Beware the Nitwit

What better way to celebrate the Christmas season than to assail an idiotic thing that soon-to-be Trump ’16 NYS chair Carl Paladino sent around to his flock, and a ridiculous letter to the editor of the Buffalo News?

Carl and Marx

I tried to hunt down the opening quote, but the only place it shows up is on conservative blogs and sites re-printing this very post.

That quote I underlined in red for Marx: there’s no evidence that Marx ever wrote or said any such thing. At best, it appears to be a juvenile paraphrasing of Ronald Reagan’s, “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction”. Karl Marx said a lot of things, but not too many on the subject of “freedom”. Indeed, when he did touch on “freedom”, it was within the context of class struggle and the relative freedoms of the proletariat vs. the bourgeoisie. If one looks back to the crises of capitalism that bookeneded the 1920s and, which exists in our post-2008 crash world today, we see that Marx warned of growing concentration of wealth at the very top of the social classes, and that this would lead to proletarian anger and revolt. To a certain degree, that explains the appeal of Trump and Sanders in a country that doesn’t go in for coups d’etat.

So, Carl Paladino kicks off his regurgitation of an email forward with a quote that Marx never said or wrote, but why bother checking?

The story goes on to explain how you can attract wild pigs by throwing free food at them, and then gradually pen them in while they’re busy feeding. This is a handy way to set up your anti-Obama analogy, and also to denigrate the poor and blame them for their own misery by likening them to wild animals. The email ends,

The young man then told the professor that is exactly what he sees happening in America. The government keeps pushing us toward Communism/Socialism and keeps spreading the free corn out in the form of programs such as supplemental income, tax credit for unearned income, tax exemptions, tobacco subsidies, dairy subsidies, payments not to plant crops (CRP), welfare entitlements, medicine, drugs, etc., while we continually lose our freedoms, just a little at a time.

One should always remember two truths:

There is no such thing as a free lunch, and you can never hire someone to provide a service for you cheaper than you can do it yourself.

If you see that all of this wonderful government “help” is a problem confronting the future of democracy in America, you might want to share this with your friends.

If you think the free ride is essential to your way of life, then you will probably not share this.

BUT, God help us all when the gate slams shut!

Quote for today: “The problems we face today are there because the people who work for a living are now outnumbered.”

So, let’s say you’re dying and in hospice, and it’s covered by Medicare. That’s you being a wild pig losing your freedom.

Perhaps you’re a cancer patient on a subsidized health insurance plan under Obamacare. You receiving chemotherapy covered by your health insurance, as opposed to million-dollar bills and medical bankruptcy: that’s you getting penned in with your free lunch.

If you’re a poor black kid who has the misfortune of being a student in the shoddily run school system over which Mr. Paladino presides, your education, your subsidized lunch, your Medicaid – that’s you losing your freedom. Freedom, I assume, to be uneducated and hungry.

If you’ve engaged in “estate planning” to sell off your elderly parent’s belongings to qualify her for Medicaid, in order that the state will cover a $50,000/month nursing home bill – you’re just a wild hog, too.

Did you notice the line about “tax exemptions”? I guess that makes Carl a wild pig, too, for every project he builds that gets an IDA grant, or pays a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT)  instead of straight-up property and school taxes.

Paladino, however, modified that “quote for today” at the end in order to mimic a common right-wing radio trope:

You can pick at that all day – from the clumsy use of pronouns to the idea that some people vote in order to maintain their free ride through life. In a way, that might explain Mr. Paladino’s own political theater. This is a guy who wages childish verbal wars with alleged “RINOs”, but he’s all too happy to donate money to Democrats when there’s a freebie or benefit in it for him.

The KISS Dentist on Transgenders

Cheektowaga’s Eric Schroeder is better-known as the “KISS” Dentist on Harlem Road. He has strong opinions about what a school board a few towns away is up to:

The parents of the Hamburg School District should be outraged. For the School Board to take one minute to determine a “transgender” policy shows the lack of consideration to the rest of the students, parents and staff.

No, they shouldn’t be outraged at all. As a matter of fact, the parents in Hamburg should be relieved that their school board has the reading comprehension and critical thinking skills to see that the state Education Department’s gender identity policy protects not only the transgender and gender non-conforming students, but all students. You can read more about it at this post.

Children today are already horribly oversexualized, and allowing mixed sexes in bathrooms and locker rooms is just plain wrong. In any grade, there is no reason to let girls into boys locker rooms or boys into girls locker rooms. If this were done in any other public institutions, it wouldn’t stand. How does this stand in our public schools?

This gets back to one of the points I made in my earlier post: the people equating transgender and gender non-conforming kids to simple cross-dressers have it all wrong. Kids don’t just get to decide one day that they’re going to use a different bathroom or locker room. Hell, for all Dr. Schroeder knows, there might be a transgender male using the locker room at his gym as we speak.

Whether kids today are any more or less “horribly oversexualized” than any prior generation is, I suppose, up for debate. But if you equate bathrooms or locker rooms with sex, maybe you’re the one who needs to get right in the head.

This kind of sexual exposure is in line with endangering the welfare of a child and violates parents’ rights and responsibilities to their children. If I were a parent in Hamburg or any other district that put forth such nonsense, there would be the start of a class action lawsuit for endangering the welfare of my child.

“Endangering the welfare of a child” is a crime, not grounds for a civil action, much less a class action. If our dentist friend had bothered to read the text of the policy as it relates to locker rooms, he’d have found this: “[t]he district will allow a transgender or GNC (gender non-conforming) student to use the restroom and locker room that corresponds to the student’s consistently expressed gender identity at school. Any student requesting increased privacy or other accommodations when using bathrooms or locker rooms will be provided with a safe and adequate alternative, but they will not be required to use that alternative.” Did you see that text I highlighted there? ANY student. So, if a Hamburg student or parent has a problem with this, they can request an alternative.

Catering to one or a small group of people is bad enough. Now School Board members are listening to young children, full of confusion and raging hormones, rather than their own reason and the parents who pay school taxes.

You know, the fact that you pay school taxes doesn’t give you some license to override or decide every policy you don’t like. In this case, the Cheektowaga dentist does not pay Hamburg school taxes, as far as I can tell. Also, this isn’t up to the school board to implement; the board makes the policy, the administration carries it out. It’s up to the principals and teachers to figure out how best to implement the policy and make whatever accommodations are necessary in order to guarantee the comfort of “any student”. What the dentist would like to say, but doesn’t have the stones to, is that he thinks transgender is all bullshit. I don’t really understand why more people don’t just come right out and say that, rather than dancing around a lot of weasel-words worse than any lawyer could muster. After all, these are the same characters who think political correctness is leading to the destruction of western civilization.

I’d like so see my tax dollars go to educating the kids of today about our rich and exceptional history, the great things we have sacrificed and done for other countries and the world. Shifting the thought process to something as ridiculous as “transgenderism” in such young children is a disservice to all and needs to come to an end.

This guy made it through dental school? This is a policy to deal with an issue that already exists. It has nothing to do with the school curriculum; a curriculum that is replete with courses and credits dedicated to American exceptionalism.

In doing annual battle against anti-school crusaders in my own town, I see these sorts of semi-informed arguments all the time.  I see the elevation of tax payment to a level surpassing that of student, teacher, parent, or average citizen. I see the appeals based on misinformation. I see the vacant wishes that the school curricula would teach something already being taught whilst anti-tax sentiment cuts things like music and extracurricular activities.

No other government is required to submit its budget to annual scrutiny and plebiscite like this. Only schools. And here, where schools are being asked to carry out the law and ensure fair and equitable treatment for all students while balancing that against the needs and rights of a microscopically small minority, complete strangers take to the pages of the Buffalo News and excrete words that promote division, hatred, and discrimination.

It’s the Christmas season – the holiday season, really, if you think that Jews, Muslims, and people who celebrate Kwanzaa count. I would hope that cour community could do a better job of celebrating peace on Earth and goodwill to all people than by transmitting nonsense such as that reproduced above.

The Safest Space is the First Amendment

This simply amazing video is making the rounds. You need to see it.

That video depicts students and faculty at the University of Missouri harassing and assaulting two journalists, including undergraduate MU photojournalism major Tim Tai, who was freelancing for ESPN. These protesters affirmatively prevented two photographers from doing their jobs. More ominously, towards the end of the video, Assistant Professor of Mass Media Melissa Click called for “muscle” to help physically assault and remove the videographer – MU junior Mark Schierbecker – from the area.

So, we had a faculty member – an employee of a public, government institution – calling out for people to help her assault a student in a public space at a public university for the vicious crime of documenting a news event. Adding to the irony, Click chairs the Student Publications Committee on campus. The blonde woman with the North Face yelling at Tai to, “back off” is Janna Basler, UM’s director of Greek life and leadership.

Click has since apologized and resigned one of her appointments. (Text here). As usual, internet cretins have called in loads of death threats and worse. The chairman of the communications department on campus wrote,

Faculty (and students) have a right to express their views, but they do NOT have the right to intimidate others. This has been an awful time for the university, but that in no way condones intimidation.

The underlying purpose of the protests themselves is laudable – to confront and end systemic racism at the university. The protest organizers, “Concerned Student 1950“, invoke the year that black students were first allowed to attend that school. They use the tactics of the 1950s and 1960s to battle against racist incidents that took place at the school for which its administration had no reaction whatsoever. It wasn’t until the football team threatened to boycott and forfeit a game to spur some sort of positive action from the administration.

But it was charges of persistent racism, particularly complaints of racial epithets hurled at the student body president, who is black, that sparked the strongest reactions, along with complaints that the administration did not take the problem seriously enough.

The video above was shot in the wake of the University president’s resignation. The protesters randomly – and virtually – cordoned off an area of the quad where they were encamped and physically blocked reporters from doing their jobs. If you hold a public protest on a public space at a public university, you don’t have the right to assault a reporter, to touch him in any way, to censor the reporting, or to otherwise use force to remove him from the premises.

In response to the imbroglio, Tai wrote,

As a photojournalist, my job is often intrusive and uncomfortable. I don’t take joy in that. …You take the scene as it presents itself, and you try to make impactful images that tell the story. … And sometimes you have to put down the camera. But national breaking news on a public lawn is not one of those times.

If you show up to a protest in a public place, you don’t get to withhold consent to be photographed or otherwise documented by reporters.

I don’t know why another student with a camera reporting for the NY Times or ESPN renders your “space” “unsafe”, but what those people did to those reporters has absolutely nothing to do with “political correctness”. The 1st Amendment trumps your desire to be left alone if you do it outside in public.

What you see in that video has to do with fascism – pure and simple. Those students and faculty were no different from blackshirts or militia intimidating and assaulting reporters in pre-1975 Spain, Pinochet’s Chile, or pre-war Italy. Harrassment and violence against members of the press, and aggressive hostility against press freedoms is a hallmark of anti-democratic totalitarianism.

The students – they get the benefit of the doubt. It’s neither novel nor surprising that students would be somewhat ignorant of the 1st Amendment and how it works. But the adult members of faculty and administration – their behavior is shocking and inexcusable.

Basler and Click tried to regulate First Amendment activity in a public forum (i.e., the media’s peaceable assembly and newsgathering).* That potentially exposes them and the University of Missouri to liability under 42 USC § 1983, a federal law that allows individuals to sue public agents and entities for deprivations of civil or constitutional rights. Because of the physical contact shown on the video, it’s even possible that they could be liable for assault in the third degree under Missouri law.

Ultimately, that behavior undermines whatever point the protesters are trying to make. The 1st Amendment not only protects the protesters’ right to demonstrate, speak, and assembly, but it also protects the rights of reporters to photograph, video, and report.

Trumpadino: Reactionary Juvenile Entitlement

trumpbaby

The Buffalo News’ editorial board and Carl Paladino talk about “reform” in Buffalo city schools. It’s important to understand how they define that term, which I’ve put in scarequotes. Their brand of “reform” isn’t about solving the generations-old socio-economic catastrophe among the poorest and least powerful in Buffalo’s inner city. It’s about crushing the teachers’ union and privatization of public education in Buffalo.

Expansion of charter schools (not to mention the introduction of vouchers) would represent an historic divestment from public education in favor of private and quasi-private, selective schools which would result in a new form of segregation. Not necessarily based on race, it would, however, segregate the kids who value (or whose parents value) education from those who don’t. It would also be a handy way to warehouse all the kids with special needs into some sort of rump public institution. The Buffalo school board has been dysfunctional for years, and the district itself is in shambles. It’s not about money, it’s about poverty, race, and class.

Park District voters unsurprisingly elected Carl Paladino to the Buffalo Board of Education in May 2013. Paladino’s candidacy and “reform” platform were all but explicitly endorsed by the pro-privatization Buffalo News editorial board.

The News praised Paladino for raising the profile of the 2013 school board election. Its editorial board didn’t endorse Paladino nor his opponent.

His quote in The News on his reasons for considering a run, “I think it’s time for change …,” is on the mark. But his followup, “I’m going to destroy them,” referring to the board members, “All nine of them,” is, well, 100 percent Paladino.

Having said that, Paladino doesn’t owe anybody anything, and that kind of independence is needed on the School Board.

On election day, the News exhorted its readers to vote, and to “bring a friend”.

Carl is the Buffalo elite’s Frankenstein monster. They unleashed him on the school district. Now, let them gaze upon their creation.

Paladino led the fight to fire former Superintendent Pamela Brown, who was replaced by interim Superintendent Don Ogilvie. Although Paladino practically hand-picked Ogilvie to replace Brown, when Ogilvie wouldn’t blindly do Carl’s bidding, Paladino led a fight to remove him, too. Paladino insisted on the retention of someone local to be Superintendent. Someone who could hit the ground running. Someone who, also, would know Paladino’s reputation and perhaps be more prone to follow orders. Even the Buffalo News’ editors thought that was stupid. Administrators, after all, have been leaving in droves.

It’s not unfair to recall that Pamela Brown was given about a year to try and turn around the massive school bureaucracy. Whether you liked her or not, she was never given a chance.

The Buffalo News’ editorial board has grown somewhat impatient with its creation, as set forth in yet another gently critical op/ed piece written in direct response to this email that Paladino sent around:

It doesn’t need to be pointed out that Paladino’s thoughts and language here are unbecoming an elected schools official. Paladino whines and complains about anyone who disagrees with him on anything – substantive or procedural. His hand-picked board President, James Sampson, is now “treacherous” and a “liberal equivocator”, whom Paladino accuses of being too stupid to tie his own shoes. Paladino’s colleagues on the board are, “incompetent idiots”. Schools Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, who has worked in education as a teacher and an administrator longer than Paladino has been an attorney is a “rookie”. Cash was “rammed up [the school board’s] asses” and if Cash doesn’t follow Paladino’s commands and instead “mess[es] with” him, Cash will be “fitted for his career ending casket.”

The time for someone to publicly stand up and simply say, “fuck you” to Carl Paladino is nigh.

Just like the Buffalo News wouldn’t explicitly support Paladino for school board, Paladino never gave anyone a straight answer about whether he would support or oppose the appointment of new schools Superintendent Kriner Cash. One day, he’s praising Cash, the next he’s shopping for Cash’s casket (an appallingly disgusting and objectively offensive threat of violence).

But, on the day that the school board voted to appoint Cash as Superintendent, Paladino was absent; he was “out of the country”. WBFO reported that he was vacationing in Paris. Paris, France.

Put another way, while the Buffalo Board of Education was voting to hire the new Superintendent of its struggling school district – arguably the most important vote of Paladino’s tenure so far – its most vocal and combative member was recreating in gay Paree. Through his absence, Paladino was able to avoid actually taking a position one way or another on the appointment. Talk about a coward’s way out.

(And don’t complain that the trip may have been planned for a long time. So what? This is your job. People ` to do this. You’re a public official and you abdicated your duties when it really counted).

Now? You can’t come back and say Carl voted for Cash if it all ends up being a disaster! By the same token, if Cash is the unlikely savior of the Buffalo public schools, Carl will rush to embrace him, and everyone should remind him that when it really mattered, he was strolling along the Champs-Elysees, browsing the St-Germain, or enjoying the breezy shade of the Tuileries.

The Buffalo News’ editorial board chided Paladino for the content and tone of the email reproduced above. But what did they expect? This juvenile inability to lead, opting instead for a loud string of temper tantrums, has been Paladino’s hallmark for at least the last five years. He believes himself entitled to not only direct the pace, scale, and implementation of “reform” throughout the school district, but to do it without opposition or criticism. When someone stands in his way – even minimally so – Paladino overreacts with insults and threats that would get a schoolkid suspended. The entitlement is palpable. The behavior is inexcusable.

Carl Paladino has time and again proven himself unfit for public service. He is a constant embarrassment to our region. His brand of reactionary toddler-fascism is counterproductive.

But Donald Trump is Carl Paladino writ large. Trump and Paladino are two peas from the same pod. Both New York developers have egos and mouths bigger than the known universe, and the meme now is that they are attractive to a populace that is sick of, among other things, “political correctness”.

At an Iowa press conference, Univision anchor Jorge Ramos asked Trump a question before Trump had called on him. Trump eventually had his security goon forcibly remove Ramos from the room, while the candidate commanded Ramos to “go back to Univision”.  (Trump is suing Univision for pulling out of its deal to broadcast Trump’s “Miss Universe” pageant after Trump basically told all Latinos – and mostly Mexicans – that they’re rapists and criminals who should go back to where they came from).

On WBEN Wednesday morning, a media commentator noted that Ramos was “rude”.  I’ve seen others call what Ramos did, “advocacy journalism”.  OK. Let’s assume that Ramos was (a) rude; and (b) engaging in an act not so much of journalism as political activism. So what? That gives Trump the right to escort Ramos out of the venue?

When the Daily Caller’s Neil Munro interrupted President Obama in the middle of his remarks in the Rose Garden, Obama shut him down,  but didn’t have the secret service remove him by force.

When some forgotten backbencher from South Carolina yelled “you lie” at President Obama in the middle of a September 2009 address to a joint session of Congress, he was not escorted physically from the House chamber.

It bears mentioning that Munro and our South Carolinian backbencher both interrupted President Obama in the middle of remarks about immigration. This is not a coincidence. This is a targeted effort from the right to not only continue to paint Obama as somehow “foreign” and un-American, but also to accuse him of encouraging illegal immigration (the conspiracy goes that all of these undocumented immigrants will somehow magically manage to register to vote, despite not having proper identification, and they will all vote Democrat).

Let’s look at FactCheck.org: Trump says “birthright citizenship” is a huge draw for undocumented immigrants. It isn’t; economic opportunity is. Trump wildly overstates the cost to provide welfare services to undocumented immigrants, as well as the supposed number of crimes they’ve committed. Most visa overstays aren’t coming from Mexico. All of it is based on fear and lies; Die Meksikaner sind unser Unglück.

Trump also renewed his misogynist attacks on Fox host Megyn Kelly, which seems to be a fake, phony, fraud manufactured to bump Fox’s ratings and lead to an inevitable appearance by Trump on Kelly’s show. It’s also unintentionally hilarious because these sorts of assaults on strong, opinionated women comes right out of the right-wing resentment industry’s playbook.

If people like Trump and Paladino are the Republican id brought to life – anti-Obama, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-abortion, anti-regulation, anti-tax, anti-welfare, pro-gun, and anti-“political correctness” – what happened to those alleged conservative principles. These aren’t your grandfather’s Republicans – they’re not Eisenhower people, they’re contemporary Birchers.

“…a reactionary movement, a defense of power and privilege against democratic challenges from below, particularly in the private spheres of the family and the workplace.”

It’s really about who’s boss, and making sure that the man in charge stays boss. Trump is admired for putting women and workers in their place, and it doesn’t matter if he covets his neighbor’s wife or demands trade wars.

 

Insulting the intelligence of your political opponents is akin to forfeiting the argument altogether: you lose. Ordering goons to forcibly remove reporters you don’t like and who aren’t threatening you is fascist cowardice. Trump’s phony war on Megyn Kelly, if it was legitimate, would be the most colossal example of being a sore loser in recent political memory. Like Elsa, let it go.

The politics of tantrum is the culmination of tea party politics – it’s not a traditional ideology, but one based on the emotion of resentment. Their hearts bleed, but only for people who feel put upon by “political correctness” – that radical leftist idea that people should be respectful to one another, and treat others with kindness and dignity.

They have, as it turns out, become a reactionary, emotion-based caricature of what it once meant to be conservative. What was once a mighty intellectual movement led by guys like Goldwater and Buckley is now an angry joke, cloaked in the language of white nationalism led by guys like Trump and Paladino.

People are shouting, “white power” at Trump rallies, and Trump’s campaign reacts by saying they, “want to be proud of being Americans”.

Trump reacts to any criticism by pointing out how well he’s doing in the polls. Bernie Sanders’ rallies boast bigger crowds, and he doesn’t have to stoke the fires of hatred to do it.

You watch this and tell me how this isn’t the equivalent of Mussolini’s blackshirts.

The Democratic GOTV Party

clowns

Did you watch either of the two debates that Fox News held for the little league roster of Republican presidential candidates? I made it through the first hour of the frontrunners’ debate because anything more would have been masochism.

The reports this morning say that Trump dominated, but what I saw was an irrelevant 80s pop culture relic trying to make himself (a) relevant; (b) seem conservative; and (c) seem like less of a flip-flopper. What I saw seemed to me to be an embarrassment. For instance, if Trump was in favor of a single-payer health insurance scheme because, as he put it, it “works great” in Canada and Scotland, why would he deprive Americans of something that “works great”? In what way has Obamacare held back any putative effort to implement a single-payer (or partial single-payer) plan? Trump said he wants to build a wall to keep out the Mexicans, but Marco Rubio asked rhetorically about what happens when El Chapo buids a tunnel under the wall.

What we know is that Rand Paul is a miserable shit and everyone hates him.

Ted Cruz is a Bond villain. He is Blofeld and basically wants to kill all the ISIS with sharks, laser beams. Cruz seems to think that the key to defeating ISIS is to call them names. He’s a big fan of Egypt’s new, authoritarian military dictatorship.

Ben Carson seems like he has a nice bedside manner, should stick to medicine.

John Kasich seems sane, which means he has zero chance. As Josh Marshall put it, “he was the only person who seemed interested in governing. In context, a poor showing.” Ha.

Chris Christie livened it up when he took on Rand Paul, whom everyone hates. Paul is the annoying libertarian troll in the comments section; an unreasonable pest. Christie, unlike Paul, has actual experience as the chief executive of a governmental entity. I have mixed feelings about Christie – sometimes his brash outspokenness is good, when he defends the vast majority of law-abiding Muslim Americans, for instance. But scratch the surface, and he’s just as bad as the rest of them; perhaps worse.

Trump said that the Mexican government is “sending” all of its criminals to the US because they’re so much “smarter” than the US government. If Mexico’s leaders – who preside over a country that is now largely controlled by drug cartels and their corrupt government stooges – are so much “smarter”, wouldn’t Americans be flocking to emigrate south? The whole thing is idiotic.

Don’t forget that economic refugees from Mexico are easily demonized by GOP candidates, but economic refugees from Cuba are sacrosanct, entitled to citizenship by dint of reaching dry land. It’s a double-standard because someone thinks it’s ok to flee Communist dictatorship, but not ok to flee crushing poverty and narcoterrorism.

Huckabee is running to be President of fetuses. One thing I’ve learned over the past few weeks is that the right’s false and misleading ACORN-style assault on Planned Parenthood reveals how much more they value the life of a fetus than that of a living female. Planned Parenthood’s chief mission is women’s health, including cancer screening and treatment. All these men preening about how much they hate the Planned Parenthood and pledging fealty to fetus-Americans are willing to sacrifice the lives of women to cancer and disease. Scott Walker, for his part, would force a woman to give birth even if it kills her. Literally. It’s the “should’ve shut your legs” plan.

It doesn’t end there. When these children are born – in some cases by state force against a mother’s will – these same people will happily dismantle any semblance of a civilized society to help feed, clothe, nurture, and educate those children. They want to abolish Medicaid. They want to abolish SNAP. They want to privatize and abolish the public school system. They want to de-fund and abolish social security and make people rely on the market. They want to abolish Medicare. Forget Obamacare – these dinosaurs quite literally want to roll back every socio-economic gain this country has made in the last century and send us back into the pre-Teddy Roosevelt 1890s.

Fox’s Megyn Kelly called Trump out for some of his misogynist comments over the years. He turned it around into an assault on “political correctness”.  If you think that it’s acceptable to disagree with a female by calling her a “fat pig” or “dog” or “slob” or “disgusting animal” – that’s not being un-PC, that’s being a malignant asshole. Donald Trump obviously has no business being anywhere near elected office and makes for an entertaining sideshow. But like the miniature horse at the fair, there’s no there there.

But the whole spectacle really put on stark display how stupid our politics has become. The election is in November 2016. The Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire primary are in January. The moderators ask a candidate a question, and the candidate gets one minute to regurgitate a memorized set of talking points as quickly as possible. With a few exceptions, it was a canned set of little campaign ads. I think the Hill’s roundup of “winners and losers” is about right – I think Kasich was a breath of fresh air, and I’d put Bush as “mixed” and move Cruz to “loser”. Walker is weak, Carson seems uninformed, Huckabee is a snake oil salesman, and everyone hates Rand.

Paladino Beached

carlsandy

I never thought I’d be praising WBEN’s Sandy Beach for aggressively taking on dumb people and racism, but this Joe Mascia thing seems to have brought out the best in him. Late last week, Beach eviscerated Mascia himself, who called in as part of his fauxpology tour. On Wednesday night, however, Carl “Damn Asians” Paladino expressed his continuing support for the deadbeat Mascia, and Beach took that up as his topic on Thursday. Indeed, I saw a lot of Carl cultists expressing dismay and disbelief over that decision.

The list of people defending Mascia is small and malevolent.

Paladino called in sometime just before lunchtime Thursday and it was a simply jaw-dropping call. It left Paladino hanging up sounding defeated. Here is the audio:

I also live-Tweeted it:

I heard David Bellavia bring up the topic generally, pivoting it into a discussion about a typical WBEN trope – political correctness run amok. It’s the excuse Carl tried to use, and it’s weak.

It’s weak because nine times out of ten, the people whining about being victims of “political correctness” are defending themselves for having behaved like assholes. I posited it this way for Bellavia: there’s a fine line between “political correctness run amok” and common human decency. One example I heard on the afternoon drive was about how Seinfeld can’t perform at colleges because these kids are so PC, and a caller called these people “weak”. No. The difference is that the younger generation doesn’t want to be treated like shit by some asshole.

That right there is, to me, the central theme of the anti-PC whinging – it’s people defending their right to be complete assholes to other people. We see it, for instance, in Lancaster with the “Redskins” controversy. Calling your team a racist epithet may have been just swell, or the bee’s knees 70 years ago, but we’ve evolved as a society to the point where it’s not ok to denigrate American Indians, or to treat them as less than people. We’ve grown to the point (or, at least, we’re trying) where we acknowledge their basic humanity. The people whining about how the effort to change the name to the “Legends” is PC run amok are merely fighting for their ability to continue to be assholes about Native American people.

Coming back to l’affaire Mascia, Carl Paladino whining like a baby to Sandy Beach about “political correct liberals” is shorthand for his true intent, which is to defend and excuse Joe Mascia’s asshole behavior.

Is it PC to complain or condemn someone calling an Italian a “wop”, a Jewish person a “kike”, a Black person a “nigger”? Well, I suppose it is, within the dictionary definition – the use of those epithets is improper, inappropriate, and disqualifies anyone from running for public office. If you willingly use words that dehumanize an entire group of people, you are not fit to serve anyone. But is it unreasonable political correctness? Absolutely not – again, condemnation of someone using racial epithets, or someone who deliberately picks on an entire race of people to make a falsely and inaccurately lie about how they are subsidized by taxpayers or steal college slots from American kids, that’s you being an asshole, and people are right to condemn you for being an asshole. If your defense is, “you’re PC!” rather than, “sorry I lied and picked on an entire race of people who look different than I”, then you’re just an old joke of a fossil.

Carl Paladino and Joe Mascia may have grown up in old Italian families, but just because your forefathers might have called black people “tizzun” or “nigger” doesn’t give you some special license to continue the practice. That, after all, was Paladino’s best defense. It was laughable, and frankly raises the question of whether he uses that word himself, coming from a similar background. The outrageous logic – Paladino said what Mascia did was ok because he was only calling individual black people “nigger”, not the whole race. It was likely the stupidest thing I heard in a week of unrelenting stupidity.

Mascia and Paladino: BFFs

Courtesy of Tommunist.com

Courtesy of Tommunist.com

On Twitter, someone commented that Mascia must have, “missed the thing about integrity is what you do in private.”

Generally speaking, you can get away with saying you’re not racist so long as you’re not, I dunno, caught on tape calling black political leaders “fucking nigger” multiple times, “camel jockey” once, and “tizzun” once. Rod Watson’s column in the Buffalo News, however, posits a very important question about racism and the perception of racism.

On the one hand, Mascia has spent time fighting for BMHA tenants of all races, but is caught on tape blurting out horrible racist things. On the other hand you have Carl Paladino, who has forwarded emails just as racist and disgusting, and who has used subtle codes to express his feelings about people not like he, but

One’s racial slur draws immediate condemnation and calls for his political exile, from both black and white members of the political establishment, as well as other members of his own board. The other’s racist rants and forwarding of emails depicting the black president and first lady in despicable terms drew silence from those same elected officials.

Watson concludes that it’s easy to condemn Mascia because he’s a nobody; a little-known, essentially powerless gadfly. Yet few people stand up to Paladino,

…a wealthy developer and political power broker whose money and influence seem to have neutered the principles that other leaders apply so easily against Mascia.

This is true. Mascia has no business, at this point, being anywhere near elected public office because he has disqualified himself from it. His casual, repeated use of hateful racial slurs are, frankly, inexcusable. In all of his public pronouncements, he’s expressed remorse over those words, but he’s much more upset over having been caught.

I have no idea, thankfully, how Carl Paladino privately refers to people who don’t look, act, or think like he, but he’s at least never been caught using race-hate on tape. A few weeks ago, he told reporters with mics and cameras about how those “damn Asians” were coming to take slots at UB away from real American kids. When challenged, Paladino made a fauxpology, as the Buffalo News reported,

Paladino said he does not take issue with the fact that foreign students attend UB, but thinks their education should not be subsidized by taxpayers. He said he selected Asians as an example of out-of-state students because it is easy to assume they are not from the area, an assumption for which he apologized.

UB made it clear that Paladino’s feeble “point” about foreign students being subsidized is false and inaccurate; they pay their full ride, and they pay it in cash. They can’t claim New York domicile by attending school because they’re here on student visas that automatically disqualify them from doing so. But the real racism here is the notion that Paladino reckons that Asians probably “are not from the area”, which is just fundamentally inaccurate (New York is a big state, by the way, and it’s got Asians in it), and picking on a racial group because of their non-Caucasian appearance – there’s a word for that and the word is “racist”.

Yet while Mascia is pilloried in the media and community for calling the Mayor a horrible racist epithet, Paladino skates. Where’s Sandy Beach to viciously cross-examine Carl Paladino about not only his anti-Asian animus, but the falsity of his underlying charge about “subsidizing” foreign students?

Hulk Hogan gets caught on tape using the word, “nigger”, and he apologizes and the WWE scrubs all evidence of his very existence. Joe Mascia gets caught on tape using the word, “nigger”, and he’s running for public office, and now being defended by…

Carl Paladino.

You cannot make this stuff up.

Oh, yeah. Carl’s not a racist – he’ll laughably threaten to sue you for defamation if you think that of him and express itHe just supports the racist guy. Carl’s not a racist, he just thinks it’s cool to say that Dr. Pamela Brown and Dr. James Williams were hired simply because they were black. Carl’s not a racist, he just sends around emails showing the President and First Lady dressed as a pimp and ‘ho in full blaxploitation garb. Carl’s not a racist, he just sends his buddies emails with links to videos of African tribesmen dancing, calling it the rehearsal for the Obama inauguration. Carl’s not a racist, he just selects people who look different from him, calls them “damn Asians” and accuses them of stealing opportunities and tax dollars from real Americans.

Wednesday afternoon, Mascia defiantly refused to leave the race for the Fillmore District. Forget the racism for a second – this guy still owes about $10,000 to people for his past runs for County Legislature and Assembly. Every penny he takes in for his city race should go to pay off his creditors. He’s unelectable because he can’t handle money, and he’s a racist dummy. Here is his statement (obviously [sic])

Mascia is now in full victim mode, and oblivious when it comes to crisis management. You don’t double down and become Mr. Self-Righteous. You bow out and re-examine what you’ve become. This behavior is, alas, some sort of oddball narcissism. At this point, you have to assume that Mascia is digging the attention.

But in the end, here is the real insanity with respect to all of this: Paladino’s support and defense of the guy who called black political leaders “fucking niggers”:

Carl P. Paladino, the 2010 Republican candidate for governor and member of the Buffalo School Board, said Wednesday that Mascia represents the only “balance against corruption in the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority.” He added that tapes of Mascia’s recent “N-word” characterization of several African-American politicians result from a “purposeful attack on him.”

See? Carl agrees – Mascia is the real victim because that audiotape viciously recorded Mascia’s words, verbatim. Carl, too, has been a victim of that insidious practice when the media recorded his thoughts about students foreign and Asian.

“They’re going after a guy who keeps going out on a limb about corruption,” he said. “He should be respected, and I don’t see anybody buying into this racist stuff.”

Carl Paladino, the Italian-American multi-millionaire developer and forwarder of racist emails isn’t offended, so it’s no big deal – not a fundamental character flaw, just a conspiracy to smear the guy who called Mayor Byron Brown a “tizzun”!

Paladino – Mascia’s major financial supporter in past elections and again this year in the Fillmore District campaign – called him an “honest guy.”

“He is sorry,” Paladino continued, claiming Mascia was tricked into using racial slurs in the tape.

“Now all the politically correct people want to get up and say ‘Oh my God’ about this,” Paladino said.

Wait – why is Mascia sorry if this is all just political correctness run amok? Mascia isn’t honest – he lied, at first, when confronted about using “nigger” before the tape came out. Mascia may say he’s sorry, but his media blitz reveals that he’s much sorrier about having been caught. The news flash for Paladino is that it’s not just the “politically correct” who find fault with calling the Rev. Darius Pridgen a “fucking nigger” who, with his “nigger” cohorts just wants all the power. Mascia’s words were reprehensible and ugly – Paladino’s apologia is, amazing as it seems, even more so.

But while Paladino is being ignorant and tone-deaf, Conservative fusion Party head Ralph Lorigo sees the real deal:

“He has told me it’s a conspiracy and that it will all come out,” said Chairman Ralph C. Lorigo. “Unfortunately, no other person put those words in his mouth.”

Exactly. No one’s interested in excuses – the tape speaks for itself. Paladino probably feels a need to defend Mascia because he’s heavily invested in that person. As the News reports, Paladino has contributed over $20,000 in money and things to Mascia’s various efforts to get elected to something.

Paladino said Wednesday he realizes he has been criticized for racial views, pointing to controversial emails that figured in his unsuccessful campaign for governor. His recent remarks in Olean about “damn Asians” and other “foreigners” attending the University at Buffalo on discounted tuition also provoked criticism.

“I have never made racial remarks,” Paladino said, adding his recent comments pointed only to observations that out-of-state students – whether foreign born or not – are taking advantage of New York’s heavily subsidized university system at the cost of taxpayers.

“They were legitimate statements and did not have racist intent,” he said.

Two deluded guys strutting around Buffalo spitting racist crap and getting away with it. We can do better than this, can’t we, Buffalo?

Look at the pattern: Paladino denigrates “damn Asians” because they look different and “aren’t from this area”, and he thinks that’s not racist? He claims no racist intent? That’s sort of the definition of racism. Ignorant. Base. Unbecoming of a public servant. Disgusting. He pretended to apologize, but now continues to defend what he said as a “legitimate point”, but UB explained in detail how it was a completely illegitimate point. So, it was, at best, racially insensitive and factually false. Yet he continues to defend it, and his loopy gang of groupies holds a rally for him.

For his part, Mascia thinks that getting caught repeatedly using racial epithets on tape now qualifies him to be a social justice warrior. No, that’s not how this works. Although he has apologized for what he said, he’s claiming to be the victim now, blaming the guy who taped him for doing so without his knowledge, for waiting to release the tape, and for somehow tricking Mascia into saying what he did. No, that’s not how this works.

Mascia doesn’t deserve public support, but then, neither does Paladino. Mascia’s a deadbeat and Paladino’s an influential millionaire, and the latter is defending the former. Finally,

You know what they say about birds of a feather.

One Lancaster

The controversy over Lancaster High School’s anachronistic, racist “Redskins” mascot was resolved by unanimous vote of that district’s school board. There was some outcry and protestation, and two of the most vocal opponents of the change were elected to the school board last week. The students, for their part, are in the process of selecting a new mascot via plebiscite.

It’s sort of how the world is supposed to work – controversy arises, a decision is made, the decision has consequences, the community moves forward, end of story.

One might say, “that’s the way the cookie crumbles”.

Indeed, someone did, in the Lancaster High School’s yearbook, and that page enabled race-baiting radio station, the voice of threatened white Buffalo WBEN to gain just a few precious extra minutes of a controversy that ended long ago.

A yearbook is generally assembled and written by students, who are overseen by faculty advisors. It’s their project, and is intended to, among other things, memorialize big events that happened during the preceding school year. It’s not a stretch to suggest that the mascot flap was a big deal and deserved some sort of mention in the yearbook. As long as a yearbook entry isn’t palpably obscene, profane, or otherwise objectionable, there would be no reason for something the students picked to be omitted.

The page has offended some of the more delicate residents of Lancaster because its heading is, “that’s the way the cookie crumbles”.  This breach of political correctness has Lancaster residents threatening violence.

One caller to WBEN’s Tom Bauerle called it a joke. “If my kid brought that book home, I’d take it up to (that school) and bash it over the adviser’s head. That’s what every parent should do,” says that caller.

Another caller says whoever wrote the headline wanted to divide the community again.

“The taxpayers and the students are owed an explanation, and should get the name of the person responsible for this,” says Debbie. “I don’t know what’s on the backside of the page, but if it’s something owners of the yearbook can live without, take that page, rip and out and leave it in the superintendent’s office.”

I mean, that seems reasonable. You’re so incensed by the abandonment of a racist team mascot that being reminded of it causes you to threaten violence – and the radio station re-publishes your threat on its website.

If you read the text of the offending yearbook page (seriously – re-read that – adults are whining to a radio station about a yearbook page) it’s promoting the Lancaster Educational and Alumni Fund (LEAF) and its efforts to combat the notion that Lancaster is a town divided over a mascot. Hopefully because of how childish and ridululous the preceding sentence sounds. As to the offending “cookie” crumble, one woman commenting on Facebook noted that,

School board had nothing to do with the “One Lancaster” shirt. It was created by a few well-meaning teachers (actually in favor of keeping the Redskins name) in an attempt to preserve the enthusiastic spirit and camaraderie for which their school had always been known. The “cookie crumbling,” while perhaps a poor choice of wording given the emotions surrounding this issue, was part of an overall yearbook “menu” theme. Not well thought out? Perhaps. “Slap in the face” intentions? Very doubtful. A little digging into the back story may have prevented another round of getting people on both sides riled up.

Tom Bauerle said it was a big “f u” to the “taxpayers” of Lancaster. Not so fast, I guess, since “taxpayers” aren’t the intended audience for a yearbook, and because it was simply a tongue-in-cheek continuation of the publication’s “menu” meme.

The bottom line is this. The people in Lancaster who supported keeping the racist mascot name denounced their opponents for being overly sensitive, politically correct, or worse. Yet they have a full-blown local media hissy fit over the use of the phrase, “that’s how the cookie crumbles”? You can’t have it both ways and denounce what you consider to be others’ hypersensitivity while being hypersensitive yourself. But as one of Lancaster’s new school board members says,

Some nominal adults in Lancaster – and at the local “newsradio” station – have some growing up to do.

Indiana and the Right to Hate

rfra

In 2004, Massachusetts was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. It wasn’t done legislatively, but by the state’s Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled that it was unconstitutional to deny homosexual couples the right to marry.

Back in the mid-90s, the federal government saw the writing on the wall and passed an idiotic and narrow-minded piece of legislation called the “Defense of Marriage Act“, as if “marriage” as an institution needed federal “defense” from the marauding homo hordes, as opposed to, e.g., hetero divorcees. To his eternal demerit, President Clinton signed this dreck into law. In 2013 the Supreme Court declared DOMA unconstitutional, opening up federal benefits to married same-sex couples. That recognition was expanded administratively to ensure that same-sex married couples were treated like a heterosexual married couple for purposes of federal law.

In the nine years since Massachusetts’ highest court made history, the United States went from one state permitting same-sex marriage to thirty-seven, plus the District of Columbia. That’s a swift adoption curve.

Naturally, there will be resistance to such a rapid and dramatic societal shift. Alabama allowed same-sex marriage for a few weeks, but some of its state officials are taking a “state’s rights” stand and forbidding licenses from being issued. Apparently their stubborn adherence to Jim Crow generations ago didn’t teach them any lessons. Kansas is similarly complicated. There have also been a handful of cases where merchants have refused to serve same-sex couples, ostensibly on religious or political principle.

So it is that Indiana’s governor Mike Pence on Wednesday signed into law something called the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act“. This law doesn’t “restore” religious freedom, so much as it effectively legalizes anti-gay bigotry. Signed in private, surrounded by clergy and social conservative lobbyists, Governor Pence claimed the law didn’t allow anti-gay discrimination. Not unsurprisingly, it is redundantly similar to a federal law President Clinton signed in 1993.

The NCAA, major corporations, and conventions have all expressed concern over how this law might effect their future placement of events and people in Indiana. After all, gay people play sports and spend money, too.

The law will allow businesses to deny public accommodations to gay people and couples, so long as there is some sort of a religious pretext to do so. The argument goes that one should have a right to discriminate against LGBT Americans because homosexuality is against their sincerely held religious beliefs. So, a bakery can refuse to serve a gay couple, a restaurant can eject same-sex dining partners, and lunch counters wouldn’t even need to segregate gay patrons to a separate section – they could simply refuse to serve them.

While Governor Pence rejects the idea that the new law would permit discrimination, when Democratic legislators attempted to add language into the bill to prevent it, Republicans wouldn’t do so. We should pay attention to deeds, not words.

But this whole notion of faith being under attack is utter garbage. According to Pew, (updated in 2012), over 73% of Americans identify as Christians, just under 6% are “other”, like Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, and Hindu, and 20% of Americans are ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ about faith. Your ability and right to worship are as esconced in the Constitution today as they were 200 years ago. Just like an atheist has no right to demand that a Catholic clergyman conduct a same-sex wedding, a Baptist shopkeeper has no right to refuse service to a gay couple. Atheists don’t get to control what goes on in clerical life, so religious people don’t get to control what goes on in secular life or government.

But in the 50s and 60s “religious freedom” was one of the justifications whites used to maintain Jim Crow. Here’s a speech that Bob Jones, Sr, of the eponymous “university”, gave in 1960 doing just that. Here is a compendium of faux-religious justifications to segregate and discriminate. It’s no coincidence that the Ku Klux Klan burns crosses. The use of religion to justify hatred is not novel, and it shouldn’t be tolerated.

What we’re witnessing is a right-wing attempt to co-opt “political correctness”.  Forget the whole imbroglio over the Lancaster Redskins, which established how the new political correctness is to be against political correctness. This is far more dangerous, because laws are being passed to legalize and justify bigotry. For some, it is politically correct to allow Christians to refuse to accommodate a certain type of person because it is somehow against their religion. Query whether they’d agree if, say, a Muslim shopkeeper decided that his beliefs permitted him to exclude Jewish or Christian patrons.

But being asked to bake a cake for a gay couple doesn’t invoke anyone’s religious freedom. You’re not being asked to solemnize or legitimize something you don’t believe in – you’re being asked to mix up some ingredients and bake a cake. You don’t have to like it, but if we could all get away with avoiding things we don’t like, the world would be a bigger pain in the ass than it already is. Adding, “because my religion says so” shouldn’t be some sort of discriminatory wild card.

This is why using the word “tolerance” is so appropriate. “Tolerance” isn’t a synonym of “acceptance”; instead, tolerance is about holding your nose and putting up with something that’s noxious to you. Frankly, it’s a bad term to use for how it’s usually intended – that you shouldn’t be horrible to other people for any reason. The state of “not being horrible” is what we’re really talking about, and same-sex couples do not leave a trail of victims. Their state of being doesn’t insult or injure your place or your beliefs or your own marriage. Contrary to what many outspoken homophobes argued, same-sex marriage throughout the US hasn’t led to the destruction of traditional different-sex marriage, nor has it led to the legalizaton of bigamy, bestiality, or incest. (see Santorum).

So, no, Indiana, you don’t get to legalize discrimination by using “religious freedom” as a flimsy crutch. You don’t get to flip “political correctness” on its head and allow “sincerely held religious belief” to negate legally protected equality in public accommodations.

This, too, will pass.  All 50 states will eventually – and soon – have legal same-sex marriage. Discrimination against, and segregation of, homosexuals will eventually be illegal and socially repugnant, and history will not lightly judge the people misappropriating God’s love to protect their right to hate.

On Ignorance

no-red-skins

The Lancaster school board voted last night to end the use of its team mascot name, effective immediately.

No more Lancaster Dumbpolaks. No more Lancaster Ginzos. No more Lancaster Moneylenders. No more Lancaster Bogtrotters or Krauts or Coloreds. No more Lancaster Redskins.

Lancaster’s school board is to be commended for quickly and unanimously ending a simmering, pointless controversy over something as trivial as a team mascot. It was astonishing to watch news coverage of this event and see myriad older and middle-aged Caucasians donning the mantle of oppressed minority over this mascot issue. If you’re 50+ years old, and your high school’s mascot remains something so critically important to you that you would protest, curse, turn your back, or threaten the lives of the members of the Lancaster school board, then your life is in desperate need of a rethink.

I laid out my argument for changing the mascot name in this piece. There is no way anyone can look at the blatantly racist name “Redskins” and declare it to be what one Twitter user called a “positive racial slur” worth keeping. If any of the slurs I used above made you uncomfortable, “Redskins” should do the same.

It was also another reminder of just how utterly disgusting, ignorant, and racist WBEN has become, as a media entity. This rests squarely on the shoulders of operations manager Tim Wenger, who also runs WBEN’s social media accounts. WBEN is now openly pandering to the worst, most profane, ignorant suburban racism. No fewer than eight (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight) separate Redskins-related posts were made to WBEN’s Facebook page in the 24-hour period of March 16 – 17, and you can imagine the comments on what is, on a normal day, like digital flypaper for WNY’s dumbest bigots.

The unifying meme that so aggrieves WNY’s Suburbanite Caucasus seems to be “political correctness”. But within the context of these sorts of racial controversies, “political correctness” is shorthand for “why can’t I be a hateful bigot anymore?” Although “political correctness” and “PC” are now perceived negatively, within their definition is the radical notion that people should not deliberately be horrible to one another.

The over-reaction to Lancaster’s decision to no longer use a racial slur as a team name has come to this:

Some loudmouth with no ties to Lancaster – who went to High School in Massachusetts and lives on Grand Island – is so incensed at another town’s decision to no longer defame American Indians that he hopes the town votes down the school budget and punishes the students. I mean, why not burn the whole town down, while you’re at it? That would be just as reasonable a reaction as the one Carl Paladino’s driver suggests here. It simply doesn’t get any stupider than this.

A quick scan of the comments that follow the Facebook posts linked-to above contains a fatal overdose of benighted, pretend-offended white people. WBEN was so intent on feeding the racist suburban call-in beast that it pre-empted Hannity to keep f*cking that chicken all night.

I have to try and be optimistic, and hope that the vast majority of Lancaster residents didn’t much care what the school board did with the team name. I have to figure that the silent majority of people who either agreed that the “Redskin” name was offensive, or didn’t much care, won’t do something stupid like throw away their kids’ education over this. I have to assume that the students are going to be smart and creative about coming up with a new team name that will let Lancaster be just as proud as it was as “Redskins”. Because it wasn’t the team name or mascot that generated any past glories, it was the hard work of dedicated students and coaches. Changing the team name is a win:win, because it abandons racial animus and does nothing to erase any pride people should have in whatever their high school triumphs may have been.

I don’t quite understand why ending racist slurs in school settings is considered to be “political correctness” and, thus, a negative thing. Perhaps western New York has a dramatically long way to go with respect to race relations and mutual respect.

The Lancaster school board should be commended for its brave, unanimous decision to cast racism aside. The problem remains that it shouldn’t have to be a “brave” thing to do, and I suspect the death threats have already started coming in.

Perhaps the best comment I saw on WBEN’s Facebook posts was this one, because it was as pointed as it was funny.

Go Racist Team Name!

redskin2

No, really. Go.

Although “political correctness” and “PC” is now hurled as an epithet, within its definition is the radical notion that people should not deliberately be horrible to one another. Sure, Dinesh D’Souza has a right to call the African-American President of the United States a “boy” from the “ghetto“, but you don’t need a sociology degree to realize how that’s offensive on two levels. The President is a “man”, not a “boy”, and “boy” has historically been used to pejoratively refer to African-American adult males. President Obama also isn’t from the ghetto. Not all black people come from the ghetto. Not all behavior you deem beneath you is “ghetto”. People like Dinesh D’Souza make a good living by being horrible to others. He is not politically correct, and that’s a shame because civil society should live up to that adjective.

The Lancaster High School sports program calls itself the “Redskins”. There is a push on now to have the district re-name the team because some American Indians are offended by it. More to the point, however, the team name is objectively racist. After all, we don’t call teams “Whiteskins” or “Blackskins” or “Yellowskins”. The reason why has to do with the blatant and palpable racial overtones. Redskins is no different, no matter what the tradition or intent. Identifying an ethnic group or race based on their physical characteristics – here, a pejorative term for their skin color – is a slur. You’re highlighting how they’re different from you.

Search any dictionary – Merriam Webster, American Heritage, Dictionary.com, Kernerman Webster’s, Collins – they all define “redskin” as offensive, racist, anachronistic slang.

Some Lancaster residents inexplicably reject that.

“It’s a word. It’s a matter of context,” said Everett, president of Performance Advantage. “No one in this community would support the negative element associated with that name. We don’t subscribe to this negative connotation. It means a lot to people – dedication, achievement, commitment to excellence.”

The Lancaster School District has a choice to make here. Unlike the Washington Redskins, an NFL franchise, we’re talking about a school. If you were to go around spewing racial epithets at kids in the hall, you’d be subject to discipline. So, how does that jibe with having a racist team name? If a student referred to an American Indian kid as a “Redskin” or similar, he’d be punished, but we’re meant to believe that it’s ok to use that term if people are doing the important work of throwing balls hither and thither?

I’m not personally offended by the team name “Redskins”, but I see that many American Indians are. That’s enough to me to – again, reverting back to the core definition of “politically correct” – support changing the name so as to not offend our indigenous Americans with a racial epithet.

Proponents of the “Redskins” name say it evokes pride, bravery, tradition, and all of the good stuff with which we associate indigenous Americans. Here’s the logo:

The Lancaster School District’s mission is:

…to provide our students with a comprehensive educational program that will allow them to develop fully the necessary academic and social skills to become responsible and productive members of a democratic society.

Responsible and productive members of a democratic society. Part of being responsible within a democratic society is changing a team name that has a mere 67 year history, and is blatatly racist by every dictionary definition.

It’s so simple for the district’s school board to simply vote away a racist team name. There are literally thousands of alternative team names available to use, none of which are by definition disparaging to any historically oppressed ethnic or racial minority. What’s so hard to comprehend here? By the Lancaster School District’s own code of conduct (doc, emphases added),

Students are expected to behave, and to treat all students, teachers, school staff and others, with honesty, tolerance, respect, courtesy and dignity as per the LCSD Policy #7552 — Bullying in the Schools. Students should respect their peers, teachers, and school staff. Individual behavior should not interfere with the rights of others. Students are expected to use language that is appropriate in demonstrating respect for self and others. Profanity, vulgar language including, but not limited to, racial comments, and/or obscene gestures toward others will not be tolerated. Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.

How are students expected to abide these basic disciplinary expectations if the district itself failes to do so? The example the district is setting is a poor one. Racist comments are not tolerated between students, but it’s ok for the school’s team and mascot to be a “redskin” American Indian?

The upshot of all of this is, in the big picture, how inconsequential a name change would be. Would Lancaster students, teams, and alumni have less pride in their school or alma mater if the team’s name was changed? Does changing the name of the team and school mascot lessen past glory or affect one’s affinity for the school? Of course not. A racist name chosen almost 70 years ago, before the Civil Rights Act and before Congress and the Courts came around to agreeing that our contemporary American society guaranteed to all citizens, regardless of race or color, the same basic civil rights, is due for a change. Especially when you’re talking about an oppressed people expelled from their homes by colonial invaders.

This isn’t the kind of thing you poll for; you don’t leave it up to majority vote. Just because the name is popular doesn’t make it less racial. Just because 50%-plus-one residents might support it doesn’t make it less violative of the district’s own code of conduct. Just because you’re purporting to use a racist term to highlight what you say are that group’s positive traits doesn’t make it less racist. We would never dream of using “Yellowskins” or some other racist term for a team to describe positive Asian attributes, nor would it be appropriate to use Nazi-era caricatures  to establish that Jewish people are good with money. These are examples of “political correctness”, too.

Appropriately enough for a school district, this is a teaching moment. Will Lancaster show its student body that it’s willing to follow the same code of conduct it expects kids to follow? Will Lancaster’s school district opt to be respectful of all races and ethnicities by changing the school’s mascot and team name to any one of a thousand inoffensive alternatives?

It seems to me that this hardly merits a controversy. High Schools should lead by example and name their teams using terms that aren’t overtly racist.

1 2