Sunday, July 25, 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pat Oliphant on the Fox News/Brietbart/Rovian smear of Sherrod

My KMUW commentary: The humble banjo's perseverance

Listen here or just read:

It’s been my lot in life, probably to the everlasting dismay of some around me, to be enamored with that humble little musical instrument, the banjo. Originating in Africa, the twangy thump of banjo notes just seems to resonate with some primal part of myself. The cheerful sound of it once prompted Charles Schultz’s Peanuts character Linus to proclaim, “As soon as a baby is born he should be issued a banjo!”

Yet this joyful musical instrument has a sorrowful story to tell. The reason there were so many banjo players among the slaves on southern plantations was because the captured Africans were not allowed to play drums. Slave owners feared they would be able to communicate with secret drumming codes. And to encourage dancing to work their atrophying muscles on the long voyages from Africa, each slave ship included at least one banjo player.

As white people began longing to also play them, the minstrel show era was born with the banjo at its center. When white, and sometimes African, players toured the nation and exposed audiences to the catchy sound of banjos, everyone wanted one. Manufacturers could barely keep up with the demand. Unfortunately, the cruel stereotypes of Africans that were also part of those shows cast a shadow over the banjo for African Americans almost to the present. Only recently have they begun to reclaim their invention as black banjo players are beginning to return to the little half-drum, half-guitar instrument with the cheery, twangy tone that it has retained throughout its dramatic history.

I love the banjo and I love the banjo’s message: Adversity be damned! I won’t stop my happy song!

For KMUW, I’m Richard Crowson.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

He didn't "survey" me

Yeah. I'd like to know how Ben Stein "surveyed the ranks of the unemployed." What a liar.

What a hater. More of the same from the far right.

Ben Stein: The Unemployed Are People With ‘Unpleasant Personalities…Who Do Not Know How To Do A Day’s Work’

bensteinToday, the Senate extended unemployment benefits for millions of jobless Americans. Despite the terrible shape of the economy, conservativesresisted extending unemployment insurance for weeks for Americans who can’t find work, launching a filibuster to prevent a vote on the benefits.

Writing at the American Spectator yesterday, former Nixon speechwriter and TV personality Ben Stein downplayed the suffering unemployed Americans are experiencing by writing that the people who are unemployed right now are “generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities.” He claims the unemployed are Americans with “unpleasant personalities…who do not know how to do a day’s work“:

The people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities. I say “generally” because there are exceptions. But in general, as I survey the ranks of those who are unemployed, I see people who have overbearing and unpleasant personalities and/or who do not know how to do a day’s work. They are people who create either little utility or negative utility on the job. Again, there are powerful exceptions and I know some, but when employers are looking to lay off, they lay off the least productive or the most negative. To assure that a worker is not one of them, he should learn how to work and how to get along — not always easy.

Of course, saying that the 15 million Americans who are unemployed right now are “generally” people with “poor work habits” is as offensive as it is wrong. The current recession is a global phenomenon caused by the collective bad behavior of the world’s largest financial institutions. Before the recession, the unemployment rate hovered aroundsix percent; it is ludicrious to say that millions of Americans suddenly got lazier and less able to work within the span of a few months.

Unfortunately, Stein is a widely respected voice on the American right who regularly appearson cable news to offer his thoughts on politics and policy. Using the Critical Mention media search engine, ThinkProgress finds that the name “Ben Stein” was mentioned 64 times in major television media networks within the past thirty days alone.

Paul Krugman on the Sherrod smear by Breitbart and Fox

Krugman sums it up:

Fooled Again And Again and Again

So I don’t know if readers have been following the Shirley Sherrod affair. It goes like this: Ms. Sherrod was an Agriculture Department official; a right-wing blogger released clips of a video that purportedly showed her making racist remarks; the clips were featured big on Fox News; and the Obama administration promptly fired her.

But whaddya know, the scandal was fake. The clips were taken completely out of context. It was basically as if I said, “Some people say that violence is always the answer; they’re wrong”, Fox ran with the story “Krugman says violence is always the answer”, and the Times fired me.

What’s shocking here isn’t the behavior of the right, which was par for the course. It’s the seemingly limitless credulity of the inside-the-Beltway crowd. I mean, there’s a history here: ACORN, Climategate, Vince Foster, Whitewater, and much much more. (Someone recently reminded me that the GOP held two weeks of hearing on the Clinton Christmas card list.) When the right-wing noise machine starts promoting another alleged scandal, you shouldn’t suspect that it’s fake — you should presume that it’s fake, until further evidence becomes available.

So now Tom Vilsack, the Agriculture secretary, says that he may “reconsider”. I’d lay even odds that the Sherrod firing stands, even though it was totally unjust, because people in DC are so accustomed to cringing in the face of the right that they just don’t know how to stop.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Preview of tomorrow's Eagle toon

Using Palin fans as spiritual teachers

Here's an interesting approach. This is from an online newsletter that I subscribe to, from the Eckhart Tolle foundation.

“My husband holds extremely different political views from mine. He believes in war, guns, Fox News, and Sarah Palin. I do not. How do I constructively handle our differences?”

Eckhart: Viewpoints, opinions, and mental positions are all thoughts – the thought says “this is how it is”, it is some kind of judgment or perspective on things. To be identified with a mental position is to derive your sense of self from that mental position. It’s a substitute identity, form identity, ego – a substitute for your true identity which is formless and has nothing to do with any thought – but is consciousness itself.

This is a good opportunity for not giving up your thoughts – you are not required to watch Fox News, but if he is there watching Fox News, and the sound is there filling the house, you can either ask him to turn it down, or close the door, or surrender to what is, or walk out, or ask him to walk out. There are many choices, other than negativity. The main thing is mental positions – to withdraw your identification. You can still have your position, but there’s no ‘self’ in it anymore – it does not supply your sense of identity. Then you can allow somebody else to have their mental position. Perhaps you can then discover that beyond both your and your husband’s mental positions – there is something beyond, where you are not in conflict. Beyond his thoughts and your thoughts – maybe you can find that place.

Your first responsibility is not to identify with a position. Everybody has to practice that one way or another. It’s a beautiful practice. It’s expressed in Zen. I don’t remember who said it, some Zen master said, “Don’t seek for the truth – just cease cherishing opinions”. And that’s enough. Many spiritually inclined people look for the ‘truth’ – hopefully at some point within, but first it starts outside. But don’t look for the truth, not even within, just stop cherishing opinions. Cherishing, not having. It doesn’t say stop having opinions, because that would be difficult – maybe a very advanced practice. Even I have some opinions, about Fox News, and so on – but cherishing means to identify with the opinion, to be in the thought. And then it gives you your sense of “I”. Then anybody who has a different or conflicting position becomes a kind of enemy. Then you’re trapped in form. This is a very common human condition. Most humans on the planet derive their identity from their thoughts. So the thought is invested with self. Maybe this is another way of speaking about the essential truth of the Buddha, who discovered that this sense of ‘self’ is an illusion. You derive your sense of self from form – because every thought is a thought-form. It’s an energy field.

If this were your only spiritual practice, it would be enough. If you can try, for example, talking to the questioner, your husband can then become your spiritual teacher because he can continuously remind you not to be identified with mental positions. Then, you don’t resist the other person’s mental position, because you don’t need to – you allow it to be. You can even allow your own mental position to be. If you resist someone else’s mental position, you only strengthen it. Try arguing with him about Fox News or Sarah Palin, and you’ll see what I mean.

You may find the miracle that it can happen quite easily, that somebody’s mental position either weakens or it may even dissolve when it’s not resisted – because it needs resistance to strengthen itself, and to gain energy through fighting another. It’s quite miraculous to see how it can happen when it’s not resisted, when it is allowed: “I know that’s what you think, and that’s okay”.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Palin wants President Obama to "refudiate" the NAACP

Yeah. She really said that. At 2:37. She's trying to out-Bush Bush. And doing a damn good job of it! Maybe she'll start her on party: The Refublican Party.

Watermark time!

Cartoon update (for the period during which I slacked of and didn't post)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Under anti-government conservatives all of these things that our government does to protect and empower us were cut to the bone or just ended"

Love this piece by Dave Johnson.

Cut spending? Wait - where did that terrible idea come from? Government is We, the People and its job is to protect and empower us. Why in the world would we want to cut back on that?

WSJ today, The Bush Tax Cuts and the Deficit Myth, "Runaway government spending, not declining tax revenues, is the reason the U.S. faces dramatic budget shortfalls for years to come."

Wait a minute. Back up. Where did this come from? Who, anywhere, any time agreed to cut government? Why do We, the People allow these anti-government zealots to pre-frame the budget deficit as a problem of government doing too much for us? Which government function is the "too much" part? Reigning in runaway corporations? Consumer protection? Worker safety inspections? Food safety inspections? Maintaining and modernizing our infrastructure? Educating people? The courts? Keeping the water and air clean? There is a long list of things our government does for us. Why would we want less of that?

Imagine if Democrats voted to just put $500 billion a year in rockets and shot the rockets at the moon, and spent the next 30 years demanding that the conservatives do their part and raise taxes to pay for that. Do you think the top 1% would just say, "OH, OK, let's do that." Of course they wouldn't.

But under anti-government conservatives all of these things that our government does to protect and empower us were cut to the bone or just ended, resulting in mine disasters, bank meltdowns, predatory corporations scamming all of us, and the BP oil spill. We, the people got poorer and less secure while the rich got really, really richer.

Why would anyone in their right mind think that was a good idea?

Conservatives cut taxes on the rich, resulting in the greatest concentration of wealth ever. The entire economy turned into an everything-to-the-top vacuum cleaner scheme, filled with scams shaking down and fleecing We, the People of everything we have and delivering it to a few wealthy corporation-owners. And then we get this bamboozlement that "the deficit" is out of control, so we have to cut back on anything that remains of government working for We, the People? I don't think so.

Think about the level of bamboozlement that is going on here. Conservatives cut taxes on the rich, and then spend the next 30 years saying, "OK, now you have to do your part and cut the things government does for the people." The whole thing was a scheme to deliver power to a few at the top. In Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Drowning In Debt you can see the step-by-step outline of the plan, in their own words. The deficit plan was right there for everyone to see:

  • Step 1: Cut taxes to "cut the allowance" of government so that it can't function on the side of We, the People. Intentionally force the government into greater and greater debt.
  • Step 2: Use the debt as a reason to cut the things government does for We, the People. When the resulting deficits pile up scare people that the government is "going bankrupt" so they'll let you sell off the people's assets and "privatize" the functions of government. Of course, insist that putting taxes back where they were will "harm the economy."
  • Step 3: Blame liberals for the disastrous effects of spending cutbacks.

So when did We, the People agree to this one-way bargain, cut taxes for the rich and cut what government does for us? We didn't, and we should stop acting like we did.

Every single one of us knows that the deficits are the result of tax cuts for the rich and huge military spending increases. If we want to fix the deficit problem we know exactly what to do.