Monday, January 31, 2011

Following Egypt II

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of visiting my former Spanish professor at his home just outside of the gates of my undergrad.  Without question, he was my favorite professor during my four years.  He pushed me to be the best I could be both in his classes and in school altogether.  He still thinks that I should have considered pursuing a Ph.D in Spanish or Latin American literature, and he has been trying to convince me to return to the GOP since I was a college sophomore (no haps Doc).

Our conversation drifted to what was happening in Egypt.  And we were both saying that we just didn't know enough about the roots of the unrest to gauge what will happen when the dust settles and the smoke clears.  He did, however, discuss what he saw that reminded him of the Cuban Revolution (he is a Cuban exile), in terms of the youth factor within the unrest.  But I reminded him that it appears that many within the Egyptian middle classes seemed to be in this as well, and he agreed that that was a real difference.  Again, we agreed that we just couldn't put our fingers on what's happening.

We moved then to a discussion of democracy, and our attempts to sell it the world over.  To my complete surprise, my very conservative professor and I agreed almost completely that democracy as we experience it is not necessarily the best system of government for everyone on the planet.  I pushed the point further by saying that I felt that our country has lied to people with regard to the calls for democracy, in that if the democratic outcomes differ from what our government wants, then we punish those for exercising democracy.  Again, to my surprise, my professor agreed.  I stated that we need to be honest about what we, as a country, want when we call for democracy.  Why didn't we tell the Palestinians, for example, that if they voted for the wrong party, then we wouldn't support them.  Instead, I felt like we sold them a bill of goods.  It would be akin to a country telling us that we need to exercise our democratic duties, but they really want us to vote for Republicans, for example.  But when we vote for Democrats, that country would begin to threaten us with sanctions and such.

I've written all of this to say that I think that the Obama administration is doing exactly what it needs to do with regard to Egypt, namely very little, in terms of pushing that government one way or another.  And that my very conservative favorite former professor and I agree on this issue.  Frankly, I also agree with James Zogby, in that we, as Americans, particularly our media, don't know enough about all of the players in Egypt to do anything more than watch and wait. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Following Egypt

I've been trying to cobble together information that will help me better understand what is happening in Egypt, and I think that like many people who are remotely interested, I've turned to Al Jazeera for information that is, at the very least, closer to the ground than anything I would find in the normal news sources I rely on.  And with the recent banishment of Al Jazeera from covering what is happening in Egypt, I am thinking that they were getting too much information out to the world, from the perspective of the current Egyptian government. 

I've found this timeline to be particularly helpful.

Though I am not Egyptian, I can feel that something monumental is happening there, even though I am not sure what it portends.  I definitely will continue to follow what is happening over there, and try to put into perspective the things that official Washington will say about this (I am sure that this is more than a simple choice between Muslims we like, and Muslims we don't like, but our media will make it out that way the first chance they get).

UPDATE:  I found this interesting tidbit on Al Jazeera on

Sometimes Justice Really is Blind

Two current stories have reminded me of how our country has different tracks for justice when it comes to wrong doing.  The first is the story about the mother in Ohio who sent her children to schools in a district outside of where they were supposed to be.  Apparently, there are laws in Ohio that disallow that type of activity.  Eventually, the mom was caught, I assume that children were removed from that school district, and the mom was convicted and sentenced for her crimes.  In spite of aspects of this story that I didn't know (it never occurred to me that a child couldn't go to a different school if there is a legitimate address that can be used; I thought athletes did this sort of thing all over the country), if there were violations identified and crimes committed, then justice was served.

Then there is the story of Massey Energy, the company that owned the West Virginia mine (Upper Big Branch) that exploded last year.  I wrote two blog posts (here and here) about that situation, making sure to note the massive number of violations incurred by the company that, I believe, led to the explosion.  I've now just read that Massey has been sold to a larger energy company, and that it will likely avoid having to deal with the violations specific to Massey.  The new company will absorb those costs, and the shareholders of Massey will likely make a healthy profit from the sale.  Meanwhile, 29 families have been changed forever, and the company responsible for that horrific change won't even suffer for those violations, more than 3,000 of them.

I just feel like these two stories are indicative of what happens all too often in the U.S.  Someone trying to do better for his/her family runs afoul of the law, and justice is served.  Profitable company runs afoul of the law, and justice never has a chance to be considered, because of a deal somewhere that ensures that those with the most at stake, regardless of the violations, will be able to keep the maximum profits.

Deep down, I know that it doesn't break down that simplistically, but it is tiresome seeing the same pattern appear time and again.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

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

I was very sad to hear that a leader of the Ugandan gay rights community, David Kato, has been murdered.  Apparently, he'd begun to receive death threats after a Ugandan publication published his name, photograph and address indentifying him as gay.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

International Questions

I have a friend who lives in Marseilles, France that I chat with on occasion about international issues.  I've always found it fascinating to talk with folks from other countries about their perspectives on American and international politics.  I think the last conversation we had dealt with the movie "Wild Reeds" and Algeria's historical relationship with France.  So when I heard about the upheavals in both Tunisia and Egypt, I thought that it might be a good time to converse with him again, because I am sure that the European press is covering the events there much more thoroughly than the American press.

The fact that I am only vaguely aware of some of the potential issues that have sparked these demonstrations and revolts shows, to me anyway, that I am too often focused only on issues dealing with my country's internal politics.  Tunisia and Egypt are in the midst of real political tumult.  How will that affect our relationships with those countries?  How will American interests shift as the dust settles?  Are the underlying circumstances in these countries similar to those that sparked Iran?

Being too insular is never a good thing.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

An Underwhelming SOTU Night

I love the pomp and circumstance surrounding the State of the Union address (SOTU), and it's great to see our leaders all gathered in one place to hear the President speak.  But I have to admit that tonight, I was thoroughly underwhelmed.  As I listened to President Obama, I kept thinking that little to nothing of note will get done with the GOP controlling one house of Congress.  The "repeal" of health insurance reform in the House, I think, is going to be the broken record of the next two years.  The only thing important to the GOP is trying to erase the legislative victories of President Obama, with the exception of tax cuts (and they will not give him credit there either).

I have come to the conclusion that almost everyone in the top echelons of our government, regardless of party, are not concerned about regular people like me.  They are not concerned about the actual well being of the broad swath of the American public.  Almost everything is tailored toward those at the top of the income scale, and most of the demonization (outside of that directed at the President) is directed to the least among us (the so called, lazy, worthless, freeloading, "my tax dollar" stealing portion of our populace).  Few ever look at where the real benefits go (upward), and those who do ignore it.

But I digress.  Listening to Rep. Paul Ryan was like listening to a series of tiresome GOP platitudes (lower taxes, limited government) strung together in a melancholy tone that made former President Carter's "malaise speech" seem uplifting.  And Rep. Michele Bachmann's presentation...well, there were no surprises there at all. So, it was an underwhelming night.  With all honesty, I can say that I haven't the slightest idea of what we can expect in the coming year, but I doubt that real progress for the majority of us, the regular folks, will not be among those expectations.

"The King's [History]," and Why It's Always Important to Separate Fact from Fiction

I absolutely enjoyed "The King's Speech."  I thought the acting was superb, and the screenplay was was one that emphasized the power of friendship and the ability to overcome a substantial obstacle.  Those are great themes for a film to display for its audience.  But I knew from the moment I sat my anglophilic self down in that theatre seat that I was watching fiction.  What I didn't know, because I didn't study that era of British history, as closely as I have studied the same era in American history, was the real story surrounding the King and his Prime Ministers as war loomed.

Coming to my rescue, and before I broke out my own books, is Christopher Hitchens.  Hitchens article on the history covering what happened with the Prime Ministers Chamberlain and Churchill was, for lack of a better term, delicious reading.  Hitchens reminds me of why I am always skeptical of historical movies, even those that I think are really great ("Glory" comes to mind).  I know that I am there to be entertained, not necessarily taught.  What Hitchens does for all of us who aren't as familiar with the actual history is to give a corrective to the film.  All historical movies should be so lucky to have such a wonderful critique (as well as members of Congress).

And I am still rooting for Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and of course Helena Bonham Carter (I adore her) for the Academy Awards, though I think only Firth will prevail.

"Don't Know Much About History" is an Unspoken Truth for Too Many with Actual Power

I am about to do something I never thought I would do on this blog since I saw her in an interview (and was gobsmacked by the time that interview was done).  Here is a video clip of Rep. Michele Bachmann speaking about American History, with an emphasis on our nation's founding and Founding Fathers.

I am posting this video clip to show how painfully unaware Americans are about our collective history.  I would dare any conservative who has an advanced degree in American history to say that Rep. Bachmann got most of her facts right.  What's even more pitiful is the fact that there are thousands of people who believe her every syllable, without question.  And what is most painful of all is the fact that most Americans would not be able to point out the problems with Rep. Bachmann's fantasy history; they wouldn't be able to correct her.  That is a national shame.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hope in the Hullabaloo

I realized a long time ago that American political conservatism, as we know it now, is just not something that fits my worldview (a Teddy Roosevelt progressive and a FDR liberal).  And there are many instances where I simply cannot understand the logic behind some of the positions.  With that said, I also long accepted that there are black and gay folks who almost fully support American conservative ideas, and I think it is a good thing (honestly).  Monolithic thinking for any demographic group will eventually bite that group in the ass.

I bring this up because I find this hullabaloo with the group GOProud and the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) both disturbing and hopeful.  It is disturbing to me that groups are abandoning CPAC simply because an openly gay conservative group is participating.  I find the situation hopeful, because CPAC is standing behind its decision to allow GOProud to participate.  And I think GOProud was right to stand its ground to participate.

I am sure that for some people who read this blog regularly (thanks, by the way), my position might seem out of the blue, but I think it is important for people to be able to be who they are, even when it seems totally confusing (as I would hope a gay or black conservative would say about me for being liberal).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Color Me Not Surprised

I've certainly come to enjoy reading the investigative reports of The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh, and I cannot remember when his reporting was off or incorrect (though he is human, so there is likely something out there).  So, I was not even remotely surprised when I read that some within our military felt as though they were re-fighting The Crusades.  There are plenty of Christianists within the military (and within the defense contracting community), so of course there would be those among them who would think to use our conflicts as a proxy for eliminating Islam.  I just give Hersh credit for saying it out loud and in public.  And of course, nothing will be done to address the issue.  Nothing.

Pointless "Skins" Controversy

Let me issue a condescension alert for this post.  Okay, you've been so warned.

I've been laughing my head off the last couple of days over the madness surrounding the MTV series "Skins."  Having seen several episodes of the original British series, I just knew that it would never see the light of day in the U.S.  It was too honest about all of the things that most of us remember about high school, which of course means that the religious folks in this country would go batshit.  And that is exactly what is happening now. 

I will never understand why there is not similar outrage for the notoriously violent images that we are subjected to in this country every minute of the day.  How many murders, rapes, assaults, and/or beatings do we watch on our most popular shows with little or no complaints?  Yet when sex is involved, some Americans find that apoplexy and overwrought commentary are their best friends.

I think that these responses are an indication of just how juvenile our society really is.  Violence is good, and sex is bad.  I am sure this bullshit surrounding "Skins," the U.S. version will come and go, but for every teen who fucks on that cable show, I wonder how many other television characters will be subjected to the most unspeakably violent acts, with nary a peep from the peanut gallery.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Farewell Keith

I am an unabashed fan of Keith Olbermann, and I was both shocked and saddened to hear about his abrupt departure from MSNBC.  I appreciated the indignation he brought to his commentary on political issues, even when I didn't agree with his particular take on a situation.  I hope that in whatever is his new endeavor that he will continue to do as he did on Countdown (though bring in some conservatives to fight with; it would be fun to watch).  Finally, I want to thank Keith for essentially bringing Rachel Maddow to my attention, love her.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

On Crashes and Commissions

Every single time I think about Wall Street and the Crash of 2008, I think of the Pecora Commission and the recommendations that came as a result of the inquiry.  Our country benefited mightily from the reforms that came as a result of that investigation, and I believe that it was the advent of the Reagan Revolution that started us on the road to 2008.  And though we definitely needed to reform aspects of our economy as the 1970s came to a close, a broad push for massive deregulation seems not to have been the answer.

Now we are all waiting for the findings of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, and I am not too confident that it will match the power and/or impact of the Pecora Commission.  I've started reading some of the reports, and they have been interesting.  But I know that the political climate is one that is not conducive to returning to sensible regulations, like those that afforded our nation the massive expansion and growth following WWII. 

The final report will be an interesting read I'm sure.

Strange Silence

Last night, Rachel Maddow asked a really good question on her show:  Why is the actual bomb found along the route of a Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday parade not a major story?  The FBI has classified this as a failed domestic terrorism incident, akin to the Times Square event I would think.  It's great question.

Really Carol?

I wasn't sure how I wanted to approach this issue, but I think I will just go head on.  I think that Carol Moseley Braun's pronouncement that former President Clinton coming to Chicago to stump for Rahm Emanuel (of whom I am not a big fan) would alienate the city's black community is one of the silliest things I've heard.  Why not hit Emanuel on what he missed about the city during his tenure in the White House?  Why not make the argument that star power doesn't equate with a great potential Chicago mayor?  To bring up race in this contest (and to attack former President Clinton in the process), and in such a strange and unnecessary way, just reeks of desperation.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

About That Alabama Governor

I get that the new governor of Alabama is a Christian.  I get that he sees only Christians as his brothers and sisters.  That is his belief, and he has all of the right in the world to express it.  I don't get how a politician could be that tone deaf, unless he meant to implicitly indict everyone who is not a Christian of his variety.  And I think that for people to understand how unnecessary Bentley's comment really was, I say imagine if Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota became governor there, and said the same thing about his Muslim brothers and sisters.  What would that reaction have been?

My Wiki-Thoughts II

I must say that I was not surprised to read that the damage wrought by the WikiLeaks revelations was considered limited when politicians talk about those revelations behind closed doors, according to Reuters.  No administration, Democratic or Republican, ever wants transparency.  I have long assumed that there are things that our government does in our name that would make me scream "WTF," and we will likely never know the full extent of those dealings.  But, I have to admit that I do find it interesting to learn about some of those things.  I think that transparency, up to a point, does in fact help to keep government honest (I would assume that those on the right cheering the pending investigations of Rep. Issa regarding the Obama administration would love to have a Julian Assange of their own). 

From what I've read, I seems to me that WikiLeaks is not all that different from investigative journalism.  In an earlier post, I agreed with Salon's Glenn Greenwald that we have to ask if investigative journalists should be held to the same standards as people are holding Assange and WikiLeaks.  What really is different about what he is doing, when compared with others in American media? 

I don't appreciate the idea that we are being lied to by our government.  I didn't appreciate it during the Bush Administration, and I won't begin appreciating it in the Obama administration.  There is nothing wrong with saying that you (the administration) does not agree with WikiLeaks tactics and such, but it is another to deceive the public about the actual danger WikiLeaks presents, as Greenwald points out.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Marriage Equality in DC Has One Less Threat

I was so glad to hear that the Supreme Court decided unanimously not to take on a case that would have pushed for putting marriage equality in Washington, DC up for a popular vote. 

Remembering My Own Education

I just finished reading an article from Huffington Post about what U.S. college students are not learning in school.  By the time I reached the end of the article, I thought about my own college experience.  In all honesty, I feel like I received an education at Hampden-Sydney, and it was an education both within and without the classroom. I know that there are many schools that are considered better than Hampden-Sydney, and they in fact may be.  However, I appreciated the fact that I was taught by my actual professor (I was a Teaching Assistant all throughout graduate school), and that he or she actually graded my work.  I also appreciated being in such an intimate environment of learning. 

I remember hating the Rhetoric Program at Hampden-Sydney, for example, because I felt that I had the tools necessary to write effectively (I didn't).  I also think that my largest class had approximately 25 men.  I loved the fact that my academic experience, give or take specific courses, was similar to what other Hampden-Sydney students experienced since the American Revolutionary era.  That continuity is incredible.

With all of the talk about the need for people to go to college to be successful in this world, I think that we should pause and ask a question:  Is the goal of a college education simply to train someone for work, or is it to provide an overall education?  It is a question in need of an answer as we move further into the 21st century, and the requirements of the work environment evolve.

Here is a link to the Council for Aid to Education that conducts the Collegiate Learning Assessment.

Monday, January 17, 2011

More Than "the Content of Their Character"

For years I've been uncomfortable on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.  I brace myself to hear people in the news media zero in on just one aspect of Dr. King's life:  The "I Have a Dream" speech.  Hands down, it is one of the greatest speeches ever spoken, and it's message resonates still.   But too often, I've felt that Dr. King's words have been used by people who lock onto snippets of what he said ("the content of their character" lovers) without taking in completely everything that he said (and experienced) before and after August 28, 1963.  To do that would require people to think of unpleasant aspects of our collective recent American past, and it is clear that there are many, many people who are more than ready to avoid those recollections (but we still have "the content of their character" line from the speech).

I decided that I wanted to get a quick refresher on the Poor People's Campaign that Dr. King was in the process of launching toward the end of his life.  As I read the purported goals of the campaign, a guaranteed annual income, full employment, and such (all with federal help), I was confident that many of "the content of our character" lovers were either unfamiliar with this aspect of Dr. King's legacy, or they choose to ignore it, and many would certainly be fully against such goals.  Yet, just as Dr. King had that dream in August of '63, he had other dreams.

Dr. King's entire legacy is important for all of us to learn, not just catch phrases.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Slightly Ironic Comment from DeLay

While watching Hardball on Friday, my ears perked up a little as I listened to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay discuss his recent conviction and three year sentence for money laundering (below is the entire interview with Chris Matthews).  DeLay, earlier in the day in an interview on the Today Show, argued that his conviction was essentially a liberal political plot against him.  But in the interview with Matthews, Delay said the following:  "Imagine being caught up in a justice system, and you have no chance to win.  When decisions are made before you even get to present your case."  Now if that doesn't sound like something Blacks, Latinos and/or poor men (of any race) have been saying for years, I don't know what does. 

I have no idea if there is a liberal conspiracy against Tom DeLay, but I wonder if his feeling that he is being punished for reasons other than for actually committing the crime in question would extend to the aforementioned groups who have made that very complaint (and many legitimately) for ages.  My gut suggests that it hasn't, and it won't, but then my gut has been wrong in the past.

I still have vivid memories of being prejudged as dangerous by people who likely would not have felt that way, if I were a white guy in the exact same sets of clothes (and I've never been involved in the criminal justice system).  It is a painful experience, and one that I wouldn't wish on my worst friend.  I hope that DeLay, whatever the outcome of his case, will learn from this experience and gain some empathy that I am not sure was always there for others caught up in the criminal justice system.

Guns and Reasonableness

People who've been reading my blog for a while might remember that my brother is a proud card carrying member of the NRA.  However, he recognizes that it shouldn't be a free-for-all with regard to guns.  As I listened to Jon Meacham speak about his owning a gun, and wanting sensible regulations, I was reminded of my brother.  We need a good debate on gun (and ammunition) control.  We need smart regulations (though I know that nothing will come of any of this in the current Congress).  But in this day and age, people seem less willing to hear these things from people who don't own guns.  If anything Meacham helps to fill that void, and my brother does the same. 

I hope that many more gun owners who advocate for better regulations will follow Meacham's lead, and speak out.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The President's Speech

That was, without a doubt, one of the best speeches I've heard from a President in my lifetime.  "I want America to be as good as she imagined it."  By invoking what Christina Taylor Green was witnessing before those shots rang out last Saturday, I understood with stark clarity the depth of the losses of that day.  President Obama is correct.  We are better than this, and we owe it to all of those people who lost their lives to remember that.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

An Unexpected Change

Imagine my surprise when I read that Republican Rep. Peter King is planning on introducing gun control legislation in the wake of the Tucson shootings.  According to the linked article, the legislation would mirror existing legislation prohibiting people from knowingly bringing a gun within a thousand feet of a school.  This proposed legislation would restrict people from doing the same in the presence of our highest federal officials. 

I just wonder how the NRA will vilify this proposed legislation, and see if this proposal goes anywhere in the House.  I am not holding my breath for passage.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Post Tucson: A Rhetorical Game Change?

Yesterday was such a whirlwind of tragedy, and I am still gobsmacked by it all.  I am also very sad that it took this horrific act to get people talking about political rhetoric, something that we've needed to deal with since the summer of '09.  Of course, I am appreciating the fact that most of the news media are using a relatively slow approach to the gathering of news on this story, and that is saying something.  Hopefully, and in due time, we will learn what motivated a young man to do the unspeakable, and justice will be served.

A friend of mine let me know that The Daily Dish was doing a number of posts (here, here and here) on the subject of vitriolic political rhetoric, and I agree pretty much with all that I've read.

I will tackle this subject myself soon, but definitely check out the links I've posted. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Prayers and Thoughts for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and Others in Arizona

I just got online to check the headlines, and I saw that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others had been shot at a constituents meeting in Tucson, AZ today.  Our thoughts and prayers should go to all who have been shot and injured, and I am glad that the shooter was caught at the scene.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thank You Marsha Ambrosius

I was checking out the latest over at Rod 2.0, and I saw his post on Marsha Ambrosius (formerly of the brilliant group Floetry) and her new single "Far Away."  Ambrosius uses the video for this song to deal with issues of gay love, homophobia and gay suicide.  Please check out Rod's post on this issue (and look at the comments that are nothing but praise for a major black artist dealing with an issue that is very much a part of the black community, but little discussed, let alone actually shown publicly).

I hope this video gets continual airplay all over the various music video channels, and I want to thank Ambrosius for doing something so outstanding.  I knew there was a reason I was drawn to her back when Floetry was brand new to the scene.

Before I Get Too Excited...,

I am not ready to give praise to these new Republican members of Congress who are rejecting the government sponsored health care package offered to them as members, until we know that they aren't receiving government sponsored health care from other sources.  I still argue that if they feel the government sponsored health care is bad for someone like me, and will vote to the death to prevent me from having it, then it should be bad for them as well. 

Congressman Anthony Weiner's point during the health insurance reform fight in 2009 was particularly well taken.

Which Constitution Should be Read, Amended or Non-Amended?

In the last few weeks, I've been noticing an interesting roster of stories that all lead to the reality that people really are just uncomfortable with American history.  We have people celebrating secession in South Carolina, a governor who declared that segregation wasn't that bad, altering Mark Twain, and now we have the Republican led U.S. House reading an amended copy of the U.S. Constitution.  Columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. reminded his readers (particularly African American readers, though all Americans should heed his words) that bearing witness to the actual past is, without question, imperative.

So, the idea of reading the U.S. Constitution on the floor of the House of Representatives didn't really do too much for me.  I am of the mind that the people who fetishize the document, of late, are often among the most determined to change it to meet their political tastes.  But I did think, at the very least, that in this bit of theatre, the actual Founding Fathers' written document would be read.  Then again, I suppose reading the 3/5ths clause or the two amendments related to prohibition, for example, didn't really fit the agenda.  So, I wonder when we will actually have a reading of the actual, non-amended to take out the bad stuff, U.S. Constitution.  I won't hold my breath for this Congress.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lauryn, Lauryn, Lauryn

This is what I get for taking some time during the holidays.  I only heard about the shenanigans from singer Lauryn Hill just the other day.  Sista was four hours late to her own concert in Brooklyn, and allegedly said that she was worth the wait.  Now, and this is no lie, the first thing that came into my head after I heard this was Hill's brilliantly hot song "Lost Ones."  You can check the chorus to see why, and it is clear that at least one person at that concert thought exactly the same thing (I fell out when I pulled up the article on the New York Times to write this post).

I know that Hill has been through a whole lot of things, but being prompt for an event where one is the top act is just a matter of common courtesy and respect for the fans who love you.  But on that day, Hill may have lost more than just one fan in that concert hall, and "it's so silly how come."

Here is a Legitimate Example of PC Silliness

If the facts are as they are mentioned here, then there is no reason that this reporter should not get his job back (oh, and this is not a parallel to Navy Captain Honors use of "faggot").  It's always about context.

My Wiki-Thoughts

I want to go back in time a bit to an article by Glenn Greenwald of Salon that really caught my attention related to the whole WikiLeaks controversy. 

In his article, Greenwald raises the following question regarding the publication of this New York Times article:  "The question that emerges from all of this is obvious, but also critical for those who believe WikiLeaks and Julian Assange should be prosecuted for the classified information they have published:  should the NYT editors and reporters who just spilled America's secrets to the world be criminally prosecuted as well?"

I think that it is a very good question.  I have friends and family who are currently working, or have worked, in intelligence, and to a person, they are truly bothered by what Julian Assange and WikiLeaks is doing in revealing what it has revealed.  But I did ask one relative a similar question.  What is different about what WikiLeaks does and what investigative reporters do for news organizations?  And why is one considered a terrorist by some, and others considered heroes (like Woodward and Bernstein with Watergate)?

No one wants his or her privacy violated, and that is understandable.  But until we can answer Greenwald's question, then I think it is silly to call Assange a terrorist (like the one we dropped the ball on finding a few years ago).

Sex, Showers and Videotape

Maybe it's because I went to a men's college that I didn't get all up in arms about Captain Honors' sophomoric video for the USS Enterprise.  Of course there were things in the vid clip that were offensive, stupid, and not particularly funny, but this is also part and parcel with military culture (trust me, I've spent time with my pops and his Marine Corps buddies, and I winced often).  I am not convinced that relieving Honors from his command was the right remedy, if it was related solely to this video.

Yet, there are two aspects of this whole thing that I do find fascinating, if not a little annoying.  First, I am sick and tired of people crying political correctness when people are rightly upset when someone uses terms like "nigger," and "faggot" in the ways that are indeed meant to hurt and demean.  It's a defense of simply being offensive.  "It's just PC bullshit that I can't call that faggot a faggot."  But, I don't expect many who are quick to make that type of argument to understand my point. 

Second, I really and truly do not understand the fascination that some straight men have with gay male sex, particularly if they say they are uncomfortable with the idea of gay sex.  I don't obsess over straight folks having sex.  Actually, I could care less, even though I am inundated with those images continually.  I just find it strange, thinking of the Honors' video, that one would even be interested in creating images of simulated or implied gay male sex (way too many of my straight friends are completely sold on lipstick lesbian sex, but that is a wholly different issue).  My guess is that when the ladies sharing the shower was shown to the carrier's crew, there were approving hoots, hollers and cat calls.  And I am betting when the many more images of the guys being "gay" came up...well I don't think I need to explain it.

So, I am not bent all out of shape on this issue, but the responses and the silences have been fascinating to read (or not read).  Oh, and for those supporters of Honors, is the support for allowing him to be offensive to gay folks (especially in light of the ending of DADT), protesting his removal from command simply because of the video, or something else?  I wonder if more are offering support for the former, and using the latter (and more reasonable reason for support) as cover.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Let Twain Stand

I was reading a post at Jack and Jill Politics that mentioned that a new edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  I read the Publisher's Weekly article referenced in the JJP post, and I have to say that I totally disagree with the move to replace "nigger" with slave.  I feel that this is all about historical context, and students need to be made aware of that context.  I was made aware of that context when I was in school, and the same was true when I read the short novel The Nigger of the "Narcissus." 

I fully recognize that "nigger" is a term that jars almost universally, but altering literary texts that use the term seems a bridge too far.  Students need to ask why "nigger" was used, or whether or not its use was really that prominent in the late 19th century, when these books were written.  I certainly can discern whether someone is using "nigger" in a negative and hurtful fashion, or simply describing a situation or work of literature that he/she has encountered.  I know that I am not alone in that capacity.  Why not let that type of discussion take place?  A teacher is then able to teach the text and have an interesting discussion about the use of words and historical contexts.  I think those are good things for students.

Leave Twain's work as it was found.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

I Would Lay Money Down That...

...this guy rails against affirmative action.