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On a humanitarian level, most Democratic lawmakers on their worst days, far exceed most Republican lawmakers on their best days. Even if I dont care for the Democratic candidate who becomes the partys nominee, even if I cant stand the sound of that persons voice I refuse to give my vote, by default, to the Republican Party.
When I hear a progressive say theyre not voting unless their candidate choice wins, Im stunned. When the Left doesnt vote, we are essentially giving our votes to the Right, which mean we are helping to elect politicians from a party where racism, misogyny, homophobia and xenophobia dominate their congressional voting, lawmaking, agendas, and propaganda. Its a party that has obstructed/blocked every good bill President Obama has introduced. Its a party that produces the likes of hate mongers like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Not voting is not only a bad deal for Democrats, its a bad deal for all Americans. If you think your vote doesnt count, think again. Lets take a look behind the GOP doors to see what kind of prizes we can win, Monty.
GOP Door #1
We get to watch Republicans appoint more Supreme Court justices like like Clarence Thomas, who in his spare time, presided over Rush Limbaughs third marriage. Clarence Thomas may have only asked one SCOTUS question in the last 10 years, but hes been able to speak volumes over the decades with his racist, anti-LGBT, anti-women and anti-choice SCOTUS votes on laws that may last centuries. When ABC interviewed him about his book, My Grandfathers Son, Thomas compared liberals to the the KKK. One of his quotes from the book shocked many around the country:
"People get bent out of shape about the fact that when I was a kid, you could not drink out of certain water fountains. Well, the water was the same. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
And then there is Thomass sexual harassment charges via Anita Hill, during the SCOTUS nomination process. He was appointed anyway. Yes, expect more like Clarence Thomas on the highest court in the nation with a GOP win.
GOP Door #2
Given the opportunity, the GOP will continue to shred the rights of many Americans, including women, LGBT, and people of color. Since 2010, Republicans have passed 310 restrictions on womens reproductive rights. And you can be sure theyll attempt to overturn equal marriage for LGBT people, as well as further suppress the voting rights and civil rights of African Americans and minorities. They have tried to overturn the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare several dozen times. Remember when you could be dropped by an insurance company for going over your illness limit? Remember when you couldnt get health insurance if you had a pre-existing illnesses? If it happened to you, you remember well the fear of losing everything due to health issues and healthcare costs. No one should have to live like that in America.
Also behind Door #2: Remember when gas prices hit almost $5.00 a gallon in some cities and when it cost four to five times more for fuel than now just to go back and forth to work? When we do the math on that one issue, we see how much the GOP negatively affected the working people of America.
And for an added bonus behind Door #2, we can look forward to Republican corporate greed and bribery further catering to the 1%, banks and corporations that will continue to destroy our lands, pollute our water and change our climate for the worse. All the while, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
GOP Door #3
By not casting a ballot, that vote will ultimately go to a warmongering party whose leaders have clearly stated they will send our troops and youth people into battle to kill and be killed. I will never forget the eight years of emotional torment during the Bush/Cheney reign, losing sleep on most nights, knowing innocent and defenseless people, including babies and children, were being massacred in an unnecessary war under the almighty anthem, God Bless The USA. Approximately 500,000 died of war-related deaths during the Iraq Bush War. I wont contribute to the next war by not voting.
So I choose Democratic Door #4
And this is why Im Voting BlueNo Matter Who.
This November I will vote for the rights children, women, blacks, immigrants, minorities, the disadvantaged, the differently-abled, teachers, and unions.
I will vote for gun sense, equal pay, ERA, voting rights, healthcare, raising minimum wage, lowering student debt, and peace.
I am a Democrat. I am a Liberal. And I will vote.
The story, as told, usually goes something like this: 1,400 years ago, during the seventh century, there was a schism among Muslims over who would succeed as leader of the faithful, and that schism led to a civil war. The two sides became known as Sunni and Shia, and they hated one another, a people divided, ever since. This ancient sectarian hatred, simmering just beneath the surface for centuries, explains the Sunni-Shia violence today in places such as Syria and Iraq, as well as the worsening tension between Saudi Arabia, which is officially Sunni, and Iran, which is officially Shia.
But this narrative could not be more wrong. Yes, it is the case that a seventh-century succession dispute led to Islam's schism between Sunni and Shia. But that is quite literally ancient history. Today's divide between Sunni and Shia isn't primarily about religion, and it's not ancient: It's quite recent, and much of it is driven by politics, not theology.
Sunni-Shia sectarianism is indeed tearing apart the Middle East, but is largely driven by the very modern and very political rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia. They have sought to fight one another on Sunni-Shia lines not out of religious hatred but rather because they see sectarianism as a tool they can use thus making that religious division much more violent and fraught.
Debunking the "ancient hatreds" myth
Marc Lynch, a George Washington University professor and Middle East scholar, wrote a lengthy piece on this week's uptick in Iran and Saudi Arabia's regional cold war, which is playing out largely along Sunni-Shia lines, titled "Why Saudi Arabia escalated the Middle Easts sectarian conflict."
The piece was widely circulated by Middle East experts as authoritative and insightful. Some of the reasons Lynch discusses include: a desire to distract from Saudi foreign policy failures elsewhere, a fear that the United States is softening on Iran, and an effort to appease hard-line Islamist elements at home.
Noticeably absent from Lynch's list of factors: that Saudi Arabia hates the Shia due to theological disagreements or seventh-century succession disputes.
That's not a mistake. No one who seriously studies the Middle East considers Sunni-Shia sectarianism to be a primarily religious issue. Rather, it's a primarily political issue, which has manifested along lines that just so happen to line up with religious demographics that were historically much calmer and more peaceful.
Al Jazeera's Mehdi Hasan put together a very nice video debunking the myth that Sunni-Shia sectarianism is all about ancient religious hatreds and explaining how modern-day power politics, beginning in 1979, is actually driving much of the sectarianism we're seeing right now. (Go to the source below to view the video.)
Hasan's video is especially worth watching for his illustration of just how modern the Sunni-Shia political division really is.
Now here come the caveats: This is not to say that there was never any communal Sunni-Shia violence before 1979. Nor is this to say that Iran and Saudi Arabia were the first or only countries to cynically exploit Sunni-Shia lines for political gain: Saddam Hussein did it too, and so have some Islamist groups. I want to be careful not to overstate this and give the impression that Sunni-Shia lines were completely and always peaceful before 1979, nor to overstate the role Saudi Arabia and Iran played in turning Sunni and Shia against one another.
"As usual, religion is a mere instrument of state ambitions"
But it is very much the case that Sunni and Shia differences have only quite recently become such a defining issue for the Middle East, and certainly that they have become so violent.
And it is very much the case that the Sunni-Shia divide has widened for mostly political reasons, due to the deliberate and cynical manipulations of Middle Eastern leaders, and not because Middle Easterners suddenly woke up one day and remembered that they hated one another over a seventh-century succession dispute.
For much of the Middle East's modern history, the Sunni-Shia divide was just not that important for the region's politics. In the 1950s and '60s, the leading political movement in the Middle East was Arab nationalism, for which Sunni-Shia distinctions were largely irrelevant. And in the 1980s, for example, the biggest conflict in the Middle East was between two Shia-majority countries Iran and Iraq with Sunni powers backing Iraq. Shia Iran has been a major supporter of Sunni Hamas (though that has abated somewhat recently). And so on.
If the Sunni-Shia conflict isn't about religion, where did it come from?
Things first began to change in 2003, when the United States led the invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein.
Obviously, Iraqis were aware of Sunnism and Shiism before 2003, and those distinctions were not totally irrelevant to Iraqi life. But for much of Iraq's modern history, Sunni and Shia lived peacefully side by side in mixed neighborhoods and frequently intermarried. For decades after decolonization, Iraqis defined themselves first by their ethnicity as Arabs or Kurds or by their nationality as Iraqis. Religious distinctions were just not as important.
"The roots of sectarian conflict aren't that deep in Iraq," Fanar Haddad, a scholar of Iraqi history, once told my colleague Zack Beauchamp. "Sectarian identity for most of the 20th century was not particularly relevant in political terms."
The change came because of regional power politics, which the 2003 US-led invasion upset. Saddam was hostile to both Iran and Saudi Arabia (despite Saudi support for his 1980s war against Iran), and those two countries saw him as a wild-eyed threat. He held the Middle East in a precarious sort of balance among these three regional military powers.
"Sectarian identity for most of the 20th century was not particularly relevant in political terms"
When the US toppled Saddam, it removed that balance, and opened a vacuum in Iraq that both Saudi Arabia and Iran attempted to fill so as to counter one another. Because Iraq is mostly Shia (Saddam had been Sunni), Iran tried to exploit sectarianism to its advantage, backing hard-line Shia groups that would promote Iranian interests and oppose Sunni powers like Saudi Arabia. It also put pressure on the new Iraqi government to serve Iranian interests, which came to be equated with Shia interests.
In this way, political maneuvering in post-Saddam Iraq that was not primarily about religion came to be expressed as about religion. It helped deepen the Sunni-Shia split there so severely that this divide today defines Iraq.
That's just the story of Iraq, but the same story is playing out across the Middle East, and a lot of it has to do with that same Saudi-Iran rivalry.
Where today's Sunni-Shia conflict really comes from: Iran and Saudi Arabia
It is true that Saudi Arabia is an officially Sunni theocracy and that Iran is an officially Shia theocracy.
But they don't hate one another because of religious differences, and in fact both countries have in the past defined themselves as representing all Muslims. Yet they can't both be the true representative of all Muslims, and that's the thing to understand here: The two countries have mutually exclusive claims to leadership of the Muslim world. The sectarian difference is largely coincidental.
This conflict began in 1979, when the Iranian revolution turned secular Iran into a hard-line Shia theocracy. My colleague Zack Beauchamp explains:
After Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution toppled the pro-Western shah, the new Islamic Republic established an aggressive foreign policy of exporting the Iranian revolution, attempting to foment Iran-style theocratic uprisings around the Middle East. That was a threat to Saudi Arabia's heavy influence in the Middle East, and perhaps to the Saudi monarchy itself.
"The fall of the shah and the establishment of the militant Islamic Republic of [founding leader] Ruhollah Khomeini came as a particularly rude shock to the Saudi leadership," University of Virginia's William Quandt writes. It "brought to power a man who had explicitly argued that Islam and hereditary kingship were incompatible, a threatening message, to say the least, in [the Saudi capital of] Riyadh."
It's important to understand that the Saudi monarchy is deeply insecure: It knows that its hold on power is tenuous, and its claim to legitimacy comes largely from religion. The Islamic Republic of Iran, merely by existing, challenges this legitimacy not because it is Shia but because its theocratic revolution was popular and anti-monarchist. The Saudis saw this as a declaration of war against their very monarchy and a serious threat to their rule, and indeed in some ways it was.
This rivalry has been with the Middle East ever since 1979: with the Saudis supporting Saddam's war against Iran and with the two countries supporting different sides in Lebanon's civil war, for example. But it did not come to define the Middle East until the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and especially with the 2011 Arab Spring.
In 2011, when the Arab Spring began upending governments across the Middle East, both Saudi Arabia and Iran again tried to fill the vacuums, and that often meant supporting violence. It also meant deliberately amping up Sunni-Shia sectarianism to serve their interests.
In weak states, Iran and Saudi Arabia have tried to position themselves as the patrons of their respective religious clans to assert influence, and they have ginned up sectarianism to promote fear of the other side. Sectarianism is just a tool. But that sectarianism has become a reality as Middle Eastern militias and political parties line up along sectarian lines and commit violence along those lines.
You can see the same thing unfolding in Syria. The violence at first had little to do with religion: It was about the Syrian people versus a tyrannical government. But the Syrian government is allied with Iran, which means it is hostile to Saudi Arabia, so the Saudis see it as their enemy. The Saudis and other Sunni Gulf states armed Syrian rebels who are Sunni hard-liners, knowing the rebels' anti-Shia views made them more hostile to Iran and more loyal to Saudi interests.
Iran used much the same strategy, portraying the Syrian war as a genocidal campaign against Shia. This helped Tehran attract Shia militias from Iraq and Lebanon that would fight for Iranian interests. Making the Syrian civil war as sectarian as possible also ensures that the Syrian government, which is Shia, will remain loyal to Iran.
French Ambassador to the US Gérard Araud put it pretty well when he said, commenting on Hasan's video, "As usual, religion is a mere instrument of state ambitions."
The story of Baghdad, and the terrible logic of sectarianism
Sunni-Shia hatred in the Middle East may be new, and it may be artificial. But over the past decade, it has nonetheless become very real. Sectarian fear, distrust, and violence now exists at a grassroots level. The hostility runs so deeply now that although Sunni-Shia tension is not ancient, it might as well be.
Tribalism that is, the tendency to side with your own group, however defined, especially in times of conflict has its own internal logic and momentum that often has little or nothing to do with the demographics through which it manifests. But once a society divides along tribal lines whether they are religious or racial or ethnic those lines become experienced as real.
Consider Rwanda: Before colonialism, the line between Hutu and Tutsi was mostly a class distinction, and often a blurry one1. But about a century ago, Belgian colonists hardened the distinction, pushing the idea that Hutus and Tutsis were completely distinct ethnic groups and entrenching Tutsis as dominant over Hutus. As such, after colonialism, political grievances fell along this ethnic line. Even though the ethnic distinction was arguably in part a modern colonial invention, Rwandans began to treat it as real, which helped lead to one of the worst genocides in modern history.
Consider also the city of Baghdad. For much of its history, Sunni and Shia lived generally peacefully, side by side in mixed neighborhoods.
But when the US toppled Saddam and disbanded the Iraqi army, it opened a dangerous security vacuum. Lawlessness and street justice prevailed. Communities that happened to be Sunni or Shia formed self-defense militias, first to protect themselves, then to exact revenge killings. Sunni families and Shia families came to see one another as threats, and the militias committed massacres to drive out the other side. In just two years, Baghdad's once-mixed neighborhoods were starkly divided by religion.
The story of Baghdad is important not because it's necessary to blame America for everything but because this was in some ways the start of today's Sunni-Shia region-wide war, and it shows how that conflict is not really primarily about religion.
Rather, it is a story of how insecurity and fear can lead
a once-unified people to divide themselves along some tribal
line, which then hardens into hatred and violence. And it
shows how people will split along whichever lines are most
readily available, or whichever lines happen to line up with
the politics of the moment. In that case, it was religion.
But there's little to this story that is in itself
religious, much less ancient.
Understanding Climate Change: A Conversation with Michael Mann
Before the start of the last legislative session, Republicans made a gentlemens agreement they promised to cut down on the number of times that they blocked debate on bills. But that promise was quickly broken, and over the past two years more motions were made to prevent bills from being openly debated than during any other Congressional session in history. Right now, all it takes is a handful of Senators to stop the rest from making progress. With reform, the filibuster can once again be a tool of empowerment, rather than just a cheap scare tactic. But weve got stand up and fight for that reform. It doesn't have to be this way. The Senate will set its rules at the start of the new session. Call your Senators today at 1-888-717-0911 to tell them to Fix the Senate Now!
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Were about to see the worst of politics. Its been building all summer, but now the money really flows. So, here we go.
Awash in money is an understatement as the 1% bids for owning the political winners. The system is drowning in corporate and billionaires contributions. As cowboy-comedian Will Rogers, Jr, put it generations ago: Weve got the best Congress money can buy.
Not telling the truth has always been a part of politics, but we can expect the outright lies from the right-wing to increase to a level never seen before. And when someone points out the lie, we can expect them to continue and do it blatantly.
Theres no penalty in the mainstream media. Even if its a known lie, when repeated long enough, it becomes just another opinion treated as equal to fact-based claims.
Its unusual to find anyone in the mainstream media who is any help. If it werent for the evening lineup on MSNBC, thered be no TV personality willing to question whats said.
The right-wing has intentionally learned how to bully the media by repeatedly labeling them as liberal. Now even that is too weak a bullying epithet for them. The official Republican language now labels them far left or far, far, left as well as socialist and Marxist.
In response, the major networks, CNN, NPR, and PBS have moved further to the right from any centrist positions they might have ever held in order to prove to the right-wing that they arent partial. They can no longer tell the truth and so must create false equivalencies as if both sides are constant liars.
To claim that fundraisers thrown by Tom Hanks, Bill Maher, or Rob Reiner are on par with those thrown by right-wingers like the corporate baron Koch brothers or casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson is just plain idiocy. The Hollywood stars want marriage equality, health insurance for all, funding for public education, and social safety nets, while the corporatists are buying legislation to put more billions in their own pockets with little regard for whom it hurts.
In fact, the right-wing believes that hurting people is good for the losers. It creates character or is just payment for deficiencies in the lives of the sufferers.
Reporters worry about losing access to their right-wing sources. So the most of them wont follow-up by challenging claims from politicians sitting right in front of them, looking them in the eye while repeating distractive and proven-false talking points.
Wrongney/Lyin' 2012: No jobs for fact checkers!
So-called fact-checking organizations are also bullied and so arent always frank in order to appear fair, acting as if both sides are equally culpable. No matter how its not factually true that FOX and MSNBC are equivalent liars, weve been taught by the right-wing that the sophisticated position is to look down from above the fray and say that both sides do it.
Its as if the moral high ground is wishy-washy. And the so-called pundits are therefore required to search for some way to peer down with scorn from fair and balanced towers upon people with fact-based stands.
The Karl Rove Super-PAC money is on the way more than ever. It will be impossible to watch TV without seeing some lie told by Roves studios about Democrats.
FOX News will continue to be the voice of the right-wing of the Republican Party and the exclusive source of whats not going on to the base that doesnt think there are facts anymore. They too are masters of lies and fabrications.
Now, its against many peoples natures to call someone a liar. It feels nicer, kinder, and even more winsome to find other ways of interpreting lies.
Weve often been taught not to say the word lie. Weve been cautioned to try to understand the liar instead, put ourselves in their shoes, not be offensive.
But the political lies were being told are not harmless little fibs. Theyre intentional and meant to keep the power of the liars in place. They protect the powerful and lead to suffering and even death for the rest.
The lies being told about healthcare reform, we know, will result in 45,000 more Americans dying this year. The lies being told about wars will result in thousands more deaths this year. The lies being told about LGBT people resulted in at least thirty murders in 2011, the highest number ever.
We cant be in denial about this. We must get over our shock that the right-wing lies.
This does not mean that the rest of us are always truth tellers. It means that the lies right-wing leaders are telling are consciously so.
They know they are. Even when confronted by that fact, they repeat them for their purposes. Even right-wing religious people believe that its okay to tell a lie if it promotes their own sectarian Truth.
Liberals Lie! (mostly to themselves)
We cant turn our heads. We cant live off of our privileged positions and act as if lies dont matter because they aren't hurting us personally right now.
We must be truth-tellers. That doesnt mean we have to be mean, but we have to make sure that we express our view of how things are.
We cant act as if all views are equally valid either. We have to stand for something.
We cant afford to turn away or turn inward. If we do, when the lies do come down on us we will be alone while we face the consequences.
We have to present a model of beliefs for which we stand. We must act as if we mean it and its important, or were telling people it doesnt really matter.
We cant afford to be relativists, thinking that all views are equally right. Relativism, too, is a privileged position that supports those who already have the power to maintain the status quo.
The oppression of others is always evil. And lies supporting it are just plain reprehensible - and often deadly.
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