By John Ballard
Here is some stuff I came across this morning.
?Al Franken: You Can Call Me Senator
This Harvard Magazine profile makes me like the guy even more than I already did. A little-known part of his success is due to what the writer refers to as his secret weapon, his wife.
Franni had her own style of campaigning. She baked apple pies and auctioned them wherever she spoke. She knocked on doors in sub-zero weather. And at every gathering, she spoke of her husband as a crusader in the tradition of the state�s famous liberal senators.
That was a hard sell.
Many voters remembered Franken mostly as the Saturday Night Live comedian. Some knew him as a scourge who lived for the moments when he could prove that O�Reilly, Hannity, and Coulter are factually challenged. Only a relative handful were aware that as the host of the radio show he liked to call �The O�Franken Factor,� he spent much of his time in serious conversation with writers and politicians who shared his deep interest in public policy.
With only a few weeks left to campaign, all signs pointed to a close election, with the comedian probably losing.
So Franni made a 60-second commercial. �We�ve been married now for almost 33 years and we�ve been so blessed in so many ways,� she said, looking right at the camera. �But we also had some bad times. And at one point I struggled with alcohol dependency. How could a mother of two fabulous, healthy children be an alcoholic? When I was struggling with my recovery, Al stood right by my side and he stood up for me. After what we went through, Al wrote two beautiful movies [When a Man Loves a Woman (1994) and Stuart Saves His Family (1995)] that are shown in rehabs all over the country. The Al Franken I know stood by me through thick and thin. So I know he�ll always come through for Minnesotans.�
What was her husband�s reaction when Franni told him she wanted to make this commercial?
�I didn�t ask him,� she says. �It wasn�t his decision.�
And the kids�?
�It wasn�t their decision, either. This wasn�t focus-grouped. I went with my gut.�
�Unbelievably brave,� says Franken�s campaign manager, Stephanie Schriock, of the ad. �That moment was the first time we actually started moving ahead.�
Having trapped themselves in a death struggle with Palestinians that they cannot acknowledge or untangle, Israelis have psychologically displaced the source of their anxiety onto a more distant target: Iran. An Iranian nuclear bomb would not be a happy development for Israel. Neither was Pakistan's, nor indeed North Korea's. The notion that it represents a new Holocaust is overstated, and the belief that the source of Israel's existential woes can be eliminated with an airstrike is mistaken. But Iran makes an appealing enemy for Israelis because, unlike the Palestinians, it can be fitted into a familiar ideological trope from the Jewish national playbook: the eliminationist anti-Semite. With brain-cudgeling predictability, Mr Netanyahu marked his meeting with Mr Obama by presenting him with a copy of the Book of Esther. That book concerns a plot by Haman, vizier of King Ahasuerus of Persia, to massacre his country's Jews, and the efforts of the beautiful Esther, Ahasuerus's secretly Jewish wife, to persuade the king to stop them. It is a version of the same narrative of repression, threatened extermination and resistance that Jews commemorate at Passover in the prayer "Ve-hi she-amdah": "Because in every generation they rise up to destroy us, but the Holy One, Blessed be He, delivers us from their hands."
?Invisible Children's response to criticisms of KONY 2012
Readers who are not in the loop can do their own homework about this viral film.
Here is an NPR link that may help.
In elevating Kony to a global celebrity, the embodiment of evil, and advocating a military solution, the campaign isn�t just simplifying, it is irresponsibly naive. �Big man� style rulers � of which President Yoweri Museveni is one � prefer to dismiss their opponents as disturbed individuals, and like to short-cut civil politics by military action. The �let�s get the bad guy� script is a problem, not a solution.
Millions of young Americans are being told about a bizarre and murderous African cult. They are also being told that for 25 years Africa has been waiting for America to solve this problem, which can be done by capturing Africa�s crazed evildoer and handing him over to international justice. And they are led to believe that what has stopped this from happening is that American leaders don�t care enough. The apologists for Invisible Children call this �raising awareness.� I call it peddling dangerous and patronizing falsehoods.
?Health insurance remains (and will remain) relevant
Very short piece. A few more factoids for some corner of an already cluttered brain...
...The idea that personal genomics might render insurance irrelevant makes some logical sense. The only problem is that it oversells the science of prediction in biology, and underestimates the role of randomness in disease outcomes. As longtime commenter with the original handle �biologist� long ago observed highly inbred lineages of model organisms in a �controlled� environment still exhibit a fair amount of random phenotypic variation....
This is a book report on Arthur Goldwag�s The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right As usual I will remember the report and file away the salient points but will not likely buy the book. But just because you're already in the choir it doesn't mean you can't still like the same old music.
The report is excellent, by the way.
And the illustration is worth the link.
When Goldwag launched a blog a few years ago, he received lots of correspondence from individuals who probably never would have read his books, but found him online. �What struck me, over and over again, was how old most of their causes turned out to be. Americans have been demonizing blacks, non-Protestant Christians, freethinkers, Asians and Jews since colonial times.�
One of Goldwag�s revelations while researching past centuries is how a penchant for conspiratorial thinking leads to demonizing portions of the population who become �the other.� As he explains, conspiracists are, by definition, seeking scapegoats to blame for whatever seems wrong in society. Those scapegoats do not always have dark skin, and do not always profess objectionable religious faiths or atheism. As Goldwag realized, �Income levels and years of schooling, sexual preference, gender, and political affiliation have all sufficed at one time or another to mark a person as belonging to a group that is dangerously �other.� �
Perhaps at least some of the haters are somewhat self-aware. As Goldwag concludes, �Though millions of Americans claim to believe that Obama is a Muslim and a foreigner, and some of them hate him because of the color of his skin, most of them know that the real issue isn�t what Obama is, but what they increasingly fear they�re not.� What they are not is part of the ruling class, despite the privilege they believe being born a white American should bestow.