on appropriating the language of your victims (or, never trust tony perkins)

Max Blumenthal has a great piece in The Nation on the men behind Justice Sunday, and the words they’re wrapping themselves in. Here’s a clip:

Senate majority leader Bill Frist appeared through a telecast as a speaker at “Justice Sunday,” at the invitation of the event’s main sponsor, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins. “Justice Sunday” was promoted as a rally to portray Democrats as being “against people of faith.” Many of the speakers compared the plight of conservative Christians to the civil rights movement. But in sharing the stage with Perkins, who introduced him to the rally, Frist was associating himself with someone who has longstanding ties to racist organizations.

Four years ago, Perkins addressed the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), America’s premier white supremacist organization, the successor to the White Citizens Councils, which battled integration in the South. In 1996 Perkins paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,000 for his mailing list. At the time, Perkins was the campaign manager for a right-wing Republican candidate for the US Senate in Louisiana. The Federal Election Commission fined the campaign Perkins ran $3,000 for attempting to hide the money paid to Duke…

James Dobson, who founded the Family Research Council as the Washington lobbying arm of his Focus on the Family, invoked the Christian right’s persecution complex. On an evening when Jews were celebrating the second night of Passover, Dobson claimed, “The biggest Holocaust in world history came out of the Supreme Court” with the Roe v. Wade decision. On his syndicated radio show nearly two weeks earlier, on April 11, Dobson compared the “black robed men” on the Supreme Court to “the men in white robes, the Ku Klux Klan.” By his logic, the burden of oppression had passed from religious and racial minorities to unborn children and pure-hearted heterosexuals engaged in “traditional marriage.”

Posted in Church and State | 9 Comments

but they’re the ones being persecuted

The LA Times has a great piece today on the so-called “war” against “people of faith” that we’re being told is taking place in our country… It’s funny, but I don’t really consider one man putting his penis inside another man’s bottom to be an act of war. Apparently that’s what it is though, at least in their eyes. By making love to someone of the same sex inside your own home, or having an abortion, or believing in science and evolution, you are committing an act of war against them. You are the aggressor.

Just days after a bitterly divided Senate committee voted along party lines to approve her nomination as a federal appellate court judge, California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown told an audience Sunday that people of faith were embroiled in a “war” against secular humanists who threatened to divorce America from its religious roots, according to a newspaper account of the speech…

“No wonder the radical left opposes her,” Bauer wrote in an e-mail to supporters. “Janice Rogers Brown understands the great culture war raging in America. That is why the abortion crowd, the homosexual rights movement and the radical secularists are all demanding that Senate liberals block her confirmation.”

Brown was first nominated by President Bush in 2003 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, an appointment considered a steppingstone to the U.S. Supreme Court. She has emerged as one of the president’s most controversial judicial nominees — and one of the conservative movement’s favorite examples of Democratic delays…

Democrats have questioned speeches in which she called the New Deal the “triumph of our socialist revolution.” She has described herself as a “true conservative” who believes that “where the government moves in, community retreats, civil society disintegrates…. The result is a debased, debauched culture which finds moral depravity entertaining and virtue contemptible.”

And, yes, that could be one of our next Supreme Court Justices referring to the New Deal as “the triumph of socialism.” Are you maybe starting to appreciate the fact that this really is something to be concerned about?

I know you know this, but it’s worth being reminded of every now and then – Supreme Court Justices keep their seats FOR LIFE. And, what’s more, as many as four of the nine seats on the court might become vacant in the very near future… Now, are you starting to appreciate just how serious it is that the Republicans are trying to remove the one tool that the Democrats have to stop their appointment of radical judges? Without the fillabuster, Janice Rogers Brown, and judges like her, would be moving one step closer to the Supreme Court…. If you haven’t written to your Senator yet, please do. Call and urge them not to vote in favor of changing the time-honored rules of the Senate just to see these extremist, out-of-the-mainstream judges rammed through.

Sorry if I raised my voice, but I feel really strongly about this.

Posted in Church and State | 15 Comments

what’s the matter with liberals

The following is an excerpt from Thomas Frank’s new article in the New York Review of Books… I’m not sure, but I think he’s suggesting in it that liberals start picking fights in bars, kicking ass in the streets and calling Republicans “pussies.”

For the 2004 campaign, Kerry moved to the center, following the well-worn path of the corporate Democrats before him, downplaying any “liberal” economic positions that might cost him among the funders and affirming his support for the Iraq invasion even after the official justifications for that exercise had been utterly discredited. Kerry’s pallid strategy offered little to motivate the party’s traditional liberal and working-class base, but revulsion against Bush was assumed to be reason enough to get out and vote. And besides, such an approach was supposed to protect the Democrat from the inevitable charges of insufficient toughness.

A newcomer to American politics, after observing this strategy in action in 2004, would have been justified in believing that the Democrats were the party in power, so complacent did they seem and so unwilling were they to criticize the actual occupant of the White House. Republicans, meanwhile, were playing another game entirely. The hallmark of a “backlash conservative” is that he or she approaches politics not as a defender of the existing order or as a genteel aristocrat but as an average working person offended by the arrogance of the (liberal) upper class. The sensibility was perfectly caught during the campaign by onetime Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer, who explained it to The New York Times like this: “Joe Six-Pack doesn’t understand why the world and his culture are changing and why he doesn’t have a say in it.”[3] These are powerful words, the sort of phrase that could once have been a slogan of the fighting, egalitarian left. Today, though, it was conservatives who claimed to be fighting for the little guy, assailing the powerful, and shrieking in outrage at the direction in which the world is irresistibly sliding…

Residents of West Virginia and Arkansas received mailings from the Republican National Committee warning that liberals would ban the Bible if they got the chance. In numerous other states, voters were energized by ballot initiatives proposing constitutional amendments reacting to the illusory threat of gay marriage, an institution that was already illegal almost everywhere, but that conservative activists nonetheless decried as a mortal, immediate menace to civilization itself. James Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family, endorsed a presidential candidate for the first time ever and, proclaiming that “everything we hold dear is on the line” because of the threat of gay marriage, addressed gargantuan political rallies of evangelical Christians around the country…

Much has been made in the months since the election of the national security issue and the role of fear in the Republican triumph, with some using the point to demand even more hawkish Democratic candidates in the future and others to underscore the Bush administration’s scurrility in whipping up unreasonable public alarm since September 11. It is important to remember when discussing these issues, however, that much of their power arises from the same backlash cultural template that undergirds the rest of contemporary conservatism–indeed, that shooting war and culture war are of a piece in the conservative mind. What makes national security such a winner for Republicans is that is dramatizes the same negative qualities of liberalism that we see in the so-called “values” issues, only much more forcefully. War casts in sharp relief the inauthenticity of the liberals, the insincerity of their patriotism, and their intellectual distance (always trying to “understand” the terrorists’ motives) from the raw emotions felt by ordinary Americans–each quality an expression of the deracinated upper-classness that is thought to be the defining characteristic of liberalism.

The reason conservatives are always thought to be tough and liberals to be effete milquetoasts (two favorite epithets from the early days of the backlash) even when they aren’t is the same reason Americans believe the French to be a nation of sissies and the same reason the Dead End Kids found it both easy and satisfying to beat up the posh boy from the luxury apartment building: the cultural symbolism of class. If you relish chardonnay/lattes/ snowboarding, you will not fight. If you talk like a Texan, you are a two-fisted he-man who knows life’s hardships and are ready to scrap at a moment’s notice. This is the reason conservative authors and radio demagogues find it so easy to connect liberals and terrorists. It is the same reason, by extension, that old-time political nicknames like “the Fighting Liberal” make no sense to us anymore and that current foreign policy failures like North Korean nuclear proliferation do not bring lasting discredit on President Bush: in the face of such crises one is either a wimp or a hard guy, and we’ve already got a hard guy in there.

Posted in Politics | 6 Comments

arianna act three

From the New York Times:

Arianna Huffington, the columnist and onetime candidate for governor of California, is about to move blogging from the realm of the anonymous individual to the realm of the celebrity collective. She has lined up more than 250 of what she calls “the most creative minds” in the country to write a group blog that will range over topics from politics and entertainment to sports and religion. It is essentially a nonstop virtual talk show that will be part of a Web site that will also serve up breaking news around the clock. It is to be introduced May 9…

Among those signed up to contribute are Walter Cronkite, David Mamet, Nora Ephron, Warren Beatty, James Fallows, Vernon E. Jordan Jr., Maggie Gyllenhaal, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., Diane Keaton, Norman Mailer and Mortimer B. Zuckerman…

The Post will also set another blogging milestone: Ms. Huffington has signed a contract with Tribune Media Services, which syndicates her newspaper column, to syndicate parts of her blog to newspapers and their Web sites.

As I’ve yet to be contacted, I’m guessing that it means that she doesn’t find mine to be one of the 250 most creative minds in America. (And here I thought that I made a really good impression when, dripping sweat and muttering unintelligibly, I handed her that book to sign.) That in itself doesn’t bother me too much, but, to be honest, knowing that Diane Keaton made the cut while I didn’t kind of pisses me off. (I haven’t been a Diane Keaton fan since someone in LA, who had worked with her on a film, told me that she was a mean bitch… Little things like that make a huge impression on me… I don’t think I’ve ever shared this with you, but my dislike of Diane Keaton is so great, I haven’t to this day seen the film “Look Who’s Talking Now.”)

I’ll keep my eye on this project of Arianna’s as I’m curious to see how it plays out, but I’m not expecting much. There might be an occasional glimmer of insight, but, more often that not, I think visitors will find themselves staring at the narcissistic and boorish rantings of b-list celebrities and Hollywood hacks. (I’m impressed by the print tie-in though. That’s pretty cool.) If you’re interested, you can leave your email address and Arianna will send you a note when the site goes live.

Posted in Media | 14 Comments

ypsi on fire

Last night, we had another meeting to discuss the concept of the Ypsilanti-centric community reporting site (code name “Spitting Cat”). After a few productive hours of work, we all went our seperate ways. Brett asked me to have a beer, but I had to get home to help Linette with the baby, so I declined. What I didn’t realize at the time was, had I stayed out with Brett, I would have been involved in his second big Ypsi reporting scoop in less than a week… You see, as Brett was sitting at the bar, he received a call from his wife informing him that the apartment building next to theirs was on fire… At that, Brett grabbed his notebook and camera and sprinted down the railroad tracks toward the blaze.

If you have a chance, check out his coverage (even if you don’t live in Ypsi). I think it illustrates perfectly why it is that we, the “Spitting Cats,” feel so strongly about this project of ours and its potential. This is a story that, had it not been for Brett, we probably wouldn’t have heard about, at least not in such detail.

If it weren’t for Brett, I wouldn’t have known, for instance, that the fire alarms didn’t sound, that the tenants suspect faulty wiring, that the first hydrant tried by the firefighters didn’t work, and that a Township engine apparently beat our own city firefighters to the scene… Brett, once again, has demonstrated to the rest of us what a community news website has the potential of being. (If he raises the bar any higher, we’ll have to kill him, but that’s beside the point.)

Here’s a quote from his post:

I am very uneasy. Last night I personally observed a building, identical in composition to my own, located only yards away, catch fire for an unknown reason. The residents were not alerted in time to same anything but the clothes on their backs. The fire departments were slow to arrive, the first responder was unable to provide water due to a faulty utility, and the company which ended up primarily solving the situation is from a township 5 miles from us.

Is this what the first sign of a bankrupt city will be like? Politicians from the top to the bottom, claiming the best government is a small government, using the Headlee Amendment and privatization campaigns to squeeze every service from the public domain, until we are left with crumbling residences, filled with code violations the city doesn’t enforce, an infrastructure they don’t maintain, and a safety department incapable of doing its job due to the limitations imposed upon it by a City Council focused primarily on being ‘Cool’.

I have spoken previously of my feelings regarding the area where I live. As the city zoning map shows, it is classified as ‘high density,’ and not surprisingly, color-coded as ‘shit brown’. It is obvious by the statements made at numerous meetings that the City of Ypsilanti intends to marginalize certain demographics by moving them from town, restoring their treasured ‘single family dwellings’, and all the while asserting that a non-existent increase in the student population requires additional residences to be constructed.

I had thought it was enough that, as a person of moderate income, I might be caught in a political game and ostracized to the other side of the river along with the rest of Ypsilanti’s working poor. Now, I grow increasingly wary of the possibility that there is more to the land use plan than simply moving undesirables away from downtown.

Congratulations, Ypsilanti. You’ve finally succeeded in scaring me to death.

UPDATE: A former member of the Holland (Michigan) Board of Public Works, who has some knowledge of how fire departments operate, offers an analysis of the situation on his site. Here are his central thoughts on two major issues:

Problem: The fire department had a long response time.
Answer: The dept. is understaffed and over-extended. The City of Holland Fire Dept. serves 39,000 people (give or take a few). Ypsilanti’s serves around 45,000, according to their website. Holland has 3 stations, two of which are manned full time. Ypsi has 1 (ONE) station, also manned full time. From what I can tell, Ypsi has one truck, two engines, a rescue and a support van. Ypsi is also a full time only department, which means that off-duty personal are called back on big fire calls. Holland, on the other hand, has one truck, three engines, one reserve engine, one medium rescue, one light rescue, a brush truck, and a tiny boat. Holland’s two full time stations are complimented by a large amount of paid on-call members, who only respond to fires and big events. I’d imagine, since Pittsfield Twp. was first on scene to Ypsi, that Ypsi has an automatic aid agreement set up to save its ass. It looks like that worked – but is that safe?

Problem: First fire hydrant attached to did not flow.
Answer: Inadequate maintanence, poor communication, poor fire department operation… all could be problems. Over winter, some fire hydrants are prone to freeze and crack, leaving them out of service. Unless the Water Dept. goes around and checks all hydrants, this problem may not be found in time to correct before a fire. A better maintanence program may be of merit. Also, the water and fire departments should talk together more often, sharing information about out-of-service hydrants. A good system should be worked out to inform the fire dept. which hydrants are unusable, even as simple as duct-taping a trash bag over the bad hyrdant (we started doing that in Holland). And, just to say… the firefighters should flow the hydrant quickly before attaching hose, just to make sure it works.

Our Mayor, by the way, has yet to respond to my note on this matter. When she does, I’ll let you know.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Former firefighter, and friend of this site, Hillary Cherry, had this to add:

Good anaylsis by the fellow from Holland, though the last census counted Ypsilanti’s population at 22,362. Holland’s is listed as 35,048. Holland also occupies almost 4 times the land area that Ypsilanti does. Also, the median income in Holland is $14,000 more. Not saying that excuses Ypsilanti’s poor maintenance, just that Ypsilanti should try harder at providing basic services and not so hard on dressing town up to look like Holland.

Also, I’m not sure exactly how Ypsilanti Fire is structured, but labor unions are more common on the east side of Michigan, while paid-on-call is the dominant paradigm elsewhere in the state. In Hamtramck, 100% of the firemen are union and full-time. In some west side towns, they still have unpaid volunteer firemen. In any event, it’s more expensive to run an east side department because Ypsilanti’s competition for hiring is Hamtramck and not Freeport.

Posted in Ypsilanti | 15 Comments


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