Saturday, December 21, 2013

Free Phil!

I am really upset about what happened to that Duck Dynasty guy.  I am afraid of the message this sends.  Folks should be able to stand on a table at their place of employment and proclaim that gays will rot in hell and black people were happy under Jim Crow.  Heck, I was hoping to be able to send a general e-mail to my students informing them of why Whites are superior and women should be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen and not have to worry about losing my job.  It just isn’t fair.  This is definitely a cause worth getting excited about.   Forget hunger and cancer and spousal abuse and universal health care and whatever else you liberal big government types want to foist on the rest of us.  I know what is important.  I’m going to stand up for ignorant and hateful reality television stars everywhere, and the millions of us who want to be able to be equally ignorant and hateful.  It’s time to band together, cloak our ignorance and hate under the cover of religion and a twisted vision of the Constitution, and fight the good fight!  Reason and logic can’t stop us now!!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

We The People

We
The
People
Wanted
Improved union
Unison
Unity
And
Sought Justice
Peace
Safety
Welfare
For right now and
The future
For us and
Everyone else
Freedom
Coming last
Unrecognizable
Responsible
Responsibility
Liberty
After all
We were
Not
A Person
We were
The
People

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Freedom

Freedom
To speak
To worship
To assemble
To vote
To starve
To remain ignorant
To hate
To leave
To be
You
And
Me

Friday, October 4, 2013

Jihad

I am struggling
To have you listen to my
Words
And not your own
Fears

Thursday, October 3, 2013

What should Marlin and his friends get out of it?

"We're not going to be disrespected," Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) told The Washington Examiner. "We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is."

So, this begs the question ... what do you think he ought to get out of it?  A few things jump to my mind.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Want a Deal, We've Got A Deal For You!

I think there is one circumstance under which the President should agree to delay Obamacare.  That is if, in return, the Republicans agree to implement a nationally coordinated system of independent commissions to oversee redistricting in ever state at every level, with all Congressional districts being redrawn for the 2014 elections.  If the redistricting plan wasn't up and ready to go by years end, Obamacare would go into effect for at least two years and the President would get his ideal budget put in place.  We have smart folks working in Washington.  We could get it done in time.  That would be a compromise that would work for me.

Stand Your Ground

Dear Mr. President,

Please stand your ground, even if the consequences are dire.  The time has come to stare down those who have placed their own political futures and their own narrow ideological quests above the best interests of the country.  We need to return to a place where health care for all is a shared goal, even if we differ on how to achieve it.  We need to get back to a country that scrutinizes government for waste and mismanagement, but realizes its importance in protecting rights and freedoms.  We need to return to a common sense appraisal of the very real limitations of the free market.  We need to go back to a place where everyone is a real American.  Most of all, we need to get back to dialogue, compromise, and collaboration.  And to logic and reason.  Defaulting on our debt would be bad, but there are worse things ... and they are coming ... quickly. The time has come to take a stand.  Please lead us so that we can follow.


Simple Summary

The debt ceiling should just be raised.  Congress approved spending and now its time to pay.  Republicans should not get another chance to approve spending they have already approved.  They should not be able to use this as an opportunity to extract concessions.

None of this is about health care.  This is the time for making tough decisions on the budget and not an opportunity to circumvent democracy in order to get a result more to the liking of a vocal minority of Republicans.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Yo ... Republicans in the House of Representatives, you're wrong.

The folks controlling the decision making for the Republican Party in the House of Representatives are wrong.  And it isn’t a close call.  The refusal to work with the President and Democrats to come up with a reasonable and long term approach to spending, debt management, and the like is completely indefensible. 

Republicans want to be the party in power, but that doesn’t excuse them from doing their jobs in the meantime.  As of now, there is only one President at a time.  Only one party can control the house.  The same is true in the senate.  So, it just isn’t workable for the party who is not in charge to stand in the way of every single thing the other party wants to do. 

Usually this isn’t so much of an issue because there is enough overlap between party platforms and enough divergence within a party that things get done.  No sane person is going to agree, or disagree, with everyone on everything.  Unfortunately, a number of our representatives have lost their sanity.  There are reasons for it, including Congressional districts that are way too manipulated and safe.  But, regardless of reasons, insanity is insanity.  Just because you disagree with me on health care, shouldn’t mean that we can’t get a reasonable budget done, even one that reaches beyond the short term. 

Of course, if cooperation and collaboration are dirty words, well then nothing gets done.  If nobody compromises, no one accomplishes anything.  If agreeing with Democrats is seen as evil, then there will be no agreement.  If Democratic legislation is seen as the “the most insidious law known to man” (an actual quote) then there will be no agreement.  When you cast the other side as completely wrong, un-American, socialist, fascist, etc. then nothing will get done.

When you cast the President as the son of Satan, nothing will get done.  I don’t know why Obama is the worst president in the history of man.  I’m not sure why he should be up for impeachment.  I tend to think this all has to do, at least a little, with the color of his skin.  But that doesn’t matter.  What matters is that he is the President, and things have to get done in the next three years.  We simply can’t stand for the routine we got on Syria to be repeated.  “That Obama needs to do something.  He needs to act.  What, he wants to act?  Oh, well in that case there is no way we should be acting in Syria.”

And, by the way, all government is evil and the free market is the solution to everything.  Except, of course, that neither of those things is the least bit true.  Angry rhetoric is a big problem.  It works people up.  It sets the stage for conflict.  And in this case, it is just plain false.  We need to move past these fictions and into a reality where we can solve some real problems.  We emerged from our own little caves and embraced governments long ago.  Government helped to open up the West in which we showcased our individuality.  It helped provide the land and built the roads and railroads to get us to it.  The unfettered free market brought us child labor, twelve hour work days, and blatant inequality.  It is time for us adults to leave the land of fantasy and enter the real world.

While we are at it, why are we pretending healthcare for everyone is such an atrocious thing?  And why are we still talking about it at all?  The legislation passed.  The Supreme Court found it to be constitutional.  It was a key issue in the Presidential election, and Obama (of Obamacare fame) won.  That chapter should be over.  By all means, make it better.  Alter it.  Amend it.  It isn’t perfect.  But for now, you just have to live with the fact that everyone is going to have access to healthcare.  I know that is awful, but ….


The time has come to stop.  This is not about health care.  Our representatives need to focus on the issue at hand.  They need to get our government running again.  They need to start governing again.  If not, the rest of us need to start doing our jobs, and not just next November.  Changing the redistricting process can start now.  The use of common sense and logic can start now.  Replacing the tea Party in the history books can start now.  And maybe, just maybe, the silliness can end now.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

It's Really Simple

It’s really simple.  If you have an opinion, support it with evidence.  Forget the insults, name calling, indignation, fear mongering, etc., etc.  Just share what you think along with some reasons why you think it.  I’ll do the same, and then that’s when the wonders start.  You say, “I think abortion should be illegal because it involves the killing of an unborn child.”  I say, “you’re right and killing is a horrible thing.  But, most folks accept that it is necessary and acceptable to end life in certain occasions.  I think this is one of those occasions where sometimes the taking of a life should be legal.  I think this is the case because that life is inside of a woman, who should have some control over what happens in her body.  I also think people have abortions for a number of reasons, and I think the way to limit the number of abortions that woman choose to have (which should be a goal for everyone, as no one likes or supports abortion) is to identify those reasons and eliminate them.”  You say, “you are right that sometimes it has to be legal to kill someone, but this should not be one of those cases because we are talking about a blameless and defenseless life.”  I respond by agreeing to your characterization of the life at stake, but again emphasizing my views on the importance of women’s rights in this case and the importance of thinking about what the most effective way to limit abortions might be (namely that making abortion illegal will not be as effective as addressing the root causes (lack of access to birth control and sex education, poverty, victimization, etc.).  And on it goes.  And back and forth we go.  And this thing we have going … it’s called a dialogue.  It leads to things like compromises and solutions.  It depends on things like conclusions supported by evidence.  It depends on logic, reason, respect, listening skills, and humility. And we need to start depending on it.  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

yay?

I know I should be excited about today’s court decisions, but I’m not.  I just can’t get overjoyed about the fact that in 2013 we are part way to the place that every citizen of this country can marry whomever they want and not incur  government sanctioned penalties.  It wears me out that this is where the arguing and fighting and such happen (I won’t say compromising and cooperating because who does those things anymore).  Gay marriage and Benghazi should not be anybodies focus.  “Well, they didn’t scrap the whole Voting Rights Act,” just doesn’t get me all warm inside.  Where in the world is Edward Snowden isn’t my idea of an interesting topic, game, or reality show.  I know I should be excited, but all I can manage is a not so big yay. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Self Hatred

I am all for questioning the government, but as an American citizen I just can't hate it.  I've never been that into self hatred.

Monday, April 15, 2013

How To React To Tragedy

After reading a few of the comments after the stories on the Boston bombing it seems like more than a few folks have to be reminded how to react to a tragedy.  First, you mourn the dead and feel sympathy for all who have been personally impacted.  That is where you should be now.  Then, you take time to digest the facts of the matter.  Lastly, you begin to engage in rational dialogue about what happened, why, and how we should react to it.  You save the hate and fear mongering for those moments when you are alone and no one else can hear or read your petty ugliness.  Just so you know, we are still on that first step ...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Monday Musings: Focus on Romance

In honor of Valentine’s Day, Walgreens wants me to ”focus on romance,” and get in right away to take advantage of 50% or more off on condoms and a “doctor developed male enhancement” called “Libido-Max.”  If Republicans admitted they engaged in sex that wasn’t intended to result in conception, I would have concluded that Walgreens was run by Republicans.  The fixation with a result awkwardly and obviously divorced from the process of achieving it, as well as reality in general, just seems so early twenty-first century Republican.  Forget conversation, connection, or even dinner … just get naked and give me some “romance!”  Forget compromise and collaboration or anything remotely like a conversation about the issues, just give me a smaller government and lower taxes, and do it now!  And I don’t care if I even know what romance or small government is!!  Call me crazy, but not only do I like to know something about my goal I actually enjoy the process of getting there.  I think that’s what Walgreens and the closeted Republicans that run it have forgotten … often the journey is as important than the destination … and damn it, you can’t get there without it.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

W-etiquette Wednesday: The NRA's List


The NRA has a list of people and organizations that are “anti-gun.”  It includes such radical leftist organizations as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Mennonite Central Committee-Washington Office, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the YWCA, A & M Records, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Sara Lee Corporation, St. Louis University, and the Christian Science Monitor.  Also on the list are opponents of the Constitution and America like C. Everett Koop, Vinny Testaverde, and Christie Brinkley.  In the eyes of the NRA these are radicals, presumably because that gun control legislation is important and should be enforced.  Either you see the right to have a gun as an absolute right, never to be meaningfully regulated, or you are the enemy.  This is an unfortunate position, and one that has no grounding in the Constitution, the rulings of the Supreme Court, or common sense.  This you’re with us or you’re against us mentality works in Westerns, but it doesn’t work in real life in the year 2013.  We need to come together and work to make school shootings less common, gun deaths in our cities a rarity, and suicides using firearms uncommon.  We can only do that if we see ourselves as working together to solve these problems, as opposed to lining up for a shootout at the O.K. Corral.  We can only do this if we recognize that gun control is one part of the solutions we are looking for.  We can only do this if we stop listing our enemies, and start listing our suggestions and the premises which support our conclusions.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tuneful Tuesday: I'm not crazy and I don't think you are either


Well, you've gotta be crazy, baby to want a guy like me.  Yeah, you've gotta be out of your mind … crazy.”  Crazy - Icehouse

The protagonist in the Icehouse song thinks that this woman must be crazy to like him.  If he were in her shoes, it sounds like he would not make the same choice.  Of course, he probably doesn’t really think she’s crazy.  He just doesn’t understand her decision making process and is exaggerating for effect.  Which, I suppose, is what a person is doing when they say another person must be crazy to think the earth was created in six days, to really believe homosexuals are a threat to America, to vote for Obama, to try to take away people’s guns because of one school shooting, to try to blame the financial crisis on unions, etc. etc.  The problem is that this sort of exaggeration has an effect, and it is pretty negative.  The effect is that the person being called crazy is less likely to listen to, agree with, work with, and even compromise with the person calling them crazy.  This crazy person isn’t really crazy.  They have reasons for believing what they believe in.  They may not be good reasons.  They may not be well thought out reasons.  But, they are still reasons.  Their positions are not the result of actual psychosis.  Rather than calling them crazy, which is the easy way out, us ‘sane’ folks should try to figure out why the ‘crazy’ people think the way they do and try to explain to them why we don’t think that way.  “You gotta think differently baby” doesn’t capture the confusion of love nor does it make for catchy song lyrics, but it works better in politics.  

Monday, February 4, 2013

Monday Musings: Mirror Mirror on the Wall


Here is my new test for political arguments.  Go into the bathroom, turn the light on, and shut the door.   Find the mirror and look into it.  Distill the argument down to a sentence and say it out loud.  If you turn red, laugh out loud, or feel ashamed … never say, write, or think it ever again.  Here are some arguments, distilled to their essential elements, which do not pass the mirror laugh test.  “I was created by God on one of six days, along with grass, water, trees, and a lot of evidence of evolutionary change that God planted there to throw us off.”  “If two men get married, it would mean the death of Western culture as we know it.”  “Requiring people to prove that they are not criminals, insane, or criminally insane before they buy a gun puts us all at risk of a gun tax and/or having all our guns taken away.”  “The free market solves everything, and I yearn for the days of child labor, sweat shop fires, and rat feces in my food.”  “I oppose abortion because it is killing and I support war and the death penalty, but not just because they are killing … see the difference?”  “When people succeed, they do it on their own and you are a socialist if you think that roads, telephone service, the internet, mail service, employees, partners, police protection, teachers, or parents made any difference at all.”  Now, try this one: “Everyone deserves an equal shot at success, something that can only be done if we come together under the leadership we ourselves elect to provide everyone with meaningful education.”  How about this: “Government can be inefficient, but it isn’t evil and if I take a few minutes I can think of quite a few benefits I derive from the existence of a strong central government which I would not be interested in giving up.”  Or this: “the goal of the Constitution was to strengthen the federal government.”  See the difference.  See how well it works?  So, why don’t you use it?  Before you try out your arguments on other people, try them, out on yourself.  The rest of us would really appreciate it.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thankful Thursday: Happy Birthday Mom!


Today is my mother’s birthday, and a great day to ponder a fact that influences nearly all of my political beliefs.  That fact is that I lucked out in the mother sweepstakes.  Not only has my mother has given me unquestioned love and support for thirty nine years.  She also was hands on in my education ... which by the way was not at all limited to school hours.  She helped me when she could, argued on my behalf when she had to, encouraged me to follow my interests when the opportunity arose, and gave me an  open minded, loving, and curious role model.  The fact that my father did many of the same things makes me doubly lucky.  Not everyone’s parents are like that.  I try to keep that in mind when I consider issues like school reform, gun control, the future of welfare, and the role of the Government.  I think if more people thought like this we would not be as far apart as we are on the big problems facing this country and as far away as we all are from solving them.  I am an incredibly lucky person.  I wish everyone could be so lucky, and I can't help but think it's worth doing whatever we can to make that wish a reality.  Today, what I'm going to do is thank someone who has done and continues to do her part.  Thank You Mom.  And ... Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

W-etiquette Wednesday: Don't Lie


Lying is bad, unless you are being confronted by homicidal maniacs regarding the whereabouts of your children.  I think a lot of folks (Tea Party organizers, Republicans in Congress, and the leadership of the NRA) think the rest of us are homicidal maniacs asking about their children.  Otherwise, how do you explain all the lying they are doing.  Now, they will say that they aren’t lying, but if you aren’t telling the truth what are you doing?  A simple way of demonstrating that the answer in this case is lying is to look at some of the fun graphics the Tea Party and affiliated groups post on Facebook.  Almost every one of them involves a lie.

Example one is right on the front of the Tea Party Facebook page.  The quote is: “When the people fear the government there is tyranny, when the government fears the people there is liberty.”  It is attributed to Thomas Jefferson.  The problem is that there isn't a shred of evidence that those words ever came out of Thomas Jefferson's mouth.  (for the proof, check out the Monticello Website).  These words actually seem to come out of debates about socialism in 1914, and were not attributed to Jefferson until 1994.  When you lay them over top of an image of the Constitution and in front of Thomas Jefferson’s name on the front page of your Facebook page, that is a lie. 

Example two is a wonderful little portrait of George Washington, underneath of which is a great quote.  You can see it below.  The problem here is the same as above.  George Washington said this in the same way that he chopped down that cherry tree.  Here is what he actually said: “A free people ought not only be armed but disciplined; to which end, a uniform and well digested plan is requisite: And their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories, as tend to render them independent on others, for essential, particularly for military supplies."  Just in case it needs to be said, when you change the words someone actually said or wrote to suit your purposes you no longer have a quote.  What you have is a lie.





I love example three, because it is funny, sarcastic, and anti-elitist.  Now, Jefferson actually did write the words attributed to him in the cartoon below.  They appeared in three drafts of the Virginia Constitution  but not in the final draft.  Nowhere on here, however, are we told that these words hit the cutting room floor.  Plus, in the background we have three snooty Supreme Court Justices promising to go against these words.  It is a great way to stir up anti-elitist sentiment, but doesn’t quite jibe with the fact that these same gun hating justices recently recognized an individual right in the Second Amendment that no one had ever found there before.  So, when you misrepresent quotes and suggest things that aren’t true in order to rouse people’s anger, you lie.








Example four is a great one too.  It connects the people opposing a ban on assault rifles with the founding fathers and the people supporting such a ban with the British oppressors.  It is brilliant, but ridiculously misleading at best.  First of all, a musket is an assault rifle just like a bang snap is a nuclear missile.  I mean, if you can’t see the difference you shouldn’t be allowed to have a gun.  Second, there are a few differences between the British Monarchy and the way it ruled its colonies during the second half of the eighteenth century and the Obama administration.  Third, to suggest that there is reason for revolution now is absurd.  In short, what we have here is not a lie … but a couple of lies.




Examples five, six, and seven aren’t great at all.  The idea that world leaders are either Stalin or Jefferson is idiotic.  The idea that there is something that connects Hitler, Stalin, and Mao to Obama is not only idiotic and patently false, it is offensive.  Is the suggestion that after banning assault rifles and mandating background checks Obama will round up and kill millions of people? This isn’t only a lie, it is a disgusting slap in the face to the millions of people the world over who have faced real oppression at the hands of real life brutal tyrants.  Maybe some folks should spend a month in Afghanistan or the Congo.









Example eight is not as hideous, but it is still silly and it is still a lie.  In what way would Obama qualify as a king?  Really.  If you are going to say it, let’s hear some support.  Are we talking about a constitutional monarchy?  Are even those kings elected?  Do kings risk falling off of fiscal cliffs?  You don’t have to agree with the president, but when you disagree and spout lies I assume you don’t have a real position and are just being obnoxious.





Example nine is catchy, but still false.  The Second Amendment is not a permit.  It doesn’t take the place of a permit.  It doesn’t permit you to avoid having your gun registered or having a background check done before you purchase a gun.  If you don’t believe me, pull out a few Supreme Court cases and a glass of lemonade and have a look see.  In the meantime, delete this one.





Example ten is intriguing.  This picture includes the claim that Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican.  The proof for this is that his niece said so in one interview.  There is no other proof of this.  None.  None at all.  Most scholars dismiss the claim.  It is worth noting that the Republican party of MLK’s time was not the party of Lincoln anymore, as the Republicans had assumed the support of the formerly Democratic white southern establishment.  So, this would be a lie.






I think you are getting the idea, so we can move into rapid fire mode.  Here we have a catchy phrase you hear all the time.  Of course, in real life lots of things stop bad guys with guns.  A working education system stops them from appearing.  So do jobs.  Rehabilitation in prisons stops them from reappearing.  Active community groups do wonders too.  Of course, finding bad guys and good guys isn’t easy since they don’t walk around wearing black and white respectively, and probably don’t even exist.  Plus, it doesn’t take a bad guy with a gun to take a life, unless every person who has accidentally shot someone or killed themselves was bad. 






 This is beyond silly.  Think maybe the President presents an exceptional case?  Maybe?




Yes, there is just one reason.  Keeping track of guns wouldn’t be a reason.  Keeping them out of the hands of the mentally ill wouldn’t be a reason.  Besides, it totally makes sense to argue that guns shouldn’t be registered because bad things might be done with such a list.  We’d better get rid of car registration.  And that whole social security number thing …







So, Obama’s supporters are all unemployed.  Are we still saying this after Romney trotted it out?  Really?






Yeah.  Sure.  All those scientists, every last one of them, is in on it.  Them and the thermometers and the glaciers too.







Let’s review.  No one is trying to take away hand guns and shot guns.  Are we good now?






Yes, the only alternative to owning a gun is to huddle in a corner and wait to be raped.  





So, what we have here is a lot of lying.  To those who post these lies, I don’t see any people asking about the whereabouts of your sister while holding a gun to your throat, so can you cut it out?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tuneful Tuesday: One


“One Love, one blood
One life, you got to do what you should
One life, with each other
Sisters, brothers
One life, but we’re not the same
We get to carry each other, carry each other”
-U2

This sums it up pretty well.  We are in this together, whether you acknowledge it or not.  Joining together with others to form a society is acknowledging this truth.   Pretending that the act of joining a society is meaningless and involves no sacrifices or obligations and brings no benefits but is instead a sort of accident of circumstances is an attempt to deny this reality.  We are in ‘this’ together, and ‘this’ is a big deal.  Even if you think there is another life, this one that we are in now only happens once.  It is “one life.”  This “one life” is important.  It is certainly important enough to acknowledge that although we are individuals, we only survive and thrive as a group.  We are different … “we’re not the same.”  But we are “one life.”  We will always disagree on what we should do together as a society, but we need to stop disagreeing as to whether we are a society.  “We get to carry each other,” and we need to start realizing what a necessity and what a privilege that is.  

Monday, January 28, 2013

Monday Musings: Guns and Fences?


Guns and fences are not solutions.  At best, they are temporary steps that can be taken to manage problems while solutions are drafted.  The problems of violent crime cannot be solved by putting more guns into people’s hands.  I don’t want to be cowering behind my door with a gun.  I don’t want my children to be under lock down when they are at school.  I want to reduce crime.  Gun control legislation is part of a solution.  Reworking our mental health system is part of that solution.  Reducing unemployment, improving our educational system, and increasing opportunity has to be part of that solution.  It is a very difficult problem that can’t be resolved overnight and that demands a solution that goes beyond more access to gun shows where folks can buy assault weapons without background checks.  The same is true of immigration.  The problem of illegal immigration is not solved by guns or by walls.  Putting a wall up doesn’t do anything to address the reasons why people seek to come to American illegally.  You can’t condition real reforms on stemming the flow of immigration with a wall, the real reforms to our immigration system have to come simultaneously to the wall if not before or instead of it.  I’m not interested in retreating into a heavily armed and walled compound.  I want to solve the problems we are facing rather than hiding from them.  If enough folks agree, we may be able to do something.  We may be able to find real solutions.  

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Saturday Silliness: The World of Tea Party Make-Believe


At the top of the Tea Party Facebook page you find the big problem with the Tea Party neatly encapsulated in one wonderful quote.  The quote is: “When the people fear the government there is tyranny, when the government fears the people there is liberty.”  It is attributed to Thomas Jefferson.  The problem is that there isn't a shred of evidence that those words ever came out of Thomas Jefferson's mouth.  (for the proof, check out the Monticello Website)   The Tea Party wants to wage on attack on 'big' government.  They want to ground that attack in American history.  The problem they face is twofold.  First, the specifics, the facts, are against the claim that government is inherently evil, wrong, and should be done away with in favor of unfettered markets and concealed handguns.  So, they have to stay vague.  Which is why they talk about 'big' government.  Second, the early history of America is the history of the establishment and strengthening of the Federal Government.  The fight against the British was not against government  but against the British Government.  The problem wasn't taxation, but taxation without representation.  The Constitution wasn't written to limit Federal Power, but to increase it in the wake of the failure of the Articles of Confederation.  Essentially, there is no historical or logical support for their cause so they have to imagine and invent it.  I can't fault them for lying.  They have to.  I do, however, fault the rest of us for believing it.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

W-etiquette Wednesday: Wayne La Pierre and Fear

NRA chief Wayne LaPierre is trying to scare folks into opposing new gun control legislation.  He and his organization have decided to oppose any new initiatives, even ones like background checks which he has voiced support for in the past.  This opposition is not being based on logic and reason, but on hate and fear.  The closest to proof that LaPierre gets is to mention the Second Amendment.  He doesn’t go into depth, however, because then he would have to discuss things like the Supreme Court’s obvious willingness to allow regulation and the fact that no right is beyond any limitation at all.  Then he would have to talk facts and that isn’t their strategy.  Their strategy is to paint the president as a man who is out of touch with the common people and out to get their guns.  As LaPierre told a cheering crowd, "[the president] doesn't understand you. He doesn't agree with the freedoms you cherish.”  He is an “elitist hypocrite” whose own children are protected by gun toting folks while ordinary Americans’ kids are left vulnerable.  And he is out to get your guns.  After all "there are only two reasons for that federal list of gun owners: to tax them or take them.”  If people don’t have their guns, how will they defend themselves from the Government?  Of course, many background checks are performed already.  In the rest of the world, very few countries don’t have universal background checks.  Fully automatic weapons are effectively banned now and all assault weapons have been banned in the past.  And gun violence in this country is far higher than it is in much of the rest of the world.  Plus, we register things like cars in much the way that is proposed for guns.  There would seem to be plenty of reasons to give these proposals real consideration, and I have to think people will … unless there they are too angry and afraid.   I suppose that is what LaPierre and the NRA is banking on.  I suppose that is a real reason to be afraid.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

Monday Musings: Dancing With Hate And Fear


It is inauguration day and I am not thinking about ball gowns and Bibles.  It is all the hate and fear that is on my mind … the unadulterated hate and the completely irrational fear.  He’s a Marxist.  He’s a fascist.  He’s going to round us up into concentration camps after he takes our guns.  He’s destroying the Constitution.  He hates freedom.  He bought the election by buying minority votes.  He’s a Muslim.  He was born in Kenya.  He was born in Indonesia.  He is redistributing wealth.  He’s turning the country into Greece.  He’s out to destroy Catholicism.  He wants to take America away from God.  He faked the Sandy Hook shooting to get our guns.  Take a look at the comments to any article about today’s inauguration on just about any network and you will see hundreds of comments like these.  Hell, you’ll see half of them come out of the mouths of congressmen and congresswomen in the next few months.  It’s troubling that it’s all poppycock.  It’s disconcerting that no one bothers to throw out a shred of proof to support this shit.    It’s annoying that most of the people calling our President a fascist, socialist, Marxist, or Muslim have no idea what any of those things are.  It’s more annoying that these folks claim the Constitution and don’t seem to have the slightest idea what it is about.  The underlying racism is certainly oppressive to behold.  But none of it is as troubling to me as the hatred and meanness and abject fear that permeate all of it.  That people would take this much time to be this nasty and heartless is frightening.  Maybe it has always been this way.  Maybe the internet just allows us easier access to it.  Maybe it shouldn’t bother me at all.  But I can’t help but feeling that this hatred is more widespread, more separated from reason, more divorced from any understandable grievance, and seemingly more acceptable than ever before.  Nothing good can come of this sort of shit.  No problems are going to be solved by people who talk this way.  There is no historical justification for it either.  This rabid hatred is not based in the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere’s Ride, James Madison’s writings, the Constitution, or even Thomas Jefferson’s butt crack.  There is nothing uniquely American or the least bit inspiring or laudable in any of it.  It’s certainly there though.  Even today.  Even covered up by loads of pomp and circumstance.  And I think recognizing that … and recognizing all of it for the unprincipled nastiness that it is … is the first step in a much more important dance than anything that will take place today.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Free Friday: Free To be You and Me


You can go and run free
Leaving all the rest of us to be
Part of something bigger
Than just an individual me

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Theoretical Thursday: We The People


We the people” were supposed to form a “union,” “establish justice,” “provide for the common defense,” and “promote the general welfare.”  Translation … we were trying to join together to look after one another.  The idea was that if you were one of the “We,” you wouldn’t have to cower in your house with your finger on the trigger waiting for someone to attack.  You wouldn’t be powerless to prevent the more powerful from taking what was rightfully yours.  You would be free to believe something different than your neighbors.  You would also be free to be able to feed your family and earn a living … always.  And, most importantly, you would be part of something larger than yourself … something that could accomplish more than you ever could by yourself.  That was the idea.  That was why they said “we the people,” and not “I the person.”  I think it was a good idea, and I am not in favor of trying to rewrite it now.  I am proud to be part of “we the people,” and I’m willing to fight to keep it that way.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

W-etiquette Wednesday: NRA Ads


The NRA wants to make sure that background checks are not required for all people who purchase guns and that assault weapons and high capacity magazines are not outlawed.  If their first ad is any indication, they do not plan to do this by publicizing the merits of their position.  Unfortunately, it seems that what they plan to do is to launch personal attacks on the President and other supporters of this legislation, and stir up and play on people’s fear and anger. 

The NRA will try to paint the President as an out of touch elitist.  Which may be true, but how does that have any bearing on the merits of his gun control plan?  Why are the merits of the President’s claims to be a common man relevant to whether gun owners should have to prove they aren’t insane or felons?  It’s hard to tell, because while they will call him an elitist, they won’t really tell us why it matters.

They also won’t tell us why the role of the media matters.  But they won’t give any proof of the dreaded liberal media bias either.  They will just allude to liberal conspiracies with ads like this one that include NBC News correspondent David Gregory in the photo of liberal elites along with Diane Feinstein and Michael Bloomberg.   The liberal press is always a great target when you don’t want to talk about specifics or provide actual support for your arguments, and clearly the NRA doesn’t want to talk about these things. 

The NRA does, however, want to talk about how the President of the United States is a hypocritical elitist because he has secret service protection but wants to regulate guns and thinks putting armed guards in every school might be unrealistic and unsavory.  It doesn’t matter that he is the President, and a target for disgruntled crazies the world over.  It doesn’t matter that a lot of folks right here in this country still think the President he is a foreign born Muslim intent on destroying America, can see he is black, and own firearms.  Apparently, every President has to tow the NRA line in order to avoid being hypocritical because they have secret service protection.  To oppose the NRA’s positions, they would have to agree to go about their lives completely unguarded.   That makes lots of sense. 

It also makes a lot of sense that the NRA would talk incessantly about the Second Amendment without saying anything about it.  You won’t hear the Second Amendment quoted, because if you actually read it you plainly see that it was meant to protect the right of Americans to arm themselves and in the absence of a standing army join a militia to defend the country.  You also won’t hear much of the actual ruling from the District of Columbia v. Heller, which while abandoning the usual conservative preference for a narrow reading of the text in order to come up with a meaning that almost assuredly isn’t there and wasn’t meant to be, still makes it clear that nothing in the ruling or the Amendment stands in the way of reasonable regulations of this ‘right.’  If the NRA acknowledges that there is no basis for believing that the Second Amendment rules out common sense regulations, then they would have to start supporting common sense regulation. 

That is, of course, exactly what needs to happen.  We need to get everyone to come together and work together to pass legislation that regulates gun ownership while still allowing for gun ownership.   Unfortunately, there aren’t good ads for that.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tuneful Tuesday: Sit Down Next To Me


Those who feel the breath of sadness 
Sit down next to me 
Those who find they're touched by madness 
Sit down next to me 
Those who find themselves ridiculous 
Sit down next to me 

-James                                                                                         

Catholics, Mormons, and Unitarians all hold funerals … sadness would seem to be universal.  I’ve been to Provincetown and Salt Lake City.  I’ve heard the NRAs proposal for putting guns in every school in the country and I’ve attended church with pet psychics.  Madness knows no political boundaries.  We may not all find ourselves to be ridiculous, but that’s a problem of perception and rose colored glasses.  We all should find ourselves to be ridiculous.  And we should all sit down together, chat a bit, and see if we can’t solve a problem or two before we get up and go our separate ways. So, why don't you pull up a chair and "sit down next to me."

Monday, January 14, 2013

Putting Aside the Second Amendment


“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”  This is the Second Amendment of the Constitution.  The Supreme Court has recently found that this is an individual right that extends beyond the purposes of forming a militia.  They were, however, explicit that the right was not unlimited and that their ruling did not mean that guns could not be prohibited from certain places, that concealed weapons could not be prohibited, and that certain types of weapons could not be outlawed.  Now, I think the Court was wrong to extend this right beyond the context of the formation of militias within which it was drafted and pretty obviously meant to be constrained, but that being said it seems pretty clear that there is absolutely no justification for using the Second Amendment as a reason to impede reasonable regulation of gun ownership, including universal background checks and the outlawing of assault weapons and high capacity magazines.  So, let’s stop pretending that the Second Amendment is a barrier to regulation, and get to work crafting reasonable and effective regulations.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Free Friday: Please feel free to stop misquoting the founding fathers about firearms


I want to be free of having to see false quotes from our founding fathers regarding gun control.  George Washington never said “A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.”  Thomas Jefferson never said “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government."  They never said these things, and furthermore who cares if they did?  They lived in a time when we barely had a professional army.  In the 18th century there were no assault weapons or cars or planes or free black people or women who could vote.  I don’t know what Washington, Jefferson, or Madison would say about requiring background checks on everyone who purchases a gun and banning assault weapons … and neither do you.  So let’s leave the old guys be. Let’s stop it with the misleading Facebook posts and opinion pieces in the local paper.  Instead of lying about what people said over two hundred years ago, how about we just come together to solve a problem?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Threatening Thursday: Hegel can't be Secretary of Defense ... he thinks for himself


Senator John Cornyn disapproves of the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hegel as defense secretary.  He disapproves because Senator Hegel believes in the importance of negotiating with Iran.  Senator Cornyn disapproves of the nomination of Senator Hegel because Senator Hegel believes that Iran isn’t a bastion of evil, but a country full of all sorts of people and led by all sorts of people, ordinary self interested human beings.  Senator Hegel might even think that Muslims are ordinary people who don’t all want to destroy us, and that trouble Senator Cornyn.  Senator Cornyn is also troubled that the next secretary of defense believes that it might be impossible to keep nuclear weapons only in the hands of those who already have it.  Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, he might even question the sanity of automatically assuming that what is in the interest of Israel is in the interest of America.  In other words, Senator Cornyn is worried that the next secretary of defense might be a respectful, pragmatic, results oriented, logical thinker who values collaboration, cooperation, and negotiation.  Yikes … that is quite a problem.    

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

W-etiquette Wednesday: Honking at Kids


When you come up behind a line of cars waiting to get through an intersection crowded with school buses and folks who are dropping off their kids both on foot and by car, don’t honk persistently, look irritated, and mutter obscenities.  There is an unwritten rule against such behavior … and it’s really a pretty straightforward rule.  Unless you are headed to the hospital or trying to escape a homicidal maniac, you ought to follow it.  If you don’t follow it, everyone within hearing distance will assume that you are an ass hole.  Just thought you should know.

Tuneful Tuesday: Richie Webb of the Neshaminy School Board Sings the Same Old Song



“It's the same old song
But with a different meaning
Since you been gone
It's the same old song
But with a different meaning
Since you been gone
.”

If this isn’t what Richie Webb, President of the Neshaminy School Board has been humming these days; it certainly is what he is offering up.  Despite the fact that the disagreement over money between the Neshaminy School Board and the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers has vanished, Webb is still singing the same old song.  In expressing his disappointment over the rejection of the Board’s last offer, he has claimed the provisions they want are illegal (hard to imagine) and talked about the tools the Teacher’s Union has used to state their case (strikes, teaching to the contract, etc. which while not always well thought out have little to do with the merit of the Board’s offer).  He also has continued to talk about the union as if it was an entity separate from teachers, which he would like to exclude entirely from decision making.  It isn’t individual teachers who would lose the right to challenge major changes to their jobs (what they can wear to school, what is in their lesson plans, how they are evaluated, etc.) but the evil union.  The title of his op-ed piece in the Bucks County Courier Times begins with these two words “Workers' paradise,” a clever way to echo consistent references by the Board and its supporters to socialism.  He ends his piece with this line: “It is time for a change in Neshaminy, and we appreciate the continued support of the public as we deliver on this important promise to our parents, tax payers, and most importantly of all, our students."  In one seemingly innocuous line he sets this up as a war in which teh community should take sides and conveniently leaves out teachers in his list of groups whose interests and needs the Board should be concerned with.  

 

So, Despite an agreement on money, Webb continues to speak in terms of ultimatums, trot out the bogeymen of evil unions and socialism, encourage the community to take sides, and generally set this up as a battle to the death.  He continues to sing the same old song, even though it has a different meaning now that the monetary differences are gone.  That, unlike the classic cover song by KC and the Sunshine Band, is a shame.  

Monday, January 7, 2013

Monday Musings: Chuck Hegel ... Republican Liberal Homophobic Jew Hater


The Republicans are offended by President Obama’s choice of Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican, for secretary of defense.  The best I can conclude is that they are opposed because the President nominated him and because they are bound and determined to look like a bunch of jack asses. 

It can’t really be because, as Senator Lindsey Graham says, “he has long severed his ties with the Republican Party.”  Just over four years ago, after he stepped aside and decided not to run for re-election to the Senate, he was almost universally praised by his fellow Republicans.  Four years doesn’t sound like “long” to me, and it is a bit too convenient that these severed ties are just now being revealed.  Besides, he was elected twice as a Republican senator presumably by Republicans.  Obama is surely going to claim this as an attempt at bipartisanship.  Arguing that it isn’t really without appearing to be … well to be jack asses, doesn’t seem to be an easy task. 

Unfortunately, Republican opposition also can’t be rooted in Hagel’s opposition to the war in Iraq and the surge Congressman Tom Cotton says "Our troops deserve much better than a man who voted to send them to war when it was popular and then abandoned those very troops when it was unpopular.”  But he can’t really mean to say something that is so ridiculous.  That would mean that anyone who opposes a war is somehow un-American, that the only thing that a good American can do when we are at war is mindlessly support the official government position.  It would also mean that people can’t change their mind … ever … even if they come across new information, circumstances change, or they simply come to believe that they were mistaken.  No one can possible have such a naive, narrow, and ignorant view of the world. 

I suppose it could be because he favors negotiating with countries like Iran rather than simply labeling them as evil terrorists and starting a war that could destabilize the Middle East and throw the world into recession and confusion, for starters.  No sane person would want to avoid war and no real American would see nuance in the world.  He must be a threat to the country, 

The problem is that he’s not really a threat to the country or its military, and its pretty hard to believe that Republicans really think he is.  Hegel is thoughtful, but he is not a pacifist.  He is a Vietnam Veteran, and an advocate for the military.  He would support cuts in military spending, but that is, until proven otherwise, just a matter of good sense.  No one is going to argue that he isn’t knowledgeable about foreign policy and defense issues.  So that only leaves us with Israel, and this is not about Israel.

Republicans are not opposing this nomination because Hagel said that the “Jewish lobby intimidated lawmakers."  Republicans are using this line to rile people up and to justify their opposition.  It’s exactly what Romney tried to do during the election.  They can’t really believe that American interests are best served by always championing Israeli interests.  Israel and the United States are two different countries with different sets of interests.  There is no way they correspond completely.  And the Jewish lobby does intimidate lawmakers.  That’s what every lobby does, or at least tries to do.  Besides, Hegel’s voting record does not exactly paint him as a supporter of Hamas.  This is just a rather crude attempt to motivate opposition to the nomination by appealing to fear and hate, with a bit of push from a powerful and narrowly focused lobby. 

So, this brings us back to concluding that Congress is a bunch of angry Obama-hating jack asses.  If they do actively oppose the nomination of a hawkish homophobic Republican, it will be hard to reach any other conclusion.  

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Sunday Sundries: George Washington Said What?


"A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government" - George Washington

There are two problems with this quote (which I saw on Facebook). 

First, George Washington never said it.  Here is what he said: “A free people ought not only be armed but disciplined; to which end, a uniform and well digested plan is requisite: And their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories, as tend to render them independent on others, for essential, particularly for military supplies." 
                                        
Second, did George have assault rifles?  I don’t really think George Washington would be opposed to reasonable gun control legislation, but we aren’t ever going to know.  He’s been dead a mighty long time.  He died before cars, before planes, before machine guns, before decolonization, before the bulk of colonization, before the end of slavery, before women could vote, and … well … before a heck of a lot of other stuff.

The bottom line is, I’m not going to be too bowled over by a pro-gun control quote from over two hundred years ago, even if it is accurate … and this one isn’t.  What I’m more concerned with are all the folks who die from gun violence every year in this country.  What I’m more concerned with is why we don’t have reasonable comprehensive and effective gun regulations in this country … and why anyone would oppose them.  What I’m much more concerned with is why we can’t get serious about this problem and stop hiding behind inaccurate quotes and statistics.

We do know that a lot of folks die every year in our country from gun violence.  We also know that reasonable regulation of the ownership of guns can be achieved without taking away anyone’s right to own a gun.  I’m also fairly certain you can hunt without an AK-47.  I am 100% sure that lying about what George Washington said won’t help anyone. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

W-etiquette Wednesday: The House Republicans and Bad Form


It’s bad form to play politics with disaster relief.  It’s stupid to get caught playing politics with disaster relief.  It’s moronic to get caught playing politics with disaster relief after pushing the country to the brink of the fiscal cliff.  I don’t know about you, but my reaction to people in need usually isn’t to check their party affiliation or home state.  Of course, I also wouldn’t come to an agreement with my wife that it is OK for her to spend money on something for herself, and then when the credit card bill comes in the mail demand that the family get rid of cable.    But then, I don’t think that I am going to get my way all the time.  And I don’t think my wife is evil or should be excommunicated from the family if she disagrees with me.  And I recognize we live in the same house together.  But I’m probably a little slow, because I also don’t see how Obama can turn us into Greece.  The Republicans in the House of Representatives have lost their minds.  Their quest to eviscerate government has officially gone about twenty two steps too far.  It is way past time to help fix the Republican Party by changing the way redistricting happens in this country, and reducing the number of safe districts for both parties … eliminating the pull of the radical elements in each party.  Or we can use the money that should be going to help people in blue states rebuild to create a model of the Parthenon on Pennsylvania Avenue.  It makes as much sense as most everything else on the agenda of the House Republicans, and as an example of classical architecture at least it could never be bad form.