Sunday, September 30, 2007

Black and White World

Gov. Jim Doyle created a commission to study racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Apparently, the idea of studying racial disparities in anything is considered the sort of muddle-headed concern that sets tongues waging on the right, where any mention of race in society is met with feigned "how dare you?" indignity. Acting like they are threatened by what the commission might say, the wing-nuts conducted a pre-emptive strike, calling on a friendly law professor from Marquette’s increasingly right-wing faculty to say the disparity in Wisconsin is not that different from the national average and what’s so wrong with racial disparity, anyway.

Xoff and Soglin have pointed out the obvious bias in the McAdams approach to the study or article or whatever he is calling it these days. You do have to kind of admire the kind of balls it takes to end a piece that screams to be taken statistically seriously with a long, dubious anecdote from talk-radio’s Clarence Thomas wanna-be, James Harris. I guess the message is that we should go ahead a lock up more blacks in the hopes that Harris can walk his dog in peace.

Although McAdams need not be taken seriously, certainly the problem should be. The issue isn’t whether there is racial disparity in the criminal justice system (even McAdams admits that) – the question is how it manifests itself and what, if anything, we can do about it.

Since I began my career as a criminal defense attorney 21 years ago – the vast majority of my clients being appointments from the State Public Defender – I do have some perspective on the position my clients (I would guess 85% black) face in the criminal justice system and in society as a whole.

McAdams spends some time reviewing statistics for those released from prison after serving time. For both an identification of the issues and possible solutions, I would look at the time before someone is locked up; long before they commit a serious crime. It is that time that affects them more if they do end up getting accused a felony or even a misdemeanor; whether they get out on bail, and how they are sentenced, even whether they get charged in the first place. And, because of conditions on the street and the nature and result of interactions with police in their own neighborhoods, blacks in the city start at a significant disadvantage in the criminal justice system.

Seeing the difference in treatment is as easy as crossing the street.

I walk downtown everyday, to and from the courthouse and my office on 7th – I’m sorry – James Lovell and Wisconsin. Often, I’ll come up to a crosswalk with no traffic headed in either direction and the Don’t Walk sign glowing orange-red. Several African-Americans will be standing there, dutifully waiting for the Walk sign. I step out and start to cross. The others watch, then gingerly make their own way across the street, against the light, figuring if the white guy can get away with it, so can they. This time, anyway.

Black people in Milwaukee are far more likely than I am to get jaywalking tickets. They are far more likely to get a loitering ticket hanging around on a street corner or on the front stoop of a house. They are more likely to get a disorderly conduct ticket for talking loud out in the street or a noise complaint from a neighbor. The unpaid tickets result in commitments – to jail – for non-payment or a driver’s license revocation or they’ll take your income tax refund.

In fact, black Milwaukeeans are far more likely to have any contact with a police officer. And when they do, the quality of that interaction is dramatically different. They are far more likely to get searched, to get their name run for warrants, to have everyone around them asked for ID. This is a world most white folks are completely unfamiliar with. Officer Friendly conducting a frisk of your person and asking if you have "anything to hide"? Unheard of for us, but that’s the way it is for the citizens of Black Milwaukee, who often find themselves on the wrong end of a near police state.

Those who want to get off the streets and drive or ride in a car are also treated much differently. The pain of a ticket is one thing, but getting stopped driving down the road by police is no big deal for me. They come up to the window, get your license, check it and come back with a ticket, a warning or a pat on the back for good driving.

If you want to know what the difference is for a black person, ask a black professional. He’ll tell you that, while I would be able to drive around for months with a broken taillight, he will be stopped or any equipment violation, even something ludicrous like having snow covering a back-up light. Once stopped, he’ll tell you he will often be pulled out of the car and frisked. Even dressed up for a night out, his passengers will be asked for ID and run for warrants. He will be asked if the police can search the car, for no reason at all. He will describe an often humiliating, disrespectful encounter.

All this scrutiny on the streets and in cars, of course, results in small matters suddenly resulting in arrests. Unpaid fines, certainly. Sometimes, recreational drugs are found, open intoxicants, even a gun (unless it’s unloaded and cased in the trunk, illegal to carry in a car). You might try to avoid an outstanding warrant and give your brother’s name (obstructing). You might even try to run (resisting). Did you know that you can be arrested and made to bail out of jail for any traffic violation, like a bad license light? Don’t worry – if you’re a white guy, you probably won’t have to worry about it. If you are black, you do.

The result is that few black people who have lived in the city for a long time have a totally clean record if they are arrested for a misdemeanor or worse. The stupid tickets they got on the street or in a car will follow them to the criminal system and may affect charging and bail decisions. There are other issues in the more advanced stages of the system that result in the disparity, of course, and perhaps I’ll address those in future posts.

But the combined effect of the drip-drip-drip of petty ticket enforcement and undue scrutiny during police encounters results in a sense of distrust and injustice in the inner city. The stark fact is that young black men are all too familiar with the inside of a police car and a jail cell, if only for silly tickets. Young white men are much less likely to face the same scrutiny, build the same record or be treated the same way if accused of something more serious.

The bottom line is that blacks and whites don’t come into the criminal system with the same baggage. It should be no surprise that they come out of the system with different results.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Transcript: Axis of Evil Meeting

September 25, 2007 – United Nations, New York City

KJI: North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-il
BAA: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
MA: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
HC: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

KJI: Alright, let’s get started here. I know we all want to get to Wolfowitz’ neo-con soiree. As you know, we all have directions through the servants quarters, as usual. If you have not signed up for the dunk tank, there is a sheet being passed around...

BAA: Don’t worry, the gang that can’t shoot straight probably can’t throw a softball, either!


KJI: I know some of you are anxious to get to Canal Street as well, so let’s keep this moving. As Old Business, I would like to thank President Chavez for his great job as Designated Clown at last year’s session. Truly a remarkable job, Hugo. That "smell of sulphur" bit was really a stroke of genius.

HC: Gracias!

KJI: We also should note, I suppose. The untimely passing of our brother Saddam at the hands of the imperialist stooges in Iraq...Bashar, what’s the matter with you?

BAA: I’m sorry Mr. Chairman, (stifles laugh) please continue.

KJI: Saddam was a great hero of his people who was deposed in an illegal invasion by the Great Satan...Bashar, please!

BAA: (Laughing loudly) I’m sorry! It just sounds so funny coming from you. You were the first to suggest throwing him under the bus. Laying it on a little thick aren’t we? "Great hero"? "Brother" Saddam? I mean, please...

KJI: We all know that Saddam may not have been well liked (more laughter) or considered much of a leader on anything (guffaws, whistles), but his fate holds lessons for those who oppose United States imperialism...and...I’m sorry, I can’t do this with a straight face...

BAA: Kim, I never saw you crack a grin like that!

KJI: It’s just too funny. Saddam was such a chump.

HC: Amen, brother.

MA: I would like to discuss the UN sanctions on my country.

KJI: Hang on, Mahmoud. We’re still on Old Business. Anything else on Old Business? Alright, anyone have any New Business?

MA: Now, about those sanctions...

KJI: Too late! Now that’s Old Business!

BAA: Ha! I love that routine! Marx Brothers, Horsefeathers, right?

KJI: Nope. Duck Soup.

BAA: Of course, of course! I love that movie! (Singing) Hail, Hail Fredonia, Land of the Brave...and...Free!...

KJI: Seriously, Mahmoud, we do appreciate your serving as this year’s Designated Clown. Your schtick was beautiful at Columbia. What was that again? "We don’t have homosexuals like you do in this country." What a riot.

BAA: That’s not what my boyfriend in Tehran’s been telling me! (Laughter)

MA: What I meant was...

HC: Who cares what you mean? The Americans will spin it to make you look like a bad guy no matter what you said. Do what I do! Revel in their disdain; celebrate your target-hood! Hey, it's not all bad. You got face time with Christiana Amanpour!

ALL: Ah...Christiana...

MA: I would like to be taken seriously by my people and the world at large. The Iranian revolution was born of the strength of our people...

KJI: Well, good luck with that, Mahmoud. (Laughter) Look, we know our role, correct? We get to be targets of the American press, which creates a diversion and takes pressure off of our brothers in Saudi Arabia, China, Jordan, wherever. Our friends, the neo-cons, jabber and squawk but, in the end, won’t do anything. All they are interested in is creating bogey-men to stoke their military-industrial complex. Happy to serve! In the meantime, Hugo, how are those oil prices?

HC: Bueno!

KJI: You better believe, bueno. The more we play the game, the more our friends prosper. And, with the Great Satan attacking each one of us everyday, our people eat it up. Anyone who rises up to challenge is automatically an American stooge. Hell, we’re set for life. I am, anyway.

MA: Oh yeah? Why don’t I feel so good?

BAA: Well, you have your own internal problems. It might work out for you. But you might want to be careful in the airport when you get back -- I’d keep an eye on that men’s room in the north terminal, if I were you.

MA: I just don’t want to left swinging in the breeze like Saddam.

BAA: Oh, we got your back, Mahmoud!

HC: Yeah, bro.

ALL: [smile]

MA: Uh, OK, if you say so. Now, about those sanctions –

HC: Move to adjourn.

BAA: Second!

KJI: Alright, you guys. See you at Wolfie’s!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Talk Radio Not Up to Jena Challenge

The racist prosecution of six black youths in Jena, Louisiana was the subject of one of the most successful civil rights protests in years last week, focusing the national and international spotlight on an unfortunate but all too frequent misuse of the criminal justice system. Naturally, Milwaukee’s own race-baiting wing-nuts were right out front, attacking the leaders of the protests and blaming the victims.

Over on right-wing radio station WTMJ, supposedly legitimate public-policy egghead (so christened recently by Marquette University) Charlie Sykes was playing his usual smear-the-messengers-so-we-don’t-have-to-deal-with-the-issues game. Jim Rowan noticed that Sykes called two historic figures who, unlike Sykes, have actually done something positive with their lives – civil rights leaders Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton – "race pimps" for daring to challenge the Jena outrage. Nothing new here – I caught Sykes calling Sharpton a pimp back during the Imus imbroglio and my post was widely ignored. So, I guess this is something that the mainstream outrage-spotters are willing to let go, if only to protect their spots on Sykes’ TV panels. Besides, at least Sykes was familiar with the subject of his comments, having pimped for the GOP for years.

Over on WISN, Mark Belling was in full I-don’t-care-if-you-call-me-a-racist mode, calling the Jena kids "thugs" (like he knows) and blaming the struggle for justice in Jena as the "pathetic" result of nostalgic longing by "idiots" who missed the ‘60s. In one of the more outlandishly stupid examples of wishful thinking in recent years, know-it-all Belling offered this: "By the mid-1970s, all the legal racism in America was pretty much done-away with." Wow, really? This completely insupportable claim ignores the treatment of crack cocaine (used by blacks) more severely than powder (favored by whites, who can afford it); the disproportionate use of the death penalty on black defendants; high percentage of blacks in prison; the fact that blacks are still far more likely than whites to get stopped just driving down the street, etc. The criminal justice system has been regularly used to accomplish what cannot be done by Jim Crow or Bull Conner wannabes, especially in racist backwaters like Jena.

Not satisfied to pretend well-established racial problems in the criminal justice system don’t exist, Belling decided – as he often does at the mere suggestion of African-American temerity – to add racist insult to injury. Belling suggested that, rather than marching for justice in Jena like a bunch of ingrates, blacks should turn on people in their own community. "Why not do something gutsy like march in front of the homes of some of these mothers who have eight kids by eight different fathers and aren’t paying attention to any of them," said the exaggerating, ignorant Belling. "...whose notion of a family is to simply pop out a bunch of kids and turn them to the streets and allow the gang members to raise them?" Why not, indeed? Thus the classic racist notion of poor black women "popping out" children is introduced into a discussion of justice in Jena. "Dealing with the pathologies of urban America is hard; Jena is easy," he said. Well, Jena isn’t that easy for him. He can’t deal with any subject involving black Americans without promoting racist canards that would only be welcome in the coffee shops of white Jena.

While taking friendly calls from places like Oshkosh, Brookfield and the South Side – "How can we look at members of the black community as equals?" wondered the chump from Oshkosh – Belling, obviously on a roll, wouldn’t (perhaps couldn’t) stop there. He also had the nerve to speak on behalf of Martin Luther King, Jr. MLK "would not have rallied behind a bunch of guilty kids", claims Belling, forgetting that King himself was a frequent victim of the criminal justice system, "guilty" as he was of being uppity. "Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application," he famously wrote from the Birmingham jail. While his focus was on the civil rights denied in the South, King’s world view was not limited to that issue. He would have recognized the injustice in Jena – and, certainly, its relation to the deep South’s historic racism – just like he recognized the futility of the Vietnam war just before his death.

As if twisting the King legacy beyond recognition wasn’t enough, Belling couldn’t help but draw attention to King’s "problems in his personal life", just in case you were thinking of throwing some King back in his face. "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity," King said. Now, run tell that.

Paul Soglin had a brief moment of attention last week when he said on his blog that "the problem with Milwaukee is talk radio. So long as Charlie Sykes, Mark Belling and Jay Weber dominate the discussion on crime and poverty, there is little hope for Wisconsin's most important city to work its way out of its troubles." He’s right, of course, and the "discussion" of the issues presented by the Jena prosecutions are the perfect example. Sykes, Belling and their ilk are comedians, entertainers. They don’t give a damn about crime in the city, blathering on about it only to patronize their angry-white-man demographic by talking about how bad and irresponsible blacks and their leaders are.

In Jena, Louisiana, we see the legacy of historic racism, now filtered, however clumsily, through the heavy-handed use of the criminal justice system. Milwaukee’s legacy of racism also survives, no longer through the vehicles of segregated schools and Harold Breier, but now through loud-mouths on the radio, who continue to poison the environment with racist tripe. It’s not helpful, to say the least, but as long as they are offered forums at Marquette, columns in local newspapers and TV shows, it is those who facilitate their poison and advertise on their shows who really bear the responsibility for the lack of progress in a city that needs unity while Belling and Sykes promote division.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Viewer Mail

I've been really proud of the activity on my comments section lately. Some people who disagree with me have been using the comments section to challenge me on various issues for some time now and I’ve enjoyed engaging with them in a way the right-wing usually doesn’t in the Real World. Sometimes, two commenters just go at it for a couple of days while I stand off to the sidelines and watch. I know I’ve posted something interesting if, two or three days later, people are still posting, still arguing, still engaging in the comments.

My last post about "Peace" and "The Law" drew some of the usual suspects. I find that, the more I answer all of their (they think) trick questions, the more the right-wingers eventually raise the volume beyond 11 – all the way to shrill.

For instance, here’s some love from a regular commenter who regularly hides behind the Anonymous tag. It’s sometimes hard to tell one Anony from another, but this guy has a familiar aroma that I can smell a mile away:

Mike, why do you hate the military so much? Did they kick you out on a section 8 (a la Corp. Klingar)? My guess is that you successfully dodged the draft or else you wouldn't have the vitriol that you do. Please tell me a situation where our military action is warranted. You seem to be against all forms of intervention, attack, etc.

Here we see several characteristics of the right-winger with his back to the wall, desperate to score points. Note the groundless assertion that I "hate the military" and that I’m "against all forms of intervention". This is a regular game in all of wing-nuttydom – imputing to me words I’d never use and thoughts I never had. And, no comment thread (especially with this guy) is complete without the unwarranted the personal attack (how does he know I wear dresses? Sometimes, it’s just a lucky guess...).

Regardless of the fact that some of these folks do not approach the arguments in good faith and just want to do damage, I still ignore the personal asides and actually answer the factually-challenged questions. I wrote this in response, posting it here instead of on the comment thread:

In 1970, when I was 15, I wrote to Sen. Proxmeier and told him I would go to jail rather than submit to the draft. He wrote back and told me to calm down, the draft would be over by then. He was right. When I was 18, it was the first year of no-lottery and before mandatory registration, so I missed the whole thing. I know and respect people who went to Vietnam, went to Canada, went to jail. I also know all of the chicken hawks so bravely sending our sons and daughters to their deaths – from Cheney, Bush and Rumsfeld to the media enablers Limbaugh, Kristol and the pathetic Newt Gingrich – never served a day during Vietnam or any other shooting war.

I don't hate the military. I love every soldier that has died or been maimed in this Stupid War. I want to prevent more such deaths. Why you want them to stay in harm's way for the neo-cons' grand designs is beyond me. If I were playing the same games, I would say: why do you "hate" them so much that you will allow 1,000 deaths and countless injuries for another year of this shit? I don't really think you hate them, Anony, but why so indifferent to the danger Bush has put – and kept – them in? I think the burden is on you, at this point.

Not that I have to anything to prove, but I wrote a song last year called "Shake a Hand, Make a Friend". Here's the last verse:

He takes off into the setting sun
Young soldier holding to his gun
Called to duty and he does it well
Free-fire in a living hell

In the airport I smile and wave
I give a shout out to the brave
I'll do my part I'll do my share
To beat the bastards that put him there.

There are lots of legitimate uses of the greatest military in the world, but one person's defense – especially this ridiculous "pre-emption" notion – is another person's imperialism. Are there threatening armies amassed at the Canadian or Mexican border (I mean soldiers, not immigrants)? That's easy. We have commitments to NATO, Israel, South Korea, whatever – if they are invaded, we honor our commitments.

It is quite another thing to say, if we don't like a country or its leaders, that we have the right to invade and depose just because they are blustering or because they don't have our version of "freedom". That this is madness – especially in the volatile Middle East – has been proven in spades in Iraq. But it’s nothing that anyone with any sense didn’t know ahead of time.

Another semi-regular is patrick, who can also be seen commenting on many of the right-wing blogs. This was a long one you can check out for yourself, but here are some excerpts:

Mike, As far as revisionist history goes, you're amazing. Look through all the statements of your democratic officials--the Clintons, Pelosi, all of them. Examine the UN record. Note the invasion of Kuwait, the use of poison gas on the Kurds, the mass graves discovered in Iraq in the first months of the war. That's not crap.

Those on the right like to pretend that, just because some Dems saw Hussein as a potential problem that they also advocated the same "solution". But it is one thing to identify problems and crimes in another country, as Clinton and others did with Hussein, and quite another to invade-and-depose. The goal for some was "regime change" but no Democrat (except Lieberman) ever advocated that. And they were right – now look at the mess we've gotten ourselves into in Iraq.

Whatever happened to the left I once celebrated--one that wanted to stand up for the terrified masses?...

Yeah, sure you did, patrick....that's what they all say. And they all lie.

As for Iran, consider the way they treat those who descent, the beatings of women who fail to cover themselves. the treatment of women in general. ...Consider their material support for the insurgents in Iraq today...Consider their pursuit of nuclear weapons and their holocaust denyer president....Finally, note how our cultures are opposed: we love freedom, debate, vicious debate, even; they value slavish conformity to brutal and repressive, patriarchal and fanatic religion. ...Maybe you need to read a little more about Iran. I'd recommend Michael Ledeen as found at NRO. Either way, Iran embodies everything we in the west find disgusting and low.

Now you want to invade "disgusting and low" Iran. Please.

One of the primary reasons the neo-cons invaded Iraq – although they won't admit it – was because Hussein was such a weak pushover. Iran and Syria are the real targets of the neo-cons, but they were (just barely) smart enough to know that both countries have the broad support of enough of its populace to put up a fierce resistance if the Bushies were foolish enough to try this stunt in either of those places.

So they knocked over Hussein, the paper tiger, immediately moved bin Laden’s hated military bases from Saudi Arabia and tried to occupy the Arab version of the Wild West. We have already ruined our relations with the Arab world for generations by invading Iraq. The dirty secret, despite our blustering, is that invading Iran is absolutely out of the question. It falls to neo-con Michael Ledeen to pollute the Iran bogey-man stories with the same sort of breathless hyperbole that gets Republican candidates saying stupid things and, not coincidentally, sells books for him. The rule of thumb should be: Don’t believe anything about Iran that comes from the administration or the National Review. No two institutions have ever been more consistently wrong. About everything.

So keep those comments coming, campers! The more we engage, the more we learn from each other. The comments section can be like a crowbar to create the open mind. Or, as another famous Clinton (George, he of Parliment/Funkadelic) once proclaimed: Free your mind, and your ass will follow!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Wing-Nuts: "Peace" and "The Law" is for Suckers

Two talk-radio-driven campaigns this past week – one national, one local – show the continuing power of the right-wing echo-chamber. By all of their surrogates saying the same thing – and saying it loudly – the GOP was able to get its twisted messages wedged into the MSM, whether it was newsworthy or made any sense or not. The result, as usual, was the continued poisoning of the political well; the result of the twisted message without a sufficiently-funded or radio-distributed answer.

The first example was the theatrically hyperventilated "reaction" to a full-page ad bought in the New York Times and that ran on the first day of Bush-apologist David Petraeus’s "report" before Congress. MoveOn had the gall to rhyme "Petraeus" with "Betray Us", and the race to smear the messenger – and, more important, the messenger’s perceived friends – was on. From the halls of Congress to the "golden" microphones owned by inflated egos across the country, there was wailing and gnashing of teeth of this infamous slander against "our general in the middle of a war".

How dare they say he betrayed us?! Are you calling him a traitor? Well, no, MoveOn wasn’t – just saying Petraeus betrayed any trust the general populace may have had in him to come and tell the truth about the continuing disaster in Iraq. Instead, the ad accurately predicted that he would pump the propaganda of his masters in Washington. Other than the rhyming name-calling, the supporting text of the ad is uncontroversial and fully supported by the facts. Knowing not the meaning of irony, the noise came from the same chicken hawks who impugned the good, heroic names of John Kerry, Max Cleland and anyone else when it suited their purposes.

But, never mind what MoveOn was really saying or whether they were right. It wasn’t about them anyway. The whole phony controversy was used to drive the GOP talking-point that the leading Democrats running for president are beholden to the "fringe" of the party. Demands were made for Hillary Clinton and others to condemn the ad with the same heavy breathing employed by the purveyors of the fraud – bait which, to their credit, was not taken by any of the targets of the demands.

One of the fake controversies within the controversy (the best of these sideshows have cleverly false sub-plots) was the lie that the Times had given MoveOn an over-friendly $100,000 discount on the full-pager. Never one to pass up an opportunity to turn death and tragedy (be it 9/11 or Iraq) into political hay, Rudy Giuliani cynically put together an ad attacking Clinton for her excellent "suspension of disbelief" comment to Petraeus and her failure to condemn the red-herring MoveOn ad. He also bravely demanded the same rate for his ad. He got it, of course, on the same terms MoveOn did (you get the discount if you don’t ask that it run on a specific day). And, of course, Rudy’s ad was not so much a defense of Petraeus as it was his first major political broadside at Clinton. Who used Petraeus more – the organization trying to point out the truth to end a disastrous war or the politician who jumped on a bandwagon populated by the usual Bush-enabling yahoos to pump up his venal campaign for president?

There was indeed offensive language used last week surrounding the Petraeus/9-11 circus. House Minority Leader John Boehner used the occasion to opine that the American soldiers dead and soon-to-be was "a small price to pay" for whatever the hell we are doing over there. Not to be outdone, professional blowhard Bill O’Reilly put a number on it and announced that he is happy to provide Petraeus another year and, even if it means (and it does) another 1,000 dead GIs. In terms of offensiveness, this makes MoveOn’s perhaps impolitic name-calling look like a schoolboy’s speaking in class out of turn while his classmates are out tagging the outside of the school with obscene graffiti.

Meanwhile, back at home, the radio and blog wing-nuts were in full lather about a judge in Sheboygan who tossed a jury verdict in a child enticement case because the alleged slug chatting up the poor girl wasn’t trying to get her to a "secluded" place, as required under the law. The judge, who, we presume, after all, did take an oath to uphold the law no matter what the wing-nuts think, took all manner of abuse from big-city out-of-town demagogues Sykes, Belling and various of their third-rate counterparts, who pretended not to know how the obviously liberal judge could do such a thing. True to form, the Journal Sentinel, its weak ear ever to the radio while looking for a clue, ran front-pagers in the Metro section two days in a row (with more to come, no doubt) about the "outraged" citizens and the hot-to-appeal DA.

The dirty little secret is that all of them know why the judge did what he did. Even if they are not lawyers, they know he was faced with a law that required enticement to a secluded place and that the park shelter (a roof with four legs) was not secluded. But they decided to fudge the facts and the law, pretending that the judge had done something outrageous, calling for his defeat in the next election, using the case as a wedge to eliminate the judicial substitution law, etc.

Their loud squawking has nothing to do with what is right and wrong and everything to do with creating distrust of the criminal justice system and generally stirring up the woe-is-me victimhood of those who are vulnerable to this kind of blather. The criminals have all the rights and we have none and blah de blah blah. You’d think, if they want to cast aspersions on the judiciary, they’d just look across the dining room in their country club at their buddy, Annette Zeigler. But, no.

Even their fellow traveler, attorney Rick Esenberg, admits to knowing better and ever-so-gently says so. But they didn’t need to call him to get the legal scoop. They know what is right and pretend not to in order to enrage the townsfolk to head for the courthouse with pitchforks and torches. In the middle is the family of the poor girl, another victim of an over-charging prosecutor and a bunch of agenda-driven wing-nuts who don’t care who gets hurt in the process.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Lies of McBride – Bin Laden and the Dems

Has is really only been four months since WTMJ barged in and ripped their microphones from the Bucher-McBride household? One day, McBride was basking in the unearned glory of her non-sports night wing-nut spot on Wisconsin’s only powerhouse AM station. The next day, after a childish piece of ridicule aimed at Journal-Sentinel columnist Eugene Kane, McBride’s home-schooled mic was silenced and they changed the locks on Capitol Drive, just in case she decided to darken the corridors of Radio City.

After whining about the loss of her radio entitlement for a week or so, McBride settled in to her new diminished life as a UWM "lecturer" for (gasp!) journalism and the occasional column in the Waukesha Freeman, which apparently will run nonsense from any wing-nut, anywhere. But you can tell McBride misses the high profile that can only be achieved from three hours of free airtime to read GOP talking-points in her own inimitable style on a mainstream right-wing radio station. She has made several attempts to throw bombs on the very thin vanity blog that she converted to after TMJ took down her page, but no one noticed because, hey, who was that again?

But, over the weekend, McBride posted her most outrageous post yet, throwing herself on the sacrificial altar of the Republican campaign to impugn the integrity of anyone who disagrees with them. Declaring that, on the new bin Laden tape, the terrorist leader "sounds like so many of [the Democrats] do", McBride proudly plays her tiresome role as surrogate for the GOP, saying the worst so Bush doesn’t have to. "[T]he liberal abuse blogs will write, frothing at the mouth..." she predicts in her post on Saturday night (always a productive time for Jess), deliberately mistaking honest criticism for "abuse" and "frothing" for, well, saying anything, I guess.

Like all wing-nuts, McBride hopes that her readers won’t actually look at the source material that she provides a link to – a transcript of the bin Laden video – letting her deliberately deceptive description of it stand as the basis to make her phony points. In fact, the bin Laden screed is an appallingly obtuse mash of gibberish – about what you’d expect from a religious fanatic with a megalomaniacal streak. It reads much more like Pat Robertson than any Democrat I know of. "Don't blame me. I'm only repeating what bin Laden said," claims McBride, except that she’s not – there is not one direct quote of more than a single word in the whole post. As usual, the wing-nuts won’t let the facts get in the way of a good political hatchet job.

In the video, bin Laden offers laughable moral-equivalence justifications for his own criminal behavior on 9/11 – pointing out that the Holocaust did not happen in the Middle East but in mid-Europe, and "we" aren’t like that because "burning living things is forbidden in our religion". And how did too many of those poor souls in the Twin Towers die, again? He also praises himself for leaving millions of Christians alone in Egypt and elsewhere, "whom we have not incinerated and will not incinerate". For this lack of incineration, we are duly thankful, you murderous asshole.

McBride claims that he "expresses disappointment that Democrats" haven’t ended the war in Iraq. But bin Laden doesn't do any such thing. In fact, he can’t express disappointment in a result he fully expects. He offers a garden-variety, college sophomore version of how capitalism distorts democracy. "Those with the real power and influence are those with the most capital," he says, sounding like a student on a deadline for a Chomsky book report. "Democracy" is a fraud, a front for the corporate state, and blah de blah blah – he cites Chomsky, but could just as easily have chosen Nader. But he doesn’t say anywhere that he was glad Democrats won in ‘06 and is now so sad they haven’t succeeded in ending the war. He considers our entire system a sham and doesn’t see a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties. McBride claims: "He clearly was happy they won, but is growing disappointed." This is simply not true, and she can’t point to any thing in the transcript to back it up. Like much of what she writes, just because it’s nonsense doesn’t mean she won’t say it.

In fact, her entire premise is ridiculous. There isn’t one phrase or one idea (to the extent you can figure out what he’s talking about) in the bin Laden speech that any mainstream Democrat, anywhere, would agree with. "Or are you secretly thinking," says under-employed mind-reader McBride, "‘you know, I can't admit it, but in a lot of ways he makes sense.’" Um, no, Jess, we’re really not. Oh, and she says, since we "hate" Bush and bin Laden does, too... Again, sorry to disappoint. As I have explained before, Bush isn’t personally involved in anything enough to "hate" him. We do hate what he does in our name. I would say it is more likely that we "hate" bin Laden personally, for what he actually did and still does. Get it straight: don’t hate Bush personally; hate bin Laden. Now, go spin that, McBride.

The GOP sends willing lackeys like McBride out to spout this junk for two reasons. First, it is a classic smear to say that Democrats and bin Laden want the same thing. But second and, more importantly, with bin Laden popping up just before the 6th anniversary, it distracts from the fact that the bastard is still at large, his stature unduly enhanced in the rest of the world by his very survival. In his wildest dreams, bin Laden could not have envisioned the impact of the 9/11 attacks; not so much in the unspeakable violence of that day itself, but in the reckless, destructive reaction of the Bush administration, who have managed to take the weeks of international unity after the attacks and turn the whole world against us by their arrogance and stupidity.

History will show that the 9/11 attacks were a turning point, all right. It will forever mark the time when American influence and respect in the world took a perhaps permanent turn for the worst, due not to any outside threat, but to the disastrous mistakes of our "leaders" after the fact. In the end, bin Laden is just a murderous religious punk who got lucky with a series of brutal criminal acts. But the vast majority of damage from 9/11 in not due to bin Laden. It is self-imposed.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Pampered No More...

After I posted a link to my short attempted intervention with Charlie Sykes on a blog-talk-radio show last week, my comments page lit up with all manner of accusers who were outraged by my inability to see the simple "truths" of the Sykes permanent campaign against too-tolerant teachers, indulgent parents and pampered children.

After avoiding my inquiries with a bemused "that’s not what I meant" to everything I brought up that he said he meant, I even got a grudging nod on Sykes’ vanity blog (which never seems to hold on to items very long these days, although I'm sure exceptions are made for the usual love letters from Scott Walker and David Clarke). Without mentioning me by name (Wing-nut Rule Number 1: Never acknowledge possibly worthy adversaries by name. Rule Number 2: Play up all lefty nutbags by name and proclaim them the "mainstream" of lefty thought), he proclaimed victory on behalf of himself and the gullible hosts of the show, one of whom, at least, claims personal knowledge of such injurious coddling by inferior parental units. Sykes claims to have taken particular pride in his comment that I "just wasn’t getting it".

So that's it, is it? If you don’t agree with Sykes or deign to challenge the phony premises of his sloppily-constructed "arguments", then you "don’t get it". Well, that’s easier than actually having to defend the nonsense that’s in the book. Among other things I "don’t get": the Iraq war, warrantless surveillance, wing-nut radio, etc. When I wondered out loud where, exactly, teachers were letting kids off with not knowing the value of pi, as alleged one Rule of his small, thin book, Sykes said he wasn’t saying teachers did this (although this is supposedly one of the rules "kids won’t learn in school" – I mean, it’s right there in the title of the book) and seemed to be saying that I shouldn’t take so seriously all this stuff he pretends to take so seriously when he’s not being directly challenged, which he never is.

Anyway, one of the hosts of the Dr. Blogstein show was so outraged about my lack of outrage about the daily damage to our poor coddled children, he splayed our whole conversation in my comments section on his blog and his comment page was thus lit up with helpful "I saw this happen" anecdotes and a side conversation about the ridiculousness of the No Child Left Behind "standards". The Blogstein crew made sure I was aware of a news item from just this week about a school in Colorado that was banning the game of tag on its playground. Right-wing sites across the internet made a point to play up the tag-banning as yet another example of the Coddle and the Damage Done.

Given this universally-accepted evidence of self-esteem and safety concerns run amok, what are we to make of this item in the paper on Sunday? It seems there is a growing movement – there must be, or else why would it be on the wires? – to raise the diaperless baby. Talk about not Pampering... Apparently taking Sykes and other scolds at their word, a new generation of parents is prepared to impose a Tough and Smelly Love regime on the pre-toddler set, from birth on. This can only lead to other you-figure-it-out practices later in life. Soft baby food? Hah! Suck on this carrot until you get some teeth in your head, you wimp. Toys? Here’s some sharp tools, blocks of wood and lead-based paint – make your own, you big baby. No reading books to these kids – they’ll have the books, alright, but they have to figure out what all those squiggly lines mean on their own.

I expect praise for the poopy-pants movement on the wing-nut blogs – until, that is, they figure out that the no-diaper experiments are probably being conducted by some back-to-the-land cult with a misplaced concern for disposable diapers that survive 3,000 years in landfills, or some other nutty notion like that. It is only a matter of time before they are rejected as reckless parents with a secret agenda to destroy Huggie Capitalism.

Well, you have your anecdotes and I have mine – that’s why they are called "anecdotes". Because Sykes can’t point to any studies, teacher training, or school board pronouncements that would, in the real world, establish a "trend", he pulls isolated incidents from various places on the planet, delcares the trend and dares anyone not to "get it". This campaign is like nothing so much as the phony "War on Christmas" that has become a holiday staple of the wing-nut talk shows. You take a banned Santa from a public park, mix in some lie about kids being banned from wearing red-and-green clothing in school and – voila! – you have another way that the secret leftist agenda is trying to Destroy You and the Way You Live.

Forget the's the Fear that you'll remember...