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[ 6 ] July 5, 2008 |


One fascinating thing about the death of Jesse Helms is the conservative reaction…But instead conservatives are taking a line that I might have regarded as an unfair smear just a week ago, and saying that Helms is a brilliant exemplar of the American conservative movement.

And if that’s what the Heritage Foundation and National Review and the other key pillars of American conservatism want me to believe, then I’m happy to believe it. But it reflects just absolutely horribly on them and their movement that this is how they want to be seen — as best exemplified by bigotry, lunatic notions about foreign policy, and tobacco subsidies.

Reading the Corner’s unabashed celebrations has been especially remarkable.

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Presidential Statement of the Day

[ 0 ] July 5, 2008 |

Gerald Ford, toasting Indonesian President Suharto during his visit to the US, 5 July 1975:

I recognize, as all of us do here from the United States, that you have achieved a great deal for your country in the period during your Presidency. The Indonesian people, we recognize, have developed a solid foundation to deal with your nation’s very complex challenges and the very difficult road, but in the process of development, great progress has been made. . . .

We do attach, in the United States, a great deal of importance to our relations with you. You have been a source of strength in Southeast Asia and in Asia as a whole, and we respect you for this part that you have played in the area, as well as the leadership that you have given to your own country in the process of development in the last 5 to 10 years.

We look forward to the opportunity of working with you in the future. The fact that we had a recent tragedy in Indochina actually should redouble, and does, our interest in the stability of Southeast Asia.

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Birth as Feminist Act

I spent all day yesterday in the hospital with a friend and family member who was in labor with what would be a July 4th baby. She labored at a birthing center that is in a hospital but separate from the regular labor and delivery floor. She had a beautiful room with a jacuzzi in it, a bed big enough for her husband to stay in with her after the delivery, and a table/bed for the baby just beside it. She was attended to by a midwife and nurse who stayed for the duration of her labor, who were with her every second, and who supported her unwaveringly. Much of her nuclear family was in the room when she gave birth.

In an age where c-sections are being labeled “pre-existing conditions” and the cesarean rate continues to rise (not necessarily at women’s election), it seems to me that we have lost the feminist angle on labor and delivery. It is something only a woman can do. It is how life is created and sustained. It reveals women’s sheer strength and endurance.

Certainly vaginal birth at all – nevermind in a birthing center or at home -it is not available for all women, and we should be (and I am) thankful that cesareans and other interventions exist when vaginal labor would put the woman’s or child’s health at risk. But absent those risks, it seems worth highlighting that giving birth in a woman-centered, midwife-assisted environment is a feminist act. It is feminist in that it focuses on women’s unique ability; and in that it enables strength within a couple and family by allowing the woman’s partner to be an active part of the labor by supporting her both emotionally and physically (holding her legs, providing support while she squats).

Maybe this is a second-wave way of looking at birth. But being there yesterday and watching that baby’s head appear and then emerge, it seemed to me that the woman becoming a mother really is the Queen of the Universe.

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The Godfather is the Tale of the Rise to Power of Sonny Corleone

[ 0 ] July 4, 2008 |

…or at least that’s as far as Roger Simon got. TBogg notes his comparison of John McCain with Alec Guiness’ Colonel Nicholson in Bridge on the River Kwai:

But what is arguably a serious qualification for president is McCain’s behavior, his steadfastness, for five years in a North Vietnamese prison camp. It has overtones of The Bridge on the River Kwai. Although not as overtly heroic as the film, McCain showed character traits under extreme pressure – dealing with torture, standing with his men, etc., – that demonstrate superior leadership capability. What befits a president more than that?…

So… John McCain as Sir Alec Guinness…? Well, maybe that’s pushing things too far. Sir Alec gets my vote for one of the greatest actors of the Twentieth Century…. But it’s time for Wes Clark to review this song.

Indeed. I thought that the dark hints about John McCain’s “Machurian Candidate” POW history were intended as an attack, but it turns out I was wrong; apparently, wingnuts think that insane POW collaborators represent positive role models.

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Defining Civil Rights Down Out Of Existence

[ 11 ] July 4, 2008 |

Via Steve, this classic from John J. Miller:

He “opposed civil rights”? Uh, no. He opposed a particular vision of them.

Yes, if your “vision” of “civil rights” includes white supremacy, segregation, and no protection for civil rights at the federal, state, or local level, then Helms didn’t oppose them. For that matter, neither did Miller’s own publication! I think you can understand how Miller can consider the Clash right-wingers: when words mean nothing they can mean anything!

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Holy Land Trivia of the Day

[ 0 ] July 4, 2008 |

How many stray cats hath the Holy Land?

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Jesse Helms 1921-2008

[ 0 ] July 4, 2008 |

The former North Carolina Senator has shuffled off this mortal coil.

All condolences to his family but — particularly given the media tendency to downplay these kinds of details when discussing Jim Crow politicians — like Matt I’m not inclined to pretend that he was anything but an unrepentant racist and someone who consistently opposed any kind of civil rights or racial progress. The symbols that stick most prominently in my mind are his use of the blue slip to prevent the integration of the Fourth Circuit and “whistling ‘Dixie’ while standing next to Senator Carol Moseley-Braun.” In fairness, he was consistent: he supported apartheid in South Africa almost as strongly as he supported it at home.


…UPDATE: TBogg delivers a eulogy based on the man’s own words.

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Presidential Statement of the Day

[ 13 ] July 4, 2008 |

Abraham Lincoln, special session message, 4 July 1861:

It might seem at first thought to be of little difference whether the present movement at the South be called “secession” or “rebellion.” The movers, however, well understand the difference. At the beginning they knew they could never raise their treason to any respectable magnitude by any name which implies violation of law. They knew their people possessed as much of moral sense, as much of devotion to law and order, and as much pride in and reverence for the history and Government of their common country as any other civilized and patriotic people. They knew they could make no advancement directly in the teeth of these strong and noble sentiments. Accordingly, they commenced by an insidious debauching of the public mind. They invented an ingenious sophism, which, if conceded, was followed by perfectly logical steps through all the incidents to the complete destruction of the Union. The sophism itself is that any State of the Union may consistently with the National Constitution, and therefore lawfully and peacefully , withdraw from the Union without the consent of the Union or of any other State. The little disguise that the supposed right is to be exercised only for just cause, themselves to be the sole judge of its justice, is too thin to merit any notice.

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Jules Tygiel

[ 0 ] July 4, 2008 |

The great baseball historian has tragically passed away at 59. As goes without saying, Baseball’s Great Experiment is essential reading for anyone interested in the integration of baseball, ranking with the best work of James and Creamer and Alexander. R.I.P.

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Criminalizing Abortion: Always A Disaster

[ 11 ] July 3, 2008 |

Roughly 1 in 10 pregnancies in the Arab world ends in an abortion, despite draconian abortion bans in most countries. Just another reminder that the reproductive policies favored by John McCain, the Republican Party, and Islamic theocrats are very ineffective at reducing abortion rates, but are very effective at increasing health risks to women.

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Granting And Repealing Rights

[ 0 ] July 3, 2008 |

I agree with Sanchez and Patashnik that there’s no necessary contradiction between Obama’s nominal opposition to same-sex marriage and opposition to the California Restoration of Bigotry initiative. As I think I mentioned before, Dan Pinello found a significant number of Massachusetts legislators who didn’t initially support same-sex marriage rights but was opposed to repealing them once granted. Obama’s position isn’t terribly surprising or unusual, and nor is it incoherent on its face.

Still, I also agree with Matt that while this position as a coherent rationalization of his stated views, something simpler is probably going on. More likely, Obama supports same-sex marriage but doesn’t feel he can express this view while trying to hold a national coalition together, but will support same-sex marriage in cases where it’s more politically viable. At any rate, his subjective beliefs aren’t really important; as same-sex marriage becomes more popular Democratic politicians will support it in greater numbers. And while people often focus on the backlash successful litigation provokes among hostile to same-sex marriage, there’s another side to it: litigation also makes voting against same-sex marriage more difficult and provides political cover for politicians who would like to support it but are reluctant to support changes in legislation. In addition, having even a few states where same-sex marriage is instituted and doesn’t produce the hysterically anticipated social apocalypse makes arguments against it harder to sustain, which is why supporters of discrimination fight tooth and nail against expanding rights in every state and support uniform federal standards. They’re fighting a losing battle, and every state victory for human rights makes their defeat more imminent.

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Off the Grid

[ 11 ] July 3, 2008 |

Blogger robots will take over Presidential Statement duties until I return to the intertube grid sometime next week.

Meantime, if any of our readers live in Emden, Illinois (pop. 500), I’ll be there, drinking and staring at the walls with my extended in-laws, for the next few days.

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