Two days ago, Kevin Drum over at Mother Jones made a prediction on Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) probable reaction to President Barack Obama’s policy approach on the unfolding situation in the Ukraine:
“John McCain will appear on a bunch of Sunday chat shows to bemoan the fact that Obama is weak and no one fears America anymore.” (Emphasis added)
Two days later, like clockwork, John McCain, as reported by The Washington Post:
Sen. John McCain sharply condemned President Obama on Monday, blasting the administration’s foreign policy as “feckless” and partially responsible for the mounting crisis over the advance of Russian forces into Ukraine. […]“Why do we care? Because this is the ultimate result of a feckless foreign policy in which nobody believes in America’s strength anymore,” McCain said to the annual gathering of Jewish leaders in Washington. (Emphasis added)
As the saying goes: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”Read More
I did not watch the Oscars last night. Which is something of a rarity. Rather, I spoke on the phone with an old friend who rang me up out of the blue. We talked through nearly the entire show. And, I can say that I did not miss the award show one bit.
As most of my friends who call or speak with me on the phone know, I love to talk, at length, about anything and everything – from politics to personal life – and some conversations are marathons.
Because of that, I have a good number of old and new friends who seek me out for just that: long, very specific, multiple-topic, gregarious, nostalgic, personal, emotional, intellectual, political, spiritual, goofy conversations, and / or just plain old chat-chat.
Our long conversations are a throwback to the days when we’d meet at the pub, sit down over a pint (or two or three) and eat some food and just talk about our lives, the world in general, politics, music, cinema.
Today, the 138 year-old phone allows us to have those conversations when we live variously in NY and Fort Collins, or in different boroughs of the city, or upstate and the city or NYC and Omaha. We do “talk” regularly via social media, but it’s just not the same. It is sorely lacking.
It occurred to me how under-appreciated the phone is these days. It really is superior to all the social media. As fun and great looking and immediate as social media is, it lacks something integral and very important. Conversations on the telephone function as a true dialectic. The written word of social media is inferior to speaking when creating a dialectic, because writing interferes with the back-and-forth, as emotional context, and intellectual context are removed with the use of the written word.
For example, how many times have you misread someone’s intent as being serious when they were being sarcastic? It happens repeatedly in a written discussion, especially one that is online. It is why so many of the discussions on the internet bounce around in a pointless loop. It’s why “trolling” – the act of deliberately inserting emotional wedge issues and diversion into a conversation – is so popular and works so well on the web. If you were in a bar, and tried to “troll” a face-to-face conversation, you would more than likely get punched in the face.
The use of anonymity on the web also fosters a certain level of hubris. Even when people aren’t anonymous, they feel empowered to say things online that they would not actually speak aloud in person. Physical presence and an actual dialectic have a strong role to play in our lives. The emotional and intellectual impact within a conversation remain intact in a face-to-face or a phone conversation. Hubris and sarcasm and all the rest come into play, but it’s more directly understood and dealt with as such immediately. It trumps social media in that regard.
In the end, engaging a dialectic properly (and often), means that a conversation will yield ideas, and solutions. A deeper emotional connection between two (or more) people will develop. Some discussions are actually meant to last a life time. If we practice them properly.
To the ancient Greek Sophists, the dialectic, the discussion, was an art form. It was the practice they taught to achieve higher truths. And, through those higher truths, lay peace, happiness and community. It’s something we’ve lost along the way, and should endeavor to re-establish and nurture.
The lesson for me is that, like my friends, I have remembered that simply picking up the phone to talk is important and valuable. The telephone is old technology, but it’s still the best if you want to have a conversation that breathes, and grows and adds to your life.Read More
“Imagine what it would be like if you didn’t know that the evening news was funded primarily by Big Pharma. You would actually believe the stuff that they’re saying. You might even think those are the stories that matter. ” – Douglas Rushkoff (Source)
Once upon a time, political observers fretted that the free press, the government and the democratic process itself were under threat of being overwhelmedRead More
It’s been difficult for the Tea Party faithful to simply admit that yes, they do have racists among them. Every party does, why should they be any different? It obviously doesn’t mean they are all racist any more than it means that Democrats or Republicans are all racist because they have racists in their ranks. It does though raise important questions that American’s have to weigh when looking at the party, or any party for that matter. There are racists in all parties. Even the Tea Party. But, for some reason, they resist it. My intuition tells me this is because they are hiding the ugly fact that for some one of their primary motivations against Obama is racism. It wouldn’t be new in the annals of American conservative extremism and nativism. So, along comes confirmation of my intuition.
Apparently, my post last year on Glenn Beck’s pleading to the Tea Party to leave their signs at home for the “Restoring Honor” rally struck a cord. Here’s a comment made in, of all places, a fishing forum. (Which popped up in my trackbacks.)
It’s rather revelatory, because it pretty much dances over the blatant racism in the signs I use as examples in my post. Either the author – who not surprisingly uses the anonymous moniker “Detbuch”- doesn’t see the racism, or thinks it’s not important. Either way, he pretty much proves my point.
The anonymous “Detbuch” opens up with a basic logical fallacy, using a straw man argument to essentially say: “Some great American’s were racist, should we have not listened to them?” Which misses the point entirely. He adds to it with more apologizing for racism via the “we’re all racists” approach. He goes after me a little, not realizing that I didn’t have a problem with the stated point of the Beck rally, I was though making it clear that it was obvious why Beck was asking attendees not to bring signs, because he was afraid there would be racist signs. (As it turned out, that was the least of his worries.) Then in the middle, he gets to doing a “critique” of the photos in my post, in a rather pathetic attempt to prove the signs are not racist.
The problem with personal/anecdotal accounts is that they are all only tiny slices of reality, or versions of reality. Living in Detroit, most of my acquaintances are black. In private situiations, they are all overtly racist–unabashedly and proudly so. They are all Democrats. Is that a reason to not associate with Democrats? FDR, Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Margaret Sanger (founder of planned parenthood), the founders of this nation, were all racists. I suppose they should not have been associated with. Maybe most, if not all of us, are or have some degree of racism, and we should all become hermits. Can’t we, even with racist tendencies, still have salutary ideas and solutions to political and economic problems? Can’t we even be constitutionalists?
As for Twang’s thang re Beck’s restoring honor rally–just another biased hit piece–and one before the rally even occurred. Speaking of some previous rally, he, as is the common practice, cherry picks a few signs that he considers racist or having racist themes, totally ignoring the host of other signs such as one minutely seen in a background–“congress works for us not the other way around”–which is the predominant animus for the tea party movement. Even most of those he chooses, though rude and crude, are not racist. One refers to religion not race. Another reversed the slavery cliche. Two compared Obamacare to voodoo, another referred to his supposed connection to Islam (Hussein), the Dixie Chicks, and his supposed non-citizenship (Kenya). Another slammed cap and trade and played on the word “trade”–to “trade” him back to his supposed lack of citizenship (Kenya). The last one actually had a racist, mispelled pejorative “niggar.” Twang totally spins and paints Glen Beck’s positive attempt to unify Americans with, at the time, an upcoming rally, into Twang’s misconceived, hateful version–“Beck’s decision to blatantly ride on the coat of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement is nothing except a badly orchestrated and cynical effort to coopt the gravitas of MLK and the Rights Movement in order to replace the glaring lack of it in the Tea Party movement.” Twang’s own lack of “gravitas” is evident in his myopic, slanted, name-calling (teabaggers, tea bag party) and too easy and uncritical accusation that the tea party is a platformless group of know nothings. The actual Restoring Honor rally was of a different philosophical “color” than that which Twang tried to paint it.
Each sign that I highlighted in the post has a unique view that is blatantly racist. It’s not difficult to figure out. But “Detbuch” glosses over it with the nonchalance of one completely desensitized to racist jargon and imagery.
Let’s go over each photo with “Detbuch’s comments and see what’s what.
“Even most of those he chooses, though rude and crude, are not racist. One refers to religion not race.”
“Detbuch” misses the obvious racism here which is implied. Comparing the Christian and the Kenyan with a final “That explains a lot about you.” is a basic eliminationist tactic. It’s implying that being Christian is good and that being Kenyan is a threat in some way, or that is means something bad. It’s hard to think of any of reason why someone would think that being from Kenya is bad other than the fact that Kenyan’s are dark colored. What other reason can you think of?
“Another reversed the slavery cliche.”
Clearly, “Detbuch” is simply not honest enough to see that implying that Obama is a “massa” is using racist loaded imagery and words to make it’s point. And, of course, the idea that a black man in power would be compared to a white man in power in this regard is using racist ideas to make it’s point. “Detbuch” chooses to gloss over it.
“Two compared Obamacare to voodoo…”
Racism is always about demeaning the person. This is an attempt to present Obama as a primitive, an ignorant “witch doctor”. The term “bone in the nose” was often used – and still is – as a racist insult. Pretty cut and dry, wouldn’t you think? I suspect that “Detbuch” lacks essential compassion for blacks, so he simply can’t see the racism that is blatantly clear here. It’s meant to demean Obama and lower him. Perhaps “Detbuch” doesn’t understand the actual definition of racism?
“…another referred to his supposed connection to Islam (Hussein), the Dixie Chicks, and his supposed non-citizenship (Kenya)”
Notice how “Detbuch” glosses over the “go back to Kenya” slight. To him, it’s just a reference to Obama’s “supposed non-citizenship”. When actually, such references have a long racist history. Telling people to go back to their native land is a long time cry of Nativists and racists. “Go back to Africa” for example. You’d think he’d brush up this stuff wouldn’t you?
“Another slammed cap and trade and played on the word “trade”–to “trade” him back to his supposed lack of citizenship (Kenya).” Here’s the photo:
Once again, “Detbuch” misses the racism here. This one is so obvious, it’s just like the prior one. I wonder why Detuch doesn’t see it? Probably because he focuses on the “cap and trade” but not the actual racist part that says: “go back to Kenya!”. Odd that. Maybe he didn’t read it all?
The last part by “Detbuch” I won’t even go into since Detbuch simply tries to turn the tables on me, and he does such a bad job of it I’d be wasting my time. And, the term “Tea Baggers”, and “Tea Party” are commonly used on Tea Party sites to refer to themselves. Interesting how he thinks my using the term is some type of insult. Who knew. I’d suspect like most Tea Partiers, he was completely unaware of the double meaning, of the former and was not happy. That’s what you get for stealing something rather than inventing your own name.
Finally, it’s telling that “Detbuch” apparently has no idea that the Know Nothings were a real conservative political movement and that the reference to them was not a slight as in “know nothings” but a historical fact that the modern Tea Party are the philosophical and political heir to the Know Nothing party of the 1800s.
Isn’t it odd that “Detuch” doesn’t know his own political ancestry?Read More
Rip-Off or Artistic Assimilation?
This photograph of Michael C. Hall, star of the Showtime series Dexter, appeared in Entertainment Weekly last year. It was photographed by Michael Muller. By itself, given the nature of the show, it seems pretty much designed as you might expect. The ethically conflicted serial killer with doleful look and blood on his hands. But, there’s a story here: the concept behind the photograph is not an original idea. It’s an almost exact duplicate of a photograph that Annie Leibovitz took of rock legend Pete Townshend of The Who during a cover shoot for Rolling Stone after a concert in 1980.
It’s rather striking how the Muller photo duplicates the Leibovitz photo down to the placement of the band-aid, and the lighting in the background.
What’s also interesting is that the Muller photo was run with no mention of it being influenced by Leibovitz’s photo. Perhaps it was an homage in Muller’s mind.
While it is well understood that artists barrow from each other in all sorts of ways – and that’s perfectly acceptable – this seemed to me as a knock-off for a very specific reason: it takes the design and meaning of the first photo by Leibovitz and completely alters it in a way that doesn’t add to the original at all. It actually detracts from it. It crosses a line between art and marketing that I feel should remain uncrossed.
The Muller photo is a public relations shot. Meant to sell the show. It lifts the graphic power and mixture of violence, innocence, pain and exhaustion of Liebovitz’s photo and uses it to sell a show about a conflicted serial killer. But, it sucks the meaing out of it. Liebowitz’s shot of Pete Townshend was spontaneous, taken after a 1980 performance in Oakland, CA by The Who, during which Townshend cut his hand on his guitar doing one of his famous cartwheel arm swings on stage. It wasn’t an entirely undesigned shoot, as Townshend explained in 2004, a bit of serendipity and embellishment by Leibovitz was empployed (the technique that made her famous):
By the time we got to start taking pictures, the blood was badly congealed, Annie got me to swing my arm afresh to generate more blood.
Then she actually found some fake blood and added a little to create the runny effect. But, I have to say, my hand was a fucking mess before she started to embellish it.
While Townshend is aware that the Leibovitz approach of employing “embellishment” is an issue, he seems to think that it didn’t cross the line. And, I have to agree. It’s not photo-journalism exactly. But, it is still very real. And very powerful.
While I don’t object to artist riffing on the work of others, it’s not entirely clear that the Muller photograph is doing anything except riding on the back of a much greater photograph. Are we that bereft of ideas? I don’t think so.Read More
Over the past 250 years, as the industrial revolution progressed and was then superseded by the modern technological age, an epistemological crisis began to fester and grow quietly in the shadows. Our ability to obtain, disseminate, and – most importantly – apply knowledge, has been severely hindered by our industrial and technological success and our response to that success. We have achieved great feats with little or no perceived negative ramifications, thus establishing a false sense of stability in ourselves, our place in the natural order, and the way in which we process and use knowledge. Our ability to shoot for the moon – literally – meant that we presumed we could do no wrong. A precarious place to be to be sure.
And, as the decades rolled on, each continual success served to confirm our superiority over all – even the truth was manipulated. Responsibility fell to the way side. And, if a negative ramification presented itself, we quickly waved it away with the simple justification that the world and everything within it was ours to do with as we wish, and profiting from it was a natural act. Our birthright. It never occurred to us that building an economy based primarily upon a single finite resource – oil – would some day place our entire civilization at great risk of collapse.
Adolfo Doring‘s excellent documentary Blind Spot, contains an interview with Jason Bradford, who explains this epistemological issue very succinctly and eloquently as it relates to our inability to see reality and deal with the responsibility of our massively consumptive society.
We have lost the ability to deal with the concept of responsibility in a proper manner both as individuals and as a society. It’s quite important because lack of responsibility, and its consequence of not confronting reality, leads to the inability to solve complex problems and establish consistent ethical boundaries. Both are the cornerstones of a successful society. A society that is unable to deal with important issues responsibly, and use that knowledge to its advantage in a way that is beneficial to a majority of its citizens is a society that will die. We see the results today in the current culture war. Everyone senses that something is wrong, we simply can’t agree on the truth. It’s as if we’re entrenched in a form of madness.
Which brings us to Charlie Sheen.
As the mass media exploits and the public gorges itself on the ever-unfolding tragic life of actor Charlie Sheen, it has become apparent that Sheen is a practitioner of this epistemological disconnect. So is the mass media. They are by no means alone in this endeavor. It’s widespread. We are all in some way or another, practitioners of the epistemological disconnect from responsibility.
We now face the challenge of rebuilding how we think, how we acquire knowledge and information, and how we apply that knowledge. It is, as Douglas Rushkoff has said, a new renaissance.
Glenn Beck is one cynical and desperate dude. The upcoming “Restoring Honor” rally at Lincoln Memorial is meant to re-brand the sullied and racist image of the Tea Party into the rainbow coalition just in time for the fall election. But, Beck’s decision to blatantly ride on the coat tails of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement is nothing except a badly orchestrated and cynical effort to co-opt the gravitas of MLK and the rights movement in order to replace the glaring lack of it in the Tea Party movement. They are that desperate.
It gets even better though. From the Atlanta Constitution-Journal:
On the air, Beck has asked attendees not to bring signs or come in anger, but to come in a peaceful spirit akin to the one espoused by King. “Don’t bring your signs,” he said on TV. “Bring your hearts … bring your open minds.”
Not bring signs? It’s a rally! Of course you bring signs! But, Beck is obviously concerned. It’s an admission that something went astray last time. He’s worried the same thing may occur this time. The Tea Party 9/12 rally last year was a smörgåsbord of racism and allusions to racist themes. Some examples for historical context:
The Tea Bag Party faithful brushed the documented claims of racism off as untrue, even in the face of the photographic and video evidence. Perhaps they simply can not see the racism. Perhaps they don’t want to see it. But, America knows what it saw.
To be clear, I’m not saying all Tea Baggers are racist. Yet, it can’t be denied that there is a strong racist element within the Tea Party ranks, and that a great deal of the motivation behind the entire platform (such as is is) is of a nativist, racist, hateful and eliminationist nature. Historically, fear, hate and racism have been great allies. And, they continue to be such. The Tea Party is the current day Nativist party, a modern version of the Know-Nothings. The platforms and ideas espoused are practically identical. No one disuptes that the Know-Nothings were a racist and eliminationist movement. The question remains who will claim the mantle of leadership of the Tea Party. Who will speak out against the racism?
The signs above tell the story. Will it happen again? Time will tell.Read More
Jules Marshall posted a must watch animation from RSA Comment:
…radical sociologist David Harvey asks if it is time to look beyond capitalism, towards a new social order that would allow us to live within a system that could be responsible, just and humane.
Very much worth watching. My comments are below the video.
The trigger to the financial mess is greed. The idea that the system is open-ended, that the sky is the limit, is simply irresponsible. All systems have limits. We’ve reached the limit of capitalsim. And, to be sure, many will simply dismiss this argument as “socialism”. But, as Harvey’s argument posits, there are important points to be gleaned from a socialist approach. You can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater on this issue. This doesn’t mean that people don’t have the right to pursue financial success. What it does mean is that the way that success should be measured needs to change. Warren Buffett has the right idea. There’s a responsibility that comes with financial success. It’s good economics. And, Buffett understands that. The problem is, it’s become a political football.
The tragedy for the USA is that the political atmosphere is super-charged with partisan political nonsense. True discussion is almost impossible. At the moment, Conservatives have shown themselves to be more interested in refuting their core beliefs, at the expense of the stability of the country, for political power. Liberals are lost in an over reactive loop of fixing failed Conservative policies with overreaching programs that miss the big picture. The result is inconsistent economics. Add to this the polarized atmosphere of the poltics of fear that dominate, and it’s a mess.
Engaging in a coherent debate under these circumstances is impossible, let alone implementing a cogent economic plan.
I fear that something truly horrendous will have to occur for people to break free of their ideological constraints and deal with the issues at hand properly with intellect and maturity.
We shall see.Read More
President Obama is taking undeserved heat from the right for playing golf during a time of national crisis. So much so that the White House felt compelled to actually address the issue. If you’re feeling a bit struck by deja-vu on this matter, it’s because we’ve seen this divisive and silly meme before.
During the presidency of George W. Bush, there was a lot of melodramatic consternation on the left about Bush’s playing golf during a time of war and / or national criss. A lot of it was no doubt due to this unfortunate moment. There were even unfounded rumors of his playing golf during the Katrina disaster, as if taking personal time to golf during crisis were proof of incompetence. It was all rather silly for a number of reasons, the foremost being that living a life of constant crisis management like the presidency requires does not also require that life simply stop. Life goes on, even during wartime. Down time is important.
During World War II, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower was a well known golf enthusiast, and took as much time as he could during the war to indulge his passion for the game.
From the section “Ike and Golf” at the Eisenhower Commission website:
His problem was, of course, how to fit golf into a very busy schedule. When he went to London in May of 1942 he picked living quarters some distance from the city so he could find some peace and quiet. The house he rented near Kingston was named Telegraph Cottage and the backyard fence luckily opened on the 13th hole at Coombe Hill Golf Club. During his stay in England Ike never played a full round at Coombe Hill, but he often played three or four holes before going to work in the morning. After the Allied invasion of Normandy, Ike placed his offices in a school house at Reims in the Champagne region of France – but he chose the Guex Golf Course clubhouse as his living quarters. Once again he had little time for golf, but he practiced through a few holes when he could.
Thus, it stands to reason that if it was okay for the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force – the man who planned D-Day – to golf during arguably the greatest crisis in modern history, then it’s probably okay for a president to golf during the “War on Terror” or to golf during the Gulf Spill Crisis and other presidential moments of crisis. Ike continued his love of playing golf during his presidency.Read More
The more things change, the more they stay the same:
Mayor Vaughn: [to reporter] I’m pleased and happy to repeat the news that we have, in fact, caught and killed a large predator that supposedly injured some bathers. But, as you see, it’s a beautiful day, the beaches are open and people are having a wonderful time. Amity, as you know, means “friendship”. – From the movie “Jaws“.
But we haven’t had, really, any impact. I mean, we haven’t had enough oil hit Mississippi’s beaches to fill up a milk jug. Now, we’re prepared and we’re prepared for the worst. But thus far, we haven’t had any kind of incursion, except the news coverage is killing our tourist business. – Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi.
More on Barbour’s links to big oil over at Think Progress.Read More
Douglas Rushkoff @ SXSW on being a victim of media, an observer or a proactive user. Great stuff. We need to create an environment where media is not accepted at face value but rather is appreciated as the tool that it is… We tend to allow our literacy to be absorbed by technology and immediacy of media in the 21st century. New dialogs need to be created. And, they will.Read More
One day a few years ago an e-mail arrived in my inbox. It was from someone named “Jon Swift”. It was a simple comment on a post I’d written as well as a a nice compliment. It was then and there that I knew that whoever Jon was, he was a nice guy. And, it wasn’t that long before another email arrived asking if I’d link to his blog and he’d link to mine in good faith as well. It was as simple as that. An uncommon touch on the internet to be sure. And, so I headed over to his blog and became instantly hooked. It was some of the best political satire on the web. Probably some of the best anywhere for that matter. Cutting, intelligent, complicated, observant, funny, irreverent and completely withering if you were a real conservative true believer. There was a refined and smoldering writer in Jon Swift to be sure.
His name was Al Weisel and he passed away the other day at the age of 46. Skippy has a nice write up that sums it all up amd has a list of memorials to Al.
Al became tired of blogging and his output became less and less. Two years ago he stopped suddenly and I wrote and asked if he was okay, a few of us were wondering, and he wrote back saying that he just got caught up in life and that he would be blogging again soon. And, he did for about a year, then he stopped again early in 2009. His interest waning yet again. I missed him the past year. His views were sorely missed. And, I figured that like many of us, the blog was simply becoming a burden and I simply hoped that one day he’d start again and we’d all be laughing out loud once again. Then came the sad news in an email from Brendan Keefe that Jon Swift /Al was gone.
Sometimes there are no words. Except thanks Al. You were a prince. It was a pleasure fighting the good fight with you, and sharing a laugh across the internet.
Now go read some of the best satire anywhere. You will laugh out loud. Trust me.Read More
Monday link dump…
- Cheney: Waterboarding should have been an option for underbomber – “I was a big supporter of waterboarding. I was a big supporter of the enhanced interrogation techniques,” he said. Of course, for years the CIA has maintained that torture does not produce actionable intel. And, of course, the public practice of torture (they went public with this remember) is more PR than anything. I am of the opinion that Cheney understands that torture does not create actionable intel. But, the propaganda value is simply too great in his view. This is the discussion we should be having…
- Cheney Struggles To Explain Terror Contradictions – Dick Cheney has never been one for consistency of message, nor of adhering to the established facts. It’s unfortunate that he now feels comfortable undermining a sitting president (no matter his political affiliation) in order to secure his own personal legacy and save his ass.
- Biden: Cheney ‘not entitled to re-write history’ – See above.
- A Terrorist Tried In Federal Court: The Case Of Aafia Siddiqui – When we examine the facts, it becomes clear that the GOP is using terrorism as political fodder. So, facts such as this get brushed under the carpet. It’s bad for the coutnry and it’s bad politics. But, they are a party in decline after all…I am for trying terrorists in civilian courts. So is the Pentagon.
- Critical Mass: Dem Agenda Opens Right-Wing Doors – Mandatory reading…