Saturday, March 24, 2012

Why Bill Maher Is Wrong About Rush Limbaugh


I never thought the day would come when I disagreed with Bill Maher over a free speech issue. I've been a big admirer of Maher for years and I feel he speaks brave truths that can often be heard nowhere else in America.

But I think Maher is wrong to oppose the ongoing efforts to remove Limbaugh's program from the airwaves.

On his Real Time with Bill Maher program on HBO, Maher said he is no fan of Limbaugh, who he called a "stupid fat f*ck." But he decried efforts to silence Limbaugh.

"I don’t like it that people are made to disappear when they say something, or people try to make them disappear when they say something you don't like. That's America. Sometimes you're made to feel uncomfortable, okay?"

In a way, it's understandable that Maher would defend Limbaugh over a free speech issue. After all, Maher's previous program, Politically Incorrect was canceled over controversial comments Maher made after 9/11. Free speech is an issue near and dear to Maher's heart.

But on this issue, I disagree with Maher. I strongly support efforts to remove Limbaugh's program from the airwaves.

The problem that we progressives have always had with Limbaugh has little to do with his politics. In fact, our main gripe with him isn't even the sexist, bigoted, racist remarks that he regularly spews on the nation's airwaves.

Rather, our opposition to Limbaugh is that he is a serial liar, who routinely poisons the nation's airwaves with his outrageous falsehoods.

Personally, I never have understand how Limbaugh can spew out his toxic filth year after year and not get slammed by a libel lawsuit. I worked as a reporter for newspapers for years, and I recall how we all walked on eggshells and lived in constant fear that anything we wrote might attract a libel lawsuit. Libel lawsuits, after all, have shut down many newspapers in the U.S. and ended the careers of many journalists.

But Limbaugh is able to spew out his toxic lies and nonsense and viciously attack and smear people, day after day--and bizarrely, he's able to somehow escape libel lawsuits. I don't claim to be a libel law expert. But frankly, I can't understand how Limbaugh doesn't regularly get sued. Perhaps would-be suers are intimidated by the powerful corporate broadcasting interests behind Limbaugh.

I fully agree with Maher that in a true democracy, we need a wide range of viewpoints. Everyone needs to be able to speak their minds. In fact, I believe the U.S. political spectrum is actually way too narrow. There are a lot of viewpoints that Americans never get exposed to: including actual, real progressive viewpoints. (On the other hand, we do get constantly exposed to the Crazy, Extreme Far Right that is the today's Republican party).

My own opposition to Limbaugh has nothing to do with his political views, or the fact he's a "Conservative." It has to do with the fact that he is a f*cking liar. He routinely makes up lies to promote the Republicans and he routinely makes up lies to viciously smear the Democrats.

He is not a political commentator. He is a liar.

He is not even a "Conservative." He is a Republican party hack.

Political viewpoints from a range of sources belong on our nation's airwaves. But bald-faced outrageous lies do not. As Maher himself has said in the past, democracy simply doesn't work when people vote against their own interests. And nobody has conned the working class in this country to vote against their own interests than Limbaugh. (And it's not because he has any great oratory skills, or powers of persuasion---it's simply because he's a f*cking liar who gets away with it).

As far as I'm concerned, this is much more serious an issue than simply a bunch of gullible, working-class half-wits being conned into voting for the party of billionaires. It is an issue no less serious than the resulting decline and fall of America itself.

As long a fascist pigs like Limbaugh get to spew their lies, the increasingly extremist GOP will control more and more aspects of American life. This hurts America in numerous ways: from the decline of science and education standards to our nation's crumbling infrastructure to endless budget-busting tax breaks for billionaires to the endless insane trillion-dollar wars that the GOP keeps launching.

As far as I'm concerned, this is not a "free speech" issue. It's a Truth vs. Lies issue.

If you're fed up with Limbaugh and the daily toxic nonsense he spews on the nation's public airwaves, I urge you to take action.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Progressive Music Classics. "Outside the Trains Don't Run on Time" by The Gang of Four



Welcome to another edition of Progressive Music Classics.

The mighty post-punk band, The Gang of Four, emerged from Leeds in the late 1970s. Their debut album, Entertainment! was a ferocious blast of raw anger and musical energy.

The band's bass player Dave Allen and drummer Hugo Burnham formed a phenomenal rhythm section, laying down a Parliament-fueled funk groove, over which Andy Gill sliced and diced his guitar to create lethal shards of sound. On top of this combustible mix, the band sang about topics that ranged from Marxist theory to capitalist marketing to consumerism. In short, the band created a perfect soundtrack for a cold, heartless era in which multinational corporations took over the world.

Today, in many ways, things are even worse than they were 30 years ago. Three decades of eroding workers' rights and union-busting have impoverished many millions of workers around the world. And today's Top One Percent owns a much bigger share of national wealth than they did 30 years ago.

We could really use bands like The Gang of Four today. But instead, we get dogshit like Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears.

Although Entertainment! was The Gang of Four's high-water mark, the band continued to make powerful music for years to come. Indeed, the band remains a going concern to this day (the excellent album, Content was released last year).

Solid Gold, The Gang of Four's highly anticipated followup to Entertainment! was released in 1981 and including the classic track, "Outside the Trains Don't Run on Time" (featured in the above video). A scorching track with a driving groove, this is a song that comes to mind every time I think of a misogynist bigot like Rush Limbaugh.

A lyric that particularly comes to mind is, "He wants his wife to run--and fetch."

It perfectly sums up the attitude of sexist bigots like Limbaugh, who want to put women "back in their place." Limbaugh has been railing against "uppity" African-Americans for years and now, with his "slut" comments, he is taking aim at women, as well.

Clearly, people like Limbaugh feel threatened by a world in which the traditional power structure of Rich White Males is threatened by "others," including minorities and women. It's a scary new world for dinosaurs like Limbaugh and his followers. It's clearly a world in which, in their view: Outside the Trains Don't Run on Time.

Of course, the irony is that, for all of Limbaugh's fears and paranoia, the old Rich White Male power structure is still very much in place. And it's not going away any time soon.

Of course, Limbaugh's deluded listeners don't know that. And so, in drinking the Limbaugh Kool-Aid, they continue to direct their anger and fury at the wrong targets. Instead of blaming soulless, greedy multinational corporations like Halliburton (and their stooges in Congress) for their misery, the Limbaugh crowd take out their anger on African-Americans, women, immigrants, gays, and other scapegoats.

It's a win-win situation for Limbaugh and the rest of the fascists on talk radio. Not only does Limbaugh achieve his mission of distracting his deluded base from ever correctly identifying the cause of their woes, he also gets paid handsomely for his efforts.

Meanwhile, multinational corporations get to rape and pillage the world at their pleasure and they, along with the crooks on Wall Street, get to loot the U.S. Treasury and pocket hundreds of billions in corporate welfare.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Are You Fed Up With Rush Limbaugh? How To Take Action


Rush Limbaugh got a lot of attention lately with his mean-spirited, vicious attack on Sandra Fluke, in which he called her a "slut" and a "prostitute" and suggested she post video tapes of herself online having sex. But really, Limbaugh has been doing this sort of thing for many years. Remember in 2006, when Limbaugh mocked Michael J. Fox's symptoms of Parkinson's disease?

If you're fed up with Limbaugh and the daily toxic nonsense he spews on the nation's public airwaves, I urge you to take action.

Go here to sign a petition to Clear Channel to discontinue Rush Limbaugh's show.

Go here to add your voice to a group of female veterans who are calling for the Armed Forces Network to drop Rush Limbaugh from its programming. (Armed Forces Network by the way, is funded with your tax dollars.

Go to and join the more than 100,00 people who've signed the petition there using Limbaugh's advertisers to drop him. Note: this site also includes an up-to-date list of Limbaugh's advertisers, along with contact information.

At this site, you can access the #StopRush Limbaugh Campaign, which rounds up news, info and resources on the various efforts across the Internet to pressure Clear Channel and advertisers to stop supporting Limbaugh.

Go here to file a complaint with the FCC about Limbaugh's show. (Remember, his program is aired on the public airwaves that are owned by We The People. Note: Left Leaning Liberal Lady offers a good suggestion: "contact the FCC to file a complaint against Rush Limbaugh for soliciting pornography via public airwaves."

At this site, you can find detailed information about the companies that are still advertising on Rush's show, as well as updates on those companies who've dropped their ads. Be sure to add your voice to those who are contacting these companies, asking them to stop sponsoring Limbaugh. (And until these companies do so, we should boycott their products and services).

Add your name to this Facebook page which is coordinating a boycott-Limbaugh effort (and which already has over 30,000 "Likes"). (Note: Twitter users can add their voices here at #boycottrush).

Thursday, March 01, 2012

What Progressives Can Learn From Andrew Breitbart


Normally, when someone passes away, everyone tries to think of something kind to say about them. But I can't do that with Andrew Breitbart. I absolutely despised him while he was alive. And his death doesn't change my feelings one bit.

However, I do think that we progressives can learn a thing or two from Breitbart.

By that, I don't mean resorting to using dirty tactics and twisting the facts around to attack opponents, as Breitbart did. No, what I'm talking about is learning a thing or two from his hard-core, take-no-prisoners attacking style to get what we want.

Democrats (and progressives in general) are just too goddamn timid and polite these days. We let Conservatives steamroll right over us again and again. On the other hand, Cons know exactly what they want and they'll do whatever it takes to win. And that is why they've pretty much gotten everything they've wanted for the past three decades.

Breitbart nearly always got what he wanted. It didn't matter if his tactics were questionable or slimy. They got the job done. A good example was when he posted video of Shirley Sherrod that made it appear that she'd made racist remarks. (Of course, she'd done no such thing, as was clear when the full video was released). But Breitbart still "won" in the end. After all, Sherrod was forced to resign, apparently with the White House's approval.

The Sherrod case involved a despicable tactic by Breitbart that summed up his approach to politics: attack, attack, attack---and worry about the facts later, if at all.

Once again, I'm not suggesting we progressives copy this sort of slimy technique. But we do need some of the fire and conviction that Breitbart had in spades.

We need to fight tooth and claw for what we want, instead of timidly sitting around letting the GOP steamroll over us again and again.

Take the 2000 election, for example. The GOP fought ferociously on behalf of George W. Bush, even to the point of bringing in a rent-a-mob to bang on doors and intimidate Florida election officials. Meanwhile, the Gore team sat around politely, waiting for the phone to ring.

Yes, what the GOP did was despicable and it dealt a severe setback to democracy in America. But I get the feeling they didn't lose one second's worth of sleep over their sleazy tactics. And what's more, their guy got into the White House, despite losing the popular vote by 539,000 votes. In the end, they got everything they wanted: their war for oil, their tax breaks for the rich, and their billions of dollars in no-bid contracts for Halliburton.

Modern day politics is like a back alley switchblade fight. The GOP has known this for the past 30 years. And so they always come equipped with a switchblade, and whatever else they need to win the fight.

Meanwhile, the Dems have a bizarre fixation on using a polite, timid approach to politics. Unlike the GOP, they fail to grasp that the game has changed and that sometimes, you've got to use brute force and have a willingness to fight fire with fire.

After all, simply having the facts on his side didn't help John Kerry in 2004. On the other hand, the Swift Boat Liars' willingness to lie and use vicious, sleazy attacks sank Kerry's presidential bid.

The worst part of it was that, unlike the GOP, Kerry didn't need to lie. But he did need to use brute force (and a very loud megaphone) to get the truth out. He needed to get into the liars' faces and scream at the top of his voice that they were lying. In the end, his timid, polite approach failed. He failed to realize that, in modern day politics, politeness and being a gentleman and even having the truth on your side often isn't enough to win elections.

It's a lesson that the Dems have yet to grasp. In modern politics, if you want to win, you've got to have the fire, the hunger, and determination of people like Breitbart. Unlike Breitbart, you don't need to lie---but you do need to learn to bring a switchblade to a street fight.