Archive for March, 2012

Isn’t it infuriating how the right pushes back against the outrage over Trayvon Martin’s death? For example, Sean Hannity said “left-wing personalities and even members of Congress” were using Martin’s death to make “highly inflammatory rhetoric.” What drives me bat-s**t over this is the suggestion that outrage is misplaced and somehow inconsistent with the facts. Really, Mr. Hannity? I guess it doesn’t bother you that Trayvon could be anyone’s son…including Barack Obama’s. But if he was your son or my son the circumstances of his wrongful death wouldn’t have been swept under the rug.

But Trayvon had a genetic problem. He was black. And, he committed the unspeakable crime of wearing a hoodie in a place that wasn’t to the liking of a well-connected vigilante named George Zimmerman packing a 9mm semi-automatic hand gun. For that he was killed.

So, Mr. Hannity, in view of the fact that inflammatory rhetoric usually follows injustice, I think it is quite justified. Then again, different people have different thresholds of what qualifies as injustice.

(please see the following piece about Trayvon Martin)

Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schw...

Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was an especially tough weekend. The Trayvon Martin killing took me back to June 21, 1964 when three civil rights workers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, were found lynched and mutilated near Philadelphia, Mississippi.

It also prompted recall of what happened to James Byrd, Jr., a Texan who, in 1998, was dragged by white supremacists behind a swerving truck for three miles until he finally died when his broken, battered and tortured body mercifully struck a roadside curb.

That isn’t to say that Trayvon Martin’s murder rises to the same level of horror as these cases…Trayvon got off easy with a bullet to the chest…but who can deny that his murderer, George Zimmerman, saw Trayvon as anything other than an outsider, an “other,” who didn’t belong were he, Zimmerman, found him. For that transgression Trayvon Martin lost his life.

But the bigger issue in this tragedy is the underlying narrative that turns a man like Zimmerman into an instrument of evil. It’s the same “not-one-of-us” narrative that killed the three civil rights activists and James Byrd Jr. and makes it okay for Rush Limbaugh to say that Michelle Obama is “guilty of uppity-ism”; that obsessively questions Barack Obama’s right to be president based upon imagined birth places; and, that allows Newt Gingrich to claim that President Obama “engages in Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior”, and makes Rick Santorum comfortable when he accuses President Obama of following a “non-bible theology” and that his agenda is “about some phony ideal, some phony theology.”

But, most dangerously, it’s a narrative that labels President Obama as the Antichrist, a belief held by nearly a quarter of all Republicans. In this hateful and toxic environment, is it any wonder that, according to a 2009 article in The Telegraph, “the rate of [death] threats against the president has increased 400 per cent from the 3,000 a year or so under President George W. Bush…”

One month ago, if President Obama, wearing a hoodie, had followed Trayvon Martin’s path, he might well have taken a bullet in the chest from George Zimmerman’s gun. He, too, would have been an outsider in Zimmerman’s sick and distorted mind…an “uppity Negro” who was where he should not have been.

In time, maybe George Zimmerman and the “stand your ground” law that protects him will be put on trial. Maybe something will change as a result. But I doubt it, because the NRA and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) likes things the way they are. After all, fear is good for business. It sells guns and rallies Republicans behind their movement to unseat a black president.

PolitiFact | Reince Priebus says health care law could mean as many as 20 million Americans could lose their employer-based insurance.

So, I got a message from a reader who said, ““Whenever I read an article calling George Bush a war criminal I have to stop and ask myself exactly what is it that makes people like you tick.” I don’t think he meant it as a compliment. Nonetheless, I felt obligated to provide some clarity to his“tick” thing so he can get on with his life.

What makes people like me tick? Well, lots of things.

I get really pissed off when we fight unjust wars, unjustly.

I get really pissed off when, in order to exact revenge for the killing of nearly 3,000 people in the 911 attacks, we go to war against a country that had nothing to do with 911 or Bin Laden, and then watch as nearly 3,000 American soldiers die, 33,184 are injured, many of them seriously, and an untold number suffer the lasting effects of PTSD. Of course, that doesn’t include the million or so Iraq dead, but who gives a damn about them, right?

I get really pissed off at the $2-plus trillion price tag of the war, which contributed mightily to the deficit, and which people like you will try to offset with tax cuts for the rich, and cutbacks in the social safety net (perhaps you would be kind enough to explain how the math works on that).

I get really pissed when I think how giddy Bin Laden must have gotten when he realized that he set off a series of events, which we are still dealing with a decade later, that turned out to be an unmitigated economic and foreign policy disaster for the United States.

I get really pissed off because the decision to invade Iraq was made prior to the justification for the invasion.

I get really pissed off when I think about the secret energy policy meeting was held prior to the invasion at which Iraqi oil fields were divvied up among American oil companies.

I get really pissed off when the United States tortures combatants and detain them in secret prisons. Sadly, I could go on, but I think you have a sense of what makes me tick.

But, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Bush isn’t a war criminal. But if he isn’t, what the fuck would you call him?

Left ForumI confess to being on somewhat of a high. Not that kind of a high. Rather, the kind that results from a blast of emotional and intellectual stimulation, which was delivered at Left Forum, a 2 ½ day conference of left-wingers hosted by Pace University in NYC. For conferees, there’s a whole lot there for everyone: there are more than 400 sessions and more than 1400 speakers!

Here is what makes Left Forum so very special; at a time when selfishness and greed have achieved favored-attribute status, Left Forum is all about other people…the poor, the marginalized, the incarcerated, the voiceless, the unrepresented, the under and un-educated, the hopeless…those for whom the American Dream might well be nothing more than a reason to think that tomorrow will be just a little bit better than today.

If you believe that your success will trickle down to this “other” America, Left Forum isn’t for you. If, on the other hand, you believe that your own success will be enriched by the welfare of others, Left Forum will resonate to your very core.

Cornel West, a prominent and provocative democratic intellectual and professor at Princeton University, captured the essence of Left Forum and, in fact, all of left-wing politics, when he rhetorically asked, “Who would want to live in a world where we do not have righteous indignation for the misfortune of others?”

If you need motivation to make America a better place for everyone, righteous indignation will do quite nicely.

More on Left Forum can be found on Borderless News and Views.

English: Rep. Albert Wynn (left) joins Gloria ...

Image via Wikipedia

The subject was civility in politics. The show, I think, was Melissa Harris-Perry’s assemblage of refreshingly bright talking heads (although it could have been the Chris Hayes show). The takeaway for me was a recommitment to the belief that the Left should never compromise its principles when dealing with the Right. Consider the abortion debate, for example.One side wants the freedom to choose, the other an outright ban. In the old days…not so long ago, really…both sides would try to resolve differences through compromise. Were they to try to do it today, the conversation might go something like this:

Mediator: Can we agree that abortion is bad and that we wish it didn’t exist?

Voices on both sides of the table: Sure! Abortion isn’t something to like. It’s a terrible thing.

Mediator: Ok. Can we also agree that abortion has been with us for a long, long time, and that the consequences of illegal, back-alley abortions were often tragic?

Voices: Sure. Terrible consequences. Very sad…

Mediator: Can we also agree that if Roe v. Wade were reversed that illegal abortions would reemerge in order to satisfy at least a portion of the demand?

Voices: Yes, that will happen, but there will be far fewer abortions. That’s good.

Mediator: Ok, if we know that illegal abortions will once again flourish, which is bad, but that the number of abortions will go down, which is good, then let’s shift the discussion to what steps we can take together to reduce the number of abortions without having to suffer the tragic reemergence of illegal abortions.

Voices: Sounds good. What do you have in mind?

Mediator: Well, we know that sex education in the schools works, and that easy access to birth control works…

Voices: What? You’re calling for more sex education in the schools and contraceptives? Forget it. Those things are off the table.

Mediator: Why? Won’t it accomplish what you want?

Voices: Contraception is wrong. Sex education in schools is wrong. Sex outside of marriage is wrong. No deal.

Mediator: Really?

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This is what happens when religion masquerades as politics. It’s what happens when dogma trumps common sense. It’s why the Left must never give in to the Right-wing ideologues who would impose their beliefs on the rest of us.

If politics is the art of compromise, where did all the artists go?

It’s like they’ve all left town, leaving in their wake a bunch of ideologically-driven, my-way-or-the-highway crazies who believe that God is on their side, and that they have the right to impose their views, religious and otherwise, on the rest of us. Well, if their objective is to piss off and galvanize the left, they succeeded.

Who didn’t get pissed off at three-plus years of endless obstructionism, the record number of filibusters, and the unwillingness to approve the President’s appointees simply to impede the functioning of his administration? And how about the birther bullshit, and the oft-heard claim that Obama isn’t “one of us”…that he’s different…that his theology isn’t rooted in the Bible, and that he channels his Kenyan, anti-colonial father?  Do you think racism has something to do with it? No matter, though, because we’re pissed off and that’s good.

We’re pissed off because protecting the profits of health insurance companies is more important than saving lives, and that no medicine at all is better than “socialized” medicine, which works just fine for the rest of the developed world, but which isn’t good enough for America. Whose America? Not yours and mine, that’s for damned sure. But no matter because pissed off is good.

And how do you feel about voter ID laws or, as they are known in some circles, Jim Crow lite? Targeted against poor and minority populations, these laws have no reason to exist beyond the Republican desire to suppress voter turnout. Yet, Republicans talk about the sanctity of the vote as if they give a damn. Perhaps they think we are no longer pissed off about Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. But, alas, we are still pissed off. We’re just more pissed off, now.

Oh, lest we forget the recent assaults on women’s rights, are we really talking about contraception in 2012?

So, if pissed off leads to getting involved, being heard and making a difference, let’s give a big round of applause to all those who would make America the Christian nation the founding fathers tried so hard to prevent. Let’s make sure we bury these people at the ballot box.