nazi family

The Bright Side

Two steps forward, one step back. And even though it looks bad, it's actually not as bad as it could be. As long as we don't let it get that way.

More on that in a moment. First, let's examine what went wrong: In this case, it's a classic enthusiasm gap, aided and abetted by willful ignorance.

Anyone paying attention to the political zeitgeist knew this year was going to be tough. The shock of the landslide victory two years ago brought a lot of really ugly sentiment out from the slimy rocks under which it's been hiding. GOP leadership, as it does, capitalized on this, added a lot of lies and scary buzzwords (Tax and spend! Socialism! Baby-eating dingoes!) and worked them all into a frothy mass. This became so much of the face of politics this year that a lot of sane people actually became discouraged, and shied away from the polls.

Also, there was enough generic disappointment with Obama (as I mentioned recently) that a lot of the excitement that propelled younger voters to drop the doobies and get their butts to the polls two years ago just wasn't there this year (some 25% of voters were 65+.) We didn't have a rock star or three (or a rock star cause) to rally around--but the other side did.

Now, aside from my anger with people who can't be bothered to vote unless someone lights a fire under their asses, we obviously have a lot of work ahead of us in the next couple of years to get the ship righted and sailing ahead again.

However, things may not be as dire as they seem at the moment, and the work ahead of us right now may be little more than holding our breath and trying not to blame Obama and the remaining Dems in Congress for not doing more--since they won't be able to.

As things stand at the moment, we're looking at retaining a slight majority in the Senate. This is not the supermajority we've needed all along, but it's enough to keep GOP-spawned legislation originating in the House from getting anywhere. That, combined with Obama undoubtedly being willing to exercise some vetoes here and there, should keep things from getting too horrible. We're just not going to make any actual forward progress in the next two years.

Obama has given some lip service to the idea of trying to work with the new crazy people, and given his track record of attempting to teach pigs to sing, he may well actually try to do this. I hope not. I hope that what happens in the next few months is a whirlwind of getting remaining agenda items through as quickly as possible, before the bastards come in to try to piss all over them, but at the very least, we shouldn't see too much of what we accomplished in the last two years (and there was quite a bit, believe it or not) get totally dismantled.

The challenge we face now is holding on to our part in the dialogue, and trying not to let the half-literate whackos take all the media face time. We need to ensure that we remain visible, in order for folks to have somewhere to hang their hats in two more years.

If we can do this, we should be able to recover then. Because the anti-government "throw the bums out" mentality that spurred this surge in the first place is going to be very pissed off indeed when they realize that those shiny new teabaggers they elected aren't going to change the world overnight. And, thus, the enthusiasm gap should be on our side, then.
XKCD

Keith v. Jon and lefty timidity

Keith Olbermann today tweeted that Jon Stewart had jumped the shark, because of a comment he made during the Rally for Sanity about pundits on both sides (presumably meaning Keith) being equally bad in terms of yelling, etc.

Keith certainly had a point that Jon was using some false equivalency there, but there's a larger issue that's being lost by both of them.

I agree with Jon that it's a pity civil discourse has been lost, and that a great deal of political rhetoric these days is back-and-forth shouting and sniping. I also agree with Keith that we lefties have every reason to be angry, and that shutting up and trying to have polite conversations isn't going to help, because the right will just take the opportunity to get louder.

But it's not the rhetoric, nor the volume thereof, that's gotten in our way, and made it so hard for progressive ideals to get a good foothold.

No, our problem? Is that we elected a green president who naively believed in the fairytale that if we came to the table in good faith, we could eventually find compromise with the right. Granted that we had an issue with lacking a supermajority in the Senate, which meant pushing legislation over that last hurdle was difficult (even with Snowe and Collins), but I also don't think we tried hard enough.

Part of the problem is in the core of progressive ideals themselves, unfortunately. We believe so much in diversity, and compromise and reaching consensus that we have a hard time recognizing when our efforts that direction are going to continue to fail, and taking charge when we have the power to do so.

The left is often characterized as spineless or weak. Much of this is because of our platform of peace and avoiding war--the right sincerely believes violence is the solution to every conflict--and thus is undeserved, but there is some truth to it: We are timid. But we are not timid, as Keith might think, in our voices or the conviction of our beliefs. We are timid in our ability to seize the power we have and do something with it.

Now, as it stands currently, I do think Obama's wised up. He's been a lot more hardcore lately in terms of telling the right to piss off. But I think it's too little, too late. I'm not sure whether he was calculating this--trying to play nice early on just to say he tried--or whether he genuinely believed it was possible to build bridges (the Rick Warren thing, for instance.) Whatever the reason, though, he spent too much time on that effort, and now that we have just a few months left of a real majority (there will undoubtedly be enough GOP gains this term to throw a monkey wrench into real attempts at progress) we're left scrambling to try to get the rest of the agenda pushed through and established before the brats come back and start breaking the toys again.

This is why I voted for Hillary in the primaries, FWIW. She had enough experience trying to work with a hostile Congress (Clinton himself only had two years of a D majority before the 94 GOP revolution election) that she already knew there was no placating them. She already knew that the core of their philosophy is so rooted in One True Wayism that there would never be any compromise with them. She would have taken that Congressional majority and pushed through every bit of legislation that we needed. DADT? Would've been gone by now. Health care? We'd have single-payer already.

Instead, we're left with a pile of almosts, and almost just isn't good enough.

This is not to say that there hasn't been progress. In fact, Obama's first 100 days did go a long way toward helping clean up some of the worst of the mess Bush left. We have some semblance of health care, combat troops are out of Iraq, and a little bit of progress is being made on gay rights issues. He also couldn't have foreseen the massive amount of work necessary to get the economy back on track, and how much focus that would take, and how it would require putting a lot of stuff on the back burner.

But I also think he just didn't stand up and say, "fuck you" enough to the GOP, and that's why were in the mess we're in now. We lefties needed not just a calm-voiced orator to make us feel all warm and fuzzy, but a strong, no-bullshit leader who could actually rally the troops, so to speak, and get us to do something besides just... well... holding rallies.

I sincerely hope that our losses this election aren't as bad as they might seem in early polling. I hope we can salvage enough out of this mess to finish some of what we started, and maybe get things going well enough to come back again in two years with more gains, and another term. I think by the next election, whatever timidity was left in Obama should surely be gone, given how much frustration he'll face with a hostile Congress, and by that time we may finally have the president we actually need.

I just hope the country doesn't completely go to shit in the meantime.
XKCD

Cargo Cult: The tea party as the opiate of a generation

Saw this phrase used recently to describe the Tea Baggers. Very astute, I think; the "cargo" that these folks are worshipping is an idea of an America that not only no longer exists, but has never existed in the real world, and that's why they're so divorced from reality.

The people who are most likely to support these principles are ones who had a childhood or young adulthood in the '50s and early '60s, when mass media presented a picture of an America that was clean, prosperous, white, Christian and centered entirely around middle-class nuclear families. The millions of people who did not fit this picture were never given any face time, so it was as if they didn't even exist.

This fairytale life, in fuzzy black-and-white, is the ideal to which these people want to return, and yet there was never anything to it in the first place. The picture of America these people had as children was about as authentic as the one they got on a trip to Disneyland.

For those of us who grew up in the '70s and early '80s, the picture was far, far different. My generation was born into global political and economic chaos. We cut our teeth on Walter Cronkite talking about Vietnam, on Richard Nixon saying he wasn't a crook, on images of gas lines and "broken homes" and protests for the rights of various underrepresented groups. Our parents had Leave it to Beaver. We had All in the Family.

To be sure, our generation's media had its share of sanitized images. On the Brady Bunch, everyone's crises were always resolved. On Fantasy Island and the Love Boat, everyone's dreams came true (even as they learned various moral lessons.) Yet we also had a far greater diversity in what we learned about the rest of the world, even if it was only on Sesame Street, and--more importantly--a strong cultural message that that was how things should be.

My childhood nostalgia is for notions of people wanting to buy the world a Coke and celebrating the idea that Kids Are People, Too. It's for earnest college kids rallying for peace. It's for Karen Carpenter gently singing about being on top of the world. True, such idealized images of rainbow people holding hands are as much a fairytale version of the world as our parents', but they at least didn't pretend that the rest of the world didn't exist, or that there was only one race, one type of family, one way to be.

Of course, Reagan came in and blew all this to hell, and I think a lot of Gen Y has suffered for it (particularly in terms of favoring material goods and image over the well-being of others), but I do think enough of the groundwork was laid that even Ronnie couldn't stop the signal. Some of his legacy remains, but a lot of it got cleaned up with Clinton (see: Earth day, anti-discrimination laws, etc.) and now just about everyone born after 1965 or so believes in basic progressive principles. The generation that voted in Bush (mostly second-wave Boomers or the Jones Generation) are the last of their kind, and they are quickly becoming outnumbered.

I have no doubt that the tea party cult is going to wreak an unfortunate amount of havoc in the upcoming elections. They'll win a few races here and there, and I suspect that failure in some of their efforts is going to cause a few of them to go off their nuts and succumb to the violent rage that fuels their cause. But I'm confident that they're a dying breed.

It breaks my heart that there are so many who are subsumed in this hatred, paranoia and jingoism. It breaks my heart even more that I've lost my own parents to this cult. But really, they are just that--a cult--and though they do have the power to do damage right now, they're not the wave of the future. We are. So long as we take up that mantle of responsibility and step into the void of leadership that's been left behind by the generations before us, we'll be fine.

But I still sometimes want Karen Carpenter to sing me to sleep. :)
liberal jesus

Thought experiment: Religion and legal boundaries

So, Kristians these days like to go on about how they're being oppressed, blah blah, because there's so much general cultural pressure/law preventing them from using high-pressure conversion tactics to spread their gospel.

Their theory, such as it is, is that as proselytizing/saving people is a core part of their belief system/culture, to prevent them from doing this is to attack their culture. They believe that they should have the power of government and law on their side to allow them to pressure/badger people into converting, and that if government/law does not allow this, that constitutes religious discrimination.

Now of course, most of us progressive types are gonna call bullshit on that. Religious freedom in the US does not extend to the "right" to convert by the sword. The right to freely practice one's religion ends where the rights of others begin. AKA, no throwing people into Mt. Doom to appease the volcano gods, etc.

But here's a question:

If cultural sentiment here changed enough to consider circumcision an act of violence against a helpless infant, would we be justified in outlawing it, or would it be an imposition on the religions that practice it?

After all, the theory is the same, yeah? Practice your religion all you want, but don't use it as an excuse to harm others. And, really, taking something sharp to a baby's bits is pretty damned harmful, no?

Of course, this brings up a lot of other issues about whether parents "own" their children and thus have the right to harm them at will if their religion requires it. Legal precedent thusfar has been pretty supportive of that notion (see: Christian Scientists). But what if it wasn't? If we used the same principle--that one cannot harm others in the name of religion--what other religious practices would we necessarily be outlawing?

FWIW, I'm firmly in the camp of "religion is no excuse" and yes, I would outlaw circumcision unless deemed medically necessary. But it's an interesting thing to think about WRT law and religious freedom, IMHO.
nazi family

Or, there's no such thing as a "right" to act on one's ignorant bigotry

Dan Savage: Fuck you, Christian bigot

Dan Savage has many faults, but he's been right on target lately, with stuff like this and his It Gets Better project. Good on him (though I'll be even happier if someday he apologizes for the anti-fat nastiness he's spewed on occasion.)

Looking at the letter he got and some of the comments, I keep seeing a persistent notion among both Kristians and some of the supposed fence-sitters: The idea that both sides are just shouting at each other, and thus equally share blame.

Allow me to deconstruct this:

Bullshit

Oh, you'd like a more detailed deconstruction? Oh, very well...


1. Defending yourself from attack is NOT the same thing as going on the offense/launching a counter attack.

Calling out queer folk for speaking against religious culture that instills hatred and discrimination is like calling out a dog for growling at an owner who's been kicking it repeatedly most of its life.

Or, a guy who holds up a shield to protect himself from some wingnut who's swinging a sword around is not attacking said wingut.


2. The right to have a job, a home, a partner, freedom from attack, etc. trumps any and all "rights" religious folk have to practice certain tenets that require discrimination.

I'm waiting for the day when someone decides to resurrect some ancient religion requiring human sacrifice, and then starts complaining that their religious rights are being trampled on because they're not allowed to round up virgins and throw them in a volcano.

Or, your right to practice your religion ends where someone else's rights begin.


3. Your accident of privilege doesn't grant you any actual rights to discriminate against others

I realize that it may be a bit of a shock to people in a privileged class when the people they've been oppressing suddenly start demanding respect and consideration for their humanity, but said demands are in no way whatsoever an attack on the oppressors.

If you've gotten used to being able to hit weaker kids for your own amusement, of course you're going to throw a little tantrum when you're told to stop. But merely being bigger or having other social perks that have let you get away with that abuse doesn't mean you actually have a right to dish it out.

Or, just because the country is majority Christian doesn't mean that Christians have any actual rights to beat up on people who don't play by their god's rules. I know, I know. That pesky 14th Amendment again. Tch.


So, no, I'm not going to apologize or stand down when I'm defending myself and other queer folk from the ongoing beatdowns that we've been enduring since the first of us were brave enough to come out of the shadows and demand respect. I'm not going to kiss Kristian ass just so the entitled little brats will stop whining that we're big meanies who are spoiling their fun by taking away their pointy sticks and protecting the poor fuckers who've been on the business end of them.

If your biggest ticket to Heaven requires hurting other people, then your religion sucks, and it's not worth respecting. Fuck if I'm going to do so.
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nazi family

Hope and charity

I've seen a lot of arguments from conservatives about how they're not heartless for wanting to kill social programs and withhold tax money, etc.; they would rather just give their money to charity directly, rather than have it go through government.

This is such epic bullshit.

What they really mean when they say that is one of two things:

1. I'm a sack of crap liar and would never voluntarily give my money away to anyone.

2. I don't want my money going to people for whom I have contempt: AKA single parents, people of color, people who were too lazy to not be born rich...

These asshats often brag about how charitable they are even with such a hideous tax burden, but if you look at their list of recipients? It's hardly anything truly philanthropic:

-Church "charities" which usually boil down to soup-kitchen proselytizing or building churches in remote locations to convert the natives
-Private schools and colleges; fraternities and sports programs
-"Historic preservation" groups that are often mere fronts for social clubs for old white guys
-Political groups masquerading as non-profits

In rare cases, you may also see donations to private hospitals, high-end arts orgs and "habitat preservation" groups that are mostly just hunters who want to ensure they have plenty of deer to kill.

In other words: They want to keep their money circulating solely among "their kind" of people, and don't ever want it going to those vast unwashed masses.


This is, of course, by design.


Conservative leadership knows very well that many, if not most tax-funded programs are designed to help the working class get themselves a better life: better nutrition, education, health care, etc. And if those folks get that better life? Well, you're sure never going to be able to convince them that minimum wage for killing themselves for 8 hours a day is worthwhile. Next thing you know, the steady supply of ridiculously cheap factory, cube farm and retail worker bees dries up, and gargantuan personal profit for management does, too. Oh, noes!

It should be no surprise that so much of the rhetoric on this issue has to do with "personal responsibility" or "the nanny state." They absolutely don't want those community-run safety nets to exist because it gives workers more autonomy and leverage from which to lobby for better pay and treatment. So they try to convince people that there's dishonor in making use of these programs, and therefore the only people who do use them are dishonorable by default. They take the native pride of the working class and twist it into hatred--not just for people who can't support themselves, or the programs that help keep those people alive, but for the very nature of those programs: education, for instance. Their rhetoric has turned not just college, not just public schools, but education itself into something that only lazy, self-indulgent people do. If you want to keep the masses obedient and unquestioning, keeping them ignorant is the first step.

I think this is what I hate the most about conservatives. Yes, the stupid tea partiers and such who so readily use their xenophobia and ignorance as weapons annoy me, but the people who really piss me off are the kings of industry who have brainwashed those people into violently opposing anything that might give them the slightest bit of real autonomy and choice in life.

I wish there was a way to make these pawns see how they're being used and manipulated--via their pride, their fears, their prejudices--as not just cogs in the machine, but soldiers in the war of their own destruction, but when they're so far gone that they sincerely believe that ignorance and barely compensated servitude is the most honorable way to live, there's probably no getting through to them.
feminism

Walking the talk: The Wal-Mart analogy

Had some stuff come up in the last few days around the idea of living feminism: The notion that we all need to realize exactly how much we're conditioned to behave in a sexist way, and how it's important, for those of us who have a choice, to work on acting in a way that doesn't perpetuate the problem.

One of the biggest issues I have with many self-described liberals and progressives is that we get lazy sometimes. We seem to think that so long as we have the right attitude and maybe do a little bit of activist work here and there--voting, rallies, charities--that's all we really need to do. Some folks seem to think they can cure homophobia, for instance, just by not being actively homophobic, and following Neil Patrick Harris on Twitter.

The reality of being effectively progressive, however, is a lot more complicated than that, because oppression is a lot more complicated than that, too. It's easy to blame oppression on some faceless other guy--some Illuminati collective of Republican asshats who cause all the problems in the world for everyone else--but that's not the reality of how oppression happens. It happens in large part because the majority of us assume that because we're not active oppressors ourselves, we're not part of the problem.

But as the saying (sorta) goes, evil thrives because good folks do nothing.

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