July 31, 2009

Onion strikes again

Cambridge Cop Accidentally Arrests Henry Louis Gates Again During White House Meeting | The Onion - America's Finest News Source


Perhaps a glimpse into the cause of our financial problems

From a recent poll, we learned that Americans don't want more taxes or cuts in services to address the deficit--which other polls show are causing concern with Obama's policies.
"Fifty-six percent of respondents said that they were not willing to pay more in taxes in order to reduce the deficit, and nearly as many said they were not willing for the government to provide fewer services in areas such as health care, education and defense spending."
Linkins reminds us of the great Simpsons immigration episode where Homer complains about taxes. Too bad he doesn't quote from the scene when the townspeople, who had just demanded more services, march to the Mayor's office to complain about taxes:
"The mob is back, yelling 'Down with taxes! Down with taxes!'

Quimby: Are those morons getting dumber or just louder?
Assistant: [checks his clipboard] Dumber, sir."
And I can't quite pass on the opportunity to point out that the Republicans have made their entire political philosophy out of bashing taxes and government. Hard to get the American people to some level of responsible government when one of the major parties constantly not only bashes everything to do with government and taxes, but essentially keeps assuring people that we can cut taxes and everything will be rosy. Better, even.


July 30, 2009

Are Republicans irony impaired?

Or maybe it is me. But it strikes me as funny when someone like David Vitter talks about "conservative values."
"I'm on the side of conservatives getting back to core conservative values," said Mr. Vitter, Louisiana Republican and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee
No word on if those Conservative values explicitly include hookers.

In all seriousness, this is what the conservative church created by making their deep, and personal faith a political commodity. They then get people like this idiot masquerading as a "family values" person. Actually, it has brought them a lot of idiots. Voinovich isn't wrong. The south and the religious right has turned the Republican party into the party of the brainless.

July 27, 2009

Tort reform revisited

I was struck by our discussion on tort reform a few weeks ago and surprised that Steve didn't think tort reform would actually effect medical costs. A lesson in assumptions, I guess. I really had just assumed that medical malpractice was a big reason our healthcare costs were so high. Steve's comments that even in states that limited litigation, the costs didn't change struck a chord. And today, I listened to NPR on health care questions and heard Julie Rovner say that malpractice constitutes 1% of healthcare costs. Yikes. Obviously not a big chunk of costs at all.

Interesting argument

That I am sure Steve will not like. :) But I am curious what you all think about E.J. Dionne's argument that Republicans want concealed guns everywhere except their own workplace:
"Isn't it time to dismantle the metal detectors, send the guards at the doors away and allow Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights by being free to carry their firearms into the nation's Capitol?"

Speaking of Idiot America

We need go no further than the right wing birthers.

I want this book

And I love Charlie Pierce on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. Amazon.com: Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free (9780767926140): Charles P. Pierce: Books:
"Question: Is there a specific turning point where, as a country, we moved away from prizing experience to trusting the gut over intellect?
Charles P. Pierce: I don't know if there's one point that you can point to and say, “This is when it happened.” The conflict between intellectual expertise and reflexive emotion—often characterized as “good old common sense,” when it is neither common nor sense—has been endemic to American culture and politics since the beginning. I do think that my profession, journalism, went off the tracks when it accepted as axiomatic the notion that “Perception is reality.” No. Perception is perception and reality is reality, and if the former doesn't conform to the latter, then it’s the journalist's job to hammer and hammer the reality until the perception conforms to it. That's how “intelligent design” gets treated as “science” simply because a lot of people believe in it."

I think he has a point. Several points, actually, but this one is spot on. Once you bought into the idea that "perception is reality" it allows you to report idiocy as the equivalent of something smart and testable. It allows spin to function as news.

July 25, 2009

Back--with some thoughts on race and Cheney's perverse view of the Constitution

We just had a great week with SOF's sister and family as the first guests to try out our new guest room and extra bathroom. The bathroom still lacks a mirror and some cabinetry, but other than that received rave reviews. Same for the new room, even though at the end of the A/C run and lacking any external shade, was cool enough for our guests. Thankfully, they were here during the cool week of July, and not the 105 week!

But we had a great time. Played a little guitar, ate some great food, and enjoyed some lively conversation.


But I am back and resting up--and reading through the news. Couple of items caught my eye, and they deserve some attention. First was the arrest of Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, and the subsequent furor from Obama's characterization of the arrest as the Cambridge cops acting "stupidly." Obama then acted presidential (imo) and admitted to using language that didn't help the situation and even calling the arresting officer. It really does sound like Gates over-reacted--though it is perhaps understandable after returning from overseas to be accused of breaking into your own house. It also sounds like the cop over-reacted and placed a man in cuffs who uses a cane. I am with Tapped's Adam Serwer on this, however, in arguing that white America is still not ready to talk about race.

All of this, mind you, during a week when a Florida neurosurgeon and healthcare reform opponent sent around an email depicting Obama as a Witch Doctor with a bone through his nose. To which, the Tea Bagger movement offered their unflinching support, and refuses to see the racism in their opposition to Obama. Or when MSNBC continues to put on Pat Buchanan after he argues that this country was built by white people, and that blacks were only discriminated against. What is more, he is sure that only whites died on D-Day or at Vicksburg. Or just a week past Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn saying "you would have some splaining to do" to our Puerto-Rican born Supreme Court nominee. And let's not forget, btw, the raging racism of the "birther" movement that claims that Obama is not American and therefore not their legitimate President--something aided and abetted by Liz Cheney and Lou Dobbs, and echoed by Republican House members.

This goes back to another point, the one where most Americans (white) seem to think that racism is dead, or only relegated to the extreme Klan members. I have seen this in discussions myself, where racism is defined very narrowly and very extremely, and individuals who still use racial stereotypes and admit they wouldn't be happy if their child dated someone of color--at the same time asserting that they are not racist or that there is nothing wrong with what they said. When racism is limited to those who burn crosses and shout the n-word, a lot of us (me included) get let off the hook for our own racism. I am a fan of Ta-Nehisi Coates and find him thoughtful on race issues. Like here:
"Again, I think this makes sense, if you believe racism to be the province of societal pariahs, not people who hawk their wares on MSNBC. But if you believe that we live with it every day, that the worst part of racism is how it hides in the hearts of otherwise decent people, than this is rather puzzling. If you've had friends who've looked you in the eye, and said something racist, you may feel differently."

We have made a lot of progress in this country on race issues. But when every other week a Republican sends out a racist picture of Obama and still thinks it isn't racist--I wonder.


Point two, and also very critical was the recent NY Times report on discussions inside the Bush administration about using the military against even American citizens. Greenwald weighs in and links to the original memo. Scary stuff. Yoo recommends, and evidently Cheney and Addington completely agreed, that during a time of war, the President had the discretion to use the military inside the country even to round up people who might be American citizens. His reasoning, and also his justification for getting around the Posse Commitatus Act of 1878, was that this would be using the military for military purposes rather than law enforcement. Further, Yoo said that both the First and Fourth amendments could be set aside during such situations.

As I read the memo, the constant refrain of the President's discretion jumped out, and that discretion was not bound by congress or the courts. It is, as I read it, a recipe for tyranny, and truly unbelievable. Credit, I must say, goes to Condi Rice and others who spoke out against this, and ultimately to George Bush for not allowing Cheney to further shred the constitution. Shame on him for allowing the conversation to even occur.

And can we finally dispense with the nonsense that Dick Cheney and David Addington are just good Americans doing what they thought was right for America?

July 20, 2009

Jimmy Carter leaves the SBC

Because of the issue of gender inequality, a similar reason for my own move:
"So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention's leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be 'subservient' to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women's equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities."

July 17, 2009

David Barton is back

And has decided, with his great "historical" knowledge, that civil rights leaders are not very important. The dude has a bachelors from Oral Roberts in "religious education" but in far right conservative circles (Mike Huckabee, for example), that makes him a professional historian.

This is what anti-intellectualism gets you.

July 12, 2009

You are NOT a Bible Character

Finally. Someone articulates this in the way I have been unable. I am so utterly annoyed at how people appropriate people from the Bible to justify whatever personal bias or flaw they might have. When Mark Sanford invoked King David, my thought was, "but you are not King David," even though I was unable to explain that. Unfortunately, these kinds of references often serve as coded (or not so coded) messages to the faithful--and unfortunately, the faithful often does not think this stuff through. And as a historian, I was heartened to see someone point out how bad theology often resulted in real tragedy in American history:
"There is a long history of just such usage. The pilgrim fathers who came to America read their situation into the Bible (or the Bible into their situation) with the result that white pilgrims were seen as fulfilling the role of the Israelites in this, the Promised Land, while native Americans were cast in the role of Canaanites. Thus generations of Joshuas arose feeling Biblically justified in the genocide of America’s native population. Some of that Biblical reading continues to echo in the popular imagination to this day. It was Bad theology in the 17th century and it is bad theology today. Stated in a fundamental way: you are not a Bible character."
Sanford's arrogance is, unfortunately, not rare in evangelical circles. Palin tried to compare herself to Esther (since evidently Esther was also proud of her ignorance?), and Tom Delay once compared his experience to that of Christ.

If Bill Clinton did that, the evangelicals would freak out. If Obama did it, their heads would asplode. But somehow, when one of their own does it, they just nod along.

July 10, 2009


I am rather stunned at how many people I know who cling to the idea of the GOP being more moral. Evidently lip service to abortion is all you need to do. Because the party of moral values evidently includes Promise Keepers who get their parents to pay off their mistresses. Well, mistress, anyway.

And Peggy Noonan is often wrong, but when she thinks Sarah Palin is an idiot, perhaps the Reagan adoring GOP should wake up.
"She makes the Republican Party look inclusive." She makes the party look stupid, a party of the easily manipulated.

"She shows our ingenuous interest in all classes." She shows your cynicism.

"Now she can prepare herself for higher office by studying up, reading in, boning up on the issues." Mrs. Palin's supporters have been ordering her to spend the next two years reflecting and pondering. But she is a ponder-free zone. She can memorize the names of the presidents of Pakistan, but she is not going to be able to know how to think about Pakistan. Why do her supporters not see this? Maybe they think "not thoughtful" is a working-class trope!

"The media did her in." Her lack of any appropriate modesty did her in. Actually, it's arguable that membership in the self-esteem generation harmed her. For 30 years the self-esteem movement told the young they're perfect in every way. It's yielding something new in history: an entire generation with no proper sense of inadequacy.

"Turning to others means the media won!" No, it means they lose. What the mainstream media wants is not to kill her but to keep her story going forever. She hurts, as they say, the Republican brand, with her mess and her rhetorical jabberwocky and her careless causing of division. Really, she is the most careless sower of discord since George W. Bush, who fractured the party and the movement that made him. Why wouldn't the media want to keep that going?

Sarah Palin the Marion Barry of the right?

At least one person thinks so.

GOP Follies continue

One of my big complaints with the GOP over the last 20 years has been their blatant attack on government as evil. That has led, as I have argued, to a patently destructive policy from Republicans. Their offer to public policy is to remove government oversight, regulation, and services--even if there is nothing left to take the place except extreme pain. If they had a goal of "good governance" instead of "government is the problem" (thanks Reagan) then I could disagree, but disagree respectfully. But they don't. I know some republicans do, and some of them read here. But the leadership of the Republican party has no interest in good governing. Not one bit.

A good example comes from Texas, who has as Governor, a man who used to be widely regarded as one of the dopiest ones. Sanford and Palin have moved him right off the radar, but good old Rick "Secession might be the answer" Perry is still out there as a wackaloon. He is now thinking of nominating a woman who hates Public Education as chair of the state's school board. Ok, so she hates public education and thinks it should be abolished because it is a "tool of perversion" (I am guessing she is not pro-gay) and she advocates a rigidly Christian approach to governing. A graduate of Pat Robertson's "law school," (remember the legal brilliance of Monica Goodling) she believes that only those who "desiring to govern have a sincere knowledge and appreciation for the Word of God in order to rightly govern.” Oh, and she warned her fellow nutjobs before the last election that Obama was plotting with terrorists to attack Americans.

And Rick Perry wants her in charge of education in Texas. And I am supposed to respect this party at all?

July 9, 2009

Perhaps the best explanation of Palin so far

Why Sarah Palin really quit us. - By Dahlia Lithwick - Slate Magazine:
"Once you understand that Palin's only actual message is the importance of loving and understanding Palin, it becomes easier to understand why she quit. The more Palin tries to explain herself, the more we all fail to get her. Every time she goes off script, she makes less sense. No wonder she didn't want to do debate prep or be coached by the McCain communications team. Instead of thanking those who packaged, explained, and spun her, Palin resents them. And because she believes she has been crystal clear all along, she's come to resent us, too. The enduring political lesson of Sarah Palin may simply be that for most of her political career she's been lost in translation, without fully appreciating that only in translation was she ever, briefly found."
The entire column is pretty good.

July 7, 2009

Oh. Good. God. This is your GOP?

New poll from USAToday suggests that Palin's incoherent resignation makes her more popular among Republicans:
"When it comes to a potential presidential run, the USA TODAY poll displays both Palin's strength in the Republican base and her weakness among the swing voters who usually decide national elections. Republicans by 71%-27% say they would be likely to vote for her if she ran for president in 2012, while independents by 51%-44% would not."

Hmm. She writes a resignation speech worthy of an angry high school breakup letter--quits her job because being Governor of Alaska is too hard when people inquire into her ethics--and is in full throat about the mean, mean, media who asks her questions and refuses to swoon when she flutters her eyes and says "you betcha." And the Republicans like her MORE THAN EVER.

And I am supposed to take this party seriously?

July 6, 2009

NRA Christianity

I really understand the value of the second amendment (though wonder why the Mike Huckabees and other seem to think holding on to their Glock 9 will allow them to stop the government from forcing them to do, well, anything), and really understand Steve's point about safe gun ownership and responsible gun owners. But I don't understand the deification of guns in the Christian community, and this pastor scares the crap out of me, if for no other reason that the conflation of American Exceptionalism, Christianity and guns:
"'As a Christian, I believe, and as an American this country was founded on the deep-seated belief in God and firearms -- without which we wouldn't be here today,'"
I also understand liking and respecting guns. I have no interest in hunting any more, but have no problem with those who do. I don't, however, understand those (including an unnamed friend and or relative) who sought to stock up on ammunition when Obama took office.

July 4, 2009

Palin quits as Governor to spend more time outside of Alaska?

I have to say, she did pull off quite a coups. News delivered Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend is usually a way to kill a story. I doubt that Palin announcing she was stepping down was intended to do that, or will do that. I also have to say that I was completely surprised. Seems like a very weird thing to do from this very weird politician. Is she quitting to prepare for future runs? How do you run for a bigger office (Senate, or President) when you couldn't even finish one term as Governor, and quit that job? Is she leaving to avoid some kind of ethics scandal? Given her penchant for lying, I don't believe anything she said in her resignation speech.

Actually, we have no clue. But I suspect we will find out in the upcoming months. Any thoughts?

July 3, 2009

Evangelical paradoxes

I saw this on natalie's narrative, but for some reason, was unable to post my comment. (I assume user error on my part). But she points to the paradox between the evangelical approach to redemption v. the conservative one.

I also thought that this seems like a really interesting comparison for Sanford to make. Invoking humility, while then comparing himself to a Biblical patriarch is a pretty neat trick.

I think, btw, that Sanford is, at some level, self-destructing his political career on purpose. But he may not be aware of that, and so can't stop using the conservative evangelical speak that got him this far.