BroadSnark

Thoughts on politics, religion, violence, inequality, social control, change, and random other things from an autonomous, analytical, adopted, anarchist, atheist who likes the letter A
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Carnival of the Liberals No. 97

September 26, 2009 By: Mel Category: Misc

Welcome to Carnival of the Liberals.  Lots of good posts this month.  My highlights are preceded by asterisks and followed by short quotes.

It has been one hell of a month or so in the U.S.

The health care crisis, perfectly summed up by  Dave Away From Home’s stark graphic titled Cristina’s Health Insurance, continued to spark contentious debate and even an outburst by Congressman Joe Wilson during Obama’s health care speech.

Torture made headlines again after Eric Holder announced that he would investigate interrogators who went beyond allowed methods.  Talking heads argued about whether or not torture provided accurate information, but as Stump Lane points out in What is Torture For, torture is not intended to get accurate information.

** At Apple of Doubt, Friar Zero goes into excruciating detail about what torture is and Why Torture Matters.

Torture doesn’t provide reliable information, it doesn’t deter future acts of terrorism, it doesn’t separate the guilty from the innocent, it treats prisoners like irredeemable animals rather than men, it’s born out of a primeval need for retribution, it’s subjective and capricious, and it is antithetical to civilized justice.

Treating prisoners like irredeemable animals isn’t just limited to war on terror suspects.  This month saw increasing attention to the Texas execution of (likely innocent) Cameron Willingham, for an accidental fire – a story Executed Today has been on for quite some time.  And Texas was also ground zero for some of the harshest criticisms of Obama’s speech to students, (Rough Fractals).

**The objections to Obama’s school speech appeared nonsensical.  The only explanation seemed to be that they were rooted in The Anti Obama Bigotry that Staring at Empty Pages describes.

It’s not acceptable to say that they don’t want a black president talking to their children, so they make up shit about political “indoctrination” and “subliminal” liberal messages, or compare him to Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong-il (as Mark Steyn did last week), and won’t allow their children to listen to the president.

Those racism tinged objections continued on 9/12 with anti-government, anti-cap and trade, anti-health care, anti-everything protests as covered on Stupid Right Wingers in Observations From the Tea Bag Protest in DC – 9/12/09.  And now it looks as though anti-government sentiment may be the motive for the murder of a federal census worker, a death that God’s Own Party argues was the result of Fear, Paranoia and Ignorance propagated by right-wing leaders like Michelle Bachmann.

**Meanwhile, as Doctor Biobrain points out, the Counter-Productive Charges of Racism get us no closer to solving our problems.

And rather than discussing the merits of Obama’s proposal, the Republicans gleefully attack us for “playing the race card” and insist that we’re unfairly smearing all “real” Americans; while the media has fun describing the mud fight that ensues.

Ah yes, the media.  When they aren’t giving the Michelle Bachmanns of the world a stage, they are whining like toddlers.  See Mad Kane’s post, Chris Wallace Feels Dissed.  (Don’t feel too bad about the state of our media U.S., River’s Edge was compelled to write In Defense of Local Journalism upon hearing about the troubles of an actually useful major publisher of local newspapers in the UK.)

Is it really a shock that the media aren’t covering anything substantial?  The people who own the media are quite happy to keep us peons squabbling and vilifying one another.  They don’t want any commie George Bailey types inspiring people.  The fact that, as Liberal Agnostic Redneck points out, teabaggers are duped into defending Pottersville works out quite nicely for some.

With all of these crises, an impotent media, and a paralyzed populace, it is easy to get discouraged.  Unless you too enjoy getting your weekly exercise through uncivilized, senseless screaming like the kind Freechezeburgerz describes in Have an Argument and Call Me in the Morning, you might be in a fit of despair by now.

**I mean, where do we go from here?  I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to discover Some Possible Health Care Solutions of Rick Foreman’s in a health care reform bill amendment – perhaps his suggestion that

If you don’t have health care we can pass legislation that will just exclude you from the species. If you’re not considered human then there’s no need to worry about human rights.

The scariest part is that we are dealing with, what should be, easy issues like health care.  We better learn how to have real debates soon or we are going to be in serious trouble when the moral issues get more complicated.  Can you imagine the explosion that will occur when science finally figures out Sexual Reproduction for Same Sex Couples, an event The Chromosome Chronicles describes as not being as far fetched as you might think.  You thought surogacy and in vitro was controversial.  That aint nothin.

It would help if we were able to agree on verifiable facts, or even that there are such things.  But verifiable facts are the purview of science and science is currently in disrepute with a significant portion of the population.  Not even congress is interested in scientific information.

**It is precisely that problem that is addressed in the book Unscientific America.  Unfortunately, according to the Primate Diaries, the book focuses on Rebranding Science, rather than real solutions.

In focusing on science communication alone, rather than unequal access to scientific tools, Mooney and Kirshenbaum have chosen to focus on style rather than substance. They present a host of wrongs but think that mere cosmetic changes will reverse two decades of decline.

And while scientists and other logical thinkers try to figure out how to make science cool again, too many of our fellow citizens live in fact free environments. The gay marriage panic is a perfect example.  All the right’s freaking out has, of course, turned out to be as ridiculous as it sounded.

** Will the facts matter?  Will it matter that, as (((Billy the Atheist))) shows, The Right is Wrong Again: Gay Marriage Does Not Hurt Marriage?

Looks like allowing human rights for all humans did not hurt the family, or the institution of marriage, or destroy America, or any of the other absurdities being spouted by the radical right wing.  Instead, Massachusetts now has a lower divorce rate than it did when the legalized gay marriage.  Oopsie.

Maybe Rick is right and this is all Evidence of Conservatives Mental Imbalance.  Maybe we are all, as the Evolving Mind shows, Normally Biased toward information that supports our already held beliefs.  Maybe liberals and conservatives are just wired differently.  Honest Inquiry asks Are We Born Liberal? and discovers that, unlike conservatives who want predictable familiarity, liberals want change and inclusiveness.

**Mind you, that doesn’t mean that liberal-leaning groups are always so great at being inclusive.  Greta Christina shows, in her post Getting It Right Early: Why Atheists Need to Act Now on Gender and RacePart I and Part II, that progressive movements suffer from the same homogeneity and denial that plagues other groups.

People can have racist or sexist attitudes without being conscious of them. You don’t need to be a torch- wielding member of the KKK or Operation Rescue to say and think dumb things about race or gender. (As someone who has said and thought plenty of dumb things… believe me, I speak from experience.)

So is it hopeless?  Should we all just throw in the towel, buy a shit ton of really good drugs, and go party naked on a warm Caribbean beach until global warming or the nuclear arms race takes us all?  Although that does sound like a good vacation plan, I’m not giving up on democracy just yet.  Neither, luckily for us, is Greta Christina.

**So let me leave you with Greta’s post Decisions are Made by Those Who Show Up: Why Calling Congress Isn’t a Waste of Time, Part I and Part II. We should listen to Greta.  We should get (or stay) involved.  Because as frustrating as our political discourse might be right now, she is right.

When very few people get involved in politics — when very few people even bother to vote, and even fewer bother to call or email their elected representatives — then the few people who do bother are the ones who get listened to. The hard-line crazies get to set the terms of the debate. Them, and the people with money.

And that does it for this month’s Carnival of the Liberals.  If this post left you wanting more of Greta Christina (and really, who doesn’t want more Greta), she will be hosting next month’s edition – scheduled to come out on October 31st.

Left, Right, and Wrong

September 10, 2009 By: Mel Category: Politics

You ever get the feeling you’ve been had?

I’ve been watching our health care “debate” and marveling at the lunacy of it all.  I got into an argument last week with a woman who insists that, despite everything he says and writes, Barack Obama is some sort of far left fanatic.  There are birthers and deathers and tenthers and now someone who thinks the government is trying to set up concentration camps.

Much like Rachel Maddow in this clip, I was taking some comfort in the fact that the side I most closely identified with seemed a lot less crazy.  But are democrats really debating policy as Maddow contends?  True, democratic congresspeople are not accusing their republican counterparts of having been born on Mars.  But most of the coverage I have seen has pitted democrats who say “we need to do something” against republicans who say “no.”  That isn’t a policy debate.

While the right has been busy playing on fears of black panthers, revolution, and reparations; the left has been playing on fears of racist militias and assassins.  The media, of course, just eats it up.  They don’t want to talk policy.  They want controversy.  They want to find the extreme and put that on camera.  So Van Jones is turned into a cop killing black panther and any conservative who doesn’t trust the democrats is turned into David Duke with rabies.

Meanwhile, as Matt Taibbi points out in his must read article:

they gave away single-payer before a single gavel had fallen, apparently as a bargaining chip to the very insurers mostly responsible for creating the crisis in the first place. Then they watered down the public option so as to make it almost meaningless, while simultaneously beefing up the individual mandate, which would force millions of people now uninsured to buy a product that is no longer certain to be either cheaper or more likely to prevent them from going bankrupt. The bill won’t make drugs cheaper, and it might make paperwork for doctors even more unwieldy and complex than it is now. In fact, the various reform measures suck so badly that PhRMA, the notorious mouthpiece for the pharmaceutical industry which last year spent more than $20 million lobbying against health care reform, is now gratefully spending more than seven times that much on a marketing campaign to help the president get what he wants.

In other words, many democrats have been quietly selling us out to big money yet again.  One can’t help but think that the birthers and deathers and tenthers aren’t such a bad thing for democrats.  The dems get to rally their base against the crazies without their base actually paying much attention to what is going to be in the bill they are rallying around.  On television we see the extremists, but how many Americans just don’t trust democrats to do the right thing and don’t support reform for that reason?  That’s not such a crazy position.

Our democracy cannot function if we don’t stop seeing each other as caricatures through the lenses of politicians and media personalities.  They keep raking in the money and favors.  We keep getting screwed by the same execs and stockholders.