Saturday, May 29, 2010

Keep your enemies closer

Husband is wont to visit  I do occasionally, but I get too annoyed and have to leave.  They say:  know your enemies, but they didn't say anything about what to do when your blood-pressure spikes and threatens your life.  That said, Husband goes there so I (or you) won't have to...and this is his report.

Friday, May 28, 2010

There goes the view of Russia!

Here it is folks:  the Palins' response to Russians Mexicans writer Joe McGinniss renting the house next door to their growing compound in Wassila.

We knew it was coming because she posted on Facebook about it earlier this week.  'Course, this is pretty ironic considering another post she made back in March which finished with the following:

Focus on the goal and fight for it. If the gate is closed, go over the fence. If the fence is too high, pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, parachute in. If the other side tries to push back, your attitude should be “go for it.” Get in their faces and argue with them. (Sound familiar?!) Every possession is a battle; you’ll only win the war if you’ve picked your battles wisely. No matter how tough it gets, never retreat, instead RELOAD!

If an irony is built in a forest, and the builder is a hypocrite, is it still ironic?

[Hat tip (and image) via Wonkette.]

Thursday, May 27, 2010

We are all socialists now!

At least when it comes to the oil spill.

E.J. Dionne Jr. writes in The Washington Post today:

"Deregulation" is wonderful until we discover what happens when regulations aren't issued or enforced. Everyone is a capitalist until a private company blunders. Then everyone starts talking like a socialist, presuming that the government can put things right because they see it as being just as big and powerful as its Tea Party critics claim it is.

But the truth is that we have disempowered government and handed vast responsibilities over to a private sector that will never see protecting the public interest as its primary task. The sludge in the gulf is, finally, the product of our own contradictions. 

Indeed.  Read the entire article here.

[Hat tip:  Daily Kos.  Image via]

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

You Say Potato....

Arizona superintendent Tom Horne wants you to be clear that he is not targeting the Spanish accents of school teachers, only their "faulty English".  He then proceeds to tell CNN:

We're not going after any accents, including Spanish accents.  It has to be faulty English.  If students are being taught English, and they're going to refer to a "comma" as a "COH-ma", people are going to misunderstand them.


Well, I guess once he's gotten everything shipshape in Arizona, we should send him off to places like Dorchester or Fargo or Birmingham or Staten Island or New Orleans, where you don't even have to be foreign-born to be incomprehensible.

[Hat tip:  Think Progress; image via]

The Poetry of Sarah Palin

Here's my favorite:

On Mark Critz

A Democrat, he won!
He was pro-life, pro-gun!
And he won there!
In a district where
Democrats outnumber Republicans -- two to one!

Feast on the rest of the bounty at

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Two of my Almae Matres sharin' Art!

Thanks to a Mellon Foundation grant, Bowdoin is part of a pilot program that allows the Bowdoin College Museum of Art to borrow from the Yale University Art Gallery.  Frankly, I hope this isn't a one-way street because Yale could do worse than borrowing some of Bowdoin's artworks from time to time.

A Truly American Military

...would look like America.  It still doesn't, but we keep getting closer.  If Congress is able to finally repeal the Clinton Administration's awkward attempt at a compromise with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" this week, the Pentagon can officially begin implementing the changes.  Considering the 1993 law was born in Congress, it seems fitting -- even necessary -- that it should be laid to rest there.  Defense Secretary Gates has reminded us that it took five years to fully implement the 1948 Executive Order from President Truman requiring racial integration of the Armed Forces.  And while he isn't advocating this time frame as a model for the current task, he's asking for patience.  Fine, I certainly don't know enough about what has to happen system-wide to quibble about time frames, but I do know a journey of 1,000 miles requires a first step...and these boots were made for walkin', so let's get on with it.

The repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell has the support of most Americans, the President and even the military's top brass.  It has been debated ad nauseum and all the old canards about "unit cohesion" have been set aside.  Mostly.  We can still rely on folks like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council to dutifully hoist the following:  I fervently believe the glorious Star-Spangled Banner should wave over our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard heros [sic].  President Obama wants to raise the rainbow flag of the homosexual rights movement over them.  Which will it be?  Setting aside the fact that this "patriot" cannot even spell the word heroes correctly, his suggestion that countless numbers of past and present gay troops (however closeted by choice or by law) who have fought and died -- who are now fighting to fight! -- would happily ditch Old Glory for anything is the height of insult.  Does Mr. Perkins not realize that the e pluribus unum represented in the American flag includes even the people he doesn't like or with whom he disagrees?  Gay people are part of the unum, and, as such, must have full access to the rights and privileges of it, including military service if they feel called to it.

Mr. Perkins' insult doesn't stop there, however.  He implicitly insults the troops he ostensibly is trying to protect.  Does he really think that someone who has volunteered, been trained, and is now ready to enter battle if necessary for our country really fears being in a foxhole with a gay guy?  I suppose there are troops who feel this way, but, seriously, how pathetic.  People like Tony Perkins have fanned the flames of this kind of fear, but I imagine the repeal and implementation of DADT without the sky falling will extinguish it.  Straight and gay troops alike are there to do a job, not to get a date.  Mr. Perkins uses the implied shibboleth of an aircraft carrier under a rainbow flag as some sort of floating 1970s-era disco as an alarm to good, decent Americans that they are under attack.  He's right, of course, but he's confused about who the enemy is.  He thinks gay troops are the enemy, but it's really discrimination of any kind that sullies the ideals of our country which are represented by our flag and by the motto e pluribus unum.

The Preamble of our Constitution states:  We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of our Liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.  When DADT is finally repealed and all of "We the People" are allowed to "provide for the common defense" to "secure the Blessings of our Liberty", we will have moved one more step towards that "more perfect Union" that our Founders always recognized was not a fait accompli but a goal, forever in need constant focus and hard work.

[Hat tip for the Perkins quote:  Daily Kos' Bill in Portland Maine.]

Monday, May 24, 2010

Bush's Debt

[Via Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish.]

Chutzpah, thy name is Sarah

Get a load of this whopper!  Sarah Drill-Baby-Drill Palin "suggests" that the reason Obama is taking so "doggone long" to stop the oil leak in the Gulf is because he and the oil industry are so close.

Seriously, this woman has no shame.

[Hat tip:  AMERICAblog; image from The Big Cartoon DataBase.]

Friday, May 21, 2010

Alles, dass man braucht, ist Liebe.

Es geht nicht in der Schweiz.  Aber in Montclair, New Jersey....

[Photo:  Salome Oggenfuss]

Fiddling while the Gulf suffocates

You know you've got issues when James Carville is calling you out. Barack Obama is famously cool under pressure, but this is a perfect opportunity to show some fire.  If Rand Paul is going to call you un-American, you might as well at least try to earn the insult.

Freedom means never having to say you're sorry

Extremely adorable WaPo journalist Ezra (I-cannot-believe-he's-not-a-Yalie) Klein has some questions for Rand Paul:

Can the federal government set the private sector's minimum wage? Can it tell private businesses not to hire illegal immigrants? Can it tell oil companies what safety systems to build into an offshore drilling platform? Can it tell toy companies to test for lead? Can it tell liquor stores not to sell to minors? These are the sort of questions that Paul needs to be asked now....

These are fine questions indeed, but I think I'd prefer to get a little more biblical -- as in the "thou shalt nots".  For instance, God may have commanded that we not kill or steal, but is it the place of the federal government to enforce these "laws"?  Taken to its logical extreme, could not someone argue that killing or stealing is a form of "speech" and should be protected under the First Amendment?

I honestly doubt Dr. Paul would, but where, then, does he draw the line?  He clearly has misgivings about telling a private business owner they must serve people they would rather not.  Even if he finds such behavior abhorrent, he does not feel the federal government has the right to outlaw it.

Perhaps Dr. Paul should revisit his Hippocratic Oath -- especially the part about doing no harm.  Just as we are not free to kill or steal, we are also not free to discriminate...because it does harm. Our society has finally evolved to the point where we recognize that denying someone accommodation because of their race (among other things) does harm.  Chris Matthews shared an excellent example on his show Hardball last night.  Imagine a black couple driving through Jim Crow Georgia.  The very pregnant wife has to use the bathroom; but, after finally finding one, she is denied because the private business owner has chosen to serve whites only.  Whereas this is hardly a worst-case scenario, it still drives home the very human side of what Dr. Paul's "misgivings" might mean (and did mean) in the real world.

No one should have the freedom to cause harm, and our laws reflect this.  Mostly.  We still have some ground to cover before we truly realize this goal.  You can still be legally fired because you're not heterosexual in most of the United States.  Companies can still pollute legally.  Women are still legally paid less than men.  It's a painfully slow process, but evolve we will.  Rand Paul, too, hopefully.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rand Paul bravely defends the rights of inanimate objects!

In the now famous (and lengthy) interview of Rand Paul last night on The Rachel Maddow Show that has the interwebs in a frothy lather, Dr. Paul takes the position that guns should have the same rights as non-white people when it comes to dining out.

Thank you, Daily Kos, for being one of the very few calling attention to this little tidbit from the interview.

[Image via]

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Your Papers, Please

Well, at least they're polite about it, right?

We all know this phrase from movies or books of one of the world wars growing up.  Usually, it was the mean Germans "asking"; but now it appears we have met the enemy and he is us.

Husband and I (re-)watched Louis Malle's 1987 movie Au Revoir Les Enfants last night.  It was released in English as Goodbye, Children, but I happened to be in Germany the first time I saw it, so my version was initially Auf Wiedersehen Kinder.  It's an incredibly powerful movie, whatever the language, and left a huge impression on me at the time and ever since.  Based on the director's own experience as a child attending a Roman Catholic boarding school near Fountainebleau during the German occupation in the Second World War, it recounts an attempt by the boarding school's head priest to save the lives of three Jewish boys by hiding them out in the open as school boys.  Jean Kippelstein becomes Jean Bonnet.  Eventually, they are found out (no doubt by someone reporting the situation to the Gestapo) and, with the head priest, are sent to their deaths at concentration camps.

As mournful as all of that is, perhaps the most moving scene is one where Julien Quentin (Malle as a boy?) has asked his wealthy mother (who is there on Parents' Day) to invite his friend Jean along for lunch (we don't know where Jean's parents are but can reasonably assume the worst).  During lunch, some Vichy collaborators enter and spy an elegantly-dressed, elderly man dining alone.  Guessing (correctly) that he is Jewish, they ask/demand to see his papers (as Jews are barred from dining there).  The Restaurateur attempts to explain that Mr. Mayer has been a patron for 20 years, as the rest of the diners spontaneously rise to tell the Vichy men to get lost.  Ironically, it is a German soldier sitting with some comrades, attempting to enjoy their lunch, who finally orders the Vichy men out.

Starting to sound familiar?

And here is the point:  the collaborators did not come into that restaurant to ask everyone for their papers.  They came in to scan the premises for Jews.  Mr. Mayer fit the bill.  We can only assume that Jean wasn't asked because they either didn't get around to it before be told to leave or that he was sitting with a family not deemed Jewish-looking enough.

It's called racial-profiling, and it would appear that we have learned nothing in 65 years....or indeed 2000, given so many of those pushing the kind of anti-immigration policies signed into law in Arizona by Gov. Jan Brewer -- or those applauding it like Sarah "We're all Arizonans Now" Palin -- keep telling us that we are a "Christian Nation".  These modern-day Pharisees would like us to remember that we are a "nation of laws", but they seem to forget that this is God's land and they are nothing but vipers who will not escape judgment.

Watching Au Revoir Les Enfants last night, I was reminded that history has a tendency to repeat itself, and that today's instability has a whiff of Weimar about it (minus the inflation -- for now) with its shameful need to find scapegoats.  One distinction, perhaps fitting given that history's black and white world is now brilliantly colorful and in HD, is that it looks like our century's fascists will wear lipstick.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Newt Gingrich -- still crazy after all these years.

He is one of the best practitioners of the kind of fear-mongering scare tactics the Republican Party "Haves" use to hoodwink their base of "Have Nots" into supporting (especially economic) policies that go against their own best interests.

Allow me to explain.

I found the following this morning via Daily Kos.  Newt had the following exchange with Chris Wallace over at Fox News Sunday:
   WALLACE: You say President Obama and the Democrats are trying to impose a s secular socialist machine on this country. ... You also write this, and let’s put it up on the screen. "The secular-socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did." Mr. Speaker, respectfully, isn’t that wildly over the top?
   GINGRICH: No, not if by America you mean the historic contract we’ve had which says your rights come from your creator, they’re unalienable, you’re allowed to pursue happiness. I mean, just listen to President Obama’s language. He gets to decide who earns how much. ... He has said publicly, generically, "You know, some Americans earn too much," so he’s now going to decide that? ... So you want a politician to become the arbiter of your dreams. A politician gets to say, "We’re going to raise — we’re going to — we’re going to have a tax —" and they proposed this at one point — "We’re going to have a punitive tax on those we don’t like. We’re going to decide that you have too much money so we’re going to take it from you." ... As a threat to our way of life, the degree to which the secular- socialist left represents a fundamental replacement of America, a very different world view, a very different outcome, I think is a very serious threat to our way of life.

You know you're kind of "out there" when Fox News is questioning whether your views are "wildly over the top".

Setting aside the strategic semantics (Newt knows fully well that Obama is neither a secularist nor a socialist, but why pass up a perfectly good chance to sling some slurs), his main argument is that Obama is coming after your money [/guns/God/etc.]  Considering we have the lowest tax burden since the Truman Administration, I suppose any increase in taxes would cause some concern; but also considering that any new taxes would be aimed at the wealthiest Americans (especially those wealthy enough to pay a great deal of money to be advised how best to circumvent the taxes they're supposed to be paying in the first place), I fail to see how this affects your average Mr. & Mrs. America.

But Newt very much wants them to think it does.  Or that it could, one day, when they win the lottery and suddenly become fabulously wealthy.  The chances are slim-to-none, but it could happen.  And, of course, the "pursuit of happiness" for people like Newt is the "pursuit of wealth"...and who would want the government to take away their Happiness!?  The only problem with this is that no one can have wealth/happiness in a vacuum.  It takes a village, in other words...and a village needs roads, and bridges, hospitals and fire stations, a police force, a way to care for those residents who would also like to pursue some happiness -- or at the very least some peace of mind -- but have the bad taste not to be wealthy.

Does Newt not notice -- or simply not care -- that accusing Obama of secularism while simultaneously wanting to stiff the poor and society by paying as little as possible into the general pot for the common good (while never seeing an aircraft carrier they didn't like) is incredibly hypocritical, even immoral?  Religion is supposed to teach us to take care of our community, especially those less fortunate.  Newt would rather do this through charity, but charity pretty much guarantees favoritism.  Charity is great, but someone or something has to be out there making sure everybody is taken care of.

If Newt really wants taxes to stay at or near the lowest levels since World War II for the majority of working families in this country, he should be applauding Obama's proposal to call upon the wealthiest citizens to pay more of their fair share.  Or he should be honest about why he doesn't applaud (i.e., it's his own tax bill he's worried about).  What he should not be doing is comparing him to Hitler and Stalin; it's not only ridiculously inaccurate, it's craven and offensive.  As a self-styled historian, he should know better...and should apologize.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pat Buchanan worries about the makeup of the Supreme Court

Pat Buchanan is worried there might be too many Jews on the High Court if Kagan is comfirmed, stating:  the folks who look more like the real targets of liberal bias are white Protestants and Catholics, who still constitute well over half of the U.S. population.

As one of the aforementioned Protestants (and as we've mentioned here on DraneSpout), I'd like to take this opportunity to remind Pat that the current makeup of the Supreme Court includes six Roman Catholics -- a full two-thirds.

Whereas, I appreciate the concern, Pat, why don't you let Protestants worry about their representation; y'all seem to be a-ok in terms of representation.  Also, you might want to stop being a bigot.

[Source:  Huffington Post.]

Fomenting Fury at Facebook is Fun! (and Folly?)

The Peasants are revolting!  The natives are restless!  The angry mob is coming with pitchforks and torches to storm the castle!

Who could it be inspiring such outrage?  Surely such righteous indignation must be aimed at villainous types like Goldman Sachs or British Petroleum or Sarah Palin -- you know, people and groups who continue to inflict real damage to our society and world.  And now the people are finally waking up to raise a noble revolt!

Not quite, actually.  But they are super-peeved about Facebook...and they're not going to take it anymore!

The ostensible reason for railing against the overlords at "Bookface" -- as it is mocked by some of the cleverer citizens of FB -- is the ever-dwindling lack of privacy and the ever-increasing complexity of what mechanisms remain to protect it.  This is true, of course.  However, seemingly forgotten is the fact that FB can only share what you yourself have provided; to express utter shock when something leaks out because the terms have changed or something more nefarious is afoot is a little like expressing shock when your best friend blabs about something she promised to keep secret.  There's only one way to protect yourself and that is not to share anything you don't want repeated.

But, let's face it:  we like to share stuff about ourselves.  This simple fact is the reason for Mark Zuckerberg's colossal success. However, we also like to think we're in control, and this simple fact is why Zuckerberg is being pilloried not only on his own creation but now the growing unrest has reached the august summit of The New York Times.  He promised us total control of how the information we provided would or would not be shared, and we eagerly responded:  excellent, thanks dude!  And really, what's a little fine print when time's a-waiting; we've got stuff to post and people to connect to.

In some ways I think the privacy issue is a red herring.  It's easy and fun for the cognoscenti and the technorati  to cluck at FB's failings, build new sites to bring back the good old days, or go back to the earth as it were by abandoning the whole enterprise altogether.  Rather, the real dissent in the ranks may stem from Zuckerberg simply getting too big for his britches.  Witness the personal attacks:  did you know he works in his pajama bottoms? or that he likes to don his fencing equipment when arguing a point?  or that he thinks we're all stupid for sharing our information?  What goes up, must come down.  We love to talk about our country's entrepreneurial spirit, as long as people aren't too successful (see also Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, et al.)  And it's much more satisfying to shoot spitballs at the Dear Leader than examine how we only too willingly helped facilitate the Face with our own friend-ly fodder.

Perhaps the newest nerds at the aptly-named Diaspora* will play the Pied Piper just like Facebook did when it enticed away the minions of My Space and Friendster, but I kind of doubt it.  FB has reached a critical mass that its predecessors never could.  But, it is Spring and perhaps the cycle will begin anew...and we certainly don't have any bigger crimes to confront, do we?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What's Sarah Palin's beef with Hope?

Not so long ago, Sarah Palin broke out -- in that smirky, high school mean-girl way she has -- what she surely thought was a real knife-twister:  "so how's that hopey, changey stuff workin' for ya?" Never mind that the economy's Thelma-and-Louise moment had been averted and the job hemorrhaging had been stemmed or that Barack Obama was clearly working overtime to bring about the kind of changes that he had campaigned on and had gotten him elected.  No, facts have no weight on Planet Palin, but fizzy bromides do -- especially when you can throw cold water on something lame like Hope.

Wait a minute...huh?

Ok, I get the anti-change thing.  Palin obviously had no problem with the eight years W. was President.  She is clearly comfortable with the status quo (at least what she understands the status quo is or ought to be).  But Hope?  Does she think this word/concept is now trademarked by the Democratic Party just because Bill Clinton was born there (Hope, Arkansas, that is) or that Obama (no doubt knowing this) employed it as part of his slogan?  Is it now Hope™ or Hope©?  After all, if the Republicans can do it with Freedom™, why can't the Democrats do it with Hope?

Or does it have to do with a fundamental lack of understanding on her part about what, exactly, Americans who voted for him were hoping for?  She truly believes that the American electorate was hoodwinked by this Obama fella peddlin' his Hope.  Just yesterday in Rosemont, Illinois, she said that Obama had "buffaloed a whole lot of good people", but predicted that people's eyes were now open and "our recent hookup with hope and change is not a long-term relationship".  [Source:  Politico.]  I daresay, we can all be pretty certain that Palin knows a thing or two about hookups, but we also know that she's capable of accepting and even loving something positive produced by such a brief relationship.

Rest assured, I will not be holding my breath.  Sarah Palin might think it's easy and expedient to harness the fears of a nervous electorate, worried about basics like staying employed or avoiding foreclosure.  She's right; it is.  However, the Hope that Obama tapped into and that motivated voters 18 months ago is much bigger than the basics.  It is that Hope that they will expect Obama to address and engage once the mess he inherited is sufficiently cleaned up.

And hopefully it'll be workin' for us just fine.

South Carolina and Saudi Arabia both begin with "S"

But that's not where the similarities end!

File this under:  what's good for the goose....  The question I'm left with is:  what took us so long??

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

If you happen to be in London next week... should consider checking out the Treasures of Lambeth Palace Library Exhibition.  In celebration of the 400th anniversary of its founding, the Library is exhibiting its collection of manuscripts, archives and books.  Some of the items include a Gutenberg Bible, a Babylonian Talmud, and the warrant for the execution of Mary Queen of Scots.

[Source:  The Guardian.]

An Inconvenient Lesson from Al Gore

Check out former Vice President's article The Crisis Comes Ashore -- Why the oil spill could change everything at The New Republic.

Andrew Sullivan Clues In

He had to get through some blustering -- well, ok, a lot of blustering (perhaps because Elena Kagan out-britishes him?) -- but it would seem he's finally come around to seeing what Obama is doing with her nomination (which he explains in a prettier way than I could...which is why I read him daily).

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Blazing Saddles -- or Why I Will Always Love Mel Brooks

Governor William J. Le Petomane: "Holy underwear! Sheriff murdered! Innocent women and children blown to bits! We have to protect our phoney baloney jobs here, gentlemen! We must do something about this immediately! Immediately! Immediately! Harrumph! Harrumph! Harrumph! "

Governor William J. Le Petomane: [pointing to a member of his cabinet] I didn't get a "harrumph" out of that guy!

Hedley Lamarr: Give the Governor harrumph!

Politician: Harrumph!

Governor William J. Le Petomane: You watch your ass.

The last Protestant leaves the bench

File this under:  the things you learn!  Diana Butler Bass, a well-known writer on American religious life with a decidedly progressive, mainline Protestant point of view, has observed that, with Justice Stevens' departure and assuming Elena Kagan's ultimate Senate confirmation to replace him, there will no longer be any Protestant justices at the Supreme Court.  The new "religion scorecard" will read:  Roman Catholics 6, Jews 3.

On the one hand, none of this should matter.  But, on the other hand, this is a pretty stunning development; and, as Bass points out, has very real implications for (especially, but not limited to) the myriad church-state cases that keep working their way up to the High Court.  The presence (or absence) of religious tradition fundamentally informs basic attitudes about how and to what extent religion is allowed to enter the public square.  Witness Justice Scalia.  Of course, no one can accurately forecast how switching out Stevens' Protestant background with Kagan's Jewish background will affect the ideological balance of the court, but it cannot help but have some sort of effect.

This is not necessarily a bad thing at all...but it is interesting!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sarah Palin -- historian and constitutional law scholar

The former Half-Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, believes there are evil elements in our society trying to write God out of the founding of, this, His favorite country:  the U. S. of A.  As Palin explained recently on Bill O'Reilly's show, "Go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant -- they're quite clear -- that we would create law based on the God of the bible and the ten commandments."  This sounds rather Jewish to me, but Palin insists that we are, in fact, a Christian nation.


I'm no lawyer (though I was a law school "wife" in the mid-90s) and my undergraduate political science degree has become quite rusty over the last two decades; but, if memory serves, our Founding Fathers broke away from a decidedly "Christian nation" to found a new entity that, among other things, established religious freedom for Christians and non-Christians alike and forbade the kind of state-sponsored religion that existed (and still exists) in the Mother Country.

I also think Palin would also be surprised to learn that -- with the exception of separating the state and the church -- American law continues to be fundamentally based on English common law.  To the extent that the Judeo-Christian belief structure permeated English law, it continued to permeate American law.  The same can be said for pre-Judeo-Christian ethics and morality, Greek law, Roman law, as well as the many waves of influence on English law following the christianization of the British Isles, including the Saxon, Danish and Norman law.

To suggest that the Founders threw all this overboard to return to some sort of Old Testament type of divine law (not that those of the more Puritan tradition wouldn't have loved it) betrays an ignorance of history because a) the Judeo-Christian influences were already there, which meant b) there was no reason toss it aside.  However, to translate this continuity of tradition as an acknowledgement of or as a desire to purify America's Christianity -- without mentioning our break with a religious state or our subsequent separation of state and church -- is deeply disingenuous and purposefully misleading.

Either way, Palin's wrong.  If she's truly blind to this, it's certainly lamentable, but ultimately forgivable.  If she's not, I'd love to be a fly on the wall at her Day of Judgment.

First gay Supreme Court Justice?

Getting lost (and rightly so) in today's big news splash about President Obama's pick of Elena Kagan to replace Justice Stevens in the U.S. Supreme Court is the low-level smear campaign questioning Kagan's sexuality that emerged when her name was first floated earlier this Spring.  At the time, it appeared like this could actually scuttle her chances, and the White House seemed to acknowledge as much.

I have no idea if Ms. Kagan is gay or not.  I'd like to say I don't care, but -- let's face it -- I think it would be fantastic to have another, high-profile, out member of the government.  However, I will say that her sexual orientation should be completely irrelevant, cognizant that it will no doubt have relevance to those who would use even the mere suggestion of a non-heterosexual orientation to cast doubt on her ability to judge impartially.

I suppose the very public vetting process she now faces will eventually get around to discovering whatever truth is out there, and then we'll know.  Regardless, what we do know right now is that our President and his administration decided to go ahead with nominating her anyway, knowing full well this question would come up again.  That took guts, and I for one appreciate it.

John McCain riding the (border) fence

Verily, there are few things more delightful than seeing former presidential candidate and current embattled Arizona Senator, John McCain, being ruthlessly and deservedly hoisted onto his own petard.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Oh, NOW I get it....

Neanderthals + modern humans = us.

I wonder if Neanderthals had a propensity to major in economics....

For David S.

I'll have you know:  I've used this as an avatar on more than one online community...for what I think we can all agree are obvious reasons (and for which I will no doubt be thrown in the hoosegow at some point).

More's the point!

Greece is going bananas.

American Exceptionalism is a Lie, Con'd.

The nativist xenophobia of so many Americans -- particularly politicians using it to fan anti-whatever -- is pretty ironic considering we are largely a nation of foreigners.  Unless you are wholly or partially descended from one or more of the Native American tribes, your American ancestors originated elsewhere. And, whereas those emigrating ancestors may be forgiven a varying amount of bad feelings about the place they left, surely most of our families have been here long enough to have gotten over it by now.  So why the continued, persistent strain of disdain?

Nationalism, in moderate amounts, doesn't have to be all bad. Rooting for your country in the Olympics or at a World Cup match is to be expected.  Or nationalism might be a necessary evil in harnessing the collective will to fight a bigger evil like Hitler.  But, when it comes to enacting draconian laws like the new "immigration" law in Arizona, or scapegoating our fellow Muslim citizens because they are unlucky enough to share Muhammad as a common religious leader with some who have harmed us, we've gone too far.  We might understand it emotionally, but it's an emotion based in ignorance or fear and it's not rational.

And isn't reason one of the pillars upon which we've constructed our whole society...something we point to as a partial proof of our "exceptionalism"?

In school, American school children are fed a steady diet of "We" versus "They".

The "We", embodied in the guise of Bugs Bunny, represents the scrappy, wits-driven picture we like to have of ourselves -- the reluctant fighters who win the day against all odds.  And, perhaps when Bunker Hill Bunny came out in 1950, the American people, having survived a Civil War and decisively helped win two World Wars, could reasonably be allowed this romantic view.  Indeed, who wouldn't want to embrace such a positive image?

But what else was happening in the United States in 1950?  Jim Crow laws were alive and well in the South.  A still largely-segregated army was sent to South Korea.  Washington, D.C., schools, parks and recreational facilities were still segregated...and, speaking of the District of Columbia, can you say "taxation without representation"?  This is hardly a minor point considering we wouldn't have a United States were it not for this rallying cry.

Ok, so we had our problems.  Can't we still be exceptional?  No, we can't, or at least we shouldn't.  "American exceptionalism", as a concept, is still a fig leaf being used to cover the underlying hope that we're somehow better and, as such, do not have to care about or be in cooperation with the rest of the world.  The truth is:  we've become Yosemite Sam.  We're arrogant, swaggering and loud.  We sneer at the United Nations, something we helped create and still host.  We scoff at the idea that we should join 187 other nations by signing the Kyoto Protocol, pooh-poohing the very notion that there is such a thing as global warming.  We can barely reform our health care system without compromising to the point where our system pales in comparison to the rest of the industrialized world. We rush to bail out our banks after they led the global financial system in driving our economies off a cliff.

Perhaps this is exceptional, but not in the way so many politicians want us to think.  The We're-Still-Number-One crowd wants to assuage our fears that, as Americans, we don't have to worry about this stuff.  It's far easier to blame the garlicky French, or the snooty Brits, or the crazy Greeks...or, more alarmingly, blame our own citizens or those who seek to become citizens.  History is rife with this kind of scapegoating, and it's not pretty.

If "American exceptionalism" should mean anything, it should stand as an ideal that transcends nationhood -- not as a face-saving fait accompli applied as a balm to soothe an insecure society.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Now, was that so hard?


American Exceptionalism is a Lie

For the most part, I am proud to be an American.  And, as an American, I can with pride -- and with no lack of patriotism; rather embracing true patriotism -- critique my country when it needs critiquing.  Others -- Sarah Palin and Eric Cantor, et al. -- dismiss this as "blaming America first".  They see any critique of what our country has done or is doing as unpatriotic.  This is a cynical, jingoistic, a priori decision appealing to the lowest common denominator, and one they have made solely for political gain.  They are not willing to entertain the merits of any particular critique; for them, this is a zero-sum game.  And their position is craven.

It makes my blood boil.

More on this later....

From the in-box

The following is a joke forwarded to me by my friend, Ghiora.

A woman in a hot air balloon realized she was lost.  She lowered her altitude and spotted a man in a boat below.  She shouted to him, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."

The man consulted his portable GPS and replied, "You're in a hot air balloon, approximately 30 feet above ground elevation of 2,346 feet above sea level. You are at 31 degrees, 14.97 minutes north latitude and 100 degrees, 49.09 minutes west longitude."

She rolled her eyes and said, "You must be an Obama Democrat."

"I am," replied the man. "How did you know?"

"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me may be technically correct.  But I have no idea what to do with your information, and I'm still lost.  Frankly, you've not been much help to me."

The man smiled and responded, "You must be a Republican."

"I am," replied the balloonist. "How did you know?"

"Well," said the man, "you don't know where you are or where you are going.  You've risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air.  You made a promise you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem. You're in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but somehow, now it's my fault."

BP's pretty green-fringed sunflower logo

Look at the difference here between the logo I remember from my youth and the one British Petroleum came up with as part of a re-branding campaign in the 90s after merging with Amoco.

I frankly prefer the old-school quality of the earlier design -- the shield evokes "motoring" with its interstate-system-like badge.  It doesn't pretend to be anything other than what it is:  the logo of a company that sells you gas for your car.  The new logo, however, evokes something very different.  Is it a flower (bio-fuel)?  Is it a pinwheel (wind power)?  Is it the sun (solar energy)?  Is it the fission on an atom (nuclear power)?  In fact, you'd be forgiven to think selling gas was a sideline with this company, while it spends the rest of its time developing clean-fuel sources and technologies.

I don't like to think of myself as too gullible or naive, but I will gladly -- in the noble pursuit of knowledge! -- fall on my sword by admitting that I totally bought it.  Granted, I'm a sucker for a nicely-designed anything, including logos...and this is a damn good one.  And, in their defense, they did stick with the same color palette, so it's not like they didn't maintain some continuity.  But.

The new buzz-word to describe this particular kind of sales job that promotes an idea of a company as something that doesn't quite match up with its reality is:  greenwashing.  Foreign Policy has a great article on the greenwashing in BP's modern marketing campaign here.  Check it out.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

From the We-Never-Could-Have-Seen-THIS-Coming Department

Oh, dear.

Human Resources and my crisis of (employable) self: A Lament.

Recently a friend of mine (who I hope is still my friend) tried to throw some work my way.  He knew my current situation, and his offer of help was sincere and very much appreciated.  The work involved was with an important auxiliary operation of one of Chicago's main hospitals.  The pay offered was admittedly low and the job was part-time.  And, given that the minimum qualifications required only a high school diploma, I was obviously overqualified, but the thought was a) to get me out of the house and ease me (and my puppy) back into the workaday world and b) that perhaps it would lead one day to something else at the hospital.  These were worthy goals, and, despite any apprehension I had with working for a friend, I was enthusiastic about the opportunity.

That was until I went through the Human Resources process of an organization whose requirements were like nothing I had ever experienced.  Their policies and procedures sparked a crisis of self-worth that has been seething just beneath the surface over these last 18 months of unemployment -- a crisis exacerbated by the realization some time ago that I have no clear, discernible path to a work-life that is post-architecture, the profession for which I was most recently trained.

Going into HR, I knew -- this being a hospital (and in spite of the fact that I would be nowhere near an actual patient) -- that I would have to submit to a physical, a drug test, and a TB test in addition to the more quotidian hiring application and hurdles.  After the official interview went fine and all my professional references checked out (thank you, everybody!), I was offered the position...pending the receipt of infancy Measles, Mumps & Rubella (MMR) immunization and documentation proving I had graduated from high school.

I didn't expect that.  Not being quick on my feet (damn my genes!), I stumbled through acknowledging that I would figure out how to find these things.  It was only after the fact that I processed the feeling of what the fuck!?  Upon reflection, I could sort of understand the MMR documentation, but honestly:  do you know where your MMR records are?  It occurred to me that I might have needed them when I was submitting health records the last time I entered graduate school...13 years ago.  But would they still exist in the files of my last university?  And, if they didn't (or were never there to begin with), where on Earth would I look?  There's no way my mother would have them, and how exactly do you go about requesting late-60s-era records from a hospital you cannot remember in Buffalo, NY?

What really steamed my clams, however, was the high school documentation.  I was told by HR that my college transcript or one of the transcripts from my two graduate programs would suffice in its stead.  Really? You think??  My self-righteous indignation was slow to rise; but, once it did, it had no bounds:  you have got to be kidding me!  For a part-time, $10-an-hour job, I have to prove I graduated high school when my resume -- confirmed by my professional references -- clearly shows a college degree and two Master degrees from some of the most prestigious schools in the world!?  WHY!?!?

My Irish now irrevocably up, I shared this indignation with both my friend (and, until the very moment he finished reading the message, my potential, future boss) and the really-quite-innocent HR lady.  And, well, you can probably guess the rest....

When I woke up the next morning, after little to no sleep the night before, I knew I could not pin this on HR policy and procedure.  My injured pride had roots much deeper than what the hospital had required of me; they just happened to provide the back-breaking straw.  I now understand a little more about why the hospital needs these things (though I still think the high school bit is the height of absurdity), but the bigger -- the real -- problem is figuring out what I'm supposed to be doing with myself.  It's the eternal question for a natural-born dilettante like me in a world that makes you choose.  And that's something I could not and cannot blame on HR or anyone else.

My only consolation is the hope that I've dodged a bullet, and my friendship will live another day.  This is a huge relief, but the larger work still looms....

Monday, May 3, 2010

TX Gov. Rick Perry blames God for the Gulf oil spill

I can only imagine how relieved this makes the good people over at BP.

Sarah Palin wants you to know she understands

For those of you who don't know anything about, allow me to explain.  Under the veil of satire and general lampoon-ery have come a succession of writers deeply serious about politics (the "wonk" part of Wonkette), exposing and mocking what is laughable and lamentable in our political life, especially -- but by no means exclusively -- when the fodder comes from the Right. And come it does.  Born in the depths of the W. Years, these writers were amply supplied by a cast of characters in the Republican Party headed by a man seemingly tailor-made for their website. Then, as W. rode off into the sunset, the Fates, being kind, produced someone even better:  Sarah Palin.

And Sarah provides... that Wonkette can respond.  And I can share it with you.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Derby Party

Husband, for now the third year in a row, has regaled Kevin Gryzb and Leah Ray's annual Kentucky Derby party with his rendition of My Old Kentucky Home.

This year's party was ennobled by the presence of Leah's mother on her 50th anniversary of being crowned Miss Kentucky.

In a side note, we won back our investment in Paddy O'Prado (plus 3 bucks!) coming in "show".  Thanks, Mom!