"With our nation at war and so many Americans serving on the front lines, our troops and their families deserve the certainty that can only come when an act of Congress ends this discriminatory policy once and for all. The House of Representatives has already passed the necessary legislation. Today I call on the Senate to act as soon as possible so I can sign this repeal into law this year and ensure that Americans who are willing to risk their lives for their country are treated fairly and equally. Our troops represent the virtues of selfless sacrifice and love of country that have enabled our freedoms. I am absolutely confident that they will adapt to this change and remain the best led, best trained, best equipped fighting force the world has ever known."

--President Obama

Wow. What a bunch of divisive, ideologically-driven partisan rhetoric, carefully crafted to whip his extremist, America-hating base into a frenzy...oh, right.

Nice to hear from the man I voted for every now and then.


words fail

"They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism. These guys don’t want any other point of view. They don’t even feel guilty using tax dollars to spout their propaganda."

FOX News chairman Roger Ailes, referring to NPR.

This from the guy more responsible for the dumbing-down of American political discourse than probably any other single individual in the history of the republic. This from the guy who practically invented cable-news-as-propaganda. This from the guy whose channel's signature look is lots of flags and banners, eagles, blaring martial music, and a nonstop scroll of on-message "news items", whose personalities routinely refer to this country as "The Homeland" and opine on which subset of the population constitute the "real Americans".

(And you know what? I hold Ailes responsible for the steaming pile of shit that is MSNBC, too.)

NPR should seriously consider voluntarily divesting itself of the tiny fraction of its budget it gets from the federal government, just to take this insane talking point away from raging fuckwads like Ailes.


sentences i wish i'd thought to write

Julian Sanchez:

You can think of patriotism as a kind of status socialism—a collectivization of the means of self-esteem production. You don’t have to graduate from an Ivy or make a lot of money to feel proud or special about being an American; you don’t have to do a damn thing but be born here. Cultural valorization of "American-ness" relative to other status markers, then, is a kind of redistribution of psychological capital to those who lack other sources of it.

This seems about right to me.

I made the mistake of commenting on a casual (read: we haven't seen each other in 15 years) Facebook friend's comment last week regarding how she thought that singing "God Bless America" at baseball games cheapened the ceremony of singing the actual National Anthem. Discussion proceeded into the etiquette of putting hand over heart during the two songs, etc. My contribution was that GBA is a silly song from a musical, and that I thought standing respectfully for the ceremonial playing of any country's national anthem was the polite thing to do (for example, at an NHL game with both American and Canadian teams playing) but that I thought saluting was absolutely optional.

As you might imagine, this invited some invective from friends of the "friend". Being a long-time veteran of online arguments, I did the sensible thing: pretended I never saw those comments, and got on with my life.

Still, one in particular almost drew me out. To paraphrase: "Try to imagine waking up in a different country, under a different flag." It was hard for me not to say that I had, on several occasions, woken up in different countries, and furthermore had no difficulty imagining doing so since I am married to someone who has that experience every day of her life, and who I know misses her home very much. I could have further answered that there were many times in the last 10 years or so where I thought waking up under another flag permanently myself wasn't such a bad idea. (I still wouldn't rule it out.)

Of course, the underlying assumption was that America is simply the greatest country on earth. That's a fine opinion to have, and easily justifiable--depending on what you value--but what I'll never understand is the conviction that to merely consider America among the best countries on earth is to be fundamentally "anti-American". America is a great country. So are Canada, Norway, Denmark, New Zealand, Australia, and Switzerland, among others. But to suggest that the US actually has peers in terms of quality of life and freedoms enjoyed is to strike at the very heart of the "cultural valorization of 'American-ness'" on which so many seem to base their self-worth.

This is silly. No one suggests that liking tacos makes you necessarily "anti-sushi" or (perhaps more appropriately) that having friends makes you "anti-family".

But more than anything, I think it's just sad. Wilde said that patriotism is the virtue of vicious...but maybe it's just the virtue of those that don't find much else in which to take pride.


post-mortem: no alarms and no surprises

--Obama becomes the third consecutive president to lose at least one house in a midterm. Declarations of historicity are overblown; the difference is one of degree, not type. I don't think this signifies much more than the American electorate (at least the ~20% or so that is perennially up for grabs) would prefer a more parliamentary system, even though they probably don't realize it.

--The one bright spot: the "Palin Model" of vague right-wing populism and a refusal to engage any non-Fox press failed miserably in Delaware, Nevada, and Alaska. I am cautiously optimistic that she has peaked.

--California remains a stolidly Democratic state that doesn't give a rat's ass about actual personal liberty. Disappointing, but not surprising.

--Washington State, despite being a high-tech hub, is really bad at math.

ADDENDUM: Seriously, though? Fuck the Baby Boomers.


(slightly beer-soaked) memories of election nights past

1996: Atlanta, GA. The first election in which I voted. For Bob Dole, no less, because I was concerned (no kidding) that Bill Clinton was about to get us involved in military entanglements in which we had no business. I don't remember what I did that night, but being during my freshman year at Georgia Tech it likely involved some combination of heavily salted pre-prepared food, chemistry, and calculus.

1998: I haven't got a clue.

2000: New Orleans. My first big conference. I'm at some crazy party in the Quarter for the launch of some science resource website. (Did I mention it was 2000?) Liquor flows freely. From the balcony, we watch a couple in the hotel across the street have sex, silhouetted against their drawn shades like an X-rated puppet show. When they come out on the balcony after, we give them a round of applause. They come over and join the party, and it turns out that they went to school with a friend of mine, also at the party. (You can't make this shit up.) I'm hit on for the first (and so far, only) time by a guy. CNN plays in the background, and I find it mildly amusing. I wake up with a killer hangover and all hell has broken loose.

2002: Tucson, AZ. I'm in love, recently cohabitating with the woman who will later become my wife. I could give a fuck about the election, as far as I remember.

2004: Tucson. I watch the returns alone with a bottle of Jameson's. I cannot believe what I am seeing. The less said about this, the better.

2006: Durham, NC. We've just moved here, and I abstain out of principle (not yet invested in the local races, don't feel right about casting a vote where I no longer live.) I predict the changes in congress with alarming accuracy, and briefly consider going into political journalism.

2008: Durham. Crammed into Bull McCabe's Pub with about a million other people, glued to the TV. The energy is indescribable. When they call it, people spill into the streets of downtown. I think I see basically everyone I know, and it's one big, freezing party. I hope I never forget this.