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Monday, April 30, 2007

More on the Cowardly PPH/MST

Well, John Porter answered my email with a lazy response, as I figured he would. He's just getting tired of me haranging him about the pro-war position and the spiteful columns of M.D. Harmon, I think. Here's what he said:

Lisa,
>
> Thanks for your input. I can appreciate that people who did not
> agree with
> the original decision to invade haven¹t changed their minds. But
> for those
> who did not rely on WMDs or a 9/11 link in deciding to support the
> war, only
> the success or failure of the mission would determine its value.
> We see the
> mission as failed, and believe that the failure had to to do with
> competence. That failure does not alter our view of the
> geopolitical dynamic
> of the Middle East or our view of the unique role that the United
> Statesplays in the world. As to U.S. responsibility in the region,
> I would note
> that it has been our longstanding position that the United States
> should use
> its influence to moderate the Israelis in their dealings with the
> Palestinians.
>
> Again, thanks for reading and writing.
>
> - John

I just can't let it go, though...I spit this back:

Sorry, but what you don't seem to get is that, even absent 9/11 or WMD,
you were still shamelessly manipulated into believing that somehow the
simple removal of Saddam Hussein would in any way make that area of the
world safer. That premise alone was so false-and was known to be false
in 2003, by anybody who was paying attention-as to be laughable.

You guys fell down, and haven't gotten up yet. As long as there are
still apologists like the PPH/MST for the initial flawed, illegal
invasion, there is no hope of ending this war in any type of reasonable
manner, and no one will truly be held accountable for what you
correctly point out is a botched mess. But as I noted before, it's a
botched mess because it was predicated on a lie and a simplistic
worldview. No mission is worthwhile when it has to be fueled and then sustained
by a lie-or, in this case, many of them.

If you read the replies on the web site, you'll notice there are FAR more who agree with my take on this than theirs. A high five to my brother in law for putting in his two cents on the issue:

Doug Watts of Augusta, ME
Apr 29, 2007 1:59 PM
The PPH/MT fails to acknowledge the fact that a U.S. invasion of Iraq for the sole purpose of deposing Hussein because he is a "bad person" would be a war of aggression and illegal under all international laws and treaties. Actors in such a war would be considered war criminals under the same laws and criteria used to prosecute the Nazis for their war of aggression. Secondly, the U.S. Congress did not provide any enacting legislation allowing an invasion of Iraq for the sole purpose of deposing Hussein because he was rotten to his own people. By the PPH/MT's own argument then, the President launched a war without Congressional approval, which is an impeachable offense. PPH/MT wants to have its cake and eat it too. Sorry. If the war was launched based upon fraudulent reasons, which the PPT/MT admits it was, then the actors in the war have flagrantly violated international and U.S. law. There is no middle course in the matter.

Give 'em hell, folks...they deserve it!

Ok, I'm done bitching about the Sunday Telegram...for now.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Keith Rips Rudy a New One...Point, Set, Match

Keith, where have you been all my life? Will you marry me? I knew I was waiting for something...

John Porter Strikes (Out) Again

Today, I am royally pissed off.

Once again, the editorial writers at the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram expose themselves for what they are-sniveling, self-interested, morally bankrupt cowards who are STILL WRONG. What the fuck is the matter with these people???

Oh, don't get me wrong...I'm not arguing with their call to pull troops out of Iraq (which they only discussed after devoting a half-page to defending their original stance and showing how staunch they had been in holding the administration accountable for the outcome). Well, anyone with a teaspoon of brains has been doing that for a very long time now (and that's only if you were lemming enough to fall for the bullshit rhetoric in the first place). What is absolutely jaw-dropping to me is their bullheaded, against-every-known-published-fact, we-were-right-goddammit insistence that the original mission, as conceived "was not inherently flawed," and the total reason for the utter collapse of the effort in Iraq was not the fact that it was built on a house of cards, but that it was improperly executed by morons who didn't have a clue what they were doing.

Earth to the Telegram: A WORTHY MISSION IS NOT SUSTAINED ON THE BACK OF A LIE. While it's surely true this administration has been breathtakingly incompetent in it's execution of the invasion-as it has been in every other aspect of its' governance-you almost can't hold these pathetic clowns responsible for that. It would not have mattered if William Tecumseh Sherman himself had been leading this effort. It couldn't be executed properly because it was PREDICATED ON A LIE.

So, after I read it and flipped out, I sent off this bracing missive to that idiot John Porter, the right-wing watercarrier AKA Press Herald/Sunday Telegram editorial page editor. It's rambling and doesn't clearly say everything I wanted to, but I think he'll get my point.

"Now it is our opinion that major U.S. military operations in Iraq should cease, though not because the decision to invade was inherently flawed."

LOL, in the face of the crowd still trying to maintain that the emperor has a loin cloth, eh, John? You really haven't changed your position, just packaged it in a way to make it seem like you're less a right wing hawk than you really are.

The mission was correct, the execution a complete circus. Typical self-serving neocon garbage. You guys at the Portland Press have turned into Kenneth Adelman redux. You swallowed a hoax manufactured out of whole cloth, and now you won't admit that the philosophy underpinning the strategy was hopelessly naive and ill-considered. The fact of the matter is that this invasion never had any hope of success, because it's foundation was built on quicksand. Except for you, apparently, the American people would never have supported an invasion just to remove Saddam Hussein (he'd been there for decades, after all), and the Bush hawks knew it. Thus the endless series of cynical lies piled on a public too fearful to examine any of them critically, and a press corps, including the Portland Press, that was too cowed. How could any success be expected to come from that??

I also like your statement about "the creation of a more pro-Western government in Iraq." Fabulous. The Maine Sunday Telegram is now supporting the installation of puppet governments across the region (well, everywhere except the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I'm sure...even though terrorists and Islamic fundamentalists breed like rabbits there). Tell me, John, how well do you think that's gone over in places like, oh, Iran? Do we overthrow them and install a friendly government there, too? (Wait, don't answer that. We had a puppet government there not all that long ago, and look at how well that turned out.) It certainly hasn't worked all that well in Afghanistan. What I'd like to know is where is the call from the Portland Press for the U.S. to confront our front and center role in creating the overwhelming mess in the middle east in the first place, and to modify our approach and policies to reflect that?

Nope, diplomacy and humility are just too hard. Easier just to kill all the people we don't like, even at the cost of thousands of wasted U.S. soldiers' lives and tens-maybe hundreds-of thousands of Iraqi civilians dead and the wholesale destabilization of the region, and breeding a whole new generation of people who hate us, and are willing to spit in the face of their "pro-Western government" to prove it.

Yup, worthwhile mission there for sure. Great plan.

Lisa K.

So there. I expect he'll send me back a condescending message within a day or so, as he always does.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Right Wing Peanut Gallery...In Their Own Words

The state of Maine is currently in the middle of a debate over whether or not abortion services should be covered by MaineCare, and, as you might guess, passions are stirred on both sides of the issue. It's funny that in response to the story I linked to here, some of the strongest right wing fringe railings were not against the bill itself, but against the spokesperson for the pro-birth cause, a single mother named Katie Schmitt whose daughter is now two. What's remarkable in this case is that Katie, whom I'm sure the pro-birth crowd felt their people would rally around, quickly became the object of scorn not from the left because she chose to bear her child, but from the right because she is on welfare and chose to bear her child. It certainly plays up the Republican paradox that every "pre-born" child is a precious gift from God until they are post-born, at which point they become parasites on the public dole. Some of these responses, couched by the anonymity of the internet, are shocking in their viciousness. I'll post a couple here because they illustrate the depths of right wing hate-right here in my beautiful not-totally-blue state of Maine-more than any of my rantings possibly could...

Tim of Weld, ME Apr 28, 2007 9:39 AM
"Schmitt, 25, was unemployed, unmarried and suffering after a car accident when she learned that she was pregnant."..... apparently she could still spread her legs.

Responsible behavior? No, can't have that.... people need to be free to do whatever. It isn't fair to expect people living on the taxes of others to be responsible.....not in liberal Maine it isn't. "

VoiceO Reason of Portland, ME Apr 28, 2007 8:22 AM
"No personal responsibility for actions. That's the mantra of the liberals in this country. You can't tell me what to do or how to do it. When will you libs get off the "that's their lot in life" kick when speaking of those on the government welfare roles?

They are on welfare because they get welfare. If welfare were reduced or if it expired after a time, they would find work or their FAMILIES would take them in or help them. US Government estimates show that about 75% (73.4%) of all welfare recipients have family that can take care of them temporarily. The families don't, because the government will. Shame on those families (but then again, shame isn't a word in the liberal handbook).

Stop condemning all poor people to a lifetime of welfare. It's not fare and it is discrimination on your part.

Millions of Americans have come out of poverty through hard work and a belief in themselves. When you libs keep pounding them down and giving them money to make yourselves feel better and less guilty, it makes it that much more difficult. But then again, that's the liberal plan because poor people depending on the government for their life will tend to vote liberal every time. Works for poor people. Works for minorities. Works for illegal immigrants. Works for the Democraps."

Gail of Portland, ME Apr 27, 2007 11:38 PM
"I hate for my tax dollars to support abortions/killing of innocents. Contraceptives are easy to obtain and cheap. I would however support paying for VOLUNTARY sterilizations of those who are the public dole, continue to have children, and continue the ireesponsible [sic] culture of poverty."

It's enough to make one just throw in the towel on humankind, isn't it? However, all is not lost...before you decide humanity is completely on the skids, there's one more strong voice to be heard here:

demetri of Windham, ME Apr 28, 2007 10:06 AM
"I would be willing to bet most of the posters here that rail against welfare don't speak from experience, have never stood in a food line, never received food stamps, have never struggled to come up with next month's rent, or slept in their car or under a bridge being homeless. Yet they have such strong opinions on what the poor are thinking, experiencing, believe. To be sure the worst case welfare abusers they single out to be used as indicative of all recipients do exist, but labeling all as such is ill-informed at best, dishonest at worst. It is quite easy to sit at their computers and type away, ignorant or dispassionate of the circumstances that bring someone to the case of hardly having a roof over their heads, let alone a computer. It is just too much to imagine a system that favors the wealthy to such a degree could ever unfairly disadvantage someone to the degree they have to choose between food or rent, food or medicine. It is hard to fathom someone calling themselves a christian yet lacking the empathy to imagine such a case.

I would be willing to bet further that the women among them have never been single mothers, or experienced the difficulties that surround that case. Such strong opinions about the poor coming from so little experience of it. Whenever I hear the arguments against public assistance, the experience that is almost always front and center in their arguments is "You are taking from me to help others, and I hate that." No sense of community, of shared burden, of compassion... it is an argument based on "me" and "mine."

Poor women should have access to services that are currently legal as an equity issue. If the procedures are legal and necessary to the welfare or health of the women, there should be equal access. The white patriarchal christian mindset that ignores empathy, compassion is outmoded."

Thank you, demetri, whoever you are. Sometimes it takes just one little spark to keep us fighting the good fight, realize we're not all alone in our principles, and you gave that to me today!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Impeachment Day

Received this in my inbox today. Hope to see you there!

Just a reminder:
Impeachment Day action happening in Portland, Maine tomorrow evening, Saturday, Apr. 28. Join us if you can.

All are invited to come and bring friends to the Maine Impeachment Town Meeting -Saturday, April 28, 2007 - 6:00 to 8:00 PM
First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church
425 Congress Street (1 block from City Hall - downtown)
Portland, Maine

Featured speaker: David Swanson, co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org - one of the most influential impeachment action organizations in the U.S.
David is a dynamic speaker who will inform us about status and prospects for impeachment.

Maine Lawyers for Democracy and Maine Campaign to Impeach will explain the impeachment momentum that is building in Maine.

Maine people will speak out and express what they feel Maine and the U.S. Congress should do about this crucial issue. All opinions are welcome.

We hope to fill the event with people to show that Maine is serious about impeachment !
Event co-sponsors: Peace Action Maine & Maine Campaign to Impeach

9 thousand Maine people have signed the MaineImpeach petition. Our goal of 10 thousand names can happen soon.

Help us reach the goal. Pass the word to friends. Ask them to sign the on-line petition by going tohttp://www.MaineImpeach.org

For information about Impeachment Day activities happening throughout the U.S., go to
www.A28.org

Maine Campaign to Impeach
Portland, Maine
MaineImpeach@earthlink.net

Most Dumb Harmon

Those of you who are from Maine and read the editorial page of the Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram are familiar with M.D. Harmon, the paper's resident right-wing neanderthal (well, he and op-ed page editor John Porter, who never misses an opportunity to point out that the removal of Saddam Hussein was justification enough to invade Iraq) and card-carrying member of the U.S. Talban. I don't often pay too much attention to him; he rarely comes up with anything original even for a right-winger, usually just parroting back the national party line on any number of issues. Unlike some of the more sophisticated members of the fringe, however, he's not really able to be circumspect about some of his party's own hypocritical stands. Take, for example, his opinion piece from today on casino gambling. The slant of his piece is that voters shold take the opportunity to vote down the expansion of gambling in the state, a position with which I don't necessarily disagree; however, one of the reasons he gives for opposing gambling is that people simply can't be trusted in front of the one-armed bandit:

"But no booster blinded by dollar signs ever says, Suicides! Thefts! Addiction! Bankruptcy! So when the stories of personal ruin, like the man on Mount Desert arrested for stealing $23,000 from the store window where he worked to gamble away in bangor, appear as inside-the-paper briefs, they can be discounted as a one-off event rather than the beginning of a trend (as has happened everywhere else in the country)."

Now compare this to the tone of an article he wrote on March 16, where the issue, not surprisingly, was gun ownership. Harmon is one of those guys who compensates for his lack of dick by indulging in tough-guy gun talk:

" 'The Population of the Nanny State, being composed of irresponsible rednecks, rejects and retards, must not be allowed to have Arms.- The Second Amendment as seen through liberal eyes, according to Human Events columnist Mack Johnson.

That's how many on the left would indeed phrase the amendment..."

The article then went on to discuss a case ruled on by U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in favor of an individual, and Harmon lauded it as a landmark case for the right of the individual to own a functional gun, ending with, "the strength and depth of this ruling will cheer every American who values freedom."

Ok, so, what Mr. Harmon is saying is that anyone who wants to impose regulations on gun ownership in this country is a nanny-stater because s/he obviously believes that Americans as a rule are too stupid to own guns. Fine. A lot of rednecks-who really are too stupid to own even a cell phone, much less a gun-make that argument all the time. But why, then, if people are smart enough to be trusted with guns, can't they be trusted with a slot machine? I mean, these are the same people he's talking about, generally. Does walking into a casino suddenly lower your IQ by 10 points? I hate to tell you, M.D., but laws or bans aimed at saving people from themselves is the very definition of "nanny state." And let's substitute a few choice words in your sentence about "personal ruin" and see what we come up with...

"So when the stories of gun violence, like the student at Virginia Tech who shot 32 people on campus before taking his own life, appear as front page banners which horrify the nation for days, they can be discounted as a one-off event rather than the continuation of a trend (as has happened everywhere else in the country)."

See what I mean? Pure hypocrisy. He doesn't want guns further regulated so in this case, gun owners have every right to monitor their own behavior without federal or state interference. He does want gambling regulated (eliminated), so people suddenly can't be trusted with their own impulses. I'm not saying he's right or wrong, actually, I'm saying it's a typical right-wing ploy. The philosophy of personal freedom extends only to the cases they champion-gun ownership, property rights. It ends at who you sleep with and what you choose to do with a pregnancy. Then it's well within the interests of the government to regulate your every move.

Mr. Harmon has no good explanation either for his paradoxical stances in these cases-I know because I emailed him and asked. I got a reply back stating that the right to bear arms was protected by the Second Amendment (duh), but the right to gamble was not. Nowhere did he reply to my point about why he thinks regulating guns is nanny-stating but regulating slots is in the public interest. His overall point was summed up in this sentence:

"The left’s concerns are immaterial, as they violate the Constitution. Banning casinos, as I noted, does not"

He also gave me no reply when I asked if he would defend the right to abortion as stringently on the simple basis that it is lawful, as he does gun ownership (Harmon is a strident pro-birther). I mean, in that case, applying that standard, the right's concerns are immaterial, correct? His reply:

"Abortion isn’t defended by law. It was established by a vote of the Supreme Court."

LOL

Sooo, this is what we currently have on Mr. Harmon:

1. Guns are ok because people are smart enough to handle them.
2. Casinos are not ok because people are not smart enough to handle them
3. Guns are ok because they're protected by the Constitution.
4. Abortion is not ok even though the Supreme Court held that abortion was a constitutional right that the states could only abridge after the first six months of pregnancy.

I'm sure it all makes perfect sense to him, and the rest of his ilk. That's what's so friggin' sad.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Humane Alternative?

"It doesn't matter a whole lot to me that someone may have felt some pain before they were administered poison as a method of execution"-Steve Stewart, prosecuting attorney in Clark County, Indiana, on hearing the report of a study that suggests death by lethal injection can be painful, and involve suffocation while awake

And therein, folks, lies the problem.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves here. First, the facts, which are pretty simple according to a new study published in an online medical journal-lethal injection is not a humane method of execution. The drugs often don't work as they're intended, the study's authors point out, causing a severe burning pain and/or a feeling of suffocation. The death of the inmate can involve a great deal of suffering.

I think, however, that Mr. Smith probably speaks for the majority of death penalty supporters when he says, essentially...so what? What the hell do I care if a brutal, barbaric serial murderer suffers some before he dies? That's all he deserves, after all. Don't waste my time with this trivial shit.

Well, ok, then, Steve...if it's not the state's responsibility to alleviate pain and suffering in those it is executing in the name if its' residents, why not just feed them into a live furnace? Crucify them? Plant cement shoes on them and throw them into the ocean? Certainly, that's a punishment that would more likely fit the crimes these guys have committed, isn't it? If it's all about vengeance, an eye for an eye, as your comments suggest, why even make a pretense at a humane execution?

Capital punishment is the ultimate "the devil made me do it" scenario. We as a society have taken a stand that killing someone is wrong, most of the time. It's not wrong, however, if a person did such a bad thing-cruelly, heinously and willfully took the life of another human being, usually-that it makes us break our own rule. We have no choice in the matter. No matter what we think of killing in general, we have to kill this person because of the bad thing he did (and it's almost always a he). Not torturing the heinous person beforehand proves our moral superiority to the heinous person, even though we're essentially committing the same act he did.

Now, apparently, we don't even have that to hide behind, and the facade begins to crumble. No one who believes in capital punishment cared anyway.

"It doesn't matter a whole lot to me that someone may have felt some pain before they were administered poison as a method of execution"

I would venture a guess and say that it is these types of attitudes that have cost the death penalty a great deal of support over the past 20 years (well, that, and the number of innocent people killed...and the inherent unfairness in the system...oh, and don't forget the cost...) Death penalty proponents don't get it and never will. Legally sanctioned execution is not about the person being killed. They did a horrible thing, usually. It's about us a people, and how much do we really want to be better than the worst among us?

As long as there are state-sponsored executions, then I'd say not so much.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Something to Look Forward To

Kind of a slow day in the blue world, nothing really new to mock, just the usual collection of evangelical zombies, delusional hawks, and liquored-up gun freaks. I was getting kind of depressed about that, so to cheer myself up I went out and found this happy little site, which reminds you that "life is slipping away... second by second."

I took the plunge and found my own personal death day will be Tuesday, October 16, 2040, and as of this writing I have 1,056,690,176 seconds left on earth. At the time of my anticipated demise I will be aged 77 years, 2 months, and 12 days. Yikes. I'd better get busy.

Of course, this does not take into account that every second you spend mocking the right wing fringe adds two seconds back to the end of your life. So, I've got that going for me.

What's your personal death day?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Gonzales on the Hot Seat

Gonzo finally went up to Capital Hill yesterday to try and explain away his role in the alternately infuriating and amusing but certainly unceasing pageant that is Gonzogate. Here's reports from "Hardball" and "NBC Nightly News" last night. I include them both because "Hardball" does a better job of documenting senatorial reaction (particularly Arlen Specter's, who has clearly had just about all he's going to take from this incompetent nincompoop) and NBC nicely chronicles Gonzo's sudden attack of senile dementia-he can't remember what he had for breakfast this morning. Check out the guy in the NBC piece keeping public tabs on "I don't remember" statements (72 in all...amazing).





It's clear Gonzo is just the latest flunkie taking a bullet for Rove and Bush, although that might be almost preferable to having a new one ripped for him by Sen. Specter in front of God and everybody. (If Specter hadn't been such a complete asshat in the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill affair, I'd probably like him better.) In any event, Republicans are clearly furious that the White House has allowed this to drag on for so long, knowing that every minute they are exposed as the party that allowed these manipulative frauds to run roughshod over the country and Constitution (yeah, I'm talking to you, Olympia) is rightfully costing them votes in 2008. I'm getting acclimated to the idea that Alberto Gonzales might be staying on until the end of the term because of the major fatal flaw of this president-intransigence. If Gonzo goes, it's going to have to look like the president's idea now. It may be worse for the country in the short run, but if it means that fewer right-wing hacks make it to national office in 2008 then I'm willing to let Gonzo sit on the hot seat a little longer, and I'll like it. Thanks for thinking of us on the left, Mr. President!!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Is This What He Means By "Straight Talk?"

Do you think this is funny? *I* don't think this is funny, and I laugh at the Brothers' Grimm. Furthermore, I'd like to hear the same type of outrage from all the right wingers who couldn't wait to foam at the mouth over John Kerry's stupid "stuck in Iraq" faux paus. Kerry, at least, botched the punchline, making it seem worse than he intended-this is apparently what McCain wanted to say (or sing, if you can call it that). I betcha a lot of dead soldiers wouldn't think it's very funny, either. Is John McCain trying to alienate everyone?



"The senator was adding levity to the discussion and the crowd reacted with laughter," campaign spokesman Kevin McLaughlin said. "He went on to discuss the seriousness of issue."

Yeah. A fucking laugh riot, John. Why not tell the one about the English major in Virginia next?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Difference is Death?

It's always kind of a surreal feeling in the hours and days after a seminal moment in history occurs; you want to get information and process the event, but in the meantime the sun still rises and sets, and there's still the business of living to attend to. You still have to take a shower, go to work, feed the cat, etc., etc., etc. Time and tide wait for no one.

So it was as I sat on my couch last night, volleying back and forth between watching the Red Sox (who were wasting a perfectly good pitching performance by Dice-K) and Keith Olbermann. Keith, like everyone else in broadcasting, had wall-to-wall coverage of the Virginia Tech tragedy; in fact, his three Worst Persons were all awarded so as a result of inane comments made following the massacre. If you haven't seen it, this is the link here.

While Debbie Schlussel's comments are merely more of the racist nonsense we've come to expect from the Limbaugh peanut gallery, there's a particularly brutal bite to the ones by Derbyshire and Blake. First, let's set the record straight here: while both men are guilty of the most monstrous acts of insensitivity and self-serving hubris ("I don't know what I would have done but I'm sure I would have done something else"), Derbyshire was at least capable of generating the ugly thoughts independently; Blake worked up the nerve only to say, "Yeah! What HE said!" (The actual columns can be found here and here, if you've got the stomach for it.) It's astounding to me that two men with desk jobs and no history of any kind of national service (Derbyshire, a British expatriot, yaps about his .22 but neither he nor Blake seem to have any military record, nor to my knowledge are they policemen) can feel free to mock with impunity the terrified, coldly targeted young men at Virginia Tech as if they had taken the last lifeboat off the Titanic while thumbing their noses at the women and children left behind. But it's also clear that not only is Mr. Blake making judgments that aren't his to claim, he also doesn't have his facts straight. The young man belittled by Blake for "holding doors shut" has been credited with potentially saving 11 students by barricading the door to the class, then lunging to close it again as the gunman tried his best to force his way in and, when frustrated in that attempt, shot through the door. In his rush to judgment, Blake apparently didn't take the time to find out that Professor Liviu Librescu, whom he praised, also saved his students by holding the door of his classroom shut while Cho, the gunman, was attempting to enter it. The killer then shot the professor through the door. I'm unsure why Blake thinks it is better to die while holding a door shut to save people than live, but it's clear that both these men are heroes...the only real difference is that tragically, one of them is dead, the other scorned for not being so.

In any event, if Derbyshire and Blake are so infatuated with the idea of putting oneself in harm's way for the sake of others, there is a way to act out their fantasies. They could be Army Strong, after all. But somehow, I don't see either of them answering the call...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech

I'd like to take this small piece of little-read cyberspace to offer my sincerely felt condolensces to the families and friends of the victimes of the horrific massacre at Virginia Tech yesterday, along with the stricken university itself and the City of Blacksburg, VA. Our thoughts and best hopes are with you, and may you find your way back to peace.

Most throughout the country are offering similar sentiments. Rush Limbaugh, however, seized the opportunity to blame liberals for the tortured final act of a psychopath.

Kind of makes you wonder what he thinks made Jack the Ripper go off the deep end, or inspired the Kool-Aid fest at Jonestown...

It's almost too sad to comment on...Mr. Limbaugh, you too have to brush your teeth looking in the mirror, not with your head down, or examining your nonexistent balls. I don't know how you do it.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Lady is a Stooge

I blame Maine Democrats for Susan Collins. Really, I do. She's a Bill Cohen protege whom I'm never sure understood exactly what it meant to be Republican; she only knew that she worked for Cohen and he was one. She has the personality of a wooden pellet and about as much presence; it's embarrassing to watch her try and hold her own even on the Collins-friendly local newscasts, much less on a national stage (I especially cringe when I think of an interview she did during the 2000 campaign. She and Nebraska's Chuck Hagel were discussing George Bush's chances in several swing states, including Florida. Hagel was trying to have a conversation about voter mood and demographics-Sue's only contribution was, "Oh, c'mon, Chuck, his brother is the governor!"...actually, maybe that's not such a good example). Anyway, I digress. Democrats are to blame for her ongoing presence because in 1996 we selected establishment candidate Joe Brennan as our candidate in the senatorial primary that year. Brennan, a former governor and congressman, had unsuccessfully run a third bid for governor in 1994 (opposed by Collins, which was won by independent Angus King), and was fast becoming yesterday's news in the eyes of the electorate. I have long maintained that had we selected Sean Faircloth of Bangor-fresh, dynamic, and a very entertaining speaker-we wouldn't've been saddled for the past dozen years with Senator Stepford Wife. I think Faircloth could have beaten her easily. As is typical of incumbents, especially in Maine, she hasn't faced a serious challenge since.

But an article in yesterday's Press Herald notes that may be about to change. Susan Collins has a fight on her hands. And it's about damned time. Targeting her as a vulnerable seat, these ads by a group called Americans United for Change have been running on prime time here in Maine, pointing out the fact that Collins is talking out of both sides of her mouth on the Iraq issue.



Collins has fought back, posting her own response on YouTube, but for the first time since she ascended to power-certainly since the Bushies ascended to power-she is being put on the defensive and forced to explain some of her positions to the voters, especially as they relate to Bush ass-kissing. I am the first to admit that Collins is not a member of the US Taliban and maintains some very responsible positions on issues of choice, sometimes on taxes (although she has swallowed the Bush tax-cut Kool-Aid twice), and sometimes on the environment. However, the laundry list of issues where she has acquiesced to White House demands for loyalty votes are significant, including:

-Voting to authorize military force in Iraq in the first place (her presumed challenger, Rep. Tom Allen, never supported the measure and is likely to make that a huge issue in the 2008 campaign)

-Voting for the Military Commissions Act, otherwise known as "the torture bill"

-Opposed giving 45,000 airport screeners union rights because it would lessen administration control over them

-Refusing to subpeona the White House after the Katrina debacle, when she was Chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, thus cementing her legacy as a member in good standing of the no-oversight Republican congress

-Just recently denied her support to the Democrat-sponsored bill that would provide a light at the end of the tunnel for our soldiers in Iraq, despite making all sorts of noise about opposing the "surge" a few weeks earlier.

You can't have it both ways, Senator. You're either "moderate" or you're a Bush stooge, and, when all the evidence is reviewed (and what I've written is just the tip of the iceberg-haven't even talked about flag burning, lobbyists, etc) it seems to me that you're a stooge.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Imus Fallout and Reflections

The discussion and resulting din gets extremely tiring sometimes.

I wasn't going to comment again on the ongoing saga that has become Don Imus, Al Sharpton, CBS radio and MSNBC. The noise is already deafening, and I didn't think I wanted to add to it. But as time went on and the story grew, it became clear that we as a society are at a significant cultural crossroads here (of which Don Imus just happens to be caught in the middle), and I needed to hash out in my own mind what I believe is happening.

Let me say, first and foremost, that I'm tired of talking to idiots on both sides of the cultural divide about this. First and foremost are the legions of angry white men, guys who seem to literally crawl out of the woodwork any time a racially charged issue comes to the fore. Even some of the more generally liberal white guys really seem to believe that the playing field has been completely leveled in terms of race and sex (all that has really happened, of course, is that they don't occupy the entire field anymore-two out of nine of the ballplayers on that field are now nonwhites or women, and a lot of white men consider that sacrifice enough on their part). For them, the entire argument revolves around a) Al Sharpton, who manages to make any discussion of race about himself and gives the angry white guys the perfect distraction to completely deflect any real discussion of the issue. Hey, because Sharpton is a charlatan and a self-promoter, too, I can avoid any responsibility for reflection on this, especially my part in it. Fuck him, they say. His presence proves this isn't really about race, it's about Al Sharpton, whom we hate! and b) gangsta rap. As far as the angry white man is concerned, saying racially insensitive crap can't possibly be bad because such fine, upstanding citizens as 50 Cent and Ludacris have made millions saying far worse. They conveniently forget that other members of the African-American community, such as Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune and innumerable other more reputable black commentators and religious leaders, have called loudly and long for the industry to do more about policing its' glorification of horizontal violence and desensitizingly self-loathing language. Black women nearly universally condemn the genre. Even the despised Sharpton and the #2 guy on the white man's most wanted list, Rev. Jesse Jackson, have made a practice of condemining the practitioners of this realm of theater. By giving themselves a pass on the language because of Suge Knight, whites do a grievous disservice to the millions of African-Americans who do not consider rappers their spokespeople. Additionally, (although this is a loaded thought more appropriate for a PhD dissertation), I would also speculate that in the cultural vernacular of rap, slurs are used for an entirely different purpose and effect and you have to earn your right to use them, even among African-Americans. No white man, certainly not an establishment millionaire dinosaur like Don Imus, will ever be able to stake claim to use those terms with impunity, no matter what the intent.

On the other side are the reactionaries who are taking this opportunity to label Don Imus the second coming of Richard Girnt Butler. Many of the less sophisticated, especially in the blogosphere, who probably hadn't actually heard the comments in context, jumped immediately on the Sharpton bandwagon and rode it over the edge of the reason. One of the nicer comments about him made in this context was that he was a "crypto-bloodless assassin" and a stooge in Ronald Reagan's plot to stamp out diversity in America. Now, I have long been of the opinion that Don Imus is a stupid, insensitive clod who stoops 'way below what is decent in order to get a laugh, but he didn't murder Emmitt Till, folks. As he said, he has done a lot of good works (although admittedly some of his defenses for himself sounded suspiciously like "some of my best friends are black). He's not a virulent racist. He's exposed himself as a cultural relic, more to be pitied than despised, a victim of his own privilege. Let's get a little perspective here.

So it's against this backdrop that one has to try and make sense of all this. Everybody has a theory of what it all means for now and going forward. There is a legitimate question of, what was so much worse about this statement than the myriad of other similar ones he has made over the years? Why have we nailed Imus to the cross on this when far worse can be heard every day on conservative talk radio or Fox? I mean, Bill Bennett suggests that we could reduce the crime rate if we aborted black fetuses, and hardly anybody blinks (it does get plenty of air time on "Air America"). Rush Limbaugh makes a living spouting racially divisive statements; just a couple days ago he asserted that "minorities never do anything for which they have to apologize." Hell, our president got his job by promoting hate and division against targeted groups, primarily gays and immigrants. So why the Imus backlash, against comments that he obviously thought were supposed to be complimentary?

I would speculate the the backlash occurred specifically because of the context in which the words were uttered. We've become, unfortunately, almost immune to the nonsense of the skinheads and Nazis, but Imus is neither. His remark was benign...thoughtless but not intended, I believe, to be racially inflammatory. But it may have reminded us that one of the more poisonous aspects of our racially divided history is not simply slavery, the overt threats and unpeakable violence but also the more benign, insidious forms of oppression-the affectionate references to "our darkies," blacks who knew their place, kept their own council and who whites cared for and saved from themselves because they were genetically unable to do it due to their race (slavery was often defended as a humane institution for this very reason). Imus defenders stridently make the case that no harm was intended by his slur; perhaps, but neither was harm intended in the almost benevolent, but no less virulent, racism of many white people, which manifests itself in the attitude that African-Americans are perpetual children in need of white protection (another version of this is the helpless woman in need of a male protector). Part of that version of bigotry assumes the acceptance of racially derogatory terms spoke in a condescending or even affectionate fashion. Perhaps this is where Imus struck a nerve among us-and where we collectively saw a propensity for the same in ourselves, and were repulsed by it. Blatant racism is easy to spot and dismiss when no one bothers to disguise it, as in the case of Bennett and Limbaugh; in other forms, it becomes less easy to dismiss and now, apparently, more likely to be held up to scrutiny. It's as if we're saying we're giving up on the redemption of the Limbaughs of the world-they're not worth our time, so contain them, and if they and their pathetic devotees drown in their own cesspool of hate, so much the better-but we still hold out some hope for the Imuses. If we let it be known that this is, finally, simply not acceptable, perhaps there is a chance it won't fall on deaf ears.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Lust List

I'm so glad I'm a woman, primarily because I'm not reliant on letters of the alphabet to tell me how attractive I think someone is (you know the letters I'm talking about...C...DD..FF...). Oh, I appreciate a nice piece of eye candy as much as the next female (the current completely shallow object of my desire is achingly cute Corey Patterson of the Baltimore Orioles) but there's more to me than just hormones and a pretty face. In order to prove it, I present to you, in no particular order, my list of the most desirable unhot guys in America. They weren't blessed with the genetic makeup that results in physical beauty, but as another of my favorite (and very hot) guys Prince once said, baby, they're rich with per-so-na-li-ty.

Without further adieu...

Top Ten Un-Hot Men I Would Totally Do

1. Henry Waxman-A physically unassuming guy who reminds one a bit of Simon the Singing Chipmunk, Waxman is the man in the House from whom the Bush administration has the most to fear. The architect of many laws aimed at protecting the common good (the Clean Air Act, several food-and-drug safety acts,) Waxman spent the past few years in the minority, relentlessly taking on the administration on everything from bad Iraq intelligence to fraud and abuse in the contracting system. Remember all those Big Tobacco CEOs lined up, saying, "I believe cigarettes are not addictive?" Waxman's doing. Now, as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Waxman is the administration's worst nightmare with subpoena power. It's enough to make a liberal girl swoon in anticipation.

2. Jack Cafferty-Crabbiest, most ballsy guy on CNN. He just doesn't give a shit. Wolf Blitzer, take note: Jack would NEVER have said a pansy-ass thing like "I really like your daughter" on the air while getting a stare down from Dick Cheney during an interview. Jack would have said something like, "No, you're out of line, Mr. Vice President. Now answer the goddamn question!" I tell you, fearlessness is a turn-on.

3. Al Franken-A younger version of Lewis Black, which isn't saying much for either of them, Al is a smart guy who can take apart any right wing talking point simply by stating the facts. He also proved to the world that Bill O'Reilly was a liar while Bill O. was standing next to him sputtering. That alone should be enough to get you liberal ladies' juices flowing.

4. Patrick Leahy-Ok, he's old enough to be my grandfather, but there's just something so majestical and decorous about him....virile, resolute...and the way he gets his mouth around statements like,"I want testimony under oath. I am sick and tired of getting half-truths on this!"...well, it just sends me, baby.

5. Dennis Kucinich-He could be the stand in for Pinocchio, but he steams up the House with his sexy stands on the death penalty, rural communities, the Iraq War, and the environment. Clearly, I am not the only one to fall victim to his amorous charms; he's been married three times, and his third wife, Elizabeth Harper, is 30 years younger than he is and a total babe.

6. Michael Moore-With his beer gut, chronic five o'clock shadow and ratty looking baseball caps, you'd never guess that Moore is Public Enemy #1 for a lot of conservatives who are absolutely furious that there's a reali live liberal out there who can take them on and beat them at their own game. A master media manipulator who likes nothing better than a good fight-especially when the opposition is corporate America or the Bush administration-Moore's relentless and over-the-top exposes of the administration's lies has made him, in the immortal words of Fat Bastard, "dead sexy."

7. Jim Hightower-Normally I don't find anything about Texas attractive, and guys in cowboy hats even less so, but populist commentator Hightower works it, baby. There is something immensely sexy about a guy who championed organic crop production, alternative crops, and pesticide regulation while working as the Agricultural Commissioner in ground zero of conservative politics.

8. Noam Chomsky-Chomsky is a man blessed not only with no looks, but also no charm and certainly no humor. Unlike, say, an Al Franken, his EQ rating hovers around zero, and making friends seems to be the last thing he is interested in. He's crankier than Henry David Thoreau. But he makes the list because he's the smartest guy in the room, and he has no patience for the overbearing blowhards that he believes are putting the very existence of the United States in jeopardy through their a"imperial grand strategy." I dare any progressive woman to read Failed States or Hegemony of Survival without needing a cold shower.

9. Tom Andrews-A fellow Mainer and my former congressional representative, the balding, slight Andrews essentially sacrificed a promising political career over a vote of conscience-voting to close the Limestone Air Force Base in the northern part of the state. Now, as if standing by a principle to your own detriment isn't cool enough, Andrews is currently the national director of Win Without War, an organization opposing Bush Iraq policy. Best of all, he totally owned Tom DeLay and Richard Perle on Meet the Press recently...thinking about that moment keeps me up at night.

10. Tom Englehart-Goofy looking editor of tomdispatch.com, a site designed "for anyone in despair over post-September 11th US mainstream media coverage of our world and ourselves." Anyone trying to get out the truth in this world of corporate-controlled media is the definition of sexy in this day and age!

I'm sure there are others, but that's a good start. Please let me know if I have left out any of your particular favorite unhot guys who get your motor running.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Don Imus Watch

Am I the only person in the United States who is not surprised that Don Imus uttered a thoughtless, racist comment on his radio show? Where has America been for the past 40 years? What day has gone by that he hasn't said something offensive?

In Imus' defense, I can't actually state with any certainty what he has said over the past 6-7 years, which is about when I stopped listening to him. It's true he can be simultaneously very ascerbic and amusing; he also has an A list of guests over the years which rivals The NewsHour on PBS or any of the Sunday morning talk shows. For that reason alone, the show was often worth listening to, although it was also punctuated ad nauseum with meaningless, mindless drivel from Imus about his idiot wife and practically perfect young son (he has an older daughter as well but one would never have known it to listen to him. To hear Imus tell it, Wyatt was potty trained by two weeks, playing Chopin at four months and splitting the atom before he was a year old). However, I eventually stopped listening for the very reason he is in such hot water today-he could also be jaw droppingly offensive. Very often, it wasn't even Imus who was the worst offender-he has admitted in the past that his producer, Bernard McGuirk, mainly gets air time for "nigger jokes," and Bernie made the most of his opportunity (slandering liberals was another favorite pastime of McGuirk's). If the truth be known, the "nappy-haired ho" remark is one of the more tame to be made on the Imus show in recent years. Consider the following blasts from his past:

-He's called the starting lineup of the New York Knicks "the gorilla special effects in Instinct"

-He's advocated bombing Mecca

-He's insulted a variety of reporters who differ in skin color and ethnicity from he, calling them "beanie heads" and "cleaning ladies"

Sooo...why all the righteous indignation now? I'm not arguing with it, I think it's been too long coming, but for people to act like this is the worst thing he's ever said, when it probably wasn't even the worst thing he said that day, is a little disingenuous of those in the media and especially those on the campaign trail. Many a politician of presidential stature has sold his soul to be in Imus' good graces, including souls as divergent as John Kerry, John McCain, and Alan Keyes. It's a safe bet, though, the pre-2008 politico parade has stopped for the I-man, which in reality may be what finally brings the curtain down on "Imus in the Morning."

I mean, if nobody shows up, you can't fill four hours with racist jokes...can you?

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Conservative Media Bias

If I can find a link, I will publish it, but I was reading a study the other day about the overwhelming preponderance of conservative voices on political talk shows as opposed to liberal/progressive ones. Although the networks and producers dismissed this, saying it has been primarily conservatives in power, this imbalance has persisted even after the Democrats took over the House and Senate in November.

Well, nowhere is that more clear than on the Sunday talk shows. Meet the Press this morning is a good example. The panel the affable Tim Russert had on his "Decision 2008" show today featured David Gregory, the chief NBC White House correspondent; Chuck Todd, NBC's political director and independent pollster; Judy Woodruff, a correspondent from "The NewsHour" on PBS...and Kate O'Bierne, the Washington editor of the neocon water-carrying "National Review."

Three mainstream, ostensibly nonpartisan political analysts and a right wing apologist goon. Yeah, that's representative, I guess.

It's infuriating. Throughout the show, we get to hear O'Bierne spout the typical right wing talking points of "it looks like the surge is working" to "Nancy Pelosi didn't do herself any favors" to "Fred Thompson could be the next Ronald Reagan" (ok, I made that last one up, but she surely did plotz over the prospect of Thompson entering the race), completely unchallenged by a liberal, progressive perspective. Do you think for one minute Katrina vanden Heuvel or Rachel Maddow would have let that surge comment or any of the nonsense spouted by O'Bierne pass unexamined? That Thom Hartmann would let her get away with coronating Fred Thompson? Yet, NBC continues to operate under the delusion that the National Review is something other than a right wing rag and its' operatives more than right wing grunts who have earned the right to have their point of view presented as if it were an unbiased observer in the mold of NBC or PBS. If you present the point of view of a Kate O'Bierne as worthy of consideration, you are morally obligated to recognize it for what it is and balance it with a David Corn.

I have written the powers that be at "Meet the Press" and told them the same thing. If you agree, I suggest you do likewise.

Edwards Takes a Stand

The Associated Press is reporting that once again, John Edwards is showing some balls against the yellow journalism that is the Fox News Channel.

"We believe there's just no reason for Democrats to give Fox a platform to advance the right-wing agenda while pretending they're objective," said Jonathan Prince, Edwards' deputy campaign manager.

To that I say...good. Democrats accepting Fox's role in this supposedly bipartisan political event is a bit like Red Riding Hood accepting Grandma Wolf's invitation to dinner. Definitely not in Red's self-interest, as the wolf has an agenda in direct contradiction to hers. Frankly, I'm sick of all this sucking up to these asshats. It's high fucking time someone in the Democratic party called a spade a spade here. Fox exists as nothing more than a big tit for far right neanderthals to suck on. Politicos and mainstream media outlets need to stop treating them as if they're contributing anything to the public discourse, especially since the average Fox viewer has an IQ somewhere between Forrest Gump and Junior Sample.

Joe McCarthy didn't stop his witchhunt until he was famously called out by Joseph Welch with the immortal words, "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?" Welch left the room to a burst of applause, because someone finally found the balls to confront the unspeakable bully. Until then, appeasement had been the order of the day.

Well, Rupert Murdoch is the new Joe McCarthy (both, after all, are idols of Ann Coulter).

Could it be that John Edwards is the next Joe Welch?

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Beverly Hills Mitt

If Mitt Romney's flip-flopping on the issues doesn't convince voters he's a spineless, ass-kissing fraud, then this quote yesterday from Mr. Integrity should. Here he's trying to convince the gun-obsessed fringes of the far right he's (almost) one of them, after his campaign stated he didn't hunt:

"I'm by no means a big game hunter. I'm more Jed Clampett than Teddy Roosevelt. I've always been a rodent and rabbit hunter, small varmints, if you will..."

Have you ever heard anything so contrived in your life? Since when does Jed Clampett end his sentences with "if you will?" But Mitt's right about one thing: he's surely no Teddy Roosevelt, a pro-union, pro-environment, women's rights advocate whose defection from the Republican party led to a conservative takeover, and is usually listed among the top 5 greatest US presidents in history.

Come and listen to a story 'bout a man named Mitt
Whose flip-flopping kept the right wingers in a snit
Each and every day he'd be shootin' off his mouth
Ass-kissin' up to the losers of the south!
(Voters, that is...principles?...none found here...)

Well, don't you know ol' Mitt's a millionaire,
Lent himself two mil, gave his campaign hopes a prayer
His Salt Lake friends want to see him president
But all the pandering hasn't really made a dent
(Polls, that is...still way down...can't buy love...)

Friday, April 6, 2007

Vice President..of the Liars' Club

Can somebody please tell me, what is wrong with Dick Cheney? Is he really certifiably insane, as many have suggested, or just a pathological liar? Witness this proclamation yesterday, with Rush Limbaugh uncharacteristically playing straight man for this one:

“He [Abu Musab al-Zarqawi] took up residence there before we ever launched into Iraq, organized the al-Qaida operations inside Iraq before we even arrived on the scene and then, of course, led the charge for Iraq until we killed him last June...as I say, they were present before we invaded Iraq,” Cheney told the fawning Limbaugh on his radio program.

Now, never mind that there is absolutely no evidence of this, and that by all credible accounts Al-Zarqawi only aligned himself with Al-Qaeda forces after the 9/11 attacks, not before (Al-Zarqawi "was not then an al-Qaeda member but was the leader of an unaffiliated terrorist group who occasionally associated with al-Qaeda adherents, according to several intelligence analysts" per the Washington Post). Never mind that he and Bin Laden appear to have had a strained relationship at best. Never mind that not one but two official reports-Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble's Pentagon report released in full Thursday, and the previously released findings of the 9/11 commission-have completely debunked that any type of cooperation in any form took place between the ruling powers of Iraq and Al-Qaeda. Never mind any of that. In Cheneyland, the truth is all just extraneous details.

So, what's going on here? Unlike George Bush, Dick Cheney is not a stupid man, or at least he wasn't. Is it possible that he has repeated this scenario and heard it repeated by enough schills that he has actually begun to believe his own lie? As tempting as it to brush off the veep as an untreated paranoid schizophrenic, I think there is just something more sinister going on here, and the answer can be found in this article by John Dean. Dean is talking about Tom DeLay here, but the parallels with Cheney are unmistakable. Read the part in article where the discussion centers around DeLay's propensity for repeating falsehoods that are very easily disproved. Why do that if it just makes you look at best delusional, or at worse pathologically dishonest? Because guys like DeLay and Cheney know their audience, and this is who they're playing to. Dick Cheney doesn't care if 70% of Americans know he is lying when he spins his Iraq-Al-Qaeda fantasy. He is playing to his base, the kind who he knows listen religiously to Rush Limbaugh and Fox News and buy Tom DeLay's book (which has flopped miserably amongst the rest of us, btw). Dr. Altemeyer considers these people "authoritarian followers who would never doubt" their leader's account of what is going on, don't do any of their own fact-checking, and thus can be counted on to eat whatever slop the object of their adulation throws at them, no matter how foul or poisonous. As the good doctor notes, "Studies show that authoritarian leaders can say almost anything, and their followers will believe them."

Even bald-faced lies like this one. Nice job, Mr. V.P. You haven't even made a pretense of telling a convincing lie, but with an approval rating lower than Dubya's, I guess you don't have to. How pathetic, though, that the fawning approval of a bunch of mindless Elois is all you can achieve at this last stage of the game.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Conservative Butt Buddies?

I'm a little disappointed with this blog entry by John Nichols in The Nation yesterday. First of all, why aren't liberal views ever good enough? Why are we always running across the aisle to buddy up to someone who's otherwise nothing but a right wing neanderthal, as if that really proves our point? What the hell do I care if Lee Terry, a certifiable wingnut, thinks Gonzalez should resign? How does that strengthen the argument? If anything, it makes the argument weaker, frankly-kind of like, if Lee Terry likes it, it must be a bad idea. Liberals-including Randi Rhodes, one of the most vocal-fell all themselves to point out that Pat Buchanan was against the invasion of Iraq. Since when do the views of Pat Buchanan engender any sympathy? How does agreeing with the viewpoint of a Jew-hating fascist legitimize anything? Look at the motives behind Buchanan's disdain for the war-racism and strident isolationism. The enemy of my enemy is not always my friend.

Nichols falls into this trap in this piece, especially when he gleefully points out that the most fawning of right-wing institutions and my mortal enemy, The National Review, has called for Gonzalez to step down. Whoop dee-fucking-do. Remember, this is a magazine that continues to deny global warming exists, thinks unbridled free trade is the only answer, is obsessed with the idea that Hillary Clinton might be president, and has two links on it's current web site to articles accusing mainstream Islamists of promoting violence and blames racism on crimes in black neighborhoods. Yeah, these are people whose opinions matter a lot to me.

The NR has been taking this position for a while, accusing the Bush administration of cronyism and incompetence-especially in the cases of Scooter Libby and Gonzalez-in a piece that asked, "Can Anybody Here Play This Game?" a couple of weeks ago. But if you look beneath the surface, this is not the plaintive cry of a bruised conservative looking for a return to decorum and truthfulness in the halls of Justice (literally). Nope. The water-carrying editors of the National Review are less concerned that Gonzo is incompetent to run the Justice Deaprtment than they are he is incompetent to carry out his end of the Rove master plan of Permanent Republican Majority. They are less concerned that Scooter Libby is a sniveling criminal who vindictively outed a CIA operative (and not at all concerned that Cheney and Rove are sniveling criminals who vindictively outed a CIA operative) and more concerned that he was unable to do it without utterly embarrassing and exposing the Vice President's office. The bottom line message is, how can the great dictatorship be accomplished with these horses' asses running the show???

Politics does make strange bedfellows sometimes, but we need to be careful about selling our soul for a buck here. Our positions and ideals need not be compromised by looking for validation from the likes of Lee Terry and the National Review.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Civil Rights Game

I learned a lot as I watched Major League Baseball's inaugural Civil Rights Game. Of course, as a rabid baseball fan bordering on the psychotic, I knew about how Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby broke the color barrier in their respective leagues. I also know all the sad history of my own beloved Red Sox on this sensitive issue (for a good chronicle of the subject, I recommend Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston by Howard Bryant). I listened to the legendary Frank Robinson talk about being the first African-American manager hired by MLB, then the first fired. I heard C.C. Sabathia, a pitcher with Cleveland, talk thoughtfully about the larger role that African-American players should play in resparking the interest in the game amongst African-American youth. I even enjoyed listening to Joe Morgan, the ESPN commentator, for a change. I've been watching baseball for 30 years, and I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't really pay much attention to the cultural shift in the game, so I was shocked to learn that less than 10% of current major leaguers are African-American, down from over 25% in 1975, and 20% just a decade ago. I certainly noticed the rise in Asian and Hispanic players over the past 10-15 years, but didn't realize that was being accomplished at the expense of African-Americans. Good for MLB for trying to address the issue in a public way, sponsoring a weekend-long event including a panel discussion and awarding the first "Beacon Awards," to honor "contributions to civil rights and historical ties to baseball."
The weekend seemed a success. However, even in this festive atmosphere, racism in the old school mode was still on display. I think it's fair to ask why the major league representatives of the city of Cleveland, participating in this game because of their instrumental role in breaking the American League color barrier, continue to insist on displaying an unattractive caricature of a Native American on their caps. IMO it's long past time for this franchise-and others, including the Washington Redskins, which ironically is the team Howard Bryant left the Herald to cover-to address this issue. Yes, there are those who continue to insist it doesn't offend, but instead glorifies Native Americans, but frankly those arguments sound suspiciously like those who shrilly defend their display of the Confederate flag as a tribute to their "heritage" (yeah, their heritage of slaveholding and attempt to secede from the Union to continue the practice. What's not to be proud of in that?) The image is simply an offensive stereotype, and far beneath the proud city of Cleveland, it's citizens and ballplayers.

It's past time for the franchise and MLB to realize they're talking out of both sides of their mouths on this issue, and when better to do that than during a weekend dedicated to baseball and civil rights? I challenge them to do what my old alma mater and many others have done over the past 10-15 years-review the history and eliminate their role in perpetuating a stereotype.

Heck, maybe the league could even start an outreach program for talented Native American athletes.