Sunday, October 12, 2014

Birthers, Crackpots Are Destroying the Right Wing

Larry Klayman 

President Barack Obama is coming into the final stretch of his presidency and he will go down as the most disrespected man who ever occupied the White House. Republicans hated Bill Clinton for having the temerity to defeat George H. W. Bush and take a post they considered to be their birthright. But, the level of hatred directed at Obama is astonishing. This is not just dislike, it’s naked enmity. Much of the vitriol directed at the president has long gone beyond reasonable and is just downright ridiculous. Liberal writers have labelled this rage as Obama Derangement Syndrome (ODS), where right-wingers are so mad at the idea of an Obama presidency, they lose touch with reality.

The accusations are often ridiculous. Obama has been accused of being the son of Malcolm X; the son of Franklin Marshall Davis, a writer and labor activist; gay; a secret Muslim (whatever that is); a communist and even a CIA spy. The conspiracy theories are so convoluted, they’re difficult to keep track off. But of all the conspiracy theories, the most ridiculous one must be the birther nonsense, which stubbornly refuses to die.

We have seen two birth certificates, newspaper records, the doctor who delivered the baby and even the governor of Hawaii certify the records. But there are still birthers who believe there is a conspiracy to hide the president’s records. This conspiracy is patently ridiculous. For starters, why would Stanley Ann Dunham, a young white woman, travel to a developing African country in the 1960s, and deliver a baby in their rudimentary health care system? Even today in the 21st century, wealthy African women fly to the West to deliver their babies, because they don’t trust local doctors. And if the president was born outside the United States, which he wasn’t, it wouldn’t have mattered because since his mother was an American, that would also make him a citizen. You have to ask why would his parents try to fake his birth certificate, unless they could somehow see into the future and know he would eventually run for president. And if they had faked his birth certificate, don’t you think that in almost 20 years of public service someone would have discovered it by now?

MSNBC anchors have dedicated several programs to the reasons behind the continued popularity of birtherism. In some cases, like with the lunatic right-wing website World Net Daily (WND,) it’s a business decision. Birtherism has become a cottage industry, much like JFK conspiracies, and there is money to be made peddling birther crap, books, stickers, buttons, etc., to other right-wing nuts. WND realizes that birther stories are click bait and drive their hits up. Fake billionaire Donald Trump got into the birtherism scam a few years ago, but he was only doing it to drum up publicity for his reality show, “The Apprentice.” MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell was scathing in his criticism of Trump’s shenanigans.

Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who Rolling Stone billed as the “most racist cop in America,” also got into the act and directed his band of Keystone cops to investigate Obama’s birth records. Arpaio still claims that Obama’s birth certificate is false. Bear in mind, this comes from a corrupt tyrant who is currently under federal indictment. According to Rolling Stone, Arpaio once sicked his henchman on the editor and CEO of the Phoenix News Times, who had written articles that were critical of his shady real estate dealings. He had them arrested and marched out of their homes in the middle of the night. (The charges were eventually thrown out.) One of Arpaio’s Cold Case Posse, who was also pimping a birther book, claimed he had evidence showing Obama’s birth certificate was fraudulent. Cops already have a diminishing reputation and Arpaio and his cronies don’t help when they get on TV and tell bald-faced lies.

If these allegations weren’t bad enough, the latest stunt by crackpot lawyer, Larry Klayman, founder of Judicial Watch, a government watchdog, really takes the cake. Klayman, who sued his own mother, recently filed papers stating Obama falsified his birth records. He also requested the Department of Homeland Security deport its own boss. This claim is staggeringly stupid. Even if Obama was an illegal alien, he is married to an American citizen and has American children, which would make him near impossible to deport.

I guess, you have to laugh at these people, because they are effectively destroying the conservative movement. Some right wingers now know people who push ridiculous lies as the truth only hurt their credibility. The right-wing media may have nurtured these loons, when they were convenient, but they now realize they’re not helping their cause. We liberals don’t have to do anything to destroy the conservative movement, it’s doing a great job of eating itself. All we have is to do is pull up a comfortable chair, grab some popcorn and enjoy the show.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Can Bernie Sanders Be President?

I recently turned a friend of mine on to Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Independent from Vermont, who is making noises about running for president in 2016. She recently read about Sanders’ platform and was impressed by what he said about the failing two-party system, and the vanishing American middle class.

I have known about Sanders for several years. I have followed him online and seen his frequent appearances on TV. He has been a regular guest on Bill Maher’s “Real Time,” several MSNBC shows and also has a weekly spot on Thom Hartmann’s liberal radio show.

Sanders is probably my favorite politician, because he makes the sanest arguments about the American political and economic system. Sanders, who describes himself as a Democratic socialist, is anti-war, pro environment, pro universal healthcare and has often talked about the skyrocketing cost of college education. I’m amazed at how he even managed to get elected in the first place, but Sanders hails from Vermont, a very liberal state. Vermont is the only state in the union that has a single-payer healthcare system.

With Sanders views about working Americans and defense spending, he should have a huge following, but he is still widely unknown in most parts of the country.  He is rarely invited on network news or the Sunday morning political talk shows. And as much as I like Sanders, I seriously doubt if he could win the presidency. Here are some of the problems a potential Sanders run would face:
  • Lack of support from the Democrats. Sanders is a self-declared Independent, although he regularly caucuses with the Democrats. However, the Dems have moved to the right, and I can’t see the party nominating a leftist candidate like Sanders, to be their presidential nominee. The only way Sanders could run would be as an Independent.
  • Funding. American political campaigns are damn expensive and it takes millions of dollars to get elected. I have talked to local politicians, and even they say a politician is not judged by his electability, but on how much money he can raise. It costs money to pay for political advertising, campaign workers and campaign trips. Unfortunately, since American elections are not publicly funded, politicians have to spend much of their time raising money from billionaires and corporations, who they are later beholden to. And this is the frustrating thing about the American political system. How can we expect politicians to effect change, when they are taking money from the same corporations, who benefit from them not doing anything? Unfortunately, the Democrats take money from the same banks and corporations that Republicans do. This makes it seem as if we don’t have a functioning democracy, but have a corporatocracy, an issue that Sanders has talked about at length. However, if Sanders were able to harness online funding, the way Obama did, he might be able to raise enough money to run an effective campaign.
  • He is a Democratic Socialist. Most Americans are so ill-informed about the political process, that they think anything that smacks of socialism is akin to satanism. Most Americans enjoy public education, college loans, Medicare, the Veterans’ Administration and Social Security, which are all socialist policies. However they balk at the idea of actual socialism. Democratic socialists believe that some parts of the economy, education and healthcare for example, should be controlled by the government. Many European countries, such as Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland, have successful democratic socialist governments with high standards of living and low poverty rates.
  • The Military Industrial Complex. This reason is more sinister. Some leftists are upset that Obama has not dismantled the Military Industrial Complex (MIC.) However, Obama is a savvy political operator, he couldn’t have got to the highest office in the land without being one. The last president to go up against the MIC was John F. Kennedy and we all know how that turned out. I think Obama is secretly afraid that something nasty could happen to him if he slashed military funding. I can only wonder how much money and dirt the defense industry would throw at a candidate like Sanders, who was anti Vietnam and anti-Iraq war.
  • His age. Sanders is currently 73, and would be 75, if he ran for president. If elected he would be pushing 80, towards the end of his first term.

Sanders would make a great president, but his views are too left-wing for mainstream America. The best we can hope, is he will run and force Hillary, or whoever the Democratic nominee is, to move to the left. Maybe, Sanders will go down as one of the greatest presidents we never had.  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Homophobia Is the West’s Latest Export to Africa

Africa has long been a dumping ground for expired Western goods and ideas. When I lived in Nigeria, we often heard stories of Western countries shipping toxic waste to nations with non-existent or lax environmental laws. Also, expired Western food and medicine would regularly turn up in African markets.  One could argue, Western Europe also exported the idea of Christianity to Africa, which is ironic because much of Europe is now secular. However, Christianity is thriving in Africa, and unfortunately that has made it fertile soil for homophobia.

African homophobia is not just motivated by the church, but it also springs from a very conservative culture. Most African countries still believe in traditional gender roles, and the main reason for getting married is to produce children. Sadly, being gay is simply unacceptable in many African countries, with the exception of South Africa and Namibia. Gays do exist in Africa, but they stay underground.

The unholy alliance of tradition and religiosity has led some African countries to enact legislation opposing homosexuality. One of the more prominent cases is seen in Uganda, a former British colony in East Africa, which is more than 80 percent Christian. While homosexuality has always been frowned upon, in 2013, the Uganda legislature passed what the Western media called the “Kill the Gays” bill. The law originally called for anyone caught practicing homosexuality to be put to death. That was later changed to life in prison.

Apart from legal sanctions against being gay, Ugandan homosexuals also face a hostile social environment. The local police turns a blind eye to attacks on gays, and a few years ago a local magazine called Rolling Stone, published the names and addresses of prominent gays urging for them to “be hanged.” David Kato, a local gay rights activist, was a co-plaintiff in a successful lawsuit against the magazine. However, he was later killed in an attack dubbed “a home invasion.”

It’s bad enough that Uganda has passed these draconian laws. What’s even worse is these laws are promoted by American Evangelicals, such as Scott Lively, an American anti-gay activist. Lively, who believes that homosexuality should be discouraged or banned in America, thinks prayer can make gays straight. Caleb Brundidge, a self-proclaimed ex gay, and Don Schmierer, a board member of Exodus International, a Christian organization that believes prayer can deliver homosexuals, and Lively toured Uganda in 2009. The group gave speeches warning how the West wanted to import gay values, which would break up African families and seduce children.

Apart from motivating Ugandan politicians to pass anti-gay laws, these American Evangelicals also encouraged the rantings of Martin Ssempa, a virulently anti-gay preacher, who tours Uganda putting on presentations featuring hard-core gay pornogaphy. He displays slide shows, including pictures of annilingus, and claims this is an example of the type of corruption Western gays plan to bring to Uganda.

Unfortunately, much of Africa has not changed since the end of colonialism. A lot of Africa is still uneducated and naive. Not everyone has access to the Internet or satellite television and It’s easy to sell Africans a false bill of goods. A slick white preacher, armed with glossy brochures and professionally-shot videos, is likely to be lapped up by the African masses, who are still in awe of anything imported from Europe or America.

Lively and his cohorts are exporting a morally bankrupt philosophy. Psychologists have discredited reparative gay therapy, which is banned in California. In addition, so-called ex gays, who claim to have gone straight, have a terrible track record. John Paulk, a former chairman of Exodus International North America, was busted in a gay bar. John Smid, a self-proclaimed ex gay and minister, eventually resigned his position, renounced his past work and says that he is still gay. Several other ex gays have also renounced the ex gay movement and Exodus International eventually disbanded in 2003, after President Alan Chamber had a change of heart on the role of gays in Christianity. In addition, the two men who founded Exodus International, eventually left the movement, fell in love and moved in with each other!

Lively and his band of spiritual hucksters realize they have essentially lost the culture war in America. Gay rights have been largely accepted, even by segments of the Republican party, and gay marriage is eventually going to happen in the United States. Like the tobacco companies, anti-gay preachers realize their product is toxic in the Western world. They are concentrating on growth markets in Africa, with its huge population of callow, young minds, who think a strict interpretation of the Bible is going to turn their underdeveloped countries into heaven on Earth. African teenagers are also a lot less jaded and cynical than Western youths, who are abandoning the church.

Of course this is nothing new. You could argue that the West knew they were selling Africans a line of bull when they first introduced Christianity. Christianity walks hand-in-hand with imperialism, it was an effective tool in subjugating Africans. There is an old African saying that when the white man came, he came with the gun in one hand and the bible in the other. I find it intriguing that in Europe, which exported Christianity to Africa, the church is on its death bed. Most Europeans are secular, I think they have outgrown Christianity a long time ago. While in Africa, crippled by crumbling infrastructure, disease and rampant corruption, people tend to believe they need a supernatural solution to their everyday problems.

Fortunately, Lively’s activities have not been ignored in the West, and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has done extensive reporting on the link between American evangelical preachers and the deadly anti-gay sentiment sweeping Uganda. African gay activists have also used Western tools to strike back at Lively. He is currently being sued by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), on behalf of Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG) for violating their human rights. Hopefully, Lively will be eventually held accountable for his anti-human rights agenda in Uganda. But until then, Ugandan gays have to cower in fear or seek asylum as their countrymen are whipped into a homophobic frenzy by American snake oil salesmen.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

There are No Easy Answers in the Criminal Justice System

If you have never been involved in the American Criminal Justice system, you should count your lucky stars. The Criminal Justice system is cumbersome, inefficient and expensive. I know because I have had a family member who barely survived a tangle with law enforcement. The charges almost cost him his career, and even though he was eventually found innocent, his reputation was ruined.

Recently, I learned a close friend of mine had an encounter with the criminal justice system. She told me the father of her two children was shot dead several years ago. The gunman, who was 16 at the time, was given 25 years to life and she was recently called to testify at his parole hearing. The young man in question has completed 19 years of his sentence and was up for parole. My friend had to go to the hearing to argue why the shooter should serve his full term. She wrote a letter explaining why the convict should stay in jail. She argued, she had been given a life sentence by his actions, because she had been forced to raise two black children without their father.

The Parole Board is still considering how they are going to rule, but this man is eventually going to get out of jail. He has served 19 years of a 25-year sentence, and in a few years he is going to be returned to society. This raises even more complicated questions.  The shooter was locked up when he was 16, so he has spent more than half of his life behind bars, especially the bulk of his adult years. He has managed to attain a high school diploma in jail, but has not furthered his education beyond that. He also hasn’t gained any marketable skills while he was incarcerated. So, when he gets out, he is going to be a black man with a criminal record, no jobs skills and a high school education. What are the chances of him gaining employment? And there is the additional problem of adapting to a world that has seen giant strides in technology. The Internet, talking cars and smart phones are all inventions that didn’t exist 20 years ago.

Also, what kind of counselling and employment training will he get when he gets out? If society is going to lock up millions of Americans, then it needs to do a better job of helping these people reintegrate into society.  If not most, of these ex convicts will simply revert to a life of crime and end up back inside.

This case raises several issues about American society. Firstly, the shooter was black and the victim was black. The victim was killed in an argument over a $25 debt. The shooter said he did it to fit in. What does it say about about society when Black American lives are valued so cheaply? And what values does a society have when a teenager thinks that killing a person will help them fit in? These two issues speak of deep social problems in Black America.

In addition, this issue shows there are no winners when it comes to crime. The perpetrator has spent the bulk of his life incarcerated, and the victim has the challenge of raising two fatherless children. Two families have been irrevocably affected by the actions of one man.

I don’t have the solutions to these problems. There are no easy answers. However, I wish voters and politicians would consider these issues when they pass get-tough-on crime laws. It’s easy to pass these laws, hoping they will crack down on crime, but if we don’t also allocate funding to educate and retrain released convicts, the Criminal Justice system just becomes a vicious cycle.

Monday, September 8, 2014

FOX News Is Where Smart People Go to Play Dumb

Like most liberals, I tend to think FOX News is a joke. The pseudo-news channel is essentially a propaganda arm of the Republican Party. Of course, I, and thousands of other left-wingers, realize this. The joke is really on those working class Americans who watch FOX News and actually believe it. FOX News is a twisted joke where you have educated people playing dumb and unsophisticated for the sake of the cameras. The staff of FOX are largely urbane, New Yorkers, but every day they put on their make up and pretend to play bigoted, social conservatives for the sake of of their largely white, Middle American audience.  

Their main star, Bill O’Reilly, puts on a daily show, where he pretends to be a blue-collar, social conservative, who is horrified by the moral decay in pop culture. But in reality, O’Reilly is a divorced Catholic, whore monger, who has been sued for sexual harassment and hit up porn star, Jenna Jameson for free videos. He also grew up middle class on Long Island and has a master’s degree from Harvard University. O’Reilly knows that he is running a con game, but he has to play the perpetually-outraged fuddy duddy for the sake of his geriatric audience.

This type of duplicity is common in FOX News. The network provides benefits for gay partners, but they keep that quiet from their audience, which is largely homophobic. This is the main reason why Shepherd Smith, who is widely known to be gay, has never officially come out of the closet. According to the gossip website, Gawker, Smith recently wanted to make his relationship with a man official, but was ordered by FOX News President Roger Ailes to stay in the closet. Ailes was worried how FOX’s homophobic audience would react to one of their favorite anchors revealing he was gay.

Knowing that FOX News is essentially a pantomime, it shouldn’t have surprised me, when college dropout Sean Hannity invited Phil Robertson on show. Robertson, the patriarch of the family in the cable series “Duck Dynasty,” was asked to discuss geopolitics, including how to handle the ISIS terror threat.  Now Robertson, may play a technology-hating redneck on TV, but like many FOX News commentators, this is all an act.  In reality, he has a master’s degree in education. Robertson has amassed a fortune playing an uneducated redneck. Robertson and his clan used to be clean-cut preppies and started growing scruffy beads, because it would be good for their image.
When I saw the Robertson interview, I thought, why the hell are they asking this pretend redneck’s opinion on a complex, foreign policy issue? He has never run for office, never served in the military and, to my knowledge, has never been to the Middle East or even outside the United States. What possible insight could he have on international affairs?

But this is not the first time that FOX has invited guests to talk about issues they have no idea about. FOX recently hired C-list actress Stacey Dash to be a political commentator. Dash, who is mainly famous for appearing in the movie “Clueless,” has a non-existent political resume, but that didn’t seem to matter to FOX. They only cared that she was easy on the eye and would parrot their conservative mantra. Dash fits the FOX News mold for female commentators. Like, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Sarah Palin, she is pretty, but not too bright. I guess that is how Republicans like their women.

I didn’t think FOX could lower its reputation in my eyes, but they managed to do just that. By asking pretend rednecks and washed-up actresses to discuss serious political issues, the network merely confirms that it is not a news station, it’s White Entertainment Television.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Black Republicans Are Harming GOP’s Credibility

Dr. Ben Carson

I used to have a lot of respect for noted neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, until he opened his mouth and started talking politics. First it was his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, where he started espousing crackpot flat-tax theories. Then he compared Obamacare to slavery, and it has just gone downhill from there. Now, it seems that Carson has become the GOP’s latest negro du jour, trotted out to support anti-black opinions. He recently appeared on Sean Hannity’s show to talk about the protests in Ferguson, Mo. Carson used the opportunity to point out the social problems in the black.

Carson seems to embody the problem the GOP has with the black community. The GOP has repeatedly polled about 10 percent of the black electorate and they are constantly trying to recruit more black voters. But they always seem to put forward black conservatives, who have wacky theories or are just plain crazy. They are people like Alan Keyes, who actually ran for president but has never won a political race. Keyes made some good conservative points while running, but I really started to question his credibility when he burst into song during a press conference.

Herman Cain was another example of a ridiculous black Republican. Like Keyes, he has never run a successful campaign. Cain was never a realistic candidate although, the media took him seriously. He had a grand time building his brand and charming white Republicans, who desperately wanted a black face on the podium, to prove they were not the party of old, white men.

Cain was eventually revealed to be clueless about foreign policy and got ensnared in a sex scandal. The crazy thing, is he actually believes that if the supposedly liberal media had not derailed his campaign, he could have beaten President Obama! This kind of insanity is not uncommon, you have other crackpots like self-loathing African American Pastor James David Manning, who has become famous for his YouTube sermons. (He calls himself doctor, but his degree is from an unaccredited school, which he runs.)

His tirades have slandered Barack Obama’s parents, called gays “homos,” and referred to blacks as niggers, who have never run a successful society. But this garbage is lapped up by the right-wing media, who love a black person who hates Obama. Manning has been interviewed regularly on FOX News and has even made it on Russia Today.

Just recently, black right-wing commentator Mychal Massie published a column on conspiracy website World Net Daily, where he accused Obama of being a tyrannical anti-white racist, who also wanted to commit genocide on black children through abortion.  Massie writes, “Some may still try to say he isn’t openly racist, but it is time to call this spade a spade. If he weren’t a race-mongering infidel, he wouldn’t have said Trayvon Martin looked like the son he didn’t have; at the very least, he would have acknowledged that Christopher Lane, the white baseball player who was murdered in Oklahoma by three blacks, could have looked like him if he had a son as well.”

Much of this is a calculated act. People like Massie, Carson and Cain are trying to position themselves as black conservatives in a media landscape where most black voices are liberal. They also realize there is a handsome market for anti-Obama screeds in the right-wing media. This is really about getting media appearances and selling books. I’m sure both Cain and Carson, in particular, secretly know they have a snowball's chance in hell of being president, but it is a great opportunity to raise their profile and increase their speaking fees. They also know there are plenty of white Republicans who desperately want a new black, best friend.

However, they are actually damaging the Republican party’s chances of making inroads into the black community. Most black people see through black conservatives’ hustle and hold them in low regard. The Republican Party needs more Colin Powells and Condi Rices, and fewer Herman Cains and Alan Keyes.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Far-Right Voices Threaten GOP Chances

Mike Huckabee

By Clavell Jackson

The Republicans last loss in a national election caused much soul searching. RNC chair Reince Preibus even ordered a post mortem on the GOP to learn what went wrong. The post mortem showed that the GOP needed to be more open to an increasingly diverse nation to stay competitive. As Sen. Lindsay Graham said, "We are not generating enough angry white guys." However it seems that the GOP has learned nothing from its internal review. Judging by recent comments from right-wing politicians and commentators nothing has changed. The GOP is still as anti woman, anti gay and anti minority as ever. 

Here are just a few of recent off-color comments: 

• Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee recently said Democrats are trying to convince women that they need the government to help them control their libido. He also accused single mothers of looking to Uncle Sugar (Uncle Sam) when they get pregnant. 
• Susanne Atanus, a Republican congressional candidate in Chicago, said autism and dementia are God's punishments for gay rights and abortion. She also blamed natural disasters, such as tornadoes, on gays.
 • Back in 2006 Chris McDaniel, now a Mississippi candidate for U.S. Senate, complained about the lack of Muslim villains in Hollywood movies. McDaniel has also warned against the "homosexual agenda." 
• Dave Agema, a member of the Michigan Republican National Committee, is facing calls to resigns after he praised Russia's anti-gay laws and also said, "Have you ever seen a Muslim do anything that contributes positively to the American way of life?" 

As outlandish as these comments are, they are not unusual for the GOP. Right Wing Watch daily tracks whacky comments from conservatives and AlterNet publishes a weekly top 10 of outrageous conservative statements. And these days there is plenty of material. It seems as if the GOP has not learned any lessons from the excruciating 2012 primary season which featured a rogue's gallery of outspoken candidates such as the loopy Rep. Michelle Bachmann, and the sadly comical Herman Cain. While these off-color comments are great for publicity, they do not help in building consensus. 

And apparently this problem won't go away. The Republican Party is currently undergoing a civil war between the moderates and the far-right tea party wing. If the tea party wins the war, they will pull the party even further to the right. This might be good for party purity, but it won't win national elections. The debacles of Sharon Angle and Christine O'Donnell, tea party candidates who lost to Democrats, have proved that. 

However 2016 is already looking dire for the GOP. With the Democrats, lining up behind a strong Hillary Clinton campaign and Chris Christie weighed down by the Bridgegate scandal, Republicans are looking at candidates such as Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, who both have their own set of questionable views. (Sen. John McCain described some of Paul's views as kooky.) 

The GOP ought to know that the women's vote, minority vote and gay vote are essential to winning national elections. I don't know where they expect to go with such far-right voices. If the GOP wants to keep winning elections they are going to have to find a way to reign in the tea party voices and produce saner candidates. If not, it looks like there will be Democratic wins in 2014 and 2016.