Tuesday, September 24, 2013

More Stupid & Hate from the Right

It’s only been a few weeks since my last post highlighting recent stupid, bigoted, and hateful comments from the right. Who knew that August and September would be such a fertile time for the right-wing stoopid to get even stoooooopider and hate to get … um … more hatier? Sheesh. Now I’m sounding like Colbert. Anyway…

Let’s start with Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) who, according to two Republican state lawmakers, said during a Republican fundraiser that President Obama “hates white people”. Apparently, Gov. LePage said that President Obama could have been the best president ever if he’d highlighted his biracial heritage but that President Obama didn’t do so because he “hates white people”. I don’t know. I’ve never gotten the impression that President Obama hated his white mother. Or his white grandparents. But then, when you look at a picture of President Obama’s Cabinet (yes, I know that this isn’t the current Cabinet), you can really get a sense for his hatred of white people. I mean just look at how few whites he’s appointed to the Cabinet:

Hmm. Never mind.

Anyway, I thought that this tongue-in-cheek statement “proving” that President Obama hates white people, written as if it was penned by Gov. LePage, helped clear things up (I’ve made a few minor formatting changes):

People criticized me for saying “Obama hates white people”, but I can prove it. Over the past 5 years, and even over the course of his life, he has said and done things which bear me out.

#1 Obama continues to be president, even though he knows his blackness offends some white people.

#2 He has yet to repeal the 13th Amendment and re-enslave black people to please Southern whites. He hasn’t even proposed it. Nor has he offered to pay reparations to descendants of slave holders for their loss of property in the Civil War.

#3 He has invited black people to the White House, instead of only inviting white people. And he has continued to do this no matter how many times Fox News has complained.

#4 He, with his attorney general Eric Holder, has fought the efforts of Republican state governments to keep the white vote from being diluted by black and other minority voters, which has the effect of telling people their votes aren’t special or more important than non-white votes. What’s more, he has actively registered black and Hispanic voters, which also diluted the value of white votes.

#5 Some of the taxes paid for by white people go to services for non-whites. Shouldn’t white taxes go to white people and minority taxes go to minority people?

#6 He married a black woman.

#7 He had black kids.

#8 He’s even making white people pick up poop after his new black dog Sunny. Probably.

In conclusion, Obama has failed to prefer white people above all others at every juncture, which proves he hates white people. It’s just logic, so stop calling me a racist.


Gov. Paul LePage

Though clearly over-the-top, there is a bit of uncomfortable truth in the views this satirical piece highlights.

Next, let’s turn to Alabama Republican Congressional candidate Dean Young who has circulated a pledge that he is asking all Republican candidates to sign. The pledge focuses on opposition to same-sex marriage (and homosexuality in general):

It is time for men and women of faith to stand for the founding Christian values and morals that made our nation great, to defend our families and the sacred holiness of marriage.

1. I believe that the only marriage is between one man and one woman.

2. I believe the Biblical condemnation of homosexuality and thereby gay marriage.

3. The tenants [sic] of my church oppose gay marriage.

4. I oppose gay marriage.

5. As a member of Congress, I shall take active steps to oppose gay marriage.

6. I support the by-law change to expel any member of the Republican Executive Committee who opposes the party position by supporting gay marriage.

Don’t worry about items 1-2 or 4-5; nothing new there. Rather I want to focus your attention on the preamble and items 3 and 6 of the Young’s pledge. First, note that Young isn’t being the least bit coy or circumspect. He comes right out notes that it was the “founding Christian values and morals that made our nation great”. I’m not going to take the time to debunk the whole “Christian Nation” claim (but feel free to peruse Chris Rodda’s Liars for Jesus), though I would ask if slavery and the exclusion of women from voting were included in those Christian values and morals; I might also ask why the Constitution doesn’t require us to, oh, I don’t know, pray to Jesus, maybe, or establish Christianity as the official religion?

And look at item 6 of the pledge. Apparently, in Young’s ideal version of the Republican Party, having a position contrary to that which Young supports is so bad that the person having that alternate view should be expelled from the Republican Executive Committee. Yeah, that’s going to help win young voters to Young’s cause.

But the most incredible part of Young’s pledge has to be item 3: “The tenants of my church oppose gay marriage”. (I doubt he means that the family renting his church opposes gay marriage; rather I’m pretty sure he meant “tenet” but, not being fully fluent in Teabonics, it’s not always easy to tell.) Anyway, let’s think about that part of the pledge for a minute. Young expects all Republican candidates to pledge, not only that they condemn homosexuality, but also that they are members of a church that also opposes homosexuality. Hmm. So I guess a Jew can’t run as a Republican in Young’s worldview. Certainly not a Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim. I’m not sure about a Mormon. But all of that is besides the point. Why? Because of this: “[N]o religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”. Sound familiar? It’s the last clause of Article VI of the Constitution. Perhaps, before running for Congress, idiots like Young ought to, you know, read the Constitution (after all, isn’t fealty to the text and original meaning of the Constitution a core platform of Tea Party guys like Young?).

It is possible, of course, that Young was confused given that he’s from Alabama; I mean, I’m sure that an ultra-conservative state like Alabama probably allows for religious tests or requires its elected officials to be good God-fearin’ Christians from a state-approved church, right?

[N]o religious test shall be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this state…

(Alabama Constitution, Article 1, Section 3.) Oh. Never mind. Anyway, is anyone else worried about people who think that in order to be elected you should make a pledge regarding your church and your belief that you should condemn other people? How very American.

Next we have Greg Abbott, the frequently offensive Attorney General of Texas (and candidate to replace Rick Perry both as Governor and, apparently, as dumbest man in Texas). Attorney General Abbott was understandably upset that the Justice Department sued Texas over its harsh new voter ID law (after all, Abbott most likely realizes that one of the best things that he can do to ensure that he gets elected is to prevent those who might vote for a Democrat from being able to vote…). But why do I mention Abbott in this post? Well, you see, in response to that suit by the Justice Department, Abbott pointed to the recent indictment of a woman in Texas for voting 5 times! Well, that sure sounds like a good reason to impose voter ID requirements, right? Um, one problem. You see, the woman who was indicted, apparently voted via absentee ballot which is not governed by the Texas voter ID law. It’s the very point that people who are concerned about voter ID laws have been making for years. If you’re really concerned about voter fraud, then target the one place where voter fraud actually occurs: absentee voting. The fact that all sorts of other voting restrictions are being put in place all across Republican-dominated states, while absentee ballots are exempted from the harsh requirements is a curious fact, no?

But don’t worry, Texas Attorney General Abbott wants us to know that “Voter IDs have nothing to do with race”. Abbott also noted that voter IDs “are free to anyone who needs one”. Well, not exactly.

[A]s to Abbott's claim that the newly required state-issued Photo IDs “are free to anyone who needs one,” as Ari Berman notes at The Nation:

[V]oters must first pay for underlying documents to confirm their identity, the cheapest option being a birth certificate for $22 (otherwise known as a “poll tax”); Texas has DMV offices in only eighty-one of 254 counties in the state, with some voters needing to travel up to 250 miles to obtain a new voter ID. Counties with a significant Hispanic population are less likely to have a DMV office, while Hispanic residents in such counties are twice as likely as whites to not have the new voter ID (Hispanics in Texas are also twice as likely as whites to not have a car).

Remember, those needing to drive “up to 250 miles” to get their “free” ID also need to do so despite not owning a drivers license! Other than that, the cost of the time off work, the cost of gas, and the cost of documents needed to receive one, those Photo IDs “are free to anyone who needs one,” as Abbott lied.

Next, let’s travel south to the creationist state of Louisiana, where Governor Bobby “Don’t Be the Stupid Party” Jindal … proved once again that he is an sparkling example of the stupid so prevalent in the stupid party. In an op-ed for Politico, Gov. Jindal talks about race in America. He actually makes some good points in his op-ed. But then he goes off the rails. First, he notes:

By the way, I noticed recently that the president of the United States, a man with whom I disagree with on almost everything, seems to have darker skin than most Americans. He hasn’t had a problem getting elected.

Has Gov. Jindal completely missed the overt and disgusting racism directed at President Obama, often from members of Gov. Jindal’s own party? Sure, President Obama was elected, but he was elected by those who aren’t racists and who do look past skin color. It was primarily people in Gov. Jindal’s party who latched onto the “birther” movement, who talk about President Obama as hating whites (paging Gov. LePage…), not understanding America, or being a sekrit Mooslim, and who send around virulently racist emails. But all Gov. Jindal can see is the fact that President Obama was able to find enough people who weren’t racists to get elected. I’d even suggest that the election of President Obama acted as a catalyst to draw out overt racism and make it, if not socially acceptable, at least something less than the anathema it should be.

And then, after a few more reasonable thoughts about race, Gov. Jindal says:

Yet we still place far too much emphasis on our “separateness,” our heritage, ethnic background, skin color, etc. We live in the age of hyphenated Americans: Asian-Americans, Italian-Americans, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Indian-Americans, and Native Americans, to name just a few.

Here’s an idea: How about just “Americans?” That has a nice ring to it, if you ask me. Placing undue emphasis on our “separateness” is a step backward. Bring back the melting pot.

There is nothing wrong with people being proud of their different heritages. We have a long tradition of folks from all different backgrounds incorporating their traditions into the American experience, but we must resist the politically correct trend of changing the melting pot into a salad bowl. E pluribus Unum.

Wait, what? Somehow recognizing heritage is a problem? I don’t think that E pluribus Unum means that we should become some sort of homogenous society; rather it means that we become a whole that is stronger than the sum of its parts. It is our diversity, our different backgrounds, cultural heritages, and ethnic and religious traditions that make us who we are. Should I stop eating matzoth ball soup and gefilte fish because it reinforces that I’m different from my gentile friends (especially the gefilte fish!)? Should Italian grandmothers stop making pasta, Mexican families stop making tortillas, and German families stop enjoying their beer? Should Gov. Jindal’s Indian family stop eating curry? Maybe we should all just eat McDonald’s so as to wipe away those elements of our heritage and culture.

Moreover, and much more importantly, isn’t being “just” an American what so many people do strive for but aren’t able to achieve because of racism directed toward them (as opposed to some sort of inherent outward-looking racism). African-Americans have been struggling to be treated the same as white Americans for centuries. African-Americans didn’t choose to be called the sorts of derogatory  names that were used to describe them! Eventually, the term “African-American” was coined, not to highlight the “separateness” of certain Americans, but to be less offensive than calling them niggers, coons, negroes, or even just blacks. “African-American” focuses on heritage, not just skin color. Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, and others struggle with the same issues, often because they are judged on the color of their skin. Or, look at how many, especially in Gov. Jindal’s party, treat Muslims who, like Christian Gov. Jindal, want nothing more than to be able to worship freely and be treated as Americans. Yet, in cities and states across the country, their efforts to build mosques are being impeded and laws are being passed that directly target them (the so-called “anti-sharia” laws). And just a few days ago, an Indian-American (like Gov. Jindal) was crowned Miss America and immediately the racist howls of complaint flooded Twitter and even Fox News (more on that later, I hope…).

So, Gov. Jindal has the right idea that we should all be “just” Americans. But perhaps he ought to explain that to the racists and bigots in his own party who seem intent on making sure that people who don’t look like them aren’t treated as “real” Americans.

And even as to the notion that we’re all “just Americans” one need look no further than the crowning of Miss New York Nina Davuluri as Miss America. Davuluri is of Indian ancestry but was born in America, thus making her as American as … well .. as American as any other American. But it seems that quite a few people don’t really get that. Here’s a sampling of comments on Twitter immediately following her crowning (I’ve deleted the Twitter links):

@MeredithRoanell This is Miss America… not Miss Foreign Country

@kathrynryan50 shes like not even american and she won miss america

@EJRBuckeye Well they just picked a Muslim for Miss America. That must’ve made Obama happy. Maybe he had a vote

@Granvil_Colt And the Arab wins Miss America. Classic.

@Not_MissAmerica More like Miss Terrorist #MissAmerica

@jakeamick5 How the fuck does a foreigner win miss America? She is a Arab! #idiots

@sarawhitton this is America. not India

@savannah_dale97 Miss New York is an Indian.. With all do respect, this is America

@wnfraser @ABC2020 nice slap in the face to the people of 9-11 how pathetic #missamerica

@SHANN___Wow Miss America right now or miss Al Qaeda?

@JPLman95 Miss America? You mean Miss 7-11.

@kalebistoocute Man our president nor our new Miss America isn’t even American I’m sorry but Miss Kansas I salute you your the real American #MissAmerica

@JTomes84 Miss America is brought to by their sponsors PF Changs and 7-11.

@_AudreyAnn Miss America is a terrorist. Whatever. It’s fine.

@Blayne_MkItRain Congratulations Al-Qaeda. Our Miss America is one of you.

@anthonytkr #MissAmerica ummm wtf?! Have we forgotten 9/11?

@LukeBrasili 9/11 was 4 days ago and she gets miss America?

@ColtonSEvans Egypt dancing? This is America. #MissAmerica

@NateBerard Asian or indian are you kiddin this is america omg

@JAyres15 I swear I'm not racist but this is America.

Though it doesn’t matter, it’s worth noting that Davuluri is not an Arab. Nor is she a Muslim (Hindu, actually). But she’s not a Caucasian Christian, either. And I’m afraid that to far too large a portion of our population, only Caucasian Christians are “real” Americans.

And it wasn’t just random racists on Twitter spouting off about Miss America. Nope. Our own favorite version of Hate Journalism (sometimes referred to as Fox News) even got in on the action. Todd Starnes, a Fox News radio host, took to Twitter to offer the following:

@toddstarnes Apparently the liberal Miss America Pageant judges weren't ready for a patriotic, gun-toting, deer-hunting Miss America. #missamerica

@toddstarnes Miss Kansas, a gun-toting, deer-hunting, military veteran was America's choice - but not the liberal Miss America judges' choice.

@toddstarnes The liberal Miss America judges won't say this - but Miss Kansas lost because she actually represented American values. #missamerica

@toddstarnes Miss Politically Correct America #missamerica

I think that the most telling of these tweets is the one in which Starnes claims that Miss Kansas lost “because she actually represented American values”. In other words, if Miss Kansas lost because she actually represented American values then, by definition, Davuluri must not represent those same values. Why not? Are “actual” American values limited to “gun-toting, deer-hunting, military veterans”? If so, I must not represent “actual” American values either. I guess I need to start hunting deer to be a “real” American, huh? And even if Starnes wasn’t directly referring to Davuluri with his comment about “actually representing” American values … then what did he mean?

This is all reminiscent of earlier this summer when Marc Anthony sang God Bless America at the 2013 Major League Baseball Game in New York City. Even Fox News (well, to be technically correct, Fox News Latino) noted the incredible outpouring of racism:

[W]hat should have been a moment of national unity and patriotism, instead turned into a moment highlighting a persistent ugliness in American culture: prejudice against Latinos.

While Anthony, who was born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents, performed, a not-insignificant number of viewers took to Twitter to express their displeasure — and expose their hate. Some of the Tweets included:

“Why is some Spanish [expletive] singing God Bless America at the All-Star Game? That’s just wrong”

“Why the [expletive] is a spic singing God Bless America?

“Welcome to America where god bless America is sung at our national pastime by a mexican”

“Shouldn’t an AMERICAN be signing God Bless America? #getoutofmycountry #allstargame

Letting a Spanish guy sing God Bless America really hurts my heart. Figure it out America #USA

Is it a little ironic the guy singing God Bless America at the All Star game isn’t American? [When someone corrected with “he’s from New York” the author of the Tweet replied: “doesn’t look like it”.]

Was there cause for any offense to be taken or was the performance culturally insensitive in any way? No. Was Anthony draped in a Puerto Rican flag? No. Was Anthony performing the song in Spanish? No. It thus seems the disgust was simply over a Latino singing a patriotic American classic. The message seems to be: Latinos who do not assimilate will be attacked; while Latinos who do assimilate (as most do) and are fiercely proud of this nation, such as Anthony, will also be attacked nonetheless, perhaps even more viciously.

And of course that episode is reminiscent of the NBA finals back in June when a 11-year-old child was invited by the San Antonio Spurs to sing the National Anthem.

Sebastien De La Cruz of  “America’s Got Talent” fame opened game three of the NBA Finals Tuesday night and sang the National Anthem. The eleven year old got thunderous applause, but not everyone on Twitter reacted quite so kindly. Some on the social media site made disparaging and negative comments about the Latino boy, and some incorrectly said he was an undocumented immigrant who should not be singing the National Anthem.

Among the comments directed at De La Cruz was this gem [typo in original]: “WHY DO MIAMI HEAT FANS GOT DIRTY MEXICAN FIVE YEAR OLDS SINGING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM?” Other tweets (a collection of them can be found on the Public Shaming blog) referred to De La Cruz as a “wetback” and “beaner” and presumed that he was an “illegal”. But the tweet that may have best summed things up?

@jacked_doc miami=cute white girls sings national anthem san Antonio= gets alittle mexican to sing it .. i thought that was america!!!

And the beat goes on. Just a few days ago, America voted for the winner of America’s Got Talent and (apparently, as I don’t watch the show) chose Kenichi Ebina. Yeah, you know what’s coming:

@pimptastic3 If the jap wins it ill kill a bitch. This is AMERICAS got talent. Go back to your country fucker!!!!!!!

@lexbottiglieri Wow so upset that fucking gook won Americas Got Talent.. Taylor all the way!

@Ljpingleton Muslim for president, jap for AGT [followed by an emoticon of a smiley face that is crying]

@JGehling9 How does a chink win AMERICA’S got talent?

@shaunareikofski We have a chink miss America and now another one Americas got talent..#Odd

@Ridnasty26 So a Japanese guy wins AMERICA’S Got Talent. I guess we’re gonna let the whole Pearl Harbor thing slide.

But Bobby Jindal thinks that the problem is people putting emphasis on their “separateness” and on their ethnic heritage or skin color instead of being “just” Americans.

You see, the problem I think is less about individuals self-identifying as part of a particular ethnic, religious, or other group; rather, the problem is people who want (or need) to categorize others as belonging to a particular group. The problem isn’t asking to be treated equally notwithstanding membership in a group that is discriminated against; the problem is that certain groups of people are discriminated against. But it appears that neither Gov. Jindal nor many on the right understand this.

Oh, and maybe Gov. Jindal should read what Gov. LePage had to say about President Obama’s hatred of white people. Then Gov. Jindal can talk about people being “just” Americans.

Next we have radio and TV personality Laura Ingraham. Frequent readers of this blog will know that I have a real problem with violent rhetoric. So let’s listen to a clip from the August 26, 2013, edition of her radio program. In this clip, Ingraham plays a portion of a speech given by Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Listen carefully.

(If the embedded audio won’t play, you can hear it at Media Matters.)

Now what could be wrong with using the sound of a gunshot to interrupt a speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest speeches in history? Don’t forget that Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. And Rep. Lewis, the man giving the speech in the above clip, was nearly killed himself during a civil rights march.

I’ve said it over and over, but I really worry about the eventual ramifications of the mainstreaming of violent rhetoric used in regard to politics and political opponents.

Well, I’ve got much, much more. Unfortunately. And when I say “much” I mean a whole fucking lot of similar articles and stories. Don’t worry, I’ll keep ’em coming; I follow this stuff carefully so that you don’t have to. But I’m going to stop this post for now. I’ve been working on it in fits and spurts for a few weeks and I’ve decided to go ahead and publish this and then continue the series in the days and weeks to come. So stay tuned. If your stomach can handle it.

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Yeah, I Know It’s Been a Bit Quiet Around Here

Sorry for the lack of recent posts. Don’t worry, I haven’t abandoned this blog. Work, family obligations, and the High Holidays interfered. Plus, I find myself working on several possible posts all at once, none of which have I managed to get to a point at which I’m satisfied enough to post.

But if you’re interested, please follow me on Twitter; I tend to post a lot of my thoughts there (and at 140 characters maximum, I’m forced to be much more concise…).

Also, several people have reported issues with posting comments. If you’ve had any problems, please let me know. It will help me to troubleshoot if you tell me the platform and operating system you’re using (i.e., Windows or Mac, iPhone or Android) and whether you tried to leave the comment anonymously or via one of the accounts supported by Blogger’s commenting system.


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Friday, September 6, 2013

Syria: Some Queries

The question of what, if anything, to do about Syria is now front and center in the public consciousness. I’ve already indicated my support for limited strikes against Syria to degrade the ability to use chemical weapons. That said, I remain open to opposing viewpoints and I’m not adverse to changing my mind when facts merit or arguments are persuasive.

I’ve been listening to and reading much of the debate over the last week or so, and I’m struck with several questions. I’d love to get some feedback on what people think, both about these questions in particular, the proposal to strike Syria more generally, and, even more broadly, the use of military force.

So, for those who favor a limited strike against Syria:

  1. Is your support based on the use of chemical weapons alone?
  2. Would you support strikes had the Assad regime not used chemical weapons?
  3. If the limited strikes are insufficient to substantially degrade the Assad regime’s ability to use chemical weapons, would you support broader military strikes, including either “boots on the ground” or strikes aimed at regime change?
  4. What are your basic minimums before which you are willing to support the use of military power?
  5. Do you (and have you) consistently applied your answer to question #4 to other conflicts?

For those of you opposed to a limited strike against Syria:

  1. Would you support strikes if we had a better sense that the forces opposing the Assad regime were comprised primarily of “good guys” and didn’t have an al-Qaeda component?
  2. Absent an imminent and direct threat to the United States, to American citizens, or to American allies, do you think that it is ever appropriate for the US to use military power?
  3. (If your answer to question #2 was not an unqualified “no”) Absent an imminent and direct threat to the United States, to American citizens, or to American allies, do you think that it is ever appropriate for the US to use military power without sanction by the UN Security Council or NATO?
  4. What are your basic minimums before you are willing to support the use of military power?
  5. What actions by a government against its citizens, if any, do you believe are egregious enough to warrant the use of military power?
  6. Do you (and have you) consistently applied your answer to questions #2-5 to other conflicts?

We know that there have been (and still are) worse conflicts than that raging in Syria (e.g. Congo, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Sudan) where we (or, for that matter, most of the world) have done little or nothing. And we’ve entered conflicts with, perhaps, less of a toll than that in Syria and where human rights abuses occurred but without the use of chemical weapons (e.g., Kosovo). So what is our real “red line”? How do we (and by “we” I mean the American public, not the American government) make that determination?

I’m not certain that I have the “right” answer (or answers). I certainly have some thoughts. But I’m curious to know what others think.

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