What I’m Reading, September 24, 2015

The new racism embodied in total contempt for Obama, Wendell Berry, Lexington Herald-Leader, September 13, 2015

Nobody can doubt that virtually all of the president’s political enemies would vehemently defend themselves against a charge of racism. Virtually all of them observe the forms and taboos of political correctness. If any very visible one of their own should insult the president by a recognized racial slur, they would all join in the predictable outrage. But the paramount fact of this moment in the history of racism is that you don’t have to denominate the president by a recognized racial slur when his very name can be used as a synonym.

This subtilized racism is not only a perhaps unignorable lure to Republican politicians; it can also be noticeably corrupting to Democrats.

In Kentucky, for example, where Obama is acknowledged carefully to be “unpopular,” candidates of both parties have been, and still are, running “against Obama.” If the president comes into the state to visit, some Democratic candidates, like Republican candidates, become conspicuously busy elsewhere.

Scaring Up the Vote, Jamelle Bouie, Slate, September 8, 2015 Continue reading


Four Presidents

It’s not quite “six degrees of separation” (or Kevin Bacon) but the Washington Post has an interesting piece on how the entire 239-year history of the U.S. covers the lifetimes of just three former presidents and President Obama:

When President Obama was born (1961), President Herbert Hoover was still alive (1874-1964). When Hoover was born, President Andrew Johnson (1808-1875) was still alive. When President Johnson was born, President John Adams (1735-1826) was still alive. And just like that, we’ve connected present day to the Founding Fathers.

Not to say that any of these people knew each other, of course. I just find this sort of thing interesting, in a terribly geeky way.

This tidbit was also intriguing: Continue reading


Who Is to Blame for this Lie?

I’m not in the habit of quoting the Daily Mail, but this headline caught my eye: “Former top presidential adviser says Obama LIED about his support for gay marriage for years so he could get elected.”

Gosh, the use of caps lock really drives the point home, doesn’t it?

Anyway, it’s an interesting allegation:

Longtime Barack Obama adviser David Axelrod writes in his new memoir that Barack Obama lied about his position on gay marriage so he could get elected president in 2008.

And documents reveal that Obama responded to a questionnaire in 1996 from the Chicago-based Outlines newspaper, as he was making his first run for the state Senate in Illinois, that he strongly favored legalizing same-sex unions.

‘I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages,’ Obama wrote then.

Two years later, though, as his political future began to take shape, he told the same newspaper that he was ‘undecided.’

In 2008, under the glare of a presidential campaign and the weight of history, his public rhetoric swung to a position that America’s Bible belt could embrace – support for only a traditional definition of marriage.

But as president in 2010 he returned publicly to his original position 14 years after he first articulated it.

Oh, and if you’re thinking this is some sort of smear job against the president, Axelrod also apparently says it was at least partly his idea: Continue reading


What I’m Reading, January 27, 2015

It’s Time to Debunk the Churchill Myth, Simon Heffer, New Republic, January 16, 2015

His was a political career that, apart from what happened during the Second World War, was of a length and scope that was, and remains, difficult to comprehend. Politics was in Churchill’s blood. He was a grandson of the Duke of Marlborough. His father, Lord Randolph, had been a controversial Tory MP and, even more controversially, briefly chancellor of the exchequer in the 1880s. After an undistinguished career at Harrow—which at least had the crucial effect of making young Winston realize that failure was something to be overcome and not to be crushed by—he was, following a spell in the army, first elected to the House of Commons in 1900, during the reign of Queen Victoria, and first served in the cabinet as president of the Board of Trade under Edward VII in 1908; yet he endured to be the present Queen’s first prime minister, and did not resign as an MP until the 1964 general election, held just three months before he died and a few weeks before his 90th birthday. Those facts of chronology, and the list of the great offices he held—not just prime minister, but chancellor and home secretary, among many others—further inspire the awe in which he, or rather his memory, is held, and help to create a picture of the unstoppable romance of his life.

But it is his indispensable and nation-saving achievement in 1940 that obscures so much else about him, with myth-suffocating reality. It diverts attention from all else that Churchill did before and after, and even discourages analysis of it. Worst of all, it discourages reflection on his management of the war, which, as anyone who has read the accounts of some of his closest colleagues—notably Sir Alan Brooke and Anthony Eden—will know, was much more hit and miss than conventional history usually has it. The effect of the often unquestioning idolatry with which he is widely regarded not only hinders us from evaluating Churchill properly but from forming an accurate assessment of the times in which he lived, and that he did so much to shape.

Obama would like us all to stop being such idiots, Alex Moore, Death and Taxes, January 21, 2015 Continue reading


My less-celebratory thoughts on the election results, as shamelessly stolen from this legal blog that I like

Because of this compulsive need I have to share my thoughts on things, I tend to write a lot. I also tend to delete much of what I write because it felt good to get it out onto a screen, but no one actually needs to read it. Every so often I type a response to someone’s Facebook post, decide the world will be just fine and dandy without my contribution to the discussion, and then hit Enter instead of Delete by accident.

Hilarity rarely ensues when that happens.

The internet is not short of celebrations today. It’s also not short on eschatological rantings, which should not be surprising. The internet does not need me whooping and hollering, and I need to be packing for my big move anyway (more on that later, I’m sure.) Fortunately, I frequent the blogs of people who seem to manage their time better than I do, at least judging my their published output.

Ken at Popehat, who you should be following if you are not already, offered his post-election thoughts Wednesday morning. I do not agree with everything Ken has to say there, but he hit the nail on the head for me in a section entitled “I’m not happy Obama won.” I’m borrowing the section that hit home for me, or at least that expresses the ambivalence I feel on certain issues:

Romney might have been somewhat more belligerent on the international stage than Obama, though their foreign policy differences seemed to be mostly matters of degree and recrimination for Obama’s mishandling of Benghazi. Romney would surely have continued the ruinous War on Drugs, the steady one-way ratchet of the insipid “tough on crime” mindset, the post-9/11 security state, and the unprincipled asterisk grafted onto the Constitution that is the open-ended War on Terror. My chief concern is that because Obama — a Democrat widely (but inaccurately) classified as a liberal — is doing those things, they will become even more firmly entrenched and normalized.

Guantanamo. Drone attacks. Surveillance. Bradley Manning. The list of matters where I diverge sharply with the Obama administration may not be extensively long, but it goes to the very heart of some pretty fundamental concepts of government checks and balances, not to mention big abstract nouns like liberty. These issues never came up during the election because, at least in that context, the two candidates barely differed at all. I cannot commiserate with Obama’s opponents on the right on any of these issues because these are the issues that make him look like a Republican.

I might also argue that his economic policies are really just Republican Lite, and that anyone who thinks he’s some sort of Marxist is either ignorant of actual Marxism, delusional, or a shameless liar, but it’s late and I’m tired. We have four more years to try vainly to explain that Obama cannot be a socialist and a fascist at the same time, or that he is neither at any rate.


The Bluest County in Texas

Austin often seems like a blue island in a sea of red. Yesterday, Travis County (which includes Austin) went for President Obama by 60%, according to Fox News. Yes, I’m relying on Fox News’ election returns. Let it never be said that I don’t occasionally slum it online. Of course, the state overall went 57% for Romney. It got me wondering, though, since we vote precinct-by-precinct, county-by-county, and then the winner takes all at the state level, what is the actual Bluest County in Texas?

Starr County, Texas.

Screen Shot 2012-11-07 at 11.59.33 AM

Screen capture from foxnews.com

The area has likely been inhabited for 11,000 years. Europeans first arrived there in 1638, when Jacinto García de Sepulveda went looking for Dutch sailors rumored to be on the Gulf coast. That really has nothing to do with yesterday’s election, though.

Starr County went 86% for Barack Obama. Romney drew a paltry 13%. Fox News does not provide a breakdown for other parties, literally lumping them in the “Other” category.

According to the 2011 Census Bureau estimate, 61,715 people live in Starr County. Of those, 95.6% are “of Hispanic or Latino Origin.” A language other than English is spoken in the homes of 96.0% of the county’s residents. The county borders the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. The county seat, Rio Grande City, has a population of roughly 13,834 people, and is the birthplace of Lieutenant General (ret.) Ricardo Sanchez, who commanded the coalition ground forces in Iraq from June 2003 to June 2004.

The county also seems to have a corruption problem. A former sheriff pleaded guilty to federal drug conspiracy charges in May 2009 and received a 64-month prison sentence. A deputy sheriff was charged with federal bribery, extortion, and drug charges in July 2012.

That’s all I’ve got. I just thought it was interesting.

Photo credit: Screen capture from foxnews.com.


Barack Obama Thinks He Can Win Your Vote by Exhibiting Leadership During a Time of Crisis, but He Did Not Count on the Awesome Power of Michael Brown


Mmmmmmm, brownies…. What were we talking about?

You might call President Obama’s handling of Hurricane Sandy many things, but don’t be fooled: he is only demonstrating superb leadership because he wants your votes. How do I know this? Well, the paragon of crisis management, Bush-era FEMA head Michael “heckuva job, Brownie” Brown, says so. Specifically, he said that Obama’s warnings about the storm were “premature”:

Brown, now a talk radio host in Colorado, said Obama was likely trying to get ahead of the storm politically.

“[He] doesn’t want anybody to accuse him of not being on top of it or not paying attention or playing politics in the middle of it,” Brown said. “He probably figured Sunday was a good day to do a press conference.”

As we now know, the storm was pretty bad, in the sense of being the largest Atlantic hurricane in recorded history. Some people known to be partisan hacks had nothing but praise for how the president handled it. By “partisan hack,” I am referring to the Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, who explicitly refused to say anything mean about the president on Fox News. This is, of course, the news network that amended its bylaws in 2009 to require all on-screen presenters to say at least one bad thing about the president every 47 seconds. [Ed. note: that last sentence is not actually true, but dammit, it feels true to me.] Continue reading


My Live-Facebooking of the Presidential Debate, October 3, 2012

For the heck of it, I went back and copied my stream-of-consciousness rants from Wednesday night’s debacle. I mean debate. The now-mythical evening will probably puzzle political scientists for a few minutes, but it at least gave us some memes. (Edited for typos and whatnot):

7:59 p.m. I’m live tweeting this bee-yotch! (I give my ADD 10 minutes before I start seriously thinking about boobs) #debate

8:02 p.m. The last time we had a Presidential #debate, I didn’t even have a Twitter account. How did I share my thoughts? How did we do anything???

8:04 p.m. I’m sure Jim Lehrer is a great #debate moderator, but you know who we need? Mills Lane, that’s who.

8:06 p.m. Obama may have the best excuse in history for skipping out on an anniversary dinner. #debate

8:07 p.m. Since the candidates always answer the first question with a “glad to be here” soliloquy, shouldn’t the first question just be “‘Sup?”

8:08 p.m. Is someone writing down Romney’s 5 points? Because I’m sure he’ll change them tomorrow.

8:12 p.m. Just for the record, Lehrer asked Romney if he had a question for Obama, and he’s making a speech. #debate

8:13 p.m. Okay, seriously, Jim, cut Romney off if he won’t ask a question!!! #debate

8:17 p.m. It’s hard to make accurate statements about Romney’s tax plan when he stays so coy about it. #debate

8:19 p.m. “Now he’s saying that his big bold idea is ‘never mind.'” #debate

8:22 p.m. Romney keeps referencing conversations he’s had with ordinary people. We’ve seen how that tends to go for him, though… #debate

8:23 p.m. Did Romney really just say his first priority is jobs? #debate

8:27 p.m. “Going forward with the status quo won’t work” says Romney. You mean like Republicans blocking everything Obama tries to do? #debate Continue reading


The Election Gets Surreal, Yo

The 2012 election season has already been a smorgasbord of weirdness, but now it has crossed over into some sort of sublime remix wonderland. Witness President Obama’s 99 Problems Political Remix (lyrics NSFW):

You definitely want to stick it out to the last line.


For the next two months, you are picking a side, whether you like it or not

“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”
Rush (the band, not the asshole)

265713_4012This is where the rubber meets the road, people. Like it or not, this country has a two-party system. You may not like Obama or Romney, but come November, one of these two is going be elected president.

If you are going to sit the election out because you just don’t care, you are of no use to anyone. If you are going to sit the election out as some sort of protest against the two-party system, no one can tell the difference between you and the person who can’t be bothered to vote. Protest is only effective if someone other than you knows you are protesting. If you live in a predominately red state but support the Democrat, or if you live in a blue state and support the Republican, shut up and vote anyway.

If you feel like you don’t know enough about the candidates to make an informed decision,  and yet you are reading this sentence, get someone to teach you how to use Google and educate yourself.

If you seriously think a third party is the answer, I will make an exception for you. Please crawl back into whatever cave you live in and wait until November 7. Then, come back out, learn to type without using caps lock, and try the third party again when you might actually be able to make a difference. Also, where the hell were you in, say, December 2008 or some other time when there wasn’t an election staring us in the face? (Oh yeah, you were on message boards telling the sheeple to WAKE UP and OPEN YOUR EYES. How’s that rhetorical technique working for you?)

From now until November 6, you are on one side or the other. Deal with it. If you are going to criticize one candidate, you had better have some plausible explanation for why the other guy would be better. If you are unhappy with something Obama has done, explain what Mitt Romney will do better. If you can come up with a broad, coherent vision of how a Romney presidency would benefit most Americans, demand that the RNC hire you.

If you just want to rip on one candidate or the other, go away, because you’re not helping anything but your own sense of self-importance.

Photo credit: ‘Confusion’ by mvanrens on stock.xchng.