Saturday, February 27, 2010

¡Buena Suerte Chile!

My knowledge of Chile is rather limited. My high school Spanish teacher was Chilean, and I loved the images of Chile that I saw in "The Motorcycle Diaries." But regardless of my limited knowledge, my heart goes out to the people of Chile as they deal with the aftermath of that devastating earthquake from last night. Luckily for Chile, the country is used to seismic activity, so many of the more modern buildings were designed to withstand earthquakes (unlike Haiti, which hadn't had an earthquake in two centuries, and therefore was far from prepared to handle the quake it suffered), so the hope is that the overall death toll will be relatively small.

I wish them well.

For Some of the Political Descendents of George Wallace, One Habit is Just a Bit Too Hard to Break

Now I just did a post on remembering the past, because I'd read an article in my hometown paper about the protesting of the segregation of the restaurant of a local (now defunct) department store. So just a bit ago, I was checking out The Daily Dish, and I saw this link to commentary from Jonathan Rauch over at the National Journal Magazine regarding the George Wallace-ization of the GOP. I had to write something.

Essentially, I agree with the article. It more than supports my long held contention that the GOP is essentially old school southern Democrats in GOP drag (especially with its tolerance of big government for programs and social issues it supports). By taking that view, and adding Rauch's perspective on Wallace, it makes perfectly good sense to see how conservatives of the Goldwater and/or Buckley strain could scratch their heads in wonderment at how these folks, these "Wallace 'conservatives,'" are actually conservatives.

My only real criticism of Rauch's argument is that he goes waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay out of his way to remove race as a component of "Wallace 'conservatism,'" as though race does not play a role in the current iteration of that political phenomenon. I think that is incorrect and actually hinders the effectiveness of his argument.

Rauch argues that Wallace, unlike other politicians, gave voice to issues that his supporters found important: "easy money, dysfunctional welfare and perverse crime policies." I will admit that I am not quite sure what Rauch means by easy money (it might hit me later). But come on now, welfare and crime? For Wallace, and for people in that time period, those two issues generally had black faces, plain and simple. To that constituency, black folks came across as undeserving, ungrateful and violent welfare recipients. Government (and both parties) seemed to "give" blacks everything, and how did they show their appreciation? They rioted in the streets of American cities over and over again. By the time Wallace made his historic run for the White House, his supporters were tired of all things black, as well as the government programs that supported them financially and seemed to ignore their criminality.

I raise this to suggest that those voters, tired of both political parties for their seeming continued support for black folks at the expense of whites, found comfort in Wallace's populist and thinly veiled racist rhetoric. It was as though he told them that this would happen when you gave in to too many black demands. Wallace's supporters wanted a return of law and order. They wanted government to stop neglecting them. Again, Rauch is right that Wallace spoke to that need. Nixon, by laying the ground work for the "southern strategy," got that message (with Pat Buchanan's help) and pushed the GOP toward meeting that need, which it did in spades throughout the end of the 20th century.

I also think that Rauch's point that Sarah Palin is a political descendant of Wallace (without the explicit racial context), as opposed to Goldwater, is spot on. However, Rauch seems to have forgotten the various people who populated those Palin rallies. The folks I saw during the 2008 campaign were straight up out of a 1968 Wallace rally. I remember the dude with the stuffed monkey. I remember the people who said that they were concerned that Obama would elevate black folks at the expense of white people in a sort of racial revenge for the past. And then we have the current "tea party" political theater, with people insisting that Obama is not a "real American," and who think that Obama hates white folks (in spite of being raised by his white family). Hell, even health insurance reform is being framed, by some on the right, as stealth reparations for black people.

Of course, I agree that the majority of conservatives and Republicans are just as committed as liberals and Democrats to developing a society where race is a non-issue. However, for too many of those "Wallace 'conservatives,'" race remains an important component of their politcs. Race may not be a central theme within Republican politics, but as long as there are "Wallace 'conservatives'" within the GOP ranks, race remains an underlying theme within Republican politics. I also think that there are Republican politicians who are more than comfortable keeping, perhaps, a more subtle form of the racial components of the "Wallace playbook." Remember all of the chatter about Sonia Sotomayor?

Ultimately, I really enjoyed Rauch's essay. It brought back memories of the review I had to write in graduate school on Dan T. Carter's book, The Politics of Rage, in my 20th Century America class. I just think that Rauch too easily dismissed race from his conclusion, and it just didn't seem to jibe with the realities of the current political landscape.

In Remembrance

William Faulkner wrote "[t]he past is never dead. It's not even past." When I saw this article in the Daily Press this week, I could not help but think of that.

Sometimes, it is hard to believe that less than a decade before I was born, Jim Crow laws were in full effect. And it is also hard to believe how some people are to act like the era of Jim Crow ended like a century ago. Growing up in the Hampton Roads area when I did, I never really considered the things that my family experienced during the mid-20th century.

I think that much of the tension that exists in terms of race relations within the nation stems directly from that Faulkner quotation. One group remembers vividly what happened, and wants continual acknowledgment of that past. Another group also remembers vividly what happened, and wants to avoid that continual acknowledgment, for whatever reason(s).

That we, as a nation, have come so far in terms of race relations within my lifetime is incredible and commendable. But to those who think that we've done all that we needed to do, I have a winning lottery ticket that I would like to sell to you. Being able to look back on the past, as was done in that Daily Press article, is important, because it is a reminder that we should never forget where we were just a few decades ago.

We've done well. Let's keep that excellence trajectory going, and we can show the world exactly how wonderful and dynamic the American experiment really is.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Just Resign Already, Geez

Though I think he has one of the coolest speaking voices in public life, ethically challenged Rep. Charlie Rangel needs to pack his bags and roll back up that "A" train to Harlem, because DC isn't working for him. Check out these two links (here, and here), and I think a reasonable person would agree that it is time for old boy to bounce. Oh. and I hope Rangel's staff enjoys the bottom of that bus he's throwing them under.

Finally, an Actual "You Lie" Moment

I thought that Rachel Maddow's segment on reconciliation was spot on. And she put it out there like it needed to be put: the GOP is lying.

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What's both funny and sad about this GOP fiction is that the GOP knows that many within the American electorate will actually believe the lie, revel in it, and will argue with you when evidence to the contrary, you know stuff like the truth, is presented.

Maddow is right is saying that those within the media who push the GOP lie that reconciliation and "the nuclear option" are the same thing should be called out. And I know that there are plenty within the media who will conflate the two. I am glad that others are calling bullshit on the GOP accordingly (and I would hope that bullshit would be called on the Democrats for trying to pull the same crap, because we deserve better).

I love the fact that NPR just recently did a story explaining how reconciliation has been used for advancing changes within health care reform. And here is a post from The Washington Post explaining the use of reconciliation in the recent past.

It is more than fine to have differing perspectives on issues, and to present those perspectives passionately. Outright lying completely undermines arguments, and, as Maddow and others have shown, the GOP is lying to the American public. Do GOP supporters care?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

On GOP Profligacy, from a Republican

I just finished reading this post by Bruce Bartlett, and I found myself nodding in agreement often. I am no economist, but much of what I read seemed quite reasonable. All I know is that there are too many people out there demanding services from government who have no desire to pay for those services.

The GOP has indeed cut taxes and increased spending, but somehow manage still to be seen as the party of fiscal responsibility. And now that Obama is at the helm, these profligate spenders have nerve enough to crow about fiscal responsibility, deficits and debt reduction, and people still buy it.

I wonder if we got rid of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Department of Education, Student Loans, you know, anything that helped people below the level of upper middle class, if the "government is too big" crowd would finally be satisfied. Yet many of these same individual do not see waste with governmental relationships like this. And, yes I know that someone will read this and come up with some laundry list of Democratic "horrors" (see the aforementioned programs that the GOP tends to hate, except when it's politically expedient not to), but at least Democrats are more honest about taxing and spending.

Meanwhile, I think I will check out more of Barlett's writings, and I have to admit that I am surprised that I find myself agreeing with someone who worked for both Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Ultimately, I find it sad that our politics have become so polarized that I am surprised by my finding common ground with an old line conservative.

UPDATE: It looks like the RNC Chair is right at home with profligacy, or should I say GOP-style spending.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Better Late Than Never I Suppose

Am I the only person who thinks that Obama should have released a composite of what he wanted in health insurance reform MONTHS ago? Was there something wrong with providing Congress with a rough blueprint of what the White House would have preferred be in the legislation that weaved through both houses?

I make no bones about liking the POTUS, but I think that his handling of this whole issue has been a failure. The madness of the summer, with all of these crazy people screaming to the high heavens about phantom reforms could have been tempered, perhaps, had Obama been clear about the things he really wanted.

I also think that it is unfortunate that Obama touted the public option in town hall meetings in the past, and did not bother to push for it when the GOP managed to manufacture the notion of a "government take over of health care" (bullshit at its finest). And now that there seems to be some momentum building once again for the public option, with more than 20 U.S. Senators on board, the White House is not lifting a finger to move this popular idea (don't believe the GOP talking points) forward.

And, I am all for bipartisanship in the main, but only when people who want actually to serve the nation's interest are at the table working toward solutions. Rep. John Boehner is not interested in tackling health insurance reform. Rep. Eric Cantor is not interested in tackling health insurance reform. Senate Republicans are not interested in tackling health insurance reform.

Stop pushing for bipartisanship that isn't forthcoming, and do what the majority of Americans put you in the White House, and provided you with a super majority in both house of Congress to do: PASS HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM!!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Tragedy in Austin: On Heroes and Terrorists

So when is a domestic terrorist (Joe Stack) a hero? Apparently, when his daughter says so (as well as people who "want to follow the Constitution"). However, I think that the son of Vernon Hunter, the person Stack murdered in his attempt at martyrdom, asked ABC News the right question: "How can you call someone a hero who after he burns down his house, he gets into his plane and flies it into a building to kill people?"

Here is an article about Vernon Hunter.

UPDATE: Clearly someone had a talk with the Stack's daughter about heroism. She retracted her comment.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Regarding DADT, I Guess We Aren't Supposed to Listen to the Military Leaders Anymore

I will admit that I don't always agree with what politicians ask our military leaders to do, but I do understand (sometimes begrudgingly) that the military is there to carry out orders. After all, the military has figured in my upbringing, as I've noted on this blog in the past.

But what I find interesting is that after spending the last several years listening to GOP politicians bleat about listening to what military leaders have to say, and now that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, among many, has called for an end to DADT ("don't ask, don't tell), some within the GOP are now arguing that we not listen to what military leaders have to say.

John McCain started it off (after flip-flopping on the call to follow the advice of the military leaders), now former Senator Rick Santorum (who gleefully compared gay relationships with bestial relationships) is suggesting that the military has been "indoctrinated" with "political correctness" on the issue of gays serving openly.

Am I alone in thinking that rank and file Republicans, who, like the vast majority of Americans in poll after poll, support the repeal of DADT (including active duty personnel), will miss the irony here?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Meanwhile, in Iowa...

In an amazing contrast to the sad news in Virginia, there is some amazing news coming out of Iowa (where gays like me can actually get married, and not destroy all of Christendom). Grinnell College, a great liberal arts college, has just elected an openly gay black man as its newest president.


Now that is what I am talking about. Marry your partner Dr. Kington, since you will be able to once you move (though if you are lucky, you will be able to marry in Washington, DC before you move out there). I hope you rock at Grinnell.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Yes Virginia, McDonnell is a Bigot

If I'd started a job with the Commonwealth of Virginia on February 1, 2010, I would have had five days without worrying about the possibility of being fired based on my sexual orientation. But on February 5, 2010, the new Governor quietly rescinded the protections offered state workers based on sexual orientation.

I hope every GLBT person who supported McDonnell, and works for the state understands fully what this will mean. I am sure that the number of Christianists will rise dramatically throughout the various Commonwealth agencies, and they will wield the power afforded them.

There remain too many people who do not realize that in the majority of the of the states across the country, a person can be fired solely for being gay and have no recourse whatsoever. McDonnell has just brought that standard to the government of Virginia, and he should be criticized mercilessly for it.

I was born and raised (primarily) in Virginia, and my home state has just regressed. And what makes me more sad is the sense that the majority of Virginians will not even care.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Two Questions for Dick Cheney

Why did we not catch bin Laden during your tenure as VPOTUS?

Why did torture (a war crime last I checked) become a key component to the "war on terror?"

Until you can answer those two questions, I have absolutely no use for a single syllable you have to utter.

Friday, February 12, 2010

What Was That About the Sanctity of Marriage?

Belated Appreciation of "The Daily Show"

Man was I slow about joining "The Daily Show" train; that's what not having cable will do for you. I think I didn't start watching the show regularly until 2008, and I can tell you that I fully understand what people around me had been talking about. I finally got it when some folks I know said that they actually trusted a comedian and comedy writers more readily than "trusted" news reporters. Here is an example of "The Daily Show" being both informative and funny simultaneously:
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How can you not appreciate John Oliver's portion of the segment, where he "reports" on the horrors of Hawaii's "socialized medicine" that clearly is doing the population there a grave disservice?

At this point I try to catch "The Daily Show" as often as I can. The show's take on the political events happening within our country is often so spot on that one cannot help but feel sorry for people who simply don't see the madness. That show does a wonderful service to the nation; it's a shame that one cannot say the same about much of the mainstream media.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Grand Anniversary

Other than sharing a birthday with Brandy and Jennifer Aniston and Burt Reynolds (even Sarah Palin), I am very proud that today is the 20th anniversary of the release of Nelson Mandela. And for those in Iran who are protesting for greater democracy and freedoms, may you have your will, and hopefully you can provide needed youthful reason to your troubled nation.

February 11 is a grand day.

On Tea Parties and Literacy Tests

First, take a look at this clip from Rachel Maddow's show that aired on February 8.

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Maddow did a brilliant research job in finding actual questions from literacy tests that were used three years before I was born, tests that were used routinely to deny black folks their Constitutional right to vote.

Now, I will concede that there are people who are in the tea party movement who are legitimately concerned about all of the political issues that their various leaders say they are concerned about. Fine. Done with that part. But there are WAAAAY too many in that movement who are racist, homophobic, theocratic tricks, and there is not denying it. The tea party spokespeople try to sweep it under the rug. Many on the right have been using the "oh Obama can't be criticized because he is black" line to try to cover for their more obviously racist counterparts who bring nothing but embarrassment, and a realization that indeed for too many people, Obama is being criticize simply for being black.

Man, how things change yet remain the same. Only a fool would suggest that we have not made great strides in our race relations in my lifetime. But only a fool would suggest that racism is dead.

Former Rep. Tom Tancredo, in that call for a return to literacy tests, showed his true colors, and he should be throttled politically for doing that. I have relatives that I can call today who remember literacy tests, poll taxes, understanding clauses and all of the tricks that were used to deny black folks the right to vote. That Tancredo wants to bring that era back to score points against the people who voted for Obama (with that particular jab at those who speak Spanish) is fucking shameful. That the people in that room cheered like that is just as shameful, and that this happened during Black History Month is just friggin ironic.

Half of these complaints were applicable during the Bush administration, but it was only after Obama came forth, that marches on Washington were necessary. Deficit spending, secretive war spending, expanded entitlements, bank bailouts, economic collapse, terrorist attacks, all fell under the Bush administration. The anti-war protesters were "loony," "anti-American," and the like. These people are seen as "real Patriots," "real Americans."

These people, as professor Charles Ogletree suggested, are just pissed off loudmouths who lost the election in 2008. These are the people who lapped up the mean-spirited and divisive rhetoric that Sarah Palin spewed throughout the 2008 campaign. And clearly, many of those people gathered last weekend showed their true thoughts during that Tancredo speech. Pitiful.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The GOP as "Baby Jane Hudson"

I'd originally planned to write a post that included examples of GOP intransigence and obstructionism, but something else came to mind.

Every time I see someone on television from the GOP, I think of "Baby Jane Hudson" singing "I've Written a Letter to Daddy." Bette Davis' "Baby Jane" is an excellent representation of the madness of the GOP, and Victor Buono (the man playing the piano) is perfect stand in for the sycophantic media.

The media know that the GOP has come unhinged, but instead of doing the right thing and sharing that reality with the world, the media become complicit by encouraging the madness, and profiting from it. And can't you just see this song as a hymn for Ronald Reagan. Meanwhile, all of the sensible people are stuck witnessing the growing madness just like Joan Crawford's "Blanche Hudson," with no discernible way of stopping the coming onslaught.

And regarding the Obama administration's determination to achieving real bipartisanship with "Baby Jane," I have a better chance of convincing a Klan member to let me marry his son.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Michael Steele Only Said What Most "Haves" Genuinely Believe (Regardless of Political Perspective)

I am no politician, but hell, I am politically astute enough to know not to say something like this: "Trust me, after taxes, a million dollars is not a lot of money." Tell that to the millions of people who have been out of work for months, or in some cases, years. Tell that to the senior citizen trying to figure out how to fill the doughnut hole created in the prescription drug bill. Tell that to the families in need of health care who wish they had a fraction of a million dollars at their disposal.

I am not going to jump on Michael Steele for being a Republican saying this, because it would not be fair. This is the perspective of the people who are in the top 2% of income earners, almost across the board. Steele simply said it out loud. And don't think that people across parties don't share his sentiment; they are just politically savvy enough not to say it out loud.

This is an example of how class really does play a particularly prominent role in our society. And we, as a nation, try desperately to pretend that we are not a class-based society. We most certainly are. Now, it is true that there is mobility among the various classes, and that is one of the best aspects of American society. But do not think for a second that the wealthiest among us do not think in a class-based fashion: they most certainly do. And I firmly believe that our elected officials in Washington have been waging class warfare for decades; it's just that the wealthiest have been winning (the rest of us have gotten what really amounts to table scraps).

We are a nation of "haves," "sorta-haves," "have-nots," and "likely won't ever haves." Steele just helped to remind us of the economic perspective of a "have." Now think about that, and ask yourself (if you are in any category other than a "have") the following question: why again is it so difficult to get Congress to support legislation that actually helps the vast majority of Americans economically?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Allowing Gays to Serve Openly is the "Right Thing to Do"

Right now, there are gays, lesbians and bisexuals serving in the United States military. Let that marinate for a little while. Again, there are gays, lesbians and bisexuals serving in the United States military.

It was heartening to hear Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, say that allowing those members to serve openly would be the "right thing to do." It is incredible to me to see how far we've come since 1993. I wonder if opponents to allowing gays to serve openly feel that Admiral Mullen is advocating social engineering, or that he is wants to destroy unit cohesion. Mullen even said in public that he served with gay people, and knew it. I wonder if he worried that he was being checked out in the shower.

Though three generations of men in my family have served in the Marine Corps (father), Air Force (brother) and Army (both grandfathers, three great uncles, four cousins), I am sure that some will dismiss my perspective on this because I haven't served. But, I can tell you that I asked my living relatives their thoughts on this, including my gay Gulf War vet cousin, and not one of them had a problem with integrating gays into the fold. They worked with gay folks, weren't intimidated or threatened by them, and managed to survive their experience.

It was telling to see Sen. John McCain go back on his word to listen to what the top brass had to say on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and act accordingly. McCain showed his truth yesterday. He was angry that the world had changed around him.

And then there was this revealing exchange on "Hardball with Chris Matthews" last night:

The bottom line is that this ban will end. The gays, lesbians and bisexuals currently serving in the military deserve to serve openly. As Aubrey Sarvis said in that clip, it is insulting to everyone in the military to assume that our service members, gay or straight, will not be professionals in their jobs. And it is particularly insulting to suggest that current and future gays, lesbians and bisexuals serving in our military cannot "control themselves" in close quarters with straight people (remember, gays are serving now). If that were the case, then we long would have heard about the problems with those predatory gays violating defenseless straights throughout the military.

Yeah, I missed that string of stories too.

UPDATE: Colin Powell, who helped to create DADT, is now fully behind its repeal. What a difference time can make.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Black History Month 2010 @ WSNS: Nicodemus National Historic Site

For Black History Month 2010, I am going to try to post on a number of different African American historic places that I think the readers of this blog might find interesting (and they are places that I've either visited or know a little something about). I mean I didn't work with African American historic places for almost three years (and postponing my history PhD program) just for my own self edification.

I think that one of the most underrated chapters in black history is the westward movement of African Americans following the Civil War. Though the majority of black folks stayed put in the South and went through the triumphs and tragedies of Reconstruction, there were thousands of black folks who packed their bags and their dreams for a new life and headed West.

Exodusters, as they were eventually known, aren't as well known as they should be. It's become shorthand for the black folks who settled primarily in Kansas in all black communities in the 1870s/1880s. Luckily, we have the Nicodemus National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service, available to help us understand precisely what the town's settlers experienced. And I've had the privilege of meeting an actual descendant of one of the founders of Nicodemus, and this descendant played an instrumental role in obtaining that National Historic Site designation for her community.

When you have a chance, please check out the different links. I think it will be well worth your while, if only to learn something new about black folks.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Adolescent Music Flashback: Human League

Seeing Phil Oakey made me stop and watch my first Human League video "Don't You Want Me." I saw him before I heard the song. The combination of the two did the trick, coupled with the cool blond (Susan Ann Sulley), the doe-like brunette (Joanne Catherall), and the additional band members (back then). I've learned more about Human League in the last couple of years than I knew during their hey-day. I just remember loving "Love Action (I Believe in Love)," "The Lebanon," "(Keep Feeling) Fascination," and "Mirror Man." When the group whittled down to three members (Oakey, Sulley and Catherall), I was floored by their new soulful sound thanks to the Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis produced "Human," which was a real crossover hit for the band. But I still find myself going back to those earlier Human League songs. And Phil Oakey, though straight (congrats ladies), is still quite the looker.

"Love Action (I Believe in Love)"

"The Lebanon"

More Love for Sade

Yes, I've already posted about my lady's return, but I can barely contain my excitement. Finally, I can embed the video for "Soldier of Love" into this blog where it belongs:

The song and video are incredible, and Sade is near perfection as usual. Just as I'd mentioned how Catcher in the Rye changed my adolescence, so too did Sade. One of my earliest posts on this blog was about my relationship with the music of Sade, and the impact the band and the woman has had on my life, well after my adolescence passed.

In many ways, I wish that I had the ability to explain better what I feel when I listen to a Sade song, or see a Sade video. Often, it's a mixture of joy, longing, hope and pride. From the very first video to the latest, Sade remains my lady and my band.