Sleepy Susan Sarandon And What It Means To Be “Awake”

Last night, Susan Sarandon, a leftist actress who infamously helped get Tr-mp elected, appeared on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes.” I wish Hayes had been tougher on her (especially after she asked him, “You consider yourself a journalist, right?”), but that’s not really his style. He did, though, manage to get her to say a couple of things that I want to address, mostly because I’m still pissed at so many people on the left who, because they hated Hillary Clinton so much, didn’t give a damn about the pain and suffering many people will have to endure under Tr-mpism. Some of those Hillary-hating leftists weren’t too worried about any pain and suffering because they are financially or culturally insulated from it, which makes what they did all the more reprehensible.susan sarandon.jpg

First, Sarandon had something to say to people like me, people who have attacked her for stupid statements like cavalierly suggesting Tr-mp would bring on a much-needed “revolution” and who still blame her and others for curbing the enthusiasm for Hillary among so many young voters. Sarandon asked, “Really? That’s where we want to spend our time and energy?” Well, yes. At least a small amount of time and energy.

Most of the substantive talk last night kept coming back to the Dakota Access Pipeline and fracking. Okay. Those are important issues. And they seem to be the pet issues of people like Sarandon. But guess what? To people of color in danger of being further disenfranchised, to poor and working people in need of assistance, to sick people in need of health care, to women worried about their reproductive freedoms, to undocumented immigrants being rounded up like cattle, to those who depend on Social Security and Medicare to survive, the issues of fracking and pipelines are way down their list of things to worry about, especially since Sarandon helped get a man elected who doesn’t give a damn about the environment, who, as Hayes asserted, wants to “frack the entire country.”

As for me, in a time when our democratic institutions are under assault by a deranged Agent Orange in the White’s House, the construction of another pipeline just doesn’t seem like a reason to set what’s left of my hair on fire. And as dangerous as fracking is in some places, it appears to me that the existential crisis our Republic faces needs to be the first priority for all of us who care about how this frightening drama ends.

In the context of making a choice last November, Chris Hayes asked Sarandon, “Do you feel like you properly appreciated what a Donald Trump presidency would be?” Here is her reply:

I think that I absolutely feel that talking about blaming people for what happened is really wasting your time and energy. Because what we have now is a populous that is awake.

Well, some of us were never asleep. Some of us warned the intellectually sleepy Sarandons of the world about the dangers of the game they were playing. And some people who are awake now are awake because their lives are in jeopardy due to the actions of people like Susan Sarandon. So, no, it is not a complete waste of time and energy to talk about “blaming people for what happened.” Figuring out how we got in this mess is part of what it means to be “awake.”

And make no mistake about it: Susan Sarandon and Russia-backed Jill Stein and other un-awake people on the left helped get us into this mess by playing with fire, by helping elect a dangerous, delusional man who, if we are lucky, will be booted out of office before he really does frack us all.

The Bernie Cult

It was disgusting.

At first I thought I had dozed off watching television last night and was having a bad dream. But it was no dream. Actress Susan Sarandon, showing herself not to be a Democrat but only a Bernie groupie, did actually tell MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that she wasn’t sure she could vote for Hillary Clinton, should her beloved Bernie fail to win the nomination. Sarandon claimed that because Bernie-ites were “passionate and principled,” there was “a good possibility” that they might not be able to support Clinton’s candidacy because the Democratic front-runner doesn’t believe what Bernie believes.

sarandonWhat nauseating nonsense. What depressing drivel. Sarandon sounded exactly like your average Tea Party nut. At one point, the prominent Bernie supporter said she had talked to people who will write Bernie’s name on the ballot in November because they feel Hillary is “not authentic, that she’s a liar, that they don’t trust her, so what difference does it make?” By now, that line of attack should sound familiar coming from Bernie’s side. After all, his supporters learned it from his campaign.

Hayes suggested to Sarandon that when faced with the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Drumpf, even Bernie Sanders would “probably” have to support Hillary—there is some doubt about that because Bernie has hinted he won’t support her unless she and the “Democratic establishment” meet his demands. Responding to Hayes’ suggestion, the star-struck actress responded:

I think Bernie would probably encourage people, because he doesn’t have any ego in this thing. But I think a lot of people are, ‘Sorry, I just can’t bring myself to do that.’

“Probably”? Are you kidding me? Sanders would probably encourage people to vote for the Democrat in the general election? Jesus. Susan Sarandon isn’t part of a political campaign, she is part of a cult. There is the evidence right there in her statement about Bernie: “he doesn’t have any ego in this thing.” Oh. My. God. No ego? All politicians have ego and Bernie Sanders is no different. Someone who wants to be the most powerful person in the world definitely has an ego.

In fact, one could argue that it is Bernie’s rather large ego that prevents him from acknowledging the reality that his quest for the presidency is increasingly quixotic. And one could argue that it is his rather large ego that prevents him from productively sanders on young turkschanneling the amazing energy of his younger followers into a movement to win back control of Congress. If Bernie had no “ego in this thing,” he would start attacking Republicans in vulnerable districts and spend his resources and his political capital in support of Democratic candidates who can actually help bring about some needed change. But he won’t. Like almost all politicians, his ego won’t let him.

Sarandon didn’t limit her fantasizing last night to Bernie-worship and Hillary-bashing. As bad as it was that she said she couldn’t be sure she personally, or Bernie-ites in general, would support Hillary Clinton in a race against Drumpf, what she said subsequently was worse. Chris Hayes, rather emphatically, said he couldn’t believe that faced with a choice between Clinton and Drumpf that folks like her would sit it out. Sarandon then said,

Some people feel that Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately. If he gets in, then things will really, you know, explode.

Huh? Was she really saying that there are Bernie devotees out there who think it would be best if Drumpf actually wins in November because the much-awaited revolution will then come—after the country explodes? Yes. She really said that. And, again, she sounded just like a strange member of a strange cult. Chris Hayes even suggested to her that such an idea was “the Leninist model,” which she did not deny. Oh, my.

Susan Sarandon was co-chair of Ralph Nader’s National Steering Committee in 2000, the year that Nader and his cult following helped make George W. Bush president by taking votes away from Al Gore in Florida. Sarandon has a history of being blind to reality. We can only hope, those of us who don’t want to see America Drumpfed or Cruzed, that there aren’t a lot of Bernie-cultists out there wearing revolution-at-any-cost blinders.

And, my God, at this point we can only hope—we can no longer be sure—that Bernie himself won’t get caught up in the cultic atmosphere that is starting to define his campaign.

 

Here’s What Democrats Losing The Senate Would Mean For The Country

I watched in amazement on Monday night, as MSNBC’s Chris Hayes put in perspective what the repercussions will be if Republicans regain control of the U.S. Senate and thus completely control the legislative branch of government.

The reason I was so amazed is that Hayes is the first one I have seen who has gone into any detail about what a GOP victory today, in this mid-term election, would mean. Why haven’t Democrats made the case so comprehensively? Why haven’t they told people, as Hayes did, that “it is a dangerous delusion” to believe “it doesn’t really matter what happens” in today’s election? Beats me. I wish I knew. Maybe it is just too hard to wedge into 30-second commercials the danger involved.

In any case, here is most of the transcript of Hayes’ informational and, to be honest, depressing segment last night:

I get it, after watching the least productive Congress in U.S. history, it is in fact hard to get invested in the idea that four or five Senate seats changing parties will make that much of a difference. So I think a lot of people, understandably, have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t really matter what happens tomorrow. The next two years will be the same, more or less, no matter what.
2014 mid term election interest
And it is tempting to believe that. But it is not true. In fact, it is a dangerous delusion, because which party controls the United States Senate matters a lot.

It is pretty grim to talk about, but four of the nine Supreme Court justices…are over the age of 75. So there is a very real, actuarial possibility of a vacancy on the court in the next two years and the Senate needs to confirm whoever fills that vacancy, which means that tomorrow, the Supreme Court, one third of the branches of the U.S. government, is on the ballot.

And not just, I should add, the Supreme Court in some abstract sense—that building there with the columns and the justices firing questions during oral arguments. There are specific, big cases we already know about right now that are very likely headed to that building you see there on your screen.

threat to obamacare in 2014 electionsLike the case, for instance, that threatens to destroy the new ObamaCare insurance exchanges in 36 states. Or the case that will decide whether Texas can potentially disenfranchise some 600,000 voters, many of them black and Latino, under the state’s new voter ID law. Or the biggest case on abortion rights, frankly, since Rowe v. Wade was decided. Which could determine whether it’s okay for states to regulate abortion clinics almost completely out of existence and still pass constitutional muster, as Texas has just done, passing a law that shuddered 80% of its clinics.

So, health reform for millions of people in 36 states, voting rights not just in Texas but across the South and throughout the country, abortion rights not just in Texas but throughout the country, they’re headed to that court and that court is on the ballot tomorrow, which means all of those are very much on the ballot tomorrow. 

Also up for a vote tomorrow, the way the government spends money, which sounds banal or whatever, but is more important than you might think. The real victory of the 2010 Tea Party wave, let us recall, the wave that was brought into power during the last midterms when conservatives came out to vote far great than liberals and progressives, the greatest victory of that wave election was taking a hatchet to that part of the government that happens to spend money on lots of public goods and a lot of people who don’t have much power.

Congress—the Congress produced by that election—Congress cut $8.7 billion from the food stamps budget. The National Institutes of Health alone lost $1.71 billion during sequestration, a process put into play in 2011 after those conservatives were elected. Those cuts, they were big and they were real. And they might be just the start. Because if Republicans control the Senate, they will have two key pieces of leverage the next time they want to go after programs they don’t like and cut them.

One, they will be able to pass spending bills with a simple majority through a process known as reconciliation. And that is important because it means they don’t have to meet the 60-vote filibuster threshold. They just need a simple majority. And, number two, they will be able to control the amendment process, which sounds obscure and boring but is actually the most powerful thing you can do in the United States Senate, because they can add whatever they please to a spending bill and send it right to the president’s desk.

And the president will then be presented with a choice, veto a bill chock-full of GOP amendments and thereby risk a big, messy government shutdown that hurts millions of people—many of the people that are his supporters and  constituents—or sign a bill chock-full of GOP amendments and potentially do great damage to his own agenda and lots of struggling Americans who are counting on him.

mitch and 2014 consequencesAnd this isn’t just my pet theory of how this will play out. Mitch McConnell made an explicit promise to do exactly, precisely what I`m describing, if Republicans do in fact get a Senate majority tomorrow, telling Politico over the summer, Obama “needs to be challenged and the best way to do that is threw a funding process. He would have to make a decision on a given bill whether there’s more in it that he likes than dislikes.” A “good example,” McConnell said, is adding restrictions to regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Let me be clear for a second. The regulation the EPA is issuing right now for coal-fired power plants is basically the most important thing the government is doing right now, the biggest part of the Obama domestic policy legacy since he was reelected. And those regulations are set to
reduce emissions and more importantly could permanently alter the trajectory of American power generation towards renewables and away from coal and the carbon pollution that is threatening mass catastrophe and all civilized life.

And that, that signature achievement, hangs perilously in the balance. That is very much on the ballot tomorrow. The Republicans have told you it is.

In Defense Of Sam Harris

I have followed fairly closely the ongoing controversy among liberals on the issue of how to talk about Islam in the context of what we see going on in the Middle East. Unfortunately, there are some contemporary liberals who are so enamored with the ideas behind multiculturalism (which is not a bad thing in itself; but context is everything) that they can’t bring themselves to see that there are precious few Muslim-majority countries in the world that are advanced enough to have accepted what most of us consider to be necessary and universal human rights.

On comedian and commentator Bill Maher’s HBO show recently, both he and Sam Harris, a liberal and a thinker I greatly admire even when I disagree with him, got into a rather heated (and now famous) debate with actor and liberal activist Ben Affleck and left-leaning journalist Nicholas Kristof. The background issue was “Islamophobia,” a term that liberals have invented to describe what they consider to be unfair and bigoted criticism of Muslims and Islam, found mostly among right-wingers. Maher and Harris, nobody’s right-wingers, were essentially accused of racism and bigotry for their outspoken views on the dangers inherent in not just radical Islam, but in its non-radical form.

Below is the segment, which you can watch and then return for my take on it all, but note the key point that Harris tries to make:

The crucial point of confusion is that we have been sold this meme of Islamophobia, where criticism of the religion gets conflated with bigotry towards Muslims as people. It’s intellectually ridiculous.

“It’s gross and racist,” says Affleck of Maher’s and Harris’ views. To which Harris responds (my emphasis):

Ben, we have to be able to criticize bad ideas. And Islam at this moment is the mother lode of bad ideas.

Affleck says in response:

That’s an ugly thing to say.

Is it? Well, maybe it is. But at this moment it is not as ugly as denying that Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas. Much like Christianity was centuries before, Islam here in the 21st-century is truly the source of a lot of not only bad ideas but a lot of accompanying bad actions. And that is what many liberals find so hard to accept. They want to believe that there is room in the tent of civilization for all kinds of belief systems, and when it comes to Islam, liberals reflexively want to be inclusive. They don’t want to judge Muslim cultures too broadly or too harshly, even though they have little trouble criticizing conservative evangelicals who want to put their fingerprints on government and culture. Perhaps that is because so many conservative evangelicals not only make bigoted judgments about Muslims, but they also make bigoted judgments about liberals.

But the truth is that some belief systems inherently reject our Western notions of civilization, which, for instance, include a profound respect for women’s rights. There are some folks who don’t want to live in any social tent in which women are equal with men. And there are things in Islam, in book-based Islam, that encourage Muslims to shun such Western ideas, that encourage Muslims to not integrate into Western societies too deeply. In the worst cases, there are things in Islam that foster a desire on the part of a minority of Muslims to not just reject universal human rights, but embrace terrorists who want to destroy Western culture—one head at a time.

After the exchange on Maher’s show, Harris wrote:

Kristof made the point that there are brave Muslims who are risking their lives to condemn “extremism” in the Muslim community. Of course there are, and I celebrate these people too. But he seemed completely unaware that he was making my point for me—the point being, of course, that these people are now risking their lives by advocating for basic human rights in the Muslim world.

Harris followed with this:

Although I clearly stated that I wasn’t claiming that all Muslims adhere to the dogmas I was criticizing; distinguished between jihadists, Islamists, conservatives, and the rest of the Muslim community; and explicitly exempted hundreds of millions of Muslims who don’t take the doctrines about blasphemy, apostasy, jihad, and martyrdom seriously, Affleck and Kristof both insisted that I was disparaging all Muslims as a group.

I have read most of Harris’ books and listened to many debates he’s been in. I completely understand where he’s coming from, even if many liberals don’t. There is room in liberalism for both critics of Islam and for critics of genuine bigots who lump all Muslims together and condemn them. Harris is the former without being the latter. But some liberals don’t see it that way and are unfairly attacking a fellow liberal. Here’s what Harris has to say about that:

One of the most depressing things in the aftermath of this exchange is the way Affleck is now being lauded for having exposed my and Maher’s “racism,” “bigotry,” and “hatred of Muslims.” This is yet another sign that simply accusing someone of these sins, however illogically, is sufficient to establish them as facts in the minds of many viewers. It certainly does not help that unscrupulous people like Reza Aslan and Glenn Greenwald have been spinning the conversation this way.

It turns out that Harris had good reason to go after Reza Aslan and Glenn Greenwald (a man whom I have heavily criticized for his stance on the Edward Snowden leaks and his grossly unfair attacks on President Obama). In a post a few days ago that was titled, “On the Mechanics of Defamation,” Harris wrote:

Let me briefly illustrate how this works. Although I could cite hundreds of examples from the past two weeks alone, here is what I woke up to this morning: Some person who goes by the name of @dan_verg_ on Twitter took the most easily misunderstood sentence in The End of Faith out of (its absolutely essential) context, attached it to a scary picture of me, and declared me a “genocidal fascist maniac.” Then Reza Aslan retweeted it. An hour later, Glenn Greenwald retweeted it again.

Here is the Tweet:

You can read for yourself, in context, what Harris meant by the statement that was nicely fitted onto that eerie photograph of him and sent to millions of people around the world. But Harris points out,

Both Greenwald and Aslan know that those words do not mean what they appear to mean. Given the amount of correspondence we’ve had on these topics, and given that I have repeatedly bored audiences by clarifying that statement (in response to this kind of treatment), the chance that either writer thinks he is exposing the truth about my views—or that I’m really a “genocidal fascist maniac”—is zero. Aslan and Greenwald—a famous “scholar” and a famous “journalist”—are engaged in a campaign of pure defamation. They are consciously misleading their readers and increasing my security concerns in the process.

That two liberals would do this to another liberal is unconscionable. Harris ends his blog post with this:

Aslan and Greenwald know that nowhere in my work do I suggest that we kill harmless people for thought crimes. And yet they (along with several of their colleagues) are doing their best to spread this lie about me. Nearly every other comment they’ve made about my work is similarly misleading.

Both Aslan and Greenwald are debasing our public discourse and making honest discussion of important ideas increasingly unpleasant—even personally dangerous. Why are they doing this? Please ask them and those who publish them.

And that is why I decided to write about this issue. Last night, on MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes, the host did a segment featuring Reza Aslan in which they discussed these issues. And he did that segment without once mentioning the slanderous tweet that both Aslan and Glenn Greenwald (who also appears as a guest on Hayes’ show from time to time) retweeted and disseminated around the world. I don’t know if Hayes knew about the tweet. But I was sorely disappointed in the liberal commentator, whom I much admire. If he did know, shame on him. If he didn’t know, he or his staff should have done better research.

Sadly, it is quite likely that Reza Aslan and Glenn Greenwald will continue to enjoy the support of liberals in the media, and Sam Harris will continue to endure the slander that is represented by that offensive tweet.

And liberalism is the lesser for all of it.

Blind Eye

“It’s high time folks started calling out the Democrats for their racial appeals.”

—Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks, of, uh, Alabama

For years now I have written about white angst, about how, especially in the age of Obama, white folks have gone politically berserk over the prospect of the tanning of American demographics. That angst, I have argued, helps explain the energy of the various Tea Party insurgencies, animated by, as I like to put it, fear of the Scary Negro in the White’s House.

Finally, some whiter-than-the-wind-driven-snow Tea Party Republican in Congress, Rep. Mo Brooks—who came to the House in that infamous and game-changing 2010 election—has just come right out and said it: Democrats are waging a “war on whites.” And, of course, this war is being led by un-snowy Barack Obama, winner of two national elections in which, the pale Alabama congressman claims, the winner engaged in a strategy of dividing the American electorate by “race” and “sex” and “greed” and “envy” and “class warfare” and “all those kinds of things.”

Republicans, obviously, have had nothing to do with dividing the country by race (ignore them claiming that the impeachable Barack Obama is an illegitimate president who may or may not have been born on the Dark—having nothing to do with his complexion—Continent, and ignore them legislating that pigmented kids from Central America need to exit this Jesus-blessed land pronto) or sex (ignore them demanding that the government probe vaginas before women earn their constitutionally-protected reproductive rights) or greed (ignore them running offense for Wall Street quintillionaires) or envy (ignore them arguing that Democratic voters covet the wealthy’s dough) or class warfare (ignore them insisting that if you’re not rich, you didn’t work hard enough). Yep. If you look through your blind eye, you can see that Republicans had nothing to do with dividing Americans.

Speaking of blind eyes, The Nation’s Mychal Denzel Smith points out a part of Mo Brooks’ commentary that many have overlooked. About the immigration issue, Brooks, who told Chris Hayes last Friday that he wants all of the millions of undocumented immigrants deported, said on Monday:

It doesn’t make any difference if you’re a white American, a black American, a Hispanic American, an Asian-American or if you’re a woman or a man. Every single demographic group is hurt by falling wages and lost jobs. Democrats, they have to demagogue on this and try and turn it into a racial issue, which is an emotional issue, rather than a thoughtful issue. If it becomes a thoughtful issue, then we win and we win big. And they lose and they lose big.

Smith writes:

It’s the type of language used to dismiss the real-world concerns of those of us who live on the oppressed side of racism in America. Our issues aren’t considered serious intellectual questions but emotional reactions that are to be dealt with personally. But any discussion of jobs and wages that doesn’t consider race (or gender) is intellectually dishonest. To pretend there are not groups of people who are disproportionately disadvantaged under our current economic model and that our ongoing legacy of racism and white supremacy are not contributing factors means you are not actually looking for solutions. You’re turning the same blind eye that has allowed the suffering in the first place.

Idiomatically, the phrase “turn a blind eye” means to deliberately ignore something or pretend not to see it. This is what Republicans are trying to ignore or pretend they don’t see:

And the blind eye doesn’t see the following numbers, including from Mo Brooks’ Alabama and my own state of Missouri:

POVERTY RATE BY RACE AND ETHNICITY 2011 1012

Yes, as you can see with your good eye, Democrats are waging quite a war on whites.

 

Muck Dynasty

It’s no surprise that white trash patriarch Phil Robertson (he calls himself white trash, people; don’t blame me), of A&E’s popular (reportedly 14 million bleeping people watch the show each week) Duck Dynasty family, has revealed himself to be breathtakingly ignorant about gays and about black history. After all, it’s not all that uncommon for religious zealots to hate the gay and to think blacks were as happy as larks picking cotton for The Man, uh, The White Man.

And it’s not a bit surprising that so many conservatives, like the cartoonish Sarah Palin, have openly rushed to his side to offer their support of his bigotry and ignorance. In fact, that kind of bigotry and ignorance thrives in the GOP. Bigotry and ignorance is the life blood of the party these days.

But I was surprised that someone I know (locally) to be a staunch Democrat rushed to the defense of the white trash patriarch (again, don’t blame me for phrasing it that way; I’m just honoring his own description). Why, you might ask, would a fiercely partisan Democrat be so eager to endorse the bigotry and ignorance of Mr. Robertson? Why would he be so eager to post this picture on Facebook:

I’ll let him tell you:

I love the way the man speaks openly about his love for Jesus.

Yep. It turns out that loving Jesus, or more accurately, saying publicly you love Jesus, covers a multitude of sins, including, presumably, the sin of bigotry and, in the case of Phil Robertson, the sin of ignorance—the man has a Master’s degree in (I’m gasping for air here) education, for Allah’s sake. There is no way you can go through that much schooling and not know at least a little science about sexuality and a little history about Jim Crow and the oppression of black people. And as many have pointed out, the man is old enough to have lived through some of the horrendous events in the South, when blacks were suffering and dying at the hands of white racists, but who, according to Phil Robertson, were “singing and happy” the whole time.

But forget Phil Robertson. Forget the forgettable Duck Dynasty. We have a real problem in this country when prominent members of a major political party essentially endorse bigotry and ignorance—yes, I’ve used those terms a lot and I ain’t finished—like they were endorsing apple pie and Chevrolet. And there is an even bigger problem when just because a man says publicly that he loves Jesus, all is forgiven, or, worse, accepted. We have, thankfully, got past the point where white Jesus-lovers can publicly persecute black Jesus-lovers in America. But we have a long way to go before Jesus-lovers of every color will stop persecuting Jesus-loving and non-Jesus-loving  gay people. And that is where I want to part ways with a person I think is one of the smartest guys, one of the most astute liberals, on television, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.

On his Thursday show, discussing Phil Robertson’s bigotry and ignorance, Chris Hayes condemned Robertson’s remarks but said he agreed with those, like Sarah Palin, who object to A&E suspending the bigot from his popular cable TV show. Because Robertson represents a large segment of the population, the argument goes, he should be able to spout his nonsense with impunity because such nonsense is not considered nonsense among people who find the Robertsons’ entertaining and—yikes!—inspiring.

Bulldook. A&E certainly has the right to keep employing Mr. Robertson and his Republican-loving family and to keep producing their unreal reality show. No one disputes that. But apparently A&E believes it has at least some civic responsibility not to promote extremism, particularly extremism based on such atomic bigotry and ignorance. And the network is right not to do so. The A&E executives ought to be applauded, especially by liberals, for their action instead of condemned for it. There is no First Amendment case here. No one has an unfettered right to speak, whether it be foolishness or non-foolishness, on a TV network.

Imagine if Phil Robertson, thought, and said so out loud, that during WWII, as far as he knew, Jews were really happy and never sang the blues. “Holocuast? I never saw no stinkin’ Holocaust!”  Imagine if one of the Duck Dynasty cast members thought, and said so out loud, that homosexuality will lead to human beings banging beasts! Wait! We don’t have to imagine it. Ol’ Phil actually said it:

Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.

I’m worried about this country. I’m worried about it not because Phil Robertson is a dangerous man. He isn’t. He’s just someone to be pitied, in terms of his social IQ. I’m worried about the country because it is still pregnant with the kind of bigotry and ignorance that Phil Robertson represents. And as we get deeper into the 21st-century, we can’t afford to indulge, or entertain ourselves with, such nonsense. Religion is one thing. Bigotry and ignorance (last time) is another. And it is about time people learn the difference, even if it means there may be no more Duck Dynasty.

“Jus Niggaz Bein Niggaz”

Last night, while watching a segment on “All In With Chris Hayes,” I heard a reference to Nat Turner.

Now, these days, you don’t often hear references to the slave Nat Turner, so a little history is in order before we get to the reason his name was invoked on MSNBC last night.

Nat Turner—the surname being the name of his owner—was born in 1800. He became a religious zealot, who believed, essentially, that God had put it upon him to lead an uprising against slave-owners, starting in Virginia. His rebellion, which began on August 21, 1831, lasted no more than 48 hours, and resulted in (the estimates are problematic) the brutal deaths of 55 to 65 white folks, including women, the brutality, presumably, meant to “strike terror and alarm,” as one newspaper reported at the time.

When the slave-loving establishment was finished with its form of justice, an estimated 100 to 200 blacks were dead, including some who were executed by the state for allegedly being part of Turner’s rebellion and some, including some who had nothing to do with the revolt, who were summarily killed by reactionary white mobs with guns, affectionately known as militias. As Wikipedia put it:

Blacks suspected of participating in the rebellion were beheaded by the militia. “Their severed heads were mounted on poles at crossroads as a grisly form of intimidation.”

Turner was eventually caught and tried for his ill-conceived rebellion. He was quickly strung up and killed, his dead body then flayed and ripped apart like an animal. As American Heritage.com put it:

His skin was made into a purse, his flesh turned to grease, his bones divvied up as souvenirs. His head was permanently separated from his body and made the rounds as a curio, reportedly spending much of the twentieth century at the College of Wooster, in Ohio.

Nice. Good Christian Justice.

I said all that to say this: since Nat Turner’s rebellion there has been a fear among many whites, sometimes open and sometimes not, that there is a sort of unruly animal spirit residing in black folks that is just waiting to rebel at even the slightest provocation, just waiting to get even with whites for the sin of slavery, for the disgrace of systematic and ongoing oppression.

Enter Fox’s Bill O’Reilly.

Billo was in typical form on Tuesday night, commenting on the George Zimmerman murder trial (which I have watched fairly religiously and about which I will likely have something to offer, if I can stomach writing about it).

Naturally, O’Reilly claims, journalists are responsible for distorting racial issues and for causing “racial division.” He cited a Rasmussen poll that purported to show that more than one-third of Americans—including almost one-third of blacks!—believe that blacks are the most racist group in America (one-half of the conservatives and one-half of Republicans surveyed believe most blacks are racist). He then, also following form, predicted:

If George Zimmerman is acquitted, there will be racial animus.

By “racial animus,” of course, Billo means Niggas Gone Wild. Blacks, being filled with the spirit of Nat Turner, ain’t gonna tolerate Zimmerman getting away with shooting to death an unarmed black teenager for the crime of being, among other things, a suspicious-looking black kid.

To be fair to the unfair Bill O’Reilly, he’s not the only one sounding the Nat Turner alarm. In Florida, the Broward County Sheriff’s Department “has coordinated a response plan in anticipation of the verdict.” The response includes the enlisting of “basketball star James Jones of the championship Miami Heat.” This is James Jones:

As you can see, Mr. Jones is well-qualified to urge certain pigmented “young people not to let their emotions get the best of them.”

This is the Sheriff of Broward County:

Scott J. Israel

As you can see, he is not necessarily well-qualified to urge certain pigmented “young people not to let their emotions get the best of them.”

The Blaze, founded by Glenn Beck, is no stranger to racial issues. It weighed in recently with an article with this header:

‘IF ZIMMERMAN GET OFF, IMA GO KILL A WHITE BOY’: TRAYVON MARTIN SUPPORTERS MAKE SHOCKING THREATS AHEAD OF VERDICT

The article consisted of stupid tweets from stupid people promising to do something violent in retaliation for an acquittal. Here was just one example among many:

Trayvon Martin Fans Tweet Death Threats If George Zimmerman Is Found Not Guilty

You get the point.

Naturally, a Glenn Beck-inspired outlet is going to document and promote such trash because doing so, predictably, results in a robust expression of the white angst that fuels so much of the subtle racism that flows through parts of conservative White America. Here is a sample of the nearly 700 responses the article received:

  • some of those tweets sound a little similar to the reports of what martin was saying the night he was shot. didn’t work out so well for him, but hey…
  • Well one more reason to own a gun and have a CCW permit. My father always said this country was ripe for a civil war of blacks vs whites and he would not live to see it. My father dies in 2011 […]
  • The apes are throwing threats again what a surprise. All I can say is BRING IT BITCHES I have some lead pie filling for ya.
  • Wow, who knew Obama had so many “sons”?????
  • Negroes are all judging Trayvon based on the color of his skin, while ignoring the content of his character. It’s sad that 95% of negroes are racist.
  • Truth be told, the WORST racists in this country are blacks….taught to be that way by the constant divisive BS pounded into them by the democrats. I figured that out when I worked at Ford in the Detroit area for 32 years.
  • It is crazy, sick, destructive and evil and it emanates from the Oval Office “design team”. Maybe martial law enacted just prior to the 2016 election………
  • You have to recall that these are the descendants of the ex-slaves that missed the free boat ride to return to Africa and they are still angry.
  • Let them try. I’m not worried about these creatures. The gun I carry is bigger and carries many more rounds than Zimmerman’s little Kel-Tec PF9. Let them try. Let them die.
  • He will be found not guilty of course and many many folks will be waiting for you boys to misbehave.
  • Ok all you afro heroes, talk your sh+t, I’ve got lots of rounds, magazines, and replacement barrels. I wonder how quick you will run when your homies bodies are being stacked like wood,eh.
  • You boys are outnumbered, even if you add the bleeding heart lib whites to help you. The race war that you yearn for won’t end the way you want so by all means let’s get this party started.
  • Civil war anyone?
  • Even these animals can see that this pig star witness is a big time failure! Hehehehehehe!
  • why aren’t these douchbags all arrested for death threats?? Come on NSA you afraid to go after them because they’re black?? As for you black punks threatening to kill a whitey, I say bring it on MF. Bring your black ass on!!
  • A Cracke_r is a person who works for a living in the hot sun herding cattle. Black MOFO’s are lazy parasites..
  • Big word from behind a computer. I am a white guy and I will be ready for that day.

As I said, that kind of stuff went on for pages and pages. Tough talk from keyboard-courageous gun-toters. But there was one particularly insightful commenter on the Blaze story, who went by the name of “BANNEDFROMCNN,” who wrote:

Jus niggaz bein niggaz.

When you think about it, that’s not much different from what Bill O’Reilly, the most popular TV conservative in America, said on Tuesday night.

Congratulations, Billo.

Margaret Thatcher, R.I.P.

She was Britain’s first and only female prime minister and served longer in that capacity than anyone in the twentieth century. If that weren’t remarkable enough, the iconic Meryl Streep portrayed her in a major movie.

On Monday morning, as the news of her death broke, on MSNBC—what some, somewhat overstating the case, call the broadcast home of American liberalism—the Iron Lady’s death brought forth mostly effusive praise of her and her accomplishments. On Morning Joe again this morning, more praise.

I confess: when I was a conservative, she was one of my heroes. Okay, my heroine.

Thus, it is only fitting that the legacy of Margaret Thatcher, as historically important as it is, deserves more than hagiographic commentary, and Chris Hayes, new to MSNBC’s evening programming, did Thatcher’s legacy justice, at least from the point of view of a thoughtful liberal, in two segments:

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Finally, as only he can do, Lawrence O’Donnell put in perspective the important relative differences between British conservatism and American conservatism, differences overlooked by those who essentially put Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the same ideological boat:

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Sabotaging The Economy: Cynicism Or Reality?

The opening segment of last night’s The Rachel Maddow Show was over sixteen minutes long.  It was one of those rare moments in cable television in which a lot was said that needed to be said and it was said by two very smart liberal commentators, St. Rachel and Chris Hayes, Washington editor of The Nation magazine.

The segment chronicled only some of the outrageous Republican hypocrisy evident since the Age of Obama.  We’re talking about policies that Republicans supported until they discovered that President Obama supported them too, including:

Pay-Go legislation, the bi-partisan deficit commission, cap and trade, the individual mandate for health insurance, trying terrorists in federal courts, raising the debt ceiling (done seven times under Bush with substantial Republican votes), a payroll tax holiday for businesses and workers, and the DREAM Act.

Toward the end of the segment, St. Rachel offered two competing explanations for such blatant and shameful duplicity: 

The nice interpretation of Republican hypocrisy:  Republicans are merely opposing things they use to support because President Obama supports them too.

The less nice interpretation of Republican hypocrisy: Republicans are opposing things they use to support because they believe those things will actually work and will improve the economy and thus improve Obama’s chances of reelection.  Therefore, they are sabotaging the economic recovery.

Chris Hayes pointed out that Republicans have,

starved the beast…they have cut taxes; now they’ve got everybody in the deficit-debt panic, and now the welfare state is in their sights…and they understand they’re gonna get one shot at it, and they also understand the only way to kill it is to get a Democratic president to do it.

Bush could not gut Social Security, couldn’t privatize Social Security…Barack Obama can. The only way to go after the big game they are hunting—which is Medicaid and Medicare—that’s the fundamental part of social insurance—is  to get a Democrat to do it.

Hayes also offered “an even more cynical interpretation” than Maddow’s suggestion that Republicans want to “take money out of the economy” at a time when the economy needs it:

HAYES: The one thing that refutes the deficit hysteria—which so benefits the Republicans in their mission to go after Medicare and Medicaid—is the fact that interest rates are at historic lows. So, you can say, “Oh, no one’s gonna lend us money,” and look out there and everyone’s lending us money at historically low rates.

What is the one thing that could screw that up?

MADDOW: Debt ceiling.

HAYES:  Exactly. A partial default, a delay in payments…all of a sudden if you had that you could point and say, “Look, the markets are panicked, the interest rates are up; we really have a debt and deficit problem.” The most cynical, the absolute most cynical interpretation of this is that they want some sort of crisis because that produces in the markets exactly the uncertainty they’ve been claiming was already there but has not manifested until now.

There you have it. A perfectly rational explanation of Republican behavior, particularly regarding the debate over the debt ceiling.

And the one thing that Republicans can do to prove wrong Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow—and top Democrats in the U.S. Senate, who have essentially suggested the same thing—is stop protecting the oil companies and the wealthiest Americans and agree to raise the debt ceiling before all economic hell breaks loose, if the Obama administration is forced to default on our debt payments.*

Here is the complete opening segment from last night’s show:

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_____________________

*There is another possible out, a brief explanation of which can be found here and elsewhere. It involves invoking Section 4 of the 14th Amendment and it would be a very gutsy move by President Obama. In part it reads:

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law…shall not be questioned.

It’s just possible that Obama can ignore the fact that Congress refuses to authorize an increase in the debt ceiling and continue to pay the nation’s bills and its other obligations under the authority of this provision.  Let the fun begin!

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