When We Do It, It’s Democracy; When You Do It, It’s Tyranny

January 12, 2011

[Let me make perfectly clear, at the outset, that I’m not laying specific blame for Jared Lee Loughren’s actions at the feet of Sarah Palin, or Rush Limbaugh, or Glenn Beck, or….  Not that I expect this disclaimer to matter much.  As I’ve been reading blogs and comments sections over the last few days, it’s pretty much impossible even to mention one of the right-wing heros without drawing immediate defensive responses that have little or nothing to do with what actually got said.  But hey, it’s worth a try.]

An extended version of a discussion that just started on my Facebook page when I posted a link to Sarah Palin’s statement re: the Giffords’ shooting.

Apparently, in Palin’s world, exercises in vicious rhetoric are “healthy debate” and “democracy” when Republicans do them.  Witness–

Some signs from Tea Party rallies (there are zillions more of these, of course, but I’m trying to make the point quickly)

When Rush Limbaugh says, “What Mr. Loughner knows is that he has the full support of a major political party in this country. He’s sitting there in jail. He knows what’s going on, he knows that…the Democrat party is attempting to find anybody but him to blame. He knows if he plays his cards right, he’s just a victim. He’s the latest in a never-ending parade of victims brought about by the unfairness of America…this guy clearly understands he’s getting all the attention and he understands he’s got a political party doing everything it can, plus a local sheriff doing everything that they can to make sure he’s not convicted of murder – but something lesser.”

When Sarah Palin herself posts an advertisement with crosshairs over the districts of Democratic incumbents whose politics she doesn’t like.

When Palin’s spokesperson denies that the crosshairs are gunsights.

When Joe Wilson yells “You lie!” at the President of the United States during a speech in front of the entire Congress and nation.

When Sarah accuses then-candidate Obama of “pallin’ around with terrorists” (Former Weatherman Bill Ayers)

When Sarah adopts the riff of “real Americans” as a central campaign theme in 2008, as if to suggest that anybody who’d vote for Obama isn’t a real American.

Endless criticisms of mainstream media for “gay-friendly” depictions of relationships, leading to the degradation of marriage, the evils of children everywhere, wars (oh, hi, Westboro Baptist freaks!), and so on.

Referring to the Affordable Healthcare Act as “socialist” and claiming that it will install “death panels”

The orchestration (largely organized by Freedom Works, although many Tea Partiers may not know that) of disruptions all over the nation at health care Town Hall meetings

This list could go on and on and on and on and on.

You could (I won’t, but it’s possible to) make an argument that, in fact, these are healthy exercises in democratic process.  As Palin herself puts it, democracy requires vigorous debate and exchanges of ideas; if you don’t like what somebody does/says, vote ’em out!  And that’s true.

The problem with Palin’s statement is the double-standard it applies.  That is, it’s fine for Republicans/conservatives to depict Obama as Hitler; to blame entertainment and news media for the collapse of “family values”; to disrupt Presidential speeches by accusing the President of terrible things; and so on.  But it’s “irresponsible” (gasp), unconscionable for anybody to explore the possibility that the extremely vitriolic, vicious, violent language that she and her ilk (Beck, O’Reilly, Limbaugh and the gang) deploy at just about every opportunity, might have had even the least bit to do with what happened on Tucson on Saturday.

So when you and your friends say it, it’s democracy.  When my friends and I say it, it’s “irresponsible,” or as you and Rush often like to put it, tyrannical.

As I concluded the Facebook post this morning (this is about as concisely as I can say it, which is why I’m just using it again)–

Be quiet, Sarah. Unfortunately, the same arrogance that makes you think we care what you say keeps you from understanding when you need not to talk.

Extremism on both sides? Let’s make this perfectly clear

January 9, 2011

I wrote a post about a month ago in which I disputed the “liberals and conservatives are equally vitriolic” claim, but feel like it’s worth saying something else about that.  A friend posted this link on Facebook this morning, and I (not to put too fine a point on it) DEFY any of you to develop evidence that liberals have planned, attempted, and executed this many acts of horrific violence–just in the last TWO YEARS.

Or put it this way: sure, there are plenty of angry lefties.  I’m one of them.  But the “Both sides are just as bad” argument is total bullshit.


Where were the Tea Partiers when…

January 7, 2011

This list flies around e-mail distribution lists from time to time.  A debate I was having on Facebook last night with a high school friend who’s very conservative made me think about it; I’m glad I saved it the last time I received it.


You didn’t get mad
when the Supreme Court stopped a legal
recount and appointed a President.

You didn’t get mad
when Cheney allowed Energy company
officials to dictate Energy policy and push us to invade Iraq.

You didn’t get mad
when a covert CIA operative got outed.

You didn’t get mad
when the Patriot Act got passed.

You didn’t get mad
when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.

You didn’t get mad
when we spent over 800 billion (and counting) on said illegal war.

You didn’t get mad
when Bush borrowed more money from
foreign sources than the previous 42 Presidents combined.

You didn’t get mad
when over 10 billion dollars in cash just disappeared in Iraq.

You didn’t get mad
when you found out we were torturing people.

You didn’t get mad
when Bush embraced trade and outsourcing
policies that shipped 6 million American jobs out of the country.

You didn’t get mad
when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.

You didn’t get mad
when we didn’t catch Bin Laden.
You didn’t get mad
when Bush rang up 10 trillion dollars in combined budget and current account deficits.

You didn’t get mad
when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.

You didn’t get mad
when we let a major US city, New Orleans, drown.

You didn’t get mad
when we gave people who had more money
than they could spend, the filthy rich, over a trillion
dollars in tax breaks.

You didn’t get mad
with the worst 8 years of job creations in several decades.

You didn’t get mad
when over 200,000 US Citizens lost their
lives because they had no health insurance.

You didn’t get mad
when lack of oversight and regulations
from the Bush Administration caused US Citizens to lose 12
trillion dollars in investments, retirement, and home values.

You finally got mad

when a black man was elected President
and decided that people in America deserved the right
to see a doctor if they are sick. Yes, illegal wars, lies, corruption,
torture, job losses by the millions, stealing your tax dollars to make the
rich richer, and the worst economic disaster since 1929 were all okay with
but helping fellow Americans who are sick…Oh, Hell No!!

Ted Koppel flashback

November 1, 2008

As I was walking home from school yesterday, I kept having this flashback to an episode of “Nightline” right before the 2000 election.

With all the GOTV hype in high gear, Koppel ended the episode with a remarkably brave commentary, something along the lines of, “Yes, voting is essential to democracy, but if you don’t really understand who or what you’re voting for, stay home.  Don’t cast a bad vote just because you think you’re supposed to.”

I can’t help but think about that commentary as I read/hear news that many likely Republican voters believe the most bizarre things, and are likely to cast their votes based not just on a lack of information, but on actual misleading information.  Some believe Barack Obama is a closet Muslim radical; others believe he and Bill Ayers are plotting some kind of terrorist attack; others believe he’s laying the groundwork for a revolution; some believe he supports socialized medicine, or a government-sponsored revenue-distribution system.  And those aren’t the really weird ones.

So, inspired by Koppel, I want to revive his plea.  If you don’t have real information on which to base your decision, stay home.  Pretty much everything the Republicans have said (or helped shadowy activist groups say) about Barack Obama over the last 2 years is a lie.  Al Gore was right during his speech to the DNC; the reason the Republican Party lies so much and so nastily about Obama is that they’re very, very scared of him.  And not scared of his race.  And not scared of his religion, or his charisma, or his public-speaking ability.

The Republicans, at least the ones who really run the show, are terrified that he will give our country back to the citizens, instead of a small group of ultra-wealthy elite who have been pillaging our souls and our treasury for the last eight years.  They like being in charge and being able to steal with impunity, and they’re scared that an Obama presidency will end their game.

They should be scared.  They should be even more scared when millions of voters who have tired of their theivery show up at the polls to oust the Republican party from the White House and Congress.

If you don’t understand, because you don’t have enough good/true information, why that needs to happen, stay home.  A vote for the Republican ticket is NOT a vote for your own self-interest unless you’re ultra-wealthy.  A vote for the Republican ticket is NOT a vote for the collective good of the country, which they couldn’t give two shits about and never have.  A vote for the Republicans is NOT putting “Country First.”

And if you think it is, you’ve been misinformed.  So stay home.

Traitors (again, or more of the same)

October 11, 2008

Last summer, across several threads of this blog, I (and people like me) got accused time and again of being a traitor because I don’t support the US occupation of Iraq, because I’m an academic (and therefore must be advancing a revolutionary agenda every time I teach), because I don’t support Israel’s right to kill Palestinians (and for the record, neither do I support Palestinians’ rights to kill Israelis), etc.

At the time, I was infuriated by the accusation.  It galls me to no end for neoconservatives to accuse anybody who disagrees with them of trying to destroy our country.  I’m still mad about it, as you might imagine if you’ve been called one of the worst things in the world.

The last couple of weeks of presidential campaigning have put the nastiness of last summer into some perspective.  For one, I’ve realized that neocons toss around the word “traitor” willy-nilly.  They know perfectly well that I do not actively work to destroy or undercut the Constitution or our country.  They also know perfectly well that Barack Obama isn’t trying to destroy our country.  I guess the short version is that I’ve become innoculated against the charge because they apply it to everything and everybody they don’t like.

Second, although some of the folks who were fighting with me on the blog got pretty nasty, it’s nothing compared to the threats that are emerging from (and being stoked by) the McPalin campaign.  Even Republicans are getting nervous about the simmering violence and hate being aroused, especially by Sarah Palin, on the campaign trail.  The Secret Service, it seems, have decided that the freak who yelled “Kill him!” at a Palin rally last weekend probably wasn’t talking about Obama.  Huh?  Who else would he have been talking about?  And with the increasingly violent and frequent shouts of “Off with his head!” and “Traitor!” and “Treason!” and others, why would anybody believe that Obama wasn’t the target?

I, like many, are afraid of what might happen as a result of this increasingly vicious tone.  However, having been the object of a (very minor because I’m not very important, but still…) smear campaign, and having faced death threats because of an editorial I wrote for the Philly Inquirer some years ago, more than fear I feel deep, tragic sadness that the very-far right-wing has come to this.  It wasn’t enough to slaughter innocent Iraqis and Afghans in wars they weren’t even fighting.  It wasn’t enough to see a ruling cabal installed in the White House without even winning an election, and hand over the reins of our government to a small group of people who serve their own interests only.  It wasn’t enough to label anybody who disagreed with them unpatriotic or treasonous.

Now they have to attack a presidential election ticket that couldn’t be less traitorous, less “Socialist,” less dangerous to the core values of the US Constitution, and they have to incite levels of hate and fear to do it.  It’s humiliating, as a citizen not just of the country but of the world, to know that others all over the planet believe these snakes speak for our nation.

So, here’s a plea to all you McPalin supporters who are so angry about Barack Obama’s success that you advocate violence towards him and his supporters–

SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!  You’re hurting your candidates.  You’re hurting your party.  You’re hurting our nation. You’re much more dangerous that Obama/Biden could ever be.  I don’t believe you’re “traitors” any more than I believe I’m a traitor, but your hatred and violence are bad and wrong.


Progressivism, Populism, and the American Dream(s)

September 14, 2008

My friend John sent me this excellent analysis by Dave Sirota.  Short version–the Democratic Party has lost sight of the working class version of the American Dream, which allows people to be successful and secure in working class jobs.  Instead, he contends, the Dems have traded that dream for one in which white-collar professional jobs are the essence of the dream.  For the rest, read on–

The article is by Dave Sirota who is a syndicated columnist. It can be found on his daily blog at: http://www.cred oaction.com/sirota/

His main web page is at: http://www.davidsirota.com/

> September 8, 2008 10:29 AM
> Trampling Working-Class Voters With the Professional Ideal
> By Dave Sirota
> To start this post, let’s first stipulate that the Republican Party of artistocrat George W. Bush labeling “elitist” the Democratic Party of up-from-the-bootstraps Barack Obama is about the silliest, most intelligence-insulting frame ever attempted by a major political party in contemporary American history. But let’s also consider the very important point in this fascinating article by Aziz Rana in N+1 magazine.
> Rana suggests that the reason Obama – and Democrats in general – have had trouble with working-class voters has to do with the underlying assumptions in their most favorite contemporary narrative – you know, the ones about people working hard, going to college and becoming high-paid professionals. That’s Obama’s whole life story, and the story that countless Democratic politicians tell as their version of “The American Drea m.”
> The problem is that’s not the only American Dream.
> There’s also a long history of the dream being one of making a living and – just as important – attaining social status through farming, small-business development and factory work. That is, a dream whereby the aspiration is not to emerge from blue-collar-dom into the professional class, but to achieve the dream WITHIN blue-collar-dom:
> “Three earlier accounts of the American dream not only survived but were real competitors [to professionalism] for social preeminence. In Thomas Jefferson’s founding republican vision, yeoman farmers were ‘the most valuable citizens…the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous,…tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interest by the most lasting bonds.’ To this Jeffersonian vision of ‘the cultivators of the earth,’ a rapidly urbanizing nineteenth century added the small-business owner and the unionized industrial worker …These three versions of the American dream each still constituted a viable route to meaningful political and social life.”
> The problem is that over time, our political culture has promoted just “the professional ideal, which values only certain types of work and thus implicitly disdains the rest.” That phenomenon hasn’t happened because of Obama (obviously). It is due to many factors. A big one, for instance, is a media dominated by millionaire pundits and commentators who regularly bill their white-collar professional path as the only respectable career trajectory – and one that is supposedly open to everyone (when, of course, it isn’t). Another is an activist political class dominated by adherents to and products of that professional American Dream – an activist class, in other words, that is largely run by those who have no connection to, appreciation of (and this is the most critical one) or belief in that working-class American Dream. However, Obama’s own pe rsonal story, his rhetoric and the DLC-ish, Third Way-esque posture of Democrats when they address economic issues undeniably reinforces the
> mage that the party, indeed, subscribes ONLY to this professional ideal of the American Dream – one that inherently looks down on blue-collar America because “it is an inherently exclusive ideal, structured around a divide between those engaged in high-status work and those confined to task execution.”
> What references to blue-collar America that are typically made by Democrats are those that hearken back to an earlier “Golden Age” – rather than those implying that blue-collar America remains a vibrant, honorable and important part of our country – beyond its historical hagiographic value in sepia-toned campaign ads. Those who have chosen blue-collar work are not to be mourned over as those who tragically failed in their supposed real goal of becoming a lawyer, nor are they to be celebrated for their quaintnes s – they are to be held up as equally as economically valuable, culturally important and worthy of political power as the white-collar crowd that preens around with a hubristic air of entitlement and superiority.
> Here’s the real crux:
> “The professional and educational meritocracy justifies a basic hierarchy in which only those with professional status wield political and economic power [and] Barack Obama’s political ascent reiterates the current dominance of the professional ethic…From 1932 until 1968, the Democratic Party rested on two descriptions of American life–the American dream as embodied by the rural farmer and the industrial worker. It gained sustenance from a respect for these accounts of middle-class achievement, economic independence, and democratic inclusion. Today’s party, however, has given up on establishing new forms of solidarity for nonprofessional citizens. All it has to offer is a lose-lose proposition: join the competition f or professional status and cultural privilege at a severe disadvantage, or don’t join it at all. The party holds on to the social programs of the past, but in ever more truncated form. It presents a politics of consensus while ignoring the fact of basic division…
> Obama hopes to save his party and to address the interests and experiences of working-class citizens, he will have to challenge the hegemony of the professional and with it the closing of the American dream.”
> I disagree with Rana in ascribing any kind of blame to Obama for living the life he lived, and having the success he’s had. Obama should be proud of that story, and talk about it often. I also disagree with Rana in the either/or proposition that suggests you either voice the professional American Dream, or you voice the blue-collar American Dream. I actually think progressives can walk and chew gum at the same time by voicing both. And, of course, Obama’s trouble with working-class vote rs is at least partially due to America’s persistent struggle to be comfortable with African American (and other minority) political leaders.
> All of that said, I agree that Obama’s (and the Democratic Party’s) insistence on avoiding major issues that raise class conflict (like, say, trade reform or confronting corporate power) is a product of a fealty to the professional American Dream. I mean, as I noted in an earlier newspaper column, here we have a Democratic Party that could skewer John McCain on the class-based issue of NAFTA – and there has been almost complete silence on that set of issues since the Democratic primary.
> And let’s be clear: it’s not just avoidance and silence, either. It’s often times more overt, like when every Democratic politician has to preface any vaguely populist declaration about trade and outsourcing by saying they aren’t a “protectionist.” What they are really asserting when they say that is that they believe protecting blue-collar jobs isn’t really all that desirable, because they believe Americans think blue-collar work isn’t really a desirable ends – that if anything, Americans see factory, small-business and agriculture jobs as merely a means to a white-collar professional ends.
> But that’s not the way working-class America sees the world, says Rana – and says American history. And until Democrats realize that – until they present an agenda that proves they truly believe there is value in the non-professional path – they will struggle to win over working-class voters drawn to the the GOP’s culturally populist appeals.

Forget the Constitution! Even stop signs don’t stop Republicans!

September 10, 2008

I walk a lot because I voluntary gave up my driver’s license when I moved to a town where I can walk or mass-transit almost anywhere I want to go.  As a result, I spend a lot of time carefully crossing streets while drivers blow stop signs, yap on cell phones, etc.

Every campaign season, I do an informal survey.  Among cars that blow stop signs, how many of them display partisan stickers or messages?

The early returns on this year’s survey are consistent with what I’ve seen before.  So far (in the last two weeks), 100% (20/20) of the cars with partisan stickers on them that have blown stop signs have been McCain supporters.

No surprise the party that routinely scorns the Constitution would also scorn other rules of law–apparently, those laws simply don’t apply to them.

Who says English profs can’t do science?  Hee hee hee.  It’s a JOKE.