25 April 2010

Putting the Soviet in "red state"

So Jan Brewer swears that SB 1070, the new Arizona law that requires -- not allows, but requires -- police officers to check the immigration status of anyone who even looks like an "illegal alien," doesn't amount to a state mandate for racial profiling.  Let's pretend that this law isn't unconstitutional on its face, and look at just the environment -- GOP-dominated Arizona -- that just spawned it.
  • SB 1070's author, Russell Pearce, is a favorite of white supremacists, and he's apparently not averse to returning the favor.
  • Besides SB 1070, the Republican-dominated Arizona house also passed a "birther bill" this week.  It requires Presidential candidates to show state officials their birth certificates.
  • Just two years ago, Arizona snubbed the controversial REAL ID program, the Bush Administration's scheme to create federal-level identity cards.  Apparently, the state thinks it's okay if a form of REAL ID only applies to brown people.
  • Oh, yeah, there's Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the jail-loving thug whose approach to immigration can be very charitably described as ruthless.  It's not hard to envision his cronies suing police departments who don't toe his hard line.  Now they'll have the backing of the state.
  • Did I mention that Sheriff Joe seems to love racial profiling?
I wouldn't trust any immigration law Arizona puts on its books these days -- not least this one.  Are you an American of Mexican descent, who's been a U.S. citizen for generations?  Salvadoran?  Brazilian?  How about Italian, Indian or Lebanese?  If you're not lily-white in Arizona, you'd better have papers ready.  (That goes for you, too, John Boehner.)

Welcome to Soviet Arizona.  Maybe Phoenix Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky should take his puck and go home.

12 April 2010

Late to the Confederate-bashing ball

Last week, Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, known here at the Cat as The Old Dominionist, declared April "Confederate History Month."  Studying Confederate history -- or rather, the Civil War the C.S.A. spawned in its secession attempt -- is one thing.  The war and its effects live at the core to Americans' very identity.  (Go see blog buddy Matty Boy's eloquent summary of the Confederacy and what it still means.)

Celebrating Confederate history, however, is another matter.  I've heard conservative and libertarian apologists personally tell me that the Civil War was really a conflict about states' rights.  Sure, it was -- if the most important right to was the one that let white men own slaves.  Back in Virginia, Gov. McDonnell tried to pretend, in fact, that slavery had no role in the Civil War.  That's bunk, as he surely learned when he read the Confederacy's own constitution.  It's hard, then, to interpret his declaration as anything more than the latest iteration of the Republican Party's Southern Strategy.

Whatever McDonnell intended, the ensuing attacks have been furious.  In fact, a co-dependence has developed between the modern Republican party and the South, particularly its more conservative and reactionary elements.  Attacking that particular relationship is okay.  Modern conservatism sucks, no matter where it is espoused.  Expanding that attack to target the South as a whole, however, is problematic.

For example, calling on Texas to secede just because it's dominated by its own GOP might feel good.  Heck, I've felt like doing that, if only because it will rid us of Rick "Goodhair" Perry and his crony-capitalist toll-road schemes.  At times, I've felt like I've had some authority to do it.  I was born in Texas; I've spent a third of my life there; and almost all my extended family still calls it home.  At one point, however, my immediate family was spread from North Carolina to Northern California, and from Arizona to Minnesota.  None of us, however, has lived in Texas since early 1995.  The political climate outside Austin has just been too much for us to endure.

On the other hand, because my family was in Texas when it was still Mexican territory, I don't feel attacked when others criticize the South, its slavery-afflicted past or its current state.  It's clear to me that attacks on the Confederacy and its continuing influence aren't about us, the descendants of Mexicans.  The real targets are -- or should be -- racialist white mendicants who, like McDonnell, Perry and Mississippi governor Hayley Barbour, keep invoking the stillborn C.S.A. as a campaign tactic.

It isn't that broadly attacking the South doesn't inflict collateral damage.  Over the past week, I've seen progressive Southerners (white and otherwise) take offense to the attacks in blog comments.  It's understandable; I've never seen any of them claim that the Confederacy is a purely positive part of their heritage.  But clearly, many white Southerners -- and a distressingly high number of whites in my corner of the North -- openly wave the Confederate flag.  If those folks feel like targets, well, maybe they should.

04 April 2010

The Ghost-Grey Cat Presents: (6) Journey to Jerusalem

Episode 518:  Journey to Jerusalem
First aired:  14 September 1976
Author:  Sam Dann

Play the teaser
You still do not accept Jerusalem?  It is not a place on a map!  It exists in the heart, the soul.
     Mme. Solanos to Elwood Joris
Happy Easter, y'all.  This year's Blog Against Theocracy is live for the weekend, and I had originally thought to post something over there.  Heaven knows that there's plenty to blog about.  For example, the thought of replacing Thomas Jefferson with Phyllis Schlafly in textbooks is so offensive, it barely merits the response, " 'Seriously?'."  The lolcatty "Srsly?" would be more appropriate if the stakes for U.S. education weren't so high.

It's the much wider range of possible topics that ultimately sunk that full-blown blog post.  My attempts to choose a subject sent me in too many different directions.  As I was still making up my mind, coincidence put "Journey to Jerusalem" on my iTunes playlist.  It occurred to me that this would be a good episode to review on Easter Weekend.

Like quite a few RMT episodes, Episode 518 carries a strong Abrahamic undercurrent.  That larger group of episodes consists of three subgroups: (1) a pair of inspirational stories so awful, they wouldn't make the cut on Unshackled; (2) straight crime dramas in which characters attribute their fates to Godly intervention; and (3) horror stories pitting ordinary people against Satan, demons, dybbuks and/or other forces of Hell.  A few of these episodes derive from Jewish legend, while others occur in Christian settings, but none specifically mentions Jesus Christ.

"Journey to Jerusalem" belongs to the larger category, but not any of the subcategories.  Instead of demons or divine intervention, it concentrates on Jerusalem, and its meaning two the two main characters.  As becomes apparent during the course of the plot, Jerusalem is far more than a holy city to them.

The main character is Elwood Joris (Vincent Gardenia, in his only RMT appearance), a self-made billionaire whose rags-to-riches life has left him lonely and even a bit paranoid.  Now in middle age, he is discovering that his riches cannot buy back the things he sacrificed to make them.  Joris especially wants his youth back, but no one is selling.

Enter Madame Solanos (Joan Shea).  At first glance, she is merely a dark-haired, dark-eyed crank.  Newly evicted on her landlord's suspicion that she is also a con artist, she has appealed to Joris for help.  Her pleas go ignored until, at the end of Act I, she threatens to blackmail Joris's receptionist.  Once she does meet with him, Mme. Solanos demands that Joris help her, and tells him what she has done to those who oppose her.

Although Joris judges her threat and her power to both be credible, he resists.  In fact, he threatens to use his connections to jail Mme. Solanos.  But persistence, and an eloquent appeal to his better angels, convice him that she can acutally help him regain his youth.  They join forces, finally -- but to what end?

It's not clear exactly who or what Mme. Solanos is.  She regards Jerusalem not just as a city, but as "the spirit of justice."  She wants to help others find Jerusalem, especially Joris.  Gifted with supernatural powers, she also regards herself as an instrument of God.  But if that's true, why does she care about helping Joris, but not anyone else?  Why use her powers to blackmail his receptionist, or bring grievous harm to two of his associates?  So far as we can tell, the only things that distinguish Joris are his material wealth and his loneliness.  Whatever she is, Mme. Solanos is certainly no angel.

As for Joris:  why does he want his youth back?  Is it just regret, or does he fear for his soul?  For some reason, a famous phrase comes to mind, one that appears in three Gospels of the New Testament.  I'll just quote the one from the Gospel of Mark, in which he is advising a rich young man who wants to reach Heaven:
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.  (Mark 10: 25)
According to Mark, Jesus made this declaration at a stop on a journey to Jerusalem -- just before he again predicted his death and resurrection to his twelve apostles.

Back to this story, though.  RMT generally didn't believe in multi-part stories -- its five exceptions were all week-long epics -- but this almost felt like Part 1 of a two-part episode.  It works very well as is, but its ambition certainly left it open to a two-hour plot.  Either way, it's one of the more challenging episodes in the series.

Grade:  93/100.  "Journey to Jerusalem" was one carefully selected title for an ambitious story.

03 April 2010

Forecasts from San Antonio and Indanapolis

Tomorrow, on Easter Sunday, I'll post something that's actually personal.  I promise.

Today, though, it's time for another sports column.  More to the point, it's time to publicly mourn my ruined college basketball brackets.

To tell the truth, I didn't bother filling a bracket on the women's side this year.  Geno Auriemma has turned his squad of young women into the frakking Borg.  As I had feared, the Huskies won all their regional games by at least 36 points.  Only Florida State managed to avoid getting doubled up; UConn eliminated them by just 90-50.

As I expected, Stanford also made it to San Antonio, but just barely.  With senior manicure rebounding goddess Jayne Appel well below 100% strength, the Cardinal got through only because (1) Xavier's Dee Dee Jernigan missed two open layups in 11 of the last 12 seconds and (2) in the 12th second, Jeannette Pohlen showed Tyus Edney how to make 95-foot runs to the basket.  It shouldn't have been that close, but Stanford made it through.

Which means that UConn could still find its winning streak ended at 77 games.  As I see it, only Stanford has the physical conditioning to even run with the Huskies.  It's perfectly reasonable to speculate that Baylor can win in its home state.  The Lady Bears' dismissals of Tennessee and Duke testify to their talent and willpower.  Right now, unfortunately, a win over UConn in Sunday's semifinal would be the second greatest upset in American sports history.  Only the Miracle on Ice would trump that.

Incidentally, Stanford crushes Oklahoma in the other semifinal.  That sets up a rematch with UConn come next Tuesday.  This weekend, yet another version of the Perseus legend is opening at movie houses.  The inevitable UConn-Stanford final will be a clash of the titanesses.

Over on the men's side, I did fill out a bracket, and my first weekend was an impressive success.  I got 23 first-round results right, including Murray State over Vanderbilt.  When I then got 10 of the Sweet 16 right, I figured I was set to sweep the nation.  But reality set in in the third round:  of my predicted Elite Eight, only West Virgina survived.

The thing I've noticed about this year's men's tournament is how much the fundamentals have mattered.  Butler has had those down better than anyone else in the last five years, so their appearance in the Final Four shouldn't be a big surprise.  Nor should it surprise anyone if, this Monday night, the Indianapolis-based Bulldogs cut down the nets, only 10 kilometers from their own campus.