Thursday, December 24, 2009

Parker Griffith Can't Lose

Democratic congressman Parker Griffith of Alabama has switched parties, becoming a Republican. He said he was uncomfortable with the direction his party was taking. Well, ok: since the Democrats nabbed a much bigger plum last year in Senator Arlen Specter, I guess they can do without this guy. Like Specter, Griffith is an opportunist who can see the way the wind is blowing, and figures he stands a much better chance at reelection next year in the GOP. It's not like Specter's situation, wherein the senator saw he would probably lose the primary to a more conservative republican. In this case Griffith saw that a democrat doesn't stand a chance in his part of Alabama in the aftermath of the tea-baggers protests. Republicans are giddy, going after a Pennsylvania congressman in the same way, and insisting that momentum has swung their way. Maybe. But how does wooing former democrats, who obviously are moderates, square off against efforts on the right to make the party more conservative. Will moderate pragmatists win out or will the tea-baggers continue their purge of moderate republicans in an effort to repeat the success of the Regan revolution, when the party won by getting more conservative? There is big opportunity here for the Republicans. Can any moderate republican, anyone who doesn't pass the far-right litmus test, be be able to survive the Wrath of Sarah?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Right Wing Whack Jobs

So it should come as no surprise that I read Field & Stream magazine. In an article on heroes and villains (in which President Obama made both lists) Rush Limbaugh was declared the biggest villain in America for his support of the Humane Society of the United States, which is an animal rights and anti-hunting group much on the same lines as PETA. The point of the article was that Rush is a conservative icon, and normally supports gun rights, but whether out of ignorance or not, he supports one of the most strident anti-hunting organtizations in America, and Field & Stream sees this as a betrayal. Makes sense to me.

The reaction was typical. Several readers wrote in to declare they were cancelling their subscriptions because of the "biased" story. F&S has faced this sort of thing before. Being located in New York, they are often criticized by their readers. One person posting a comment said that only stupid people spend any amount of time in New York City. Another said that F&S's location dictated their politics. None of this is surprising. Normally the only people who post to the comments section of a website are those that have an ax to grind--which is why no matter what the subject of the story, the comments on any AOL News item will always be 70% opposed.

But it does reveal a few things. One is that Conservatives have their own sacred cows and, just as many on the left have a knee jerk reasciont to any one who criticizes Barack Obama, so too on the right there is a knee jerk reaction toward anyone who criticizes Rush. It also shows that the level of discourse among Limbaugh's fans resides somewhere at the bottom of the ocean. Most of the comments simply extolled Rush's genius and hurled insubstantive insults at Field & Stream. Rush may only employ half his brain (just to make things fair) but most of his supporters seem to be willing to give theirs up entirely (one fellow said as much: complaining that he didn't read Field & Stream for Politics, he said he prefers not to think or argue about that stuff, leaving it to the NRA to argue his position for him).

Mostly, it made Limbaugh's supporters look stupid.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Check out the new book

It's not about politics, and it's not about media studies, but it is a minor media event: my new book has gone to press and is available for pre-order from

Monday, December 14, 2009

Some ideas

President Obama on Oprah gave himself a B+ in grading his first year in office. I read this on Sphere and, of course, they had the typical poll "what grade would you give the president?" and, as usual, since the only people who comment on the internet tend to be complainers and malcontents, it was 41% F, 29% D, the rest scattered in C-A. It so happens that I am grading right today, it being the day before Finals week when I grade the last of my students' homework. Since I teach public speaking, I'd have to give Obama an A. As for being president, I give him an A+ for not being George W. Bush and a B- over all. I think that's fair. He inherited the biggest mess since the great depression--arguably bigger, since FDR didn't inherit any wars. I think he has handled the economy well given the state it was in when he was elected. His two failings lie in how willing he has been to water down health care reform and the escalation of the war in Afganistan--but to be fair, as with gay rights, I knew when I voted for him that he was farther to the right than I on either of those issues. I am also, naturally, bothered by the number of anti-hunters in his administration, but that's to be expected too. Makes me long for Bill Richardson even more.

To me the biggest problems with Obama lies in his inability to get his judicial appointments in. Yes he got Sotomayor on the supreme court, but that's no big deal. He replaced one liberal justice with another and besides, Supreme Court appointments are by publicity moments. Nobody but wonks pays attention to run of the mill federal judge appointments, but these are the ones who make the day to day decisions, and the pool from which the justices will normally be drawn. He needs to get those names over to the senate at a faster rate.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

And it's only Wednesday

In a week that has seen the escalating Tiger Woods side show threatening to derail not only debate on Health Care and an escalating war in Afghanistan, but also now the rather stunning developments at the climate conference in Copenhagen, and a week in which President Obama is set to collect a Nobel Peace Prize for doing basically nothing other than not being George W. Bush, and a week in which President Bush, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glen Beck, and Bill O'Reily are all still out there doing their things, the award for biggest asshole of the week has been determined and, and it is still only Wednesday.

No, make that asshole of the year. The year is almost over and I doubt we are going to find that Sadaam Hussein or Roy Cohn are still alive.

The prestigious Asshole of the Year award goes to none other than Fred Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington Think Tank, for his response to Tuvala's demand at the Copenhagen conference that industrial and developing nations be required to cut green house emissions more than is being discussed.

According to an article in the AP, Low lying Tuvalu, which is already seeing its nation literally being swept away, defiantly, and fruitlessly, declared that stopping global warming was a moral imperative. They were seconded by several other island nations including Kiribati, which is already seeing its wells turn brackish and is losing land and roads to high tides every two weeks. They are hoping to evacuate all of their citizens to three of their larger islands, IF the developed world helps to pay for building those islands up. These are nations, entire nations, that are disappearing off the face of the earth (so far the only plan most people seem to be able to get behind is one where the mass of foreseeable environmental refugees immigrate to Australia). The island nations, seeing their homelands being literally washed off the face of the earth are begging, pleading, and demanding--with the nobility that can only come from pursuing survival in a righteous but hopeless gesture of defiance--that the industrial nations agree to a global warming target of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Setting aside for a moment the fact that man-made global warming is not the only kind, and that a greater rise is already probably inevitable, this was a bold statement. The island nations have set themselves up as the true face of global warming, the people who if nothing is done will be left truly nation-less, a new Diaspora for which China, India, Europe, the United States, and Saudi Arabia are primarily responsible. Like the Palestinians today and the Hebrews ov the last two thousand years, they will be perpetual refugees, outcast with no place left to go home to.

And so what does Fred Smith have to say to all of this? Simply that curbs on fossil fuels would be too economically damaging, and that the real answer is "Wealth Creation." If the island nations become richer, in his twisted little world, then they can build sea-walls to protect themselves from rising sea levels (something that will have to be done here in Lower New Amsterdam, and is already done in Old Amsterdam). His answer is supply side, trickle down economics.

That's right: Fred Smith's answer to global warming is the same de-regulation, Ayn Rand inspired, Voo Doo economics that helped cause the problem in the first place, that is responsible for last year's Global economic melt down, and that has been completely discredited over the last fifteen months. Reaganomics. It's like a broken record with these people. Let me tell you, just as all of President Bush's de-regulation and supply side voo doo did nothing to lift the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans out of poverty, so to it will do nothing to lift Tuvalu or Kiribati or any of the other island states. The money won't trickle down that far. It never does. In fact, more often than not it trickles up. Just as the rich got richer and poor got poorer and the middle got squeezed out during the supply-side era of the last thiry years, so too the rich nations will get richer and the poor nations will get poorer and Tuvalu will disappear if the solution we adopt is global supply side economics. The rising tide in this case will swamp the island nations as surely as it did New Orleans. But don't tell that to Fred Smith. His panacea, the answer to everything, is still deregulation, no taxes, and wealth wealth wealth building. And during the Christmas season too.

Fred Smith: the biggest asshole of the year.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Bowl Mania

It's that time of year again, the time when I make a bunch of bold predictions about football teams I have never seen play and don't even have stats on. I just like to pick by name, mostly. Or mascot. As long time readers know, I support the bowl system, think the BCS was a stupid mistake, and don't think we actually need a national champion in college football. I'm still pissed the Rose Bowl joined the BCS. Anyway, here are my picks for the thirty two teams that will end their seasons with a win:

Dec. 19 New Mexico Bowl Mountain West vs. WAC Wyoming vs. Fresno State: FRESNO ST

Dec. 19 St. Petersburg Bowl Big East vs. C-USA, Rutgers vs. UCF: RUTGERS

Dec. 20 R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, C-USA vs. Sun Belt No. 1, Southern Miss vs. Middle Tennessee: SOUTHERN MISS

Dec. 22 MAACO Las Vegas Bowl, Mountain West No. 1 vs. Pac-10 No. 4, BYU vs. Oregon State: OREGON ST.

Dec. 23 Poinsettia Bowl, Mountain West vs. Pac-10, Utah vs. California, Dec. 24: CAL

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, C-USA vs. WAC, SMU vs. Nevada: NEVADA

Dec. 26 Emerald Bowl, ACC No. 7 vs. Pac-10 No. 5, Boston College vs. USC: USC

Dec. 26 Meineke Car Care Bowl, ACC No. 6 vs. Big East, North Carolina vs. Pitt: PITT

Dec. 26, Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Big Ten No. 7 vs. MAC, Ohio vs. Marshall: MARSHALL

Dec. 27 Music City Bowl, ACC vs. SEC Clemson vs. Kentucky: CLEMSON

Dec. 28 Independence Bowl, Big 12 No. 7 vs. SEC No. 8, Texas A&M vs. Georgia: GEORGIA

Dec. 29, Champs Sports Bowl, ACC No. 4 vs. Big Ten No. 4 or 5 Miami vs. Wisconsin: WISCONSIN

Dec. 30, EagleBank Bowl, ACC No. 8 vs. Army or C-USA, Temple vs. Army or UCLA*: (damn Army/Navy game! since there's no way Army beats Navy, I'll say UCLA).

Dec. 30, Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, Big 12 No. 3 vs. Pac-10 No. 2, Nebraska vs. Arizona: NEBRASKA

Dec. 30, Roady's Humanitarian Bowl Mountain West vs. WAC, Idaho vs. Bowling Green Dec. 30: IDAHO (this pick is for dad--he played at Idaho).

Texas Bowl, Big 12 vs. Navy or C-USA Missouri vs. Navy: NAVY

Dec. 31, Armed Forces Bowl, Mountain West vs. C-USA, Air Force vs. Houston: HOUSTON

Dec. 31, Brut Sun Bowl Pac-10 No. 3 vs. Big East/Big 12/Notre Dame, Stanford vs. Oklahoma: STANFORD

Dec. 31, Insight Bowl, Big Ten No. 6 vs. Big 12 No. 6 Minnesota vs. Iowa State: MINNESOTA

Dec. 31, Chick-fil-A Bowl, ACC No. 2 vs. SEC, Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee: VA TECH

Jan. 1, Outback Bowl, Big Ten No. 3 vs. SEC Northwestern vs. Auburn: AUBURN

Jan. 1, Capital One Bowl, Big Ten No. 2 vs. SEC No. 2, Penn State vs. LSU: (possibly the best game of the Bowl season: PENN STATE)

Jan. 1, Gator Bowl, ACC No. 3 vs. Big East/Big 12/Notre Dame Florida State vs. West Virginia: WEST VIRGINIA

Jan. 2, AutoZone Liberty Bowl, C-USA No. 1 vs. SEC No. 6, East Carolina vs. Arkansas: EAST CAROLINA

Jan. 2, International Bowl, Big East vs. MAC No. 4 or 5, South Florida vs. Northern Illinois: SOUTH FLORIDA

Jan. 2, AT&T Cotton Bowl, Big 12 No. 2 vs. SEC, Oklahoma State vs. Mississippi: OKLAHOMA STATE

Jan. 2, Bowl, Big East vs. SEC UConn vs. South Carolina: UCONN

Jan. 2, Valero Alamo Bowl, Big Ten No. 4 or 5 vs. Big 12 No. 4, Michigan State vs. Texas Tech: MICHIGAN STATE

Jan. 6, GMAC Bowl, ACC vs. MAC, Central Michigan vs. Troy: TROY

Jan. 1, Rose Bowl, BCS - Big Ten vs. Pac-10 champion, Ohio State vs. Oregon: (though it pains me to say so) OHIO STATE

Jan. 1, Sugar Bowl, BCS - SEC champion** Cincinnati vs. Florida (The other great game of the season): Cincinnati.

Jan. 4, Fiesta Bowl, BCS - Big 12 champion** Boise State vs. TCU: (This is the BCS buster game. The winner of this will claim to be the national champion, probably get National Championship rings, and will become a huge threat to the continuation of the bowl tradition. and it will be a good game. tough to call. really tough). BOISE STATE

Jan. 5, Orange Bowl, BCS - ACC champion** Iowa vs. Georgia Tech: GEORGIA TECH

Jan. 7, BCS National Championship, BCS No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2, Alabama vs. Texas: (there are so many teams in the post season that are better teams than Texas: TCU, Boise State, Cincinati, Florida, and arguably Nebraaska. They don't stand a chance): ALABAMA

Friday, December 04, 2009

Life Imitates Art imitate Life

It's going to be all over the airwaves the next few days. Maybe it will give Tiger Woods a respite.

A seventeen year old Indiana boy strangled his ten year old brother and then told police that "he felt just like Dexter." Dexter is the attractive serial killer of the Shwotime original series of the same name. In the show, Dexter works as a blood analyst for the Miami P.D. and satisfies his intense need to kill people by killing murderers on whose case he has been working. In this case, the seventeen year old, Andrew Connoly, was wrestling with his brother Connor, put him in a head lock, and then didn't let go. It escalated from there. After his brother passed out Andrew behaved just like someone on TV. He put on gloves, choked him, put a bag over his head and secured it with electrical wire, and dragged the body to the trunk of his car. Then he drove to his girlfriend's house and gave her a sweetheart ring. The girlfriend said he looked happier than she'd ever seen him.

This will of course raise arguments about violence in the media prompting violent behavior in children and, int his case, teens. (my students are having a debate on that topic in two weeks). But this is a very slipper slope. Aside from the moral dimension of Dexter--that his victims are themselves murderers--there is the question of obsession. Like Dexter, all appearances are that Andrew has been psychopathic his whole life. He says he's fantasized about killing someone since he was eighteen. He has no remorse whatsoever about killing his brother. That morning he considered killing his father but decided not to. His brother was a target of opportunity. And, like Dexter, he is psychologically compelled to kill.

So it is reasonable to suspect that without Dexter, or even without other violent programing on TV, Andrew would have eventually been compelled to kill someone. Dexter gave him a framework in which to describe his compulsion to police. Perhaps you can argue that in Dexter, he saw himself on TV. But to argue that Dexter prompted Andrew to be come a killer would be wrong. It's more accurate to say that Dexter is a reflection of Andrew, not the other way round.

None of which is to say that Andrew should not go to jail for the rest of his natural life. If indeed Andrew is a compulsive killer, then there's no way to allow him back into society (and as a teenager in Indiana he's not elligible for the death penalty).

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I don't care

Tiger Woods? I don't care!

Meredith Baxter? I don't care!

John and Kate and Brad and Angelina and Reese and Jake and the rest? I don't care!

Last night the president threw us into a new Vietnam. He is escalating the war in Afghanistan. He is sending us headlong into what the Daily Show accurately called "the gold standard of Quagmires", the place that drowned the British, the Soviets, and Alexander the Great. And all people seem to care about is whether or not Tiger Woods had an affair.

Wake up people! That's his business. Afghanistan is all of our business!