Friday, October 16, 2009

Al From: Right-Wing Infiltrator

Al From was the founder of the Democratic Leadership Council, the organization that ostensibly tried to lead the Democratic Party in a more conservative, business-friendly direction. But From always served primarily as an agent of the right-wing, a thought confirmed by From's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal arguing for Obama to give up on the public option. It would be better if From, Mickey Kaus, Peter Beinart, and people like them just moved out of the Democratic Party and joined the Republicans.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Glenn Beck Cries for a Return to the 70's?

I only watched this once, but Glenn Beck seems to be crying for a return to the 1970's. Beck refers to the seventies as a simpler time and I guess he was right.

Just like George W., Richard Nixon committed a number of crimes as he sought to concentrate power. But the seventies was a simpler time and Nixon was removed from office.

Just as people opposed the Iraq War, they opposed the Vietnam War. But the seventies was a simpler time and the United States just withdrew from Vietnam.

But Glenn Beck doesn't want to go back to the real 1970's.

That's when the forces of socialism were really gaining strength in the U. S.

I should know. I was trying to help them.

What Beck wants instead is the iconic commercials of the 1970's like that Joe Green Coke commercial or the Paul Anka Kodak commercial.

Of course, the 70's was much like the 60's in that teenagers like me were telling their parents that the wisdom of the Depression and WWII no longer applied to the prosperous consumer society of the post WWII era.

Beck refers to that as America as disobeying its parents and going to the "wrong kind of party." Maybe he should have thrown in a couple of lyrics from "American Pie" on "the devil's only friend" about the Stones and "the Sergeants refuse to yield" about the Beatles.

"Do you recall what was revealed/the day the music died?"

Well, I joined millions of other Americans in disobeying my parents and going to plenty of the wrong kinds of parties with the wrong kinds of people and listening to the wrong kinds of music.

God, it was great.

But who really wants to go back? The fact is that the 70's was followed by almost 30 years of greed, corruption, and stupidity of the right. Democrats and liberals participated, but the period from the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 to the election of Barack Obama in 2008 was dominated by the party at the house of Ronaldus Magnus.

And now we've got to figure a way to get out of it.

Hopefully, we won't be as dumb as they were.

The Limbaugh Farce

Jason Whitlock is right that the whole Rush Limbaugh trying to buy the NFL's St. Louis Rams idea was just a publicity stunt. Everybody involved--Limbaugh himself, projected major partner Dave Checketts, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell--all know that Rush Limbaugh could never be part of an NFL ownership group. As his brief career as a MNF broadcaster made clear, Limbaugh's racial obsessions would generate enormous bad publicity, cost the NFL much of its good will, and drive down TV ratings and attendance.

Who knows why former NBA executive Dave Checketts agreed to be part of this farce? Maybe he's a really good friend of Limbaugh's. Maybe he was using the "Limbaugh controversy" to attract another deep-pockets partner for his proposal. Perhaps nobody will ever know. But it should be clear that Limbaugh himself joined the proposal so he could leak his participation to the media, start a controversy, and bump up his ratings. Limbaugh has a hard-core fan base, but casual listening to his program is driven by his notoriety and a good chunk of that notoriety is rooted in his reputation for racism. Teasing the idea of NFL ownership (and that's all it ever was--a tease) was a good way for Limbaugh to publicize his Today interview, smoke out a response from Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, and draw comments from black athletes like Donovan McNabb. That's the kind of thing that drives ratings and justifies Limbaugh's $400 million contract.

And the "controversy" was a total win for Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh got his name out in the mainstream media, the ensuing "controversy" drew the attention from non-conservatives, and Limbaugh's core audience was once again entertained by the "outrage" of blacks and liberals.

It's a tried and true formula, Limbaugh's done it a million times, and it worked yet again. Last week was yet another great week to be Rush Limbaugh.

The rest of the media got some crumbs too. CNN's got to fill up 24 hours of news and the Limbaugh "controversy" handed them at least one "Breaking News" item. That gave HuffPost reporter Jason Linkins an opportunity to file a "we're offended" post when Wolf Blitzer cut off some Ariana Huffington commentary to announce that Limbaugh had been dropped from the Checketts proposal. Jason Whitlock got a great article out of the issue as well.

See, everybody wins. Of course, Limbaugh was dropped from the proposal, but that was always beside the point.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

bell hooks in Morehead

African-American feminist author bell hooks is speaking at Morehead State University in Morehead, KY. Some quick notes to put hooks in context.

1. The period from the end of WWII to the present has been one of the most exciting periods of world intellectual history--every bit the equal of Classical Greece, the first bloom of modernism, and the "long Victorian century" from the 1840's to Moses and Monotheism. One of the privileges of my life was growing up intellectually in an era when such fundamental things were being done.

2. Much like Freud can be seen as the last intellectual giant of the Victorian century, bell hooks can be seen as one of the last of the great pioneering figures of the post WWII era. Claude Levi-Strauss still lives, but bell hooks is one of the last figures from that era who is still creating at a high level. Born in 1952, hooks started publishing in the late 1970's and has relentlessly pushed forward. Lacan, Foucault, and Baudrillard all died. Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva couldn't sustain their initial bursts of creativity. However, the fire in bell hooks kept burning and has gotten brighter over time.

4. African-American thought has had universal significance at least since the slave narratives of Olaudah Equiano and hooks has built on African-American traditions of thinking about love, redemption, and transformation in profound ways. Her The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love is a fundamentally important in her sympathetic critique of patriarchy and her books on love serve as a standing refutation to Plato's warnings about love in the Republic. Her rejection of Plato is just as decisive as the rejection of Plato in Machiavelli. In addition, her rejection of Machiavellian virtu is just as important as Machiavelli's isolation of masculinity as a foundational concept in The Prince.

5. W. E. B. DuBois wrote that he sits "with Shakespeare and he winces not." Of course, that comment was always overdrawn in a way. I'm sure Shakespeare sat in London taverns with any number of farmers, tradesmen, and small-time actors and didn't wince any more than Karl Marx. Still, it will be good to hear a talk by someone who's in the same league as DuBois and Shakespeare--bell hooks.