None of this is news to Americans who live in our largest cities. Chris Rock is probably correct about most middle Americans being oblivious to class inequality. There, the reality of inequality is right in your face, unambiguously and apologetically slapping you, just in case you might miss it. In the small towns and suburbs, where most Americans live, the arrogance and entitlement of our plutocrats -and yes, our kleptocrats too- is more abstract, out of sight, and almost never encountered in person. The great and mighty fly in their private jets, to their palaces in the sky, or their private islands. Out of sight, and out of mind, they float above the rest of us, supremely confident and protected.
This is one of the funniest pictures of the twentieth century. An obviously drug-addled Elvis Presley (then age 35), visiting a cynically bemused Richard Nixon, shaking hands in the White House and discussing the recently declared "War on Drugs," has to be one of the jaw dropping moments of recent history. Is this a great country or what!
The news item, that this picture is still in high demand, made me think: we don't obsess with Evis as much as we did 30 years ago. History remembers him. His legacy is safe. But the current culture doesn't include him in conversation nearly as much as it did in the 1980s and 1990s. It seemed to reach a peak from 1987 (the 20th anniversary of his death) to about 1997. Notable American pop culture examples include the movies Honeymoon in Vegas (1992), and True Romance (1993) which both reference The King. And for me personally, two of my favorite guilty-pleasure songs from that period include Elvis is Dead (1990) and Elvis Ate America (1995).
The King is dead. America just took a while to move on.
I now fully understand the office of New York City mayor. I already knew it is a dead-end political position. No New York CIty mayor ever goes on to another elected office. But more important, every mayor since Ed Koch has had to be, for lack of a better word, a right-winger, even if there's a D after his name. He has to be 100% pro-cop, pro-Wall Street, pro-war, pro-corporate, and by extension, pro-rich. If you waver from that template, even in the slightest, you end up being smeared and driven out, like Dinkins and (soon) Wilhelm (de Blasio).
The New York (Jerusalem) Post and the police union are painting de Blasio as anti-cop, and a cause of yesterday's assassination of two uniformed officers in Bed Stuy. Why? Because two weeks ago, de Blasio said in a press conference that he understands "the talk" black parents have with their sons about being cautious in their interactions with the police. This is because he has had the talk with his son, Dante, who is black. That one, honest comment has ruined the mayor. In this town, simply acknowledging that blacks are treated differently than whites by the NYPD is an unforgivable sin against the police by the elected mayor. In the next few weeks de Blasio's approval rating will drop to near zero. de Blasio is going to be kicked out of town faster than Dinkins was.
New York is not a liberal town. This wouldn't happen in a liberal town. It is a hard, right-wing enclave that just happens to have better taste than most other "red" cities in the west and deep south. New York likes organic food, premium coffee, gelato, cocktails, gourmet doughnuts, tasting menus, and weed. It does have the strictest gun control in the nation, but that is logical, given how immense the death toll would be if even 10% of the angry, over-stressed population had firearms. It has always been pro-war. And it was never for the little people.
New York is also right-wing because it is home to a real estate bubble that only makes the rich richer. More on that in the long-delayed next post.
I said it back in May, and now more and more people agree: The World Trade Center, and particularly One World Trade Center, is a big mess. And it's not because of the current rat infestation. It is an architectural and economic failure. And now it is a lasting symbolic one as well.
At least the name Freedom Tower was dropped. But that's just a positive footnote in an otherwise depressing saga. However, thanks to the media, and the popularity of our enless wars, tourists will still call it the "Freedom Tower" forever.
The new One World Trade, the world's most delayed, most expensive skyscraper ever, is a brutal monument to the forces that govern this city and nation. Money, plutocratic megalomania, and the arrogance that attends them, have labored and brought forth yet another monster. Congratulations America, your rebuilt, lower Manhattan super-tall trophy tower lives!
I must say, aside from grabbing a copy of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, this is the must read economics article of the Christmas shopping season:
John Bois: A eulogy for RadioShack, the panicked and half-dead retail empire
What a nightmare the American working class is living through! Since the Reagan administration at least, American workers are routinely treated like soulless, right-less, replaceable machine parts. We're back to working conditions that were common before the Progressive movement, and which we imagined were largely abolished in the New Deal and Fair Deal of the 30's and 40's.
Well, we were wrong, and the capitalists have won. Hooray for us.
Update, February 23, 2015: As Radio Shack closes this week, John Oliver has contributed this little gem:
I have benefited from a system that has given me breaks, but has derailed, blocked, imprisoned, and killed others. I have played with toy guns outside, and I wasn't shot. I have talked back to authority figures, and I wasn't shot. I have walked down dark stairwells, and I haven't been shot. I have fallen down, and I have been given extra chances, time and again. And so, I have to acknowledge that one of the reasons I have made it to age 41 is because I am not a black man. And because I have benefited from this biased system, and I have paid into it, and I have voted for politicians who maintain it, I am a white supremacist.
Destroy this system.
I'm still thinking of how to write a post titled "How Obama Failed." I tried to write it as an essay. It could be a book. I will let a journalist write the book. I think I will just stick to a list, because the list is growing every quarter.
So while I figure out a way to present what is becoming an increasingly common argument, I can turn my attention to another obvious, but under-reported topic.
President Obama and his administration have gone after whistleblowers more aggressively and more relentlessly than any other administration in US history. 2013 was the year of the persecuted whistleblower.
This post was supposed to go up in August 2013. But this is still a relevant topic. It's even more crucial when you realize how most Obama supporters are completely unaware of it.
So here, along with the links above, are some very good starting points for learning about this mostly untold legacy of the Obama administration.
Peter Van Buren: Silent State: The Campaign Against Whisleblowers in Washington
Glenn Greenwald: Secrecy Creep
The NSA Is Storing Tons of Data From U.S Citizens and Non-Targets. Fortunately for our government, our citizens will never get mad nor demand accountability. This summer, Germany has expressed more outrage than anyone in the US ever could.
For the last 13 months, I have been shocked, dismayed, and heartbroken by my birth city of Boston. I know I am in the minority. But let me explain.
I used to be a proud Bostonian. I'm not sure if I was ever proud to be from the US. But when it came to Boston, I wore my pride and pretty much tried to sell my city to every friend I made who wasn't from there. It's the birthplace of American liberty, I would tell people. It isn't nearly as racist as Spike Lee says it is, I would go on. It's white, sure. But man it is educated. It has the highest number of post graduates in any city. It's citizens are refined and fast walkers. And despite having a high concentration of colleges and universities, it has always been a pro sports town.
It took me a long time to look at Boston critically. There was a time when most Red Sox fans were baseball gurus, who were knowledgeable of the sport and its history. But one humid August evening in 2003 I looked down at the Fenway crowd from an infield roof box, and saw tons of frat boys and girls in pink caps all double-fisting brews. It was a thrilling victory against the Mariners. I had been a fan since the age of 4, and I was still only 30. But I knew right there that I could no longer see the Sox live and not be bothered by those kids. I was certainly pleased to see Boston pro sports teams collect a mountain of silverware soon afterward. At the time of my final live game at Fenway, the Patriots had won two Lombardi trophies, and the Red Sox were about to miss the AL pennant in a loss more heartbreaking than the 1986 MLS championship series, because it was to their mean spirited, arrogant, arch rivals.
Part of my shift was personal. By 2003, I had lived in Brooklyn for 8 years. As 8 became 11, I moved to Manhattan, and as 11 became 17, I let the Red Sox go, and pledged my allegiance to the Mets in 2008, the only other real "Yankee Haters" in the majors (apart from their closeted Yankee supporters, of course).
Boston has always been home to income inequality. While it took a long time for its housing market to recover from the 2007-2008 crash, Boston is almost as hot as San Francisco or Manhattan. It's a wealthy town, no matter how much puritan modesty might be left.
I am more upset with New York, and I always will be. New York is an imperialist city. It supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It gave George W. Bush more than a chance in his first term. Mayor Bloomberg did more than that. He invited the RNC to the city in 2004 and began a ten-year beatdown of the Bill of Rights. From suspicionless searches of salarymen in the subway to suspicionless stops and searches of young men on the streets, the Fourth Amendment was an enemy of his administration.
New York is no longer a beacon of freedom. It is a glimpse into the future America, ruled by the top 5 percent, where the bill of rights is a list of dead letters for everyone else.
But it wouldn't take long for my birth city to get back onto my radar. In January 2007, things got ridiculous when unauthorized, illuminated ads were installed in various locations in the city. The reaction from Boston's police and mayor was despicable and embarrassing. The the freelancers who installed the devices were nearly charged as terrorists. And Menino didn't admit he and the state overreacted until the fall of 2013, when one of the freelance artists was hired to make illuminated displays for Boston's First Night celebrations.
Which brings us to how Boston reacted when real, yet totally baffling terrorism arrived in 2013. It was not the first time. Bostonians were terrorized by the British (of course in today's terms, that's state sponsored terrorism, or simply colonialism). The last time Boston experienced terrorism was in 1994, when John Salvi shot seven people in two separate Planned Parenthood clinics in Brookline, killing two. So Boston is by no means isolated from the rest of the US and the extremism and slaughter that can occur anywhere.
What happened at the 2013 Boston Marathon will continue to perplex people for generations. It does not fit any common pattern of terrorism on US soil. The US, as bad as it is in foreign relations and spreading war worldwide, is not interfering with Dagestan, where Tamerlan Tsarnaev (the deceased, elder brother) visited for a few months in a futile attempt to join Islamic militants in their cause to impose sharia law in the region. For reasons still not clear, Tamerlan went back to Boston and decided to carry out a bombing that would draw attention to himself and his cause, even though Bostonians were in no way involved in the issue.
Unlike most terrorists, he wasn't attacking civilians of a nation that was oppressing his people (he was a naturalized American). He wasn't protesting a military occupation, which is another primary motivator of bombings, and the overwhelming reason young people carry out suicide bombings. He wasn't carrying out an attack over a domestic issue (abortion and anti-government sentiment being the big ones). He was an angry, lost, perhaps even bored young man. He and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, could have carried out the bombing in whatever city he was living in at the time. So until we have a clearer idea as to why this bombing was inspired in Dagestan but executed in Boston, I cannot comment on the bombers themselves. But what I can comment on is the reaction, and how it forever ruined my relationship with Boston.
Simply put, Boston over-reacted. Consider this: had the Tsarnaev brothers opened fire with handguns or rifles, and shot dozens of people before being tackled or killed by police (who were all over that area), would the incident be classified as terrorism? Would there have been a One Fund? Would there have been “Boston Strong”? Would there have been weeks of media coverage, and a cathartic return to the finish line when the Red Sox surprisingly clinched MLB championship over four months later? And more important – would it have become a Federal case? Would the surviving brother be charged with terrorism had he used one or more guns and not a single explosive? Why did a crime that killed four and seriously maimed close to twenty get almost as much media coverage as the Oklahoma City Bombing some 18 years before? I argue it is because of two reasons. First, it was after 9/11, and second, the weapons were two bombs. Boston went nuts because bombs went off. What made this terrorism was not the murky motive, but the weapons used. And they were small bombs, comparatively, in the world of explosives.
And I would go a step further. I argue that that this always was a local crime, and not something that should have been blown into a Federal case. Don't Americans know the alarming levels of gun violence in their country, especially after 20 children where gunned down in December 2012? What happened in Boston did not rise to the same level of destruction and loss. Not even close.
Maybe my beef is with the DOJ and not the city of Boston? Oh, to hell with them both. Here's why.
In some respects, the BPD and marathon security did their jobs. No one with backpacks could have approached Boylston Street until security was relaxed a bit. All the elite runners had passed and thousands of people had left the area by the time the Tsarnaev brothers arrived.
Two black power bombs, and Boston's reaction was quite telling. There was a lot of frat boy and macho chest thumping over terrorists and how they should never have messed with the Commonwealth on Patriot's Day. Familiar words were thrown around, such as us, them, and USA. Boston's response was quickly branded by social media, inspired, in part by the Army Strong ad campaign. Because we never have government sanctioned rallies and protests, Boston took their rage to sporting events. The Bruins and Red Sox in particular turned their homes into "Boston Strong" epicenters. Politicians rallied around it. And it was nearly impossible to avoid the phrase for the remainder of the year anywhere in US news, pro sports coverage, and social media.
Boston Strong was more than a hashtag or rallying cry. It became a brand. It could be monetized. And the One Fund, the charity built to help compensate the families of those killed and pay the exorbitant medical bills of the wounded, raised over $70 Million. It had a far reach, appearing as big advertisements on the sides of douple-decker tour buses in New York City at its peak. As a socialist, I feel the nation should pay everyone's medical bills. The One Fund did its job to cover the medical expenses of those who were maimed, and it was closely watched and found to be a well run charity.
But my issue remains the reactions. We have the reaction from the young, pro-war males. Boston Strong, dude! Next up, the politicians. It wasn't much better. We saw how Mayor Menino and AG Martha Coakley racted to the 2007 bombing "scare." Did politicians fare any better when an actual violent event took place in 2013? Not really. And I really can't go much further without becoming more upset. Elected officials should lead. But often all they do score cheap points. In the old days, they would show up to a public event. Today, they just take to Twitter.
Then we have the reaction from the US news media. This was the most predictable, but still ridiculous. As I argued in my master's thesis back in 1998, news media create a template, or "master narrative," based on major events, and re-use them when a similar, or seemingly-similar event takes place. The Boston Marathon bombings sent the US news media cycle into 9/11 mode, minus the TV news ticker. The media ran with almost every lead they got, and once again, predictably, repeated the propaganda from the government. Without any verification, quite a few media outlets ran with the narrative that the bombers were foreign Muslims, and not US citizens. After all, who else bombs anything in the US in the 21st Century?
I am not the only one to argue that this incident was classified as terrorism because of the weapons used. Glenn Greenwald explains it a lot better than I ever could. His analysis, written about 36 hours after the bombings, is worth a read. His core argument is outlined in his fourth point concerning the media and government reactions:
"The reaction to the Boston attack underscored, yet again, the utter meaninglessness of the word "terrorism". News outlets were seemingly scandalized that President Obama, in his initial remarks, did not use the words "terrorist attack" to describe the bombing. In response, the White House ran to the media to assure them that they considered it "terrorism". Fox News' Ed Henry quoted a "senior administration official" as saying this: "When multiple (explosive) devices go off that's an act of terrorism."
Is that what "terrorism" is? "When multiple (explosive) devices go off"? If so, that encompasses a great many things, including what the US does in the world on a very regular basis. Of course, the quest to know whether this was "terrorism" is really code for: "was this done by Muslims"? That's because, in US political discourse, "terrorism" has no real meaning other than: violence perpetrated by Muslims against the west. The reason there was such confusion and uncertainty about whether this was "terrorism" is because there is no clear and consistently applied definition of the term. At this point, it's little more than a term of emotionally manipulative propaganda. That's been proven over and over..."
And finally, we have the most serious, and worst reaction of them all – the Department of Justice and local law enforcement. Public transit was shut down. The Bruins and Red Sox games were canceled. Schools were closed. Working adults were told to stay home. And SWAT teams went door to do to sweep searches of houses. That had never happened before in US history for an incident like this. This was not Chernobyl. Governor Deval Patrick, as great as he was before this event, committed an unforgivable sin against his citizens and the Constitution.
Let me see if I get this correct. Two gunpowder bombs go off on Boylston Street in the waning hours of the Boston Marathon. The bombs are planted by two young men from Cambridge, who, for lack of a better word, are total losers. They have no escape plan. They don't try to hide their faces when planting the bombs. In the crucial hours after the bombing, their actions speak volumes about their desperation and lack of planning. In a different order than I can recall, in the 26 hours following the bombing, they delayed getting out of town, bought snacks, witnessed an armed robbery in the store they entered to buy the snacks, stole cars, got into a shootout with the MIT and Cambridge police, killed an MIT officer (who the media and public then referred to as a victim of the bombing and/or terrorism), and went on a futile ATM run. In that hunt for cash, they mistakenly believed that if one ATM wouldn't accept a card and various pin numbers for a cash withdrawal, then the solution was to drive to another ATM and experience the same denial of service.
They were losers, Boston. Accept it.
And during this time, the FBI and BPD went to lengths seldom seen before in our nation in order to find their suspects. They locked down Boston and its surrounding cities, including the two big cites across the Charles River – Cambridge and Somerville. All MBTA mass transit was suspended. Citizens were advised not to go to work and remain indoors. All of this for two losers from Cambridge whose arsenal at that point included a pistol and BB gun.
I caught a lot of flack from friends and strangers when I argued back then than the lockdown of Metro Boston was overkill, unnecessary, and a sad, temporary loss of one of our most cherished American freedoms – the freedom to move about peacefully and at will, without having to show ones papers or abide by a curfew. The lockdown was bullshit, and I am quite happy to point that out until the day I expire. The argument can be made that the surviving Tsarnaev would have been found (and probably killed) sooner if there had not been a lockdown.
I have heard people backpedal, saying that the lockdown was not mandatory. If you needed to get in your car and go to a doctor or get Dunkies, you could have. And there are Bostonians who realize how over the top and ridiculous the lockdown was.
After the World Trade Center was destroyed, anyone trying to enter lower Manhattan south of 14th Street (and later Canal Street) had to show their papers to prove they lived in the restricted area. The WTC was a smoldering mass grave that smelled like chlorine and mercury. Over 2,900 had been killed. Our nation was virtually at war. Boston was locked down over two violent stoners from Cambridge. Need I say more? Apparently so.
What exactly was Boston doing? Did they want this to be bigger and more traumatic than it actually was? Did some really think that two gunpowder bombs on Boylston Street amounted to a massive attack from a foreign entity; that someone in the world had declared war on their town? Simply put, did Boston want a 9/11 to call its own? Did it want a terrorist event to define their existence for the next few years? Did they look at New York and think, "We like the way New York lost its shit after 9/11, and went all pro-military and pounded its chest and pretty much acted like an asshole for five years. We want to do the same!"
I think Boston flirted with the idea. But I am happy to report that it didn't stick. There will certainly be a memorial of some kind (one that won't charge admission at least). Boston has two memorials for great fires that took many lives - the Coconut Grove nightclub fire in 1942, and the Hotel Vendome fire in 1971. I expect something similar to be installed on Boylston Street in the months and years ahead.
Returning to Boylston Street the first weekend of May, 2014, I walked past the first bomb location, and past the video cameras at Lord & Tailor's that captured the bombers. I went into Starbucks next to my favorite Boston restaurant, Atlantic Fish Company, and saw a simple chalk board congratulating this years field of runners from around the world. I didn't see "Boston Strong" anywhere. Not one sign. Not one ribbon. Not one T-shirt. There was nothing to indicate that I was at the site of our nations last deadly bombing.
If that holds, maybe I forgive Boston a little. But not entirely. I knew when I graduated from university in 1995, that I would never live there. I am a New Yorker for the time being. I am still drifting away from Boston, despite it's slow admission that it behaved badly. Every so slowly, I turn my eyes to a wonderful little city where the living is good, the art is plentiful, and the cops really enjoy shooting mentally ill and/or homeless people. Bye bye, Boston. Hello, Albuquerque.
How did I react to the bombings? I might have overreacted, myself. I was losing touch with the Red Sox for years, but I severed all ties in 2013, and fully embraced the New York Mets as my pro baseball team. I made a point to travel to Boston less. I even made an effort to stop buying Gillette products. I went a little bonkers, even though I would argue I never went as bonkers as Boston did.
The title of this post comes from my partner, who was able to clearly tell me how to back off and let Boston have its moment. But I still wanted to publish this post, so I could explain myself and see how it holds up as the years pass.
Almost all at taxpayer expense of course.
The whole 2004 RNC ordeal ruined New York for me. It proved to me that this town is not for us little people. It isn't even for progressives or dissenters. It's an imperialist, millionaire's playground.
To my fellow New Yorkers, I say, learn your history. This was the only major city not to kick out the British during the American Revolution. That explains a lot right there. So did Ed Koch's sucking up to the GOP in the run up to that convention.
Bloomberg and Kelly have cost this town countless millions of dollars, while systematically trashing the Constitution. And the Bloomberg penalty for all this criminal stupidity? Three consecutive electoral victories as mayor of America's largest city.
Bloomberg spent over $600 Million on his three mayorial campaigns, but leaves office at least four times richer than when he first ran for office. He knew where the biggest ROI was: himself. The rich get richer, right?
Meanwhile, Bloomy's pit bull gets his big reward.
However, he has asked our city for $1.5M a year for protection. Who hates Ray Kelly so much?
Michael Douglas got a well deserved Emmy for his performance as Liberace in Steven Soderbergh's swan song, Behind the Candleabra. At the end of his acceptance speech, he made a reference to his 34 year-old son, Cameron, who is serving a drug use sentance, with two full years in 23-hour solitary confinent.
He elaborated backstage:
If you happen to have a slip, this for a prisoner who is not violent … they punish you....In my son's case, he has spent almost two years in solitary confinement, and right now I'm being told I cannot see him for two years. It's been over a year now, and I'm questioning the system. Obviously, at first I was disappointed with my son, but I've reached a point now where I'm very disappointed with the system.
The next day, Sabhbh Walshe of The Guardian, agreed with him, and drove the point home in her analysis:
People may have little sympathy for Cameron Douglas, the poor little rich kid who had it all and couldn't handle any of it. He did break the law numerous times by dealing drugs to feed his habit and deserved to be sanctioned for that. It's reasonable to assume also that if he had come from a poor minority background, he may have received an even harsher initial sentence and no one would have been writing newspaper articles about him or calling out to him during high profile award ceremonies. Still his case deserves attention as it typifies the stupidity of the war on drugs that has caused America's prison population to explode while doing almost nothing to eradicate drug use in our society.
I can add my two cents and say that Mr. Douglss and Ms. Walshe are absolutely correct.
The last time I was called for jury duty, I spent seven of the most depressing hours of my life watching white lawyers, judges, court officers and jurors, busily administering the drug laws of the commonwealth of Massachusetts. All the defendants and their families were sad, poor persons of color, who were going to rot in prison and have their futures wrecked because poor, sad, addicted poor people use illegal drugs. When I was finally called to explain my unwillingness to serve on a jury, I told the judge I considered the drug laws of this nation to be close to the classic definition of insanity. We are doing the same things, over and over again, and expecting a different result.
Drug addiction is a medical problem, and drug dealing is a function of the poverty and lack of opportunities that's endemic in this country. Our answer to this social pathology? Lock up one third of the young men of color in this country, incarcerate more people than any other nation on earth, create a vast, corrupt and wasteful prison industrial complex, and continue this madness year after year, as the problem gets worse! Yes, Mr. Douglas was right to address this at the Emmys.
While I agree that the Trayvon Martin case has received far more attention than the "usual" white man kills black man story, it is the first of the social networking era to draw attention to one of the worst aspects of our nation. I highly recommend reading the posts over at We Are Respectable Negros for some smart commentary on the issue.
Herman Cain opened himself up to uncomfortable, personal questions when he went on a tour to promote his new book, which promotes his run for president. In the book, he explains in detail why he chose not to get involved in the 1960s civil rights movement, depite being a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta between 1963-1967.
I want to make it very clear that it involvement in the civil rights movement should never be a litmus test for office, much in the same way military service in Vietnam used to be a litmus test for national, male politicians. No black man or woman who was an adult between 1955 and 1970 should be required to reveal their involvement in the civil rights movement, nor should it be expected or assumed that they were involved simply on the basis of their skin color. Everyone had reasons for speaking out or remaining silent, and a lot of it had to do with geographic location and income.
No one should have to be interrogated about what they did in the 1960s. That is, unless they are running for president and bring it up themselves.
Lawrence O'Donnell went straight for the jugluar in his interview with Herman Cain last week. Mr. Cain, in his book, tells the story that while he was in high school, his father advised him not to get involved in civil rights rallies, marches, petitions, or other public events. For everyone who lived through that era in the south, getting involved was assuming at least some risk, be it legal, professional, or in some case, physical. I would agree that a black teenager being arrested in 1962 or 1963 Atlanta would not have been easy to shake off. I don't judge Herman Cain's reasons for not getting involved.
But I do think it is appropriate to ask Mr. Cain about 1963 if he himself brings it up. In his book, Mr. Cain writes:
On a day-to-day basis, because the civil rights movement was a few years in front of me, I was too young to participate when they first started the Freedom Rides, and the sit-ins. So on a day-to-day basis, it didn't have an impact. I just kept going to school, doing what I was supposed to do, and stayed out of trouble--I didn't go downtown and try to participate in sit-ins. But I well remember, as a young teenager, seeing signs printed in large black letters at the fronts of buses: "White seat from front, colored seat from rear." One day when I was thirteen, my friends and I were riding home from school in a half-empty bus--this was at the time when the civil rights movement was just getting off the ground and some police officers were just looking for a reason to shoot a black person who "got out of line." So, counter to our real feelings, we decided to avoid trouble by moving to the back of the bus when the driver told us to. By that time, the sit-ins and the Freedom Rides had kind of broken the ice, even though things hadn't fully changed. So we saw it every day on TV and read about it in the news. Dad always said, "Stay out of trouble," and we did.
That passage almost makes it seem as if Mr. Cain would have gotten involved in sit ins and protests if he wasn't so young at the time. However, Mr. Cain was 19 years old and in college during Freedom Summer. He must have been surrounded by fellow students who were involved. So if he agreed with ending segregation and discrimination, why didn't he step forward just a little when history came knocking on his door in Atlanta in the mid 1960s? He wasn't in a northern city. He wasn't overseas. He was living near the epicenter of a movement that changed this country and opened the door for him to run for national office.
Now if I were interviewing Herman Cain here, I might start the line of questioning with something gentle like, "Did you ever consider participating in a civil rights event while at Morehouse?" Or I might ask if he had friends who did. Or I might ask if he ever regreetted not getting involved, especually after the Freedom Summer of 1964, which was a media breakthrough for the movement. But that's why I am not an aggressive journalist. That's why I don't have Lawrence O'Donnell's job. Civil rights era questions at 07:20:And if you thought O'Donnell was blunt and to the point, check out Martin Bashir laying a massive smackdown on CNN International (H/T We Are Respectable Negroes).
For all the shit Democrats have had to go through after volunteering their service and putting their asses on the line (both Al Gore and John Kerry volunteered for Vietnam and skipped the draft lottery process), should the news media be giving a pass to candidates who almost boast about sitting out opportunities to put themselves on the line?
It is obvious that the book passage (which seems very random, sandwiched betweeen other little stories from Cain's teenage years) was meant to reassure the GOP and potential voters that he is not a rebellous black man. He's no community organizer. He never flirted with liberation theology or black power. He's a corporate manager. And he is runnign to protect corporate interests. The GOP need not fear the color of his skin. They'll just have to put up with his volunteer peanut gallery (which can be heard in the O'Donnell interview videos).
I shouldn't do this. This is such a moot point. But it bothered me the moment Hank Williams, Jr. made his flippant remark while on Fox & Friends over a week ago. He threw in a dead guy to construct an analogy between two pairs of people. As an ameteur editor, I have to say that is not a best practice in analogies.
Williams touched on a couple of Wingnut talking points when he said what he said. First, he reinforced the narrative that Obama is the GOPs worst enemy. But that can't be true. As Ted Rall has said many times (and as I finally agree), most in the GOP and Democratic party engage in political theater, in which they act that they are opposed to each other. Obama is not the GOP's enemy. The GOPs real enemies are the American progressives who might finally be taking to the streets in sigificant numbers after ten years of economic decline.
Second, Williams reinforced the myth that Obams is strongly anti Isreal. This completey ignores two facts that (1) Obama and Clinton's Isreal policy is exactly the same as Bush and Rice's, and (2) Obama made it clear at his annual UN speech that the Palestinians will not be able to solve their crisis through speeches or resolutions at the UN. It was a firm message that the actions of the Palestinian authority two weeks ago at the UN were, in the end, meaningless and not supported by the US. How is that anti-Israel? Oh right, Obama is a radical black man and of course, all radical black men are anti Semites, just like Louis Farrakhan, or Professor Griff.
So what does a seeming hungover Williams say on live TV about President Obama playing golf with Speaker Boehner?
It would be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu.
Let me fix that for you Hank, as one of the four people in your analogy is dead.
It would be like
HitlerAhmadinejad playing golf with Netanyahu.
There. Fixed. Not that the analogy is correct. Obama is still not the enemy of Israel. But if you are going to claim that he is, at least drop the dead guy out of your analogy. Not that Williams knows who the president of Iran is, or is able to pronounce his name. But you don't really expect wingnuts to be educated, do you?