Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Palin's Progress

Guess who else gave a front-and-center speech recently? Former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin!
While she and Sen. John McCain couldn't get elected to the first and second highest offices in the country last fall, Palin remains governor of Alaska. It was in that capacity that she spoke on Jan. 22 -- two days after the man she and McCain lost to in November, Barack Obama, delivered his inaugural address as our nation's 44th president.
I don't think Palin received nearly as much press coverage giving her State of the State address as Obama did on the National Mall. But in the midst of some tasteless remarks to The Hill, conservative pundit Ann Coulter predicts Palin will stay a force in the Republican Party, and so do I. So what can we glean from Palin's speech?
  • Vivid imagery. Palin bookends her plan for Alaska with stirring symbols of her state. "Today, when challenges may seem as high as Mt. McKinley, and change as constant as the mighty Yukon flows, and political events send shockwaves through our foundation like the ’64 quake – what do Alaskans do?" she asks. "We climb Denali, we forge the river, we rebuild a stronger foundation on higher ground." And for those who liked her pit-bull-with-lipstick remarks at the Republican National Convention, she now compares herself to a grizzly bear and Alaskans to musk oxen. "Just like our musk ox, they circle up to protect their future when they are challenged," she says. "We’ve got to do the same."
  • Experience. On the campaign trail, Palin drew criticism for her lack of experience, as the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Joe Biden, brought a 30-year Senate career to his ticket. And indeed, Palin has only held office as governor since Dec. 2006. Yet her speech showed that she has experience on the state, national, and even international levels. "We’re building viable personal use and commercial fisheries in some of the most controversial and complex fisheries in the world, dealing with half a dozen foreign countries, including Japan, Russia and Canada," she trumpeted. Why couldn't she have told that to Katie Couric instead of saying she could see Russia from her backyard?
  • Props to evangelicals. Those of us who know our Bible will recognize the following allusion. "Unfortunately," Prophet Palin says, "some focus only on potential obstacles when they discuss projects like the gasline: the giants in the land preventing us from gathering fruit. But as I recall, we’ve already slain a few giants." Sounds like Palin knows her Book of Numbers. In Chapter 13, Moses, prompted by the LORD, sends 12 spies into the Promised Land with orders to "bring of the fruit of the land." Instead, many of these spies report that Canaan contains "the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight." If Palin can connect a gasline to Scripture, think of what she can do with national issues!
So, does this speech -- and her timely establishment of a political action committee, SarahPAC -- represent another step toward Palin's own Promised Land in Washington, DC? We'll see. But it looks like she's making this journey thoughtfully. Moses never made it to Canaan ... but then again, he never thought of setting up a PAC on the way there.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Satan Says Keep Gitmo Open!

Gitmo Cartoon
Originally uploaded by rbtenorio

President Barack Obama has ordered the closing of the notorious US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Satan, however, wants the base kept open -- and employs a little "citizen democracy" to that effect in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mr. Obama Goes to Washington

Inauguration Day Cartoon
Originally uploaded by rbtenorio

On Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009, Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States. Two observers, the Devil and Frank Faust, share memories of their trip to Washington, DC, that day -- from giving Abe Lincoln bunny ears to tweaking poet Elizabeth Alexander to imagining what lies ahead for our new Commander-in-Chief -- in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey, Goodbye Bush!

Bush Farewell Cartoon
Originally uploaded by rbtenorio

Inaugurals are as much about saying goodbye to one president as they are about saying hello to another. As Barack Obama prepared to take office, George W. Bush gave his farewell speech as our 43rd president, and Satan and Frank Faust react in "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Israel hits UN building in Gaza

Israel struck a UN building in Gaza City on Thursday. The government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert explained that its forces near the building drew fire and acted in response. Unfortunately for Israel, this has prompted criticism from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The relevant questions here are: What did the building -- the headquarters of the UN Relief and Works Agency -- look like? Who was inside it, or close to it, when the military attacked? Were they UN personnel? Refugees? Hamas militants?
From what a UN official told the New York Times, the area attacked was a complex consisting of at least two buildings, as well as five fully-laden fuel-carrying vehicles. Already there are conflicting stories. The official denied any militant activity, while Israel argued that it happened.
Those following this conflict will get multiple perspectives -- Israeli, Hamas, and UN. We need a comprehensive picture of the situation at this building before criticizing Israel for its action.
As for the UN's response, Secretary Ban has a choice. He could keep his agency in Gaza, or he could pull it out. The UN did the latter after terrorists attacked several of its facilities in Iraq in 2003. We will see whether the UN acts differently here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I love an inaugural parade...

Parade Cartoon
Originally uploaded by rbtenorio

Frank Faust has gotten some good news: His friend Satan scored a pair of tickets to the must-see event of 2009 -- the Obama inaugural parade -- in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Friday, January 9, 2009

See you at the Inaugural!

Inaugural Cartoon 1-9-09
Originally uploaded by rbtenorio

People across the nation are planning to attend the Obama inaugural -- including Mephistopheles and his liberal friend Frank Faust! Thus begins "See You at the Inaugural," a serial feature of "The Devil Made Me Blog It"!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Images of Iraq and Israel

On the last day of 2008, my friend and I visited the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to see images of a time and place far removed from ours. We saw works of art from the Assyrian Empire, whose rulers governed much of the Middle East 600 years before the birth of Christ.
As my friend pointed out, much of the art frankly depicted the Assyrians' wars: soldiers beheading enemies, hauling their bodies onto poles, and taking their families into captivity. Even the physical appearance of the enemy was not spared: one hapless monarch was repeatedly portrayed with a receding hairline.
With the US now approaching Year Six of the Iraq War, and Israel launching attacks on Gaza for a little less than two weeks, I'm thinking about the way the Assyrians portrayed war then, and the way that the media portrays it today. The Assyrians boasted about the atrocities they committed, creating intricate wall-size panels out of stone. Over two thousand years later, however, the American and Israeli governments and media organizations are more cautious. The Bush Administration, for instance, has prevented news organizations from photographing the coffins of US soldiers killed in combat, while the Israeli government has restricted media coverage of the Gaza Strip since the conflict began.
Where the Assyrians were frank, the nations of today do not want the general public to see what war brings. Perhaps the Bush Administration remembers the outcry after photos of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib became public. Then again, it is possible to manipulate war photos to create false images, which happened to the Israeli government during its war against Hezbollah in 2006. Both reasons could explain the reluctance of the US and Israel to allow the media to do what the Assyrian artists once did: Show what happened. And perhaps this reflects a change in the way people and governments across the globe see war -- not as an image to display triumphantly, but as something to conceal. I don't think that's progress. What would be progress is if we saw war as something to confront and discuss honestly.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hamas rockets, Israeli response

Israel Cartoon
Originally uploaded by rbtenorio

The Israeli attacks on Gaza have lasted over a week. Hamas, meanwhile, continues the rocket attacks on Israel that prompted the Israeli response after a cease-fire ended. Satan and his liberal friend discuss the situation in the latest episode of "The Devil Made Me Blog It."