Friday, November 13, 2009

A Case Study in the Forfeiture of Journalistic Intergrity: The Press Enterprise's Jim Sachetti

To the editor,

Were there any doubt that Jim Sachetti should be replaced as PE-Editor, that is now settled. The publishing of Carter Clews’ misleading, racist “Barack Hussein Obama” tirade concerning the Fort Hood massacre leaves no room to speculate on Sachetti’s editorial irresponsibility.

Clews’ claim that Obama “soft-peddles” on Islamic terrorism is false. Obama, 7.25.08, Berlin: “This is the moment when we must renew our resolve to rout the terrorists who threaten our security in Afghanistan…The Afghan people need our troops and your troops; our support and your support to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda…We have too much at stake to turn back now.” What Carter really means is that anyone who opposed invading Iraq, rejects the “Bush Doctrine,” or is circumspect about whether sending more troops to Afghanistan is a good idea, amount to “soft-peddlers.”

Despite Carter’s denials, the history of immigration in the U.S. includes a “dark underbelly”; the sacrifice of ethnic and religious diversity, including the 4,000 Muslim soldiers serving in the U.S. military, would be a tragedy. But this doesn’t prevent Carter, and now Sachetti, from fanning the flames of bigotry. Indeed, for those looking for an excuse to spew anti-Islamic hatred in the interest of promoting their own religious agenda, Hasan is a gift.

Clews deliberately conflates terrorizing actions with the motives of a terrorist. That Hasan’s rampage was horrific and inexcusable is clear—and he will be prosecuted accordingly. However, that he saw the war on terror to be anti-Islamic or that he attended services at a mosque whose Iman held Anti-American views (how does Clews know Hasan listened with “rapt attention”?) does not meet the criteria for what counts as a terrorist according to U.S. law: “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents (U.S. Code, Title 22, Ch. 38, para. 2656f(d)).

There is no evidence that Hasan belonged to such a group; neither his mosque attendance or the people with whom he communicated demonstrates this. There’s no evidence that his actions were politically motivated; showing this requires evidence that Hasan was directed not merely by his apparent antipathy, but by an ideology he shared with others with whom he had planned the attack. There is copious evidence that Hasan suffered from psychopathology that went untreated, and while this is no excuse, it raises important questions that will remain unanswered while we busy ourselves barking up the wrong tree.

Americans for Limited Government is a fake grassroots “protest” group funded by real estate mogul Howard Rich; Clews is one of it charlatans. Clews has a colorful history: 1984, involved in the bribing of a “Spanish legislator believed to be working on energy legislation” benefitting a front corporation, Gray and Company, for which Clews was the primary lobbyist; 1985, Set up a PR firm called the Nicaraguan Refugee Fund that was directly involved in the Reagan administration’s “covert operations to supply the contras in violation of legislation passed by Congress”; 1985, “did the promotion and publicity for the World Anti-Communist League,” a fellow-traveler of the John Birch Society and associated with “assassinations, death squads, and sabotage”; 2003, sets up for the Christian Coalition featuring “angry right-wing polemics aimed at stirring up visitors to send fax messages to …politicians it has selected.”

So why would Sachetti waste Op-Ed space on Clews? Is he too lazy to check out his sources? Does he agree with Clews’ ALG/JBS/WACL worldview? Will he just do anything to sell papers? The Op-Ed page IS for opinions. But surely this doesn’t mean that any syndicated pundit’s racist trash goes—unless, apparently, you’re Jim Sachetti.

Wendy Lynne Lee

599 words

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Capitalism, Human Welfare, and the Healthcare Debate: Death--American Style


To the Editor,

Among the most disturbing features of our current political landscape, exemplified by the tea-baggers, the birthers, the secessionists, the H1N1 vaccine-as-mind-control conspiracy-mongers, and other “patriots,” is the extent to which craving short-term gain—Obama-out-of-office-at-any-cost—drives the willingness to adopt beliefs that are not merely wrong-headed, but profoundly self-defeating.

The healthcare debate could not illustrate this any more clearly: we’re not merely willing to sell out our un/underinsured fellows to disease and death, we’re apparently willing to take the risk that we could end up among them just for the sake of opposing a public option.

The same “patriots” who condemn Obama for “cutting” their Medicare would apparently let their neighbor’s children die for lack of access to the care these “patriots” take as entitled. This isn’t merely hypocrisy; it’s perversity. Cynically exploiting the rhetoric of “free choice,” the “health” insurance industry has so successfully suckered the tea-partiers that they can be counted on to attend fake grassroots events and rally against their own interests—even their interest in living. Every placard heralding “freedom” may as well be heralding suffering and death, every endorsement of the “free market” a pitch for rationing-healthcare-by-the-mega-profits-of-Cigna-and-company. Why? Because the defeat of the public option is a win for an industry whose profits have increased by 416% over the last decade by denying coverage, refusing to pay claims, and by dropping sick people from their roles—after raping them of their hard-earned dollars.

What the tea-partiers don’t get is that the same tactics they’ve so effectively deployed against those who’d resist their ideological swill is now—through ignorance-exploiting-stealth—being deployed to insure that they, many of whom are among the most economically vulnerable, stand on the side of the super-wealthy. Quite the coup. All the “health” insurance promotion arms had to do was use the magic words “socialism,” “communism,” or “government controlled,” through their Republican Party propaganda channel—FOX—and the paranoid “patriot”-sheeple fall in lock-step—behind their pied pipers, Beck, Hannity, Malkin, O’Reilly, right off the cliff. Death is apparently OK with them so long as we get rid of a black democratic president.

Unconvinced? Offended? Think the “free market” is on your side? Check out Rendell’s Republican budget. He cuts funding for the Department of Public Welfare, discards a possible severance tax on natural gas drilling, cuts the Department of Environmental Protection 27%, and opens state park land to drilling. Who benefits? The “health” insurance analogues in the energy industry, corporations like Cabot whose suspension for environmental violations has been lifted, and White Pines who has “the state’s go-ahead to accept radioactive sludge” from natural gas drilling.

However willfully blind we are to the connection between environmental destruction and human health, the writing’s on the wall: capitalist enterprise cares nothing whatever for human welfare. Indeed, the very corporations who exercise the most power over life and death—HEALTH insurance—actively work to deny the services PAID FOR by the people who hold their policies. This IS insurance—an insurance of death. Corporations like Cabot, Cigna, Aetna, Humana, White Pines, Exxon, AIG, Citibank, and on and on have so effectively exploited the fear of “socialism” and the racist hatred of Obama that we’re willing to sacrifice our health and the environment it depends on in order to realize what? The freedom to die from untreated disease? The freedom to watch others reap the profits of environmental obliteration?

So long as Obama’s not reelected, and we get to go down waving the flag, I guess so.

Wendy Lynne Lee
580 words.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Squandered Opportunities and Despicable Lessons for Children


To the Editor,

Glenn Beck’s psychotic hard-right stranglehold on local decision-making couldn’t have been evidenced more clearly than at the 9.8.09 Bloomsburg School District’s board meeting. While Superintendent Curry insists that the decision to prevent children from watching President Obama’s speech—and then his decision to tape it, “screen” it, and make it available later—were strictly his own, there’s plenty of blame to go around for a decision so poor it made a mockery of the Pledge of Allegiance for which we all stood at the meeting’s start.

Indeed, every member of every school board in the region who failed to vigorously defend the live broadcast of this speech ought to be embarrassed and ashamed. This includes Berwick’s Superintendent Brookhart whose letter home offers a lesson in suspicion and disrespect to children and confirms the groundless paranoia of some of their parents.

This would not have happened were Obama white, or Republican regardless questions about “helping the president”—and we ALL know it.

Not only did these administrators and board members fail to provide an opportunity to participate in history, to hear the president inspire kids to work hard, respect their teachers, become engaged in their educations, and comprehend their roles as citizens, they effectively taught the despicable lesson that the office of the president deserves to be treated with suspicion and that THIS president is not to be trusted. We all knew exactly what was going to be in this speech, and that that FACT didn’t matter to the very people whose decisions we rely on to set an example for our kids should provoke us to outrage.

This squandered opportunity wasn’t about THIS president; it was about respecting the office of the president. It was about being something more than a kid, namely, a citizen. The very idea that children need to be protected from an American president’s speech extolling basic human virtues teaches the contemptible lesson that a citizen only owes respect to those with whom they agree—and not to those with whom they differ.

The notion—evinced by Michelle Malkin among others—that the speech is part of a secret plot to convert kids into socialist drones—is simply crazy. But this is the Republican Party. Hi-jacked by it’s most fanatical “patriot’s voice” fringe, it’s no wonder that representatives like Joe Wilson think they can yell at the president in the middle of an important address to congress about health care.

The lesson is that Republicans are willing to do anything—exploit any perceived weakness, fuel any paranoia, fabricate any opportunity—to undermine this president. Happy to sacrifice the uninsured for their political agenda, this week we learned that they’re just as willing to sacrifice kids to regain the Whitehouse. How telling about what it is we really want our children to learn—bigotry and narrow-mindedness—that our own local representatives, board members, and even some school teachers can be so suckered?

Instead of owning up, apologizing, and assuring us that no such idiocy would occur in the future—Curry offered excuses. The speech was broadcast on all the major news channels—no Broadband was required. Hiding behind the excuse that they didn’t get “official notice” in time, Curry and Brookhart merely demonstrate how behind the ball they are with respect to important national events. Fact is, they and their acquiescent boards have set an awful example for our kids, one that demeans the integrity of the presidency and its representatives, including the public school.

That not a single school board director has gone on record publicly opposing this reprehensible decision should make us all think long and hard at election time.

Wendy Lynne Lee
595 words.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A School District --Bloomsburg--that Caves to the Far Right Right

[The following is a letter to John Riley, school board director, Bloomsburg School District, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania}

Dear John Riley,

I am writing to implore you to reconsider the decision of the Bloomsburg School Board to not broadcast President Obama's address to children for the opening of the 2009 school year. Not only is he participating in long-standing tradition, not only is his message to stay in school, study, work hard, and to care about education precisely the right message, it is especially the right message now--when nothing but the best possible educations will insure a stable future for American citizens.

By refusing to broadcast his address, your school board has effectively conceded to the worst--most bullying, verbally malicious, and hate-mongering-- politics of the far right who would have you believe--and apparently does--that the president's speech is a partisan ploy to advance his party's agenda. It is not. You know that it is not. And no matter what excuses you might offer, say, that lesson plans are already fixed, the real motives are plainly transparent and no one with any sense is going to see this decision as anything other than pandering to a political agenda--or at least caving to one. Surely, you know better.

This is not just any speech. This is the president of the United State's speech. The refusal to broadcast it sends a message wholly contrary to your very mission as an institution of education. Your decision converts the school district from being a politically neutral center of education into a politically manipulable mouthpiece for a single ideologically saturated world view--and one that has so profoundly mischaracterized this president's participation in this tradition that to concede to it is, well, shameful.

Wendy Lynne Lee

Wendy Lynne Lee, Professor
Department of Philosophy
Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania
Bloomsburg, PA, USA 17815

Saturday, August 15, 2009

It's not about "Socialism," It's About Racism


To the Editor,

I read with despair John-Eric Koslosky’s PE-article about the Socrates’ CafĂ© discussion over whether “socialism” is a “dirty word.” It has become so—despite the fact that much of what’s essential to our republic is socialized. How many of us could make intelligent election-decisions without public education? Where would many elderly, ill, intellectually disabled, or poor families be without Medicaid, Medicare, or Social Security? What about public libraries, roads, parks, CHIP? Would we enjoy even some protection against corporate greed, pollution, and labor-exploitation without government regulation?

Would Thomas Jefferson’s claim that “though the will of the majority in all cases is to prevail…the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate would be oppression” be realizable without the equal representation that defines socialism’s inherently democratic character?

The answer’s “no.”

Yet we’re apparently so comfortable taking for granted the benefits of socialism that we pretend that they’re gifts from God or features of nature. However loudly Patriot’s Voice members insist that it’s an “excuse ideology,” or that the founders would have rejected these essential institutions, that the PV had a town park for their party is a benefit of “a political system in which the means of production are controlled by the people and operated according to equity and fairness rather than market principles,” AKA: SOCIALISM (Encarta). Could they have hosted the party at a privately owned park? Only if its owner were a Confederate Flag vendor or Cleon Skousen, “one of the legendary cranks of the conservative world, a John Bircher, a grand fanaticist…about secret conspiracies…to impose a one world government” (, 3.17.09)—and writer of “The 5000 Year Leap,” Runyon’s gift to Mayor Knorr.

So what drives the fanatical-right to call Obama’s health care plan “socialist”? NONE of their claims are true, and many are crazy fear-mongering nonsense. FALSE: that the plan includes euthanasia, “death panels,” rationing, diminished access for veterans, disadvantage for small businesses, forcing people to forfeit insurance, or that the HNN1 vaccine’s an extermination conspiracy.

It’s FALSE that “medical research…would become political.” Indeed, it’s refreshing to have an administration that finally takes science seriously and understands that the foundation of a democracy is its PEOPLE, not the profits of its Blackwater, etc. cronies.

Health care isn’t a commodity like a car or a house because health is not merely something desirable; it’s a necessary condition for the exercise of our human rights, hence health care must be accounted among the most basic of these.

The far right’s opposition to health care reform isn’t, in fact, about health care. It’s about Obama and the willingness to resort to ANY strategy to weaken him.


Obama’s black.

Substitute “black” for “socialist” and you’ve the truth about the Tea Parties, the “Birthers,” the corporate-sponsored town hall harangues, Palin’s psychotic “tweets,” and Glenn Beck’s Neo-Birchers. This isn’t to say you can’t disagree with Obama without being a racist.

I do.

I think we should go single-payer and get the insurance/pharmaceutical vultures out of health care entirely. The least we can do is provide a public option, and a little competition for those 46 million uninsured Americans.

The current “controversy” isn’t for a minute about “free” markets, Constitutions—or the dangers of “socialism.” It’s about FOX-and-friends “real” American: White, far-right, and nationalistic; it’s about how desperate Republicans are to regain power.

The Neo-Birchean tea-baggers would rather let people suffer from lack of access to a doctor than have a black president in the Whitehouse. But they wouldn’t for a second give up their own health insurance or Social Security.

Hypocrites all.

Wendy Lynne Lee
595 words.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Five Critical Issues

I am very excited to be able to report that I'll have a new book coming out in the Fall of 2009 (Broadview):

Five Critical Issues for Contemporary Feminist Theory and Activism:

Sexual Identity and Politics,
Reproductive Technology,
Economic Inequality and the Culture Industry,
Religious Fundamentalism,
and The Status of Nonhuman Others

The new book includes many of the themes that have characterized my work throughout my career as a philosopher, writer, and university professor. But it also includes some new themes, for example, the emergence of religious fundamentalism - Christian and Islamic- and its place within the global capitalism responsible for the ongoing exploitation of women, children, and indigenous peoples. Broadly socialist feminist in perspective, Five Critical Issues seeks to connect some of the dots between, for example, the effort in Pennsylvania to constitutionalize heterosexuality and its attendant ratification of second class citizen status for gays. lesbians, bisexuals, inter-sexed persons, and transsexuals in that state, and the role that religion, racism, sexism, the commodification of sexuality, and our treatment of nonhuman animals figure into these complex political and moral dynamics. My principle aim, however, is to add one more voice to the 21st century's emergent coalition of movements - feminist, environmental, anti-racist, animal welfare, social and economic justice - in the effort to help us see that, especially in light of global emergencies like climate change, terrorism, the use of torture, sex-trafficking, and the widening gap between the wealthy and the indigent, there is no more important a time than now to work towards progressive change.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Patriot's Voice Tea Party: A Case Study in Hate Speech

Dear Mr. Sachetti,

This is not a letter to the editor.

It is an attempt to correct Michael Lester's tepid account of the Patriot's Voice Tea Party on July 4th at the Bloomsburg Town Park. I have no issue with Mr. Lester; however, his account seriously under-represents--and hence misrepresents--the speech and actions of the Tea Party participants. This record needs to be corrected, and it needs to be corrected publicly.

I attended the Tea Party from 1:30-2:50.

I took careful notes.

A friend was with me and, while I cannot of course speak to his interpretation of these events, he can vouch for the fact that I was there, that I took notes, and that I was approached by two Patriot's Voice members. Here are the events that took place at the podium:

1. Al Togno, self-identified speaker, claimed that without belief in a creator there could be no democracy--and that therefore atheists (as in the far past) ought not to be allowed to testify in courts. (applause)

2. Anonymous Speaker 1: refers to the Obama administration as a "gang." (applause)

3. Robert Runyon (especially rambling): The only moral government is based on natural law, handed down by God, whose specific aims are to realize God's plan on Earth. Without this God, there can be no government. (applause)

4. Anonymous Speaker 2: Identifies Obama with the Communist Party (repeatedly), referring to "Barack Hussein Obama." calls Obama a "Muslim Appeaser," and calls the Democrat Party "Socialists." (loud applause)

5. Anonymous Speaker 3: "The U.N. wants to disarm all people."

6. Robert Runyon thanks "his adversary Wendy Lynne Lee for coming and taking notes." (Laughter; crowd turns to stare, several boo).

7. Anonymous Speaker 4: claims that what's "wrong with America" is not the economy, but "homosexuality," that such persons must be "made to repent," and that "we must all come to repent...It is my desire to see people saved." (applause)

8. Anonymous Speaker 5: "All my news is from FOX." (loud applause)

9. Anonymous Speaker 6: "Republicans have failed because they have turned away from the Bible." (applause)

10. Anonymous Speaker 7: "Obama is good news because we're going to soon be raptured up." (applause)

11. Anonymous Speaker 8: "I want to talk about a delicate subject, abortion." The speaker then went onto deride Dr. Tiller as a "baby-killer." Claimed that "the media is controlled by liberals," and that what's coming is the "euthanasia of the elderly." (loud applause)

12. Anonymous Speaker 9: Claims that "Barack Hussein Obama is proud of his Muslim heritage," calls Michael Jackson a "pervert," implies that he's is glad that Jackson is dead, and claims a crowd in attendance of 200 people. I counted at that point, and the number was definitely not more than 70 (2:40). (very loud applause--despite dwindling audience)

Could the evidence of racism and religious bigotry really be any clearer?

There is no religious litmus test in the United States for becoming president, but what this speaker clearly implied is that if Obama were Muslim, this disqualifies him tout court.

Michael Jackson was acquitted for lack of evidence.

Could the evidence of bigotry towards homosexuals be clearer than in anonymous speaker 7's remarks (for which he received significant applause)?

Conservatives are not necessarily either homophobes or bigots. This was not an exercise in conservatism. It was an exercise in hate speech--protected by the 1st amendment, but as hateful, and as consistently hateful, as Kurt Smith mentions to Lester. Part of what I am trying to make clear here is that this speech characterizes ALL of the remarks made by the speakers at this event.

Patriot's Voice members can respond that they are not responsible for the specific remarks of the people they encourage to step up to the microphone.

But indeed they are.

This was their sponsored event; they applauded the speaker's remarks; they actively and repeatedly encouraged this group of speakers to "come forward" The passed around a petition to "fire" Arlen Spectre. They flew the Confederate flag directly next to the American flag. Could any African American person really feel comfortable at this event? A Jewish person? A gay person?

There are many African American, Jewish, and gay conservatives--they were not represented at this Tea Party.

Did Mr. Lester ask Mr. Runyon for proof that an invitation to Alan Keyes had been accepted? Perhaps it had--but it is unlikely in the extreme given that Keyes is a nationally known speaker who can command a significant speaker fee. Mr. Keyes could have offerred to do the event for free--but, again, hihgly unlikely. If the Patriot's Voice has access to this sort of revenue, they ought to file with the IRS--and it is highly unlikely that they either have such access or have so filed.

During the event, Evy Lysk walked directly up the the picnic table where Jay and I were sitting (we approached no one at any time before, during, or after the event), and took my picture (she did not ask permission). She called me "Miss Wendy." She told me to smile because it was Independence Day. I responded that her actions were not something to smile about. She laughed. I am sure this doesn't seem like a significant event, but the intent was clearly to intimidate.

What if they post that picture on their website along with the sort of language they routinely use to describe me in 30 Seconds? What if they post it on Facebook where Runyon remarks: "We are having a 4th of July Tea Party at the town park of Bloomsburg beginning at 12:00 noon till 4:00pm. This promises to be Memorable as we have an ahtiest, lesbian professor who wishes time to counter our party as she deems us as haters and homophobes. Come join the fun" ( What was the point of this action? An event scrapbook?


Along with another picture and text already available on their website (posted 4.9.09), their aims are hardly consistent with the first amendment rights professed by conservatives and liberals alike. Their aim is to encourage precisely more of the hate speech to which I was a witness at this event.

Lastly, Kathy Wells approached me and said "I hate your articles in the newspaper." She turned to walk away, but then turned again towards me and said that she "didn't hate me," but that "she felt sorry for me," and then she repeated that she "hated my PE articles." I did not respond to Ms. Wells.

Let me be very clear: I am in no way suggesting that this gathering should not have taken place. This was an exercise in the right to free speech, and I applaud that. But it is the responsibility of the PE to report on the events accurately.

I am also not suggesting that any of these events were in any important way about me. I do, however, represent (whether accurately or otherwise) much of what they regularly demonize, and as the hateful and bigoted remarks of the attendees demonstrate, I--among millions of others--am not included in their America.

Again, this is not conservatism.

One can oppose the stimulus plan without identifying it as the product of a Muslim/Communist/Socialist conspiracy. One can object to the policies of the Obama administration without resorting to the incendiary language of "Barack Hussein Obama." One can be a conservative without insisting that ONLY a Christian nation can be composed of a free people (and this is a logical contradiction). Many conservatives, moreover, have little to say in support of the hero of this event, Glenn Beck.

I would be happy to talk to Mr. Lester further about this, and what I have posted here is a complete account of my notes. Had I access to Mr. Lester's email address, I would gladly have included him in this missive. This was not simply another Independence Day event like the Millville parade or the fireworks display. To report it as if it were misrepresents its meaning.

Thank you for attending to this matter.

Wendy Lynne Lee

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Why the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is so Important

*The following is a response to the Press Enterprise Editor, Jim Sachetti's threat to banish me from posting remarks on local and national issues. My aim in posting it here is to reiterate the point that until progressive change comes to small towns like mine--Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania--it cannot endure anywhere.



To the Editor,

Is it possible to condone an act of violence, even murder, through inaction? Through words that cry foul, but in fact excuse? Yes. Few who condoned the Ramirez murder used words like “his death’s OK with me.” But as the meaningless sentence, lack of local outcry for justice, and comments that begin in faux-condemnation but quickly give way to a “BUT, he had it coming,” show, it’s not NOT OK to murder undocumented workers.

As I point out in 30 Seconds (6.26), this same condoning posture informs J. Pushinaitis’ 6.20 O-Ed remarks concerning late term abortion.

Pushinaitis: “Dr. Tiller killed 60,000 babies with a saline-filled syringe,” and “not one word uttered by [Bruce] Rockwood to impose syringe controls, but instead he chooses to clamor over gun control.” Pushinaitis’ point is that while we ought to repudiate LTA, we ought not to regulate gun-ownership. He offers no defense of the assumption that LTA is murder—and none to support unregulated gun ownership. One’s evil, the other good; end of story.

There is much to be said about the gun ownership side of this strained analogy, but my aim is to concentrate on the subject of Sachetti’s “challenge,” or rather threat to banish me from 30 Seconds for claiming that Pushinaitis condones the murder of Dr. Tiller.

Pushinaitis’ assumptions: (a) although LTA comprises fewer than 1% of abortions, and (b) is performed to save the mother’s life/health and/or to prevent suffering for a hopelessly damaged fetus, that if (c) LTA nonetheless constitutes murder then (d) the fetus’ life-value outweighs the mother’s. It should thus be banned regardless the consequences for the mother. Given that ignorance of the facts is no excuse, “P. denies that women have an equal right to life/health.”

Pushinaitis thus condones Tiller’s murder on two grounds: first, in inciting public outcry against abortion, the “baby-killer” rhetoric fosters callousness towards the lives of doctors who perform them. We turn away, and say to ourselves, ‘Well, I didn’t kill him, BUT he had it coming.” Second, why else refer to Tiller only in the context of “baby-killing” except to imply that his murder embodies a certain justice—that Tiller deserved to be murdered?

Editor Sachetti claims my response to Pushinaitis is unjust, and challenges me to defend it on threat of banishment. Done. But isn’t this strange for someone who claims not only to be committed to free speech, but who publishes comments that border on libel? I neither impugn Pushinatis’ character nor slander him, yet not a day transpires that Sachetti doesn’t publish personal and professional assault aimed at me.

Does he forget that in 2007 he printed numerous false, potentially libelous, claims about my divorce, all without comment? In fact, although he had access to the evidence, he silently condoned this defamation and even defended the assassination of my character (October-December, 2007). I’ve never requested anyone’s banishment.

I BELIEVE in free speech.

But if it applies only to those whom Sachetti favors, it’s not freedom, not even for those who applaud his challenge. They’re in fact the biggest dupes of all in Sachetti’s game of “up the stakes.”

Perhaps 30 Seconds is really the Truman Show, its contributors unwitting sit-com actors. Maybe the show was getting dull for Sachetti, and he needed to ratchet up the anger at one of its antagonists. We’re about to find out—and it applies to us all. Will it matter that I’ve met the challenge? Probably not. Were Sachetti committed to free speech, he would never have leveled it.

Your move, Mr. Sachetti. Who’s next?

Wendy Lynne Lee

592 words.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Rural Pennsylvania Hate Group Sponsors Tea-Party


To the Editor,

Joining the chorus of Fox-sponsored Tea-parties are voices belonging to none other than members of our homegrown hate group, the Patriot’s Voice. In his 5.19 Op-Ed, “CEO” Robert Runyon announces a July 4th Tea Party scheduled for Bloomsburg Town Park. He invites American citizens who are “mad as hell.” Apparently citizens of other nations aren’t welcome at the park on July 4th.

Stay home you Canadians!
No Mexican citizens allowed!
You French folks stay away!

Runyon does, however, insist that the event is non-partisan, and that no political signage will be permitted—though I wonder on what authority he could actually keep me from holding up such a sign (perhaps one that reads: “Just say NO to Torture”)—in a public space—where my first amendment rights are fully protected—but let’s not quibble about silly things like rights. He wants a Tea Party. Fine. Now let’s see what he really means.

To discover this, you have to go to the “Obama Nation” page of the Patriot's Voice website where you’ll find a number of unsubstantiated claims directed at the Obama administration.

So much for non-partisan!

In fact, here you’ll find the full measure of the far right’s shrill, nationalistic, and patently racist Anti-Obama propaganda. No criticism of the Bush administration graces the website (although these are the same folks who posted their “Yeah for Joseph McCarthy!” page until it threatened to upset their runs for school board seats).

They claim that under Obama Americans will see the end of marriage, the imposition of Communism, the end of capitalism, the dictatorship of environmentalists, and global domination via the United Nations. According to the Patriot’s Voice, Obama will take away your guns, tax you into the grave, release terrorists onto U.S. soil, and make decisions about your healthcare that used to be your doctor’s.

They consistently refer to the Democrats as Democrat-Socialists. Makes you feel welcome to their party, doesn’t it? They go on to applaud Fox’s Glenn Beck who routinely compares the Obama government to the Nazis, and insists that you cannot be an American without being a Christian. I can only wonder where Runyon got the 76% of Americans who think we’re going in the wrong direction—since Obama’s approval ratings are sky-high.

But I suppose citing sources might distract from the fear mongering.

And a vacuous fear-mongering it is, since the 5.19 Op-Ed itself says virtually nothing about what we’re to be “mad as hell,” what “insanity” they oppose, what job-saving alternatives there are to the bailouts, which inalienable rights the government is threatening to reppress, what “empty promises” we’ve been sold, or what they mean by “social engineering.”


They simply parrot the scary—but utterly vacant—platitudes fed to them by the likes of Beck. If this is your idea of patriotism, by all means head out on Independence Day for the PV-Tea Party. But if you think that being a citizen means becoming engaged not merely at the level of hate-mongering propaganda, but rather in the critical evaluation of what Obama really says, what his proposals and policies really stipulate, what his appointments really represent, and what direction your country is really taking, skip the Tea Party.

It’s an easy thing to allow ourselves to be manipulated by patriotic-sounding slogans like “We’re mad as hell!” The challenge, however, is to be a citizen who can think for themselves. Nothing less than our democracy hinges on this thinking. The tea parties are, simply, a cynical attempt by a flailing far right to fire-up a mob in hopes of saving an ideologically waterlogged Republican Party.

That Patriot’s Voice members would be readily suckered by such a strategy is hardly surprising—but YOU don’t have to be.

Wendy Lynne Lee

615 words.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


To the Editor,

If the creationism/natural selection (NS) “debate’s” interesting, it’s not because there’s any debate here; it’s because what the real debate’s about is who gets to control the production and dissemination of knowledge—who gets to decide what counts as knowledge. Pretenders to an expertise clearly beyond their educations, would-be experts like Terry McAfee and Robert Runyon mimic bits and pieces of scientific-sounding jargon as if putting on academic garb could magically convert them into scientists so accomplished that their “arguments” against NS will prevail over decades of research, argument, and evidence. Responding, for example, to a point I made about NS and xenotransplantation, Runyon claims that if we cannot see evolution occurring—a creature “caught in the act”—it must not be! ( But this not only betrays willful ignorance with respect to the mechanisms of NS, it demonstrates a willingness to suspend common sense in order to cling to thread bare conviction. We don’t see the erosion of mountains directly either—but we surely don’t doubt its occurrence.

Runyon then resorts to the one strategy he can count on to have some effect so long as people aren’t really looking—self-righteous fallacy-pumping. He sets up the straw claim that I’m calling him “dumb” as if name-calling would make it magically true that NS is false—as if my being mean lends his position credibility. But I’ve neither said nor implied that he’s “dumb.” He’s not; it’s worse: Runyon’s strategy is a manipulative charade motivated by the arrogant smugness of one who thinks that, having a god in their pocket, that they’re required neither to do the hard work of comprehending alternative explanations of natural phenomena nor examine their own assumptions. Similarly, McAfee’s calling his opponents “Christian-haters” is just one more cynically deployed strategy to distract attention away from the real issues: who controls the content of science education.

And that’s just the point: the world’s McAfees and Runyons aren’t interested in education; it’s not about that. This is about the lengths one religious camp will go to enforce a worldview in direct conflict with the separation of church and state. McAfee, moreover, holds two beliefs that are plainly false: (1) even if NS were falsified (as is a possibility—however unlikely—for ALL scientific hypotheses—such is the very point of testing them), this would not verify creationism. The falsity of one theory is not verification of another; insofar as McAfee can produce no positive evidence, test, or opportunity for falsification for his view, it’s not even a scientific theory. (2) He apparently thinks that what ought to be taught in publicly funded schools is a matter for public decision, as if a “debate” of the merits of NS should determine science curricula—as if knowledge were merely a product of what folks want to be true. Good thing it’s not; after all, astrology, telekinesis, talking to the dead, and alien babies have no place in science education either.

What we’re left to conclude—if we’re honest—is that this “debate’s” not about knowledge; it’s about power. No one’s being kept from believing in gods, goddesses, flying spaghetti monsters, or alien babies. The issue is who gets to say what counts as science, and what counts as good science education. My vote goes to the folks soundly trained in scientific method—not because they’re always right, but because they—utterly unlike McAfee and Runyon—are willing to be wrong. What the creationists don’t get is that “willing to be wrong” doesn’t mean “ready to sign onto superstition,” but rather willing to be guided by the application of well-honed reason to evidence—not a creationist value.

Wendy Lynne Lee

594 words.