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GADFLY: 'Fishkite' and the 51st State

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As a lawyer, I'm quite used to adversaries making specious, fanciful, or outright dishonest arguments to persuade tribunals that their positions on an issue are more meritorious than mine. So, it didn't come as a surprise that someone who blogs under the bizarre name of "Fishkite" (sub nom: "the blog between church and state"---further proof that those two should never be conjoined) would try to take me to task for my most recent piece regarding Zach Wamp and one of his congressional ideological soul mates' attempt to rewrite history.

It didn't even bother me that, bereft of any logic, he had to resort to ridicule (i.e., my picture on the Flyer's site, or even my weight---both of which I've been told by many bolster my gravitas) to promote his points (more about his comparison of me to Tom Petty later). That's what ideologues of his ilk usually do. I also wrote his attack off to the fact the author apparently resides in Germantown, Tennessee, the local conservatives' equivalent of Lake Wobegon, a lily white enclave on the outskirts of Memphis which owes much of its popularity to the desegregation of the Memphis public school system 30 years ago, and is most noteworthy, hereabouts, for its overzealous speed limit enforcement.  What did bother me, though, was the inanity and dishonesty of his "arguments."

The inhabitants of "wingnuttia," as the far right has come to be known in the blogosphere, are fond of living in the 51st state (i.e., the state of denial). Their heroes, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter (need I say more?) use distortion, falsehood, and yes, personal attacks, as a substitute for facts, reason and logic. It matters not that all of these right wing ideologues have, at one time or another, been completely and thoroughly discredited. The same audience that will watch people eating live bugs for money on television will continue listening to these unprincipled rabble rousers, and worse, believing what they say. They are surely Exhibit A to H.L. Mencken's observation that, "no one ever went broke underestimating the taste [read: intelligence] of the American public."

One of the ways these wingnuts (including my friend, Fishkite) maintain their euphoric state of oblivion is to do what any petulant child has learned to do: close their eyes, put their fingers in their ears and then scream at the top of their lungs so they can avoid what they don't want to see or hear. That's what Fishkite has done in his attempt to counter the criticism I leveled at two congressmen who are, like him,  obviously out of touch with reality. (

There are some things in the real world which most of us occupy that aren't subject to alternative interpretation. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west; gravity pulls all objects towards the center of the earth; and the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Yet in the wingnuttia world, all of those principles are subject to contradiction if you strain hard enough (i.e., gravity is just a "theory," and astronomy is anathema to "intelligent design"), but especially if and when those principles are advanced by the avowed enemy of all wingnuts: progressives (a/k/a liberals). Science, logic and a thousand years of human history are all swept aside by the likes of Fishkite when espoused by a progressive. 

So it isn't surprising that he would try to contradict two of the main points of my piece, namely that Iraq had, and still has, no WMD's (as that term was used to buffalo us into a war of choice) and that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and al Quaeda. It doesn't matter that the current administration has long since given up the ghost on both of these points, despite the political damage it has done to their principal proponents. There is no argument or position a wingnut can use, no matter how thoroughly discredited, that they can't resuscitate to support their theories.

Perhaps the best illustration of the kind of fish effluent Fishkite and his ilk summon in support of their state of denial is the episode involving Dick Cheney's denial about what he said concerning  the Saddam/al Qaeda connection back when he was the administration's main cheerleader in the runup to the war. Take a look at this clip: In it you see Cheney denying, in an interview with CNN's Gloria Borger, that he ever said it had been "pretty well confirmed" that a meeting took place between Mohamad Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers, and Iraqi intelligence officials in Czheckoslovakia. You will also see the excerpt from Cheney's earlier appearance on "Meet the Press" where he made precisely the statement he tried to deny making in the interview with Borger. So, it's not bad enough Cheney carried the administration's water in making the phony case for a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda; he had to try (and not very cleverly either) to lie about making it.

So does Fishkite concede the gravity, straight line, sun rises and sets facts about this episode of Cheney revisionism? Of course not. Instead, he chooses, once again, to engage in ideological sophistry. It wasn't a Cheney lie, it was a Cheney "gaffe." In other words, don't believe what your eyes and ears tell you; they are, after all, only senses, and senses can be fooled. Senses may even be part of a liberal conspiracy. Believe what Fishkite, with his eyes shut and his fingers planted firmly in his ears, tells you is the truth. The other thing he does is to distort the 9/11 Commission's report. He mischaracterizes its findings as being that there were no "high level" contacts, when, in fact, what the Commission found was that there was "no collaborative relationship" (emphasis mine) between Iraq and al Qaeda. I'm sure he thinks that's just a slight difference in degree, and not, as it is (an inconvenient truth), a significant difference in kind.

With that standard in mind, I suggest you have all the information you need to judge the merit of Fishkite's criticism of my piece on Zach Wamp's disconnect from reality.

Finally, I'm flattered by Fishkite's suggestion (obviously not meant as a compliment) that I look like Tom Petty. Petty's song, "Won't Back Down," is one of my favorites, and is certainly expresses an essential element of my credo. But, as if that weren't enough to endear Fishkite to me for making the comparison, there's also the interview of Tom Petty in the new "Esquire" magazine, (thanks to TalkLeft) which reveals something else we share. He says in the interview:

The war in Iraq is shameful. Whether you're pro or con Bush, you've got to admit: The guy lied. And he continues to do so. I can't understand why he's just not run out on a rail. To send somebody's kids off and have them killed for no good reason--he's going to have his day in hell for that. I wouldn't want that karma.

Thanks again, Fishkite.

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