Ten years ago this week the Dixie Chicks controversy erupted: I’m still not ready to back down

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. ― Theodore Roosevelt On … Continue reading Ten years ago this week the Dixie Chicks controversy erupted: I’m still not ready to back down

The Obama Doctrine and Snooki Nation: declaring victory and victory are the same thing

So, it appears campaign season is under way in earnest. Mr. Obama officially kicked off the festivities in Virginia and Ohio yesterday, and we saw our first Mitt-scorcher on Denver TV a couple days ago. I’ve been thinking about the Obama administration’s performance to date for a few months, and perhaps now is as good a time as any to summarize what I think has been the dominant theme of his presidency.

My home state, North Carolina, has a wonderful motto: esse quam videri – to be, rather than to seem. Continue reading “The Obama Doctrine and Snooki Nation: declaring victory and victory are the same thing”

Shootout at the DC Corral

The independently minded political animal always wrestles with times of transition, and the changeover from the Bush to Obama regimes has been worse than most. During the Dubya years it was easy to identify the enemy and to hate him with a blinding passion. Sweet Jesus, George II and his sidekick, The Dick Cheney, played their roles with less nuance than the bad guy in Rambo 12: Return of Ming the Merciless (directed by Roland Emmerich), making it easy to identify with the loyal opposition just on principle.

But it’s important to remember that the enemy of my enemy isn’t necessarily my friend. They might just be fighting over which one gets to eat my tender bits. Continue reading “Shootout at the DC Corral”

9/11 happened on Obama’s watch! GOP noise machine already hard at work on the history books of the future

Something wicked this way comes.

There are a number of problems with these assertions, not the least of which is that when Saudi terrorists started flying hijacked jets into large buildings on September 11, 2001, George W. Bush had been president of the United States for the better part of eight months. The lapses in memory noted above are all striking, but especially so in the case of Giuliani, who was, from September 11 until he dropped out of the presidential race on January 30, 2008 (a span of roughly 2,332 days, if my math is accurate), unable to say so much as “hello” without somehow shoehorning “9/11” into the conversation. Continue reading “9/11 happened on Obama’s watch! GOP noise machine already hard at work on the history books of the future”

Democracy & Elitism 4: equality, opportunity and leveling up the playing field

Pulitzer- and Emmy-winner William Henry‘s famous polemic, In Defense of Elitism (1994), argues that societies can be ranked along a spectrum with “egalitarianism” on one end and “elitism” on the other. He concludes that America, to its detriment, has slid too far in the direction of egalitarianism, and in the process that it has abandoned the elitist impulse that made it great (and that is necessary for any great culture). While Henry’s analysis is flawed in spots (and, thanks to the excesses of the Bush years, there are some other places that could use updating), he brilliantly succeeds in his ultimate goal: crank-starting a much-needed debate about the proper place of elitism in a “democratic” society.

Along the way he spends a good deal of time defining what he means by “egalitarianism” and “elitism.” Continue reading “Democracy & Elitism 4: equality, opportunity and leveling up the playing field”

Did President Bush believe that Harry Potter was real? It sure sounds that way.

Not that this should come as any surprise, but we now have confirmation that the Bush administration refused to award Harry Potter author JK Rowling the Presidential Medal of Freedom because the books “encouraged witchcraft.”

For a second, let’s set aside any arguments over whether or not Rowling’s work merits such a lofty honor and do something that we simply don’t do enough these days. Let’s dig beneath the surface silliness and examine the deeper implications of what this revelation really means.

Put simply, would you be worried about “encouraging” something you didn’t think was possible? It’s one thing to want to discourage, say, meth use or binge drinking or texting while driving or unprotected sex. Those things are real and they have real, observable consequences. Continue reading “Did President Bush believe that Harry Potter was real? It sure sounds that way.”

Democrats to Progressives: We’re just not that into you

not_that_into_youA modest proposal, perhaps.

It’s been entertaining watching American public “discourse” since the election. (I use that word in its broadest, most ridiculous sense, since nothing that hinges so completely on self-absorption, rank ignorance and pathological dishonesty can be accurately characterized by such a noble word. But indulge me. I’ve been working on my irony lately.)

On the one hand you have conservatives fainting dead away that we’re now in the clutches of a “socialist” president. Never mind that these folks wouldn’t know a real socialist if he was gnawing their balls off. Never mind that most of these folks think “socialist” is the French word for Negro. Never mind that Obama demonstrably is to socialism what Joe the Plumber is to brie-sucking Northeastern intellectualism. As arch-conservative TV pundit Stephen Colbert says, “this is a fact-free zone.”

On the other you have the righteous outrage of the progressosphere, which feels six different kinds of betrayed by a president who promised them the moon and stars and has now left them to what looks like at least a four-year walk of shame. If I might borrow from an old fraternity joke, imagine the following scene from the Oval Office: Continue reading “Democrats to Progressives: We’re just not that into you”

Still not ready to make nice: what does the Dixie Chicks saga tell us about freedom in America?

We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas. – Natalie Maines

I don’t even know the Dixie Chicks, but I find it an insult for all the men and women who fought and died in past wars when almost the majority of America jumped down their throats for voicing an opinion. It was like a verbal witch-hunt and lynching. – Merle Haggard

Last night over dinner the subject of The Dixie Chicks came up, and I got mad all over again. Which is unfortunate, because when you think about artists that talented the last thing on your mind ought to be anger. But still, it’s been six long years now since “the top of the world came crashing down,” and I can’t quite free myself of my rage at the staggering ignorance that led so many Americans to piss on the 1st Amendment by attempting to destroy the careers of Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Robinson. Continue reading “Still not ready to make nice: what does the Dixie Chicks saga tell us about freedom in America?”

Let the economy die?! Rushkoff’s goals are noble but his plan needs work

A couple of weeks ago author and NYU media theory lecturer Douglas Rushkoff penned a provocative essay for Arthur Magazine. Entitled “Let It Die,” the essay explains why we should stop trying to save the economy.

In a perfect world, the stock market would decline another 70 or 80 percent along with the shuttering of about that fraction of our nation’s banks. Yes, unemployment would rise as hundreds of thousands of formerly well-paid brokers and bankers lost their jobs; but at least they would no longer be extracting wealth at our expense. They would need to be fed, but that would be a lot cheaper than keeping them in the luxurious conditions they’re enjoying now. Even Bernie Madoff costs us less in jail than he does on Park Avenue.

Alas, I’m not being sarcastic. Continue reading “Let the economy die?! Rushkoff’s goals are noble but his plan needs work”

Jon Stewart, Jim Cramer and the rampaging cowards of journalism

First, just in case you haven’t seen it, please review the video (in three parts).

Continue reading “Jon Stewart, Jim Cramer and the rampaging cowards of journalism”

Obama tackles America’s real number one issue

Almost 50 days into his administration President Obama made his way around to what strikes me as America’s #1 long-term issue, education. The soundbite is pretty catchy: he wants to overhaul the system “from the cradle up through a career.”

A compelling sentiment, that is. Our educational system couldn’t be much more broken, and a righteous keelhauling overhauling is certainly in order. But the rhetoric doesn’t tell us a lot. Continue reading “Obama tackles America’s real number one issue”

Joe Nacchio, American Motherfucking Hero

joemfnacchioDr. Slammy offered up some thoughts the other day on Joe Nacchio, the prison-bound former CEO of Qwest. For the good doctor, the case is both public and personal. For my part, I don’t know Joe, but do take some satisfaction in the knowledge that he’s going to Hell. And yes, I do have insider knowledge on that subject.

The most fascinating thing about Sam’s post, though, was what happened in the comment thread. I call your attention to comments #3, 6 and 23, in particular, whereupon we’re asked to believe that Joe Nachhio is not a criminal, but is instead, as Slammy put it in comment #5, “Thomas Motherfucking Jefferson.” Continue reading “Joe Nacchio, American Motherfucking Hero”

The stimulus bill, Iraq and “fiscal responsibility”

Obama was in town yesterday to sign his stimulus bill. This victory, the first great moment of the Obama administration, was a hard-fought one earned in the face of fierce opposition from fiscally responsible Congressional Republicans. These staunch guardians of the American purse strings have proven, time and again, their willingness to combat wastefulness and ill-advised spending by…

Wait a second. Back up. Continue reading “The stimulus bill, Iraq and “fiscal responsibility””

Inauguration logistics: epic fail. General response: epic conniption.

inauguration_hippiesYou may have heard that Inauguration Day was something of a mess in our nation’s capital. People with tickets who couldn’t get in to see the actual inauguration (which included everything from an all-around offend-o-rama of an “invocation” to a Supreme Court justice swallowing his tongue to an example of why people don’t like poetry to the longest goddamned rendition of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” on record”) and other people with tickets couldn’t get into the youth ball (one of them was an actual Hollywood celebrity, I hear). There’s some argument as to whether the purple, blue or silver gate was the biggest clusterfuck (although it appears that things went well at the orange gate, at least). From all around the Web we’re hearing terms like “frustrated” and “heartbroken” and and “tunnel of doom” and “madder ‘n a bobcat in a piss storm” Continue reading “Inauguration logistics: epic fail. General response: epic conniption.”

Concession speeches, mandates and the post-partisan reach-around

A few nights ago John McCain treated us all to a masterful concession speech. He was gracious, articulate, noble – he said all the right things and struck all the right chords as the nation and his party look toward the future in the wake of an epic statement on the part of the American electorate.

If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering: where the hell was this guy for the last several months?

I always marvel at the civility of concession speeches. Your opponent spends months degrading your character, questioning the legitimacy of your parentage, slandering you, your momma, your horse and everyone you ever passed in the street, fabricating the most staggering and colorful lies imaginable, and then when the votes are in he extends his hand like you’d been trading good-natured barbs over the monthly potluck in the church fellowship hall. Continue reading “Concession speeches, mandates and the post-partisan reach-around”