Sunday, January 31, 2010

Wheatland School Officials: Leave Us Alone, Outsiders! (and all the people in Wheatland who also think we're wrong...)

So the anti-anti-hate contingent in Wheatland is getting fed up with the national attention.  They can't be happy about the local attention they are receiving either--student and community dissent within and around Wheatland that should come as no surprise to those familiar with Wyoming culture and politics.  While I alluded in an earlier post to a creeping Colorado-style evangelical conservatism making its way into the state, and while some Wyomingites who were ignorant before 1999 are still ignorant, there are plenty of people in the Cowboy State who, regardless of political affiliation (quasi-Christian dominionists excluded) will stand up for coexistence and (though this may not be good enough all the time) tolerance. 

Of course, I also alluded to Wyoming stubbornness in a previous post.  Sometimes that stubbornness is so thick that no real deliberation seems able to pass through it.  Take the comments from Wheatland school superintendent about who, exactly, he has heard from in Wheatland.
Stuart Nelson, the superintendent, said the only negative comments he has heard about the board's decision are from out-of-towners, special-interest groups and former residents. He said all the local parents he's spoken with have supported the board's decision.

Not even that insensitive, arrogant claim can get through the reality gate. Three board members, after all, voted the other way; Wheatland High Principal Maureen Ryff has made no secret that she disagrees with the decision; the article points out that "On lockers at WHS and a gymnasium door are 'No Place for Hate' fliers that students printed and posted" and the article contains quotes from residents of Wheatland who disagree with the decision. That makes Nelson's comments especially irresponsible and, pardon my blatancy, stupid.  He's either not listening, or he's being dishonest with the media.  Neither trait will deliver a better image for Wheatland. 

Obama as Albatross?

Jonathan Martin reports that the GOP has a grand strategy to tie Obama to their mid-term Democratic Party opponents.

Some Democrats are hoping that, after the GOP Q&A last week, Obama will be an asset to Democratic candidates. I think that remains to be seen. Republicans have been able to covertly and overtly mobilize Teabaggers (revealing the lie in the TBs' claims that they are "independent" --their ultimate destination remains the GOP) and crush Dems so far. All the Obama-haters will keep coming out of the woodwork, while disenchanted progressives will stay home (or better yet, vote Green). Disinformation and disenfranchisement will take a chunk out of Democratic numbers, including Obama loyalists. The Democrats haven't developed a plan to win back those progressives (and don't seem terribly interested in doing so). And they have never been able to deal with disinfo/disenfranchisement.

There's still a lot of anger (much of it, yes, unconsciously racist) that Obama even won the presidency, and this is configurally, metaphorically, symbolically, and ultimately psychologically transposed into a hatred of the centrist Democratic agenda.

And all of that is in addition to those who concluded the first time around, or are coming around to a fresh conclusion, that conservatism deserves another chance. Progressive Democrats ignore all these facts at their peril. Independent progressives (including those who stare uncomfortably at their Democratic Party membership cards*) and those struggling to build third parties are already aware of these things, and should continue to debate conservatives on their own terms, taking the long view of political history whenever possible.

*I'm speaking allegorically of course, I know nobody actually carried Democratic Party membership they?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Where to go in Laramie on a Friday night

It's 10:50 PM on Friday night and I'm sitting in the studio at KOCA 93.5 with 15 other people, hanging out at the weekly broadcast of Meg Lanker's "Cognitive Dissonance." There are always a few students hanging out during the show, but tonight Meg has invited those who have an opinion on the recent Wheatland School Board debacle to stop by and share. So there are people of all ages here tonight, from all over Wyoming, with stuff to say. Progressives in the state are eager to let each other know, and to let the rest of the country know, that what happened in Wheatland is an abberation even in Wyoming.

A man known only as the Angry Malcontent delivers an editorial lamenting Obama's bipartisan naivete. The room bursts into applause at its conclusion. Shy around all the new people, I refrain from dropping the Marxist ordinance
I am impressed by how we find our spaces...from the protest of Dick Cheney's buying a name at UW's international center to the persistence of environmentalism in the state to a group of patient lefties of all ages hanging out at the community radio station on a Friday night. Will we forge enough space to be a home for people like the kids in Wheatland who now feel like they have nowhere else to go? To the poor people in Wyoming who feel as forgotten as the subway beggars of Seoul?  Only if we keep expanding the space.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

For my progressive friends in New England--Peace Conference in Cambridge

Meredith Vieira, Ted Haggard, and Stupidity

Tanya Melendez, a friend of a dear friend, encourages everyone to write to and take Meredith Vieira to task for calling Ted Haggard's alleged journey away from homosexuality "inspirational."

Her letter reads:

I am writing to you to register my deep disappointment with Meredith Vieira's conduct during her interview with Gayle Haggard this morning on The Today Show.

Ms. Vieria ended her interview by saying that she thought that others going through similar situations might find Ms. Haggard's journey inspirational. I was horrified and offended by such a statement.

Mr. Haggard claims that he has been “cured” of his homosexual urges. And yet, the American Psychological Association warns against “conversion therapies”. From Psychiatric Times on October 10th: “The APA report stated that there is little evidence to suggest that efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation from gay or lesbian to heterosexual are successful. In fact, the report found that such efforts can cause harm. The findings indicate that efforts to switch a person’s sexual orientation through psychological interventions not only don’t work but also can lead to loss of sexual feeling and to depression, anxiety, and suicide.”

Mr. and Ms. Haggard can believe what they like. But Meredith Viera is a journalist, she should not let The Today Show be a voice for medically inaccurate and dangerous information. Matt Lauer is famous for challenging Tom Cruise on his scientifically inaccurate information about psychiatry on the show. Ms. Viera should have done the same thing.
You cannot “convert” from therapy. It’s simply not scientifically true. Your show should say so, and say so clearly in a report aired during the same time slot as the valuable one the interview with Ms. Haggard held.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

writing to the white house about student loan debt

At Education Matters, Cryn Johannsen launches another writing campaign: "With the overall response from the White House - when I participated in the telephone conference with Biden's Middle Class Task Force - it is clear that they are expanding IBR and trying to focus their attention on recent grads. That's perfectly fine, but I am more than convinced that they are being pressured by countless groups to not respond to the indentured educated class who are (a) older and (b) drowning in private student loan debt."

Read more here.

Monday, January 25, 2010

And the wheels in the heads of the Platte County School District trustees turn ever so slowly...

Last week, Platte County School District 1 trustees voted 4-3 against restoring Anti-Defamation League "No Place for Hate" banners in two Wheatland schools--West Elementary and, more disconcertingly I suppose, Wheatland High. District administrators, without any due process, had removed the posters solely because a few parents had complained about them (this is, at least, what the Board members claim; we're not sure who exactly complained), and the alleged complaints had come from parents who objected to the posters solely because of one of the groups listed on the poster as affiliated with the ADL's campaign: the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado.

Before I go on, I do think we have overlooked the fact that three members of the trustees voted to allow  the posters.

The whole episode actually makes anti-bias activists giddy, because it's such a blatant example of unwarranted, process-free administrative bias. Some parents complained about the posters, and the trustees had them taken down. Other people, students, and presumably not the children of the alleged complainers, asked that the posters be restored. The trustees refused. Get it? One set of people's desires are more important than another set of people's desires, and the trustees will even tell you why: Trustee Lee Dunham defended the decision by saying Wheatland is an "ultraconservative community," where a pro-gay agenda is unwelcome.

This admission by Mr. Dunham may well serve a similar function, eventually, as the blundering admission by one member of the old Dover School Board--remember the Board who overplayed their hand in 2005, losing their attempt to teach creationism-in-drag, costing the Dover district a lot of money that could have been used to educate children in sciences and other productive disciplines. After the Dover Board as a whole repeatedly promised the court and the press that they had no intention of teaching religion, and that intelligent design was merely a scientific, or scientific-philosophical theory, Dover Board member William Buckingham was found to have publicly said that his reason for supporting I.D. was that "[t]his country wasn’t founded on Muslim beliefs or evolution. This country was founded on Christianity and our students should be taught as such.”

Lee Dunham is making a similar admission--that this really is about enforcing a majority's ideology on a minority, an admission that is particularly damning because it is at odds not only with the democratic process, but also with the district's purported reasons for removing the signs!

Another trustee, Joe Fabian, took the boot from Dunham's mouth and placed it into his own, first slamming school administrators (AKA pointing finger at popular scapegoats) for allowing the "No Hate" banners in the first place, then reiterating that the community of Wheatland is extremely conservative and is not "pro-gay marriage" (nobody ever brought up gay marriage, not on the posters, not in the anti-hate campaign, etc., but whatever, I am losing the will to continue pointing out these trustees' inconsistencies). Fabian went on to say he believed the Anti-Defamation League--arguably the oldest, most across-the-board anti-hate organization in the world--is pushing an "agenda that is pro-gay marriage."

Actually, Fabian may be going for the hit parade of conservative stereotypery. Amanda Fry of the Platte County Record Times reported that Fabian answered an argument from students concerning tolerance for other points of view with this piece of logic:
What if someone is of the persuasion that they are an Evangelical, who believes very strongly in witnessing? And that’s a part of their being? You’re saying that they can’t do that. That’s why I have problems with it, because you’re restricting what somebody’s beliefs may be...
Does Fabian understand that he is, with this rhetorical move, justifying the actual restriction of one form of expression by appealing to the hypothetical, and highly unlikely restriction of another form of expression? (Not to mention the fact that nobody is "restricting what somebody's beliefs may be" but rather their expression...sigh, it sucks that one of my pet peeves is conflation).

Even though anti-bias activists are encouraged by the crass stupidity of the Wheatland trustees' behavior, and even though a protracted legal battle, should it happen, will ultimately vindicate the ADL and supporters of the anti-hate movement (at least one commentator has pointed out that the Equal Access Act requires schools to permit student-led organizations to express themselves in schools), watching this episode is painful. I am disappointed as a Wyomingite for two reasons: First, as unoriginal as this sounds, some people in our state haven't, and didn't ever, learn the real lesson of the Matthew Shepard murder: that although violence is a diffusive, constant storm that may fall on anyone at anytime, the presence of hate speech, and attitudes which metaphysically subordinate some groups underneath others, and dehumanization, all channel that constant storm of violence into specific sectors and niches. Moreover, the Wheatland trustees can't even seem to fathom that a visual marker of the mere existence of an organization whose worldview is opposed to your own does not weaken, compel, coerce or cajule you in any way. 

Second, I am disappointed because as someone who for the past decade has been involved in recruiting bright, creative, critical-minded students to come to college in Wyoming, I can say with absolute certainty that episodes like this make the University's and community colleges' jobs harder. Not only do we lose potential students and faculty who may be in LGBT categories, but we also lose non-LGBT people who simply don't want to live in what they fear will be a climate of intolerance. And when you're trying to sell someone on Wyoming, the oft-repeated phrase "Well, Laramie isn't like the rest of Wyoming" can only go so far.

I used to really believe that Wyoming's brand of conservatism was actually different than the conservatism found in other states. Although I am not a libertarian, I respect libertarians. But libertarians don't rule the various fiefdoms of Wyoming, nor the state as a whole. More and more, we see the creeping influence of the kind of especially objectionable Colorado, Idaho and Utah conservatives: Not so much "do whatever you want but leave me alone" as "do what we what we want...or we will punish you." The problem is, this creeping moral fascism retains the Wyoming stubbornness that was at least comparatively harmless when it came from cowboy libertarians. Now, instead of having to negotiate with leave-us-alone conservatives, we have to fend off the attacks of cultural conservatives who can neither formulate an accessible argument, nor respect the democratic imperative to hear and extend to all sides equal argumentative consideration.


Update #1: I am hearing the stirrings of a few folks here in the state who want to attend the next Platte County School Board meeting.  That sounds like a good idea for those who can make it.  This is not just a Wheatland matter.  Already, the issue is being covered nationally and internationally in the LGBT press.  Hopefully, other progressive outlets will continue to take up the cause as well.  We have to understand that we are fighting for the image of our state, as well as the human rights of students here, and everywhere.

And something else came to my mind as I was preparing for tonight's podcast: Diversity in educational contexts is good.  The Supreme Court has recognized this, and any good teacher, from K-postgrad, knows it too.  The example being set by the majority on the Platte County board undermines all the students in their jurisdiction.  It makes it less likely that they will be accepted in positions or admissions processes favoring an understanding of diversity.  It makes it less likely that they will understand how to interact in diverse environments once they get out of Wheatland.  So in that sense, too, this decision is lame.

Wheatland school board's anti-anti-hate position

Wheatland school board bans anti-hate banners -

This is the story I've been following for the past two days with my commentary and analysis on KOCA 93.5 in Laramie, but tonight I'll be taking the issue global on the Monday evening podcast of Shared Sacrifice Nightly.

Trying to get a representative from the Wyoming ACLU on the show. Alternatively, or additionally, I hope to talk to a representative from the ADL. Anyone from the Platte County School District 1 trustees is also welcome to be on the show.

Board members have advanced two main arguments in support of their decision: (1) Since Wheatland is conservative, affiliation with GLBT groups goes against community norms (yeah, Board member Lee Dunham actually speaks for the entire community and invokes "community norms" with confidence in his authority to do so), and (2), conservatives and evangelicals will be bullied harassed for their anti-gay beliefs and receive no protection from the anti-hate campaign.

Queerty has already taken the issue national.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Shared Sacrifice Weekend: Dahr Jamail on Veterans and Resistance 1/23/2010 - Shared_Sacrifice on Blog Talk Radio

Shared Sacrifice Weekend Dahr Jamail on Veterans and Resistance 1/23/2010 - Shared_Sacrifice on Blog Talk Radio

Our guest on Shared Sacrifice Weekend is Dahr Jamail. Mr. Jamail is the author of 'The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.' Call in, stand up and speak out at (347) 327-9615

Goodbye, John

John Edwards is done for. The only one of the big three in the Dem primaries whom I even remotely agreed with was Edwards. His moral arguments against class inequality were a refreshing contrast to DLC-inspired centrist free trade rising tide lifts all boats BS coming from Clinton and Obama. Sad that he turned out to be even more lecherous than Bill Clinton--which is saying a great deal. Now, if Elizabeth Edwards (bless her) were able to beat the odds and recover, and then decided to run for office, that might be enough to make me reconsider my disinterest in the Democratic Party.

And as a parent, I just have to say that I can't imagine the state of mind under which one would deny the existence of one's own child (and Edwards ain't the only politician who's done that).  Did he think that, because he lost a child, he enjoyed some kind of special status?  Who knows? More importantly, we must continue to struggle for a world where such a decision is truly unfathomable. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Brown the Creepy

Thanks to my old friend Steve Herro for bringing this one to my attention. Ewwww....
The Buzz Log - The Scoop on Scott Brown - Yahoo! Buzz: "During his victory speech, with his wife and daughters standing behind him, Brown thanked his family for their support. And then things got a little awkward. As his shocked daughters looked on, Sen. Brown said that both of his daughters were 'available.'
Quoting Dad: 'Just in case anyone who's watching throughout the country, yes, they're both available.' He then backed off his comments as the crowd hooted and hollered. 'No, no. No. Only kidding, only kidding. Only kidding, only kidding,' he said. 'Arianna... Arianna's definitely not available.' He then added, 'But Ayla is.'"

Class, Life and Death in Post-Earthquake Haiti

Tom Eley, who has been covering the rescue efforts (both real and fake) in Haiti for the World Socialist Web Site, reports that if you have enough money, you can get in and out of Haiti, but otherwise, you're screwed. From Washington shuts door on Haitian refugees: "The State Department has exempted private charter flights from Haiti from the “anti-terror” requirements. These firms can call in the names of passengers who rent airplanes for as much as $4,000 an hour or can afford $1,000 for a one-way ticket to Florida.
The sheer indifference and cruelty of the US embargo against Haitians coming to the US was underscored by an on-the-spot report broadcast Tuesday by CBS radio news describing thousands of Port-au-Prince residents crowding the beach in a desperate effort to board already overcrowded ferries."

the immediate implications

The Brown victory underscores the need for progressives to become progressives. And that means we need to become unapologetic egalitarians--conscientiously pointing out that the Liebermans, Browns, and Emmanuel-Obamanians are corporatists, explaining why that's wrong and calling them out for it. If you're in the Democratic party, it's a lot harder to do that. We need to rally behind pols like Bernie Sanders, Tony Weiner, Dennis Kucinich, and build, build, build the Greens. We need to encourage all these groups that adhere to socialist theory and practice (SWP, SEP, SPUSA etc) to form a large coalition, multiplying their numbers from a few hundred each to several thousand--a good-sized socialist education corps. And we need to develop street theater and performative protest tactics that politically and aesthetically outshine the tea parties.

And we need to do it now. This is not a "reform versus revolution" question, at least not now. It's a question of immediately re-establishing an egalitarian message and presence in politics and culture.

Monday, January 18, 2010

MLK didn't dig capitalism

And one day we must ask the question, “Why are there forty million poor people in America?” And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I'm simply saying that more and more, we've got to begin to ask questions about the whole society... ~Martin Luther King

Happy MLK day! Toward the end of his life, Dr. King came to realize (and declare publicly) that the real barrier to human emancipation was poverty, capitalism and the gap between the rich and the poor. The best way to continue his legacy is to develop and debate about new egalitarian economic models.

Have a great day.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

why the right can't join the fight

Over at the Shared Sacrifice FB page, and elsewhere, there is a discussion occurring about whether tea party participants can be brought over to the side of anti-corporatist struggle

Here's the problem: The right can't rebuke racism. They can't rebuke it pragmatically because they'll lose their numbers if they do. They can't refute it philosophically because at the core of conservatism is a desire to return to the way life used to be, which is more racist...and at the core of libertarianism is the belief that people have a right to be racist, and even to build their communities around their racism--they believe anti-discrimination laws, for instance, are a greater evil than racism itself. The very structure of right-wing ideology is stacked against doing what would be necessary to move beyond racism.

As for whether the Tea Party movement can become an anti-corporatist movement, the reality is that the right does not hate corporate power, and corporations are funding the tea party movement, so it can't really become anti-corporatist.

There is one thing rightists could do to fight racism, corporatism, and help build a cooperative, non-hierarchical world: They could become leftists.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

WPR Article | Tensions Rise as Voting Looms in Sudan

WPR Article Tensions Rise as Voting Looms in Sudan: "A massacre in Warrap state on Jan. 7, that left at least 139 dead and nearly 100 injured, was the latest clash between the two dominant tribes in the South -- the Nuer and the Dinka. While ostensibly due to a dispute over cattle, Sudan watchers say that the clashes have taken on an ominously political bent. Women and children are figuring prominently among the deaths reported in villages around South Sudan, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres, which suggests that settling political scores, not stealing cattle, is the primary objective of the raids."

Google to stop censoring Chinese searches

The systemic analysis and ideological criticism can wait. We should be pleased with Google's decision, wait to see what the Chinese misleaders' reaction is, and do everything we can to support democratization at grass roots and working class levels. I was fortunate enough to work with mainland Chinese university students at the Asian Debate Institute in Seoul in 2008. There was nothing "programmed" about them. Like all of us, they were conditioned by their contexts, but my conversations with them then, and my continued contact with them on social networking sites now (they negotiate around their restrictions) reminds me that we are all more alike than different, and that people like speaking their minds and sharing information.

It is true, as one comment points out, that Google is merely placing the burden on Chinese internet service providers. Fair enough. Sometimes you have to say "we won't be complicit." And certainly one wonders whether Google would have made this dramatic move if they hadn't been hacked -- their reasoning for this decision is two parts security and one part principle. 

It is true that the busting open of closed societies serves the needs of multinational capitalism. That such a sociological fact could ever serve as a warrant for discouraging the transition from totalitarianism to democracy --even imperfect, bourgeois democracy-- seems unfeeling to me, a kind of prioritization of theory before human understanding. But I may be arguing against opponents who don't exist in this case; I haven't seen any "Google acted in the service of multinational capital" yet. I mean, they did, no doubt. But they also took a defensible stand, and that means something, however safe they were in doing so.

Monday, January 11, 2010

"Yeah, you lay down, I'll get the tennis racket."

This is the funniest thing I have seen in the blogosphere, possibly ever. That it made its way into sudden fame and glory is part of the reason I love social networking. I laughed so hard at some of Adam's outbursts that I was laugh-crying. And Karen's faithful, objective commentary barely hides her sense of mischief--as well as her affection for her husband.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

the problem with equivocation

Over on Facebook, Chuck Todd asks: "Why is Reid surviving while Lott didn't? Dems are rallying around Reid; GOPers let Lott wither on vine."

I am no fan of Reid, and no fan of Lott. But to equate either the context or the substance of their respective blunders strikes me as intellectually lazy. Lott publicly said we'd be better off under a Dixiecrat presidency. Reid privately said Obama lacked negative sterotypical traits. Reid's insensitivity is deeply disturbing. But it was a far cry from praising the Dixiecrats.

no words

It speaks for itself, doesn't it?
...a South Carolina Congressman announced this week that he will introduce legislation which would require the deportation of all Iranians living in America.
The Stop Terrorists Entry Program Act (STEP) was first introduced by Rep. J. Gresham Barrett (R-SC) in 2003 [PDF link]. The updated version, he explained in a media advisory, would bar citizens of Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Yemen and Syria from entry into the United States. It would further require citizens of those nations who are legally visiting or residing in the United States to be deported within 60 days.
We'll see where this goes; obviously it's going nowhere in the House, but pay attention to how other pols and parties react to it.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

asking stuff

The news stories about allied troops killing Afghani students keeps referring to the scene as a "remote village in Kunar province." Does this village have a name? If so, couldn't someone ask around? Like, a reporter or someone, you know, who gets paid to go places and ask stuff?

Friday, January 08, 2010

For your edification: Song for Arab-Israeli Peace

This speaks for itself, and as long as people like this continue to exist and struggle against the cynical misleadership that threatens them, I will continue to stand up for them.