June 2009


The troubles in Iran are due to the fact that the Iranian regime doesn’t know how to steal elections in a believable way.

If they had reported results that Ahmadinejad had won by 51% to 54%, there would have been some grumbling about a fixed election but it would have been plausible enough. It’s doubtful that thousands of demonstrators would have taken to the streets.

But the Supreme Leadership gave Ahmadinejad a decisive victory that was obviously fraudulent. They probably believed that a wide margin of victory would have conferred widespread legitimacy to Ahmadinejad’s election. The opposite was the case: the results were so obviously false that people right away were convinced that they wuz robbed. If the leaders who fixed the election had been smart they would at least have let Mousavi win his home province. Again, this was probably a clumsy attempt to show that Ahmadinejad’s support was widespread, even in his opponent’s constituency. It backfired on them big time.

They should have taken the American example. Dubya didn’t even win the popular vote in 2000, and he “won” Florida by the slimmest possible margin – less than one hundredth of a percentage point. The Republicans didn’t claim to have won a solidly blue state like California. (Though, to the eternal chagrin of those who needlessly died in unnecessary war of choice in Iraq, B*sh DID win Gore’s home state of Tennessee fair and square.)

The Republicans stole only exactly the number of votes they needed to steal. Neither more nor less.

The Iranian hardliners didn’t get any pointers from Karl Rove, however, and now they have a huge mess of anger on their hands. I don’t think the reformist opposition has the power to overthrow the clerics and accomplish a new Iranian Revolution, but they may be able to force a re-vote.

I must admit that when I first heard about a museum devoted to the Nazi Holocaust opening in Washington D.C. I was a bit skeptical about its relevance. What did the Nazi Holocaust have to do with Washington, or the U.S., for that matter? Of course, there are tangents, there always are. Millions of Americans fought in the war to liberate Europe from the Nazis. A dwindling number of Americans are refugees from the Nazi regime, and thousands of their descendants live, though they would have died or never been born if the Nazis had triumphed.

But I thought such a museum should be in Germany, or Poland, near the sites of these monstrous crimes. Why D.C.? It seemed out of place, somehow.

My thinking has changed since then. I evolved the thought that it’s precisely in a place like D.C. that we need such a museum: the powerful capital of the most powerful nation on earth can always use a sobering reminder of what power can do when it is held by hateful, inhuman, fanatical ideologues.

That place was attacked this week, by someone who carried the same political, ideological, and spiritual disease that afflicted so many Germans so many years ago. He chose the holocaust Museum as a target because of what it represents – the complete and utter rejection of the anti-semitic cancer that devoured Europe in the mid 20th-Century, and that gnawed at his own hate-twisted soul.

He came to kill Jews. He knew that this was a place where he would find Jews. Like his ideological forebears, he would deliberately single out members of that particular ethnic-religious group for annihilation.

But he didn’t end up killing any Jews. Instead, the man (I refuse to name him) killed Steven Tyrone Johns, a museum guard. Steven Tyrone Johns died so that others might live. He is a hero.

Steven Tyrone Johns was African-American, a member of another ethnic group that the shooter hated.

American Jews and American Blacks have had a long and often problematic relationship. There were Jewish slave-owners, but also many Jewish abolitionists. There is no doubt that the Biblical story of the Jews’ deliverance from slavery gave hope to those who toiled in captivity. Their sprirituals still echo with the yearning for freedom inspired from the Book of Exodus.

Jews were prominent in the struggle for Civil Rights. Segregation was offensive to the humanitarian and egalitarian strain of Judaism. Black and Jews marched together, desegregated lunch counters together, and, in Mississippi, died together.

But in recent decades the relationship has become strained. Blacks began to lump Jews in with the white oppressor. Many looked to Islam as a way to separate from the religious and cultural traditions that were imposed by the white majority. In so doing, they often acquired the anti-Semitic attitudes fomented by the leaders of the Nation of Islam, particularly Louis B. Farrakhan. Another African-American leader, Jesse Jackson, has used anti-Jewish epithets such as “Hymietown” to describe New York City. Jews, in their turn, have sometimes exhibited racist attitudes, using the unflattering term “schwartzkes”, and generally seeming to treat Blacks with contempt.

The incident at the Holocaust Museum is, in perspective, a small one. Another murder in a city that sees hundreds of murders every year. One more gun-related death out of tens of thousands in the United States every year. But somehow the cast of characters makes this significant. The shooter is symptomatic of the rising tide of right-wing violence we’ve seen since the election of the first African-American President. The place, established in memory of millions of murdered Jews, becomes the site of a hate crime, the place where an ordinary African-American working stiff draws his last breath in a heroic act of confrontation with a violent racist. It’s not some kind of parable: someone actually died. And yet if we look at the symbolism, it might be one sorrowful sigh that becomes a mighty wind of reconciliation.

Read this account by Mark Blumenthal.

One of the most intellectually dishonest ploys that have crept up from the Right after the Holocaust Memorial shooting is the desperate, shallow attempt to portray the racist, right-wing, anti-semitic neo-Nazi shooter as a “leftist”.

How could that be even remotely true? Just because the right-wing extremist was apparently also angry at conservative politicians and pundits doesn’t make him a “leftist”. It simply means that he felt they weren’t fascist enough for him.

The whole meme of the Right, popularized by Jonah Goldberg, that there is such a thing as “liberal fascism” is an Orwellian lie. Liberalism is antithetical to fascism. Liberalism is based on tolerance of other’s differences and embracing diversity. It is the polar opposite of the enforced conformity that fascism promotes.

The “evidence” that the right-wingers present to state their case is paper-thin. They argue that the Nazis were socialist because their party name includes the word “socialist”. That makes about as much sense as saying that the Republican party has ties with the terrorist Irish Republican Army, or Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard, because of their names.

How anyone can believe, without a brain-numbing cognitive dissonance, that a hateful genocidal war criminal like Hitler is a “leftist”, just like a tree-hugging, granola-chewing anti-war peacenik hippie, is beyond me.

What’s disturbing is that the Right gets defensive whenever the phrase “right-wing extremist” is used. Instead of condemning right-wing extremist violence, they are desperate to project the fascist label on their opponents. Some, like Big Hollywood’s Andrew Breitbart, seem to feel that to describe the Holocaust Museum shooter as a right-wing extremist is a personal attack against him and his ideology. Does he react so defensively because he secretly approves of neo-Nazi violence?

They are either lying or delusional. I think that they have crossed a line into such depths of intellectual dishonesty that it will be difficult for them to climb out of. They have decided that their hate for their liberal opponents is more important than making common cause against fascist extremism. It’s a sad, pathetic place to be.

I stumbled across an online book on the phenomenon of right-wing authoritarianism by a social scientist named Bob Altemeyer, at the University of Manitoba. It’s pretty interesting, and written in a light, breezy, accessible style. Do yourself a favor, and read at least the introduction.

One thing that struck me is the test in Chapter One to determine your level of authoritarian tendencies. The lowest possible score is 20, the highest 180. The higher your score, the more likely you are to be an authoritarian follower: essentially, a goose-stepping, armband-wearing fascist. Predictably, I scored very low: 30. What I find surprising is that the average score of people taking the test is 90.

I can’t even imagine agreeing with some of the extreme right-wing statements there, such as “Our country desperately needs a mighty leader who will do what has to be done to destroy the radical new ways and sinfulness that are ruining us.” That’s almost comically exaggerated.

Or conversely, it’s hard to imagine disagreeing with the common-sense liberal positions described in other questions.

So for the average to be 90, many people obviously agree with the cartoonesque Mussolini attitude. That’s sobering, and disquieting.

I’ve been stewing for some time about how and when to begin this blogging thing. I’ve been reading and commenting on blogs for several years, and finally I’ve decided to carve out a little niche of cyberspace for my very own. I have no illusions that I will someday join the A-list, but if a few dozen people show up every now and then this will be worthwhile.

What’s the purpose of blogging? Is it to change hearts and minds? To me, it’s an outlet for my brilliant opinions – whether or not anyone else considers them to be so, or even reads them. If a tree falls in the forest, does it still make a sound? Maybe. Maybe something I write will touch off someone else’s synapses and create a “butterfly effect”, causing a hurricane elsewhere in the blogosphere.

Something had to happen to provoke this first post, and it’s this article by former conservative Frank Schaeffer in HuffPo.

He makes a strong point that the more successful Obama becomes in his presidency, the more distorted, violent, and rabid their rhetoric will be.

today a whole far right industry, led by Fox News, Limbaugh, the evangelicals, right wing Roman Catholics, Palin, the former vice president and his daughter — etc. — is growing up and into a permanent, negative and profitable hate-Obama industry. It is catering to the deluded, the paranoid, the fearful and – let’s be frank – none too bright rube underbelly of white America.

The Republican Party is quickly becoming a foul nest of knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers who vent their spleen on everything from “taxes” (despite the fact that no one’s taxes have been raised) to the Presidents’ preference for Dijon mustard.

One of the things that enrages the far right are the very things that most reasonable people find admirable in Obama: his temperament, his intelligence, his open-mindedness. They see him as a traitor because he’s not a chest-thumping militaristic jingoist like they are. they see him as an elitist because he’s not a gap-toothed moonshine-swilling redneck like they are.

Schaeffer predicts that unhinged domestic terrorists will attempt to assassinate Oabma, or target innocent civilians like Timothy McVeigh did in 1995. I hope he’s wrong, of course, but when I see the incredibly ignorant and hateful garbage being spewed on the right-wing blogs, I fear for the worst as well.

Schaeffer rightly takes to task the Republican “leadership”, not only for failing to isolate this fringe element and distance themselves from it, but also for positively stoking the fires of hate.

In this time of economic uncertainty, Americans need to get behind their President as he attempts to repair the damage created by his predecessors. Obama has been in office for only 5 months. It will take time before he can repair eight years of B*sh’s failed policies. In this age of instant gratification, Americans need to learn a bit of parience.