11 December 2010

Seconded

John Cole's response to the "Firebaggers"--the ideologically liberal purists who've complained incessantly about the President's inability to achieve the agenda he campaigned (while ignoring or underplaying Congress' role in such "failures")--is delightful. Cole aims his criticism at a specific few commentators at Balloon Juice, but it's applicable to the larger group of ideological purists:

"My problem is you morons can’t tell the difference between holding someone’s feet to the fire and burning someone at the stake."

I concur.

17 October 2010

Fuck Cancer

This month bring the anniversary of my late husband's passing. I've made the best of things, and I am surrounded by caring, supportive friends and family, but this has been an experience I wouldn't wish on my worst possible enemy.

Cherish your loved ones.

Fuck cancer.

11 October 2010

U.S., U.K. Far Right Hook Up?

According to a story in The Guardian, The English Defence League, a far-right, anti-Muslim group, is joining forces with Tea Party figures in the U.S.A. The English are concerned that Tea Party-funding would find its way to the EDL, thereby facilitating "wider recruitment and activism." Because the EDL is often associated with violent activity, England's unease is understandable. But why is the Tea Party, or figures within the Tea Party, associating itself with this group? In the words on one human rights expert,
"As we move farther and farther away from the Tea Party origins, that were ostensibly around debt and bail-outs, social issues like Islamophobia are replacing that anger, that vigour. The idea that there is a war between Islam and the west is becoming commonplace."
Of course, as the economy improves and Americans begin to feel better, many won't grow less angry--they'll simply appoint a new cause for the anger. Paul Starobin's National Journal article on paranoia in politics in offers a fairly thorough examination of the phenomenon.

Update: In the article "Mainstreaming Hate" in Foreign Policy, Ferry Biedermann profiles Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who is famously anti-Islam. Biedermann quotes an analyst who draws a link between Wilder and the Tea Party:
[Alfred] Pijpers says that Wilders has more in common with the Tea Party activists in the United States than with any old-style European right-wing party, because he can't really be classified as either right-wing or left-wing. His party has also embraced a left-wing populist defense of the Netherlands' besieged welfare system, and he scores points with his tough stance against crime, which he often links to immigrants.
Although the analyst's comparison ends at "he can't be classified as either right-wing or left-wing," the undefined cries of "I want my country back" imply an affinity to the ideas that Wilders gives voice to.

10 October 2010

Crybaby Culture

I missed this, but a few weeks ago This American Life dedicated an episode to revealing the current trend of public whining in America.

The show, available online, includes contributions by Dave Weigel (on the politics of victimhood), Adam Davidson (on bankers' complaints after they've benefited from government largess), Alex Bumberg (on basketball's "the flop"), Alex MacInnis (on folks who make a living suing businesses incongruent with the ADA), and David Sedaris (who provides a fable).

Teh all-around awesome.

Unsafe . . . sticking

At Slate, an article on malware-infected USB drives warns "Don't Stick it In."
Just a rec.

04 October 2010

Oh, Those Quirky Doctors

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a group "formed in 1943 as an alternative to the American Medical Association, which some conservative doctors didn’t think was protecting their rights,"has some rather--interesting--ideas.

According to an article by Joseph Gerth in the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal, the group has published within the pages of its journal claims that HIV does not cause AIDS, that nicotine is not addictive, and that the WTC fell because asbestos was outlawed during the Towers' construction. On its website, the group features articles that question whether President Obama hypnotized crowds (see the highly scientific, and persuasive, claim that: "the Obama campaign logo 'might just be the letter ‘O,’ but it also resembles a crystal ball, a favorite of hypnotists'"). The group also perpetuates the soundly discredited theories that abortion leads to breast cancer, and that vaccinations lead to autism.

Quirky.

** The AAPS has been in the news periodically because one of its current, and long-time, members is Dr. Rand Paul. Dr. Paul's father, Dr. Ron Paul, is as member as well. According to the article,
Rand Paul’s campaign declined to answer questions about whether he supports the association’s positions. Instead, it highlighted the group’s opposition to abortion and to Democratic initiatives, including Obama’s health care law.

“Dr. Paul is member of AAPS because they believe that any health care reform should be market-oriented and embrace more freedom, not more government,” Jesse Benton, Paul’s campaign manager, said in a statement.
Certainly "more freedom, less government" is a good thing, as is questioning medical theories, but the group's positions do smack of conspiratorial, and kind of whacky (Obama's "O" and a crystal ball?), thinking.

03 October 2010

The Paranoid Style--Redux

"the spokesman of the paranoid style finds [the hostile and conspiratorial world] directed against a nation, a culture, a way of life whose fate affects not himself alone but millions of others." -- Richard Hofstadter
In The National Journal, Paul Starobin explores the re-emergence of an arch-conservatism akin to The John Birch Society (famously, the leader of that group asserted that Dwight D. Eisenhower was "a dedicated, conscious agent of the communist conspiracy"). Conspiracy theories about an imminent Communist coup-from-within provided the bedrock of that nativist association. Similarly, The question of "who is an American" has run throughout our political discourse recently. Conservative luminaries, including Newt Gingrich, have roused suspicions against President Obama by identifying him as "Kenyan," and opportunists (both political and commercial) take full advantage of people's anxieties by reciting unconfirmed claims (beheadings in the Arizona desert), amplifying far-fetched "what if" scenarios (sharia law replacing our current legal system), and insinuations that Caucasians' rights are floundering under the presidency of a bi-racial man. Certainly, a national paranoia seemed to reach a boiling point over the summer with the accusations of varying degrees of anti-Americanism targeting supporters of the Park51 development, legal and non-legal immigrants (and their children), and so on.

Starobin's argument about the contemporary "nativist agenda" certainly rings true. Triggered by 9/11 and the financial meltdown, people have grown paranoid. People clamor that they "want their country back" without defining what that might be. Yet these groups, Starobin suggests, will be met by a re-emergent Radical Left, similarly energized by recent events . . . and then? Who knows. Of course passions will ease, suspicions will recede, but we will have changed. Anyway, I recommend highly Starobin's "The Radical Right Returns," for a solid, and dispassionate, historical overview and analysis of "the paranoid style" in contemporary political discourse.

02 October 2010

"October"

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes' sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost--
For the grapes' sake along the wall.

--Robert Frost

It Took Germany How Long?

The BBC presents an excellent summary explaining why it took Germany nearly a hundred years to pay off its World War One reparations. The final payment is due on Sunday, which is also the 20th anniversary of German reunification.

22 September 2010

Autumn, and Keats.

Happy first day of the new season.

"Ode to Autumn"

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease;
For Summer has o'erbrimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinèd flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river-sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

-- John Keats

19 September 2010

Tea Party Unity Convention Canceled on the QT

Remember Tea Party Nation's National Tea Party Unity Convention? The one that was originally scheduled for mid-July in Las Vegas? Three weeks prior to Convention's kick-off, organizers announced that they'd postponed it as they wished to avoid the intense heat of a Vegas summer and because "it would more advantageous to hold the convention in the middle of October just prior to the November elections [sic]." At the end of July, organizers announced a new date, October 14-16. So, how's the planning for this Convention coming along?

It seems to have been pretty good up until 9/11. That's when TPN's Judson Phillips last posted messages on Twitter about the convention--notifying folks that Sherrif Joe Arpaio would speak at the event, and that "For every 5 full convention registrations purchased, the 6th is free! Must be FULL registrations Details here: http://dld.bz/taXY #teaparty." Since last week, though, the convention appears to have been canceled quietly.

Raven at Raven Brooks looked into the progress towards the National Unity Convention and concludes that it's been canceled. First, the link Tea Party Nation provided for convention information is dead. (see: http://www.nationalteapartyconvention.com and you get "page not found"; however, cached versions of pages, taken four days ago, still exist). Secondly, the convention's location--the Mirage Hotel and Casino--no longer has a room block for the convention. Raven writes,
I wanted to make sure the convention really was canceled and they [TPN] weren’t just having web issues or neglected to do any PR for their event. So I put in a call to the Mirage hotel and asked if I could book a room in their block for the event. Turns out the room block had been canceled and the Mirage had no record of the event.
No press releases issued, no blog posts, no notes on the Tea Party Nation site, just--poof. It's rather a surprise, considering the Tea Party's momentum in the past few months or so, but there it is.

A Petty Quibble

While reading arguments over who has experienced worse treatment at the hands of America's political partisans, George W. Bush or Barack Obama (a fairly childish argument in and of itself), I commonly see references to a "snuff film," a "liberal assassination fantasy" about President Bush, with the implication that American leftists were responsible for it. Not so.

That film, titled Death of a President (2006), was not, as is often believed, a product of the "professional left." It was not produced in the United States nor by an American citizen. It is a British film, with a British director, British writers, and British financing.

Like this post's title indicates, it's merely a petty quibble, and my wish here is to clarify.
Cheers

18 September 2010

Venting Anger vs. Fixing What's Broken

At Slate, Jacob Weisberg posts an article musing on how the Tea Party is analogous to the New Left of the 1960s. In "The Right's New Left," he suggests that the major similarity rests in the party's "streak of anarchism—its antagonism toward any authority, its belligerent style of self-expression, and its lack of any coherent program or alternative to the policies it condemns." On the other hand, the Party also exhibits such tendencies as resentment, nostalgia (for an undefined past), and reinvention of reality. These characteristics, Weisberg asserts, underscore the Party's concerns with personal identity--the possible loss of status, of a secure social, cultural, and economic position--in a changing environment. The question is, how does the party reconcile its anarchic qualities and identity focus and move forward as a coherent political movement--if it can?

Freak Out for Freedom

Oh yeah.

If I could be just about anywhere on Saturday, 10/30/10, it would be in Washington DC. Although ostensibly a "spoof" of the Restoring Honor Rally on the National Mall, Jon Stewart's message seems sincere (remember his 2005 Crossfire appearance?). People need to chill the heck out--craziness does not legitimize an argument.

Obviously, my poliblogging has been sporadic at best; largely, it is because I have been astoundingly frustrated with the domestic news cycle. Especially in politics, lawmakers' increased exaggerations, indirections, and ad hominems regularly go unchallenged by reporters and pundits, and a person can only stand so much. Happily, Stewart and Stephen Colbert, both of whom I've only recently began watching regularly, have sucked me back in. If, like me, you're one of the moderate millions (or if you want to poke gentle fun at extremity)--head for the Rally to Restore Sanity or to the March to Keep Fear Alive.

Aside
: New York Magazine has a recent profile of Stewart online. Is good.

17 September 2010

D'Amato: "You Are a Nasty Racist"

Former Senator Al D'Amato (R-NY) let loose on Jack Burkman, a Republican strategist, during an appearance on FBN's Money Rocks on Thursday. Burkman's repeated, unnecessary references to Nigerian cab drivers and postal workers prompted D'Amato to shout "bullshit" (repeatedly), order Burkman to "shut up," and denounce him as racist. It's an impressive display of D'Amato passion.

I am having problems embedding, so here is a link to video of D'Amato's outburst.

15 September 2010

Seems Timely . . . .

"A Poison Tree"

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,

And into my garden stole,
When the night had veil'd the pole;
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

--William Blake

21 May 2010

Just Tactless, or . . . . ?

A personal aside.

During the celebration of my late spouse's life, which was held one week after he passed, an acquaintance questioned me about my marriage--saying that he wanted to "understand" it (thereby implying that it was somehow abnormal). I asked him to specify what he meant, but he could--or would--not.

Further, he notified me that someone, whom I'd only just met, told him that I "wasn't a real wife" to my husband. He failed to explain this assertion.

A peculiar incident that has puzzled and pained me for months.

13 April 2010

Birther to be Court Martialed?

An Army doctor, Lieutenant Colonel Terry Lakin, rejected his orders for deployment to Afghanistan because he believes the Commander in Chief is illegally president. After heading for the Pentagon (when he should have been shipping out), his brigade Commander, Col. Gordon Roberts, told him "that he could face court martial, and [Lakin's] Pentagon building pass and government laptop computer were seized" (MSNBC). It's about time there was some smackdown. Seriously, people have been too patient with the birthers' conspiracies.

H/T Balloon Juice

Added: More at The Colorado Independent, which asserts that a case for court martial is being prepared.

(Lakin isn't the first soldier to try this. Obama Conspiracy Theories, which has done a remarkable job of keeping up with Birtherism, has the rundown on the unfortunate others).

11 April 2010

Paul: "Obama is not a Socialist"

According to Rand Paul, the President is a "Corporatist" rather than an economic Socialist. Go figure. But then the Pauls aren't noted for holding to the Right's narrative.

A Break

From politics and emotional drama. The Daily Beast has a lovely gallery of photographs from the Henri Cartier-Bresson retrospective at MOMA. Have a look.

07 April 2010

Shame on Itawamba

So parents of Fulton, MS, you're so worried about a lesbian couple attending prom that you set up a fake prom for "undesirables" while the rest of the student body parties at an undisclosed location? How very adult of you.

Ridiculous. And unspeakably cruel. But hey, it's all about convictions, right? After all, WWJD?

06 April 2010

Smoothing the Hallers

Thank you, Tom Coburn. Amidst the outrage over health care reform and hysteria about armed IRS agents comin' to getcha, the Senator urged town hall attendees towards civility and consideration of more than one news source on a given issue (e.g., "don't just rely on the folks who agree with you").

Netflix coming to iPhone

Sure enough, after introducing "Netflix for iPad," Netflix announced that a similar app is in the works for iPhone and iPod Touch. Streaming movies in the palm of your hand!

And David Lynch's head explodes.

05 April 2010

Political Purging

Over at FrumForum, Chris Currey details "How the GOP Purged Me." A lifelong Republican--a religious, free market, social conservative (who originally opposed Medicaid and Medicare)--Currey apparently began reconsidering in the 1990s, when,
The leaders of the GOP grew belligerent. They became too religious, almost zealots. They became intolerant. They began searching for purity in Republican thought and doctrine. Ideology blinded them. I continued to vote Republican, but with a certain unease. Deep down I knew that a schism happened between the modern Republican Party and the one I grew up with. During the fight over the impeachment of President Clinton, the ugly face of the Republican Party was brought to the surface. Empty rhetoric, ideological intolerance, vengeance, and religious zealotry became the common currency. Suddenly, if you are pro-choice, you could not be a Republican. If you are for smart and sensible taxes to balance out the budget, you could not be a Republican. If you are pro-civil rights, you could not be a Republican.
He continues by noting how minorities, women, and the young began leaving the party, which, he suggests "We should rename the Republican Party the OSWF [Old Straight White Folks] rather than the GOP." Now, he insists, the GOP has entered "the era of craziness," where populist outrage, paranoid declarations, and religious fervor has replaced thoughtful consideration and logical argument, thereby leaving him in a position of not trusting the reins of power to the Republican party in its current stage. He goes further in suggesting that, as a result of its recent history, the GOP has lost the nation.

It's a heartfelt article, and I recommend it highly.

Poem Time

It's seldom gets better than G M Hopkins:

"God's Grandeur"

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge & shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs --
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast & with ah! bright wings.

(I really must sort out the blasted formatting. . . )

04 April 2010

He Can't Be Bothered

We've all heard about the Florida doctor who taped a sign in a window directing people who voted for Obama should "seek urologic help elsewhere" (noting cleverly that "Changes to your healthcare begin right now, not in four years"). The good doctor, of course, is free to do as he likes, and I certainly take no issue with him critiquing health care reform, nor with his "warning off" patients. What I do find concerning is that the doctor doesn't actually know what is in the health care bill. That's right. Although it's been online for months, apparently, tl;dr. In fact, as he told Alan Colmes, he opposes the bill because "I’m not the guy who wrote the plan." From the interview:
Cassell: Hospice cuts in 2012…Does the government want people to die slowly?
Colmes: Do you really think the government wants people dead?
Cassell: Well I think that they’re cutting all supportive care, like nursing homes, ambulance services…
Colmes: What to you mean they’re cutting nursing homes?
Cassell: They’re cutting nursing home reimbursements
Colmes: Isn’t what they’re cutting under the Medicare plan what was really double dipping; they were getting credits and they were getting to deduct them at the same time.
Cassell: Well you know, I can’t tell you exactly what the deal is.
Colmes: If you can’t tell us exactly what the deal is, why are you opposing it and fighting against it?
Cassell: I’m not the guy who wrote the plan.
Colmes: But if you don’t know what the deal is why are you speaking out against something you don’t know what the deal is?
Cassell: What I get online, just like any other American. What I’m supposed to understand about the bill should be available to me.
Colmes: It is; it’s been online for a long time; it’s also been all over the media…
In fact, the National Association of Home Care and Hospice praises much of the bill

Don't you rather expect a doctor to have an eye for details? Or at least to realize the significance of seeking evidence to support one's claims--of fact-checking--and of not assuming to know the truth or falsity of an issue based on hearsay? Of course we find this all over the place--well-educated people asserting "truths" that are certainly shaky or undeniably false, but, at least in terms of health care reform, this has become all-too common. As Steve Benen writes, "some of the loudest, angriest critics of the Affordable Care Act are also some of the least informed, most confused, embarrassingly ignorant observers anywhere." The question is, under media exposure, do these critics carry on asserting a questionable "truth", or do they revise their assertions in the face of evidence? Based on the media's history of privileging of the loudest, more notorious Obama critics--despite how ill-informed they might be--my guess is that the good doctor will continue to assert his version of "the truth," and he will enjoy another 12 minutes of fame.

H/T Balloon Juice

Holidays

Happy Easter, Happy Passover

Teabonics

A little late to this party, but behold: a plethora of signage from Tea Party events. Some (ahem) language issues--as in usage--are on display.

03 April 2010

An Opportunity to Kvetch

That, apparently, is what Courage and Consequence is all about.

I'm not planning on reading Karl Rove's memoir (seriously, I'm just not interested), and, according to David Frum, there's a reason to avoid it: Rove either rewrites history or evades it. Frum tries to be generous to Rove but ultimately decides that he's still "Waiting for Rove's Memoir."

I Got Mine; You Sod Off

Just passing this along . . . .

The Washington Monthly has been noting some curious contradictions amongst certain Tea Party adherents who suffer a serious disconnect between professed beliefs and actual practice: namely, enjoying federal programs while decrying said federal programs. As noted in The New York Times, such folks "do not see any contradictions in their arguments for smaller government even as they argue that it should do more to prevent job loss or cuts to Medicare."

sigh.

But head over to the Monthly for the details.

02 February 2010

Interim

Been away.

Much seclusion, introspection, and little posting. I do seem to be growing interested in the world outside my doors again--gradually. I've become obsessive about being at work from 8:00 until 5:00, and, although I dread going home to an empty place, I am slowly growing more used to it (granted, I've morphed into the stereotypical figure who, immediately upon coming home, thrusts a frozen single-serving TV dinner into the microwave before she takes off her coat). However, after many months of spending Friday evening until Monday morning in my pajamas (usually my lovely husband's pajamas), I've begun to venture forth on the weekends: to the mall, to take a long walk. I'm still at that stage where people are uncertain about ringing you--their fears of being intrusive, or their fears that widowhood is contagious--but I did receive my first invitation today (for a weekly get together with colleagues) after months of isolation, which was, of course, mostly self-imposed.

The bad days still arrive--and the hysteria and tears and shaking fists will continue, I'm sure--but a few good ones arrive as well. Today, it feels good.

Now: how 'bout that State of the Union?

04 January 2010

Yardsticks

Greg Sargent's question of the day:
If there continues to be a lack of a successful terrorist attack, at what point does the refusal by conservatives to credit Obama for it enter the media narrative, given that this is precisely the yardstick they use to extoll Bush’s counter-terror record?
Will the media simply ignore this double standard, or will conservatives redefine what makes for successful counter-terrorism? My guess is the latter: we're going to have a glut of memoirs by Bush administration officials in the next year, all of which we might expect to include some score-settling and attempts to revise the history of the Bush-era (DougJ at Balloon Juice proposes that we'll see a "concerted effort to rehab Dubya fairly soon." The upcoming books by Rove, Cheney, Rumsfeld, as well as both George W. and Laura Bush, will certainly feature efforts to rehab the Bush years, if not the former president himself).

03 January 2010

Black Shirts and Flared Skirts

The BBC has up a fascinating, but too brief, article on women and fascism in pre-World War II Britain.

The first fascist party in England--the British Fascisti--was founded in 1923 by a woman, Rotha Lintorn-Orman, and females flocked to Oswald Mosely's British Union of Fascists in the 1930s. Like Lady Diana Mitford, Mosely's wife, many of these female Blackshirts--along with the male fascists--were imprisoned during the war. The article reveals the guilt suffered by the children of these women, especially, poignantly, that of someone who, as a little girl, was instructed by her parents "to paint slogans on the walls with 'Britain Awake' and 'Perish the Jews.'"Since viewing Richard Dimbleby's reports on the liberation of Bergen-Belsen in 1945, she has felt complicit in the Holocaust.

The article gives a taste of an upcoming BBC Radio Four program, "Mother Was a Blackshirt," which, unfortunately, one can only access in the United Kingdom.

02 January 2010

Breakdown

Newsweek offers an overview of Stanford professor Morris Fiorina’s book, Disconnect: The Breakdown of Representation in American Politics, which argues that although political parties are becoming more fiercely partisan, the majority of Americans remain firmly in the ideological center. This might seem a questionable assertion, given the media emphasis on ultra-vocal ideologues. However, as Newsweek’s Evan Thomas and Stuart Taylor Jr. suggest, this perception stems from an insular feedback loop in which partisan “politicians are egged on by ever-more powerful interest groups and the attack-mode spirit of radio talk shows and cable TV.” Sadly, this loop locks out the vast majority of Americans’ interests, and there is no indication that it will widen in the near future. In other words, there will be only increasing bitterness on Capitol Hill, at least until voters get bored with the petty line-drawing and fallacious either/or arguments, and decide to remind politicians to whom they are supposed to listen (wishful thinking, eh?).

Anyways, do take a look at Newsweek’s discussion of Professor Fiorina’s book.