Tina K. Russell

January 11, 2011

Dangerous rhetoric

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tina Russell @ 6:28 pm

Washington (CNN) – Rep. Robert Brady, D-Pennsylvania, said he will introduce legislation making it a federal crime for a person to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a Member of Congress or federal official.

Brady’s decision to offer the legislation comes less than 24 hours after a gunman attempted to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, in a shooting that claimed the lives of a federal judge, and a nine year-old girl, among others.

via Shooting prompts legislation to protect lawmakers, officials – CNN Political Ticker – CNN.com Blogs.

I think there are two problems with this:

  1. It sounds overly broad, of course. I’m sure there are plenty of innocuous, over-the-top Onion articles or Daily Show sketches that could be interpreted to encourage violence so as long as you don’t address their substance.
  2. Language explicitly inciting political violence is only part of the problem anyway. A larger problem is that when you say, as many radical opponents of Obama have taken any opportunity to tell us, that Barack Obama is a terrorist megalomaniac with a plan to subvert American democracy under his iron-fisted rule, you’re essentially saying the right idea is to kill him. If you compare him to Hitler, Stalin, Mao, etc., you’re comparing him to people for whom being assassinated early might have saved millions of lives. If people believe your inflated rhetoric and take it to its logical conclusion—kill Barack Obama and anyone allied with him—you cannot back away and say “oh, I didn’t mean that, I never said that.”

To be clear, such extreme language should also be protected, because it is sometimes true. But, you must take responsibility when people believe you and then do what only seems rational based upon it.  If you truly don’t want to see violence against Obama and his allies, you shouldn’t compare Obama to Hitler.

October 3, 2009

The President’s safety

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:33 pm

Thomas Friedman: “I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or left. But something very dangerous is happening. Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination… Even if you are not worried that someone might draw from these vitriolic attacks a license to try to hurt the president, you have to be worried about what is happening to American politics more broadly.”

via A Dangerous Environment — Political Wire.

My concern about the guy with the assault rifle at the Presidential rally has always been this: Though we’ve all feared for Barack Obama’s safety, given raw memories of the assassinations of the sixties and his immense symbolic power, I’ve always taken comfort in that no President today would ever ride, say, uncovered in a parade going past an abandoned book depository. I’ve always thought that, with advances in Secret Service practice and Presidential custom, Obama is not in the kind of danger that JFK (or RFK or MLK for that matter, or Lincoln) was.

All that changes when members of Congress defend Americans’ “right” to bring loaded assault weapons to Presidential town halls, when the Secret Service is brought under the wing of the dysfunctional Department of Homeland Security and is subsequently cut back, and mainstream voices shout louder and louder that Obama is hijacking the country for filling his electoral mandate.

Mock the President, ridicule the President, do whatever you need to do; it’s an American tradition and a cornerstone of democracy. But we, as Americans, all have a right not to have to fear for his life. The JFK’s assassination was traumatic for the country, and no one, on any side of the current debates, wants it repeated. Most of the reason I’m so bothered by the political climate, and its both implicit and explicit threats of violence, is that I do not want to worry about whether or not the President is safe.

July 12, 2009

Dignity, honor, and pride

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:57 pm

To the Editor:

David Brooks’s search for dignity is misplaced. Dignity, as a social device, didn’t survive World War II.

Yet, while the criteria may be different, there are people who possess that hard-to-define quality called “class,” which is a practical manifestation of kindness, respect for others, proper upbringing and the everyday application of the Golden Rule.

In his day, some derided the joke-telling Lincoln as undignified, yet no president had more class.

What should concern Mr. Brooks is the vanishing of personal honor, in government, business and family, which frees powerful men to cheat on their wives and their taxes, exploit workers, lie to voters and cheat stockholders and consumers with impunity.

Sheldon Bunin

Jackson Heights, Queens, July 7, 2009

via Letters – The Demise of Dignity in America – NYTimes.com.

Pride is your best friend and your worst enemy. At its best, pride forces you to have standards for yourself, to maintain what you’ve invested in so much. At its worst, pride is a sense of entitlement, a shamelessness that you justify with delusions of superiority.

There’s a Yu-Gi-Oh! manga story where Yugi faces the arrogant, cheating Bandit Keith (he of “In America!”), who refuses to play by the rules of the “Duelist Kingdom” island tournament because he’s not an official contestant. However, Keith plans to use his cheating ways to defeat enough players to force the judges to recognize him. In Keith’s mind, the island is a no-man’s-land where the rules don’t apply to him.

When Yugi defeats Keith fair and squire, Keith is dumbfounded. He thought his cheating strategies were perfect. Keith was too pig-headed to examine his own weaknesses before presuming victory.

So, Yugi gives him some advice. “Do you know what the rule of this island is?” he asks.

Keith huffs.

“A duelist’s pride,” Yugi says.

You wouldn’t think Keith’s worst vice was not having enough pride, and in a way, it was not. Keith had pride, but not the right kind.

July 10, 2009

Forgiveness

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 12:19 am

Letters – How Should We Remember Robert McNamara? – NYTimes.com
To the Editor:

What is one to make of this man’s life? It was, certainly, classically tragic: the war with which he will forever be linked was caused not by inadequate skills or lack of diligence, but by his failure to question that which his boundless intelligence and diligence caused him to believe.

Like the classic Greek tragic heroes, he came to understand his folly and yet was unable to change it. He died apparently haunted by his error.

It is impossible not to feel empathy for this man. But when one thinks of the tens of thousands of young men and women who died young as a result of the Vietnam War, it is impossible to forgive him.

Frederick T. Davis
Paris, July 7, 2009

“Forgiveness doesn’t mean pretending things aren’t as they really are. Forgiveness is the recognition that a ghastliness has happened. And forgiveness doesn’t mean trying to paper over the cracks, which is what people do when they say, ‘Let bygones be bygones.’ Because they will not. They have an incredible capacity for always returning to haunt you. Forgiveness means that the wronged and the culprits of those wrongs acknowledge that something happened. And there is necessarily a measure of confrontation. People sometimes think that you shouldn’t be abrasive. But sometimes you have to be to make someone acknowledge that they have done something wrong. Then once the culprit says, ‘I am sorry,’ the wronged person is under obligation, certainly if he or she is a Christian, to forgive. And forgiving means actually giving the opportunity of a new beginning.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

May 20, 2009

Screw You, GQ

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 9:35 am

AND HE SHALL BE JUDGED: GQ Features on men.style.com

Bloody hell.

So, GQ magazine (yes, that GQ) decides to go all highbrow and run a thrilling exposé on Donald Rumsfeld being an even bigger jerk—and even more incompetent—than we ever knew, which, given what he knew before, is really saying something. I saw the coverage on The Rachel Maddow Show, and it did look very interesting. And, guess what.

You might be aware that I have ADD. You might not be aware that I, uh, swing both ways. Perhaps I shouldn’t call myself out on that, here; I imagine that any straight woman can appreciate a beautiful woman, just as any straight man can and won’t admit to appreciating a beautiful man. But, yes, Tina Russell is bisexual, though this does not need to come up often in my blog topics.

And so, the sadistic fools at GQ decided to design their brilliant exposé to be the sort of thing that would interest and anger me; a veritable Tina trap, geared to be the most painful to my personal psyche. Here we go:

The text is tiny. I mean, really tiny. You can make it bigger, of course, but that’s beside the point.

The article is on ten pages. I loathe multi-page articles; you might notice that I link to the full-page versions of articles whenever I can. Reaching the end of each page, each click, each wait, each load, is a new opportunity to forget whatever it was I was doing, or, more accurately, to lose the wonderful sense of being lost in my reading. These page breaks are heinous crimes against those with ADD.

And, just to rub salt in the wound, there isn’t even much on each page; I guess they wanted it to be “more like reading the magazine,” that is, if the magazine required you to point at a small link, wait ten seconds, and watch your field of vision redraw itself each time you wanted to turn the page. (Though, this is GQ. If I were reading the magazine, I’d probably have to flip through pages of cologne ads, quizzes, and bulleted lists of things “she” won’t tell you she loves in bed, because you’re too shallow to ask her and you’ve decided that buying this magazine is an appropriate substitute for communication in your relationship. Moving on…)

Each page has a promo for GQ in the upper-right corner. Specifically, it’s the GQ cover with Jennifer Aniston naked.

How in the Lord’s name am I supposed to read an article that’s a) on ten, separate, short pages, b) in bizarre, tiny text, and c) when Jennifer Aniston is naked in the upper-right corner?! They want to be reading about Donald Rumsfeld this way? Are they nuts?

And this is an important piece! This is a vital journalistic service! In fact, this may be the first vital journalistic service to be completely undone by a nude Jennifer Aniston. And to that I say, shame!

(I should mention that, as a transsexual woman who likes other women—it actually seems to be rather common, as gender identity and sexual orientation are seperate phenomena, and transsexuals have the privilege of seeing under the table of gender and perceiving what a charade it all is anyway—naked Jennifer Aniston does two things to me. One, she is beautiful, so I drool. Two, she is out there, with the body I would want, using the body I would want, using it to make people happy. I imagine this feeling of conflict is common to all women who have a thing for our fairer sex, however… when you’re transsexual, it’s the source of the deepest sort of existential angst, the kind that keeps you awake at night and can break your spirit at its core. I might talk about it sometime… if I feel like it.)

I suppose GQ wants to be more like Vanity Fair these days: ten percent fairly good journalism, and ninety percent utter vanity. Well, good luck. Perhaps, not long from now, people will say they read GQ just for the brilliant exposés. And, of course, they won’t, they can’t, because they’re too distracted by the exposure.

April 28, 2009

Gavin Newsom and the hedgehog vote

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 9:32 pm

When I heard that San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom was running for governor of California, I was very happy. You see, when the Walk of Game exhibit at the Sony Metreon in San Francisco opened in 2005, with Sonic The Hedgehog among its first inductees, Mayor Newsom spent some time hobnobbing with videogame heroes. (Presumably, he was courting the gamer demographic, which we could call “the question-mark bloc.”) Here is the defining picture of that event, and what I always think of when I hear the name “Gavin Newsom”:

newsom_and_sonic

That’s right. Mayor Newsom has his arm around a celebrating Sonic The Hedgehog. You have no idea how happy this photo made me: a politician, one with influence, is angling to be seen living it up with my favorite blue hero. (No doubt Fox News must have thought this made California look weak in the face of videogame threats.)

What amused me the most is to imagine a publicist fretting away at Newsom’s office that morning, pacing frantically and telling Newsom, “you know what you need? We need you to be seen putting your arm around… a blue hedgehog!” (You know, because you have to court the blue hedgehog demographic. You need to show that you care about animal and spectral diversity.) The truth is that it felt like he was doing it for me, for gamers everywhere, telling us that he gets the importance of videogames and modern technology, gets why I would like such a silly and idealistic hero. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t, but he made me happy that day.

February 14, 2009

The Smut-Hawley (UPDATED)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 12:09 pm

Washington porn tax would fund social program – OregonLive.com
OLYMPIA — State Rep. Mark Miloscia of Federal Way has proposed a 19 percent tax on pornography.

He wants the revenue to save a program that provides money to people unable to work because of physical or mental disabilities.

The General Assistance-Unemployable program would be cut in the budget proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire.

The legislation would tax adult magazines and video, telephone services and paraphernalia.

The tax would need a supermajority vote of the Legislature or approval by voters. Miloscia told The Spokesman-Review he’s confident his proposal would pass if it went to a statewide vote.

I think this is a terrible idea for 3 reasons:

  1. You’re taxing a specific kind of speech. Why not single out action movies or picture books for a tax? It’s not even the medium that defines what is being taxed in this proposal, just the content.
  2. A program that depends on revenue from porn taxes is a program that depends on the flourishing of the porn industry, not exactly I goal I think lawmakers in Washington State have in mind. Here in Oregon, a distressing amount of our money comes from the lottery and from video poker machines, and as a result, the government rolls over instantly whenever the gambling industry asks us for anything.
  3. It creates an inappropriate stigma. Gasoline taxes are often used for road repair because the costs and benefits stay within the same group (people who use roads). What is the connection between porn and the difficulty of people with disabilities to find employment? As someone with a learning disability, I benefit from school and government considerations all the time; society as a whole benefits when all are able to succeed regardless of circumstance, so I’m not sure why consumers of pornography should be singled out to pay.

In short, I see no reason why we should tax porn-consuming Peter to pay disabled Paul; it’s mean-spirited, it’s opportunistic, and it’s offensive. I support these kinds of government programs and wish the taxes would be spread among those who benefit (everyone), rather than targeting a specific group for no reason.

Update: It died. One reason cited is that a fellow state senator “foresaw problems with a bill that would put a different sales tax on goods based on content.” I believe the legislative term for this is “no sheezy.”

February 7, 2009

Partisanship

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:46 pm

David Brooks:

Op-Ed Columnist – The Gang System – NYTimes.com
Barack Obama is not initiating events (he’s had surprisingly little influence on the stimulus bills’ evolution). But circumstances now present him with a precedent-setting moment of decision. Does he embrace the Gang System and try to use it to create a new style of politics? Or does he remain an orthodox Democrat, deferring to the Old Bulls on legislation, enforcing party discipline and trying to pick off a Republican or two here and there to pass laws?

The liberals already are mobilizing against the Moderate Gangs. On Thursday, the liberal interest groups were intensively lobbying against the stimulus cuts. But there’s no way that Obama, who spent two years campaigning on postpartisan politics, can reject the single biggest manifestation of postpartisanship in the country today. If he does that, his credibility will be shot.

I really, really hate this idea, that it is somehow virtuous to compromise in every situation, at the exact midpoint of what each side is requesting. There’s no thought involved; you just declare yourself a moderate, step back, and feel righteous. It makes no allowance for the fact that, in a polarized political world, the center is itself subjective because it’s determined by the poles. It’s especially frustrating to those who support one side or the other, because the feeling is that you haven’t even looked at our ideas; you’ve just tarred us as “partisan,” dismissed us as “the liberals” or “the conservatives.”

It also perpetuates an irritating stalemate in American politics, where the party of good government and the party of small government compromise with a big government that doesn’t work. It’s everywhere in the government we have (and possibly deserve); it’s what you get with a longstanding mentality of “starve the beast.” If liberals aren’t willing to confront that head-on, then we aren’t worth our salt in politics. If conservatives were unwilling to defend their beliefs, I’m not sure why they would be in politics, either.

I’m also irritated whenever I hear the word “post-partisan.” I voted for Barack Obama largely because I saw shades of the Wellstone model of politics in him (after all, they both came from academia and mastered grassroots organizing). In the late Sen. Paul Wellstone’s method (described in The Conscience of a Liberal: Reclaiming the Compassionate Agenda, not to be confused with Paul Krugman’s book of a similar name), you don’t give up your principles; you hold strongly to them, but you also reach across the aisle to find where your strong beliefs intersect with others’, even those of your supposed ideological archenemies. Wellstone hopped from coffee shop to coffee shop both to campaign and to get feedback on what his potential constituents wanted; what he found was that people who identified as strongly liberal, strongly conservative, or anywhere in between were still mainly concerned with the same issues, like good schools and healthcare. If you get beyond those labels, you can get a lot more done.

So, to hear that the only way Barack Obama can get past the partisan gridlock of Washington is to abandon his principles makes my blood boil. We’ve suffered through decades of conservatives absolutely convinced in the most radical solutions to every problem, and liberals struggling to compromise and giving themselves a raw deal. Barack Obama can and should do what he feels is right, what is in his best judgment, exercising the faith we placed in him through election.

The difference between this and the Bush era needs to be listening and careful consideration. Barack Obama needs to communicate with Republicans, get their input, and address their concerns just as he must do with Democrats. He must treat them equally as governing partners in a system of checks and balances, and as duly elected representatives of their constituencies. He must respect their experience and value their opinion.

Congressional roll calls are a childish way of measuring this, however. If not a single Republican voted for the stimulus in the House, perhaps they were exercising their right not to agree with the President in the end. That is their right, and it doesn’t mean the President is dismissing their concerns, nor does it mean the bill isn’t better for their input. It certainly doesn’t mean we should hold our political process hostage, watering down the bill until the numbers look more “post-partisan.” Sometimes that merely means devoid of strong ideas.

Our political process works through vigorous debate, and it’s for good reason that nothing mandates that everyone agree. In addition, in some situations, a compromise can be worse than either original proposal. Bipartisanship and cooperation are worthy goals. Post-partisanship, silencing the voices of all those who have strength in their convictions, is not.

December 23, 2008

Vice precedent

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 2:33 am

Letters – A Tax on Sugary Sodas? – NYTimes.com
To the Editor:

Re “Miracle Tax Diet,” by Nicholas D. Kristof (column, Dec. 18):

It may very well be that a higher tax on sugary soda would shrink Empire State waistlines as it fattens Albany’s coffers. But what ultimate price, in terms of individual freedom, shall we pay if the state starts dictating our dietary and lifestyle choices?

Using the rubric of better overall health as a “sweetener” for government intrusion in citizens’ private lives could damage our liberties in the same way that high-fructose corn syrup may have had on our body-mass measurements.

I’m happy to have government give me information with which I can make informed decisions, but let the choice be mine — untaxed and unfettered, please.

Mark A. Kellner
Columbia, Md., Dec. 18, 2008

I may have mentioned this before (I don’t remember), but John Stuart Mill had a few things to say on this in his essay, On Liberty. He spends good chunks of the essay condemning government attempts to limit individual choice, even bad choices, if they do not affect others. But, on the subject of vice taxes (see chapter 5, paragraph 9), he notes that governments have to raise money, that taxes are best levied on items that are nonessential, and that a vice is, by definition, nonessential. If it’s actively harmful to us, it’s something we can spare from our budgets, and therefore a good option for a tax.

As it happens, government actively subsidizes candy and fast-food through our ridiculous farm subsidy system, and a subsidy is a reverse tax. Government already influences our nutritional habits, and the question is whether or not they’re doing so in good faith.

December 22, 2008

Victorious Transsexuals: Bülent Ersoy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 12:34 am

Middle East Online
ISTANBUL – A Turkish court Thursday acquitted a famed transsexual singer of charges of turning the public against military service, citing clauses protecting free speech, Anatolia news agency reported.

Bulent Ersoy, 56, was put on trial after she said in February that if she had a son, she would not send him to the army to fight Kurdish rebels, whose 24-year campaign for self-rule in the southeast has claimed about 44,000 lives.

The court ruled that the alleged offence had not been committed and the defendant had exercised her right to freedom of expression, Anatolia said.

FREE SPEECH WIN! I hope this gives Turkey some serious EU points, with the possibility of many more if they reform the law itself.

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