Friday, October 17, 2008

Four things that annoy me

Some things are such familiar parts of our political landscape these days that it's easy to forget how bad some of them are.

The Republican Party has internalized a cult-like definition of "patriotism" that means nothing more or less than "supports the Republican Party". Exhibit A, the White Princess:

Palin also made a point of mentioning that she loved to visit the "pro-America" areas of the country, of which North Carolina is one. No word on which states she views as unpatriotic. (To Avoid Being 'Depressed,' Palin Skimps on Campaign News by Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post The Trail blog 10/17/08)
I think all civilians should stop referring to the President as "Commander-in-Chief" unless they are specifically talking about the Constitutional role of the Executive: "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States", as the document iself says. As Glenn Greenwald spells it out, "under our Constitution and basic government design, people who aren't in the military don't have a 'Commander-in-Chief'."

How did we ever get to the point that we have to rely on comedians like David Letterman, John Stewart and Stephen Colbert to ask the tough, direct questions to candidates and political leaders on national TV? As Juan Cole puts it, "For laughs, you have to go to the candidates themselves." Could our national press be any more broken?

Speaking of the broken media, can reporters not do any fact-checking any more? I posted once before on Weather Underground veteran Bill Ayers and why I thought it was important to look at terrorism as realistically and unsentimentally as possible. And that goes for ideological sentiments that distort reality. Again, Juan Cole points out that in the recent discussions of Ayers, facts don't seem to have mattered to much of anyone:

There is reason to be skeptical about McCain's depiction of Ayers nowadays. Despite McCain's misquotation, did not say after 9/11 that he wished he had bombed more. He said he wished that the underground had done more to stop the Vietnam War, and he avers that he meant political action, not bombings. Ayers never was involved in killing anyone, contrary to the impression given by calling him a 'terrorist,' and erasing from the record all the regrets he has expressed about his involvement in violence. McCain also does not mention that charges were dropped against Ayers because the government itself engaged in misconduct with the COINTELPRO program. Ayers is now a respected professor of education who has been honored by and served on committees with prominent Republicans. [my emphasis]
If our "press corps" had the energy, incentive and ability to do a little work on these things, their readers might actually learn something. The COINTELPRO program conducted covert operations to disrupt radical groups, some but not all of which were engaging in violence. Like Abu Gonzales and Dick Cheney, the COINTELPRO people were known at times to regard the law as "quaint" and even acted as instigators of violence (provocateurs). It was a program of the kind that warms the hearts of the authoritarian-minded. But it's disregard of the law wound up limiting its effectiveness in actually catching and prosecuting law-breakers.

I should add that some individual members of the Weather Underground did get involved with the Black Liberation Army (BLA) group that did kill people. One former WU member is serving a life sentence for being involved in a robbery with the BLA in which people were killed.

But Ayers was not one of them. As I said in the earlier post about him, It's bad enough that the guy, who has apparently lived as a perfectly law-abiding citizen for the last nearly three decades (however distasteful some of his current views may be to many) is being held up as a poster boy for Evil. The McCain-Palin campaign is also falsly accusing him of being an attempted murderer. The later was not just a matter of calling him a "terrorist" as Cole mentions. Palin has referred to him as "a domestic terrorist who tried to kill his own people" and linking that caricature of Ayers to Obama. Our "culture warriors" have long since stopped caring whether what they say is actually true. But the press ought to be a little more informative.

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