Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Glenn's God

I wonder which God Glenn Beck wants Americans to return to. A converted Mormon, perhaps we should consider this:

Mormon theology is a form of restorationism that shares a common set of beliefs with the rest of the Latter Day Saint movement, including use of the Bible, as well as other religious texts including the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. It differs from other Latter Day Saint movement traditions in that it also accepts the Pearl of Great Price as part of its canon, and it has a history of teaching eternal marriageeternal progression, and plural marriage (although the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had abandoned the practice by the early 20th century). Cultural Mormonism includes a lifestyle promoted by the Mormon institutions, and includes cultural Mormons who identify with the culture, but not necessarily the theology.


The Latter Day Saint movement, including Mormonism, originated in the 1820s in western New York. Founded by Joseph Smith, Jr., the faith drew its first converts while Smith was translating the text of the Book of Mormon. This book described itself as a chronicle of early indigenous peoples of the Americas, portraying them as believing Israelites, and calling for their "restoration" to the Christian faith. Smith translated over 500 pages in about 60 days[3], claiming that it was an ancient record which he translated "by the gift and power of God"[4]. During production of this work in mid-1829, Smith, his close associate Oliver Cowdery, and other early followers began baptizing new converts into a Christian primitivist church, formally organized in 1830 as the Church of Christ.

[Text via Wikipedia.  Read it all here.]

Beck would like us to believe he's just a "rodeo clown", an attention-getter who will do whatever it takes to distract; but Mormonism is a proselytizing faith and he does have quite a soapbox at the moment.

To paraphrase Beck himself:  I don't have the answers; I'm just asking questions!

His particular faith aside, perhaps he wants the country to embrace a God that allowed him to utter the following on his September 9, 2005, radio show:

...it took me about a year to start hating the 9-11 victims' families. Took me about a year. And I had such compassion for them, and I really wanted to help them, and I was behind, you know, "Let's give them money, let's get this started." All of this stuff. And I really didn't -- of the 3,000 victims' families, I don't hate all of them. Probably about 10 of them. And when I see a 9-11 victim family on television, or whatever, I'm just like, "Oh shut up!" I'm so sick of them because they're always complaining. And we did our best for them. And, again, it's only about 10.
But the second thought I had when I saw these people and they had to shut down the Astrodome and lock it down, I thought: I didn't think I could hate victims faster than the 9-11 victims. These guys -- you know it's really sad. We're not hearing anything about Mississippi. We're not hearing anything about Alabama. We're hearing about the victims in New Orleans. This is a 90,000-square-mile disaster site, New Orleans is 181 square miles. A hundred and -- 0.2 percent of the disaster area is New Orleans! And that's all we're hearing about, are the people in New Orleans. Those are the only ones we're seeing on television are the scumbags -- and again, it's not all the people in New Orleans. Most of the people in New Orleans got out! It's just a small percentage of those who were left in New Orleans, or who decided to stay in New Orleans, and they're getting all the attention. It's exactly like the 9-11 victims' families. There's about 10 of them that are spoiling it for everybody.

[Text via Media Matters (with their original emphasis).  Read it all here.]

I wonder how Beck's fans would react if they were reminded what lies under his "rodeo clown" costume....


[Image via TPM.]

Monday, August 30, 2010

Restoring...What Exactly?

Glenn Beck's tent revival meeting this past Saturday was headlined as "Restoring Honor".

As far as fizzy bromides go, "restoring honor" seems like a nice enough thing to do.  It has a sepia-toned, nostalgic ring for those who pine for "the good, old days" -- quite in line with a conservative talk-show host like Beck who is fond of old-timey radio microphones, Nick-at-Night-era television sets and schoolhouse chalkboards.  But, as Billy Joel famously sang:  the good old days weren't always good.

They were for Beck's crowd, though...or, at least, this group of Americans believes they were.  Ironically, those "good, old days" were largely brought to them by the government policies of the New Deal and an economy revved up by a world war and sustained by a decades-long cold war.  But don't tell this crowd that; they're conservatives now.  Just like the Party of Lincoln became the Party of Reagan and the southern block of Democrats became the southern block of Republicans, this group has changed its stripes -- not so much because of politics, but because of public relations and propaganda.

Restoring Honor.  Ostensibly, it's the country's honor they are talking about and it has clearly been besmirched in some way.  How exactly?  And by whom?  Sarah Palin had this to say:  "We must not fundamentally transform America as some would want.  We must restore America and restore her honor."  She is clearly talking about Obama and the Democrats, but she leaves the whats and hows of this fundamental transformation up to her audience to identify.  It's coded language -- a dog whistle to those who look around and can no longer see their Ozzie and Harriet childhoods (if they were ever there in the first place).  Somehow, "I Like Ike!" has morphed into "Yes, We Can!" and it scares the bejesus out of them.  The rabble-rousers of the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago are now running things!  The barbarians are no longer at the gate; they're in the house, with their feet up on the furniture, ordering in pizza and dating your daughter!

Just look at the Beck crowd, or any Palin crowd.  This may be what a crowd looks like in Kansas or Idaho or Maine, but it doesn't look like any of the crowds I've seen in the last 20 years of my adult life.  It's white.  It's Christian.  It's suburban or rural.  It's older.  Now ask yourself which group has lost some of its influence and power over the last few generations...because they had a disproportionate amount of it to be begin with and because the country's demographics continue to trend away from them.  Add to that an economy that has been truly fundamentally transformed by corporate greed and corruption and you get a group that feels it has been hung out to dry.

Corporate America doesn't have a face, but the government does...and it's black.  It's also ridiculously well-educated, well-traveled, poly-lingual, with diverse religious, ethnic and national traditions and backgrounds.  Despite irrefutable evidence to the contrary, his true citizenship is questioned; his true religion is questioned; his true politics is questioned; in short, his very qualifications to be President are routinely questioned, as if "the American People" had been mugged in a dark alleyway and forced to elect this dastardly, obviously-un-American interloper.

But don't you dare call such an accusation -- implicit or explicit -- racist.  The only racist in this scenario, according to none other than Glenn Beck himself, is Barack Obama -- who, despite being fully half-white, has some "deep-seated hatred for white people".

Riiiiight.

I wonder if Barack Obama knew, when he decided to run for President, that this decision would sully America's honor?

Tomorrow:  The Plan.

[Indeed.]

Friday, August 27, 2010

Oh who am I kidding!?

I cannot ignore this incredible lightness of being Nuremberg Beckfest!

I give you herewith, the quintessential image of The Whitest Man Alive™.  I believe it sums up the next 24 hours.


[Thank you, TPM.]

Ignoring Beck

In an effort to keep my mind from spontaneously combusting in disgust and fury at Glenn Beck's latest attempt at race-baiting and jingoistic hucksterism, I would like to bring to your attention a nifty new thing from the BBC:

BBC Dimension.

I think I'd prefer "BBC Scale", but, then, everybody's a critic, right? What the site does is provide scalar (see!) comparisons of unfamiliar things, areas, depths, etc., with familiar ones.  For instance, after I type in my zip code, I can see the size of the flood in Pakistan overlaid on a map of the American Midwest.  Or the Gulf Oil Spill.  Or China's Great Wall.  Apparently, it's a prototype and contains the proviso that there is no guarantee of accuracy, which pretty much defeats the purpose of the site...BUT one assumes this can and will all be worked out in due course.

I learned of "BBC Dimension" via an e-mail I receive weekly from The Scout Report.  Sponsored by the University of Wisconsin - Madison, "The Scout Report" is a publication of the "Internet Scout Project", which scours the internet for "practical, Web-based information and software solutions for educators, librarians and researchers" and people like myself.  And now you.

Dive in and swim around...and try to forget about The Whitest Man Alive™ hijacking this weekend the anniversary and location of a speech by a speaker he obviously does not understand.


[Image:  Gulf Oil Spill laid over British postal code SW11 1PW via BBC Dimension.]

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ken Mehlman Makes His Move

Ken Mehlman, former head of the RNC and the man who brought you four more years of W. back in 2004, is, as you may know, a lying sack of shit conniving bastard Republican.  He also happens, he now tells us at age 43 (an age he shares avec moi), to be gay.

Quelle surpise.

Considering he was definitely not a Catholic priest, he could hardly continue to blame his bachelorhood on being overworked (otherwise all of Washington would be single).  But, then, Republicans are more than used to their operatives being closeted; results are what matter!

Mehlman would have us believe that he privately voiced support for civil unions and attempted to steer away from attacking same-sex marriage.  If this is so, good for him...I rejoice for his soul. However, using W.'s own litmus test -- you're either with us or you're against us -- he knew perfectly well that Republicans, the party of which he was head, were busily making sure gay-focussed issues were on the ballots in districts where they needed to boost turnout.  As such, in public, where it mattered, he was very much against us.

But now he's out of public life and has landed safely in the well-appointed offices of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., a "leading global alternative asset manager" (according to KKR's website...and whatever the hell that means).  Translation:  "I'm 43 and have money to spend; it's time to think about me."  In hindsight, anyone paying attention to the real estate market in Manhattan (and there are millions, no?), could have foreseen yesterday's news more than two months ago.  As reported on Curbed.com, Mehlman bought a $3.775 million condo in the gayest neighborhood outside of San Francisco -- NYC's Chelsea. With that kind of money, you don't just end up in a neighborhood...you pick it.  And, boi, he picked it alright.

So, now that Mehlman's paycheck isn't signed (directly, anyway) by the Republican Party, and having had over two months to settle into his new place, and with the champagne ordered for the big house-warming party, it was finally time to share his news with the rest of the world.  He says that he has taken this step so that he can openly -- and with some oomph -- lobby for same-sex marriage.  I hope this is true and I obviously wish him every success.  I consider it a down-payment on some past sins.

Mazel tov, Ken.  Today, you are a man!


[Image via Curbed.]

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

There is none better than Frank Rich.

And he outdoes himself here.


In answer to Rich's question:  if he's so smart, and so sane, why has he fallen short of his spectacular potential so far?, I would only point out that most of the American electorate -- and the cable news machine that feeds them, every hour, on the hour -- appreciates neither trait.  Hence the squeaky wheels on the clown car of Bachmann, Palin, Gingrich and the like.

And I wonder if they're not necessarily wrong.  Is sanity the sanest option?  Were Obama to show more fire, he'd immediately hear a sigh of relief from both the Left and the Right -- the Left, because it might mean he is serious about fighting for something; and the Right, because their over-the-top accusations of him might actually seem a bit more plausible.  Everybody would be happy!

So...what is he waiting for?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Angry, Scared and Rudderless

The American ship of state is on fire and drifting, and her President is on vacation.  Few would argue the man has more than earned some R&R, but the inevitable contrast of book-shopping on Martha's Vineyard while Lower Manhattan erupts in Islamophobia is almost impossible to avoid.

The picture it paints, in addition to the obvious, garden-variety "fiddling while Rome burns" analogy, is one that goes to the core of Obama's strengths and weaknesses:  no-drama Obama staying above the fray vs. the careful statesman unwilling to "let [himself] be perfectly clear".

The lunatics have been running around the asylum for quite some time and it needs to stop.  Someone needs to grab the megaphone and remind citizen and politician alike of some basic American ideals, for instance:  you are not at liberty to run amok disseminating blatant untruths and expect to get away with it. You are not at liberty to wrap yourselves up in the flag and then embrace the kind of discrimination that was roundly rejected long before there even was a country for the current flag to symbolize...and expect to get away with it.  You are not at liberty to mock American values and call yourself a patriot...and expect to get away with it.  You, Michelle Bachmann; you, Sarah Palin, you, Newt Gingrich; you are pouring gasoline on the flames that will consume you, too.  So, even if you don't give a whit about the country, you might want to consider your own well-being.

Barack Obama knows this summer's silly season is bull-shit.  He would know it even if he were not partially of Muslim descent -- the fact that he is only makes it that much more infuriating that he won't lead on this issue!    Just like his post-Rev.-Wright race speech, Obama is the person we've been waiting for to school his fellow countrymen and -women about what the rest of the Earth is like a few feet away from white, Christian navels.  If he cannot, who can?  Obama easily won his present job; a clear majority of Americans duly elected him; even the ones who did not vote for him could not help but recognize his story as compelling...so why isn't he using that story to move our society forward?  We are a nation of mutts, and he's the muttiest leader of the pack yet.

Chelsea Clinton was just recently married to a Jew.  Did anyone bat an eye?  No.  Why not?

Barack Obama doesn't have to check his family's myriad racial, religious, national, cultural identities at the door to be a practicing member of the United Church of Christ in Chicago, or an American, or our President. Quite the opposite:  he needs to use them, celebrate them, teach with them.  They're his strength and he alone right now stands the best chance of helping us understand that these are our strengths, too.

Enough is enough.


[Image:  Monument to Multiculturalism by Francesco Pirelli at Union Station donated by the Italian community of Toronto in 1985.  Other copies are in South Africa, China, Bosnia and Australia.  See Wikipedia.]

Friday, August 20, 2010

There is no such thing as a Christian baby

There are Muslim babies and Jewish babies, but no Christian ones...according to self-proclaimed national preacher, Franklin Graham, son of self-proclaimed national preacher, Billy Graham.

Really?  This must be news to tons of Christian parents out there, sending their ostensibly Christian kids to Sunday School and Bible camp, assuming all the while that their little ones are card-carrying members of the faith.  Turns out their baptism is a fig leaf -- an insurance policy...with an expiration date.  But at least they have a sporting chance.  Baptist kids are screwed, because they aren't even baptized until they're teenagers.

Where, you might reasonably ask, am I coming up with all this? The good reverend, himself, of course.  Last night on CNN, as reported here, he offered his take on why President Obama cannot seem to shake this notion that he's a secret Muslim.  Obama's problem -- and he called it a "problem" -- is that "he was born a Muslim, his father was a Muslim.  The seed of Islam is passed through the father like the seed of Judiasm is passed through the mother."  He goes on to say that, unlike Islam or Judaism, no one can be born a Christian; you have to actively and knowingly accept Christ as your savior to become a Christian.

Well, this started me thinking, because I consider myself a Christian.  However, I am not a Christian to the exclusion of other faith traditions. I don't see a difference between God the Father, Allah and Yahweh, among others.  Christ's life and teaching, for me, is the path I choose to follow, but I do not believe it is the only path.  It's what many would call a "cognitive dissonance" that is simply not dissonant to me.  I ultimately "pulled the lever" for Christianity precisely because it is the faith tradition of my family. Some of my people in the last 400+ years have been Catholic and some Protestant, but to a person they have all been Christian.  If that doesn't make me born a Christian -- or at least favorably-disposed -- I don't know what does.

I think Graham and others still equate Judaism and Islam with race.  Christians like to think they've been an open tent since Paul was walking around the Mediterranean habitually getting arrested. But anyone who's been to Israel can tell you, Jews come in many hues and languages these days and Islam has stretched from its origins in the Arabian peninsula to the farthest reaches of Indonesia and "darkest Africa".  Try telling an Iranian he's the same race as someone from Saudi Arabia.

So, from where I sit, if Graham can pronounce that some infant born to an Islamic father in Honolulu, Mecca or Jakarta is, therefore, born a Muslim; or that some infant born to a Jewish mother in Brooklyn, Tel Aviv or Moscow is, therefore, born a Jew; I don't think it's such a stretch to say some can be born a Christian. Like all faith traditions, you must be schooled in it...or you can walk away from it, but it is still a tradition -- one that may have originated in a "race" but is now much, much more.

Barack Obama, as Franklin Graham knows full well, was born into a number of traditions.  His mother was agnostic with non-practicing parents of Baptist and Methodist backgrounds; his father was an atheist, born into both an Islamic and Christian family. The fact that our President had so many viewpoints and traditions from which to choose does not make his eventual choice of Christianity any more mysterious or surprising.  The fact that it is called into question at all is a function of ignorance and bigotry.


[Image via peacemonger.org.]

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Floundering Fathers

It's a good thing the Founding Fathers did what they had to do over 200 years ago...because they could never get it done now.

Of course, it wasn't such an easy task even back then, but now with our 24/7 news cycle and every yahoo (myself included) just a comment button away from adding his or her own two cents to the rabble?   Fuggedaboutit!

Hmmm, I wonder what it would be like...?

Freedom of religion?  Sure (if you're not Muslim)!  How about freedom from religion?  The atheists would love that, but who's going to clean up from fundamentalist heads exploding?

The right to bear arms?  You betcha.  AK-47s?  Why not!  Can we shoot things from airplanes or helicopters?  Yes, but you must have a license (and be older than 12).

Habeas corpus?  That's Latin, right?  No one reads Latin anymore.  Next...!

Taxes.  We the People do not want to pay taxes, unless it supports our troops!   That said, we expect good schools, bridges that don't fall apart and unlimited help from floods, hurricanes, and losing sand from our beach-front properties.

Equality.  Everyone is equal (as long as they don't want to live next to us or date our daughter).  Additionally, gays are icky, but we need them for Hollywood, Broadway and to bartend on airplanes, so....

Sigh....

You ever see a grown man cry?  In a powdered wig...?

[Image via www.senate.gov.]

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dear Sarah

How many blocks "away from 9/11" would sufficiently assuage the sting from the "stab in the heart of collectively American"?

(Do I really need to include a [sic]?  It's just understood, right?)

[Mangled quote via:  TPM.]

Christianities and Islams

People in the West have no trouble identifying vastly different branches of Christianity, from Roman Catholics to Pentecostals and everything in between.  We understand, too, that there are different beliefs within Judaism.  And, if we're really paying attention, we might have some inkling that there are Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims, but we are hard-pressed to begin to explain the difference or why it might matter.

Considering how utterly intertwined the fates of the West and the Middle East have become, this is no small thing.  It also has very real consequences for Americans in their own country; just ask the people trying to build a community center and mosque in Lower Manhattan.

We're so quick to demonize.  And we do so at our own peril, because it just ends up prolonging the suffering, eventually turning us into something indistinguishable from our supposed "enemy".

So, what do we do?  Two things for starters:

One, read today's excellent op-ed in The New York Times:  "The Muslims in the Middle" by William Dalrymple.

Two, pick up a copy of Reza Aslan's book No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam (Random House, 2005).  It's a fantastic primer as well as an enjoyable read.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A totalitarian regime

...needs a fanatical following of true believers as well as the silent acquiescence and/or forced submission of the rest of the society.

If the events of the last almost two years are any indication, we have no end of fanatical followers -- be they birthers, tea partiers, anti-Muslim crusaders, marriage-equality deniers, border militias, etc.

Fortunately for the rest of us, they currently have no leader.  To be sure, some are trying the mantle on for size, but no one yet possesses the combination of savvy, calculation and brains such a leader will require.  However, if history teaches us nothing, it's a matter of time.

What happens then is up to the rest of society.  Will we silently acquiesce?  Will we allow ourselves to be forced into submission?

This article in today's Israeli daily Ha'aretz would indicate we have reason to be concerned.

In short, the politics of fear and hatred seem to be working, and (according to the article) Muslim leaders will soon announce they they will seek a different site for the "Ground Zero Mosque".  If this indeed happens, it will be, in the words of NYC Mayor Bloomberg, "a sad day for America".

Bloomberg is wrong about one thing:  the sad day he forecasts is already here.  The fact that this is even an issue is not only sad; it's pathetic.  It's also pathetic that our President -- the son of a Muslim father and, by far, the most "international" leader we've ever had -- has to tiptoe around the issue so as not to inflame the lunatics.  It's pathetic, too, that the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, has to weigh in against the proposed community center for no other conceivable reason than he's running a very close race with Tea Partier Sharron Angle.  Put another way:  even if this center is ultimately built, we have amply shown ourselves to be a pack of bigots and cowards.  Even more damning:  we've shown ourselves to be un-American in our unquestioning willingness to toss overboard those ideals we are supposed to hold dear.

God help us.


[Image:  words of Martin Niemoeller, Lutheran pastor and prisoner at Dachau (1941-1945).]

Friday, August 13, 2010

Attention Deficit Hawks!

Extending those Bush Tax Cuts you love so much adds $36 billion to the deficit.

Just sayin'.

[Source:  Joint Committee on Taxation; via WaPo; hat-tip:  Daily Kos.]

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fearing and Loathing Your Base

David Frum has tweeted a truism:  Republicans fear their base, and Democrats hate theirs.

The one thing most of them share is that both groups are back-stabbing, upward-climbing, bossy moos who like to "lead" but don't really want to bother with the issues of the people they purport to lead.  One group's base is populated with pitchfork-wielding Neanderthals and the other's is full of endlessly-nudging do-gooders.

Can I get an oy veh??

This is why the real leaders of the Republican Party -- the ones with money to protect -- dole out the soma pills to the Fundies about family values, etc.  Newt Gingrich wouldn't know a family value if it bit him in the butt.  None of them has ever served in the military since before Vietnam, so they could give a rat's tusch, personally, if gays were allowed to serve openly.  They just have to care for their horrified/titillated base.

The Dems, on the other hand, totally "get" socialism -- even saw it up close in their travels through Europe in college -- but know it's no way to make money or win elections.  Sure they have to pretend to care about the Workers, inter alia/et al./etc., but really they're in it to win while taking every chance to laugh at their Republican colleagues who have to deal with a much scarier base.

Sucks to be them, eh?

Anyone want to explain this to Mr. Gibbs...?

Mr. Bill Goes to Washington

[Mr.] Bill in Portland Maine, that is. He penned a note to Robert Gibbs that is so perfect, I'm going to quote it in full...(with my apologies to Christopher, who hates it when I cut and paste).

Dear Robert Gibbs,

I can't believe what you said! How dare you! I take umbrage, you...you... Okay, okay...I admit it. I make a lousy hothead. Just ain't in me. So let me quickly say this and then I'll wander off in search of grannies to help cross the street so you can get back to work:

The Obama administration, in which you're a key player, came into office telling its base---namely, us---that we should not be patient. That we should push push push and make you enact the agenda that candidate Obama and his surrogates rattled off hundreds of times on the campaign trail. We were not to be sheep, you said---we were to be hard-headed realists.

"Make us do it!" your boss said. "Hold our feet to the fire!" "Hold us accountable for our actions!"

So we did. And we do. Every day. On blogs, on radio, on TV, through word-of-mouth or any other way we can think of. We're keeping our end of the bargain that you struck with us.

So, um, if I may say, sir: yikes...
During an interview with The Hill in his West Wing office, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs blasted liberal naysayers, whom he said would never regard anything the president did as good enough.

"I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested," Gibbs said. "I mean, it’s crazy. ... They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality."
Well. Consider my butt paddled.

If the quality of our agreeing-to-do-what-you've-asked-us-to-do-since-2008 isn’t to your satisfaction, sir, perhaps you would like to clarify the role we---your base---should be playing. Because your rant has left me confused in the brainhead.

Just because you "achieve something"---whatever that something is---doesn’t automatically mean it's all magically delicious. We praise you loud 'n proud for what you do that makes sense (signing the bill yesterday to save jobs---yay!), criticize you for what doesn't make sense (Not signing a bill that creates public jobs to compensate for the jobs the private sector isn't creating because management has Gone Galt or something), and explain our positions and opinions as best we can by scrawling them on the dirt floors of our rabble huts.

I love your boss, Mr. Gibbs. I stood in line in a blizzard for two hours waiting to vote for him in the Maine caucus. I filled in the oval on my ballot so hard on November 4, 2008 that the marker tip almost went through the other side. And I like you, too, Bob. (Can I call you Bob? My dad's name was Bob.) I like much of what you've all accomplished so far under some very tough circumstances, and I've sang your praises aplenty. So, please... don’t swat at us like pesky gnats just because the feedback you get isn’t always pleasant. The sooner you learn that we're not automatons like the GOP's base, the better. (And we have this little habit of being correct about things an obscenely high percent of the time. You might want to look into that.)

So now what? I suggest we kiss (air kiss only, please, as I hear you have a cold), make up, and get down to the business of making the Republicans---aka the say nothing, do nothing, know nothing southern regional Save The Rich From The Poor party---regret they ever predicted a blowout in November. We'd be happy to meet you halfway by accepting an invitation to the White House for some beer.

Sincerely,

Just me...Billy

As Captain Picard would say to his Number One: make it so.


[Read BiPM in full, here; image via AP.]

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

At least they spelled "Maine" with an "e"!

[Hat-tip:  Wonkette.]

Sarah [hearts] teachers!

We know this because she told us so...on Facebook!  Some of her best friends close relatives are teachers.  So, you see, therefore, there is no way she would, you know, roll her eyes at a freedom-lovin' protester because she is a teacher.  Also.

The Party of No

No citizenship, that is, if your parents have the bad taste to "birth" you on this side of the border while under the influence of a different nationality.

The Republican Party fought for the 14th Amendment (which instituted jus solis, or "law of the ground", which allows anyone born on American soil citizenship no matter the nationality of the parents) and now some in its ranks are fighting to have it repealed.

You know things are bad when this kind of diversionary scapegoating is introduced as an "issue" confronting the nation.

I don't mean to belittle the need for immigration reform, and I have no doubt that border regions in the Southwest face real struggles accommodating people coming across who, like anybody else, need food, shelter, clothing, medical care, etc.  BUT, given the overwhelming problems our country faces at the moment, is this really the political peg some in the Republican Party want to hang their hat on?

You betcha!

As I've mentioned before, 19th-century Republicans championed what would become the 14th Amendment ostensibly to guarantee citizenship to newly-freed slaves.  This, in addition to being just and appropriate, also had the added benefit of creating a nice, new supply of voters for the Party which would no doubt hold for some time the loyalty of those it had been instrumental in freeing.  Fast forward to today, and the tide has reversed.  The Southwestern states have become prosperous, populated and (as a result?) purpler over recent years and, as such, have come to play larger roles in especially presidential elections.  This is troubling to Republicans and, frankly, newly-minted citizens via naturalization or birthright who will later surely recognize that the Party has been no help to them certainly do not help matters.

For a Party disinclined to deal well with reality (Wall Street, deep-water oil drilling, Just Say No, cutting taxes during two wars, marriage equality), this immigration/citizenship question has offered them a delightful wedge issue...and not just, as one might think, in the Southwest.  When times are tough, people get cranky and start circling the wagons.  Armed with short memories, they tend to fire at whoever happens to be standing in front of them at the moment.  Score one for the Republicans.  Cranky people also want someone to blame, preferably an outsider because they are much easier to vilify.  So, whether it's Muslims in Manhattan or Mexicans in Mesa, score two for the Republicans.

Nevermind unemployment, foreclosures, health care, financial reform, off-shore drilling, Iraq, Afghanistan!  Our real problem is the foreigners!!

Therein lies the beauty:  take a regional issue and blow it up out of proportion for a freaked-out population wanting someone to blame that, in turn, deflects attention away from more pressing issues and colossal failures as well as paints you as the patriotic protector of the Homeland.

It may not be just or appropriate, but it's brilliant politically.

[Cartoon by Ben Sargent.]

Monday, August 9, 2010

Wait, are we on camera?



[Hat-tip: HuffPo. Shannyn Moore has the transcript at Just a Girl from Homer.]

Friday, August 6, 2010

Time Warp

Wow...these images are amazing!  And chilling...especially if, like me, you have visited some of these places.


Russian photographer Sergey Larenkov has photoshop'd some then-and-now images.  See them all here.

[Hat-tip:  Ian Leslie's Marbury.]

Right-Wing Projection

I'm constantly amazed at how blatant it is.

I'm no psychologist, but my layman's understanding of "projection" is when one person subconsciously ascribes or projects one's own attributes/attitudes/worldview onto another.  The person projecting is unaware that they are universalizing their inner dynamics, so it is all the more damning when the projections are of a negative nature.

Here are a couple of recent examples:

In the wake of the court decision in California this week regarding the constitutionality of Prop. 8, some on the right have brought into question Judge Walker's impartiality on the matter given that it is "an open secret" that he, himself, is gay.  Frankly, I have no idea if the 66-year-old Republican is or not, but I do know that I don't care...and neither should anybody else.  The idea that any gayness he might possess would render him incapable of judging impartially is ridiculous...unless the person making the accusation sees themselves easily swayed in such a situation.  Why is it always a chorus of white men who question the impartiality of women, Jews, African-Americans, Latinas, etc., etc.?  Could it be that they are petrified that karma is a boomerang?

How about Sarah Palin's quip the other day about President Obama being in "over his head"?  Even if she, herself, does not believe she is in over her head -- earlier as a governor and vice-presidential candidate and now as a political commentator for a national cable-news network -- she surely is aware that most people on the planet regard her as such.  I cannot image this doesn't bother her on some level (or is that me projecting?); but, regardless, whether she's conscious of it or not, reflecting the critique onto Obama is simply good politics when it comes to keeping up morale in her base.  I'm not the one in over my head; he's the one in over his head!

Where to begin with the Tea Partiers, eh?  We're not racist...Obama's the one who is racist, right?  He has to be, what with all the revenge he must feel having actually been on the receiving end of racism, unlike us.  We know we'd seek revenge in similar circumstances, so....  It's the classic where da white women at? boogeyman Southern whites like to throw up as a smokescreen for the fact that it was largely white slaveowners raping black slaves, not the other way around.  Or how about their undying love for the Constitution?  We Tea Partiers love that Constitution, and we have to protect it because Obama clearly wants to destroy it!  Nevermind that it is actually the right wing that is currently taking aim at it, whether we're talking about gutting the 14th Amendment, undercutting Congress' ability to raise funds, re-introducing the specter of "states' rights" and even going so far as to threaten succession, blurring/erasing the separation of church and state, and calling into question the 17th Amendment which requires the direct election of senators.

The lack of self-awareness is staggering, and the rest of us are left wondering:  do they really believe this stuff?  No doubt, some do...the rest are merely going along for the ride.

Regardless, an overused rhetorical device (one that Husband hates) springs to mind:  methinks the lady doth protest too much.


[Image via Media Matters.]

They do.



[Hat-tip:  Daily Dish; cartoon by Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution.]

Unemployment -- A Post-War Retrospective



[Hat-tip:  Daily Kos; graph by www.calculatedriskblog.com.]

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"The People" vs. Erick Erickson

I don't know about you, but, after a seminal victory like yesterday's Prop. 8 ruling in California, I like to check out the reactions of people sure to have been made unhappy by the same. Schadenfreude is a lovely German word, roughly translated as: stick that in your pipe and smoke it!

Our friends over at Redstate didn't disappoint; their response was predictably Pavlovian.

Pack Leader and card-carrying member of the political elite, Erick Erickson, naturally blamed the political elite:

But again and again the political elites in this country think they know best. From the mosque at Ground Zero to gay marriage to Obamacare, the majority of the people and states are forced to deal with a minority that does not respect them and democratic and legal institutions that oppose them.

Let's do a little unpacking, shall we?  First and foremost, can we please do away with this notion that one side "thinks they know best"?  Does not Erick also think he "knows best"?  We all think we know best.  How about this one: "the majority...forced to deal with a minority that does not respect them and democratic and legal institutions that oppose them."  Assuming Erickson isn't calling for mob rule, I would like to ask him if he can think of any situations in the last 150 years or so when the majority got it wrong.  Or, if he thinks the Founders, no doubt foreseeing such situations, were wrong to insert safeguards into the Constitution to protect the minority from the "tyranny of the majority"?  Additionally, how exactly can "democratic...institutions...oppose" a majority when it was a very majority (or at least plurality) that created the democratic institutions in the first place?  Neat trick!

Erick clearly likes his cake, and he's damn-well going to eat it, too.

What else does Erick have to say?

If a minority of political elites and liberals can impose their will and values on a majority sufficient enough to amend the constitution, it is time for the majority to respond with constitutional force.

Who's amending the Constitution!?  Does Judge Walker's ruling amend the Constitution?  No, of course it doesn't.  It applies the Constitution (in this case, of California).  If anyone is trying to amend the Constitution, it is the proponents of Prop. 8 who are attempting to convince the state that it has an interest in something it should have no interest in, namely:  imposing one group's morality on the whole via local, state or federal law.  Last I checked, the United States was not a theocracy.  This is about equal protection and equal access to civil institutions in this country, period.  For example, you may not like the fact that a black person can drink from the same water fountain you do, but that's your tough luck.  The state has decided that your preference in this matter is irrelevant.  Why?  Because America wasn't created to tolerate such divisions; quite the opposite, actually...and we're still in the process of realizing the fullest potential of our Founders' vision.

Perhaps Erick & Co. need a refresher course in American history. Somebody wasn't paying attention in class....

But he did manage to dig up this quote from Jefferson:

In Thomas Jefferson’s words, “In questions of power then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution.”

To which I can only say:  indeed.

Pundit, heal thyself.


[Image by Alex Yuly; visit his site here.]

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Prop. 8 in CA ruled unconstitutional

Thank you David Boies and Ted Olson.


I knew there would be something to write about today if I waited long enough.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I [heart] NYers

God bless my former city.


The way has now been cleared for the much-maligned Islamic community center to proceed with construction.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg had this to say:  In rushing into those burning buildings, not one asked, What god do you pray to? What beliefs do you hold?  Bloomberg continued regarding the first responders:  We do not honor their lives by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting.

Rudy Giuliani could learn a thing or two from his successor.  Palin and Gingrich, too.

A Sonnet for Senators Graham, Kyl and McConnell


The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset fates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus, 1883.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Doonesbury Smackdown

Click image to enlarge.

[Hat-tip:  Daily Dish; Original Source: Doonesbury @ Slate.]

Or you could just read Wonkette....



Lindsey Graham To Deport U.S.-Born Heathens

Nation of Immigrants...and their Children

Do you know when your ancestors first officially became American citizens? I would hazard a guess that most of us do not. That's a shame, because we're all (with the exception of North America's first families) from somewhere else, and the stories of why we came here and how we eventually were woven into the American fabric are essential to who we are and how we think.

Ever the armchair genealogist, I have some knowledge about my own family's path to citizenship. My mother's side -- with the exception of one Scottish branch -- was here well before the velvet rope went up. They simply woke up one day to discover that they were now Americans. No forms, no tests...easy as pie. That lone Scottish branch crossed over from Canada into Maine in the 1880s, and my great-grandmother only became an American by marrying my great-grandfather.  Up to that point, she was an "illegal alien".

Dad's side was what I like to call my "Ellis Island" side -- Germans, Irish and Swedes, all showing up in a twenty-five-year period between 1880 and 1905. The pattern with them was for the male immigrant to file all the naturalization paperwork, bringing the present or future wife along by virtue of marriage. Of course, they didn't have to worry about when their children were born during this process because they knew their citizenship was guaranteed simply by having been born on American soil. Imagine the relief the parents must have felt knowing their kids wouldn't have to endure the various struggles they had.

Well, after a good century and a half of this constitutionally-guaranteed right -- born of the desire to protect the citizenship of freed slaves during Reconstruction -- there are now politicians seeking to chuck the citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Back in the day, it was a Republican-led charge to enact the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (which became the 14th Amendment two years later to preempt any attempt by the Supreme Court to rule it unconstitutional), so it is with no little irony that one notes it is the political heirs to the Party of Lincoln who now seek to repeal it.

So what happened...why the change of heart? My guess is political expediency. We're obviously a very different country now than we were in 1866. We still had lots of room then and wanted to fill it. We were also a lot closer to our immigrant roots, immigrant customs, immigrant languages. Additionally, newly-free slaves, as well as their freeman cousins in the North, were pretty safe votes (where they were allowed to get anywhere near a polling station) for the Party of Lincoln. Today, manifest destiny fully accomplished, we want to protect our borders. Nevermind that the American Southwest was Spanish long before "we" showed up (Santa Barbara, anyone?), it is "ours" now and we're full-up, thank you very much. There simply isn't room for modern-day immigrants "abusing the system" by having the unmitigated gall to give birth on this side of the border.

America -- the gated community, writ large.

But back to the political expediency. It is hardly lost on today's politicians that virtually all of the people coming over the border do so, at great risk, because they feel compelled by economic necessity. In other words, they're poor -- like the Irish/Italians/Poles/Swedes/etc. of their day. And as such, they and their children are most likely not predisposed to vote (once they can) for the party that a) advocates smaller government with fewer services and b), er, wanted to keep them out in the first place. Then there's the foreignness factor. A different language and culture make easy work for a politician seeking to inject the fear of otherness in a they're-storming-the-gates sort of way. People who are told they are under assault do not necessarily react in the most rational way. Conveniently, whether implicitly or explicitly (see any Tea Party rally), this message is underscored by a bi-racial sitting President, born in Hawaii, who happens to have had an African and Muslim father.

The frenzy being whipped up is a dangerous one, not least of which because it advocates throwing overboard something that has made the country what we purport to want to protect.