Monday, December 31, 2007

Die Frosty Die!!

Well, the RSI family is back from Florida and we had such a great time with the beach, swiming, and 75 degree weather that we've rethought the whole concept of Christmas.

Christmas is fundamentally a warm-weather holiday. The two major mythological figures associated with Christmas are desert dwellers. Jesus was born somewhere in Gallilee while Santa Claus is thought of as Syrian in origin. Obviously, all the American imagery of a White Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, the North Pole, sleigh-riding, winter wonderland, silver bells, and egg nogg are all about as authentic as the "Buddy Jesus" in Dogma. I'm sure it's all part of the liberal conspiracy to secularize Christmas. Christmas should be about palm trees, dates, olive oil, and orange groves. Instead of Santa pulling a cold-weather sleigh, he should riding gentle dolphins or strapped to sea turtles as he goes all over the world. If we must update the Santa image, we should represent him riding a surfboard like the Silver Surfer.

Die Frosty Die! It's time to get back to the real warm-weather meaning of Christmas.

The War in Iraq: Still a Dazzling Failure

According to Michael Barone,

"there are lessons to be learned from the dazzling success of the surge strategy in Iraq."

And the first of those lessons is that the American occupation of Iraq is still a "dazzling failure."

Even though everything broke right for Gen. David Petraeus at the beginning of the surge campaign, the American military has made little progress. Several sectors of Iraqi society decided to back away from the Hobbesian inferno just as the additional American troops began to arrive. Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar province changed to sides after they figured out that al-Qaida in Iraq wanted to replace them too. On the Shiite side, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim and the leadership of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq started to cooperate with the Americans after they saw that they were losing out to Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia. They even dropped the "Revolution" from their title. Al-Sadr himself decided to stand down after he saw his 80,000 man militia become a vehicle for Shiite infighting and organized crime.

In other words, the United States faces no major military opposition in Iraq.

But they aren't getting anywhere with the occupation either. The central Iraqi government hasn't even passed the token "reconciliation" legislation that the Bush administration has been seeking. More important, the Iraqi government is still non-functional outside the Green Zone and not particularly secure inside the Green Zone. Iraqi ministries don't have the reach needed to perform their functions. The Iraqi government has almost no presence in Anbar and it does not control the Iraqi Army or the Iraqi police. Barone boasts about building Iraq from the bottom up, but it takes enormous effort for local Iraqi leadership and the American military to perform even simple tasks like fixing a door in Fallujah.

Even worse, Iraq has become a haven for the efforts of Islamic fundamentalists to produce religious paradise on the local level. Far from extending the modern, secular elements that had emerged during the Baath Party era, the American occupation of Iraq has resulted in increasing religious control. Even without al-Qaeda, Sunni Iraqis have turned their areas into little Taliban enclaves while Shiites have created little Irans in their territory. The pervasive fundamentalism has had an especially destructive impact on women who are assassinated for exercising professional skills and burned to death on suspicion of adultery or pre-marital sex.

According to Mark Latimer of Guardian Unlimited:
"In many cases the woman is accused of adultery, or of a relationship before she is married, or the marriage is not sanctioned by the family," Khanim says. Her husband, brother or another relative will kill her to restore their "honour". "If he is poor the man might be arrested; if he is important, he won't be. And in most cases, it is hidden. The body might be dumped miles away and when it is found the family says, 'We don't have a daughter.'" In other cases, disputes over such murders are resolved between families or tribes by the payment of a forfeit, or the gift of another woman. "The authorities say such agreements are necessary for social stability, to prevent revenge killings," says Khanim.

All of the developments connected with surge have resulted in what could be called a "frozen state of anarchy." There's been no reconciliation between Shiites and Sunnis and no reconciliation of Shiite and Sunni factions among themselves. Another civil inferno could erupt at any time. Likewise, when local areas achieve some stability, the first thing that local leaders do is institute a Muslim fundamentalist regime that weighs most heavily on women.

The American occupation of Iraq is not just a failure. It's a dazzling failure.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Mapping the American Oligarchy

Pakistan's turbulent history, a result of continuous military rule and unpopular global alliances, confronts the ruling elite now with serious choices. They appear to have no positive aims. The overwhelming majority of the country disapproves of the government's foreign policy. They are angered by its lack of a serious domestic policy except for further enriching a callous and greedy elite that includes a swollen, parasitic military. Now they watch helplessly as politicians are shot dead in front of them.
This is British journalist Tariq Ali commenting on the assasination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan in the Guardian Unlimited. But outside the assassination of politicians, much of what Ali says about Bhutto can also be said about the United States as well. The overwhelming majority of the American public disapproves just as much of Bush foreign policy as Pakistanis disapprove of Pakistan's American allegiance. Americans are also angry about the lack of a "serious domestic policy" in areas like health care and infrastructure repair and American economic policy has been primarily devoted to "enriching a callous and greedy elite" ever since the Reagan years.

The American elite is also making specific choices in how to deal with the many crises created by the criminality and incompetence of the Bush administration. According to Glenn Greenwald, several sectors of the elite or "political establishment" are rallying around the protection of the Bush administration from criminal prosecution.

In case after case, our political establishment has adopted the "principle" that our most powerful actors are immune from the rule of law. And they've adopted the enabling supplemental "principle" that any information which our political leaders want to keep suppressed is -- by definition, for that reason alone -- information that is "classified" and should not be disclosed.

But why is the American political establishment circling the wagons at this point. We can think fruitfully about this question by identifying the particular quandaries of the American elite or establishment at this point in time. In Pakistan, the rule of a predatory oligarchy" that includes the military is guaranteed by military force when it cannot be achieved through democratic political mechanisms. Backing up the power of the Pakistani military has been American economic and military power. This is one of the lessons that Benazir Bhutto learned during her two turns as prime minister.
She was not a natural politician and had always wanted to be a diplomat, but history and personal tragedy pushed in the other direction. Her father's death transformed her. She had become a new person, determined to take on the military dictator of that time . . . She changed again after becoming prime minister. In the early days, we would argue and in response to my numerous complaints - all she would say was that the world had changed. She couldn't be on the "wrong side" of history. And so, like many others, she made her peace with Washington.

To the contrary, the American elite has found it possible to dominate through an alliance with the far right. Traditionally, the American business and political elite dominated as the senior partner of an alliance between the corporate/political sector and what the sociologist William Domhoff calls the "ultra-conservative" faction comprised of the religious right, the NRA, war-mongers and other far right constituencies. Together, the corporate/political sector and "ultra-conservatives" managed to outweigh liberal/progressives and either get their tax-cutting/ deregulation policies passed or keep liberal progressives from enacting any initiatives that undercut corporate interests.

What happened with the Bush administration is that the "ultra-conservatives" got the upper-hand over the traditional corporate/political sector and gained control of the levers of the federal government for the first time in the history of the United States. There have been times when the far right has had control of Congress and the far right has controlled state governments in the South for decades at a time. But it appears that the Bush administration is the first federal government dominated by the far right in American history.

This poses several problems for the traditional corporate/political sector.

1. The traditional corporate/political sector has lost control over a Republican Party that is now completely dominated by the far right. The Bush administration gives the corporate sector what it wants in the way of regulatory and tax policy, but the overall direction of federal government policy under the Republican Bush administration is set by the far right. Given that the traditional corporate/political sector no longer exercises direct control over a political party, their influence over the direction of American government has been decisively weakened.

2. The war in Iraq and scandals of the Bush administration have resulted in a resurgent liberal/progressive movement that threatens to undercut the control of top management over corporate operations and corporate profitability as well as further reduce corporate influence on federal policy. Liberal/progressives have once again become a force in the Democratic Party and the traditional corporate/political sector must view the resurgence of liberal/progressive politics as particular threatening given that they no longer have control over the Republican Party.

3. The Bush administration is threatening to blow up in a series of scandals over politicizing law enforcement, warrantless wiretapping, data-mining, and torture that could result in the very least in long investigations and indictments of Bush officials for breaking American laws against government abuses and obstructing justice. Years of investigating the abuses of right-wing government could serve to weaken both the far right and the corporate sector to the point where liberal/progressives are looking at a long stretch of political domination similar to the New Deal years.

This is the context in which the political establishment is acting to both provide support for the Bush administration and the far right and explore strategies for recreating a business-oriented government consensus. The New York Times, Time, Newsweek, and other media outlets are falling all over themselves to give far right figures like William Kristol opportunities to present and defend their views. The news media has also been favorable to the Bush administration's efforts to stonewall Congressional and judicial investigations into the destruction of interrogation tapes, warrantless wiretapping, vote suppression efforts, and other criminal activities in the Bush administration. More importantly, media figures have fought to ensure that Bush administration criminality does not receive the sensationalizing treatment given Britney Spears on a routine night of clubbing.

But the limits of the traditional corporate/political sector can be seen in the efforts of moderate business-oriented figures like David Broder, David Boren, and Sam Nunn to call for a "national unity government" and a return to bipartisan "consensus." This kind of moderation originally lost out to the far right because the Broders, Borens, and Nunns were much less creative and energetic than the Newt Gingriches, Tom DeLays, and Mitch McConnells of the world. There's no reason to think that business-oriented moderation is going to be any more inspiring now than it has been for the last 15 years. Whether the corporate sector likes it or not, the main conservative opposition to progressive/liberals now comes from the far right.

Given the current difficulties of the traditional American establishment, there are two directions they can go. First, the traditional elite can try to come to an accommodation with Democratic Party elites and progressives in the context of a Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama administration. It seems that this will be tried if one of the Democratic candidates wins in 2008. If that doesn't work, they will most likely swallow their pride and throw their full support behind the far right.

In that case, the U. S. will look even more like Pakistan than it does now.

At the Risk of Offending My Conservative Friends

We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas with Mrs. RSI's mom in Venice, FL and got to watch a lot more television than a family without a TV usually watches. I was very interested to see that the Boston Pops Christmas special didn't contain any references to Jesus.

But they did end with an inspiring rendition of "Let There Be Peace on Earth." So did the Christmas program at the community center for the complex we stayed at.

So, at the risk of offending my warmongering conservative friends, here's a video of a Mahalia Jackson performance and the lyrics to "Let There Be Peace on Earth."

Let There Be Peace on Earth
Let there be peace on earth,
and let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on Earth,
the peace that was meant to be.

With God as our Father,
brothers all are we,
Let me walk with my brother,
in perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me,
let this be the moment now.
With every step I take,
let this be my solemn vow,

To take each moment and live each moment
in peace, eternally.
Let there be Peace on Earth,
and let it begin with me.

A further note: Ms. Teen RSI thought it would be best to pose Stephen Colbert singing this song with a group of Guantanamo prisoners and then have Jon Stewart and some cops break into the room, arrest Colbert, and carry him off to be waterboarded. Maybe next Christmas.

We Saw Fred's Mom on the Road

One of the most noticeable things about our trip to Florida last week was the lack of Fred Thompson bumper stickers. All we saw in Florida was one little "Fred 08" sticker on a car at Manasota Beach outside Venice. But we did see a "Fred D. Thompson for President" sticker as we were entering Thompson's home state of Tennessee yesterday. As Mrs. RSI noted, it must have been Fred's mom.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Cracker Barrel--Definitely Less Repugnant!!

We're back in Kentucky! A quick note. While traveling to Florida and back, we stopped at three or four Cracker Barrels. Cracker Barrel's long history of discrimination against blacks and gays was reflected in the very prominent non-discrimination statements in the doorways. The few times I had been in Cracker Barrel, I had always been repulsed by the swarmy "country" sugar-i-ness and phony good spirits. The whole atmosphere was not only disgusting in itself but one also knew that the underbelly of hatred and bigotry was always present.

But things have changed--at least on the surface. The Cracker Barrels we visited in Tennessee and Georgia not only had non-discriminatory signs, they also had significant numbers of African-American servers that I hadn't remembered in my previous visits. The presence of black people was certainly a welcome diversity. That presence also had the effect of eliminating the sugary smarminess.

The food at Cracker Barrel may not be that great, but it's much less repugnant than it used to be.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

On the Road

Somehow Mrs. RSI has the idea that 40 hours of driving will be a fun way to spend the holidays. So, we've driving from Kentucky to Venice, Florida to visit her mother for Christmas. Given that Mrs. RSI's mom doesn't have an internet hookup, it looks like opportunities for blogging will be few and far between over the next eight days.

Have a great Christmas everyone. Happy Holidays as well.

Ric Caric

Merry Christmas and Remember to Forget Jesus

This is another Christmas post from last year. Unfortunately, the war against enjoying Christmas continues.

The "War on Christmas" has turned out to be a great fundraiser for right-wing Christian organizations. According to the LA Times, The American Family Assn., the Liberty Counsel and other conservative groups have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sale of "Merry Christmas" items.

But what about Jesus?

Of course, a big part of Christmas is the nativity scenes of shepherds, wise men, and parents standing aside the cradle in the manger. After all, the Christian gloss on the old Roman Saturnalia is that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus.But what does the birth of Jesus have to do with Jesus?

The baby Jesus wasn't saying anything yet. It wasn't the baby Jesus who was supposed to have rejected temptation in the desert, spoken the Sermon on the Mount, attracted followers, formulated a "new law" for the Hebrew people, come into conflict with the Temple authorities, or been resurrected after a cruel execution. In celebrating Christmas, Christians seem to be celebrating the least "Christian" part of Jesus, the time when Jesus was least connected to the work and doctrine of his adulthood.

In fact, Christmas seems to be more about creating a personal mythology around Jesus than anything that Jesus would ever say or do. Given the resemblance to the story of Moses in Herod's killing of the young children in Bethlehem, the story of the birth of Jesus in Matthew 2 is one of the most mythological parts of the gospel. That's a big reason why it was easy for popular writers to use Christmas as a hook for stories about failing bankers and jolly old elves flying in the night or songs about the wonders of snow. Christmas has always been about creating and embellishing a "heart-warming story" first.

But why would Christians want the biggest holiday of the year to celebrate something as far away from the core of their religion as the birth of a Jesus? In Christian doctrine, Jesus is the "Word [of God] made flesh." To the contrary, what Christians are celebrating at Christmas is a wordless Jesus. Perhaps that is what Christians in fact mean to celebrate--the silent Jesus, the Jesus whose words no longer have authority in their lives, the Jesus who does not condemn wealth, possessions, authority, social respectability, family ties and other things that most people value in life.

Christianity is a very demanding religion. Even the most simple formulations to "love god with all your heart" and "love your neighbor as yourself" involve breathtaking claims on human affection that religions like that of the ancient Greeks never dreamed of. By celebrating the infant, silent Jesus instead of the Jesus who speaks this particularly harsh doctrine, Christmas gives Christians an opportunity to take an extended break from the adult Jesus and his doctrine just as it gives them a holiday from their jobs, schools, businesses, and other avocations.

No doubt, the Christmas "vacation from Jesus" was one of the reasons why our Puritan forebears sought to ban Christmas celebrations. Celebrating Christmas is a way for Christians to be "Christians" and revel in Christian mythology without dealing without everything that's discomfiting about the adult "Jesus." For Christians, Christmas isn't so much about the birth of Jesus as it is about the sense of comfort and release in having Christianity without having to deal with the person of Jesus at all. Christmas is about forgetting Jesus. This puts an ironic twist on the whole "Merry Christmas" business. If Christmas is about forgetting Jesus, then the secularization of Christmas means that Christians won't be able to forget Jesus during the "holiday season." Instead of celebrating Baby Jesus between Thanksgiving and New Years, they'll be stuck with the Jesus of "woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep" (Luke 6:25) all year long. That's a sure-fire prescription for guilt, failure, inadequacy, and self-doubt and a number of other burdensome feelings.

So Everybody! Give your Christian brothers a break. Say "Merry Christmas" and remember that you're helping them forget Jesus.

Why I Like Santa Better Than Jesus

This is a repost from last Christmas and my "Jolly Santa" op-ed. But I thought new readers of Red State Impressions might enjoy it.

I like Santa Claus a whole lot better than Jesus. I know that the figure of Santa Claus is too commercialized in the United States, but I also believe that the deification of Santa is one of the really good things about American society. At a time when our workaholism gives us all a lean, hungry, and cynical look, it's a wonderful relief to contemplate Santa's boundless generosity, bottomless well of happiness, and most pleasing plumpness. Santa's become even better over the last few decades as naughty/nice lists and the specter of coal have faded into cultural memory.

Santa Claus is also one of the few white European figures who translates easily into other cultures. In our pale-faced household, we have a black "Rocking Santa" figure who sings “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” in Peggy Lee's voice. Multi-racial, transgendered--Santa makes is an extremely flexible symbol of a giving spirit who demands nothing in return. We also have a "Saxophone Santa" and the Christmas season doesn't really get under way until he belts out a couple versions of "Jingle Bells."

To the contrary, I really don't understand the appeal of Jesus. Although I had a half-hearted Christian upbringing, the Jesus story is becoming increasingly less attractive and plausible as the years go by. Where Santa is a carnivalesque figure of fun, merriment, consumption, and over-consumption, Jesus strikes me as an essentially Lenten God of suffering, self-denial, and other-worldliness. How many gods condemn human happiness with the finality that Jesus condemns laughter in Luke. “Woe unto you that laugh now! For ye shall mourn and weep.” (Luke 6:25). How many would tell their followers to hate their fathers, mothers, wives, children, or brothers, “yeah and his own life also?” (Luke 14:26) In many ways, Jesus is the pre-eminent Western god of violence against self.

Of course, it is not hard to understand why we identify so much with Jesus in the United States. Given the unhappy, over-extended character of so much of our lives in the United States, most of us chronically feel like we're bearing our own cross. However, just like I often hope for a better society, I also hope for a better god--a god who represents a joy that is not contingent on walking through the valley of the shadow of death.The other extremely unattractive element in the Jesus story is the weird narcissism of the Christian God. Where most gods are adjuncts to family, clan, and nation, the Christian god needs men and women to love him more than they love anything else in the world. Doesn't Jesus call on people to put him before their families and everything in their earthly lives? Why? Why have a god who needs so much? Why have a God who cooks up the unlikely plan of tearing his substance apart in order to create a "son" who is man, god, and spirit all in one. Why make the gruesome sacrifice of that son into the key evidence of the God's "love" for humanity and human kind's only hope for escaping an eternity of suffering? I'm not sure there's much difference between the Christian God's killing of his son to demonstrate his love for humanity and John Hinckley's shooting Reagan to demonstrate his love for Jody Foster.

Moreover, isn't there a big element of petulance in throwing into the flames of hell anybody who doesn't believe the whole implausible story? I know that lots of people like a little sadomasochism with their narcissism and neediness. After all, Mel Gibson isn't the only action hero who is a macho version of Jesus.To the contrary, Santa Claus does not demand that we love him in return. Santa gives and gives and gives without expecting anything in return.

I’ve seen conservative columnists refer to people as worshipping Santa. But that’s precisely wrong. Worship is an exchange relationship in which people pray to, praise, and reverence the god in exchange for the god’s favors. Santa Claus is one of the few divinities who give to us without demanding anything in return. It’s this spirit of generous freedom that carries the most promise of “peace on earth, good will among men.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Who's Jamie Lynn Spears?

CNN asks: "How do you talk to kids about Britney's sister?"--that's Jamie Lynn Spears, the sixteen year-old sister who's pregnant. Mrs. RSI gives a decisive answer: "Who is Jamie Lynn Spears?" Blissfully unaware of the whole tabloid world, Mrs. RSI doesn't even know that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are splitting up--again.

I don't think our ten year old daughter knows either. We don't have a television and Tess doesn't follow news on the internet. So I doubt she would be aware of "Zoey 101," Jamie Lynn Spears, or Jamie Lynn's delicate state.

So, how do we talk to our kids about Britney's sister. Actually, we don't.

Could I Have a Beer With That Bible?

The little tiff over the cross in the Mike Huckabee "What Really Matters" ad reminds of the song "Cross to Bear" off the Allman Brothers great first album. I picked that album out of a bargain bin at a W. T. Grant's store in South Waverly, PA after my first year in college.

What a find!

But the Huckabee cross reminds me even more about why Mike Huckabee isn't going to be elected president. In 2000, George Bush pulled off the unlikely feat of appealing to both the bible-thumping evangelical crowd and the kind of party-hearty rowdies who moon the traffic outside their frat house. People thought they would rather have a beer with Bush than Gore even though Bush didn't actually drink anymore.

Huckabee doesn't have anything like that broad of an appeal. Right now, he's scoring with the evangelical Republican vote. But most people want a candidate who can enjoy a beer with their bible and Huckabee doesn't quite fit that bill.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Merry Christmas to Protein Wisdom

I'm going away for a week on Friday and am not sure how much blogging I'm going to do. But I couldn't let the season pass without shouting out holiday greetings to all my fans at Protein Wisdom.

Merry Christmas guys.

I swear that there's occasions where the attention that this group of conservatives gives me would make a more modest guy blush. Not only did the bloggers over at PW hold a Ric Caric Celebration Day, but lead blogger Jeff Goldstein graciously let me win our spotlighted debate on colorblind racism. What a nice guy! In addition, Dan Collins has written three or four poetic tributes to my wonderfulness and that last "Canticle for Caric" was so beautiful it brought a little tear to my eye.

However, even more important than all the attention and praise given to me by the folks at Protein Wisdom has been the way they stimulated my own blogging. If I hadn't known about Protein Wisdom, I wouldn't have realized the effectiveness of my "weenie boy" concept in the
analysis of conservative masculinity or thought of the "fluff right" as the literary arm of the contemporary conservativism. Likewise, if I hadn't seen the full range of social bigotries on display in Protein Wisdom's blog posts and comments, I wouldn't have realized that people had "side bigotries" to go along with their racism and misogyny or how many conservatives are committed to pornographizing their hatreds.

Once again, thanks for all the good times. Merry Christmas to Protein Wisdom. I'm sure you folks will be even more eager to forget Jesus this Christmas than most.

Bill Clinton Unbound

Bill Clinton's comment that Hillary would be sending himself, Bush 41, and others around the world to repair the damage from W's presidency was a bonehead mistake. How many Democrats really wanted to hear about Hillary using anybody named Bush to help out her presidency? Likewise, how many Democrats really want to see a Democratic presidency "reaching out" to the other side like it was 1995 all over again. Hillary Clinton has left the 90's, but I'm wondering if that's really the case with Bill Clinton.

Much as I support Hillary's candidacy, I seriously doubt that this will be the last dumb mistake on Bill's part. The underlying problem is that Bill Clinton doesn't seem to be subject to much discipline while on the campaign trail. Bill Clinton's self-discipline problems are well-known, but he was subject to a variety of external disciplines while in the White House. There was the general surveillance of a President and the message discipline that applied to the whole administration. There was also the generally collaboative process of deciding policy and deciding how it would be promoted. Whether it was the famous late-night seminars or the circulation of ideas among senior staff outlined by Dick Morris in Behind the Oval Office, Bill could propose any number of non-starters and watch them all get shot down before he came up with something that really worked.

But it doesn't look like Bill Clinton is subject to that kind of critical give and take while out on the campaign trail as a Hillary surrogate. Because he doesn't have people with the stature of Leon Panetta around him, Bill seems to think he can say anything that comes to his head.

And that is a very bad idea for Hillary Clinton's campaign.

The Ike Turner Wifebeating Hall of Fame

Steely Dan's Donald Fagen has an obit of Ike Turner in Slate. According to Fagen, Turner's contribution to the history of popular music was mostly his organizational skills. Turner had a knack for recognizing talent and getting bands to recording dates and gigs on time and in their suits.

And they were great bands.

But Fagen believes that Ike never "got" the problem of hitting Tiny Turner "Obviously, there was something Ike just didn't get about the whole hitting problem."

But that's nonsense.

Fagen provides a telltale quote from Ike's book:
Sure, I've slapped Tina. … We had fights and there have been times when I punched her without thinking. … But I never beat her. … I did no more to Tina than I would mind somebody doing to my mother in the same circumstances.

I've heard the same thing from my own father in relation to my mother. Ike claims he was absolutely within his rights when he "punched her without thinking." But he also knew it was wrong. Otherwise, he wouldn't have rationalized the beatings in relation to his own mother. Turner just never believed that he would lose control to the extent that people would condemn him as a wifebeater. He never thought he would look like a chump.

But that was Ike Turner--great at getting bands to gigs, not such a special musician, and wife-beating chump. He deserves to be forgotten.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Mike Adams: An Absolutely Excellent Racist

One of the interesting things about American racism is the creativity of the people who are hostile to the black civil rights movement, equality for women, and gay people. I'll just mention of few of the interesting ideas that have developed in relation to race. Probably the premier example of creative racism in the United States is the "color-blind" scam perpetrated by people like William Bennett. The audaciousness of "color-blind racism" is a thing of beauty. Quoting Martin Luther King, advocates of color-blindness argue that everyone should be evaluated "by the content of their character" while still claiming that African-Americans as a group deserve to be considered intellectually inferior and culturally inferior as well as deserve to be racially profiled, excluded from stores, and subject to random searches.

But color-blindness isn't the only interesting tactic employed by racists. People who plaster their cars with Confederate flag paraphernalia claim that they're "honoring tradition" without mentioning that the racist traditions of their families go back for generations. Confederate flags are now giving ways to nooses as symbols of racial hostility. But my students report that those who justify the nooses are saying "well, it's only a noose." Perhaps Kentucky high schools like Allen Central and Boone County that use Confederate flag symbols will start adapting nooses as "color-blind" symbols of "traditional Kentucky."

In today's column for, the conservative commentator Mike Adams developed another creative wrinkle on racism. Still unreconciled to the celebration of Martin Luther King's birthday, Adams suggests that the federal holiday for MLK be replaced by a holiday for the gun inventor John Browning. According to Adams, Browning deserved a holiday because his "inventions helped us preserve freedom (read: civil rights) for all by winning two world wars. This is approximately two more world wars than MLK helped us win – although I do acknowledge that he was our second greatest civil rights leader."

Well, it was mighty generous of Adams to view King as the "second" most significant civil rights leader. Of course, the point for Adams is not that Browning deserves a holiday, but that he believes that almost any marginally significant white figure (and Browning is very marginal in his significance) deserves a holiday more than King. I'm surprised that Adams didn't suggest replacing King's birthday with a holiday for Charles Murray (of Bell Curve fame), William Bennett, or Strom Thurmond. Wouldn't Adams also view these kinds of figures as doing more for what he would call "real" civil rights than King?

The thing that bothers Adams and other racists is that Martin Luther King is such a revered figure in American society and that the defeat of racial segregation is viewed as such a pivotal moment in the development of American democracy. If King and the civil rights movement are to be viewed positively at all, conservatives like Adams want to see thousands of white figures as being much more significant for "civil rights."

Of course, Adams and other conservatives won't say that directly. They like to maintain a "plausible deniability" for their racism. But that's what's implied when he claims that John Browning was a more important civil rights figure than Martin Luther King.

The End of a Long Road

This semester is officially over. My grades are in. What a tough five months! The government faculty was supposed to have six people. But we lost Greg Goldey to cancer and Noelle N'Diaye to a drug arrest while a third very valuable colleague got a good offer from another university.

It seems like every day has been a scramble at work.

I know this sounds cliched, but there were many sources of inspiration and consolation as well. Like everyone else, I was inspired by the courage with which Greg dealt with his illness and how he kept growing as a person even as his health collapsed. My government colleagues really stepped up to the plate and I was privileged to see a number of students continue to grow in their academic skills and as people.

Our house at the edge of the forest has always been a healing place. Now it served to heal me. Or maybe it was just Mrs. RSI who seems more than ever to radiate a special kind of warmth.

Shakespeare writes in the "To Be or Not to Be" soliloguy in Hamlet that it's fear of what happens after death--"the undiscovered country"--that keeps us attached to life amongst a "sea of troubles." Having found myself and my friends surrounded by seas of troubles over the last six months, I find that to be fundamentally untrue. Even in the hardest of times, I've seen people here find many sources of love, friendship, collegiality, and fellow-feeling to inspire and console them as they weather the storms.

And, with that, I'll try to catch up on some sleep.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Lieberman Scenario or Not

So, Joe Lieberman is going to endorse John McCain for President. Big Whoop!

Obviously, McCain views the endorsement as useful because he asked for it. But why? Joe Lieberman has become a neo-con icon, but one has to assume that John McCain already has the support of the Main Street business types, independents, and moderate conservatives who would be impressed by a Lieberman endorsement.

Maybe McCain's got something up his sleeve, but it doesn't look like a Lieberman endorsement will help him get over 12%.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Neo-Cons to Huck: Get Some Faith!

As part of the conservative establishment's jihad against Mike Huckabee, Stephen Hayes wrote an article for the Weekly Standard on Huckabee's supposed ignorance on foreign affairs. But what Huckabee really isn't aware of are the main articles of neo-con foreign policy faith--The Ten (maybe Fifteen) Commandments of the neo-conservatism.

Here's an example. One article of neo-con faith is that Ronald Reagan won the Cold War. But Huckabee showed no hesitation in reminding devate audiences that Osama bin Laden and the global jihadis believe that they were the ones who defeated the Soviet Union.
I think there's some real doubt about that, Wolf. But I want to remind all of us on this stage and the people in the audience that there's a reason that this is such a struggle. And I think we miss it over here in the West. Today's the birthday of Ronald Reagan. We all would believe that Ronald Reagan is the one who ended the Cold War, and Ronald Reagan is the one who helped bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union. But there's a group of people who don't believe that, and that's the Taliban. They believe they brought about the demise of the Soviet Union because of the way they fought in Afghanistan. And what I want to just mention is that it is not the size of the dog in the fight, it is the size of the fight in the dog.

Of course, Huckabee's right, but that doesn't matter from the neo-con point of view. For writers like Stephen Hayes, Reagan's victory in the Cold War is a matter of faith rather than reality and Huckabee should know better if he wants to be a contender for the Republican nomination. In fact, the farther the Reagan myth is from reality, the more the neo-cons insist on fealty to the myth. It's like Huckabee himself rejecting 150 years of science when he denied that he believed in evolution.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Competition Good for Hillary

A Research 2000 poll has Barack Obama ahead of Hillary Clinton by nine points in Iowa. This blog supports Hillary and I'm aware that there are other polls showing her ahead or even in Iowa. Nevertheless, I've always thought that stiff competition from Obama would be a good thing for her candidacy. Hillary's top leadership needed to see who could function best when the heat was on and it looks like neither pollster Mark Penn and New Hampshire chair Billy Shaheen have enough game for the general election.

Time for Hillary to promote some better people.

Cal Thomas Puts Guns Before God

One of the remarkable features of the doctrine of Jesus is the extent to which he demands that his followers put their selves last. Jesus not only rejects the way the Pharisees puff themselves up with righteousness, he rejects revenge, personal self-defense, wealth, labor, and anything else that would attach a person to themselves or to the things of this world. What Jesus blesses or sanctifies are those things which convey the emptiness or bereftness of self (Blessed are the "poor in spirit," "those who grieve," "those who hunger and thirst," etc.).

Needless to say, these doctrines of Jesus have nothing to do with the practice of Christianity and probably haven't since the earliest Christian communities.

The intense alienation of Christianity from Jesus was manifested yet again by a column by Cal Thomas today.

Commenting on the church shootings in Colorado last weekend, Thomas argues that
Killers — ones with mental disorders, or terrorists — look for places with large gatherings to amplify their acts. That’s why in recent years they have selected targets ranging from the World Trade Center, to Columbine High School, to shopping malls and now a megachurch. On the rare occasions when an armed person has been on the scene before police arrive, such acts have been stopped before further damage could be done. When no armed person has been present, by the time the police show up the killing is usually over and the gunman has shot himself.
If Thomas had been a follower of Jesus, he would have had enormous sympathy with the mental disorders of the Colorado shooter Matthew Murray. Jesus certainly did. He begins the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:3--"Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Likewise, Jesus cured many insane people himself by "casting out devils." Even if Matthew Murray had been simply an evil-doer, Jesus would have mandated that people refuse to resist, attack, or seek revenge against him. "But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil . . . Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." (Matthew 5: 39,44).

Much of Jesus' reasoning here is that God somehow blesses the evil-doers as well. "For he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good." Moreover, loving and helping evil-doers is much more of a test of one's love than loving one's friends. But the weight of Jesus' message is that people should NOT rely on themselves and what they themselves can do in situations where they are being beaten, oppressed, or persecuted. Rather, the suffering of people should be seen as an opportunity to emphasize their dependence on God and deepen their general sense of love.

Contrary to Jesus, Cal Thomas wants people to rely on their guns rather than their God to deal with conflicts. How un-Jesuslike can one get? Even the guard who shot Matthew Murray, Jeanne Assam, had more of a feel for the Jesus spirit than Cal Thomas.
“I was just asking God, bottom line, this is all you,” she said. “It was so loud. … It was scary. But God was with me. I asked him to be with me. And he never left my side.”
For Assam, the spirit of God protected her and the other people in the church from the mass murder planned by Murray. For Cal Thomas, the only real protection is firepower to match that of the killer and the will to use it. Believing primarily in the spirit of the gun, Thomas brings a godlessness to his politics that is remarkable even for a right-wing Christian.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Agony of Democratic Defeat

It looks like the Democrats are caving again on Iraq war funding, and I have to admit that it's extremely painful to see. Glenn Greenwald captures the humiliation through a series of headlines like these.

Washington Post:

Pelosi backs down in spending battle
By Alexander Bolton Posted: 12/12/07 11:50 AM [ET]
December 12, 2007

Washington Post:

Democrats Bow to Bush's Demands in House Spending Bill
Billions Trimmed From New Requests
By Jonathan WeismanWashington Post Staff Writer Thursday, December 13, 2007; Page A03


Budget deal would probably give Bush victory on war funding

Greenwald's argument is that the Dems caved because they eventually bought into the argument that giving into the Bush administration protects them against accusations of "weakness" and "appeasement."

But I don't think so. By threatening to veto the whole federal budget unless he got his war funding and spending targets, Bush is essentially holding the whole federal government hostage as he faces down the Democrats. In this context, the Democrats aren't giving in because they want to look "strong;" they're caving because they don't believe in shutting down the whole federal government and don't believe they could win a fight over shutting down the government either. Bush has the Dems in a game of chicken and they're the ones who are blinking.

But that doesn't mean that the Democrats should be surrendering to the Bush administration. For some reason, the Democrats seem to believe that they'll be "in control" if Clinton or Obama wins the presidency next year. But if that's the case, the Republican leadership will be itching for more games of "chicken" with the federal budget, judicial appointments, and the military. The Democratic leadership and commentariat keeps thinking that the Republicans will act "reasonably," but they have yet to recognize the strategic and cultural importance of fomenting confrontation to the Republicans.

Sooner or later, the Dems are going to have to call the Republicans on whatever game of chicken they're playing and brave the confrontation. That's when people will think the Dems are "strong," "principled," and "determined."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Smearkrieg No. 12--The Upcoming Huckabee Smears

It seems that segments of the Republican elite are shaken enough by the surge in Huckabee's support that they've decided to coalesce around Mitt Romney as an alternative. Yesterday, The National Review endorsed Romney for President. Other endorsements will certainly follow, but it's too late in the game for the Republican elite to manage the Presidential nominating process in any kind of surreptitious way. They may have to smear Huck to bring him down.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Today's Edwards Mirage

Today CNN came out with a poll which shows John Edwards doing significantly better against Republican candidates than Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. In general, the Democrats beat the leading Republicans head to head, but Edwards beats Huckabee and Romney by 20 points and has a big edge over Hillary's share with McCain as well. It's natural that Edwards supporters would be encouraged. Things haven't been going so well for them lately. First Hillary had a surge where her support flirted with 50%. Now Obama's gaining while the Edwards campaign seemed to be stagnating. Maybe the CNN poll indicates that Edwards is going to have his moment in the sun as well.

But the numbers actually work the other way. Edwards is doing well in the horse-race polls because he's becoming less well known not because he's becoming more popular. As the Edwards campaign stumbles along, Edwards is having a hard time keeping himself in the public eye and therefore he's becoming less recognizable to voters as a result. As a result, his poll numbers are drifting upward toward the level of "generic Democrat." Doing well in the head to heads with Republicans is actually a bad sign for Edwards.

That's not the case with Clinton and Obama though. They've also been moving up against the Republicans. But they've been doing so against persistent and hostile micro-scrutiny by the media and the Republicans. In other words, Clinton and Obama are getting their support the "old-fashioned way. They're earning it.

To the contrary, Edwards is just getting the good will that comes with being a Democrat. The same trends work among the Republicans. Huckabee and Romney do poorly in the head to heads because their lack of universal recognition means that their head to head support is more like that of "generic Republican." To the contrary, John McCain does well head to head because he had a reputation that goes beyond being a Republican. Huckabee and Romney catch the Republican legacy of unpopularity. McCain has credibility on his own. If Hillary and Obama were to face the unlikely prospect of opposing McCain in the general election, they would be forced to tar McCain with the Republican brand.

Marching in Horse Puckey

When the Rowan County Marching Band returned to Morehead from the Steve Beshear inaugural, they had a certain smell that wasn't the smell of success.

Instead, it was horse puckey.

Contrary to my daughter's sanguine expectations, the Rowan County Band was not allowed to dodge the horse puckey from the "equestrian units" as they marched in the parade. Not that such permission would have helped. Because several other bands marched before the Rowan County band, the horse poop had already been stamped on and spread all over the road before the Viking musicians got there.

As a result, there was no way to avoid stepping in it and stepping in it a lot.

I heard that Steve Beshear gave a great speech about the need for bi-partisan spirit in the state capital. However, I'm afraid that he's going to find himself stepping in horse-puckey all the time because the Republican leadership likes playing "chicken" much better than it likes bi-partisanship.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Girl Dodging Horse Poop

Tomorrow, my oldest daughter is going to be playing alto sax for the Rowan County High School Marching Band as they march for the Steve Beshear gubernatorial inauguration in the Kentucky state capital of Frankfurt.

According to Katy, the band director told her that it would be an "equestrian parade" and that members of the band would be able to get "out of step" to avoid the horse patties on the street. That band director's a great guy.

So, that will be my daughter out there--playing sax and dodging horse poop. Who says the teen-age years aren't fun--at least for the kids.

For parents, it's another story. We'll have to get up at five to wake her up.

Glenn Greenwald and the Future

THE PASSION OF GLENN GREENWALD. Of all the liberal bloggers, Glenn Greenwald of Salon is the one I respect most. Reading Greenwald's blog almost daily, I especially appreciate his ability to engage in "liberal outrage" without looking weak or whiny. What makes Greenwald especially effective is that he saves his highest levels of outrage for "the bankrupt elite" and Democratic politicians instead of the Bush administration and the right. Not that Greenwald won't bore into conservative apparatchiks like Harvey Mansfield and Frank Gaffney, but it's Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post, Joe Klein of Time, and Senators Jay Rockefeller, and Diane Feinstein who outrage Greenwald the most. As Greenwald demonstrates on almost a daily basis, the Bush administration and their neo-con allies didn't launch the Iraq War, commit crimes against humanity, torture prisoners, corrupt the Justice Department and cover it all up by themselves. They did so with the support, protection, and prior knowledge of Democratic leaders, "liberal" pundits, and the so-called liberal media. In fact, key Democratic politicians like Rockefeller and Feinstein continue to fight a rear-guard battle on behalf of the Bush administration. In many ways, the same is the case with the mainstream media as well. Magazines like Newsweek and Time are still giving prominent gigs to the neo-cons who brought us the war in Iraq while continuing to shut out liberal bloggers like Greenwald.

IMPLICATIONS FOR THE FUTURE. However, I don't believe that Greenwald has a full grasp of the implications of his journalism. More Tomorrow

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Are Conservatives the Equivalent of Child Molesters

One of the persistent complaints of the right-wing is the bias against conservatives in academia. In an op-ed piece for the increasingly right-wing Washington Post, Villanova political scientist and registered Republican Robert Maranto claims that Republicans are disadvantaged on several levels. Maranto believes that he himself lost a job at a "prestigious research university" because he had mentioned that he was planning on voting Republican. He also reports on research which indicates that "conservatives and libertarians are outnumbered by liberals and Marxists by roughly two to one in economics, more than five to one in political science, and by 20 to one or more in anthropology and sociology."

Sympathy for conservatives is not a regular feature of Red State Impressions. But Maranto could have had a case if he had framed it differently. For example, I agree with Maranto that "a leftist ideological monoculture is bad for universities, rendering them intellectually dull places imbued with careerism rather than the energy of contending ideas." There are times when I've had a liberal/left ideological monoculture in my classes and I've been bored to death by it. Likewise, I organized several forums on the war in Iraq and often wished that there were more conservative professors on campus who could make the pro-war case. Once I even had to state the evangelical case myself on a church/state panel because nobody else in the group had any sympathy for the evangelical point of view.

But conservatives are largely to blame for the problem themselves.

When I started graduate school at the University of North Carolina in 1976, graduate students thought that half of the political science faculty were Republicans. All of the Republican faculty I knew were pretty moderate and they seemed to be Republican primarily because of their misgivings about the welfare state, support for the Cold War, and doubts about feminism, and race policy. Most of the Democrats on the faculty seemed fairly moderate as well. There were a few people on the left and I studied with all of them because I was on the left myself. I still am. But on the whole the UNC political science faculty was a moderate group.

Since 1976, the left has been strengthened in many humanities fields. The advent of African-American studies, feminism, gay-friendly perspectives, and interest in global studies brought a number of bright young leftists into academics. So did excitement over new methodologies and points of view that were emerging on the academic left including Frankfurt School Marxism, the new social history, deconstruction, Foucauldian genealogy, structuralism, post-structuralism, and post-modernism. Most important of all, left-wing scholars wrote a continuous stream of compelling books and articles that resulted in a general shift of the humanities to the left.

That's not the case with political science where the bulk of professors are still moderates who are suspicious of people on the left, dismissive of new methodologies like Foucaudian genealogy or deconstruction, and generally ignorant of the pervasive focus on "race, class, and gender" in other fields (although political scientists do write effectively about African-American politics).

The issue with political science is that conservativism has moved so far to the right that the moderate professors who might have considered the Republican Party in the past now identify themselves both as Democrats and liberals. We have three junior political scientists in our department who are very moderate in their beliefs (conservative compared to me), but see themselves as "liberals" and vote Democratic or for Nader because they are now repelled by the right-wing which they identify with the Republican Party.

There are other problems with conservatives. Conservatives don't bother to learn any of the new critical methodologies in their fields but haven't worked out compelling alternatives either. Consequently, conservative scholarship has little appeal to anyone who is not already a committed conservative. As a result, the work of conservatives often has a dated quality to it that makes conservatives unappealing as students, job candidates, tenure candidates. In my senior seminar on African-American Thought last semester, one conservative student was uncomfortable with the whole idea of African-American Thought despite the tremendous writing of Patricia Hill Collins, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, and others. However, the poor student could only write a research paper comparing Martin Luther King to conservative icon Leo Strauss under the assumption that King was a generic thinker rather than African-American per se. I felt bad for the poor guy by the time he had gone through three drafts even though the work on King was pretty good. Unable to make Leo Strauss either more interesting or less rigid, he had a difficult time making the comparison interesting either.

Conservatives also have severe problems with being outside the moral mainstream of academia. Although the claims of the civil rights movement, second-wave feminism, and gay rights have become part of the conventional moral wisdom of our society, the political right-wing is still trying to roll back the clock to the 1920's and Calvin Coolidge. As a result, moderates and liberals both inside and outside academia view conservatives as reactionary and bigoted. That's probably why one of Maranto's friends reported that people at his university treated him "as if I had become a child molester" after he became a Republican. Given that the Republicans have identified with the right-wing and that the right-wing holds many moral views that are repugnant to most non-conservatives, it follows that people in academics would treat him as though he were fundamentally immoral.

The knee-jerk moral hostility to conservatives in academics is reinforced by the right-wing's warmongering, defense of torture, and increasingly by their rejection of science. Like a lot of Americans, academics are looking on conservatives as fundamentally immoral people.

If conservatives want to re-establish themselves in academics, they will either have to rejoin the moral mainstream of the United States or produce compelling new work that shifts the consensus of various academic fields back to the right.

I don't see either of those things happening anytime soon.

Tim Russert Must Be Reading RSI

During Tim Russert's interview today with Rudy Giuliani, he asked Giuliani whether a hypothetical presidential mistress would receive Secret Service protection.
Rudy Giuliani said Sunday that police, not the former New York City mayor himself, had decided his then-girlfriend Judith Nathan needed publicly-funded security during their extra-marital affair . . . . He bristled when asked by interviewer Tim Russert if a hypothetical presidential mistress would rate the same level of protection, saying a Secret Service detail "would not be appropriate" in the absence of a credible threat.

That should be hypothetical presidential "mistresses." Once someone gets into the mistress game, there's no reason to limit themselves to just one. Followers of RSI will know that I posted about hypothetical Rudy mistresses a few days ago in my "Rudy's Next Mistress."

Maybe Russert or the people who do his work for him are following RSI.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Memorial for Greg Goldey

The Memorial Service for Greg Goldey was at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Lexington today from 2-4:30pm. Bernadette Barton and John Henney gave very moving speeches and there was a lot of focus on Greg's family as well as his participation in Buddhism. Shelley Heinz of the Buddhist Center presided over the service while Greg's brother spoke from the point of view of a Christian minister. In general, there was an undercurrent of tension between the Buddhism of Greg's last years and the Baptist faith of Greg's family in Nicholasville. Greg's political radicalism also got a lot of mention. He was an impossible guy to capture in one bottle.

Greg's wife Connie spoke eloquently about the love of the people who had visited, cooked, and laughed at their house while Greg was ill in relation to the pain of losing him. That formulation almost precisely captured my own struggles during the service. What I found was that all of the love that the people in the church had for Greg made the pain of losing him even more severe. Not being a Buddhist, a Baptist, a Mormon, or even a Unitarian, I couldn't find a way to think my way toward a reconciliation of that dilemna.

And that will have to be good enough.

Friday, December 07, 2007

How We Know God Loves Hillary

According to a Newsweek poll, Mike Huckabee has surged to a 20 point lead over Mitt Romney in Iowa. Huckabee thinks that what explains his recent climb in the polls is the action of a "higher power"in the earthly sphere. For Huckabee, the bottom line in American democracy is not "we the people" as stated by the Constitution, it's the wishes of God.

Rejecting the rational human calculations of his own identification with Republican evangelicals, good-humored campaign style, and economic populism as explanations for his increased popularity, Huckabee believes that God is putting his chips squarely on the Huckabee square.

But why?

Huckabee has a very medieval and profoundly Catholic concept of how the world works. He believes that "literally thousands of people are praying" on behalf of his campaign and that their intercession with God has resulted in God favoring his campaign and supporting him.

What about the other Republican candidates like Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Ron Paul?

It follows from Huckabee's views that God must not only be ignoring the candidacies of the other Republicans, God must actively be working against them. Perhaps Huckabee thinks that God hates most Republicans even though he favors Huckabee. There's nothing to object to in the first part of that statement. Given that the Christian god disdains wealth, insists that people love their enemies, and values the poor, depressed, and suffering over the happy and secure, it should be obvious that God hates the Republicans.

The only question is whether God is making an exception for Huckabee or not.

I don't think so myself. If God is doing anything, he's favoring Huckabee as the weakest and weirdest Republican candidate for the general election and thus ensuring that the Republican Party as a whole is going to lose.

In other words, Huckabee's rise is solid proof that God loves Hillary.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Romney Looks So Presidential, he should

play one on television. In fact, that's all that Mitt's Romney's speech attempted to do today. It tried to make him look presidential. Here's an account from John Dickerson of Slate.
When Mitt Romney gave his speech on religion in American life Thursday in College Station, Texas, he brought everything but the presidential seal. Introduced by George Herbert Walker Bush, the last popular Republican president, he stood in front of a row of American flags and faced a bank of cameras worthy of a celebrity murder trial. Leading up to the address, his campaign had released pictures of his arduous speechwriting process, exactly as the White House does before the real president gives the State of the Union address.

What Dickerson doesn't grasp is that "looking like a president" was eighty percent of what Mitt Romney was trying to get out of the speech. Romney's argument for the Republican nomination boils down to urging Republicans to view Romney as the strongest candidate because he's not corrupt like Giuliani, not lazy like Thompson, not stupid enough to free a dangerous rapist like Huckabee, and not principled enough to buck the right like McCain. Besides, with his hair, smile, and fitness, Romney just looks like a Republican candidate for president. So forget that Mormon stuff and learn to appreciate flip-flopping. Romney is selling himself as the best looking Republican out there.

This blog dumps on Romney a lot and he's back in fifth place in the national polls. But Romney has a fighting chance to win the Republican nomination and he'd have to be considered the favorite if the battle goes to the convention.

If not, Romney has a future in front of the camera. Maybe he could do Planned Parenthood commercials.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Short Road to Mass Murderer

As is well known from the news reports, a 20 year old named Robert Hawkins opened fire on a mall outside Omaha, Nebraska and killed eight people while wounding five before killing himself.
My general reaction to mass murderers like Eric Harris and Cho Seung Hui is that they're assholes who express their assholeness through mass murder.

Perhaps that will ultimately be the case with Robert Hawkins as well. But Hawkins formulated his determination to kill in a way that calls us to think about the particular pressures of our society.
Maruca-Kovac [a woman Hawkins had been staying with] found what the 20-year-old had left in the home: A suicide note, in which he said he was "going out in style," and that he'd never been anything in his life but after Wednesday he would be famous. Armed with a rifle, Hawkins went to the sprawling upscale Westroads Mall, filled with shoppers three weeks before Christmas. The Omaha World-Herald reported that he had a military-style haircut, a black backpack and wore a camouflage vest.
The problem is this. We live in a society where corporate CEO's on average make 375 times their lowest level employees creating a tremendous gulf between the extremely wealthy and the middle and lower-middle class. In many ways, the distance between the rich and the rest of us is best represented by the cult of celebrity in which the lifestyles of those who actors, actresses, and rock stars serve as embodiments for wealth and extravagance of the upper 1/2% in general. The other characteristic of the class system is that everyone who does not obtain wealth, status, or any of the other markers of "success" are pushed into thinking themselves to be "failures," "losers," "morons," and idiots.

This is where Robert Hawkins appeared to be. Having been kicked out of his parents' home and fired by McDonald's for stealing, Hawkins believed that "he'd never been anything." For the students at my university, that means that Hawkins was a "dumb-ass." At the same time, it's also clear that Hawkins measured himself against the celebrity system and ached to make up the gap between his own extremely humble status and the people "at the top." That's because Hawkins went on to claim that "after Wednesday he'd be famous." Who did Hawkins mean by "famous?" Evidently people like Paris Hilton, Brittany Spears, Lindsey Lohan, and Brad Pitt. Evidently being "famous" was a lot better than being Robert Hawkins.

There have been an enormous number of hierarchical societies in human history and I doubt that any of them produced as many mass murderers as the United States is creating these days. One reason is that the United States has a rich iconography of violence-- Colombine, the police, the military, gangs, hip hop, and a dozen other genres--through which guys like Robert Hawkins can imagine themselves as filling the gap between not being "anything" and being "famous." If someone like Robert Hawkins can kill enough people, he can be as famous as Eric Harris or Timothy McVey and he dressed up in a military haircut and a camouflage vest to represent himself as an ersatz soldier on a mission.

So what do we do? From my point of view, if we want to have fewer mass murders like Robert Hawkins, our society will both reduce the gap between the super-wealthy and the middle and stop the relentless humilitation of those who fail. We could also stop being so excited by the violent imagery that people like Hawkins use to bridge the gap.

For better or worse, stopping mass murderers like Hawkins involves becoming a different and better society.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Did Bush Want To Attack Iran Because of the NIE

For those who don't know, the "NIE" is the National Intelligence Estimate and yesterday the Director of Intelligence released an NIE which revealed that Iran had stopped their efforts to develop nuclear weapons in 2003.

Today, the mainstream media and liberal blogs are filled with commentary on how the Bush administration knew about the NIE on Iran for at least six months and probably more than a year before it was published. The point of Wolf Blitzer and the liberals bloggers is that the Bush administration kept up the policy of threatening to attack Iran's nuclear facilities even though they knew that Iran was not attempting to develop nuclear weapons.

For the critics, it was the Iraq WMD issue all over again.

But I think it's worse than that. In fact, the Bush administration did not just maintain their previous policy in the face of the information in the NIE. Rather, President Bush, Dick Cheney, and others in the Bush administration significantly increased their pressure on Iran and seemed to be pushing for a military strike before the end of Bush's term.

In my opinion, it's pretty likely that Bush and especially Cheney were pushing for a military strike before the public release of the NIE made it clear that Iran was very unlikely to ever become a nuclear threat.

In this sense, Cheney would have been motivated to attack Iran as a way to preempt the NIE--in other words, preempt the truth. In my mind, that would be the war crime of a "crime against peace," the kind of war crime for which the Japanese leadership was prosecuted after WWII.

Iraq: From Collapsing to Failing

Concerning the current state in Iraq, Juan Cole writes "how much longer can Iraq limp along as a failing state before it really begins to collapse?" And he's basically right. The situation in Iraq is still tremendously fragile. The political situation has not improved at all and it's even doubtful that current military progress can be sustained after the surge ends in April.

Still, some added insight can be gained by reversing the terms "failure" and "collapse." By the time the surge started last January, Iraq in fact was "collapsing" into profound anarchy. The government was almost entirely dysfunctional with much of the Iraq military and all of the Iraqi police in the hands of militias. Sunni Anbar province in the west was characterized by a three corner brawl between tribal insurgents, global jihadis, and the Americans. The Shiite sector in the southeast was falling apart as Shiite militias made war on each other and the Americans with weapons imported from Iran. Making the situation even worse, the weakness of the central government and loose structures of the militias encouraged the development of criminal gangs which magnified the terror and insecurity of everyday life.

The situation was perhaps worst of all in Bagdad where all factions combined to create a Hobbesian nightmare where life was "poor, nasty, brutish, and short." American troops, American mercenaries the Iraqi government, Sunni militias, Shiite militias, global jihadis, and criminal gangs all operated with impunity and nobody dominated the action. It was the worst of all possible worlds.

Given the horror of the situation, what the surge did was bring Iraq back from collapse. Leading elements in both the Sunni and Shiite populations decided to step back from the pit of anarchy. Tribal leaders in Anbar recoiled at the Taliban-like society that global jihadis were trying to implement and became allies with American troops. Likewise, Moqtada al-Sadr stood down his Mahdi Army. Even the Iranians seem to have pulled back a little. The Iraqi state was still failing but it was no longer in such a nightmare of collapse.

The presence of American troops allowed the tribal militias to gain a firm upper hand in Anbar. Likewise, the American military has also walled off a lot of the Sunni neighborhoods in Iraq so that car bombers can't get in. The price for so much "security" is tha residents from the neighborhoods can't get out and customers for local businesses can't get in. American forces have managed to impose security (quite a military accomplishment by the way) but haven't come close to creating the "stability" needed for the freedom of movement needed for real commerce. In fact, Iraq still seems closer to falling apart again than it is to establishing any kind of real stability or forward movement.

That's why it's very much legitimate for Cole to still refer to Iraq as a failing state.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Some Quick Thoughts on Greg Goldey

Solace. I've gotten a lot of solace from looking at what's written for the "In Loving Memory of Dr. Gregory Goldey" group on Facebook. Benji Conner, I believe, was the one who started it up. Thanks.

Buddhist Service. Mary and I went to a small service for Greg at the Buddhist temple in Lexington. Given that I have a bad cold, the fact that the Shambhaya Center was freezing and that we were expected to remove shoes was a very bad sign. And then they brought out the incense to get my allergies going. But I warmed up to the service because it was great. People told stories about Greg and got out their feelings about Greg's illness and death. In my own thinking about Greg, I was affectionately remembering how grouchy and complaining Greg could be while he was healthy. Knowing that Greg was kind of annoyed when I started wearing ties again, I wore a one of my brightly colored ties to the service--just to annoy him one more time for old times sake.

Not a Fan of Buddhism. I'm not a big fan of Buddhism and didn't know how important Buddhism had become to Greg over the last four years. But the people at the Temple were extremely nice and I was glad to learn a little bit about their rituals and chanting. Even though I'm not a Christian and have come to the conclusion that Christianity is weird, I value the lovingness and generosity of Christians like the lovely Mrs. RSI. I found the same to be the case at the Buddhist center.

New Experiences. As the coordinator of the government program, I presided over a moment of silence for Greg at our meeting this morning. Not being a religious person, I had never initiated such a thing before and I felt strange and incompetent--like I was floating in space--the whole 20 or 30 seconds I kept my eyes closed.

Hopefully, that gave Greg a good laugh wherever he is.

Let's Eliminate the Iranian threat

The big news for today was that the latest National Intelligence Estimate concludes that the Iranians decided to stop working on nuclear weapons in 2003.

Bush's National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley believes that the Iranians stopped because American sanctions and other pressure worked. That seems unlikely. If American sanctions worked so well, the Iranians would have stopped working on enriching uranium.

But they clearly haven't even though the Iranians won't have enough enriched uranium for a bomb until at least 2010-2015.

It's more likely that the Iranians gave up the idea of nukes after American overthrow of Iranian enemies like the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Why go to all that bother after the Americans had eliminated their two biggest enemies?

Which leads me to the following conclusion.

If Bush wanted to eliminate the Iranian "threat" altogether, he could invade Israel and overthrow the Olmert government. Even better, that might bring out the apocalypse that the right is looking for.

But would the Israelis welcome us as "liberators?"

Of course, the Iranians might have stopped working on nuclear weapons because they could see how badly the occupation of Iraq was going.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Fred Thompson Working Himself Down In Polls

People complain about Fred Thompson being lazy. But there's good reason to think he's over-doing it. When Fred was not doing any campaigning at all, he did a lot better in the pollls. From Aug. 7 to Aug. 26, Fred averaged 18% in the national polls and he was happy to tell everybody that that was without doing anything. Now that Fred is busting his butt and campaigning at least 2 or 3 days a week, his poll numbers have sagged down to 14.2.

Obviously, Fred's working too hard for his own good and needs to cut back on his campaigning. Addicted as they are to "Yankee Politics," the New York Times doesn't "get Fred."
Mr. Thompson’s performance at the debate capped a weeklong period in which he held only one retail campaign event: a “meet Fred” rally last Saturday in a small room at the back of Sticky Fingers, a barbecue restaurant in Summerville, S.C. There was no music or food. There were not even chairs, and so some 100 voters there to see him had to stand for three hours before he arrived.

Given that Fred's campaign had been "too busy" to set up music, food, and chairs, it should be evident that Fred shouldn't have scheduled the event at all. Perhaps Fred's sliding in the polls because he's "over-scheduled."

In fact, I believe that Fred should give up on this weekly campaigning altogether and limit himself to one appearance a month. That way, neither Fred nor his campaign organization will be overly taxed and they won't look so bad to voters.

With Fred, it's the less work the better.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Black Bloggers Identify Taser Nation

There has been a great deal of uninformed comment about the invisibility of African-American bloggers, mostly by white bloggers who don't trouble themselves to read the work of African-American bloggers. One area where black bloggers are way out in front of black bloggers is the increasing use of tasers as a torture device by American police. Here's Margaret Kimberley of Black Agenda Report:
A country that employs torture as an instrument of national policy should be expected to do the same on the local law enforcement level. The reverse is also true. The United States, with its long legacy of subjecting society's "Others" to systemic violence, now elevates pain to a kind of universal principle, spreading torture and "rendition" as institutionalized components of its global offensive. Now the domestic legacy and foreign policy combine to trickle down upon previously immune white citizens, in the form of Taser-torture. Tasers, once defended as life-saving alternatives to police use of deadly force, have become weapons of arbitrary, sadistic choice. The circle of pain is complete.

The most prominent example of the "trickle down" of Taser torture to American whites is the incident of Utah policeman Jon Gardner zapping white motorist Jared Massey with 50,000 volts of electricity because Massey wouldn't sign a ticket for speeding that he wasn't legally required to sign anyway. The whole incident was captured on video and distributed on YouTube. The only thing that Massey was being to Officer Gardner was annoying. Yet, USA Today reported that the Utah Highway Patrol found Gardner's conduct to be "lawful and reasonable under the circumstances." In other words, the highway patrol is saying that Utah policeman have a right to torture anybody they want anytime they want unless the torture is even more egregious than what happened to Massey and captured on video.

Surprised There Aren't More Hostage Situations

My main reaction to the hostage situation at one of Hillary Clinton's campaign offices is surprise, and gratitude, that there aren't more such incidents. In the U. S., we have a potent mix of troubled individuals, a violence-soaked popular culture, pervasive pornography, and easy access to weapons and explosives. We not only have a high murder rate but a seemingly constant stream of serial killers, serial rapists, fantasy killings, and other bizarre crimes. Given that there are also continual reports about terrorism, it's surprising that more people haven't adopted terrorist motifs to express their longing for violent revenge and fame.

New Hampshire hostage taker Leland Eisenberg seems to be a good example of what I'm talking about. He claims that he walked into the campaign office with a fake bomb taped to his chest because he was frustrated over his inability to obtain mental health care.

Hillary Clinton believes that account, but I do not!! It sounds too pat, too contrived, and too closely correlated to Hillary Clinton's reputation on health care to be true.

Certainly, Eisenberg is a guy with a lot of long and short-term troubles. He was apparently homeless at the age of twenty-one, accused a Catholic priest of abusing him, and served a 10-12 year prison sentence on a rape count. More recently, he had been arrested for "driving under the influence and stalking" and his wife was divorcing him because of his heavy alcohol consumption, verbal abuse, and threats. That's a load of problems. Nevertheless, it seems like Eisenberg was more frustrated by his lack of fame and celebrity than by a lack of mental health care. Or at least, he was coping with his sea of troubles by trying to become famous. The day before he walked into the Clinton campaign office with a fake bomb strapped to his chest, Eisenberg told his stepson to be sure to watch the television because he knew that he himself would be the center of televised terrorism drama the next day.

It's that convertability of personal breakdowns and traumas into efforts to seek fame through terrorist behavior that's worrisome in the Leland Eisenberg case. I'm glad it doesn't happen more often.

Friday, November 30, 2007


I have an idea for the next big reality television hit--Rudy's Next Mistress. The premise of the show is that a national television or YouTube audience would select Rudy Giuliani's next mistress in the same way a national audience chooses the next American Idol. In the first round of the competition, women from all over the country would send in (tasteful) videos in which they explain why they want to be Rudy's Next Mistress and how well they match up with America's Mayor. After a panel of Rudy Giulini's best buddies cut the number of wannabe mistresses down, the final 12 contestants would be brought on national television to make their pitch to Mr. Giuliani before the television/internet audience and a distinguished panel of judges that would include former Senator Gary Hart, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and Ms. Monica Lewinsky. Given their high level experiences with either courting political mistresses or being a political mistress, the members of the panel can be expected to make the most entetaining comments possible. Still, the ultimate deciders for Rudy's Next Mistress will be the American people themselves.

If Rudy Giuliani is elected president in 2008, the producers of Rudy's Next Mistress would expect President Giuliani to introduce the winner at the same ceremony where Mr. Giuliani was sworn in as president. Perhaps the winner could swear to do her best to uphold the traditions of presidential mistresses like Marilyn Monroe during her term in "office" and pledge to marry President Giuliani if he and his current wife Judi Nathan Giuliani should get a divorce.

The benefits to being Rudy's Next Mistress would be tremendous. Most of all, there's the honor of being the escort and bedmate of the future President Giuliani himself. All the pundits agree that Rudy Giuliani is a "man's man"--the kind of man who would stand up to Hillary Clinton, attack Iran, flaunt his friendship with mob-connected guys like Bernard Kerik, and keep a priest accused of pedophilia on his payroll. More important, Rudy Giuliani is the kind of man who treats a mistress like a queen. When Giuliani visited Judi Nathan's condo in Southampton, he took his security detail with him. Just think how impressive Rudy Giuliani would be when he visits a presidential mistress accompanied by his Secret Service guards, mobile communications center, and nuclear football. And Rudy's Next Mistress will look pretty impressive herself when she's sleeping with him in the Lincoln Bedroom. Monica Lewinsky gave Bill Clinton blow jobs in the dark corners around the Oval Office. Rudy's Next Mistress would be giving her blow jobs under the beneficent gaze of Honest Abe himself. Now that's class.

Rudy Giuliani would be generous with the resources of the federal government as well. When he was mayor of New York, Giuliani assigned police officers to drive Judi Nathan and her family around the city despite laws against using public property for personal purposes. "She used the PD as her personal taxi service," said one former city official who worked for Giuliani." Isn't that romantic?

If Giuliani was willing to be so generous to Judi Nathan while just a mayor, just think how loving he would be to a presidential mistress. People don't realize the depth of Rudy Giuliani's commitment to his mistresses. Liberals created a lot of ethics rules and laws to control the behavior of public officials, but Rudy Giuliani is glad to defy those rules and laws for the sake of the women he loves. By refusing to kowtow to all those "ethics," Rudy Giuliani shows that he's tough enough to do what it takes to take on the Islamofascists. If Rudy is man enough to stick it to the liberal media and the do-gooders at ethics "watchdogs" like Common Cause, he's man enough to stick it to bin Laden as well.

That's why it's important that the American people choose Rudy's Next Mistress. Given the importance of Rudy Giuliani's mistress in the war on terror, we can't leave the selection of Rudy's Next Mistress to chance.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Will Rudy's Next Mistress Fly on Air Force One

If we know anything about Rudy Giuliani, we know that he's good to his mistresses. It was reported months ago that he used to tryst mistress Judith Nathan at the counter-terrorism command center that he had placed in the World Trade Center. Having sex in the nerve center of the city's war against terrorism must have been the thrill of a lifetime for Nathan.

No wonder she married him.

Today, Brian Ross of ABC reports that Giuliani also provided a car and a security detail for Nathan while she was his mistress.

Well before it was publicly known he was seeing her, then-married New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani provided a police driver and city car for his mistress Judith Nathan, former senior city officials tell the Blotter on
But what does this matter? Don't we know that Giuliani's a megalogmaniac, that he's corrupt, and that he doesn't think the law applies to him?

The answer is yes.

But we don't know how Giuliani is going to transport his next mistress if he gets elected president. Of course, Giuliani could use Air Force One to transport the next Judy Nathan around after he gets tired of this Judy Nathan. Maybe this would be his chance to join the Mile High Club as well.

But I suspect not.

Air Force One is a Boeing 747. Talk about an unsexy, out of date model of a plane. No! I see Rudy as taking his next mistress around in real style. Besides Mike Meyers already did the 747 seduction bit in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.

Rudy would want to find something really special for his next mistress. After all, she might become the next Mrs. Rudy after Judy Nathan.

Information on Greg Goldey Services, etc

After I received an inquiry from Sasha Triplett (Hi Sasha!) in Louisville, I thought it would be a good idea to search out some information on services for Greg Goldey and addresses to send cards and letters.

Greg's immediate funeral services will be private. The (tentative) plan is to hold a public memorial service for Greg on Saturday, Dec. 8.

Memorial Service, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2pm,
Unity Universalist Church
3564 Clays Mill Road
Lexington, KY 40503

If plans change, I will post the change.

Greg's family would prefer donations to their Buddhist temple in lieu of flowers. The address of the temple is below.

Shambhala Center of Lexington
315 W. Maxwell St
Lexington, KY 40508

phone: 859-225-4183

Finally, people should send cards and letters concerning Greg to his wife and children at the address below:

The Goldey/Hardesty Family
25 W. Hickman
Winchester 40391

Death of Greg Goldey

Greg Goldey died last night at 2:11am. I got to visit him yesterday afternoon. It was a tough situation because he was already struggling to breathe, had a hard time staying in focus, and was seeing a lot of people. But Greg was more than willing to see the friends, relatives, and colleagues coming to his house because he was concerned for them and their feelings. It must have been a long hard day for him to know that he was dying at the same time that he was so intensely connected to so many people.

Greg had always been a good guy and I always liked him. But that in fact was underestimating him. The way Greg conducted himself while he was terminally ill with cancer was noble in the best sense of the word and I've come to look up to him as a human being and a man.

It's horrible that he's gone.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Are Whites a Race?

One of the things that drives me crazy about "race talk" (to use a phrase from bell hooks) in the U. S. is the the way that white writers write as though African-Americans were the only race. Aren't whites in the United States a race as well?

Gary Kamiya's Salon article on "Is Race Dying" is an example in point. Kamiya claims that "it's hard to believe that just a few years ago, issues of black vs. white dominated the national discourse."

But Kamiya poses whites as passive to invisible to this discourse. For Kamiya, the most important contributions of whites to discussion about issues of race in the United States are guilt and politeness.
The great breakthrough of the civil rights movement, sadly, failed to erase the subtlest and most powerful barriers: internal ones. Whites learned to acknowledge the history of racism, foregrounding their own racial guilt. That was necessary but insufficient. It resulted not in racial enlightenment but racial politeness.

That might be true for liberals, but liberals aren't the only white people. Perhaps Kamiya is not aware of the tremendous amount of right-wing campaigning in opposition to affirmative action, hate crimes legislation, school desegregation, gun control in inner city areas and other racial issues. Conservatives have also been relentlessly promoting a "color-blind" within which any kind of black self-awareness or collective black self-assertion is viewed as the equivalent to segregation. In this way, conservatives have been arguing that the NAACP, the Congressional Black Caucus, and a lot of hip hop music are just as racist as Bull Connor while he was whipping black demonstrators or George Wallace barring the school doors at the University of Alabama.

In fact, Kamiya seems to be sympathetic to the conservative point of view.

According to a recent NPR/Pew poll, 37 percent of blacks agreed with the statement that blacks today are so diverse they can no longer be considered a single race. Among the youngest respondents, aged 18 to 29, a staggering 44 percent agreed.

This is extraordinary. More than a third of the blacks who responded, and almost half of the young blacks, have rejected the cornerstone of American racial politics: black racial solidarity. If the poll is accurate, the most emotionally charged and immutable racial truth, the one-drop rule, is no longer sacrosanct for a large number of black people.

For Kamiya, anything that breaks up "the cornerstone of American racial politics: black racial solidarity" is a tremendously good thing and that's the case whether he's discussing whether blacks view themselves as a single race, the "values gap," or the increase in the bi-racial population of people like Barack Obama and Tiger Woods.

But African-Americans have always considered themselves an extremely diverse group or even a number of groups that were brought together by the scourge of white racism. The efforts of many light-skinned blacks to differentiate themselves from the more darkly hued were observed in turn of the 20th century New Orleans. Spike Lee portrays the same thing in School Daze. Likewise, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X wrote of the religious and ideological distinctions within the African-American population during the sixties and contemporary black writers have been denouncing the lack of political activism among the black middle class for years.

And Black people would be even more self-differentiating if they didn't have to face stereotyping, job discrimination, and police violence from the larger white population. But Kamiya doesn't comment on the relentless racial stereotyping of American television, movies, music, the fashion industry, and the news media. He also doesn't mention the mountains of racial jokes circulating abound black people. Kamiya doesn't ask why the steretyptical representation of black people is so important to white-owned and run media corporations or predominately white audiences. If Kamiya had asked such questions, he would have found that whites have a racial consciousness as well and that white racial consciousness has been a powerful factor in American politics for decades.

Yes, Virginia. Whites are also a race--a relatively unified race on racial issues. And black people will remain relatively united as long as that is the case.