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Did SNL Blow It By Not Running the Hagel Hearing Skit?

5:05 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

During Saturday Evening’s Saturday Night Live dress rehearsal, the cast tried this sketch, which parodies the obsequiousness shown by U.S. Senators toward Israel last week, during the confirmation hearing for former Senator Chuck Hagel, to head the Department of Defense:

The sketch didn’t run, but the show soon put it up on the web at HULU, where it was picked up by Huffington Post and Mondoweiss by early Sunday morning.

In comments and articles on the sketch, many are saying that the sketch wasn’t run because it wasn’t funny.  I didn’t watch SNL this week, but my wife did, and she says it would have been one of the funniest sketches this week, which isn’t saying much these days.  I think the audience may have at times been uncomfortable watching the sketch unfold before them.

Surprisingly, the funniest headline on it, even beating out Wonkette, was the Times of Israel, which put this in the headline:

Andrew Sullivan featuring the clip this morning in a piece titled  A Cultural Breakthrough, wrote:

After being banished from earnest Washington discussion for decades by various press gate-keepers, the absurdly overblown power of the Greater Israel lobby is now seeping into the popular culture. SNL captures the lunacy.

This does appear to be the case.  As Philip Weiss noted today:

Even friends of mine who don’t know the issue are fulminating about the Hagel hearing. And remember that those gatekeepers and lobby pooh-poohers included the Atlantic Magazine, David Remnick, Leon Wieseltier, Leslie Gelb, Walter Russell Mead, Jeffrey Goldberg, among other eminent journalists.

Weiss and others have noted within the past week, that the failure of Alan Dershowitz and his ilk to stop the Brooklyn College Global BDS talk last Thursday;  the Academy Award-nominated films Five Broken Cameras and The Gatekeepers getting major interviews, articles and reviews in media that too often in the past ignored important Palestinian and pro-Palestinian art; and attention being drawn to how much more interested Senators on the Armed Forces Committee are in Israel than the welfare of our soldiers and veterans, together mean more than a cultural breakthrough is at play here.

2013 is shaping up to be the year during which people will no longer have to carefully and guardedly talk about Israeli apartheid, but will finally be listened to, when they openly draw attention to Israeli Apartheid.

Watching the Breitbart-inspired campaign against Hagel’s “Hamas PAC” unfold, the SNL scriptwriters might consider keeping their pencils handy.

Free Brooklyn College: Sign the Petition to Support Academic Freedom at CUNY

6:47 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Brooklyn College campus [hdr image]

If you live in Brooklyn, you have probably heard of the threat from members of the New York City Council against Brooklyn College.  If you live elsewhere, chances are that, unless you are involved in the struggle for Palestinian rights, or the struggle against them, you’ve missed his one.

In a nutshell, in late January a controversy arose over the political science department at Brooklyn College sponsoring an upcoming appearance there by two advocates of Global BDS.  That movement, now in its ninth year, advocates putting pressures upon the increasingly apartheid Israeli state, similar to the sanctions imposed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, against the increasingly apartheid South African state.  Here is a description of the controversy, from a friendly point of view:

At Brooklyn College, a student chapter of the Students for Justice in Palestine organized a forthcoming panel with Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti to discuss the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The political science department agreed to co-sponsor it. When certain individuals hostile to BDS heard about this event they raised an outcry. The outcry started with Alan Dershowitz, who demanded that the political science department either withdraw its sponsorship or ‘balance’ it with a voice – namely his – that is critical of the panelists. Very quickly this became a city and state-wide issue, and various politicians, including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, began to make the same demands. Now, quite disturbingly, the New York City Council is threatening to withhold future funding for CUNY unless the political science department either cancels the event or withdraws its sponsorship.

Advocates for the college’s position have emerged, including constitutional attorney, Glenn Greenwald, Palestinian rights advocate Andrew Sullivan, and – surprisingly – MSNBC‘s Chris Hayes (as described by Phil Weiss):

A “who’s who” list of New York politicians is trying to shut down the conversation. Hayes mentions Omar Barghouti and Judith Butler. “I understand why there’s an outcry” from those who find BDS odious — he says, covering his bases. But Hayes is clear about the academic-freedom principle and about the highly “selective” concern for balance in this instance and not others. What if the University of Alabama tried to disinvite a gay speaker? Hayes says that some of those politicians “browbeating” the college have been on his show. Good liberals. Yes: Progressive Except Palestine, PEP.

Greenwald has written several columns now on the threats against the college. Most recently, he centered on comments by NYC council member, Lew Fidler, whose threats against Brooklyn College funding seem to have been the most explicit yet.  Greenwald:

How can anyone not be seriously alarmed by this? These threats are infinitely more destructive than any single academic event could ever possibly be…Plainly, this entire controversy has only one ‘principle’ and one purpose: to threaten, intimidate and bully professors, school administrators and academic institutions out of any involvement in criticisms of Israel.

Fidler’s chilling letter to BC President Karen Gould can be read here (scribd).

One speaker at the upcoming event, prominent feminist philosopher, Judith Butler, has defended herself many times against specious “anti-semitism” charges (Butler is Jewish), most notably, in her profound essay on anti-semitism, in the London Review of Books, eleven years ago:

In holding out for a distinction to be made between Israel and Jews, I am calling for a space for dissent for Jews, and non-Jews, who have criticisms of Israel to articulate; but I am also opposing anti-semitic reductions of Jewishness to Israeli interests. The ‘Jew’ is no more defined by Israel than by anti-semitism. The ‘Jew’ exceeds both determinations, and is to be found, substantively, as a historically and culturally changing identity that takes no single form and has no single telos. Once the distinction is made, discussion of both Zionism and anti-semitism can begin, since it will be as important to understand the legacy of Zionism and to debate its future as to oppose anti-semitism wherever we find it.

The other main speaker in the upcoming BC event is Palestinian, Omar Barghouti, echoed Butler in a 2011 interview with The Guardian on Global BDS, which he helped found:

Here is what the petition in support of Brooklyn College’s position states:

We the undersigned write in support of the decision by Brooklyn College’s political science department to co-sponsor a panel discussion with Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti. We urge CUNY President Karen Gould to resist attempts by those who have attempted to intimidate CUNY into canceling, changing, or withdrawing its sponsorship for the panel. We are especially concerned that the New York City Council has threatened to withhold further money for CUNY if it does not either cancel the event or withdraw its sponsorship. This is a grave threat to academic freedom and sets a terrible precedent for the future.

You can sign it here.

The goal was 500 signatures. It currently as 1,612.

(If you click “SIGN’” button, you can leave the page without hitting the “pay” buttons on the succeeding page.  I didn’t pay, and my name now shows up.)

I signed – as a college professor in favor of free speech.

Will you sign?

As Obama Prepares to Do Battle Against Washington and Colorado, Here’s the Pointy End of His Spear

12:22 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Need I say more?  No?

Well, I will anyway.

The New York Times reported Thursday that high level talks are going on within the Obama administration on how to deal with Washington and Colorado, both of whose voters helped bring Obama his second term, and both of which had more voters support legalizing recreational marijuana use than voted for the president.  Obama is the third president in a row to have used marijuana in his younger days.

The NYT article, which uses so many anonymous White House sources it reeks of “trial balloon,” notes:

One option is for federal prosecutors to bring some cases against low-level marijuana users of the sort they until now have rarely bothered with, waiting for a defendant to make a motion to dismiss the case because the drug is now legal in that state. The department could then obtain a court ruling that federal law trumps the state one.

Will those kids be well-heeled white ones, with parents willing to spend what it usually takes to get a diversion or some other tool used by the well off to keep a possession charge from ruining a young person’s career hopes?  Or will those kids be of color and not well off, as are most victims of the war on drugs when played out against random or targeted users.

The main constituents of continued prohibition are the prison industrial complex, the war on drugs industrial complex, the Mexican drug cartels and big pharma, with the alcohol industry supportive in some ways.  Apparently, the biggest supporter of a heavy crackdown in the administration isn’t the dimwitted DEA head, Michele Leonhart.  It is VP Biden:

[T]he politician who coined the term “drug czar” – Joe Biden – continues to guide the administration’s hard-line drug policy. “The vice president has a special interest in this issue,” Sabet says. “As long as he is vice president, we’re very far off from legalization being a reality.”

I’ve never written an essay here before on the question of marijuana legalization.  I’ve seldom commented on my own relationship with the drug.

I first tried it in early 1967, while serving in the US Army.  At times, when I was young, I used it a lot, probably too much.  When my kids were young, I would go for over a year sometimes without having any, only imbibing with my Washington state sculptor friends when visiting them there.  During that same time, I was working in privatized corrections in Alaska.  I saw then way too many examples of how drug enforcement is used racially in a negative way.

Obama’s administration is saddled with Gonzales v. Raich and a whole shitload of international treaties.  But if there ever was a time for a president to cut a Gordian knot, this issue seems to be the prime candidate.

Andrew Sullivan, proposing open debate rather than knot-cutting, concluded an essay on this today:

Let’s have this debate openly and honestly. Let the government prove that marijuana is as dangerous as heroin and should be treated as such. The very process will reveal the anachronism of the provision itself and the racial and cultural panic that created it. The very discussion will point to an inevitable, scientific conclusion that the current federal policy is based on nothing.

So do nothing, Mr president, with respect to these states and their legitimate decisions. Set the DEA’s priorities so that this trivial, medically useful, pleasure is not in any way a priority for law enforcement. Let the states figure this out, as they are on marriage equality.

Lead from behind. An entire generation is ahead of you.

In the spirit of  being pissed off at this administration’s weighing whether or not “to bring some cases against low-level marijuana users of the sort they until now have rarely bothered with,”  I’m going to light one up, something I haven’t done in a while.

Will you join me?

FDL Book Salon Preview: The Rogue – By Joe McGinniss (The Hate Continues)

1:41 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

The Rogue - Searching for the Real Sarah Palin

The Rogue - Searching for the Real Sarah Palin

[This is the extended version of the preface to Sunday's Firedoglake Book Salon, which was limited to about 1,000 words.]

I. Longtime journalist and award-winning author Joe McGinniss’ newest book, The Rogue, is the latest – but by no means last – book about Sarah Palin.  Palin is not only the most famous Alaskan in history, she has uniquely combined political activity, celebrity, motherhood, grandmotherhood, a spousal relationship, borderline religious beliefs, professional victimhood, the American gossip universe, pop culture, legal obfuscation, new media and social networking.  Increasingly known for being thin-skinned and somewhat lacking in spatial awareness,  Palin, more than any American politician in a generation or so, almost begged McGinniss – or any investigative author – to move next door.  As I wrote here last year, a couple of days after McGinniss was able to do just that:

[A]uthor Joe McGinnis, who is writing a critical book about Sarah Palin, was looking for a place in Wasilla to rent this summer, as he continues his research. He was offered the house next door to the Palins’ Lake Lucille cult compound-in-progress. He wasn’t looking for the place. It came looking for him. What would you do?

Having spent time with McGinniss at the crucial point between when he moved in, and the Palins’ reaction to their new neighbor set in concrete the scene for how the book played out, I can say that Joe really was hoping to be able to just be their next-door neighbor.  He did not want to make waves, and was hoping to sit down with Sarah and Todd socially, perhaps professionally, and go through notes with them as work proceeded.  I’m not kidding.

What ended up happening was another over-reaction by Sarah, similar to many those of us who had been watching her for a long time had witnessed before.  Her facebook people went all professional victim for her and, to quote Palin in another context – “Game on!” Read the rest of this entry →

Andrew Sullivan’s Palin Warning – and His Challenge

4:39 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Andrew Sullivan, who is perhaps the most dogged nationally prominent Palin critic, has predictably responded to the recent, richly detailed article, written by Gabriel Sherman, and published in the May 3rd edition of New York Magazine. Sherman takes the best in-depth look at Palin’s post 2008 rise that I’ve yet read. Sullivan seems to partially agree, but isn’t critical so much of Sherman’s article as he is of those walking away from the piece with an underestimation of Palin. Sullivan feels his colleague at the Atlantic, Joshua Green, has.

Sherman’s article is, as Green observes, "chock full of Palin porn." It also relies on interviews with a surprising array of informants, Just in time for Palin to include them in the growing list of people she will have to scathe in her upcoming 2nd book, I suppose. Sullivan chooses one paragraph in Green’s post that Sullivan finds troubling:

Palin’s prospects in the Republican Party are a good deal dimmer than her star wattage suggests. She’s tallied middling performances in early straw polls and shows no inclination to embark on the grassroots work required of a presidential candidate. More to the point, this article makes clear that, were there any doubt, her preoccupying concern is "building her brand"–less in a political sense than a financial one. Palin may yet make a bid for the White House. But all evidence suggests that when the time comes to choose between earning money and running for president, Palin will choose money.

Sullivan, who can be almost deft in looking at issues from outside the CW box, hits back:

This is the conventional view in Washington. I think it’s completely wrong, dangerously complacent, and out of touch with profound shifts in media, fundraising and politics. The political parties are weaker than they once were. The elites cannot control grass-roots Internet-driven phenomena. Look at Obama. He seems a natural president now, but Washington dismissed his chances – as they are now dismissing Palin’s – right up to the Iowa caucuses. And because Palin is such a terrifying – truly terrifying – prospect for the US and the world, I think such complacency, rooted in cynicism about Palin’s mercenary nature, is far too reckless.

I disagree somewhat with Andrew Sullivan on this point. Partially from having watched Obama emerge in his early Iowa appearances in the spring and summer of 2007, and partially from having watch Palin emerge since the winter of 1991.

Sullivan’s description of the emergence of Fox-type news coverage is fairly prescient:

Look: what we have seen this past year is the collapse of the RNC as it once was and the emergence of a highly lucrative media-ideological-industrial complex. This complex has no interest in traditional journalistic vetting, skepticism, scrutiny of those in power, or asking the tough questions. It has no interest in governing a country. It has an interest in promoting personalities and ideologies and false images of a past America that both flatter and engage its audience. For most in this business, this is about money. Roger Ailes, who runs a news business, has been frank about what his fundamental criterion is for broadcasting: ratings not truth. Obviously all media has an eye on the bottom line – but in most news organizations, there is also an ethical editorial concern to get things right. I see no such inclination in Fox News or the hugely popular talkshow demagogues (Limbaugh, Levin, Beck et al.), which now effectively control the GOP. And when huge media organizations have no interest in any facts that cannot be deployed for a specific message, they are a political party in themselves.

Add Palin to the mix and you have a whole new machine in American politics – one with the capacity, as much as Obama’s, to upend the established order. Beltway types roll their eyes. But she’s not Obama, they say. She doesn’t know anything, polarizes too many people, has lied constantly and still may have dozens of skeletons in her unvetted closets.

To which the answer must be: where the fuck have you been this past year?

Andrew goes on to very tightly describe the different kind of environment Palin has managed to project herself into, compared to any potential presidential candidate in the past:

It doesn’t matter whether she’s uneducated, unprincipled, unaware and unscrupulous. The more she’s proven incapable of the presidency, the more her supporters believe she is destined for it. It’s a brilliant little gig she’s devised. She may be ignorant, but she is not stupid. She has the smarts of all accomplished pathological liars and phonies. And this time, she will not even bother to go on any television outlets other than Fox News. She will be the first presidential nominee never to have had a press conference. She will give statements by Facebook. She will speak directly to the cocoon that is, at least, twenty percent of Americans. The press, already a rank failure in exposing her fraudulence, will be so starstruck by the chance to make money that we will never have a Couric-style interview again. it will be Oprah all the time. Because Palin lives in an imaginary world, the entire media world will be required to echo it or be shut out.

Sullivan goes on to quote from Sherman’s New York Magazine article:

It was Fox’s Roger Ailes who had the insight that the American right was an underserved market, one with a powerful kind of brand loyalty. Fox News has turned a disaffected segment of the populace into a market, with the fervor and idiosyncratic truth standards of a cult. Wingnut-ism has been monetized, is one admittedly partisan way of looking at it. Palin stokes the disaffection of her constituents and then, with the help of Fox, offers to heal them, for a price.

And Sullivan concludes with a warning:

And with that power and that potential funding, how can someone who said she wanted to be president as long ago as 1996 resist? Josh can dream all he wants. She is the biggest political power after Obama in this country. And, unless the full truth emerges with such force it cracks even the FNC/RNC sealed universe, she will run against him in 2012.

I’m sure Andrew Sullivan will be revisiting this theme often. He already has once today.

What Andrew Sullivan is saying appears to be that unless the media actually does a lot of serious research on the "dozens of skeletons in her unvetted closets," Palin just might sneak on in there to the top of the heap.

Gabriel Sherman observes about Palin’s interactions with others and how that might be a limiter:

While careful not to say anything that might make her rear her head, some in the GOP Establishment whisper that they hope Palin stays in Wasilla. She may be useful in raising funds and drawing crowds, but Palin’s unseriousness and carnival antics damage the brand. “There’s a big piece of the Republican Party that doesn’t want her to run,” said one national Republican strategist.

Even among her base, some see her rogue operation as a form of selfishness and her cashing in as unseemly. And Palin’s close relationship with John McCain is a liability for her right-wing audience. In March, Palin made several campaign stops in Arizona with McCain and tried to convince the crowd of his tea-party bona fides. “People in the tea-party movement despise John McCain,” Judson Phillips says. “When was the last time John McCain drove his own car?”

The synergies that have driven Palin Inc. thus far may evaporate if she pursues a presidential run in earnest. There will be, eventually, interviews to do, with networks other than Fox. Why Palin would trade the presidency—and the salary—for a candidacy that faces possibly insurmountable political hurdles is a question to ponder.

Sherman’s article’s depth of detail is worth a complete read. I can understand why some, like Joshua Green will walk away from Sherman thinking that Palin will veer toward the money whenever she might have to gamble to instead seek power. And I’m totally in agreement with Sullivan that the main reasons we’re still being inflicted daily doses of Palin are that 1), the media has not fairly described the package for what it is – the most disgusting pathological political liar of the 21st century, and 2), she’s too fun to watch.

Eric Boehlert, in his 2009 book, Bloggers on the Bus, fairly described how our small band of Alaska bloggers proved to be very helpful to some in the national media when it came to getting the true story of Palin’s local rise to power out there. And an addendum might be worth adding to that story about how, as we kept after Palin when she reluctantly returned to Alaska after the presidential campaign, her governorship imploded.

Since she left the Alaska scene – by and large – in the fall of 2009, there haven’t been enough other reporters and commentators out there like Sullivan and Sherman, to take up where Alaskans like Jeanne Devon, Shannyn Moore, Jesse Griffin, Mel Green, Linda Kellen and myself, and out-of-state blogs like Palingates and God’s Own Party left off.

The skeletons to which Sullivan refers might end up being exposed. But that shouldn’t matter. As Sullivan’s own long list of Palin lies clearly shows, she gets away with a hell of a lot, even for a politician. She quite likely perjured herself in her testimony in the Knoxville hacking trial last week. And as several bloggers in Alaska and elsewhere observed over the weekend, Palin herself rose to statewide prominence by – get this – hacking into a colleague’s computer.

Palin’s mean girl side came out last Friday, in an interview with Greta van Susterin. Greta gives Palin three chances to show empathy for fellow hacker, David Kernell:

Van Susteren – In the courtroom today, you must have seen the defendant, right, looked across and saw him at some point?

Palin – Glanced over there, yup.

Van Susteren – I realize that you feel invaded by what he’s done, if in fact he did do this, if in fact he is guilty of this, but is there any sort of sense… he’s only 22 years old. Was there any sort of thought that he did wrong in your view, but did you have any sort of empathy or sympathy for him?

Palin- Well what the email hacker did, per his admittance later on was try to find things in a campaign to derail a presidential election and you know that… that’s pretty major. That’s like back in the day literally, physically breaking in to a campaign office to find something to discredit or humiliate a candidate so they could derail a candidacy. This is what the equivalent to what this case is.

Palin- As for if you’re leading into a question about the level of punishment that is appropriate, of course that’s in the judge’s hands. That’s not for me to decide but um.. you know it’s not a proper thing, it’s not a decent thing, fair or ethical or legal thing to get into a candidate or anybody else’s personal or private email or ’snell mell’ and try to find something on the person and disclose it without their permission.

I think the mean girl thing might be what finally brings Palin down. Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan could use some help.