Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s interview


Fresh on the heels of a new book Sasquatch in the Paint, Kareem Abdul Jabbar is doing the book tour itinerary around the country and interviews to promote it as well.  I caught this one on ‘On Point with Tom Ashbrook’.  Abdul Jabbar is a favorite of mine so I post his interview here hoping you’ll like it just as much as I did.

Altered images


Interesting find by the BBC; an act of terrorism committed by a terrorist who was first identified as the picture on the left.  Imagine all of the negative connotations conjured up by that image and it was for just those reasons it was released when in fact it’s the image on the right that belongs to the official document of the perpetrator.  altered states  The western world’s desire to incite the war of civilizations is so reflexive the even go to the extreme of altering images to make this a reality. 

Hours after six people died in a bus suicide bombing, pictures of a passport – showing the suspect wearing a headscarf – were aired on Russian TV. But they were soon called into question.

The first page of Naida Asiyalova’s passport had been published via a National Anti-Terrorism Committee Twitter account, recalls twice-weekly paper Novaya Gazeta. It says that initially no-one picked up on the fact that, under Russian law, it’s forbidden to be photographed for documents in a hijab and simply reported that it had been found at the blast scene. “Only individual bloggers began to wax indignant,” it reports, noting that Asiyalova would not have been able to board a long-distance bus to get from her home in Dagestan to the scene of Monday’s blast, in Volgograd, with that photo in her passport.

 

If you wanna’ see just how ridiculous today’s GOP party is


just look here and here.

Twenty-seven Republican senators voted with Democrats on Oct. 16 to lift the debt ceiling and avert a catastrophic default. And each one of those 27 senators voted Tuesday to “disapprove” of their own votes. (It’s called having your cake and eating it too)

I was surprised to see what I thought would be moderate Republicans on the list of those engaged in this act of senility.  John McCain, Lamar Alexandar, Lindsay Graham?!?!?  What a wasted party.

The Right to bear arms and murder people in the streets is an exclusively white right no matter how hard Ted Cruz tries to paint it as beneficial to African-Americans but to assert that to Trayvon Martin’s mother is taking chutzpah to a whole other level.  What Stand Your Ground insures is ‘blacks do not benefit from Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Law, but it is pretty obvious that since the law was passed in 2005, those who kill blacks do. In Florida, “Stand Your Ground” has become a license to kill people of color.’

 

The Egyptian Revolution? Joke!


arab dictatorThere was really no changing of the guard in Egypt, except the Muslim Brotherhood was replaced by the same old thuggery seen in Egypt before Morsi’s presidency.  Don’t think so?  Take a look at this!

Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court has ruled that all criticism of the Republic’s president is henceforth “forbidden”. The ruling came a day before the first episode of a new series of the renowned satirical TV programme “Al Bernameg”, trailed in advance as “Was that a Revolution or a Coup?” The court’s move sent a signal that the sort of criticism and mockery levelled at ousted President Mohamed Morsi will not be allowed under the coup government.

Did you catch that?  Evidently, to today’s Egyptian leaders it’s Morsi’s fault they have to forbid criticism of an Egyptian president because he, Morsi, allowed freedom of expression and criticism of Egyptian leaders.  In other words, Morsi’s democracy was too lenient for today’s leaders who have to crack down in authoritarian ways to right Morsi’s wrong.  Take that citizens of Egypt….your former leader was too good for you; you have to be beaten into submission, which dovetails so neatly with the stereotypical notion that Arabs don’t deserve democracy they can only be ruled by despotic dictators.

 

Contributing to a false sense of security


Ted CruzIt’s incredible someone would even put this in print!!

Tea Party favorites Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin and Larry Klayman spent most of last week bashing Muslims and introducing the “Quran” and “Allah” to the shutdown and debt ceiling debate that they are losing in Congress.

Unfortunately for them, Muslims are in fact more popular and viewed more favorably by Americans than the far right movement.

Nothing could be farther from the truth, but it makes for good headlines.  It also has the effect of luring people into a false sense of security, making them think that things aren’t really as bad as they seem, when in fact they are much worse!

It was the GOP’s failure to stand together, he [Ted Cruz]said, that killed the effort to defund Obamacare.

“We didn’t accomplish our ultimate policy goal in this battle, and we didn’t because unfortunately a significant number of Senate Republicans chose not to unite and stand side by side with House Republicans,” he said. “Had we stood together I’m convinced the outcome of this fight would be very, very different. But listen, none of us ever thought that taking on the Washington establishment was going to be easy.”

He added: “Right now I’m more encouraged than ever.”

As Cruz took the stage, the audience greeted him with a 36-second standing ovation.

To many members of the #DemonicGOP Cruz et.al are the saviors of the GOP not its nemesis and you can be sure they will keep driving the theme that they are needed to resurrect a dying party from stale, old leadership and they’ll continue to do so with bigotry and demagoguery the likes of which we haven’t seen in American politics for a long time.

Protest or parody


women driversWomen in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have been asking for the right to drive for sometime and it culminated in a recent protest whereby they took to the wheel of vehicles and drove them without official permission.  However, such protests aren’t without some risks to those involved or for those who might tacitly support the protest.

Hisham Fageeh, a Saudi-American made a video whose timing coincides with the women’s protest but I leave it up to you whether it is in support of the protest or of the government’s position on the subject of women as drivers.  No doubt Fageeh is well aware of how  the Kingdom handles dissent or the ridiculous lengths the monarch goes to persuade women NOT to want to drive.  I’m a bit incredulous but does driving really damage women’s ovaries?!?!

 

 

UPDATE

At least 16 Saudi women have received fines for taking the wheel on a day set by activists to defy the kingdom’s traditional ban on female driving, police and reports said on Sunday.

Only few women braved official threats of punishment and drove on Saturday in response to an online campaign headlined “Women’s driving is a choice”.

“Police stopped six women driving in Riyadh, and fined them 300 riyals (Dh293.67) each,” said the capital’s police deputy spokesman, Colonel Fawaz Al Miman.

Each of the women, along with her male guardian — who could be a father, husband, brother, uncle, or grandson — had to “sign a pledge to respect the kingdom’s laws”, Miman told AFP.

In Jeddah, police also fined two women for driving, according to the Red Sea city’s police spokesman, Nawaf Al Bouq.

Saudi newspapers, meanwhile, reported that six women were stopped by police in the Eastern Province, and at least two others were stopped in other parts of the kingdom.

A dozen Saudi women posted videos on the Twitter account of the campaign, @oct26driving, showing themselves driving.

Activists had originally issued a call on social media networks for women across the kingdom to drive their cars on Saturday to challenge the ban.

Some say they received telephone calls from the interior ministry asking them to promise they would not drive on Saturday.

On Wednesday, the ministry said it would act against anyone who attempts to “disturb public peace” by congregating or marching “under the pretext of an alleged day of female driving”.

The next day ministry spokesman General Mansour Al Turki told AFP: “It is known that women in Saudi are banned from driving and laws will be applied against violators and those who demonstrate in support” of this cause.

Activists say Saturday was chosen as a “symbolic” date as part of efforts first launched more than a decade ago to press for the right to drive.

The absolute monarchy is the only country in the world where women are barred from driving. Public gatherings are officially banned.

……and the beat goes on.

Myth debunked


The number of people employed by the federal government has shrunk under the Obama administration.

It was the summer of 1966. Lyndon Johnson was in the White House and the Great Society was roaring. In August, the federal government had 2,721,000 employees.

Now it is the fall of 2013. There are complaints from Washington about a bloated federal government. Another Democrat, Barack Obama, is president.

In September, before the government shutdown, the government had 2,723,000 employees, according to the latest job report, on a seasonally adjusted basis. That is the lowest figure since 1966. Until now, the lowest figure for the current century had been 2,724,000 federal employees in October 2004, when George W. Bush was seeking a second term in the White House.

Now, the federal government employs exactly 2 percent of the people with jobs in this country. In 1966, the figure was more than twice that, 4.3 percent.

All these figures, by the way, are for civilian jobs. Members of the armed forces are not counted. If they were included, the contrast would be even sharper. In 1966 the Vietnam War was going on, and around 2.6 million people were on active duty. This year the figure is around 1.4 million.

 

You know we can hear you, right?


yelton

Don Yelton was his own self parody during this interview on The Daily Show

and he didn’t much seem to care even following the firestorm his interview created because in today’s Republican Party there are no negative repercussions for saying or doing things that are  racist and have an adverse effect on the public in general, but there are some times rewards and political gain to be had from such behavior.  Yelton himself testified to that doubling down on his remarks by saying that being kicked off the county election board following the Daily Show interview wasn’t the first time that happened to him and implying he’ll be back perhaps even stronger than he is now.

Yelton said he was previously removed from his position as a precinct chair in Buncombe County in 2012, but was re-elected at a three-person meeting by two votes — his own and his wife’s. He said he was previously removed for voicing what the party considered support for an independent candidate.

Yelton said he has been retired since he was fired 16 years ago from a job as a county waste reduction specialist. He was fired, essentially, for doing the job too well, he said.

“This isn’t my first rodeo,” he said.

He also noted that local Republicans have long complained that they can’t get enough media coverage, and that he had finally provided some.

There’s no reason to doubt him if you look at the way Republican leadership conducts itself; defeats are labelled victories, positions that are without principle are considered fundamental, basic truths and demagogic leaders are considered those who speak for the will of the people.  Such is the the state of  today’s #DemonicGOP.

Rihanna and the Emiratis


I don’t like Rihanna, neither her music nor her look.  Perhaps it stems from the time when she and Chris Brown were an item and allowed herself to be his punching bag.  I dislike like women who don’t have a high enough regard for themselves to keep from being abused by anyone, especially men with Napoleonic complexes, however I was slightly perplexed to hear she was thrown out of the Shaikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi for what some thought were inappropriate photographs she took there the day of a concert she was to perform later in the same city.     Looking at the photos, they are typically Rihanna, toned down quite a bit.

rihanna et.co

When you consider she sometimes looks like this, however Rihanna’s photo shoot was timid in comparisonrihanna swimsuit

Everybody knows Rihanna’s schtick, EVERYBODY except those in the UAE it appears.  She is no secret, she’s not an enigma she is what you see and as the photos and others on her instagram account show, sometimes you see more of her than at other times.

The UAE has had this problem however for some time of people who go to that country and flaunt themselves in ways Emiratis consider disrespectful of their way of life.  For many westerners, baring skin, drinking and carousing is as natural to them as it is for people of the Gulf praying five times a day or covering one’s self fully in 100 degree weather. How then do you reconcile the two opposites into a peaceful coexistence?  It’s clear for Emiratis, that kind of existence is not desirable if it means accommodating the likes of Rihanna which is why she was kicked out from the masjid.  It’s important to note that she was allowed to continue with her lackluster concert according to some, but the bigger problem is how can a country that wants to live its austere religious lifestyle justify making itself a center of tourism and commerce that invites a lifestyle completely opposite of those principles?  Emiratis want to have their cake and eat it too, they want to live as Muslims while entertaining people from all walks of life who are only interested in that country as a place of fun and sun and for the moment it’s hard to imagine how that integration can happen without conflict of the sort that resulted at Shaikh Zayed’s masjid.  Emiratis should not be surprised nor upset that what you see is what you get is coming into their country they just have to figure out if they want to keep having them come.

Music and Islam


I’m a big fan of Tariq Ramadan who has done a commendable job of incorporating his very Western personality into his Islamic way of life and I have often quoted him here at Miscellany101.wordpress.com.   He wrote a piece indirectly about music, more directly about Yousuf Islam and there are several points he made that resonated with me which I wanted to share here.

For Muslim women and men around the world, his story embodies a powerful lesson. We hear of “Islamic chants” (anacheeds) that are supposedly “Islamic” because they express religious themes, or because they employ no instruments, or because they are based on traditional or Qur’anic texts. In this light, only such chants are permissible (halal) in Islam, the only form of creativity recognized. There are indeed scholars who hold such a position, but it is far from unanimous. In To Be a European Muslim (written in 1996) I dealt with these views and took a clear position on music in Islam. Not only is it permitted, but Muslim women and men must also reconcile themselves with art, with creativity, and with the imagination in all its dimensions. Guided by their ethical bearings, they must not allow themselves to be enchained by the adjective “Islamic” that ends up isolating them, suffocating them, and depriving them of their creative energy in the universe of art, of music, painting, sculpture and literature. Muslims are constantly justifying themselves; they feel obliged to describe everything as “Islamic” to satisfy and to conform to the norm. But our ethical concerns must not force upon us an obsession with the norms of “licit” and “illicit” (halal and haram).

Seen in this light, any song, any form of artistic expression that celebrates humanity, love, justice, the quest for meaning, and peace is, in fact, in full conformity with Muslim ethics and needs no further qualifiers. Meaning, hopes and human edification are to be felt and to be lived; they have no need of a normative framework that bridles and ultimately annihilates them. The expression of ultimate ethical causes in art transcends the narrow limitations of specific ways of belonging, and brings together the universal quality of all that is most precious to humans, who can feel themselves uplifted, broadened, vibrating, becoming more human, more peaceful; who can feel themselves being regenerated by a voice, a hand, a pen or a brush. Music can be a prayer, a painting a path, a song a story: as long as art speaks to mankind of its heart, its wounds, its hopes, tears, smiles and aspirations, it forms the universal language of humankind and can bring about by way of imagination, emotion and the heart what no dialogue of reason or of civilizations can hope to offer.

A Common Foe


Donning a blond wig, Laurel Borowich did the dishes after dinner. Chappaqua, N.Y. February 2013.

Donning a blond wig, Laurel Borowich did the dishes after dinner. Chappaqua, N.Y. February 2013.

I have railed against this disease for as long as I can remember and in the after glow of what some may consider a victory against the dark forces of conservatism, I would like to remind all that “death” is a common enemy  that has enlisted cancer as one of its allies.  I know we can’t win the war with death but I would like to think we can win one battle with it; our lives and the lives of people we love depends on it.  So any politician who wants to demagogue on an issue let him or  her pick this one; let them pick a fight with cancer and stir up the emotions of the public against it in order to defeat it once and for all.  Let us hang it publicly as we did Saddam Hussein in 2006 so that it becomes a dark and distant memory in our collective consciousness.

You must read this about FauxPas News


Inside the Fox News lie machine: I fact-checked Sean Hannity on Obamacare

I happened to turn on the Hannity show on Fox News last Friday evening. “Average Americans are feeling the pain of Obamacare and the healthcare overhaul train wreck,” Hannity announced, “and six of them are here tonight to tell us their stories.”  Three married couples were neatly arranged in his studio, the wives seated and the men standing behind them, like game show contestants.

As Hannity called on each of them, the guests recounted their “Obamacare” horror stories: canceled policies, premium hikes, restrictions on the freedom to see a doctor of their choice, financial burdens upon their small businesses and so on.

“These are the stories that the media refuses to cover,” Hannity interjected.

But none of it smelled right to me. Nothing these folks were saying jibed with the basic facts of the Affordable Care Act as I understand them. I understand them fairly well; I have worked as a senior adviser to a governor and helped him deal with the new federal rules.

I decided to hit the pavement. I tracked down Hannity’s guests, one by one, and did my own telephone interviews with them.hannity-obamacare1

First I spoke with Paul Cox of Leicester, N.C.  He and his wife Michelle had lamented to Hannity that because of Obamacare, they can’t grow their construction business and they have kept their employees below a certain number of hours, so that they are part-timers.

Obamacare has no effect on businesses with 49 employees or less. But in our brief conversation on the phone, Paul revealed that he has only four employees. Why the cutback on his workforce? “Well,” he said, “I haven’t been forced to do so, it’s just that I’ve chosen to do so. I have to deal with increased costs.” What costs? And how, I asked him, is any of it due to Obamacare? There was a long pause, after which he said he’d call me back. He never did.

There is only one Obamacare requirement that applies to a company of this size: workers must be notified of the existence of the “healthcare.gov” website, the insurance exchange. That’s all.

Next I called Allison Denijs.  She’d told Hannity that she pays over $13,000 a year in premiums. Like the other guests, she said she had recently gotten a letter from Blue Cross saying that her policy was being terminated and a new, ACA-compliant policy would take its place. She says this shows that Obama lied when he promised Americans that we could keep our existing policies.

Allison’s husband left his job a few years ago, one with benefits at a big company, to start his own business. Since then they’ve been buying insurance on the open market, and are now paying around $1,100 a month for a policy with a $2,500 deductible per family member, with hefty annual premium hikes.  One of their two children is not covered under the policy. She has a preexisting condition that would require purchasing additional coverage for $600 a month, which would bring the family’s grand total to around $20,000 a year.

I asked Allison if she’d shopped on the exchange, to see what a plan might cost under the new law. She said she hadn’t done so because she’d heard the website was not working. Would she try it out when it’s up and running? Perhaps, she said. She told me she has long opposed Obamacare, and that the president should have focused on tort reform as a solution to bringing down the price of healthcare.

I tried an experiment and shopped on the exchange for Allison and Kurt. Assuming they don’t smoke and have a household income too high to be eligible for subsidies, I found that they would be able to get a plan for around $7,600, which would include coverage for their uninsured daughter. This would be about a 60 percent reduction from what they would have to pay on the pre-Obamacare market.

acaAllison also told me that the letter she received from Blue Cross said that in addition to the policy change for ACA compliance, in the new policy her physician network size might be reduced.  That’s something insurance companies do to save money, with or without Obamacare on the horizon, just as they raise premiums with or without Obamacare coming.

If Allison’s choice of doctor was denied her through Obamacare then, yes, she could have a claim that Obamacare has hurt her. But she’d also have thousands of dollars in her pocket that she didn’t have before.

Finally, I called Robbie and Tina Robison from Franklin, Tenn.  Robbie is self-employed as a Christian youth motivational speaker. (You can see his work here.) On Hannity, the couple said that they, too, were recently notified that their Blue Cross policy would be expiring for lack of ACA compliance. They told Hannity that the replacement plans Blue Cross was offering would come with a rate increase of 50 percent or even 75 percent, and that the new offerings would contain all sorts of benefits they don’t need, like maternity care, pediatric care, prenatal care and so forth.  Their kids are grown and moved out, so why should they be forced to pay extra for a health plan with superfluous features?

When I spoke to Robbie, he said he and Tina have been paying a little over $800 a month for their plan, about $10,000 a year. And the ACA-compliant policy that will cost 50-75 percent more? They said this information was related to them by their insurance agent.

Had they shopped on the exchange yet, I asked? No, Tina said, nor would they. They oppose Obamacare and want nothing to do with it. Fair enough, but they should know that I found a plan for them for, at most, $3,700 a year, 63 percent less than their current bill.  It might cover things that they don’t need, but so does every insurance policy.

It’s true that we don’t know for sure whether certain ills conservatives have warned about will occur once Obamacare is fully enacted. For example, will we truly have the same freedom to choose a physician that we have now? Will a surplus of insured patients require a scaling back (or “rationing,” as some call it) of provided healthcare services?  Will doctors be able to spend as much time with patients? These are all valid, unanswered questions. The problem is that people like Sean Hannity have decided to answer them now, without evidence. Or worse, with fake evidence.

I don’t doubt that these six individuals believe that Obamacare is a disaster; but none of them had even visited the insurance exchange. And some of them appear to have taken actions (Paul Cox, for example) based on a general pessimistic belief about Obamacare. He’s certainly entitled to do so, but Hannity is not entitled to point to Paul’s behavior as an “Obamacare train wreck story” and maintain any credibility that he might have as a journalist.

Strangely, the recent shutdown was based almost entirely on a small percentage of Congress’s belief that Obamacare, as Ted Cruz puts it, “is destroying America.”  Cruz has rarely given us an example of what he’s talking about.  That’s because the best he can do is what Hannity did—exploit people’s ignorance and falsely point to imaginary boogeymen.

For those who might have thought FoxNews was a legitimate news organization)

Eid al-Adha photos


There are some nice photographs of Muslims celebrating eid al-adha in 2012 the world over.  Photos like this one of Muslims in Lagos, Nigeria nigeriaare worth your attention.  Go here to look at the rest of the pictures that depict the diversity of the Muslim community.

Eid al adha-2013


While the world waits for its major super power to default and throw international economies into a tailspin, Muslims the world over are celebrating the festival for the annual pilgrimage, or Hajj. hajj Over two million Muslims participated this year, 2013 and to them and Muslims the world over, congratulations on the occasion of eid al-adha.

eid

Closed for business


shutdownAmerica has been closed for business for quite a long time.  Well before President Obama’s second term began, the #DemonicGop decided the only thing it was going to do was obstruct any initiatives taken by the either party, Democrats or non #DemonicGOP members, in order to make the Obama administration look inept and incompetent even if it was to the detriment to their own party or the American people.  Ultimately the purpose is to show any future aspirants to power that power is reserved for only a few in American society….people of color or faith need not apply, and in case you forget remember what happened to Obama.

The #DemonicGOP is not without help in their agenda.  A #sycophanticMedia has gone a long way to legitimize the fraud coming from the opposition party and leading to the shutdown.  In fact some among the #sycophanticMedia have used terms like “slimdown” to water down the impact of the lunacy coming out of Washington.  But if you really want to know what’s going you’ll have to look beyond the #sycophanticMedia into what’s being said like this

Joan Walsh nods:

On the day the Affordable Care Act takes effect, the U.S. government is shut down, and it may be permanently broken. You’ll read lots of explanations for the dysfunction, but the simple truth is this: It’s the culmination of 50 years of evolving yet consistent Republican strategy to depict government as the enemy, an oppressor that works primarily as the protector of and provider for African-Americans, to the detriment of everyone else. The fact that everything came apart under our first African-American president wasn’t an accident, it was probably inevitable.

BillClintonI’d say it came apart during the impeachment of Bill Clinton, the first sign of madness when the Democrats first truly wielded power after the Southern Strategy bore fruit under Reagan. Remember that Clinton was from the beginning regarded as illegitimate because he didn’t get more than 43 percent of the vote. Let us recall Bob Dole’s wordsafter Clinton’s 1992 clear electoral college victory:

There isn’t any Clinton mandate. Fifty-seven percent didn’t vote for him. I’ll represent the 57 percent.

Or Tommy Thompson with an equally surreal view of the Constitution:

Only 43 percent of the people voted for Bill Clinton — that is not much of a mandate. . . . Republicans won nine legislative houses across the country. . . . Republicans have just as much of a mandate as the Democrats.

When you compare this with the Republican view of the 2000 election when George W Bush lost the popular vote and, undeterred by any sense of restraint, doubled down on massive unfunded tax cuts and pre-emptive wars along with budget-busting new entitlements, you get a better sense of who feels entitled to rule in this country, and who is routinely regarded as “illegitimate.”

Now, of course, this merely suggests that it is simply being Democrats that render the last two Democratic presidents inherently illegitimate – since only one was African-American. But remember how Clinton was regarded as “the first black president” by many, including those on the left? Remember his early days fighting for civil rights in Arkansas? You think a white Southerner overturning the success of the Southern Strategy would be deemed acceptable to the Southern right which increasingly dominated the GOP?

Nonetheless, Charles C. W. Cooke rightly notes:

Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George H. W. Bush, all of whom presided over fractious shutdowns, might find this insinuation rather perplexing. In the last 40 years, only President George W. Bush was spared such a conflict.

The one president whose legitimacy was actually in some actual doubt escaped the revolt entirely. Hmmm. Quod erat demonstrandum.

More to the point, the other shutdowns were not about demanding the repeal of an already-enacted, constitutionally-approved signature achievement of a re-elected president – only a few years after a massive financial crisis and during a global recession. They were bargaining positions in which both sides had something to offer and a compromise to reach. All the GOP has to offer this time is … shutting down the government. This is not negotiation; it’s blackmail. And blackmail after all the proper avenues for stopping, amending, delaying and reforming the health bill have been exhausted. I mean they repealed the bill 41 times already – proof positive that all constitutional means for opposition have been exhausted. That‘s what makes this different. It’s not about playing hard by the rules. It’s losing and throwing the board-game in the air and threatening the destruction of the US and global economy in consequence. It’s unbelievable.

But when I mention race, I should unpack my point. It’s not a simple one, and I do not mean to be glib or too casual in throwing that word around.obamaracism

I’m talking about the difference between opposition to a president’s agenda and a belief that he is somehow an impostor, illegitimate, and a usurper for reasons that seem, in the end, to come down to racial and cultural panic.Do I have to recount the endless accusations against Obama of such?  No president has been subjected to endless litigation of his birth certificate or his religious faith (as if the latter mattered anyway). No president has been heckled in a State of the Union address with the words “You lie!” as Obama was. There was no claim that George W Bush was illegitimate because he muscled through a huge Medicare expansion as he was destroying this country’s fiscal standing having lost the popular vote to Al Gore. The Democrats didn’t threaten to shut the government down to stop anything he did. And no Republican, facing a major economic crisis, has received zero votes from the opposition in his first year. Both Bushes and Reagan won considerable Democratic support for tax cuts and tax hikes in their early years. The opposition accepted the legitimacy of the election. That’s the difference.

But Clinton was nonetheless regarded as illegitimate despite being what in any other era would be called a moderate Republican. Ditto Obama, whose stimulus and healthcare law were well within conservative policy consensus only a decade ago. I supported both presidents as a moderate small-c conservative (until Clinton revealed himself as sadly lacking the character not to self-implode). So I have long been puzzled not by legitimate opposition to various policies but by the frenzy of it. Call it the education of an English conservative in the long tortured history of American pseudo-conservatism.

In the end, I could only explain the foam-flecked frenzy of opposition to Clinton and Obama by the sense that the Civil Rights Revolution of the 1960s was the defining event for a certain generation, that the backlash to it was seen as a restoration of the right people running the country (i.e. no minorities with real clout), and that Clinton’s and even more Obama’s victories meant this narrative was revealed as an illusion. This is compounded by racial and cultural panic – against gays, immigrants, Muslims, Latinos etc – and cemented by a moronic, literalist, utterly politicized version of Christianity. This mindset – what I have called the “fundamentalist psyche” – is what is fueling the rage. It’s what fueled the belief that Romney was on the verge of a landslide. It is inherently irrational. It knows somewhere deep down that it is headed for defeat. But it will take down as much of the country, economy and constitution as it can while doing so.

For this time, as they surely know, Reconstruction will not be on their terms. They have no agenda because the multi-racial, multi-cultural, moderate-right country they live in is a refutation of their core identity. So race and culture fuel this – perhaps not explicitly or even consciously for some, but surely powerfully for many. And we are reaching a perilous moment as their cultural marginalization intensifies and their political defeat nears. After that, the rage could become truly destabilizing, unless some kind of establishment Republican leadership can learn to lead again. America and the world need to batten down the hatches.

 

There’s this shellacking for members of the #sycophanticMedia

U.S. news reports are largely blaming the government shutdown on the inability of both political parties to come to terms. It is supposedly the result of a “bitterly divided” Congress that “failed to reach agreement” (Washington Post) or “a bitter budget standoff” left unresolved by “rapid-fire back and forth legislative maneuvers” (New York Times). This sort of false equivalence is not just a failure of journalism. It is also a failure of democracy.gov't suicide

When the political leadership of this country is incapable of even keeping the government open, a political course correction is in order. But how can democracy self-correct if the public does not understand where the problem lies? And where will the pressure for change come from if journalists do not hold the responsible parties accountable?

The truth of what happened Monday night, as almost all political reporters know full well, is that “Republicans staged a series of last-ditch efforts to use a once-routine budget procedure to force Democrats to abandon their efforts to extend U.S. health insurance.” (Thank you, Guardian.)

And holding the entire government hostage while demanding the de facto repeal of a president’s signature legislation and not even bothering to negotiate is by any reasonable standard an extreme political act. It is an attempt to make an end run around the normal legislative process. There is no historical precedent for it. The last shutdowns, in 1995 and 1996, were not the product of unilateral demands to scrap existing law; they took place during a period of give-and-take budget negotiations. obstructionism

But the political media’s aversion to doing anything that might be seen as taking sides — combined with its obsession with process — led them to actively obscure the truth in their coverage of the votes. If you did not already know what this was all about, reading the news would not help you understand.

What makes all this more than a journalistic failure is that the press plays a crucial role in our democracy. We count on the press to help create an informed electorate. And perhaps even more important, we rely on the press to hold the powerful accountable.

That requires calling out political leaders when they transgress or fail to meet commonly agreed-upon standards: when they are corrupt, when they deceive, when they break the rules and refuse to govern. Such exposure is the first consequence. When the transgressions are sufficiently grave, what follows should be continued scrutiny, marginalization, contempt and ridicule.

In the current political climate, journalistic false equivalence leads to an insufficiently informed electorate, because the public is not getting an accurate picture of what is going on.

But the lack of accountability is arguably even worse because it has the characteristics of a cascade failure. When the media coverage seeks down-the-middle neutrality despite one party’s outlandish conduct, there are no political consequences for their actions. With no consequences for extremism, politicians who have succeeded using such conduct have an incentive to become even more extreme. The more extreme they get, the further the split-the-difference press has to veer from common sense in order to avoid taking sides. And so on.

The political press should be the public’s first line of defense when it comes to assessing who is deviating from historic norms and practices, who is risking serious damage to the nation, whose positions are based in irrational phobias and ignorance rather than data and reason.  corporate-news-poster

Instead journalists have been suckered into embracing “balance” and “neutrality” at all costs, and the consequences of their choice in an era of political extremism will only get worse and worse.

One of the great ironies of the current dynamic is that political scientists Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann, who for decades were conventional voices of plague-on-both-your-houses centrism, have now become among the foremost critics of a press corps that fails to report the obvious. They describe the modern Republican Party, without any hesitation, as “a party beholden to ideological zealots.”

But as Mann explained in an interview last year, “The mainstream press really has such a difficult time trying to cope with asymmetry between the two parties’ agendas and connections to facts and truth.”

Even with a story as straightforward as the government shutdown, splitting the difference remains the method of choice for the political reporters and editors in Washington’s most influential news bureaus. Even when they surely know better. Even when many Republican elected officials have criticized their own leaders for being too beholden to the more radical right wing.

Media critics — and members of the public — have long decried this kind of he-said-she-said reporting. The Atlantic’s James Fallows, one of the most consistent chroniclers and decriers of false equivalence, describes it as the “strong tendency to give equal time and credence to varying ‘sides’ of a story, even if one of the sides is objectively true and the other is just made up.”

New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen argues that truth telling has been surpassed as a newsroom priority by a neither-nor impartiality he calls the “view from nowhere.”

Blaming everyone — Congress, both sides, Washington — is simply the path of least resistance for today’s political reporters. It’s a way of avoiding conflict rather than taking the risk that the public — or their editors — will accuse them of being unprofessionally partisan.

But making a political judgment through triangulation — trying to stake out a safe middle ground between the two political parties — is still making a political judgment. It is often just not a very good one. And in this case, as in many others, it is doing the country a grave disservice.

So, no, the shutdown is not generalized dysfunction or gridlock or stalemate. It is aberrational behavior by a political party that is willing to take extreme and potentially damaging action to get its way. And by not calling it what it is, the political press is enabling it.

We need a more fearless media.

Is there more to say than that?