Saturday, August 15, 2009

Republican Apologies Not Forthcoming

Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly would like the Republicans to apologize to the rest of the country for the disastrous eight years of the Bush administration.
Bush/Cheney policies failed so spectacularly, Republican candidates and officeholders are generally reluctant to associate themselves with the tarnished name of the previous administration. But Bush/Cheney policies are still those of the contemporary Republican Party. Nothing has changed. Failure and defeat haven't chastened the GOP at all, and if given a chance to govern again, Republican leaders are quite anxious to return to the exact same agenda they embraced when they were in the majority.
Benen is an outstanding blogger, but he's off track here. For the Republicans, it's a matter of being themselves. And a lot of times that means being assholes. From the GOP point of view, the Bush administration and McCain campaign were not aggressive enough about promoting conservativism, insufficiently willing to push wedge issues, and altogether too prissy about things like truth, fairness, and effective government. What mainstream Limbaugh conservatives value most highly is constant aggression in the their never-ending war against liberals, gays, and minorities. Name-calling, fear-mongering, and race and gay baiting aren't just political tactics (although they are that), they're also expressions of conservative identity.

Paraphrasing Bill Parcells (who knows a lot about being an asshole), the Republicans are what they are. If the Obama administration, Democrats, and progressives want to govern effectively, they're just going to have to acknowledge the reality of Republican intransigence and resolve to fight just as hard as the Republicans fight.

Otherwise, we're going to lose . . . again.

Friday, August 14, 2009

I'm So Happy for Tiger Woods

I can't begin to express my happiness over the fact that Tiger Woods is leading the PGA championship by four whole strokes.

Like billions of people the world over, I was worried that Tiger's life would have no meaning whatsoever if he did not win a major championship this year.

Of course, Tiger did lose all three of the other majors. But winning the PGA would make it possible for him to get through the off season without thinking of himself as a total loser.

Concerned golf fans can also put their "Don't Jump Tiger" buttons into storage.

Rick Pitino--Pro-Choice

Who knew that basketball coach Rick Pitino of the University of Louisville was pro-choice in his self-centered prick kind of way?

Now I Just Have To Leave My Shirt Untucked

Today, my 92 year old mother-in-law told Mrs. RSI that I looked "sexy" with my shirt untucked. What can I say? The woman has taste.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Grassley Chooses the Dark Side

Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa has been a member of the Gang of Six on the Senate Finance Committee who have been negotiating on health reform legislation.

But it should be obvious now that he's decided on the dark side rather than working with Obama and the Democrats.

Here's Grassley on the thoroughly debunked idea that "end of life" care is equivalent to euthanasia.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) continued the thoroughly debunked right wing euthanasia/death panel meme today, telling a town hall crowd, "You have every right to fear....a government run plan to decide when to pull the plug on Grandma."

He also said, "There are some people who think it is a terrible problem that Grandma is laying in a bed with tubes in her... and that the government should intervene. I think that's a family or religious thing that needs to be dealt with."

This is choosing "the dark side" because Grassley knows perfectly well that he's lying, but has decided to commit himself to the lie. One of the things that's interesting about the health care reform issue is whether the Republicans are going to be able to work with a new health care system if they lose. There have been at least a couple of comments on this blog indicating that conservatives will go along with a new system. I'm not so sure.

Meetings Today

It looks like one of those semesters. I skipped convocation. Needless to say, the provost noticed. Oh well. At least I got through the initial set of meetings without needing another shot of blood pressure medication.

On the bright side, I've started working on a proposal for a grad class on race for education students. Hopefully, I'll be teaching it in the spring.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Give Arlen Specter Credit

I usually don't give Arlen Specter a lot of credit. Mostly because he's never deserved much credit. But I have to give him props for sticking it out through that hostile townhall meeting in Lebanon, PA this afternoon.

Dick Cheney certainly never had guts like that.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Digby on Taser Torture

Digby is one of the few white bloggers who closely follows the police abuse of tasers. Here's an extended quote from her article on Glenn Greenwald's blog today.

Tasers were sold to the public as a tool for law enforcement to be used in lieu of deadly force. Presumably, this means situations in which officers would have previously had to use their firearms. It's hard to argue with that, and I can't think of a single civil libertarian who would say that this would be a truly civilized advance in policing. Nobody wants to see more death and if police have a weapon they can employ instead of a gun, in self defense or to stop someone from hurting others, I think we all can agree that's a good thing.

But that's not what's happening. Tasers are routinely used by police to torture innocent people who have not broken any law and whose only crime is being disrespectful toward their authority or failing to understand their "orders." There is ample evidence that police often take no more than 30 seconds to talk to citizens before employing the taser, they use them while people are already handcuffed and thus present no danger, and are used often against the mentally ill and handicapped. It is becoming a barbaric tool of authoritarian, social control . . .

America's torture problem is much bigger than Gitmo or the CIA or the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The government is torturing people every day and killing some of them. Then videos of the torture wind up on Youtube where sadists laugh and jeer at the victims. It's the sign of profound cultural illness.

Actually, there are a number of "profound cultural illnesses" at work in the tasing phenomenon. Above everything else, there is racism and the contemporary workings of racism. African-American bloggers like African-American Political Pundit follow police abuse of tasers very closely and find a great deal of racism in the abuse. In my own blogging, I've explored the idea that tasing represents a generalization of the police treatment of African-Americans to the whole population. Another sickness is the close association of freedom with the exercise of authority in the U. S. Even after the election of Barack Obama, the most important images of American freedom are not authority figures like the police and the military as opposed to dissenters like Martin Luther King. In this context, tasing is a manifestation of the kind of police freedom that is widely admired in American society. Finally, tasing is yet another manifestation of the paramilitarization of American policing. Cops like the Boston racist Justin Barrett are just like the contras or Columbian paramilitaries in viewing themselves as judge, jury, and executioner for any behavior they don't like. In this way, tasing is just another way for the police to mete out summary justice.

Forty Years of Charles Manson is Enough

For the last couple of weeks, there's been a lot of media publicity about the fortieth anniversary of the Manson killings.

But America doesn't live in a "post-sixties" world any more. Whether we like it or not, things have changed. Not that we've forgotten the sixties, but the major events of that decade--the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the anti-war movement, the counter-culture, and second-wave feminism--have lost the sense of tangible immediacy they had for so long.

It's the eventfulness of our own era that's pushing the events of the sixties to the back reaches of the public mind. Much as the sixties pushed WWII out of immediate awareness, the sixties are now being pushed back by 9-11, the Iraq War, the failures of George W. Bush, and the Obama presidency. Given that our time is so urgent, the sixties is now looking more like WWII, the Depression, and the Jazz Age. Yes, the sixties were highly significant, but the major events, personalities, and trends of the sixties no longer have much immediacy.

And that includes Charles Manson and his killings.
Manson's crimes continue to evoke a strong reaction long after public obsession over other high-profile cases has faded. He was the bogeyman under the bed, the personification of evil, the freaky one-man horror show. For years, when prison officials still allowed it, he gave television interviews, never failing to shock. The interviews kept memories of him fresh long after he was locked up.

The memories may have been fresh, but Charles Manson is no longer the model American mass murderer. That belongs to Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Columbine was the model for the Virginia Tech killings, Northern Illinois University killings, the rash of school shootings in Kentucky, and threatened school killings everywhere. The Columbine model of guys who viewed themselves as outside the magic circle of success and were determined to "go out in style" was still active in last week's Pittsburgh shooter George Sodini.

Of course, Charles Manson is titillating because the Tate/LoBianca murders were so monstrous. But sensation and titillation are not the same as cultural importance. Like the rest of the sixties, Charles Manson is not nearly as important as he used to be.

And why should he be? Isn't forty years of Charles Manson enough?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Tiger Slump: When Will It Ever End?

Tiger Woods won the Bridgestone Invitational today by four strokes.

It was his fifth victory in the twelve events that Woods has played this year while continuing his recovery from knee surgery. But the really important thing is that Tiger Woods has LOST seven whole tournaments. THAT'S SHOCKING!!! Who's ever heard of a major golf icon like Tiger Woods losing seven tournaments in only a year. And Tiger has lost all three MAJORS this year. That's right, Tiger Woods hasn't won a MAJOR all year. He's been stuck on 14 MAJOR tournament victories for almost eighteen months.

And Woods STILL hasn't won as many majors as Jack Nicklaus.

What's happening? What's Tiger doing wrong? I'm not a golf expert, but I'm worried. It's been so long since his last victory in a MAJOR that people who really know golf are beginning to wonder if Tiger has the cajones needed to break out of this horrible slump.

But I'll never lose faith.

Hang in there through this trying time Tiger.

We feel your pain.

What About Testing Humans On Dog Skills!

I'm not an animal rights person and I eat meat, but I'm still annoyed by research that ranks animals according to their performance on scales in relation to human skills. Why isn't there any research that ranks us in relation to the specific skill sets of birds, dogs, pigs, and fish?

Here's a summary of some research into the math skills of dogs.

The canine IQ test results are in: Even the average dog has the mental abilities of a 2-year-old child.

The finding is based on a language development test, revealing average dogs can learn 165 words (similar to a 2-year-old child), including signals and gestures, and dogs in the top 20 percent in intelligence can learn 250 words.

In my opinion, what's amazing here is that dogs can pick up that much of a skill like using human words. I wonder if human beings would be flexible enough to pick up very many of the dog skills connected with smell and hearing. I'm not so sure.

I'm Old and I Look It!

Today, the counter person at Shoney's asked me if I wanted a senior citizen discount. That was the first time I had gotten THAT question. But after recovering my composure, I owned up to being 55 and received a $1 discount.

Now that didn't exactly make my day. Five years ago, I was 50 and could still pass for 35-40, at least with those friends who were interested in flattering me. Now, I'm 55 and can pass for . . . well, 55.

My mother used to say that 70 was the new middle age and, who knows, maybe I'll eventually start looking at things that way as well.

But right now, I'm thinking that I'm old and I look it.

I did feel good that I could add another buck to the tip though.