Gary Wills has a very enlightening new piece in the New York Review of Books about the debt-ceiling/shutdown crisis manufactured by the Tea Party wing of the GOP. I can’t add anything to it, Please just go and read it. It’s an opinion of the American present deeply informed by the American past.
Here’s a taste:
Republican leaders in Congress are too cowardly to say that the voting restrictions being enacted by Republican-controlled state legislatures are racially motivated. They accept the blatant lie that they are aimed only at non-existent “fraud.” They will not crack the open code by which their partners claim to object to Obama because he is a “foreign-born Muslim” when they really mean “a black man.” They will not admit that the many procedural laws adopted to prevent abortion are in violation of the law as defined by the Supreme Court. They go along with the pretence that all the new rules are “for women’s health.” De facto acts of secession are given a pseudo-legal cover.
Thus we get people who say they do not want the government in control of women’s health under Obamacare—just after they order doctors to give women vaginal probes the doctors do not consider medically necessary. Or that they do not want the government telling Americans what they should do about their health—just before they prohibit “navigators” from even discussing choices about their health. The same people who oppose background checks for gun purchases now want background checks for anyone the government authorizes to explain the law to people. This is a gag rule to rank with antebellum bans on the discussion of slavery.
So we have one condition that resembles the pre-Civil War virtual secessionism—the holding of a whole party hostage to its most extreme members. We also have the other antebellum condition—the disproportionate representation of the extreme faction. In state after state in the 2012 election, there was a large vote for President Obama, but a majority of House seats went to Republicans. In Pennsylvania, for instance, Obama won 52 percent of the votes cast, but Republicans got over twice as many seats (13 to 5), thanks to carefully planned gerrymandering of districts by Republican state legislatures. This advantage will be set in stone if all the voter restriction laws now being advanced block voters who might upset the disproportion.
The presiding spirit of this neo-secessionism is a resistance to majority rule.
(My only comment on all this I said a little over two years ago,)
Copyright advocates have long (and successfully) argued that keeping books copyrighted assures that owners can make a profit off their intellectual property, and that that profit incentive will “assure [the books’] availability and adequate distribution.” The evidence, it appears, says otherwise.
Rebecca J. Rosen outlines that evidence in an article at the Atlantic, “The Hole in Our Collective Memory: How Copyright Made Mid-Century Books Vanish.” It’s always worth asking ourselves just what use present copyright law is for anyone but the massive copyright hoarders like publishers and entertainment retailers. It certainly doesn’t benefit the public and now it’s even clear that it doesn’t even benefit the author whose “intellectual property’ it’s alleged to protect and promote.
Copyright law does, in any case, provide a good lesson in American civics. It demonstrates loudly and clearly whose interests our government has nearest and dearest to its heart. It’s not the people, of course, but always the intellectual property barons. We can rely on our faithful public servants in government, when given a choice between liberalizing the law (which would have the effect of enriching the creative atmosphere for all) and making it more and more constipated, to always choose the path of most constipation. Call it the trickle out theory of American culture.
Big, stinking heap of phony outrage story of the day: Rolling Stone is printing a cover story about Boston marathon bombing suspect Dzokhar Tsarnaev and they have the nerve and lack of good taste (which is always the very first phrase we think of when we think American media, isn’t it?) to put a photo of the subject of that cover story on their cover. Shame, shame, Rolling Stone, now every body knows your name (which was probably the point to begin with, wasn’t it?).
Obvious point millions of “concerned” media members and other nervous nellies are blithely missing while falling all over themselves to feel outrage on behalf of poor, weak, innocent, defenseless, little Boston (Shame on you, Dropkick Murphys!): Rolling Stone has the same right to put on their cover whoever or whatever they want to put on their cover as all of those magazines that chose to give Osama bin Laden his celebrity treatment in the aftermath of September 11th did. What part of First Amendment right do you hypocrites not understand?
(Hey, Boston Herald, why don’t you show Rolling Stone the way and just say no to using the Tsarnaevs’ mugs to sell your cheap rag, huh?)
Grow up, America. The world is a hard place. The news media have a right (and responsibility) to make that unpleasant fact known to us.m
No use spending any more time on this ridiculous waste of a non-story. But if you want to defend the “defenders of decency” and attack Rolling Stone‘s “poor taste” and “bad judgment” in the comments, I will be more than happy to kick your ass down there.
Esquire magazine has a long article (available online for $1.99 for non-subscribers) in the August issue by Luke Dittrich investigating the claims of Eben Alexander, a so-called “Harvard neurologist” whose book Proof of Heaven purporting to describe his “near death experience” has been on the best-seller lists for almost a year. (I wrote about the Newsweek article that preceded the book last year.) Of course Dittrich was unable to verify or falsify the central claim, that Alexander actually went to heaven while he was in a coma during a bout of bacterial meningitis. However, Dittrich did uncover a number of awkward facts about Alexander’s career as a neurosurgeon, including a history of malpractice suits (five in ten years) that eventually deprived him of his license to practice neurosurgery and which suggested to Dittrich a possible motive for Alexander to write the book besides a reportorial one.
Over at Huffington Post, Paul Raeburn has written a blog that admirably summarizes Dittrich’s article:
Dittrich comes as close as one could, without access to Alexander’s private thoughts, to showing that the book was a cynical effort to provide a new career — as a prophet! — for a neurosurgeon whose career was being consumed by malpractice suits. He was, Esquire‘s editors write in the deck, “a neurosurgeon with a troubled history and a man in need of reinvention.”
One of Dittrich’s most damning revelations (so to speak) concerns the story of one of Alexander’s own doctors who says, in contradiction of Alexander’s claim that the e. coli bacteria that caused his meningitis also caused his coma, that she chemically induced the coma because Alexander’s involuntary movements made it impossible to operate on him. This would give the lie to Alexander’s contention that his brain had ceased all activity and that he essentially died on the gurney. It would also suggest (though Dittrich doesn’t mention the drug used to induce the coma–one major shortcoming of the Esquire piece) a likely chemical source for Alexander’s ecstatic vision.
Of course, believers will continue to believe, and as evidence of that, you need only look at the comments section on Raeburn’s blog. Continue reading
In last week’s Room for Debate, the question the New York Times posed was this:
With atheist church services this month in Louisiana and New York, nonbelievers are borrowing some of the rituals of believers: gathering, singing, sermons.
Would it be fruitful for atheists to pray? For believers and others, what is the point of prayer?
I suppose the Times should be applauded for asking a question that seems to take atheism seriously, even if they allowed just one self-identified atheist into this “room ” to answer the question.
The simple answer, from this atheist’s perspective, is a great big fat obvious no. Prayer is by definition something asked of someone (or something), and it seems ludicrous to ask people who don’t believe in the supernatural to close their eyes, put their hands together, bow their heads and concentrate on asking something that might theoretically hear their sublingual thoughts for anything. What is the point? Leave prayer to the believers! Continue reading
The following is based on a post I made three years ago at MUBI.com, of all places. I happened to be rereading old posts there this morning, and I wanted to put this one down here so I could think more about it. I was in conversation with someone who had asserted that believing in God can be compared to belief in the future, which, even though it doesn’t yet exist, we believe in anyway. I begged to differ with the aptness of the comparison.
I’d love to hear what others think about all this. Please leave a comment below if you’re so moved:
When last we checked in at DemocraticUnderground, where I posted as BurtWorm for seven years before getting the boot in December 2010 without a single warning, the Administrators had revamped the site and imposed a new set of rules emphasizing the “Democratic” part of the name and seeming to toss the “Underground” part, as it were, under the ground. If you’ve never heard of DU, it’s self-described as the largest “progressive” forum on the Internet, larger even than Dailykos (allegedly). Its politics, however, have been nearly dead centrist since (at least) the 2008 election, when Barack Obama made being a Democrat “respectable” again.
I was curious how our friends over there have been handling the president’s embellishment of the Bush national security policies. I’m especially curious about how the Administrators are coping. These have got to be trying times for a forum with rules meant to stifle talk that disparages Democratic elected officials. Luckily, the administrators can always count on at least a handful of shameless partisans to carry team Obama’s water even during the worst of times. Continue reading