Slave-labor conditions at Sherrods’ farm?

My latest essay at PajamasMedia:

Slave-labor conditions at Sherrods’ farm?

Shocking new allegations against Shirley Sherrod (the USDA employee recently embroiled in a controversy over a speech she gave to the NAACP) and the communal farm she ran with her husband Charles Sherrod have been confirmed by an article published 36 years ago in a farm workers’ newspaper.

Combined, the new 2010 allegations and the original 1974 allegations accuse Shirley and Charles Sherrod of:

• Paying farm workers as little as 67¢ per hour, far below minimum wage for the era
• Employing underage children to perform hard labor
• Compelling their employees to work in unsafe conditions, including getting sprayed with pesticides
• Firing any workers who acted as whistleblowers
• Forcing employees to work overtime in the fields at night with practically no advance notice
• Having a capricious payscale under which employees doing the exact same jobs were paid different amounts according to the whims of the managers
• Being unwilling to address the abuse even after it was raised by union representatives
• Seriously mismanaging the farm to such an extent that it went bankrupt

Let’s first look at the new allegations, and then at the original allegations.

Ron Wilkins accuses Sherrods of Exploitation and Mistreatment

On Monday, August 2, 2010, Ron Wilkins, who was a black Civil Rights activist and organizer in the ’70s and is now a professor specializing in African-American history, published an incendiary article in the magazine CounterPunch in which he describes how he infiltrated the Sherrods’ “New Communities” farm commune in 1974 and discovered horrifying circumstances where black farm workers labored in near-slavery conditions, often being paid as little as 67¢ per hour (far under the minimum wage at the time) and facing intolerable conditions:

Read the rest HERE!

Top Ten Racist Incidents of the Week

My latest essay at PajamasMedia:

Top Ten Racist Incidents of the Week

Here’s the introduction:


Obama’s “post-racial America” has not materialized. Instead, the nation has gone in the opposite direction and become race-obsessed America.

No, that’s not quite right either. We’re not obsessed with race — we’ve become obsessed with accusations of racism. Some of the accusations are true; some, not so much. But what used to be a last-ditch smear tactic used only by the most desperate political operatives, or something which as a society we’d try to ignore in the hopes that it would go away, has instead become a daily occurrence, a standard category in the 24-hour news cycle:
Politics • Sports • Business • Accusations of Racism • Weather

Just a few years ago, shortly before Obama appeared on the political landscape, I wrote this satirical dictionary definition of the word “racist”:

racist – A statement of surrender during an argument. When two people or disputants are engaged in an acrimonious debate, the side that first says “Racist!” has conceded defeat. Synonymous with saying “Resign” during a chess game, or “Uncle” during a schoolyard fight. Originally, the term was meant to indicate that one side was accusing the other of being racist, but once it was noticed that people only resorted to this tactic when all other arguments had been exhausted, it acquired its new meaning of “indicating one’s own concession of defeat.”

Oh, how times have changed, and how quickly. Not only do people now reach for the race card first in almost any political, social, or personal dispute, but sometimes the accusations are even true (or partly true), as public exhibition of racism has become more commonplace. No matter how you slice it — an increase of racism and of false accusations of racism — I see this as a huge step backward for our nation.

The Week in Racism

So many accusations of racism battle for space in your morning headlines, it’s easy to get them all confused. So I’ve created the following scorecard to help you sort it all out.

Here are the Top Ten Accusations of Racism for the last week, along with a handy “Level of Actual Racism” accuracy rating (on a 1-to-10 scale, with 10 being the most racist) to help determine to what extent each accusation is true, or if the accuser is just crying “Uncle” in a losing argument.


Read the rest here!

I’m not going to make any friends with this essay; I already know that. Emotions run high on the abortion issue and I’m going to say things that people on both sides of the debate are likely to find intolerable. But someone‘s gotta say it, so it might as well be me.

First off: I’m pro-choice. Sorry, that ain’t gonna change. I’ve heard every pro-life argument repeated countless times and none of them have changed my views yet, and are unlikely to do so in the future. But I definitely understand the pro-life position, and I acknowledge that many people are pro-life on solidly grounded moral principles. I have no beef with that, and I have no interest in trying to convince anyone to change their minds.

Recently, Sharron Angle, Nevada’s Republican nominee for Senate, was savagely criticized by the Harry Reid campaign (her Democratic opponent) and by liberals in general when she reaffirmed her belief that even rape victims who become pregnant should carry their babies to term and not have abortions:

Interviewer: What do you say then to a young girl, I am going to place it as he said it, when a young girl is raped by her father, let’s say, and she is pregnant. How do you explain this to her in terms of wanting her to go through the process of having the baby?

Angle: I think that two wrongs don’t make a right. And I have been in the situation of counseling young girls, not 13 but 15, who have had very at risk, difficult pregnancies. And my counsel was to look for some alternatives, which they did. And they found that they had made what was really a lemon situation into lemonade. Well one girl in particular moved in with the adoptive parents of her child, and they both were adopted. Both of them grew up, one graduated from high school, the other had parents that loved her and she also graduated from high school. And I’ll tell you the little girl who was born from that very poor situation came to me when she was 13 and said ‘I know what you did thank you for saving my life.’ So it is meaningful to me to err on the side of life.

Now, the Reid campaign and left-leaning bloggers went ballistic upon hearing this, either intentionally misconstruing Angle’s statement to imply that she is in favor of rape, or at a minimum denouncing her position as cruel and fundamentally immoral.

But, despite being pro-choice myself, I had the opposite reaction. Angle’s unwavering philosophical consistency was a rare treat to behold in this nation of fickle politicians. Because Angle’s hardline stance is to my mind the only valid pro-life stance.

We’re All Lying

I think both sides of the abortion debate are lying and have been lying since the argument first arose. Anyone who wants to forbid abortion “except in cases of rape or incest” is, frankly, full of crap. And here’s why:

If you truly are “pro-life” in that you believe abortion is murder because the unborn child is a full-fledged human being, then you wouldn’t so casually allow the child to be murdered simply based on its parent’s misbehavior.

Most people who are anti-abortion adopt the label “pro-life” based on the shared notion that the zygote/embryo/fetus, no matter what its stage of development, is an undiminished human being with full human rights. And that’s a principled position which I can respect — if you stick to it consistently. But if you start making expedient exceptions, then your dishonesty has been revealed. Because if you really and truly believed that an embryo was a full human being, then you wouldn’t allow it to be murdered simply because its father was a bad man.

Say, for example, a man goes out and robs a store. Do the police then go to that man’s house and throw his son in jail as punishment for the father’s crime? Of course not. Not only would that be unconstitutional, it would be illogical as well. Well, what if a man goes out and rapes someone, and gets sentenced to life in prison. Do we as a society then go to the man’s family and also throw his children in jail for life? Again, that would seem insane.

Why then, if we are to accept the supposition that unborn children have full human rights, would we sentence a (pre-born) baby to death (abortion) simply because the baby’s father is a rapist? How does that make any more sense than the scenarios I described above?

Allowing a rape-and-incest exception to any abortion ban essentially means we are willing to punish the children for the sins of the father. And that’s not the way our society works.

Hidden Rationale?

That is, unless there was a hidden rationale behind the abortion ban which had nothing to do with the belief that embryos are children. If the “pro-life” stance was sometimes nothing but a ruse, a false front to disguise the real reason for being anti-abortion, that would explain why some “pro-lifers” are willing to murder unborn babies under certain circumstances.

And I have always believed that the hidden rationale is obvious: It’s all about sex.

Many politicians and regular folks feel (accurately, in my opinion) that allowing unfettered legal access to abortion will encourage promiscuity among young people. That if we intentionally make sex consequence-free, then more casual sex will happen, and more sex will lead to more babies out of wedlock, which will lead to any number of well-documented social ills. And furthermore, many feel, pre-marital and extra-marital sex is fundamentally immoral, in that it is explicitly forbidden by the three main monotheistic religions and by many other faiths as well.

But in our postmodern world, it’s no longer acceptable to publicly say you’re anti-sex for either social or moral reasons. No one is willing to stand up and declare, “Sex outside of marriage is bad for the soul and bad for society, so we should discourage sexual activity by ensuring that it has dire consequences; thus, we should ban abortion, as a way to scare kids away from casual sex.” But I have a strong feeling that that is what many people really and truly would say if they were telling the truth. Instead, some people in the anti-abortion camp wrap themselves in the “pro-life” mantle as a way of disguising their real opinions with the façade of a more acceptable contemporary moral philosophy (i.e. that abortion should be banned because even embryos are full human beings).

Now, if you’re pro-life and you’re reading this and your blood is starting to boil, simmer down for just a minute: I’m not necessarily talking about you, personally. I’m talking about those politicians and opinion-makers and anyone else who has taken the politically expedient (but morally indefensible) position of wanting to ban abortion except in those cases where the father is a bad man. Because if that’s your position, then you’re not really pro-life. You’re just anti-sex.

(Not that I disagree with the anti-sex position: It has some merit on its own. What it is I can’t stand is people lying about their real motivations.)

Liberals are Lying Too

Don’t think I’m just on a conservative-bashing campaign: far from it. When it comes to lying about motivations, the liberals are just as guilty, if not more so.

The pro-choice camp (of which I am a reluctant member) also promulgates all sorts of dubious and dishonest purported reasons for their position, going on and on about “freedom of choice” and “women’s empowerment” and so forth. A few people may actually believe all that, but I suspect most don’t. Yet their reason for lying is the same as the pro-life reason: because the truth is too politically embarrassing.

Once again, it comes down to sex. Most liberals want abortion to be legal so as to encourage promiscuity and casual sex. There, I’ve said it. The reasons for this are manyfold, but include: They themselves want to have consequence-free sex; they think that a sex-soaked society is a happy society; and (few are aware of this, but it’s actually a significant behind-the-scenes reason) more extra-marital sex hopefully leads to the disintegration of the nuclear family which is a necessary precursor to the glorious Marxist revolution (at least according to many communist philosophers).

Both the pro-life and pro-choice camps secretly agree that the real reason to ban or allow abortion is that doing so would decrease or increase the amount of sex going on. Where they disagree is whether or not more sex is a bad thing (the anti-abortion position) or a good thing (the pro-abortion position).

The Refreshing Honesty of Sharron Angle

Now that I’ve pissed everyone off, let’s return to the subject of this essay: Sharron Angle, the Republican candidate for Senate in Nevada.

Angle is the only major politician in recent memory to not only unabashedly tell the truth about her motivations, but also to take a consistent and morally defensible position on the abortion debate. And although I disagree with her position, I deeply admire the fact that she is stating it honestly and openly. Because what I (and many Americans) want in a politician above all else is honesty — and moral consistency. And even though I don’t live in Nevada and so can’t vote for Angle or Reid, I’d much rather vote for an honest and moral politician with whom I disagree than for a dishonest and amoral politician who tells me lies I want to hear.

I might take a different stance on Angle if I considered abortion a “litmus test” topic that exclusively determined my support for a politician; but in truth I place abortion way down on my list of priorities, and it is not really a salient crisis-issue in 21st century America. As things now stand, Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and is unlikely to change anytime soon. Furthermore, despite my being pro-choice, I actually don’t really like the legal reasoning behind Roe v. Wade, and still think that states (and not the federal government) should have the right to determine what local standards are concerning abortion. I don’t like an overreaching federal government stepping in and either banning or forcibly unbanning state abortion laws. If that means (as it would mean) a patchwork of abortion laws that vary state by state — so be it. My feelings about states’ rights inherent in the Constitution are much stronger than my feelings about the legality of a particular medical procedure. I’m one of those few people who know the difference between having an opinion and wanting my opinion forced on others against their will. Thus, I wouldn’t particularly mind if Angle won the race and as Senator eventually voted to approve a Supreme Court nominee who later voted to overturn Roe v. Wade.

So, even though my pro-choice stance differs from that of Sharron Angle, my admiration for her honesty and moral clarity on the topic trumps my personal opinions about abortion. And that’s why this pro-choice voter likes Sharron Angle even more after her controversial comments about impregnated rape victims carrying their babies to term.

Photo of Netanyahu as it appeared on Huffington Post.

The picture of Benjamin Netanyahu shown to the left appears on the front page of today’s Huffington Post, illustrating a story about Israel easing its blockade of Gaza. The full article on Huffington Post, which can be seen here, also uses the same photo as an illustration. (As of this writing, the picture is still on the HuffPo main page, though it may be gone by the time you read this, as the site’s front page changes every day.)

When I first saw the photo, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, because it looks like Netanyahu has neon devil horns growing out of his head. What the hell? Was the photo altered in some way? Or is it a “truth-o-graph” revealing Netanyahu’s true devilish nature?

Turns out: No. The photo is an authentic AP photograph — or at least part of an authentic AP photograph — which was cleverly cropped by someone at Huffington Post to make it appear as if Netanyahu has devil horns — flaming neon devil horns, at that.

The same photo of Netanyahu as it was originally released by AP/AFP.

After a bit of searching, I found the original photograph, which you can see to the left and also here, in its original context on the Yahoo News page. (The picture also currently appears in this Yahoo News slideshow, but again it may not be there by the time you read this, as the slideshows change over time.) At the Yahoo site, the photo is credited to “AFP/Pool/File,” which probably means that one photographer was allowed in to take photos of Netanyahu and the images were then shared in a “pool” by all the news syndicates, including AP and AFP.

As is plainly visible, the original photograph reveals what is really going on: Netanyahu is standing in front of a backlit cut-glass official Seal of the State of Israel, which depicts a menorah flanked on either side by branches.

Somebody — most likely at Huffington Post — carefully cropped off the top portion of the photo so that the bottom parts of the two branches combined with the curved edge of the seal appear to be the outlines of horns sprouting from Netanyahu’s head.

Why?

Is this part of the ongoing and relentless campaign by news sites to subtly slant the news — in this case, to “demonize” (in a literal sense) Israel? Or was it just a sheer random accident?

Or did Huffington Post get the photo from a different source, already pre-cropped? If so, I’d like to see the original source, and investigate who did the cropping. Either way, somebody — either at Huffington Post or at AP (or possibly a different news syndicate) — cropped the photo at the precise point to make Netanyahu look like Satan.

Coincidence? Perhaps. But considering the longstanding documented anti-Israel bias at so many news outlets, “coincidence” seems like the least likely explanation.

For the record, here is a screenshot of the photo as it currently appears on the Huffington Post main page:

UPDATE:

Turns out this is not the first time that the Huffington Post has been involved in similar incidents, as detailed in the following links:

FrontPage Full Report: Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israel Hatred on the Huffington Post
CAMERA re HuffPo: Spreading Falsehoods About Israel on the Internet
Huff-Watch, a blog monitoring anti-Semitism on the Huffington Post.

When a hurricane strikes the East Coast or the South, residents are warned for days ahead of time to prepare for the upcoming disaster. But out here on the West Coast, unfortunately, our disasters usually come in the form of earthquakes, which arrive suddenly and with no warning.

So it is with a rare and uneasy feeling that Californians are currently awaiting one of the few West Coast disasters which has been reliably predicted ahead of time. Except this catastrophe is not going to come courtesy of Mother Nature, but instead as what our president might call a “man-made disaster” — in this case, a riot.

Nearly everyone in the Bay Area agrees that a major Oakland riot is brewing if the verdict in the trial of policeman Johannes Mehserle, accused of murdering BART passenger Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day, 2009, comes back anything other than “GUILTY!” The problem for Oakland’s sense of security is that Mehserle is almost certainly not guilty of murder, and the jury is likely to give him a comparatively light sentence or even let him go completely.

The case has received wall-to-wall coverage in California for the last 18 months, but here’s a quick primer for those of you elsewhere in the country who may be unfamiliar with it:

In the early hours of January 1, 2009, a large group of young men got into a brawl on BART, the Bay Area’s subway system. Police were summoned and stopped the train at Oakland’s Fruitvale station, where a chaotic mass-arrest scene spilled onto the platform. As hundreds of passengers watched — many of whom were filming the proceedings with their cell-phone video cameras — several harassed BART police officers tried to subdue and then arrest dozens of brawlers. In the midst of the melee, one of the cops (Johannes Mehserle) pulled out a pistol and shot one of the men being arrested (Oscar Grant), killing him.

Sounds bad, right? Not so fast. As revealed in some of the videos taken of the incident, Mehserle was absolutely flabbergasted to see a gun when he looked down at his hand, because he had been instead reaching for his taser, which is also gun-shaped and kept in a belt-level holster. As several witnesses, including a weeping Mehserle himself, testified at the trial, the shooting was entirely accidental, and Mehserle was instead trying to tase Grant, whom he felt was out of control and resisting arrest. You can see the moment yourself in the last few seconds of the most famous video, when Mehserle looks at the gun in horror and then puts his hands to his forehead in dismay. The gestures only take a few seconds, but the entire case rests on this.

Because of public outcry, Mehserle was put on trial for murder, even though the threshold for murder was self-evidently not met in this case. Is Mehserle guilty of killing Oscar Grant? Certainly. Should he be convicted of involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide? Probably. But a murder conviction requires proof of intent and malice aforethought — that you not only wanted to kill the victim but also planned it ahead of time. And it’s quite obvious first of all that Mehserle hadn’t planned anything, since he had never even met Oscar Grant until moments before the shooting; and that Mehserle’s distress afterwards — as well as the testimony of eyewitnesses who heard Mehserle saying “I meant to tase him!” — prove beyond any reasonable doubt that he had not intended to kill Grant at all.

For the incident to count as “murder,” these thoughts must have gone through Mehserle’s mind: “Here I am surrounded by hundreds of eyewitnesses, half of whom are filming me, as well as several policemen including my superior officer; I think this is a good time to murder a stranger in cold blood in front of everyone, just because I’m a homicidal maniac!” Highly dubious, to put it mildly.

In the court of public opinion, however, facts play a minor role. Oscar Grant’s grieving family, egged on by ambulance-chasing lawyers, radical political groups, and every race-baiting organization on the West Coast, pressed for the maximum charges against Mehserle, in a gamble for a full murder conviction, even though it was inappropriate and they had a slam-dunk case for a lesser charge (such as involuntary manslaughter). However the judge’s jury instructions, not public opinion, will determine whether “lesser included charges” like manslaughter can be considered. The trial was moved to Los Angeles because of overexposure in northern California, and it is due to wrap up in a day or two.

When it’s over and the jury comes back with a verdict — watch out. Things are likely to get ugly. Very ugly.

Rumors of a riot after the verdict have been swirling for months, and have increased exponentially in the last few days:

All over the city, there’s talk of a riot if Mehserle is not found guilty of murder or manslaughter. Flyers and graffiti are posted everywhere demanding justice for Grant. Bloggers and columnist[s] are already speculating about how deep the civil unrest will become. Rodney King’s name is tossed about and the police are getting ready to crack heads if a riot goes down.

To get a taste of the mood around Oakland, look at the photos which have been scattered throughout this post. They were taken from this YouTube video and show graffiti sprayed earlier this week around Oakland’s most scenic spot, Lake Merritt. The sentiments range from “Mehserle Must Die!” to “LA Better Get It Right! Or else!” to the chilling “Oscar’s revenge? Mehserle’s kid!” And with the words “Cops bleed too” adorning the city streets, I have the feeling we may indeed be in for a repeat of the 1992 Rodney King Riots.

What’s your take on the case and on the inevitable civil unrest that will follow, whatever the verdict may be? What charge should Mehserle be convicted of, if any? If I was on the jury, I’d vote for negligent homicide, a few years in jail, and a guarantee that he’d never work in law enforcement again. (If he’s incompetent enough to draw the wrong weapon in a stressful environment, he should not be trusted to safeguard the public.) But murder? Forget it.

An Israeli cargo ship arriving in Oakland today was forced to sit idle and not offload its containers when longshoremen joined forces with a coalition of communist and Islamist groups who picketed the port in protest against the recent violent incident off the coast of Gaza.

The ship, owned by Zim Lines, was not carrying any controversial cargo, nor is Zim involved in politics in any way; it was targeted simply because the shipping company is based in Israel.

The planned protest and blockade were organized by The Free Palestine Movement (one of the same groups which organized the Gaza “flotilla” in the first place) as well as a rogues’ gallery of nearly every communist, anti-Israel and radical Islamist group in the Bay Area:

Oakland, CA: Join the Labor and Community Picket of an Israeli Zim Lines Ship

Sunday, June 20, 5:30am
Port of Oakland,Berth 57, Middle Harbor Rd.
Protest Israel’s Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla!
Boycott Israeli Ships and Goods!
Lift the Blockade NOW – Let Gaza Live!
Bring Down Israel’s Apartheid Wall!
We call on everyone who stands for justice and against occupation and apartheid to join the June 20 picket at the Port of Oakland. This is a moment of great opportunity. In San Francisco in 1984, a picket line and refusal to unload cargo of a ship carrying South African cargo was a key event in mobilizing the anti-apartheid movement worldwide.

Sponsored by: Labor / Community Committee in Solidarity with the People of Palestine:
Arab American Union Members Council, ANSWER- Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, Palestine Youth Network, US Palestine Community Network, Al Awda- Right to Return Coalition, Arab Youth Organization, MECA-Middle East Children’s Alliance, Students for Justice in Palestine, Arab Resource and Organizing Center, International Solidarity Movement, San Jose Peace and Justice Center, International Socialist Organization, Peace and Freedom Party – SF, Transport Workers Solidarity Committee and many labor activists in the Bay Area

However, you wouldn’t know any of this if you had just read the mainstream media’s reportage. For example, the San Francisco Chronicle described the protesters as “peace and labor groups”:

“Our view is that the state of Israel can not engage in acts of piracy and kill people on the high seas and still think their cargo can go anywhere in the world,” said Richard Becker, an organizer with ANSWER, one of many peace and labor groups involved in Sunday’s action.

From the list of sponsors above, I don’t see too many “peace” groups, but instead radical Islamic and Arab organizations dedicated to the extirpation of Israel, and some far-left political groups, a couple of which use the word “Peace” in their names as an Orwellian euphemism for “destroy the capitalist system.”

Here’s a video taken at this morning’s protest:

DailyKos also has breathlessly excited updates about today’s action. A follow-up second protest is happening as I write, at 4:30pm on Sunday.


The protesters carried Turkish and Palestinian flags. Peace!

Another false narrative found in the mainstream coverage of today’s incident is the implication that the longshoremen were taken by surprise when they showed up for work this morning but out of principle refused to cross a “picket line.” Again, according to the Chronicle,

The demonstrators want to block the unloading of the Zim ship for a full day. After convincing the day shift of longshoreman to honor the picket line, the demonstrators dispersed around 10 a.m.

First of all, it seems from the online listings announcing the event that labor union groups were among those who organized the protest in the first place, so the longshoremen most likely knew about it ahead of time and had already agreed to blockade the Israeli ship.

Secondly, the phrase “picket line” is being somewhat abused here. Picket lines are traditionally defined as “a common tactic used by trade unions during strikes, who will try to prevent dissident members of the union, members of other unions and ununionised workers from working.” In other words, picketing is supposed to be done by employees, ex-employees, or union members against a business engaging in what they claim are unfair labor practices. But if a group of non-workers and non-union members show up to demonstrate against something they don’t like on purely political grounds, that’s not really a “picket line,” but rather just a “protest.”

The seemingly inconsequential distinction between a “picket line” and a “protest” is significant in this instance, because union members are expected to “not cross a picket line,” but there are no similar enjoinders against “crossing a protest.” If all unionized workers are prohibited from crossing anything self-defined as a “picket line,” then all it would take is three people with homemade signs to shut down any business or corporation by standing out front and declaring themselves to be an uncrossable “picket line,” even though their protest has nothing to do with labor practices or union-busting.

But by using the phrase “picket line,” and ensuring that the media repeats the phrase, it gives cover and plausible deniability to the longshoremen’s union to join in and effectively implement the blockade, without overtly taking credit. “We have nothing against Israel,” they could claim, “but we simply could never cross a ‘picket line’!”

Uh-huh. Right.

Even though the evidence is already overwhelming and continues to grow every day that the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” was actually a planned jihad attack, the anti-Israel forces are doubling down and hoping that this grotesquely misrepresented incident will be the spark which finally causes the West to turn on Israel and actively work toward its destruction.

This morning’s protest was co-organized by Paul Larudee (paste this URL into a browser window: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/06/20/18651338.php — incoming links to Indybay are disabled), one of the very people who was on the Gaza flotilla itself, and who was given a hero’s welcome upon his return to the Bay Area from a short stint in an Israeli jail. But again, you’re not supposed to know that.

Today’s blockade of the Port of Oakland by anti-Israel forces, in collaboration with the Longshoremen’s Union (ILWU), is the opening of another front in the war on Israel — economic, politcal, propagandistic, and military — which escalates week by week. Will it ever end? Not according to the masterminds of the flotilla:

Meanwhile, Yasser Kashlak, a Syrian businessman of Palestinian descent who heads the “Free Palestine Organization” and is funding this boat, as well as another that is to carry journalists and parliamentarians, said over the weekend on Hizbullah’s al-Manar television station that he was more and more optimistic that one day these same boats would take “Europe’s refuse [the Jews] that came to my homeland back to their homelands.

“Gilad Schalit should go back to Paris and those murderers go back to Poland, and after that we will chase them until the ends of the earth to bring them to justice for their acts of slaughter from Deir Yassin until today.” Kashlak, a fervent Hizbullah supporter, called Israel a “rabid dog sent to the region to frighten the Arabs. He said he had a message for Israelis: ‘Get on the ships we are sending you and go back to your lands. Don’t let the moderate Arab leaders delude you, [you] cannot make peace with us. Our children will return to Palestine, you have no reason for coexistence. Even if our leaders will sign a peace agreement, we will not sign.’”

Clear enough for you?

UPDATE:

Keep in mind that the Port of Oakland is not some minor, backwater city-owned port: it is in fact the fourth busiest container port in the country and a major linchpin in the economy of California and the West, serving as the gateway for much of the materials coming from Asia into the United States. A threat to the proper functioning of the Port of Oakland can effect the economy nationwide. It’s not a good sign that fringe groups can dictate which countries get to ship goods into the US. What if someone protested at the port against China‘s human rights record? Would the longshoremen stop unloading Chinese ships and bring most West Coast imports to a halt? Obviously not. Pragmatism dictates that you can bully a small trading partner, but not a big one.

UPDATE II:

The protesters’ plan all along was to protest at the port prior to the arrival of the Zim Lines ship, to ensure that the shift of longshoremen who would be on duty when it did arrive would have already agreed not to do their jobs. But as reported in Israel National News and Gateway Pundit, the Israeli ship arrived several hours later than scheduled, and as things turned out, it was so late that it would not have been unloaded until Monday morning anyway. So the protesters ended up most likely having little or no effect on its actual timetable. Instead, an unrelated Chinese ship at the same berth had its unloading delayed, because the same longshoremen who didn’t cross the “picket line” could not work on it either.

It’s not known if the Zim ship’s late arrival was accidental or if it purposely idled a few hours off the coast to avoid a confrontation at the docks.


(Cross-posted at Pajamas Media.)

There Will Be Straws

Daniel Day-Lewis, who learned a thing or two about sucking up oil through straws in a recent film role, explains to President Obama how to fix the Gulf oil spill:

There Will Be Straws


If that made absolutely no sense to you, then you need to watch the Director’s Cut, an extended version which includes the cultural references: a clip of Obama saying he can’t suck up the oil spill through a straw, and another clip of Daniel Day-Lewis as the lead character in the film There Will Be Blood demonstrating that Obama is mistaken — you can suck up oil through a straw, even at a distance. Both clips are viral Internet memes:

There Will Be Straws: The Director’s Cut

Big state, weak candidates.

In California’s primary races for the state’s two top positions — governor and senator — four cringe-worthy candidates won the party nominations.

On the Democratic side, Barbara “How-Dare-You-Call-Me-Ma’am” Boxer easily maintained her steely grip on the senatorial seat, while 17-time former governor Jerry Brown reappeared like an acid flashback from a bygone era to audition again for his old gig.

Meanwhile, over in the Republican camp, two insanely rich corporate CEOs essentially bought the nominations.

What did we Californians do to deserve this? In a state with 37 million people, these are the best four we’ve got?

Is This a Monster Movie or a Political Campaign?

Both Boxer and Brown are veritable dinosaurs, clambering out of the Political Tar Pits to lord over the landscape for another eon or two. Boxer has been in politics for 38 years, and has been a member of Congress for 28 years. In all that time her political positions have not evolved one bit. She is still running on the Vietnam-war era anti-military far-left populism which has fueled her career from the start. I can easily imagine her becoming the Helen Thomas of politicians, refusing to retire or go away well into her 90s as she dodders up and down the hallways of power spouting off mean-spirited tirades.

And as for Jerry Brown, I’m awestruck by his audacity. Like, dude, you’ve already been governor. Twice. And your freakin’ father was governor before that. Also twice. Between 1959 and 1983, there was only a brief interlude when somebody not named Brown was governor.

I think we need to stage an intervention. Jerry Brown is obviously addicted to politics. He’s been at it so long (41 years) he makes Boxer look like a madamoiselle, not a ma’am. Not only was he governor twice starting 35 years ago, but he’s also been California Secretary of State, Chairman of the California Democratic Party, Attorney General of California, candidate for Senate, three-time candidate for President of the United States, and when he ran out of high-profile offices to run for, he scraped the residue out of the bottom of his political bong and ran for Mayor of Oakland. I mean, nobody wants to be Mayor of Oakland. It’s what you settle for when you have the DTs and can’t get anything decent, like drinking cough syrup.

It’s time for some tough love with Jerry. Stop enabling him. He needs a trip to the Betty Ford Clinic, not the Governor’s mansion.

With these two embarrassments on the Democratic side, you’d think the Republicans would have a golden opportunity. But no. Instead, we get two clichés straight out of Central Casting, two nearly interchangeable zillionaires who decided it would be amusing to spend some pocket change — $70 million, $80 million, I lost track already — to dabble in politics and buy the governorship and a seat in the senate.

This was supposed to be the year of the grassroots candidate, the little guy, someone whose popularity is based on political ideals — not the financial might to buy 100% of available television airtime for political attack ads which broadcast night and day for months on end.

Jerry’s opponent for governor, Meg Whitman is, literally, a billionaire, but unfortunately when she gives a speech she sounds like one of those insincere financial advisors on a late-night PBS infomercial: Manage Your Wealth with Meg! All politicians use teleprompters or notes these days, but Meg is one of the few who foolishly imagines she can pretend she isn’t, her eyes desperately darting to the side between sentences, looking for her next cue while acknowledging the perfunctory applause. A populist she is not.

Carly Fiorina is facing off against Boxer for Senator, and she’s one of the few people who can make Boxer seem almost human. Fiorina has that icy stare of the kind of boss that makes hapless underlings yelp “Everybody look busy!” when she strides into the office. Her penchant for producing brutal below-the-belt attack ads only fuels the impression that she is not someone you want to meet in a dark alley.

But What About Ideology?

So far, I’ve only touched on the public’s shallow impression of these candidates; I haven’t really talked about what they stand for, or what their political positions are. In truth, voters generally base their opinions on candidates’ personas, not their ideologies. People such as Reagan and Obama won because each put forth an uplifting persona; their political agendas were less important to those naive swing voters, who usually pull the lever based on a candidate’s likeability factor.

Having said all this: Who will I vote for?

Between Whitman and Brown, I’d have to choose Whitman. Although I am somewhat repulsed by the notion of a billionaire like Whitman spending her way to victory, it’s patently obvious Jerry Brown has no plan whatsoever to save California from bankruptcy. He’s just running for office because he has no other job skills and doesn’t know what else to do with his life. He’s not a bad person, but he’s still locked into an antiquated old-school tax-and-spend mode and is a slave to partisan politics. And when he gave his acceptance speech last night, standing next to him was Gray Davis, the previous Democratic governor who got us into this financial mess in the first place, and who was so unpopular he was actually recalled from office. If you’re so out of touch that you’d put Gray Davis next to you on stage to endorse your run for governor, then it’s time to retire. Seriously. Whitman on the other hand has spelled out fiscally responsible measures to potentially get the state back on its feet. Like or her not personally, I cannot deny that she’d probably be better for the state as a whole.

The Boxer-Fiorina race is an easier choice. Barbara Boxer no longer feels like a Senator, she feels like a bone stuck in our collective throat. She’s obstructionist, underhanded, nasty and (needless to say) an unrelenting bulldog for each and every far-left political fantasy. I briefly thought she was hip, but that was decades ago when I was young and very foolish. Now she just seems like a member of the Politburo. While I don’t agree with everything Fiorina says, she did take time out to defend Israel in last night’s acceptance speech, which was as surprising as it was welcomed. She generally opposes most of the liberal boondoggles Boxer supports, which is good enough for me. But most of all I want to ensure that Obama doesn’t get another rubber-stamp Senate to ram through his agenda for the next two years, so for that reason alone I’d vote for practically anybody who wasn’t Boxer.

Yet I worry that none of these issues will matter to the general electorate, who will instead vote based on uninformed surface impressions of the candidates. And since all four of the nominees are vaguely nauseating, the race in November will come down to which candidates one dislikes the least. Who do you want representing you: power-hungry dinosaurs or out-of-touch zillionaires? A depressing prospect indeed.


(Cross-posted at PJM.)

Losing Is the New Winning

What do Canadian soccer scores, the Gaza Flotilla Incident, Marxism, and the origins of Christianity have in common? Simple: They all rely on the notion that winning is bad. The triumph of the downtrodden.

We now see the culmination of a grand historical arc playing out right before our eyes. And just as at most epochal turning points, the people experiencing it have little or no idea that it’s even happening.

I want to say just a few words about the Gaza Flotilla, but to arrive there I must first take a roundabout digression. Let’s start our journey in Canada.

The more you score, the closer you come to defeat

A kids’ soccer league in Ottawa recently instituted a new rule: If your team outscores your opponents by more than five goals, then you lose. That’s right — the high-scoring team loses the game:

Win a soccer game by more than five points and you lose, Ottawa league says

In yet another nod to the protection of fledgling self-esteem, an Ottawa children’s soccer league has introduced a rule that says any team that wins a game by more than five points will lose by default.

The Gloucester Dragons Recreational Soccer league’s newly implemented edict is intended to dissuade a runaway game in favour of sportsmanship. The rule replaces its five-point mercy regulation, whereby any points scored beyond a five-point differential would not be registered.

Kevin Cappon said he first heard about the rule on May 20 — right after he had scored his team’s last allowable goal. His team then tossed the ball around for fear of losing the game.

As insane as this new rule might seem to the naive, it’s neither surprising nor unexpected: Similar anti-competition guidelines which punish winners have seeped into our culture over the last several decades. This Ottawa soccer rule is just the consummation of a larger trend. Many public school districts in the US now discourage or prohibit intra-class competition, not just in games but scholastically as well. Why? Because competition inevitably leads to winners and losers, which leads to athletic or intellectual hierarchies, which leads to social hierarchies, which leads to social inequality. And that‘s the biggest no-no of all.

But the prohibition against competition is often a prelude to a more Orwellian inversion of reality. Many kids’ sporting leagues have something called The Mercy Rule, in which the officials stop keeping score after a certain point if two teams are so mismatched that the game would otherwise become a farce. From there, however, it is a small step to the “Ottawa Rule” whereby you are allowed to score as much as you want, but if you outscore your opponent by too much, you’ll be declared the loser. (One imagines that inept-but-clever Canadian soccer teams will henceforth attempt to win games by “accidentally” scoring own-goals and kicking the ball backwards into their own nets as often as possible; eventually the league could devolve into a frenzy of “suicide soccer” as teams try to rack up as many points for the opponents as they can, seeking to “win” by losing by more than five goals.)

A similar thing happened to me in my elementary school days. One spring, our hip teacher announced that he would soon hand out the award for “Best Student” in the class. Much speculation ensued among the kids as to who it might be; the general consensus was that three students, based on our speed in finishing quizzes ahead of everyone else, were the obvious candidates: Karen, Ronald, or me. But when the big day arrived, the teacher announced, to everyone’s shock, that the Best Student prize was going not to any of us three but instead to Wayne. Wayne?!?!?!? Everyone turned to look at him in amazement. Wayne was, by any valid measure, far and away the worst student in the class. He still had not yet learned how to read. He couldn’t do basic arithmetic. He sat in the back of the room and harassed other students, and didn’t even bother to complete most assignments. In the modern era, he definitely would have been placed in a “special education” class for learning-disabled students, but our public school district back then had eliminated all “tracking” as discriminatory, so students of all calibers were lumped together. Our teacher explained that he was giving the award to Wayne because Wayne needed it more than anyone else, in order to boost his low self-esteem, which was the cause of his misbehavior. (Of course, having his psyche dissected in front of the class humiliated him even more, completely undoing any psychological benefit the award may have given him.) But here’s the kicker: our teacher then announced that Karen, Ronald and me had to sit in the corner and not participate every time there was a quiz for the rest of the year, as punishment for “embarrassing the other students” by finishing too fast and getting perfect scores.

My school district was ahead of the curve when it came to progressive ideals, and what happened to me back then is a natural progression from the non-competition guidelines now becoming commonplace across the country — just as Mercy Rules in sports can eventually lead to “the high-scoring team loses” Ottawa-style decrees.

Christianity, Marxism, and the Triumph of the Downtrodden

Championing the underdog is nothing new. There is a long history leading to what happened in Ottawa and my school.

While these days we tend to think of Christianity and Marxism as polar opposite ideologies in direct contradiction to each other, they both can be seen as formal expressions of the same notion: That the downtrodden, society’s losers, are actually the winners; and that the rich and powerful are the losers.

Jesus said, in Matthew 19:24, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” He also, in Matthew 19:21, said “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

The inescapable conclusion one draws from these statements by Jesus is that people who are wealthy and successful will in the long run be the greatest losers of all, because they cannot enter heaven when they die. You may be on top now, Jesus is saying, but eventually only society’s losers (the destitute) will get the ultimate reward — eternity in heaven.

From Christianity’s founding and for the next three centuries it was indeed the religion of the underdog; not only were Christians persecuted and oppressed, but their very oppression was seen by early Christians as evidence of their moral rectitude. Suffering was a way of cleansing the soul; the worse off your station in life was, the closer you were to God. Early Christianity was a religion of the lower classes, not of the elite or aristocracy, and as such was almost a form of spiritual proto-Marxism. The worse off you were in social terms, the better off on the spiritual plane. By losing in this this life, you win in the next.

(Of course, all of that changed starting in the 4th century with Constantine, the Council of Nicea and Theodosius, when Christianity transformed into a state-sponsored religion and a powerful political force — but that’s for a different essay.)

1500 years later, Karl Marx came along and invented an anti-religion which nonetheless derived from the same principle: that poor people were the actual possessors of power. The difference between Marxism and Christianity is that under Jesus’ teachings the underdogs’ reward was in the afterlife, whereas Marx envisioned a here-and-now revolution for the oppressed to seize power and become the winners on Earth.

Both Christianity and Marxism appeal to people’s sense of empathy and compassion, something which had been somewhat lacking in other religions and economic systems. But history has shown us that once the oppressed become winners and take power — whether it be the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages or the Russian serfs after the 1917 Revolution — they in turn inevitably become the oppressors themselves. From this we can derive a new axiom: The new boss is always the same as the old boss.

(Of course, I fully realize that Christians will be just as horrified to have their faith compared to Marxism as Marxists will be horrified to have their ideology compared to Christianity, but the key point of similarity, at least to me, is undeniable. Of course there are innumerable differences as well, and both philosophies have changed over the centuries, yet still at their origins they both claimed to champion the underdog.)

Using our empathy as a tool against us

To this day, both Christianity and Marxism are hugely influential worldviews, and aside from those people who overtly identify with one camp or the other, most everyone else ascribes to some kind of political ideology which is at a minimum informed by either Christianity or Marxism. That is to say, Christian values suffuse conservatism, and Marxist values suffuse liberalism — even if you yourself don’t think of yourself as a Christian or a Marxist. Yet since both ideologies share one common feature — sympathy for the underdog — and since most people fall somewhere in the conservative/liberal dichotomy, then everyone in the Western world, regardless of what side you might be on, harbors some secret sympathy for the oppressed and disdain for the victorious.

It is this salient fact that the propaganda maestros of the Gaza Flotilla are banking on. The whole goal of sailing ships toward Gaza is not to “break the blockade,” but rather to seek out and initiate a conflict with the Israeli military. And here’s the key: not merely to enter into a conflict with the Israelis, but specifically to lose a conflict with the Israelis. Because only by losing can the activists and militants claim the victimhood mantle and declare a moral victory. So, just as in a Canadian soccer game, by losing they win.

Arab Culture and the Strong Horse

The West’s affection for the underdog is now widespread throughout the world — except in the Middle East, where Arab culture still reveres the powerful and the victorious. In 2001, Osama bin Laden famously remarked, “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse.” This seemingly innocuous homily summarizes the difference between traditional Arab values and Western values: Not only do bin Laden and his ilk revere the dominant party in any relationship, he assumes that everyone else does likewise. It is for this specific reason that Al Qaeda (and Al Qaeda’s millions of admirers) thought that the 9/11 attacks were a good idea: If we can inflict a defeat on the enemy, Al Qaeda reasoned, then we will gain the world’s sympathy, because we we will have taken the role of the Strong Horse.

Needless to say, bin Laden got it completely reversed: Every time terrorists strike, their cause loses credibility in the West’s eyes, because by killing innocents they have become the aggressor and the oppressor. Most terror groups and Islamic extremist groups still operate under bin Laden’s “Strong Horse” misapprehension.

Luckily for the Islamic extremists, some Western leftists more clever than they have stepped in to rescue the otherwise-discredited Islamist cause. Far-left groups like the Free Palestine Movement and the International Solidarity Movement, along with their innumerable media enablers and Marxist Euro diplomats, have patiently explained to the Islamists that scoring violent victories is counterproductive; the real way to achieve political success in the Western world is to be the victim of a violent defeat. That way, you earn the world’s sympathy, and the powers-that-be give you what you want. It worked for Gandhi in India; it worked for the 1950s Civil Rights movement in the US; it can work for you. Lose your way to victory. Problem is, every power in the Western world already knows this, and they thereby resist appearing as bullies — so the only way to become a victim is to goad your unwilling opponent into defeating you. If you can sufficiently hide the goading from public view, then the response will seem like an aggression, and you win if you lose.

I imagine it must have taken quite a bit of philosophical reconfiguring for the extremists to grasp this ridiculous and counter-intuitive Western way of thinking, but they decided to give it a try. Lo and behold — it worked! At least it worked if you are an MSM collaborator in the ruse. In reality, most of the Islamists still don’t quite grasp the whole concept, so (for example) one can still see the militants on the Gaza flotilla chanting slogans about killing Jews and hoping for success or martyrdom. Uh, fellas, we’re supposed to be posing as the victims here — cool it, will ya?

What we’re now seeing is the tug-of-war internecine struggle between the power-seeking Islamic militants who still live by ancient Arabian codes, and their Marx-inspired Western partners trying to rein them in and use the victimhood/sympathy technique instead. Back and forth, back and forth, as the rest of the world watches in disgust: Violent terrorist acts and declarations of supremacy are interspersed with poorly acted passion plays of victimhood. Do the Islamists really expect us to permanently grant them the role of victim when half the time they’re the victimizers?

Personally, I’m tired of the game, specifically because I know it’s a game. Their real goal is victory and dominance by any means, and I’m not fooled when they use our own cultural norms to deceive us.


Rather than posting a variety of short videos documenting the incitements and failed attempts at victimhood-posturing by the Gaza flotilla militants, I strongly encourage readers to view this clip by Shraga Simmons of MediaGoliath which not only incorporates much of the video evidence into one handy package, but also crisply explains the win-by-losing victimhood strategy explained in this essay: