Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Brits'-Eye View of Our Sucky Political Pundits

Hadley Freeman is an American whose job it is to interpret everyday Americana for Guardian readers; so late last week, she took it upon herself to interpret that peculiarity that our political pundits are, for the Great British Public - because, you know, their political commentators actually do have a background in politics and political journalism. In the UK, you won't have Ricky Gervais making political statements, only to insert foot in mouth and shove and then claim the comedian defence.

You can read the full article, which is organised against the backdrop of the Trayvon Martin murder here. You really should, because the bulk of the article is about Rush and Bill-O and Geraldo Rivera and all the boys at Fox. Sad, really, because I actually remember when Geraldo Rivera was a cutting edge newsman on the then-fledgling Good Morning, America way back in the 1970s.

Oh, well ...

But our Hadley's an equal opportunity finger-pointer as well, as her last two paragraphs in the piece indicate, citing Charter Leftwing members of the Bipartisan Political Pundits' He-Man Woman-Haters' Club, Ed Schultz and Bill Maher and the real reason all of these asshats exist in the common sphere:-

Not that the leftwing Commentariat are much better behaved. Ridiculous blowhard Ed Schultz (MSNBC and radio) last year called a female radio host "a rightwing slut" while the often-brilliant-but-sometimes-not Bill Maher (HBO) used the c-word to describe Sarah Palin – which is almost more offensive in its laziness than its linguistic abuse. Yet the right wing is more important because, for whatever reason, they actually seem to hold sway over their political party, as proven by the GOP presidential candidates refusing to condemn Limbaugh's comments about Fluke.

If you ever wondered why and how political discourse in the US became so partisan, base and downright stupid, behold the Commentariat, and the way they have callously used Martin for their own self-publicity illustrates nicely their modus operandi, namely: "I'll say anything if it keeps me in the limelight and makes me money." If that isn't the definition of celebrity, I'll eat my remote control.

And just for good measure, here are some Guardianistas' take on my particular bete noire, Maher. I've been saying for years, to much consternation, that Maher is neither a liberal nor any friend of Liberals or the Liberal cause. Sometimes, the Brits amaze me in their perspicacity, because they can see through the disguise.

From Haigin88:

Both Ed Schultz and Bill Maher have right-wing backgrounds - Maher might have supported the great Ralph Nader in 2000 but I think he supported Republican candidate Bob Dole in 1996 and sometimes calls himself 'libertarian' on some issues while that tiresome bag of hot air Ed Schultz started as a right-winger before his (strategic?) later move.

(Entirely correct).

From Martin1000:

I love Hadley's articles, as I think they are normally very funny. However, this article is not funny. I do not blame Hadley for this, but rather the shocking state of news coverage here in the US. I teach political science at the university level in the US and have done so for a number of years, but I cannot watch the news here anymore, as it is so bad. I cannot ask my students to watch the news, as it is so bad. Instead, I listen to the BBC news on the radio and when I stay in the UK I watch as much Newsnight and Daily Politics as I can.

From Moionfire:

I don't want people thinking what is on the cable news programs is actually refelective of the opinions of everyday americans. Simply put, the cable news channels want ratings, and they do this by acting like tabloids. I think the government needs to step in and put standards like most countries do. Keep in mind that the FCC only regulates broadcast networks(abc, nbc, cbs) news--- not cable.

From Mistressofsome:

The American news is impossible to watch, and I don't mean just the Fox bile... I mean all of it. MSNBC is an awkward teenager in its desire to be liked and asked to prom, CNN is a middle school student's essay about Why I Want to be President with some bad CGI attached, and anything on PBS is just mind-numbingly beige.

If one wants to see the news from an American source, one has to turn to the comedy news (Stewart and Colbert) or those young punks on the internets! The Young Turks have a decent youtube channel in that they at least ask decent questions. But but but, even the watchable news coverage is underscored with what America loves most... noise. Everyone's yelling, but few are actually saying anything of note. American news needs the same treatment their suppers need. Smaller portions.

And from tcollins:

Bill Maher brilliant? Bill Maher "doesn't believe in" vaccines.

And the last word from forfucksake:-

when is bill maher brilliant? he tries to be like George Carlin but he doesn't have 1/25 of the intelligence and 1/100 of the courage. i still remember him after 9/11, he was nothing but a cheerleader for the bush administration, now he's trying to restyle himself as left-wing, which is fuckin hilarious.

As ever, articulate.

Wherein the British Conservative Party, Just Like the Republicans, Spreads Irrational Fear and Creates a Crisis

Britain has an employment problem. Yes, there's high unemployment, and it's getting higher. And they certainly have an immigration problem - both illegal and legal. Their employment problem's been poodling along for about eight years now, and it concerns the legal immigrants. Oh, and it was created by a Labour government, who should have known better. (And the Brits say the Americans don't understand irony).

The problem is this: Back in 2004, the European Union opened membership to seven countries who'd been part and parcel of the old Soviet bloc, amongst the Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. A lot of people from countries already in the EU, sounded an alarm. These new EU citizens would have the right to work in any member country without a work permit. Many people, in Germany, Italy and France (and let's not forget that the EU was created solely for the benefit of bettering France and Germany), were worried that an influx of workers from the old Eastern Europe would flood into Western European countries seeking employment. Businesses being businesses and in the business of making money, would snap these people up - basically, because they would work for lower wages than the citizens of the Western European countries.

So places like Germany, Italy and France imposed limits on the number of legal immigrants they would allow into their own countries - you have to look after your own first, right?

Did Britain, then under the leadership of that nice Tony Blair? In a word, no. There were no immigration limits set, although Blair anticipated that not more than 500,000 per year would arrive, and that they'd only be interested in doing the jobs most Brits wouldn't touch - things like cleaning and waiting tables and the like.


They came in millions and they were hired in millions, to such a degree that they were hired in preference to Brits. They spoke the language better, they were more polite and they worked harder for less. So wages were driven down. And the result was that around 500 foreign workers per day found work in Britain last year whilst unemployment amongst British workers rose.

In some instances, British workers are made redundant in order to employ legal foreigners.

Another good thing businesses like about the Eastern bloc legal workers is that they are totally disinclined to join a union of any sort - and that's ironic too, especially for the Poles, who were led from behind the Iron Curtain by, yes, a trade union leader.

The Easter holiday is upon us here in the UK. Not for any religious reason, but it signifies the beginning of the holiday season, proper. The schools shut on Friday for a two-week holiday, the weather's been high and hot enough for the Brits to parade pasty fish-flesh about for all and sundry to see, and people will, naturally, take to the roads.

So, about a week ago, the trade union UNITE, which covers professional haulage drivers, started making noises about tanker drivers, those who ensure that gas stations are provided with fuel for which people pay the equivalent of nine dollars a gallon, threatening to go on strike over the Easter holiday. The reason? More and more oil firms were cutting costs and maximising profits by hiring (legal) foreign drivers - people who don't speak English and many of whom, whilst experienced drivers, know nothing about this particular part of the industry. The union cited Health and Safety measures as a means for striking.

Now, the Conservative governnment, headed by that nice David Cameron and that roly-poly, little bat-faced boy, George Osborne - neither of whom has ever worked a day in their lives and neither of whom have any sort of warm, fuzzy feelings about unions or, really, workers in general, decided to meet the possibility of a strike head-on in inimitable (modern) British fashion.

They panicked.

You see, about ten years ago, there was a similar tanker strike in the UK, which actually happened, and gas stations actually did run out of fuel. So, rather than have that terrible occurrence occur again on their watch - the last time, it was on Tony's - they wheeled out the Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude, in order to give the country, via the media, a little common-sense pep talk.

(Right ... keep in mind that "Conservatives" plus "common sense" plus "British people" all put together in one bag and shaken, not stirred, equals potential catastrophe.)

Francis Maude is as patrician as that nice David Cameron and fat boy frat boy George Osborne. His name sounds it, and he looks it. He's from the aristocracy - the old aristocracy. If he were Virginian, he'd be a paid-up charter member of the FFV (First Families of Virginia). If he were from New York, he'd be a Rockefeller or a Roosevelt or even an Astor. Somewhere along the line, he's probably related to the Queen and Dubya Bush. In short, like that nice David Cameron and Georgie-Porgie-Pudding-and-Pie, he's never worked a day in his life. And were he standing behind Mitt Romney when Mitt said he wasn't overly concerned about poor people, Francis would have fucking kissed Mitt.

So, out comes Francis, full of beans and British confidence, and advises, advises people to take precautions in the event that the wicked, evil union calls a strike. First, they should always be prepared. Fill up their cars, and as the gas gauge hits half-a-tank, pull in and fill up again. And, secondly, dig out a jerry can and fill that up. Keep it either in the trunk of your car or in your garage in case there is a strike and the gas stations run dry.

Now, considering the sheepability and low level of critical thinking amongst the peasants British public, this was the equivalent of waving a red flag to a bull - especially some wise wag in the British media reckoned the strike would start on Friday, just as the schools shut and people began the great British migration over the Easter holidays.

Panic! Panic! Horde alert! Greed alert! Every man for himself, and I'm-all-right-Jack-fuck-you!

Thursday saw humongous queues at gas stations across the land, some with lines forming five miles deep. The British public, ever so keen to look after their own asses (sorry, arses) but not too keen on looking after their neighbours (which is why they elected Cameron), not only filled up their tanks, but also filled up one, two, three, even four jerry cans to keep in reserve because they were oh-so-sure the strike would start on Friday.

As the queues formed, no one noticed that gas stations, one by one, surreptitiously began raising gas prices. Please keep in mind that the majority of money figured into gas prices here, goes to the government in taxes, so somewhere in the bowels of Number 10 Downing Street, that nice David Cameron and Georgie-Boy are smiling over the sums as the tills ring up a melodious note. And the Great British Public are too knee-deep in panic to notice.

(Cue the Whiffenpoof Song for the Brits - the chorus totally applies to them):-

By Friday, the government was backtracking quicker than the late Michael Jackson could Moon Walk. By then, the union kept saying that it had no plans to strike before Easter and (get this) if the government had been clued up, they'd have known that a union has to give ten days' notice before striking in order to allow negotiations in hopes of avoiding such a measure.

But the Conservative government isn't clued up about such things as unions and ordinary people and such. After all, it's only been a week since the top 1% here got a major tax cut.

So, immediately, that nice David Cameron understood the situation, he duly sent Francis Maude out again, this time with a different message:-

"Don't panic! Don't panic! I'm in charge now!"

But it was too late. The queues returned Friday morning. According to a snippet of conversation I overheard today as I waited for an order of fish and chips for my husband, a young man who worked in a large gas station near Croydon in Surrey (on the outskirts of London), related that the queues outside his establishment on Thursday stretched for three miles. The business cleared £20,000 (about $30,000). By Friday, he said, his boss had imposed restrictions. Five people worked the tills, three manned the forecourt. Punters could only buy £40 worth ($60) of fuel, and no jerry cans could be filled. In many instances, physical fights broke out on the forecourt. A business which normally stayed open until 10pm, had to close at 6pm. They'd run out of fuel.

That was the story all over. The husband and I ventured into London today. In times of crisis or bad weather, the husband, like all Brits, has an insatiable need to travel. The gas station at the top of the hill onto the motorway ("interstate" to civilised people) to London was limiting fuel purchases to half-a-tank. I knew, I'd have to have more fuel if I hoped to return home this evening. It was in Hythe, along the South Coast where I live, that I made that purchase. I stopped at five fuel garages between that point and London, and there was no fuel. Admittedly, some stations were taking on emergency deliveries, after that nice David Cameron had to issue emergency plans allowing tankers to travel the roads during the weekend (and which also meant oodles of overtime for the drivers). Just outside my destination in London, I found a garage with fuel.

But my inconvenience was minor, amidst all this cacophony. And here's a singular tale of British greed, hording and lack of common sense.

In the wake of Francis Maude's idiotic advice to stock up on gas in jerry cans the way people stock up on non-perishables in inclement weather, a lady in Yorkshire filled up several jerry cans of fuel and brought them home. Her daughter, suddenly, realised that she was low on fuel but was so skint that she didn't have the means to go queue at a service station in order to buy gas, so she called Mommy Dearest to see if she had any spare fuel going.

Well, of course, she did, she's a mother, isn't she, and, of course, she's there for her totally unindependent twentysomething daughter. Never fear, Mommy would just transfer some fuel from a jerry can into some other container and Miss Junior could pick it up and put it in her tank right then and there.

So Mommy, decides to decant the fuel from a jerry can into something else ... in her kitchen. Specifically, whilst she's cooking dinner. You can read about what happened, as only Rupert Murdoch could write about it, here.

But I can understand if you don't want to honour Murdoch with a hit, so suffice it to say, there was an explosion, a fireball, and the woman is in hospital with 40% burns, whilst people are calling for Francis Maude to resign ... because, you see, if Francis Maude hadn't told this lady to stock up on jerry cans, she wouldn't have panicked and ... well, you get the picture. One example of lack of common sense is being blamed for another example of lack of common sense. I mean, who the hell mucks around with gasoline in a kitchen while you're cooking?

And after all this is said and done, there are still queues at gas stations, the (immigrant) drivers are having to work around the clock on a weekend to re-supply all the fuel garages, that nice David Cameron will wipe the egg off his face, throw it at Francis Maude and sack him, whilst hoping that the people stay mad at this situation long enough to enable him to carry on dismantling the National Health Service. After all, if the Brits can't get on the road during a holiday period, there'll be hell to pay, so make them mobile and carry on fucking up the health system.

And in the midst of all this, George Galloway won a by-election in which the Conservative Party got so few votes, it lost its deposit.

In case you don't know what a holiday period is like in Britain, here's a good example why the pumps must belch fuel ...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Michael Moore Establishes a New Non-Partisan Political Pundits' Club

(By the way, Alfalfa is Dennis Kucinich ... nice to know he has a job post-Congress).

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Newest BiPartisan Political Pundits' Club

Charter members: Rush Limbaugh, Bill Maher, Michael Moore, Bill O'Reilly, Keith Olbermann, Sean Hannity and Chris Matthews ...

Because there's a lot of this about on Right and Left.

(Thanks to Matt Osborne for directing me to this image.)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Ugly Words, Ugly People

I know I've banged a gong about this, but it's a pet hate of mine, considering I live in the UK, where foul language is an everyday occurrence, from patrician to politician to pleb. A day doesn't go by with the ubiquitous "fuck" isn't heard, on the average of at least once an hour.

The British have long been known for their bad teeth and bad language, and since I've been here, in the past thirty years, it's gone from bad to worse. It wasn't until some fifteen years ago, when I started working in a situation whereby I was the only female in an office of males, that I realised how much and how fond of the word "cunt," the British are.

Yes, they know what it means, but they know how to use it in the most pejorative way. It's the ultimate insult to level at a man, and there's no hesitation to use it in reference to a woman, sometimes directly.

The word was used pretty liberally in my current office, where I've worked for about six years - again, as the only woman amongst three men. It didn't help matters much that the managing director and owner of the business regularly peppered his language with the word, itself. But, credit where credit was due, the c-word was dropped by him, the moment I started working on the premises. Occasionally, however, it would slip out, used mostly by the Polish translator, as a means of linguistic follow-the-leader the moment conversation turned to soccer or Formula One racing or something they reckoned I absolutely had no capacity for fathoming.

But a year ago, the use of this pejorative reached fever pitch and has increased since then, with the arrival of a 21 year-old kid, who's every other word issuing from his mouth is some of the vilest of swear words, his favourite being "cunt."

The kid isn't some dumbass, he was a grammar school boy, educated to further his studies at university, but - coming from Dover (Google it) - he reckoned university couldn't teach him anything he didn't already know, so he turned down the place he was offered. Besides, going to university might mean leaving Dover and being educated with gay people or even black people, because he's got a problem with those demographics also.

But, mostly, he's got a problem with women ... or as he puts it, "cunts."

Last Friday, he wondered why one of the two women working in our Dutch office, put the phone down on him, when, in the course of the conversation, he called her a "thick Dutch cunt." He was trying to bully her into doing something her office hadn't the capacity to do, and, taking his cues from a staff member who'd worked for the company longer and had personality issues with the woman, himself, the kid did the ultimate dirty deed, and was arrogant enough to wonder why the woman wouldn't co-operate.

Who was she anyway? She was never helpful (well, who would be helpful to someone who'd called you a "cunt?") And besides, she never worked Saturdays the way he did, so by that token, she was not only a "thick Dutch cunt," but a lazy one as well. Ne'mind, that the woman in question was a single mum, who was capable of speaking three languages, in addition to her own native tongue, and who was raising two children on her own, after her husband had committed suicide a few years ago. Pointing that out to this little toerag only elicited the observation that if he'd had to live with this woman, he'd top himself as well.

Today, there was another such remark, this time to one of the other fellows in the office, about a woman who works for a major client. The woman, a middle manager, wanted something special done, which prompted the remark that "So-and-So was being a cunt again."

This is the same wise soul whose language is also littered with the n-word when speaking about Afro-Carribbean people.

What is the purpose of calling a woman - or, indeed, any person, a "cunt?" If I were to question any of these men about their obvious issues with women, they would all vehemently deny then. Indeed, when I registered that I was offended by the word, I was the one with the problem.

As the blogger Raven wrote:-

A woman is almost certain to be called a cunt by a someone who is obsessively interested in demeaning her image. Bitch vaguely illustrates power plays between men and women in the office. Being called a cunt almost always offends, whereas being called a bitch just might be a compliment. People think cunt and bitch as obviously offensive and always denote hostility.

There you go, a power play. Andrea Grimes, way ahead of the game when it comes to the c-word's prime perpetrator, Bill Maher, better describes what's at play, psychologically, behind men who regularly speak this way, using Maher's repeated use of the word when referencing Sarah Palin. Maher says he uses "cunt" to describe Sarah Palin, simply because there are no other words for her. Grimes begs to differ:-

Actually, there are some other words for her. Liar. Jerk. Willfully ignorant hypocrite. Self-righteous mouthpiece. Wholly unqualified former occupant of an important political office. Narcissist. Of course, those words all have to do with Palin’s thoughts and actions, and not with her anatomy, so that is a problem if the main idea you’re trying to get across is that you’re a man, and therefore important, and she’s a woman, and therefore, well, a cunt.

If you’re a privileged white dude who wants to exert figurative power over a female without doing any intellectual heavy lifting and relying entirely on sadly timeless narratives about gendered behavior, violence and assault, I guess, there really is no other word for Palin than “cunt.” Because what the word “cunt” does is remind the audience that mostly, Palin is female, and that mostly, Maher is the powerful kind of man who can put her in her place with a single word. Cunt. (I’m talking specifically about American use, here–I believe the word works somewhat differently in British English.)

Actually, the word is no different in British English. It means the same thing, and men who use it, including the snotty-nosed, pasty-faced, ginger-haired, little creep who chose to use it maliciously against two older, better-educated and vastly more experienced women, chose to use it for the same reason Maher used it against Palin. It was the eternal power of the man over the woman. At the end of the day, he's still the hunter-gatherer, even if he's still wet behind the ears, and the object of his scorn is trying to eke out a living and bring children up in a world which proved too much for their own father. He was reminding her that, at the end of the day, he was the male, sitting in the head office of the company, and she was just a lackey, a weak and difficult woman, a "cunt."

Cunt is a gendered insult. Perhaps that’s obvious. Perhaps it’s less obvious that when an angry, American white male comedian chooses that word, he’s not a joker hilariously cracking on the politician Sarah Palin. He’s a man of power and privilege–performing for an audience of hundreds in the city’s newest, most beautiful performance space–calling on an ages-old story that reinforces his status and denigrates hers, not because she’s a crappy politician, but because she is female. When privileged white men call women cunts–especially when they play it off as easily as “there’s just no other word for her”–the audience hears this: those women may think they’ve got power, but with one word, I can remind them of generations, of hundreds of years, of violence perpetrated against women by men.

In a man like Bill Maher’s mouth, “cunt” isn’t a joke. It’s not even an insult. It’s a threat. I believe most Americans know that on some level, and I believe that’s why we don’t use the word casually. It’s why we default to the still threatening, but less-so, “bitch,” when we think the situation calls for it. But Bill Maher knows about language, and he knows “bitch” doesn’t quite get at what he wanted to say. It’s just not quite violent enough.

Think about the bold bit, about the violence behind the word and the history of violence against women in the Western world and that which still exists today in other parts of the developing world. Now think about the threat bit. And consider this anecdote.

About ten years ago, I worked in a smaller company, again, the only female amongst men. One of the men working there and I developed a rapport. His oldest child was a budding soccer player, and he told me an anecdote about a game in which his son had played. The referee spoke to both teams before the game, and told them that he was used to abuse coming from players. That was part of the game, but he wouldn't tolerate one word, and anyone using that word, would be issued a red care.

The offending word was "cunt."

I guess the British must be some Class A dumb dudes, for all they like to bang on about their moral and intellectual superiority, especially when the listener is American. But, like Andrea Grimes, I have to believe their problem is this: that if they're genuinely not offended by the "cunt" word and have no qualms about using that word in connotation to a woman, then they must surely not understand what the word means.

And maybe that's their ultimate problem with women.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Andrew Sullivan Thinks He Knows More About Feminism than Women, Gets Handed His Ass

The Overtime segment of Real Time this week showed that misogyny clings to Bill Maher and some of his guests like ticks cling to the hide of a barnyard dog.

The second topic on the web-based aftershow segment dealt with women in politics. Political scientist Wendy Schiller reckoned that if more women were in national politics, there would be more efforts in finding compromise and also more productive problem-solving, instead of the polarising posturing and posing we're seeing now in an ineffective Washington.

Of course, Bill expostulated that once women entered into national politics, they became more like men, in order to function more successfully, and listed such examples as Golda Meir and Indira Gandhi.

It's then that Sullivan pipes up about his particular favourite, Margaret Thatcher. I had almost forgotten Sully's regular genuflection at the altar of St Maggie, but I remember, before he immigrated, that he was not only a Conservative, but also a staunch supporter of Thatcherism. Of course, he holds Maggie up as the ultimate icon, who achieved her singular success and, braggingly, that she did so off the back of not having a single woman, ever, in her Cabinet during the eleven years of her tenure.

This is true. Margaret Thatcher, a woman, did more to set the course of women's rights on a backward trail in the UK than any Prime Minister, before or after. What was all right for Margaret, simply couldn't be done by any other woman. Maggie could get a double degree in chemistry and law during the fifties and then pursue a political career, whilst combining that with being a mother; but no other woman, afterward, could, according to Maggie. Nope. A woman's place was in the home, looking after the children. That would make her happier.

But Sulllivan made a brilliant error. He said that Mmaggie did all this, on her own, without the help of any man.


Maggie Thatcher was the much younger second wife of an extremely wealthy older businessman named Dennis Thatcher. Dennis saw that politicking made Maggie happy. When Maggie was happy, Dennies was happier. So he pumped money into maids and cleaning ladies, and - in time, when they had twins - nannies. So Maggie could do what Maggie damned well wanted; but if Margaret THATCHER had been plain Margaret ROBERTS, daughter of a grocer from Grantham, without the sugar daddy, how far would she have got?

Answer? Not very.

And Wendy Schiller was right and handed Bill and Andrew Sullivan their collective asses. No Presidential candidate, before or since, has taken such maligning verbal abuse as Hillary Clinton took during the 2008 primary campaign - with, as she states, Sarah Palin coming a close second.

And when she said that, she looked firmly at the perpetrator of most of that abuse ... Bill Maher. Watch below.

Sullivan's arrogance knew no bounds when he took Schiller to task for what he perceived to be Hillary's shortcoming - the fact that she subordinated herself to her husband's career, which, in his opinion, made her the very antithesis of a feminist ... until the only real gentleman on the panel this week, Charles M Blow, had to remind Sullivan that just because people don't choose to play the gender card (as Sullivan said Thatcher did not) or even the race or sexual preference card, it didn't mean that they, themselves, didn't feel these oppressions or weren't aware of them at some point in their professional lives.

At the end of the day, Sullivan might remember, it was those "stupid, old men" around whom Margaret Thatcher ran rings for years, who actually ganged up and played the ultimate sex card, in ensuring that she left Downing Street forever.

And when she left, she was photographed looking just as tearful as ... guess what? ... any woman.

Mr No Apologies - AKA Real Time March 23rd

Pot calling kettle black. Bill Maher calls murderer Zimmermann a racist, thinks viewers will forget his own racism.

Two racists - Greenwald and Bill Maher - and Andrew Sullivan discuss hate crimes and decide that there aren't any.

Bloody shitty panel. Sorry, but I can't take Maher as anything other than a hypocrite and a fraud, considering his attitude toward poor people and his admiration for Goldwater and Reagan.

Bill wants no apologies, so his followers should then stop making excuses for his hypocrisy, his polarising invective, his racism and his misogyny. As for the Boehner joke, I see more than a bit of projection here. Maybe Bill should tell us where the priest touched him. Own it.


Where Bill Maher Shows That, Yes, He Actually Does Understand Something about the First Amendment ...

Well, more than Glenn Greenwald, lovingly also known as "Gigi". At the eleven-minute mark, amidst a heated discussion about the legality of taking out Anwar Al-Awlaki, the American citizen, based in Yemen, who was, effectively, doing a Tokyo Rose number against the United States with Al Qaeda.

Maher and Andrew Sullivan see nothing wrong with Al-Awlaki's assassination and aren't bothered that he didn't get read his rights or served due process. He is, in short, a traitor; and, as Maher says, when you move to Yemen, hang out with Al Qaeda and make threats against your home country, isn't it time you stopped being an American citizen? Because, really, you can't have it both ways?

When Gigi objects, reminding Bill that five minutes before, Maher was expostulating that anyone should have the absolute right to say anything in a nation of free speech (citing the First Amendment), Maher, rightly, responds that Freedom of Speech and the First Amendment legality stops when an individual uses that First Amendment right to threaten the life and well-being of another ... or to incite riots of violence.

And on that point, Bill Maher is right, and Gigi is wrong. Watch:-

So Bill does understand that with Freedom of Speech comes a big modicum of responsibility? He just has a blind spot when it comes to him and Rush saying foul, sexist and misogynistic things about women.

Meantime, here's something for Gigi to enjoy ...

By the way, note at the end of the Real Time clip, that Bill now considers Gray Davis to have been a real governor, when there was a time where Maher actively supported Whoreanna Fuckington Newt's succour muse Arianna Huffington in her attempt to displace him and subsequently, the Terminator, himself.

Sorry, Bill, there are those of us who still retain active memories of your obvious transgressions.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

New Rule: You Cannot Call Yourself Liberal or Progressive and Embrace Barry Goldwater's Philosophy

In light of all the kerfuffle surrounding Bill Maher's indefensible, irresponsible remarks recently, Politico has published a Lettermanesque piece entitled "Ten Little-Known Facts about Bill Maher."

The second little-known fact was the following:-

Describes himself as a libertarian. “The line I’ve always used is, I would be a Republican if they would. Which means that I like the Barry Goldwater Republican Party, even the Reagan Republican Party. I want a mean old man to watch my money… government is a sieve that takes as much money as it can and gives it away, usually needlessly,” he told Rolling Stone.

Now that's more than a bit of an oxymoron, considering Bill's trolling about the country now, billing himself as a Liberal or even a Progressive, taking pride from the fact that he's going into the "red South" to take the Liberal Left Coast word to people he thinks are toothless, inbred, neoConfederate Cracker losers, worth a few laughs at the expense of those blue Democrats who will pay upwards of a hundred bucks a shot for ninety minutes of Maher's self-proclaimed wisdom.

Considering the fact that Goldwater was a Libertarian's Libertarian, that Phyllis Schlafly worshipped at his altar, that he was a hop, skip and a jump this side of the Birchers and that he also actually brought respectable Republicanism to the Democratic South by opposing the Civil Rights Act (specifically the Property Rights portion which Ron Paul opposes even today), I find it hard to fathom that Bill blithely thinks himself a liberal.

Also oxymoronic (emphasis on the last three syllables there) is the fact that he regularly touts for more government intervention, including single-payer healthcare, amongst other things - the sort of stuff which was the absolute antithesis of everything Barry Goldwater espoused.

For someone who professes to be an avowed Progressive to express open admiration of Goldwater, much less Ronald "Welfare Queen" Reagan, the man whose economic policies began our thirty-year journey on the Road to Hell, means he is either a hypocrite, an open cynic, or just plain stupid.

However, it doesn't surprise me that he's an open fan of Barry Goldwater, considering the various examples of his racism which have been brought to the fore during the past four years; what does surprise me is the number of people who still proclaim him as their "liberal voice."

And Maher is so obtuse and bloody-minded, that he still cannot see that the outrage from both sides of the political spectrum at remarks made by both him and Rush Limbaugh have nothing to do with their First Amendment Right of Freedom of Speech. With that inherent constitutional right of being able to say literally anything, however repulsive, comes the common sense quality of speaking responsibly.

Maher's knickers were in such a twist that he took to the New York Times'sop-ed pages today to admonish us, please, to stop apologising.

In fact, the man who, along with his fellow Cornell alumnus, Keith Olbermann (who also seems to suffer from terminal adolescent immaturity syndrome), threw the mother of all hissy fits because Jon Stewart dared to equate the big mouths of the Right with those of the Left, now preaches the gospel of false equivalency, himself:-

I have a better idea. Let’s have an amnesty — from the left and the right — on every made-up, fake, totally insincere, playacted hurt, insult, slight and affront. Let’s make this Sunday the National Day of No Outrage. One day a year when you will not find some tiny thing someone did or said and pretend you can barely continue functioning until they apologize.

If that doesn’t work, what about this: If you see or hear something you don’t like in the media, just go on with your life. Turn the page or flip the dial or pick up your roll of quarters and leave the booth.

The answer to whenever another human being annoys you is not “make them go away forever.” We need to learn to coexist, and it’s actually pretty easy to do. For example, I find Rush Limbaugh obnoxious, but I’ve been able to coexist comfortably with him for 20 years by using this simple method: I never listen to his program. The only time I hear him is when I’m at a stoplight next to a pickup truck.

When the lady at Costco gives you a free sample of its new ham pudding and you don’t like it, you spit it into a napkin and keep shopping. You don’t declare a holy war on ham.

I don’t want to live in a country where no one ever says anything that offends anyone. That’s why we have Canada.

This has nothing to do with turning off anything offensive we see or hear in the media. It's nothing to do with ignoring abominable remarks. It's everything to do with understanding that both Rush's remarks about Sandra Fluke (the "slut" and "prostitute" remarks) and Bill's about Sarah Palin ("twat" and "cunt") simply represent the deeply misogynistic thread which seems to be running through American life at the moment, indeed, subtly tying elements of the Right to those of the Left. Rush calling Sandra Fluke a "slut" and Bill calling Palin a "cunt" were insults to every woman in the country, be she private citizen or public figure.

They made the remarks. They should be - yes - man enough to own them. And apologise. Sincerely. Or else own their own misogyny.

And giving a million dollars to the President's PAC doesn't make you any less of a racist than most people with knowledge recognise that you are, Bill. Own that one and suck that up too.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

UK Conservatives (That's David Cameron's Party) Enact a Republican Dream Budget

If Paul Ryan were British, tonight he'd be having a the Queen Mother of all wet dreams - only it would be a reality, because today, the British Parliament, fronted and centred by that nice David Cameron and that Pillsbury doughboy (emphasis on the dough), roly-poly George "I've-Never-Worked-a-Day-in-My-Life-I'm-So-Rich" Osborne, forced through the budget for the coming year. A budget that would have sent most of our Teahadists into orgasmic paroxysms, and no Viagra would ever be necessary.

Here are some of the key points (see if any sound familiar to you):-

- The 50% tax rate for all high-income earners (that's the infamous 1 percent in our Amerian English) is cut to 45%. (That's right, folks, tax cuts for the wealthy).

- Corporation tax will be cut to 24%. (Again, who benefits from this? Right ... we know) By 2014, it will be cut to 22%.

If Paul Ryan and his mates were in the British Parliament, they would now be seen bending over in front of Georgie-Porgie-Pudding-and-Pie and firmly grasping their ankles in gratitude. All of these tax cuts, Gorgeous George reckons, will encourage those who have to invest in the economy and, of course, will act as incentives to create jobs ... in other words, trickledown. In fact, I almost gagged a maggot, listening to this tripe at work today, when Osborne referenced Arthur Laffer in his speech.

Wait, it gets better ...

- In households where one parent earns more than £50,000 ($75,000 in real money), child benefits are kaput.

- £5 billion pounds ($7.5 billion dollars as we know it) will be saved by freezing age-related government pension allowances on half of Britain's pensioners - and we all know that Britain is a country with an ageing population.

- There is to be a discussion on whether to raise the retirement and state pension age to 70, to take longevity into consideration. (Again, sound familiar?)

- A single-tier state pension will be introduced. Previously, a married couple got a slightly higher state pension, and a single person, a lower one. Now everyone gets £140 ($210) per week, and, yes, it's the lower rate.

- There will be premium help for video games and premium television shows, in order to entice Disney and HBO to make programs in the UK.

- Yet another airport will be built in the already-overcrowded Southeast (where I live), and its location will totally demolish an area of great natural beauty and a wildlife reserve.

- Gas prices at the pump will be raised. You're complaining about the possibility of paying $5 per gallon ... try $9 per gallon, which is what I pay in the UK. Now shut up complaining.

-£3 billion tax allowance (the equivalent of $4.5 billion) to be given to Western Scotland for - guess what? - gas and oil extraction. Drill, baby, drill ... and if you can't drill, frack.

- £100 million ($150 million) of government money to be allocated to ten cities - that's CITIES, urban areas - for the development of high-speed broadband and wifi ... nothing about the rural communities, many of whom still suffer the old dial-up modems.

Oh, and here's the real clincher ... yesterday, Parliament passed a bill that would change forever the structure and administration of that fabled icon, the National Health. Now, instead of having professional administrators control regional health authorities, various conglomerates of general practitioners from area to area will be given a budget and will be encouraged to purchase treatment and hospital care from private corporate health entities ... and, of course, at the forefront of this development is a name that will be familiar to many ... Humana, as in Bill Effing Frist.

As Larry Elliot, Economics editor of The Guardian expressed it:-

Even after the serial leaking, this was still a shocking budget. Shocking in the way it skated over the weakness of the British economy. Shocking in the way it ladled out still more pain to those dependent on welfare benefits. Shocking in the way it cut the tax burden for millionaires.

That said, this was – in its way – a skilful package of measures, which had greater intellectual coherence than the hotch potch of measures served up by George Osborne in last November's autumn statement. The politics of the budget were immediately apparent: try to secure broad support for the big concessions to business and the rich by helping those on lower incomes through an increase in the personal tax allowance. Leave it to Labour to worry about those who are unemployed or on the lowest incomes, who will not benefit from the income tax breaks. It was the way Nigel Lawson did it back in the 1980s.

This, though, remains a gamble and a big one at that. Lawson's big tax-cutting budgets of 1987 and 1988 took place when the economy was booming, real incomes were rising rapidly, house prices were going through the roof and the exchequer was overflowing with cash. None of that applies today, and while the forecasts produced by the Office for Budget Responsibility showed no further downgrades to the outlook for 2012 and 2013, there was no improvement either. The economy will continue to chug along in first gear this year, with even the expected 0.8% growth vulnerable to a fresh crisis in the eurozone or higher oil prices.

Seumas Milne, writing in the same journal, expressed what the budget meant a bit more bluntly. His entire assessment is worth a read and can be found here, but here are some of his more salient points:-

Shut your eyes and it's as if the last 30 years never happened. David Cameron and George Osborne are taking us straight back to the 1980s. If the leaks of the past few days are correct, Wednesday's budget is going to cut the top rate of tax for the richest 1%, while the minimum wage is reduced in real terms and public sector pay is hacked back in the poorest regions.

The class priorities really couldn't be clearer. Just as in 1979 and 1988, a Tory chancellor is prepared to court serious unpopularity to attend to the core interests of the party's most privileged supporters, while cuts in real pay, benefits, tax credits and unemployment drive down living standards for the majority.

It's a combination that reflects the classic conservative fallacy: economic incentives only work by increasing rewards at the top end and by reducing them at the bottom. But the difference this time round is that the Tories are cutting a popular tax on the rich with Liberal Democrat cover.


Meanwhile, to add to the budget's retro feel, the government has been gripped by a new asset-stripping frenzy. The health service, schools, postal service, police and now roads are all up for sale, outsourcing and corporate cherry-picking.

The solution to every problem turns out, like a broken record, to be privatisation. Nothing, it seems, has been learned from the failure of an economic model that brought us to the brink of breakdown. For the urbane ideologues now running the show, this crisis has become a ready-made opportunity to shrink the state, shock-doctrine style, and hand over yet more ready-made markets to corporate monopolies.


Crucially, none of what Osborne announces on Wednesday is going to kick-start an economy that is at best flatlining, stifled by cuts, starved of investment and consumer demand, and at risk of further debilitating shocks. And the evidence of the past 30 years is clear enough: any idea that cuts in corporation taxes or the top rate of income tax are going to deliver an investment revival without the prospect of renewed growth is trickle-down fantasy.

Escape from economic stagnation would instead need a serious boost to public investment and consumer demand, mobilisation of the state-dominated banks to drive recovery, and intervention to rebuild an economy hollowed out by City-first deindustrialisation and deregulation.

Not much chance of that from a government committed to austerity and a small state. But behind the coalition curtain are glimmers of recognition that the private sector won't pick up the slack from the state or rebalance the economy away from a bloated financial sector.

A lot of Republicans, I hear, were griping because on his last visit, that nice David Cameron didn't get to meet any of the Republican candidates for President. We know they all want to go back to the future ... well, Britain's just taken the first step.

And now the Catholic Church here is gearing up to fight against legalising same sex marriages, and in this country, prelates - Protestant, Catholic and Jewish - all have seats in the unelected upper house, the House of Lords, which can put a damper on any legislation enacted by Parliament.

Rick Santorum just ejaculated.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Bill Maher Proves That Even "Liberals" Are Narrow-Minded

I am sorry, but I am pissed. Or as the British say, pissed off.

I feel I must explain myself. I am Southern, a lifelong Democrat, and educated. To graduate level. I speak my native language with reasonable articulace. When I am amongst my own, in Virginia, my natural Southern accent returns. Otherwise, because I come from what was probably the last generation aspiring to a college education, I had the benefit of speech classes at my high school. Even then, at the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, the accepted view was, in order to sound educated, as well as be educated, we - of that era - had to forego our natural drawl.

The lovely Coastal high Virginian accent with its "oots" and "aboots" is dying out with the last remnants of my mother's generations. I tear up each time Douglas Wilder speaks because I know when that generation is gone, we'll be left with what is becoming more and more dominant in the South - the Valley Girl lilting inflection, as if every statement begs a question. Think Krystal Ball, who should speak Valley Girl, but Shenandoah instead of San Fernando.

In addition to my own language, I speak three others, which I studied in Virginia and abroad. As far as education and political bent is concerned, I am not an exception to the rule in the South. In fact, I am from that generation of the 1970s, wherein the working class, of which I am a part, benefitted from Lyndon Johnson's policies of expanding higher education for all who aspired.

Most of the people with whom I attended high school were and are Democrats. Fauquier County has always been the blue thorn in the red ass of Frank Wolf's Tenth Congressional District. Now it's become a two-pronged blue pincer, along with Charlottesville, squeezing Robert Hurt's buttocks. I hope it's painful.

What I'm saying is, I am not a caricature, and to quote Charles Blow yet again, there is nothing Southerners hate more than to be caricatured by Yankees, red and blue.

For all Mitt Romney tried pandering with his "y'all" drawl and his cheesey grits (emphasis on the "cheesey" part), Bill Maher proved on Friday night that a certain tranche of the Left is just as narrow-minded when it comes to anything of the South or Southern.

Observe the picture below:-

The man standing between Alexandra Pelosi and Bill Maher is Ed Helms. Helms is from Georgia and was the special fourth panelist on Maher's show Friday evening.

Helms appears midway through the this second panel clip:-

The clip begins with Maher's latest "Stupidest State" contest, last held two years ago and won by, Alabama, a Southern state. This time, Virginia figures amongst the candidates, all of which are either Southern or Southwestern states. I know the reason Maher is going to pinpoint Virginia, and that's down to the intrusive vaginal probe and personhood legislative measures, one of which was changed by ardent protest and the second of which was defeated by the same means. That isn't stupid. That's citizens exercising their First Amendment Rights. But I notice that Pennsylvania, home of Maher's bumchum Chris Matthews, isn't included in this dynamic, and the governor there is about to sign into law another invasive scan designed to shame a woman out of having an abortion. I notice that California, Maher's current home state, wasn't included either, and they have a personhood law being debated in their legislature. Or New Jersey, where Maher grew up, whose governor recently vetoed a law legalising same sex marriage.

It's just too easy to target the South.

Enter Ed Helms, sans Southern accent and Oberlin-educated, who just happens to have a hobby which Maher regularly derides: Civil War re-enactment.

Maher jumped at the opportunity to wonder why Helms wanted to associate with such losers, who were intent upon seeing the "South rise again." Please watch the segment. It is a Master Class in Liberal Narrow-Mindedness. It made me feel ashamed to be associated with the same side of the political equation as these people.

In a nutshell, Helms painstakingly explains that he, like his father, is a Civil War buff. Notice, he says "Civil War." Not "War Between the States" or "War of Northern Aggression" or any such malarkey. You see, there are those of us, in the majority, who realise that the thing ended in 1865. We lost. Get over it (Yankees). He also explained that most of the people who re-enacted battles were geeks, history buffs, interested in military tactic and authenticity, much like - as Amy Holmes remarked (and it pains me to agree with her) - Renaissance Fairs or, in the UK, English Civil War re-enactment between Cavaliers and Roundheads. Helms explained that much of this happens in the South because most of the battles occurred in the South, but re-enactments occur in all of the 50 states, even California. Hey, Yankees can be Civil War buffs too.

In fact, I was hoping Helms would go further and inform Maher that the Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy have active chapters in every state in the Union. Because, you know, after the War, Southerners, like a lot of other people, went West. Even to Holy Saint Progressiveland California.

But Maher abruptly stops the conversation, when Helms informs him of something that goes against his perceived reality. He simply chooses to deem such people perenniel losers and move on. He doesn't want to know.

And then we come to the New Rules section. The offending part occurs roughly around the 5:58 section.

Another overt dig at the South, assigning one day of celebration of Southern heritage called "St Cracker's Day," complete with a teeshirt worn by a nubile young girl proclaiming "Kiss Me, I'm Your Sister." Because poor white Southerners are all rifely incestuous, don't you know? Listen carefully around the six-minute mark, and amongst the laughter of the limousine liberals in the crowd, a moan of protest from Ed Helms.

Helms is a Southerner, and we're raised, for the most part, to be polite to our hosts who invite us to be their guests, no matter how ill-bred the host may prove to be. I could conjure up a caricature too, as I'm sure Ed Helms could as well, of the drunken, shanty Irish, who share their abodes with animals and often have pigs who are cleaner than they. But I know that's a caricature, and it would be too ignorant and ill-bred of me (or Ed Helms) to even assume that any part of that depiction was true.

I guess Ed and I have to assume that Bill's mamma and daddy just didn't raise him right. Or maybe he's just too narrow-minded to allow himself to believe that Southerners are anything other than objects of derision with which he is comfortable. Like the Teabaggers who choose to believe the President is a socialist Muslim, it's just too easy for Bill to believe that all Southerners are toothless, inbred neo-Confederates.

Because a narrow mind is a terrible thing to expand.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Left Coast Bigotry

I watched Bill Maher's show this week, and I was offended. I was and a offended by the level of ignorance that he imparts every week in making some sort of comment of observation about the South.

Maher, like many from the Left Coast who call themselves liberals, seem to think it's open season on emphasizing their belief that everyone who hails from the South is shit-kicking dumb, inbred, toothless and just plain ignorant. Oh, and racist. But then, the Left Coasters who stormed the Democratic Party forty years ago, in their wisdom, deemed everyone in the South a rampant racist and forever condemned them to the Hell on Earth of being the butt of every joke and to be abandoned and disenfranchised.

Of course, that theory worked so well with the Republicans. They were able to foment a lie from the Right side of the political spectrum. Instead of a working class people evolving to realise that the distinction of privilege had nothing to do with the colour of one's skin, rather it had to do with those who have as opposed to those who have not, the self-appointed Republican saviours of this flock propagated the idea that the Democratic Party, to whom this demographic had formerly belonged, was now all about identity politics, and that identity being developed, didn't include the poor white trash scattered throughout the Deep South and the rural Midwest.

When you disenfranchise and abandon a people, you leave the door open for any old flotsam and jetsam preaching an extremist brand of idealogy to step forward and speak for the speechless. Lee Atwater understood this only too well, being a Southerner, himself. Banking on the fact that generations of "haves" had inculcated these poor white working class people with the fallacious idea that the only thing that separated them from the black working class (who were just as poor) was the colour of their skin. When the Democrats didn't try to disprove this, they lost the old base.

Now, they think this is a demographic worthy of abandonment, a people to be ridiculed and derided from the moral high ground of Manhattan or the Left Coast.

Last week, Maher presented a film made by Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of Nancy, which featured inhabitants of rural Mississippi, talking about the government and the President. As she was forced to point out in her interview with Maher this week, Pelosi didn't seek out any affluent residents of Mississippi, nor, indeed, did she seek any educated residents. Maher showed the film last week, and also this week, to much laughter from the liberal audience.

But this week, Pelosi also interviewed urban citizens in her neighbourhood of New York City, including the doorman at the building where she lives. The doorman was the only person interviewed in the film who was employed. Across the street, is a benefits centre; and Pelosi took her camera and interviewed various benefits claimants, all of whom - with the exception of one woman - were African American.

Below are the two segments of Real Time which contain the film from last week, shot in rural Mississippi, and that of this week, shot in Manhattan. Notice that no one laughs at this week's film. Watch and learn:-

The interviews with the white rural Southerners showed people who would rather starve than accept governent assistance, except for food stamps. They showed people who believed that their faith would sustain them. They showed people who, yes, disliked the President because of the colour of his skin and who were still angry at what they perceived to be a century of injustice suffered at the hands of people (Northerners) whom they still deem to be akin to foreigners.

The interviews of the African American men waiting in line at the Manhattan benefits office show people who are clearly unwilling to work, but want to receive as much in benefits as is humanly possible. One man voted for the President because he was black. Another is after only food stamps. A third wants a "career" but not a job. One has five children by four different women.

Only one man interviewed came up with a cogent and coherent reason for why he was not working. It was difficult for him to find a job, he said, having a prison record. This is true and unjust.

But note, after both films, that Pelosi is quick to reiterate that in both instances, she was dealing with stereotypes. That all the people interviewed in both situations were basically the cartoonish characters created in the minds of people who want to believe the worst about demographics with whom they are unfamiliar but for whom a pejorative slant would benefit their world view. She is actually shocked that the audience didn't laugh at her urban narrative. Whilst they were all too willing to sneer at the poor, toothless and very ignorant Southerners, they were clearly unsettled by the poor, drink-laden, unabashedly honest and workshy urban dwellers, most of whom were black.

And then, Bill Maher was quick to remind her that no one could accuse either her or him of racism or bigotry - after all, she is the daughter of Nancy Pelosi, and he just gave one million dollars to the PAC of America's first black President.


Bill's money is guilt money. It's insurance that, should the worst happen and we get a President Santorum or a President Romney, he's hoping that the viewing public are all so stupid as to be swayed by his mega-donation enough to forget the past four years he spent undermining the President to the point that he made several racist comments.

Pelosi, for all her Emmy Award-winning pedigree, is simply naive. She is the present-day reincarnation of Tom Wolfe's radical chic, and Wolfe, I might add, was a Southerner.

A minute-and-a-half into the second segment, Pelosi acknowledges something: that the doorman featured in her latest film comes from an entire family of Democrats, yet he's voting Republican, based on what he sees every day across the street from his building in Manhattan. He sees what he reckons to be an entitlement culture, which is the same view as is held by ... yes, the rural Southern whites.

Pelosi acknowledges that the Democrats are losing the Joe-the-Doorman types - working class white ethnic Northern Americans. The Democrats lost Joe's equivalents in the South and rural Midwest forty years ago. She asks, "Why?"

The answer is obvious, but not to her San Francisco logic and certainly not to Bill Maher, raised in affluent and white Northern New Jersey, schooled at whiter Cornell and now living ensconced in a gated community in Brentwood.

The two-minute mark is especially infuriating, when Maher says that "as a liberal," he wants to help the toothless Mississippi guy in the original clip get teeth. Again, I quote Charles Blow, a fellow Southerner ... Southerners don't like to be caricatured. Southerners, white and black, are proud people who don't like condescension from people like Maher who reckon their Left Coast credentials makes them morally superior. Maher, however, is an equal opportunity bigot. When he meets Toothless from Tupelo and then jets North to meet Mr FoodStamps in Manhattan, he'll have a long decontaminating bath after having shaken hands with them both. Cooties are cooties, after all.

Real Time This Week

More on a separate blog about this later, but Alexandra Pelosi and Bill Maher show how it's possible for Progressives, mostly the Left Coast variety, to be sexist, classist, racist and just very bigoted in general. Nancy Pelosi needs to smack her daughter's ass.

I don't give a rat's ass if your mother is Nancy Pelosi or if you've given a million bucks to the Obama campaign. You still come across as condescending racists and bigots. Own it.

There's nothing I hate more than smug Left Coasters who sit on their asses and pass judgement on other states, whom they blanket as "stupid." And, Bill Maher, show some respect. It's PRESIDENT Obama, asshole. You show as little respect for the man as Jan Brewer did. And Dylan Ratigan and Bill Maher together remind me of why I think the Irish are full of dangerous and ignorant hot air.

The more Yankees stereotype the South, the more they look like Class A bigots, themselves, especially in California.


This show sucked, and anyone from the South and any person of colour should be offended.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

2012 Is a Culture War Election

I am sorry, but when you culturally and electorally disenfranchise a demographic, often they will respond to someone who offers them hope within the frame of that demographic coming out on top - and the hope-givers are not the pragmatic realists the President represents, but mostly Rightwing recidivists intent on viewing what was through rose-coloured glasses and with no aim for any good, but making these poor people feel good. Shame on the Democratic party of forty years ago for turning its back on a significant portion of what was its base.

Rick Santorum has now become what pundits are calling a blue-collar messiah for the working class. He appeals to a demographic which has been shunned by the Democratic party for the past forty years: the white working class. Most are uneducated or undereducated, socially conservative and people of faith.

A Rick Santorum would not be possible as a leader amongst this lot, had they not been fed a diet of fear and self-loathing by the mainstream Republican party - fear of what the Democrats represent and lies that the Democratic Party had abandoned them - something the Democrats didn't try to dispel. How easy is it to believe all of that, when Bill Maher, who donated one million dollars to the President's PAC refers to the Alabama and Mississippi Primaries as "Toothless Tuesday," poking fun at what he perceives, from the culturally perfect (not) Left Coast as the archetypical inbred Southerner, not even one generation removed from DeliveranceLand?

There is as much of a cultural divide existant now in the Republican Party which could add to the colossus of a culture war which will explode upon our nation after the Republican National Convention, a culture war that will determine which way our country will proceed after the November election.

You can read about the conflict within the Republican Party here.

It just troubles me that I see, not only in the United States, but in Britain and Europe, a worrying trend of a working class demographic, feeling so abandoned by parties which formerly served their interests, that they turn to Rightwing demagogues, in hope of economic, religious and cultural salvation.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ... Redux.

Rick Santorum Is Not a Religious H G Wells

I barely remember when Kennedy was elected. I was only six and in the first grade. I remember my Catholic parents finally allowing themselves to celebrate the fact that a fully paid-up member of their "club" had finally made it to the White House (and a Democrat at that). Years later, my mother talked to me about this, and when she reminisced about Kennedy, she also reminisced about the first Presidential election she actually remembered - in 1928, when Al Smith ran against Herbert Hoover.

Al Smith was a Catholic, who was eviscerated nationally in the Republican papers of the day, as someone who was guided by his religion to the point that the Vatican would actually have a Cabinet seat. Think about that: the Catholic faith was, in the early part of the Twentieth Century, the religion of immigrants, people whose American "experience" wasn't as established in some people's minds as those of their Protestant brethren.

Al Smith was as competent a politician as John F Kennedy, who still had to give a speech to a group of Protestant clergymen, assuring them that his religion would never interfere with his governing as President of the United States.

We know know that this speech made Rick Santorum puke.

We know know that Rick Santorum is the bogeyman Catholic which would have struck fear into the ignorant Protestant hearts of Al Smith's or Jack Kennedy's times.

Yet Rick Santorum won the Mississippi and Alabama primaries.

Go figure.

Clark Reed, who was Southern and Republican when "Republican" was a dirty word down South, is certainly at a loss to explain the attraction Santorum has to people whose view of the Catholic faith is tainted with more than just a little suspicion.

Reed, interviewed by The Washington Post, reckons that people of the South are now allowing their votes to be guided more by their beliefs, rather than by what is practical, eschewing the time-honoured Bill Buckley approach which states that people should, basically, hold their noses and vote for he, who would be easily elected.

And here's the key and the point of connect with Santorum and those people whose ancestors would have been just as likely to have burned a cross on Santorum's front lawn eighty years ago, no matter how much his lifestyle mirrored that which they lived.

The people who voted for Santorum in Tuesday’s primaries called themselves “very conservative” and also “born-again Christian.” They said they voted for him because of his “strong moral character.” These voters do not share with Santorum their religious beliefs, for Santorum is a Catholic and they are Protestants. But they share with Santorum what might be called a faith-based nostalgia: They believe that things were better before, they’re going to hell right now and only a strong commitment to Jesus Christ will turn America around.

Santorum is a traditionalist in all things. He is a traditionalist Catholic and has said that too many American Catholics observe “uninspired, watered-down versions of our faith.” He is a traditionalist husband and father, and is “traditionalist” (if you want to call it that) on constitutional interpretations.

Santorum voters are traditionalist Americans. They yearn for an age when America was run by white Christian men, when husbands went to work and wives stayed home and raised as many children as they could handle. (One Ohio blogger, explaining his choice for Santorum, called him “a real man.”) In that America, abortion was illegal and gay marriage was a schoolyard joke. In that America, everybody went to church.

Santorum and those who voted for him are looking back to a time when the United States “was free and safe and prosperous,” as he said in a victory speech this week, “based on believing in free people and free markets and free economy, and, of course, the integrity of family and the centrality of faith in our lives.” That last phrase refers, of course, to Roe v. Wade, but it also refers to a conviction (which Santorum shares with his fans) that God is real and intervenes to improve people’s lives.

What Santorum has done, maybe cleverly so, is to tap into the Dominionist claptrap that so many Republican politicians - Michele Bachmann springs to mind - have tapped into: the belief that these people, often the poorest specimens in the poorest areas of the poorest states in the country, have been hand-picked by Jesus, to lead their fellow citizens out of sin and into end times. Of course, Rick Santorum doesn't believe this, personally. He's Catholic, and believe me, there's enough of Catholicism left in my blood to know that Catholics don't buy into the Dominionist meme.

But, hey, if it gets you to the polls, why not? The irony of this entire situation is that these are the people whose parents, grandparents and great-grandparents would have run a mile rather than cast a vote for an Al Smith or a Jack Kennedy, and that's when the area was Democratic blue.

And now they stump for Rick Santorum, a "real man" in a sweater vest, who wants to turn back time when white was not only right, it was might and women remained barefoot, interminably pregnant and in the kitchen, and children could leave school after finishing the sixth grade.

When America was better? Really?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Public Figures Shouldn't Be Called Cunts ... Not Even by Comedians

Both the Left and the Right hate any kind of false equivalency meme, but I am getting absolutely pigshit sick of my side of the political spectrum getting justifiably caught with its trousers down around its ankles and its back against the wall in the war of words surrounding the "he-said-he-said" about Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher making overtly misogynistic remarks about two women.

Call it Slutgate vs Cuntgate, for the record, both men are wrong, wrong, wrong; and I hate like hell to hear liberals, even liberal women, buy Bill Maher's desperate walkback that makes no sense.

My advice? Own it. And apologise.

Recently, Maher took his pity party to an interview with Jake Tapper.

For the record, Bill describes himself as a "pottymouth," but insists he's not a misogynist.

I am sorry, but I have to say it yet again. Any man who regards women's genitalia as so intrinsically bad that you have to refer to said anatomy by its pejorative slang appropriation - cunt - and any man who uses that slang word, derisively, to refer to any person, male or female, has deep, deep issues with women, which can be construed to be misogynistic.

What don't you understand about that?

And, please, stop referring to yourself as a comedian, especially every time you make an inappropriate statement. These days, every political pundit hides behind the comedian banner when he oversteps his mark. You do it. Michael Moore does it. Glenn Beck does it. All that does is prove what cowards you are. However much you reckon you are still a comedian, you host a weekly roundtable discussion that is everything serious. You have also contributed a million dollar donation to the President's SuperPAC. You have stopped being a comedian; you are a political contributor and commentator. Act like one.

And if you're blaming the audience for being your guide about whether or not describing Sarah Palin as a "cunt" was comedy, shame on you - and even bigger shame on them, because the men in that audience need to re-examine their issues with women, and the women in that audience need to reassert their self-esteem. Because if a Rightwing comedian had uttered those words about a liberal woman public figure, there'd be hell to pay.

But the most ludicrous argument in his own self-defence which Maher is now using, boils down to public persona vs private individual. Basically this: it's ok to refer to Sarah Palin as a "cunt," because that's what the First Amendment says we can do; it's not ok for a public figure to refer to Sandra Fluke as a "slut," because Ms Fluke is not a public figure.


In Maher's convoluted words:-

To compare that to Rush is ridiculous – he went after a
civilian about very specific behavior, that was a lie, speaking for a
party that has systematically gone after women’s rights all year, on
the public airwaves. I used a rude word about a public figure who
gives as good as she gets, who’s called people “terrorist” and
“unAmerican.” Sarah Barracuda. The First Amendment was specifically
designed for citizens to insult politicians. Libel laws were written
to protect law students speaking out on political issues from getting
called whores by Oxycontin addicts.

I am sorry. It was deeply wrong and inappropriate for Rush Limbaugh to refer to Ms Fluke as a "slut". But, however much you disagree with her policies and her ideals (and I do), it was just as deeply wrong and inappropriate for Bill Maher to refer to Sarah Palin as a "cunt." Both words are incredibly pejorative terms which generalise negatively abour women as a whole. And both men who uttered these words need to apologise publically, contritely and sincerely ... or own the fact that they are, themselves, misogynists.

What David Cameron Left Behind

Oh, my! That nice David Cameron's visiting the Obamas again,and this time he's brought his wife. Why, they say the Brits follow SamCam's fashions almost as much as we eye up what Michelle's wearing. SamCam's even got that cool, little tattoo. Only for some reason, it's not that common on her - just like that nice David Beckham. Why, he's adapted so much to Californian life, his children sound American.

Now, isn't it just peachy keen that the cherry blossoms are out, the heat is high, Downton Abbey makes the Brits fashionable again, and the US gets a visit from a British Prime Minister who's straight out of Downton, itself? And they even have that nice Damian Lewis attending the State Banquet in that nice Mr Cameron's honour ... oh, didn't you know? They went to the same school. Eton. And that nice Mr Cameron even brought his Treasury fella, that plump, little Mr Osborne - no, not Ozzy, although he'd be welcome too.

Gee, isn't it just wonderful to be British? Isn't it just swell that they're our best friends, like, forever?

These are the sentiments of so many Americans who reckon themselves Anglophiles.

Well, let me tell you something. I was raised Catholic, and now I'm atheist. Nothing makes a good atheist more than a Catholic upbringing; and nothing turns an Anglophile into an Anglophobe more than living amongst the British for over thirty years, the way I have, having married one of the creatures.

What you've seen in Washington this week, and every time you watch Damien Lewis slaughter the American accent in Homeland or the Beckhams venture out to play normal parents in the Hollywood Hills, is the British equivalent of the one percent.

I live amongst the ninety-nine percent and in a fairly built-up area of the United Kingdom (the over-crowded South Coast), and I can tell you, sometimes I almost wish I were in Alabama.

The British, particularly the English, are narrow-minded, vindictive, petty, jealous and mean. Their mouths are like sewers, and that doesn't just mean that they are victims of poor dental hygiene and tombstone teeth, although they suffer from that as well (due to their own laziness). I work in an office, the only woman amongst five men. These are fairly typical men, ranging in age from mid-fifties to a particularly foul-mouthed twenty-one year-old. Swearing has always been rife, but upon the youngster's arrival a year ago, it descended into the realms of sheer hell.

This is a kid who was educated in the grammar school system, educated to continue his education at university, but he chose not to do so. Yet every other word issuing from his mouth is "fuck" or "fucking". He simply cannot get from one sentence to another without using this rejoinder. And everything worse than "fuck" or "fucking" is a "cunt." One person, who's a bit slow on the uptake in a telephone conversation is a "cunt." Every foreigner with whom he's forced to speak is a "fucking cunt." And women, in general, are "cunts", especially.

My presence makes no difference. I've registered disapproval, but there's a tremendous disconnect. He knows what such words mean, but doesn't comprehend why they are unacceptable in polite company and shouldn't be uttered.

Then there's the racism and homophobia. Everyone outside the accepted norm is a "gay boy." Once, whilst talking in general, he remarked, "There's a white nigger who works in Kentucky Fried Chicken in Dover."

"A what?" I enquired, horrified. The n-word is as pejorative as the c-one.

"A white nigger," he replied. "He's a nigger but he's white."

When I strongly objected to the use of that word, I was sanctimoniously reminded that free speech allowed him to say what he wished, and, anyway, he shrugged, "niggers" call themselves "niggers," so why shouldn't white people be allowed to do so, because that's what they are.

How do you argue with a narrow mind like that? This is not the rural South or Midwest. This is cosmompolitan England, a place where people are way better educated than anyone in the US can ever hope to be.

Such hoi-polloi as are left behind by Cameron spend time watching television programmes like Top Gear, hosted by another English jingoist, Jeremy Clarkson, he who called for public sector strikers to be shot; or reality crap hosted by Simon Cowell, another Brit with a degree in innate rudeness. If they're not glued to either of those programmes, they suck off a diet of Eastenders, the BBC's flagship primetime soap.

Eastenders is almost a religion. People watch various people sleep their way through families of sisters or brothers - or even mothers and children, screaming and shouting all the time. A major character recently suffered cervical cancer, but she spent six weeks looking as though she had a slight cold. Her husband just wants sex.

The devotees of such programs, watch the episode, then adjourn to a series of various fora devoted to online discussions of the ethical symbolism of the episode, most of such fora being dominated by geeky, unpreposessing adolescent males aged between 18 and 23, who don't tolerate any kind of difference of opinion.

There's one comic character who's legion in his infamy - all of twenty-three, unemployed since birth, a university drop-out sitting at his laptop all day long on his parents' remit and waging war with anyone of any articulace who dares know more about any subject matter portrayed on his Eastenders than the pithy writers, themselves. The guardian angel calls himself Shamelessness, and online, he's a vicious bully, telling people to "shut the fuck up," that they're "boring and tedious" and that they "don't have a life," when Shamelessness has such an experience of life that he's even deemed unqualified to answer phones on reception in a local car dealership. Hyuck, hyuck ... but hey, Mum and Dad pay the television licence fee, and they also pay for Shamelessness's internet access, so ... that's pretty shameless, yes?

These are people who leave formal schooling at their earliest convenience, and hate anyone who pursues those goals or who has any iota of real life experience. These are people who aren't even happy in their ignorance; but they're happy putting other people down.

Such a shame that nice David Cameron didn't ask that Britain become the fifty-first state. Rick Santorum would find a legion of disciples of the narrow-mind here.

Here's a great song from My Fair Lady, whose biggest complaint is ever so relevant today. Take it away, Sir Rex:-

This is the sort of stuff that killed Pocahontas and Nancy Astor. Damn, I need to come home.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Yankees, Please ...

Like Charles Blow said in his column this weekend, and as I say regularly again and again, Southerners do not find caricature endearing.

That's a nice way of saying, we don't much appreciate some short-vowelled Yankee wrinkling his nose up against the air like a bad smell, coming amongst us and assuming we all start the day by slapping a tub of lard on a skillet and frying everything in site for breakfast. Or assuming that we all say "Y'all" or even knowing the difference between "y'all" or "all y'all." Or even thinking we all sleep with our guns or believe that Jesus rode a dinosaur. (Actually, I have it on good authority that he was partial to riding around in a red 1975 Camaro, but I'm waiting until I see the next gullible Yankee in order to try that one out.)

We don't like our brethren in the North or even those so privileged to live in the Left Coast assuming that we're all just dumb and feeling they have to pander to us in a peculiar way. When the Red Yankees come down from the North - people like Mitt Romney - they like treating us like little children and think we'll be just so happy to know that they like to eat grits right along with the other po'folk sitting in that 1930s-style diner. Hell, they might even follow those grits up with a mess of fried green tomatoes. Yum, yum.

All for a vote. Then there are the other types who come down amongst the rural poor and tell them all kinds of nightmarish stories about black people and welfare and illegal aliens and Muslims ... some people they scare with that shit, and the Red Yankees snicker behind their hands and slither off like snakes to start counting all the votes they think they won. When the Blue Yankees hear such shit as this, they look at each other, screw their little ferret-faces up and remark chokingly, "See, I told you they weren't worth the bother ... now where do I find a skinny latte in this town?"

I really do hate to break it to all y'all Yankees. but not all of us in the South are dumb, inbred, uneducated, gun-loving or even Christian. Some of us, more than you'd care to admit, are even Democrats.

For example, Yankees, did you know that Virginia - yes, the Commonwealth, itself - elected the first African-American governor way back at the end of the 1980s, when Derval Patrick was probably still in short trousers and Bob McDonnell was thinking women should be barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen ... some things never change.

And did you know, Yankees, that - with the exception of Roosevelt and Kennedy - every Democratic President in the 20th Century was a Southerner? Mondale and Dukakis tried and failed miserably, and even Al Gore, the Southerner who did lose (and that's debatable) still won the popular vote. As a matter of fact, one of Jeff Davis's great-great-great grandsons is sitting in the Oval Office, probably talking to the British Prime Minister right now. If you're wondering whom I mean, I'm talking about our 44th President, who's descended from old Jeff from his mamma.

It's bad enough that the Republicans come sneaking around the South every four years trying to pretend that they're cartoon Southerners, themselves. They're after the votes, and they get what they want. It's even more riling that the Democrats come down too, but only to reinforce their own stereotypes so they can decide to let the South stew in what they reckon to be its own fetid juices just that much more.

Recently, the Democratic polling organisation, Public Policy Polling, popped up down South and started asking leading questions of certain Southern Republicans - not just any questions, but questions designed to reinforce certain established and very stereotypical ideas about Southerners, which lots of Yankee Progressives find comforting enough to allow them to continue with their prejudices.

Writing about this in The Daily Beast, fellow Southerner Michelle Cottle says:-

The raw numbers to emerge from this poll have caused a stir on their own. In Alabama, they tell us, 45 percent of respondents think Obama is a Muslim. In Mississippi, the number is an even more scorn-inspiring 52 percent. As for evolution, 60 percent of Alabamans aren’t buying it, compared with 66 percent of Mississippians. The views on miscegenation aren’t quite so jarring—only 21 percent of Alabamans and 29 percent of Mississippians think interracial marriage should be illegal—but are sneer-worthy nonetheless.

Now no one appreciates the absurdity of the South’s retrograde conservatism more than I. For all its many charms, the “real America” that Sarah Palin et al. so mythologize sports its fair share of warts, zits, and infected boils.

That said, I do get my back up when people seem to be taking cheap shots at my tribe. And this PPP report has all the earmarks of a poll taken with the specific, if perhaps unconscious, goal of confirming all of the nation’s very worst biases about the South.

So an average of one in four respondents still can’t get with that whole ebony-and-ivory thing. Appallingly racist? You betcha. But can someone please explain to me what this has to do with the current Republican presidential race? Discussions of gay marriage I understand. But interracial marriage—since when is this a relevant topic in American politics?

Similarly, why do we need to know respondents’ views on evolution? Last time I checked, not even Santorum was waving the creationism (or intelligent design) banner in this race.

Which could explain why, when I went back and looked through the rest of PPP’s polls from this year, I couldn’t find any other states that were asked about evolution. Ditto questions about whether Obama is a Muslim. And in only one other state did I see voters being asked about interracial marriage: South Carolina. (Surprise!) I suppose it’s possible I missed one or two. But let us concede that these sorts of questions are in no way standard fare.

Indeed, for the most part, PPP’s Republican POTUS polling has focused on the sorts of electoral nuts and bolts you’d expect: what is your opinion of candidate X? The area of policy you most care about is Y. Do you worry more about ideological purity or electability?

You know something, for these kind of Yankees to stand up and talk about how backward, how bigoted and how just plain damned dumb everybody in the South is in their opinion, it just seems -well, backward, bigoted and just plain dumb of them.

Lord, lord ... I can't speak for the people who show up at Mitt Romney's rallies or who want their children home-schooled like Rick Santorum. I just keep talking to them about what the President's done and what the Democrats want to do for them - hell, for us and our kind. That's all I can do, but then I know these people better than the Yankees of either stripe who still think we're caught up in an endless maelstrom of continuous Civil War.

If you can't come South with an open mind ... Yankees, please ... stay home.