Thursday, December 30, 2010

Things a Virginia Fourth Grader Needn't Know II

Remember back in October when that William & Mary history professor found that her fourth grader had a textbook that claimed that large numbers of black folks fought for the Confederacy, and that Stonewall Jackson led two black battalions, and I wrote a post about it?  Well, it looks like the Commonwealth decided to review their history texts, and the results are not pretty.

Check out this Washington Post article on the subject.  And I was surprised to find that one of the reviewers of the texts was my former history professor and undergraduate advisor from Hampden-Sydney, Dr. Ronald Heinemann.  When I read his comments, I could only imagine his face as he read error after error in those texts.  And I agree with Heinemann, that those texts should be removed and replaced as soon as may be.

And this raises the question of just how long has this been a problem?  How long have Virginia students been misinformed about American and Virginia history?  And most importantly, why didn't the teachers say something first?  All of this jumped off because a parent, who happened to be an historian, bothered to look closely at her child's text book.

I think that it is a shame that I feel that I now feel privileged to have studied American history formally for several years.  It's a shame, because the basic facts of American history should never be in dispute (unless new evidence emerges that corrects the record).  And if there is one thing our current political discourse has shown me, it is that too many Americans are ignorant of our history.  Too many avoid the parts that they don't like (or pretend that they weren't really that bad), or they just make shit up factually. 

But there was always the expectation that students' textbooks would be as accurate as possible.  At least they are now trying to work on that in Virginia.

Friday, December 24, 2010

On Haley Barbour

I read the Weekly Standard article on Haley Barbour in its entirety, because I wanted to make sure that I was not feeding solely off of the commentary from sources that I generally appreciate.  I found it to be a very interesting read.  I long assumed that it must have been an interesting time to be a white southern teenager during the Civil Rights Movement, regardless of one's perspective on Jim Crow.  Barbour gave us a window into that sensibility with this interview, and I think that it is important.  Remember some of the key points that were in the article.  Barbour's mother voted for Strom Thurmond in 1948.  Barbour's brother announced that he was supporting Barry Goldwater in 1964.  The White Citizen's Council was an organization of businessmen who did good for Yazoo City.

All of these things are incredibly important when put into proper historical context.  There really was only one reason to support Strom Thurmond in 1948.  There was an important reason that a white Democrat from Mississippi would support a Republican in 1964.  Of course being white during the Jim Crow era would not have been particularly bad.  Life would have been simply normal.  But I cannot imagine that Barbour would have strayed too far his families politics growing up, and his older brother (though bucking the family's Southern Democratic political tradition) was right on the cusp of a trend that would run through a vast majority of the white South beginning in 1964 and holds firm to this day.  I just can't see Barbour being oblivious to the social and political realities surrounding him.

I know that people like to pretend that things in the recent past simply didn't happen, and some people particularly don't like it when black people remind the world that things were not so great less than 50 years ago (whining, seeking white guilt, you know the drill).  But history is important, it doesn't go away, and its effects linger.  I also wonder if the people who are quick to tell black folks to put the past behind them, are equally vigilant in telling that to folks who would attend a secession ball?  Now that I think about it, I wonder if one will happen in Mississippi on January 9th next year?  But that is an entirely different discussion.

What Barbour is doing now, in walking back his comments in that article, is being dishonest. I am confident that Barbour was more than comfortable with the status quo back in those days. Unfortunately for him, it's just not politically viable (nationally anyway) to be that honest.

The Fight for the 9/11 First Responders was Instructive, but I Think Many Missed the Lesson

I think that the fight for the 9/11 first responders, more than any other issue that went through this lame duck period, is instructive.  I hope that the millions of Americans who were simply mystified by how legislation to help with the health care costs of these folks, folks that the GOP has been exploiting for nearly a decade for their legitimate heroism, could come so close not to becoming law see congressional Republicans for what they are (but I won't hold my breath). 

Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, and Shep Smith of Fox News (strange to see, isn't it?) deserve credit for being righteously indignant at Republican actions in the Senate that threatened to kill the bill altogether.  I wasn't even familiar with the extent of the problems that these folks were experiencing, and it was jarring to hear one of the responders on The Daily Show mention that a responder in need passed away the week before their appearance on the show.  I wasn't aware that some in the GOP were calling this a "New York" bill, which is a slap in the face to the people from around the nation who arrived in Lower Manhattan to help as they could.

Look at what it took to get those 9/11 responders help that they needed.  Look at what the GOP really fought for, and fought doggedly for, during this lame duck session (and it was not for the middle, working or lower classes, nor will it ever be).  The fact that people seem to miss this boggles my mind, but then again, Sarah Palin still remains seen as presidential timber.  Perhaps that says all that I need to know about too many of my fellow Americans.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

DADT: Death Becomes It

I made it a point to avoid looking at the news for the most part of the day today, because I knew this vote was scheduled for today in the Senate.  It is indeed a great day today, now that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," has been given it's death blow by the Senate (by a vote of 65-31).  I must say that I am even more impressed that it passed as a stand alone bill in both houses of Congress and passed. 

This issue has been the subject of intense debate in the comments section of this blog, when I've raised it.  And the comments back and forth have been interesting, troubling, and sometimes downright strange.  Yet, I am glad that my fellow gays, lesbians and bisexuals will be able to serve openly in the near future.  Over the last week, I heard conservatives argue that in the military there is no individuality, that those who join are trained to simply meet the missions presented to them.  Of course, they are right, to a degree.  But what they exclude so conveniently is the fact that straight service members were never asked to lie about who they were; they retained that aspect of themselves.  I cannot imagine my straight friend, who is currently serving, having to hide from his colleagues his wonderful wife (and fabulous cook), and his two beautiful children.  I just cannot imagine what it would do to him, if he were not able to discuss openly what he did with them over the weekend, or where they spent the holidays. 

His gay fellow soldier could lose his/her job simply by talking honestly about anything he/she did at home over the weekend or the holidays.  The end of DADT stops that, and that is a good thing.  I am most happy for the service members who are gay, lesbian or bisexual who are cautiously optimistic about what the future now holds.  I know that there are partners rejoicing that their lives will be able to be lived without fear in the near future.

I've been asked what is in this for me.  The answer is that though I have no personal stake in this issue directly (I am on the brink of being too old to serve), I believe it is the right thing to do.  Apparently, my position is shared by Republican Senators Brown, Collins, Snowe, Murkowski, Kirk (who has served), Voinovich, Ensign and Burr.  Did they have a personal stake in this issue?  Are they trying to make gays feel better psychologically?  Or, did they understand that anyone who is willing to serve our nation should be able to do just that, regardless of their sexual orientation? 

You can guess my answer.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Shocking News: A Conservative Virginia Judge Sides with the Conservative Virginia AG on the New Health Insurance Reform (and I Kind of Agree)

In something that was hardly a surprise to anyone in Virginia, a conservative judge provided the conservative Virginia Attorney General with a ruling against the Democratic health care law's mandate for individuals to purchase private health insurance.  Frankly, it's strange to see a Republican push so hard to prevent an industry from getting millions of new customers (these are strange times, but we are talking about a way to "defeat" President Obama).  However, I am not bothered by the decision at this point in time.  I say that because, I was always a little uncomfortable with the notion of being required to purchase private health insurance.

Yep, I said it.  The ruling today focused on the key aspect of the health insurance reform law that made me the most uncomfortable personally.  Now, before anyone gets excited, I would rather have a wider variety of options than private health insurance.  What if I liked what Medicare has to offer?  Perhaps I might like Medicaid, but make too much money to qualify currently?  I admit fully that I would rather see this country provide universal health care in the manner of Canada or perhaps expand (in an efficient manner, if that is possible anymore in this country) on our existing hybrid system of public and private health insurance, so that every American has a real choice in the matter.

Meanwhile, I've been trying to find information regarding the GOP alternative to President Clinton's health care proposals, and, so far, one thing that I have found through a quick Internet search (here) likens the Obama plan to that '93 GOP alternative, though it isn't a one to one match.  And I found an old article from the American Prospect that talks a little about that alternative plan, though the article itself is primarily a summary of what happened to the Clinton health insurance reform effort.  I raise these points to show that the idea that the Obama reforms are socialism, fascism, is bullshit. 

I am confident the Virginia Attorney General doesn't give a rat's ass about people like me who don't have health insurance; this is about Obama.  But, I will be interested to see where these court cases will lead as we move toward 2014, when the mandate goes into effect.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Latest Examples of the Central Problem We Citizens (of All Political Stripes) Have With Washington

I think that for those Americans who are serious about their complaints regarding the cozy nature of official Washington, K Street and Wall Street, regardless of party or political philosophy, they should pay attention to the these two news items (here, and here).  People who pay attention to official Washington know that there is a total revolving door once you get "in."  If you were an appointee to Treasury from Wall Street, you can look forward to a promotion upon your return.  If you were a former staff member with experience on a specific issue, then you prepare yourself for life on K Street.  And people who fit those two examples know that they have opportunities to return to official Washington when they are ready. 

I would love to see this revolving door destroyed.  While I think that it is important for experienced people to have opportunities to show their expertise, I think that we need new blood constantly coming into the system.  For example, though I believe little of the rhetoric of official Tea Party Republicans, I do think that folks who are at the grass roots of that movement would agree with me, that their side needs new blood, new people in Washington to try to carry their water.  I also think that folks in those three realms that I mentioned are extremely afraid of outsiders of any stripe coming in actually to get something done, whether it's deficit reductions or aid to the poor.  Those people see outsiders as folks to be co-opted, folks to be wooed into the world of Washington. 

Though I wouldn't go so far as to say that all of Washington needs to be fired, because I don't think it's true, I do know that we need to kill that revolving door.  We will see if the Tea Party Republicans are made of, since they (allegedly) represent a real challenge to the GOP status quo, but if as that aforementioned article about their hiring is really representative, then I think there might be some in that Republican movement who will be just as pissed as liberals should be with Obama's entire economic team (not including Elizabeth Warren). 

We'll see.

Will Being Gay in Uganda Lead to Execution or Imprisonment? X

Though I know that some readers of this blog are dismissive toward Rachel Maddow, because she is an avowed liberal, I will argue to the teeth that she does excellent work, and is fearless when she has conservatives on her show.  As far as I know, The Rachel Maddow Show is the only prime time news program that has dedicated consistent in-depth coverage of the "Kill the Gays" bill under consideration in Uganda.  So I was beyond pleased to see that that author of the Ugandan bill agreed to an interview with Maddow, and it is simultaneously enlightening and frightening.  Add to this the fact that there is a strong link to the American conservative religious community.  The following is the full interview that Maddow conducted with Ugandan MP David Bahati, just watch it and listen to what this man is actually saying (and remember that he has closet support from prominent American Christian conservatives).

The State of Things Following a Tax Proposal

It has been interesting watching all of the reactions to the proposed compromise on the Bush tax cuts.  There is the utter indignation on the left, and there is a surprisingly muted (in public anyway) triumphalism on the right.  And in the middle, of sorts, is President Obama.  Personally, I think that he negotiated the best deal he could get, considering Obama's negotiation and political skills (which are vastly different from his campaigning skills).  I also think that the Democratic Party's reaction to this situation is a bit disingenuous, when one considers that this whole issue could have been dealt with prior to the November elections.  Yet, fear of what happened anyway prevented the Congressional Democrats from tackling an issue that they could have attempted to settle. 

But I don't want to use this post simply to beat up on Democrats, though for various and sundry reasons they deserve their licks.  I would be remiss without noting that I find Congressional Republicans to be utterly repugnant, and "repugnant" is not even a good term to express my true feelings.  My respect for that lot, is gone, and without some sort of divine intervention, that respect will not return.  I think that the President was correct in his framing this issue as a hostage crisis.  I certainly feel that the GOP has held the nation hostage simply because that party does not believe that elections matter when they lose.  Now, of course, elections matter; they regained control of the House, and built their minority numbers within the Senate.  Of course that reality means that even less will get done before the '12 elections.

And I remain floored that we have people who are more than comfortable saying that the unemployed, if they receive help, will not have the desire to look for a job, that they will feel more comfortable getting a check from the government, rather than a check from an employer.  Only someone who has never experienced long term unemployment could imagine such a thing (and I am sure that every conservative has heard the story of the lazy person living large on his/her unemployment, and refusing to bother to look for a job, because they have it so good).

I think that we have abandoned a number of our principles for the love of money.  To me, it is that simple.  We revere the rich, from Warren Buffet to Paris Hilton.  We have one political party that will do everything possible to ensure that the rich, whether something trickles down or not, will get their out of size share of everything that generates income.  We have another political party that is desperate to follow in the footsteps of its competitor, but has that pesky history of actually trying to help people (and people actually believe it).

I could go on about this, but I won't, right now.  

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Couple More Reasons Why I Enjoy "The Rachel Maddow Show"

Anyone who has glimpsed this blog knows that I thoroughly enjoy Rachel Maddow's show on MSNBC.  Last night, there were a couple of segments that reminded me of why I really look forward to 9pm (and just my 2 cents, I think Ana Marie Cox is the best substitute for Maddow, when she is taking time off).  I enjoy Maddow's intelligence and snark, and I love her analyses.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

On Pimp Slapping and Grapes

This is how you pimp slap a President and the majority party in the U.S. Congress.  You can read it here.
Right now, when I think of Obama talking about bipartisanship or "working together with Republicans," as one of the most partisan eras in Washington swirls about him, I think of Charlie Bucket's daft grandmother (from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory") as seen here:

Yep, I think that is just about how President Obama has sounded since that meeting with Congressional leaders.

UPDATE:  Sullivan takes a more eloquent turn on this one, but his points are pretty clear.  Enjoy.