December 30, 2011

Government spending in our lives

Ok, new project for this new year. As many of you know, my operating theory right now is that most anti-government sentiment comes from people who really don't know what government does and conceptualize that government spending as handouts to poor people--or alternatively, as boondoggle programs to build a gazebo in some rep's backyard.

 So, I would like to quantify, if one can quantify in more general terms, the role government plays in our life. I don't mean this as pure partisan exercise, btw. I certainly understand that some of those roles are subject to legitimate debate. Maybe government should not be spending money in these areas. We can talk about that. But for right now, I am looking for examples of government spending in community and individual lives.

 A few parameters for you to consider. I am not terribly interested in those singular moments of porkbarrel spending. The "bridge to nowhere" doesn't interest me nearly as much as the more annual matching funds that communities receive to upgrade their sewers, roads, or police radios. And while I am certainly interested in the safety net spending, I don't want to focus only on that. By all means, send me links to programs like the one Smitty posted a year or so back about a non-profit in Michigan that provides assistance to the disabled poor and receives federal money as a supplement. But I am also interested in programs that assist small businesses, or community development, or agricultural areas. I am interested in how federal science grants have rippled through our entire economy.

Or not. If you have examples of purely private money doing all of those things, I am open too.

So, please send me any examples you can think of. You can post them in the comments, or email them to my blog address.

December 28, 2011

Republicans on the mandate

As I have written before, the mandate makes more sense than any of the opposition to that part of the healthcare bill. We are all in the healthcare game, whether we purchase insurance or not. I don't get why that is such a radical idea.

And it isn't, of course. As even NPR noted this morning, both Romney and Gingrich used to support it. It was only after the appallingly cynical right wing effort to demonize the mandate that it became a political minefield. That is easy to do when you blatantly lie to the American people. As Romney is doing on a regular basis, as this example suggests:
Or, as Romney put it in an interview on MSNBC just last week, "personal responsibility is more conservative, in my view, than something being given out for free by government."
It is one thing when my idiot ex-girlfriend believes that healthcare reform means handing it out for free. She knows very little and obviously doesn't try to correct that. But when someone like Romney uses those words, he is a lying toad. Openly and blatantly lying.

Because they are more conservative than Christian

Becomes that much more clear after this horrible story about LifeWay breaking their commitment to fight breast cancer after they find that the Susan G Komen fund is connnected to Planned Parenthood.

I understand opposition to abortion. I really do. As I have told many conservative evangelicals, it is the one stance from the conservative church that really does make sense. But that opposition has taken an awful twist from principled stance to political rigidity. And, with so many of their stances, is based purely in theory and has little to no reflection of reality. All fine and good to oppose abortion, but when that opposition stops you from embracing legitimate concerns like the life of the mother or incest and rape, then you have lost touch. Nor when you support the right wing's extreme attacks on women's health. Redefine "rape?" Are you kidding me?

Most of the conservative evangelicals I speak to have this view of most policy. It should work, so that is enough. That applies to everything from capital punishment to abstinence only to tax cuts in the face of mounting debt.

I also think that it is increasingly clear that most conservatives don't realize how far to the right their reps have gone. That uninformed electorate is perfect for the Rove/Fox News set, as they can push for the most extreme legislation and trust that their base will assume that anything Republicans do is more moral than the Democrats.

I have had a few conservatives admit as much. Not that it will change anything, and not sure why they still think I should respect their moral sense. If it isn't openly supporting evil practices like torture, it is chosen ignorance about those practices. Which is worse?

December 26, 2011

Ron Paul's newsletters

Fred at slacktivist says it better than me, so go read it. But it is hard to accept that Paul made over a million dollars off these newsletters, bragged about them back in the 90s, but now says that he never read them and disavows their content. Reading the excerpts of these newsletters, you see what many have termed "old school racism." If Paul really don't believe this stuff, that almost makes it worse. That someone would profit off of hateful drivel like advising people to buy unlicensed guns and be prepared to wipe and dispose of them after they shoot an "urban youth?"

Indefensible. Racist. Hateful.

Though, as one of my twitter feeds noted, those who wrote the newsletters might actually get the nomination with the appeal of racism and bigotry in the Republican party.

I sure wish that was funny.

The poor 1%

Merry Christmas, everyone. Back to blogging about politics, I guess, but really I am most interested in the economics of conservatism--or what have become the economics of conservatism. One Huffpo columnist suggested that conservatives really want to make all of America into the Pottersville of "Its a Wonderful Life." Perhaps.

My interaction with conservatives over the last few years suggests that most Republican voters don't want that kind of community, but don't seem to see a connection between good community and an active government. Same could be said about the middle class. Those things just "happen" in conservative minds because of the "free market." Yet, I see no evidence that the "free market" would create anything of the sort. That kind of approach is good at creating very rich people and very poor people, but not terribly good at building a middle class. Also not good at doing things that are not profitable. You know, like giving us clean water and air, or building libraries and hospitals.

As I have said before, I think most of this has to do with conservative voters conceptualizing government programs as handouts to poor and lazy people. If, in fact, most of our federal dollars went that direction, I would understand the anger. But it doesn't. Food stamps, for example, constitute about 1% of combined state and federal budgets.

I just had an exchange with a stranger on a friend's facebook wall that basically reiterates the point. This person claims to pay over 400k in taxes, but has no sympathy for middle class people who are in over their heads in home ownership, or their kids who frequent malls and buy nice cars.

Government money that has helped me, if I acknowledge it at all, is justified because I work for it. Those who get handouts don't. Simple as that.

The Huffpo piece is on point with this. Republicans have successfully appealed to the "I've got mine," crowd who don't really care if others have the same opportunities. That short-sighted approach, however, will be our economic undoing.

December 24, 2011

Streak and Grace

As we close down the year and look back, it has been a bit of a rough one. SOF has worked far more than usual, and that has been hard on her. And me, but mostly her. Losing Streak was really hard. And it still is. SOF did a really nice post on Streak the other day. But we now have Grace.

We didn't want her at first. It just felt too soon after losing Streak. It felt disloyal, and disrespectful. But the woman who wanted us to have a dog didn't take "no" for an answer. She had two dogs--one for my parents and one for us. Finally, we decided that this needed to happen. 

Her name came from an odd source. One of my old high school friends (she and I had, I think, one very unsuccessful date at one point) looked at our puppy pictures on Facebook and said, "she looks like a 'Grace.'" SOF and my mother and I just looked at each other and nodded. It fit.

 I don't think I had thought about it much beyond that. The name seemed cute. But it has taken on more meaning as we have had her in our lives. As SOF said, it sure felt like Streak wanted this to happen. He was always connecting us to others, and I know he would have hated us being sad. We needed grace in every meaning of the word, and we didn't even know it.

We still miss Streak.  But we learned that we could love Grace at the same time.  She could make us smile at the same time we grieved our friend.

Today is Christmas Eve, and I am grateful for so many, many things:  my loving and supportive wife; my family members around the country, and my amazing and loyal friends.

But this Christmas, my big present under the tree is Grace.

December 2, 2011

Austerity to address depression economics?

I know I am no economist, but I am really wondering how Greek and English austerity is really going to help them recover? How does laying off government workers help an economy that is already shrinking? How does reducing the spending money of the people at the bottom help with that either? I ask, partially because I am watching the European crisis and wondering what will happen next, but also because austerity seems to be the GOP's model for recovery.

December 1, 2011

GOP's anti-government rhetoric has consequences

The right wing's vitriol against the government is not new, and probably goes back to the Whiskey rebellion, but the way that the GOP and Fox News/talk radio have decided to profit from this hatred is new. And destructive. And we see that repeatedly, but the GOP still traffics in bashing government and demeaning government workers. Hard for them to be surprised at every turn when people take that rhetoric to its logical conclusion and decide to kill someone.

Mugshots Of The Senior Citizen Militia Members Charged In Attack Plot | TPMMuckraker

November 30, 2011

If conservative Christians rally around Gingrich

They owe me, and every other Clinton supporter, a public apology. They need to confess openly that their "family values" hand-wringing was pure bullshit. They might further note that their "conservative" values outweigh their "Christian" values as they only care about "family values" about liberals.

Seriously. I can't quite remember all of the bs I heard from my conservative Christian friends, but it was a lot of "what will the children think" and "if he lies to his wife, how can we trust him?"

Of course, those same people didn't blink a goddamned eye when their "family values-evangelical" President drowned people. Nope. (Gingrich openly endorses waterboarding, btw).

If you think that Bill Clinton was morally incapable of being President for cheating on Hilary, then you can't possibly think that the serial-adulterer Gingrich should be able to visit the White House, much less run it. Not only did he cheat on his wives (that is plural) but he asked one of them to just look the other way while he cheated--and did that after returning from a public speech where he discussed the great moral decline in our nation.

If you think Bill was "Slick Willy," and you hated him, then you have no business even thinking of voting for this moral blight that is Newt Gingrich. Personally, I don't really care. I don't like him, and I certainly don't respect his mistreatment of women, but I am more disturbed by his racist and callous flogging of things like the Sharia law bullshit in order to get elected.

And less you think I am jumping to conclusions, as Fred notes in this angry post, Richard Land is already advising Gingrich on how to fool evangelicals into voting for him.

November 29, 2011

More on OWS and the response

Thinking about our conversation on police brutality and the OWS movement. As I noted in my comments to Steve, my concern with police brutality predates this latest bunch of clashes. The common (or it seems) use of tasers, pepper spray, and tear gas by police, combined with what Naomi Wolf has noted as gradual eroding of first amendment rights by limiting protests and permit options. And, as I noted in my comments, it seems that the harshest tactics are reserved for those leaning left, not those leaning right.

This afternoon, I heard an excellent discussion on Talk of the Nation that included an interview with the former Seattle police chief who ordered the use of tear gas in 1999--what they termed the "Battle in Seattle." When I heard the guest, I expected a defense of strong tactics, but was pleasantly surprised to hear Norm Stamper call that decision the worst of his 3 decade career. He sees a real tendency toward paramilitary tactics across the country.

Stamper made several good points, but one that I thought was really on point was that he sees police treating protesters like enemies. As he noted, police are working class individuals who will never make big money from serving the public. But while they have more in common with the 99%, they become a tool for the 1% and lose the realization that those protesting are fellow Americans. Unfortunately, I hear that same rhetoric from the right on this--almost as a continuation of Sarah Palin's "real America" theme.

One other OWS themed post came from our friend Greg in a very thoughtful essay comparing the OWS movement (in how certain groups have responded) to the Civil Rights movement. Then, as in now, evangelicals have largely sided with the status quo and labeled those in the movement as anarchists or insurgents opposing American values. But as he notes, and as Martin Marty also argued, this is, at least in part, a movement challenging opulence and vast wealth--things hardly compatible with the Gospel.
It is indefensible for people who worship a messiah who innocently suffered violence to support police efforts to batter and pepper spray peaceful protestors into compliance with a status quo that supports no one but people with more money than they will ever need, more than their grandchildren will ever need.

November 20, 2011

Something awfully wrong with this picture

And I note that we didn't pepper spray Tea Party idiots calling for armed revolution. We don't pepper spray anti-abortion protestors. And we don't pepper spray morons from Westboro Baptist church. Nor should we pepper spray any of these. They have a right to assemble and to their protected speech--even when it is hateful and bigoted. Anglican asked how to reconcile these images with the text of the First Amendment. Excellent question. When did protesting economic inequality become the last taboo? And as Fallows asks, how different is this from the fire hoses aimed at Civil Right's protestors?

November 16, 2011

No tax increases has consequences--like letting murderers go free

Heard this story (Cutbacks Have Some Courts Dismissing Criminal Cases | Here & Now) on the way home from teaching. I would like to be shocked, but am not. When conservatives decided that government was evil and that taxes were evil, they started us down the road of not being willing to pay for anything. This also reminds me that I am more than convinced that most people bitching about their taxes only think of government spending going to poor black women rather than paying for the infrastructure that makes society function.

Courts are laying off people, closing court rooms, letting accused criminals go--all because we refuse to pay for living in a civilized society. This kind of story makes me want to find Grover Norquist and punch him in his stupid face. Followed by every Tea Party idiot who ever bitched about being "taxed enough already."


November 13, 2011

Hmm. God must like torture

After all, he told Cain, Bachmann and Perry to run for President and all three of them defend the use of torture.

This guy connects all of this with the Penn State tragedy and blames it on a generational loss of leadership. There is something there. I know that something happened in the conservative church, and possibly in more than just the conservative ones. When the most vocal Christians in the race are the most vocal for torture? Up is down.

November 11, 2011

The sickness at Penn State

Everyone seems to be trying to explain or understand what happened at Penn State. Sure, there is the unbelievable evil of Jerry Sandusky raping young boys over (at least) a 20 year period. I would never minimize that, but we have had pedophiles before, and will (unfortunately) again.

The question that haunts me is how he could continue to do this behavior after discovery. How do good people, in other words, allow this evil to occur? Nicole Rodgers suggests that it is a product of the good old boys club, and I think there is much to that.

But I also wonder if this is not about paternalism and deference gone awry. The more I read about PSU, the more I see that Joe Paterno had a pretty unique situation there--one he had, in large part, created. Successful coaches are powerful elsewhere, but Paterno seemed to have cultivated even more power on the campus--and largely through means that we would all celebrate. Many credit him with transforming Penn State's academic prowess from an ag school into a intellectual powerhouse. One reporter suggested that Paterno had enough power to remove a university president.

In fact, what I read reminds me of a mob boss (bear with me), though with a key difference. Actually two key differences, because I have yet to actually read of Paterno abusing people. On the contrary, the stories of his leadership (prior to this scandal) are legendary.

What I mean by mob boss is that he had created the environment where everyone on campus sought his approval. (One key difference is that I have also yet to read of real credible efforts to overthrow Paterno. Everyone there seemed to both admire the man, and recognize that his name was synonymous with the brand. Some other coach, in other words, could not replace him.)

That need for approval, or intense deference, was built on the understanding that Joe Pa would take care of them. It is that context, I think that might (might) explain the grad assistant's response. He witnessed Sandusky raping a child, and instead of interceding himself or calling the cops, he spoke with his father and only the next day told Joe Paterno. It is conceivable that Mike McQueary saw the situation in the context of not wanting to disappoint Paterno. (Not an excuse, mind you, but possibly how he saw the situation). He might have thought (and I suspect if any of this is true, this is in the subconscious) that going after Sandusky could possibly alienate him with Paterno. So, he deliberates and then decides to tell the boss what he knows.

Paterno, for his part, turned the information over to his AG. If I am correct, however, instead of giving it to his boss (perhaps on paper), Paterno was delegating to a subordinate, who could also fear upsetting the boss. The message might have been clearly unspoken--take care of this, but don't upset the program (and "program"="Joe Paterno").

I am speculating on most of this, but have observed this deferential behavior in myself in dealing with perceived betters, and observed it often when working in an organization. And I am not suggesting that Paterno is malevolent. I am suggesting that the unintended consequence of the "cult of the personality" of Paterno created a very unhealthy organization. And I would suggest that this disfunction occurs in many, many organization. Most, however, don't have these stakes.

I would like to know more about how things operated in Penn State when the stakes were lower. Did assistants and grad assistants do the equivalent of "whistle-blowing" on other problems? How did Joe Pa deal with people who screwed up? Where there people who were "untouchable?"

None of this excuses any of them for not picking up the phone and calling the cops. But a possible way of examining how people operate in this kind of organizational structure.

David Brooks knows nothing about beer

And man is he wrong. Could not be more wrong. In a clever, but I think superficial column on inequality in America, he notes which kinds of inequality are acceptable and which ones are not. But on beer he says this:
Beer inequality is on the way down. There used to be a high status difference between microbrews and regular old Budweiser. In academic jargon, beer had a high Gini Coefficient. But as microbrews went mainstream, these status differences diminished.

Just goes to prove that David Brooks knows nothing about beer or beer snobs.

November 10, 2011

Update--and thoughts

I met with my therapist yesterday.  I have seen him before and found him to be as I remembered--thoughtful, engaged, and intelligent.  He suggested that my malaise was based in the fact that I felt that my intellectual and professional contributions were not valued, and probably that I was grieving the fact that some of my professional dreams not only hadn't happened, but probably would not.

He gave me some suggestions for ways to both think about my work now, and to also find other ways to "fill my bucket" outside work.  Probably something a lot of people struggle with.

---------------

I have been struck, btw, by how my conservative Christian friends on FB are more likely to dismiss the OWS movement as a bunch of whiners.  One had a comment (by someone I didn't know) who suggested that the entire movement was caused by ACORN.  Wow.

How did conservative Christianity become the defensive bulwark for the wealthy?

-------------

Watched the coverage of the Penn State story last night.  There is absolutely nothing good about this story of abuse and pedophilia and institutional failure.  But it amazed me to hear the students chanting for Paterno to be able to coach the remainder of the season.  As if football matters in this context?

But to be fair, and Chris Fowler made this very point (which makes me wonder if he won't get in trouble), Penn State did this as a PR move to stop the bleeding and change the narrative.  They did it to protect the brand and to protect the institution's financial situation.

Once we turned universities from institutions of education into commercial ventures, we created this kind of idiocy.  

November 8, 2011

Christian values

Old news to regular readers, but it never ceases to amaze me when right wingers talk about faith while cheering on behaviors that are clearly antithetical to their professed beliefs. I haven't respected this man for a long time, so it came as no surprise to see him spouting a lot of bullshit about what will happen if Americans stop remembering the lessons from "scripture." (God Will Stop Blessing America If We Don't Vote Right In 2012 | Right Wing Watch).

Sigh.

I remember writing this post back in 2006 when James Dobson interviewed Ann Coulter and made fun of both liberals and the idea of torture. I even called the show to express my horror.

Sigh.

I know that Leighton usually reminds me that this should be expected in this tribal version of Christianity. It still just makes me incredibly sad, because I grew up in a context where Dobson was considered a wise man. To hear him talk about Obama, and liberals and torture that way--even after all I know about him--is jarring. To know that people listen to him still just makes me sadder.

November 5, 2011

Does God approve of bullying gays?

My disgust for religious conservatives grows. I used to respect them for their moral clarity, even as I disagreed with them on certain points. I disagreed with their opposition to gay rights, but understood those to be in some kind of keeping with their reading of the Bible. I disagreed with their opposition to abortion rights, but absolutely understood their concern for the unborn.

That was before religious conservatives openly defended torture, and now defend attacks on the poor and the disabled. That was before conservative Christians pushed for laws making poor women fear that a miscarriage could result in their arrest. And that was well before this gem from Michigan, where a law outlawing school bullying actually includes a loophole for "sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction."

Yeah, read that again. In the world of religious conservatives, gays should be bullied, because they shouldn't be gay, period. Those kids who commit suicide do so because they are gay, not because self-righteous right wingers demonize them in public, and call for their public shame.

There is no world where this makes sense, and there is absolutely no world where people who supposedly worship Jesus can support this. None. This is not a gray area. This is the sanctioning of psychologically hectoring and demonizing people who struggle deeply with their identity, self-worth, and sexual understanding already. And people with Bibles in their homes, and drawers, and on Ipads and phones want them not to be helped, but harmed.

Perhaps I should not be surprised. My FB friend from last week believes in a God who doesn't mind innocents dying or torture when they are the "others." How the fuck to you read the NT and believe in that God? Seriously? All I can picture is that shepherd leaving the 99 to go find that one lost sheep, and these people think that same God smokes in the corner while people are waterboarded, or cheers from the back as some gay kid is called names on the schoolyard. Or nods grimly when that kid's death is blamed not on the bullies, or the lack of support from the community, but on the kid himself.

I know that isn't Christianity, but far too many conservatives have lost their freaking minds. Far too many people who should know better allow the logic of the bully to win over the concern for the Samaritan by the road side.

Christianity has been hijacked by people who hate the poor, love the rich, embrace violence and torture, and make fun of peace and actual compassion. And that is just horribly sad.

November 3, 2011

My rant and the continuing conversation about torture

I have been pondering the responses to my fall funk, and have received several through email and phone. I appreciate that very much. I hope that those inside the "cult" understand that my post was not a criticism of them, but also understand that if I were one of those invited in, I would probably defend it. I am not sure how else I would respond. Leighton's comment about it being ok to not make it in my profession is a good one. I think the difficult thing is that all of the people close to me who have made it are very qualified, and probably smarter than me, the difficulty is that I have known people who made it despite being less than impressive. Perhaps we file that under the "life isn't fair" category, but it is a reality. Like I said, CIL, and Ubub have both made it into the inner circle, and their intelligence and work ethic is beyond reproach. But there have been others who make not making it all that much more difficult. On that note, btw, I have an appointment for next week with my therapist, and will see how that goes. Perhaps I can gain some clarity on this funk. On the other note, however, let me say that I have had a recent exchange with a FB friend about torture and evangelical ethics that made me blanche. This is a guy who served as somewhat of a mentor to me during my late high school and early college years. I framed the torture question to him, and he said this:
As far as torture and killing there will always be innocents that become victims. If you look at the old testament accounts of God's people going into battle for the sake of His future kingdom, and at His command there were thousands killed then. I'm not saying Bush was God and should have done those things but the precept being that the future in both cases justifies the means. So maybe that doesn't ring true with other conservatives but that's me.
Again, Leighton's comment about religious justification comes to mind, but this one was more chilling than any of the others. Most of the evangelicals I have talked to about torture have hemmed and hawed about it, but ultimately agree that it is evil. The only one who has just denounced it as evil and wrong was Tony. Every other conservative evangelical has tried to find some way to explain it. This guy, however, just said openly that it was ultimately tolerable because we are on God's side. That depresses me deeply. As I noted back to him, if that is how evangelicals respond to torture, then there really is no such thing as a Christian ethic. After all, we are all pretty good at treating our friends relatively well. This is not an attack on Christianity (though my FB friend assumed as much--which says a lot about assumptions of Christianity equalling conservatism, and any criticism of conservative policy was ergo an attack on Christianity). I cling to my faith, though not easily. But it is an attack on the assumption that Christians can somehow magically understand moral issues absent some broader dialogue. I have no idea what God says to people, but it obviously not very clear to most conservative evangelicals that their "conservative" approach is not the same as their supposed "Christian" one. After all, if those conservatives can't figure out that torture is evil, I have little faith that they can make sense of less obvious moral questions. And that makes me sad.

November 2, 2011

Fall rant

No, my funk has not improved. And yes, I have called a therapist. Now I just have to wait for him to call me back.

But this for the morning rant--saw that the US House spent all yesterday debating and passing a resolution affirming the national motto (since 1956) "In God We Trust."

I would be as impressed with this as my conservative evangelical friends except that these same people love torture and did nothing to stop it. They love rich people and have done everything they can to make sure that the rich are never asked to sacrifice anything. They love guns, and at the state level are reducing regulations left and right to make sure that we have more guns in public.

And these same fuckers are cutting aid for the disabled poor! What in the holy hell is going on here? What possible fucking world makes sense where people of faith cut funding for people who need assistance to live in their own homes? Or to get to jobs? Or to simply make it through the day. What distorted vision of Jesus Christ makes that possible?

My faith hangs by a thread. I struggle each and every day to believe that God is somehow in the heavens watching this mess. And the people who should "Jesus" at every opportunity make life harder for the disabled, the poor, children and the elderly--and yet have the balls to make a public pronouncement about "In God We Trust."

Perhaps it should read: "You people have to trust in God, because we will do absolutely nothing to help you."

October 31, 2011

Fall funk

Or at least that is what I am calling this. I love this time of year, but it is always hard on me. The shorter days and the cooler weather are, perhaps, a bad mix for a brooding personality.

I have also been having a recurring dream that is getting on my nerves. I really believe myself to be incredibly fortunate. I have good health, a good marriage and friends and family who love me. SOF and I live a relatively simple life and are able to afford the things we really enjoy.

But my recurring dream is always about not making it as an academic. Yes, I teach college every semester, and I mold young minds (hah), but I do so as one of the migrant workers of higher ed. As an adjunct, I teach contract by contract, semester by semester. I am scheduled for next semester, but nothing has been signed, for example. Higher ed isn't what we imagine. It is more about revenue than teaching, and that makes it hard on those who teach. And even harder on those who teach as adjuncts.

Part of the difficulty is relating to tenured faculty. My friend M refers to academia as a cult, and notes that when those in the cult look at those outside the cult with a puzzled face--why are you not inside with us? Can't tell you how many times I have experienced that. People who landed a job right out of grad school look at people like me, and probably think there is something wrong with me. I can't be that good or else I would have landed as they did. I also have more than one friend inside who is painfully aware of the capricious nature of academic jobs. But even some of those lose that awareness the longer they are inside. They become consumed with the stuff that people talk about--committees, tenure, grad students, the bad administration, etc. And they talk about those things as if they are givens.

But those of us outside the cult wonder. Maybe it is because, ultimately, I wasn't good enough. I don't know. And maybe that is the recurring dream--the fear that ultimately, I wasn't good enough to make it.

I am going to call a therapist tomorrow and see what we can do with this.

October 27, 2011

Chris Thile and Yo Yo Ma

And Aoife O'Donovan from Crooked Still and a few other fine musicians doing a beautiful number on Leno. Check it.

Income inequality

If the Tea Party changed the dialogue on cutting the deficit, the OWS people have done the same for income inequality. And with each new study, we see that income gap just widening and widening. It is really disgusting to see that the top 1% has seen their income go up by nearly 300% while the rest of us have barely seen movement, or have seen negative movement.

The difference between the left and right is that most people on the left actually care about the deficit too. We don't want to slash spending right now, and we absolutely want to raise taxes, but we want those deficits to come down too.

The right, however, doesn't care that a small plutocracy is forming with people with immense power and influence at the top. And they sure as hell don't care that people at the bottom are suffering. For any Republican, who votes with Paul Ryan and Ron Paul, to suggest otherwise is an exercise in self-deception.

October 26, 2011

Tea Partiers carrying guns--perfectly fine. OWS protesting banks? Tear gas time.

Saw that OWS protesters have been arrested in huge numbers. Have seen reports of disabled people, children and veterans attacked by cops.

Perhaps some of them were being disrespectful, I don't know. I know that Naomi Wolf says she was arrested for walking on a public sidewalk. And I know that the Tea Party used to shout epithets at congressmen and people in wheelchairs wanting healthcare. I know they openly carried weapons and waved signs threatening violence against the state. And I don't recall one instance of Tea Party rallies experiencing rubber bullets or tear gas. What is more, Fox News promoted these events, and sent their personalities to appear a them. NPR just fired someone for attending an OWS event.

Don't tell me the left and right are the same in this country. Just don't.

October 10, 2011

Anne Graham Lotz

Heard this interview on NPR and it speaks to everything that bugs me about evangelical Christianity.

She has no sense that her brother Franklin has operated as a religious and political hack. But worse, she claims that all of them--her brother, her dad, and herself, have all just followed what God wanted them to do. So God wanted Franklin to question Obama's Christianity, blame the Japanese Tsunami on God, and suggest that Obama had allowed Islamic extremists to infiltrate our government? Hmm.

It is amazing. In that circle, God's will is whatever you want it to be. It is almost always what the person claiming it believes, personally, and almost always a reflection of their own personal world-view. But never is God called to account when Brother Franklin goes off the rails and acts like an ass. Never.

If anyone wants a reason why evangelical Christianity leaves me cold, this is as good as any.

October 7, 2011

Palin: Already Almost Forgotten

While this was hardly news, nor surprising, the former half-time Alaska Governor bowed out of the 2012 race. Few thought she would really run--mostly because she has made a career out of being famous, not being good at governing. And, as any of her statements show, she has no interest in policy. No, she is, like Huckabee, adept at exploiting her base for money, while never seriously wanting to do anything for the country.

Her announcement was bizarre--a presser read by Mark Levine while Sarah Palin was on the phone with his show. Weird. Then later, she told Greta that she didn't want to make a big deal about her announcement like that of Chris Christie. She is a piece of work, that is for sure.

David Frum routinely annoys me, and has since he bragged about coining the "axis of evil" phrase for Bush. But he is a rarity these days--a semi-rational Republican, and he has perhaps the best takedown of Palin I have read:
Sarah Palin was the ultimate taker. She abandoned her post as governor of Alaska to cash in on lectures and TV. She squeezed her supporters for political donations and spent the money on herself. To adapt an old phrase, she seen her opportunities and she took ‘em.

In the end, she exploited, abused, or embarrassed almost everyone who had believed in her. Most embarrassing of all: she was never even a very good con artist. Everything that was false and petty and unqualified in her was visible within the first minutes of encountering her. The people she fooled were people who passionately wished to be fooled.
Ouch. Not only about Palin, but about those who cheered her and told me how they loved her values.

October 6, 2011

Conservative Christian bullshit about poverty

Sorry. But I have to call it like it is. I have had two or three conservative Christians trot this argument out as if it is a game changer. The argument goes as follows: "Jesus wasn't concerned with changing the world as much as he was changing the hearts and minds of the people. Feeding the poor is not a bad thing, but if that is all you do, then it is, because those people can only change if they develop a relationship with Christ. Ergo, anti-poverty efforts are just missing the point."

Of course, the big problem here is that there is no inherent reason that people on welfare or food stamps, or being fed by hand--cannot also be ministered to by people trying to change their soul. Those who say that social justice is missing the point by focusing on the material world--in the same damn breath, voice opposition to their own material wealth being used to feed the poor.

Which is it?

If the relationship with Jesus is the be all, and end all, then what the fuck do you care about your taxes? Seriously? Your money is not yours, as you preach, and since the relationship is all you value, then what do you care if your tax dollars are given to poor black women who have children on purpose? Because by your own argument, you will be trying to change their spiritual world, and you don't really care about their physical world.

Unless you do. Unless you actually care very much about your material wealth. And unless you actually want those poor people to be uncomfortable as much as possible.

I am guessing that when you say that God will "provide" for you, you don't really mean that. You mean that maybe he will, but in the meantime, you are going to hold on to your pennies unless you deem the person in need to be suitably uncomfortable and worthy. And while you think the poor may be too obsessed with their lack of material wealth, your own material wealth is incredibly important to you.

Bullshit.

October 3, 2011

Bill Maher: GOP candidate Jesus Christ

Just about brilliant:
And that's the downside to living in a fantasy world. For a Republican candidate to not disappoint you, he would have to be Jesus of Nazareth. And even Jesus would be toast after a few news cycles. Because "feed the hungry"? Sounds suspiciously like welfare. And "heal the sick"... for free?? (wild audience applause) That is definitely Obamacare! And "turn the other cheek"? Maybe you didn't hear, Jesus, but this is the party that cheers executions.

So here now is the short campaign timeline of Jesus Christ, Republican candidate.

Day 3

Three days after Jesus announces he's in, a Gingrich spokesman reports that he read Jesus's book... and finds some aspects of it troubling. Mitt Romney says Jesus's previous statements make him appear anti-business. And Rick Perry asks if America is ready for a Jewish President. And then Rick eats a paint chip.

Day 7

At the Republican debate, the other candidates pile on the new frontrunner. Michele Bachmann calls the meek inheriting the earth a colossal expansion of the estate tax. And Newt Gingrich scores the big zinger when he says, "Mr. Christ, America can't afford another cheek!"

Day 9

Teabaggers start getting e-mails from their idiot brother-in-law about how Jesus is not even from this country. (wild audience applause) And was born alongside a bunch of animals in a manger. And not to harp on it, but where's the birth certificate? And if he's a carpenter, is he too pro-union?

Day 10

Jesus is now polling fourth behind Perry, Romney, and the pizza guy. And in a desperate attempt to gain credibility, he goes to New York and has coffee with Trump... who pronounces him, "a decent guy, but a little effeminate".

October 2, 2011

Dogs and people

Today has been a pretty good day. Beautiful weather here in OK, and I don't have pressing work for tomorrow. SOF does, however, and has been working insane hours.

But we both took our dogs to our new pastime--Flyball. We have been looking for something for Grace as she clearly needs a job. She is still too young to do much of the Flyball stuff, but she does some straight races over hurdles. I posted some videos for you to see a little Flyball.

But back to my topic. This afternoon, after SOF went back to work, I ran by our Natural History Museum where our Flyball team put on a demonstration. The museum just unveiled an exhibit on the evolution of wolves into dogs, and so had a big dog day (called Woofstock) where people could adopt dogs, connect to dog organizations, see Flyball, etc.

I ended up helping the team during a demo--which was fun, but then took a quick run through the exhibit. It had to be quick, because I was afraid I would just start bawling there in the museum. Started with the opening exhibit about how dogs are human's oldest companions. They have ancient examples of humans sharing protein and shelter--when those were hardly things they had to share.

I know why the ancients did that. I have seen Streak on the fringe of my vision several times lately--just remembering how he was always there, and always with me. And now Grace is there--checking on me when I am upset--and so glad to see me when I come home. And I watch Abbie follow SOF around the house.

Anyway. This is hardly news, but I am constantly in awe of what dogs can do for humans. I didn't need a museum exhibit to tell me. Nor did I need to to show me the connection. But I am glad they have it, and perhaps when I am braver, I will go back and give it more time.

video video

September 30, 2011

Hey, Mitch Daniels, perhaps you should have thought of fiscal issues when you worked for Bush

Incredibly frustrating interview on NPR with Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. This little news blurb only focuses on the ponzi scheme crap, but the bigger issue is that he is suggesting that this is a watershed year where Americans can rethink Medicare if Republicans are strong enough. Because, of course, we are in a bad financial situation.

Yeah, I get that, but one of my biggest frustrations right now is the Republicans who drove us into the fucking ditch now complaining about fiscal responsibility. Since they are fond of the house economy metaphor, it is like the home owner deciding--after purchasing the house--to purposefully cut his income by 50%, but then telling the bank, "hey, I can't afford this house, and it is your fault."

Or as I told a very annoying Republican the other day, the scenario is a bit like this: our city is on fire, and the Republicans don't want to talk about blame because blame is besides the point--it is political gamesmanship--unless, of course, the blame is Obama or Clinton. After all, both the Fire Dept and the Arsonist are equally to blame. But no, we should not talk about blame, but talk about the fire that we refuse to put out. No, we can't put out the fire, because we can't afford to put it out, and the only way we can put out the fire is to take money from the widows and orphans or the terrorists win. But we should talk to the arsonists to see what they think, because their ideas are better anyway. Sure there are some extremists in the arsonist party, but so with the Fire dept. Sure, the Arsonists are led by their extremists, but the Fire Dept has Maxine Waters. And Obama may not really be a Christian. But we can't raise taxes to fight the fire, because that will just punish the fire producers. And we can't really trust the Fire Department, the Arsonists say, because they know--they used to run it and they refused to put out fires. Proves that the Fire Department is inept. Duh.

Yeah, I know that all sounds ridiculous, but no more so than what passes for Republican thought these days. It is depressing.

September 21, 2011

Georgia about to execute and innocent man

By all accounts, at the very least, there is more than reasonable doubt about his guilt.

Which reminds me of the very clear truth that American Christians only believe the Bible when it serves their political beliefs. That passage Monk pointed us to in Exodus suggests that God would be very angry with the execution of an innocent man, yet I see no hand-wringing from the right. No fears that they might be aiding and abetting an injustice. No, from my conservative friends, all I hear is the morality, or Biblical support for the death penalty.

Sigh.

I love Elizabeth Warren

Just check how clearly and nicely she points out the obscenity of the "class warfare" nonsense.

September 20, 2011

Disappointing

Not surprising, but disappointing. I have a conversation ongoing with a few conservative Christians through Facebook, and I am rather amazed at their lack of knowledge. One told me that feeding the poor was a "suggestion" but the real issue was getting them to Jesus.

No word about what to do to the poor people who have already converted. I guess they are good.

The other spouted Fox News talking points on everything from taxation rates, to welfare, to government ineptitude. This, from a guy who "ministers" to college students. Is it too much to ask that they at least have their facts straight?

Evidently. Jesus doesn't require attention to detail. Just fervency.

Pass.

September 16, 2011

Michele Bachmann is not just a liar, she is an irresponsible bitch!

Maybe I am the only one hung up this. Maybe I am the only one who somehow is trying to make sense of people who claim the Bible as their guide and then do unspeakable things. And not just in their weakness, but on purpose and without apology.

For me, this latest by Michele Bachmann is the most irresponsible callous and cynical thing she could possibly do. To make political points, she spread lies about Gardosil and then refuses to even consider what she did. There is something unbelievable about someone this hateful to put forward a completely anecdotal story about some woman with a retardation side effect, and then say, "the American people can make up their own mind." No, you fucktard, you are asking the American people to elect you to the highest office, and you don't just get to throw around such accusations. You don't get to cause parents to not vaccinate their kids and possibly open them to serious illness down the road, SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU ARE A CONNIVING BITCH.

But it is all good. God told her to run, and he doesn't do bad stuff. Obviously everyone here can see this shit for what it is. Too bad the entire Republican party has decided to abdicate such responsibility and take the risk that a soul-less moron like this could one day be President. Fuck that.

September 15, 2011

Faith? Or Gullibility?

Leighton, as he often does, made a very insightful comment on the blog post about Rick Perry as some kind of "super christian" (my words, btw).
It's not just that the U.S. Christian experience doesn't require deep thinking. It also discourages even basic situational awareness and wariness of being manipulated, almost to the point where gullibility is considered a spiritual virtue.
The first part, we have talked about at length here. The deep thinking theologians of the past are gone from most American Christian's lives, to be replaced by Max Lucado and the Purpose Driven Life, or Prayer of Jabez. Those people may be genuine in their faith, I really don't know. But their approach is paper thin, and easily understood, which further leads to the idea that Christianity is easy and apparent.

But it is that second part that has me thinking. I know many, many, many people of faith, and consider myself one. But I have seen an increasing amount of this kind of gullibility masquerading as faith. We see it in our political figures all the time. But I think it has to do with the increasing emphasis on the "personal relationship" and a sharp decrease in both critical thinking and accountability. When it is all about the personal relationship, then when someone says, "God told me this" who can disagree? Who can say? And in fact, speaking to Leighton's point, questioning that is not a virtue, or about accountability, but rather discouraged. Those kind of pronouncements are meant to be greeted with nodding heads and "amens." Which has given us George Bush telling us that God told him to invade Iraq, and everyone in the GOP platform assuring us that God is their bestest buddy and the one from which they get all their insight and values. Like killing people. Or mocking the poor.

As a kid, I loved Louis L'Amour books, and probably read all of them multiple times. Cheesy, but fun, and in that vein, one of the characters was fond of saying, "Trust in the Lord, but keep your powder dry." The metaphor of taking care of what you could, while maintaining some faith in something bigger than yourself has always made sense to me. Because I don't want to dismiss completely the supernatural nor the issue of faith in the people around me. There are too many I respect who can speak to elements of that. But surely the critical thinking and groundedness has a place too.

Does God heal? I have no clue. I haven't ever seen it, but in the mode of our current language, any medical turnaround would be deemed God's healing. Any rational explanation is immediately dismissed. And in fact, as we have talked about here, faith is simply inserted in areas where the rational and logical explanation is unwelcome. Don't like evolution? That's ok. You can just insert faith instead and talk about what you believe or don't believe.

Does God communicate directly to people? I have no idea. He doesn't to me, but I am not so arrogant to assume that I am the norm. But I do know this. I can't even count the times that someone has said "God led me to this" that turned out to be a bad idea. But you can't question those callings or "words" from God, and seemingly, you can't even follow up after and just fess up that it wasn't God at all, but the little "me" that wanted to do that.

Because what passes for faith now is starting to really piss me off. It is the kind of faith that has millions of Christians sitting on their hands (or worse) while their representatives demonize the poor, celebrate the deaths of others, defend torture, and brag about destroying God's creation. If conservative Christianity can't see through that?

September 14, 2011

Perry as super Christian

Just read this and felt like returning to my Saturday night puke-fest. Unbelievable. This is what I just sent a friend as an email, and it works as an angry blog post too:
This arrogant, cruel, and often stupid person is selling himself the same way all Republicans now sell themselves--as a good Christian man in relationship with God. And you know what? As long as he doesn't raise people's taxes, have sex with an intern, nor institute a draft, the evangelical crowd (if history is any guide) will accept that as good enough. Which is why the Christian experience has been so cheapened, that it can be simply turned into a greeting card, t-shirt, or bumper sticker. No deep thinking needed. Oh and of course, no one will check to see if he is actually treating people like a Christian. That is the wonderful thing about this. It is like a free pass. As long as you can shout Jesus loud enough, and invoke enough little churchy phrases, that constitutes a close personal relationship with God.

Sally Kern as member of IndigNation

Fred Clark nails it again, I think, in this brilliant piece: The IndigNation, defending bullies and the martyr Sally Kern | slacktivist. I have always tried to find a way to describe the victimhood of the right, but this is a better way of saying it.

Kern's arrogance at calling criticism of her "stoning" is really interesting, and speaks to another trend that I find very troubling in the far right--the complete unwillingness to admit error. Bush couldn't do it. Palin can't even conceptualize the idea, and it seems that Romney can only admit error when it was the right thing to do--like providing healthcare. I was thinking about that with regard to the death penalty, and Rick Perry's horrible record of being the most deadly governor in history, or some such fact. This has included several that were questionable at best, including the story of Cameron Todd Willingham who was executed in 2004 based on some very questionable evidence. Questionable enough, at least, to provide more than credible questions to his conviction. After the execution, when people wanted to inquire, Perry shut down the investigation, and still claims that there is no evidence of innocence. Except there was.

Conservative Christians are fond of quoting scripture when it helps their case. Verses condemning homosexuality are well known, and I have been told over and over that God "hates" homosexuality, and that is not up for debate. But as I have argued, it is amazing to me how many scripture verses on wealth, or poverty, or war and peace are equally as adamant as those on the OT on gays--but those are never read as absolutes. They are read with context and nuance and, ultimately, with the conclusion, "God didn't mean that being rich was a problem," or "God didn't really mean to love our enemies as ourselves" and surely "God didn't mean that if someone asks for our coat we should give them our shirt as well," because that would be welfare. As our friend Monk pointed out in the comments at ATK, the Bible is pretty strident about executing the innocent:
Exodus 23:6 "Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. 7 Have nothing to do with a false charge10 and do not put an innocent11 or honest person to death,12 for I will not acquit the guilty. (NIV)

Funny how I have never heard that one before. Funny how that has never come up in conversation when invoking the scriptures to defend this institution. Sadly, I have had conversations with Christians where even the prospect of an innocent person being executed was not a deal breaker.

But imagine if all the scriptures were actually taken as seriously as the ones condemning homosexuality? Imagine the response to torture, or to cutting off funding for the disabled poor? Or perhaps, the Tea Party would have shuddered softly at the sound of the 200 plus executions rather than openly applauding. Or perhaps, even, if Rick Perry were half as devout as he claimed, he would have embraced the investigation into Willingham's execution as a chance to either exonerate the system, or provide an opportunity for asking forgiveness for failing God in this effort.

Yet, clearly, the only scripture verses that are really that sacred, are those that reinforce their pre-existing views. Because Perry and the Tea Party see the judicial system as flawed when it lets off someone like OJ Simpson, but without possibility of failure when it executes the huge numbers they run through their death chair. And not a thought seems to pass their mind that perhaps, perhaps, there is something worth checking out.

As many have noted, the states with the highest execution rates used to lead us in lynching. And I am afraid that the Tea Party crowd (as Monk again pointed out) that cheered Perry's execution record, is the same crowd that used to flock around the hanging black person for a picture.

That isn't Christian.

September 13, 2011

Jon Stewart brilliant yet again

What happens if you post a blog and no one reads?

:)

Or perhaps we are just in a time when people are busy with work, families, etc. I know it has been a rough couple of days for me. I contracted some kind of stomach bug that showed itself with a vengeance late Saturday night. I don't think I have ever been that sick, and I am still feeling a little run over.

But reading the news doesn't help either. As I posted earlier, it is hard to find the words to describe the Tea Party assholes who cheerfully shout "yes" to the question "should we let an uninsured person die rather than pick up the tab?" The same type of people, I am sure, cheered Rick Perry's record number of executions. And, I am sure, these are the same idiots who bought Sarah Palin's "death panel" nonsense. Seems like they really weren't concerned about death panels after all, just wanted to make sure it was applied to people they don't like.

As many of my FB friends have noted, many of them, undoubtedly, see themselves as strong believers. That is just a reminder to Christian conservatives what they have lost by selling their faith to the person who shouts "jesus" the loudest.

Yeah, you get these misanthropes. Running for President. With a crowd cheering them on, just as that same crowd would have cheered a public lynching 100 years ago.

My sense is that my conservative friends see the Tea Party the same way they do Rush Limbaugh or Pat Robertson--as an idiot who is unfortunately on the same side of the party line as they are. Of course, they miss how it is these idiots who are shaping their party's policies. But they also miss how their other Republicans are working steadily to stop government from working so they can run on the claim that government doesn't work well.

It won't get better, I am afraid, until grownup Republicans who actually do believe in good governing and don't want people to die in the streets start taking responsibility for who they elect. If the nutjobs in your base nominate a right wing idiot, you don't have to vote for him or her simply because they have an R next to their name. And maybe, just maybe, this bullshit of skating by as a low information voter has to stop. The stakes are just too high.

Tea Party Debate Audience Cheers Idea Of Letting Sick Man Without Insurance Die (VIDEO) | Election 2012

Don't really have to say much more about the Tea Party do you? Than This following last week's cheering of Perry's record executions?

I used to wonder why people were so resistant to universal care of some sort and argued that we already had it in the most inefficient form possible--the emergency room. But that was all predicated on the idea that we were civilized and relatively human so that we would never just allow someone to die without trying to provide care--even if they could not afford it.

Turns out, the Tea Party has the answer. Screw them. Let them die.

And some have wondered why I have no respect for the Tea Party.

September 4, 2011

Republicans as a crazy criminal gang

Worth the read, from the very clear recognition that the Ayn Rand wing wants to completely undermine the social safety net, to the pro-war regardless of the consequences wing. Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult | Truthout. But my favorite line was a quote he pulled from someone else. Best description of the Republican party to date:
"Over the last four decades, the Republican Party has transformed from a loyal opposition into an insurrectionary party that flouts the law when it is in the majority and threatens disorder when it is the minority. It is the party of Watergate and Iran-Contra, but also of the government shutdown in 1995 and the impeachment trial of 1999.
This is the party that once was headed by Dwight Eisenhower, but now very willingly holds a gun to the American economy for its own agenda. Amazing.

September 2, 2011

Christian America

As Obama's poll numbers drop, I start to get nervous that we are looking at electing another idiot. And that has made me pretty angry at my conservative Christian friends. I know they are better people than this. I don't get why they can look at the current GOP's and their war on the poor, disabled, environment, women, etc. and not wince. I don't get why they can't look at Obama and see someone who is shockingly conservative--given all the rhetoric about his radicalism.

But mostly, I am increasingly angry at conservative Christians. In the last 30 years, they have made Christian America a theme, and have nearly required that their politicians be conservative Christians. Reminds me of two responses. One was Anglican, who used to respond to the Christian America with the very apt response, "so how Christian did we act?" The other was a paraphrase on Ghandi, who famously said, when asked what he thought of western civilization, that he thought it "would be a good idea."

But set aside the history of Indian removals, land theft, treaty violations. And let's forget slavery, child labor, and the invasion of Mexico--by our supposedly Christian ancestors. Let's just look at the last 30 years. Conservative Christians have taken over the Republican party and routinely push their faith in our halls of government. How has that worked out? Are we a more moral people? Are we better to the poor and needy? Are we more about peace and less about war? Do we value honesty and ethics more?

When I watch Palin, Bachmann, Perry--all the favorites of the religious right--I am stunned by their hostility to others, their derision toward anyone who disagrees. And I am stunned by their heartlessness. And none of those actions cause any problems among their conservative backers. Christians I know and respect just shrug off behavior that they would never tolerate in their own kids.

And what about policies? It is harder to get an abortion in this country, that is for sure. If that is good for you, then I guess you cheer it. I am not convinced. And we seem to see less nudity in films. More violence, but less nudity. If that is good for you, then woohoo.

What else have we accomplished? We have more kids in poverty. We have a growing obesity problem. And, as I noted, while we might not show breasts as much in film, we had a very popular television show that celebrated and defended torture. We have more people, in general, in poverty. We have stagnating wages and vast and growing income inequality. We have a healthcare situation where some parts of America are like a developing country in need of Doctors without Borders, but the religiously pious call healthcare reform "socialism." We easily bomb other countries, but do very little about famine in Africa. Ethnic cleansing and genocide barely make the news, but we were consumed for months about whether the President was, in fact, born in Hawaii. We have Christians who now, routinely, deny scientific evidence, not because they see flaws in the methodology, or data collection, but because they just don't like the conclusion and don't "believe" it to be true. And we have Christian conservatives cutting funding for the neediest of the needy while cutting taxes for the rich and powerful.

If that is Christianity, then I am confused.

September 1, 2011

Conservative Jesus Press conference

Washington, DC (AP) - After keeping a low profile, Conservative Jesus held his first public press conference early this morning to clarify the stances taken in his name. "WWJD? That was about me, so I thought I would be direct with the American people (who I prefer, naturally) about my beliefs. So many politicians like to claim to represent me (cough, cough, Obama), but only the conservative ones do," said CJ during his opening statement. A full transcript will be available later, but here are the highlights of CJ's policy, moral, and ethical beliefs.

--on climate change--"Humans can't be responsible because I am in charge. And there is no reason to stop making money to protect any part of my creation."

--on the poor and working class--"Snort. Those lazy people have gotten a free ride for far too long. Time for them to pay more in taxes. If they want government services like fire, police, and sanitation, time to step up and pay even more of their meager wealth."

--on political discourse--"Sure, I said a lot of things in the NT about treating people well, but that was only intended for your friends. You don't have to be respectful, honest, or anything to liberals."

--on the growing homeless--"Most of them are mentally ill."

--on the disabled poor--"Seriously? They want to stay alive? Ok, but don't ask the rich and powerful to do anything. Unless they want, of course, but I am not going to make them. As I often said, "Blessed are the rich and powerful because I like them SOOO much."

Conservative Jesus ended the press conference by praising Tea Party and Republican conservatives for holding to their principles of protecting the rich and powerful and demonizing the poor. "That is just how we did it in my day."

August 29, 2011

Freedom Bible

No really. You can get your copy today (h/t to Greg). Though you can also get an American Patriot's Bible. My favorite comment in this one?
If you didn't think that God had a role in America you need this Bible. It will give you the answers on how God influenced our Country.
Sigh.

Christianity as consumer good. And I kind of get that. If you make Bibles, and run Bible stores, you need more versions. One isn't enough. And what better way to capitalize on tragedy like 9-11 or to profit from the people following Rick Perry than to put out a Holy Bible that is themed around your agenda. Brilliant.

I am telling you, we are closer and closer each day to a pain reliever ad featuring Jesus on the cross. Everything is for sale, and, in this case, Christians seem to be eager to sell it.

Nothing is worth raising taxes

Even a major hurricane. Meanwhile, FEMA is running on empty with funds and so has had to cancel projects in Missouri rebuilding roads and buildings destroyed by that massive tornado.

This is what happens when one major party has decided, like small, bigoted children, to never raise taxes, even for the things that we all say we value. You want to help someone harmed by a major disaster? Take away the assistance for that disabled person first, or we won't help. Or stop helping that other community first.

Whatever you do, don't ask the super rich to pay a cent more in taxes. Not one red cent. Because, of course, the Republican party now is starting to believe that the working poor are the ones who are truly under-taxed. The working poor are the new "welfare queens," who are leaching off the "job creator" class.

This is disgusting politics, but it is also horrible economics. Those at the bottom who don't pay income taxes pay plenty in other taxes, of course, but they don't pay income taxes because they don't have enough income to qualify. Yet, I heard from one Republican asshat over the weekend that "52% of Americans pay no tax at all," while this upstanding citizen payed "all of his taxes." False, first of all. And amazing that, as Warren Buffett recently pointed out, some of those super rich pay a lower rate than you and I do. But we should not resent those hedge fund managers making billions and paying next to nothing in taxes. We should resent that person working at a minimum wage job (or two, or three) who doesn't pay income tax because every penny is devoted to trying to pay rent and groceries.

The Republican party is many things now. It is anti-science. It is anti-muslim. And it is cruel to an amazing point, that it wants all of us to look at anyone who is needy with contempt or suspicion. They want to take away your hard earned money, and should be resented. The only way they are worthy of helping is if they are begging at a soup kitchen, and willing to listen to a sermon. But if they are applying for any kind of aid, they are leaches on society, and should be shunned.

One thing for Republicans to embrace that. Still just blows me away that conservative Christians are watching this and cheering. Or sitting on their hands. This is not the America I thought it was. And this isn't the church I thought it was.

August 25, 2011

Here are your Christian Republicans?

HuffPo has a story about Rick Perry and Phil Gramm working on a scheme in 2003 where Gramm's company (UBS) would purchase life insurance policies on teachers. The teachers families would get nothing, but UBS and the state of Texas would make big profits. This is hard to follow, but it seems like the deal ultimately fell through, but Gramm was later trying to do similar deals that would make his company huge profit using his protege (Perry)'s influence in state government.

Couple of points here. No wonder Republicans rail at government, because they are busy using government to make themselves rich. They know the corruption, because they are the corruption.

Second, I am more convinced than ever that the worst deal Christian conservatives ever made was to vote as a bloc for people who sold themselves as Christian conservatives who would return America to some mythic Christian past. They opened themselves up to any list of sociopaths who mouth Christian language on one hand, but pursue the most unChristian policies on the other. Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, and Michele Bachmann are the fruit. Hell, it started with the idiot Bush--who is looking smarter and more moral by the moment when compared to his followers. What does that tell you?

August 22, 2011

Republican women?

What is it about them? They all seem to follow the Palin model of refusing to ever have made an error. In this case, it is Christine O’Donnell, who lies about her supposed persecution, then attacks anyone who disagrees. I think it is that sense of persecution that gets me with all of them. It could describe the entire far right--they all seem to think they are victims of some global conspiracy against them--even as they wield an amazing amount of power. What would they do if they were truly powerless?

I don't know. I just know that they don't represent women, conservatism, or the Republican party very well.

August 19, 2011

It's only class warfare when we fight back

I don't think we need any more evidence of that than the response to Warren Buffett's great op-ed. Jon Stewart Highlights Conservative Hypocrisy On "Class Warfare" (VIDEO) | TPM LiveWire. Worth watching both clips, as he really takes apart both the idea that taxing the rich is class warfare, but also the reverse warfare that Fox and others are pushing about the bottom 50% not paying income taxes.

I find this all so disgusting. Everywhere I turn, there appears to be more and more attacks on the poor, and defense of the rich and comfortable. What troubles me the most is how many of them are Christian conservatives who seem to have forgotten just about every aspect of the faith's take on wealth and poverty. Instead, they have transformed Jesus into the patron saint of the SUV driving, gated-community class.

When did Christianity become about protecting the comfortable and chastising the uncomfortable? Obviously, not all do that, as we know from our friend Monk and others. But the the right wing Christians seem to worship Adam Smith more than the Christ they like to talk about.

August 15, 2011

One of the super-rich says "stop coddling super-rich."

The entire thing is worth reading (not long) but here are a few gems from Warren Buffet's great op-ed. First, for those who seem to not quite grasp how much money the rich have gained while workers and middle class people have seen their incomes and benefits stagnate.
"Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent."
Or for those who think that the rich already pay too much in taxes:
Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.
And this may be my favorite since we always hear that higher tax rates make rich people angry and make them decide to not invest their money. I have always found that a completely ridiculous argument, since their other option is to sit on their money. No rich person does that unless they are misers hiding their money in mattresses. They invest because it is in their interest to do so, regardless of the tax rate they pay on those returns.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.


August 5, 2011

Poll: Tea party support shrinks by half since 2010

I think it was Digby who made a pretty good point about this story that the Tea Party is shrinking. She said, and I agree, that the Tea Party's intransigence and power is over-played. That allows Republicans like Boehner to act as if they are more moderate, but all of them refuse to raise revenue, and all of them are aiming their guns at Medicare.

The Republican party has been taken over by psychos, and the Tea Partiers are just the most vocal of the idiots. But the reactionary politics are replete through the party.

But what is most interesting to me, is that even Republicans are mad at the party for their intransigence. But I suspect they will forget that in a year after they have heard ad nauseum about how Obama is an evil Kenyan.

Oh, and speak of that, they are already trying to blame Obama for the downgrade of our credit. That takes balls. Usually the kidnapper doesn't blame the cops for the fact that they are now considered criminals. Oh, and Michelle Bachmann is slamming Obama for celebrating his birthday party.

Wouldn't you hate to work for the Onion during this period in American history? How do you satirize such idiocy?

August 4, 2011

Church missing giant panda balloon

And it cost between 5 and 7 grand. Yeah, that's the takeaway from this story. Not that this ridiculous church has a "Kung Fu Panda movie theme" to attract new members. Yeah, I will take them seriously.

But it does make this post from 2004 seem less far fetched.

August 3, 2011

Religious thinking. Oh, and I am back.

Perhaps you noticed, or perhaps you didn't. We went to a wedding in Colorado this past weekend where I played my mandolin in front of a crowd for the first time ever. Actually, I played and sang three songs using the mando and guitar. I have sung at weddings before, but never played. It was a very interesting and enjoyable experience.

The drive back, however, was brutal. Descending into the plains and watching the temp go up was a bit depressing. I am sure glad there is no climate change, or this warmest July on record might concern me. Oh, and I watched in some horror as the Republican party put a gun to the head of our economy and demanded cuts for the poor and needy-without a dime more paid by the rich--or they would destroy our entire economy. That is the behavior of criminals, not leaders. Today, I read that Eric Cantor has laid it out--republicans will not raise taxes for Medicare or Social Security--so those of us who are looking at retirement better be rich. I have no idea how we will be able to pay for healthcare on a fixed income. Sure glad that the rich won't be asked to contribute. That would really suck. Perhaps the middle class will realize what this means for them. Perhaps. Perhaps if they think that only the poor will be hosed, they won't care, but if they realize that anyone who retires under Paul Ryan's plan will be looking at a fixed income and fixed voucher for healthcare. When healthcare costs rise above that? Oh well.

I honestly have no way of understanding that level of callousness. I really don't. I don't understand the rich saying, "fuck you" to the poor and middle class, but it is inconceivable that middle class people seem to be voting with them. I know what it will mean for SOF and myself. It won't be good. We can prepare for retirement at a reasonable level, but if we have to save for skyrocketing healthcare costs--if we can even get insurance--then I don't see that turning out well. If my conservative Christian friends care about that, I would like to know what they plan on doing. Because voting for these criminals is not going to be good for any of us. I don't care how loud they are against gays and abortions.

Anyway.

Speaking of Christian thought, Greg had a very interesting post from his intersession class about how many Christians imagine God. In this case it was about whether God could do anything or had to live under some of the rules he laid out for humanity. I have thought about that in the context of genocide, since the OT God tended to favor wiping people out--but also told us to not murder. Greg, as he often does, captures the contradiction of believing that God can do whatever he wants:
"Another student took issue. God can do what he wants, she insisted. Then you can't trust him, I replied. Why not? Because if he can do what he wants, he can lie to you and you may not be saved after all. He doesn't lie, she said. You said he can do whatever he wants. He can, but he doesn't lie. How can you know that? Because he says his word can be trusted. But you said he can do whatever he wants. She failed to realize the contradiction she'd wandered into."
This is my experience as well. God is so big and outside our consciousness, but then he is clearly this one thing. And he doesn't like this, or that. And he isn't female. And he prefers Israel to Iran. And he doesn't like gay sex or feminist women. And he doesn't sweat torture. But you can't put him in a box.

Ok.

July 26, 2011

Southern Baptist shameless liar--Richard Land

I have been watching Land off and on over the years, and have had moments where I almost respected him. He was one of few SBC leaders to apologize for slavery and segregation--albeit years after when it was safe to do.

But it is clear that he is a shameless liar for the right. And a further reminder that the bogie men of my youth were misplaced. It wasn't the feminists I needed to fear, but the Souther Baptist leaders--wrapped in the flag and carrying a Bible.

I will also say that watching the Republican party drive our country's economy off the cliff, I am reminded how many of them proclaim their Christian faith. That has worked out so well, hasn't it?

Don't dare tell me Republicans care about the deficit

Because they don't. I read yesterday that this debt crisis will surely end up raising the cost of borrowing for the country. A 1% increase in the interest rate will cost us an additional trillion fucking dollars in interest payments. So when Boehner and Cantor and the rest of the Republican assholes say they are only interested in us "living within our means," they are lying through their teeth.

This is not about the deficit. This is about two things. One, is the Tea Party idiots who have taken a pretty decent democratic model and fucked it up. Turns out that democracy doesn't actually work well when one side doesn't believe in compromise or negotiation. And the Second is the conservative right's absolute hatred of any social safety net.

My Republican friends all tell me they support some safety net, they just want it under control. Well, they should really check with the sociopaths running their party, because the GOP would prefer that Grannie be left on the sidewalk when she can no longer afford her meds or rent.

Don't tell me they care about the deficit, and don't tell me that the GOP doesn't hate poor and working people.

July 24, 2011

Taxes as wasted consumer spending

Interesting to talk to people about taxes. I understand that historically people have not wanted to pay taxes, and of course, we have our "taxation without representation" cry from the American Revolution (that is partially true, at least). And there is little doubt that the Republican party has seized on that as a rallying cry and easy way to get votes. "I will cut your taxes, no matter how low they get, and you can be free and have what you want." That is a pretty easy sell.

But what bugs me is how dismissive conservatives have become about taxes as if they are all bad. I know I have said this before, but my taxes go to help disabled and poor--to help people overseas avoid malaria and AIDS. Of course, my taxes also go to sugar subsidies and torture rooms. None of us ever get everything we want from taxes or government--a truism if there ever was.

However, in this day and age where we are supposed to imagine the federal government as a household budget that should live within its means, it might be instructive to take those Republican tactics and actually put them through a household budget. (Make no mistake, the largest economy in the world should not be managed as a household budget, but just hear me out.)

First, of course, this national household budget has done the opposite of what most actual budgets try to do--it has taken a purposeful salary reduction and is always fighting to bring in less money. I know of no household who does this on purpose. Second, this national budget seems to see all taxes and expenditures as wasteful. It is as if we, as a family, simply decided to not pay for a roof, because it was not fun, or tires for the car, or oil changes for the car. So many of those costs are not ones that we get to enjoy or play with, but are ever so necessary and are not wasteful at all. They allow us to have cover, or transportation, or heat and air, etc.

But Conservatives have sold the bill of goods that your tax money doesn't get you anything, because it goes to the government instead of to something you like. But it goes to invest in schools, and public health, and infrastructure, and the healthcare for others. Because we all live in a broader community and are harmed when our neighbors are sick or under educated, or when the roads and sewers don't work.

If Progressives could do anything, it would be to identify the actual benefits from taxes--things that benefit even the anti-tax people. Things like Medicaid support for nursing home care, or matching funds for police and fire services, or for cleaner and healthier water systems. Investments in technology that, I would argue, probably lay somewhere in the process of every technology we enjoy today. Investments that have allowed millions to build small and large businesses.

July 23, 2011

On Evangelicals and the GOP

As we watch the GOP drive our economy over the cliff rather than possibly cause the elites any discomfort, I have been thinking about how the evangelicals I know can support these policies. Part of it is in these "dog whistle" moments such as when Tim Pawlenty names Jesus as one of his favorite political heroes, but then will govern as a purely conservative politician--with no real mention of Jesus when he cuts programs for the poor or defends torture.

For my evangelical friends, I think they have been co-opted in a way that they don't even understand. The GOP knows they are very uncomfortable with abortion and gay rights, and largely uninformed about broader political issues. So, they will vote for the GOP out of an assumption of moral superiority, and never really check back. They vote for Republicans on the basis of being "pro-life" and then never notice that the GOP defends and openly encourages torture and more war. They vote for fiscal responsibility and look the other way while the party defends only the rich. Our friend Kevin Powell caught this nice bit from Huffington Post on why evangelicalism is losing the younger generation, and a big part of that is their sexism and complete sell out to conservative politics.

I am starting to think that Google+'s new approach to social networking is a good way to see the evangelical's political world. One circle is the personal relationship where God is about them, and their personal "walk with Christ." That is where the lion's share of evangelicals books and discussions trend--how can you walk closely with God and how can he make you happier.

Then there is that circle named politics. It is one filled with myths about "pulling your self up by your bootstraps," and "individualism" and "the market economy" solving everything. It is a cold and ruthless place where people who don't work hard enough get left behind, and those who don't have enough to pay for healthcare are on their own. It is the world of Thomas Hobbes rather than that of the Gospel. And that is important, because in that circle, the only Bible verses are about God smiting people who are gay and the assumption that abortion is evil.

When we want to be spiritual, we enter the spiritual circle and talk about relationships over religion. When we want to be political, we switch circles and talk about tough choices and how wasteful government is. There is only one place for Christianity in politics. It is to get an entrance ticket, and then never be asked about it again--and then only for conservatives.

Sad. As SOF reminded me this afternoon, the OT has a lot of challenges to that kind of politics, but all we hear about are the passages from Leviticus about homosexuality. Nothing about abandoning the poor. Nothing about the evils of the rich exploiting the poor. Nothing about the need for people of faith to defend the oppressed rather than the comfortable.