Online Opinion Outpost: Dec. 2, 2014

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Obama daughters insulted
DeWayne Wickham, USA Today

Elizabeth Lauten’s resignation doesn’t surprise me. As a Republican Party communications specialist, she was more of a bull in a China shop than an artful word merchant. Her undoing was her clumsy attempt to strike a blow against the president through a social media attack on his teenage daughters.

In a Thanksgiving Day Facebook posting, Lauten slammed the first daughters — Sasha, 13, and Malia, 16 — for the way they dressed and behaved during a televised ceremony in which Obama pardoned the official White House turkey.

“Dear Sasha and Malia,” she posted, “I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the first family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department.”

Then, in an ever cheaper shot, Lauten offered this advice to the Obama children: “Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar.”

 

‘Star Wars’ ruined sci-fi?
Lewis Beale, CNN

Now that the trailer for the seventh “Star Wars” movie is out, you can imagine the anticipation among the millions of fans of the film franchise. And why not? The six “Star Wars” films have been enormous successes: they have grossed over $2 billion domestically at the box office, spawned scores of books, comic books and merchandise (how many kids have their own light saber?) and made household names of characters like Darth Vader, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker.
They’ve also been the worst thing ever for the science fiction genre.
I say this as someone who has been a devoted sci-fi reader since childhood. I was so blown away by the first “Star Wars” film when I saw it in 1977, I went back two more times the same week to wallow in its space age fantasy. But here’s the thing: George Lucas’ creation, basically a blown-up Flash Gordon adventure with better special effects, has left all too many people thinking science fiction is some computer graphics-laden space opera/western filled with shootouts, territorial disputes, evil patriarchs and trusty mounts (like the Millennium Falcon).
“Star Wars” has corrupted people’s notion of a literary genre full of ideas, turning it into a Saturday afternoon serial. And that’s more than a shame — it’s an obscenity.
The best of sci-fi is filled with meditations on what’s “out there,” what makes us human, how technology is used and how it is changing us. It takes up issues of race, sexuality and quite literally everything else under the sun. It is essentially about ideas, not action, and that’s the problem, as far as Hollywood is concerned.

 

Black Friday
Washington Examiner

Black Friday is a ridiculous creation of American retailers. It is hard to blame them for wanting to create hype and jumpstart sales ahead of Christmas by establishing a shopping holiday on a day many Americans get off from work. But the end result is something grotesque — a caricature of America’s prosperity.

The day contains a lot of human drama, not all of which is flattering to the nation’s image. On the one hand, there are the workers who man the tills and the shelves, presumably sacrificing the ability to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday. On the other, there are consumers who behave like animals, at times trampling, injuring and even killing one another.

This year, economic reality is putting additional pressures on both of these actors — the consumer and the worker. The former feels pressure to get something cheap because his wallet is light and his job situation precarious. The latter has little choice but to forgo travel and work the hours the day after Thanksgiving for basically the same reason.

Why is this? Six years on from the financial crisis, America’s economy has made historically slow progress toward recovery, held back by government policies that are focused on health insurance, the environment, immigration, “economic justice” — everything but economic growth. Yes, America has recovered the raw number of jobs that were lost in the crash, but the population has also grown, and the share of it currently working is inexorably stuck near its lowest point since the Carter era. If you eliminate Texas from the mix — with its growing economy and its oil boom —there are actually still fewer jobs in America today than there were in 2007.

 

Ferguson aftermath
Michael Eric Dyson, The New York Times

When Ferguson flared up this week after a grand jury failed to indict the white police officer Darren Wilson for killing the unarmed black youth Michael Brown, two realities were illuminated: Black and white people rarely view race in the same way or agree about how to resolve racial conflicts, and black people have furious moral debates among ourselves out of white earshot.

These colliding worlds of racial perception are why many Americans view the world so differently, and why recent comments by President Obama and the former New York City mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani cut to the quick of black identity in America.

From the start, most African-Americans were convinced that Michael Brown’s death wouldn’t be fairly considered by Ferguson’s criminal justice system. There were doubts that the prosecution and defense were really on different teams.

The trove of documents released after the grand jury’s decision included Officer Wilson’s four-hour testimony, in which the 6-foot-4-inch, 210-pound cop said that his encounter with the 6-foot-4-inch, 292-pound teenager left him feeling like “a 5-year-old holding on to Hulk Hogan.” He used the impersonal pronoun “it” when he said that Michael Brown looked like a “demon” rushing him. To the police officer and to many whites, Michael Brown was the black menace writ large, the terrorizing phantom that stalks the white imagination.

Our American culture’s fearful dehumanizing of black men materialized once again when Officer Wilson saw Michael Brown as a demonic force who had to be vanquished in a hail of bullets.

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