Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Aravosis - Limbaugh of the Left

I have two related confessions to make. First, as a child I read, listened, and watched Rush Limbaugh religiously. Then I realized Limbaugh was a divisive, ignorant, and arrogant bastard. Second, there was a time when I read AmericaBLOG religiously. But over time I came to realize that its creator, John Aravosis, shares the three aforementioned adjectives with Limbaugh.

Let me state right out the outset, I am keenly aware that his blog has readership in the hundreds of thousands while this blog has a readership of oh, say, 8? Fine. But to what lows of decency has Aravosis fallen in doing so? Let's take a look at one of his commentaries today, attacking comments by Newt Gingrich:

"Go to Russia or Tehran if you hate freedom this much. I have had it with Republicans who hate America, who hate our freedoms, who hate what this country stands for, and who think that the only way to save our freedoms from the terrorists is for us to destroy those freedoms first. Honestly, how do these scaredy-cat, quaking-in-their-boots, America-haters even dare call themselves patriotic Americans? They are terrified of their own shadow, these Republicans."

Look, Gingrich is dead wrong in suggesting we need a 'different set of rules' regarding freedom of speech in the modern era. I agree that such a notion is ill-founded and would cut away at the core values of our nation. But I wholeheartedly disagree that to espouse such views is tantamount to hating America, being unpatriotic, or even hating our freedoms. Indeed, through his choice of terms, Aravosis invokes the conservative frame of terrorists, not-so-subtly implying Republicans are the equivalents of terrorists. EVERY progressive should know how dastardly and unjust these charges are.

Most every American, the staunchest of the neo-conservatives included, wants what is best for this country. We often have profound differences of opinion on what that looks like and how to get there; we will often have sharply contrasting understandings of the freedoms we all share and desire. We will argue, fight, and struggle until the end of times over these questions. This is good, this is healthy; democracy requires such a struggle. So Newt espouses views with which I completely disagree. Fine, nothing new there. And we musn't remain silent in the face of proposals that would effectively curtail the freedoms we hold most dear; we are not even required to play nice. What we cannot countenance, however, are resorts to attacks on one another's patriotism, much less calling one another terrorists.

Perhaps Aravosis seeks to be ironic, slinging back the same allegations we have faced, but the time for that has long-since come and gone, if it ever existed in the first place.

(For more examples of Aravosis's intolerance, see almost any post of his)

As progressives, we do not win through intimidation, we do not win condescension. We win through conveying our values through vigorous, open, and honest debate (and great marketing).

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Shameless costumes

This is the best political cartoon I've seen in a long, long while:

On a related note, I just heard about this op-ed that ran in USA Today last Monday. Written by a Baptist minister, it's an awesome little primer on why Christian fundamentalists are totally wrong for pinning their disdain for non-heterosexuality on the Bible (instead of their own ignorance and bigotry). And it's even more awesome that it ran in USA Today - this means that the right words went to the right people, for once!

Cool excerpt:

On the other hand, Jesus spent a lot of time talking about how we should treat others. First, he made clear it is not our role to judge. It is God's. ("Judge not lest you be judged." Matthew 7:1) And, second, he commanded us to love other people as we love ourselves.

So, I ask you. Would you want to be discriminated against? Would you want to lose your job, housing or benefits because of something over which you had no control? Better yet, would you like it if society told you that you couldn't visit your lifelong partner in the hospital or file a claim on his behalf if he were murdered?

It's well-written and to-the-point. What is neither of those things is the public comment section that follows this op-ed on the web version of the article. If you want to take the ideological pulse of the conservative Republican voter base, read through some of the brasher comments. Some highlights include (each from a different author):
All of us will stand before the Lord's judgement; you and me included.......Now do your JOB! Their house is on fire....Tell them to come to the Lord for salvation. Talk about discrimination are you discriminating against GOD???

I’m no homophobe or gay basher, I have had good friends that are gay, but I never compromised my standing on the word of God to accommodate their feelings. Believe it or not they actually over time appreciated the fact that I stuck firmly with my convictions and didn’t conform to what society sees as tolerance.

Just another liberal screed trying to downplay religion and lift up their homosexual agenda. There is a reason that homosexuality has been looked down upon by almost every civilization and religion. It's is against god's will and nature. Homosexuals can't reproduce so they have to coopt your children to advance their agenda and the bible is a major stumbling block in their way, so that is why the attacks on religion and the bible.
I've sent a comment of my own on the blog of one of the commenters - I will post any response I get here.

I'll end with another comment from the op-ed page - this one gave me a nice warm feeling. There's hope out there, people!
I've known I'm gay for 35 years. Yet in that entire time no one has clued me in on the gay agenda. Since you seem familiar with it, please tell me what it is. My 'gay agenda' is to be happy with my partner and family and friends. To lead a decent life, filled with love and decency. Funny. That sounds a lot like the average 'straight agenda'. Except you seem to have forgotten the part about love and decency, at least toward others.
P.S.: My favorite comment is here - a bit longer, but worth it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Taring the Scales of Justice: thoughts on (white) denial

Tare: To set a display to show zero weight
From Karl's last post:
"Do we sweep it under the rug once again, reassuring one another under the cozy blanket of triumphalism? Or do we step forward and acknowledge the reality many of us cannot help but be aware of and tackle the racism that surrounds us and dwells within us?"
Rock on, Karl Smith, rock on.

Thank you for reminding us that racism is everyone's issue - no matter how "far" away we are from "those" racists.

Perhaps people can accuse white liberals of hypocrisy - but in my experience, I have usually found such accusations merely a timid veil for an unwillingness to face one's own complicity in oppression.

But just because we are accomplice to the systems of privilege that stratify our society does not mean that we're "off the hook" for speaking and acting against them.

So often, I feel, the fear of hypocrisy or of individual ineffectiveness paralyzes our moral sensitivities. The greatest conservative lie that haunts all activism today is the idea that if you choose to protest, you'd better fix the problem, too. In other words: if you don't have the solution, don't point out the problem.

I know I've felt this before. For instance, how can I - a middle-class American - have the audacity to oppose unchecked globalization? After all, don't I owe pretty much everything I own to the global system of production and trade? Probably. But that doesn't somehow make it okay.

People are born into histories they have had no part in creating - ancestries of advantage, epics of entitlement, pedigrees of privilege, traditions of tyranny - and must therefore make a choice: do we take responsibility for the injustices of our forebears, regardless of how much we've benefited from them? Or do we "call it even" and clear the record?

I think the choice of moral people is clear - my duty is to proclaim my hypocrisy, loud and unproud, and speak and act to repair the legacy of exploitation. And of course, this means something different for me (as a queer person of color) than it does for Karl (a straight white male). It's not going to be "fair" and "equal" - but real justice never is.

Racism is not about whether YOU or I am a racist. It's not about whether YOU or I can fix the problem ourselves. It's about confronting the entire history of a nation and a world, and saying, "No." Whether we are willing to fight our history seems to determine who is progressive and who is not. What choice will you make?

Michael Richards and the Truth

Michael Richards, Seinfeld's Kramer, has recently (and rightfully) been criticized for comments made during a stand-up comedy routine. In response to a black heckler, he responded "Fifty years ago we'd have you upside-down with a fucking fork up your ass." He then proceeded to refer to the heckler at least seven times as a n*****, and in response to objections to his treatment responded, "That's what happens when you interrupt the white man." The video is here. Richards later apologized on The Late Show, stating "I'm not a racist. That's what's so insane about this."

Certainly Richards has a received a lot of well-deserved criticism and I'm not writing here to add more. No, instead I wish to point out that this is not just a "Michael Richards" problem, but rather an "American society" problem. It would be easy enough for us to take this incident, say it is the racism of a single man, and sweep beneath the rug, away from our consciousness. It may be tempting to believe so, but the passage of the 1965 Civil Rights Act did not absolve us of our sins. We are heirs to a society which, through the exclusion of some, directly benefited, and continues to benefit, others.

Michael Richards did not pull these words out of thin air. The n-word has *power*, a very tangible power (hence my refusal to even type it). For a white person to invoke it against a black person is to invoke hundreds of years of coercive control and power - slavery, beatings, killings. It is an invocation of privilege and status in society, often (indeed generally) by persons unaware of their own privilege. To invoke the image of a lynching makes this more explicit, and to say "That's what happens when you interrupt the white man" is to leave no question in anyone's mind as to precisely the power you are drawing upon - the power of racism, force, and coercion.

The thing is, this isn't unique to Michael Richards. The privilege that allowed him to invoke these images in response to a heckler is present in every white American today. We know the magic words to assert control in a situation. We know that if we feel threatened by a person of color, help is but three buttons away. We know that if we shout for help, someone will likely respond - and when they intervene that it will be on our behalf. We know know that we will be believed. These are all forms of privilege; privilege we cannot yield, privilege we must confront But further, we are taught to believe that "they" are different; "they" are dangerous; "they" are 'gangsters' and violent and would do us harm; "they" are exist within "our" society. We are taught these things by the television news, custom and practice, and popular representations in film and literature, to say nothing of the legion of right-wing ideologues who put forth such assertions as facts on a daily basis.

So from this ugly Michael Richards affair we have again been forced to confront our reality, a racist reality. What to do with it is the question we're left with. Do we sweep it under the rug once again, reassuring one another under the cozy blanket of triumphalism? Or do we step forward and ackowledge the reality many of us cannot help but be aware of and tackle the racism that surrounds us and dwells within us?

Friday, November 17, 2006


Recently at UCLA, the campus police used their Tasers on a student of middle eastern descent who refused to leave the library after not showing ID. Here's the video. A few things become entirely clear: the kid is being an ass, but the use of the Taser is entirely unjustified. You have at least 3 police officers capable of picking him up and carrying him out, but instead they choose to shock him repeatedly, and those Tasers are no toys; watch how his body is involuntarily thrown into the air towards the beginning of the video. (Not to mention that over 70 people have died after being Tasered - funny what 50,000 volts of electricity will do, eh?) It is supposed to be a non-lethal aleternative to the cop's gun; would the police have used a gun here?

And evidently they wanted some more, as you heard the police officer say to a student at the end: "Back over there or you'll get tased too."


Sure, this student should face the appropriate disciplinary hearings for refusing to comply with university policy (by not leaving the library) and the commands of the police officers, but those officers need to face the consequences for their unnecessary use of force. No one deserves to be treated so cruelly.

At any rate, it appears the student plans to sue.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Fuck me, Sherman Alexie?

Breaking news flash - The Stranger ran an op-ed from a writer whose viewpoint is totally unexpected considering this person's place in society and furthermore this op-ed is written in an edgy, anti-establishment tone and style. People, this is unprecedented!

Noted Native American author Sherman Alexie delivers the dignified dying yelp of a franchise bleeding to death. Am I wrong about that? Why else would The Stranger run Alexie's column after endorsing VOTE YES on Initiative 91? It's because The Stranger wanted to give Sonics fans one last slap in the face. Am I the only one who sees the ridiculous and cruel irony they're playing on us here? I have very little respect for The Stranger as a newspaper. Karl can back me up on this considering their recent endorsement of Jamie Pedersen's Republican opponent, Hugh Foskett (who's my math partner, as it turns out... really cool guy).

I relished the part where famed novelist Alexie writes:
"I know that a few of you, like Seattle City Council Member Nick Licata, think that the Sonics in particular and professional sports in general have negligible cultural value. Well, I say this to Mr. Licata and to all of you who agree with him: Fuck you."
I actually ended up voting AGAINST the new stadium contract rules because the P-I ran a very convincing editorial endorsement against it.

But Alexie is being loud and irreverent - which is exactly why
The Stranger ran his column. He practically implies that Sonics fans have a "right" to have a place in Seattle to watch basketball. He equates Ray Allen and Luke Ridnour, among the finest examples in a field that's been in serious existence less than a century, to Dickinson and Einstein and Michelangelo - that is totally ludicrous and he must know it.

The "shock value" of an establishment ivory-tower liberal coming out and saying "tisk tisk" to the yuppies was almost too good for The Stranger to pass up. It's too bad The Stranger always fulfills its tired,
cliché expectations.

Alexie's column is even less respectable for the fact that he plays right into
The Stranger's mold of finding the most unlikely spokespeople possible. Alexie goes out of his way to construct his narrator's identity as the non-white, non-Republican, non-rich, non-illiterate Sonics fan.
"I grew up dirt-ass poor, so drinking Starbucks feels like a privilege, like something I've earned through luck and hard work."

"I am a reservation-raised Indian boy, whose mother and father barely graduated high school and never went to college, and I have grown to become a very successful writer."
He plays a stranger identity politics in his writing to support possibly the most conservative of civic policies - subsidizing an entertainment industry. And suddenly, the white bleeding heart liberal readership of The Stranger has no "politically correct" way to disagree with its Native American hero, Sherman Alexie. Dan Savage couldn't have made it up better. I haven't read Alexie's stories or novels, and I this is something I hope to remedy soon because I hear (and believe) they're quite good. But in this op-ed, he's so self-aware of his "model minority" privilege that it's kinda disgusting.

I mean, come on - read some of what Alexie's written here. It's like a Republican values brochure:
"Yep, I am a believer in that sentimental crap known as the American dream. Why do I believe in it? Because I am the American dream."

"I think that certain people do hate greatness. And I most definitely know that certain American leftists absolutely despise capitalistic greatness."
Saying that "the American dream" is "sentimental crap" in the same breath as you say you are the "American dream" belies the fact that not only do you not believe it's sentimental crap, but you are also so aware of your irreverence-factor that you relish saying that it is sentimental crap nonetheless.

Alexie admits to being a 10-year season ticket holder. Is he the sort of "typical fan" for which we find supporters of stadium subsidies whipping up sentimental support among the electorate? How rich do you have to be to be a ten-year season ticket holder?

This has nothing to do with whether sport brings cultural value and "city-ness" to a city - of course it does! Councilman Licata is an idiot for suggesting otherwise.

But there is no "right" to sport. There is, however, a right to education and mobility and public health and safety. If the city has money to spare, it must be spent on those first and foremost. Furthermore, public patronage of cultural activities must prioritize those activities that could not otherwise exist at all - ones without entire industrial-commerical complexes supporting them. But as long as multi-million dollar monopolies control the basketball entertainment industry, I'm not too sympathetic to the greed of team owners, nor to the mere nostalgia of sincere fans as a reason to capitulate to them.

Am I an "uncaring" citizen because this is what I believe? I ask because that's what Alexie is suggesting I am. Fuck me?

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Some months ago we blogged extensively on the military activities in Lebanon and Gaza, but then, with the cessation of Israel's incursion into Lebanon, we stopped. Much like the media. And yet today I stumbled upon this story, about the U.S. vetoing a resolution condemning an Israeli attack that killed 18 Palestinian civilians and calling for a cessation of the occupation by the Israeli military and a cessation of attacks by militants. Why was the U.S. the only country on the council to vote against it? There's a story there, but there's a bigger one. Not just why did we veto a measure calling for an end to the occupation and violence, but why weren't we the ones putting it forward?

I'm not at all confident that a change in the composition in Congress will do anything to alter the United States's approach to the occupation of the Palestinian territories. Why not? Because there is no pressure from the American people on their representatives to do so. Why not? Because we do not hear about what is happening and on the rare instances that we do, it is framed as though there is some sort of parity of power between the occupiers and the occupied. How can that be? Images of Palestinians in the American media tend to depict militants, but clearly that's beyond misleading. What does that do to our perception? Take it from another perspective - the only Israelis most Palestinians see are occupying soldiers. How would that affect their perception?

On the underlying story, I recommend reading this narrative by a British journalist who was there and talked to the Palestinian people. These are the stories that must come out - war and occupation, they are riddled with tales of human suffering. To ignore that is to ignore reality and perpetuate the violence.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Let us rejoice and be glad in it

What a great day.

I found out today that I got accepted into Teach For America - I'll be teaching middle school math in Newark, New Jersey next fall. Thank you to friends out there for your support.

To make matters even sweeter, the returns from today's midterm election are wonderful. Rick Santorum is no longer part of our government. Congressional hearings on wire-tapping, extraordinary rendition, corruption in Iraq rebuilding contracts, and every other failed Bush legacy will now begin. And there's even a glimmer of hope that we can begin to undo the disaster that has been this illegitimate mis-administration from the very start.

Conservatives are not happy. Like the following person who commented on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's "Sound Off" message board.

Ladies and gentlemen, I proudly present to you the Republican voter base - pissed, ignorant, confused, and, apparently, aspiring poets all of them.
Lefty's united under this banner:
Gay "marriage", poking fun at normal people;
No tax cuts all of the time;
WA state, no property rights all of the time;
No tax increase? BWAHAHA, open your wallets;
LEFTIST god, GLOBAL WARMING! Kill the car, kill the economy, kill soverignty. bow down to the purple mafia, blow mcgreevey, swallow pelosi, islam is king.

May the dems defund the war, giving the terror cu lt of death the green light to vest bomb the next gay puke parade.

WA sucks, you deserve the crime wave, destroyed economy for WA suckers.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Let us pray for the repair of our nation and our world (from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer):

22. For Sound Government

O Lord our Governor, bless the leaders of our land, that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth.
Lord, keep this nation under your care.

To the President and members of the Cabinet, to Governors of States, Mayors of Cities, and to all in administrative authority, grant wisdom and grace in the exercise of their duties.
Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

To Senators and Representatives, and those who make our laws in States, Cities, and Towns, give courage, wisdom, and foresight to provide for the needs of all our people, and to fulfill our obligations in the community of nations.
Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

To the Judges and officers of our Courts give understanding and integrity, that human rights may be safeguarded and justice served.
Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

And finally, teach our people to rely on your strength and to accept their responsibilities to their fellow citizens, that they may elect trustworthy leaders and make wise decisions for the well-being of our society; that we may serve you faithfully in our generation and honor your holy Name.
For yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Amen.

Get Out the Vote!

What does a successful GOTV campaign look like? Well I'm not sure but what I participated in today comes pretty close. It was a bit of a last minute decision, but I decided to take the day off from law school and volunteer with te Democratic Party and it seems to have paid off. Our precinct - and only our precinct at this polling place - RAN OUT OF BALLOTS! (Not to worry, voters could still use the electronic machine, a provisional ballot, or a ballot in Chinese - using an English ballot template to understand it). The Democrats had a fabulous GOTV strategy this year. We visited Democratic voters up to three times and called them, offered rides, doing everything possible to ensure they could vote. And has it paid off? Let's see

  • I-920 is going down in flames (40.1% to 59.8% with the majority of King County still out)
  • I-933 is losing (43.5% - 56.8%)
  • Maria Cantwell will win (currently 55.8%- 41.0%)
  • Susan Owens is up (58.9% - 41.0%)

    Have the Dems finally solved the GOTV mystery? That remains to be told, but we followed a formula supposedly employed in 3,500 precincts statewide. It's a good night!
  • Thursday, November 02, 2006

    Out with the old, in with the new...

    First of all, Karl and I sincerely apologize for the lack of updates. It turns out that law school is challenging, and that senioritis is real. Oh well.

    I just wanted to juxtapose two news stories going into this frigid first weekend of November.

    Today, Pastor Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals (which has essentially replaced the Christian Coalition as the "political arm" of conservative Evangelical Christians in the U.S.) resigned his position as Senior Pastor of his megachurch over allegations that he has been paying a man to have sex with him for the last three years.

    When I read the story (sent to me by my boyfriend), I actually said to myself, "Oh my God, holy fucking shit." It was surprising... but then again, it seems like we've been seeing more and more of these kinds of stories recently. Mayor Jim West, Governor Jim McGreevey, Rep. Mark Foley - I don't need to go on. In all fairness, Pastor Ted says that his church (of which he was until today the unqualified boss) has an "independent" (he used that word like ten times) process to investigate the allegations and then discipline him. So I guess I can't just assume... though, it doesn't make sense that a Senior Pastor should just step down suddenly unless greater truths were afoot. Let's see what happens.

    But enough about Pastor Ted. On to Pastor Katharine!

    I really shiver with pride and excitement that this Saturday, the symbolic leader of mainstream Christianity in the United States will be a woman. A progressive, former university professor from Oregon named Katharine Jefferts Schori will become the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. She has selected one of her favorite parts of the Bible to define what her leadership of the Church will look like:
    [Jesus] stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
    -Luke 4:14-21
    In this passage, Jesus has just come back from being tempted by the devil and is officially starting his service to humanity. Jesus himself chooses this portion of the scripture to define his mission. Now, Bishop Katharine has done the same. (I offer more analysis of this scripture on another blog.)

    I think God is having fun with good timing. Pastor Ted is the set up, Pastor Katharine is the punchline. The world's ready for some new laughter. I think this is what "good news" looks like.