Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"a dangerous step backward for Honduras and threatens democracy across Central America"

From the National Labor Committee, a powerful statement against the coup in Honduras:
Democracies thrive only when democratic institutions operate peacefully and under the rule of law...President Manuel Zelaya has supported the rights of trade unions in Honduras, which is one of the reasons the wealthy businessmen and oligarchs are so anxious to remove him from office.

Operation Rescue Targets Another Doctor

After successfully aiding in the murder of George Tiller (not hyperbole, folks: O.R. ran a "Tiller Watch" website and published not only Tiller's home address but also the address of the church where he was killed) and getting away with it, Operation Rescue is now targeting a Nebraska doctor. The objective is perfectly clear: intimidate all abortion providers into thinking they, too, will be killed. This is the face of the conservative pro-life movement in America now.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

the futility of centrist liberalism and the batsh*t craziness of conservatives part infinity

Everyone knows I voted for neither Obama nor McLame in '08. Still, I find Frank Rich's summation of how Obama has been treated, and how the right has gone militia-shit-crazy, to be a perfect summary of the last six months:
What is this fury about? In his scant 145 days in office, the new president has not remotely matched the Bush record in deficit creation. Nor has he repealed the right to bear arms or exacerbated the wars he inherited. He has tried more than his predecessor ever did to reach across the aisle. But none of that seems to matter. A sizable minority of Americans is irrationally fearful of the fast-moving generational, cultural and racial turnover Obama embodies — indeed, of the 21st century itself. That minority is now getting angrier in inverse relationship to his popularity with the vast majority of the country. Change can be frightening and traumatic, especially if it’s not change you can believe in.

Even people I know well are in on this. Speaking of the climate bill he so vigorously opposed, Phil Kerpen, a conservative debate acquaintance of mine, called liberals communists on his opportunistic appearance on the Glenn Beck show the other day (in all fairness, Beck egged him on, and Phil is really, really desperate to make it big in right wing punditry). So Phil--did you know that some people want to KILL communists? Shoot them? Did you think about that? I mean, you could have used another term, since "communism" technically means the withering away of the state that follows the public ownership of large-scale means of production, rather than the liberal-statism represented in the controversial and imperfect climate bill. But you couldn't help yourself, could you, Phil? You were wrapped up in the moment and saw this as your big chance to prove yourself with your constituency: the militia-shit-crazy right. If I get shot, I'm blaming you, birdbrain. Boy will I be sore.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Congratulations to my friends at the University of Kansas


It's nice to see billboard-level support for the most empowering academic activity there is. Good job, Jayhawks!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

who is Victor Agosto and why is he refusing deployment to Afghanistan?

Our guest this Saturday, June 27 on Shared Sacrifice Weekend is Specialist Victor Agosto of the U.S. Army, who is refusing orders to deploy to Afghanistan. Agosto returned from a 13-month deployment to Iraq in November 2007, was based at Fort Hood, and was stop-lossed and ordered to go to Afghanistan. He refused, stating "The occupation is immoral and unjust. It does not make the American people any safer. It has the opposite effect." If Agosto continues to refuse orders, he almost assuredly will face court martial, and likely jail time.

Live stream from Noon-2:00 PM mountain time, Saturday
Our call-in number is (347) 327-9615
More information about Victor is available at http://ivaw.org/node/5121
We are at www.blogtalkradio.com/shared_sacrifice and www.sharedsacrifice.us

The Misunderestimation of Michael Weiner

Michael "Savage" Weiner, a wretched, deeply disturbed clod, has promised to publish pictures and "other pertinent information" of members of Media Matters for America. Even if he thinks he's joking, this constituted a deliberately provocative, fearmongering, violence-inspiring speech act, its connection to the Operation Rescue-facilitated murder of George Tiller establishing an undeniable thickness of context.

Thus, we wonder if conservative commentator Bruce Walker will re-evaluate his earlier remarks, in a column for the American Thinker, taking the United Kingdom to task for including Michael "Savage" Weiner on a list of incendiary undesirables earlier this year. In the spirit of fairness, I am about to ask Mr. Walker that very question. I'll keep y'all posted.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Torture Accountability Rally SLC--We'll be podcasting live

Gary from Shared Sacrifice will be podcasting live at this event, and I'll be in the control room taking your calls. If you can't attend the rally in person, attend via the podcast! http://www.blogtalkradio.com/Shared_Sacrifice

Torture Accountability Action Day Demonstration
Justice Requires Accountability! Demonstrate in favor of truth and accountability for war crimes. Join the impassioned call for disclosure of the truth, reform, and deterrence against future abuses.

Music by Shades of Gray and Emma's Revolution

Event Speakers will include Troy Williams (KRCL), Rocky Anderson (Executive Director, High Road for Human Rights), Linda Gustitus (President, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture), Marshall Thompson (Iraq veteran and peace activist), Torin Nelson (Former Military Interrogator), Karen McCreary (Executive Director, ACLU of Utah), Archie Archuleta (Community Activist), and Gil Iker (WWII veteran)

Organized by High Road for Human Rights, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, ACLU of Utah, Amnesty International, and The Wasatch Coalition for Peace and Justice

When: Thursday, June 25, 5 PM

Where: Washington Square (West Side of the Salt Lake City and County Building), 451 South State Street

Al Giordano: What the Left Should be Learning From Iran

Al Giordano: What the Left Should be Learning From Iran

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

No Clash of Civilizations

My piece on Christian-Islamic reconciliation, through the lens of progressive secularism and nonliteral religiosity, has gotten some positive feedback on facebook. Feel free to spread it around to other venues.

fear of an international Marxist middle class

From the Prudent Investor's blog: Britain's Ministry of Defence comissioned one of those "possible future studies" and, in addition to some genuinely scary and weird stuff, came up with this interesting scenario:
"The middle classes could become a revolutionary class, taking the role envisaged for the proletariat by Marx," says the report. The thesis is based on a growing gap between the middle classes and the super-rich on one hand and an urban under-class threatening social order: "The world's middle classes might unite, using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest". Marxism could also be revived, it says, because of global inequality. An increased trend towards moral relativism and pragmatic values will encourage people to seek the "sanctuary provided by more rigid belief systems, including religious orthodoxy and doctrinaire political ideologies, such as popularism and Marxism".

I'm not sure what "popularism" is; is it a Brit version of "populism?" I wonder about the person who, in the brainstorming session of the future scenario study, suggested the proletarianization of the middle class. "The world's middle classes might unite" in a successful effort to "shape transnational processes in their own class interest." Is that the least, or worst, of the Defence Ministry's worries? Interesting stuff.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

everyone who voted for Obama should send him the following message:

Mr. President, your support is collapsing in every sector. Right now it's a mile wide and an inch deep, and more and more people are walking away from you, or divorcing you in their minds, with each passing day. You are acting like a weakling, a tool, a DLC and corporate lackey. You haven't done a goddamned thing to help the people who were counting on you. If you give up on universal health care, then I will tell everyone I know to give up on you.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Debating Single Payer: The Rules

Rule # 1 for arguing against single payer health care: you can't raise arguments that have already been answered multiple times in multiple places. You have to show why the quality of your evidence against SPHC is better than proponents of SPHC. Proponents have done their work and, as my math teacher used to say, shown their work. Show yours. Make the debate deeper. Or shut up and stop repeating unverifiable stories of waiting, lower quality, etc., none of which would compare to DYING due to a lack of health insurance in the United States. I am serious about the argumentative rules--abide by them.

Or else...

Fox, Coburn knew about affair before Ensign

Fox, Coburn knew about affair before Ensign's admission

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

a joke I just made up


Q. What's the difference between Dick Cheney and Ted Kaczynski?

A. Dick outsourced.

Why are conservatives so desperate to pin soldier-shootings on "anti-war left?"

What do we know about Abulhakim Muhammad? Muhammad is accused of killing Army Pvt. William Andrew Long and wounding Pvt. Quinton I. Ezeagwula in a shooting two weeks ago at a Little Rock recruiting center. He was targeting military sites as well as Jewish sites. He attended the Omar Ibn el-Khattab mosque in Columbus, Ohio, an apparent breeder of extremism, whence emerged
Nuradin Abdi, convicted in 2007 of planning to blow up an Ohio shopping mall; Iyman Faris, convicted in 2008 of planning to blow up New York's Brooklyn Bridge, and Christopher Paul, convicted in 2008 of conspiring to use explosives against targets in the United States and Europe.

We know that he used to be named Carlos Leon Bledsoe, changing his name to Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad after converting to Islam in 2004. Subsequently, he traveled to Somalia and Yemen, looking to study with a militant imam.

Sounds like your average alienated person. So why, apart from opportunism, does Michelle Malkin link the Muhammad's alleged killings to "leftist anti-recruiting militancy?" For the same reason professional extremist Debbie Schlussel is quick to blame the Holocaust Museum shooting on "Muslims and their many defenders on the left."

Of course, defending the civil liberties of Muslims and others is not an endorsement of Islamic theology, or Islamic fundamentalist ideology. I dare Debbie Schlussel or Michelle Malkin to find any truly "left" or "progressive" documents doing so. You're far more likely to find the work of pioneering Persian or Arabic socialists and progressives, people like Mansoor Hekmat, who opposed "political Islam" as much as he opposed Western imperialism. Tough spot to be in, but that's also the spot in which American progressives often find themselves.

The key is to articulate our orientation. We oppose imperialism, but we also oppose the unsophisticated, violent drivel that rises up as a response to imperialism in the absence of some better alternative. Don't forget that the U.S. created the space for this deadly and hateful ideology--as did the Soviet Union, a nation that spent the better part of a century convincing people that Stalinist totalitarianism was "progressive." In order to fight the Stalinists, the U.S. propped up Islamic fanatics, including in their battles with Islamic moderates.
It is only due to the criminal role of the Stalinist two-stage theory that these movements of national liberation could not culminate in social revolutions. It was entirely possible that had the Stalinist leaders of these parties not relied on the so-called "national bourgeoisie" the whole outcome would have been different. If the Communist Parties had kept an independent class stance and adopted the policy of the united front within the national liberation struggle, this could have grown into the social revolution.
The examples of India, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Algeria, Indonesia and several other countries are too glaring to ignore. It was due to the class collaborationist policies of the Communist Party leaders, and their lack of trust in the virgin and vibrant proletariat, that these revolutions were aborted and in some cases, like Iran, these policies actually led to the imposition of Islamic fundamentalism.

From a world of strong Islamic left wing currents uncommitted to Stalinism in the 1950s and 1960s...
One of the cornerstones of US foreign policy was to sponsor, organise, arm and foment modern Islamic fundamentalism as a reactionary weapon against the rising tide of mass upsurge and social revolutions. The Jamaat-e-Islami and Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen were singled out for the job mainly due to their viciousness and fanatical neo-fascist character. After the Suez defeat the imperialists gave top priority to this policy. Large sums of money were dished out by the special operations department of the CIA and the Pentagon. They provided assistance in devising the strategy and training of these religious zealots .
However, in these societies the fundamentalists were finding it difficult to get a base of support, as wave after wave of left wing currents swept across these countries. They had no alternative but to fall into the lap of imperialism for their survival and existence.

Utilizing a more reasonable logical schematic than Malkin or Schlussel, I conclude that, if ideological causation is so important to their case, it is American imperialism which is ultimately responsible for crazy people doing violent things in the name of Allah.

Other righties are eager to do their part.
...financial analyst and radio host Jim Lacamp said on Fox News that "we have an administration that's really done a lot of class warfare, a lot of class-baiting. And so, it sets the stage for social unrest"; syndicated radio host Tammy Bruce repeatedly claimed that the Obama administration's "increasing anti-Israel rhetoric and the pandering to the Jew-hating world Arab world ... encourages all the beasts among us"; and Newsmax.com posted a column claiming that "[i]t is no coincidence that we are witnessing this level of hatred toward Jews as President Barack Obama positions America against the Jewish state."

So why are conservatives so desperate to pin A. Muhammad on the left? Because they've been caught with their pants down twice, their hate flacidly waving in the wind. Also, because, since many on the left are willing to step up and defend the civil liberties of Muslims, conservatives surmise that this must mean radical Islam is kin to leftist politics. It is that assumption that poses the greatest threat to the political credibility of the anti-war, anti-capitalist, social justice movement.

Malkin, Schlussel, and the rest of the crowd want us to believe that white supremacists, black racists, and anti-semites are taking their marching orders from a liberal African American president. Perhaps this kind of excessive unreasonability is why Eric Boehlert writes that "the right-wing blogosphere is literally built upon fabrications. And because that's the road to stardom, everybody's eager to hatch new whodunits." (For what it's worth, most of the blogs claim the White House was silent on the Arkansas shooting after condemning the Wichita murder. Hogwash.)

We also know that the United States Federal Government, at least if you judge them by policy and enforcement logistics, is more eager and prepared to prosecute Muhammad than George Tiller. Muhammad is being charged with terrorism. He will get the death penalty. Tiller won't get the death penalty from the Kansas prosecutor who is charging him; it remains to be seen whether the federal government will step in on Tiller. I predict they won't. The FBI had been investigating Muhammad, but they'd received reports on Tiller and hadn't even bothered to follow up on those reports. The right-wing think tank Stratfor has been quoted as citing its always unnamed "inside sources," who told them that "law enforcement organizations had been ordered to 'back off' of counterterrorism investigations into the activities of Black Muslim converts." This may be the single most convenient collection of facts the far right that has ever fallen on the far right's lap. As I have commented before, having more than a passing familiarity with think tanks, I declare Stratfor to be the exaggeratin' Uncle Jimmy of think tanks, always smugly reliant on "their" exclusive, unnamed inside sources. There's simply no independent evidence for this charge, and it conveniently plays into the far right, and apparently not-so-far-right talk that Obama is a secret Muslim.

Progressives are universalists. We respect differences and the beauty of cultural diversity, we understand that different groups and families move through history differently, but we don't say "these people love freedom and these people don't." But we don't say "your anti-torture position doesn't apply to China" or "your same-sex marriage rights don't apply to Saudi Arabian gays." If someone claims they're on the left and does those things, they're not really a progressive, and you shouldn't listen to them. Cultural relativism is an anthropological tool to remain objective and scientific. It's not an ethical maxim where human rights are concerned. Progressives favor democracy over the lack of democracy, consensus over imposition, dialogue over silence, deliberation over silencing. This is why progressivism is inherently opposed to fundamentalist, literalist, undemocratic forms of religion, across the board. Criticism from the left against American excess in the war on terror is neither inappropriate in a "time of war" nor a cheer or nudge for those engaged in futile and immorally (and apolitically) indiscriminate attacks on U.S. or other targets.

Radical Islam draws its ideology from, among other things, Nazism. Despite calling it "National Socialism," it was nationalist, which means anti-internationalist, and thus not leftist. It was rooted in the notion of racial superiority, again contrary to internationalism, as well as the left's universalism (a component of the Enlightenment, early political economists (including Adam Smith), Left-Hegelianism, Marxism, the American and French revolutionaries, and so on). The biggest mistake made by virtually everyone on the right and a few on the left is to equate the battle fought by Islamic extremism with an "anti-imperialist," anti-capitalist battle.

As Sunsara Taylor wrote two years ago:
To call these fundamentalist forces "outmoded" is not some swear word, nor a reflection of some kind of "prejudice," ... "Outmoded" and reactionary speaks to the content of their own specific version of a very oppressive program for the masses of people in these countries. And on another level, "outmoded strata" expresses the class relations involved. These forces represent old ruling strata in these societies--not the interests of the masses of the people.

Progressives reject the violence committed by Abdulhakim Muhammad, but it's important to say why. In addition to the tragic death of Private Long and the wounding of Private Ezeagwula, there is the ultimate amorality of ideological extremism. There is the futility of individual acts of terrorism. There is the unfair stereotyping of Muslims that will occur as a result. There is the imitative acts that have been sparked, another sick byproduct of this. And last, and certainly merely a tactical concern, paling in comparison to the tragedy of murder, there is the risk that such actions will be exploited by war-mongers and redbaiters. I hope that in addressing that last reason, I've clarified a few things about all the others.
In the meantime, William Andrew Long, rest in peace, and peace to your family. Whatever your own beliefs, and the agenda of the elites so far removed from you, you sought to be honorable and selfless, and you did not deserve to die.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sarah Palin: The Ed Wood of Politicians

Tom Degan has it right: Letterman's joke was in poor taste and not really that funny. Palin's response was one part exaggerated moral outrage (it's more likely the Palins were angry, not shocked and hurt, by Letterman's bad joke; angry in the way that a drunk gets "angry" when challenged to a fight in a bar) and three parts calculated, engineered, purposeful politicking, rhetorical posturing that included their daughters at their choosing. But if calculated, why so laughably stupid?

Watching Palin in this latest episode made me realize that some political players are simultaneously calculating and mediocre. Watching them is like watching a movie made by Edward D. Wood Jr. By now everyone knows that the mediocrity --and often outright incompetence-- of Wood's moviemaking became part of the aesthetic identity of his movies. Similarly, but in an ideologically supercharged way, Palin's awkwardness when confronted with even slightly intellectually demanding questions, her seemingly unironic embrace of an adolescent tone or a Sunday School sternness, have all become part of her aesthetic identity.

Except, of course, that this particular train wreck of a director has her own constituency, some of whom are prepared to kill for her. And that's where Palin's transparent calculated behavior, unaware of its mediocrity and absurdity, should serve to educate us rather than merely entertain us. Imagine government run by Ed Wood. Most of Wood's laughable glitches and obvious cheap tricks resulted from Wood's Attention Deficit approach to filmmaking; he was unfocused, uninterested in details and processes, anxious to exploit personal relationships to get things done rather than go through deliberative channels. Since the process was shallow, the product was shallow, its flaws forgotten by its maker, drowned in a trough of alcohol and self-justification.

Similarly, Palin (like her running made John McCain) represent a class of anemically stupid politicians who believe they have created artifacts of absolute genius just because they fancy themselves creators. Irritated by demands that they submit their work to rational criteria, they attack the criteria as elitist, insisting on mythical plain-folks filters with which to view the shaky productions that hide the depressing reality of their agendas.

Monday, June 15, 2009

betting on dumbassery

Can't Republicans find a more intelligent person than Sarah Palin to lead them out of the wilderness? I understand your desperation, your willingness to look for the virtues of someone seemingly so willing to take up the mantle, your sudden, deathbed conversion to feminism, and all that. But the woman is silly, shallow, deceitful, self-serving, inconsistent, and above all, she sounds stupider than a sack of nails. Got that? She sounds ignorant. Maybe, you're thinking to yourselves, well it worked with Bush: lots of people are more comfortable with those folksy types who ain't overly edumicated. But if that's the explanation for SMART conservatives cheering Palin on, then I'm truly disappointed in you. You don't truly believe in meritocracy if you long for a stupid person to represent your party, in hopes that all the people you deem stupid will come back to your ranks. That's just...stupid.


An interesting (philosophical) take on Obama's struggles with progressivism

"Obama, John Rawls, and a Defense of the Unreasonable"

Thanks to Steve Mancuso for bringing this to our attention.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The link between conservatism and extremism...still waiting for the deconstruction


Every time someone in the GOP says something really, really stupid, and all the other GOPers say that those people don't speak for the party, I think that soon they'll be a new party consisting of everyone who's been sworn off by the GOP.

Two important new pieces, from vastly different sources, one grass roots and the other uncomfortably bourgeois, both on the question of GOP/Limbaugh/Fox-inspired violence, whether a link exists, how in the world a link possibly couldn't exist, etc. At what point does overclaiming a link allow liberals to dodge sociological, structural, and scientific explanations for the increase in violence and intolerance--a predictable effect of increased anomie, alienation and insecurity during the impending collapse of the current phase of capitalism?

Anyway, Frank Rich, for the New York Times...

...and Sara Robinson at Blog For Our Future; same premises as Rich, a little more firm in delivery.

occupation FAIL

So I wrote this on the blog last August 8, in the context of the alleged rape of Jamie Leigh Jones:
Imperialism creates victims on the outside, but it also colonizes itself on the inside. In so many ways, from hatred to divisiveness to violence to poverty and alienation, we are a colonized and brutalized civilization. The solutions must be found in our collective self-criticism, solidarity, and emancipation. And we must get out of Iraq and Afghanistan as quickly as possible--not merely because of the harm our presence does there, but because in order to survive a transition away from our status as empire, we need to learn humility.

With no end to our awkward occupations in sight, with the U.S. blocking efforts at a referendum on U.S. troop withdrawal in Iraq, and generally getting mucked up and seeming to kill a lot of innocents in Afghanistan, it seems like those words are even truer now.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Happy Anniversary, Andrea

Still the best description of how we came together:



You were spoken for
I spent twenty lifetimes at your door
But your heart was busy within
Building bomb shelters under your skin
That's the shape I found you in
That's the shape I found you in

I was calling to you
It was one thing I knew how to do
But my heart tried to cheat
Building safety nets under my feet
So if I fell I would fall right in
That's the shape you found me in

You were delivered to me
We were closed as the stores on Christmas Eve
So I felt around in the dark
Building rope ladders into your heart
Climbing hand over hand to get in
That's the shape I found you in
That's the shape I found you in

another reason we need to be in a post-restriction framework on abortion

As Katha Pollitt points out in her brand new column, the decision to not re-open Dr. Tiller's clinic proves one thing:

Terrorism works.

A terrorist was able to accomplish something the pro-life movement was unable to do using legal means.

Obama's Secret Moves On Health Care - CBS News

Obama's Secret Moves On Health Care - CBS News

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A morning snippet of Vi Ransel poetry

From "The Driver" - -

What’s the harm in your daughter
pining to be a pig like Paris,
or wearing jeans sell-out movie stars
and musicians push at us,
or your son idolizing a vulgar,
greedy glutton like The Donald,
or your husband worshipping a drug-using,
woman-beating sports icon,
or your wife reading the rag mags
from cover to cover
to see which star’s just impregnated
and jilted his lover,
or your boss admiring the wisdom
of executives from Enron
for the clever theft
of their employees’ retirement funds,
or our children watching us try
to imitate celebrities
which gives our stamp of approval
to role models like these
latest idols
of American material excess
whose very lack of character
is seen as success,
whose identities we try to buy
since we see these leeches as our “betters”
and whose conduct we endorse by buying
the junk they shill in an effort
to define who we are -
very few of us could deny it -
but how unique could it be
when somebody else can buy it?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Longing for peace in Sri Lanka

There's nothing I could preface, comment on, or add to the explanatory value of this post, written by Megan Dhakshini Shatrughan and transferred from Facebook to the blogosphere by Ravana. My desire for all of you to read it transcends any personal or political agenda. Go there and read the whole thing. Comments too.
Firstly, I know that Im just tired. Tired of the racism, tired of being generalized, labelled, looked down at, tired of the frikin war and everything that happened because of it. Im sure, as a tamil, you are too.
Second, I’m not too jubilant and dancing on the street now that the war is over. there was too much of a price to pay to get what is today labelled as peace. and I will not dance till it really happens. we all “know” too much about the politics. So I won’t need to say much.
But, here’s where the feathers get ruffled. Im happy too. Im happy that the war is “over”. Happy that He is dead ( oh yes, I said it). happy that maybe, just maybe, if the politicos and powers that be play thier cards right, this country- my country- can actually go somewhere. Develop. be a happy place. Maybe.
But just when I start looking at the positive side of things, I realised that suddenly the racism has actually increased. I realised that I had to keep voicing my usually quite thoughts just so that I wont be labelled anymore.
A comment on the post reads, in part:
LET US HAVE A NEW BEGINNING. LET US BE REBORN IN LOVE OF PEACE. LET US BE FREE FROM DEVIL’S TEMPTATION OF DIVISION.LET US NOT KILL ONE ANOTHER EVEN BY EVIL THOUGHTS BY WRONG WORDINGS OR ERRONIOUS ACTIONS ANYMORE.

May it be so. This is a community longing for peace.

Blackwater Still Working in Iraq for the International Republican Institute, According to New Lawsuit

Blackwater Still Working in Iraq for the International Republican Institute, According to New Lawsuit

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Alex Cockburn, "the gays," and the Shepards

I'm not surprised Alexander Cockburn is opposed to hate crimes statutes, and he makes some compelling (if unsophisticated) arguments in this column. But having done so after an irrelevant introduction that includes Cockburn revealing his irritation at the "whining" gays (making him a columnist whining about whining), he subsequently takes cheap shots at Matthew Shepard and Judy Shepard. It's kind of a downer when you read a columnist for years and years and suddenly say "wow, he's seen better days."

Cockburn says "It's actually somewhat unclear" whether Shepard was murdered because he was gay. "Actually somewhat unclear" is an interesting turn of phrase from a 4+ decades political journalist. (I make three or four gerbs in an article, but he's got three decades on me.) It's interesting how he halfheartedly lists the revisionist thesis as if it were revelation, then enthusiastically mentions that Judy Shepard's foundation pays her to run it:
The gay lobby has gone into overdrive for just such a hate crime law ever since Matthew Shepard got beaten to death in 1998 by two roofers on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming. It's actually somewhat unclear whether the roofers, one of whom was high on meth at the time, murdered Shepard because they specifically hated gays. Anyway, the murder has put them behind bars for the rest of their lives using tough existing laws. But, starting with Shepard's mother, Judy, the $100,000-plus head of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, gay and "human rights" groups have been fundraising on Shepard's "gay martyrdom" ever since.

Those comments might (should) have been rephrased to further problematize hate statutes; such a nuanced argument like "ambiguities in the Shepard case demonstrate the problem of proving intent in a hate crimes charge" would have been nice but, having tethered himself to a screed against the "victims' lobby," the introduction of such a precision approach would have been too drastic a change in tone. He could have developed an argument about how the ruling class uses popular tough-on-crime legislation to discipline the poor and stifle dissent (think of anti-capitalist violence as a hate crime), but instead decides to wade in the waters of those who claim Matthew Shepard was not murdered because of his sexual orientation. I say "wade" because he doesn't want to take the plunge, and his journalistic space thus prevents him from absorbing the consequences of throwing around half-arguments and innuendo. His actual arguments against the statutes are unoriginal: They will punish "thought crimes," be too expansive, capriciously interpreted. He mentions prosecutors using hate crimes statutes to pile up charges. Prosecutors pile up charges anyway. He may be right about all of this, but most people reading the column will have forgotten about the legal debate and just be aroused by the nastiness towards the Shepards.

Everyone in Laramie, even (whether he admits it or not) Cal Rerucha, knew why Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson murdered Matthew Shepard, the much-publicized recantation of an unreliable witness, and prosecutor Rerucha's speculation about drug rage notwithstanding. The revisionist thesis not only contradicts court testimony (neither murderer was "high" on meth, and Henderson testified McKinney had told Shepard "guess what? We're not gay, and you're gonna get jacked") and reported facts (McKinney, at least, had expressed a pathological hatred of gays), but it also commits an absurd either-or fallacy. Worse, it vindicates those who put forward that revisionist history in order to punish Matthew Shepard: ostensably for being "careless" but really for being gay. Cockburn's concerns ring hollow for his utilization of such trash to bolster his arguments. "America," Cockburn fears, "is well on its way to making it illegal to say anything nasty about gays, Jews, blacks and women." But the inclusion of intent (however problematic) in violent crime statutes is hardly new, and it's a rather slippery slope from that kind of criminal law to categorical speech restrictions, and Cockburn's "whining" about speech codes is awkwardly out of place in this unfortunately awkward column.

So why does Cockburn feel like he has to take on Matthew and Judy Shepard in order to take on what he perceives to be bad, misleading, or dangerous legislation? I will spare the "privileged son of a Stalinist and the old left has a problem with queers" psychoanalysis others haven't always spared when dealing with Cockburn. I think he's probably just irritated by identity politics, and finds liberals to be convenient scapegoats, with a slight dash of pride in being able to piss on a sacred cow. But if the point of critical journalism is to point a way forward, or at least accurately describe the status quo, Cockburn needs to pony up and play his part rather than exploit agrarian homophobia and get personal with a mother who lost a son. Teach us why hate statutes are bad for progressives, Cocky. Innuendo and half-smiles are so 20th century.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

What's behind Obama's regulatory pullback?


From the Wall Street Journal, two important and related stories.

First, Obama is fleeing from the tougher financial regulation and oversight on which he campaigned.
The Obama administration is backing away from seeking a major reduction in the number of agencies overseeing financial markets, people familiar with the matter say, suggesting that the current alphabet-soup of regulators will remain mostly intact. Administration officials had suggested they might push for major regulatory consolidation in the wake of the financial crisis. But now they expect to call for most existing agencies to have broader powers to limit risk-taking by financial institutions, say the people familiar with the planning.


And, banks are paying back their TAARP money. That's a good thing in the abstract, and even in some specific ways. They are doing so, however, among other reasons, to avoid regulations like executive pay caps, etc. It all makes sense from Obama's perspective: He threatened them, they're paying back their loans, indicating that they can stand on their own, but also allowing them to continue to set their own rules regarding compensation. Great way to stave off a crisis. Bad way to resolve, cure, or prevent one. Thoughts?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

How Progressives Can Take Over (both sides of) The Abortion Debate

An unprecedented political convergence is on the horizon. Its realization helps bury the GOP, forces the Democrats to confront their right-wing beliefs and elements, brings together religious believers and nonbelievers, and pushes forward a social justice agenda that, if ever realized, would ameliorate suffering in countless ways. This is the convergence of progressive pro-life forces, with fair-minded progressive pro-choice adherents, and the movement that achieves this will be the leftward movement of the 21st century.

Even if the recent faulty poll placing a majority of Americans in a "pro-life" category were true, this could never establish that such attitudes resembled the Pat Robertson or Scott Roeder sense of "pro-life." Instead, many (perhaps a majority of) Americans are are extremely morally uncomfortable with abortion, and dissatisfied that militant choice proponents so often sidestep that moral ambivalence and seem to lash out the hardest against those who sit on the fence. Because of GOP system failure, the constant exposure of hypocrisy and misleadership among the conservative evangelical camp, and the violence encouraged by Operation Rescue and people like Robertson, and perpetrated by pawns like Scott Roeder, it is now necessary to qualify the term "pro-life" with conservative or progressive.

The conservative pro-life imperative is now in shambles, and ironically more doctors will be able to perform more abortions with less political and cultural resistance as a result of the murder of Dr. George Tiller. More importantly, the right-wing pro-life (hereafter rwpl) position is inexorably tied to that violence. The conservative pro-life movement has been delegitimized by the anti-abortion violence it has to own, since its adherents can't make a coherent case as to why they, themselves, are not also morally required to kill abortion doctors (see Damon Linker's fine discussion of this at his blog). This is evident in the way rwpl leaders, ministers, bloggers, commentators, and public statements have either clumsily attempted to distance themselves from Roeder's act, put Tiller's medical procedures on par with Roeder's act or, in some cases, openly celebrated Tiller's murder.

Stopping doctors from performing abortions or women from having them done now requires violence. If Roe were ever to be overturned, that would still be true. In a world of restrictions, people will continue to seek abortions, and the harms of unequal access will possess an even greater magnitude than they do now. It is for this reason that the rejection of the violence of Roeder exposes the logic of violence, a different quality of violence to be sure, behind those who insist on establishing legal restrictions on abortion prior to changing the social contexts from which abortions emerge.

No progressive pro-lifers are ready to hold their breath and vote Republican. It doesn't outweigh. "Republicans who claim to be pro-life also often have anti-life policies that are completely in collusion with the social and economic structures that compel abortion," says Kevin Clarke, interviewed in the important 2004 Sojourners article "No Place to Stand." Now, there is a place to stand politically, even if the third party that will support such pluralism hasn't been completely built under it. The people are waiting, and so is the space.

The Democratic Party itself is a uniquely bad place for pro-lifers because most of the Democratic leadership doesn't even want a _discussion_ of the matter. Pro-life progressives find themselves uncomfortable on several levels in that party. Independent progressives, greens and democratic socialists, on the other hand, love political discussions and philosophical arguments too much to shun colleagues who wish to include concern for the unborn in a larger progressive agenda. Yes, those debates will be robust. But they will be guided by principles the two major parties cannot currently provide: a commitment to rationality unfiltered by mass media and corporate ideology (unlike the Democrats) and a wholesale rejection of associating with irrational religious extremists (unlike the GOP). The problem with Democrats for Life is that they can't get their priorities straight. Restricting access is not a winner for pro-life progressives, but DfL pushes for those things (inside a party that will never allow it, of course). It puts them in bed with partners they don't want to share a bed with, even for a night.

Reasonable people with moral or other objections to abortion have only one direction to go. That direction has been available to them for some time. Progressive, feminist, and socialist pro-life forces have been quiet members of the scene since conversations about reproductive rights emerged in the 1960s. Feminists for Life has been around since 1972. The essays by feminists and socialists concerned about abortion, some of the best ones collected in a wonderful anthology, Swimming Against the Tide: Feminist Dissent on the Issue of Abortion, edited by Angela Kennedy, made me realize that there is a voice for those who see an ultimate end to abortion as fully consistent with progressive politics: Extending moral consideration to a wider and more diverse circle of living existence, and constantly expanding the meaning of "majority." Many religious progressives were inspired by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, who spoke out against nuclear weapons, the death penalty and abortion and popularized the "consistent life ethic." Such believers still hold to his declaration that "When human life is considered 'cheap' or easily expendable in one area, eventually nothing is held as sacred and all lives are in jeopardy."

Rozalyn Farmer Love is a third-year medical student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine. In an editorial today in the Washington Post, she describes growing up in a staunchly anti-choice home, a conservative religious home, and about feeling a common thread with those opposed to abortion even as she completes medical school. Of late-term abortions, she writes:
It wasn't until I spent time in ultrasound rooms during a research job in graduate school that I began to see late-trimester abortions in a very different light. In one case, the patient's baby had just been diagnosed with a lethal congenital anomaly. The high likelihood was that it wouldn't survive after birth for more than a few minutes. As long as the baby remained in her mother's womb, however, she would live. I asked the physician what this woman's options were. The answer was, not many. She could choose to continue the pregnancy, but then she might be waiting for almost 20 more weeks to give birth to a baby that would never take more than a few breaths on its own. She was past the point where she could legally terminate the pregnancy in Alabama. If she could get an appointment in Atlanta within the next week, she might be able to have the procedure there. Beyond that, there were only a few physicians in the nation who would perform an abortion in such a case.
I could hardly wrap my mind around the agony that this woman and her husband must have been facing. They needed a caring and compassionate physician to help them through this dark moment, and if they chose not to continue the pregnancy, they also needed a physician who was both skilled enough and brave enough to provide them with the care they needed. They needed Dr. Tiller.

The new political space I am talking about is especially made for people like Ms. Love. If she goes to the Democrats, they will tell her she needs to get over her moral qualms (or the Democrats for Life caucus will tell her to help take the Roe plank out of the party platform). If she goes to the GOP, she will be told that doctors should not ever perform abortions. Someone might even shoot her.

The rwpl's hegemony over America's moral qualms with abortion has resulted in a singular religious view, with only skepticism as its alternative. However, there is a pluralistic religious basis for finding abortion morally objectionable and regrettable, but not worthy of a murder charge, and not worthy of preventative assassination. That alternative is the view that most people "on the fence," and quite a few people on both sides, hold whether they're explicitly aware of it or not. This type of belief requires empathy (a term that conservatives have attacked in a different context, although those attacks, too, demonstrated why the progressive move towards interconnectedness and care scares the shit out of the GOP and the corporatocracy). It requires a commitment to religious pluralism. It requires a sense of interconnectedness and mutual submission. It requires humility. It does not require the abandonment of core Christian beliefs, though it might demand of its adherents a skeptical attitude towards the pronouncements of purported Christian authorities. Such skepticism won't scare off those who are drifting towards progressivism, though, since they are probably a corollary to the increasing number of Americans professing agnosticism and atheism. We are slowly drifting towards the liberalization and democratization of religion, and progressive Christians would rather work with nonbelievers than potential Pat Robertsons or, to be sure, Scott Roeders.

The convergence of consistent life folks and reproductive rights adherents also holds the best chance of developing political, economic and cultural solutions to unwanted pregnancy, poverty, and irresponsible parenthood. Since the only solution that would satisfy all parties in the abortion debate is one which renders unwanted pregnancy either impossible to begin with (a question of technological possibility) or completely without material inconvenience (a question of political economy), these are the directions we should take our debates. Progressives now control all sides of the abortion debate. Pro-life consciousness is the consciousness of the interconnectedness of all life and death. The reproductive choice imperative is an acknowledgement of the fundamental needs of women. No other political entity can absorb those currently (but not inevitably) paradoxical positions.

To hold this position, we need to sustain and even encourage the vigorous debate between those among us who are anti-abortion and those who are committed chiefly to women's reproductive rights. Right now, the ranks of the latter outnumber the ranks of the former but--this is the important part--this will change. More and more progressive-minded Christians and others will walk away from conservatism as they see that in the abortion debate, as well as in most other political debates, the far right, apocalypse-informed view of conservative Christianity is ultimately either a resignation to a fallen, ugly world, or a ruse for the powerful, a stalking horse for future neoconservatives to mobilize uncritical human resources.

What is especially important about this convergence is that, while those on the left have always felt confident in saying "progressive is pro-life," few people entertained the slogan "pro-life is progressive." Tied to the patriarchal, violent, apocalyptic Christian subculture, it wasn't anywhere near progressive. Tied to an emerging group of fair-minded, socially-committed activists, it has the potential to take the national debate about abortion to an entirely new level: a progressive level. Economic justice is pro-life. Anti-war is pro-life. Anti-death penalty is pro-life. Universal health care is pro-life. Punishing women for sexuality is pro-death. Insisting on abstinence education programs that undoubtedly fail is pro-death.

Moreover, it is precisely the unresolved nature of the abortion debate that can and will drive us to be like-minded in building a world without a death-imperative, without forced choices and false moralizing. In other words, pro-life and pro-choice progressives can continue to debate about abortion, but within a larger frame of agreement about the world we're working toward. Eventually, that debate will become very different, much more beautiful, complex, and educational, than it is today.

I'm declaring the relevant part of the abortion debate to be post-violence, post-restriction, and post-conservative. I imagine fair-minded people may find exceptions to this declaration, but my guess is that an increasing number of pro-lifers will move in that threefold direction in the months and years to come.

Friday, June 05, 2009

"...and another thing!"

This is inspired by a conversation I was having with some Libertarians today, which was interesting in places, but kept getting hijacked by conspiracy theories, enthymematic racism and a debilitating fear of Barack Obama (these things from some, certainly not all, of the participants).

Little snarks about Obama being stupid, etc., are meaningless to the vast majority of Americans, and even concerned activists. It's obvious to anyone with a kindergarten education or higher that Obama is a hundred times smarter than Bush. It's not about being smart. It's about whose interests you serve. Obama and Bush serve the interests of the same class. Teleprompters jokes, birth certificates, and what his wife wrote in her MA thesis are all loser issues. Unemployment, constitutional rights, and wars are all winning issues.

Unfortunately, even smart Libertarians seem to drink the koolaid if it means increasing their numbers. And even some of the smart ones have some nationalist baggage they need to re-think.

Abortion: Are Pro-Lifers Metaphysically Correct?

Many religions and cultures believe that abortion constitutes returning the spirit to heaven. I wonder if those who leap to shut down ANY criticism of Christianity will withhold their ridicule and condemnation of such beliefs. I, for one, find them at least as reasonable as the metaphysical foundations of the pro-life movement.

How to criticize Obama

Here's what I want to hear: Sound, critical analysis of how Obama is failing, how he represents interests that are not compatable with people struggling to make a living and be free, and what we can do about it politically. Here's what I do not want to hear: Banal, conspiratorial, implicitly nationalist garbage about Obama being a Muslim. Won't engage that argument, regardless of what form it comes in, and think those who make it = FAIL.

As we move forward to gain independence from the corporate political parties, let's be careful about those walking around with such perfect nonsense in their heads. When times are hard and people are scared, we have a tendency to believe some pretty absurd things.

On the execution of a prisoner of Al Qaeda in Mali

Here's the difference between
"condemning"
--a PR maneuver
--a conscience-soother
--a rhetorical smoother

and
"rejecting"
--a tactical decision
--an act of moral precision
--a strategic position

Here's the difference between
"exploiting"
--selling an innocent death
--carnivals posing as press
--portable public address

and
"explaining"
--self-destructive tendencies
--religious dependencies
--the common thread between those and these

...

Monday, June 01, 2009

Their crazies and ours

Now, most Americans would consider this inexcusable. It's easy to make that kind of judgment against the Iraqi, Muslim other--particularly when it so naturally offends the sensibilities of those who genuinely love freedom and humanity. There's really no difference, though, between that cleric and Hal Turner. And Bill O'Reilly may not be in the same league, but he's climbing the fence.

Far right blogger and Hannity pal Turner praises Tiller murder, calls for more murder

The gauntlet has been thrown down publicly and unapologetically. Far right blogger and radio host Hal Turner is now openly calling for the murder of those on the left.
I don't shed a tear when guys like Tiller are killed. In my opinion, they deserve to be killed.
I think we should start considering going farther. I think that we ought to maybe start thinking about doing the same thing to folks that SUPPORT abortion. Folks like the ones at sites like. . . . . . I dunno. . . . . . the DailyKos?

Not sure how long this post will stay up, but because Turner has a google news feed, it's pretty much ensconced in cyberspace now. Reaction from authorities?

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