Friday, April 29, 2011

Your Friday Clash Song: At Least It Livens Up the Air …

No political theme here. I just wanted to remind our British friends why we really love them. And it’s not for their Royal Weddings:

What we wear is dangerous gear

It’ll get you picked on anywhere

Though we get beat up we don’t care

At least it livens up the air

This is the city of the dead

It is the city of the dead

It is the city of the dead …

“City of the Dead,” recorded live; originally, it was the B-side to the “Complete Control” single, released in September 1977, and was later released on the Black Market Clash collection in 1980 and Super Black Market Clash in 1993. The studio version is here, but I like the live version better.

You know what to do. Turn. It. Up.

© 2011 David P. von Ebers. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Birther Madness Infects NBC’s Chicago Affiliate

Yesterday, after a long day of jousting with lunatic birthers on Twitter – the full-on crazies who are still convinced Barack Obama is not eligible to be president even after he produced the “long form” birth certificate they’ve been demanding for two years or so – I switched on our local NBC affiliate (NBC5 in Chicago) to catch the 10:00 p.m. news. It was no great surprise to see that the top story was … that Pres. Obama had released his “long form” birth certificate. And to their credit, the producers at NBC5 saw fit to play a clip from yesterday morning’s press conference – a clip that included Pres. Obama’s dead-on remark that essentially won the day: “We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.” Indeed.

But it was what followed that clip that was mind-numbingly aggravating.

Because after running that clip, reporter Jeff Goldblatt (who recently came over to NBC5 from Fox’s Chicago affiliate, WFLD-TV), presented what I can only describe as a mercifully brief but utterly bizarre interview with birther radio host Rick Biesada (pictured above) of WJJG-AM 1530, an obscure outfit that broadcasts out of Elmhurst, Illinois, in west suburban DuPage County. In the interview with NBC5’s Goldblatt, Biesada, who looks like an unemployed biker (not that there’s anything wrong with that), provided his keen legal analysis of Pres. Obama’s eligibility, to-wit: Despite the fact that the President has now produced conclusive evidence of his citizenship, he remains ineligible because his father was not an American citizen, and, per radio talker Biesada, the framers of our Constitution intended that only a person whose mother and father were both citizens of the United States could qualify as a “natural born Citizen” within the meaning of Article II.

Note that that is, of course, utter nonsense. What Article II says is:

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

Article II says nothing about a president’s parents; it only says that any “natural born Citizen” of the United States (over age 35 and residing in the country for at least fourteen years) is eligible to be president. And while the Constitution, as originally drafted, did not define the term “Citizen,” the Fourteenth Amendment does:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

U.S. Const., Amend. XIV, § 1.

So it’s really pretty straight forward: If you were born in the United States – and the President manifestly was – you were born a citizen of the United States and are eligible to be president once you’ve reached the age of 35 and resided in the country for at least fourteen years. Period. To the extent these crazy birthers are trying to impose any other restrictions on presidential eligibility, they’re simply making up rules as they go along. But those rules are nowhere in the Constitution itself; they exist only in the overheated imaginations of crazy racist birthers.

But here’s the thing. This Rick Biesada – the guy Jeff Goldblatt chose to interview as an “expert” on the constitutional requirements for the presidency – is a real creep. He’s more than just a birther; he’s a contributor to the right-wing extremist site The Federal Observer, which describes his curriculum vitae this way:

Federal Observer contributing columnist Rick Biesada hosts Perspectives On Our Heritage – The Angry White Male Hour over Radio Station WJJG 1530 AM, Chicago’s Hometown station, Wednesdays from 4:00 to 5:00 PM Central Time, which can now be heard LIVE on the net at http://www.wjjgam1530.com. Rick is the co-founder of The Chicago Minuteman Project.

That’s right – Biesada’s radio show on WJJG is called “Perspectives on Our Heritage – The Angry White Male Hour.” Gee, no racial overtones there, eh?

So, what does the self-proclaimed “Angry White Male” think of the duly elected President of the United States? Well, aside from being a delusional birther, there’s this:

President Obama, the more that I see this guy, the more he reminds me of Chicken Little.

Chicken Little disdains America, it is written all over his face every time that he opens up his arrogant mouth, preaching hysterics, intimidation, or fear, instead of loving thy neighbor, or pursuing happiness.

If he’s not race baiting, he’s protecting the enemy whom he sent our children to fight over seas, in a profiteer war.

He can’t have it both ways, you are either with America, or you are against it, so he, Chicken Little, better decide which side he wants to ride with.

Obama seems hell bent on creating a civil war in our country, for the global slave masters that he represents.

And that’s just a small taste of it. I’ll spare you the rest; but if you’re really interested you can fined Biesada’s collected works on The Federal Observer here. Ugh.

So, anyway, as soon as I saw Goldblatt’s interview with Biesada on NBC5 last night, I Googled “Rick Biesada” and found all of the foregoing information literally within a minute or two. Imagine my surprise when I found out, after a few short minutes, that our local NBC affiliate had put a race-baiting, knuckle-dragging semi-literate jackass on television to discuss constitutional law, of all things.

Of course, being a lawyer I’m not inclined to take gross misrepresentations of constitutional law lightly, and so I did what anyone with a sense of obligation to the legal profession would do. I contacted NBC5 straightaway. First, I e-mailed the station using its online e-mail form, demanding to know why thy put this unqualified racist birther on the air in the first place. Then, I tweeted them (at @nbcchicago; feel free to send them some love) – in fact, I tweeted NBC5 repeatedly, and several of my followers re-tweeted those tweets – asking the same question, over and over again. Having heard nothing from NBC5 by late morning today, I e-mailed the station again, followed by a few more tweets to the station and an additional tweet to Goldblatt himself (@jeff_goldblatt). Still, no word.

Here’s a curious thing, though. I hoped to include a video clip of the Goldblatt/Biesada interview in this post … but apparently, it’s been scrubbed from the NBC5 website. Below is a screenshot of the “Top Stories” page on the NBC5 site, and you can see what appears to be a link for the story, titled “Obama Releases Full Birth Certificate, Derides ‘Carnival Barkers’,” near the bottom of the page:

Here’s a close-up image of that link:

But when you click on the link, it doesn’t take you to the birth certificate story; instead, it simply loads the station’s “U.S. & World” news page – with no link to the birth certificate story and/or the interview with Rick Biesada. Odd.

But the problem is this: Even if NBC5 scrubbed that report from its website, they ran it last night and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people saw it. I hold out little hope that they will run any sort of retraction (despite my demanding they do so), let alone air an interview with a legal expert who actually knows what he or she is talking about to refute Biesada’s legally frivolous claims.

So once again, racist birther nonsense goes unchallenged. Just another day in America – a country that’s not quite mature enough to handle its first African American president.

© David P. von Ebers. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

UPDATED: Hanging Out With Birther Dead-Enders in the Shallow End of the Gene Pool

Okay, like most of us, I was a bit surprised by this (via Oliver Willis):

This is hilariously sad. It’s dumb that Obama had to go to extraordinary lengths to release his long-form birth certificate, but hilarious because it now shows that the leading presidential candidate of the Republican party has gotten to his position on what is an even now more thoroughly debunked conspiracy theory.

So, that’s that. The President produced the vaunted “long form” birth certificate (.pdf) – the very document that lunatic “birthers,” including erstwhile Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, have been squawking for despite irrefutable evidence that Pres. Obama was, in fact, born a U.S. citizen – along with a copies of the correspondence (.pdf) between the President, his attorneys, and the State of Hawai’i pursuant to which the President requested and the State produced the “long form” birth certificate, all of which, taken together, end any conceivable argument that Pres. Obama was born anywhere other than Honolulu, Hawai’i on August 4, 1961.

In so doing, the President made the following remarks:

Now, normally I would not comment on something like this, because obviously there’s a lot of stuff swirling in the press on at any given day and I’ve got other things to do. But two weeks ago, when the Republican House had put forward a budget that will have huge consequences potentially to the country, and when I gave a speech about my budget and how I felt that we needed to invest in education and infrastructure and making sure that we had a strong safety net for our seniors even as we were closing the deficit, during that entire week the dominant news story wasn’t about these huge, monumental choices that we’re going to have to make as a nation. It was about my birth certificate. And that was true on most of the news outlets that were represented here.

And so I just want to make a larger point here. We’ve got some enormous challenges out there. There are a lot of folks out there who are still looking for work. Everybody is still suffering under high gas prices. We’re going to have to make a series of very difficult decisions about how we invest in our future but also get a hold of our deficit and our debt -- how do we do that in a balanced way.

But we’re not going to be able to do it if we are distracted. We’re not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other. We’re not going to be able to do it if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts. We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.

Whoa. That’s what you call hitting the damn nail on the damn head.

This issue has been a huge, obscene distraction from the real issues of the day, and the media, more than anyone else – let me repeat that: THE MEDIA, MORE THAN ANYONE ELSE – deserve most of the blame for pushing this absurdly racist meme day after day, treating it as though it deserved any shred of respect at all despite the clear, convincing, credible evidence that the birther position was utter rot.

So, anyway, after hearing about the President’s remarks, I have to confess I had a bit of fun with the phrase “carnival barkers.” See, I spent the day with one of my kids who was home sick from school, and, being at home all day, I also spent a fair amount of time on Twitter – which is pretty much the shallow end of the digital gene pool at times like these – and so I couldn’t resist looking up those last few birther dead-enders, the recalcitrant and transparently racist few who insist, despite all evidence to the contrary, that the President still hasn’t proved he was born in the United States even though he produced the very document they’ve been demanding all along.

And, well, as much fun as shooting fish in barrels generally is, I can only say: Wow.

If you really want to wallow in Dr. Strangelove-fluoride-in-the-water-level paranoia, check out the Twitter stream of one Greg Howard (@GregWHoward), a self-proclaimed (ahem) “Patriot bull charging through the china shop of party politics, shattering the lies.” Mr. Howard is quite sure that he’s debunked the President’s latest birth certificate scam:

@Hwk765 Yeah, I know. The main issue is that the M is in elite in the date and time and in pica the rest of the document.

Oh, but wait. There’s more:

The letter K on a manual typewriter is also a strong finger, and it appears weak several times. #tcot #p2 #ocra

And:

On a manual typewriter, the letter N is prominent because that's a strong finger, but it appears weak several times #tcot #p2 #ocra

Thank God for the brave manual typewriter engineers in the birther movement, right? Otherwise we’d never know about the conspicuous “Ms” and “Ks” and “Ns” – “Ns,” people! – that are the tell-tale signs of presidential fraud. Sigh.

But the thing is, as much fun as it is to mock and ridicule the eminently mock- and ridicule-able, and while we should treat these ignoramuses with exactly the contempt they deserve, there’s a very serious issue underlying all of it. Any number of better writers than I have addressed it, from Melissa Harris-Perry at The Nation to Zerlina Maxwell at The Loop 21, but I think this video from brilliant comic and social commentator Baratunde Thurston really says it all:

The bottom line: Today, conservative white Americans successfully stopped an African American male – an African American male who happens to be the President of the United States – and demanded that he produce identification sufficient to satisfy them. Even though he’d already produced documentation sufficient to satisfy any rational, non-racist person on the planet. These racist goons demanded that our first African American president show his papers.

Which proves that our President – Barack Hussein Obama II – is, in fact, far more American than his luanatic birther detractors. But that’s small consolation to the tens of millions of African Americans who had to witness the indignity of it all. For that, I’m genuinely sorry.

UPDATE: You must read my friend John V. Moore’s latest post at Windy City Watch, “Hey, America, I’m Sick and Tired of African American Men Not Being Good Enough for You.” It’s a powerful, moving and personal story of how this birther madness affects our fellow Americans who happen to be of African descent. I’m proud to call John a friend of mine. Well done, sir. Very well done.

© 2011 David P. von Ebers. All rights reserved.

And So The Blackhawks’ Season Comes to an End …

Fitting, I suppose, that it’s raining like mad (again) today, the day after the Blackhawks tilted at their last windmill of the 2010-2011 season, losing to the Vancouver Canucks 2-1 in overtime after nearly pulling off the impossible and overcoming a three-games-to-none deficit in the best of seven playoff series. It was a hell of a game, capping off a hell of a series – but in all honesty, the better team won.

And so maybe it was fitting, too, that the ’Hawks lost his way – with Jonathan Toews tying the game late in the third period to force overtime, only to have Vancouver’s Alexandre Burrows score the winning goal about 5 minutes, 22 seconds into the extra period. This year’s Blackhawks were a decent team, but they were not the same team that won the Stanley Cup last year. In the off season, with apparent salary cap issues looming, the ’Hawks jettisoned several major players from the championship squad, including local favorite Dustin Byfuglien, who was traded to Atlanta along with Brent Sopel; Kris Versteeg, who was traded to the Maple Leafs; and Andrew Ladd, who was traded to Atlanta in a separate deal. Then, in August, the Blackhawks released goalie Antti Niemi, who’d been a huge part of their 2010 playoff success, after Niemi was awarded $2.75 million in salary arbitration. Although several of the most important players from the Stanley Cup team remained – most notably Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa – it was, at best, an up-and-down season; and Blackhawks only crept into the 8th position in the Western Conference playoffs after Dallas lost to Minnesota on the last day of the regular season.

Not exactly what we’d hoped for a year after winning the Cup.

But I’ve been a Chicago sports fan for a very long time, so this was nothing new to me. If I could survive the Bears’ playoff loss to the Washington Redskins in January 1987 after having all but owned the NFL the year before; or the Cubs’ 2003 collapse to the Florida Marlins after going up three games to one … well, I can survive any playoff loss.

And although the ’Hawks blew the first three games against Vancouver, at least they fought back. Everybody wants to win championships every year; sometimes the fact that your team shows up and fights like hell has to be good enough.

Unfortunately, a lot of us thought the Blackhawks had a real shot last night after winning games 4, 5 and 6, so I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was more than a little disappointed with the outcome. But, hey, that’s why they play the games, right.

The sky is crying, indeed.

© 2011 David P. von Ebers. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dear Chicago Blackhawks …

More of this, please.

As we speak, Your Chicago Blackhawks are facing off against the Cannucks in Vancouver in the deciding game 7 of their first round playoff series – this after having been down 3-games-to-none to the ’Nucks just a few days ago. According to the Chicago Tribune:

Only eight teams in the history of the NHL have done what the Chicago Blackhawks already have done, clawing back from a three-games-to-nil series deficit to force a deciding Game 7.



At Rogers Arena on Tuesday night, they were trying to join an even more select crew, aiming to become just the fourth team to vanquish an opponent with four straight victories after that 3-0 deficit.

So, apparently, the odds are against them.

Just the same, I’d surely appreciate it if the Blackhawks’d pull it off. It’s not because I’m greedy; it’s because the last time the Blackhawks won Lord Stanley’s Cup prior to the 2009-2010 season was in 1961, the year before I was born. And I don’t want to have to wait 49 more years just to see another Cup.

So when I say I want “more of this,” what I really mean is I want more of this:

Your Chicago Blackhawks. One (more) Goal, baby.

© 2011 David P. von Ebers. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 25, 2011

On the Air Again With Tim Corrimal and Friends – Episode 165

Yes, I’ve been remiss in posting follow up comments due to holiday festivities and so forth, but Episode 165 of the Tim Corrimal Show was posted yesterday afternoon. Note that due to some auditory sleight-of-hand, yesterday’s show was actually recorded one week ahead of time, but strangely enough it seems to be as timely as always.

Anyway, on this week’s show Tim and I were joined by three returning guests, Sarah Cosgrove of Mashrabiyya (@s_a_cosgrove on Twitter), Vent of the Cultured State blog (@vcthree on Twitter), and the OC’s very own Andy Wienick (@awienick on Twitter), to discuss budgets, birtherism, and … wait for it … Pole Dancing for Jesus!

How’s that for, um, building up to a climax. You’ll pardon the expression.

As for the fiscal stuff, the panel had some choice words for Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposed budget which is designed to eliminate the deficit by essentially destroying key elements of the social safety net, most notably Medicare. Unfortunately, since we recorded the show on April 17, we did not have the opportunity to comment on the (ahem) warm welcome Rep. Ryan received in his home state last week:

Rep. Paul Ryan, the face of the GOP’s efforts to scale back the size of the federal government and trim the federal deficit, was booed by some Wisconsin constituents this week, but not for the reason you might think.

Ryan’s budget plan, as overwhelmingly approved by the House, would convert Medicare into a program which would provide seniors with subsidies to purchase private health insurance. But as Ryan returned home along with the other 240 Republican members to explain the budget blueprint to voters, he received heat not for the Medicare proposal, but for his call to cut taxes for wealthy Americans.

I’m glad our friends in Wisconsin are waking up to the nightmare they created last November; I just wish they hadn’t, you know, created it in the first place. (Although, to be fair, Paul Ryan is not a nightmare created by Wisconsinites last November; he’s a nightmare they created in 1998.)

Anyway, on the topic of Donald Trump’s birtherism there’s little I can add to what I’ve already written about it, except to note that when conservatives from Ann Coulter to Greta Van Susteren tell Trump he’s full of it, the only fair conclusion you can draw from his recalcitrance is this: He’s a bigot. Oh, sure, you could say He’s not a bigot, he’s just pandering to bigots – but that’s nonsense. Only a bigot would do that.

And if you really had any doubt that it’s bigotry that motivates Trump’s unhinged attacks on the President, well I’m here to set you straight:

Real estate mogul Donald Trump suggested in an interview Monday that President Barack Obama had been a poor student who did not deserve to be admitted to the Ivy League universities he attended. Trump, who is mulling a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, offered no proof for his claim but said he would continue to press the matter as he has the legitimacy of the president's birth certificate.

“I heard he was a terrible student, terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?” Trump said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I’m thinking about it, I’m certainly looking into it. Let him show his records.”

Obama graduated from Columbia University in New York in 1983 with a degree in political science after transferring from Occidental College in California. He went on to Harvard Law School, where he graduated magna cum laude 1991 and was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review.

You know, I’ve tried hard to avoid engaging in personal attacks and name-calling on this blog, but sometimes people knowingly waive their right to be treated with respect and common decency. So I’ll just say it: What a disgusting piece of dirt. Attacking the President’s academic credentials, which dwarf Trump’s own, as a matter of fact –anybody can get into business school; it takes actual brains to get into law school – while acknowledging he has no evidence but relies solely on rumor and innuendo … Why? Because Barack Obama is African American, that’s why. You know it, I know it, and Donald Trump knows it.

Oh, yeah, and that bit about Pres. Obama graduating magna cum laude from Harvard Law? That only kind of, you know, utterly destroys Trump’s argument that the President was a “terrible student.” But that’s beside the point. I know a goddamned racist when I see one.

Finally, as for the Pole Dancing for Jesus clip? Well, you’re just going to have to listen to the show.

Enjoy.

© 2011 David P. von Ebers. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Easter

“Jesus Was an Only Son,” performed live in New Jersey in 2005, originally from Devils & Dust released the same year.

I’ve said before that I’m not much of a believer anymore, but it’s been a long path getting here. I grew up with the religion of my parents – Catholicism – and I also grew up keenly aware that generations ago my father’s ancestors in Eastern Europe were Jewish. I don’t know if this makes much sense, but being of both Catholic and Jewish ancestry means a fair amount to me, even if the religions themselves don’t. So, I’m not one to proselytize my own lack of faith: To each his or her own, is pretty much the way I look at it.

Also, I think it’s not altogether appropriate to beat up on people of faith in the midst of Holy Week and Pesach. There’re other, more appropriate times to debate theology; for now, let’s let the religious enjoy the holidays in peace.

And anyway, leave it to Bruce Springsteen to find a common human thread in the Easter story:

A mother prays, “Sleep tight my child, sleep well

For I’ll be at your side

That no shadow, no darkness no tolling bell

Shall pierce your dreams tonight.” …

So if you celebrate Easter or Passover, have a beautiful, peaceful day Sunday. In fact, even if you don’t celebrate Easter or Passover, have a beautiful, peaceful day Sunday.

Oh yeah. And speaking of religion: Go Blackhawks!

© 2011 David P. von Ebers. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Your Friday Clash Song: Freedom’s Always on the Run …

This week’s selection: “Guns On the Roof,” from their second full length LP Give ’Em Enough Rope (1978) (which was the first Clash album released in the U.S.):

They torture all the women and children

Then they put the men to the gun,

’Cause across the human frontier

Freedom’s always on the run …

Guns, guns – a-shaking in terror

Guns, guns – killing in error

Guns, guns – the guilty hands

Guns, guns – shatter the land

I love the fact that they debuted this song at Rock Against Racism Carnival in April 1978, just about 33 years ago. Man, I’m getting old.

So, anyway, I thought of “Guns On the Roof” when I read about the increasing violence in the Libyan city of Misrata, where Muammar Gaddafi’s forces are indiscriminately killing civilians in an effort to dislodge rebels, using cluster bombs, heavy artillery and, until recently, snipers on the roofs of buildings:

MISRATA, Libya (Reuters) - Libyans who wanted to venture outside to celebrate rebel gains against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces in Misrata were prevented from doing so by government snipers in a tall building above Tripoli street.

After a two-week struggle over control of the structure - once home to an insurance company -- they finally got their chance after a victory late on Thursday night.

Smiling insurgents in sandals walked on top of one of the tanks and surveyed devastation that spoke volumes about the ferocity of the fighting in Misrata.

Libya’s third largest city has been under siege for over seven weeks.

Failure to crush resistance there would be a huge blow to Gaddafi, who lost Libya’s second largest city Benghazi to rebels after an uprising inspired by revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt erupted on February 17.

The Libyan leader appeared to have stationed some of his best men in what is known as The Insurance Building, now a dark shell of wreckage and smashed office furniture.

Rebels said seven snipers operating from the eight-story building severely restricted their movements.

“They shot at anything that moved. They were very good, very professional,” said rebel Badr Muhammad. Two of the snipers were killed, three were captured and two escaped, said another rebel.

Good news, I suppose, that the snipers have been cleared out, but the fighting there has been horrific. CNN reported earlier this week that government forces bombed residential and industrial areas and the city’s port (“Misrata’s lifeline to humanitarian aid”) and had taken over a hospital, forcing residents to set up “makeshift clinics … to treat the wounded.” Meanwhile, the rebels in Misrata are becoming increasingly frustrated with the ineffectiveness of the UN-approved, NATO-enforced No Fly Zone.

One can only wonder where all this will lead. I find myself having to resist the temptation to want the US and the UN to get more directly involved in supporting the rebels, but that would be beyond the scope of the current UN resolutions. On the other hand, neither a bloody, drawn out revolution nor an unresolved stalemate seem very palatable. As has always been the case, there are no good options, only less bad ones.

But, anyway, back to the Clash. It’s interesting to look back at how the Give ’Em Enough Rope LP (and this particular song) were viewed when they came out. From the March 8, 1979 edition of Rolling Stone:

In sleepy London town, during a murky Christmas week, rock & roll is being presented as a war of class and aesthetics. At the crux of that battle is a volcanic series of four Clash concerts — including a benefit for Sid Vicious — coming swift on the heels of the group’s second album, Give ’Em Enough Rope, which entered the British charts at Number Two. Together with the Sex Pistols, the Clash helped spearhead the punk movement in Britain, along the way earning a designation as the most intellectual and political New Wave band. When the Pistols disbanded early last year, the rock press and punks alike looked to the Clash as the movement’s central symbol and hope.

The Clash have been hit recently with a wide volley of charges, ranging from an English rock-press backlash aimed at what the critics see as reckless politics, to very real criminal charges against [drummer Topper] Headon and [bassist Paul] Simonon (for shooting valuable racing pigeons) and [Mick] Jones (for alleged cocaine possession). But probably the most damaging salvo has come from their former manager, Bernard Rhodes, who, after he was fired, accused the band of betraying its punk ideals and slapped them with a potentially crippling lawsuit. Jones, in a recent interview, railed back. “We’re still the only ones true to the original aims of punk,” he said. “Those other bands should be destroyed.”

Give ’Em Enough Rope is rock & roll’s State of Siege — with a dash of Duck Soup for comic relief. Instead of reworking the tried themes of bored youth and repressive society, Strummer and Jones tapped some of the deadliest currents around, from creeping fascism at home to Palestinian terrorism. The album surges with visions of civil strife, gunplay, backbiting and lyrics that might’ve been spirited from the streets of Italy and Iran: “A system built by the sweat of the many/Creates assassins to kill off the few/Take any place and call it a courthouse/This is a place where no judge can stand.” And the music — a whirl of typhonic guitars and drums — frames those conflicts grandly.

Well, yes, the Clash were kind of radical in their politics, I suppose. But it’s worth noting that they explicitly rejected violence in their music (most notably in “Tommy Gun,” also from Give ’Em Enough Rope, a song that took terrorism head-on); and much of their leftist rage was (correctly) directed at political corruption, indifference, and the disturbing trend among western democracies (particularly the US and the UK) to support, explicitly or implicitly, brutal dictators in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and South and Central America. In retrospect, the Clash’s radicalism seems almost prosaic today, given that most thinking people flatly reject the brutal realpolitik of the Cold War. But when you consider how utterly pap-like mainstream rock music had become by the end of the 1970s, it’s no surprise the Clash’s blunt but commonsense liberalism seemed so shocking.

© 2011 David P. von Ebers. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Political Pop Quiz: Who Said It, Part II

Let’s try this again, my fellow liberals. Who said this in 2005:

The parade of evils caused by illegal immigration is widely known, and it gets worse every day. In short, illegal immigration wreaks havoc economically, socially, and culturally; makes a mockery of the rule of law; and is disgraceful just on basic fairness grounds alone. Few people dispute this, and yet nothing is done.

… There already is a “closed sign on the border” when it comes to illegal immigration. It’s called the law. The problem is that the “closed sign” isn’t being enforced because the Federal Government, which has its interfering, power-hungry hands in virtually everything else, has abdicated its duty in one of the very few areas where it was actually meant to be: border security.

But one of the most disturbing and destructive aspects of illegal immigration is that it is illegal. Indeed, that is the precise attribute which separates good immigration from bad immigration. Why should Republicans, or anyone, shy away from pointing out that illegal immigration, among its many evils, is “illegal”? That is just absurd. Moreover, it is precisely the fact that illegal immigrants enter the country illegally that spawns justifiable resentment, not only among large clusters of middle-of-the-road voters, but also among the very legal immigrant population about which [Republican strategist Laurie] Sanchez is so concerned. Emphasizing the “illegal” part of this problem is what Republicans need to do more of, not less.

Okay, this time I won’t keep you in suspense. That delicious morsel of hard-line conservative anti-immigration propaganda (oh, sorry: anti-“illegal” immigration propaganda) comes to us from none other than … Glenn Greenwald. (Courtesy of Dana Houle at Rooted Cosmopolitan.)

Yes, kids, that’s right: Yet another one of our liberal heroes has proven to be, well, not quite so inerrant as many on the left would have us believe.

Now I could spend a considerable amount of time debunking Mr. Greenwald’s assertions about “illegal” immigration – pointing out, for example, that in December 2006 Texas’ Office of the Comptroller published a comprehensive study of the effects of undocumented immigrants on the state’s economy (.pdf), concluding that undocumented immigrants added $17.7 billion to Texas’ gross state product and generated $1.58 billion in state revenue, or $420 million more than the cost of state services provided to them.

Or, I could point out that the term “illegal” immigration is, at best, clumsy and imprecise, given that for the most part being present in the United States without proper documentation isn’t actually a crime (although there are criminal penalties for bringing people into the country illegally or harboring them once they are here) – which, when you think about it, makes sense: If we don’t want people here without proper documentation, the better thing to do is to deport them rather than locking them up in jail and thereby keeping them here on the taxpayers’ dime. So, “illegal” immigration generally isn’t criminal; it’s about as illegal as, say, speeding. (And here’s an extra credit question for you: Which of these – speeding, or “illegal” immigration – was responsible for 13,192 fatalities in 2004 alone? Hint: It wasn’t “illegal” immigration. See National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, Traffic Survey Facts 2004 Data – Speeding, Table 1, p. 6 (.pdf file).)

But I’m not going to take the time to rebut each and every fallacy in Mr. Greenwald’s anti-immigration rant. Instead, I’ll just point out that what he wrote about the subject in 2005 is entirely inconsistent with my understanding of what it means to be a liberal. In fact, it’s the kind of thing you more often here from right-wing organizations like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) or VDARE – organizations the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled “hate” groups – or from extremist conservatives like former Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo. (Speaking of whom, Mr. Greenwald once chided Oliver Willis for labeling Tancredo a racist because of his strict views on immigration. Unfortunately for Mr. Greenwald, Tancredo apparently is a racist: He spent the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks hobnobbing with the neo-confederate League of the South, which isn’t exactly a non-racist thing to do.)

Anyway, here’s the irony. One of the things I used to admire about Mr. Greenwald was his slavish consistency – or what appeared to be slavish consistency – as he railed against cafeteria liberals who picked and chose the aspects of liberalism that mattered to them, often based on nothing more than political expediency. In fact, Greenwald’s accusations of hypocrisy on the part of Obama supporters has stopped me cold from time to time, forcing me to ask myself whether I was dismissing criticism of Pres. Obama when I had enthusiastically endorsed the same type of criticism of Pres. Bush. But, no – that’s not the case. I do not, in fact, support those policies of the Obama administration that are mere continuations of Bush-era mistakes (NSA warrantless wiretapping, the war in Afghanistan, the positions the administration has taken in certain lawsuits challenging Bush’s executive abuses); I do, however, accept the political realities we face and I am sometimes – maybe often – willing to accept the compromises Pres. Obama has had to make (on, say, healthcare, financial reform, the budget) because I don’t see any point in beating him up over the limitations of our current political environment. I may not like those compromises, but I accept the fact that political reality sometimes necessitates compromise.

However, it’s one thing to defend the Pres. Obama’s decisions to compromise with Republicans when that’s what political reality dictates; it’s quite another thing to affirmatively advance right-wing positions on critical issues like immigration. The former makes you a realist, for better or worse; but the latter actually makes you the kind of cafeteria liberal Greenwald’s fans purport to despise.

© 2011 David P. von Ebers. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Political Pop Quiz: Who Said It?

Okay, my fellow liberals, which 2008 Democratic presidential nominee said this:

When I’m in Congress and I look at the American Eagle that spreads its wings fifty feet across, above the floor … it’s a glass etching of an American Eagle in all of its fullness, all of its strength, its arms spread, and when I look at that I’m reminded: That American Eagle needs two wings to fly. It needs a right wing and it needs a left wing, okay? … And, now, think about this, okay. I’m talking about an administration that isn’t going to necessarily be made up of people I agree with on everything. How boring that would be. We wouldn’t have the chance to have the kinds of discussions that would get us to the best place. I want people with a great diversity of opinion so we have different ways of looking at the world. … I think that we could work with each other to talk about the direction America’s capable of, and find ways to meet a common ground. So, you know, are there Democrats that I would consider? Of course. But I want it known that as the nominee of the party, that I’d keep my options very wide open. I want our party to be able to have the broadest appeal, so that we’re not just representing one type of politics.

If you said Barack Obama, I could hardly blame you. After all, much of the “change” Candidate Obama talked about was exactly this: Reaching across the aisle, finding common ground … compromising with the other party to find solutions to our toughest problems. Indeed, that was the message that made Barack Obama a household name after the Democratic National Convention in 2004, where he delivered what might have been the most stirring key note speech ever given; and it was one of the resounding messages of his acceptance speech in at the Democratic National Convention in 2008:

[O]ne of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other’s character and patriotism.

The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America - they have served the United States of America.

America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices, and Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past. For part of what has been lost these past eight years can’t just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose - our sense of higher purpose. And that’s what we have to restore.

… This too is part of America’s promise - the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

But, no. The quote at the top of this post – the one that said America needs both a left wing and a right wing, that Democrats should be willing to compromise with the other party and so forth – that quote came from Dennis Kucinich, the guy so many of Pres. Obama’s left-wing critics hold out as The Perfect Liberal.

Yup.

Candidate Dennis Kucinich believed that the best way to run the country was to consider the views of all sides – “to have the kinds of discussions that would get us to the best place” – and to “work with each other to talk about the direction America’s capable of, and find ways to meet a common ground.” Oh, yeah. And he also rejected the idea that the Democratic Party should embrace some type of liberal orthodoxy, saying “I want our party to be able to have the broadest appeal, so that we’re not just representing one type of politics.” All of that comes from an interview Kucinich did with Free Minds TV during the 2008 campaign, and you can see the entire clip at the bottom of this post.

So, it’s kind of odd that Pres. Obama gets so much grief for doing exactly what Candidate Kucinich once advised, isn’t it?

But Rep. Kucinich said another interesting thing during that 2008 interview, and it highlights what I see as a growing problem with white liberal critics of our first African American president. In that interview, Kucinich said he would consider choosing Ron Paul as his running mate if he, Kucinich, were to get the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, because Paul, according to Kucinich, is “someone who has integrity, he has a vision, has courage …”

Of course, Ron Paul also has a checkered past, about which I can only assume Rep. Kucinich is well aware. After all, I’m aware of it, and I haven’t been a congressional colleague of Ron Paul since 1997. In a lengthy diary posted May 15, 2007, Daily Kos contributor phenry reviewed a series of disturbing newsletters published by Ron Paul in the 1980s and 1990s under various names, including The Ron Paul Political Report and The Ron Paul Survival Report, which, according to Daily Kos, “would come to [be] feature[d] in the stable of ‘underground’ publications and photocopied ‘zines’ that fed the nascent ‘patriot movement’ that arose in the early 1990s … .”

By way of example, the Daily Kos diary cites “a 1992 piece titled ‘LOS ANGELES RACIAL TERRORISM,’ on the subject of the so-called Rodney King riots in South Central Los Angeles in 1991,” containing these horrifically racist statements (emphasis supplied by Daily Kos):

Regardless of what the media tell us, most white Americans are not going to believe that they are at fault for what blacks have done to cities across America. The professional blacks may have cowed the elites, but good sense survives at the grass roots. Many more are going to have difficultly avoiding the belief that our country is being destroyed by a group of actual and potential terrorists -- and they can be identified by the color of their skin. This conclusion may not be entirely fair, but it is, for many, entirely unavoidable.

Indeed, it is shocking to consider the uniformity of opinion among blacks in this country. Opinion polls consistently show that only about 5% of blacks have sensible political opinions, i.e. support the free market, individual liberty, and the end of welfare and affirmative action.... Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the “criminal justice system,” I think we can safely assume that 95% of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.

For more on Ron Paul’s bigoted newsletters, see “Angry White Man,” by James Kirchick, in the January 8, 2008 edition of The New Republic.

Now, it’s important to point out that we don’t know whether Ron Paul himself actually authored the more virulent articles contained in his newsletters. As both the Kirchick piece and the Daily Kos diary point out, Paul has issued contradictory denials (first saying that his words were “taken out of context,” then denying that he was the author of the specific pieces at all, although they were not attributed to anyone else). So, Kirchick reaches, I think, the right conclusion:

[W]hoever actually wrote them, the newsletters I saw all had one thing in common: They were published under a banner containing Paul’s name, and the articles (except for one special edition of a newsletter that contained the byline of another writer) seem designed to create the impression that they were written by him--and reflected his views. What they reveal are decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays. In short, they suggest that Ron Paul is not the plain-speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they are backing--but rather a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics.

But, so, here’s the point. Rep. Kucinich is one of Pres. Obama’s loudest critics (even though Candidate Kucinich essentially endorsed Pres. Obama’s approach to the presidency); and he’s clearly the darling of the disaffected left these days. Yet, Kucinich seems to have no problem with Ron Paul’s racist, bigoted past. Of course that doesn’t make Dennis Kucinich a racist; I’m 100% confident he’s not. But he, like a fair number of other white liberal critics of our first African American president, is often utterly clueless on issues of race – and that’s not helping bring our side together.

Here, by the way, is the interview:

© 2011 David P. von Ebers. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Separated At Birth?

Thibodeau (left) and Thomas (right)

From the moment the Chicago Bulls hired Tom Thibodeau as the franchise’s eighteenth head coast last June, he looked eerily familiar to me. And then it hit me: He’s a dead-ringer for legendary Chicago children’s television personality, Frazier Thomas, who hosted various kids’ shows on WGN-TV, most notably Garfield Goose and Friends – a television staple from the 1950s into the mid-1970s – and the Chicago version of Bozo’s Circus from 1976 to 1985.

It’s appropriate that Thibodeau is a throwback, given that he’s got this year’s Bulls playing like the Bulls of old – but he’s not that much of a throwback. In fact, these Bulls are looking more and more like the Bulls of the 1990s, the team that won six NBA titles in eight years.

Now I’m not saying that the Bulls are going win the NBA Finals this year, but given the Blackhawks’ dismal playoff run so far (after winning last year’s Stanley Cup), we need something to cheer us up:

Sigh. Those were the days:

Bob: Ok Gentleman, the Bulls are preparing to defend their crown, and gentleman, the only question is not will they repeat, but how many times?

Pat: You know, I don’t think were talking a repeat, a three peat, or even a four peat.

Carl: That’s right, were talking a minimum eight peat.

Todd: Absolutely.

Well, the Bulls of the 1990s didn’t eight-peat, but they did win championships in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997 and 1998. So they six-peated. Or, they three-peated twice. They two-peated the three-peat. Or something.

And now it’s time to tee it up again.

Your Chicago Bulls: Repeat the Six-Peat.™

© 2011 David P. von Ebers. All rights reserved.