Saturday, September 19, 2009

How Creepy is John Edwards?

I didn't like John Edwards but I didn't think he was creepy enough to do this.
According to the newspaper . . . Edwards once told Hunter they would wed after Ddwards' wife, who has cancer, died. Edwards told Hunter that the ceremony would be held on a rooftop in New York and the Dave Matthews Bands would make an appearance, the newspaper said, citing its examination of the book proposal.
Of course, I also have a hard time believing anyone would fall for a line like that.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Talking Points Memo Makes Me Want

to tear out what's left of my hair. They front paged a speech by former Bush administration official Ellen Sauerbrey at a Maryland Republican dinner saying that Obama was like Hitler and Juan Peron.
Sauerbrey said that President Obama was surrounded by a cult-like following, edging towards that of Juan Peron or Adolf Hitler. She told the paper that she was not making a comparison between Obama and Hitler, but instead saying that the conditions in this country were such that a dictator could usurp the rights of citizens.
Why? Why? Why? Ellen Sauerbrey was a nobody Assistant Secretary of State for a Neglected Function in the Bush administration. And there's no good reason why she shouldn't continue to be a nobody. However, Talking Points Memo (TPM), a progressive media outlet, is giving Sauerbrey her shot at becoming a somebody because they're giving Sauerbrey's little speech national play. Given that TPM has become a source of stories for the mainstream media, Sauerbrey's views could be all over television by the end of the week and she could start getting invited to the Sunday talk shows.

Talking Points Memo and HuffPost should seriously think about their role in communicating and amplifying the right-wing message.

Hey, That's Me

There's my picture for a story on my brilliant career as a blogger from the Morehead State University newspaper, The Trail Blazer. I've never really liked having my picture taken and I like it even less the older I get.
But I guess we all have to make sacrifices. There it is.
Here's the article in my college newspaper, The Trail Blazer below. It does take some of my flamboyant statements out of the context in which I wrote them and therefore makes them appear more unreasonable than they really are. One thing that I like, though, is that is that my writing and thinking about politics looks like its "quotable." That distinctiveness is part of what I'm aiming for.
While focusing on Red State Impressions, I should mention that I put up my 2,000th post for this blog a couple of days ago. Not bad for three years work.

"Blue Blogger in Red State"

The words used to write about Democratic Senator Max Baucus's health care bill were frank: "Now, I know why Baucus shouldn't get any credit. It's because he's stupid."

These words do not stem from a right-wing blog or Sarah Palin's Facebook profile; they are written by Ric Caric, an outspoken MSU government professor, on his blog Red State Impressions (, which offers a left perspective on American politics.

Although Caric writes from the left and has been critical of Republicans, especially the Bush administrations, he has recently also criticized some Democrats including Baucus in yesterday's blog spot.

"I've been more critical of progressives for focusing so much on the media," Caric said. "They are also not very inclusive, of the labor unions, of minorities. I'd like progressives to be more open."

But conservatives are still his favorite target. On Tuesday he commented on Linda McMahon, the CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, gearing up to run for the Republicans in a Connecticut Senate race.

He writes "Linda McMahon is the perfect Republican politician for these times. Actually, I'm rather surprised that the WWE has not run its executives, wrestlers, managers, and divas all over the country as Republican candidates. It's been known for a long time that politics is show business and the WWE puts on the kind of show that Republicans like to see. It's a natural fit."

Caric said he first started writing online on a daily basis shortly after the 9/11 terror attacks, concentrating on the possibility of a war against Iraq, which later would come true.

"I was convinced within days of the attack that the Bush administration was gearing up to invade Iraq," he said.

Caric first wrote in chat rooms of the online magazine Slate using various user names such as "riccaric", "keepacleareye" or "pinkroom."

"I'm the kind of person who gets bored with myself very easily," he said.

In 2004, he moved from the chat rooms to his own blog, and since 2006 he writes under the blog title "Red State Impressions." Caric averages about 10 posts a week updating the site sometimes multiple times per day.

"I have excess opinion that I want to write about beyond teaching or academic writing," he said.

Caric said the blog allows students to know about his political thoughts without injecting them into his regular teaching. In the classroom he takes various points of views to orchestrate discussion; on his blog his personal view of politics becomes clear.

Jordan Maynard, one of his students and a self-identified conservative, said he appreciates professors writing about their political opinions, even if he disagrees. "I think anytime a university professor expresses their views outside of the classroom, it is helpful to the learning process," he said. "It's actually problematic that more conservative thinkers do not blog on the college front."

Caric said writing a blog post every day has helped him with his academic writing by formulating new opinions and ideas.

"I've always struggled with my academic writing – writer's block and writer's anxiety--but writing every day has made it easier," he said.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Painful Stupidity of Max Baucus

Max Baucus finally unveiled the "Baucus Bill" on health care today and I was prepared to give Baucus credit for all of the work he and his staff did on the legislation. I'm for the public option, but I thought Baucus get credit for a sincere effort to craft a bi-partisan bill. Certainly, the effort to put together bi-partisan legislation took hundreds of hours or negotiation and writing. Why, I thought, shouldn't Baucus be congratulated for his hard work even though he had little chance of success?

Now, I know why Baucus shouldn't get any credit.

It's because he's stupid.

One of the Baucus' major strategies for paying for universal health care is to put an additional tax on high end health insurance plans. That doesn't sound like a bad idea in itself, but it turns out that Maine has the fourth highest number of high end insurance plans in the country.

Obama and Baucus have suggested paying for a big chunk of reform by levying new taxes on high-cost insurance plans. Specifically, Baucus has suggested a 35 percent excise tax on insurance plans that cost single individuals more than $8,000 a year and cost families more than $21,000.

Snowe’s problem with that plan is that it could impose a heavy tax burden on Maine, which has one of the highest average health insurance premiums in the country. A July study by Harvard economist David Cutler found that Maine, on average, has the fourth-most costly insurance premiums in the country, trailing only Connecticut, Delaware and New Hampshire.

That's the state of Maine that is represented in the Senate by Olympia Snowe, the Senator who was the Republican most likely to support health reform. Maine is also represented in the Senate by Republican moderate Susan Collins. The Democrats would like to get support from Collins whenever they can get it as well.

In other words, proposing a tax that would negatively impact Maine is an incredibly stupid idea. Max Baucus and his staff have to be incredibly stupid people to even propose that kind of idea.

If Obama supported this idea, he's stupid too.

Talk about painful stupidity, Baucus might have as well have proposed a tax surcharge on lobsters.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dan Riehl: Racist Weenie Boy

I haven't done a weenie boy post on right-wing masculinity for awhile. But I couldn't resist posting this statement from Dan Riehl, a conservative blogger and teabagger who attended the Washington protest on Sept. 12.

Michelle has a disturbing video posted. It's of several black students beating a white student on a school bus in St. Louis. Here's the deal. I haven't mentioned it before.

Riding out of DC on the Metro, 9/12, there were some folks from South Dakota and also another Mid-West state I can't recall in the same Metro car. We were talking, nothing special, really - politics, of course.

In the back were maybe ten or so black kids taking up that section of the car. There was no confrontation, just one or two of them talking loudly enough to make sure they'd be heard.

Without resorting to the poor diction it was along the lines of, these are the people who think Obama is the anti-Christ. That McCain he wasn't chit. Obama's going to be president as long as he wants, so these people better get used to it, etc. It went on but not really to a level that was so loud, or so confrontational that it needed to be addressed.

We just ignored them without much trouble at all.

Yeah, they were technically thugs. But the reality was they were still wannabes really, pretty young, not that big, or many. And if the several adults there for 9/12 actually needed to do something about it, the kids wouldn't have lasted very long. Maybe if they were bigger, or more numerous, it might have been worse. Or it may not have happened at all. Who knows?

But what's unfortunately becoming increasingly clear is that, for the people who thought Obama's election would make America post-racial? I'm afraid you're wrong. Some of the potential racial narratives that may still play out during his presidency
might not be that pretty at all.

I can't say as I'm not concerned that America might not end up more racially divided than we've been in 30 years. And that burden is as much, if not more Obama's to carry as it is anyone else's. Whether he's up to that along with everything else, we'll have to wait and see.

I can't think of any better way to exemplify weeniness than stereotyping some little African-American guys as "thugs" and then fantasizing about beating the snot out of them. A "small man" in every sense of the word, Riehl dreams the racist dream making himself into a big man by beating up some black kids.

We should probably thank Riehl for being so honest in his blog. Too bad it's likely that that kind of weenie racist dreaming is so prevalent among the tea-baggers.

From Jack and Jill Politics

Looking for an alternative to the Kanye West/Taylor Swift mess at Jack and Jill Politics, I saw a link to the "Power to the Peaceful" festival organized by Michael Franti.

Looked interesting.

Saw videos of both Kanye West and Taylor Swift--didn't find either of them all that appealing.

Why Not More Professional Wrestling in Republican Politics

It looks like WWE CEO Linda McMahon is gearing up to run as a Republican for Christopher Dodd's Senate seat in Connecticut. That makes a lot of sense. The Republicans have been sounding more and more like professional wrestlers over the last ten years. All the Bush administration chest-beating about the "New Roman Empire," the "Axis of Evil" accusations, Dick Cheney telling Pat Leahy to "go fuck yourself" in the Senate--it was all about pumping themselves up, showing that they were the baddest act in town, and going out to "kick some ass."

Wait a minute! Didn't George Bush say that as U. S. troops began the invasion of Iraq?

GOP speechwriters would have had to pump the volume to match the WWE's techniques for promoting Hulk Hogan, the Rock, and John Cena. But the core motifs are the same--big bragging, huge putdowns, and lots of exciting pseudo-action whether it was the Iraq War, "diplomacy" with North Korea, threats against Iran, and immigrant bashing, gay baiting, and race baiting.

The only difference is that the Bush administration was called upon to "govern" as well as put on a show and al-Qaeda, Katrina, and last fall's financial meltdown did not respond nearly as well to professional wrestling rhetoric as expected.

Something about opponents being able to write their own lines that screwed things up.

Not that things have changed much since Obama took office. Joe Wilson's "you lie" was more WWE than Teabagger. Or more precisely, the Teabagger/Townhall movement has a lot of WWE in its paranoia, racism, and know-nothingness.

In this way, Linda McMahon is the perfect Republican politician for these times. Actually, I'm rather surprised that the WWE has not run its executives, wrestlers, managers, and divas all over the country as Republican candidates. It's been known for a long time that politics is show business and the WWE puts on the kind of show that Republicans like to see. It's a natural fit.

I wouldn't be surprised if the WWE doesn't need the Republican Party as well. With the rise of Ultimate Fighting and mixed martial arts as a new form of mass entertainment, the WWE probably needs new ways to market itself and keep growing.

Why not Republican politics?

As for Chris Dodd. His blood's in the water. It looks like there are going to be four major candidates vying for the Republican senate nomination in Connecticut. He's been coasting to re-election for years. Now, he'll have to fight.

Maybe he should call Hulk Hogan for campaign advice.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Reflection on the Thinness of Secularism

What's someone to do who's been emotionally terrorized by evangelical Christianity? That's one of the questions posed by Max Blumenthal in a Nation article on Matthew Murray, a young man who was raised according to the strictest tenets of "movement Christianity," profoundly rejected the faith of his parents, and ended up killing four people at a Youth with a Mission Center in Colorado.

Certainly, the child-raising techniques of Matthew Murray's pentecostal parents were grotesque enough. Here's a lengthy quote from Murray: mother was into all the charismatic "fanatical evangelical" insanity. Her and her church believed that Satan and demons were everywhere in everything. The rules were VERY strict all the time. We couldn't have ANY christian or non-christian music at all except for a few charismatic worship CDs. There was physical abuse in my home. My mother although used psychotropic drugs because she somehow thought it would make it easier to control me (I've never been diagnosed with any mental illness either). Pastors would always come and interrogate me over video games or TV watching or other things. There were NO FRIENDS outside the church and family and even then only family members who were in the church. You could not trust anyone at all because anyone might be a spy.
Murray was home-schooled from the third grade forward with his parents "educating" him according to the principles of Christian-right, self-help guru Bill Gothard. From Blumenthal's article, the main emphasis of Gothard's approach was the complete isolation of children from the larger society, intense paranoia concerning "outsiders," and a primary emphasis on submission to authority. First graders in Gothard's program sang this song about obedience.

Obedience is listening attentively,
Obedience will take instructions joyfully,
Obedience heeds wishes of authorities,
Obedience will follow orders instantly.
For when I am busy at my work or play,
And someone calls my name,
I'll answer right away!
I'll be ready with a smile to go the extra mile
As soon as I can say "Yes, sir!" "Yes ma am!"
Hup, two, three!

Scary stuff! I would say it was cult-like, but I wonder if most "cults" are this systematic in their indoctrination. Perhaps it would be better to say that a lot of cults are "Gothard-like." I'm not sure. It would be interesting to see what the Gothard approach to Christian home-schooling said about Jesus and the doctrines of the New Testament. One of the things that characterized the ministry of Jesus was reaching beyond the limits of Judaism as the religion of proper and respectable Jewish people and connecting to Roman centurions, Phoenician women, prostitutes, tax-collectors, beggars, and other outsiders and disreputable people. But this seems like the last thing Murray's parents had in mind. From Blumenthal's account, Matthew Murray's parents and their role models were much more focused on Satan than Jesus.

The situation for Murray got worse after he went to a "discipleship training school" of Youth With A Mission (YWAM):

But as soon as Murray enrolled at YWAM's training center in nearby Arvada in 2002, he found himself trapped in an authoritarian culture even more restrictive than home. He realized that, as another student of YWAM bluntly put it, the school's training methods resembled "cult mind-controlling techniques." Murray became paranoid, speaking aloud to voices only he could hear, according to a former roommate. He complained that six of his male peers had made a gay sex video and that others routinely abused drugs. Hypocrisy seemed to be all around him, or at least dark mirages of it.
After being booted out of the YWAM center, Murray began his path toward mass murder by first becoming a follower of Satanist Aleister Crowley and then engaging in:

"every sort of sexual pervrsion [sic]...that's legal," from anonymous gay sex to bestiality. He boasted of his proclivity for binge drinking, his love for death metal bands, and his penchant for spewing "blasphemy." He envisioned his new experiences as positively transcendent. "In a way it's like I'm just about completely rebelling against christianity [sic] in any way that I can," the enragé mused, "but this is a little different of a rebellion."
Blumenthal expresses surprise that Murray did not move from "hardcore Christian culture" to "secular humanism, a natural position for jaded skeptics like him." But this is where I can't follow Blumenthal. Murray was far from being a "jaded skeptic." He was an enthusiast who was highly committed to doing the opposite of what his parents wanted. Matthew Murray was just as enthusiastic a follower of Aleister Crowley as his parents had wanted him to be of the pre-fallen Ted Haggard (his mother's favorite minister). Likewise, he seems to have thrown himself just as energetically into "anonymous gay sex," "bestiality," "binge drinking," "death metal," and "blashphemy" as his parents wanted him to throw himself into mission work.

I also wonder about Blumenthal's reference to "secular humanism." I'm an atheist and a long-standing participant in the world of progressive internet writing. But Blumenthal's association of "secular humanism" and "jaded scepticism" reinforced some of my current dissatisfaction with the progressive media. Why is it the case that Blumenthal views secular humanism in terms of being jaded? My best guess is that political progressivism and secular humanism have been mostly about opposition--opposition to the Bush administration, neo-con warmongering, the religious right, and the current conservative freak show. Opposing these things is important and necessary and I've been an energetic participant. But it's also like we've gotten so "jaded" in our political opposition that we haven't developed a sense for the kind of things we're seeking for American society. Not really knowing what we want, we also don't have much of a language for articulating our ideas politically. Likewise, progressive media institutions are much more effective at "opposing" than they are at "advocating." It's not just the power of the right and the cowardice of the blue dogs that keeps us from moving forward, it's the "thin" character of our opposition mentality.

It's not like progressives are "jaded" personally. I'm a college professor who spends a lot of my time and am committed to helping students and colleagues. Lots of progressives are in helping professions like medicine, teaching, social work, and psychotherapy. But political progressivism has not done enough to articulate themes like friendship, love, mutuality, shared responsibility, and community. We don't have much of a political language for reaching out to people like who have grown up in the Christian right, participate in "death metal," are heavily into guns, and the like. Not paying attention to these dimensions of American culture, we have no way to reach out to people who are living in these ways and might be dissatisfied like Matthew Murray. We have too much of a tendency to be limited to our own liberal communities. Taking Max Blumenthal as an example, we're coming off as oppositional and "jaded" even to ourselves.

We also fail to recognize the power of cultural motifs we don't share--like the gun culture. In the case of Matthew Murray, he started elaborating on a suicide fantasy in which he kills as many Christians as he can before he dies. Then he stockpiled an arsenal for getting the job done.
As winter approached, Murray acquired a fearsome arsenal of assault rifles, including a Bushmaster XM-15 ("Beltway Sniper" John Lee Malvo's weapon of choice) and an AK-47. At a local UPS store where Murray maintained a mailbox, employees observed that he was ordering "boxes and boxes" of ammunition. Murray's bogus tales of preparing to deploy with the Marines quelled whatever suspicions burned-out UPS employees might have had. Meanwhile, Murray's parents, who were adept at ferreting secular media material from his desk drawers, had no idea his stockpile even existed.
One way to express the power of the gun culture in America society is that it was a logical place for Matthew Murray to move after leaving the religious right. Given that most progressives like myself refuse to participate in the gun culture and therefore have little "feel" for it ourselves, we have a difficult time understanding its attraction to millions of other Americans. If we are going to be an attractive option to disaffected Christians like Matthew Murray, we need to be more interested and effective in addressing people like him.

Let me be clear. I don't think that progressives should stop opposing the religious right. It's important that we do so. Likewise, I don't think a "better progressivism" would have saved Matthew Murray from becoming a mass murderer. But Max Blumenthal's article on Matthew Murray does contain themes that should give progressives pause and lead us to think about our own limitations and weaknesses as well as those of the religious right.

Patrick Swayze RIP

Too bad about Patrick Swayze's death. Too bad about his cancer being such tabloid fodder as well. Miss Teen and Miss Tween were both disappointed to hear the news although only one of them claims to have seen any of Swayze's movies.

Star Parker Sees Stars

In the "hard to believe" column, Star Parker sees a black conservative renaissance in the fact that African-American approval rates for Barack Obama dropped from 95% in April to 92% in more recent polling.
I see a new generation of freedom loving, church going black Americans coming on the scene. Many voted for Obama out of racial pride. But their values and aspirations for freedom are causing a change of heart.

Polls go up, polls go down. But African-American voters have actually become more positive toward Barack Obama since his inauguration--not less. When Obama was inaugurated, his favorable ratings among African-Americans stood at 86%. They eventually got as high as 96%, but are now back down to 92%.

I remember back in the 80's when the virulently racist Frank Rizzo still got 5% of the African-American vote--probably from "black conservatives" like Star Parker. Perhaps George Wallace would have gotten 5% of the black vote during his segregationist heyday as well.

That is, if Alabama had allowed blacks to vote.

But the percentage of black conservatives hasn't really increased in any measurable way since then. The Democrats have gotten between 87 and 96% of the black vote since 1984. Perhaps Obama got 96% of the black vote and John McCain only got 4% was a matter of "racial pride." But I don't think so. Certainly, the racial pride was there, but's unlikely that the Republicans would have gotten more than 5 or 6% against Hillary Clinton either?

The best the Republicans have done with African-American voters in presidential elections over the last 25 years is 13%.

I imagine Star Parker would see getting back to 13% as a miracle.

And it would be.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

RSI: A Retrosexual Dream Reject

Time has an article on people who hook back up with high school and college flames through Facebook. They call it "retrosexuality." I don't think that's going to happen to me though. Last night, I had a dream about my main college girlfriend calling security to prevent me from talking to her at a grocery store. Getting shot down in my own dreams--that's tough.