigate into any manner of conspiracy theory, and anti-Semitism will likely soon rear its ugly head. This is no identity politics claim or Zionist assumption. Suspicion of Jewish control is central to nearly any coherent theory of global conspiracy, and its toxicity blankets as many figures on the hard left as it does the hard right. I've always suspected that conspiracy theories serve as a corrective to those bemoaning the loss of the orderly hand of the almighty - that those fallen from faith find a chilling solace in assigning the chaos of the world to unseen hands, a malign rather than benign presence, but a defined presence nonetheless. It's an understandable impulse. How much easier is it to accept cruelty and abuse when one knows it springs from the hands of an individual rather than the empty whirl of chance? What are conspiracy theorists but the ultimate believers?

So take a peek at the below highlighted examples of discourse from the Sheehan flock. When all is said and done, they've certainly imperiled less lives than either Bin Laden or the Military Industrial Complex. But declaring their flailing antics harmless is to suggest you reject logic itself as one of our many available weapons of peace.


Discussion Thread #1 : Reasonable Doubt Concerning Reported Death

Sheehan : I am sorry, but if you believe the newest death of OBL, you're stupid. Just think to yourself--they paraded Saddam's dead sons around to prove they were dead--why do you suppose they hastily buried this version of OBL at sea? This lying, murderous Empire can only exist with your brainwashed consent--just put your flags away and THINK!

Sheehan : but since I don't believe it, I am "bitter".

Sadly, plenty of sheeple are swallowing this. My realtime friends all think I'm mad. 3 even told me to watch the news....

Sheehan: where did they get OBL's DNA to prove it in the first place? Do they have a database of terrorist DNA?

The bigger the lie, the more people will believe it!

Osama had died or been killed 3 times already......confirmed by the CIA and FBI each time!

Such common sense, Cindy.......and my thought is that surely another country would have taken care of his body if they had been aware....

I am speechless how the people after what we have been through are not critically thinking and swallowing this obvious Propaganda without a question. so sad what has been done to weaken the minds of the people that they open their arms to Fascist Totalitarianism amd embrace it. The sickness of not question authority, believe, with blind faith.

American philosophy is still a testesteron filled game cock attitude.

Who has the most to gain from the actions and distractions of the past years? The events of September 11th, the destruction of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, attack on civil liberties, implementation of a Police State, Disaster Capitalism, etc? Who has the most to gain, and who, in fact, has undoubtedly done so, but the military/industrial complex?? Who has the most to gain from this policy of "endless war" but the military industrial complex?

Exactly. People are fucking morons who will swallow just about anything. So gullible.

let us watch and listen closely to the upcoming events and what exactly was the mechanics and strategy of this fake raid and killing of Obama, just at this time. You know it's big.

Cindy, when are going you back on Alex Jones? You can compare evidence. [note: self-described "paleoconservative" radio talk show host, conspiracy theorist, filmmaker]

Sheehan : Thanks - I guess you believe the lies? How's your flag doing?

Two letters of what I think about all of this - BS! It's just a PR stunt to get people ralied up for the pig push on Libya.

using CRITICAL is horrifying the blind faith in the Gov controlled media and our nefarious leadership. So sad that these people are conditioned to believe anything the so-called "Authorities" feed them. Dangerous as well. Welcome to Fascism.

Ι love you, Cindy!!!!!

I question that also Cindy, it could b part of the DECEPTION, WHO WILL BELIEVE THE LIE. There is a election coming up and they r trying 2 get there ducks n a row.

Sheehan : they can swallow the bs story because Obama gave it to them - never would have believe the same story from Bush - that's why OBL didn't die again when Bush was prez. divide and distract.

OK so the entire political and media structure is pulling the society by the nose to look at a single dead man (who has probably been dead for 10 years)... so now what are they gearing up to do? More war as Alex Jones says? These efforts don't get wasted on simply "informing" the dumbed down masses. There is a real social engineering goal behind all this.

Cindy, I guess we will never get Osama's body. According to this CNN story, he was buried at sea even though the sea was 1000 miles from the killing. Amazing! And people are sucking this shit up like it is true. Hello, ever watch a cop show? You need a body to declare a homicide first.

Remember the three Kenndy's limo into the sea and sent the steel of the World Trade Center to China?

Sheehan : [note: lengthy unanswered exchange with no particular direction follows] I don't even know what the fuck Alex Jones is saying, Lawrence--if you notice, I don't even go on his show anymore and haven't for years. I guess I am not capable of having my own thoughts. I must be listening to Alex Jones.

Sheehan : Some men are so arrogant--if I have a thought that is against someone who is on the right--Michael Moore is telling me what to say--if I have a thought that is contrary to what someone on the left is saying, then Alex Jones is telling me what to say.

Sheehan : Fuckwads

Sheehan : It's good that I have Alex Jones and Michael Moore, because then I don't have to think--I can just tune into them and regurgitate their propaganda. It's hard to think--it gives me a headache.

Sheehan : It's also easier just to swallow the lies of the Empire like Monica Lewinsky swallowed Clinton's sperm. It works for me.

People right now is the time to beware of falseflag terrorism because after Libya the neocons and thier partners in crime Obama admin have Syria and Iran in thier sites. OBL's socalled death is not only a BS impression but it is a tactical trick to provoke 'terrorist' (falseflag) acts to convince public to target Syria!

The matrix for real! Don't believe the hype!

They didn't have to kill him-they could of knocked everyone out with gas or dart guns for that matter-it's all a big LIE! That's all we've been getting for years now. Seems like a LIE to set us up for the NEXT False attack from whatever area they want to invade next! Pakistan? Iran? Saudi Arabia? Really no one is safe from the Empire, especially if you're sitting remotely close to the world's last remaining oil reserves. Who knows? Maybe Al Qaeda all moved to Venezuela...

Just like 911 they got rid of the evidence.

FOR THE LOVE OF WAR It is the tradition of Navy Seal Team Six to intern their commandos at sea. Just because he was the target for this operation dose not take away the fact that he fought side by side with with Seal Team Six against the Russians. FOR THE LOVE OF WAR.

There is a video of Forest Gump shaking hands with JFK.

The beauty of making his death look suspicious is that it maintains the pretext of imperial violence by creating enough conspiracy theorists to waste time on conspiracy theories. Rome didn't use conspiracy, the English or Spanish empires didn't use them. And neither do we. What we have is an empire and a massive monopoly of state violence. And Bin Laden or any other pretext is nothing more than a marketing ploy. It wouldn't matter if they killed him, and it doesn't matter if he's alive. What does matter is not wasting time focusing on the details of endlessly doubting via conspiratorial discussion.


Discussion Thread #2 : One Death Does Not Disrupt A Larger Movement

Sheehan: I am going to go take a walk in the wonderful sunshine--now that OBL is dead, I feel safe and the birds are singing and the nuclear disaster is over; our oceans are clean and wars have ended. This is the Dawning of The Age of Aquarius. Let the Sunshine! (We can use our plastic sheeting and duct tape now for painting our kitchens). I know! LET'S GO SHOPPING!!!

can't go shopping....might miss Dancing with the Douchebags.....

Right's kabuki theater

i spent all my money on flags

Sheehan : we live in a fucking ridiculous era.

Loool...Miss Cindy plz keep these status updates coming...You are a voice of sanity in these endtimes....May God bless you.Thank u for speaking the truth like it is.

FB took all my photos of Big Mountain, Vigil for the Wood Carver shot by cop, Women In Black Vigils - all my most important activist photos are gone. Don't trust FB anyway, but people are protesting in UK about FB wiping out activist work.

oh the military wives will love that!!! muahaaaa...slaughter=payday=SHOPPING at the mall!!! Muahaaaa Oh look kids!! Daddy killed some bad guys grandchildren and now he will get paid and we can go SHOPPING!!!! yippeee!!!

My favorite thing about Cindy is how each day she gives us more reasons to love her!

Brilliant status post Cindy! I got some good belly laughs out of it ....thanks!

News stories are scatted in time. Some say he's been dead for 10 yrs now, others say it was just days. But the Buishes and OBL were BOTH heavily invested in OPEC. In reality no matter what they say, burning fossil-fuels is going to kill us all. Whether it be from just breathing engine exhaust or from from wars over religion, our demise is going to be because of the money that fossil-fuels create.


Discussion Thread #3 : Unfair Application of Labels and The Demise of Journalism

Sheehan: I guess I am a deather--and now the "news" is getting their "news" items from Facebook, because this is the only place I have ever said anything about this newest fraud perpetrated on the gullible Duh-merican sheeple.

bin Laden not wanted for WTC because Israel did it.

I underestimated the stupidity, denial, and delusional potential of duh-mericans!

Back a few years ago your cause was admirable and sane, and I joined you. Now, you are all a big bore. Right, Osama has been dead. Right, the Jews cause all the problems. Sounds familiar somehow....

ok so got watch cnn more exciting there I am sure

Osama bin Laden and Obama bin Lyin; the only difference between these terrorists is the number of innocent people killed. The winner by a country mile is, of course, Obama.

Sheehan: I never said he wasn't dead--I never said he was ever alive. I just know he wasn't killed and buried at sea yesterday, cuz I wasn't born yesteray.

we have a bingo

BOB tell cindy what she has won. Well Cindy you win the immortal collection of Osama's top ten videos of around the CIA camp I mean the world and his audio collection of all his classic poems. Congrats

Sheehan: Hey mother f%#kers--print this!

usa had a hand with Benazir Bhutto's assasination also.. cuz they want to perpetuate the myth, the bogey man called "Osama been lyin".... to suit whatever purposes they want, whether it be fear mongering, or to justify their bogus "War on Terror", one of the biggest hoax in history.

Osama bin Convenient...

Does anybody else suspect that the dinosaur media is putting the final nails in thier coffin by perpetuating this hoax?

its a duh mockery, not democracy.
8 years after may 1st 2003 : mission accomplished banner : is not a coincidence. the system really really wants to remove may day as a holiday.

yes, definitely a Soros and Rothschild connection. one can do a research...