Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sunday Reading - the Serious Stuff

A great review of Congressman Wexler's new book "Fire Breathing Liberal" at Daily Kos serves up some great tidbits from the book:

First, on a childhood with which any political geek can identify:

Norman and I would play a game titled Mr. President. Other kids were playing All-Star Baseball or Electric Football. We played Mr. President for hours at a time, five days a week. I grew up believing this was the most phenomenal game ever devised, which in many ways describes me. The object of the game was to win the presidential election. How many nine-year-olds knew that New York State had 43 electoral votes? Norman and I did. That fact might well sum up my childhood.
On the disgusting cowardice of fellow Democrats who actually voted for a resolution condemning an ad by

Many Democrats voted for the resolution [against MoveOn] to distance themselves from MoveOn and the substance of the newspaper advertisement. Just imagine the furor that would have resulted had we proposed a resolution to censure the right-wing Christian Coalition or Pat Robertson for one of their more outrageous proclamations, such as blaming 9/11 on homsexuals. I voted against the resolution, but unfortunately many of my colleagues did not, and it passed. It was not our proudest day.
On his outrage over the Supreme Court selection of George Bush as pResident:

Every politician learns how to lose as well as win--and as a Democrat I had a lot of practice losing. Through most of my career I'd tried to salvage what was possible, stand up for my constituents, and use the influence I had as a member of Congress in areas where partisanship played less of a role, such as foreign relations and constituent services, where I could do some good. But this Supreme Court ruling infuriated me. I was just outraged by it. Like many of my constituents, I feel it is a wound that will never completely heal.
And on why impeachment of George Bush is still a good idea:

Certainly there were legitimate arguments made against these proceedings. Many people reasoned that we'd been through this gut-wrenching process with President Clinton and it had ripped apart the nation. I responded by suggesting that the worst possible legacy of the Clinton impeachment would be to discourage future Congresses from examining valid allegations of constitutional violations against members of the executive branch. Should that happen, the tragedy of Clinton's impeachment would be compounded.

I have to get this book (which is $30 for the hardback right now). I just checked and my library doesn't have it - although they DO have eleven titles by Bill O'Reilly. Geez.

A great diary on International Day of the World's Indigenous People, which is today.

While doing research for another story, I came across this film clip that every American should watch to see how our government today treats Americans. The film involves some of the Western Shoshone, who for years have been fighting our federal government's seizure of livestock and land for gold mining, water and nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site, which is located within the treaty-recognized territory of Western Shoshone lands. There are 60 million acres of Western Shoshone lands located in Nevada, Idaho, Utah and California. The federal government claims 90% of the lands as public or federally-controlled lands, which are then privatized for corporate raping of our environment and degradation of spiritual lands. Greedy profiteering corporations then swoop in to stake mining claims in the "third largest gold producing area in the world."

The federal government has been doing the dirty work of corporations by assaulting people, seizing livestock, and privatizing ancestral lands for the sake of mining companies. Years ago, President Truman tried to seize the steel industry but the US Supreme Court held that was unconstitutional. Today, government seizure is permissible when done to enable, for example, mining in Mount Tenabo or storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.
The diary refers to this film:

The film shows an armed, brazen cavalcade raid of agents in helicopters and jeep/semi truck caravans in the dark of night and in the daylight seizing the Danns' horses, wild horses and their cattle to enable corporate gold mines which are spreading through Western Shoshone sacred lands. It also shows the dead horses caused by the government's rush to roundup without listening to warnings that the cold and low food at this time of year would kill the horses. So, horses died on the range. And, horses boarded by BLM died of starvation. All so the government could privatize their range for gold mining. We hear about foreign governments seizing private land by force and raise our voices. But, the silence in America when our government does the same is almost deafening.

The federal government claimed that they lost their lands by gradual encroachment. After the US signed the treaty, it then obtained de facto "title" to the lands not by law, but by simply "treating" the land as federal land. When the Danns' case reached the US Supreme Court, the court did not even address how this title had been transferred from the Danns to the US because the Secretary of the Interior had accepted the money award on their behalf. The court concluded that the Danns had been paid, which took away their right to argue before the court that they had title to these lands. Thus, a shuffle of money between two federal agencies constituted the "sale" of the Shoshone land to the government.
Next, an interesting diary about what racism does to white people. I disagree with the author's claim that racism may be most damaging to whites, but I am 100% in agreement on the rest:

Bell notes in Silent Covenants, his recently published analysis of the context and consequences of the famous civil rights case, Brown vs the Board of Education, that "from the nation’s beginnings, policymakers have been willing to sacrifice even blacks’ basic entitlements of freedom and justice as a kind of political catalyst that enables whites to reach compromises that resolve differing and potentially damaging economic and political differences." In fact, "policymakers recognize and act to remedy racial injustices when, and only when, they perceive that such action will benefit the nation’s interests without significantly diminishing whites’ sense of entitlement." Landmark twentieth century works as Gunnar Myrdal’s An American Dilemma, Lawrence Goodwyn’s The Populist Moment, C. Van Woodward’s The Strange Career of Jim Crow, and David Roediger’ 2005 study, Working Toward Whiteness, support this argument.

Simply stated, it would appear that white people have been offered supremacy among peasants in exchange for their passivity....

As it turns out, racism may be even more psychologically damaging for the social class that "enjoys" its benefits, than for the class victimized by it. Fromm and his colleagues argued that authoritarianism, the soil of racism, makes dominant white culture in the United States an easy pawn of fascism. Post Modernists such as Michel Foucault and Jacque Derrida fully agree. They perceive a citizenry rendered passive and ineffectual, incapable of effectively interacting with much less restraining a power elite grown less democratic and more corrupt in direct proportion to its immunity from real criticism. Jurgen Habermas, the least pessimistic of the Frankfurt School scholars, finds the situation to be less hopeless. With resolve and proper knowledge, people may be able to free themselves of debilitating mind-sets and beliefs systematically inculcated by the powerful, exactly as predicted by Antonio Gramsci more than a century ago.
A new blog called Inside Orwell has just begun that will reproduce, one entry per day and on the same days of the year as the originals, the diaries of George Orwell. It will be interesting to follow. War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

A diary at Daily Kos on rape in the military illustrates what some of us already knew - that at dudely liberal places like Kos, the liberal dudes are still mostly typical dudes and they just don't get it, which is why I rarely read sites like Kos anymore. Of course 1 in 3 military women experience sexual assault. At Kos, a few male former soldiers deny the statistic, but I've never heard of a former female servicemember denying the figures. Why? Any woman who has ever actually spent time on a military base knows exactly why - the entire culture of misogyny, an entire ethic of warfare based on the "otherness" of woman. When I lived at a base overseas, there were lots of sexual assaults that were covered up (which I routinely heard about through a close friend whose husband worked at the command post). There was woman-hating behavior that was constant and crazy - strippers at every birthday, retirement, or promotion party; adultery by most of the married men I knew; crowds of British women sent to the base nightclub on buses every Saturday night (this club was once named by Playboy magazine "once of the top ten best pickup spots for American men worldwide"). And, of course, the entire carnival of misogyny was fueled by an endless supply of cheap booze. As I have often said, my mother raised me to be a liberal feminist, but it took four years on a military base overseas to make me a radical feminist.

Next, a very nice diary on the U.U. church shootings in Tennessee. I am a Unitarian Universalist and my daughter's naming ceremony was in a U.U. church. Unfortunately, when I heard, with the television on in the background while I was doing somthing else, that a man had shot in a church and had wanted to "kill liberals," my first guess was that we U.U.s were the target. It isn't the first time. It, unfortunately, won't be the last. The following refers to the Sunday service the week after the shooting:

In the homily, Buice laid a minister's stole, a strip of cloth showing the Celtic cross' motif of violence combined with the symbol of hope, the rising sun, across the ministerial pulpit and "gave" it to the congregation, to "a good church," as it had been given to him by the daughter of a Presbyterian minister, "a good man." He thundered, "Today, we are all Presbyterians. We are all Jews. We are all Muslims. We are all liberals. We are all conservatives!" If there is one hallmark of Unitarian Universalism, it is the thoughtful response to problems of great complexity. Buice's statements cut to the quick of divisiveness, hatred, and bigotry. The congregation roared back in approbation.

The ministers past and present then moved to the back of the church, where the shooter had come in and begun to fulfill his self-appointed mission to kill liberals until he was killed by the police (he reckoned, in error, that people who work for peace are too weak for war, so he never anticipated that he would be brought down almost instantly by brave members of the church who did not hesitate). Standing in the same spot, the ministers reclaimed the space for peace, for justice, for love, and for strength....

The tone of the service was one of bravery, of defiance, of the conscious choice of thinking people to choose peace, and of the importance of community. The shooter may have taken two lives, but he left without taking the spirit of the church, which, as was printed on hundreds of t-shirts sitting out in the fellowship hall for distribution, is "love."

I was reminded by the UUs that it takes the strongest kind of people to love by choice, instead of hating by default or in desperation.

It was pretty magnificent, all in all.
Finally, a very good - and quite long (although it gets better and better as it goes on) - article on John McCain by a Phoenix reporter who has covered him for years. The title is Postmodern McCain: The John McCain Some Arizonans Know and Loathe and it really is good - check it out (hat tip K).

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