Friday, May 30, 2008


Thanks to Dana over at En Tequila Es Verdad for referring me to this article.

It was "merely" a Nazi slave labor camp

On Wednesday, Republicans collectively went completely berserk after Obama said a great-uncle had helped to liberate the Auschwitz death camp at the end of World War II. Once they realized Obama had a great-uncle who had actually helped to liberate Buchenwald, the first camp liberated by Americans, and Obama just misspoke about the Nazi camp in question, conservatives slinked away, waiting for the next manufactured outrage to come up.

But before we leave this non-story altogether, it’s worth pausing to consider what else Obama’s GOP detractors said about this.

Fox News, for example, was even more shameless than usual. One of the hosts of “Fox and Friends” said, “It wasn’t Auschwitz. It was a labor camp called Buchenwald.” As part of the same segment, Fox News ran this all-caps message on its bottom-of-the-screen ticker: “Ohrdruf was a work camp, rather than an extermination camp.”

In other words, Obama’s great-uncle may have served in the 89th Infantry Division, and may have played a part in the liberation of a Nazi camp, but let’s not suggest that this was too important. After all, Ohrdruf was only a Nazi slave labor camp.

It wasn’t just Fox News. John Cole highlighted a post from a far-right blogger, who argued:

Buchenwald, on the other hand, while atrocious beyond normal human understanding, was merely a slave labor camp, and not historically abnormal in a time of war. The people who died there did so under the stress of work and disease, rather than as a deliberate attempt to wipe them off the planet. [emphasis added]

I honestly can’t begin to relate to such a twisted worldview. I can appreciate the temptation to criticize politicians they disagree with, but how far gone does one have to be before they think it’s appropriate to diminish the atrocities at Buchenwald because Obama had a family member who helped liberate the camp? How rabidly partisan must one be to disrespect the bravery of U.S. troops in the 89th Infantry Division?

Sadly, No had an item about right-wing bloggers finding a website dedicated to preserving the history of the 89th Infantry Division of World War II. The conservatives contacted the site’s owners in the hopes of finding dirt that could be used to attack Obama some more. The reply was a message more conservatives need to hear more often:

Please crawl back under the rock you came out from.
Good day
Raymond Kitchell, veteran 89th Inf Div

And before we leave the topic on the pile of stupid campaign “controversies,” I thought I’d also mention Menachem Rosensaft, founding chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Survivors and a leader of the Second Generation movement of children of Holocaust survivors, who was not at all pleased with Republican smear efforts this week.

I never thought I’d see the day when the Holocaust would be used as a tool for “gotcha” politics. But over the last two days, we have seen John McCain’s supporters at the Republican National Committee and at Fox News launch tasteless attacks on Barack Obama. In their attempt to score a few political points, they have diminished the experience of those who suffered and died at Buchenwald, and disrespected the service of the heroic American troops who liberated them. […]

Here are some facts about Buchenwald, which is one of the most notorious Nazi concentration camps. At this “work camp,” prisoners were often worked, starved, tortured, or beaten to death. Sometimes they were simply murdered. Roughly 250,000 people were imprisoned there between 1937 and 1945, many of them Jews. Over 50,000 people lost their lives.

At Nuremberg, the world was shocked to learn that some of Buchenwald’s victims were skinned, and the human skin was then used to make lampshades, book covers, and other keepsakes. Buchenwald was also a site for the infamous Nazi “medical experiments” on prisoners, which were often nothing more than crude and horrific forms of torture.

To take just one anecdote about the “work” done at Buchenwald, prisoners had to build the camp road, and camp guards used to shoot those who were not carrying stones that were heavy enough. In the final days before liberation, some 10,000 prisoners from Auschwitz and Gross-Rossen were marched to Buchenwald, adding to the horrific scene that awaited American troops.

On April 4, 1945, Ohrdruf became the first Nazi concentration camp to be liberated by American forces. U.S. troops — including the 89th Infantry Division — found a scene that was vividly described by the Eisenhower Memorial Commission: “The scene was an indescribable horror even to the combat-hardened troops who captured the camp. Bodies were piled throughout the camp. There was evidence everywhere of systematic butchery. Many of the mounds of dead bodies were still smoldering from failed attempts by the departing SS guards to burn them.” […]

The men who liberated Buchenwald were heroes, plain and simple. That includes Barack Obama’s great uncle. In their march across Europe, the 89th Infantry Division suffered over 1,000 casualties, with over 300 men killed. In their liberation of Buchenwald, they put an end to one of the most horrible concentration camps of the 20th century. We must honor them, just as we must remember each and every victim of the criminal Nazi regime.

To those who continue to use this story to damage Barack Obama, I have a simple question: have you no shame? You attempts to diminish his uncle’s service for your own political gain says a lot more about you than it does about Barack Obama.

If some of the right-wing critics who pounced on this are capable of feeling shame, now would be a good time for it.

As DragonScholar said in the comments:

An odd thought - in many cases, we’ll hear Republicans talk about “values.”

However, in the urge to justify their candidates, their worldview, and their policies, they’ll go to great extents to disregard history, people, or rewrite history itself.

Thus where ARE their values.

I find the Nazi activities atrocious. If someone liberated one of their death camps, I’m glad. I’m not going to nitpick which part of the Nazi Death Machine was only horrible as opposed to totally horrible. I’m not going to downplay the soldiers that liberated them. Those are values.

The Republicans have given us a strain of cultic thought where they must always Be Right as opposed to Do The Right Thing. Thus they are valueless.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008



Sorry. This is just too much for me to handle. Make no mistake: I love the ad, and would probably have linked it even if it didn't contain the heartthrob love of my nine-year-old life. But it does. And that bears mentioning.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

"Denying it means nothing. That's just what all sexists would say."

Some men I know seem to feel like nothing they do is right, because they will always be resented no matter what they say or do, even if the same actions or words or positions would be lauded from a woman. I'd hate to think so. I'd hate to think that it's okay for women to make certain comments, but a man is regressive and oppressive and just another leering pane in the glass ceiling. I'd hate to think it's okay to view men as the enemies of women by default, part of the monolithic patriarchy grinding womankind under its heel.

I don't think the answer is to essentialize either men or women. Just as men shouldn't treat women as some monolithic and easily-defined group, women shouldn't do the same to men. Even if the temptation is to divide history and society and politics into factions--women versus men and therefore equality versus patriarchy and therefore liberty versus oppression--that isn't fair to individual people. It isn't fair to individual men who are not the enemy.

But what the hell am I saying. This is the internet. This is the land of ginmar's sexist ravings, where any reason to be pissed is a good reason, and any target for righteous anger is a good one. After all, to miss a single chance to strike out at the patriarchy is to just give them more room to walk all over women, right? To treat a single man's statement fairly because women are disadvantaged is to make a tactical error and give aid to the enemy. Men who speak must be made an example of, and punished for the offenses others have committed so that those who come after will know we don't take shit. Not from enemies.

Enemies. Always we're enemies. The only one who understands feminism must be a woman. The only one who understands racism must be dark-skinned. The only one who understands religious persecution must be persecuted. The only one who understands the enormity of poverty must be poor. Everyone else "doesn't get it" and never will. Everyone else is blinded by their own privilege, addicted to their own supremacy, and willing to protect it at all costs. Everyone else is a potential enemy.

I guess that's an okay way to look at it, but if we choose that way we need to stop pretending that dialogue was ever a hope for anyone. Dialogue is an exchange between equals. Dialogue implies that both sides have something worthwhile to say. Dialogue implies that both sides deserve some modicum of respect and consideration, and dialogue implies that both sides have something to contribute, or something to learn. If that's not what we want, then we need to stop asking for it, and start asking the men and the whites and the Christians and the wealthy and whoever else we're blaming to shut up. About everything. Nothing that comes from those treacherous exploitative tongues can be trusted, anyway.

Yeah, I know, I know. The sarcasm, it burns. But I wonder just what a man has to do to stop being counted as a potential hazard to "the movement." Does he need to help elect progressives to public office? Donate to BLGT causes? Lobby for gay marriage? Have a sex change? When will people stop assuming the worst, just because the one speaking has a Y chromosome? When will the end of equality be reflected in the means? Or will the end of equality always justify the means of painting "the other" as morally-bankrupt villains?

It matters less to me what people want and more that they be consistent. People should not claim one goal and work toward another. People should not claim that men and women are equal humans and then claim that only women have problems worth addressing, burdens worth lifting, pressures worth relieving. This is why for years I wouldn't call myself a feminist. I called myself an equalist and sometimes had to explain to irate activists just what the hell I thought I was doing, being so disloyal to "the cause," who the hell I thought I was that women were not the center of my universe, that sometimes I was concerned about men. What a traitor I was. Just another enemy.

Well shit, I thought. With enemies like me who the fuck needs friends anyway.

Friday, May 23, 2008

GI Bill Update

I just got this email:

Dear Supporter,

As you may have heard, yesterday the Senate passed the 21st Century GI Bill with an overwhelming majority. What you may not have heard is that many of those who signaled they would oppose the bill, but voted for it, were talking about the heat coming from

Let me make it clear - it was you who had many Senators quaking in their shoes. They knew that all the work had done, (including the over 16,000 letters you wrote to the Senate and the ad we aired) made Americans well aware of what was at stake, and were fearful of having to go back to their constituents and have to explain why they voted against the GI Bill.

I wanted to share with you just a small sampling of all the media attention got because of your strength:





And, there was a ton more.

Thank you for all you have done to help the troops and veterans. The fight is not over, yet. The House of Representatives still has one more vote to go, and then the President might veto the measure, meaning we will need to get a two-thirds majority in Congress to override the veto. But, for now, as we go into this Memorial Day weekend, know that you have done a great thing to support those troops and veterans who have come home and only want to make a better life for themselves and their country.

Jon Soltz
Iraq War Veteran

CIC Triple Advantage

I found these charges on my account coming from CIC Triple Advantage. What the hell is that, I asked myself. Turns out it's a fucking scam is what it is.

So for all those people who, like me, were told by their Financial Aid offices to go to to get a free credit report... don't. I just reported them to the Better Business Bureau, and I'm astonished that they even have a B rating. They've received over 3900 customer complaints, and every review is negative. Every review says basically the same thing, and it's the same thing they were sued for last year.

"On January 8, 2007 entered into a Stipulated Judgment and agreed to an Order for Permanent Injunction to settle charges that the company's "free credit report" offer failed to explicitly disclose that subscribers would be automatically signed up into a paid credit-monitoring program.

...The FTC charged that had engaged in deceptive marketing practices through requiring credit card information for consumers to purchase their "free credit report," then billing them $79.95 annually unless they opted out within 30 days."

So yeah. If you ordered a credit report from these people and didn't immediately cancel, do it now. Further, make sure they haven't been automatically charging your account. I just caught this, and so I'm trying to get over a hundred dollars refunded to me. Thankfully, the BBB review makes it look like it's fairly common to get a refund, probably because they've nailed these guys for deceptive marketing before.

So if anyone tells you to do business with these folk, just don't fucking do it. Don't give them your account information, even if you plan to cancel immediately because guess what! They won't always let you. Just stay the hell away from them. If you have already gone through these guys, I strongly suggest you check out this page.

Canceling CIC Triple Advantage: Get Your Money Back and Get Justice!

Go through the steps it gives you, and if the bastards still don't listen... report them. This is bullshit, and they don't deserve your money.

Edit (6/4/2009): Evidently they're not going to be allowed to do this anymore! Hooray! That's good news to all you people who get to my blog through queries about CIC Triple Advantage.

Archaeo-PUNCH! WAH!

I feel like an elitist scholar and blind nationalist and PUNCHER OF SHIT all at once!

Indiana Jones!

My anthro-buddies threw the best spersal yet, and gave me a wonderful evening in a really rough week. Seriously. I love my friends.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

GI Bill

McCain, I hope this follows you until November.

Ad courtesy of

Okay, okay, fine. I'll do the autism vaccine thing.

Vaccines do not cause autism!

Does that cover it?

I feel I should express support for the author's valiant effort at convincing people with evidence. If nothing else people like me have something to link when talking to people who're still "on the fence."

As far as the really die-hard anti-vax folk, though... I think it was Jonathan Swift who said, "you can't reason a man out of a position he did not reason himself into in the first place." The problem is not that the evidence is unclear on this subject. The problem is that anti-vax fanatics didn't come to their conclusions by looking at evidence. They got there by getting scared and latching onto that fear.

My real curiosity here is why people are so attached to that fear, to the constant paranoia that their children are the targets of a deadly assassin: the medical community! When the alternative is something with proven benefits, why leap to something that's going to endanger your child?

Can we say "Munchausen by Proxy?" Maybe that's caused by vaccines, too...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

For Human Rights Blogging Action!

California... we have our differences... but you won today. You won everything ever. Go you. Gods willing the rest of the nation will stop dragging its ass and catch up to this decision.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Obama's "Present" Votes on Choice

These were part of an email I received from NARAL Pro-Choice Network. They've just endorsed Obama, and are sending out some information to counter previous statements Clinton has made that he's not strong enough on choice. Admittedly this was an issue for me when I was first looking at voting records, so I felt like I should pass this on.

Chicago Tribune's Eric Zorn: "Disparagement Of Obama Votes Doesn't Hold Up." Under the headline, "Disparagement of Obama votes doesn't hold up," Eric Zorn wrote, "Obama's 'present' vote on that bill is one Hull is attacking him for in a flier decorated with rubber duckies. Sutherland just laughs. 'We also had [Democratic Senate leader] Emil Jones, [current Atty. Gen.] Lisa Madigan, Miguel del Valle, Rickey Hendon and other very strong pro-choice legislators voting `present' on that one,' she said. 'It was all done to pull "present" votes off the fence.' Obama confirmed Sutherland's account of the legislative strategy and said, 'No one was more active to beat back those bills than I was.' 'Criticizing Obama on the basis of "present" votes indicates you don't have a great understanding of the process,' said Thom Mannard, director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence." [Zorn column, Chicago Tribune, 3/19/04]

Pam Sutherland Confirmed: Planned Parenthood Says Obama's Present Votes On Choice Are "Leadership Votes." "'We at Planned Parenthood view those as leadership votes,' Pam Sutherland, the president and CEO of the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council, told ABC News. 'We worked with him specifically on his strategy. The Republicans were in control of the Illinois Senate at the time. They loved to hold votes on 'partial birth' and 'born alive'. They put these bills out all the time . . . because they wanted to pigeonhole Democrats...Sutherland said Obama approached her in the late 1990s and worked with her and others in crafting the strategy of voting 'present.' She remembers meeting with Obama outside of the Illinois Senate chambers on the Democratic side of the aisle. She and Obama finished their conversation in his office. 'He came to me and said: 'My members are being attacked. We need to figure out a way to protect members and to protect women,' said Sutherland in recounting her conversation with Obama. 'A present vote was hard to pigeonhole which is exactly what Obama wanted.' [ABC, 7/17/07]

Miller: "Maybe Only A Few Members Of The Tribune Contracted Remember This Ploy, But I Do;" Planned Parenthood "Was Encouraging 'Present' Votes By Some Of Their More Loyal Members In Order To Encourage The Moderates To Vote That Way As Well" To Combat Republican Tactic Of Breaking Moderates Away From The Pro-Choice Movement. Rich Miller wrote, "Maybe only a few members the Tribune contacted remember this ploy, but I do. It was specifically designed by Planned Parenthood to counter Republican Senate President Pate Philip's barrage of hot-button abortion bills that he was continually trying to ram through the Senate in 2001 and 2002. The Tribune missed the point. Besides passing bills he supported, Pate's idea was to cause a controversy by splitting 'moderate' Democrats away from the abortion rights groups, thereby causing a rift on that side, and, more imporantly, to put some political targets on the hot seat. So, as they also did in the House a few years back, Planned Parenthood was encouraging 'Present' votes by some of their more loyal members in order to encourage the moderates to vote that way as well." [Capitol Fax Blog, 12/4/07]

EMILY'S List Called Obama's Remarks "A Rousing Call To Arms, And A Touching Reminder Of Why We Are Doing Everything We Can To Make A Difference By Electing Pro-Choice Democratic Women." EMILY'S List Insider News reported, "It's difficult to pinpoint the highlights from this year's 15th annual Majority Council Conference on May 11 and 12, because there were so many!..This year's conference was held in conjunction with "Change," our Washington, D.C., luncheon with more than 1,100 members from the across the country. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama headlined the event. His remarks were a rousing call to arms, and a touching reminder of why we are doing everything we can to make a difference by electing pro-choice Democratic women." [EMILY'S List Email, Subject: Insider News - Taking control in 2006, 5/19/06]


2006: Obama Received A 100 Percent Rating From Planned Parenthood In 2006. [Project Vote Smart]
2005: Obama Received A 100 Percent Rating From NARAL Pro-Choice America In 2005. [Project Vote Smart]
2003: Obama Received A 100 Percent Rating From Illinois Planned Parenthood Council In 2003. [Project Vote Smart]
2002: Obama Was Endorsed By The Illinois Planned Parenthood Council, There Were No Number Ratings Available. [Project Vote Smart]
2001: Obama Received A 100 Percent Rating From The Illinois Planned Parenthood Council In 2001. [Project Vote Smart]
97-98: Obama Received A 100 Percent Rating From The Illinois Planned Parenthood Council For 1997-1998. [Project Vote Smart]

In case you want more votes of confidence from people who definitely verifiably care about the right of a woman to control her own body, here are some statements made by Illinois pro-choice leaders.

Former Illinois Senator and current Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan: "When Barack and I served in the Senate, it was not uncommon for groups to adopt a legislative strategy of having like-minded lawmakers vote 'present' rather than yes or no. When it came to protecting a woman's right to choose, for example, Barack and I voted present as part of a strategy devised by pro-choice advocates. It's just plain wrong to imply that voting present reflected a lack of leadership. In fact, it was the exact opposite."

Lorna Brett, former president of Chicago NOW: "I am a supporter of Hillary Clinton and an EMILY's List donor, but this line of attack is unacceptable. While I was the president of Chicago National Organization for Women, Senator Obama worked closely with us, could not have been more supportive of a woman's right to choose, and there was no bigger champion in Illinois on our issues. What's important is that the candidates do not cannibalize each other on issues we all agree about because we need to win in November."

Steve Trombley, CEO & President, Planned Parenthood/Chicago Action: "During his years in the state legislature, Barack Obama was a strong and consistent supporter of women's reproductive rights. He worked hand-in-hand with Planned Parenthood in developing and executing strategies to make sure that women had access to reproductive health care. I also want to thank him for standing up with us in the effort to open the Aurora clinic and for his introduction of legislation guaranteeing access to low-cost birth control. Planned Parenthood/Chicago Area has proudly endorsed Barack throughout his entire political career."

"Barack has always supported a women's right to choose and has a 100% pro-choice rating from Planned Parenthood. Barack has always voted to support our strategy as we worked to defeat anti-choice legislation. That is why we have supported him in every previous election."

Pam Sutherland, President & CEO of Planned Parenthood Council: "The present votes Obama took at that time, along with many other pro-choice legislators, were 'no' votes to bad bills being used for political gain. We asked Senator Obama and other strong supporters of choice to vote present to encourage Senators facing tough re-elections to make the right choice by voting present, instead of caving to political pressure and voting for these bad bills. In the Illinois State Senate, Obama showed leadership, compassion and a true commitment to reproductive health care. The Republican Senate President at the time constantly used anti-abortion bills to pigeon-hole Democrats so that he could target them with misleading mailers during campaign season. It was a tactic that was about politics, not policy - and Obama didn't let them get away with it."

"Barack has a 100 percent pro-choice record. The present votes he cast were part of a legislative strategy that we designed specifically to protect abortion rights. Barack's leadership on this issue went above and beyond the call of duty, and for anyone to intentionally mislead voters about that fact in the days before an election is simply sad."

Libby Slappey, a former 13-year board member of Planned Parenthood of East Central Iowa: "Senator Obama is one of America's strongest and most loyal defenders of women's rights on issues of reproductive health care. I've contributed to EMILY's List in the past - but I never will again, because I'm so disappointed in their decision to launch these unfair, false attacks on behalf of Senator Clinton's campaign."

Because I should post something about Iran!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Republicans Vote Against Moms; No Word Yet on Puppies, Kittens

No really.

By Dana Milbank
Friday, May 9, 2008; A03

It was already shaping up to be a difficult year for congressional Republicans. Now, on the cusp of Mother's Day, comes this: A majority of the House GOP has voted against motherhood.

On Wednesday afternoon, the House had just voted, 412 to 0, to pass H. Res. 1113, "Celebrating the role of mothers in the United States and supporting the goals and ideals of Mother's Day," when Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), rose in protest.

"Mr. Speaker, I move to reconsider the vote," he announced.

Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), who has two young daughters, moved to table Tiahrt's request, setting up a revote. This time, 178 Republicans cast their votes against mothers.

It has long been the custom to compare a popular piece of legislation to motherhood and apple pie. Evidently, that is no longer the standard. Worse, Republicans are now confronted with a John Kerry-esque predicament: They actually voted for motherhood before they voted against it.

Republicans, unhappy with the Democratic majority, have been using such procedural tactics as this all week to bring the House to a standstill, but the assault on mothers may have gone too far. House Minority Leader John Boehner, asked yesterday to explain why he and 177 of his colleagues switched their votes, answered: "Oh, we just wanted to make sure that everyone was on record in support of Mother's Day."

By voting against it?

A friend of mine sent me this. Thanks, Idran! You've provided me my daily dose of WTFery.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Hillary! It's not about you, so hang up your hat

Hooray for Australian news sites.
Anne Applebaum
May 9, 2008

Clinton's refusal to see reality is damaging her party and Barack Obama.

ARE you tired of the US election campaign? Not really sure what they're arguing about any more? If you're feeling as if you've lost the plot, don't worry. It's not because you're not American, or because you haven't been paying close enough attention: we Americans feel exactly the same.

The malaise that the endless Democratic primary campaign has inspired across the political spectrum was summed up by writer Nora Ephron, who described the ongoing contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as an "unending last episode of Survivor. They're eating rats and they're frying bugs and they're frying rats and they're eating bugs; no one is ever going to get off the island and I can't take it any more!"

Ephron wrote that a month ago, and nothing has changed. On Tuesday night, primary votes in North Carolina and Indiana once again confirmed everything we knew already. Obama is still safely in the lead, both in the popular vote and in the delegate count. Clinton is still behind. And even if they keep going until the Democratic convention in August, Obama will still be safely in the lead, and Clinton will still be behind. For Clinton to win now, she has to get her party to change the rules of its primary, post hoc (apparently she is planning to try) or bring more states into the union.

Which is ridiculous — but so is this campaign. If you've found the election hard to follow of late, that's because the only real issue at stake is Hillary Clinton's extraordinary, irrational, overwhelming ambition. As I write this, rumours that Clinton intends to drop out are in circulation. Allegedly, she cancelled her talk show appearances yesterday. Allegedly, her campaign is utterly broke. And yet no one can be certain that she won't fight to the last delegate, using up every cent of her own money (she lent her campaign another $6.4 million last week) and every last ounce of the Democratic Party's credibility, because everything we have learnt about her in the past few months indicates this is possible. Clearly, she wants so badly to win that she will try anything — and we know that "anything" includes adopting positions and methods of a kind she once claimed to abhor.

She is not above smear tactics, among them attempts to link Obama to '60s radicals, people with whom he had only the slightest contact, if at all. She is not above hints, verging on racist, that a black man can't win the general election. She is not above exaggerating her achievements, claiming to have helped "bring peace" to Northern Ireland and to have dodged sniper fire in Bosnia.

Bizarre though this will sound to foreign ears, she has also spent much of the past two months trying to remake herself as a whiskey-drinking, gun-toting, blue-collar politician, the candidate of the working class. Although she is a multimillionaire whose best friends are multimillionaires, although she spent most of her life among what can only be described as the elitest of the liberal elite, and although her opponent was raised by a single mother and went to university on scholarships, she has run around in circles trying to convince people that he is the elitist, and she is the populist.

The Chicago Tribune analysed her speeches and determined that she was using grammar and vocabulary several grade levels below that deployed by Obama, "the language of the least-educated, lowest-earning voters". At one point, this long-time supporter of gun control described how her father taught her to shoot.

It would take a psychologist, not a political analyst, to explain why she does this. To prove some feminist point? To show that she's the equal of Bill? To take revenge for Monica?

Still, barring a "deus ex machina" or an Obama implosion of some unpredictable kind, sooner or later she'll have to step down. When she does so, she'll leave a divided party in her wake, as well as a candidate seriously weakened by her prolonged campaign.

You may be bored by the election campaign, but the Democratic Party, when it wakes from this nightmare, will be very angry. And if John McCain beats Obama in November, it is not the Republican Party, but Hillary Clinton who will be blamed.

Anne Applebaum is a columnist with The Washington Post . This article first appeared in the Telegraph.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Evangelical leaders urge step back from politics

Christians become 'useful idiots' when faith is politicized, group says

updated 3:35 p.m. ET, Wed., May. 7, 2008

DALLAS - A group of U.S. evangelical leaders called on Wednesday for a pullback from party politics so that followers would not become "useful idiots" exploited for partisan gain.

One in four U.S. adults count themselves as evangelical Protestants, giving them serious clout in a country where religion and politics often mix. Conservative evangelicals have become a key support base for the Republican Party.

But the movement has had growing pains and the statement issued on Wednesday, called an "Evangelical Manifesto," is the latest sign of emerging fractures as some activists seek to broaden its agenda beyond hot-button social issues such as opposition to abortion and gay rights.

"Christians from both sides of the political spectrum, left as well as right, have made the mistake of politicizing faith," the manifesto declares.

"That way faith loses its independence, the church becomes 'the regime at prayer,' Christians become 'useful idiots' for one political party or another, and the Christian faith becomes an ideology in its purest form," it said.

The manifesto was signed by leading and mostly centrist evangelicals, such as Leith Anderson, president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals; Mark Bailey, president of the Dallas Theological Seminary; and evangelical academic and author David Gushee.

Many of the more than 70 signatories have been critical in the past of evangelical partisan involvement that was seen as the crucial element behind President Bush's re-election victory in 2004.

Leading figures on the conservative "Religious Right" such as Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, did not sign the document, and his office said he had not been asked to sign it.

Limited political impact
Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative Washington think tank that explores the relationship between religion and politics, said of the statement: "It's a sign of maturation of the evangelical movement ... It's an important theological document, but it will have limited political influence because it is making essentially a theological argument."

The document also highlights divisions that have been there for a while as some leading evangelicals attempt to redirect the movement's considerable energies toward areas such as action on global poverty and climate change.

Polls show growing numbers of evangelicals receptive to a wider social agenda and Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been attempting to woo them in a bid to peel some away from the Republican camp ahead of the November election showdown with John McCain.

But analysts say most are still center-right politically and polls consistently show most remain opposed to abortion rights. They are also deeply committed to their faith.

"We have a big umbrella called evangelicalism which is theological in nature. We are called to be followers of Jesus Christ and men and women of the book," said John Huffman, a pastor and chairman of the board of Christianity Today.

Huffman, who helped draft the document, told Reuters by telephone that the group wanted to bring back "civility of discourse in the public square."

Copyright 2008 Reuters.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Florida Teacher Accused of "Wizardry."

No really.

I... I just... what the hell. I started this evening pitying Florida because their state government has cheated them out of voting for the past couple elections, and kept them from having a voice in national politics. But uh... I'm beginning to see how idiots like that get elected.


Published: May 5, 2008

LAND O' LAKES - The telephone call that spelled the end of Jim Piculas' career as a substitute teacher in Pasco came on a January day about a week after he performed the disappearing-toothpick trick for a group of rapt middle school students.

Pat Sinclair, who oversees substitute teachers in the Pasco County School District, was on the phone. She told Piculas there had been a complaint about his performance at Rushe Middle School in Land O' Lakes.

He asked what she meant.

"She said, 'You've been accused of wizardry,' " Piculas said.

He said the statement seemed bizarre to him, like something out of Harry Potter.

Piculas said he replied, "I have no idea what you're talking about."

He said he also told Sinclair, "It's not black magic. It's a toothpick."

The school district puts a somewhat different spin on the disappearing-toothpick incident.

Performing a magic trick at Rushe Middle is just one of the reasons the school district gives for dumping Piculas from the substitute-teacher list. The others are: Piculas did not follow the lesson plans, he allowed students on computers even though another teacher said not to, and he told the fifth-period student peer that she was in charge.

Piculas said those other reasons are just window dressing. He said he believes it all comes down to the disappearing-toothpick trick and a student who may have interpreted the trick as wizardry.

The trick requires a toothpick and transparent tape. A sleight-of-hand maneuver causes the toothpick to disappear then reappear. At least, so it seems. In reality, the toothpick hides behind the performer's thumb, held in place by the tape.

"The whole thing lasted 45 seconds," Piculas said.

He said the students liked the trick. He showed them how to do it so they could perform it at home.
One student in the Rushe Middle class apparently took the trick the wrong way, Piculas said. He said he was told the student became so traumatized that the student's father complained.

Sinclair wrote Piculas a letter, date Jan. 28, to say the district would "no longer be using your services." The letter mentioned magic tricks at the end of the list of other classroom offenses he is accused of committing.

The word "wizardry" does not appear in the letter.

"I think she was trying to downplay it because it sounded so goofy," Piculas said.

Piculas said he has tried to get a hearing before Superintendent Heather Fiorentino with no luck.

He tried to enlist the assistance of U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, whose office forwarded his complaint to Fiorentino, but that effort reached a dead-end because the federal government has no say over who the school district hires as a substitute teacher.

He said he also sought assistance from United School Employees of Pasco, only to learn that substitute teachers aren't covered by the union contract.

Piculas had worked as a substitute teacher for eight or nine months, spending time at 15 schools. He said he also was working toward teacher certification with the dream of being hired full time.

That appears unlikely now. Piculas said he tried to apply for a job as a GED instructor and wasn't allowed to interview.

"My whole career is in limbo," he said.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

My favorite thing about this election?

See, I study the internet. It's what I do. It's important to me that I be able to look at a site and get some idea of what its priorities are, what I'm supposed to see first and walk away with. Basic web design, right?

Well, have fun with this one! Look at Barack Obama's site, and you'll see lots of maps and graphs and figures of what the numbers are in this election. It's almost like he wants you to know how people are voting! But that's a given, right? I mean, all candidates want you to see the results.

You think that, until you look at Hillary Clinton's site. The first thing you see is a splash screen begging for money. You have to skip past it to get to the actual site, and even then the numbers are nowhere to be found.

So you've got one candidate who wants you to know how he's doing, and you've got one who wants you to hand over money without giving you a clue of the candidate's chances. This is not fucking sorcery, guys. Senator Clinton is counting on the votes of people who haven't done their homework, and she's being very careful to make sure she doesn't give voters more information than she thinks they should have.

That says a lot.

Indiana and North Carolina Primaries

Obama Will Win More Delegates Than Clinton

Early reports show that Barack Obama will win North Carolina, giving the Illinois senator bragging rights in the battle for delegates tonight. Indiana remains too close to call with half of the state yet to report. However, CNN and other media organizations are reporting that Obama has made headway among white blue-collar voters in Indiana, a constituency that played key roles in Clinton’s victories in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and in her claim that Obama could not win a national election against John McCain.

Prior to tonight’s results, the Forbes Delegate Calculator showed that even if the Democratic candidates split both contests, Obama would retain a significant lead in delegates. In addition, a close finish in Indiana and an Obama victory in North Carolina (which appears imminent) will make it very difficult for Clinton to approach victory with only five states remaining. Conservative projections of tonight's results, with Obama winning 55% of North Carolina and Clinton winning 55% of Indiana (both smaller margins than current exit polls suggest) would leave Obama with an overall delegate advantage of 142 delegates. The New York senator’s appeal to unpledged superdelegates also appears to lose steam with an Obama victory, particularly if exit polls continue to show a pick-up among white, blue-collar voters. Further adding to Clinton's woes, the aforementioned delegate gap means the New York senator would have to win two-thirds of the remaining delegates (pledged and super) to win the nomination--a very tall order.

Many analysts held that Clinton would need to net 20 delegates to make her case for a continued shift in momentum after her delegate victories in Ohio and Pennsylvania (Obama won Texas thanks to the hybrid primary/caucus system). But an Obama victory in North Carolina makes it mathematically impossible for Clinton to claim victory by that margin this evening, and it destroys her claim that she has picked up momentum at Obama's expense.

Team Clinton, perhaps sensing the inevitability of an Obama victory in North Carolina, reignited the debate over the seating of delegates from Michigan and Florida. The newest proposal calls for a re-vote (of sorts) to take place on August 5 when both states will host primary elections. While the addition of a presidential column to the ballots would offer Clinton the possibility to make up ground in the race for presidential delegates, it is highly unlikely that the state committees would allow such a vote to take place, since national Democratic bylaws would need to be changed for elections taking place during the Democratic convention to be counted.

If Clinton can manage a narrow victory in Indiana, the Clinton spin machine will point to pre-election claims that Indiana marks a turning point in this election. However, the math does not agree with this spin. Obama continues to lead in delegates, popular vote and total states won. Although Obama has struggled to pick up blue-collar whites in the numbers that Clinton has, these voters have traditionally voted Democratic in recent years. If Obama is the nominee in November, he will have to reach this block to defeat John McCain. What is clear, however, is that with over 90% of African-American voters supporting Barack Obama in Indiana and North Carolina, Obama is poised to be the Democratic nominee.

--Paul M. Murdock


Do you know Tyler Durden?

Ah, the things that I'm encouraged to write about for my classes. Prof. McGrath suggested that I post this up here so that he could link it, just in case the people reading his blog haven't gotten their RDA of "ridiculous stuff Cobalt writes for school."

Anyway. Apostle Paul versus Tyler Durden! Heaven or Hell! Duel one: Let's Rock!

Do You Know Tyler Durden?”

In Saint Paul Returns to the Movies, Jewett makes the connection between the repetitive and empty routine of the world divorced from spirituality, of the flesh without the spirit. Jewett treats Groundhog Day as an example of the self-serving futility of a life without grace. In his view, the protagonist is trapped repeating the same day over and over again because nothing is given a “proper time,” leaving every action and drive right back where it started. Nothing changes, and nothing matters. Jewett connects Phil's experience of repeating time with the futility of “sowing to the flesh,” as Paul would term it. According to him, the culture that Paul was criticizing a culture “still inclined to believe that the self-centered lifestyle popularized by society will have no effect on their future” (Jewett:1999 92). Jewett connects these ancient temptations to modern ones, connecting the flesh to a desire for honor, recognition, and personal success. In this view the flesh is opposed by the spirit, which is cooperative and not self-centered (Jewett:1999 93).

Groundhog Day is not the only example of a modern film that plays out the futility of self-centered competition-oriented modern life. Another prime example is Fight Club, based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk. The novel is not the focus of this essay, so these conclusions only apply to it though the film adaptation. The film's protagonist is not named specifically, so fans have found their own ways to refer to him. He is listed in the credits simply as “Narrator,” but thanks to a scene in the film where he is reading a series of articles about human organs written in the first person ("I am Jack's medulla oblongata. Without me Jack could not regulate his heart rate and blood pressure.”), the Narrator refers to himself as various parts of Jack. He is Jack's “inflamed sense of rejection,” or his “raging bile duct.” Because of his tendency to express himself this way, the Narrator is often called Jack. This habit is telling, and so I will continue it here.

Jack is a recall coordinator for an automotive manufacturer. Using formulas to decide the practicality of life-saving recalls, Jack's job is dehumanizing and isolating. He has little in his work to fulfill him, and so defines his self in terms of what he calls the “IKEA nesting instinct.” Purchasing gimmicky household items from IKEA catalogs lends Jack some sense of control over a life without any real substance. His refrigerator does not even contain real food: only condiments. These trivial details rule Jack's life until his condominium explodes, destroying everything he thought defined him. He meets up with a man he had met on a business trip, a man named Tyler Durden who claimed to manufacture soap. Tyler summed up Jack's whole life in one sentence. “The things you own end up owning you.”

Here Jack is a slave to the drive toward material acquisition, chaining his identity and self-worth to the objects with which he fills his surroundings. In one scene, Jack walks through his condo as tiny catalog blurbs about each item appear in the air to show the viewer where each had come from and how much Jack had paid for it. As Jewett mentioned, this self-centered and futile lifestyle would probably be lumped in by Paul with “the flesh,” and the more Jack sows to the flesh by continuing his materialistic lifestyle, the more severe his alienating and numbing insomnia will become. The more severe his insomnia becomes, the less worth his surroundings have (as he says, “with insomnia, nothing is real. Everything is far away. Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy”). Nothing happens at any particular time, and even the days of the week are only distinguishable from one another by the color of Jack's supervisor's tie.

The only cure Jack can find for his insomnia is an addiction to support groups. He attends every group he can find, from testicular cancer support groups to groups for those with blood parasites or ascending bowel cancer. Jack does not share the illnesses of the people he regularly meets and cries with, but there is certainly something wrong. After sowing to the flesh Jack is trapped into reaping to the flesh, and this results in a general sourceless malaise. Despite the relative safety and prosperity of middle-American consumers, the people living that life are genuinely sick. Jack seeks out the sick because he is sick, but in ways that have not been defined yet... until Tyler comes along. Similarly to Paul's description of the law according to Dunn, these support groups are a temporary refuge for Jack until a real solution comes by. That solution was Tyler.

Until meeting Tyler Durden, Jack makes no moves to escape the life that is sickening him. He continues going to work and continues obsessing over material possessions. This cycle is broken when Jack's possessions and identity are destroyed by an arsonist, and Tyler Durden takes him under his wing. As Tyler teaches Jack:

I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off.

Jack acquires a new perspective on material possessions and the social conventions that drove him to need them. As Paul states in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (New Revised Standard Bible).

Tyler: My dad never went to college, so it was real important that I go.
Jack: Sounds familiar.
Tyler: So I graduate, I call him up long distance, I say "Dad, now what?" He says, "Get a job."
Jack: Same here.
Tyler: Now I'm 25, make my yearly call again. I say Dad, "Now what?" He says, "I don't know, get married."

Tyler encourages Jack to reject the dreams and goals he was raised to believe are important—getting an education to get a job to get married and buy lots of things—and this culminates in Jack's complete severance from his former life. He effectively dies to his old life, and is reborn through contact with Tyler.

It is no accident, then, that the first lines of the movie are, “People are always asking me if I know Tyler Durden.” The statement evokes visions of Christian evangelists knocking on doors to ask if the residents “know Christ.” Knowing Tyler becomes itself a mystical experience, and disciples begin flocking to Jack and Tyler's door to learn a new way of living in the world.

Tyler puts them to work. They give up their names, they shave their heads and wear uniforms, rejecting the markers that identified them before they knew Tyler. Tyler—likely unintentionally—echoes a statement Paul made in Corinthians. Paul wrote, “We have become like the world's rubbish, the scum of all, to this very moment” (Cor. 4:13), just as Tyler tells his disciples, “We are all part of the same compost heap.”

Tyler even concerns himself with the redemption of individuals he encounters. No doubt Paul would repudiate Tyler's methods, but Tyler's goal is simple. He wants people to see how futile and unfulfilling it is to live day to day, working not for joy but to buy unnecessary possessions. In pursuit of this plan, he holds up a convenience store with an unloaded gun. He drags the attendant, Raymond K. Hessel, out behind the store and takes his wallet. Finding an expired student identification card, Tyler demands to know what Raymond was studying, and what he had once hoped to become. Raymond wanted to be a veterinarian, but dropped out. Telling Raymond he is going to die, Tyler asks him if it was worth it giving up on school just to be die on his knees in a parking lot.

Of course, Raymond answers in the negative. As Tyler expected, it took hitting bottom and facing death for Raymond to understand what his priorities really were. The scene ends with Tyler keeping Raymond's driver's license with the promise that if Raymond is not on his way to becoming a veterinarian in six weeks, he will be dead (and later the viewer learns that Raymond is only one of dozens of such targets).

Raymond K. Hessel is the key representative of Tyler's goal: redemption and liberation through “hitting bottom.” They must die to their lives and be reborn without such attachments, hearkening back to Paul's insistence that believers die to the flesh through Christ and be reborn with a new set of priorities (Gal 2:19), less in line with self-serving ambition and more in line with non-egocentric aspirations for the whole human race.

Given the common threads of Paul and Tyler Durden, many of their rhetorical devices line up as well. Paul has a tendency to criticize one group, allowing his readers to ride along with the condemnations until he turns those same standards around on them. Through his letters he breaks down the barrier between who is worth saving and who is not.

Tyler breaks down barriers between what is worth having and what is not, though his argument is not made in words but in deeds. Tyler is a soap salesman, and sells the soap he makes to wealthy women in beauty boutiques. The catch is that he makes the soap from discarded fat stolen from a liposuction clinic. Jack calls this, “selling rich women their own fat asses back to them.” Just as Paul shoves people's own condemnations and judgments back upon them, Tyler tricks women into valuing the repulsive discarded “imperfections” of their own bodies. Both Paul and Tyler cleverly trap the recipients of their messages in their own hypocrisy. Despite the similarities in their philosophies and in the drive of their arguments (if not their final forms), it is almost inconceivable that the two of them could have worked together. One element of this is the differing cultural contexts within which they were working.

The movie takes its title from the underground street fighting sessions that Tyler and Jack begin offering to the men of their city. "Fight club. This was mine and Tyler's gift. Our gift to the world." Jack revels in the confusion and discomfort of his coworkers who can see that his life is changing through contact with Tyler. Jack himself refers to this paradigm shift as “enlightenment.” Robert Jewett cites Richard Slotkin's theory of "regeneration through violence" as a uniquely American way of viewing salvation linked with our frontier history. Fight Club definitely follows this, both displaying the power and the dangerous madness of this mode of renewal.

In this sense it is unlikely Fight Club could be set in another country without losing some of its essential resonance. It is a story about American culture, and the initial salvific figure—Tyler Durden—is also a force of violent chaos. However, as Jewett states,

Paul insists that it [the power of the Gospel] does not lie in the power to destroy adversaries, or in enforcing conformity to a single law, but rather in the message that God's love is unconditional and that the human war against God should therefore cease. (Jewett 1993: 22)

War with God is exactly what Tyler is talking about. Even though he and Paul would likely agree on the futility of modern life, each would likely view the other as part of the problem. Tyler at no point in the movie tries to prove that God does not exist. He does, however, force the viewer to confront the possibility that God "does not like you." He also draws parallels between absentee fathers and God.

Our fathers were our models for God. If our fathers bailed, what does that tell you about God? Listen to me! You have to consider the possibility that God does not like you. He never wanted you. In all probability, he hates you. This is not the worst thing that can happen. We don't need him!

He asks Jack if he would rather be God's worst enemy, or nothing. Tyler does not assume a third possibility: that God exists and loves mankind. Paul would undoubtedly be horrified by this, that the only relationships with God that Tyler allows for are mutual indifference or hostility. Even though Paul would undoubtedly agree with Tyler that the conventions of society (in this case the emphasis on material possessions) are obstacles to spiritual growth.

However, Paul would most certainly group Tyler's methods in with the lures of the flesh. Tyler's revolution is a destructive one, and the threat of violence looms constantly (even though the only direct violence by Tyler's disciples occurs in the consensual atmosphere of Fight Club). The very name of Tyler's movement, Project Mayhem, conjures visions of organized “anger, quarrels, dissensions,” and other urges that Paul groups in with the flesh (Gal. 5:19-24).

Paul would also definitely notice that Tyler denies the grace of God on several levels. The first level is indifference. Tyler denies the necessity of God's grace, demanding that humans better themselves without him. Instead of appealing to grace, he appeals to natural selection and the potential for humans to improve themselves. Tyler's vision of the world to come is a humanist vision in which men and women care for their basic needs without the distraction of meeting external standards of self-improvement (including religious imperatives).

As Jewett describes Paul's view, this would be unacceptable. Despite its rejection of self-serving behavior, Tyler's vision still locks humans into lives in which external intervention or grace is simply not a factor. In effect, God is absent, and Tyler likes it that way. For all his famed tolerance for outsiders, it is difficult to imagine Paul ever endorsing such a goal.

Such disdain would likely be mutual. Tyler would view the passivity and meekness of Paul's teachings as part of the problem, part of what trapped modern humans into complacent materialistic lives. In a dichotomy between the spirit and the flesh, Tyler would condemn the man-made gifts of safety and material luxury, upholding consensual violence as an appropriate tool for members to help one another grow. As Jack states, "Fight club wasn't about winning or losing. It wasn't about words. The hysterical shouting was in tongues, like at a Pentecostal Church. ...When the fight was over, nothing was solved, but nothing mattered. We all felt saved."

This makes explicit the theme of regeneration through violence, and if Paul denounced such methods, Tyler undoubtedly would mention that the salvation of Christians rests on having their savior willingly nailed to a wooden cross until he suffocated to death. At that rate, are members of Fight Club so different from Christians who practice self-mortification as a way of repudiating the flesh to save the spirit?

What precisely “the flesh” versus “the spirit” means to Tyler Durden or the Apostle Paul is a subject over which they could argue for some time. Whereas Paul condemns the flesh as violent and chaotic, Tyler reviles it as connected to futility, inertia, and stagnation. Paul demands meekness and love, while Tyler demands nihilistic bravado and the willingness to “hit bottom” as a way of discovering oneself. While Paul encourages Christians to reject conventional social pressures in favor of a new way of interpreting the obligations of individual humans. Tyler Durden does the same, but Paul might be dismayed to see the specific ethics he advocates grouped in with "conventional social pressures." In short, Tyler and Paul agree in principle, but the specifics of Paul's teachings make him a part of the problem for Tyler, and vice versa.

Of course, the matter of a different cultural context must be raised once again. Paul wrote thousands of years ago, and his letters have come to mean many things to many people. If words and ideas can develop a life of their own over centuries, how can modern audiences assume that what they understand of Paul's message is something he would even endorse? Is Paul really part of the problem for Tyler, or is it what Paul's teachings have become after being viewed through the lens of the Reformation and bolstered by some Christians as a bulwark against diversity?

If Paul's teachings could be said to have become an entity unto themselves, and if Paul might disagree with their application today... it is just possible that given the opportunity to observe the complacency of modern consumer culture Paul might agree with Tyler that the teachings linked to Christ have become part of the problem. Even if Paul would certainly disagree with the destruction and chaos of Tyler's “Project Mayhem,” he might agree with Tyler's assessment of modern humans.

As Tyler stated, “self-improvement is masturbation. Now... self-destruction...” Tyler and Paul both demand that consumers stop obsessively seeking to achieve an ideal performance of life, an ideal role set out by society that has nothing to do with their personal growth. Self-improvement as middle-American consumers understand it in Fight Club is futile and self-serving, but rejection and destruction of the “self” society defines for its members might actually do humans some good. Hitting bottom by society's standards provides the liberation and perspective Tyler believes humans need in order to participate in a more equal and productive world to come. If Paul could see what the modern world has become, he might agree that Tyler's path (aside from its violence) could be the reawakening that modern consumers need.

If Paul were alive today to watch movies like Fight Club, he would be unlikely to share America's assumptions about regeneration through violence, but the film's message would probably still resonate with him as it does with modern viewers. The cyclical futility of consumer culture sickens and isolates individual people from one another and from the rest of the world as a whole. Just as Paul blamed self-serving material drives toward sex and worldly accomplishment, Tyler Durden blames the masturbatory pursuit of “conventional” goals. Both Paul and Tyler demand a reordering of mankind's priorities without external pressure from a culture of futile acquisition. They disagree on just how this is to be done. Paul urges nonviolence and acceptance of God's grace, whereas Tyler insists on the violent dissolution of a materialistic system. Still, for all their differences, Tyler and Paul are emblematic of one key trend in human civilization: it is very easy for people to be trapped by the goals society lays out for them. Being so trapped means the death of any true spiritual growth, because it leaves people preoccupied with what they have been told they should want without truly finding out for themselves.


Dunn, James. The New Perspective on Paul. <>. 30 January 2008.

Jewett, Robert. Saint Paul at the Movies.
1993 Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press.

Jewett, Robert. Saint Paul Returns to the Movies.
1999 Cambridge: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Things Americans don't like to talk about

From our beloved Orcinus!

Things Americans don't like to talk about

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

One of the oddities of the emerging media meta-narrative about Jeremiah Wright is the way it is now readily assumed by the broad range of talking heads that Wright's recent comments have only proven the charge that he is deeply "anti-American," embodied in the endlessly repeated "God damn America" sound bite.

There's no doubt that a lot of Wright's views are indeed deeply critical of America, even pugnaciously (and thus disconcertingly) so, and some -- particularly his apparent absorption of racial theories regarding the spread of HIV -- are dubious at best. Considering Wright's contentious performance yesterday at the National Press Club, one really can't blame Obama for washing his hands of the man.

But it's also apparent that the larger context in which Wright condemns American behavior -- the reason he shouts "God damn America" -- in fact reflects hard historical realities that Americans, and the American media especially, really don't want to talk about, let alone confront the present-day consequences thereof.

And doing so, evidently, is now proof of being "anti-American."

Among the things, evidently, that we're not supposed to bring up because it interrupts Peggy Noonan's fantasy vision of an American history populated mostly by noble 49ers and industrious Henry Fords, are the following:

-- The genocide committed against Native Americans.
-- Slavery.
-- The "lynching era" and Jim Crow.
-- Sundown towns.
-- The forced incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.

It's human, of course, to want to think of yourself as a good person, and your country as a good country. Which is why it's human of white Americans -- the descendants and beneficiaries of the people who perpetrated these atrocities -- to want to forget that these things happened. And they want to believe that because these events were in the past, and they took some initial steps toward reconciliation 40 years ago, the issues should have gone away, and if they haven't, well, it's the victims' fault.

The victims and their descendants, however, cannot forget that these things happened, because they continue to live with the legacy of them every day. And white Americans should not delude themselves into thinking that they could or should have forgotten, either. Ask any Native American living on a reservation, or any descendant of Japanese camp internees, or any African American, whether they can forget these things.

Perhaps when young black men no longer face persistent job discrimination or lowered life expectancies, when racial residential segregation is no longer a persistent reality, when hate crimes are a distant memory, when our response to great national war-inducing traumas is no longer imbued with xenophobic hysteria -- perhaps when white Americans take actual steps beyond those four-decade-old baby steps to confront the legacy of their very real history of shameful behavior toward nonwhites, then perhaps we can ask for that forgetting.

Assuming that they should -- and indeed insisting that the fact that they haven't is proof that they "hate America" -- is simply childish. But then, that's what we've come to expect both of the American right and the American media.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Daily Kos on the Proposed Gas Tax Vacation

Reposted from Daily Kos, obviously.

Deja vu

Fri May 02, 2008 at 11:25:21 AM PDT

Uh oh.

"I want to know where people stand and I want them to tell us, are they with us or against us when it comes to taking on the oil companies?" [Clinton] added.

Wait, with us or against us? Isn’t that Bush’s line?

Making matters slightly worse, the Clinton campaign acknowledged yesterday that every policy expert of every ideological stripe has described the McCain-Clinton idea as nonsense, but they don’t care.

"There are times that a president will take a position that a broad support of quote-unquote experts agree with," spokesperson Howard Wolfson said. "And there are times they will take a position that quote-unquote experts do not agree with."

Remember the last time a president took a "with us or against us" line? And remember the last time a president ignored what the policy experts cautioned?

Yeah, me too. I have no desire to relive the Bush Administration yet again.

Because when you ignore the policy experts, you end up with the exact opposite of what you think you are trying to accomplish, as Steve Benen notes.

In the with-us-or-against-us formulation, it’s particularly odd that Clinton insists opponents of her gas-tax idea "stand with the oil companies." By all indications, she has it backwards.

Economists ... say the oil companies may end up the biggest beneficiaries, while the aid to families wouldn’t be enough to buy a $35 backpack.

The trouble with the plan, they say, is that oil prices are rising because of low supplies, and companies will continue to charge the average $3.60 a gallon and just pocket the money that would have gone to federal taxes.

"That’s $10 billion, and it’s going into the pockets of oil refiners," said Leonard Burman of the Tax Policy Center in Washington. "The last time I checked, they didn’t need it."

Supplies are "being cleared at the current price," said Donald Parsons, an economics professor at George Washington University in Washington. "If you take away the tax, you’ll have the same number of consumers willing to buy the gas at the same total price."

Clinton may have a political winner on her hand. I have no doubt it's been worth a few points in Indiana and North Carolina. But invading Iraq was a political winner for Bush, until Middle East experts (and by "experts", I don't mean the morons at the AEI) were proven correct by reality.

It would be nice to have a president who listens to reason, and not one who panders with bad policy in the mad pursuit of power.


A Clinton advisor is claiming conspiracy over a youtube video making the rounds. He claims to have said, "How would you like to be in the White House right now?" But the story is that he called people from Indiana "worthless white niggers."

The video that caused the ruckus has been taken down, and here is the original. It's not getting as much play, but in the interests of giving people something they can actually watch... here it is. The phrase in question is at about 4:47. He definitely says, "Those people are shit/shitting," but it's up to you whom he was referencing and what else was said.

Edit: The more I think about this, the more I think it really is a non-issue. Someone on my LJ mentioned that it does make sense for Kantor to have been talking about the Bush camp "shitting" over the results favoring Clinton in that other Clinton election many moons ago. More importantly, he brought something up that I feel is a pressing concern.

To take such a scenario as credible seems to require having pre-emptively decided that no one associated with the Clintons is a decent human being.

I think there's this drive to turn the petty non-issue bickering back at Clinton, if only to show that Obama's not getting talked about because he's the sleaziest dude around... but because the Clintons are willing to "go there," while taking advantage of the fact no one's doing it to them. So yeah, there's a tendency now to leap on the Clinton camp scratching and tearing, if only as a reaction to receiving huge piles of the same from them.

Still. Saying "they started it" doesn't really excuse it, and this is a tendency that even I'm not immune to (obviously).

It's a high standard and even I'm not living up to it as well as I should. But even having said that, I feel we can do better. If nothing else, I can do better. Props to arctangent for reminding me.