Archive | August, 2012

Hero of the Week Award: August 31, Chris Matthews

31 Aug

Hero of the Week

What a pleasant surprise to have another mainstream journalist receive this week’s HWA. Regular TSM readers know that I have little patience for the pablum and apologetics that most networks peddle as news, straining so hard to be “fair” that they invite lunatics and hatemongers to “balance” facts. Lately, however, the media seem to have realized their jobs again, from the many news outlets actually calling out Ryan and Romney for their outright falsehoods to Soledad O’Brien‘s recent refusals to let her interviewees get away with bending the truth.

This week it was MSNBC’s Chris Matthews who stood up to the Republican deception and obfuscation engine. In an on-air conversation with Prince of Darkness, oops! RNC Chair Reince Priebus, Matthews interrupted him to call out his party’s race baiting. Referring to Mitt Romney’s wink-and-nod birtherism during a speech in Michigan, Matthews said,

That cheap shot about “I don’t have a problem with my birth certificate” was awful. You are playing that little ethnic card there. You can play your games and giggle about it, but the fact is your side is playing that card.

Priebus quickly became defensive and tried to move on. When he accused the President of “European” policies — a standard GOP talking point to make Obama seem foreign — Matthews stopped him cold.

You mean the fact that every president we’ve had has tried to offset the economic cycle with stimulus going the other direction is somehow European? […] What does that have to do with Europe and this foreignization of the government? You’re doing it now. Saying that he’s influenced by foreign influences.

After a heated exchange, the interview ended. Priebus later accused Matthews of being an Obama mouthpiece and — ironically — of being “the biggest jerk in the room.” He’s tried hard to paint Matthews as a fool and a bully, not realizing that his rubber and glue game isn’t working. Matthews, in turn, stands by his words.

There come times when the passion should be reflective in the tone. There are a couple issues like peace and war, and race relations — this is, deeply, not something we should be revisiting in the 21st century. It isn’t even covert any more, its overt. Race is the San Andreas Fault in this country, and this is dividing this country along racial lines.

So true, Mr. Matthews. So sadly true. Thank you for calling it out and for refusing to apologize for simply doing your job.

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Bigot of the Week Award: August 31, Not Paul Ryan…the Other Racists

31 Aug

Bigot of the Week

Of course, it would have been so very easy to have given Paul Ryan the BWA again, but I will not do that. I will refrain from calling attention to the many blatant lies the bigoted hypocrite Ryan spewed from his venomous lips at the GOP Convention.  Please TSM audience, please do not pressure cook me here about reporting what a spleen Ryan is. No. I must insist. I will not talk about the circus of lies he ringmastered during his speech, claiming:

  • that President Obama “closed a GM plant” in Wisconsin that was shuttered during the Bush administration;
  • that the Affordable Care Act steals money from seniors, neatly avoiding the way the plan actually works while dodging the fact that his proposed budget truly does delete almost exactly the same amount of money;
  • that the President is responsible for the downgrading of the U.S. credit rating for the first time in history even though it was the actions of the Republican Controlled House, actions Ryan championed, that were explicitly named as the cause of the downgrade.

No, I shan’t dwell on these and the other lies he told — so many that even the timid mainstream media called them lies in headlines. I must turn elsewhere to two anonymous but certified individuals whose horrific actions got them ejected from the Convention. Individuals whose actions mirror the beliefs of the GOP but made them too blatant even for the four-day ragefest.

CNN confirmed that two Republican delegates were asked to leave the convention after throwing nuts at an African American camera woman while yelling: “This is how we feed animals.”  This despicable behavior is wrong on so many counts, I hardly know where to start on the systemic impact of their actions. I find it alarming that the two delegates found it perfectly acceptable to behave in such a manner at the convention.  While I don’t want to paint the entire GOP with one brush, this incident does nothing to improve the already severely damaged relationship they have with the African American population.  In fact, I would say this incident paints a consistent picture of a rich white boy club that grows more elite, more white, and wealthier with each passing year, a la Clint Eastwood as he delivered his muddled mumblings to an empty chair.

I am exceedingly sad how far we have yet to go towards eradicating racism, homophobia, and misogyny.  I am more and more convinced that the current incarnation of the GOP addresses only the needs of the top 1% of Americans, which means any marginalized population will continue to be further marginalized.

Celebrating Thurgood Marshall

30 Aug

On this date in 1967, civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall became the first African American appointed to the Supreme Court. In his 24 years on the Court, he was a stalwart defender of the oppressed, a strong voice for social justice, and a strong voice for the evolutionary model of Constitutional law clearly intended at the founding of our country. He wisely observed in a U.S. Bicentennial speech:

the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and major social transformations to attain the system of constitutional government and its respect for the freedoms and individual rights we hold as fundamental today.

Born in 1908 in Baltimore, Marshall was the son of a railroad porter and a teacher and the grandson of slaves. His parents instilled in him a deep appreciation of American citizenship and the rule of law in a just society. He graduated from Lincoln University, where he was a member of the first black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha. He intended to go to law school at his hometown University of Maryland, but was turned away because of their strict segregation policy. He instead went to Howard University School of Law, graduating first in his class in 1933. Three years later, he represented Donald Gaines Murray in a case that forced Maryland to eliminate the policy that had kept him from its law school.

Marshall undertook that case as part of his work with the NAACP. He quickly rose to become their Chief Counsel. At the age of 32, he won his first case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Chambers v. Florida, a due process case involving undue police pressure on four African American men. He went on to argue 32 cases before the Court, more than anyone else, winning a stunning 29 of those cases. The most famous of those, building on his success in Maryland, was Brown v. Board of Education. In 1961, President Kennedy appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, resorting to a recess appointment when a group of southern senators held up his confirmation. After four years on that bench, he was tapped by President Johnson to become the first African American U.S. Solicitor General. During his time in that role, he won an enviable 14 of the 19 cases he defended.

Strong-willed and successful, Marshall recognized that the American dream is not accomplished solely by personal determination.

None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody – a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns – bent down and helped us pick up our boots.

He also knew how much minority oppression worked against too many Americans, saying

A child born to a Black mother in a state like Mississippi… has exactly the same rights as a white baby born to the wealthiest person in the United States. It’s not true, but I challenge anyone to say it is not a goal worth working for.

With the famous observation that it was “the right thing to do, the right time to do it, the right man and the right place,” LBJ put Marshall forward for the Supreme Court when Justice Tom C. Clark retired. He served on the Court for the next twenty-four years, compiling a liberal record that included strong support for Constitutional protection of individual rights, especially the rights of criminal suspects against the government. He was a staunch opponent of the death penalty, believing it a violation of the Constitution. He participated in every dissent of death penalty cases during his time on the Court.

Justice Marshall also understood that equal rights apply to all, extending his work for racial equality to other oppressed communities. He joined in a spirited dissent of Bowers v. Hardwick, the 1986 decision that infamously upheld Georgia’s anti-gay application of its ludicrous sodomy laws. He also wrote influential opinions on labor rights, securities law, and taxation. He famously wrote a dissent in Personnel Administrator MA v. Feeney, saying that a law that gave hiring preference to veterans over non-veterans was unconstitutional because of its inequitable impact on women (Yes, standing up for equality for women was okay back then). A constant defender of individual freedom, he famously observed:

If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a state has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his house, what books he may read or what films he may watch.

Marshall also supported a women’s right to govern her own body and helped with the passage of Roe v. Wade. He was a stalwart defender of women’s rights and the right to choose.

In poor health, he retired from the bench in 1991, noting his dissatisfaction that his successor would be selected by George H.W. Bush. Those fears were sound. In a display of wanton tokenism, Bush appointed the integrity-impaired far right demagogue Clarence Thomas. That substitution heralded the beginning of the Court’s descent from defenders of individual rights and the rule of law to the Roberts’ Court’s flagrant obsequiousness to corporate power and individual greed. The Fecal Five on today’s Court would do well to listen to Marshall’s words:

Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men’s minds.

Fortunately, Marshall’s legacy lives on, with many of his opinions holding the force of law even today. His true successor on the bench was appointed by the first African American President when President Obama appointed former Marshall law clerk Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. Marshall died of heart failure in 1993. His papers were given to the Library of Congress and — unusually but according to Marshall’s wishes — made open to scholars and researchers immediately. Many tributes and memorials to Marshall exist around the country but none are so strong as the legacy of the law he believed in, defended, and helped to shape for the betterment of all Americans.

Rape

28 Aug

The GOP Owns Your Vagina

Thank you to my friend JoAnna, a fierce advocate for oppressed voices, for inspiring me to write this article. Now that the Republican Platform includes Akin’s “Legitimate Rape” and the repeal of all rights gained by the LGBT community, Tom Smith (R), Senate Candidate from Pennsylvania, is just following his party’s platform when he adds his comments to the overwhelmingly misogynistic tea (Kool Aid). As reported in the Huffington Post, he believes:

Rape is like having a baby out of wedlock… although he condemns Akin’s comment, he agrees with Akin that abortion should be banned without any exceptions, including for rape and incest victims.

How is that disagreeing with Akin? He has been hanging around Romney and Ryan for too long.

I simply do not understand how any woman could vote Republican right now.  The party platform says specifically that they are going to try and overturn Roe v. Wade with their “personhood” amendment.  That “Rape is just like having a child out of wedlock,” “that women can’t get pregnant because of a ‘legitimate’ rape.”   How is this not a War on Women?

I would also beg the question as to how could any self respecting LGBTQ person vote Republican when it is now part of their platform and Romney signed a pledge to:

  • Support and send to the states a federal marriage amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman,
  • Defend DOMA in court,
  • Appoint judges and an attorney general who will respect the original meaning of the Constitution,
  • Appoint a presidential commission to investigate harassment of traditional marriage supporters,
  • Support legislation that would return to the people of D.C. their right to vote for marriage.
  • Repeal all rights gained by the LGBTQ community.

Don’t fear, homos! My friend Jodi Sisson just notified me that Todd (I can’t even spell biology )Akin has hope for you: breast milk cures homosexuality! There’s some science for you.

They may call this the Republican Party, but let’s face it, this is a Fascist Party serving up some noxious tea. Their leadership is the greatest supporting argument for birth control I can think of.

My suggestion for all of these white purportedly heterosexual men wanting full control of every vagina in the land–get castrated!

Death Knell For the Republican Party

26 Aug

That tea bag sure doesn’t cover much…

As the GOP Convention grows ever nearer and the Republican Platform is now in place, I have to reflect and mourn for what was the Republican Party. While I actually probably identify as a socialist, I am, nevertheless, forlorn at the demise of what was the Republican Party, or more specifically in despair at what has replaced the GOP. For those paying attention and not watching Fox (Faux) News, it is painfully clear that ignorant white “christian” racist, homophobic, women hating heterosexuals known as the Tea Party have taken the GOP hostage and have bullied their way into controlling a discourse that affects an entire nation.

I simply cannot understand how any Gay, Black, Latino, Poor, Woman and the myriad other marginalized people would vote for the lying bigots that are Romney and Ryan.  For those who discarded Michele Bachmann, I have to ask, “have you not noticed that she and Ryan are basically twins?”  They have identical voting records: both consistently vote against women, against the LGBT community, against the middle class, and both are millionaires.

Unfortunately, I had to listen to the lying bigot Romeny address an uber conservative population in Ohio and his exact words were: “It is time to get a Republican back in the White House.”  Ick, Ick, Ick!  This is not the sentiment of what is best for Americans, but rather Romney has demonstrated complete partisanship as well as his own pathological narcissism as his driving force.

How embarrassing is it that we have a political party that stands on the principles of hate?  What message does this send to the rest of the world?  Do Romney, Ryan et al have any idea of what the word Fascism means?  Two white (allegedly heterosexual) men making decisions about women’s health and agreeing with Todd (Mr. Misogyny) Akins as well as saying they want to repeal all civil rights gained by the LGBT community, while protecting the 5% of the wealthiest Americans.  Someone please jump in here and help me understand why anyone would vote for these people?  Never mind the loss of the party of Lincoln; this is not the party of Gerald Ford, of Eisenhower, and it most certainly is not even the party of their much heralded Ronald Reagan.  This political party is the party of white right wing religious extremists.  I only hope America is paying attention and not buying into the insurmountable lies from these rancid tea bags.

Hero of the Week Award: August 24, Bob Kerrey

24 Aug

Hero of the Week

In light of some of the awful excuses for humanity who are running for the Senate this year, it’s a pleasure to celebrate a quiet, determined hero who hopes to recapture his Senate seat. Bob Kerrey was Senator from Nebraska from 1989 to 2001. A centrist on many issues from a bright red state, he’s an unlikely champion for gay rights. Nonetheless, he has been a staunch supporter of LGBT equality throughout his career. He was one of only 14 Senators to vote against DOMA in 1996 and one of the few who truly risked his re-election by doing so.

Kerrey retired from politics in 2001. When Sen. Ben Nelson (who won Kerrey’s old seat) announced his retirement this year, Kerrey decided to use his statewide reputation and clout to return to the Senate and hold the seat for the Democrats. With his success far from certain, it might make sense for him to at least keep his pro-gay opinions to himself while campaigning. But he doesn’t. Not only that, he usually brings up the issue himself. Kerrey was recently profiled in the New York Times for his steadfast support.

He brings up gay marriage anyway. Not every day, but on many of them. Not in response to voters’ questions, but at the prodding of his own conscience. I got the feeling that his advisers would like him to stop — and that he knows he’d probably be wise to. But here’s the thing: he’s 68. This race to reclaim [his] Senate seat … could be his last. And if he’s going to go down, he told me, he wants to go down fighting for what’s right and for what he truly believes. That means making a pitch for gay marriage.

“What I usually say is, ‘Let me talk to you about the issue of homosexuality,’ ” Kerrey said over a drink here Saturday night. And then he indeed talks to voters about it, telling them that people are born the way they are and deserve a full complement of civil rights, including the right to marry. It’s that simple. “People who are opposed to it are going to have to be explaining to their grandkids: why, why, why was that the rationale?” he said. “We’re going to be embarrassed in 25 years.”

What delightful insight, courage, and integrity. Let’s hope this unassuming champion is rewarded with a return to the Senate and a chance to help keep moving gay rights forward. With the party platform finally conforming to his vision, this could be his year.

Bigot of the Week Award: August 24, Republican Party Platform

24 Aug

Bigot of the Week

This week’s bigot is no big surprise, but it helps to underscore the importance of the November election. Just a few weeks ago we gave the Hero of the Week to the committee that drafted the Democratic Party Platform. Sadly, the Republicans sank below expectations and easily won this week’s BWA. Much of the platform is standard right-wing talking points, protecting the wealthy, undermining the middle class, and avoiding equality and reality with shocking vigor. Two sections, however, are particularly loathsome.

On the matter of gay rights, the 2012 platform is even more aggressive than in 2008. This owes a great deal to the fact that Tony Perkins of the certified hate group the Family Research Council helped to draft the plank. It supports the adoption of a federal “one man one woman” amendment and explicity calls out for reversal of the strides forward made by the Obama administration, noting “its handling of immigration cases, in federal personnel benefits, in allowing a same-sex marriage at a military base, and in refusing to defend DOMA in the courts.” Professional self-loathing groups GOProud and the Log Cabin Republicans weep and rend their garments while the party they irrationally support rages and rends our rights.

The platform stakes out a clear campaign in the War on Women as well. Despite the hypocritical outcry by party leaders when Rep. Todd Akin made his famous “legitimate rape” comments, the platform squares up pretty well with that Senate hopeful’s positions. It calls for a personhood amendment and the prohibition of all abortions regardless of circumstance, no exceptions. The Romneybot can dither and deceive all he wants, but when he accepts the nomination next week he’ll be the standard bearer of a party that demands that women be stripped of rights to reproductive choice. The plank includes:

Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.

This odious language is not just the party’s position; it has direct bearing on some key races as well. The connection to Akin’s effort to unseat Claire McCaskill (D – MO) is obvious. Akin also voted for a stalled House bill with similar intent; his colleague in the House, Rep. Paul Ryan, also voted for that bill. Whatever the official Romney – Ryan talking points may be, the VP hopeful’s position is clearly anti-woman. This year’s language is very similar to planks included since 2000. The anti-choice section from that year was written by Tommy Thompson, the man who hopes to be the next Senator from Wisconsin. He’s running against true progressive (and out lesbian) Tammy Baldwin. It’s clear that Thompson, Akin, and Ryan must be stopped.

GOP hacks talk a good game about jobs and the economy, but their elected officials have done less than nothing to solve those problems. In the meantime, the official position of the party and its leaders is to roll back rights, oppress minorities, and protect the privileged. The choice in November just keeps getting clearer…

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