Friday, June 05, 2009

Deeply Retroactive Assy McGee Award® to Michael Reagan

An extremist white supremacist radio host named Hal Turner was just arrested for engaging in what apparently DO constitute "fighting words." Turner has been charged with:

inciting Catholics to “take up arms” and singling out two Connecticut lawmakers and a state ethics official on a Web site -- was taken into custody in New Jersey late Wednesday after state Capitol police in Connecticut obtained a warrant for his arrest.

But blightful a human being as he is, it is not Turner who wins the Assy McGee Award® for today. That honor instead goes to President Ronald Reagan's son, Michael Reagan. The clip below, Harrogate learned about from one of the commenters in the above link, and from there it did not take long to find video footage of a blood-chilling exchange that took place between Reagan and a caller on 8/15/2006. This is some of the most extreme rhetoric you will find on Right Wing talk radio, and that is saying something.

What we encounter below on its face would appear to be hyperbolic, not representative of right wing punditry. But given the increasingly shrill climate on the internet, the radio, and even on cable news today, one wonders just how hyperbolic it really is in the circles to which Bill O'Reilly caters, and to which George Tiller's murderer undoubtedly belonged.

Hippos for a Friday Night

Friday Musical Tribute; Or, The Discourse Continues

I'm going to announce right here, right now that my single best music purchase over the last two years is Neil Young's 1972 album Harvest. This is a bold statement given the quality of music I've added to my collection lately (e.g. Carole King's Tapestry, Cat Stevens's Tea for the Tillerman, and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks), but I'm going to stand by it.

Everything about the album is wonderful, especially the arrangements. In most cases, we have only an acoustic guitar and harmonica accompanying Young's voice. Sometimes a piano, and sometimes a few stringed orchestral instruments. The minimalist arrangements compel even me to focus on the lyrics, which are wonderfully gentle and melancholy.

Until this week, Harvest was the beginning and end of my Neil Young interest. I've heard some of his electric stuff but don't care for it. I prefer his stripped down, acoustic, classic singer-songwriter stuff from the early seventies. Young is a pretty eclectic artist, so there aren't a lot of titles that fit this particular mold. I always look, but usually leave music stores empty handed.

All of this changed on Monday when I was browsing the shelves in my local Best Buy while Oxywife and toddler were playing drums on the Rock Star display. As my eyes scanned the selections towards the end of the alphabet, I saw a picture of a young Neil Young sitting at a piano. Above the photo, a label read Neil Young Archives: Massey Hall 1971.

I bought it.

I love it.

And I can't will myself to take it out of the CD player.

As the title implies, this is a live concert from 1971. It's just Neil and his guitars, and a piano in the corner of the stage at which he twice sits to play. The songs, as he tells his audience, are mostly new compositions. Several would make it onto Harvest a year later.

While all the tracks are great, I've really been digging "Dance Dance Dance" over the last twenty-four hours or so. It's just so different from the other songs on Harvest and Massey Hall 1971. It's happy.

And since it's Friday, and the weekend is just a few hours away, happiness must begin. Watch the video and feel free to dance.

(BTW: This is not the 1971 performance. And what's with these poorly synced videos? I hate it when lips don't match the sound.)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Thursday Musical Tribute; or TRS and Soundtracks

One of Harrogate's favorite aspects of this blog, if not his very favorite, is the musical discourse, in which all Board Members have engagingly participated over the years. And, Soundtracks have been a subject this blog historically bandies about. Once upon a New Years' Eve, Megs reported on a vehicular conversation between herself and solon, in which the question of "best soundtracks" came up. A great thread emerged.

Harrogate listed the soundtrack to She's The One, which is also a record by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Harrogate's reasons for putting this album involve every single song, which taken together represents some of the best work this group ever did. And the song posted below is, perhaps deservedly, the most famous single from that record. Harrogate presents it now, as the Thursday musical tribute.

Give it up for The Onion

Harrogate isn't the hugest Onion fan out there, but he knows a winner when he sees it. Like all good satire, it takes hold of a sore spot in the political corpus we constitute, and throttles the hell out of it.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Wednesday Musical Tribute: Todd Snider's "Iron Mike's Main Man's Last Request"

The awesome Todd Snider CD, "East Nashville Skyline," was at the center of Harrogate's Big Birthday Musical Haul. This song, as the title implies, represents the point of view of one of Mike Tyson's entourage. Great stuff. Harrogate definitely hearts Todd Snider.

"Don't Blame O'Reilly": A Pro-Choice Advocate Reminds Us That Media Do Not Yell "Fire!" in Movie Theaters

Yesterday, Helen Searls had a compelling rhetorical treatment of the Tiller murder, as well as of the nature of how America handles the abortion debate more generally. Making her own pro-choice proclivities very clear, Searls takes shots at Andrew Sullivan Daily Kos, pundits on MSNBC, and many of us in the unwashed blogosphere for over-reaching in laying blame for acts of anti-abortion violence at the mantle of its most vitriolic talkers.

But, Searls' take is also very different from those who throw in totally with the free will position, or the idea that this was the action of a lone loon.

Bloggers like Jill Filipovic are quite wrong to make an analogy between O’Reilly’s rhetoric and the shouting of ‘Fire!’ in a croweded theatre. The point about the overused ‘Fire!’ example is that in a crowded theatre there is no time to think: if someone shouts, everyone runs, as there’s no time for debate or reasoned inquiry into the nature of the fire or the truth of the claim. The link between words and actions becomes blurred in this one, exceptionally rare instance.

In contrast, when O’Reilly says stuff on his show, there is every opportunity to question and challenge his claims. TV is not a panicked atmosphere but a media outlet, where the audience hears things, weighs them up, and decides whether to agree or disagree. Far from calling for anti-abortion activists to ‘mind their language’, their often crass remarks should be seen as an opportunity to meet fire with fire, to counter their claims with more compelling arguments and opinions. Far from needing less talk about abortion, we need more. Things might have turned out differently if O’Reilly’s arguments had provoked a robust public debate about why women need people like Dr Tiller and access to late-term abortions

Much to chew on here. It is certainly true that Pro Choice advocacy in the United States has grown increasingly timid, and in some ways has altogether disappeared (occasional soundbites in favor of the principles of privacy and choice notwithstanding) from the rhetoric of leaders within the Democratic Party. This unwillingness to meet the anti-abortion arguments directly, on the rhetorical battlefield in the public square, very much extends to President Obama, as Searls notes:

But sadly, for too long the question of late-term abortion has been treated as a highly sensitive, even embarrassing issue by many pro-choice activists. And pro-choice politicians do not consider late-term abortion a good subject for public discussion. As President Barack Obama’s speech at Notre Dame University demonstrated, pro-choice politicians are keen to avoid the substantive issues in the abortion debate whenever possible.

But if the pro-choice lobby stays quiet on this issue, it will effectively vacate the public arena and allow people like O’Reilly to barge in and take the alleged moral highground; shamefacedness about late-term abortion allows anti-abortion campaigners to see it and treat it as, well, something shameful. In such a climate, it is little wonder that individuals like Dr Tiller were so effectively demonised. Late-term abortion should not be a dirty little secret never raised in polite society. It should be openly discussed and rationally understood. There are many very sound reasons why women need to have access to late-term abortion services, and there should be no shame in defending them.

It is a tragedy that it has taken the brutal murder of a decent and compassionate man to remind us why so many women turn to people like Dr Tiller for help. O’Reilly has been banging on about Tiller for years, but it is only now that we are beginning to hear the other side of Tiller’s story - a story about a brave doctor who believed passionately in defending women’s reproductive rights. This was the real Dr Tiller, who was seen by many of his patients as something like a knight in shining armour.

In the wake of the Bush Administration, many of us have been gladdened and relieved at Obama's central strategy of seeking to "tone down" the culture wars. We do not want things to escalate to violence, after all, and there are pressing matters such as health care and North Korea and Harrogate's student loan debt to worry about. But at the same time, if one side refuses to tone down the culture war, then does the other essentially cede all the important Rhetorical Ground, by confining engagement to asking everyone to get along?

Questions of responsibility for Tiller's murder aside, In Harrogate's view, Searls is dead-on right in her premise that our wish to avoid vociferously defending abortion rights in the public square has been exposed as a totally ineffective approach.

How do you fight inflammatory speech? Not by shutting it down, not by asking the speakers to chill, and also not by ignoring it. Fight it with reasonable, but vociferous and bold speech of your own. We all need to realize that the Culture Wars have not gone away, have not been toned down in the United States---nor will they anytime soon.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Tuesday Musical Tribute

Another wonderful cover that appeared in the movie American Beauty, a movie Harrogate has been thinking about a lot lately, for some reason. This takes Harrogate back to the momentous conversation last fall, that he and oxymoron and solon had while driving to the bar to celebrate solon's esteemed doctorhood, about Beatles covers. Harrogate remembers citing Elliot Smith's cover of "Because" as one of his five favorites.

Also, "Because" is one of Harrogate's favorite Beatles songs, period. To wit: "Because the sky is blue, it makes me cry." How distilled.

Question of the Day

Why cannot Tiller's family sue Randall Terry, Bill O'Reilly, and others, for publicly slandering the doctor? For that matter, a kind of class action lawsuit filed by multiple doctors is imaginable, is it not?

Doctors after all are surely not public figures in the same way that politicians and pop stars are. Or are they?

Hmmmm. If someone got on television everyday and called Harrogate a murderer of babies, Harrogate would be able to sue that person, wouldn't he? Since Tiller was acting within the law, and thus demonstably not a murderer, why is it out of bounds to file a lawsuit against those who call him and other doctors murderers?

Bill O'Reilly the Terrorist Rhetor: His Response to Tiller's Murder

As Solon said, Papa Bear the Terrorist Rhetor doubled down on his violent rhetoric last night. Unsurprisingly, he altogether bypasses the issue of the hateful and demonstrably violent base to which his and other talk forums cater, and instead asserts that the real issue is "far left" craziness.

On a personal level, for Tiller's family and friends, how horrible to see O'Reilly smugly defend his inflammatory remarks the day after his death. On a broader political level, how horrible for those of us either committed to womens' rights, reaching peaceful resolutions to political problems, the rule of law, or all three.

O'Reilly's Response to Tiller's Murder

Monday, June 01, 2009

In the Wake of an Attack on Women and their Doctors, The Hate Speech Ratchets Ever Higher

Speaking of Bill O'Reilly, Terrorist rhetor Randall Terry has been getting a lot of press today, sticking his face in front of cameras and insisting that pro-life activists "not back down" in the aftermath of Tiller's murder. This is blood curdling stuff Harrogate is posting below, but it needs to be publicly excoriated, from small blogs like this to the heaviest of hitters like Williams and Couric and our leaders in the federal government. In the face of this, by Harrogate's measure, what Obama said was a good start but not enough. He needs to say more. As do any reasonable politicians on both sides of the aisle, who oppose domestic terrorism. It is time for the Rhetoric of Shame.

Tip of the Hat to Little Green Footballs

Succinct writeup of this video by LGF proprietor Charles Johnson:

Here’s Randall Terry, founder of the extreme anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, with a deplorable statement . . . This is domestic terrorism, in your face. This video is the equivalent of an Al Qaeda video following a terrorist attack, disavowing responsibility but encouraging more attacks.

Random, Sans-Links Reflections on the Sotomayor Discourse

1)Harrogate is deeply annoyed and saddened by how eagerly, thoroughly, and uncritically, everybody--beginning with Barack Obama himself---has cheerled Sotomayor's "bootstrap" credentials. The following opinion may annoy some of Harrogate's fellow Board Members at TRS, but Harrogate thinks that all this stuff about a girl from the Bronx in a single parent home making good through hard work is nothing but another manifestation of one of the most destructive American myths that we have. Almost invariably, the "bootstrap narrative" implicitly asserts that the working poor and the underclass in this country owe their plight to laziness, or some other personal shortcoming. Think of the "welfare queen" model that Reagan traded in so brilliantly.

In other words, the following formulation once again is given creds: "Oh, Look!!!! Sotomayor did it! Why can't the rest of you lazy asses do it too?" Praising hard work and talent is not a problem in itself. But the "bootstrap narrative" has been done, quite literally Harrogate would argue, to death.

2)Obama's (and Sotomayor's) rhetoric of "empathy," on this score, is much better indeed, than the bootstrap narrative. That such an idea as empathy for the less fortunate is rare indeed to our politics has been evidenced by the conniptions we have seen the Right, as well as the Media, go into over the Word and the Idea it Signifies.

3)After someone can start showing us some (not just an exception, but SOME) instances where Scalia and Thomas and Roberts and Ginsburg and Breyer, to name five of some 107, have flouted the ideological expectations that come with them as conservatives and liberals respectively: THEN Harrogate will be a little more sympathetic to the Right's current anti-Sotomayor argument that Impartiality is supposed to be more than just an aspiration.

The Right has been screaming that judges are supposed to apply the law blindly, and leave their politics at the door. But the assumption of course is that Conservatives are always correct in their interpretation and desired application of the Law.

Hmmmm. Maybe Kennedy's and O'Connor's records as "swing judges" better suit the criteria of a judge being willing to flout his or her own political views, in the name of legal impartiality. But those judges are not respected by the Right, nearly so much as Scalia, who is ideologically consistent.

Opponents of Sotomayor and more broadly of Obama. Ask thyselves, then: Are ye really mad at the idea of political sensibilities affecting judges? Or only mad at the idea of LIBERAL sensibilities affecting judges.

4)Her confirmation process is going to be ugly and what is worse, totally unartistic.

The GOP will attack awkwardly (not wanting to come off as racists or sexists), and the Dems will defend awkwardly (not wanting to come off as understanding that the idea of judicial impartiality, like impartiality in any other area of human existence, is indeed only an aspiration).

Monday Musical Tribute

Because something wise and beautiful is needed today. Annie Lennox, the song she covers here, and the movie soundtrack on which the cover appears, and finally the movie itself, all fit the criterion qute well.

The Murder of Dr. Tiller & Scary Right Wing Internet Chatter

Shortly after Tiller's Murder Little Green Footballs posted the "Bad Craziness Watch: Right Wing Reaction to the Tiller Murder," the content of which abounds with internet chatter that all Americans need to be aware of. As Solon has commented a few times on this blog, especially when a Democrat is president, the threat of political violence (Terrorism) in America skyrockets.

Here are a couple of other really whacked out threads Harrogate invites readers to check out. Sure to be at the center of this week's discourse is Fox News: here's the forum it has going, begun by Cal Thomas: Fox News. And here is the Townhall forum, equally whacked out. One commenter on this thread compares Tiller's murderer to John Brown.

To What Degree do Ideas Have Consequences : Questions of the Day

Yesterday, while in church, Dr. George Tiller was assassinated. At the time, he served as an usher for the congregation. From her position in the choir, Tiller's wife saw the assassination.

Tiller is a very controversial figure in American medicine as he was one of the few doctors in the country to provide late-term abortions for women. You can read some stories about those women here.

Tiller was the target of violent discourse by Bill O'Reilly [see here, here, and here]; by members of Operation Rescue, a pro-life organization [see here, here, and here (warning- graphic images)]; and, of course, profiled on the Nuremberg Files website [see here, and here].

Question One: If the legal standard for judging political discourse is imminent lawless action (Brandenburg v. Ohio), should the discourse from O'Reilly, Operation Rescue, or on the Nuremberg File's website be protected under the first amendment standard for political discourse or should it be classified under the fighting words classification, if that classification still exists from R.A.V. v. St. Paul, and receive less constitutional protection? Or, is a strategy of counter persuasion against O'Reilly and Operation Rescue a better strategy?

Question Two: Does O'Reilly have any moral obligation to apologize for his discourse about Tiller or does he have any moral responsibility to tone down his discourse? When discussion Tiller's profession, O'Reilly stated:
"No question Dr. Tiller has blood on his hands. But now so does Governor Sebelius. She is not fit to serve. Nor is any Kansas politician who supports Tiller's business of destruction. I wouldn't want to be these people if there is a Judgment Day."

Does O'Reilly, or Operation Rescue, have blood of their hands as well because of the death of Dr. George Tiller?