Archives for: July 2010
Nuggets of internet gold:
SJ from RANDOM THOUGHTS reproduces the very real rant of Congressman Anthony Weine after Republicans voted against medical treatment for 9/11 heroes.
Ned Williams at WisdomIsVindicated joins C. Everett Koop in going Breitbart on Elena Kagan's Supreme Court nomination, accusing her of misleading the court for wanting women's health included in the term "medically necessary."
- Fox News is accidently called on blatant dishonesty by.... Fox News?
The economy recovers from it's approach to depression but the recession was deep and recovery is slow. Pray for someone in pain.
They hate Jews, they hate Christians, they hate women, they hate dogs. [The idea of the new mosque] scares the daylights out of me. I want you to stress this -- I'm not prejudiced. I worked retail for nine years and I didn't even know my manager was gay until someone told me. And when I found out, I didn't care.
- - Diane Serafin, tea party organizer, July 29, 2010
On a protest against construction of mosques in California
Democrats have had some difficulty finding a common voice against Republican attacks this season. The latest effort is a good as any, I suppose. Republicans are to be tied to the extremes of the Tea Party movement. The "Republican Tea Party Contract On America" includes:
- Privatizing Social Security
- Abolishing Medicare
- Keeping and increasing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy
- Rolling back financial regulation that might keep Wall Street in check
- Repealing Health Care Protection
- Protecting BP and others from oil spill consequences
- Abolishing the US Department of Education
- Abolishing the US Department of Energy
- Abolishing the US Environmental Protection Agency
- Cutting out elections so state politicians can choose US Senators
There is no formal "Republican Tea Party Contract." In fact, GOP leadership cautiously avoid endorsing repeal of the direct election of Senators. But there is not only considerable overlap in the GOP agenda and right wing goals, the extreme conservative wing the driving force within the GOP.
The Tea Party made a big splash last year, but then crazies came to the fore, verbally assaulting a man with a long term illness as he sat in quiet dignity, hurling racist screams at black members of Congress, and exhibiting racist signs at public demonstrations. A poll a few weeks ago showed most Americans have developed a distaste for such conduct.
It might work. The ties GOP candidates have made to extremist elements in their party is not so much a strategy as the only path for short term survival. That path may lead to difficulty in future general elections. Voters have a skeptical attitude toward extremism. As Republicans deride the entire "Contract" campaign as a misrepresentation, Democrats ask GOP candidates to specify which of those 10 points they reject.
The real case against Republicans is more basic, I think. They are so allied with ideology, they are unable to see even the clearest moral outrages for what they are. Thus, their opposition to taxes on the wealthy leads them to oppose helping 9/11 rescuers with resulting medical costs, calling it a "massive new entitlement." The cost would be paid for by closing loopholes for foreign corporations. Their opposition to even reasonable regulation of business led them last year to side with a corporation against a teenage victim of gang rape. They got mad at a Democrat for his bill to end corporate interference with criminal charges against rapists. Examples are endless.
Republicans are not evil. They are blinded by the bright glare of a shimmering spiderweb of misplaced loyalties. It is the contrast with those horrible GOP standards that might save Democrats from a straight up-and-down referendum in a very bad economic year. Will it be Yes/No or Either/Or?
The Cash-for-Speaker Program
- - Headline in Politico, the on line magazine, July 29, 2010
On House Republican Leader John Boehner's campaign to become
Speaker, funded by selling access to lobbyists for contributions
(note from Burr: I'm weary from resisting the temptation to repost this fellow's creatively entertaining responses. He voices a detectible criticism of my own posted opinion but he mostly beats John Houk to a rhetorical pulp, an especially enjoyable thought)
A dissenting View (sort of) from JMyste
I would like to thank John Houk, for without his inspiration I would tend to sympathize with the protesters, ever so slightly, without agreeing with them. This would be the argument:
Here, here! Healing should be our goal. However, we should all take that goal to heart, including Muslims and bald men. Their intention is a kind gesture, but the reality of what it will communicate may not be as kind, and it may not be what they intend. The stereotype we feel is real and though it is emotional and irrational, in is not born of nothing. Surely an empathetic Muslim would have some understanding and perhaps take extra caution to avoid exacerbating the situation. If your world was just destroyed by a bald man, a bald man moving next door to help with your irrational fear of bald men would not be welcomed. That kindness is not needed. Do not help me overcome my phobias, bald men. With time, I will work it out and no terror caused by your presence is needed. In the 40’s, I feared all Asians. Time, not Asian neighbors, cured my phobia.
I do not hold Muslim’s accountable for 9/11, as that is would be wrong. The charitable man in me says to forgive the insult you are preparing, as it is a well-intentioned, though a somewhat thoughtless, idea. The cantankerous old man in me wants to respond shamefully.
The cantankerous fellow will not win (unless this post is his victory).
That is what the sympathizer in me says.
At a personal level, I would not mind the presence of the Islamic center in my community. I have always been a xenophile, and the more mixed the melting pot, the better I feel. I do not share the protesters’ Islamophobia, and I like diversity all around me. If I lived in that community, once the center was built, I would go there, commiserate with members, opining of the sad presence of bigotry that almost prevented the center from existing. I would tell them what thoughtless assholes they were for not being considerate of the irrational feelings of trauma victims. I would play chess. I would discuss philosophy. I would mingle.
If there is anyone who has consistently put me in the Muslim corner, it is John Houk with his constant bastardizing of the Koran’s meaning. I have requested that he do a side by side comparison with similar ideas in the Christian Bible, but he refuses. Not only does he refuse to do the comparison, he refuses to acknowledge or post my request to the comparison. If he cracked his mind ajar and did it, I think he would learn a lot more about the text of his own religion and unlearn a lot of what he knows about the Koran.
I guess what I am really saying is this: I would rather convert to Islam than think like John Houk and I don’t mind bald neighbors, but they should at least hesitate with sympathy, kindness and understanding before moving next door to someone with hair who has recently been victimized by someone without it.
P.S. If I have in any way supported any argument ever made by Sarah Palin, then I recant the whole thing.
I voted against the bill because I will not contribute further to the runaway train of federal spending that has been tearing through Washington. Let me be clear: I know people are out of work, and I don't know a single Senator in Washington who didn't want to see these benefits extended.
- - Senator Michael Johanns (R-NE), July 26, 2010
On Republicans reluctantly opposing unemployment benefits despite their
heart wrenching sympathy for those unable to find work
You basically keep an economy that encourages people to, rather than go out and look for work, to stay on unemployment.
- - Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH), May 24, 2010
In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work.
- - Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), July 12, 2010
Is the government now creating hobos?
- - Representative Dean Heller (R-NV), February 21, 2010
We shouldn't turn the 'safety net' into a hammock.
- - Representative Steve King (R-IA), February 10, 2010
It was over a year and a half ago that D.L. Hughley, who then had an entertaining and informative show on CNN, took Dan Savage to task: "I've seen a lot of people, gay activists, make the comparison of basically equating their struggle with the struggle of black people throughout the civil rights era. And that hits me even me kind of wrong."
It is understandable that racially sensitive people of good will might take umbrage at comparisons between the oppression of gays and that of black people. Were gay people kidnapped and put into a life of slavery? Were they systematically scapegoated as easily identifiable targets?
At the time, two observations occurred to me. First, nobody should have to win a gold medal at the oppression Olympics to qualify for justice. Second, the great similarity is not that of gay people to black people. It is in the quality of the evil thinking directed against both.
Last week David Barton, a prominent conservative, was the subject of some derision for a similar comparison. The NAACP had noted that the Tea Party movement had within it a substantial number of people who could fairly be called racists. That seems to me to be a fair observation. They suggested the movement divorce itself from such views. That seems to me a temperate bit of sage advice. Barton's response was to blast the "liberal left."
"You know, when Jesus got a really big following, they started saying 'oh, he's a wine-bibber, he's a glutton,' they started all the name-calling and finger-pointing; you know, he's trying to install himself as king and he's going to kick out Caesar, trying to get the Romans stirred up. So they used all these ridiculous charges and so this is nothing new."
It had all the appearances of messianic delusion. Those who have had it up to their eye sockets with intolerance greeted it with glee. Steve Benen said this: "For Christians, Jesus was sent by God to bring salvation to humanity Tea Partiers, meanwhile, are enraged about taxes and the president's birth certificate. How is it that I never noticed the similarities until now?"
It is not clear from his disjointed presentation, but perhaps Barton meant something a little less direct. Jesus was criticized for embracing sinners as Tea Party activists are criticized for embracing racists. If that was his point, he might move a little closer to our Lord by reacting as Jesus did: with compassion, forgiveness, and firm rejection. Love the sinner, not the racism.
Another case: Joel Pollak (R-IL), running for Congress, continues to write for the website of Andrew Breitbart, the fellow who smeared Shirley Sherrod with a severely edited distortion of her remarks against racism. He made it look as if she was embracing racism. Pollak responds to criticism by comparing himself with a freedom-fighter killed by the apartheid government that once ruled South Africa. "Like Steve Biko, I Write What I Like."
What might Pollak really mean? . . . . . . I'll get back to you on that.
Then yesterday, the NAACP came out and they said that we're now apologizing to her and they say they were snookered by Fox News and Andrew Breitbart. But as Dana mentioned, there's a timeline problem. Fox News did not do the story until after she had already resigned.
- - Steve Doocy, Fox Personality, July 21, 2010
Responding to criticism of Fox for helping to smear Shirley Sherrod with a
severely edited video distorting her remarks. Doocy denied on behalf of
Fox that they had falsely reported Sherrod's remarks before she resigned.
The Agriculture Department announced Monday, shortly after FoxNews.com published its initial report on the video, that Sherrod had resigned.
- - Fox News, July 20, 2010
Reporting on Sherrod's Resignation, claiming credit for reporting her
"racist" remarks before she resigned.
Days after the NAACP clashed with Tea Party members over allegations of racism, a video has surfaced showing an Agriculture Department official regaling an NAACP audience with a story about how she withheld help to a white farmer facing bankruptcy.
- - Fox News, July 19, 2010
In a report prior to her resignation, since erased by Fox News but still
carried on other conservative sites.
It is sometimes difficult to maintain perspective in partisan debate. When the temptation comes to single out someone for personal smear or particularly harsh invective, it is easy to forget that human beings with real history and real feelings are not cartoon characters.
When Present Obama, then a promising candidate, made a crucial speech directly confronting questions of race and racism, his words included this about black people of an earlier generation: "the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings."
When Shirley Sherrod appeared before a sympathetic audience in Georgia, she spoke of just such feelings and how she overcame them, working her heart out to save the farm of a white couple. Her words were severely edited, deliberately distorted into the opposite of what she actually said. A prominent conservative, Andrew Breitbart, posted the race baiting distortion on his website, and Fox News followed suit, in an endless televised loop. The now elderly white farm couple eventually showed up with an angry defense of Shirley Sharrod and the narrative changed.
Less noted was her eloquent rendition of brutality and death, that helped spawn her initial bitterness and pain. She told of a relative, Bobby Hall, lynched by a white sheriff in Baker County, Georgia, with the help of two confederates. She had much to overcome in order to help that white couple.
William F. Buckley once quoted another conservative's acid comments about Jesuit exercises in debate logic. "Accuse them of killing three men and a dog, they will triumphantly produce the dog alive." Buckley and the fellow he quoted, George Tyrrell, were speaking in transparent hyperbole, making a point with exaggeration. No rational person, after all, would parse words in describing brutal murder. Well, almost no one.
Tyrrell and Buckley have since shuffled off this mortal coil and so are spared the task of reading Jeffrey Lord's attack on Shirley Sherrod. Lord objects to her story. The historical record shows Bobby Hall was beaten to death by the three men "with their fists and with a solid-bar blackjack about eight inches long and weighing two pounds." He was handcuffed. They beat him 15 minutes to half and hour, stopping when they were certain he was dead. Although Shirley Sherrod, speaking from pain, accurately uses the dictionary definition of "lynched", it does not meet Jeffrey Lord's understanding of the word. Therefore, as she speaks of the searing injustice of those horrible days, the truth is not in her, for no rope was used.
In the midst of partisan debate, it is easy to forget that those we oppose are human. Upon occasion, it becomes very, very hard to keep that in mind.
That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.
- - Barrack Obama, Presidential candidate, March 18, 2008
The Republican case against corporate regulation has its advocates. They sing mostly the same tune, differing in degree.
Last week, Don Blankenship started a PR campaign supporting the Republican approach. Don Blankenship is the head of Massey Energy, the coal company whose multiple safety violations preceded the Upper Big Branch mining explosion in West Virginia. 29 miners died. Blankenship presented the two classic conservative arguments. The first is that all the precautions corporations might take cannot prevent at least some loss of life among employers, customers, or the public at large. God's will cannot be thwarted. The other is that business losses give business enough incentive to act against public hazards. Regulations don't work and are unnecessary.
Two months before the explosion, an electrician disconnected methane monitoring equipment, a fact that tends to undercut both Republican arguments, at least in this case. Beyond mining, the effect of the GOP approach can be measured by deaths of little kids. 65 people got sick from E. coli O157:H7 in cookie dough after Nestle refused to let the FDA inspect safety records. Current law does not give the FDA the authority. Kids died after peanut butter was found to be contaminated and company agents ordered the contaminated peanut butter shipped anyway.
A thoughtful blogger, Matt Yglesias, offers a lighter version of the Republican argument. He acknowledges that basic rules of consumer, public, and worker protection need to be enforced. This would be enough to turn the Republican base against any Republican following his prescription. Yglesias is skeptical of a wide range of financial regulation. His argument is directed to consumer protection in banking, but it seems to apply to financial regulation as a whole. "Regulate business to prevent negative environmental externalities, sure. Basic safety, okay. But the idea that what we need is for a bunch of people to get together and say that it would be better to ban this and that and the other capitalist act between consenting adults just strikes me as the wrong way of going about things."
The Republican light approach seems to me to depend a lot on how one defines "consenting." What seems to be consent is not a realistic standard unless "informed" is an essential adjective. Goldman Sachs defended fraud on the basis of a supposedly informed consent. They maintained that clients should be sophisticated enough to know when the game is rigged. They were responsible for their own ignorance that they were being cheated. In fact, memos were found from one Goldman executive boasting to fellow executives of deceiving clients.
Republican leaders have been asked to articulate policy more clearly. They have refused. Self-regulation of Republican policy is undefined. Informed consent among voters is to be accomplished without the adjective.
I think having a moratorium on new federal regulations is a great idea it sends a wonderful signal to the private sector that they're going to have some breathing room.
- - John Boehner (R-OH), July 16, 2010
Christians have called themselves by many names in our history. Among the earliest followers of Jesus, it was common for members of the movement to call it simply "The Way." In those days, one man in particular took the lead in intolerance. Believers learned to fear him. Only one death is recorded, but there were doubtlessly others.
It is a story familiar to many Christians. Saul of Tarsus had heard of a new group of worshipers in Damascus. This was not a traditional house of worship. These people were perverting God's word. He was on his way there when he experienced a sudden blindness and a voice, "Why do you persecute me?" Saul changed his name to Paul and became a follower of The Way, traveling and working tirelessly to spread the word.
I think of Paul as I read of sporadic efforts around the United States to prevent followers of Islam from publicly worshiping as they choose. In Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, 25 Muslim have been told they could worship in an empty building that had been health food store. But their new place of worship was vandalized. On Staten Island, plans to worship in an old, abandoned, convent came to a halt. After protests, the local Catholic parish backed out of plans to sell the building. In rural New York, in Tennessee, in California, efforts by Muslims to worship face opposition.
I can testify that opposition is not universal. Prayers in the Methodist church I attend for a Muslim family I knew who experienced a death were accompanied by messages to that family. A few months later Muslims prayed for my family during a serious illness. Many, perhaps most, Christians view themselves as part of a faith, not part of a tribe.
And so my thoughts go back to the apostle Paul speaking before a crowd in Athens. He noted widespread religious practices. Temples to various Roman gods were vigorously supported. His first words were not condemnation or even caution. He complimented them. "I perceive that in every way you are very religious." If we are to believe this is simply a rhetorical trick, we can dismiss it, along with a very large part of the New Testament composed of letters from a dishonest man.
But if we are to see this one act as a model for a Christian attitude toward other faiths, we should encourage worship according to whatever light each individual finds within. And we should support religious freedom when it leads anyone to reject religion altogether. Respect should be a universal value.
Those in our midst who selectively quote Islamic texts to defame that faith are disturbing. They disturb because they seek to disrupt religious freedom. They disturb because they distort, not one, but two faiths. One is Islam. The other is the faith that leads us to follow Jesus.
We can hope that some among those Christians will hear that same voice: "Why do you persecute me?"
More on the mechanism that the Progressive movement designed to create a failed economic system to try and elude to the concept of capitalism failed and therefore a New World economic plan needs to evolve, the One World Currency under the UN Agenda 21. Then along with UN control over World Resource supply they also can dictate your ability to buy these resources as well.
Okay, I guess, except for progressives replacing capitalism, confusing international reserves with some sort of global currency, and perceiving a plot for UN control in a 1992 international resolution in Rio urging governments to involve ordinary citizens in decisions on regulation, the environment, and ending racism. Would I be petty if I pointed out the use of the word "elude" instead of "allude"?
- James Wigderson swallows hard and goes camping with his son.
I think that all we should do is issue subpoenas and have one hearing after another. And expose all the nonsense that is going on.
- - Representaitve Michelle Bachman (R-MN), July 22, 2010
The next general election Presidential ballot that does not include the name of Barrack Obama will be examined by at least a few new voters with no memory of the 9/11 attacks that made New York and Washington into twin cities. Birth and death, the turning of life's seasons, resigns all things to history. Right now, the anger burns bright and hot.
My workday began late that morning. I had worked into the previous night, and my boss was understanding. I walked in to see co-workers gathered in shocked silence around a television set. When I asked what happened, one turned on me in barely subdued fury. Didn't I ever watch the morning news before work? He was angry that anyone could still be living in some sort of normalcy. Ignorance was no excuse. I was forgiven only as mind numbing helplessness came to me, satisfying his need for shared shock.
One image, later published, stays with me. A man falling, upside down, in a posture of walking. He had apparently jumped to avoid the flames. Fanatics had given thousands of human beings a similar choice. My daughter called me that morning from college on the outskirts of our nation's capitol. We wept together for friends who waited for news of lost family in the Pentagon. We wept for our country. "How could anyone be so cruel?" she cried.
A group of American Muslims wants to build a center near where the World Trade Center stood. Local residents and neighborhood councils back the idea. It is intended as a rebuke to Islamic extremists. Contrast our openness to all religions with your violent intolerance. All Americans, including Muslims, are united against the violence.
Opposition to an Islamic Center near the site of the New York City attack comes partly from pure xenophobia. There is no question that bigotry plays a role in any free society. But part of it comes from all too recent pain. That is the essential point made by Sarah Palin in her message, posted, erased through some error, and re-posted, on facebook. "No one is disputing that America stands for – and should stand for – religious tolerance," she writes. "It is a foundation of our republic." Her opposition is based on compassion for the trauma. She quotes a family member of a 9/11 victim. "I think that it is incredibly insensitive and audacious really for them to build a mosque, not only on that site, but to do it specifically so that they could be in proximity to where that atrocity happened."
Those who seek to empathize might imagine the phobia of an adult who, as a child, was attacked by a bald headed man. What is to be our answer to her very real fear of all bald headed men? Would stern lectures about stereotypes be our compassionate response? The practical choice, the non-bigoted choice, the compassionate choice comes to a simple question.
Must we, out of respect for childhood trauma, prohibit bald headed men from entering the neighborhood? Or should healing be our goal?
There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.
- - Newt Gingrich, July 22, 2010
I remember those times fondly as the days of my daughter's developing sense of fun. I had said or done something to provoke her mirth. I don't even recall what. What is memorable is her look of unselfconscious joy. "We're not laughing at you, Daddy," she said. "We're laughing near you."
Those images arise at uneven times. I could be reading, or commiserating with a grieving friend. In this case, I was angry, having watched a smear artist on television justifying his actions. Andrew Breitbart had gotten hold of a video of a black woman talking about why race should be irrelevant in the face of crisis. She told of her own personal transformation from racial suspicion to full court press effort to save the farm of a white couple decades ago. Shirley Sherrod, a Deputy Director at the United States Department of Agriculture was speaking humbly to a sympathetic gathering at a local meeting of the NAACP in Georgia.
Ham-handed editing of that video made it seem as if she, with the appreciative support of her audience, was boasting about how she is now able to get back at white people. It was the exact opposite from her actual message. It was not only distortion. It was deliberate distortion. The altered video was posted on Breitbart's internet site. Fox played it continuously over a news cycle with a Greek Chorus of television personalities denouncing Ms. Sherrod. It was tailor-made to fit the worst fears and expectations of the conservative audience. "Tailor-Made" is the term.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack demanded and got Shirley Sherrod's resignation. It was a partial replay of the red scare of 60 years ago. In those days, the Truman administration did not really believe that every mildly liberal government employee was a communist agent. But conservative accusations would distract them enough to keep them from doing their best work, and so they were fired. Vilsack explained his actions in similar terms. "When I saw the statements and the context of the statements, I determined that it would make it difficult for her to do her job." Fox made the next development clear for viewers. Obama was placing black militant racists in sensitive positions, letting them go only when caught.
Then the white farm couple, the supposed victims of Sherrod's discrimination, appeared on television to defend her. The game changed, and the Fox narrative changed with it. It seems some television organization somewhere had gotten the story mixed up, and Obama had trashed this innocent lady.
I was most interested in Breitbart's rationalizations. At first, he attacked the elderly white couple for defending Sherrod. How do we know they aren't fakes? Then he too adapted. He has a lot of sympathy for the victim and just doesn't understand why "the media" would do that to her. His real target, he says, was the NAACP. The fact that Shirley Sherrod's audience were laughing during her presentation was a sure signal that they supported, not her redemptive transformation, but rather the original racial antagonism that she rejected. That laughter was proof the NAACP was "more than happy to exploit this nation’s sensitive racial schism for possible political gain." No kidding. That racial-exploitation-for-political-gain is a quote.
We aren't laughing at you, Mr. Breitbart. And we are learning the dangers of laughing near you.
You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?
- - Joseph Welch, Special Counsel for the US Army, June 9, 1954
to Senator Joe McCarthy (R-WI) in reply to a televised attack on Welch's
assistant for prior membership, as a young man, in a Lawyer's Guild