Thursday, June 28, 2012

John Roberts ... Traitor?

According to some folks who are disgruntled with the Supreme Court’s ruling on ‘Obamacare’ the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court is a traitor.  This is a truly unfortunate claim for a couple of reasons. 

First of all, the word “traitor” in this context brings with it the suggestion of treachery not just to conservatives or the Republican Party, but towards America as a whole.  People who disagree with you are not traitors.  Calling them traitors is lazy, stupid, and not any part of a productive discussion of anything.  I think people who want to use military force on Iran are completely wrong, but I don’t think they are purposely trying to destroy or betray the country so I wouldn’t use that accusation as a part of my argument that they are wrong.  I would just rely on real evidence. 

Second, this use of traitor assumes that one should have a pretty strong allegiance to one’s party.  Many folks seem to be assuming that these days.  It has appeared to be the case that more than one Republican leader has placed the good of the party above the good of the country.  That’s really the only way to explain the last two years of ‘strategy’ on the part of the republican leadership in Congress.  A continued economic depression seemed to be seen as a small price to pay for the removal of Obama from office.  Party allegiance is important, but I think it has to be tempered a little bit more by allegiance to country and a commitment to addressing the problems facing the country.

Third, Supreme Court judges are not supposed to vote along party lines.  They are actually supposed to apply the law of the land.  Chief Justice John Roberts is not supposed to check with Republican Party leaders before he writes his opinions.  The judiciary, after all, is a separate branch. 

You don’t have to agree with the Supreme Court’s decision.  You shouldn’t, however, go around calling it treachery.  That is lazy and irresponsible.  If you are going to reach a conclusion on this, try and make it one that is supported by actual logical premises rather than name calling and innuendo.  Then we, your fellow citizens who disagree with you, might be able to do the same and, wonder of wonders, we might even find ourselves in a dialogue.  I don’t think that would be too vile.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Free Yourself and We Can Follow

When logic fails, claim to be at the mercy of public opinion.  This is an old last resort for the practitioners of one of our oldest professions.  “Gee, I’d like to be able to go along with you on this one, really I would … but look at how my constituents feel.  You can’t expect me to go against their wishes, can you?”  It sounds reasonable enough, until you think about it. 

First of all, we don’t have a representative democracy by accident.  The men who founded our country were worried about the majority dictating policy, so they went with a system where policy could be decided by knowledgeable and fair minded folks who are guided but not completely ruled by the opinion of their constituents.    It’s a great system, unless the elected representatives refuse to ever make unpopular decisions. 

Second, since when is “geez, that’s what those people think” a good argument?  If you are old enough to remember Members Only Jackets and Parachute Pants, I shouldn’t have to say much about the folly of believing that popularity is evidence of anything besides popularity.  If you’re not that old … what about “Jersey Shore”? 

Third, and most important, you aren’t at the mercy of popular anger if you purposely arouse it.  If you tell people that healthcare legislation is a plot by socialists and fascists to kill old people and turn us all into homosexuals, then chances are they won’t favor it.  In fact, many will be very vocal about opposing it.  Those who favor it are likely to raise their voices and boost their rhetoric in response.  This is how the space for compromise and cooperation is destroyed.   This is why in between elections little gets done.  Folks do indeed get elected, but very few problems actually get solved. 

So, if someone starts taking some responsibility for public opinion rather than blaming it, we might start solving the problems facing our country.  There are two ways to do this.  One is for the elected representatives to stop using public opinion, and start informing it.  The other option is for the public to start informing their own opinion.  Either way, we need to stop using public opinion as proof of anything but the opinion of the public.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Uncommon Decency

If you see someone you know
You say hello
If someone falls to the ground in front of you
You check to see if they’re alright
If someone says thank you
You say you’re welcome
If someone graduates from college
You say congratulations
If two men tell you they’re getting married
You say ...
What do

Monday, June 25, 2012

I want to be free

I want to be free
Not to own a gun
But to walk the streets without the fear that I might be shot with one
I want to be free
Not to make a billion dollars
But to feel like I make enough
I want to be free
Not to stop other people from marrying
But to be happy in my own marriage
I want to be free
To join with others to eliminate abortion
Without raping women in the process
I want to be free to
To welcome people to my country with open arms
In their language
I want to be free to
Invest my money
Drink my water
Take my medicine and
Not die or end up on the streets or both
I want to be free to disagree with you and
Still be your fellow American
I want to be free to talk with you
To compromise with you and
To solve problems with you and
Still be committed

I want to be free
How about you

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Obama and Golf

Stop it with the golf already.  Really.  I don’t care if the President plays some golf.   No one should.  We need to stop talking about things like golf, birth certificates, and dogs.  These aren’t the key issues.  If you want to criticize the President because he hasn’t invaded Iran, that’s fine.  That’s an important issue.  Plus, a substantive argument like that can be addressed, answered, debated, and even discussed (if that happens anymore).   If you want to talk about golf why don’t you talk about Tiger Woods, and leave serious discussion about politics to more serious people.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Better Line

Obama put in place a freeze on the deportation of some immigrants who came to the United States as kids.  Republicans responded by saying that Obama should have let Congress take action.  Ha!  The truth is he waited far too long for Congress to take action on a number of fronts.  Congress, led by a Republican majority in the House, did everything it could to obstruct any legislation at all but that which would have been completely unpalatable to the President.  The President stood around alternating between glaring and saying please a lot.  Nothing got done.  Eventually he figured out that if anything was to get done he had to do it himself.  So, that is what he is doing.  And now the Republicans in Congress tell him that he should be working with them?  They’re going to have to come up with a better line than that.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

V#$#%$ spells vagina

“It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women … I would not say that in mixed company.”  What word was this state representative in Michigan reacting to?  What word was it that got another state representative barred from the next debate just for using it?  What heinous word is this?  Well … it is … (recoil in horror) … vagina.  What a horrible thing to say … especially in front of men!  I mean, come on, clearly the more appropriate word is pussy.  Relax … I’m just teasing, I know that it’s not appropriate for adults to talk about our own private parts, especially when it’s an event that women and men are allowed to attend together at the same time.  The nerve of that woman!  Especially in a debate about abortion.  What was she thinking?  Just because she has one she thinks she can talk about it?  Outrageous!  This seals it.  I am moving back to Michigan right away, because they clearly have their priorities straight.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Neshaminy Strike: Let's Get Real Part II

It is awful that you lost your house.  It is hard to raise children on the money that you make working part time as a waitress.  I am sorry that you have to contribute so much to your health plan.  That being said, none of that has anything to do with the contract dispute between the teachers and the school board in Neshaminy.  If the board doesn’t have enough money, that matters.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t have enough money.  It doesn’t matter if a teacher makes more than you do or has better health care.  The focus needs to come back to what the district can afford, what the teachers need, whether the teachers are bearing more of the burden of a shortfall then they should, who is responsible for the shortfall, should teachers get credit for teaching the last four years, etc..  The problems you are facing on the home front are important, but this contract dispute is not the place to solve them.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Neshaminy Strike: Let's Get Real Part I

Barrett Oterson took her daughter to Walter Miller Elementary School to help her study … on the grass while teachers picketed nearby.  She was joined by other parents and their young ones.  Here is what she told the paper about what she was doing: “My daughter kept asking me, ‘Why aren’t we going to school?’  So I said, ‘Why don’t we just go and have class ourselves.” 

Now, let’s be real about what Ms. Oterson was doing.  She was using her kid to send a message to the teachers.    This wasn’t about keeping her education going, because she could have done that at home.   It wasn’t about her daughter’s question, if it was even asked, because I’ve dealt with that one myself and I didn’t need to take my daughter to the school to answer it.  All I had to do was talk to her in a general way about how people get paid to work and sometimes disagree about what they should be paid.   What she accomplished was impressive … she got her side a nice picture on the front page of the paper.  That wasn’t even all she did.  She risked the safety of her daughter to do it (there were death threats and cars swerving at picket lines) and introduced an interesting dimension into her daughter’s relationship with her teachers.  Now, that might have been worth it in order to get an advantage in a conflict with teachers … but let’s not pretend it had anything to do with educating her kids.