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Blogging Liberally: At Least Obama's Getting a Little Help from the Media

1.) High gas prices got you down? Blame Bush and Cheney! Pelosi does.

2.) Obama goes international and may even convince doubters that he knows a thing or two about world affairs (with the media's help).

3.) Bad financial times may have lasting effects on democracy as we know it.

4.) McCain humor watch: why bad jokes may lead to a bad president.

5.) In addition to enjoying stimulating democratic discussion, everyone at Netroots Nation in Texas can savor some of the highest-priced electricity in the nation! Thanks, deregulation!

6.) Evidently, both autism and athsma are the genius inventions of spoiled child extortionists-- at least according to conservative radio host Michael Savage.

Dispatch from Austin

Justin blogs about the goings on down at Netroots Nation over at Future Majority:

The opening film drew applause -- and here's why I'm writing about it here. "Battleground Minnesota" features an 18-year-old Minnesotan who convinces every major state office-holder -- Dem and Republican -- to talk with him about why young people should care about voting.

He then remixes the interviews into a hip-hop music video -- where original rap is interspersed with Mark Dayton wearing "Dem" bling," Norm Coleman unbuttons his shirt to hang out, Tim Pawlenty is turned into a supporting role rapper, and Walter Mondale gets his turn on headphones.

It's hilarious, and inspirational -- it plays with the cultural and generational gaps between past generations and the current one, but also the power of music, technology and mischief to bridge that divide.

The Myth of the 2nd Amendment

The real mindtrip of Star Wars is that it’s set in the ethereal shrouds of "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away." By opening the lens to the crazy possibilities of the past, George Lucas offers an extraordinary thought experiment. What if the world was like that? What would that mean?? Like whoa, how did the present times become so drastically different from the past?

Hmm, yes, speculation is fun but it is still a part of the same fantasy donut that is Star Wars. The mythology of Star Wars
is light years away from practical reality.

The mythology of the 2nd amendment however hits closer to home. In Arming America, Michael Bellesiles posits that American gun culture is an invented tradition, developed in one generation after the civil war. He links the development of gun culture directly to the development of the gun industry.

This would mean the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on owning a hand gun is not a part of the American tradition. Bellesiles scoured cultural, political, and legal documents and lays out his argument for how the federal government betrayed the original intent of our American republic by arming America with the liberty of individual gun ownership. He shows that our supposed tradition of gun ownership is more myth than history.

Six Little Known Facts About the History of Guns in America
1. Many settlers didn’t own guns. Those who did were poor shots. Most times when people hit something they have hit it by accident.

2. Gun technology didn’t fully develop until the Civil War. There were only three gun manufacturers in the U.S. before 1820, and even then the artisans could only make parts of guns. Artisans had to import gun locks from Europe.

3. The final product was unreliable. Thus, before the Civil War, the military used guns mainly as defensive weapons. Soldiers would shoot once, cast the weapon aside as they took out their other arms (most commonly pikes or swords) and charged. In reaction to this practice, artisans created the bayonette (a rifle with a pike attached) so that soldiers would at least hold on to their guns for the duration of battle.

4. There was a gun shortage. Guns and ammunition were not to be wasted. Government and citizens worried who could get their hands on this new technology.

5. In preparation for the civil war, the government cut a deal with domestic gun manufacturers. Whatever guns these manufacturers made, the government purchased. After the war ended, manufacturers had to find other customers.

6. At first western magazines had no articles about guns, hunting, the militia or the military until three years after its first publication in 1834: "in its first three years, 1834 to 1836, this magazine published thirty six issues and 356 articles there was one article on hunting, one on a shooting match, and four on Indian wars – and not a single other article on any gun-related theme."

The story behind Bellesiles’s book rivals the drama and controversy inside its pages. Upon release, his book was given critical praise and even awarded the prestigious Bancroft Prize for his contribution to American history. A violent smear campaign ensued, and in the midst of the storm the Columbia board voted to rescind Bellesiles’s prize for “academic misconduct.” Controversy. The dispute centered on three paragraphs and a chart which Bellesiles’s critics claimed were misleading. In response, Bellesiles stood by his research and analysis: "I challenge anyone to show how the revised paragraphs addressing probate materials undermine in any way the thesis or logical structure of this book." History News Network issued a chronology of the Bellesiles controversy.

Independent publisher Soft Skull Press has issued a revised edition.

Our gun culture shapes the way we perceive violence. They twist our morals. Guns are for our protection. Samuel Colt named his gun The Peacemaker. They penetrate pop culture. Think westerns and The Myth of the Frontier. Do guns make men? Historian Richard Slotkin describes this ideology as "regeneration through violence."

So where is the regeneration of Sean Bell, Iraq, Threat Level Orange, or Grand Theft Auto IV? All I see is desensitization through violence.

International Law + Texas = Supreme Court Nightmare

Liberal Perspective
by Mazhira Black

Breaking away from his blundering diplomatic agenda, President Bush has urged the state of Texas to hold off on executing a Mexican national who is on death row and scheduled for lethal injection in August. The International Court of Justice, the highest court of the UN, has responded to an appeal made by the Mexican government for the United States review the cases of 51 Mexican nationals on death row.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the President does not have the constitutional power to issue a Memorandum demanding that the states review the files of the 48 remaining individuals eligible for review.

Although the Supreme Court recognizes the validity of the Judgment to the United States' standing in international law it has ruled that regardless of the Judgment and the President's Memorandum it is irrelevant to federal laws. Thus Texas is exempt from following the ruling.The Mexican government has requested that the United States step in to ensure that these nationals receive the review they are entitled to under the ICJ's ruling.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals chooses to treat the President's Memorandum as non binding and stands by the ruling that the President's actions are unconstitutional in trying to "pre-empt Texas state law, even in order to comply with an international law obligation".

Perhaps I'm missing something but shouldn't we be paying attention to real issues such as this loophole in the realm of federal law rather than Clinton's new part or McCain's humorless sense of humor? Is there a point to being a signatory state to the UN Charter if our judiciary branch allows individual states to override international court rulings? Thanks to this country's obsession with fleeting campaign season issues this Supreme Court ruling will fester long after the '08 buttons have left permanent holes in the garment of America.

Praying Liberally: Where do American Jews stand?

Today, J Street, the super awesome Pro-Israel Pro-Peace Jewish lobby, released their new poll of the American Jewish communities opinions on politics and American foreign policy in the Middle East.

Here's a run down of poll results:

  • 83% of Jews disapprove of George W. Bush.

  • Just 21% approve of the Iraq War.

  • 71% think Bush has done a bad job handling the Arab-Israeli conflict with 61% believing Bush has made Israel less safe and Iran stronger.

  • 60% are favorable towards Barack Obama as opposed to 34% towards McCain and 37% toward Joe Lieberman.

  • Barack Obama is also seen more favorably than the Democratic Party.

  • Only 38% are favorable towards AIPAC as opposed to the 44% favorable towards MoveOn.

  • Around 80% support a two state solution establishing a Palestinian state the West Bank and Gaza with 75% saying it necessary for Israel's security.

  • More than half want the US to tell Israel to stop expanding the settlements.

  • A plurality of Jews identify as Liberal (as opposed to Conservative, Moderate or Progressive)

The big takeaway: American Jews are Living Liberally.

They aren't, as the MSM tries to make you believe, old, crotchety, hawkish, conservative, Lieberman-lovers. It shouldn't be a surprise as the largest and fastest growing Jewish movement in the nation supports gay marriage, and has taken firm progressive stands on many issues.

One thing the media is correct about, however, is that American Jews want a strong Israel and a strong United States. And as J Street and the American Jewish community rightly realize, the only way to strengthen our countries is to establish some form of lasting peace, to negotiate with our current enemies, and to craft a US foreign policy that creates allies, instead of slighting them.

Thanks to J Street for showing that while the MSM would like to present American Jews as conservative or war-hawk moderate, the reality is that American Jews are liberal.

Reading Liberally: McCain's Free Ride

Ever wonder how McCain got where he is? Why after all the flip-flops, the slip-ups, and the just flat-out-inappropriate jokes, McCain continues to credibly crawl toward the White House? If so, then Free Ride: John McCain and the Media proves to be indispensable reading (not to mention that it is one of the two books that will be discussed at next Tuesday’s first-ever meeting of Reading Liberally NYC!).

As authors David Brock and Paul Waldman convincingly assert, John McCain has a singular, privileged relationship with the media-- one that allows all of his numerous scandals and gaffes to be overlooked or, worse, miraculously incorporated into his constructed image as a "maverick" a "moderate" and a "straight-talker." As the authors put it in their online follow-up to the book: "When a candidate changes his position as a response to the politics of the moment and the press ignores it, he's lucky. When he changes his position and the press goes out of its way to say how principled he is for not changing his position, he's John McCain."

Incredibly, despite the alternative media’s constant coverage of McCain’s falsely positive press presence, the mainstream news continues to turn a blindly accepting eye. Take, for example, how the LA Times reported McCain’s spin on his previous comment on the “disgrace” that is social security, rather than his initial words. Add to that the Associated Press’s sustained failure to report on McCain’s changing immigration policy , and a clear pattern begins to emerge—one that Waldman and Brock delve into extensively (almost redundantly) in their work.

Essentially, Free Ride delivers a one-two punch: first illuminating the mythological public image of McCain, and then knocking it to the ground with facts about McCain’s actual policy decisions and personal flaws. What emerges from all the rubble is a John McCain that is a far cry from the glowingly imagined anti-politician: a McCain who is (hypocritically) opportunistic and scheming, who is prone to furious outbursts in which he calls his senate colleagues “shit head” and “fucking jerk.”

While the book is somewhat imperfect (it sometimes lacks clear organization, and occasionally throws in so many examples of media hypocrisy that the evidence for each individual case falls flat) it certainly achieves its ultimate point: readers will see a McCain stripped of his media halo, who seems to be an unfitting and even dangerous candidate for commander-in-chief.

Reading Liberally: Read of the Day

The one article that every liberal must read today:

by Eric Boehlert, Media Matters

Eric Boehlert reports on how "The Beltway press has become dysfunctional, failing to see news when it happens and hyping non-stories that require no real reporting." Check this out to get a better understanding of the MSM's unfortunate role in this campaign.

Screening Liberally Watch of the Day: Jibjab

JibJab - Time for Some Campaignin'

"A bit more balanced than the New Yorker's one-sided smear campaign." -Ari Melber

"Personally, I never thought they were all that funny." -Mike Connery

"I especially enjoyed seeing Obama leap." -Claire Finch

"Two thumbs up, it's King of the Hill meets Disney sing-along."- Brooke Olaussen

"Obnoxiously catchy and depressingly truthful." -Mazhira Black

"I thought one part was funny, but I just wasn't into it." -Seth Pearce

What do you think?