Sunday, September 20, 2009

October Equality March + Carter's Comments + Sports Roundup

A while back I believed I'd mentioned that I'd heard there'd be a march in Washington for Marriage Equality this fall. One of my former students, sailor and author Miriam (of the bread recipes, who also introduced me to "fan fic"!), asked that I post a more definitive link to the event, Equality Across America, which is set to take place on October 10-11. I don't think I'll be able to attend, because I'll be returning from a black LGBTQ lit conference in Austin, but everyone who supports true and real equality should attend if they can.

As you also may know, earlier this week Congressman Jerrold Nadler proposed repealing the abominable Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). If this is an issue that matters to you, please do call or email your Congressperson to urge her or him to consider cosponsoring and supporting this bill (along with the public option, investigations into the Bush-Cheney torture regime, repeal of the Patriot Act and Big Oil subsidies, ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and anything else you believe is pertinent).


The right-wing and mainstream corporate media's (MCM) hyperventilating reactions to President Jimmy Carter's statement that racism underlines a great deal of the conservative outrage towards President Barack Obama and his policies do not surprise me at all. Any thoughtful or considered discussion of race, let alone racism, in the wider media always dissipates like iron steam. What frustrates me, however, is the MCM's continual conflation of "race" with "racism," and their focus on the former, rather than the latter. The MCM cannot seem to untangle the two, willfully I often think, because speaking about the former allows them a way out of addressing the pervasiveness of the latter. Speaking about the latter might also force them to register several premises, which include that those in the MCM also belong to certain races and have experiences shaped by this fact, and that in regular social and political discourse, some people are raced and some are not, and that doing so often occurs through the prism of racism. What's I also find frustrating is the way that the MCM reduces every issue to numbing simplicity, especially when "race" is broached, and in doing so attempts to attribute it to a single cause, as if truly complex economic, political and social phenomena were as easily diagnosed as the mumps.

Bob Somerby, for many years now, and Glenn Greenwald and others more recently have been pointing out that the right wing, with tremendous MCM help, fomented extreme hatred against our last Democratic president, Bill Clinton. (One could go further back, of course; shortly before Kennedy's assassination, "Wanted" posters went up in parts of Dallas.) Almost immediately upon Clinton's election, the nutcases, often funded by extremely wealthy individual and corporate interests, some of the same ones behind the Teabaggers, did everything they could to ruin Clinton's presidency, often in conjunction with the Republican opposition. If anyone thinks it's possible to minimize the craziness Clinton faced, culminating the multiyear, multimillion-dollar investigation, aided eagerly by The New York Times, and for which both President Clinton and Hillary Clinton were exonerated, just recall the ultimate GOP-led act, the attempted impeachment in 1998. I can vividly remember when the uproar among Democrats from that insane spectacle seemed so great as to ever prevent anyone from the GOP ever winning the presidency again, and yet a year later, the GOP and MCM (reporters and columnists at the NY Times and Washington Post, figures from NBC, Fox, etc.) began their "War on Gore," and we ended up with the Supreme Court coup that installed the disaster known as George W. Bush on us.

I mention this history because while I am--as are, I'm sure, quite a few people around the US--quite aware that racism and white supremacy are always in operation in this society, I do believe that attributing the current derangements of the right solely or even primarily to racism denies this prior history, which was still firmly in place when Clinton left office. Racism, while a major source, is still only one of many behind the behavior on display at the town hall rallies, the recent Teabagger rally in Washington, and above all, on the right-wing/corporate propaganda headquarters-channel, Fox News. Had Hillary Clinton won, we wouldn't be seeing the same sort of direct racist and racialist animus (the Curious George T-shirts, the "birther" push, the signs of Obama as a witch doctor, etc.), though racism would be in the mix, as it was during the Clinton years (remember the obsessive push to end welfare, even though corporate welfare reached insane heights under Bush, and affirmative action, which, studies in the late 1990s showed, primarily benefited white women?). With a President Hillary in office, we probably would be seing even more and outlandish displays of sexism and misogyny, and not just from the right, but from the MCM, whose members (Chris Matthews is notorious) have long been among the worst offenders. But attacks on undocumented immigrants and "producerist" arguments, prettified by the likes of David Brooks, wouldn't be unthinkable.

Let me be clear: my aim is not to minimize the particular foci of some of the worst attacks on Obama, but to note that we had the militias, the anti-government nuts, the millenialists, and so on in full force from 1992-2000, alongside a GOP Congressional caucus that took political and personal destruction of the sitting president and complete repeal of the New Deal legacy as its organizing principle. Newt Gingrich did not simply want to stop Clinton's presidency in its tracks, he wanted to shred Clinton personally. Think of some of the most outspoken figures on the right during the impeachment drama and the revelation of Clinton's affair. When their efforts failed repeatedly, this led, as we now see, to even more thuggish tactics, such as installing a president and Congress, by hook or crook (or voting machine) who could just dynamite the government entirely. According to a recent Census report, according to almost every economic indicator the vast majority of Americans finished the 8 years of Bush's presidency worse off than before. The wealthiest .1 percent and many corporate interests--or at least the people running them, if not the shareholders--were the economic losers.

To quote The Atlantic on this topic:

On every major measurement, the Census Bureau report shows that the country lost ground during Bush's two terms. While Bush was in office, the median household income declined, poverty increased, childhood poverty increased even more, and the number of Americans without health insurance spiked. By contrast, the country's condition improved on each of those measures during Bill Clinton's two terms, often substantially.

The Census' final report card on Bush's record presents an intriguing backdrop to today's economic debate. Bush built his economic strategy around tax cuts, passing large reductions both in 2001 and 2003. Congressional Republicans are insisting that a similar agenda focused on tax cuts offers better prospects of reviving the economy than President Obama's combination of some tax cuts with heavy government spending. But the bleak economic results from Bush's two terms, tarnish, to put it mildly, the idea that tax cuts represent an economic silver bullet.
I'm hardly saying anything that most J's Theater readers don't already know, but I mention this record, all but buried by the MCM (tell me, when have you seen any of the major "liberal" or "progressive" MCM reporters or columnists discuss this record at any length, to inform the majority of people out there what's going on) to say that one of the great sources of the rage on display at last weekend's rally, is ignorance, which the MCM have only helped to deepen rather than dispel.

The reasons behind this are numerous, but one central one is that corporate interests (just like our Congress, which willingly works hand in glove with them) benefit by keeping people as misinformed as possible. There is also, as this telling clip of CNBC's scandal-plagued anchor Maria Bartiromo demonstrates, the fact of media personalities' own gross ignorance (again, cf. Chris Matthews). But rather than go on, I'll post the clip below, which has been making its rounds on the Net. It illustrates perhaps more powerfully than anything I might say here what I'm talking about. Please watch it till the end, because it shows, for a rare change, a reporter breaking the supposedly objective, journalistic frame and politely stating and clarifying facts for some of these people. Unfortunately, this happens so very rarely that it's hard not to be cynical. Whatever the source of the MCM's ongoing silence, it's a major problem and will continue to be for the rest of Obama's (or any Democrat's) terms. What's even more unfortunate is that I don't get the sense that he or many in his team, like many in Congress, have any clue or, worse, care at all about this. The results, however, could be something worse than the Bush administration. Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Jim DeMint, Rick Santorum, and any number of other very dangerous characters are lurking out there, and with a heavily corporated-funded campaign with pseudo-populist aspects, we'd all be in very serious trouble. 2001-2008 might end up looking like the Coolidge years.

(Please watch to the end to see the reporter challenge the protesters' ignorance.)


Mark SanchezOn the sports tip, the New York Jets have started the NFL season 2-0, defeating their nemeses, the New England Patriots 16-9 today, preventing a comeback by the media darling Tom Brady. The Big Green have a sharp new coach, Rex Ryan, and one of the most talented young quarterbacks in the league, rookie Mark Sanchez (at right, Nick Laham/Getty Images) of USC. The Jets don't have the toughest schedule this season, so they could conceivably go 12-4 or 13-3. That is, if they can keep playing like they are now, or even improve. Then the playoffs will be more than a mirage.

The Saint Louis Rams, however, are 0-2, losing 9-7 to a shaky Washington squad, and look no better than their 2-14 predecessors of last season. In fact, they look worse. 10 years ago they were known as the league's highest scoring teams, with iffy defense. Now they have middling defense and no scoring capability at all. Their quarterback is sacked at will, they cannot convert drives into runs, and they make countless mistakes game after game. I am starting to think the new ownership may be trying to once again ship a team out of St. Louis towards more financially beneficial (southern California?) climes. Looking at their schedule, they face both pushover and tough teams (though no AFC East teams, nor the Giants or Eagles, thankfully), but they still could conceivably go 0-16. They do meet the Detroit Lions at midseason, so a 1-15 outcome isn't impossible.

CC SabathiaIn the MLB, the Yankees have the best record in the AL, at 95-55. Perennial All Star Derek Jeter has broken Lou Gehrig's team hit record, CC Sabathia (at right, AP) is powering his way to a Cy Young Award at 18-7, and the team overall, like the finely tuned machine it has been for long stretches over its history, is humming along under manager Joe Girardi. The other top teams in the AL are the Boston Red Sox, who lead the Wild Card race (again), the Detroit Tigers, and the mouthful but ever talented Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Yankees and the Angels are the teams to beat, but the Red Sox are always dangerous.

In the NL, the Saint Louis Cardinals are again atop the NL West, though they don't have the league's best record. That honor goes to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Cardinals do, however, have the league's best pitching--two starters, Adam Wainwright (18-8, 2.59 ERA), and Chris Carpenter (16-4, 2.43 ERA), are leading contenders for the NL Cy Young--and its best overall hitter in Albert Pujols (47 home runs, 119 runs scored, 127 runs batted in, .328 average), a latter day Stan Musial. He and the pitching have kept the team afloat; the last week the Cardinals have staggered more than swaggered. The Dodgers, however, have more balance across their lineup, and could be dangerous in the playoffs. The other top teams are the East leaders, the Philadelphia Phillies, last year's World Series champions, who look powerful enough to go all the way, and the current Wild Card leading Colorado Rockies, who always have a strong home-field advantage and great batters. I'm rooting for the Cardinals, but this quartet is a toss-up.

The Cardinals vs. the Yankees (which last occurred in 1964, with the Cardinals winning four games to three) would be my preferred World Series matchup. Will it happen? Let's see.

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