Category: Politics

Don’t Stifle Social Media After UK Riots

By , August 12, 2011 4:15 pm

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Parliament is exploring ways to ban social media during situations of widespread emergencies like the riots that have swept the country for the last weeks.

Speaking in the House Of Commons on Thursday, he said:

Mr Speaker, everyone watching these horrific actions will be stuck by how they were organised via social media.

Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill.

And when people are using social media for violence we need to stop them.

So we are working with the Police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.

Logistically, it may be impossible and his statement may have just been “bravado,” but it’s a bad idea to suggest that stifling or banning communication over social networks is a good tool to fight crime.

Laws over speech and expression in the UK are different than in the US. The libel laws are much stricter, and you can’t even make fun of a session of Parliament even when they’re being complimented by comedians like Jon Stewart (see below). Those differences aren’t reasons for a Western democracy to restrict free speech like a dictatorship. Fighting and preventing crime is a priority in any country, but things get tricky when you’re dealing with speech. One person’s threatening language is another’s good idea.

Journalism professor Jeff Jarvis wrote this about Cameron’s suggestion to block social media: “When anyone’s speech is not free, no one’s speech is free…Censorship is not the path to civility. Only speech is.”

A clip from The Daily Show With John Stewart.

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Four Reasons There Aren’t Riots In The US Like Those In The UK

By , August 11, 2011 7:33 pm

This is a guest post by Kameko Jones.

Sitting by the computer after making the perfect cup of English tea, I am still amazed (for lack of a better word) at the breakout of riots across the UK. Over the past few days I have been scratching my head as looters took advantage of London neighborhoods like Brixton, Hackney, and Lewisham, and other British cities like Birmingham, Liverpool, and Leeds. I sit back in disgust and outrage as an American viewing from overseas, but also as a person who has lived and traveled throughout the UK.

The shooting of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old father of four, is what sparked the initially peaceful protest in Tottenham, London. People in the neighborhood were protesting unlawful and aggressive acts by police.  (It is now known that Duggan did not fire a shot at police.) Somehow, on Saturday, August 6, the protest turned violent and the people protesting started to assault police on the scene. The protest went from throwing sticks and bottles to lighting vehicles on fire and smashing the windows of shops.  I do not condone violence but there was definitely tension in the neighborhood between police and residents. The police did not take the right steps to calm the crowd.

Some chatter on Twitter by bloggers, journalists, and others has said that riots could start in the United States over the current situation plaguing our country. We have gun violence in schools, millions not covered by health care, rising unemployment, and a government caught up in its own nauseating partisanship fight. The victims in all of these are the working and middle class. So, why haven’t there been riots across the United States like those over in the United Kingdom? There are several reasons.

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Pledging Is All The Rage

By , July 11, 2011 8:17 am

This is a guest post by Rich Perkin.

Moving to America when I was fifteen, I started to encounter something I’d never seen in England.


There is something so American about pledges. The Pledge of Allegiance in class every morning that my teacher and I got into a fight about. Chastity pledges that kids would make in high school. The pledges one makes to join the fraternity or sorority that they’ve decided will be their social guide through university. But until recently, they seemed to be something that happened in our youth. How many people take the Pledge of Allegiance on a regular basis? How many people pledge anything once they leave university, and hope that the pictures of them doing a keg stand with a Portuguese pot-bellied pig never surface?

Until, apparently, you become a politician.

Now, pledging is all the rage. There’s a pledge against new taxes. There’s a Marriage Vow pledging to fight gay marriage, “quickie divorce” and “all forms of pornography.” I’m curious to see if any more pledges come out before the end of this election, and I hope they get even crazier than the porn one. We might as well have our elected officials pledging not to drink whisky while driving backwards through the Mall of America—that’s something I could really get behind.

As far as I can tell, there’s only one pledge our elected officials should be taking. They should be pledging to represent the American people, the people who elected them. And yet by pledging not to raise taxes, they’re actually going counter to the wishes of a majority of the electorate. By pledging to oppose gay marriage, they’re going against a steadily increasing majority of the electorate. By making a pledge against porn, they’re going against approximately 100% of the electorate.

When we elect someone to Congress, we’re choosing that person to be our spokesperson. We’re giving them the privilege of speaking for us, our beliefs. That’s why women fought for suffrage at the beginning of this century. That’s why African-Americans fought for civil rights more recently.  They wanted representation, a fair say, to be a part of this country. What did they fight for, and will we all have to start fighting, when our Congress members start ignoring the oaths they took when they entered office and start signing pledges that are in no way representative of the people they serve?

There’s only one pledge I’m interested in any of them taking:

“I pledge, during my time in office, and beyond, to fully represent the desires and will of the people who have granted me the privilege of representing them in the United States Government.”

Rich is the executive producer and co-founder of the British National Theatre of America. You can follow him on his blog and on Twitter.

Five Reasons Mark Halperin Was Wrong To Say Obama Was “Kind Of A Dick”

By , July 1, 2011 1:56 am

On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” yesterday, Time magazine’s senior political analyst and editor-at-large Mark Halperin said President Obama was “kind of a dick” in how he “behaved” at his press conference on Wednesday.

Here’s the clip:

A few minutes later, he made an on-air apology. “Joking aside, this not a pro forma apology, it’s an absolute apology – heartfelt to the president and to the viewers. I became part of the joke, but that’s no excuse. I made a mistake and I’m sorry and I shouldn’t have said it. And as I said, I apologize to the president and the viewers who heard me say that.”

Here’s what’s wrong with Halperin’s “dick” remark:

1. Regardless of who’s being talked about, cable or network morning television isn’t the place to call someone a dick. A nighttime show? Maybe, but even then, not the president (which I’ll get to in a moment).

2. Halperin knew he shouldn’t have said it on television because he asked about the seven-second delay. The “joke” wasn’t spontaneous or something said in the heat of an argument. It appears the remark was planned. Between thinking about saying “kind of a dick” and the banter that ensued when they discussed the delay, Halperin had plenty of time to consider the remark and decide not to say it. He decided wrong.

3. An editor-at-large and senior political analyst of the country’s largest news magazine shouldn’t call anyone – the president or an average Joe – a dick. It’s unprofessional for any journalist to do that on-air. Which brings me to…

4. Halperin is an experienced journalist and editor, but he failed here, too. He didn’t edit himself.

5. Finally, the most obvious: Should anyone call the president a dick on TV? Of course not! It’s the President of the United States! It’s our highest and most esteemed elected office. Obama and other presidents have been called worse in homes, offices, the Internet and other places where people talk about politics. But we look to journalists and others who lead political discussions to maintain a certain level of respect for the political process and the people involved in it.

MSNBC was right to indefinitely suspend Halperin. Not only was he disrespectful, he was a bad guest who showed bad judgment.

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Anthony Weiner’s Lies Are The Problem

By , June 13, 2011 12:52 am

It’s not just bad acts or crimes that get politicians in trouble. It’s the cover-ups.

Congressman (for now) Anthony Weiner never heard or perhaps forgot this important lesson of politics. But he didn’t just try cover-up the scandal by lying in one written statement. He lied to everyone, the press, the public, everyone. And, he did it continuously for a week.

And, of course, he lied to his wife.

The sex aspect of Congressman Anthony Weiner’s downfall does bother me a bit. It makes him a dick of husband (had to say it), and while it seems like the other women were adults, it’s unclear how many of them were asking to see the Full Weiner.

He lied about all of it in full-on John Edwards-style: looking at the press and the people dead in the eye and proclaiming his innocence. This is what bothers me.

The reason why so many liberals liked Weiner was because of impassioned and forthright speeches like this one.

He talked about “courage” and “cowardly” things like “providing cover” “instead of doing the right thing.”

He was talking about being truthful.

Weiner should have listened to his own advice. His passionate voice on so many issues now rings hollow.

Voters On Machismo and Women

By , May 29, 2011 9:37 am

Is the Arnold Schwarzenegger who cheated on his wife and may have groped other women the type of governor California voters asked for? In a Politico opinion piece, Neal Gabler says yes.

One might think that when it came to governing, the public might actually like the idea of someone who portrays himself as rational, deliberate, attentive to opposing points of view — a conciliator rather than a head-banger. But Americans have always thought of themselves as tough and uncompromising — able to beat their problems or enemies into submission. Older white men, a key part of the Republican Party base, seem particularly to want their politicians to be heroic and full of bluster — just like Schwarzenegger.

Not coincidentally, this is also the very thing that Americans, again especially men, have always loved about their movie heroes. Our most popular films are predicated on a bold individual who, usually without much outside assistance or much internal reflection, vanquishes everything before him. Our heroes get the job done, whatever it takes.

And again, not incidentally, they also get the woman, who swoons in the cloud of his testosterone. We all know that female subjugation is one component of the American male power fantasy.

It is no wonder, then, that our movies and politics would become conflated, especially in California, home of the motion picture industry. Schwarzenegger’s appeal in the gubernatorial race was that he came on like a hero, the un-Gray Davis, California’s then-governor, who seemed aptly named. Davis appeared wimpy. Arnold seemed … like Arnold. He was everything that a movie hero and a governor ought to be: a real man’s man.

But that sense of untrammeled masculine power is also embedded, in politics as in the movies, with a certain attitude toward women. Our film heroes aren’t gauzy romantics. They are sexual swashbucklers who often have little use for women — or, more accurately, have one use for women.

Though he had tempered his public misogyny since his bodybuilding days, Schwarzenegger wasn’t elected in spite of his disregard for women. Insofar as it informed his machismo and demonstrated his masculine power, he was elected because of it.

Governor Arnold SchwarzeneggerThis goes back to what I wrote last year about politicians who insult their opponents by saying they should “man up.” The phrase implies that manliness and machismo are requirements to hold elective office. It’s not a big leap between that attitude and the lack of female elected officials in this country compared to the rest of the world.

Gabler analysis of how voters feel about politicians gives insight into how some voters feel about women and their role in politics. Macho heroes in films, he writes, don’t have any use for women except one. The implication is that one reason is sex. The female character can’t do anything else for the macho hero – not help him, not work with him, not take the lead as the hero. If sex is the only thing the macho hero needs from women, and voters look at their political candidates and movie heroes in similar ways, is sex the only thing those macho-loving voters expect from women?

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More On Herman Cain, “Real Black Man”

By , April 8, 2011 11:34 pm

Herman CainIt’s worth noting that Cain’s “real black man” comment was in front of a Tea Party audience. For those who think the Tea Party and Cain are racially progressive because the candidate asserted his blackness and the audience cheered, think again.

Cain said that he would not appoint a Muslim to his cabinet if he were elected to the Oval Office. He clarified his remarks, but I don’t think the “clarification” makes him look any better. Cain also agrees with Birther-for-publicity and no-chance-of-running-and-even-less-of-a-chance-of-winning Donald Trump who has doubts about Obama’s birth.

The Tea Party’s problem with race is well-known. There was even a study conducted by the University of Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexuality that looked into race and the Tea Party. The director of the study said it showed, “The Tea Party is not just about politics and size of government. The data suggests it may also be about race.”

Cain’s xenophobia and racism toward Muslims and Obama is ironic. He is a black man running for president in a movement within a party that has a race problem. At the same time, he asserts his own black masculinity to run against Obama and garner support from that same movement and party.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

See also: Herman Cain Says He’s A Real Black Man, Implies Obama Isn’t

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Herman Cain Says He’s A “Real Black Man,” Implies Obama Isn’t

By , April 4, 2011 6:30 pm

If you don’t know who Herman Cain is, the former head of Godfather’s Pizza who became a GOP hero after embarrassing then-president Clinton in a debate on healthcare, ran for U.S. Senator in Georgia in 2004, and is currently formerly a radio talk show host, might run for Republican presidential nomination.

And compared to Barack Obama, Cain thinks he is a “real black man.”

That’s what Cain said on Wednesday at a Tea Party function in Florida. The mainstream media is scared, according to Cain, that Sarah Palin or Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann would get the Republican nomination for president. Then he said, “[The mainstream media is] doubly scared that a real black man might run against Barack Obama.”

The passage begins about 2:37 in:

This takes Man Up to a different and interesting level. During the 2010 election, Man Up and its variations were used to demean candidates who were accused by their opponents as not having the “cajones” or “man-pants” to be strong and decisive leaders.

Politico reported that, according to Cain’s spokeswoman Ellen Carmichael, he wasn’t “challenging Obama’s racial origin.” She said, ”He was referring to himself in the first person…He was saying that there could be a general election with two black men.” Then why the emphasis on the word “real?” And why bring up race at all? In that one remark, Cain asserted his own black masculinity, while questioning Obama’s.

So, it begs the question: Is Cain a “real black man?” I don’t know, nor would I list qualities for one of any race. But a real man – and by that I mean a mature adult male – wouldn’t brag about how much of a “real man” he is.

See Also:
Man Up And Cry

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Newt Gingrich Blames Affairs On Passion For America

By , March 11, 2011 1:30 pm

Most politicians don’t mention their infidelities and patriotism in the same breath.

Apparently, Newt Gingrich isn’t like most politicians.

The former House Speaker and possible 2012 presidential candidate sat for an interview with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network in which he talked about “God’s forgiveness” relating to “personal issues” in the past. He said:

There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.

Here’s some background on those things “that were not appropriate:” Newt proposed to his second wife, Marianne, in 1980 while his first wife, Jackie, was in the hospital fighting uterine cancer. Newt hadn’t asked Jackie for a divorce before he proposed to Marianne. After Marianne was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999, Newt dumped her for Callista Bisek, with whom he was already having an affair and who became Newt’s third wife in 2000. Ironically, Newt was having the affair with Callista while pushing for President Bill Clinton’s impeachment over lying about sex with Monica Lewinsky.

So those “personal issues” – as the question was posed to Gingrich in the CBN interview – were caused by how hard he worked for America?

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Rep. Chris Lee In A 3-Hour Flash Scandal

By , February 11, 2011 8:23 pm

Guest post for Jazz Guns Apple Pie

Representative Chris Lee (R-N.Y.) resigned from the House of Representatives this week following an email flirtation with a woman he met after responding to an ad in the “Women Seeking Men” section of Craigslist. Sadly for him, the woman also knows how to use Google to look up people’s names, and how to send emails to Gawker.

See the Gawker reporter who broke the story.

And while it’s remarkable what 24 hours can do to damage the life of a politician with high libido, low impulse control and a camera phone, I want to – instead – look at one particular sentence that the Washington Post wrote in their article covering the incident:

“The familiar cycles of a Washington sex scandal were compressed into a blur of tweets and news alerts.”

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