Saturday, August 01, 2009

Nate Silver Sees Slim Margin in House

Nate Silver sees health care legislation as passing by about 10 votes in the House.

Palin's Back

The blog site Conservatives4Palin fronts this picture of Sarah Palin with her back turned to the viewer gazing out over an oil pipeline and some mountains. It's extremely interesting that the conservatives pose Palin's back. This had to be a purposeful strategy because the web designer sacrificed what the right views as Palin's most important asset--her looks. There's a number of ways the Conservative4Palin design can be viewed, but I'm impressed by the austere isolation of the whole representation of Palin. She's alone contemplating snow-covered mountains unspoiled by environmentalists and an oil pipeline stretching out toward more mountains in the distance. There's no Palin family, no Alaskans, no animals and no invitation from the design to either join Palin in her causes or to participate in her strength. One could say that the viewer is invited to admire or support Palin, but only from a distance that's as breathtaking as the mountains.
The picture has very little to do with Sarah Palin who has five kids and dives enthusiastically into hunting, fishing, and dishing out food at Alaskan gatherings. Very few politicians pose themselves as lonely, isolated, or contemplative figures and Sarah Palin isn't one of them.
In my opinion, Conservatives4Palin should be seen as using Sarah Palin to represent their own sense of isolation and purity as well as their determination to turn their backs on most other Americans.
But that's a good part of Palin's strength among activist conservatives. She's a tremendous prop for the conservative imagination. Conservatives are able to represent themselves in the most positive light possible through the images they create of Palin.

Reports of a Sarah Palin Divorce

There are reports out this afternoon that Sarah Palin and her husband are getting divorced.

AlaskaReport has learned this morning that Todd Palin and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin are to divorce. Multiple sources in Wasilla and Anchorage have confirmed the news. A National Enquirer story exposing previous affairs on both sides led to a deterioration of their marriage and the stress from that led to Palin's resignation as governor of Alaska.

The Palins were noticeably not speaking to each other at last Sunday's resignation speech in Fairbanks. Sarah ditched Todd (MSNBC) right after the speech and left without him. Sarah removed her wedding ring a couple of weeks ago.

If this is the case, it's most unfortunate. The Palin's still have four kids living at home and the baby Trigg is disabled. So, a divorce would hardly be good for the family.

A divorce following so closely on her resignation as governor would give Palin a Lindsey-Lohan kind of train wreck aura as well.

My own opinion is that there's no particular need for Sarah Palin to join John Ensign and Mark Sanford in the roster of Republican train wrecks. And I certainly wouldn't want to see anything happen to derail Palin's upcoming career as a gaffe-a-minute conservative icon. So I hope the rumors aren't really true.

But there's certainly a lot of smoke around Palin's personal life.

Update: Sarah Palin's spokesperson came out with a denial.
Yet again, some so-called journalists have decided to make up a story. There is no truth to the recent "story" (and story is the correct term for this type of fiction) that the Palins are divorcing. The Palins remain married, committed to each other and their family, and have not purchased land in Montana (last week it was reported to be Long Island). Less than one week ago, Governor Palin asked the media to "quit making things up." We appreciate that the more professional journalists decided to question this story before repeating it.

The Official Response from Sarah Palin is a no ambiguity, Shermanesque denial that the media is always seeking: "Divorce Todd? Have you seen Todd? I may be just a renegade hockey mom, but I'm not blind!"-- SARAH PALIN

Of course, that's also the kind of denial that Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro made when they were asked about steroids.

I give the Palins marriage another year.

The Unethical Truce Between GE and Fox

Glenn Greenwald has a good run down of the CEO agreement between General Electric and News Corps to end the war between Keith Olbermann and Bill O'Reilly:
In essence, the chairman of General Electric (which owns MSNBC), Jeffrey Immelt, and the chairman of News Corporation (which owns Fox News), Rupert Murdoch, were brought into a room at a "summit meeting" for CEOs in May, where Charlie Rose tried to engineer an end to the "feud" between MSNBC's Keith Olbermann and Fox's Bill O'Reilly. According to the NYT, both CEO's agreed that the dispute was bad for the interests of the corporate parents, and thus agreed to order their news employees to cease attacking each other's news organizations and employees.

There are a number of implications of this story. Among other things pointed out by Greenwald, the GE/Fox deal is strong evidence of corporate control by companies like GE over their news divisions. I would also think that the deal also demonstrates the limitations of any effort to bring progressive ideas and personalities into the mainstream media. If corporate headquarters at GE, Disney, or TimeWarner can decide that a huge right-wing target like Fox is off limits, then it's pretty evident that progressives won't be able to get very far with the corporate-owned media.

The GE/Fox deal also looks like an obvious violation of anti-trust laws that discourage this kind of collusion.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Limbaugh Still in NY

It looks like New York City will have to put off its parade. Four months ago, the right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh announced that he was leaving the city over the imposition of a millionaire's tax and the City was planning a huge ticker tape parade to celebrate.

Back in March, Rush Limbaugh got a lot of attention when he vowed to sell his New York City apartment and cease broadcasting from Manhattan, in response to a planned tax increase for wealthy New York State residents. "I'm going to get out of there totally, 'cause this is just absurd, and it's ridiculous," he fumed.
New Yorkers were deliriously happy. Gov. David Paterson expressed the convictions of millions of New Yorkers when he said that “If I knew that would be the result . . . I would’ve thought about the taxes earlier." The celebration of Limbaugh's departure was going to be the biggest event in human history. The Thanksgiving-style floats, hundreds of bands, mummers from Philadelphia, and Mardi Gras celebrants from New Orleans and Brazil were going to stretch for at least 10 miles. The City was going to unleash the biggest fireworks in history of mankind and little children as young as age 6 would be allowed to drink all the booze they could get. The "Good-Riddance Rush" celebration was going to be bigger than the victory celebrations after WWII, Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, or the last Yankee World Series. It would have put President Kennedy's funeral to shame.

But it looks like the parade has to be called off. Given that Limbaugh has made no effort to sell his condo or move his second studio out of the New York City, it looks like the city has to graciously accept his presence for at least another year.

But the last word hasn't been spoken. Don't be surprised if New York State tries to force Limbaugh's hand by raising the millionaire's tax again.

Then they can have their parade.

Is America The Country They Were Born In?

Glenn Thrush of The Politico is shocked by the fact that 58% of Republicans either don't believe or are not sure that Barack Obama was born in the United States.

Shocker poll from Kos/Research2000 today.

A whopping 58 percent of Republicans either think Barack Obama wasn't born in the US (28 percent) or aren't sure (30 percent). A mere 42 percent think he was.

That means a majority of Republicans polled either don't know about -- or don't believe the seemingly incontrovertible evidence Obama's camp has presented over and over and over that he was born in Hawaii in '61.

I'm not sure why. Participation in the "birther movement" has become part of the political identity of "near fringe" conservatism best identified with Glenn Beck and the tea parties, the kind of conservatives who are more strident than Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter but haven't moved to the "far fringes" of neo-Nazism, Ann Randism, or the KKK.

The fact that 58% of Republicans have at least some sympathy for the birther movement is a sign of the extent to which the GOP has shifted farther to the right in response to the election of Barack Obama.

Thrush wonders when people are going to "start a serious dialog about the Birther movement being a proxy for racism that is unacceptable to articulate in more direct terms?"

But I wonder if there aren't other fundamentals of conservatism at work here. For example, I wonder how Republicans would respond to a question like this:

"Is America still the country you were born in?"

I think a lot of Republicans would answer "no" or "not sure."

That's a real issue as well.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Rage of Justin Barrett, Part I

One of the limitations of contemporary political discourse on race is that guys like Justin Barrett don't get more sustained attention. A police officer and National Guard member, Barrett wrote an e-mail to the Boston Globe's Yvonne Abraham that exploded with racial and gender rage, revealed the extent to which police officers think they're laws onto themselves, and formulated a dangerous view of the military as the foundation of American society.

But almost all of this is going to be swept under the rug.

Because Justin Barrett used a racist monkey image in relation to Henry Louis Gates, he will be fired from the Boston Police force and removed from the National Guard. He'll also have a difficult time finding an equivalent job in a tough economy (will the Boston Fire Department want him?). Indeed, Barrett might not be able to find any kind of position that involves working with people who aren't committed racists.

Barrett claims to have black friends. I imagine he'll also lose all of his black friends not named Clarence Thomas.

But Barrett will be forgotten after he either loses or gives up his appeals to keep his job. He'll have his fifteen minutes of infamy and then the incident will be swept under the carpet of American public awareness. That's the way the media works on race. It focuses attention on "racial incidents" primarily as a way to reassure everybody--well, whites anyway-- that America is not a racist country. When that comforting thought is achieved, people like Justin Barrett are then dropped from the collective memory.

Still, it's important to fully illuminate Justin Barrett's views. Barrett is a racist, a misogynist, and an advocate of police tyranny. But he's not just an immoral person. He's also somebody who ties these views together into a violently authoritarian system of political thought. Given the hostility toward democracy that's become more prominent in some circles over the last three years, t's necessary to understand how Barrett's thinking works. It would also be important to figure out whether Barrett's ideas are shared among conservatives, members of police forces, and the various branches of the military. There's not much hope there though. Given the desire to sweep Justin Barrett under the carpet of history, it might be a long time before anyone knows how widely held his views are.

Barrett, the Racial Analogy, and Police Power.

An important kernel of Justin Barrett's world view is the justification of the tyrannical rule of police through the analogy of Henry Louis Gates to a "banana-eating jungle monkey."
Your defense of Gates while he is on the phone being confronted with a police officer is assuming he has rights when considered a suspect. He is a suspect and always will be a suspect. His first priority of effort should be to get off the phone and comply with police for if I was the officer he verbally assaulted like a banana-eating jungle monkey I would have sprayed him in the face with OC (pepper spray) deserving of his belligerent non-compliance.

I won't hide my bias. Given the history of white racism in this country, it's sickening to see a black guy like Gates analogized to a "banana-eating jungle monkey." I'm nauseous even typing it. It's even more disgusting that this analogy is so important to Barrett's view of the power of the police. Barrett starts his presentation by seeking to disabuse Abraham of the view that Prof. Gates should be considered a citizen of the United States. "Your defense of Gates while he is on the phone being confronted with a police officer is assuming he has rights when considered a suspect. He is a suspect and always will be a suspect."

Barrett's second sentence here explains the meaning of the first. To Justin Barrett, Prof. Gates is not and can never be a citizen who can claim "rights" according to the Constitution. For Barrett, Gates "is and will always be a suspect" in the sense that Gates is permanently under suspicion for committing crimes and therefore always subject to police action. This is where the circular reasoning connected to the monkey analogy begins to take effect. In the world according to Justin Barrett, any claim by black persons to have rights reveals their racial essence and constitutes proof that they are sub-human and therefore do not deserve rights. By complaining to Officer Crowley, Gates revealed his essence as a "banana-eating jungle monkey" who did not deserve the rights he claimed to have and merited his status as a police suspect.

Because he does not view black people as having any rights, Justin Barrett assumes that police officers have a right to do anything to a black person like Prof. Gates they want. Barrett claims that he would have sprayed Gates in the face with OC or pepper spray for his "belligerent non-compliance" in claiming his rights. This is a startling claim. Gates was not committing a crime and he posed no danger or other impediment to Officer Crowley (who could have arrested him at any time). As a result, Barrett is posing himself as having a right to pepper spray Gates simply because Gates was demanding to know the officer's name and badge number. Therefore, Barrett was presuming a right to consider Gates "non-compliance" to be a crime and to serve as judge, jury, and agent for executing punishment in relation to that crime. It's important to emphasize that Justin Barrett is claiming the right for himself and other police officers to decide themselves on punishment for black guys like Gates. In Barrett's mind, police officers would have been well within their rights to club, tase, beat up, or even shoot Gates for his non-compliance. If Gates has no rights as a citizen, how cops punish them is a matter of whim and Barrett only chooses OC because that's the particular way he enjoys the thought of Gates' suffering.

For Justin Barrett, the supposed racial inferiority of blacks justifies an assertion of total police power over black people.

Next Time--Justin Barrett and the Military as Foundational

Joey Harrington's the Man

Pete Schrager of FoxSports is catching onto something that I wrote about on this blog last year--that journeyman quarterback Joey Harrington of the New Orleans Saints is one of the more sympathetic figures in the NFL.
If you're a fan of redemption stories, you might want to check out what [Joey Harrington's] up to down in New Orleans this August. Harrington, known as "Joey Blue Skies" in Detroit, is currently with the Saints — his fourth team in five NFL seasons . . . Drew Brees is the starter in New Orleans, but there's a shot Harrington outdoes (Mark) Brunell and gets the nod as the Saints No. 2. Taunted by Detroit fans for years, stuck on horrendous Lions, Dolphins and Falcons squads, and owner of a career losing record that would make Jamal Crawford and Archie Manning blush — perhaps it's time to root for Joey Harrington. Older, wiser and on the outer edges of NFL relevancy, a career revival would be one to rally around.
Given the horrible teams he's been on, Harrington also deserves credit for conducting himself in a mature manner and not doing anything to make bad situations worse.

Here's hoping that Joey Harrington is a good enough quarterback that his patience can be rewarded.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Malcolm Gladwell Simpers Over Bear Stearns

Malcolm Gladwell's not my favorite writer--he's Thomas Friedman without the deep reflections on his rides from the airport-- and Gladwell's New Yorker article on the Bear Stearns failure is an exercise in simpering. According to Gladwell, Bear Stearns CEO Jimmy Cayne was "over-confident" and Cayne's over-confidence has something to do with the over-confidence of the now-forgotten British generals at Gallipoli.

Bear's failure also had something to do with playing bridge even though the now-forgotten British generals at Gallipoli didn't seem to have played bridge.

Give Gladwell credit.

He showed that he knew a couple of obscure references even if he didn't write anything that helped us understand the failure of Bear Stearns.

The Problem with Brett Favre

The Minnesota Vikings announced today that NFL legend, icon, and retirement specialist Brett Favre will not be returning to play football in 2009.

So why can't Favre stay retired?

There are a lot of theories, but I haven't seen anybody mention just how dull and boring life can be in Kiln, Mississippi. Like a lot of guys who've seen the bright lights and the big cities, Favre can't get used to living in an area that really gets dark at night.

Who can blame him?

What Favre needs to do is move to New York, LA, or Chicago, get involved in some sort of sports related commerce, and go out and enjoy the adulation that goes with being a recently retired football legend.

That would keep him retired.

Michael Vick: The Dick Cheney of Sports

Having followed the Atlanta Falcons fan since their first year of expansion, I used to be a big fan of Michael Vick.

However, those days are over even if Vick does catch on with another team. I know Vick didn't start any wars, torture anybody, carry a gun, or steal anything. But anybody who executes failed fighting dogs has to be a super-asshole. That makes Michael Vick the Dick Cheney of the sports world.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tom Friedman Must Take Dumb Pills

Today's NY Times op-ed shows once again that Tom Friedman is the Doug Feith of journalism. I owe an apology to the Slate writer I once called "the dumbest guy to ever put his hands on a keyboard."