Saturday, July 04, 2009
I see where John McCain gave a desultory speech about American greatness in terms of being "leader of the free world" and bombing the crap out of Iran. But social justice is the most important measure of national greatness and the Battle of Gettysburg was a first crucial step in America's fumbling efforts to cash in on the promises of our iconic documents. Thomas Jefferson had written that all men were created equal and Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, but it wasn't until Gettysburg that the United States began to decisively turn the tide on the evil of slavery. It was only with the defeat of the Confederate Rebellion that America could start to envision itself as fulfilling the promise of revolutionary democracy and Gettysburg was the turning point that made American victory almost inevitable.
In his Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln said that "this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom." I don't believe that this or any nation has ever lived under a divinity, but I do think that the Battle of Gettysburg was a decisive event in the "new birth of freedom" that began with the Emancipation Proclamation. That new birth of freedom prepared the way for another birth of freedom in the Civil Rights Movement and the other new births of freedom associated with feminism, gay rights, and the growth of immigrant cultures.
The United States is a great nation because it has become a diverse nation that has leveraged the struggle against racial segregation into a general movement toward social freedom. I'm well into middle age, but I still hope that the expansion of freedom in my lifetime will develop into a movement for the social justice of equal economic opportunity as well.
That would make us a much greater nation still.
It should be mentioned that the Union Army at Gettysburg was in some ways a multi-national army. The Eleventh Corps that was so involved in the fighting on the first and second day was largely a German unit. Likewise, an Irish regiment played a decisive role in turning back Longstreet's attack on the Union left during the second day.
The Union victory at Gettysburg was also a victory for ordinary soldiers and low level officers. As had been the case for almost two years, the Union Army was plagued by poor generalship at Gettysburg. Union generals like Daniel Sickles were simply outclassed by Confederates rivals like James Longstreet. But Union regiments kept saving the Union position by making heroic charges or standing their own ground against Confederate advances. The bravery of units like the 20th Maine, 1st Minnesota, and 40th New York made up for the poor performance of the generals on the second day of the battle. The flanking fire of the 8th Ohio was an important factor in turning back the left flank of the final Confederate charge on the third day.
The romance of the Confederacy that developed after the Civil War still dominates popular presentations of the Battle of Gettysburg. That's why the final action of the battle is still thought of more in terms of the tragedies of Lee's hubris, Longstreet's agonizing, and Pickett's fatal charge than the importance of the Union defense for the future of this country.
But the Battle of Gettysburg was a tremendous turning point in the history of a country whose future is still bright now that the tide of modern conservatism has been turned back as well.
Watching Gettysburg was a fitting way to spend the Fourth of July.
I missed the whole Billy Mays phenomenon.
It's odd to say, but I'm kind of proud of that.
Friday, July 03, 2009
That's actually pretty difficult to define.
But I'm going to take a shot at defining Palin first, then defining the significance of her resignation.
Sarah Palin is the first major national political personality to emerge from the religious right since the emergence of the anti-abortion movement in the 70's. Where Ronald Reagan and George W. merely "appealed" to the religious right, Sarah Palin fully embodies the combination of brassy NRA aggression, evangelical sentimentality, and supreme disdain for urban, liberal, and minority culture that defines rural conservatism.
In other words, Sarah Palin is the Barack Obama of rural whiteness.
The significance of Palin's resignation is that it gets her back to the business of defining herself.
As Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin hasn't been in any kind of position to either defend herself from criticism or promote her world view. Not having her own media platform, Palin has been on the sidelines for debates over Obama's stimulus package, stem cell research, and the Sotomayor nomination. She hasn't been able to either represent or promote "her" values, keep her name in front of her constituencies, or promote the "Sarah" brand that started to develop during the McCain campaign
Palin has also been a sitting duck for her enemies in the Alaska GOP establishment, former McCain staffers, and the liberal wing of the mainstream media. People were filing the ethics complaints, Steve Schmidt was talking to any journalist who would listen, and magazines like Vanity Fair were making money running hit pieces.
Even Levi Johnston was taking shots at her.
In other words, the only people benefitting from the "Sarah" brand were her enemies. Being Governor of Alaska wasn't helping Sarah Palin seize the opportunities created for her by the 2008 presidential campaign. So she wants out.
With her resignation speech, there are four paths that Sarah Palin is likely to follow:
1. Run for President. If Sarah Palin runs for president, she'll be a top tier candidate for the Republican nomination along with Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. Given that Palin is more popular among evangelicals than Huckabee, it would have to be said that she would start out in a stronger position than Huckabee and could conceivably knock Huckabee out after the South Carolina primary. It's easy to imagine a scenario in which Palin knocked out Huckabee herself and counted on second tier candidates like Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich to hold down the Mitt Romney vote and give her a real shot at winning the nomination.
2. Become a Conservative Media Presence. There are a couple of media paths Palin could take. First, she could become a big bucks conservative motivational speaker, Republican Party fund-raiser, and evangelical/NRA personality. That would put a lot of money in Palin's pocket, place her in front of the friendly audiences that make her comfortable, and promote the "Sarah" brand with her core constituencies. It's also easy to imagine this as an extremely lucrative path leading to a presidential campaign. I can see the bumper stickers with "Run, Sarah, Run" on them now.
There's also the possibility of seeking a permanent position as a talk radio host or television personality, or commentator. There's big bucks in conservative commentary these days. These options seek less likely to me though because most of these kinds of permanent gigs require the detailed kind of policy knowledge that Palin avoids. People like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly all have a gift for formulating their conservative values, right-wing policy positions, and disdain for the opposition into a seemless package. It's tough to do and there are no comparable media figures on the left. Palin has a gift for expressing her values but isn't very good with either policy or engaging the opposition. So, it's hard for me to view her as the female version of Rush Limbaugh.
3. The Permanent Meltdown. There's also a chance that Sarah Palin could go into a more or less permanent state of meltdown. Depending on how one interprets "melting down," it could be said that Michael Jackson went through a 15 or 25 year state of permanent crisis. How long has Courtney Love been melting down? What about Amy Winehouse? Given the possibility of gigolo eruptions for her, bimbo eruptions for Tod Palin, and all kinds of other eruptions from her children, in-laws, and friends, it's easy to see the Sarah Palin soap opera as going on for a long time and not really ending while she's alive. It seems that popular culture in the United States needs a certain number of celebrities in a state of permanent meltdown. Maybe Sarah Palin could satisfy that need.
Finally, there's one more path Sarah Palin could follow.
4. The No Resignation Resignation. Given that Palin's not resigning until the end of July, there's a decent chance that the whole resignation gambit is a charade, that Palin is not going to resign as governor at all and is counting on an "outpouring of popular support" to persuade her to stay in office.
If I were Palin, I would start down the "conservative speaker" path and then make a run for the presidency.
But that sounds too reasonable for Sarah Palin's universe.
So, I would be surprised if Palin resigned at all.
However, the prospect of a permanent meltdown looms on Palin's horizon whichever path she starts on. My suspicion is that Palin is just not plastic enough for the constant re-invention that goes into being a national level politician or mega-celebrity.
Ultimately, it's easy to see being nominated as John McCain's vice-presidential candidate as the beginning of a long and ugly process of personal destruction for Sarah Palin.
Thursday, July 02, 2009
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
The Question: Should we react like Clarence Thomas did when his nomination to the Supreme Court was finally approved--
The Answer: Hell No! Why spend our whole lives being cynical and defeated before anything bad actually happens? That's for people like Clarence Thomas.
I feel like the Jeremy Piven character in Grosse Pointe Blank--SIXTY VOTES! SIXTY VOTES MAN! SIXTY! S-I-X-T-Y! SIXTY!
Ok. Back to my sober, serious, analytical self. Ric, you have a Ph.D. in political science. Pull yourself together. There are moderate Democrats out there who might be offended.
Oh, screw it. SIXTY VOTES MAN!!!
Get rid of the filibuster!
Confirmation for Dawn Johnsen!
The Public Option for health insurance!
More regulation for Wall Street!
More Green Energy!
A War Crimes Investigation for Dick Cheney.
Come on President Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi. Let's get stuff done!
What's even better is that the Democrats have a decent shot at actually increasing their Senate majority to 63 or 64 in 2010.
Monday, June 29, 2009
It's something about the laws of physics.
But Mark Sanford is so enthusiastic about God's plans that it's hard to talk about Mark Sanford without talking about God.
So, I'm going to pretend there is a god so I can discuss God's plans for Mark Sanford and why they might be different from Mark Sanford's idea of God's plan.
And why my idea of God's plan for Mark Sanford is closer to the spirit of Jesus than Sanford's own idea.
Mark Sanford's idea is that his on-going disgrace over his affair with Maria Chapur will allow him to "walk in the spirit of humility" while serving as South Carolina governor and in fact make him a more successful governor.
Their belief was that if I walked in with a real spirit of humility then this last legislative term could well be our most productive one - and that outside this term, I would ultimately be a better person and of more service in whatever doors God opened next in life.Sanford had attempted to refuse money from the Obama economic recovery package, but had been defeated in his efforts by both the Republican-dominated South Carolina legislature and the courts. Sanford's friends--and he completely agrees with them--suggested to him that Sanford lost the stimulus battle because of the same "sin of pride" that had led to the affair.
A long list of close friends have suggested otherwise - that for God to really work in my life I shouldn’t be getting off so lightly [by resigning]. While it would be personally easier to exit stage left, their point has been that my larger sin was the sin of pride. They contended that in many instances I may well have held the right position on limited government, spending or taxes - but that if my spirit wasn't right in the presentation of those ideas to people in the General Assembly, or elsewhere, I could elicit the response that I had at many times indeed gotten from other state leaders.In other words, Sanford thinks he didn't lost the stimulus battle because refusing the money would have harmed South Carolina's educational system. He lost because he wasn't in the "right spirit" to be convincing to his political allies and that God was somehow ensuring that Sanford failed until he got into the right spirit. Now that Sanford has been "humbled" by his affair, he'll be walking in the right spirit and will be in a position to be more successful.
Sanford doesn't quite say this, but he seems to be thinking that God's plan was to humble Mark Sanford so he could be bigger and more successful. The affair was God's plan. Getting caught was God's plan. Looking like an idiot was God's plan.
And it would all make Mark Sanford more successful now or in the future.
In other word, Sanford thinks God is heavily invested in the success of Mark Sanford and is managing Sanford's affairs beautifully so that Sanford can be successful "the right way."
God! The ultimate career counselor.
But God doesn't work that way, at least according to the New Testament. Here's the money quote from the Luke version of the Sermon on the Mount:
Blessed be ye poor for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now, for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. But woe unto you that are rich! For ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! For ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! For ye shall mourn and wep. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! For so did their fathers to the false prophets. (Luke 6: 20-24, King James version)Passages like this are part of the reason I'm an atheist. I believe that those who are depressed, unhappy, grieving, or impoverished should be seen as a blessed part of a community of people who are trying to ease their suffering. But I'm a million miles from thinking that those who "laugh now" or are "well liked" are on the fast track to hell. The pronunciation of damnation on those who laugh now is one of the best reasons I can think of to reject Jesus and Christianity.
But Mark Sanford is a Christian. So, I assume he doesn't have this problem. Sanford's problem is that he's a wealthy, important, guy who men have spoken quite well of until now and God's plan for those kind of guys is to send them directly to hell without letting them pass go or look back like Lott's wife.
At least according to Luke. Or Matthew!
So, what is God's plan for Mark Sanford. Well, it looks like Sanford's going to try to hang onto his job as Governor despite calls for him to resign. I hope he succeeds because I can see the Jesus version of God as having a very important use for Mark Sanford if he remains as Governor.
In other words, God's plan might be to use Mark Sanford to pass health care reform.
There are 45 million uninsured people in the United States.
They need God's help.
If Mark Sanford's religious friends do talk him into remaining as Governor, Sanford's presence will make the Republican Party even less credible than they are now, weaken their resistance to the health care reform package taking shape in Congress, and make it more likely that health care reform will pass this year.
That would help poor people, people suffering from difficult illnesses, people who are afraid of not being able to pay medical bills, people who are struggling with the illnesses of their friends and loved ones, and people who are in grief over recent deaths.
In other words, health care reform will be a blessing for many of the people that the New Testament views as "blessed."
According to the God of the New Testament, Mark Sanford is doomed to rot for eternity.
But if benefitting millions of people through health care reform is part of the plan, who am I to object?
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Stanford denies having three mistresses, but who in their right mind would believe Mark Stanford at this point.
In their morning meeting, State editors decided to immediately inform the governor and his inner circle about the e-mails.
A reporter called a Sanford staffer, saying the paper had e-mails that outlined an affair between the governor and Maria. Unless Sanford would address the issue privately, The State would have no choice but to ask him — with TV crews filming — if he knew Maria at his press conference that afternoon.
The names of two other women tumbled into the newsroom.
Certainly, it will be interesting to see if women emerge now that Door No. 2 and Door No. 3 have appeared.
Maybe Sanford has something to say about their tan lines as well.
For those keeping up with their biblical dimension of Mark Sanford's affairs, it appears that Sanford will have to give up his King David analogy and go all the way back to Abraham and Isaac for examples of Biblical leaders who kept up little harems.
What's good for the original Hebrews is good for America!
In terms of the Mark Sanford/John Edwards mistress throwdown, I'd have to say that the possibility of three mistresses plus a much needed bible lesson tops one piddly sex tape.
This round goes to Mark Sanford.
Former staffer Andrew Young is divulging that Edwards definitey fathered Rielle Hunter's baby.
Young says that his belief in Edwards ran so deep that he agreed to take the fall for the candidate, inviting the pregnant Hunter to live with him, his wife, Cheri, and their three children. Later, after Hunter delivered the baby, Young and his family moved to a different home in California. As if anyone ever doubted that.Young also drops that he came into possession of an Edwards/Hunter sex tape.
It's hard to tell which is more stupid--making the tape or leaving the damn thing laying around. But Edwards has to take the grand prize for plumbing the depths of dumness
While he was unpacking, Young discovered a videocassette, according to the book pitch. Hunter had been hired by the Edwards campaign to videotape the candidate’s movements, but this one is said to have shown him taking positions that weren’t on his official platform.
The purported sex tape confirmed to Hunter that Edwards was even more reckless than he thought.
Even over Mark Sanford.
Did you ever imagine an America in which we could address public policy issues without having to be distracted by the hatred of liberals, African-Americans, gays, and Hispanics spewing forth from the conservative media?
Did you ever think there would be a time when war isn't the first, second, and third option of American foreign policy?
Well, Rush Limbaugh is beginning to imagine that time.
In his own particular way
In response to Mark Sanford's news conference last Wednesday, Limbaugh speculated that Sanford wasn't so much in love but that he was just giving up the fight for the conservative cause.
And Limbaugh warned that "there are a lot of people," a lot of conservative people, who are looking at the political landscape and becoming so dispirited that they're thinking of just giving up and "enjoying life."
There are a lot of people whose spirit is just. They’re fed up . . . say the hell with it. I don’t even want to fight this anymore. I want to get away from it. Rush, are you kidding, this theory of yours about Sanford?" No, I'm not. My first thought was he said: "To hell with this. The Democrats are destroying the country. We can't do anything to stop it. I gave everything I had to stop it here in South Carolina. My wife's left me, the hell with it. I'm going to enjoy life what little time I've got left." Folks, there are a lot of people that are looking at life, they're saying screw it. They're saying screw it. Before Obama takes away all their money, before Obama takes away their house or the economy takes away their house, there are people who are simply saying the hell with this. They've tuned out. The hell with it. I'm just going to try to enjoy it as much as I can. . .Jason Links of HuffPost thinks that Limbaugh is just blaming Obama for Sanford's affair. But it sounds to me like Limbaugh thinks a lot of conservatives are ready to run up the white flag.
And that's reason to hope . . . and maybe celebrate.
Keep fighting team.
The power struggle inside Iran appears to be moving from the streets into the heart of the regime itself this weekend amid reports that Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani is plotting to undermine the power of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.But where's the evidence of the plotting, let alone that the plotting is making any progress?
It's all starting to sound like wishful thinking to me.