Friday, July 04, 2008



Houston lunatic John Culberson (center)

Last night, when commenting on Cook's rating change for Texas' 7th CD, from Solid Republican to Likely Republican, I mentioned that incumbent wingnut John Culberson is "one of the most bigoted and ignorant men to ever serve in the House." I don't want you to think that was just some off-the-cuff, gratuitous ad hominem remark. I meant it quite literally.

And it is more than Culberson's breathtaking but predictably atrocious voting record that has earned him such epithets. (And he's bad, voting somewhere between Roy Blunt and Michele Bachmann-- not exactly as reactionary as Patrick McHenry or Steve King but more reactionary than Marilyn Musgrave and Tom Feeney.

I want to tell you something about crazy Congressman Culberson but first allow me to introduce you to a study I've been meaning to bring up all week, Your Brain Lies To You by Sam Wang, an associate professor of molecular biology and neuroscience at Princeton, and Sandra Aamodt, former editor in chief of Nature Neuroscience. "False beliefs," they begin, "are everywhere. Eighteen percent of Americans think the sun revolves around the earth, one poll has found. Thus it seems slightly less egregious that, according to another poll, 10 percent of us think that Senator Barack Obama, a Christian, is instead a Muslim." In today's NY Times Paul Krugman looks at the Rovian poison that has infected half the country with the absurd and unfounded propaganda that General Wes Clark impugned John McCain’s military service. I wish they would have told us, since I can't remember, what percent of voters in 2000 thought they were casting a vote for George H.W. Bush when they actually voted for George W. Bush-- was it 8% or 14%? But that isn't their point, anyway. It's about "source amnesia" and how the brain stores and reprocesses information.
A false statement from a noncredible source that is at first not believed can gain credibility during the months it takes to reprocess memories from short-term hippocampal storage to longer-term cortical storage. As the source is forgotten, the message and its implications gain strength.

...Even if they do not understand the neuroscience behind source amnesia, campaign strategists can exploit it to spread misinformation.

They know that if their message is initially memorable, its impression will persist long after it is debunked. In repeating a falsehood, someone may back it up with an opening line like "I think I read somewhere" or even with a reference to a specific source.

Even though Culberson went to a college (yes, Southern Methodist University... but still a college), I sincerely doubt he has any understanding of neuroscience or source amnesia. He has, however, been somewhat successful in what Hitler defined in his 1925 autobiography, Mein Kampf as "The Big Lie:" a lie so "colossal" that no one would believe that someone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously."

One such "Big Lie" that has gained a certain amount of currency in certain Republican circles is how the border patrol arrested members of al-Qaeda coming across the Mexican border. You may even recall having seen it on TV (so it must be true, right?) But it wasn't just far right propaganda agents and hatemeisters like Hannity, Dobbs and O'Reilly who were pushing this GOP talking point. Three far right extremists in Congress (Sue Myrick (R-NC), John Cornyn (R-TX) and-- you guessed it-- John Culberson) have all pushed this as hard as they could.

Even after North Carolina newspapers had exposed Myrick's lie about arrests and after Cornyn was forced to admit that he had no knowledge of any al Qaeda members being arrested at the border, Culberson was sending out a press release to push the discredited story down the food chain. According to David Sirota (in his new book, The Uprising, Culberson made up some baseless story about 3 al Qaeda terrorists being held in Texas jail. Texas is pretty big but it isn't infinite and his silly story was soon shown to have no basis in fact whatsoever. Of course that didn't stop Culberson, who jumped at the opportunity to go on Fox and repeat his story to a national audience, where he played the part of a credible U.S. congressman.
But just a few weeks later, the Houston Chronicle reported that the law enforcement authorities Culberson said were holding the supposed terrorists refuted his entire story. "Congressman Culberson has two or three stories confused," said the local sheriff. "We have no terrorist in our jail."

Culberson isn't one to learn from his mistakes and anyway, he soon realized that his constituents didn't care if a story was actually true or not, so long as it was exciting. He soon joined up with Colorado's lunatic fringe Senator Wayne Allard to demand that the Minutemen vigilantes be funded by the government. "According to the Brownsville Herald, Culberson authored a bill proposing to hand over up to $6.8 billion to 'volunteer militias' like the Minutemen and grant them authority to 'use any means and any force' that is already granted to state and federal law enforcement officials." Although his crackpot bill drew 47 xenophobic Republican co-sponsors, it never became law. His stories did, however, become lore-- in militia circles where if you don't know about the captured al Qaeda members and the mosque that was found in the California desert, you are just a dupe of the liberal media.

I don't know if Arianna Huffington knows John Culberson-- as far as I've read so far he hasn't come up in her awesome new book, Right Is Wrong-- How the Lunatic Fringe Hijacked America, Shredded the Constitution, And Made Is All Less Safe (And What You Need to Know to End The Madness). But for all I know Chapter 5, "The Right's War On Science," could have been written with him in mind.
To drag us all back to the pre-factual, pre-science Stone Age where divinely inspired shamans who commune directly with God lead unquestioning masses, the War on Science, didn't have to be won outright, just fought to a stalemate. Because science requires questions about how the universe works to be decided through the scientific method, persuading the public that matters of science are really just matters of opinion, even of you don't persuade them to accept a particular opinion, is to achieve a victory of sorts. The thin edge of the wedge is once again the faux reasonable position that there are two sides to every question and that it's useful to hear from multiple points of view before making up one's mind. Once you can get equal time for the insane positions that the principle of evolution is debatable and global climate change is unverified alarmism, the you've begun the process of turning back the clock of history and human progress.

More insane positions than what Culberson spews out, you will not find. But the man is in the Halls of Congress, not running down the hall of an insane asylum in his pajamas, shouting that terrorists and little green men are chasing him. In fact, Culberson has been quite the favorite of special interests in Washington looking for congressmen willing to sell out their constituents' interests for a few silver coins. Culberson has gotten more than a few. Big Oil and Gas, for example, have handed him $287,961 so far and the good folks in the real estate industry-- eager for the economy-wrecking deregulation he unflinchingly supported-- has given him almost as much, $276,336. One of his biggest donors was AT&T ($26,500), desperate for the retroactive immunity he was delighted to vote for.

For all his shouting about "support the troops," you would probably guess... well, that he does. But he doesn't-- not even a little. Since 2003 he has participated in 20 roll call votes pertaining to the well being of active duty military personnel. He has voted against their well being all 20 times-- against pay raises, against upgrades in active duty servicemen's living quarters, against protecting active duty servicemen's families from bankruptcy, against extending full retirement and disability benefits to servicemen wounded in battle, etc. But it isn't only active duty military servicemembers he hates. He also sports the worst voting record in Congress when it comes to U.S. military vets. Since 2002 Culberson has voted in 22 roll calls regarding veterans. And he voted against veterans all 22 times. He may hate the unemployed, but he sure loves those folks at the Big Oil who have given him so much money. There have been 32 bills that have come up to ease the burden of unemployed Americans-- many of them unemployed because of ill-advised legislation that Culberson has supported (like giving tax breaks to American companies that outsource jobs). Culberson has voted badly every single one of them. Big Oil, on the other hand, has had an easier time of it. Of the 20 special interest roll calls on that industry since 2003, Culberson has been a faithful servant to these profiteers and price gaugers every single time.

Although Culberson is best known as a crazed xenophobe and shrill racist, he has worked hard to promote himself as a hipster who, like Democrat Tim Ryan, Tweets. Reading his school girlish Twitter archive, which features pictures of Confederate soldiers, makes you wonder what kind of people vote for a lunatic like this, who claims "the survival of the Republican ticket depends on re-electing him," and that includes fellow Big Lie specialist John Cornyn.

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At 4:48 PM, Blogger Distributorcap said...

sounds like the kind of guy you want to have a beer with

how do scumbags like him get elected


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