Tag Archives: domestic terrorism

Worst Quote of the Week – February 12, 2022

“There were tens of thousands of people engaged in peaceful free speech that the press and Democrats try to demonize falsely.  Violence is wrong, and those who engage in violence should be prosecuted.  But peaceful free speech is protected by the First Amendment.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, about the January 6, 2021 riot

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Best Quotes of the Week – February 12, 2022

“The extremists have gone off the rails and chosen to endorse violence as ‘legitimate political discourse.’”

U.S. Rep Colin Allred, on a Republican Party resolution that downplays the January 6, 2021 attack on Capitol Hill as “legitimate political discourse”

“Throwing plastic into the sea is criminal. It kills biodiversity; it kills the Earth; it kills everything.”

Pope Francis, during an interview on Italy’s RAI

He added: “Looking after creation is an education (process) in which we must engage.”  He also cited a song by Brazilian singer Roberto Carlos in which a boy asks his father why “the river no longer sings” and the father responds that “we finished it off”.

Francis also reiterated some key themes of his papacy, condemning excessive spending on armaments, defending the rights of migrants, and condemning ideological rigidity by conservatives in the Church.

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Book Less

“I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [‘hard-core pornography’], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio, 1964

You know the old puzzle: if a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around, does it make a sound?  Using that logic, if a book is published, and no one finds its content offensive, is it obscene?

Obscenity seems to be subjective.  Right-wing extremists certainly feel that way, as they have (once again) assumed the role of moral overseer and decided they have the authority to determine what books are and are not appropriate for others to read.  To we writers and other artists, the term censorship is like holy water to a devil worshiper: it’s terrifying!  Whenever we learn that some people are challenging the presence of certain materials in a public venue, such as a library, we bristle.  But, instead of running and hiding, we’ve been known to stand and fight.

In the latest battle, the school board in McMinn County, Tennessee decided to ban the 1986 Art Spiegelman book “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale” from its library.  The illustrated tome is Spiegelman’s recounting of his parents’ experiences as prisoners of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp.  It won Spiegelman a Pulitzer Prize and, in 1992, the Museum of Modern Art mounted an exhibition displaying his original panels for the story“Maus” had been party of the school district’s lessons on the Nazi Holocaust.  The McMinn school board’s complaints about “Maus” are the usual gripes: language and nudity (animal nudity in this case).

It’s worth noting McMinn County, Tennessee is near the location of the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial, where the concept of evolution became intensely controversial.  In 1925 the state of Tennessee passed the Butler Act, a bill banning the teaching of evolution in its schools.  Evolution, declared legislators, contradicted the Christian Bible as the single standard of truth in public arenas, such as schools.  The move astonished – and frightened – many across the country.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) responded immediately by vowing to support any educator in the U.S. who dared to teach evolution.  A popular young high school teacher in – of all places, Tennessee – named John Scopes offered to be the defendant, if the state decided to make good on its promise.  They did.  On May 7, 1925, Tennessee authorities arrested Scopes and charged him with violating the Butler Act.

The ensuing legal battle made headlines across the country and the world.  The judge in the case showed his deference to the state by opening each session with a prayer and refusing to let Scopes’ defense call any scientific witnesses.  Ultimately Scopes was found guilty and fined $100.  The ACLU hoped the case would make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the Tennessee State Supreme Court reversed the decision on a technicality.  Still, the repercussions were widespread.  The Butler Act was never enforced in Tennessee again, and similar measures in other parts of the U.S. met with failure.  But progressives realized they could never relax in the face of extremist ideology.

So, here we are in the third decade of the 21st century, where the U.S. has come out of two brutal Middle East wars and is now facing an onslaught of urban violence.  We experienced 36 mass shootings in the month of January, resulting in 101 injuries and 42 deaths.  That’s just in the month of January 2022 alone!

But, as usual, social and religious conservatives are more upset with books.  In October of 2021, Texas State Representative Matt Krause asked the Texas Education Agency for information about 850 books in school libraries.  He wanted to know how many copies of these books were in each library.  It didn’t surprise observers that the majority of the books are by women, non-Whites and/or LGBT authors.  The imperial Krause is concerned that taxpayers are funding the presence of these books in school libraries.  Yet, my tax dollars are wasted if those books are removed because he and other like-minded folks find them unacceptable.

Some disputes have become hostile.  Police in Leander, Texas got involved in a controversy over one book, “Lawn Boy” in 2021.  Author Jonathan Evison says he received death threats because of it.  Texas – where any restrictions on guns is considered anathema – isn’t the only state under siege by moral zealots.  Similar attempts at censorship and assaults on free speech have played out in Missouri, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

“If I had a statement, it would be ‘Read the book or sit down,’” says Evison. “I feel like these people are frightened because they’re losing the culture wars.”

Yeah!  Sit down and read – more than the Bible or the TV guide.

I will concede parents have the right to be concerned by what their children view and read.  But I feel banning books from a school library is just one step away from banning books in any library or elsewhere.  It’s truly not an unrealistic stretch to envision such a scenario.  The world has witnessed such activities in totalitarian societies, and the results are often sanguineous.

Once again, though, what is obscene?

The 1920s was a decade of both progress and excess, particularly for the growing film industry.  Although silent and in black-and-white, movies had begun to show a variety of mature content – mainly heavy alcohol consumption and sexual behavior.  Concern over the material became so intense that, in 1934, Will H. Hays – then head of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) – introduced his personally developed “Hays Code”, a standard production guide for what is and what is not acceptable content for motion pictures.  The code remained until 1968, when the MPAA introduced its film rating system: G (General Audiences), PG (Parental Guidance recommended), R (Restricted) and X (mainly for sex, but also for violence).

By the 1960s, films were presenting increasingly controversial subject matter – and headaches for the MPAA.  The 1966 film “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” shocked audiences with its blatant use of foul language and served as one catalyst for the rating system.  The 1968 film “Vixen” became the first movie branded with an X rating.  The following year John Schlesinger released “Midnight Cowboy” with Jon Voight in the titular role.  It, too, was branded with an X rating.  Despite that, it went on to win the 1969 Academy Award for Best Picture – the first and (to date) the only X-rated film to win such an honor.  Viewing both “Vixen” and “Midnight Cowboy” now might make somebody wonder what the fuss was all about.

The film rating system took an odd turn in 1983 when a remake of the classic film “Scarface” came out.  The MPAA initially granted the movie an X rating because of its excessive violence.  Director Brian DePalma reluctantly trimmed some of the footage, and the film was rebranded with an R.  If it had gone out with the X label, “Scarface” would have been the first movie released as such because of violence.

Another X controversy arose six years later with “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover”.  The film’s gratuitous sexual content garnered an X rating from the MPAA.  As with DePalma and “Scarface”, director Peter Greenaway reluctantly agreed to edit out a small portion of the sexual matter – small as in some 5 minutes – and the film was upgraded to R.  The fiasco upset many in the entertainment community – not just in the U.S. but across the globe.  If the difference between an R and an X rating is a paltry 5 minutes, then how valid is a film rating system?

What is obscene?

In the 1950s, the Hays Code was applied to a growing new medium: television.  In motion pictures, the code, for example, dictated that people of the opposite sex could not be filmed in bed together, unless one of the duo (usually the man) had at least one foot on the floor.  In TV, however, even married couples couldn’t be shown in the same bed.  The rule went into effect after a 1947 episode of “Mary Kay and Johnny” showed the title characters hopping into the same bed.  But that taboo dissolved completely in 1969 with “The Brady Bunch”.  Bathrooms also were generally off-limits in television.  One exceptional first was a 1957 episode of “Leave It to Beaver”, when the boys tried to hide a pet alligator in the tank of a toilet.  An early episode of “All in the Family” produced another first: the sound of a toilet being flushed.

As mundane as all of these events are today, they each sparked a ruckus at the time.

Personally, I find excessive violence offensive.  I never laughed when I saw men and boys get struck in the groin in slap-stick comedy scenes in films and on television.  I grimace at bloody acts in similar venues, while others react as if nothing more than a sharp wind blew past them.  Conversely, many of these same individuals are horrified by the sight of blatant nudity, especially if the nudeness is that of a male.  It’s difficult to imagine now, but even as recently as the late 1960s words like pregnant and diarrhea were forbidden on television.

The word “bitch” is used frequently on TV today.  But, in 1983, a musical group called Laid Back released a song entitled “White Horse”, which features the line: ‘If you wanna be rich, you got to be a bitch.’  MTV played the video, but bleeped out the term “bitch”.  In 1994, Tom Petty released “You Don’t Know How It Feels”, which contains the line: ‘But let me get to the point, let’s roll another joint.’  Music video networks deemed the ‘roll another joint’ verbiage unacceptable and bleeped it out whenever they played the video.

In 1989, rap group 2 Live Crew released two versions of their song “Me So Horny”: what they dubbed the G-rated version and the R-rated version.  Radio stations played the G-rated version frequently, but the R-rated version generated the most strife.  At the start of 1990 a federal judge in the state of Florida considered the group and their music obscene and in violation of community standards – whatever that’s supposed to mean – and forbid local radio stations from playing any of their music.  Consequently, 2 Live Crew’s reputation and music sales skyrocketed.

I remember the controversy that erupted with the video to Madonna’s 1990 song “Justify My Love”.  Once again, music video networks assumed the role of moral protectorate and either refused to play the video or played it late at night, when children and other fragile souls – such as moral crusaders – were asleep.  Undeterred by the skirmish, Madonna packaged the video and sold it independently.

In 1965, The Rolling Stones made their debut appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show”, during which they performed a sanitized version of “Let’s Spend the Night Together”.  Producers convinced the group to sing ‘Let’s spend some time together’ instead.  Lead singer Mick Jagger leered at the camera – in the way only Mick Jagger can – when he spat out the words.

Two years later The Doors were presented with a similar option when they made their appearance on the show and performed their already popular and now seminal hit “Light My Fire”.  Sullivan’s son-in-law, Robert Precht, suggested they alter the line ‘Girl, we couldn’t get much higher’ to ‘Girl, we couldn’t get much better.  The group refused and performed the song as it was.  Their act of defiance resulted in their permanent ban from the show – a move I know upset them to no end.

I’ve noticed social conservatives haven’t raised concerns about inappropriate material in books like “The Anarchist Cookbook” and “The Turner Diaries”.  The latter served as a blueprint for Oklahoma City bomber (domestic terrorist) Timothy McVeigh.  If conservatives really want to ban books with sexual references and violence, they should start with the Christian Bible, which is rife with salacious and unsavory behavior.

Meanwhile, “Maus” has experienced a surge in sales as a result of the squabble surrounding it.  If there’s one way to ensure something’s popularity or success, it’s to try to ban it.  In other words, censorship always backfires.

Yet, censorship will always remain a threat to freedom of speech, expression and the press.  The war will never be won – by either side.  But those of us on the side of true freedom can win individual battles by standing up to self-righteous demagogues.

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Tweet of the Week – February 5, 2022

Adam Kinzinger

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No Traitors Allowed!

On Friday, February 4, the Republican National Committee voted overwhelmingly to censure two of its own: Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois for their participation in a Democrat-led panel investigating the January 6, 2021 Capitol Hill insurrection.  The RNC declared – as it has always maintained – that the individuals participating in the riot were “ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”  Immediately after various news outfits began reporting news of the resolution, the RNC tried to clarify itself by stating they weren’t referring to the deadly attack on the Capitol.

Gosh, what else is there to talk about with that day’s events?

It’s become obvious the 21st century Republican Party won’t tolerate any kind of conscientious objectors – even if they are 100% right in their actions.  The RNC has continually repeated the fake narrative that the January 6 insurrectionists were merely Capitol Hill “tourists” – who just happened to arrive bearing various assault weapons and stormed into the building like zombies invading a meat-packing plant.

I still believe a large percentage of Americans just don’t realize that the events of that day meet the true definition of a terrorist attack.  If the mob had contained anyone other than a bunch of angry, self-righteous White people, right-wing extremists would be quick to denounce it as a true domestic terrorist attack and begin demanding criminal prosecution of everyone involved.  But since that gang was supporting their man, Donald Trump – the biggest dumbass ever to occupy the White House – they’re getting their priorities confused…again.

I also wonder if most Americans truly recognize the January 6, 2021 insurrection as the clear threat to democracy it really was.  Watching that day’s events unfold, I kept thinking, ‘Is this the United States?  Is this really happening here?’

We’re accustomed to witnessing that kind of brutality and violence in foreign countries.  That shit happens in Pakistan or Peru – not in the U.S.!  But it did happen in the U.S.  It happened here – in a nation that has claimed for some 200 years it is the beacon of democracy on planet Earth.  In a country that has the oldest national constitution of any developed sovereign state.

I find it equally appalling – but not surprising – that the RNC has censured Cheney and Kinzinger for their efforts to learn the truth about the January 6 riot and prosecute those who participated in it.  Cheney, daughter of former Vice-President Dick Cheney, and Kinzinger, a military veteran, each represent the truest of public servants – individuals committed to the values of integrity and moral decency.  They understand the actual severity of the January 6 mutiny; that the participants weren’t “tourists” trying to comprehend the machinations of the American political system.  They were rioters – terrorists.  And for their probity, they are being reprimanded by their leaders and constituents.

That says quite a bit about a political party.  It says a lot about that particular squadron of stewardship.  But it would say even more about a society that seems to ignore the calamity of January 6, 2021 and treat ensuing investigations as mundane political business.

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Best Quotes of the Week – January 29, 2022

“If we can do a better job to remember that we’re all created in God’s image, ‘b’tzelem Elohim.’ If we could all do more to tone down the rhetoric in politics and on talk shows and remember that we can debate ideas.  We don’t have to agree.  We also don’t have to attack one another personally to get our point across.”

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who was taken hostage at gunpoint for 11 hours along with three other congregants at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas on January 15

The phrase ‘b’tzelem elohim,’ means “in the image of God”.

“We depend upon one another whether we know it or not and we are made better when more of us are seen and heard and helped. So many tiny-tribe people have been fooled into believing that someone else’s gain is their loss; that this existence is competitive when it is actually supposed to collaborative, that we take care of our own. That is a sad way to spend the brief time here that we have. I want something better.”

John Pavlovitz, in “Yes, This Is All About Tribalism”

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Tweet of the Week – January 15, 2022

Rep. Brendan Boyle condemning Sen. Ted Cruz for apologizing to Tucker Carlson recently about calling the January 6 rioters “terrorists”.

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Video of the Week – January 8, 2022

This is Sen. Ted Cruz giving something of a mea culpa to talk show screed Tucker Carlson over the senator’s frequent description of the January 6, 2021 Capitol Hill insurrection as a terrorist attack.  It’s obvious Cruz is terrified of faux journalist Carlson who always gives the same expression a puppy does when it tries to understand what you’re saying.  Of course, puppies are way cuter – and often far more intelligent – than Carlson on his best day.

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Worst Quotes of the Week – January 8, 2022

“The establishment will never love you, Ted.  You know, you can bend over and bend a knee for them, but they’re just not going to love you.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz, to Sen. Ted Cruz for calling the events of January 6, 2021 a terrorist attack

“Twitter is an enemy to America and can’t handle the truth.  That’s fine, I’ll show America we don’t need them and it’s time to defeat our enemies.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, reacting to Twitter suspending her account for repeated violations of their COVID-19 misinformation policy

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Best Quotes of the Week – January 8, 2022

“More of you voted in that election than have ever voted in all of American history. Over 150 million Americans went to the polls and voted that day. In a pandemic. Some at great risk to their lives. They should be applauded, not attacked.”

President Joe Biden, during a speech on the first anniversary of the January 6, 2021 terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol

“To think that the violent protesters who attacked the Capitol, our seat of democracy, on January 6 was just tourists looking at statues – it’s insane that anyone could watch that on television and believe that’s what happened.”

Gov. Larry Hogan, (MD), about right-wing views of the January 6, 2021 attack

“But we have to – we have to acknowledge the reality of what happened that day. And what’s challenging for us is that we are both victims and witnesses to the crime on our country.”

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH), on last year’s U.S. Capitol attack

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