Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sorry Jimmy; I Disagree

I love Jimmy Carter, and I think history will (eventually) be kinder to his performance as president than his contemporaries have typically been, but I think he's mistaken to feel "comfortable" with the idea of Mitt Romney as president, and I think he's dead wrong to use words like "moderate" and "progressive" to describe Romney.

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Romney may, arguably, have been moderate back when he was governor of Massachusetts (even then, I think progressive would've been a stretch), but the current Republican standard bearer is not that same guy... or if he is, he's been lying through his teeth to his own party throughout the campaign: He's gone out of his way to position himself as "severely conservative," and we should take him at his word. But even if Romney were moderate (or "competent," which I frankly don't believe either), it wouldn't matter, because a vote for him is really a vote for the Republican Party. Romney may or may not be "the most conservative Republican nominee since Barry Goldwater," but the party he heads (heads; not, as far as I can tell, leads) is so far to the right that it would make even Goldwater blush.

Pure Awesomeness

I saw this on the web today, and just couldn't not share it; it's way too cool! Check here for instructions, credits, and the code to embed on your own blog.
Copyright 2012. Magnifying the Universe by Number Sleuth.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Gay on Facebook; Commie in Congress

What I don’t understand about this story is how Peter TerVeer’s Facebook activity “led his boss to discover[..] he is gay”: I “like,” “share,” and comment on lots of Facebook content supporting gay and transgender rights, but anyone assuming that means anything about my sexual orientation or gender identity would be entirely incorrect. In this case, TerVeer really was gay, and the workplace harassment he suffered was unjust on its face… but if that harassment was based on the assumption that he was gay, and that assumption was in turn based on his Facebook “likes,” then the fundamental injustice of homophobia is compounded by the all-too-common categorical error of thinking what someone likes or supports defines what someone is.

Of course, right-wing Florida Congressman Allen West doubles down on the error by inverting it, assuming that who likes you defines who you are: Apparently, when West claimed that about 80 Democratic members of Congress were communists, his “logic” was that they are members of the Progressive Caucus, and that the Communist Party USA has, according to West spokesperson Angela Marvin, “publicly referred to the Progressive Caucus as its allies.” SRSLY? Because someone expresses support for you, you’re suddenly just like that someone? Communist Party USA Vice Chair Libro DellaPiana, in the process of unequivocally declaring that no members of Congress are members of the Communist party, points out the absurdity of West’s position: “We support public parks and I assume Congressman West does too, that doesn’t mean he’s a Communist.”

Given how rabidly the American right seems to hate anything “public,” I’m not sure how safe DellaPiana’s assumption really is… but point taken, just the same: Neither what or who you like nor who likes you defines who you are. Homophobic bosses and right-wing radicals, please take note.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Couldn't Bring Myself To Make the Joke

Last week when I saw the headline Sex offender yells ‘Go Cowboys!’ as he’s executed, I bookmarked it instinctively, with the idea of writing some biting snark about my old home state of Texas, and the bizarre confluence of its twin addictions to football and executions.

But then I read the story, and couldn’t bring myself to make even bitter humor out of such a monstrously sad tale of loss and waste.

I’ve been thinking about it again today, because I’m proud to note that my state seems on the verge of repealing its death penalty law. Why would the story of Jesse Joe Hernandez, who murdered a 10-month-old boy and savagely beat his 4-year-old sister, and who was separately guilty of child sexual abuse, wife- and girlfriend-beating, and drug possession, and who seems to have exemplified the most irredeemable of human behavior… why would that story move me to look favorably on the repeal of the death penalty? Surely if anyone deserved to die for the way he lived, it was Jesse Joe Hernandez, right?

Except that the story of his execution doesn’t feel like a triumph for justice… not a victory for Hernandez’ victims, nor any sort of redemption. Instead, his last moments, as the lethal drugs flooded his body, were simply pathetic — “I can feel it, taste it. It’s not bad.” — and ultimately banal — “Go Cowboys!” Howevermuch Hernandez may not have deserved to live, it’s hard to see anything other than tragedy and error in his death.

And so I thank our legislators for the courage and leadership required to, in the face of the people’s emotional clinging to a false sense of retribution, turn away from the death chamber. I commend their actions to their counterparts in Texas, and in every place where the executioner still plies hir1 trade.

1 Not a typo; my version of a gender-neutral third-person possessive pronoun.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

More Republican Slut-Shaming

Sorry if it seems like a theme in my postings, but this kind of stuff has really been chapping my ass lately. Let’s review the bidding, shall we? A presidential candidate’s wife’s blind trust invests in a fund that owns shares (oh, excuse me: used to own shares) in a media company that owns a sexually oriented website that might (but then again, might not, depending on who you talk to) be complicit in underage sex trafficking.

And this has something to do with the candidate himself… how, again?

Oh, I remember: OMG! Teh secks!!! Yeah, that’s how.

Let’s be perfectly clear: I’m not defending underage sex trafficking, nor anyone who’s responsible for it.

But that’s not why this story is a story. This story is a story so somebody can put “Romney” and “sex” in the same headline. Now, I’m the first to call out most Republicans (and all of the remaining Republican presidential candidates) as hypocrites and prigs when it comes to human sexuality, and I’m the first to say sex-negativity, and its attendant sexism and misogyny, is an incredibly serious problem, but I’ve got a couple problems with this item:
  • Ann Romney’s “ownership” of anything sketchy is as diffuse as the interstellar medium, and Mitt Romney, the real target of this story, is yet one more step removed. As a comparison, my own 401k is partly invested in an S&P500 index fund: Am I therefore morally responsible for every act of every second-level subsidiary of every one of the 500 companies on that index? Is my wife? You might be able to make a logically consistent case that every owner, no matter how small the ownership interest, is responsible for every act of a company… but that’s not a very pragmatic position to take, socially, and it’s certainly not the standard we commonly apply.

  • Do we imagine that none of the other companies the GS Capital Partners III fund has invested in have ever done anything questionable? Of course not, but Candidate’s Wife Has Distant Links to Company that Did Something Sketchy has no sizzle as a headline… unless, of course, the “something sketchy” is (you guessed it) OMG! Teh secks!!! This story is a scandal because we’re addicted to the notion that sex itself is a scandal; sex would’ve been the lede on this, I’m convinced, even without the actually scandalous aspect of trafficking. Bringing this up is just plain slut–shaming.

  • Like the so-called sex scandals tried out against Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, this is an attack on the candidate’s wife, which puts it in the category of misogyny (maybe that seems redundant to the slut-shaming point, but it feels worth mentioning separately). We progressives think it’s reprehensible when Democratic presidential candidates are attacked through their wives; why would we stoop to doing the same to Republican candidates’ wives?. Hillary Clinton was much more of a legitimate political partner when her husband was running for president than are Karen Santorum or either Mrs. Gingrich or Ann Romney; why would we tolerate attacks on the latter women any more than we did attacks on Hillary?

Look, I have many, many pressing reasons not to want Romney to be president, any more than I want Santorum or Gingrich to be president, but his wife’s gossamer-thin connection to illicit sex-work advertising isn’t one of them. These candidates pose a serious threat to the future of our republic… but calling “their women” sluts and whores (or, in this case, whoremongers) is entirely out of bounds. It’s exactly the sort of socially destructive sex-negativity and sexism that is one of the pressing reasons I don’t want any of them in the White House.