Thursday, March 07, 2002


I was TV slumming the other day on CBN (Christian Broadcast Network), watching Pat Robertson. Now, Robertson at the best of times comes across as an exceptionally slimy used-car salesman. His oily, oozing, obviously phony pseudo-sincerity makes my skin crawl when I try to watch him for more than a couple of minutes at a time.

However, the other day, he was railing about the "diversity" education that some California schools are supposedly teaching. I had seen a fairly extensive online discussion of this, and it seemed that Robertson and company were going ballistic over it. From the discussions, it seemed that he was complaining that they didn't teach that Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc really worship Satan. (Side note -- it seemed to me that the California programs go too far in a couple of directions -- study is fine, but when you start doing play-acting of certain religious activities of somebody else's religion, you are being extremely disrespectful.)

Then Robertson put his foot in it. He put pictures of pages from the textbook on the screen to show how awful they were, with the "bad parts" highlighted. For example, the book said "Muslims believe that Muslims, Christians, and Jews all worship the same God." I've seen the exact same phrase on several Muslim Websites.

However, the phrase on the screen looked like this:

Muslims believe that Muslims, Christians, and Jews all worship the same God.

Robertson ranted at length about how the book was teaching that "Muslims, Christians, and Jews all worship the same God".

Sorry, Patsy. That's not what it says. It's the worst sort of selective quoting.

In Kansas, where I grew up, we call that "lying".

I find it amazing that he could even think that he could get away with it at all. After all, the "real" text was right there on the screen for everybody to see. This wasn't the only example -- there was at least one other that I saw before my stomach turned over and I found some other trash to watch. Used the exact same selective highlighting -- ignoring the "Muslims believe that ..." prefix.

The implications aren't pretty. Either we have:

  • Robertson assumes that his viewers can't read
  • Robertson assumes that his viewers can't tell the difference between quoting something and advocating something.
  • Robertson can say anything he wants. His viewers aren't listening.

In either case, Robertson assumes that he can get away with a blatant, out and out lie. I'm sure he knows his audience. They're probably writing nasty letters to school boards right now. Such is the "religious right" that currently owns the Republican Party.

Theological note to Robertson, and other pseudo-fundamentalists -- Christianity is monotheistic. One God. One. "Satan" is not a God. Satan is not even an independent entity. One God, remember?

Also note, in the phrase that Robertson found so repugnant, that all three religions are monotheistic. All say that there is only one God. Therefore, if they are to allow each other the minimum of respect, it has to be the same God. After all, there's only one. Of course, this assumes that one respects the other religions. Robertson has made it obvious that he doesn't.

The Right Wing is Desperate

Just watched a Fox "News" program. Somebody's written a "new" book about Jane Fonda and the Vietnam War. Basically said that she should be tried for treason. Quoted the line about "aid and comfort to the enemy". They conveniently forget, of course, that during the war, that same line was used on anybody who criticized LBJ's or (especially) Nixon's handling of the war.

Sheesh! The war has been over for almost 30 years. We lost. Anybody who has studied the subject (then or now) knows that the Vietnam War was an enormously complex affair. The reasons we got sent home with a tin can tied to our tail are many and varied; the story of Hanoi Jane was a trivial sideshow. The main effect was to totally enrage every conservative and totally disgust every liberal in the country. This was, of course, its aim. The North Vietnamese stage-managed her to a faretheewell.

So why trot out the old "Hanoi Jane" stories now?

Looks like desperation to me. Clinton is gone. The Left is in such disarray that it seems to be going on momentum.

The Right has, for now, won. The President is a sock puppet for the Republican National Committee. Republicans control the House, and only lost the Senate because they pissed off the one remaining moderate Republican senator. So why haven't peace and prosperity and social harmony descended like a dove from the heavens? Can't possibly be that the Right's lower middle class/rural/white/TV preacher protestant view of What Things Should Be Like doesn't work very well. Must be that the Bad Guys are still out there, messing things up.

But when you have to go back 30 years to find a Bad Guy, you're in real trouble.

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

Cop Show

We've gotten desensitized. The world is full of big horrors. The ongoing bloodbath in the Middle East. China in Tibet. East Timor. Rwanda. We see these on the news and it just rolls off.

But the little horrors can still shock. The other day, there was a bank robbery. Robber fled, armed and considered dangerous. FBI investigated. Nothing unusual; bank robbers are almost always pretty dumb. Even if he avoids getting tracked down at once, he'd probably start spending money like a drunken sailor. Easy to track as the Potomac River. As a matter of fact, they did catch him a couple of days later with no particular trouble.

Problem was, at one point, a couple of FBI agents pulled over a suspect. Ordered him out of his car, hands up. And blew his face off. Literally. Rifle bullet to the jaw. Then they made him lie on the ground and handcuffed him.

The more I hear about this, the worse it gets. The FBI agents' car was unmarked. They had no lights or siren. They never showed ID. Joseph Schultz, the victim, did not resist.

What the Bloody Hell Is Going on Here?

Back when I was in college, J. Edgar Hoover was running the FBI. He didn't have a good reputation. It was years later that the story of him blackmailing US Presidents came out. Ditto the story of him being blackmailed by the Mafia to deny the existence of organized crime. However, his persecution of Martin Luther King was well known, as was his enormous ego. One antiwar organizer described being detained for several hours at an airport while a couple of agents very earnestly tried to convince him that Hoover was really a good guy, working very hard to do what's right for America.

Even among the antiwar organizers that I knew who were the subject of FBI investigations, there was no questioning the professionalism and integrity of the agents themselves. Mostly they were a joke -- the agents' dress code wasn't relaxed while investigating antiwar activities and you could spot them a mile off. The one at the antiwar rally or Grateful Dead concert in the gray suit was the FBI agent ...

Hoover retired, to be followed by a bunch of undistinguished directors who tried to keep up Hoover's professionalism without his overarching ego. Then came William Sessions. He was forced out as Director for a number of severe ethics violations. However, scuttlebutt has it that he was forced out because he "wasn't a Hoover man". He wasn't the first Director that didn't start out as an agent, but he was the first one to try to pull the FBI away from the Hoover style of organization. The agents loathed him. From what I heard, the "ethics violations" consisted of one occasion where he had his official driver pick up his wife from shopping.

His successor was Louis Freeh, who had a firm reputation as a Hoover man. Unfortunately, he is best known for putting Larry Potts, with no qualification except for being his best friend, in charge of two of the biggest disasters in the history of the FBI -- Ruby Ridge and Waco. At Ruby Ridge, Potts issued a "shoot to kill any adult" order, which was carried out. (I've heard people dispute this. However, I've seen it. It says "shoot to kill", in some of the most turgid bureaucratese I've ever seen.) At Waco, he disregarded the FBI's own procedures for dealing with religious nuts and insisted on treating Koresh like a bank robber.

The result was a severe demoralization of the Bureau. In addition, the "War on Drugs" started taking its toll of the overall professionalism of the Bureau. (Topic for another time.) They've lost their squeaky clean, uncorruptable image.

So What Will Happen?

Nothing. After all, Joseph Schultz didn't die. That seems to be the criterion for getting something done in this society -- somebody gets killed. Crippled, disfigured, ruined financially or emotionally, nobody cares. Gotta die first.

The FBI will pull in around the agents. Can't tell why they pulled over Schultz's girlfriend (who was driving). Might jeopardize sources. Can't identify the agent. Against policy. Anne Arundel county cops are investigating; they have no authority over Feds.

The agents involved will be quietly reassigned to somewhere else. "Investigations" will turn up the fact that Schultz isn't a Nice Man (whether he is or not. Point is publicity.). His lawyer will go away when he runs out of money -- and it'll be a long time before he can work a normal job.

There will be no criminal charges. There will be no civil action -- takes years, costs a fortune, almost certainly won't win. Cops in the "performance of their duty" get a lot of leeway.

And we move a step closer to a strict two-class society. Cops and politicians on one side, all the rest of us on the other.

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