Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Andrew Sullivan has spent an awful lot of time in the past week or so exploring attempts to justify the behavior of God. The first post is here, with follow-ups here, here, and here, and dissents here and here.

Today, the latest edition to this series is from a reader who puts the whole thing very simply:
I believe that the problems you and your readers are "debating" have much more to do with disagreement over mode of inquiry than with any real attempt to answer important questions of our origin, the problem of suffering, our ultimate end, etc. In other words, some of your readers (myself included) take issue with otherwise intelligent people who propagate the acknowledged myths of Christianity because we do not believe that, as Marcus Borg might say, the fact that a particular myth did not take place in history does not make it untrue. We insist that the only proper and intellectually honest answer to the questions religion attempts to answer is simply "I do not know."
The believer who believes things to be truth despite their having no basis in empirical truth (i.e., a biblical literalist) renders any honest discussion of religion impossible. The story of creation is a perfect example. Literalists take every word of Genesis as factually true: that God created the entire material universe out of nothing in six earth days and rested on the seventh. It actually never occurs to them that, perhaps, this story was written by men based on oral histories during a time when people believed that the earth was the center of the universe. It also canonizes a belief, at least as I see it, that time and matter cannot be eternal, because before God created the universe out of nothing, then there was no time and no matter before Creation. If that's true, then biblical literacy denies the eternity of God.

In Jewish thought, the question of Creation is an evolving one. Check out this passage on Creation in the Jewish Encyclopedia. It looks at the subject from so many different angles, and in the end the question is still unsolved. It supports the reader's suggestion that we simply do not know. I don't think we can know. This is the only intellectually honest argument; despite centuries of attempts to slice or dice this question in an attempt to answer it, at the end of the day we still don't know. Our freedom to believe as we wish gives us the ability to accept however narrow of view of this subject we want.

This is Patriotism

The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday on the court martial mistrial of Lt. Ehren Watada, who refused to deploy to Iraq in 2006 and argued in court that to fight in Iraq would be to engage in war crimes. After the mistrial was declared, the Army ruled that it could not retry Watada.

As his lawyer put it:
[Watada is] a hero and a patriot . . . [who] took a lonely stand as a matter of conscience, never attempted to spread discord within the ranks, and never sought to evangelize about his ethical convictions. . . . It is our belief that history will treat Lt. Watada far more favorably than the United States Army sees fit to regard him now.


A Military Solution to "The Obama Problem"

Talking Points Memo has the full text of a Newsmax column by John L. Perry suggesting a military coup may be necessary to solve "The Obama Problem." The piece has since been withdrawn.

This is how may on the right think, as if the country were living an episode of "24" and the only hope is a bunch of responsible generals and other officers who would finally stand up and say, "No, sir, Mr. President" while flags wave and stirring music plays in the background.

Obama Risks a Domestic Military Intervention

By: John L. Perry

There is a remote, although gaining, possibility America's military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the "Obama problem." Don't dismiss it as unrealistic.

America isn't the Third World. If a military coup does occur here it will be civilized. That it has never happened doesn't mean it wont. Describing what may be afoot is not to advocate it. So, view the following through military eyes:

# Officers swear to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." Unlike enlisted personnel, they do not swear to "obey the orders of the president of the United States."

# Top military officers can see the Constitution they are sworn to defend being trampled as American institutions and enterprises are nationalized.

# They can see that Americans are increasingly alarmed that this nation, under President Barack Obama, may not even be recognizable as America by the 2012 election, in which he will surely seek continuation in office.

# They can see that the economy -- ravaged by deficits, taxes, unemployment, and impending inflation -- is financially reliant on foreign lender governments.

# They can see this president waging undeclared war on the intelligence community, without whose rigorous and independent functions the armed services are rendered blind in an ever-more hostile world overseas and at home.

# They can see the dismantling of defenses against missiles targeted at this nation by avowed enemies, even as America's troop strength is allowed to sag.

# They can see the horror of major warfare erupting simultaneously in two, and possibly three, far-flung theaters before America can react in time.

# They can see the nation's safety and their own military establishments and honor placed in jeopardy as never before.

So, if you are one of those observant military professionals, what do you do?

Wait until this president bungles into losing the war in Afghanistan, and Pakistan's arsenal of nuclear bombs falls into the hands of militant Islam?

Wait until Israel is forced to launch air strikes on Iran's nuclear-bomb plants, and the Middle East explodes, destabilizing or subjugating the Free World?

What happens if the generals Obama sent to win the Afghan war are told by this president (who now says, "I'm not interested in victory") that they will be denied troops they must have to win? Do they follow orders they cannot carry out, consistent with their oath of duty? Do they resign en masse?

Or do they soldier on, hoping the 2010 congressional elections will reverse the situation? Do they dare gamble the national survival on such political whims?

Anyone who imagines that those thoughts are not weighing heavily on the intellect and conscience of America's military leadership is lost in a fool's fog.

Will the day come when patriotic general and flag officers sit down with the president, or with those who control him, and work out the national equivalent of a "family intervention," with
some form of limited, shared responsibility?

Imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation. Skilled, military-trained, nation-builders would replace accountability-challenged, radical-left commissars. Having bonded with his twin teleprompters, the president would be detailed for ceremonial speech-making.

Military intervention is what Obama's exponentially accelerating agenda for "fundamental change" toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America. A coup is not an ideal option, but Obama's radical ideal is not acceptable or reversible.

Unthinkable? Then think up an alternative, non-violent solution to the Obama problem. Just don't shrug and say, "We can always worry about that later."

In the 2008 election, that was the wistful, self-indulgent, indifferent reliance on abnegation of personal responsibility that has sunk the nation into this morass.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Palin Watch (Someone's Got to Do It!)

My last post did not post correctly and it went out blank so I'm doing another.

Palin gave a speech in Hong Kong Wednesday to a group of global investors. It was, of course, closed to the media, since she told the sponsors of the speech that she would have to "adjust her speech if reporters were present." While some liked what she had to say, according to AFP, two US delegates left early, with one saying, "it was awful, we just couldn't stand it any longer." Another Asian delegate complained that she spent too much time "promoting investment in Alaska."

In the speech she also criticized Obama's "government intervention" policies without naming him, saying, "We got into this mess because of government interference in the first place. We're not interested in government fixes, we're interested in freedom."

Uh, yeah right.

Well, of course she would have long forgotten by now that the Bush administration started the bailouts (which were a good idea, by the way). Before Obama had taken office, we had already bailed out banks (Citi, B of A, Wells), investment banks (Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns), insurance companies (AIG), and the secondary mortgage market (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

But by far my favorite part of the speech was when she ruminated about the land bridge that connected Asia to North America across the Bering Strait:
Personally, I’ve always been really interested in the ideas too about the land bridge. Ideas that maybe so long ago, had allowed Alaska to be physically connected to this part of our world so many years ago. My husband and my children, they’re part [unintelligible] Eskimo, Alaskan natives. They’re our first people, and the connection that may have brought ancestors from here to there is fascinating to me.
Scientists say the land bridge disappeared about 12,000 years ago. So, if the earth is only 6,000 years old according to biblical literalists, how can it be that it existed at all?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Two Sullivan Posts -- People Leaving America

The first one tackles the issue of same-sex relationships. Sullivan, being gay and married and HIV-positive and living in America, is extraordinarily vulnerable:

I've been in the US for a quarter of a century, have paid taxes when I was working, am married to an American and have never asked for a dime of public help. But the US - alone among developed nations - still persecutes non-Americans for having HIV and regards my civil marriage as null and void and my husband as a total stranger to me.

Britain doesn't persecute people with HIV and never has; moreover, Britain would allow my husband and I to relocate together to England at any point. I'm not sure people fully understand what it's like to build a life with someone and to do all you can to contribute to a society - and yet be vulnerable at any moment to having your family torn apart by the government. But it's a strain that eventually becomes crippling: you have no security, no stability, no guarantee that you have a future you can count on. And that affects an American citizen, my husband, as well.

Why has America become such a callous outlier on these matters? Why is the government forcing more and more able, qualified, productive and talented citizens into a diaspora to protect their families? And why, even after a big victory for Obama and a Democratic Congress, is there not the slightest chance of any progress for the foreseeable future?

Because it's about gays. And we are still, in the eyes of the federal government, sub-human.

The American blogger who triggered Sullivan's rant had already relocated with his British partner to the UK, where people in same-sex domestic partnerships are considered married couples for immigration purposes.

The second post has to do with America's insane process for legal immigration, which has become so maddeningly protracted that skilled immigrants from China and India are returning to their native countries, where the economies are expanding. Experts predict that America will lose 200,000 skilled immigrants to these two countries. What we'll have left are Wal-Mart shoppers and Glenn Beck.

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Get 'Em Out By Friday"

Only the most hard-core progressive rock geeks would recognize the headline as title of the seminal epic song by Genesis (when Peter Gabriel was their singer and Phil Collins mostly played drums). It was on the Foxtrot album, along with the other classics, "Watcher of the Skies" and the side-long epic "Supper's Ready."

Unfortunately, I don't think there's a video online of the band performing this song.

However, the premise of the song is this: Various government and/or corporate interests are buying up real estate in England to make way for new homes, evicting tenants and owners who are already on hard times, moving them to a "block of flats with central heating." A man known as "The Winkler" intones:
I represent a firm of gentlemen who recently purchased this house and all the others in the road
In the interests of humanity we've found a better place for you to go, go, go

What the poor evictees are slowly learning is that the reason for these purchases is because people will soon be restricted to a height of only four feet, and because "It's said, now that people will be shorter in height/They can fit twice as many in the same building site."

Great little creepy science fiction tale for 1972, right? Well, dig this: William Saletan at Slate proposes that in order to save the planet, we should be breeding people to be smaller. Studies are showing that having fewer children and promoting contraception will do more to combat climate change than all the other things we're doing to try to save our planet.

Well, no one would ever volunteer to do that, and one can only imagine that a government would have the foresight, let alone the ability, to force such a genetic breeding program on its citizens. So no chance of this happening, as I can see it. But score one for Peter Gabriel for prescience.

Friday, September 18, 2009


The Washington Post continues to deny that the US's treatment of detainees at Gitmo, Bagram, and elsewhere is not torture. Otherwise how could it advocate the discussion of prisoner torture as an agenda item in talks with Iran?
The cases of torture and rape of prisoners courageously documented by opposition presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi should be as worthy of discussion as the non-nuclear subjects that Iran wants to bring up.
Sullivan has a great point here:

America is exceptional not because it banished evil, not because Americans are somehow more moral than anyone else, not because its founding somehow changed human nature—but because it recognized the indelibility of human nature and our permanent capacity for evil. It set up a rule of law to guard against such evil. It pitted branches of government against each other and enshrined a free press so that evil could be flushed out and countered even when perpetrated by good men.

The belief that when America tortures, the act is somehow not torture, or that when Americans torture, they are somehow immune from its moral and spiritual cancer, is not an American belief. It is as great a distortion of American exceptionalism as jihadism is of Islam.

My emphasis. The Christianists and the political hawks (such as WaPo's Fred Hiatt and Charles Krauthammer) who continue to assert America's moral high-ground when it comes to the treatment of prisoners are worthy of the same question Barney Frank asked of that woman at his town hall: "On what planet do you spend the majority of your time?"

Until George W Bush himself breaks his silence and admits that the US did, in fact torture prisoners, we will always be in collective denial about this, and we will never be able to complain about the treatment American prisoners (particularly those in the military or government) receive. Ever.

Bill-O Supports the Public Option

Take that, wingnuts!
"But you know, I want that, Ms. Owcharenko. I want that. I want, not for personally for me, but for working Americans, to have an option, that if they don’t like their health insurance, if it’s too expensive, they can’t afford it, if the government can cobble together a cheaper insurance policy that gives the same benefits, I see that as a plus for the folks."
Bill-O was speaking to someone from The Heritage Foundation on his show Thursday.

The actual transcript has him saying "The public option is now done," so I'm not exactly sure what Bill-O put in his coffee to have him talking out of both sides of his mouth. But the above quote has him clearly supporting government efforts to provide health insurance that provides a low cost alternative to expensive private insurance.

Somewhere in hell, Hitler and Nixon are skiing down some very cold slopes.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What to do with Crazy Aunt Edna...

Noah Millman at American Scene wants to keep the loonies in the GOP "inside the tent and pissing on the sleeping bags."

If they are inside, pissing on the sleeping bag, you aren't going to get any sleep, you aren't going to forget they are there, and you aren't going to forget they are crazy. But you're going to know where they are and what they are up to, and they are going to be warm and dry (Warmer and drier than your sleeping bag, anyway).

In the comments section of the post, matoko_chan pwns Noah big time:

C’mon Noah, you guyz didn't have the nads to [laugh] Sarah Palin off the stage last summer and NOW you pretend you are going to bravely direct the teabaggers, birthers, frothing bluehairs and rabid assorted KKK rally attendees you have summoned? This is your problem now.YOU invited the vampires into the House so you could farm their votes…Either stake them through the heart or burn the House down.

Ain't that the fuckin' truth?

To another commenter who felt it appropriate to bring up Obama's $53,770 in 2005-07 contributions to the church where Jeremiah Wright is a pastor, matoko_chan writes:
You are prejudiced against Obama because he is black, [but w]hy aren’t you prejudiced against Sarah Palin because she is stupid? Sarah Palin is going to destroy the GOP, not Obama. She is unelectable, and the base has gone gila monster on you. They won’t let go of her until the GOP is dead.
The logical conclusion to the GOP drama is not that the crazies are thrown out of the party, but that they leave on their own to form the party they envision as capable of returning their country back to its fundamentalist Christian origins. Given the unpopularity of that idea among sane Americans, the crazies would only be further marginalized. This is where Millman's idea is sound. Once they're out of the tent, pissing everywhere (including back into the tent), the crazies are far more dangerous. Feed them daily doses of Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, Malkin, and Coulter, and they'll be positively feral.

Religious FundaMENTALism

MSNBC reports on studies regarding religiosity, teen birth rates, and abortion statistics expose a "strong correlation" people who identified as religious conservatives (i.e., literal interpretation of the Bible, only one way to interpret one's religious teachings) and teen birth rates, even when income and abortion rates were considered.

It turns out that teens in less religious states had more abortions, but even stripping that away, the more religious the state, the higher the rate of teen births. And, says a public health official, while there are parts of New England where religious participation is high but have low teen birth rates, those folks tend to be involved in "less conservative, less fundamentalist type[s] of congregations."

In other words, religious fundamentalism nationwide contributes more to teen births, societal problems, and the breakdown of families than moderate, liberal, or nonexistent religiosity.

As Sullivan says, the same people who want to prevent gays from marrying and forming families are the ones most responsible for teen unwed mothers (meaning more unprotected premarital sex and, one could argue, potentially more transmissions of STDs). Sarah Palin's family fits in perfectly with this model.

Obama Ain't No Steppin' Fetchit, either

Ta-Nehisi Coates clobbers Limbaugh's race-baiting. Money!

Barack Obama, bourgeois in every way that bourgeois is right and just, will not dance. He tells kids to study--and they seethe. He accepts an apology for an immature act of rudeness--and they go hysterical. He takes his wife out for a date--and their veins bulge. His humanity, his ordinary blackness, is killing them. Dig the audio of his response to Kanye West--the way he says, "He's a jackass." He sounds like one of my brothers. And that's the point, because that's what he is. Barack Obama refuses to be their nigger. And it's driving them crazy.

It's about time.

I love that what they hate most about Obama is that he's just an ordinary guy, except not in the way that they thought Sarah Palin was an ordinary gal.

Did you see these pictures? You've got to love a family like this. Check out Obama's face in pic #2: that can only be a genuine expression of "real family guy."

Glenn's Not-So-Secret Motive

Time's profile of Glenn Beck, the paranoid, recovering alcoholic suffering from DTs of the tongue, is mostly a tale of his rise from a 13-year-old kid with a dream of being on the radio to one of the most popular media figures in America. However, the piece goes expose the soft underbelly to the lighth of day and reminds us that he's just another huckster selling snake oil to stupid people:
There are bigger one-voice enterprises in the world: Oprah, Rush, Dr. Phil. But few are more widely diversified. In June, estimators at Forbes magazine pegged Beck's earnings over the previous 12 months at $23 million, a ballpark figure confirmed by knowledgeable sources, and this year's revenues are on track to be higher. The largest share comes from his radio show, which is heard by more than 8 million listeners on nearly 400 stations — one of the five biggest radio audiences in the country. Beck is one of only a handful of blockbuster authors who have reached No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller lists with both nonfiction and fiction. (Among the others: John Grisham, Patricia Cornwell and William Styron. Unlike them, however, Beck gets a lot of help from his staff.) His latest book, Arguing with Idiots, will be published this month, and if things go as expected, it will be the third No. 1 with his name on the front published in the past 12 months. Taking a page from Stephen King — who once called Beck "Satan's mentally challenged younger brother" — Beck recently entered into a partnership with Simon & Schuster that pays him a share of
profits rather than a traditional author's royalty, and he plans to create a range of books for every audience, from children to teens to adults.
He says he's afraid for this country, afraid that corruption in Washington is spreading on a nationwide scale, that there are communists in the Obama administration ready to replace the Stars and Stripes with the Soviet hammer and sickle, that ordinary people in ordinary towns across the country are going to be sent to Nazi-style concentration camps if they resist the Obama administration, that Obama's efforts to foster volunteerism is really an attempt to create a "civilian national security force that is just as strong, just as powerful as the military."

It's easy to laugh and dismiss him as a tin-foil hatter, but he has millions of devoted viewers, readers, and listeners, and he has the backing of one of the most powerful media corporations on the planet. And in truth, he's a sick puppy. One only need to look at the fact that his mom committed suicide while Beck was a teenager, that he used alcohol to medicate that pain, that he turned to a bizarre Christian cult like Mormonism (the only major world religion born in America, by the way -- seems fitting) for some meaning in life, to understand that his mental gears grind very differently than ours. At the end of the day, combining his pathology with his access to power should make us very wary.

The latest from Little Green Footballs reports that Beck's advertising revenue has fallen 50% since he said on his Fox show that Obama had a "deep-seated hatred for white people" and was a "racist." So far, 62 companies, including Wal-Mart, Bank of America, Procter & Gamble, and the US Postal Service, have pulled their advertising dollars from Beck's show. God bless America and the First Amendment.

Wingnut Fodder

The London Telegraph reports that Mohammed has replaced Jack as the most popular name for male babies in London in 2008. London now joins Amsterdam, Brussels, Copenhagen and Oslo as cities where the Islamic name is at the top of the popularity list.

In fact, experts believe that, internationally, around 15 million people are named Mohammed, making it the most popular male name (cue Keith Olbermann) ... IN THE WORLD!!!!!!!

This ought to play well on Limbaugh, Beck and Hannity today, whaddya think?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Shameless Racism

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence. He penned an op-ed Tuesday at truthout that does what no mainstream media commentator has had the courage to do, which is call last weekend's Tea Party protests in DC for what they were: a blatant display of racism.

Money quote:
It was a Klan rally minus the bedsheets and torches. These people don't even have enough shame to hide their faces anymore. If more Republicans like [David] Frum don't come forward to denounce such activities from their right flank, that right flank is going to finish the job of taking over the GOP, and hard as it is to believe, this kind of obnoxious craziness is going to seem quaint by comparison to what will be coming next.

Matt Welch at Reason warns:

My last word was that if the Tea Party movement is significantly animated by racism or appeals to white racial resentment, we will certainly find out about it, and it will lose whatever popularity it has now, because racism in this country is genuinely unpopular. And by the same token, if the Great Klan Hunt fails to turn up more than just a fringe scattering of kooks, it may be time for some on the Air America left to begin considering that limited government sentiment is not automatically a form of sublimated racism.

My two cents is that if Glenn Beck emerges as the leader of this thing (and he could make an arguable claim right now), then there will be a hard cap on growth of its popularity, and a flourishing cottage industry of Beck-monitoring that will turn up daily outrages to feed the evil/stupid/insane/racist narrative. This will be great for Glenn Beck; for the rest of the new protest kids, maybe not so much.

I don't disagree with Welch, and I hold out hope that the 9/12ers, birthers, Palinites, and Becksters emerge as unemblematic of conservatism in general. But I am on record as saying that I believe that this fringe element currently identifying as Republicans will split the party in two. The lunatics will likely identify as either the "Christian Conservative" or "Social Republican" party, and will disenfranchise themselves and take themselves out of national power for generations while they continue their grassroots approach starting with school boards and town councils. The remaining Republicans will successfully retain the name of the party (though I don't know how this would be of any benefit after the schism) and will pose a grave danger to the Democratic Party as they siphon off the conservative and moderate wings of the party, appealing to fiscal responsibility, smaller government, a foreign policy that I would describe as "reluctant hawkishness," and accountability at the highest levels of government. It would be a party to which Barack Obama might belong had it already been in existence.

Kanye Crashing Swayze's Funeral?

A recent Facebook post had me smiling:
I hope Kanye West doesn't crash Patrick Swayze's funeral. "I'll let you get back to your funeral in a minute, yo... but Michael Jackson had the best death of all time. Jus' sayin'."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The New Illiteracy

Long-lost contributor Titus Levi, who has left our shores to teach in China, directed my attention today to a website called truthout ( It is a non-profit that lives on donations. You need to check it out, and donate if you wish.

Today I read a thick, heady piece by Henry A. Giroux called "The Spectacle of Illiteracy and the Crisis of Democracy." He argues that "as a result of this widespread illiteracy that has come to dominate American culture we have moved from a culture of questioning to a culture of shouting, and in doing so have restaged politics and power in both unproductive and anti-democratic ways."

He doesn't characterize illiteracy as the inability to read, but it's more of a celebration of ignorance and anti-intellectualism.

In this age, where an intelligent, educated, and well-spoken black man becomes the President of the United States, millions of citizens dismiss his accomplishments as reasons to hate him. These same millions celebrate the ascendancy of an incurious and culturally vacant housewife who graduated college with a degree in something akin to advanced basket-weaving, who betrayed professional and political relationships to climb the ladder to the national stage. And then they blame everyone else except her for her utter failure to turn her obvious gifts into a seat next to the leader of the free world.

It is an age where entertainers on radio and television, who pay more attention to the ad buys keeping their shows on the air than the opinions of their audiences, can sway that audience into believing that the president must be made to fail and that the president's government is full of communists (and is somehow also hurtling us towards Nazi-style fascism!).

It is an age where millions of people blame the government (from public schools to public healthcare) for everything bad that is happening in the world, yet they are absolutely blind to the fact that so much of their disposable incomes have been coaxed out of their wallets by corporations who pelt them with message after message that their lives would be so much better if only they'd buy their products.

I can understand that myopia: after all, corporations employ us, right? It's our choice to buy or not to buy, right? And the government only mucks things up, right? Well, in post-Bush/Cheney America, where corporations are facing a reckoning with the American public who have been royally fleeced, it turns out that government is the only thing standing in the way of a global economic depression. FDR's dramatic governmental interventions ushered in eras of employment, which ended our only depression. The stock market crash of 1929 and the global financial crisis of 2007 have significant parallels, in that the government had to step in and prop up companies that had become so huge that their failures would have brought us all down with them. Conservatives argued against the nationalization of these companies, but really, hadn't those businesses "corporatized" us? And with what result, huh? A great big pile of bailout money that is generating an economic recovery, but potentially without the job growth that such a recovery should bring.

But of course, this illiteracy dismisses all of that, utterly. We are the greatest celebrants of mediocrity in the world, salving ourselves with denial so that we never have to face reality. And any attempt to celebrate excellence is immediately attacked as "elitism."

Uh, yeah right. To them I just say, Eff You.

"A Tale Told by an Idiot..."

Today, the House of Representatives, whose leader said just last week that it was time to talk about healthcare, not about Joe Wilson, betrayed that wise assessment by formally admonishing Wilson for his outburst. This is not a censure, but it keeps Wilson in the news for another news cycle at a minimum.

What a boneheaded move: the vote was 240-179, mostly along party lines. Like the seven Republicans who voted for the resolution symbolized bipartisan support. Wilson called the measure a waste of time, and I agree. No one need remember the name of this idiot for one more day.

This is yet another example of a Democratic Party that constantly shoots itself in the foot. This vote has most certainly energized his supporters in South Carolina, who have ponied up $1 million or more since that day. T-shirts with "Joe Wilson, American Hero" on them are being sold online. Perhaps his opponent, who has actually raised more money since Wilson's outburst, believes he has a chance at winning that seat in 2010. Fat chance. The Mason-Dixon line is now called the Reagan-Nixon line, and those states below that line have all but seceded from the Union.

There's an "I" in Dickwad, Too, MJ

Wow. David Brooks writes today in the NY Times ("High Five Nation") that self-effacement and humility ruled the day when our accomplishments were at their greatest. How right he is! He wrote about Truman and the celebrities who, at the end of WWII, reminded Americans to be solemn in the face of their victory over the Nazis. He wrote that in future decades that attitude gave way to the navel-gazing of the "me" generation.

But he forgot Neil Armstrong as a prime example of humility.

Still, he did call attention to events of the past few days: Kanye West's antics at MTV's Video Music Awards show; Joe Wilson's "You Lie!" comment on the House floor; and Michael Jordan's "egomaniacal and self indulgent Hall of Fame speech." Huh, what? Michael Jordan? Ambassador of basketball goodwill? Arguably the greatest basketball player in history?

Well, check out this line from his speech:

"I remember having a conversation with Tex Winter, who was an unbelievable coach. I was coming off the floor and I had scored like 20 points in a row to win the game.

"Tex reminded me there's no 'I' in team. I looked back at Tex and said, 'There's an 'I' in win."

Stunningly tasteless.

Just Hate Obama and Everything He Stands For

David Frum, a conservative, has regularly attacked people who call themselves conservatives. One of them is David Horowitz. Another is Glenn Beck.

In his latest column, at, Frum fisks Horowitz for supporting Beck's on air hysterics, as Horowitz writes, "I would rather have Glenn Beck out there fighting for our side than 10,000 David Frums who think that appeasing leftists will make them think well of us."

"Fighting for our side"? Is this all it's come down to? Frum attacks Horowitz on three points, but it's the third that makes me smile:

"[H]ow do we define 'our side'? Horowitz harshly condemns Obama appointee Van Jones. Van Jones was eventually forced to resign not because of any of the allegations Glenn Beck hurled at him, but because the Gateway Pundit blog unearthed evidence that Van Jones had consorted with 9/11 denialists. So that’s the other side, right? Except… the American politician who most closely associates with 9/11 denialists is Congressman and former presidential candidate Ron Paul. And who acts as Paul’s chief TV enthusiast and publicist? Glenn Beck of course."

If we apply Beck's logic that anyone who denies that Arab terrorists attacked us on 9/11 are not fit to serve in our government, then Ron Paul should resign his seat in Congress immediately. But Beck LOVES Ron Paul. How's that for twisted?

Frum reveals the stark reality that the GOP, the movement conservatives, the right wing, stands for absolutely nothing. Nothing, that is, except anything that for the moment will undermine President Obama.

As Ricky Fitts, played by Wes Bentley, said to his dad, played to perfection by Chris Cooper, in American Beauty: "What a sad, old man you are." I would say the GOP is ideally personified by Chris Cooper's character in that movie.

A Party of Zombies

Rod Dreher nails it spot on regarding the 9/12 protest:

Despite what Sam Tanenhaus says, conservatism is not dead. Rather, it's undead. The conservative movement is herking and jerking like a zombie, dedicated to little more than frenetic gestures execrating Obama, and to regaining power. To what end? Given that they're birthing a conservative party whose instincts are dictated by loudmouths, reactionaries and crackpots, and overseen by cynics, it's dispiriting to contemplate.

Where can those who wish to think and debate clearly about a serious politics of the right go? The degenerate form of populism now dominant on the right loves to praise "freedom" - but it has no use for freedom of thought, or thinking much at all. In turn, increasing numbers of thoughtful conservatives have no use for it.

Like I've repeatedly said: the aftermath of Bush/Cheney, and the 2006 midterms, and McCain/Palin will be a final and painful schism in the Republican Party. On one side will be rational, traditional conservatives who understand that there is no winner-take-all outcome in American politics, and who understand that they are not the only people who possess good ideas; and on the other side will be people such as those in Max Blumenthal's latest video taken on 9/12.

The Accidental Leader

Not only did George W Bush accidentally come to lead the nation as the President in 2000 (I say accidentally in the sense that America didn't want him there; it was just an accident), he accidentally became the leader of the so-called "conservative movement." Since his ascendancy, Bush became the figurehead for a movement of social fascists (aka Christianists) bent on dismantling the Constitution and its well-tried freedoms and replacing it with the Christian Bible. (Really, these people were no different than the Taliban and other conservative Islamists who wanted Sharia law to govern their caliphate, other than the fact that they didn't use guns or strap bombs to their bodies.)

But wouldn't it just be the shit if it turned out that Bush had zero interest in furthering the cause of the Christianists?

Byron York, Chief Political Correspondent for the Washington Examiner, reports on Bush's attitudes about the "movement" conservatives, in an upcoming book scheduled for release next week and written by former White House speechwriter Matt Latimer. York reports:

Bush was preparing to give a speech to the annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC. The conference is the event of the year for conservative activists; Republican politicians are required to appear and offer their praise of the conservative movement.

Latimer got the assignment to write Bush's speech. Draft in hand, he and a few other writers met with the president in the Oval Office. Bush was decidedly unenthusiastic.

"What is this movement you keep talking about in the speech?" the president asked Latimer.

Latimer explained that he meant the conservative movement -- the movement that gave rise to groups like CPAC.

Bush seemed perplexed. Latimer elaborated a bit more. Then Bush leaned forward, with a point to make.

"Let me tell you something," the president said. "I whupped Gary Bauer's ass in 2000. So take out all this movement stuff. There is no movement."

Bush seemed to equate the conservative movement -- the astonishing growth of conservative political strength that took place in the decades after Barry Goldwater's disastrous defeat in 1964 -- with the fortunes of Bauer, the evangelical Christian activist and former head of the Family Research Council whose 2000 presidential campaign went nowhere.

Now it was Latimer who looked perplexed. Bush tried to explain.

"Look, I know this probably sounds arrogant to say," the president said, "but I redefined the Republican Party."

Andrew Sullivan writes today, "He didn't. He just broke it." I'm in the middle. I see how he broke it by co-opting liberalism and using his born-again religiosity to create so-called "compassionate conservatism." The problem is that he took the worst of both -- profligate spending and moral tunnel-vision -- to frame the context of his presidency. In that way, therefore, he redefined the Republican Party as the party of fiscal recklessness (which unfortunately forced Obama to print and borrow more money to correct) and lunatic fringe Christianism. And it will take more than a decade for them to find their way back into the mainstream.

Monday, September 14, 2009

It IS About Racism

Josh Marshall cites a new column by Maureen Dowd in which she “goes there” in labeling the behavior of a couple of white, southern congressional Republicans as either overtly racist or with heavy racist undertones:

"It's no accident that both comments came from white men from the Deep South in their early to mid-60s. I won't say because I don't think this is all the GOP, just as I don't think that all the opposition to Obama is rooted in atavism and paranoia."


"I tended to agree with some Obama advisers that Democratic presidents typically have provoked a frothing response from paranoids — from Father Coughlin against F.D.R. to Joe McCarthy against Truman to the John Birchers against J.F.K. and the vast right-wing conspiracy against Bill Clinton.

"But Wilson’s shocking disrespect for the office of the president — no Democrat ever shouted “liar” at W. when he was hawking a fake case for war in Iraq — convinced me: Some people just can’t believe a black man is president and will never accept it."

Ta-Nehisi Coates goes there too:

"If we concede, as most reasonable people do, that racism is a factor--not the factor but a factor--in resistance to Obama, then in fact, what we've seen this year is, by the very nature of an Obama presidency, unprecedented. Put simply, we've seen the crazy-tax, of which race is a portion, before. But we've never seen the crazy-tax intensified by race. We have not seen it accompanied by watermelon jokes, by Congressmen referring to him as boy, by clucking heads claiming that the president 'has exposed himself as someone with a deep-seated hated of white people.' We've never seen the whitey tape, before."

During the presidential campaign, I met an otherwise very pleasant white woman, a real estate agent in her 60s, who worried out loud to my face that an Obama election would mean that blacks would take over the government and that blacks would move to the front of the government handout line. Oh, if she’d only had that crystal ball and seen all those blacks faces of executives at Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, Bank of America, General Motors, and Bear Stearns, I’m sure she would have satisfied that racist paranoid streak.

And, you may recall, this blog post from last year, where I related what one (now former) reader wrote to me in an email:

"Have you considered why polls predict that 90% of Blacks will vote for Obama? It cannot be racist because Blacks vote in almost the same ratio for Liberal whites running against Conservative whites. Can it be that there is a seldom recognized and never discussed cultural tradition that Blacks need a Master to provide for and direct them?"

Because the Republican Party has by and large become the Southern White Party, the current spate of vitriol against Obama (and I say "current" because it most certainly will continue, ad absurdum, until 2017 when he leaves office), is most certainly rooted in racism. This is not to paint all white southerners as racist, but let's be real and acknowledge that the region of the south where the flag of the Confederacy flew over the state house as recently as 2000 is the region most likely to retain most of the racist elements of segregationism, anti-miscegenation laws, Jim Crow, and the KKK.

I don't disagree with Obama's decision to accept the half-hearted apology of Joe "You Lie" Wilson. Nancy Pelosi was right when she said that it was time to talk about healthcare and not Wilson. Let the media spin out about this issue; there is a lot of work to be done, and this issue distracts from that work. That is how I want my sons to understand this.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Budding Hitler Youth

The irony is completely lost on these people.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Dr. Tiller's Roommate in Heaven

Forgive the slight snarkiness of the headline, but I like to think that God is not without a sense of irony.

Today, several months after late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was gunned down inside his church, an anti-choice activist in Owosso, Michigan was gunned down while protesting in front of a local high school, carrying a sign with a photo of an aborted fetus on it.

The gunman then drove to a local business and killed the owner before police caught up with him. He has been charged with first degree murder and is being held without bail.

Neither of these killings is justified, of course. Both Tiller and James Pouillon, 61, were doing something they believed was just and right. I believe that if there's a heaven, both of them are there, getting acquainted and celebrating.

I Remember Chris Newton

Eight years ago today, my friend Christopher Cairo Newton was killed when the plane on which he was a passenger was hijacked by religious fanatics and crashed into the Pentagon. He was 12 days shy of his 39th birthday. He had just moved with his family to Virginia as CEO of a company called Work Life Benefits, and was apparently returning back to Orange Country to tie up loose ends, which I understand included retrieving the family dog.

He was survived by his wife, Amy, his two children, Michael and Sarah, his sister Ann-Elizabeth Newton Rueppel, his brother Steven, and his parents, Michael and Barbara Newton.

At the time of his death, I hadn't seen Chris in about nine or ten years. When we'd last seen each other, we talked about his being (or becoming, the details are hazy) a graduate student at UCLA's Anderson School of Management, going for his MBA. He hadn't been married that long, and he had just his son at the time. We played low-stakes poker at our friend Steve Kramer's apartment in Anaheim. Before that night, Chris and I had not seen each other for a few years, as we'd left high school, college and had started families of our own. But we were not like strangers on that night. We laughed and carried on like kids downstairs at our parents' houses staying up late and not caring if we woke them up at 2 am.

I heard about Chris's death three days after the event, while going over a list of victims on the internet. I called my friend Steve, who confirmed it was true. For the preceding three days I had felt so much pain, crying in the car to and from work, and missing Lisa terribly when we were not together, but now I'd descended into what felt like hell as the whole tragedy hit me in my home. Chris and I lived two blocks away from each other. We'd spent the night at each other's homes, worked on projects together, sang in the choir, acted in school plays, rode and raced our bikes around the neighborhood, played poker till morning, and watched the sun come up after prom and grad night.

I confess that my friendship with Chris initially was a ploy on my part. I had met his younger sister and I was, as my friends at the time will attest, utterly and annoyingly smitten. She was the cutest girl I'd ever met and I wanted to be around her as much as possible. So I befriended Chris to get closer to her. But by the time Ann-Elizabeth had made it clear she wanted nothing to do with me, I had already grown extremely fond of Chris, and soon much of my obsession with his sister fell away.

But on 9/14/2001, I couldn't move. Couldn't concentrate, couldn't think straight. My work suffered and felt meaningless to me. Regret for the years that I hadn't tried harder to stay in touch with him suddenly gripped me. I so wanted him alive again so I could tell him I cared, that I missed him.

About the only thing that reassured me that I was still alive was my love for my wife. It was during this time that we conceived our son, Max. I have read that there was a lot of lovemaking going on right after 9/11. Certainly makes sense to me.

Eight years later, Facebook has returned to me many of the friends that Chris and I shared in high school: Jenny Dolan. Jeff Miller. Jeff Nemhauser. George Hooper. Steve Rima. Lyndra Seely. Colleen Robinett. Marilyn Mallari. Mike Gilmore. Andy Murphy. James Moore. Betsy Cardner. Titus "Ty" Levi.

And last month I was overjoyed at seeing some of them and many of their husbands and wives at a charity golf tournament. An aside -- Yeah, I know, ME golfing is like Rush Limbaugh not being an asshole; just doesn't happen. (hey, this is a political blog, after all!)

To see the family again after all this time, to see his daughter now 15 years old and hear that his son was about to enroll in Annapolis. To see Ann-Elizabeth in her mid-forties, no longer the cute teenager but now a poised, stunning woman, and with her three beautiful girls. To see Steven with wrinkles and gray hair when he was only 11 when we'd graduated high school. It was such a treat.

But that mini-reunion has made this particular 9/11 more poignant for me, more profound, and more immediate all over again. I started my day saying a prayer for Chris and his family, and by loving my wife and children just a little more. By the time I got to see them again after work, I was feeling a small hole in myself that needed filling up. I kissed them all a little more urgently.

And of course, I am thinking. My boys have never known a world without 9/11 and its aftermath. To them, the world as it is represents the baseline of their innocence. We have, of course, sheltered them from the reality of that day, but they both know about the wars we fight now. They both know how urgently we fought to elect Barack Obama because he represented hope over fear. And as they grow older, I pray that they never have to experience what we all did that terrible day of madness.

Today, I remember Chris Newton.

"How Fragile We Are"

From the Sept. 11, 2001 webcast that Sting was to air, one that was canceled in honor of the victims of that unspeakably pointless act of terror.

Link to the video here.

Hat tip: Jenny Dolan

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Reaction from Nihilism Central

Hugh Hewitt, who heard a different speech last night.

"Misinformation," "bogus claims," "scare tactics," "such a charge would be laughable,' "it is a lie plain and simple" --welcome to the civil discourse of the hope and change era.
So a Republican back-bencher from South Carolina, who would have been better off chasing some Argentine tail the way his governor did, calls Obama a liar to his face, and some have responded by calling him a hero and making up T-Shirts. Other members can sit there stone-faced holding signs to his face that say, "I read the bill." But a President who uses a joint session of Congress to refute the plethora of misinformation, while never once singling out one person by name even as he eviscerates all this bullshit, and the implication is that he's the one being uncivil.

"I'm rubber, you're glue?" "I know you are, but what am I?"

On Being The Rock

Two excellent posts on Obama's steely calm throughout this summer of right-wing insanity and left-wing petulance.

From Andrew Sullivan (my italics):
[T]he right had its chances and blew it. And the problems are real and he's our best bet at tackling them seriously for a long time to come. Moreover, Obama's proposals are within the center of rational debate, and he is open to persuasion. As he said last night, he's happy to back tort reform, or McCain's catastrophic insurance idea. He has also bent to the Clinton position on mandates. His proposal, one should recall, is to massively increase the markets for private insurance companies and drug companies. ... But in the world of Fox News, this is tantamount to government "take-over". Piffle. Claptrap. Bollocks.

and Ta-Nehisi Coates (my italics):

I don't want to be led by people who think that "getting angry" is a actual political strategy. I want to be led by a killer. A cold, unemotional, professional killer.

I keep meeting lefties who tell me Obama's "too soft" with these guys, and I keep looking at them like they're crazy. I am going to go out on a limb and say that there is something deeper at work here, something beyond the policy fights. I think a lot of us don't just want Obama to be effective, we want him to exact some measure of revenge. It's smart to understand the difference between the two, and moreover, how the desire for one can undermine the other. A section of conservatives love Sarah Palin because she drives liberals crazy. That she drives a lot of other people crazy too, and hence undermines herself, is beside the point.

I'm often one of those who keeps score between right and left, and I sometimes want Obama to swing harder. But he's the President of the United States. We already had enough "Bring it on," didn't we? But how's this for a couple of jabs?
I will continue to seek common ground in the weeks ahead. If you come to me with a serious set of proposals, I will be there to listen. My door is always open.

But know this: I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than improve it. I will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what's in the plan, we will call you out. And I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now.
I think that's about as far as he's going to go with "fightin' words."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Obama, heir to Ronald Reagan?

Well, not so much. But heir to William Bennett, who borrowed liberally (right word?) from Reagan in writing Book of Virtues in 1993.

Lee Siegel at The Daily Beast posits, without apparent irony, that Obama's speech to schoolchildren Tuesday was filled with conservative (i.e., Republican) ideas about self-responsibility. Did you read it? Did you see it? How much of it sounded liberal/progressive to you?
Take the deceitful uproar over Obama’s speech to schoolchildren. The speech
wasn’t “socialist.” It wasn’t even liberal. It was squarely in line with 20
years of profoundly conservative thinking on how to raise a child.

It's obvious why the right wingnuts are pissed off at Obama. It's sort of not a surprise that liberals are pissed off at Obama. For the wingnuts, they're pissed because this incredibly intelligent and charismatic president is owning their philosophy. Liberals are pissed because this guy who they voted for in droves is actually way more conservative than they're comfortable with.

Think about it: personal responsibility, self-determination, faith, and working across the aisle -- these were the hallmarks of the Reagan revolution. And Obama, while he has encountered massive resistance from the lunatic fringe (including those Republicans still in Congress), has not shied away from including them in discussions, listening to their ideas, and even incorporating some of their ideas into his policy agenda. And while all that's going on, he's also firmly in favor of a government that provides the ultimate safety net for the neediest Americans, a solid liberal/progressive ideal. And our polarized society, beaten to smithereens after eight years of Bush/Cheney and their politics of exclusivity and demonization of anything "other," are throwing multiple fits because we can't reconcile these two distinct, paradoxical facets of this one extraordinary man.

And until we can, every policy change this president initiates will infuriate on both sides. At some point we'll be sick and tired of being sick and tired and just go with the flow.

G.O.P. Implosion

Two pieces today illustrate for me perfectly how the G.O.P. has collapsed on itself and has become the party of nihilism. First Tom Friedman:
The G.O.P. used to be the party of business. Well, to compete and win in a globalized world, no one needs the burden of health insurance shifted from business to government more than American business. No one needs immigration reform — so the world’s best brainpower can come here without restrictions — more than American business. No one needs a push for clean-tech — the world’s next great global manufacturing industry — more than American business. Yet the G.O.P. today resists national health care, immigration reform and wants to just drill, baby, drill.

And Neal Boortz, conservative libertarian, nailing it on how the G.O.P. deserved to get their asses handed to them over Tuesday's education speech:
TeamObama must have loved this one. Talk about a hanging curveball. Once the manic inanity started all they had to do is sit back, prepare an innocuous speech for The One, and let the people scratch their heads wondering what in the hell the Republicans were so upset about! Now the next time the right comes up with an objection to some Obama concept, people who last week might have been on board will stand back and look at the Republicans with a jaundiced eye.... Thanks, Republicans! See if there’s some drug available for that rectal-cranial
inversion you’re suffering from.

Watch for Obama's approval ratings to rise starting tomorrow after his health care speech to Congress. His plan will make sense, be affordable (at $1 trillion over 10 years, that's only 3% of Bush's Medicare prescription drug benefit), and protect Americans against private insurance company gouging. He will eloquently hand Congress an order to quit bickering and come to agreement or he'll push through his own version.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Had School Started Today for My Son

He would have been sitting like these second-grade children in Denver, watching the president's speech. While school officials there gave parents the option to pull their children from class, only a few did. Kudos to sanity.
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images. Hat tip Andrew Sullivan.

Sobering Words

Bob Herbert of the NY Times offers up some simple wisdom:

The serious wackos, the obsessive-compulsive absurdists, may be beyond therapy. But the rest of us could use some serious adult counseling. We’ve forgotten many of the fundamentals: how to live within our means, the benefits of shared sacrifice, the responsibilities that go with citizenship, the importance of a well-rounded education and tolerance.

As much as I'd like to agree with Herbert here, I can't. I'm just as sick of the birthers, the death-panel Palinistas, and the Obama as Mao/Hitler/Stalin/Marx/bin Laden wackos for whom the difference between fascist and communist is as vast as the space between their ears as the next guy. Giving up on these people, however, would be like giving up on the segregationists, the pro-slavery southerners, the laissez-faire capitalists who nearly bankrupted our economy. These people don't need pats on the head and daily medicine in the form of two hours of Fox/Fix/Faux News. They need real truth, real reality, real facts, and real understanding.

I can remember drinking up at least enough liberal Kool-Aid in the past eight years to give serious consideration to the notion that GW Bush was about to pull a Musharaf, an Idi Amin, and declare martial law in October 2008, suspending the Constitution so that he and Cheney could remain in power for life. What cured me was the presidential campaign last summer, as I witnessed a man of stellar intellect, judgment, and temperament run a campaign that celebrated healthy debate, facts, and sanity while the world around it blew its collective shpadoinkle over a meeting he'd had with a 1960s radical in some dark apartment in Chicago, and a fist-bump he shared with his wife.

Time healed wounds that existed in my own family for years. Time will also heal the wounds that have split our country. I don't believe that anyone except the truly insane on the lunatic right would seriously consider an armed insurrection against our president or our government. And I don't think anyone on the left would consider a China- or Soviet-style communist, collectivist regime to replace the representative government that has served us, for better or worse, for over 220 years.

That Uppity So-and-So

Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) -- whom you might remember as the guy who unseated Max Cleland in 2002, a triple amputee Vietnam Veteran, by conflating him with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein -- today discussed with Fox News President Obama's Wednesday speech to a joint session of Congress on the subject of health care reform:
What you're seeing is folks on my side anxious to see what the president has to say tomorrow night. I think he's gonna have to express some humility based on what we've seen around the country this August and that's not his inclination.
In other words, the crazies in the town halls are winning the health care debate (hah!) and Obama better show some deference to that anger and be humble, except that Obama's an uppity Negro and we don't expect that from the likes of him.

What is amazing to me is the utter lack of awareness at his own racism.


The power of the conservative industrial complex - utterly cynical enterprises like Eagle Publishing and Fox News, for example - is real and has done a huge amount to destroy an uncynical and constructive conservatism. But again, until someone in the party who has authority takes them on, until we get a GOP Sistah Souljah moment against the Malkins and Coulters and Becks and Hannitys, the cancer will keep spreading. If you think Mitt Romney is capable of this, dream on. Andrew Sullivan, on the hysteria of the GOP base.

What's Your Contribution Going to Be?

Some reaction to Obama's speech today:

Andrew Sullivan:

Sit down. Take a deep breath. This is what the commie/fascist Muslim alien who
became president via a forged birth certificate is
telling your kids:

Newt Gingrich, on Today:

President Reagan did it, President H.W. Bush did it. If he could give a speech tomorrow night in the tone of his speech today to the students, this country would be much better off ... It's a good speech, I recommend it to everybody if you have any doubts.

Author and teacher Dan Brown (no, not that Dan Brown):

It probably won't make a significant imprint on kids who read the paper everyday, with parents discussing current events. They've already heard the president discuss personal responsibility. They know how their president speaks.

However, the back-to-school speech does have a real chance to touch the typically disconnected students, and that is a substantial upside. These kids are not absorbing the most basic civics information at home; school has to pick up the slack. There is a psychic cost to not knowing a larger world beyond your immediate day-to-day life; American kids need to know their president, whether they support his policy agenda or not.

Michelle Malkin, projecting for all the kooks:

It’s not the speech (as I pointed out last week), it’s the subtext.

It’s the radical activism of the White House Teaching Fellows who designed the education guides tied to Obama’s speech.

It’s the overzealousness of public school educators who have turned classrooms into Obama campaign offices.

It’s the influence of the left-wing social justice crusaders of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge on Team Obama.

It’s the Left’s embrace of Obama Chicago pal Bill Ayers’ pedagogical philosophy of “education as the motor-force of revolution.”

It’s the activist tradition of government schools using students as junior lobbyists to pressure legislators for higher education spending, pro-illegal immigration protests, gay marriage, environmental propaganda, and anti-war causes.

Conor Friedersdorf:

I assume President Obama will offer sound advice to the kids, and I regard him as a perfectly good role model.

But I object to the automatic elevation of presidents generally to the role of “trusted moral leader,” so I wish President Obama and all his successors would eschew that role, rather than entrenching its precedent more deeply.

Mark MacKinnon:
An Oklahoma Republican state senator on Rush Limbaugh’s show accused Obama of trying to create a cult of personality and compared him to Saddam Hussein and North Korea’s Kim Jong Il. And a Kansas City radio talk-show host said, “I wouldn’t let my next-door neighbor talk to my kid alone; I’m sure as hell not letting Barack Obama talk to him alone.”... I don’t question the president’s motives. I assumed he just wanted to give a pep talk to America’s students. Plain and simple. And it’s a damn sad thing when something as innocent as a presidential speech to inspire the nation’s schoolchildren becomes the subject not of admiration and encouragement but derision and contempt.

Ben Smith, Daniel Larison, Hugh Hewitt, and The Weekly Standard:
So while there has been some reaction, most of it is reasoned and clear-headed. But if you tune into the corporate media outlets like Fox News, CNN, and the networks, it will be wall-to-wall "Is Obama Indoctrinating Your Kids?"

Monday, September 7, 2009

"What's Your Contribution Going to Be?"

The full text of Obama's education speech scheduled for 9 am eastern time Tuesday.

The powerful conclusion:
So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?
Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.
If you are one of the few unfortunate schoolkids whose parents kept you from watching this speech, I fear that your future contribution will be to utter the following question for years after your non-graduation from high school:
"Do you want fries with that?"

Saturday, September 5, 2009

"You're Stupid" cont.

A reader writes:
Absolutely, our democratically elected President should be allowed to speak to our children. Perhaps people are afraid for this to happen, because he's so much more intelligent than the LAST President who could barely get through "My Pet," (which is obviously pretty harmless, unless the country is being attacked while he's stuck on a word). It's RIDICULOUS to subject our children to the fear ideology of a moron, and then raise hell when someone with intelligence who has accomplished so much without the aide of a silver spoon (as opposed to a brain) wishes to deliver an inspirational message at the beginning of the school year. A single message from Obama is so threatening, but Palin's Answer to Creationism (turning the Flintstones into a docudrama) can be considered appropriate curriculum. How ridiculous!
If people opposed to this would actually stop for a minute, take a breath, and actually read for themselves what this is rather than buy into the stuff right wing pundits and the conservative media are telling them, this would be a non-story. One can hope.

"You're Stupid"

CNBC's John Harwood, who also writes for the NY Times, appeared on MSNBC and answered a question about the uproar over Obama's speech to school children scheduled for next Tuesday morning:
I've been watching politics for a long time, and this one is really over the top. What it shows you is there are a lot of cynical people who try to fan controversy. And let's face it: in a country of 300 million people, there are a lot of stupid people too, because if you believe that it's somehow unhealthy for kids for the President to say, "Work hard and stay in school," you're stupid. In fact, I'm worried for some of those kids of those parents who are upset. I'm not sure they're smart enough to raise those kids.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Apex of Right-Wing Nuttiness, cont.

A reader writes:

BEAUTIFUL!!! I started a poll last night of Facebook, "After 8 years of Bush, isn't it ridiculous for parents to be concerned about an articulate President addressing the schools?"



C) Too paranoid to comment.

I sent it to 6 people. Within 2 hours it was up over 14 thousand. The percentages as of last night (haven't checked facebook yet today) were Yes 53% No 47%. GODDAMN, there are a lot of stupid motherfuckers in this country.

47% of the people who took his poll thinks parents ought to be concerned that Obama is talking to their kids. Nearly half. One can only gawk at the insanity that is brewing in this country. Maybe Joe Klein is right.

The Apex of Right Wing Nuttiness, cont.

Joe Klein sounds a bit worried now. Money quote:
The amazing thing remains not only the unwillingness of responsible Republicans--a term that is in danger of becoming an oxymoron--to call bull-- on this, but also the willingness of many prominent Republicans to join in the slinging of garbage. Michelle Cottle reports that there are Republican-sanctioned efforts afoot to have parents not send their children to school on September 8 because the President is scheduled to address the nation's school-children that day and they are afraid that he will fill their little heads with socialist propaganda. That is somewhere well beyond disgraceful.

I say let them keep their kids at home on September 8, and when they return, load their young asses up with homework that the President said for their parents to do.

The Apex of Right Wing Nuttiness

It has been brewing for a few days, but the right is up in arms about President Obama's plan to address the nation's schoolchildren on Tuesday 9/8, at 9 am Pacific Time. For many students this is the first day of school and the president wants to talk to the kids about working hard, studying hard, and thinking about ways to help the country. He's even making the speech available online Monday for parents to review it. Not that 90% of Republican parents of school-age children will actually go to the website. No, they'll probably let Fox News interpret it for them (God forbid they think on their own).

For me this is just the height of all the nuttiness I've seen since before election day. Birthers. Socialism. Re-education camps. Posters defaced to look like Hitler. Death Panels. And now comes an uproar that somehow, someway, Obama's speech to students is going to indoctrinate them into a secular lifestyle of secular humanism. Or something.

This is the President of the United States! Our national leader. The commander in chief of our armed forces. The leader of the "free world." He wants to address our kids in school to tell them to stay in school, study hard, and give back to the country that's providing them with an education, so that future schoolchildren can have what they had, or better.

But we know what this is really about, don't we? We know what they're really trying to say, right? OK, since we all know then I'm just going to put it out there.

Now, all of you out there who oppose Obama's speech to our kids, I want you to stand up... go ahead, now, don't be shy, you over there with the tin foil hat on... that's right, stand on up there... you with the assault rifle on your shoulder, I mean you too. Hell, any white Christian below the Mason-Dixon line who didn't vote for Obama, please stand the fuck up! Good. Now, make two fists, stand with your feet apart, bend your knees a little, grit your teeth, and growl for me... good! Now you've got the rght spirit! OK, here it comes... you ready? Everyone shout out at the tops of your lungs:

"I don't want that Kenyan-born, illegal alien, socialist, faggot-loving, rag-headed Muslim (insert black racial epithet of your choice) talking to my kids!"

There, now, feel better? Good, now shut the fuck up.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hank "The Hulk" Paulson

Todd S. Purdum's Vanity Fair profile of former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson -- who sat with Purdum seven times over a 15-month period, on the record, with the proviso that nothing he said would be published until after he left office -- was surprisingly lightweight. One would think that over nearly 8,000 words you could get a deep understanding of this man, who steered the ship of the US economy during the worst part of the financial crisis from fall 2007 till he left in January 2009. It was funny, but I came away from the piece feeling somewhat cheated. Here was a man who, with a Dartmouth education, who had no stomach for Washington politics (several times during the first interview he excused himself to go throw up), but with unparalleled Wall Street success at the helm of the richest investment bank in the US, Goldman Sachs, and some of the best we got was:
“Nancy Pelosi to me was a wonder in this deal, and she was available 24-7, anytime I called her on the cell phone,” Paulson told me, his hulking frame unfolding in a comfortable chair in his office at the Treasury, dominated by an oil portrait of his first predecessor, Alexander Hamilton. “She was engaged, she was decisive, and she was really willing to just get involved with all of her people on a hands-on basis.”

(Right after this, Purdum writes, is when he threw up the first time. Interesting placement of this fact, n'est-ce pas?)

Another tidbit:
“There’s a great lack of financial literacy and understanding in this nation, even among college-educated people.” But Paulson did figure out how to behave on the Hill. “There’s a way, keeping full integrity, of answering the questions you want to answer,” Paulson told me in one of our conversations, reflecting on what he had learned about committee hearings. “The thing that scared me was not a question I didn’t know the answer to. Just say, ‘I don’t know.’ The thing that scared me was some question that I knew, and answered correctly, and I’d be in deep doo-doo!” As his tenure wore on, Paulson confessed, “I amuse myself a lot by sitting there sometimes and thinking what would happen if I said, ‘Do you realize what an idiotic question that is?’”

But for me, the most telling passage in the piece had nothing to do with Paulson at all, but with the Bush administration itself:
The rescue of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—which together touched more than half of the nation’s $12 trillion in mortgages, by either backing them or owning them outright—proved to be all-consuming. “Mind-numbing” was the term Paulson used more than once. Beginning in the fall of 2006, Paulson had pressed for systemic reform of Fannie and Freddie, and had run into fierce opposition from the White House, which drew the line at any compromise with Congress.

My italics. See, earlier in the piece Paulson had said he was impatient with people on both sides of the aisle in Washington who would just sit there and say "I'm right, the other guys are wrong, I won't compromise." What this illustrates is just how politicized everything had become in the Bush era: from rescuing the economy to the troop surge in Iraq to ending Terri Schiavo's life. Thank God we have a president who actually makes the attempt to work with both sides (perfect example: the debate over the public option in health insurance reform). Too bad the other side hasn't yet learned how see-saws work.