July 29, 2010

Thursday stuff--Republicans getting crazier, and Obama Administration disappoints

Graham now wants to remove citizenship by birth. Oh, and remember, he was the one that everyone called one of the moderate and reasonable ones.

And can anyone explain this to me? The people who spend the most time talking about the sacrosanct nature of the Constitution and the original intent, are the ones who want to throw out the 14th Amendment because they are anti-immigrant? Never mind that we need immigrants to keep pace and maintain our economic viability. Nah. If it helps rile up the base, let's do it.

And because many people just consider me a blind Democrat liberal commie who worships Obama, let me add this little troubling tidbit. Yglesias notes that the admin has further loosened the kinds of actions that the FBI can do without a warrant to include internet activity. I am really unsure why, in the age of FISA that we need to undermine our constitutional protections further. And this is just the kind of shit that drove me crazy under Bush. I think it is time to write a letter. Perhaps if liberals stand up to Obama on this, we might get somewhere. Can't exactly expect conservatives to care about the FBI looking in our browser history.

July 28, 2010

Ruth Marcus - Why Congress should let the Bush tax cuts expire

Ruth Marcus - Why Congress should let the Bush tax cuts expire:
"The modern Republican argument about taxes seems to boil down to two principles, both misguided: Taxes can be reduced, but they can never be allowed to go up. And whatever level taxes are at, they are too high.

Think back to the beginning of the Bush administration tax cuts. It seems almost impossible to believe, but the argument then was that the budget surplus was too large."
I think most Republicans I know are honest, but I also don't think that they have actually thought this through. Marcus gets to what I noted the other day. The argument around tax cuts is not intellectually consistent, and until the right gets some basic consistency, I think they should be dismissed on this issue.

July 27, 2010

Greg is back with part 3

A Flawed Consensus, Part 3: How Ichabod Crane Keeps Getting His Ass Kicked - the parish: "Sacred texts are not brain-dumped into practitioners by the gods above; they mus
t be read, interpreted, discussed, and applied in a community. The fundamentalist errors are to believe that God 'wrote' the book, and that the English is plain enough for anyone to understand--ironically, this despite the proliferation of denominations based on verse-splitting."

July 26, 2010

The political genius of supply-side economics

England's Martin Wolf has a good take on the state of our political dialogue on economic policy. I read this and thought of the ongoing conversation over at ATK, where one person has boldly defended the Bush economic policy while blaming all the economic troubles on the Democrats taking over the house in 2006. It is funny. One party can control the WH, and both houses for 6 years (or most of that 6 years) but anything bad that occurs after is not their fault.

I am increasingly convinced that most Republicans have been sold a bill of goods. Wolf makes a good case for this in his piece and notes that Republicans moved from being the party of a balanced budget to being the party of tax cuts.
The political genius of this idea is evident. Supply-side economics transformed Republicans from a minority party into a majority party. It allowed them to promise lower taxes, lower deficits and, in effect, unchanged spending. Why should people not like this combination? Who does not like a free lunch?

How did supply-side economics bring these benefits? First, it allowed conservatives to ignore deficits. They could argue that, whatever the impact of the tax cuts in the short run, they would bring the budget back into balance, in the longer run. Second, the theory gave an economic justification – the argument from incentives - for lowering taxes on politically important supporters. Finally, if deficits did not, in fact, disappear, conservatives could fall back on the “starve the beast” theory: deficits would create a fiscal crisis that would force the government to cut spending and even destroy the hated welfare state.
It is a brilliant political strategy. Assure the American people that their deficit will go away as long as you cut taxes for the super rich. Sure, you throw a bone to the middle class, though you don't note that while their federal taxes will go down slightly, their local and state taxes will probably go up--or they will see a steady decline in services. College tuition will continue to climb, and more and more fees and licenses will be regressively taxed.

But you don't tell them that. Nor do you tell them that you probably will not come close to cutting any major budget items. You will make it harder on scientists looking for grants, and will demonize poor people and minorities, but will not actually cut the budget in any meaningful way. But you will continue to sell them the lie that reducing taxes will eventually increase revenues to the point that the budget will be balanced. All through magic.

And it doesn't matter the state of the economy, the existing tax rate, or the state of the deficit. Tax cuts are magical. They will fix whatever economic problem you have, even when lower tax revenues are one of your problems. Republicans have turned into a caricature of themselves and remind me of the Far Side cartoon about the vet wing for horses. Every illness or injury has the same treatment: shoot them.

Hell, if you think about it, Republicans haven't even been consistent on this argument. In 2000, they justified a tax cut because of the surplus. The argument was that the government had too much of our money, so they had to give us some back. Wouldn't that have theoretically increased the surplus? Yeah, I realize 9-11, two unfunded wars, and Medicare Part D didn't help, but in 2000 I assume most republicans didn't know about those huge expenditures. If tax cuts always increase revenue, wouldn't that have been the argument? But it wasn't.

It just became that when the deficit ballooned and the economy tanked. Then tax cuts weren't because the government didn't have too much money but because we needed to stimulate the economy and then the tax revenues would once again rise.

Bill of freaking goods. And Democrats are expected to pay the bill and take responsibility. Meanwhile Republicans promise to return to the good old days when people get their free lunch--well, it would be free except for those damn minorities who are always taking your stuff.


July 23, 2010

Race in America

Having an ongoing conversation on this whole Tea Party phenomenon. Me and the rest of the country. I have one friend who has suggested that liberals have responded too fervently to the Tea Party, and thus allowed them to gain prominence. Another thinks that the anger was always there, and that the Glenn Becks and Sarah Palin are just using and exploiting that anger.

I have to say that I think there is something else going on. I think there is a deep seated fear that white protestants are losing their favored place in our society. I am the first to admit that this anger would be there if Hillary had won instead of Barack, but have to believe that some of this is still about race. Had Hillary won, it would have just been more about non-traditional women winning out, or about those non-protestants who are taking over. But with Obama it is about race, and non-traditional Christianity.

I don't watch Rachel Maddow that regularly, but thought this was a pretty good take. Of course she is pulling together a lot of things and assuming motives. But I don't think she is far off. Students of history will know that this phenomenon has long legs. One interpretation of Bacon's Rebellion was that the elites needed to find a way to allow poor, landless, whites keep their guns, but give them a way to have a little more status without giving them land or power. It was at this point that Virginians decided to opt more for lifetime slavery v. short term indentured servanthood. We saw that same process repeated in the lead up to the Civil War when Southern elites told poor white farmers that the Yankees wanted to take away their chance at land and success and would give that land to the slaves. Then poor whites would be at the bottom instead of being able to look down on enslaved Africans. In the post Reconstruction south, when poor white farmers started to coalesce with poor black farmers in some populist movements and even politically, we saw a rise of segregation and Jim Crowism.

Throughout this history, whites have been warned to be afraid of non-whites in many forms. Native and black men were supposedly sexual predators, and so supposed sexual contact or even bad intentions became the justification for lynchings and massacres. Perhaps my historian colleagues can help flesh this out, but the story is an old and sordid one. I think Rachel is connecting that to the current way that conservatives on Fox and talk radio are talking about race, and I think she is on to something. That is not to say that liberals and civil rights' activists have not made missteps. Of course they have and can. But the record is heavily weighted to the other side.

Anyway. Check it out and let me know what you think. Oh, and there are some new gadgets that Blogger made available. Hvae to see how they work.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

July 21, 2010

From Evangelicalism to Fundamentalism

I think I have been rather dense on the difference, and am really glad that Greg is talking about this transformation. He suggests that the
"evangelical church is no longer evangelical; it's largely fundamentalist, and it's happened because certain ministries were able to build a pseudo-theological consensus by emphasizing minutiae but making them appear cardinal doctrines."

I think there is something there. I also wonder if there isn't a group of churches who have followed the simplistic theology model, but are not technically fundamentalist either. If that makes any sense.

On the right and their experts

Greg has been on a tear of late, and this is another good post on the problems of the theological right here in Oklahoma and elsewhere:
"The experts aren't experts, and so they've passed their non-expertise onto the masses, and it isn't just the Church. Beck is doing the same thing in the political realm. One of the absolutely legitimate points I took from Rapture Ready is that anything banal, crass, or pitiful in Christian culture has a reflection or is a reflection of the same reality in non-Christian culture. I guess that means it's a reflection of the human tendency toward the simplistic, crass, over-generalized, and banal. Make it simple. They'll buy it, even salvation."

I have noticed this tendency among the right to anoint "experts" who's only expertise is that they support the conventional wisdom of the right. Engineers who oppose evolution become scholarly experts--even though their expertise has nothing to do with biology. In the same post, Greg notes an article he penned on this movement and he connects this expertise issue to the faux historian David Barton. (You might even recognize the historian Greg contacted to refute Barton.) Barton has no training as a historian, yet has become someone who Mike Huckabee referred to as America's best historian. Please.

But the point is that this fake expertise gives many on the right a plausible (to them) source to confirm their beliefs. I know they believe that the left does the same thing, and that is sometimes true. But in history, it is not. And those of us who actually work in or around the field know it. We know how much historical conclusions are challenged and battled. We know the process of getting something published through peer review. We know the examination on sources and skepticism to new interpretations. Those processes are, as Greg noted, completely gone in a world that has gone to the simple.

July 19, 2010

I am not sure what to think of the Christian faith today

And yeah, I know that is a general statement. But it is where I am right now. Just not sure what to make of some of this stuff. Take this story from CNN where Ed Young Jr., and many other "pastors" are spending millions of dollars to ad technology such as the use of holograms to beam, well, themselves into other churches, because that will help them "reach" more. More what, I have no clue. Greg has a few choice words for this idiocy, including the laughable notion that virtual representation is the same as "being there."

If that is Christianity, I am really not interested.

And it isn't just that. I know Christians who say they oppose torture, but the fact that their party supports torture and even cheers and brags about it (see George Bush), will do nothing to dissuade them from voting for the Republicans. I am still not sure how that works. If torture is evil, and the Republicans openly embrace it, then I am not sure how moral people vote for those Republicans. I am just being honest here. I would appreciate some clarity on that one, btw, as I continue to struggle with it.

And while less problematic, I am still also struggling with how so many of my conservative Christian friends talk about prayer. When someone survives a serious accident, and then attributes all of that to prayer, I ask myself about those who's outcome is not as good. Did they not pray hard enough? Or recruit enough people? Why is it that when the outcome is good, it is proof that God answers prayer, but when the outcome is bad, it is proof that we just don't understand God? We understand him just fine when he does what we want.

Just not sure what to think with those kinds of disconnects. Christians who conflate huge churches with some kind of theological "goodness," or those who see torture as "bad" but not bad enough to do anything about it. Or those who give me a bizarre popular vote version of God.

I don't get it.

Sarah Palin Calls On 'Peaceful Muslims' To 'Refudiate' Ground Zero Mosque

And then defends the use of the word "refudiate." Actually, she claims that language changes all the time, and that "Shakespeare liked to coin new words too."

Andy Borowitz has a great take: Palin Says Refudiate Appears in Fictionary: Calls Critics Incohecent. Would be funny if she wasn't really that dumb.

The fact that this woman came so close to the Oval office in 2008 is something that should scare the crap out of every thinking American. The fact that she is still so popular among far right Christians and conservatives is just sad.

Tipping point question part 2

My first post has turned into a discussion about the role of government and the issue of race. Neither are bad discussions, and I hope we continue them, but I am still looking for an answer to the question about when the numbers suggest systemic problems v. individual ineptitude? Is it as simple as the bell curve idea I floated about class grades?

Anyone? At what percentage point does failure suggest the system has failed, or the rules were incorrect?

July 16, 2010

Tipping point question

Here is a question from many of my discussions with conservatives regarding individual responsibility v. some kind of systemic issue (actually often a false choice, btw). It comes from what seems like a conservative emphasis on personal responsibility and a denial of any kind of systemic problems in our financial (or other) area.

Say you give 100 people loans. If only 6 of those 100 fail to repay, that would easily be written off as their individual failure, right? If you had a 94% repayment rate, you would have to conclude that the terms of the loan were fair and the arrangement was set up correctly or fairly.

But what is the tipping point where you have to question the setup? If 30% fail to repay? If I had 30% fail my class, I would probably rethink my approach.

I ask, because I think most conservatives I speak to approach most of our broader economic issues solely from a personal responsibility approach, and do not want to question the system around those individuals. As I said above, I think there is often a gray area besides choosing between those two options. The criminal justice system is a good example. If a high percentage of African American men end up in jail, it might be a combination of both, right? Doesn't excuse the individual criminal acts that get them arrested, but might point to a system that is not doing a good job of addressing race, class, or education?

This also comes out of this previous discussion about the middle class. I believe firmly there are things that we as a government (remembering that the government is us in our system) to better encourage success and stability. My conservative friends tend to look at the decline in social mobility, or wage stagnation, or lack of individual savings--and chalk all of those up to individual people failing to make good decisions. I don't deny that, but also think there is something systemic that has encouraged debt and the other negative things we see.

July 15, 2010

The Bible, the Rule of Law, and Immigration

Just saw this story on Congressmen arguing about what the Bible has to say about Immigration reform. Perhaps we can set aside the concern, for now, that we have elected members of our secular government trying to argue that their reading of the Bible is how we should proceed on this issue. But I found it quite interesting how many of those conservatives read the Bible.
But Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, the Judiciary Committee's top Republican, repeatedly cited passages from the Bible in support of a stronger crackdown on illegal immigration.

"The Bible contains numerous passages that support the rule of law," he asserted. "The scriptures clearly indicate that God charges civil authorities
with preserving order, protecting citizens and punishing wrongdoers."

Smith cited, among other things, Romans 13: "Let every person be subject to governing authorities."
Just wondering, do you think that Lamar Smith has cited those passages when Tea Party activists have urged people to not obey the new healthcare law?

As you know, I have been toying with this idea of empathy, and that the lack of empathy from the right explains a lot of their policy solutions, but also reveals strong problems with their reading of the Bible. Smith addressed this
Addressing a passage from Matthew 25 about caring for "the least of these my brothers," Smith contended that it "advocates individual acts of kindness (but) does not mandate a public policy."
I see this a lot from conservatives, and don't completely disagree. But I would suggest that it allows them to disconnect their business and political decisions from their church life. Through their church, they can support their food kitchen and direct aid to the poor (good things, btw), but the disconnect allows them to vote for policies that make things harder on those same poor, or even pushes more into that population. That artificial divide lacks moral consistency.

Steve King (Idiot, Iowa), also weighed in on this issue:
King noted approvingly that "in the land of the Bible the leaders of today's Israel (have) built border fences to protect their citizens from terrorists or illegal job seekers alike."

There is a "greater and more immediate" moral obligation to take care of
U.S. citizens first, he said.
On this, I hate equating Netanyahu's government with the ancient Israelites, and still think that is a faulty connection, but I was struck most by his second statement about our first moral priorities being to take care of our own. On one hand, I don't necessarily personally disagree, if, of course, I believed that Steve King or Lamar Smith wanted to actually help Americans who are poor or brown skinned. But at a broader point, and since they are quoting from the Bible here or using it as their justification, is that consistent with Christianity? Is it consistent to say that you must take care of your own first and then others? I am not sure it is.

July 13, 2010

Yet another Republican declaring up is down

Or in this case, that down is actually up. Slactivist has a great take on the insanity of the Republican running for governor in Pennsylvania and another example of a Republican simply denying reality. I know I am frustrated today, but I have had it with these people. It is as if everyone of them has become a Karl Rove follower over night and learned that facts don't matter--just declare the reality you want.

It works for just about every aspect of Republican life, as I noted in the other post. Climate change, evolution, and we could add American history to that list--are all subject to the reality you want it to be. Don't like the story of slavery and segregation? Simply relegate it to the back pages.

Here, Corbett continues the Republican attack on the unemployed. It has to be their fault, after all. If they were just better workers, or not so lazy, or not so greedy, they would have a job, and in fact, giving them unemployment benefits so they can stay in their house while they look for non-existent jobs--that is, to a Republican, repugnant. Like rescuing a puppy, or caring for creation.

I met with a former student yesterday who is interested in history grad school. I spent the better part of an hour trying to talk him out of that. :) Well, kind of. But he told me at the beginning that he had chosen to stay in town with the idea that he would pick up a summer job while he thought about grad school. He said that he just assumed he could find an hourly job somewhere. "Even Target isn't hiring," he told me. "What is wrong when even Target isn't hiring at minimum wage?"

But for the Republicans, this all false. There are loads of jobs out there waiting to be filled. Only Republicans with jobs are hard working and honest and moral. Only those with money deserve their money. The rest can go screw.
I don't know whether Tom Corbett is such a fool himself, or if he has simply made the political calculation that a majority of Pennsylvania voters might be attracted to such foolishness and that there are votes to be won by appealing to the lesser demons of our nature. After all, there are far more people who are afraid of becoming unemployed than there are people who are currently unemployed -- blame the jobless for their plight and you can reassure those frightened others that they don't have to be frightened of earning the sad fate of those lazy, inferior others.

So it's possible that Tom Corbett is a cynical nurturer of nastiness rather than just a fearful, ignorant fool himself.

But either way, there's something very, very wrong with this man.
There is something very wrong with his party too.

It's Unanimous! GOP Says Screw the Unemployed

This is just so fucking ridiculous, I can't stand it. Top GOP leaders all agree with Kyl that they won't support unemployment extensions, but have no interest in off-setting tax cuts for the rich.

I think being a Republican these days must mean that you completely ignore reality on a daily basis. And you are told that if you don't like something, you simply ignore any evidence of that thing. Don't like evolution? Easy. Just ignore and deny. Not sure what to do about climate change? Simple. Just deny that it exists.

And when you are hell-bent to make sure that the wealthiest Americans continue to do better while the poor fall farther behind, you simply deny that tax cuts cost money. You just deny it. You continue to insist that cutting taxes magically increases revenue at all times. Never, never, never never fucking admit that cutting taxes on the rich is anything but good.

I am beginning to think these GOP people are sociopaths. What else do you say to people who cause this kind of carnage and then deny it and want to do more?

Your GOP crazy for the day

Otherwise known as the regular GOP. First, from prostitute aficionado David Vitter is his support for "birther" lawsuits. Yes, because this is just a fringe issue, not something that a sitting US Senator would endorse. Right. Because the GOP is perfectly reasonable and besides, the Democrats are just as bad.


How about This idiot, who says that Obama and "big gummint" make it harder for people to find the lord.

Let's not forget Sharon Angle from Nevada, saying that the response to the BP oil spill is to have less regulation. That's right. Less.

And how about Arizona Senator Jon Kyl? He thinks that we should extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy regardless of the impact on the deficit. Yeah, the deficit. The same one that is used to block unemployment relief for the hated unemployed. But tax breaks for the rich, according to Kyl, don't have to be offset or paid for. They are just and right.

The GOP is so completely out of its collective mind, I really question the sanity of those who continue to support this party. You will have to do some talking to convince me that you are voting for sane and reasonable people. Because you are not.

July 10, 2010

Torture as Bellwether*

I continue to struggle with the issue of torture, and have been trying to figure out why that particular issue strikes home with me. I think there are many answers to that question. I associate torture with totalitarian regimes, including those I was raised to distrust and hate in the Soviet Union and the Chinese communists. It is considered a war crime, which to me means something more than robbing a liquor store. More than a little disturbing that the people who used the KGB as a symbol of everything evil now excuse those same techniques by our own people.

As I have written here many times, very few things have shattered my illusions more than the way my conservative evangelical brethren responded to torture. Instead of responding with disgust and horror, they at best responded with a shrug, and at worse with a cheer. I consider this a betrayal of the faith, and further a suggestion that their faith is not very legitimate.

Torture, I would argue, is simply a bellwether for a broader sickness among conservatives and even those conservatives who claim to follow Christianity. That sickness is a complete lack of empathy for anyone who does not resemble them.

Torture is acceptable primarily because it was done to people they already hate and distrust. Put a conservative evangelical abortion opponent on the waterboard and I suggest the response would be quite different. Shackle a sweet Baptist missionary to a D-Ring in a freezing cell for days and you might hear some complaints from the Bible-quoting. But as long as it is a scary Muslim, they can't be bothered to care.

But, and this is the key for me, this is more symptomatic than anomalous. They supported the war in huge numbers--but had little stake in the game, and could not be bothered to actually care whether it was a good war or a bad war. If their teenage kids were looking at a draft for that same war, they would be much more interested. Hell, a relative of mine who could not name a sports team if her life depended on it, recently was quite aware of the conference changes because of her kid attending one of those schools. Imagine if the child were facing a forced deployment to Afghanistan? She might not be so supportive of that war.

And the beat goes on. Tax cuts sell for these people because it helps them individually. What do they care if it ends up cutting a program for some poor person? It doesn't effect them, and they could not really care less. Oh, I am sure that many of them will do their stint at the food kitchen, and will give money regularly to their local church. But they will vote to make more poor people and to make life harder on the same poor people. We are often told that conservatives give more to charities than liberals, but I would like to see how much of that ends up paying for AC at the local church and how much actually goes to help poor people not be poor. As Benen noted here, conservatives seem to openly dislike those who are unemployed. Sure, those conservative policies helped create much of that unemployment, but conservatives dislike those who are poor or unemployed. Hell, Rand Paul and the Tea Partiers are even upset about the ADA. Why should able-bodied people have to make life easier for the disabled? That asshat I confronted over the handicapped space said as much when he asked if I was disabled. If I wasn't, he reasoned, then why would I care?

Torture, then, is consistent with the rest of their approach. And as I have said, I am not sure that Christians can actually defend torture and be even close to consistent with their faith. I would extend that here and say that without empathy, I am unsure if Christianity even works. If you concern is really only for those who look like you and sound like you, then to paraphrase the man, "even the pagan can do that." I would be the first to recognize that sometimes compassion can be misplaced, and that there is some legitimacy to the concern about "moral hazard," but I would suggest that conservatives have turned the empathy/compassion switch to "off" and that drives their entire approach to public policy. That gives us tax cuts regardless of the economic reality, cuts to programs they don't use, and yes, torture.


Well, when you really, deep down, don't give a shit what happens to other people, torture is really not your problem.

*A "bellwether" or "bell wether" refers to the practice of placing a bell around the neck of a neutered male sheep (wether) so the whereabouts of the flock can be easily determined.

July 9, 2010

GOP capitulating to demagoguery--says defeated GOP candidate

To which the entire progressive community says "duh." I am glad to see this coming from a Republican, and this one sounds like a grownup Grownup Republican--the likes of which I was starting to think was as rare as the Yeti. But the trend is still very bad. Read the article, and you see that he is quite convinced that his loss came from his unwillingness to bash Obama and his interest in reaching across the aisle. I have Republican friends who still talk about bi-partisanship, and that is fine, but this is the base of the other party that Obama and other reasonable people are supposed to work with. People, I might add, who love the idiocy (still too nice of a word) of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin
"He cited a claim made famous by Palin that the Democratic health care bill would create 'death panels' to decide whether elderly or sick people should get care.

'There were no death panels in the bill ... and to encourage that kind of fear is just the lowest form of political leadership. It's not leadership. It's demagoguery,' said Inglis, one of three Republican incumbents who have lost their seats in Congress to primary and state party convention challengers this year."

July 4, 2010

Worth remembering on this July 4th

From Greg, a great post on the false Christian heritage that so many claim. My favorite line:
"The richest irony is that the plight of all the minority groups in the United States has improved as America has become less Christian. The secularization of government has actually advanced the cause of women, African Americans, and other minorities."
To be fair, there were a lot of Christians also working for those rights and causes. But those Christians are not the ones trumpeting their ownership of America.

White evangelical demographic trends

Fred has a very interesting post on evangelical trends, and it turns out that the numbers of white evangelicals have remained relatively constant over the last several decades. Meaning, as Fred notes, that for all the talk of evangelism, they haven't actually added to their numbers that much. Some of that, undoubtedly, has to do with people like me going out the back door, but the rest have to do with broader demographic changes.

This is interesting to me on several points. First, it suggests that my concerns with the evangelical church are not completely out in left field. I believe without much doubt that the evangelical church has become a defensive institution that cannot tell the difference between their sense of American history and their sense of their evangelical theology. Nothing speaks to that more than the evangelical support for torture. If anyone can honestly defend that as a practice consistent with the teachings of Christ, I will eat my words.

Second, I am concerned about the upcoming election. Recent polls show that Republicans have a huge lead in enthusiasm about the upcoming election. That scares me because so much of that enthusiasm is framed in outright factual errors and unbelievable racism. If you really think that the healthcare bill is a stepping stone to Hitler's version of America--then you are deluded. Absolutely batshit crazy. Having no basis in reality. Same if you look back at Bush's mismanagement of the economy (and everything else) and say that you "miss" him. Seriously. Disagree with Obama all you want. There are reasoned ways to do that. But not with Hitler and Bush.

But this demographic study suggests that Republicans are going to continue to struggle. They may do well in November. The off party usually does. And there is no doubt that the Tea Party idiots and Glenn Beck have poisoned the well with a lot of irrational anger. But the numbers suggest that this will not constitute a trend toward conservatism. Those angry white tea partiers are losing ground. Which is probably why they are angry, of course.


July 3, 2010

My distrust of July 4th

I love this country. I really do. I have spent the better part of my adult life studying the complexity that is American history--and feel that I have just a bit of understanding. So much more to learn. Out of that, I have a greater appreciation for the brilliance of the Constitution and the Republican (not, of course, to be confused with the GOP) approach to governing. Those ideas of res publica and concern for the public good and an informed citizenry still amaze me.

Likewise I am always in wonder that such a flawed government built by flawed men who refused to grant equality to any one of color or any woman. Yet, in the course of human events, that same government, and that same founding document has allowed for some search for equality and justice.

But I deeply distrust flag waving. It is the easiest and least legitimate form of patriotism. Samuel Johnson, I believe, is the one who said that "patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel." So easy to proclaim that you love America and that God favors your view of America. Harder to extend freedom to those you dislike. Harder still to trust the system rather than stoop to torture or war out of fear.

I will celebrate our country tomorrow. I will remember the bravery it took for men to sign that document knowing it meant their death if they lost. I will remember their thought to the excesses of power and of passion. I will remember their failings. And I will remember that in the name of this country, we have done much good. We have freed and rescued; we have supported and defended; and we have stopped horrors. But in that same name, we have exploited and abused; abetted tyrants and dictators; invaded and tortured.

That flag means a lot to me too. But it should mean more than a t-shirt, bumper sticker, or mattress sale. And it should mean that we actually do hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and women) are created equal. Even when they live in another country.

July 1, 2010

Can you vote for Republicans but still oppose torture and other insanities?

I am really asking here. Help me out, people.

Of course, when I was a Republican (back in the 1980s), I would have thought that was a no-brainer. I would have thought that in the 90s as well, even as I moved to the other side. Hell, I would have thought so even as late as 2004. I genuinely thought that most Republicans were simply fooled by Bush (as was I, really) and even with the ineptitude of the first Bush administration, I could see how they could vote for Republicans. Most of my friends, I think, were simply convinced that Republicans could not be this bad. They just could not. Most of them thought that Rush Limbaugh was a tool, and even didn't like the religious right leadership of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. They were reasonable people.

I am beginning to question that now. I have watched as the Republican base endorses and even embraces torture. George Bush openly brags about water boarding KSM and says he would do it again. I heard no Republicans say anything about that, and on the other hand, have heard them accuse Democrats of exposing us to more harm if we don't torture people when we get the chance. Republican candidates get cheered when they assure their base that they will be tough on terrorists and expand Gitmo.

I have a friend who believes that voting for Republicans does not mean, in any way, that he agrees with their stance on torture. He points out that surely I don't agree with everything that every Democrat votes for and supports. On that note, I agree with him--strange bedfellows and all of that. But I wonder if there is a limit to that. At times, for example, I am uncomfortable with the Democrats approach on hate crimes, or even some of their take on taxation. I did not agree totally with those who wanted and want us to just get out of Afghanistan. But ultimately, I can see their point on all of those issues, and even when I don't agree, I understand that reasonable people can disagree. Hell, there are still points with the Republican party where I stand in that same place.

But I don't see how torture fits in there. It isn't just another policy decision. It is a war crime and an atrocity. It is a crime against humanity. It is an act of evil. I don't see how rational people look at that, shrug, and still vote for a party that embraces and cheers that act. I don't get it.

Am I being unreasonable there?