January 31, 2011

I knew Fox was filled with idiots, but man I really hope this is a hoax

Fox News Doesn't Know Where Egypt Is.

I really do.

Mondays suck

Or they seem to. Today, I wait to see if the snow will be bad or nothing. And I just returned from taking Streak in for his latest round of chemo. The vet noted that she could feel the nodes more today. He is still doing well today, but I am reminded of the original diagnosis and feeling pretty sad. I remind myself that it isn't today, and we have had so many bonus days with our little guy.

But I am sad today.

January 30, 2011

So my student not the only one wanting to return to the 1830s

There are, evidently, several right wing politicians in the GOP now arguing for nullification. These are not just John Birchers sniping from their mother's basement, but elected members of Congress.

Perhaps this is good for me. I have had to do a little research on nullification beyond Calhoun's 19th century charge. I had not connected the South's "Southern Manifesto" in response to Brown v. Board as a new version of "nullification," though it clearly was. And, in fact, in Cooper v. Aaron (1958) the Supremes ruled that southerners could not simply ignore court rulings they did not like.

And that is what really bugs me about this. This is the right wing version of "I am taking my ball and going home." There is no compromise on issues, and no recognition that we can often--hell, always--find ourselves having to "agree to disagree." That means that I end up living with policies that I don't agree with. I don't agree with the Patriot Act, and I certainly don't agree with Bush and Obama's decision to continue mining our phone and internet transactions sans warrant. That doesn't mean that I withdraw from the union. It means that I continue to participate in a system where I don't always get my way.

But conservatives--or this branch now running the GOP--don't operate that way. They are the only ones who appreciate the constitution. They are the only ones loyal to the country. And if they don't get their way, they will show us by rejecting the very country they say they love more than we do.

January 29, 2011

The closing of the conservative mind: front and center in my classroom

It isn't that I have never had conservative students before, nor that I have a problem with them. Last semester, I had several who argued with me about the role of government and socialism and those kinds of right wing issues. We got along just fine, and I have no idea if my lectures changed their minds or not. In other words, they certainly were not punished for being conservative and we had some nice conversations along the way.

But this semester, I have a guy who is really bugging me. Turns out he is ex military, for what that is worth. But I knew he was a little different on the first day when I had them do an exercise on recent history and he said that Obama had signed an executive order that gave "Cass Sunstein unprecedented power over the American people, including citizenship and stuff like that." I looked it up when I got home and the EO was about reviewing regulations to make sure that they were still useful. I have no clue where he got the conspiracy part.

Part of the other variable, I must say, is that his class is the second in a row in the same room. His is the Post-civil war, but the one before is the Pre. I don't get much room to gather my thoughts between the two, and have been, at least so far, jumping from Columbus and Cortez to Andrew Johnson and Reconstruction. That has made dealing with this student more difficult.

So earlier, I made my argument that the Civil War was about slavery. I stand by that interpretation and made that clear. I noted that for all the talk about state's rights, South Carolina was angry that Northern states had banned slavery, and even that Northern states didn't allow the Southerners to bring their slaves north. State's rights, it appears, was only for Southerners.

When I made that argument, he raised some secessionist reference to some 98 "principles" (I could have the number wrong) and "self-determination." I noted that self-determination did not extend to the people being enslaved. Duh.

Yesterday, at the beginning of class, he returned to this topic and said that he had written a paper on "nullification" and was pleased to see that 11 states had signed on to push for nullification today. I said that was a complete refutation of federalism, and further that if nullification were in place, we would not have integration and would most likely still have states with segregation. He dismissed that as "already settled" and said that John Calhoun was a brilliant man, who was only wrong on slavery. Later, driving home, I realized I should have pointed out that slavery was the entire basis for Calhoun's nullification argument.

Not sure quite how to deal with this guy. He bugs me. During our discussion, he referenced the "individual mandate" as justification for nullification, and then said (when I objected) that we couldn't afford to cover all these people. Or words to that effect. He made the analogy of the lifeboat that can only hold a limited number of people.

Fuck. By this time, I am just pissed, and can see that many in the class are rather annoyed with the discussion, so I moved on. But I was thinking about the poor thinking skills of this student. How quickly he jumped from the mandate to some discussion about what we can afford. I had just heard a story about the 700 billion that we spend each year in military spending, and remembering that these fuckwads never talk about nullification or secession over paying for that (or as it was under Bush--not paying for that). But dare to talk about finding away to give people healthcare and they want to take their ball and go home.

But in all seriousness, I am open to any suggestions about how to deal with this guy. He bugs me. I think he has a partial understanding of the past, and is a good example of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing. I have never really struggled with this before, because I have always been able to at least get them to listen to me. Not sure what to do here.

January 28, 2011

American Exceptionalism again

This time, it is John Boehner criticizing Obama for not using the words, because as he says "you can't get the left to talk about it."

Here is how he defines American Exceptionalism:
We are different than the rest of the world. Why? Because Americans have -- the country was built on an idea that ordinary people could decide what their government looked like and ordinary people could elect their own leaders.
He adds to that the fact that our economy is still 20 times bigger than China proves that we are exceptional.

I guess we have to decide a few things. A) is Boehner's description of the founding accurate? And B) are we the only nation to have those ideals?

As for A, I think this is a very interesting historical question, and one that Gordon Wood answered, or attempted to answer in his magisterial "Creation of the American Republic" and "The Radicalism of the American Revolution." Because this is not an easy argument to make. For one, the founders most explicitly did not think that ordinary people should even vote--certainly not anyone of color, female, or anyone who didn't own enough property. But as Wood points out, the language of equality is there in the language of Republicanism and the Declaration, and the founders who believed in the elite, found it increasingly difficult to keep the masses from actually acting on the language of equality.

So I don't think it is a simple thing to reject, but his take is, much like Palin and Bachmann, very overly simplified and lacking the nuance of the actual history.

The second question, I think, bothers me even more. Because Boehner assumes, as do many conservatives that we have greater opportunity in this country. The fact that upward mobility is higher in many other western democracies than it is here seems to completely pass them by. And that is my beef with Boehner and Palin and the rest when they do this. It is blind jingoism that misses where we are not as good as some other countries in key areas. It stops us from really addressing and making our system work.

Anyway, I welcome anyone's contribution to this.

January 26, 2011

So the Strawman was Republican?

Smitty at ATK had a great post on some right wing straw man arguments, and I was thinking about that when I drove home today and heard this NPR story about Republican efforts to undermine the ACA. From Paul Ryan, the Ayn Rand devotee, we get this gem:
"'We must reject the notion that a centrally planned, bureaucratically run health care system can produce more favorable outcomes than the one managed by doctors and patients,' he said."

Never mind that the ACA actually strengthens private insurance companies, and never mind that this bill does nothing to dictate to doctors what to do with their patients. Never mind that. No need to actually be honest.

So let's just recap the conservatives "principled stances" over the last 50 years:

  • Opposed integration because of "state's rights"

  • Opposed equal pay for equal work, and women's equal access

  • Opposed clean air and water regulations, as well as the endangered species act

    And now they oppose a government healthcare program that doesn't exist, so they have to lie about it to oppose it. But at the heart of conservatives, they actually oppose people getting healthcare. Sorry, but I don't know how else to explain it. I heard another story today about how the tax credit in the new law is actually helping small businesses cover their employees and sales are up around the country for companies with 25 or fewer employees. Republicans want to get rid of that.

    I am not sure we can afford or survive their principles.
  • Goddamnit. Don't we have enough guns around us?

    Okla senator wants open carry, firearms on campus, to which a buddy of mine quipped, "so the Senator would also support allowing open carry in his work place?

    Why is it that the people saying that gun rights should not be limited anywhere, get to go to work behind metal detectors? Why are they telling teachers like myself that we are supposed to just trust that the existence of more guns will make us safer?

    January 22, 2011

    Stealing a theme from ATK: Jesus needs new PR, Facebook edition

    Smitty has posted a few of these (including this one about the Kentucky Creationist museum including unicorns) and I immediately thought of it when an old friend from my church days posted this as his status update this morning:
    A boy writes a letter to God."Dear God, why do you let bad things happen in our schools?"God replied" Dear Son,I'm not allowed in your schools." I challenge you to re-post this!

    As I told him, this is shitty theology, and bad public policy. It is lying to Christians about what their rights are, and then presenting a stupid theology. Their God, evidently, who created the universe, is so pissy and or so weak, that if a school board decides to limit bible study, that God either throws a fit, or simply is incapable of protecting a child from harm.

    This is beyond stupid, actually. This is pathetic. If this is the state of Christian thought, then God help us all. Jesus.

    January 21, 2011

    50 most loathsome Americans

    Yeah, that isn't a very nice list to compile, but this one is pretty good. H/t to our friends at ATK for this one. Includes, quite high, btw, President Obama, so those right wing trolls who think that liberals are as mindless as those on the right need to read it. Always nice to see Glen Beck's mocking of a friend's miscarriage on the air as a radio prank to remind us what an absolute ass this man is. My personal favorite:
    8) Jan Brewer
    Charges: Gila Monster eugenics gone horrible awry. Killed two people, and another ninety-six languish, unable to afford the life-saving transplants for which she slashed state funding. Cut health care for kids too. Hates health care. Horny for the NRA; signed law nixing concealed carry permits, which had no ill effects in 2010. None. Don’t worry about it. Not a problem. Seriously. It’s totally cool. Attempted to justify the draconian racial profiling law SB 1070 by repeatedly citing fictional desert decapitations. Lambasted as the Himmler of the Southwest, she protested, saying her father died fighting the Nazis. He was never in the military. He died in ‘51. From lung cancer.
    Aggravating factor: “God has placed me in this powerful position as Arizona’s governor.”

    Two serious points. So damn tired of right-wing politicians blaming God for their political crap, and Brewer and Palin and others do this stuff all the time. Second, why are no conservative Christians talking about the fact that her cuts in healthcare (because god-forbid we actually raise taxes on the rich or anyone, for that matter) actually ended up in people dying. Those death panels that Palin and the entire right wing lied about? They are real, but just what happens when you put Republicans in charge of healthcare.

    January 20, 2011

    Republicans irresponsible, yet again

    As I noted yesterday, Republicans seem to believe that the magic beans will proide better healthcare than the recent reform. Their call has been based on factual lies--lies the adults among them know they have told--that the reform is some kind of "government takeover" or that it will result in "death panels." They should have shame for those lies, but I know for a fact, they do not. Those lies resonate with their uninformed (by choice) base, and so wins them political victories. But as Ezra Klein points out this repeal effort used to be sold as "repeal and replace" but the GOP decided instead to just repeal. Why? Because, as Klein also points out, replacing is hard--it is the difference between being an oppositional party and a governing party. The GOP is great at opposition--hell, who wouldn't be when the truth absolutely doesn't matter? But they have been shitty at governing. For all their talk, when they ran all three branches, they only made healthcare worse.
    "Boehner's GOP, in deciding against offering the promised replacement for the Affordable Care Act, ducked the hard work and highest responsibilities of governance."

    Further, they seem to believe, as I noted, in some magic free market to fix everything. But as Yglesias pointed out the other day, our existing system only works because of government intrusion. Without government regulation, preexisting conditions would keep anyone from switching jobs, but regulations mean that if you are covered under a big plan, you can't be denied coverage as long as you maintain coverage. COBRA allows people to keep that going after a layoff. Then Medicare takes care of those over 65 with an actual government program--the very same one the Republican said that the ACA would harm.

    I have long since lost respect for the GOP. I lost respect for them first when all they cared about in 2000 was tax cuts, and said "screw you" to investing for the future. I further became disgusted when they embraced, defended, and wanted to expand torture. Their lack of morality or ethics were on full display then. And then I watched as supposedly reasonable people parroted the lies of Palin and Beck about healthcare to win votes.

    January 19, 2011

    Republicans to the sick--"you are on your own."

    From a Facebook friend's status update today:
    Dear Republicans: All those people who survived the Tuscon massacre have pre existing conditions now but don't worry, if you get your way I am sure they will be just fine.

    Sarah Palin Defends 'Blood Libel,'--still gets it wrong

    Ah Sarah. What a nice person she is. Right? And so intellectually honest. She appears on Sean Hannity's show (he who wants to invade more countries because gas prices are climbing) rather than, you know, addressing a real journalist or honestly engaging with anyone other than her base, and says that she used the term "blood libel" perfectly right:
    "Blood libel obviously means being falsely accused, or having blood on your hands," Palin said.
    Except it also means using that false accusation to justify violence against an entire people. And it has a deep meaning in the Jewish community that Palin seems to completely disrespect.

    But my favorite part is when she says that it is ridiculous to blame the actions of this guy on conservatives, but quite proper to blame him on liberals. Just as she seems to think that it is ridiculous to blame her or any other conservative for some extremist, but thinks that it is justified blaming all Muslims for the actions of a few radicals.

    Let's face it. Not only is Sarah a media whore, but she is not a deep thinker. That shouldn't surprise us by this point. We have seen her lack of curiosity or willingness to educate herself. I think that Leighton is correct in that her only real goal is to keep her base happy and willing to buy her "books." BTW, I have a question pending with an old friend from my BSU days about the former half-time governor. He says he likes her work ethic, and her Christian values. I have not pointed out that her work ethic included quitting a job halfway through, but have asked him for any example of her living out actual Christian values. Has she ever treated an adversary with anything other than hatred and disrespect? Has she ever demonstrated compassion and grace to anyone other than her friends and supporters?

    I will let you know the answer.

    January 16, 2011

    The beloved Constitution--and Sarah Palin's Blood Libel

    The Tea Party conservatives like to say that they care about the Constitution more than you and I. Hell, I have had conservative friends say that to me too, that they are sorry to disagree with me, but they value the constitution. I always choke a bit on that, as I remember how they responded when I objected to wireless wiretapping, or torture, or the Patriot Act.

    Anyway, just as Sarah Palin thinks that people like her are "real America," Tea Partiers tend to think they are the last to actually care about the Constitution. Which is why it was so interesting to see House Republicans read the document but omit certain parts. I just assumed they would read the entire thing, but they decided to omit the embarrassing parts--saying they had been superseded by amendment, but then included other things that had been changed by amendment. But, as this piece notes, I had always imagined the Constitution as an ongoing discussion, but for many conservatives, it is just what the want it to be.


    Ok, on Sarah Palin's "blood libel," my friends and I talked about this last night and we can't quite figure out why she invoked something like this. Does she know the history of that word--blaming the Jews for killing Christ, or then accusing Jews of eating children to justify violence against them?

    Or is this just a dog whistle to the evangelical circle? If so, what? Or is it possible that Palin, or whoever wrote that phrase, has no clue what that means?


    Finally, this hilarious "New Rules" from Bill Maher on why the Founders would probably hate the Tea Party and vice versa.

    January 11, 2011

    Palin being blamed for extremists

    (H/t to Anglican for this)

    The consequences of right wing violence

    In case people missed this in the comments, Dave has a good rundown of the 20 some people killed in the last few years, and a good take on the entire discussion. I agree that we often get mired in discussions of free speech and censorship--oh, and btw, I read this morning that Arizona was going to try and censor the Westboro people. That strikes me as odd, that talking about right wing rhetoric is bad, but it is ok to censor this church. Which, btw, suggests to me that the far right loves the Westboro people, because it gives them someone to hate on the far right.

    Anyway. I am not looking to prosecute anyone for their speech, and I am not looking for new laws muzzling idiots like Limbaugh. I am looking for the grownup conservatives to actually shame those who use such irresponsible speech instead of cheering them on.

    Arizona gun laws and the logic of more guns

    According to NPR yesterday, Arizona has among the most liberal gun laws in the country. I am mostly agnostic on guns. I don't care for them myself, but don't have a problem with most of the people around me who do like them. I know they are responsible gun owners.

    But I don't quite understand the push in Arizona or Oklahoma to further liberalize gun laws. As Yglesias notes here, one State Rep believes that everyone should be packing.
    “When everyone is carrying a firearm, nobody is going to be a victim,” [Jack] Harper [R-Sunrise] continued. “The socialists of today are only one gun confiscation away from being the communists of tomorrow.”

    On one hand, as Yglesias notes, this is part of the problem. One party is suggesting that the other party wants to turn the country into a totalitarian state. That is irresponsible rhetoric and part of our difficulty.

    But on the other hand, I wonder how this kind of gun access is supposed to work. If this shooter was unhinged, one thinks that he would not care if the crowd was armed. Is the logic that we would have a free fire zone of everyone in the crowd grabbing their guns and opening fire? Would that produce a better outcome than what happened?

    I have wondered that with the school shootings. The gun people seem to envision a movie scenario where one brave hero takes out the gunman with one shot. But with a bunch of people not trained for a combat situation, isn't it more likely we would end up with more friendly fire? More problems, not less?

    And again, as a deterrent, it doesn't work against some of these shooters who plan on either killing themselves or being killed in the process.

    Or am I missing something?

    January 10, 2011

    Back and the Arizona shooting

    Feels like a long time since I last blogged. I have been sick off and on through Christmas and New Years, and then took a trip to see family in Colorado. The trip was great, though it began with a visit to urgent care and a cortisone shot in my, er, upper thigh.

    Anyway. Back and trying to figure out how to get ready for next week's madness. I flew home Saturday after waking with a swollen eye and stuffed head. Showed up to the airport in Denver and turned on my Ipad only to hear of this horrific shooting in Arizona. Everyone knows about it, I am sure. But it is sickening.

    I am not alone, obviously in seeing this in a broader context of horrific rhetoric. Yeah, this guy was obviously mentally ill, but as many have pointed out, that applies to most people who open fire in a public square. But we have a culture, especially (though not exclusively) on the right that uses incredibly dangerous rhetoric as casually as they check their email. Here is just a partial list of some of the examples. Some are more clear than others. Sarah Palin obviously didn't mean that someone should shoot Congresswoman Giffords, but she was obviously irresponsible in creating a map with targets on people, including the woman now in the hospital. And with Sarah Palin, I feel a certain anger rush when I think of her during the election, whipping the crowds to a frenzy about Obama supporting terrorism--all the while death threats climbing against the family. And Palin just kept doing it. It was amazing that someone could in the same breath claim the mantle of Christianity and then call on her crowd to hate Obama.

    So this weekend, I thought again of that and realized again that Palin doesn't care about that stuff. Her only goal is to whip up her base and sell her books. If that encourages a nutjob to go shoot someone, she really doesn't care. And that same thing could be said for Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh. They routinely use the most extreme rhetoric and then wonder why people on the fringe of reality might not realize that it is hyperbolic.

    But it isn't just these self-aggrandizing idiots like Palin and Beck, but also those in Republican leadership, including our Speaker.
    Boehner suggested that by voting for Obamacare, [Steve] Driehaus “may be a dead man” and “can’t go home to the west side of Cincinnati” because “the Catholics will run him out of town,” Driehaus began receiving death threats, and a right-wing website published directions to his house.
    Driehaus confronted Boehner, who was surprised, but never apologized for his language.

    Or Republican Congressman Paul Broun, who talks about a civil war looming, and refers to Democrats as "domestic enemies." Or Republican candidate Sharon Angle who talked about the need to use the second amendment "option" if the voters weren't successful in overturning healthcare.

    Or, hell, every fucking Republican who jumped on the "death panel" nonsense. How do you think a nutjob will hear that even his supposed adult Senator telling him that Obama wants to kill him, or that he is a bigger threat to America than al Qaeda?

    We can't stop the nuts and the crazies, I understand. We will have some of this, though I can't help but agree with some calling for a little more gun control, or enforcement, to try and keep guns out of the hands of mentally disturbed people. But we can ask that our public figures recognize that there is a cost to extreme rhetoric. And yeah, I think that is true of those who compared Bush to Hitler. That was irresponsible too. But on the right, as my friend D has noted, there is a long list of people killed by conservatives concerned about the same stuff that Palin/Beck/Limbaugh spout. I am not suggesting that there is a legal causation there, nor that they should be prosecuted in anyway. That is not the point. But it would be nice if they understood that not everyone understands that they are being hyperbolic.

    One more note. I am especially disheartened by the Christian community's silence on this kind of rhetoric. I remember watching videos made by James Dobson in church--because he was held up to me as a Godly man who had Christian values, yet as I documented nearly 5 years ago, he not only endorsed Ann Coulter's rhetoric, but laughed along as she mocked torture and encouraged her to continue driving liberals crazy. On Facebook, I have run into several old friends from my church days who love Sarah Palin for her "family values," but who have never responded to her hate speech. Those who don't speak out against her or Bachman or the others make it clear that their conservatism wins out over their faith. And that is a shame.

    Anyway. A long post and probably rambling. I am sure there will be more to talk about with this issue.

    January 3, 2011

    House Republicans are irresponsible

    There is no other way to say it. Their first order of business, well, besides reading the constitution aloud (wondering if they will read all the amendments), is to repeal my access to healthcare. Thanks for that. Second, they have already changed the rules to allow tax cuts without having to pay for them. This will increase the deficit, no matter what they say. And I don't want to hear a Republican talk about fiscal responsibility as long as they elect irresponsible people who refuse to consider even modest tax increases to pay for our government. They are not serious, nor moral, nor ethical people.

    And speaking of that constitution, Fred has a great post on the fact that it doesn't include God, and a great review of the opposition to the constitution. You know, from the deified Founding Fathers? The anti-federalists who opposed the constitution because it didn't include God and refused to prefer Christians? The one that evangelicals of the time said would result in a government run by Mohametans and Jews, and that the government would take away our Bibles and right to worship?

    Sound familiar? But now the evangelical right and Tea Party idiots love the constitution. Well, not all of it. They would like to edit out the parts about the common good, and the religious litmus test (not allowed). They would like to repeal the 14th amendment, as well as those allowing income tax and direct election of senators. Because they love the constitution, mind you, more than you do. They just don't love all of it. Or have not read it. Or think that it is what they wish it to be.

    BTW, Happy New Year to you and yours. I am not optimistic about this year because I know full well that Republicans are working anxiously to take away my healthcare and remove any government programs that actually help people. I am ok right now, so should follow their lead and not really care about those left behind. But for some reason, I think our government should be concerned with promoting "the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity..."