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Archive for December, 2012

Aww. He Hurt Their Fee-Fees

A few minutes ago, President Obama announced that he and a few others, including Senator Mitch McConnell and VP Joe Biden, were nearing agreement on a deal to avert the worst issues raised by the so-called fiscal cliff.  It sounds good–continuation of unemployment insurance, raised taxes on people making over 400,000, and more.

Obama couldn’t resist one last jab:

“One thing we can count on with respect to this Congress is that if there’s even one second left before you have to do what you’re supposed to do, they will use that last second,” he said.

“Speaking shortly afterward on the Senate floor, Sen. John McCain said that “at a time of crisis, on New Year’s Eve…you had the president of the United States go over and have a cheerleading, ridiculing-of-Republicans exercise.” The Arizona Republican lost the 2008 presidential race to Obama.”   (http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/12/30/3161705/senate-leaders-offer-dour-take.html#storylink=cpy)

I like the Herald’s snip at McCain:  “loser!”

In any case this is good news, IF they can get it past the House of Representatives.  I have utter faith in Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, and if Boehner knows what’s good for him he will suggest to the cretin faction of his party that they should just shut the fuck up for once.  My impression is that there will be enough moderate Rethugs to join Democrats in passing this plan.  It puts off the important stuff until later, undoubtedly, but it nevertheless secures some stuff lefties have been looking for.

Fingers crossed.

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Putdown of the Day

From an economist appearing on Chris Hayes’ “Up” who could barely make herself heard over the storm of words issuing from another panelist:

“I made that point about five minutes ago.”

Score!

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Merry, Merry

Joy to the whole damned world!

We could use a little more of that.

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Feline Fan

rugby_cat_Lulu-737070Inky has become a sports fan.   I first noticed this during the NCAA volleyball semi-finals.  Inky  jumped up onto the teevee table (right in the middle of the screen of course) and watched the ball (which is white and easy to see) being volleyed back and forth.

This frustrated me, to say the least, because he is a fairly large cat and I was trying to watch a fast and intricate sport being played at championship levels.   But I dealt with his substantial presence in the middle of the screen until he thrust out a big paw and tried to intercept an overpass, which rocked the screen back and forth.  I carefully explained to him that  this very expensive piece of equipment could seriously injure any being on which it fell.  Then I shut him in the bedroom.

But volleyball season has ended now, and I forgot all about Inky’s fascination.  Until last night, when he tried to intercept a pass from Matthew Stafford and nearly brought the whole rig down on his pointy head, er ears.

I tried to get a picture of him and the teevee but, natch, as soon as I got the camera ready he lost interest in football.

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225px-Tim_Huelskamp_Official_Portrait_112th_Congress

I just saw one of the most bizarre bits of politics I’ve ever witnessed.  A Rethug from Kansas named Tim Heulskamp visited Morning Joe, live, to esplain his refusal to bail out pore old John Boehner last night. Before he actually showed up on the screen, I wondered how anyone who had behaved so stupidly could agree to come onto national teevee and display his dumbitude to all and sundry.

Note to self:  never underestimate the level of Rethuglican hubris.

The interview is  being widely covered;  you can see the clip at the show’s website and elsewhere.   Most of the coverage seems to be about the second part of the conversation, on gun control (Heulskamp thinks everybody is entitled to own as many assault weapons as they can afford), because Scarborough finally lost it there after a few minutes of trying to talk to this guy.

But the most interesting part, to me, was the conversation (if you can call it that) about the fiscal cliff.  After increasingly agitatated questioning, Heulskamp admitted that he won’t raise taxes, ever, period, end.  Even if the Dems agreed to huge cuts in entitlements, he would not raise taxes.  Moreover, He Will Not Compromise.  Ever.

For a moment there, I felt sorry for John Boehner, who has to deal with twenty of these assholes.

The other participants in the discussion repeatedly remind Heulskamp that we live in a constitutionally-ordained divided government.  But this guy would be happier, I think, living in seventeenth-century England.  If he were George III, that is.

After the interview ended, the show’s participants were in shock, openly commenting on Huelskamp’s unsuitedness to govern–which is usually a no-no on talk shows.  Gene Robinson put it best:  “I don’t know whether to scream or weep,” he said.

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cutcaster-photo-100136364-High-school-students-by-lockers-in-the-school-corridor

Thanks for the great comments on my last post.

I spent yesterday afternoon and this morning reading a book called Comprehending  Columbine.  The book, written by sociologist Ralph Larkin, tries to understand why ywms (borrowing Trep’s acronym) feel they have to shoot up the place.

According to Larkin, the shooters at Columbine (Harris and Klebold) were constantly bullied at school, as were most other students who were not in the high-status group.  The high-status group included members of the football and wrestling teams, natch, as well as their hangers-on, which included cheerleaders.  Larkin recounts in detail the sort of abuse to which social outcasts were subjected on a daily basis;  this included physical abuse of both boys and girls.  Rocks and bottles were thrown out of cars as kids walked home from school;   boys were smashed into lockers and stuffed into trash cans;   girls were sexually assaulted and beaten up on school grounds and their reputations trashed.

This is painful reading, particularly if one’s own high school experience was similar in any respect.  The high schools I attended were very small, but even there (and so along ago) there were “in-“and “out-” groups, and they were discriminated on the very same grounds used at Columbine:  money, family status, looks, religious belief, brains.  Race was not a factor there or at Columbine;   the very few blacks who were enrolled at that school were also jocks for the most part (although one of the dead was a young man who was killed because he was black).

Larkin also makes painfully clear the fact that the principal and most of the teachers were blithely or willfully ignorant of the violence that was being dished out daily in the school’s hallways and gyms.  The kids he interviewed agreed that the athletes and their cohort were always given the benefit of the doubt by the staff, to the point where reporting abuse was more  likely to result in punishment and shunning for the victim than for the perps.   So the helpless kids either took it or convinced their parents to move elsewhere.  To this day the principal claims that there is no bullying in his school.

Harris left behind a copious amount of writing, and the bits quoted by Larkin make very clear that this killer felt a sense of aggrieved entitlement.  He frequented skinhead websites, where the only criterion for acceptance was white skin, and since he had that he could feel comfortably entitled in the virtual world.  One can understand why a young person would take this route  in the environment described–he and hundreds of other students were certainly aggrieved, and they literally had no official place to turn for help.  Nobody in the prosperous white community, and especially not the evangelical preachers who pretty much owned the ideological apparatus at work there, wanted to hear what they had to say.

Unfortunately, the websites Harris frequented advocated extreme violence against anyone who was not white or who attempted to diminish a skinhead’s sense of white entitlement.  This may or may not have been sufficient to set Harris and his acolyte off (Larkin dismisses the widespread belief that Harris was a psychopath) but it certainly provided them with emotional support.

I’m not defending these kids.  Hundreds of other students at Columbine and, apparently, at high schools across the nation, put up with this crap every day and very few respond with guns and bombs.  I guess the point I want to make is that in many ways high school reflects the larger society in microcosm.   Mitt Romney, who has no apparent skills except making money and who is a proven bully and a liar, can run for President and almost get elected just because he’s well connected.  And it’s pretty clear in the election’s aftermath that Mitt’s supporters are suffering from aggrieved entitlement.

The notion of aggrieved entitlement explains one thing at least:  why white men are so adamant that they will not give up their guns.   The gun represents power, actually IS power, and the representation probably has everything to do with its phallic character as well.  To give up their guns is for some men to give up their male identity.  And for guys who imagine they’ve already been pushed to the wall (by what?  a black president?  women who won’t/don’t marry or have their kids or who make more money than they do?) their guns must seem like a last remnant of their central place in the universe.

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Agrieved Entitlement

bushmaster_ar15_carbine

Gotta admit, there is something phallic about this gun.  This morning some guy in Indiana threatened to set his wife on fire and then go to a nearby elementary school and shoot everyone in sight.  Luckily, his wife escaped and called authorities.

Why is it always white men who commit horrible acts of mass violence?  and who fantasize about committing such acts?  I add this last in order to include all those southern white men who are stocking arsenals against the unspecified day when Obama will come after them, presumably with the marines, or maybe just the National Guard, at his back.

While gun ownership has declined precipitously by number of individual owners in America in the past few years, the actual number of guns in circulation has actually increased!  IOW, fewer people own more guns.  And most of these arsenals are in the south (see Ezra Klein’s post in the Washington Post last week for verification of these and other cheery gun facts.)  The south, where, I need to remind no one, most of the country’s crazy Christians live.

For possible answers I turned to Ta-Nahisi Coates, from whose bloggy wisdom I often profit.  Here is part of what Ta-Nahisi had to say about the shooting in Connecticut:

“These spree shooting are almost wholly perpetrated by men. Perhaps this is just a matter of genes. But I also wonder about what we (as fathers) are communicating to our boys about what the world owes, and the methods they may use to secure it.”

I am a determined non-determinist, and like Ta-Nahisi I can’t believe something like this is “in the genes,” if for no other reason than it doesn’t happen  in Japan or Denmark or Brazil.  But he is onto something with that comment about “what the world owes.”  No one, including my father, ever told me that the world owes me a living;  au contraire my parents made very clear to me the fact that any success I earned in this world would result from my own hard work.  Would they have said something different to a son?  I don’t know.

Ta-Nahisi’s commentariat sent me off to read other meditations on the connection between white masculinity and violence, and the best of these was by Hugh Schwyzer, posting at Culture and Politics.  Schwyzer notes a peculiar aspect of recent mass shootings in the USA:  they occur in public spaces–schools, movie theatres, shopping centers.  He notes that white men’s access to public spaces is never questioned–nobody ever wonders what Harry is up to as he saunters down a public street–if he is white, that is.  And ask yourself, women readers, if you feel comfortable walking alone in a mall or into a restaurant or goddess forbid, a bar–ever–and if you are, did you have to teach yourself to walk without anxiety in such spaces?

So white men enjoy a sense of entitlement, a sense that from childhood they have a right to walk in the world uninhibited, undeterred.  Now here’s Schwyer’s money paragraph:

“I’d like to propose a very simple and elegant explanation for not only school shootings but a host of other barbaric acts in recent years: White men are having a crisis of both aggrievement and entitlement. One need only look at the 2012 election season to see less brutal but equally mind-numbing examples of white men going mad because they are losing their power. The “Republican Meltdown” is a perfect example of men who previously had all the control escalating to madness when that control was lost.”

Schwyzer gets this thesis (and I take my title) from a scholarly article by Rachel Kalish and Michael Kimmil, published in Health Sociology Review, and you can read it for yourself here:   http://logicalliving.blog.com/files/2011/04/Suicide-Ten.pdf.

A caveat:  I too am white, and as such, I enjoy great cultural privilege.  (See Peggy Mcintosh’s “White Privilege Checklist” for a list of 50 such gimmes.)  But I’m also a woman, and as such I have lived with the sometimes scary effects of white male privilege all my life.  White men (and the occasional man of color–as Desert and I know well) can become extremely vindictive when women achieve anything at all–getting promoted, becoming well-known or famous (just ask Rihanna), refusing to have children, refusing them sex, even simply surviving into middle or old age.  I’ve experienced male rage at my doing all of the above, and I’m still here to tell you about it, most likely because the male circles in which I have moved since my childhood ended were well-educated.  (Education in itself doesn’t mitigate male rage–think of the Unabomber–it only requires men to seek less overtly violent ways of demonstrating their frustration).

So:  anyone want to bet about when a connection between thwarted white male privilege and mass shootings will percolate into the mass media?  Hmmm?

UPDATE:  Also see a discussion about this link over at We Are Respectable Negroes.

 

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