Monthly Archives: June 2007

Me on Holsinger

The transcription of my appearance on Democracy Now is kind of jumbled. I recommend viewing or listening to the show here. But here is an excerpt anyway:

AMY GOODMAN: Max Blumenthal, you’ve been writing about Dr. Holsinger’s record. Put it in a bigger context. What is the Bush administration doing with this nomination for Surgeon-General?

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well, this nomination is another sop to the Christian Right. They’re trying to get their base revved up. I subscribe to various Christian Right newsletters and they’re just bombarding me with e-mails and newsletters saying this is another case of religious bigotry by the Democrats. They’re forcing Dr. Holsinger to check his Christianity at the door. So even if his nomination fails they’ve gotten the base revved up, they’ve gotten the Christian Right interested again. The Christian Right essentially controls this administration so they’re doing lot of damage in the process by nominating someone to a scientific institution who’s hostile to science. Someone who has shown in his career almost as much hostility to homosexuals as he has to disabled veterans before Walter Reed made it cool to abuse veterans, Dr. Holsinger as head of the VA was forced to personally admit blame for six deaths at a Chicago hospital he administered. 30 hospitals he administered were ruled by a government investigation to have substandard care for veterans. I think Dr. Holsinger might argue that he can hold these views about homosexuals and still be qualified for Surgeon-General. But he can’t argue that he doesn’t believe in science. And that’s just on the record. It’s established if you believe in ex-gay therapy, which he does, if you believe you can pray away the gay, which he does, you are rejecting 30 years of science. The American Psychiatric Association, the largest association of mental health professionals, has stopped listing homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1974. They have contributed to virtually every Surgeon-General’s annual report. So he’s rejecting the mental health community right there. And this reflects a larger trend in the administration of hostility to science. You have the NASA chief, Michael Griffin who doesn’t believe global warming exists. You have the former chair of the President’s council on bioethics which rubber stamped his veto of stem cell science. Leon Kass who says that women’s natural function in life is to have children. And he’s spoken out most fervently against what he sees is one of the biggest social evils, the public licking of ice cream cones. Another member of the president’s council of bioethics, Robert George who I’ve profiled for The Nation, wants laws enacted to ban masturbation which would sort of create a vicious cycle once you throw people in prison for that because there’s nothing else to do. Robert Brame, nominated for the national labor relations board, believes that homosexuals, abortion doctors and disobedient children should be executed according to biblical law. Joe McIlhaney, former co-chair of the president’s advisory council on AIDs, still a member, believes AIDs can be spread by sweat and tears. Current co-chair Senator Coburn, anti-condemn activist. His chief of staff told me at a right winged conference I was covering that he thinks liberal federal judges should not only be impeached but impailed as well. So you have in charge of scientific institutions sexual troglodytes who might be qualified to administer tribal regions in Pakistan but they are just not qualified to be in charge of these institutions. So I think the nightmare isn’t over. We have one year left but the administration continues throwing these sops to the base. You saw in your last segment how they fomented a civil crisis in Gaza, well they fomented a culture war at home.

What was professional alarmist, bigot and far-right operative Bill Donohue doing on Air America?

Amanda Marcotte, who was removed from the Edwards ’08 campaign at the behest of Donohue, reports the following:

Joseph Hughes emailed me about his blog post recounting how he heard a show on the supposedly progressive Air America rolling out the carpet for professional right wing hit man Bill Donohue. I could scarcely believe it, so I checked out the blog on the show “The Lionel Show” and sure enough, they had Donohue on and are endorsing his belief that religions should be exempt from criticism, so they can use their power to oppress without the trouble issue of people fighting back.

Gravel, The Dada Candidate?

Watching this Mike Gravel campaign video (it’s hard to call it a commercial) made me wonder if his campaign is being managed by the spirit of Tristan Tzara. Gravel is like the Dada candidate whose spontaneous style and at times nihilistic tone are deliberately calculated to highlight the meaningless of the money-soaked, soundbyte-driven, image-oriented modern presidential campaign. As Tzara said, “Like everything in life, Dada is useless. Dada is without pretension, as life should be.”

Maybe I’ve misinterpreted Gravel’s style. Or maybe I’m just giving him way too much credit.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Robert Bork is not a CCC to my knowledge, he is just a regular, old hypocrite. Bork is suing the Yale Club for $1 million, and punitive damages, for a fall he suffered. But as the Carpetbagger Report points out:

Bork is a long-time advocate of “tort reform,” which would limit the right of injured people to file exactly these kinds of suits.

It’s also a reminder that the key to social progress in the United States is to get conservatives to have more life experiences. They’re against gay rights, until someone close to them is gay. They’re against separation of church and state, until they feel like the minority faith. They’re against rights for the accused, until they’re charged with a crime. They’re against personal-injury lawsuits, until they get hurt in an accident. They’re against….

What’s Wrong With Ron Paul?

Dave Neiwert’s profile of Ron Paul is a must-read. I’ve been mildly irritated by the left-wing columnists and bloggers who have given naively fawning reviews of Paul’s longshot candidacy (see here and here). To them, he is the good Republican, the “real” conservative who opposes the war because it is wasteful and “real” conservatives aren’t imperialists. Neiwert reminds them that Paul’s anti-war politics, and his political positions in general, are informed through the prism of far-right, New World Order conspiracism. And he dredges up Paul’s ugly history of racism. A brief excerpt from Neiwert’s devastating post, which deserves to be read in its entirety:

If Paul’s express views on racism are less than convincing, then the piece that appeared under his name in 1992 about black crime, as reported by the Houston Chronicle, was simply damning. The ugly smear intended by the rhetoric in that case was unmistakably racist. Paul has since claimed it was ghostwritten and he wasn’t paying enough attention, but that doesn’t explain why he continued to defend those views to a reporter four years later, in 1996:

Paul, a Republican obstetrician from Surfside, said Wednesday he opposes racism and that his written commentaries about blacks came in the context of “current events and statistical reports of the time.”

… Paul, writing in his independent political newsletter in 1992, reported about unspecified surveys of blacks.

“Opinion polls consistently show that only about 5 percent of blacks have sensible political opinions, i.e. support the free market, individual liberty and the end of welfare and affirmative action,”Paul wrote.

Paul continued that politically sensible blacks are outnumbered “as decent people.” Citing reports that 85 percent of all black men in the District of Columbia are arrested, Paul wrote:

“Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the `criminal justice system,’ I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal,” Paul said.

Paul also wrote that although “we are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, it is hardly irrational. Black men commit murders, rapes, robberies, muggings and burglaries all out of proportion to their numbers.”

A campaign spokesman for Paul said statements about the fear of black males mirror pronouncements by black leaders such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has decried the spread of urban crime.

What Paul never explained was that one of the primary sources for this information about black crime came from Jared Taylor, the pseudo-academic racist whose magazine American Renaissance was at the time embarked on a long series of tirades on the subject (the June 1992 issue was primarily devoted to the subject; the statistic claiming that 85 percent of black men in D.C. have been arrested appears in the August issue), the culmination of which was Taylor’s later book, The Color of Crime, which made similarly unsupportable claims about blacks.

This sort of unspoken dalliance — an uncredited transmission of ideas, as it were — takes place all the time with far-right politicos like Ron Paul. It’s one of the reasons to be concerned about any traction they may actually gain within the mainstream.

This is especially the case because there is nothing in Paul’s present behavior or positions that is inconsistent with his past; he’s just more astute about how he voices them. No reporter yet seems to have asked him about his belief in the “New World Order,” notably.

“Sadistic Counseling”

Mitt Romney counsels a pregnant woman:

Judy Dushku: It was in the late 1970s. She was a woman about 40 years old, 3 ½ to 4 months into her sixth pregnancy. We’ll call her woman “X”. She was an active member of the ward where Romney was bishop in Massachusetts, at that time in a neighboring community where I was not a member. The stake president was a doctor named Gordon and was an old friend of X.

X and her husband went to the hospital because she had an aching in her leg. Her doctor was alarmed after examining her, telling her she had developed blood clots and could not carry the pregnancy to full term. He said they’d have to give her blood thinners in order to get rid of the clots and that they would endanger the baby. X had lost her first baby; the child was born with many physical problems and died at two or three weeks old. X was already the mother of four teenage children. This would have been her sixth.

Suzan Mazur: And X and her husband decided they would abort the child because her life was in danger.

Judy Dushku: Yes.

Suzan Mazur: And she advised her bishop – Mitt Romney – that she was going to terminate the pregnancy for medical reasons. And what did he say?

Judy Dushku: First of all the stake president – Gordon – came by to see X with a friend and said well it looks like you have to do this – terminate the pregnancy. He was perfectly comfortable with X’s decision, since both she and the child were in peril. And Gordon was technically higher in the LDS church hierarchy than Mitt was as bishop.

So then Mitt came in to the hospital. X thought Mitt had come to be comforting because that’s what bishops do. They have a pastoral role. But she said that instead he was critical.

He said – What do you think you’re doing?

She said – Well, we have to abort the baby because I have these blood clots.

And he said something to the effect of – Well, why do you get off easy when other women have their babies?

And she said – What are you talking about? This is a life threatening situation.

And he said – Well what about the life of the baby?

X had lost her first baby; the child was born with many physical problems and died at two or three weeks old. X was already the mother of four teenage children. This would have been her sixth.

….

So then Mitt came in to the hospital. X thought Mitt had come to be comforting because that’s what bishops do. They have a pastoral role. But she said that instead he was critical.

He said – What do you think you’re doing?

She said – Well, we have to abort the baby because I have these blood clots.

And he said something to the effect of – Well, why do you get off easy when other women have their babies?

And she said – What are you talking about? This is a life threatening situation.

And he said – Well what about the life of the baby?

And she said – I have four other children and I think it would be really irresponsible to continue the pregnancy.

X said she found herself arguing with Romney about her medical crisis, said he was very unsympathetic, very critical, and said that under the circumstances in no way did he condone her aborting the child. And he left.

She was extremely distraught. Talked it over with her husband. They decided to go ahead with the abortion. After that she left the church.

Scratch a Liar, Find a Thief

Matt Sanchez, Conflicted Conservative in Crisis extraordinaire, has been back in the news since I last checked up. I couldn’t let this one pass by without posting something:

The Corps on Friday was slated to wrap up an investigation into allegations that a corporal in the Individual Ready Reserve who appeared in gay porn films before enlisting solicited more than $12,000 from private organizations by asking them to fund a deployment to Iraq he never made, according to e-mails from the investigating officer forwarded to Marine Corps Times.

Reserve Col. Charles Jones, a staff judge advocate called to Marine Corps Mobilization Command in Kansas City, Mo., on temporary orders that expire Saturday, informed Reserve Cpl. Matt Sanchez of the allegations against him in a March 22 e-mail that advised Sanchez of his rights.

I wonder if Michelle Malkin, David Horowitz and the rest of Sanchez’s defenders said anything about this one.

Holsinger’s Nomination: Ex-Gay Therapy On Trial

James Holsinger, President George W. Bush’s nominee for Surgeon General, has a dark view of homosexuals. In a 1991 paper, for example, Holsinger warns of the perils of homosexual sex in sickeningly lurid language. “Fist fornication,” “sphincter injuries,” “lacerations,” “perforations” and “deaths seen in connection with anal eroticism,” are some of the terms Holsinger concocted to describe acts with which he suggests at least medical familiarity (a case of participant observation, perhaps?). At the same paper, Holsinger puzzlingly issues no warnings about the dangers of heterosexual sex. To him, only “anal eroticism” is a health peril.

Holsinger’s allies — those who lobbied the White House for his nomination — include Focus on the Family and the Heritage Foundation. They have predictably cast his emerging confirmation battle as a religious test, alleging that his homophobia is a reflection of orthodox Christian views. To oppose Holsinger on the grounds of his anti-gay sentiments, the right says, is to discriminate against him simply for being a bible-believing Christian. Why should he have to check his Christianity at the church exit door? they ask. This worn-out appeal to the Christian right’s victimhood complex distracts from the most salient argument against Holsinger’s confirmation — which is exactly what it is intended to do.

For a moment let’s put aside the moral case against Holsinger’s confirmation (bigotry is immoral), and examine his qualifications for America’s top doctor. Holsinger and his wife were founders of Hope Springs Community Church. This church, according to its pastor, Rev. David Calhoun, has an “ex-gay” ministry that administers “reparative therapy” to people who no longer wish to be gay. “We see that as an issue not of orientation but a lifestyle,” Calhoun says. “We have people who seek to walk out of that lifestyle.”

Holsinger believes in ex-gay therapy. He therefore views homosexuality as a curable disease. Every major, reputable medical organization rejects ex-gay therapy and the notion that homosexuality constitutes a mental illness. Every single one. The most notable of these organizations is the American Psychological Association, the country’s largest organization of mental health professionals. In 1974, the APA stopped listing homosexuality as a mental disorder; last year, the group issued a pointed repudiation to the ideological proponents of ex-gay therapy. (It’s worth adding that conversion therapy supporters have never produced one single word of peer-reviewed work to support their theories).

Holsinger’s belief in discredited, crack-pot “conversion” therapy puts him in direct conflict with virtually the entire American medical community. Holsinger can believe in radical evangelical doctrine and he can hold bigoted views. As lamentable as these traits are, they don’t necessarily disqualify him for Surgeon General — though they certainly cast a dark shadow over his nomination. What instantly disqualifies Holsinger is his rejection of medical science. He can be politically incorrect, but he can’t be medically incorrect.

If history is any guide, conservatism and respect for science are not mutually exclusive. Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, the co-author of a strident anti-abortion tract with dominionist godfather Francis Schaeffer, respected science. In the face of massive resistance from right-wing activists, Koop used his prestige to advocate for sex education and condom use to stanch the rising epidemic of AIDS. For Koop’s stand on medical principle, his one-time allies pressured Reagan into forcing his resignation. There is no indication Holsinger will follow Koop’s principled path.

When Holsinger goes before the Senate, ex-gay therapy goes on trial. He and his Republican supporters should be compelled to state their views on homosexuality and the crackpot practice the Christian right employs to “cure” people of it. Is homosexuality a treatable disease and how do they know it? (This question should be asked of GOP presidential contenders as well). If and when Holsinger’s nomination goes down in flames, ex-gay therapy will have received its most decisive repudiation yet.

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 9, 2007

President Bush Participates in Joint Press Availability with Prime Minister Prodi of Italy
Chigi Palace
Rome, Italy

Q Thank you. You’ve just told us that you and President Bush have just returned from your G8 summit. Now, the outcomes that have been stated on the many issues that you discussed — climate, development, and the missile shield — now, are those real — is that real progress, or not? And the deadline for the Kosovo independence –

PRESIDENT BUSH: What? Say that again?

Q Deadline for the Kosovo independence?

PRESIDENT BUSH: A decline?

Q Deadline, deadline.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Deadline. Beg your pardon. My English isn’t very good.