Posts filed under ‘Politics’
Never have I been more embarrassed to be a black man than in the immediate aftermath of the George Zimmerman verdict in the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Particularly if you watched liberal news outlets like MSNBC you were treated to a parade of intelligent successful, dare I say articulate, black men and women bemoaning how awful mean old whitey has made things for them and theirs. In my opinion it cheapens all their great successes and the hard work they have put in to get where they are.
Chief among the offended is the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). From the emails I get from them, it appears that the organization is really interested in “Advancement of Colored People by White People”. Most every communication I get involves getting the government to stop mean old whitey from taking advantage of poor black folk You know what gang? It gets old. What happened to people owning their own destiny? What struck me about the Zimmerman/Martin dust-up was black’s refusal to take any ownership for what happened to Trayvon Martin. If you listened to the black narrative, echoed by well-meaning but badly deluded liberal white journalists, you would think that George Zimmerman saw Trayvon and shot him right off the bat — or worse, shot him in the back as Trayvon was running away. You would think Trayvon was a small child about the age of 13 with a bag of Skittles. To listen to the popular liberal narrative, you would never know that Trayvon was a kid suspended twice from school, a full 17 years of age with a height and weight appropriate for that age, who punched George Zimmerman in the face. The narrative that is not spoken is that George deserved an ass-whupping for hassling the kid. Trayvon represented decades of collective pent-up black oppression that burst forth on George Zimmerman. George was getting a righteous beat-down and had no right to shoot in self-defense.
I have a suggestion for Ben Jealous, head of the NAACP. Invite Bill Cosby over for lunch and have a nice long talk. You see, Cosby has long advocated blacks cleaning up their own act before crying foul. Instead of inspiring a movement of self-motivation and ownership, Cosby has gotten heat for his comments. The following is a spliced and diced version of Cosby’s remarks to the NAACP in 2004 on the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, that has circulated on the Internet for some time:
They’re standing on the corner and they can’t speak English. I can’t even talk the way these people talk…
Why you ain’t
Where you is
What he drive
Where he stay
Where he work
Who you be…
And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk.
And then I heard the father talk.
Everybody knows it’s important to speak English except these knuckleheads. You can’t be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth.
In fact, you will never get any kind of job making a decent living. People marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education, and now we’ve got these knuckleheads walking around.
The lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal.
These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids. $500 sneakers for what??
And they won’t spend $200 for Hooked on Phonics.
I am talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit.
Where were you when he was 2??
Where were you when he was 12??
Where were you when he was 18 and how come you didn’t know that he had a pistol??
And where is the father?? Or, who is his father?
People putting their clothes on backward, isn’t that a sign of something gone wrong?
People with their hats on backward, pants down around the crack, isn’t that a sign of something?
Or, are you waiting for Jesus to pull his pants up?
Isn’t it a sign of something when she has her dress all the way up and got all type of needles [piercing] going through her body?
What part of Africa did this come from??
We are not Africans. Those people are not Africans. They don’t know a thing about Africa .
With names like Shaniqua, Taliqua and Mohammed and all of that crap, and all of them are in jail.
Brown or black versus the Board of Education is no longer the white person’s problem.
We have got to take the neighborhood back.
People used to be ashamed. Today, a woman has eight children with eight different ‘husbands’ — or men or whatever you call them now.
We have millionaire football players who cannot read.
We have million-dollar basketball players who can’t write two paragraphs.
We, as black folks have to do a better job. Someone working at Wal- Mart with seven kids… you are hurting us.
We have to start holding each other to a higher standard.
We cannot blame the white people any longer.
The full text of Cosby’s speech can be found here.
Whenever I’ve taken this tack, I am reminded that it is wrong to single out blacks for this. There are plenty of whites behaving ignorantly as well. But it isn’t a winning strategy to defend one’s ignorance with the excuse “white people do it too”.
So here is the bottom line for Ben Jealous. Start spreading Cosby’s message. Start telling parents that if your kid uses the N word in his Twitter handle there is something wrong. Tell parents that if your kid is caught with jewelry from an unknown source and a screw driver in his backpack, there is something wrong. Tell them that for as long as pot is illegal, getting caught with it at school ain’t cool.
There is a photo hitting the Internet now courtesy of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
The NAACP can help make sure that this child’s life does matter by advocating a good education and proper behavioral role models for the kid. Blacks kill each other in urban centers throughout the country on a daily basis. Do we demonstrate through this behavior that black life matters to us? Everyone from the outraged MSNBC commentator to the President himself has tried to turn Trayvon Martin into a hero. The best way the NAACP can make a hero out of Trayvon Martin is to dedicate itself to creating fewer of him.
The Race Speech Part Deux
Last Friday Barack Obama made an impromptu 17 minute speech on race in America vis-a-vis Trayvon Martin and the Zimmerman verdict. Two things struck out at me:
Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.
Really? Let’s put aside the young Obama’s fondness for pot. Yes he and Trayvon had that in common (oh God — I’m echoing Sean Hannity, there is some nasty karma coming my way). But please tell me — if Twitter had existed 35 years ago would Obama really have been No_Limit_Nigga? Would Obama have been suspended twice from school for serious infractions? Would Obama have been involved in striking a bus driver? To put it another way, do we really think Trayvon was headed for President one day? Not without a serious course correction, that’s for damn sure. So who are we fooling here? Are we really making Trayvon the yardstick by which we judge our outstanding young black men?
There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me — at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off.
Time to queue Maya Wiley on an MSNBC special:
i have had the woman clutch their purses. and i do want to say that what he didn’t say, white women clutch their purses. i mean, we’re not talking about black women getting in an elevator. that’s what’s so racialized about it.
Maya is President and Founder of the ironically named Center for Social Inclusion. I have seen Maya on several different shows in the past week and I get the distinct impression she has a certain dislike for white people. So what kind of inclusion is she interested in? Maya wants to make clear that Obama is referring to white women in his “elevator” comment. Allow me to let Maya in on a little secret.
Obama’s car locks clicking reference resonated with me. You know why? It was not because it has ever happened to me while walking across the street. Granted I am light enough to pass for white and physically disabled so that might be unlikely. It resonated with me because as a boy, when my Dad was driving through Harlem, my Mom — my very black Mom — would urge my father to roll up the windows and make sure the car doors were locked. It resonated with me because my Dad — my very black Dad — would arrive to work in a ghetto school extra early so he could park close to the building to avoid being mugged — again — by a black hoodlum. It resonated with me because in high school when I was sitting next to a girl I wanted to impress, I became mortified when some jive talking fool swaggered into the room and I was afraid of guilt by racial association.
This is the little dirty secret that Maya doesn’t want you to know. Black women clutch their purse a bit tighter and hold their breath when a brother enters the elevator, unless of course the dude is dressed professionally and doesn’t appear threatening. Black people with the capacity and the will, get the hell out of all black neighborhoods for fear of crime like my grandparents did in the 1970′s. Many black people are mortified by the behavior of some of their brothers and sisters. Not many of us have the guts to say it publicly because our honesty gives fodder to virulent bigots who use our comments to come to the wrong conclusions.
They say that the first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one. Blacks have a public relations problem in large part due to our own behavior and what we tolerate from our own people. We white-wash Trayvon Martin instead of admitting what a terribly flawed young man he was. We get defensive about “star witness” Rachel Jeantel instead of mourning the fact that the young woman cannot write or read cursive handwriting and is at least one year behind in school.
Barack’s second speech on race since he became a public figure puts his first speech (defending Reverend Jeremiah Wright) into a new perspective. Liberals loved both speeches. But both speeches basically come down to “white people, you just don’t understand”. Both speeches either defend or ignore ignorant and inflammatory behavior.
What saddens me most about the aftermath of the Zimmerman verdict and President Obama’s speech is that it didn’t inspire the “conversation about race” that really needs to occur, the conversation among black people to take control of our reputation, clean up our act, and be a shining beacon of victory over oppression — not because white folks changed but because WE changed and made our lives better.
On most matters political I come down pretty firmly on one side or the other. One exception is abortion where I am a man without a country. Liberals hate me because I abhor abortion on demand and conservatives hate me because I can’t condone the government violating the sovereignty of a woman over her body.
Now another entry in my straddle list. The immigration debate has me in a muddle. On the one hand I understand the offensive nature of the phrase “illegal immigrant”. People are themselves not illegal. Their acts are. “Illegal immigrant” objectifies these people.
I also understand that many of the 11 million here illegally have raised families here and love this country for its opportunities. I hesitate to engage in any dialog that demonizes them.
I also get that the GOP has created a bit of a straw man by trying to solve at great expense a problem we really don’t have right now. Because of our economy net illegal immigration is about zero. Obama has deported a record number of undocumented folks.
But there are still two things that bother me about this debate:
Why Do Minorities Defend Their Criminal Element?
Republicans believe that promoting comprehensive immigration reform will win them Hispanic votes, essentially a shameless pander. My question is why would law-abiding Hispanics who have paid their dues be offended by a crackdown on illegal immigration? Why would law-abiding Hispanics be seduced by a party “sympathetic” to undocumented workers who are by definitions criminals? Why are Hispanics not the most outraged at their brethren taking shortcuts to get the rewards that non-criminal Hispanics have worked hard for? It reminds me of blacks turning Trayvon Martin into a civil rights hero when he was at best a very foolish child and at worst a thug-in-training (more on that later). It reminds me of moderate Muslims who stand by silent while their nutjob radical brethren wreak havoc all over the world. I know from experience that when we condemn our own we open the door to bigots who will take our condemnation one step too far. That still shouldn’t keep us silent. That still should not make us accept the lowest common denominator. Law abiding Hispanics should be as interested in secure borders and fair labor practices as everyone else.
Who Needs Immigrants Right Now?
While watching “Face the Nation” last week, I saw Dan Stein, President of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) discuss the Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill. If you get past his gripes about special interests and his skepticism about increased border security there remains one resonating point. Why do we want to increase job competition in a country with almost 8% unemployment (not including those who have dropped out of the workforce out of despair and those working part-time who want full-time jobs)? Just today I heard an argument about folks coming here to get an education and then taking their skills back home. Our solution? Encourage then to stay here! No, no, no.
We need to be training OUR citizens for the jobs available in this country right now. We need to be employing our citizens. We don’t need to be bringing more folks on board to compete for jobs. We have plenty of Americans for the jobs available. We don’t necessarily have the skills and that is what needs fixing. And once again — I’m a broken record on this subject and I don’t care — we need corporations and even small employers to start treating workers with dignity. That means not only hiring but paying them a decent living wage. We can beat unemployment in this country by training people and then making the jobs worth having. Many of the folks currently on food stamps are gainfully employed and can’t make enough money to pay for food. That’s a disgrace in the richest country in the world.
If anything, we should be restricting immigration right now across the board and getting our house in order with the folks who are already here.
A Final Few Words on Trayvon Martin
Last night the jury in the George Zimmerman trial declared Mr. Zimmerman not guilty of 2nd degree murder in the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin. A few observations come to mind:
Amazing What Happens When You Ignore Race
Despite a lead up to the trial that was extremely racially polarized, the prosecution chose not to focus on racism. Yes, profiling was mentioned but there was very little focus on the notion that Trayvon ended up dead because he was a black man.The predominant focus of both the defense and the prosecution was the scuffle itself and not much on what lead up to it. When you just focus on one man beating the crap out of another and whether the dude getting beaten up might be afraid of great bodily injury it becomes a bit easier to say “yeah I would have shot him too.” For those, mostly conservatives, who were angry at the race baiters, the prosecution was pretty restrained it its use of race as an emotional tactic. When you take racial motivation out of the equation, it’s just a matter of a man wanting the beating to stop.
The Worst Prosecution Evah
I admittedly watched more trial analysis than the trial itself but damn that was one sad prosecution. Nearly every prosecution witness was transformed into a witness for the defense. The coroner, Dr. Bao, was so slick and shifty I wouldn’t trust him with the dead much less the living. The expert on use of force, Dennis Root was allowed to testify on state of mind, outside his area of expertise, without any objection from the prosecution. And most damning of all, the prosecution never made an issue of the position of Zimmerman’s gun (behind him out of view of Martin) until closing arguments. I had to wonder as I watched analysis of the trial whether the state really wanted to win this case or not.
The Sickening Canonization of Trayvon Martin
I actually heard Travyon Martin compared to Medgar Evers last night. I threw up in my mouth a little. Are we serious? Medgar Evers devoted his life to racial equality and was killed by a white supremacist. Trayvon Martin devoted his last months to smoking dope, possibly stealing jewelry, calling himself No-Limit-Nigga on Twitter, being suspended twice from school and was killed by a half white half Hispanic Barney Fife. Trayvon Martin is no hero. He is a cautionary tale of what a child should do when confronted by a crazy stranger. You don’t respond with gangsta attitude. You run the hell away and tell your parents.
Last night MSNBC’s Joy Reid implied Trayvon was accosted by a gun wielding George Zimmerman. The facts as revealed in the case do not support that. Trayvon didn’t know George had a gun until after a scuffle had already ensued. She should be ashamed of herself for making up facts. Melissa Harris-Perry said all black families are holding their kids a bit closer after the verdict. Well damn right Melissa. Maybe if Trayvon was held a bit closer, as in properly counseled on his life choices, he might be alive today. I am reading folks on Facebook say they fear for their black children’s safety because big bad whitey may kill them and not go to jail. Have we lost our minds? The lesson in this verdict is not that a white (or half white) man can shoot you in the back and get away with it. The lesson is that a white man can shoot you if you punch him in the face and jump on top of him and try to beat the crap out of him. Was giving an ass whupping to George Zimmerman the only choice Trayvon had that night?
Look, I am not happy that George Zimmerman brought a gun to a fist fight. I also don’t doubt the terrible loss felt by Trayvon’s family. But despite the media’s insistence on showing photos of a 13-year-old angelic child (they’re still showing those photos today), if we are honest we know better. Trayvon was developing into an ignorant punk who was headed for trouble. He needed intervention, just not in the form that he got from George Zimmerman. Trayvon is no hero, civil rights or otherwise. He is another sad statistic in a culture that favors confrontation and bravado over common sense. It’s a damn shame.
The three major SCOTUS decisions last week trigger three thoughts of mine, some admittedly tenuously related to the matters at hand.
The court ruling that advanced the ball a little on gay rights made me think about how we will know we’ve reached the promised land: when we ALL go back in the closet, gay and straight.
In polite society we don’t discuss our sexual practices. When folks get on TV and declare themselves gay that is shorthand for “I engage in oral sex and/or sodomy and/or mutual masturbation with someone of my own gender.” When a straight person declares himself straight on TV he is using the same shorthand with respect to the opposite sex. And you know what folks? It just ain’t polite. We need to get to a point in this country where folks no longer feel the need to make this declaration.
And let’s get one thing clear since we’ve muddled up this argument with stupid rhetoric. The opposition to gay marriage in this country hasn’t a damn thing to do with “who we love”. It has to do with some people’s disgust with the sex act being shared between same gender couples. It has nothing to do with marriage as an environment for procreation. It has to do with marriage as an environment for sexual intercourse. No one bats an eye at heterosexual childless couples. We don’t care that they don’t procreate–we’re just glad they fuck “as God intended”.
Once we get over homosexuality as perversion we will be fine with gay marriage and then we can all stop talking about it and put our sex back where it belongs for all of us: back in the privacy of our bedroom.
Voting Rights Act
OK this one stung for several reasons. First it highlights Antonin Scalia’s hypocrisy as he bemoans judicial activism in the CA prop 8 decision (that was released with the DOMA decision) but has no problem tossing out the will of Congress on voting rights.
Putting that aside, we need to respond to this decision by playing the game on the State’s terms and stop whining. They want you to have a photo ID? Then if you REALLY want to vote, get the damn ID. Do what you have to do and beat them at their own game. Folks stood in line for hours in 2012 to vote. They weren’t taking no for an answer. That is the determination we must bring to every election. When they can’t beat down our will they will cross the line of illegality and then the Voting Rights Act will still be there for us to prosecute them.
U of Texas
The Court essentially kicked this can down the road by sending it back to the lower court for further review. But it does give me a chance to state my own preference: EO not AA.
I believe that institutions intent on diversity need to maximize outreach. They should actively recruit minority applications. However, the application evaluation process should be color blind. Paul Ryan was right when he said last year that we don’t guarantee equal outcomes. We shouldn’t. But he was dead wrong in implying we have equal opportunity. We don’t. To the extent that college admission programs can give the talented underclass a fair hearing, so much the better. However it goes too far if race trumps qualifications.
An Aside in Defense of Rick Perry
The liberal media and progressives in general had a conniption when TX Governor Rick Perry suggested that state Senator Wendy Davis had not learned from her own life the value of every human life. Davis famously engaged in an 11 hour filibuster to block anti-abortion measures in Texas. Davis, it turns out, not only was born out of wedlock but had her first born unmarried at age 19. Perry cited Davis’ successful life as evidence of the potential that exists in every zygote and fetus.
People say Rick shouldn’t have made it personal but folks what else is the abortion debate if not personal? The decision whether or not to allow a pregnancy to go to term is probably the most personal decision a woman will make. It is for that reason that Rick’s comment was completely appropriate in that it got the matter down to brass tacks. It is also the reason why government needs to play a minimal role in this matter.
Rick said out loud what any self respecting pro-life person was thinking. Rick’s only mistake was in assuming that Davis’ mother’s very personal decision is right for every woman.
Abortion, Life and the Law
A few months ago the folks at Healthcare-administration-degree.net reached out to me to share an infographic on our attitudes about abortion. Too busy to pay proper attention I allowed the note to sink under a pile of other e-mail. As luck would have it, they gave me a poke this week at a very good time. The House just voted in support of a bill making abortion illegal after 20 weeks, in direct contradiction to current law and Supreme Court rulings. We won’t go into what a waste of time this vote was. The bill will never get through the Senate and if it did it would be vetoed by Obama. It was a symbolic gesture at a time when we need Congress to focus on doing what it can to improve a limping economy.
What jumps out from the infographic is the difference between what people think about life vs what they think about the law. Most folks consider themselves pro-life. Most folks think abortion should be legal in at least some cases. I think these findings illustrate something the most strident “pro-life” people tend to distort about those who differ with them. Precious few people are “pro-abortion”. The most opinionated pro-life folks call pro-choice folks “baby killers”. The truth I think, is that 99% of folks think the ideal world is a world where every couple greets the news of an impending birth with great anticipation and joy. We don’t live in an ideal world so what do we do about those couples who, for whatever reason, do not welcome a pregnancy? The graphic below shows that most of us want pregnancies to go to term but we are at best ambivalent about the legal remedy when they don’t.
Clearly there is a difference in asking “do you support life” as opposed to “do you want to put women who get abortions in jail”. Examine the graphic below and tell me what you glean from it.
Image source: www.healthcare-administration-degree.net
I should note that from my general perusal of the Healthcare Administration Degree web site, they do not appear to have a political axe to grind. The graphic, as far as I can see, simply tries to illustrate a truth about semantics and our attitudes toward abortion.
Random Thoughts about Edward Snowden
Hero or Traitor
I tend to agree with those who say Snowden is neither hero nor traitor. He clearly did us a service by putting a spotlight on a government technically capable of invading our privacy on a grand scale. For that we owe him some thanks. On the other hand, he is acting like a fugitive fleeing first to Hong Kong and now to Moscow. It’s a bit hard to admire the man when he is unwilling to “face the music”.
Oh, How Thick the Irony
A week or so ago I heard an NBC correspondent guessing at a psychological profile of Snowden from … wait for it … his old Twitter and Facebook feeds. The correspondent seemed oblivious to the fact she was using his Internet trail to report on his whistle blowing a government who uses OUR Internet trail to create profiles of us. In fact, the very same media stoking the outrage at NSA overreach has been using Twitter feeds to analyze folks from Trayvon Martin to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Methinks the media doth protest too much.
In “sealed” papers, we have charged Snowden with espionage. I asked my readers in the comment thread of my last article what kind of sense this could make. Who was Snowden spying for? One of my readers hit it on the head, quite sadly, when he replied “He was spying for the American people.” We are at a point where we need our own spies to keep an eye on the Obama administration which has turned out to be anything but transparent.
Just cos You’re Paranoid Doesn’t Mean the Bastards Aren’t Out to Get You
Obama’s abysmal record in prosecuting and intimidating whistle blowers made what should have been a sad story of a fatal car accident into fodder for conspiracy theorists. Rolling Stone and BuzzFeed writer Michael Hastings died last week in a fiery automobile crash. Hastings was instrumental in getting General Stanley McChrystal fired from his post as Commander of our forces in Afghanistan. As recently as a few weeks ago he appeared on MSNBC calling Obama a liar regarding our drone program. I’m not a tin foil hat wearing kinda guy but when I heard about Hastings’ death I immediately wondered aloud if he had been killed.
Michael Hastings may have died driving recklessly in the middle of the Los Angeles night but I’d bet dollars to donuts that Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill are looking over their shoulders right now.
Thanks to NSA contractor Edward Snowden, we now know, even if we suspect some exaggeration on his part, that the NSA has way more access to our private e-communications than most of us thought they did. As with every issue of the day, folks have lined up on either side of the controversy. Some say this breach of our privacy is the reasonable price we pay to keep ourselves safe. Some say this falls in the category of unlawful search and seizure, treating the innocent citizen like a criminal suspect. Up until now, the NSA has been the focus of public defense or prosecution. I haven’t heard much discussion about two other complicit partners in this emergence of Big Brother.
Verizon et al.
In May of 2012 a New York state court asked the social media micro-blogging site Twitter to hand over the tweets of one of its members. Twitter refused, backed by the ACLU. The NSA cannot amass phone and email records without the cooperation of the carriers such as Verizon. Where is the corporate loyalty to its customers? Where is the concern among these providers that they are violating an implicit trust placed in them by their patrons?
Folks, this smells to me like more than government overreach. This is a nefarious partnership of government and corporate where the little guy, once again, gets screwed. I have commented previously on my disgust at corporate America sitting on trillions of dollars and shipping jobs overseas when they could invest in America and bring down the unemployment rate. This latest development with the NSA is just another nail in the corporate coffin as far as I’m concerned.
The Fault is in Ourselves
Yes my friends, if you want to find another complicit player in this privacy crisis just look in the mirror. Never before has the public embraced a technology so ripe for misuse as we have embraced the Internet over the past 30 years. Has anyone noticed that no one is talking about the NSA opening postal mail, copying it, and then resealing it and sending it on? That’s because it isn’t happening. (Unless of course we are talking about mail sent to the President for example.) The most technically ignorant among us believes that our e-mail goes directly from us to our intended recipient. We don’t even get the notion of downloading mail from a server. Those of us more familiar with the technology don’t seem to care about our correspondence residing on servers that we don’t own or control.
I honestly don’t know what to do about the situation we find ourselves in. We have the perfect storm of a government “doing bad things for good reasons” with the compliance of a corporate infrastructure that doesn’t appear to give a damn about the privacy of its customers with the final ingredient of a populace that is so ensnared in the technology that is now betraying it that it can’t get loose.
I don’t know how we get this genie back in the bottle. I’m open to ideas.
With another Memorial Day come and gone, there is one theme in Barack Obama’s latest college lecture, ahem, policy speech that merits consideration and discussion.
Remember the good old days when we either declared war on a country or we got militarily involved to protect a country against a hostile sovereign aggressor? The “War on Terror” is neither of these. I’ve been saying this for years, long before Barack decided to share this pearl of wisdom. You cannot fight a war against a concept, or a tactic. Terrorism is a tactic used to further the interests of the terrorists who are not in current times sovereign nations.
I’ve always said that terrorism should be treated as an international crime and be dealt with via international law enforcement. Many disagree. So even if I concede that we need military action, can’t we at least agree we need better definitions? True wars have a beginning and an end. This war on terror has no end. And let’s admit something else. Terror existed long before 9/11 and we have hunted down terrorists long before 9/11. Perhaps the grand scale of 9/11 prompted us to up the ante and use the word “war” to combat it?
Or here is another thought — I’m just thinking out loud here — why don’t we just get it over with and declare war on radical Islam? Isn’t that the source of most of our woes right now? We have no problem targeting the Mafia quite explicitly. Why don’t we just stop the political correctness and target radical Islam? Understand, I’m not talking normal motherhood and apple pie Islam. I’m talking nutjobs who think they’re supposed to kill everyone who disagrees with them.
So here is my modest proposal. Let’s either stop talking “war” or proactively identify the group we are at war with. I don’t think that is too much to ask.
Reader mail: Well ok, not mail really but a comment that appeared in my last blog post. “Who is the leader of the Democratic Party?” That depends on what we mean. If we mean who gets the most face time right now, it’s probably Chuck Schumer or Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. But I’d hardly call them leaders of the party. If we mean who is likely to be the next Dem POTUS nominee then the bench is so thin, it is disturbing. Unless something changes, 2016 will see a deep and interesting bench of GOP candidates. The Dem’s, not so much. It all comes down to Hillary. Joe Biden is not all that inspiring. Martin O’Malley is one big yawn.
And yes, as my reader pointed out, our President Obama does not appear to be leading anything right now. He learns about stuff the same way we do — reading the newspaper.
You have to go back to January 20, 1961 to find a US President who didn’t screw the pooch in his second term. Nixon had Watergate and resignation. Reagan had Iran-Contra and taped testimony that made him look old and feeble (foreshadowing the Alzheimer’s that would eventually take his life). Clinton had Monica Lewinsky and an impeachment trial. George W. Bush had Hurricane Katrina and a financial meltdown that at least for the time being puts his presidency among the ranks of Buchanan, Harding and Hoover.
I can’t speak for all liberals but both times that I voted for Barack Obama I never dreamed his second term would melt down like those before him. There are two schools of thought about Obama. One claims he is an evil thug (turn to Fox News for that story). Another says he is asleep at the wheel. I tend to believe the latter. This is a man who, for reasons that escape me, still has not learned that the presidency is about leadership. It’s about knowing what the hell is going on around you. It’s about activity, not just passively relying on your daily briefing. As a non-sports fan, I’ll risk using a sports metaphor and say that Obama seems to think the MVP on the basketball team is the dude who can pass the ball to the best shooter. Obama never seems to go for the slam dunk himself. He passes to Pelosi (look at ACA) or he passes to Biden (gun control). Now he’s got three “scandals” on his hands that he needs to take the lead on if he is to maintain any credibility.
Benghazi up until this week was a tragedy exploited for political gain. Then a memo from one of Hillary Clinton’s flunkies surfaced that spelled out the petty politics at the heart of the matter. No, contrary to the opinion of Republicans who are in permanent denial about the implausibility of a Mitt Romney presidency, there was no attempt to tamp down the terrorist aspect for the sake of Obama’s reelection. The memo from Victoria Nuland (which has been in the hands of Congress for some time but strangely only surfaced this past week) spells out the reason for sanitizing the CIA talking points. She wanted to save face for the State Department. So the American people were lied to over petty office politics. Not even big stakes electoral politics. The equivalent of the software development team spinning the bad message from the testing team about the lousy code they produce. Had the GOP proceeded with moderation, the memo could have seen the light of day sooner and Nuland could have been fired as the appropriate sacrificial lamb for the lie perpetrated on the American people. Bottom line, despite the overplay by the GOP, the truth about the Benghazi talking points are a supreme insult to the memory of Ambassador Chris Stevens.
The IRS is caught targeting right-wing groups for added scrutiny. Something right out of the Nixon playbook, although as I said earlier, I doubt this goes as far up as Obama. I think Obama is innocently or willfully ignorant of the shenanigans going on around him. Now let’s be perfectly clear, some of the groups targeted ARE full of horse manure, applying for tax exempt status as a community service when they are a pure political organization. The problem is that they were targeted based on profiling. It’s like pulling over the black guy cos you think he’s more likely to have committed a crime. It’s immoral. It’s indefensible.
The Justice department is caught listening in on the calls of the Associated Press, encompassing the conversations of some 100 journalists, at least some of whom are talking with confidential informants. The excuse is that Eric Holder and company were cracking down on leaks that could endanger national security. But let’s be honest here. Washington is hardly leak proof when it comes to national security, particularly if the leak makes the administration look tough on terrorism. Where I come from, conservatives intimidate the press, not liberals. But then again, where I come from conservatives drone-kill innocent 16-year-old boys, not liberals.
What the hell is going on?
And the best my beloved news source MSNBC can do is say “all the presidents have done it” or “Nixon did it” or “Bush did it and where was the Republican outcry then?” Are you kidding me? The best you can do in defense of this presidency is say he is just like every lousy president before him? Didn’t we hope for more?
I don’t know where we go from here. Obama clearly needs to fire a few folks. Credibility needs to be restored. And MSNBC needs to catch up with the rest of the press who are not so enamored of our historic President right now. We need to be honest and say this stuff stinks to high heaven and we need to clean it up. Stop making excuses. Stop covering up. One common theme to the second term curse is that the cover up is always worse than the crime. Obama better wake the hell up and start managing his administration or he will find himself right down there with Bush, Buchanan, Harding and Hoover.
Despots thrive on ignorance. After watching US foreign policy for the past 10 or so years, it is not too far-fetched to say that people get the government they deserve. We have learned this lesson time and time again. First we thought we would be greeted as liberators in Iraq. Then we moved from anti-terrorism to nation building in Afghanistan. Then we cheered on the Arab Spring in Egypt and Libya. In all cases we have discovered that the country post-despot is far more dysfunctional than the country under the despot. This may sound callous bordering on bigotry but some countries are so full of ignorant people, incapable of self-government that they need a strong-arm to keep things in order. I believe the jury is out on whether the world is better off without Hussein, Mubarek and Gaddafi. Anyone paying the slightest bit of attention knows that Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai is a bad joke. And now what are we doing? We are seriously contemplating a contribution to the demise of Syria’s Assad with zero knowledge of what will follow his departure.
Is the lesson this teaches us here at home limited to foreign policy? No it isn’t. A smart electorate can become a dumb electorate. Dumb people get leaders who end up not acting in their best interests. Dumb people end up losing their freedom. I argue we are becoming a dumb people and I say this in a totally bipartisan way.
In the past week I have watched several exchanges on television that left me very unnerved. Bill Moyers interviewed Glenn Greenwald a journalist who has written about the Obama administration’s crackdown on whistle blowers. The government tactics range from intimidation to criminal prosecution. According to Greenwald, more whistle blowers have been harassed by this administration than any other administration combined. Recent developments suggest that those offering evidence on the Benghazi terrorist attack of 9/11/12 that was contrary to the government account were being shut down. I have spent some time on this blog and in the comments section defending Obama and Hillary Clinton on the Benghazi affair but when a mainstream show like “Face the Nation” this morning reports that the administration knowingly lied or distorted the facts about Benghazi how can there be any more defense? In fact, we risked endangering our relationship with the new President of Libya by essentially calling him a liar when he said the attack on the embassy was planned.
Then a few nights later a PBS “Frontline” report talked about America post-9/11 and painted a picture of a government shrouded in secrecy doing things in “America’s best interest” without their permission. This policy was passed on to the Obama administration and expanded by him. Billions of our e-mails are read every day by folks employed in Homeland Security.
Later in the week HBO’s Bill Maher interviewed Jeremy Scahill, a reporter whose eyes burn with anger when he recounts how we brazenly killed the 16 year old son of Anwar al-Awlaki simply for being the son of a terrorist instigator. Press Secretary at the time, Robert Gibbs, reportedly said this is what happens when your Dad does bad things. Scahill seems to be alone while most liberals turn a blind eye to a liberal administration flushing liberal ideals down the toilet. Scahill went on to discuss the near indiscriminate killing of Afghan civilians by our special ops forces. As Scahill puts it, if someone steals your goat, you can report them to the Americans as a suspected terrorist and our special ops team will storm their house and kill everyone in it.
Later on that same broadcast an argument broke out, so brief that if you blinked you missed it. Lawrence O’Donnell, MSNBC uber-liberal, flew off the handle when conservative guest Pete Hegseth launched the old 2nd Amendment defense of an electorate needing to protect itself from government tyranny. O’Donnell said what I have been saying for years … and very recently in the comments section of this very blog, namely that the time for us to be worried about government tyranny is long past. Our well oiled democracy has built-in safeguards that ensure government tyranny would never happen. Along with that is the ironic and contradictory side argument that all of our US militias would never be a match against a government armed with drones and nukes — that same government that would never resort to tyranny. Essentially “they would never be tyrants but if they were you’d be no match for them.”
Well, I’m no longer so sure O’Donnell is right. We saw a militarization in Boston a few weeks ago that should give us all pause. When asked if America would ever drone strike its own people, Attorney General Eric Holder’s initial response was a hypothetical yes. He only backed off after an old-fashioned filibuster by Senator Rand Paul focused attention on it. Combine this with the other stories I watched this week, and we no longer have the liberal ideal of America that I vote for every four years.
But beyond all that, we have a conservative populace with a sizable number of folks who still don’t believe Barack Obama was born in America and a liberal populace too ignorant to understand that universal background checks (which I support) would have done nothing to prevent the tragedy of Sandy Hook. We are, as a nation, getting dumber and dumber. If we don’t turn this around, we will wake up one morning and not recognize the America in which we live. Our ignorance will be the food that one day nourishes a true despot.
Poster from National Archives
Nine Unarmed Men and an Armed Man Walk Into a Bar
This evening, barely disguising his anger, President Barack Obama asked how the Senate could ignore the will of 90% of the people by not passing a bipartisan written bill for expanded background checks on gun purchasers. The answer is simple. Nine men without a gun ask for expanded background checks. One man with a gun says no. Who are you going to listen to?
The Stupidity of Confiscation
There is an odd intersection of the illegal immigration debate and the gun safety debate. We have approximately 11 million illegal immigrants in this country and no one but the nuttiest on the fringe would suggest rounding them up and kicking them out of the country. On the one hand, there are humanitarian considerations in that many of these folks have lived here a long time and are law-abiding. However, there is a far less altruistic reason for not kicking them out. It’s a practical near impossibility, a logistical nightmare.
There are approximately 270 million guns owned by civilians in the United States. Does anyone really think there is any practical means by which the US federal government could confiscate these guns? It is, like deporting every illegal immigrant, a logistical nightmare. And while kicking out immigrants might not be met with violence, you can be sure as hell that trying to take even a fraction of those 270 million guns away from their owners would result in a bloodbath. Yet the fundamental opposition to any gun control legislation comes from the slippery slope theory. First, they expand background checks. Then they register gun owners. Then they “come for your guns.” It’s the very definition of paranoid stupidity. In fact, the legislation that was shot down today (pardon the pun) contained a provision making it a felony to maintain a registry of gun owners. Wayne LaPierre and the gun industry funded NRA won’t tell you that. That’s because they think you’re an idiot. Enough idiots intimidated their Senators today to defeat a perfectly reasonable gun safety bill.
No Need to Pass Laws Because Criminals Will Violate Them Anyway
This has to be one of the hallmark idiotic premises of the pro-gun gang. There is no sense passing new gun legislation because criminals don’t abide by the law. Thankfully there are some in the media who won’t let folks get away with this idiocy. Witness this exchange between Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio and “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer.
RUBIO: My problem is this, in addition to the issue I’ve just raised, which is that this debate needs to be about violence, not just about guns, we have to ensure that the laws that people are putting out there do not infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens and that actually do keep guns out of the hands of criminals. And my skepticism about gun laws is that criminals don’t follow the law. They don’t care what the law is, that they don’t — you can pass any law you want, criminals ignore it, by definition they’re criminals.
SCHIEFFER: You know, Senator — are you still there, Senator?
SCHIEFFER: You know, criminals don’t follow the laws on burglary and on murder and on auto theft. But those laws still, I think…
RUBIO: And we prosecute those.
SCHIEFFER: I think most people would say those laws are fairly effective.
My Conversation with an Idiot
OK, to be fair the following actually represents my exchange not with one idiot but with a composite of folks I’ve talked to online about gun control or more specifically, limiting the capacity of ammunition clips. Let’s call our idiot Quick Draw McGraw.
Rutherford Lawson: I advocate limiting clip size to ten rounds. That way a gunman can only fire ten bullets before he has to change clips.
Quick Draw McGraw: That’s ridiculous. I can change a clip in less than two seconds. If I have multiple ten round clips, I just change them once one is empty and I keep shooting.
RL: While I doubt the average person can change clips in under two seconds, even so, every time you interrupt the gunman you give advantage to the victim.
QDM: What’s the victim gonna do in 2 seconds?
RL: Jared Loughner in Tuscon got tackled while changing clips. If his first clip had only ten bullets perhaps fewer folks would have been shot?
QDM: Yeah, well you realize that when you limit my clip capacity you put me at a disadvantage to protect myself.
RL: How’s that?
QDM: I’ve got an assailant coming at me and I don’t have time to change clips.
RL: If you can’t drop a guy with ten bullets, you’re not a very good shot, are you?
QDM: A lot you know! You watch too many cop shows. Do you know how hard it is to shoot accurately under pressure?
RL: But I thought you said you could change a clip in under 2 seconds?
QDM: Uhhhhh …..
RL: So let me get this straight. Limiting clip size does nothing to slow down a potential assailant but it can slow you down. Is that what you’re saying?
QDM: Uhhhhh ….
It is really hard to understand how we are losing the debate to these people. Hopefully, the passion for better regulation will not die with today’s vote and we can take some sensible steps toward a safer nation.
Art by INVERTED (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
As we approach the four-month anniversary of the senseless slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there is much talk in the media about our tone-deaf Congress ignoring the 90% of the country that wants stricter background checks on gun buyers. Indeed, we hear lots of statistics pointing to a majority of Americans favoring restrictions on type of guns sold, and size of ammunition clips. The fault my friends is not in Congress but in ourselves.
When I was a kid, the evening news was full of coverage of protesters marching outside the White House over the Vietnam War. Who’s marching now? There are those who say the most effective thing a citizen can do is call his Congressman or Senator. I don’t buy it. Politicians respond to two stimuli: money and discomfort. Don’t get me wrong. I am not calling for violence. I’m calling for good old civil disobedience. If you’re tired of hearing about dead kids, whether it’s in the cushy CT suburbs or the inner city of Chicago, chain yourself to the nearest immovable object outside Congress and stay there. Do it until the press comes to cover it. Do it until the police arrest you, again with the TV cameras watching. The notion that you can drown out the NRA’s money with a phone call to your representative is pure nonsense.
I might be accused of being the pot calling the kettle black. I’ve never protested in my life and probably never will. It’s just not where my abilities and talents are best invested. However, I associate myself with the liberal cause because I support those who DO have it in them to protest for change.
Our current predicament only highlights what nonsense Occupy Wall Street was. Yes I’m doing an about-face on that topic because a bunch of liberals camped out in a NYC park to protest “unfairness”. We’re great about belly aching about a concept but when it comes to taking decisive action on a specific topic like dead kids, nobody is camping out anywhere.
Getting back to the Vietnam war for a moment — back then we didn’t employ the cowardly combat method of sending remote control planes to bomb our enemies into kingdom come. Now, we kill enemy and innocent alike with no risk to our own men. Now we drop a bomb on a teenager because he had the misfortune of having a traitor for a father. Where are the protesters? When Senator Rand Paul recently asked the White House whether they felt emboldened to drone-attack American citizens on American soil, he got a hypothetical yes from Attorney General Eric Holder. Only after Paul pulled off the grand old tradition of a true stand-up filibuster did the White House back off a bit. And what did we hear in the media? Nothing to see here because Obama is a nice guy who would never abuse such powers. Fortunately there were those who, like Senator Paul, pointed out that we must control the office, not the man. Obama could go crazy. Obama’s successor could be a nut job. When you enable the office, you give powers to the man holding that office.
What does it say about the liberal cause that it took a Republican, Rand Paul, to take serious issue with our drone policy?
Maybe I’m being too hard on Liberals? Perhaps the Internet has become a proxy for real protest? Whereas the Arab Spring was punctuated by social media being a driving force for communication AND organization, here in the States, we “like” some post on Facebook and think that we have made a difference. Have we been lulled into thinking electronic protest can match the power of the NRA’s money or the strength of the military industrial complex?
Have we become too cute and clever by half? Last night Dana Milbank of the Washington Post wrote about the changing face of protest. He cited an “eat-in” outside the FDA where protesters brought and consumed a huge vat of soup to protest the FDA not demanding labeling of GMO’s in foods. Milbank argues that these folks are opting for persuasion over confrontation. I am left scratching my head. How effective is quaint persuasion with politicians whose pockets are lined with money from the food manufacturers? How effective is gun control “persuasion” with politicians whose pockets are lined with gun money?
In the 1960′s the people pushed the President. In 2013, the President is forced to push the people. Obama has to give speeches imploring citizens to make their preferences known on the gun issue. Why do we need imploring? Where is our passion? Where are our ethics? Where is our shame?
Photo by Brigadier Lance Mans, Deputy Director, NATO Special Operations Coordination Centre [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons