Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hollow Apologies

The following is the article I wrote in a very professional, unbiased way. After that, you will find my personal commentary. That's the nice thing about having a blog. After holding in all my personal opinions and rantings for the sake of objective journalism, I can come here and just vent the hell out of what I actually think of the whole matter. But first, here is my article as published.

Controversial Blogger Invited to Speak at Republican Fundraiser

Shirley Sherrod is a civil rights pioneer, married to civil rights legend Charles Sherrod, a leading member of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, who risked their lives to challenge Jim Crow segregation of the sixties.

She gave a speech last March on the problem of classism in America and the need heal racial divides to unite the working class. It was a speech about how the wealthy class cynically used racism to keep the working class divided. Anybody listening to the speech in its entirety would tell you that it was about racial reconciliation.

Her message was that in order for the country’s economy to heal, the country’s racial divides had to be closed.

She had no idea how her words would be manipulated and used in a high-profile political fight that would ultimately end in a demand for her resignation.

But that’s what happened.

And when conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart manipulated Mrs. Sherrod’s speech to make it look like she had denied a farmer help because he was white, he may or may not have realized the full video would have eventually surfaced.

In the immediate aftermath, Mrs. Sherrod was decried as a “reverse racist” and denounced not only by those in the conservative media, but by CNN and others in the mainstream media, by the Obama administration and even the NAACP. Mere hours had gone by before she received a call on her cell phone demanding her resignation.

It didn’t take long for the truth to come out.

The white farmers Breitbart accused Mrs. Sherrod of refusing to help went in front of the camera and made it as clear as they could. Shirley Sherrod helped them in every way.

Then, the full tape was released.

And with the full tape, everybody could plainly see what Shirley Sherrod was saying in her speech. She did not say that she had denied anyone help because they were white.

The speech was clearly about the need for all the working class of America to come together, despite race.

And Andrew Breitbart was discredited.

Mrs. Sherrod got apologies from the NAACP, the Obama administration and Bill O’Reilly.

It would seem that everyone would want to keep Breitbart at arm’s length.

But he has been invited by the Republican National Committee to participate next month at a GOP fundraiser.

Tickets to the donor event in Beverly Hills, California run between $1,000 and $60,000.

Breitbart and RNC Chairman Michael Steele are listed as confirmed speakers to the August 12 event.

They will update donors on the RNC’s strategies to win back the House and Senate in the upcoming midterm elections.

The invitation has been confirmed by the RNC, but they have declined to discuss the event further.

And that was my article. Nice and even. I would call it fair and balanced, but I don't want to borrow the catchphrase of fucktards.

And now here comes my own personal commentary that I have to reserve for my blog. Here goes.


Okay, now I'm talking to all of you out there in fucktard land. Did you know what Breitbart said when he was caught in his lie? He said that he wasn’t trying to make Mrs. Sherrod look bad. He was trying to make the audience look bad for clapping. And that sounds believable to you?

But that was his explanation.

Mr. Breitbart, you say you were trying to make the people who were clapping look bad? That's your story? That’s the best you can come up with?

You’re not even fucking trying, are you?

Remind me to never fucking ever bet anything of value on Andrew Breitbart's lying skills.

The fact that the RNC isn’t keeping this slimy git as far away from them as possible is mind-blowing, and very telling at the same time. When you think about it, Breitbart is just a guy emulating Karl Rove. He’s just not as good as covering his shit up yet.

But those are the small details that can be learned. Breitbart has shown himself to be a clever and willing character assassin. He’s willing to exploit the prejudices of the American public and ignite racial tensions to win power for his side. He just needs some training on how to cover his tracks better.

The RNC has shown with this invitation that they are very impressed with Breitbart’s willingness to take aim at Shirley Sherrod, one of the great heroes of the 20th century, and assassinate her character, her career and her legacy. Yes, they publicly apologized because they had to, but this invitation is Michael Steele’s way of telling Breitbart that he liked his work.

Even more disturbing than the invitation to next month’s fundraiser is the role Breitbart has been asked to play. He, along with Michael Steele, will be talking about strategies on how to win the upcoming election.

That’s right. Breitbart isn’t only a guest. He’ll be addressing the group as a strategist. His approach to politics is one of deliberate deceit, crushing the reputations of America’s heroes and inciting racism and fear among the voters.

And when they invited this discredited, disgraced blogger to talk strategy regarding the upcoming midterm, the RNC has essentially announced they intend to use that strategy of deceit, slander and exploitation of our lowest, basest fears and prejudices.

All of this should make me very angry, but it doesn’t. It just makes me sad.

Because the truth is that their strategy could very well work and that just makes me want to weep for my country.

It blows my mind knowing full well that there are a lot of people out there who are not going to see through this.

And I’m not talking about delusional simpletons, either. These are people I know are smart and reasonable and should know better.

I have friends and family, people who are compassionate and intelligent, who I respect, who will refuse to see that the RNC is purposely rewarding a man who deliberately tried to destroy one of the heroes of the civil rights movement in a revenge hit against the NAACP for their criticism of the tea party movement.

It doesn’t matter what your ideology is.

The fact that in recent years, people have jumped to defend the most unconscionable acts of the people who will help them keep their power is sickening.

There is no sense any more that wrong is wrong.

There are conservatives who are honorable. I know many of them. As a socialist, I have to say they are absolutely wrong about everything, but they are my neighbors, family members and friends and they genuinely believe the path the right has chiseled out is good for our country.

Once again, good people can be mistaken as hell and I have no choice but to fight them every step of the way in the political arena. But many of these people, I know for a fact are not malicious.

So, how can they put up with these horrible men who have hijacked what they believe are honorable values?

How can they tolerate Rove and Steele and Rumsfeld and Cheney and Bush and I could fill a whole paragraph, but I won’t.

I’ve gone on long enough. I’m going to sum it up with this.

Debate, discourse and arguments are good. They keep us sharp and they make us rethink everything. We see things in different lights because we disagree with others and nothing could be healthier. Republicans and Democrats should all have at least one Socialist friend like me to tell them that there’s a better way. And it’s good for me to hear the other side from someone I care about and respect rather than some dick on the radio who I can easily hate. It gives me perspective.

But there are people out there who are hurting the debate. It’s people like Breitbart who have taken the honesty out of honest disagreement.

And if anyone cares, I'm listening to:

Friday, July 2, 2010

An Historic Wedding

Iceland’s Prime Minister has wed her longtime girlfriend, making history by becoming the world’s first sitting head-of-state to enter into a gay marriage. While this would be unheard of in many parts of the world, fellow Nordic nations seem to be more than ready to accept the marriage of 67-year-old Johanna Sigurdardottir to her girlfriend.

Scandinavia has long been at the forefront of tolerance. Gay and lesbian lawmakers and clergy have become common.

Respected Swedish lawmaker Fredrick Federlev, who also happens to be a cross-dresser, said, “There is some kind of passion for social justice here, that everybody should be treated the same.”

In spite of the advances in gay rights over the past decades, it is all but unimaginable to think of a gay American President, much less a President entering into a gay marriage.

Across Europe, the situation varies. Many countries have high-ranking openly gay politicians, including Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe who is considered a strong contender for France ’s 2012 Presidential elections.

This is a sharp contrast to many Catholic dominated countries like Italy and the Baltic region.

In Africa, homosexuals in politics would be inconceivable, where 37 countries have anti-gay laws.

When she heard about the Icelandic leader’s marriage, Uganda ’s ruling party spokeswoman, Mary Karooro Okurutu said that Iceland ’s “Society is finished, they have no morals.” Uganda is currently considering a law that would impose the death penalty on some gays.

Many human rights groups believe Europe to be the forefront in the fight for gay rights.

"In the current climate of U.S. public opinion it is impossible to imagine a U.S. president who is openly gay and who marries their longtime partner," said Peter Tatchell, spokesman for the London-based human rights group Outrage. “In Europe the reaction is completely different – people just don’t care.”

I don't know how much I have to add to this. I'm of two minds on this one.

I think it's great that it's finally happening. Parts of the world at least are waking up and realizing that some things just aren't their goddamn business.

But there's still a part of me that truly feels that if we were as advanced as we believed, this wouldn't be news.

As Mr. Tatchell said, we ought not to even care.

And if you care, I'm listening to:

Slow Justice

Okay, the following is the story as I wrote it. I think you'll agree I showed very admirable restraint. It is not always easy maintaining objectivity. You have no idea how much I wanted to insert my comments on this one.

Mark Clements spent 28 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. On Monday, he and a group of activists and other torture victims found themselves in the federal court building in downtown Chicago, waiting for the verdict in the Jon Burge trial.

Clements choked up when he heard the news. Burge had been convicted of all counts against him: one count of lying under oath and two counts of obstruction of justice.

Jon Burge is a former Chicago Police Lieutenant who led unit of cops that tortured black suspects in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Burge’s trial lasted five weeks. Five victims testified about how they signed false confessions after being suffocated, electrically shocked, beaten and threatened with guns placed in their mouths.

Burge was not on trial for the tortures themselves, but for lying under oath in a 2003 civil lawsuit about what he knew about the torture. The statute of limitations on the tortures ran out long ago.

Mark Clements was 16 years old when he was tortured by men under Burge into signing a false confession. He cried when he talked about how he felt about Burge’s conviction.
My daughter is 29 years old,” said Clements through sobs. “I missed all those years with my daughter, sitting in those prison cells for a crime I didn't commit. I do not feel sorry for Jon Burge."

Many call the guilty verdict significant. One juror said it was hard to find a police officer guilty because most people, by instinct believe an officer’s side of the story. Many human rights groups believe that is why New York City officers were not convicted in the killing of Sean Bell or why the LA Police who were caught on tape beating Rodney King got off.

Whether or not this verdict reflects a shift in the public’s willingness to hold police accountable for their actions is not clear, but Clements said that he’s “Relieved that at least one of these people is now going to finally feel the pain.”

And that was the objective story I wrote. Good work. Straight and to the point without a lot of my input.

Now that I'm here on my own time, I can commentate, right? (Right, Josh, go nuts!) Because writing that without bursting out into a tirade took a lot of self-control and I think I've earned a rant.

Okay, forget the fact that innocent men like Mark Clements, Ronnie Kitchen, Melvin Jones, Martin Reeves and countless others suffered at the hands of police like Burge and his thugs. Forget the 22 torture victims who are still in prison because of confessions that were forced from them.

Wait, don't forget them. Never forget it. Let's just put it aside for a second so I can make an intellectual appeal to those reading this who aren't the bleeding heart type.

Because I know what many of you are thinking.

You're thinking, even if you're not going to say it out loud, that at least some of these guys probably did the crimes they were locked away for, regardless of whether their confessions were beaten out of them.

Actually, I take that back. I've gotten tired of making intellectual appeals to people who don't care.

Are you really okay with police doing anything they want with impunity? Have you stopped to think what kind of person wants to become a cop under those circumstances?

Two kinds of people: naive idealists who really want to help people and Droogies.

This is not about hating cops.

This is about living in a society that allows monsters to be police. Nothing gives a sadistic bully a hard-on like the idea of walking around with a gun, a badge and absolute impunity. And as long as we refuse to hold police accountable, we will have psychopaths lining up, just itching to join the force.

This isn't an insult to police who truly want to help their fellow man. Quite the opposite.

If we let the thugs and monsters blend in with them, then we're dishonoring all of them, aren't we?

So try to understand that celebrating the conviction of Jon Burge has nothing to do with hating cops.

Next stop, Stark County, Ohio. If there is a God and if he is just, maybe Sheriff Tim Swanson and the 7 sexual predators he has been protecting will be prosecuted at
some point.

But that's another post. And you know what? I think it's gonna come soon.

And in case any of you care, I know I should be listening to Rage Against the Machine or N.W.A. or something like that given the topic, but I'm in an ethereal pop mood, so I'm listening to a gorgeous new 180g re-release of: