Thursday, April 30, 2009

One hundred days, poetry and change

Subsequent segments of press conference found here.

So grateful to finally reach the 100th day, so that the media may come up with a new meaningless thematic obsession. (Time to stop counting days and get to the business of living a sober life.)

Because she was out reading her poetry at an open mic, your blogstress did not watch the president's press conference in real time, a circumstance she would have once deemed unthinkable. Your écrivaine is uncertain of just what this means, except that perhaps now that the country appears to be in capable hands, she no longer finds her vigilance to be quite so necessary.

Nonetheless, your Webwench could not entirely look away, and so midnight found her watching the video on her computer, marveling at the fact that it was possible to lie on a couch, netbook perched on knees, and watch tiny moving pictures (with excellent sound) that way. (Your cybertrix is sometimes easily amused.)

President Obama's customary elegance was in evidence, as he answered each question thoughtfully and with a minimum of scripted comments. Your blogstress saw him trip up only once, at the hands of NBC's Chuck Todd, who asked, "Can you reassure the American people that, if necessary, America could secure Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and keep it from getting into the Taliban's hands or, worst-case scenario, even al Qaeda's hands?"

I am gravely concerned about the situation in Pakistan not because I think that they're immediately going to be overrun and the Taliban would take over in Pakistan; more concerned that the civilian government there right now is very fragile and don't seem to have the capacity to deliver basic services -- schools, health care, rule of law, a judicial system that works for the majority of people. And so as a consequence it is very difficult for them to gain the support and the loyalty of their people.

So we need to help Pakistan help Pakistanis. And I think that there's a recognition increasingly on the part of both the civilian government there and the army that that is their biggest weakness.

On the military side you're starting to see some recognition just in the last few days, that the obsession with India as the mortal threat to Pakistan has been misguided, and that their biggest threat right now comes internally. And you're starting to see the Pakistan military take much more seriously the armed threat from militant extremists.

We want to continue to encourage Pakistan to move in that direction. And we will provide them all the cooperation that we can. We want to respect their sovereignty, but we also recognize that we have huge strategic interests, huge national security interests in making sure that Pakistan is stable and that you don't end up having a nuclear armed militant state.
It was that last sentence that got the president in a little trouble, when Robb pounced with a follow-up.
But in a worst-case scenario --

THE PRESIDENT: I'm not going to engage --

TODD: -- military, U.S. military could secure this nuclear --

THE PRESIDENT: I'm not going to engage in hypotheticals of that sort. I feel confident that that nuclear arsenal will remain out of militant hands. Okay?
But he had, just a sentence ago, acknowledged the possibility of Pakistan becoming "a nuclear armed militant state." Indeed, Pakistan, an enormous problem that barely registers as one in the minds of the American people (or much of the press corps, for that matter), looms forebodingly. I find it unlikely that the U.S. will be able to withdraw from South Asia any time soon, unless we are willing to leave both Afghanistan and Pakistan in states of civil war. Afghanistan borders Iran, which borders Iraq. Pakistan borders Afghanistan and India. Think: epic proportions.

On another matter, The Guardian's Michael Tomasky caught an Obama error when the president asserted that the British did not torture prisoners of war taken in World War II. Alas, they did.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Arlen Specter: No longer a "very good Republican"

Having been ensconced in a poetry salon all afternoon, you blogstress has had no time to wax political on the peculiar turn of events that sees Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania -- he who pilloried Anita Hill -- becoming a Democrat. (Hooray for one more vote in the soon-to-be-filibuster-proof Senate!)

Until your ecrivaine is poised to pontificate on this glorious event, you may find amusement in her 2000 interview the same Arlen Specter, who, at that time, declared himself, rather sardonically, to be a "very good Republican."


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Monday, April 27, 2009

Tony Perkins to lead anti-marriage rally tomorrow

From our friend Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council comes this loving invitation:

Dear Adele,

On Tuesday, April 28, Washington, D.C.-area pastors and pro-family leaders are gathering in the nation's capital to rally for man-woman marriage. The rally will take place from 10:00 a.m. to Noon on Freedom Plaza, which is located on Pennsylvania Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets, NW.

Come take part and express your support for traditional marriage!

Homosexual marriage advocates in Washington, D.C. are pushing the District of Columbia City Council to replace man-woman marriage with a law that will allow two men or two women to "marry." Just a few weeks ago the Council voted to recognize such "marriages" when they occur overseas or in the handful of other U.S. jurisdictions that allow them - most of them compelled to do so by activist judges who have ignored the will of the people. Let's remind our elected officials just what that will is: to protect marriage for our children and generations to come.

Speakers at the Stand 4 Marriage Rally on Freedom Plaza will include Bishop Harry Jackson, president of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, Derek McCoy of Stand 4 Marriage, D.C., and local community leaders. I'll be speaking as well.

Freedom Plaza is just a short walk from the Metro Center and Federal Triangle metro stops. Help us spread the word and draw a crowd to let the D.C. City Council and the national capital community know that marriage matters here too.

Thank you and God bless you.

Tony Perkins
See y'all tomorrow at Freedom Plaza!

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What has five pillars?

Why, President Obama's economic program, according to himself (per his recently concluded speech at Georgetown University). They are:

* new rules for Wall Street that will reward drive and innovation
* new investments in education that will make our workforce more skilled and competitive
* new investments in renewable energy and technology that will create new jobs and industries
* new investments in health care that will cut costs for families and businesses
* new savings in our federal budget that will bring down the debt for future generations

What else has five pillars? Islam. They are:

* Faith or belief in the Oneness of God and the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad;
* Establishment of the daily prayers;
* Concern for and almsgiving to the needy;
* Self-purification through fasting; and
* The pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able.

Get ready, mes amis, for the right-wing conspiracy theorists to revive the "Obama as crypto-Muslim" trope. That's why it's so fascinating that the president chose to wrap his pillars in a Gospel parable from Jesus's Sermon on the Mount:

There is a parable at the end of the Sermon on the Mount that tells the story of two men. The first built his house on a pile of sand, and it was destroyed as soon as the storm hit. But the second is known as the wise man, for when “…the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house…it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.”

We cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand. We must build our house upon a rock. We must lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity – a foundation that will move us from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest; where we consume less at
home and send more exports abroad.

It’s a foundation built upon five pillars that will grow our economy and make this new century another American century...
Now, Obama's a pretty learned guy, and considering the baggage he carries on the American landscape thanks to his middle name, he surely knows from where his poetic reference to "five pillars" comes. The only possible explanation for Obama's use of the figure is a deliberate tweaking, as Eric Alterman has suggested is the president's aim with his massive agenda -- a desire to bait his enemies into looking intolerant and stupid. Hence the genius of the use of the parable, which bookends the "pillars" portion of the speech:
But from where we stand, for the very first time, we are beginning to see glimmers of hope. And beyond that, way off in the distance, we can see a vision of an America’s future that is far different than our troubled economic past... It is that house upon the rock. Proud, sturdy, and unwavering in the face of the greatest storm.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Gay nation gets Newt's goat

Well, not quite -- the "gay nation" part, that is. But you gotta admit, for advocates of same-sex marriage, last week was stellar, especially in the melancholy aftermath of Proposition 8. Iowa's Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to ban same-sex marriage in that heartland state. That had Newt Gingrich railing yesterday, on "This Week With George Stephanopoulos", about the dangers of having the judiciary settle social issues: "[I]t's very dangerous for the country to have the judiciary become the chief agent of social change," said the former House speaker. I mean, look where that got us: having to go to school with black people and nixing the sexual harassment of women in the workplace. Bummer, man.

And Newt's philosophical opposition to Iowa's new marriage scheme left him defenseless against the Green Mountain state's newfound barrier-free approach to same-sex marriage. That's right, in Vermont last week, the legislature -- that's right, Newt, the elected representatives of the people -- overrode the governor's veto of a statute legalizing same-sex marriage.

Now, you had to bet that once the stars aligned to grant us this amazing turn of events, the right would see a galvanizing, fund-raising opportunity. So herewith, the video, "A Gathering Storm", that warns of a grave threat to the oppressed heterosexual majority should gay marriage become the norm:

While the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) folks assert throughout their video that same-sex marriage will somehow intrude on their lives, they never say just how.

Offering possible answers to that question, the indefatigable Lizz Winstead has produced a charming parody that features your blogstress's favorite conscious comic, Baratunde Thurston. Since that video is not embeddable, so you'll have to go to Baratunde's site to view it.

You can also find Baratunde's video here, at Shoot the Messenger.

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