As I pack and make last minute arrangements for our Paris trip tomorrow [special instructions for our pet sitter, and such], just a few thoughts on the passing scene.
A troubling report by the Southern Poverty Law Center on the dramatic rise of right-wing vigilante and hate groups, preaching [and in some cases practicing] violence. The SPLC tracks hate groups, and reports a 54% spike in their numbers between 2000 and 2008. This is entirely separate from the Tea Party groups, which are populist protests on the right that, despite some nasty rhetoric, are considered by the SPLC to be quite different from the sorts of nativist violence-drenched groups they track. Contrary to what you might imagine, these groups are heavily concentrated up and down the eastern Seaboard and into the upper and lower South. There is, of course, a long history of such groups in America, but it is at least worth noting that the annual CPAC conference this year [Conservative Political Action Committees] was co-sponsored by the John Birch Society, which for decades was excluded from polite right-wing company because of the sheer paranoid craziness of its founder and members. [For those of you who are candy bar fans, remember that it was the man who started the company that made Mars bars who founded the John Birch Society. Sigh. I really like Mars bars.]
More signs of a revival of energy and determination in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Harry Reid, much maligned and in danger in his home state re-election bid, is talking about revising the filibuster rules come January. A change now would take sixty-seven votes, but in January it will only take fifty plus Joe Biden. Chuck Schumer is going to hold hearings, he says. Obama is in campaign mode for the closing of the deal on health reform. By this time, the political implications of a win are almost independent of the actual content of the bill. In the words of Thomas Hobbes, my favorite source of political wisdom and aphorisms, "the reputation of power is power." If Obama wins on health care reform, he is a winner, and thereby gains political power. He has just announced the intention of tackling immigration reform. You cannot accuse him of ducking the hard issues!
Avatar didn't win. I rather like the fact that Best Director went to James Cameron's former wife. Maybe story does matter. We are a long way from 1952 when The Greatest Show on Earth won best picture for Cecil B. DeMille. [For those who missed it, this was the schlock blockbuster to end all schlock blockbusters, with Betty Hutton and Cornel Wilde and the inevitable Charleton Heston. By comparison, The Ten Commandments was War and Peace.]
Since I am not a member of the Mainstream media, I am not obligated to comment on the bizarre tale of Eric Massa and Glen Beck. So I won't.
I will talk with you from Paris. toujours gai, as the cockroach Archy used to say. [Look it up]