Monday, September 13, 2010

Got Snark? Read Gonzo Matt Today!

As Fox Sports Radio's Tony ("Into The Night") Bruno loves to say: "Beautiful, man." Gonzo Matt goes off on the talking heads at ESPN over the upheld index fingers of the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints prior to kickoff in their game last Thursday eve. Gonzo Matt hammers fools fron Al Michaels to Mike Golic to Mike Greenberg to Colin Cowherd and manages to backhand The BFI (Big F-word-of-your-choice Idiot) and Simon Cowell before he's done. Ultimately, Gonzo Matt offers an explanation of anti-unionism among Dumbos and Teabaggers who need unions but can't get past their own shame and self-loathing. If this is a (fair & balanced) explanation of our lumpenproletariat, so be it.

[x RS]
On ESPN And "Replaceable" People
By Matt Taibbi

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Was on the way home from Kentucky — was covering the Rand Paul race — when I heard something crazy on the radio.

So it seems the whole sports world is abuzz about the decision by the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints players to raise a finger in the air before the season-opening game as an expression of union loyalty — "We are one" — in a year in which the players and the owners are negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement. I watched that gesture during the game and knew it was going to inspire the usual sneering (it started almost immediately, with Al Michaels chirping, "There's nothing like starting an NFL season with a labor statement"), as voices from all corners (including, unbelievably, many former NFL players) denouncing the absurdly brief, silent, and inoffensive demonstration as a tasteless interruption of our God-given right to nonstop mindless entertainment.

Forget about people actually supporting unions in a labor disagreement: they apparently don't even want to see them, not if it's going to delay a football game by three whole seconds. There were actually arguments across the media landscape to the effect that NFL players were out of line bringing their labor disagreement into our living rooms, the implication being that any display of union activity is somehow unseemly or ( I love this) selfish. We have a whole reality-show culture celebrating the cause of people eating centipedes and stabbing each other in the back for cash prizes and fame, but football players quietly showing union solidarity is tasteless. If you can explain that one to me, please don't hesitate to write in.

Anyway the NFL players gesture was a significant thing because it was seen by 28% of the country; it's probably going to be the signature piece of labor theater in America this year. For obvious reasons the NFL union is a tough sell to most people. You're talking about guys who get paid millions to play a kids' game, so when they start getting together to talk about holding out for more (although any work stoppage next year will technically be a lockout), most people tune out instantly. I don't agree with this attitude — if people think the players are greedy, what would they call the owners, who don't even have to get beat up for their money and have the gall to beg taxpayers for stadium money on top of their TV billions — but I get where it's coming from.

Thus is wasn't exactly a surprise when former "proud union guy" Mike Golic came out slamming the gesture, nor was it a shock when serial hair-care products consumer/ESPN morning host Mike Greenberg insisted that 99% of the calls and emails ESPN got were critical of the players. The sports media establishment bashing player union "greed" isn't exactly a new broadcast meme.

But when I heard loudmouth large-nostriled afternoon host Colin Cowherd go off on unions in general on my way out of Lexington, I nearly had an aneurysm. Cowherd actually came out in support of the NFL players — although his reasoning there wasn't exactly clear to me — but he said that in general, he tended to be "anti-union" because unions apparently don't encourage elite performance and creativity, and instead just protect the lazy, the weak, the unremarkable. Then he went into this long rant about how great football players like Drew Brees were remarkable and irreplaceable, as are — and this isn't a joke — radio stars like Rush Limbaugh, and appalling American Idol douche-twat Simon Cowell.

Then, to steelworkers and teachers, he said this: "Steelworkers? I love you. But guess what? You can be replaced. You can't replace Rush."

And there's only one Simon Cowell, he said.

Leave aside for a minute the fact that Cowherd's concept of talent and specialness is completely fucked (not only is Simon Cowell not irreplaceable, he should have his head chopped off the next time he opens his mouth on national television) and forget also the obvious provocation of lionizing a fat, racist slob who hasn't worked an honest day in his life like Rush Limbaugh while simultaneously ripping steelworkers and teachers for being lazy. In fact it wouldn't be worth mentioning the views of this half-bright sportscaster at all, except that his underlying point, that the worth of human beings is measured entirely in how much capitalist revenue they generate, is now basically hegemonous in American society — to the point where even ordinary people who decades ago would have been union workers or at least union supporters believe it implicitly.

Almost everyone who has a job is economically "replaceable," but shit, outside an Ayn Rand novel, there's more to it than that. Does it make economic sense to fire the auto worker who mangles his hand in the factory machinery and bring in a younger guy with all his fingers? How about the secretary who refuses to fuck the boss, isn't she replaceable? Couldn't we put her ungrateful ass out on the street and bring in another, hotter girl to do the same job at the same price? How about a teacher who refuses to pass his failing students on to the next class? How about the worker on the oil rig who complains about his company's safety procedures? The aforementioned steelworker who gets a little too old and becomes too much of a liability to the company health plan? The government civil servant who turns whistleblower?

Yes, Colin, you spoiled little fuckhead, we can replace all of these people. After all, you're right, none of them are truly valuable, at least not like Simon Cowell or Rush Limbaugh, anyway.

But we don't always replace them, because some people in our past spent generations fighting to push us up above the level of savages. Unions aren't perfect, and they don't always pick the right causes to fight for, but they have to exist precisely because the vast majority of workers are replaceable, which is to say not special, which is to say vulnerable. Not that Cowherd would have any reason to know this, but that's what a "job" is, as opposed to what he and I both have, careers — a job always involves shelving your own personal creativity and ambition to at least some degree, in order to push someone else's idea along for a while.

Measuring people by how much numerical wealth they produce is a kind of psychopathy — it's that kind of thinking that led to Larry Summers famously saying that African countries are "underpolluted," because poisoning people in low-GDP African states makes less sense than poisoning the relatively more economically productive citizens of Western countries in Europe and America.

That kind of thinking is spreading, because our pop culture priests have succeeded in filling the population with shame and nervous self-loathing to the point where they think of anyone who isn't an employer as a parasite, and anyone who isn't rich and famous, or trying to be, as a loser. People even think of themselves this way, which is why there are so many down-and-out people voting to give tax breaks to the same bankers who've been robbing them for years, and booing when the mere concept of unions shows up for a few seconds in a football game. It's sad, and a lot of it's the fault of mean little assholes like Cowherd. Shame on him. Ω

[As Rolling Stone’s chief political reporter, Matt Taibbi's predecessors include the likes of Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O'Rourke. Taibbi has written Spanking the Donkey: On the Campaign Trail with the Democrats (2005); Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire (2007): and The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics & Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire (2008). Taibbi graduated from Bard College in 1991.]

Copyright © 2010 Rolling Stone

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Got -Milk- Hate?

Volksverhetzung (German: "incitement of popular hatred") now has become a cottage industry in the Land O'The Free and the Home O'The Stupid. And yet, this land of intermarriage provides us with a Dumbo/Teabagger celebrity who is married to a Muslim! Nonetheless, free speech be damned! The Dumbos and the Teabaggers howl at the moon and their howls are a new form of pollution. If this is a (fair & balanced) call for mass-glossectomies, so be it.

[Vannevar Bush Hyperlink — Bracketed NumbersDirectory]
[1] "Manufacturing Hate" — Professor Teresa Ghilarducci
[2] "GOP Islamophobia" — Joltin' Joe Conason

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[x Cronk Review]
On Manufacturing Hate: Remembering 9/11
By Teresa Ghilarducci

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On the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and 50-some days before the midterm elections, hate-filled rallies at the World Trade Center site, and elsewhere, were staged against the “Ground Zero mosque.” The New York rally was organized by right-wing blogger, author of Obama Adminstration’s War on America. And the keynote speaker was Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders who supports banning the Koran and elsewhere has described Islam as not a religion, but as “the ideology of a retarded culture.” Nice memorial to 9/11 victims, right?

Media Matters gives a longer, depressing litany of intolerant quotes from anti-mosque commentators, and their intention is clear. They are exploiting 9/11 to create political advantage in the upcoming fall elections, based on fear during this time of great economic upheaval. Fear and hate is a tested and sadly, all too often, effective tactic that wins elections.

All of the usual distortions were part of the rallies:

1. Misrepresentation of facts (it is not a “mosque,” but a cultural center; it is not “at” Ground Zero but several blocks away, in an area currently shared with pizza parlors and porn shops).

2. The invocation of closed-minded absolutist religious views—the certainty that their version of Christianity is correct, as well as their distorted views of Islam.

3. Their explicit desire to break down one of America’s greatest political historic achievements—religious tolerance. (This is an achievement that always needs protecting—among many, many examples, Georgetown University was formed because Catholics were not admitted to Harvard and Yale.)

These 9/11 rallies add hate to fear: hate towards Muslims or those who support their exercise of constitutional rights, and fear evoked by the 9/11 terror.

These spectacles are a part of a larger ideological assault. Recently, Glenn Beck held a religious festival at the Lincoln Memorial to simultaneously take over the memory of both Abraham Lincoln (who recommended behaving “with malice towards none, with charity for all”) and Martin Luther King, Jr. (who supported national health care, massive reductions in military spending, and redistribution of income to the poor). Beck held off on his usual invective for that one day, but returned to form the next day, presenting his own distorted interpretation of Obama’s religious and political beliefs, and then claiming “It's a perversion of the gospel of Jesus Christ as most Christians know it.”

As I watched this theater of fear and hate; I remembered a day when I felt deeply patriotic. In August 2009, after Senator Edward Kennedy died, his coffin was flown from Boston to Washington for burial at Arlington Cemetery. The funeral cortege stopped on the way, at the U.S. Capitol, where the public and hundreds and hundreds of former Kennedy staffers had gathered on the steps of the East Front to pay their respects.

It was broiling hot that day in D.C., and the funeral procession was very late in arriving; you could see people affected by their sweat and fatigue. Surprisingly, you could hear coming from the staffer crowd a muffled, then loud and clear “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful.” I confirmed from my friend who was there that the song just started somewhere among the group, and within a few lines, everyone was singing. My friend felt good singing, moved by the powerful emotions, but later angry that Senator Kennedy’s patriotism—as well as that of liberals and progressives—was, and are still, attacked by conservatives. “I’m sick of these right-wingers lecturing me on how to be patriotic,” he fumed.

So on this day after 9/11, memorialize the people who died on 9/11 —Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, and others. And work hard to defend a tolerant and diverse America: a core value at the beginning. George Washington memorably described it in a letter to a Jewish congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, envisioning an America where “every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

Washington’s words challenge the hate and division on view yesterday and throughout the campaigning: “For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.” Ω

[Teresa Ghilarducci is Professor of Economics and holds the Bernard L. and Irene Schwartz Chair in Economic Policy Analysis and teaches economic-policy analysis at the New School for Social Research. Her books include When I'm Sixty Four: The Plot Against Pensions and the Plan to Save Them. Ghilarducci received both an A.B. and Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California-Berkeley.]

Copyright © 2010 The Chronicle of Higher Education
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Why The GOP Embraced Islamophobia
By Joe Conason

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Only a few years ago, an angry political demonstration at ground zero on September 11 would have been deemed an unthinkable offense not only to the bereaved families of victims and responders but to the nation. Yet this anniversary featured a raucous and highly partisan rally, as well over a thousand protesters gathered to show their opposition to the Park51 Islamic center — and to listen to tirades from Republican politicians and commentators against the Obama administration.

More than a flaky Florida pastor’s cancelled threat to burn the Quran (or the actual scattered torchings that took place the same day), the ground zerio rally answered the question posed repeatedly over the past few weeks: Why are millions of Americans suddenly caught up in a torrent of fear and fury over Islam so strong that both the president and the commanding general of U.S. forces in Afghanistan have warned of deadly consequences? What motivates the outpouring of rancor against Muslims, especially in the conservative media? How did they escape until now?

The answer is that until the advent of the Obama presidency, Republicans had no reason to scapegoat Muslims or demonize Islam — and indeed, they could not have inflamed those prejudices without damaging their own leaders, especially George W. Bush.

Evidence of the blatantly partisan character of the current anti-Muslim campaign can be found everywhere — on Fox News Channel, cable channel of the GOP; in the latest excrescence of Newt Gingrich and David Bossie; and in the roster of speakers at Saturday's "no mosque" rally, which featured a video message from John Bolton, the Bush administration’s former ambassador to the United Nations.

The presence of Bolton is telling because he served a president who articulated precisely the same benign view of Islam — which Bush famously described as a religion of peace — as his successor. But the political and cultural messaging that Republicans and conservatives accepted quietly from Bush is today considered tantamount to treason when promoted by Obama.

Certainly the years since 9/11 have seen a growing hostility to Islam on the right, not only among evangelicals and Christian Zionists but in other wings of conservatism as well. From time to time, the issue of Muslim influence within the United States and on American foreign policy has been debated among conservatives. Books denouncing Islamist aggression — and conflating "Islamofascism" with the faith itself — have reached a broad audience on the right. But the expression of those views was usually muted or ignored by the most important institutions and media organizations on the right until January 2009.

Consider the case of Grover Norquist, the anti-tax crusader, lobbyist and organizer who has long been among the most influential figures on the American right. As long ago as 2003, Norquist (who is married to a Muslim woman) became the target of harsh criticism by conservative defense analyst Frank Gaffney over his connections with American Muslim leaders, including some accused of links with foreign terrorist groups. The most troubling accusation made by Gaffney and echoed in National Review and elsewhere was that Norquist had compromised the Bush White House and the Republican Party by introducing extremely unsavory Muslim leaders into their midst.

Norquist denied those charges and accused his critics in turn of racism and bigotry, expelling Gaffney from the fabled weekly meeting of powerful conservative and Republican leaders that still occurs every Wednesday in his Washington offices. (In fact, his reputation suffered much worse damage over his close association with crooked lobbyist Jack Abramoff than over his supposed truckling to Islamists.)

Back then, Gaffney admitted that Norquist was only a minor player in the Bush White House and its alleged sympathy toward what he identified then as “Wahhabist” or radical Islamist elements both in the United States and abroad. “I think the role that [Norquist] has played personally in this effort of behalf of Wahhabi-sympathetic and supported institutions is an important one, but it’s a bit role,” he said. Norquist was a side show, according to Gaffney, while the “main show” was the Bush administration’s continuing engagement with Muslim groups that he and others had identified as jihadist or radical.

Gaffney’s challenge to Norquist received attention on the right, but his critique of the Bush White House was essentially ignored. Norquist continued to play a powerful role on the right — hosting a debate between candidates for Republican National Committee chair last year, for instance. And the Muslim-bashing faction that had attacked him was relegated to the sidelines, notably when Pamela Geller, impresario of yesterday’s anti-mosque demonstration, was barred from hosting an official panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Three years ago, very few conservatives would have worked with her or echoed her message.

All that has changed since the inauguraton of a president whose middle name is Hussein and whose father was Muslim, because he provides a central focus for a politicized campaign against Islam. Since January 2009, Norquist has again become a target of critics on the right. Bush himself has remained silent, perhaps preferring not to revive the dormant controversy over his own relationships with the Saudi kingdom and with Muslim groups here. Figures such as Bolton and Gingrich, who never spoke out about Islam during the Bush administration, have discovered that Muslims pose an existential threat to Western civilization.

Paranoia and prejudice have long been instruments of right-wing politics in America, from the Red Scare and McCarthyism to the Nixonite Southern strategy. The current outbreak of Islamophobia represents the latest product of the same old manufacturing process. It is irresponsible and dangerous as well as cynical precisely because we face deadly adversaries whose movements profit from every rift between the West and Muslims. Ω

[Joe Conason writes a weekly column for Salon and the New York Observer. Conason received a B.A. in History from Brandeis University in 1975. He then worked at two Boston-based newspapers, East Boston Community News and The Real Paper. From 1978 to 1990, he worked as a columnist and staff writer at The Village Voice. From 1990 to 1992, Conason was "editor-at-large" for Details magazine. In 1992, he became a columnist for the New York Observer, a position he still holds. Conason's latest book is It Can Happen Here: Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush (2007).]

Copyright © 2010 Salon Media Group, Inc.

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Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves by Neil Sapper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available here.

Copyright © 2010 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves