Monday, June 23, 2008
I Portray Both Genders As Equally Weak Due To Feminine Qualities
As most people with a pulse and a functioning brain realized, the portrayal of Hillary Clinton in the media during the primary season was tinged -- no, not tinged, dripping with -- heavily ingrained sexism, from Tucker Carlson describing her constituency as "Vaginal-Americans" to Chris Matthews claiming the only reason she got elected office was because her husband stuck it in an intern. In few places has this been more prevalent, however, than in the columns Maureen Dowd has written for the New York Times. Between associating Clinton's campaign with an outdated, caricatured model of feminism and claiming her discussion of sexism is "depressing" (oh, wait, it's not Dowd, it's "a woman she knows"), diving into the crying hysteria and going so far as to describe Clinton as "the heroine of a Lifetime movie," and claiming Clinton isn't the best "test case" for sexist attacks against powerful women after reciting a long, long list of attacks against Clinton based almost entirely in gender (gee, I wonder what that was for, then), Dowd has done her best to drive an axe into Clinton's back for being, well, a female politician. And trust me, that's just the start of a long list. She'll tell you it's because of the "ickiness" associated with her husband's administration, but please. There are plenty of ways to call a woman unpleasant, disagreeable, and weak-willed without relying on gender stereotypes.
Fortunately, someone at the New York Times finally realized that somewhere along the line, they fucked up. So, now that Dowd's finally called on the carpet, how will she explain herself?
“From the time I began writing about politics,” Dowd said, “I have always played with gender stereotypes and mined them and twisted them to force the reader to be conscious of how differently we view the sexes.” Now, she said, “you are asking me to treat Hillary differently than I’ve treated the male candidates all these years, with kid gloves.”
To Dowd's credit, she has "played with" gender stereotypes as they relate to men as well. And that's about all the credit I'm willing to give her, because when she says "played with," she means "flogged them like a tired cow." Because whenever a Democratic candidate has displeased her, she has been all-too-quick to paint them as weak and inefficient. How? Well, she called John Edwards "the Breck Girl" and called Obama "Obambi." What do you think it all means?
I know Ms. Dowd likes to think of herself as a woman disappointed by the vagaries of modern gender roles and the "failures" of second-wave feminism, but she plays directly into a disgusting, old-fashioned rubric when she thinks you can humiliate a candidate just by painting a vagina on them. It's sexist, it's homophobic, and above all, it's just pathetic.
Diatribe Of A Mad Black Woman
What Cal Thomas sees 24/7
Oh, look, it's time once again for the Obama campaign to indirectly dig up the racist undertones (and, hell, overtones) that run through life in 21st century America. Let's turn to FOX News, as we so often do when we need a good laugh. what sayeth you, Cal Thomas, about the visibility of black women on TV?
Thomas: And who are the black women you see on the local news at night in cities all over the country. They’re usually angry about something. They’ve had a son who has been shot in a drive-by shooting. They are angry at Bush. So you don’t really have a profile of non-angry black women.
So, the only black women we see on TV are the impoverished mothers of gangsters, who are of course angry all the time (if I didn't get bingo on my dog whistle card, I at least got tic-tac-toe). Won't S. Epatha Merkerson be surprised. And Whoopi Goldberg. And Sherri Shepherd. And Khandi Alexander. And... Well, Thomas does say that Oprah's the exception, because Oprah's the black woman it's okay for white people to know. But when talking about portrayal of Michelle Obama in the media, Oprah comes as an afterthought to all the rage-filled mothers of criminals. Gee, I wonder why.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
So, that FISA bill -- the one that extends more powers to the president in almost all of its iterations, the one that our elected Democratic officials have decided to line up behind for reasons that defy logic?
Passed the house yesterday. You'll hear a lot of talk from our Democratic officials about how it's a better bill because it rejects Bush's "inherent authority" argument. You won't hear them talk about how it does this by handing the lawsuits of telecoms that aided Bush in spying on the American people off to another court, where the telecoms can have the lawsuits dismissed if they produce written proof that the president told them it was okay to break the law. In other words, if the president says it's not a crime, then it's not a crime.
Instead, what you'll hear is our leaders claiming that this bill is manna from heaven for a beleaguered Democratic Party that happens to be in the majority in Congress. You'll hear Nancy Pelosi offer the rock-hard endorsement that she could "argue it either way." You'll even hear Barack Obama, the man many of us hoped would revolutionize politics, cite his support for this measure by claiming that national security needs more support "given the grave threats that we face." They'll talk about how much they dislike the compromise, how much they wish they could change things. But they could have. They could have filibustered. They could have shoved a potato in the legislative tail pipe. But they were too afraid of another wave of negative publicity, of being seen as "weak." So they gave more strength to a program that flagrantly violates the Constitution.
I realize I don't play in politics. I realize I'm not the kind of person who has to make these choices. But I have elected the people who do have to make these choices. And I wonder why they didn't do everything they could to stop this. Maybe I'm just being incredibly naive, but I thought they'd realize that they have the power to do so. They have the power to hold it up. They have the power to launch a counteroffensive. They have the power to show America what's really at stake.
But they don't. They struggle vainly against it, and then just throw up their hands and say, "Okay." I honestly thought things might change this year. Still voting for Obama, of course, because the possibility of him is leagues better than the possibility of a McCain presidency.
I just thought things would be different. Silly me.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Let Them Eat Chips Ahoy
I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a fan of the little pieces Jeannie Moos puts together for CNN. They are the worst kind of human interest stories, the kind of thing that make even local news reporters who pad out the last thirty seconds of their broadcast with stories on water-skiing squirrels put them heads in their hands and despair. The worst part comes when she decides she wants to be a serious journalist, but just can't leave behind the schlock long enough to actually bring the gravitas, which cheapens the impact of her story. A good example of this was when she did a story on a CurrentTV package designed to demonstrate the horrors of waterboarding, but seemingly turns it into a "how long can you hold your breath?" contest that caps off with archive footage of water skiers ("the good old days when water boarding meant riding a board on water"). Oh, ho, the jolly humor of enhanced interrogation! What fun and folly!
But her latest piece is, quite possibly, the stupidest thing a mass media network has put out in the name of news in the history of mankind, and yes, I'm including the "terrorist fist jab" on that roster. It begins with her usual weighty discussion of recipe plagarism by spouses of presidential candidates, so light and airy that you could use it to get the Hindenburg across the Atlantic. And then she gets to Michelle Obama's shortbread cookies, and points out, due to the presence of dried fruit, that it is an "elitist cookie." She mentions how the cookies are elitist not once, not twice, but four times in the span of thirty seconds.
It. Is. A. Mother. Fucking. Cookie. It's a small pastry that has been produced for many centuries, designed for when we want a sugary snack but don't want to buy an entire cake. It can contain ingredients from chocolate chips to peanut butter to oatmeal to raspberry jelly to, in areas where the FDA is especially lax, rat turds. It is not a goddamn symbol of status or wealth, nor should it be treated as such by any self-respecting individual.
But the media, which seems to have thrown self-respect overboard like pants on a nudist cruise, has already written its narrative. Obama is an elitist. If he sucks at bowling, he's an elitist. If he drinks orange juice, he's an elitist. If he isn't the kind of person who would be seen at a non-existent Applebee's salad bar, he's an elitist. And if he eats cookies with "weird" dried fruit -- you know, I hear hippies eat that to add flavor to the souls of infants! -- then he is a super elitist. It will be repeated again, and again, and again until Obama dies, at which someone will write an obituary that says "Barack Obama, Noted Out-Of-Touch Sissy, Dead."
I just wonder how Jeannie Moos can find the resolve to turn in a piece like that, look herself in the mirror, and not promptly get sick.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
So White, You Need Special Sunglasses To Look At Them
Professional white person Mary Battiata has written an article for the Huffington Post on how the election of Barack Obama could possibly kill the "bling" and "gangsta" styles amongst black youth. Slate columnist and noted racial theorist Mickey Kaus chimes in, hoping that Obama's cultural revolution also puts the boot to the neck of hip-hop and stomps hard.
Now, see, there's one flaw in this idea: black people are, well, people. They are not a hive mind. The style and subculture that Battiata and Kaus look at like a rotting carcass on a desert highway is most popular amongst inner city people who have come from poverty. To say the election of a black multimillionaire will launch off a cultural shift that will completely demolish the way of life clung to by working class black people is like saying the election of a rich white person would destroy the hippies, or the punks, or the skinheads.
Actually, scratch that. Reading over Mickey Kaus's post, that's exactly what I'd expect him to think. Yup, let's wipe out hip-hop! Out with Public Enemy! Down with Mos Def! Goodbye to political, activist rap that shares the same genre as songs about bitches and bling! Drop the bomb! Exterminate the brutes!
Monday, June 16, 2008
Liberty Is A Scary, Scary Thing
A combination of a slightly hectic schedule and my Internet connection being hit with some strange wasting disease that reduces it to sub-DSL speeds has left me probably the last person to comment on the recent Boumediene v. Bush decision, where the Supreme Court found 5-4 that the right to habeas corpus extends to detainees. Keep in mind that the Supreme Court is not making new law here, but effectively reasserting old law by declaring the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which codified the denial of habeas corpus to detainees, to be unconstitutional.
I want you to remember that word -- "detainees." Because, as has been mentioned again, and again, and again, the prisoners at Guantanamo are not prisoners of war. They are placed into a special category created by the Pentagon that puts them somewhere between common criminals and prisoners of war, but denies them the full rights of either. Unlike criminals, they are denied the right to fair representation and the right to a speedy trial, with some having been in Guantanamo for six years without charges brought against them. Unlike prisoners of war, there is no rock-solid guarantee that they will not be tortured. The executive branch attempted to create a new category for them, the legislature backed them up at points, and the judicial branch has, once again, restored some of their rights.
So, how are the cheerleaders of this great plan taking the recent decision? They are throwing what could best be described as a shit fit. John McCain, who stood up for the rights of detainees until he decided it wasn't politically expedient, declared the ruling "one of the worst decisions in the history of this country". Newt Gingrich answers the inevitable question McCain's opinion raises -- "What, worse than Dred Scott?" -- with the answer that yes, it is worse than Dred Scott, and will likely cost us a city. But this is nothing compared to Lindsey Graham, who has honestly suggested proposing a constitutional amendment that would derail the decision.
Just look at some of the rhetoric on display. "Smugglers with nuclear bombs." "They get better treatment than the Nazis did." There is again, as always, this attempt to cast the detainees at Guantanamo Bay as boogeymen that must be locked in the deepest, darkest closet, all in the name of freedom. This rhetoric ignores the fact that the Nazis had the rights they did because those rights were codified by international law instead of existing in some sort of legal limbo, and that hundreds of the detainees at Guantanamo were likely innocent men set up by tribal leaders and local authorities in the name of rewards and revenge. But all those who follow the current administration's dogma want you to know that they're truly dangerous men, so dangerous that we must lop off a piece of the Constitution to make sure that they never harm us again.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Why Not Just Use "Ho"?
Yeah, remember what I said yesterday about how this election season was going to dig up some nasty, nasty racist sentiments in American culture? Looks like FOX News couldn't stand the wait:
"Baby Mama." Nice. For those of you who are not conversant in street slang, a baby mama is the unwed mother of your children. In other words, what Michelle Obama is not in relation to Barack Obama. If FOX News had any dignity, they would have likely referred to her as Barack's wife. But then again, we all knew FOX News burned their dignity on the pyre of conservative viewing figures long ago.
It's going to be a long election season.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
It's A Great Big Freeway
Have you ever had one of those moments in your life where you find yourself utterly obsessed with something that you know is coming? You know, logically, in the back of your mind, that it will come in time, but until then, there's nothing to do. But even still, you spend your days surfing the Internet, trying to find whatever new info you can. You dream about it. You just wait for the day when it arrives.
I'm going through one of those phases with LA. Yes, I know, I was just there. But a few days ago, I ended up having a conversation with my parents about planning for LA, and after that, everything just... clicked. I used to be okay, if a little excited, about the concept of living in LA, and now I'm just fucking enthused. Maybe it's a combination of factors -- a second job that's bringing me more money, the "holiday's over" sensation that comes with being a month into one's summer vacation, the general lack of automotive transportation (Brother Cognito takes it for his job), and the slow, crushing realization that the end of my time in higher education approaches. All I know is, I've engaged in feats of folly ranging from haunting Yelp to trying to decode the LA Metro map.
Figures. Guess I can't have the normal summer doldrums, like everyone else. I have to focus intently on the other side of the country, instead.
This is a historical election this year: as is obvious by now, this is the first time we've had a serious African-American candidate for president (because no one honestly thought Alan Keyes would take the White House in anything less than an armed coup). Of course, this means that we're going to see some nasty, ugly, racist shit boiling up to the top of our national discourse.
Like, say, even more comparisons between Barack Obama and a monkey. And, in an extra special bout of sensitivity, these shirts were sent to black civil rights groups. What say you, fuckstick?
His name is Kelly Newcom of Ash Flat, Ark., who insists, "It's not a racial thing."
"I was extremely vexed over the fact that individuals who have no idea who I am and no idea what my motives were to sit and accuse me of being a racist," Newcom said in an e-mail, adding, "I am far from it and I care not what race, sex, or religion a person is."
Except for when you want to make a funny joke by comparing them to a monkey, huh? But he swears, he's not the one engaging in racial antagonism:
Newcom made the shirts, he says, to protest what he sees as a disparity between minority organizations and white groups. "Why are the minority groups allowed to have these organizations? Just let a white organization be formed and it causes an uproar. Just try finding a white one on the net, listen to the crickets chirp."
I'm going to explain this very slowly: because white people, as a racial group, have not been uniformly fucked over by the people in charge of this nation. White people, as a whole, were not dragged here for forced labor, kept from voting, owning property, and literacy, or targeted for execution when they tried to attain any of these things. White people, as a whole, were not moved off of their lands en masse in a forced march for convenience's sake. White people, as a whole, were not barred entirely from immigrating or thrown in internment camps due to racial paranoia while their neighbors picked through their belongings. These little kinks in their family histories have put some of them at a position that may be considered, well, unprivileged, and these organizations work to make sure that their is some sense of parity. Yes, it does suck that there aren't more organizations that cater to the disadvantaged of all racial stripes, but white people, on the whole, have had a shitload more opportunities in the grand history of these United States.
Like I said, this election season is going to dig up a lot of racial enmity and ignorance. Hopefully, we can take steps to either drag it out into the light or to correct people's misconceptions.
Monday, June 09, 2008
"Sorry, Wendy, I Just Don't Trust Anything That Bleeds For Five Days And Doesn't Die."
As a male, I will never experience a menstrual cycle unless I take some really, really weird drugs. Then again, neither will most advertising executives. As a result, I've often heard women bitch out some of the really stupid advertisements for pads, tampons, and pain relievers, with slogans like, "Have a happy period."
And, while it does me (and other feminists) good to see Midol treating a period like, well, a pain... isn't the slogan, "Reverse The Curse" a bit too much? I'm not just saying this as a Red Sox fan, but as someone who realizes just how far back the perception of menstruation as "unholy" goes. There are actually passages in Leviticus about how a woman has to be put in a tent out back when she's having her period.
Yeah, it's not that big a deal in the long run. But still, you'd think that, after decades of marketing this stuff to woman, all the advertisers involved could reach a nice middle ground between "nothing at all" and "womb-rending horror from the Abyss."
Friday, June 06, 2008
Me Am So Dumb
Is America a nation of idiots?
I'm not asking this out of despair, though that tone has been known to grace the statement whenever I see they've made another season of Dancing With The Stars. I'm asking this out of anger, the same way one would ask, "What do they think we are, cowards?" Because I've seen this pattern popping up again and again, the idea that the average American doesn't have a brain in his head. But it ain't that "anti-American" sentiment that we were told was en vogue right around the time Iraq pissed away all the good will America had accrued after 9/11. No; I'm seeing it come from within, from the people who claim to represent America and its people.
Seeing it come out of Chris Matthews's mouth is one thing -- his style of journalism seems to feed on petty factionalism. But -- and I know I'm late to the party on this one -- to hear Paul Begala, who claims to speak for Hillary Clinton, say that candidates need to steer away from "eggheads", is just another insult entirely. Is this the common American to these people? I understand that the current economic situation and the systematic deconstruction of financial aid have made it hard for working class students to attend college, but to mark the common American as someone who stays away from higher education and, worse, intellectual exercise? Is this what people like Matthews and Begala think the average American is like?
The American people are not idiots. They just need the right information. And as long as people like Matthews and Begala continue to think of Americans as people who need to be spoken down to, then they'll fail to get it.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
He's Nothing Like The Peasants In My Own Mind
I have said it before, and I will say it again, if only because I don't think there's truly a way to put my full meaning behind these words unless I have the vocal cords of Black Bolt: Cut the "elitist" crap. I mean, honestly, it's entering self-parody by this point. We have the hard-bitten, blue collar workers of CNN and MSNBC constantly pontificating on whether or not Obama is out of touch with "the common man." Again I ask, who is the common man, and which of you has honestly spent a solid amount of time in his presence?
Of course, leave it to David Brooks to drive it to the point of self-parody, by claiming that Obama wouldn't fit in naturally at an Applebee's salad bar. First of all, yes, because I'm sure Brooks spends all his time eating at Applebee's on the dime of the New York Times, which is truly the paper of the proletariat. Second of all, as many people who have actually been inside an Applebee's have noted, Applebee's doesn't have a salad bar.
I've said it before, I'll say it again: Fuck your memetics. Next time you're talking to the members of Steelworkers 503 (you know, around the time when the rivers turn to blood), ask them whether they care about the candidate who supports universal health care or the candidate who eats at T.G.I. Friday's. You might be surprised by the answer.
Yes He Can
After months of campaigning, months of in-fighting, months of slander campaigns, months of meaningless debates over orange juice and bowling scores, Barack Obama has netted enough delegates for the Democratic Party nomination. By this point, the nomination's practically in the bag.
Now, I'm not pretending that Obama is some grand liberal messiah who will radically restructure politics as we know it. He's a left-centrist candidate who's said he'll accept prominent Republicans in his cabinet, after all. But I'm not asking for a gigantic tidal change. I'm asking for someone who can set this nation on the right path again. Someone who can get us out of Iraq. Someone who will close Guantanamo Bay. Someone who will put an end to legally-mandated torture. Someone who can clean up the mess left by the Bush Administration. And I believe Barack Obama is that person.
Besides, this is one hell of a milestone. First official black candidate for President of the United States. Here's to making history.
Sunday, June 01, 2008
The Pod People Have Fancy Suits And Camera Time Now
Do certain political pundits and reporters have something done to them before they go public? Do they have a special kind of lobotomy? Are they made to read the Necronomicon and have their sanity damaged? Do they have brains sucked out and replaced with alien parasites that have had no interaction with humanity and thus have no idea how human society works?
In case you've missed this latest controversy, Obama misspoke at a family function on Memorial Day and claimed that his uncle, when serving in World War II, had helped to liberate Auschwitz; in fact, it was Obama's grand-uncle, and he had helped to liberate Buchenwald, not Auschwitz. Of course, that didn't stop some commentators from trying to drive a Swift Boat into Obama's campaign, at least, until true patriots called them out for acting like wastes of skin.
But, of course, when you've already hit bottom, the only true way to go is to dig deeper. Which is why Fox and Friends, when covering the story, kept claiming that Buchenwald was just a work camp, not the death camp that Auschwitz was.
"Just" a work camp.
"Just" a work camp.
"Just" a place where Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and others were herded by the Third Reich to produce something of worth before their inevitable extinction. "Just" a place where their corpses were turned into soap, blankets, and lampshades. "Just" a place where they were subjected to horrific medical experiments. But hey, it wasn't Auschwitz!
What goes through these people's minds? What bizarre alien thought processes produce these statements, things no American -- hell, things no person -- would say it all seriousness? What leads to someone ascribing utter political importance to bowling scores and mistakes about which gear of the Nazi death machine one's great-uncle knocked off? What madness leads people to try to crucify someone for the honorable military service of their great-uncle?
And we still have five more months to go. I can't wait to see what depths this campaign season has to reach.