Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cambridge (Our Fair City)

Or, Why John Roberts Thinks Those Civil Rights Laws From the 1960s Are Unnecessary And Should Be Allowed To Expire

Professor Gates came home last night
(Obama's in the White House)
From a long, long China flight
(and Obama's in the White House)

Front door stuck so he went to the back
(Obama's in the White House)
Let himself in and began to unpack
(and Obama's in the White House)

Neighbor decided he looked wrong
(Obama's in the White House)
Soon a police car came along
(But Obama's in the White House)

Cops said Gates had broken in
(Obama's in the White House)
Hooked him up and took him in
(With Obama in the White House)

Didn't want to see ID
(While Obama's in the White House)
From Harvard University
(Yet Obama's in the White House)

Booked and charged with burglarizing
(Obama's in the White House)
Next day, cops apologizing
(And Obama's in the White House)

Free at last, free at last
(Obama's in the White House)
Profiling is in the past
('Cause Obama's in the White House)

with full props and much love to Gil Scott Heron, wherever he may be

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Wise Latina, dumb gringos

It took guts for Lindsey Graham to acknowledge, in his opening statement, that Sonia Sotomayor will be confirmed as an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court -- not because of her superior qualifications, but because he doesn't have the votes to sustain a filibuster. It took guts because he had to admit he can count to forty, and that he knows it's less than forty-one. I'm sure the Palin/Plumber wing of his party already suspects Graham of being a secret elitist intellectual.

That hurdle behind him, however, Graham and his Republican colleagues seemed to be incredulous that Judge Sotomayor was in their committee room and not home doing their laundry. They were puzzled to find that she had dissented from another judge "of Puerto Rican descent" -- don't you people all think alike? They joked about smoking crack with her. The always loathsome Tom Coburn put his special seal on the hearings with a hilarious Ricky Ricardo impersonation. (Refresh my memory -- didn't he do the Chico Marx "tootsie-frootsie ice-a cream" routine for Samuel Alito? No?) The justice-designate maintained her composure and sense of humor, never once complaining about being the victim of an attempted lynching, high-tech or otherwise. New Yorkers are tough.

Like a breeze stirring the thick summer air of the capital, a change has surely come. Forty-five years ago Martin Luther King and his fellow civil rights leaders were subjected to every hateful epithet, the most common and most absurd being "communist," but nobody ever called them racists. For racists like Rush Limbaugh and "Bitburg" Buchanan to call an opponent a racist, they must first tacitly acknowledge that racism is evil. Of course, they define racism rather narrowly, as failure to respect the privileges which should naturally accrue to white men, but still, it's a paradigm shift, or a quantum leap, or whatever ill-adapted buzzword you like. The earth moved. I've never been prouder of my screwed-up country.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Where is thy sting-a-ling-a-ling?

At around the same time the King of Pap was taking his place among the Loved Ones of Whispering Glades -- sorry, Forest Lawn -- news came of an outrage at a very different cemetery. It seems the proprietors of Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois, have been charged with digging up the remains of maybe three hundred people and dumping them in a vacant lot in order to re-sell the plots. This African-American burial ground is the final resting place (as far as we know) of Dinah Washington and Willie Dixon, and also of Emmett Till, who, you would think, endured more than enough indignity in life. The dead, of course, don't care -- all the anguish belongs to the living, some of whom waited for hours in brutal July heat to examine burial records and gravesites. This kind of thing just doesn't happen at Forest Lawn.

Here's how I know there is something wrong with me: All day, I've been trying to work out a coherent relationship between this atrocity and Roland Burris's announcement that he will not run for another term in the Senate, and connect them to the long-standing Cook County tradition of inviting the deceased to participate in elections. Horrible, isn't it? I can only plead temporary insanity brought on by heat, humidity, and political psychosis.

I can't listen to Sarah Palin's voice, it aggravates my tinnitus, but I have read and re-read her resignation speech and I can't make sense of it. I even tried that Babelfish program that translates texts into English, and it typed what the hell? and began to cry. Did she actually mean she could serve the people of Alaska better by quitting? That's a rare display of honesty from any politician. But why is quitting not quitting? Because she isn't a quitter? And what's all this about dead fish? Some kind of code? Woodward and Bernstein may have played a role in causing a president to resign, but I never heard of a blogger, even a liberal blogger, ending the career of an innocent governor. Or is she innocent? Who is investigating her? I would like to distance myself from the snarky suggestion that her speech was written by Trig, but I wouldn't be surprised if there was a page missing because he spit up on it. Yeah, that could be it. Babies will do that.

Meanwhile in far-off South Carolina, Mark Sanford is still governor. That rather bald statement does not begin to clarify the Argentinian mistress, the "several other" adultery partners, the five days when the governor was MIA, the weird goings-on at the headquarters of The Family (some sort of evangelical frat house in Washington), or the eagerness of many South Carolina Republicans to see him go away. And remember, I'm talking about the party of Strom Thurmond and Lindsey Graham. Also, I seem to recall that Susan Smith, who drowned her two sons in a lake, was the step-daughter of a Republican county chairman who molested her. If ever a party deserved a little Mark Sanford, it's South Carolina's. (I notice that Fox News has sentenced the governor to wear a scarlet (D) after his name, like Mark Foley and Larry Craig and David Vitter before him. You can fool all the Hannity viewers all the time, I guess.) The way things are going for the Republican Party -- party, huh, more like a wake -- I'm not ruling out a Palin/Sanford ticket in 2012. If Barack Obama doesn't cancel all future elections and declare himself President for Life, that is. I have to stop watching Fox News.

I should probably stop watching news altogether. The Supreme Rulers of Iran now know that a fake democracy can be worse than the real thing; people take it seriously and then you have to start shooting them. Come on, holy ones, don't you know how to steal an election? You wait a couple of days to announce that your guy won. You don't do it while voters are still lined up at the polling places, and you don't announce your guy won a landslide, even carrying his chief opponent's home town. There are books you can read. See my comments above concerning Cook County.

If I didn't watch the BBC, I wouldn't know about the latest chapter in the mad, bad, sad history of North Korea. The American media tried to convince us that dangerous things might happen around July 4, possibly involving an attack on Hawaii. It all sounded strangely familiar: a weakling ruler needs to get out of Dad's shadow, and all he can think to do is start some shit. Kim Jong Il is fading fast, and has to prove he's as big a man as Kim Il Sung before handing the country over to Kim No Vak or whatever the son's name is. So he loads his "missile" onto what appears to be a rusted-out Liberty Ship and starts trundling it across the Pacific. It's kind of Duchy of Grand Fenwick with nuclear potential. Then the ship turns around, and a mainland base dumps a couple of missiles into the ocean, startling the fish. Well, it seems the whole exercise was designed to call attention to the launch of new Taedonggang Beer. They couldn't afford an ad campaign because they spent too much money buying an English brewery and shipping it to the Democratic Republic. Lager mavens say it's the best beer on the Korean peninsula, which is a good thing. Let's say you're a North Korean farm worker getting along on 1,500 calories a day. Word comes from the Ministry of Agricultural Enlightenment that henceforth you are to grow hops instead of rice. You could use a cold brewski right about now, couldn't you?

At least one front in the Republican war on reality collapsed last week, when Al Franken took his seat as junior Senator from Minnesota. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) has already pronounced him a "clown" who lacks the gravitas required of a Senator. Unlike Jim Bunning, former journeyman pitcher. Or Bill Frist, so-called doctor who publicly admitted he did not know how HIV is transmitted. Or -- look, it's too hot for this. I think I can smell the wildfires in California.

Ah, the Golden State. If Plato were here, he'd make California Exhibit A in his case that democracy is no good. As Jefferson or Churchill or Jerry Colonna observed, it's a bad form of government but the others are worse. Representative democracy just about wobbles along, squeaking and shuddering, but direct democracy, such as they enjoy in referendum-mad California, is a disaster. Put simply, people will never vote to raise their own taxes no matter how many billions of dollars the state is in debt. Just cut somebody else's services, they think, slamming the "NO" button until the touchscreen flickers. I hope the folks who are fighting the blazes don't mind being paid in promises. They just might walk off the fireline and leave the glamorous homes of those fiscal conservatives to the mercy of the flames. That would be terrible. And irresponsible. Childish, even.