Ten years ago this week the Dixie Chicks controversy erupted: I’m still not ready to back down

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. ― Theodore Roosevelt On … Continue reading Ten years ago this week the Dixie Chicks controversy erupted: I’m still not ready to back down

A quick, nonpartisan democracy lesson for our anonymous faux-patriot thugs

Let’s start with this.

DENVER – A Mexican restaurant in the Highlands neighborhood declined a Mitt Romney campaign stop.

Now the owners of Rosa Linda’s Mexican Café are getting death threats, nasty threatening phone calls, and insulting e-mails criticizing their choice.

“I don’t want people to be angry at me,” Rosa Linda Aguirre, the owner of the neighborhood staple, said. Continue reading “A quick, nonpartisan democracy lesson for our anonymous faux-patriot thugs”

Celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred wants Florida to prosecute Limbaugh using forgotten statute: she’s the best thing that’s happened to Rush in weeks

I wonder what Rush Limbaugh will be talking about on his show this coming week? Ah, maybe this:

In a letter dated March 8, [celebrity lawyer Gloria] Allred, writing on behalf of the Women’s Equal Rights Legal Defense and Education Fund, requested that Palm Beach County State Attorney Michael McAuliffe probe whether the conservative radio personality had violated Section 836.04 of the Florida Statutes by calling Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke the two derogatory words.

The statute stipulates that anyone who “speaks of and concerning any woman, married or unmarried, falsely and maliciously imputing to her a want of chastity” is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree. Continue reading “Celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred wants Florida to prosecute Limbaugh using forgotten statute: she’s the best thing that’s happened to Rush in weeks”

Imagine there’s no boycotts: that sounds like Communism to me

Following up on yesterday’s post about how unfair it is when progressives fight fire with fire

One of the architects of the modern conservative boycott movement back in the day was the now-deceased Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of the “Moral Majority.” His strategy was simple. Identify those television and radio stations whose programming “promoted” a “liberal agenda” or “secular humanist” values, then leverage the purchasing power of the congregation to bully offenders into changing their programming. Sadly, this brand of thuggery (remember, this is generally the same crowd screeching right now about how “liberals” are “censoring” the “free speech rights” of the richest, most successful, most widely heard man in political talk radio) proved effective enough that it has now become a go-to weapon in the arsenals of interest groups across the partisan spectrum. Continue reading “Imagine there’s no boycotts: that sounds like Communism to me”

Free Speech for Dummies (and Dittoheads)

Last October, country music star Hank WIlliams, Jr. made a remark about Obama and Hitler playing golf, touching off a controversy that saw ESPN end its relationship with Williams (who had been singing the Monday Night Football intro song for what seemed like 100 years). Williams reacted predictably:

After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have made MY decision,” he wrote. “By pulling my opening Oct 3rd, You (ESPN) stepped on the Toes of The First Amendment Freedom of Speech, so therefore Me, My Song, and All My Rowdy Friends are OUT OF HERE. It’s been a great run.

So, this was a Toes of The First Amendment Freedom of Speech issue, huh? [sigh] Williams’ fans and the semi-literate sports talk DJs who cater to them were as bad, if not worse. Continue reading “Free Speech for Dummies (and Dittoheads)”

Are you ready for some FOOOTBAALLLL?! A couple of notes on the Hank Williams, Jr. hullaballoo

Hank Williams, Jr. said some stupid shit. Because, you know, he’s not exactly a rocket surgeon or a model of progressive, pro-human ideals. I can’t imagine that this comes as much a surprise to anyone. Now ESPN has done what they pretty much had to and kicked Hank to the curb. Read all about it.

Two quick thoughts.

First, that Monday Night Football intro sequence was getting tired. Five years ago, in fact. Continue reading “Are you ready for some FOOOTBAALLLL?! A couple of notes on the Hank Williams, Jr. hullaballoo”

This is not about Tiger Woods. It’s about Billy Payne. And Augusta National. And sexism. And racism.

You may have caught the story last week. Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne stomped the balls off Tiger Woods for … well, if you need to be told what for, then you probably don’t know who Tiger Woods is in the first place. Or Billy Payne. And you probably don’t know what the Master’s is, or where Augusta is, and you may not even have heard of “golf.” So you can safely skip ahead to the next article.

Are Billy’s remarks about Tiger true? Maybe. Probably. Are they in-bounds, given what Augusta is? Sure – why not? Continue reading “This is not about Tiger Woods. It’s about Billy Payne. And Augusta National. And sexism. And racism.”

The Scarlet NSFW

NSFWThe other day our friend MentalSwitch offered up a delightful little post entitled “Hello Nurse!” It featured a photo of an attractive model dressed as … well, hell, rather than me trying to describe the shot and failing miserably, why don’t you just click on over there and see for yourself. But before you do, please be forewarned that the photo is NOT SAFE FOR WORK!!!!

Ahem. Well, actually, its worksafeness (or unworksafeness thereof) became the topic of some discussion here. Initially the pic was posted without a cut, meaning that the image itself would appear on the front page of S&R. Later, after some complaint and brief deliberations, we moved it behind a cut with the dreaded “NSFW” tag, indicating that the content would most certainly get you fired if it were accidentally viewed by any decent, God-Fearing American® co-worker. And since way too many of our readers work in places where others might be looking over their shoulders, this was a practical concern. As one colleague put it – and we’ll let that colleague name himself if he wants to – “if the wrong person had walked behind me with that image up on my screen, I could have been walked out the door that day, no appeal.” Continue reading “The Scarlet NSFW”

Why isn’t Rush happy?: Limbaugh inadvertently illustrates democracy in action

America’s democratic ideal doesn’t work perfectly. Sometimes it doesn’t work at all, and in these cases it feeds our cynicism to the point where we’re tempted to conclude that the very possibility of true freedom is a sham. I know whereof I speak, because there are few people out there more soaked in bile than I am.

Still, this whole “marketplace of ideas” is a marvelous concept. Perhaps the most marvelous concept in history. Drawing on the Miltonian belief that if people are allowed to enter the agora and freely state their cases, then “the truth will out” (that is, an educated and informed citizenry will unerringly perceive the truth and that weaker ideas will be disregarded in favor of stronger ones), our nation’s founders crafted a Constitution that assured people the right to voice their opinions, free from government intrusion. Continue reading “Why isn’t Rush happy?: Limbaugh inadvertently illustrates democracy in action”

Still not ready to make nice: what does the Dixie Chicks saga tell us about freedom in America?

We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas. – Natalie Maines

I don’t even know the Dixie Chicks, but I find it an insult for all the men and women who fought and died in past wars when almost the majority of America jumped down their throats for voicing an opinion. It was like a verbal witch-hunt and lynching. – Merle Haggard

Last night over dinner the subject of The Dixie Chicks came up, and I got mad all over again. Which is unfortunate, because when you think about artists that talented the last thing on your mind ought to be anger. But still, it’s been six long years now since “the top of the world came crashing down,” and I can’t quite free myself of my rage at the staggering ignorance that led so many Americans to piss on the 1st Amendment by attempting to destroy the careers of Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Robinson. Continue reading “Still not ready to make nice: what does the Dixie Chicks saga tell us about freedom in America?”

S&R’s official statement on today’s SoapBlox hack

Early today hackers launched an attack against the SoapBlox network, wreaking havoc with a significant number of progressive blogs (including Pam’s House Blend, My Left Wing and several state-focused sites). At one point it looked as though the whole network may have been trashed, although at this point it seems that some sites (like our friends at Square State) were mercifully unaffected (for the time being, anyway). Some that were initially taken down are now back up and running.

It’s not yet known who was behind the attack.

Paul Preston, who runs the network, was understandably at the point of despair early today, posting a note saying that the operation was dead. Fortunately his latest missive notes that things are stabilized and moving ahead, and for this we’re grateful. Continue reading “S&R’s official statement on today’s SoapBlox hack”

America’s Negro Cracker Problem: none of us are free

Part two in a series.

There’s a rising tide on the rivers of blood
But if the answer isn’t violence, neither is your silence

– Pop Will Eat Itself, “Ich Bin Ein Auslander”

When all is said and done, nothing communicates the racism and knee-buckling stupidity of all-too-wide swaths of our nation quite like video. So if you don’t trust me to tell the truth about these folks, maybe you’ll trust their own words.

Continue reading “America’s Negro Cracker Problem: none of us are free”

America’s Negro Cracker Problem: Ich bin ein Auslander

Part one in a series.

Listen to the victim, abused by the system
The basis is racist, you know that we must face this

In 1991 Pop Will Eat Itself produced one of the most damning comments on racism in society in the history of popular music. “Ich Bin Ein Auslander” was specifically aimed at anti-immigrant racism in Europe, but over the past 17 years it’s been impossible for me to hear the song without mapping its penetrating, undeniable truth onto our American context. Our black auslanders aren’t recent arrivals (although many of our brown ones are), but they nonetheless remain social, political, economic and cultural outsiders, and whatever progress they may have made in the several hundred years since they first arrived in shackles, only a fool can believe that the basis is no longer racist.

I said some time back, as the presidential election lurched into overdrive, that the heavy racist stuff was coming. Continue reading “America’s Negro Cracker Problem: Ich bin ein Auslander”

Saturday Video Roundup: “This is the guilt I’ll live with for the rest of my life…monsters aren’t born, monsters are created…”

As noted a couple weeks ago, the S&R team hooked up with the crew from Zero Coordinate and Eccentric Production at the DNC in Denver. In addition to their invaluable help in shooting the Lee Camp interview, we also worked together in covering the Returned Soldiers/Rage Against the Machine/Tent State march on the DNC.

Natalie Ashodian and her team have now produced a powerful video from that march, and for those who only read about it (or, as is more likely the case, given how little attention the mainstream press paid to it, never even heard about it in the first place) this coverage is extremely important. Continue reading “Saturday Video Roundup: “This is the guilt I’ll live with for the rest of my life…monsters aren’t born, monsters are created…””

Stop lying to the public: some notes on the faux-ethics of the press

CountyFair had an important and much-needed lesson in journalistic ethics for us this morning. The key points:

First: it should never, ever be considered acceptable to quote a candidate or official making a false claim without noting its falsity. Reporters do this all the time, justifying it by saying they’re just presenting both sides, or that they aren’t making the false claim, they’re just reporting it, or saying they corrected three other false claims in the article. That is not sufficient: if a journalist includes a false or misleading claim in their news report — in any form — without indicating that is false, they are actively helping to spread misinformation.

Second: the way in which news reports debunk misinformation matters a great deal. Continue reading “Stop lying to the public: some notes on the faux-ethics of the press”

How do you feel about free speech, Mr. Candidate?

Our friends over at Colorado Independent have a great new analysis up on free speech zones graveyards at the upcoming DNC. As Constitutional attorney John Whitehead explains, the Dems will be the only party this summer building a fence around open expression.

Protesters at the upcoming Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Denver in late August will be corralled into caged “free speech zones” made of chicken wire and chain link fences which are located more than two football fields from the delegates’ entrance. Those who attempt to exercise their First Amendment rights outside this makeshift cage, which is partially obscured by trees and sculptures, will be arrested. (Ironically, protesters at this year’s Republican National Convention will not face a cage or even policemen in riot gear.) Continue reading “How do you feel about free speech, Mr. Candidate?”

Real heroes refuse to shut up and sing

A few weeks ago I watched The US vs. John Lennon, a documentary chronicling the extraordinary lengths the American government went to in order to silence an artist who had the audacity to speak out against corruption and injustice. Of course, Lennon came from an age when artists did that sort of thing, and he wasn’t the only musician to get on the nerves of the authorities during the tumultuous ’60s and ’70s. I imagine the FBI had a file on folks like Bob Dylan, too.

But we don’t live that world anymore, do we? These days the pressure to shut up and sing is greater than ever, and those who benefit most from our silence have engineered newer and more effective means for muzzling the consciences of those whose voices can actually be heard above the deafening white noise.

Last night my wife and I watched Shut Up and Sing, another documentary about an artist who had the temerity to speak the truth. Continue reading “Real heroes refuse to shut up and sing”

Are Americans smart enough to vote?

I recently offended some people, quite unintentionally, with my modest suggestion that perhaps it wasn’t in the best interests of the nation to hand over so much decision-making power to people who aren’t informed about the issues and their own system of government. (Responses ranged from “thoughtful disagreement” to what I believe is referred to as a “galloping hissy fit.”) Honestly, I was a bit shocked by the reaction – when I penned those remarks it hardly occurred to me that I was saying something controversial. On the other hand, it seemed to me that I was merely stating common sense.

Since that post I’ve been ruminating about the assumption embedded in the premise – that a goodly number of Americans aren’t intelligent enough to be safely entrusted with the vote. In order to bring a little more depth to this debate I thought I’d do some research to discover whether or not the nation’s citizens are under-informed, and if so, to what degree. Continue reading “Are Americans smart enough to vote?”

The Jonas Phillips case: an open letter to the mayor of Asheville, NC

The Honorable Terry M. Bellamy
Mayor, Asheville NC
P.O. Box 7148
Asheville NC, 28802

Dear Mayor Bellamy:

As you no doubt realize by now, you have something of a PR nightmare on your hands. One of your police officers, Russell Crisp, recently arrested a resident named Jonas Phillips for obstructing a sidewalk. Since people were apparently having no trouble walking past him, and since the police department is reportedly trying to decide whether or not he ought instead be charged with some sort of state violation for “endangering motorists,” you can see how people like me (a North Carolina native who loves your wonderful city, has vacationed there, and who has recommended it highly to friends and family contemplating where to spend their tourism dollars) might suspect that the real reason he was arrested had something to do with the “Impeach Bush-Cheney” sign he was holding at the time.

Continue reading “The Jonas Phillips case: an open letter to the mayor of Asheville, NC”

L’affaire Imus: a lesson in the function of democracy (or, Why do conservatives hate freedom?)

I’ve heard from some conservative quarters lately that the librul campaign to unhorse Don Imus is anywhere from hypocritical to a full-Monty assault on the right to free speech. In some cases there may well be some hypocrisy – I’m sure there are people on the “left” side of the aisle who have made comments that are just as egregious as Imus’ racial cheap shot at the Rutgers women’s hoops team and nobody here is calling for a double standard. If [insert librul mouthpiece here] cracks racist, let the chips fall where they may. You want to bust Al Sharpton’s balls? Go for it. Want to remind everybody about Hymietown? I just beat you to it. Nobody gets a free pass because of their partisan affiliation on this corner.

The problem I have is with the suggestion that there was something unAmerican about the siege on Imus, that in the Land of Unfiltered Democracy the I-Man would be eternally free to spout whatever the hell he liked. In fact, those who see this episode as anything but purely democratic are in need of a civics refresher. Continue reading “L’affaire Imus: a lesson in the function of democracy (or, Why do conservatives hate freedom?)”

Blogging USA: Thinkworld vs. Shoutworld

This article originally appeared in the Shoptalk section of the Editor & Publisher online edition.


— High hopes for the watchdogs in the blogosphere during Campaign 2004 were only partly realized, as consumers strapped on their blinders and hung a fast left or right, looking for a witty putdown they might agree with.

(November 13, 2004) — Expectations were high among the legions surfing the blogosphere during 2004 election campaign. Web logs speaking from the left, right, and middle (although mostly the left and right) crowded every corner of the Net, and their explosive growth and perceived influence led both Democratic and GOP leaders to extend convention credentials to online journalists.

All of the sudden, the real world was taking bloggers seriously. Continue reading “Blogging USA: Thinkworld vs. Shoutworld”