The Grand Old Party of Racism

Posted on April 29, 2011

Once upon a time, there was the party of Lincoln. It was devoted to the idea emancipation and 40 acres and a mule. Over the last 150 years, how times have changed. Today, in order to secure their electoral base, the Republican party has lowered itself to the lowest common denominator of its rabid base. It has become the Grand Old Party of Racism.


Since the Southern strategy became the bread and butter of Republican electoral politics, a key shift happened in the party. As new (more Southern) elements gained power in the party, racism began rearing its ugly head from time to time. The most toxic of these outbreaks was the Louisiana politician, David Duke. A former Grand Wizard

of the KKK, he ran semi-successful candidacies for the House (1989), the Senate (1990), Governor of Louisiana (1991) and President (1992). While much of the national party repudiated Duke’s racism, his ability to collect votes in Louisiana pointed to a demographic and a fact just beneath the surface of the Republican Party. At the heart of the base (especially in Southern states) people with predominantly racist beliefs form the core of the party that Republicans rely on to get elected.


In recent years, the American electorate has basically broken itself down into thirds. About 25% of the electorate is liberal/progressive and about 35% of the electorate identifies as hard-core Republican/Conservative. The remaining 40% or so occupy the mushy middle of non-ideologues, independents, libertarians, greens, and others. 40% might seem high, but that mushy middle has a tendency to not come out to vote. They are notoriously unpredictable. For much of the 1980s and 1990s, Republican electoral strategy was pretty simple. To win elections all you had to do was get out your base, and focus on enough single, hot-button social issues to swing key constituencies who might be found in that mushy middle. For example, you might go for the Catholic vote by focusing on abortion. Additionally, Republican strategists also tended to focus on negative advertising as a means of voter suppression. If middle-of-the-road voters were not breaking your candidate’s way, you could always swing enough mud to turn those voters (who were not very likely to vote anyway) off. Meanwhile, Democrats would have to both excite their base and manage to pull enough of those 40% to get a plurality.

While favorable for many years, the demographics began to slip away from Republicans after 2000. Primarily in Southern states, Hispanics have become the new force to deal with in politics as the Hispanic population in the U.S. has soared. Enter Karl Rove. Rove’s strategy was quite smart. He took into account the growing Hispanic nature of the electorate and chose to directly address them in Bush’s 2000 campaign. His improved slice of the Hispanic pie (35%) was just enough to help push him over the top in several key states in 2000, namely Florida. In 2004, Bush did even better with national security dominating the campaign. In 2004, Bush managed to get around 44% of the vote. But then, the bottom dropped out for Republicans with the Hispanic community. What happened?

The answer to that question is simple. In June of 2007, Bush’s Immigration bill, which would have established a path to citizenship for up to 12 million illegal aliens in the country, went down to ignominious defeat largely at the hands of conservatives in his own party. Key conservative Senators, such as Jim DeMint (R-SC) and John Cornyn (R-TX) led the charge. Bush’s ‘Big Tent’ had been scorched just in time for the 2008 elections. When all the dust had settled on the McCain campaign, he managed to receive only 31% of the Hispanic vote. Obama managed to pull together a powerful coalition of minorities, liberals, and people in the middle who simply wanted a change in the country’s direction. Obama easily won election as he managed to flip key states like Florida, North Carolina and Virginia from red to blue. However, in massive defeat, the Republican party didn’t change course. Instead, Republicans at the state level got involved in the process and Arizona passed a “show me your papers” immigration bill that pushed even more Hispanic into the ‘D’ column. The Republicans were facing electoral apocalypse. So, what to do?

Unfortunately for them, the solution will most likely be their undoing. Since 2008, Republican party strategy has shifted to give the nativist, ‘no-nothing’, bigoted wing of the Republican party exactly what they want. In primary after primary, they have pushed the extremist candidates of choice. Re-branded as the Tea-Party movement and endowed by the wealthy supporters of Republican think-tanks, they have systematically purged the Republican party of any moderation. In 2010, the new Republican strategy became clear. First, your base must over-perform in the polls. You do this by giving them red-meat in the form of concessions and an enemy in the form of President Obama (more on this later). Second, you take advantage of a ruling (Citizens United) by your bought and paid for Supreme Court that allows corporations to dump unlimited money on campaigns. You use that advantage to suppress Democratic votes in any way possible, be that hiring thugs to scream at Town Hall meetings, or massive negative campaign buys. The result was rather predictable. In an off-year election (2010), when moderates are less likely to vote, the Republicans managed to gain control of Congress. The trouble is that now their strategy is locked-in for 2012.

In 2012, no Republican who significantly disagrees with the base will come close to being nominated. What’s worse, the concert of racism that was once conducted with dog-whistles is now out in the open. It is slowly exposing itself for the racist strategy that it is. Since 2008, Republicans at all levels have used the Obama birth-certificate as a code-word for race. It gave birth (pardon the pun) to the weaselly argument of, “I take him at his word, but people have raised questions.” Time and time again we heard this talking point from the Republican leadership. Tea-Party leaders, like Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), were even more open with their doubts about what President Obama was trying to hide. Enter Donald Trump. Over the last month, Mr. Trump has managed to stir-up huge free publicity on this non-issue to help put forward the central idea of his non-campaign for President. When not challenging the President’s nationality, Trump has been busy touting his, “great relationship with the blacks.” Trump’s constant verbal diarrhea merely reveals what has been there all along: the attacks on President Obama and his birth certificate were always about race.

While you might dismiss Trump as a “barker” for the Tea-Party side-show as President Obama so eloquently described the situation, the Grand Old Party of racism just keeps rolling along. State by state, the Koch Brothers, ALEC and other groups have been systematically pushing their racist agenda. Across the nation (Florida, Wisconsin, North Carolina and other states) Republican legislatures have all put forward ‘curiously’ similar bills all designed to make it harder to vote. For example in Florida, those most likely to move by demographic are the poor and minorities. The bill would make it much more difficult for registration groups to work with these individuals, even leaving non-partisan groups like the League of Women Voters thinking they will have to suspend voter drives under the threat of fines. With more people voting provisional ballots (of which only 48% were counted across the country in last Fall’s election), voter suppression is a certainty as voters forgo the long lines created by the shortening of early voting.


In Oklahoma, the mask has completely fallen off and Republican legislators seem to be empowered these days to say exactly how they feel. Upon the passing of legislation to put Affirmative Action up to a vote by the electorate,

Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) decided to let it all hang out. In an interview with the Tulsa World she said, “Minorities earn less than white people because they don’t work as hard and have less initiative.” She went on to add that, “We have a high percentage of blacks in prison, and that’s tragic, but are they in prison just because they are black or because they don’t want to study as hard in school? I’ve taught school, and I saw a lot of people of color who didn’t study hard because they said the government would take care of them.” The GOP needs to ask itself if they still want to be the party of Lincoln. Right now, they are looking an awful lot like the party of David Duke and ‘Bull’ Connor.


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Top 10 Reasons Americans, or Anyone Else for that Matter, Shouldn’t Watch the Royal Wedding

Posted on April 28, 2011

Every once in a while an event comes along that makes me proud to be an American, a republican. In case you haven’t heard, Friday will be one of those times. From the over-blown, over-pompous parade, to the treacly comments on the bride’s shy and down to earth nature, everything will be broadcast live and in living (more or less color). So, my fellow Americans here are the Top 10 reasons you should be tuning out. But , if somehow you can’t avoid it, I also offer you the Official Royal Wedding Drinking Game:

10. A Rogues Gallery of Tyrants and Dictators – The Queen invited the Crown Prince of Bahrain, who is most certainly responsible for the deaths of dozens through various acts of state terror. However, at least he declined to attend. Other dignitaries from the despotic families of the Gulf Region will attend, including Saudi Arabia where de facto slavery is still practiced. King Mswati III of Swaziland will also be attending despite human rights abuses reported by Human Rights Watch.

9. The Big Dis – Not only were the Obamas not invited, neither were any of the former Labour Prime Ministers of the UK.

8. Camilla – Anyone bring an apple? Here we can find the first part of the Official Royal Wedding Drinking Game. Any time an announcer says the word, “horse” you have to say Camilla. If you say it, you are the winner (errr loser) and everyone else has to drink.

7. Who Are These People Anyway? – Have they ever done anything beyond just being born into wealth and privilege? Just why do they deserve 24/7 media coverage? Oh yeah, they’re getting married, right…

6. Diana – Isn’t her 15 minutes over yet? Her memory is also part of the Official Royal Wedding Drinking Game. Since she had the good sense to leave the zoo that is Buckingham Palace, every time an announcer says the word Diana, you are required to say, “Cheers!” and then drink. Trust me, it is one of the only ways you will manage to get through this.

5. Let’s Celebrate Imperialism – Why anyone would want to celebrate the memory of an empire that did-in more people than Nazi Germany is beyond me? The people of Ireland, India, South Africa, Kenya, Palestine, America, and many more should turn our backs on this travesty on mere principle. The world is still getting over the long-term hangover that is British Empire. It is certainly nothing to celebrate.

4. Because Tourists Are Money – A shout-out goes to John Lyden on this one. Our British cousins will beat us Americans over the head with this for the next 15 years to get us to visit grotty old country. In all seriousness, avoid this exploitation and go to Disneyland. The food is better!

3. Putting American Celebrities Back to Work – Britney, Lindsay, and Charlie Sheen… when was the last time you heard about these folks. In this economic downturn, America can’t afford to give all its precious coverage to foreigners (unless they move to Southern California). These are desperate times. Even Donald Trump had to resort to pretending to run for President just to get some press. What a world!

2. The Dress – This is the last part of the Official Royal Wedding Drinking Game. Every time an announcer says, “The Dress” everyone must drink and drink and drink and drink and…

1. The Bill – It has been estimated the Royal Wedding will cost British taxpayers a minimum of 20 million pounds. Somehow, I doubt if they will even bother to hand out even cake to the impoverished. Seriously, that’s not so funny.

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A New Paradigm For Social Media: Storify Enters Public Beta

Posted on April 26, 2011

Storify opened itself for public beta testing on April 25, 2011. According to  Storify, “stories have been viewed more than 13 million times on our site and across the Web since our private beta launched at the end of September 2010. We had 4.2 million views just in March, our biggest month yet.“ Those numbers were hit during the closed beta. However, it doesn’t shock me as the online software is nothing short of amazing.

My first opportunity to use the software was in January, 2011 during the closed beta testing. On January 25, all hell broke loose in Egypt. The first major political revolution of the 21st century was underway with social media at the heart of it, and there I was, a Middle-East blogger trying put useful information in the hands of my readers. A few days before, I had saw something new. France-24 had posted a live-blog about events in the Middle-East. Noticing that it was branded (i.e. not a France-24 website feature), I clicked on the Storify link that took me to the site. After a quick look-around, I quickly signed-up for the service.

Here are some of the key features I noted:
• Storify aggregates almost everything: Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Youtube and more.
• Writers can monitor the social media right from the interface.
• It is extremely easy just to drag and drop information into your story.
• The Java embed feature means that you can stick your story almost anywhere.

Storify proved itself ideal for live-blogging during significant events. One of the things that makes Twitter great is the fact that it is so completely open, but this also makes it difficult to deal with in times of crisis. When a world event explodes, like the revolutions in Egypt, or the tsunami in Japan, it becomes extremely hard for casual users to contextualize and comprehend stories using social media. Storify allows the journalist, blogger, or storyteller to do just that. Authors can sort through the dross and create meaningful works in real-time from the avalanche of messages. Storify does Twitter and it does Twitter well… Read the rest of this entry »

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Holy Underwear, Batman!

Posted on April 26, 2011

Rarely does my jaw drop to the floor. Call me cynical, hard to shock, whatever you like, but I was amazed and amused by a recent video put out (pun intended) by Cenk Uygur and the Young Turks. What got me so worked-up may you ask? Well, only the most astoundingly awesome inventions ever: abstinence panties.


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The Arab World Braces for the Summer of Counter-Revolution

Posted on April 25, 2011

When the weather changes from Spring to Summer in the MENA region, you feel it. The sun and heat shift into a different gear and more often than not, the change comes on the wind with the dust and sand making snakes along the highways. Once that shift happens, there is no going back, Summer is locked-in for next 5-6 months. In recent years Summers have been the time of escape. Oil wealth in many countries allowed citizens to bug-out for the maximum vacation time allowed during this oppressive period.

Some towns in Libya, for example, were known to look like ghost towns during this time. In the UAE, it is the only time of year you can be assured of a smooth and easy commute to work. In many parts of the Middle-East, the heat can be so oppressive that you don’t even want to move around during most hours between sunset and sundown. This is especially true in the Gulf Region where it regularly pushes 45+ centigrade every day. Over the last few months, the world has witnessed the Winter of Arab discontent, and the Spring of Revolutions. However, another shift has begun: the Summer of Counter-Revolution is upon us.

The heat always kills optimism and the forces of counter-revolution and oppression have come to control the story. In Bahrain, the heat came early with an invasion by GCC forces (mainly Saudi), the destruction of Lulu (Pearl Roundabout), and a brutal clampdown by the Al Khalifa regime. Since then, Bahrain has seen the disappearance and arrests of hundreds of activists, the destruction of Shia mosques, the arrest and intimidation of doctors, torture, and other forms of state terror. The American government’s reaction in the face of the invasion and the brutal crackdown has been almost silence on these issues. However, they are not the only ones keeping silent. There has been an almost total media blackout orchestrated (no doubt) by Saudis and others.

When I was going the research for this article, there was a only a smattering of recent Western articles on what is going on in Bahrain. It is sad commentary when organizations like the BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera are simply MIA when it comes to coverage. The only one who is covering it is Iran’s PressTV which has its own agenda.

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The Angry Birds Phenomenon

Posted on April 25, 2011

Angry Birds is that rarest of games. Through simplicity and clever game design, the Finnish game maker, Rovio, has created an instant classic destined for greatness.

While initially released in Apple iOS, the rise of the game directly corresponds with the rise of the Android operating system for mobile phones. The growth Android hit a tipping-point at about the same time Angry Birds was hitting the main-stream. It quickly became the must-have game app for Android phones. However, Rovio has not been shy to port the game in as many forms as possible. As of the writing of this piece, there are currently Angry Birds versions for iOS, Maemo, Palm WebOS, Android, Symbian3, PSP/Playstation 3, Windows, and Mac OS. Angry Birds’ popularity has reached something of a milestone in March of 2011 with more than 100 million copies of the game downloaded.

Gameplay is simple but addictive. The player uses a slingshot to hurl various birds (with different actions) at the blobular pigs who have stolen the eggs of the thus angry birds. It takes skill, luck and logic to knockout all of the pigs on a given level screen. Action is divided into episodes. “Poached Eggs” is the initial episode that comes with the game. In February of 2010, Rovio released the second episode, “Mighty Hoax,” which included golden eggs which unlock the bonus episode, “Danger Above.” 2011 has brought a new episode, “Ham ‘em High” with a chapter released each month so far during 2011.

Rovio is currently planning a number of current commercial exploitations for their property with toys, cartoons, and possibly a movie in the offing. Possibly the most exciting development in the Angry Birds world is the upcoming port to Facebook. Facebook’s huge user-base and a rabid, built-in pre-existing fan-base is sure to make the game a huge hit on that platform when it arrives in May, 2011. It will be hard to keep people down on the farm once they have played Angry Birds.

In the meantime, the daily fight over my Android Tablet will continue with sound of, “Dad, dad, it’s my turn to play Angry Birds!”

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Travel Review: SmartWings to Prague

Posted on April 21, 2011

I am always a bit hesitant to try a new budget airline, but when I was doing my research for an ideal Spring Break destination I found that an airline I had not heard of at the time, SmartWings, was offering some fantastic fares out of my home in Dubai. For around $1200, I would be able to fly my family of four to one of the cultural capitals of Europe.

SmartWings was established in 2004 and is co-owned by a Czech company, Travel Service, and an Icelandic company. With its hub in Prague, Czech Republic, SmartWings currently flies to the following cities: Brno, Bratislava, Ostrava, Paris, Nantes, Gerona, Barcelona, Valencia, Ibiza, Malaga, Las Palmas, Tenerife, Palma de Mallorca, Menorca, Olbia, Cagliari, Nice, Rome, Pescara, Naples, Corfu, Preveza, Zakyntos, Chania, Split, Heraklion, Rhodes, Kos, Thessaloniki, Kavala, Burgas, Antalya, Larnaca and Dubai.

The menu of choices is extremely good if you want to hop from one holiday destination to the next. The plane fleet seems to consist of mainly leased Boeing 737-500 and 800 aircraft, so definitely old technology in terms of fleet. However, the flight turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Having looked at early reviews of the airline on several websites, I was almost having buyer’s remorse. There was an almost unending list of delays and general irritations posted by the reviewers. For the price I was paying, I waved these off, as most of them were a number of years old. I am glad I did give the airline a chance as it offered some pleasant surprises.

As anticipated, the planes were a bit older and didn’t offer the types of bells and whistles that most spoiled travelers have grown used to. There were no interactive entertainment centers, or even air phones for that matter. The seat space was typical Boeing (not quite enough), but it was better than some of my 747 experiences (yeah, I am talking about you, Lufthansa). The plane was only about two-thirds full, so I was able to fully stretch out in my own row and put in some quality nap time during the trip. The crew was helpful, and yes, friendly (a shock for a budget airline).

One of the most pleasing parts of the trip was the food and service. In terms of the amount and quality, SmartWings ranks highly, with such airlines as Emirates and Qatar. They offered several beverages and a full meal during the flight with no additional charge. The best part of the meal for this pork-deprived Western expat living in the Middle East (sorry, my halal and kosher friends) was the pig! I had read in all the guidebooks how pork-crazy the Czechs are. Apparently, this love of pork gets extended to airline meals.

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On the Passing of Doctor Who’s Elisabeth Sladen

Posted on April 21, 2011

I remember my first episodes of Doctor Who so well. I was about seven when I learned the trick of turning the antenna. On good days, if you pointed in the right direction, you could pick-up the Orlando station in addition to normal local stations.

One Sunday afternoon, I did the usual rotary move (by hand as we couldn’t afford one of the fancy mechanical turners) and found the strangest thing. It caught my attention straight away. In brilliantly clear black and white (once again all we could afford in the mid-’70s) I caught a riff of a bizarre theme, slightly like a theremin. The first scene I ever saw was with the crazy-curled coif of Jon Pertwee’s opera cloak-clad Doctor and Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith.

For more than three years (1973-1976), whether it was Pertwee, or Tom Baker and his never-unending scarf, Sarah Jane was always there, steadfast and unflinching as she ran around the various BBC gravel-pits that served as stand-in alien planets. For many Doctor Who fans, Sarah Jane was the ultimate companion. Being cute didn’t hurt either.

But, Sarah Jane wasn’t your typical sex object. In the age of women’s liberation, she was an independent women who survived by her wits. It was often her role to play the rational foil to the Doctor’s off the planet nuttiness. For that, she became more than just a companion. For a generation of sci-fi obsessed geeks, she became an icon.

That might have been enough, but the story doesn’t end there. In the years after 1976, Sladen made various guest appearances, most notably in several episodes of the re-revived series. There was such a positive reaction to these appearances that she was asked to star in a Doctor Who universe spin-off called The Sarah Jane Adventures. Looking nothing like a 60-something (she looked great), she introduced a whole new generation of sci-fi lovers to the character of Sarah Jane Smith, intrepid reporter and time-traveler. At the time I am writing these, my teen daughters (and yes they are sci-fi geeks too) will not have awoken to the news of Sladen’s passing. When they do, they will be greatly saddened by the passing of someone who gave so many hours of brilliant entertainment. It is now small measure of her acting achievement that I will always hope in my heart of hearts my daughters grow up to be just a little like the unstoppable, unshakable Sarah Jane.

Rest in peace, Elisabeth Sladen (1948-2011).

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Review of The Borgias – “Lucrezia’s Wedding”

Posted on April 20, 2011

The Borgias seems to have found its footing in the kindred souls of Cesare and Lucrezia. You could even call it their miseducation. Cesare has been systematically turned into an evil minion of his father over the first three episodes. It might be important to remember the historic Cesare was only 18 when he became a cardinal. Lucrezia on the other hand enters the episode a child of 14 and leaves as something else. A victim (I doubt, she is Rodrigo’s daughter), or no doubt a newly empowered monster.

The wedding finds the various members of the family falling more and more into debauchery for debaucheries sake. Jeremy Irons is particularly good making the audience squirm as decked in popish garb he lecherously paws his young mistress, Giulia Farnese.

I think it also important to notice that the costuming in this series finally reached the level that was seen in the Tudors. Vanozza dei Cattanei’s dress was amazing. However, the centerpiece of any wedding is the wedding dress. Lucrezia’s gold and white dress was nothing short of amazing. As in The Tudors, the costuming means more than just simple dress. When the young Lucrezia runs to her father the Pope to plead for her mother’s attendance at her wedding, bits of the put-together dress fall off. Like leaves on a tree, she is shedding her innocence.

With five more episodes to go, The Borgias promises a lot before the probable death of Rodrigo later this season. Showtime may yet have a big hit out of this one. Oh yeah, and I am starting a pool to see how long it takes for Sforza to start pushing-up daisies.

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Florida Set to Move on a “Show Me Your Papers” Immigration Bill- It May Cost the Republicans 2012

Posted on April 20, 2011

Rep. William Snyder’s (R, Stuart) proposal to halt illegal immigration cleared the Economic Affairs Committee of the Florida House on an 11-7 vote late last week. Snyder’s bill, which will now go to the full house, allows police to ask for proof residency for anyone under investigation. Additionally, any company with more than 100 employees would require documentation of residency for employment. Similar to Arizona’s infamous law, Snyder’s bill goes well beyond what is mandated by the Federal government. However, things aren’t just one big tea party in Florida over this. The tea has grown cold and slightly bitter over time.

Gov. Rick Scott (R) made similar legislation a center-piece of his campaign and supports the tough requirements being put forward in the Snyder bill. However, things are not so crystal clear for the Republican party at-large in Florida. Even the normal cheerleading of the Florida Chamber of Commerce for the Republican party has become muted over this issue. Adam Babbington, a Florida Chamber lobbyist, stated before the house committee, “The mere consideration of this bill is causing the image of the state of Florida to be tarnished.” Of course, he is exactly right. Draconian state legislation is no substitute for a real and effective federal immigration policy.

Rage has already been building in Florida’s immigrant communities over the content of the bill. Even traditionally staunch Republican supporters such as Miami’s Cuban exile community have not been supportive of the Governor and the legislature on this issue. Ana Navarro, a Republican activist, fundraiser and former McCain staffer was quoted in the Miami Herald as saying, “If they pass something that is viewed as anything similar to Arizona law, it could very well wind up costing us Florida in the 2012 presidential election.” Hispanic backlash against the Republican party could be a decisive factor in 2012 given the variables that may make 2012 a close race. If Obama’s approval ratings are in the 40’s and unemployment is still north of 8%, Florida may once again play the pivotal role of uber-swingstate and decide who wins the next election. If this issue is the cause, Republicans have only themselves to blame.

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