Saturday, July 26, 2008

Plaisted Writes, Sykes Reads, Commenters Fail

I seemed to have struck a few sensitive nerves with my last post about "thug" being the new N-word. That’s OK. I’m all about striking nerves – especially those of people who get whiny and defensive when challenged about their deliberately divisive and, yes, racist political tactics. The reaction in my comments, right-wing blogs and even a radio show said a lot more about them than it did about anything I was saying.

My headline was deliberately provocative, and I was pleasantly surprised while driving in to court when I heard no less (and no more) than the Journal Company’s full-time GOP message-boy, Charlie Sykes tease listeners with the question "is ‘thug’ the new N-word?" before his show on Tuesday morning. Tracking Rick Esenberg’s predictably critical post almost word-for-word (including the oh-so-clever "Plaisted should talk about name-calling" line), the unoriginal Sykes read about half of my post to his unfortunately large audience, while setting up his (really, Esenberg’s) punch-line that I had used the word "thug" in a different context 6 months ago.

Listening to it later on the podcast, I couldn’t help but enjoy Sykes’ reading of my own words to a statewide audience. I am always fairly self-critical, but I have to say that my turns-of-phrase bore up pretty well under Sykes’ speed-read, even if he was strategically skipping over some of the good parts (like my still-unmet challenge to those who predicted Big Trouble at the free summer festivals after RiverSplash to explain all those peaceful, incident-free festivals since then). There was something surreal about hearing Sykes read my observation that "right-wingers play these race-baiting games and then act offended when someone calls them on it" while he was in the process of playing these race-baiting games and acting offended because I had called him on it. But then Sykes, who glibly race-baits as good as anybody (such as calling Al Sharpton a "pimp"), is the king of the smug dismissal, his elitist nose high in the air as he sniffs at mere mortals who don’t have the benefit of his 50,000 watt radio presence and right-wing "think"-tank funding.

Although Sykes’ snarky games are sometimes inadvertently enlightening – like him referring to me only as a "lefty lawyer" for the first five minutes of the bit, mentioning my name only when springing Esenberg’s supposed gotcha – the increasingly hysterical comments to the post by mostly anonymous right-wingers (now at 46 comments and counting) are even more revealing of the defensiveness and pretzel logic of those who would defend racist name-calling by a fellow-traveling blogger. The strategies implemented by the commenters – including (especially) their cowardly anonymity – are not unfamiliar and display a tiresome broken-record sameness that infects their uncreative ilk.
  • "We call all kinds of people thugs": Republican-for-hire Brian Fraley steps in first to inform me that, since he and others (over)use the world "thug" to describe all kinds of foreign bad-guys and violent criminals like the Jude cops, they are immune from accusations of racist language for using the word to describe a black politician who is doing something politically that they don’t like. This is like saying, if they use the word "queer" to describe curiously weird phenomenon, then it’s OK for them to go around using it to describe gay people. As always, it is all about context, combined with harsh intent. Exaggerated scuffles in the Courthouse notwithstanding, Lee Holloway has done nothing to earn the use of a term otherwise reserved for brutal dictators, violent cops and gangbangers. It was used by Eggleston to smear Holloway and diminish his status as a man and a human being in order to beat him on a political issue, which is the definition of a politically-motivated racist tactic.
  • "Hey, Plaisted, you used the word ‘thug’ once, so na na na boo boo": Like I said: context and intent. When I accused some national commentators of infecting the MSM with right-wing quasi-intellectual thuggery, it was not in a racial context and an attempt to describe, not to smear. Rick Esenberg, right-wing Milwaukee’s chief apologist, pulled a not terribly clever google (Plaisted + thug) and proclaimed me a hypocrite for complaining about someone else using the same word. But Rick – Milwaukee’s chief Obama-phobe who will find all kinds things to worry about from everything that comes out of Obama’s mouth, former church or campaign – will give the benefit of the doubt and find any way to excuse all right-wing racial smears. As usual, he dodges his own responsibility for enabling the racial tactics. "I wouldn’t call Holloway a thug," he says, which sounds a lot like his comment that he "would have strongly counseled against" Gableman’s racist Willie Horton ad during that sad campaign.
  • You have appointed yourself the language police; crying "racist" all the time is like crying "wolf": Hey, I’m not the damn police. Like I said, they can do what they want; I’m just encouraging them to take some ownership of their own tactics and quit being so defensive when challenged. As for calling them on their racist tactics too often, well, maybe they are giving me too much material to work with. I do have a zero-tolerance for this sort of thing. If I sit around and wait for them to agree with me...well, it ain’t going to happen.
  • Many Democrats were racists in the South before the Civil Rights Act: Well, sure, but what has that got to do with a) this discussion and b) with the world as it is today? The Republican’s Southern Strategy under Nixon -- to peel southern racists away from the Democrats by portraying them as a bunch of N-lovers -- put an end to that a long time ago. The GOP now proudly owns those people and that tradition, and they can have it.
  • Personal/Professional attacks on me: The last refuge of the desperate anonymous wing-nutter. Hey, did you hear I’m a criminal defense attorney and represent, er, criminals? The nerve of me saying anything about anything. My favorite is the guy who claimed that he "looked up" my "record" and claimed that I had "lost" 20 cases in a row. When I pointed out that such a search was a) impossible and b) just flat out wrong, he backed up to say that he didn’t like my suits. Sometimes I like to let this kind of desperation develop and just watch them trip over their own words. It makes such a nice splat when they hit the ground.


Anonymous said...

Ok, I finally get it now.

When a conservative uses the word "thug" it is used in a racist manner.

When a liberal uses the word "thug" it's ok because they're immune based on "intent" and "context."

Man, being a liberal is sooo much easier than being a conservative, you can just claim "intent" and "context" and you can say pretty much whatever you want. Must be nice.

And for the last time Mikey, if you don't like the anonymous posting feature on your own blog, then remove it. But please, quit whining about it, you sound like a child.

illusory tenant said...

I enjoyed prosqtr's admission that "people accused of crimes are entitled to a competent and zealous defense of their rights."

Did "Loophole" Sykes read that on the air also?

Mike Plaisted said...

Thanks much, Anony, for repeating your point of several days ago. It makes my point for me nicely.

And, yeah, I could turn off anoymous posting, but your wimpitude is not my problem, it's yours. Just because I allow it doesn't mean you need to use it. As Spiderman's uncle said: with great power comes great responsibility. Hiding behind the anonymous tag is your choice. And part of your humorous failure.

Anonymous said...

Making what point? That it's ok for you to use "thug" but not for conservatives?

Please do us dumb conservatives a favor...please tell us when it's ok for us to the word "thug" in what specific context and meaning. Once you explain it, then we'll all be better off.

The failure is yours Mike, you allowing anony comments is YOUR failing and YOUR choice, not mine. This is YOUR site, not mine. You made the rules, now live by them and quit whining like a baby when someone uses your site the way you laid it out.

Glad to see you find your inspiration from a comic book, it explains a lot about you.

Mike Plaisted said...

The quote is not from a comic book -- it's from a comic book MOVIE. Jeez. Still a better reference than yer average right-wing blog, anyway.

Prosqtor said...

I would hope anyone agrees that people have a right to an attorney, and to a competent attorney. The first is in the 6th Amendment to the US Constitution, and the second only makes sense given the first.

You're shocked that I'd think so? I'm not a bloodthirsty prosecutor trying to put everyone away -- only those who deserve it based on their actions as I can prove them.

Apparently IT is surprised there are ethical prosecutors. A shame this realization hasn't come sooner.

illusory tenant said...

Nobody's either shocked or surprised by anything. My comment had nothing to do with ethical prosecutors, but everything to do with unethical medium wave squawkers.

Prosqtor said...

So you think Sykes doesn't believe that? I guess I'm confused how "enjoying" my comment (made to someone purporting to be Mike's son) is linked to Sykes' segment?

illusory tenant said...

Thankfully, I didn't hear any Sykes segment. I was referring to his disingenuous campaigning for Mike Gableman.

Prosqtor said...

I see.

AnotherTosaVoter said...

Mike, I have a genuine question.

Does any argument that goes in opposition to your opinion ever have any merit?

Mike Plaisted said...

ATV, that is such a spectaular question. I'm serious. I might just do a whole post in response, but here's a quick one.

Of course there are arugments that have merit in opposition to every one of my opinions. There are shade of grey and opportunites for compromise on every important issue facing this country.

But, frankly, I can't remember the last time anyone on the right tried to actually engage in an argument on the substance of any issue. Rather than engage that way, they smear and name-call and belittle and ridicule anyone with an opposing view.

We can't talk about health care because any suggestion of universal private coverage is called socialist. We can't talk about the Iraq war because we are unpatriotic, don't support the troops, are appeasers to terrorists, etc. We can't talk about the environment because we are tree-hugging dupes of the global warming religion.

This is the way it has been since Lee Atwater, exascerbated ten-fold by Karl Rove and his partnership with right-wing radio. Rove and his disciples have never been interested in an honest point-counterpoint conversation about any serious issue. Their method is the politics of personal destruction and it won them a couple of elections, however temporary.

I think I know why this is. Although I certainly think that arguments in opposition to what I believe have merit, I think, when the facts are known and the policies put in the balance, we'll win every time -- in other words, the truth is on our side. That's why the Rove disciples deny basic known facts and try to tear down anyone who stands in their way. They have decided that is the only way to win. I think, on that point, they are right.

I am dying for people of good faith on the right to step forward and have a legitimate argument about anything. Maybe they can't do it. I think, after taking the easy scorched-earth way out all these years, they are out of practice.

Prosqtor said...

Here are two questions I've posted in the last month or so that remain unanswered:

The first is from the EPA thread from a few days ago:

"(1)Maybe part of "fumigating" the EPA on 1/20/09 could be to eliminate it? That seems as logical as expanding it, considering the regulatory costs it imposes on real human lives. You want to lift burdens on "real working people," ease regulation, Mike. Everything gets passed down to them anyway, right?

(2) Instead of a cost-benefit analysis, what would you suggest they use?

(3) Would a theoretical life be worth $100 Kagillion Bazillion Mafillion in Plaisted Land?

(4) This also isn't something that started in 2001, you know. Insurance (with price based on the "risk" of someone living past a certain point) started with the Romans.

Blame Caesar before you blame Bush."

Here's another, from a while ago:

What are five Democratic policies or actions you disagree with? I listed my disagreements with the GOP.

Others have done so as well -- it seems like those questions go unanswered. We just want to see you defend your posts when challenged to back something up.

Your son did that with me, and I provided some answers. It didn't change his mind, but it provided him with information that NPR and you didn't -- that prisoners were released from Gitmo, and that some were later found to be fighting against US forces.

Prosqtor said...

15 hours, no reply.

I challenge you to point out where any of the "broken-record sameness" can be found in my post on the EPA, or in asking you to list 5 things on which you disagree with the Democratic Party.

Or is the act of asking a question "just a talking point"?

Mike Plaisted said...

Jeez, Prosqtor, what did you do with your Sunday...sit around stalking my site, hitting refresh every 5 minutes, waiting for my response while I sweated under a heavy jersey, going 2-for-3 for the Mighty Mudhens?

Well, I do have to say that proposing eliminating the EPA at a time of a global climate change crisis is at least original. I think the suggestion is ludicrous on all kinds of levels. I generally think that regulation of pollutants is a good thing. While this may affect jobs on one end, the green agenda creates many more on another -- in new industries, or in new processes to bring old industries in compliance with the need to keep people and the planet healthier.

I don't think the supposed monetary value of a human life should be part of any analysis of whether we should or shouldn't begin or end a regulatory practice any more than a dollar value can be placed on the existance of the snail darter in the ecosystem. I think the electorate needs to know the cold hard facts (always a problem with the Bushies) and help their leaders make these judgements with their eyes wide open, putting lives in the balance without a rigid and inaccurate-by-nature economic calculation.

As for five things with which I disagree with the Democratic Party, it is all a matter of degree. Just as you disagree with the GOP because it isn't right enough, I would nudge my party to the left while accepting common goals and necessary compromises. For instance, I would rather have single-payer health care than the universal private insurance coverage we are going to get, but I'm not going to squawk about it. I think the Democrats are just as bad as the Republicans in being co-opted by the Israel lobby, which makes it less likely to recognize the legitimate issues of Palestinians and therefore less likely to design a lasting peace. The Democratic party generally is still in the bag for corporate interests. People in positions of responsibility like Jay Rockefeller are consistently wrong about electronic survailance.

But, you know, so what? There are so many goals I share with the Democrats and so much associated with the Republicans that I am against, my little nuanced differences with what the Dems are likely to do don't amount to a hill of beans. The way things are going, the most important conversations about policy are not between Republicans and Democrats, but rather between Democrats and Democrats. The responsibility for governing is going to land right in our laps in January. I think we can handle it. Certainly can't do any worse.

AnotherTosaVoter said...


Here is the thing. I agree with what you say about right wing hacks and their ability to argue, and the arguments they use. I agree they dismiss critcisms of the President's foreign policy decisions with simplistic appeals to patriotism. I agree that they dismiss criticisms of a privatized health insurance system with claims of socialism.

However, I have two responses to what you say:

First, I don't really see how you are much different. I see you consistently dismiss any arguments in opposition to your opinions by calling those arguments "talking points". I see you dismiss opposing opinions because the commenter is a "wing nut" who simply HAD to have been brainwashed by the "right wing echo chamber".

In other words, if there is a high road to arguing public policy, you don't seem to take it. You seem to have simply decided that if your opponents are going to dismiss you, then you will dismiss them. Now with a Fraley or a Robinson maybe this makes sense, but with the anonymous types or anyone else I have yet to see you give anyone the benefit of the doubt and argue in good faith. Just because someone opposes you with the same argument as a Fraley or a Sykes, that does not necessariy mean they are similarly a hack. Even you seem to admit that intelligent and genuine people can come to opposite conclusions?

Which brings me to point number two - you dismiss everything I say as the work of a right wing hack. Perhaps you have not noticed that I take issue with Robinson and Fraley equally as often and with equal vigor as I do you. I am not a right wing hack, nor a left wing hack. I've sampled both ideologies and their followers and found them both lacking, to the extreme.

I have an education in public policy beyond the Graduate level and have worked in and around government for a decade at the federal, state, and local levels. I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that the answer to nearly every public policy lies in shades of gray - as you say; and that while both ideological sides have some merit, neither side actually works all that well in practice.

Frankly, and this is with all seriousness, some of the things I have seen you advocate would fail so completely they'd make the Los Angeles Clippers look like the model of success - and the same goes with things Fraley or Robinson advocate.

Prosqtor said...

I wouldn't flatter yourself too much -- I'm working on this fine Sunday afternoon, so a break now and again is refreshing.

OK, so you sort of gave three things on which you disagree with the Dems. Fine.

"I don't think the supposed monetary value of a human life should be part of any analysis of whether we should or shouldn't begin or end a regulatory practice any more than a dollar value can be placed on the existance of the snail darter in the ecosystem. I think the electorate needs to know the cold hard facts (always a problem with the Bushies) and help their leaders make these judgements with their eyes wide open, putting lives in the balance without a rigid and inaccurate-by-nature economic calculation."

So we should regulate by direct democracy? Or something close? Is a group of people "help[ing] their leaders" different than PACs and lobbying groups somehow? Is it only acceptable "help [to] their leaders" when the policies are aligned with your views?

Mike Plaisted said...

I dunno ATV...I'm still trying to get over being accused of having the emotional maturity of a 13 year-old girl. Sorry if I haven't quite caught on to your honest engagement on the issues. Maybe it wasn't the personal insult I thought it was -- depends on the girl. In any event, I know I've never responded that way to anyone, although some are somewhat similarly pained by having the facts thrown in their face. They can dish it out, but they can't take it -- their problem, not mine.

Prosqtor, it's called an informed electorate. The more people know the facts, the more they can move their elected officials or get behind what they are doing. I have no problem with PACs and lobbyists, as long as there is full disclosure of those contacts and their funding. I do know that the main thrust of the right-wing echo chamber over the years has been to poison the political discussion with outright lies, repeated enough so people believe them (like, for instance, the absurd notion of drilling our way out of $4 gas).

AnotherTosaVoter said...

Fair enough, though I seem to remember resorting to those tactics after being repeatedly dismissed as a wing nut for disagreeing with you, which is what led me to ask the question.

I apologize for that. I didn't take the high road I asked you about.

Now, can you address the questions?

Anonymous said...

Never voted for a Democrat, only voted for one Republican once in my life. I consider myself conservative.

What made the thug accusation against Holloway 'racist'? Politicians are often called thugs or accused of thuggery for heavy handed politics or dishonest doings. Why was this accusation anything other than political? Was he called a black thug? The left's continual use of the race card wherever possible for any criticism of a lefty position is a perfect example of what you condemn the right for. Holloway does or doesn't deserve criticism... doesn't matter to you, you defend him without knowing (or at least stating) whether he is worth defending by accusing his detractor(s) of racism. Boom the discussion is racism, Holloway laughs and walks away. That smacks of a Rovian dismissal to me.

Let's try Global warming. The right pretty staunchly denies the danger and has professionals to defend their position. The left aggressively asserts that it exists and is suggesting we remake the US economy even while we already cannot compete globally. The problem I see is that if China and India will not join us in a world endeavor, us endangering our economy is a waste, or just a lefty talking point (like the Wisconsin taxpayers bill of rights by the right a few years ago). If step 1 of the left's 'plan' is not negotiating a deal with India and China, it is an empty, useless, gesture... a talking point.

Health care is an honest issue. Again, in my opinion, both sides miss critical points. Costs under the old system are out of control...true. Universal health care can work effectively in smaller countries, but it has a relatively bad track record in larger countries. Of course, it could be effective if implemented properly. With the give and give atmosphere of US politics today, however, I can't imagine a final bill being passed that would actually help our current situation. The critical point is addressing why health care costs have sky-rocketed. People may disagree, but a huge problem comes down to liability. The US has come so far in medicine in the last 50+ years that all cases are expected to have a success rate of 100%. If any operation or drug treatment does not work, the first and only priority is compensation. There are many things becoming more and more possible, unfortunately perception has been shaped by media and lawyer guilds that anything possible is expected to work. This is not a shot at you or even your profession, really, it is an effect caused by professionals with wealth simply trying to create more wealth. Tell me that lawyers won't fight tooth and nail to keep doctors and hospitals liable by lawsuit for as much as their lobby can buy. In a good socialist health care plan, that is one of the things to go.
Sorry for the ramble,

Anonymous said...

Mikey on your hot air prediction of a Hussien Nobama win, I guarantee McCain wins in a walk, 55-45% it is well documented that when a black politician polls at above 10% lead before election, he actually will win by less than 2%. Black politicans polling less than 10% ahead before the election, consistently lose. Older Americans, including my VERY democrat parents have already stated BLUNTLY that they are going to vote for McCain, 10-15% of the Democrat party wether they admit it or not will NOT vote for Hussien the crack smoking manchurian socialist come November.
Plus Nobama will NOT win one Southern state, a must if he were to win

Anonymous said...

"I think I know why this is. Although I certainly think that arguments in opposition to what I believe have merit, I think, when the facts are known and the policies put in the balance, we'll win every time -- in other words, the truth is on our side." Man is that a long winded way of other opinion but mine has any merit. :-)

Mike Plaisted said...


Sorry for the late response, but these threads kind of get lost like old e-mails sometimes. You have made some thoughful comments and I will try to respond in-kind:

1) I continue to think that the "thug" word as used against Holloway was a racist tactic -- I don't think it would not have been used against a white supervisor supporting a tax increase. I have gone over this in two posts now and don't know what else I can add.

2) I'm no scientist, but, as far as I can tell (from, yes, An Inconvenient Truth and other sources), humans are contributing to climate change through carbon emmissions. I understand that many of the "scientists" saying something to the contrary are well-paid by the petroleum undustry. Everyone in the global community addressing this issue understands that India and China are part of the problem and should be part of the solution and they are engaging each other (which will be far easier once Bush is out of office). But, even if we have to go it alone, our efforts are not "nothing" -- the U.S. still the second-highest carbon emitter, after China.

3) Literally every nation in the world has some form of universal health care. It works in big and small countries. I have relatives in Canada (not from there) who would not leave and come back here to live primarily because of their excellent health care system. The right likes to harp about long waits for specific procedures, but those "reports" are exagerated by people whose agenda is to stop a universal system here. Blaming our expensive, broken system on the lawyers is, I'm sorry, a joke. I had a brief time at a firm that did medical malpratice cases and lawyers do not run around filing these suits willy-nilly -- they are very expensive cases to prosecute, it is hard to get doctors to testify against another doctor. the injury to the patient has to be enourmous and the fault of the doctor clear before any reputable firm would touch it. And, in that case, I would think that you would want that doctor to be held accountable. I think the problem is the medical community, which is so used to getting away with ridiculous fees, they do not want to be contrained by the cost controls that would have to be in any universal system.

One thing you'll notice, Turquas, is that in both climate change and health care, the right does not attack any part of the issue as much as the underlying facts themselves. They pretend to deny the global warming exists. They exagerate and lie about the effectiveness of universal health care systems that have existed and succeeded for years everywhere else on the planet. This battle over facts is where things really get the most heated. I don't know what to do about that except to try to keep making sure the facts that I'm relying on are correct and not the result of what I want the facts to be.

Anonymous said...

First of all, thank you for responding in kind.

I don't really spend much time defending discussion tactics of 'the right' because, in general, I agree with you. I have found, in my experience only, that people who identify themselves as 'the right' or Republicans are often not worth debating with. However, the same thing can be said for 'lefties' or Democrats. 'Liberals' and 'conservatives' on the other hand will hold good discussions.

I read the links you provided. I guess I just do not see evidence that the jibe is racially motivated. Without harder evidence, why assume? All I see is 'lefty' opinion. If you really want to find out if insults and accusations about public figures are racially motivated, you have to let it go so the yappers get braver and say something unmistakable.
Even if it were racially motivated, the glamourization of 'thug' by rappers, frankly, has opened up a line that needs to be addressed. If 'sensitive' people won't, who will and are they racist?

As far as universal healthcare is concerned, I can say, that I could be convinced on a reasonable course of action. The 15.2 billion dollar 'Healthy Wisconsin' would have tripled my insurance costs based on the calculations provided from the bill. My question then and now is: If we spend so much more for healthcare than everyone else, a national plan should LOWER my costs. Theoretically, it might work in the US. Theoretically, the McCain Feingold as proposed would have helped promote campaign fairness.
Sorry, I have to leave now, I would have liked to go on and will check in again.