Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Tea Party ... A Lot of Empty Cups

The Tea Party folks want bigger spending cuts. They don't care what is cut. The number is what matters, and the number has to be bigger. That should tell you all you need to know about the Tea Party. Sound financial policy does not result from focusing only on spending cuts. A few other things, such as the impact of the proposed spending cuts or the possibility of (gasp) raising taxes or the long term outlook, need to be considered. Unless you believe that any government is bad government, then there isn't much justification for the Tea Party's fetishization of spending cuts. Most of us don't believe that any government is bad government. Many of us are reluctant to actually end the programs and initiatives whose demise is the other side of the spending cuts. Most of us get over our anger eventually, and either become unmotivated or more open to reason and logic. This is why the Tea Party folks are probably fated to be a short lived phenomenon, at least as influential political players. The Tea Party agenda is a mixture of knee jerk reaction, broad and unsupportable generalizations, and appeals to fear, hate, and anger. That is why they can't get beyond pushing for larger and larger spending cuts, and that is why they should be aggressively ignored.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Herman Cain is black, and he's a bigot too

When asked over the weekend if, were he to become President (an event that is about as likely as me becoming President), he would appoint any Muslims to his cabinet or as a Federal Judge, Herman Cain said: "No, I will not, and here's why. There is this creeping attempt, there is this attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government. It does not belong in our government. This is what happened in Europe. And little by little, to try and be politically correct, they made this little change, they made this little change. And now they've got a social problem that they don't know what to do with hardly." When Cain was accused of being a bigot, his communications director, Ellen Carmichael, answered that "[t]he claim that he is bigoted – when he himself has lived the majority of his childhood and young adult life under segregation – is pretty baseless." Carmichael also said that "Just as he would never appoint a Catholic who is loyal to the Pope before he or she is loyal to the Constitution, Mr. Cain would never appoint a Muslim who believes Sharia law trumps our U.S. Constitution. Anyone who is in the business of making laws, or interpreting laws, should use the Constitution and nothing else."
It’s hard to know where to start here, but the claim that black people who have lived through segregation can’t be bigots is a good place to start. Just because you have been suffered at the hands of bigots in one way or the other does not mean that you can’t be a bigot. Everyone can be a bigot if he wants to, or even if he doesn’t want to. Bigots don’t always realize that they are being bigots. Whether he realizes it or not, Herman Cain is a bigot.
Next, let’s dispense with the backtracking. Cain was clearly saying he would not appoint a Muslim. If he had wanted to say that he wouldn’t appoint Muslims who had particular beliefs, he is plenty smart enough to have known how to say that.
Now, let’s tackle the idea that Sharia is about to infiltrate and take over the American judicial system. I’m not sure why exactly we should have to, because it’s a pretty ridiculous idea, but let’s tackle it anyway. First of all, what did you think when you read Carmichael’s line about Catholics choosing the Pope over the Constitution? Can you imagine a Catholic movement to bring the United States under the power of the Pope. Are you concerned? Are you going to lose any sleep over this? Did it make you laugh? Why is it different when we talk about American Muslims imposing Sharia? Second, Muslims in America only talk about Sharia as it pertains to family law. They aren’t the only religious group to attempt to follow their own rules in the area of family law (Jews and Mormons come to mind). Have any presidential hopefuls been warning us of the specter of the Beth Din? Muslims, like other groups, are attempting to keep some of their own practices, and when it doesn’t conflict with American law, which is most of the time, this isn’t the least bit worrisome. Where it does, it still shouldn’t worry us because our legal system is robust enough to handle it.

Finally, let’s get at the main point Cain is making. He is saying Muslims, if they aren’t radicals, are just a step away from it and we all ought to be wary and scared and probably paranoid. Why doesn’t this apply to Christians? Why aren’t we all a step away from bombing an abortion clinic or picketing a soldier’s funeral? Why do we let public figures get away with spreading vile lies and distortions about a whole group of people simply to further their own political ambitions? Why do many of us accept these lies? Why don’t we take the time to learn about Islam before we start talking about it? Why is Herman Cain running for President? I wish I could answer any of these questions.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Dan Quayle speaks the truth ... oh my!

Dan Quayle said: "I'm glad he's out playing golf. I happen to be a golfer. I think presidents deserve down time. And believe me, he is in constant communication with what's going on. I mean, what do you want him to do, stay in his house and be on the phone with the ambassador to Japan all the time?" I’m going to skip the Dan Quayle jokes. I am also not going to say much about Obama and golf, other than to say I agree with Quayle. I never had a problem with Bush playing golf, whether before or during or right in the middle of a war. My problems with Bush involved nearly everything else he did, and a number of things he didn’t do, before and during the war (there really was no after). Similarly, it doesn’t bother me that Obama plays golf. I don’t get golf, but I do get it that our President is human. My main concern is that a comment like this is so remarkable. It is truly sad that it is so shocking for a Republican to say something positive about a Democrat. Right now, we are in a place where it is expected for our elected leaders to either lie or keep their mouth shut if the only other option is to speak the truth and possibly cast a member of the opposite party in a positive light. That is a very sad place for us to be.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The FDA should warn readers that J. D. Mullane isn't good for you

J. D. Mullane writes a great column, if you are looking for examples of illogic. This Thursday Mullane struck again. This time he was ridiculing the importance of the posting of nutritional information at restaurants. Ridicule is what Mullane does best. His argument was ... well, I'm not sure what his argument was. I have no idea what evidence he provided to support his argument.

He seems to be saying that labeling, as mandated by "ObamaCare," won't work. People ignore the labels. The real problem, he believes, is portions. The real problem is self control, and is not the responsibility of restaurants. I don't disagree that portions are often too big, but I'm not sure how that invalidates efforts to give consumers more information about what they are consuming at restaurants. I also don't know how relating a conversation he had with someone advocating labeling, and slyly ridiculing her, supports his argument. He cites two studies (about which we know nothing, so have no way of judging their worth), one of which finds that 38% of folks presented with more nutritional information in a restaurant setting chose healthier options than they would otherwise have. That seems significant to me. The other study looked at labeling at Starbucks, where nutrition labels did have an effect. Mullane quotes the researchers as saying that "Starbucks caters to an educated clientele," and then goes off on a wounded working man kick, without really saying how this study supports his argument, whatever it is. Mullane also talks of Philadelphia's effort to provide nutritional information at restaurants as an "experiment in big gummit." This is a wonderful way to invoke the specter of big government and also present himself as the common man ... one of us. He also manages to make it sound as if all the information being presented is common sense, and anyone who has health problems because of eating is an idiot. Pick up just about anything packaged in plastic at a grocery store and see if you can guess what is in it without looking. Turn on a television and see if you see advertisements for unhealthy food. The answers to those questions are you won't and you will. The idea that multimillion dollar corporations who employ scientists, lawyers, economists, advertising professionals, etc. have no responsibility to tell individuals what is in the high tech (yes, food these days is high tech) products they produce is, insulting. The idea that major health epidemics facing our country (like obesity, heart disease, cancer ...) are exclusively tied to the failure of individual self control is beyond insulting.

All of these little tricks, on their own, are quite clever. It doesn't, however, add up to a single logical premise that supports his argument. It doesn't add up to much more than a muddle of ridicule, hate, and clever phrasing. It's too bad Mullane's articles don't come with some labeling to warn the reader about what is contained inside.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tom Corbett and Taxes

Tom Corbett won't raise taxes. He won't raise taxes ever on anyone. You might ask how that works. How can he run a state with a large deficit if he doesn't tax. Well, the answer is he cuts lots of spending. Some of those cuts, actually a lot of them, come out of education. He is also changing the way school districts are reimbursed for Social Security expenses, a change which will hit wealthier school districts hardest. They will have to do something to make up the difference, something like ... raise taxes. So Corbett won't have to raise taxes on anyone, not even the large corporations drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania. He will make it so someone else will have to do his dirty work. This makes him, at best, a liar. At worst .. well, I'll let you make up your own mind. Whatever he is, though, it isn't an opponent of taxes. He's an opponent of having to be responsible for raising taxes. He might just be an opponent of being responsible.

Searching for a Trump card: Looking in vain for the ultimate way to counter illogic, hate, fear, and ignorance

Donald Trump is at it again. Essentially, he knows he has no way of winning a campaign on the issues, so he is appealing to anger, ignorance, fear, prejudice, and other good things. Maybe he realizes he has no way of winning regardless of what he says, and he is just trying to get a few more minutes in the spotlight. Either way, now he has said: "I want him to show his birth certificate. There's something on that birth certificate that he doesn't like." He also said: “If you go back to my first grade, my kindergarten, people remember me. Nobody from those early years remembers him."

There is no evidence at all that President Obama was born outside the United States. There is plenty of evidence he was born in Hawaii. For that matter, he was elected President and no credible challenge has been mounted to his eligibility to serve as President, so it is pretty unlikely that he wasn’t born in Hawaii. What isn’t clear, is how to make this nonsense go away. I really wish there was a trump card (pun intended) that sane and logical human beings could play to end this ridiculous debate. I don’t think there is such a card, but here are the options that come closest.

We could simply ignore people who think this way and those who appeal to them. We who believe in reason and logic could simply stop responding. Let these folks talk to themselves. Maybe they would go away.

Even better, the press could stop reporting this nonsense. This is an old story. Not a shred of evidence has been presented in years, if ever. Other folks with hate and paranoia filled agendas don’t get this much press. They certainly don’t get recognition, however overt, from most candidates for high office from one of the two major political parties. Haley Barbour isn’t giving covert shout outs to the Klan, at least not that many. We’ve entered this realm of reporting where everyone who has an opinion gets equal time. It used to be that people with no real argument didn’t get equal coverage. Impartial coverage of a story doesn’t require giving equal time to every side of a story or taking permanent leave of our senses.

Here’s another option … we could say who cares? We could point out that this kind of gambit is usually a characteristic of third world politics. I’m more accustomed to seeing these sorts of challenges in places like Ivory Coast or Chicago (just kidding, although …). They are usually challenges meant to exclude someone of a rival ethnicity. Come to think of it, that is exactly what happened in Chicago (let’s try to keep out the white boy) and almost certainly what is happening with Obama (except he ain't white … which is the problem). So, anyway, we could just tell these people that the only ones who fixate on these sorts of issues are racists, who are usually unfamiliar with the workings of democracy.

The other option would be to mercilessly hound any elected official or reputable person who does anything less than condemn this nonsense. There should be a list of people who refuse to say something along the lines of: “Obama is an American. End of story. My disagreements with him are over our vision for the future of the country. We don’t disagree on whether we are both Americans who love our country and want the best for it, we just disagree on what is best for it. And those issues, issues of substance, are what we ought to be talking about.” Anyone on this list shouldn’t be elected to any office, from President right through dog catcher.

Maybe we should be pursuing all of these strategies, and not just on this issue. This is a real problem. People are refusing to use logic and reason to tackle the problems facing our country. We don’t have to agree, but we all need to be willing to utilize reason and logic. The world was not created in six days. Evolution is clearly part of the reality, and should be taught in classrooms without any religious add ons. All Americans aren’t Christians. It makes no sense to say that abortion is wrong because it takes a human life. It is clear that in some circumstances it is justifiable to take life. Abortion may not be one of those circumstances, but you need to provide real logical reasons as to why it isn’t. The list goes on and on. We need to be able to agree that logic is a good thing. We need to be able to agree that discussion and compromise are necessary, if not good. We need to be able to agree that Obama is eligible to be President, so we can move on to talking about what he’s been doing as President.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Libya - of methods and results

Our involvement in Libya might end badly. It is a difficult situation. We can't be un-involved without drawing criticism, but we can't be too involved either. We can't engage in open warfare, but if power doesn't change hands in Libya many will call our involvement a failure. We need to work with others, but the bigger the coalition the more cooks we have in the kitchen, cooks that barely agree on what meal we are preparing. This may all end quite badly but that doesn't mean that getting involved was a mistake. The problems with our invasion of Iraq were all in the planning and preparation, or at least that is where they were first. We went in on false pretenses, without much of a coalition, and had no plan for what we would do once we won. We had screwed up before we ever had fired a single shot. This time, it appears that we have been more deliberate and less deceitful. We have the support of the Arab League and the United Nations. We are limiting our involvement. We have not yet harmed the cause of those we say we want to help. It's not clear if we have a plan for the next step, and it is a problem if we don't. We might also make missteps as the operation unfolds, like we did in Iraq (not providing for people's needs, disbanding the army pop, and utilizing torture pop into my head as examples). It also might all fall apart regardless of what we do. But so far ...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Diplomacy ... now there's a funky idea!

The Obama administration has been criticized for ... well for lots of things, but one criticism has been leveled at their response to events in Libya. Well, actually there are a whole set of often conflicting criticisms of the American response, but the one that I am most interested in has to do with the timing. The criticism is that the United States moved to slow … that the no-fly zone should have been in place days if not weeks earlier. The response to this is really rather simple. The Obama administration decided to use diplomacy. They wanted a broad coalition, unlike the one we marched into Iraq with under the second Bush. They wanted the involvement of Arab countries. They wanted the Security Council to sign off on this. They did not want to go it alone. This approach took time. It also took into account the reality of our situation. We can't do whatever we want. Those days are over, or they ever existed. We are already involved in a war or two. We don't actually have that much influence in the region and the last President damaged our standing in the region (and beyond) with his actions, and for these and other reasons our involvement has negative repercussions for the people we are trying to help. Besides, diplomacy actually has a few things going for it in any circumstance. I am actually really happy with the response, because it shows planning, thoughtfulness, an awareness of long term implications, and generally a sense that how you do something is as important, if not more important, than what you do. It is just like the move away from torture. Any short term gains of that approach to terrorism are overwhelmed by the long term implications. The question isn't whether we want to stop terrorism or whether we want to support a new regime in Libya, the question is how should we go about doing these things. Whatever the result, the Obama administration has gone about this in the right way, and that is what we have some control over ... that is what is important.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Tom Corbett and cigarettes

Tom Corbet (I decided to take a t off of his name ... he had two, and we all have to sacrifice in this time of economic distress), the new governor of Pennsylvania, has decided to tackle the budget problems facing Pennsylvania by drastically reducing state funding of education, from kindergarten through to college. He pledged not to raise any taxes, and he isn't proposing to do so now. He won't even tax natural gas producers, who are operating free and clear of any environmental regulations.

At first I thought it was pretty stupid to not tax an extractive polluter, or raise any taxes at all, and instead slash funding for education, causing school districts, already short of funds, to cut programs and forcing colleges to raise tuition, which is already too high for many Pennsylvanians to afford. But then, the more I thought about, the more I realized that my problem was I was thinking of the future. Corbet is on to something. The future always seems to take care of itself somehow, why should we worry about it?

Now, I'm fully on board with Corbet. I even have a new idea for him. We need to encourage smoking. If we encourage people to smoke, maybe by allowing advertising again or subsidizing cigarette purchases or just calling on Pennsylvanians to start smoking, we will turn around our economy in no time. If more people buy cigarettes, that will increase tax revenue without raising taxes. It's pure genius. Plus, as long as we encourage people to smoke American, we will be benefiting the national economy. If we allow smoking inside buildings again, we will increase productivity. No more smoke breaks! The Governor could hire people to hand out cigarettes. Maybe teachers that are let go because of the cuts in funding for schools could take these positions. They could even hand them out at schools. You would only have to hand them out for a while. Once people were hooked, they would buy their own. We could have patriotic smoking posters, jingles, parades ... I think it's such a great idea, that I am going out right now to 7-11 to buy me some smokes, some Marlboros for me and some Virginia Slims for my wife. There isn't anything else to say about it, and I need to get smoking. I certainly am not going to worry about increased health care costs in the future. That is as silly as worrying about the future impacts of a slashed school budget. I have no time for that, and after a few packs I won't have the energy for it either. I'm with you Tom ... now let's get smoking!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Donald Trump is an idiot or a horrible person, and either way should never be President

Donald Trump has a lot of money. That is really the sum total of his qualifications to be president. Actually, he seems to be intent on proving just how unqualified he is before he spends any of his money. He's doing a great job of that, or at least as good a job as everyone else who wants to represent the Republican Party in the next election. Trump thinks its strange that people haven't come forward with stories about Obama as a toddler in Hawaii, and thus he has doubt about whether Obama was really born in America. I can't tell you how depressed I am that this is still an issue. The man was clearly born in America. If he wasn't, I'm pretty sure we would have some real proof by now. He is the President after all. The president who has produced documentation proving he was born in Hawaii. What this says about the state of race relations is utterly nauseating ... don't bother even pretending to argue that this would be going on if Obama wasn't black. What this says about the caliber of people leading our country is equally depressing. Trump, and every other prominent Republican that refuses to simply come out and say that this is nonsense, is doing us all a disservice to further their own political ambitions, or is an idiot, and on either account should be forced to give up any elected office they now hold and be barred from running for one. I don't mean that they should be legally forced into retirement; I mean that we the People should force them into retirement. It is time to put an end to this nonsense. If you want to be President, try to do it by telling us what you are going to do differently concerning the economy, or foreign relations. Give us details, don't just spit out platitudes and slogans, or talk about budget cuts and small government. Give us some credit and give us some details. While you're at it, drop the insults and playground behavior. And, stop worrying about where the President was born. Hawaii really is in the United States.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Michele Bachman, a lousy choice in Concord, Lexington, and Everywhere Else

When we get worried about what people say, we tend to focus on the wrong things that people say. Michele Bachman provides a perfect example. She recently said that Lexington and Concord were in New Hampshire, which has gotten a lot of attention. Now, she should know where these places are ... particularly as a member of the Tea Party. It's not, however, essential knowledge when it comes to running the country. It is a little troubling that her reaction to this gaffe would be to blame the media, but not nearly as troubling as any number of other things she has said that she has no problem taking credit for. Calling Obama's administration a "gangster government" would be one example. Here are a couple more ...

"I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out: Are they pro-America or anti-America?"

"I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back."

"Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn't even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas."

"Not all cultures are equal."

"Unelected bureaucracies will decide what we can and can’t get in future health insurance policy. That's why they’re called death panels."

"Unfortunately, the Census data has become very intricate, very personal, a lot of the questions that are asked. I know for my family, the only question we will be answering is how many people are in our home. We won't be answering any information beyond that, because the Constitution doesn't require any information beyond that."

"And what a bizarre time we're in, when a judge will say to little children that you can't say the pledge of allegiance, but you must learn that homosexuality is normal and you should try it."

"If we took away the minimum wage — if conceivably it was gone — we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level."

"Normalization (of gayness) through desensitization. Very effective way to do this with a bunch of second graders, is take a picture of 'The Lion King' for instance, and a teacher might say, 'Do you know that the music for this movie was written by a gay man?' The message is: I'm better at what I do, because I'm gay."

I'm not worried that Michelle Bachman thinks Lexington and Concord are in New Hampshire. I am worried, that the other things she says mean that hate, fear, and narrow mindedness are very much a part of American Politics.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Michele Bachmann ... Gangster Hater

Michele Bachmann made some comments at a recent fundraiser that highlight part of what is wrong with American politics. "I said that we have a 'gangster government' running the show down in Washington, D.C. And I don't step back from that statement. Because this is an administration that is intent on taking from its opponents -- and giving to its friends. There's a lot in common with a lot of Chicago's history in this administration."

OK, first of all, "gangster government?" If it was just name calling, it would be bad enough. There is far too much name calling going on, and a lot of it is coming from the tea partyists. It isn't just name calling though. When you say that the first Black President is heading up a "gangster government," you are referencing his race. It is hard to believe that this isn't done purposefully to reach out to the sizeable numbers of people who regard this Black president, or maybe any Black president, as illegitimate at best.

Next, we have this great claim: "this is an administration that is intent on taking from its opponents -- and giving to its friends." This is a vague accusation that is not at all supported. Who are the friends? Who are its opponents? What is being taken and given? This is also a comment that fuels the current antagonistic nastiness that is running rampant through American politics right now. Why is the focus on the treatment of opponents, rather than the problems that are or aren't being addressed?

Then we finish out with this gem: "There's a lot in common with a lot of Chicago's history in this administration." Are they running liquor? Are they rolling around town with Tommy guns? Are dead people voting? Is this anything other than an attempt to link Obama with a negative image ... an attempt to attack him without engaging the issues or his actual job performance?

These are not the comments of someone who is serious about solving America's problems. They are not the comments of someone who should have ever been considered seriously for any elected office, let alone the Presidency.

Gilbert Gottfreid is worse than Japanese earthquake and tsunami

"I was talking to my Japanese real estate agent. I said 'is there a school in this area.' She said 'not now, but just wait.'" Gilbert Gottfreid said this, or really tweeted it, along with a few other jokes. It got him fired from his job as the voice of the Aflac duck. I think he absolutely should have been fired for making a bad joke, what does he think he is ... a comedian? Wait, he is a comedian? Well, then he's not allowed to make bad jokes. From now on, any comedian who makes bad jokes, even via twitter, should be fired from every job they have. It might be unfair, overly reactionary, and quite un-funny, but it might open up some jobs for the rest of us. Plus, we have to put an end to insensitive comments, just look at the impact that Gilbert Gottfreid's tweet had on the catastrophe in Japan. Forget about nuclear meltdown, this is what is driving despair in Japan. Gottfreid should be put in prison. Damn him!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mitch McConnell ... Not a Critical Thinker ... or at least doesn't play one on TV

Mitch McConnell, the minority leader in the Senate, was asked what he thought about the impact of the Japanese nuclear disaster on the future of nuclear energy in the United States. McConnell, who is a proponent of nuclear energy, responded by saying: "I don't think right after a major environmental catastrophe is a very good time to be making American domestic policy."

This is perfectly logical. It is reasonable to wait and see what we learn about the nuclear disaster in Japan, before seeing what impact that event should have on how we deal with nuclear energy. It might, however, be wirthwhile to put any future plans on hold. But all in all, this is a reasonable statement and McConnell should have stopped here.

McConnell did not stop here, however. He then went on to say: "We ought not to make American and domestic policy based upon an event that happened in Japan." What? We can only learn from events that happen in America? What kind of nonesense is this? The only real reason to say something like this is because you believe the event may bring your position into question, which means you are more wedded to your position than to making decisions that are in the best interest of the country. At best this is small minded xenophobia. At worst it is special interest and party driven politics. In any event, it is this kind of thinking that we have to challenge wherever and whenever it occurs. We can, and should, all have different opinions. We should not all have different ways of forming our opinions or arguing for them. Logic, openess to others and their ways of doing things, and collaboration should be universal values.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The crime behind the crime

A Bristol Township man had business cards printed up. The cards said: David Goldstein, Pennsylvania parole agent. The police had a problem with this, however, because name was Mark Zacharovich, and he wasn't a parole officer. I have a problem with this because Mr. Zacharovich was having the cards printed so that he could use them to write encouraging notes to his niece, who was on parole and whose parole officer was David Goldstein. I know that Mr. Zacharovich committed a crime, he was charged with impersonating a public servant, criminal attempt, and forgery. His crimes don't really concern me, however. What bothers me is the thought that if not for the crime committed by her uncle, there is a young woman who would not have had any outside positive reinforcement. The article doesn't say much about why Mr. Zachorovich felt compelled to do this, but having worked with 'at risk' young people who are in and out of the judicial system, I would not be surprised if this was the only official positive reinforcement this young woman was getting. Parole officers vary in quality and are under great pressure, and the burden shouldn't be on them alone anyway, but if we want people on parole to get off an to stay off and stay out of jail, we have to do more than monitor them. We certainly need to get quickly beyond Mr. Zacharovich's crime, and take a look at the motivation. There may well be a bigger problem lurking back in there.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Obama: One or Two Terms

Will President be a one termer like George Bush or a two termer like George Bush? The bets are now officially being placed. If I was a bettiing man I would bet for two terms, but I'm not a betting man because I often bet with my heart rather than my head. I would adcise those with more guts than I to keep a couple of things in mind. The Republican contenders may look like a motley crew now, but a lot can change in a year. Someone else might get in, or someone like Pawlenty might rise above the Huckabees, Palins, and Pauls that are swirling around the bottom of the tank ... the septic tank. The quality of attack might even rise above allusions to madrassas and socialism. It is worth remembering that Clinton was hardly striking fear in Bush's boots a two years before teh election. Also, the world can change a lot in a year. If the economy has picked up, Obama will be in a stronger position. If the Middle East is a complete mess and gas is eight dollars a gallon, he won't be in a stronger position. It's also important to remember that strange things happen. The more rational and judicious and good Bush was a one termer, and possibly the worst President in several generations if not a lot longer got two. So, my conclusion is that I'll leave the conclusion to you. I'll vote for Obama. I voted for him the first time, and that worked out well for him. I also voted for Kerry and Gore, so ...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Scary White People

Forget about Muslims, it’s Christians that scare me. Specifically white Christians. Maybe just white people in general. Really, it’s just white people who frequent gun shows, prance about in the woods with rifles while wearing camouflage, go to the grocery store wearing camouflage, go to bed wearing camouflage and probably clutching a rifle or a Bible, and … so I guess it’s not all white people, but how can you tell the difference? How do you know if you’re facing Jared Loughner rather than Ward Cleaver? White people were responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing that killed kids in a day care center. Is there an abortion clinic bombing that hasn’t involved a white person? Those people picketing the funerals of soldiers … are any of them Latino or Chinese? The priests that molest little boys … how many of them are Puerto Rican? It doesn’t take an advanced degree to connect the dots. White people are not to be trusted. We need a Congressional hearing to look into white people and their connection to radicalism and terrorism, especially if they’re Christian. Remember the Inquisition?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


There is so much hate floating around out there. People are picketing the funerals of soldiers carrying signs that say things like "God hates fags" and "Thank God for dead soldiers." They even have a music video. If you want to chuckle and have your hair stand up on end at the same time, take a look at It's not so funny that a Congressman, Peter King, is going to hold hearings on the threat posed by American Muslims. Unless this will be followed up by hearings om the threat posed by Conservative Christians, Catholic Priests, and Tea Party members, I think there is too much political posturing, scapegoating, and appealing to fear and anger going on. The same could be said of the reaction to the attempt to construct an Islamic Center near 'ground zero.' I have never heard a valid reason for stopping adherents of a specific religion from locating their facilities anywhere they want in violation of the spirit of religious and other freedoms we invoke all the time, if not the Constitution. I have hear a lot of chatter about what would happen if they built it, and how Muslims are not real Americans. It's like the chatter you hear about how our President is a socialist, fascist, communist, foreigner, accusations hard to separate from the hate and vitriol running through them and the racism that sufuses the whole subject. The chatter that is echoed by elected representatives at every level, and played upon all too often. Peter King is the official counterpart to idiots who walk around and quote selectively from the Quran to show how awful Islam is. Have they opend a Bible before? Do we support slavery and stoning? Do these people have any idea of the living and breathing reality of Islam. Do they want to know the living and breathing reality of anything, or are they happier with their hate? They might be happy with it, but the rest of us shouldn't be. We can't be. We also can't continue to be oblivious to it, whether intentionally or not. This is a real threat that we can't be content to simply laugh at from our living rooms. It is time to challenge the politics of hate and fear, and to tell its adherents and facilitators that their time is drawing to an end. It is well past time.

Monday, March 7, 2011

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King - A bigot, an Idiot, an opportunist, or a dangerous instigator ... pick one, you can't go wrong

"The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community's Response." This is the title of Peter King's witch hunt. It is pure McCarthy. It could also be quite productive: creating more suspicion and hatred of the United States; encouraging hate right here at home; and attacking an entire group of Americans. Way to go Peter! The whole things is so ridiculous, it doesn't really warrant much comment. All Muslims are not terrorists. The Muslim community isn't any more responsible for terrorists than the Christian community is for terrorists (or wackos who picket soldier's funerals, or people who didmiss evolution). Terrorism isn't any more connected to a single religion or culture than hate is. Terrorism does have real causes, but who cares about those. Those aren't likely to help the Republican party. They aren't likely to positively impact political fortunes. They are a dead end. It's much easier, and more fun, to target a community and stoke the fire of hatred and resentment toward it. Way to go Peter! Keep up the good work!!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Mike Huckabee - First on the List

Mike Huckabee should not be elected again to any office ... ever. He says that he believes that Obama was born in the United States, but he doesn't stop there. He doesn't stop there because he doesn't have the courage or feels it's against his personal political interests to clearly spell out that the President is an America, albeit an American with whom he differs on a number of issues. He wants to appeal to the birther movement. He wants to reach out to those who he feels can be motivated to give him support because they feel Obama is not like them, and that makes them afraid or angry or both. He wants to connect with peoples' fear of others. He wants to use the power of exclusion.

He didn't stop at saying Obama was born in America, and instead pointed out that he was raised in India and may have a more British or European orientation. Of course Obama was rasied in Indonesia and Hawaii, but what's the difference. The people in all those places are brown. If they are brown they might be Muslim and at teh very least are closer to being Black.

He didn't even stop at innocently pointing out that Obama was raised in some foreign place where there are a lot of brown people. He went on to say, "[w]ell that's exactly the point that I make in the book ... I have many times publicly, that I do think he has a different worldview, and I think it's in part molded out of a different experience. Most of us grew up going to Boy Scout meetings and you know, our communities were filled with Rotary clubs, not Madrassas." This is ridiculous, disgusting, and unpardonable. It makes Huckabee, in my eyes, unelectable. He doesn't say Obama went to a madrassas. He doesn't say it because it is not true, and has clearly been proven to be not true. Obama went to a secular and a Catholic school. He doesn't say Obama went to a madrassas, but he dosn't say he didn't and he says he grew up in a community filled with madrasass. That leaves plenty of room for people to come to their own conclusions. Huckabee also intimates that people who don't attend Boy Scout Meetings and aren't connected to teh Rotary Club, aren't real Americans. The President isn't a real American. This kind of exclusion can not ve tolerated. There is plenty of room for disagreement. There is not room for anyone to say that if you disagree with me it is because you aren't like the rest of us, you aren't a real American. That is un-American. It is, pardon my French, bull shit. It stinks to high heaven. We need to take it out to the trash and leave it there. When people use these kinds of appeals to fear and anger and when they use the exclusion attack, we need to exclude them from elected office. It doesn't matter what they believe in. Procee is important. If we can't work together without the name calling and villification, without needing to render our opponents un-American in order to justify who knows what, then we won't solve our problems and we will all suffer.

Homosexuality and the Bible.

Jennifer Wright Knust and Robert A. J. Gagnon are disagreeing on CNN's webpage about what the Bible's take on homosexuality is. I suppose I understand why People might want to challenge conservative Christians with the book they find support for their beliefs in. I understand why conservative Christians and biblical scholars more generally would want to argue about what is in the bible. What I don't understand is why it matters what the Bible's position on homosexuality. The Bible's position on slavery and women's rights is pretty clear. It is also pretty clear, if you give it a little thought, that the Bible is not the word of God but the word of early Christians, and even if it is the word of God it is the word of God meant for early Christians. Presumably God would be smart enough to target his message and smart enough to know that the world he 'created' changes over time. Plus, it is important to remember that the Bible is not the only source of information. If you want to point to the Bible in the debate over homosexuality, fine ... but I get to point out what else is in the bible, and we also have to talk about the Constitution and American ideals and the struggle for civil rights and how this impacts anybody other than the homosexuals in question and how this impacts homosexuals. All of that together makes for a conversation worth having, a conversation as opposed to a shouting match or a tit for tat exchange like the one on CNN. Besides, a discussion of whether the Bible supports homosexuality isn't that interesting.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My daughter the Republican

My daughter might just be a Republican, because she is proving ot be a master at reframing an issue to her advantage.

Republicans have managed to change the focus of discussion on the economy from their cause (the financial crisis and a lack of regulation) to public sector employees and their pensions. Now, it seems almost as if they are asserting that public sector employees cause this economic downturn wityh their pensions. We are all arguing as to whether pensions should be cutr and collective bargaining ended, and no one even mentions wall street.

My daughter has managed to change the discussion from whether they are treating the cat in the right way, to whether the cat is scary and should be hidden from and yelled at. She has her brother, who used to run at the cat and want to cuddle it, shrinking in horror when it comes in the room. I should start now grooming her for a job with the RNC. She has some work to do though. She is way to cute and not nearly menacing enough and makes a little too much sense, but there's time. Plus, who knows, the Reepublican party might have returned to a national dialogue by then.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A few little thoughts

Sometimes you have to spend money to make money. Just a thought that should be on our minds as the Republicans push large spending cuts.

Here's another thought ... we didn't get into this position overnight, why should we expect to get out of it overnight?

Here's another, playing the blame game probably doesn't help us get out of this economic depression.

Here is another ... if you aren't concerned with the cause of a past problem, before too long you might find yourself worried about the problem yet again.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I'm a taxpayer too

For some, namely Republicans and Tea Party folks, the label of "taxpayer" is an important one, albeit in a schizophrenic way. Their status as taxpayers gives them power and a voice. The burden they carry as taxpayers gives justifies their demands. But, that burden also weighs down on them in such a fierce way that they are constantly fighting to lessen it. And the focus is very much on the burden, rather than what is accomplished by their 'sacrifice.'

I, for one, would like to help these folks out. I would like to take the label of "taxpayer" away from them. That would make their lives easier, and all of our lives appreciably better. They really should not be able to use "taxpayer" anymore.

No one should be able to make an argument for anything as a taxpayer, because I have some startling news. Those of us who disagree with you ... most of us are taxpayers too. We're Americans too. We're patriots too. We love our country too. We just don't agree with you, and what's more we're allowed to be all of those things and still disagree with you. There is no extra power in your argument because you're an American or a taxpayer. Besides, by calling yourself the Taxpayers for a better suburb or whatever it is you call yourselves, you are letting everyone know that unless they are a Republican or a Tea Party person or a self proclaimed conservative they should completely ignore you.

We should also not allow anyone to argue that a tax should be cut, without also telling us what was funded by that tax. Taxes aren't just a burden. Sometimes money raised through taxation is put to good use. Before we cut a tax, we ought to understand what we'll be losing other than the tax itself.

And, while we're at it, if we're going to hearken back to our history of fighting taxation we ought to remember the rest of the story, hell we just need to remember the rest of the phrase and what it means. "Without representation." This means that with representation (and newsflash, we have a representative system ... you can't go around saying that we are the greatest thing since sliced bread and then say that we don't have a representative government ... that would be hypocrisy) we can have taxation, and that our founding fathers were OK with taxation. Taxation isn't evil. It's actually a good thing, a good thing that pays for a lot of things that all of us benefit from.

Plus, we need to agree that just saying that taxpayers paid for something is not an argument. Yes, the free museums in Washington D.C. are supported by taxpayers. So what? Is that not a good use of money? You don't want to preserve our history and allow all of us to have access to it?

Also, the use of tax dollars to help your fellow citizens is not socialism. Socialism is another word that should be banned. At the very least it's use should be licensed. You should have to prove you know what it is before you can use it.

Really, what this comes down to, is that calling yourself a taxpayer doesn't excuse you of the need to use logic or present real support for your arguments. It shouldn't give you immunity from the burdens of common courtesy or real problem solving. It doesn't give you an exclusive patent on what is right and good and American. It shouldn't be tolerated any longer.