Saturday, January 03, 2009

Obama the Magic Negro

If you haven’t heard it yet, this is the song that is creating so much controversy. The lyrics of this parody are pretty much self-explanatory. The song takes it title from a March 2007 opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times that argued that Obama was the “magic Negro” and his candidacy helped white voters alleviate guilt over past racial injustices. This parody from Paul Shanklin was first aired on the Rush Limbaugh program. I am not offended by it. I find it humorous. Like a lot of humor, however, someone is bound to take offence. Mush of the media is characterizing the song as racist and as insulting to Barack Obama. I think it is a real stretch to label this as racist. The target of the parody is not even Obama but Al Sharpton and those who criticized Obama for being insufficiently “Black.”

Former Tennessee GOP leader Chip Saltsman, who was campaign manager for Mike Huckabee and is now a candidate for Chairman of the Republican National Committee, sent as a Christmas gift a Paul Shanklin CD to members of the RNC and other prominent people on his gift list. Among the 41 songs on the CD was this one. In my view it is just silly that this is an issue. I don’t think that giving a gift of a CD of political parodies should be reason to disqualify Saltsman for the position of RNC chairman. On the other hand, the world is not fair and the party needs a Chairman that can rebuild the party.
I am not concerned about this because I think Blacks will take offence and not support the GOP. Ninety-six percent of African Americans voted for Obama, which was an increase from the 90% who almost always vote for Democrats. The African American community is so tied to the Democratic Party that I doubt we will ever pry them loose. There are not enough Black votes in play to make a difference. My concern is that we will permanently loose those white voters who voted for the “magic Negro” if the Republican Party is perceived as tolerant of racist attitudes.

It is unfair I know and I hate that we have to succumb to political correctness, but now is not the time to stand up to the dominant political establishment and defend a conservative comedian. We have more important things on the agenda. We do not need this distraction. We need to choose our battles and now is not the time to battle extreme sensitivity and political correctness. Most people will never even hear the song to judge it for themselves; they will just hear that the Republican Party selected as their chairman someone who sent out a racist song that made fun of Obama.

If one has aspirations to be Chairman of the RNC, then one should send out tasteful paperweights that are a bust of Lincoln or maybe a brass elephant paperweight or a book of Ronald Regan quotations. Political humor is a landmine for a politician. Leave the promotion of political humor to Rush Limbaugh. The Party has enough problems without this. I am sympathetic to Saltsman, but we need to throw him under the bus and move on.

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Bush signs gay rights bill

December 24, 2008

Yesterday, Bush signed into law the Worker, Retiree and Employer Recovery Act of 2008 (WRERA), requiring employers to allow employees to roll their retirement plans over to nonspouse partners. The Human Rights Campaign hailed the bill for allowing gay couples to share benefits. (link)


Currently if you are a married person and your employer provides you with a retirement plan with a death benefit and you die, your spouse can receive the death benefit directly deposited into an IRA in his or her name. If this rule was not in place and the surviving spouse was required to withdraw the entire benefit all at once, that would result in severe tax penalties due to early withdrawal. Also, if the surviving spouse was required to withdraw the money all at once, he or she could be bumped into a higher tax bracket.

This benefit has only been available for married people until now. The bill Bush signed into law expands this right to gay couples as long as the person with the employee benefit registers his or her partner as the beneficiary.

While extending to gay couples a benefit that married couples have, it also gives benefits to gay couples that straight people do not have. Let me explain. In my job, I often work with clients who may have multiple children together and either live together or have lived to together off-and-on but they have never gotten married. If these people had a retirement benefit like this, they could not do the same thing that now a gay couple will have the right to do. I think a better law than this one, would be a law that allows a person to pass on his or her retirement benefit to anyone he wishes without regard to familial status or special relationship or sexual orientation. I would let a son give it to his mother, or a father to his daughter or any person give it to his or her best friend. Since this is not what was in the bill however, I think Bush was correct to sign the bill into law. It addresses a real-life wrong that needed to be corrected.

While I oppose gay marriage, I think we must make accommodations to gay couples. This bill was a small step but it corrected an injustice that needed correcting. If we can address the needs of gay couples with laws such as this, then the demand for gay marriage will lessen and at the same time real problems will be resolved and injustices corrected.

I am still undecided on the issue of Civil Unions but am leaning toward acceptance of some form of it. It does not have to be called “civil unions” necessarily, although I see nothing wrong with that term. Maybe we could call this new status simply a “domestic registry.” If a union were registered, the registered couple (or more) would be eligible for a bundle of the rights now given only to married people. If a mother and her adult son wanted to be registered as a couple that would be OK by me as long as we do not call it marriage.

I am not so sure that all state sanctioned "marriage" should not be anything more than “civil unions” or a registration on a “domestic registry.” How about letting the state register the union and the church join people together in holy matrimony if that is what the couple desire and they meet that faiths requirements? Face it; marriage does not carry the same weight it used to. Many couples wait until they have their first child to get married or they live together without ever getting marriage. Marriage also is certainly not until “death do us part.” When a couple can void a marriage simply by declaring incompatibility, marriage is not such a terrible commitment or strong bond. I do think society has an interest in promoting strong families, but I am not so sure that government conferring certain benefits only on “married” couples is the vehicle for promoting strong families.

As to the politics of this issue, I am surprised that this story has not gotten more coverage. I was out of town for the holidays visiting family on the day this news occurred and I missed it. I did not read a newspaper or watch TV on that day, so I don’t know if this got much coverage or not, but I assume it did not. An Internet search does not reveal a lot of coverage by mainstream news sources covering the issue or big name commentators commenting. I read a lot blogs and chat groups and this is not big news in the blogosphere. I don’t understand it.

I do not expect liberals to say anything praiseworthy of George W. Bush, but would have thought that Bush signing a piece of pro-gay legislation would have been news. I am also very surprised that the religious right has not been all over this story. I would have expected them to nail Bush to the wall over this. Is Bush so unimportant that he is not worth criticizing? I would expect the televangelist, Focus on the Family, Phyllis Schlafly and the various pro-family organizations to be ballistic. Why are they not? I am pleased that the right has not been in an uproar over this issue. If the voice of the religious right is growing faint then I think that is a good thing for the Republican Party. I don’t think there is much benefit for Republicans to be seen as the party of gay bashing.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bleeding Heart Tightwads


This holiday season is a time to examine who’s been naughty and who’s been nice, but I’m unhappy with my findings. The problem is this: We liberals are personally stingy.

Liberals show tremendous compassion in pushing for generous government spending to help the neediest people at home and abroad. Yet when it comes to individual contributions to charitable causes, liberals are cheapskates. (link)


This article sites a couple of different sources to show that conservatives are quite a bit more charitable than liberals, about 30% more charitable. Not only are they more charitable with giving money, but they volunteer more often. I am not surprised by this finding.

A few months ago several of my family members were having an email exchange and someone said something about the difference between conservatives and liberals. A very close family member commented that she tells her children that the difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals are generous and caring and conservatives are greedy. This self-righteous attitude of moral superiority seems to be very common among liberals. It was hard not to respond but I restrained myself and did not. I am better at exercising restraint in an email exchanges than I am in person. We have had enough conflict over politics in my family that I thought it best to let this one slide.

What I wanted to say, but glad I didn't, is that the difference between conservatives and liberals is that conservatives are generous with their own money and liberals are generous with other peoples money. Since the above article was written by a good liberal, there is a chance that this close family member may come across it. I hope so.

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Caroline “you know” Kennedy For Senator

I think, you know, that this is sort of like, um, this is ah, ah, like you know, like unbelievable. If ah, if ah, um, you know, if Sarah Palin had talked like this, um, she would, you know, have been the butt of a, um, a lot of, um, brutal jokes. You Know?

This is painful to listen to. I feel embarrassment for her. Maybe, she was just having a bad day. This is the only time I have ever heard Caroline Kennedy speak so maybe this is not typical. She sounds like a young, uneducated, lower class, pothead. She comes from one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in America and she is a graduate of Radcliffe College, Harvard, and Columbia Law School. Why can she not talk? Caroline Kennedy would be hard to satirize because you could not make her sound any worse than she sounds.

I don’t really like the idea of political dynasties and inherited political positions and was hoping that when Ted is finally gone from the scene, that we would have seen the last of the Kennedys. Ted should have been such an embarrassment that the Kennedy mystique was by now tarnished forever, but apparently it is not. So, I hope they go ahead and put Caroline Kennedy in the Senate and let her be the new image of the Kennedys. It could be fun.

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