Was President Obama’s Re-Election About Our Hopes or Our Fears?

There’s a lot to reflect and say about last night’s election. The re-election of President Barack Obama brought enthusiastic cheers from all corners of the country. But one should be cautious and not misread those cheers. They weren’t the cheers of 2008 where there was literally dancing in the streets as history was made and folks were left hopeful.

Last night what we heard were cheers of relief. It was relief that came from millions of people having to endure he humiliation of chaos at the polls , where many wound up standing for up 6 or 7 hours or were aggressively questioned by Tea Party backed True the Vote poll watchers who suspected their eligibility, and a range other widespread voter suppression efforts.

Last night the cheers were being relieved of having to deal with Neandrathrolic behavior from sitting lawmakers who felt that there was ‘legitimate rape‘ and that women should not only not be allowed to have abortions, but shouldn’t have access to birth control

Last night we heard cheers of relief, because folks were fearful of having what little safety nets were left to be immediate dismantled or repealed on the day those seeking power took office…

Like it or not, Obama won last night’s election because of widespread politics of fear..not hope. Many who voted for him, did so with lots of dissatisfaction and disappointment on an array of policies the President championed or did not champion, but what they perceived was coming down the pipe was so frightening folks quickly got in line and pulled the lever for the President..

It was clear with Mitt Romney that there was a 47% of the population that needed to be ousted. He and many of his supporters felt like many of us were ‘leeches’ and no longer needed to be seen as fellow human beings… The mean-spirited racially charged policies being proposed and brought before the floor in Congress, sent a strong message to many, that there was a helluva a lot of white folks who were not playing around and were going all out to roll back anything and everything that had progressed in the past 50 years. That frightened people and Obama was a beneficiary.

Last night Mitt Romney had a voting base that consisted of 89% white people. That xenophobic angry base and how they see the world is best personified with the remarks of Bill O’Reilly and his Fox News cohorts. Its personified with the nasty tweets sent out by singer Ted Nugent where he refered to Obama supporters as whores and welfare cheats. Its personified by the angry tweets from Donald Trump who said the election was  sham and a travesty and America must fight to stop what had just happened.. (an Obama win)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZZt3jPDvNQ

Only time will tell if what we experienced was some grand exercise of Good Cop Bad Cop with the end game of getting everyone to reinvest into a system that has constantly failed people. But for now many are happy that they pushed back on something they felt would be irreversibly catastrophic. By voting and re-electing Barack Obama many who are part of a growing demographic of folks who feel they’re constantly marginalized felt like they were standing up and pushing back on the type of attitude expressed in the O’reilly video..

Unfortunately, it’ll take more than just voting. More push back is needed. It ranges from deading citizens united which allowed unlimited money to come into politics to having comprehensive election reform that restricts deceptive practices and voter suppression tactics. Close to 5 Billion dollars was spent for this past election..

It’s gonna require push back to stop the relentless attempts by corporate giants to own and privatize everything from our drinking water to FEMA which is what Mitt Romney proposed. It’s gonna require us to push back and demand economic and social justice..

All the forces that worried folks are still here, most likely plotting and scheming on how to better advance their cause. Bain Capitol and uncaring companies like it are still around and doing business as usual. In fact that might be vengeful and economically spurn their workers because of the win.

The forces behind banning ethnic studies books in Arizona have not left. Those who wish to public education and privatize public universities are back at work gearing up for the next round of tuition hikes. Police are still gunning down Black people every 36 hours..The people who obstructed Obama and demonstrated racial hostility are still in Congress and the Senate.

The policies that Obama embraced or didn’t embrace are still in front of us..How will we get him to match the words he uttered in his speech last night that left many feeling re-charged?  How will we become partners in reshaping America so that beneficial for all vs being disposable tools who are only tapped when its election time? In short there’s lots more work to do and hopefully all of us are up to the challenge.

written by Davey D

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddx8t6zGWxA

Arizona Massacre: When Will We All Own up to the Climate of Violence?

Nothing happens in a vacuum especially tragedies like the one that took place over the weekend in Tucson, Arizona where Congresswoman Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Gifford was shot point-blank in the head at the hands of a man named Jared Lee Loughner.

According to reports Gifford is lucky to be alive but when she recovers she is likely to have difficulty speaking…Sadly there  were 5 people who didn’t come home that night. They include a nine-year old girl named Christina Green. She’s the grand-daughter of former Philadelphia Phillies manager Dallas Green.

There was a District Judge named John Roll, 63.There was Gifford’s aide Gabe Zimmerman, 30. There were several elders including; Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; and Phyllis Scheck, 79.

Before we move forward let’s think about the people slain for just a moment….Let’s Pause…Let’s Stop, think.. Reflect…

Christina Green

Let’s think about the family of  Christina Taylor Green. Look at your kids. Think about your grandkids. Could you imagine if this was your child that was shot and killed in Tucson?

Think about the fact that the reason young Christina was present on Saturday was because she had just been elected to some sort of student office at school and wanted to further her interest in government. She was eager to meet Congresswoman Gifford to get some pointers. Her distraught parents said she wanted to see democracy in action.

Christina was interested and enthusiastic in a way only a child could be. It was that sort of  innocence and beauty  that was lost the other day in Tucson.

Let’s think about Gabe Zimmerman..He was thirty years old..a young man who by all accounts had his best days before him…Let’s think about him for a moment.

Who was he?  Did he have brothers? Sisters? Kids of his own? What did he mean to his family? How heartbroken are they today? What about his friends? His loved ones?

Congresswoman Gabby Gifford

Think about the 4 seniors slain, John Roll, Dorothy Morris, Dorwin Stoddard and Phyllis Scheck. Since when has it been ok to kill the elderly in such a brutal fashion? They were parents and grandparents. How are their families feeling? Think about the pain their loved ones are going through.

Imagine if it was your mom or dad who went down to the store to see their congressperson and never returned? How would you feel?  Think about the pain of losing one of your parents suddenly… Think about that for a minute…Think about losing your sweet mom.. Think about losing your dad.. Think about losing your grandmother or grandfather  to senseless violence. For many such thoughts are unbearable. Such thoughts are unthinkable.

The question we all must answer is how many of us really thought about this loss of life enough to change the way we engage one another in our political discussions and do we really want to?

The Climate of Violence Has Been Building for a While

When thinking about Gabby Gifford being shot and along with those slain Gabe, Christina, John, Dorothy, Dorwin and Phyllis I could not help but think about all the crazy death threats that have been directed at everyone from President Obama in the two years he’s been in office all the way back to my Congresswoman Barbara Lee shortly after the 9-11 attacks

For those who don’t recall, Lee was the lone vote in Congress who said ‘No’ to Presidents Bush’s Post 9-11 Use of Force Act which would’ve increased his powers and resources to wage war against the Taliban.

Lee voted No and next thing you know she was showing up to our church with Secret service in tow. Her office was threatened, she was threatened, there were vicious editorials accusing her of being UNPATRIOTIC..

I heard radio commentators who never served one day on the frontline of any war , talking crazy about how we need to fight, kick ass and not show weakness by talking about peace. During those turbulent times, we were all asked to choose a side and anything not supporting the war effort was deemed less than honorable.

We saw a return to some of those sentiments this past september on the anniversary of 9-11 when there was a proposed building of a mosque/ community center several blocks away from Ground Zero. We had former mayors, sitting senators, a governor and numerous Congressman publicly state that it was wrong for fellow American citizens to build a mosque in an area that contained fast food joints and strip clubs, because according to them, it would be insensitive. The people backing the Mosque were warned that moving forward with their proposal would inflame the masses and that it would lead to violence.

Ahmed Sharif was stabbed in the throat by a domestic terrorist named Michael Enright photo by Robert Mecea

In the days leading up to the anniversary  that we heard some of the most vile and insidious things said about our fellow citizens who practice Islam and it wasn’t too long before violence, homegrown American violence, reared its head and mosques were vandalized, bomb threats issued, people assaulted. One unlucky innocent cab driver named Ahmed Sharif was stabbed in the throat by an individual named Michael Enright who decided  that the best way to resolve the issue would be through an act of violence.

Nothing happens in a vacuum. I can go on listing all sorts of examples. They range from students in inner city schools being required to shed so-called gang colors from their attire least they enrage the local thugs who will come to the school and cause problems to women being told to dress less provocatively for fear of inflaming the uncontrollable passions of a would-be rapist to gays and  lesbians being told to keep their sexual orientation to themselves otherwise they might upset any number of homophobes.

I bring up these examples to make a larger point. If I, we and us all are being told to calm it down, who is seeing to it that the on air punditry and Fox News personalities to tone it down? No one.. When the subject is approached its called FREE SPEECH. Its called POLITICS.. Its called Americans standing up for their rights. We have all sorts of other euphemisms being used to describe over the top, coarse behavior. When do we draw a line in the sand and say no more? No more to inflammatory rhetoric?

Is Harsh Rhetoric and Violence a Habit We Can’t Kick

Now I’m fully aware that there were quite a few who read this including some who have media platforms where they get to have daily one way conversations with the public who saw my suggestion about reflecting on the loss of life  as corny. It’s something that should literally be dismissed and there are all sorts of justifications.

Some will say that the thought of trying to be civil especially at this day and time when there have been so many attacks launched our way is not happening. They’ll be cynical in thought and say something along the lines; ‘Love and Peace? Fuck that… It’s about No Justice, No Peace.. They’ll have concluded, that part of our problem is we’ve been civil for far too long and its gotten us nowhere. They’ll note that we’ve  been way too nice and all its gotten is more venom and a perception that we are somehow weak. Many of us have come to believe the old adage Nice guys finish last especially in the arenas of love and politics.

Upon hearing about the tragedy in Arizona if the first thing that went through our minds was the hateful rhetoric of a Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck vs the faces of those injured and slain juxtaposed with our loved ones, what does that say about us? Did a bit of our humanity die with those slain or was it an affirmation that our humanity has been long gone and we best find ways to get it back?

Sarah Palin

If Sarah Palin was busy erasing tweets, scrubbing her Facebook pages and hiding that infamous map with the crosshairs targeting Gabby Gifford, or some other politico who uttered hurtful words was suddenly consulting PR firms to do damage control and figure out what sort of spin to apply to this incident while the dead bodies in Arizona were still warm, what does that say about them? What does it say about us that we still embrace and give such people who show no remorse validity?

Again, nothing happens in a vacuum and this killing spree was no exception. Many of us, when we talk about violence we tend to see incidents like the one in Tucson as isolated and limited to the person pulling the trigger.

Can We Explain Away Domestic Terrorist as Mentally Deranged?

We wanna explain away accused shooter Jared Loughner as a deranged, emotionally disturbed man who simply needs to be condemned and locked up. We wanna suggest there is absolutely no reason to connect him to hate groups or see him as part of a larger terrorist cell. I guess for many of us, it’s simply too hard to accept that emotionally disturbed people are susceptible to the being recruited by hate groups or partaking in terrorist activities. We like to believe that once we lock up Jared Loughner and throw away the key we’ll all be safe again and things will go back to normal. The question all of us better be asking ourselves; ‘What is normal’?

Sarah Palin's infamous map with the crosshairs targeting political opponents

Is a normal society one where we soundly reject uncivil threatening behavior or is it one where embrace, and even reward it?

Is a normal society one where we take the high road and try and be above the fray or is it one where we scream louder, bully harder, get down and dirtier, and be more violent than anyone else in order to win an argument or political contest?

How many times have we heard our so-called experts explain that negative advertising during a political campaign works? How many times have we heard about the need for any one running for office to hire someone to dig up the most vile and nasty things of an opponents past to use against them? How many times have we seen pundits resort to outright lies, trickery and underhanded schemes to trip up and take down a political opponent? We’ve convinced ourselves that the only way to win an argument or a war is to smash on your opponent and show no mercy.

All is fair in love and war, is what we say to ourselves. Is it fair when someone shoots and kills someone to make their point? Is this the type of society we want?

Very few people like to see themselves in that sort of light, yet if you listen to many of our esteemed political punditry and media experts, that’s exactly what we crave. We want aggressive over the top behavior in all arenas. We want it in politics. We want it in our music. We want it in our entertainment.

It doesn’t matter whether or not its an enraged Bill ‘O’Reilly impugning us to not allow Dr George Tiller to get away with anymore late-term abortions as he launched a on air crusade resulting in his death, or  a smug Glenn Beck demonizing the Tides Foundation which led to a white supremacist to seek out employees of that organization, or Beck threatening to kill filmmaker Micheal Moore, or a Jerry Springer where on his TV show he has two sisters fighting each other over a man or a popular rap artists like Kanye West depicting women hanging in his latest video and receiving praise for being artistic.

Like it or not from what we as a society seem to embrace or allow to go unchallenged in our midst… the violence, mayhem  and this weekend’s massacre, is the American Way. We as a country relish such things. We have to own up to it. Anyone saying otherwise has to explain  the undeniable proof of  high TV and radio ratings where civility is tossed out the window. They’ll have to explain the popularity of certain websites and high YouTube views where this sort of madness is routinely played out.

Have we gotten to a point where the thought of being civil is uncomfortable? Has anger and venomous behavior become habits we can’t shake? Have we  fostered an environment where showing compassion makes us marks?

Many of us are caught up in an all too pervasive cycle of violence both directly and indirectly. Death has become all too routine. It doesn’t matter if you live in the hardest of hoods or if you live in the most pristine of suburbs.. All of us our caught up.. ALL OF US.. including myself. We’ve created an environment where the loss of life is abstract and vastly cheapened.

Christopher Jones

Lastly we must put all this in larger context. There was a terrible tragedy in Tucson Arizona over the weekend. It was the same weeknd that we saw 3 young men get killed in a nightclub in San Jose California. It was the same weekend in any city and town USA where someone pulled out a gun or a knife and took a life. Massacres in our respective communities are happening all the time.

Case in point, many of us have shown an interest in what took place in Arizona, but were we empathetic? If so did that same empathy carry over to tragedies closer to home? Last night here in Oakland, several hundred people showed up at a vigil for the senseless killing of a promising 17-year-old named Christopher Jones. He was gunned down a week ago in front of his mother and sisters as he placed his nephew in the back seat of a car . He was not gang banger, trouble maker or anything like that.

Jared Loughner

Like Jared Loughner we don’t know all that led these young men to shoot another in broad daylight in front of his family. Were they part of a hate group? Wete they emotionally disturbed, mentally deranged? Was it too much gangsta rap? Too much Fox News? Or did they take a cue from the larger society that has left violence on the table as away to get points across?

Did the young men who shot Christopher wrap themselves in this climate of violence the way that many of us are saying Jared Loughner did?  If so who’s the next to sip the kool aid and go on a killing spree? Who’s next to tragically die as a result?

At the end of the day do we care? Do we really care about the slaying of Christopher Jones or the 5 people slain in Tucson, Arizona or are they all collateral damage in a society that has firmly decided  that violent loss of life is part of our increasing strident political and social landscape?

something to ponder

-Davey D-

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

Toyota Turns to Gangsta Rap to Help Turn around its Image

Not sure what to say about this Toyota and its Swagger Van commercial.. Yeah its funny to a degree.. you can’t go wrong it’s a tried and true formula. Its the classic ‘fish out of water’ skit.. The art of irony. Get a non typical family-Translation white folks and have them rap and folks pay attention. Hey it got me typing up this little missive..so it worked.. At the end of the day its entertainment .

On another level.. I think we need to acknowledge that Hip Hop, has saved way too many businesses that ultimately disrespect it. We can through the years of fashion statements Hip Hop made from Timbalands on up to baggy panths which you can now buy at Macys. Skinny jeans? -Yeah rockers wore them, but Hip Hop blew them up. 

We can talk about the various drinking trends.. from Ole E (Old English malt Liquor)which was sold at the Kool Herc‘s historic first party at 1520 Sedgewick in the Bronx on up to Patron, Hennesy and whatever expensive concoction we getting into nowadays.

If we have fools acting up and causing drama, the salacious coverage and ensuing controversy saves the day. Ask Bill ‘Oreilly who in many circles is more known for his arguments involving the Rap world and Rap icons  far more then he is any political issue.

I mean if we really wanna get technical, Fox was unknown as a network until the swagger of In Living Color came along and made them a destination place. Even MTV which was floudering after their initial boost from Michael Jackson owes a fat check to Hip Hop. Can You say ‘Yo MTV Raps’?

Were any of us really talking about the Surreal Life or the VH1′s reality shows until Flava Flav came along? How many spin off shows came from his bigger than life persona? We had like 5 different shows from starring spurned bacholoratte NY who in turn spawned off shows from her suitor Chance and company.

Would had cared about Kim Kardashian even with her sex tape had it not been for this country getting acclamaited to a woman of her build  thanks to hours of rap videos featuring video vixens prepping us.  As a matter of fact the acceptance of curvy women is a thing we owe to the Hip Hop video.

Radio stations?? Don’t get me started.. The Hot 97s, the KMELs, Power 106s, jamming this and jamming that.. Many of those stations started out as rock or dance stations. Hip Hop put them on the map and kept them there. Look at their histories and tell those owners to pay up.  In the case of stations like KMEL and Hot 97 they going on 20yrs in the same format, much longer then many of their rock counterparts..

Y’all ever here of Summer Jam..? The history behind it was it started ouyt as a rock concert in Boston.. Nobody cared until Hip Hop put its stamp on it. Now it’s an annual event that earns many radio stations up to a third of it’s annual budget.

Tailor Swift? Say what you want, yes she was known. Yes, she sold millions, but Kanye put her ass on the map in a ways that she could only dream of.. 

I could go on and on, but you get the point.. So here we have Toyota.. a car company that has been racked with bad publicity and was at the bottom of the barrel. Guess what they turning to to bring them back? Yeah you guessed it.. My question is when will Hip Hop bring Hip hop back..  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ql-N3F1FhW4

 Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

Roman Polanski and the Contradictions in Us All

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DaveyD-leather-225Everyone is talking about the arrest of   ‘famed’ director Roman Polanski as he entered Switzerland the other day to attend an award show where he was being honored. He was arrested for being a fugitive on the run from the United States and is likely to be sent back to face charges for drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl 30 years ago.  Polanski is best known for directing films like ‘Chinatown’ and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’. After he fled the country, he continued to shine by directing films like  The Pianist which won him a couple of Academy Awards, the Ninth Gate and Tess to name a few. 

Personally I shed no tears for Polanski. The crime he committed was heinous crime where there is no forgiveness.  As far as I’m concerned our government along with the rich and powerful in Hollywood gave Polanski a pass. He was given a wink and a nod when he fled to France. People somehow found a way to humanize him and make him a sympathetic  figure of sorts by noting how his beloved wife Sharon Tate was killed by Charles Manson. Hence him raping a 13 year old was somehow a result of that trauma.

For me, its hard not to look at Polanski supposedly escaping the US Justice system while that same justice system managed to track down and persecute Black Panthers and others who were part of the freedom struggle, all over the world.  It didn’t matter if any of those figures had experienced personal tragedies like seeing a loved one shot and killed by police. It didn’t matter that they themselves had been traumatized by oppression. At the time Polanski committed this rape, Panthers were being mercilessly hunted down by the FBI via their destructive cointel-pro program which among other things instructed agents to run all sorts psychological mind games on their BP targets.

Over the years we’ve seen local prosecutors be granted all sorts of resources to go after these freedom fighters 30 years after the fact even though the crimes they were accused of were highly disputable and in many instances dubious. Perhaps  government officials should’ve spent time and energy offering million dollar bounties for his return the way they did Asaata Shakur. Perhaps time should’ve been spent  securing Congressional proclamations of condemnation or making his extradition to the US a precondition to  a normalized or improved relationship between us and France.  We seem to have no problem insisting on such things at tax payer expense when it came to seeking out  Black and Brown folks fighting against injustice heaped upon our communities. 

Roman Polanski

Roman Polanski

What I find most disturbing is that after all these years what may have triggered Polanski’s arrest was him criticizing and accusing the LA District attorney’s office of gross misconduct. From the way it sounds, it appears that all it took to go after and finally get a seemingly untouchable Polanski arrested was a bruised ego. For 30 years the US Justice system could not grab hold of Polanski because he was hiding out in the south of France or the Swiss Alps. Suddenly he raises his voice against the state and they found a way to get him. Swiss Alps be damned.

This saga spells out a couple of things. Lesson #1- speak out against the state rightly or wrongly, and it is likely to hit back. There are lots of freedom fighters languishing in jails as political prisoners who clearly understand this lesson.

Lesson #2-, which I hope did not go over everybody’s head, is understanding the full scope and wide breadth of discretion that prosecutors seem to have when it comes to tackling crime. From what I can tell, there are no new laws in Switzerland that just sprung up allowing Polanski to finally be arrested. They were always in place, but for some reason even though Polanski had been to Zurich numerous times and even had a nice home over there, our government, in particular the LA district attorney just didn’t seem to have the political will or wherewithal to bring Polanski, a man who raped a 13-year-old to justice. That speaks volumes.

Y’all should marinate on that for a while. While you do that, ask yourself why the Pookies and Ray Rays of our community are doing 10 year bids after vigoriously being persecuted for non-violent crimes and drug addictions and white collar criminals who pillage and plunder you into taking substances are still free except for handful. Think about that while our prosecutors can’t find ways to bring brutalizing cops to justice but will suspend your license and issue an arrest warrant that they will hungrily pursue for unpaid tickets.

Yes, we know there are double standards, but we should not dismiss them and say ‘Oh well that’s how they be’ or ‘Oh well that’s how they do us-what else is knew?‘. My point here is that we should be well aware that there is lots of latitude and hence this should embolden us to fight even harder for people’s freedoms and to fight even harder to bring those who egregiously wronged us to justice. It should be more than obvious that no prosecutor’s hands are tied when it comes to doing what they feel needs to be done.

With that being said, we should also look at the contradictions within Hollywood. Here’s a town that is infamous for social persecutions and ostracization of ‘wrong doers’ and people who stepped on the wrong toes. Everyone knows that there are simply certain buttons you don’t push and certain people you don’t piss off least you suffer serious social and economic consequences. Hollywood is small town and stepping on toes is easy to do with dire consequences, unless you’re Roman Polanski who raped a 13-year-old..Now, call someone a pejorative name like ‘Faggot’ as did actor Isiah Washington and you can find yourself banished with your peers loudly condemning you. Not only will they condemn, many might not even work with you.

Unless your name is Mel Gibson and you are titan in your own right, you best not even think about saying or doing anything that is deemed anti-Semitic. You are likely to not be receiving any Academy Awards. You are likely not to be praised and forget about getting funding for your next film.

When you are a Polanski, you can get your esteemed colleagues coming to your aid petitioning the Swiss government and even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for your immediate release. You can have your fellow colleagues likes actress Debra Winger go before the world and declare your persecution and date with justice is a Philistine-like act.

When your a Polanski you can be spared a Bill O’reilly like tirade or a Glenn Beck tea party inspired witch hunt. Be Van Jones and curse at a Republican and its gloves our off and the pressure won’t let up until you leave town. Be Roman Polanski and we won’t have deep investigations trying to connect the dots..

Woody Allen

Woody Allen

And lets not get it twisted, Polanski not the only one who has done wrong or has raised serious questions in this regard. We still show love and admiration for film director Woody Allen, even though he was accused by his former partner Mia Farrow of molesting her seven year old daughter and as we all know he eventually wound up marrying his ‘step daughter’ Soon-Yi Previn. Allen is still admired and held up as being a pillar in the film industry.

I was tempted to ask the rhetorical question would any of us work for a director who raped a 13-year-old girl?  Would any of us work for someone who was accused of molestation and married his step daughter?  I was gonna ask that until I remembered  many of us would have no qualms in embracing Polanski and Allen. We would embrace them the same way we embrace accused molester R. Kelly. You remember him,  the guy who sings those dope songs like ‘Still I can Fly’ and ‘Step in the Name of Love’ ?  You remember R.Kelly the guy who somehow beat the charges levied against him, but there was no denying it was him in an underground widely watched x-rated video getting kinky and peeing on an underage girl? But hell if we can love Elvis Presley  who was with Priscilla at 14 and Jerry Lee Lewis who was with his cousin when she was 13,  I guess why trip off Polanski,  Allen and R Kelly right?  Our tolerance of such actions and activities says a lot about us as a society…At the very least it says we talk a good game about loving our children, but at the end of the day we do very little to protect them, especially if there’s money to be made.

Aaaah yes..ya gotta love the contradictions in us all….

Something to ponder

-Davey D-

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Rachel Maddow: Right-Wing Terrorism Must Be Stopped

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The tactics of anti-choice extremists are designed to change policy by terrorizing Americans. How do we stop them from committing violent acts?

Rachel Maddow: Right-Wing Terrorism Must Be Stopped

By Rachel Maddow, MSNBC. Posted June 8, 2009.

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http://www.alternet.org/reproductivejustice/140501/rachel_maddow%3A_right-wing_terrorism_must_be_stopped/?page=entire

Editor’s Note: The following is an edited version of a transcript from the Rachel Maddow Show.

Rachel Maddow

Rachel Maddow

We begin tonight with another deadly act of domestic terrorism. The first time a doctor was murdered by the modern anti-abortion terrorist movement in America was March 1993.  Anti-abortion demonstrators were protesting at a clinic in Pensacola, Florida.  As Dr. David Gunn arrived at a clinic, a young man named Michael Griffin shot Dr. Gunn several times in the chest with a snub-nose .38 revolver.

Michael Griffin, the killer, became a cause celebre among anti-abortion extremists.  He was associated with the group called Rescue America, which said after Griffin killed Dr. Gunn that while they did not condone the killing, they didn‘t condemn it either.

Five months after Dr. David Gunn was killed, another doctor, George Tiller—yes, the same Dr. Tiller from today‘s headlines—was shot by a woman named Shelly Shannon.  Shannon had written letters of support for Michael Griffin, who killed Dr. David Gunn.  She called him a hero.

In 1992 and 1993, Shelly Shannon set fires and used acid to attack at least 10 abortion clinics in Oregon, California, Idaho and Nevada.  In 1993, she went to Wichita, Kansas, and used a semiautomatic pistol to shoot Dr. George Tiller in each of his arms outside the clinic at which he worked.

While she was in prison, Ms. Shannon signed on to a pledge of support for Paul Hill, the murderer of yet another American doctor.  In June 1994, Paul Hill shot to death Dr. George Britton and a 74-year-old clinic escort named James Barrett, and he seriously wounded Mr. Barrett‘s wife.

Six months later, a man named John Salvi walked into two clinics in Brookline, Massachusetts, and killed two receptionists and wounded five other people.  In January 1998, yet another murder—security guard Robert Sanderson was killed and a nurse named Emily Lyons was critically injured by a nail bomb that exploded at an Alabama abortion clinic at which they worked.  That bomb was planted by a man named Eric Rudolph.

Eric Rudolph had also bombed another abortion clinic and a gay bar in Atlanta the year before and he had famously bombed the Atlanta Olympics the year before that, killing Alice Hawthorne and wounding 111 other people.  The Atlanta Olympics bombing was a terrorist act committed by an anti-abortion extremist.

In October 1998, another murder—in Amherst, New York, Dr. Barnett Slepian was standing inside his house when James Kopp shot and killed him with a sniper rifle.  Kopp was a member of an anti-abortion extremist group that calls itself the Lambs of Christ.

And [last Sunday], George Tiller was shot again.  This time, it was inside his church in Wichita.  He was killed instantly.  A man named Scott Roeder is the suspect in custody in this case.  He‘s known in extremist anti-abortion circles.  He has had writings published in a newsletter called “Prayer and Action News,” which promotes the idea of killing people who provide abortion services as justifiable homicide.

Someone calling himself Scott Roeder had participated in anti-abortion discussion at a Web site of the group called Operation Rescue.  The group‘s founder, Randal Terry, spoke at the National Press Club today and celebrated Dr. George Tiller‘s death.

RANDALL TERRY, FOUNDER, OPERATION RESCUE:  I stand before you today saying about George Tiller what I said in his life.  He was a mass murderer.  George Tiller was a mass murderer.  He killed tens of thousands of innocent human beings at his own hand.  George Tiller was a murderer and he was doing something that was literally demonic.

RACHEL MADDOW:  Another anti-abortion extremist group, Operation Save America, also put out a statement celebrating George Tiller‘s murder today, saying, quote, “He is now vowing before Jesus and confessing that Jesus is right and that he, George Tiller, was wrong.”

If you go to the Web site of the Army of God, you will find hagiographic websites for anti-abortion terrorist movement heroes, like Paul Hill and Eric Rudolph and Shelly Shannon.  You can actually scroll through pages and pages of mug shots and descriptions of bombings and shootings and murders and attempted murders—all praising the perpetrators, and even suggesting ways to get away with the same types of crimes that these people committed but you could do it without getting caught.

Dr George Tiller

Dr George Tiller

On their front page today—there‘s Dr. George Tiller, just murdered, under the caption, “The lives of innocent babies scheduled to be murdered by George Tiller are spared by the action of American hero, Scott Roeder.”

There‘s an anti-abortion terrorist movement in the United States that operates relatively openly.  They advocate and their members commit acts of violence, including murder, against Americans who are not breaking the law, who are engaged in protected legal activity on American soil.

These acts of violence are politically motivated.  They are designed to change American policies and to terrorize Americans.  They have succeed in making providing abortion services to American women so dangerous, so intimidating that there are only a handful of doctors in the entire country who provide late-term abortions—as Dr. Tiller did—abortions late in pregnancy.

In other words, this terrorism is working.  Violence as a political strategy is working to make abortions so unsafe for doctors that they are unwilling to bear the risk of performing it so women can‘t actually get one regardless of whether or not it‘s legal.  It‘s the same outcome as if abortion had been outlawed.  They‘re winning.

What‘s the strategy to stop them?

Joining us now is Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at George Washington University.

Professor Turley, thanks for joining us tonight.

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR:  Hi, Rachel.

MADDOW:  I‘m making these observations politically just as a citizen, but I wanted to ask you tonight if it‘s legally appropriate, legally useful, to approach this problem as terrorism?

TURLEY:  Well, in some cases, it is.  You know, some of these past cases have elements of terrorism.  Rudolph is a good example of that—although, you know, he was not just anti-abortion, he was anti-homosexual.  He was sort of at war with the world.  And that makes this definition a little more difficult.

Some of us, particularly on the civil libertarian side, are uncomfortable with using the terrorism label because, you know, the Bush administration expanded this definition to the breaking point.  I testified not long ago in Congress of how the Bush administration would classify what were rudimentary criminal cases as terrorism cases and use these laws against them.

The problem we have, as you know, is to deal with lone actors like this.  I don‘t believe that the man who killed Dr. Tiller was a classic terrorist.  I think that he was a murderer.  He assassinated him.

But I don‘t see the elements of an organized terrorist plot.  And in many ways, he‘s the most dangerous thing that we face.

I think the Clinton administration got this right when they really saw the danger as the McVeigh type—this lone actor who goes out there, who may be fueled by rhetoric, but who‘s acting alone.  In this case, it looks like he targeted this very doctor who had been demonized by many.

MADDOW:  To the extent that there is a movement that this man saw himself as part of, and I spent a lot of time in very dark corners of the Web today looking at the websites and publications …

TURLEY:  Yes.

MADDOW:  … of the organizations that identify themselves as part of this movement.  Famously in the 1990s, there was a statement put out in support of one of the people who was found guilty of killing an abortion provider, saying, “We, the undersigned, believe these actions to be justifiable” and encourage others to do them because—in order to save the unborn.

To the extent that there is something beyond the loner, the lone murderer here, to the extent that there is a rhetorical association, there are organizations that support this sort of thing, does it give law enforcement any additional tools to consider them while they prosecute this crime?  I‘m with you on the civil libertarian concerns about these things — freedom of association, freedom of the press are to be protected, freedom of speech are to be protected at any cost — but are there law enforcement tools that would be useful in these cases to acknowledge those ties?

TURLEY:  There are, Rachel.  I mean, you have the FACE Act, which protects access to abortion clinics.  There have been prosecutions under that.  It was upheld by courts.  And you also have standard prosecutions for intimidation.  In fact, the FACE Act has intimidation as one of the elements.

So, there are ways to prosecute.  The FBI‘s done a very, very good job, you know, for many years now at focusing on these domestic organizations.  But as you‘ve already noticed or referenced, we have this difficult line to walk between free speech and preventive law enforcement.  And it all—that line is often found on violent speech.

And the Supreme Court said in the Brandenburg case that violent speech is protected.  In fact, I‘ve represented people accused of violent speech, including terroristic speech.  And that is a very difficult line, because it is, in fact, protected, to say all abortion doctors should be killed.  And what the Supreme Court said was that we have to look where that violent speech raises an imminent threat of violence, and then, you can prosecute that person.

But it‘s obviously a very difficult line to walk.

MADDOW:  And it‘s an intelligence matter, oddly, as well.  We think of intelligence in terms of where our—in terms of where the dividing lines are within our own government about the tools that are available to people who work for the U.S. government.  That‘s an important distinction between the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for example.

We collect intelligence on foreign bodies.  In terms of what we do domestically to disrupt homegrown terrorist plots, to disrupt criminal enterprises, to break up organized crime in these efforts, there‘s—I mean, there‘s civil liberties concerns, there‘s also strategic concerns about how these things can be done legally on American soil.

TURLEY:  Yes, but I would also caution though is that no matter what we do—we‘re probably never going to be able to stop the lone actor, the McVeigh, or the individual today, without becoming a totalitarian regime.  I mean, lone actors are dangerous because they don‘t come up on the radar screen.

What we‘ve learned—ever since cases like Brandenburg—is speech isn‘t the problem.  In fact, you want them to speak.  You want the speech to be protected so they come up on the radar screen and you can watch them.  And the FBI has a long history and a very effective history and a commendable history of following these dangerous groups.

But we can‘t do what we‘ve done in the past and say, “Because there was an attack, our system must not be working.”  I think we have to accept that, unfortunately, we‘re not going to be able to protect against all attacks.  And this guy represents the greatest vulnerability in the law and in terms of law enforcement.

The guy who‘s out there, you know, some dark corner, filled with hate, against the world, and he takes it upon himself to personify it into one person—we may not be able to stop that.  And efforts to try to stop that, I think, are going to likely be fruitless.

But the reason I appreciate what you‘re saying is that you‘re very mindful that we walk this careful line …

MADDOW:  Yes.

TURLEY:  … in protecting speech and looking for that speech that presents imminent threats.

MADDOW:  And looking for the—yes, exactly, protecting our constitutional values, protecting the reason that it matters that we have an America, as opposed to any other country, but also taking these threats to security seriously.  It‘s what we‘ve been talking about in all of these different contexts for eight years now.

Constitutional law professor, Jonathan Turley, thank you so much for your time tonight. It‘s really helpful.

TURLEY:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  In the context of an extremist anti-abortion movement that has seen the murder of seven abortion providers and clinic workers in a five-year period during the course of the ‘90s, that saw another doctor shot by a sniper in his own home in the late ‘90s, a movement that publicly, openly celebrates the people who have killed these doctors as heroes—what should we make of it when figures in the media denounce other doctors already targeted by these groups as Nazis, as killers, as people with blood on their hands?

Back in April, the Department of Homeland Security was lambasted by conservatives for publishing a report on the potential for violence from right-wing extremist groups.  It was the Bush administration that had actually commissioned the report and they had done one on the potential for violence from left-wing groups, too, but that did not stop conservatives from getting very, very angry about that report.

At least three Republican members of Congress, Michele Bachmann, John Carter, and Michael Burgess said that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano should resign for having issued that report.  Republican Minority Leader John Boehner said that report meant that Napolitano had an awful lot of explaining to do.

That report actually warned for the potential for violent behavior from far right-wing groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion.  DHS got even more specific in March, warning about, quote, “antiabortion extremism” groups and “sovereign citizen movement” such as a group called the “Freemen.”

We know now the man who is the chief suspect in the killing of Dr.  George Tiller was reportedly associated both, with extremist anti-abortion groups and with the sovereign citizen movement known as the Freemen.

Still think Janet Napolitano ought to resign for that outrageous warning about guys like Scott Roeder?

(START VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST:  Tiller the baby killer out in Kansas, acquitted—acquitted today of murdering babies.  I wanted George Tiller, Tiller the baby killer, going—hey, I can‘t make more money killing babies now.  Tiller the baby killer.  As “The Factor” has been reporting, this man will terminate fetuses at anytime for $5,000.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What do you think about Dr. George Tiller?

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY:  I don‘t think anything about Dr. George Tiller.

O‘REILLY:  She doesn‘t seem to be real upset about this guy operating a death mill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Death mill.  That was FOX News host, Bill O‘Reilly then. 

During the life of George Tiller, for four years, he repeatedly accused Dr.  Tiller of murder, of infanticide.  He publicly compared him to everything, from Nazis, to pedophiles, to al Qaeda.  He described him as having blood on his hands.

Now that Dr. Tiller has been murdered inside his own church, here is Mr. O‘Reilly tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

Bill O'reilly's vicious slander of Dr Tiller caused him to be a victim to violence?

Bill O'reilly's vicious slander of Dr Tiller caused him to be a victim to violence?

O‘REILLY: 

Anarchy and vigilantism will ensure the collapse of any society.  Once the rule of law breaks down, a country is finished.  Thus, clear-thinking Americans should condemn the murder of late-term abortionist, Tiller.  Even though the man terminated thousands of pregnancies, what he did is within Kansas law.

The 67-year-old Tiller had performed abortions for more than 35 years.  “The Washington Times” estimates he destroyed about 60,000 fetuses.  Very few American doctors will perform the operation.  None of that seemed to matter to Tiller, nicknamed “the baby killer” by pro-life groups, who stated he was helping women—Tiller stated that.

I report honesty.  Every single thing we said about Tiller was true.  My analysis was based on those facts.  It is clear that the far left is exploiting—exploiting, the death of the doctor.  Those vicious individuals want to stifle any criticism of people like Tiller.  That and hating FOX News is the real agenda here.

Finally if these people were so compassionate, so very compassionate, so concerned for the rights and welfare of others, maybe they might have written something, one thing, about the 60,000 fetuses who will never become American citizens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Do you think he‘s sorry that Dr. Tiller is dead?

Mr. O‘Reilly went on to claim he never tried to incite anything, he was just reporting.

Joining us now is Frank Schaeffer, who grew up in the religious far right, who made a documentary anti-abortion film series in the 1970s, and whose latest book is titled, “Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elects, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All or Almost All of It Back.”

Mr. Schaeffer, thank you very much for your time tonight.

FRANK SCHAEFFER, AUTHOR, “CRAZY FOR GOD”:  Thank you for having me on, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Writing at “Huffington Post,” you apologized, as a former member of the religious right, for what happened to Dr. Tiller.  Why did you feel the need to apologize?

SCHAEFFER:  Well, words have consequences.

And what we did in the ‘70s and ‘80s, my father, Dr. Francis Schaeffer, Dr. C. Everett Koop, who became Reagan surgeon general, members of the Republican Party who worked with us to make abortion part of the Republican agenda, the Roman Catholic allies that we had in the church, various people—we talked and our talk got more and more extreme, and less and less democratic.  Until, finally, my dad actually went so far as to write a book called “A Christian Manifesto,” where he said the use of force to change Roe v. Wade and roll back the law legalizing abortion would be legitimate and he compared Roe and the American government to Hitler‘s Germany in the 1930s.

And when you look at what happened to Dr. Tiller, there‘s a direct line connecting the rhetoric that I was part of as a young man and this murder.  And so, people, like me, are responsible for what we said and what we did and the way we raised the temperature on this debate out of all bounds.  And so, when O‘Reilly talks about the fact that these people of the far left are against FOX or against him or trying to muzzle the debate, he‘s telling a lie.

I am not a member of the far right—until I voted for Barack Obama in the last election, I am lifelong Republican.  I am still pro-life.  I also believe abortion should be legal, but I agree with Barack Obama when he says we ought to find ways to help women, help children, give contraceptives, sex education, to lessen the number of abortions.  I think abortion is a tragedy.

But I also think that pretending that you can call abortion murder and Tiller the baby killer, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera—and that these worlds don‘ words don‘t have an impact, is crazy.

So, this is what helps unhinge a society, talking like this.  And I was part of that, and that‘s why I apologize—and I would apologize again I am sorry for what I did.

And I think that people who say extreme things should stand up and take the consequences and admit when they were wrong.  And in this case, we were wrong.  We were wrong more really.  We were wrong politically.

And as a believing Christian, I was wrong in terms of someone who says he follows Jesus Christ.

MADDOW:  There are a lot of people in this country, obviously, who are part of the pro-life movement, the legal pro-life movement, and who hold pro-life views and who seek to change the laws of this country about abortion.  There‘s obviously what I consider to be a terrorist movement who believes not that the laws should be changed but that the laws should—but that people who are legally engaged in providing abortion services are legitimately targets of violence that they should be intimidated, harassed and in some cases killed.

Those two movements are not the same thing.  And it‘s important to me as an American that people who are pro-life feel that they can safely articulate those views and that they are not being attacked for what extremists have done.

SCHAEFFER:  Right.

MADDOW:  But I also don‘t want to excuse anybody who incites violence, or who, I guess, makes excuses for the violent wing of this movement, that has two very different wings.  How do you see the connection there?

SCHAEFFER:  Well, you know, the book you mentioned earlier, “Crazy for God,” has a number of chapters talking about the way we took the movement from its early stages when it was more a moral concern, not so much about politics and not so much about changing the law, and radicalized that movement.  I follow the step by step process.  Secret meetings with Pat Robertson down at the 700 Club, Jerry Falwell sending his jet up to me to bring me down to his church to speak a couple of times.

And what we did is we talked one game to the large public and we talked another game amongst ourselves.  And amongst ourselves, we were very radical.  And I don‘t think it takes much imagination to guess that, tonight, there are people who are publicly saying, “This is terrible, we never advocated killing, abortion is murder, but we didn‘t mean people to take us this seriously.”  But in private, you know, if these folks popped champion bottles, they would be drinking a toast to this murder tonight.

I know that this is the case because of the fact that I was part of the movement, but also understood very well what we were doing back then was to attack the political issue when we talked to people like Ronald Reagan and the Bush family and Jack Kemp—the late Jack Kemp that we were very close to in all this.  But on a private side, we also were egging people on to first pick at abortion clinics, then chain themselves to fences, then go to jail.

We knew full well that in a country that had seen the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther king, two Kennedy brothers and others, that what we were also doing was opening a gate here.  And I think there‘s no way to duck this.  We live in a country in which guns are all over the place.  We have plenty of people with a screw loose, plenty of people on the edge.  It only takes one.

And what scare me is that I see the rhetoric of the Republican Party right now—including the former vice president—about our newly elected African-American president has the same sort of coded stuff in it.  He‘s not a real American.  He‘s making America less safe.  He‘s a secret Muslim.  Some Christians in the same groups that are pro-life groups are running around saying he‘s the anti-Christ.

They also know full well that we have people out there who will take it to the next step and say, “Well, gee, if he‘s the anti-Christ, if he‘s anti-American, if he‘s a communist, maybe the best thing we can do is pull another trigger some other day.”

We live in a country where people get killed for their views sometimes.  We‘re a very divided nation coming out of this culture war.

It is irresponsible for people to make these wild statements—like Bill O‘Reilly does—and then step back after it happens and say, “Oh, I never meant that.”  Yes, they did mean it.  They meant exactly what they said.

And when you start calling people those sorts of names—the way I did back in the ‘70s and the early ‘80s—for which I am apologizing today, not just because of this but other incidents like this, if people don‘t stand up and actually take back these words, take back these angry word, they are still culpable for the next event that happens.  And we need to be able to just call it what it is.

MADDOW:  Frank Schaeffer is author of the book, “Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elects, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All or Almost All of It Back”—Mr. Schaeffer, it‘s just bracing testimony from you tonight.  Thanks for—thanks for being here on the show.

SCHAEFFER:  Thanks for having me on.

Copyright 2009 MSNBC

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