This is what people like me were warning of the early days of the GWOT:
Either Monday or Tuesday the Senate will vote on a bill that allows the US military to imprison civilians with no formal charges and hold them with no trial.
The ACLU reports even US citizens wouldn’t be immune as the legislation aims to declare national territory part of the “battlefield” in the War on Terror.
News is breaking today about NATO forces killing a couple dozen Pakistani soldiers. This is likely to be a big story, is likely to have long-lasting repercussions, and is, undoubtedly, bad news.
For whatever reason, the first round of stories about this subject has come from Reuters – al Reuters to its friends. I don’t pay much attention to al Reuters these days, so perhaps I am unique in being surprised to see that it has adopted the term “war on militancy” to describe what we provincial rubes sometimes call the War on Terror. The latter isn’t the best term, and has certain propagandistic qualities, but … war on militancy? Really? The flaws of “War on Terror” can be somewhat forgiven by observing that: 1) the term was crafted during a crisis when terminology was not the number one priority, and 2) it was developed by politicians with an agenda, so of course it’s going to have propagandistic qualities. A great many war names have this quality – several European kingdoms went to great lengths not to use the US government’s term “civil war” to describe the North American hostilities between 1861-65, as those hostilities were only a “civil war” if you believe there was no right of secession.
I’m open to journalists, particularly international journalists, adopting a more neutral terminology than what our government uses. Actually, I’d kinda prefer that they would, since the neutrality of outsiders is always useful to examine ourselves. But “War on Militancy” is utter nonsense, made worse by the observation that a lot of people put a lot of effort creating it. Professional “journalists” – people who tell us that they tell stories objectively – spent years thinking about this, and the best they can do is an oxymoron? Personally, if I’m forced to pick between the nonsense jingoistic phrase of my government or the nonsense jingoistic phrase of an international news organization that has made it clear it opposes my government, I’ll take the domestic nonsense. At least it’s our nonsense.
Back in my political campaign days, an old political hand once advised me to try to avoid having a candidate visit a sporting event. His reasoning was that fans are more than a little irrational in the love for their team, and anything that interfered with their enjoyment of the game could get booed. Applauding fans wouldn’t be news, but booing would be, so unpredictable sports events should be avoided. Or, as Dick Armey once put it, “If you insist on center stage, you get the tomatoes” (Axiom 22).
To recap, in case you aren’t interested in watching the video: a veteran is introduced, along with his family; his accomplishments as a sniper recounted and he gets applauded; then Mrs. Obama and Jill Biden were introduced; then some booing; then everyone announced, “Start your engines.”
The whole stadium, thankfully, wasn’t booing, but there was clearly a significant number of upset fans. Unfortunately, we quite literally don’t know what they were upset about. Would there have been booing if Mrs. Obama were white? Or a man? Or a Republican? Or would any politician shoehorning in on the tribute to a veteran have gotten booed? We don’t know.
What has been far more interesting is the reaction of pundits and their interpretation of the boos. The debate has focused on race: did the fans intend a racial insult or no? There’s no way of asking the fans what they meant by booing, so the only thing pundits can do is project their own meaning onto the event.
Two friends of mine, Robert and Dan, were tweeting about the event. Twitter is good for many things, but nuanced debate isn’t one of them. Dan made a couple of tweets that I’d like to address a bit further. First:
@mikeahub@DCbigpappa it’s inappropriate to boo the first lady for any reason. I don’t care if it’s racial or not.
Dan is utterly right that it’s inappropriate, but whether it’s racial is the whole reason things blew up on Twitter and the blogosphere. First ladies from Lady Bird Johnson to Hillary Clinton have been booed. It was wrong then and wrong now. On first amendment grounds, they have the right to speak. Common courtesy alone should dictate that we listen politely to what they have to say. Booing is nearly always the wrong reaction; it’s inarticulate mockery, more worthy of barnyard animals than humans. It was particularly inappropriate on when Mrs. Obama was ceremonially starting a stock car race.
But since Mrs. Obama is the first black first lady, the question of race comes into many things she does. You may not care if the booing is racial, but many people do. Bad manners don’t get tons of commentary, but racism does.
Dan also made a second, rather more inflammatory tweet:
@mikeahub@DCbigpappa how do a group of people claim to be patriotic then publicly disrespect the first lady?
The booing fans are unquestionably guilty of bad manners, but a lack of patriotism? That seems overstated and unprovable. Measuring patriotism is tricky, for the most valiant soldier may have achieved his deeds not through love of country but through love of his own glory; we cannot measure patriotism without God’s abacus.
The booing of Michelle Obama has become a Rorschach test. What we see in it says more about how we view NASCAR fans than it does about what the NASCAR fans actually think. Going back to the old political hand, it’s pretty clear that booing politicians at sporting events is relatively common. We can’t know if the fans are racists, but we can know what you think of them.
You can follow me on Twitter, which where this blog post got started. I’m usually much less long winded there for some reason.
“If the government is to tell big business men how to run their business, then don’t you see that big business men have to get closer to the government even than they are now? Don’t you see that they must capture the government, in order not to be restrained too much by it? Must capture the government? They have already captured it. Are you going to invite those inside to stay? They don’t have to get there. They are there.”
Its Veterans Day here in the US so I would like to take the time to recognize two men, heroes, who served their country alongside you Yanks.
My grandfather John Sadler and my uncle Alan Lockett, both of the RAAF, are two of the finest men I have ever known. Their lives and service are an inspiration, and taking the time to remember them today brings a smile to my face.
Jamie posted this at 1:00 PM CDT on Friday, November 11th, 2011 as Heroes
President Obama’s Agriculture Department today announced that it will impose a new 15-cent charge on all fresh Christmas trees—the Christmas Tree Tax—to support a new Federal program to improve the image and marketing of Christmas trees.
In the Federal Register of November 8, 2011, Acting Administrator of Agricultural Marketing David R. Shipman announced that the Secretary of Agriculture will appoint a Christmas Tree Promotion Board. The purpose of the Board is to run a “program of promotion, research, evaluation, and information designed to strengthen the Christmas tree industry’s position in the marketplace; maintain and expend existing markets for Christmas trees; and to carry out programs, plans, and projects designed to provide maximum benefits to the Christmas tree industry” (7 CFR 1214.46(n)). And the program of “information” is to include efforts to “enhance the image of Christmas trees and the Christmas tree industry in the United States” (7 CFR 1214.10).
To pay for the new Federal Christmas tree image improvement and marketing program, the Department of Agriculture imposed a 15-cent fee on all sales of fresh Christmas trees by sellers of more than 500 trees per year (7 CFR 1214.52). And, of course, the Christmas tree sellers are free to pass along the 15-cent Federal fee to consumers who buy their Christmas trees.
To paraphrase Barry Soetoro: Let me be clear! The Federal Government finds it necessary to institute a program to improve the image and marketing if Christmas Trees.
The dumb thing here isn’t that Jay Carney isn’t aware that “The Lord helps those who help themselves” is a folksaying, not a Bible verse. That’s certainly a dumb thing. But the dumb thing is that he quotes that line to justify the President acting without Congressional approval to “help the American people.” The saying is one that justifies self-reliance and self-interested action; I can’t think of a less appropriate application of the saying than to use it to justify government intervention in the lives of citizens.
So let’s follow out the logical implications: Obama is helping himself to the power to “help the American people” without Congressional assistance. In this formulation, the Lord will help: Obama. The Lord will not help: the American people, and Congress. Gee, thanks, Mr. President.
Perhaps it’s not a dumb statement after all, but a strangely upfront acceptance of the conservative critique that this administration is persuing its own self-aggrandizing policies, regardless of mounting evidence that those policies are utter failures? Doubtful. I don’t give Carney credit for being that smart.