Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday Mashup (6/28/11)

  • I read over this item today on the supposed “negotiations” on the debt limit, and I had some thoughts (I put negotiations in quotes because we’re dealing with the nativist political bunch that is only interested in “moving the goalposts” on this and just about every other issue).

    To begin, I don’t believe it should be necessary for the president of the United States to involve himself (or herself, one day) in negotiations over raising the debt limit, which, as noted here, should be automatic. However, the Repugs and their noise machine (along with our utterly pliant corporate media) have, as usual, allowed demagoguery to reign in place of common sense to the point where it is necessary for President Obama to do just that (witness the utterly ridiculous decision to cave on Dubya’s stinking tax cuts, which generate absolutely nothing but wealth for people who definitely don’t need it – more on that here, as if we need it).

    I thought Atrios had some good stuff on this, as noted here. Also (and you’re not going to believe this), but I thought David Brooks of the New York Times actually made sense on this also as follows (here)…
    (Obama) has not educated the country about the debt challenge. He has not laid out a plan, aside from one vague, hyperpoliticized speech.
    I’ve heard about Obama supposedly looking towards The Sainted Ronnie R as a political “guiding light” of sorts, and I took that to mean that Number 44 seeks to imitate the delivery of a “message” that The Gipper honed through years of Hollywood acting and serving as the puppet of General Electric Corporation. Well, our “hopey changey” chief executive could do a better job, I think, of explaining (in a White House prime time address to the nation) exactly why we need to get rid of the Bush tax cuts and how we need to make smart financial decisions to help our economy to recover for real (some graphical stuff might be a good idea too, pictures generally being better than words and all that...and reminding about this can't hurt either).

    (By the way, I’ll have more to say about BoBo later.)

  • Next, Juan Williams of Fix Noise bloviates as follows (here, on the subject of marriage equality and the recent vote in New York state)...
    “[I]n the black community, people just can’t understand Obama on this issue because there just is not the strength of support for any form of gay union, gay marriage, civil [unions],” Williams said. “That’s what happened in California if you recall in terms of that referendum that sunk this effort in California. I don’t think the black community is going to walk away from President Obama on this but it is a fascinating dynamic to sit down with black ministers, black social leaders and talk about this. I mean they are back in the ‘50s on this subject.”
    I have a feeling that Williams (who I consider to be a wingnut in liberal disguise, let’s not forget) is definitely overplaying his hand on the whole “blacks-don’t-like-gay-marriage-because-of-black-clergy-and-social-leaders” thing, particularly when, as noted here, African Americans now support marriage equality by 51 to 48 percent (a small margin to be sure, but progress).

  • At least Williams hasn’t calling for “profiling” of gays (as if that’s possible anyway), unlike here.

  • Further, I must tell you that I’m having a hard time with a recent decision by Hangin’ Judge JR and The Supremes (not the Arizona campaign finance decision that invalidates a key part of that state’s law that triggered state payments of matching funds for publicly financed candidates whenever their privately funded opponents outspent them, bad though that decision is, as noted here).

    What I’m having a particularly hard time with is the recent decision that struck down a California law that banned the sale of video games to minors, as noted here.

    Including this rationale…
    “No doubt a State possesses legitimate power to protect children from harm, but that does not include a free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed,” (Justice Antonin) Scalia wrote, noting that even fairy tales such as “Snow White” and “Cinderella” feature graphic descriptions of violence.

    The court reiterated that the basic principles of free speech do not vary by medium and called the law’s attempt to restrict children’s access to depictions of violence “unprecedented and mistaken.”

    “This country has no tradition of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence,” the court stated.
    Sooo...as far as The Supremes are concerned, when the young one hunts Nazi zombies in “Call of Duty” as well as other creatures in “Left For Dead,” or these “zealot” things in “Halo Reach” (all X-Box games for the benefit of the uninitiated)…that’s the same as watching the witch turn into the dragon in “Sleeping Beauty”? Or watching Edmund Dantes exact his revenge in “The Count of Monte Cristo”?

    I think that is seriously whacked, people.

    And get a load of this from Hangin’ Judge JR hisself (along with “Strip Search Sammy”)…
    “Although the California statute is well-intentioned, its terms are not framed with the precision that the Constitution demands, and I therefore agree with the court that this particular law cannot be sustained,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito in a concurring opinion joined by Chief Justice John Roberts.
    Gee, somehow I don’t think this decision was “framed with the precision that the Constitution demands” either.

    I cannot believe that I’m actually in the same camp with Silent Clarence Thomas on this, but I am…
    In a dissenting opinion, Thomas argued the freedom of speech doesn’t include the right for minors to access content without going through parents or guardians. He argued the nation’s Founders intended speech to minors that bypasses their parents to be excluded from the First Amendment.

    “The historical evidence shows that the founding generation believed parents had absolute authority over their minor children and expected parents to use that authority to direct the proper development of their children,” Thomas wrote.
    A little heavy handed, but I think he’s on the right track here.

    However, I believe Justice Stephen Breyer (who, as far as I’m concerned, should be in charge of this bunch) got it right (he also dissented with Thomas)…
    “But what sense does it make to forbid selling to a 13-year-old boy a magazine with an image of a nude woman, while protecting a sale to that 13-year-old of an interactive video game in which he actively, but virtually, binds and gags the woman, then tortures and kills her?” Breyer said.

    “What kind of First Amendment would permit the government to protect children by restricting sales of that extremely violent video game only when the woman — bound, gagged, tortured and killed — is also topless?”
    Nail. Hammer. Head.

    Listen, if the video game sellers think the fine for selling M-rated games to minors is too high (I think it’s $1,100 in CA), or if they’re seeking some other type of a sanction as a penalty, I have no issue with that.

    However, this ruling also states that video game labeling is “unconstitutional.” Really?

    Then tell me where this “slippery slope” ends, Justices Scalia, Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Kagan, Ginsburg and Sotomayor (and I’m surprised that the last three joined in this decision). Does this mean that, if a particular case is brought before the Court, they would be disposed to do away with the motion picture rating system also?

    Call me any name you want if you don’t think I’m really a liberal for opposing this, but it’s a funny thing – your perspective on this stuff definitely changes when you become a parent. And I don’t see where having to deal with an “M” label on a video game that is particularly violent or filled with sexual content is too big of a price to pay.

    (And given some of the atrocious rulings of the Roberts court, why do I have a sick feeling that the challenge to this monstrosity from Ohio will be the death knell for Roe v. Wade? Love to be wrong, though…)

  • Finally, I simply must return to David Brooks because, in a column today criticizing Obama once again, he came up with this lulu…
    In 1961, John F. Kennedy gave an Inaugural Address that did enormous damage to the country. It defined the modern president as an elevated, heroic leader who issues clarion calls in the manner of Henry V at Agincourt. Ever since that speech, presidents have felt compelled to live up to that grandiose image, and they have done enormous damage to themselves and the nation. That speech gave a generation an unrealistic, immature vision of the power of the presidency.
    I felt like my jaw dropped about a foot the first time I read that, so I had to read it again. I actually thought it was a goof…but no, we’re talking about BoBo here, so he was definitely serious.

    Gee, I wonder what kind of “enormous damage” BoBo is talking about?

    Only an utterly vain, jaded, well-kept and self-centered right-wing corporate media shill like Brooks could concoct something like that.

    Reading that paragraph reminded me once more of how grateful I am that I have a historical frame of reference that extends prior to the year 1980 or so. I can vividly recall when this country embarked on great goals to improve the quality of life in this country and our competitiveness among other industrialized nations (encouraged in JFK’s inaugural address)…and succeeded at those goals (cleaning up our environment, mobilizing our industrial might during wartime to defeat the Axis powers, building the interstate highway system, etc.). We didn’t spend weeks and months arguing about whether or not trying to achieve those goals was the supposedly “proper” role of the federal government and whether or not the states were supposed to take ownership of these projects instead (or, as former New York Times columnist Bob Herbert once put it, more or less, “we once landed a man on the moon, and now we can’t even build a tunnel to New York City,” a reference to this).

    I don’t know how many of you recall the film “Born on the Fourth of July” starring Tom Cruise and directed by Oliver Stone, based on the book by Ron Kovic (he served in Vietnam before he became paralyzed due to a spinal cord injury suffered in combat). The movie begins with Kovic and his family watching Kennedy’s inaugural address in rapt attention, hanging on every word uttered by our 35th president. That scene was replayed across the nation that day.

    Here is more on the speech as well as recollections from Ted Sorenson (who had an awful lot to do with it) here; as Sorensen noted, the intent of the speech was to accomplish multiple objectives, one of which was to assure other elderly world leaders (particularly Harold Macmillan, Charles De Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer) that the U.S. intended to continue honoring its international obligations.

    Yes, with the passage of time and 20-20 hindsight, we can look back on the Bay of Pigs fiasco and other Kennedy missteps as the product of inexperience and a certain degree of hubris which, I’m sure, everyone who holds that office possesses to one degree or another. However, Kennedy’s inaugural address was (and remains) a stirring vision of what America once was and could be one day again (to say nothing of the rest of the world as well).

    And of all the memorable quotes from the speech noted in the Wikipedia article and the Sorenson story, this is one of the ones that has stuck with me the longest over all these years…
    - If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
    No wonder BoBo hated it.
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