Thursday, April 26, 2012

J.D. Mullane ... More of the Same

J.D. Mullane certainly has a formula for success, and he is most definitely unafraid to use it.  Mullane’s approach was on display once again in Thursdays Bucks County Courier Times(Facts of Life).  This time the topic was sex education rather than light bulbs, but the plan of attack was the same.

First, single out an individual or group for ridicule.  This time it was young people attending Sexual Education Day at Bucks County Community College and the program itself.  He set up a young man by telling him that monogamy was natural, and then gleefully waited for the testosterone laced response … and probably just as gleefully typed it in.  The program itself was artfully set up as a gay related boondoggle whose impact can be summed up with a description of kids giggling at atable full of colorful condoms.  The program leader was a mechanic, who was obviously another elite snob focused on “knowledge” rather than “truth.” 

Second, throw out some irrelevant data and pseudo facts.  This article was heavier on pseudo facts and unexplained philosophies then irrelevant data.  There was actually no data at all.  Instead, Mullane waxed eloquent about the difference between truth and knowledge, but never really explained what he meant.  He expressed his preference for babies over birth control, and though he said he understood why not everyone shared his enthusiasm it would have been nice if he would have understood why that was a ridiculous choice to even ponder.  Are we to understand that sex is only about babies?  Is this a choice we really want to present to a young person?  Do we want fourteen year olds choosing babies?  Are we really to believe that sex education is meaningless because the young people here could answer most of the questions that were asked and there is a lot of porn on the internet?

Third, Mullane covers up the holes in his philosophizing with a bogeyman or two.  The big, unwieldy, and threatening state is here … after all sex education is state mandated.  Obama and Obamacare were lurking about too.  “Free condoms!  Oh boy!  Who needs ObamaCare when you can get free birth control at the community college.”  Who needs logic and reason when you can include “Obama” in a sentence and attach all that thoughtless negativity to whatever you oppose. 

J. D. Mullane is witty and sarcastic.  He is also illogical and interested in fear mongering.  Above all, though, he is predictable.   

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The J.D. Mullane Template for Commentary

J.D. Mullane has a great template for commentary.  It’s simple, good for laughs, and creates the illusion of expertise without requiring too much annoying research.  It even has the added benefit of allowing you to stick to your beliefs irrespective of facts.  It’s really a great thing … for the commentator.  If you want to see how it works, all you have to do is take a look at Mullane’s piece on light bulbs in yesterday’s Bucks County Courier (Article Link).
First of all, the most important ingredient in any J.D. Mullane piece is mockery.  He almost always sets someone up to bear the brunt of his satirical approach.  His victim in Tuesday’s piece was some poor young man working to raise awareness for an environmental organization.  His crime, aside from talking with J.D. Mullane, was pronouncing Earth as “Erf.”  That created the thread that tied the whole piece together.  He ended with a call for “greenies” to redistribute wealth and to do it “for Mother Erf.”  Very funny. 

Second, you need to fill the piece with numbers.  None of these numbers need provide any actual support for your argument.  That would be too much work, and besides it’s not necessary.  For example, you can ridicule the legislated change in light bulbs simply by mentioning the high cost of a particular type of light bulb, without getting into the issue of long term savings (which you can dismiss by saying your old) or the prices of the wide range of alternatives.  Those facts would weaken the argument, so why mention them.  The goal, after all, is making your viewpoint seem to be the most logical one. 

Third, since it is possible that folks might see through the barrage of data or be turned off by your nastiness, you need to make sure your piece is filled with plenty of bogeymen.  It is always a good idea to supplement unrelated or incomplete facts with appeals to fear and anger.  Mullane is a master at this.  His favorite bogeyman of late is President Obama.  Mullane admits that the legislation he is opposed to came from the George W. Bush, but he still manages to precede that admission with this gem: “even when we buy light bulbs, hope ‘n’ change gets us tangled in paperwork.”  Nothing scares folks more, and/or gets them angrier than everyone’s favorite foreign born, Muslim, socialist, dog eating President.  So, even if he has nothing to do with the issue at hand, it’s probable that he wishes he did and that ought to be enough.  People hate him too much … that just has to get taken advantage of.  The same is true of big government.  No one really knows what it is, but everybody hates it.  Mullane knows it, and takes advantage of it.  This mess is the work of that big government guru George W. Bush.  Mullane is so good that he even works in redistribution, although I have to admit that I’m not sure how.  Hat’s off to him though … I mean it’s not everyone that could make light bulbs be about Obama, Big Government, AND Redistribution.  It’s too bad he didn’t see the state sponsored religious discrimination or the influence of Maoism.

J. D. Mullane is a talented writer.  That much can’t be denied.  Unfortunately, he’s either incapable or uninterested in the application of logic.  He prefers to make use of fallacies … personal attacks, appeals to fear, slippery slopes, etc.  I suppose, however, I can’t blame him.  He has a template that works.  Why wouldn’t he use it? 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


If you think you can put your hands on it
Read it to me or
Run it up the flag pole
Then you don’t have it

If you think you can find it with a gun
Then I hope you never do

If you think it’s fallen down from above
Like manna from heaven
Fully formed and ready to sustain us
Then you haven’t been in the kitchen yet and
I doubt whether you’ll be of much help if you ever make it there

If you think it’s that warm feeling you get in your chest
When you sing one of those songs
I’d like you to be right
I’d like to be there with you
One voice among many
Hands in the air
Eyes closed
Held in the cacophany
For always and ever
But I know I’d only last an hour or so
Before I’d want to
Listen to something else or
Nothing at all
Before I’d want to open my eyes and
Look for it somewhere else

If you think it can be wrestled to the ground
Bestowed from above
Discovered only in the faces and beliefs of some people
Purified or
Who knows what else
Then I know that you’re wrong
You think the fact that everyone is looking for it
Means that it can be found

Farry, Harry, and Normalcy (Frank Farry, Harry Arnold, and the Write-In Campaign)

State Representative Frank Farry has done what most politicians would have done when faced with Harry Arnold’s write in candidacy.  He has tried to out maneuver him.  Harry Arnold isn’t on the ballot as a candidate for the 142nd house district … no Democrat is.  Mr. Arnold is trying to get himself onto the ballot in the fall, however, by mounting a write in campaign.  In order to be on the ballot in the fall he needs to get at least three hundred write in votes, and he needs to be the top vote getter among ’Democrats.’  Farry has called this a “tactic” perpetrated by “partisan Democrats.”  He hasn’t limited himself to name calling and attacking the messenger, however.  He is mounting his own campaign to be written in on the Democratic ballot.  He sent a letter to Democrats asking that they write him in, and handed out a similar appeal to Democrats at the entrances to polling places.  I guess Mr. Farry is a ‘non-partisan Democrat.’  I guess Farry didn’t consider questioning Arnold’s commitment to the race and the position, all the while making it clear that he will welcome Mr. Arnold to the race if the voters decide he should be in it.  That would have made Mr. Farry appear confident, capable, and focused on the issues and on his constituents’ wishes.    It would have, however, not been the normal course of action for a politician.  Frank Farry is a normal politician, which is a shame since I think we deserve  something more.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Allen West is a Communist

Allen West said: "I believe there's about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party."  Allen West is wrong.  Allen West is wrong on a number of levels.

First of all, no one currently serving in Congress is a Communist.  West’s campaign manager defended the accusation, since "[t]his group advocates for state control over industries, redistribution of wealth, reduced individual economic freedom and the destruction of free markets."  Of course, we don’t have to get into a debate as to whether those things constitute communism because they aren’t true.  Not a single member of Congress has advocated for the destruction of free markets.  Not a single member of Congress is really advocating state control over industry.  State assistance for troubled industries … yes.  State direction of the kind involved in minimum wage laws … yes.   Sustained state control … no.  Almost everyone advocates for the “redistribution of wealth” at some level, so to throw that out as an accusation is a little silly.  If you think there is no place for social security, welfare, or taxes of any kind … then go ahead and make that accusation.  Otherwise, it would be best if we laid to rest accusations of communism, socialism, and fascism. 

Second, this is really just name calling.  Calling someone a communist, a socialist, a fascist, or a radical liberal accomplishes little.  It tells us nothing about the issues.  It provides no support for any argument.  It does little to foster the kind of cooperation and collaboration necessary for problem solving.  There is no place for this sort of behavior, and the folks that indulge in it probably have no business being elected to public office.

Third, this is more than just name calling.  Allen West is appealing to people’s fear and anger rather than appealing to logic and reason.  He knows the baggage that the word “communist” brings with it, and he is trying to dump that baggage onto his political opponents.  He wants folks to reject the communists out of hand rather than listening to their arguments and potentially forcing Mr. West to come up with a real argument as to why they are wrong.

Fourth, Allen West is playing the ‘enemy’ card.  Democrats are the ‘enemy.’  They are the ‘other.’  They can’t be real Americans, because what real American is a free market hating communist?  This of course means that they can’t be compromised or collaborated with.  Who would collaborate with the enemy?  I don’t see Allan West as the enemy.  I see him as a fellow American who I happen to believe just has it wrong on a number of issues.  I don’t have to question his citizenship, goodness, or motivation to show why I think he is wrong.  I can give real honest to goodness reasons why I think he is wrong, reasons based in … well … reason and logic. 

The bottom line is that Allen West should not be representing Americans in Congress.  No one that thinks Muslim points of view “represent the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established” should be representing anyone anywhere.  He is spewing insults and hate, and there is no reason that the people of Florida, and the people of America, can’t do better than that.

Monday, April 9, 2012

On Nation Under God and Tebow

In his Easter Sermon, Tim Tebow said that America needs to get back to being “One Nation under God.  It’s tempting to question why a quarterback is giving a sermon.  It’s even more tempting, and seemingly relevant, to bring up that “One Nation Under God” entered our pledge of allegiance in 1954.   Really, though, I don’t care if Thomas Jefferson and James Madison had a private version of the Constitution where the phrase appears on every other line.  I don’t care if George Washington and Benjamin Franklin desired that America be exclusively Christian.  Most of them owned slaves or condoned slavery.  Does that mean it’s okay for me to try to enslave the first black man I run across tomorrow?  I certainly don’t think so, and I know I wouldn’t get very far if I tried.  That is the real problem.  Being One Nation under God is as impractical and undesirable as legalizing slavery.

The fact is that we aren’t One Nation Under God, at least not One Nation under an unforgiving caricature of the Christian God.  About 5% of the American population identify themselves as members of a non-Christian religion.  Another 15% don’t identify themselves as religious at all.  That adds up to a lot of people, even before you start counting those of us who identify ourselves as Christian but don’t see God as vengeful or judgmental and are tolerant and accepting of the beliefs of others.  One Nation Under the Christian God isn’t going to be achieved easily or peacefully.

One Nation Under God, any God, isn’t that attractive an idea anyway.  The idea is built on a notion of Christian superiority, which is unfounded.  It is also intertwined with the notion that Americans should be Christians, which is unattractive.  I don’t have to believe in God to be a good American.  It isn’t necessary to vote, to speak my mind, to fight for the rights of others whether on a battlefield or a picket line, to work hard, or to cooperate with other Americans.  God is not a necessary part of the American experience.  Pushing one picture of God on all of us surely isn’t. 

There are a lot of things we should try to be as a nation.  There may even be a few we should get back to being.  United under one religious banner and intolerant of all others is not one of these things.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Anneliese MacPhail, Troy Davis, and Right and Wrong

Troy Davis was executed for murder over twenty years after he was convicted.  Many folks took up his cause, but ultimately he was executed despite his legal appeals and the many appeals on his behalf.  In the aftermath of his execution, many folks have been harassing the mother of the man who was shot more than twenty years ago.  They have been harassing her through the mail, over the phone, and even on You Tube.  Anyone who is calling up a 78 year old woman to say nasty things because they believe the wrong man was executed for her son’s murder … should stop.  Often in life it is very difficult to tell what is wrong and what is right.  This is not one of those times.  Harassing this old woman does nothing to advance any argument.  It does nothing to reverse the execution.  Anyone who contributes to this harassment is wrong.  Even in issues involving life and death, some little bit of intelligence, common sense, reason, and civility is called for.  In this case very little of any of these is being shown, and that is also a crime.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Bobby Petrino's Pants

If you have a motorcycle accident while your girlfriend is riding behind you on the motorcycle, and you happen to be the coach of a major football program who also happens to be the married father of four, don’t try to pretend she wasn’t there.  How many times do we have to be taught this lesson for it to sink in with someone?  If you are a celebrity, and major college football coaches qualify, you won’t be able to successfully lie about your indiscretions.  Personally, the lesson for me would be to not sleep with the twenty five year old.  However, if you really want to break the promises you have made to your wife and run the risk of destroying your family, you need to be really careful.  You also have to realize that no matter how careful you are you might crash your motorcycle when she is on it, and if that happens you won’t be able to cover it up and should just be honest as soon as you possibly can.  By the way, this lesson is also relevant should if you are a major star in professional basketball and you want to have your coach fired without anybody really catching on that you want your coach fired.  Listen, it’s really pretty simple.  You’re too popular for someone not to discover your lies.  America loves an honest sinner and will forgive you in half a second.  Combine those two, and you have the lesson here.  If someone catches you with your pants down, whether literally and figuratively, don’t try to convince them that you’re really wearing shorts.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Government Should Just Protect My Freedom

I only want Government to protect my freedoms.  I want my freedom of speech to be protected.  I would like my freedom of religion to be protected.  I’d also like to be free to marry whoever I want.  I would like my freedom from starvation to be protected too.  I’d also like government to protect my freedom not to be shot by someone exercising their freedom to have a gun.  In addition, I’m actually quite attached to my freedom to receive a good education and have access to good quality health care.  I even like my freedom from child labor, unsatisfactory working conditions, and unsafe food.  I couldn’t agree more that Government has lost its way and need to focus on protecting our freedoms.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


We should attack Iran immediately.  The Russians are our number one enemy.  Obama is an enemy of freedom.  Planned Parenthood is an enemy of children and honest women.  Contraception is everyone’s enemy.  The world is filled with evil and enemies.  It has to be, because that makes foreign policy easier.  It makes domestic policy easier.  It makes everything easier.  Everybody knows how to treat an enemy … especially if you yourself are wonderful, amazing, and exceptional.  There is no need for diplomacy, compromise, or justification.  Evil is by definition wrong, so no one needs to be told why it is wrong.  Evil is scary too, and the more people are afraid the fewer questions they seem to ask.  A world full of enemies is a great world, but don’t worry if your world isn’t really filled with evil enemies … you can always invent them.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Real Love of Country

Real love is a complicated thing. 

It isn’t always easy to spot.  How do you know two people are in love?  Well, you don’t always.  A ring doesn't really mean anything.  Kisses and hugs and hand holding can all be just for show.  Love isn’t always quiet or friendly either.  It can be restive and contrary, which is why ….

Love isn’t always easy to experience.  Real people aren’t perfect.  They don’t always do what you would do or would want them to do.  Real people smack when they eat and chew their shirt when they are nervous.  Real people have relatives and friends who will actively dislike, aggravate, and belittle you.  If you are going to love a real person, you have to be OK with imperfection.  You also have to be OK with frustration, disappointment, and disillusionment.  You also have to be OK with working hard to be frustrated, because …

Real love doesn’t come easy.  Real love isn’t won in a lottery or discovered under your pillow.  It isn’t discovered just anywhere.  You have to cultivate it.  Someone has to cultivate it.  Tomatoes don’t fall out of the sky and onto the shelves at your supermarket.  The same is true of love.  You have to work hard to experience it, which means …

True love is hard to identify, hard to experience, and hard to get.  So, how do you know I don’t love my country?  Because I don’t fly a flag in my yard?  Because I don’t stand up when veterans walk past in a parade?  Because I don’t say “God” when I say the pledge of allegiance?  Because I think This Land is Your Land should be our national anthem?  Because I don’t agree with every war and am happy to say so out loud?  Because I think America isn’t always exceptional, right, or a great example and shining beacon of democracy?  Because I think we have a thing or two to learn from people in other countries?  Because I think the Second Amendment of the Constitution had to do solely with raising and maintaining a militia and was only important when we had no standing army?  Because I support the rights of workers to join unions?  Because I don't think that America is defined by language, ethnicity, sexuality, or religion?  Because I don’t think tax is a dirty word?  Because I don’t think government is an even dirtier word?  Because I don’t feel the need to tell you that I love my country …

Even though I do.

So, how do you know I don't love my country.

That's actually pretty easy ... you don't.

of pink bowling balls and oppression

“You’re not gonna use the pink ball. We’re not gonna let you do that. Not on camera. …"Friends don't let friends use pink balls."  Rick Santorum said it, and all us liberals recoiled in horror.  Floating in our mind were a million other examples of this injustice: pink legos used to build nail salons; Tonka Toy commercials aimed at boys and their dads; the friend who won’t let his two year old son touch a purse or put on a princess dress; the school that has separate dress up trunks for boys and girls; and even the trains, tools, and other ‘boy’ toys that only appear as gifts from friends and relatives when there is a boy to give them to. 

We see it as sexism.  As evidence that girls are really hated and seen as weak, and given the lace covered pink and purple leftovers.  We get really worked up and hit out at the deliberate and malevolent ignorance around us. 

I say we, because I do it too.  I see this dated gendered nonsense everywhere, and actively work against it.  I consciously make sure that when I give my children yogurt and cottage cheese, my son gets the pink bowl once in a while and my daughter gets orange even though she insists she doesn’t like orange.  Who cares what she likes, goddamn it she’s going to have an orange bowl for her cottage cheese. 

The truth is, us liberals think about this stuff a lot … a lot more than Rick Santorum and the malevolent sexist Neanderthals.  The truth is, that usually this gender division isn’t done to hold girls down or because they are seen as inferior or weak.  It is done because it is done … because it has been done.  It is done because it is a way to order the world that is familiar to people, and we humans need to bring order to our world. 

The people who stop their boys from wearing princess dresses for Halloween or bowling with pink balls aren’t consciously trying to hold down women or make their sons into narrow caricatures.  The companies that cater to this worldview aren’t doing anything more sinister than trying to make money.  The truth is that the sooner we stop approaching the fear of boys wearing pink as a deliberate evil, the less folks will dig in their heels about it and the more quickly it will change.  If we are interested in changing something, rather than just being able to vent righteous anger, than we might actually change something.  Just something to think about next time you castigate someone for their choice of bowling balls.