Monday, December 27, 2010

Establishing Credentials

Photograph of Robert DeNiro for Esquire by Nigel Parry

The January, 2011 issue of Esquire magazine is on the newsstands. The cover sports a photograph of Robert DeNiro.

In our family, my wife uses the Christmas issue as a “stocking stuffer.” Esquire is directed at a mostly male audience, so I am the one who receives it in my Christmas stocking.

The magazine is a guide for those of us who need to know what to wear, where to eat, and how to act, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Until a few years ago, it had a section titled “Dubious Achievement Awards” that was laugh-out-loud funny.

The magazine also includes a section called “The Meaning of Life.” It features prominent individuals who have been successful in their fields of endeavor. The participants are interviewed and encouraged to reveal their candid thoughts and impressions on what has been important to them.

The interviews are titled, “What I’ve Learned,” and in the January issue they feature a broad spectrum of people, from Chef Ferran Adria to Yoko Ono. Here is a transcript from one of them. It’s a spoof, but it gives you the style and flavor of the interviews:

Jesus H. Christ: What I've Learned
About to turn 2,011, the all-knowing son of God reflects on his early days — and that whole Mel Gibson thing

By Ross McCammon

Swarthier than you thought, right? I get that all the time.

Frequent? Are you kidding me? Okay, here's one ... and another one ... And there's a "Jesus Christo!" ... It's a lot of outcry. Off the hook, if you'll pardon the expression. It's a direct line.

We've become so rash all of a sudden. But I get it, I get it.

Yeah, 2010. I know. An earthquake, then hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, then the Tea Party, then Ohio State loses to Wisconsin. But here's the thing: I'm. Not. In. Charge.

It's just H. It doesn't stand for anything. Ulysses S. Grant was the same way.

Incidentally, when I'm having a hard time, I say, "Ulysses S. Grant!" I'm kidding, of course.

"Samuel L. Jackson!"

Those given the most credit are the ones who neither need it nor deserve it. Miley Cyrus thanking me for winning an MTV award, for instance — that was all you, sweetheart.

And Tony Romo. "God's plan"? Let me get this straight: God called a blitz package that a Cowboys guard didn't pick up, allowing a Giants linebacker to slam you into the turf, which fractured your clavicle, ending your season — that was part of God's plan? Here's a plan for Tony Romo: Check your Jesus complex, son.

Prosperity gospel? Please.

It's funny: On a philosophical level, I agree with Michael Pollan on pretty much everything. Personally, however, I find him an insufferable putz. Go figure.

They're all solid in their own ways: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and, I guess, John. But you should have heard me in the "Q Gospel." Never made it into the Bible. Lost to time. But it was like a "Jesus' Greatest Hits."

Mel. Mel, Mel, Mel, Mel, Mel.

Tax collectors. After all these years, they still get to me.

Shroud of Turin? Not me. The piece of toast, however ...

For the record, I wasn't a carpenter. I was a tekton. It's an old word for handyman. You need lots of stuff fixed, you call a tekton.

Never forget where you came from. I come from a small town in the country. Four hundred people tops. It shaped me.

A man should have a creed. And a mission. You have a creed and a mission, you'll be all right.

You want comfort? Look to the tunic.

The ones I like: Lord of Hosts, King of Kings, J. C., Lamb of God, Prince of Peace, Immanuel, Emmanuel, Sweet Jesus in Heaven, the Light of the World, the Bread of Life, the First and the Last, the Gate and the Way. But Jesus is fine. My friends call me Jesus.

I have no idea who the hosts are or why I'm lord of them.

Idiots have a way of killing themselves off. Most of the time you don't have to do it for them. I know it really doesn't seem like that right now.

The difference between love and sex? Pass.

It's either pre-Easter or post-Easter, if you know what I mean.

I've been ignoring the haters for years. I started that.

You become a man when you see the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove. At least that's how it happened for me.

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with judgment you make, you will be judged. I'm reiterating, of course.

I'm here. I'm right here.

Can I get an Amen?
Well, maybe that is funny just to me. Let me get to the point of this post.

The interviews can take a political turn. The magazine is not meant to be particularly biased, except in the advice it delivers to its male readers. It reflects our culture and the beliefs of leadership figures within our culture. Here are some excerpts from the “What I’ve Learned” interviews…

Samuel L. Jackson, actor:
When they killed Kennedy, black people were thinking, Oh, my God, white people are gonna come down and kill us all today! All the rights that Kennedy gave us are going away! So they sent us home from school and said, “Stay in the house.”
Aaron Sorkin, screenwriter:
The only political experience I've ever had came in sixth grade when I had a crush on Jenny Lavin. Jenny was stuffing envelopes after school at the local McGovern-for-President headquarters. So I thought it'd be a good idea if I volunteered, too. One weekend they put us all in buses and took us to White Plains, the county seat, because the Nixon motorcade was coming through. We went with signs that said MCGOVERN FOR PRESIDENT. I was holding up one of these signs and a 163-year-old woman came up from behind, took the sign out of my hand, whacked me over the head with it, threw it on the ground, and stomped on it. The only political agenda I've ever had is the slim hope that this woman is still alive and I'm driving her out of her mind.
Ted Danson, actor:
Why is it that we can make our sandwiches together, walk our dogs together, roll up our sleeves and make something in our community better, but as soon as we talk about ideas, whether it's religious or political, we become entrenched. I can't stand what looks to me like the selfish, shortsighted righteous far Right. They cannot stand my liberal dada dada. And we will fight to the death. When only two minutes ago we were making sandwiches together.
Danny DeVito, actor:
Karl Rove's dad was a homosexual. Why is he afraid of that? Why does he become one of these guys who stands in the way of gay rights?
Each of these individuals establishes his anti-Republican credentials as a way of validating his remarks with the reader and letting us know that he is a part of our popular culture. It is a reflexive action and is endorsed by Esquire.

The Editor in Chief of Esquire is David Granger. He sees to it that this point of view is uncontested within his magazine. Should this be cause for concern?

Maybe we can look to the “What I’ve Learned” interview of James L. Brooks, writer and director:

I have a rule in research: The third time you hear something, it’s generally true.

With that "truth" (and immersed in a culture of political indoctrination) James L. Brooks might be “an easy mark.”

UPDATE 12/28/2010:
Linked by Morning Beat at Left Coast Rebel: Blog/Post of the Day!  Thanks, Tim.
And now linked by GayPatriotDan sees the essence in the title of his post.

UPDATE 12/29/2010:
Some readers might be aware that the remarks of the individuals listed above are convenient restatements of the Six Themes of the Democratic Party.  Can you match them?  Here is a hint:

The themes NOT used are: "Republicans are destroying the environment", "Republicans are stealing from our Seniors", "Republicans are shredding the Constitution", and "Republicans are turning the economy into a disaster."

Return to Top

Return to Bottom

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Constitution

U. S. District Judge Henry Hudson in Richmond, Virginia (2010)

Today, there is a lot of chatter around the blogosphere on a Virginia District Court decision by Judge Henry Hudson. On December 13, 2010, Judge Hudson declared the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.

His decision is important because it points out how different justices come to different decisions based upon their political beliefs. Judge Hudson is a Republican. His decision puts him at odds with other recent legal decisions on Health Care.

Take Judge Hudson’s decision in the context of a recent article from Imprimus. The article is adapted from remarks by Larry P. Arnn, president of Hillsdale College and is titled, “Outline of a Platform for Constitutional Government.”

The article is significant because it talks about the special nature of the U. S. Constitution, how it protects the rights of individuals, preserves economic liberty, upholds national security, and emphasizes the need for high standards amongst our public officials.

The Constitution sets standards, but individual courts interpret those standards. Here are some consequences to note:

--Christine O’Donnell remarked during her campaign that there is no language about separation of church and state in the Constitution. Although this is true, federal judges have interpreted the Constitution as directing that there be no public funding of institutions that are unduly influenced by religious thought.

--In 1857, the Dred Scott decision was handed down by a Supreme Court packed with justices affiliated with the Democratic Party. Those justices interpreted the Constitution as designating people with dark skin tone as being property, not citizens.

--In a recent interview, Justice Stephen Breyer, a member of our current Supreme Court, explained the Second Amendment to the Constitution. He pointed out that the right to keep and bear arms can be restricted, and should be restricted geographically! As an example, he pointed to the Heller decision overturning a ban on handguns in Washington D.C.

Justice Breyer clearly believes this decision was wrong. He thinks that if you feel strongly about your right to bear arms, you should go someplace else. The money quote from Justice Breyer is, “Do you like to shoot pistols at targets? Well, get on the subway and go to Maryland.”

Professor Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit has reaction:

Wow, that solves all sorts of problems. You want an abortion, or a school without government sponsored prayer? Get on the subway! Desegregated schools? Same thing! (Why didn’t the Supreme Court think of that in Bolling v. Sharpe? — Oh, right, no subway back then. See, this is why people oppose mass transit. It’s an end-run around the Bill Of Rights . . . .)
Hang on to your Constitution, folks. It’s all we’ve got.

UPDATE 12/15/2010:
Featured as Blog Post of the Day on "Morning Beat" at Left Coast RebelThanks, Tim.

Return to Top

Return to Bottom

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It's Complicated.

December has been a good month for cultural benchmarks.

First, we have the case of Private First Class Bradley Manning (shown above) who is accused of misusing classified information. Our military thinks that PFC Manning is the source of classified documents provided to WikiLeaks spokesman Julian Assange, and that he should be punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

But it’s complicated. PFC Manning is “openly homosexual” and this revelation comes at a time when President Clinton’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy is being debated in our country. The unauthorized release of classified information may simply have been an elevation of PFC Manning’s sexual identity above the dedication to duty, honor and country that is prescribed in the military. (Maybe it’s a mixed blessing, but The Berkeley City Council is on his side.)

Second, we have the case of Ward Churchill who is litigating to regain his position as a professor at the University of Colorado. Professor Churchill is accused of misconduct in teaching and research, and has lost a recent appeal.

But it’s complicated. Professor Churchill has a right to free speech, and as his attorney, David Lane says, “…it’s a shame that in America some of our most cherished freedoms are in the hands of the politicians and bureaucrats in black robes…”

Then there is the case of Congressman Charlie Rangel. He was recently censured by the U. S. House of Representatives for ethics violations.

But it’s complicated. Congressman Rangel is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and its members think that he has suffered discrimination because of his dark skin tone. CBC Chairman Barbara Lee, in a 12/2/2010 statement, said “Today’s vote by the House of Representatives to censure Congressman Rangel was an overly harsh sanction…” and “The censure sanction is a departure from the customary sanctions in other cases that have been adjudicated over the years.”

And, finally, there is the case of Helen Thomas. She was recently forced into retirement after making anti-Semitic statements. Opinion Journal Editor James Taranto has an update.

But even this is complicated. Ms. Thomas is a longstanding professional journalist, and she has the sophistication to keep her private beliefs from tainting her work. Is it possible this is all an overreaction?

I suppose all of the people defending the actions of these four individuals have a point. Controversial actions do need to be assessed with deliberation and a sense of balance.

But that brings me to an example from the world of musical entertainment (h/t LeftCoastRebel):

The Week has a rundown on reaction to the video, but it fails to delve into the cultural aspects.

Here’s what I’m seeing: Listed above are four actions that receive the “benefit of doubt” treatment. The actions may be deplorable in some fashion, but they get a fair discussion in our culture.

Contrast that with the treatment of Sarah Palin in the Gwar video. There is no specific action that is being adjudicated. Simply because she is a Republican, it is fair game to disembowel her.

It’s not complicated. It’s not even controversial. It’s just a reflection of our culture.

UPDATE 12/15/2010:
In an 8-0 vote (with one abstention) The Berkeley City Council has tabled its Bradley Manning resolution for an indefinite period. The council apparently needs more time to determine if PFC Manning is "a hero or traitor."  The council members might be coming to the conclusion that "it's complicated."

UPDATE 8/22/2013:
CNN reports that Bradley Manning has been sentenced to 35 years in detention and is changing her name to Chelsea.  More than likely she will serve no more than seven years at Fort Leavenworth.

Return to Top

Return to Bottom

Friday, December 3, 2010

Identity Group Politics

Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.
(AP Photo by Paul Sancya)

The United States House of Representatives voted to censure one of its members yesterday. After an 18-month investigation, Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) became the first Congressman in 27 years to be censured. The vote was 333-79. Smart Politics has a table showing the vote breakdown

If you go to the link, you will see that both Democrats and Republicans strongly supported the censure. However, with the exception of one member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), that particular group of Democrats voted overwhelmingly NOT to censure Congressman Rangel.

Here’s a statement from Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), Chairwoman of the CBC:

"Today's vote by the House of Representatives to censure Congressman Rangel was an overly harsh sanction, especially considering that after a 2-year investigation the Committee found no evidence of corruption or personal financial gain. Under House precedents, a reprimand would have been a fairer sanction for the lapses that he has long since admitted and corrected.

"The censure sanction is a departure from the customary sanctions in other cases that have been adjudicated over the years. According to the Committee’s counsel, Congressman Rangel’s misconduct resulted from overzealousness and sloppiness, not corruption.

"Today's action in no way diminishes Congressman Rangel’s distinguished 50-year history of service to his country and constituents who again overwhelmingly returned him to office in November. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are proud to call Congressman Rangel our colleague and friend."
Could it be identity politics at work in our Congress? Is it possible that a particular political party in America expects solidarity from its members based on skin tone?

Here is a link to more information on Congressman Artur Davis (pictured above). He is the one member of the Congressional Black Caucus who voted against the will of the CBC. Even though he will not be returning to Congress next year, his vote reflects principle and courage.

That’s worth noting.

UPDATE 12/6/2010:
Andrew Breitbart at Big Government has a post on "The Pigford Shakedown."  This goes into some detail on an evolving story about the political expoitation of race in our culture.  The National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) is a political arm of the Democratic Party.  Artur Davis used this group to work for the election of Barack Obama in 2008.  With billions of taxpayer dollars now at stake, it's fascinating (and disconcerting) to see the political manipulation of groups such as the CBC and the NBFA.

Linked by Left Coast Rebel's Morning BeatThanks, Tim.

UPDATE 10/23/2011:
Artur Davis weighs in on Voter ID laws.  Identity group politics is still a strong influence, but it is good to see some pushback by individuals.

UPDATE 5/30/2012:
More courage.

UPDATE 8/15/2012:
And now this.

Return to Top

Return to Bottom