March 31, 2011

Crisis of Faith

I keep trying to answer SOF's question of why the religious right makes me question my own faith. I don't have a good answer yet, but this entire budget mess has pushed me closer to something. I think my problem is with trying to reconcile these budget cuts for the poor while helping the rich--I am trying to reconcile those actions with the faith of my youth--where I learned about the Bible and morality. And I can't do it.

So if those who most often talk about their relationship with God can support these kinds of policies, what does that say about God? What does that say about an entire way of understanding God?

Because if Christian morality is not offended by attacks on the poor, support for torture, and the almost mindless defense of the rich and powerful--is there even such a thing as Christian morality? And if not, then what is all of this about?

March 30, 2011

Where the Christian right have taken us

SOF and I had a conversation about the idea of fasting. And that very next day, the Monk posted the very verse she had mentioned, from Isaiah 58:
2 Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.
3 "Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?" Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers.
4 Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.
5 Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?
6 Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?"
I honestly don't know what to make of these wisdom texts. I don't know that they come directly from God, only that they have stood some test of time. But I also know that many who wear that book on their sleeve and use it to attack my gay friends and stand firm on abortion--I have my doubts that they have actually read this. Or that it matters to them.

Today (or yesterday) our governor declared a day of oilfield prayer. Or something like that. I don't have a problem with that--as far as it goes, but she noted that there was no prayer for the 5000 + kids with severe developmental disabilities who wait for some kind of assistance. All, of course, in a state that wears that bible on its sleeve, of course. But our Governor brags about cutting taxes on the rich, and cutting services for the poor. She is a Republican. That is what they do.

But tell me that is not oppressing our workers and defending the rich and powerful. Show me, someone, how that represents the message of Christ. Seriously. Show me where we are called to help the comfortable and well-heeled?

Today, I found a challenging post from an unlikely source. Mark Bittman is one of my favorite food authors--and I use his cookbooks often. Today, he notes why he is fasting to protest the cuts in spending for the poor. To be very clear, I don't know that his use of the word fast is any better than others. But he notes the central outrage of our time:
This isn’t about skepticism, however; it’s about ironies and outrages. In 2010, corporate profits grew at their fastest rate since 1950, and we set records in the number of Americans on food stamps. The richest 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all American households combined, the effective tax rate on the nation’s richest people has fallen by about half in the last 20 years, and General Electric paid zero dollars in U.S. taxes on profits of more than $14 billion. Meanwhile, roughly 45 million Americans spend a third of their posttax income on food — and still run out monthly — and one in four kids goes to bed hungry at least some of the time.
And Republicans cut funding for child nutrition, immunization programs, and assistance for the disabled. All to accomplish exactly nothing for the deficit, actually, but much to punish the weak and vulnerable, while defending the rich and the powerful.

All of this does not make me look at evangelical Christianity with anything other than confusion. How people who read the Bible can look at all of this and still vote Republican is beyond me.

GOP Rep: I'm 'Struggling' On My $174K Salary

An interesting clip from a Wisconsin town hall meeting where a freshman Republican says that he is struggling with his 176k salary, while the bus driver in the audience is talking about his wife having to take a second job. But the Congressman still wants Wisconsin public employees to take more of a pay cut.

Reminds me of that line from last month. 3% increase in taxes on the rich is socialism, while asking the working class to take a 14% pay cut is called "doing your part."

This sucks.

The GOP's war on the middle class

I know this is from the Alternet, but still a pretty good look at how Republicans plan to improve the economy by lowering middle and working class wages more. This on top of the news that GE paid no corporate taxes and actually got a tax deduction (paid negative taxes) is just more evidence that Republicans only care about those with power and wealth. The worker and the middle class are just drones to sell stuff to, and to hire for minimum wage (until they can get rid of that too) jobs.

That entire GE thing is amazing, especially since we are told that corporations are not hiring because their taxes are so high. Turns out that during a year that GE paid negative taxes, they also laid off a bunch of American workers. Maybe that isn't the issue at all.

March 29, 2011

This hoser took my idea

But it is still a great idea. Tomasky and his crew suggest that we provide each tax payer an itemized receipt showing where their money goes.
The numbers show what you and I know but 97% of Americans don't. Their "Jane Q. Taxpayer" earned $50,000 and paid $6,883 in income and Social Security and Medicare taxes. Her bill breaks down like this (I'm not listing every category, just some interesting ones):
1. Defense $1,375.40
2. Social Security $1,334.78
3. Medicare $845.70
4. Low-income assistance $617.16
6. Interest payments $433.11
13. Environmental protection/natural resources $72.26
19. Foreign aid $42.81
30. Arts and culture $4.92
Imagine. Many of us pay less than the cost of a six pack or a very cheap lunch for arts and culture.

March 28, 2011

Streak update

Still not sure where we are with Streak. He isn't eating well, and the vet is still puzzled about that. We are going back on the Prednisone and hoping that might help him start to eat again.

Economics and numbers and math, oh my

I need a little help. A Fb commenter noted Hauser's law (without naming it) to suggest that taxing the rich does nothing except slow down the economy, and it certainly create more revenue. There is something clearly wrong with the argument, but I am struggling to understand it. Angry Bear attempts to explain part of it, but I still think there is more. More about how this kind of take masks the changing nature of who is taxed and who bears the cost of the taxes.


March 27, 2011

The Future of Evangelicalism

I have been puzzling with this post for sometime. There have been so many times during this last decade where I have felt close to calling it quits with my faith. If Christians want to defend attacks on gays and the poor, and defend torture, I want nothing to do with that version of Christianity.

But I can't walk away.

Ran across this very interesting blog post from Rachel Held Evans on the future of Evangelicalism. I saw a little of my own struggle in her post, especially when she wrote:
But the problem is that after ten years, I’m getting tired of trying to convince fellow Christians that I am, in fact, a Christian, even though I may vote a little differently than they vote, interpret the Bible differently than they interpret it, engage with science a little differently than they engage with it, and understand sovereignty and choice a little differently than they understand those things.
For me the difference is more than "slightly" or "little." I differ a great deal from my conservative counterparts on these issues. She reminds me, in her generous and compassionate tone, of our blog friend Natalie, who wrote a nice post on her own struggles to find a church home. Both seem more open to engage with the conservatives and able to clearly distinguish between their faith and their disagreements.

I struggle with both. I don't know quite how to disconnect from the evangelical faith that can suggest that in a "personal relationship with Christ," one can endorse or tolerate the worst of the worst. Perhaps it is because the language I grew up with is encoded in my discussion of faith. I remember Joseph Campbell once compared our religious upbringing to computer language. It is part of our coding, and as such, he was relatively skeptical of the ability to completely change religious faith traditions (I may be combining Campbell with discussions about Campbell...).

Either way, I find it hard to talk about faith in the language of the conservative church--because it no longer reflects my beliefs or experience--but also struggle to find a way to talk about faith in a way that reflects my beliefs and experience.

March 26, 2011

Why do Republicans associate with racists and bigots?

I am not surprised that Haley Barbour is spouting stupidity like reinstating DADT to stop the amorous thoughts during battle, because that is what right wingers do.

What puzzles me is that he, and Huckabee and even the supposedly sane one--Pawlenty--all go on Bryan Fischer's radio show. The same Bryan Fischer who blames gays for everything, says that Obama wants to give America back to the Indians, and who has said that Muslims don't actually qualify for first amendment rights. Yeah, this one.

The truth is there is no political penalty for right wingers for being bigoted and racist. Their base doesn't mind that, even if there are a few of them that struggle with it. They won't vote Democratic (because of the gay abortions) at all, so are more than willing to vote for torturers, bigots, and the dumbest idiots we can find.

Nice job, there, GOP.

March 25, 2011

Great video for Friday afternoon

From Science Friday, this great look at the different space suits considered for the Apollo program.

Wisconsin GOP goes after UW professor

I have met Bill Cronon a few times, and have read several of his books. Josh Marshall mentions his first book, Changes in the Land--and it is indeed impressive. But for me, his book on Chicago (Natures Metropolis) was not only the book that informed my dissertation, but struck me as one of the smartest books I had ever read. A book, I would add, that I read thinking, "there is no f-ing way that I could ever write this book."

Cronon wrote a great NYT op-ed this last week that placed the Wisconsin attack on unions in a historical context. On his blog, he had also started asking questions about who was pushing this attack on unions. He evidently struck a nerve, because the Wisconsin GOP has requested Cronon's university email under their open records act.

Here is Cronon's lengthy and thoughtful response. Worth the read. Abusing Open Records to Attack Academic Freedom | Scholar as Citizen

March 22, 2011

Legal question re: contracts

Lectured today on the early Supreme Court decisions that strengthened private property and the sanctity of contracts, and am wondering why state agreements with their employees over pensions or benefits are not considered contracts? Law peeps?

March 21, 2011

More stupid

As Sully notes, Republicans support the no-fly zone, but still disapprove of Obama's handling of Libya. Reminds me of when the American people approved of the Clinton healthcare plan, but not if Hilary's name was attached. Stupid. And inconsistent.

Streak update for the afternoon

I am still not sure where we are with Streak. But his blood work showed improvement on the anemia front, but still an explanation for why he is so damn weak and tired. Got him some anti-nausea drugs and hoping that will help his appetite. The good news from this afternoon's visit was the fact that his lymph nodes were ok and so we weren't terribly late on another chemo round.

Is the GOP actively seeking the stupid vote?

It sure seems that way. I know this guy has no shot at the nomination, but his explanation for why he is distrustful of Muslims could be on a GOP motto somewhere:
"His position was sound, he explained, because 'based upon the little knowledge that I have of the Muslim religion, you know, they have an objective to convert all infidels or kill them.'"

"Based on the little knowledge I have of ________" should be their motto. "Based on the little knowledge I have of evolution, I think it doesn't sound reasonable." Or, "Based on the little knowledge I have of climate change (and the fact that it was cold last night), I don't believe it exists."

There are two over-riding attributes I see in prominent GOPers right now. First is that unbelievable anti-intellectualism that seems to revel in the Palinesque stupidity of the right. And the second, unfortunately, is the clear fact that the GOP cares not a bit about the poor or the needy. Their only care is for the rich, and the fact that they are ready to cut childhood immunizations is a great example. After all, all the right kind of people can probably afford immunizations for their kids.

Not that the GOP hates the poor. Oh no.

Update on Streak

And the roller coaster continues. The last few days he has struggled. Not badly, but struggled. I am going to get him some anti-nausea medicine from the vet and see if that will make him more comfortable. As it is, he isn't eating that much and that is disheartening. But he still wants to be with us and shows interest in that.

We will see.

March 20, 2011

Affordable church streaming

And it is called God Streaming. I found it because this guy is following me on twitter.

Call me old fashioned. When I got to church (and that is rarely) I prefer a traditional setting. Streaming is for catching up on tv shows that I don't watch, not for church. But that is just me.

But I will say that the title is arrogant.

March 17, 2011

Is the no-fly zone a good idea?

Because I really don't know. On one hand, the rebels will most likely lose if we don't help. On the other hand, we have had a bad run of intervening like this in the last ten years.

Gaddafi orders storm of Benghazi; U.N. meets | TPM News Pages


Oh, and just so you know, I am still waiting for a Republican to explain to me why the poor should pay the highest price for the recession, and the rich should be asked to sacrifice, well, nothing. Just in case you were wondering.

The individual mandate

Three years ago, it was a good thing in conservative circles. Now, it is a colossal mistake and in many circles proof that Obama is tyrannical.

Don't tell me the conservative opposition is principled. They aren't. They are simply opposed to whatever Obama and the Democrats are for. That isn't principle. It is a grade school mentality.

War on the Middle class continues

Great story from the NYT on the role that public employment plays in Ohio's middle class, and how the Republicans have declared war on that too.
“What are they wanting?” she said of the bill. “For everyone to be making minimum wage?”

Wages at the bottom of the labor market have stagnated since 1970, with inflation gobbling up gains made over the years. The federal minimum wage buys a lot less today; it represented just 38 percent of the average hourly wage for private, nonsupervisory workers in 2010, down from 47 percent in 1970, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The short answer is, "yes, they do want everyone on minimum wage," but I suspect that the long answer is more complicated.

I think one of our friends at ATK made this analogy, or close, that this is like a home-owner who hired people to work on his house. But then, that same home-owner decided to take a self-imposed cut in wages, and now wants to "live within his means," and has decided to not pay those he hired to work on his house. Sure, he made a commitment, but he has to "live within his means" (did you not hear that before?) and cannot afford to pay for these luxuries, like wages, etc.

The analogy breaks down because many of those Republicans have done quite well in this market and so look at the workers with scorn. Hourly wage? Can you imagine?
Ms. Taylor was washing dishes when the State Senate passed the labor bill this month. She sat down and cried when she heard the news. It does away with seniority and leaves out any job protection for workers with longer service, putting public workers — most of whom are not eligible for Social Security — at risk of losing their retirement income.

“I’m scared,” Ms. Taylor said. “You just start to think, what about this, what about that? This is going to hurt a lot of people.”
The rich get richer, and have conned many in the middle class into supporting the interests of the wealthy over everyone else.

March 16, 2011

Conservatives shameless? Jumped the shark?

When I see that story I just posted, I wonder what Republicans are even thinking. Do they really think that more guns is really the answer? Do they think that companies will look at Oklahoma and say, "hey, let's relocate there?"

What is more, I truly don't understand my conservative Christian brethren. I just don't. I don't understand their support for tax cuts for the rich and cuts in services for the disabled and poor. I don't think that is Christian, to be honest. Not even close.

Then I see that Rush Limbaugh is mocking Japanese victims, and I have no good faith that my conservative Christian brethren will denounce this as tasteless and unChristian. If this were a just world, Limbaugh would be shamed in public by moral people, and his radio show would be boycotted until he changed. But this is not about morality. It is about racism and hatred and bigotry and all the things that moral people are supposed to reject. Yet, I wonder how many people of faith listen to his show and chuckle--even if uncomfortably?

I just don't get it. I don't get how people can read the stories of Jesus reaching out to people with compassion and kindness and then laugh or support any of this. As I noted in the comments, this is not about either party somehow being consistent for people of faith. I think my conservative friends like to say that they will end up getting things in their party that they don't like--as will I. And I get that, but this is not about that. This is about supporting the undermining of the safety net with no safety net to help.

Conservative Christians made a Faustian bargain some time ago to get some political power, and now cannot even tell their faith from their political philosophy. They cheer torture, mock the poor, and encourage war and destruction. They lobby to cut off foreign aid to the poorest of the poor, and seek to speed up the destruction of the earth--the very same one they claim was created by their loving God. Except, as it turns out, their God doesn't love everyone. Just them.

Count me out.

Goddamn Republicans and their guns

Seriously, Steve, can you talk me down on this?

Okla. Senate OKs Bill Allowing Open Carry Of Guns - Politics News Story - KOCO Oklahoma City

March 15, 2011

Cutting muscle, not fat

Couple of very useful metaphors for prudent budget management. One is to not "eat your seed corn" as it essentially buys you some short term meals while robbing you of sustainability. Corporations rarely cut R and D for that same reason.

But another is the idea of "cutting the fat" to make us more lean. But clearly, for Republicans it is just about cutting, cutting, cutting. Well, not exactly. They voted lock step to sustain subsidies for big oil, but are more than willing to cut anything that helps the poor. But it isn't just cutting programs for the disabled and the poor, it is cutting things like National Weather Service funding and infrastructure repair. Short term benefits (though minor) that will simply mean long term expense, and possibly much higher expense.

Then there is the complete callousness of their approach. Disabled and poor? Who cares? And even after watching this horrific and unimaginable disaster in Japan, Republicans still want to cut foreign aid.

All, mind you, in a context where raising taxes on Warren Buffett by 3% is unthinkable. If anyone can explain that disconnect absent just pure heartlessness, then I would like to hear it.

Streak doing better

After several very tough days, we saw his red blood cell count go back up this morning. I was not terribly surprised as he seemed to have more energy this morning. Still not feeling the best, but certainly an improvement.

Update on Streak

He came home again last night and had a pretty decent night with us. He was very tired after his day at the vet (just dawned on me that they are boarding a lot of pets during Spring Break, which is why it was so much noisier) and slept for three hours when he got home. He is still tired this morning, but ate a little. We are taking him in here in a few minutes to check his levels again and see where the anemia is.

Thanks for the good thoughts. I have often told Streak that he has a lot of friends, and some have never met him in person.

March 14, 2011

Because I need to distract my mind

I am reading twitter and FB and other feeds. I am waiting for a call back from my vet about Streak's condition. Just not sure what to expect.

But I saw a couple of news items in the last few days that deserve comment, and by comment I mean outrage. I am still peeved at the Republicans for threatening to force a catastrophic credit default out of purely political reasons, and because they really hate our social safety net. Let me say it very clearly. If you are not willing to consider taxing Warren Buffett and his colleagues a little more (no one is talking about 60% taxation--not even close) but only want to cut programs for the poor--you are not a serious person and should not be involved in a democracy. We can talk about cuts. Hell, there are many programs that I would love to see cut--like sugar and oil subsidies. But if we are going to talk cuts, we have to talk tax increase as well.

Speaking of cuts, check out this NH GOP State Congressman who says that mentally ill and disabled people are "defective" and should be shipped to Siberia. Of course this is an extreme position, and one that undoubtedly will get criticism from the left and right. But we should note that while most Republicans certainly would not say this, their policies are essentially stating it. When you refuse to raise Warren Buffett's taxes even by 3% but are more than willing to cut programs for the disabled and mentally ill, you are demonstrating your priorities. And those priorities demonstrate little concern for the neediest of our society. And great value for those who are already very comfortable.

And this poll that suggests that I am not completely wrong when I suggest that many conservative Christians are far more "conservative" than "Christian." Turns out that despite serial adultery and abandoning a wife struggling with cancer and then saying that he was so focussed on serving his country that he had affairs, Newt Gingrich is still more popular among conservative evangelicals than Obama. Don't ever tell me again that they vote by "the book," or that they vote "moral values." That is an out and out lie. Perhaps they truly believe that they are voting for morality, but this demonstrates that the polling showing support for torture is not an outlier. People who read the Bible on a daily basis (according to them) can still support torture and favor Gingrich? Of course you can, if what you really value is lower taxes and reduced funding for programs that serve the poor. But don't dare tell me that the impulse comes from anything remotely Christian.

Streak update

This has been a rough weekend for our little guy. Actually it has been up and down, with him feeling some better and then declining. Took him back to the vet this morning and his anemia appears to be a little worse. Not sure why, and there are some reasons that are manageable and some that are not.

We left him there for sometime to get some more fluids. Just so hard to say which way this particular episode is going. But optimism is kind of hard to find right now.

March 13, 2011

Hey, let's invade Libya!

As Sully notes, neo cons are pushing for another war in the middle east, which amazes me to no end. Proof, I guess, that they learn nothing from the past, or perhaps that their goal is to be destructive. What is it that Einstein supposedly said about the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and hoping for a different result?

What saddens me is that these people don't care about the cost of war--economic or human. Sometimes military response is the only possible response. But with these people it is the only response.

Too bad they refuse to pay for their wars.

More Republican irresponsibility

Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn are threatening to cause default unless Democrats cut Social Security and Medicare. Never mind that Social Security is funded differently than the others. And never mind that default would be disastrous for all of us--even the Republican assholes threatening this.

But I am also reminded of their false piety and false Patriotism. They are willing to destroy the country if we don't cut funding for people of need.

Don't tell me that Republicans don't hate the poor and the sick. They do.

Would you drive to Amarillo to eat at Subway?

Of course not.

But, as it turns out, that exactly describes our brief, but stressful, vacation. We were headed to Taos for some skiing and relaxation, but just as we crossed into Amarillo, our friends called to say that Streak was not walking. That was surprising as he had been walking that morning and looked relatively normal. We waited a few minutes to see if he was just overly tired, but then decided to return home. Our amazing friends stopped by a little later, and with our neighbor decided that Streak needed to visit the vet.

He is a little anemic (for some reasons that we are pretty clear on now), but is at the emergency clinic getting fluids. We visited him this morning and he looked really pretty good. We will take him home this afternoon and see how he does.

He is one tough little guy, that is for sure. And while we kind of wanted a vacation, we are pretty glad to be home with him and the others.


March 11, 2011

Republican insanity

As we watch in horror as the tsunami damage unfolds in Japan, I read today that the GOP wants to cut spending for tsunami protection. Why not? Most of them don't live in the path, so why should they care?

But then I read that they are cutting support for the Special Olympics. Jesus Christ.

I think Ezra Klein gets it:
"And that gets to what this debate is really about: not cutting spending or reducing the deficit, but cutting spending Republicans don't like while avoiding any and all tax increases -- even if that means the country has higher deficits and the middle- and working-class bear more of the burden."

Don't tell me that the Republicans don't hate the poor and working class. And don't tell me that they care about the needy.

They don't. And the tsunami cuts show that they are even more stupid than they are callous.

March 10, 2011

On budgets and morality

As we watched Wisconsin gut collective bargaining in the name of fiscal responsibility, we see state after state cutting teachers' pay or laying off teachers, cutting Medicaid and other services that help the very poor-the very neediest among us. All the while, cutting taxes for the Koch brothers and the wealthy and comfortable everywhere.

All cheered by religious conservatives. When did "protecting the comfortable" become a religious thing? A friend of mine, with deep experience with the disabled posted on Facebook that state cuts threaten the lives and health of Oklahoma's disabled population. All while our governor brags about cutting taxes for the rich.

This Maine librarian seemed to put it best:
"I don't think it's a moral decision, because taking money from people who don't have much money and giving it to people who have more money than the people you took it from seems, well, greedy," she said. "Greed is frowned upon in every major world religion -- and I don't think agnostics and atheists look too kindly upon it, either."

She wondered aloud, "Is this about a quid pro quo? A gift from elected officials to wealthy people who have donated, or will donate, to election and re-election campaigns?"

Finally, as the clock wound down, McDaniel dropped the hammer.

"It's not economically sound. It's not morally sound. And I think you know that," she said. "I would be embarrassed to support something so ludicrous -- taking from the poor to give to the rich.

"Maybe you're testing us, checking to see if we, your constituents, are really paying attention, really listening," she continued. "I hope that's what's going on, because the alternative involves me losing faith in representative government, in democracy and in you, the elected officials."

For me it is about losing faith in the people who most often talk about morality. Except for them, it only means being sexually moral. It never means being economically moral.

As I keep saying, there is a class war going on. But it is the rich attacking the poor and middle class, and a big chunk of the middle class is cheering for the rich.

Go figure.

March 9, 2011

Wednesday news: Gingrich loves his country so much he had multiple affairs, and the GOP does the heavy lifting for terrorists

In one of the more bizarre turns for a very bizarre man, Newt is now claiming that his affairs happened because he was more focussed on the country than his personal life. As someone at TPM noted, perhaps this was what Samuel Johnson was thinking when he said that "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."


Couple other thoughts while driving home. One, I heard that Illinois has banned the death penalty. That is always nice to see, especially when there are so many documented issues with its implementation.

Second, as everyone probably knows, Representative King from New York is holding hearings on how dangerous Muslims are in our midst. I heard an interesting interview with an analyst who said that there were issues with radicals recruiting our youth, and those should be addressed. Just, I would add, as we should be concerned about white supremacists or other violent felons trying to recruit young people.

But his interesting comment was to note that Al Qaeda wants, as a part of their broader goal, for Americans to see all Muslims as terrorists. That helps them recruit, and ultimately gets Americans to make bad decisions about Muslims instead of reaching out to moderates.

Isn't that a kick in the pants? Conservatives doing the work of Al Qaeda by inflating their importance and building divides between non-Muslims and the Muslim community. Nice work there, GOP.

March 7, 2011

Americans and taxation

Having a conversation with a friend who believes that he is already paying too much in taxes. It started me thinking about the amount of money we pay in taxes v. the services that we get. As I keep arguing, conservatives seem to think that government spending only goes to undeserving people.

Help me out on the math here, as everyone knows that is not my strong suit. And for the purposes of this conversation, I am only talking about dividing the cost of these services evenly among the tax payers. I am not accounting for income differences, or even the different progressive tax brackets that ask Glenn Beck to pay a slightly higher tax rate on part of his income.

I won't mention the number he gave me as his federal tax rate, but it is pretty low. But let's recognize that he has defended both wars, and when talking about the federal budget talks mostly about those programs that help the poor.

So, if we look at the federal budget, there are ~300 million Americans, but, of course, once we remove the shiftless children and those who don't pay tax for other reason, we have substantially fewer to divide by. According to Wikipedia, there are approximately 130 million taxpayers in America, but that larger number needs to be acknowledged, since most of these programs indirectly help (at least theoretically) all of those 300 million.

So, for example, if we divide the 2010 budget for military, including both wars, (around 664 billion dollars), that comes out to nearly 4,800 dollars per person. And that is just military spending. If we factor in the cost of Veterans Affairs, that is another $376. Funding the Department of the Interior, which among other things, manages National Parks, costs each of us around 90 bucks a year.

So we are well over 5,000 dollars and have not even talked about federal funding for roads and highways, or even Homeland Security. We haven't mentioned block grants to states and local governments that allow upgrades to sewer and water treatment plants, nor assistance to improving city parks and schools. We haven't talked even about basic environmental or labor protections, nor protecting consumers from poisonous pharmaceuticals. We haven't touched college subsidies to students at state universities and community colleges (indirectly through assistance to the school and then through science grants that help the University), nor school loans nor Pell grants. We haven't talked about foreign aid, or even the cost of our State Department and diplomats and embassies and all the other stuff they do. Nor disaster relief, nor the cost of federal courts and judges, nor federal prisons.

That number doesn't account for Medicaid and Medicare, nor the service on the debt. (Medicare and Medicaid add up to about the same as Defense spending, so we are looking at another 4,800 there--if we paid for it, and if we paid for it all equally). It doesn't count NASA, the management of the US Treasury, Social Security, the Labor department or Commerce Department.

And we haven't even gotten to food stamps, Head Start, or WIC. And don't get me started on funding for the arts or Public Radio.

Are we over-taxed?

March 6, 2011

Live Music tonight--Audrey Auld

We went to see Audrey Auld at our local train station/performing arts studio. We have seen some really good shows there over the years. Slaid Cleaves, Mark Erelli, and Eliza Gilkyson have all given great shows. Tonights with Audrey ranks right up there for me.

We met Audrey last spring at another local venue, then got to see her at the Woody Guthrie Festival last summer. So I emailed her through Facebook and requested a few songs. Not only did she remember, but she gave me a little shout out when she introduced her great "Down in a Hole." It was a very nice and gracious moment. She then turned to her guitar player (who happens to be my buddy, and guitar mentor, Terry "Buffalo" Ware, and mentioned that I was one of his students.

He grinned and said, "he is one of my most troublesome students."

It was truly a great moment.

Anyway, enjoy Audrey (here playing with another great guitarist--Andrew Hardin). As I noted on my facebook wall, sometimes the magic works and sometimes it doesn't. Tonight it worked.

This alone might explain conservative Christians and poverty

From this review of a book about the Bible, recognition that those who say it holds all the answers don't actually know it very well:
"he notes simultaneously that Americans are surprisingly ignorant of what is actually in it. “More than 80 percent of born-again or evangelical Christians believe that ‘God helps those who help themselves’ is a Bible verse,” he writes."

Add to that an ignorance about how tax money actually goes to help the poor in ways other than handouts, and you have a recipe for conservative polices that actually see the poor as responsible for their own poverty.

The book sounds interesting, however, beyond this particular issue. According to this review, it not only speaks to American ignorance about the text they claim to revere (same could be said about the Declaration and Constitution, btw), but it also speaks to something I have experienced first hand: struggling with being told that the Bible had all the answers when it often seemed confusing.
To Beal, the problem lies with the notion that the Bible is “a divine guidebook, a map for getting through the terra incognita of life.” For as soon as you open it and start reading, it becomes troublingly apparent that the Bible is no such thing. It does not offer answers to problems, especially not to twenty-first-century problems. Only in a few places does it even offer straightforward moral counsel. Depending on where you read in it, the Bible might give the impression that it is mainly composed of genealogies and agricultural regulations.

The gulf between what readers expect to find in the Bible and what they are actually given produces a kind of paralysis, Beal explains. “For many Christians, this experience of feeling flummoxed by the Bible … [produces] not only frustration but also guilt for doubting the Bible’s integrity.” The Bible-publishing industry feeds on this anxiety, he argues, by endlessly repackaging the Biblical text in ever more watered-down and over-explained forms.
All of this, according to the author, is an attempt to make the Bible do what it doesn't do well--speak with one clear voice. I have found that frustration when reading discussions about the Bible's take on everything from slavery to poverty and wealth.

Anyway. Back to grading.

Obama homebrews, Republicans attack the needy

Ok. Those two threads are not related. But as a homebrewer, I found it quite fun that our President has purchased brewing equipment (out of his own pocket) and has his kitchen staff brewing beer. So, despite the snarky comments on the info sites, Obama isn't busy in the White House basement with a mash tun--though how cool would that be?

But back to the other thread, SOF and I did our normal Sunday coffee run and listening to NPR was like listening to a litany of attacks on the poor and working class. One of those interviews with Reps from both sides about the budget shortfall was very interesting. The Tea Party rep from NH voted to protect heating subsidies for his state, but was critical of all the other programs. The Democrat from California made a very good point--that Republicans had decided that cutting off Head Start funding was a way to respond to the financial downturn. As if those poor kids caused this mess.

Second was a discussion about seniority in teaching, and the normal practice of laying off the newly hired teachers first, regardless of their ability or the ability of the senior teachers. I get that discussion, and think there is merit to reforming how we deal with bad teachers, but was so frustrated that the basic underlying problem of laying off teachers was never really addressed. Why are we cutting taxes for the rich and laying off teachers? Will that provide anything approaching a long term solution? Of course not.

I keep saying that we should not "eat our seed corn" but clearly, Republicans have no understanding of that idea. Except, of course, they do. As businessmen, they would not stop investing in their company, or looking at ways to improve or expand--but for some reason as politicians they decide that making education worse will help us in the future.

This is class warfare, as we discussed yesterday, and the war is against the poor, elderly, and working class. The only thing that Republicans will not consider is raising taxes. But they will fire people (which will certainly help employment numbers, right?) and reduce the safety net for the poor. After all, the church will pick up the slack, right?


And speaking of that, there is this very troubling essay from 1995 about being a non-Christian in the Bible Belt. Turns out, this guy taught in Oklahoma, and he records how his family was treated by the local Baptist Christians when they found out he was an atheist. That treatment includes his kids being physically attacked by Baptist children--all because his father was an atheist.


March 5, 2011

Jon Stewart brilliant yet again

Very well done. Connects some things I had not. The fact that conservatives defended people making over 250 K a year as not rich, and possibly even poor, but now accusing teachers making 50K of being lazy and greedy. Second, that when we attacked bonus money, conservatives claimed that contracts were contracts, and those bonuses had been promised for some time. Not, of course, like the benefits that the state of Wisconsin promised to their teachers and public workers. Those just came out of the blue.

And amazingly, that conservatives on Fox and other places, were appalled that some government entity might question the amount a CEO could make, but have no problem with Scott Walker deciding that teachers make too much.

But the final disconnect was the idea that we could not punish CEOs and demand they make less, because we needed to attract the best, and that was how you got the best. Teachers? Nope. They are already lazy--they get the summers off.

What Would Jesus Cut?

Reading the news yesterday was like stepping through the looking glass into a place where the rich conservative males are the only ones that matter. Criminalizing miscarriages, for Christ's sake? And I don't mean that as a curse. I mean, literally, that those claiming to speak for Christ would push women to defend a miscarriage. Just about the most invasive government I can imagine, of course. But also one of the meanest and least Christian that I can possibly imagine.

SOF and I discussed this last night and she noted that this sounded like people who have lost perspective on their goals. They so love the unborn fetus that they have forgotten the context, and the people, and the pain, and the complicated nature of the world. Theirs is a world without compassion or even love. To see that, and then claim it as Christian is, frankly, horrific. Whatever Christ did, he did it with compassion and love. But I see none of that in his followers, and those who invoke his name the most.

And, of course, it isn't just their war on sexual women, but on everyone not in the wealthy class. Republicans are cutting budgets with a meat cleaver--refusing to consider tax increases to pay for necessary programs, and in fact, cutting taxes for the wealthy class. As I saw on FB this morning, Warren Buffett evidently said that there is, in fact, a class war going, but it is the "rich class, that's making war, and we're winning."

Tax cuts for the rich, but spending cuts for the poor. In Arizona, two people awaiting an organ transplant died when Republicans cut funding. No worries for the rich, of course. They can swing the cost. In Wisconsin, Republicans are cutting medicaid for those needing kidney help. Again, the rich will be fine, but the poor will die. As Jesus, evidently, wanted it to be. Or not.

Our friend UBUB is there, fighting for some kind of sanity in the Badger state, and he noted this morning that the budget "tells the poor, those with disabilities, children, public workers, public libraries, anything with public in the name, ""too bad for you." I have meant to call my Republican congressman and ask why the only people not being asked to sacrifice are the ones who can easily do so?

If this is Christianity, then I am an NBA shooting guard.

March 4, 2011

Hmm...Perhaps Republicans really hate it when women have sex?

The Fix - Why is Mike Huckabee criticizing Natalie Portman? (Poll)

Huckabee, fresh off saying that the President was raised in Kenya (but meant to say Indonesia) and was so influenced by the Mau Mau Revolt that he hates America instinctively. That is why he wanted to be President. Don't think about it, or then you might see the lack of logic.

But now, he is taking aim at Natalie Portman who is (gasp) pregnant and wasn't married at the time of her (gasp) pregnancy. Oh Noes! Of course, as even the Huck has to acknowledge, Portman is marrying her fiance. But the damage occurred when Portman actually had sex outside marriage. Because that is unforgivable. And an easy sell to the religious right base who is easily distracted by women having sex or gays having sex, or people thinking about having sex (see a trend here?).

David Brooks said tonight that he didn't think Huckabee would run this time. I think he is hoping, because as a semi-thinking Republican, he recognizes that Huckabee is no better than Palin or Gingrich. None of them should be allowed to govern a PTA, much less a country.

Hey, we have more Republicans who think women are idiots

Texas Abortion Bill That Would Require Sonogram Before Procedure Poised To Become Law.

Because women simply can't be trusted. Republicans understand this, intuitively, I guess.

Anti-Abortion Georgia Lawmaker Proposes Law That Would Criminalize Miscarriages

And I am supposed to take these people even close to seriously?

March 3, 2011

My share of federal programs

I am looking for a good site that might tell me where my tax dollars go. How much does the military cost me each year? Medicaid? Etc.

Any ideas?

Tea Partier says no immigration fine for hiring illegal "help"

This, evidently, is what Tea Party idiots mean by getting back to the constitution. In keeping with Mike Huckabee's racism, perhaps it is fitting. But please don't tell me that the Tea Party has thought anything out.

Their approach to the law appears to be to simply make it take care of their own biases. Religious freedom for people they like. Government programs when it helps them. And now, immigration "amnesty" when it suits white racist Texans who need someone to work in the house.

March 2, 2011

Huckabee is a racist idiot. Still.

Huckabee: Obama Isn't From Kenya, But He's Still Anti-American | TPMDC

Being racist and stupid never hurts you in the GOP

Which is why Huckabee will be just fine with the base for suggesting that he genuinely thought that Obama grew up in Kenya. As this post notes, he just essentially endorsed Birtherism, which he had rejected earlier.

What an ass. And shame on the GOP for creating an environment where this kind of shit doesn't make you look like an idiot. Hell, being an idiot is a good thing in the current GOP.


March 1, 2011

With Christians like this.....

Huckabee Claims Obama Was Raised In Kenya (AUDIO) | TPMDC

Do we need a middle class?

That seems to me to be the central question before us. I have to say that I always considered it an assumed good that we had a vibrant and wide middle class. That middle provided a stable base of consumers and people who could send their kids to college. That meant a pretty reliable supply of well-educated workers and an equally reliable supply of consumers. This middle could afford homes, cars, and vacations. It is, after all, the place that most people self-identify as their location on the scale.

But Republican policies seem purposefully intended to destroy that same middle class, and I am increasingly unsure that people care. Or perhaps, this is more of the self-identification issue. Is it just that they believe they are immune to these changes because they believe their effort is all that is needed? I suspect that is part of the situation.

My community college student continues to bother me. He is respectful and willing to listen--to a point. But what bothers me is the sense that he genuinely doesn't care about what happens to other people. That comes through with many of our trolls as well. Most disturbing are the Christians who seem to act the same way.

For them, I think, the issue is a truncated thought process, and one that I see in a lot of other areas. The death penalty is deemed moral if it is really executing a killer, and that ends the thought process. Racial or class biases are simply not considered. Reminds me of a colleague in grad school who refused to read past the last page in an essay's assigned length. If that meant he stopped reading before the conclusion or work's cited, then those things didn't exist in the paper and the grade would so reflect.

So, many Christians work their way through the torture issue and decide that if they are torturing KSM, then it is unfortunate, but necessary, and so the thought process stops before they can consider the innocents, or the lack of credible information from such a process. It just doesn't exist for them.

Back to our issue of social justice (which my student said he didn't support at all--sounds like and Ayn Rand reader to me) and taxation and responsibility, the Christian conservative poses to me that there is nothing in the Bible that mandates that government be responsible for the poor. So the thought process ends--well before the Biblical injunctions to tend to the poor, and the shocking amount of resources to actually do so. Or the process stops with dependency and the lazy, and never works through the logical conclusion.

I would suggest that these Christian conservatives would be completely overwhelmed if they found out how much Medicaid, and Social Security, and other Government agencies contribute to helping the poor, the disabled, the sick, the elderly, and those who combine all those groupings. I am tempted to call their bluff, and say, "if you are willing, as a church body, to make sure that no one dies in some alms-house, or that every disabled person will have the care they need, no matter how expensive and, as a church body, you will tend to those--even the ones who don't like your church, or who do drugs, or have abortions, or are gay--if you are willing to commit to that, then we can get rid of Medicaid right now. I am game. I suspect, however, that most don't realize all the things that Medicaid does for the poor, and for nursing homes, and other areas.

We can do the same thing with job training for the poor. You don't get to exclude someone based on race or creed, and you can't make them convert. But if you are willing to do that, and guarantee that you will do it for all of the poor, then let's talk about reducing our "entitlement" programs. You know, those programs that you say with a sneer are going broke.

So let's see it. Pony up, and we can go to Congress and cut our deficit tremendously.

Sacrifices must be made

Just not by those who can afford it the most.