Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Republican-cum-Tea Partier Governor-Elect, Paul LePage, has seen fit to hire his 22-year-old daughter, Lauren, to an "entry-level" job in the "upper echelon of his adminsitration" (namely: assistant to the governor's chief of staff).  The salary? 

$41,000 a year.

For an entry-level job.

In Augusta.


For a little context, beginning teachers make $30,000 and beginning State Police officers make $36,000.

Is this a great country, or what!?

But, wait:  there's more!  Ms. LePage will be moving into the Governor's Mansion with her father, which means free room and board on Mr. & Mrs. Vacationland's dime.  Cha-ching!

[Source:  Bangor Daily News via Think Progress; photo source:]

Awesomest Image du Jour XIV

Fancy a trip to China?  The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival officially begins January 5th!

[Source:  Boing Boing.]

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Awesomest Image du Jour XIII

Tastes like chicken.

I'm guessing.

[Source:  Wikimedia; photo by Thomas Bresson.]

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Awesomest Image du Jour XII

Quel ecumenical!  I like.

[Source:  Boing Boing.]

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Awesomest Image(s) du Jour XI

These are more of a filling-you-with-dread/sending-a-chill-down-your-spine kind of "awesome".

Click on the link below to see the rest.  The fact that they are in color really underscores the fact that this gathering was only sixty-nine years ago -- a month older than my mother.

[Source:, via HuffPo.]

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Trans-Siberian Express Update

Thanks to an episode of Globe Trekker, I have new wind in my sails to finally get around to organizing my images and thoughts for a post.  I'm thinking I'll transcribe my journals from this period (1988) in parts, with maybe some after-thoughts to follow.  My actual time in China is a whole other ball of wax and may be a future project.  That said, I do have some wonderful images to share, so hopefully I'll get around to it before too long.

Thanks to Globe Trekker, I was able to confirm the train compartments have not changed a bit in 22 years!

Here are two images to whet your taste....

These photos were taken at the Munich Hauptbahnhof as I was leaving.  Erika and Ellen came to see me off...with a present of a bag of oranges.  I don't think it's hyperbole to say that those oranges saved my life.  The images are in color, but they might as well be in black-and-white, as they were a thousand years ago....

Awesomest Image du Jour X

An ice-encased lighthouse in Cleveland created by the spray from Lake Erie thanks to some very high winds and very low tempuratures.

[Source:  Boing Boing.]

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Nothing says Flair and Zing like...

..."breathable" Naugaweave. 


(Click the image to experience the full flair of Awesomest Image du Jour IX....)

[Source:  Boing Boing.]

Monday, December 20, 2010

Awesomest Image du Jour VIII - Part Deux

Holy merde!

[Source:  Art Daily, AP Photo/Jacques Brinon.]

Awesomest Image du Jour VIII

[Source:  TPM.]

Friday, December 17, 2010

Awesomest Image du Jour VII

[Source:  Futility Closet (my new favoritest site!)]

This is why I love genealogy

Check it out.  Freaky, no?

(Also, Alec Baldwin must be so upset.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Awesomest Image du Jour VI

Holy Venus's a carnivorous tree!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Awesomest Image du Jour V

I've got my eye on you, buddy.

This photograph (click on the image for the full effect) was taken by Canadian Paul Nicklen for National Geographic.  It is included in's photo gallery of World Press Photo Contest Winners.  Check out the other winners here.

I do not much care for this Julian Assange character

He weirds me out, to be blunt.

Perhaps it is because he (from certain angles) looks like an albino version of an ex-boyfriend.

Perhaps it is because he's obviously an ass.

Perhaps it is because he is an Australian with a French-sounding last name that finally gives us a rhyming word for "orange".

Perhaps it is because he considers himself some sort of Robin Hood for information when, in fact, he's just a digital paparazzo with a super-duper telephoto lens.

Perhaps it is because he runs around "in hiding", with no permanent address.

Perhaps it is because he looks like a James Bond nemesis.

Perhaps it is because Michael Moore likes him.

Perhaps it is because his recent leaks focus on water-cooler gossip around Foggy Bottom rather than the real evil doers on Wall Street.

Or lastly, perhaps it is because he so blatantly ripped off the "Wiki" brand.

Any way you slice it, I'll be glad when his 15 minutes are up.  Surely, we're getting close, yes...?

[Image source:  Wikipedia, naturally.]

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Awesomest Image du Jour IV

This is cool.

Apparently, some Facebook intern decided it would be fun to plot out the latitude and longitude of each Facebook user as well as connect the dots with the latitude and longitude of each of their friends.  And what he got was a map -- not one based on continental land masses but one based on connections between people.  (Click on the map for a higher-resolution version.)

If this intern isn't paid, he should be.

[Source:  Towleroad.]

Monday, December 13, 2010

Awesomest Image(s) du Jour III

Here's a couple of my favorites from a collection of almost 700 ambrotype and tintype photographs of Union and Confederate soldiers donated by the Liljenquist family to the Library of Congress.

[Source:  Library of Congress Flickr Pilot Project, via Daily Dish.]

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Awesomest Image du Jour II

Whoa.  Dude, that just ain't right.

[Source Buzzhunt via Daily Dish.]

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Introducing: Awesomest Image du Jour!

In an effort to supply my loyal and ridiculously good-looking readership with something whilst I figure out working full-time and still satisfying my desire and need to spout off, I now unveil for your viewing pleasure my new series:  Awesomest Image du Jour!  My scope will be wide and will make every effort to stay this side of PG.  I plan to share whatever strikes my fancy, tickles my funny bone, makes me gasp audibly or generally makes my eyes pop...with the hope that you will be similarly taken, amused, shocked, etc.

So, without further adieu...I give you today's Awesomest Image.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mea Culpa

Hello Readers!

Blogger lets me see who you are -- or, at least, where you are. And, frankly, you could have knocked me over with a feather! Yes, most of you are from the U.S., but there is also a healthy international contingent of you from as far away as Japan, Pakistan, Syria, South Africa, etc.  Europe is also well-represented (which warms my heart, because they cannot just be former fellow-students who now live there).

To all of you, my many thanks for bothering to follow my musings, even now and again.  I never know who my audience is, but you are my sole purpose, nonetheless.

Of late, I've actually found some full-time work.  It's only temporary, but, as you can already see, it's eaten into my posting time.  This is a double-edged sword.  It's my hope that, as I get acclimated to a full-time work schedule again (it's been two years, folks), I'll be better able to mount my soapbox yet again.  And it's my hope you all will still be here to listen as you have up until now.

Stay tuned....  Events, as always, give me endless fodder....

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sarah Palin's new book -- Family Values, Fundamentalism and Frontierism

Shrill Spice has written another book in her latest effort to tell us what she wants, what she really really wants.  It's aptly entitled America By Heart:  Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag -- apt because Sarah's 3 Fs inform the core of a world-view she memorized as a child.  She ♥ her kin, her god and her country; she knows the words by heart and isn't interested in discussing any grey areas, thank you very much.  In fact, she's not just not interested; she's openly hostile to and dismissive of the very idea.

Fully cognizant that the 2012 campaign has now officially started, she wants Americans to recognize her as the anti-Obama...both of them, Barack and Michelle.  Barack may have grown up in a majority-minority state like Hawaii, but Sarah's Alaska is sparsely populated and three-fourths White.  It's interesting that both spent their formative years detached from the contiguous 48 and yet each developed a vastly different idea of what America has been, is, and should become.  Whereas the President comprehends and reveres what our flag symbolizes and represents, Palin sees it more as a totem being usurped by immigrants and the intelligensia who dare suggest that Betsy Ross wasn't guided by the Holy Spirit and that "American exceptionalism" is nothing more than a construct to facilitate our sea-to-shining-sea manifest destiny. Palin's America rests upon a pedestal; it's Mom and Apple Pie. There's nothing to discuss because it's perfect.  To suggest otherwise is not just rude or unpatriotic; it's an assault.

Palin's reading of the Bible and the U.S. Constitution is a fundamentalist one.  Leviticus says a man lying with another man is an abomination, so gays are bad.  The 2nd Amendment says you can bear arms, so guns are good.  Case closed, end of discussion. Context-schmontext.  The Obamas, on the other hand, didn't grow up in the bosom of the status-quo and experienced first-hand how their country -- as much theirs as Palin's -- wasn't always living up to its potential or its own clearly-stated ideals.  In law school (Harvard, no less), they read the Constitution, digested it, dissected it, discussed it, debated it...just as the Founding Fathers did and just as lawyers and justices have done every day since the first ink touched parchment.  One can only imagine that being lectured to on the subject or dismissed as unpatriotic by Sarah Palin is the definition of gall for them.

But, then, growing up on the frontier -- even a massively-subsidized one like Alaska -- teaches you to take what you need. Palin doesn't need to understand the intricacies of constitutional law or immigration policy or the separation of church and state or Islam or sexual orientation because she's preaching to a choir that is equally -- if not more -- ignorant as she about such issues.  They just want to know if your for or against.  Nuance is neither required nor desired.  Nuance is what the brainiacs like -- the "elites" who look down their noses at the simple folk.  Never mind that highly-educated people can also be family-oriented, faithful and patriotic; different approaches or interpretations are ipso facto incorrect and need to be "refudiated".

So, Janey One Note continues to blow her dog whistle and her hounds will continue to howl.  As long as the majority of the American voting public sees through her schtick, we'll be ok.  On the other hand, she will continue to remain dangerous as long as she invokes this idea of hers about a provoked Mama Grizzly.  If enough people feel threatened, her simple message with its simple symbols could still win converts.  Anyone foolish enough to laugh off the fire she's playing with doesn't know their history very well.

Just like Sarah.

[Hat-tip:  HuffPo; image via Wikipedia.]

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Armistice Day vs. Veterans Day

Frankly, I prefer the former.  And so do, I imagine, the handful of World War I veterans who are still alive and actually remember the end of what is regarded as the second deadliest war in human history and the first truly world war.

Considering the place the armed forces have in the national consciousness of the United States specifically -- Support Our Troops! -- I find it ironic that all veterans, living and dead, get not only just one single day a year, but they do it at the expense of World War I veterans.  Move over, fellas, we're all going to have to cram in here!

There may not be many WWI vets alive today, but there sure as hell were when President Eisenhower officially hijacked their day back in 1954.  Apparently the idea was the brainchild of some shop owner in Emporia, Kansas.  Well, we got sold something, that's for sure.

I wonder how V-E (May 8, 1945) and V-J (September 2, 1945 in the U.S.) Day veterans thought about this.  Were not those two singular days momentous enough to be commemorated on their own?  What about our own, homegrown war?  Shouldn't we give April 9, 1865, its due especially considering it remains the deadliest war in American history?  Or how about the day Cornwallis finally surrendered in the War of Independence -- October 19, 1781?  That's kind of important, right? day, that's it.  I think it's a sham(e) that Americans cannot be bothered to remember some of these seminal dates in our not-so-lengthy history.  I'm not saying that each date needs to be a federal holiday -- perish the thought; we're not France! -- but cannot each date be at least remembered by a moment of silence in government, a moment of instruction in classrooms, or even a mere mention in the calendar?  Unfortunately, for a nation that talks a big fight, we tend to lose our way in the follow-through; we prefer things uncomplicated and convenient.  So we have "Veterans Day" -- please note the lack of an apostrophe; in the government's wisdom, they decided to leave it out on know, because, really, who can figure out if it should be Veteran's or Veterans'?

So, today, I will certainly remember all that our living and dead veterans have done, their service and sacrifice, but I will especially remember that at 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918, an armistice was signed in a railway car in a forest near the French town of Compiègne that ended the War To End All Wars.

I feel I owe it to the more than nine million soldiers killed, and I especially owe it to my Great-Great-Uncle Arthur Alden who was killed just a couple months before in July following the Battle of Château-Thierry.

[Image via Wikipedia.]

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Growing up on Sesame Street

Sesame Street is 41!  Can you believe it?  Talk about defining a period of time!  Before and after Sesame Street is kind of like before and after Pearl Harbor or before and after The Beatles -- a huge socio-cultural turning point.

Thanks to, we know that it was today, forty-one years ago, that Sesame Street first premiered.  Earlier that year, Richard Nixon became President, The Beatles played for the last time in public, Dwight Eisenhower died, Charles de Gaulle stepped down, Elton John released his first album, Judy Garland died (closely followed by the Stonewall Riots in NYC), Ted Kennedy drove off a bridge at Chappaquiddick, the U.S. landed on the moon, the last cartoon in the original Looney Tune series was released,  The Brady Bunch premiered, and within a month the first Boeing 747 jumbo jet would make its inaugural flight.

Feeling old yet?

In my little corner of the world, my sister had been born the preceding April and I would be three in the coming March. Considering Sesame's target audience was three- to five-year-olds, we were the tiniest bit too young to have tuned in for that first show (but maybe not...I'll have to check on that), BUT we never knew a world without it by the time we did start watching.  The Sesame Street we knew back then was one where Mr. Hooper was very much alive, Roosevelt Franklin hadn't been yanked, and there was no such thing as a snuffleupagus.

It was also a very black and white world.  Literally -- we didn't have a color television set until Christmas 1974.  Imagine our joyful surprise when my sister and I discovered our favorite muppets were not various shades of grey but were, in fact, bright yellow, green, blue and everything else in the rainbow!  We also realized that it wasn't just the muppets who were "of color".  I think it's safe to say that Gordon and Susan were the first African-Americans my sister and I ever "met".  Same goes for Luis and Maria, who taught us our first words in Spanish.  (I clearly remember running up to my mother to ask her if she knew the Spanish word for "water"...and being horribly disappointed when she responded:  yes, agua.  How did she know that!?)  Our bedroom community of Buffalo was just about as white as a suburb could get, and we simply didn't know anyone who wasn't Anglo-Saxon (give or take).

We also didn't know anything about cities!  Brownstones, buses, "don't walk" signs, fire escapes and a world that was seemingly completely paved over were totally unknown to us.  I remember thinking it was all so fascinating.  123 Sesame Street -- I was especially enamored of Gordon and Susan's double front door, stone facade and front stoop.

They may have had something close to that in Buffalo, but they certainly didn't where we lived.  I was probably just a little too old for this when it came out:

...but I was psyched as hell when my younger cousins got it.  Outta the way, kid!

I felt like it was all speaking to me.  Was not my childhood house number 321 (just 123, backwards!); was I not a Fisher-Price tester child (I was!); did I not live in New York (State)??  Was this not my world too, albeit on a flashing screen beamed through the ethers from some 400 miles away?

I now belatedly blame/credit Sesame Street for my 16 years in New York City and becoming an architect.  I clearly didn't stand a chance.  I don't know about the draw of architecture school, but how many other kids found themselves in NYC as adults to one degree or another because of this show?  I'm guessing I am not the only one.

So, Happy Birthday, Sesame Street!  Thank you for showing me and countless millions of others a world different from our own, giving us friendly neighbors, a place to meet and setting us on our way.  You are definitely A-OK.

[Hat-tip: (via Avery!); images:  123 Sesame Street stoop, Fisher-Price set; Sesame Street sign.]

Monday, November 8, 2010

The New Civil War

This feels incredibly timely.


One-hundred-and-fifty years ago, Americans went to war with themselves. Disunion revisits and reconsiders America's most perilous period -- using contemporary accounts, diaries, images and historical assessments to follow the Civil War as it unfolded.

DISUNION is something I stumbled across today at The New York Times on its Opinionator blog.  It started this past October 31 and will continue to follow (until?) the events of 150 years ago as if in real time.

Certainly a sesquicentennial is reason enough for such a project -- and perhaps it is the only reason -- but the timing seems downright pre-ordained.  Ever since those first graphic designers on cable news conveniently divided our country into red and blue, we have come to understand that the ideological divide in our nation hasn't changed geographically in the last 150 years. The picture gets muddier when you look at the 435 individual House districts, where red vs. blue largely comes down to interior vs. coasts and rural vs. urban.  But, when you blur and round up for states as a whole -- as in Senate races and the Electoral College -- red has replaced grey for the Rebels, Yankees are still blue [was that on purpose I wonder...?], and the West is a hodgepodge.

Looks familiar, doesn't it?

What's old is new again, with certain high-ranking politicians throwing words like "succession" and "states' rights" around, calling into question fundamental constitutional foundations and issuing thinly-veiled threats of armed revolt.  Outright ownership of another person is no longer an issue (though the banks continue to try), but equal opportunity, access and protection still are.  And now, as then, an Illinois politician occupies the White House trying to hold things together.  This time, however, the President is black (or at least self-identifies and is generally recognized as such) -- a fact not unnoticed by certain standard bearers in Dixie and yet another interesting twist of how "here and now" are linked to "there and then".

All of which begs the question:  to what extent -- either by design or fascinating coincidence -- are we to ascribe any prescience to this re-chronicling, day by day, of that period in our history that lead to a violent and deadly civil war?  If the past truly is prologue, what can we learn from today's vantage point and the benefit of clear hindsight to avoid past mistakes?  And is it even possible?

[Image via NYT.]

Friday, November 5, 2010

Keep Nancy Pelosi and dump Harry Reid!

Ok, folks, a little reminder lesson in how our democracy works (and please forgive me if this is old hat to many of you).

Every two years, the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election -- all 435 members.  The Founders (Madison, I think) designed it this way (though there were fewer then, of course) so as to be a more immediate barometer of the country's mood -- for better or worse.  Unlike the House, only 1/3 of the Senate is up for re-election every two years, so that all 100 members will have stood for re-election during the six years that are a senator's term in office.  Then, finally, the White House -- its President and his (or, one day, her) administration -- only stands one more time after being elected the first time.  Politically speaking, a perfect storm is only possible every four years when 100% of the House is up, 1/3 of the Senate, and 100% of the White House.  The Senate, designed to be the most deliberative body, is thereby the most protected against the vagaries of the American electorate.

Enter this most recent election.  The knives are currently out for Speaker -- soon, perhaps, to be Minority Leader -- Nancy Pelosi, because a) her chamber bore the brunt of voters' discontent and b) the victorious Republicans specifically used her as a whipping girl and substitute for a milquetoast Reid and an untouchable (for now) Obama.  And, here's the kicker:  they are not just Republican knives -- in fact, the Republicans, thinking they've got a good thing going, would like her to stick around in leadership; no, the knives out for Pelosi are from her own side.

This is not only foolish and stupid, it's deeply unfair.  Nancy Pelosi is the only Democrat in leadership who has met expectations and kept her campaign promises, period.  I would wager that there were more Democratic seats lost in the House on Tuesday because of Independents and Democrats sitting the election out in protest for the incredibly lame fumbling that happened in the Senate and the White House with all the legislation she got through the House (as promised and instructed) than any new Republican recruits to Pelosi-hatred.

Harry Reid, to be sure, had his own fight to wage...but would he have had such a close election with someone even Republicans weren't sure smelled right if his position hadn't been so irrevocably damaged by a universal condemnation by his own Party of a lackluster performance since (and even before?) Obama was elected?  No!  Absolutely not.  Frankly, I'm thrilled he beat Sharron Angle in the end, but she never should have been a serious candidate in the first place.  She's clearly outside the mainstream -- even for Nevada -- and the only reason she gave him a run for his money is that Democrats weren't even sure they wanted him back.

Soooo [and you see where I'm going with this, yes?], I'm curious -- and not a little outraged -- that all the talk is about whether Pelosi will keep her leadership position in the House (albeit now in the minority) and no one whom I've read has brought up whether Harry Reid should keep his position of Majority Leader in the Senate!  Just because his chamber (as we've said, only a third of which was standing for re-election) held the majority for the Democrats doesn't mean that he -- much more than Pelosi -- doesn't bear a huge responsibility for this past cycle's losses. Where are the calls for his ouster?  Where are the calls for someone, say, like Chuck Schumer, widely thought a possible replacement if Reid was unsuccessful in keeping his seat?  Frankly, this question would be moot if Angle had actually won (as many suspected she would).  Should those calls die out just because Reid did keep his seat!?

No, they should not.  Let's hope the Pelosi question is quickly settled so that the media -- always no farther along than a dog sniffing for his next morsel -- can shift gears and examine someone who should be the real fall-guy for this year's drubbing.

[Image source.]

Mitch McConnell is a sore loser...

...and an ungracious winner, and something coming dangerously close to being an open traitor.

It's one thing for a Republican to wish for Obama's early retirement; it's quite another to state it publicly -- especially when you currently happen to be the highest-ranked leader of said Party, who is supposed to be in partnership with ALL elected leaders for the next two years to move the country forward.  To want President Obama to fail over this next Congress -- something one would think a pre-requisite for any failure to be awarded a second term -- the country, by extension, would need to fail, or at the very least continue to suffer.  That should be unacceptable for any leader of this country, and it's especially unacceptable for a senator who is supposed to represent all of his or her state's voters, Republican and Democrat.

Even John Boehner gets this simple fact.  TPM is reporting that the soon-to-be-House-Speaker is already distancing himself from McConnell's incendiary post-election remarks.

Mitch McConnell should know better.  But, then, he has yet to be Majority Leader like his direct predecessors Bill Frist, Trent Lott, Bob Dole and Howard Baker, who all the pleasure of serving some or all of their time as their party's leader in the Senate with Republicans in the majority.  He's no doubt peeved that his party was not able to ride the same wave that swept Nancy Pelosi out of the Speaker's office.  One imagines he's also irked that, instead of his choice for Kentucky's junior senator, he's stuck with Rand Paul for the next six years.  All in all, one can forgive him some ill temper.

But not when it comes to talking about the President of the United States.  Can you imagine the geschrei from Republicans if Harry Reid came out with McConnell's words when he was Minority Leader?  Or how loudly Fox News would be screaming "unpresidential" if Obama spoke about McConnell this way?


There is a sentiment I have noticed on the left side of the interwebs that McConnell's attitude is simply one of a Southern (barely) white man balking at the politically superior status of a black man.  Tempting though it may be as an explanation, I think we ought to take our Vice President's sage advice about not questioning a person's motive and accept that McConnell's stance relative to the President is strictly partisan.  That said, McConnell needs to at least try to look like he is placing the concerns of the country over the concerns of his own party and its future.  We all know he wants to defeat goes without saying.

Or at least it should.

[Image source.]

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Peanut Gallery is now extra-crunchy!

Well, folks, we've got ourselves another Republican-led House of Representatives.  You's one thing to have a Republican White House or a Republican Senate, but the House is something of a peanut gallery to begin with; the last thing you need is more nuts.

Pity the poor American electorate; they almost never remember this.

Unfortunately, American voters don't have many tools at their disposal to register displeasure.  Sure, there are a handful of tiny parties out there one can use to thumb one's nose at the bums; but, to have a voice in an actual governing party, one really has to choose between Republicans and Democrats.  Maybe one day these behemoths will be broken up into smaller chunks that can coalesce into governments based on the leading issues of the day, but, for now, it's still Pepsi versus Coke.

This last election was a referendum on the Democratic Party as a whole.  Republicans would like you to think it was about Obama, Reid and Pelosi -- and, to the extent that they are the party leaders, it's true.  But I believe the discontent is much broader. Part of it comes from the voters in the middle who aren't necessarily loyal to one party or the other.  These people can be swayed by policy and/or personality.  But the other part comes from demoralized progressive voters on the left who simply stayed home on election day.  They're frustrated that more wasn't accomplished in the golden opportunity they helped provide. After all, the Democrats had commanding majorities in both chambers and the White House.  If things cannot get done with a line-up like that, why bother?  Unfortunately for Pelosi, the entire House is up for election every two years, making it much more immediately reflective of voters' moods.  Sadly and ironically for her, she was seemingly the only Democrat who was making good on campaign promises.  She delivered; the Senate dithered; and Obama wasted time and energy on a détente that was never possible.

So now the gavel gets passed to Ohio's John Boehner -- the quintessence of Wall Street and country club Republicanism. Unfortunately for him, his is a dying bread.  His party has been hijacked by the Tea Party crowd and, just like the Contract with America types before them, they run the very real risk of reminding voters of why a Republican-run House is something of an aberration in American politics.

He's got two years.

But so do the Democrats.  What he and they do and don't do in this intervening period will decide whether Republican gains this cycle are sustained or if this year's results were a periodic attack of American political nuttiness.

[Image source.]

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sarah "Baby Jane" Palin

Have you seen Mrs. Palin's new hairdo?  She launched it today to a very flummoxed Oprah Winfrey, who deemed it "kinda cute". (Fail.)  Check it out in all its "I'm-writing-a-letter-to-Daddy" glory here.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Kate Smith!

Here she is, circa 1930s, belting out her signature tune.  If this doesn't put a little shiver in your timbers on this Election Day, I don't know what will.

[Via YouTube.]

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hey America, meet Archie Bunker's grandchildren!

Hopefully, even if you're too young to have watched the show, you are aware of one of the most important television shows ever produced:  All In The Family.  It thematically and chronologically encompassed the Seventies, running from 1971 to 1979 and addressing what seemed like every possible social issue in a society where such things were still widely considered taboo. Racism, homosexuality, feminism, was all in there.  Many of the best confrontations were between pater familias, Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor), and son-in-law, Michael Stivic (Rob Reiner).  Archie is exactly what central casting would deliver for a quintessential Tea Party character of today:  conservative, reactionary, distrustful, prejudiced and mad-as-hell.  Mike (or "Meathead" as Archie calls him) is mad-as-hell, too, but in direct opposition to his father-in-law; Mike is an outspoken liberal who came of age in the Sixties' summer(s) of love.  He sees everything his generation wants to fight and reform distilled in the figure of Archie.

Fast forward to today -- some almost 40 years after the show premiered -- and w're still talking about the same things. Afghanistan and Iraq have replaced Vietnam and Al Qaeda has replaced the Soviets, but, other than that, the themes remain.

Enter Joey Stivic.

Joey is Mike and wife Gloria's only child and Archie's grandson. Joey's a Generation Xer who's now in his mid-thirties.  Joey left Astoria, Queens for Park Slope, Brooklyn.  Joey voted for Obama. And Joey probably went to Washington, DC, this past Saturday for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.

Stewart and Colbert were both born in the last years of the Baby Boomer period and would have been weened on All In The Family. They no doubt see today's Rush Limbaugh as yesterday's Archie Bunker in Gucci loafers.  They recognize that the Tea Party has breathed new life into the old Archies, and they have to wonder how on Earth this happened.  How is it that, in 2010, we are still having this argument?

The Rally's call for a moderate middle and a pragmatic approach in discourse if not policy is a generational synthesis born of the dilalectical forces between Archie and Meathead.  Joey's generation is sick of the shrill and wants to restore some reasonableness.  It's not that he isn't passionate; he is, but it's a more pragmatic passion that tries to actually facilitate change rather then simply scream for it while vilifying anyone who doesn't agree.

Archie and Edith's LaSalle may have run great, and Mike and Gloria's Mustang was cool; but Joey drives a Prius.  He wants it all  -- dependability, design and responsibility.  Joey still loves his father and grandfather and forgives them both for thinking his car is a little fruity.  He simply rolls his eyes and forges ahead...because he's got stuff to do.

[Image sources: Mike and Archie; Joey Stivic; Rally.]

Saturday, October 30, 2010

1st Daily Show after 9/11

Came across this today and couldn't not share it.  It renders me speechless.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
September 11, 2001
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen: sharpen your Palin pencils!

It's nigh time to see how the old girl does with her many endorsements this coming Tuesday.  It promises to be a mixed bag, with some high-profile wins and some equally-high-profile losses, all with big implications for her brand and political future. How will she do??

After much (frankly, a surprising amount of) searching, I finally located a handy-dandy (and hopefully up-to-date) list of Palin endorsees on the "Organize4Palin" website -- some 80 of them across the country.  The great majority of them are House races, but the national media -- "lamestream" or otherwise -- will no doubt focus on the bigger-ticket races in the Senate and, to a lesser degree, some of the gubernatorial contests.

For U.S. Senate, she has endorsed:

Miller (AK)
Fiorina (CA)
McCain (AZ)
Paul (KY)
Angle (NV)
Ayotte (NH)
O'Donnell (DE)
Rubio (FL)
Raese (WV)
Toomey (PA)
Boozman (AR)

For Governor, she has endorsed:

Haley (SC)
Branstad (IA)
Emmer (MN)
Perry (TX)
Martinez (NM)
Scott (FL)
Otter (ID)

According to polling data from The New York Times, Palin seems to be well-placed with her picks for Governor.  Five of her seven choices look like they will win easily.  Only Emmer in Minnesota and Scott in Florida are considered toss-ups.  Emmer is in a three-way race and is only given about a 1-in-10 chance of prevailing. Scott, on the other hand, is neck-and-neck with his rival, Sink, who is given the slightest of edges at the moment.  All in all, not so bad for Team Sarah.

A very different and much more complicated picture emerges from the Senate races.  Of her eleven endorsements, only four -- McCain, Paul, Ayotte and Boozman -- are either leaning or solidly Republican right now.  There are those who might shift the race in Kentucky from leaning Republican to "toss-up", but Paul seems to have survived some recent negative campaign ads.  Only one endorsee -- O'Donnell -- appears destined to lose (and lose big). All the other six campaigns are considered toss-ups.  The NYT site still shows Alaska leaning Republican, but, given Miller's plunging poll numbers, the Republican in question will likely be standing Sen. Lisa Murkowski -- much to Palin's chagrin.  Given the home-state turf and her well-publicized rivalry with Murkowski, a Miller loss will hurt.  Another likely loss that is still officially in the toss-up column is Fiorina in California.  She has managed to stay within striking distance but has consistently trailed Boxer and the NYT site gives her only a 7% chance of victory.  Rubio in Florida is almost assured victory as long as Meek resists rising pressure to drop out and throw his support to Crist.  If that happens, Sarah can probably kiss that race goodbye, too.  Another potential loss could be West Virgina where the Democrat, Manchin is given a 75% chance of winning.

The remaining two races in Pennsylvania and Nevada promise to be real barn-burners.  Toomey is currently given the edge in PA, which is good news for Palin, but Sestak is a proven fighter, having confounded the pundits and party establishment by defeating Republican-turned-Democrat Specter in the primary.  Angle is also given the edge in her race against Harry Reid in Nevada.  An Angle victory would be huge for Palin given the symbolism of knocking out the current Senate Majority Leader...but it will be this very same symbolism that will ensure the Democrats throw everything but the kitchen sink at her in these last remaining days. They don't want to lose this battle -- especially to a Tea Partier.

So...lots to watch.  If the toss-up races in the Senate break Republican, Sarah Palin is poised to have a very good night indeed.  Much, however, remains uncertain.  What is certain is that it's time to break out the popcorn, sharpen your pencils and play along at home.

[Image source.]

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Day Late and a Dollar Short

In retrospect, perhaps showing up on The Daily Show wasn't the best idea.  No doubt the White House saw it as a great opportunity to sit down with a friendly crowd -- largely young, liberal, politically-aware and -motivated -- especially given next week's election and Jon Stewart's and Stephen Colbert's dual rallies this weekend.

What could go wrong?

Well, it's not so much that anything went wrong, but it could be argued that nothing went particularly right.  Not only did the President "step in it" by resurrecting a heckuva painful Bushism, he continued to display a shocking inability to connect with the frustration so many of his supporters feel with him and his administration.  In his defensiveness, he's telling us that we're not paying attention, when, in fact, it's quite the reverse.

Lost in the flood of articles about the straits Obama and his White House are in is the fact that none of this started on Inauguration Day, 2009.  The election cycle before Obama was elected President, the country delivered huge wins to the Democrats. Electing Obama (and even more Democrats) was the culmination of a wholesale rejection not only of W. but of the Republicans in general.  The voters had cleared a political path for the new President; all he had to do was follow it.  But he did us one better: not only was he going to follow it, he was going to widen it, straighten it, put in some nice benches and lighting, etc.  He told us that we were the ones we had been waiting for, but -- let's face it -- we all knew he was the one we had been waiting for.

So what happened?  To the detriment of his -- our -- agenda, he made good on the one campaign promise no one really cared about:  changing the political climate in Washington.  Instead of getting in there and kicking some Republican butt, he decided to make nice.  Wasting precious time and political capital, he let them water down everything and then watched them still not vote for anything.  And this is when they were not filibustering everything else!  Suddenly 60 votes were required in the Senate to move anything forward.  Happily, the Democrats actually had 60 votes...thank God, right?  Not with this herd of cats.  The only person who lived up to the agenda the Democrats campaigned on was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; but, thanks to the lackluster performance of the rest of her party, she's about to be demoted. Ironic, no?

It is against this backdrop that Obama is trying to defend the last two years.  To be sure, the administration has made some herculean efforts to patch up the sinking ship of state they inherited; and, to be fair, Obama has always said the road would be long and the climb steep; but they cannot run away from the fact that they have squandered opportunities and have been completely inept at communicating what they've done and what they've been kept from doing.  On last night's The Daily Show, Obama said "we've done some stuff that folks don't even know about."  Really?  And whose fault is that!?

Jon Stewart should have asked why, despite poll after poll showing the majority of Americans trust the Democrats more than the Republicans and given all the President has said his administration has achieved...why are the voters about to leave him and his party in droves to support the GOP?  The answer is that no one wants a bunch of kumbaya in Washington; they want results and they want action.  Starting in 2006 and followed-up in 2008, the electorate gave the Democrats all the tools they needed to affect change.  They were told to expect more, and they did.  And now they're underwhelmed...and don't want to be told:  it's not us; it's you.  You're being unrealistic; you're making the good the enemy of the perfect; you're not paying attention; you need to stop whining and buck up.  Etc., etc., etc.

Bottom line: our dream team got played by the tattered remains of a party completely bereft of vision other than lower taxes.  They got away with pulling pigtails and shooting spitballs and succeeded in completely gumming up the works.  Obama should have been calling them on it every single day.  Harry Reid should have been calling them on it every single day.  Every Democrat on Capitol Hill should have been calling them on it every single day!

Hopefully, in the long-term, the President and his administration and party will learn a lesson following next Tuesday's predicted drubbing:  people want results and they want leaders who lead. Perhaps, if Harry Reid loses as currently expected, we'll get a new leader in the Senate...maybe someone like Chuck Schumer who isn't afraid to poke some eyes out and call spades the dirty, nasty shovels that they are.  One thing's for certain:  Obama will no longer have the "luxury" of commanding majorities that allow him to continue to take the high road; he's going to have to get down and dirty and fight for every single thing.

It'll be good for him.

[Shepard Fairey's Hope poster via Wikipedia.]

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The French Think We Are Nuts

The French!!

And the Germans, the Chinese, the Spanish and even the Pakistanis.

Well, ok...not so much nuts as reactionary, oafish, threatened, extreme and bigoted, respectively.  Kinda makes you wish they actually thought we were just nuts, right?

Foreign Policy brings us this analysis of how foreign media view our "tea partiers", and it is certainly but the merest representative sampling of what the international community must collectively regard as us catapulting ourselves clear over the rabbit-proof fence.  Even in this small selection, we come face-to-face with reactions from three rather important areas of the world:  Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

The Europeans, for their part, have been there, done that.  Theirs is one big rolling of the eyes.  They are no strangers to revolutions or extremists -- except their agitators always showed up in their big-boy pants, wreaking real havoc and horrible destruction.  We Americans, by contrast, look more like a Disney-esque pack of Goofies in our tricorne hats with teabags a-dangling.  This, of course, is a good thing -- I'll take silly over fascist any day -- but it does tend to provoke ridicule.  They know socialism; socialism is a good friend of theirs, and Obama is no socialist.  Der Spiegel writes tea partiers off as "blue-collar workers with posters of pin-up girls in their lockers" worried about losing their manhood ("privileged position") to some wussy "European social model".  Ouch.  Le Monde predictably gets in a dig at the Brits by dismissing our loonies as "Anglo-Saxon, conspiracy-theor[ists]" threatened by the loss of American prestige and power.  Fair enough.  The Spanish seem to be a little more alarmed with El Pais writing "We don't know if we feel more profound horror or more profound pity."  Join the club, bub.

As for the Middle Kingdom, well, it's all about them.  Trumpeting its view of being the last remaining economy capable of driving a global recovery, it sees tea partiers as emblematic of American embarrassment and lingering we're-number-one-ism.  China Daily writes "China's greatest danger is that US policymakers face economic and national security crises they cannot solve."  True that, especially considering they own a great deal of our debt.  If we don't get our act together, China's portfolio suffers.

And, finally, Pakistan.  You know things are dicey when a country you routinely fly predator drones over is worried about your welfare.  As one might imagine, they take the more bigoted, anti-Islam strains of the movement to heart, lamenting "right wing zealots" with their "venomous discourse".  Pakistani newspaper Dawn has taken note of this summer's dramatics surrounding a Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan and a Florida pastor threatening to burn a Quran and concludes that American Muslims are the latest in a long line of targets to receive "the treatment meted out to...scapegoats in American history" -- a line that includes such American low-points as our treatment of Native Americans and the stain of slavery.  Pretty damning stuff.

In an election cycle where most Americans can be forgiven for a certain amount of navel-gazing, it's important and instructive to remember that others are watching -- many, with concern and even alarm.  What some Americans may write off as buffoonery, others see as the rumblings of something more odious.  (And they should know.)  In the end, what happens here -- to one degree or another -- affects them too, so it shouldn't surprise us that they're paying attention or have opinions on the matter.

Here's hoping we're just a little nutty at the moment...for all our sakes.

[Image via Foreign Policy.]

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What a swell party this is.

The "Tea Party", that is.  What a bunch of sweethearts!  Check out a list of their top six "unconstitutional" laws, as reported by TPM:

No. 1:  Social Security
No. 2:  Medicare
No. 3:  Minimum Wage
No. 4:  United Nations
No. 5:  Unemployment Benefits
No. 6:  Civil Rights Act

So, to review:  if you're healthy, young, moneyed, an isolationist, employed and white, you have nothing to fear.

The rest of you poor suckers are screwed.  The end.

[Hat-tip:  TPM; image source here.]

Monday, October 25, 2010

Did you know William Shatner is Jewish...?

...and Canadian??  Leonard Nimoy too -- Jewish, that is, not Canadian (so we're told).


Not so long ago, in my childhood (no snickering, please), I remember school-yard conversations where kids would, conspiratorially, share such information.  Adam Sandler would later join in with a song on the subject...remember?  A generation before, a Jewish kid risked being called a kyke or a "Christ killer". Hell, in my mother's childhood Maine, it was perfectly acceptable (if you were Anglo-Protestant) to discriminate against Franco-American Catholics -- and they were white and Christian.

Later, as an adult, I remember the first time, while reading the newspaper on the subway in New York, that The Times used "gay" instead of "homosexual" in an article.  It was about 1990 or 1991.

I also remember Presidents -- was it George H. W. or Clinton? -- who started including "synagogues" when referring to places where Americans worshiped -- as in "churches and synagogues".  Even W., much to his credit, tried (in vain apparently) to separate Islamic fundamentalists from other Muslims even while beating the war drums to fight the former.  (The fact that Saddam Hussein, while no nice guy, wasn't an Islamic fundamentalist didn't seem to bother him...but that's another story.)

My point is:  over our history, groups facing discrimination and even outright hatred are eventually folded into our society; and, while some of this happens naturally -- painfully -- over time, it is often consciously helped along by those with powerful bully pulpits, like the President or other politicians or influential media outlets.  Together, they facilitate such societal quantum leaps as a Catholic becoming President, or an African-American becoming President, or even my mother re-marrying a Catholic.

And now this has to happen with the next group waiting in line: Muslims.

It's a uphill battle, let's face it.  Through no fault of virtually all of the world's 1.5+ billion Muslims, their faith -- or at least a radical, fundamentalist hijacking of their faith -- is now associated with two ongoing wars following the deadliest attack on American shores (one of only a handful) since Pearl Harbor.  Some Americans, who know Muslims personally or have traveled in Muslim countries or have a more embracing worldview, know this is deeply unfair. Others do not, and the reasons for this run the gamut from odious bigotry to simple lack of experience to knee-jerk, irrational prejudices that immediately produce guilt and shame.  And, just as there is a recognized difference between aggravated assault and a misdemeanor, I believe there is a difference between real bigotry and a subconscious (or even conscious) fear.

It's on the battleground of the latter that we can most effectively wage and win the war against prejudice.  The most recent volley -- Pictures of Muslims Wearing Things -- reminds people that Muslims are our neighbors, colleagues, Nobel Peace laureates, writers, scientists, etc.  It's a fundamental point.  My only quibble with the site is that it a) preaches to the choir and b) shies away (so far) from addressing the actual fear-based and fear-producing prejudice of what Juan Williams called "Muslim garb" -- i.e., Muslims wearing religiously-inspired or -prescribed clothing.  In doing so, I think it does itself, as well as the Muslim objects of irrational prejudice, a disservice.  And that's a shame.  It can and should go farther by showing similar, everyday people in similar, everyday situations wearing the kind of "things" that actually provoke the particular fear that Williams admitted to and that got him, rightly or wrongly, fired.

We may have killed the messenger, but sadly the message lives on.

So what do we do?  For starters, we can ask -- demand? -- that our most famous person of partially Muslim descent (I'm talking to you, President Obama) start educating from the unique position(s) he holds.  Instead of ill-advisedly running from some misconceived "taint" of his heritage, he should embrace it, leading by example.  He should talk about his time in Indonesia; he should celebrate his quintessential American-ness.  He once said he was a mut.  Aren't virtually all of us muts, too!?  Cannot we coalesce and come together as a nation and society around our shared muttiness?  To give credit where credit is due, Obama has added "mosques" to "churches and synagogues" in his speeches...other religions and those of no religion, too.  But he needs to do more.

And not just him.  We all need to do more.  And what better way to confront and combat the Palins and Huckabees who run around telling the "heartland" that the "barbarians are at the gate"? Instead of congratulating ourselves on our open minds and inclusive hearts, and shaming and vilifying those who admit to irrationally pre-judging, we need to acknowledge the fear and say:  look, I understand where you're coming from, but here's how you're wrong.

Tut-tut-ing and mocking may feel good, but ultimately it's counterproductive.  At some point, we're going to have to get serious enough to do the hard work of forgiveness, healing and reconciliation.

[Image via BBC.]

Friday, October 22, 2010

Our newest bogeyman isn't so new.

American is an island of sorts...certainly psychologically so.  It's no doubt due to the vast ocean the first European adventurers and then settlers crossed to get here, but that notion of separateness has served to support a strong strain of isolationism right up to the modern era -- just ask Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson and the two Bushes.  For a country so willing to spend its treasure on its military, we're a country that loathes foreign entanglements.  Sure, there are plenty of hawks in government and business who may be all-too-ready to assert American power, but the majority of the people distrust this notion and only begrudgingly acquiesce to the role of reluctant policemen (inevitably turning sour and demanding disengagement -- e.g. Afghanistan and Iraq).

We also distrust "fer'ners" [foreigners].  This is the highest irony, of course, considering the vast majority of our ancestral backgrounds; but, nonetheless, every wave of ethnic immigration has been met with disdain or even outright hatred.  And yet they keep coming, and, eventually, they are folded into the society.  It's a painful and on-going process, and virtually every family here has experienced this to one degree or another, at one time or another.  Add to this our national shame in the slave trade and you get a nation that, in the kindest terms, remains conflicted, still not completely comfortable in its own skin.

It is onto this canvas that the current picture of anti-Muslim feeling must be painted.  Only, the canvas isn't new and there's plenty of paint already on it.  Some of the paint we inherited from our crusading European ancestors, some from our very first foreign entanglement with the Barbary States.  In the modern era, we have witnessed the nationalization of the Suez Canal, successive wars against Israel, oil embargoes, the Iranian hostage crisis, the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the First Gulf War, the destruction of the World Trade Center, the war in Afghanistan against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and the Second Gulf War.  It ain't pretty, and it's certainly not rational, but one can begin to understand why many Americans are not completely comfortable with the Muslim world.

It's not fair, of course.  It's not fair to the world's 1.5 billion Muslims who peacefully live their lives and practice their faith, and it's certainly not fair to American Muslims who are supposed to enjoy constitutionally-protected lives free from discrimination and prejudice.  Here's a poignant Venn Diagram that gives a little context:

This is a freedom that, by the way, extends to wearing religiously-prescribed clothing onto airplanes without harassment.  Our laws and our ethics demand that we not discriminate or act prejudicially against an individual or a group for exercising their rights.

And yet we do.

It's wrong, but is it understandable?  I would argue that it is understandable.  It is also unjustifiable and desperately needs to be countered with education, experience and appeals to the values and common decency we purport to hold dear.

Juan Williams famously lost his contract with NPR yesterday for publicly admitting to a prejudicial nervousness upon seeing Muslim dress on fellow airplane passengers.  Some believe he was attempting to justify such a reaction; others feel he was explaining and exposing a reaction many others feel but would be rightly ashamed to mention.  Myself, I tend to side with the latter, and I think it was a shame and missed opportunity to fire him...not least of which because he was immediately -- and thoroughly predictably -- welcomed with open arms at Fox.  But I don't know Williams' head for certain, and my concern is not with him, specifically.  My concern is with the rest of population, who, despite a desire to treat people equally and a knowledge that discrimination is wrong, still nevertheless feel twinges of Williams' nervousness in a similar situation.  Are we to lump them in with people -- pastors no less -- who put up signs like this?

Some out there in Commentland would obviously have no problem doing just that.  They seem perfectly comfortable writing off prejudicial fear as nothing less than racism and bigotry.

I do not.

We're human beings and we mess up all the time.  Our goal is to recognize this and try to make things right, and this one-strike-and-you're-out philosophy when it comes to knee-jerk reactions to irrational fear is wasteful and counterproductive.  It doesn't help solve the problem; it's more concerned with meting out punishment.

Let us all recognize that our bogeyman du jour is Islam.  Whether it's the community center proposed in Lower Manhattan or Juan Williams or the popular misconception that our President is somehow, secretly, a Muslim, our country (but not just our country) is wrapped up in a certain degree of hysteria, causing many to overreact and retreat into camps of defensiveness.  If we cannot admit that there's a problem and look it squarely in the face without fear of recrimination, we will never be able to counter and correct it.

We'll still just be Us and Them.

[Image sources:  Venn Diagram here,and Islam sign here; see Dr. Suess' Sneeches here.  For further reading on the history of Islam, I re-recommend Reza Aslan's brilliant and engaging No god but God:  The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, available here.]

Thursday, October 21, 2010

How pure are you?

To read the comments out there today in the liberal blogosphere reacting to NPR's firing of Juan Williams, you'd think half the population was pure as the white, driven snow.  No prejudice in this crowd, no sir!

Call me crazy, but, you know, I think some of them most of them virtually all of them were being disingenuous.  Shocking, right?

Anyway, I'm about to hang up my mouse on the subject (for the moment), but I thought I'd share a comment I just posted over at Talking Points Memo, one of my favorite haunts, lamenting the illiberality of some liberals I've encountered today.  Here 'tis:

I'm amazed at how much self-righteousness there is on the left out there in Commentland today. All these people in glass houses ready to start chucking stones at folks who try to point out the difference between admissions of wrong-headed prejudice and out-and-out racism. Is everyone out there professing prejudical purity really so pure? Have they really never pre-judged someone...or is admitting so too inconvenient rhetorically? I can understand -- given what I've read (I never really followed the guy, despite being a frequent NPR listener) -- how the knives are out for Williams. Fine. But what about all the people -- otherwise decent people -- out there who nodded their heads (hopefully ashamedly) and thought, yeah, I get what he's talking about? When NPR showed Williams the door, didn't they risk showing them the door, too? Are our numbers so great that we can alienate people, who, when presented with the facts and rational discourse, cannot be persuaded to understand that this kind of prejudice is something we need to acknowledge and fight? Are they all to be written off as villains?

This is one of those teachable moments we always talk about. There are plenty of good people who sadly share this fear of Islam. Acknowledging it shouldn't be condemned; persisting in it after it has been shown to be irrational and harmful and unAmerican is what should be condemned. And, frankly, I don't think we've done enough teaching on the subject. I'm not willing to write off those who can and should, with a little effort, be allies. To do so would be counterproductive and downright illiberal. Aren't we supposed to be better than that?

Good night, nurse!

We Are All Bigots

Welllll, maybe not bigots per se, but I would definitely like to meet the person who truly is without prejudice of one sort or another. We all have it and we all do it on a daily basis; we are animals, after all.  Survival requires constantly taking the measure of any single situation and being prepared.  The difference between us and the rest of the Earth's beasts is that we get to be conscious of it, if we so choose and make a real effort.  We get to use our lovely brains and ability to reason to counteract our atavistic animal instinct.  And we can use our loving hearts to help us see the humanity in all people.

Today we learned of Juan Williams' firing from NPR.  I think this was an overreaction, and that's a shame, because the tut-tut-terati have encouraged the scapegoating of a man -- an "elite", no less -- who, unwisely but honestly, admitted to a knee-jerk fear and prejudice.  We can call it wrong until the cows come home, but in the final analysis, he was merely giving voice to the fears of many out there.  Does that make it right or ok?  NO!  Is it yet another one of those teachable moments that keep popping up?  YES.

So what does NPR do?  Instead of shining a light on this issue, bringing Williams on to explain further what he meant -- perhaps giving him a chance to remind us all that such feelings are wrong and we have to be ever-vigilant against allowing fear to pre-judge individuals or groups? -- they bum rush him out the back door naively hoping to maintain some sort of editorial purity.  So, now, instead of making the news, they will have to report on the aftermath.  I suppose that's safer, but it also seems very unNPR.

This brouhaha comes on the heels of another story this week about President Obama taking a pass on visiting a Sikh temple in India.  Why?  He would have to cover his head, as is customary and required; and, considering most Americans cannot distinguish between a Muslim headdress and a Sikh one...well, you know the rest.  So, once again, instead of tackling a tricky issue head-on -- and exposing a little ignorance in the process -- we steer clear and miss a golden opportunity.

Bigotry and prejudice should have no place in our world; but, guess what:  it does.  Our choice, in our constant effort to identify it, recognize it and fight it, should not be between ignoring it or passively (or actively) opting to avoid it to keep our hands clean; it should be to call it out whenever we see it and address the fear that creates it.  Neither NPR or Obama did that this week.  NPR chose to vilify, and the White House handlers caved to ignorance.


[Image source.]

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Vote early, and vote often!

That's our motto, here in Chicago.  And, as you'll note, it has worked out just fine for us.


Anyway, considering there is a vexing level of voter apathy -- especially on the we're-about-to-get-clobbered-so-why-bother left -- I thought I'd share another gem from fellow Episcopalian and home-state funnyman, Daily Kos' own Bill in Portland Maine.  In today's episode, he votes early...and it's so damn charming and rib-tickling that perhaps it will (re-)inspire you to get out and vote yourself.  So, without further ado, please give a big DraneSpout welcome to Bill in Portland Maine:

I Voted...and ALMOST DIED!!!
It was a cold, sunny Tuesday afternoon when I Sylvester Stallone'd up the fourteen granite steps to the lobby of City Hall, Gene Kelly'd up the thirty-four marble steps to the second floor, and Lady Gaga'd my way down the hall and into the Great State of Maine stateroom. There I came eyeball-to-eyeball with a middle-aged election worker with middle-aged blonde hair. I also noticed she was wearing the Forbidden Pearls of the Magic Palace of Madagascar that I'd spent my life and fortune seeking at great human cost. I would deal with them later. For now I was just here to vote.
I presented my valid photo ID to the election lady. She scrutinized it with eagle eyes, gazing up at my mug, then down at the driver's license photo. Then up...then down. Then updownupdownupdown. No imposters were gonna slip by on her watch, bub. I prayed to god that I was who my ID says I was, and it turns out...I am.
She returned my ID, gathered a set of three cafeteria-tray-size ballot sheets, and sent me off to a makeshift voting booth with a warning: "Use the black marker and only the black marker provided, or you'll leave here through that yonder winder. I shuffled to my cube, inserted a jeweler's loupe into my eye socket and got down to the business of participatory democracy.
The first oval I filled in was for Libby Mitchell for governor.  The second nod I gave was to Chellie Pingree for a second term as my congressbuttkicker. All those admonitions from my elementary school teachers to "Color inside the lines! Color inside the lines!" were paying off. My ovals were perfect---model ovals, in fact, that other voters would be proud to emulate.
I voted to make Portland's mayor an actual elected official, overturning the centuries-old process of dumping the Sacred Lobster Shells of Casco Bay onto the city council chamber floor and letting our seer choose. I voted for a bond to improve dental care in the state. I voted to approve various charter recommendations that made my eyes glaze over. And I voted to legalize the recreational use of pot, even though it wasn't "officially" on the ballot.
And that was that. I hastily sealed my ballots inside my envelope so that the voter in the cube next to me wouldn’t copy my answers (God I hate that!) and slipped it in the box marked "Stick It Here, Stupid." Then I Fred Astaire'd my way down the steps and almost got hit by a bus as I was putting my "I VOTED!"sticker on my butt while crossing the street.
Now it's your turn. If your state allows it, VOTE NOW. Kos has the handy links here if you need 'em.

Should you be wondering, Bill's hyperlinks are still active, so feel free to click away!

To enjoy the rest of Bill's post -- and those of his fellow Kossacks -- at Daily Kos, please click here.

P.S.  Fear not, I haven't forgotten about the Trans-Siberian post.  (I knew you were wondering.)