Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Controlling Guns

Forget for the moment that we are not all superheroes and bang bang is not the solution to all problems, and if you think your nutty neighbor is hot-tempered now, just imagine him or her with a gun. Let's pretend that a Newsweek contributor has not suggested that the children who were killed might have survived had they rushed the gunman instead of hiding. Forget that some have recommended that teachers and school administration all over American should be required to carry firearms. Forget all that. Let's deal with this one crazy premise: that we all need assault weapons just in case we don't like something our duly elected government officials say, do or think. Don't like that new law or that new traffic light? Time to go shoot the mayor. This is what some people think the Second Amendment is about. I contend that it is not.

As it happens, we do not live in a tiny cluster of colonies, ruled by an insane despot, unable to govern ourselves, taxed but not represented, surrounded by territories occupied by hostile persons, with His Majesty's troops barging in and demanded bed and board with no notice and shooting anyone who resists. If you do not happen to be a madman with a God complex living on a lawbreaking compound with your dozens of child brides, our government forces are not likely to attack your home. Gun control does not now involve, nor has it ever involved since we became a nation, anyone, from anywhere, for any reason, confiscating legally obtained weapons from licensed weapon-owners. We did used to have a ban on assault weapons owned by civilians; Dubya let it expire. Congress has since declined to renew it. In light of our covering the whole continent (and then some) and being well protected from most outside invaders (do you think assault weapons would have stopped planes from crashing into the Twin Towers?  Do you think assault weapons will prevent or cure an outbreak of anthrax or combat sarin?) and even, so far, proving ourselves capable of defeating the forces of voter suppression, no civilian needs assault weapons, and fact that the only ones who think they need them are the very tin-foil hat crowd who should not be allowed anywhere near a weapon of any kind (including forks, knitting needles and their own shoelaces), a renewal of that ban is right, proper and urgent. But that's not what we mean by gun control either.

What we mean by gun control is:

1. People who have illegally shot other people should not have access to guns or ammunition and should not be licensed to own or handle guns.

2. People who are emotionally unstable and deemed to be likely to harm others should not have access to guns or ammunition and should not be licensed to own or handle guns.  We need better mental health services as well but that is a separate, albeit related, issue, which we won't address here, although we may mention it again in a bit.

3. Children should not be licensed to own or handle guns.  Maybe there could be an exception if you are Daniel Boone and you need your kid to help you hunt b'ar.  If s/he can't drive (for which you need to pass a test, and for which you need a license which is not automatically renewed, and for which you need to take classes and be retested if you make a bad booboo, and for which if you use a car irresponsibly you get your license confiscated), s/he can't shoot.

4.  Licensed adults who do not store or handle guns responsibly (away from the grasp of children, for example) may have them confiscated, and may be fined; if someone is harmed as a result of such adults' irresponsibility, prison time makes sense.  If the person who is harmed is a child, prison time should be mandatory and severe.

5.  Prospective gun buyers must submit to a background check (you guys who don't want this do want welfare recipients to pee in a jar; nobody ever killed a classroom full of children with a welfare check.  You can wait a week or two while a responsible gun seller checks to see if you're loony tunes!)   The details of that check should be stringent.  If you are in a huge hurry to have a gun and can't wait, one has to wonder which bank you were planning to rob, and recommend that you change your plan.  This is that "in a bit" moment when we mention mental health services again:  there should be some kind of coordinated system by which people too unstable to handle guns can be found with ease and not slip through the cracks.

6.  Loopholes to #5, such as gun shows, must be closed.  If this means no more gun shows, so be it.   Do we know what should be done about internet gun sales?  Nope.  Something has to be done but we are not knowledgable enough on that score to say exactly what, beyond banning internet gun sales.  If there's another way, we're all ears.

7.  Most gun control advocates have not expressed this but it should be canonized: people who say we should not have gun control because "babies" are being "murdered" by abortion need to be smacked upside the head, preferably with a stinky old dead fish.  You're against terminating a pregnancy that involves an embryo with no functional nerve endings but your solution to dead once-living breathing talking karate-learning craft-enjoying stuffed-animal-hugging sibling-protecting mommy's-lap-sitting abc-learning children is to bring GUNS INTO SCHOOLS?  Where did we put that fish?

Nobody wants to take your guns away (unless you're one of the insane or irresponsible people mentioned above, or unless you're a child).  Nobody wants to deny you your Second Amendment rights, which by the way, referred to muskets, not automatic or semiautomatic weapons, or magazines that turn ordinary guns into equivalents thereof, and which guaranteed your right to take those muskets and join with your musket-bearing countrymen to ward off an attack by actual tyrants (you know -- rulers who are taking away your right to vote, or enslaving your children, or telling you what to do in your own bedrooms or whom to marry or what to do with your bodies), not just people who don't have the same socioeconomic theories you've been brainwashed into thinking you hold.  We want you not to be shot in a movie theatre.  We want your child not to be shot in a school.  We want reasonable gun safety laws and we want the tin foil hats to be unfolded and wrapped around a dead stinky fish.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


To the losers:

Nyah nyah nyah NYAH nyah!

To the winners:

Some of you still serve, or have been reelected to serve, or have just been elected to serve. So far, the Congresspersons from your party have been serving the party instead of the country. You were determined to make Obama a one-term president, to make him fail, even if it meant making the nation fail. This is shameful but you can redeem yourselves. You pretend to love your country; maybe you actually do. PROVE IT. Stop holding the country hostage like the spoiled brats you've been channeling. Be grown-up men and women. Figure out how you and your aisle-opponents can get together and do something good for the country. Stop redefining rape and figure out how to help the country the rest of the way back onto its feet instead of trying to figure out how to help more money into your pockets and the pockets of the Koch brothers. Yes, I am calling you spoiled brats. Yes, you deserve it. Yes, you can stop squalling, stop squabbling, stop betraying the country you've sworn to serve, straighten up and fly right. Don't go down in history as a sorry bunch of traitors. You have a second chance now. Don't blow it. Do your jobs.

Oh, and by the way, he's still black... and he's still the president. GET OVER IT.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Chris Christie and President Obama -- New Besties?

Liberal media (notably MSNBC -- and despite Teapublican assertions, there is not many other examples of liberal media around, just MSNBC, Al Gore's flailing Current and radio networks NPR and MPR) are teasing Chris Christie about his new "bestie."  The teasing is gentle and, in general, approving, even though some pundits are speculating that Christie's cooperation with and appreciation of Obama in the matter of disaster relief reflects his thinking ahead to 2016.  No one really thinks that's awful, or that it's his only (or even main) motivation.  (Well, almost no one:  at least one forum respondent -- not a known pundit -- predicts that Christie will turn on his new bestie as soon as he's gotten all he can get from him.)

Teapublicans have a different take on the matter.

Apparently, it is more important to continue to portray the President of the United States as a monster than to help millions of people in immediate dire need.  Apparently, party politics trump concern for actual citizens, in whose employee our government presumably considers itself.

Rush Limbaugh has broadcast his pretty much unveiled speculation that Christie now has a man-crush on Obama; he calls it "man-love" and calls Christie a "Greek column" for the president.  

Michael Brown, who resigned from his FEMA directorship under Dubya not long after Katrina hit, says Obama responded to Sandy too quickly and attributes purely political motivations to that response.  (Is it impossible to believe anyone ever does anything for reasons even remotely altruistic, or do Teapublicans honestly believe everyone is naturally imbued with Ayn Randian selfishness and only pretends to be motivated by anything but greed and self-aggrandizement?)  

Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller is just as displeased but less virulent in his assessment of Christie's perceived treachery:

"Based on his past support for Romney, it seems inconsistent that — with just six days to go before Election Day — Christie would now suddenly downplay the importance of the presidential election, and help bolster Obama’s re-election chances.

"So what’s up? Is Christie angry he was passed over for vice president? Has he resigned himself to Romney’s defeat? Or is something else afoot?

"At some level, my guess is there must have been a Christie/Romney schism. Anything else seems implausible."

There are several assumptions/beliefs at play in Lewis' reasoning:  1. that Christie is deliberately supporting Obama's reelection, in direct contrast even to his recent statements blasting the president; 2. that it would be better to ignore the president's outstanding performance in this emergency than to let it influence Christie's opinion of him, even though it actually does display leadership qualities in Obama that Christie previously denied; 3. that despite Obama's abilities, it would be disastrous for him to be reelected (well, of course we may make an assumption of our own that Lewis feels this way).  It boils down to the fact that Lewis doesn't want Obama to be reelected and therefore if Christie is honest about his new perceptions of the president, Christie must now want Obama to be reelected and further that this endangers the nation.  He also assumes that Christie is a vengeful sort.  I have no idea whether or not this is true of Christie; being, if I may flatter myself, a good judge of character, I am fairly sure it has no bearing on Christie's current behavior.

How has Christie responded to all this flack?  On Fox News, of all places, he said, “I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested. I have a job to do in New Jersey that is much bigger than presidential politics.  If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics, then you don’t know me.”

I find Christie's politics diametrically opposed to my own, and his previous attacks on Obama about par for the course:  personal, unfounded, snarky.  Despite this, a person may be known, or better known, by his/her actions in time of crisis -- by whether or not they choose (and/or are able) to step up to the plate, as it were.  Perhaps, then, in realizing that his praise for the president is absolutely sincere, as is his concern for his constituents, I know him better than his own party does.  The aforementioned unknown forum poster may well be right, that Christie will revert once the crisis has passed.  I hope not, but I can't say I would be shocked.  Politics is politics.  That won't change my assessment of what's going on right now.  Christie and Obama are pulling together for the American people and all else -- elections, ideological conflicts, party loyalties and political capital -- is, for the nonce, effluvia.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Second 2012 Presidential Debate

This is not going to be a pretty post.  I took notes during the debate and could not find anywhere else but here where they'd fit, so here they shall be pasted for your reading pleasure, whether it be to reinforce or conflict with what you remember of the debate, or whether it be to inform you of what went on because you missed it (though I am sure most networks will repeat it in an hour or so).  Here, then, are my notes, which are unedited, were taken on the spot, are all in lower case and sometimes in less than completely grammatical form, and include my comments when I knew something to be true or untrue, or when I thought something should be mentioned to provide a context.  

i heard romney say he's keeping pell grants.  he's not!  he has always said pell grants are part of what he intends to slash.  never mind he is talking about creating jobs, which he can't do.  he says he will bring them back; obama already is doing that.

obama talked about making tax incentives for those who keep jobs at home, the jobs he's already created, manufacturing jobs, energy efficiency, and student loans, and says let's use the money spent on war and use it for infrastructure.  he said that romney said let detroit go bankrupt.

romney was asked what he could do immediately about the longterm unemployed who need a job right now.  he says the president's policy has not put people back to work and that there are fewer people working than when he took office, which is not true; he cited phony numbers.  he names a number of jobs that he can't actually create. he also then says the president is wrong about detroit and had gm, for example, go bankrupt too.

the president then said that romney had no plan to get detroit back AFTER bankruptcy, called him on his bain policies of stripped companies without mentioning bain, and he looked right at romney when he said it.  

the next question was about a statement the department of energy made that it's not their job to lower gas prices. at first it seemed as if he was not going to answer the question, and he went on, appropriately enough, about clean energy and energy independence, but then he got back to gas prices. he didn't comment on the statement though.  that was a bit of a cop-out in terms of the question, but the question was kind of a trick question to begin with.  why should obama have to speak for the other person?  he told HIS policy.

romney countered by saying there was less drilling on FEDERAL land.  so... why is he qualifying this?  he talks about how one drilling area was closed down and prosecuted for killing migratory birds which were protected (as if there's something wrong with that).  then he lied about coal miners' grabbing his arm and begging him to save the coal industry.  how do i know this is a lie?  because i know that when he spoke to the coal miners, there were hundreds of coal miners standing behind him seeming to support him but their mines had been closed that day and the miners ORDERED to attend the rally, for NO pay!  

the moderator asked obama to clarify whether has prices were the purview of the government or the new normal. obama then disputed what romney had said, especially about his previous statement that coal mines kill!

romney said obama cut energy production leases on federal lands.  obama said that production was UP; the leases were not being used so the companies that had them got the leases canceled and the leases were redistributed to those who WOULD use then, and production is therefore up.  romney said it was down by 14 percent and obama said that was simply untrue.  romney then went off on a tangent about the alaska pipeline, and would not let obama talk, and also interrupted the moderator who was trying to cut in.  she finally did and took the floor from romney and got the talk back to gas prices.  obama talked about what a mess the economy was in when he inherited it.  obama said we have enough pipeline to wrap around the country (or did he say world?) twice.  he talked about wind power and the people in iowa who have actual high-paying jobs doing that.  romney, he says, had said he was against it.  romney tried to tell the moderator the rules so he could answer, she corrected him, and he barged right on anyway and answered obama even though it wasn't his turn.  she kept trying to stop him and he bullied his way through.

new question to romney: you have stated that you would reduce tax rates for all tax brackets and work with congress to eliminate some deductions.  she asked about mortgage, charitable and child tax credit and the education deduction. what is your position?  he said he wanted to bring rates down, simplify the tax codes and let the middle income tax payers have lower tax rates.  he went into some math, and he lied about someof the prices, such as health care prices.  he used the word buried, which he and ryan lifted from biden.  he said the top five percent would "continue" to pay 60 percent, which we all KNOW is a lie; they do not!  he said that there would be a limit to deductions and the taxpayer could choose which ones to use to fill that limit. he could not state a number; he made up an example, which is fine for now.  then he said there would be no tax on interest, dividends and capital gains.  he didn't mention that those things are only really a burden, so to speak, on the top one percent!  he promised not to raise taxes on the middle class and then said the president's borrowing and spending would cause him to raise taxes on the middle class (although obama has actually spent less, and decreased taxes on the middle class, ALREADY).

obama said he cut taxes by $3600 (which is true) and cut the taxes for small businesses 18 times (also correct).  and he wants to cut them more.  but if we want also to cut the deficit, then in addition to tough spending cuts, so for the wealthy, the first $250,000 of income, no change.  he said that romney's allies in congress are holding this policy hostage so they can keep their own tax cuts.  he talked about clinton's success.  he mentioned romney's 60 minutes appearance where he was asked if it was fair that he paid a lower tax rate than a bus driver.  he said yes it's fair because it grows the economy.  obama went through what he thinks will grow the economy:  jobs for veterans, for example. he said romney had campaigned all year on the basis of cutting taxes for the wealthy.

romney then repeated that he only wants to cut taxes for the middle class.  he said he wants to cut them for small business, but we know from previous experience that his idea of a small single-owner business would include millionaires like donald trump.  he then went through more statistics about how many unemployed people there are.  he did not address what obama said.  then he said he spent his life in the private sector.  this isn't actually true!  

the moderator then asked obama about his not letting the wealthy folks have their tax cut and instead letting the middle class have the cut.  obama talked about what romney said in the last debate, about the across-the-board 20 percent tax cut for everyone.  obama talked about how much that would cost and add to the deficit and he was specific about the numbers (about eight trillion).  he mentioned romney's paying 14 percent (not sixty as romney said).  he mentioned big bird but only in passing.  he called romney a successful investor and asked romney what he'd say if someone asked him to invest in something but didn't give the details about how the investment would pay off.  he wouldn't take such a sketchy deal. 

the moderator asked romney, if the numbers didn't add up, would he consider the 20 percent... he interrupted before she could finish.  he said of COURSE it adds up and then cited his25years of business experience, and said that the president had not done what he promised, and said the president doubled the debt.  this would, he said, put us on the road to greece.  he says his deductions would offset the cost of the tax reductions.

the moderator wanted the next question and romney would not shut up; eventually obama laughed and joined in.  

the next question was about females making 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn.

obama talked about his single mom and how hard she worked. he also talked about his grandmother, and got specific about how she hit the glass ceiling and trained people to be above her, even though she was vp of a bank.  he then talked about the lilly ledbetter act (the first thing he signed as a president).  this is a women's issue, but also a family issue and a middle class issue.  he got education in and talked about romney's mention of pell grants, which obama expanded, but he forgot to mention that romney had specifically said in the past he would eliminate pell grants.  he talked about having made student loans easier to get and pay back, and that would let women compete in the marketplace, and then we need to enforce the antidiscrimination laws.  

romney told a story about trying to find women to take staff jobs with him, and he said women need to be more flexible.  he cited taking care of kids as an impediment to having women in top positions.  he talked about employers' making flexible schedules.  he said women have lost 580,000 jobs in the last four years.  i don't think this is true; i think women are hit harder than men by unemployment and get laid off sooner, but i don't see obama's policies being at fault for that. he criticized the current economy (without mentioning where it was four years ago!)  then he wouldn't let the moderator stop him.

obama pointed out that romney's campaign wouldn't even comment about whether or not he supported the lilly ledbetter bill.  he then talked about health care and how romney feels comfortable about having politicians making decisions about women's health care.  he says it's also an economic issue, money out of the family's pocket.  romney, he said, says an employer should decide, and would stop funding planned parenthood, whose functions he described, and said was a pocketbook issue.  he talked about how he provides credits for child care.  these are not just women's issues. they are family issues.  they economic issues.

for the second time the audience had to contain its applause, which was subtle but i heard it.  i forget when the other applause was squelched.

the next questioner said she was disappointed in the progress of the last four years, but mostly blamed bush, and feared a return to the same policies.  how are you different from bush?

romney didn't want to go on until he answered what obama had just said, and he said his policy was that every woman should have access to contraceptives and obama was wrong about what he'd said.  we know this is a lie because romney himself said the opposite through most of his campaign, even last week! then he got to the issue, and said he would get tough on china, and he would add trade agreements, especially with south america (which actually obama has been doing).  he criticized the growth of the deficit under obama.  he said he wants to support small enterprise, and then he said one thing he found disturbing about obamacare is that small businesses say it keeps them from hiring new people.  i think this is untrue, based on what i myself have seen as testimony from small businesses and also based on the 18 tax cuts obama has given them.

obama talked about the job growth, and his numbers are supported by the bureau of labor (which he did not mention it).  he disputed romney's toughness on china and cited romney's investments in china, including supporting spy equipment used by the chinese government against chinese people.  he specified his suits against china, all of which he won.  he went on about china a bit, then compared romney to bush... saying romney had gone more extreme in social policy.

next question for president:  i voted for you in 2008 but i'm not that optimistic now, most things i need for daily living are very expensive.  what have you done?

obama said he cut taxes for middle class families and small business, end war in iraq, refocus attention on our actual attackers, put in place health care reform so insurance can't jerk you around, rein in wall street excessed, created jobs (five or 500 million?) and rescued the failing auto industry... and he did all that.  then he got specific about controlling energy of today and future, and said that whatever commitments he made and was unable to keep, not for lack of trying, he still intends to keep.  he talked about all the things romney's been promising to do which he is now saying the opposite of.

romney said "i think you know better." he went on about how bad it's been in the last four years.  he talked about the things obama hasn't been able to do, like get unemployment down to 5.4% and he named other things, most of which we know the republican congress has stopped him from doing, but romney didn't mention that.  he talked numbers and i don't know all of them but i do know the insurance premium rates' going up is untrue. he said 32 million food stamp recipients have become 42 million.  he criticized dodd frank, which is all we have between us and being ruled again by wall street, but he didn't say that.  he attributed the drop in unemployment to people giving up looking (which isn't true; the bureau of labor has said that's factored in).  he threw more numbers out but he didn't compare to where we were, which was worse!

new question for romney.  a latina!  what do you plan to do with residents without green cards who are productive to society.  

romney said he would speak broadly and then answer her question. he spoke of his immigrant parents and ann's.  he said he welcomes LEGAL immigrants to the country.  make sure our legal system works.  stop illegal immigration.  (doesn't say how.)  says he will not grant amnesty to those who come here illegally.  will not put in magnets, like driver's licenses as the president would (that's not true).  the kids, though, should have a pathway, and he names military service as a pathway!  he criticizes the president's not having put through a new immigration policy with a supermajority (which he didn't actually have).

obama agrees that we're a nation of immigrants. he talks about the dream of coming to america.  but we're also a nation of laws.  he has done everything he can on his own and sought cooperation from congress.  he wanted to streamline immigration to make legal immigration cheaper and easier and faster, and explains why that will create jobs.  he said he put more border patrol and the flow of undocumented worker is lower than any time in last 40 years.  i happen to know he has tougher immigration policy than any recent president and has also deported more than them, but he didn't say it.  he said we should go after the criminals first.  he talked about the dream act children and said that although romney just said he would help these people, but that's not what romney has said.  he said romney claimed to be against the dream act (i've heard romney say that) and that he wants the arizona law enacted nationally (that's the racial profiling thing).  obama didn't try?  not true!  i've sat down with democrats and republicans, some of whom used to support it, but their standard-bearer has told them not to.  he mentioned self-deportation.  let's make it so miserable for them they'll leave!

obama denied saying the arizona law was a model for the nation.  just the e-verification part (i don't know if this is true).  he says obama's answer is no answer.  he agrees to go after criminals.  he hedges about self-deportation.  then he goes on about a blind trust, and blames them for investing in china.  he asks the president if he's looked at his pension.  obama said he doesn't look because it's not as big as romney's.  the audience laughed.  then romney and obama and the moderator all spoke at once and the moderator chose obama to speak.  obama corrected romney and reminded him he had liked the WHOLE arizona law as a national model, not just part.  he said make the legal system better.  but when it becomes a political issue and have no bipartisan support... romney interrupted and the moderator stopped them both.

another question:  libya:  reports that the state department refused extra security for the embassy in benghazzi.  who denied it and why?  (note that the embassy is in tripoli and it was tripoli is who asked for extra security.)

obama said he ordered more security all over not just libya as soon as the situation became apparent.  he talked about romney's press release trying to make political points.  that's not how a commander in chief operates.  why isn't obama correcting this guy about who made the request and why isn't he telling him that the request was DENIED by the republican congress? surely he knows this?  this is the first time i think obama isn't answering right.  he's not saying anything wrong but he's leaving important stuff off.

romney talks about how obama is responsible for the failure.  he is obviously referring to clinton's taking responsibility today; romney obviously denies this.  he talks about how many days passed before we knew what happened.  he asked why we didn't know?  he finds more troubling that the day after, the president flies around for political fundraisers.  i think he's full of hooey; the president wasn't going to libya and can be on the phone from anywhere!  he talks about obama not supporting israel (not true)and not attacking iran (thank heavens true!)  he talks about a policy of leading from behind.

moderator to obama about clinton taking responsibility.  does the buck stop there?

he says, she works for me and i'm always responsible.  he says the day after the attack he stood in the rose garden and told the public that it was an act of terror and he was going to find out who did it.  two days later he was at andrews air force base with the families.  he is offended that anyone would play politics at such a time.

romney repeats the act or terror line and says it took 14 days. the moderator interrupted and said that indeed obama had declared it a terrorist act that day in the rose garden but it took 14 days to dispel the part about a spontaneous riot (they're not mutually exclusive i add).

new question for obama:  during the 2008 convention you said keep ak47s out of the hands of criminals.  what have you done about gun control?

obama says, we believe in the second amendment, but he has had to comfort too many people who have been the victims of gun violence.  he spoke of a woman whose son had been shot.  we have to enforce the laws we've already got, keep doing background checks, keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, but war guns should be kept off the streets.  part of how to do this is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced, and also intervene to make sure young people have opportunity, schools are working, catch it before it gets out of control.  i want a comprehensive strategy.  get assault weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill but also catch violence before it gets to that point.

romney says we don't need new legislation, assault weapons are already illegal (is this true?  didn't we repeal an assault weapons ban recently?)  then he says a two-parent home, that people should get married before having kids, says that decreases poverty, to bring people away from violence. the greatest failure is fast and furious, a program under this administration, he admits he doesn't know how it works, in which assault weapons were given to drug lords and used to kill people, including americans.  it's been investigated to a degree but prevented all information from coming out thanks to executive privilege.

moderator corrects romney that the assault weapons once banned are no longer banned (so i am right!) and asks romney why he banned them in massachusetts but doesn't support new legislation now.  he talks about hunting and how pro- and anti-gun people agreed to a law.  he says we don't have leadership to do things on a bipartisan basis.

obama says romney was for it before he was against it but went against it to get the support of the nra.  he agrees about families, and the importance of school. he talks about games in math and science and education programs being set up to retrain workers. moderator looks annoyed but lets him go on.  then she interrupts.  (in fact obama is weak on gun control, i admit, which doesn't negate what he has just said, and i guess he had a point about the deadlock, which was romney's word.)

new question about keeping jobs in america.

romney talks about jobs lost to china.  he should talk! what an ass, sorry, but he's just lying through his teeth. he will make sure it's more attractive to come to america again.  he uses that silly phrase "trickle down government" and talks against hiring more government workers.  (in fact obama has decrease public sector jobs and increased private sector jobs.)  he talks about currency depression by china.  he doesn't mention that obama has successfully sued china and saved auto industry jobs that way.  he talks about tariffs.  he says he'll be strict but it's also about making america the most attractive place to work.  he doesn't mention that he wants to eliminate minimum wage!  he says small businesses say they feel they're under attack from their own government; this is not what small businesses have been saying, in fact.  he talks about getting back manufacturing jobs but in fact obama is the one who's done that, against protests by romney!

obama counters about lowering corporate tax rate, but he wants to close loopholes that allow companies to move to china and invest offshore.  romney wants to expand those tax breaks.  he describes them.  he says double exports.  we're on pace, he says.  we're pushing trade deals.  gov. romney talked about china.  in the private sector his companies were pioneers of outsourcing.  we've put unprecedented trade pressure on china.  exports have increased under my presidency.

moderator:how to convince company to bring manufacturing back here.

romney: china is stealing intellectual property, hacking, people should play on fair basis.  make america the most attractive place. that's what brings jobs in.  president's description is false.

obama:  some jobs are not going to come back.  they're low wage, low skill jobs.  i want high skill, high wage jobs.  he describes them, and says we need research and education, need to train engineers.  those investments will ensure we continue to lead world economy.

last question:  each, what do you believe is the biggest misperception that americans have about you and a candidate., debunk it and set us straight.

romney says some campaigns are more focused on attacking than making a plan, and president has mischaracterized him.  he cares about 100 percent of the american people and all the kids.  he says he spent his life in private sector (oh?)  he talks about believing in god.  responsibility to care for one another, was missionary, was pastor (actually he was bishop). i went to the olympics to get them in shape, as governor got everyone insured (true) and got schools first in country (not true; 47th out of 50!)  talks about bad situation.  if he becomes president he will balance budget, get us working, preserve social security and medicare, and says president didn't.

obama:  a lot of the campaign has been devoted to my thinking government creates jobs.  that is not what i believe.  free enterprise he believes in, self-reliance, but everyone should play by same rules, and that's how we built the middle class.  i believe government is a good man (i don't!) but i believe when he said behind closed doors that 47 percent of americans considered themselves victims and wouldn't take responsibility, who was he talking about?  veterans, students, workers, people working hard every day, paying payroll taxes, gas taxes, and don't make enough.  i want to fight for them. that's what i've been doing.  g.i. bill wasn't a handout; that advanced the whole country and i want the next generation to have those advantages.

the end!


There you have it.  This was my debate experience.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

New Federalist Paper

Let's talk about federalism vs. states' rights.  Tonight, in a debate in which Mitt Romney lied through his teeth, a fact only evident to those who have been paying attention all year to what he's been saying, Romney pushed for states' rights at every turn.  Health care:  let's do it state by state.  Education:  none of the federal government's business.  He intends, he says, to create lots of jobs, so I guess there is something he leaves to the federal government, apart from making nice, profitable wars, but he neglects to say how; perhaps in the end his intention is to let the states figure that out too.  So what's wrong with letting states do what they will?

First of all, what have we ever gained, as a nation, from favoring states' rights?  Let's see:  slavery, a civil war, conflicting levels of civil rights, including the rights of minorities, women's rights and gender-identity rights, huge education quality gaps, and cities and states approaching bankruptcy and asking -- guess who? -- the federal government for help (then criticizing said government for spending).  Witness Paul Ryan's objection to the Stimulus, then witness his outstretched hand beckoning stimulus money to come visit his state (it did; he then denied it; he then said his staff wrote the letters asking for aid and he just signed them; Romney is not the only liar in this team).  

The reasoning behind giving states' rights preference over federal control has something to do with the perception that states know better what their people want/need/will tolerate, and that the federal government is some kind of enemy to be kept at bay and milked occasionally for what the states can't themselves provide.  This may well be the belief of individual citizens, and that belief may well be born of more than just what their local, municipal and state leaders feed them; especially in the south, where slavery was touted as a states' rights issue, not a human rights issue, there is a tradition of holding such views.  However, there are issues -- usually the very issues in contention -- whose applicability to the entire population transcend states' rights.  We no longer profess to believe (even if we do -- and some do!) that slavery is okay in some states and not okay in others, but it is within living memory for many of us that segregation was "okay" in some states and not in others, and plenty of folks my age were on the segregation side of that battle, in which, thanks to them, there were very real casualties.  In today's America it makes no sense for a married gay couple to find themselves not married anymore if one of them gets a job that moves them to a different state, or for a woman to be able to obtain a needed abortion in one state while a woman in the same situation cannot obtain one in another.  These are not policies; these are human rights.  They should be guaranteed on a federal level and states should be compelled to comply.

States cry "Less government!  More freedom!"  They almost always mean, of course, federal government, and they often confuse the freedom of the citizen with the state's freedom (or one religion or another's freedom) to bully some citizens.  Todd Akin is a (mental) case in point:  he thinks private companies should be able to pay different wages based on gender, race and God knows what else, because if the federal government has laws regarding that, it's not a matter of human civil rights; it's a matter of interfering with free enterprise, which apparently trumps human civil rights.  Likewise, those who consider -- or for political reasons profess to consider -- abortion to be murder (pushing laws that date personhood from conception, or in Arizona's case, two weeks before conception) call themselves pro-life but in fact are pro-pushing-their-religious-views-onto-everyone, which is unconstitutional.  They ignore science, which tells us when a fetus develops functioning nerve endings; they make up their own science.  Why would they bother to do that?  If they did not make up their own science, they would have to admit they were simply trying to violate the religious freedom of others, not to mention the right of women to control their own bodies.  The war on women is a whole other topic, into which I won't delve here.  What I will point out is that these same people who cry "Less government!" want the government, whose interference they would not tolerate with regard to what is expected of a school and its teachers, to control who sleeps with whom as well as every little thing about a woman's body, including what constitutes "legitimate" rape.  Does anyone see a philosophical conflict here?

One has to wonder why an antifederalist would even want to be president... unless one took a close look at Romney.  Okay, not even a close look would be required -- just a look at his record would be enough.  The man has more money than God.  He needs power now; it's his new toy and he wants it, badly.  Of course if he by some nasty trick of fate or through the amnesia of the American public actually became president, his power would be illusory; the Koch brothers will be our president, and our democracy will have devolved fully into plutocracy.  That, too, is a story for another insomniac moment.  For the nonce, let's take his power bid at face value.  Why would he want to be the executive of the despised federal government?  Well, for one thing, he could dismantle a good deal of it from within.  For another, he could command the only part of the federal government states' rights advocates really like:  the military.  What lucrative fun, to be in charge of the war machine!  What warm-blooded American boy doesn't secretly long to blow stuff up?

More difficult to fathom is the source and even the veracity of Romney's seeming antifederalism.  Can it be real?  Is it just something he picked up while kissing the tea-drenched asses of his party's more insane members?  Per the Boston Globe, Romneycare was largely funded by the federal government. Bain Capital was bailed and rebailed out, to the tune of "well over $50 million," according to the Patriot Newswire.  I guess states' rights include the right to beg the federal government for help while decrying the awfulness of its very existence.  You might even call it representation without taxation.

Tonight he repeated part of what we recently heard him say -- that what was good for Massachusetts (Romneycare) might not be good for the nation (like Obamacare).  He did not explain why.  The part he didn't repeat was that he felt we already had good enough health care for the uninsured:  they could be picked up in their apartments (of course they're in apartments!) and be hauled off to the emergency room to be treated for free (it's NOT free, of course, and it's also completely useless care for someone who hasn't got a broken leg or a heart attack; it's not appropriate care for, say, a diabetic, or someone with cancer).  He added (in case you're wondering why I've brought this up) that of course every state had its own way of handling this procedure.

So Romney is, unlike your humble blogger, neither a federalist nor an anti-federalist.  He is, apart from being a liar (and a sociopath), a pragmatist.  If he is running a state, of course he wants as much control of the state as possible; if he is running a country, he will want to exert his power over the whole country, although he may delegate not out of prudence but out of mental laziness (he is used to having things done and even thought for him).

The original Tea Partiers dumped three shiploads of tea into Boston Harbor to protest taxes on that product imposed by the East India Tea Company and the British government; they objected, they said, to being taxed by anyone whom they had not elected to represent them.  This may have been their true reason, or part of it; perhaps part or all of it was that they just resented paying the high taxes, regardless of representation or lack thereof.  We may never know.  The point is, they claimed they wanted representation, which means government.  They were not antifederalist; they were anticorporate.  Today's Teapublicans are antifederalist and revere uncontrolled capitalism, which isn't even capitalism anymore; they're plutocrats, from the poorest brainwashed redneck to the divine Kochs themselves.

The original antifederalists were against the ratification of the Constitution.  However, the Constitution was in fact ratified and we've been using (and sometimes abusing) it as the bedrock of our nation for over two centuries.  It works more often than it doesn't work and I'd hate to scrap it just because some people would prefer to follow local prejudices and incivilities (until they need some money).  I certainly would not like to see it scrapped in favor of the (I fear) impending plutocratic order that would finally be fully established should Romney win the 2012 election.  It would not matter then whether he was a true antifederalist or just a Teapublican pawn.  And how would the 50 states fare then?  They might find themselves just a bit freer than they can afford to be -- and their citizens less free than they ever expected.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Team Romney Not Just Divisive But Dangerous!

It is somewhat shocking that a Romney campaign advisor has asserted that if we had a President Romney, the past week's Middle Eastern events would not have happened.  This advisor also advised Bush; 9/11 happened under Bush!  Is he saying that if we had President Romney, instead of being attacked overseas, Americans would be attacked on our own soil? 

Needless to say, Romney and his team speak from a position of profound ignorance (Romney's first remarks were offered DURING the attacks, when he had almost no information and indeed when there wasn't yet much on which to gather information; the man is incapable of holding his tongue regardless of the consequences); this position has never stopped them from saying dumbass things before, any more than common decency has stopped them from outright lying.

It's bad enough to turn a tragedy into a political issue, but how dangerous is it to turn a crisis into a divisive event when we need unity right now?  Regardless of who is president, we do have enemies. Is this the face we wish to show them: the face of a bickering, nattering child whose energies are absorbed enough in that childishness to leave it even more vulnerable?  That could even be read as encouragement to attack us again on our own soil.  Good going, RomTeam.  We already knew the GOP would sacrifice the American Public for political gain, since it's been doing that since Obama's inauguration; would it really welcome another 9/11 just to make a political point?

Friday, September 14, 2012

An Open Letter to the Protesters in the Middle East and North Africa

If presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, with no actual authority to do so, can make ultimata and threats to and/or regarding foreign powers and foreign citizenry, then I can certainly address same -- and I promise you that my words will make more sense, even if I type them while mostly asleep.  At least I'm not a robot.  (I also have the advantage of not being a candidate for any public office.)

Open letter to the protesters in over a dozen Middle-Eastern and North-African countries:

Dear fellow citizens of the world:

I don't know you and you don't know me.  I cannot imagine what it is like to live in your country and you cannot imagine what it is like to live in mine.  However, whereas I have not seen films made in your country, you likely have seen films made in mine, and since you do not have a cultural frame of reference for them, you have a good many preconceptions about how I live, and I have very few about how you live.  (I have seen brief news clips showing me how you dress, what a street or two may look like, and I know a tiny bit about your country's official religion, and that's about it.)  Therefore you likely have an entrenched picture of me in your mind that is very far from accurate, and I must say that while the picture of you in my mind may be just as inaccurate, I'm not devoted to it and can easily change it when presented with new evidence.    It's not entrenched.

One of the things you don't know about my country is that it's bigger than you can imagine, and more diverse than you can imagine.  That means sometimes the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing.  I'm not talking about our government (although sometimes that seems to be true of it, or portions of it, as well) but of the culture.  We don't have one culture.  We have a unifying undercurrent, and television and the internet both connect and divide us, but we're divided into states, each of which may be as big as one of your countries, or in some cases larger, and have rather powerful governments, and those states are divided into counties or other such divisions, with governments, and the cities in them have governments too.  I'd say that the federal government and the state governments have the most power and that they often clash.  That sounds like a mess but considering how messy it COULD be, it works rather well when everyone does his or her part.  I won't go into our political situation of the moment; it's complex and it's not to the point anyway.

Another thing you need to know about this country is that we have a Constitution that protects, among other freedoms, freedom of religion and freedom of speech.  This can be more than inconvenient; every human being in the universe is not a genius and stupid people say and do stupid things.  If stupidity was against the law the world would be one great big prison.  The founders of our country made an important decision, and that was that it was more important to protect people's rights to be who they are than to stop them from doing and saying stupid, even offensive, things.  There are exceptions.  We can't do whatever we want:  murder is against the law, for example.  We can say ALMOST whatever we want, but we can't shout "FIRE!" in a crowded theatre, for example; that would endanger people.  We can say we believe something, religiously, that most people think is stupid or even offensive, but we can't kill people as part of our religion, and we can't force our religion upon others.  These two freedoms are so cherished, treasured and valued here, OFFICIALLY cherished, treasured and valued, that there are often fierce arguments about what constitutes an exception.  Decisions are usually made in favor of individual freedom unless someone ELSE's individual freedom is endangered.

So when I first heard about the awful, anti-Islamic film against which you are all protesting, my reaction was, "but it's not something the government made or sanctioned; it's just some idiot who did something stupid.  Ignore it.  It's not how most Americans feel, it's not how America officially feels, and it's just trash."  HOWEVER, now I know that although my first thought is still correct -- it's still got nothing to do with our government, it's still got nothing to do with how most Americans feel and it's still trash -- it's not JUST trash.  It's calculated trash, and it was made for the purpose of causing you to riot.  In this it has succeeded.

The maker of the film has told various people different lies about his own identity (given several names, called himself an Israeli, which it appears now that he is not); told his actors lies about the intent of the film (dubbed different dialogue in to change the actual story, which was originally not even about the Prophet Muhammed -- and the actors say they are very angry about being fooled); told various people different lies about who financed the film and how much it cost to make (he said it was financed by Jews and cost millions of dollars; it probably cost about $60,000 and was financed by the filmmaker's Christian relatives in... now I forget, Syria or Lebanon, pardon me for forgetting which country).  I don't even know if the filmmaker was American.  I'm thinking he probably was.  That doesn't mean America approved of or benefits from what he did.  In fact we very much failed to benefit.  We have just had four Americans murdered in Libya.

Anyway, the film apparently was transported to the U.K. and there translated and dubbed into Arabic, then broadcast for your viewing displeasure.  Why would it be dubbed into Arabic? It was obviously intended to be viewed by you, with a predictable reaction.  So now I am thinking (and I do not work for the government so I don't know for sure) that this does after all involve an actual crime, and that our government is investigating this not just to find out who made such a stupid film, but to find out who deliberately provoked anti-American feeling and actions in your countries.  This has to be a federal crime.  I don't know how long it takes to investigate such things but I do know it's not as simple as going to the filmmaker's house and slapping handcuffs on him.  This appears to be much bigger than that.

SOMEONE wanted this film to be made in order to provoke you to violent protest.  SOMEONE wanted the Arabic world to explode into violent anti-American action.  That someone was not necessarily the filmmaker; he was just a tool (a loathesome racist tool).  It was certainly not the United States government.  I don't think it was any of the governments of your countries either.  Al Qaeda?  Friends of Al Qaeda?  I am not privy to that but it sounds likely to me.

Now you may have heard that we have some crazy folks here, some of them elected officials, who say stupid racist anti-Islamic things.  Yes, that's right.  And intelligent people think these particular officials are morons.  We don't know how they got elected but we're certainly campaigning to get them UNelected.  We do this peacefully.  That's how we're supposed to do it.  We have crazy violent folks too; those folks get arrested and tried and imprisoned.  That's not how we're supposed to do things here and for the most part it's not how we do things here.  But back to the elected officials saying stupid racist stuff and calling for the burning of the Koran and suchlike.  Do not be fooled into thinking they represent our nation, or the majority of our people, or our federal government.  We have an election coming up.  Opponents are trying to discredit one another.  SOME (not all) of them will do or say ANYTHING, not matter how rude, indiscreet, harmful, untrue or all of the above those things might be.  Ignore them.  They're losers.  We're working on it.  

Are most Americans fond of you right now?  No!  We don't know what you're doing; you're scaring us.  We don't all have full information either.  I sure don't (though I seem to have more than some of the people I know).  We see people attacking our embassies and asking us to DO SOMETHING about this film.  You can't see us doing something even though our government actually is; we're not going to do the "something" you want us to do.  We're not going to make people stop saying what they believe even if what they believe is stupid and offensive.  We're not going to remove our people's freedom of speech, freedom of religion or other freedoms.  But our government IS investigating how this film came to be more than just a piece of trash that no one ever saw and that fell into obscurity and didn't manage to harm anyone.  How did this happen?  We're working on it.  We want to do it RIGHT.

Do most Americans HATE you?  No!  We don't know you.  Please don't make your anger the basis on which we judge you.  Please show us that you understand that America didn't make this film and this film doesn't reflect America.  Please give us a chance to find out who turned it into something volatile and bring that person or those persons to justice.

Best wishes for your health, happiness and satisfaction in this matter, and for your understanding of why that satisfaction might come from a better solution than, say, hanging the filmmaker; best wishes for peace between and among us and our nations,

Gail M Feldman

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Higher Education -- Do We Need More College Graduates?

I'm listening to public television (as if it were radio) and the current broadcast, actually about to end, is a debate on whether the United States needs more college graduates in order to remain an economic power.  The people who say no have some interesting reasons for thinking we don't.  They say such things as:  not everyone is capable of getting through college; college students don't spend enough time studying and colleges are too much like country clubs (promoting hedonistic behavior); colleges have slipped in their educational standards; not every job requires a college education; colleges exist in order to separate the brightest from the less bright.  I find these attitudes a bit depressing, since they reflect, to me at least, the following:  the belief that education is only for the purpose of getting jobs (albeit the actual question is phrased to lead one to believe that's the issue); the belief that only those likely to succeed should be granted permission to try; the premise that if colleges are not up to snuff, the solution is to send fewer people; the premise that if college students tend to be lazy, college is a worthless institution.

I don't buy any of these beliefs or premises.  I never thought of my higher education as being for the purpose of getting a job.  It can be; doctors have to go to medical school; laywers have to go to law school.  The professions have education that goes beyond mere training.  Most "jobs" require, at best, training, and there are schools just for that too.  It doesn't hurt for a future hamburger flipper to go to college, and it may not be a waste of that person's money and energies to get an education no matter where, if at all, in the work force that person lands.  Personal growth is not all geared toward vocation.  I have no idea what kind of education the fabulous tenor Alfie Boe had, but I think he was selling cars before he was discovered.  Whatever his education was, would it have been wasted if he never had been discovered, and kept selling cars, and sang for his own pleasure, and learned different languages in order to be able to sing opera, and enjoyed his deep knowledge of musical matters?  (Yeah I know he's not American and we're talking about the United States here, or at least the program was; and yes I did say the issue concerns our being an economic power.  So some American guy selling cars and humming Verdi probably doesn't contribute enough to our economic power to satisfy people who think that's all college is for.  Maybe it's the question with which I should take issue!  But it is what it is, and I'll try to consider it.  I consider it thusly:  people who grow personally make different judgments about the world than people who do not become self-aware, or aware of those around them in liberal ways, and I am not speaking politically -- there is a reason why colleges offer liberal arts programs.  we hear reference to being "well rounded." That means having an education liberal in its scope and not focused on just one discipline.  It's a big world and a liberal education better prepares a person to understand it in a wider context.  Again, liberal here is not the opposite of conservative; it is the opposite of narrow.  Well, the liberal arts student is unlikely to get a job that uses every single aspect of his or her formal education, but more importantly, s/he has learned how to learn, and that is very valuable in any profession, even in any job, however menial.  iIt makes that person an asset to his or her country however s/he interacts with its economic system.

As for not everyone's being able to get through college:  we have the SAT and other aptitude tests that winnow out less qualified applicants, but to winnow them out because we don't have enough classes, because college is too expensive, because our high schools suck so badly that kids with potential have their potential squashed or ignored, or because we simply don't think everyone deserves a chance to try, is unconscionable.  No one, even granting the hugest scholarship to the brightest-looking overachiever, can guarantee graduation.  If a kid is willing and if we can give him or her the means to try, there is no reason to say "s/he doesn't need to go to college."  I have a dear, dear friend who was told, in high school, that she should not shoot for college, since, due to the color of her skin, she was destined to be a maid anyway.  She is one of the most intelligent people I know and the counselor who told her that, I can safely say without having met him or her, was an idiot.

I have to admit I did not study in college.  I did not know how.  The schools I attended did not teach me how to study; they mostly wanted me to memorize stuff and I was undisciplined enough not to want to do that.  (I did memorize the names of all the bones of the body in order to pass a summer biology class, since I'd failed it during the year.  In general, I prefer to understand things.)  Nonetheless, I learned a lot, much of which had nothing to do with the courses I took (some of which, I admit, were also valuable).  Country club?  I don't think so!  A place with some measure of personal freedom so that a young adult can explore and experiment and learn how to learn?  Absolutely!  Does everyone take advantage of that?  Absolutely not.  Does that mean artificial restrictions should be placed upon who may try for higher education?  Absolutely not.

Does higher education, like primary and secondary education, need work?  It sure does.  I don't think abolishing unions so that teachers earn even less than they do now makes any sense.  Teachers are already underpaid and undervalued, and every time a kid fails a test, whose fault is it?  The teacher's!  (And sometimes it is; teachers also suffer from their own imperfect educations!)  Schools need to hire good teachers, and to hire and keep them, schools need to pay and care for teachers properly.  Unions exist to make sure that happens.  Be all that as it may, the fact that  we need to work on that issue is not any kind of excuse for holding some students back, or for not trying our best to make higher education accessible to everyone who is willing to reach for it.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, In and Out of Time

I spend way too much time on YouTube.  I make playlists to which I listen in lieu of the radio, and sometimes I go exploring hither and yon, be it for music, old movies, interviews or instruction (although I will, I fear, never perfect the art of making pie crust).  One day not terribly long ago I happened upon the extended version -- the version I remember -- of the staircase scene from "The Little Colonel," starring (never mind what the credits say) Bill Robinson and Shirley Temple.  Along with the clip itself I found a heated argument about racism, stereotypes and all manner of related issues and nonissues.

Since I had feelings and opinions of my own on the subject, and since not all of them had coalesced into coherency, I decided to respond -- and then found my response by far exceeded the permitted length of a YouTube response.  For a while I did nothing, and then it occurred to me that y'all might find some interest in my reaction to the video and to the controversy it stimulated.  Here, with minor modifications (such as not addressing YouTube or any specific denizens thereof) is that reaction:

A month or three ago I read over 80 pages of comments on YouTube regarding a video clip from "The Little Colonel," and since time has passed, I am not certain whether is in fact the clip in question, but I believe it is.  The comments span four years so I have a lot to address; this may be lengthy.

It's difficult to speak about Shirley temple and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson beyond "wow they were so good" without going on to put them into historical perspective.  Films are not made in a vacuum.  They are made by, and for, people who live in their times, and when we of later times see them, we can't judge them by our times.  (How will future generations judge our output?)  That doesn't mean we shouldn't recognize and abhor racism and other injustice, and learn from it.  It doesn't mean we should forgive it just because it happened a long time ago (and while MOST white people wouldn't pee themselves seeing a black person sitting at the front of the bus, that doesn't mean racism is dead -- and if you're doubtful, just look how may comments upon this clip have had to be deleted).  It just means we have to attain SOME kind of perspective.  Otherwise we have to dismiss the obvious and huge talent of the two wonderful people in this film clip, and that would be a pity.  There is something to be learned from their transcendence of the stereotype (his character is not a slave but may as well be, and yet he is in charge of this little white girl, and if she could even remotely be said to be treating him with disrespect, watch the whole movie and see how she speaks to the grumpy old colonel, whose heart she finally wins) and something to be learned from the fact that in an era in which a black man's holding a white girl's hand COULD cause such a furor, this film got made ANYWAY.

Some of the commenters have suggested reading material and I will add my two cents:  The Devil Finds Work, by James Baldwin (and after that, everything else he ever wrote, essays, short stories, novels, grocery list, whatever you can get your hands on).  The other suggestions are good too, especially the autobiographies.

About uncles (regarding the perhaps patronizing, perhaps affectionate, perhaps both and perhaps neither habit of white folks calling their male black employees or even neighbors "Uncle," which was under discussion):  I am Jewish (so am I white or not?  By my skin tone, I am about as white as can be without being albino; I am hopeless at the beach, trying to tan; culturally, don't kid yourself) and I was raised to call my parent's close friends "aunt" and "uncle."  Would I call a stranger (of any race) that?  No.  But some black folks today call strangers of color "brother" and "sister."  Was a white person calling a black person "uncle" disrespectful back in the day?  I'm too young, and northern, to know for sure, but I'm not uneducated, nor untraveled, so I can speculate.  I think sometimes it was and sometimes it wasn't.  I think a white employer (we're talking about post-slavery here) could call (his or her own) black servant "uncle" respectfully OR disrespectfully, because "mister" might not have been appropriate REGARDLESS of color just because of the relative social positions, and yet the employer might have wished to show affection and even respect; the difference would be in intention and tone.  Calling a black person "uncle" despite not having a relationship with him could be respectful if the black person were older, or disrespectful if said sarcastically or to avoid "mister" (with no relationship, even social position would not excuse that).  It depends, too, what the local practice is for whites addressing whites.  Read european fairytales; children call females who are, to them, total strangers, "auntie" as a sign of respect.  It's not, pardon the pun, as black and white as all that.  There are huge patches of gray.  It DEPENDS.  (I'm still speculating.)  

As for the demeaning roles, yes, blacks could play the funny, silly servant, or a slave in a period piece, or an evil offerer of a reefer in a really daring film.  There is no getting around that.  We're STILL working on that, and only in the last couple decades doing rather well (not so well with Jews -- as performers and creative talent we're overrepresented, but as characters we're underrepresented except as Jews first, people second.  In the sixties and seventies we were either the pawnbroker or Rhoda Morgenstern, and there's nothing wrong with either except when that's all you get.  Look at TV today and tell me which characters are Jewish, and how you KNOW they're Jewish.  Not the actors.  The characters.  But I digress!)  It's painful to watch sometimes.  Take mae west's "I'm No Angel."  In it, black actress Gertrude Howard plays Mae's maid, Beulah Thorndyke.  Her other credits include characters such as "Martha the Maid," "Carolina," "black woman," "black 'mammy,'" "Angelina," "Snowball, servant," "Martha," "Lucy," "Queenie" (in "Showboat"), "Kate -- Mary's maid" and "Aunt Chloe -- Uncle Tom's wife."  "I'm No Angel" is not the only film in which she has a last name, like a proper person, but it's unusual.  As you see, in some she hasn't even GOT a name.  That's how it was.  In "I'm No Angel," Beulah Thorndye is a maid, but she has a name, and she has a musical number all by herself, and it's not a funny, silly one, either.  I am working from memory here; pardon me if I am misremembering, but I have it stuck in my mind that I was impressed BECAUSE of when the film was made, and that she had to play a maid -- she couldn't be cast as, say, Mae's best friend, although she kind of is, come to think of it -- and yes, she had to be funny, and yes, it was demeaning, but somehow despite all that, SOMEONE (I think it was mae) recognized that she had talent, and gave her a serious spotlight in a white movie.  One needs, as i say, perspective.  from small things come great things.

Bill rRobinson probably opened doors for other black performers without even knowing it.  How can one dismiss his role in history -- not black history or white history but just history -- by paying attention only to the fact that he had to play a servant and not to the fact that for three glorious minutes he was featured as a human being and a dancer?  We don't watch BLACK feet tapping up and down those stairs.  We watch AMAZING feet... two pair, in fact.  I'm not trying to ignore Shirley Temple here.  I'm simply addressing the racial issue, a great big issue, a tiny little bit.  Shirley needs no defense; she was a child of amazing talent but she didn't write the script and she didn't control casting.

Those YouTube members whose response to this wonderful clip is to call each other names -- and many comments were hidden, so I can only IMAGINE how unpleasant things got) are now going to be called two names here, by me:  "ignorant" and "immature."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

You Can Only Like One Thing

I am an omnivore; that doesn't mean I eat tin cans, or drink cola, but simply that I eat from all five food groups (six if you count chocolate) and do not restrict myself to one or two.  This simple fact seems unfathomable to a rather large group of people.  It has happened more than once, more than twice, even, that I've sat down to eat in the company of other human beings, who, seeing me select, say, chicken, broccoli, and milk, note, "Oh, you're a vegetarian."  They perceive this by virtue of my having deliberately, and not at gunpoint, chosen to include a vegetable in my meal.  They disregard the fact that I have also selected the flesh of an animal and some of its mammary fluids as well.

Okay, the above seems more a case of folks' not actually knowing what a vegetarian is than a case of their believing you have to like either one thing or another, and stick to your likes and eschew the remainder of the known and unknown universes.  However, I've also had folks exclaim, upon witnessing my enjoyment of, say, a Beethoven piano concerto, "I thought you liked rock 'n roll!"  Now, just as a broccoli floret does not negate the slab of chicken on my plate, a Beethoven concerto, while hard to hear if played simultaneously with any other piece of music, regardless of genre, does not in itself negate the possibility of its listener enjoying other genres.

I guess it's a matter of folks' expectations matching their own mental capabilities.  A singleminded person will expect me to like a single thing.  People with at least two brain cells to rub together will recognize the multiplicity of the aforementioned universes and the eclecticity of their enjoyable components.  There is enough crap around to dislike; why not also enjoy all there is to enjoy?