Saturday, April 11, 2009

Should Dick Cheney be at the Bush Reunion? Should Anybody?

It looks like Dick Cheney isn't going to attend this weekend's long-awaited Bush administration reunion. It's been almost three months since the Bush administration left office. I'm surprised they haven't had two or three reunions by now.

Some people think Cheney's being peevish over Bush's failure to give Scooter Libby a full pardon, nuke Iran, or just turn the whole government over to the Likud.

But let's give Dick Cheney some credit.

What he's being is consistent.

Cheney and his lawyers always denied that the "Office of the Vice-President" was part of the executive branch.

Why should Cheney go to a Bush administration reunion if he wasn't really IN the Bush administration.

Bad Genes Will Out

Today, Miss Teen RSI wanted to know what time midnight mass at the Catholic Church was tonight. I don't know whether I wanted to die of laughter or embarrassment.

But I guess bad genes will out.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Is Sean Hannity an America Hating/Socialist Parent

In my Hotmail account today, I had a "personal message" from Sean Hannity. As a blogger who keeps track of the right, I get a lot of deeply personal letters from people like Hannity, Newt Gingrich, and the guy at Newsmax.

Not that my inbox isn't fair and balanced.

I also hear from President Obama, Michelle, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, and Joe Biden about issues they know I'm concerned about.

For some reason, Glenn Beck doesn't seem to care. At least not yet.

Today, I had a hard time deciding whether Sean Hannity was promoting a socialist parenting agenda or just hated America.

Perhaps knowing that I'm the parent of 11 and 14 year old daughters, Sean wanted me to learn about a new book by Rebecca Hagelin entitled 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family. Here's what he has to say:

Most parents pray that their children will grow up to be strong, productive, and patriotic, with a robust moral sense.

But as soon as you bring your children into the world, others try to pry them from you. Crass marketers try to lure them into commercialism. "Experts," from doctors to teachers, try to replace your good values with theirs.

Now, thankfully Rebecca Hagelin has brought the ammunition that all of us, as parents, have long needed. In her terrific new book, 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family, she's given us the perfect guide, the perfect handbook, to keep a toxic culture at bay while forging a closer, deeper, more meaningful relationship with our children.

"Crass marketers?" "Lure them into commercialism?" I assume Sean means all those nice companies that sell pink and blue baby clothes and all the baby stuff with primary colors that keeps parents mesmerized for hours at a time. I imagine he's thinking of all the companies that sell baby books as well. We liked stories like Goodnight Moon, the House That Jack Built, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, and those fairy tale collections. My kids always liked all the various versions of the Cinderella story. We must have watched the Whitney Houston/Brandy Cinderella movie hundreds of times.

Come to think of it, I guess Sean must have especially meant the Disney corporation which has their hands in just about everything connected with kids.

Now, if someone's a normal person, they'll know that all of these companies really care about children and want to do everything they can to help parents raise their children in today's demanding world.

Someone would have to be a socialist to think of all these companies as "crass marketers."

I guess that makes Sean a socialist.

Not that there's anything wrong with socialism. Sometimes I think I'm a socialist myself.

Now that I'm thinking, it looks like Sean probably hates America as well.

Certainly, anybody hates America who would recommend a book by Rebecca Hagelin. This is from the product description for Hagelin's Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture that's Gone Stark Raving Mad:

In Home Invasion, Rebecca Hagelin proves that in today's all-consuming culture of corruption there is nowhere left to hide-American homes have already been invaded by this insidious enemy that seeks to twist our minds and poison our hearts through the unmonitored Internet, television, magazines, and music that our families ingest on a daily basis. Speaking as a nationally known social commentator and as a mother of three, Hagelin shows through specific examples and alarming statistics how the enemy has infected the family van, our neighborhood schools and textbooks, the stores in which we shop, and even the churches in which we worship. With warm words of encouragement and practical suggestions, she coaches parents on how to arm themselves with information, strategically plan the movements of their family members, secure allies in the battle, and most of all, muster the guts and the resolve to lead their families to victory against the great beast.

Homes, schools, television, music, stores, churches, even the family van--the "great beast" is everywhere in our country. Actually, Hagelin believes that the great beast is America and she's at war with the rest of American culture and society when she "coaches parents on how to arm themselves with information, strategically plan the movements of their family members, secure allies in the battle . . . and "lead their families to victory." Just reading the product description made me want to reach for my AK-47. Hagelin might just as well have followed Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini and referred to the United States as "the Great Satan" or gotten her book published by a bin Laden front company.

In promoting Hagelin's new book, Hannity obviously wants everybody to hate America as much as Rebecca Hagelin. Given Hannity's support for Hagelin, it wouldn't surprise me if he soon announces that he's leaving for Pakistan to join bin Laden. Not having served in the American military, Hannity will finally get to show his guts by joining in the crusade against "the great beast."

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Rick Warren Calls My Atheist Number

Jon Meacham's Newsweek article on the "End of Christian America" isn't that compelling. I mean was there really a "Christian America" that could come to an end. It would be reasonable to say that the culture wars were an attempt by the religious right to assert a predominance for Protestant fundamentalism after the cultural ferment of the 1960's and 1970's. But the fundamentalism of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson might never have been dominant outside the South--certainly not after the repeal of Prohibition. The Moral Majority was never a majority in the first place.

But I thought Rick Warren might have some interesting things to say about the issue. So I read the transcript of Warren's interview with Hugh Hewitt today.

Boy, I was wrong there:

All Warren comes up with is this:
One of them is will America return to the historic roots, Christian roots, that are foundational for every one of our institutions. Or will we go the way of Europe, and go secular. The bottom line is that secularism doesn’t last, because no faith will always be filled by something else, and so that’s why Islam is making strong inroads into Europe, because faith of any kind will always beat no faith.
To which "historic roots" would America return--Puritanism, high church Anglicanism, the Catholicism of Irish and Italian immigrants, or the African-American church? Puritanism and high church Anglicanism no longer exist in any way that would be meaningful to Warren and there's no need to "return" to immigrant Catholicism because Hispanic immigrants are already there. Actually, I have a feeling that Warren isn't thinking about Hispanic immigrants in these comments. He doesn't seem to be thinking about African-American Christianity either. Or Mormons. Or Pentecostals.

Like Meacham, Warren mostly has Europe in mind and wonders if the U. S. is drifting toward a situation where 20% of the adult population attends church. That seems highly unlikely given the power of Protestant evangelism as well as the growth in Pentacostalism, Mormonism, and the largely Catholic Hispanic population. To the contrary, it looks like the United States is going to remain relatively religious compared to Western Europe and also have a great deal of religious diversity compared to either Europe or the U. S. of the 1950's.

Is that so bad? I don't know why it would look too horrible from a Hispanic, Pentacostal, or Mormon perspective. Their religions would have a shot at national cultural influence for the first time. Religious multi-culturalism has obvious advantages from an atheist/agnostic or liberal Protestant perspective as well. Within a diverse environment, a secular public sphere would be seen in its best light as defending the rights of all religious perspectives rather than just denying religion. I also think it's a good thing for atheists and agnostics to have contact with religious people and develop an interest in religious views. It's certainly been good for me.

The only question is whether evangelical conservatives will ever develop a respect for non-evangelical points of view. If so, religious multi-culturalism is a good thing for evangelicals. If not, then the best thing for everybody in the U. S. is for evangelicals to lose any hope of ever attaining precedence again.

But Rick Warren does get my number as an atheist in one way. Here's Warren stressing that the extent to which atheists reject their fathers.
Paul Vitz, who is an author with New York University, wrote a very fascinating book called Faith Of The Fathers, in which he went and studied the 72 most well-known atheists in history, the Bertrand Russells, the Voltaires, the Freuds, and the only thing he could find in common with every one of them is they all hated their dads. Every one of them. They had distant dad, demeaning dad, a dead dad, they had no relationships with their fathers.
I'm not going to make any list of "most well-known atheists," but I certainly hated my abusive father for a long time. Actually, I became an atheist after reading Freud's The Future of an Illusion, but did not explode into rage in relation to my father for about three years after that. Likewise, I began to "testify" to my atheism in public at about the same time that my father and I established something like a civil relationship 20 years later. But Warren's point still holds for me. I'm an atheist who's hated my father for most of my adult life. There isn't any way around it.
I guess I'll have to live with my lack of uniqueness in that regard.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Steele Should Worry About Keeping the 36

RNC Chairman Michael Steele was in Florida yesterday trying to increase GOP registration by getting Florida Republicans to seek out the black and hispanic vote.

He urged party members to create a grassroots movement by doing things like door-to-door voter registration and community service, as well as reaching out to blacks and Hispanics and seeking new minority leaders.

''Please send some folks to the convention that look like Florida,'' Steele said. ``Could you help a brother out? No more national conventions with [only] 36 people of color in the room.''

Steele should worry first about making sure those 36 black Republicans stay in the GOP tent. As Republican Party like Michele Bachman and conservative media outlets move farther to the far right, they're targeting their appeals to neo-Nazis like Pittsburgh shooter Richard Poplawski instead of African-Americans, Hispanics, and other minorities.

Maybe Steele's new slogan should be: Keep the 36!

All Things Must Pass

Miss Tween RSI is too cool for High School Musical 3. What's next? Is she going to lose interest in Scooby Doo?

Monday, April 06, 2009

UNC-Michigan State Near the Half

I'm watching North Carolina vs Michigan State on the CBS web site.

Carolina is ahead by 18 with 2:30 to go in the first half. They're making Michigan State look like Morehead State.

Actually, Morehead State looked better against Louisville.

Did I mention that I have two degrees from Carolina.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Some Resistance to the Left's Pittsburgh Narrative

According to Dave Neiwert of Crooks and Liars, today's shooting of three police officers in Pittsburgh to fear-mongering about guns from freak-show conservatives like Glenn Beck and the NRA:

Some of the early reports out of Pittsburgh indicate the man who shot three cops today was fearful that the Obama administration was going to "take away his guns."[...]

He feared an Obama gun grab? Gee, I wonder where he could have heard that.
Indeed, a story replete with NRA-style fearmongering about the looming "grab" -- which has been fueling a run on guns at local shops -- ran just three days ago in the Pittsburgh Tribune..

Prominent liberal blogger Digby followed up Neiwert with further reflections the dangers of fanning gun zealotry.

This is one of the weird fault lines in American politics --- the police who have to face the armed citizenry and the macho right wing zealots whose only answer for anything is for everyone to carry more guns. It's incidents like today's that bring home the fallacy of that argument in living color -- the cops are all armed and three of them got mowed down today by a gun nut.

The black helocopter crowd went underground during the Bush years, blithely unconcerned with the Cheney police state, (which proves just what a bunch of gullible tools they really are.) They only get aroused when someone tells them a liberal is in
office and so it's time to stock up on weaponry to repel the jack-booted thugs.

I don't want to say that the focus on the NRA and wing nuts is mistaken, but I still think there should be some resistance to this kind of strictly political narrative in favor of some reference to the rural-urban and class fault lines in this country.

Starting with guns, I'm bothered by the question of whether or not Pittsburgh shooter Richard Poplawski would have thought that Obama was "coming to take his guns away" even if the NRA never existed.

Looking at it from an Eastern Kentucky perspective, I'd have to say the answer is yes. Guys like Richard Poplawski would worry about liberals "taking their guns" even without the NRA and other fear-mongerers. Out in rural areas like this one, guns are many things for the guys who own lots of them. Guns are hunting instruments where hunting is often an orgy of drunken recklessness. Guns are also fetish objects for heterosexual guys who are more comfortable with their "buddies" than women. Likewise, guns are an important way in which guys mark out their symbolic distinctiveness from a lot of the cultural authorities who've judged them, including public school teachers, preachers, the educated people they think look down on them, and the city-dwellers who view rural people negatively.

I want to expand on this last point a little. I've lived most of my life in rural areas of upstate New York and Eastern Kentucky but have also spent a lot of time in urban or intellectual areas like Philadelphia, Portland, Oakland, Chapel Hill, NC, and Ann Arbor, MI. The liberal intellectual types I hang out with in places like Philadelphia have often been condescending toward the rural areas around them. But the condescension doesn't have a lot of energy to it because people in cities give so little thought to the rural areas around them. I remember one television station in Philadelphia once ran a special series on "the rest of Pennsylvania" so people in Philly would have an idea of the state outside Philadelphia, its suburbs, and Pittsburgh.

This is one reason why the "they're coming to take out guns" fantasy would be virulent here even without the NRA. People in areas like Eastern Kentucky and rural Pennsylvania know that middle-class and educated people in the cities have little use for guns. They also assume that city-dwellers have the same animus for them that rural people have for urban areas. The rural people I've known can't believe that people in the cities just don't think about them that much. When I'm talking with a "they're coming to take our guns" guy, that's precisely the point I make--they don't care about your guns, they don't care about you, and they don't care about Eastern Kentucky.

But nobody ever believes me. People in rural areas believe that Obama's coming to get their guns because they assume that they're important to Obama and can't believe they aren't.

It's also important to think about class in relation to these kinds of shootings. Three of the recent shooters had failed to establish any kind of solid footing in the working class. Binghamton shooter Jiverly Wong was ridiculed for his poor English and recently lost his job. Pittsburgh shooter Richard Pawlawski got involved in fist fights with his neighbors, washed out of the Marines for attacking a drill sergeant and also lost his job. Alabama shooter Michael McLendon didn't do any better with the Marines or the local police force, was involved in some sort of family dispute and had lost his job before he shot up his family and neighborhood.

All of these guys had failed with their class aspirations and weren't doing any better at their fall-back positions either.

All of them also seemed determined to commit suicide as they planned their shooting sprees. Richard Pawlawski called a friend to tell him he was going to die as he got ready to shoot the first wave of cops to come to his door. In a way, the impulse isn't surprising. What kind of self-respect does our culture offer to men or women who are struggling in the ways these guys were struggling? Not much that I can think of. Most people I know would think of these kinds of guys as "losers," "dumb-asses," "assholes" or some other pejorative term. I wouldn't be surprised if they all thought of themselves that way as well. There isn't much respect for working-class life in American culture. There's even less respect for not succeeding at working class life.

I imagine that Neiwert and Digby are right about fear-mongering on the right having a significant role in relation to the Pittsburgh shootings. But I also think it's important to resist viewing this kind of event strictly in terms of political manipulation. The fear-mongering of the right has an impact in the context of the larger patterns of people's lives and it's important to keep these larger patterns in mind as we think about these kinds of events.