Read this and pass it on…

Smart, insightful, and heartbreaking at once:

The Recession’s Racial Divide
By Barbara Ehrenreich and Dedrick Muhammad

WHAT do you get when you combine the worst economic downturn since the Depression with the first black president? A surge of white racial resentment, loosely disguised as a populist revolt. An article on the Fox News Web site has put forth the theory that health reform is a stealth version of reparations for slavery: whites will foot the bill and, by some undisclosed mechanism, blacks will get all the care. President Obama, in such fantasies, is a dictator and, in one image circulated among the anti-tax, anti-health reform “tea parties,” he is depicted as a befeathered African witch doctor with little tusks coming out of his nostrils. When you’re going down, as the white middle class has been doing for several years now, it’s all too easy to imagine that it’s because someone else is climbing up over your back.

The whole column is worth reading…and passing on…especially in any circle frequented by so-called independents.

On the Nose: Jena Bush’s New Job

Glenn Greenwald over at Salon makes a lot of sense (I found his commentary while reading The New York Times online):

They should convene a panel for the next “Meet the Press” with Jenna Bush Hager, Luke Russert, Liz Cheney, Megan McCain and Jonah Goldberg, and they should have Chris Wallace moderate it. They can all bash affirmative action and talk about how vitally important it is that the U.S. remain a Great Meritocracy because it’s really unfair for anything other than merit to determine position and employment. They can interview Lisa Murkowski, Evan Bayh, Jeb Bush, Bob Casey, Mark Pryor, Jay Rockefeller, Dan Lipinksi, and Harold Ford, Jr. about personal responsibility and the virtues of self-sufficiency. Bill Kristol, Tucker Carlson and John Podhoretz can provide moving commentary on how America is so special because all that matters is merit, not who you know or where you come from. There’s a virtually endless list of politically well-placed guests equally qualified to talk on such matters. . . .

All of the above-listed people are examples of America’s Great Meritocracy, having achieved what they have solely on the basis of their talent, skill and hard work — The American Way. By contrast, Sonia Sotomayor — who grew up in a Puerto Rican family in Bronx housing projects; whose father had a third-grade education, did not speak English and died when she was 9; whose mother worked as a telephone operator and a nurse; and who then became valedictorian of her high school, summa cum laude at Princeton, a graduate of Yale Law School, and ultimately a Supreme Court Justice — is someone who had a whole litany of unfair advantages handed to her and is the poster child for un-American, merit-less advancement.

On the Nose: Barney Frank on Looney Americans

I’m sure there are legitimate concerns about the Obama Administration’s health care reforms. No plan is perfect, and the problem of health care in this country is so complex that no plan can solve it’s problem. But anyone who thinks that Republican and Right Wing resistance to this plan is about anything but fighting the president is naive or in denial…or both.

The Dark Lords of the Republican party know that if the Democrats can deliver health care to millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans, the world as they would like it to be may never come to pass. They can never whip up the kind of frenzy over gay marriage and gun control and evolution if people can have access to the “best doctors in the world” because people simply won’t care. After a sound economy (or perhaps even more important than a sound economy) people want to have access to health care and, more importantly, they want it for their children.

I think it’s too soon to say Obama and the Dream Team has failed at this endeavor. As Jason Linkins points out over on The HuffingtonPost, the press is chomping at the bit to write the obituary for the Public Option, and their premature announcement of its death is whipping up the anxiety of the left. This is not necessarily a bad thing if it galvanizes people to productive action and forces those Blue Dog Democrats to straighten up and fly left, but what I really want to see more of is the kind of exchange Barney Frank had with some idiot in Dartmouth, MA:

Obama on Healthcare

The White House hasn’t done enough to counter the all the noise about “turning the country Socialist.” This is in part because, as the New York Time reports, the same network of voters who helped propel Candidate Obama to the White House has not taken on the hard work of advocating for President Obama’s health care plans.

I’m not surprised. Health care is complicated and messy, and it doesn’t lend itself to the soaring rhetoric of a political campaign. “Yes we can” has given away to policy prose that the Democrats have not yet learned to distill to catchy phrases.

What we really need is

He needs to come out with a health care video featuring a mix of real-looking Americans who are suffering as a result of our diseased health care system…in poetic prose…to a simple beat…that kind of feels like a Gap ad… and the people have to be attractive and photogenic. See the problem?

I’m not losing faith in the team that took down the Clintons, but the Republicans are at their best when they are whipping up fear and reducing complicated ideas into easily repeated sound bites, and the media has seen something shinier to focus on–screaming citizens (sometimes with guns) wringing their hands about the socialism of America. The truth and common sense are on the verge of completely buckling under the assault of media broadcast ranting.

This week’s town hall meeting in which Obama referred to the current system as a “Disease-Care System” is a good start, but more needs to happen, and the only way for the media to cover the other side, the side of common sense and human decency, is if that side is more interesting to put on camera.

Until then, it’s a good idea to forward Obama’s Weekly address to everyone you know…especially those inclined to disagree with you. It might be more productive than yet another e-mail about how women are better than men or men are better or women or how black people are always late.

Damon Weaver’s Success

I fell in love with Damon Weaver during the election when he interviewed Joe Biden, so I was thrilled to see that, after months of trying, he finally got to interview President Obama. The questions were good ones, and they really seemed to come from Weaver’s point of view, touching on topics from the painful to the adorable.

Seeing Weaver in his pants that are slightly too long seems like a perfect symbol of what his future could hold. He’ll grow into the suit and into his future…and maybe he’ll get better school lunches for his peers along the way…

On the Nose: President Obama

It’s difficult to describe how annoyed I am with all the calls, especially from the so-called left, for Obama to be “bolder” in the face of such complicated problems at home and abroad. It’s depressing and suggests that while Bush’s politics may have been abhorrent, too many people who should know better actually seem to like his style! Our cowboy culture runs so deep that many of us don’t know how to cope with a president who is methodical who is, to borrow words from John Hodges, a nerd and not a jock.

I would like to blame the press, but that’s too easy. They are a large part of the problem because jocks and cowboys are more fun to report on than nerds, and covering real policy making must be like watching paint dry. But (and it’s important here to recall that “but” and “butt” sound the same and that “butt” is another word for “ass”), we make choices and keep ourselves overstimulated by listening to the rhetoric of folks like Bill Maher, forgetting that first and foremost the man is an entertainer who makes his living by arguing against whoever is in power. He is, as I wrote to a friend recently, a professional malcontent, and a very wealthy one who lives in a bubble where his “liberalism” is rarely challenged. All the analysis, even from those who the left-leaning among us might agree with, is less important than we realize, and it’s time to calm down and refocus. It’s time, I think, to read more books and watch less television, and, I think, it’s time for all of us to remember and embrace what Obama told Chuck Todd during yesterday’s press conference:

“I know everybody here is on a 24-hour news cycle. I’m not. O.K.?”

He’s not, and we shouldn’t be either.

Unpacking the Battle

In literary studies, we talk about “unpacking” a text or part of a text. This means looking closely at it–at its language and form and cultural context–to determine multiple meanings. It drives some students crazy, but when we talk about “critical thinking skills” as one of the benefits of studying literature, this is one of the exercises that develops that mechanism.

I was thinking of this “unpacking” in relation to the California Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the ban against marriage.

I was driving home from running errands when I heard the news on NPR that the California Supreme Court had voted to uphold the marriage ban. I uttered words that get bleeped on television and my happy feelings about Sotomayor’s nomination melted.

I’ve been reading different blogs about the significance of the ruling and kept stumbling upon the logic that argues that the ruling is not actually about banning gay marriage but about protecting the voting decisions of voters.

This is ice-cold comfort.

But according to a blogger over on DailyKos who has done the work of unpacking the language of the ruling, those of us on the side of good shouldn’t feel as bad as many of us do. The post is long, but here is the part that gave my sadness pause:

In last year’s landmark 4-3 decision, In re Marriage Cases, the California Supreme Court decided that same-sex couples have a fundamental right under state law to every single advantage that heterosexual couples do, including the right to call their legal union “marriage.”

Today, the court unanimously upheld the substantive fundamental right. Liberal to conservative, they all now accept it. They construed Prop 8 as narrowly as possible: as a initiative that addressed what we would label these relationships that we normally call marriage. The voters said that we can’t call these relationships “marriage” when they involve same-sex couples. That’s an insult to gays and lesbians and I hope and believe that it will not last. But note what this does not say.

Prop 8, now that the Supreme Court has stripped it down to a bare bone, does not say any of the following:

(1) It does not say that any provision of California law that invokes the label marriage does not also apply to these “civil unions” or whatever we call them — how about “marrijezz”? — that same-sex couples will henceforth undertake.

(2) It does not even say that these legal relationship aren’t marriages. It just says that the voters decided that in California, if they occurred after a certain date, we aren’t going to call them that. This isn’t a minor point: it means that if a couple that has had a California “marrije” leaves the state, they have the right to say that they are “married” and have a correctly spelled “marriage” and — when the Full Faith and Credit case eventually comes down — have the same right to full faith and credit as does anyone from another state who got officially and legally married.

(3) It doesn’t say that the participants in “marrijezz” can’t call each other “husband” or each other “wife” — or that they can’t legally demand to be able to call themselves husbands and wives. This was, in the eyes of the California Supreme Court, entirely about cutting a particular tag off a dress before allowing same-sex couples to buy it. Do you think that the “this is called a marriage” tag is the same as the “I can call this man my husband or this woman my wife” tag? Nope — that’s a different tag. If voters want to eliminate the words “husband” and “wife” from same-sex partners, they have to pass a new initiaitve. Does that start to convey a sense of how deeply the Court carved down Prop 8 today?

I’m still reading through the whole post, but that bit of unpacking is helping ease the sting, if even just a wee bit.