Monday, May 31, 2010

Amanda BC

I have a confession to make. I’ve never visited Canada in my life, although my British husband adores the country, has visited almost every inch of it and would love to live there someday.

Me, I’m not so sure.

One “meets” a lot of people in traipsing about the Internet. Most, I would hope, are normal people with normal everyday hopes, aspirations and goals. Some are – well - not-so-normal, but life’s like that.

Yet, normal or not, it never ceases to amaze me how many ornery, mean, bitter and downright rude people whose paths one crosses in surfing the Internet. I mean, I try to be an open-minded person. I’m originally from a rural part of a Southern state, but I’ve lived and travelled around much of Western Europe, and there are few things or people I’ve seen or met that shock me.

Travelling or living abroad, one encounters all the insipid, nationalistic prejudices that prevail between one nation and another – many of which have fomented over hundreds of years. The animosity between the French and the English has its roots in the 1066 Norman conquest. The dislike of the Northern English for those who live in the Southeast has existed since time out of mind, a jealous borne from the provinciality and dirty industry wealth of the North juxtaposed with the easy, profligacy of the “soft South.” The Scots hate the English because an English Queen died, her heir was the Scots’ king; he headed South and never looked back. The Irish hate the English because of years of subjugation and brutal rule. The French distrust the Germans, but grudgingly work with them in order to play the big dog in the EU. The French consider Africa to begin “at the Pyrenees.” The Mediterranean countries consider Africa best served in Africa. You get the picture.

With the dislike, come the caricatures: the stiff, upper-lipped Englishman, the drunken Scot, the ueber-romantic Frenchman reeking of Paco Rabanne and garlic, the macho Spaniard or Italian, the goose-stepping German, the stupid American.

It’s easy to generalise, but some people generalise to such an extent or a degree that when actually confronted with people from other places, they let generalisations override actual initial impressions.

Generalisation, at the moment, is rife in the US. It’s always been about, but somehow the Internet shoves this more in your face. The attitude of the Northeastern coast and the entire West Coast to the rest of America (“flyover country” or “shit-kicking inbreds toting Bibles and guns”), Teabaggers thinking anyone remotely left of centre to be card-carrying socialists or communist, the piously moral assumption of some liberals to criticize the South and Southerners as a whole with impunity – it’s all there to find on the Internet.

This worries me, because I find myself falling prey to the very generalisation I abhor.

This generalisation is exemplified by a regular commentator on Huffington Post, a child-woman (or so her dynamic would indicate) known only as Amanda BC.

Amanda BC is Canadian. She lives on Vancouver Island, and – apparently – she has precious little to do all day long but read the radge served up as fact on that aggregate and comment in the ugliest and rudest fashion possible, directing most of her invective towards American commentators and never ceasing to let them know how stupid they are, how they’re responsible for every known ill extant in the world and how Canadians are as pure as the driven snow.

Tell that to the baby seals you club. (See, there I go generalising!)

She regularly tells other commentators directly how stupid they are, she drones on and on about how incredibly ignorant Americans are, she addresses other commentators directly as “fascist”. And, yet, such comments remain and are allowed to stand as per the “moderators.”

Her latest offerings come as a collective invective against the crisis in the Gulf.

As I said, I’ve never been to Canada and I’ve known only a few Canadians in my life, and those were people living and working in the US. Very nice people. But it would be so easy for me to generalise about the rest, based on this foul-mouthed little madam’s screeds. I guess the first thing I want to know is why there seems to be a propensity of Canadians commenting almost exclusively on American news and information sites (term used loosely) and about matters almost exclusively American? Yes, we share a continent, but I see precious few Mexicans weighing in about political agendae in the United States and there seems to be more cutting issues applicable to Mexicans than Canadians … but that’s – dare I say it? – a generalisation.

I live in the UK. I read some of the blogging comments on The Guardian’s website and also on the BBC. When an American strays inadvertantly into “British” territory to comment on all matters British, they are politely told where to go.

This worries me, because it’s making me hate without reason. It’s closing my mind and making me intolerant. Is she genuinely nasty? Does she have self-esteem issues? (How I’d love to ask her that, or any other Canadian commentator offering up such venom-laced observations). Maybe, even though she lives on Vancouver Island, she’s never visited the United States, or maybe she has and is jealous. Maybe she can’t get a green card. Or maybe she’s just a vicious, vindictive, little bitch who gets pleasure from reminding people of their own inadequacies in order to mask her own.

Anyway, she’s putting me off visiting Canada, and she’s putting me off Canadians. Let me just generalise and say, who the hell wants to visit a place where they club baby seals to death?

Arrrrrggggggggghhhhhhhhhh! You see … if the public exist on generalisations and stereotypes, how easy it is for the dumbed-down, mundane media to feed that addiction?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Masters of Illusion and Intolerance

I am an atheist.

When I was seven years old, my father told me that there was no God and that he was Santa Claus. I was upset about the Santa Claus part, but I put the "no God" revelation on hold until I could think about it properly and continued in my Catholic upbringing until I’d reached a point, around about fourteen or so, where I realised that my father was probably right.

However, my parents also raised me to be respectful of other people’s faiths and beliefs. I went to school with Jewish kids and Protestants. I went to school with kids, who were Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses and Holy Rollers, who played with snakes. Such was a rural upbringing in the South in the early Sixties. Whenever I sought to criticize another’s religious persuasion, my mother was quick to admonish:

"Those are their beliefs; don’t criticize them. That’s wrong."

I put that admonishment down to good breeding on her part, and, although I can honestly say I heard her dish the dirt on many a neighbour in a gossip-fest with one of her sisters or a neighbour, I can honestly say I never heard her condemn another person’s faith, religion of lack of either.

So, whilst I don’t believe in God, I don’t condemn or ridicule anyone who does, unless they seek to impose that belief on me and condemn my non-belief as wrong. Later on, after having left education, I realised that this philosophy is basically the tenet upon which our Constitution is founded – we have the freedom in our country to believe and worship or not to believe and not to worship and not be persecuted by anyone for our religious or non-religious choice.

This is why our government was founded, specifically, without any sort of established religion as part of its identity. Therefore, we are a secular nation. That a certain tranche of society within the country chooses to believe otherwise, chooses to believe that we are, in effect, a Christian nation, is a fallacy. It’s when they appropriate a particular faith – the Christian faith, or rather, the Protestant end of the Christian faith – attach it to the flag and wave it about, that it becomes distatesful, offensive and wrong.

It’s when the likes of Sarah Palin mounts the podium to proclaim the Christian Right as being in possession of the sole identity that is "Real America" which mirrors a particular brand of perverted Christianity, which is petty, mean, vulgar and exclusive. The Christianity I studied preached tolerance, inclusiveness, love and charity to all, without exception. A particular meme of the Catholicism of my childhood, as a matter of fact, appears, as well, in a teaching of Islam: love the sinner, hate the sin.

Throughout life, I’ve had friends who believed and friends who didn’t. Two of my closest friends from college are a practicing Catholic and a born-again Christian. They accepted my cynicism and secularism with openness and aplomb. We get along fine. They even pray for me in times of strife, and I thank them for that. It certainly can’t hurt. When they’re under duress, I let them know that they’re in my thoughts.

Hand-in-hand with that, my parents – lifelong Democrats and liberals – taught me, as well, that our kind, politically and socially, were traditionally tolerant and open-minded. We recognised change in society and changed with it.

So forgive me if I’ve spent the better part of my adult life believing that anyone to the left of the political scale was just that: tolerant and open-minded, because of late, I’ve seen a lot of the opposite on the Left side of the fence, and it’s not been pretty to see.

Friday night, I saw the worst sort of narrow-minded, ugly, bear-baiting intolerance come to the fore during the panel discussion on Real Time with Bill Maher.

And it concerned religion.

I must admit that I’ve long held Bill Maher’s atheism as suspect. For the longest time, until last September, Bill refused to be categorised as an atheist. An atheist, he’s on record as saying, is as definite in his belief that there is no God, as a fundamentalist Christian is in asserting that there is one. The truth is, he stated, we simply don’t know. When pressed, he actually admitted that he believed in a higher entity, just not the traditional God the Father image which is foisted on society as a whole.

He’s made this assertion, perfectly reasonable, in several interviews and even in his documentary Religulous, which was released in 2008. With this assertion, the closest definition of Bill’s belief was agnosticism. Then last September when he received the Richard Dawkins Award as "Atheist of the Year", all hell broke loose in the atheist community because Bill wasn’t an avowed atheist, but also because Bill, who presented himself as a rationalist who believed in science, actually only believed in science, as long as it didn’t pertain to medical science – or Western medicine, as Bill described it.

When various high-profiled atheists in the scientific community started questioning Richard Dawkins’s judgement in bestowing the award, Bill "admitted" his atheism.

Bill, who likes to joke about women doing anything for shiny objects, professed he was an atheist ... in order to receive a shiny object.

Two Fox News reporters have been known to "convert" to Islam in order to save their lives.

On Friday’s panel, Bill had the author S E Cupp as a first-time guest. I admit I didn’t know very much about the woman. She’s an author, a conservative and an atheist, who advocates for people of faith. She’s also very young.

Several people, avowed atheists in the blogosphere, have admitted difficulty in believing that she is, in fact, an atheist, because she has said that she accepts and understands why people believe in Christianity or whatever faith they follow, and because she has stated that, one day, it’s plausible that she, herself, might be open to the idea that there is a God.

I think, perhaps, those esteemed, blogging voices (many of whom are probably very young and/or very obtuse), take more exception with the fact that Miss Cupp is a conservative, rather than her unusually open-minded view of religion and religious followers. Let’s fact it: "conservative" and "atheist" juxtaposed is the most curious of oxymorons.

On Friday night, Bill Maher, with a copy of Cupp’s book in hand, asked her if she didn’t consider people who believed in God as "delusional". This is what Bill thinks. He never forgets to tell us this at every opportunity – that people who believe in God suffer from a neurological disorder – to the deafening applause of his studio audience.

And so, he asked Cupp, fellow atheist, this selfsame question.

He didn’t get the answer he expected.

Cupp replied that she didn’t think believers were deluded. Bill asked her again, clearly not believing the answer he heard the first time, and she reaffirmed her reply, even enhancing it by saying that she knew many intelligent, articulate, well-informed people who believed in God and were in no way deluded.

But Bill pressed on, insisting, unwilling to believe that another person, a non-believer, could be so openly accepting of people of faith.

"Look," Cupp tried to explain, "I totally buy into faith and religion. It works for some people." And she proceeded to explain how various studies had shown that people with religious faith were happier in themselves and how these sorts of people seemed to respond well and benefit from various medical treatments, due to their abiding faith; but still Bill pressed on, determined to get her to admit that religious people were delusional, determined to wear her down, until suddenly, Cupp snapped:

"I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in God, but I’m not the one who’s angry with Him."

For one split second, there was a deafening silence before more than a smattering of applause erupted. Bill, for his part, had the panic-stricken look of a deer caught in the headlights of a car.

A raw nerve had been touched and brutally, if unintentionally, exposed. S E Cupp, who – prior to that evening – had never met Bill Maher before, had exposed his Achilles’ heel for all to see, read and comprehend.

For this man is not an atheist; he is someone who believes in and is angry with God and, by extension, religion.

There followed, for the next fifteen minutes, one of the ugliest examples of bigotry, intolerance and close-mindedness I’ve ever seen on any television screen. That it emanated from one who sees himself as a spokesperson for the Progressive Left was positively sickening.

One of the other panelists was Cory Booker, the newly re-elected mayor of Newark, New Jersey – a Democrat and a Christian. Booker never referred to his beliefs as a Christian, but entered the discussion in order to give some concrete examples of how Christians, through their religious organisations, can make a difference in communities and how various churches do, in some instances, work well in areas of deprivation and poverty.

It was at that particular instance that we saw Bill suddenly morph into Bill O’Reilly. He repeatedly cut Booker and Cupp off mid-sentence, refusing to let them get any point across and directly criticizing and belittling Booker for his faith.

Booker was summarily "reminded" by Bill that every war that had ever been fought was fought because of religion, that religion causes people’s deaths, that every ill in the world could be traced directly back to a person’s religious faith. Each time Booker sought to retort – logically – Bill swathed his every remark. When Booker attempted to get a word in edgeways by remarking that Bill didn’t know everything, Bill replied, prissily, "You’re the ones who know everything, like what happens after death!"

Booker objected strenuously, saying that he certainly didn’t know, but then retorted that he didn’t care to hear anymore of what Bill had to say, that Bill was beginning to sound more and more like the proselytising fire-and-brimstone Baptist preachers he regularly excoriated. "You’re intolerant," he stated with finality.

Thus, occurred the second split-second pin-drop moment, followed by the audience’s applause. The camera caught Bill, on live television, looking like a small child who’d been roundly told off by his parents for naughtiness. He looked near tears.

"I’m not intolerant," he protested, weakly, before accusing Booker of saying he was prejudiced and explaining in the most pedantic manner that he wasn’t pre-judgmental at all, merely judgmental, without ever realising in his hubris, that both were inherently wrong.

The whole exchange dominated the entire twenty minutes allocated for the panel portion of the show and afforded the reptilian Darrell Issa summary accordance, subsequently, to interrupt Booker’s explanation of the Miranda rule, just in time for Bill to call a halt to the proceedings for New Rules.

Although I was appalled by the episode, I wasn’t surprised in the least. Bill’s behaviour is something that’s becoming as common amongst people who purport to be a part of the Progressive Left as it is their Rightwing, teabagging counterparts. These people aren’t on the street, waving pictures of Obama as Hitler or a witch doctor, or spitting at Congressmen; but they’re hunched over laptops, tapping out four-lettered insults to anyone who doesn’t pass the purity test of agreeing lockstep with what they perceive to be accepted liberal dogma. They abhor racism, but they laugh at Bill referring to the President as "President Sanford and Son". They nod in agreement when he derides the state of Arizona’s inordinate treatment of the Latino population, but see nothing wrong with Bill’s alpha male admonition to the Muslim community that they’d better honour our First Amendment – in other words, our way or the highway.

These are people who consider Dylan Ratigan the height of journalism, not only when he shouts down a conservative "guest" to the point that he doesn’t allow the man the opportunity to answer at all, before flinging an ad hominem epithet his way and ending the interview in feigned disgust, but also when he screams insults at Debbie Wasserman Schulz, a Congresswoman and a breast cancer survivor, for her support of what he perceived to be a flawed healthcare bill.

These are people who attack anyone, even of their own political persuasion, if they admit to a nominal belief in God. Pardon me, but I thought our Constitution and our country abhorred any persecution of any faith. And I also thought my atheism was simply my lack of belief, not a dogma to be imposed on others as right. What’s right for me is not right for anyone else. Bill pointed out, quite rightly, to S E Cupp that communism was a state religion of sorts. Atheism is not a religion by any means, and people who proselytise it as the right way, the only way are as bad as those people who condemn anyone who doesn’t accept Christ as the only way to eternal hell.

He sounds like a male version of Sarah Palin, just as snarky, exclusive and mean. When I ran across a remark made by one of his biggest fans recently, a woman who is a former politician and living in the Pacific Northwest, commenting derisively that she supposed Bill had encountered "some dots of intelligent life in flyover country" after his return from stand-up in Indiana and Wisconsin, I knew then that – although he may not intend it – he’s becoming a demagogue to people who are so bereft of the capability to think and opinionate for themselves, that they parrot his own attitudes and beliefs, no matter that they are as inconsistent as the mood in which he awakens every morning.

This year, he derided S E Cupp her ability to speak out, as an atheist, for people of faith. Last year, he commended Brad Pitt, another self-avowed atheist, for his commitment to doing so. People who believe in God or practice a religion are delusional and suffer from a neurological disorder, yet Bill pals around with practicing Catholics Chris Matthews, Michael Moore, Paul Begala and P J O’Rourke. Please don’t tell me he’s trying to convert them.

Maybe they remember Bill in their prayers. Maybe he secretly wants to be like them. Maybe it’s time certain people who purport to be part of the Progressive Left, check their exact position on the political spectrum – because if you move far enough to the Left, you come out on the Right ... and neocons are lapsed liberals.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Low Blows and Old White People

New Rule: Bill Maher must take a leaf from Charlie Crist’s book and come out of the closet … as a Blue Dog Democrat.

And that’s being kind.

Bill can no longer gad about the nation, advertising himself as a spokesman for Progressives any more than his BFF, Arianna Huffington, can presume to present herself as a spokesman for the middle class.

Bill regularly touts himself as a Progressive, laments about the state of political representation in Congress of real Leftists and loves to advertise his Leftwing credentials, as one who always speaks the truth to America on behalf of the Left.

Well …

Maybe Bill likes to think of himself that way, and that’s admirable. Maybe he aspires to be a paragon of Progressivism, but the real truth is, simply, that he’s not really all that liberal.

Until now, I’ve been willing to give him a pass on the fact that, as a declared Progressive, he’s:-

- in favour of the death penalty

- in favour of racial profiling at airports

- virulently anti-union

- opposes government-funded arts programs

- supported President Bush’s Iraqi surge

After all, in anyone else’s political language that whiffs, more than just a little bit, of ardent Republicanism; but, hey, this is Bill. He’s pro-choice, wants cannabis legalised and is an atheist (for the moment, at least, while it’s fashionable). We real Lefties are tolerant enough to indulge Bill’s peculiar brand of ”Progressivism” for those opinions alone.

But Friday night, I’m afraid, he crossed the Rubicon and is straying dangerously close to the dark side.

Last year, from June onwards, Bill incorporated, as part of his schtick, a species of Obama-bashing. Obama was being seen too much on television. He was becoming too much of a celebrity. He was beginning to believe his own publicity. His only major action during the first 100 days was to buy a dog. He’d achieved nothing in six months and even less in eleven. He should be more like Bush, he was too much like Bush, he was everything and nothing.

Most of all, he was “Barry.”

The gratuitous criticism released a welter of discontent amongst the Left’s base, as misinformed and unknowledgeable in their own way, as their counterparts on the Right. Grumblings on the Left erupted and soon ruptured the new-found Democratic unity. People, rather pompously, declared they would boycott the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey last November, they would boycott the Massachusetts senatorial election in January, the mid-terms; they hoped for a primary challenge to Obama in 2012 – never imagining that such an open display of dissent would play right into a gameplan for a sure-fire Republican victory. Kucinich, Dean, Alan Grayson … all were touted as what essentially became the Great White Hope of the Left.

In the meantime, Bill traipsed from talk show to talk show, touting the fact that he was the first of all the pundits to dare to criticize the “Chocolate Jesus” and people followed suit.

However, when Real Time returned for an eighth season this past February, it seemed that Bill had imposed a moratorium on Obama-bashing. Some petulant tweets about “Barry’s” handling of Afghanistan and the Underpants Bomber were met with some feisty criticism from his more discerning and more mature fan base; and when the healthcare reform bill was passed, Bill gave the President some long-overdue respect – so much so, people were willing to allow him the privalege of the occasional “Barry” reference.

Friday’s show arrived at the end of a week, which was dominated by news of an oil spill off the Gulf Coast of the United States, as well as increasing tension surrounding the new Arizona Immigration Law and the AFL-CIO’s march on Wall Street, after some particularly rancorous hearings on Capitol Hill between the Senate and Goldman Sachs.

Plenty of fodder for the Real Time panel, which consisted of economist Laura Tyson, conservative NYT columnist Ross Douthat and Bill’s long-time friend and commentator Chris Matthews, with Congressman Anthony Weiner appearing as the fourth guest.

Instead, the panel was dominated by a discussion based on two random quotations made by President Obama and taken entirely out of the context in which they were originally found.

Bill was angry with the President. Again. Because of two sentences uttered by the President.

In the wake of the oil spill, Bill explained to the panel that he was angry with Obama and blaming him for the whole catastrophe. In fact, in his words, he couldn’t understand why “more shit wasn’t being heaped on Obama” because of this. After all, when Obama announced, some weeks previously, that he was proposing to begin highly regulated and limited off-shore drilling as a short-term solution to a long-term problem: weaning us off oil dependency whilst developing newer, greener technology and energy sources. In the meantime, the President had said, something had to be used to keep wheels turning and lights on, and that may as well be domestic, rather than Middle Eastern oil.

However, at that time, the President had stated that he’d received assurances from people who should be in the know, that oil rigs, as they are in the present day, pose little danger to the environment and were, for the most part, safe.

As the panelists, including the conservative Ross Douthat, pointed out, just because this tragedy coincidentally occurred on Obama’s watch, didn’t mean that the blame should be shouldered by the President, and least of all, should he be apportioned blame for proposing to begin off-shore drilling again. As Bill’s initial interview guest, the ueber-conservative John Bolton, pointed out, in that sort of industry – as in the coal-mining disaster some weeks previously – these things happen. Besides, the President’s proposed off-shore drilling wasn’t due to occur for another few years.

Bill tried to justify his anger by saying that Obama had caved in on off-shore drilling, only to appease the Republicans and curry bipartisan cooperation, something Bill cannot abide. As he put it, he realised politics was all about compromise and decision-making, but this was just wrong, in his mind.

As Tyson, the economist who’ d served the Clinton administration, then reiterated, the bipartisanship was already there in the climate-change legislation, itself. In fact, it wasn’t bipartisanship, it was actually tripartisanship, as the bill was being co-authored by Democrat John Kerry, Republican Lindsey Graham and Independent Joe Lieberman. The concession to off-shore drilling wasn’t a sop to the Republicans, but the fact did remain that Republican votes were needed for the eventual passage of the bill.

The usual brouhaha ensued, with Douthat chiming in about the expense of new green technology and Tyson agreeing that eventually energy would have to be taxed in this country in the same way it was taxed in Europe (e.g, value added tax) until the whole discussion climaxed in a surreal argument between Bill and Chris Matthews, which originally concerned wind turbines on the Massachusetts coast, but which terminated in a totally incongruent comparison, by Bill, of the late Senator Edward Kennedy with Roman Polanski.

What wasn’t said and what should have been highlighted were these points:-

1. Candidate Obama had always campaigned on the possibility that he might have to initiate off-shore drilling – again, regulated and limited – as a carryover whilst greener fuel-types were developed. He said, specifically, that developing greener fuel technology would involve some tough decisions, of which he was unafraid to tackle – like, specifically, initiating limited, albeit stringently-controlled, off-shore oil-drilling. He said this, again and again, on the campaign trail. Maybe Bill missed that part, because I know that Bill, unlike many of his fans who supported Obama, actually listened to the man’s speeches. I know that because in a recent interview with Laurence O’Donnell, in referencing the healthcare issue, Bill actually remarked on Obama having said that single payer health cover would be ideal, only if the US were starting from scratch in establishing a health insurance system. So I know that Bill very well heard the whys and wherefores of Barack Obama’s decision to implement off-shore drilling.


2. In all of the discussion surrounding the oil spill on Friday, two spectres hovered in the background like Banquo’s ghost. Their presence was certainly felt, but they were never acknowledged. In the entire discussion, not one participant even ventured to mention the name “Cheney” or “Halliburton.”

Tucked away in the print media that day, was a reported fact that the reason behind the oil rig explosion was due to a particular safety valve not having been installed. This is a required piece of equipment in many oil-producing countries. However, it’s not standard in the UK, home base to BP, the owner of the oil rig. Dick Cheney, it was told, surreptitiously confirmed that BP needn’t install the device, as it would cost some $500,000; this was after Cheney’s old mate company, Halliburton, had actually built the structure.

Now, I understand Ross Douthat, the token Republican on the panel, choosing not to bring up either Cheney or Halliburton. I understand Laura Tyson, perhaps, not knowing. But neither Chris nor Bill ever turn down an opportunity to Cheney-bash, or Cheeney-bash, as the case may be with Chris. At the moment when it might have seemed Chris might bring this up, instead he dove into the discussion about wind turbines and how Ted Kennedy compared to Roman Polanski.

The point is that Bill deliberately cherry-picked a sentence spoken by the President and spun it into a veil of blame, encompassing Obama and only Obama as concerned the oil spillage. When Tyson eventually pointed out that one of the President’s first reactions was to call an immediate halt to all off-shore drilling until the causes behind this tragedy had been investigated, Bill’s rather high-handed retort was, “Flip-flopping. Well, that would be one flip-flop I could believe in.”

The second comment which had evoked the ire of Maher this week, in relation to Obama, was a sentence he’d spoken at the meeting of Wall Street bankers some days before, when Obama remarked that Wall Street and Main Street are alike. Considering the fact that the previous week, Bill had admitted not understanding the stock market - honesty which I admire, because I don’t understand that system, myself – he took umbrage at that, remarking that it was the sort of stupid thing George Bush would say. He asked Tyson, the economist, for her thoughts.

She gave a beauty of an answer, before attempting to explain why Wall Street and Main Street were similar.

“Well,” she began, “Considering I don’t know the sentence that was spoken before that particular one, nor the one which was spoken afterward, I’m not prepared to venture an opinion, and neither should you.”

That one observation was all that needed to be said about and to Bill this week, because the entire panel discussion centered around two blatantly cherry-picked remarks, spun into a skein of righteous indignation and thrown into the public domain for consumption.

Please, don’t get me wrong. Criticism of our leaders and our government is allowed and expected, but as they have to be responsible in their actions on our behalf, so we must be responsible in our criticism. In past programs, and most notably, this season, Bill has, rightly, taken the likes of Fox News and the Teabagging contingent to task for irresponsible and wanton criticism of the President – for basically, clutching at the flimsiest of straws – a remark, an action, a nuance – and spinning it into something sinister and frightening.

In fact, Bill markedly pointed the finger at one particular demographic, within the Republican party, whom, he reckoned, guiltiest of inciting such discord: old white people. Old white people, he’s said repeatedly, are the one demographic group who hate Obama. They are the ones, who pluck a word or sentence out of context and parse each word meticulously, until they are able to prove a pejorative point regarding the President’s motives. They are the ones who listen to the likes of Beck and Hannity as they do the same and reinforce their prejudices. Old white people, mostly those who are – in Arianna Huffington’s words – male, stale and pale, are the ones who regularly call the President “Barry.”

And “flip-flop” is an equally pejorative term used by people on the Left to refer contemptuously, and rightly so, about the craven denial of principles in exchange for votes, practiced by the likes of Mitt Romney or even John McCain. Obama deciding to halt a practice in the wake of a tragic accident concerning the relevant industry isn’t flip-flopping. It’s showing responsible caution.

The White House have confirmed, since, that it’s too early to decide whether to rescind their original proposal to re-institute off-shore drilling. That doesn’t mean they’re being stubborn and recalcitrant. It means they are looking into all the details surrounding this tragedy and getting the mess cleared up and paid for by the guilty parties, before ultimately deciding. That’s deliberating, not knee-jerk.

Bill ended his program with an editorial warning Islamic religious fanatics of our cultural superiority as ingrained in our written Constitution. His final words deemed Freedom of Speech in our country as “not negotiable.” That’s true, as long as one exercises such freedom responsibly.

Political pundits indulging in parsing individual sentences spoken by the President of the United States and presenting their meaning as something totally different in order to promote their own agenda or to incite the public is the stuff of hacks like Beck or Hannity, whom Bill recently dubbed “Hack Hackington.” When Bill does this sort of thing, for whatever reason, he’s as irresponsible as they.

Bill’s better than that. He knows better than that, otherwise he risks being identified with that particular demographic who are white, over fifty and call the President “Barry.”

Monday, May 3, 2010

In Condescending Order

For some reason, Joe Scarborough’s morning show did a special Sunday morning edition, solely for the purpose of discussing the previous evening’s gala shindig Press Correspondents’ dinner.

Pardon me for asking, but when did a glorified prom become cause for a special edition of a morning news-and-opinion show to be aired during the weekend? Granted, the oil spill was a particular concern to everyone and worthy of special coverage. The Arizona immigration issue was certainly newsworthy as well, not to mention the breaking news story of the failed bomb attempt in Times Square.

Instead, viewers were treated to the sight of Scarborough, Mika Brezinsky, Willie Geist and media whore, Arianna Huffington, gaggled around what appeared to be a faux cafe table against a backdrop of the White House, discussing the gossip surrounding the previous evening’s social soiree.

They all looked much the worse for wear, although they were obviously hoping the effect created was that of two super-sophisticated cosmopolitan couples, meandering back in the early hours from a Monaguesque bacchanal, and pausing in a sidewalk cafe for an espresso and a gossip-fest.

Although it was early morning on the East Coast, the day looked overcast, or early enough for the sun not to have risen sufficiently. Nevertheless, three of the four sported sunglasses. Mika was still wearing the clothes she’d worn to the event and slumped sullenly in her chair, obviously feeling the effects of too much drink and too little sleep. Scarborough wore shades as well, and what appeared to be his evening suit. Geist looked like a rumpled frat boy.

Huffington was also decked out in shades and at pains to keep her face in profile, with no close-up shots. She’d not yet been to bed, and it was obvious the tit-tape applied to her hairline during her daily facial had long since lost its grip and her incipient jowls were beginning to drop, thus, revealing every one of her real 63 (admitted 59) years by the dawn’s early light.

The quartet was there to discuss the wonderland which suddenly erupted the previous evening when the glitzy glamour of Hollywood blended with the political power surge that sizzles in Washington.

“HEV’reybuddy lahfffffs celebrities, dahlinks!” trilled Whoreanna, sounding more ZsaZsa than ZsaZsa, herself (and has anyone seen the pair of them together in one room). “Vashinkton lahffs Hollyvud and Hollvud lahffs Vashinkton.”

That was a prelude to a backdrop of photo opportunities, showing wet-knickered celebrity bimbos posing prettily with staid, patrician politicos – with either person doubtless wondering who the other might be. I caught a glimpse of Jon Bon Jovi in one flick, Michelle Pfeiffer in another.

I thought this was an annual dinner given the White House Press Correspondents. Since when did it become the Oscars away from home? Who are these people, and why are they there? Last year, Sting and Trudie Styler were invited, with eco warrior Trudie cadging the couple’s private jet and ferrying the eight people absolutely necessary to put her skinny frame together for one evening, one of those necessary people being a feng shui expert).

The whole broadcast was a cacophony of name-dropping, which – I suppose – was meant to impress the viewer. I can’t say I slept any sounder in my bed, having been told by Fuckington that all of the political establishment adored her special guest, Scarlett Johanssen, they worshipped at her feet.

Forgive me, but I don’t want people I elect to ponce about of an evening worshipping at the feet of an peroxided latent adolescent who scrubs up well, and I don’t care if her intellectual credentials included spotting Bernie Sanders across the room and sprinting over tables to confront him. That anecdote didn’t cut any ice with me, and it shouldn’t with anyone else.

I don’t give a rat’s ass which nameless Hollywood actor hung out with Willie Geist and increased Geist’s street cred amongst people who normally wouldn’t touch him with a barge pole, and I wanted Mika, daughter of Democrats, to respond to Whoreanna’s pointless bragging of having met Scott Brown and having been told that Brown named his eldest daughter after her, by snapping: “Think about it, you dumb bitch, when the girl was born twenty years ago, you were a fucking Republican so far to the Right you make Sarah fucking Palin look libera! Now shut the fuck up and order me an Alka Seltzer on the rocks. My head is splitting!”

The whole ego-stroking episode is given pride of place on Huffington Post, just under the main story of the oil spill and the President’s visit.

I find it astounding that this pathetic parvenue and blatant social-climber should consider herself a natural spokesperson for the middle classes. Many members of the class she purports to defend probably waited on her table the previous evening.

On a day when the Gulf Coast is being ravaged by an oil spill, when unemployment is rife and rising and when those who are employed are often either underemployed or working three jobs to make ends meet, that this superficial dilettante should waste time telling the little people she thinks she serves about the party lives of the rich, the famous and the powerful.

I don’t know whether this was a jump-the-shark moment for Whoreanna, but it certainly reeked of “let-them-eat-cake” attitude.

There is a lot of heated discussion going on in America now, sparked by the Arizona immigration debate, regarding immigration reform. It seems that everyone is agreed that immigration should continue in some way, but that there are, indeed, two types of immigrants: the “wrong” type of immigrant and the “right” sort.

I think Arianna Huffington falls in the former category.

I would like to know if her papers are in order.