Archive for the ‘America’ Category
Attending a conservative conference, even after a losing political season, encourages people. Liberals even when winning, mope. Conservatives, when losing, drink and have a good time anyway. Well, they usually do. That hasn’t been the case for the last two years. Conservative gatherings have been depressing and sometimes, strife-filled.
Not this Labor Day weekend in Dallas, Texas, though. The Americans for Prosperity leadership picked a weekend after school started in Texas, picked a state that is an instant sweat bath in August, and decided it would be a good idea to ask activists to listen to politics and policy rather than eat dogs and burgers and drink beer and watch football on Labor Day weekend. And still, the people came.
More than 3000 very excited, energized conservative-libertarian activists descended on Dallas and joy abounded. Ronald Reagan would be proud of the happy warriors here.
“…the new message is that preaching to the choir isn’t going to advance the message or persuade those who either disagree or are uninformed and whose hearts and minds we need to win.
In fact, overwhelmingly, the discussion in sessions and speeches is that techniques that work on conservatives are likely to backfire when talking to those who are receptive to conservative principles but are predisposed to reject the buzzwords usually associated with them.”
The happy warriors speaking the language of building bridges to disaffected Obama voters should scare the Democrats. The conservative depression has lifted.
Based on this sold out conference, the right is back.
Remember moments of Oscar night rebellion? Marlon Brando comes to mind. Someone on Twitter said they were happy that the Oscars were devoid of politics.
Actually, politics did enter the artistic arena–it’s just that for the average God-believing American, it went unnoticed because it is part of their culture.
For the Academy, though, Matthew McConaughey’s speech was profoundly counter cultural and “weird”.
This is where we are in America: Thanking God, humbly and passionately, is viewed as strange, different, and even subversive.
America has been transformed, alright. You’re a rebel if you’re a sincere God believer and willing to say so.
Cool girls fade out and become less interesting the minute they have a real thought. Otherwise, they’re just entertaining, frothy nothingburgers–an idealistic creation to make people feel better. At least, that’s my sum up of this piece about Jennifer Lawrence and the “cool girls” before her.
Pardon me if I don’t get so overwrought about this. Every once in a while, a woman comes along who has male interests, enjoys the company of men because of those interests, and she’s also incredibly beautiful. What the less pretty or less talented or more stereotypically female or as tomboyish but less feminine women don’t understand is that this girl, then woman, isn’t trying to be something. She is this person.
What can she do but be what she is?
In Lawrence’s case, she’s self-deprecating. She admits to be a virtual shut in. She isn’t a gad about (i.e. screwing around with male stars in succession). She is beautiful. She has a job. It’s not a world-changing job. It’s not a self-sacrificial job (like being a nun or nurse or fire fighter). It’s acting.
Jane Fonda’s job was to act. She was good at that. And then she changed the equation. She used her beauty and platform to lecture Americans about what they should believe. She changed her job title from actress to activist. Well, okay, that’s her choice. But don’t get angry when her fan base dries up because they disagree with her politics.
Sean Penn’s politics are naive and kinda make people hate him. They don’t hate him because he’s beautiful. They hate him because he’s stupid and uses his platform as a spoiled, rich actor to rail against the very system that benefitted him. Fonda is in the same category.
Are people bigoted against the “cool guy”?
If Jennifer Lawrence’s star falls, it will be because everyone likes to see the guy at the top topple. It’s a nasty reality of success. Once a person achieves it, there are multiple people who would love to see the person fail.
Jennifer Lawrence mitigates that far fall by stumbling over herself. She takes herself down a notch–whether it’s conscious or not. So, average person sees the beautiful, bawdy Ms. Lawrence and remembers falling at a wedding and doesn’t feel so envious. They pull for her because she’s human.
Well, most pull for her. For some, she can’t fall enough. One wonders what a woman must do to please other women.
Barack Obama exasperates Vladimir Putin. How is it in the U.S.’s interest, Putin wonders, to have complete chaos in the Middle East? Doesn’t President Obama understand that a Qaddafi or Mubarek is preferable to blood in the streets and radical Islam in charge? And why would you leave a potentially winning hand on the Iraq table when you’re pot committed? Why play small?
The exasperation galvanized Putin. If Obama will be weak, someone needs to be strong and it might as well be him. So, Putin humiliated the President in the New York Times. He negotiated in Syria. He’s giving his blessing to candidates in Egypt. He’s bullying the Ukraine. In short, Putin is filling the vacuum. Who will stop him?
Still, for a strong man like Putin, who deals in measures of strength as a commodity, President Obama’s unnecessary weakness makes little sense. Certainly, President Obama’s ideology isn’t that distant from Putin’s. In fact, President Obama has consistently advanced a quasi-socialist America–increased taxation, increased redistribution, an enlarged and empowered state, more regulation, more central control, media harassment and threats, using the government to investigate political opposition, etc. All these decisions, while not nakedly Marxist, certainly aren’t limiting the state and shrinking its power.
So why wouldn’t this statist aggression be pushed around the world?
Here is where President Obama differs from President Putin: Vladamir Putin loves Russia and views the state as an extension of himself. In contrast, President Obama does not like America. Further, he views his own country and people with suspicion. President Obama believes in worldwide redistribution and believes that Americans don’t deserve their power, wealth, or status. So, he cedes it or straight up gives it away.
President Obama’s loathing for colonial powers makes him averse to using the US’ power on the world scene even when it makes him personally look weak and pathetic.
For Putin, the notion of separation of self and state is absurd. He is a Russian. He is proud of his country. He is fond of communism. He chafes at the loss of power and face since the days when the Soviet Union split up. He seeks to regain glory for the state of Russia and by extension, himself.
Obama is a man divided. He wants personal prestige but he is not willing to claim it if it means making America look great. So, he’ll give a grand speech in Egypt, but he won’t make a grand decision there. He’ll say provocative words to the Russian president, but he won’t do anything.
We Americans can take little solace in President Obama’s playing small on the world stage. He doesn’t like America very much except to the extent it makes him a media personality. As long as he wins a Charles Barkley interview while expanding the state, that’s enough. Being a celebrity trumps being a statesman.
So expect more weakness on the world stage. Expect Vladimir Putin to fill the void. Expect China to test limits. Expect more turbulence and confusion. Expect more tyranny. Expect more communism.
Don’t expect President Obama to care about America’s interests. He’s too busy tending his own.
Related to this: Jonah Goldberg has a piece up today about the Nazis and socialism. It’s an interesting read. What occurred to me, though, is that Obama is a “true” Marxist in contrast to, say, Putin. Obama is an internationalist. He wants all the worlds workers to unite. That’s why he cheerleaded Chavez (fist bump!) and seemed unworried about the Muslim Brotherhood a thoroughly socialist organization with socialist goals.
As Jonah notes, the dewy eyed world proletariat uprising fails when faced with reality as nation states have their own aims and they often conflict (see Nazis versus Stalinists). Does President Obama have provincial American concerns? Does he worry about America’s loss of face in the world if the proletariat in Egypt or Libya or China or Russia wins? It sure doesn’t seem like it.
So the Daily Kos kids are being their typical selves: piling on their ideological opposition during a time of trouble to score political points. Caleb Howe, a military veteran, wonderful writer, and friend has been going through some difficult times that have culminated in him being in critical condition in the hospital.
For a lefty who makes everything political, this was the response:
So of course you want to repeal Obamacare. And what the fuck is your apparent “solution”? A tin cup on your website?
He says this as though a tin cup is a bad thing. Charity is a good thing. It comes from people’s hearts. Caleb and his family know they are loved. Every donation (well, most) is a message of goodwill and kindness.
Unlike medicare, medicaid and now Obamacare, charity is less likely to be abused, overused, or overextended. Who wants to exploit their friend’s love? No one. Well, no decent person.
And no decent person would so enjoy the suffering of another person.
Since this has been made into a political discussion, it’s worthwhile to point out that conservatives believe in helping the truly needy. This is what Medicaid was for–not as a catchall insurance program for everyone.
Also, here’s what the hospital will do for Caleb or anyone in a similar situation: they’ll assess his ability to pay and then bill him a small amount each month until they forgive the debt or it’s paid off. I’ve known people who pay $5 a month. Most hospitals were/are have Christian and charitable missions.
That’s America. It’s not a perfect system, to be sure. And improvements to the health care system were needed, but to claim that Obamacare would make Caleb’s situation better and ignore the harm that’s already being done by the legislation, is just willful political exploitation.
Worse, than the political, though, is the personal. The coarsening of our interaction and dehumanization is the biggest loss. Money comes and goes but community bonds and compassion abide. Well, I’d like to think they do, anyway.
Giving a dollar out of spite so you can say something nasty to man who might die and saying it in a place where his wife, children, and extended family will read it, well. What it says about you trumps any political point you hoped to make.
Those raising money for Caleb are almost to $25,000. Please help if you can: Go Fund Me.
On a personal note, Caleb’s girls are dancers and quite good and that’s expensive. Having a dad who can’t work means losing opportunities. These donations will help them pursue their dreams while their dad gets well.
Wishing Caleb and his family wholeness and healing.
Shorter Dan Pfeiffer: It’s none of your business how the Prez handled Benghazi the night of and it’s a conspiracy theory to ask.
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) May 19, 2013
The reason the White House won’t answer the question about where Obama was during Benghazi is because it speaks ill of him either way:
1. He was in the situation room the whole time and denied aid to our people dying in Benghazi.
2. He went to bed (or some other recreational activity) which would be interpreted as a dereliction of duty and reflect poorly on him.
If the buck stops at him (it does no matter where he was), he’s in trouble.
The buck stopping anywhere else during this fiasco makes him look like an impotent rube.
As Ed Morrisey says:
Out: “Bush read My Pet Goat for 7 minutes during a terrorist attack!” In: Where Obama was all night during a terrorist attack: irrelevant
— EdMorrissey (@EdMorrissey) May 19, 2013
You should know that reading to children for seven minutes and then getting to a secured location is totally like going to Vegas, baby!
BTW, George Bush read The Pet Goat to school children while we were being attacked then fled to La. rather than return to DC.
— Brad Woodhouse (@woodhouseb) May 19, 2013
And the press will nod affirmatively and with full credulity.
Allow dollars to follow the child. A Texas teacher makes her case for school choice:
Texas has increased education spending 95% with a 19% increase in school age population while test scores are flat.
I’m coming to believe test scores are less important. A child should be able to read, do simple math, and write by the age ten–5th grade (and that’s me just being arbitrary). With the innovations in education and the ability to tailor education to a kid, the money should be freed up. There are just so many ways a kid can be educated now.
My kids are in public school and all of them could probably be in environments better suited to their needs. Children develop in uneven ways.
It’s strange to think, but the one-room school house actually catered to kids better in some ways. A slow learner could be paired with kids coming along. A quick learner could accelerate as quickly as he wanted.
Our current educational system is just not responsive to the individual. Freeing up money and allowing kids to thrive in environments suited to them would be a step in the right direction.
When the BBC hosts pilloried me about remaining mute and not opinionating in the wake of the Newtown tragedy, I noted that it seems like we should at least be quiet until families are notified. It’s unseemly to be politicizing a very personal tragedy.
“This isn’t about politics,” one host shrieked,”it’s about GUNS!”
I responded,”Well, the solution to the gun issue the president brought up would be political.”
The host continued by saying that he felt the reason I hadn’t written about the tragedy and that the NRA hadn’t spoken about it was because we were ashamed. I countered with the fact that I was, presently, talking to the BBC about the tragedy and defending Americans rights to keep and bear arms. I was not ashamed to defend that.
But I was ashamed that defending the Constitution had to be done in this way at this time.
It was unsettling. It was too soon. And yet, someone had to push back against the philistines willing to ride on the backs of dead children to pursue their political agenda. And though sickened, I spoke up.
Jonah Goldberg captures this disgust nicely. Please read his whole post. Here’s a snippet:
I haven’t written much about the Newtown shooting. I did write my first column of the week about it because I felt I had to chime in. But I resented it. Maybe it’s because I’m becoming too sentimental about kids. Maybe it’s because I’m sick to death of death. Maybe it’s some other personal failing on my part, but I nonetheless resent being dragged into the political maw so quickly after a bunch of little kids were picked off by a madman with a gun. I agree with 90% of the things written by my colleagues about guns and gun control and the second amendment over the last week, but I nonetheless find it a bit grotesque that it’s necessary for anyone to be celebrating or defending guns before these little, little, kids have even been buried. It feels indecent to me.
It is indecent.
No, your ends do not justify these means.
I have to wonder: Do the folks indulging in this orgie of political posturing know loss and death? Are they so distanced from sorrow that they cannot empathize with the parents and suffering families? Are they such zealots for their cause that they’re willing to step on a heap of dead children to fight for it? Do they not see what they’re doing?
Maybe it’s just that when you’re a humanist, your instinct is to blame humans. If your worldview is that people are essentially good, that they’ve been nurtured wrong, or society failed, and then evil, evil guns were around, then blaming parents, doctors, teachers, gun manufacturers, “society” is the route one goes. And this time, the usual blamable subjects don’t quite fit that worldview. The boy’s mother, school officials, psychologists, everyone, were trying to do something to help him. The boy couldn’t be helped or wasn’t helped soon enough. Maybe he didn’t want to be helped.
So, it’s the guns and people who have guns who are evil. Someone must be blamed.
It is devastating to look at the deaths of twenty children and see the horror unfold in a lovely community (that did all the right gun control things) and for evil to still happen.
One feels helpless.
Helplessness is the natural human state. Humanists just live under an illusion — more laws, or better people, or the right resources will make all societal ills vanish. No, they won’t.
And so, we see folks fighting like badgers about guns, because it feels like Something Can Be Done. It’s better to be angry and active, then passive and helpless.
Rather than talking about guns or laws or even mental illness, Professor Kennedy talked about the nature of man, of suffering, and of our walk on the earth. To me, it seems like we should be talking about those things.
Instead, we’re talking about guns. It is, as Jonah says, indecent.
What do mass murderers have in common? Their facial expressions. At least, that’s the way it looks to me.
I don’t know what to make of this, but I thought I’d share these pictures and let you judge for yourself. Basically, I was looking at this Lanza kid and that professor who killed her colleagues came to mind. Then, I thought of the guy in Colorado who killed the people at the Batman showing, and I thought: they all look the same.
Clinically, they all look mildly hyperthyroid–you can see the whites of their eyes in some cases. Their faces are drawn. Their hair flat, dull, and looking like they may be nutritionally deprived.
I want to know what medications these people were on. The public has a right to know about them: their family situation, their parents’ psychological profiles, birth order, any psychological diagnoses, their I.Q.’s, surgeries, illnesses, vaccinations, medications, nutrition, genetics… everything.
Public policy will be suggested, but how can we come up with adequate solutions if we can’t pinpoint the problem? And clearly, all of these people have problems–and they aren’t new ones. People knew they were trouble. In many cases, family tried to intervene.
Don’t they look the same? What goes wrong in the wiring that we recognize this form of crazy? No one is surprised by them. Or these cases seem to rarely surprise anyone. Is it because we see and/or sense the crazy emanating off of them? Very often, they cross paths with psychologists, teachers, doctors, and their parents are worried, overwhelmed, in denial, or inept. [Lanza’s mom had confrontations with the school system.]
What do we do with this?
It doesn’t matter their names. In fact, I don’t want to dignify these killers with showcasing their names. They all look the same.
They share a bleak, blankness in their eyes. Their mouths are drawn. They seem to be removed, distant. And underneath it all, there seems to be a suppressed fury.
The world is unfair. Nothing matters. So kill the world.
These seem to be the faces of malignant nihilism.
What cowardice it is to be dismayed by the happiness of others and devastated by their good fortune. — Montesquieu
The Spectacle Du Jour a couple weeks ago focused on a four-star General and the women in his life which lead to more questions about other accomplished men and the women who loved and/or used them. I did not find it amusing. My concern, in the abstract, was that personal emails were being rummaged through by our government for what seemed like spurious reasons. Worse, I didn’t like the blackmail implications — not by the women (though, of course that was and is a concern) but by the government. By our president.
My thoughts wandered to Hitler and his use of blackmail to silence his political opponents. Say what you want, but I’m not keen about living in a country where our government rifles through the shopping cart of our lives and then decides to shame us publicly when they find the Twinkie or Big Gulp that offends them.
But that’s a digression.
What really sickens is how Americans reacted to the salacious stories. It is sickening to joke about the destruction of many lives — as if these people weren’t people at all. They became amusements. We on Twitter became members of the Forum jeering at the prisoner sent to face the hungry lions.
It’s been said that comedy is a tragedy that happens to someone else. And maybe with distance, those in the throes of marital woe and relational and professional disaster will see the humor, but I doubt it. And I doubt anyone doing the cat calling would find it funny to have their own personal sins blared in neon. Or on Twitter.
Lance Armstrong, as an example, is being brought low. Whether he did the drugs or not (and everyone was doing them so he wasn’t alone), the real motivation to bring him down seems rooted in envy and a desire to destroy greatness. Ha! Ha! He’s a failure, just like me. Now I feel better about myself.
Tiger Woods had some pathological emptiness that needed to be fed with women other than his wife. It’s sad that he’s lost his edge. The world is worse for his lost potential.
General Petreaus got caught up with a woman and like an errant ship, hit the shore of wreck and ruin. America is not better for this failure.
And we are not better for having made fun of these people. We are worse.
I remember when Oprah was shocked at an audience member who told her, “I liked you better when you were fat.”
Audience lady: Because you were just like me.
Now, General Petreaus, Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong are just like us. Feel better?
What I can’t understand is the simple hate, the hate for hate’s sake, the hate of The Other for the sake of Self-Affirmation. I especially can’t understand the hate coming from the sort of people who will insist to you, quite seriously, that they have essentially purged all primitive and dark emotion from themselves and now exist on an elevated Oprah/Chopra plane of pidgin Zen harmony and balance.
I see less of this on the right, but I’ve seen enough to make me uncomfortable. Still, it’s worth noting that philosophically, people on the right acknowledge their own base nature even as they succumb to it. The left seems to pretend it doesn’t exist.
Is it really all that wrong to laugh, though? It’s not hate, hate–as Whoopi says.
What’s the big deal about laughing at Petreaus or Armstrong or Woods? People who know all these men have said that they’re kinda pricks anyway. Probably. A single-minded determination to have mastery in one’s field tends to be born of a ruthlessly demanding nature, competitiveness and annoyingly narrow focus. These people are not like you and me in many ways–they refuse to compromise where you and I do and tend to have a messianic complex about their skewed priorities.
So, they deserve the scorn they receive, right?
Joking does have its place. In fact, court jesters performed this function–poking holes in the aristocratic class and giving the commoners permission to laugh at the foibles and hypocrisy of the ruling class.
Yet, why does this current trend at ruthless mockery leave a bitter aftertaste? Maybe it’s because Petreaus and Woods and Armstrong aren’t the ruling class. They didn’t get to their position by patronage or birthright. They worked to achieve their success. They bested their competitors. They worked hard and achieved greatness.
It seems like success itself is being mocked. These are our peers. They are people who started as nothing and made something of themselves. These are just common men who, through hard work, achieved the uncommon.
These are the people we’d like to be. These are people working to achieve what we would like to if only we had the talent and self-discipline to do it.
Gabriel Malor linked to this piece by Jody Foster when she defended teen idol Kristen Stewart after her very public “gotcha” moment:
In my era, through discipline and force of will, you could still manage to reach for a star-powered career and have the authenticity of a private life. Sure, you’d have to lose your spontaneity in the elaborate architecture. You’d have to learn to submerge beneath the foul air and breathe through a straw. But at least you could stand up and say, I will not willfully participate in my own exploitation. Not anymore. If I were a young actor or actress starting my career today in the new era of social media and its sanctioned hunting season, would I survive? Would I drown myself in drugs, sex, and parties? Would I be lost?
I’ve said it before and I will say it again: if I were a young actor today I would quit before I started. If I had to grow up in this media culture, I don’t think I could survive it emotionally. I would only hope that someone who loved me, really loved me, would put their arm around me and lead me away to safety.
Kristen Stewart, a young actress, heartrendingly in my opinion, shared her grief and sorrow through People Magazine at having harmed her relationship with her boyfriend. She prostrated herself publicly, asking forgiveness.
The world jeered.
Social media and blogging and all this technology has democratized communications. It has changed the world for the better, in many ways.
It has also given megaphones to what used to be localized mob behavior.
Today, it’s Mayim Bialik’s divorce. I was tangentially aware of Bialik. She is very funny on the hit TV show Big Bang Theory. Less known to me, but a big deal to moms, is that she uses “attachment parenting”. In this form of parenting, a mom wears, sleeps with and generally is around her babies a lot. Women hated her. Well, some did.
Any woman who felt guilt for bottle-feeding when she could have nursed or in some other way felt guilt when she heard or looked at Ms. Bialik now feels triumphant. See?! Her ideas suck so bad they resulted in a divorce!
Oprah’s fat! Tiger has a 15 handicap! Lance Armstrong can’t compete in Ironmans now! General Petreaus won’t lead America’s security efforts!
The gods have been brought low. And rather than mourning the loss, Americans celebrate the fall and delight in the sorrow.