Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Spooky Right

Before I saw it, I was reeling.

Rick Esenberg and others were pummeling me on Rick’s post and the comments. I was "lathered up", a "poor student of history", a purveyor of "vituperation", "the angriest white man in Milwaukee" (really!). I need to "take instruction", says the oh-so-presumptuous visiting assistant professor of law, who generally takes his instruction from the likes of fellow Federalist Society members, the WMC and others in the right-wing, business-side legal community. In the comments, I am "seriously unhinged", not to be "dealt with", not worthy of a discussion that would include intellectual heavyweights like George Mitchell and Dad29.

As I drafted a comment that maintained my vituperous facade, I was crumbling inside to think that I had not met the lofty standards of the nut-right Milwaukee commentariat. I was searching my soul – assuming I had one – wondering how I could question the assignation of leftist characteristics to Nazis, white supremacists and anti-choice murderers. My failure to see the obvious evil in Al Gore’s movie, the threats in (Sen.) Al Franken’s comedy routines, the depravity of Michael Moore’s documentaries – it was all too much for me. Of course! I see my folly now! Looking around the house to make sure no one else was paying attention, I turned to The O’Reilly Factor to begin my long-delayed re-education.

Then I saw this:

As the story goes, an executive assistant for the Republican caucus chair of the Tennessee State Senate circulated an e-mail with a .jpeg attachment of apparent great hilarity. Titled "Historical Keepsake Photo", the file was a compilation of images of every U.S. president. And there, in the 44th spot, instead of Barack Obama, was a racist image of a black face with spook eyes. The staffer who sent it out to at least 20 people around the statehouse "only felt bad about sending it to the wrong list of people".

You can bet that, since she didn’t claim to create it, this thing has been in thousands of willing e-mail boxes before it got to her, and was never disclosed. Why? Because the extent of hate, racial and otherwise, for President Obama lies barely under the surface in certain segments of our society. Those in the right-wing media know this and stoke the fires of anger by stirring the pot, every hour of every day. Their intentions are political – they hope to win with irrational hatred what they cannot by political argument. But the more immediate results of the dehumanization of the "enemy" and the taunting by the wing-nuts for the powerless to strike out are things like the murder of Dr. Tiller and the Holocaust Museum murder.

And, let’s not forget the comments on my own blog that I highlighted in a post earlier this week, relating to violence against the President himself:

Please SOMEBODY take Doyle and the Obomination out. A Clear MAJORITY of this country will cheer when that happens.

someone please shoot the nigger and his wife in the head!!! PLEASE ANYONE?

LMAO, his mellon will be split open with a assassins bullet sooner rather than later is my bet

Where is that crazy lone gunmen when we need one, that is hope and change I look forward to

I suppose Esenberg would try to excuse the racist photo and the cheering for the President’s assassination as the work of possibly leftist sentiments. Perhaps thinks he could dig up something from a Democratic staffer somewhere that is as blatantly racist (he’d be wrong) or find similarly offensive assassination encouragement, perhaps during the Bush disaster (he can't).

More likely, Rick would try to pooh-pooh the sources of the e-mail from the Republican staffer and the comments on my site as of insufficient status to matter, clearly not representative of clear Republican "thought". Perhaps not. But these are the targets of the mainstream right-wing mouthpieces that so foul our political discourse. These are the people they neither reject or discourage.

You’d think that after a few assassination shout-outs, some racist e-mails, a couple of murders and whatever else lurks beneath the dark underbelly of right-wing hate, a respectable guy like Esenberg might want to encourage the people on his side to take a pill and chill, maybe take a step back. Instead, he is the Apologist, making excuses for the worst of it, blaming it on a leftist perspective that doesn’t exist and trying to say that our side does the same, and worse.

Like the great Professor Kingsfield in The Paper Chase, Esenberg seeks to shroud me as so much insignificant piffle. "But the stone stupid enthusiasm for the idea that people like me encourage hate and murder has gotten to me," muses the professor in his comments. "It's made me question whether talking to these people is worthwhile." Yes, the ivory tower of Marquette University is no place for such uncomfortable thoughts. Let us put it out of our mind as we prepare for the next inevitable example of right-wing violence and racist hatred by repeating our mantra:

Not Our Fault....Not Our Fault...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Slippery Slope of Denial

Rick Esenberg’s blog is often interesting. When you need to know the business-side legal perspective on joint-and-several liability (on the off chance we can get more than 50% put on that one penniless defendant, we don’t have to pay and the injured plaintiff can go pound sand) or why the WMC ought to be able to buy themselves a couple of Supreme Court justices (and let them rule on cases involving same), he’s your guy. He also has a healthy appreciation for Chrissie Hyde and the Pretenders on his frequent Sunday musical video excursions, so he ain’t all bad.

But, where Esenberg gets in over his head is when he tries to drive a right-wing talking point that he knows (or should know) isn’t true. He is too smart to really think that President Obama is a Manchurian Candidate socialist with a Messiah complex, but he worked that tired saw all during the campaign and since.

In the past couple of days, he has joined the rest of the right-wing script-readers in a ridiculous attempt to pretend that two domestic terrorist incidents in the past couple of weeks had nothing to do with the overheated right-wing lunacy that permeate mainstream radio, Fox News and various blogs every time there is a Democrat in the White House. He even goes so far as to say that the Nazis in Germany had more in common with the left than the right. Next thing you know, he’ll be arguing that the disastrous Bush administration was run by a bunch of Democrats with a twisted penchant for unnecessary death and dark comedy. But once you start heading down that slippery slope of denial, this is where you end up.

The attempted re-definition of the obvious political dispositions of the two latest perpetrators of domestic terrorism is ludicrous on its face. The guy who killed legal abortion provider Dr. George Tiller has lurked in the shadows of the right-wing’s favorite anti-woman emotional wedge issue – the right of women to make up their own minds about what happens inside their own bodies – for years. The guy who shot up the Holocaust Museum is an old-school right-wing lunatic in the white supremacist/John Birch Society mode, howling at the moon about the control of the world by the Jews and interracial dating, proudly exercising his Second Amendment rights to wreak havoc in a public place (talk about open-carry!).

Before the blood was even dry in the Museum, the right-wing echo chamber was out using yet another tragedy for political purposes, spouting its predictable bullet points to deflect the notion that its decades-long campaign of hate rhetoric would have produced such obvious results from its weakest adherents. First, they went into deep denial about what their overheated squawkers are saying, over and over, and the predictable (preferred, even) impact of their pretend-impassioned entreaties. Second, they hilariously claimed that the murderous anti-choice activist and the murderous gun-toting white supremacist weren’t really right-wingers at all; in fact, they might be flaming lefties. And, for those who might not swallow that load of bullshit, they made the "point" that the left has its own extremists, resulting in – well, no one who has caused death with the bright light of world peace, universal health care, choice, etc. in their hearts, but, you know, they made us feel bad. Or something.

For reasons known only to himself, Esenberg buys into all of this. Although he admits he’s never watched a guy who has to be seen to be believed, he defends circus clown Glen Beck because he ultimately decided FEMA was not building concentration camps after he previously "reported" on them. He also says it was no big deal "calling" an abortion provider a "baby killer" (he’s talking about Bill O’Reilly) – apparently, you can be a professor at Marquette without knowing the difference between an unborn fetus and a "baby". Actually, now that I think of it, such delusion might be a job requirement.

He implies that Beck and O’Reilly spewed their invective in passing when, in fact, they both used the same intense, dog-on-a-bone hammer-driving that they and countless other right-wing megaphone-owners employ on any "issue" they get their manipulative hands on. Beck didn’t just "report" the absurd notion of FEMA concentration camps – he ran entire segments on the nutty notion for several weeks ("I can’t debunk it," he said ominously to the slack-jawed simpletons on Fox & Friends before quietly saying "never mind" weeks later). O’Reilly didn’t call Dr. Tiller a "killer" once or twice – he did it at least 24 times while making hating Dr. Tiller a personal campaign of his, saying at one point "if I could get me hands on Tiller...well, you know". Yeah, Bill, we know. Cowardly church-assassin Scott Roeder knew, too.

People like Beck and O’Reilly (and Limbaugh and Hannity and Sykes and Belling, etc.) don’t argue issues; they demonize opponents. Obama isn’t just wrong, he’s evil. What are you supposed to do with evil people, let them just walk around and not pay for their sins? What kind of patriot/Christian are you? This is the black-and-white fantasy world these people create for themselves and their emotional, fearful, imaginary target demographic: the angry-white-male who feels he is being emasculated and made powerless by other races, immigrants, feminists, gays, Democrats and anyone else who seem to be dancing happily in the streets while they sink further into their Lazy-Boy in High Life-enhanced depression. Of course some of them are going to strike out. The wing-nuts taunt them for being so stupid to sit there and accept "the situation", even if, like Obama’s election and the Democratic congress, it is a result of a healthy democratic process.

Esenberg also tries to get the murders off the right-wing books by toying with the notion that the Museum killer, anyway, "could just as readily be called a member of the extreme left as of the extreme right". This is nuts, of course. He tries to explain in his comment section. "White supremacy is not a ‘right wing’ view [sez who? It certainly always has been.] and one could argue that there is more anti-semitism on the left than the right." The latter point – made ad nauseam elsewhere by Esenberg’s fellow travelers – is that those who protest the Stupid War in Iraq complain about the "neocons" who talked Bush into it, "neocon" supposedly being a codeword for "Jewish" because many of them happen to be. This cheap dodge to addressing the real issues is nothing new, but no less cheap when propagated by Esenberg.

Finally, we get the I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I argument: the Left supposedly has its own overheated rhetoric that leads to, well, not murder, but, you know. He trots out the names of Howard Dean, Keith Olberman, Al Gore, Al Franken, and Joe Biden as people who are somehow just as "intemperate" as the wing-nut squawkers. And how’s that, exactly? Al Gore taking the nation to school on climate change (oh, Rick, you're not really a climate change denier, are you?) supposedly "could...prompt violence on the part of environmental radicals", he says in a comment. To Esenberg, information is not only power -- it's hate. Did Howard Dean say at some point that the Democrat/Republican contest was one between "good and evil", as Esenberg claims in a comment? So what if he did? Did he craft a whole show around the idea and drive it for years, as Sean Hannity does everyday to make the same point about how evil Democrats are? Esenberg pretends not to know the difference between an off-hand comment and the kind of concerted, talking-pointed campaign in which he often takes part.

The official right-wing echo chamber doesn’t directly promote violence because it doesn’t have to. They know if they spew enough poison in the air, a few of the more unbalanced in their audience will go off the reservation and act on the logical consequences of their hateful words and campaigns. This is the way they want it. Irrational , emotional appeals based on lies will not always get you where you need to go. But add a little danger and chaos to the equation and, well, as Hitler taught us, people will move.
UPDATE: As usual, Tom Toles nails it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

In Green Bay with the President - Part 2

Well, that was quite something.

There is a much more mellow vibe at these official events than at campaign things, where everyone is scrambling to take advantage of every minute of free advertising, trying to rush through this event to get to the next one, wondering whether they should have come here in the first place, etc. Here, the mobile Obama White House -- a smooth, disciplined organization if there ever was one -- swept into Green Bay and made the most of a friendly small town crowd.

And, in person, President Obama rocks much more than he does on television. He has been described by even supportive Washington insiders as a bit of a "cold fish" personally and I think that coolness comes across on TV as aloof, sometimes. Although he is ten times more of a dynamic media personality than anyone else in politics, that may be just because there literally is no other competition. But, in person, especially when the teleprompter is brought down and he interacts with people, he is articulate, interesting, sincere and -- funny. There was a time late in the event when he started riffing on how he does not want to run everything and had other things to deal with other than health care:

That's why I'm always puzzled when people -- they go out there creating this bogeyman about how, you know, "Obama wants government-run" -- I don't want government to run stuff. Like I said, I've got enough stuff to do. (Laughter.) I've got North Korea, and I've got Iran. And I've got Afghanistan and Iraq. (Applause.) I don't know where people get this idea that I want to run stuff, or I want government to run stuff.

At this point, I thought the president hit the comic rhythms of Richard Pryor. He was feeling it and seemed to be enjoying the day with the upbeat northeastern Wisconsin crowd, while making important points about the most important economic issue -- health care -- in the country.

I had several extremely good vantage points as I moved from the front of the camera riser facing the front of the stage (Obama's lectern was right at center court -- he was working somewhat in the round in a small high school gym) and the right side of the stage. When he faced my way, which was often, I felt somewhat connected -- so much so, I felt somewhat stupid trying to get away with doing some texting while the President of the United States seemed to be talking directly to me. Having been to many of these politician events, it was a strange feeling and I wonder if others felt the same connection.

Watching him work this friendly room, I would like to see what he would do with a roomful of the kind of people who keep saying or thinking he is socialist, anti-American, etc. How about a roomful of wing-nuts? Get him in a room with Limbaugh and Hannity or local pipsqueeks like Sykes or Belling. Obama would eat them alive. That's one of the many reasons they cower in their safe studios, take only scripted or friendly "callers" and maintain only a distant connection to what is going on in the real world. Obama in a room full of right-wingers could not charm them because they are not charmable. But he would clean their clock with facts, argument and humor. As a spectator sport, I'd buy pay-per-view for that one.

As for the substance of his remarks, they were always knowledgeable and often insightful but also overly careful as he again tries to reach consensus on an issue on which the Party of No, again, is not engaging and, again, will give him zero support. I completely agree with him doing this dance. Although he'll never get any support from the suicidal GOP, this PR effort is more about convincing Middle America that he has a reasonable way out of the nightmare of American health care, which all of them are either dealing with directly or sweating what is going to happen the next time they get sick or injured.

The bright affection shown by the overflow crowd was not all because of the president's rock-star qualities, although he certainly has those. It was also because he came to them with a commitment to get something done on an issue important to all of them. The Republicans will ignore the problem and try to obstruct Obama's serverely compromised solutions at their peril.

In Green Bay with the President - Part 1

I am here at the press table at President Obama's town hall at Southwest High School in Green Bay. The event is being held in a fairly small high school gym -- a very intimate venue for this kind of thing.

Driving in from right off the airport, there were police at every street corner. An hour ago some people were already camped out in front of their houses, with flags and signs, hoping to catch the president's attention as he motors by -- which won't happen for about a half-hour or so.

After being wanded and my electronics checked, we were ushered into the hall where hundreds have already gathered for the meeting. There are already some dignitaries mingling with the attendees; Lt. Gov. Barb Lawton, Sec. of Administration Michael Morgan, and others soon to follow.

There is a definite caste system, much like I saw at the Dem convention in Boston in '04. The national travelling press corps is screened off in their own area backstage (usually the cafeteria) and their tables out here in the staging area are better positioned than local riff-raff like me, who find ourselves behind the camera riser. I assume we'll be able to walk around and get a better angle once the President gets here.

Speaking of the President, I already have been sent a copy of his remarks to open the town hall. The remarks are "embargoed", so I will not be sharing, or they'll boot me out of here. The majority of the town hall meeting will be spontaneous and without the teleprompter -- somebody please call a wing-nut and tell them that, so they can lose that ridiculous talking point. Nah, they'll harp on it anyway. Never mind.

Protecting our children from themselves as they should, I cannot get on Facebook or Twitter on this school server (The page you requested is in the following filtered category: Personals & Dating. Well, excuuuse me!). So I guess you'll have to catch my updates here. I also can't do pictures until later tomorrow, probably.

Having a great time -- wish you were here. Send me a comment (no, not you, Anony)! What do you want to know?

The Legacy of Right-Wing Hate

I was working on a post this week about some of the more extreme comments I have received on this blog. It seems that real-life events in the last week or so have interceded to make some of those hateful messages more pertinent. Yesterday, a security guard at the Holocaust Museum was murdered by a loopy-right nutbag. Last week, Dr. Tiller was murdered in Kansas by a similarly inflamed "patriot". It appears that the years of hateful screeching by the vast network of right-wing message disseminators is again – as it did in Oklahoma City 14 years ago – leading to real results, real violence, real death.

The right-wing has pumped it up now quite a bit since the rejection of their agenda by the electorate in the last two election cycles and the remarkable success and popularity of President Obama. Their casual denial of the humanity of everyone from the president to anyone with the temerity to disagree with them has led the weakest of their listeners, readers and followers to strike out in uncasual ways. These most recent sad people who have inflicted death on the innocent while imagining them guilty now have begun their long stints in jail and prison cells with the false sleep of the just. They are still waiting for congratulatory messages from the radio clowns who spurred them to action and wondering where, exactly, they might have gone wrong.

I have seen a bit of this insanity here, on this blog. A while back, I had to start moderating the comments because some commenters – including one in particular – were abusing the privilege of instant, unscreened posting of their comments. They have called me and others ridiculous names, called for the assassination of President Obama, used the N-word in reference to the president and committed various other sins of impoliteness and slander.

I received a couple more such comments in the last couple of days – one, in fact, in response to my post yesterday announcing that I was going to President Obama’s town hall in Green Bay today – so I thought I would share what I’ve been dealing with once in a while as I have tried to engage on the important issues of the day. Whoever is doing this (all the offensive comments are under the cowardly "Anonymous" label; most, it appears, from one guy), I’m was not going to say – as the wing-nuts always do in highlighting any idiotic lefty posts on the Daily Kos, etc. – that this nonsense is representative of any right-wing "thought", such as it is. But that was before the murders of Dr. Tiller and security guard Johns. Now, it appears, while perhaps not representative, these comments are certainly a result of the poison atmosphere created on the radio and elsewhere.


The ugly comments here are left by someone who (mostly) hides behind the Anonymous shield, the last refuge of the internet coward. In his twisted heart, he knows he’s right; but he also is afraid his family, friends and co-workers might see his twisted posts and would rightly think he’s nuts. From homophobic to racist to murderous, the comments I have filtered out run the gamut of 5th grade-level invective.

For instance, here is one I got just last night:

Mike go fuck your self and die, take the commie nigger "Obamination"with you.

Two days ago:

Mike dying of AIDS yet? or maybe your boyfriend? [Note: I’m not gay.]

Please SOMEBODY take Doyle and the Obomination out. A Clear MAJORITY of this country will cheer when that happens.

And more from the recent past:

His first 65 days have been a complete disaster, much less the next four years, someone please shoot the nigger and his wife in the head!!! PLEASE ANYONE?

Why is it Obama's the most heavily guarded US President ever? LMAO, his mellon will be split open with a assassins bullet sooner rather than later is my bet.

Folks we are living that disaster now with the communist, socialist un-american BAAAARAAACK Obama, names sounds like a person throwing up after a bout with food poisoning. Where is that crazy lone gunmen when we need one, that is hope and change I look forward to, it will happen Mikey.

LMAO OBama is destroying the economy, stocks are tanking with a no confidence vote towards the nigger. In 2 years Republicans will overwelmingly [sic] regain control of Congress putting a stop to the communist nigger. Reverse his damage that he is doing to America and if he isn't assasinated [sic], he will either be impeached or voted out in a landslide.

LMAO Republicans will win 10-15 senate seats in 2010 just based on the niggers current fuckups.

And, locally:

You forgot to mention that Butler got trounced the first time he ran for the Court before receiving his affirmative action appointment by Doyle. Now that Butler is likely to get a lifetime appointment to the federal bench (yet another position he couldn't earn on his own), perhaps it's time you and the other hug-a-thug apologists stop whining about the voters' wise and informed decision to throw Butler out on his butt for the second time.

Note the reference to Louis Butler as an "affirmative action appointment" and a "thug", for no reason other than the color of his skin.

Well, you get the idea. And this is only from this year. Note the constant racism. Observe the homophobic references. Read the violent fantasies of assassination and "melon-splitting".


An alleged implication has been withdrawn and an apology has been accepted.

It is past time we stop being intimidated by the bullies who would shut us down because their positions can’t withstand scrutiny in the marketplace of ideas. The wing-nuts don’t encourage wacko would-be vigilante violence as much as give it permission. With the apocalyptic tone used by so many of the radio squawkers and bloggers – Obama is radical, socialist, unAmerican, etc. – what else is a "great American" to do but take matters into his own hands?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Plaisted Writes Goes to Green Bay

I will be part of the press corps tomorrow when President Obama does a town hall meeting in Green Bay. Watch this space for almost-live updates, news and insights into the president's event.

Monday, June 01, 2009

That Was Then – And It Still Is

I can pretty much tolerate most right-wing hacks, at least on a personal level – not that I know any of them personally. I’m not disgusted or appalled by them – don’t have a visceral reaction one way or the other. Now that the good guys and gals are in charge, the radio pipsqueeks, cable nimrods and blogging boneheads are mere annoyances. When they are really on their lame game – like Glenn Beck currently is – they are mildly amusing and slightly facinating to watch, as we watch them spin themselves ever deeper into their own sad delusions of false righteousness and legitimacy.

It’s the same with most of the right-wing politicians who, not so long ago, were actually relevant and even held some power in the country, believe it or not. For instance, regardless of how much the wing-nuts tried to convince everyone that the opposition to Junior Bush’s disastrous policies were based on irrational rage, I never hated the little punk and I don’t know anyone who did. He was an empty-suited front for a bunch of manipulative but, ultimately, failed and sad white guys who are now justly losing the rewards they never deserved. Even Dick Cheney fails to get my blood boiling, as he continues his legacy tour of lies and pathetic self-rationalization.

In other words, it’s the issues – not the people who are so wrong about them – that deserve our passion and emotional connection. People come and go through politics and the various media noisemakers, but the important issues of the past several generations – civil rights, war and peace, protection of the environment and economic justice – remain. That’s why it’s easy – for me, anyway – to be at least polite with people I might run into on opposite sides or the fence, the political divide or the courtroom. Even if it is sometimes not reciprocated by a certain self-righteous member of the Marquette law faculty, or others.

Bipartisan and legal comity being a virtue, then, I’ll get to my point:

Screw Ted Olson.

Ted Olson is the lawyer who led the Bush campaign’s legal team that succeeded in shutting down the Florida recount in 2000, resulting in the worst U.S. Supreme Court decision with the most disastrous consequences (i.e.: the entire Bush legacy) in history. I can still hear his voice arguing in the Supreme Court in those dark days, when democracy was stolen in broad daylight. Using the most tortured interpretation of the equal protection clause anyone not named Scalia could imagine, the hyper-activist Rehnquist bare-majority (thanks for nothing, Sandra Day O’Connor) bought Olson’s snake oil just enough to install the worst president in American history before the votes were properly counted.

Last week, Olson popped up in a weird pairing with David Boies – who righteously represented the Gore campaign in the same historic case. For perhaps the first time in his career, Olson this time is on the Right Side, promising to join forces with Boies to challenge California’s Prop 8 anti-gay marriage amendment in the Supreme Court.

Boies and the Prop 8 opponents are too gracious in letting Olson tag along, even if he does lend his nut-right, Federalist Society credentials to the fight. What Ted Olson needs more than anything, if he is indeed trying to sneak his way back into polite society, is a good shunning. And, yes, I know his wife died on the plane that slammed into the Pentagon on 9/11. And, no, the justifiable sympathy from that personal tragedy does not get him off the hook for Bush v. Gore.

And, while I’m at it:

Screw Christopher Ruddy.

Ruddy is the pretend-journalist who provided fodder for Clinton-haters throughout the ‘90s with fabrications, lies and fantasies regarding the supposed crimes of the then-president. It was he who provided the gullible with the "facts" they needed to think the worst of Bill Clinton. He drove the phony "controversy" over Vince Foster’s suicide by claiming Foster was, instead, murdered in some dark Clinton conspiracy. He also pissed on the grave of another Clinton compatriot, Ron Brown, who died in a plane crash, but who Ruddy claimed died of a gunshot wound (during the plane crash, I guess). Ruddy’s smears were financed by right-wing financier Richard Mellon Scaife, and happily distributed throughout the wing-nut echo chamber, poisoning the political atmosphere for an entire decade and unjustly impugning the reputation of a fine and - in spite of him and them - successful president.

How strange, then, to read that the repulsive Ruddy is palling around with...Bill Clinton. In an otherwise heartening essay in the New York Times Magazine this weekend, Ruddy pops up as a most unlikely F.O.B. "I guess we thought, This is just politics," says the sleaze merchant, who remains in the bullshit business on NewsMax. "But looking back at my role, I was probably over the top. And if I knew then what I know today, I wouldn’t have pursued some of that stuff as aggressively as I did. I did an honest reporter’s job [ha]. But I have a different take on it now." Thanks for letting us know, asshole. Now, get off the stage.

David Boies and Bill Clinton need to use a little more discretion before they go around legitimizing their tormentors after-the-fact. Shake hands during a chance meeting in public? Sure – that’s what hand-sanitizer is for. But befriend and work together? Never.