Friday, December 16, 2011

Council Rock, YouTube, and Common Sense

A student asks a teacher to let him play a video from YouTube. The teacher asks if it is appropriate. The student says it is. The teacher lets the student play it using the teacher’s computer and digital blackboard without ever seeing it. The video is of a “sexual nature and obscene.” A member of the school board finds out about it and says that school employees shouldn’t have access to YouTube or Facebook.

Can you believe it? Can you believe that something like this would happen? I can, but I am still outraged. What was Council Rock school board member, Patricia Vaccaro-Sexton thinking? In what world is making YouTube and Facebook off limits to all school employees the correct response to a failure in judgment on the part of a teacher? The problem isn’t the website. The problem is the teacher who would let a middle school student show something to other middle school students without checking first to see what it was that was being shown. The problem is students having access to teacher’s computers. The problem is that Ms. Vaccaro-Sexton isn’t focused on solving the problem.

The kind of hyperbole that Ms. Vaccaro-Sexton indulged in is an accepted part of politics. It should, however, be proof of incompetence. If one of our elected representatives is more interested in grandstanding, shouting at the wind, attacking the opposition, or whatever it is Ms. Vaccaro-Sexton was doing than they are in solving problems then we ought to replace them. That’s all there is to it.

YouTube is not the problem for the Council Rock School board. Poor judgment on the part of a teacher and a school board member is.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Free Market Education

Today on NPR I heard someone say that there need to be fewer scholarships, grants, and the like and more loans because someone’s education is their own concern. I don’t know who said it, but I know they are wrong. First of all, I certainly am concerned about whether Americans have real educational opportunities. You should be too. Thriving economies need an educated workforce. Societies with less crime and drug use also tend to be more educated societies. Democracies with educated electorates would also figure to be places where voters make better decisions. Second, my concerns will only be alleviated if everyone has equal access to education. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to trust that to banks. I’m not going to trust that to the free market. I’m not going to trust much to the free market. We learned long ago that the free market needs to be a little less than completely free. I don’t see the need to learn all over again that effective regulation is necessary. I also don’t see the utility in being shown, yet again, that government support for its citizens is not just charity. It’s not even mainly charity. Everyone benefits from the support government (and ultimately all of us) provides to people in need. Also, if any of the grand language of freedom and equality that has been mouthed by Americans since the beginning of America is to be more than empty words, we need to make it real with government action … and one of the key actions is support to those who are willing and able to work on their own educations. It’s also worth pointing out that a model where education and prosperity are guaranteed only for a minority, leaving the majority with no real opportunity for success of any kind, is not one built for the long term. If anything, we are moving in the wrong direction. We probably should provide education for all Americans free of cost. We certainly should be making sure that people who can’t afford an education can get one anyway, without question and without mortgaging away their futures. We probably should be making sure that everyone gets a good K-12 education, but that’s a gripe for another time. The bottom line is that even the most coldhearted person should see that it is in their own interest to make it possible for people to get a good education. They also should see that the idea of the free market is a fairy tale that was long ago proven to be inefficient and cruel and that government is important and has a role, and that to deny any of it is to deny the experience of the last hundred plus years. The truth doesn’t ever live in the extremes. That’s just the facts of life, and its true in every case, including education policy.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Homosexuality is awful because ...

A man has sex with a man. Then, what happens next? Are Einstein’s discoveries undone? Do children everywhere begin to masturbate? Do people just catch on fire? A young girl sees two women holding hands, does she immediately French kiss her best friend? Does she start refusing to go to church? Does she start listening to Melissa Etheridge? A gay couple is allowed to adopt a child … and the next generation turns to wicca? If two women get married, what is the next shoe to fall? Do people everywhere start divorcing? Do people everywhere jump into bed with goats? Do people become socialists? I don’t get it. How is anal sex a threat to the social fabric? Maybe the issue is that there are too few people in the world, and folks are worried that if we give homosexuals rights everyone will turn gay and we will just die out. That’s about the best I can come up with. Though, maybe gays are behind the financial crisis, are causing global warming, sabotaged the oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, and have just blocked the trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers. Maybe they are aliens from Kepler 22-b. No, that would be going too far, because that would necessitate the recognition of science. I guess I don’t know why gays are such bad news … but I suppose that shouldn’t stop me from hating them. It hasn’t stopped anybody else.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Rick Perry ought to be ashamed

"I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian, but you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school," says the Texas governor and Republican White House candidate. "As President, I'll end Obama's war on religion. And I'll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again."

Yeah. If that’s what Christianity is about, color me ashamed. Color me whatever you want to, but I am proud to live in a country where, finally, every citizen can openly serve in the armed forces regardless of who they fall in love with. I’m also proud that there is some respect in this country for non-Christian religious traditions and a robust and well protected separation between Church and State. I find it reprehensible that a political leader would label his political opponents as somehow opposed to Christianity. I find it offensive that Perry would treat Christian and American as if they were synonymous and somehow only labels that apply to people he shares political views with.

Here is the bottom line. All Americans aren’t Christians. All Christians aren’t Americans. All liberals are Americans. Some liberals are Christians. Some conservatives are Muslims. All people who traffic in hate and fear and lies like this should be ignored.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Searching for Intelligent Life

Scientists have just discovered Kepler 22b. It is a planet that is 600 light years away. Kepler is a little on the big size, more than twice the size of earth, but otherwise has a lot in common with earth. It has temperatures that average around seventy degrees. It is closer to its sun than we are, but its sun isn’t as hot, so it is right in the zone where a planet has to be to support life. It might well be habitable. It might be inhabited. This means that we might be on the verge of showing, definitively, that life exists elsewhere in the Universe. The truly amazing thing is that as we sit at the edge of this major scientific milestone, we have a Presidential candidate who associates with folks who claim to talk to God. How is it possible that I can live at a time when people are discovering potentially habitable planets hundreds of light years away, and still know people who think the world was created by God in six days and that we all can trace our lineage to some dude who hung out in a boat with a lot of animals for a few weeks? Yes the universe is expanding, and oh by the way God hates homosexuals and evolution should be taught alongside intelligent design in our schools. I don’t get it, but I also don’t get how someone could have lived through a financial crisis that was partially caused by an unregulated financial sector and then a few years later claim that regulation and big government is the root of all our problems. Don’t get me wrong, I am truly psyched about Kepler 22b. I think it is awesome. It would be truly amazing to be alive when we are able to confirm that there is indeed life on other planets. If we were able to find intelligent life, well that would be indescribable. I just wish I was more confident that there was intelligent life to be discovered right here on earth.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Occupy What?

There really is little to be gained from squatting in a park. It is not physical space that we need to occupy. We need to occupy the airwaves. Call in to every radio show that has a phone number and let folks know that there is much more to be concerned about than big government. We need to occupy the internet. Be in every chat room and every comments page, and demand that everyone there drop the insults and support their assertions with facts and logic. We need to occupy the print media. Let no outrageous fallacy filled diatribe hit the press without a logically based counterpoint being a day or so behind. We need to occupy the polling places on each and every Election Day. Tell people what you think when it counts. We need to occupy our wallets. If a corporation spends money to fight gay marriage or tear down regulatory structures, don’t let it be your money that gets spent. We need to occupy the texts that are now being used against us. Go to the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, even the Bible, and find out for yourself what is in there and what isn’t and tell people about it. We need to occupy our history. This is not a country based on a struggle to free itself from federal government control, quite the opposite in fact. It is also not a perfect place. Make people see the totality of our history, from sit in strikes to internment camps to national parks. We need to occupy our interactions with others. Say please and thank you and mean it. Ask people what they think and listen to the answers. Always be open to compromise and collaboration. Most of all, we need to occupy the problems facing our country. Solve a problem. Challenge anyone who doesn’t seem to have solving problems as their goal. It is way past time for the rest of us to occupy something … a lot of things. We just need to shoot a little higher … and save the parks for picnics.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Papal Kiss

I’m outraged! Benetton put out an ad featuring the Pope kissing the imam of the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo. I’m outraged … that they pulled it … after one day. Now, I must confess I’m not sure how showing the Pope kissing an imam helps sell anything, but I love it. I love it because it challenges good taste and religious sensibilities at the same time. I’m not against religion … not at all actually. I am, however, against people who put too much importance in religious symbols and leaders and rules, and not enough importance in core principles and their interaction with the real world we all live in. Doctoring a picture to have the Pope kiss an Imam is a wonderful affront to those whose focus is in the wrong place. Pulling it after one day is an affront to good sense and intelligence. Did Benetton not think people would get upset? Really? They aren’t new to controversy and people have been targeted for assassination for far less. What happened in that first day that they didn’t think would happen? Benetton officials have said that the theme of the campaign, which features the locked lips of prominent folks normally thought of as something other than friends or allies, is love between world leaders. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe they thought that all religious people operate on the premise that love is important. Love, however, isn’t easily penned in by rules, many of them hundreds, even thousands, of years old. It doesn’t stay confined by original intent. It’s heavily circumstantial … contextual. It even has a bit of a logic … and if you believe that the world was created in six days that might be a problem. If you believe that God strikes down people who fall in love with other people, then that might be a problem. It might even be outrageous.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Looking for more in God

I’m picky. I don’t want just any God. I want a God that won’t smite a man for loving another man. I’d also like a God that wouldn’t smite a woman for having an abortion. I’d like to think that my God wouldn’t punish me for making any genuinely tough decision, even if God thought I made the wrong decision. In fact, I’d be most comfortable with a God that wasn’t a world class smiter. I’m more into building than destroying. I’d like God to save his anger for killing twins, burning women, keeping folks in slavery, mutilating girls, and stoning people. I’d prefer a God that took longer than six days to create the world, maybe just because I’d like to think my world took a little longer to make. I’d like my God to have had to work a little harder than the average God. I’d also like him or her to be less omnipotent and less rule bound. It would be good to think that doing the right thing would get you a reward, even if it didn’t involve going to church or checking with the Bible. It would also be nice if tolerance were rewarded, rather than blind and disrespectful evangelical furor. I’d want my God to have the qualities you want anyone else to have. I don’t like authoritarian leaders, rule bound ministers, uncompassionate doctors, or cruel teachers. Why would I want God to have those qualities? Why wouldn’t I want God to be just like my favorite high school teacher? Why wouldn’t everyone? I just don't know. I do know, that if God is the way most people seem to believe he is ... well they can keep him. I want more than that.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Making Mistakes

Newsflash … we all make mistakes. No one is perfect. Not you. Not me. Not Obama. Not Herman Cain. Not Michele Bachmann. Not Joe Paterno or Mike McQueary. It’s amazing how many people know exactly what heroic steps they would have taken had they been a lowly graduate assistant and come upon a respected coach having anal sex with a ten year old boy in a shower stall. It’s equally amazing how many people know exactly what they would have done when told this tale by a graduate student about someone you had known well and worked closely with for a very long time. Somehow, a mistake in either situation is simply unfathomable and enough to outweigh a ton of good deeds. It’s not surprising that in a place where mistakes are so unimaginable and unreasonable those who get caught making them blame every one under the sun other than themselves. If you put your foot in your mouth on the campaign trail, it’s the fault of the person who asked you the question. If someone accuses you of past indiscretions, they are to blame for bringing them up. Why would you take the blame for anything if taking the blame for anything meant you were going to be seen as not only automatically unqualified for the job you want but a horrible person with few redeeming qualities. Personally, I don’t want a perfect leader. I don’t want a perfect leader, whether in politics or sports, because I know I can’t have one. There is already more than enough in my life that I want but can’t have, like a good night’s sleep. I’m willing to settle for qualified, smart, thoughtful, and flawed folks. I think that’s better than misguided, unprepared, out of touch, and perfect. You can call me crazy. You can call me mistaken. I’m OK with that, I’ve made mistakes before.

Friday, November 11, 2011

What our elected representatives should say: taxes

I will never raise taxes lightly. I will always seek out your feedback before supporting a measure that raises your taxes. If, however, I think that raising taxes is necessary, I won’t hesitate to do it. I believe to pledge to never raise taxes is either a major abdication of responsibility or an admission that you don’t know much about governing and are living in a fantasy land. There are a lot of different taxes that impact people in many different ways, and frequently one or more of them has to be increased. A responsible representative would tell you that rather than making you a promise that he or she knows will have to be broken, whether he or she does the promise breaking or wimps out and pushes the burden of doing so up or down to other elected officials. I won’t ever hesitate to raise taxes if that is what I think has to be done. I won’t ever hesitate to do what I think has to be done, regardless of how popular my position is. That is a pledge I have no problem making.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Political Improvisation

Here is the way the script goes these days. The question posed is something like this: “Is it true that you, Mr. Republican, Candidate, did or said something that was wrong.” The answer is “no, and it’s the fault of the liberal media.” It doesn’t matter that that same liberal media spent over two years reporting on whether or not President Obama was born in this country and a lot longer than that on Clinton’s sexual escapades. It doesn’t matter if the liberal media targeting them isn’t liberal at all, like Politico, who broke the Herman Cain harassment story. It doesn’t matter if the liberal media includes Rupert Murdoch, not exactly a liberal. It doesn’t matter if the leftist attorney and Democratic operative who is representing one of the women accusing Cain also brought down Anthony Weiner, who is very much a liberal. Logic doesn’t matter. If it did, no one would suggest that the decline of the print media is due to dissatisfaction with leftist reporters and publishers rather than the rise of the internet. If it did, no one would blame Republican rivals and the Democratic machine in the same breath. If it did, people would simply respond to allegations by saying that they weren’t true and explain why -or- by admitting that there was truth to them and telling us why they shouldn’t matter. Instead, it’s the fault of the liberal media that four women made allegations that Herman Cain made unwanted sexual advances. That, apparently, is what’s in the script. Personally, I think we need more improvisation.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Rick Perry wants to close down three federal agencies: education, commerce, and … what was that third one? Tonight, at a debate, Perry didn’t remember. “Ooops.” For the record, it was energy. I wish I could forget so easily that people who are proposing to close down the departments of commerce, energy, and education are serious candidates for the office of President of the United States of America. I would love to be able to forget that a tax plan to shift the burden of taxes from the wealthy to the middle class and poor has driven a candidate to the top of the heap (and it is a heap). The universal assault on the rights of homosexuals and environmental regulation and worker’s rights would also be nice to let slip out my mind. It would be wonderful if these candidates were being discredited for ever supporting such regressive and frightening positions, rather than misspeaking in a debate or fondling women. If it is popularly accepted that the only thing disgraceful about Herman Cain is that he put his hand under someone’s skirt, than another candidate can just pick up his policies and positions and continue merrily along. The problem here is that one of our two parties is putting forward policies and positions that can’t possibly hold up in the light of reason, and people are not only letting them do it but helping them do it by voting for them. When we finally realize the extent of this mistake, it will be way too late to say oops.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Joe Paterno Must Go ... Now?

It is looking increasingly likely that Joe Paterno will be forced out over his response to knowledge that a former assistant coach may have been having inappropriate sexual contact with minors. People from all walks of life have been calling for his firing. We don’t know what he knew, except we know that he did not have any first-hand knowledge of transgressions. The legal process is far from having run its course, and it seems highly unlikely that its course will ever intersect with Paterno. Paterno passed on what he knew to his superiors. It is clear that there wasn’t a good system for handling suspicions of these kinds. Still, apparently it is the moment to fire Paterno from his job of nearly fifty years. If the proper response to serious accusations is to immediately fire every one that could be involved, then this is proper. If quick action is always the way to go, then fire away. If he has annoyed you and/or you wanted him to leave because you thought it was best for the program to start fresh long before any of this came out, then by all means call for his firing because of this transgression. Some professional screamer from Happy Valley was on a national sports radio show this morning … screaming. He was livid. He didn’t think Paterno should coach another game. When talking about what he would ask Paterno at a news conference, he said you have to be careful because Paterno doesn’t understand questions anymore and never really felt it necessary to answer them all anyway. I am sure he is not jumping for joy that someone was molesting young boys, but I am almost equally sure that he smiled a little about this opportunity before he seized it. I have a hard time not seeing this call for Paterno’s head as a witch hunt. Some folks are seizing an opportunity to get rid of someone that they had no chance to get rid of a week ago. Others are just reacting to react. Whenever there is the hint of a scandal, we are out looking for some folks to take the fall. We need someone to blame … immediately. The hell with details. The hell with context. The hell with a fifty year relationship. It may well turn out that Paterno knew what was going on and decided to do as little as possible. It may well turn out that Paterno should be fired. I just don’t think most of those calling for his head have any idea how it will turn out, and that is a problem.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Will you vote Tuesday?

The online poll question on the website of The Bucks County Courier Times is straightforward: “Will you vote Tuesday?” Equally straightforward is my opinion of someone who would take the time to seek out this pole question online in order to indicate that they won’t be voting … or to choose the third option: “Has American Idol's new season started already?” These people (twenty two percent of about forty folks as of this moment), are a problem. I’m more worried about these folks than I am about the one percent that has people occupying parks all over the country. These folks are at least somewhat connected to their communities and the news, as they read at least some of the paper. They are certainly impacted by the decisions made by those of us that are voting and the people we are choosing to represent all of us. So, why aren’t they taking the time to weigh in? Why aren’t they taking the time to shape their own lives in one of the easiest ways possible? Maybe they are all restricted to bed rest in their homes, and have only been in this condition for a few days so didn’t have time to get absentee ballots. Maybe they just aren’t being responsible citizens. Maybe we’re better off that they aren’t. I don’t know, maybe what we need is an online poll to figure it all out.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Occupy This

There is a fundamental difference between Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party. Both play to anger and fear. Both target boogie men (big corporations and big government). Both can, and often are, cast by supporters as movements to recapture and/or defend the American Dream. One, however, contains the threat of much more radical change. The Tea Party is really much more conventional. It is a not so unusual combination of an effort to protect wealth and an effort to avoid change. Some Tea Party members have wealth and want to protect it. Some don’t. Those that don’t have a feeling that their chances of having more are worse than ever before, and they trace that situation to the disappearance of traditional ‘American’ values. It is the presence of non-Christians, the rise of minorities to positions of power, the influx of folks who don’t speak English, the increased recognition of ‘alternative’ lifestyles, and restrictions on American ingenuity and entrepreneurship that must be responded to. It’s not that the system is being set up against them, but that it is being overrun by foreigners and foreign ideas. The wealthy should be wealthy. They earned it. We all can too, as long as America stays powerful, Christian, and out of the way of its best and brightest. We’ve been headed in the wrong direction, what with welfare and the Civil Rights Act (and maybe even the Civil War), but that can be reversed. None of the people occupying Wall Street are protecting wealth, and many of them believe that it is the system that is victimizing them. Most of them also believe that their opportunities are dwindling, like less well off Tea party sympathizers, but they believe that they are simply being written out. College is moving further out of reach. Home ownership is more difficult to hold on to. Food is harder to put on the table. Influence on the government is more difficult to imagine. And all of this is because their fellow Americans, mostly Christian and White, are denying it to them. Reducing the role of Government isn’t going to help this. Increasing it might not help either. Electing a particular party might not help. It’s not as if Obama has overseen radical reform of the financial regulatory system or been able to protect rights and benefits that had been fought for and won. When we think of home grown radicals we think of militias and neo Nazis, but the bigger threat may come from the left. Many of these folks may be in the process of deciding that they have no options within the system. They may conclude that the American Political institutions are now only serving to protect increasingly caste like divisions. If they do, and if they do in any number, than the threat is much greater than any threat arising from the Tea Party. The anger of the occupiers is not one being used by holders of wealth to protect privilege and inequality; it is one that is targeting it. This difference may amount to nothing. It may, however, amount to considerably more. Whether that is good, or bad, or ugly is far from clear.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What our elected representatives should say: Abortion

No one supports abortion. Most of us would like to see fewer abortions take place. Abortion presents a problem most of us would like to be able to solve. The way to solve a problem is to find out what is causing it and see if those things can be changed. So, we need to pay attention to why women get abortions and attack those root causes. This probably means providing more access to contraception. People will have sex. We can’t really stop that, and we don’t need to. There are a lot of ways people can have sex without making babies. We need to provide easy access to whatever people, including young people, need to be able to have sex in these safe ways. That should be the really easy part. The harder part is to address the more systemic problems which cause women to seek abortions, like poverty and sex crimes. If we stopped spending money fighting about the legality of abortion, there would be more money to attack these systemic problems. If I am elected, I would approach abortion not as a divisive issue involving deeply held values and beliefs. I wouldn’t waste my time talking about rights and definitions of death. I would take the issue back from the folks on the fringes who have hijacked it for their own aggrandizement, and reframe it as a simple problem that we all want to solve … a simple problem that we should be able to sit down together and work on. That’s all abortion really is, a problem that we could solve if we showed any interest in solving it. That’s all I’m really interested in, solving problems.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I Just Caint Stand It

Now Herman Cain is blaming this whole sexual harassment scandal on a man who helped him in a previous campaign, and is now tangentially working for one of his rivals. Pundits continue to act as if this is part of a continued attack on black conservatives dating back to ... well dating back to the only other comparable incident, Clarence Thomas and the coke bottle. Is Bill Clinton a black conservative? What about Anthony Weiner? Arnold Scwarzenegger? Eliot Spitzer? I'm really sick of all these games. It doesn't matter who tipped off what news organization. It doesn't matter who is gloating over the allegations. It certainly shouldn't matter that Cain is black and conservative. Do we let black conservatives harass women? What matters is the substance of the allegations and how Cain has handled them in the last week. What did Cain do to these women? Does it matter what he did to these women? How did he handle this whole hullabaloo, and what does that say about his ability to govern the country? These are questions that we should be dealing with. Enough already with all the talk of racism, liberal conspiracies, and bitter Republicans. Well, maybe the bitter Republicans ...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

No He Caint

I don’t care if Herman Cain sexually harassed someone. I’m more worried that he is prejudiced against Muslims and wants to erect an electric fence on the border, and oh yeah has a silly tax scheme that will increase the tax burden on the poor and working class. If I was tempted to vote for him I would also be worried about the way he has handled this sexual harassment story. He was all over the place on Tuesday, contradicting himself left and right. This vacillation was despite the fact that he obviously knew about this and had been made aware that the story was being pursued days before it broke. He and his campaign had plenty of time to have a response ready. The fact that Tuesday’s mess, followed by the blame game on Wednesday (the liberal press, his Republican rivals, the alleged victims, who knows who else), is what they came up with doesn’t instill a lot of confidence in what they could do in the White House. The bottom line is that Herman Cain is not qualified to be President, and that it has nothing to do with sexual harassment and everything to do with his views and beliefs and the new questions about his competence to handle everything involved in being the President.

The Liberal Media Cain't to Blame

The news stories concerning sexual harassment allegations against Herman Cain are not part of a smear campaign overseen by the liberal media. Period. There is no way that anyone who is thinking logically can reach any other conclusion. Here is why.

First, the story was broken by Politico. Politico is not a hotbed for left leaning socialists. It has actually been accused of leaning to the right. The President of Politico was a staffer in the Reagan White House and is now Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. Joe Scarborough is an opinion columnist.

Second, the media really isn’t controlled by the radical left. Have you heard of Fox News? Rupert Murdoch is many things, but left leaning is not one of them. Reporters also aren’t out there doing their own thing. Most news providers are really part of multi-million dollar corporate conglomerates, which aren’t usually headquartered on communal farms.

Third, Mr. Cain isn’t being targeted because he is a conservative, or because he is black. He is being ‘targeted’, if that is even the right word, because he is running for President. Bill Clinton was neither conservative nor black, and you can’t be more of a target for this sort of thing than he was.

Fourth, sexual harassment is a serious charge and it is a charge that can be seen as bearing on Cain’s fitness to be President. I personally would not consider it. I’m not that interested in knowing whether my Presidential candidate is a lout. I am far more interested in knowing whether he or she can govern effectively. Cain’s response worries me more than whether or not he harassed someone. His bungled response to this story casts doubt on his ability to effectively handle crises (and the normal workload) in the White House. I can see, however, where someone might be concerned with this and what it says about Cain’s character.

Fifth, and perhaps most importantly, responding to allegations by blaming the liberal media is avoiding responding in a reasoned logical manner. I don’t want Cain to blame someone else, I want him to address the allegations and/or tell me why they shouldn’t matter. Don’t blame the meesenger, deal with the message.

So … let’s drop the liberal media crap. The liberal media, if they even exist, are not to blame. Blame shouldn’t even be an issue. Cain should have just been honest and told us his side of the story, and we’d have been done. If he doesn’t want to address things like this, he shouldn’t run for President.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Of the Pot and the Kettle and Politics

The Bucks County Technical School (BCTS) voted to maintain the ninth grade by a vote of 11-1. There are 14 votes, and they needed 8. You wouldn’t think that there was any doubt about the legitimacy of the vote. Nonetheless the opponents (there are two, one of which was working and couldn’t come to this month’s meeting) said that their opponents “were trying to control the vote,” and that there “was a lot of politicking going on.” Why are they saying this? Well, they hail from the two smallest school districts that feed into BCTS, and are very concerned with how much they have to spend on the technical school (determined according to a formula they agreed to). They wanted ninth grade to be dropped because it would save them money. They didn’t get what they wanted. The vote controlling and politicking apparently took place last month, when the decision was postponed. If the vote had taken place last month, with only eight members present, two of them the opposition, it would not have passed. So putting the vote off until the votes were there to pass it was politicking. Wanting the vote to take place when the majority necessary to keep ninth grade was not present (even though a majority of the board and the necessary number to keep ninth grade existed) apparently isn’t politicking. This is called hypocrisy. They are keeping ninth grade … tell us why you are upset with the decision and shut up about it. Everything can’t be decided by consensus … as big a fan of compromise and cooperation as I am, even I realize that. When the time comes that a vote takes place and some people don’t get what they want, we have to be able to move on without nastiness and angry recriminations. Anger is fine. By all means tell the majority why they made a mistake, but try to check the classless and baseless accusations. They don’t create anything positive. The less political decisions at any and every level are seen as the culmination of battle and the more as a product of negotiation the better we will be.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Can You Smell It?

There was a day care in the area that was closed down, and its operators arrested. Someone went to the authorities to report that their daughter had been molested by an older child. Authorities found adults living there who were had not had child abuse clearances run, and who were living in rooms with human feces. There were other details, but the line that stood out to me was the quote from a grandfather who had picked up his grandchild from the facility on at least one occasion. He said he had noted the smell and it worried him. My first reaction was to demonize anyone that would leave their children somewhere that smelled like feces. I wanted to jump on something and proclaim for the world that if I picked up my son or daughter from day care and smelled feces, or saw people who looked the folks in the mug shots working there, I would have never brought my daughter back. I would have done it if I hadn’t been eating lunch with my children. As a matter of fact when I returned to work full time, ever so briefly, we went to meet with a woman who was offering child care from her home. Her home was a mess. Her husband told us how he had on some occasion told his three year old to stop crying and act like a man. There was no way in hell we were going to leave our daughter there. We found a great care provider who had a wonderful welcoming home, polite and caring children of her own, and was a great early influence in both of our children’s lives. Then we sent our daughter to an expensive pre-school, choosing to live a spare existence in order to make it work. The key part of all of this, of course, is that we had a choice. There are a lot of folks that don’t have that many choices. They may only be able to afford feces filled homes. They certainly can’t afford many thousands of dollars a year. Our choices are limited … we have to do public school … but not shitty. Some people’s choices are shitty. Some children suffer the consequences of the shitty options their parents had. It’s worth keeping this shit in mind when someone talks about equality of opportunity, class warfare, and 9-9-9 tax plans that increase the tax burden on the poor and working class. Many of our Fellow American don’t have the luxury of forgetting it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I’d like my elected representatives to be the people who would let you go ahead of them at the grocery checkout if they had two baskets full of groceries and you had a gallon of milk. It would be excellent if my next Congressman was the kind of guy who took turns with other drivers when two lanes merged into one on the highway. I’d like my mayor to be the kind of woman who wouldn’t wait until I turned around to check on my daughter to jump in front of me at the local library sale so she could get to the box of second hand books I had been looking at before I had a chance to take all of the choicest book. I’d like my State Senator to be the kind of woman who wouldn’t, while leading a program for toddlers where one toddler and his dad were sitting right in front of her, refer to all of the parents as “mothers.” In everyday life these kinds of encounters are annoying, and annoying I can handle … if I dig deep enough. The lack of civility in the politic al realm is annoying and a bit more besides. When a leading candidate for President refuses to acknowledge that the sitting president was born in the country it sets a poor example for the rest of us. It also contributes to an atmosphere that is not conducive to cooperation and compromise, absolute necessities when it comes to solving the problems facing our country. It certainly isn’t enough for elected representatives to be polite and considerate, but it can’t good enough anymore for them not to be.

Monday, October 24, 2011


We have all either lost our minds or lost interest. That is really the only way to explain it. If an appreciable number of us were both sane and interested, there is no way some of the big political issues of the day would be issues at all. Why is there any debate about whether or not God created the world in six days? Really? The fact of the matter is that there is no scientific basis to question the basic fact of evolution. If there is debate, it should be on the details. The very idea that creation was focused just on earth is ridiculously laughable. Speaking of laughable, we have the debate over whether there is global warming. The scientific community is very nearly united that we are having a negative impact on our world. Why is anyone spending time debating anything other than how we should alter our behavior and preserve the world we live on? A conversation focused on the balancing environmental and other concerns is productive … a conversation on whether the scientific community is at the beck and call of socialists and the leftist media is not. We wasted way too much time talking about where Obama was born and what religion he adheres too. That we have any kind of debate about whether Muslims should be judges or have the freedom to set up their own houses of worship shows the lie in the claim that we are a bastion of freedom and liberty. The same could be said of the inordinate amount of time some folks spend trying to keep other folks who love one another from being able to acknowledge it. Don’t even get me started on the debate over the financial crisis, which has been way too focused on teachers’ unions and not nearly focused enough on the regulation of the financial sector. That someone would seize elected office on a promise to abolish the Department of Education is just scary. The health care debate is a complete travesty, with more focus being placed on calling the President’s plan socialism and Obamacare than there has ever been placed on the issues. Is there really a debate to be had on whether all Americans should have basic health care? The craziness is not limited to the biggest issues either. The fact that anytime at all was spent debating whether or not Paul Revere was warning the British is just evidence of how the craziness has permeated every nook and cranny of our public lives. The worst part is that there are constructive debates to be had and meaningful discussions that need to take place because we have very real problems to solve. Stamping out homosexuality and teaching Genesis in schools isn’t going to solve our problems. We need to refuse to take people seriously who propose abolishing the Department of Education or giving communities the right to stop Muslims from building mosques. All Muslims are not terrorists. Gay marriages aren’t a threat to anyone. Teachers didn’t cause the financial crisis. Until we can discard this nonsense and come together to work on the problems facing us, they aren’t going to get solved. So, either some people have to come to their senses or some people have to become interested … or some people have to do both. The other option is to do what we’re doing and stay in the asylum. Everyone gets to help choose … what are you going to do?

Thursday, October 20, 2011


If the risky behavior of people working in the financial sector was at least partly responsible for the financial crisis, and if a lack of effective regulation and enforcement allowed for this risky behavior, then why hasn’t more been done to reform the regulation of the financial sector? Why are candidates running for office on pledges to shrink government and weaken or eliminate regulatory bodies? How stupid are these people? How stupid are we for listening to them? How culpable are we for not demanding more extensive and effective regulation of the financial sector?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Pledge

Here is a pledge that I think all members of Congress (and those who aspire to membership) should sign. It is the only pledge they should sign. In it they promise to do their job ... it is a pretty novel concept.

I pledge to do my job. I promise to take on the problems facing this country using the skills and experiences I presented to my constituents as evidence of my fitness to serve them when they elected me. I promise that I will never rule out the use of any tool at my disposal or at the disposal of me and my colleagues working together, be it taxes, regulation, layoffs, or war. I vow to keep an open mind … which means that I will change my mind should logic, reason, and the weight of the evidence compel me to do so. This also means that I will always be open to cooperation and compromise with anyone who is similarly serious about solving the problems facing the country. I promise to always listen to my constituents, but I will never hesitate to go against their wishes if my judgment tells me that I should. I will always explain my positions to my constituents and will endeavor to win their support by explaining issues and arguments to them using logic and reason. I will never intentionally seek to sway people to my side by playing on their fear or anger, or by launching personal attacks on my opponents. I will put value on my own personal interests and the interests of my party, but not over the interests of the country or my constituents. I give my word that this is the only pledge I will ever sign, because other pledges get in the way of doing my job … and above all else I pledge to do my job.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chris Cridge's Fallacies ... Pennsbury's Potential Problem

In his opinion piece in the Bucks County Courier Times on October 17th, Pennsbury School Board candidate Chris Cridge asserts that incumbent Linda Palsky was wrong to vote against a particular contract change order. This is his conclusion, and it is a great first step that he states it so clearly. Unfortunately he doesn’t take care of the next step, and provides nothing but fallacies to support that conclusion.

First of all, he starts out with an appeal to pity. He tells us about the struggles of the “small business owners” who appealed for the change in the contract. I am sure that no one is happy to see a “local family” put out, but I’m not sure what that has to do with whether or not the contract in question (for insulation work) should be amended to allow a “district-based family business employing Pennsbury graduates and a war veteran” to keep it. Do local businesses that employ war veterans get to bend the rules because they are local businesses that emplopy war veterans?

To follow up his appeal to pity, Cridge trots out a straw man. The “family business” he supports wants to remove a clause from the contract. A clause that Cridge describes as: “an obscure, single sentence technicality.” Who wouldn’t want to remove an obscure technicality? Probably fewer people than might have a problem removing a training requirement that any bidders were supposed to meet, the voiding of which could open up the district to legal challenges. It is certainly easier to argue against anyone who chooses an obscure technicality over the welfare of a local business.

This leads us to our third problem with Cridge’s argument. He never really tells us what the unreasonable Palsky was thinking in her opposition to this reasonable suggestion from the family owned business that employs war veterans. It sure is easier to counter an argument that you don’t even acknowledge. All we know is that Palsky was supported by someone from Trenton, which brings us to the next problem.

Cridge attacks this man from Trenton without telling us a thing about what he said or who he is beyond being from Trenton. This is a circumstantial ad hominem. Cridge attacks the man’s residence rather than his argument. What matters is that Palsky, aided by an outsider, voted against only one change order, the one put forward by this family business run by Pennsbury graduates.

This brings us to the last problem. Cridge tells us several times that Palsky has only voted against this one change order. That of course, is not a reason why she is wrong. Maybe this was the only problematic one. Since we know nothing about the others, it is hard to reach much of a conclusion as to what Palsky’s votes on those change orders mean for this one.

The conclusion of my argument is as simple and straightforward as Cridge’s conclusion. The only difference is that he provides real support for mine. What Cridge has here is a conclusion without any logical support. Rather than proving his argument by utilizing reason and logic, he falls back on pity, anger, and ad hominem attacks. This is regrettable. It might even be reprehensible. It surely is plenty enough to disqualify Cridge as a representative of anyone who needs/deserves quality representation. It’s about all that Cridge manages to prove.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Liberia and US

Liberia’s opposition parties have challenged the results of the presidential election, results that are not yet final. The main challenger will participate in what is expected to be a mandatory run-off election despite those supposed irregularities, but his party has nonetheless challenged the fairness of the election. Such challenges are not unusual in African politics. Irregularities are not unusual either, but when such accusations are made without proof they are detrimental. They give people reasons to challenge the government, to work to destabilize the government, and to resort to violence. They play upon divided loyalties and past inequities. African countries tend to have political parties that mirror ethnic, religious, or geographic divisions … so perceived slights to political parties can be perceived threats to whole groups of people. They aren’t isolated incidents either they have a place in a group’s narrative. Political parties are more than political parties. Allegiance to a political party can be stronger than the allegiance to the country. Now, we don’t usually think of the Republican Party as being the party of an ethnic or religious group … although it is not a completely crazy thought. But certainly we have institutional protections that aren’t present elsewhere, and don’t have a history of colonial manipulation of ethnic and religious differences. We do have, however, a situation where party interest is beginning to overwhelm national interest. Certainly there are those that have accused their political rivals of being un-American, effectively equating America with their political party. Claims of irregularities at the polls, while not at all new, seem to have become more strident and mainstream. It doesn’t seem a stretch to assert that folks have reacted to unfavorable election results by refusing to participate fully in the political process. The balancing of party and national interests is a delicate one, one that is maintained by many overlapping institutions. It is also maintained by a feeling that there is a common cause. It is a feeling that has been missing from many African countries like Liberia. It is a huge part of what has made America work. We aren’t in danger of becoming Liberia anytime soon, but we ought to be attentive to what has allowed our political system to function so well over the years. We ought not to take anything for granted, including that our politicians will continue to identify and work for a common cause.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


John McCain has expressed regret that President Obama did not consult Congress when he sent one hundred troops to Uganda to help hunt down Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. You notice he didn’t express surprise. Part of that is because the President and Congress have been fighting about Presidential authority to take military action for a long time, long before Obama or Boehner or even McCain were anything close to relevant. Part of that lack of surprise, however, should be because of the way that this Congress has responded to overtures from the President. Since they seized control of the house, and gained enough seats in the senate to make the filibuster an effective weapon, the Republicans strategy has been to stick to a pretty radical agenda that has little connection to real solutions to problems and to reject most attempts by the President to seek compromise in the hope that the electorate will blame the President for the failure to get anything done. It seems to be working. Republicans seem poised to take back the White House. Compromise seems pretty close to impossible. It’s hard to blame the President if he thought that even the commitment of one hundred troops to a support role in the effort to capture a madman who kidnaps children and forces them to kill and rape their countrymen, neighbors, and relatives might come up against partisan opposition. This is where we are now. Even reasonable actions are questioned, and moderate positions like the ones voiced by Obama on everything from the financial crisis to health care become seen as extreme. If there is something McCain should be expressing regret over, it is that.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Has the internet been bad for cooperation?

Here is a question for you to consider: is the internet pushing us away from cooperation and compromise and into warring camps staring at each other medieval style from opposite sides of a battle field? Surfing around on websites devoted to local issues has made me wonder. It seems as if every issue has facebook pages or blogs or web sites or all of the above plus twitter followings devoted to one side or the other (or one side and the other). On these pages people of like minds can gather and get each other psyched up for battle twenty four hours a day. These sites provide a place for people to vent, remind each other of how they have been slighted, and dream up put-downs and insults, and get angrier and angrier. You don’t have to wait until city council meetings to share grievances, and you don’t have to reserve a room at the library (remember when people did that all the time?), because any time can be a time to trade grievances. The internet also gives them a place where they are safe from the enemy. Oh, the other side can come in, but you can always meet them in numbers. You never have to meet them one on one and think of them as another human being with genuinely held interests. I know that people have disagreed since there were people, and that disagreements have been nasty for at least as long. It just seems a little nastier now, and there seems to be less compromise and cooperation to balance it out. I’m not sure if there is anything to it … but at the least something to think about.

Of Good Democrats and Bad Statements

“I can work with anyone willing to work with me to solve the problems facing our country.” That is what Mitt Romney should have said. That is what every elected representative should say. Unfortunately, it is not what he really said. What he said was that he could work with “good” Democrats … and it’s just not acceptable. Who is going to determine what a “good” democrat is? What about a bad one? Are the good ones the ones that agree with him? Is there an easy test we can apply to see who is good and bad? Do we consider religion? Race? Are the bad ones traitors? Are they Un-American? Do they not have the best interests of their constituents and country in mind? The truly sad thing about what Romney said is that it was regarded as moderate and risky. He was expressing an interest in cooperation and compromise with people outside of the Republican Party … how socialist of him! Call me crazy, but I want my elected officials to work with one another to solve problems. I want them to consider other view points and approaches. I want them to recognize that country comes before party. I want someone to say “I recognize that Republicans and Democrats don’t see eye to eye on all the issues, but I recognize that e all want what is best for America and even though we might disagree on what that is we can still work together to find common ground.” I know it’s insane, but ….

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Being a little nicer ... is it worth a try?

The quality of political conversations in America, at the local and national level, would be greatly improved if everyone started following a simple rule: always say something positive when you say something negative. This is a rule that I have always followed when I teach college courses. Every time I comment on a paper, test, or other assignment I always make sure I say something positive. Usually I lead with the positive. There is always something that the student has done well, and I feel that they need to hear about that as much as they need to hear about what they have done wrong. I have been religious about doing this as a teacher, but not always when I am critical of someone’s position on a political issue. I think that is a mistake. Why shouldn’t we point out the strengths in someone’s position if we are also pointing out the weaknesses? I find it hard to believe that there is nothing that one can agree with in another’s point of view … that there is nothing positive that can be said about everyone. Even if it is just to say how determined or dedicated someone is. If we were all to follow this practice, there would be some great side benefits. First of all, we would be less likely to insult one another. It’s harder to insult someone if you are also trying to say something nice about them. Insults serve no purpose, and it would be great to see them become a rare sight. Second, evidence, logic, and reason would be more likely to emerge. Once you recognize that the other side is not just incoherent evil, then you might feel a need to make sure that your own arguments were well supported. Third, we would be more likely to cooperate and compromise. Recognizing the merit in another’s position is the first step to compromise. Fourth, problems might actually get solved more often. Lastly, at least political conversations would be more pleasant. I can’t see how a few more pleasantries can hurt. So, I’m going to give it a try. Feel free to call me on it if I falter in my resolve. Feel free to point it out when other people fall short and don’t simply don’t take the time to recognize the importance of common courtesy. I think it is as righteous a mission as any we are likely to find.

Friday, October 7, 2011

America Is ...

America is Eli Wiesel, Ahmad Jamal, Jimmy Carter, and Barry Bonds. It is also a car full of teenagers, cigarettes dangling from their mouths, yelling obscenities at a man driving with his infant who happened to cut them off. It is a country that elected a black President. America is also the place where some polls had almost half of Republicans and twenty five percent of all Americans asserting that the black President was not really an American. It is a place with amazing diversity, and a diverse array of laws discriminating against immigrants. America is the land of amazing medical breakthroughs. It is also ranked 34th in infant mortality. America has been responsible for liberating peoples, and assassinating leaders. America can neither be summed up as the Great Satan or as the greatest country in the world. It is more than torture of suspected terrorists. It is more than the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It is more than a flag or a soldier returning home from war to a motorcycle escort. It can’t be summed up in any sentence or by any event. You don’t have to like it that way. You don’t have to acknowledge that it is that way. But … it is that way. Always has been. Probably always will.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Chris Christie, Herman Cain, and Tolerance

Chris Christie has appointed a Muslim judge. Herman Cain said he wouldn’t. So how is Chris Christie different from Herman Cain? Well here are some possibilities …

1) Christie is more tolerant of religious differences. This is possible, although now Cain has said that although he thinks many of them are terrorists whose houses of worship can only be located in places where the locals acquiesce, he sympathizes with Muslims and shares common values them.

2) Christie is focused on results. If a Muslim is the right person for the job, he’s going to choose a Muslim.

3) Christie actually has political responsibility, something that tends to moderate one’s positions. It’s a lot easier to be strident and uncompromising when one has no real responsibility beyond for any real constituents. Pizza purchasers are not constituents.

4) Christie is less willing to be seen as a bigot than Cain is. You can prove he’s big, but good luck with the bigot thing.

5) Christie isn’t interested in playing on fear and anger. It sure would be nice if it were true.

6) Christie is smarter than Cain. Maybe Christie knows many Muslims send their kids to Catholic schools. Maybe he is aware that there aren’t tons of Muslims marching for gay or reproductive rights. Maybe he knows that Imams don’t generally hang out with Gloria Steinem.

And I think we have a winner. Christie might well be a responsible, no-nonsense, closeted Quaker. I’m more willing, however, to see him as smart. He knows that Muslims tend to be conservative. He also knows that many of his constituents (including a sizeable Muslim population) won’t have a lot of tolerance for bigotry. He’s also un-encumbered with a lot of the right wing baggage that Cain carries with him, making him smart and more able to make choices based on logic and reason.

Whatever the reason they are different. Hopefully, though, now that Christie has committed to staying out of the Presidential race they will have something in common … neither will be elected President in 2012.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Welcome Statements

"Hey, I don't think I agree with your position on this. Can you explain your reasoning to me?"

"We certainly don't agree on this, but I think we have some common ground on these other issues. Could we try to get something done there first?"

"I wonder if we can look at the issue in another way ... we might find an approach that is acceptable to everyone."

"This is how I differ from my opponent. I think his proposals won't work. I don't think he is anything like Hitler, I just think he's wrong. I even think his intentions are right, but he's wrong and you should vote for me. Here is what I intend to do and why it will work. Here is why his plans won't work. I think if you take a look at this you'll agree with me."

"I was wrong when I said that. I apologize. Here is what I was thinking, and where I think we should go from here."

What are these? They are the sorts of statements I would like to hear come out of the mouths of politicians more often. I'm not sure I'm too hopeful, but it would be nice.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Of Hank Williams Jr. and Enemies

The worst part of what Hank Williams Jr. said in his interview on Fox & Friends has nothing to do with Hitler. If you somehow missed it, Williams said John Boehner playing golf with President Obama was like the Prime Minister of Israel golfing with Hitler. The reference to Hitler was stupid. The general rule is that any reference to Hitler is stupid. This is no exception. It’s not stupid, however, that I’m most concerned with. Another general rule is when you say something this stupid you shouldn’t try to explain what you were thinking. This was no exception. It was great, however, because Williams’ explanation revealed the real problem. Immediately after making this great comparison, he said “they’re the enemy” of Obama and Biden. Later he explained further: "Some of us have strong opinions and are often misunderstood. My analogy was extreme -- but it was to make a point. I was simply trying to explain how stupid it seemed to me -- how ludicrous that pairing was. They're polar opposites and it made no sense. They don't see eye-to-eye and never will.” The truth is that the idea of a Democrat and a Republican playing golf together isn’t ludicrous. What is ludicrous is the idea that people on opposite sides of the political spectrum should be enemies … that one side should have the kind of enmity for the other that a Jewish person has for Hitler. It shouldn’t be necessary to say this, but here goes … Democrats and Republicans are all American Citizens. Most of them are tax payers. One would think that they all want the same thing … what is best for America. They certainly will differ on how that should be achieved, and by the way democrats and republicans should differ among themselves, but they should be able to work together to solve the problems facing the country and put it in a position to be successful in the future. They should … but they aren’t. They aren’t, because they don’t all want what is best for America. Compromise and cooperation have become dirty words because the goals held by too many of our leaders can’t be achieved with compromise and cooperation. The goal is to foil the plans of the other party, and achieve the goals of yours. Party has become more important than country. That is the only conclusion I can reach. The elected officials have adopted this position, and have pushed, prodded, deceived, and scared the rest of us to join them. Hank Williams Jr. is just one of many blind or blinded followers. It is a real big problem, far bigger than an ignorant celebrity making a horrible analogy.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Larry Pastor's Battle - Neshaminy's Loss

One thing is clear from Larry Pastor’s guest opinion article in the Bucks County Courier Times of October 3, 2011: Larry Pastor is engaged in battle with a horrible enemy. This is an enemy that spews lies every time they open their mouths. They are “exclusively focused on increased monetary gains” and on their own “luxurious compensation.” They are “extremists” with a “programmed entitlement mentality.” They are “unyielding” protectors of the “failed status quo.” They prefer an “insular world.” They are the “mortal enemy of reform.” They have “declare[d] war on [the] community and oppose reform with every ounce of their being.” They have spent the last decade “nearly bankrupting our school district.” They “provide zero value to education and in our case, they are a huge negative.” They deliver “mediocre results.” Who are these evil people Larry is waging war on? Why they’re teachers of course. Who else could possibly be so capable of “hurting our children?” Who else could be so without redeeming value?

Larry Pastor has found a dragon to slay. He is not interested in bargaining. He doesn’t seem too interested in facts or supporting any of his assertions either. He is interested in placing blame on the Teacher’s Union. He is interested in trying to separate the Teacher’s Union from the teachers it represents, and make it into a sort of greedy ghoul that needs to be destroyed. He is interested in destroying the Teacher’s Union. If it benefits the school district along the way, that might be OK, but given the level of anger, defensiveness, and vindictiveness that drip from nearly every one of his comments, the well being of the school isn’t his primary goal. No one interested in negotiated reform throws around insults and personal attacks the way he does. No one interested in building anything traffics in as much fear and anger as he does. No one interested in solving problems laces their arguments with as many fallacies as he does. He even accuses others of utilizing ad hominem attacks in an article in which he engages in probably half a dozen of his own. No one interested in the facts and the truth, provide so little of it in what they write. No one sees problems in the way Larry Pastor does should have anything to do with solving them.

It simply doesn’t matter whether Larry Pastor has a substantive and meritorious message. What matters is the way he has chosen to deliver it. He is engaged in battle when the situation calls for engagement in conversation and negotiation. The enemy he has created is at best a gross exaggeration, and at worst complete fiction. What isn’t at all fictional is the damage that has been done by his anger and hate. It is really very clear.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I Love Newt!?!

Newt Gingrich isn’t going to win the Republican nomination for President. This doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is why. He spends a lot of money and has a flawed personal life. He also has the temerity to believe in science and compromise. Oh my God, what is he thinking! Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t vote for Newt Gingrich unless the other choice was my cat, and even then I’d think about it twice. But I’d choose my cat over Michelle Bachmann in a heartbeat. I’d also not hold it against my cat that he licks his ass, as long as he was qualified to make the difficult decisions that face elected officials. I don’t care if Gingrich has had fifteen wives, I’m not marrying him. I’m also not concerned that he has money or with how he spends it. It’s not like my other alternative on the ballot is Mother Theresa (I wouldn’t vote for her if she was, but you get the point). I also am not offended that he sat on a couch with Nancy Pelosi to express his opinion regarding climate change … an opinion shared by much of the scientific community. I don’t know when compromise and cooperation became scourges to be avoided, but I’m not jumping on that bandwagon. Call me old fashioned, but I want my leaders to trust science and work together to solve problems. I’d feel a hell of a lot better if I was sure that the majority of Republicans felt the same way. I’d feel a hell of lot better if Newt Gingrich wasn’t one of the more palatable Republican candidates for President.

Live Video

It seems like I spend a lot of time watching live video feeds, most of them from places like Syria or Haiti or the New Jersey Shore … places that seem to be way beyond my control. On Monday I added an un-expected locale to that list: the inside of my bladder. It made me think about the similarities between my bladder and Syria. My bladder is closer and more Christian, at least nominally. Sightseeing in Syria is probably more interesting. The events in my bladder are more closely connected to my life, though, and there is probably a more active night life … in fact a little too active. Neither is seemingly beyond my reach, but holding it and flying for many hours into a nascent civil war seem equally foreboding. … besides, once I got to Syria I couldn’t take control anymore than I could indefinitely keep my bladder full. Control is usually an illusion anyhow. If I’m seeking to control stuff, I’m going to be spending even more time on the couch, or in the urologist’s office, watching live video feeds. I can’t control my children, but I don’t just sit around and watch videos of them all day. So … maybe I can do more than watch events unfold in Syria and my bladder. I’ll give it some thought as I play with my kids.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Love the Neshaminy School Board

The Neshaminy School Board finds itself locked in a battle of wills with the teachers union … a pretty nasty winner takes all type of battle … and that is whole the problem. The Teachers Union is supposed to be self interested. Their job is to look out for the interests of teachers. That’s OK. Teachers are allowed to be self interested. The fact that they work with children doesn’t mean they aren’t entitled to be paid fairly or get good benefits. Teachers Unions should keep the long term health of the school system in mind if for no other reason than because it is in their interest to do so, but they are supposed to secure the best deal they can for teachers.

The school board is in a different position, or at least it should be. They aren’t supposed to be motivated by self interest. They aren’t supposed to do what is best for the board. They are supposed to do what is best for the school district as a whole (including teachers). They certainly are not supposed to be targeting the teachers union as an enemy. It should not be that a defeat of the teachers union is a victory for the School Board. Residents shouldn’t be lining up to declare sides. No one should be putting signs on their front lawn declaring their love for the school board. No one should be spewing venom against teachers on the facebook site and blog of a member of the school board, misleadingly titled as if they are official, and no one should be throwing insults left and right on their own “taxpayer” website. The School Board is supposed to be engaging in negotiations as if it is more of a partner than an adversary.

Unfortunately, the Neshaminy School Board is pretty adversarial. Unfortunately, people do have signs that declare their love for the Neshaminy School Board. Unfortunately, board member William O’Connor does have a blog and a facebook page, which seem to serve as places for people to gather and cheer on the board in their fight with the evil and misguided union. Unfortunately, Larry Pastor (a ‘taxpayer’ with a few dozen axes to grind), does have a site, ‘Taxpayers for a Fair Neshaminy School Budget,’ which is full of personal attacks, half truths, innuendo, and just plain old ignorance.

Many on the School Board and among their ‘supporters’ seem to think that the problem is that they aren’t getting their message across. They seem to believe strongly that they have the better of the argument. They may be right … but I don’t care. Message is immaterial when you behave in the way that the board and their supporters have. Approach matters. Process matters. Negotiations should be handled in good will. Compromise and cooperation should be the rule of the day. Insults and snide comments should not. The Neshaminy School Board has created a battle with the teachers union, and has tied itself to people like Larry Pastor who seem capable of little beyond insults and conspiracy theories. The Neshaminy School Board has vacated its responsibility of looking out for the best interests of the district as a whole, and has become a private interest in and of itself … an object of love and fealty. There really is only one way out of this mess. We need a new school board, one that will leave the destruction of unions to somebody else and just do its job. That is the bottom line. Larry Pastor would have to find someone else to insult, but the rest of us would be better off.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Stupid Voters

In this opinion piece ( LZ Granderson asserts that our government is broken because of stupid voters. He is right … kind of. These people aren’t really stupid. They probably aren’t lazy either. They are more likely to be busy, confused, uninformed, angry, or afraid. You can blame them if you want, but you can’t stop there. The blame has to go beyond those who would vote for people who question evolution, belong to a movement called the “tea Party” but don’t know that Paul Revere wasn’t warning the British and the Constitution was actually written to strengthen the power of the federal government, and would openly refuse to employ people who belong to particular religions. The blame has to fall on the people that attract the support of these people by taking advantage, and even encouraging, their hate, fear, ignorance, or even distractedness. The blame also needs to be placed on those of us who bemoan that our fate is tied to the fate of these stupid people, and snipe and snigger at them. For the most part we have not recognized our responsibility in all of this. We need to do more than just bitch and moan. We have to try and help people get past their fear, hate, and ignorance. We need to help provide the resources they need to see past the opportunistic appeals of folks like Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and Herman Cain. We need to stop looking down our noses at these people, and realize that they could be any of us. Politics can be bewildering, most of us are very busy, and there is plenty to get angry about it. It should be understandably easy to be hoodwinked. It should be understandably easy to help people avoid being hoodwinked. When it comes to this mess we find ourselves in, if anybody is stupid it’s not just the folks who elected Bachmann and Palin. In this mess, we’re all prime candidates for stupid.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Moving Desks

In September 2005, Martha Cothren, a teacher in Little Rock, took all of the desks out of her class room. She told each of her classes that they couldn’t have desks back until they told her how they could earn them. When the final class of the day was unable to answer the question, she opened the door and in came 27 veterans with the chairs. Mrs. Cothren told the students that they didn’t have to earn their chairs because the veterans had already done that. I’m sorry, but how did a veteran earn the kids their school desks? Why not have factory workers bring it in? They are the folks that built the desk. Is that too literalist for you? Then why not have construction workers bring it in? They have built the infrastructure that allows us to go to school and to have schools. You could always have politicians bring it in. No one likes politicians, but they set the course for the country. They make the decisions that determine where and when people go to war and help us avoid it too. Sometimes they even make decisions that help create better schools and more opportunities for our young people. They certainly get their fair share of blame when things go wrong. What about community activists? I’d let a smart person who passed on big money to help people out bring in my desk. Here’s a funny idea … what about teachers? I know it’s fashionable to look down at teachers as people who have failed or weren’t ambitious enough to even try other real careers and went looking for a job where they would get paid gobs of money for doing nothing … but they are the ones giving out the education. Of course there are always the students themselves. I know that it is easy to get through college and into graduate school. They just give away advanced degrees for free, but presumably students do something to further their own education. I have no problem for thanking soldiers for risking their lives. They haven’t, however, won freedom for America all by themselves. It isn’t a slight to them to not thank them for upholding democracy itself. People who risk their lives to do their country's dirty work should be recognized. But they shouldn't get truckloads of credit, or blame, for everything under the sun. Vietnam veterans didn’t diminish American democracy. The people who guided that war might have, but not the people who fought it. Likewise, people fighting in more acceptable wars haven't established American democracy all by themselves. The sum of all American accomplishments is not on the battlefield, even battlefields where we saw victory. In some way, the fetishization of soldiers is a response to the ill treatment they got after Vietnam. In some ways it is a byproduct of political movements that diminish the contributions of teachers, community activists, and the federal government. In some ways it is a just a sign of the extent to which we have reduced our democracy to symbols. I guess it is easier when America is just flags, soldiers, and football games. What I know is that telling school children that they owe their educations to soldiers isn't telling the whole truth. Many folks have worked to make education possible. Many folks need to continue to work to continue to make it possible, and to make it possible for more of us. Many folks should be recognized, not just the people who are sent out to solve problems with guns. I know it doesn’t make for as easy a lesson or as big an impact to have desks brought in by soldiers, plumbers, factory workers, teachers, lawyers, doctors, and musicians … but at least it would be the truth.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pregnant Male Cats

Today I have concluded that I am in danger of being just like just about everyone else. I want fortune to smile on me and whisk me away to a life of luxury … and I almost believe that it will. That point was driven home to me today in a conversation I had with my wife about our cat. Our cat, Jordan, is 13 years old. He used to be a truly fat cat … borderline embarrassingly fat. His fat dusted the floor. In his old age he’s not that cat anymore. He’s half that cat. Recently, however, he’s been rebounding. He ‘s hungry all the time. In order to keep him from eating everything in sight instantly and then throwing it up, we are feeding him a little bits almost all of the time. Today, just before dinner, as I gave him feeding number two hundred and fifteen, I joked that maybe he was pregnant. My wife laughed … and said “yes!!! … that explains it.” Then, for a moment, I wondered if it could be true. I saw myself on the Johnny Carson show with my old pregnant neutered male cat … and undeterred by the fact that Carson has been dead for half a decade … I pictured the endorsement dollars rolling in. For that moment I wasn’t worried about whether we will be able to move into the perfect school system before next year. I wasn’t worried about how in the world I will get my old over qualified ass a job. I wasn’t concerned about the electrical issues in the bathroom or the crumbling driveway, neither of which we can afford to replace. I didn’t even feel any anger toward the groundhog that keeps obliterating my vegetables. My pregnant cat would save the day. He could buy me a greenhouse. Then I realized I wasn’t any different from the folks I mock for believing in and waiting on the American Dream. I’ve been waiting for things to happen to me too. I don’t believe in the American Dream, so I’ve had to move on to the mutant pet dream … but it’s really the same thing. I want to believe that the world is a happier place than it really is. I want to believe that if I just attend to my problems, good things will happen to me. I want to believe that all I have to do is work hard and I’ll succeed. I want to believe that my old cat is going to be around indefinitely. Because I want to believe those things, I’m an easy mark. If there was a racket preying on people gullible enough to believe their male neutered pets can be pregnant, I’d be in trouble. I’d be in trouble just like all the Americans are in trouble who are being hoodwinked into defending a system that gives them the freedom to wait for a miracle. We’re waiting when we should be doing … celebrating a fantasy when we should be writing our own story. I guess we all have a choice to make. Every day we have a choice to make. So far I’ve been choosing to wait for feline in vitro. Maybe I’ll make a different choice tomorrow. What about you?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Cannibalization of The American Dream

You are a smart one … that is for sure. First, you notice that the industrial jobs that have sustained the American middle class and given some traction to the dream of upward mobility are disappearing. You see that they are being replaced with jobs that require more education and/or get paid less and come with fewer benefits. Next, you notice that corporations are less connected to Americans than they ever have been … that they are only really dependent upon them as consumers, if at all. Then you see that corporations and the super rich that inhabit their board rooms have a lot of money to spend on behalf of folks who look after their interests. You also take note of the fact that as easily obtained good paying jobs disappear, class differences solidify. They have always been present, but now you can see the hints of a caste system developing. The people that have money now, will be the people that have money in the future. That has always been true to an extent, but now it is practically gospel. Equality, equality of opportunity … whatever you want to call it, it is now nothing but a mirage. It is a mirage, but not just any mirage. It is a sacred mirage. People still believe in it. They cling to it. They cling to the supposed greatness of America. It might be because it is all they have left, but you don’t care. You know that you can use it to your advantage. You can sell the masses on Horatio Alger and Tom Monaghan stories. They will not only buy it, they will defend it. They will turn on anyone that challenges it … and you can make anyone who challenges you out to be someone that is challenging that American Dream. It is a perfect set up. When someone proposes taxes on the wealthiest among us, you can trot out the American Dream alongside your trickle-down economics. You can even label those who put forward such ideas as socialists waging class warfare … elitists trying to tear apart America. It is brilliant. You destroy whatever existed of the American Dream, and divide us into castes, and then cover it in red, white, and blue and have the very people you hold down rush to the defense of the system you have put in place to hold them down and keep you up. It is brilliant. It is working. Sadly, that is the bottom line. There’s not much else to say other than … congratulations.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

flattery IS everything

The more compliments a politician’s message includes, the more skeptical you should be. What is a compliment? Well, most candidates for Congress won’t have an opportunity to tell you how nice you look in your black polka dot dress or how you don’t look a day older even after twenty years. They do, however, have ample opportunity to heap praise on categories you may fall into. They have the opportunity, and they seize on it. This is why some go on and on about what a great country we live in and how much we have accomplished. We are a beacon of freedom built with hard work and non-stop innovation … and of course you are a huge part of that effort. It is also why politicians talk about the strength of the working class, the contributions of the brave men and women of the armed services, and the generous gifts that have been given and are still being given by older Americans. All of these compliments feel wonderful to receive, as long as you don’t notice what is not being said. Compliments should not be accepted as a substitute for real ideas, possible solutions to the problems facing our country, and even explanations. What a startling idea … an elected leader might actually explain something to his or her constituents rather than trying to charm or scam them into accepting it. Of course, for that to happen, we have to want more than compliments. We have to reward those who do explain by listening. We have to listen, and encourage constructive engagement by other politicians with those who have good ideas that they are confident enough to really explain. We need to shift our skepticism of compromise and constructive dialogue over to empty compliments. Ultimately, the onus here is on us … on voters. We will get what we ask for, or at least we won’t get anything we don’t ask for. So … if you want more than a shout out you’d better start asking for it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Golden Rule

Do onto others as they would have you do onto them. Do onto others as you would have them do onto you ... if you were them and they were you. Either one is a dramatic improvement on the traditional Golden Rule ... because in both scenarios we stop imagining that everyone is like us. Everyone isn't like us. All of us aren't like us. You don't treat a senior citizen as if they were thirty years old. You shouldn't treat a homosexual the way you, as a straight person, wants to be treated. If you used one of my Golden Rules you wouldn't stand in the way of one man finding love with another. You wouldn't be thinking about how someone else's relationship impacts you. Universal health care wouldn't be much of a problem for you under my Golden Rule either. The bottom line ... you need to be less selfish. It's not all about you. That's the essence of the thing, the glittery part of my Golden Rule.

We are fat

We are overweight. We are just too fat. I'm not talking about Americans and their hamburgers and slurpees, although that is a problem relationship. I'm not talking about individuals at all. I'm not talking about cellulite either. I'm talking about all of us ... collectively. Humans. There are just too many of us. Most of the problems we face today can be tied to over-population. Fracking, the economic crisis, global warming ... you name it and the root cause is likely to be that there are just too many of us. Politicians don't talk about it because there is no easy weight loss program. No Weight Watchers. No tummy tucks. No special shakes. The reason, of course, is that the 'pounds' you need to drop are people ... real people. If China had a problem with limiting folks to one child, how successful will anybody else be? A mandatory limit on life span probably won't get any more traction than planned genocide. So, it's a problem without an easy or palatable solution. There is no chance of short term voter satisfaction. So, we ignore it. We just throw on our track suit and head for McDonalds thinking of a way to justify super sizing.

Hope and Change

When did hope and change become dirty words? Maybe it was the same moment that compromise became synonymous with weakness. I have a feeling that the conflation of the interests of party & country and corporation and individual citizen have a role. I also think the blacklisting of logic and reason as elitist and practically un-American is involved. If you profit from the status quo, change is something to fear and belittle. If you don't believe in the power of human reason, hope might be hard. Hope is not belief. Hope requires agency. It requires imagination. It requires reason and understanding. It requires humility. Hope requires help. Hope is just an acceptance that things aren't perfect and never will be, but that together we can make them better. To me, that doesn't seem like something that should be controversial or the property of a particular party. It doesn't seem like a dirty word. It seems like something we all should want ... we all should have. It's too bad more people don't feel the same way, but I am hopeful that can change.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The remains of 9/11

By the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 there will be a piece of World Trade Center steel in every town, village, and hamlet. Maybe there will be a 9/11 kiosk in every mall, complete with its own piece of the towers that you can close your eyes and rub. Everyone wants a piece of 9/11. And why not ... mourning is easy. Anger is easy. Fear is easy. Reacting constructively, dispassionately, methodically ... that's a lot more difficult. So we haven't done it. Instead, we have distilled 9/11 down to a piece of steel and an attack on freedom. Anything else is just way too hard.

Of Ceilings and Floors in America

The myth of America is that there is no ceiling... no limitation that hard work and ambition can not conquer. The reality is that there is no floor ... nothing to stop people from being conquered when ambition and hard work aren't enough. All too often ambition and hard work simply aren't enough. There are plenty of ceilings out there. If your a man is a drug addict ... that can be a ceiling. Being born into a particular cultural reality and/or social strata can be a ceiling. Something as innocuous as saying "yous" when addressing groups of people can mark your position and make it hard for you to leave it. These ceilings make a mockery out of equality of opportunity. Beyond the sickening stench of irony and betrayal, it just doesn't exist. We are not free to succeed on our own merits ... our freedom really only gives us room to fail. The American myth of equal opportunity only serves as an excuse to allow people to fail. We need to choose. Either we are about letting people rise and fall on their own merits, in which case we need to provide a level playing field ... or we're not and then we can't justify inaction when it comes to helping folks by pointing to individual freedoms and opportunities. It's time to live up to the myth or let it go.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Did they really perpetrate 9/11 because they hate our freedom?

The people behind the 9/11 attacks were not just trying to strike fear into Americans. They weren’t just trying to kill Americans. They weren’t expressing their hatred of freedom and love and apple pie. They had other reasons for perpetrating those attacks. Terrorists often feel that there is no other way to accomplish their goals. It isn’t just that they like to kill people. They really do have goals beyond killing people and getting their hands on virgins. Really. I wouldn’t be surprised if many Americans can’t think of a single one, and with ten years having passed since the attacks, that is a real problem. How can we ever truly deal with the threat of terrorism if we have no idea why it happens beyond some foggy notion that everyone wants to kill us for our freedom. It is possible that things like a large number of unemployed men, a crippling colonial legacy, resentment towards Israel and our support of it, anger and resentment about our role in wars and other shadier activities, and any countless number of other things (how about the use of torture or indefinite detention) may be motivating people. It is possible that people may have real reasons for targeting us, and that some of them may either be our fault or within our control to deal with. Is it possible that we will ever recognize any of this and do anything about it?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lessons of 9/11

We showed those terrorists. We didn’t stand by idly while they tried to hurt our country … we helped them out. We launched our selves into two wars, one of them completely unconnected to the terrorist attacks used to justify it. We reorganized our disaster response system, and were unprepared for Hurricane Katrina. We boldly compromised our values by using torture and weakening the protections that those accused of crimes normally have in our system. We wasted resources hand over fist in an effort to prevent the kind of attacks that had already happened. More importantly we wasted an unprecedented amount of goodwill, and fueled hatred in a new generation of terrorists. Now, on the tenth anniversary of the attacks, we are well on our way to losing any sense of perspective concerning the events. As long as we see them as attacks by religious wackos who hated our freedom, we will have gained nothing from our loss and be every bit as vulnerable to future attacks regardless of how many new fangled scanners we develop or how many extra personnel we station around potential targets. The bottom line is that we have been our own worst enemy and it is a mistake that we would be unlikely to avoid making again.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Hyperbole & 9/11

Hyperbole seems to have triumphed in the fight to tell the story of 9/11 … narrowly drawn hyperbole. We were attacked because we were free. We were attacked by crazy cowards. We are the light in the world, and were attacked by the forces of darkness. 9/11 was an attack on our nation. We are the greatest nation in the world, which is why we were the target of such a heinous attack. We have lived under the cloud of war for ten years.

We’ve all heard these statements or others like them. Statements that are remarkable in their narrowness and self focus. It’s as if we are the only ones ever attacked by terrorists … actually as if we should have been the only ones never attacked by terrorists. It’s as if we are above and beyond the pettiness of the rest of the world and any culpability in or for it. It’s also as if the killing ended on 9/11. If a soldier went to war and died in order to avenge the victims of 9/11, well that might count. But that’s the extent of our imagination on the issue. We just can’t make the connections.

The story of 9/11 isn’t just narrow, it’s overstated. We need to leave out the “greatest” and “evils” and the talk of “freedom” and “jealousy.” There was an attack. About 3,000 people died. The people who perpetrated these attacks blamed the United States for some of the troubles they were facing, such as: a strong Israel, the plight of the Palestinian people, American troops in Saudi Arabia, and narrow and limited economic development. Their cause was fueled by poverty, a large number of unemployed young men, and a real sense of powerlessness. In the wake of these attacks we fixated on punishing the perpetrators and screening people at airports, and made no real attempt to develop the goodwill that existed in the aftermath of the attacks and use it to attack the structural problems that give rise to terrorism. Our leaders instead used the tragedy as an opportunity to champion their ideological agenda and take care of what they saw as unfinished business. In the pursuit of these goals our leaders destroyed any goodwill that had been created, and tarnished whatever good image we had. We abandoned a realistic approach to the world that was based on compromise for a more idealized approach based on a rigid adherence to ideology. They also used the furor over 9/11 to weaken federal regulation of the economy and the environment in a way that favored corporations over individuals. That’s what happened. It wasn’t great. It didn’t involve much light or many beacons. It wasn’t evil either. It just was what it was.

I prefer this kind of straightforward retelling of the events of 9/11. It wasn’t the end of the world. It was important, very important, but only when you consider not only that one day but our reaction on all the days that have come after. It is more than just the loss of 3,000 lives. It is more than just daring rescue stories and heart wrenching tales of loss. It can’t be captured in a television special or a t-short or even a memorial centered on a twisted piece of metal … no matter how much hyperbole you indulge in. It is one piece of a much bigger story about how we relate to the rest of the world and how the rest of the world relates to us … a story that isn’t going to be told in the next few days … and is rapidly being obscured and shouted over. A story we should try to reveal before it is buried in an avalanche of hyperbole.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Kids' Book of Freedom

If you are looking for the perfect gift for your children on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 … look no further. You can buy the “We Shall Never Forget 9/11: Kid’s Book of Freedom.” There is simply no better way to help your impressionable little ones celebrate a terrorist attack. There is even a coloring page depicting soldiers shooting at Bin Laden, with the caption: “Children, the truth is, these terrorist acts were done by freedom-hating radical Islamic Muslim extremists. These crazy people hate the American way of life because we are FREE and our society is FREE.” Who isn’t looking to have their little ones think about the shooting and killing of terrorists? I’m hoping my five year old can color in the flames shooting out of the building and the people falling from the heights to their deaths. Red, orange, and black are some of her very favorite colors. And I’m so glad they keep it simple. I mean, imagine if they presented a more complete picture of Islam or talked about religious tolerance. What If they presented terrorists as people who commit these acts for a reason, and not simply as “crazy people”? What if they told the kids about the murders and assassinations committed by the American military over the years? Some wackos would even want our children to hear about racism and homophobia. There can’t be an asterix on “FREE.” We are the greatest country in the world. Anything that sullies that image is just inappropriate for impressionable youth. The “Kid’s Book of Freedom” is all my family needs, that is until they come out with the Abu Ghraib and Our President is a Communist, Fascist, Muslim, Foreign Born, Black Man coloring books. Hip hip hooray for America!