On Friday, Fox News aired what many are claiming was the most embarrassing interview the network has ever hosted. This is a truly impressive claim, one that’s worth examining further.
A 2011 study by Farleigh Dickinson University found that Fox News viewers are the least informed about current events. There are annual roundups and entire blogs devoted to Fox News disasters. There’s so much to choose from — from a chyron calling Elie Wiesel a Holocaust Winner, to Dana Perino rapping on “Fox & Friends,” to Megyn Kelly announcing that Pepper Spray is “a food product, basically” — that we’ve limited the scope to the 10 most embarrassing, cringe-worthy discussions conducted on Fox in the past 10 years. It will come as no surprise that most of them include professional shouter Bill O’Reilly.
More here, with LOTS of video.
No clever commentary from me on this tonight. I simply think it's worth being reminded from time to time just how utterly absurd Fox News actually is. I mean, I know this, of course, but the psychotic depths of the very successful right-wing propaganda and profit machine become shallower in my mind as the years go by, and a refresher reminds me of how terrifying evil clowns really are.
For my money, the Jeremy Glick interview, which tops the list, continues to be the most infamous Fox moment of all time, but there's some good stuff on there, to be sure. Go check it out. It's kind of fun, albeit in a sort of gallows humor way.
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Posted by Ron at 3:02 AM
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
From the AP via the Huffington Post:
The gauge defines "economic insecurity" as experiencing unemployment at some point in their working lives, or a year or more of reliance on government aid such as food stamps or income below 150 percent of the poverty line. Measured across all races, the risk of economic insecurity rises to 79 percent.
Marriage rates are in decline across all races, and the number of white mother-headed households living in poverty has risen to the level of black ones.
"It's time that America comes to understand that many of the nation's biggest disparities, from education and life expectancy to poverty, are increasingly due to economic class position," said William Julius Wilson, a Harvard professor who specializes in race and poverty. He noted that despite continuing economic difficulties, minorities have more optimism about the future after Obama's election, while struggling whites do not.
"There is the real possibility that white alienation will increase if steps are not taken to highlight and address inequality on a broad front," Wilson said.
Click here for the rest.
It's just not working. At least, it's not working the way everybody tells me it's supposed to work. I'll just come straight to the point: it's not working because the nation has embraced some notions about economics that just aren't true. And I'm not going to be shy about naming names, either. It's the Republicans' fault. Reaganomics, neoliberalism, classical liberalism, supply side economics, trickle down, whatever you want to name it, this bogus doctrine has sent America to hell in a hand basket. Deregulation is a massive failure. Cutting taxes for the rich is a massive failure. Weakening rather than strengthening unions is a massive failure. Privatizing and straight-up dismantling important public services, it's all a massive failure.
We KNOW that it's all failure because we've been doing it since the early eighties, for three decades now: if any of this stuff actually worked, our lot in life would be better, not worse.
That brings up another very important point. I lay the lion's share of responsibility at the feet of the Republican Party, but they couldn't have created such a massive pile of dog crap without help from the Democrats. Because, you see, despite the GOP's over-the-top martyr and persecution complexes, their wild-eyed sense of living always at the Alamo, the Republicans won it all back during the 1990s. Yeah, that's right, the Republicans won it ALL. The 90s is when the Democrats effectively accepted the GOP's essential principles about the economy, when the Democrats finally told labor to go to hell, and when the Democrats started courting corporations and Wall Street for desperately needed campaign cash. The Democrats have aided and abetted every step of the way the dismantling of important business regulations. The Democrats ended "welfare as we know it." The Democrats jumped on the tax cut bandwagon. And on and on.
You want to know why 80% of Americans face poverty and unemployment today, why a middle class existence is nothing more than a pipe dream for most citizens? Our two monopolistic political parties no longer represent our interests. Instead, they rule of, by, and for the rich. All this Reaganomics shit embraced by both parties, they tell us, is supposed to make us a more prosperous nation. Well, that's a lie. It doesn't. It can't. All Reaganomics can do is take from the poor and give to the rich. Everything else is a fairy tale, and too many of us continue to believe in fairy tales. Yes, we're a nation of fools.
And the foolishness begets itself. Because the Democrats have embraced the attitude that our role is to service the rich, we no longer are allowed a language making discussion of working class issues possible. Indeed, when "free market" capitalism, unencumbered by any restraint, is considered by the ruling establishment to be the only functional approach to economics, there can be no discussion of capitalism's failures. That is, in our nation's thoroughly dysfunctional discourse, there is no such thing as failure of capitalism. But now that capitalism is failing, it's extraordinarily difficult to talk about it--it's like talking about God's failures; God CAN'T fail, so there is no failure.
I've had a back burner discussion with an old buddy on facebook about labor unions that's been going nowhere for a week. To him, labor unions are the Devil, and can do no good, ever, under any circumstances. Seriously, it's like trying to talk a Christian into some low key Satanism. Totally dead on arrival. I mean, never mind the forty hour work week, sick days, overtime pay, and whatnot, unions CAN DO NO GOOD. I may or may not return to that discussion. I don't know if it's worth it. We're speaking two different languages.
But mark my words. There WILL be consequences to all this, and I'm not simply talking about the consequences we're already seeing, the poverty, the infant mortality rate, the desperation and mass anxiety, the erosion of what now passes for communities, and on and on. If we continue along this track, social unrest will increase. There will be an uprising. Multiple uprisings. Insurrection. When you drive a people into fear and hopelessness, they eventually get the sense that there's nothing to lose. We will see some kind of rebellion. Or we will see the American police state kick into full gear. Probably both.
And because we no longer have a language of the left in this country, no longer have the ability as a people to conceptualize true democracy and much needed repairs to our capitalist system, it is very likely that such a rebellion will be right-wing, rather than left-wing. That is, it seems inevitable that the crazies will be in control no matter what happens. And, oh yeah, global warming.
When I think too much about this stuff, I'm glad I never had children.
Posted by Ron at 2:14 AM
Monday, July 29, 2013
Yeah, I'm riffing, of course, on this little speech.
But what I'm really about here tonight is something I just wrote to a former student from nearly a decade ago who's thinking of doing some acting, and apparently she hasn't done much since she was in my class. I think I articulated a couple of points well, so I wanted to preserve it for posterity:
You as an actor, back in the day: yes, you have talent. I remember. And more importantly, you had something that a lot of actors have great difficulty getting across, authenticity and honesty. The big trap so many actors fall into, including myself, is the notion that you've always got to show the audience that you're acting. Look! I'm acting! See? This ALWAYS gets in the way of just existing in the situation, of just relating to the other people you're playing the scene with. I mean, when an actor is so busy acting, who has time or energy or enough focus to bother with simply existing in the moment?I almost never talk about my own personal art form here at Real Art, which is a bit weird because it's what I know about more than anything else. But I guess I'm just not particularly moved to write about it: acting is doing, not thinking. But this little moment dropped into my lap. Maybe I'll have more moments like these. We'll see. I'll try to look for them. I really do know a lot about it. I think.
The one thing I remember about your work is that you weren't trying to show me how good of an actor you are. You were just trying to be a person in the scene, and that's really the best way to go. Especially for film acting, but it's an absolutely necessary nucleus for stage acting, as well.
Really, once an actor has gotten into the "Look, I'm acting!" frame of mind, it's almost impossible to get out of. But I never saw that in you.
Your confidence level: this is tough even for seasoned actors. I think all actors are secretly afraid that they have no talent. Just keep in mind that everyone's afraid of being found out to be a phony, and just focus on the work. If you mispronounce, just plow through. No one will notice. It's the behavior people are watching. Unless it's Shakespeare or Shaw or something. But so what?
Memorizing lines will never stop sucking. But one gets better the more one does it.
Posted by Ron at 1:18 AM
Saturday, July 27, 2013
Friday, July 26, 2013
From Daily Kos:
Ohio bank steals woman's possessions by 'mistake,' then refuses to pay up
An Ohio woman returned from vacation to find that all of her belongings had been stolen, taken right out of her house. She knows who did it, but the local police aren't helping her. That's because Katie Barnett's stuff was stolen not by a burglar who slipped in under cover of darkness or a family member who felt it rightly belonged to them, but by a bank.
First National Bank got the wrong house, changing the locks and removing everything from Barnett's home rather than the house across the street. And no one is trying to make things right. When Barnett gave the bank president an estimate of $18,000 for her lost possessions:
“He got very firm with me and said, ‘We’re not paying you retail here, that’s just the way it is,’” Barnett said. “I did not tell them to come in my house and make me an offer. They took my stuff and I want it back.”
This is how America actually works. This is the real America. If your interests come up against the people who own and operate our nation, you know, the fabulously wealthy and corporations, generally, especially these days, you lose. It doesn't matter who's in the right, who's in the wrong. What matters is that you're weak and they're strong, and fuck you. Millions of African-Americans already know this simply because their very existence is a thorn in the side of the plutocracy, but, increasingly, white people are figuring it out, too.
I wonder how much more it will take to rouse the sleeping giant. We continue to have the formal structures of democracy, which have, admittedly, been heavily subverted by the very wealthy for their own ends, but rule by the people continues to be a real possibility. It's just that the people have to work together as one. And the plutocracy has spent a lot of money trying to make sure that doesn't happen.
We'll need to have a VERY pissed off population if we're ever going to put an end to this kind of shit.
Posted by Ron at 1:26 AM
Thursday, July 25, 2013
Anthony Weiner Has Problems with Monogamy. Does
that Disqualify Him from Holding Public Office?
We could get up in arms about his duplicity toward the general public. We could act indignant about the fact that he hasn’t been forthcoming about aspects of his intimate life. But why not instead be angry that we live in a country that requires him to be dishonest about his struggles with monogamy in order to maintain his career? Maybe we instead should be outraged by the hypocrisy of everyday Americans shaking their fingers at Weiner — and then using that same digit to tap out a sext to someone other than their spouse.
He isn’t a Spitzer. He hasn’t campaigned to make sexts illegal. Nor has he, like some conservatives, fought against same-sex marriage on the grounds of preserving the sanctity of marriage. His hypocrisy is a deeply personal one: He said that what he did was stupid and then he did it again.
Okay, some political sex scandals are legitimate. Like when there's hypocrisy undercutting a politician's on-the-record philosophical and policy stance, as with anti-gay politicians or leaders who get caught with their hand in the cookie jar. Something to that effect. Or when it involves something illegal, as with David Vitter and his relationship with the notorious DC Madam, or that Republican governor who kept taking trips down to South America to liaison with his sweetie on the taxpayers' dime. But really, none of that has anything to do directly with the sex itself. It's all context and situation.
That's why there's no such thing as a legitimate political sex scandal. Because sex is personal business having absolutely nothing to do with a politician's ability to do his job. I mean, sure, it might make his personal life more difficult, which might indirectly affect his job performance, but so do "irreconcilable differences," or a death in the family, or illness, and so on. That is, the bullshit I've been hearing for many years attempting to justify some Sturm und Drang about a politician or leader having sex with someone he shouldn't is pretty weak.
So Bill Clinton lied. Anthony Weiner lied. Big deal. I would lie, too. It's none of your damned business, and screw you for acting like it is. This is an important truth: the only reason such "scandals" exist is because the news media knows they'll get better ratings because everybody really likes both hearing about famous people having sex with the wrong people, and then condemning famous people for having sex with the wrong people. Not that I'm particularly sympathetic toward famous people who cheat. But neither can I ever be okay with distracting titillation-crap masquerading as "news."
Our society has real problems affecting millions and millions of real people every day. Politicians cheating on their wives is not one of those problems. It's not even close. We've got work to do. Screw this shit.
Posted by Ron at 1:18 AM
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
O’Reilly Tears Into Obama’s Race Speech: President
Has ‘No Clue’ How To Combat ‘Gangsta Culture’
Coming back to Trayvon Martin specifically, O’Reilly said there is only evidence that George Zimmerman “profiled” the 17-year-old because he was “dressed in clothing sometimes used by street criminals”–not his skin color. “It was wrong for Zimmerman to confront Martin based on his appearance,” he said. “But the culture that we have in this country does lead to criminal profiling because young black American men are so often involved in crime.”
This led O’Reilly to pinpoint the primary cause of these statistics: “The disintegration of the African-American family.” More than anything else, he chalked up black crime to the fact that “73% of all black babies are born out of wedlock,” a problem that he said Obama and other civil rights leaders refuse to address. He also pointed fingers at the entertainment industry, and particularly “gangsta culture,” for “encouraging irresponsibility” and “glorifying bad behavior.”
O’Reilly outright rejected the notion, put forward by “race hustlers and limousine liberals” that “unfair” incarceration rates for “non-violent” drug offenses contribute to the problem, calling out Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Obama for refusing to condemn drug dealers. Getting more and more heated as he progressed, O’Reilly argued that blacks’ disadvantages “has nothing to do with slavery. It has everything to do with you Hollywood people and you derelict parents.”
More here, with video.
MSNBC's Chris Hayes does a pretty good job of taking down O'Reilly's bullshit, so there's no need for me to reinvent the wheel as far as that goes. On the other hand, Hayes has some advantages doing that sort of thing that a lot of us don't have. He's got an organization behind him putting together some hard data for him to have at his fingertips. He's got visuals, charts and graphs, emotional images. He does this for a living and is pretty good at it. And he's speaking to a friendly audience which already agrees with his point of view.
But what do you do without all these advantages? This is a serious question. O'Reilly's tirade on race in America is pretty packed, with a lot of assertions, which rest on a foundation of hundreds more assumptions. That is, the aging Fox News commentator essentially presents the right wing's standard narrative about African-Americans: there are so many problems with it that it's difficult even to know where to start dismantling it.
Imagine you're having a conversation with someone who actually believes this claptrap. You want to convince your conservative friend that he's got it all wrong. So maybe you start with asserting that single parent black families are a lot more about capitalist economics and how they've laid waste to black communities than they are about individual personal choice. But then suddenly you're caught up in an hour-long back and forth about economics, and have totally lost focus on your real goal, which is to disprove the racist and fictional conservative narrative about race. In other words, you've lost before you've even really gotten started.
That's what's so insidious about extended false narratives in politics, especially the ones enjoyed by the mainstream news media. You can't simply argue an issue. Instead, you have to argue an entire world view, one that, in itself, contains so many other issues that doing so is a near impossibility for a single conversation. It doesn't matter if you can show some misuse of facts here and there: the rest of the narrative is still intact, so winning a point or two is ultimately meaningless. And is it really feasible to engage people in multiple continuing conversations about how they're wrong, you know, just so you can finally get them to see it your way?
This is what we're up against. An entire worldview, one with multiple redundancies, one that can take some pretty heavy hits while continuing to be compelling and persuasive to people who already embrace it. I've been trying the continued conversation approach on facebook for a while, but I have no idea if I'm making any headway. What else can I do?
Posted by Ron at 2:10 AM
Monday, July 22, 2013
So I posted a link on facebook today to some shocking pictures of anti-GLBT violence in Russia. Above the link, I wrote this:
There is a certain segment of the US population that would like nothing more than for us to emulate Russia in this sense. Needless to say, these people are Nazi monsters.Got some nice comments along the lines of "horrible!" But then an old pal, who is a conservative Christian, posted this:
Bill Ron, I lived in Russia. They are by far one of the most intolerant societies, primarily toward blacks. They HATE black people...it's terrible. And yes, they are very intolerant toward gays. Our country, on the other hand, is the furthest thing from what you shamefully have posted on the web. Gays are not attacked during their gay-pride parades. I recently saw a video where the gays actually attacked some Christian protestors (they shouldn't have been there in the first place). This country is not Russia. Yes, there are hateful people in this country and they should be ashamed of themselves, but Ron, to link our great country to this backward country called Russia...that's pretty lame, Ron...pretty lame!So I responded with this:
Ronald Bill, I'm talking about these Americans:Followed by this:
Ronald And it's a seemingly endless list. Gays and Lesbians in the United States are violently attacked everywhere all the time. This is, in fact, an appropriate comparison. It's just that the Russians are bringing the government in on the hate. There's always that possibility here.And then we were having a real discussion:
Bill Well, Ron, you didn't post those websites in the first place. Secondly I lived in Russia and I have seen hatred in ways you haven't. Their government seems to be taking an oppressive approach to gays. Our government, on the other hand, seems to be appeasing the gay community. Bottom line, I believe all people are to be treated with utmost dignity and respect regardless of their beliefs, sexual orientation, political views, etc. I still believe that your comparison of Russia to America is a very poor choice. Unfortunately this will just turn into a seesaw battle of viewpoints. Lord, come quickly!Don't get me wrong about Bill. He and I disagree on many things, but he's definitely a good man, and willing to listen while at the same time advancing his own position. That is, I love discussions with him because they're real discussions. Would that all of us could do such a thing with each other.
I have also met many Russians are loving towards the black community as well as gays.
Ronald Well, I did say "certain segment of the US population" in the first place. You're absolutely right that Russia is currently far worse than here. But the point is that such an urge exists in the United States. It's not just a few crazed individuals--like I said, this happens all the time all over the place. It is much better to be aware of what's going on, to condemn it vociferously, and hope that it can be stopped before it ever gets to the point it is in Russia. You know, a cautionary tale. Because it could, indeed, happen here.
Bill I know...I never condone violence motivated by disagreement or hatred. It is sad what is happening to religious groups (Coptic Christians in particular in Egypt) and homosexuals. It's pointless to kill or beat someone just because of disbelief or disagreement.
Ronald In principle, I agree. But just a little Devil's advocacy: historically, a lot of violence used in this way hasn't been pointless. Rather, it's been devastatingly effective in advancing particular political points of view. Communists and Nazis, for instance, fought it out in the streets of German cities for a time before Hitler took power and started rounding up the Communists. Lynching and Klan violence in the South served for decades to prevent blacks from exercising political power in the region. And, of course, modern terrorism has also achieved political ends successfully in numerous nations around the world. That is, violence works. And that's why the only civilized thing to do is to always condemn it.
Posted by Ron at 11:23 PM
So now the deficit scolds have a new case to misinterpret. Never mind the repeated failure of the predicted U.S. fiscal crisis to materialize, the sharp fall in predicted U.S. debt levels and the way much of the research the scolds used to justify their scolding has been discredited; let’s obsess about municipal budgets and public pension obligations!
Posted by Ron at 2:36 AM
Sunday, July 21, 2013
Here's the prompt:
What, exactly, is racism, anyway? I'm really getting the strong sense lately that, even though everybody uses the word like it has a fixed and universally accepted meaning, different people have different definitions. Which lead to bizarre conversational outcomes.And here's the discussion:
Michael I think it's any belief other than origins that humans are different for the sole reason of ethnicity.Sometimes, things go exactly the way I want them to go; other times, it's like I've got a tiger by the tail. Not today, though, today was good.
Ronald So, for you, it's an individual belief about the nature of other individuals.
Michael Correct. I don't think peoples actions are predestined by genetics.
Bill Yep! Racism is a terrible disease that afflicts all humans. Unfortunately, many use it as a crutch and it's a tragedy!
Ronald Question: how is it used as a crutch, do you think?
Bill Just listen to Al Sharpton every once in a while. It's absolutely absurd how hypocritical this situation is. About month or so after the terrible tragedy of Trayvon Martin, a US Marine was brutally murdered by four black individuals.
Where in the hell, and I rarely curse, but where in the hell was the media when this person was brutally murdered by four black men?
I love black people, Asians, Mexicans, Americans, and that even means white people. I wish this world would wake up and realize were all different but we should all strive for one purpose… work TOGETHER! It can be done.
Scott S It helps to narrow the field. That is, the term "racism" often seeks to place blame. I think it is helpful to understand racism as a system of power and then understand individual behavior as supporting or resisting that system of power. This is a fairly common sociological understanding of "isms." I thought it might be helpful in communicating with people who unknowingly support racist systems of power, but I find that white people are so defensive about their own racism that it is impossible to have a conversation.
Ronald Okay, but I see some interesting potential with the way you're looking at racism, as a system of power, when it comes to white defensiveness. That is, if we can somehow culturally de-couple the word "racism" from a concept of personal identity, while stressing that, even though people are oppressed by and benefit from racist power systems, we are not necessarily talking about individuals. I mean, okay, we're talking about individuals, of course, but I'm imagining a way of talking about racism that doesn't tend to create the sense of panic such discussion often evokes among whites.
I've read recently an assertion that one of the Civil Rights movement's failures is that the symbolic face of racism which came to dominate was one of a Klansman, or a lynch mob, which was definitely true enough at the time, but which also in the long run created a social understanding of racism that was expressed only in terms of the most obvious and egregious individual examples. On the other hand, it's difficult to symbolize systems of power in a concise and emotionally powerful way.
Scott S Right. Too many white people think that if they can refrain from actually hanging a black person, they have no responsibility for racial dynamics.
Scott P It can never die, so long as energetic and creative folks (and vested interests like Al Sharpton) keep it alive through new, infinitely more nuanced definitions of the word.
Ronald I think another impediment for whites understanding racism as a social power dynamic is that our nation generally does an incredibly bad job of educating people that there are even such things as power systems. Instead, we're taught the formal structure of government, and perhaps some rudimentary economics, with very strong doses of nationalism and American exceptionalism. So to even entertain the notion that things don't work in the ideal way in which we were taught is to attack one's very sense of connection to country.
Actually, I think this is why MLK lost his FBI detachment, which allowed his assassin such easy access: he started going after real power, instead of simply insisting on integration and civil rights--remember, he was in Memphis participating in a sanitation worker strike, and he had come out against the Vietnam War only a year earlier. To challenge seriously the dominant power structure is incredibly dangerous.
Ronald So, Scott, you're saying that there really isn't any racism anymore, and what we call "racism" is simply an intellectual and social construct pushed by activists? For fame? Glory? Money?
April Money and power
Ronald While I think that racism is definitely something real and oppressive in this country, it would be foolish to deny that, as with religion, there are definitely hucksters out there who want nothing more than your attention and your money. For instance, I'm not particularly fond of the New Black Panther Party, especially because, while far from perfect, the actual Black Panther Party had some principles and did some good. The distraction created by these types makes the waters all the more muddied.
Scott P No. Still exists. But will forever if the folks interested in handling it don't treat it as if it should die. The goal should be Dr. King's and Dr. Seuss's color blindness, not a permanent institutionalized quota/classification/double standard system.
Scott S One problem with a system of power is that they can be exploited. Most people who participate in them, which is everyone, aren't aware of their participation. And don't want to be.
Joshua "Racism still alive they just be concealing it"
Joshua I dont have no links or references, but i have experience..... Growing up black in highlands tx... Whew let me tell you..... It all comes down to up bringing..... Were all racist! I hate whites, i hate blacks i hate ignorant people. But you cant get made at someone cause they dont know better... You cant fix stupid
Chris What I've always understood *racism* to be is a form of *prejudice*. By that I mean a tendency to make generalizations about an entire group of people based on the characteristics of a few. And then applying those generalizations to each new member of the group as you encounter them. Whether the generalization is positive (Asians are math geniuses) or negative (blacks are lazy criminals), it does a disservice to the entire race. It's just easier to compartmentalize and categorize than it is to always get all the information possible. And unfortunately many humans want to avoid thinking wherever possible.
Chris I've always thought I was lucky. My ethnicity is unclear. Meaning, people never know what I am. So, I don't have any preconceptions to live up to or fall short of. The flip side of that is I have no "brothers", no support group. I've met maybe a couple guys in my life that could really identify with my background.
Chris But to your original point... I think there's a lot of people that truly believe they're not racist not realizing they are. A lot of white guys may not have a problem with: working alongside a black man, working FOR a black man, even (in the cases of soldiers or police) taking a bullet for a black man. But that same man may still have a problem with his daughter dating a black man. Still a racist. Sorry.
Ronald Josh, Highlands, at least when I was teaching in Baytown, had Klan activity, and even an Aryan Brotherhood presence. I can only imagine what it must have been like growing up there.
Joshua Adapt... It got me the un wanted title of the white black guy, all because i would rather learn instead of hustle
Posted by Ron at 2:26 AM
Friday, July 19, 2013
From Veracity Stew, courtesy of their facebook presence:
GOP Party Leader Boasts: Voter ID Laws Help to Suppress Votes
The Republican party has not only waged a bold and unprecedented war on women’s rights, but they continue to openly boast about their war on legitimate voters, and are already making plans to use voter suppression tactics in the 2014 midterms…and beyond.
Pennsylvania GOP Party Chairman, Robert Gleason, has been caught on video boasting about how that state used oppressive Voter I.D. restrictions during the 2012 election to help Mitt Romney and other Republican candidates.
Click here for the rest, with video.
We've been hearing Republicans going on and on about "voter fraud" as the ostensible justification for voter ID laws for the last decade or so. Of course, statistically speaking, there is no voter fraud along these lines. Instead, and from time to time they're actually honest about it, it's about making sure "those people" can't vote. Because "those people" vote for the wrong party. That is, it's voter suppression, the new Jim Crow, disenfranchisement of non-white Americans. The kind of thing the Voting Rights Act used to stop. Not anymore.
Posted by Ron at 1:00 AM
Thursday, July 18, 2013
From the AP site Big Story, courtesy of Eschaton:
With little fanfare or controversy, Britain announced Wednesday that Queen Elizabeth II — hardly a social radical — had signed into law a bill legalizing same-sex marriages in England and Wales. France has also legalized gay marriages, but only after a series of gigantic protests attracting families from the traditional heartland that revealed a deeply split society.
Official word that the queen had approved the bill drew cheers in the usually sedate House of Commons.
"The opposition seemed restricted to a very small number of people very vigorous in their views," said Steven Fielding, a political scientist at the University of Nottingham. "It was restricted to the back benchers of the Conservative Party. It wasn't shared across the political spectrum. It was an issue whose time had come. To oppose it seemed slightly strange."
Yes, this is very good news for gays in Britain. I mean, obviously. But I think it bodes quite well for gays in the US, too. To be sure, Americans don't take their cues about life, the universe, and everything from the Brits. But the Brits are our mother culture. There is, as the diplomats say, a "special relationship" between the US and the UK. There is definitely a cultural back and forth between them and us. So what's "normal" there has some influence on what's "normal" here. That is, it's just another brick in the wall of inevitability for gay marriage in America.
I should also add that more freedom and equality is better for everybody, not just gays and lesbians.
Posted by Ron at 2:19 AM
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
From the Everlasting GOP Stoppers, courtesy of somebody on facebook:
This is what happens when a couple of two-bit CNBC hacks take on ass-kicker for the middle class Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MASS) on banking policy. Any follower of Sen. Warren is familiar with her relentless attacks on the banks and the concept of “Too Big To Fail.”
About half way through this video of her appearance on CNBC’s The Squawk Box, Senator Warren makes host Joe Kernen wish he had done a little more homework:
“You are not going to defend the proposition that regulation can never work if it DID work.”
More here, with video.
I don't watch too much, well any to be honest, CNBC, but I do know it's not much more than pro-business propaganda. This is the network, after all, that literally created the idea for the Tea Party movement. Unlike Fox News, however, they don't appear to bring on even token liberals to make them appear to be "fair and balanced." So this event is definitely out of the ordinary, but Warren is a major player in the business world now, as a Senator dealing directly with business policy, so it makes sense that they'd interview her. Clearly, they weren't ready. And it's pretty cool.
O'Reilly would have cut to a commercial or something well before Warren could have completed her message, but the CNBC drones just let the cameras keep rolling. Really, I don't have much more commentary than that, but this is noteworthy, to be sure. Warren really does kick some ass here. Something to be happy about. For once.
Posted by Ron at 1:47 AM
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Juror: Some wanted to convict Zimmerman initially
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
When they started looking at the law, the person who initially wanted second-degree murder changed her vote to manslaughter, the juror said. Then they asked for clarification from the judge and went over it again and again. B37 said some jurors wanted to find Zimmerman guilty of something, but there was just no place to go based on the law.
B37 said jurors cried when they gave their final vote to the bailiff.
"I want people to know that we put everything into everything to get this verdict," said the juror, whose face was blacked out during the televised interview but who appeared to become choked up.
The juror said she didn't think Martin's race was the reason that Zimmerman followed him on a dark, rainy night. She said she also believed Martin threw the first punch and that Zimmerman, whom she referred to as "George," had a right to defend himself.
"I have no doubt George feared for his life in the situation he was in at the time," the juror said.
Okay, I'm starting to get a better understanding of how this all played out. For starters, if I'm getting this right, it appears that, under Florida law, all that matters in self-defense cases is the actual moment of the defending of self. So it is entirely conceivable that I could walk into, say, a redneck bar, violate some big country dude's personal space, stare him down, and as long as I become terrified of his reaction to my provoking him, I can shoot him dead. Of course, that's totally insane. But it appears to be how the law works in the Sunshine State.
On the other hand, we're all fools if we don't think race plays a role in this legal calculus. This juror, who, by herself, represents a sixth of the entire jury, is totally deluded when she asserts that the killer wasn't motivated at all by race: I'm not sure if it was allowed into the courtroom as evidence, but Zimmerman CLEARLY was out hunting for black people, or, to use his own words, those "assholes who always get away." But whether she didn't know because it was inadmissible, or whether she did and simply didn't care, racial delusion was the result. For that matter, she also had a clear emotional preference for her good buddy "George," a preference so strong that Zimmerman's stalking became irrelevant to her--Martin threw "the first punch."
To me, this seems to be her falling into the longstanding Southern narrative construction of the "scary black man." One wonders what her feelings might have been if the victim had been a white kid. Would his hypothetical whiteness have trumped Zimmerman's light brown skin and Hispanic ethnicity? Hard to say, of course, but her obvious sympathy was with the hunter, rather than his prey. And that's a problem. A big one.
That is, the law itself is psychotic. It allows murder under circumstances which are easily created by the murderer. Throw in the prevalent socially constructed racist notion of the "black thug," and it becomes that much easier to assert those circumstances to a jury. In other words, I don't know, for certain, that I'd be found not guilty in my redneck bar example. But change the skin color of the guy I'm staring down from white to black, and it's very likely a slam dunk. In Florida, at least. Probably lots of other places, too.
No, Zimmerman killing Martin wasn't a lynching. But it had certain elements of lynching psychology at play, to be sure, most notably fear and hatred toward a negative black stereotype, which became embodied as an actual black human being. And now he's dead. And nobody seems to know what to do about it.
Posted by Ron at 1:35 AM
Monday, July 15, 2013
From the Washington Post editorial page:
Whatever preceded the fight between the two men, the central question, as a matter of criminal law, was precisely what occurred in the immediate moments before Zimmerman fired the fatal shot. Zimmerman instigated the tragic chain of events, but legally that was not relevant. To convict Zimmerman of second-degree murder, prosecutors had to prove that he did something that he knew was “reasonably certain” to kill or seriously injure and acted with “ill will, hatred, spite or an evil intent.” Even for the lesser charge of manslaughter, they had to rebut his claim of self-defense, showing that he could not “reasonably believe” shooting Martin was “necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.”
Justice takes the longer time frame. Zimmerman may not be legally responsible for Martin’s death but he remains morally culpable.
Overall, the linked essay ends up being incredibly frustrating. The writer goes through the ins and outs of the larger issues in the Zimmerman trial, and comes up with some pretty damning stuff, but then concludes, like the self-congratulating pro-establishment "moderate" that most big time journalists are, that society must accept outcomes like this because...well...I'm not sure why we're supposed to accept it, but there was some sense of "yay America" about it all. But that's okay. I'm not endorsing the essay, just the excerpt, which is poignant enough.
That is, I have no problem accepting the notion that everything in the trial was on the up and up legally speaking, if that is, in fact, the case. What boggles my mind is that the law makes no consideration of Zimmerman's actions leading up to the moment he shot Martin.
Thought experiment: A guys says, "I hate ni$$ers" or something to that effect, "and I'm sick about how those assholes always get away." So he gets a gun and hits the streets saying, "If I find one of those ni$$ers ripping off my neighborhood, I'm going to get him." During his "patrol" he encounters a black guy walking down the street and then follows him for several blocks. He gets out of his car and then instigates a confrontation. In the confrontation, the black guy gets the upper hand, so our vigilante shoots him.
How is this self-defense? Sure, I'm exaggerating, but that's essentially what happened. Zimmerman was out hunting black people in order to "protect" his community. He might not have wanted to kill anybody outright, but he was ready to, or he wouldn't have brought the gun. He provoked a confrontation. And in that confrontation, which he provoked, he feared for his life. And I'm to understand that, legally, the only thing that matters is the moment Zimmerman feared for his life?
Okay, that may very well be how the law works. But it's also insane. And racist. And now a black kid is dead simply because he was walking down the street, and the killer is free, not guilty of any crime at all. There is no way to justify this. It's wrong. And to our great shame.
Posted by Ron at 2:32 AM
Saturday, July 13, 2013
Zimmerman found not guilty in killing of Trayvon Martin
From the Washington Post:
A Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman of charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter Saturday night in a case that alternately fascinated and appalled large segments of a spellbound nation.
The saga of Zimmerman’s shooting of an unarmed African American teenager named Trayvon Martin whittled into the American vernacular, transforming “hoodie” sweatshirts into cultural markers, and provoking a painful reexamination of race relations in this country. Even the racial and ethnic identity of Zimmerman — he has a white father and a Hispanic mother — demanded a reordering of conventional paradigms. He was frequently referred to as a “white Hispanic,” a term that, for some, reflected a newly blended America and, for others, felt like an uncomfortable middle-ground.
It is now legal for states to disenfranchise blacks. It is now legal for a man to strap on a gun and go hunting for black kids in the street. A prominent Republican Senator defends the white supremacist he has employed on his staff. Hundreds of thousands defend celebrity chef and neo-confederate Sambo wedding planner Paula Deen. All in the last few weeks.
And somehow I'm the impolite one for observing that this country continues to have a massive problem with racism, and pointing out the people who everybody knows are responsible? Screw you all. America has leveled whatever moral high ground it thought it had. Today is a day of deep shame for our nation.
Posted by Ron at 11:51 PM
Friday, July 12, 2013
Rand Paul's Confederacy Scandal Is Not an Anomaly -- Libertarianism Is a 'Philosophy' That Papers Over Deep Racism in America
Posted by Ron at 1:28 AM
Thursday, July 11, 2013
From People's World, courtesy of the Communist Party USA's facebook page:
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, "When capitalism cannot provide jobs for the unemployed, then the government(s) must act before it loses the power to do so."
Capitalism cannot provide jobs for the hundreds of millions of unemployed, nor does it have any interest in doing so. Capitalism is in business to make profits, not jobs. When it needs workers, it will hire them; when it no longer needs them, it will fire them. As the new production technologies develop and the rate of production is intensified, workers will be needed for shorter and shorter periods of time.
Although capitalism cannot provide jobs for everyone who is willing, ready and able to work, we must wring out every job possible. Under the new lightening speed commodity production, fundamental changes in the economy are necessary. The old rules and relations which produce mass unemployment have to be sharply amended or replaced. Governmental processes which have always been in the control of capitalism must be redirected to meet the new production situation.
"Get a job," the favored right-wing solution to unemployment, is an inoperative notion when there are no jobs to be had, when the jobs that do exist are woefully inadequate for supporting a family. "Go to college," something liberals like to say, isn't much help, either, for pretty much the same reasons. The old rules no longer apply, in spite of the fact that everybody pretends they still do. That is, the cherished American notion that if everybody would just go get a job, and government allows business to do whatever it wants without burdensome interference, then everything will work out just fine is now clearly a fiction, and it's getting worse. There is no hope for improvement on the horizon. Expect mass unemployment and underemployment to be the new norm for the twenty first century.
Capitalism, or, at least, capitalism as currently configured in the United States, is now totally broken. It does not create prosperity for the nation. It creates prosperity for certain privileged American individuals, yes, but certainly not for the nation. What good is a national economic system if it doesn't take care of us? Why should any working American support an economic system that is designed ultimately to impoverish him and his fellow citizens? We need radical change if we're ever again going to see something even resembling the middle class prosperity we had in the twentieth century. And we need it now, or we're going to look more and more like Mexico as the years go by, and less and less like the US everybody still believes in.
I'm not saying we need to have a Marxist revolution or anything so extreme. But we need to fix capitalism such that it actually does what it claims to do: make America prosper. We've tried the whole freeing up business thing for the last three decades, and it has failed utterly. Capitalism left to its own devices does nothing but cannibalize the nation. We have to fix this. Or there WILL be a revolution eventually, whether that's a good thing or not.
Posted by Ron at 1:01 AM
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Monday, July 08, 2013
A new exposé of Mother Teresa shows that she—
and the Vatican—were even worse than we thought
From Why Evolution Is True, courtesy of Anne Rice on facebook. No, seriously, Anne Rice; she's got a Catholic thing going on, apparently:
The criticisms of Agnes Gonxha, as she was christened, have been growing for a long time. I wasn’t aware of them until I read Christopher Hitchens’s cleverly titled book, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, which I found deeply disturbing. The book is polemic at Hitchens’s best, and though the facts were surprising, he was never sued and his accusations were never refuted—nor even rebutted. (You can read excerpts here and here, but I urge you to read the book.) In light of that, I accepted Mother Teresa as a deeply flawed person.
In its “criticism” section of her biography, Wikipedia summarizes the growing opprobrium related to her extreme love of suffering (that is, the suffering of her “patients”), her refusal to provide adequate medical care, her association with (and financial support from) shady characters, and her treatment of her nuns.
Now a paper is about to appear (it’s not online yet) that is apparently peer-reviewed, and that expands the list of Mother Teresa’s malfeasances.
Contemplating the ultimate meaning of Mother Teresa isn't simply your standard, gleeful, atheistic style of clergy-bashing. Rather, when you consider the celebrated pre-saint's role as a global do-gooder, you're necessarily considering the meaning of poverty, and what society's attitude toward it ought to be. For Teresa, as far as I can tell, it was something along these lines: poverty will always be a fact of human life, and we can't really do anything about it, but we should be kind to the poor because their suffering is like the suffering of Christ. Or something to that effect. Contrast this with the Marxist point of view that the circumstances in which poverty exists are entirely manufactured, which morally compels society to do everything it can to change those circumstances for the better.
If, in fact, much of Teresa's career was a sham, if she had the ability to alleviate a LOT more suffering than she actually did, then this best example of compassion in a capitalist world turns out to be a pretty bad example, after all, suggesting that, in the end, there might not be much room to comfort the suffering in a reality like ours where commerce is society's sole priority. I mean, if the best was ineffective, then what do we have?
Not much, really. All that glitters isn't gold.
Posted by Ron at 10:55 PM
Defining Prosperity Down
Friday’s employment report wasn’t bad. But given how depressed our economy remains, we really should be adding more than 300,000 jobs a month, not fewer than 200,000. As the Economic Policy Institute points out, we would need more than five years of job growth at this rate to get back to the level of unemployment that prevailed before the Great Recession. Full recovery still looks a very long way off. And I’m beginning to worry that it may never happen.
Posted by Ron at 12:45 AM
Sunday, July 07, 2013
SELECT COMMENTS I'VE MADE ON FB IN DEFENSE OF MY SOUTHERN PRIDE POST
As you may know, I've been posting some of my better Real Art stuff on facebook, as was recently the case with my anti-Southern pride screed from Thursday night. I haven't encountered much opposition, which is a bit weird, I think, but what I've gotten has motivated some further thoughts on my part, which I think are worth posting back here.
You can probably figure out from context what I'm responding to, but the first one needs maybe a wee bit of introduction: my buddy Doug believes that paying any attention to the Paula Deen thing at all is essentially wasted effort on what he sees as celebrity scandal mongering, which is why he simply commented with some news about an abortion bill being passed in Wisconsin. But, like I said, the rest is pretty clear from context.
Well, Doug, these legislative initiatives don't spring from the forehead of Zeus fully grown. That is, we can fight continual policy battles or we can bury the cultural cesspool from which the notion that one human being can control another springs. Actually, we can do both, and it really bugs me that activists are tunnel-vision focused on the legislative arena without ever questioning from where these psychotic concepts come in the first place, or imagining that they can be cut off at the source. That is, Democrats continue, even in the age of Obama, to fight a rear-guard action. And it will be this way until they win the war of ideas, which is, unfortunately, a war they don't seem to realize they need to be fighting.Hopefully, the debate will continue on facebook.
Cole, that's not really the point I'm trying to make. Indeed, many, maybe most, of the Southern pride people aren't racist in the sense that they don't like black people. I mean, I take Paula Deen at her word when she says she likes blacks just fine. Rather, it's the view that there was something honorable about the Confederacy, which, in itself, contains countless other views about the nature of reality, about the relationship between worker and business owner, about the validity of black assertions that racism is real and continues to exist, and on and on. So there's Boston racism, which is pretty straightforward, and then there's Southern pride, which is an entire system of ideas, values, and norms. Both are bad. But Southern pride infects the entire American body politic.
Bradley and Ronnie, you guys are completely missing the point. And this is fairly typical when the Southern pride people are called on their bullshit. Indeed, saying "there are racists in other parts of the country" is nothing but the old "Look! Over there!"
White Southern culture exists, whether you want to admit it or not. It is not the same culture one finds in Detroit or Boston. It has lines of influence, passed down from generation to generation, going all the way back to the antebellum era. It has embedded in it attitudes about property, honor, right and wrong, national unity, and yes, race. Really, what's wrong with Southern pride can be summed up easily: to celebrate the Confederacy in any way at all is to say that slavery wasn't so bad, to say that Jim Crow wasn't so bad, to say that wealth-driven aristocracy wasn't so bad, and when you're able to reduce the absolute barbarity of those two eras to "not so bad," then you're well down the road to enabling the further oppression of African Americans, indeed, all Americans who aren't privileged in the first place.
Deny it all you want, but refusing to see it doesn't render it non-existent.
Wow, Ronnie, you're so steeped in this Southern pride culture I'm talking about that you can't see it, like the air all around you, or a fish in the water.
First off, Chinese immigrant labor wasn't the economic foundation for a massive region of the United States. Indeed, the usage of African slave labor was on such a huge scale in the South that it inspired the Abolitionist movement in the North, which, in turn, inspired the paranoid and resentful rise of Southern culture, complete with an entire system of ideas, norms, and values, all aimed at justifying the barbaric practice of human bondage, and so strongly embraced by Southern whites that it still exists to this very day. It exists in you, in fact. Nothing like that happened out West, with the Chinese, so it's just a lousy comparison from the get-go.
And I'm not looking at this from a modern point of view. African slavery was understood, from the very beginning, in the 1600s with the Caribbean sugar trade, to be an abomination. Everyone knew this. But there was just too much money to be made. So it was done, just as capitalists do today with various destructive forms of enterprise. And once the practice finally encountered some organized and principled opposition in the form of the Abolitionist movement, that's when what had been an informal social system in the South, where whites were more loyal to their state than to their region, became the Southern way of life, justifying slavery with white supremacy, which permeated all activities.
Dude, this isn't about which races were enslaved and where. This is about the abhorrent civilization that arose in the South to justify slavery, one that did not arise elsewhere in the US, and one that should have been eradicated during Reconstruction, but wasn't. I mean, for god's sake, listen to you, man. You're rationalizing slavery by saying that blacks were "purchased." It's almost as though you don't understand what you're telling me, you're so engulfed by Southern pride blinders.
Black Americans ARE owed something. Owed a LOT, in fact. The legal and social institution known as Jim Crow only formally came to and end a half century ago, only a few years before my birth. Everyone in the South who is older than me came of age under that institution, with all the childhood psychological programming that comes with such an institution. And, even though the legal structures have "officially" ended, the oppression continues in myriad ways, the criminal justice system, urban poverty and absolute despair, a massive wealth gap, and on and on.
You do not see this because of the Southern pride culture I'm talking about. The one you refuse to admit exists. The one that controls your very thoughts.
Posted by Ron at 12:26 AM
Friday, July 05, 2013
In 1978, out of college without a job and having failed to establish Birmingham’s version of The Village Voice, I took a job as advance man for the Alabama Republican Senate candidate.
One incident that stuck with me was a visit to campaign headquarters by a young Republican adviser—I didn’t recognize his name, but I remember that he strummed a guitar while talking to us. He told us, “Don’t ever use the words ‘black’ and ‘white’ in an argument. Always say ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative.’ You’ll turn every argument about race into a political one. You do that, and race will start to disappear as an issue.”
I don’t think racism is the cardinal sin of the South, and it certainly isn’t exclusive to the South. The South’s cardinal sin is in pretending that racism didn’t cause the Civil War, and that racism doesn’t survive as a major issue.
On this point Thompson is unrelenting. “We can no longer afford to wait on the South to get its racial shit together,” he writes. “It’s time to move on, let southerners sort out their own mess free from the harassment of northern moralizers.” This is pretty much what William Faulkner wrote in more eloquent terms some 60 years ago. And, as we approach the 150th anniversary of the battles of Vicksburg and Gettysburg, Thompson finds plenty of Southerners who think, as one of them tells him, “We’re on the verge of a civil war.” Thompson asks, “Between North and South?” The answer: “Between conservative and liberal.”
This is why I hate on Paula Deen. Not because she used the n-word, but because her entire view of what it means to be an American is utterly tainted by teary-eyed sentimentality for an old South that never existed. This attitude, when multiplied by the millions of deluded white Southerners who embrace it, is why the United States is the profoundly dysfunctional nation it is today.
Southern whites don't side with big business against their own economic interests continually because they've studied neoliberalism in depth and have made rational choices about what's best for the general population and overall prosperity--indeed, as the linked essay observes, nine of the ten poorest states in the US are in the South; clearly, neoliberal policies are SCREWING Southern whites, not helping them. Rather, white Southerners side with big business because they perceive big business as the champion of whiteness.
This cannot be understated. The Republican Party, when it realized in the late 60s that the Democrats' embrace of civil rights gave the GOP a massive political opportunity in the South, has been doing everything it can for forty years to transmute "black versus white" into "liberal versus conservative." Social welfare programs, for instance, enjoyed a great deal of support among white Southerners for decades until the Republicans successfully turned the symbolic face of welfare from white to black. And "big government," which is hated by big business, because it prevents rampant exploitation of citizens and wanton destruction of the environment, became forever intermingled in the white Southern mind with what is now the antithesis of "big government," and, not so coincidentally, a traditional rallying concept for the old South, "state's rights." Of course, the "state's rights" over which the Civil War was ostensibly fought are essentially not much more than white privilege and "freedom" to oppress and exploit workers and non-whites, instead of a Randian pro-business notion, but let's not quibble too much over the details. After all, Southern Republicans certainly don't. The point here is that white Southerners vote conservative because they think that means they're voting white, whether they have any conscious awareness of this or not.
And that's why Paula Deen's brand of bigotry is so extraordinarily key to understanding most everything that's wrong with America today. She's not some weirdo backward-ass celebrity with bizarre niche attitudes about "liberal" Catholicism and Zionist conspiracies to rule the world, as with Mel Gibson. That's relatively small scale tinfoil hat stuff in comparison. Deen's racism, in stark contrast, her elevating of the barbaric and traitorous regime known as the Confederacy to something both honorable and desirable, is part of a massive cultural strain that relentlessly drives American politics in an ever more dangerous direction.
We'll never get off this death-ride until we start telling the truth: Southern pride is suicidal bullshit. America tolerates it only at great risk to itself.
Posted by Ron at 1:59 AM