It’s no secret that I’ve been struggling to find my voice these last few years. Those of you who have been following this blog since 2002 probably recall the days when I was a great deal more hostile than I am today. I wish I could say that I’ve tempered this because of some transcendent cognitive shift or, even better, my fellow herd-mates actually doing less to piss me off. It is true that my Ph.D., publications and other projects have given me a more proactive outlet for these emotions, but only among (let’s face it) a very, very small segment of the population both equipped and amenable to engaging on this this level. In other words, eggheads.
No, if I have been more civil on this blog of late it is because I have been self-censoring. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing - the motivation for thinking before I blog still rings true. I want to see some rather profound changes in the world I live, and that starts with me. Poking fun and otherwise berating people for their beliefs, no matter how willfully ignorant I feel they may be, will not lead to change. In fact, the opposite is probably more true – calling someone out on their idiocy is just going to make them a louder, more defensive idiot. So I am trying (with at best a modicum of success) to be the change I wish to see.
That said, I remain a work in progress and have chosen to remain fairly mum throughout the last election season. Yet following on Monday’s post about civility in the media, I do recognize that while my censorship may not add to the rampant taint among armchair pundits, it certainly does nothing to help either. I want to be certain that I am not using civility as an excuse for cowardice; that friend, family, peace-activist or hater, if you’re being an asshat, I hope to have the courage to tell you so. And I hope for the insight to tell you in such a way as to heal, not hurt. I still don’t know if these aims can coexist.
Would, therefore, that I were a humorist instead of a cynic, I might be able to publish something constructive instead of telling you outright that if you think Obama is a socialist I strongly believe that you are either willfully ignorant of what this means, a weak-minded sheep, or an unabashed racist and I defy you to provide a smidge of evidence to the veracity of this nonsense. But if you think he is on your side, that Obama spends his days trying to fight for the middle class, then you’re just as deluded.
I lobbied for Obama. I did it because I believed (and remain convinced) that he is infintiely more qualified for the job than McCain/Palin would have been and have neither regretted my efforts nor my vote. But this president, like any other in my lifetime, is beholden to the same neoliberal machine as the Republicans you probably voted for (even if fooling yourself into believing that a ‘Tea Party’ candidate is not a Republican). You don’t get elected to high-level office in this country without espousing the values of top-down economics, regardless of party. The fact that you keep voting against your own economic interests is an indication of how strongly our global hegemons have convinced you to identify with their value system. And I believe that this identification lies at the root of much suffering in the world.
I love you all, but will continue to shout - in the nicest possible way - that I think you’re being a tool until either the machine breaks down, we achieve class consciousness, or both.
Libertarians embrace a worldview trending towards anarchism (or at least government minimalism), a position with which, as a Neo-Gramscian Marxist, I have an abundance of affinity. In fact, on a long enough timeline (where units are measured in centuries anyway), I’ve little doubt that this is where the human condition will trend – presuming we manage not to destroy ourselves in the process. For those of us in the present tense, however, Libertarianism, like Marxism, gets a bad rap for the fact that some of its most visible proponents are either vacuous, dangerous opportunists (Palin being the most obvious example) or else otherwise intelligent individuals who are transparently inconsistent and self-serving.
Case in point of the latter is Dr. Rand Paul, the movement’s latest media darling, who was elected to the Kentucky Senate seat last week. The news outlets and blogosphere are in an unusual flaming accord this week over his recent example of government overreach in the Civil Rights Act of 1964: (WSJ: Paul's Civil-Rights Remarks Ignite Row, Wash Post: Rand Paul comments about civil rights stir controversy, Eugene Robinson: GOP's Tea Party invite might still be in the mail, The Hill: Rand Paul causes Civil Rights Act controversy with desegregation remarks, AP: Rand Paul Is 'Kentucky Fried Candidate' Over Civil Rights Comments, Lexington Herald-Leader: Paul's statements on discrimination stir controversy, NYT: Tea Party Pick Causes Uproar on Civil Rights, Salon: More historic legislation Rand Paul wouldn't have supported, PoliticsDaily: Rand Paul: An Anti-Government Conspiracy Theorist? (h/t Americablog).
If you’ve been asleep at the wheel on this one, Paul’s position is that the act, which covers a wide range of civil rights issues on interstate commerce, is but a single an example of federal intrusion in the individual liberties of business owners to determine the nature of their clientele. In the context of this example, Rand concedes that this would naturally expand to the right refuse service to people of color, gays, Jews, etc. Paul’s continued inability to staunch the blood flow on this kicked the GOP spin machine into overdrive and lead Paul to cancel his appearance on Meet the Press – only the third person in 62 years to do so.
I care far less to what degree Paul may personally be racist than I do in the fact that this degenerative myopia is completely consistent with the Libertarian platform. However persuasive I may find this mode of thought in the abstract, it presumes a fundamental faith in humanity to do the right thing without the force of law. Individual liberty is not an absolute - it comes with the caveat that one person't liberty cannot infringe on anothers. With regards to the Civil Rights Act, we state that you are free to operate a business in our country, but you are not free to restrict your operations based on the color of someone's skin.
Indeed, the universe may trend towards global justice, but it has a long, long way to go. The restaurant owner who hangs a no-blacks sign up in his window will, in the 21st century, probably get run out of (most, though not all) towns by a combination of enlightened objectors and those too embarrassed to wear racism on their sleeve by frequenting a regressive patron. But what about no-gay, no-Democrat, no-punk, no-Catholic policies or the every-more-likely no-Arab policies? Sometimes our laws exist to compel American ideals even when our citizens find them offensive for the simple reason that we share our national identity and don’t want bigots forming an outward part of our cultural landscape.
For the time being, I still manage to disconnect my emotional processes from the issues enough to understand the difference between personaility and ideology, but herein lies the problem – this may be a particularly egregious example of Libertarianism carried to its logical conclusion, but it is nevertheless conssistent with the overall platform. Where the movement’s present incarnation really breaks down is in its outward hypocrisy in preferencing the liberty of commerce over individual or collective liberties. Indeed, lost somewhat in the row over lunch-counter segregation is the fact that Paul also had harsh words for Obama's supposedly ‘un-American’ stance in blaming the oil spill on, well … the company actually responsible for it. In Paul’s universe, the same liberty that allows corporations to escape the regulatory oversight of those who would be affected by disaster should likewise extend to absolving such entities of blame when their self-policing predictably breaks down. As Robert Slayton points out:
Advocates like Dr. Paul claim that they are speaking on behalf of the little guy, against the steam-roller of a large institution like big government. The problem with this claim is that there is another big institution that harms the ordinary citizen in our world, and that is big business. And in that case, libertarians have little to condemn, and thus show their true colors. … So their dirty little secret is out. Libertarians are not really for the little guy, against structures that would grind down our individuality. They're really just right-wingers, pro-business and anti government, the only institution with the power to limit large corporations when they commit abuses. Rand Paul is sincere, but in his blindness and dogmatism, he becomes a shill for big business, not the champion of citizen's rights he claims to be.
Without doubt, we exist in an era where power is increasingly consolidated into the hands of a few multi-national corporations which, unlike government, have no responsibility for social welfare. In the U.S., capitalist malfeasance has been kept in check through a strong judiciary whereas in Europe there is strong regulation. Yet if we are to judge the Libertarian movement by it’s leaders, then we must conclude that it is a facade for what right-wingers have always pushed for – a system of commerce in which neither mode of enforcement remains available to protect citizens from the dark side of the profit motive – a conservative nanny state where the government is expected to stay out of the way - expect when necessary to ensure that capitalist movements are free from civilian oversight. In this manner, it is a disease masquerading as a solution, spouting the ideals of liberty while covertly working to dismatle the very freedoms it's adherents espouse.
We've been seeing a lot more stories lately of cities and states resorting to unpopular measures to make up for budget shortfalls. For example, the radical conservative Colorado Springs - you know, the city that recently made the news for banning puppet cleavage - has not only sharply curtailed or eliminated public works such as street lights and highway maintenance, but even police and fire protections in the wake massive tax cuts.
The entire teabagger premise of taxation is based on a separation between self and the collective. If you see government as something forced upon you, then there is logic to not giving 'them' your money. I, on the other hand, really don't want to be bother filling in potholes and chasing down serial rapists, nor do I want to be bogged down in the details of how to coordinate these and other activities with surrounding communities, states, countries, and the world-at-large. I would much rather hire others to do those things for me. As Winston notes:
The Tea Party doesn't seem to get that "government" actually covers an amazing range of things that you want -- roads, police, firemen, hospitals, schools, consumer protections, environmental protection, and on and on. Oh, and libraries.
Though to be fair, I've seen little evidence that teabaggers would care about the latter.
Slavery, said Franks, "is a crushing mark on America's soul, yet today half of all black children are aborted. Half of all black children are aborted. Far more black children, far more of the African American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by the policies of slavery."
As Ryan Grim notes, “One hundred percent of African Americans born into slavery, however, were born into slavery.”
Besides, when you start a sentence disparaging something abhorrent, there is no room for a ‘yet’ in the second half. Try these on for size:
Racism is really bad, yet …,
The European genocide of native Americans was truly awful, yet …
I sure am sorry I raped and disemboweled your 11 year-old daughter, yet …
Here’s the video – clip starts about 6 minutes in:
On a side note – and I can’t believe I’m even taking the bait on this ridiculous spew – but Franks is likely referring to this study on the abortion rate, though the study itself highlighted lack of contraceptive access over policy. Moreover, the comparison is unfair anyway as we have no real data on abortion policy during either slavery or medical prohibition. How many slaves were forcefully aborted by landowners not wanting to sacrifice their free labor in the name of childrearing? How many more slaves underwent amateur abortions so as not to incur their master’s wrath? Just because it is no longer underground and undocumented does not mean it didn’t exist.
Almost missed this piece from the National Journal – a profile of Jan Larimer, the GOP’s kinder, gentler face for recruiting more women to the privileged white male party:
Larimer has spearheaded the party's efforts to recruit and train more women candidates. And based on the GOP's efforts this year, the party needs the help … "We're working with the women in Congress ... to empower the women in their states to get involved and to participate," Larimer told Hotline OnCall in an interview at the party's annual Winter meeting in Honolulu.
"Women sometimes need a little more handholding, or they need their friends to help them make a decision. And by our going in and talking to them and recruiting and educating and training them to either get involved in a campaign or become a candidate, we're giving them the tools so that they can do that on their own," Larimer added.
Lest there be any confusion, this isn;t some low-level PR lackey - this is the RNC co-chair! Off the record, Larimer later noted that the GOP is far more gender-evolved today than ever before. Women can wear trousers, drive cars, and even decide for themselves when they should have dinner on the table.
In the midst of 9+% unemployment, the minority Gestapo had the temerity to mount a filibuster against a jobs bill that was mostly tax cuts – the very same words that Sarah Palin had written on her hand! These sick old white men are so hell-bent on petulant obstructionism that they would even vote against their own signature issue. That is, until … gasp, the Republican Messiah and embodied proof of the impending 2010 Tsunami traitorous liberal scumbag Scott Brown decided to cross ranks with the GOP caucus and cast a vote in line with his own politics.
Seriously though, send the kids out of the room and go check out what his flock are saying about him on Facebook. Yowza. But wait, there’s more …
After squeaking with 62 votes for cloture, the bill passed today by a margin of 70 to 28. Now I’m no mathematician, but even with the 2 absentees from Monday, that makes 6 Republican hypocrites who tried to stop the vote from happening at all and then voted to pass the bill anyway - Alexander (TN), Cochran (MS), Lemieux (FL), Murkowski (AK), Wicker (MS), and, of course, Inhofe (OK). Seriously … this must be a previously undiscovered apex of douche-baggery.
Ali A. Rizvi has an excellent piece up at THP on the anti-intellectual faction that seems to be dominating the Teabaggers.
By painting educated, well-earning, science-embracing, articulate, introspective, intellectual citizens as un-American, the Republican party has built an entire base made up of those who not only don't possess these attributes, but enthusiastically abhor those who do. Not only are these factions now split along lines of educational achievement, socioeconomic status, and cultural and religious values, but most significantly, along an "intellectual divide".
The entire article is worth a read. This is something that’s been increasingly irking me for the last decade. I mean, it’s one thing to be ignorant – a state of being with which I am more than a little familiar. But it’s another thing entirely to wear that ignorance like a badge of honor. I mean, these are the kids that sat in the back of class throwing spitballs at each other and now they’re on the precipice of public office.
The latest inanity, of course, comes from FOXNews wingnuts gleefully pointing to a snowstorm as somehow debunking mountains of data showing a steady rise in global mean temperatures. Because, you know … it’s snowing. And, er , it can’t snow when it’s, ya know, warming out.
On a totally unrelated note, I ate eggs this morning. That means that I will eat eggs every morning. And THAT means that EVERYONE will too. Mu-ha-ahahah!!!
Oh, an for my dear friends outside the United States, check out this link to find out how to view the above clip.
Conflict and Conciliation: Faith and Politics in an Age of Global Dissonance
Despite the peaceful foundations of global monotheistic religions, the broad diversity of interpretations can lead to a sharp paradox regarding the use of force. Inevitably, we must ask ourselves: How can those who ascribe to peaceful beliefs suspend their own moral foundation to beat the drums of war? ... read more
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A self-indulgent blog for people just like me - PhD, author, photographer, entrepreneur, husband, father, music-lover, and uber-geek. More about Jay