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Hullabaloo


Sunday, December 05, 2004

 
Shop Locally

And by local, I mean the left blogosphere.

For those of you looking for a special gift for that angler in your family (and they are legion) check out these beautiful handcrafted split cane flyrods made by reader and penpal JDW and family. I don't know much about fishing, but I certainly can appreciate fine craftsmanship. These are incredible:



Even if you don't fish, check out these beauties at the J.D Wagner web page.

Support your local left blogospheric craftsman.




 
Evolutionary Theology

Those of you who follow the religious beat more closely than I do have probably seen this article called The Fundamentalist Agenda, by Davidson Loehr. I may not have religious experiences, but I do have epiphanies and reading this was one.

From 1988 to 1993, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences sponsored an interdisciplinary study known as The Fundamentalism Project, the largest such study ever done. More than 100 scholars from all over the world took part, reporting on every imaginable kind of fundamentalism. And what they discovered was that the agenda of all fundamentalist movements in the world is virtually identical, regardless of religion or culture.


The five characteristics are

1) Men rule the roost and make the rules. Women are support staff and for reasons easy to imagine, homosexuality is intolerable.

2) all rules must apply to all people, no pluralism.

3) the rules must be precisely communicated to the next generation

4) "they spurn the modern, and want to return to a nostalgic vision of a golden age that never really existed. (Several of the scholars observed a strong and deep resemblance between fundamentalism and fascism. Both have almost identical agendas. Men are on top, women are subservient, there is one rigid set of rules, with police and military might to enforce them, and education is tightly controlled by the state. One scholar suggested that it's helpful to understand fundamentalism as religious fascism, and fascism as political fundamentalism. The phrase 'overcoming the modern' is a fascist slogan dating back to at least 1941.)"

5) Fundamentalists deny history in a "radical and idiosyncratic way."

All of this is interesting and it's interesting because it crosses all religions, cultural and regional boundries. When the scientists were presenting their abstracts, "several noted that all their papers were sounding alike, reporting on 'species' when studying the 'genus' was called for, that there were strong family resemblances between all fundamentalisms, even when the religions had had no contact, no way to influence each other."

Now, evolutionary psychology theories of the moment can be awfully facile because mostly they reinforce certain social norms that can easily be explained in other ways. (No Virginia, women do not necessarily practise fidelity and men do not "need" to spread their seed far and wide because of their alleged biological programming. It's a lot more complicated than that.) Still, this explanation for fundamentalism --- and more importantly perhaps, why it rears its ugly head from time to time is very thought provoking:

The only way all fundamentalisms can have the same agenda is if the agenda preceded all the religions. And it did. Fundamentalist behaviors are familiar because we've all seen them so many times. These men are acting the role of “alpha males” who define the boundaries of their group's territory and the norms and behaviors that define members of their in-group. These are the behaviors of territorial species in which males are stronger than females. In biological terms, these are the characteristic behaviors of sexually dimorphous territorial animals. Males set and enforce the rules, females obey the males and raise the children; there is a clear separation between the in-group and the out-group. The in-group is protected; outsiders are expelled or fought.

It is easier to account for this set of behavioral biases as part of the common evolutionary heritage of our species than to argue that it is simply a monumental coincidence that the social and behavioral agendas of all fundamentalisms and fascisms are essentially identical.

What conservatives are conserving is the biological default setting of our species, which has strong family resemblances to the default setting of thousands of other species. This means that when fundamentalists say they are obeying the word of God, they have severely understated the authority for their position. The real authority behind this behavioral scheme is millions of years older than all the religions and all the gods there have ever been. It is the picture of life that gave birth to most of the gods as its projected champions.

Fundamentalism is absolutely natural, ancient, powerful—and inadequate. It's a means of structuring relationships that evolved when we lived in troops of 150 or less. But in the modern world, it's completely incapable of the nuance or flexibility needed to structure humane societies.


Perhaps it is facile to suggest that these people are less evolved but well...if the shoe fits. I actually think this is a fairly decent explanation for the phenomenon.

The author goes on, however, to suggest that the reason for fundamentalism's rise is that liberalism has failed to properly incorporate progress into society which leaves many people uncomfortable thus "defaulting" to the basic human response.

But for the liberal impulse to lead, liberals must remain in contact with the center of our territorial instinct and our need for a structure of responsibilities. Fundamentalist uprisings are a sign that the liberals have failed to provide an adequate and balanced vision, that they have not found a vision that attracts enough people to become stable.

Just as it's no coincidence that all fundamentalisms have similar agendas, it's also no coincidence that the most successful liberal advances tend to wrap their expanded definitions in what sound like conservative categories.

John F. Kennedy's most famous line sounds like the terrifying dictate of the world's most arrogant fascist: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Imagine that line coming from Hitler, Khomeini, Mullah Omar, or Jerry Falwell. It is a conservative, even a fascist, slogan. Yet Kennedy used it to effect significant liberal transformations in our society. Under that umbrella he created the Peace Corps and vista programs and through them enlisted many young people to extend our hand to those we had not before seen as belonging to our in-group.

Likewise, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used the rhetoric of a conservative vision to promote his liberal redefinition of the members of our in-group. When he defined all Americans as the children of God, those words could sound like the battle-cry of an American Taliban on the verge of putting a Bible in every school, a catechism in every legislature. Instead, King used that cry to include Americans of all colors in the sacred and protected group of “all God's children”—which was just what many white Southerners were arguing against forty years ago.

When liberal visions work, it's because they have kept one foot solidly in our deep territorial impulses with the other foot free to push the margin, to expand the definition of those who belong in “our” territory.


He's basically saying that in order to pave the way for change, liberals have to first be aware of the sacred symbols and rhetoric of traditionalism and then attempt to harness those symbols to advance our cause. I think there is some truth in that.

The Bible is one, of course, but so are the "sacred" texts of our nation, those that outline the rules and beliefs of our territory and tribe. Those symbols and totems are powerful mojo for the other side if we don't lay claim to them. They mean more than just surface martial nationalistic nonsense --- indeed, if this thesis is true, they may be more powerful than Christian fundamentalism. At the very least, liberals should embrace the symbols like the flag and the constitution and all the apple pie traditions with the knowledge that if we don't, a more pernicious force will. It's about the power of deeply held territorial impulses. Christianity and Islam are only a couple of thousand years old. As the author says, the [fundamentalists] have "severely understated the authority for their position." Perhaps we should stake that authority for our side in service of our ideals.

I can think of a few ways we might do this. The first that comes to mind is to pit fundamentalism against territory. If this retreat to fundamentalism is really a default to primitive biology, then we can frame this as America vs the fundamentalists. And lucky for us, it's easy to do and will confuse the shit out of the right. We have a built in boogie man fundamentalist named Osama on whom we can pin all this ANTI-AMERICAN fundamentalist dogma while subtly drawing the obvious parallels between him and the homegrown variety.

We start by having the womens' groups decrying the Islamic FUNDAMENTALIST view of womens rights. These FUNDAMENTALISTS want to roll back the clock and make women answer to men. In AMERICA we don't believe in that. Then we have the Human Rights Campaign loudly criticizing the Islamic FUNDAMENTALISTS for it's treatment of gays. In AMERICA we believe that all people have inalienable rights. The ACLU puts out a statement about the lack of civil liberties in Islamic FUNDAMENTALIST theocracies. In AMERICA we believe in the Bill of Rights, not the word of unelected mullahs.

You got a problem with that Jerry? Pat? Karl????

Pit American liberalism against Islamic Fundamentalism. Since it's pretty much exactly like Christian fundamentalism, perhaps at least a few people will draw the obvious conclusions. But more importantly, it places us with, as the author says, "one foot solidly in our deep territorial impulses with the other foot free to push the margin, to expand the definition of those who belong in “our” territory." This way we define the territory as being ours while at the same time placing the fundamentalists firmly outside of it by using the symbols of territory instead of religion.

I am concluding more and more that we are dealing with a pre-modern political situation in a post modern world. It's not about issues, it's about tribal identity. We have to start thinking in terms of how to communicate our ideals and our vision in symbolic terms. Go for the gut, not the head. My view is that we can do this by using our sacred political symbols to illustrate what we believe in. People use the Bible and that's just fine. But it isn't the only game in town. "This Land Is Your Land" can bring a tear to the eye as well. And if this fellow is correct in that religion is being used in service of something far more primal than we realize then there is definitely more than one way to skin a cat.

I'd be interested in hearing other ideas you may have about how we might communicate by keeping "one foot solidly in our deep territorial impulses with the other foot free to push the margin," without compromising our principles or our agenda.

(And yes, I've read Lakoff. He's great, but we need to consider not only framing, but the context of the argument and the "feelings" into which we want to tap. I think this issue of territorial impulse and biological default settings in times of rapid social change is one way to think about it. There are, undoubtedly many others.)


Thanks to this exceptional rundown of the "abstinence only" story from Barbara O'Brien, from which I got the link to the article. I highly recommend you read both if you are interested in this topic.


Update: My apologies to Barbara O'Brien, whose name I got wrong and have since corrected.





 
Stop!

I don't care about the stupid weblog awards. My post was a joke, a little poke of fun at myself and the rest of the left blogosphere. I do not endorse "rigging the vote" nor did I issue a call to arms to do so. If people took my little joke that way then they are a) stupid and b) stupid.

I don't care about shit like this. So please, stop with the e-mails. Go bother somebody else. I don't even know who you are.




Saturday, December 04, 2004

 
The Good Guys

The Donkey Rising has a very useful list for us to use during this shopping season. May I suggest e-mailing it to your Democratic friends?

With the holidays upon us, some of us might wish to be mindful of who we patronize relative to their Election Cycle political donations, as reported by the Center for Responsive Politics.

WITH US:
* Price Club/Costco donated $225K, of which 99% went to democrats;
* Rite Aid, $517K, 60% to democrats;
* Magla Products (Stanley tools, Mr. Clean), $22K, 100% to democrats;
* Warnaco (undergarments), $55K, 73% to democrats;
* Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, $153K, 99% to democrats;
* Estee Lauder, $448K, 95% to democrats;
* Guess ? Inc., $145K, 98% to democrats;
* Calvin Klein, $78K, 100% to democrats;
* Liz Claiborne, Inc., $34K, 97% to democrats;
* Levi Straus, $26K, 97% to democrats;
* Olan Mills, $175K, 99% to democrats.
* Gallo Winery, $337K, 95% to democrats;
* Southern Wine & Spirits, $213K, 73% to democrats;
* Joseph E. Seagrams & Sons (includes beverage business, plus considerable media interests), $2M+, 67% democrats.
* Sonic Corporation, $83K, 98% democrat;
* Triarc Companies (Arby's, T.J. Cinnamon's, Pasta Connections), $112K, 96% Democrats;
* Hyatt Corporation, $187K, 80% to democrats;


AGAINST US:
WalMart, $467K, 97% to republicans;
K-Mart, $524K, 86% to republicans;
Home Depot, $298K, 89% to republicans;
Target, $226K, 70% to republicans;
Circuit City Stores, $261K, 95% to republicans;
3M Co., $281K, 87% to republicans;
Hallmark Cards, $319K, 92% to republicans;
Amway, $391K, 100% republican;
Kohler Co. (plumbing fixtures), $283K, 100% republicans;
B.F. Goodrich (tires), $215K, 97% to republicans;
Proctor & Gamble, $243K, 79% to republicans;
Coors, $174K, 92% to republicans; (also Budweiser - sd)
Brown-Forman Corp. (Southern Comfort, Jack Daniels, Bushmills, Korbel wines - as well as Lennox China, Dansk, Gorham Silver), $644, 80% to republicans;
Pilgrim's Pride Corp. (chicken), $366K, 100% republican;
Outback Steakhouse, $641K, 95% republican;
Tricon Global Restaurants (KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell), $133K, 87% republican;
Brinker International (Maggiano's, Brinker Cafe, Chili's, On the
Border, Macaroni Grill, Crazymel's, Corner Baker, EatZis), $242K, 83% republican;
Waffle House, $279K, 100% republican;
McDonald's Corp., $197K, 86% republican;
Darden Restaurants (Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Smokey Bones, Bahama Breeze), $121K, 89% republican;
Mariott International, $323K, 81% to republicans;
Holiday Inns, $38K, 71% to republicans


(Does anybody know what the restaurant chains are so anxious about? GM foods? Minimum wage hikes? Why are they all giving big bucks to the Republicans? It kind of freaks me out.)

Let's be sure to spread some Holiday cheer to the good guys --- and stick it to the others. This is America, after all.




 
Can't Keep A Good Girl Down

Rittenhouse reveals that the torrid, heaving, breathless tome known as Sisters has been disappeared from the web:

...Mrs. Biscuitbarrel dropped me a note this afternoon telling me Live Journal has blocked her access to the site’s template. And I notice that Mrs. Biscuitbarrel’s web site has been taken down, presumably by Live Journal.

No word yet on who instigated this attack.

I don’t know, I have the feeling this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Sisters.


Oh, it will be impossible to keep this panting paeon to Montana's sapphic history away from a public that demands it. If Mrs. VP were a real capitalist she'd option it for a seven part series on Showtime. Barring that, we shall have to be content with furtive peeks into her fertile imagination from the far corners of the internet. A raging thirst for softcore GOP bodice ripping girl-love must and will be slaked.




 
This Will Not Stand

In The Return of the Curse of the Creature's Ghost Norbizness breaks the news that I am being dealt a humiliating setback in a weblog contest I've only just now been informed existed:

It's official: if you are linked by The Left (d/b/a "Happy Furry Puppy Story Time With Norbizness"), the chances of your winning the 2004 Weblog Awards (previously known as "The Awardies", "The Cable Ace Awards", the "Cross de Guerre with Palm Leaf", and "The 12th Annual Montgomery Burns Award For Outstanding Achievment in the Field of Exellence") are virtually nil. There is simply no other non-insane explanation for this phenomenon, as you will see in the following bill of particulars,:

-- in the Best Overall Weblog category, the combined votes of Talking Points Memo and Political Animal, whose hits are in the millions, are approximately one-eleventh the total of The Corner at the National Review, a repository of two-word posts, fake e-mails, and John Derbyshire. These cretins also are also outdoing the combined efforts of Reason's Hit & Run and Crooked Timber by 10-to-1 in the Best Group Blog category.

-- in the Best Humor Weblog category, Jesus' General, the only recognizable left-of-center site out of 15 nominees, is garnering only 5.5% of the vote, distantly trailing some tepid Onion-lite and Dave Barry-lite right-of-center sites. Even resident Martha Stewart in bondage fetishist, Jeff G. at Protein Wisdom, is getting smoked like a Doral Light by Fred Leuchter, proving that the curse of The Left makes no distinction in its thorough disembowelings.

[...]

-- Dan Drezner and Digby's Hullabaloo are being dealt humiliating set-backs in the Best of the Top 100 category. Sorry guys, it's nothing personal.



In fact, Matthew Yglesias is the only liberal winning in any category. It happens to be "best liberal blog." In all other categories, the left is getting its ass kicked.

Ah, I remember those good old days when we could make a publicly held media company back down in a matter of days. Seems like only yesterday. Now we are a bare hulk of a blogospheric movement. The shame.





 
Useful Idiot

I see that certain people in the Democratic leadership have been listening to Rush Limbaugh again:

We've got to repudiate, you know, the most strident and insulting anti-American voices out there sometimes on our party's left ... We can't have our party identified by Michael Moore and Hollywood as our cultural values. – Al From, CEO, Democratic Leadership Council


Yes, it's always a good idea to sling the word "anti-American" around when talking about members of your own party. It's so helpful to reiterate Republican talking points in public and suggest that Michael Moore and "Hollywood" must be repudiated because they are unacceptable to the public despite the fact that their "product" seems to sell quite well to a rather significant faction of the party.

Meanwhile, the Republicans have been very successful inviting their sociopathic lunatic fringe right onto the dais and treating them like royalty. You didn't see the Republicans rejecting Falwell or Coulter because they say inflammatory things, do you? No, because a large number of their constituents think they are terrific. It's called having respect for your grassroots.

Perhaps the reason the Republicans are winning is because the American people simply appreciate something other than a bucket of lukewarm spit in their leaders and instinctively see through all this silly "Sistah Soljah" bullshit for the half assed, lame symbolic capitulation it really is.

It's a thought.





 
Little Signs Everywhere

I normally don't weigh in on this endlessly stultifying topic of academic liberalism, but it's getting a bit more interesting now that professors are being physically threatened. From Marie at The Left Coaster: Brown Shirts in Cyber-Space I find that a poor little Republican girl at Cal State Long Beach is upset because one of her professors is a liberal and it's inappropriate for him to be talking politics in his English class, especially since he doesn't like the president. Oh boohoohoohoohoo!

This story wouldn't even be worth discussing (this snivelling woe-is-me victim whine is like a broken record) except that this quivering little Republican twit put this professor's name on this right wing "complaint" web site and the story was picked up all over the wingnut press. Predictably, the professor started getting death threats.

For a real treat, read the original complaint posted by our future Harpy of America.

I am taking this English composition class to fufill my general education (GE) requirements. On the first night of this class, Sep. 1, 2004, Dr. Snider went over the the class syllabus for the semester. This syllabus includes 5 essays that are to be turned in over the semester. One of these essays is to be written on a film that he will show in class, as he so stated will most likely be Farenheit 9/11. (Because Michael Moore is a genius and his film exposes how our so called "President Bush" is an idiot.) He then proceeded for the next hour and a half of this ENGLISH class to talk strictly about his hate of "president" (he kept doing the quote signs with his fingers) Bush and the Iraqi War. There were no more attempts made my Dr. Snider to talk about the true subject matter of the class, ENGLISH. I have been in this class for almost 2 weeks now and politics seems to be the main issue lectured on, however he makes lame attempts to tie his own liberal propaganda into an english example, (; Newspaper articles, Presidential Speeches, etc. )Furthermore, a second essay that we are to wirte must be written on a book we have read that appears on his "approved reading list". The list of books in his syllabus has a dominant theme: Sexual perversion and anti Bush rhetoric. ( A copy of this list can be found on his website at www.csulb.edu/~csnider) This website which indicated in his syllabus "contains important class material" is a website dedicated primarily to his own gay literature and anti Bush poetry.

[...]

On the first night of this class, a student sitting next to me who had apparently become disgusted by the teachers quote that "Bush is just as evil as Saddam Hussein" raised his hand and asked how Dr. Snider could even make such a comparison. I too spoke out and said that there is no way that you can compare a dictator who gasses thousands of people with our President.

[...]

This other student and I were instantly ridiculed by the rest of the class and told by Dr. Snider that it was all "the fault of the Fox so called "news" media's propaganda and that he would also like to show the class "OutFoxed" and another film on the Lies of Bush and Tony Blair to the world to show us what is really going on.
Time of Posting : Saturday, September 11, 2004.


Oh my, Gawd! It was so, like, totally, unfair! This fag was, like, teaching junk that me and, like, one other guy, like, didn't want to he-ar! Even though I'm, like, in college I shouldn't have to listen to stuff I don't, like, agree with!

Of course that huckster David Horowitz is on the case and published the poor little girl's story (in which she reveals that she believes college English is supposed to be sixth grade remedial grammar class.) Townhall got into the act and lil' Melissa even got a shot on FoxNews.

I wrote my paragraph very tongue in cheek and purposely ridiculed the insufficient evidence that Michael Moore used in his film. However, when I received my paragraph back, I found it marked up in red ink by Dr. Snider with comments like, " You miss the point of the film", or that advisor "was Richard Clark… a terrorist expert!" I was blown away by these comments. I didn’t realize that I was being graded on the way I interpreted the film! From what I understood about our in class paragraphs, Dr. Snider was only supposed to grade grammar, spelling, and mechanics, of which I had no corrected errors. Funny though that I still received the lowest grade in the class on this assignment (after receiving all A’s on past assignments), while papers with numerous spelling errors and mechanical corrections but with an anti-Bush perspective received A’s.

[...]

Dr. Snider has taken it upon himself to give us a moral/ ethical and spiritual lesson before each class begins. I have no problem with morals and spirituality, however the university offers ethics classes; I enrolled and paid for an English class. I do not believe that Dr. Snider is trained to lecture on such topics. Moreover, from what I do know of his ethics and morals, I feel slightly offended that he somehow believes that his morals are superior to mine. (I am unable to draw an ethical comparison between President Bush and Saddam Hussein, as does Dr. Snider, which he so stated on the very first night of class.)

I am disheartened to see a class full of students whom simply do not seem to know any better, being brainwashed by the leftist views of Dr. Snider only weeks before the Presidential elections. I believe that what has gone on in this course is an all too typical example of the blatant abuse of power by university professors nationwide.


It's a good thing that Uncle Davey Horowitz doesn't grade his papers as harshly as Dr. Snider because he might have asked 18 year old Melissa to back up her assertions that Dr. Snider is not trained to lecture on certain topics or that this is an all too typical example of blatant abuse of power by university professors nationwide. But then, he almost certainly "helped" little Melissa write those words didn't he?

Yes, the poor, poor little conservatives on campus, so scorned, so dissed. And all those poor brainwashed classmates who aren't as wise and as knowledgeable as little Melissa. The only thing to be done is kill the professor. Marie's post discusses other similar incidents. Apparently, it's not at all rare for liberal professors to get death threats these days after their names are posted on the internet.

Republicans may have total control of the government, but that isn't good enough. As Lincoln said in the Cooper Union Speech I posted about the other day:

... what will convince them? This, and this only: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly - done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated - we must place ourselves avowedly with them. Senator Douglas' new sedition law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits, or in private. We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our Free State constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us.


They will not be satisfied until we agree with them and prove that we agree with them in thought, word and deed. Clearly, whatever brainwashing has been going on on college campuses these past twenty years or so has not resulted in a loss of political power from the right. But that doesn't matter. Liberalism must be utterly destroyed, its adherants converted and all remnants of its philosophy purged from the discourse.

When, I wonder, will we be willing to admit that this culture war is a war of survival?




Friday, December 03, 2004

 
Juicy Nugget

Seems there's word on the street that the Clintons are pushing Joe Lockhart for DNC chair.

I dunno. I have a soft spot for Lockhart from the Starr Wars, but isn't he primarily a defensive player? I think we're looking for some offense in this position.

Even though I was not a Deaniac, I came out way back in June for Dean as DNC chair mostly because I believe that the next chairman has to be able to harness some of this grassroots energy. And frankly, I think the party would be well served by a reformer who simultaneously represents the party. The activists have to take ownership of the party label and start to defend it against the GOP or we aren't going to get anywhere. As long as Democrats berate themselves more than the Republicans we're in trouble.

Still, I don't have a real dog in this fight. I'm worn out with this stuff. Lockhart's a good guy. I don't hate the Clintons or the Deaniacs or the Kerry people. I don't even know if this position is really as crucial as some think. Were Jim Nichols or Jim Gilmore or Ed Gillespie crucial to the GOP's success? Not really.

May the best Democrat win.




 
Long Memories

The Belmont Club has an interesting post up about the reason for the Franco American "troubles." Seems they think the French are still fuming about a slight from 50 years ago:

Some readers have argued that French intriguing against the US in Iraq is payback for the "abandonment" of the French Army at Dien Bien Phu by the US in 1954 when all they expected was "some air cover".


This is, of course, nonsense. The French intriguing is clearly payback for John Adams' dispatches to congress before the Quasi-War of 1798-1800 in which he said:

“I will never send another minister to France without assurances that he will be received, respected, and honored, as the representative of a great, free, powerful, and independent nation.”


Ohh lala, they were very upset and they obviously still are.

Certainly, their "intriguing" couldn't possibly have anything to do with current events because U.S. actions have been nothing short of perfect. They just can't let go of the past. That's why we call it old Europe.

Via The Daou Report




 
The Merchant Of Porno

First, I'd like to apologise for the dearth of posting this last week. I've been unusually busy, but I'm also pretty burned out. Sometimes my muse (who I think may have voted for Schwarzenegger) just decides to take a vacation at club med and leave me sitting at the terminal unable to write anything but rude defenses of my spelling errors.

Hopefully, I'll be back at it in force before too long.

Meanwhile, there is always the daily atrocity of the morals police:

The Moderate Voice kindly alerted me to this:

US distributors of the film Merchant of Venice, which premiered in London this week, have asked the director to cut out a background fresco by a Venetian old master so it is fit for American television viewers.

US networks have been embroiled in controversy over naked flesh since Janet Jackson exposed a breast during a half-time performance during the Superbowl. A lesser fuss has blown up about a trailer for the hit television series Desperate Housewives on Monday Night football, in which an actress with her back to the camera drops her towel in a locker room.

Distributors regularly ask for cuts in films so that they can be shown on US tele-vision and by airlines. The request to "paint-box the wallpaper" - cover over the fresco - was contained in a letter from the US distrib-utors, Sony, to Michael Radford.

The director had already anticipated one request by shooting extra scenes for television in which bare-breasted prostitutes are fully clothed.

He was also asked to remove scenes of male kissing, a brief female kissing scene - and simulated slaughtering of goats.

The fifth request was to cut out footage showing meat carcasses.

Finally, according to Mr Radford, there was "a very curious request which said 'Could you please paint-box out the wallpaper?'. I said wallpaper, what wallpaper? This is the 16th century, people didn't have wall-paper."

When he examined the scenes, he realised the letter was referring to frescoes by Paolo Veronese, the acclaimed Venetian 16th-century artist, which, when examined closely, showed a naked cupid.

"A billion dollars worth of Veronese great master's frescoes they want paint-boxed out because of this cupid's willy. It is absolutely absurd," he said.



Here is some more filthy trash by this 16th century pornographer:



In Hollywood some nobody gets the word to crack down on sexual images because "people" are up in arms about morality and the children. The nobody who makes the decision about what is morally acceptable is completely clueless about everything. This is the result.

Get ready. We are going to see more and more of this. The only thing worse than putting the cops or the preachers in charge of deciding what is acceptable for people to watch is letting some nameless loser bureaucrat do it.

I'd love to hear the rationale for censoring meat carcasses. Either somebody is very kinky or we are going beyond self-censorship of sexuality and violence to include general ickiness. The good news is that if icky meat carcasses are out of line then we can expect that Jerry Falwell's continuous television appearances will soon be severely curtailed. There's a silver lining to everything.




Wednesday, December 01, 2004

 
More Outrageous TV

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations," reads an explanation from CBS, "and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks."


All the hoopla about Monday Night Football is a misdirection from bullshit like this. If there is a problem with television, I would suggest that this is by far the most important problem that we face --- the voluntary censorship of certain political speech by the networks. Remember, most people get all their information from television.

If anybody wants to burn up the switchboards of a television network, this might be the one that should get those fingers walking.




Tuesday, November 30, 2004

 
I'd like to address this meeting of the Harper Valley P.T.A.

Apparently, some people are still upset that certain liberals have the temerity to suggest that the moral values voters the media believe decided the election might just be the teeniest bit hypocrital. We are petty elitists, and intellectual lightweights to boot.

I have to say that this critique is driving me nuts coming from sophisticated thinkers like Somerby. He claims, ridiculously, that Frank Rich was misleading when he said that nobody complained about the "Desperate Housewives" skit until political groups got them all riled up, using the fact that a spokesman says he didn't get any calls at home. Clearly the spokesman means that nobody from the network called him to let him know there was an uproar, which is what would normally happen. This argument is beneath Somerby. Rich made a very good case that this was a ginned up controversy.

The bigger issue is that Somerby and others claim that those of us who find all this moralizing a bit suspect are using the fallacy of composition --- we are applying the hypocrisy of some moralizers to all red state morals voters. But that criticism ignores the fact that this entire discussion is taking place within a broader "culture war" as defined by those who have decided to wage it. The "Desperate Housewives" flap didn't happen in a vacuum. Of course voters are individuals and there are certainly some who sincerely believe that the skit in question crossed the line. But the real subject of this conversation is this false construct of the Republican Real Americans appalled at the horrible values of the Democratic libertine cosmopolitans. It is not a stretch to use the "Desperate Housewives" flap as an example of hypocrisy on the part of the moralizers considering that it is an immensely popular mass market television show among the very Real Americans who are alleged to be so moral.

Via Sommerby (who takes a different lesson from these quotes) here's an example of what we are dealing with:

MR. RUSSERT: Two interesting developments over the last month or so. A report came out that the state with the lowest level of divorce is Massachusetts. The states with the highest level are the so-called Bible Belt in the South.

DR. FALWELL: Yes.

REV. SHARPTON: That's because they watch "Desperate Housewives."

MR. RUSSERT: Also "Desperate Housewives"...

REV. SHARPTON: That's right.

MR. RUSSERT: ...a widely viewed television series, particularly in the South.

REV. SHARPTON: Because...

MR. RUSSERT: Why is it that the red states...

DR. FALWELL: Because the South doesn't belong to the New Testament Church anymore than the North.

MR. RUSSERT: Right.

DR. FALWELL: We have a responsibility to preach the Gospel. But I would take that poll a little further. Among born-again, Bible-believing Christians who take the Bible as the word of God, you'll find those stats are non...

MR. RUSSERT: They don't watch "Desperate Housewives"?

DR. FALWELL: I hope they don't.

REV. SHARPTON: You don't know. Look, Brother Russert, Brother Russert...

DR. LAND: I don't...

DR. FALWELL: I have never watched it and I've...

DR. FALWELL: I have never watched it and I've...

DR. LAND: We're in church on Sunday night. The point is--you know, look. He said we shouldn't impose values on others. Look, when a mother has an abortion, she is imposing her values on an unborn child. And it is always a fatal imposition because the baby dies.

DR. FALWELL: Amen. Amen.

REV. SHARPTON: Brother Russert, I'll tell you that people...

MR. RUSSERT: On "Desperate Housewives," Newsweek says that the creator of "Desperate Housewives" is a conservative, gay Republican.

REV. SHARPTON: That's what I was going to say. Do you find that...

DR. FALWELL: Well, the fact that he's a gay Republican means he should join the Democratic Party.



What I would give to be able to sit down in a living room somewhere and watch that unbelievable Sunday sideshow with Mark Twain, Sinclair Lewis, John O'Hara, Theodore Dreiser, Willa Cather, Erskine Caldwell, Flannery O'Connor and about a dozen other great American writers. If there is a greater All American, mom and apple pie, flagwaving tradition in the great country of ours than deflating pompous gasbags like those guys, I don't know what is.

Exposing the phony piety of middle American life goes back a long, long way. In fact we could say that our earliest literary superstar, Nathaniel Hawthorne, made his name with the subject of the preacher and small town sin. The greatest American writer ever (imo) Mark Twain, wrote:

We are discreet sheep; we wait to see how the drove is going, and then go with the drove. We have two opinions: one private, which we are afraid to express; and another one - the one we use - which we force ourselves to wear to please Mrs. Grundy, until habit makes us comfortable in it, and the custom of defending it presently makes us love it, adore it, and forget how pitifully we came by it.


The progressive movement was inspired and energized by novels and stories that laid bare the twofaced nature of bourgouis American morality. Sinclair Lewis wrote "Main Street" in 1920:

The doctor asserted, 'Sure religion is a fine influence - got to have it to keep the lower classes in order - fact, it's the only thing that appeals to a lot of these fellows and makes 'em respect the rights of property. And I guess this theology is O.K.; lot of wise old coots figured it out, and they knew more about it than we do. He believed in the Christian religion, and never thought about it; he believed in the church, and seldom went near it; he was shocked by Carol's lack of faith, and wasn't quite sure what was the nature of the faith that she lacked.


In 1927 he wroteElmer Gantry:

"He had, in fact, got everything from the church and Sunday School, except, perhaps, any longing whatever for decency and kindness and reason."


Just last year, Rick Perlstein visited Ronald Reagan's home town and found, you guessed it, quite a bit of shall we say ... cultural dissonance among the pillars of the community.

I could go on and on. There is nothing new about questioning the sincerity of public people who preach private morality. Politicians may believe that they need to preach morality for strategic reasons. Fine. But that does not require writers and social observers to pretend that we live in a country in which the natural course of human nature has been suspended in certain more "moral" regions or that it is disrespectful to question why Viagra commercials and close-up Cheerleader crotch shots do not elicit the same shocked moral outrage from NFL fans like Rush Limbaugh as the blond's naked back in the arms of a leering black football player.

I do not watch "Desperate Housewives." In fact I watch almost no network television at all. I don't defend any of popular culture on aesthetic or moral grounds. I'm sure that traversing the shoals of modern life is very difficult for those with young children. If I had young kids I probably would severely restrict their viewing. But, I'm not going to listen to anyone tell me that that "Hollywood" and "New York" values are infecting any region of this country against its will because every corner of this land is filled with people who eat that stuff up.

Parents should probably use the V-Chip that Clinton pushed through to give parents a tool to keep their kids from seeing things they don't want them to see, use TiVo to screen programs or better yet, turn off the TV. I have a feeling that as unpopular as that might be, it might just be for the best. Having TV executives hold a seance to figure out what Michael Powell and his cronies believe should be on television just doesn't seem to me to be much of a solution in a free society.



And one more thing: Somerby approvingly quotes President Clinton numerous times saying that the Pentecostals deserved respect because even though they didn't believe in a right to abortion they took in unwanted babies and gave them a home. He uses this as an example of how liberals should talk about fundamentalist Christians. Falwell repeated on Press the Meat that his church sponsored adoptions.

It's a nice story, but it would be a lot more meanigful if it weren't for this:

African-American babies are going to parents overseas even as US couples adopt children from other countries

Adrian, Emma, and Elisa have more in common than their charm and being the apple of their parents' eyes. All are black children born in the United States and adopted as infants by parents in other countries.

They also are representatives of a little-known trend: At the same time the US is "importing" increasing numbers of adoptive children from Russia, China, and Guatemala, it is "exporting" black babies to be adopted in other countries.

[...]

The majority of [american] couples seeking to adopt are white, but there aren't nearly enough Caucasian babies available in the US to meet the demand. Although exceptions certainly exist, American parents generally prefer babies to toddlers, girls to boys, and Caucasians to African-Americans, adoption professionals report. Other ethnicities fall in between, depending on their skin color. African-American boys are at the bottom of this "ranking" system, they say, which is why they're harder to place.

"We have to work much harder to find homes for our African-American babies," says Robert Springer of Christian Homes, an adoption agency in Texas.

No one is equating babies with commodities, but the principles of supply and demand apply. Adoption costs and waiting times in the US vary depending on a baby's ranking in the "desirability list."

The children who are in the greatest demand are also in the shortest supply. Those who want to adopt healthy white babies in the US may wait as long as five years, agencies say. In contrast, they add, the waiting for African-Americans is often measured in weeks and months, especially for baby boys.


Now I realize that not every pentecostal who opposes abortion would refuse to adopt a black child. But, the evidence shows that while the fundamentalists may be willing to adopt unwanted babies in theory, in practice they only want to adopt certain unwanted babies. I don't know why that deserves any special respect.




Monday, November 29, 2004

 
Commies and Patriots




I have to agree with Boarshead Tavern that this WorldNet Daily story about kids wearing Commie Che shirts is chilling. The man, after all, justified many horrible actions in the name of his revolution with no regard for universal ethics or morals:

Guevara was proud of the fact that he personally put bullets in the backs of the heads of many he considered counter-revolutionary.

Once again, in rallying his guerrillas in Angola, he wrote: "Blind hate against the enemy creates a forceful impulse that cracks the boundaries of natural human limitations, transforming the soldier in an effective, selective and cold killing machine. A people without hate cannot triumph against the adversary."


Yikes

Now this on the other hand is a stocking stuffer for the whole family:



Support our Marine
$17.99


The Marine who killed the wounded insurgent in Fallujah deserves our praise and admiration. In a split second decision, he acted valiantly.

On the otherhand, Kevin Sites of NBC is a traitor. Beheading civilians, booby-trapped bodies, suicide bombers?? Sorry hippie, American lives come first. Terrorists don't deserve the benefit of the doubt. This Marine deserves a medal and Kevin Sites, you deserve a punch in the mouth.

Printed on high quality superheavyweight, preshrunk cotton (6.1oz)


Via Crooks and Liars and The Daou Report

Friday, November 26, 2004

 
Crack A Book

Some people need to read some history before they get snippy:

Here's my post, from Polipundit.com, on the jaw-dropping liberal self-parody of the day. What planet, exactly, are these people from?

Far-left Democratic Congresswoman, Zoe Lofgren, of the San Francisco Bay Area, plans to introduce a prospective Constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College.

Cute, huh?

Incidentally, this will not be Ms. Lofgren’s “15 minutes,” so to speak.

Last March, a woman who had worked for Lofgren as a Congressional aide, back in 2002, was arrested by the F.B.I., on charges that she had served as a “paid agent” for the Iraqi Intelligence Services, both prior, and subsequent, to the U.S.-led military assault to take down Saddam Hussein’s government.

And in a final bit of liberal irony, Congresswoman Lofgren’s former aide began her political career as a reporter for the Pravda-like Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Um, could you have scripted all that for an uproarious political satire?


Um, not intentionally. You see, there have been many, many calls to abolish the electoral college, going back to James Madison and Andrew Jackson. In the last 35 years alone there have been dozens of proposals to eliminate it or change it, many of them coming from Republicans. Yep, even Republican president Nixon and Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole and respected Republican senator (and Reagan chief of staff) Howard Baker were in favor of abolishing it. And guess what? Public opinion polls have repeatedly shown that the public favors abolition of the electoral college too.


Imagine that:: In a 1968 Gallup survey, 81% of Americans favored a direct popular vote, 12% favored retention, and 7% had no opinion. In 1992, pollsters asked Americans this question, 'If Perot runs, there is a chance that no presidential candidate will get enough electoral votes to win. If that happens, the Constitution gives the House of Representatives the power to decide who will be the next President. Do you think that is a fair way to choose the President, or should the Constitution be changed?' 31% said it was a fair way, and 61% said the Constitution should be changed.

By some counts, there have been over seven hundred proposed amendments to the Constitution to change, or abolish, the electoral college. In 1969, in the wake of an election where a third party candidate almost sent the election to the House of Representatives, an amendment to do away with the electoral college passed the House of Representatives with 83% of the vote, 338-70. Richard Nixon favored the amendment, and so did three-quarters of state legislatures, Republican Senator Howard Baker denounced the electoral college with 'Any system which favors one citizen over another or one state over another is ... inconsistent with the most fundamental concept of a democratic society.' Predictably, the amendment failed in the Senate; however, it was not small states who blocked the reform but rather Southern states, who saw the electoral college as part of states' rights. Also, because the Senate itself is an institution which gives each state an equal say in the formation of laws; a body which helps to protect the small states from their more populous analogues.



I know it's great fun for people to get all snotty and snide over things about which they apparently know nothing. But it's also a good way to make a fool of yourself on the internets.

Via The Daou Report






Thursday, November 25, 2004

 
Puritan To Yankee and back again


In responding to my post below Kidding On The Square writes a very nice treatise on the life of the Puritans, a subject so relevant today....for so many reasons. He quotes from Richard Bushman's book From Puritan to Yankee


No attempt to trace the history of liberty can deal with the detached individual in isolation. Freedom is a condition not of the single man alone but of man in relationship to a community. The group protects him against the misuse of the power of others and provides the setting within which he can advantageously exercise his own powers. Therefore, changes in the nature of the community, which necessarily either increase or restrain the capacity of the individual to act, affect his liberty.
...

Particulary significant in the analysis of the process by which the Puritans became Yankeees is the light it throws on the relationship between society and individual personality. The description of the forces in the community that gave birth to the wish to be free, among men brought up in a closed order, illuminates an important, and neglected, facet of the history of liberty in the United States.



Happy Turkee Day.




Wednesday, November 24, 2004

 
Rolling Their Eyes Maybe

Via Peter Daou I see that the right wing bloggers are all atwitter about this article in which a teacher is reported to be suing his principal for allegedly refusing to let him teach the Declaration of Independence because it mentions God.(Well, technically it mentions a Creator.) According to these furious Republicans, the founders are rolling in their graves:

Steven Williams, a fifth-grade teacher at Stevens Creek School in the San Francisco Bay area suburb of Cupertino, sued for discrimination on Monday, claiming he had been singled out for censorship by principal Patricia Vidmar because he is a Christian.

"It's a fact of American history that our founders were religious men, and to hide this fact from young fifth-graders in the name of political correctness is outrageous and shameful," said Williams' attorney, Terry Thompson.

"Williams wants to teach his students the true history of our country," he said. "There is nothing in the Establishment Clause (of the U.S. Constitution) that prohibits a teacher from showing students the Declaration of Independence."

Vidmar could not be reached for comment on the lawsuit, which was filed on Monday in U.S. District Court in San Jose and claims violations of Williams rights to free speech under the First Amendment.

Phyllis Vogel, assistant superintendent for Cupertino Unified School District, said the lawsuit had been forwarded to a staff attorney. She declined to comment further.


Perhaps the facts are just as the lawsuit alleges in which case the principal has some explaining to do. But before we make that judgment it might be worth our while to find out if what this teacher is saying IS ACTUALLY TRUE. Nobody from the other side has commented and nobody knows the whole story. Anybody can file a lawsuit and call the press. It doesn't make it a fact. Indeed, somebody really ought to ask themselves if an attorney making the statement "there is nothing in the Establishment Clause (of the U.S. Constitution) that prohibits a teacher from showing students the Declaration of Independence," isn't just a little bit too cute.

Certainly, it's a stretch to evoke the founding fathers on this religiosity issue, particularly Jefferson. He wasn't a Christian, he was a Deist. I know that's inconvenient, but it's true. Back in those days you didn't have to pass a religious test to be in government like you do today. Why, they even put it in the constitution.

". . . Some books against Deism fell into my hands. . . It happened that they wrought an effect on my quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist."

Franklin

"... I am not afraid of priests. They have tried upon me all their various batteries of pious whining, hypocritical canting, lying and slandering. I have contemplated their order from the Magi of the East to the Saints of the West and I have found no difference of character, but of more or less caution, in proportion to their information or ignorance on whom their interested duperies were to be played off. Their sway in New England is indeed formidable. No mind beyond mediocrity dares there to develop itself."

Jefferson

What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not."

Madison

. . . Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind."

Adams

The 1796 treaty with Tripoli, negotiations begun under Washington and signed by Adams states:

[As] the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion


Please spare us the rewiting of history. There were Christians, Deists and atheists among the founders. But they were all products of the Enlightenment which the current Christians seem determined to reject. The founders are rolling in their graves, all right.



Update: Seeing The Forest informs me that this is one of those tiresome bogus lawsuits brought forth by the Alliance Defense Fund whose founders are:

Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ

Larry Burkett, founder of Christian Financial Concepts

Rev. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family

Rev. D. James Kennedy, founder of Coral Ridge Ministries

Marlin Maddoux, President of International Christian Media

Don Wildmon, founder of American Family Association
(And 25+ other ministries)


That's the best case for lawsuit reform I've ever heard, right there.

STF points out that this is coordinated to come out the day before Thanksgiving so that they can pound it over the holiday week-end without anybody being able to properly respond. These precious little stories are becoming commonplace these days. I remember the one about the teacher who was allegedly discriminated against because she put a picture of Bush on the bulletin board. It turned out that she had a fucking shrine up there and was insulting 12 year old kids whose parents were voting for Kerry. All the wingnuts keened and wailed about the unfairness of it all, always being the first to claim victimhood. As each tale is debunked they just move to the next.

These little personal stories are a very effective way to spread propaganda. We need to figure out a way to deal with this stuff.




 
Preznit Give APEC Turkee








Tuesday, November 23, 2004

 
Honor, Dignity and Civility

Mr. Daschle is the first Senate party leader in more than half a century to lose a re-election campaign. His emotional talk, in which he also urged his colleagues to find "common ground," was attended by nearly all of the Senate's Democrats, who gathered him in their arms and hugged him afterward.

But only a few Republicans showed up, and Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, who broke with Senate tradition to campaign against Mr. Daschle in his home state, South Dakota, did not appear until after Mr. Daschle finished speaking.


Has there ever been a group of more graceless winners in history?

The scant Republican showing provoked Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, to speak out. "I don't know why, why in the closing days, some element of comity, some element of grace, some element of respect for a human being, could not have gotten some of our friends out of their offices," Mr. Lautenberg said.


Because they are assholes, all of them.

The Real American people have spoken. These fuckers represent them. They are going to lecture me about values and I'm supposed to respect them and believe them when they tell me they are concerned about their children. God help this misbegotten country.




Monday, November 22, 2004

 
Pandering To Hypocrisy

There seems to be something of a scold mentality emerging about those of us who question the sincerity of those who are up in arms about the libertine ways of the liberal elite. I had perceived this as saying that the Red States are just as "immoral" as the Blue States. But some, like Bob Sommerby, see it as a case of liberals claiming moral superiority. To the extent that honesty is more moral than hypocrisy, then I suppose he may be right.

We could argue this all day, but the crux of this is Sommerby's assertion that Democrats would win if we used Bill Clinton's formula and respected the views of these citizens with whom we disagree. Well, yes. As a general rule we should always be respectful of others. But, that does not necessarily mean that those who disagree with us are sincere or that we will win by being respectful of them.

The problem is that the evidence suggests that those who are sincerely shocked by what they saw on MNF are not representative of the vast majority of the so-called Real American voter. How can we explain, for instance, how those NFL fans who complained about the "Desperate Housewives" skit on MNF were shocked by the brazen sexuality of it but have never before raised hell about the tittilating beer commercials that have been shown on that same broadcast for years? And, we can pretend that the sexy show the skit was was advertising isn't hugely popular in the states that voted en masse for George Bush, but that doesn't change the fact that it is:

Many Who Voted for 'Values' Still Like Their Television Sin

The results of the presidential election are still being parsed for what they say about the electorate's supposed closer embrace of traditional cultural values, but for the network television executives charged with finding programs that speak to tastes across the nation, one lesson is clear.

The supposed cultural divide is more like a cultural mind meld.

In interviews, representatives of the four big broadcast networks as well as Hollywood production studios said the nightly television ratings bore little relation to the message apparently sent by a significant percentage of voters.

The choices of viewers, whether in Los Angeles or Salt Lake City, New York or Birmingham, Ala., are remarkably similar. And that means the election will have little impact on which shows they decide to put on television, these executives say.

[...]

"Desperate Housewives" on ABC is the big new hit of the television season, ranked second over all in the country, behind only "C.S.I." on CBS. This satire of suburbia and modern relationships features, among other morally challenged characters, a married woman in her 30's having an affair with a high-school-age gardener, and has prompted several advertisers, including Lowe's, to pull their advertisements.

In the greater Atlanta market, reaching more than two million households, "Desperate Housewives" is the top-rated show. Nearly 58 percent of the voters in those counties voted for President Bush.

And in the Salt Lake City market, which takes in the whole state of Utah and parts of Nevada, Idaho and Wyoming, "Desperate Housewives" is fourth, after two editions of "C.S.I." and NBC's "E.R."; Mr. Bush rolled up 72.6 percent of the vote there.


This doesn't mean, of course, that those fans who complained about the MNF sketch watch "Desperate Housewives." (It's that the blatantly sexy beer commercials and close-up crotch shots and cleavage of the cheerleaders on MNF for years have not provoked a similar outcry from fans that speaks to their hypocrisy.) But these ratings do suggest that contrary to the emerging myth about Bush voter outrage at libertine Blue State immorality, somebody isn't being entirely truthful about their attitudes toward popular culture. After all, according to E&P the
"top three states for readership of Playboy magazine are Iowa, Wyoming, North Dakota ... and they all top heathen New York by 2-1 margins." Of course, they read it for the same reasons. The articles on stereo equipment.

Sommerby complains about Jeff Greenfield saying that the NFL fans who complained were the same ones who lied to their wives and went to strip clubs. A correspondent wrote in:

And to make sure the shocked fathers and mothers associate the descent of sexual morality with liberal Democrats, you tell me that Jeff Greenfield thinks that we fathers who complain about TV trash are hypocrites who "lie to their wives and drive to a topless bar". He's been watching The Sopranos too much; most of us family men don't do that. Chances are, those who do that would agree with Jeff that everyone complaining about Hollywood and TV immorality is a lying hypocrite.

By the way, I'm a long-time Democrat living in the Philadelphia suburbs, and I was shocked by that sexual introduction to a football game. And we wonder why more middle class Catholic and Evangelical voters keep shifting from Democratic to Republican.


I'm not going to defend Greenfield's comment because I have no way of knowing who is going to strip clubs and neither does this guy. It's possible that married football fans are not primary among those who frequent these places. There are an awful lot of them, however, all through the country, many in the heartland. Somebody's going to them.

But, what is relevant in his comment isn't family men going to strip clubs, anyway. It's family men who obviously watch the Sopranos complaining about the so-called immorality coming from Hollywood and implying that the Democratic party is responsible for it.

Does that guy in the Philly suburbs use the V-Chip? I don't know. But I do know that Democrat Bill Clinton championed them and pushed through legislation that mandated them but only 7% or so of family men who have them use them. Evidently, he watches the NFL with all those sexy beer commercials and big pom pom waving babes. Does he shoo his kids away from the TV when they come on? Maybe. Does he keep his kids from watching "The Sopranos?" I certainly hope so. But hewatches it, that's clear. (He sure seems to know about the Bada-Bing.) So, it's a complicated situation, isn't it? Lots and lots of things for parents to be concerned with. I understand that. But, considering what we can surmise about his viewing habits, you'll have to excuse me if I'm not entirely moved by his Claude Raines act.

Yes, we may be in different tribes. But vast numbers of people from both tribes are watching the same "trash" on television and getting divorced and having children out of wedlock and all the other horrible outgrowths of a society that is evidently in horrible decline. The difference is that one of the tribes seems to like to consume this crap and then pretend not only that they don't, but that the other tribe is forcing it on them.

Perhaps pandering to this is the way to win votes. Our politicians have certainly made an effort to do it now for years. But as I have discussed elsewhere, it doesn't seem to be working. But sure, we can keep pretending that that swathe of red America is really offended by the popular culture that we blues evidently represent, even though most Americans are the same consumerist purple from sea to shining sea.

It just seems to me that if you incorrectly diagnose the problem, you probably won't prescribe the right cure. But, hey, words are cheap. Phony moralists have proved that from time immemorial. Except for the non-stop character assasination, Monica's big mouth and impeachment, being respectful of conservative values (and Ross Perot)worked like a charm for Bill Clinton.

So, by all means let's pander till we can't stand up. We'll all pretend to be duly chastised by our libertine ways and pay obeisance to those good heartland values that neither they nor we actually live by. Whatever. But, don't expect me to actually believe that George W. Bush's majority represents those things any more than we depraved liberals do. Politicians and preachers lie. Neilson ratings and product sales don't.




Sunday, November 21, 2004

 
Pop Goes The Populism

David Niewert has written a very important post about Democrats and rural America that is worth reading and thinking about as we work out how we need to go forward. Ezra homes in on the point that young Democrats tend to leave rural America because there aren't many opportunities for those who are interested in progressive politics because the national party is concentrated in the urban areas. This is an important point and one that I hope party activists and organizers are thinking long and hard about. It isn't just the lack of direct political opportunity it's the lack of local opinion leaders in the media as well. Everybody listens better to their neighbors than to strangers. They have the better hand.

But, I think that Niewert has hit upon the essence of the problem when he says:


People listen to their radios a lot in rural America. Maybe it has something to do with the silence of the vast landscapes where many of them live; radios break that silence, and provide the succor of human voices.

If you drive through these landscapes, getting radio reception can sometimes be iffy at best, especially in the rural West. Often the best you can find on the dial are only one or two stations.

And the chances are that what you'll hear, at nearly any hour, in nearly any locale, is Rush Limbaugh. Or Michael Savage. Or maybe some Sean Hannity. Or maybe some more Limbaugh. Or, if you're really desperate, you can catch one of the many local mini-Limbaughs who populate what remains of the rural dial. In between, of course, there will be a country music station or two.

That's what people in rural areas have been listening to for the past 10 years and more. And nothing has been countering it.

[...]


It has to be understood that rural America is hurting, and has been for a couple of decades now. Visit any rural community now and it's palpable: The schools are run down, the roads are falling apart, the former downtowns have been gutted by the destruction of the local economies and their displacement by the new Wal-Mart economy.

People living in rural areas increasingly feel that they have become mere colonies of urban society, treated dismissively and ignored at best, the victims of an evil plot by wealthy liberal elites at worst.

Liberals, largely due to their increasing urban-centric approach to politics, have mostly ignored the problem. And conservatives have been busy exploiting it.

It's important to understand that they have been doing so not by offering any actual solutions. Indeed, Republican "solutions" like the 1995 "Freedom to Farm Act" have actually turned out to be real disasters for the nation's family farmers; the only people who have benefited from it have been in the boardrooms of corporate agribusiness, which of course bellied up first to the big federal trough offered by the law. Even conservatives admit it has been a disaster.

No, conservatives have instead employed a strategy of scapegoating. It isn't bad policy or the conservative captivity to agribusiness interests that has made life miserable in rural America -- it's liberals. Their lack of morals (especially embodied by Bill Clinton), their contempt for real, hard-working Americans, their selfish arrogance -- those are the reasons things are so bad.

These audiences are feeding on a steady diet of hate. And as with all such feedings, they never are sated, but only have their appetites whetted for more. So each day, people come back to get a fresh fill-up of hate.


People are hurting and they are told relentlessly day in and day out that liberals from big cities are the ones inflicting the pain. This would be funny if it weren't so tragic. This is the new American nativism. Minorities and immigrants have been joined by a blurry, indistinct non-American urbanite. (I suppose this is progress of a sort.)

I hear a lot about how Democrats need to stop with the so-called identity and rights based politics in favor of a populist message. It would certainly seem that that would be the way to reach these folks. They are getting the shaft from the very people for whom they are voting with a classic misdirection. It may be true that the liberal elites in the big cities don't care much about rural America, but it's the conservative elites who are actively and vigorously screwing them. But the Republicans have a way of dealing with that.

Via temple of democracy here's a classic dodge from Haley Barbour, good ole boy gazillionare lobbyist:


One of the most extensive national reports has been a New York Times Magazine piece headlined, "Mr. Washington goes to Mississippi." The story opens with Barbour getting kicked out of a cow auction, and quotes people who portray him as race-baiter, an expert schmoozer and a shrewd fund-raiser with "despicable clients."

Barbour, a Washington, D.C. lobbyist, quickly denounced the story.

"I am certainly never surprised when The New York Times attacks a Southern, conservative, pro-life, Christian Republican. Ask Charles Pickering," he said, referring to the Mississippi judge whose nomination to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was held up by Democrats who questioned the judge's record on civil rights.

"It's what I expected from The New York Times because they don't like guys like me."


And, therefore, they don't like guys like you.

Democrats will say that we need to let the red state voters know who the enemy really is. We need to stop talking about guns, god and gays (and race) and get to the meat of the matter. As Max Sawicky wrote in his article "Why a Right Winger can't be a populist,"

Culture and values, among other things, are highly contested. For the sake of this essay I put them aside to focus on Money.


The problem is that we can't put them aside and concentrate on money because culture and values dictate what people think about money. And the culture and values of a large part of this country says that when it comes to money the government always gives it to the wrong people. We have a much more complicated problem on our hands than just moral values vs economics. And it goes all the way back to the beginning.

I wrote some things before (in response to the Dean campaign's insistence that you could appeal to guys with confederate flags on their pick-ups because they need health care too) about studies that show that Americans rejected the European style welfare state largely because a fair portion of our people have always believed that the government only helps the undeserving. This stems from the fact that most social programs were traditionally handled through churches and immigrant organizations which meant that the government mostly funded African American welfare programs because they didn't have the institutions or the money to do it for themselves. This led to a widely held belief in rural America that the government doesn't help the white working man and woman, it instead takes their tax dollars and gives it to blacks.

It is from this basis that modern Republicans have built their case against the liberal elites who allegedly hold Real Americans in contempt. It is the essence of the Southern Strategy and it's been highly successful for decades.

It's worth repeating that despite what Dean said in the primaries about putting the FDR coalition back together, there has never been a time when a majority of southern whites and blacks in the south voted for the same party. Blacks were not allowed to vote in the south in the 1930's. Indeed, it was only during the recent party realignment process that they overlapped at all. Let's not kid ourselves about why this is.

We cannot make a populist case to rural America as long as rural America continues to believe, as it has for centuries, that the government only takes their money and gives it to people they don't like. This belief is why people who should naturally support our programs instead vote for tax cuts. In the past, populists often shrewdly coupled their argument with nativist causes and were able to scapegoat either immigrants or blacks as part of their argument, thus partially nullifying this cultural resistence. Even FDR agreed to set aside the issue of civil rights for the duration. Needless to say, we aren't going to go down that path.

So, Democrats are left with a difficult problem of how to deal with a region that is in economic distress but whose culture traditionally believes that government only helps people unlike themselves.

Now, we could, of course, make a fetish of pointing out the awful truth --- that most federal transfers come from the blue states to the red states. But, that doesn't really address the problem, which comes down to attitudes about the big city poor (blacks) vs the rural poor (whites.) And all that is tied up with the monumental social changes of the last fifty years, which mostly benefit them but which Rush and Sean tell them is the cause of all their problems. Every day, all day, with relentless precision. The message is that liberals are taking their money, giving it to people they don't like and then forcing their decadent culture on them to the point where they ... cannot ... resist.

Yes, if people were rational about these things you could sit down and have a nice discussion with spreadsheets and diagrams showing that the rural red states benefit far more from federal redistributon of wealth than the metropolitan blue states. You could explain that many of the social changes that have happened have benefitted them in their own lives while acknowledging that there has been a cost and that changes of this magnitude can be frightening and destabilizing. You could show that the massive New Deal programs and the post war expansion benefitted primarily the middle class, not the poor. You could rally the people to the side of their own class instead of the corporations who benefit from the policies currently in place.

But, as we've seen, people are not rational. In fact, when it comes to modern American politics there seems to be a conscious embrace of the irrational, an epistomological relativism that renders such reasoned arguments completely inneffectual. People who listen to Rush or absorb his message through osmosis in their social group are operating on the basis of some very long standing tribal hueristics that have been very sophisticatedly manipulated by the real elites in this country. It will take more than fiery speeeches about sticking it to the man to penetrate this mindset.

Certainly, a populist message should work for the Democratic party. But, our populist message cannot obscure the fact that we represent blacks, urban dwellers and those who appear to be agents of rapid social change. And even if it could, the Republicans are hardly going to sit back and be quiet about it.

This problem needs some fresh thinking and I think that the article I posted about earlier about undecided voters provides us with some clues. The first is that we have to stop thinking in terms of issues or a combination of issues. People think in terms of worldview and tribal identity.

The next thing we need to recognise is that we are living in a post modern environment in which straight appeals to reason are not very effective. We have to begin to use symbols and semiotics more effectively. This means that we have to be more stylistic and sophisticated in our presentation. TV with the sound turned off.

But that won't be enough. We need to consider the American character and use it to shape our message. There is tremendous complexity in our national character and racial or social resentment is only a part of it. And there is a lot of tension, for instance between Equality/freedom --- Community/individualism. This tension has always been present and the line isn't drawn by region --- it's drawn within each person. We have to use some of these commonly understood and believed American values to illustrate our wordview in ways that people can understand hueristically instead of intellectually. We do this with a certain kind of candidate, a certain message and a certain kind of presentation. But we have to embrace this way of communicating before we can possible hope to use it to relate to Americans who are conditioned to buy and consume on the basis of their feelings not on the basis of their reason.

This is the world in which we live whether we like it or not. The Republicans are selling a vision and a sense of belonging to a certain tribe. We are selling an argument and a program. They are using 21st century tools to manipulate primal human needs and simplify the world. We are using 20th century methods to appeal to reason in a complicated way. They have the better hand.



Note: Over the past couple of weeks, I've written a few posts on this subject and others sort of tangentially related. A couple of readers asked me to put them all together in one place. Here they are.

TV With the Sound Turned Off

Heartland Values

A Very Old Story

It Won't Work

More Culture War




 
Ohferchristsake

It's a Small Story...but it illustrates why so many of us not only support President Bush as a politician with whom we agree most of the time, but love and respect him as a man:

President Bush stepped into the middle of a confrontation and pulled his lead Secret Service agent away from Chilean security officials who barred his bodyguards from entering an elegant dinner for 21 world leaders Saturday night."


That's why everybody loves and respects him. He's a natural born hero. If the Democrats could find one of those, maybe they'd get some respect too.


On July 12, 1988, Hecht was attending a weekly Republican luncheon when a piece of apple lodged firmly in his throat.

Hecht stumbled out of the room, thinking he might vomit but not wanting to do it in front of his colleagues. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., thumped his back, but Hecht quickly passed out in the hallway.

Just then, Kerry stepped off an elevator, rushed to Hecht's side and gave him the Heimlich maneuver -- four times.

The lifesaving incident made international news, and Dr. Henry Heimlich, who invented the maneuver in 1974, called Hecht to say that had Kerry intervened just 30 seconds later Hecht might have been in a vegetative state for life.

"This man gave me my life," the 75-year-old Hecht said Thursday.


Yeah. A man who grabs his secret service guy's arm in a melee is worthy of your love and respect. A man who won the silver and bronze stars in combat and later saved a man's life with quick thinking while all around him were quaking with indecision is worthy of nothing but the most vile, personal contempt.

Oh, but I understand that Junior once said he felt bad for calling Al Hunt a fucking son of a bitch in front of his four year old. He is worthy of love and respect as a man in so many ways.





 
The Captain Of The Ship

"I'm very proud of the fact that we held the line and made Congress make choices and set priorities, because it follows our philosophy," Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said in House debate.

[...]

Also enacted during the postelection session was an $800 billion increase in the government's borrowing limit. The measure was yet another testament to record annual deficits, which reached $413 billion last year and are expected to climb indefinitely.

While the spending bill was one of the most austere in years, it had something for everybody...[including] a potential boon for Bush himself, $2 million for the government to try buying back the presidential yacht Sequoia. The boat was sold three decades ago, though its current owners say the yacht is not for sale.


Well, Junior is the true heir to Nixon and proud of it. Why shouldn't he asssociate himself with Nixon's iconic imperial toys. It's only fitting.




Saturday, November 20, 2004

 
Brazen

Via The Daou Report, I see that those wacky Republicans are boldly trying to stick their noses into people's private business again. According to kd4dean over on Kos the Republicans tried to slip in another provision into the spending bill that would have allowed acouple of committee chairmen or their henchmen access to any American's tax returns for any reason. Somebody noticed.

"This is a serious situation," said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska. "Neither of us were aware that this had been inserted in this bill," he said, referring to himself and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Young, R-Florida.

Questioned sharply by fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, Stevens pleaded with the Senate to approve the overall spending bill despite the tax returns language.

But Sen. Kent Conrad, D-North Dakota, said that wasn't good enough. "It becomes the law of the land on the signature of the president of the United States. That's wrong."

Conrad said the measure's presence in the spending bill was symptomatic of a broader problem -- Congress writing legislation hundreds of pages long and then giving lawmakers only a few hours to review it before having to vote on it.

Stevens, who repeatedly apologized for what he characterized as an error, took offense at Conrad's statement. "It's contrary to anything that I have seen happen in more than 30 years on this committee," he said.

Pounding on his desk, Stevens said he had given his word and so had Young that neither would use the authority to require the IRS to turn over individual or corporate tax returns to them. "I would hope that the Senate would take my word. I don't think I have ever broken my word to any member of the Senate."

"... Do I have to get down on my knees and beg," he said.

Both Young and Stevens will cede their chairmanships when the new Congress elected earlier this month takes office in January.

Some Democrats didn't accept the assertion that the provision was a mistake and demanded an investigation.

"We weren't born yesterday, we didn't come down with the first snow," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California. "This isn't poorly thought out, this was very deliberately thought out and it was done in the dead of night."

Members of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee now have limited access to tax returns, but there are severe criminal and civil penalties if the information is disclosed or misused.

Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said the measure will "bring us back to the doorstep to the days of President Nixon, President Truman and other dark days in our history when taxpayer information was used against political enemies."


We crossed that threshold some time ago, I'm afraid.

I do enjoy the fact that the guy who made the "error" was offended that nobody would take his word. That's what happens when your leadership tells people to go fuck themselves over and over again, Ted. It tends to erode trust.




 
Liberals

Here's a nice personal piece about what it means to be a moderate liberal on ThatColoredFellasweblog. At the end of his post, he links to a number of online political quizzes, one of which defined my philosophy quite succinctly, and correctly I thought, the following way:

LIBERALS usually embrace freedom of choice in personal matters, but tend to support significant government control of the economy. They generally support a government-funded "safety net" to help the disadvantaged, and advocate strict regulation of business. Liberals tend to favor environmental regulations,defend civil liberties and free expression, support government action to promote equality, and tolerate diverse lifestyles.



Got a problem with that?




 
Huh?

At the Republican governors' conference in New Orleans, Ken Mehlman, the Bush campaign manager, answered the question, Who's your daddy party? "If you drive a Volvo and you do yoga, you are pretty much a Democrat," he said. "If you drive a Lincoln or a BMW and you own a gun, you're voting for George Bush."


Those BMW driving gun owners are just fabulous.




 
Semper Falafel

O'Reilly understands that war is hell:


Having survived a combat situation in Argentina during the Falklands War, I know that life-and-death decisions are made in a flash. If that wounded insurgent had a grenade or other explosive device, the entire marine squad and the photographer could be dead right now. In a killing zone, one cannot afford the luxury of knowing what is certain.



As with all literary greats like Mailer, Jones and Heller, O'Reilly has memorialized his scorching experiences in his novel, "Those Who Trespass" a murder mystery set in Argentina during the hell on earth that was the Falklands war:

The policemen were clearly frightened. Their fascist powers were being brazenly challenged. Standing directly in front of the police were nearly ten thousand very angry Argentine citizens screaming curses and revolutionary slogans:

ALa gente unida venceramos!

AMuera la Junta!

AMuera Galtieri!


GNN News Correspondent Shannon Michaels translated the chant and wrote it into his notebook: "The people, united, will never be defeated! Death to the Junta! Death to the dictator Galtieri!" Shannon and his video crew stood behind the police, five hundred strong crowded together in a massive show of force. Their assignment was to guard the presidential palace, called the Casa Rosada--the Pink House--and to protect President General Leopoldo Galtieri. But the crowd was getting more and more aggressive, pushing toward the large metal gate that provided access to the palatial grounds. Shannon saw that The Plaza de Mayo, the huge square in front of the Casa Rosada, was now filled to capacity. Something very ugly was going to happen, Shannon thought, and happen soon.

The sky was clear, but clouds were assembling in the west. Shannon ran his fingers through his thick mane of wavy brown hair. His teal blue eyes were locked on the agitated crowd. It was his eyes that most people noticed first--a very unusual color that some thought materialized from a contact lens case. But Shannon, the product of two Celtic parents, didn't go in for cosmetic enhancements. His 6' 4 frame was well toned by constant athletics, and his pale white skin was flawless--another genetic gift. Shannon's looks, which he thoroughly capitalized on, made him a natural for television.

As the mob continued its boisterous serenade, Shannon slowly shook his head. Most wars were foolish, he thought, but this one was unusually idiotic. The Argentine Junta, a group of military thugs led by General Galtieri, had ordered an invasion of the British-administered Falkland Islands on April Fool's Day, 1982. The government claim was that the islands, which the Argentines called the Malvinas, became a part of Argentina through a Papal declaration in 1493. The British disagreed. So, nearly five hundred years after the grant of land, the Argentine Army swarmed ashore, startling eighteen hundred British subjects and tens of thousands of bewildered sheep.

[...]


During his seven-year career as a TV news correspondent, Michaels had seen rank stupidity, but this moronic government strategy boggled the mind. Anyone who read a newspaper knew that the British Parliament, and especially Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, would never allow British honor to be besmirched. It took the Brits just three months to thoroughly humiliate the Junta, further angering the Argentine citizenry. No wonder they were now filling the streets in passionate demonstration against the Galtieri government.


Sends chills down your spine, doesn't it? Has anyone matched this kind of searing prose in the Falklands chronicles? I don't want to ruin the story by revealing the fiery hell that our blue eyed Celtic hero had to endure. Let's just say that that marine in Fallouja won't know what hell is until he's had to film a news story with his flawless white skin covered in dust and dirt. It just makes you sick to even think about it. The horror...




Via: BCF





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