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Josh Marshall on the importance of Akin’s “legitimate rape” controversy.

I’ll have more to say later.  But I think the culture wars just jumped front and center into the campaign – possibly even at the expense of discussion of the economy for the time being.

Some are claiming that the vast difference in the nature of the coverage between the Colorado shootings a couple of weeks ago and yesterday’s shooting up of a Sikh temple right near where I was recently vacationing in South Milwaukee is racist and cultural.   However, to be honest, I also think there may be an element of fatigue – the Denver event having been so recent, that there may be a certain level of numbing effect.  Still, the question has to be asked, and some attempt must be made to answer.

Pat Robertson isn’t blaming the Devil as he did with the Haitian earthquake.  He’s not blaming gays or feminists.  He’s blaming atheists because it’s the same whether they’re shooting up a Sikh Temple or a Baptist Church.  Only, Baptist Churches don’t often get shot up, unless they’re promoting civil rights.  More recently it’s a Sikh Temple and a Unitarian Church, of which many of the members are atheists.  Go figure.

The Onion already has something up.  Is it too soon?

The Texas GOP has issued an apology for advocating the prohibition of the teaching of critical thinking skills in public schools.

From TPM:

The plank in question, on “Knowledge-Based Education,” reads as follows:

We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

Elsewhere in the document, the platform stipulates that “[e]very Republican is responsible for implementing this platform.”

Apparently they’re stuck with it until 2014.

….

The platform actually makes a fascinating read.  The Republicans there do unequivocally oppose human trafficking, which is cool I guess.  No doubt they are incurring the wrath of the formidable pro-trafficking lobby.

The support home schooling (and corporate punishment) in Foster Homes.

But here’s a twist, or is it?  They support mandatory labelling for GMO products.  And they oppose smart meters!  They oppose mandatory vaccinations.  I didn’t see anything about water fluoridation.

They oppose bureacrats (“Czars”).

They oppose D.C. statehood.

They oppose slavery reparations.

They want the EPA abolished.

They want Confererate widows honored with plaques.

They support motherhood.

They want to inform us that homosexuality tears at the fabric of society.

They oppose rights for children (unless they’re unborn).

Read the whole platform.  It’s fascinating!

Obviously Sohum bucks the data in the study, but there is a red state/blue state divide in naming babies.  One milieu more often opts for traditional names while the other is more likely to name their kids “Rimshot” or “Feedback” (that’s an obscure blue state cultural reference).  But it’s not what you might think.  The culturally conservative areas tend to opt for the alternative names.

The reasoning provided by this NPR article sounds plausible.

The reason for more outlandish-sounding names cropping up in conservative quarters is simple, Wattenberg says. Women in red states tend to have their first children earlier than women in blue states. A 23-year-old mom is more likely to come up with something out of the ordinary than one who is 33.

Still, I’m pretty sure that despite the conservative reaction to the GPU/Plan A and all that, Sohum would be considered “blue” and we have some awesome alternative names around here.  My favorite was in one of the local papers within the past few weeks.  Seriously, isn’t Dandelion Lovemonkey the most awesome hippie name ever?

A few years back a young man named “Alias” joined the KMUD Board.  I asked him if he was named after the Dylan character in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (one of my favorite westerns).  He said that I was the only person, up to that point, to guess the background of his name.  Given the countercultural aspects of the movie, that surprised me, and then I remembered that it came out a few years before satellite dishes were massively available.

Newt’s latest words of wisdom.  The culture wars have long since moved from lattes and arugula.  Cars and light bulbs are the new front.

Did you know that hippies killed the Hummer?  I heard it on the radio.

Gore Vidal, after being prodded for a response to Michelle Bachman’s statement that his “snotty” novel is what turned her into a Republican (apparently she can’t decide which novel it was):

“She is too stupid to deserve an answer.”

He is snotty.  Always has been.  It once almost got him into a fistfight with William Buckley.

On the other hand, she is stupid.  Almost as stupid as the voters who put her into office.  Sorry.

A Florida school banned red and green. It was reported on TV, so it has to be true.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Oh, and to date Fox News has yet to air a retraction. They did post an “update” in which they quote the principal as denying that there is such a policy, and blamed parents for not checking with the principal before Fox ran their story nationwide.

The Village Voice adds this:

County officials shot that story down, but who cares? Fox updated, but as we wrote this, Gateway Pundit (“Florida School Bans Christmas… And Christmas Colors”) hadn’t. Neither had Blue Collar Philosophy (“since Liberalism is a religion and those who believe in it cannot tolerate the one religion that exposes it, namely, Christianity”), nor Weasel Zippers (“it’s come to this”), nor this guy, nor this one, etc.

Full Metal Patriot did update: “After receiving a predictable backlash from angry parents, the Seminole County Public Schools district has issued the following retraction correction… This may have been a case of the school and district doing an abrupt about-face or it may have been an individual teacher taking her authority a bit too far.” Or it may have been bullshit, a possibility Full Metal Patriot did not consider.

Addendum: Another edict from the Fox News Central Committee has been leaked which instructed reporters to skew any discussion of climate change.

I’ve explored this question before, though not nearly with the depth that a thinker like Michael Walzer approaches the question.  In this Dissent article (yes, I’m catching up with the Dissent copies next to my bed) he explores all the theories.  Perspective of a history of cultural marginalism; practical necessity of a tolerant, open, liberal society; The powerful imagery of Exodus and the Passover traditions;  The theological triumph of Hillel over Shammai; cultural values underscoring education and intellectualism; philosophies and theologies which do not shy away from ambiguity; communalism of closed communities; social identity; etc.

The end of the article raises a new question to my intellectual experience; namely the concern of Walzer that Jews may become a “banal minority.”

AT THIS point, I would like to make a more personal argument—that of a participant-observer in Jewish diaspora politics—in favor of the survival and continual re-invention of Jewish liberalism.

Writing in the 1950s, Hayim Greenberg warned that American Jews were in grave danger of becoming “merely an ethnic group in the conventional sense of the term. . . no more the Congregation of Israel, but only a group with a long and heroic history, with memories which, when cultivated, can arouse much justified pride (thus still not quite a mere banal minority) but without the consciousness of a specific drama and tension in its life.”

Many critics of diaspora Jewry would go further today and argue that the historic memories, since they are only rarely cultivated, are themselves fading and that we are indeed becoming a banal minority. The Jews are one more interest group, different from the others only in the obvious sense that our interests sometimes conflict with the others’—as is happening in the U.S. in the case of Jews and their relations with American blacks and Hispanics. Such conflicts can impose a certain transient unity on the different groups, but they are unlikely to revive heroic memories.

Walzer goes on to argue that Jewish neoconservatism embraces the interest group reduction, defending “only Jewish interests and not Jewish values,” resulting not only in the near totality of cultural assimilation, but the loss of an history.  Food for thought.

I haven’t read all of the entries yet to a discussion I find compelling, and I’ll have something to say once I have.  I fully expect maybe 10 of you to even hit the link, let alone actually read any of it.  But the 10 of us could have an interesting discussion.  The foundation for the discussion:

In our own uncertain era, it is useful for women and men with a reputation for thoughtfulness and creativity to reflect on issues that bear profoundly on both their craft and their country. We asked four questions:

1. What relationship should American intellectuals have toward mass culture: television, films, mass-market books, popular music, and the Internet?

2. Does the academy further or retard the engagement of intellectuals with American society?

3. How should American intellectuals participate in American politics?

4. Do you consider yourself a patriot, a world citizen, or do you have some other allegiance that helps shape your political opinions?

Each writer could choose to respond to one or all of them. We expect to run additional essays in a forthcoming issue.

E. J. Dionne, Jr., Alice Kessler-Harris, Jackson Lears, Martha Nussbaum, Katha Pollitt,Michael Tomasky, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Leon Wieseltier

I would add the question of whether the mere posing of the question is inherently elitist.  More later in the week.

Republicans are going all out on the recent attempt to blow up an airplane, and the right wing criticism of Obama over the incident range from borderline reasonable to manic.  One of the more ridiculous comments comes from Fox News in which they slam the president for using “allegedly” to describe the actions of a soon-to-be criminal defendant.  A real president knows what happened and doesn’t need to reserve judgment.  And a real president rants like a 5-year-old as opposed to coming across as “detached” and “reserved.”

Doesn’t he understand that the President’s job is to whip up the fear and anger?  After all, we may have to invade Yemen now.

He’s being criticized for not holding an immediate press conference.  Never mind that Bush waited a week before addressing a similar attack.  That was then, this is now.

He’s being criticized for allowing the suspect (more Harvard talk) to be charged in the criminal justice system (like the shoe bomber) amid calls for more racial profiling.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra meanwhile understands appropriate responsive behavior.  You don’t use big words like “allegedly” and you don’t try to calm people.  It’s an opportunity to raise money!

And this blogger asks whether Republicans are simply more easily played?  Consider that the privacy versus security debate which had largely remained dormant throughout two presidential campaigns has been revived.  It all depends on who’s in power.

The Democrats are apparently huddling in fear, reminiscent of the Cold War days, with one exception notable as unlikely.  I imagine that more will find their voice after the New Year if the barrage keeps up.

So, is Yemen the new Iraq?  Or new Afghanistan anyway?  In case you missed it, Maddow had a reasonably comprehensive piece on the issue last night.

Addendum: Not really an update, but I just love this title – Islamofascism vs. Boobs and Penises.

Oh, and a voice of the right wing has finally come up with an answer as to why Richard Reid, the would-be shoe bomber, was tried in civilian court.  It’s as lame as they get.  The reason Padilla was removed was because the evidence against him wasn’t clear enough to win in civilian court, which of course raises separate questions.  Subsequent terror suspects were in fact tried in civilian court.

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