Wednesday Reads IIPosted: December 29, 2010
Good morning, Sky Dancers!
Minkoff Minx is under the weather and needs to rest up, so I’m filling in for her on today’s roundup. Here’s hoping things ease up for her soon!
I’ll start us off with some historical trivia for today.
On December 29th, 1845, Texas enters the Union and becomes the 28th state (link goes to the History Channel site):
The citizens of the independent Republic of Texas elected Sam Houston president but also endorsed the entrance of Texas into the Union. The likelihood of Texas joining the Union as a slave state delayed any formal action by the U.S. Congress for more than a decade. In 1844, Congress finally agreed to annex the territory of Texas. On December 29, 1845, Texas entered the United States as a slave state, broadening the irrepressible differences in the United States over the issue of slavery and setting off the Mexican-American War.
Reminds me of this indelible photo of Juneteenth (Emancipation Day), taken in the year 1900, at what I believe used to be called Wheeler’s Grove in Austin (today it is known as Eastwoods Park). Here’s another poignant photo of the first official Juneteenth Committee, from the same place and same day as the first photo.
While I was digging around for decent links to these two iconic images, I stumbled across this post back in June 2009 about the holiday, from the Smithsonian’s “Around the Mall” blog — it’s fairly brief and there’s a neat and concise Q&A at the end if you have the time.
Just a little Juneteenth in December from your Texan on the frontpage.
Also a reminder of the countless unsung and ordinary heroes and heroines throughout the course of human history who have played a role in that most painstaking and arduous of endeavors–fighting the good fight to secure, maintain, protect, and strengthen all human and civil rights.
Texas became a state on December 29, 1845, but it did not become a free state until two decades later on June 18/19, 1865.
I’m just waiting for us to turn into a blue state again…I like picturing my mayor Annise Parker leading the way to defeat Guv Goodhair one of these days. Hey, a lefty wonk-gal in Texas can dream!
Speaking of human rights, I recommend checking out Clifford Levy’s piece yesterday from the NYT‘s “Above the Law” series. It’s called “An Accuser Becomes the Accused.” That’s the video version, but there’s also a text article in case that’s more convenient — “In Russia, an Advocate Is Killed, and an Accuser Tried.”
From the text:
MOSCOW — In a small courtroom in Moscow, friends of Natalya K. Estemirova crowded onto wooden benches, clasping photographs of her. It was 16 months after the murder of Ms. Estemirova, a renowned human rights advocate in the tumultuous region of Chechnya, and now the legal system was taking action.
A defendant was on trial, and his interrogators were demanding answers about special operations and assassination plots.
The authorities had charged Mr. Orlov with defamation because he had publicly pointed the finger at the man he believed was responsible for the murder: the Kremlin-installed leader of Chechnya. If convicted, Mr. Orlov could face as many as three years in prison.
The shooting of Ms. Estemirova, 51, in July 2009 has so far produced only an incomplete investigation, and no charges have been filed against anyone involved. Her case has instead turned into an example of what often happens in Russia when high-ranking officials fall under scrutiny. Retaliation follows, and the accuser becomes the accused.
Be it Wikileaks or the shooting of Estemirova, distracting far away from the original story under investigation seems to be the name of the game.
Now I’m not saying the Wikileaks circumstance is equal in nature or degree to the situation surrounding Estemirova’s murder. Justice is clearly being denied in the latter, whereas the former is far more complex. But either way, the detours from the initial topic of investigation do nothing but breed more suspicion and doubt at a time when trust in public and private institutions is on the decline.
Speaking of distractions, file this next one under Obama Derangement. From TPM — “Latest Right-Wing Freak-Out: Obama Wants To Give Manhattan Back To Native Americans“:
The good news is that the right-wing isn’t talking about President Obama being a secret Muslim right now. The bad news is that they’re now concerned that he’s going to use his honorary status as a Crow Tribe Indian to return the United States to Native Americans.
Obama and these dimwits deserve each other. He keeps putting his right foot in and trying to do the bipartisan hokey pokey, and the wingnuts just move further and further right of anything remotely comprehensible. We’re not a center-right country. We’re a country undergoing a center-right conjob.
Unfortunately, 78 percent of Democrats are oblivious and want Obama to be the nominee in 2012–according to the latest polling from CNN/Opinion Research anyway. Good luck to Krugman and Wells on getting the clueless O’crats to delink from Obama.
Oh and you can just file this one under Wingnuts Have ‘Huge Issues’. From the Washington Monthly‘s Political Animal, “DADT DEAD-ENDERS LATCH ONTO ‘SHOWER ISSUE‘“:
But then there’s the problem with the argument itself. It’s likely some conservative pollster found that the “shower issue” was the most effective in some focus groups — one anti-gay crusader called it a “huge issue” the other day — but it’s still awfully weak. Indeed, it’s easily dismissed with one obvious-but-overlooked observation: straight servicemen and women have already been showering with gay and lesbian colleagues. DADT didn’t forbid gays from joining the military; it forbid them from acknowledging their sexual orientation.
Speaking of wingnuts and their issues, via Raw Story — “Study: Conservatives have larger ‘fear center’ in brain“:
A study at University College London in the UK has found that conservatives’ brains have larger amygdalas than the brains of liberals. Amygdalas are responsible for fear and other “primitive” emotions. At the same time, conservatives’ brains were also found to have a smaller anterior cingulate — the part of the brain responsible for courage and optimism.
Switching gears a bit, though still on the general topic of social darwinism. Over at his blog, Krugman had this to say, partly in response to Wall Street’s whinefest in Politico yesterday:
There must be a way to construct a word for this out of Greek roots; something like kleptocracy, but meaning rule by ridiculous people instead. But it’s all Greek to me. Anyway, a couple of stories today.
1. Wall Street executives in a complete snit about Obama: he bailed them out with no strings, he’s leaving their bonuses intact, but he doesn’t always invite them to White House events.
Who thought that “Ma, he’s looking at me funny!” would become a crucial campaign slogan?
The Shrill One’s response to Paul Ryan requiring his staff to read Atlas Shrugged is a hoot, too:
2. Paul Ryan requires that his staffers read Atlas Shrugged. I mean, I was inspired by Isaac Asimov, but I don’t think I’m Hari Seldon — whereas Ryan, it seems, really does think he’s John Galt.Time to bring out the classic quote:
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
Future historians will giggle at our expense.
Forget future historians. At this point, what else is there left for us to do but laugh? Obama’s presidency was sold as the realization of a dream, but instead it’s a neverending nightmare. It would be bad enough if we just had the Paul Ryans and their Ayn Rand fetishes to fight, but as bostonboomer reported on last week, we also have Obama looking to Ronald Reagan for inspiration instead of to FDR. Liberalism is trapped between Barack and a Rand place.
The NY Times has an informative, albeit slightly tedious, read this morning on the health care act and the shape that the legal challenges to it seem to be taking –“Terrain Shifts in Challenges to the Health Care Law“:
The legal challenge to the Obama health care act has invigorated a dispute as old as the Constitution about the framers’ most nettlesome grant of power, which gives Congress treacherously broad authority to pass laws “necessary and proper” to carrying out its assigned responsibilities.
Also in today’s NYT, this one is for Dakinikat–a collection of nifty graphs! David Leonhardt assesses the economic situation over the past year and looks to the future… “In the Rearview, a Year That Fizzled“:
To look back at 2010 and to look ahead, we have put together a series of charts. If there is an overall message, it’s that the economy still needs a whole lot of work.
Another Gray Lady link… Lawrence Downes has a brief profile of Frank Emi, the “No-No Boy,” who died earlier this month at age 94:
Mr. Emi and the six other original signers all refused to serve. More than 300 people in 10 camps joined them. All were prosecuted. Other Japanese-Americans mocked them as the “no-no boys.” The Japanese American Citizens League denounced them as seditious. But Mr. Emi, who spent 18 months in a federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan., was right to speak out.
Even more from the Times, this from yesterday — “The Female Factor: Muslim Women Gain Higher Profile in U.S.“:
Ms. Khalifa, who was born in Egypt and raised in Texas, wears a head scarf but also juggles, comfortably, the demands of American suburbia: crowded schedule, minivan and all.
She is one of a type now found in most sizable U.S. cities: vocal Muslim women wary of the predominantly male leadership of their community and increasingly weary of suspicions of non-Muslims about Islam.
These women have achieved a level of success and visibility unmatched elsewhere. They say they are molded by the freedoms of the United States — indeed, many unabashedly sing its praises — and by the intellectual ferment stirred when American-born and immigrant Muslims mix.
It’s an interesting read, although to be honest, some of it felt forced. I much prefer that “Let me, a Muslim feminist, confuse you” op-ed by Mona Eltahawy that I linked to a couple weeks ago. That felt much more authentic and moving. The NYT piece reads like some kind of poll-tested propaganda somehow. (In case anyone missed the Eltahawy piece the first time I posted it by the way, it is a must-read so click on that last link and get to it!)
Oh, and by the way, Jonah Goldberg is still flying his asshat flag. Also: Water, yep, still wet.
Here is Jonah’s conclusion so you can understand what I am talking about without having to give him or the LA Times any traffic for that garbage:
Personally, I have always felt that gay marriage was an inevitability, for good or ill (most likely both). I do not think that the arguments against gay marriage are all grounded in bigotry, and I find some of the arguments persuasive. But I also find it cruel and absurd to tell gays that living the free-love lifestyle is abominable while at the same time telling them that their committed relationships are illegitimate too.
Many of my conservative friends often act as if there’s some grand alternative to both the bohemian or the bourgeois lifestyles. But there isn’t. And given that open homosexuality is simply a fact of life, the rise of the HoBos — the homosexual bourgeoisie — strikes me as good news.
Like I said. Asshat.
Over at FDL, I was glad to see some pushback on the NYT editorial yesterday praising the Guantanamo executive order that Obama is drafting, because the NYT had me raising my eyebrows with that one. FDL’s Jim White says “Obama’s Cowardice on Guantanamo Continues, Unites Insurgents Against Us“:
An editorial in Tuesday’s New York Times praises as “A Step Toward Fairness” a ridiculous new proposal from the Obama administration that will keep a number of Guantanamo prisoners in legal limbo with no hope of a real judicial hearing on their status. At the same time, it appears that there will be no effort to close Guantanamo, now approaching more than a year past Obama’s target for closing it. Little wonder, then, that Tuesday’s Times also reports that erstwhile rival insurgent groups in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area now seem to be setting rivalries aside to attack US interests. Keeping Guantanamo open only feeds such hatred against the US that rivals will team up.
Just as I suspected all along, the rumor about Bill Richardson replacing Hillary was completely bogus. The fishy Examiner sourcing was a dead giveaway, with the Examiner itself being an unreliable and untrustworthy source of info.
I have to wrap this up, so I’ll just end with something that looks like it might be fun… “Op-Chart: The Year in Questions — Interactive Feature — NYTimes.com.” From the description on the op-ed main page:
As the year draws to a close, we present 100 or so questions to test your recollection of the highs and lows of 2010 — for the sake of auld lang syne.
Have a great day and let us know what you’re reading and ruminating on in the comments!