Colbert, Stewart, and Super PACS

If you haven’t seen the Colbert/Stewart Better Tomorrow Tomorrow Super PAC aka The Definitely Not Coordinating with Stephen Colbert Super PAC ad yet, take a look.  Here is the link on the Colbert Report website:  http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/405930/january-15-2012/colbert-super-pac-ad—attack-in-b-minor-for-strings?xrs=share_copy

Notice that it is called the Attack in B Minor for Strings and features the voice of John Lithgow.

You may recall that Stephen Colbert handed over his PAC to Jon Stewart in a live ceremony in the presence of a lawyer explaining the rules after Citizens United.  As the New York Times wrote

Mr. Colbert has used his PAC — called either “Americans for a Better Tomorrow Tomorrow” or “The Definitely Not Coordinating With Stephen Colbert Super PAC” — to mock the loopholes in the nation’s campaign finance system. Last week he announced he was handing over control of the PAC to his fellow Comedy Central host Jon Stewart so he could run for “president of the United States of South Carolina” without legal complications. A super PAC is not supposed to coordinate with the campaign it is supporting.

In a statement announcing the ad’s debut on Sunday, Mr. Stewart said, “Mitt Romney claims to be pro-corporations. But would you let him date your daughter’s corporation?”

A few days ago, I wrote about Citizens United and three approaches to overturning the decision.  We can add this as a fourth.

Colbert 2008 Shirt from the last election.

 

Leslie Savin writes in The Nation about his appearance on This Week with George Stephanopolus.

You know how hard it is to give away your baby?” Colbert bemoaned  on This Weekwith George Stephanopolus on Sunday. “Now imagine if that baby had a lot of money.”

It is clear that Colbert knows how to talk like a candidate, specifically a certain front-runner. “Excuse me, George, I was talking,” he said at one point, and of the PAC ad in question, he claimed, “I have not seen this ad.” Colbert also took umbrage whenever Stephanopoulos referred to his “campaign” for president, explaining that he is not “campaigning” but forming an “exploratory committee.” “I’m a one-man Lewis and Clark.”

Explorer Stephen, of course, wholeheartedly believes that corporations are people, but when Stephanopoulos wouldn’t agree, Colbert went further than Mitt or even Newt would dare: “You won’t weigh in on whether some people are people? That’s seems kind of racist, George.”

As for the ad’s controversial contention, Colbert said, “I don’t know if Mitt Romney is a serial killer. That’s a question he’s going to have to answer.”

Do you think any of the Supremes thinks this is funny?  Will it help them think of a graceful way they can get us out of this mess they have gotten us into?  This is more than Pat Paulson running for President.  This is serious business.

Being Liberal or not being Glenn Beck

Being a bit behind in my reading (as always), I picked up The Nation from November 22 a few days ago to read Patricia Williams’ column, Veritas-iness and the American Way.  This started a train of thought about education, reading, why so many followers of popular conservatives are uneducated and how much of a threat this is to the American experiment. It also got me thinking about why being liberal became a bad thing.  Somewhere in recent history “liberals” became “progressives”.

According to my 11th Edition of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, the first definition of liberal is related to education, “of, relating to, or based on the liberal arts”.  The archaic meaning if “of or befitting a man of free birth”.  More current meanings include “marked by generosity” and “broad-minded esp: not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms.”  The entry goes on to explain “Liberal suggests openhandedness in the giver and largeness in the thing or amount given…”  From these meanings the political philosophy of liberalism was born.  Liberalism being defined as “a political philosophy based on a belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties.”  On the other hand, a conservative is defined as “tending to disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions.”  Conservatism is “a disposition in politics to preserve what is established.”

Conservative and liberal.  These are two tensions that should complement each other.  But liberal has become synonymous for the over education elite who want to move away from the traditions of our Founders and the True Meaning of the Constitution. (my caps)  Is this because somehow our education system has failed?

Patricia Williams points out

Sadly, American education has suffered a miserable decline since those days.[when she went to public schools] According to the Programme for International Student Assessment, we are fifteenth in reading literacy, twenty-first in science literacy and twenty-fifth in math literacy. This slide was largely accomplished by a calculated disinvestment in public education that began with the anti-tax movement of the late 1970s. California, where that movement began with a series of ballot initiatives, had one of the best school systems in the world. It now ranks almost dead last here, just above Mississippi.

There’s a curious tension in politics between the popular hunger for better schooling and widespread resentment of those who actually find it. Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin have built a movement around the felt dispossession of those who don’t read newspapers, whose spelling is nonstandard and who cite Shakespeare to “refudiate” book-learning. Beck, who sniffs that public schools should be abolished altogether, exploits this ambivalence brilliantly by establishing his online Beck University, whose basic courses are Faith 101, 102 and 103; Hope 101, 102 and 103; and Charity 101, 102 and 103. Yet Beck U. also has a coat of arms with a numbingly lofty motto: Tyrannis Seditio, Obsequium Deo.

Here is one of Beck’s diagrams copied from AlterNet.

Being one of the over-educated liberals, I find the diagram incoherent and the connections based on a lack of understanding.  Does Glenn Beck understand that George Soros who is the heart of the “obam a pocalypse” help finance movements to overthrow oppressive governments in Eastern Europe? Or that he grew up in Nazi occupied Hungary? So yes, he has a connection to Hitler, but not the kind Beck wants to imply.  And Ivan Jones? 

Williams describes the crowd at the Steward-Colbert rally this way

…While Stewart and Colbert expressly appealed to “the busy majority” of reasonable, middle-of-the-road, somewhat-stressed-but-not-given-to-hysterics people, the signs among the masses were deeply inflected by class consciousness and the national educational divide. Some were relatively subtle: Which Way to Whole Foods? and Anyone for Scrabble Later? Others more overtly referenced Beck’s Rally to Restore Honor: Every Word on This Sign Is Spelled Correctly; I &heart; Evidence-Based Policies; and my favorite: If You Don’t Believe in Government Perhaps You Shouldn’t Run for It.

This was a crowd that listens to NPR (Kiss Me, Nina Totenberg!). It was racially and ethnically diverse ( Fox Told Me I Am a Terrorist). Their humor was sophisticated ( I Clutch My Purse When I See Juan Williams Coming). It was a throng of New York Times readers who eat bagels and peruse the Book Review. They marched with Kindles in hand, and their Patagonia backpacks contained novels by Anna Quindlen and essay collections like David Rakoff’s Don’t Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, The Torments of Low Thread Count, The Never-Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil and Other First World Problems.

If this sounds like a litany of class markers, we need to remember that class and education are not necessary correlates. This was a population of very diverse Americans who equate political sanity with studiousness and curiosity. It was a gathering of people fluent in subtlety and satire, tolerance and tact; who saw similarity in differences and differences among the similar; who appreciated metaphors, analogical thinking and the discipline of data. This is the opposite of fundamentalism. And it ought to be the very essence of American identity, for we can have no broad civic culture without it. Unfortunately these critical capacities are also the hallmarks of a good liberal arts education, which is increasingly unavailable to any but the very well-off. (The State University of New York, Albany, just announced that it may eliminate its Latin, French, Italian, Russian and theater degree programs.)

Why bother with the nuances of analytical thought? Consider this—recently State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley tweeted: “Happy birthday President #Ahmadinejad. Celebrate by sending Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer home” and “Your 54th year was full of lost opportunities. Hope in your 55th year you will open #Iran to a different relationship with the world.” Sarah Palin tweeted back: “Happy B’day Ahmadinejad wish sent by US Govt. Mind boggling foreign policy: kowtow & coddle enemies; snub allies. Obama Doctrine is nonsense.” This is not merely a lack of irony; it is a form of illiteracy, the kind of flat, childish reading that grasps the basic meaning of each word but not what they mean together.

Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck are frightening in their ignorance and I worry that the ignorance is spreading faster than we can stop it.  The problem in the United States today is not the divide between liberalism and conservative:  that tension has existed since the founding of the country.  The problem is the divide between those who can read and comprehend and those who can’t.  I am not talking here about the quality of the inner city elementary school, although that too is an issue, I am talking about people who are supposed to be educated and still can’t really read and when they do don’t understand what it is they read.  True conservatives should be just as worried about them as liberals like me.

Taxes and Gay Marriage

I wrote about a lawsuit filed in Massachusetts to end the Defense of  Marriage Act back in March and yesterday Ellen Goodman published a good piece about why this is important.  Titled “A Strange Duel Citizenship”, Goodman writes

THEY ARE NOT the only married couple in America who talk about taxes and ulcers in the same sentence. Nor are they the only couple who believe they are paying more than they should. On that ground they are part of a noisy majority.

But they are a couple for whom tax season also entails an identity crisis. You see, Melba Abreu and Beatrice Hernandez file state taxes as what they are – a legally married Massachusetts couple. But under federal law, they have to file federal taxes as what they aren’t – two single women.

This identity crisis is not just some psychological blip on the cheerful landscape of their family life. In the last four years, the government’s refusal to consider them a married couple has cost the writer and the CFO of a nonprofit about $5,000 a year. As Beatrice puts it, “We don’t know anyone for whom $20,000 and counting isn’t significant.”

This is not about forcing states to choose to marry people.  It is about the simple act of recognizing legal marriages in other states.  It is not different from my straight marriage being recognized in Massachusetts even though I got married in Virginia.  Goodman concludes

So what do you say about an out-of-date law that enforces an identity crisis? What do you say about a law that “defends” marriage by denying it? The winds are blowing, but in a very different direction.

Amendment to this post

When I wrote this on Saturday morning, I hadn’t seen Stephen Colbert’s video mocking the anti-gay marriage ad – which he describes as combining the 700 Club and the Weather Channel.  Take a look.