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art.bardwell Every once in a while someone comes along who simultaneously reminds us of how far we’ve come with respect to race relations, and how far we have to go. Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Keith Bardwell, the Louisiana Justice of the Peace who refused to marry a white woman and black man out of concern for their future mixed-race children.

As if Bardwell’s initial refusal wasn’t bad enough, he now tells us that he stands by his initial decision: “It’s kind of hard to apologize for something that you really and truly feel down in your heart you haven’t done wrong,” he told CNN affiliate WAFB on Saturday.

Bardwell apparently isn’t aware of the 1967 Supreme Court Decision (Loving vs. Virginia) in which miscegenation laws were ruled unconstitutional, a rather unsung landmark decision that has gone under-appreciated until now.  This begs the question of how educated Louisiana Justices of the Peace must be.  Moreover, JPs, judges and ministers are not empowered to marry only those people that they believe will raise happy, successful children who will be free from discrimination.  Parents are expected to help their children meet life’s challenges and overcome them, whatever their ethnicity.

Those who would like to wring an apology from Bardwell are doomed to disappointment. Bardwell represents the old school racist who is comfortable with his racism even as he denies it exists. While removing him from office is essential, if only to protect his parish from the expense of civil rights lawsuits, it will not have any impact on Bardwell other than economic.  However, one wonders how many other mixed couples he has turned away and why it has taken so long for this practice to come to light.  Already embarrassed, Lousiana now has some ‘splainin’ to do.

NTM I have to admit that when I think of the Texas secession movement I experience emotions ranging from eye-rolling amusement to head-scratching bewilderment.  Now, 144 years after the Civil War, excuse me, “the War of Northern Aggression” we have a wave of enthusiasm from a small group of Texans who believe that Big Gummint is the root of all evil. Is the South rising again or is this a small group of wingnuts who believe that not only is secession possible, it is desirable?  Well, the rationality of these individuals is open to question but according to one Rasmussen poll, 1/3 of Texans believe that the state can legally secede from the U.S.  However, only 20% believe that Texas should leave. That’s 5 million people, most of whom are probably, ummm, not especially sophisticated, although all are apparently constitutional scholars.

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secret-planAnyone who has been watching the news lately has been subjected to video of crowds of people trying to shout down their elected representatives who are trying to forge a health care reform plan.  Events in Tampa, St. Louis, Michigan, and Texas have been disrupted by angry protesters who are pumped full of bravado by such “astroturf” organizations as Freedom Works, chaired by former Republican congressional leader Dick Armey. A speaker from Patients First, associated with the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, told activists. “Adolf Hitler issued six million end of life orders – he called his program the final solution. I kind of wonder what we’re going to call ours.”  Rush Limbaugh, himself closer to fascism than he realizes, also likens the Democratic push for health care reform to the Third Reich.  Sarah Palin refers to the plan, which she clearly hasn’t read, as “evil.”

The strategy behind these protests and the inflammatory (and misleading) rhetoric is to raise the specter of “socialized medicine,” “rationing,” and “death panels” allegedly sitting in judgment on the futures of sick Americans. What escapes these people is that all three are here and have been for some time. Only we call them “Medicare,” “Medicaid,” and “managed care.” Those who don’t realize this haven’t been paying attention for the past 35 years.

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conspiracyThe “Birther movement,” is a collection of folks who are convinced that Barack Obama was born in Africa and therefore is not an American citizen and therefore is not eligible to be president of the United States and therefore is not the legitimate president and,  come to think of it, just how can we be sure that he’s not from another galaxy?

Even professional paranoid G. Gordon Liddy has weighed in on the issue, suggesting on Chris Matthews’ show, “Hardball” that Obama’s mother, wanting her son to be an American citizen, somehow managed to have a birth certificate and birth announcement appear in Hawaii, thousands of miles away from his actual birthplace in Africa. Like his Birther compatriots, he never actually says that Obama was born in Kenya but produces doubtful evidence and challenges Obama to prove his nativity. For Birthers, the possibility, no matter how outlandish, is enough.

Those of us who actually live full time on this planet have considerable difficulty making sense of this issue. I would posit that there are two factors are at work here: a world view that lends itself to paranoid ideation and helpless rage. Racism is likely to be a factor, but that is harder to pin down.

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No BrainLiberty University, Jerry Fallwell’s monument to anti-intellectualism, is about 2 hours and 120 years from Richmond, the capital of an increasingly progressive state.  LibU recently denied official recognition to the student Democrat Club because by their very existence they support the Democratic Party’s platform that includes support for gay marriage and a woman’s right to choose, plus a few less egregious issues. Perhaps their most worst offense was their support for candidate Obama, seen by many as the antithesis of Christian conservatism.

Now the club and the university are negotiating what the club can do to receive official recognition, which would guarantee access to meeting space, space that the Republican club needs not worry about having. Reportedly, the club must refrain from endorsing any candidate, which largely neutralizes the point of having a club associated with a political party. Chancellor Jerry, Jr. has said, “If the candidate happened to be in favor of abortion and same-sex marriage, then we would like to see some kind of disclaimer,” Falwell said. “There’s some debate back and forth on how that disclaimer would be worded.”

How would that disclaimer read? “The Student Democratic Club of Liberty University seeks the re-election of Candidate Jones except for her support for gay marriage, a woman’s right to choose, her rejection of the Defense of Marriage Act and her endorsement of socialist values. If that’s OK with the LU Administration. We guess.”
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I took a couple of weeks off from blogging, mostly because there seemed so little new going on: Democrats propose, Republicans oppose. Ho Hum.

But now, comes news:

Yes, we Americans may soon be able to travel to Cuba without slinking through Canada. Cuban immigration will be able to stamp American passports, memorializing their visit. A failed American policy will soon see its sunset.

While unrestricted travel does not change regimes (e.g., China), it does ultimately result in economic changes that over time can influence those regimes. Certainly, the American policy toward Cuba served primarily to isolate it, but did not remove Castro from power. Castro wants American dollars for his economy. Ultimately, those dollars would likely play less of a role in maintaining the status quo there and play a larger role in enhancing the quality of life and economic expectations of Cubans. Over time, this could result in increased momentum towards a less restrictive regime, which Raul Castro already appears to be considering.

For reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with politics I am looking forward to an opportunity to see Cuba. If it was good enough for Hemingway and the Mafia, there must be something there for me.

GOPThe train wreck that is the GOP reminds me of a bunch of middle schoolers who can’t agree on who will be Best Friends Forever this week.

Michael Steele seems totally unprepared for his position at the right hand of God, AKA Rush Limbaugh.  Steele’s missteps and reed-in-the-wind leadership style has left a vacuum that only Limbaugh seems interested in filling, although with false modesty he resists that interpretation. Given the size of the vacuum and Limbaugh’s girth, he may be the only one able to do so. Unfortunately for the GOP, which had it’s ass handed to it in the 2008 elections, Limbaugh is as polarizing as Bush, only louder and more obnoxious.

So the Bush legacy lives on and evidently the GOP learned nothing about the corrosive effects of  this approach to the electorate. During times of stress and outright fear many voters are willing to forgo ideology for practical solutions. Whether the Obama administration’s policies will provide the relief and solutions we need remains to be seen, although voter approval of Obama is extraordinary.

So as we anxiously await the economy’s recovery, we can at least be entertained by the GOP’s infighting, sniping, and pouting. And the voters who voted for Republican senators and members of congress can wonder just what kind of leadership they’re getting.

It has always amused me that Limbaugh is variously described as an “entertainer,” “commentator,” and of course, “comedian.” If he’s what the GOP wants as its defacto leader, then they will have to content themselves with the fallout in the 2010 elections. And the rest of us will keep moving forward without a backward glance.

publicspeakingThe Republicans’ choice of Bobby Jindal to deliver a response to President Obama’s speech on the economy on February 24 was a logical one. Jindal, as I’m sure we’ll be frequently reminded, is the son of Indian immigrants, something of a counter to Obama’s rags-to-riches story.

Unfortunately for the GOP, Jindal has none of the rhetorical skill of the President. His cringe-worthy sing-song delivery made even hard core party members wince.  His message has been described as “tone deaf” and out of touch with the pain and fear Americans, even those with jobs, are experiencing.  Someone needs to send him back to Public Speaking 101.

On the other hand, why bother?  Sarah Palin is idling in the wings, ready to jump into the fray. Not so fast.  Palin, who has to dig into her purse for $7,000 to reimburse Alaska for her kids’ junkets. And they haven’t even addressed the tax implications, so she may be a little busy.

How about the lifelike mannequin, Mitt Romney?  He just won the CPAC straw poll with 20 percent of the vote, followed by Bobby Jindal with 14 percent, Ron Paul with 13 percent, Sarah Palin with 13 percent, Newt Gingrich with 10 percent and Mike Huckabee with 7 percent. Yawn. It looks like 2008 all over again.

But back to Jindal. You have to like the guy and admire what he’s done. But as a serious presidential candidate he’s just not ready for prime time. In fact, none of the current hopefuls, except for Romney, are likely to create a groundswell of interest and enthusiasm.

It will be interesting to see who is picked to provide the next Republican response. My money’s on the Mittster.