August 13, 2012, 4:31 pm
Like many people, I spent my summer vacation with my large and fiercely loyal extended family. Unlike many people, my family is mixed. No, I don’t mean mixed race or mixed class, although we are that too, but mixed politically. There are plenty of lefties among us; there are also plenty of conservatives. During the Bush years, I often found it incomprehensible that these people whom I love and respect could vote for a man who got this country into wars they didn’t believe in and cultural battles over gay rights that they actually opposed. Among the Essig Republicans, there are no homophobes or hawks, just people who genuinely believe that the fiscal policies of the GOP are better for this country than the Democratic ones.
Like many people in mixed-political families, I more or less ignore it and focus on what ties us together: eating, eating, and more eating. This month, as I sat…
June 28, 2012, 12:53 pm
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the individual mandate, the anchor of the law, which drew the most scrutiny. Writing for the majority, in NATIONAL FEDERATION OF INDEPENDENT BUSINESS v. SEBELIUS, Justice Roberts opined that the law is constitutional under Congress’ taxing authority. In a 5-4 decision, Roberts upheld Barack Obama’s signature achievement. The full text of the decision is here.
The decision is a victory for Barack Obama and members of Congress who enacted the law. However, this decision is also a victory for Roberts, who vindicates the court as a place where deeply partisan issues can be carefully evaluated and decided on legal principles. Commentators who were convinced that Justice Kennedy would be the swing vote miscalculated Roberts–at least on this issue.
This decision comes two years after…
January 24, 2012, 4:22 pm
For years, everything I believed about American politics could be summed up in the following Gore Vidal bon mot:
America’s not the only one party system, but it’s the only one party system with two right wings.”
That more or less held true till the Dubbya years, when one of the wings went so far right it was no longer accurately described as a political party as much as a social movement fueled by Christian conservatism and funded by corporate interests.
Fortunately, another political aphorism arrived just in time for the 2008 presidential election, this one by humorist David Sedaris, who described people not committed to voting for Barack Obama thusly:
I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of s#$t…
January 22, 2012, 9:58 am
A friend joked about Rick Santorum’s belated victory in Iowa: “Who cares that six more white people in Iowa voted for Santorum.” Of course, Iowa is pretty darn white. Its population is 91-percent white.
South Carolina is not. In fact its population is 66-percent white and 29-percent black.
So how is it that 98 percent of the voters in the South Carolina GOP primary were white? Not to mention 98 percent of the voters were Christian (with 37 percent of those Catholics and 42 percent Protestant).
According to Courtland Milloy over at The Washington Post, the unbearable whiteness of the GOP is not talked about enough given that
those who call themselves Republicans have coalesced around nothing more than their whiteness. What else could it be? Certainly not economic self-interest.
Over at The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes
When a professor of history calls Barack Obama a “Food…
January 9, 2012, 11:58 am
“S#@t people say” is now a cultural meme, or at least a Youtube meme. Whether it’s S#@t My Dad Says or S#@t Girls Say or S#@t Black Girls Say or, my own personal favorite, S#@t White Girls Say… to Black Girls, it is now impossible to avoid the formula of S#@t X Party Says.
Today’s theme along the meme is “S#@t Straight Politicians Say… to Gay People.” And this has been an excellent week in the homophobic s#@t category.
Let’s start with our favorite homophobe, Rick Santorum, whose very name conjures up a cultural fear of anal sex and its aftermath. This week Santorum hit a high note of homophobia by once again confusing gay relationships with orgies. When asked about his opposition to gay marriage at a New Hampshire College Convention, Santorum replied
What about three men? If you think it’s okay for two, you have to differentiate for me why you’re not okay with three….
January 8, 2012, 12:27 pm
If you haven’t seen Franchesca Ramsey’s “S#@t White Girls Say.. To Black Girls”* yet, take a look. It is a very funny and very powerful piece about the sort of accidental racism that happens. From “Can I touch your hair?” to “This is soooo ghetto,” it perfectly captures the painful banality of racism.
But with the GOP primaries coming to their seemingly inevitable conclusion of a Romney (perhaps Romney/Santorum) ticket, it is time to consider how not funny a video of “S#@t White Politicians Say… to Black People” would be.
Opening scene would be Newt Gingrich’s extremely bizarre and accidentally racist tirade against “poor” children not knowing the value of work. Calling child labor laws “stupid” and outlining his plan for the forced after-school labor of poor children as janitors in their schools in order to become productive citizens, Gingrich tentatively felt his way through …
September 13, 2011, 10:30 am
Fox News ran a story that even watching just a few minutes of SpongeBob SquarePants can lower a child’s ability to concentrate, delay gratification, and might even cause learning problems.
The problems were seen in a study of 60 children randomly assigned to either watch SpongeBob, or the slower-paced PBS cartoon Caillou or assigned to draw pictures
Immediately after these nine-minute assignments, the kids took mental function tests; those who had watched SpongeBob did measurably worse than the others.
Then the researchers gave the kids the old marshmallow test. You know the one? Where they put some marshmallows in front of kids and say you can eat these now, but if you wait you get a lot more. This is supposed to measure future success and health. Needless to say, the kids who watched SpongeBob didn’t wait for very long before just shoving the marshmallows in their mouths. The…
August 16, 2011, 10:09 am
I’m not sure when American culture started to exist in quotation marks. But at this point the line between “real” and “farce” is so blurred as to no longer be meaningful. The Daily Show gets awards as best news show, but considers itself a comedy show about the news. Certain “news” shows surely ought to get best awards for best comedies.
The pop music one of my teenagers listens to is farce, I think. Like The Lonely Island’s “No Homo,” which suggests tongue and cheek that “when you want to compliment a friend, no homo, but you don’t want that friendship to end, no homo, to tell a dude just how you feel, no homo, just say no homo so he knows the deal.” The compliments for your friend include “I like the way your shoulders fill out that shirt” and “I kinda like your natural scent, no homo, and I kinda like the musical Rent no homo.”
This sort of tongue in cheek homoerotic…
August 8, 2011, 2:34 pm
Here is a brief intellectual history of progressive thinking in the US:
It’s the economy, stupid. We must pay attention to the body. It’s the economy, stupid.
In other words, a very traditional Marxian analysis gave way to far more postmodern, feminist, and queer analyses in the 1980s and 90s only to return to a far more traditional Marxian analysis.
And why not? After all, the turn to the body and gender and desire (not to mention race and ethnicity) seemed to have happened just as the rich were getting richer, global capital was consolidating its hold on our representatives in DC, and Wall St. was screwing us all. When we woke up out of our Foucault-induced stupor long enough to notice the material world, many of us left the body behind as we honed in on the incredibly unequal distribution of wealth.
But feminist, postmodern, and queer theories are far from useless when…
June 22, 2011, 3:10 pm
Tonight, President Obama will deliver a speech about the war in Afghanistan. According to The Washington Post, the President is expected to tell us that the war in Afghanistan is not over and the U.S. needs to keep fighting it, even though it is the country’s longest war and costing about $10-BILLION a month at a time when the lingering Great Recession is destroying any hope for a secure economic future.
Today Senator Patrick Leahy (a Vermont Democrat) wrote an op-ed in the Burlington Free Press comparing Afghanistan to Vietnam. According to Senatory Leahy,
The war in Afghanistan will be 10 years old this November. Osama bin Laden, the perpetrator of the 9/11 attacks, is dead. So what do we do now?
I asked Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen that question at a defense budget hearing last week. Both of them answered that we…
March 28, 2011, 12:30 pm
I lived in Moscow in the 1980s. I hung out with a lot of people who were considered enemies of the state- the founders of the Democratic Union, Gruppa Doverya, etc. We NEVER had a conversation of any importance inside a building. We strolled in parks, spoke on metro platforms, wrote things on pieces of paper that we then burned. As a young woman, it was all very exciting to know “important” people who were working to bring down the regime. In retrospect, of course, these individuals were never really that important in the downfall of the Soviet Regime and its replacement with the Putinist oligarchy of today. But we imagined the work as central to history, and oddly both the KGB and the CIA imagined these dissidents as important as well.
When did it happen that professors in…