Thursday, May 03, 2007


A Parting Shot

My work here is done.

That's what I've increasingly come to realize. After 107 posts of varying substance and quality, I think the time has come to put an end to this little endeavor. Mainly, I'm just too busy. On top of my regular teaching job, I'm taking six hours of graduate classes and keeping busy in my church. It doesn't look like my schedule is going to change soon, either.

Also, I've come to realize that lacking the time to write well-thought-out, well-researched, well-reasoned posts, I've increasingly resorted to hastily scrawled, sometimes-flimsy entries. At times recently, I think I've bordered on the shrill and strident, something I never intended. As angry as I am about the current state of affairs in America - and I'm pretty damned angry - I always hoped to present a more thoughtful approach. Pointed and blunt, yes. But never loud and obnoxious. The talk radio guys on the Right are so much better at loud and obnoxious that I could never even hope to compete.

Besides, I think I've said what I intended to say. I think you get the point. In case you didn't, let me pound it into you one more time, in a not-so-subtle fashion:

1) Conservatism has been a destructive force in America. Not completely without merit, the conservative movement is destroying (perhaps unintentionally, perhaps not) any notion of the common good, fair play, justice and equity.
2) The champions of the conservative movement - the Limbaughs and Hannitys - have cheapened public discourse into an ugly, hateful quagmire of deceit and lies and riven a huge divide across America.
3) George W. Bush will quite possibly go down as the worst president in American history. He got us into this nasty, unwinnable war, and damaged our nation's global esteem. He zealously pursued tax cuts for the wealthiest while ignoring the rest of us. He took us in a matter of four years from a budget surplus to our largest defecit ever. He consistently turns a blind eye to the environment. Never before has a president so actively pursued such a malignant agenda to America. And he and his administration are a bunch of nasty, arrogant bullies, to boot.
4) The middle-class and poor are in big trouble. While the Dow reaches record highs, wages remain stagnant and such necessities as housing, college tuition and healthcare spiral into inaccessibility for so many. Meanwhile, income inequality widens to gaps not seen since the Hoover administration. Yet, the Republicans can only wax gleeful about the booming economy. And to what end? That maybe we middle-class folks won't get laid off this week?
5) Corporate America is out of control. No accountability. No responsibility. CEOs make eight figures while average workers are let go for earning too much money. Customers and consumers are often shortchanged and mistreated. Jobs are shipped overseas. Again, how does this benefit the vast majority of us?
6) The almighty dollar is turning our democracy into an oligarchy. Government increasingly exists only to serve the interest and whim of those with the big contribution checks.
7) The Christian church, the one organization that should give us hope above all others, has largely sold itself out as a cheap political movement. The teachings of Jesus Christ have been mowed down by the rhetoric of Jerry Falwell.
8) The average America is fat, lazy and stupid, uninformed, apathetic and interested in little beyond material goods and pleasure. There's virtually no empathy for others, too little concern over maturity and responsibility, too much focus on having fun and being cool.
9) We're destroying our planet, paving it over and heating it up. And as usual, it's all about making money and pursuing lifestyle.
10) We're engaged in the worst, most-unjust war in our nation's history. President Bush lied to get us into it, bungled it from the beginning and hasn't a clue how to get us out of it. Our nation's esteem has collapsed around the world and we're probably at even greater danger from terrorists.

Pretty dour, I admit. But I won't condescend to you with some crap about morning in America. No, I think we're in some pretty tough times. Our nation has been highjacked by ideological bullies who think the majority of us should bend to their will. And their will is pretty frightening.

But I do have hope. Last November's elections show us that the spell has been broken, that the conservative revolution is dead. To folks on the Right, time stood still in 1968, with Jane Fonda and hippies burning draft cards. The rest of us have moved on and wish to pursue something more constructive than the Nixonian wedge of us vs. them. Maybe, just maybe, Americans are ready to talk about real issues constructively, matters like healthcare and education. Finally there's a fair shot that we can repair this damage wrought over the past six years (and really the past 26 years) and move ahead to better times.

Adios, folks. It's been fun.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Fairness = Communism?

Let's return to my posting of March 29, "A Booming Economy for Some, Perhaps." Clearly, not everyone is outraged that Circuit City would lay off 8.5 percent of its workforce because it was earning too much money. In fact, a frequent reader of this blog called me a communist, employing a right-wing rhetorical tactic better suited for 1954 than for 2007, an ad-hominem desperate conservatives pull out when they can't think of anything more mature or constructive to say.

"Why don't you just pack your bags and move to a country where communism thrives?" the reader wrties.

Have you ever noticed that many right-wingers have taken it upon themselves to decide for the rest of us who is fit to live in America and who isn't? What gives them a unilateral right to decide who is a patriot and who is an America-hater? Have you ever heard a liberal demand of a conservative that he or she should leave the country? "If you right-wingers can't stand religious pluralism, then why don't you move to Iran?" "If you wingnuts are so scornful of economic justice, maybe you'd be happier in El Salvador!" We don't do that because we believe that everyone has the right to express his or her thoughts and dream his or her own vision for America. We might disagree, and we might not always be very polite about it, but never once have I heard a liberal proclaim "America: Love it or leave it."

Then I have to ask, what's so communist about demanding that average Americans who work hard and play by the rules be rewarded with a reasonable standard of living and a minimal safety net and hope for a brighter future? Is it communist to believe that corporations bear some responsibility beyond mere profit or stock price? Shouldn't companies pay employees a fair wage and benefits? Should regular folks not expect, barring hard times for the comany, continued employment and not to be thrown out into the street for making too much money while top execs feed at the hog trough? Are those really such radical demands? I'm sure J.P. Morgan or Jay Gould might have thought so, but what about the average American?

Our frequent reader, while applauding Circuit City for terminating rank-and-file employees because they earn too much, is quite adamant that CEO Phillip Schoonover earns every penny of his multimillion dollar salary (An admission: I inaccurately reported his compensation as $2.17 million. Actually, he earned $4.5 million in 2006). According to Frequent Reader, Schoonover deserves it as he allegedly must "work 80 hour weeks, take tremendous risk, and build businesses that employ other people, strengthen the economy, and pay almost all the taxes." Actually, Schoonover has only been with Circuit City since last June after hopping around from one company to another for several years. I frankly don't see how he's taking any risk, whatsoever, and if he's actually built a company from the ground up himself, I see no record of it. He could run Circuit City into the ground and walk away a millionaire, plus a cushy bonus, I'm sure.

Let's take a look at some more inspirational Horatio Alger types that Frequent Reader no doubt worships for their dedication and risk-taking and see how they did over a four-year period from 2001 to 2005 (Source:

-- Gary Smith. While at the helm at Ciena Corp., stocks lost 93 percent of their value. Smith's compensation: $41 million.

-- Jure Sola. His tenura at Samima-SCI was marked by shares falling 78 percent. Sola's compenstaion: $26.4 million.

-- Scott McNeely. Shareholders at Sun Microsystems lost 76 percent of their investment, but McNeely probably isn't feeling their pain. His compensation: $26 million.

-- Larry Johnston. He drove Albertson's into a shell of its of former self, but don't cry for him. Johnston's compensation: $76.2 million.

-- Peter Dolan. If you bought stocks in Bristol Myers Squibb, you're probably not happy that you lost 48 percent of your investment. But Dolan is pretty happy, I'm sure. His compensation: $41 million.

These certainly are not isolated instances. We recently saw executives at American Airlines celebrate its recent turnaround by awarding themselves $175 million in bonuses, while pilots, flight attendants and other average employees got nothing. The turnaround resulted largely from rank-and-file employees agreeing to pay cuts of 15 to 23 percent.

And I'm a communist for believing that something's wrong here?

Apparently, I'm not the only communist here. Warren Buffett, a notorious Bolshevik, and Standard and Poor, notorious for their desire to redistribute the wealth to the poor and people of color, believe that top execs should make no more than about 15 times the average employee's salary. That would put executive pay in the mid-to-high six figures, not eight or nine figures. We can look at companies where this is the rule, such as Whole Foods, where a salary cap was raised to 19 times the avearge salary. Current top salary is capped there at $608,000. CEO John Mackey, who actually did build up Whold Foods, recently accepted a slaary of one dollar plus benefits, saying he's made plenty of money over the years and he simply enjoys running the company.

Nobody said everybody in America should earn the exact same salary. Nobody said that corporations are obligated to maintain fat payrolls it cannot afford. Right-wingers who charge that people say such things merely want to dismiss us with a little juvenile name-calling into a ridiculous margin. I refuse to let them place me there, as convenient as it might be for them. Instead, I'll firmly speak loudly and demand that corporations pay employees fairly and provide them with standard benefits like affordable health care.

Is that really so communist? If so, then the free market is in big trouble.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


Yes to gun rights. No to gun nuts.

Thank God I live in St. Louis. We have the '06 World Series champions, Budweiser, a big arch, toasted ravioli, the nation's highest crime rate and Nelly.

Now our latest edition to this already distinguished list of honors is this year's NRA convention, taking place as I blog. For the past couple of weeks, I've been treated on the way into work with a billboard on I-44 touting the convetion and its "acres of guns." Imagine that. Acres of guns, no doubt transforming the America's Center downtown into a veritable shrine to the Second Amendment. With this armada of law-abiding patriots visiting the Gateway City, the criminals don't have a chance. I bet we'll only be the third or fourth most dangerous city in America next year.

Sarcasm aside, you may be surprised to know I'm really not a hardcore gun-control advocate, beyond reasonable checks on gun ownership. On some level I do believe America would be a far better place without all these guns. But in the end, I can't turn my back on the Constitution, which clearly states that you and I have the right to own a gun (I don't buy that gun control lobby rationalization of the first clause about militias negating gun rights). Beyond that, millions of Americans perhaps legitimately believe they need a gun to protect themselves. Personally, I feel secure without a gun, but who am I to say no one else have one? And without a doubt, the battle over guns is a done deal, and the gun rights advocates have come out on top. As a result, most Democrats have wisely chosen to walk away from this battle and move on to others they have a better chance of winning. In fact, many Democrats are actively courting the gun lobby, which I find a questionable endeavor.

So does that mean I salute the NRA as a noble and worthy defender of all that's right with America? No way. I have about as much love for the NRA as B from D has for the ACLU. Just because I support the right to own guns in no way equates with support for a bunch of extremist gun nuts. I'm sure there are some very nice people who belong to the NRA, who haven't really considered what their membership dues are supporting. We're talking about an organization who squarely defends every white supremecist redneck residing in a fortified compound and every inner-city gang-banger who believes in his right to spray his neighborhood with automatic gunfire.

The NRA has been a true foe of assault weapons bans. These folks think the Second Amendment allows anyone to own a rapid-fire, military-style assault weapon. I suppose next they'll push for the right to carry a rocket launcher. They resent that business owners have the right to ban guns from their private property (So much for a belief in property rights), and they hate that schools, hospitals and churches also routinely maintain themselves as gun-free zones. They also staunchly defend manufacturers of cheapo guns directly and intentionally marketed toward inner-city thugs. They can't stand the idea of background checks, that the public might benefit from gun dealers making sure they're not selling to felons. And they're lobbying hard to repeal the doctrine that one must attempt to withdraw first when under attack, that firing in self-defense is only to be used as a last resort.

In addition to these highly questionable positions, the NRA has been keeping an enemies list of groups who have dared speak out against their goals. They include such dangerous left-wing zealots as the United Methodist Church, YWCA, and American Medical Association, as well as the St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Royals.

How many average Americans, who otherwise believe that law-abiding citizens should own and carry guns if they choose, would really sign on to the NRA's extremist agenda? Most mature adults with a basic understanding of eighth-grade civics undertand that no right spelled out in the Constitution is absolute, that each comes with limits. Surely, you know that yelling "fire" in a crowded theater is not protected under the First Amendment. That eminent domain is an explicit exception to property rights. God knows that folks on the Right enthusiastically support limits on due process during this war on terrorism. Yet, there must be some magic to the Second Amendment, that makes it the single provision in the Bill of Rights lacking even the slightest check, or so the NRA thinks. Do you believe that? I don't believe most Americans do.

The NRA speaks
From the pro-gun control website

Ted Nugent
NRA board member and has-been rock star whose career peaked around 1978

"I'm a fun guy, not a sexist or a racist. I use the word nigger a lot because I hang around with a lot of niggers."
-Detroit Free Press Magazine

"Toxic c---. This bitch is nothing but a two-bit whore for Fidel Castro."
-speaking on Hillary Clinton. Westworld Newspaper

Kayne Robinson
NRA President

"If we win, we'll have a president where we work out of (his) office. "
- On prospects of George W. Bush winning presidency, closed meeting of NRA leaders, 2000

Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo.
NRA Board Member

"My sons are 25 and 30. They are blond-haired and blue-eyed. One amendment today said we could not sell guns to anybody under drug treatment. So, does that mean if you go into a black community, you cannot sell a gun to any black person, or does that mean because my..."
-Cubin's comments were interrupted at that point by Melvin Watt (D-N.C.) who demanded that her words be stricken from the record as inappropriate.

Jeff Cooper
NRA Board Member, Guns & Ammo Editor-at-Large and Columnist

"The consensus is that no more than five to ten people in a hundred who die by gunfire in Los Angeles are any loss to society. These people fight small wars amongst themselves. It would seem a valid social service to keep them well-supplied with ammunition."
- Guns & Ammo

"Already a couple of the faithful have sent in checks for a foundation memorial to the innocents who perished at the hands of the ninja at Waco. ... I have been criticized by referring to our federal masked men as "ninja" … Let us reflect upon the fact that a man who covers his face shows reason to be ashamed of what he is doing. A man who takes it upon himself to shed blood while concealing his identity is a revolting perversion of the warrior ethic. It has long been my conviction that a masked man with a gun is a target. I see no reason to change that view."
-Cooper's Commentaries (self-published newsletter)

"It is certainly difficult to render a calm and compassionate view of our current system of justice. After a legal friend of ours had his car trashed on the street, apparently just for kicks, he suggested that the proper solution to our inner city problem might be the mass drowning of street punks. Every month in a different big city we should sew up a thousand of them in a huge sack and dump it into the Mississippi. Such ideas may appear fanciful, but the decent people of this country are increasingly driven against the wall. ... While the federal ninja drive around in their black uniforms and face masks, we note that they never seem to bother the street gangs."
-Cooper's Commentaries

Paul Blackman
NRA Head Researcher

" In fact, studies of homicide victims -- especially the increasing number of younger ones -- suggest they are frequently criminals themselves and/or drug addicts or users. It is quite possible that their deaths, in terms of economic consequences to society, are net gains."
From "The Federal Factoid Factory on Firearms and Violence: A Review of CDC Research and Policies."

Leroy Pyle
Former NRA Board Member

"That ugly cackler. She pulls her husband around like a pulltoy on a string. My friends and I say that if that ever happened to one of us and our wife did that, somebody would slip into the house one night and slit her throat."
-On gun-control advocate Sarah Brady, husband of Reagan assassination attempt survivor James Brady. Quoted in "Under Fire: The NRA and the Battle for Gun Control"

John Lott
Pro-gun advocate and researcher

"Allowing teachers and other law-abiding adults to carry concealed handguns in schools would not only make it easier to stop shootings in progress, it could also help deter shootings from ever occurring."
- The Wall Street Journal

Charlton Heston
Former NRA President

"Mainstream America is counting on you to draw your sword and fight for them. These people have precious little time and resources to battle misguided Cinderella attitudes, the fringe propaganda of the homosexual coalition, the feminists who preach that it is a divine duty for women to hate men, blacks who raise a militant fist with one hand while they seek preference with the other... I find my blood pressure rising when Clinton's cultural shock troops participate in gay-rights fundraisers but boycott gun-rights fundraisers and then claim it's time to place homosexual men in tents with Boy Scouts, and suggest that sperm donor babies born into lesbian relationships are somehow better served and more loved."
-Speech to Free Congress Foundation

David Duke
Avowed White Supremicist and 1992 Republican Presidential Candidate

"I was astounded to read these courageous remarks by Charlton Heston. I am thankful to hear a man with such high esteem say essentially the same things for which I have been reviled by the liberal media. His words should be reproduced and put into the hands of every American."
-Responding to Heston's speech

Saturday, March 31, 2007


The Resurrection of Newt

He's not even announced he'll run yet. Just the same, folks on the Right are practically tripping and falling over each other to see who'll be the first to cast a presidential ballot for Newt Gingrich.

It's amazing to me that Gingrich, who left office under a cloud of shame in 1998, presumably never to be heard from again, has been resurrected as the next great hope to revitalize a moribund Reagan Revolution. I've watched this coming slowly, year by year. It started sometime around 2000 when he began cautiously rearing his head on the Sunday morning talk circuit. Apparently he was feeling his oats enough by Sept. 12, 2001, to boldly ascribe blame for the previous days' events on President Clinton, who had already been out of office nine months. Since then, he's become a fixture on the punditry circuit. His reinvention has been complete, it appears, as he poses as some sort of wise elder statesman, not the repugnant and foul ideologue who as speaker of the House ruled our nation as a twisted prime minister.

Since the Right, ever a crew of revisionists, seems to once again be reinventing history to suit its political agenda and get its man into the White House, let's revisit Newt's salad days, circa 1992-1998, and recall what sort of man he was in his prime and what we could expect from him as president.

* By his own admission, Newt is an adulterer and an incredibly hypocritical one at that. At the very same time he was leading impeachment proceedings agains President Clinton for lying about Monica Lewinsky, Newt was having an affair with his very own bimbo. That's old news from a few weeks ago. But it turns out that Newt is a serial adulterer not much different from Clinton. You can read all the salacious details here and here.

* We've heard the one about Newt presenting his first wife, Jackie, while she was in the hospital recovering from surgery. The spinmeisters on the Right have insisted with great desperation that this never happened, but I'll just quote Jackie herself: "He walked out in the spring of 1980.... By September, I went into the hospital for my third surgery. The two girls came to see me, and said, 'Daddy is downstairs. Could he come up?' When he got there, he wanted to discuss the terms of the divorce while I was recovering from my surgery." Gingrich doesn't exactly deny, he just says he doesn't remember that. Not only that, but Jackie had to take Newt to court to get him to pay his fair share of household bills. These days Newt is on wife No. 3, a former Congressional aide, 20 years his junior, with whom he was having an affair during his marriage to wife No. 2.

* Newt, who led the charge against Democratic sleaze in 1994, spoke piously while mired in his own ick. Have we forgotten Newt's $4.5 million book deal with Harper Collins? The book publisher in question, which paid him the exhorbitant amount in 1994, was owned by Rupert Murdoch, the right-wing owner of the right-wing Fox and FoxNews channels. As coincidence has it, Murdoch also was facing some licensing issues at the time and was needing a little help from his friends in Congress.

* Then there was the GOPAC scandal. GOPAC was a political action committee that worked behind the scenes in a complex organization that Tom Delay would no doubt envy, designed to funnel taxpayers money into political organizations. For example, there was his charitable group designed to pay ghetto kids to read books, which actually was used to funnel contributions to his operatives. This was the last straw in a series of ethical breaches for which Newt was forced to resign from his speakership in 1998. How soon we forget all this.

* You remember the House banking scandal, don't you? Blame for that largely fell on Democrats (with a lot of justification), leading to their 1994 demise. What you may have forgotten or not even have known in the first place is that Newt bounced 22 checks himself.

Let's put aside this illusion once and for all that ideologues on the Right really care much about ethics and morality. This is all about power and an agenda in which questionable ends justify rotten means, and Newt Gingrich is just the latest example.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


A booming economy for some, perhaps

We read in this morning's New York Times that the income gap become rich and poor continues to widen exponentially. Collectively, the top 300,000 income earners in our country earned as much in 2005 as those residing in the bottom 150 million. The analysis concludes that on average, the top group earned 440 times as much as the bottom group. Also those top earners' incomes rose about 9 percent, on average, or an increase of $139,000. Meanwhile, those at the "bottom," which includes much of the middle class, saw their incomes drop an average .6 percent or $172.

Meanwhile, we hear that Circuit City will lay off 3,400 workers, about 8.5 percent of its workforce, and replace them immediately with lower paid serfs. Those same laid-off workers are invited, however, to apply for these new lower-paid positions. These workers' were earning "well above the market-based salary range for their role," a company official said. Apparently, the $2,17 million in compensation that Circuit City CEO Philip J. Schoonover earns, according to, is just and fair.

To steal from Bob Dole, "Where's the outrage?"

Saturday, March 10, 2007


The moral facade further crumbles

A big thanks goes out to Newt Gingrich and James Dobson, who further reminded us this week that the Right is concerned about family values and Christian uprightness only when such highminded standards are applied to the likes of Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton. Applied to their only favorite sons, conservatives are surprisingly flexible and situational in their sense of morality and ethics.

Exhibit A is Newt Gingrich's admission this week that he was cheating on his wife, even while leading the charge to prosecute President Clinton for lying about his own marital infidelity. But of course, it's not hypocrisy, Newt insists. This time it's different. "The President of the United States got in trouble for committing a felony in front of a sitting judge," Gingrich said, showing a lack of any remorse or self-awareness.

Indeed, Gingrich's interview with James Dobson on the evangelist/psychologist's "Focus on the Family" radio show apparently was a celebration of the swell guy that is Newt Gingrich. The website of Focus on the Family, which ironically champions healthy families and marriages, seemed to have no problem with Gingrich's infidelity. Oh sure, Dobson disapproves of such carrying on, but as I looked at the site's home page crowing about this interview, it was clear that Dobson and his group were quite forgiving and saw Gingrich as sufficiently repentant of his sins and still worthy of a run for the White House. In fact, the broadcast in which Gingrich admits to cheating on his wife is titled "Rediscovering Our Nation's Spiritual Heritage." Apparently, a philanderer like Gingrich is fit to lead us to such rediscovery. It all seemed more as a calculated effort to unload some baggage in a manner timely and expedient for a presidential run than it did an honest moment of self-reflection and remorse.

We won't even talk about Gingrich's two divorces and the shady book deal that led to his 1998 resignation in disgrace from his Speaker's chair. The Right is outraged about shady book deals only when it's Jim Wright's shady book deal in question. As for divorce, take a look at Sean Hannity, who was confronted yesterday by a caller who pointed out that this year's Republican candidates together have more divorces under their belts than those godless Democrats. "I guess I have more compassion than you," Hannity said to the caller, in a rare display of understanding and sympathy toward others. You see, divorce is a pardonable sin to conservatives, partly because so many of their candidates' marriages have failed, even multiple times in the cases of Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani. Also, research has shown us that evangelical Christians are more likely to divorce than followers of any other religious tradition, even atheists. So of course, the Christian Right has oddly flexible views on the sanctity of marriage, but only so long as it's their own marriages that are failing, not the marriages of liberals.

Let's now turn to right-wing hypocrisy Exhibit B, Scooter Libby. Gingrich, who this week restated his outrage over President Clinton's lies, is oddly silent over Libby's conviction for lying in the investigation over the Valerie Plame leaks. The conservative punditocracy was anything but silent, however, this week, engaging in nothing but excuse-making. Local wannabe cool guys Jamie Allman and Smash (You know you're trying too hard when you call yourself Smash) went into a long diatribe about Libby's conviction on their morning show on wingnut fave 97.1 Talk.

Allman, former TV weasle and St. Louis Archdiocese PR hack who turned out to be a bigger horse's ass than Archbishop Burke (who'd a-thought that possible?), quoted heavily from the repugnant Anne Coulter in one of her rants, in essence whining, You think Libby was bad, well what about these liberals? Folks, I teach fifth-graders, and they're famous for deflection, finger-pointing and excuse -making. With a 10-year-old, anything goes to take the focus off of Little Johnnie's bad behavior and put it anywhere else so Little Johnnie doesn't have to consider that he might really be a turd. I expect it from 10-year-olds, but to hear it from adults... Well, I stand corrected. Coulter is anything but adult.

Allman, quoting from Coulter, went at length about how we liberals were picking on OxyContin abuser and prescription shopper Rush Limbaugh, how that mean ol' Democrat prosecutor in Texas was persecuting Tom Delay, the accused money launderer, political boss and friend of Jack Abramoff (Oh wait, I forgot, Delay is truly a fine Christian because his heart bleeds for Terri Schiavo). Allman even wanted to know why Ted Kennedy got a pass for Chappaquiddick. He must really have had to stretch if he's looking back to 1969 for ammo.

Right is right, and wrong is wrong. I'm sure liberals themselves have been plenty hypocritical. I've tried to avoid that here. I've declared my distaste for Clinton's poor morality on this blog many times. Back in 1994, I found myself eating plenty of crow and admitting that the Democrats deserved their terrible defeat for its years of corruption and power-mongering If I make an excuse for a liberal, I'll make sure it's a valid one, not just a gratuitous deflection because I'm not man enough to admit that my side is wrong.

And many conservatives are quick to show the same forthrightness and honesty - just not their leadership, which faces sad times. All their high-minded rhetoric has crumbled, a badly built facade turning to dust. In the end, many of these politicians and pundits show themselves as transparent and hollow. Ralph Reed was a greedy power-broker intent on defrauding Indian tribes. Ted Haggard was a meth-head with a taste for male prostitutes. I could go on. I'm truly sorry for the millions of sincere Christians taken in by these hucksters. It all sounded so good. The church was coming take over Washington. But in end, Washington took over the church, and we have nothing left but excuses. And boy, do we keep hearing excuses.

Saturday, March 03, 2007


The yahoos and rednecks win yet again

Give us your poor
Your tired
Your huddled masses
We'll piss on 'em
That's what your statue of bigotry says
- Lou Reed

I just finished reading an interview in the Riverfront Times, St. Louis' uneven attempt at alternative journalism, with Valley Park Mayor Jeffrey Whitteaker, who defends - hell, revels - in his hardline stance against illegal immigrants in his community. Whitteaker, who came out of nowhere last summer to champion a city ordinance to run out all the Mexicans, makes no bones about his feelings regarding the Great American Melting Pot:

"You got one guy and his wife that settle down here, have a couple kids, and before long you have Cousin Puerto Rico and Taco Whoever moving in," Whitteaker says in his profanity-laced interview. "They say it's their cousins, but I don't really think they're all related. You see fifteen cars in front of one house — that's pretty suspicious."

Some will say Whitteaker shows the guts to say what everyone else is thinking. He's certainly in good company these days. Michael Savage, railing on the subject last week on his show, blamed America's problems on the "Turd World," declaring, that these people are taking America "from the Metlting Pot to the Chamber Pot." Neal Bortz, neglecting to cite the slightest attribution, said that illegal immigrants murdered more Americans last year than the total number of people killed in the 9/11 attacks.

OK, then, let's talk immigration.

First of all, here's how I feel about the matter. Illegal immigration is a danger to our national security and places a strain on social services. Our federal government's refusal to do much about it for the past 30 years serves as the ultimate deriliction of our government's most basic responsibility. Nobody should cross our borders and live illegally in our country, and I'm all in favor of stopping people from doing just that. We certainly have the right to decide who comes and goes from this country, and I don't care what the politicians in Mexico say. Build the biggest damn wall from Brownsville to San Diego, and that will be just fine with me. Find and deport those living here illegally, and then once we've decided who does get to live here legally, let them know they should learn to speak English and integrate into our community.

So there. I share the same feelings as much of the rest of America. But I was hoping this would be a constructive national discussion filled with thoughtful conversation on how to balance the protection of the integrity of our borders with consideration for our nation's economic needs and a compassion for those from other places who simply wish a better life for their families.

But as usual, no such luck. The Jeffrey Whitteakers of America have once again won the day, drowning out any reasonable conversation with openly racist and xenophobic invective. We all know that such tendencies are sadly a natural part of the human psyche, and our society has worked hard to repress such speech. But increasingly it's OK once again to hate foreigners and immigrants, and I wonder how long it will be before this mutates into a hatred of anyone with brown skin, regardless of immigration status.

You see, a discerning, rational person is able to comprehend the dangers of unchecked immigration and wish to do something very real about those dangers without signing off on a campaign of hatred and suspicion of people who look, act and talk differently from those of us in the majority. But not many among us wish to be discerning or rational. That's for wimps in an age of hardline, draconian, black-and-white get-toughness. Most folks would rather not consider that most people who illegally enter our countries are otherwise honest, law-abiding folks who weren't as lucky as we are to have been born here and who simply wish to live better lives.

Instead, the Whitteakers in our midst wish to lump these foreigners in with the small percentage of illegal immigrants involved in criminal activities. Law-breakers! the get-tough types proclaim, in an attempt to equate swimming across the Rio Grande with murder or robbery or any number of truly serious crimes. Such distinctions are unimportant to xenophobes as they provide the rationalization they need to strip immigrants of their humanity and any sense of empathy the rest of us might feel for them. Just like rational discourse, empathy is for wimps and liberal marshmallows. Real men hate their neighbor.

So congratulations to Jeffrey Whitteaker and his talk-radio buddies. Once again, a tremendous opportunity for substantive, positive change in our country has been squandered. Instead, facing the prospect of such hardline madness demanded by an increasingly vocal group of haters, Congress will back down on the issue and illegal immigration, a very real problem in our country, will again go unsolved.

It appears that the yahoos and rednecks have won yet again.

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