Friday, February 29, 2008

Talking immigration

-- by Dave

The progressive conversation on immigration I've been hoping to spark has been inching forward, I think, thanks in part to Kyle de Beausset's response (also carried at Culture Kitchen).

I think Kyle's right that there has been a component missing from the conversation so far: a global one, as opposed to simply a pan-American one (in the broadest sense of the term). Part of the reason I've avoided it is that it introduces an exponential level of complexity to the question -- but obviously, it needs to be discussed. And I hope to take up the matter in a few days.

But today I'm wondering if the conversation isn't about to take a step or three backwards, due to a Huffington Post report from Sam Stein outlining a change in framing being considered by Democrats:
Democrats may soon be taking a tougher public position on immigration, according to a confidential study put together by key think tanks close to the party leadership.

The study urges Democrats to adopt more rigid rhetoric when discussing immigration by encouraging office-holders to emphasize "requiring immigrants to become legal" rather than stressing border enforcement and the opening of a path to legalization for the undocumented already here.

Implicit in the report is the notion that Democrats can win wider public support for immigration reform by framing the issue in harsher-sound verbiage and, perhaps, policy.

This message places the focus where voters want it, on what's best for the United States, not what we can/should do for illegal immigrants.

Titled "Winning The Immigration Debate," the study was put together by the Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform and the Center for American Progress. Its findings, which have been sent to Capitol Hill and have been part of briefing sessions in both the House and the Senate, are based off of polling conducted by Peter Hart Research Associates.

Taken as a whole, the report presents a new prism through which the Democrats should approach the immigration debate. "It is unacceptable to have 12 million people in our country who are outside the system," it reads. "We must require illegal immigrants to become legal, and reform the laws so this can happen."

Polling for the study revealed that a larger swath of the public was supportive of "requiring" undocumented immigrants already in the country to normalize their status than there was for only offering them legalization as an option. In addition, the report pushes Democrats to argue that immigrants should be required to pay taxes, learn English, and pass criminal background checks to remain in the country. Those who have a criminal record should be deported. All of these policies were included in last year's immigration reform compromise legislation, which ultimately failed.

I'm sure these polling results are accurate as far as they go. But there are principles at stake here which go well beyond reading the public's mood. One can sell one's soul for the sake of short-term gain, and there's a risk that liberals in general will be doing so if they pursue this course en toto.

The worst aspect of it is that this framing reinforces the themes about the criminality of undocumented immigrants and the whole "toughness" approach manufactured by both the nativist and the corporate right. If Democrats are going to play this game, they're going to be feeding directly into the same xenophobic anti-immigrant language of hate, constructed by the right, that has dominated the debate.

If progressives truly want to win this debate, they need to fundamentally change the language around it -- not reinforce the old right-wing frames.

As Stein notes, the report has already raised some concern within party circles:
"There has been no consensus around the Democratic rhetoric in regard to immigration," said one party official who had knowledge of the report. "But it has usually been framed around opportunity, and it was less framed around this punishment rhetoric. We are going to require these people to become legal or we are going to deport [them]? It doesn't challenge the immigrant scapegoating direction of the conversation. It plays right into it."

It's perhaps useful for Democrats to remember what John McCain's position on immigration is:
"Q: Will you pledge to veto any immigration bill that involves amnesty?

A: Yes, of course, and we never proposed amnesty. But then you've still got two other aspects of this issue that have to be resolved as well. We need to sit down as Americans and recognize these are God's children as well. And they need some protection under the law; they need some of our love and compassion. I want to assure you that I'll enforce the borders first. We'll solve this immigration problem."

Do Democrats really want to come out positioning themselves to the right of McCain on immigration? Is that where progressive think tanks want to wind up?

In a lot of respects, McCain frames the issue correctly: Yes, let's enforce the borders, let's enforce the laws, and let's get people on a path to citizenship. But most of all, let's not do it in a way that demonizes or belittles or criminalizes them. This is all about making Amerioa stronger and better, and making American democratic values work.

There isn't actually anything in the specifics of the proposed platform on immigration that Stein describes that I object to: Indeed, talking about requiring immigrants to either take the path to citizenship offered them or to take other steps to obtain legal status is consistent with the rule-of-law approach I've discussed previously too.

But if it's going to be a point of emphasis, it simply has to be accompanied by a powerful dose of repudiation of the old right-wing frames -- a frank and serious discussion of the right-wing popular delusions about immigration, as well as an open embrace of Latinos' cultural contributions.

Making law enforcement the primary focus distorts the conversation and the debate. Progressives need to step back and think bigger on this.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

When Wingnuts Attack … Each Other

[Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]

I think it’s telling that the Tim Russerts of the world seem far more preoccupied with the supposed extremism of Barack Obama’s pastor than with the very real spread of far-right extremism among supposed mainstream Republicans — reflected, as Glenn Greenwald adroitly suggests, in the embrace of Pastor John Hagee by the pro-war wing of the Republican Party, most notably John McCain, the GOP’s designated presidential nominee.

Just how far out on the fringe is Hagee? He’s so deeply enmeshed in the Apocalypse Now! contingent that even other right-wing xenophobes are calling him out — specifically, Catholic League president Bill Donohue, who earlier today blasted McCain for embracing Hagee’s endorsement (though as we’ll see, we may have the liberal blogosphere to thank for this):
"Senator Obama has repudiated the endorsement of Louis Farrakhan, another bigot. McCain should follow suit and retract his embrace of Hagee," Donohue said.
As Greenwald notes:
McCain said he was "very honored" to receive this endorsement and, when asked about some of Hagee’s more twisted views, responded: "all I can tell you is that I am very proud to have Pastor John Hagee’s support."

Hagee, you’ll recall, is the Apocalyptic preacher with high-level connections — which included a keynote appearance before last year’s AIPAC conference — with a fondness for wanting Armageddon to take place in Israel:
Hagee covers much of his eagerness to promote Jews as apocalyptic martyrs with unusually strong preachments regarding the place that Jews enjoy in the holy order of things — at one point, he even taught that Jews enjoyed special dispensation from God that relieved them of the need to believe in Jesus as the Savior in order to reach heaven (though he now disavows such teaching). His purpose in proposing aggressive military action in the Middle East, though, is his belief that it will bring about the End of Days …
Bruce Wilson at Talk2Action and Sarah Posner at Alternet both explored this in some detail awhile back. And the indispensable Max Blumenthal attended last summer’s Christians United for Israel confab featuring Hagee and provided a video report that’s both unsettling and amusing.

But it isn’t just Hagee. Ezra Klein has the goods on how far and widely McCain is spreading the electoral love to various other players in the far religious right. McCain has also campaigned with an anti-gay "Patriot" pastor who has declared among other things, that hate-crimes legislation is a “deceptive ploy of [the] liberal, homosexual agenda"; that we should prosecute adulters as criminals; that Planned Parenthood is comparable to the Nazis; and who addressed a "War on Christians" conference with the admonition: “I came to incite a riot! Man your battle stations! Ready your weapons! Lock and load!”

Donohue, in his interview with Greenwald, is in fact exactly right:
"Hagee is far more powerful than Farrakhan is today. . . . Hagee is a major player. There’s no end to his money. He has an empire down there."

According to Donohue, Hagee has "made a lot of money off bashing the Catholic Church and blames Catholics for the Holocaust."
But let’s also be clear about Bill Donohue: He is not exactly the person to be throwing stones when it comes to bigotry. In fact, he has himself a long history of indulging anti-Semitism in the name of "conservative Catholicism," most notably in his ardent defense of Mel Gibson for his execrable The Passion of the Christ. And let’s not forget Donohue’s ugly role in attacking John Edwards’ campaign bloggers early last year as well. He is himself quite a piece of work.

In fact, as I and others noted at the time, while Donohue was overeager to sniff out supposed anti-Catholic extremism on the left, he was strangely silent on the anti-Catholic bigotry that people like Hagee were spewing.

It seems as though, for once, he actually heard that criticism and acted on it.

Would that Russert and the rest of the Village Idiots could be so inclined.

ICE and the far right

-- by Dave

The infiltration of the ranks of law-enforcement officers with closet members of racist hate groups and other far-right extremists is always a cause for concern, largely because the likelihood of them abusing their position of authority on behalf of an extremist agenda is great.

The last thing any public law agency wants is to allow the public to have any reason to believe it is not enforcing the law fairly, even-handedly, and equitably. That's why membership in such groups is grounds for immediate disqualification.

It's especially acute when Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- an agency involved in the handling of millions of nonwhite immigrants -- is involved.

XicanoPowr today brings us the story of an ICE agent who died under very peculiar circumstances -- and with a roomful of evidence suggesting he was involved with white-supremacist hate groups.

It all began when deputies in Grand Prairie, Texas, went to his apartment -- along with some fellow ICE officers -- to check on his well-being:
Grand Prairie police said they evacuated parts of an apartment complex after a man started shooting through the walls overnight.

Police said they went to the Windridge Apartments in the 2300 block of Avenue H at about 7 p.m. Tuesday to check Mark Juvette, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who hadn’t been to work in a few days.

Officers knocked and then tried to get in with help from management when Juvette didn’t answer the door. Police said Juvette then started shooting at the officers through the door.

Police said Juvette started shooting randomly from inside his apartment. Police said they evacuated the area when he began firing into his neighbors’ apartments.

“You don’t see this every day in Grand Prairie,” witness Emanuel Valdez-Pino said.

After several hours, police said they fired tear gas into the apartment. When they went in, they said they found that Juvette had killed himself.

And then, when they went inside:
Officers processing the scene said they found a large canvas suitcase full of pornographic magazines in the bedroom and a red flag with a black swastika hung in a closet with a few older style military jackets.

They recovered a shotgun, semiautomatic rifle, a revolver, two semiautomatic pistols and other weapons from the home, according to a police report.

There were other materials as well, accompanied by the usual caveat in these cases:
Officers who searched the home found books about Adolf Hitler, along with a red flag with a black swastika hung in a closet, but police said they had no indication, including from one of his close work partners, that Mr. Juvette was involved in any racist groups.

"We're not accusing this guy or saying that he was involved with any skinhead or Nazi organization or anything like that," Detective Brimmer said. "He could have been a memorabilia collector. A lot of people collect stuff from World War II and they specialize in German things."

Well, someone needs to find out whether he was involved or not, and to what extent he compromised ICE operations in Texas if he did.

I know it will be the preference of many of his colleagues to sweep this under the rug. For the public's sake, we need not to.

As XicanoPowr says:
One does have to wonder how many of World War II memorabilia collector’s have a red flag with a black swastika hanging in their closet? Or a suitcase full of pornographic magazines? Or a whole arsenal? Just because he was not involved in a known white supremacists groups mean, he rejects their views.

It is, in fact, most likely that he was involved on some level, if merely as a closeted -- literally -- subscriber to Nazi beliefs. It will be worth determining if this ideology was related to his bizarre behavior in his final hours, and if it affected his behavior as an officer at all.

Most of all, the public deserves to know the truth -- and whether cases like this are more common than we know.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Vetting their pastors

-- by Dave

Musing over Tim Russert's brandishing of the Farrakhan card at last night's presidential debate, one couldn't help be amazed at the classic guilt-by-association game that Russert played. In observing this, one of Josh Marshall's readers gives us the following breakdown of the logic:
I think that breaking down Russert's Wright/Farrakhan questioning helps illuminate how truly bizarre it is:
1. The title of Obama's book, "The Audacity of Hope," came from a sermon delivered by Jeremiah Wright. Wright is Obama's pastor.

2. Wright is the "head" of United Trinity Church.

3. Wright said that Louis Farrakhan "epitomizes greatness."

4. Wright went with Farrakhan in 1984 to visit Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.

5. Farrakhan has said that Judaism is a "gutter religion."

6. Wright said that when Obama's political opponents found out about the Libya visit, Obama's Jewish support would dry up "faster than a snowball in Hell."

I'm especially struck by how much weight Russert gives to the views of Obama's pastor. This obviously introduces a new standard for judging our presidential candidates -- the pastor connection.

Clearly, any candidate aspiring to the presidency must henceforth prove that his pastor has never said or done anything undesirable, because those pastors, as we know, control the minds of their entire congregations.

In the future, I trust that all other candidates' pastors will be as thoroughly vetted. Next up on Russert's list, no doubt: North Phoenix Baptist Church, where John McCain is a congregant.

Big (Doofus) Brother

-- by Dave

Jonah Goldberg:
It’s time to admit that “diversity” is code for racism.

Sure, we can do that.

And while we're at it, we can go with some corrolaries:
"War" is code for peace.

"Ignorance" is code for strength.

"Fascism" is code for liberalism.

'Cuz we're just doing a Newspeak exercise here, aren't we?

It's perhaps always helpful to remember that multiculturalism has always been a response to white supremacism, created as its antithesis. But then, Jonah's history on these matters, as we've noted, is a bit confused.

Not only is multiculturalism intended to overcome racism, it's the only approach to a multiethnic society that even makes the attempt. And as I've also noted, its critics are very good at pointing out its flaws, none of them are forthcoming about what they'd replace it with.

Because the only thing on the horizon that could replace it is the old system of white supremacy, which always hid under such rubrics as "separate but equal" and the notion that merit is purely an individual matter -- even though the means of testing merit are built around a system of white privilege. It's all part of the "new racism," which has as it founding tenet the idea that multiculturalism has failed.

Obviously, Goldberg enjoys tossing plenty of fresh logs onto that particular bonfire.

Thanks, Darryl

-- by Dave

When I was down in L.A. a couple of years ago to do a book signing for Strawberry Days, I was pleasantly surprised when Darryl Pearce, who'd been a commenter here for years, came by to meet me. At my urging, he hung around at the signing and we had a nice long conversation.

Darryl has always been one of my smarter and fuinnier commenters, and he was very much that way in person. It was one of my better-spent hours in LA.

So I was deeply saddened to read, via Thers at Eschaton, that Darryl had -- on a midday jog -- suffered a heart attack or aneurysm and died very suddenly.

There's a note at his LiveJournal site from the family. As you can see, they're asking friends to donate in Darryl's name to help Raise the Sails, an outfit based up here in Grays Harbor. Darryl, himself a Civil War reenactor, was a history nut and a devotee of the tall ships that the fund will benefit.

Blogs like mine really depend on people like Darryl for their lifeblood: occasional commenters, but regular readers. And when he did comment, it was always worth reading. He was a kind, generous, and thoughtful man, and his loss not only leaves this little blogging community poorer, but the world as well.

Thanks, Darryl. We'll carry on in your memory.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

It's Laura's turn

-- by Dave

You all remember last August when the Preznit paid a campaign visit to our neck of the woods to campaign for Rep. Dave Reichert, and he wound up inspiring a monumental fund-raising campaign for Darcy Burner in the process.

Indeed, on the strength of that netroots backing, Burner outperformed Reichert that quarter, and continues to do so even today.

Now we're getting another White House visit on Reichert's behalf, but this time -- no doubt realizing that the Preznit's presence actually inspires so much animosity that he hurts more than he helps -- they're sending out First Lady Laura Bush instead.

So there's a followup fund-raiser for Darcy to counter her appearance.

And if you needed any further incentive to back Darcy, let me replay that video from her 2006 debate with Reichert that I discussed when Bush was here last year:

The question arises -- because pharmacists have made it a legal issue -- whether pharmacists should be required to fill prescriptions that run counter to their personal religious beliefs. It's a real minefield of an issue, and the response of the typical triangulating Democrat in such situations is to offer up some kind of middle ground and namby-pamby their way around the issue.

But Burner doesn't mess around. "No," she insists, and then lays out clearly exactly why pharmacists have no business making moral decisions regarding the health of a patient because that's a decision for her doctor to be making -- someone who knows her medical history; indeed, someone who may be prescribing birth control mediciations for reasons (often hormonal) unrelated to contraception.

It's clear, direct, easy to understand, and a perfectly ethical position to stake out -- nor easy to answer. It's also heartfelt; you can see she is speaking as a woman, like most women, with some experience in this issue. Which may be why Reichert responds as he does.

First we see Reichert, early in the video, interrupt Burner, declaring "Yes!" loudly when she says "No," forcing her to wait to finish her response. Then, after her erudite reply, he has to ask: "Jim, what was the question again?"

The moderator, James Veseley of the Seattle Times, rereads it: "Do you think it is OK for a pharmacist to refuse to fill birth-control prescriptions for religious or moral reasons?"

Reichert again answers only: "Yes."

And that's it.

The paternalistic arrogance of that reply -- a simple insistence without any accompanying logic or reason -- really put Reichert's approach to minority issues, including most importantly women's issues -- on stark display. Just give 'em the ol' authoritative "yes" from the sheriff, and don't bother with explaining yourself. It's the John Wayne style of governance.

I have made a point of showing this video to a number of friends. The educated men I know laugh knowingly; but the response from women has been more interesting -- more visceral, more angry. They all know men like the sheriff. He reminds them of bad old bosses or bad boyfriends or divorced husbands.

Which, of course, fits rather perfectly with Monday's visit on Reichert's behalf by President George W. Bush -- who also tends to remind people of soiled relationships gone by.

Laura's visit is a de facto recognition by Republican campaign strategists that this is even more the case now. Reichert has been making gestures aimed at softening the reality-based image he's developed of being a Bush lapdog; and Laura lets him get the White House imprimatur without soiling him with the Deciderer's very messy actual presence.

It would be nice to make clear that it isn't helping.

They love to hate

-- by Dave

I'm not sure how this story slipped past my radar a couple of weeks ago, but this report from The Stranger is disturbing, to say the least:
Two teachers at Snoqualmie's Mount Si High School are planning to take legal action after they were formally disciplined for protesting Pastor Ken Hutcherson's appearance at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day assembly in January. Last week, the school's principal, Randy Taylor, met with Dr. George Potratz and Kit McCormick—both English teachers at Mount Si—and presented them with letters admonishing them for their behavior during the assembly.

During a student-planned assembly on January 17, Potratz booed Hutcherson—famous for his virulently antigay lobbying and rhetoric—and McCormick, an adviser to the school's Gay/Straight Alliance club, asked the pastor to explain how his speech about equality related to his public stance against gay rights.

I especially noted the principal's rationale:
Taylor claims the teachers—who were protesting Hutcherson's presence at an assembly about equality—acted in an "unprofessional" manner, and, in his letter to McCormick, suggested she should have, among other things, submitted an editorial to the school's newspaper in advance of Hutcherson's appearance, rather than speak up at the assembly.

I can understand how booing would be considered unprofessional, but it is simply beyond my ken why standing up and asking a question that not only is perfectly appropriate, but absolutely necessary in a setting in which students are being asked to consider various sides of an issue.

Because Hutcherson, frankly, has never been able to answer that question adequately. It is an important one, as we've noted before:
We've heard this line before. Because being gay is a "chosen behavior," it is undeserving of civil rights protections.

It's the same reason given by many evangelicals -- and particularly black and minority evangelicals, and people who claim they support civil rights -- for not supporting gays and lesbians in hate-crime protections: "You can't compare being gay to being black. One's immutable, one's chosen."

Well, yes, this is true when it comes to race. And even ethnicity. These are, after all, two of the three main legs of anti-discrimination and hate-crimes laws.

But it's not true of the third leg of these laws: religion. Last I checked, this too was a "chosen behavior."

People like Hutcherson who are arguing that discrimination on the basis of a "chosen behavior" is acceptable are arguing in favor of religious discrimination as well -- and it's important for these students to understand that.

You have to wonder why Hutcherson was invited to speak in the first place. As the SPLC's Hatewatch notes, Hutcherson in recent years has been stepping up the virulent nature of his anti-gay rhetoric, including his recent declarations of "war" against gays and his prominent role promoting the violently anti-gay Watchmen on the Walls organization here in the Northwest.

More recently, Hutcherson said this in one of his sermons:
“God hates soft men … God hates effeminate men … If I was in a drugstore and some guy opened the door for me, I’d rip his arm off and beat him with the wet end.”

As the Rev. Anthony Robinson observes:
"That was a joke," Hutcherson said Friday, when I asked him about the comment. But it's not really funny, is it?

What it sounds like are the kinds of words that have paved the way for atrocities in such places as Serbia, Kosovo and Rwanda. You have to dehumanize somebody before you beat them up. Labeling some men as "soft" and "effeminate" and saying "God hates them" does that.

Yet strangely, so far the officials in this school district seem have been listening mostly to Hutcherson, who wants the teachers fired. He also wants the school's gay students club disbanded.

Black pastors like Hutcherson -- people who preach "civil rights for me, but not for thee" -- really ought to be ashamed of themselves. As I noted previously:
The odd thing about hearing this kind of lame rationale from Hutcherson is that he is an African American man. As it happens, I've listened to a sermon that used nearly identical logic -- that discrimination isn't about hate if God commands it in the Bible -- at least once before. It was delivered by the late Rev. Richard Butler at an annual Aryan Nations Congress in Hayden Lake, Idaho. And he was talking about black people.

Hutcherson is a hatemonger hiding behind his robes and his race. It's past time he was called on it, especially when he's preaching before a bunch of students on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Teachers who do so should be lauded, not punished.

Swimming against the tide

-- by Dave

I've got to give credit where it's due: Rick Moran at RightWing Nuthouse, with whom I've tangled in the past, is standing up to the tide of right-wing nonsense being spewed about Barack Obama, though of course in a qualified way:
Well, today conservative stupidity regarding Obama and his supposed ties to Islam hit paydirt – as in generating a ten on the laugh-o-meter. Evidently, the probable next president of the United States was caught in flagrante dilecto, dressed to the nines in what appears to be some kind of native garb (probably Kenyan) and with a (gasp!) turban on his head. To some of my unschooled, ignorant conservative friends, this is further proof that if we elect Obama president, there will be a department of Sharia Affairs.

The truth as Jim Hoft (via Sweetness and Light) shows, is a little less dramatic. The costume is that of a Kenyan tribal elder.

Now Obama already has some problematic connections to Kenya including his appearances for presidential candidate Raila Odinga, a distant cousin and someone whose recent actions in fomenting violence in Kenya following a crooked presidential election are extremely troublesome. (There have also been rumors of a deal between Odinga and the small Islamist party in Kenya that he would, if elected, establish Sharia law – a dubious proposition and almost certainly a lie that has been picked up by some conservatives in this country and passed off as the truth.)

But the idea that Obama in traditional Kenyan garb proves he’s some kind of closet Muslim or Islamic sympathizer is absurd. Kenya is 70% Christian and only 10% Muslim. To extrapolate that Obama’s dress denotes anything other than acknowledging his birthright not to mention playing the gracious guest by donning the clothing of his hosts is irrational, stupid, ignorant, and totally without foundation.

Most notably, Moran points out Pamela Oshry's nonsense:
Over at Islamica magazine, they are acknowledging what the few of us fighting the great fight have been saying all along. Hussein Obama is Islam’s candidate. They call it a wink and a nod but shhhhhh don’t let on to the fat, lazy infidels.

Expect the fantasy mongerers in the mainstream media to continue to scrub and whitewash (no pun) Hussein Obama’s Islamic bonafides. The rabid fervor by the leftarded lemmings is Hitleresque.

Boy, that one just about hits all the high notes: Obama is a secret Muslim who also is a Nazi. The only thing missing is the claim that he's a Commie who won't salute the flag.

Not only are all these claims provably false, they fall into a larger theme regarding "the war on terror" and just who The Enemy is. According to Oshry and other conservatives, like Diane West, the real enemy is not just radical terrorists but Islam itself.

Well, as I've explained many times (see the Orcinus Principium No. 2):
Osama bin Laden wants you to make this into an Islam-vs.-the-West conflict. That was the explicit purpose behind 9/11.

The more that conservatives make the rest of Islam culpable for 9/11, the more they make enemies of our allies in the Islamic world. These include such major strategic partners as Turkey, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Their own Republican president has been working hard not to allow this to turn into an anti-Islamic crusade. Yet their own ignorance about the nature of Islam is nonetheless increasing the chances that the "war on terror" could explode into an uncontrollable global cultural conflict.

People like Pam Oshry and Diane West provide recruitment fodder for radical Islamists who want nothing more than to portray Americans as engaged in a war against the whole of Islam. Because these Islamists know that by doing so, they can turn their tiny faction of radical terrorists into a massive army supported by a religion adhered to by many millions of people around the world.

Just as important, perhaps, is what this trend represents regarding the American right and its distant relationship with factual reality: more of the same. As we saw in the 1990s when they ardently adopted as truth falsehood after falsehood inveighed against Bill and Hillary Clinton, they're prepared to do the same no matter who the Democratic nominee is. If it takes lying remorselessly and relentlessly and with impunity to win, then so be it.

It's always a good thing to see conservatives actually stand up to this afactual nonsense. Much of the rest of Moran's assessment of Obama strikes me as ungenerous and overly cynical, but at least it's within the realm of a reasonable assessment of known facts.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the right, this is becoming rarer by the day.

Monday, February 25, 2008

'Tedious and inane'

-- by Dave

One of the things that I neglected to convey, in all my discussions of Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, was what a painful reading experience it was. I suppose it should have been obvious that trying to wade through all that disinformation and distortion, rendered in a tone akin to a frat boy holding forth among his buds, was the textual equivalent of nails on a chalkboard, for more than 400 pages, no less.

Mark Twain once called the Book of Mormon "chloroform in print." Liberal Fascism is the Chinese water torture in print.

Anyway, Michael Tomasky captures the experience in his review of the book for TNR:
For about fifty or sixty pages, I confess, I took the bait, and did my best to work myself into a lather. By page 200--there are 405 pages of actual text--offense was beside the point, and I was mentally imploring the author to get it over with. By page 300, I was bored out of my skull. And by the time I made it to the final pages, I was wishing that I had been invited instead to review a multi-volume history of farm subsidies.

But I made it all the way to the end--and to the atypically succinct coda, in which Goldberg expresses the hope that his efforts will serve the same noble, lonely cause that William Buckley aided on national television in 1968 when, after Gore Vidal called him a "crypto-Nazi," he flung the word "queer" at Vidal. (Except Goldberg hopes for greater "civility"!) So I can report with a clear conscience that Liberal Fascism is one of the most tedious and inane--and ultimately self-negating--books that I have ever read. I suspect our white-coated researchers of the future would conclude mainly that we were a society with too much time on our hands--or at least that there was once a certain Goldberg with far too much time on his. Liberal Fascism is a document of a deeply frivolous culture, or sub-culture.

Over at WhiskeyFire, thers also rather elegantly captures the soul-sucking inanity of it all:
Oy, I know I've been dragging my feet, but in my defense, Jonah Goldberg's book is very, very boring, and I keep finding more interesting things to do with my time than think about it. Stuff like clipping my toenails, deleting spam from my inbox, or peering into the toaster watching the bread turn crispy.

Oddly enough, this tedium is inflicted deliberately. There is no meaningful difference between Goldberg and Ann Coulter except how much nauseating junk they're willing to show over the knee. But Goldberg is heavily invested in coming across as "serious" and "scholarly," despite his ridiculous and obnoxious title and cover art. Since he's not capable of serious scholarship, though, what that boils down to is an expressive interest in translating "fuck you, fascist liberal swine" into 400+ pages of flatulent doublespeak -- a silly, unconvincing attempt at plausible deniability that he's not saying what he's obviously saying. Namely, that liberals are Evil and conservatives are Good.

Ergo, in an curious way Goldberg was shooting for dull... and in that, at least, he's succeeded.

Coulter just sticks up the middle finger, which is yawn-provoking enough. Goldberg has to stick up the two fingers on each side of the middle one in order to fake that he's not merely telling you to read between the lines (in the ancient junior high idiom). His book makes you feel like you just drank Nyquil to help out with your coma while a 13 year old tries to make fun of your sneakers.

Thers' review is detailed and thorough, and a nice piece of writing to boot, so be sure to read it all.

Meanwhile, over at Jonah's blog, the only thing chirping -- besides crickets, when it comes to noting either of these reviews -- is Jonah himself, who appears to be much distressed that would-be buyers can't find copies of his book in places like Seattle. It's because we're all plotting against you Jonah, don't you know?

Obsessed with race

-- by Dave

Sometimes when I read John Derbyshire, I wish Bruce Lee were still around.

Like when I read garbage like this [via Sadly, No!:
Imagine an Obama presidency overwhelmed and floundering, like Carter's. There are enough issues, domestic and foreign, coming down the pike to make this very possible — you know them, I don't need to enumerate. Black Americans will of course go on voting for the party of a black president regardless. Nonblacks will flee from the Democrats in droves, though. A Republican landslide in the 2010 midterms (think 1994); a clear GOP victory in 2012 (think 1980).

By that point the Democratic Party might be nothing other than the party of black Americans. To the degree that black and nonblack Americans get on with each other at all, it is largely thanks to the coalition of black citizens and nonblack liberals and interest groups represented in the national political life by the Democratic Party. A permanent sundering of that coalition would be greatly to America's peril. Black Americans would be shut out of our political life.

The cruel fact is, that black Americans need the Democratic Party much more than it needs them. If a black president, with solid and unwavering black support, looks like he is dragging the Democrats down, then one solution for the Dems — only one, of course — would be to unhitch itself from black America. Already in fact, in some of the immigration news this past couple of years, I have seen black grumbles about being "left standing at the bus stop" while the Democrats go speeding off after Hispanic votes. There have been echoes of that in the Hillary-Barack set-to. (Though on the bright side, the notion that Hispanics won't vote for a black candidate seems to have been a dog that hasn't barked, at least not very loud.)

What's really noteworthy about this kind of analysis -- and it is rampant in right-wing circles when it comes to discussing Obama -- is how thoroughly Obama's candidacy is explained strictly through the prism of race, and specifically his race, as though that is the raw essence of his candidacy, the only thing about him that really matters.

It's really just a reiteration of the Steve Sailer worldview: that Obama's candidacy is being propelled by white guilt, and thus everything he does is all about race and whites' desire for absolution.

Probably the foremost voice for this view has been Shelby Steele, the Hoover Institution fellow whose book, A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win, argues from the same basic premise. The blurb at the site above, which features video of interviews with Steele, lays this out:
Having to cater to both black voters and white voters in what binds Obama, and his dilemma is that he achieved visibility more as a racial icon than as an individual. In his analysis, Shelby Steele discusses his own mixed race background, and he empathizes with Obama's inner conflicts even as he critiques him. He also identifies the two 'masks' that blacks wear in order to seek success and power in the American mainstream: bargaining and challenging, and he argues that Obama is too constrained by divisive racial politics to find his own true political voice - and proposes a way for him to break those bonds and find his own voice.

Steele, in the video discussion, founds his thesis on certain claims:
"I think that finally, that the Barack Obama phenomenon is far, far more about white America than it is about Barack Obama, who after all is just a man, though I think a talented one -- but I don't know if he's talented enough to come from the state Legislature in Illinois two years ago to this incredible run for the presidency. It usually takes something more than talent to do that, and what I think it takes in this case or has taken is that in white America today, there is a hunger, a deep hunger, to somehow get past this shameful racial divide that we all as Americans have been tortured by, one way or another, since even before the beginnings of the country.

So I think that he is ironically a candidate who lives on this hope, this hunger, who has been put in this place as the man to sort of carry that -- and after all, if a black man were actually to be elected of the presidency of the United States, a black man elected to the presidency of a largely white society, wouldn't that really be a moral leap forward, wouldn't that really be transcendent, wouldn't that really make the point that we no longer are that shameful, racist society that we once were? And the longing is so powerul for that to happen, on some level, and Obama is so adept at eliciting that feeling from whites, that he has come very, very, very far, very quickly -- but again I think it's more about this circumstance in white America than it is about him as an individual.

He's a kind of a paradox, because the attractiveness of Barack Obama's campaign is that he is going to somehow bring us to a racial transcendence, we're going to transcend. That's really what it's about with Obama. Most people don't know what his policy positions are, but they do know that. But if your candidacy is about racial transcendence, that you're not going to be bringing race in to the campaign, this is not going to be a black campaign, then ironically, your candidacy is 100 percent about race. That's all it's about. What other idea would he have that would catch fire like that? I think his candidacy in that sense is entirely about race. If he were not black, I don't know that we would know his name.

I think we can all readily acknowledge that a black presidential candidate like Obama is uniquely situated to help the nation transcend the racial divide in a way that's much more difficult for any white candidate. But Steele utterly misses the point of Obama's appeal in a fundamental way -- which is that he's arguing for a politics that moves beyond identity issues and focuses on building bridges between formerly divided interests. While Hillary Clinton's campaign tends to be about her potential as our first woman president, Obama has been emphasizing that everyone look past his race and instead focus on the style of leadership he presents -- something that in fact is only secondarily related to his racial identity at best.

Even George Will understands this:
Steele has brilliantly dissected the intellectual perversities that present blacks as dependent victims, reduced to trading on their moral blackmail of whites who are eager to be blackmailed in exchange for absolution. But Steele radically misreads Obama, missing his emancipation from those perversities. Obama seems to understand America's race fatigue, the unbearable boredom occasioned by today's stale politics generally and by the perfunctory theatrics of race especially.

So far, Obama is the Fred Astaire of politics -- graceful and elegant, with a surface so pleasing to the eye that it seems mistaken, even greedy, to demand depth. No one, however, would have given Astaire control of nuclear weapons, so attention must be paid to Obama's political as well as aesthetic qualities.

Steele notes that Obama "seems to have little talent for anger." But that is because Obama has opted out of the transaction Steele vigorously deplores. The political implications of this transcendence of confining categories are many, profound and encouraging.

What is not particularly encouraging is that Will's voice is a minority among conservatives -- the vast majority of whom seem to be adopting either the Sailer/Steele worldview (it's about white guilt) or, worse still, picking up the Obama is a liberal fascist Muslim commie theme. Either way, for all these conservatives, the only thing that matters about Obama is his race.

Yet these same conservatives will roll their eyes at the very implication that this kind of obsessiveness reveals any innate or underlying bigotry on their part. Why, they'd be just peachy with a black conservative president -- though they seem reluctant to explain why there happen to be so few such creatures even in the Congress, let alone in any kind of leadership position within the movement.

And then they'll tell us with a straight face that in transcending identity politics, Obama is in fact all about identity politics. Why, the Queen of Hearts couldn't have argued it any better.

Of course, we've been hearing variations on this schtick for some years: Efforts to overcome the effects of institutionalized racism, such as affirmative action, are in fact acts of racism themselves, we're told. Being intolerant of racists is just another kind of bigotry. And it's those minorities and their identity politics who are all obsessed with race -- why, whites (and especially white conservatives) are now perfectly color-blind, dontcha know?

Reminds of this recent strip from Secret Asian Man:

My friend Max Blumenthal once adroitly observed that "only gay men think about gay men more than Values Voters do," which may explain why so many conservative Republicans wind up being exposed publicly as sexual hypocrites of the first rank, cruising men's bathrooms and being found dead with scuba gear and a dildo up your ass. There's something about self-repression that screws you up badly.

I think we can pretty much say the same thing about conservatives regarding race. None of them are willing to cop to their obsession with Obama's race, and so they insist that the only reason Democrats support Obama is their obsession with race.

And let's be frank here: When liberals bring up the subject of race nowadays, it's almost always in the context of dealing with bigotry and racism.

But when white conservatives talk about race, what we get are:

-- Arguments that modern eugenicists and books like The Bell Curve are somehow "right," and that speaking up in their defense is some kind of moral courageousness.

-- Constant warnings about "the death of white culture" being caused by the wave of brown Latino immigrants coming to our shores.

-- Suggestions that blacks are innately criminals inclined to thuggery (as well as hopeless buffoons incapable of getting out of the disaster's way) in the wake of the Katrina disaster.

-- Hopeful musings that a failed Obama candidacy might spark black civil unrest, or that an eventual Obama presidency would be mau-maued to death like Jimmy Carter's, causing Democrats to abandon blacks.

Conservatives like Derbyshire and Steele assume that blacks are attracted to the Democratic Party solely for its ability and willingness to cater to their interests, rather than being about the party's devotion to civil rights and equality of opportunity for all. Right-wingers seem to believe that these principles really are nothing more than cynical manipulations for the sake of electoral gain that can be abandoned at will -- but as always, it's clear that they're just projecting once again.