Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Rules of Protest

In remembering the Million Man March, the Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates whacks the Tea Party movement hard:
I hear GOP folks and Tea Partiers bemoaning the fact that media and Democrats are using the extremes of their movement for ratings and to score points. This is like Drew Brees complaining that Dwight Freeney keeps trying to sack him. If that were Martin Luther King's response to media coverage, the South might still be segregated. I exaggerate, but my point is that the whining reflects a basic misunderstanding of the rules of protest. When you lead a protest you lead it, you own it, and your opponents, and the media, will hold you responsible for whatever happens in the course of that protest. This isn't left-wing bias, it's the nature of the threat.
One commenter in the comment thread below the piece asks if there's ever been a Tea Party protest that didn't include signs that were either racist or violent. I have never seen one televised event that didn't eventually find some nutjob with a badly worded, misspelled sign that call Obama a racial epithet or hinted that the people of the movement were well-armed and prepared. And now, in the wake of the Health Care Reform vote, we see images and read stories about broken windows at local congressional offices, cut propane lines at the house of one congressman's brother (mistakenly thought to be the congressman's house), gunfire through office windows, people spitting on congressmen as they walk past, or just plain calling them vile racial epithets to their faces.

However, what Coates fails to point out in his piece is that this "movement" claims not to have a leader. Individual events may have organizers, but they are trying to call themselves a "grass-roots" movement without a real leader. So, with no leader, there's nobody to advocate a central vision, no one to preach non-violence the way MLK or Gandhi did. Of course, it's bullshit that there's no leader to this movement, and we all know that Dick Armey is the leader, and we all know what kind of batshit crazy asshole he is, and we all know that as a lobbyist he lobbied for organizations considered terrorist by the US State Department, don't we? But you haven't heard him or anyone else associated with the Tea Party movement denounce violence until this past week, when -- I wonder why -- the media ran stories about the violent and racist episodes perpetrated by Tea Partiers during and after the HCR vote, including this wonderful ditty from the Queen of Batshit Crazy, Sarah Palin.

Friday, March 26, 2010

"The reality of obedience has been anathematized"

So says Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison, WI, in reference to the current global crisis in the Catholic church around child sexual abuse.

Interesting idea -- in our modern world, everything is relative, so obedience to any authority runs counter to relativism. And if people cannot submit to authority, then they have no business blaming those they don't obey in the first place when things go wrong.

So if Catholics don't submit totally to the authority of the pope, then they have no right to blame the pope for not dealing adequately with the crisis? That's sort of like saying, "Hey, you didn't vote, so you have no right to criticize."

Total obedience begets complacency. And there are plenty of Catholics who believe in papal infallibility (or did till now). That's what makes this crisis all the more compelling -- it reaches across all levels of church relationships.

The Long Game of the GOP

A Sullivan reader has an insight about Obama's vision. Money quote:

Let's take a quick glance at the current landscape: Obama has passed the biggest reform of our health care system in decades, including near universal coverage; for all the criticism Obama took about the length of his Afghanistan deliberation, including that he was projecting a lack of resolve that would undermine the cause, we now have an undeniable momentum that's likely making some a little too optimistic; the Administration's efforts in Pakistan have resulted in some very positive trends, including an increased willingness to take on the Taliban; the reset with Russia has resulted in a new nuclear arms treaty, along with moving the Russians far closer in line with us in terms of sanctions on Iran; the economy is poised to start creating jobs; so on and so on.

It really is too easy to forget that anything meaningful or hard requires a long game.

It's also easy to forget that, post-Reagan, the GOP has abandoned any pretense of a long game. Their sole objective for the past generation has been controlling the flow of money to the most powerful, which in turn ensures continued power for their party. Any means, any collateral damage, any geopolitical implosion -- it's all acceptable so long as the rich get richer and the Republicans stay in power. Listen to Rove echoing Atwater, listen to any conservative pundit (in essence a conservative politician without a constituency to placate), and you'll always hear the same refrain: "[This political decision/position] is/is not how you win elections."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Proud Dad Moment

The giddy fool is back. And this time, it's not because I'm recognizing my son Max's creative talents. It's because lots of other people are.

As you know, Max wrote this little song called "Right Outside My Window." It is one catchy little tune! We recorded the song at his cousin Jeff's recording studio and we submitted the CD and lyric sheet to the PTA Reflections Arts competition in January.

A little background and to catch you up: PTA has been doing these national competitions for quite a long time. They break students up into four separate age levels: Grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. And there are six arts categories: visual arts, literature, photography, dance, film, and music composition. Each PTA district across the entire country holds local competitions. Some submissions do not qualify, but they award a few submissions with either an Honorable Mention, an Award of Achievement, or an Award of Excellence. In California PTA District 10, in which Max's school is located, Max's song was the only submission at his grade level to win an Award of Excellence. So in early February we received this notification from the district PTA that he got this award and that a reception was being held late February at their district HQ where all the awarded submissions would be showcased.

So, one Sunday afternoon, the four of us drove to downtown Los Angeles and squeezed in with the other families and friends from all over the district to see and hear all the submissions. We found Max's blue ribbon and his lyric sheet, but no CD. The lyric sheet was affixed with a little sticker which indicated that his work was forwarded to the California State PTA "for further consideration." Basically, it meant that he was elevated to the state level competition. And as we read the little program that was handed out to everyone, we realized that only one work in each category at each grade level was selected for state consideration. That meant Max's was the only musical composition at level K-2 that qualified. It was quite the achievement! The superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District showed up, and PTA officials snapped Max's photograph with him.

Fast forward to today. I'm riding in my boss's car to an appointment in San Bernardino, when Lisa calls me on my cell phone. Apparently, last night we'd received a message on our home phone from some woman at the PTA. Lisa'd called her back and the woman gave us the news that Max's song had won the state competition in his grade level! Further, he was invited to attend the state PTA Reflections convention on May 1 in Sacramento to receive his award and, if he chose, to perform his song at the convention! The next step for Max is the national competition, and we should know in about a month. I have no real idea what that will mean if he wins.

I imagine that many parents, including me, feel extraordinary pride when their child gets good grades, or sings a song in his school play without completely losing his nerve, or gets the game-winning hit in a little league baseball game. But for this achievement -- words simply fail me.

I remember the morning he was born and the nurse laid him on the scale to measure his birth weight, and I cut the umbilical cord. I said to Lisa, "He's so beautiful!" I fell madly and completely in love with him as I watched him open his eyes when the nurse placed him on Lisa's chest for the first time. Lisa and I have watched him struggle with early feeding, with sensory integration, with proprioception, and with ADHD. But as early as birth, we noticed that music had a deep effect on him. During nursing and while he slept we would play classical music, having read that it would stimulate learning. Once in a shopping mall, Lisa was nursing Max and a Mozart piece came over the sound system that was one of the pieces we had played for him. The instrumentation was somewhat different and the sound was definitely not like what he'd been hearing in his bedroom. However, Max stopped feeding and turned toward the sound of the music. His ears and brain were already trained to detect melody. By the time he was 18 months old, we'd enrolled him in a music class with other young kids, singing songs, beating drums and other percussion instruments, and basically occupying time (or so we thought). The instructor noticed right away that Max had musical ability. While all the other kids were hitting their drums with both hands in unison, Max exhibited limb independence. She encouraged us to foster his growth as a musician, particularly as a drummer. And so we did.

Since age three Max has had a drum set and playing it is one of his favorite activities. He loves all kinds of music and hears music in everything. In fact, this very morning he was playing with a toy elephant that trumpeted when its head was moved. If one moved it a certain way, the elephant's trumpeting was a descending blues riff consisting of tonic/dominant 7th/5th. It was uncanny how he heard that, but once he'd pointed it out to me (without the musical terminology of course) I heard it too.

What all this means for a 7-1/2-year-old kid is beyond me. He plays baseball and basketball, loves to knock around with his kid brother, Eli, and still needs his back rubbed to get to sleep. I have no idea where, if anywhere, music will take him. I certainly never imagined him to be a State Champion in a songwriting competition. But, as long as he loves it, Lisa and I will encourage him and indulge his passion for music every chance we get.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Repeal? Get Real!

Republican opponents of healthcare reform suffered a crushing defeat last night as the House passed, by a vote of 219-212, the most sweeping reform of the healthcare and health insurance industries. Yes, Americans will now have a new way of obtaining and maintaining coverage for their health-care, and the federal government will shave $130 billion from the budget deficit in the next 10 years and another $1.2 trillion in the second 10 years.

David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter and (true) conservative thinker, puts it plainly in his piece simply called "Waterloo":

It’s hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster. Conservatives may cheer themselves that they’ll compensate for today’s expected vote with a big win in the November 2010 elections. But:

(1) It’s a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November – by then the economy will have improved and the immediate goodies in the healthcare bill will be reaching key voting blocs.

(2) So what? Legislative majorities come and go. This healthcare bill is forever. A win in November is very poor compensation for this debacle now.

He piles on:

No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the “doughnut hole” and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal?

We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.

Those Republicans shouting "Repeal" now are among the most nakedly ambitious politicians imaginable. The Tea Party movement is smarting and pretty much have nowhere to go on this issue. They'll likely move onto immigration reform as the next most obvious place to express their thinly-veiled racism. Neocon "thinkers" like Bill Kristol and Karl Rove will pretend that this was in fact a Republican victory, in an attempt to motivate their base to vote strong in November and take back the House and Senate, before reclaiming the White House in 2012.

But make no mistake: big political victories like this one -- and this one was huge -- have a tendency to motivate those who voted in support all over again. Obama's taking it to the streets again this spring and summer, congratulating those of us to stood with him, and reaching out to those in the middle who voted for him in 2008 to continue to vote with him in 2010. They will follow him, and will stand with him on immigration reform, financial reform, consumer protection, Afghanistan, and Israel.

I have a feeling, as pundit David Gergen said on CNN early this morning, that this year's mid-term elections will be very nasty indeed.

True that! And Sarah Palin will positively soil her Spanx with fear when she sees just how powerful this president truly is. That reality show is looking even better today, ain't it, Sarah?

AIPAC Public Policy Conference Today

Stephen Walt, writing in the Washington Post, sums it up here:
Whatever you think of its strategy or its tactics, the Obama administration is genuinely committed to achieving a two-state solution, which is hardly an act of hostility toward Israel. On the contrary, for Obama to keep this difficult and time-consuming issue on his already crowded agenda is an extraordinary act of friendship -- especially when friendship means speaking difficult truths.
The more Netanyahu pushes unilaterally for more settlements in sensitive areas like East Jerusalem, the more Israel begins to resemble South Africa pre-Mandela. The Arabs may have more money, more guns, and a stronger faith than the black South Africans did, but they are no match for US-backed Israel. They have blown themselves up (think about that for just a second) trying to kill as many civilians as possible. Indeed, the argument that the Arabs have targeted civilians misses the point. From their point of view, every Arab in Gaza or the West Bank is a soldier fighting for their existence, so they (at least) do not distinguish who is soldier and civilian on the other side. We see that as barbaric; they see it as necessary for survival. In fact, I have to admit that I am now just coming to this perspective, as I've seen the country I love almost as much as America turn into a roiling pot of sectarian animosity. The more militaristic Israel gets, the less they achieve; the more muscle the flex, the weaker they become.

What Israel needs is to stop expanding and make peace with their neighbors. Some argue that there is no peace when the other side just wants you dead. But that's a false argument; they don't want us dead; they just want to live their lives. Does that sound familiar?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Did Anyone Have a Doubt?

Despite all the posturing on both sides of this issue, there was never an instance where I felt like healthcare reform was not going to pass. The House took an historic step tonight, and President Obama's handling of this battle will be seen by historians as bold, on point every step of the way, and ultimate the defining moment of his first term. He will be reelected by a landslide in 2012 despite likely GOP gains this year.

And as one pundit put it tonight, the passing of healthcare reform was the best thing that could have happened to right wing talk radio. Now they'll really have something to talk about.

Watch them spin this one.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"The Original Sin of Contemporary Republicans"

A Dish reader takes down Andrew for giving Karl Rove the benefit of the doubt over creating Republican policy that vilifies gays while knowing his own father was gay. Money quote:
Really, this is the problem with the GOP, when people talk about good roads and good schools, the base doesn't listen. But when they talk about faggots, the base stomps the floor. The role, and obligation, of leaders is to say what is right and do what is right.
The Democrats have been no different in their focus on winning elections over everything else. Their context, however, was broader and more sensible. Clinton's mantra -- "It's the economy, stupid" -- centered on people's fear of national financial ruin rather than their fear of gays or foreigners. After Bush 43 took office, economics went out the window in a blizzard of profligacy and cronyism while cynically calling it "compassionate conservatism."

Read Thomas Frank's What's the Matter With Kansas? and you'll get my drift.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"E-Mail of the Year!"

Received this from a family member:


My Fellow Americans: As you all know, the defeat of the Iraq regime has been completed. Since Congress does not want to spend any more money on this war, our mission in Iraq is complete. This morning I gave the order for a complete removal of all American forces from Iraq . This action will be complete within 30 days. It is now time to begin the reckoning. Before me, I have two lists. One list contains the names of countries which have stood by our side during the Iraq conflict This list is short.

The United Kingdom, Spain, Bulgaria, Australia, and Poland are some of the countries listed there. The other list contains every one not on the first list. Most of the world's nations are on that list. My press secretary will be distributing copies of both lists later this evening.

Let me start by saying that effective immediately, foreign aid to those nations on List 2 ceases indefinitely. The money saved during the first year alone will pretty much pay for the costs of the Iraqi war. THEN EVERY YEAR THEREAFTER IT'LL GO TO OUR SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM SO IT WONT GO BROKE IN 20 YEARS. The American people are no longer going to pour money into third world hellholes and watch those government leaders grow fat on corruption. Need help with a famine? Wrestling with an epidemic? Call France.

In the future, together with Congress, I will work to redirect this money toward solving the vexing social problems we still have at home. On that note, a word to terrorist organizations: Screw with us and we will hunt youdown and eliminate you and all your friends from the face of the earth. Thirsting for a gutsy country to terrorize? Try France or maybe China.

I am ordering the immediate severing of diplomatic relations with France, and Russia. Thanks for all your help, comrades. We are retiring from NATO as well. I have instructed the Mayor of New York City to begin towing the many U.N. diplomatic vehicles located in Manhattan with more than two unpaid parking tickets to sites where those vehicles will be stripped, shredded and crushed. I don't care about whatever treaty pertains to this. You creeps have tens of thousands of unpaid tickets. Pay those tickets tomorrow or watch your precious Benzes, Beemers and limos be turned over to some of the finest chop shops in the world. I love New York.

A special note to our neighbors: Canada is on List 2. Since we are likely to be seeing a lot more of each other, you folks might want to try not pissing us off for a change. Mexico is also on List 2. Its president and his entire corrupt government really need an attitude adjustment. I will have a couple thousand extra tanks and infantry divisions sitting around. Guess where I am going to put 'em? Yep, border security. Oh, by the way, the United States is abrogating the NAFTA treaty - starting now. We are tired of the one-way highway. Immediately, we'll be drilling for oil in Alaska -which will take care of this country's oil needs for decades to come. If you're an
environmentalist who opposes this decision, I refer you to List 2 above: pick a country and move there. It is time for America to focus on its own welfare and its own citizens.

Some will accuse us of isolationism. I answer them by saying, 'darn tootin.' Nearly a century of trying to help folks live a decent life around the world has only earned us the undying enmity of just about everyone on the planet. It is time to eliminate hunger in America. It is time to eliminate homelessness in America.

To the nations on List 1, a final thought: Thank you guys. We owe you and we won't forget. To the nations on List 2, a final thought: You might want to learn to speak Arabic.

God bless America .. Thank you and good night.

If you can read this in English, thank a soldier. Please forward this to your friends and see what happens! Let's getthis to every USA computer! If you have a problem with this, may your future generations have the good fortune to work their way out of the mess. The writing is on the wall and it is ten minutes to midnight!

My reply -- and it is long:

While this email has some interesting thoughts about sticking it to those countries who did not support our war effort, please keep in mind that the premise of the war was illegal, that we actually tortured people in our pursuit of victory, and compromised our own values, our Constitution, and seriously undermined our international reputation in the process.

As to the cost of the war, the nearly $1 trillion we have spent thus far in Iraq alone (not including the costs of lost productivity of all those killed or wounded, not to mention those reservists and national guardsmen who were taken out of their jobs to go serve) will not be recouped after just a year of suspension of foreign aid to those on List 2. While it's fun to tell those countries to kiss our ass if they want foreign aid in the future, it's bad politics and just creates more reasons for them not to support us. We'd get far more cooperation by being accommodating as opposed to threatening to withdraw funding for them, don't you think? Anyway, the entire U.S. foreign aid budget in FY 2009 was less than $40 billion. Not even $40 billion. Out of that budget, the countries on list 1 were not among the top recipients, so let's say they received only 5% of total foreign aid. That means there would be less than $38 billion left to pay off the cost of the war, which you would have known, had you visited my blog, is running at $712 billion. So, doing the math (assuming costs froze at this instant, and we did not repay the interest on the debt we incurred to finance the war in Iraq), it would take until 2029 to pay off the cost of the war in Iraq. By that time, if you are correct, Social Security will already be bankrupt, so there's no point in taking the savings to shore up SS at that time. Further, withholding foreign aid to all those countries on List 2 would pretty much guarantee that we have converted them from allies into permanent enemies. But maybe that's what we want? I don't know.

Now, in 2009, the top two recipients of foreign aid were Iraq and Israel. That's right, Israel, which received $2.6 billion. I didn't see Israel on List 1, so I guess Israel needs to kiss our ass too, right? Also among top recipients were a whole lot of Islamic nations, like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Turkey, Jordan, and Egypt. They weren't on List 1 either, so I guess we just scrap all the goodwill we've been building in the Muslim world since GW Bush left office.

The letter suggests (and I guess that, since you think it's the "E-mail of the Year," you agree) that France should now be the go-to country in the event of stamping out an epidemic. Well, it just so happens that that sort of thing is going on right now anyway, as the U.S. has seen fit to abandon science in favor of biblical literalism. Who needs science to make this life better when all we really need to care about is the next life at the feet of Jesus Christ?

Finally -- and really, I could go on and on about the utter silliness of the letter -- the letter basically tells Canada and Mexico to piss off. Really? You think that's wise? Well, of course, Canada's got fresh air, a nearly limitless supply of old-stand timber, millions of fantastic people, and oh -- that single-payer health care program we all like to think is socialism at its most evil. And Mexico, well, we all know that it's just a roiling cauldron of drug cartels and illiterate peasants who seem hell-bent on taking back Texas and California by moving here and breeding incessantly. Not to mention the fact that they have so much oil reserves. Why, the nerve!

The letter sounds vaguely fatalistic, as if the writer, speaking for every American, has grown weary of America's role in the last 100+ years as the world's leader in constitutional government, fairness, equality for all citizens, and commerce. Weary of doing all that work just so a few thousand Muslims can wreak havoc on our streets and turn once-proud Americans into an angry, terrorized mob of old, small-minded individuals who want things just to return to the way they were and then we'd all be happy once again. Weary of new realities. Weary of any reality, in fact. The letter saddens me, but what really makes me sad is that someone I love and deeply care for thinks I'd agree with its pathetic excuse for patriotism. I may criticize my country incessantly, find fault with our government's role in our lives, rail against our citizens for willingly failing to be better informed and to question what is being fed to them as truth. But make no mistake: I love America and always will. It is my home and I will defend it. What I hope happens over time, however, is that people stop blaming others and take a cold, hard look inside at what is holding us back from achieving (or retrieving) our goals and dreams.

So, before you hit the Send button next time, please give a thought to what you are forwarding. Does this letter lift your spirits, or validate an anger that has grown tiresome? If the former, share it with me. If the latter, please do not include me. I simply fail to see how this letter serves any useful purpose (except to get me to blog, so thank you for that).

Y'know? I think that the email of the year was written by Sarah Palin.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I Hope This Happens

Greenwald suggests that Congress pass a resolution condemning "McCarthyite attacks" on the Obama Justice Department, which has hired lawyers who had once defended Gitmo detainees. As Sullivan puts it, Liz Cheney, Bill Kristol, and Andy McCarthy (who had originated the attacks) should be named in the resolution and condemned for all the country to see.

But the Congress is yellow, and the Republicans in office now wouldn't dare cross Dick Cheney. They exemplify cowardice.

Another Reason to Fight for Health Care Reform (Link Updated)

Rush Limbaugh says he'll move to Costa Rica if HCR is passed. One can only hope. Here's the audio.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Reagan on the $50 bill?

The LA Times editorializes: not yet.

Uh, yeah right.

If Reagan's visage gets to grace the front of any American financial instrument, it should definitely be something associated with debt, like a U.S. Treasury bond -- a long-term one, like a 30-year bond -- since he was so directly responsible for ballooning U.S. debt so much that we are still paying for it 30 years later.

Call to Action

Labelling the blog post "Christianist Watch," I approached this latest post on Andrew Sullivan's blog (written by Andrew's under-blogger Chris Bodenner while Andrew is on vacation) as just another typical snippet of theocratic wingnuttery.

Once I got deeper into it and followed the link to Dan Savage's blog on the same subject, however, I realized that this ain't a bunch of political Christianists trying to smear some piece of the Obama legislative agenda. Repent Amarillo is a group of far-right Christian "warriors" who have embarked on a serious quest to purify their Texas city of a whole host of enemies. They are describing themselves as an Army of God. A visit to their website reveals military imagery accompanied by language like this:

1. Intercessory prayer group. This group will be a group of warriors called to intercessory prayer. They will at times be visible to the public and at other times ( depending upon the individual mission) they will be inconspicuous. They will provide prayer covering to the soldier group and will do battle within the spiritual realm to prepare the ground for the planting of God’s seeds, tear down demonic strongholds, and cast out demonic spirits that harass our efforts. Sometimes the intercessory prayer group will operate independently of the soldier group and at other times will work around them.

2. The Soldier group. The soldier group will consist of warriors dedicated to witnessing to groups of unbelievers or one-on-one witnessing. This group will be more visible to the public and will be comprised of bold believers willing to confront the world. This group will be schooled in the “Way of the Master” method of witnessing to the lost. This group will be the ones who plant God’s seeds in the ground that has been prepared by the intercessory prayer group. Believers who participate in this group will have to be bold but loving. Confrontational but composed. The individual members of these two groups are allowed and highly encouraged to move between the two groups based on the individual’s calling and the unique mission involved. In other words, no one is stuck to only one group. Soldiers can pray and intercessory members can witness.

My emphasis. What makes them any different from terrorist groups like the Taliban escapes me.

While this may be a completely local phenomenon in Amarillo, there are stories on Dan Savage's blog that may outrage you (they did me). This is a hate group, a borderline terrorist cell, and a danger to freedom for Americans everywhere. The mayor of Amarillo is Debra McCartt, and her fax number (no email listed on the city's website) is (806) 378-9394. She needs to receive faxes from as many people as possible warning her to take seriously the threat in her city posed by this group. If she and the city police allow this group to operate freely, they are as guilty as these pseudo-Christians in fomenting fear.

Dear Ms. Mayor --

I am writing to lodge my strong objection to the group "Repent Amarillo" that is operating in your city in an effort to harrass, intimidate, terrorize, and ultimately expel citizens and business owners in your city who do not reflect their radicalized version of Christianity. While their tactics appear to involve little more than an aggressive form of group prayer, they have outed a number of individual citizens for behavior to which they object. Some of these people have lost jobs and have become ostracized from their communities. They have among their members people who have illegally hacked into computers to gain access to private information on city residents that is embarrassing to them. Criminality may not be their intent, but their actions need to be watched and highly scrutinized. While they may not be brandishing weapons or stoning adulterers to death in public, their cyber tactics are a close equivalent.

This group does not have a narrow agenda; they seek to cleanse your city of anyone they deem to be un-believers. There is a name for groups like this: Taliban.

Your failure to do anything about curtailing the terrorist activities of this hate group reflects poorly on you, your city, and your citizens who do not stand up in defense of people who are living their lives according to their own, private belief systems. Do not let the City of Amarillo become known as the base for the Christian Taliban.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

False Comparisons

As Glenn Greenwald so often likes to point out, establishment media types are obsessed with the notion of creating equivalencies, no matter how misleading or even blatantly false, to give the appearance of striving for balance in their reporting.

Yesterday, David Brooks of the NY Times did an extremely piss-poor job in drawing similarities between the New Left of the 1960s and the Tea Party right of today:
To start with, the Tea Partiers have adopted the tactics of the New Left. They go in for street theater, mass rallies, marches and extreme statements that are designed to shock polite society out of its stupor. This mimicry is no accident. Dick Armey, one of the spokesmen for the Tea Party movement, recently praised the methods of Saul Alinsky, the leading tactician of the New Left.
He goes on:
[M]embers of both movements go in big for conspiracy theories. The ’60s left developed elaborate theories of how world history was being manipulated by shadowy corporatist/imperialist networks — theories that live on in the works of Noam Chomsky. In its short life, the Tea Party movement has developed a dizzying array of conspiracy theories involving the Fed, the F.B.I., the big banks and corporations and black helicopters.

... members of the Tea Party right, like the members of the New Left, spend a lot of time worrying about being co-opted. They worry that the corrupt forces of the establishment are perpetually trying to infiltrate the purity of their ranks.

How convenient, huh? Except it's bullshit. The '60s left was led by intellectuals; today's Tea Party movement is led by no one in particular and is largely a monolithic boiling pot of crazy. It's a mob mentality based on one central fear -- this country is being led down the drain by a n***er Muslim born in Kenya. Their love of conspiracies is completely schizophrenic; if they really believe that power is manipulated by a cabal of the Fed, the F.B.I., big banks, etc. then why are they so unconcerned with the idea of deregulation of the financial sector? Why were they unconcerned about Bush's program of warrantless surveillance? Why did they not scream for Greenspan's head when he pushed his Objectivist agenda through fiscal policy and let everyone fend for himself? Yeah, I hear those crickets too...

Incidentally, Bob Cesca has a great piece on this topic, by the way:

This isn't an epiphany by any stretch. From the beginning, with their witch doctor imagery, watermelon agitprop and Curious George effigies, the wingnut right has been dying to blurt out, as Lee Atwater famously said, "nigger, nigger, nigger!"

But they can't.

Strike that. Correction. founder Dale Robertson brandished a sign with the (misspelled) word "niggar." So they're not even as restrained as the generally unstrung Atwater anymore.

Most of the time, they merely imply the use of the word. Rush Limbaugh referring to the president as a "black man-child," for example. Every week, a new example pops up on the radio and somehow the offenders are able to keep their job while Howard Stern is fined for saying the comparatively innocuous word "blumpkin." Limbaugh, on the other hand, can stoke racial animosity on his show by suggesting that health care reform is a civil rights bill -- reparations -- and no one seems to mind.
Not only that, but Brooks draws this inane comparison:
But the Tea Partiers are closer to the New Left. They don’t seek to form a counter-establishment because they don’t believe in establishments or in authority structures. They believe in the spontaneous uprising of participatory democracy. They believe in mass action and the politics of barricades, not in structure and organization. As one activist put it recently on a Tea Party blog: “We reject the idea that the Tea Party Movement is ‘led’ by anyone other than the millions of average citizens who make it up.”
My italics. Again, bullshit. Everything the Tea Party movement does is political theater. Actually, strike that. It's more like a political circus masking a highly organized and generously funded network of a few radical neocons who want to parlay the unhinged populist backlash into a return to GOP power. But the people involved, from the Palins and Bachmanns to the Armeys and all the way down to the blue-haired, NRA-card totin', Depends-wearin', flyover state hickory stick hick, are totally fucking impotent. They stand for nothing except wishing the president would drop dead (or, if that doesn't happen, that he serves one term only). Without a true vision that serves to unify people instead of stigmatizing and marginalizing "others," they will get absolutely nowhere.

I dismiss the movement in its entirety, but fear the willingness of the establishment media to equate this movement with a reasoned, educated and focused movement that brought voting rights, civil rights, and women's rights to millions, while turning public opinion against the Vietnam War, illustrates just how feeble today's journalists have become. As the headline of Greenwald's latest puts it, "The Full Scale Collapse: From Murrow to Blitzer." Ironic name -- "Wolf" -- for such a powder-puff.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The World As They See It

Mitt Romney's new book, No Apologies: The Case for American Greatness, is reviewed by Spencer Ackerman over at Washington Independent. The book is a classic treatise on neocon foreign policy:
There are two salient global facts Romney never considers in his book. The first is that it is actually possible to obtain positive-sum relations with rising powers. The rise of China does not have to equal the decline of the United States. If, as Romney argues — following Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer — decline is a choice, so is permanent international competition. The concept of diplomacy is completely foreign to Romney. He dismisses the State Department as “assistant secretaries and… bureaucrats” and proposes designating regional relations to “one individual” who would become a “presidential envoy or the ambassador from CENTCOM or any of the other regional military commands.”

Post-9/11, neocons believe that there is no such thing as effective negotiations with any rising power. Every rising nation, therefore, is a threat to the U.S.'s national security. And the only way to deal with those kinds of threats is by military means. Send over an envoy backed by the full military might of the United States of America, and if they don't cower like so many shrinking violets, we go at them with guns blazing (or, actually, with unmanned drones launching missiles from the sky).

This is how they think. Never, ever does it occur to them that perhaps, just a little bit, America's being a little paranoid. Or that the current state of decline of America's image in the world is not due to our hubris and our disdain for the cultures and/or politics of other nations. American exceptionalism assumes that the only opinion that matters on the world stage is American; the rest is noise.

Frankly, I'm thrilled that Obama is in the driver's seat, because I was just so tired of the chest-thumping of the Cheneyites. Little did I know, however, that Cheney's chest thumping was due to his weak (and cowardly) heart.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Obama Likes Four GOP Ideas on Health Care

TPM reports. I'll summarize and comment.

1. Engage medical professionals to conduct random undercover investigations of health care providers that receive reimbursements from Medicare, Medicaid, and other Federal programs.

Well, I'm all for rooting out fraud and waste in these entitlement programs. But let's turn health-care providers, like doctors who through the AMA supported Obama's plan with a public option, into the bad guys. They make a lot of money, they have country club memberships and drive fancy cars and send their kids to private schools, so that's at least politically expedient and sufficiently populist.

2. Provide $73 million to states to explore options to solve medical malpractice disputes.

Doctors are bad when it comes to Medicare fraud, but let's throw them a bone on "tort reform." This oughta work, huh?

3. Increasing Medicaid reimbursements.

So while we're rooting out Medicaid fraud and waste, let's pay doctors more on Medicaid. Sounds completely logical, don't it?

4. Expand Health Savings Accounts.

Pre-tax dollars that allow consumers to meet high deductibles and co-pays while saving them a few bucks on their taxes. Generous!

If you ask me, these are bones Obama can afford to throw to the GOP that will ensure bipartisanship, even though these changes will likely have little effect on the benefits offered under the plan. Let's see if the Republican leadership goes for it.

Monday, March 1, 2010

"Political Poison"

It's one thing for a lawmaker to make a principled stand against what he believes to be unwise policy. It's quite another to use procedure to block legislation to satisfy political scores or make a political statement, or to arm-twist over federal spending in one's district. Witness Richard Shelby's asinine choice to block every one of President Obama's political appointments because he wanted a couple of plumb earmarks for his state, Alabama.

And here's another: Kentucky Republican Jim "I'm so old and decrepit even my hernia's got gray hair" Bunning, who put a hold on a reauthorization of unemployment benefits for 30 days. Forget the fact that his own state's unemployment rate is 10.7%, higher than the national average. In fact, his behavior around this issue has been deplorable. When Democrats asked again and again for unanimous consent for the exension, Bunning refused to go along, telling one Dem Senator, "Tough shit."

He wants the funds used to extend benefits to come from federal stimulus funds instead of adding to the deficit. Not an ignoble idea, but not even his own party's leadership supported his decision.

But here's the kicker:

[A]t one point during the debate, which dragged on till nearly midnight, Bunning complained of missing a basketball game.

"I have missed the Kentucky-South Carolina game that started at 9:00," he said, "and it's the only redeeming chance we had to beat South Carolina since they're the only team that has beat Kentucky this year.

Reminds me of when Newt Gingrich and the Republican-led Congress let the government run out of money instead of raising the debt ceiling. It cost the Republicans dearly in P.R. and they really haven't recovered since. They are the party of no.

Irony, Undetected

Spotted this morning on my commute to work: a Toyota Prius whose driver was hanging a lit cigarette out his window.