Friday, July 31, 2009

Nation of Idiots?

Everything you need to know in order to understand why meaningful health-care reform doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of passing in this country is contained in the opening paragraph of Paul Krugman's NYT column this morning. Krugman offers a charming anecdote intended to illustrate "the extent to which health reform must climb a wall of misinformation." In that it succeeds, all too well:
At a recent town hall meeting, a man stood up and told Representative Bob Inglis to “keep your government hands off my Medicare.” The congressman, a Republican from South Carolina, tried to explain that Medicare is already a government program — but the voter, Mr. Inglis said, “wasn’t having any of it.”
Keep your government hands off my Medicare?!? Forget the idiocies of the birthers, people. There is enough rank stupidity among the mainstream of the populace to make reasoned discussion of the issues difficult and far-reaching change impossible. Keep your government hands off my Medicare -- and another thing: Don't you dare raise my taxes to pay for no damn roads or schools or hospitals or environmental protections! I shouldn't have to pay for those things -- The GOVERNMENT should pay for those things!

Insert mental image of my typist banging her head repeatedly against the laptop screen while muttering, "There's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like -- Who am I kidding? Where the hell am I, and how did all these stupid people get in here?"

[You must pardon the cynical tone of today's remarks. You know we are all committed small-d democrats here in Roxie's World, not a bunch of chardonnay-swilling elitists. (Really -- We don't swill, darling, we sip!) Moose is feeling a little cranky this morning on account of Goose is out of town and somebody kept her awake last night with a peculiar combination of twirling, whining, barking, and panting. Lather, rinse, and repeat, loudly, at one-hour intervals. Good times, people, good times. Looks like someone is going to need an afternoon nap or an early cocktail. Or, as Lily Tomlin used to say, "Both if you like." Peace out.]

Thursday, July 30, 2009

No Girls Allowed

Imagine it with us, darlings.

White House Press Conference, 7/30/09

Helen Thomas:
Mr. President, can you explain why Lucia Whalen, who called 911 to report suspicious activity at the home of Henry Louis Gates Jr., has not been invited to the White House for this evening's so-called "beer summit"? After all, Ms. Whalen has been subjected to threats and vicious assaults upon her character when it's clear she was just trying to do the right thing. Doesn't she deserve to be included in a gathering aimed at healing the wounds of misunderstanding arising from this incident?

President Barack Obama: Look, Helen, Lucia Whalen is a fine American, and I applaud her act of good citizenship in this case. She did what we would hope any American would do under similar circumstances. Responding to the concerns of an elderly neighbor, she called police and with precision and sensitivity reported exactly what she saw. Lucia Whalen is not a racial profiler. She is an American hero.

Helen Thomas: Then why won't she be drinking beer at the picnic table with you, Prof. Gates, and Sgt. Crowley this evening?

President Barack Obama: Because she is a girl, Helen, and guys don't like having girls at beer parties. Her attorney indicated yesterday that Ms. Whalen doesn't even like beer, which would force us to bring in a chardonnay or some other girlie beverage that would totally mess with the whole guy vibe of the evening. I think we are more likely to achieve the desired degree of comity if there aren't any women around to prevent us from burping, farting, back-slapping, and engaging in other acts of manly bonding. As you know, gender had nothing whatsoever to do with the toxic mess of misunderstanding that was stirred up by this incident, so Ms. Whalen's presence would pull us away from the issues of race and class that were clearly the sources of tension here. Besides, Helen, Ms. Whalen is a known tattletale. We would seriously have to watch ourselves if she were around, especially if she had that cell phone with her! Hell, no! That's not happening on my watch! Does that answer your question, Helen?

Helen Thomas: Indeed it does, Mr. President. Thank you very much.

(Of course, it takes a man's man to imagine the actual scene of the Big Boys' Beer Bash for Manly Racial Harmony and Understanding that is to take place at the White House this evening. Roxie's World cannot go there, but John Kenney does in The New Yorker, and the results are side-splitting. Click on that link, but make sure your bladder is empty when you do. [H/T to Dog-Eared Book and her manly sidekick for calling this piece to our attention.] Oh, and a huge face lick to the goddess of Shakesville, Melissa McEwan, for including our previous post in yesterday's blogaround and catapulting Roxie's World to its busiest day ever. Thank you, Liss, and thanks to everyone who clicked in for a look at America's favorite dog blog devoted to politics, pop culture, and basketball. Y'all come back now, hear? Peace out.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pour One for the Lady

(Updated below with video of Lucia Whalen.)

When the prez, the cop, and the English prof sit down in the White House Thursday evening for one of the more anticipated rounds of beers in recent memory, we’re hoping they’ll make room at the bar for Lucia Whalen, the woman whose 911 call to Cambridge police helped turn a balky front door into a summer blockbuster of melodrama across the fault lines of race and class.

If the point of gathering over some tall cold ones is to dial back the tensions set off by the incident, then surely Whalen deserves to be a part of it. Henry Lewis “Skip” Gates Jr. made it clear he bore no ill will toward the individual who alerted police to two men struggling to gain entry to his Cambridge home one afternoon nearly two weeks ago. “We depend on the police,” Gates told his daughter Elizabeth in a conversation published in The Daily Beast. “I’m glad that this lady called 911. I hope right now if someone is breaking into my house she’s calling 911 and the police will come!” Gates directed his outrage at the arresting officer in the case, Sgt. James Crowley, saying, “I just don’t want to be arrested for being black at home! I think this was a bit of an extreme reaction.”

Much of the commentary on the incident has been far less charitable toward Whalen and less understanding of her actions than Gates himself was. Fueled by the ambiguities – if not outright distortions – of the police report, which claimed Whalen had told police she “observed two black males with backpacks” on the porch of the Gates home, news analysts and bloggers have maligned Whalen as a bigot who assumed the men were criminals because of their race. If this was a case about racial profiling – and no less a figure than the president of the United States has said that it is – then Lucia Whalen was the first profiler, a white woman who couldn’t imagine that two black men had legitimate reasons for trying to open a door in elite Cambridge. She was a nosy neighbor, a snooty bitch, the latest avatar of white womanhood imperiled by the black stranger in her midst.

Except that maybe she wasn’t any of those things.

The tape of Whalen’s phone call to police, which was released yesterday, and remarks by her attorney, Wendy Murphy, suggest that the line of argument – or attack – mapped out above does a gross disservice to Lucia Whalen and the role she played in Prof. Gates’ ordeal. In his conversation with his daughter, Gates described the police report as “an act of pure fiction. One designed to protect him, Sgt. Crowley, from unethical behavior.” The 911 tape makes it fairly clear that part of what was fabricated in Crowley’s report is the description, attributed to Whalen, of two black males with backpacks. (Listen to a tape of the call here. Read the AP transcript of it here.) Asked if the men she saw on the porch were white, black, or Hispanic, Whalen is hesitant: “Um, well there were two larger men. One looked kind of Hispanic, but I'm not really sure. And the other one entered and I didn't see what he looked like at all.” During the phone call, she never describes either man as black and never mentions backpacks, though she does note two suitcases on the porch. Murphy, Whalen’s attorney, says that Whalen did not speak to Sgt. Crowley at the scene and that she never at any point referred to the men on the porch as black. “She never saw their race,” Murphy said. “All she reported was behavior, not skin color."

Why does it matter that Whalen never said “black” or “backpack”? It matters because the evidence indicates that Skip Gates is not the only one in this case who has been victimized by Sgt. Crowley’s abuse of his power as a police officer. His police report tries to shift blame from himself to Whalen by suggesting that her description had predisposed him to believe he would encounter a black criminal when he went inside the residence. The report makes her the origin of the racial/racist paranoia many have seen as the heart of this incident. If his fuse seemed short in his encounter with Gates, Whalen had helped to shorten and perhaps even to light it.

If it is true that Whalen and Crowley didn’t speak to one another on the scene, then the police report is inaccurate and unfair to Whalen in its account of her actions. (Cambridge police stand by the report.) The transcript of the call indicates that she was a reluctant participant in these events, deeply uncertain about what she was seeing, making the call because an elderly neighbor stopped her to express concern. It’s worth noting that other details about Whalen have been widely misreported. She doesn’t live in Gates’ neighborhood. She works there, as a fundraiser for Harvard’s alumni magazine, the offices of which are close to Gates’ house. Interestingly, according to her attorney, Whalen also isn’t “a white woman in the traditional sense.” She is of Portuguese descent and is “olive-skinned.” Now, we can consult the social and legal histories of whiteness in the United States to try to determine the exact moment when the sizable community of Portuguese immigrants in Massachusetts became “white,” but the fact is that Lucia Whalen’s olive skin matters to this story. It suggests that, yet again, Americans are ill-served by our tendency to reduce everything to a crude black-white binary. Such a reductive framework has depicted Whalen in this case as a hysterical white neighbor suspicious of two black men. If it turns out that she isn’t exactly white and she isn’t really a neighbor and she never mentioned anybody’s blackness, then we have not seen or heard her at all. We owe her more careful attention and perhaps, in some cases, an apology.

At the very least, as far as the thirsty bitches of Roxie’s World are concerned, we owe Lucia Whalen a beer, and we hope the president of the United States, who knows a thing or two about being neither black nor white “in the traditional sense,” makes sure that she gets it.

(Apologies to readers who believed us when we said weren’t going to have any more to say about the Gates affair. Sometimes events force us to change our minds, but we will try really hard to let it go at this point. Honor bright.)

Update: Here is your chance to begin to see and hear Lucia Whalen, who made her first public comments at a Wednesday afternoon press conference. Watch the vid -- and then call the White House and demand that Whalen be invited to the Big Beer Bash around the picnic table tomorrow night: 202.456.1111.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Noted, With Sorrow

WaPo reports this morning that, with 31 soldiers killed so far this month, July has been "the deadliest month for U.S. forces since the war in Afghanistan began nearly eight years ago." And there are still five days left in July, folks. Just sayin'.

Goose has been categorically opposed to the war in Afghanistan from the beginning. Moose reluctantly supported it -- or perhaps believed it was justified would be a better way to describe her ambivalent position -- because of the clear evidence that the Taliban regime had given aid and comfort to the agents of the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. At this point, there is unanimity in Roxie's World that the recent escalation of troops in Afghanistan is a high-risk move that likely comes too late to succeed and may well turn into the kind of quagmire the American military has sought to avoid since Vietnam.

Regardless of one's position on the war or the escalation, one cannot afford not to be paying attention to what is occurring in Afghanistan and Pakistan. People are dying. We have no right to tune it out. WaPo has an extensive package of articles and resources on the issue. The Times has a good piece today on how veterans of Iraq assess the challenges in Afghanistan. And here is a hard-hitting analysis by Chris Hedges which argues that we face defeat in Afghanistan because our purposes are confused and we are embroiled in a civil war.

Read, think, act. It's all we've ever asked of you, beloveds, and all that your citizenship requires of you. Get clicking.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Skip Gates Link Farm

(Updated below the pic.)

Offered as a public service to readers following the story of Harvard professor Henry Louis "Skip" Gates Jr. being arrested and charged with disorderly conduct last week at his home in Cambridge, MA, which has now morphed into the story of President Barack Obama talking publicly about racial profiling in a manner that suggests he may be a black man. Which seems to have taken a number of people by surprise. I dunno, peeps. Sometimes I wonder whether those opposable thumbs y'all are equipped with really mean you are that much smarter than all the other creatures on dog's earth.

Anyway, here are more links, in addition to those we offered in Wednesday's post:
Blog pal Historiann has a few more links in her own roundup on the issue. Got more, kids? Put 'em in comments, and we'll happily pull 'em into an update later, the moms' weekend entertainment schedule permitting. Meantime, y'all remember to talk nice to police officers. Don't go gettin' all loud and tumultuous and end up in handcuffs -- unless, of course, that is part of your weekend entertainment schedule, you wild thing. If it is, well, darlin', then this eye candy is just for you. Peace out.

Sunday afternoon update:

Here are a few more links, and then we'll have nothing more to say on the subject of the cop and the English prof. We think.
  • Charles M. Blow on Gates belatedly joining "the Club" of black men who have endured racially charged encounters with police
  • Stanley Fish on men like Gates and Obama seeing their accomplishments greeted with suspicion and doubts about their legitimacy
  • Tenured Radical on the anonymous white neighbor who called the police to report what she thought was a burglary at Gates' residence

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

(Not) Skipping the Gates Story

Or, Reflections on the Troubling Afterlife of Images

(Updated below.)

The clever parenthetical in today’s post title is intended to signal ambivalence, doubt, hesitation about whether and how to approach the subject of Harvard professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr.’s bizarre arrest last week for the crime of entering his own home in Cambridge. Gates was charged with disorderly conduct after a neighbor had summoned police when she observed him and a driver who had brought him home from the airport trying to open the jammed front door of his house and assumed that a burglary was in progress. The driver, like Prof. Gates, is African American. Details on the arrest and Gates' perspective on it are here. The charges against Gates were subsequently dropped, perhaps because the folks in charge of Cambridge, MA realized that any other course of action would most likely result in the city becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of Henry Louis Gates Jr. Gates’ friend and colleague from the law school at Harvard, Charles Ogletree, was representing Gates in the matter.

Perhaps the only thing that needs to be said about the whole sorry ordeal has already been said by Daily Beast blogger Touré:
After the arrest of Skip Gates, the most important black academic in the country, we can put all that kumbaya we’re-post-racial crap in the toilet.

That’s because Malcolm X’s 40-year-old quote is still true: “What do you call a black man with a Ph.D.? A nigger.”

But perhaps there is a little more that might be said. Gates is an English prof, a hugely famous English prof. The moms don’t know him personally, but at least one of them has a nodding professional acquaintance with him and both have enormous respect for the work he has done building the discipline of African-American literary study. He is a towering figure, and not just because he has a named professorship at Harvard or because he has traced Oprah Winfrey’s family roots. No, Gates is a scholar as well as a celebrity whose body of critical and editorial work since the 1980s is impressive for its quality as well as its quantity. With works like The Signifiying Monkey, Gates helped to bring theory to the study of African-American literature, a move that, in the heyday of high theory in the 80s, was important in establishing the legitimacy of any new field in the humanities. His archival and editorial work helped to expand the field and the history of African-American literature through the recovery of lost texts such as Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig, an autobiographical novel of 1859 that Gates republished to great fanfare in 1982. He has won accolades, including a MacArthur genius award, and he has deserved them.

And that’s why we’ve chosen to illustrate a post related to a shameful violation of Gates’ dignity and privacy with this photograph of a genial-looking fellow surrounded by artifacts that betoken a long immersion in art and culture:

(Photo Credit: AP, via Yahoo! News)

There are other photographs of Henry Louis Gates circulating this week. There is one of him handcuffed in his front yard, surrounded by three burly cops, one of whom is black. A white officer who towers over the professor has a beefy hand on Gates’ upper right arm. Gates’ mouth is wide open. Perhaps the camera captures him “exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior,” as the arrest report puts it, the kind of behavior the arresting officer judged to be of “no legitimate purpose” and which he blamed for causing surprise and alarm among citizens passing by the location. Or perhaps it captures him exhibiting the terror and rage of a man followed into his own home by an officer of the law and then paraded in handcuffs before his neighbors for no good reason. Who knows? There are also, of course, the mug shots – or “booking photos,” as they are euphemistically being described in news reports. In the frontal view, Gates’ lips are tightly pursed; his eyes look off to the left. He refuses to meet the gaze of the camera that would pin him into the abject status of victim, turn him into just another black guy accused of a crime. His head is held high. He looks past the punitive lens in disgust, contemptuous of its aims and its authority.

You will not see those photographs in Roxie’s World. If you want to look at them, go here. We had a lively debate on whether or not to publish them here. On the one hand, they are compelling images that have significant documentary value. One could justify circulating them, painful as they are, on the grounds that this blog’s predominantly white audience needs to confront such appalling evidence of the persistence of racism in everyday life. If this can happen to Henry Louis Gates, a viewer would have to acknowledge, then it can happen to any black person anywhere. Such acknowledgments are worth making, particularly now, perhaps. The Age of Obama makes it far too easy for white Americans to imagine that, because the most sordid aspects of the nation’s racial history have been left behind, racism has also largely, magically disappeared. The photograph of Prof. Gates in handcuffs offers dramatic evidence to the contrary.

On the other hand, we couldn’t get past the fact that such images, no matter how carefully contextualized, perpetuate the public degradation of a man we greatly admire. Our critical commentary would do little, we worry, to offset the power of a perp shot to install its subject in a visual/cultural logic that is racist to its core in its assumptions about blackness, maleness, and criminality. That logic is so powerful that even a critical eye finds it hard to resist. Gazing at a mug shot, the eye of white privilege becomes the eye of Reagan attorney general Ed Meese, who famously declared that, “You don't have many suspects who are innocent of a crime. That's contradictory. If a person is innocent of a crime, then he is not a suspect.” Admit it. A mug shot makes any person look guilty, but it makes a black man look guiltier, scarier, more threatening. We felt we couldn’t escape or undo that terrible semiotics, and so we opted not to display those images of Prof. Gates here.

On the other other hand, we were pleased to see that Gates is vowing, in the wake of the incident, to focus on racial profiling and the criminal justice system in an upcoming documentary project. We applaud his determination to turn his ordeal into a public teachable moment and wonder if, within the context of such a project, Gates himself will choose to circulate the photographs of his arrest. We are happy to leave that choice to him and look forward to seeing how he will handle it. It looks as though the professor will have the last word on what happened one sunny afternoon in Cambridge, and that is as it should be. He will take back what the police briefly sought to deny him: his agency, his control over his person, his image, and his destiny. Such control may always be more limited than our naive national fantasies of autonomy and freedom imagine it to be, but Prof. Gates is as entitled to such fantasies as any other citizen of these United States. PAWS UP to you, Professor.

Related Links:
  • Tracy Jan on a "culture of prejudice" at Harvard
  • Mark Anthony Neal on selective attention and the privileging of some black bodies over others
  • Brandon Terry on what the Gates incident shows about the "utter substitutability" of one black person for any other in certain situations
  • Neely Tucker on why the wisest thing to do when a cop orders you to cease and desist is to cease and desist (which prompted us first to say, "Duh?" and then to say, "White privilege?")
  • Charles Ogletree's statement on behalf of Gates
  • Lawrence Bobo on how little some features of the national racial landscape have changed over time
  • President Barack Obama on whether Gates' arrest is an instance of racial profiling:

(With thanks to all our Facebook pals who posted links on this subject and to Goose, who walked and talked us through the eye-candy dilemma.)

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Saucy Dogs of Ireland

And the Same-Sex Penguins of San Fran

These amusing bits of canine and penguin cultural history are brought to you by our beloved Candy Man, who, like so many of the English profs of Roxie's World, is off on the kind of international research mission that summer makes possible for hard-working scholar-teachers. Candy Man is in Dublin town this week, doing work at the National Library of Ireland -- I mean, you know, when he isn't shopping, dancing, Skyping, Facebooking, or trolling the internets searching for material for America's favorite dog blog devoted to politics, pop culture, and basketball.

For example, yesterday he alerted us to this compelling tid-bit about Harry and Pepper, the same-sex pair of penguins at the San Francisco (of course) Zoo who recently separated after six years because Harry has taken up with a female penguin named Linda. Moose has spent much of the day sitting in her red chair contemplating a side-splitting post on the subject, imagining rival gay penguin organizations battling to spin the story of Harry and Pepper (and Linda) to their advantage. First, of course, there would be the wealthy, assimilationist Penguin Rights Campaign, which would send out its spokespenguin to claim that Harry and Pepper's relationship was clearly a casualty of California's Prop 8. "Harry was scared straight," Joe Penguinese would say somberly. "He couldn't stand up to the tide of social disapprobation he felt was unleashed by Prop 8. Same-sex penguin couples deserve and need the same kind of support, recognition, and protection that opposite-sex penguin couples get. We demand relationship equality now!" Meanwhile, down in the Castro, the rival Queer Penguins Opposed to Marriage denounced Penguinese as a neoliberal fascist and celebrated the breakup of Harry and Pepper as proof of the failure of homonormativity. QPOM spokesepenguin Michael Dugganstam said that Pepper had been liberated from false consciousness and would now be free to experience a much broader range of intimacies. "We welcome Pepper to the wild zone of queer relationality," Dugganstam said. "Marriage is for the meek and the unimaginative, and, besides, it shouldn't be tied to the distribution of benefits that all penguins should get regardless of relationship status. Economic justice now!" We would have written that post if Moose could have come up with a penguin equivalent to "God hates fags" to put on signs carried by foaming-at-the-mouth evangelical protesters who showed up at both press conferences. Any suggestions? "God hates flippers?" Nah, we didn't think so either.

Anyway, now it's Monday, so Candy Man was back in the library, poking around in a collection of 19th-century Irish songs called The Spirit of the Nation; or, “Land of the Green.” (Don't ask why, darlings. He's an English prof. They are, as I have told you many times, weird.) He ran across an amazing little ditty that so excited him, as the Official Poetry Geek of Roxie's World, that he raced back to his hotel to call Moose and tell her about it. (Fine, yes, he told her a bunch of other stuff, but he did eventually get around to telling her about the song, and they both squealed with delight over it.) The song is called "A New Song on the Saucy Dogs of Ireland," and, like much of Ireland's best music and poetry, it is a deeply political song, written to protest a great injustice -- in this case the injustice of a fine having been imposed on dogs for barking. (I know! Can you imagine?) Candy Man carefully copied out the verse of the song having to do with terriers, because, well, if you need to ask why you haven't been listening, have you? Here is the verse:
Then the terrier is a useful dog that always was well liked sir,

Stood up with anger in his eye, and spoke with all his might sir,

He snarled, marked and said, that a rat he’d never kill, sir,

Unless he’d see his comrades free from this obnoxious bill, sir.
We offer an enthusiastic PAWS UP to this eloquent tribute to the virtues of the terrier group -- Our skills as hunters, the deep affections we give and inspire, our extraordinary willfulness, and, of course, our ferocious commitment to justice for the pack. Nobody's free unless everybody's free! If we don't all hang together, we shall all hang separately! Free my comrades from this obnoxious bill, sir, or lose the services of the finest ratters on dog's earth! Sing it with me, all you saucy dogs and dog lovers and doggerel lovers, too!

Play us off, Candy Man, and come home soon. We miss you.

(Image Credit: Picked up here, but it's from Cassell's The Book of the Dog [1881].)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sunny Saturday News Roundup

Because My Typist Will Go Mad If I Don't Let Her Close a Few Tabs in Her Browser Edition

1. Death Takes No Holiday: Sadly, the summer of celebrities dropping like flies continues, with word last night that legendary newscaster Walter Cronkite has bitten the dust at the age of 92 in New York City. Those of you under a certain age probably can't appreciate the scale of this loss to a generation of TV babies who grew up in a time when news was news and not infotainment. When Cronkite choked up during a live broadcast on Nov. 22, 1963 announcing the death of President John F. Kennedy (see photo at right and this vid), some of us were as shocked to learn that men could cry as we were to hear that presidents could die. Thank dog a man of Cronkite's keen instincts and good sense presided over the birth of television news. Would that his lack of ego and his commitment to striving for objectivity had prevailed in his profession. RIP, Mr. Cronkite.

2. Big Dawg Rolls Over on Same-Sex Marriage: Yep, it's true. Former President and signer of the Defense of Marriage Act Bill Clinton has announced that he has finally realized queers are no greater threat to the sanctity of marriage than he is. Michael Tracey reported in The Nation earlier this week that Clinton recently "replied in the affirmative" when asked if he supported same-sex marriage. His support is a fairly pale shade of lavender, as he still considers it a matter that should be settled by individual states rather than a full-on purple issue of equality before the law, but the declaration matters. Clinton is the biggest of big Dems who have recently found the nerve to state any kind of public support for marriage equality. (Tracey mentions "former Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean, New York Senator Charles E. Schumer, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, and Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd" as others who have recently shifted positions on the issue.)

3. No Slings, Several Possible Arrows: Meanwhile in Hillary-land, the secretary of state emerged this week from the semi-seclusion caused by her recent elbow injury to give a major speech at the Council on Foreign Relations (transcript and vid here). It was a fine speech, vintage Clinton -- rock solid, in command of the issues, delivered without wearing a sling -- but we predict the SOS will need a few more Vicodin to get through the tedious, moronic round of utterly vacuous stories speculating on whether her elbow has temporarily sidelined her or she's actually being marginalized in the Obama administration. Oh, for crying out loud, people. Shut up! Please make yourselves useful. Go write stories on whether the Pope's broken wrist means that whole infallibility thing may be horse manure after all.

4. Yawn: Silver-Tongued Prez Opens Mouth Again: Yes, Barack Obama gave a great big speech at the 100th convention of the NAACP on Thursday night. (Vid here. Transcript here.) A friend of ours who was there declared it "electrifying," and the tape suggests that's an accurate description. We didn't blog it sooner because we no longer think it's news when the Greatest Orator In the History of Speechifying makes a crowd go crazy with his lofty eloquence, especially when he goes all black-churchy and starts talking about the good old days when parents felt entitled to "whup" another person's child if they saw it "fooling around." Good times, people, good times. And I am sorry, Kool-Aid drinkers, but our hearts no longer go pitty-pat when the prez aims his pretty words in our direction with a couple of nice lines about "our gay brothers and sisters, still taunted, still attacked, still denied their rights." By whom, Mr. President? Do you by any chance refer to your own DOMA-defending Department of Justice? No? I didn't think so, but we appreciate that you left out the word "lifestyle" this time.

5. White House Opens Office of Persona Management, Mark Twain Not Amused: Proving that imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery, the New York Times published an Op-Ed this week written in the voice of Bo Obama, First Dog of the United States, taking stock of his first hundred days in the White House. Reached for comment on this obvious ripoff of America's favorite dog blog devoted to politics, pop culture, and basketball, Roxie's World director of OPM Mark Twain uttered a string of profanities not printable on a family-friendly dog blog while sipping whiskey on the patio at Ishmael's, the seedy yet cozy bar around the corner from the global headquarters of RW Enterprises, LLC. My typist was more diplomatic but nonetheless underwhelmed. "Look, Rox," she said between bites of nachos, "this whole imagine-you're-a-dog business is not as easy as it looks. It's clear this New Yorker dude doesn't know the first thing about it. I mean, please -- That ending: 'Excuse me: I must chase a ball.' Oh, wow -- The brilliance! The originality! You are killing me, man!" "Please, Moose," Twain interjected at that point. "Let's order another round and change the subject. This fool clearly has less than a teaspoonful of brains, and you are hogging the nachos. Waiter!"

And that’s the way it is today in Roxie's World, kids. Peace out and dog bless.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Lt. Bradshaw Comes Home

(The body of Army 1st Lt. Brian Bradshaw arrives at Dover Air Force Base, 6/27/09. Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Roland Balik.)

Please go read this deeply moving letter that was printed as an Op-Ed in this morning's Washington Post. It was written by two members of the Air National Guard team that transported the body of Army 1st Lt. Brian Bradshaw from the forward base where he was killed to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Bradshaw was killed on June 25, 2009, the day Michael Jackson died. On July 5, the Post published an eloquent letter from Bradshaw's aunt, Martha Gillis, of Springfield, VA, which criticized the media for offering wall-to-wall coverage of a singer's death while practically ignoring the deaths of Lt. Bradshaw and the several other soldiers who died that week in Afghanistan. Capt. James Adair and Master Sgt. Paul Riley wrote their letter, a detailed account of the hundreds of soldiers from Lt. Bradshaw's company who stood in formation on the runway in total darkness as their plane touched down to retrieve his body, to let the family know that his death had not gone unnoticed or unmourned. Here are a couple of paragraphs, but please go read the whole thing:

Brian's whole company had marched to the site with their colors flying prior to our arrival. His platoon lined both sides of our aircraft's ramp while the rest were standing behind them. As the ambulance approached, the formation was called to attention. As Brian passed the formation, members shouted "Present arms" and everyone saluted. The salute was held until he was placed inside the aircraft and then the senior commanders, the sergeant major and the chaplain spoke a few words.

Afterward, we prepared to take off and head back to our base. His death was so sudden that there was no time to complete the paperwork needed to transfer him. We were only given his name, Lt. Brian Bradshaw. With that we accepted the transfer. Members of Brian's unit approached us and thanked us for coming to get him and helping with the ceremony. They explained what happened and how much his loss was felt. Everyone we talked to spoke well of him -- his character, his accomplishments and how well they liked him. Before closing up the back of the aircraft, one of Brian's men, with tears running down his face, said, "That's my platoon leader, please take care of him."

Why do you need to interrupt your Web-surfing to click over and read something that will make you cry or otherwise upset you? Several reasons.

You need to read it as a penance for every moment you spent reveling in the orgy of coverage of Michael Jackson's death. Yes, he had a significant impact on music, dance, and popular culture, but you have to admit the coverage was wildly out of proportion to anything remotely approximating Jackson's actual significance.

You need to read it because combat deaths are rising in Afghanistan, and none of us is paying careful enough attention. That needs to change. Immediately. Whatever your position on the escalation of troops, you need to face the consequences of the United States expanding its involvement in some of the most dangerous parts of one of the most unstable countries on earth. Earlier this week, in a story about how hard the president is working behind the scenes to get health-care reform passed, White House senior advisor David Axelrod audaciously compared President Obama to Lyndon Johnson for having "a big vision" for the country and "a great appreciation for the legislative process." Let's hope that so far wholly unjustified comparison to LBJ doesn't get born out in another American presidency brought down by its commitment to an unwinnable war.

You need to read it because WaPo needs to see that readers care about such stories. There is disturbing evidence that editorial and staffing decisions, particularly at bastions of print journalism now painfully transitioning to a mostly nonprint environment, are being made on the basis of what gets clicked on and what doesn't. Page-view data seems to have played a role, for example, in the Post's recent decision to terminate Dan Froomkin, a liberal columnist whose blog White House Watch suffered some slump in traffic once Obama took office. If you don't click on stories like this, then you won't see stories like this.

(Of course, another part of the problem is the issue of how easy [or not] it is for readers to find "stories like this" in the online versions of big papers like WaPo and NYT. Moose noticed the story about Lt. Bradshaw because she spent time this morning with the dead-tree edition of the paper, which she no longer does with the same religious dedication she used to have. Had she only read the online version, she likely would not have clicked on the piece because it wasn't well-promoted and the authors weren't names she recognized. Also, part of what grabbed her attention in the dead-tree version of the story was a compelling photo, similar to the one at the top of this post. Moose scoured the Post Web site looking for the image and could not find it. This is a consistent and, to Moose, deeply annoying pattern with WaPo online. Why deny Web readers the visual elements of a story? And why separate images from stories in cheesy galleries of "Photos From Today's Post" that don't, in fact, include all of the photos from today's Post?)

Pardon the rant, but you know how my typist gets when someone thwarts her quest for eye candy. Anyway, go read that story, then come back here and tell us what you think about the escalation of troops in Afghanistan. And while we are ordering your eyeballs around, please do not under any circumstances click on the profile of antiabortion lunatic Randall Terry (no link here) that ran in today's Style section. Shakesville's Melissa McEwan tears the piece to shreds for failing to convey "Terry's intimate association with the exhortation of violence against abortion doctors and his extended history of harassment." Per usual, Liss is spot-on. The article will help to resurrect the career of a man who ought to be consigned to the dustbin of history -- or held accountable for the violence he helped to inspire -- as quickly as possible. It is, as Liss puts it, "gobsmackingly irresponsible." Do not give it a click!

You have your orders, darlings. Obey and be happy. Peace out.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Saturday, somewhere on Sligo Creek Trail

Self-Important Guy on Cell Phone: It's my understanding she's taken up tango instead.

Followed by sounds of silence, brief cogitation, then:

Moose: She's taken up tango instead of . . . yoga?

Goose: . . . knitting?

Moose: . . . bomb-making?

Goose: . . . blogging?

Moose: . . . a lover? (Or, lovah, as Carrie took to saying during her brief fling with Aleksandr Petrovsky.)

Followed by snickering, snorting, then silent reflections on the fact that July is, I swear to dog, National Cell Phone Courtesy Month. Hang up, people! It's a walking trail, not a phone booth!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Fashion Sense

(Malia Obama in Rome, 7/8/09. Photo Credit: Reuters, we think, via Shakesville)

Lessons for Girls: Geopolitics of Fashion Edition

So, okay, like, you just turned eleven, and all you really want to do is stay home and play Wii all summer, but your dad is, like, the leader of the free world and so your parents drag you off, with your little sister and your grandmother, on a European trip – your second within, like, a month! – and everybody is staring at you and the press is totally in your face and J. Crew is all like, hey, that’s our $298 trench coat she’s wearing and the fauxgressives are all in a dither, going, hey, no fair, hands off the girls, and you’re like, whatever, dudes, and hey, Mom, what should I wear to go to this ice cream parlor in Rome this afternoon? and she’s all, whatever, honey, but you know they call it “gelato” over here, so you figure, oh, heck, I’m just gonna throw on this T-shirt and be done with it, I am so over the whole dress-up thing, I don’t care what anybody thinks, I just want to be cool and comfortable and it won’t matter if I get ice cream on this T-shirt. Gelato, whatever, c’mon, Sasha, let’s go already! Where’s grandma?

PAWS UP and a big snap to Malia Obama for teaching several valuable Lessons for Girls by stepping out in Rome in a T-shirt that has set tongues wagging and fingers pounding around the world. The lessons?

1. You are not what you wear, even if everyone around you is obsessed with what you happen to have on, so wear what you want and to hell with what anybody says.

2. If people are staring at you, stare back -- fiercely, beautifully, directly.

3. Even for the baby diva, shades really are essential equipment. Wear 'em. Work 'em. Janet Jackson on stage at her brother's funeral has got nothing on you, Malia.

4. Your dad may rule the world, but you still have a voice -- and a global stage on which to use it. Daddy is raising troop levels in Afghanistan. Daughter says, Give peace a chance.

5. If, through no fault of your own, you find yourself always moving in a large crowd of people, make damn sure you are the leader of the pack. Take it from a dying old alpha dog, sweetheart, that is the only way to go, but you seem to have figured that out already.

Good for you, Malia. Hope you had fun at the Vatican today. Can't wait to see what you wore there! Happy, safe travels to you and yours. Peace out. Tell your dad we said that, too.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Gone Too Soon

No, not that guy. More like this guy:

(Image Credit: Picked up here.)

This post goes out in memory of my big beast of a cousin, Kona, warrior king of the remote kingdom of Indiana, who died yesterday after a sudden, brief illness -- an attack of pancreatitis, the same nasty disease that darn near killed yours truly three years ago. Kona was a beautiful chocolate lab -- serene, majestic, loyal, and large -- who presided over a large family and a hyperkinetic pack of chihuahuas with forbearance and quiet strength. When Moose visited his realm a couple of weeks ago, she smiled as she watched the big guy calmly patrol the grounds while the chihuahuas and the humans wreaked havoc around him, as chihuahuas and humans are wont to do. Kona was ten years old, born in 1999 on my very own birthday, April 1. Our condolences to the brother and sister-in-law of the Moosians and all of Kona's extended pack. We know your hearts feel broken right now, and our hearts go out to you.

After hearing the news about Kona yesterday, Moose ministered to me this morning with even more tenderness than usual. She fussed with my eyes, determined to rid them of the icky sticky gunk that spreads like kudzu every night while she's asleep. We ended up in the shower in something that felt a little bit like a massage and a little bit like a wrestling match as she searched for the right balance of gentleness and force in the effort to get me clean without hurting my increasingly thin and fragile body. She washed and partly dried me, then placed me out on the deck to let a delightful morning sun take care of the rest. When I was dry, she brushed me out, delicately using the flea comb around my eyes and mouth to try to extricate the last of the icky sticky stuff. When finally she was finished, we gazed at one another. "I'm still here," I said. "I know," she said, "but now you're clean and pretty, too." "Satisfied?" "Always, silly old girl," she said with a laugh, "always perfectly satisfied with you." And I know she really meant it.

Save me a place up there in heaven, Kona, a soft place with a view of the pool and a big pack of chihuahuas off in the distance. You do the heavy lifting, I'll do the thinking, and the little guys, well, they can run in circles around us from now until the end of time.

Peace out, and we'll let Usher sing you off, just as he did that other guy the other day:

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Pug Love

What, you were expecting a 3,000-word post on Michael Jackson's life, death, and pop cultural legacy? Perhaps a super-snarky Sarah Palin follow-up? Not today, kids. Nope, today, thanks to my brother Geoffrey, it's all PUGS here in Roxie's World. Why?

1. Because pink is pretty.
2. Because I am confident that a significant number of my readers like sentimental musical backgrounds played on toy pianos. I could name names, but I won't.
3. Because pugs are grossly underrepresented not only in the culture generally but, we are sorry to say, right here in Roxie's World. Today, we begin to make amends to this noble if weird-looking breed.
4. Because every once in awhile we are willing to violate one of the cardinal rules of the companion species contract that usually pertains around here -- you know, the one about not putting dogs in ridiculous anthropomorphosized situations for the entertainment of humans. We do so, because, um, because, well, it can be funny, and we'll bend or break pretty much any rule for the sake of a good laugh.
5. Because my typist's sabbatical seems to be off to a slow start -- by which I mean she doesn't have time for a proper post because she'll be spending much of the day on campus today in all likelihood not thinking Deep Thoughts about the Hugely Important Book on Blogging That Is Going to Save the Humanities and Bankroll a Comfortable Retirement. She has a meeting, and I have a nap to take.

It's blog fodder, kids, plain and simple. Enjoy, and we'll catch up with you soon. Take it away, pugs!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Palintology (Encore)

(Photo Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/A.P. Images, via Vanity Fair)

Lucky for you, citizens of Roxie’s World, that the madcap moose huntress of Wasilla decided to announce her resignation as governor of Alaska on the eve of the 4th of July. Sarah Palin’s stunning move derailed my typist’s plans for a moody holiday post on the overvaluation of independence in American culture. It would have been full of Deep Thoughts and poignant personal revelations, probably illustrated by copies of family photos she downloaded during her recent visit to her home state of Indiana. Screw that, she thought when she woke up this morning with visions of the long forgotten Sarah dancing once again in her brain. “Goose,” she declared, “you make the potato salad. Roxie and I need to update the Palineologisms, maybe bang out a fresh Palin-ode or two to mark the occasion.” “Aye, aye,” Goose dutifully replied. She makes the finest potato salad in all the land, and she far prefers funny posts to moody ones, so she was more than happy to oblige. Moose grabbed a cup of coffee and the laptop.

PALINOSTOMY!” she shouted moments later. (Okay, technically, it was a couple of hours, but doesn’t that sound better?)


Noun (pl. –mies)
Elective surgery performed to remove a minor irritant on the bowel of the body politic. Generally performed to assure future viability of the organ, though risks of unforeseen complications are high. Patients may require extended period of recovery and rehabilitation.

Origin early 21st century: from failed governor of an obscure American state + Greek stoma ‘mouth.’

Palin-ode III: Dead Fish (for Palinodes I and II, go here)

The quitter’s way would be to stay
And do the job you gave me
But I’ve no wish to swim with dead fish
Perhaps Fox News will save me

Palin-ode IV: Efficiencies

My work is done and there’s no fun
In being just a lame duck
I’m so darn good it’s time to go
So long, voters – Good luck!

Want to make sure you’re locked and loaded for a fiery 4th of July debate on the soon to be ex-governor of Alaska? Here’s your ammo, kids. Click, aim, fire!
  • Vanity Fair has Todd Purdum’s lengthy dish on Palin that some speculate may have fueled her decision to leave office, perhaps because all that trashing by unnamed McCain staffers and Republican insiders made her realize she had no future with the party.
Hope your holiday is swell, patriots. It’s a beautiful day here in Roxie’s World, and we plan to spend it reflecting on the virtues of (in)dependence – by which we mean savoring all that connects us to one another and to you, our legions of loved ones and loyal fans. This day always makes us think of the great democratic bard of New Jersey, Mr. Bruce Springsteen, so we’ll let him sing us out, with a vision of the boardwalk and fireworks and the carnival life we never really left. Take it away, Boss.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

I Want to Live!

Live on, Roxie! Live on! Live I say -- damn you, LIVE!!! -- Historiann, 6/30/09
Oh, dear. What can a dying dog say to that, the cri de coeur of a beloved, if virtual, friend? What to say, in a week when feelings are raw because one cannot turn around without hearing news of yet. another. celebrity. death? It won't do merely to say that Moose finally returned from her trip to the remote kingdoms of Illinois and Indiana this evening to find me alive and, if not exactly well, at least, well, ALIVE! That was a happy occasion for all the denizens of Roxie's World, but Historiann's passionate exhortation seems to call for something more. We called in the archivists who work for our Task Force on Divas and Drama Queens and ordered them to comb through their cahiers du cinéma until they found some moment of death-defying Diva-hood that seemed to match the feisty mood here in the global headquarters of RW Enterprises, LLC. Many hours and several bottles of absinthe later, the kids in black emerged from their smoky lair to say that they had found just the thing:

Susan Hayward, chewing the scenery on her way to winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for 1958's I Want to Live!, a grim film based on a true story that shows being slutty and running with the wrong crowd can get you the death penalty. (Hey, Historiann, we think there might be a Lessons for Girls in this flick!) Anyway, here's a clip that shows a defiant Barbara Graham settling in to life in the slammer. We're a little disappointed that Barbara's bold nonconformity apparently doesn't extend to imagining the possibility of engaging in some criminal intimacy with the dames with whom she is incarcerated, but it's fun to watch her get a rise out of the two dour prison matrons who seem to have invested considerable energy in imagining and thwarting such intimacies. (We actually like this clip even better, but it's not embeddable. And here's the original trailer for the film for those of you who somehow managed to miss the best films of 1958.) You go, Barbara. If they're going to put you to sleep, let 'em know you're gonna sleep raw. I think I'll keep that in mind, thank you very much.

All the bitches are back in the pack, kids. Thanks for all the good thoughts. And, tell me, were we the only ones who were really, truly, deeply disappointed that this "statement" from Jenny Sanford, first lady of South Carolina, blaming her husband's infidelity on gay marriage turned out to be a parody? I am sorry, people, but some things are just so funny that they really ought to be true. You try to keep that in mind, okay? Peace out.