Some of the avenues of attack are easier to anticipate than others. Right now, there are advance copies circulating of a reported memoir I wrote about my times as a drug addict and drunk. I’ve already been called a “crack addict” on Bill O’Reilly’s show, which at least has the virtue of being true, if a little vintage. Expect a return engagement with some added detail. I have a bit of an advantage in that my laundry is already hanging on the line, not to mention that with a face made out of potatoes, the Photoshopped picture of me will have to go a long way to make me any uglier than I actually am.
- - David Carr, for the New York Times, July 7, 2008
On efforts by Fox News to intimidate or silence critics
Far-left zealot David Carr, who uses his media column in The New York Times to push his insane view of life, called the questioning of Obama by the ABC guys "a disgusting spectacle." Carr, a former crack addict, apparently believes that anti-American rhetoric from associates of a presidential candidate is not worthy of discussion.
- - Bill O'Reilly, for Fox News, April 22, 2008
In an effort by Fox News to intimidate or silence one critic
Two weeks ago, conservative Andrew Breitbart put on his website a seriously doctored video of a Department of Agriculture employee speaking to a local Georgia gathering of the NAACP. Shirley Sherrod had been forced by her encounter with a white farm couple to re-examine lifelong racial resentments. She decided to give all she had in a desperate effort to help them save the family farm from foreclosure. Years later, she carried into her position at Agriculture a determination to help those of all races. The doctored video showed her bragging about using her government job to hurt white people.
Fox News picked up the doctored video as part of an ongoing campaign to show their conservative audience how black liberals are black militants, American Muslims are radical Muslims, and President Obama is promoting both dangerous groups in a pattern of anti-American policies. Nervous Agriculture officials forced Sherrod to resign.
When the white farm couple angrily defended Sherrod, Fox covered up, erasing their original story and denying Fox had run anything before she resigned. It was a clumsy effort, briefly documented here.
Conservatives defend Breitbart in several ways. Breitbart himself says he is innocent because his real target was the NAACP. “This story is about the NAACP falsely accusing the tea party of being racist,” is how he explained it to CNN. It is an interesting defense. It is okay to defame an innocent person if that person is merely collateral damage. “I did not ask for Shirley Sherrod to be fired. I did not ask for any repercussions for Shirley Sherrod.”
Brent Bozell, a conservative internet publisher, has another accusation, based on Sherrod's original undoctored speech. "I'm also waiting for Ms. Sherrod to publicly apologize," he says, "for accusing anyone opposed to nationalized healthcare of being racist." Bozell does not bother editing a tape to prove his accusation. Here is what she actually said: "You know, I haven't seen such a mean-spirited people as I've seen lately over this issue of health care. Some of the racism we thought was buried. Didn't it surface? Now, we endured eight years of the Bush's and we didn't do the stuff these Republicans are doing because you have a black President."
Most fair observers would agree that mean people were highlighted during the health care reform debate. Racism did surface. Bozell is allowed to take offense at the weird notion that the strange visceral Republican hatred of America's first black President comes from racism. But his claim that she painted every opponent of health care reform as racist is simply not true. This approaches paradox. It's a false accusation about a false accusation.
Let's get brave and go way out on a limb here. When a conservative falsely smears a civil servant as a black racist to support an accusation that the nation's preeminent civil rights group is made up of black racists, and other conservatives paint legitimate observations by that same civil servant as false cries of racism, their problems may have a common root. When it comes to racism, methinks Jack-the-Ripper doth protest too much.
Andrew Breitbart is going to be fine. He's done nothing wrong. I wonder if Ms. Sherrod, who is such a champion of transparency, will publicly disclose who is putting her up to this. And I also hope this champion of honesty will stop lying about Fox News. I'm also waiting for Ms. Sherrod to publicly apologize for accusing anyone opposed to nationalized healthcare of being racist. Last time I checked, that was more than half the country.
- - Brent Bozell, July 29, 2010
Conservatives make another accusation against Shirley Sherrod
You know, I haven't seen such a mean-spirited people as I've seen lately over this issue of health care. Some of the racism we thought was buried. Didn't it surface? Now, we endured eight years of the Bush's and we didn't do the stuff these Republicans are doing because you have a black President.
- - Shirley Sherrod, March 27, 2010
Not even close to what Conservatives like Bozell are accusing
Where is my faith? Even deep down ... there is nothing but emptiness and darkness ... If there be God — please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul ... How painful is this unknown pain—I have no Faith. Repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal, ... What do I labor for? If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true.
Thus were the private musings of Mother Teresa. Her thoughts were revealed posthumously, during early stages of beatification, possibly leading to sainthood. Beatification is not a set of simple steps. It is a process involving investigation and a good deal of argument. The phrase "Devil's Advocate" originated as a slang term for Promoter of the Faith, a canon lawyer assigned to argue against sainthood. But Teresa's confession of non-faith was not publicized by the Promoter of the Faith. Rather, it was released by the one arguing in favor of sainthood, her postulator, Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk.
Noted atheist Christopher Hitchens seized on the revelation as proof of the essential fraudulence of Mother Teresa and, more broadly, of spiritual faith itself. Most Christians recognize her doubts in their own history. Many regard such feelings as a sign of spiritual humility. I carry in my wallet a prayer by the late Father Thomas Merton.
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself;
and the fact that I think that I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
My friend and frequent critic, JMyste, instructs me on the virtues of agnosticism, but I remain a stubborn student. I suspect that in her most painful moments, Teresa's doubt was closer to Merton's faith.
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