Fairy Tales

The underlying narrative motif of this news story about the feud between Keith Olberman and Bill O’Reilly is And they lived happily ever after. And how did that wonderful result occur, children? It occurred because the corporations that own Mr. Olberman and Mr. O’Reilly decided that the feud was bad for business. Like many fairy tales, this one is very dark and should not comfort you, my children.

Later: Glenn Greenwald has the details.

They Should Be Happy

. . . because most of the crackers [more here] who live in Alabama think that government is the problem. This is the end result of radical right-wing-attacks on government and civic life in general, in favor of a kind of he-man individualism. Well, at least most of them are armed so they will be able to settle their own disputes the old fashioned way. So close the jail and the schools and the DMV, bro, and don’t forget the fire department.

Henry Louis Gates Should Sue

That’s the provocative notion of Randy Cohen in the NY Times. I’m not sure whether it would be a good idea politically, but I think Cohen is right to point out that Gates has a legitimate case. My favorite line from the article — the the thing that struck me right from the start of this affair: “There is no law against Contempt of Cop.” Here is the relevant part of Cohen’s  paragraph for context. I think it makes an excellent and important distinction between acting as a private citizen and acting in a professional capacity:

. . . if Gates overreacted, he did so only as an individual, an outburst that might be obnoxious but is not criminal. There is no law against Contempt of Cop. If Crowley overreacted, he erred as a professional, perhaps abusing his office in a manner that is particularly fraught, given the history of African-Americans and the police. That’s what should be examined in court.

I was also heartened to see that the first few comments following Cohen’s piece — I guess this is what the Times calls a blog with comments — supported Cohen’s thesis and saw the situation for what it was, an abuse of power with an added racial dimension. I’m a white guy, also a professor, and I would have acted much like Professor Gates, though, given my own passions, I probably would have called Officer Crowley a fascist. So I was feeling pretty good about my fellow man until I read the comment from “John,” which avers: “Citizens do not have a constitutionally protected right to mouth off to a policeman and hurl personal insults when the officer is just doing his job.” Yes they fucking do, John! That’s pretty much the whole point of this country if you ask me.

Anyway, there are 257 comments as of this writing and I only read the first ten, then skimmed a few more, so I don’t know if the proportions would hold up. At least some of my fellow citizens realize, though, that, as commenter RGP put it,  “A police officer who enters a private residence without a warrant is a guest of the homeowner, and it is not a crime for the homeowner to order him to leave, even in a manner that is vigorous or rude.” It is amazing, scanning down a few more comments, that so many people do not agree with this very basic and very American sentiment. I mean, isn’t that why all those right-wing Second Amendment fanatics are worried about? Being harassed in their homes by the authorities? Funny that the NRA hasn’t spoken up about Officer Crowley’s behavior. What if Professor Gates had had a weapon? Would he have been entitled to use it to put a stop to Officer Crowley’s obvious trespass? Well, nobody every accused the American right of being consistent.

Returning briefly to the private versus professional distinction Cohen makes in his piece, we could note that Professor Gates should be held to a professional standard on campus and in the classroom and within the scholarly community, just as Officer Crowley should be held to a professional standard while engaged in police work. When either of them are off duty, as it were, they have the rights of private citizens and within the context of American democracy, ought to assert them. That’s just being a good American, doing your job correctly and sticking up for yourself.

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Note: Bob Herbert has the numbers — and the right response to those who would tell the wrongly arrested to just chill out, man.

A Crappy Plan . . .

. . . that does not lower costs or achieve fundamental reform. That is the “health care bill” that will emerge from Congress “before the end of the year.” Obama should veto it, but he won’t, since he has already bargained away most of the really progressive ideas he campaigned on in order to achieve the sort of fake consensus that Washington so dearly loves. I’ll be dead and my ashes scattered on the river before the US sees fundamental change in is disastrous health care system.

A Great Quantity of Stupidity

I usually wait for the transcripts and news summaries rather than watching TV, but yesterday, because I am keyed up about the subject, I wanted to hear President Obama’s remarks on health care reform. That meant turning on CNN. The remarks were scheduled to begin at 3:15, but didn’t actually begin until a few minutes after four o’clock. That meant watching forty-five minutes of CNN, god help me. I didn’t really watch for forty-five minutes because I kept walking out of the room or putting the sound on mute. It’s an established fact that every minute watching CNN lowers your IQ by a point; if I’d watched for the entire run-up to Obama’s talk, Carole would have had to put me in a home.

When I first tuned in, someone named Rick Sanchez was talking about the coup in Honduras. Sanchez was making a comparison between Manuel Zelaya and Fidel Castro. Zelaya, you see, wears a big hat and Castro smoked a big cigar, so they are ipso facto and without a doubt exactly the same. Sanchez forgot to mention that Zelaya is the democratically elected president of Honduras. Just never came up. Lots of archival footage of Castro, though. The expert brought in to confirm our worst fears about the trouble in Honduras was none other than Otto Reich, who was described as having “worked for Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.” No mention was made (while I was listening) to the fact that Reich had called Latin American leaders in 2002 to express US support for the coup against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Perhaps they mentioned it when I had the sound muted. Sanchez, with his roll-on tan, blow-dried hair, and the bonhomie of a megachurch youth minister, is obviously a past master of the booga-booga-booga school of political fear mongering. Next, though, came half an hour of exquisite vacuity as Rick Sanchez turned his attention (is that what you would call it?) to the subject of health care reform.

Before bringing in his guests, Sanchez was careful to frame the president’s remarks as a response to a “crisis” that had developed because the CBO had come out with some numbers suggesting health care reform would not save money. [For some actual facts and policy options, see this piece in TNR; also: these notes from Matt Yglesias.] And because “even members of his own party” were “turning against” reform. I can’t really do justice to the genius of the framing in a summary, but suffice it to say that it was masterful. After all, the phrase  “the white House is scrambling to respond” and variations were endlessly repeated. Every effort was made — quite successfully — to confuse politics with policy. As I said, masterful.

Well, I was going to go on to describe the ensuing conversation, but there really isn’t any point. Snachez brought in CNN’s congressional correspondent, another member of the tribe, Sanjay Gupta, who decided not to accept an appointment as Surgeon General in the Obama administration, I conclude, because he didn’t like the idea of working for a living, as opposed to opining. And for broad perspective, Sanchez brought in Republicn congressman Roy Blunt. It was quite a performance and it accomplished exactly what it set out to do: Anyone who watched the entire half-hour run-up to the president’s remarks on CNN would be stupider about the subject than when they began. And that’s really the point, isn’t it?

Look, the health care “debate” currently taking place in the US is between the center-right and the far right. Couldn’t we give the center-right a chance to make its case? Apparently not on CNN.

Update: I forgot to mention yesterday that, apparently in order to increase the stupidity feedback loop to excruciating and brain-numbing levels, CNN run’s a Twitter feed as a crawler beneath Rick Sanchez’s tanned face, to which he sometimes smugly replies. Which makes the whole thing “interactive” studpdity, which is a purer and more valuable blend, apparently.

Surveillance Society

The surveillance was (is?) even worse than some of us suspected. The political right is already cutting Bush II loose, referring to Bush-Obama policies; the new president needs to draw some sharp distinctions between his policies and those of his predecessor.