Friday, December 19, 2008

Don't Let Your Son Date the Governor's Daughter. The mother of Levi Johnston, the father of Brook Palin's soon to be born baby, was arrested in Wasilla, Alaska today on drug charges. You have to wonder if it's a meth case. Meth and OxyContin are the two big drugs in this area and practically all the drug busts now are for methamphetamine. I'd be surprised if the same wasn't the case for Wasilla (known as the "meth capital of Alaska"). Much like any feeling person would have to have sympathy for the desperation of meth, OxyContin, and crack addicts, it's hard not to feel for someone who's sunk so low in their humanity that they would either set up a meth lab or sell any of these drugs.

It will be interesting to see how Sherri Johnston's case unfolds. Sarah Palin is certainly seeming like a more interesting person as a result. In a more democratic society than the U. S., a healthy percentage of high public officials would be talented people who are only one step removed from the bottom. If Sarah Palin actually cared about the rest of the world to learn about the issues of the day, she'd be a model of a democratic with a small "d" public official.

As for Sherri Johnston, she's probably thinking that her son's dating the governor's daughter isn't such a hot thing right now.

Saturday Update: The drug involved was oxycontin.
Franken Takes the Lead. Al Franken has pulled ahead by 100-150 votes in Minnesota. If Franken ultimately wins, that will make 57 Democrats and Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side of the aisle with 41 Republicans and Joe Lieberman on the other side.
"Our Caroline": The Democratic Sarah Palin. "Our Caroline" Kennedy embarked on a listening tour of Upstate New York to promote herself as the Kennedy legacy candidate to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate.

No points for originality there.

Doing a "listening tour" was Hillary's way of introducing herself to Upstate for her 2000 Senate campaign.

The locals weren't impressed either.

Reporters in Syracuse were emphatic in wanting to know exactly why she was qualified for the Senate:
But after meeting with Mayor Matt Driscoll, [Kennedy] ran into a buzz saw -- angry reporters who wanted her to do more talking and less listening. "But you've never held public office so what experience [do you have]?" one reporter asked.
Not realizing that they were talking to "Our Caroline," local reporters thought they were being stonewalled when Kennedy blathered about talking to the mayor "about my experience and also [learning] more about how Washington can help these communities."

Undaunted, Our Caroline had real talking points by the time she and her entourage reached Rochester.
"It's a process so I just hope everybody understands this is not a campaign, but I have lived a life committed to public service, wrote a book on the constitution, the importance of independent participation, raised my family committed to education in New York City . . . "
Just like Sarah Palin, Our Caroline deserves credit for being able to get out her talking points even if she doesn't have a clue beyond that. I wouldn't say that Caroline Kennedy has led a useless life. She did raise $71 mill from her friends for the New York City school system and write a book on the Constitution. I'm imagine she learned to appreciate the importance of the environment on her regular visits to the Hamptons as well.

But it's just not much for someone with Kennedy's family connections and background.

In fact, Caroline Kennedy strikes me as even less qualified for the Senate than Sarah Palin was for Vice-President. At least Palin had been a governor and mayor.

Of course, nobody can match Palin for ignorance.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Not Cutting the Mustard. Mustard isn't hard to cut at all, but Barack Obama still isn't cutting it on the Rick Warren invitation. Obama says that he is "a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans." If Obama was such a fierce advocate for LGBT equality, he have invited Rev. Gene Robinson, the gay Episcopal bishop from New Hampshire, to share the stage at the inauguration instead of Rick Warren. Likewise, Obama would use his inaugural address to come out in support of gay marriage and re-examine his own attitudes toward gays.

I want to emphasize that. However you "cut" it, the core of opposition to gay marriage is bigotry toward gay people. It's the belief that gay sex, gay love, and gay people are so far outside what is acceptable for human beings that their relationships must not be given the consecration of marriage. As a heterosexual, I can get married even if I am as far outside moral acceptability as serial killers, mass murderers, drug addicts, purveyors of pornography, sex tourists, tobacco lobbyists, Dick Cheney, or Jeff Goldstein of Protein Wisdom. What opponents of gay marriage are saying to gay people is that being gay is worse than being a serial killer, mass murderer, etc. Hitler, Stalin, and Nero would have been recognized as having a right to marry but opponents of gay marriage do not recognize gay people as having an equal right. People like Rick Santorum are open about their bigotry when they compare gay marriage to incest and bestiality. The same is the case with Rick Warren who compared gay marriage to incest and polygamy in an interview with BeliefNet's Steve Waldman:
Warren dodged Waldman's question about whether he supported civil unions or domestic partnerships, answering instead, "I support full equal rights for everyone in America," adding that he only opposes a "redefinition" of marriage. He went on to say he's opposed to gay marriage the same way he is opposed to a brother and sister marrying (that would be incest), a man marrying a child (that would be statutory rape), or someone having multiple spouses (that would be polygamy). Pressed by Waldman, Warren said he considered those crimes equivalent to gay marriage.
However, all opponents of gay marriage assume that the most monstrous heterosexual imaginable is less repugnant than any gay person and therefore more deserving of the right to marry.

The denial of gay rights is just as much a travesty as slavery, segregation, the denial of legal rights to women, wife abuse, or rape. It's a different kind of travesty but a travesty all the same.

Barack Obama needs to examine the extent to which he's participating in this travesty.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The End of the Tunnel. I've finally reached the end of the tunnel for the fall semester. My grades are in, my office is cleaned out, and I've started outlining chapters for my sabbatical. It will be interesting to see whether I can carry on my blogging into the sabbatical. I was highly motivated to attack the Bush administration, the Republicans, and conservatives when I started Red State Impressions. But I'm not sure that I'm not sure I'll have the same motivation to defend the Obama administration. There was a famous incident in the making of Chinatown where Faye Dunaway asked about her motivation and Roman Polanski said something to the effect "you're getting paid." But I'm not getting paid to blog. So I need to find motivation.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dick Cheney--Admitted War Criminal and Monster

The War Criminal Protection Zone. Today, Dick Cheney confessed to being a war criminal on national television. Here, Cheney refers primarily to waterboarding

The vice president was unapologetic in his defense of the Bush administration's anti-terror policies, including the use of waterboarding . . . . Cheney said waterboarding was an appropriate means of getting information from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

He was also asked whether he authorized the tactics used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. "I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared, as the agency in effect came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn't do," Cheney said. "And they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it.

What makes Cheney such a monster is that he's so matter of fact about his involvement in waterboarding "program." The same is the case with all the crimes perpetrated by the guards and administrators at Guantanamo, the abuses that went on in the brigs off South Carolina, and extraordinary rendition.

But there's another dimension to the war criminality of Dick Cheney and the rest of the Bushies--the matter of fact way in which the news is received in the United States. Perhaps the best measure of our lack of response to the Bush administration's crimes is the fact that Cheney's announcement isn't really news. Rod Blagojecovich, Jesse Jackson jr., Michelle Obama's inauguration dress, Sean Avery's dating life--that news.

Dick Cheney's announcement isn't.

The major question about Cheney is whether American society so inoculated to the shocking and immoral that Cheney's confession about his war crimes has no effect. The idea is that American popular culture produces so many gruesome images of murder, rape, and other kinds of brutality that political torture no longer has the power to shock. How shocked can somebody be after they've seen a body run through a wood chipper as in Fargo? In fact, waterboarding quickly became a stock image as information about the Bush administration's torture practices emerged and isn't seen as any more shocking than serial killing or school shootings.

But I think it's the other way around. In my opinion, the Bush administration is like slavery in that Bush's crimes against humanity are such an enormous blow to our collective self-esteem that they can't be fully acknowledged. Consequently, the media and the public construct a kind protective space in which Bush's war crimes can be readily acknowledged by people like Cheney but given no symbolic resonance in terms of our moral judgments of the Bush administration, Dick Cheney, or the CIA and military people involved in carrying out the orders. Ultimately, the public doesn't have to come to any kind of judgment about itself or "America" either.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Give Caroline Kennedy the Republican Nomination

Nothing against Caroline Kennedy, but why should she be chosen as a U. S. Senator from New York? For someone with her advantages of wealth, education, and fame, Caroline Kennedy has done relatively little with her life. Having been born on home plate, Caroline Kennedy has spent much of her life devoted to decorating the club house. Her thin resume is limited to serving on various boards, raising money for the New York City School system, helping one of Rupert Murdoch's kids get into an exclusive school, and asking questions as co-chair of the VP vetting committee.

There are tens of thousands of Democrats in New York who have done better--lawyers, educators, business people, civic leaders, college presidents. And I don't just mean in cities like New York City either. My home town of Waverly in the Southern Tier has dozens of people who would be more qualified to be a Senator than Caroline.

Of course, the story would be completely different if Caroline Kennedy were a Republican. The New York Times article notes that she does a pretty decent job of stonewalling the press.
But in brief interviews during the Democratic National Convention, and on “Meet the Press” after she had helped Mr. Obama vet his potential running mates, Ms. Kennedy easily deflected the few serious questions she was asked.
That in itself would have been enough for the Republicans to consider Caroline Kennedy as vice-presidential or presidential timber. When McCain campaign manager Rick Davis first saw Sarah Palin on television, he was so impressed with her ability to stonewall that he promoted her for the VP nomination. If Caroline Kennedy was a Republican with Kennedy name recognition and real stonewalling chops, Davis would have nominated her for president.
Hell Semester III. It's almost over. Hopefully, there won't be another sequel.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

If the Shoe Fits, Throw It. Matthew Yglesias is a better man than I am. At least he can pretend to fake some outrage over the George Bush shoe-throwing incident in Baghdad. I can't even get that far.

What was Bush's Motive. What the hell is Bush doing in Baghdad anyway? Bush probably has some delusion that "success" in Iraq is going to be his legacy. But the fact that violence has gone down doesn't mean that Iraq is going to be the Canada of the Middle East anytime soon. If anything, Iraq is still closer to being the Somalia of the Middle East than anything else.

It's Worse Than They Know. Dick Cheney warned Senate Republicans against always being known as the Hoover party. But I've got some good news for the Republicans. They don't have to worry about that. The Hooverite rejection of the auto industry bailout is just one piece of the GOP puzzle. The Republicans will also be known as the party of incompetence, torture, war crimes, and religious bigotry against gay people.

Maybe Bush is lucky that he doesn't visit the United States that often.