11/28/2008 at 18:50
It's rare that I post things that I don't want associated with my name. But honest opinions are one thing; me gratuitously cussing at a group of spectacular idiots is another.
Oh, sure, it's commentary. But it's not the kind of commentary that I find legitimate when others do it- why would I make it a permanent part of mine?
So it was a glimpse into the equally concerned, but somewhat less rational and logical side of my brain. It does exist, you know- as some of the folks reading this post have experienced, quite possibly to their rue.
Hope ya'll enjoyed it, at least a little. I certainly enjoyed the change of pace.
11/22/2008 at 23:20
I commented on it at the time, expressing both sympathy and anger and my hope for change, but, I think now, in a somewhat shallow manner. I've had a little bit more time to think about what he said.
As a dark-skinned person growing up in the South, I experienced a level of unreasoning hatred and bigotry—especially as a young child—that very few people know about, because my family and I simply don't discuss it with our friends.
First, because we don’t want it to affect how we think of ourselves or others think of us. We are no-one’s victims. And second, because we know perfectly well that anything that happens to us is mild in comparison to what routinely happens to others—to black men and women—around us.
I may blog about it someday, but for now suffice it to say that, though it faded somewhat for me as I grew up—I still have to be aware of it every day, and it affects how I dress and behave in many public situations—I’ve had to watch my brothers endure treatment that (still) infuriates me no matter who experiences it...much less my beloved little brothers.
And so I thought about my friend’s feelings in that context—about how I'd feel if the situations were reversed.
And I sympathize with him nearly entirely.
I'd be mildly encouraged by others’ success, sure, but for the most part I'd be furious, and hurt, and betrayed—dispirited and disheartened and...well, wounded. What I'd say would be bitter and as wildly inflammatory as my post on Obama's victory was wildly hopeful. The feelings of disenfranchisement and marginalization I’ve felt over the past 8 years would intensify—moved me further away from identification with this country and towards depression at how it'd devolved from the extraordinary accomplishments of those who founded it.
I'd think, as he does, that living here isn't enough of a reason to believe that America can hold to its ideological heritage.
The part on which I think (of course I can't be sure) that I'd disagree is the part where I'd lose all hope of justice. I might not hope in America—not necessarily. But I’d still hope in the idea that people can act on ideals that we consider to be American, whether America fully embraces them or not.
I've always believed, you see, in incrementalism. A large part of that is my study of science—humanity assimilates ideas much more slowly than it discovers them. Microscopic organisms? Okay. And 150 years later, 50 years after it's noticed that they hang around people with diseases much more than normal people, a short French guy manages to break through the thousand-year-old beliefs that disease is caused at random, or by an inherent flaw, or by a deity.
And hey presto, a vaccine for rabies.
It’s not just our view of the world, though. It’s our view of each other too.
We’re at our most dense, afraid, and resistant when it comes to looking at and recognizing each other as equals. But still, that sort of gradual awakening has happened over and over.
Humans equal under the law?
Okay. We’ll start with members of the nobility. Male, of course. White goes without saying. But they still have rights that even the king can’t overrule.
Then landowners—still male, because women can't own property—have rights under the law.
Then women can own property, even though they're still too dumb and too emotional to vote.
Then comes the idea that all dark-skinned people, all slaves, are human and not animals. Not objects. Not equal—not that. But human.
Then slaves—because they’re human, and humans shouldn’t be property—are free men.
The former slaves have “equal rights under the law”.
Then former slaves are citizens.
Then it’s illegal to keep anyone from voting because of the color of his skin.
Then women can vote.
Then dark-skinned soldiers can fight with white soldiers—not just be led by them.
Then black kids and white kids can go to school together, because keeping them apart is a mockery of equality.
Then it’s illegal to hire or refuse to hire someone because of his or her race or sex.
Then it’s illegal to hire or fire someone from the federal civil service because of his or her sexual orientation.
Then laws enacted or enforced just to ban homosexual sex are unconstitutional.
Tiny steps, all of them. In context, “baby steps” isn’t too much of an exaggeration. It’s the incrementalism that all evolution shows—small, nearly undetectable changes, culminating in a change so apparent that it’s visibly and unmistakably transformative.
And in all cases but a few, the passing of the law or judgment in a court case follows decades of shift in attitude amongst the general population, so that the legal right, when it’s gained, is a legal acknowledgment of a right already considered legitimate by the majority of the population.
But every now and then, there’s an incredible shift, a surge forward, a societal demonstration of the inimitable Stephen Jay Gould’s theory of punctuated equilibrium—of the idea that evolution progresses in tiny steps and then, every once in a while, a giant leap.
Leaps like the declaration of Lord Mansfield in Knowles ex parte Somersett in 1772 that slavery “is so odious that nothing can be suffered to support it but positive law”, like the Emancipation Proclamation—both of which preceded by decades national acceptance of their premises. As did SCOTUS’ declaration in Brown v. Board that “separate institutions are inherently unequal”.
All of which is a very lengthy way of saying that we’re capable of another such leap.
That we’re long, long overdue, but still capable.
And now, with the Supreme Court of California agreeing to hear the Prop. 8 cases, we’re ready for and hopefully nearing it.
The people in California who want to be the arbiters of others’ beds, hearts and lives have spoken. But they’re not all of us. And their bigotry and insularity and their small minds are not ours.
And if the Supreme Court of California fails to do the right thing—to take the leap, to bring those who are held back forward until we can walk beside each other, to drag the California kin of those who howled at Somersett and Brown along with the rest of us on our journey—still we are capable of making the change.
We are capable of ensuring that the demeaning and devaluing of human love do not persist.
We are capable of making certain that the cold fiats of blind bigotry do not overwhelm the small flames of honest joy.
We are capable of guarding the rights of others’ hearts and lives as carefully as our own.
Here is a more detailed timeline of selected human rights.
11/16/2008 at 18:24
It came about because I was troubled by and thinking about something one of my oldest friends said. And since research is my reflexive response to nearly any form of brain activity, I did some research.
I looked for a chronological progression of major groups’ human rights under law—and couldn’t find any. They were fragmented into a dozen different lists.
So I bloody well made my own.
It isn’t comprehensive, but I intend to keep updating and expanding it.
Those rights for which I could find listings or information are here. Each right is listed only once (not once per country).
Only the entire country first granting national rights that it did not later revoke is listed (states and territories are not).
References to the actual documentary or proclamatory grant of right are only listed where I could confirm them.
Human Equality Under the Law
And it’s too bad that Dave’s in the “out of love” phase of his revolving-door romance with Facebook, and that Bill has steadily resisted its allure. Because they’d be able to confirm that what I say here is what I’ve said over the past two years, as the campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton evolved.
Obama, as I’ve said, has had my support since he finished his speech at the convention in 2004. I’ve never wavered from that conviction.
Nonetheless, I was troubled by much of the venom spewed towards Hillary by my fellow Obama supporters during the primary—and indeed, during the campaign. First and foremost, because being pissed off and vituperative at the other guy’s antics has never been what Obama represents. But also because, though some of that spite was deserved—she ran a needlessly long and strident campaign—the resentment was exaggerated.
I felt, and said, that some of the acrimony was gender-based. Clinton was a jerk, but that’s SOP, especially in presidential primaries and campaigns—pure spite is a tradition as well-established in American political history as folksy rhetoric. For example, in one rather famous 19th-century presidential campaign, a candidate was described by his opponent as “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father”.
The camp that issued that statement? John Adams’—about Thomas Jefferson.
Barack Obama’s different from other politicians not because they're especially mean and nasty about him (though Palin, as I’ve said before, dug straight through the bottom of the barrel), but because he avoids being mean and nasty in return as much as is humanly possible.
So when Clinton gave her concession speech, I found it both admirable and well-phrased. And I said to Bill the next day, “He should choose her for VP.”
Bill was horrified, as were the fellow Obama supporters to whom I said the same thing at the law school. VP? After that campaign? She was horrible, damn near evil, and she’d slammed Obama too much for it to work even if he did it.
I maintained that they’d be a dream team, a team with the kind of potent brainpower and imposing, intimidating, overwhelming talent that blessed Augustus, Marc Antony, and Lepidus.
Obama chose Joe Biden—a choice I could happily back—and I told Bill the next day, over burgers at Steak n’ Shake, that Obama should choose Clinton as his Secretary of State.
Again, Bill was aghast. Did I remember some of the things she’d said?
I cut him off with three words: Team of Rivals.
For those unfamiliar with the phrase, it’s the title of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning chronicle of Lincoln’s Cabinet—a Cabinet composed of all his major rivals for the Republican nomination.
Lincoln, my worship of whom (yes, worship; ask Dave about the look on my face as we stood in the Lincoln Memorial on the 4th) would demand tens of essays to contain, was brilliant enough to realize that the people most qualified to advise him on national affairs were those who, like he, aspired to run the country.
And he was dedicated enough to his country’s health and success, and confident enough in his capacity to meet the challenges such appointments would bring, to act on that realization.
I’ve long said—only Bill, to my knowledge, has said it for longer—that Obama, in terms of the quality of his governance, truly has the ability to be the next Lincoln. And that holds true for Obama’s Cabinet appointments: he has the requisite brilliance, the strength of will and force of personality, to both realize the same thing Lincoln did and to put that realization to work.
Hillary Clinton would be a fantastic Secretary of State. Period. She’d be fantastic for the same reason that she’d be a formidable lieutenant in anything: when Hillary Clinton walks into a room, everyone in it sits up.
Secretaries of State are most often diplomats and, in fact if not in appearance, negotiators—and both on a global scale. Scalpel-sharp statecraft is their stock in trade. The people on the other side of the table from Clinton know she’s walked into the room to do business, and that behind the gracious smile and perfect composure are both a calculating intellect and every fact, figure and authority on the subject they’re there to discuss.
She’s a force to be reckoned with—one who’ll do everything that needs to be done to achieve the purpose for which she walked into the room—and everyone in the world knows it.
Obama is a man of both vision and logic. He has the wit to recognize that those with that kind of relentless faculty, that kind of powerful capability—even, and maybe especially, if they think differently than he does and have the spine to tell him so—are people who will serve he, his Cabinet, and his country best.
To quote: “I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation…”
Barack Obama has always said that we need to work together, and has always behaved as he asks us to behave. Always.
And he’s always applied his mind to a problem, found the best possible solution, and held to it—even if others found it outrageous.
Why should this be any different?
There was one thing she said tonight that irritated me, however (though again, unlike other news personalities, it was the only dumb thing that came out of her mouth during the entire hour).
She was talking about "leaks" from the Obama camp, and she repeatedly used the word "recant" to describe his official statements correcting the reports of the leaked [dis]information.
Foul. (And two foul shots.)
The statements issued by Obama cannot be described as "recanting". Here's why.
Per the American Heritage Dictionary:
3. [Informal] To become publicly known through a breach of secrecy: The news has leaked.
2. [Informal] To disclose without authorization or official sanction: leaked classified information to a reporter.
To make a formal retraction or disavowal of (a statement or belief to which one has previously committed oneself).
To make a formal retraction or disavowal of a previously held statement or belief.
Don't hurl words like "recant" about. The word is by both definition and context pejorative—an admission of error, often interpreted as admission of a lie (a witness recanting his/her testimony). Terming the corrections "recanting" connotes that the "leaks" were in fact authorized and intentional.
If that's what Ms. Maddow intended (she most certainly has the verbal facility to imply that or anything else she wishes), I'm offended. Since when has Obama been coy about enunciating his views and intentions?
If she didn't intend that, I'm irritated. (Though again, almost as much because of Ms. Maddow's extraordinary charm and dexterity in every other minute of the broadcast as because of the implied slur.)
To recant a statement is to disavow a statement to which one has committed oneself. Only the party making a statement may recant it.
A leak is an unauthorized statement, i.e., a statement which a party does not want to—and barring multiple personality disorder, does not—make or commit to.
If a party does not make or commit to a statement, it cannot recant that statement.
If recanting is a formal disavowal of a statement one has made and committed to
And Obama did not make or commit to the statements he later disavowed
Then Obama cannot have recanted those statements.
Quod erat demonstrandum.
And good night.
I can say it no better than the LA Times, a paper that has never, in its 126 years, endorsed a Democrat for president.
Barack Obama for president
He is the competent, confident leader who represents the aspirations of the nation.
October 19, 2008
It is inherent in the American character to aspire to greatness, so it can be disorienting when the nation stumbles or loses confidence in bedrock principles or institutions. That's where the United States is as it prepares to select a new president: We have seen the government take a stake in venerable private financial houses; we have witnessed eight years of executive branch power grabs and erosion of civil liberties; we are still recovering from a murderous attack by terrorists on our own soil and still struggling with how best to prevent a recurrence.
We need a leader who demonstrates thoughtful calm and grace under pressure, one not prone to volatile gesture or capricious pronouncement. We need a leader well-grounded in the intellectual and legal foundations of American freedom. Yet we ask that the same person also possess the spark and passion to inspire the best within us: creativity, generosity and a fierce defense of justice and liberty.
The Times without hesitation endorses Barack Obama for president.
Our nation has never before had a candidate like Obama, a man born in the 1960s, of black African and white heritage, raised and educated abroad as well as in the United States, and bringing with him a personal narrative that encompasses much of the American story but that, until now, has been reflected in little of its elected leadership. The excitement of Obama's early campaign was amplified by that newness. But as the presidential race draws to its conclusion, it is Obama's character and temperament that come to the fore. It is his steadiness. His maturity.
These are qualities American leadership has sorely lacked for close to a decade. The Constitution, more than two centuries old, now offers the world one of its more mature and certainly most stable governments, but our political culture is still struggling to shake off a brash and unseemly adolescence. In George W. Bush, the executive branch turned its back on an adult role in the nation and the world and retreated into self-absorbed unilateralism.
John McCain distinguished himself through much of the Bush presidency by speaking out against reckless and self-defeating policies. He earned The Times' respect, and our endorsement in the California Republican primary, for his denunciation of torture, his readiness to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and his willingness to buck his party on issues such as immigration reform. But the man known for his sense of honor and consistency has since announced that he wouldn't vote for his own immigration bill, and he redefined "torture" in such a disingenuous way as to nearly embrace what he once abhorred.
Indeed, the presidential campaign has rendered McCain nearly unrecognizable. His selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate was, as a short-term political tactic, brilliant. It was also irresponsible, as Palin is the most unqualified vice presidential nominee of a major party in living memory. The decision calls into question just what kind of thinking -- if that's the appropriate word -- would drive the White House in a McCain presidency. Fortunately, the public has shown more discernment, and the early enthusiasm for Palin has given way to national ridicule of her candidacy and McCain's judgment.
Obama's selection also was telling. He might have scored a steeper bump in the polls by making a more dramatic choice than the capable and experienced Joe Biden. But for all the excitement of his own candidacy, Obama has offered more competence than drama.
He is no lone rider. He is a consensus-builder, a leader. As a constitutional scholar, he has articulated a respect for the rule of law and the limited power of the executive that make him the best hope of restoring balance and process to the Justice Department. He is a Democrat, leaning further left than right, and that should be reflected in his nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court. This is a good thing; the court operates best when it is ideologically balanced. With its present alignment at seven justices named by Republicans and two by Democrats, it is due for a tug from the left.
We are not sanguine about Obama's economic policies. He speaks with populist sweep about taxing oil companies to give middle-class families rebates that of course they would welcome, but would be far too small to stimulate the economy. His ideas on taxation do not stray far from those put forward by Democrats over the last several decades. His response to the most recent, and drastic, fallout of the sub- prime mortgage meltdown has been appropriately cautious; this is uncharted territory, and Obama is not a master of economic theory or practice.
And that's fine. Obama inspires confidence not so much in his grasp of Wall Street finance but in his acknowledgment of and comfort with his lack of expertise. He will not be one to forge far-reaching economic policy without sounding out the best thinkers and practitioners, and he has many at his disposal. He has won the backing of some on Wall Street not because he's one of them but because they recognize his talent for extracting from a broad range of proposals a coherent and workable program.
On paper, McCain presents the type of economic program The Times has repeatedly backed: One that would ease the tax burden on business and other high earners most likely to invest in the economy and hire new workers. But he has been disturbingly unfocused in his response to the current financial situation, rushing to "suspend" his campaign and take action (although just what action never became clear). Having little to contribute, he instead chose to exploit the crisis.
We may one day look back on this presidential campaign in wonder. We may marvel that Obama's critics called him an elitist, as if an Ivy League education were a source of embarrassment, and belittled his eloquence, as if a gift with words were suddenly a defect. In fact, Obama is educated and eloquent, sober and exciting, steady and mature. He represents the nation as it is, and as it aspires to be.
It occurred to me, somewhat belatedly (but luckily, before I posted it), that I should probably wait till I'm not working for Senator Obama's campaign (i.e., till after the election) to post the essay I wrote on Senator McCain and Governor Palin. Essentially, it's a challenge of Senator McCain to single combat- to avenge the grave insult the honor of all womankind has suffered at his choice of Governor Palin as an exemplar of womanly accomplishment. (That's rather a mild description. The substance, however, is accurate.)
I think, however, that there's little harm in what I'm writing today.
I used to respect John McCain. No, really.
He and I disagree about 97% of damn near anything you can name. I think he'd make a horrible president- besides his views, which I consider to be (and which, economically, are working out to be) ruinous. I think his intellectual/emotional makeup, as evidenced by his personal behavior and his political career, is more suited to commanding a small, elite company than to being a general or a Commander-in-Chief.
Nonetheless, his behavior until eight years ago was largely that of a man of integrity- one who acted consistently, according to his views, and who spoke up firmly and audibly on the rare occasion when a colleague said or did something with which he disagreed.
Even though he wasn't my candidate, or even from my favored party, I was furious at the insults Bush threw his way in 2000- and not just because Rove all but used the word 'miscegenation' (or even because hearing the word 'Rove' causes me mild nausea). I was furious because those statements were lies from start to finish, and because they took the best of the dignity and ideals of someone who tried to live by them and trod them into the dirt. McCain didn't deserve that kind of abuse.
When he stood beside Bush in 2004, a lot of my respect for McCain's integrity vanished. But I still thought he might have retained some of it, even as he was turning into a sort of neocon functionary.
I've watched the progress (if indeed anything so backwards and intermittently moronic can be called that) of this election with mounting horror. I truly believe (and have for nearly 2 years now) that Barack Obama will prove to be one of our great presidents; that he has the intellect, the aplomb, the statecraft, the tact, and the ingenuity to handle and to improve the dire morass of a country whose reins he'll take. For that reason alone some of the things that were said about him, during the primaries and afterward, repulsed me.
But with the advent of Governor Palin the presidential election reached a new low. Bored through the bottom of the barrel, in fact, and it's just kept going. (Perhaps it's an Alaskan cultural tradition of which I'm ignorant- a compulsory personal quest for oil...?)
It shouldn't have been unexpected. Palin's attacks on Senator Obama's trustworthiness and intentions as an American citizen (nothing she's said can be interpreted as any less)- her nearly explicit allegations, in fact, of treason- are, as her record shows, what's to be expected of a woman of her intellectual and moral accomplishments, upon which I'll refine at a later date.
And please don't think that said refinement will consist of insults to Governor Palin. It is not possible to insult Governor Palin.
Her behavior is no longer capable of shocking me, but her behavior in the context of the fact that she's John McCain's running mate has filled me with dismay. This, this is the campaign of the man whose strength- whose ability to withstand years of torture- I'd admired since grade school?
And then, yesterday, that man emerged from the welter of pandering he's done for the last eight years- from the degradation he inflicted on himself to become a 'viable candidate'. For a moment- a moment when his integrity and his conscience were so outraged by the lies being told in his name that he had to correct them, even though it cost him the approval of his audience- he was the man I'd known about since seventh grade.
For a few minutes last night, the man I used to respect appeared.
And unless he acts to rein in his campaign, acts now, he'll be remembered, after a lifelong career of government service, as the man who, because his opponent was winning, accused him of treason based on his name. Palin may have uttered the words; but what the history books will record is that they were said by McCain's campaign.
John McCain- the McCain who spoke up in defense of the patriotism, if not the governing credentials, of his opponent yesterday- doesn't deserve to be remembered that way.
I wouldn't vote for him. I don't want him running the country. I think he'd be a very bad president- again, his policy views are proving disastrous.
But yesterday I really was glad to see, for a little while, the John McCain that existed until eight years ago .
I miss him. I really do.
11/05/2008 at 14:41
I’m in Parma, Ohio—where I have been for a month—with people from California and Tennessee and New York and Illinois and Georgia and Virginia and Washington. With people in high school, college, grad school, professional school. With people who own small businesses and who work for big business.
There are fifty people here screaming, toasting, hugging.
And I and two friends—women who participated in the civil rights movement, who grew up and live on the South Side of Chicago, one black, one white—cried.
Katy said it for us as we knelt on the cement outside hugging each other: We did it. We did it. We changed the world.
And we did. But not in the way that the network pundits are saying.
For Barack Obama, for his appeal to the best in all of us, for his conviction that the best we can do is extraordinary, we pounded pavement and doors and data and phone numbers. We worked ourselves haggard.
And what he’s done—what we’ve done—
What we’ve done with our work hasn’t changed America.
We didn’t change how Americans think. We showed them that it’s all right, that it’s necessary, to express what they think.
We didn’t make people in Ohio think about whether or not race really mattered in the end. We showed them that they already believed it didn’t.
What we’ve done—what Barack Obama made us believe we could do, and what we went out and did—was to convince Americans that they’re truly free. That what they believe can change their lives, their country, their world.
That the strength of their belief and the power of their hope is the most important thing Americans have.
That what Americans really believe, really hope is worth hours in cold and rain and power outages. Worth saying.
Worth a resonating, overwhelming cry of We believe.
That what America is designed to be, what we’ve dreamed of being—
Is what we really are.
At last. At last. At last.
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