December 29, 2010

What do Republicans value? Who do they represent? And have they lost their minds?

An ongoing question that still needs an answer. From what I can tell of the modern GOP, they represent the rich and the powerful, period. They talk about fiscal responsibility, but have no problem exploding the deficit for tax cuts for the rich. They do have a problem paying for things that, you know, normal people might actually need. Healthcare. Food safety. Environmental protection.

In the latest of the "where the fuck is the conservative mind," I bring you this little story of a Republican who just last year said that global warming was a danger for the US, but now is more interested in holding hearings on climate scientists and their emails and has no interest in actually doing anything about climate change. My favorite part was that the Tea Party idiots didn't want him on the committee because he had expressed support for efficient light bulbs.

Seriously. How fucked up is your party when supporting more efficient light bulbs is a problem?

December 28, 2010

The ongoing American Civil War

Next year is the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War. Which is all fine and good. But this war seems to have never ended. I am sure all of you have heard that South Carolina southerners are already trying to sell the good old Lost Cause before the celebrations begin.

For those unfamiliar, the Lost Cause began right after the war ended. It goes essentially as follows: 1) the war wasn't over slavery. In fact, in the earliest tellings of the Lost Cause, the slaves actually preferred to be slaves and were deeply protective of their masters. Most today don't suggest that. They say that slavery was wrong, but that the south didn't fight over slavery. Or at least, over slavery alone. 2) Built on that last point, Southerners fought for honor and family, not for slavery. After all, most who took up arms for the Confederacy didn't own slaves. 3) They never had a chance to actually win. They were always out-manned and out-gunned, and it was a miracle that they accomplished what they did.

One other key point of this mythology is that Confederates saw themselves as fighting in the same spirit as the American Revolution. They were fighting for their "freedom."

I am no military historian, but I am not convinced that the South couldn't win. They came damn close. They certainly had some of the best trained generals Americans had at the time--many of whom learned their brutality and skill in the Mexican war (which included massacres of Mexican soldiers fleeing battle).

But I am as convinced as I can be that the South fought over slavery. Their secession documents say it explicitly. They scream that they are leaving the union because the North wants to take away slavery. They say that Thomas Jefferson was wrong--as were any critics of slavery. They affirm absolutely the morality of slavery and their right to do that. That was their freedom.

I kind of get those guys. They were immersed in a culture of white supremacy mixed with an underlying fear of slave rebellion. You can see that in the responses to any kind of uprising. It is total warfare and total destruction. Those slaves who dare to rebel are killed and burned and dismembered. There is fear and rage there. South Carolina, where most of this stuff comes from, was a majority black state.

So I get those guys. The very idea that slavery could be wrong would make them monstors. But I don't get the modern defenders. Or I have a hard time with it. I tire of the "south as victim" lament. Enough. The south was more wedded to their slaves than they were the American Revolution, and the North knew it. They could not make slavery an issue in the 1760s or the South would side with England. Think of that the next time you hear a Southerner waving the flag. Either one.

One clue to this stance came last week during a very thoughtful conversation with a friend about how good people can do bad things. This friend noted an ex who had cheated in their relationship, but could never accept responsibility. It violated, according to my friend, how the ex saw themselves and their morality. Cheating simply didn't match their view of themselves.

Sullivan notes a reader's response on the Haley Barbour story that goes right in hand with that, arguing that it is a tribal instinct to not see your tribe as capable of that kind of evil.

What saddens me at both the personal and the national level is that this kind of psychological denial simply keeps people from health. It keeps the cheating spouse from ever coming to grips with their moral failing and moving beyond it. And it keeps so many in our nation from ever coming to grips with the evil of our past. It doesn't have to be that way. Acknowledging the past fully without "but" is a good way to make the past relevant only to historians and buffs.

Post Christmas blues

I have a lot of things to be grateful this Christmas, but have to say that I have felt like crap since Christmas day. Today, whatever I had then turned into a sinus infection complete with a touch of conjunctivitis. Blerg.

But in the meantime, I have been watching the blogs and reading the news. Some of it has been positive, from my perspective, but there are some really amazingly troubling things coming up. Republicans are set to take over the house in January, and their list of goals and pronouncements are just hard to believe. After watching the banks explode our economy with recklessness, the incoming chair of the Financial Services committee said that his view was that Washington regulators were "here to serve the banks" rather than regulate them. Seriously. And that isn't all. Republicans are lining up to defund food safety, regulatory reform, and health care. Please tell me who they serve?

The new incoming chair of a committee on science and technology says that watching the oil bubble out of the BP well exhilarated him.


They have already killed tax hikes on the rich, and are actually making rules in the House that allow them to increase the deficit through tax cuts, but not through spending. You know, for healthcare, or food safety, or keeping the banks from just gambling with your money. The rich, after all, will do very well under Republican leadership. They already are.

I get some of this. I get the idea that capitalism rewards risk and that we believe that people should work hard. I get that. I get opposition to giving people handouts. I get that.

What I don't get is how hard conservatives work to make things harder on the poor and the working class. Look at the entire payday loan industry, which makes corporations millions off the people who can least afford it. I love how my religious conservative colleagues can get up in arms about lotteries and casinos that, they say, exploit the poor, but I have never seen them say the same thing about payday loans, or laws that make it harder to get out of bankruptcy.

No, money is for those who have it. Those who don't, in the conservative model, are simply on their own. After all, if they don't have money, then they must not deserve it. Fred, at Slactivist catches this story about people evicted from their mobile home park, and who can't afford to move the trailer. But the rich see that as an opportunity.

I get that from soul-less and greedy assholes. I really do. They are like the people who sell crack to kids. They don't care. What I don't get is how many Christian conservatives seem to celebrate (at worst) or tolerate (at best) policies that clearly make life harder on those who are already struggling, and make things easier for those who already have all they need. If someone can explain to me how that comes even close to representing anything remotely Christian, I would really like to hear it. It certainly violates everything I was raised to believe, but also certainly represents mainstream Republican beliefs.


December 23, 2010

Why do Americans claim to be more religious than they are?

A quick post from the most interesting thing I read today. Turns out, according to a couple of studies, that Americans are not quite as religious as they say. This article suggests that Americans are loathe to even think that they might not be religious just in the same way they would not see themselves as unpatriotic or even as "good." So they lie and say they go to church more than they actually do.

Couple of quick thoughts. This might explain why Republicans are so adept at playing on those moral issues. They speak, at least in part, to people who deeply want to see themselves as "moral values" or "family values" voters even if they really are not. Second, obviously, I know an awful lot of people who actually do attend church. I know they aren't lying. But, as the article suggests, if the numbers of Americans attending church were accurate, we would have more churches and more growing churches.

My favorite quote came at the end:
Whatever the reason for the disparity, here's the bottom line: For many Americans, church attendance is a central part of their lives. For others, it's a waste of time. If you're in either of these groups, more power to you. But in the spirit of Christmas and the truthteller whose message we celebrate, surely believers and atheists can agree on what to tell folks who talk Jesus but walk Santa: Enough with the two-faced posturing.
Kind of sums it up.

December 18, 2010

Senate votes to repeal 'don't ask, don't tell"

This is long overdue.

I am also reminded that while the left often gets angry at Obama, we should consider what he has accomplished. Healthcare (pending Republican defunding, of course), banking reform, stimulus that most believed saved the economy from much worse damage, and now an end to discrimination against gays in the military.

December 17, 2010

Keeping the Christ in Christmas--by being a jerk

While admittedly muted this year, the annual ritual of Christian conservatives bitching about people saying Happy Holidays just annoys the crap out of me. Nothing could be more about purely invented outrage than this nothing issue. This is just about Christians wanting to be treated as the dominant culture, rather than remembering the actual meaning of their faith. You know, turning the other cheek, and demonstrating love for man kind?

No, as Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress decided, Christmas should be about attacking anyone who dares to not mention Christmas.
"Jeffress came up with the website,, because he wanted to make a point about keeping Christ in Christmas. allows people to create their own lists of businesses that promote the Christ in Christmas and shame those who don't.
Right, because nothing says Christmas more than someone being forced to celebrate Christmas. The real meaning of Christmas, evidently, is to be able to consume, consume, consume, and do so in the name of Christ.

And let's not forget the things that don't offend these Christians. No movement from Jeffress to oppose torture, or express outrage that Christians endorse torture. No movement to make sure that the working poor can actually celebrate Christmas, or stop the tax breaks for the wealthiest of the wealthy. No outrage that our Congress is taking pride in stopping climate change legislation.

Nope. Outrage that someone from Barnes & Noble doesn't say "Merry Christmas." Talk about lightweight. Talk about trivial. Talk about meaningless.

Nice job turning Christmas into a battle ground. I am sure Jesus is proud that you took this holiday and turned it into a time to shame others.

Jesus was a liberal Democrat

Troll bait, I realize, but just too funny to pass up. Actually, I misspoke. This one is not particularly funny as it is much too close to the truth. I love the Bill O'Reilly part where he suggests that Jesus had conditions for charity, or even where he implies that he said "helps those who help themselves."

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Jesus Is a Liberal Democrat
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>March to Keep Fear Alive

Music video of the day (f-bomb warning)

Love this song. Yeah, and not just because of the f-bomb in the chorus (which I can't stop singing, btw), but because of the overall sound. One of my favorite albums of the year.

December 14, 2010


I read this morning that the judge who ruled the mandate unconstitutional has a stake in lobbying firms who opposed the bill? Seriously? why is it that Republicans can get away with politicizing the law so easily? Trust me, had this gone the other way and the judge been associated with a pro-healthcare bill firm, Fox would have exploded.

Oh, and I am reminded that Republicans killed a bill that would have provided healthcare for 9-11 responders--who, in many cases, have some pretty unique healthcare needs. Why is it that these fuckers can use 9-11 to promote their bigotry against Muslims, or justify more war, or to demonize Democrats as unpatriotic, but they can't be bothered to take care of the responders?

I realize there are serious and reasonable Republicans. But I don't see a one in their leadership. Not one. I see people who look at the deficit and still want to cut taxes. People who's only concern is that wealthy people have more money.

And the fact that supposedly moral people back these idiots is disheartening. To put it mildly.

Starve the beast

Even though clearly that doesn't work. Don't ever buy this as fiscal responsibility. It is the opposite.

Tax deal passes Senate test vote - The Boston Globe: "But the Senate’s minority leader, Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, said in a floor speech that the compromise was an essential first step toward addressing the nation’s deficit, by “cutting off the spigot’’ of tax income to the federal government to force Congress to make spending cuts."

Federal judge in Va. strikes down part of health-care law

I am sure you all saw this.

Couple points. A) I love how Republicans are cheering that ruling as if it is the only one on the ACA and the mandate. Two other judges have ruled it constitutional.

B) I really hate how conservatives claim to own the Constitution. That is how Virginia AG Cuccinelli framed it in his victory speech, "This is a victory for the constitution," or words to that effect. Like Palin's assumption that she represents real America, or every Republican's belief that they are more patriotic than Democrats, I find it annoying that they think that they alone value the Constitution.

C) The judge and Cuccinelli can't be more wrong here. When they say that people who don't buy insurance are "not engaging in commerce," they are wrong. They would be right if that decision had no impact on the rest of us. If someone decides to not buy car insurance, because they have no car, that is inaction. That is not buying something, and that has no impact on me. But if my neighbor refuses to buy insurance, then ends up in the ER with a collapsed lung, someone will have to pay for that.

I am seriously not sure how conservatives miss that.

December 13, 2010

Interesting post on the SPLC's decision to add the Family Research Council to the hate group list

And I post this with reservations, since I know this is the kind of thing that brings out the trolls. But there is some good stuff here, and some good challenges to those who are not supportive of gay rights.

The Ten Lies about the GLBT Community Told by Conservative Hate Groups: a Straight Christian Perspective | Canyonwalker Connections

Because we have not talked about evolution in a bit

I point to this post from slacktivist about Al Mohler and the weird way in which evolution is a "belief" system. And I also loved this from the comments:
"The simplest argument to make, I have found, is to use the Seasonal Flu Shot test. When I'm confronted by Christians who insist that to embrace evolution is to deny God, I ask if their Christian beliefs permit them to be vaccinated every year against the flu. Nearly always I receive a 'yes'. At which point I explain that if evolution is false, flu shots cannot work. Seasonal flu shots are evolution in a very simplified, quick-action form, but what makes them work (and each season's new, modified shots effective) is based in evolution. If evolution is false, then flu shots are false. Furthermore, GETTING flu shots is to deny Christ.

But I don't know that I've actually changed anyone's mind about anything other than, 'Stop arguing theology and evolution with her.'"

The Onion on another bias against some students

In The Know: Are Tests Biased Against Students Who Don't Give A Shit?

December 10, 2010

Insight into Republican policies

No wonder they want to give tax breaks to the rich, and have very little concern for the working poor. According to Kate O'Beirne, parents of children who get their breakfast at school are criminally negligent:
"'If that’s how many parents are incapable of pulling together a bowl of cereal and a banana, then we have problems that are way bigger than -- that problem can’t be solved with a school breakfast, because we have parents who are just criminally ... criminally negligent with respect to raising children.'"

December 9, 2010

Actually, this is the return of the Red Scare

Nice article from Newsweek about the American Exceptionalism issue among the religious right and conservative right. Reading this through, one can hear the vestiges of McCarthyism, and I have to say I feel nervous. I certainly don't trust the so-called Christians on this. You would think that a people who claim a history of persecution would be sensitive to attacking others for their beliefs. Of course, that implies a historical memory, and the religious right has none. In their mind, this is their country.

SOF and I were talking the other night about the Southern Baptist conservative takeover during the 80s when conservatives purged seminaries and convention leadership of people they deemed too liberal. Both of us were changed during that, and our respect for this historic denomination went down. For me, it was the first time I was really told that I was no longer welcome in an organization where I had been raised. Oh, sure, I could stay. But I could not stay and question their assumptions. I couldn't stay and question their oppression of women. Nor their belief in inerrancy. I and other liberals were free to leave, because conservatives decided that the Southern Baptist Convention was theirs.

I wonder if I will be welcome in their America? I doubt it. Sarah Palin has made it quite clear, and Christine O'Donnell echoes that sentiment that they are Real America, not us liberals. I have heard it from distant relatives who told me that liberals were unAmerican, and who, while proclaiming their deep faith, choose to stop communicating with me because I was a liberal.

I find it odd that these same people have demanded that I be sufficiently patriotic. I have been criticized for refusing to raise an American flag over my house. I have been criticized for dissenting against conservative Presidents (dissenting against Obama is, of course, fine). This is their country, so they tell me, and I am free to go elsewhere if I don't like it.

No surprise to those reading here, I find their sense of patriotism arrogant. And I find their Christianity to be markedly lacking in, well, Christianity. If they are Christian, then I want nothing to do with that faith. I feel like Ghandi when he said, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians," since they were so unlike Christ.

As for patriotism, I seem to quote Samuel Johnson a lot, but watching Palin, Beck, and Bachmann--and then watching adult so-called Christians follow them--I am reminded that "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel."

December 8, 2010

Republican thugs

Yeah, I know that is shocking, coming from me. But this last deal over tax cuts just has me amazed. And yeah, I am annoyed with Obama. Not for compromising, but for the fact that he seems to start the negotiation after compromising. Then has to compromise from there.

Because the Republican leadership doesn't compromise. And this last deal demonstrates that they are absolutely lying when they say they care about the deficit. They don't give a shit about anything except making rich people richer. That's it. That is the secret.

Think about what they did. They looked at the prospect of continuing unemployment benefits to people struggling to pay bills, stay in houses, and, you know, put food on the table--and they said, you know what we can do here? Get richer.

So they took hostages, and would not release them unless the richest of the rich got their tax cuts. Don't possibly try to tell me that Republicans care about the working class. And don't even try to tell me that they care about the working poor. They only care about the wealthiest.

Thugs. Organized criminals.

And you know what? The Christian right will cheer them on. Today, I read a great article by our friend Greg on the "religious left" in Oklahoma. My favorite part was this story of a Norman minister who retired early over this craziness:
“Over the last several years, I have become so disillusioned about what is being pandered about as ‘Christian values,’ that I actually retired early,” he wrote, “because I did not think my congregation and others that I knew about were open to actually hear the ‘Christian message’ or even information about ‘basic human rights.’”

To make sure he “wasn’t going off the deep end,” the former minister said he re-read the prophets and the Old Testament.

“Their writings are seldom prophesies about the future,” he wrote. “Over and over, they use harsh language for the leaders and the wealthy because of their neglect of the poor, the widows, the orphans, the strangers.”

The retired pastor said the election pushed him “over the edge” this year.

“Millions in the U.S. and hundreds of thousands of people in Oklahoma have no health insurance, and the ‘Christian’ politicians brag about going to Washington to destroy the measly little progress which was made on health care this year,” he wrote."
Don't tell me the Christian right cares about the poor. In yet another story I read today, Michele Bachmann and her idiots in Congress wrote a letter to Obama complaining that he doesn't say "God" enough.

And then it hit me. Conservative Christianity is about shouting "Jesus" at the top of your lungs while you defend the powerful and well-heeled, and the torturers, and the polluters, and the abusers.

Elizabeth Edwards, RIP

God I just hated seeing that headline yesterday. I knew she had taken a turn for the worse, but didn't realize how bad.

But what a woman! What an amazing woman. And I have multiple fears about how she will be remembered in this culture.

First, as a victim. If anyone was not a victim in the face of tragedy, it was Elizabeth Edwards. Losing a teen child, breast cancer, and then a cheating husband--and I never saw a defeated person. She was out there talking about people and what mattered. I don't know that I can remember a braver person.

Second, much as I am afraid that Helen Keller is misremembered only for her handicapped status, Edwards will be remembered by those on the right as a tragic victim of breast cancer and proof that John Edwards was a fraud. They won't remember her tirelessly fighting for universal healthcare and her fight against poverty. She was not just some tragic story, she was a shaper of policy, and a reformer.

I grieve this morning because we lost a champion yesterday. And I can only imagine the pain for her children and those closest to her. But I think in awe about her strength and wonder if I have even a scintilla of it inside me.

RIP, Elizabeth Edwards. You will be missed.

December 6, 2010

A Streak Update

Realized that I have not written about our little guy and his condition for a while. The news has largely been good since he came back from the brink around Labor Day. We are in between chemo rounds right now, and kind of enjoying that. He gets pretty worn out on day 5 and 6 of each round. And there is little doubt that he is clearly an old dog now. Without proper rest he really struggles to move around well.

But even as I say that, this morning I took him out before heading out for school and he refused to come in because he was very, very interested in a tree rat (squirrel) running on top of the fence.

We tell him every day that we are in the bonus round. And we will enjoy that.

Prescient on Torture

I am looking back through the blog and discovered this post from 2004 where I quote from Kevin Drum on the possible phases of the torture story. Tell me that he was not absolutely on point:
"Phase 1: horrible, just horrible. Phase 2: yes, it's bad, but keep in mind that it's not as bad as Saddam. Phase 3: give it a rest, OK?"

American Exceptionalism and Wikileaks--some thoughts

I haven't had time to blog about the Wikileaks, but think that it has been a whole lot of "what else is new?" Who really thought that diplomats snipe about each other behind the scenes?

The only surprising thing, and it wasn't shocking, was the revelation that many of Iran's neighboring Muslim countries want the US or Israel to attack Iran. Makes me think that we are in danger of repeating the same mistake we made during the Cold War when we assumed that all countries calling themselves Communist were monolithically behind the Soviet Union. We know for sure that isn't the case. Why do we assume that all Muslim countries think alike? Or that all Muslims think alike? Or even that all Muslims who hate us think alike. We made a mistake (often) of making Communists our enemies even when they might have disliked the Soviets or the Chinese more than we did. I hope we don't make the same mistake with terrorism.

And this thing of American Exceptionalism is back in the news. Well, has been since the 2008 election. SOF noticed that Palin makes a point of bragging about how she believes in American Exceptionalism, and taking shots at Obama for supposedly not.

I can't help but wonder if we are talking about the same things here. Language is tricky. I really wonder if Sarah Palin brags about believing in American Exceptionalism simply because she believes that we are super good. This blog suggests that many very conservative homsechoolers see Exceptionalism as another way of saying that America is a Christian nation, or
"defined as the idea that America has a special place in God’s plan for history"
Others still see it as a critique of American arrogance, and that is certainly how I have used it in class. Indeed, as Michael Kinsley put it:
American exceptionalism—the belief that the rules of nature and humanity don’t apply to us—
So when we argue about American Exceptionalism, what do we mean? I seriously have doubts now about Palin's intelligence and would not be a bit surprised if she has no idea that there is an entire intellectual world out there that talks about these things. Nor does she care.

But it does seem to me that we might benefit from at least talking about the same definition if we are going to argue for or against.

December 2, 2010

Thursday rant--Republicans, climate change, DADT, and protect the rich

A rant I sent out to a few friends.


Saw this morning that the incoming Republican majority will cancel the panel on climate change. After all, why study something that isn't happening? And why isn't it happening? Because the Bible doesn't talk about climate change, but does say that God won't destroy the world through floods. Again.

But then again, who needs polar bears, right? Not when we can focus on the business at hand--protecting the unbelievably low tax rates of millionaires. Because the Republicans are for the average man. Unless he is in the lower middle class and has either seen his wages stagnate, savings disappear, and debt soar. Or if he has lost his job in this recession (that wasn't really that bad, and we shouldn't have done anything about it anyway). So he is trying to get a job in a crappy economy and trying to avoid bankruptcy or losing his house? No, more important to protect the low taxes of Rupert and his minions. Because taxes are evil. Duh.

In other news, of course, Republicans are standing on principle to sue the Government over the ACA. Because, as they know very well, people should have to earn access to healthcare. If they are too poor or too sick to get healthcare, fuck them. Oh, and we will keep the gays from serving openly. Not because conservatives hate gays. Or maybe.

In kentucky, using state tax support, they are planning to build an amusement park for Creationists. And here in Oklahoma, 70 percent voted against those evil Mooslims, and any of those "foreigners." Not that the Republican party has issues with bigotry. Oh no. And while our Governor-elect trotted out the dog whistle against her opponent that she might be gay. Didn't say that, of course, but hinted at it by calling attention to the fact that she has never married. And our family values Republican is on her second family--which I have no problem with, btw, but just wish that family values meant something other than a weapon to beat the shit out of Democrats. Republicans can cheat, divorce, adulterize, whatever. Hell, they can hire prostitutes and serve in the Senate.

Republicans can cheat on their wives, as long as it is not with another man.

It is enough to make me weep openly. But I think I will go look at pictures of polar bears while they still exist.

Nice--Republicans will just close the House panel on climate change

After all, no point in having a panel on a mythical event, or another example of how the GOP has become the bastion of anti-intellectualism.