Sunday, March 22, 2009

I LOVE Being Right

In November, I said this:

Obama is a liar. Over and over again, Obama has changed his story and his stances on the issues. Call him on it and he denies he ever held the previous view, despite the existence of video, audio or written evidence.

and this:

Obama is for Obama and nothing else. From his revolving door for associates and friends who no longer serve his needs to the willingness to provoke old hatreds, Obama seems to care little about anyone and anything but himself.

Now, Obama has done this:

The exemption for already existing compensation agreements -- the exact provision that is now protecting the AIG bonus payments -- was inserted at the White House's insistence and over Dodd's objections. But now that a political scandal has erupted over these payments, the White House is trying to deflect blame from itself and heap it all on Chris Dodd by claiming that it was Dodd who was responsible for that exemption.

That's right. Obama is cannibalizing his own party, throwing a distinguished ally under the bus, and lying through his teeth (despite publically available evidence) all to save his own ass. It's good to be right, but how I wish I'd been wrong.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

You say secular, I say secular...

I saw this as part of one comment on a Salon Broadsheet piece about a Muslim woman being asked to leave the teller line because she was wearing hijab:

The USA is a secular country, and you have the right to look secular. I don't care if it's your religion or a personality disorder that makes you a non-conformist but wearing head-to-toe garments is no different from going barefoot or shirtless. No shirt, no shoes, NO DICE.

This is mild, of course, in comparison to some of the frothing-at-the-mouth anti-Muslim/anti-religious nonsense that passed for comment in this thread. However, it pinged one of my pet peeves, so I'm on it.

Secular has multiple meanings. It can mean non-religious in a categorical sense: like football is secular or T-shirts are secular clothing. It can mean non-religious as in secular humanists, who reject religion and theism generally. It can mean non-religious as in the secular state is separate from and takes no official stance on religion.

In France, secular means the third usually but the second in many cases, even when referring to the secular state. France has passed laws forbidding the wearing of certain religious attire in public schools, for instance, an act that would be illegal and unconstitutional in the U.S. Unfortunately, the French response to diversity is not an effort at multiculturalism, but an effort to conceal differences rather than tackle bigotry.

As far as the U.S., our government and our rights, secular takes the third meaning. So, you have the right to look secular, sure. But you also have the right to look religious. Heck, you have the right to walk down the street dressed as a Klingon monk or Vulcan priestess if you want. As far as the government is concerned, it is unconstitutional to pass a law that would impede the free practice of faith and the free participation of all people of all religions (or none) in our society. It is also illegal to discriminate based on religion or lack thereof, if you are a private entity operating a public business, such as a bank.

Which brings us to hijab. Asking a person to remove a baseball cap to enter a bank for security reasons makes sense and doesn't do any harm to the person involved, unless he or she is wearing a cap for some medical reason (like concealing the effects of chemotherapy.) Culturally, asking a woman to remove hijab is like asking her to remove her shirt. Big difference.

A standard policy of "no head coverings", no matter how universally applied, has a very different effect on Muslim women then and impedes their free participation in our society. It's bigoted. It's unnecessary. It's illegal.

*For the anti-Muslim bigots who like to invoke woman-beatings and redneck-ized versions of Muslim men when hijab comes up, I'll point out that many Muslim women wear hijab voluntarily and see it as an act of basic modesty, like wearing a shirt. Liberal women defend this choice, because it is a choice worth defending. There is no hypocricy in supporting a woman's choice of culturally-relative modesty while opposing the forced covering of women and the persecution of women who would not or do not choose to wear hijab, niqab or burqa. So, get off your high horse.

And by the way, If you want to stand in judgment, imagine how "oppressed" some cultures would find us Western women, forced to cover our breasts in public (even while breastfeeding)under threat of arrest for public nudity.

Monday, March 09, 2009

No, That Is NOT The Writer's Duty...

Salon has a fawning paean to Jonathon Keats and his supposed duty as a writer to commit blasphemy. Strangely, I find this offensive, not as a Jew but as a writer. Since when is it a writer's "duty" to trot out a trope as ancient as, well, Ancient Greece? Writers since time immemorial have defamed sacred figures, both religious and secular, as a way of challenging people's notions about the sacred and profane. In many cases, they have a great point to demonstrate in doing so. However, to claim that blaspheming in and of itself is the writer's duty is the argument of the hack who puts predictable tab A into outdated slot B and proclaims himself an artiste. Please, stop pretending that tired repitition and immitation are art, that being edgy or blasphemous for the sake of being edgy or blasphemous are anything other than exercises in masturbation.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

I Lied...

Okay, there's one more thing you should read. Salon has an excellent, snarky take on the changes in our political system and Obama's policies in relation to those changes.

If you read nothing else....

Read Glenn Greenwald's ongoing examination of the Obama administration's attacks on our constitution and the rule of law, all in the name of "the institution of the presidency." No, not the actual constitutionally-mandated institution of the presidency. That would be too liberal. Instead, Obama is seeking to preserve the expanded, illegally-constructed "institution of the presidency" brought to us by Bushco.

When, oh when, will the liberal chattering classes learn the difference between liberalism and centrist neoliberalism? When will they get that the centrist neoliberals are more than willing to throw the constitution, human rights and the rule of law under the bus for political expediency and power politics? Soon, I hope. It's been a couple of decades now since the DLC destroyed the influence of the left and liberal political philosophies in America and turned the Democratic Party into America's center-right party. Only the truly dense would take much longer to figure that out.