Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Summer of Love

Two nice bits at The Nation today.

First, avowed Obama supporter Katha Pollitt reassembles her exploded head long enough to criticize her candidate for his support of faith-based initiatives.
Obama may have given his initiative an inclusive-sounding name--the President's Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships--and he may insist that with proper oversight government money can go to religious institutions without going to religious purposes, like proselytizing. He wouldn't let churches discriminate in hiring for these programs or provide services only to their own (although the Supreme Court permits religious discrimination in church hiring, even for janitorial jobs). He says churches will have to obey their state's antidiscrimination laws, which would mean that in twenty states churches that consider homosexuality an abomination would have to hire gays anyway. It would be hard to overestimate the amount of bureaucratic energy required to enforce these provisions. Besides, money is fungible--a grant for the prison-ministry-that-never-mentions-Jesus frees up that many dollars for Sunday school or a new car for the Reverend.
Spot on. The cognitive dissonance must be hard to resolve, though. If Pollitt were to look at Obama's other policies with the same jaundiced eye, it might become unsustainable.

Second, Dave Zirin (from whom I’ve learned a lot about the politics of sport) points to threatening cracks in the cheery fa├žade of the Beijing Olympics.
Athletes, activists and globe-trotting protesters are poised to raise a panoply of issues, including China's crackdown on Tibet, its support for the Sudanese regime and environmental concerns. The Communist Party has been forced to respond to this pressure cooker by opening a steam valve, announcing on July 24 that public protests will be permitted during the games inside three designated city parks. But as the Times reported, "Demonstrators must first obtain permits from local police and also abide by Chinese laws that usually make it nearly impossible to legally picket over politically charged issues."
On the minus side, we have an open letter to Obama, “Change We Can Believe In,” taking him to task for “troubling signs that you are moving away from the core commitments shared by many who have supported your campaign, toward a more cautious and centrist stance.” Among the signatories are Katha Pollitt, Barbara Ehrenreich, Gore Vidal, Walter Mosley, Norman Solomon, and Studs Terkel – all people who really should know better. I've become increasingly skeptical of open letters like this ever since I read Diana Johnstone's demolition of a typical one some years ago.

Given today’s brouhaha over Obama’s quite sensible response to the latest McCain attack ad, I’m more convinced than ever that the corporate media are an impediment to making sense of any presidential campaign. (Or about anything else.) I thought that this reaction to McCain's ad, by a former McCain staffer, was very good.

And at Salon, Glenn Greenwald wakes up and smells the coffee:

Here's what I learned today about democracy and ideology as a result of my debate with Ed Kilgore and having read the comments to the piece I wrote about targeting Blue Dogs:

  • If you believe in the Fourth Amendment, an end to the Iraq War, the rule of law for government and corporate criminals, a ban on torture, Congressional approval before the President can attack Iran, and the preservation of habeas corpus rights, then you're a fringe, dogmatic Far Leftist ideologue, the kind who ruined the Democratic Party in 1968 and wants to do so again. ...

I’ve chewed on Greenwald before for trying to push certain American realities beyond the pale. Maybe, instead of being shocked! shocked! that his views cause him to be labeled (the horror! the horror!) as a fringe, dogmatic Far Leftist ideologue, he (and others like him) should consider the possibility that being a fringe, dogmatic Far Leftist ideologue isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But as I’ve also pointed out before, and Greenwald seems to be figuring out only now, by these criteria most Americans are fringe, dogmatic Far Leftist ideologues. Or, as IOZ once put it, "To a Donkle, the margins are everyone else. It must get lonely."

Not that recognizing this really solves anything; but it might make some people less vulnerable to attack, less prone to retreat when someone calls them names, and that would be a plus.