Thursday, May 22, 2008

clearly, this is what we are fighting for

Such sickening, absurd brutality:
A court in Kabul today adjourned its verdict in the appeal against the death sentence of journalist Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh of Jahan-e Naw (The New World). The 24-year-old was sentenced to death for blasphemy by the first chamber of the Mazar-i-Sharif court in northern Afghanistan on 22 January 2008... Kambakhsh's summary trial in Mazar-i-Sharif was held behind closed doors and without a defence lawyer. He has been imprisoned since 27 July 2007 and is currently being held in the Pul-e-Sharkhi jail in the east of the capital.

Reporters Without Borders has a petition you can sign online to help save Sayed's life. The British periodical The Independent has launched an additional petition drive . You can sign it even if you aren't British.

Naturally, the U.S. government has nothing to say...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Really? They're...gasp...negotiating???

According to Reuters:
Israel and Syria said on Wednesday they had launched indirect peace talks mediated by Turkish officials in Istanbul, the first confirmation of negotiations between the two neighbors in eight years. In coordinated statements, the two governments said they had launched an open dialogue with the aim of a comprehensive peace. Turkey said delegations of both countries, officially at war since Israel's creation 60 years ago, were already in Istanbul.

I thought appeasement was EVIL EVIL EVIL! That's what that fleshy-necked old guy told me. Oh and that one guy who's our President; he said something about it too. I thought only elitist-black-muslims-in-disguise and Neville Chamberlain believed in negotiation. Wow. Imagine my surprise...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

the candidate of hope...

The Left Business Observer on historical analogies to the inevitable progressive disappointment in Obama:
Enough critique; the dialectic demands something constructive to induce some forward motion. There’s no doubt that Obamalust does embody some phantasmic longing for a better world—more peaceful, egalitarian, and humane. He’ll deliver little of that—but there’s evidence of some admirable popular desires behind the crush. And they will inevitably be disappointed.
As this newsletter has argued for years, there’s great political potential in popular disillusionment with Democrats. The phenomenon was first diagnosed by Garry Wills in
Nixon Agonistes. As Wills explained it, throughout the 1950s, left-liberals intellectuals thought that the national malaise was the fault of Eisenhower, and a Democrat would cure it. Well, they got JFK and everything still pretty much sucked, which is what gave rise to the rebellions of the 1960s (and all that excess that Obama wants to junk any remnant of). You could argue that the movements of the 1990s that culminated in Seattle were a minor rerun of this. The sense of malaise and alienation is probably stronger now than it was 50 years ago, and includes a lot more of the working class, whom Stanley Greenberg’s focus groups find to be really pissed off about the cost of living and the way the rich are lording it over the rest of us.
Never did the possibility of disappointment offer so much hope. That’s not what the candidate means by that word, but history can be a great ironist.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

...or you could just force people to watch dancing with the stars...

From Popular Science's article on scary weapons comes another bright idea by the Military-Industrial Complex--the folks who gave us the gay bomb.

This time it's the Puke Light.
...the flashlight uses ultra bright, rapidly pulsating LEDs to first temporarily blind and then induce nausea and sometimes vomiting. The pulses quickly change color and duration, which can cause psychophysical effects in many people...

Haven't they ever heard of "puke and rally?"

Fortunately, the article concludes that the pukelight "is a promising tool for non-violent enforcement." So remember to be careful the next time y'all decide to flee a Dennys or something.

Friday, May 16, 2008

"If I am fit to kill, am I fit to live?"

Stumbled across this beautiful, horrifying poem by Nancy Scott:

Night of the trucks.

On a deserted stretch north of Baghdad, sixty seconds of pure instinct.
Smell of diesel fuel. The conflagration, smoke roiling as one enemy truck explodes,

sparking others. Men on fire come running, mortar round cuts a man in half.
At first, a sense of exhilaration, how easy it is to pull the trigger, grateful

not to be charred and screaming. If you hesitate, you won't survive.
In this macho culture, Did you see the way I dropped that guy?

Memory is an amplifier. Feeling neither brave nor joyous;
later, the worst hangover you can imagine. Thousands of miles away, waking in a sweat,

especially when the wrong people die -- young girl with her nose blown off,
husband carrying his dead wife. Scraps of flesh among the ashes.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

death penalty politics

This week our guest on Shared Sacrifice is Lydia Kalish, the Utah State Death Penalty Abolition Coordinator for Amnesty International. Ms. Kalish will outline Amnesty International’s worldwide efforts as well as her personal work in Utah. She will also be delighted to take questions from our live audience.

In the soon-to-be-immortal words of my enthusiastic co-host: "We encourage all listeners to call in and share the sacrifice. Call in. Stand up. Speak out." Our call in number is 347-327-9615.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

On "Abstain from McCain" and "Obama as Plague"

If one wanted to create, from whole cloth, a story illustrative of the Marxist critique of religion, they couldn't write one better than this. And it brings in so many other elements of cultural critique; it's like xmas for critical theorists. Obama is the devil's minion...the devil's sexy black minion, come to seduce our wives and daughters; he is the black plague, our punishment for deviating from traditional (white) values, established (white) governmental limits, the this-is-what-happens-when-you-don't-kill-enough-muslims candidate...but because they think they're going to lose to him, conservative christianity has to spin some theodicy out of it.

It's McCain's fault too. If he would only be more conservative. But...but then he'd lose even worse. No he wouldn't...God would see to it that he won, even if he received fewer votes than Obama. God would see to it because McCain would be on God's side: hating immigrants, laughing at poor people, secretly wishing we could build gay death camps, you know, Bush kind of stuff. Only God, you'll recall, could create more votes for Bush in some districts than there were citizens in those districts. Only God could give us Scalia.

But alas, it's not to be: There will be no divine intervention in favor of McCain, because he's a fence-sitter and doesn't talk the authentic apocalyptic code. So we're stuck with the plague, Obama. The
"-Wahabi RADICAL Muslim terrorists who are now waging Jihad against the westernworld Hussein downplay his Muslim background Koran plan on destroying the U.S. from the inside out one of their own Please forward to everyone you know You would think it is a cult, the way people follow him The Antichrist will be a man who can unite the world grew up in a Muslim family the man riding a "White Horse" with a crown on his head no one but the Father can say when the end is Satan always has to have someone at the ready to fill in the role Hitler gave good speeches too ex-crack-head gang member marxist a set-up by liberals and their media scary angry african american wife disgusting racket the start of a self-sacrificial, tribalistic, village economy that will surely bleed to its own death."*
I have something to say to anyone who thinks God chooses presidential candidates and Obama is a plague: Take a shoe and beat yourself in the ear with it as hard as you can, repeatedly. Seriously, God wants you to. He told me. Trust me, I'm white.

"Instead of comforting the people, who are full of cares and wearied by their hard lives, who go to church with faith in Christianity, the priests fulminate against the workers who are on strike, and against the opponents of the government; further, they exhort them to bear poverty and oppression with humility and patience. They turn the church and the pulpit into a place of political propaganda." (Rosa Luxemburg)

*consolodated from hundreds of blog comments, freeper posts, and other wacky paranoid anti-obama sites.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

What Clinton Supporters Don't Realize

If Clinton were to somehow, against all odds, force her way into the nomination, then look for a Nader-type left candidate to really do a number on the Democrats in the fall. It could be Nader, it could be Cynthia McKinney (the latter perhaps especially appealing after Hillary race-baits her way into the nomination), or a combination of both (McKinney is the strongest candidate the Greens have had since Nader, and the Nader/Gonzales campaign is coming out aggressively).

An Obama nomination is substantially less threatened by these tickets precisely because Obama, whether accurately or not (I say not so much) has the leftist credentials that Hillary is deliberately moving away from.

I think it's more likely that a Clinton nomination will spur defection on the left than that an Obama nomination will spur defection on the If Clinton gets the nomination, particularly because it would throw the entire selection policies of the Democratic Party into question, watch a lot of Obama supporters become McKinney or Nader supporters (and at that point I would be happy to say welcome aboard).

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Wyo Senate Candidate Rothfuss Interviewed on Shared Sacrifice

Happy, excited, to be making this announcement:

On Saturday, May 10, from noon to 2:00 PM Mountain Time (2:00-4:00 PM Eastern), Christopher Rothfuss will appear on Shared Sacrifice, a new progressive internet radio program, for an extended, policy-oriented conversation. Rothfuss, a chemical engineer and former U.S. State Department adviser in the Offices of Science and Technology and Space and Advanced Technology, is running against Republican Senator Mike Enzi (R. WY).

Shared Sacrifice can be heard at The show will be archived, but live callers are encouraged.

The excitement doesn't come because I've decided to join the Democratic Party (haven't). It's because I really enjoy doing interviews with people all over the political spectrum--particularly those, like Chris, committed to ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

"I strongly support the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. We have now been there for 5 years. It has cost us nearly 4,000 American lives and over a trillion dollars. We don't have any tangible objectives or an exit strategy, but we claim to be 'making progress.' Regrettably, I don't know what we are progressing towards. I don't see any realistic accomplishments on the horizon that would be worth trading even a single additional American life. We are now primarily concerned with eliminating Al Qaeda in Iraq, an organization that arrived in Iraq after we did – and only because we were there – and that seeks to destabilize the fledgling Iraqi government because it hurts the United States to do so. It is time for the Iraqis to stand up and take control of their own destiny. I believe our exit will only help the Iraqi people."

Plus I like Chris. He's a great guy with a great family. We don't agree on everything, obviously, but I wish him the absolute best in his just and fair campaign. I look forward to talking to him and hope a lot of people listen.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Rothbard contra Egalitarianism: A Quarter Century Later

Murray Rothbard was an iconoclast and, among his admirers, was considered a genius. A libertarian and disciple of Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, Rothbard occupied a unique location among a more complex wing of the capitalism-socialism/state-anarchy debates: Rothbard was an eloquent pro-market, anti-statist, anti-war libertarian. Some would even call him an anarchist, and if I read his life correctly, he called himself that for some time. Throughout his life he was willing to work with those on the left in practical struggle against the excesses of the military-industrial complex. Those collaborations, however, ultimately proved incompatible, for him, with his love of markets, and utter refusal to consider their flaws.

A quarter century ago, Rothbard published what would become a minor classic of political literature, “Egalitarianism as a Revolt against Nature.” Young novice libertarians still read it with excitement, and old-timers smile broadly and assign it to their neophytes. It’s appealing because it purports to overturn a largely agreed-upon moral value. In that sense, it evokes the excitement of Atlas Shrugged or, more accurately, “The Virtue of Selfishness.” In whatever other ways they were at odds, the Randians and the Austrians agreed on matters of style. I think they were unconsciously preaching to their respective choirs, for whom the sound of an argument mattered more than its substance. Nothing much has changed on this point, and there are only so many ways to reassert the foundational premises of bourgeois apologetics.

Rothbard's curious choice of foils reveals that he is primarily concerned with arguing against Platonists and those who see ethics as akin to aesthetics. He is a foundationalist through and through, but also the most frustrating kind of foundationalist, one who picks and chooses various analytical representations to link to rhetorically compelling metaphysical assumptions.
If a theory is correct, then it does work in practice; if it does not work in practice, then it is a bad theory.

I'm sure this seemed like a very insightful statement in the 1960s. Now, like so many of Rothbard's points, it's trivially true, somewhat quaint, and also misleading. No self-respecting scholar would utter a sentence like “this theory is true.” A theory is never "true" to begin with and is not self-consciously constructed to be so. Political theories, in particular, can be rendered "false" in a variety of discursive or material ways. Remember, Rothbard will ultimately collapse to his own "theory" of "human nature" in order to explain the impracticality (and thus, for him, the "theoretical falsity") of egalitarianism. We are then free to point out "impracticalities" in his theory, rendering it false. All in all, a banal and dismal way to discuss political theories— and not the way we typically do so historically or practically.

This reliance on an overt metaphysical theory isn't something I'm interpreting Rothbard to say. He says it quite clearly:
To put it more precisely, if an ethical goal violates the nature of man and/or the universe and, therefore, cannot work in practice, then it is a bad ideal and should be dismissed as a goal. If the goal itself violates the nature of man, then it is also a poor idea to work in the direction of that goal.

He will spend the rest of the essay asserting a few iron laws of the nature of man and the universe (though remaining understandably vague as to their systemic justifications) and mischaracterizing the egalitarian political orientation as being devoted to an extremely absurd praxis of “equality.”

In one particularly important early section of the essay, Rothbard discusses two dystopian, anti-state stories: Hartley’s Facial Justice and Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron.” It is in reading this section that two things became clear to me: (1) Rothbard is a great critic of totalitarianism, and (2) Rothbard does not effectively link the critique of totalitarianism to a critique of “socialism,” or even social democracy, or any of the things he feels are horribly coercive, like taxation. In fact, and I know this to be the case, socialists can read Hartley and Vonnegut too. Hartley's distopia is one of privilege for a few and enforced scarcity for everyone else. This more resembles the dictators on the right in, say, Latin America, dictators supported by the United States as bulwarks against the communism Rothbard deplores.

The platonic "beauty" that saves the characters in Facial Justice is itself, being platonic, entrenched in a metaphysical scheme where, ironically for Hartley, and completely missed by Rothbard, transcendent beauty can only exist in contrast to enforced, mundane materiality. In the end, the normative message of individuals having the capacity to form their own identities and judgments is a vision opposed to the totalitarianisms of both corporate capitalism and chauvinistic collectivism. Rothbard would have known this if he'd bothered to read his French contemporaries, or even condescended to a sympathetic reading of Herbert Marcuse.

The same is true, perhaps to an even greater degree, for the Vonnegut work. George and Hazel Harrison were certainly rendered “mediocre” by the Handicapper General, under the rhetorical justification of “equality.” The emptiness of such equality is made obvious in the second half of the opening sentence of “Harrison Bergeron,” “and everyone was finally equal.” This is a grotesque caricature of egalitarianism, and Rothbard isn’t the only one who has misinterpreted Vonnegut in this way.

(For what it’s worth, towards the end of his life, Vonnegut became a contributor to many leftist publications and never professed any great love for capitalism. But then, alas, the far right reads Orwell incorrectly too…)

In a nutshell: Hartley and Vonnegut criticize distopian, totalitarian states where people's facial or physical features are "equalized" by force, through an appeal to an empty notion of “equality” that relieves, rather than empowers, people with the responsibility to help each other and stand in solidarity with each other. Rothbard, in turn, equates the violent, absurdly forced equalization of people's persons with taxation and income redistribution. He does this in order to apply the rhetorical force behind direct physical violence to persons and the metaphorical violence of paying taxes. That's fine, but that means such an unstated step in thinking is thoroughly criticizable itself. (Such a critique is beyond the scope of this essay, but here’s a hint: We are not, entirely, our wealth, and the generation of wealth is never, for the most part, individually achieved.)

At certain points, Rothbard's sophistry is almost embarrassing, because he begins so many arguments with hopeless mischaracterizations of that which he opposes; a kind of ad hominem and equivocation in one sweeping gesture:
What, in fact, is “equality”? The term has been much invoked but little analyzed. A and B are “equal” if they are identical to each other with respect to a given attribute. Thus, if Smith and Jones are both exactly six feet in height, then they may be said to be “equal” in height. If two sticks are identical in length, then their lengths are “equal,” etc. There is one and only one way, then, in which any two people can really be “equal” in the fullest sense: they must be identical in all of their attributes. This means, of course, that equality of all men—the egalitarian ideal—can only be achieved if all men are precisely uniform, precisely identical with respect to all of their attributes.

In short, the portrayal of an egalitarian society is horror fiction because, when the implications of such a world are fully spelled out, we recognize that such a world and such attempts are profoundly antihuman; being antihuman in the deepest sense, the egalitarian goal is, therefore, evil and any attempts in the direction of such a goal must be considered evil as well.

In other words, “equality” as an analytic concept means A and B are exactly the same. Egalitarians love equality, therefore they want to make everyone exactly the same. This mischaracterization, which eludes the eye of the sympathetic, is the basis of his appropriation of dystopian fiction, his ability to label egalitarians as pathological (see below), and his central rhetorical strategy: evoke an image so terribly unreasonable as to make the reader incredulous that anyone could believe such foolish things.

Later, Rothbard writes:
At the heart of the egalitarian left is the pathological belief that there is no structure of reality; that all the world is a tabula rasa that can be changed at any moment in any desired direction by the mere exercise of human will—in short, that reality can be instantly transformed by the mere wish or whim of human beings.

Although some post-structuralists are egalitarians, most egalitarians are not post-structuralists, nor does Rothbard convincingly argue that egalitarianism collapses into poststructuralism. He simply asserts a different set of “laws” of reality. Moreover, no egalitarian –certainly not Marx or the Marxists—has ever argued that reality can change merely through the exercise of a wish or a whim. This is the one passage where I find myself questioning my intellectual respect for Rothbard. Does he seriously believe these characterizations? Or is he guilty of felonious hyperbole?

In an effort to give credit for the points in the essay where he actually satisfied the criteria of “making an argument,” I began to catalogue Rothbard's metaphysical warrants:

1. the "Iron Law of Oligarchy" or, the tendency (unalterable for Rothbard) for people to become leaders and followers.
2. Jefferson's alleged argument about "natural aristocracy."
3. "the biological nature of man"

I’ll stop there. History, in totality, makes no judgment as to the tendency of divisions of labor to be ultimately determinative of positions of privilege. The very fact that people can think of ways to make workplaces, cities, and nations more “equal” in terms of material access (an equality that is not, in the least, of the stripe that causes gulags or Handicappers General) proves that oligarchy is not an iron law.

What about Jefferson’s “natural aristocracy?” Reading the reference in Jefferson’s original letter to Adams, it’s clear that Jefferson is criticizing a number of things that interfere with the ability of a society to choose its “natural” leaders. Among these are inequalities of wealth. Another interfering factor is the tendency of weaker-minded people to use force in place of ideas. All of these things are caused by the imposition of what, in risky modernist terms, we might call “unnatural hierarchy.” Rothbard’s libertarianism is capable of recognizing such sources of unnaturalness in governments and mobs, but not in the excessive accumulation of wealth.

As for Rothbard’s notions of the “biological nature of man,” I’ll just segue into his very weird discussion of feminism. We've been around the block so many times on this issue that Rothbard's quaintness is cute in places and irritating in others. We already know there are intimate biology-based connections between mother and child (and that those connections can be severed by unnatural "cultural" acts such as war, genocide, and extreme poverty). But we also know that fathers can find similar traits within themselves, and we've come a hell of a long way in our consciousness of how both two-parent and single-parent families function. Yawn, we know that men and women are built differently, but since we've also mastered the use of technology to overcome other "natural" barriers (strange for Rothbard to ignore this since capitalists usually love technology), we also have very nuanced ways of negotiating “biological differences.”

Other parts of Rothbard's gender analysis are borderline despicable and hopelessly out-of-date, such as his citation of "'the psychological consequences of different sexual postures and possibilities,' in particular the 'fundamental distinction between the active and passive sexual roles' as biologically determined in men and women respectively." But I will leave it to others to explain just how messed up such notions are…if others want to, that is. I mean, time is a valuable resource. But my take: One message of “feminism,” broadly speaking, is simply that biology need not be destiny, and that it should not account for varying layers of unwarranted privilege. This is one of the most important equivocations Rothbard makes, and it's the foundational equivocation of all of these seemingly erudite and dry-witted conservative essays against egalitarianism: "THERE ARE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PEOPLE. IT'S BAD TO TRY TO MAKE EVERYONE THE SAME! CLASS PRIVILEGES ARE DIFFERENCES! RESPECT ALL DIFFERENCES!" Silliness.

Rothbard's arguments in the essay against "culture" (what we would today call "social environment") as an explanation for social inequality suffer from the same dated dichotomy. Decades of research and reflection have yielded the conclusion that one cannot tell where culture ends and nature begins, or vice versa. We know that people do change when their environment changes, and that beliefs and cultural practices tend to correspond to material and social situations. We also acknowledge the complexity that renders both old-school progressive and old-school social Darwinist claims problematic.

Rothbard’s dismissal of Trotsky’s ideal as fantasy is, again, a quaintly dated dismissal in the face of what we now know about the interaction between environment and consciousness—to say nothing of history itself. Genetics itself interacts with history. Advances in science and technology, including the self-reflective advances of a new generation of scientists seeking to avoid the arrogance of the past, cast nearly all of Rothbard’s oversimplified scientific descriptions into doubt, the categories themselves dated and unstable. If you think I am unfairly dismissing his arguments, try this thought experiment: Imagine him making entirely similar arguments in favor of our unalterable biological drive towards the social, our evolution-driven and neurological tendency towards collaboration; imagine him attributing his “division of labor” to the very necessity that work be coordinated between people. Imagine him subsequently using these aspects of our unalterable, iron nature to dismiss the arguments of those self-serving, thoughtless libertarians. In place of Stalinism, he could throw in starvation. His case would satisfy leftists’ longing for scientific validation (heck, I’d throw in with him), while being utterly unconvincing to those on the right.

In the end, there are two “critical” ways read Rothbard’s classic essay: On the one hand, Rothbard gave his readers--people who already agreed with him and were just looking for a quick, erudite-sounding justification--a delightfully circular argument: 'Rather than appealing to its external effects, we should assert that egalitarianism is categorically evil. It is categorically evil because it goes against human nature. We can discern that it goes against human nature by observing its inevitable external effects.'

On the other hand, Rothbard's ultimately circular essay demonstrates that some of the brighter pro-capitalist minds realize that their world of the powerful constantly grabbing more power is ultimately incompatible with a minimum quality of life for the world's poor, and if we're going to convince people that capitalism is a universal good (rather than being really good for some of us, kinda good for others, not so good for other, awful for others…), we'd better concentrate on abstract morality rather than material consequences. It is a strategy that has reared its head time and again, and will continue to do so as capitalist life grows more unstable for more people. Don't expect any such deployments to be any less clumsy than Rothbard's. And he was a pretty smart guy.

Ultimately, the problem with libertarianism is precisely what Rothbard claims is the problem with socialism: Libertarianism, with zero hint of irony or self-reflection, posits a metaphysical caricature in place of a theory of humanity. I will go a step further, go out on a limb, and say that the socialist picture of human nature is more nuanced, acknowledging that both freedom and determinism are true, taking into account the paradoxical relationship between them. But you don’t need to agree with me about that, and I won’t question your intelligence or your ethics if you disagree. It’s something we can discuss another time, perhaps. And I also don’t mean to imply that egalitarians –socialist and otherwise—aren’t often guilty of the same kinds of caricatures and oversimplifications. Ultimately, questions like those asked by Rothbard are thought-provoking, but nothing in this canonical Rothbard essay stripped me of confidence in the soundness of my beliefs, any of which I’m happy to debate when I have time to do so.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Hillary Clinton and the Smell of Race-Baiting

Here's the editorial I read on today's "Shared Sacrifices" internet radio show. I'm not sure how much more editorializing I will do: I want to do other things in regards to the show: interviews, sketch-writing, production. I don't particularly want to argue with strangers anymore...But at any rate, this piece was intended to start a conversation with Democrats, not people who are obsessed with defending Bill O'Reilly...

The following rant assumes outcomes not entirely in evidence. There’s still a chance, maybe a good one, that Barrack Obama will be the Democratic candidate for President. But that chance is slipping, and in anticipation of all possibilities, something needs to be said.

If Senator Clinton wins the primary, it will be because she effectively exploited racism. This much is virtually beyond debate. From innuendos in the Carolinas to a sit-down chat with Bill O'Reilly, from post-McCarthyism to a reliable dash of Willie Horton, she has not only played the race card, but borrowed a number of hands from experienced card sharks. Doug Thompson of Capital Hill Blue thinks it’s beyond innuendo, that she is using “overt racism.” Thompson, a southerner himself, recognizes the code, just as Clinton’s advisers do. In the same commentary, he points out that “[e]xit polls from [the] Pennsylvania primary show nearly one-fifth of those who went to the polls admit racism determined how they voted -- and that's just those who admitted it.”

A likely scenario is that Clinton is going to keep doing this, through Indiana and North Carolina, driving the point home that she can win the bubbas and Obama can’t, solidifying her lead among the superdelegates and making the delegate and popular vote so close that the Party will be able to effectively wave off any protest concerning Obama’s slight lead. Hillary will be nominated, and hope that everyone forgets the depths to which she sank in the primaries.

Then, all of you, my Democrat friends, will vote for her in the general election, rewarding her willingness to play her dirty game. Most of you would have preferred Obama, and many of you campaigned for him with a vigor and energy I haven’t seen in the Democratic Party in a long time. But if Obama loses the nomination, whatever the reason, you’ll be “stuck” with Clinton, who defeated your candidate by appealing to fear and derision of his race.

Before you protest that she’ll be better than McCain, just answer me one question: How much better must one candidate be than another in order for you to tacitly condone and actively reward race-bating?

I’m not talking about policy differences here. I’m asking whether either your so-called liberal pragmatism, or your Party loyalty, will actually lead you to reward someone for exploiting racism. And if your answer is a sheepish, ashamed “well, yes actually,” then my next question is: What would Hillary Clinton have to do for you not to vote for her?

Sure, there will be those who disagree with Obama on policy matters. They'd vote against him whether he were black, white or Asian, and most of those people are beyond Clinton’s reach, just as those who would vote against either a black or a woman are beyond her reach. But among those Clinton is enthusiastically courting now are the millions of white Americans who are simply and secretly afraid of being led by a President of color; those who have either never confronted their own semi-conscious racism, or have confronted it and decided, for the sake of social acceptability, to keep it below the surface. For the benefit of the closet racists, Obama has been held up to every standard imaginable and examined with microscopes and Geiger counters in the hope of finding something "above board" to stick to the man, so that when white moderates, independents and Democrats reject him, they can say they’re doing it for policy reasons rather than because, well, yeah.

Hillary Clinton has both actively and passively supported this racist double standard. She is perfectly comfortable implying either that Obama is unelectable because he’s black, or that he is the “wrong kind” of black candidate. She "unconsciously" compared herself to Lyndon Johnson in the context of Obama being an MLK (even though Obama never claimed to be an MLK). When asked for her reaction on the outrageous "Obama is a Muslim" charge (a charge she must have known to be completely false), Clinton said "There is nothing to base that on, as far as I know." In the debate in Cleveland, Clinton demanded that Obama "repudiate" Louis Farrakhan, a figure Obama had never embraced in the first place. (Don't expect anyone to demand that John McCain distance himself from David Duke, even though the latter has put up "McCain/Duke in 08" web sites and has vigorously endorsed McCain.) [SEE MY EDIT BELOW: I WAS WRONG; DUKE DOESN'T SUPPORT MCCAIN, AND I WAS CONFUSED BY WEB SITES--SORRY] Senator Clinton did not repudiate or clarify Bill Clinton's Jesse Jackson comparison or Bill’s later innuendo that a contest between McCain and Clinton would be the only one featuring “true Americans.”

Then Clinton went on the O'Reilly Factor.

Let's be clear about what kind of choice this was for her. Many moderate and liberal politicians have long avoided O'Reilly, a choice that their colleagues and constituents have seen as reasonable. Bill O’Reilly’s never done her any favors before, but she recognized that a lot of the so-called Reagan Democrats watch and identify with him. Clinton could not have been unaware of O'Reilly's track record on race issues. He said of a black musical group singing at a charity function "I hope they're not in the parking lot stealing our hubcaps." He used the term "wetback" on the air when describing immigrants--twice--and also denied he used it. In an interview with Stuff he said "the most unattractive women in the world are probably in the Muslim countries." In an on-air segment on black athletes he said "Look, you know as well as I do most of these kids come out and they can't speak English." O'Reilly might not be a racist in the David Duke old school mold, but his insensitivities and frequent slurs give legitimacy to those among his audience who are.

Clinton didn't have to go onto the show of a man who routinely expresses racially divisive ideas or displays insensitivities (for that matter, feminists out there, she didn't have to go on the show of a man who sexually harassed a former producer of the show). She chose to out of expediency, just as she has chosen to embrace and deploy enthymematic and just-under-the-radar tactics that play on people's fear of Obama, the cosmopolitan Black with the dangerous sounding name. Nation editor Betsy Reed put it best when she wrote: "It's disappointing, to say the least, to see the first viable female contender for the presidency participate in attacks on her black opponent's patriotism, which exploit an anxious climate around national security that gives white men an edge both over women and people of color -- who tend to be viewed, respectively, as weak and potentially traitorous."

This case is pretty clear, folks, although I suspect you’ll act angrier at me than you will at her: If you vote for Clinton, you are, in a very literal sense, rewarding her race-baiting political tactics. You are saying: The next time a white politician runs against a black politician, the white politician should do the same things Clinton has done. You might deny you are doing these things. You might even be and act offended by her race baiting, but that doesn’t change the quality of your vote, or what it will represent. There's no way to nuance a vote in an election, no way to "vote for Clinton with the additional clarification that I renounce her race-baiting tactics." In fact, the only way to truly renounce her tactics is to not vote for her.

You can appeal to the lesser of two evils all you want. In this instance, you’re going to vote for a candidate who actively and conscientiously deployed racism to win her nomination. How different, really, is that from voting for a racist outright?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Tomorrow's Radio Show...and go Jazz!

First, tomorrow's radio show, Shared Sacrifice, which comes on at noon mountain time at (and is archived in case you can't listen at that time), has a full agenda: Gary will rant about, among other things, military talking heads. I'll cover the McCain health care "plan" and also have something to say about Clinton, Obama, and the racism game in mainstream politics. We are also expecting a very frightening mystery guest.

If you're listening live, CALL IN!

Second, the Utah Jazz made it to the Western Conference semis, where they will play the Lakers. This is a repeat of the explosive seven game semifinal series twenty years ago, with different, but equally compelling characters.

We can nitpick about this, but I think the similarities are impressive...