Back To The Good Ol’ Days In The Great State of TennesseePosted: March 22, 2012 Filed under: just because 27 Comments
It’s not often you get to board a time machine and travel back to say . . . 1925. Unless you live in Tennessee.
I knew I was living in crazy-land when the citizens of this state gave Rick Santorum the GOP win on Super Tuesday. But they’ve broken the mold with the passage of HB 368, affectionately referred to as “The Monkey Bill.” Why the cute nickname? Because we’re back to the days of the Butler Act, where the Tennessee legislature actually made it unlawful to teach the subject of evolution in the state’s public school curriculum. Only the Biblical version would do, thank you very much!
So, here we are in the 21st century with mind-boggling advances in science and technology, medical advances, which would have been deemed science fiction a few short years ago. And how does Tennessee react? A fast dive into superstition and magical thinking. Back to the Scopes trial and Inherit the Wind.
To add to the madness, these pygmies have tried to sell this legislation as a move forward for ‘academic freedom’ and to protect teachers, who wish to present ‘alternative theories’ on evolution and climate change.
What alternative theories? Like this?
I am forever grateful that I did not educate my own kids in the shadow of the Smoky Mountains. But I pity the children of others. We’re in a high-tech world with abundant competition around the globe; competitors would love to cut the US off at the knees. And Tennessee is going to be teaching creationism as a credible substitute to evolution, claiming it will improve critical thinking. As for climate change? I’ve never bought into the instant doomsday scenario. Nor do I think cap and trade is the right way to go. But . . . unless you’re living in an underground bunker, the climate is having a mega-personality crisis. We cannot pretend the changes around the world aren’t happening—glaciers melting, ice shelves breaking apart, bizarre storms, droughts, etc. Nor can we afford resorting to childish positions–God would never let us to destroy ourselves, so let’s party down and pollute everything in sight.
I swear, I do not know what it’s going to take. Some horrific super-cell storm wreaking death and destruction of such proportions that even the Bible thumpers accept reality? Does California have to fall into the Pacific before the scales fall from the eyes of the blind?
The idea that any school would replace science with pseudo-science for political/religious purposes is beyond outrageous. This really is a race for the bottom when politicians are applauded for supporting bills designed to leave children uninformed and ignorant. Did I mention that the Tennessee Senate vote was 24-8? [the House version of this stinker passed last April] Only eight Tennessee Senators had the guts to vote for science. The vast majority hopped on the make-believe train.
The Huffington Post had a piece on this legislative monstrosity. There’s a video at the site that I encourage you to watch—watch until the end. There’s a young man [who unfortunately I believe is for real], questioning the validity of evolution. This is what ignorance sounds like.
The one saving note on this embarrassment is that the 2005 Dover, Pa. case [several school board members had approved intelligent design introduced to the science/biology curriculum] was overturned using Federal precedent. I’d be amazed if this nonsense [assuming Republican Governor Haslam signs the bill] isn’t challenged very quickly. The Tennessee Science Teachers Association opposes the bill, as well as the National Center for Science Education and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
As for Tennessee? It has made itself and its residents a laughing stock. Again. Just to be clear. Though I now live in Smoky Mountain land? I’m a New Jersey native. Even Chris Christie—the Big Guy–believes in evolution and climate change.
I never cease to be amazed at the slide into stupidity we’re watching. But this? This deserves a stupid award.
What The Irish Can Teach UsPosted: March 18, 2012 Filed under: Barbara Ehrenreich, Charles Murray, corporatism, Economy, financial institutions, free market ideology, hunger, income inequality, The Great Hunger, U.S. Economy, unemployment, voodoo economics, worker rights 12 Comments
Now that we’ve all been Irish for a day–donning the green, marching or watching parades and downing those pints at the local bar, we might ask ourselves [whether we’re from Irish American backgrounds or not]: Is there anything more the Irish can teach us?
Running across an essay by Barbara Ehrenreich on American poverty, specifically the lingering, depressing notion of the ‘culture of poverty’ and
having listened to Charles Murray on Book TV discuss his recent book, “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2012,” I think the answer is a resounding ‘yes.’
As Ehrenreich reminds us, the idea that poor people are inherently different than the affluent and in fact, need to be changed, corrected, put right has been an enduring theme of the conservative right. The inequality between the poor and the rich is not a matter of jobs or opportunity, education or money, so the theory goes. It’s about the poor being substantially flawed. They lack core values: ambition, get-up-and-go, faith, and the ability to plan for the future. The poor are impulsive, promiscuous, prone to addiction and crime and, as Ehrenreich points out, theorists all contend that the poor ‘certainly cannot be trusted with money.’
Charles Murray’s presentation picks up on the ‘culture of poverty’ theory and runs with it like a champion of reason and rightness. The American Project, Murray contends, the continuation of a civil society is threatened because the working class and upper-middle class are of a different kind altogether. The unraveling of America has nothing to do with the inequality of income but the inequality of culture.
Murray uses two ‘symbolic’ communities to illustrate his thesis: Belmont and Fishtown though both communities actually exist—Belmont, an affluent neighborhood outside Boston and Fishtown, a working class neighborhood of Philadelphia. Murray goes on to compare the two communities in four main areas: marriage, industriousness, honesty, and religiosity. And surprise, surprise. Fishtown gets a failing grade on all scores.
What does this have to do with the Irish? I suggest a quick trip back in time, say to the mid-19th century during what became known as the Great Hunger.
Ireland was heavily populated with subsistence/tenant farmers, generally in debt to their English landlords. Most have heard of the ‘great potato blight’ of 1845-1849 when over 1 million Irish died of starvation. What many may not know is that the the affluent English landlords were exporting an abundance of grain, meat and dairy for profit as the Irish poor starved. And the conservative government response? Their policy was one of laissez faire, leave well enough alone. As the Assistant Secretary of Ireland reportedly said at the time: to give the people something for nothing, ‘would have the country on us for an indefinite time.’ The fear of dependency was greater than watching the population starve. Free market policies and workhouses became popular. But still people died. In droves. The fields of once blighted potatoes became graveyards.
How were the Irish viewed by ‘polite’ English society? The Irish were considered brutish, lazy, devious, promiscuous, prone to crime and heavy drinking. Worse yet—they were Catholic.
The point is that this warped view on poverty is not new. Nor are the political responses. Even when a population was starving to death en masse, the response in Ireland was an ideological one: people had to work to be fed, even when they were too weak and sick to stand upright.
The Irish know this. They remembered it well and passed the bleak stories down to their descendants. The impoverished Irish immigrants, those who came to America [if they survived the ocean crossing], found the same weary stereotypes waiting on another shore. Anyone with Irish American grandparents or other family oldsters have likely heard the tales of blatant bigotry while growing up—the ‘no dogs or Irish’ signs in shop windows.
Still I found it amazing that Murray could say the main problem threatening the Nation today is not income inequality but cultural inequality. Minx wrote a very effective piece last week on the growing poverty in the US. Cited in her post was a statement by Tavis Smiley, who is pushing to have the issue of exploding poverty included in the 2012 election:
Women are much more likely to be poor than men, and more than a million children have fallen into poverty, and more than 500,000 have fallen into extreme poverty” — that is, living on less than $2 a day — “since 2010.” Recent census data shows that the number of children who live in extreme poverty has doubled from 1996 to 2011, from 1.4 million to 2.8 million.
And yet, as Minx pointed out a number of states: Kansas, Utah and Nebraska have initiated policies to cut food stamps to needy children.
Well here’s a factoid that turns the whole cultural argument on its head: the fastest growing segment of the newly poor are in suburban neighborhoods.
Some of this is due to changing demographics but the larger percentage has to do with long-term unemployment, stagnate wages, off-shoring, the housing debacle, etc., etc. Here’s a chilling study from the same link:
Mark Rank, a social welfare professor at Washington University in St. Louis, has written extensively about shifts in U.S. poverty since the 1960s, and finds that Americans today are more likely to face poverty than in the past. According to Rank’s data, 24 percent of people who were in their 20s in the 1970s were likely to experience poverty at some point in their lives. That number rose to 31 percent in the 1980s and 37 percent in the 1990s. Today a majority of Americans-51.4 percent, according to the Urban Institute-will experience poverty by the time they’re 65.
Are we to believe that this sudden shift to poverty or expectation of poverty is all about lost moral/cultural compasses? Charles Murray would say, ‘yes.’ He suggests that the upper-middle class reach out, reintegrate and reeducate the working classes in the four pillars of civil society: marriage, industriousness, honesty and religiosity. Note that Murray’s study just happens to begin at the soon-to-be turbulent 1960s. Ahhh, if only we could go back to those Father Knows Best days.
In contrast, Barbara Ehrenreich pointedly says:
. . . a new discovery of poverty is long overdue. This time, we’ll have to take account not only of stereotypical Skid Row residents and Appalachians, but of foreclosed-upon suburbanites, laid-off tech workers, and America’s ever-growing army of the “working poor.” And if we look closely enough, we’ll have to conclude that poverty is not, after all, a cultural aberration or a character flaw. Poverty is a shortage of money.
My suggestion? Find yourself an Irish grandmother, the older the better. She’ll give you an earful. Generational memory is a powerful thing!
The Remarkable Revisionism Of Maureen DowdPosted: March 15, 2012 Filed under: 2012 presidential campaign, abortion rights, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton: Her Campaign for All of Us, Maureen Dowd, Revisionism, War on Women, Women's Rights 24 Comments
I stopped reading Maureen Dowd’s columns after the 2008 election season. Dowd’s attacks on Hillary Clinton, her drift into pseudo-literary allusions and her love affair with all things Barack Obama was too much to bear.
Life is short, I reasoned. So little time, so much to read. Why waste precious moments on mind-numbing crapola?
But yesterday morning, I found a deadly twofer in the Op-Ed section of the NYT. Thomas Freidman [a man I rarely agree with], waxed eloquent on the future of capitalism, now that the shine on globalization has dulled. Not to be outdone, Dowd led with the Tea Party’s warrior cry: ‘Don’t Tread On Us.’ Her tagline?
For the Republican uncivil war on women, we’ll need a take-no-prisoners Democratic general.
We’ll need? As in Maureen Dowd and moi? As in gender solidarity within the Democratic Party now has meaning?
Oh yes, I’m well aware of the Republican assault on all things female, particularly our sexual parts, our inability to make right-minded decisions when it comes to reproduction or contraception. Women are obviously so clueless it’s a wonder we can tie our shoes. Just to be sure we understand what pregnancy is, what it truly means, women in a number of states will be required to have an ultrasound before terminating a pregnancy, otherwise known as a legal abortion. The forward-thinking Great State of Arizona has suggested legislation where an employer can fire you for using birth control. Amazing!
I’m waiting for someone to suggest arranged marriages. Or foot binding.
That being said, Dowd piqued my curiosity, seduced me to break my no-read vow. I was fascinated with her head-spinning reversal:
Hillary Clinton has fought for women’s rights around the world. But who would have dreamed that she would have to fight for them at home?
And then goes on to say:
. . . Republicans could drive women into Democratic arms. . . .And whose arms would be more welcoming to the sisters than Hillary’s?
This is too rich. Hillary Clinton has spent her entire professional life fighting for the rights of women and girls, here and abroad. But in 2008, none of that mattered. Shortly before the New Hampshire primary, Hillary Clinton spoke to supporters. Her eyes welled up. Maureen Dowd’s reaction? In her Op-ed entitled, ‘Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back To the Whitehouse?’ she wrote:
But there was a whiff of Nixonian self-pity about her choking up. What was moving her so deeply was her recognition that the country was failing to grasp how much it needs her. In a weirdly narcissistic way, she was crying for us. But it was grimly typical of her that what finally made her break down was the prospect of losing.
And to further skewer:
She became emotional because she feared that she had reached her political midnight, when she would suddenly revert to the school girl with geeky glasses and frizzy hair, smart but not the favorite. All those years in the shadow of one Natural, only to face the prospect of being eclipsed by another Natural?
Yup, that’s what I call a strong dose of sisterly love! A sharp knife right between the ribs. Get the angle right, there’s barely any blood. And the campaign against Hillary was death by a thousand tiny cuts.
But Dowd was not a one-trick pony. She kept it up. In the piece ‘Wilting Over Waffles’:
Now that Hillary has won Pennsylvania, it will take a village to help Obama escape from the suffocating embrace of his rival. Certainly Howard Dean will be of no use steering her to the exit. It’s like Micronesia telling Russia to denuke.
“You know, some people counted me out and said to drop out,” said a glowing Hillary at her Philadelphia victory party, with Bill and Chelsea by her side. “Well, the American people don’t quit. And they deserve a president who doesn’t quit, either.”
The Democrats are growing ever more desperate about the Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.
Another warm and fuzzy descriptive: Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. What’s not to love?
Dowd whipped it right to the finish line. In a piece entitled: ‘Yes, She Can’:
Hillary’s orchestrating a play within the play in Denver. Just as Hamlet used the device to show that his stepfather murdered his father, Hillary will try to show the Democrats they chose the wrong savior.
Obama also allowed Hillary supporters to insert an absurd statement into the platform suggesting that media sexism spurred her loss and that “demeaning portrayals of women … dampen the dreams of our daughters.” This, even though postmortems, including the new raft of campaign memos leaked by Clintonistas to The Atlantic — another move that undercuts Obama — finger Hillary’s horrendous management skills.
Besides the crashing egos and screeching factions working at cross purposes, Joshua Green writes in the magazine, Hillary’s “hesitancy and habit of avoiding hard choices exacted a price that eventually sank her chances at the presidency.”
It would have been better to put this language in the platform: “A woman who wildly mismanages and bankrupts a quarter-of-a-billion-dollar campaign operation, and then blames sexism in society, will dampen the dreams of our daughters.”
Dampen the dreams of our daughters???
I’d like to dampen Maureen Dowd’s head, a few dunks in the toilet. But to be fair, Maureen Dowd is not the only one revising past barbs and now hyping the Hillary Clinton train for 2016. I’m hearing the pundit echo machine repeat the refrain that Hillary has reached a pinnacle of respect, equal to . . . Al Gore and John Kerry.
Hillary Clinton reached that pinnacle long before these born-again cheerleaders took note. Despite the minimizing of her accomplishments–the 80+ countries she visited as First Lady, her participation in Vital Voices during the peace agreement sought in Ireland and her remarkable speech in Beijing—there were many of us who recognized Hillary Clinton as one of the most talented and dedicated political figures of her generation.
The question is . . . why now? Why the sudden gush of Hillary love after years of pot shots?
Well, riddle me this: who desperately needs the women’s vote in 2012? Sure, the Republicans have gone out of their way to play the Grand Inquisitor of the 21st century, but until recently President Obama specifically and Democrats in general were watching the female vote slip into tight-lipped resentment. But then, who can draw genuine excitement in the female electorate [leaving the dwindling Palinistas out of the equation for the moment]?
None other than Hill, who has been voted as the most admired woman for the last 16 years. With good reason.
Hillary Clinton has stated her role as Secretary of State is likely to be her last public position. I’ve resigned myself to that fact though I’d be thrilled if she were to run again. But the possibility of a future Clinton candidacy has not cast mass amnesia, erased what we witnessed and heard–the flurry of demeaning articles, suggestions that Hillary was ‘pimping’ Chelsea on the campaign trail, that someone should drag Hillary into a broom closet where only the aggressor comes out, that her nagging voice was like everyone’s ex-wife, etc., etc., etc.
If Maureen Dowd and her colleagues have had a genuine change of heart about Hillary Clinton’s extraordinary career, her achievements and leadership qualities, I’m glad for that. But you’ll have to forgive me. I’m more than a little suspicious of rah-rah revisionism when the ‘Change We Can Believe In’ mantra has grown old and stale.
You’re not fooling anyone, Ms. Dowd. We have not forgotten.