Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
I have decided to go another way, and have launched a new project: This Earth Nature Blog. Hope to see you there sometime.
I’m still pretty worked up about the birth control argument that has been underway in American Politics. I think it is embarrassing and disgraceful and representative of a time that we should collectively have left in our past.
Anyway. It’s worth a look. Because the issue remains important, and the news that all-male congressional hearings are taking place to determine such an issue as female reproductive rights only highlights how tone-deaf too many people still are, in 2012, regarding such an everyday, commonplace element of the modern life.
The truth is, members of the upper tribe have made themselves phenomenally productive. They may mimic bohemian manners, but they have returned to 1950s traditionalist values and practices. They have low divorce rates, arduous work ethics and strict codes to regulate their kids.
Members of the lower tribe work hard and dream big, but are more removed from traditional bourgeois norms. They live in disorganized, postmodern neighborhoods in which it is much harder to be self-disciplined and productive.
That is TRC’s ever-favorite “conservative” editorialist, David Brooks, writing about the widening gaps between American tribes in his piece yesterday, titled, the Great Divorce.
Brooks clearly is enamored by his idea that American culture is tribal, not classist, and he runs and runs and runs with it. As a major news and opinion consumer, TRC thinks it can be pretty easy to notice when a writer has come up with something he or she thinks is quite clever, and, maybe doesn’t think it all the way through. Thus is Brooks’ dilemma.
It looks today as though David Brooks’ piece is causing a bit of an internet uproar. Politico has the rundown. The main complaint seems to be that Brooks, that harbinger of east-coast 1950s conservatism who longs for America to regain its glory by acknowledging it is losing its moral compass and soul (or some such nonsense), is oozing with bourgouis elitism and condescension.
So, internet, I have to ask: Why are you surprised? This is David Brooks. He is a standard upper-class (ahem, upper-tribe) ideas man, who when it comes down to it, is thoughtful, but clueless about modern life. I just assumed everyone knew that was David Brooks m.o. Brooks work in the last few years at the NY Times has represented only a swan-song to golden era nostalgia.
Even Brooks’ conclusion that we need a big national service program to bring the upper and lower tribes together (I agree), falls apart in the need for one harmonious tribe that shares values and practices. He misses the entire point of what comes before in his piece: the tribes don’t have much in common, we don’t all need to share the same practices and institutions and values, and besides, the postmodern neighborhoods of the poor are probably too confusing to find their way to each other anyway.
Earlier today, I put 5 seconds into a campaign ad for the Newt Gingrich campaign. I tried to be sly about mocking the foundational claim of Newt’s run: that he has reformed.
But what I was getting at was done better and bolder by Rod Dreher at the American Conservative. It’s the same concept, titled Gingrich Family Values.
TRC tends to think that when most people are confronted with a difficult decision, they will weigh the options and choose what they think is the best. If they don’t, that’s what they should be doing.
And I think that’s what President Obama and his team did when they decided to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline today. I like to think that Obama and his staff looked at the benefits and the risks, weighed them, and came to a decision based on the evidence. That isn’t to say that someone could not do the same, and come out on the other side. But it is to say that Obama took the decision seriously, and chose with care. This is what I hope.
The pros of the Keystone XL pipeline, the only talking point there is for this project, is jobs. It creates jobs. It’s shovel ready. If you oppose the line, you are an extremist who does not put American jobs first. Look at the GOP responses already compiled, only hours after the decision was made public.
- “His decision today is a victory for the few extreme environmental activists who have lined up to protest Keystone and a defeat for the tens of thousands of Americans who are lining up to find a Keystone job.” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
- “How long does it take for President Obama to put the needs of America’s workers ahead of his political interests?” Dick Lugar (R-Ind.)
- “I would note that under the law the president signed, the decision to claim that these jobs are not in the national interest is his alone. The president is the only one who can make that determination and block the jobs. “ Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
- “President Obama is about to destroy tens of thousands of American jobs and sell American energy security to the Chinese. The president won’t stand up to his political base even to create American jobs.” Brendan Buck, John Boehner’s spokesman.
Jobs are an important argument. One of the most important arguments when trying to recover a depressed economy. But it is not the only argument, and it is not the most important argument when making policy, especially when making long-term decisions for the health of a nation. We need to create jobs. But we should not be obsessed; we should not create ANY jobs just because they are jobs. Instead, we should create 21st century, forward-looking, nation-improving jobs. Which TRC believes, and hopefully the Obama Administration agrees, are not oil-pumping, greenhouse gas emitting, boreal forest destroying jobs.
And in this light, Texas Gov. and GOP Presidential nominee Rick Perry’s response is particularly telling: “The president’s focused more on the next election than on the next generation.”
This is exactly wrong, Rick Perry. The people of Nebraska who oppose this pipeline, and the people of the Western US who require the Oglala Aquifer for their drinking water, the environmental community and those who prioritize the long-term health of the US and its resources are more concerned about the next generation than they are the this election.
And at least on this decision, so is President Obama. If President Obama were only concerned with the 2012 presidential election, he would have approved this pipeline. That seems fairly safe to assume. Approving the pipeline is more politically expedient than denying it. Because jobs are the word. If you can’t say JOBS in this political atmosphere, you are losing the battle. If you think that the Obama base is appeased by this one action, and thus will boost him in the 2012 general election, you fundamentally misunderstand the liberal voting base.
Regardless of how this action will be taken, TRC is happy to see President Obama make a decision that provides a voice to the future health of this country and its future citizens. TRC is happy Obama can see beyond this moment in January 2012, and make the right choice for January 2212. Because the American citizens of 2212 have the same right to clean drinking water we do. If you can’t look beyond the current predicament, and provide for the future, even in difficult times like these, then you should not be making long-term decisions that will impact the lives of millions of Americans.
This decision now made does not end the Keystone story, nor does it end an all of the above energy agenda including coal, nuclear and gas that the President has always confirmed he supports. But it is a good decision for today. Nice work, Chief.
*UPDATE: Here is the President Obama’s release on the decision:
As the State Department made clear last month, the rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by Congressional Republicans prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment. As a result, the Secretary of State has recommended that the application be denied. And after reviewing the State Department’s report, I agree.
In the months ahead, we will continue to look for new ways to partner with the oil and gas industry to increase our energy security — including the potential development of an oil pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico — even as we set higher efficiency standards for cars and trucks and invest in alternatives like biofuels and natural gas.
The decision allows TransCanada to reapply for a permit to build the pipeline, which the company immediately signaled it would do.
The political tea leaves tell TRC that President Obama has a pretty good shot at reelection. Today, the odds are at worst, 50-50 (and probably improving). And that is with Joe Biden remaining as VP on the ticket. Biden has been a fine VP, methinks. He is well respected internationally, and has long been prepping himself for the highest office, even though he’ll never see it. He has been willing to take shots and give shots, despite being ably capable to run himself into trouble with his comments. But really, what more do you want from a VP? A dark Lord?
Given those odds, it is curious, though hardly surprising, to see the push for the Administration to pull the switcheroo with VP Biden and Sec. of State Clinton. If Biden has been a serviceable VP, TRC thinks that Clinton has been an excellent Secretary of State. She has proven to quite loyal to the President, and willing to take on the tough tasks that go with the job with no complaint or fanfare. Exemplar.
And to be clear, TRC does not think this move is in the cards. We just don’t see it happening. But still, the push continues because people love to make political predictions, and they love to think they know something the rest of us don’t. Several opinionators have suggested it. Previously Robert Reich predicted the change. Today at the NYTimes Op-Ed page, Bill Keller is supporting the idea. So here’s TRC’s take on the subject, if it were to be seriously considered in the White House.
Says Keller of Mrs. Clinton:
Hillary Clinton is 64 years old, with a Calvinist work ethic, the stamina of an Olympian, an E.Q. to match her I.Q., and the political instincts of a Clinton. She has an impressive empathic ability — invaluable in politics or statecraft — to imagine how the world looks to an ally or adversary. She listens, and she learns from her mistakes. She was a perfectly plausible president four years ago, and that was before she demonstrated her gifts as a diplomatic snake-charmer. (Never mind Pakistan and Libya, I’m talking about the Obama White House.) She is, says Gallup, the most admired woman in America for the 10th year in a row, laps ahead of, in order, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Sarah Palin and Condoleezza Rice; her approval rating of 64 percent is the highest of any political figure in the country.
So it’s too early to hang up the big ambition. And a lot of us would be deeply disappointed in her if she did. This would be none of our business if she had taken the off-ramp after her time as first lady. (Nobody is thinking very hard about what’s next for Laura Bush.) But she moved on to the Senate, to a near-miss presidential campaign, and to a credible term as secretary of state. She raised our expectations.
With all of this, we agree. Hillary Clinton is an exceptionally capable and smart woman, and politician. There’s no doubt she could make a strong VP, or POTUS. And Keller gives us three reasons to put Clinton on the ticket in the fall:
One: it does more to guarantee Obama’s re-election than anything else the Democrats can do. Two: it improves the chances that, come next January, he will not be a lame duck with a gridlocked Congress but a rejuvenated president with a mandate and a Congress that may be a little less forbidding. Three: it makes Hillary the party’s heir apparent in 2016. If she sits out politics for the next four years, other Democrats (yes, Governor Cuomo, we see your hand up) will fill the void.
Again, those are strong arguments for bringing Mrs. Clinton on to the ticket. But there are reasons that such a move could be a disastrous mistake. Keller mentions a few (Obama thinks the Clintons are representative of the old “tawdry” side of politics; Obama doesn’t need Clinton to win; Clinton has a better chance in 2016 without Obama, etc).
But he misses a pretty big problem that this move would create. The nation already struggles to see Obama outside of a politically calculating, dispassionate characterization. President Obama lacks a certain warmth and humanity, they say. Too professorial and calculating. Having fallen far short of bringing about a new era in politics, many seem to think that Obama is interested in serving only his own political ambitions. This is wrong in our reading (well, not entirely wrong, but being occasionally hyper-logical and not overly reliant on gut-instinct and heart is not a flaw to everyone), but it is not difficult to arrive at the conclusion of an overly calculating Obama making only the moves that suit him best.
And switching his VP with the Sec. of State to win an election would be just that. There has to be a reason to make the change beyond electoral fortunes, or it could be a major fail. High risk, then, and high reward. And when it comes to VP choices, we have seen quite recently how the high risk/high reward can play.
TRC thinks that Hillary Clinton would be a dynamite VP, and hopes to see her run in 2016, should she choose to do so. And if President Obama decides to put her on the ticket this year, that, too is fine. But don’t be hasty, Mr. President, and don’t be distant in the choice. Be clear and supportive of your people, be able to know why this is happening, and be willing to warmly embrace your former opponent (including allowing her to be in the room, all the time).
Otherwise, don’t do it.
This is the image from the Obama Family Christmas Card.
Granted. It’s kind of lame. I am sure Bo is a fine dog, and having him painted in a Christmas style room with a fire is quite warm and conducive to the feelings I am sure Obama wanted to inspire in his friends, family, and you known, bloggers and everyone who takes time to comment on the meaningless outflow of presidential paraphernalia.
Some people didn’t approve. For example, Sarah Palin. Apparently, Palin has polled Americans on their Christmas card preferences: Palin said a majority of Americans prefer “American foundational values illustrated and displayed on Christmas cards and on a Christmas tree.” With regard to the card, she added, “It’s just a different way of thinking coming out of the White House.”
I understand, Ms. Palin. So, from me to you, here is a Christmas card I hope you will like.
In the future (5 days from now, precisely), an article by Henrik Hertzberg will come out in print in the New Yorker. That article will concern one Newt Gingrich and his alternative-history novels, and use these novels as a lens from which to view the current GOP nominating process.
About these novels, I have nothing to say. Really. I have never read a novel by the politician Newt Gingrich. Probably, that won’t happen. Why politicians think they can write novels, I’ll never understand (maybe they can), but if you want to hear a wonderful rant about a terrible novel written by a politician, ask Mrs. TRC.
But there is something of interest to me in Hertzberg’s piece. Hertzberg says:
Gingrich’s sudden rise and special appeal to the emotions of “the base,” one suspects, stem less from his vaunted “big ideas” than from his long-cultivated, unparalleled talent for contempt.
This might be right. Because if Gingrich is the smart one, the ideas man, the educated historian first, and the Washington DC insider (that he oh so clearly is) second, then how can one explain the kinds of things that Gingrich is quoted saying? This is not just the ridiculous (EMPs and mining the moon) but just nonsense as well, as we’ll see. Gingrich’s “brains” are overrated, TRC believes, but his ability to use words to express contempt, well, that might be unparalleled in modern American Politics.
To highlight this, I will conclude with a final culling of Hertzberg’s article. He ends with a quote from Gingrich that on its face makes no sense at all to anyone who understands the words that are being used, or who at least takes a second to stop and think about it. I don’t like to generalize that most people do not do so, but that can be the only purpose of such a comment as this. Gingrich, and I, assume they will just find the contempt in Gingrich’s comment, and hear what they want to hear: Christians, led by Newt Gingrich, have to save America.
In March, at the Cornerstone Church, in San Antonio, Gingrich declared, “I am convinced that, if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America,” his grandchildren will live “in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.”
Is there any better way to frame the danger to “what it means to be American” than to threaten Americans with Atheism and Islam? What can be worse than an atheist nation dominated by radical Islamists?
Any ideas man worth his weight in novels would notice the irony.
One of the enjoyable things about running a blog is looking at the stats. More interesting than hits is how people get to the blog.
Lately, more and more folks are finding the blog through internet searches, and some of the search terms that draw readers to reach TRC are worth sharing. So, here are some of the best searches to bring new readers to the’ Relative Comment in the past few days.
- “Justin Bieber, not interesting”
- ”Other than Tim Tebow, who gives thanks to god?”
- “David Brooks is evil”
- “I like Galileo”
- “Rick Perry Shakespeare” (?)
- And, simply, “gently”
I hope you are all finding what you are looking for. Though I suspect you are not.
Sports is an unusual topic for TRC. Though I am a fan of my local sportsball teams and love soccer and watching Twins and Vikings games, I don’t generally give sports much serious thought. It doesn’t matter to me if my team wins five minutes after the match, and that’s about how it should be, I think.
But this is a sports post about that most internet-friendly athlete of the last two weeks. Tim Tebow. What is it about Tim Tebow?
Tebow is not the first outspoken evangelical Christian to make it in sports. He is not the first football player to point to the heaven’s to give thanks for God’s preference that he and not someone else should score a victory point. He is probably the first to star in a pro-life advertisement to run in the Super Bowl, but overall, no, Tebow is not actually that unique: Professional athlete, dating a womand who is perfectly beautiful in that famous person’s girlfriend way, Outspoken Christian, generally seems like a Good Enough Guy. So why does Tebow drive people (myself included) absolutely crazy? I see this picture, and it drives me up the wall. Why?
Tebow is simply fascinating.Tim Tebow fascinates me. His supporters fascinate me. His haters fascinate me. The people who write about him fascinate me. Apparently he was a superstar in college, I have heard. And he is a terrible NFL quarterback, it would seem. People love that he is terrible. People love that he was celebrated so highly in college, drafted in the first round, and might not be any good. Why?
Why does Tebow get the coverage he does? Here’s an article on Tebow as a Protestant Saint. Grantland, the website of excellent sports writing and boring “pop culture” writing, loves to write about Tebow. One thing they have written about him is this:
In broad strokes, it’s fair to say that how you feel about Tebow depends on how you feel about youth groups and Elisabeth Hasselbeck and, I don’t know, WWJD bracelets and raft retreats with a lot of bonfires and swaying. Other religious players are religious individuals; Tebow is a whole culture. It helps that, as an NFL player, he’s both nontraditional and kind of bad, which makes it easy to see his success as guided by a higher power — if a dude with that background and that throwing motion completes a touchdown pass, it almost has to be a miracle.
Tebow is that big of a deal. Tebow is synonymous with on the field prayer. Literally. The word Tebow has become a verb for bowing in prayer in random locations, like a football field. See: Tebowing.com.This has become popular enough that, after sacking Tebow in a game, the Lions’ Stephen Tulloch and Tony Scheffler partook in a bit of light-hearted Tebowing. This apparently caused such a stir that Tulloch took to twitter to clarify that he was not mocking god. For real.
One reason that helps to explan why Tebow drives me batty: It appears that Tebow’s evangelical proselytizing is the most succesful thing about Tebow. Tebow plays football, sure, but Tebow is a Man of Faith. It’s almost as though when discussing Tebow, one must continually use the proper noun Tebow rather than the pronoun shorthand. But what’s the difference with Tim Tebow? Why does enjoying Tim Tebow’s terrible performance on the field make so many people so happy? I don’t think anyone wishes any ill-will towards Tebow. I know I don’t. I think having Tebow succeed in the NFL, and be around for years would give another interesting bit of storyline–like professional wrestling, having the obnoxious character around is great for the plot.
And that’s why I think that Tebow rubs people the wrong way; by playing the good guy Tebow set himself apart as the bad guy. He already wrote the plot before he succeeded in any marginal way as a professional athlete. His strong-man-of-faith principles and devout belief are not problems, they are (for many) the reasons Tebow it to be respected and supported. But that has the potential of becoming the only Tim Tebow. If Tebow were just another athlete who turns out to be a terrible football player in the NFL, religious or not, well, people would forget about him. But now they won’t be able to: TebowMania was already written into the hearts and minds of the faithful by Tim Tebow himself, long before he succeeded, or failed, as a professional football player. And that is something his religion will never be able to overcome. Now let us all Tebow in prayer.