December 17, 2009

Well, this was odd

During a conversation regarding the War on Christmas (which everyone here knows I find ridiculous), I stumbled across the American Family Association website. Often known for its right-wing nuttery, I found it ironic to find an ad there for a book called Tortured for Christ.

Am I the only one struck by the contrast between a book about a tortured Christian and the right wing's support or tolerance of Christian George Bush's own torture regime?

____

And speaking of the Bush approach to the world, I heard a very interesting interview last night with an author studying Blackwater:
"When we left off, we were talking about a civil suit against Blackwater in which two affidavits submitted by former Blackwater employees, each known only as John Doe, make several allegations against Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, including that he's a Christian crusader and that he may have facilitated the murder of individuals cooperating with the criminal probe of Blackwater.

So in one of these affidavits, John Doe A or B says that Prince views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe and that his companies encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life.

That's a really strong statement. It...

Mr. SCAHILL: Well, I mean...

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. SCAHILL: ...that was one of the least shocking things that I read in there because, you know, I've been tracking this story since 2004 and it's abundantly clear to me that Erik Prince views himself, and I don't say this rhetorically, Terry, Erik Prince views himself as a Christian crusader. There's almost no doubt about that. I wasn't stunned at all when I read that. Everyone at Blackwater knows that."

December 15, 2009

Joe Lieberman is an ass

And I have never really trusted or liked him. I still remember him allowing Dick Cheney to lie his way through the VP debate in 2000 without a single challenge. What an idiot. And now, he seems hell-bent on killing health care. Why? Because he is a bitter, bitter man. Chait seems to think that perhaps it is because Lieberman is is not that smart, but benefits from a general stereotype that Jewish people are generally smart. I am not sure about the Jewish thing, but am convinced that Lieberman is not a good person, nor terribly smart.

December 5, 2009

Two other small notes

One, from my new favorite conservative columnist, Bruce Bartlett on the stimulus. He concludes that the evidence suggests that it worked, and continues to help the economy. The worst elements of it? Tax cuts. Worst, in that they aren't actually helping the economy, while putting money into state and local governments, and even assisting with unemployment benefits is actually contributing to the GNP in a positive way.

Second, I have to note that Sarah Palin came to Norman the other night for a "book" signing. Evidently, the Palinites from all of Oklahoma made the pilgrimage to see the addled celebrity, and my friends reported seeing a lot of "Palin 2012" signs. There were some protestors there, including one who held up a sign saying something like, "darn, I thought I was going to get to see Tina Fey." That was my favorite.

But on a serious note, I have noticed that Palin likes to bring her Down's syndrome child (Trig) to her speaking engagements. I have no problem with that, as far as it goes, and certainly never had a problem with her bringing that child to term. But on several occasions, people notice her bringing the child to the podium to hold up to the crowd before handing off to an aide. This tactic of using her child as political prop lowers her in my estimation almost as much as her recent statement that the "birthers" have a "fair question" about Obama's birth certificate.

I know that many conservatives (including a few here) think that Palin is irrelevant and unimportant. But her celebrity among the right and her continued relevance in political discussions (poll numbers, etc) make her relevant. She is the face, like it or not, of the modern Republican party, and every irresponsible thing she does (which is often) exposes just how unserious the right is about responsible governing. That should never be ignored. And won't be, I am afraid, until the "grownup Republicans" step up and rescue their party from Beck and Palin and their disgusting ilk.

Obama and the surge

I am curious what my blogfriends have to say about this most recent Obama decision. SOF and I have spent some time talking about it, and we are still unsure. I just lectured on Vietnam and it is hard not to see the parallels between the late VN war and Afghanistan, when in both situation we tried to win the "hearts and minds" of people by killing a lot of their neighbors. They are not the same situation, to be absolutely fair, but it gave me pause as I spoke the other day.

We are, however, quite impressed with how Obama makes decisions. He has a good track record on this of making decisions that look "iffy" at the time, but prove to be pretty well thought out. As I said to SOF the other night, "he doesn't think with his gut, and thank God for that." And I mean that wholeheartedly. I think some of his critics on the right simply don't recognize serious consideration of a complex and perhaps unwinnable problem. Instead of the "decider," we have someone who actually deliberates.

In conversations with some conservative friends, I have been struck by the difference in how they see our country's founding. A) they most often see the government as some kind of external and evil force, as if the people have no say in our government, and B) they often see the role of representation as some kind of direct vote in Congress. In other words, they think that their reps have to do what they tell them to do, rather than the representative republic where the people elect virtuous representatives who then make the best decisions they can--even if they differ from those of their constituents.

Anyway. Hope you are all having a nice weekend. I would love to hear your thoughts on Afghanistan.

December 1, 2009

One of the reasons I am proud to be a liberal

Is that I have watched as my liberal colleagues have stepped outside their ideological bias time and time again. Liberals defended Larry Craig, and here is a good example when Ta-Nehisi Coates defends Mike Huckabee on the clemency issue. I agree with him here. The guy was in jail for 100 years for crimes committed when he was a teenager. Clemency was deserved here, and the problem is that there didn't seem to be a followup to make sure that this guy got the help he needed.

Conservatives seem to take pride in their tough on crime stance, even when that tough on crime stance includes innocent people. This person clearly was not innocent and clearly was a threat, but Huckabee's actions were not out of line. I don't like the guy and think he should not be President, but the right has completely turned on him over this.

Palin as Christian icon

Tony just mentioned that he went to his local Christian bookstore only to see Palin's book prominently displayed. I hadn't even thought of that angle, but of course they would promote this book. Everything I have read suggests that Palin exhibits the absolutely worst elements of Bush's persona--without the possible good sides (giving him some benefit of the doubt). She lacks even basic curiosity about matters she would decide; prefers what she "feels" over demonstrable fact; and is completely and nearly pathologically incapable of admitting error.

The fact that she has become a poster child for religious conservatives is simply sad.

November 28, 2009

Happy Saturday after Thanksgiving

I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving week. We went over to one of our friends here in Norman and ate very well while enjoying lively and thoughtful conversations--ranging from the OU Football program to the nature of American power since the 1950s. Not bad.

One thing that came up in our pre-turkey conversations was the changing role that Americans have decided for government investment. I am starting to see the world we live in as "Reagan's world" or the world of tax "cuts" and deregulation. I would say the world of small government, but that is increasingly clearly as mythical as some kind of pure communist state. Just doesn't happen. Not where you have a complex and large economy. My conservative friends cling to the myth of the small government, just as they cling to the myth that cutting taxes on the rich magically helps out the poor.

Paul Krugman may have not originated this term, but he refers to those tax "cuts" as actually being tax "shifts," meaning of course that the burden of that tax simply went elsewhere. Perhaps to a state or local tax. Perhaps to property taxes, or more likely into regressive fees and licenses. Or, in the case of universities, in increased tuition and fees.

Take my university. My chair told me that in 1980, state appropriations made up 40% of our operating budget. That is now down to 18%. Meanwhile, our dedication to science has also decreased and my scientist friends tell me that getting those national science grants is harder than it was. Little truth of those universities, is that those lucrative grants then get spilled over into the less expensive departments where research is an issue of travel and photo-copies, rather than labs and equipment.

Where do universities make up that shortfall? They do it, of course, in a couple of ways--they raise tuition and fees. Fees, after all, are the hidden costs for most students. Second, universities increase their fund raising to wealthy donors and alums. They promise to name buildings after prominent families instead of prominent scholars--leaving our campus with a journalism school named after the family that has produced some of the worst journalism in the country.

And there is the rub. That system works ok when the economy is booming. Wealthy people have a lot of extra money, foundations and endowments are growing, and tuition increases are both smaller and less noticeable. But when the economy turns down, a rather large part of the University's budget goes down with it, making a state "funded" university as prone to the boom and bust cycle as any farmer--actually more so.

I really wonder if my conservative friends will find that their tax cut from Republican politicians comes even close to covering the cost of their increased tuition.

Yglesias points to another example of this tax shift. When the economy goes down, state and local budgets are hurt at a greater level than the large fed. Of course, since we have cut taxes and reduced our dedication to supporting state services, those services often end up being cut at the time when people need them most. And in this case, more and more kids are relying on their local school lunchroom for their food source.

Think about that the next time you hear a Republican bleating about cutting taxes. Those taxes don't just go to programs you don't like. They go to feed people who are hungry. They go to help unemployed attend college to retrain. They go to help research new technologies that fuel the economy.

November 20, 2009

Ah Republicans: If the past is a problem, just change it.

Think Progress Foxx: Republicans ‘Passed Civil Rights Bills Back In The 60s Without Very Much Help’ From Democrats

I would just dismiss this as a very uninformed Rep, but I have heard this from numerous conservatives. Most, I would add, as this post notes, miss the distinction between Northern Republicans and Southern ones, and assume somehow that the conservative Republicans of today are the same as those Northern liberal Republicans.

But make no mistake, the current GOP is the GOP who opposed every measure for social and environmental justice. To say otherwise is simply a denial of history.

back to politics

Streak had another good night and once again awoke once in the middle of the night but then went back to sleep. We are experimenting with cutting back on the sedatives for a bit, and see if that actually helps him. He still seems to be afraid of napping in the morning, and here I am not much help, because I am afraid of him napping. Well, not the napping, but the waking.

Anyway. As SOF says: we are in the bonus round and will enjoy the bonus time as long as it lasts.

Now, back to the politics of the moment:

Firedoglake continues this long discussion about the conservative nostalgia for a non-existent past. And if you haven't seen the Jon Stewart interview with Lou Dobbs, then you might want to check it out. Speaking of non-existent, that is. I used to think that Dobbs was intelligent. I am now realizing that I fall into the same trap that everyone else does with him and Dick Cheney. Their appearance, voice, etc., communicates gravitas and intelligence. Their words, however, do not.

Dobbs is convinced that Obama is no different than Bush in that he is taking the country out of the middle. When Jon tries to get him to explain why the crazies didn't somehow accuse Bush of tyranny or taking their country away, Dobbs dissembles and distracts. I don't think he knows how to answer, because he is so far to the right (while still believing he is in the middle) that he can't see it.

But amazingly, he asserts that Obama is trying to hijack the country with healthcare, and that it is a subversion of democracy, and that is why the teabaggers are so angry. Jon does a pretty good job of noting that people voted last fall, but doesn't make it explicit that Obama won a hell of a lot of votes promising to bring healthcare reform. How Dobbs can then see healthcare reform as some perversion of democracy is beyond me.

I have also been enjoying Sullivan and others post on Sarah Palin's "book." Conservatives (well, the grownup kind) are also pretty dismissive. Rod Dreher's blog is not impressed and especially with her muddled form of populism where Big Business is a problem, but then also says that those who disagree with Big Business are echoing Marx.
It is fascinating, though, to read how she discovered through her work how big business gets cozy with big government, to the detriment of the common good. But she cannot let that knowledge get in the way of reciting her 1980s GOP catechism about the market. Weirdly, she goes on and on about how capitalism must be allowed to work, and let the creative-destruction chips fall where they may ... and yet later will talk about how wrong it is that Alaska's natural gas industry remains undeveloped because it's been cheaper for Big Oil to explore and develop natural gas sources in places where the labor and infrastructure is cheaper. Sarah, I hate to break it to you, but you can't complain about government meddling in the economy as a Bad Thing, but then turn around and complain about Big Business doing what Big Business does, which is to maximize profits by cutting labor costs.
And concludes:
But she is so far from being capable of being president of the United States it's not even funny. I know, I know, this isn't news, but you'd think that if there was anything more to her in terms of intellectual seriousness and judgment than we saw last fall, she'd have brought it out in a memoir she had most of a year to write with the help of a professional writer. But there's no there there. I'm not saying she's a bad person -- I don't believe she's a bad person at all -- but I am saying she's not a credible national political leader.
Putting that mildly, I think.

November 19, 2009

A better night and morning for Streak

As I think I noted the other day, each day has been a bit of a roller coaster. Yesterday was pretty frustrating and long. But last night, for whatever reason, Streak slept a little better. He awoke around 3 with a yelp (similar to his other yowls, but much shorter) and then we heard him turn around a few times and lay back down in his crate. He then slept till 6 and was awake in a normal way and not yelling.

This morning, I decided that one of the things missing for him of late has been the daily napping that he used to do regularly. In fact, you don't realize how much dogs sleep normally during the day until one of them doesn't sleep at all. I crated him around 10 this morning and went off to do work at Starbucks (and catch up with some friends), and when I returned at 2, he was up and alert and ready to go outside. He even rolled in the grass--an old behavior I hadn't seen in a while.

I have no idea what to think at this point. I really don't. This is obviously better than the previous few days, but I am still very nervous about what is causing these episodes. The crate, however, has allowed us some freedom and him some safety and security, and that is a good thing. As SOF has said many times, we are just going to take this day by day, and appreciate the good days and good moments.

November 18, 2009

Where we are today

I posted this on Facebook as well, but here is the latest on Streak.

Yesterday was one of those days where we both went from deeply pessimistic to optimistic and back again. Streak's episodes continue, and mostly when he is coming out of sleep. I spoke with my vet friend last night and he wonders if this might not be some kind of old-age dementia where Streak is just not sure where he is when he awakes. Once he calms down, he moves well, eats, etc., though he does follow us around a lot, and he seems to not want to sleep. But last night, I took him on a cold walk and it was one of the better walks in recent memory. If you saw us last night, you would not know anything was wrong.

But something clearly is, and this morning I think we are not sure things will improve. Perhaps they will, and we all want that, but I am not hopeful for that this morning. I do know that we will take advantage of the good times we have with him and manage the bad. We bought a crate for him to sleep in a secured space, and that has already worked wonders.

FWIW, I am a bit of a basket case this morning. I seem to fluctuate between extreme grief and philosophical distance. Some of the things that have been constants are no longer constant--and it is amazing how quickly that can change. If you see me or speak with me, be warned that I might break down. I am well aware that there are bigger tragedies in the world than losing a 13 year old dog. But, as all of you know, when you spend every day with a being, even when that being doesn't talk back to you, you tend to get used to their presence. We have been talking about how much Streak has meant to us. He has pushed us out of our little nest, made us go on long walks, made us meet new people and new dogs, and has allowed us to enjoy our community that much more. For some he is "just a dog." For us, he is certainly a dog, but certainly not "just" a dog. He has been an amazing friend and companion for over 12 years.

Anyway, we will continue to enjoy Streak until it isn't good for him. And we appreciate all the nice thoughts and emails.

November 17, 2009

Good thoughts for our dog Streak

I know I have not blogged much lately. Part of it has been the intense schedule with 5 classes. Part, at least since last Saturday, has been the stress of Streak's illness. We still don't know what is going on, but he has had these seizures when coming out of a deep sleep. They are frightening to all of us (though we are slowly getting used to them) because he yowls terribly and is obviously in some discomfort. They don't last terribly long, and when he is back to normal, he really seems back to normal. The vet is treating a bladder infection as well, and we think that may be causing him some of his discomfort.

Streak is now 13, and has been with us for a long time. I am hopeful that he will be with us for more time. His latest seizures seem to be less severe and that gives me some hope. But the continuation is troubling as are some of the potential causes. Today, I am just worn out and feeling a little out of control. I need to get myself together for a couple of long days of teaching and am badly behind in my grading.

I appreciate your good thoughts.

November 9, 2009

My Aunt

My aunt passed away yesterday morning. Her passing was not completely unexpected, yet....

Today I am thinking of my mother and her brother for their lost sister. I am thinking of my cousins, and my uncle who lost their mother and wife.

She was a beautiful person and a beautiful soul, and was a gourmet and lover of horses, cats and dogs. But she though was also beset by an awful lot of inner demons. Over the years, those personal demons robbed her of her physical beauty and caused untold problems throughout her life and relationships, but her inner beauty remained. Her battles took a toll on all of us, but more so the closer to the inner circle. I remember her as funny and engaging, and always interested in my life--especially how my pets were doing. :)

I say that her passing was not unexpected. Her health had not been good for years. Yet, after so many phone calls and emails warning us that "she may not make it through the night" her passing yesterday morning surprised me. Those bonus years, I think, were good for her and many of her relationships, however, and I am so glad for them.

I am sad she is gone, and I will miss her.

November 4, 2009

The exponential problem of paranoia

Anglican sent me an email sent to him by a right wing friend. In that email, the person admitted that some of the email might be extreme, but that was what people on the right were feeling about Obama. The actual substance of the email was frighteningly paranoid and rambling. It had me thinking of the nature of this kind of thinking, and it is something that both sides have to watch, but it seems to be embraced on the far right.

It goes something like this. You analyze something real and come to that part where you have to make a judgement about something that is, perhaps questionable. At this point, you choose to accept the most extreme position, which in that particular issue, is probably rather benign. But that becomes the base line for your next decision, and so on, and so on.

So you look at Obama and believe that he might not be Muslim, but that his association with Wright makes him a radical or even non-Christian. Moving forward from that point, you now assume him to be non-Christian and therefore a liar. Since he is a liar, you don't believe any of the things he says that are reasonable (which are most, frankly). And since he is not a christian, and a liar, you believe those who say he is some kind of radical Marxist. And as a Marxist, then you approach healthcare and the economy with the assumption, not that he is trying to make things better, but that he is trying to make things worse as a part of his plan to force the country into Marxism. You take partial bits of evidence, and read them in the most extreme way: this email said that Obama had already "taken over two major industries." I think Ford would be surprised to hear that they are now part of a nationalized industry, as would those banks who are out from under TARP. But facts, at this point, are meaningless.

By that time, Obama has become a monster and is a threat. I think that is pretty much the path I have seen from the far right and Christian right. To be fair, that same process occurred on the left under Bush. I will say that in my defense, I hesitated at each of those steps to assume the most radical option. Part of that was my own lack of clarity. Was Bush stupid or malevolent? Hard to believe he was involved in some plot to allow 9-11 to happen if he is so incompetent that he can't quite even enact any of his policies. I would also argue that my final disgust with the man came with the evidence of torture and wiretapping--things that were documented and factual.

Anyway. Thoughts?

November 2, 2009

I really hate Grover Norquist

Taxing Matters | The American Prospect.

And here is a related random, and unanswerable question. How much of our economy has government investment at its base? How many of our consumer goods go back to some government subsidized research?

October 30, 2009

Finally, a counter to Freedman

One of my colleagues is married to an economics professor and he told me recently that most economics departments are still dominated by Milton Freedman-type economics theory. Every other department has been influenced by broader philosophical trends, but for some reason, the economics field has continued to be quite conservative. With that in mind, I am glad to see that Soros has decided to fund a new economics institute. It isn't that Freedman was completely wrong about everything, or that Keynes was completely right. But our thinking about economics has been too narrowly accepting of free-market ideology, and as a result, we have entire populations (and one political party) that believes that free-market economics is magical while government regulation and intervention is always wrong. This last 20 year period should make us rethink that, but so far, we have continued with many of the same assumptions.

Time to rethink a little.

October 25, 2009

More on the right wing's violent side

I have read Niewert's blog off and on, and he writes at Crooks and Liars as well. I hope he is overstating the threat, but fear that he isn't. Anyway, here is the book: Amazon.com: The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right (9780981576985): David Neiwert: Books

October 20, 2009

couple of interesting stories

Associated Baptist Press - Fear Not: What does virtual rumor-mongering say about Christians?: "Gullibility may grow out of fear and anxiety, he added. And that directly relates to what people believe.
“I suggest to my students, ‘Tell me something about your fears, and I will tell you something of your theology,’” Tillman said. “Dealing with our fears -- an action usually dismissed or ignored -- may be one of the keys to understanding just which e-mails we forward and those we don’t.”"

and this one as well, which I can't help but think is a bit related.

Secret Service under strain as leaders face more threats - The Boston Globe.

October 19, 2009

Good news/Bad news for Republicans

According to a report by Democratic pollsters, the conservative wing of the Republican party does not hate Obama because of his skin color. That is the good news. The bad news is that they do hate him for irrational reasons. They believe that he has a "'secret agenda' to bankrupt the United States."

Better than open racism, and actually confirms a lot of what I see myself, but not terribly wedded to reality. What is further interesting and confirming, is that while this group tends to mock minority groups for their "victimology," they themselves are absolutely whining that their shared beliefs are mocked by elites. Of course, when some of your shared beliefs include a belief that Obama as President wants to bankrupt the country, perhaps some of your beliefs need to be mocked.

October 7, 2009

Well, this will ruin your evening

Everyone here knows I am adamantly against the death penalty. I think it is barbaric and beneath us, and I am amazed at the bloodlust that arises in this country. The evidence is growing that Texas has executed at least one innocent man, and I would be absolutely stunned if it were not a very high and shocking number. I know from past reading that Texas has executed people even when their defense attorney slept through trial, or slept with the judge.

And if you want to see the face of this death machine, watch the two clips at Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog. Watch them deny science and say that they are quite comfortable with using folklore and old wives tales to send a man to prison. Or that they consider a person who listens to heavy metal to be likely to worship the devil.
Texas justice is essentially sorcery, and there will be people who say that we can perfect it, that we can close the loop-holes. They're wrong. The problem isn't with loopholes--it's with us. We are fallible. Conservatives, more than anyone, should know that--it undergirds their entire philosophy. They don't think government can perfect much of anything. What makes them think we can perfect murder?

October 6, 2009

Sigh

At once a cool website from a design standpoint and one of the more offensive paintings I have ever seen. Just check out which side they placed Satan.

October 5, 2009

The myth of the middle class

Saw a great historian speak Friday night (James Kloppenberg) on Obama's connection to broader political philosophical trends. He made several really great points, but one was how Obama was unconvinced by the idea of "original intent" after noting the intense compromise necessary to get the constitution through. How could there be "one" intent?

During a post-talk discussion, he also spoke to the legacy of Roosevelt and the economic boom of the 1950s. (This column speaks to that as well.) Real quickly, as I run out the door to teach, I am reminded of what seems to be the biggest bit of conservative blind faith--that the middle class came out of some historical ether. The middle class that so many of us grew up in, was a creation of government programs dedicated to a more shared prosperity. That is derided by today's conservatives as "socialism" or worse, but it allowed one hell of a lot of Americans to live the middle class dream. Removing that government hand has led to the decline of that middle class (not the only reason, obviously) and conservatives seem to hold to some fantasy that a libertarian approach to governing will bring it back.

It won't.

September 30, 2009

What has become of the Republican party

SOF had a rough sinus night so our normal dog walk or sitting outside in the fall weather was shelved for Mucinex and tea. I watched the new Ken Burns PBS documentary on the National Parks and felt sad. Watching people of wealth and privilege work so hard to set aside some of America's treasures made me sad for today. Yeah, their concepts of nature and value were different than many today, and their motives were not always pure, but they valued something for the public good. Can anyone honestly tell me that any elected Republican today would go out on a limb to set aside the Grand Canyon as a national park? When there would be millions in lobbying money from the mining interests right there to urge them the other direction?

Hell, I don't have to play Kreskin. I know that they have gutted support for the Parks and anything public over the last 25 years. I am so sorry for those responsible Republicans who read here. I really am. I am sorry that I think so badly of their party, and so sorry that their party has been taken over by moral twits.

That is exactly what I thought when I read about Liz Cheney's rising star in the GOP. Evidently she goes to public speaking engagements for right wingers and is mobbed by people who just cheer every time she accuses Obama of not protecting America, or when she trots out the ticking time bomb scenario to justify her father's war crimes. She is mobbed by people asking her to run for office. Hard not to come to the same conclusion as this Tapped writer:
"For the GOP, torture is no longer a 'necessary evil.' It is a rally cry, a 'values' issue like same-sex marriage or abortion. They don't 'grudgingly' support torture, they applaud it. They celebrate it. Liz Cheney's unequivocal support for torture methods gleaned from communist China has people begging her to run for office."

I am beginning to understand why so many Republicans believe government is evil. When their people are in charge, it becomes that way.

Sigh.

September 26, 2009

If you ever wanted to see how much of a rodeo clown Glenn Beck is--just watch this

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan.

I have to say that Katie Couric doesn't come off very well here either, but you see just how little there is to Glenn Beck beyond his roots of a morning radio personality. He isn't terribly intelligent. Smart in how he understands how to be a demagogue, but has no real understanding of the things he is talking about. All he has is some charm and manner of speaking. There is no there, there.

September 24, 2009

Sigh. Kirk Cameron connects Darwin to Hitler

So I have to post this rather funny and biting video. Not sure who the woman is in the video, and perhaps it is her accent that makes it rather funny, but still, she makes some good points.

September 20, 2009

The legacy of neconservatism

as the neo-cons say goodbye to Irving Kristol. Here is hoping our troll has moved on, but this is a serious issue, and one that Bartlett has also addressed. It isn't that taxes are the solution to everything, or that all taxes are good. But raising revenues is a responsible thing to do, and has been what responsible political parties have done--both Republican and Democrat. But since the neo-cons took over the Republican party, their response has been to gut revenues, and talk about cutting spending. They have been so effective --probably because, as our troll demonstrated, many conservatives are immune to facts--that most conservatives believe that Republicans have been better on fiscal issues. Hell, I used to believe that too, even after I became a Democrat.


September 18, 2009

Must read on taxes and spending

From Republican (well, perhaps former by now) Bruce Bartlett on why it is nearly impossible and a pipe dream to constantly talk about cutting spending.

I swear that I am starting to believe that 90% of conservative ideology (no offense to those conservatives nice enough to comment here) is based in some kind of mythology. One of the largest appears to be that Reagan did something magical to the economy and reduced the deficit, and therefore all we have to do is cut taxes and everything will magically be ok.
When I raised these facts with a prominent Republican recently he counted that Reagan had cut spending. But he didn't. Spending rose from 21.7% of the gross domestic product in 1980 to 23.5% in 1983 before declining to 21.2% in 1988. And that improvement came about largely because favorable demographics caused entitlement spending to temporarily decline from 11.9% of GDP in 1983 to 10.1% in 1988. (Last year it was 12.5% of GDP.)
Democrats have done a pretty good job of managing the economy. Not perfect but certainly better than Bush, and better than the Republicans who think that tax cuts are the magical cure to whatever economic situation we face.

September 14, 2009

Dowd says that Joe Wilson is coming from a place of racism

In her most recent column. I am not a huge Maureen Dowd fan, but this column strikes a chord with me. When a Southern senator tells Obama that he should show some humility when he spoke on healthcare, and then this other southern rep with his own iffy track record on race relations calls the President a liar on the house floor--I have to say I wonder.

September 12, 2009

9-11

I posted this link to my Facebook page only to be accused of "politicizing" those who died that day. This, by the way, from a Republican who thinks that Bush did a great job in the "war on terror." Oh, and who has defended torture to me on several occasions.

But it is the best articulation in some time of the problems of fighting a war on terror by using those tactics. As I patiently explained to my moronic friend, when we decided to change our values in response to terrorism, we did exactly what they were hoping for.

Anyway, read what a couple of military veterans have to say about torture:
"On this solemn day we pause to remember those who lost their lives on 9/11. As our leaders work to prevent terrorists from again striking on our soil, they should remember the fundamental precept of counterinsurgency we've relearned in Afghanistan and Iraq: Undermine the enemy's legitimacy while building our own. These wars will not be won on the battlefield. They will be won in the hearts of young men who decide not to sign up to be fighters and young women who decline to be suicide bombers. If Americans torture and it comes to light -- as it inevitably will -- it embitters and alienates the very people we need most."

September 7, 2009

"Let's Face It, In a Country of Three Hundred Million People, There are a Lot of Stupid People"

Heh. John Harwood: Let's Face It, In a Country of Three Hundred Million People, There are a Lot of Stupid People | Video Cafe:
"Harwood: I've got to tell you Monica, I've been watching politics for a long time and this is, this one is really over the top. What it shows you is there are a lot of cynical people who try to fan controversy and let's face it, in a country of three hundred million people there are a lot of stupid people too, because if you believe that's it's somehow unhealthy for kids for the President to say work hard and stay in school, you're stupid.

Novotny: Ouch.

Harwood: In fact, I'm worried for some of those kids, I'm worried for some of those kids of those parents who are upset. I'm not sure they're smart enough to raise those kids."

September 2, 2009

Florida GOP Chairman Warns Against Socialist Indoctrination of school kids

Florida GOP Chairman Warns Against Socialist Indoctrination Of Schoolchildren Through Obama Address On Personal Responsibility.

Gee, I wonder why I think the party is completely morally and intellectually bankrupt.

A rundown of the issues

Or at least some of them. At least someone else is noting that Republicans don't want health care reform and negotiating with them is an exercise in futility. Second, it is nice to see some on the right take on the crazies in their own party, but it seems to be small voices in the wilderness. When Chuck Grassley goes from rational moderate to echoing "death panels" almost over night, you have to think it is because the Senate is run by the crazies.

Oh, and the Wall Street Journal thinks that Dick Cheney should run for President. Gah.

September 1, 2009

Looking for good-faith opponents to healthcare

And not finding them among the elected Republicans or those who speak for them.
But I can't find them. Instead, we see Tom Davis, a famously moderate former GOP member of Congress, tell a 62-year-old woman who can't get insurance because of her diabetes that she should just go get a job with a big employer (good luck with that, dear). We see Tom Coburn, a Republican senator and a doctor himself for heaven's sake, tell a sobbing woman who can't get coverage for her husband with a traumatic brain injury that government can't help her. Instead, he suggests, "The other thing that's missing in this debate is us as neighbors, helping people that need our help," as though the answer for her and the other millions of people without insurance is to start knocking on doors to see if the folks on her block can come up with a couple of hundred thousand dollars for her husband's care. Again and again, we see people who have been given the power to make laws labor mightily to convince citizens that their most ridiculous fears about health care are true and that they've never had it so good. I try to believe that these critics are moral people whose outlook on the world simply differs from mine and that they are not actually pathologically indifferent to the suffering of others. But the longer this debate goes on, the harder it is to detect any light of human feeling in those working feverishly to destroy the hope of reform for another generation.

August 31, 2009

Heartbreaking story

But one that I fear is all too common, where medical bills threaten to destroy a family. In this case, a couple who loved each other deeply had to divorce rather than lose everything they had, and everythign they had saved for their kids.
A study reported in The American Journal of Medicine this month found that 62 percent of American bankruptcies are linked to medical bills. These medical bankruptcies had increased nearly 50 percent in just six years. Astonishingly, 78 percent of these people actually had health insurance...

Don't tell me that the opponents of health care reform stand for families. I am sorry. I just don't buy it. Don't lecture me on self-reliance when the health care costs are beyond anything any single person outside Bill Gates could handle on their own. We have a very dear friend who is struggling to rehab after a severe injury. He has great insurance from his military service, and well he should, but without it, I shudder to think where his family would be.

The opponents scream rationing and socialism. The reality is actually rationing and a bizarre capitalism where avoiding paying for sick people makes people money.

What we have is not right. And what we are getting from conservatives on this is worse.

Health care as a moral issue--updated

H/t to Anglican for this great blog post from Roger Ebert on the morality of healthcare.

As I have said before, I often feel like I have stumbled into some kind of rabbit hole where the people supposedly the most concerned with morality (and often critical of liberals as having no moral foundation) are on the wrong side of just about every moral question today. They are supportive of torture and torturers and in opposition to extending healthcare coverage.

I am afraid that for many conservatives (and liberals) politics has become just another rabid "fan" experience. Just as they cheer for their favorite football team even when that team is inept and loses, they now cheer for the GOP first and foremost. They are opposed to health care, not because of some deeply felt philosophical issue, but merely because their team is opposed to health care, and the team they hate (Obama's team) is for it. I understand there are thoughtful conservatives like LB out there who have thought about this from a principled perspective, but would argue they are in the minority.

Anyway, Ebert's column is well worth the read.

Update. I just noticed a friend's status update on Facebook.
is thankful that Jesus was wounded for her transgressions, bruised for her iniquities; that the chastisement for her peace was upon Him, and that by His stripes she is healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
I like this post, and I like this verse, but can't quite wrap my head around the theology here (not picking on this friend, btw, as I don't know how this particular friend stands on torture). This seems to me to be the conservative Christian disconnect--that their theology is based, in part, on the Christ's torture for them, but they seem to be uncaring about the torture of others.

August 28, 2009

Of all of the apologies about racial comments

I can really see this one. CNN Political Ticker: All politics, all the time Blog Archive - Congresswoman apologizes for ‘great white hope’ comment - Blogs from CNN.com

This one seems like a genuine saying that is not inherently about race--even though the original is. Am I wrong about that? Much different than Westmoreland calling Obama "uppity" and then claiming that he didn't mean it in a racial way.

August 26, 2009

Wednesday morning

First, RIP Ted Kennedy. I know many Americans hated this guy's guts, and most of those never forgave him for his younger days, but the man put together some credible years in the Senate working to make America better for those not fortunate enough to grow up in the Kennedy family. I certainly remember that in my younger days, the specter of a second President Kennedy was something conservatives feared. And perhaps, rightly so. But his body of work in the Senate, I think, will stand on its own.

Second, I still remain amazed that we are still debating the ethics of torture. And conservatives made the rounds on the media yesterday complaining about any investigation into these "legal" practices. Note to Obama. The precedent is clear. Whatever you do, just find a lawyer with absolutely no moral center (can't be that hard) and get him to write a memo for your OLC that says whatever nefarious thing you are about to do is legal. That will make it ok. The conservatives have said that, and, of course, the Obama administration is going along with it. And still being accused of undermining our security.

Sigh.

And speaking of the GOP, I think Steven Pearlstein has run out of patience with the party who now claims to defend medicare. Yeah, the same party who has pledged to kill Medicare on every possible chance. A friend of mine sent me an email yesterday saying that the latest economic news meant that now was a terrible time to reform healthcare because we just can't afford it. That sent me into a bit of a rage, as it is very hard to make that argument with a straight face when conservatives have never wanted to reform healthcare in the first place. Cost, then, is just the latest excuse.

Unfortunately, the party of the GOP has turned into a party of nothing. Seriously. They encourage their base to believe nonsense about reform--things that are demonstrably false. In two recent instances, (one with Senator Grassley) members of their town halls either bragged of being a "right wing terrorist" or told Grassley that he would "take a gun to Washington." In the first case, the "right wing terrorist" was called a great American. Grassley said nothing to someone who just threatened to take up arms against the country.

Country first, my ass.

And finally, a couple of items. One is the aforementioned recently released torture report that lays out what most of us already knew in rather scary detail. This is what we did to people in custody:
• Threats of execution, using semi-automatic handguns and power drills
• Threats to kill detainee and his children
• Threats to rape detainee's wife and children in front of him
• Restricting the detainee's carotid artery
• Hitting detainee with the butt end of a rifle
• Blowing smoke in detainee's face for five minutes
• Multiple instances of waterboarding detainees, of the type we prosecuted Japanese war criminals for using:
• Hanging detainee by their arms until interrogators thought their shoulders might be dislocated
• stepping on detainee's ankle shackles to cause severe bruising and pain
• choking detainee until they pass out
• dousing detainee with water on cold concrete floors in cold temperatures to induce hypothermia
• killing detainees through torture techniques, whether accidental or not
• putting detainee in a diaper for days
That's right. We killed people in custody. But let me just say this. I have no faith that conservatives will read that (or this next story about a Texas man who may have been wrongly executed) and feel anything except, "so?"

I think that has made me the saddest. The conservatism that taught me about right and wrong and morality--don't really care if we execute innocent people, and they certainly don't care if we torture people in the name of protecting us. I have had several recent conversations that drive that home.

It makes me sad.

August 24, 2009

The Last Abortion Doctor

As I have stated here several times, I am as uncomfortably pro-choice as I can be. That means, as far as I can tell, that I am like one hell of a lot of pro-choice people. Just found this essay on The Last Abortion Doctor at Esquire and could not stop reading. It isn't easy. But this is the last guy in the US who performs these late abortions, and this interview came right after George Tiller was gunned down in Wichita.

I had a conversation with an old friend on facebook. She started her attack on Obama with "not sure how a Christian can want to kill babies," and continued from there. She didn't mind torture as she knew people who had lost military members and they were "tortured" by their loss. She didn't mind wiretapping without warrants because she "wasn't doing anything wrong and just wanted to be kept safe."

I was struck by all of those uninformed statements. But her flip take on those who are pro-choice is in my head this morning. Reading this essay, with all of those women who struggle and are changed for the rest of their life by this decision, but in many cases are there because they have no other choice (read about the couple from Canada who arrived in Wichita only to find their doctor murdered in his church).

My old friend scares me. Unfortunately, she is not alone in her take on any of this. But I think she has not thought through many, if any, of these positions. Her Christianity is now more GOP than follower of Christ, or that is certainly how it feels. Her litany of problems with Obama certainly sounds like those coming from the RNC and Fox News. They are sound-bites rather than reflections of a principled position. She has very little concern for those uninsured, no concern for those innocents caught up in our anti-terror net, and not one clear thought on the constitutional protections she enjoys. Yet, I bet money she would tell me that America is a Christian nation.

We can do better than this. We can do better than to simplify complex issues into "killing babies." I doubt we will. But we can do better.

Why we need some healthcare reform now

Because of stories like this.

August 23, 2009

Guest post: The Leonard Peltier case

My good friend WIV (formerly known as Cold in Laramie) sent me this for the blog. As he knows more about this topic than I, it seems a perfect spot for a guest post:

On Friday, a United States court denied Chippewa Leonard Peltier parole. Peltier currently serves two life sentences for the 1977 murder of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The deaths of the two FBI agents came in the wake of the American Indian Movement’s (AIM) occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973. AIM leaders came to South Dakota in order to protest the treatment Lakotas received from South Dakota law officials and the corrupt administration of Richard “Dick” Wilson. After AIM ended its 71-day shoot-out with FBI and tribal police officers, the Pine Ridge Reservation endured a four-year “civil war.” The supporters of AIM at Pine Ridge were in combat with tribal police officers, nicknamed the “GOON” squad, who were given assistance by the FBI. Drive-by shootings became common and many deaths have yet to be solved. The FBI provided the GOON squad with intelligence about AIM supporters at Pine Ridge and weaponry, including, according to one account, armor-piercing bullets. In June 1975, FBI agents chased a vehicle to the Jumping Bull ranch, a shootout occurred and the two FBI agents were shot at close range.

Peltier has become a cause célèbre in many circles. Peltier supporters argue that much of the FBI evidence used to convict Peltier was acquired through intimidation of witnesses, the courts did not consider the AIM-GOON violence in the trial, and many FBI officials still do not acknowledge the support they provided to the GOON squad. Opponents of Peltier’s parole, on the other hand, cite forensic evidence linking Peltier to the execution-style murder and that he has not shown significant remorse for the murder of the two agents. This was not the first time Peltier was up for parole (all denied of course). In 2000, rumors abounded that then-President Bill Clinton would pardon Peltier, however, forcefully lobbying by FBI officials helped to prevent this.

I am uncertain if Peltier is guilty and Peltier has sometimes been a troublesome prisoner. However, it seems very clear that Peltier did not receive a fair trial nor has the FBI demonstrated significant remorse for its role at Pine Ridge in the mid-1970s. From what I have read, there is enough reasonable doubt to question Peltier’s conviction. Yet, he remains in federal prison and will in all likelihood remain there until he passes on.

I hope this generates some discussion. It is a fascinating subject and case about which to read and debate.

August 21, 2009

Ah, the stupid.

Amd this really is stupid. Evidently, some people are outraged (OUTRAGED) that the First Lady is seen in shorts.

Put me on the record for saying that this particular First Lady is gorgeous and amazing. Her sense of style and decorum is impeccable in my book, so she can wear whatever she wants.

And people wonder why I have problems with the ways evangelicals talk about prayer

Are You There, God? It's Me, Charlie | TPMDC

Sigh.

Is this shades of Pat Robertson on the weather watch?

Perhaps the best take on the media's approach to healthcare that I have seen

From Michael Berube. CA, is essentially Berube, and here he "interviews" the entire American Mass Media, or AMM. My favorite part:
CA: Pardon me? People are threatening violence because a Democratic administration might be considering public health insurance? That’s not exciting, that’s lunacy. Why doesn’t anybody explain the “public option” to these nutcases?

AMM: With all due respect, Michael, that’s not really our job.

CA: ...

AMM: No, really. We’re not in the business of pushing some President’s agenda, unless it’s a war. We’re in the business of reporting what people say. And if some people say that Obama’s plan will feed your grandma to the wood chipper, and some people happen to disagree with that, then it’s our responsibility to report both sides fairly. That’s all part of democratic debate, and we’re proud to play our part!

CA: So, so you’re actually saying it’s your job to report complete falsehoods without challenging them?

AMM: That’s basic journalistic ethics, yes. Besides, even if it was our job to choose sides, which it isn’t, we’re just not well equipped to handle this kind of thing. Health care involves very serious policy issues and complicated stuff about money, and everyone knows math is hard and policy is boring. So we try to concentrate on what we do best.

August 20, 2009

But Obama is a fascist?

Tom Ridge on National Security After 9/11 admits that he
"was pushed to raise the security alert on the eve of President Bush's re-election, something he saw as politically motivated and worth resigning over."

Klein asks the pertinent question

"How can you sustain a democracy if one of the two major political parties has been overrun by nihilists? And another question: How can you maintain the illusion of journalistic impartiality when one of the political parties has jumped the shark?":
There are conservatives — Senator Lamar Alexander, Representative Mike Pence, among many others — who make their arguments based on facts. But they have been overwhelmed by nihilists and hypocrites more interested in destroying the opposition and gaining power than in the public weal. The philosophically supple party that existed as recently as George H.W. Bush's presidency has been obliterated. The party's putative intellectuals — people like the Weekly Standard's William Kristol — are prosaic tacticians who make precious few substantive arguments but oppose health-care reform mostly because passage would help Barack Obama's political prospects. In 1993, when the Clintons tried health-care reform, the Republican John Chafee offered a creative (in fact, superior) alternative — which Kristol quashed with his famous "Don't Help Clinton" fax to the troops. There is no Republican health-care alternative in 2009. The same people who rail against a government takeover of health care tried to enforce a government takeover of Terri Schiavo's end-of-life decisions. And when Palin floated the "death panel" canard, the number of prominent Republicans who rose up to call her out could be counted on one hand.

and
An argument can be made that this is nothing new. Dwight Eisenhower tiptoed around Joe McCarthy. Obama reminded an audience in Colorado that opponents of Social Security in the 1930s "said that everybody was going to have to wear dog tags and that this was a plot for the government to keep track of everybody ... These struggles have always boiled down to a contest between hope and fear." True enough. There was McCarthyism in the 1950s, the John Birch Society in the 1960s. But there was a difference in those times: the crazies were a faction — often a powerful faction — of the Republican Party, but they didn't run it. The neofascist Father Coughlin had a huge radio audience in the 1930s, but he didn't have the power to control and silence the elected leaders of the party that Limbaugh — who, if not the party's leader, is certainly the most powerful Republican extant — does now. Until recently, the Republican Party contained a strong moderate wing. It was a Republican, the lawyer Joseph Welch, who delivered the coup de grâce to Senator McCarthy when he said, "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?" Where is the Republican who would dare say that to Rush Limbaugh, who has compared the President of the United States to Adolf Hitler?

But I thought he was a fascist who wanted to take all our guns and kill our elderly?

White House Backs Right to Bear Arms, Even Outside Obama Events, if State Laws Allow - washingtonpost.com

As I noted yesterday, people who wore anti-Bush t-shirts were arrested, yet these same idiots simply nodded and agreed with that. Now, a President who agrees they have a right to carry a gun--even when it is done in such a stupid and irresponsible fashion--is called "fascist."

This is stupid beyond belief. Seriously.

August 19, 2009

The Health Care Stupid

Natalie has a nice rant on the current dialogue, if you can call it that.

It is really amazing stuff out there. Some dozen people bringing guns to Town Meetings or Obama speeches, and it is good to remember that they are doing this about expanding healthcare. There does not appear to be some groundswell of support for gun control, but merely to expand healthcare and to make sure all of us have some basic care and are not kicked off when we are sick.

But the dialogue is even worse than that. I am not linking to it, because I found it disturbing, but Youtube has a woman shouting "heil hitler" at a Las Vegas meeting when he defends national healthcare. Healthcare! He takes umbrage, and rightfully so, but how in the hell did healthcare become a Nazi thing?

I know where it comes from, but still don't understand the thought process. Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh have been flogging the Obama as Hitler meme for sometime. I think the problem is that socialism no longer scares people like it used to, so they are just calling him Hitler because that still works.

But I remember when MoveOn had a video that compared Bush to Hitler. Man, did people freak out over that! Including, a friend of mine, who still refers to Moveon as the organization that compared Bush to Hitler. Except they didn't. It was part of a contest and MoveOn yanked the video.

Jon Stewart had a funny bit about the wackaloons with guns which included a little sound clip from the Chris Matthews (I believe) show. Remember when a couple of anti-Bush people were turned away from a Bush rally for wearing anti-Bush t-shirts? T-shirts! Not guns. Fucking t-shirts. According to the clip, they were arrested when they refused to take the shirts off.

Hmm. Now public conservatives openly compare Obama to Hitler; over a dozen people brandish guns at rallies; and self-identified conservatives routinely compare Obama to Hitler and healthcare reform to the Nazi party. (I notice that my same friend has defended these town hall people as "legitimately angry" and has not expressed much outrage over the Hitler stuff.) Guns, evidently, are fine. T-shirts are dangerous. Shouting hate slogans is fine--now.

This is just insanity. Republicans are not responsible for all of this, make no mistake. But they are doing precious little to stop the misinformation and outright lies. A recent NBC poll shows that a shocking number of Americans believe the "death panel" nonsense. That is not good for our republic. As I have said repeatedly, there are legitimate points of disagreement, and very legitimate concerns about this reform package.

But conservatives are not talking about them. Town halls are filled with people who believe blatant falsehoods, and are willing to compare expanding healthcare with the Nazi regime.

The stupid. It burns so very much.

August 18, 2009

Twelve Carry Guns -- Including Assault Rifle -- Outside Obama Event | LiveWire

Twelve Carry Guns -- Including Assault Rifle -- Outside Obama Event | LiveWire

And this one is interesting too. I love how he says that "taxation is theft." That is a ridiculous argument only helped by the Republican mantra that taxation is evil.

Again, I respect the lawful ownership of guns. I am not just saying that. But you cannot expect me to look at these people bringing guns to Town Halls and Obama events and think that is a good thing. That is the threat of violence, and given the entire response toward Obama and the right wing insanity about him, this is playing with fire.

August 17, 2009

Uh, yikes

The rising popularity of imprecatory prayer and some instruction on how to do it.

A refresher on the stupid

As one of my own senators suggests that members of congress have earned the death threats coming from the idiots at town halls:

These people are threatening death and destruction because Obama is trying to expand health coverage.

That's it. That is what pushed these people over the edge.

Not, mind you, an administration promoting torture, or wiretapping without warrants, or lying to us to get us into a war.

Not an administration solely dedicated to helping the rich get richer.

None of those things got the wingnuts out in force. Nope. That came from an administration wanting to expand healthcare coverage and to make sure those same idiots don't get kicked off their healthcare coverage.

Sigh.

August 16, 2009

Holy Cow--God packing heat?

Kevin Powell: I guess the second commandment was just a suggestion. Among other things.

Ugh.

Especially in this current climate. All due respect to the responsible gun owners out there, and I know there are many, the current atmosphere of anger among the right, this scares the crap out of me. As I referenced in a conversation with someone else, the right wing populism has a discernibly more violent tinge to it, and we are seeing that. After 8 years of people hating Bush, I don't remember that hatred turning violent. Angry, yes, and even calling him the usual tyrant names. But I never thought the war protesters were going to go violent.

I have no such belief about the town hall crazies. And when the right wing combines a love of guns with a militant reading of Christianity, I get a little scared.

August 14, 2009

Anglican has some questions

And they seem like good ones to me:
"Some observations made of recent politics:
Liberals protest war, sometimes loudly, and are called traitors.
Conservatives protest health care, sometimes loudly, and are called patriots.
Those who benefit from the part of our system that is in fact socialized--i.e., Medicare and Medicaid--are fighting tooth and nail against extending a similar benefit to others.
Those opposing reform are putting their trust with the political party that opposed the creation of Medicare in the first place."

I like his walk through his socialized reality as well. I had a recent conversation on Facebook with an idiot (sorry, but true) who said that government is always abusive and that it rarely does anything good. I wish there were a way to instantly remove all the contributions of government from his life. I really do.

The stupid. It burns so very much.

August 13, 2009

What is prayer?

I have no clue. A good friend of ours was just recently badly injured in a bicycle accident. According to the initial reports from his daughter, they came very close to losing him. Scary stuff.

In the updates and comments (on FB) there has been a steady discussion about prayer requests and offers for prayers and offers for prayers on specific aspects of this crisis. I understand that as a reflection of concern, and as an expression of caring.

What I don't understand is the "we can get a bunch of people who don't know him to pray for him" thing. Again, concern is a great thing, but I don't get the theology of the matter. Doesn't it imply that the God they are praying to has to be convinced into doing something good? God, on his own, won't heal anyone unless people request it? What kind of God is that?

Not only that, but the numbers and quality of the people praying seems to supposedly matter. If someone is more advanced as a Christian, do their prayers matter more? Or if we can get a bunch of people praying on this particular issue, will God respond as long as there are more than 10 people praying? Perhaps more than 20? Perhaps fewer if enough of them are suitably "mature in their faith?"

I don't get the theology here at all.

August 11, 2009

Healther Skelter - Obama Death Panel Debate | The Daily Show | Comedy Central

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Chris Hayes has the answers

Your Questions About Health Care Reform Answered:
"3) I heard the proposals currently under consideration provide seniors with option of free counseling sessions under Medicare, where they can discuss a living will and end-of-life care.
That's a huge misconception. The bills require all senior citizens (who are non union members) be euthanized on their 70th birthday. Under section 278(c)ii all last rites will be performed by Jeremiah Wright using a Q'uran."

This is my point on government too

Though Publius said it better. When people think of government programs and dependency, they think about welfare and poor people:
"That's why you hear stories of people saying, "Keep government out of my Medicare."

But that's just one example. Life is full of invisible examples of government benefits we never think about. The free market didn't bring about the weekend, or clean air. It didn't create universal education, and neither did it provide universal health care for the elderly. It didn't desegregate our schools. It couldn't save the banking system -- there was a series of interventions that kept it from collapsing and got it back on its feet.

But all these things quickly fade into the background like an invisible platform.

That's why I sometimes wish life had a show/hide function similar to the one in Word that shows or hides formatting. We could click it, and reveal all the ways that political choices have improved our lives.

Of course, government isn't always good -- see, e.g., sugar subsidies, spectrum regulation. And markets do many things very, very well. But the demagoguery that the idea of government is receiving in the health coverage debate is completely undeserved.
I made this point to a guy on FB who kept calling government abusive. What is also interesting is that some of the people who refer to government as evil and abusive have been the most forgiving of torture and wiretapping. Which suggests to me that this is not about some kind of political principle, but about branding and partisan loyalty. And that is, perhaps, the most disturbing part of this "debate." Those people going to the town halls are angry because they have been told to be angry.

August 10, 2009

And this tying the anti-health care reform to race

And an interesting connection worth considering.

Bush's faith/zeal

We have to acknowledge that this story sounds a bit on the strange side. Not, mind you, that Bush believed this stuff, but that he would think it would convince a French leader to join him. But, according to a recent book, Chirac confirms that Bush told him that they had to fight the Iraq war to stave off something out of the Left Behind series:
"Stranger still are new accounts emerging from France describing how former president Jacques Chirac was utterly baffled by a 2003 telephone conversation in which Bush reportedly invoked fanatical Old Testament prophecy – including the Earth-ending battle with forces of evil, Gog and Magog – in his arguments to enlist France in the Coalition of the Willing.

'This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people's enemies before a New Age begins,' Bush said to Chirac, according to Thomas Romer, a University of Lausanne theology professor who was later approached by French officials anxious to understand the biblical reference. Romer first revealed his account in a 2007 article for the university review, Allez savoir, which passed largely unnoticed.

Chirac, in a new book by French journalist Jean-Claude Maurice, is quoted as confirming the surreal conversation, saying he was stupefied by Bush's reference to biblical prophecy and 'wondered how someone could be so superficial and fanatical in their beliefs.'"

I know there are many who share Bush's alleged beliefs here, but the thought that a world leader would send his people to war based on a contested reading of an ancient prophecy is mind boggling.

August 9, 2009

More on healthcare and an irresponsible opposition

Steven Pearlstein - Steven Pearlstein: Republicans Propagating Falsehoods in Attacks on Health-Care Reform - washingtonpost.com:
"By poisoning the political well, they've given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition. They've become political terrorists, willing to say or do anything to prevent the country from reaching a consensus on one of its most serious domestic problems.

There are lots of valid criticisms that can be made against the health reform plans moving through Congress -- I've made a few myself. But there is no credible way to look at what has been proposed by the president or any congressional committee and conclude that these will result in a government takeover of the health-care system. That is a flat-out lie whose only purpose is to scare the public and stop political conversation."
Same, and even worse, can be said about Sarah Palin claiming that Obama will create some kind of "death panel" to decide who lives and who dies. If we want to talk about the legitimate issues around the public option and reform in general, that is fine. But republicans are not doing that.

More on stupidity

The kind of stupidity that at least one of our commenters seems to buy. Hunter, from the DailyKos is right about this one. When Republicans can claim that Democratic healthcare will mean killing a disabled child, then there is nothing factual about their opposition. And nothing responsible, either.
Seriously? I mean, come the flying monkey hell on. How is it that this hollow-headed dimwit doesn't get run out of town for statements like that? Obama's going to come murder her son?

The whole Republican party can absolutely make stuff up, no question about it, 100% lies, no factual basis whatsoever, outrageous, known false stuff about euthanasia and "death panels" and denying care to people that are no longer "productive", stuff that's right out of the most venomous propaganda playbooks around, weird-assed, depraved, paranoid stuff that would be perfectly at home in a Henry Ford tract about the secret methods of the evil Jews or the like -- and not a goddamned news outlet on the planet is making a story out of the fact that these supposed leaders of their party are gleefully lying through their teeth about all of it, or that the "teabaggers" carrying these selfsame lies into public meetings aren't just angry Americans with a different point of view, but people spreading known, 100%-goddamn-freaking-false-and-false-from-the-very-first-time-it-was-uttered bullshit, and intentionally doing it so loud that they hope nobody can possibly shout them down.

There's no "he-said, she-said" on a statement like "Obama's coming to murder my handicapped child."
Palin is not a genuine person, and has no genuine interest in good governance or good public policy. And neither, as fara as I can tell, do anyone from the Republican leadership. All they seem intent on doing is getting idiots to post stupid things on liberal blogs and go shout at their congressional representatives.

The indecency of Palin and Bachman

And if you are quoting from Bachman, that is enough to show that you are in the wackaloon territory, rather than the area of legitimate conversation about this important issue. I would say "shame" to Sarah Palin, but it is increasingly obvious that she has none. More here.

August 6, 2009

Light blogging for a while

Off to a music camp. Back in a few days. Talk about healthcare reform while I am gone. One of my conservative friends claims that Obama is "ramming" healthcare down the American people's throat. Discuss.

August 5, 2009

Deep thought for the day

Why is it that we have not had a Republican ex-President out negotiating for hostages or trying to bring peace to a region?

August 3, 2009

Sigh

Conservative Christianity, evidently, means that "history" is what you want it to be. Facts and historical scholarship be damned.

And this guy was and is a major candidate for President for the Republican party. The fact that he is vastly more qualified than the former governor of Alaska only reiterates the ridiculous anti-intellectual place that is the modern Republican party.

Interesting: man took his wife's last name

I took my wife's last name - The Globe and Mail

I know an awful lot of people where both just kept their last names. I actually like that, though I understand it can be confusing if there are children involved. But one of the things the patrilineal naming system often does is reduce that matrilineal influence.

August 1, 2009

I like Jon Alter

Alter: Our Heath-Care System Is Just Fine As Is! | Newsweek Voices - Jonathan Alter | Newsweek.com
And how could the supporters of these reform bills believe in anything as stupid as a "public option"? Do they really believe that the health-insurance cartel deserves a little competition to keep them honest? Back in the day, they had a word for competition. A bad word. They called it capitalism. FedEx versus the U.S. Postal Service, CNN versus PBS—just because it's government-backed doesn't mean you can't compete against it. If they believed in capitalism, the insurance companies would join the fray and compete.

I really do love how many people love competition in the market place until they absolutely do not. If government plans are so bad, then how bad would that make the private companies that can't compete with them?

Ultimately, as I told a friend in email, I am stunned that we seem to still be allowing the people who don't think we need healthcare reform to dictate healthcare reform policy. As I suggested to him, it seems analogous to allowing those who think that humans have made no contribution to climate change decide how we respond to climate change.

More fun with Republicans and polls

According to a new poll, only 42% of Republicans believe Obama is an American citizen, and if you break that down by region, you find the "birthers" predominately in the American South.

July 31, 2009

Onion strikes again

Cambridge Cop Accidentally Arrests Henry Louis Gates Again During White House Meeting | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Heh.

Perhaps a glimpse into the cause of our financial problems

From a recent poll, we learned that Americans don't want more taxes or cuts in services to address the deficit--which other polls show are causing concern with Obama's policies.
"Fifty-six percent of respondents said that they were not willing to pay more in taxes in order to reduce the deficit, and nearly as many said they were not willing for the government to provide fewer services in areas such as health care, education and defense spending."
Linkins reminds us of the great Simpsons immigration episode where Homer complains about taxes. Too bad he doesn't quote from the scene when the townspeople, who had just demanded more services, march to the Mayor's office to complain about taxes:
"The mob is back, yelling 'Down with taxes! Down with taxes!'

Quimby: Are those morons getting dumber or just louder?
Assistant: [checks his clipboard] Dumber, sir."
And I can't quite pass on the opportunity to point out that the Republicans have made their entire political philosophy out of bashing taxes and government. Hard to get the American people to some level of responsible government when one of the major parties constantly not only bashes everything to do with government and taxes, but essentially keeps assuring people that we can cut taxes and everything will be rosy. Better, even.

Sigh.

July 30, 2009

Are Republicans irony impaired?

Or maybe it is me. But it strikes me as funny when someone like David Vitter talks about "conservative values."
"I'm on the side of conservatives getting back to core conservative values," said Mr. Vitter, Louisiana Republican and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee
No word on if those Conservative values explicitly include hookers.

In all seriousness, this is what the conservative church created by making their deep, and personal faith a political commodity. They then get people like this idiot masquerading as a "family values" person. Actually, it has brought them a lot of idiots. Voinovich isn't wrong. The south and the religious right has turned the Republican party into the party of the brainless.

July 27, 2009

Tort reform revisited

I was struck by our discussion on tort reform a few weeks ago and surprised that Steve didn't think tort reform would actually effect medical costs. A lesson in assumptions, I guess. I really had just assumed that medical malpractice was a big reason our healthcare costs were so high. Steve's comments that even in states that limited litigation, the costs didn't change struck a chord. And today, I listened to NPR on health care questions and heard Julie Rovner say that malpractice constitutes 1% of healthcare costs. Yikes. Obviously not a big chunk of costs at all.

Interesting argument

That I am sure Steve will not like. :) But I am curious what you all think about E.J. Dionne's argument that Republicans want concealed guns everywhere except their own workplace:
"Isn't it time to dismantle the metal detectors, send the guards at the doors away and allow Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights by being free to carry their firearms into the nation's Capitol?"

Speaking of Idiot America

We need go no further than the right wing birthers.

I want this book

And I love Charlie Pierce on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. Amazon.com: Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free (9780767926140): Charles P. Pierce: Books:
"Question: Is there a specific turning point where, as a country, we moved away from prizing experience to trusting the gut over intellect?
Charles P. Pierce: I don't know if there's one point that you can point to and say, “This is when it happened.” The conflict between intellectual expertise and reflexive emotion—often characterized as “good old common sense,” when it is neither common nor sense—has been endemic to American culture and politics since the beginning. I do think that my profession, journalism, went off the tracks when it accepted as axiomatic the notion that “Perception is reality.” No. Perception is perception and reality is reality, and if the former doesn't conform to the latter, then it’s the journalist's job to hammer and hammer the reality until the perception conforms to it. That's how “intelligent design” gets treated as “science” simply because a lot of people believe in it."

I think he has a point. Several points, actually, but this one is spot on. Once you bought into the idea that "perception is reality" it allows you to report idiocy as the equivalent of something smart and testable. It allows spin to function as news.

July 25, 2009

Back--with some thoughts on race and Cheney's perverse view of the Constitution

We just had a great week with SOF's sister and family as the first guests to try out our new guest room and extra bathroom. The bathroom still lacks a mirror and some cabinetry, but other than that received rave reviews. Same for the new room, even though at the end of the A/C run and lacking any external shade, was cool enough for our guests. Thankfully, they were here during the cool week of July, and not the 105 week!

But we had a great time. Played a little guitar, ate some great food, and enjoyed some lively conversation.

*****

But I am back and resting up--and reading through the news. Couple of items caught my eye, and they deserve some attention. First was the arrest of Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, and the subsequent furor from Obama's characterization of the arrest as the Cambridge cops acting "stupidly." Obama then acted presidential (imo) and admitted to using language that didn't help the situation and even calling the arresting officer. It really does sound like Gates over-reacted--though it is perhaps understandable after returning from overseas to be accused of breaking into your own house. It also sounds like the cop over-reacted and placed a man in cuffs who uses a cane. I am with Tapped's Adam Serwer on this, however, in arguing that white America is still not ready to talk about race.

All of this, mind you, during a week when a Florida neurosurgeon and healthcare reform opponent sent around an email depicting Obama as a Witch Doctor with a bone through his nose. To which, the Tea Bagger movement offered their unflinching support, and refuses to see the racism in their opposition to Obama. Or when MSNBC continues to put on Pat Buchanan after he argues that this country was built by white people, and that blacks were only discriminated against. What is more, he is sure that only whites died on D-Day or at Vicksburg. Or just a week past Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn saying "you would have some splaining to do" to our Puerto-Rican born Supreme Court nominee. And let's not forget, btw, the raging racism of the "birther" movement that claims that Obama is not American and therefore not their legitimate President--something aided and abetted by Liz Cheney and Lou Dobbs, and echoed by Republican House members.

This goes back to another point, the one where most Americans (white) seem to think that racism is dead, or only relegated to the extreme Klan members. I have seen this in discussions myself, where racism is defined very narrowly and very extremely, and individuals who still use racial stereotypes and admit they wouldn't be happy if their child dated someone of color--at the same time asserting that they are not racist or that there is nothing wrong with what they said. When racism is limited to those who burn crosses and shout the n-word, a lot of us (me included) get let off the hook for our own racism. I am a fan of Ta-Nehisi Coates and find him thoughtful on race issues. Like here:
"Again, I think this makes sense, if you believe racism to be the province of societal pariahs, not people who hawk their wares on MSNBC. But if you believe that we live with it every day, that the worst part of racism is how it hides in the hearts of otherwise decent people, than this is rather puzzling. If you've had friends who've looked you in the eye, and said something racist, you may feel differently."

We have made a lot of progress in this country on race issues. But when every other week a Republican sends out a racist picture of Obama and still thinks it isn't racist--I wonder.

*****

Point two, and also very critical was the recent NY Times report on discussions inside the Bush administration about using the military against even American citizens. Greenwald weighs in and links to the original memo. Scary stuff. Yoo recommends, and evidently Cheney and Addington completely agreed, that during a time of war, the President had the discretion to use the military inside the country even to round up people who might be American citizens. His reasoning, and also his justification for getting around the Posse Commitatus Act of 1878, was that this would be using the military for military purposes rather than law enforcement. Further, Yoo said that both the First and Fourth amendments could be set aside during such situations.

As I read the memo, the constant refrain of the President's discretion jumped out, and that discretion was not bound by congress or the courts. It is, as I read it, a recipe for tyranny, and truly unbelievable. Credit, I must say, goes to Condi Rice and others who spoke out against this, and ultimately to George Bush for not allowing Cheney to further shred the constitution. Shame on him for allowing the conversation to even occur.

And can we finally dispense with the nonsense that Dick Cheney and David Addington are just good Americans doing what they thought was right for America?

July 20, 2009

Jimmy Carter leaves the SBC

Because of the issue of gender inequality, a similar reason for my own move:
"So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention's leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be 'subservient' to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women's equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities."

July 17, 2009

David Barton is back

And has decided, with his great "historical" knowledge, that civil rights leaders are not very important. The dude has a bachelors from Oral Roberts in "religious education" but in far right conservative circles (Mike Huckabee, for example), that makes him a professional historian.

This is what anti-intellectualism gets you.

July 12, 2009

You are NOT a Bible Character

Finally. Someone articulates this in the way I have been unable. I am so utterly annoyed at how people appropriate people from the Bible to justify whatever personal bias or flaw they might have. When Mark Sanford invoked King David, my thought was, "but you are not King David," even though I was unable to explain that. Unfortunately, these kinds of references often serve as coded (or not so coded) messages to the faithful--and unfortunately, the faithful often does not think this stuff through. And as a historian, I was heartened to see someone point out how bad theology often resulted in real tragedy in American history:
"There is a long history of just such usage. The pilgrim fathers who came to America read their situation into the Bible (or the Bible into their situation) with the result that white pilgrims were seen as fulfilling the role of the Israelites in this, the Promised Land, while native Americans were cast in the role of Canaanites. Thus generations of Joshuas arose feeling Biblically justified in the genocide of America’s native population. Some of that Biblical reading continues to echo in the popular imagination to this day. It was Bad theology in the 17th century and it is bad theology today. Stated in a fundamental way: you are not a Bible character."
Sanford's arrogance is, unfortunately, not rare in evangelical circles. Palin tried to compare herself to Esther (since evidently Esther was also proud of her ignorance?), and Tom Delay once compared his experience to that of Christ.

If Bill Clinton did that, the evangelicals would freak out. If Obama did it, their heads would asplode. But somehow, when one of their own does it, they just nod along.