Pretty Woman Ugly Tweets

Nina DavuluriI know that not all conservatives are racist. And not all racists are conservative. But it’s fair to say that most racists are conservative. What’s more, if it weren’t for white racial resentment, Republicans would not be an important force in national politics. And I understand: we all have our demons—irrational attitudes that we do our best to fight. But too often in this country, one side of the political establishment fosters our worst impulses and makes what should be shameful, acceptable and even thrilling.

Yesterday, Nina Davuluri became Miss America 2014. Normally, Miss Whatever pageants come and go without my ever noticing. But this year was different because Ms. Davuluri is different: she is the daughter of two people originally from India. Now when I think of India, I think of this great line from Roger Hodge describing Obama’s tendency to look at things on the one hand and then the other, which he described as being “like some hyper-discursive blue-skinned Hindu deity.” Other than that, India for me is Satyajit Ray, Gandhi, and my favorite food in all the world.

To most American, however, India is just a place filled with those people who attacked us. This is despite the fact that India is more Hindu (80%) than America is Christian (75%). So after Davuluri won the pageant, the ignorance and hate came out in abundance. On Twitter, of course! POOKIE tweeted, “And the Arab wins Miss America. Classic.” De La Rutherford offered, “Congratulations Al-Qaeda. Our Miss America is one of you.” And Wendy Fraser got right to the point, “nice slap in the face to the people of 9-11 how pathetic.” Of course: Davuluri is not Arab; she is not Al-Qaeda; and neither she nor her “people” had anything to do with 9/11.

There were other tweets that were only racist—they appeared to know that not all darker skinned people are from the same country. There were a number of 7-11 “jokes.” For example, CHEEZ-IT tweeted, “Miss America? You mean Miss 7-11.” I would only note that a lot of convenience stores that seem to be owned by Indians are actually owned by Pakistanis, who are in general Muslims. If these people would just educate themselves a bit more, they could get their hate out into public much more effectively!

Theresa VailMuch of the anger seems to have come from people who wanted Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail, to win. She was in the Kansas Army National Guard. She enjoys hunting, supposedly. She has tattoos. She’s blond. Basically, she’s a redneck’s wet dream. I hate to ruin the fantasy, but Vail is actually a French name, although it probably came through England, so that may take some of the sting off. Regardless, she’s a pretty girl. Personally, I think Davuluri is prettier and looks more like the kind of young lady I would want representing my nation at mall openings all across this great land of ours. But whatever; I don’t claim to be a good barometer of the country.

But what was most offensive in the tweets was the idea that someone whose parents immigrated to the United States is not a real American. Savannah Dale tweeted, “Miss New York is an Indian.. With all do respect, this is America.” (I think we should all “do respect,” but I don’t think that’s what she meant.) To me, there is nothing more real than people who choose America over the land that they were born in. So while the rest of the ignorance and intolerance bugs me, this idea really makes me angry. This is really at the base of my disappointment with America. All the ideals that I grew up believing in are thrown to the side by vast swaths of people who call themselves “real Americans.”

The truth is that there will always be people with marginal opinions. But elites set the terms of the debate. And all of this evil nonsense makes me think of Sarah Palin. She more than any other figure in America has pushed the idea that there is a “real” America. We liberals on the costs are inauthentic. I don’t think that Palin necessarily knows that such claims are racist dog whistles, but I know she doesn’t care. The people who tweeted out these vile thoughts are to be pitied. Their small worlds are all the punishment they deserve. But Palin and really most of the rest of the conservative establishment deserve to be run out of the country. They are the ones who do not understand and appreciate the ideals of this country.

H/T: Richard Barry

Update (16 September 2013 10:49 pm)

I blew it! I just found this perfect picture of Vail with a young deer she tortured to death. Don’t she look happy?! Maybe all the bigots are right: she is the perfect representative of our country.

Theresa Vail with Dead Deer

Put Your Lips Together and Blow

Lauren BacallOn this day in 1386, King Henry V was born. He died of dysentery at the age of 36. It wasn’t always so good to be king. The truth is that what the conservatives say is true: it is better to be poor in America today than it was to be King of England in the 14th century. The problem is, if we followed conservative policy, our presidents would today be dying of dysentery at the age of 36. We have gained much as a result of the free market, but we have gained even more by having a strong and stable government that has worked for the general welfare.

A couple of businessmen have birthdays today. The first is James Cash Penney, the man who started the department store that bears his name, was born in 1875. He lived to be quite old, so when I was a little boy eating a grilled cheese at the J. C. Penney coffee shop (they really had them), the old man was still alive. Just two years after he was born, Jacob Schick was born. He got the first ever patent for an electric razor. After the United States government gave him this monopoly right, he paid it back by evading taxes. In order to avoid prosecution, he moved to Canada. That’s a typical American businessman for you: all in favor of the rights that the government provides but totally against any responsibilities toward it. He died soon after, so there’s that.

The fine French composer Nadia Boulanger was born in 1887. But she is better known as one of the greatest music educators of the twentieth century. A partial list of her students is shocking: Aaron Copland, Igor Markevitch, Dinu Lipatti, Astor Piazzolla, Quincy Jones, and Philip Glass. I enjoy her work very much, but I don’t think she ever got beyond her love of Debussy. But if you have to be stuck somewhere, that’s a very nice place to do so. Here his her Fantaisie Variée pour Piano et Orchestre:

Two giants of television were born in the 1910s. First was Paul Henning, who was born in 1911. He was a comedy writer who went on to create some of the classics of “ruralcom,” such as Petticoat Junction and The Beverly Hillbillies. Then in 1914, Allen Funt was born. He actually did a lot of different things in radio and television, but he will always be remembered for Candid Camera. It’s very interesting to watch it now because it is so sweet compared to similar shows now. Here is a very funny bit with a woman who drives into a gas station without a motor:

Actor Peter Falk was born in 1927. He is most remembered for Columbo, but he was a whole lot more than that. Here he is in A Woman Under The Influence as Nick , who is not really dealing well with the life he finds himself leading:

The great B.B. King is 88 today. He is not one of my favorite guitarists. It isn’t because his playing is bad, of course. It is simply that just about every rock musician of the last 60 years has ripped him off so thoroughly that he sounds kind of generic to me. Still, he’s very pleasant to listen to, with an easy and soulful style that most people can’t copy:

Also having birthdays today: Anne Francis (1930); Elgin Baylor (79); Ed Begley Jr (64); Mickey Rourke (61); David Copperfield (57); Jennifer Tilly (55); and Amy Poehler (42).

The day, however, belongs to the great actor Lauren Bacall who is 89 today. No one can quite compare to Rosalind Russell, but Bacall is a close second. She’s just so great up there on the screen, so smart and sexy. And she outlived both her actor husbands, although admittedly Bogart was 25 years older than she was. Here is a great scene from The Big Sleep, although you really can tell that it is a reshoot. It is great to see the two of them together, but it doesn’t belong in the story at that time:

Happy birthday Lauren Bacall!

America Doesn’t Care About Shooting Sprees

Jobs CrisisYou know how no major media outlet ever reports on people dying of malaria? It is, as they say, “dog bites man.” It isn’t news. It would be like publishing an article, “President uses bathroom multiple times per day.” Yet when someone goes out in public and kills a large group of people, it is all over cable news. Why is that? It strikes me as completely “dog bites man.” Yet the media are feasting on the Navy Yard shooting today.

Don’t misunderstand me: I care a great deal about such things. What’s more, I want to do something about them. I would like to make mental health more available to people. I would like to make guns less available. I would like to make the economy better for working men and women; I think our social Darwinian approach to the economy makes a more anxious and volatile population. I could go on (and on and on). There are many things we could do to create a more peaceful society while still allowing gun nuts to have their guns. Of course we don’t. Such measures could have all kinds of unintended consequences like a percent or two reduction in Walmart profits. Can’t have that.

But just because I think such stories are important doesn’t mean that I think the news agencies should care. I’ll go further: I don’t think the American people ought to much give a damn either. The truth is that we don’t really care about gun violence. It has been less than a week since two Colorado state senators were recalled because they pushed very minor changes to gun laws: universal background checks and magazine size limitations. But unlike a gunman killing 12 people, such restrictions to gun rights were an outrage!

So I think we should either do something about our gun murder problem, or we should just shut up. It shouldn’t be hard. As it is, we now pretty much ignore single gun fatalities, unless they involve a famous football player or other “important” American. I’m thinking maybe we could just set a limit. Killings of 12 or 13 are so common, I’m not sure they deserve much more than a passing reference in the newspaper on page 14 along with local police activity. It’s already the de facto policy that shooting sprees of only 3 or 4 are not worthy of national attention. All I’m saying is that we raise that number up to 100.

I think that’s a good number because I don’t remember a shooting spree with 100 deaths. And that would work out great, because then our coverage of shooting sprees would be the same as the amount that we actually care about them.

Afterword

In all seriousness, I know that most people do care and do want to do something. But as the Colorado vote shows, it doesn’t much matter. After Sandy Hook, polling for universal background checks were polling really high: in the 90% range. But when politicians did what the people said they wanted, the people voted them out. I think it is all about attention span. If today’s tragedy had happened last week and the vote was this week, I suspect those legislators would still have jobs. But it doesn’t speak well for us as a people that we can’t remember one of the biggest shooting sprees in American history for even a couple of months.

Chris Christie is Conning New Jersey

Chris ChristieI was just reading an article by Ed Kilgore over at Political Animal, ‘Twas a Famous Victory. It is about how a lot of liberals are making a big deal of the fact that Pennsylvania has more or less agreed to join in Obamacare by accepting piles of federal money for a Medicaid expansion. Kilgore rightly notes that this is entirely due to the fact that expectations have been so lowered since the Supreme Court first said that states could opt out.

I’m not quite so pessimistic as he is. I figure in the coming years, Republicans will get past this and finally yield to medical providers at least, who do not like the extra cost of treating people who don’t have insurance. There will, of course, be a great deal of unnecessary suffering during that time. But what else can we expect when Republicans are in control? They are going to make life for the poor as bad as possible. As I often say: the only way forward is to destroy the Republican Party.

But there was something in Kilgore’s article that really struck me. After mentioning that it looked like New Jersey was going along with the Medicaid expansion, he wrote, “Chris Christie had vetoed legislation simply accepting the expansion and was preparing his own ill-defined plan.” As regular readers know, I really dislike Christie. He’s a bully and I hate that. But more substantively, he is extremely conservative—especially on economic issues. And he really wants to become president. So I wouldn’t doubt that right now he is pretending to go along just so as to not hurt his re-election chances. I won’t be surprised if he comes up with a reason after the election to kill the Medicaid expansion. That would be an excellent way to shore up support with the national Republican base.

This would, of course, be SOP for Republican governors in blue and purple states: claim to be a moderate and once you are (back) in office, go full Ayn Rand on the liberal rubes who voted for you. After all, even if you have to run for office again, just say a couple of liberal things in the months before the election and all will be forgiven—or forgotten, as the case usually is. Part of this really exasperates me. In North Carolina, I have to stop myself from saying, “Well it’s your own damned fault!” But it is important to stay focused on the positive: next time it will be easier to make the case.

In Chris Christie’s case, it is clear what the appeal is. New Jersey is a very liberal state. Christie has done all kinds of things that the people dislike. But he’s always done it in the same old asshole way that says, “I’m one of you!” Except that he isn’t one of them. He’s just a corporate owned and operated politician who’s watched The Sopranos too many times. I’ve been to New Jersey many times and that isn’t how people act at all. The way Christie acts is the way that many people in New Jersey want to think they act. But that’s because they too have watched too many mob movies and television series. I’m expecting major buyer’s remorse fairly soon. Fantasies only last so long and after his re-election, Christie’s only constituency will be the Republican base.

Americans for Whatever Barack Obama Wants

Americans for Whatever Barack Obama Wants

Those people over at Second City have put out a very funny and astute video, Help Kickstart World War III! It plays with the idea of the Obamabots. Now, I don’t think such people actually exist. But there certainly are people who work far too hard to agree with Obama. I don’t want to mention anyone specifically, but one has the initials one associates with names like “Steve Benen.”

What I most like about the video is that it hits Obama firmly from the left. I wish we saw such things about his terrible corporate-focused economic policy. But this one will do. And it is a reminder that Obama really is the Republican that people wanted to vote for in 1968. He isn’t the Democrat that America deserved after 8 long years of conservative imperialism and corporate boot licking.

The worst thing about the liberal worship of Obama is the idea that we can’t counter him because that would let the Republicans win. That idea is well summed up with this graphic:

Because Obama

UN Says Chemical Weapons Used in Syria

SyriaIt does now look as though there really was a chemical weapons attack in Syria on 21 August. My skepticism has always been based on the Yellow Rain incident. This involved supposed attacks by the Vietnam and Laos governments against the Hmong who live in the mountains of that region. Something bad clearly happened to those people. But it does not appear to have been a chemical attack, even though everyone was certain at the time.

The problem is that a lot of people are harmed in a lot of different ways when a modern war is underway. And it is indiscriminate. One thing I really hate is how people talk about how we never intentionally kill civilians when we bomb. There is also the ridiculous notion of our “smart bombs” and their accuracy. The truth of the matter is that we don’t actively try to kill civilians, but we don’t make any concessions for them either. I don’t consider our government particularly bad, of course; this is the nature of modern warfare and this is a big reason why we should do everything we can to avoid war.

The report stated, “[C]hemical weapons have been used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in the Syrian Arab Republic, also against civilians, including children, on a relatively large scale.” And according to the Wall Street Journal, “The report also found that the weather conditions on the morning of Aug. 21 may have increased the number of victims because the temperatures had been falling.” This means that the toxins were not mixed well vertically and so hung around on the ground longer. This may explain why the attack didn’t have as high a fatality rate as usual because it was allowed to diffuse horizontally. Also, it would be particularly deadly to those hiding inside buildings—thus the high civilian casualty rate.

The UN weapons inspectors made no claims as to who did it. To me, it’s pretty clear. The rebels would have to be some very callous people to attack their own just for the sake of hopefully getting western support for their cause. Just the same, it doesn’t make sense for Syria to use chemical weapons. As it was, a UN inspection team was already in Syria on the day of the attack to investigate earlier alleged attacks. What’s more, the pro-government forces appear to be winning the war. So it makes no sense for them to use chemical weapons. And that’s why I think they did. I can imagine the rebels wanting to do something like that, but even if they have chemical weapons, they don’t have a lot. The Assad forces do. So I can well imagine some colonel calling for a strike. It didn’t have to come from on high, although it might have. The pure stupidity of such an attack does provide a certain amount of plausible deniability.

Regardless, none of this matters. I get tired of hearing about the supposed 400 children who were killed in that attack. There have doubtless been thousands of children killed by ordinary weapons since this civil war started. We should care about all of them, regardless of their ages and method of death. But it seems to be the clear action plan should involve applying our formidable diplomatic power to ending the civil war. What we’ve done instead is egg on the rebels and talk about how we would like to see “regime change” in Syria. I’m certainly not against that, but it isn’t on offer. An end to the civil war would be good for the Syrian people, and it really doesn’t matter what the United States thinks is in its long term strategic interests.

We could also do more to fight malaria.

Just Nominate Janet Yellen!

Janet YellenWhen I saw the headline last night, I was pleased, Summers Withdraws Name for Fed Chairmanship. As I wrote about only Saturday, there are lots of reasons why Summers should not get the job. So it is good he is stepping back. Of course, I’m sure that he is only doing so because the White House counted up the votes and saw it just wasn’t going to happen.

That makes this whole thing a little less of a happy event. Now it is clear that despite Summers being at best a suboptimal pick, Obama really was committed to installing his golfing buddy as the head of the Federal Reserve. What’s more, in a statement, Obama said that Summers was “a critical member of my team as we faced down the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and it was in no small part because of his expertise, wisdom, and leadership that we wrestled the economy back to growth.” Yeah, they faced down the economic crisis and they did a really bad job of it! For workers, this last 5 years has been an unmitigated disaster. I will allow that it’s been great for the banks, but that’s a reason to make Summers stay at Harvard, not to give him a promotion.

What’s most annoying about all of this is even with Summers stepping aside, we may still not get the best candidate to run the Fed. According to the Wall Street Journal, “One leading candidate is Janet Yellen, the Fed’s current vice chairwoman, who has garnered substantial support among Democrats in Congress and among economists. But the public lobbying on her behalf appears to have annoyed the president, say administration insiders, and may lead him to look elsewhere.” Is that really how it’s going to be? Is Obama going to nominate another member of his team that “faced down the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression”? Are we going to see Timothy Geithner nominated now?

A poorly reported aspect of the Obama administration is just how insular it is. Obama has his little boys’ club—And it is a boys’ club!—that he doesn’t like to go outside of. It seems he thinks they are all smart guys. Why would he look any further than the narrow confines of these men’s New Democrat ideology? It is shockingly reminiscent of George W Bush.

This is another test of Obama. If he can’t manage to nominate Janet Yellen to head the Federal Reserve, something is really wrong with him. There are lots of reasons he may not nominate her: he may simply be sexist, he may be unable to bring himself to support someone for a high profile position who isn’t a buddy, or it may be that he’s just spiteful and can’t deal with his constituency telling him what they want. None of these speak well of the man. My advice is to just get over all the personal pettiness and nominate the best person for the job.