Thursday, September 30, 2010

With friends like these....

...who needs Republicans?

First it was Press Secretary Robert Gibbs decrying the "professional left" last month:  "They wouldn't be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was [sic] president."

Then it was Vice President Joe Biden suggesting earlier this week that dissatified progressives should "stop whining" and "buck up".

Then, for the trifecta, President Barack Obama, in an extended sit-down with Jan Wenner of Rolling Stone, bemoans a "lack of enthusiasm" and echoes Biden's "buck up" line.

Call me crazy, but I'm sensing a theme.  It would appear that the three most important spokesmen for the administration are having a hard time figuring out why some of their allies are underwhelmed by their performance to date and are starting to get a little pissy defensive about it.  It's almost as if they were looking to assign pre-blame for the electoral beating about to be delivered.

Apparently the buck now stops elsewhere.

Earlier in the interview, Obama described a "turn of mind among Democrats and progressives where a lot of times we see the glass as half-empty", admitting that this was "probably a healthy thing, but it can also be debilitating".  Fair enough.  However, isn't this also to be expected?  This isn't Obama's -- and certainly not Biden's -- first time at the rodeo.  Whereas they are expected to tackle issues across the board as defined by the platform of the political party they head -- especially the ones they highlighted and committed to on the campaign trail, the rest of us have specific issues that we care about and focus on.  For some, this might be a single issue; for others, many.  Regardless, it is our "job" to make the wheel squeak; we are our issues' lobbyist; one might even say that "we are the ones we've been waiting for".

In short:  of course we're unsatisfied!  It's our responsibility to be unsatisfied!!

John Aravosis at AmericaBlog addresses this in two excellent posts yesterday (here and here).  Using the sad story about the Rutgers freshman who, outed by his roommate on Twitter, jumped to his death off the George Washington Bridge, he reminds us that "[g]ay civil rights isn't a 'social issue'.  It's our lives."  As long as college students are still committing suicide in 2010 in the "liberal" northeast at one of those "elitist" universities, President Obama should not expect that gay activists (or anyone with a heart) react to his advice to "take the long view" with anything but disdain and disgust.

Is this really something he needs explained to him?

Now substitute gay activist for health-care activist or environmental activist or people fighting nuclear proliferation, sexism, racism, torture, etc. etc.  It's our job to get our elected leaders to focus on these things and its their job not to get annoyed when we do so.  So, if anyone needs to "stop whining" and "buck up", I humbly suggest it's this White House.

[Picture source.]

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Colbert, Obama and Their Own, Personal Jesus

For a country that built into its very foundation a separation of Church and State, religion doesn't just rear its head in politics; it seems more like it seeks to dominate American political discourse.  From White House prayer breakfasts to "In God We Trust" being stamped on our coins, from Pat Robertson to Jeremiah Wright, from reproductive rights to the Defense of Marriage Act, the personal is very much political and politicians are basically forced to wear whatever particular faith they profess on their sleeves.  This is curious considering that Christianity is the dominant religion in the U.S. and that Christ himself said the following:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.  But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. (Matthew 6: 5-6, NIV)

Ah well, so much for dancing with the guy who brung ya!

For better or worse, this is the situation in which we find ourselves.  It's a reality that either engages you or is something you try to tune out.  Personally, I do not believe religion has any business in the function of our government, any more than government has any business in houses of worship.  However, if religion must insert itself into the public, political conversation, it's always nicer when people actually know what they're talking about.

Stephen Colbert and Barack Obama do.

Last week, Stephen Colbert -- the character -- gave testimony in front of a House subcommittee on immigration.  He did so much to the bemusement of some and to the outrage of others.  What many did not notice (here, notwithstanding), however, was the way Colbert -- this time, the man -- let his personal spiritual slip show during the Q&A that followed:

I like talking about people who don’t have any power, and it seems like one of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come in and do our work, but don’t have any rights as a result. And yet, we still ask them to come here, and at the same time, ask them to leave. And that’s an interesting contradiction to me, and um… You know, “whatsoever you did for the least of my brothers,” and these seemed like the least of my brothers, right now. A lot of people are “least brothers” right now, with the economy so hard, and I don’t want to take anyone’s hardship away from them or diminish it or anything like that. But migrant workers suffer, and have no rights.

The fact that Colbert is a practicing Catholic is well known.  Perhaps what was not well known (until now) is that he's a person who actually tries to practice what he preaches.

Then, just yesterday, we heard from the world's most famous non-Muslim, President Barack Obama.  Answering the question "Why are you a Christian?", he said the following:

I'm a Christian by choice.  My family didn't - frankly, they weren't folks who went to church every week.  And my mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew, but she didn't raise me in the church.  So I came to my Christian faith later in life, and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead - being my brothers' and sisters' keeper, treating others as they would treat me. And I think also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings, that we're sinful and we're flawed and we make mistakes, and that we achieve salvation through the grace of God.  But what we can do, as flawed as we are, is still see God in other people and do our best to help them find their own grace.  That's what I strive to do. That's what I pray to do every day.  I think my public service is part of that effort to express my Christian faith.  One thing I want to emphasize, having spoken about something that obviously relates to me very personally, as president of the United States I'm also somebody who deeply believes that part of the bedrock strength of this country is that it embraces people of many faiths and no faith.  That this is a country that is still predominantly Christian, but we have Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, and that their own path to grace is one that we have to revere and respect as much as our own.  That's part of what makes this country what it is.

Truly, if, as some suggest (most of whom should know better), this man is just "pretending" to be Christian, he's not only doing a damn good job at it, he's running circles around many who wear crosses around their necks or pinned to their lapels.  Indeed, ask yourself this:  how many so-called Christians do you know who could answer a question on their faith, off the cuff, and come anywhere close to the above?

Considering how religiously illiterate many Christians have been found to be, perhaps people should spend less time questioning his faith and spend more time learning about their own.  (Find out how religiously literate you are here.)

[Hat-tips to HuffPo, Daily Dish and (newcomer!) Blue Wave News; image:  Depeche Mode's 1989 single, available here.]

Monday, September 27, 2010

Midnight at the oasis?

Maybe not, but surely it's late and high time the camels were sent to bed.

I know I'm exhausted after yet another article about an insta-city in the desert (just add water) that I, as a world citizen and architect, am supposed to care about.  Saturday's NYT offering by Nicholai Ouroussoff introduced us all to Masdar, Abu Dhabi's fledgling, one-mile square, raised city, designed by Norman Foster's firm to be carbon neutral.

Because...why not?  They've got the space, and heaven knows they have the money (for now), and utopian, planned communities have always been so successful in the past....

Ok, I'll admit:  the carbon-neutral thing hooked me despite the dyspepsia I've developed from a diet too rich in stories about the Gulf Region's latest Hong Kong/Las Vegas/Santa Barbara-by-the-Sea.  It would certainly be a pretty cool (and ironic) trick for a place requiring lots and lots of air-conditioning and patrons made rich by fossil fuels.

Foster's team doesn't disappoint.  In addition to mining the region's centuries/millennia?-old passive techniques like locating streets and buildings for maximum shading and harvesting the breeze with wind towers, the architects take advantage of the latest technological systems like solar farms and electric, driver-less cars.

All of this is great, prima facie.  One can only imagine how much we will all learn from such an experiment.  Maybe even some of this will one day inform how we might create a self-sustaining colony on the moon (a place not so unlike the desert, minus the palm trees and oxygen).


Jon Stewart recently had some fun with the one-can-but-should-one argument by suggesting Catholics could build a church next to a playground...but should they?  I find myself confronted with the very same question when it comes to Masdar.  Apparently, so does Mr. Ouroussoff.  After duly recognizing the Neat and Nifty -- even the Nuanced and Necessary -- the critic implicitly questions the need for a tabula rasa when there is a "real city next door" (Central Abu Dhabi).  Is this development suggesting that, instead of being introduced piecemeal into the existing urban fabric, it should be completed in isolation so as not to be infected by the terminal patient next door (who will eventually be taken off life support and allowed to die)?

Then there's the perennial labor question for this part of the world: who's building it?  under what circumstances and conditions?  for what wages?  For a number of reasons that should be obvious, I fully admit this is not a fair comparison; but I cannot help being reminded that a twentieth-century German government used slave labor to help build an Autobahn on which shiny, well-engineered BMWs now glide carrying their well-healed passengers from one part of the country to another.

Maybe it's just a little bit fair.

[Image via Deutsche Welle, which incidentally informs us that part of the funding for this project comes from the sale of emission certificates.]

Friday, September 24, 2010

Once more, with a little more feeling.

Apparently, this time they mean business.

Can't you feel the energy!?  No ties (better to look like you're protecting the little guy instead of the corporations)...check.  Shirt cuffs rolled up ('cause they're ready to "dig in" and "get their hands dirty")...check.  John Boehner looking a little less orange (recent lampooning?)...check.  Mike Pence wearing a pattern (to offset the sea of solid corporate hues)...check.  Eric Cantor looking a little like a half-dressed yeshiva boy (the all-important Brooklyn vote)...check.  Woman (the all-important...oh, never mind)...check!

Take that, Tea Partiers!  These guys will show you how it's really done, Beltway-style.

This Just In: Israeli-Palestinian Politics Unstable

Anyone who is familiar with Israeli politics knows that theirs is a playing field of constantly-shifting tectonics.  With no single party big enough to rule outright, fragile, multi-factioned coalitions are required to govern.  Offend one of your coalition partners and you risk bringing down your government.  It doesn't take much; take a look at the list of current and past parties in Israel here.

So, when people argue that current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu risks the destruction of his coalition by extending the moratorium on building settlements in the West Bank -- set to expire this Sunday -- while just having started the latest round of talks with the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, they are stating something beyond obvious.  A "Sword of Damocles" hangs over every Israeli government every day of the week.

For his part, Abbas doesn't have it much better, considering a sizable chunk of his territory -- incidentally, the one place Israel has actually left, the Gaza Strip -- is controlled by his political enemy, Hamas.

In short, neither leader can negotiate from a particular position of strength, politically anyway.  What they can do, however, is try to extent the status quo -- the about-to-end moratorium.  Netanyahu doesn't have to commit to a permanent cession, and Abbas doesn't have to demand it.  It creates some "breathing space" -- as today's NYT editorial calls it -- perhaps just enough for the fledgling talks to get some traction.

Some will squawk.  So what else is new?  Peace talks are bigger and infinitely more important than an individual politician or government.  Leaders lead.  It's what they (are supposed to) do.  They also have to put up or shut up.  If these two men are serious about negotiating, they must sustain a climate that allows for it.

Then, once the building issue is held in stasis, they can address some of the potentially game-changing issues former Prime Minister and Mayor of Jerusalem Ehud Olmert raises in today's Jerusalem Post.

[Original image source unknown; reused from Mail Online.]

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dog-whistles and the Pav-Rovian response

I should've watched the whole piece, of course...but, God, it's hard listening to a) anyone on Fox News and especially b) Sarah Palin. The woman's voice peels paint.

That said, TPM is reporting that Sarah, in the same Van Susteren interview yesterday, dropped "the H-bomb", throwing out Obama's middle name while questioning why his past was never scrutinized like Christine O'Donnell's currently is.

Yeah, I know, I know.

Palin knows full well this Fox-Beckian line of "I'm justing asking" is bullshit.  She's doing it because she and others have calculated that the hounds will hear the dog-whistle and come a-runnin'.

How ironic that we, as the "enemy" on the Left, are actually the fox here?

[Hat-tip:  TPM; image via The Guardian.]

K-Tel meets K Street

Once again, for your if-you-don't-laugh-you'll-cry entertainment, I give you Daily Kos' own...

Bill from Portland Maine!
[applause, applause]

Hello, friends!
Say, are you feeling nostalgic for that wild and wacky year 1994? Stephen Breyer was confirmed to the Supreme Court...Dallas won the Super Bowl...the White House published a single web page...Richard Nixon shuffled off his mortal coil...Forrest Gump feasted on his box of chocolates...and Republicans in Congress signed their awesome Contract On America!
What memories. Seems like it was years ago.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, we can't bring Ol' Tricky Dick back, but we can do the next best thing! Today the GOP boyz in the Hizzouse are gettin' back together, baby! Put yer hands together for the Not New...Hardly Improved...Totally Recycled....REPUBLICAN CONTRACT ON AMERICA REUNION TOUR!!!
Oh yeeeah, baby... [Oooh chocka wocka boing boing chocka chocka] ...they're movin', they're groovin', they're schmoozin', they're shakin' and seducin' America all over again with their sexy, sultry Greatest Hits. Like...
I've Got A Lovely Bunch of Tax Cuts for the Rich 
Go Away Little Gays 
Springtime for Limbaugh 
Stop! In the Name of My Cherry-picked Conservative Christian Morality! 
New Pork, New Pork! 
I Will Always Snub You 
Boehner's Got A Brand New Golf Bag 
You Really Bought Me 
I'm Dreaming of a White Caucus 
You're Havin' Your Baby (Even if the Daddy's Your Papa) 
The No No Song 
A House With No Shame 
(Boom Boom!) Out Go the Lights 
Sweet Schemes Are made of Sleaze
And more! All lovingly remastered by some of America's top corporate lobbyists and backroom kingmakers...and endorsed by K Street, C Street and Wall Street!
Just look at the reviews from the GOP Fan Club:
"It is dreck."
"This document proves the GOP is more focused on the acquisition of power than the advocacy of long term sound public policy."
It's a winner!
The 2010 Recycled 1994 Contract On America is not available in stores. You'll only find it on sparsely-visited conservative web sites, awkward Capitol Hill press conferences and on Fox News 24/7.
Don't miss it! Because when November 3rd rolls around, it'll disappear faster than it takes a primary-winning teabagger to sanitize her campaign site of endorsements by her crazy followers!
Get it NOW!!!

[Read the original, even more in There's Moreville, and all the Kossacks at Daily Kos here.]

The Reluctant Candidate

Ah, Sarah.  Will she or won't she?  One can only guess how much she enjoys sadistically milking every ulcer-inducing moment the Republican establishment is left to ponder this question, because she knows the Party is masochistic enough to suffer her candidacy if they think she has a chance to succeed.

Poor Newt, Mitt and Huck.

Sarah is nothing if not a flirt.  She doesn't want to run, she tells us, but she would certainly answer the call of duty, telling Fox' Greta Van Susteren:

If nobody else wanted to step up, Greta, I would offer myself up in the name of service to the public.... But I also know that anybody — anybody — can make a huge difference in this country without a title, without an office, just being out there as an advocate for solutions that can work to get the country on the right track.  And that's where I am now.  [...]

[If] my candidacy wasn't good for my family, if it wasn't good for the common sense conservative agenda that needs to be adhered to, then certainly I wouldn't run.

I don't need the title....  I don't need...any kind of self-gratification or personal power-seeking of my own to run for office.

Considering we already know that Palin isn't so great at the putting-the-words-together thing -- especially on the fly -- we can pretty comfortably rely on the fact that the above is showing some personal and political petticoat.

Firstly, she still considers elected office -- even the presidency -- a title to be won.  Like the Miss Wasilla pageant in 1984.  It's something that is bestowed with a coronation that results in "self-gratification" and "personal power-seeking" -- something she doesn't apparently need.  At least W. was brought up with some sense of noblesse oblige, but this lady is laying out her white, Machiavellian under-body for all to see.  W. may have helped others via Dick Cheney, et al., gain access to power, but I don't believe for a second he was there purely for self-gratification or personal power-seeking.  He may have been a tool (a disastrously misguided one), but he wasn't craven in the way Palin is telegraphing she would be.

Secondly, someone needs to call foul or start laughing at this notion that she does anything based on whether it is good for her family or not.  Exhibit A:  Bristol.

Thirdly, she tells us that any candidacy for President would need to be "good for the common sense conservative agenda that needs to be adhered to...."  I love the use of the word "agenda" here because I thought this was one of those dog-whistle terms the Right used to tar progressive activism, like "the homosexual agenda" or "the feminist agenda" -- something that had a nefarious inner core that good, decent people needed to know about and stop.  So, bravely taking back the word "agenda", she lets us know that there is a "common sense conservative" one that "needs to be adhered to".  So much for thinking on one's own!  Frankly, I don't know whether this philosophy should frighten or comfort us.  Is Ms. Maverick communicating to us she'll take marching orders from the larger conservative movement or is she putting Republicans on notice that she'll decide what the agenda is and you had better be ready to adhere to it?

Either way, someone needs to be scared.

Make no mistake:  Palin is playing Brer Rabbit to the Briarpatch of the American body politic.  By letting us know that she is a reluctant candidate, she is basically begging us to throw her in.  And once in, will we ever get her out?

[Quote source:  Andy Barr at Politico.; image via Walt Disney's Uncle Remus Stories.]

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Preppiness -- A Caution

As a follow-up to yesterday's post -- and in response to the many comments I've read on other articles and posts talking about this subject in the last 24 hours -- I'd like to address where Preppiness and Class intersect.

And where they don't.

Most people can be forgiven when they equate Preppiness with Class.  In Birnbach's original book, Preppies are the ones who "summer" in places where they can sail, or "winter" in places where they can golf, or send their children to the best boarding schools and colleges, or drive foreign-make cars, etc.  In short, they have money -- ideally money made by earlier generations that is now simply taken for granted.  It's assumed.  And any discussion involving money -- like those involving Disco -- is like smacking a hornet's nest with a bat; everybody starts buzzing angrily.

Most people take for granted that having money doesn't necessarily result in having class.  Even the poorest of us can sniff at the nouveau riche.  Who do they think they are!?  But preppiness gives an aura of "old money", which is somehow classier.  Never mind that "old money" had to be "new money" at some point, and few get to earn large amounts of money by being sweethearts.  Class somehow comes after the stench of earning it has worn off.  It's an odd and old game we play with ourselves, and Marx and Engels had a field day with it.

Long lost to the ages is the fact that L.L. Bean existed to clothe and shoe people who spent a lot of time outdoors in a part of the country that has a fifth season called Mud.  Yes, you might be landed gentry hunting duck on your estate, or you might be a lobsterman out on the frigid surf or a lumberjack out in the back woods or someone picking potatoes.  All these things happen now and happened long before most people knew where Freeport, Maine, was.  Take another waving red cape to the anti-prep crowd: the turned-up color on a "polo" shirt.  Before there was a polo shirt, there was a tennis shirt.  Jean René Lacoste (1904-1996) was the tennis-playing Frenchman who invented it -- long in back to stay tucked in while playing and with a collar that could flip up to protect the back of the neck on an outdoor and, therefore, shadeless court.  These things have Utility; it's only later that they became Fashion Statements.

In fact, true Preppiness can be defined more in terms of Utility and Quality.  We take for granted nowadays that Quality means "Priceyness".  It certainly can, but it doesn't have to and it certainly wasn't always the case in the past before consumerism with its planned obsolescence stuck its greedy hand into our wallets.  Take another preppy totem:  the Volvo.  Is it really any surprise that folks in the Northeast look to a car engineered to function reliably in the severe climate of Sweden as their own choice in a similar climate?  In fact, my down-at-the-heels, central Maine mill town actually bought several of them as police cruisers in the 1980s.  They didn't do it to be classy or preppy; they wanted a car that would last.  The program didn't ultimately continue because the voters didn't see it that way.  So now they have Crown Victorias like everybody else and lose money in the bargain.

Take the phrase "preppiness" itself.  It comes from being "prepared", specifically in our parlance as how and where you "prepared" for college or university.  This can mean an actual "Prep[aratory] School" like Exeter or  Hotchkiss or it can simply mean your local high school.  In the obituary section of Bowdoin's alumni/-ae magazine, the stock phrase is "Joe Schmo prepared for college at...."  It's a tradition they haven't bothered to change, because there is no reason to (other than to mollify folks who might see such language as "snooty"?) and because they know that the phrase ends equally with either the most exclusive "prep" school or the "lowliest" high school or anything in between.

If people want to lampoon or even harpoon what Preppiness has become -- in no small thanks to either one of Birnbach's books -- have at it.  My only caution would be not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  If we're going to skewer conspicuous consumption, fashion silliness, snobbery and the like, then let's do that fully cognizant that being prepared -- for further education or for icy winters or outdoor sports (including hunting for and catching food) -- is not the sin here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Slouching Toward Preppiness

Lisa Birnbach is back.  Thirty years after the 1980 publication of her original The Official Preppy Handbook, she is out with a sequel:  True Prep:  It's a Whole New Old World.  I haven't read it yet...I'm not sure I will bother.  That's what book reviews are for (like here).  However, it occurs to me that its arrival is poignant -- not just for our society as a whole, but for me, personally.  After a summer of revisiting my formative years thanks to ten boxes of stuff transported from my parents' basement in Massachusetts to the family summer camp in Maine for the express purpose of a) finally getting them out of their house and b) me going through them, I came face to face with my teen-aged ambition in the context of a middle-aged lack of the same.

And there it was:  my very own dog-eared copy of Lisa's social critique of an American sub-group at the dawn of the Reagan years.

My 14-year-old brain didn't see the irony then; to me, it was a road-map to be dutifully followed.  The son of a recently-divorced, single mother of reduced financial means, who had been removed from his childhood suburb in New York State to rejoin the maternal clan back in a down-at-the-heels mill town in central Maine, I desperately needed to connect to a narrative that lifted me out of my situation.

The book has since sold 1.3 million copies, so clearly I wasn't the only one.

The fact that I couldn't sail, play tennis or locate New Canaan on a map did bother me, but I figured these were simply hurdles to be addressed later on a sort of master to-do list.  Picking and then getting into the right college was the first item on the agenda; until then, trips to the conveniently-located L.L. Bean and an over-active fantasy life would have to suffice.

Being accepted at Bowdoin College was like winning the lottery and proof that all my hard work was finally being recognized. Confronted with fellow students who were actually -- and, as such, unself-consciously -- of the preppy tribe was something of a body-blow and effectively took the wind out of the sails of a boat I neither had nor knew how to pilot.  The fact that we read Great Expectations my freshman year was incredibly apt.

I pretty much gave up after that.  Fortunately "life" intervened in the form of a German professor who announced that I would be going to Germany for my junior year.  Being removed from the reality I thought I knew, I realized that just being me -- however difficult -- was infinitely more engaging and interesting than trying to be what I thought I was supposed to be.  During the course of that year, I shed my preppy uniform, grew my hair, came out of the closet and changed my political affiliation from Republican to Democrat.  My mother positively had whiplash when I came home for my senior year.

The 1990s in NYC were also decidedly unpreppy, what with ditching the idea of law school, gay activism, AIDS activism, graduate studies at NYU and night classes at FIT.  Getting into Yale for architecture in 1997 would seem to have reversed this trend, but, let's face it:  Yale's only really preppy if you're there for college, right?  We architecture students were pretty dorky and were housed at the edge of campus in what was no doubt universally considered the ugliest building on campus.  It might as well have been MIT for all Lisa Birnbach would have cared.

What came later was a blur of graduation, 9/11, ending a relationship, starting a new one, losing my father, ending another relationship, leaving NYC, moving to Florida, starting a new relationship, and leaving Florida to live with the new guy in Chicago.  The one constant was being a student of, then working in, architecture...and not enjoying it.  Cosmically, the universe clearly decided I had had enough and conspired with the Republicans to run our economy off a cliff resulting in my involuntary, yet welcome, early retirement from architecture. Equally convenient is the fact that I have no interest in future architectural work as there are no such positions to be had at the moment.

Enter Lisa Birnbach's timely sequel.  What the pages of this new book contain is irrelevant.  To me, anyway.  The fact that it pops up now, is.  With deep irony, I find that, in many ways and without consciously trying, I have actually become a particular species of the genus she described thirty years ago.  Unlike this "new prep" that is being bandied about now (a kind of we're-in-the-money escapism for a gloomy economic time?), "old prep" was (in the words of Benjamin Schwartz in his article linked to earlier and re-linked to again here) "cracked heirlooms, threadbare antique rugs, sturdy L.L. Bean boots, duct-taped blutcher moccasins, and workhorse Volvo station wagons".  Switch out the station wagon for a sedan, and this is my life!  I didn't plan it, but here I am -- the fecklessness, the promise squandered, sometimes happily oblivious, set in my ways, an opera-singing boyfriend, two dogs, summer trips to (central) Maine and winter trips to Palm Beach (County), and all in a small but deadly-cute condo on the lake in the suburb of Evanston.

If you squint a bit, I've become more of what Lisa actually described than what I thought I wanted her to be describing as a frustrated kid.

I still don't know how to sail...maybe in the next thirty years.  I suppose I should get a job first....

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sarah Palin, Patient Zero

I love it.

From the desk of Bob Cesca.

Dear Senator Menendez (D-NJ)

As Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, I can only begin to imagine how happy you are about almost certainly snatching victory out of the jaws of defeat in Delaware...Joe Biden's old seat, after all!  I share your joy.

After reading Sam Stein's piece in HuffPo -- Menendez:  Tea Party "Saved the Best for Last", "Changed the Map" -- and what you had to say about priorities going forward, I would like to add the following:

Save Jack Conway!

It's one thing to talk a big fight -- or, in this case, insinuate that you might talk a big fight; it's quite another to actually act.  I know that Kentucky is a pretty-reliably red state (they keep electing McConnell for reasons that will forever elude me), but the race is not that far apart!  Check out the graphics over at NYT/538.  A Rand Paul victory is not inevitable.  A) Rand Paul is Rand Paul's worst enemy [cough...whackjob...cough]; and b) Jack has already won statewide election as Attorney General and...have you seen a picture of the guy!?

Talk about a winning smile!  It's downright Kennedy-esque.  Scads of folks (rightly or wrongly) will vote for him based on that alone...if they are given permission.

Make it about Paul.  Make it about McConnell (who looks like a turtle, as I'm sure you know).  Make it about Conway.  Make it about all three.  Make it up as you go along...who cares.  Just make it!  Rand Paul has provided more than enough ammunition, but you need to fight the southern tendency to love a nut as long as it's their nut.  Remind them Conway is theirs too.  Find something nutty about him...he's southern, there has to be something!

The news out of Delaware is good.  Very good.  God willing and the creek don't rise, she'll go down in flames come November.  Where's the fight in that?  Kentucky, however....  You wanna give old Tortoiseshell a black eye on the night everyone says he'll be celebrating?  Snatch away Kentucky.  It's doable and would be oh-so-sweet.

Illinois would be nice, too.

You're likable enough.

Oh karma:  you are a vengeful wench!

NPR (a little late to the party) now asks:  The Likability Factor: What's Obama Lacking?

Way to keep that finger on the pulse, NPR!

When candidate Obama blurted out "you're likable enough" to Hillary, he did so safe in the knowledge that he was playing offense to her defense.  Sure, he paid a price for that flippancy, but it was a price that "no drama Obama", who rarely makes an unscripted mistake, was obviously willing to pay.

Arrogance.  The Republicans and their flying monkeys love to call him arrogant.  Truth is:  he is.  And so is every single person who ever thinks they have what it takes to run for President of the United States.  HELLO!?!?  Calling him "arrogant" is like calling the Pope, Catholic.  It goes without saying.

But, let's be honest:  Obama's arrogance "goes to 11", doesn't it? He's a hot-shot, and he knows it, right?  Let's remember:  in the Democratic primary, Obama was the cool guy -- new, fresh, handsome, black-but-not-too-black.  Hilary, on the other hand, was female, Bill's-wife-who-should-have-dumped-him-way-back-when, so 90s, and rudely stomping on Obama's buzz. And asked about her likability, Obama, in a once-more-with-feeling undertone coughed up that she was "likable enough".

Oh, cruel Fates!  (And, how much is HRC loving this from her perch in Sharm El-Sheikh!?)

Comeuppance is a bitch, President Obama.  You've reaped what you've sown, and I truly hope you study hard this teachable moment in your life.  Take it in and learn!  We know you're capable.  We also know that you now understand why Hilary had the support of people who liked you well enough but wanted her instead.

You get it now, right?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Portland Press Herald FAIL

That people would complain about images in the newspaper containing local(!) Muslims at prayer on 9/11 is one thing (ignorant and small-minded...ok, that's two); but for the editorial board of said paper to then apologize profusely for the offense caused is beyond craven, unprofessional, soulless and capitulates to the very worst strains in our society.

It is why, in a nutshell, I don't think I could ever live in Maine again.

Congratulations, Press Herald Editor and Publisher Richard Connor, you are now worthy of your readership.

One of the "offensive" images:

[Portland Press Herald (Gregory Rec), via Salon.]

Now, was that so hard?

[Image source:  Khaled El Fiqi/European Pressphoto Agency (via NYT).]

Apropos of nothing, I love what Hilary is doing with her hair!

Friday, September 10, 2010

9/11 commemoration coincidentally held on 9/11

...says Palin/Beck event promoter, because they didn't want to conflict with the Alaska State Fair the weekend before.

You know, because, otherwise, they never would have chosen the actual 9/11 date...'cuz that would be sorta tacky, especially considering it's a ticketed event by two nationally-famous, right-wing politicians/Fox-News commentators. Right?

And it's not like this has happened before or anything.

[Source, including image:  Think Progress.]

Andrew Sullivan takes the "fun" out of Fundamentalism

And I couldn't agree more.  From last night, quoted in its entirety:

Now Just Suspended

It's bizarre watching this saga of threatened mass Koran-burning on 9/11 unfold. As I write this, it could still happen - again. The meta story from the NYT does not seem to me to be a massive indictment of the media. Stunts get covered all the time - with little attention. Think of Fred Phelps, a truly marginal figure whose outrageous stunts against gay people and military funerals have been extensively covered for years. What seems to me to have given this latest excrescence greater exposure was the context of the engineered controversy over the Cordoba mosque in the Park51. Islamists abroad - much more numerous but just as fanatical as the fringe Christianists - did the rest.

We live in an era of religious fundamentalism and fanaticism, exploited, used and manipulated by politicians, for their own purposes, and used by the media for its own. This has always been a dangerous and toxic combination, inimical to liberal society, dangerous to secular democratic politics, and today, something that can also lead to global warfare and destruction on an unimaginable scale. This blog has long warned of its dangers and consequences - and yet the role of religious fanaticism in politics only seems to grow, thanks to cynical Republicans and weak-kneed Democrats.

The new media, moreover, makes it especially combustible and unstoppable, whatever the mainstream media decides to cover or not cover. Does anyone think it will matter if the AP does not cover the now "suspended" but possible burnings? Anyone with a cell-phone camera can send these images within seconds across the globe. Any bigot can incite mass violence in a culture already primed for it. And so there is something almost inevitable about the atrocity in front of us. And sure, enough, Fred Phelps is now threatening to burn Korans this weekend if Terry Jones does not.

My point, I suppose, is that this kind of cycle in this kind of environment is something that once started, no one can stop. It is a function of fringe Christian fundamentalism finally engaging fringe Islamist fundamentalism in a war of increasing terror and intolerance in a seamless global media world. It is the responsibility of all of us of actual faith rather than fanaticism to stand up and oppose this before it engulfs us all.

But you reap what you sow. You turn a benign Muslim community center into a "stab in the heart" of Americans (in Sarah Palin's words) and someone soon will up the ante. Which is why this summer has felt so ominous to me; and the forces itching for full-scale religious warfare more powerful and more unstoppable than any of the restraints in between - from the West Bank to Kandahar and Gainesville and Wasilla. One can hope and pray that this flare-up will be a warning prevented in time for the culture to take a deep breath and understand the consequences of religious fundamentalism openly embraced in the public square. But hope is scarce in this environment.

Or we are seeing forces that cannot ultimately be stopped by anyone - until they have wrought the hideous consequences so many zealots on all sides desire.

-- Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Dish.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Shana Tova Umetukah!

A Good and Sweet Year!  שנה טובה ומתוקה

[Image source:  Wikipedia.]

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hey, let's give the other guys a chance!

I'm tempted to say American voters are stupid.  And many certainly are, but the real problem behind politics in this country is that American voters suffer seasonal amnesia, occurring every 2, 4 and 6 years, when they habitually forget who did what, when and how.

Every news outlet I read today -- and the drumbeat started months ago -- is that the Democrats don't even have to bother showing up in Washington anymore because they are all going to lose in an epic, biblical tsunami of Republican victories.  Just like Yogi Berra said:  "it's like Chicken Little all over again!"

Or words to that effect.

So, let's see if we can't analyze this for a moment.  Americans blame Obama, Reid and Pelosi for not fixing Humpty Dumpty in less than one election cycle.  Too little egg left?  Not enough glue? Too few chefs?  They don't care.  So what do they propose to do about it?  They're poised to re-seat the same guys who shoved the big Egg off the wall in the first place!  F*cking brilliant!!

Perhaps American voters aren't simply forgetful or forgiving...maybe they're just mavericky, like those Scrabble players who throw caution to the wind when cornered and decide it's better to lose a turn if it means they can turn all seven of their letter tiles in for a brand-new batch.  Worth a shot, right!?

What could go wrong!?

Friday, September 3, 2010

North Star

Boy, oh boy...the knives are out for Michael Gross and his Vanity Fair piece.  Even Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish at The Atlantic is being "fair and balanced" about its coverage of the cat-fight.

I wish everybody would calm down, because, frankly, the in-fighting just gives ammunition to the they're-out-to-get-Sarah conspiracy theorists.  Also, we're talking about Vanity Fair, people.

I'm just a homegrown blogger, so I'll let others debate journalistic standards and how much is too much in terms of promoting one's own piece (though I imagine it's the finest of fine lines).  For me, the proof is in the pudding, and the pudding is Sarah's own reaction:

"I hear there is some pretty ugly stuff right now.  Those who are impotent and limp and gutless and they go on their anonymous -- sources that are anonymous -- and impotent, limp and gutless reporters take anonymous sources and cite them as being factual references."

Even for the English-impaired like Palin, the above is pretty mangled.  She goes on:

"It just slays me because it is just absolutely clear what the state of yellow journalism is today that they would take these anonymous sources as fact."

This from the woman who tarred Obama as a socialist and palling around with terrorists.

Regaining her composure, she promises:  "We always expect what's coming."

Clearly not.

The above was taken from Sean Hannity's radio show as reported by Politico's Andy Barr.  Again, people can hem and haw about Gross' methods and conclusions, but, judging from Palin's own unhinged reaction, we know one thing for certain:  Michael Gross got under her skin.  And, in doing so, he's managed to do what only few sadly have tried.

Lamestream media, indeed.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Buy This Issue

Or read Sarah Palin: The Sound and Fury here.

Either way, it's required reading for anyone praying for her comeuppance.