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.

Torture Investigations and the Right’s Imaginary Race War

September 01, 2009 By: Mel Category: Inequality, Politics

It’s no secret that race is the central issue for many of the people who oppose Obama (but pretend to oppose his policies).  Glenn Beck has taken a lot of heat for saying that he thought Barack Obama was a racist, but Beck is not the only one.  And now that conservatives are feeling nervous about a torture investigation, even the most polished organizations are getting blatant.

Yesterday’s Morning Bell from the Heritage Foundation was titled Politics Before Justice at Obama’s DOJ.  Agreeing wholeheartedly with their lord and master, Dick Cheney, they claim that Eric Holder’s investigation is only an attempt to attack the previous administration.  Then they go on to cite other examples of where politics has trumped justice with Eric Holder.

Example number one – Black panthers who intimidated voters in 2008 had their cases dismissed.  Example number two – Bill Richardson will not be charged with any crime related to the pay-to-play scheme that was under investigation and which cost him his post in the Obama administration.  Example number three – Holder was said to have pushed for pardons for members of the FALN and Los Macheteros, Puerto Rican nationalist groups.

Are we noticing a pattern here?  Eric Holder dismisses charges against brown people, but goes after the good ole boys at the CIA.  Now the Heritage Foundation is not quite that blunt.  For the blunt version, you need to head over to Free Republic, where commenters are more than willing to spell it out.

True. Most obama advisors hate whites,
but Holder advocates violence and threats against whites,
and has and will continue to use the US Government
to protect those who assault whites
– even at voting booths.

This is the narrative that is developing over the torture investigations.  It is only going to get worse.  There are a lot of people out there who know they broke the law and know they have very slim protection.  They are powerful and they aren’t going down without a nasty fight.

The narrative is already spreading.  A quick search showed coverage in the Examiner, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Philadelphia Enquirer.  We better be ready to ridicule this thing out of existence.

Number 1 – The black panther case that the right is in such an uproar about involved two men standing outside a polling place in Phili.  One was an official poll watcher with every right to be there.  Judging by the video below, the only one there scared by the black panther’s presence was the fox news correspondent sent to the polling place to sensationalize.  Although I’m sure Faux News viewers were peeing in their pants at the site of an unarmed black panther.

Number 2 – Bill Richardson was investigated and the DOJ decided not to pursue the matter.  They haven’t said why.  Republicans and Fox News are insinuating that they are letting him off for political reasons, but they don’t know that.  Moreover, as TPM reports, the DOJ isn’t exactly exonerating him.  They just don’t seem to think they have a case.

Number 3 – FALN and Los Macheteros did plan bombings and I don’t condone violence.  But the people pardoned by Bill Clinton (with reported pressure from Eric Holder) had not been convicted of bombings or of any crime where people were hurt.  Moreover, clemency for those individuals was being pushed for by prominent human rights defenders, including Jimmy Carter.  Whether or not you think the pardons were appropriate (and I personally thing presidential pardons are a bad idea), the right is leaving out most of the story when they just say Holder released terrorists.

The kicker to the Heritage Foundation’s email was this doozy of a quote.

Now, as the head of DOJ, Holder’s political decisions are undermining core rule of law concerns including the integrity of elections, ethical governance, and national security. Holder reports directly to his boss, President Barack Obama. Someone needs to be held accountable.

Can you believe those guys can actually write that?  It’s like they live in a parallel universe. The people who testified before congress that the Supreme Court was right to stop the 2000 recount are worried about the “integrity of elections.”  The people who insisted that human rights protections didn’t apply to people not in our territory are worried about ethical governance?

They are right about one thing.  Somebody needs to be held accountable.

Obama, Friend or Foe?

June 22, 2009 By: Mel Category: Politics

President Obama has been getting his share of criticism lately. And it isn’t just coming from Fox News or the crazies who are still searching for his Kenyan birth certificate. Much of the criticism has been coming from his supporters.

The gay community and its allies are furious about the recent brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Particularly infuriating was the inference that gay marriage equates with incest.

Those of us who think that torture should be fully investigated are upset about Obama’s unwillingness to pursue the matter. The u-turn he took regarding the release of torture photographs was frustrating to say the least.

Some of the reaction has been nasty. I’ve seen “f-you Obama” posts. I’ve read a litany of articles on how the gay community needs to dump Obama and the democrats. One writer even went so far as to wax nostalgic for the Bush administration – at least we knew they were going to screw us.

Then there are Obama’s unwavering defenders. When Bill Maher criticized Obama for not pushing hard enough for health care and cutting carbon emissions, he received a barrage of calls from Obama supporters.

In response, Bill Maher said “He’s your president, not your boyfriend.”

Which reminded me of the part in Sexaholix, where John Leguizamo talks about falling in love with his girlfriend. He fell in love with her because she “calls me on my bullshit, but is sweet about it.”

Real support means calling people on their bullshit, not blindly supporting every stupid thing they do.

More importantly, we don’t need to chose friend or foe. It doesn’t make you a foe if you criticize the president. It doesn’t make you a friend if you don’t. In fact, Obama needs us to be vocal and pushy. The people who don’t want to see his promises fulfilled certainly will be.

We have a tendency to be unhappy with one action and extrapolate that to mean that the person is bad or failing or selling out. Life is not that simple. As Glenn Greenwald pointed out:

In general, how much one criticizes Obama is largely a function of the areas on which one tends to focus. If I had spent the week writing about Iran, I would be largely defending — and praising — Obama’s very wise restraint, even in the face of bipartisan political pressure, when it comes to interfering in Iran’s internal political disputes. His private and public refusal to cheer on all of Israel’s policies is also commendable. Conversely, those who focus on gay issues have been understandably furious with the administration, and in the areas of civil liberties, secrecy, and his Justice Department generally, the administration has been nothing short of abysmal.

Finally, I’d like to respond to those people who are unhappy with some of Obama’s actions, but feel we haven’t given him a chance and so should keep quiet. Or maybe they think he needs to spend his political capital on health care and so can’t waste it on prosecuting torturers or following through on promises to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Or maybe they are just afraid he won’t get reelected if he pisses off too many homophobes and torture supporters.

I might accept that criticism was coming too soon if it was simply a matter of not proactively following through on certain promises he made. But this is much more than that. He is actually defending the very policies he claims to be against, from the Defense of Marriage Act to indefinite detention of “suspected” terrorists.

It is not just our right, but our responsibility to point out the hypocrisy and failures of the Obama administration. That doesn’t mean we are being too hard on him. It means we believe he can (and should) be who he said he was.

The Other Torture Memos: Secrets and Complicity in Guatemala

April 27, 2009 By: Mel Category: Politics, Violence

The Bush administration’s repugnant torture instructions were not the only declassified documents to come to light recently.

The National Security Archive has been posting formerly classified documents related to Guatemala’s dirty war of the 1980s. The documents show that the United State’s government was well aware of the kidnappings, murder, and torture of political dissidents in Guatemala.

The dirty war in Guatemala lasted 36 years. Two hundred thousand Guatemalans were killed or disappeared. More than one million Guatemalans were displaced. Hundreds of villages were wiped off the map.

Guatemalan officials denied that these atrocities occurred and many still deny them to this day. General Otto Pérez Molina, who has been linked to massacres and executions, continued his denials during his recent presidential campaign.

Pérez Molina isn’t the only Guatemalan who remains unconfronted by the law. Most of those responsible for the human rights abuses and genocidal war have suffered no consequences for their actions.

Why did we keep them secret for so long?

If I knew about a crime and did not report what I knew to authorities, I would be an accessory. That same rule should apply to governments as well.