Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hillary to Museveni: You Need To Settle Down!

In all the buzz about the Uganda's anti-homosexuality genocide bill, some interesting American political connections surfaced. MSNBC's Rachel Maddow brought our attention to James Inhoffe, a GOP Senator, and Pastor Rick Warren who had both been traveling to Uganda and frequently advising Ugandan leaders on the subjects of HIV, Homosexuality and Birth Control.

Harper's magazine and
NPR turned their attention to "The Family" - a clandestine group of government and business leaders who gather in secrecy and have some very strange views on Jesus and capitalism. Two of the people mentioned in connection with "The Family" who are most relevant to the situation in Uganda were the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni and US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. According to most sources, Museveni is a known member of "The Family" while Clinton was merely a close friend to the group's leader, Douglas Coe.

Museveni is mostly described as favoring the anti-gay genocide bill and is widely distrusted among human rights activists who disagree with his handling of the Lord's Resistance Army by supposedly mimicking their grotesque human rights abuses which included mutilation, torture, murder and rape. Another blemish on Museveni's record is his fondness of "storing" victimized people in what amounts to concentration camps.

When the
controversy over the deadly bill reached its boiling point in the blogosphere, people began speculating as to whether or not "The Family" was using Uganda as testing grounds for a new holocaust and if that was the case, whether or not Clinton was implicated. Speculation is all that comes from these discussions, since the group is, by nature, secretive.

On World AIDS Day, Clinton affirmed that “We have to stand against any efforts to marginalize and criminalize and penalize members of the LGBT community worldwide. It is an unacceptable step backwards on behalf of human rights.” That statement, however, was too general to be applied specifically to Uganda. Nevertheless, Clinton did eventually respond to the Uganda controversy directly, albeit in a cryptic way by saying that she and the Obama administration have addressed the problem to Uganda's leaders in both "direct ways and indirect ways" and that she viewed the pending legislation to be a "potential" threat to Human Rights.

But Hillary Clinton must be a woman of her word, because Museveni has now affirmed to the Ugandan Parlaiment that "foreign policy issues" are at stake and the parlaiment must "slow down" on their legislative persecution of homosexuals. According to the Global Post, Museveni confessed that he had been urged against the bill by Hillary Clinton (USA) and Gordon Brown (UK).

So, it seems that if Hillary Clinton does indeed have any connection to "The Family" she is putting it to good use at effective diplomacy. But lest you think she's merely catching flies with honey in Uganda, let me remind you who Yoweri Museveni is dealing with:

Raw Hillary Power Unleashed

As per usual, one nation has gone much further toward protecting human rights in Uganda than the United States has, and that would be Sweden.
Sweden directly and publicly threatened to cut off all aid to Uganda if the bill becomes law. President Obama could withhold PEPFAR funding from Uganda under the same conditions but a smarter approach might be to first restrict Uganda from using the funds for anything except direct medical care. As of right now, the loosely regulated millions go toward everything from infrastructure and religious education to law enforcement.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Seven False Gods of the Right Wing

7. Nationalism - Throughout history, Nationalism has usually been the driving motivator for war, fascism and all sorts of other reactionary misdeeds. Nationalism is a hyper-idealized view of one's country in which the nationalist ascribes their own sense of morality to the foundation of the entire nation. Usually dressing itself as ordinary patriotism, Nationalism is far more feverish and irrational than simply being a fan of the government. It is the result of mass propaganda, fear and an erasure of the lines that usually separate business, media, religion and government.

6. Charity - It has been said that Republicans give more to "charity" than Democrats do and I'm inclined to believe it. In fact, our charitable donation system in America seems specifically designed for the purpose of justifying that statement. The fact is, things get much worse when you indiscriminately throw money at your television screen. Religious charitable funds are some of the biggest and most unregulated industries in the world and many of them do as much harm as good. Mormon adoptions of underprivileged children from over seas are largely a justified version of human trafficking< and just recently, CBN (the Christian Broadcasting Network) told their donors that Haiti had caused its own earthquake destruction by signing a pact with the Devil. The network drew in millions of dollars in one week and much of that funding will go toward furthering their own presence and infrastructure in the small, underprivileged nation. Very little (if any) of the donations will actually help the people of Haiti.

5. Racialism - Racialism is the thought process that skirts around racism and disguises itself as harmless observation of racial differences. The most important thing to understand about racialism is that even when the racialist appears to be only pointing out racism in others, they are obsessed with it. Their first instinct is always to discuss race. Their hypersensitivity and bizarre misunderstandings generally give them away as outright racists in the end. A classic example of this was when a young John McCain campaigner named Ashley Todd cooked up false accusations about a ficticious black male Obama campaign worker who supposedly assaulted her by cutting a letter "B" into her face. The story was immediately picked up by Fox News and celebrated within Republican ranks as a sure-fire win for McCain in the 2008 election. The idea was that voters would react in a racist manner by associating Miss Todd's "attacker" with the skin tone and gender of Barack Obama. So while Miss Todd could simply indicate that the man who "savagely" attacked her was black, that unto itself would not be perceived as racist... except for the fact that she made it all up.

4. Public Opinion - Republicans and Conservatives are married to the idea that a majority of Americans agree with them. They love to indicate polls and percentages of "true Americans" who think exactly as they do. Truthfully, the general public can manipulated to believe just about anything. Certain people in the media have developed an intimate understanding of how propaganda can be used to create the illusion that mob rule is the law in America. The most glaring example of this is CNN's Nancy Grace. Nancy Grace runs a gossip show on CNN where she focuses on muders, rapes and abductions. She leads her viewers down a path of mob rule in which they feel as though they can investigate these matters from the comfort of their living rooms. The problem with Nancy Grace's style of entertainment is that her viewers rarely suspect that her show is simply entertainment. Nancy Grace fans feel as though they are actually doing the work of judge, jury and executioner and they hand down a guilty verdict every single time. The result of an actual trial matters very little to these people. It is the court of public opinion that they aim to try cases in. It's basically a mass-media form of public flogging and shunning without a trial, evidence or proof. Guilty until proven innocent, every single time.

3. Oil - One of the most shocking revelations of the 2008 election season was when video was leaked on to YouTube of Alaska's then-governor leading her hometown in prayer for a gas pipeline. To many right-wingers, there was nothing wrong with this scene and it all seemed quite normal to them. They even chanted "drill baby drill" as a campaign slogan of sorts. What resulted was a shockwave in the larger community of educated persons - the sudden realization that Republicans had created a new religion in which God & Oil had been merged into one holy concept. This also includes, of course, Global Warming Denialism and a celebration of private ownership over natural resources. Incidentally, that brings us to the 2nd False God of the Right Wing...

2. The Corporation - What can be said for a situation where Republican traders at an energy company laugh at elderly Bush voters and say they can go fuck themselves because their electricity has inexplicably gone out but the company got what it wanted? Well, this is exactly the situation shown with shocking clarity in the documentary calledEnron: The Smartest Guys in The Room. Republicans used to openly argue for what's called "deregulation" - a process of removing government restraints and safety nets on corporations. These days, they disguise deregulation as Independent Regulation which is not really regulation at all. To put it in simpler terms - they appoint the fox to guard the henhouse. Another interesting Republican tool is to disguise large multi-national conglomerates in terms that sound less severe, making the public think that they are protecting "small businesses" and somehow deregulating in favor of Ma & Pa shops in the American countryside. Nothing could be further from the truth.

1. Sexual Purity - This is the number 1 false God of the Right Wing because it is the most powerful. Everywhere you go in America, you are met with people who confuse virginity with innocence and religion with heterosexism. But there are contradictions to be found in this view of reality. For instance, Salt Lake City Utah, the epicenter of Mormonism, is the capitol of online pornography consumerism in the United States. Furthermore, those who protest sexual impurity the loudest are invariably caught with their pants down at any given moment. Two of the most devastating examples can be found in the cases of Ted Haggard (the disgraced President of the National Association of Evangelicals) and Carrie Prejean (the disgraced leader of the "opposite marriage" movement). But the real reason that Sexual Purity is number 1 on the list is because the consequences of worshiping this false god are the most deadly. In recent news, the Republic of Uganda has decided to implement the death penalty for persons who are charged with what they call "aggravated homosexuality" and prison sentences for anyone who refuses to testify against the behavior.

As a Buddhist myself, I cannot tell you which God to follow. I have no desire to influence your religious or spiritual life other than to indicate what I know does NOT work. The Seven False Gods of the Right Wing have shown themselves to be nothing more than snake oil and should be viewed with heightened skepticism in America. Namaste.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Bizarre Self-Abusing Psyche of Michael Steele

In this photo: Michael Steele strikes his best The Mainstream Media was all a flux with the latest diversion from the Proposition 8 trial at the beginning of this week: Another non-scandal dreamt up by Karl Rove - The Harry Reid talking point.
The GOP had hoped that it would turn into something big enough that they could call "Negro-gate".

Alas, as usual with the Republican Party, it blew up in their faces when Michael Steele was interviewed by Face To Face with John Ralston. Steele did his best to perpetuate the latest accusation against the Democratic Party but what resulted was a stunning revelation that Steele himself is an anti-black racist who just happens to be black. Furthermore, he seems to hold a significant amount of jealousy against the President for a perceived ability to "pass" as white.

Many liberals have regarded Steele's entire chairmanship to be a desperate attempt by the Republican Party to prove a lack of racism within their ranks. Although history and commentary illustrates otherwise, Steele's participation in the GOP must still at least represent some modicum of acceptance, right?

Let's go straight to the interview:

Ralston: "You didn't think Trent Lott should step down for his remarks? You think he used a poor choice of words? But you think Harry Reid should step down?"

Steele: "Yes. When THEY [The Democrats] get caught, it's a quick apology, everyone pats eachother on the back, they roll out a few African Americans to defend them,and everything's good. But if a Republican says something like Trent Lott, he's gotta be drummed out of office [...]
I know Trent Lott, I don't know Harry Reid.
I don't think anybody in leadership in 2010 should refer to an African American as "light-skinned" and with a "negro" dialect that they can turn off and on."

Ralston: But isn't what Lott said [in 2002] that essentially if Strom Thurmond, who ran on a segregationist agenda, had been elected President that this country would be better off?

Steele: "I don't know what would have happened in 1948 but [Lott and Senate Republicans] were at a Birthday Party and the leader of the Senate was only saying nice things about the honoree [Strom Thurmond]. And all they do in Washington is pat eachother on the back and give eachother nice platitudes. [Lott] just got caught between his happy talk and the reality. So, I think [Democrats] are absolutely being hypocritical because this isn't 1948 or 2005. This is a different mindset and a different time. You have an African American running for President and all you can say about him is that he's light-skinned... You know, in the context that he could pass. You know... that's what [Reid] is really saying, he could pass..."

Now, as any gay person can tell you, there is always a small segment of any minority who tries to "play it straight" and identify themselves with the majority while ignoring their own minority status. In the gay world, we call this "being in the closet". In the black world, it's called "being an Uncle Tom". What Steele is doing here falls so far beyond the pale (excuse my pun) that he actually becomes racist against his own race.

Let's review:

Steele: The Democrats "roll out a few African Americans" to defend themselves.
(So he thinks that blacks cannot decide for themselves what to say or whom to defend.)

Steele: But when someone "says something like Trent Lott", they have to be drummed out of office. (So he thinks Segregation is defensible and that Trent Lott's comment was just fine.)

Steele: "This isn't 1948 or 2005" - it's a "different time".
(So 1948 and 2005 are in the same era as far as Steele is concerned, time moves much slower for him. And the age of a black President represents a drastically different era in his world.)

Steele: "I don't think anybody should say that he's light-skinned", "All you can say about him is that he's Light-Skinned."
(So the operative phrase that bothers Steele so much here is not the word "Negro" but rather "light-skinned". Evidently, Steele doesn't remember that our President is half white and chooses to focus only on the tone of his skin. It really bothers him. He's jealous.)

Steele: "You know... He could pass."
(This is the final analysis. Barack Obama (in Steele's view) could pass as white. According to Steele's messed up mindset, it's all about fitting in with white people. Steele believes that Obama has an edge in this strange competition that he's imagined. He feels robbed. After all, if you are willing to (as a black man) chair the Republican Party and defend segregation, that must count for something, right?)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

And The Band Played On...

I’ve been looking for a cultural-anthropological expression for a while.

During that time I’ve watched Jarrett be politically active and read what he writes about.
Jarrett and I have known each other awhile- sorta well, mutual friends, that sorta thing. I’m older and used to be politically involved. While I’ve grown cynical, hope isn’t dead entirely, yet. When I suggested writing on his blog he was amenable. We may not always agree and we may play off each other. So here I am.

I chose to write under the pseudonym “Titanic Observer “as I may want to say more outrageous things than I normally would; I do have a job and clients, and a family. So far, no criminal record, though.

Then I chose the name because- we’ve hit the iceberg, folks. That’s done. Damage control is being exercised all around us, frantically, but it’s all rearranging the deck chairs. So that will allow me to point out elements of d├ęcor and style, as we observe this comedy of manners. I’m observing it, of course, from the 1st Class deck. Most of those people will be ok- that’s generally the way it goes.
There are several decks below; 2nd Class, Third, Steerage (you’ve all seen the movie).

There are only so many life boats aboard, and of course, they’re mainly on the 1/st class level:

Lobbyists earn healthy fees from bill
DAILY Business Review, Dec 31, 2009

By: Carrie Levine

"President Obama may have shunned lobbyists, but he gave them a big gift with his health-care plan.

From the moment he proposed overhauling the health-care system in February, the industry turned to K Street to help shape the plan.

It has been, without a doubt, the biggest lobbying campaign of 2009. Health care has translated into nearly $400 million spent on lobbying through September of this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Among the biggest winners: the Podesta Group reported $5.8 million in fees from clients lobbying on health issues in the first three quarters of 2009; Patton Boggs reported $6.9 million; Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck reported $1.32 million; and Holland & Knight reported $2.76 million.”

There are 435 members of Congress and 100 members in the Senate- that’s 535 members of Congress. Divide that into $400 million and it comes out to $747,663.55 per member, more or less. So who do you suppose is gonna benefit from Health Care “overhaul”? Let me point out the really expensive shoes moving about the slightly shaky deck @ the top of the ship; the dresses, the suits, costing thousands. It’s cool so we see some sable, fox-fur’s back in style- and some huge stones on the men and women. Absolutely fabulous! I leave this tableau as stewards arrange some chairs for their charges to wait for the life boats to be loosened (their families are, alas, in 2nd Class).