Why Super Bowl is a distinctly American cultural event

Whether you are a fan of the Denver Broncos or Seattle Seahawks, it doesn’t matter because the game itself has proven to be merely the backdrop for a cultural event that is distinctly American.

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Via: Fox Opines

    

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An Opening to Challenge Hillary

Andrew Sullivan here sums up the monumental sense of inevitability surrounding Hillary Clinton’s capture of Democratic nomination of 2016. He quotes Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan from the Washington Post, and their numbers sound pretty convincing:

Clinton stands at an eye-popping 73 percent in a hypothetical 2016 primary race with Biden, the sitting vice president, who is the only other candidate in double digits at 12 percent. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has signed a letter along with a handful of other Democratic senators urging Clinton to run, is at 8 percent. And that’s it.

That lead is almost three times as large as the one Clinton enjoyed in Post-ABC polling in December 2006, the first time we asked the 2008 Democratic presidential primary ballot question.

Yet no one I know in progressive circles is the least bit excited about Hillary. Either she seems too old (which she may well be) or too much a captive of Wall Street neoliberalism (American inequality began to accelerate during the Clinton era) or is too close to the Israel lobby. Her refusal to endorse Obama’s diplomacy with Iran is suggestive evidence of the latter.

I would conclude that her hold on the nomination is solid, if she wants it, if there are no scandals surprises or health problems. Still, someone could make a real name for him or herself running against her from the Left. It’s not going to be Howard Dean, who is no spring chicken himself and has his own Israel lobby related problems, having opted to serve as an occasional spokesman for the Iranian terror group MEK. (Or, as it were, the organization, “formerly designated as” a terror group.)

But it could be someone younger, who also opposed the Iraq war and who (unlike Dean) stands against the various efforts to maneuver the United States into war with Iran. Such a candidate almost certainly would not win, but because the press needs a horse race, they would garner a massive amount of attention and emerge as a major national figure.

The obvious precedent is Pat Buchanan’s campaign against George H.W. Bush in 1992. It was obviously doomed not to succeed, running against a president whose approval ratings eighteen months before the election were sky high. But the campaign succeeded fabulously in building an organization and staking claim to an interrelated series of issues (in PJB’s case, non-intervention, immigration restriction, trade protectionism, as well as the “culture war” stuff.) There was plenty of running room on these issues, and the campaign set the stage for a much closer run in 1996. But a Democratic “progressive” in 2016 would have far more traction going up against Hillary. Who is going to take advantage of it? That’s one of the more interesting questions of next few years.

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Via: American Conservative

    

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A Wonderful, Wilde Mess by the Shakespeare Theatre

At the beginning of Oscar Wilde’s classic “The Importance of Being Earnest,” Algernon Moncrieff declares, “The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!” The whole play embodies this fact: intertwined with deception, intrigue, and revelation, Wilde’s characters build from deception to revelation. Now extended through March, Washington, D.C.’s Shakespeare Theatre Company adaptation (Lansburgh Theatre) is delightful.

Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest,” set in Victorian England, centers on the stories of gentlemen Ernest Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff: two pleasant but lazy friends who enjoy London society. Ernest actually visits London under a false name—his real identity is that of Jack Worthing, country estate owner, guardian to an 18-year-old orphan, and dignified member of the local community. For years, he has pretended to have a scandalous younger brother named “Ernest,” thus creating an alibi for his own adventures and scrapes in London. Whenever Jack goes to visit his “wicked brother,” he becomes the young dandy himself. Meanwhile, Algernon (or “Algy”) is Wilde’s own brilliant and foppish self-projection. Algy also has faked an identity: he has invented a poor invalid friend named “Bunbury,” who enables him to escape tedious social engagements. Neither man sees anything wrong with his sham: Ernest’s fake brother enables him to escape his country responsibilities and enjoy the city’s dazzling social sphere. For Algy, the fa├žade serves as an artistic and delightful trick he can play on his friends and family.

At the beginning of the play, “Ernest” arrives in the city intent on proposing to Algy’s lovely cousin, Gwendolen. But a subsequent proposal reveals an inherent and perplexing obstacle: while Gwendolen is eager and ready to marry Ernest, her eagerness in part (or whole) rests on his invented name: “We live in an age of ideals,” she tells him. “My ideal,” she continues, “has always been to love some one of the name of Ernest. There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence.”

It’s an incredibly ironic moment in the play. Gwendolen does not care for real “earnestness” in a husband—what truly matters is the mere label, the name. This skewed idealism is the focus of many Wildean jabs throughout the production: almost every character has a set of ideals they hold high, yet their actions are often consciously antithetical to these ideals. Gwendolen’s mother, Lady Bracknell, emphasizes birth, breeding, and money over everything else—but in a moment of truth near the end of the play, she admits, “When I married Lord Bracknell I had no fortune of any kind.”

This concept of idealistic veneer was metaphorized wonderfully (and I think consciously, though it’s impossible to know for certain) in STC’s set: the curtain and Algy’s parlor (scene for the first act) were both completely gilded. There is a shimmering gold over everything, yet we know it’s only a cover up—much like the lives of our characters. The second and third acts take place in Ernest’s country garden, …read more

Via: American Conservative

    

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What search for “Adam’s genes” tells us about ourselves

The search for “Adam’s genes” tells a compelling story – a story of more than unlocking the genetic code of the first human, but also a story of the human desire to see meaning and purpose in all that we do, whether we consider ourselves religious or not.

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Via: Fox Opines

    

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The Importance of Working Earnestly

Nineteenth century artists believed in art for its own sake. Has this attitude trickled into our expectations of how we should live?

In the 19th century, Aesthetics were the new kids on the intellectual block: they clamored on behalf of art for its own sake. Pleasure and beauty were the only ideals worth attaining. Art and morality were not diametrically opposed, but one should have no bearing on the other. Not all artists or cultural critics took to this philosophy—Evelyn Waugh outgrew it after an experimental phase; Matthew Arnold argued against it in his essay On Culture and Anarchy; Oscar Wilde warned against the consequences of unchecked indulgence in his Faustian novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Ironically, Wilde, most famously associated with the Aesthetic movement, wrote the most effective case against it by creating a character longing to escape Victorian constraints and social mores. While some might point out that Wilde’s homosexual lifestyle flouted Victorian convention, the argument can still be made that he did not eschew all mores.

The end of the twentieth century and beginning of the twenty-first have seen the rise of a new aestheticism: professional aestheticism, in which emotional satisfaction supplants the ideal of a job well done. After all, the reasoning goes, you are in your cubicle for at least eight hours a day—shouldn’t you enjoy what you’re doing? Bathed in the fairytales of Zuckerberg, Gates, and Jobs, we are lulled into believing that we too can drop out of college and leave “square” careers in favor of entrepreneurial independence. Much like Dorian Gray’s desire for relief from the social straitjacket, disgruntled workers seek to allay their malaise by going the way of the ubiquitous startup, the untamed West of the professional universe. At the top of the liberal arts totem pole sits the envied but ultimately insignificant Thought Leader, humorously described by David Brooks in a December 13 column.

This desire for workplace satisfaction in the face of lean economic times has created an awkward tension on both the supply and demand side of the labor force. For one thing, you can’t be happy at a job you don’t have: unemployment, while decreasing, still hovers at seven percent. Secondly, the expectation of being happy at work has devolved into entitlement, following this line of thought: if I am not happy at work, then I am undervalued and must be wasting away. It’s a vaguely Marxist premise, assuming oppression that disregards the basic model of labor economics and alternate paths to better opportunities.

Still, work with a purely utilitarian motive is not the answer, at least not as a viable alternative to workplace bliss. Humans are not automata, and a value of work beyond simply putting food on the table is warranted. It’s important to be aware of why one is working, to strive for a larger goal other than meeting the standard obligations. This arrangement of priorities presupposes the willingness to overlook the occasional encroachments on workplace comforts. In other words, if …read more

Via: American Conservative

    

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How the GOP Sold Out Middle America for Corporate America

Out of the Republican retreat on Maryland’s Eastern shore comes word that the House leadership is raising the white flag of surrender on immigration. The GOP will agree to halt the deportation of 12 million illegal aliens, and sign on to a blanket amnesty. It only asks that the 12 million not be put on a path to citizenship. Sorry, but losers do not dictate terms. Rich Trumka of the AFL-CIO says amnesty is no longer enough. Illegal aliens must be put on a path to citizenship and given green cards to work—and join unions.

Rep. Paul Ryan and the Wall Street Journal are for throwing in the towel. Legalize them all and start them on the path to citizenship. A full and final capitulation. Let’s get it over with. To understand why and how the Republican Party lost Middle America, and faces demographic death, we need to go back to Bush I.

At the Cold War’s end, the GOP reached a fork in the road. The determination of Middle Americans to preserve the country they grew up in, suddenly collided with the profit motive of Corporate America. The Fortune 500 wanted to close factories in the USA and ship production abroad—where unions did not exist, regulations were light, taxes were low, and wages were a fraction of what they were here in America. Corporate America was going global and wanted to be rid of its American work force, the best paid on earth, and replace it with cheap foreign labor. While manufacturing sought to move production abroad, hotels, motels, bars, restaurants, farms, and construction companies that could not move abroad also wanted to replace their expensive American workers.

Thanks to the Republican Party, Corporate America got it all.

U.S. factories in the scores of thousands were shut down, shedding their American workers. Foreign-made goods poured in, filling U.S. stores and killing the manufacturers who had stayed behind, loyal to their U.S. workers. The Reagan prosperity was exported to Asia and China by the Bush Republicans. And the Reagan Democrats reciprocated by deserting the Bush Republican Party and going home. But this was not the end of what this writer described in his 1998 book, The Great Betrayal. As those hotels, motels, restaurants, bars, fast-food shops, car washes, groceries, and other service industries also relished the rewards of cheap foreign labor, they got government assistance in replacing their American workers.

Since 1990, some 30 to 40 million immigrants, legal and illegal, have entered the country. This huge increase in the labor force, at the same time the U.S. was shipping factories abroad, brought massive downward pressure on wages. The real wages of Middle Americans have stagnated for decades. What was wildly wonderful for Corporate America was hell on Middle America. But the Republican Party had made its choice. It had sold its soul to the multinationals. And as it went along with NAFTA, GATT, fast track, and mass immigration, to appease Corporate America, it lost Middle America.

The party went with the folks who paid for …read more

Via: American Conservative

    

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President ignores ObamaCare horror stories as human, financial costs pile up

President Obama used his State of the Union speech to extol the virtues of ObamaCare, and also as expected, retold the story of one person positively affected by the program. But for each success there are countless failures.

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Via: Fox Opines

    

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