Thursday, June 30, 2011

Michelle Bachmann ... Just say No

If you make a mistake, take responsibility for it. If you are an elected representative, or are seeking to become one, don’t treat your political rivals like enemies since they are just people who have a different vision and are people you might have to work with to really solve problems. These are simple rules and we should demand that our elected representatives abide by them. If they don’t, we shouldn’t vote for them. Michelle Bachmann is not abiding by these rules, so we shouldn’t vote for her. Every time she makes a mistake, she seems to be looking for someone to blame (the press, her rivals, the circumstances). She also has a habit of treating those with views that are different from her own as different on a fundamental level … as less American and less hard working and ordinary. Her response to her John Wayne/John Wayne Gacy gaffe epitomizes this problem. In an appearance on Fox News, she pointed at all the gaffes made by her “enemy” President Obama. So, her response to making a mistake was to say that someone else had made more. This is hardly taking responsibility. She also labeled her rival as the “enemy.” The President of the United States is not an enemy. He may have views quite different from your own. He may be doing a bad job. He isn’t an enemy. That kind of thinking almost by definition rules out cooperation and compromise. If the other side is the enemy and you never make mistakes, where is the place for compromise? The answer is that there isn’t a place for it … and there shouldn’t be a place for people like Michele Bachmann in our government.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Karen Spears Zacharias heaps guilt upon parents

Karen Spears Zacharias doesn’t think the book “Go the Fuck to Sleep” is funny. That by itself isn’t a big deal. People disagree about what is funny all the time. It does use language that some people are uncomfortable and it is a bit raw. She doesn’t just assert that it isn’t funny, however, which is where the problem lies. She manages to link it to racism and child abuse and in the process label those that would find it funny as bad parents.

She makes it clear right from the start what she thinks of people who find the book funny or worthwhile in any way. These are people who like something that is “crass in concept and execution.” They are also poor parents. She quotes an expert in child development who says “The people reading this book are educated parents, who actually care about their children and are frustrated that often their children don't behave the way storybooks display.” Then she opines that putting kids to bed has become harder, because “the sacred bedtime ritual of reading to children has gone away.” Parents who are frustrated with their children must be frustrated because they have the wrong expectations, or because they have done something else wrong like fail to read to their children. They take delight in this book because it speaks to their weaknesses, and in a way justifies them. It can’t possibly be that parenting is hard regardless of your expectations or qualifications. It can’t be that kids that are read to are still frustrating at bed time … and at other times too. These parents must be deficient, and the best thing to do is to make them feel guilty for being frustrated. The last thing we want to do is make them feel that their frustration is natural, that others feel the same way, and that it is OK to laugh at it. If they acknowledge how frustrating their children are they are demeaning their children

Ms. Zacharias is an ambitious sort, so she doesn’t stop with the ordinary guilt trip. She links the book, and frustrated parents, to child abuse. She very cleverly asserts that “Nobody is suggesting that there's a connection between Adam Mansbach's book and child abuse or child neglect.” Then, she goes on to suggest just that. She quotes the attorney in a child murder case about saying that she is unsettled by the book. What reason would she do that for, other than to suggest that there is a connection between the book and child abuse? Then she focuses in on the “violent” language, and links that to abuse. “For far too many kids, the obscenities found in Mansbach's book are a common, everyday household language. Swearing is how parents across the social, educational and economic strata express their disappointments or anxieties, their frustrations and outright anger at their children. Sometimes the biggest bully in the neighborhood lives in the same house you do. Sometimes it's your parent.” First she assumed this book and the audience it is finding are a symptom of the failure of parents to read to their children. Now she assumed that because you read a book that uses vulgar words to address children, a book that is clearly a spoof and meant for adults, that you must use those words towards your children and that the use of those words in any context is a sign of a greater depravity. What is it that they say about people who “assume.”?

Unbelievably, it gets better. Zacharias and her child development expert ask whether we would tolerate this kind of book written about Jews, Blacks, Muslims, or Latinos. Huh? That doesn’t even make sense. First of all, it is written about people in those groups, because they have children. Second, are children a race? Third, aren’t there books written about those groups all the time that poke fun at stereotypes and shared frustrations? Someone needs to tell Ms. Zacharias that this is not a book that tells parents it is OK to swear at their children. What it says is that it is OK for parents to be frustrated, and it gives them a safe and healthy outlet to vent their frustration. It is OK for parents to be frustrated. Children are wonderful and amazing gifts. My two kids are two of the best things that have ever happened to me. I am home with them full time, and cherish the time I have with them. I also read to dozens of books to them every day. They still frustrate me. And that is still OK. It is fucking OK.

Here is Zacharias' piece:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Obama Lottery

President Obama is holding a lottery. Tickets are ten dollars each (officially they are called contributions), and the prize is dinner with the President and the Vice President. It is a smart fund raising idea. It will bring in money, and it presents the image of the campaign as being of and by the people. It troubles me, though. For me, what it highlights is this nation’s vast inequality and the emptiness of the promise of this country. Some people, Mark Zuckerberg for example, have enough money and power to get himself real access to the President. The rest of us have a lottery. We have a lottery and the false impression of equality and equal opportunity. Everyone has a chance to talk to the President. Now of course, it really isn’t everyone (does everyone have internet access?) and everyone doesn’t have an equal chance ... but it is enough to appease us. It is enough to keep things running smoothly. It is the same promise offered to all of us as American Citizens. Anyone can succeed. Anyone can become the President … or meet with him. That is not the reality, of course. It is expected to be enough. It has been enough. The question is, should it be enough? I would like to say no ... but I bought a ticket.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Herman Cain is not an African American

Herman Cain doesn’t want to be called African American, which is fine by me. It’s fine by me because I don't think he is. I have never really liked the label. To me, an African American would be, for example, someone who was born in Monrovia and moved to this country during one of Liberia’s civil wars. I always thought the use of a term like blackamerican (all one word on purpose) was a more appropriate term for those who had not just come over from Africa. I think that if we are going to get all into this sort of terminology, we ought to differentiate people whose ancestors came to this country as slaves and those that didn’t. I’m not sure that we should get all into labels, but I’m also not sure how we can avoid it. If Herman Cain wants to be called an American, though, that is fine with me. I am sure, as unusual as that conviction is, that I can find no fault with Herman Cain on this one.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Google Pride

Google is recognizing pride month by having a rainbow that appears whenever you make a gay related search. I’m not sure what a gay related search is, but I’m not really sure what it means to be a gay person. Does a search for Gladys Knight made by a man summon up a rainbow? What about a search for flannel shirts by a woman? It would be nice if they had the rainbow appear when people made searches like “homosexuality is an abomination” or “homosexuality: genetic or choice.” Unfortunately, they don’t. They don’t have anything on the initial search page either, which is upsetting a lot of folks. I have to admit that I don’t see this as a big issue. I think what they are doing is perfect. Would they really have a rainbow for a whole month? Do they do that for anything? Is there a moon up there during Ramadan? I think the placement of a rainbow for gay searches is a nice way to acknowledge the month all month long. Personally, I think every search that uses the words homosexual or gay should conjure it up. Someone doing searches to come up with evidence that supports the marginalization of homosexuals and the denial of their rights should have to stare at a rainbow as they do it. It just seems right. But, the fact is that the ambiguity involved in this policy is appropriate. In my fantasy world it would serve to highlight that in many ways homosexuality is a culture more than a sexual preference. In the real world it does just what it should. It recognizes gay pride month and it generates conversation on important issues concerning homosexuality and our treatment of it.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wondering about Rand Paul and the "people who would attack our country"

"This isn't to say we don't believe in safety procedures, but I think I feel less safe when we're doing these invasive exams on a 6-year-old. It makes me think that you're clueless, that you think she's going to attack our country, and that you're not doing your research on the people who would attack our country." This is what Senator Rand Paul said to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) administrator John Pistole during a meeting of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. This is what he said, so what is he saying? He is saying that we shouldn’t focus on six year olds. I get that. But what else is he saying? He is saying we should focus our security measures on “people who would attack our country.” I wonder who Rand thinks these people are. I wonder if they’re brown. I wonder if he is concerned about the treatment of all children, or just the children of people who aren’t likely to attack our country. I wonder what color he thinks Jared Loughner or Timothy James McVeigh or David Koresh or Theodore John Kaczynski were? I wonder how he knows who the “people who would attack our country” are? I wonder what an “attack on our country” is. I wonder how much energy is being put into discovering why people “attack our country.” I wonder if I do too much wondering. I wonder how much wondering Rand Paul does. I wonder.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

of vino and ignorance

Sometimes people’s ignorance is enough to drive one to drink. Larry Pastor’s ignorance is that kind of ignorance, and so is the ignorance of the people who frequent his web site. Larry Pastor is a man who has gotten involved in the contract dispute between teachers and the school board in the Neshaminy School District in Pennsylvania. He set up a website called Taxpayers for a Fair Nehsminy School Budget. In it he argues against the teachers (and not really for a position on the issue) using every fallacy in the book. He forcefully eschews an approach based upon logic, reason, collaboration, or compromise in favor of one based on fear, anger, insults, and innuendo. Those who post on the site generally take the same approach, an approach epitomized by someone calling himself “Tax Hawk.” Mr. Hawk says: “Nice article against Patrick Murphy. I call him a VINO (Veteran In Name Only). I don't know if you saw in the paper, but during the healthcare fiasco the Dems has a video contest to spead the word about Obamacare. One of the finalists was a video of people spray painting words over an American flag until it was completely blacked out. One of the judges - Patrick Murphy! VINO!” I’m glad I read this bit of wisdom. I had thought that a veteran was someone who had served his or her country in the military. I was wrong though. Obviously, you’re not a real veteran if you support universal health care. Maybe you’re not a real veteran if you support free speech. Maybe you can’t be a democrat. Maybe it’s just that you can’t disagree with Mr. Hawk. All Americans should have the same political views. Citizenship is, after all, dependent on political opinions. If you didn’t catch the sarcasm, I think Mr. Hawk is full of it. Why do we seem to be incapable of simply laying out our positions, and then searching for common ground. Why is that so hard? I’ll have to pour myself a glass of vino and think about it.

Man Down

Rihanna's "Man Down" video was aired on a program on Black Entertainment Television (BET) that airs at 6:00. The video opens with Rhianna shooting someone in a crowded train station. Later in the video, we learn that this person had raped her. The opening scene is what has caused groups like Industry Ears and the Parents Television Council to criticize BET for this, and to put pressure on BET concerning this incident and their general approach to these issues. Others have leapt to BET and Rhianna’s defense. I think the whole debate is beside the point. There is a lot on television that worries me as a parent, not just this video. This is far from the worst violence children are exposed to on television, in movies, or on video games. To be honest, shows that stifle children’s creativity bother me more than violence and language, but even Barney or Caillu or Sponge Bob can be overcome. I grew up listening to NWA and watching some truly worthless crap, and I write poetry and have yet to do a drive by or a walk by. Why? The reason is that I had parents and teachers that did their job. It also didn’t hurt that I grew up in a safe neighborhood, and always had food on the table and clothes on my back. That’s what are focus has to be. We need to do whatever we can to assist parents and teachers in the performing of their functions, and while we are at it address poverty and real life violence. Rhianna shooting someone in a video isn’t going to ruin our kids, we are.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Pledge of Allegiance ... ?

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

This is the pledge as we know it today. It is what it is. It is a bunch of words strung together. It doesn't make you a better citizen if you know them or recite them with your hand over your heart staring directly at a large and rather garish piece of cloth. If you think about it, what sense does it make to pledge allegiance to a flag? A flag is a symbol. Shouldn't you pledge allegiance to something more substantive, like the constitution? What about something more real, like your fellow citizens? What about if we recognize that a pledge is just a promise, and that the real importance is not in the promise but whether you follow through on it? I'm not too worried about the "God" language, as opposed to the basic tenets of freedom of religion that are supposed to be at the core of what we are as a country as it may be, because I think stressing too much about the pledge itself is a little silly. I think we spend far too much time protecting symbols and rituals, and far too little time worrying about whether we are living up to the ideals laid out by our founding fathers … or coming together to tackle the problems that are facing us in the here and now. If you really want a pledge, I've got some suggestions. What about a pledge to use logic and reason? What about a pledge to make informed decisions when you enter the voting booth? I love the sound of a pledge to be civil or to always put real effort into cooperation and collaboration with those whom you disagree. Maybe the best pledge would be to recognize that a pledge is just a pledge.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Geese, Planes, and Poverty

All in the world is not doom and gloom. Sometimes common sense emerges triumphant. Geese killed in New York City to improve aviation safety will be shipped to Pennsylvania to feed the needy. I think killing the geese is probably a necessity. I know the ASPCA opposes it, but I think killing people is sometimes necessary so that should tell you all you need to know about whether I think killing animals can be OK. Now I’m not a big advocate of hunters’ rights and animal slaughter is not a big thing for me, but making air travel safer seems to be a cause worth sacrificing a few birds for … when the birds are put to use in the fight against hunger, that’s even better. It’s also strangely appropriate … a solution to overpopulation in one species helps to alleviate the impact of overpopulation in another. It’s appropriate and wonderful, and the result of politics and government bureaucracy. That might be the most wonderful thing of all.

Mitt Romney doesn't need to be unemployed, he needs to be employable

Mitt Romney told a group of unemployed people that he could feel their pain because he too was unemployed. It was a dumb thing to say, and a bit insensitive, but it hardly rises to the level of disqualifying him for President. We are far too focused on individual stupid comments. We all say stupid things, even people who want to be President. What bothers me more than the comment itself is the greater trend of which it is a part. Too many politicians try to market themselves as just like the common man (or in Sarah Palin’s case woman). I don’t need my elected leaders to be just like me. I don’t need them to be common men and women or even real Americans. I don’t happen to think there is any such thing, and besides I am far more concerned with having elected representatives that listen to me than I am having elected representatives that are just like me. Even better, I’d like them to pledge to use their knowledge and experience to make tough decisions using reason and logic. I’d also like them to tell me how they feel right now about the major issues, and I want them to promise to change their minds if the circumstances require them to. I want a lot, but I don’t need my next President to be white, or male, or unemployed just like me.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

J.D. Mullane: Parenting Expert

You have two choices as a parent. You can be a “child-centered parent” who hounds your child’s every move, driving them into an adulthood of inactivity in your basement. The other choice … you can be a good parent. That’s the best I can do With J. D. Mullane’s argument in his “Center of the Universe” commentary. I think he gets to this parenting dichotomy by discussing why he was opposed to closing schools due to heat. He says he is responding to criticism he received for another article on that subject. I’m not sure, though, because he quotes a teacher talking about how kids want to escape air conditioned schools because of the heat in order to play outside, and the closure was only of schools that didn’t have air conditioning. I’m also not sure how he gets from not wanting to have your children be in a non-air conditioned building during record heat to the caricature of a parent who follows their children around from one activity to another and smothering them. I’m never sure how he gets to his over-simplified black and white mischaracterizations of the world, nor why the world is always divided into right and silly, emasculated, and stupid wrong. That is part of the problem. Maybe it’s the whole problem. Mullane goes out of his way to simplify the world, and describe one half in a nasty and snarky manner. He eliminates nuance (not every parent who disagreed with him on the school closure issue follows their kids to every event, and not every parent who wants to be there for their children makes them go to fifteen sporting events a day). He plays fast and loose with the facts (he mentions a comment from someone whose 45 year old is in their basemen, someone who was a child long before the caricature Mullane attacks could even have been constructed). He brings in any number of other issues rather than focusing on the original one (adults lining in their parents’ basement, soccer moms, etc.). He throws around more insults than facts (like saying a critic of his is smothering their child who probably has a name like Landon or Logan). He eliminates the possibility that you can disagree with him and be anything but stupid. “We see things differently. While my kid is hustling around the house for allowance cash, yours might be aiming to take top honors in the Little Miss Center of the Universe contest. Good luck with that.” What J.D. Mullane does here is what he always does, attack people with sarcasm and insults and lots of bluster. It’s what a lot of folks do these days. I’m not Mullane, I don’t have the skill to distill the response options down to an easy choice. Some folks do, however, buy into this. So, I do think that we need to respond. I think I’ll respond by picking apart Mullane’s offerings for a few weeks. That’s my choice as a parent who wants to protect my children from more than hot schools.

You can find Mullane's article here :

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How do we get from “Voted for Obama? Thanks asshole" to "I disagree with you, and here is why"?

The level of hate and ignorance in this country is disgusting. I think I hate it. I know that I’m never quite sure what to do about it. I was on the highway today behind someone who had this bumper sticker: “Voted for Obama? Thanks asshole.” How does one respond to that? I fumed for a minute, dreaming about how I would confront my fellow American, and then like the helpless intellectual I am I googled the phrase when I got home. I found myself looking at the following ‘joke’ and the comments that followed … and getting angry all over again.

“A guy was traveling through Mexico on vacation when, low and behold,he lost his wallet and all identification. Cutting his trip short,he attempted to make his way home, but was stopped by a MexicanCustoms Agent at the Tijuana border.’May I see your identification, por favor, seƱor?’ asked the agent.’I'm sorry, but I lost my wallet,’ replied the guy. ‘Si, amigo, I hear that every day. No ID, no crossing the border,’ said the agent.’ But I can prove that I'm an American!’ he exclaimed. ‘I have apicture of Bill Clinton tattooed on one butt cheek and a picture ofHillary Clinton tattooed on the other.""This I must see,’ replied the agent. With that, the Americandropped his pants and bent over in front of the agent. ‘Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, you're right!’ exclaimed the agent. ‘Have a safe trip back to Chicago, Senor.’ ‘Thanks!’ he said. ‘But why do you think I'm from Chicago ?’ The agent replied, ‘I recognized Barack Obama in the middle!”

The joke is simply sophomoric ignorance. The comments are downright hateful.

“Well...some things to keep in mind. Obama is not stupid and knows a lot more than you all think. He is extremely educated and knows exactly what he is doing. He is a progressive and is doing what he said he would during his campaign - just a lot faster than we had all thought. Obama is not a Christian and not an honest man. He says one thing and does another, but that is what progressives do. His mission is "change" and that starts with destroying God and our constitution. The way to fight this is by standing up for the truth and reinstating our constitution. Fighting back my lies and racism is beneath us Americans and quite frankly counter productive.”

“You guys are all right he is a super big ASSHOLE-but it took a lot of assholes voting for him to put him there. All these progressive liberals will stare open eyed when the money runs out and they either have to quit school and get a job or starve. Besides Obama throws like a girl-I bet he has never done a hard days work in his life.”

“Obama cannot help himself. He was trained to perform (like a dog) as you have seen him. He is a mindless puppet of the democrat party (or worse, the Maoists, Marxists, Nazis and Socialists. Use your eyes, ears and brain. Obama is leading this nation down a path of destruction.... on many fronts. Do you speak Chinese or Korean??? You had better learn. Warm Regards Ronald J Breen PS - Stand up for your personal and individual rights to defend your and your neighbors' personal rights. David Scott (D) of GA stated that the town hall meetings are getting "out of hand" ---- what this means is that the message that the Honorable (sic) Congressman was communicating was indeed morally, ethically and materially relevant. When in fact, the congressman's message was singularly biased to his own personal bias, i.e. the democratic party line --- this is not good for anyone over the age of 55 --- 60 mat the outside --- All manner of euthanasia are embroidered in the current 'health' care plan. The dowside is that the less healthy must be willing to die in order to preserve the 'more; healthy. Government beauracracy has NEVER been able to effectively ration limited resources ---- do you want your LAST breath to be called by some indolent federal employee??”

“Obama is an abject liar. NONE of his campaign promises have been honored. Now he says that no-one will be hurt by the national health care "THING" --- LOL LOL can you believe that he actually wants us to literally place our lives in his hands AFTER all of his other FAILURES ??”

“This is totally laughable -- totally laughable.)( I call his wife Michelle HOBama. She is one fugly bitch. I wouldn't fuck her if she was the last snatch on the planet. Did anyone tell that whore Halloween is over, take off the mask you freak.”

“Obama is just like his moo-slim brothers--a pig-faced sack of dog shit.”

This is just hate … illogical, unreasonable, disgusting, and scary hate. And please, don’t say that the same stuff was said about Bush. It wasn’t. Yes there were silly bumper stickers, but not this level of ignorance and hate. There isn’t a scrap of reason, logic, or evidence here. It is all fear and anger and hate. Right now, I think it needs to responded to in a very simple way. At the official level it needs to be strongly condemned and then ignored. The leaders of the Republican Party need to come forward and clearly say they don’t want this kind of support, and then say nothing thereafter that could ever be construed as reaching out to these folks. The press needs to spend as little time as necessary on it. The rest of us need to challenge this kind of thinking … and do so constantly. I don’t mean challenge people to a fight, but challenge people who have these bumper stickers or say things like these to back up their statements. We need to do it not in an angry or condescending manner, but in as inquisitive and friendly a way as possible. How is Obama a socialist? What bothers you about Muslims? You really think he’s not an American? I don’t think Obama has done everything right, but he hasn’t done everything wrong either. We need to all get to that place … the place where we can start discussing what has been done right, what has been done wrong, and what the exact proportion is. We won’t get there by hurling insults, but we won’t get there by ignoring them either.

If you're gay, you can't be impartial

In the next twenty four hours we will learn whether a California Judge believes that another California judge should have revealed his sexuality before ruling on the Constitutionality of California’s same sex marriage ban. We already know the real answer though … of course not. Would we make a big deal about a black judge ruling on a case involving racial discrimination? What about a Latino judge ruling on an immigration related issue? Saying that a gay judge can’t be impartial when it comes to constitutional issues is kind of like saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to choose their own life partner and marry them. It’s kind of like saying government shouldn’t regulate corporations whose actions can wreck the economy or the environment, but should step in to protect the flag from people trying to exercise free speech or the ‘institution of marriage’ from people who profess to love one another. Which of course is why we have a debate about whether Judge Vaughn Walker should have let everyone know he was gay prior to ruling on the constitutionality of a law.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Let Me Warn you of The End of the World

Nuclear disasters
Gay people who have the temerity to want to be married and
Be able to visit their children and life partner in the hospital and
People who want governments to protect them
Regardless of its size
And the British are coming
Let’s warn them
That they’re coming
To their end along with the rest of us
An end they started moving towards when we fired those first shots
In New Hampshire an
End hastened by folks who appeal to our history
But don’t care to really know it
An End that may come before the
Worldwide quake of the apocalypse or the
Next asteroid

Friday, June 10, 2011

Elected Representatives as Reasonable Human Beings

This will be short and sweet. I want my elected representatives to behave like I would expect anyone else to behave, particularly anyone else that was working for me. I’d like them to tell the truth. I would like them to take responsibility for their actions. I’m fine with them changing their minds. I’m fine with them being women, black, Muslim, Jewish, thin, fat, or even white and Christian. I’m fine with them not being perfect. I’m not that concerned with what they do at home, as long as it doesn’t impact what they do at work. When they are on the job, I want them to put my interests first. I’d like them to have a sense of humor, and not to take themselves too seriously. It would be nice if they were thoughtful, and valued reason and logic. They don’t have to agree with me on every issue, but logic is pretty important. And that’s about it. An appreciation of basketball and hip hop would be icing on the cake, but in this case I’d take the cake without icing.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

More Weiner

Anthony Weiner was, still is as of this moment, a Congressman. If the “is” does become a “was” anytime soon, it shouldn’t be because he texted with women on official time. It shouldn’t be because he texted with women he wasn’t married to. The texts with women he wasn’t married to, while he himself was married, that is a different matter. In 2011 it is a different matter. In 2011 secrets are tougher to hide than ever before, and we seem more focused on the personal lives of politicians than ever before. Some of our greatest politicians were philanderers … it didn’t stop them from being good representatives of their constituents. Personally, I don’t care if my elected representative is a good husband. I’m not planning to marry him. I do care if he doesn’t have enough sense, judgment, self control, or humility to avoid putting himself in this position. This isn’t 1940. It’s a little harder now to get away with affairs … just ask Bill Clinton or Eliot Spitzer or …. Anyone who would send a picture of his own less than fully dressed lower torso to another person, might just lack the judgment necessary to be a congressman. Anyone who would lie about it when it would have been clear to any non-delusional and reasonably intelligent person that it was only a matter of time before the lie would be shown to be a lie does lack the judgment necessary to make the difficult decisions they occasionally make in Congress. This episode shouldn't be determinative, but it should be a factor. There are reasons that ”is” should become ”was.”

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Weiners, Tattoos, and me (Samuel D. Angus)

Today I had an opinion piece printed in the local paper, and that fact has bothered me since the moment I saw it staring back at me. There is a typo in the first paragraph, I’m not satisfied with how it was edited, and to me it sounds like it was written at midnight after a long day of watching two children … which it was. Most of all, I just don’t like the idea of it out there being read and then linked back to me. I no longer have complete control over my own ideas. My edits no longer become the only version, the only reality. I can’t control how anyone reacts to my ideas. I also can’t control how this paper impacts how people see me. I love writing, but the idea of people reading what I have written scares the hell out of me. I am comfortable with this blog because very few people read it, and because those who read it never comment. I have no evidence that anyone has ever read it, and thus I can believe that I am sending my ideas into a black hole. At worst, I am sending it into a sparsely populated desert community. It is this psychosis that motivated me to write a novel, and then bury it on my computer. It is why I won’t ever get a tattoo. I’m not even comfortable wearing a cool vintage Hawaiian print shirt that I inherited from my grandfather, complete with airline ticket in the pocket. I want to be able to bland into the background. I know that anything I do in public can be used against me, even the Hawaiian shirt … although I can take that off and no one is going to be taking pictures of me and putting them in a paper or on a conservative blog. A tattoo is with me forever. I can’t take it off, at least not without a lot of additional pain. I can’t easily switch from the Aztec symbol for house to an exploding atom when the whims of fashion so dictate. Posting on the Internet, or submitting a piece to the paper, is kind of like getting a tattoo. Once you post a blog entry on teachers’ unions or tweet a picture of yourself with your pants down, it’s out there. That’s a scary proposition. That should be scary enough to stop you from posting a lewd picture of yourself if you are a member of Congress. If you ask me, the fact that Weiner did this shows a lack of judgment which would make me question his fitness to represent his district. It is just one factor, along with his greater record, but it is a factor. It has to be. Just as the tattoo you had put in a place you can’t cover up with clothes should be a factor that is considered when you apply for a job. I’m sorry, but you should have thought of that before you put flames on your face. Now Weiners willingness to stick out there in the first place, to run for Congress and serve his constituents, is admirable. I couldn’t do that. I’m just too aware of the big wide illogical world out there. The world filled with folks who still think our President is a socialist who was born in Kenya. I don’t want them to have a piece of me. So, I’ll be sticking to this blog for now. No tweets. No opinion pieces. Just this, until someone reads it that is.

Of Unions and Ammendments

Here is a true illustration of the complexity of politics and the importance of not staking out a position and sticking to it. I wrote a guest opinion piece for the Bucks County Courier Times, and they had the audacity to print it. They hacked the flow to pieces in the middle and didn’t correct my typo, but other than that they got it right. Unfortunately, they didn’t read my mind and add the paragraph I would now add after considering conversations on the topic with my wife and father. The topic is teachers unions and contract negotiations. You can read what I thought last week here: This week I would add something. I’m not giving up on unions, but some boundaries do need to be set, whether by negotiation or by the big bad government. I write that Unions aren’t always right, and this is probably an understatement. Their mindless support of absolute tenure is more than an impediment, and needs to be checked. This can be done without destroying the union. You simply make it clear that teachers will be evaluated and can be fired for clear reasons and without byzantine rules. The State Government could do this. The Federal Government could do this. This could be included in contracts on a school system by school system basis. School board members aren’t the only ones who need a broader vision. Union leaders do too. They are hurting themselves by not giving in to common sense on issues like tenure. They are making themselves too easy to attack, and putting at risk generations of accomplishments that protect working Americans. Political dialogue and negotiation is dialogue and negotiation, and requires real participation from both sides. What I don’t make clear enough in my opinion piece, is that when it comes to education issues school boards and unions both need to rethink their positions. What I hope I make clear here is that these issue are complex and changing, and our opinions should be the same way.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Abortion is ...

I went to Lowes the other day, and parked behind someone who drives a truck and must have led a rather sheltered life. He or she had probably not suffered or known anyone who had suffered any kind of abuse, and it is unlikely that they have ever worked with at risk youth. They certainly had no imagination. How do I know this? Well, I read their bumper sticker. “Abortion is the ultimate child abuse.” My first thought was to run into Lowes and gather up the materials to make my own bumper sticker, and then slap it on that bumper right next to those words of wisdom. Mine would have said: “Rape ain’t that great either.” Maybe I just have an over active imagination, but in the one minute walk into Lowes I thought of about a dozen forms of child abuse I thought might just be worse than abortion. I can even imagine that real children might have experienced these figments of my imagination. I can even imagine that children over the age of one can be abused in more savage ways than a fetus. It might not be all imagination, though, as I have worked with kids who grew up in war zones and kids who suffered abuse and kids who watched their parents do violence to one another right here in this country. Maybe most importantly, I am aware that the story doesn’t end once we get a child out of the womb. I think that’s the real problem with my truck driver and like minded folks. No one likes abortion, but some of us are aware that all babies don’t leave the hospital and live happily after all and that the mothers don’t enter the hospital out of a fairy tale either. Abortion doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is important to understand the rest of the story, the one that started more than a month or two ago and won’t end in eight or nine months. Abortion really is … too complicated to summarize on a bumper sticker.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Unions helping to solve problems ... gasp!

Bristol Township School District teachers voted on Thursday to accept a pay freeze, in exchange for a one year extension on their contract. They were due to receive a 3 percent pay increase. This comes on the heels of the superintendent announcing that he was accepting a pay freeze on his own contract. These moves will help reduce a large deficit, and show how bargaining is meant to work. When both sides show willingness to compromise and keep a lid on rhetoric, things get done. It’s really just that simple. The answer to solving many of the problems facing our school districts lies in a willingness on the part of all parties to work hard together in a spirit of compromise and collaboration. It lies in the kind of negotiations, sometimes slow and painful, that parties with relatively equal power often engage in. Individual teachers negotiating with the school system do not reach decisions through compromise and collaboration, but through imposition. Real progress can only be accomplished with strong unions. Unions won’t always make the right decisions, and sometimes they will protect teachers who don’t perform and stop change that would be helpful. What they always do, however, is play a key role in the mechanism by which problems are effectively dealt with. In Bristol Township, we have an idea what that is supposed to look like.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Of Bumper Stickers and Big Asses

I was not happy this morning. I awoke to yet another picture of LeBron James looking angrily triumphant. I want him to lose. I wanted to write that I hated Lebron, but that is too preposterous to write. I barely know him and I don’t live in Cleveland. I can’t write it, but I say it and sometimes I feel it. I have no reason to feel hatred towards this man I will never meet, apart from an ill conceived television special announcing his intention to leave his hometown team for Miami. I have no logical reason to feel the way I do, but I do anyway and with great relish. You may feel the same way about Barack Obama. You may see a bumper stickers sporting his picture that says “does this ass make my truck look big,” and either rush to the computer to order one or sit and pout wishing you owned a truck. The way you feel about Obama is almost like how I feel about LeBron, except of course that Barack Obama is not a small forward and politics is not the same as sports. Politicians deal with political problems. Political problems are real problems whose solutions or lack thereof can impact our lives deeply … more deeply than watching LeBron hold that trophy in a week or so ever could, although it might not feel like it at the time. Political problems, unlike sports rivalries, call for cooperation and compromise and not just within teams. The ignorance that is usually only mildly annoying when it appears in a sports fan talking about sports, is much more than annoying when it appears in a voter talking about politics. My blind hatred of LeBron is probably misguided, your blind hatred of Barack Obama is, to borrow your own catch phrase, asinine.