Allen Rausch on what Schoolhouse Rock Has Become

24 09 2009

Welcome to my first attempt at Search Engine Optimization. If you’re seeing this because you’ve searched for my name after hearing me on the Lars Larson radio program, welcome! “Allen Rausch on what Schoolhouse Rock has become” was the phrase that Lars used yesterday and seems to be the one that’s showing up in my search logs, so I thought, lets try and direct you folks to exactly what you’re looking for.

Yesterday was the second time I’ve been on the show and as always, it was great fun and a pleasure to talk to Lars. If you’re here about my series on the politics of Schoolhouse Rock, you’ll find them right here!. Once you’re done with those, though, please feel free to take a look around. there more politics and if you’re a gamer, a lot of stuff on that too. While you’re here, why not get Angry Bear updates on my Facebook fan page or pick up my RSS feed.

And again, Welcome!

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Tune in to the Lars Larson Show tonight

23 09 2009

Tune in to the Lars Larson show tonight at about 3:40PM Pacific time to hear me talk about my latest essays in The Politics of Schoolhouse Rock series. If you haven’t had a chance to check them out yet, take a look at Verb, that’s what’s happening which is all about racism and the tea parties and The Great American Melting Pot, which discusses cultural imperialism and immigration.





Verb! That’s What’s Happening (We’re All Raaaaacists Now)

19 09 2009

(read the whole essay here!)

John O’Sullivan’s first law is that groups that aren’t specifically right-wing tend to become left-wing over time. I believe this because the process is pretty easy to understand and see as it happens. The Right by its very nature as conservatives is reactionary — acting to stop some sort of social change. The kind of small-l liberalism that lies behind the great social movements begins in order to address some perceived hole or injustice in the current social structure. There is nothing wrong with this. indeed, it’s the finest tradition of “liberalism” that they are about liberty — freeing other human beings from the yoke of oppression.

That brings us to “Verb! (That’s What’s Happening)” and the sad decay of a once powerful and important word in our language — racism.

This is the latest essay in my “Politics of Schoolhouse Rock” series and it’s one I was a bit scared of writing. It’s about the health care debate, tea parties, the word “racist,” and how social movements get co-opted to serve agendas that would horrify their founders and lead those they purport to liberate to a place very different than where they think they’re going. Plus it’s got a real catchy tune.

I have no doubt that some who read it will be quick to level the charge of “racism” and it shows how much power that word still has in our society that hearing it leveled at me will no doubt sting. To this I can merely throw up my hands and say that if wishing for a society where we are judged by the content of our character rather than the color of our skin is racist, I’ll take that hit. In the end, the only way to have a truly color-blind society is start acting color-blind.

As Stacy McCain would say, please remember that there are five “A’s” in raaaaacism

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Words of Praise for President Obama

17 09 2009

Anyone whose read this blog knows that I’m not really a fan of our President’s policies. I swore when he was elected however, that I would never descend to the level of vitriol that was directed at President Bush when he was in office. As with Mr. Bush, I would defend and support Obama when I thought he was right, and I would criticize him when I thought he was wrong. I do not hate Obama. I do not love him. I judge him. He’s my President and that’s my right and my duty as a citizen. So it is that I’d like to praise the President for his signature on the execut/capture order for Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, one of 4 co-conspirators wanted in the 2002 bombing of an Israel-owned hotel in Mombasa, Kenya. Nabhan is by any stretch of the imagination a bad man and the world is better without his presence.

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It would be really easy for President Obama to back off our commitment to Afghanistan. The anti-war left, quiet for these past few months, is beginning to make some noises again, joined by jackasses on the right (I’m looking at you George Will) eager to pull out of Afghanistan because it will make Obama look bad. That is a huge mistake. I’m never eager for our country to enter a war and I’m willing to concede that Iraq may have been a mistake, but as far as I’m concerned, once boots are on the ground, the war must be brought to a successful conclusion. To paraphrase Ender Wiggin, it isn’t just winning the battle, it’s winning so decisively that future battles never happen. I say this with the full awareness that my support means people — Americans, Afghans and Iraqis — will die because of it. I hate that. I don’t want anybody to be killed. What I hate more though is the idea of emboldening America’s enemies into yet more attacks by becoming a paper tiger. We still haven’t recovered from President Carter’s disastrous attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran in 1979. Sometimes life doesn’t give us pretty choices.

I hope President Obama has the courage to do what needs to be done in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t want him to “fail” any more than I wanted President Bush to fail us in the myriad ways he did (did the man not know he had a veto pen?). A liberal friend asked me after Obama’s election “how I was taking it,” as if politics were some sort of team sport. Well it is, only we’re all supposed to be on the same side, America’s. I was fine with Obama being elected, that’s the nature of the system. If he fulfills the greatest hopes of his admirers, I’d be happy to vote for his re-election, though that’s looking like a real long-shot at this point. In the mean time, when I agree with Obama, I’ll give him the credit he deserves.

Good on you, Mr. President! Keep it up.

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Can a Critic be Too Biased?

15 09 2009

I really like A.O. Scott, the film critic for The New York Times. He’s smart, usually on target and manages to do it without picking up the obnoxious “I’m so much more sophisticated than you” tone that seems to creep into most of the Times writing. Probably comes from being a veteran of Newsday, the big Long Island newspaper. Speaking from experience, Long Islanders never quite get over their awe at being in “The City.” Here’s the thing, though. I’m about to accuse Mr. Scott of being biased — yes, a biased critic — because of his review of “The Baader-Meinhof Complex” on the latest episode of At The Movies.

According to Mr. Scott, this is a film that takes a middle road in its portrayal of the 1970s German terrorist organization. According to Mr Scott (and I’m paraphrasiong from memory here as the show’s not up on the offical site yet) the film doesn’t ask you to sympathize with them and doesn’t shy away from showing the consequences of their actions but also gives insight into their motivations as a bunch of idealistic kids trying to make a better world. While this already sounds like the words of an apologist for Baader-Meinhof excusing mayhem and murder because their motivations were pure, what really puts his comments beyond the line for me is when he later wonders why Hollywood can’t create political movies that portray controversial topics with the kind of passionate intesity on display in this film. He surmises that Hollywood is “so afraid of offending its audience that they won’t take a stand on issue.” (again paraphrasing)

Excuse me? Has he seen the output of Hollywood in recent years? Never mind the list of anti-Iraq war movies as long as your arm. There are liberal jibes, commentary and messages in virtually everything put out by Hollywood. And they’re often in the places where you’d least expect them and where they’re the least appropriate. Take Definitely, Maybe, a treacly little romantic comedy starring Ryan Reynolds and Abigail Breslin. This is a film where the main character is made a political consultant (a Democratic political consultant, natch) stricly for the purpose of becoming a mouthpiece for the director and writer’s liberal political views. In one scene for example, Reynolds expresses shock and outrage that a woman he’s interested in isn’t a Bill Clinton supporter (a man well known for how well he treats women) or at least a Democrat! There’s also one scene that has nothing whatsoever to do with the movie and exists solely to take a potshot at George W. Bush. The idea that Hollywood is somehow afraid to offend half it’s audience flies in the face of the reality that that’s exactly what Hollywood does — continually. To the point where they continued to make anti-Iraq war movies depite their box office failures and continued to come up with desperate rationalizations about why they kept failing.

Now I don’t expect critics to adhere to some sort of nonsense about being “objective.” They’re critics, after all. Their whole existence is based on them having opinions which are, of course influenced by their biases –including their political ones. This is not my objection. One of my favorite film critics, MaryAnn Johanson over at The Flick Filosopher is an outspoken liberal, something that comes across quite often in her film reviews. Roger Ebert, who I also enjoy, is the same way. I read them and I trust them because their biases are right out where everyone can see them and my judgment on their judgment can be filtered through my understanding of what colors their opinion.

What I object to is when a political bias becomes so strong that it distorts everything about a particular review including the reviewers judgment. Mr. Scott did this in his “Baader-Meinhof Complex” review. Is his political judgment so far to the left that he honestly thinks that Hollywood films are middle-of-the-road politically because they’re afraid of alienating the audience? What does that say about his judgment of “The Baader-Meinhof Complex?” Is he somehow so sympathetic to the aims if not the methods of the Red Army Faction that iT skews his judgment of the film’s quality? I don’t know. After that comment I can’t tell and as a result I can no longer trust Mr. Scott’s judgment.

Too bad. He’s a big improvement over Ben Lyons.

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California Lags the Recovery

10 09 2009

Good news everybody! In case you’re envious of the awesome weather, hot chicks in bikinis, movie stars and beautiful beaches we have here in California, here’s yet another reason to be envious of the Golden State. Those of us out here will have lots more time to enjoy the sunshine because we won’t be seeing the inside of an office for a while, According to a study released on Labor Day (wow, you can practically cut the irony with… an iron), the California economy is going to lag the rest of the country in recovering.

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According to the California Budget Project, California’s unemployment — sorry “funemployment” — is already at 11.6% with no signs of slowing down through 2010 and 2011. Notably missing in the PBS report is an examination of what exactly caused this little nightmare. Hmmm. I wonder if it had anything to do with a completely out-of-control government completely dominated by the Democrats (and the Governator, who like George W. Bush, never met a spending bill he wouldn’t sign.) who funded pork-barrel projects, corrupt unions and ridiculous boondoggles with a smile on their lips and well-choreographed song in their hearts.

You know, I’ve never lost my affection for the LA and OC Weekly, our local free radically leftist papers who had the guts to endorse Tom McClintock for governor because even they realized that California Democrats are completely out of control. Now Tom McClintock is a neanderthal conservative whose social views horrify me, but I voted for him with a song in my heart because sometimes only Nixon can go to China. Take heed America. California has always been your future. Don’t let it be your Cassandra.

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Is it Right to Boycott? Peter David Responds to “The Turn of an Unfriendly Card”

9 09 2009

One of the great things about living in the Internet age is sometimes the little bit of attention you garner for your work can draw in the very people you’re discussing to put in their two cents. That’s what happened with my Angry Bear article “Turn of an Unfriendly Card (Read the original article here.) In the comments I came across a response by none other than Peter David himself who has a decidedly different take on the whole issue. Here’s what he wrote:

I think you make a lot of valid points in your very balanced and well-reasoned view of the situation (and thanks for the shout out on my work on X-Factor.)

The one place where we diverge, I suppose, is whether boycotts are a free speech issue. I feel they most definitely are, because the endgame (as you put it) is ultimately to restrict free speech. They are designed to put people who have voiced unpopular ideas out of business, and they are designed to make sure that anyone who possesses unpopular ideas think twice or three times about saying anything for fear of facing economic sanctions and potential loss of livelihood. The underlying strength of a free society is, “I disagree with what you have to say, but will defend to the death your right to say it,” not, “I disagree with what you have to say, and will do everything in my power to punish you for saying it.”

Should free speech mean freedom from consequences? Well, no. But the answer to free speech is always more free speech, and that should be the only consequence of speaking your mind. Boycotts are not free speech, no matter how much the practitioners of them claim that they are. Boycotts–particularly as utilized by those who take issue with opinions that are in opposition to theirs–are attempts to bludgeon someone into submission economically.

It’s not that people are offended because, for instance, the CEO of Whole Foods has opinions they don’t like. They’re offended because they KNOW his opinions, and the reason they know them is because he availed himself of free speech in a free society. So they’ll boycott Whole Foods and shop at Pathmark or Shop & Stop, and for all they know the CEO of the former is opposed to gay marriage and the CEO of the latter thinks that abortion should be criminalized. So unless they’re performing due diligence to check and see the corporate record of every store they’re frequenting, I’m forced to conclude that this is entirely about free speech, because it’s the use of free speech that’s getting people in trouble and it’s the intolerance of free speech that’s causing the boycotts.

I suppose what it comes down to is this: Protecting popular ideas is easy. Unpopular ideas are the ones that need the most protecting, if for no other reason than that many of the ideas we accept today as truth or even simple common sense, began their existence as unpopular ideas. The Church boycotted Galileo because he opined that the Earth moved around the sun; is that really the lead we want to follow?

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As much as I respect Mr. David, I’m afraid this is an issue where he and I are going to have to disagree. I told him so in an e-mailed reply:

“Boycotts aren’t free speech. What they ARE are other elements of freedom that are just as important — freedom of association, freedom of commerce and freedom of conscience. Note that none of those things necessarily make boycotts moral or ethical to use but by your argument I give up some freedoms (association, commerce, conscience) to protect the freedom of speech of a man I disagree with.

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I’d have to reject that. I don’t believe my choice to buy or not buy a game prevents Card from saying what he will. If he chooses to modify his speech in the face of such things, that too is the free market in action and it works for both the right and the left. I have the right to, for example, choose to purchase my groceries only at markets owned by Caucasians or refuse to buy a game created by a designer who has donated to the Republican party (bye bye Sims!) and I should bear the full moral burden of exercising those rights (including the disapproval and possible boycott of those who disapproved of my actions). In doing so though, I don’t believe anyone else’s rights are endangered. These interactions are how societies get ordered in the first place.”

Peter responded again with the following:

I don’t think boycotts are free speech either. We don’t disagree on that point. What I was pointing out was that people who believe in boycotts contend that they ARE a form of free speech, of free expression, equal to and on par with voicing one’s opinion through the media or on line or wherever. And that if someone says something or puts forward an opinion that they find disagreeable, then it is an equal and appropriate response to declare that they are going to cease supporting that individual’s work and, even better, try to get as many people as possible to follow suit.

Except it’s not. Boycotts are not free speech (as you yourself say). They are a punitive measure designed specifically to get someone else to shut up, or to destroy their income in retaliation. Does the act of buying or not buying a game prevent Card from saying what he will? No. But it is an ATTEMPT to STOP him from saying what he will. It is an attempt to punish him for doing so. What else is punishment except trying to ensure that the target of the punishment ceases the behavior that the person inflicting the punishment finds disagreeable?

To say, “I have the right” to shop wherever you wish is utterly beside the point. I’m not contending that you don’t have the right. But just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean that you SHOULD do something. If you truly believe in a free market society, then where you shop should not be determined (to use your example) by the color of the shop owner’s skin. It should be determined by who has the best product for the best price. Everything else is beside the point unless you choose to make it the point.

Boycotts that are started up purely to shut people up have a chilling effect in a society that is supposed to value the free exchange of ideas. There’s a superb book on the subject by Nat Hentoff: “Freedom of Speech for Me, But Not For Thee.” It’s about the lengthy history of the right and the left to shut each other up.

I didn’t want to respond directly to Peter (though he is, of course welcome to elaborate further and I’ll be happy to print it) because I think we’ve each outlined where our disagreements are and while we’re actually not that far apart, they come right to the crux of the morality of using boycotts. Put in simple terms, each of us agrees that boycotts are a private act and as such, shouldn’t be subject to some sort of government interference. Each of us as individuals have the “right” to boycott. The question is — and this is what I was wrestling with in the article — is it “right” to boycott? Is it morally and ethically correct and if so, what are the rules for doing so? These are the questions we as a society are not answering, although Peter’s already given his. He says “no, boycotts aren’t moral.” I envy him that level of clarity because I haven’t found my answer yet.

In a larger sense, we’re throwing economic clubs and brickbats at each other and we don’t seem to be concerned with where they’re landing. It’s really easy to envision a future where every corporation and small business has to have a position paper on every controversial issue in the public domain in order to do business at all. That is after all, what the “Buy Blue” campaign was all about and is what powers sites like Buy Blue USA (no commercial endorsement implied in that link). I don’t think I like that very much and I’m a little frightened about whether we can get off the ugly road we seem to be on.

On a lighter note, if you’re interested in Mr. David’s work, why not check out his blog? I’m also adding it to my blogroll at the right.

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If a Communist Falls in the White House and There’s No Microphone To Hear It, Does He Make a Sound?

6 09 2009

A cautionary note on Van Jones

It seems that Van Jones is resigning. Well, good. In typical Obama fashion it was a quiet deed done in the dead of night with no one around to hear the wheels of the bus go thumpty thump over a man who’s motto seems to be “better-red-than-dead.” Allow me to sound a cautionary note to those that are currently parading around the halls in triumph — Van Jones was low-hanging fruit. Hiring him was the kind of galactically stupid move only someone who’s never actually run anything other than a political campaign would make. It dovetails nicely with the colossal level of incompetence the Administration’s shown over the last nine months.

The thing is, this won’t last. Obama’s greatest weakness is that he no longer has a higher office to campaign for so he’s finally being forced to actually try to deliver. He’s not stupid, though. It’s a mark of just how powerful Obama’s position is — especially when it comes to the legacy media — is that what’s seen as a triumph for the Right is occurring in the dead of night with nary a peep from the New York Times and outright flackery from CBS.

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Put simply, the Obama Administration will never be weaker than it is right now. If over the next year or so up until the mid-term elections the opposition can’t get it’s act together, articulate a coherent alternative that turns the Republicans into a party worth voting for and translate Obama’s mistakes into electoral victories, than low-level triumphs like this are all we have to look forward to for the rest of our soujourn in the political wilderness. Enjoy the moment, folks. I don’t want to take it away from you, but Obama’s still President for the next three years. This fight’s far from over.

If you’re looking for a great round-up of Van Jones goodness, you might want to hit up Stacy McCain’s site.

Edd Dricoll’s got lots of good stuff too.

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The Politics of Schoolhouse Rock

6 09 2009

I’ve added a new section to the blog — The Politics of Schoolhouse Rock. After the response my essay on Elbow Room (Everything I Need to Know I learned from Schoolhouse Rock, I decided that I might like to go through the rest of the old videos (especially America Rocks) and see what kind of thoughts they inspired. I started by expanding my initial “Cultural Imperialism is a Crock” block post into a whole new essay about The Great American Melting Pot.

Please enjoy! And if you do, why not share the blog with some of your friends:

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And The Latest Person Kicked From the Raid…

5 09 2009

Would be Van Jones, President Obama’s “green jobs” czar. As has been making the rounds in the right-wing blogosphere, it seems that Mr. Jones has shall we say — a somewhat sinister view of the events of 9/11 (H/T Five Feet of Fury’s Kathy Shaidle). Oh, it hasn’t happened yet and it still might not, but given Mr. Obama’s predilection for jettisoning “inconvenient” people the moment that they’re no longer of use to him, I’d say that Mr. Jones is probably being encouraged to “spend more time with his family” right about now.

It’s actually funny. As Stacy McCain points out:

And yet, somehow, despite all his success, this Ivy League-educated Fortunate Son sees nothing but misery and oppression everywhere. Am I the only one who finds this bizarre?

That would only be because Mr. McCain has never raided with someone like Van Jones. I have. To extend the whole Obama Administration as a bad raid metaphor, Van Jones is the kind of raider that whines and cries and fiddles with the DKP system to make sure he gets twice as many points as anybody else in the guild and then complains that “it’s not fair!” when the boss doesn’t drop any equipment for his class. No matter how close he is to the guild leader, eventually everyone else is gonna kick him out because every time he opens his mouth he runs down the guild’s reputation.

In honor of Mr. McCain’s Rule 5 and the bent of this blog, I am putting up a picture of a sexy Night Elf from World of Warcraft. Post continues after this.

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In more real-world terms, there’s a subsection of the left who have made their bones and fortunes using interest group grievances and get caught flat-footed when they’re suddenly thrust into a position where results actually matter. Actually strike that. He’s the “green jobs czar.” His results don’t matter but they will be measured which is roughly the same level of kryptonite. What’s happening to Jones is probably what would happen if Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton were forced to get a real job. Or a job.

Given that the Obama’s social circle seems to be filled with these sorts of people and their vetting process is less than stellar (and why haven’t those people been fired?) this is probably going to keep happening. So far, the only people who seem to be completely safe in the Obama Administration are Rahm Emanuel and Robert Gibbs. Gibbs is probably safe because he’s basically Renfield to Emanuel’s Count Dracula and Emanuel — well, because he’s Dracula.

And yes — this post was generated in shameless subservience to Rule 2.

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